Why would anyone like jazz?


Todd Hunter explains his view and feelings about the jazz. Worthy reading… Thank for the tip Gary!

I grew up listening to jazz. My dad played it on piano and my mom sang and there were frequent jam sessions at the house. There was also a decent record collection of Blue Note and Verve and Capitol artists, among others, being played on the home stereo. 

I can't say that I always liked what I was hearing, but I did come to recognize and appreciate the energy that built up when the players were really swinging. It was infectious, free and fun and usually put a smile on my face.

As I got older, I dug a little deeper and began to understand the harmonic complexities of jazz theory. Definitely some math involved there....not my favorite subject, but the more I learned, the more interesting it became. Soon I was testing out chords and progressions on my dad's piano and eventually sitting in with his various bands. A big part of that was learning to improvise, and although my dad didn't formally teach me, he did offer much in the way of hints and advice. One thing he said early on was, "Play like you're writing a song with a good melody." That has stayed with me to this day.

Occasionally I find myself in a conversation with someone who tells me that they don't like jazz. "Jazz music is too self indulgent!" "Jazz sounds like a bunch of musicians all playing different songs at the same time!" "I don't understand it." "That guy sounds like he's strangling a cat!" 

I have to agree, all good reasons to dislike jazz.

So why do I like jazz?

The answer is: I don't like all jazz. Just like I don't like every book I've ever read, or every painting I've seen. I can go on.....

First of all, jazz is art, and appreciation of art is always going to be personal. That being said, here are some ideas about jazz music that resonate with me:

Jazz can be like a good conversation. You start with a "topic," in this case it would be a song, and then you begin "talking about it." Every participants voice is important and you all listen to each other. What you say is up to you, and if you keep it interesting, the conversation turns out better. When you're ready to wrap it up, you bring it back to the original theme and you all come to a conclusion. Every time you do this it will be different. It's not a speech. Each conversation is unique and exciting and you don't know for sure what's going to happen.

Also, jazz musicians typically develop their "vocabulary" so you're likely to hear some "interesting words".....but you're also going to hear some "grunts and groans" and other expressions that prove in a more basic way that they believe and feel what they are talking about. A good story requires, in large part, an effective story teller. The better jazz musicians will take you with them as their story unfolds.

Jazz is a true American art form and is one of the greatest examples of freedom that has ever been created.

This is why I like jazz.

Todd Hunter