From the monthly archives: "June 2015"

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What is Jazz, how can one explain it and what does it stand for? These are typically difficult questions to answer concerning this unique musical art form. How can I go about, in answering these crucial questions without further complicating the issue and confusing the curious who ask. Yes, Curiosity or interest are two very interchangeable words and would be the great starting point in deciphering the puzzled ones who simply cannot understand/comprehend Jazz music. There must be some psychological/emotional connection involved when listening to music, no matter what type it is. There should be something going on in the brain cells of the listener with the particular song they are listening to at the moment. There is the rare case when the listener is extremely too busy doing something at the moment and just cannot concentrate on the music playing. The mind cannot transmit any sort of feelings and/or interpretation, so its just background sounds to the listener. This occurs to all of us but most of the times we “tune in” and listen to either an ongoing stream of music or we specifically select a song or songs that we would like to hear. So what makes a person decide to indulge themselves with a Jazz song? What are the feelings, sentiments and emotions that overwhelm the minds of those who love Jazz?

Before I continue to explain what Jazz is, let’s get a little scientific and let’s find the most logical definition of the word “Music.” Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition:

a:  the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.
b:  vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.

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I think the most logical approach to understanding the art form of Jazz would begin with understanding the Blues, its history and how it developed. After one gets an idea of its roots, then everything will fall into place.

Here’s a great example of the Blues (“Straight Ahead,”Donald Byrd with Gigi Gryce):

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Developing the capacity to judge and easily distinguish what exactly high quality musicianship is, would be the next step. This will take some listening and fortunately, will be an easy task. It will not take more than a few tunes to understand, just tune in to Jazz Con Class Radio and you will be well on your way! Or you can take a listen to these tracks I placed here.

To get you started, here’s some straight Hard Bop, from Jazz trumpet player Blue Mitchell, the name of the song is “Brother ‘Ball”:

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Jazz is very unique in sound and what makes it so much of a complete experience is how it covers the whole spectrum of human emotions. Let’s take a listen to this tune, “Ecclusiastics” by the great Charles Mingus:

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How about this very popular jazz song “‘Round Midnight” and played here by it’s composer Thelonious Monk:

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Dixieland style of Jazz conveys so many emotions at the same time and is a perfect example. Here’s the instrumental version of the famous song “St. James Infirmary,” done by Pee Wee Russell and his band:

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Or listen to “Black and Blue” with Sidney Bechet and his big band:

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Here’s the Miles Davis and his band performing “Bluing”:

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Here’s Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers performing “Children of the Night”:

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Here’s John Coltrane with Lee Morgan performing  “Blue Train”:

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Here’s “Intrepid Fox” from a 1970Freddie Hubbard album:

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Here’s Duke Ellington and his band performing “Tigress”:

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And Here’s Duke again with “The Swinger’s Jump”

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I find it to be so much more educational, if I may say, to provide these Jazz songs as examples to those who have never been exposed to Jazz or were not aware of. These are great tunes and range from the early 50’s to the early 70’s. This is to get an idea of the diversity of Jazz and its superior quality.

Note: Maybe the readers here only heard songs from the so-called genre “Smooth Jazz” and thought it represented Jazz music. “Smooth Jazz” is nothing else but “Easy Listening Music” and the word “Jazz” should have never been place there. The music industry’s poor choice of creating this genre has damaged Jazz and what it stands for. Smooth Jazz, which began in the early 80’s, has eventually steered the youth away from learning about any Jazz that came beforehand.

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Jazz is much more complex than it seems and Jazz musicians are masters of their craft. The more the listeners dwell into Jazz music and its improvisational nature of expression, the more they will understand the purity it treasures. I hope this article helped simplify Jazz and what it stands for. The more one gets involved with Jazz, the more they will understand what “Freedom” is all about, there’s nothing else like it. Spread the word and keep Jazz ALIVE!

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Bags (Milt Jackson) and Trane (John Coltrane) recorded this famous “bluesy” styled album in 1959 and appropriately named it “Bags & Trane.” There was quite a bit of experience between both musicians, for it was Bags 15th album and approximately Coltrane’s 20th album give or take a few. And although there was so much improvisation possible, the music was simple, down to earth and easy going. It’s a rather unique album on Coltrane’s side but only because it was different and more melodic. He had not played in this manner beforehand in his other albums, so everyone was surprised when it came out. I think sooner or later he would have had to refine himself a little further and this is where he did so. Great album to own, enjoy!

About the album:

As John Coltrane moved from music rich in chordal complexity to a newer, freer form of modality–in which melodic and rhythmic freedom came to the fore–some critics couldn’t make the imaginative leap. But no one could ever question Coltrane’s superb musicianship. This all-star session isn’t merely an aesthetic bone to these critics, but a superb example of two masters blowing relaxed and free over a tight, intuitive rhythm section. There’s Jackson’s Modern Jazz Quartet collaborator Connie Kay on drums, master of understated swing; the elegant, eternally tasteful Hank Jones on piano; and Mr. P.C., Paul Chambers, one of the fathers of modern bass playing.

Milt “Bags” Jackson and Coltrane play together with such easy, intuitive grace, it’s hard to believe that BAGS AND TRANE is not a working band. The title tune is a wistful, engaging blues that passes its vamping, melodic figure around between vibes, piano and tenor sax. Jackson’s funky variations over Chambers and Kay’s leisurely beat is in perfect contrast to Trane’s remarkably laid-back solo….Read More

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Biography of Milton Jackson (Jazz.com):

As a founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet and on his own, Milt Jackson created a hard-hitting style on the vibraphone which made it a contender in bebop. He built upon the foundation laid by Swing masters Red Norvo and Lionel Hampton by adding a more powerful attack and expanded the instrument’s role in an ensemble.

Adding his own blues-based approach, he was one of the first to slow the speed of the oscillator on the vibraphone, which created a more delicate timbre for the instrument. The robust power behind his performances changed the vibraphone into a prominent melodic and harmonic instrument in jazz.

Milton Jackson was born on January 1, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. One of six children, Milt’s mother was a pious woman who was a devout member of the church, and his father was a talented amateur musician. In his early years, Milt sang in church and realized from an early age that music had a powerful effect on him.
When Jackson was seven years old he began to study the guitar. At age eleven, he began to play the piano as well. Upon entering Miller High School, Milt began to play the drums, xylophone and sing in the school’s glee club. When he was sixteen years old, Milt’s music teacher Mr. Goldberg persuaded the young man to give the vibraphone a try. Through his teens, Jackson gained valuable performing experience in a local gospel and dance groups.

At the time, Jackson had few idols on the vibraphone, following the examples instead set by the leading horn players involved in modern jazz. Milt had seen Lionel Hampton at Detroit venues such as the Michigan State Fairgrounds and the Graystone Ballroom, which further motivated him to study the vibes. However, while Jackson appreciated Hampton’s accomplishments, he chose not to emulate him but rather to find his own voice on the…..Read More

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