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so what is jazz?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've recently been trying to expand the variety of music I listen to and one of the areas that is lacking in my experience with jazz. Having heard the odd jazz tunes around the place, I am still entirely uncertain as to what defines jazz as a genre. It is evident that it is not an easy style to pin down and I'm interested to know what individuals feel jazz encompasses. On top of that some recommendations of some popular jazz sub-genres to start listening to (and relevant artists) would be fantastic :)

 

tl;dr - what is jazz to you? recommend sub-genres/artists for a newbie to listen to

post #2 of 13

Five musicians on stage playing five different tunes at the same time.

post #3 of 13

I've been trying to find my way into jazz, most of it is just hard for me to enjoy. I did find one band recently that I do really love. BADBADNOTGOOD is a trio of Canadian musicians that mostly do jazz covers of hip/hop songs. This song is the one that really got me into them, a cover of some Zelda tunes. Give it a listen.

 

post #4 of 13

Some good contemporary jazz is a great intro to jazz in general.  Starting right into straight ahead can be difficult. 

 

Since Bob Mintzer joined the band about 15 years ago, The Yellowjackets is about as good as it gets.  "Timesquared", "Mint Jam" and "Timeline" are all excellent.

 

The Rippingtons, early stuff.  "Live in LA".... "Curves Ahead"  great!

 

Spyro Gyra, anything...they don't make bad records.  "Road Scholars", "Heart of the Night" are great places to start.

 

Mike Stern, "Who Let The Cats Out"?

 

Pat Metheny Group, anything....


Edited by Spyro - 12/25/11 at 9:28am
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the responses, I'll go check them out. I'm pretty keen to get my feet wet.

 

Another question... is big band/swing considered jazz?

post #6 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by avoshake View Post

 

Another question... is big band/swing considered jazz?


Absolutely!  There might be more styles and variations of jazz than any other genre.
 

 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

That's good to know, I've always loved that sound but wasn't entirely sure if it counted as jazz. Big band/swing just seems a whole lot more scripted and straight-forward to me than more obscure variations of jazz (which frankly, I often find near impossible to follow the timings of and appreciate appropriately).

With such great ranges in style it makes it difficult to understand what jazz embodies. It's difficult for me to explicitly comprehend what is native to the genre of jazz that is expressed in all of its sub-genres (from what examples I know of: ragtime, big band/swing, bebop, contemporary). What I do know is that some of the stuff considered to be jazz is extremely enjoyable to listen to :D

post #8 of 13

A lot of the styles are more of a representation of what was popular during certain blocks of time or decades.

post #9 of 13

Jazz began as the junction of ragtime, tin pan alley and military band music. Its main distinguishing characteristics are often syncopation and improvisation.

post #10 of 13

IMO you'll never be able to define what jazz is - it's a constantly evolving/growing/changing art form - and at one point in time, some may consider something jazz while others will not. As bigshot mentioned, improv is normally one of the universal defining characteristics of jazz. Some will argue that is must also swing, but there are just as many, if not more, who will argue that a swing feeling isn't necessary. Jazz is always reaching "outside the box" so trying to define it, or put it in a box, is nearly impossible. I think it was Eric Dolphy who once said that jazz is like an octopus - it has all these arms and just reaches out and grabs what it wants; meaning that jazz artists will grab stuff from hip-hop, classical, rock, blues, and any other genere, and incorporate it into jazz.

 

That being said, you have tons of options and if you could talk about your preferences, I'm sure a lot of people will have suggestions (for example, do you like vocals with your jazz? want big band/swing recommendations? what about favorite instruments?). Personally, I think the straightahead jazz style is a great starting point because it's what most people think of when they hear the word jazz (they either think that or avant garde jazz). Straightahead jazz usually has a 4/4 time signature and walking bass which give it a swing feeling. Below are a few recommendations I usually give to friends who are just getting into jazz.

