it has been very interesting hanging out here at ljp.  the questions and comments have been very enlightening.  i thoughy it might be interesting if people would share their definition or concept of what jazz is.

is it a type of music?  an approach to playing?  an era of yore?  does it really exist today, or has it morphed into something that will be labeled by the historians of the future (ya know, like baroque, classical, romantic, dixieland, bebop, cool, etc)

personally i grew up with the notion that jazz is an improvisational art form, but yet i find myself pretty much just copying what i've heard others playing, with hopefully a little twist of my own.  but all in all, i don't feel i am original like the folks who created this music.  in fact, i hear a lot of mimics nowadays, who seem to be re-creating what the legends gave us.

i would love to hear the thought of others, but please, let's avoid copying and pasting articles found elsewhere.  i would really love to hear the thoughts of the members of this forum.

There are 29 comments, leave a comment.

awh, c'mon dr. frank, i thought you'd have some real insight for me.  but it looks like you might be speaking for the rest of the forum.... and perhaps that is the insight - haha :)
so yesterday i was struck by reading some of the questions and comments here and that is what prompted this (dead) thread.  

i will end it with this bill evans quote:

“it bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. it’s not. it’s feeling.”
if everyone in the world played jazz and enjoyed playing on their own as well as with others, there no longer would be any wars.
it is clever, intriguing, artistic,  
covers at least three decades of discovery,
covers  all, eg trad, modern, improvising, comping, big bands, small bands, trios etc etc,
requires a lot of varied knowledge,
requires much concentration at times whilst, at others, is most relaxing,
demands  ‘listening’ to the attempts of others, and, when not alone, all the others in the ‘band’ etc,
that “ little twist of my own”,
that feeling you get when you hear some changes, that you just have to swing, never mind if it means you ‘come in’ late for the others – you just can’t help it,
you feel the need to improve, experiment, sometimes just chill out (on a good day),
you recognise that you have to take turns and you have to learn where and when to do this,
whilst always keeping the tune going,
probably lots more as well that i can’t remember right now.
oh yes, you have to accommodate vocalists (keys you would not normally plan in perhaps!) 

take it away, guys.  kai
apols. for "improve", please read "improvise".
jazz is a fascination , a discipline , an art and a science, a challenge, an open-ended pallette of sound, something that engages the brain like nothing else, a lifetime's study.
jazz is a former type of popular music that evolved into a very complex harmonic form.  it started out very stylistically (ii-vs, swing 8ths) but has evolved beyond a strict style to accommodate almost anything that is satisfyingly original and complex.  it attracts musicians that look more for unpredictability than the common music fan.  it has been in and out,but will never go away because there is a type of advanced musician that will always find it superior to other styles.  about the only thing is must have is a prominent component of improvisation.  a better term would be comufomomu - complex music for modern musicians.  or something like that.
   it is funny dfrank said yawn.  with the exception of him and precious few others i am close to saying it is a historical form.
much like the blues.  drrank is living it.. so it is real for him.  boring to talk about it in that way i assume.    i think that with some exceptions most of us are trying to play a music that happened in another era.  there were certainly a lot of common traits to the music that we have to adhere to try to say we are playing jazz... improvisation, swing, a lot of harmonic principles.. all that.  
   but even some great jazz musicians of recent times refused to admit the were jazz musicians.  point in case... dave mckenna to the day he died insisted he was not a jazz pianist and i would say if he was not who ever was???
thanks for appeasing my interest.  i don't feel like such a dork:)  i am truly interested in everyone's opinion.
what jazz was is clear and definable due to the 20-20 hindsight of recorded history.

it began with musicians such as jelly roll and satchmo. it was popular music. it was also irreverent, with even the name of the style carrying lustful suggestion.

as it grew to become the most popular dance music in america, more and more highly trained musicians hitched their wagons to this trend lending their own take on what their personal vision of jazz was.

eventually it evolved past it's humble beginnings as a raucous folk-art, and background music for the mating meat market in the ballrooms, and became sit-down sit-still art music performed by awe-inspiring virtuosos for respectful adulation by the intelligentsia.

at the same time it was splitting into factions and sub-genres, which so many branches on the tree of jazz, that almost anything that contained a ii-v-i progression or some altered extensions could be considered jazz.

is there a common thread that runs undiluted throughout the entire history of jazz?

perhaps "improvisation"? but many of the swing era arrangements were played as set pieces with no improvisation.

perhaps "swing"? but much of the avant-garde era with their angular anarchy posing as art doesn't swing or groove in the traditional sense  at all.

