Why Jazz is important in 2015
This is not an attempt to convince an audience to listen to jazz; neither to promote the genre as an auditory necessity. This is a try only to identify the truth; the core product of a jazz live event.
It is not my purpose to write something for the musicians but something that the most inexperienced ear may comprehend.
Everything starts from the rhythm. Generally, music can be divided into three basic functions: Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. I take rhythm as the most important function. I will explain why. The rhythm, time and time-feel is actually something very esoteric and personal and its understanding and performance depends on the person – musician’s characteristics.
Each musician has a unique way to understand and perform the time. His/her performance of it depends not only by his education, but by his life time experiences. You see everyone has an inner clock. It is his/her heart beat and the pace of his blood pressure. It is unique for every man. And it differs. Τhe implementation of the rhythm into an instrument is vitally correlated to his/her physiology, personality and biorhythms.
Of course, some elements, do exist, that make every individual’s time-feel to fall into some category. We have a “laying-back” time-feel, it is often called “dragging” and it can be described as playing after the beat, or as being “lazy”. It is the “on-top” time-feel, where the notes hit exactly on the beat and its subdivisions. And finally we have the “rush” time-feel where the notes come a little bit faster; when someone “pushes” the time to occur a little bit earlier from the beat. These three categories vary. These are not perfectly equal to every musician. Some are a little bit rushing, other push a lot, some play perfectly on the beat as a drum machine, while others play a little bit after the beat. And some others can control all three faces of time-feel and apply them depending on the situation. What is actually determines the level of rushing, dragging or on-top playing is not only the educational background of the musician.
The variety comes from the musicians’ child experiences with music. What they were listening when they were babies, children, teenagers and adults. What was their environment at their home, at school, who where their close friends, their family and its traditions, their religion, their color of their skin, their country’s musical tradition, the society’s music trends, the popular music, the channels of influence (radio, TV, cinema, Internet).
Each one of us has a unique life. Depending on the environment we have grown up we share some common characteristics that unify us, but in a general and non-specific way. If we examine each personality, each life separately, we may find unique characteristics and individualities. These individualities define the way we comprehend time and rhythm.
It is our overall influences that actually define the way we experience and perform “time”. Our wants and needs can be considered a result of who we became to be. Our wants and needs are a mature decision to manage our childhood influences. To manage who we are. And who we are as musicians is who we are as personalities, as entities.
So! When you are at a live jazz event, you watch and listen to 3, 4 or 5 musicians. To a group, that improvises, interact with each other, jump into questions and answers, playing music! You actually experience a live amalgamation of the histories and life-time experiences of the group of musicians. You experience the mixture of these entities that have managed to coordinate their bio-rhythms in order to create art. This art form is like a living organism consisted by 3, 4, or 5 cells that work together as one.
When i started playing the bass rather decently, i also started to play with many and different drummers. With some of them I could lock instantly and feel truly comfortable. With others I felt like we do not match. We could not share a common time feel. My first reaction was that either I am doing something wrong or they did. This line of thinking is what is wrong. If the level of musicality is generally above average, then no-one is wrong. It is just that our time feel is different.
But since I wanted to play with all of them I started to realize that I had to put a great deal of effort in order to understand “what” and “how” they were thinking regarding time. I had to speak with them and throw my ego to the ground and put myself in the position of a student and learn from them. As a result, I started playing better with the ones I first thought it was impossible to play with.
I managed to do that by using the following recipe: Respect my fellow musician. By respect I actually mean to respect his entity; respect his life time experiences, his personality and his way of thinking. Then, I had to love them. Not in the way I love my wife. But to love their existence and the moments we play and produce beautiful art together. These two elements: Respect and Love are what makes a group of musicians to have a common time feel and improvise in a way that is comprehensive, beautiful and meaningful.
This is what happens at a jazz gig. Respect and love, as master ingredients, mixes up the different entities into a “one” organism that produces art! The amazing thing is that this “phenomenon” takes place on all kinds of music. When a great rock band plays, or a pop, a country, even a metal band, the “one” organism is present and produces music. But without wanted to sound too preferable towards jazz, when improvisation takes place, then the “phenomenon” is bursting into gigantic proportions. And by the term “jazz” I mean all kinds of jazz thought out the history. Modern jazz, be-bob, swing, fusion, ethnic, cross over, smooth, cool, nu-jazz, whatever the case, when it is played properly and improvisation is present then the Love and Respect is also present.
This is not a small thing. Especially in our time of computers, Malls, and the general fall of aesthetics. This form of art is like having a little flower blossom inside of a concrete street. It is a true battle between the deep and liberating truth against the effortless fast-food-like entrainment that cares to temporarily irritate people’s primitive instincts. While the true art, is to arouse the deep intellect and transcend the wants and needs of the skin.
The art of improvisation promotes and advertise the sexuality of our brains, our feelings and our intellect. It is important to continue to arouse these areas of the man and the woman to avoid the total stupification created by our meaningless every day- life routine. It is important to realize that the magical moment of the mixture of the individual experiences into a “one” organism is actually what defines us as humans.
The human transcendence from the animal situation, into theosis. This is why jazz is important.
January 1, 2015 / mike / 1