Jazz is a poetry, is one of those dazzling diamonds of creative industry that help human beings make sense out of the comedies and tragedies that contextualize our lives.
Jazz music is a rich artistic heritage, a product of cultural collaboration and a universal language of tolerance and freedom.
Jazz is not the result of choosing a tune, but an ideal that is created first in the mind, inspired by ones passion and willed next in playing music. Jazz music is a language, sometimes intimate, often boisterous, but always layered with experience and life profoundly lived. Jazz is not found in websites or books or even written down in sheet music. It is in the act of creating the form itself, that we truly find Jazz.
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The timeline of Jazz style development has evolved significantly spanning three centuries. Since its birth, well over two dozen distinct Jazz styles have emerged, all of which are actively played today.
The origins of Jazz are attributed to turn of the 20th century New Orleans , although this unique, artistic medium occurred almost simultaneously in other North American areas like Kansas City, Saint Louis and Chicago. Traits carried from West African black folk music developed in the Americas, joined with European popular and light classical music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, became the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime and minor chord voicings characteristic of the Blues.
Most early Jazz was played in small marching bands or by solo banjo or piano . The dynamic of Jazz improvisation arose quickly but as an ornament of melody and was not to come into its own soloing styles until circa 1925.
During the years from the First to the Second World War (1914-1940) Europe, i.e. Paris, embraced Jazz music as its own. American musicians spread the globe as ambassadors of Jazz often in self-imposed exile from racial and social tensions at home, others in search of cultural and creative freedoms thought to exist abroad. Jazz music transformed from primarily an African-American genre into an international phenomenon.
Post-war depression and the break-up of the 'Big Bands' brought a focus on the smaller ensemble sound and the emancipation of Jazz styles. Risky ventures into improvisation gave Jazz critical cache with scholars that the Blues lacked. Perhaps the most innovative, forward discoveries in style took place at this time.
The 1950s Jazz scene faced new competition from other forms of entertainment. The growing popularity of television helped to introduce new popular music trends but shrinking Jazz audiences. Then Jazz music suffered an almost fatal trend upheaval first from the record industry's frenzy over Rock & Roll in the mid 1960s and followed by the Disco dance fad in the early 1970s. Many Jazz artists crossed over to more popular venues or joined the new Fusion school of Jazz.
During the 1980's, the Jazz timeline continued to evolve on a somewhat lateral direction with a multitude of influences, the most significant of which was the retro surfacing of it's own roots and styles. With an emergence of innovative young players revitalizing the creative spirits and a consistent increase of Jazz "purists" from the USA, Europe and abroad, the necessary energy and passion for creativity has continued to grow.
Post Bop, now interpreted with a modern preciseness and proficiency , ushered in the school of Classicism, circa 1990. This 'retro-renaissance' has become the passion of listeners and followers of every age group, of every culture and has brought a new awareness to the early sounds of legendary players.
An unexpected event of the 1990s was the emergence of Retro Swing, a joyous, easy listening celebration of Jump Blues, Hot Dance and Swing hybrid (sans soloing) played by young musicians from Indie Rock. This style brought back swing dancing to a new and vital younger audience.
Except for possibly Jazz Rap, M-Base and the European House dance music, significant change in the timeline of Jazz style has not occurred since.
Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis , and Billie Holiday are examples of some of the most celebrated jazz musicians of America’s past. These and many other famed musicians throughout the history of jazz have not only inspired modern musicians, but have also instilled modern music lovers with an appreciation for musical history.
Jazz is a uniquely American style of music that developed in the early twentieth century in urban areas of the United States. As it grew in popularity and influence, jazz served as a means of bringing young people together. It has always created and sustained artistic subcultures, which have produced new and increasingly sophisticated artistry. As a pervasive and influential musical style, jazz has at times been a great social leveler and unifier. It has melded black and white citizens in a love of fast, rhythmic music, which was first proliferated through radio and the recording industry. Jazz became the basis for most social dance music and also provided one of the first opportunities for public integration.
