Jazz. The music that trickles through the elevator’s speakers, then followed by a small diss of “Ugh. Jazz music is the worst.” The music that has been reduced in all of its glory to the stuff played at elderly homes, deemed “old people music”. The music that gets only truly gets credit around the holidays in the early winter months, where people can’t live without the classic legends like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt and Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby. But the truth is, jazz is so much more than old-people, elevator-ish, Christmas-y tunes.
Jazz is life itself.
The style of music undoubtedly most closely resembles humanity more so than any other genre, with a huge thanks to the process of improvisation. Improvisation is defined as spontaneous playing; chords, melodies, harmonies are seemingly pulled from the air, as sound vibrates differently every single time it is played. Music is not confined from the rigidity found in classical sheet music, but rather is felt from the soul. Instead of being held captive in between the five prison bars of the music staff, jazz musicians have the freedom to do pretty much whatever they desire.
A jazz song can truly only be played once. If a jazz band is, in fact, improvising, then that means every single instrument is playing something different every single time. Imagine! Pianos, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, cellos, and every other instrument imaginable, all playing something never heard to the ears all at the same time. Jazz is revolutionary! Everything seems to go against the odds, yet absolutely extraordinary music is created from the genius minds of jazz musicians. To listen to Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling in 2017’s award-winning movie “LaLa Land”, explain jazz’s unfair reputation even further, click here.
Chords break free from the pop genre’s boring standard of four simple repeating chords. Instead of another C/Am/F/G chord progression (sorry not sorry mainstream pop), why not do something different? Bring on the sevenths, the flat fifths, the diminishes! Bring on the augmented, the extended, the sharps! Bring on those funky, euphoric chord combinations and melodies and sounds that send sudden chills down your spine and cause goosebumps to rise across your arms and legs!
To hear some of my personal favorite jazz songs, explore the playlist below.
One of the most infamous, revered songs in the jazz world is “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane in 1960. To illustrate the immense difficulty and brilliance of this song, Vox compares improvising this song to shifting from “Spanish to Arabic to Japanese…every 2 beats of a song that’s nearly 300 beats per minute” (Vox). To learn more about “Giant Steps” and music theory, click the link here.
To just pass off this revolutionary music genre is disrespectful and frankly sad. Everyone should be in love with jazz, not just the older generations. Jazz is soul, love and loss, war and peace, and every significant titch of energy that is beneath our atmosphere.