 

Christian McBride & Inside Straight - "Kind of Brown"

Donald Harrison - "Indian Blues"

Joshua Redman - "Spirit of the Movement: Live at The Village Vanguard"

The Bill Charlap Trio - "Live at The Village Vanguard"

 

New Orleans style:

Rebirth Brass Band - "Hot Venom"

Trombone Shorty - "For True"

 

Below is a link to my website for jazz reviews - I put a lot of emphasis on writing reviews that new/novice jazz fans will hopefully find useful; in other words, I try to avoid a lot of technical jargon and concentrate on the music as I hear it. Whenever possible, I try and make comparisions to other known artists (both jazz and non-jazz artists) and I usually discuss who would enjoy a certain CD - meaning, is it something for everyone or more suited for the "seasoned" jazz fan. Finally, I focus primarily on the contemporary jazz scence as there is truly a huge pool of talent making great music today!

 

http://www.jazzjunkie.net

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpink44 View Post

IMO you'll never be able to define what jazz is - it's a constantly evolving/growing/changing art form - and at one point in time, some may consider something jazz while others will not. As bigshot mentioned, improv is normally one of the universal defining characteristics of jazz. Some will argue that is must also swing, but there are just as many, if not more, who will argue that a swing feeling isn't necessary. Jazz is always reaching "outside the box" so trying to define it, or put it in a box, is nearly impossible. I think it was Eric Dolphy who once said that jazz is like an octopus - it has all these arms and just reaches out and grabs what it wants; meaning that jazz artists will grab stuff from hip-hop, classical, rock, blues, and any other genere, and incorporate it into jazz.

 

That being said, you have tons of options and if you could talk about your preferences, I'm sure a lot of people will have suggestions (for example, do you like vocals with your jazz? want big band/swing recommendations? what about favorite instruments?). Personally, I think the straightahead jazz style is a great starting point because it's what most people think of when they hear the word jazz (they either think that or avant garde jazz). Straightahead jazz usually has a 4/4 time signature and walking bass which give it a swing feeling. Below are a few recommendations I usually give to friends who are just getting into jazz.

 

Christian McBride & Inside Straight - "Kind of Brown"

Donald Harrison - "Indian Blues"

Joshua Redman - "Spirit of the Movement: Live at The Village Vanguard"

The Bill Charlap Trio - "Live at The Village Vanguard"

 

New Orleans style:

Rebirth Brass Band - "Hot Venom"

Trombone Shorty - "For True"

 

Below is a link to my website for jazz reviews - I put a lot of emphasis on writing reviews that new/novice jazz fans will hopefully find useful; in other words, I try to avoid a lot of technical jargon and concentrate on the music as I hear it. Whenever possible, I try and make comparisions to other known artists (both jazz and non-jazz artists) and I usually discuss who would enjoy a certain CD - meaning, is it something for everyone or more suited for the "seasoned" jazz fan. Finally, I focus primarily on the contemporary jazz scence as there is truly a huge pool of talent making great music today!

 

http://www.jazzjunkie.net



Hey thanks for the reply. Your material looks really helpful as a starting point. I'm overseas at the moment but will hit it all up properly once I get back. As for what preferences I have... I think I appreciate a wide range of the style so it's difficult for me to say. Funnily enough I've actually listened to trombone shorty live and it was pretty fantastic.

 

post #12 of 13

Quote:

Originally Posted by avoshake View Post


 



Hey thanks for the reply. Your material looks really helpful as a starting point. I'm overseas at the moment but will hit it all up properly once I get back. As for what preferences I have... I think I appreciate a wide range of the style so it's difficult for me to say. Funnily enough I've actually listened to trombone shorty live and it was pretty fantastic.

 


Avoshake - Excellent...hope you find the reviews helpful as you expand your jazz listening!! If you find a few artists or styles that you really enjoy, hit me up on my website or on one of the jazz threads here and I can make some other recommendations - plus, there are loads of people on this forum willing to share what they are listening to.

 

Needless to say, I'm envious you've seen Trombone Shorty live! His new album is a lot of fun - definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed his live performance. 

 

As a side note regarding your "what is jazz" question - I was reading last night about the beginning of the bebop era in the 1940s. One of the major players - I believe it was Charlie Parker - said at that time that you couldn't consider the new style jazz because it was completely different than the swing music which came before it. Even though bebop is one of the foundations of modern jazz, the original players didn't necessarily consider it jazz.

 

Happy holidays!!!
 


Edited by mrpink44 - 12/30/11 at 5:33am
post #13 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpink44 View Post

Quote: Even though bebop is one of the foundations of modern jazz, the original players didn't necessarily consider it jazz.

 


There were a lot of "moldy figs" at the time who felt the same way about it.

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