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Steve_A's avatar

What is jazz music?

Asked by Steve_A (5125points) February 19th, 2010

Both in terms of music theory and the tone/feel of it.

How do you define jazz?

I partly ask this question because I was fiddling around with recording a deal where I tried to combine jazzy chords and rock elements with a little 2–5-1.

Also called fusion I think it is. I had mixed feedback but one guy blew up about when I called it that and was like thats not jazz at all man, you can’t just do this and call it that and blah blah basically.

Personally I did not know there was so called rules to music and restrictions against experimenting, but eh whatever.

So when do you know it is jazz what makes it jazzy??

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13 Answers

ucme's avatar

It’s how Woody Allen get’s the girls. Nice.Well that & his cash obviously.

TheLoneMonk's avatar

Jazz, while having some musical definitions, really in my opinion is all about interpretation and feeling. I think every musical generation has had a type of jazz from Swing and Big Band to Fusion and New Age Jazz. Think Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller to David Brubeck and Dave Lanz. Pat Methany and Lyle Hays. I don’t think you can define it. You have to listen to it and decide.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

This is my favorite type of jazz.Don’t ask me about theory,Steve!WOOOOOOOO Weeeee!

TheLoneMonk's avatar

I forgot Dixieland…thanks LucyLucy!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@TheLoneMonk -You are welcome!Gotta love it!!:)

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

In my opinion, if someone got pissed about it, it’s probably closer to jazz than what we call jazz. lol.

wundayatta's avatar

Oh dear me. What a touchy area. Certain Jazz purists, mostly African-American, I think, believe that Jazz is just…. hmmm…. I know it when I hear it—the traditional stuff that is straight jazz. It could be inside or it could be outside, but anything mixed with rock or anything else; and anything that does not come steeped in the tradition—don’t you dare call it jazz. People can be very touchy about that.

So my band, even though it was playing music written by someone who had played with all the greats—he wouldn’t let us call it jazz. We played, he said, “in the jazz idiom.”

I guess it’s a political kind of thing. It might be a kind of cultural protection thing. African-Americans don’t want icons of their culture appropriated by whites any more than Native Americans want whites to steal sweat ceremony.

I think it is appropriate to acknowledge the roots of what you are doing, and to separate what you are doing from those roots. It is a gesture of respect to not call it jazz.

And yet, in my mind, what I do is jazz. It is based on the improvisational principles of jazz. Yes, we stretch it and take it into our “white” kinds of places, but we know where it comes from, and the essence of music, anyway, it fusion. It is all about the clash of cultures and the melding of cultures.

I am not going to tell you what I think you should do in terms of what you call what you do. I do think you should acknowledge the history of where your music comes from. Although it’s kind of absurd, because where does rock come from? It’s as if something branched off and then comes back to the family, and because it branched off, it can no longer be considered part of the family.

Anyway, I could be wrong about this, but that’s my perception of what is at play, here.

Bluefreedom's avatar

Jazz is music originating in New Orleans around the beginning of the 20th century and subsequently developing through various increasingly complex styles, generally marked by intricate, propulsive rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, improvisatory, virtuosic solos, melodic freedom, and a harmonic idiom ranging from simple diatonicism through chromaticism to atonality.

filmfann's avatar

The Jazz I like has a searching quality to it… a flavor of uncertainty.
That is the best I can describe it.

gasman's avatar

Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.Louis Armstrong, answering your question :)

Steve_A's avatar

Hm, oh well it was a worth a shot.

Strauss's avatar

How does one define jazz? How does one define art? Historically, the answer profvided by @TheLoneMonk seems to be most accurate. Jazz players put a high priority on improvisation. Although there are other genres that do this, jazz has its own feel for it. Another aspect that’s common to most jazz players is the blues form, usually 12-bar with an AABA format. Also jazz is a performer’s art rather than a composer’s art like classical.

Jazz was once a genre all its own, but now it has influenced and been influenced by many other genres: jazz-rock, latin jazz, acid jazz, fusion. Purists may want to deny it, but I think all of these mix-genres can be classified as jazz.

gasman's avatar

Counter to some of the preceding answers, all music is subject to individual interpretation by the artist, while improvisation, though an important ingredient of jazz, does not really define the genre. Bach improvised, but nobody calls it jazz.

To me the essence of jazz is its unique rhythm, syncopation being a central feature. Ragtime, a forerunner of jazz at the turn of the 20C, was built around syncopation. Jazz developed this further by a certain laxity of timing, notes played both early and late in reference to a strong metronomic background beat. There is an unmistakable musical feel that we call swing, and it’s all about rhythm.

I offer as evidence the fact that any piece of music—from classical to rock—can be rendered as jazz simply by changing the rhythmic figures without touching the melody, harmony, or other elements of its musical form. Indeed some of the greatest jazz arrangements were based directly on classical or operatic themes. Conversely plenty of good jazz tunes have been turned into square ‘elevator music’ simply by reverting back to rigid rhythm—destroying their heart & soul in the process.

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