Jazz first emerged in the black cultures of New Orleans from the mixed influences of ragtime (songs with a syncopated rhythm), blues, and the band music played at New Orleans funerals. The term jazz or jass derives from a Creole word that means both African dance and copulation. The term jazz referring to peppy dance music first appeared in a March 1913 edition of the San Francisco Bulletin, an appearance that indicates jazz’s rapid spread as a popular musical genre as well as its connection to dancing and nightlife. Developed by such innovative musicians as Buddy Bolden (1877–1931) in New Orleans in the first decade of the twentieth century, jazz had moved west, east, and north to Chicago by 1919. Spread by such New Orleans jazz groups and performers as King Oliver (1885–1938) and his Creole Jazz Band and Jelly Roll Morton (1890–1941), jazz first became popular in the nightclub cultures of big cities. King Oliver’s band in Chicago was soon joined by a young Louis Armstrong (1901–1971), who pioneered the rapid rhythmic jazz style called hot jazz. White musicians such as Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931), Jack Teagarden (1905–1964), and Joe Venuti (1903–1978) began to copy the jazz style of New Orleans bands, and soon jazz was an American national phenomenon, appealing to sophisticates and young audiences around the country.
Jazz evolved simultaneously in the 1920s in New Orleans, Chicago, and Kansas City , performed by both black and white ensembles and orchestras. As it developed from its Dixieland forms, jazz styles ranged from the hot jazz of Louis Armstrong to the “symphonic” jazz of Paul Whiteman’s (1890–1967) band. Hot jazz, one of the first influential developments of jazz, featured a strong soloist whose variations on the melody and driving momentum were accompanied by an expert ensemble of five or seven players. The idea of soloists playing in relation to backup ensembles also worked easily with larger bands, which began to form in the 1920s.
Fletcher Henderson (1897–1952) and Duke Ellington (1899–1974) established black jazz orchestras that began performing at prominent nightclubs in Chicago and New York. Henderson employed some of the most accomplished jazz musicians of his time, including Armstrong and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (1904–1969). Ellington, who began as a piano player, established another orchestra, noted for its sophistication in its long-running appearance at New York’s Cotton Club. Paul Whiteman, a successful white California orchestra leader, adapted jazz for his larger dance orchestra, which became the most popular band of the 1920s. Whiteman was interested in distinguishing a high art jazz as represented by George Gershwin’s (1898–1937) Rhapsody in Blue (1924, which Whiteman had commissioned for his orchestra) from what he thought of as the cruder jazz of such white jazz ensembles as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, booked into New York in 1917, was one of the first successful jazz groups.
Live band appearances and a booming recording industry increased jazz’s audience, as did Prohibition, which paradoxically made nightlife even more fashionable. Associated with nightclubs and nightlife, jazz became attractively exotic both in the United States and in Europe. Popular jazz bands traveled widely, playing at all kinds of venues from dancehalls and nightclubs to restaurants. The rapidly growing record industry quickly became interested in jazz performers. Such artists as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman (1909–1986), Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and others made records that reached audiences who did not venture into city nightlife.
The Great Depression, however, took its toll on smaller and less successful jazz bands, black bands more than white bands. With the advent of swing music, many white bands could continue to prosper, but many black bands had more difficulty finding large audiences. They were less commercially successful in general, since most black orchestras did not have the mainstream connections and recording contracts of white bands. In addition, Jim Crow segregation laws kept black orchestras separate from white orchestras. For these reasons, many black jazz musicians went to Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, where they were welcomed. Coleman Hawkins and clarinetist Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) both played in Europe, where audiences were captivated by the erotic suggestiveness of jazz.
Swing, a jazz-inflected dance music, developed in the 1930s and was hugely popular during World War II (1939–1945). Swing jazz was designed for larger musical groups. It continued hot jazz’s back-and-forth between a solo player and the supporting ensemble, but it framed and balanced the solo with a more structured accompaniment, which often involved a musical battle between various sections of the band. Swing developed gradually, but Benny Goodman’s August 21, 1935, performance at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles is often considered swing’s debut. Its popularity established swing as a dance music and style that cut across classes and races. Swing bands—known as Big Bands —also employed band singers, many of whom became hugely popular in their own right. Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), for example, caused riots during his appearances with the Tommy Dorsey Band, while Bing Crosby (1903–1977), Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996), Billie Holiday (1915–1959), Doris Day, and Rosemary Clooney (1928–2002) all became stars in their own right.
