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wundayatta's avatar

What is your understanding of jazz?

Asked by wundayatta (58329 points ) May 16th, 2012

What makes jazz work? Who is it for? What do you need to know to understand it? What makes it likeable or enjoyable? What is difficult about it? Who shouldn’t have anything to do with it? Do you have to take a course in order to get it? Is it political? Is it a status symbol? What other thoughts come to mind when you think about jazz?

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21 Answers

ucme's avatar

Simple, one word sums it up for me it’s niiiice. Okay, so that’s 2 words, but who’s counting.

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s all about the changes Daddy. I dig it the most.

flutherother's avatar

It’s music. I love it. It makes the world a better place.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When I first listened as a young kid then I thought jazz was “modern” blues. As time passed, I wasn’t sure what jazz was anymore; sometimes elevator music, sometimes easy listening public spaces music, sometimes really moving.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

It’s an American art form.

syz's avatar

I have to admit, I really don’t understand jazz. I know I like some of it, and a lot of it I don’t. (And of course, we’ve all heard the old joke about making an error while playing an instrument – do it again and call it jazz.)

Blackberry's avatar

I like it more when I’ve smoked marijuana.

Cruiser's avatar

Jazz doesn’t have to be so complicated @wundayatta. Really what is there to like or get about any style of music. What do you need to understand a music style? Classical orchestrated music is so complex and dynamic it almost takes a Julliard graduate to fully understand it but doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and enjoy it.

Jazz itself is comprised of so many sub styles that are as diverse as all the other music styles put together. I myself like the fusion jazz ala Miles Davis which is soulful, sexy and dynamic. Some jazz can be so avant garde, I too wonder what chemicals the musicians are on to play that hodge podge of sound.

If I had to put it in a nutshell, jazz’s appeal for me is it’s musical diversity. Most often it is non-repetitive in structure and almost like taking the long way scenic route in music…something different at every turn. Jazz also allows much more musical freedom for the composer and musicians that play it to put out their own artistic interpretation of the sound and notes being played. Jazz is often improvised and that too can allow for musical soundscapes that are truly original.

Jazz is an acquired taste but once you do “get it” it is pure musical freedom. Jazz is like musical Mother Nature…free…wild and wonderful.

TexasDude's avatar

@Blackberry that tends to make most things more likeable.

All I know about jazz is what I have learned from my friend who is a professional jazz drummer who studied jazz in school. And that is that it is meandering.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I believe one has to be open-minded to appreciate Jazz. I find it easier to enjoy when only one instrumentalist is improvising at a time. When it seems like they’re all doing it, it sounds like a orchestra when they are tuning up before the performance. I believe that the more exposure one has to Jazz, the easier it will be to enjoy it. If you don’t know what the melody is, you might find it hard to understand the Jazz variations. Despite longstanding tradition, I like hearing Jazz when the air is not blue from slow burning vegetable matter.

SuperMouse's avatar

All I learned about Jazz I learned from my local NPR station. I think Jazz is an acquired taste and one may like one type immensely while being driven batty by another type of Jazz.

When I think of Jazz I think of improvisation, Woody Allen, Bob Dorough, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk.

Trillian's avatar

I lack the sophistication to appreciate jazz. I liken it to sex where one is never allowed to come.

wundayatta's avatar

@syz It’s not really a joke. It is through making “mistakes” that new ideas are found, musically. The trick is to learn to hear everything with the attitude of “that’s beautiful!” I.e., trying to get rid of your preconceptions about how music should sound.

You have to know how to play pretty well in order to earn the right to hear your “mistakes” as beautiful innovations. Or not. Maybe you just need to play with people who listen and who can cooperate in turning mistakes into beauty.

There’s a lot of philosophy to this kind of music, but I don’t know how much of it matters to listeners. I suspect it doesn’t matter much at all. But I know it is complex music compared to some other forms, and I gather that it is too much for some (many?) people.

Sunny2's avatar

I love jazz unless it’s the too frantic type. It’s the rhythms and chords that distinguish it from other music forms. It’s not as strict as other forms, relying on improvisation, which makes it very special. I can’t explain it, but I know it when I hear it.

