“Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.” - Art Blakey
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
How often do you hear about jazz being difficult, not accessible and generally something scary? Often? Well, maybe not since talking about jazz scarcely happens in the first place. When it does it tends to have this connotation that jazz is overly complex and not for an everyday man. But is this really the case?
I’m here to tell you a little secret that I’m pretty sure no one has ever told you. Are you ready? Jazz is for everyone! *Gasp* Yes, that includes you. I know, I know, it’s very possible that the mere thought of jazz makes you roll your eyes and think of endless solos that don’t make any sense and that sound… well, weird. Or perhaps you think it’s supposed to be sophisticated and it would be cool to listen to it, but it’s simply too overwhelming and difficult. Whatever the case, it’s likely that you think ‘It’s just not for me’. That’s most people’s relationship to jazz. So I am writing this post because it doesn’t work for me that we live in a world where such an immense art form is mostly overlooked and misunderstood. I honestly believe every single person has a place in their heart for jazz. It is not meant for only a handful of people, but should be enjoyed by everyone. It has so much to give and I really don’t want anyone to miss out on that. Jazz is for everyone, people!
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." - John Keating, The Dead Poet Society
Public image and media are making us believe otherwise. It seems to me that jazz is always portrayed as something that is meant only for a small and chosen minority. This leads to people avoiding jazz altogether. Maybe the thought of listening and liking jazz has simply never crossed their minds, or maybe they see it as something too difficult, therefore not something they would want to get into (i.e., “It’s just not for me”). You might see yourself in here too. I get that and I can relate to that feeling. I used to feel this way some years ago.
And today? Today I see something else. Jazz is incredibly diverse and it is actually such a broad term. The area it covers is vast. One of the reasons I love jazz so much is how diverse it is. Anything that you could possibly imagine and anything that you couldn’t, is covered. There is something for everyone! So when I hear people say that it’s not for them or that it’s difficult to listen to, I know this has more to do with the perception of this music than the reality.
Because you know what’s almost always the case? People hear one or two jazz songs and after they don’t like it they decide jazz is not for them. However not liking some songs says nothing about your relationship to the whole genre. Nobody likes everything. That’s ok and we’re all the same in that. I mean I am what you would call a jazz lover (in case you haven’t noticed already), but there is tons of acclaimed jazz music that I don’t enjoy. You don’t have to like everything, nobody does. But don’t disregard the whole genre because of that.
Before I started listening to jazz I fell into this trap too. I was pretty certain that I didn’t like it, until it swoop me off my feet one day. Which came as a shock. I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m not saying everyone will go head over heels for jazz like I did - I’m just saying you may not be aware of it yet, but I’m 100% certain there is a place in your heart for jazz.
To be clear, I’m not promoting everyone should start getting crazy over jazz. Not at all, that would be no good. Diversity in the world is what makes life beautiful. What I am saying though, is that people get afraid of jazz and that shouldn’t happen. It’s such a precious treasure and failing to see its value and treating it like it’s difficult and only for a ‘chosen’ minority is no good. Musicians don’t get the recognition they deserve, and most of the world is missing out on something huge. Something exciting, exquisite, and one of the most honest forms of human communication.
The reason I am writing about this is that I passionately believe jazz is one of the finer things life has to offer. It’s far-reaching and speaks to tolerance and encourages individuality and diversity at the same time. It can be exciting or relaxed, intense or mellow, joyful or anguished, sensuous or childish but most importantly it’s always honest. The stories it tells are relevant and relatable. The people who have been creating it come from all walks of life. They are as diverse as they come, but they all share the devotion and passion for music and give it their everything. Simply put, at the end of the day jazz is fun, fulfilling and… it swings!
I’m certain there isn’t a person alive who couldn’t use a piece of that in their lives.
“Jazz music celebrates life! Human life; the range of it, the absurdity of it, the ignorance of it, the greatness of it, the intelligence of it, the sexuality of it, the profundity of it. And it deals with it. In all of its… It deals with it!” - Wynton Marsalis
Why does it matter?
In this day and age where radios and TVs play mostly over-produced soulless music, made with the sole purpose of earning as much money as possible, we are blasted with superficial crap with no originality. It’s intentionally made simple and uses proven hooks that are bound to bring in cash. The commercial radios poison our ears by playing same stuff over and over again. They’d rather play one song a hundred times than play something that deviates from their mold. In turn, they numb our senses and make it harder and harder to be really touched by a piece of music. It is rare or practically impossible to hear something authentic, honest and from the heart. I think that’s awful and no one should stand idly by and suffer that. Music is something that can enrich our lives extensively. And jazz offers that full-heartedly.
Do yourself a favour. Take a step away from the everyday, shallow stuff that’s blasting at you and take the time to enjoy something that’s soulful, honest and courageous. It will put a spark in your life.
“I was in awe of jazz musicians because of their power, because of the mystery of their sinuous but overwhelming power. Nothing else in my experience was so exhilarating, so utterly compelling. The laughter in the music, the intimacy, the range and bite of the life-tales each player told in textures and cadences entirely his own. The irony, the deep blues, and, as I grew older, the sensuousness.” - Nat Hentoff, Jazz Is
Ok, let’s do this
So how do you get into jazz? Since it’s so vast, where do you begin, how do you find a piece of it that you enjoy? That’s a whole different story and I will get into that in my next post, so stay tuned.