Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's wrong with jazz?

Rob Buckley doesn't like jazz. I think that his problem may be akin to one I had in my earlier years: 1) I thought jazz was just one thing and 2) I wasn't ready for jazz, of any kind.

It's hard to imagine a world without jazz, not least because of how it bleeds into so many other genres of music: blues and funk to name just two. Over the years I have known many people who proclaimed a 'hatred' for jazz, and eventually all have been teased out of their way of defining jazz into admitting they liked certain pieces of music, performances, performers or styles, not realising their place in the world of jazz. I think as well what doesn't help is record stores categorising music: jazz, world, easy listening, metal, urban (whaaaat?!!!) etc etc. Why not just alphabetical by artiste, mixing all styles together? Ttake away the predictability of only liking particular types of music and dismissing all variations within others.


Rob Buckley said...

It's because it sounds nasty. Dixieland, Blues, etc: all the musical equivalent of having your teeth drilled without anaesthetic and then being expected to applaud the dentist for not sticking to conventional forms.

To anyone who defends jazz, I feel this discussion in The Ipcress File about the musical merits of brass bands playing Mozart is pretty much equivalent to any exchange of views we might have on the merits of jazz:

Palmer: Must we sit through any more of this torture?
Dolby: I think they're playing very well
Palmer (leaving): Tell me who wins

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I don't agree with your point, but the Ipress File quote is enough to make me forgive you!

Neil said...

All good music is jazz.

There is an argument that Bach is jazz. That's as maybe. But

Blues is jazz.
Soul is jazz.
Rock is jazz.
Dance is jazz.
Reggae is jazz.
Frank Sinatra playing with Nelson Riddle is jazz.
Ella fitzgerald singing Cole Porter is jazz.

Jazz is the music of the 20th century. Not liking jazz is like
preferring The Netherton Nose Flute Playing Faction (who broke away in 1953 from the famous Lower Gornal Nasal Hair Twangers over the issue of to pluck or to clip) to Thelonius Monk.

SimonHolyHoses said...

It's all way too grey (in the "not black and white" sense) to make truly meaningful generalisations.

However, here's my penny'th: jazz is musician's music. It's where you go when you've got all the T-shirts. Its loaded with at least as much theory and prescription as classical music.

It isn't meant to be easy on the ear. It's meant to surprise you, and take you to strange places.

It's not meant to be an easy ride either: you have to work quite hard to follow along.

And if you don't want to commit yourself to all the effort, that's fine.

Sometimes cheese on toast hits the spot better than an haute cuisine dinner with seven courses.

Alan said...

I think the biggest problem Jazz has is that all of us, at one point or another, have been forced to sit through an evening of avant-garde experimental improv jazz that sounded like everyone had tuned their instruments up to a different pitch and were all trying to play completely different pieces of music at the same time as each other.

I once had a jazz loving friend explain this to me in words I could understand though. He said it was like watching a football match. You sit through long periods of the most hideous dross, because every now and then something utterly sublime emerges.

Jim said...

I think you've hit a nail on the head re music classification. Labelling something simply as Jazz is far too wide. I loathe Dixieland, although I imagine in the right circumstances it might be enjoyable, whereas I love Miles Davis and John Coltrane, experimental dissonance and all. Alan's friend is spot on because in there, some of the most beautiful and "grown up" music is waiting to take you somewhere.

Paulie said...

This is why the notion of Folksonomy is so interesting:

People can link accross genres - in my i-tunes library, I use 'alt-jazz' to describe anything that is more experimental or worth concentrating on when you listen. Miles Davis is in there, but so is Beefheart and The Fall.

I used to think I didn't like Jazz. What I actually didn't like was the gratuituous way that saxaphones were used to give a 'jazzy' veneer to a lot of 80's pop.

When someone played 'In A Silent Way' and 'A Kind of Blue' to me, I realised that, while I don't like Jazz, I liked this.

You should send Rob to Ronnie Scotts when Airto Moreira is playing. It was one of his gigs that completely cured me of an aversion to Jazz.

Or The Five Corners Quintet who are one of the best gigs I saw last year (and I took someone with me who hates jazz - he loved it too).

Rob said...

Frank Zappa always used to be rude about jazz, which didn't stop him employing musicians who would in many cases have described themselves as jazz musicians, or at least jazz-rock. He employed them because they were incredibly good: which is really the point. All the rest is just labelling.