Female singers, especially Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn (1924–1990), had a larger part in the evolution of jazz than most women did. Since its inception, innovations in jazz seemed to come mainly from those who played wind instruments—trumpet players Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie (1917–1993), and Miles Davis (1926–1991); saxophonists Charlie Parker (1920–1955) and John Coltrane (1926–1967); and clarinetist Benny Goodman. Players of other instruments, such as piano, drums, bass, and guitar, though enjoying roles as soloists, were primarily responsible for maintaining the driving rhythm of jazz pieces. Until they became prominent as jazz vocalists, women musicians seemed to have little role as jazz artists or innovators. Although they occasionally played in jazz groups, women musicians were most often pianists, such as Louis Armstrong’s wife, Lillian Hardin (1898–1971). The introduction of female vocalists whose role was increasingly like that of other featured wind instruments broadened the dimensions of jazz. Scat singing, or singing nonsense syllables, which had been used earlier by Ethel Waters (1900–1977), Edith Wilson (1896–1981), and Louis Armstrong, made the voice sound more like a jazz instrument. Melodic voice improvisation developed by such women vocalists as Adelaide Hall (1904–1993), Ivie Anderson (1905–1949), and most notably Fitzgerald made the voice an instrument and an important part of the jazz repertoire. Vocalist Billie Holiday added her own brand of blues inflected improvisation, phrasing like a wind player and injecting fun and suggestiveness into the music. In the 1940s two other vocalists, Dinah Washington (1924–1963) and Sarah Vaughn, added their own imprimatur to jazz: Washington imported a powerful clarity from gospel music, and Vaughn further developed the voice as an instrument in the context of bebop.
The popularity of swing music beginning in the 1930s also enabled bands to cross color lines. Before swing, bands mostly played to audiences of their own race, but with swing, white audiences began to follow black bands as well. In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman integrated his jazz ensemble, working with Teddy Wilson (1912–1986), a pianist, and Lionel Hampton (1908–2002), a vibraphonist. Because jazz musicians knew, admired, and even borrowed one another’s work, jazz ensembles were among the first integrated public performance groups.
Swing also helped moor up the national mood both during both the Depression and the Second World War. Armed Services Radio broadcast swing music to soldiers. Although musicians and record companies were at a standoff over musicians’ royalties for airplay in 1942, a special V-Disc program produced records for the use of the military.
After the war, many musicians who had begun their careers in swing bands—including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie —began exploring a more frenetic smallensemble form of jazz known as bop. With such younger artists as Miles Davis and Art Blakey (1919–1990), bop developed as a more hard-driving, difficult jazz characterized by the prominence of soloists who played rapid complex improvisations in business suits. Bop was primarily the bailiwick of black musicians, who were rescuing the form from the pleasant popularity of swing and who would, with their development of hard bop or bebop and cool jazz, turn jazz into something more intellectual, difficult, and soulful. These later forms became a connoisseur’s jazz, played again in smaller clubs and establishing jazz artists as the avant-garde of music. Such beat artists as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) extolled bop jazz as representing an expression of soul that beat writers wished to emulate by breaking down traditional forms.
Despite its often improvisational character, jazz benefited from a number of talented composers. Instrumentalists such as Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus (1922–1979), Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk (1917–1982), Sun Ra (1914–1993), Wayne Shorter, and Randy Weston contributed to the growing body of jazz music, as did Duke Ellington and his collaborator Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967). Ellington and Strayhorn, both pianists, forged a productive association, writing Ellington’s theme song, “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941), as well as other well-known favorites played by the Ellington orchestra. More recently, other composers have continued jazz’s evolution, including Jeff Wains and Wynton Marsalis.
Jazz had also long incorporated a broader base of musical styles and influences , so even as it became cool and increasingly sophisticated, it also dipped again and again into a variety of sources, renewing itself and extending its influence into more popular musical forms. As Dizzy Gillespie developed bop, he also infused his music with Afro-Cuban jazz rhythms and musicians. Chano Pozo (1915–1948), a Cuban percussionist, joined Gillespie’s band in 1947, and the addition of Pozo and a wide array of Latin percussion instruments, such as the congas, bongos, timbales, and claves, produced complex and rapidly moving pieces . Latin musicians such as trumpet player Arturo Sandoval also joined Gillespie. In the 1950s Puerto Rican percussionist Tito Puente (1923–2000) and Cuban musicians Chico O’Farrill (1921–2001) and Chucho Valdés played Latin mambo in New York, influencing both big band and jazz ensemble sounds. In the early 1960s Brazilian jazz, called bossa nova, emerged in the United States. João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927–1994) brought the style to the United States, and their work was taken up by saxophonist Stan Getz (1927–1991). Miles Davis worked with Brazilian drummer Airto Moreira, and in the 1990s Roy Hargrove incorporated Afro-Cuban elements in his Crisol project. The influence of Latin rhythms and styles enlarged the appeal of jazz, making it more joyous and rhythmic, and via such forms as bossa nova, linking it to more mainstream styles.