Kardamom's avatar

Until I was in my late 20’s I used to think that I did not like jazz, but that’s mostly because I was thinking about it in terms of the squeaky saxophone heavy, out of control piano, dissonant kind of jazz that I heard playing in the background at “grown up” restaurants. I’m not even sure what you’d call that type of jazz, but here’s an example of it (minus the squeaky out of tune saxophone) Here

Then someone brought in a CD of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and I realized that I had not only heard those songs when I was a kid in the 60’s, I liked it even then and thought it was cool. Just never thought of it as jazz, just good music. I love So What and this version actually shows the notes as they are being played, which is kind of cool.

I also realized that Dixieland Music (featuring a nifty bass saxophone solo at the beginning) and Ragtime are also jazz forms that I love. And don’t forget about classical/jazz fusion such as Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Swing Jazz like Benny Goodman’s Flat Foot Floogie

I could not begin to explain, nor do I “understand” jazz. Some of it I love, some of it I like OK (most elevator music) and some of it I hate (when it’s loud, squeaky, and seemingly without any kind of melody or specific rhythm).

OMG! I can’t believe I almost posted without linking one of Astrud Gilbertos songs. Brazilian jazz is a genre unto itself. Check out Agua de Beber

blueiiznh's avatar

A free flow feeling of art felt at so many levels.

filmfann's avatar

Jazz is never perfect. It is always searching.

Facade's avatar

I love jazz; it’s so inventive.

Cruiser's avatar

@Facade I totally agree!

digitalimpression's avatar

“What makes jazz work?”
Different timing, complex chord patterns, and a overall sophisticated vibe.

“Who is it for?”
Anyone. Mostly its for people who can’t help but tap their feet when it is playing

“What do you need to know to understand it?”
Well you can enjoy it without understanding it.. but to truly understand what’s going on with the chord progressions, the history, etc.. you would need to do some reading or some classes.

“What makes it likeable or enjoyable?”
Appreciation of the talent and hard work that goes into playing it. Recognition of the skill of musicians or singers. But mostly it strikes at the musical core of certain people in the same way it strikes those who like different styles of music.

“What is difficult about it?”
Taking piano, for example, you will see much more intricate and complex scales and scores. It would not be unusual to be using every one of your fingers simultaneously to play the majority of a song using brilliant mixtures of dissonance and consonance. This is much more difficult than say… playing “smells like teen spirit” using power chords on the guitar.

“Who shouldn’t have anything to do with it?”
My immediate reaction was to answer that people who like bands such as Cannibal Corpse shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But that’s not necessarily true. Some people can enjoy these two totally different types of music equally. It’s a case by case basis. Personally I’d rather use a cheese grater on my jibblets than listen to Cannibal Corpse…. for me it has less value than dumpster drainings.

“Do you have to take a course in order to get it?”
Not necessarily. You can “get” it by just listening to it. To fully understand what’s happening in a song.. probably reading or a course as I mentioned earlier.

“Is it political?”
I’m interested to see how someone will relate jazz to politics. I see no relation.

“Is it a status symbol?”
I suppose some will incorrectly perceive themselves as being more sophisticated or intellectual by listening to it (and truth be told, those who truly enjoy it I have found to be far more intellectually stimulating than fans of Cannibal Corpse or similar rubbish). However, there is no set rule for this either. Everyone is different. For me it has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else. I like it because it “clicks” with my musical genes.

“What other thoughts come to mind when you think about jazz?”
It brings to mind a time when music was valued for what it was, and the skill and hard work it took to play it.. back in the Art Tatum and Dizzie Gillespie days… (this could be a delusional daydream on my part.. but there’s just something… special about older music that I haven’t found with “the new stuff”.) Nowadays it seems to be quite a lot of marketing, makeup, and money.

jazmina88's avatar

Jazz is Freedom of Expression.

Jazz is disciplined practice evolving into magic.

The chords – as a keyboard player, you need to get into the theory, and guitar as well. Lushness.

I was a classically trained musician, improvising scared me….how to choose, so much freedom. I’ve learned a few heads back in the day and known quite a few dudes who played with Hampton, Miles and blessed to know and cherish them. and then the new school…..edgy, chaos, leading us forward, but never straight ahead.

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