perhaps "pushing the envelope"? but were the great innovators of history consciously "pushing the envelope" or were they simply following their own muse, and the "pushing of the envelope" was nothing more than a tangential effect of tapping into their inner demons?

maybe "individuality"? but don't we all speak with our own voice, regardless of what language we are using to express our thoughts and emotions?

nowadays the term "jazz" has become little more than a marketing category to distinguish one type of music from another, and since there seems to be a consensus (at least among "jazz" musicians posting on internet forums) that to have your music associated with the term "jazz" is a financial kiss of death. so why would any musician want to be known as a "jazz artist" if they are really a pop act with just a smidgen of jazz influence?

perhaps "poverty" is the one attribute that runs through the entire history of jazz. how many jazz musicians ever actually became rich playing their chosen music? very very few.

how many fantastic jazz players could have made a killing in the music business if they hadn't stubbornly clung to their ideals and continued to play what they love in spite of barely subsisting, rather than selling out to "the man" to make it big in the popular marketplace playing music that they did not respect?

but the question is not "what was jazz" but "what is jazz?".

from my subjective myopic view of jazz in the early twentieth century, i'd have to say that jazz is lots of things and lots of genres - and add that it might almost be easier to define jazz by what it is not.

- it is not square

- it is not juvenile

- it is not boring

- it is not simple

- it is not mainstream commercial

which implies that it is cool and hip (both rhythmically and culturally), and that is music for adults who appreciate and understand the subtleties of music. it is a very intellectually engaging art form. it is usually complex (relative to pop pap) and nowadays it has re-emerged as an underground art form with a cult following.

there are those who love to proclaim that "jazz is dead" or "jazz is a historical musical art form" whose players are merely poor mimics of the glory that once was.

but those people are assholes.

jazz is (was and probably always will be) a language with which to express yourself in a very personal fashion. there are many languages in this world, and a language can only become extinct if there is no one alive to speak it.
did you just call me an asshole?   lol  :)
no mike, i just did:) trying to think of how to respond to this post, as i'm listening to some beeoo-tiful paul desmond solos..

i agree with jeff, except the expletive.
jazz is one musical language that a sophisticated few, many of whom actually play music, appreciate as a sublime aspect of human interaction.
yeah, i grew up hearing my dad's paul desmond, brubeck, dave pell, early miles, oscar, etc records.   when chicago and blood sweat & tears came out, i recognized that music as being a mixture of what i knew as jazz, and rock (hence the name, jazzrock).  later on, it was hard for me to accept players like chic & jarrett as playing jazz because a lot of the previous "vernacular" was missing, but perhaps that was the music that began the path to fusion?  (was that short for confusion? :)  i later came to respect those fellas as being creative individuals, but the question of whether it was jazz or not, still remained.  however, herbie always seemed to be an indivdual without veering from what i felt was jazz.  but in the long run who cares? i love jeff beck and max middleton too, but were they playing jazz? i like bruce hornsby and his very distinctive style.  bruce sounds like bruce.   he seems like a mixture of varied influences, some of which is "jazz".

bottom line, i guess it's like media of ill repute; hard to define, but we know it when we see it:)
it's obvious no one can accurately define jazz in words, but when you think about it, you can't define any other music style in words either.  

branford marsalis said in an interview that you can't describe jazz any more than you can describe french to someone who has never heard it.

"what is jazz" is best answered by "who is jazz".
i guess it's like baseball.  it's been around forever and is still fun to play. but you're never too old to play jazz:)
i know what jazz is.  i remember in high school when i still thought i'd be the next allen vizutti on trumpet that we had a saying:

jazz is where it's at.
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
hey folks, will you do me a favor and test out the +1 and facebook buttons for this thread?  i'm not sure if the social button thing is working and it's hard to tell just from me doing it.  thanks!
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
i played aa jazz gig on sumday.  how do i know i played jazz?  i made $15  and got a free beer, and played great music.
so once you start making some real money, the music has become pop.  i get it!
thanks, dr. mike!
exactly .. you only get payed to play jazz if you say are playing jazz but are really playing smegma like kenny g or the guy at the local hotel who is really playing sing a long with the old folk.
i knew there was a name for this new genre.  thanks again, dr. mike
or as you may have heard, jazz is when you play a thousand chords for an audience of three, as opposed to rock where you play three chords for an audience of a thousand.
i am thinking of getting back into smegma next year.  i miss the money.
and sometimes you can sneak in some jazz without taking a cut in pay
then there is always neo sweing and of course my fav neo smegma
lol - you are the man, dr.mike
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