As jazz became more esoteric, it became more sophisticated than popular . Although it continued to influence the styles of newer music, such as rock and roll, its audience shrank to those who could appreciate its difficulties, and jazz no longer played as direct a role in the evolution of popular music. It retained its links to nightclubs, but lost its aura of carefree joy. Jazz musicians of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s became associated with the innovations and countercultural sentiments of the beats. Some, such as pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond (1924–1977), became campus favorites, touring with their jazz quartet around Midwest College campuses in the 1950s. In its links to countercultural art and lifestyles, as well as to a more intellectual milieu, jazz also became associated with civil rights efforts, Black Nationalism, and other radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Although jazz musicians (like many performers) had long been linked to drugs and less-than-suburban lifestyles, as drugs became an openly rebellious facet of the hippie and youth movements of the 1970s, they became a part of the myth of jazz as well.
At the same time, jazz also became more academic and respectable as a high culture phenomenon. Music conservatories and universities began offering courses in jazz history and composition and training jazz musicians . Such renowned institutions as the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Juilliard School in New York City, and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, as well as numerous universities in the United States and throughout the world, train jazz musicians.
Jazz of the later twentieth century continued to develop multiple styles —free jazz, soul jazz, jazz-rock fusion—that represented attempts to reclaim jazz as a specifically black musical tradition, even though jazz continued to be an integrated effort. Jazz groups again became smaller ensembles and their work became more experimental and aimed at appreciative listeners rather than at dancing. Jazz clubs developed in larger cities; the clubs attract audiences of jazz lovers but not nearly the kind of widespread adulation given to swing. In the 1990s Wynton Marsalis and his brother Branford Marsalis led a renaissance in the widespread popularity of jazz. Wynton Marsalis, a classically trained trumpet player, won Grammy Awards in both classical and jazz categories. More important perhaps was his energetic advocacy of jazz as a central genre of American music.
Collaborating with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, Wynton Marsalis contributed his own more conservative perspective to Burns’s twenty-hour documentary, Jazz (2001). Some musicians, such as Miles Davis, thought that Marsalis’s ideas of a pure jazz were too conservative, but Marsalis has certainly been responsible for the revival of jazz as an important musical form.
As it has throughout its history, jazz continues to find talented and innovative musicians who continue to reinvent and redefine jazz. Becoming increasingly international and opening slightly to greater participation by women musicians, jazz continues to influence developing musical styles, but its mixture of styles, its contributions to racial integration, and its establishment of a uniquely American form as a central influential musical tradition already form its legacy.
Written by David Liebman
Prior to World War II there was some jazz played in parts of Europe, but it was definitely the post war generation exposed to Bird and the be-boppers, (some of whom came through on tour), who took jazz and began to develop it, at first derivatively, t hen slowly expressing an individual personality. Remember, when one says Europe you are speaking about an area comparable to the size of the U.S., but with over a dozen distinct cultures, histories and traditions. Each country has its own slant on the development of jazz with a distinct way of doing things. Given the rich classical tradition that these musicians were born to and in many cases trained in, you can imagine the interesting and diverse fusions of influences that have taken place there.
The Afro-American roots of jazz which we take for granted in the U.S. didn’t really exist in Europe. But what they do possess besides the classics is proximity to many types of world music coming through colonization and subsequent immigration from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Europe indeed has its own unique circumstances which have mixed with American jazz. By the 1980s there were more notable jazz personalities and styles from many of the countries than previously. Some had come through be-bop, while the new generation was affected by free jazz and Coltrane as well as fusion. By that decade, jazz education was well on its way throughout Europe.
In fact, the 80s represented a virtual explosion of interest in jazz with more combinations of European and American musicians. There had always been a tradition of an American soloist (usually a horn player) playing with a European rhythm section. That trend increased during the 80s when even lesser known musicians were being invited to play with Europeans. Finally, the role of independent run record companies became quite pronounced in Europe from the 70s on, especially with the phenomenal success of the German-based ECM label. The European record producer was a special breed: non-compromising, expert in on e or more areas of the music, avid record collectors wholly dedicated to “art for arts sake.” It was through their support and commitment that many American musicians established a reputation as well as a platform to develop their art. With the American attitude towards commercialism and profit margins so entrenched in our culture, all but a few artists could regularly record in the U.S. Personally, my first two recordings as a leader were for ECM in the early 70s (“Lookout Farm” and “Drum Ode”), and if it weren’t for the great support of several labels over the years, I probably wouldn’t be writing to you now!!
Overall there are two strains of American influences which are quite pronounced in Scandinavian jazz. Because many expatriates resided in Sweden and Denmark in particular, there is a legacy of be-bop and the sophisticated audience which it engendered over several decades. On the other hand, there is the famous “Nordic” sound first made famous by Keith Jarrett’s recording on ECM “Belonging” from the 70s which used several Scandic musicians(Jon Christensen on drums, Palle Daniellson on b ass and Jan Garbarek on saxophone). This had a major influence on the jazz scene there and in fact worldwide as far as setting the tone of a style. The ECM label in fact has used a studio in Oslo, Norway for years to record many CDs and employed these an d other Scandinavian musicians for many dates over the past decades. Also, there is an abundance of big bands, both amateur and professional who regularly integrate the writing skills of some of America’s best composers: Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Mari a Schneider and Vince Mendoza to mane a few. Exactly what is this “Nordic” sound that I have referred to which in turn has influenced American musicians? Maybe it is the long winters along with the heavy imbibing that takes place in this part of the world. In any case, there is a melancholic and stark flavor in the harmonic realm, quite different then the blues tinge that we are used to. Some of the other characteristics area great deal of minor based tonality, a pronounced folk song influence, sparseness of texture, long melodic lines, a lot of rubato phrasing, eighth note based pulse with a sprinkling of uneven meter, and a preponderance of reverb effect used on the recordings themselves. There is a definite and singular atmosphere or color to their music in general. The deepest musical education in Europe takes place in Sweden beginning at the high school level. There are many conservatories and programs in jazz as well as the other arts. For the working situation there is even a government sponsored agency which sends groups out to countryside towns for performances as well as an association of nearly 100 jazz clubs country-wide. The typical Swedish jazz musician is the best overall equipped craftsman around. This is reflected in their ability to play in many genres from free jazz to be-bop to fusion and of course the “ECM” style. They have a long relationship with jazz and are for example proud of the fact that Charlie Parker toured with Swedish sideman back in the early 50s. Overall there is usually some financial support from the government for many jazz musicians. The Swedish audience in keeping with the basic orderliness of their society is usually quite reserved and small in numbers, relative to the population of course. Close to Sweden, surprisingly I would place Finland. This small and rather mysterious country is reputed to have more orchestras and festivals of all sorts proportionally than any other country. I have toured towns with unpronounceable names way in the north near Russia which all have the most lavish and gorgeous concert halls. Again, there is some level of government support and several higher schools teaching jazz. The Finns have a justified reputation for reticence which definitely pervades the typical audience there. But like the Swedes they are very appreciative and fairly sophisticated listeners. Concerning Norway I haven’t as much time there but in many ways it is similar to Finland in that there is a nucleus of musicians more or less clustered around the capital of Oslo who are very active. Specifically, several of the most important musicians on the ECM label are Norwegian: Aril Andersen, Jon Christensen, Terje Rypdal and most notable of all, saxophonist Jan Garbarek . Denmark is a special case in Scandinavia because both in the physical sense(they are attached to Europe’s mainland) as well as culturally, the Danes combine the Nordic and European sense. They are a lively people, very warm and polite with great interest in humanitarian and environmental causes. In general their personalities are a bit looser than their Northern counterparts and more in tune with the American influence. Throughout jazz history, many expatriates have resided in Copenhagen, in large part due to the Dane’s traditionally equitable treatment of minorities. (Dexter Gordon and Kenny Drew were among the most well known.) The Danish are a great audience to play for as they really get into the music. Throughout Scandinavia but especially in Sweden and Denmark, there has been a long tradition of great bass players, ranging through classical, jazz and fusion. It seems that the great bebop bassist, Oscar Pettiford spent some time there and exerted a tremendous influence. In Sweden, American bassist R ed Mitchell lived for many years and was very important to the scene. Contemporary bassists of note are Nils Henning Orsted Petersen(NHOP for short)from Denmark, both Palle and Lars Daniellson(not related) as well as Anders Jormin from Sweden. Since 1985 I have been working with the rhythm section of Lars Danielson(bass) and Bobo Stenson(piano) from Sweden along with Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen. In this group, Jon basically sets the loose rhythmic tone while Lars holds the harmony and time as Bobo and myself dance over this bubbling foundation, often playing lines in tandem as well as blowing in the traditional accompanist-soloist relationship. The music ranges from very lyrical to almost austere in tone as well as some high energy free jazz. There are some Swedish folk influences and even a few jazz standards, but it is all played in the same stylistic “Nordic” vein. We have several recordings out on the Swedish-based Dragon label including a live date from Visiones, the former club in New York.
During the 1980s, the typical national French budget included over a 10% allotment for culture, of which jazz was part. This has abated recently but it has not entirely disappeared. Suddenly in that decade there were literally dozens of small and large festivals throughout France, as well as an abundance of record labels and at one time, nearly 200 “jazz” schools. The French have for decades been proud of their supportive attitude towards jazz. Many American musicians have spent time in the greatest of cultural cities, Paris. There was a vibrant Left Bank jazz scene in which expatriates of the bebop era ruled for years including Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and others. The Art Ensemble of Chicago lived there for some years as did many avant garde musicians. Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy has been in Paris for nearly 30 years himself. In my opinion outside of the northeastern part of America considering New York as the hub, Paris is the only other logical place to live if you are interested in jazz and its offshoots. Paris, even more than New York is literally a bouillabaisse of people and influences, mainly from the former colonies which results in a tremendous hodgepodge of musical cultures including southeast Asia and many areas of Africa, from Morocco and Tunisia to Senegal and other Western African countries. The French truly respond to jazz and enthusiastically embrace it as a people, probably more than anywhere else. It is not uncommon to hear jazz at road stop restaurants or when you fly Air France as you enter and exit the plane. Because of the explosion of government support in the 80s, and as part of their general Gallic pride in anything French, their own musicians have been better supported than anywhere else on par with Sweden. The French musicians have therefore developed quite a bit in the past decades and they have a unique style all to themselves. I don’t intend to denigrate it by calling it vaudeville (a French word in any case), but a lot of French jazz has and almost minstral show quality to it. Maybe it is the theatrical influence from Moliere and the Comedie Francais along with the literary tradition of Flaubert, Stendhal, Baudelaire, etc., but I detect a sincere effort to entertain the audience with the music. The French truly have their own sound. Also it is saxophone-clarinet land to be sure. Along with the oboe and flute, a great deal of the historic development of these instruments is due to French craftsmen. Some say that the elocution of their language causes the typical Frenchman’s lips to articulate in a way favorable to woodwind sound production. In any case, some of the oldest and most popular instrument, reed and mouthpiece manufacturers are in France including Selmer (saxophones), Louray (oboe) and Buffet (clarinet). One particular thing strikes me about the French audience to their credit. Once they are convinced that you are valid, they remain loyal forever. They can be very opinionated, sometimes a bit uniformed and even prejudicial, but if they take you into their orbit you will always be accepted. To the French, being an “artiste” is everything!! For me, France has definitely been the best scene for me, due mostly in part to the recordings and great support I received from Jean Jacques Pussiau, owner of Owl Records. We made seven CDs ranging from West Side Story to fusion to classical and free jazz as well as tributes to Miles and Coltrane. I have had the opportunity to work with the trio of Jean Francois Jenny Clark, one of the greatest of all bassists (recently and sadly passed away), pianist Joachim Kuhn (German but lives in France for years) whom I have known for 25 years and is a consummate musician, and drummer Daniel Humair, who in a sense represents the history of European jazz having begun playing with Bud Powell as a teenager in the early 60s. Well rooted in jazz history, they like to play hard, angular melodies with complex harmony followed by completely free improvisation usually at very fast tempos. Also in France, I have been invited often to play with Michel Portal who represents the best in the French tradition. He is an expert and famous classical clarinet who also plays a sort of free jazz influenced at times by his Basque roots. He is not a be-bopper but plays the horns so well and has such great musical instincts that he is capable of some wonderful moments. In the recent pas t I have formed a trio with a bassist similar to Portal in the sense that he too is a classical expert who among others has worked with Pierre Boulez. Jean Paul Celea plays the bass so well that whatever comes out is musical. The drummer in this trio is Austrian, Wolfgang Resigned, who plays in a very modern and energetic mold along the lines of Jack DeJohnette. This group deals in a free jazz context similar to the first group I was involved with, the Open Sky Trio with Bob Moses in the early 70s. The common thread with all of these musicians is their classical background and familiarity with that repertoire, way beyond mine by the way. Therefore, they begin at a technical point on their instruments that is astounding.
Germany and Austria
With the long and historic tradition so linked with the German culture for hundreds of years, their audience is highly developed and the most mature in the world. This directly leads to the existence of many small and independent labels dedicated to p resenting jazz over the years (ECM,ENJA,CMP).. With the largest market in Europe, their famous efficiency and such a highly educated population, jazz has traditionally done well in Germany. For years there were several full time resident big bands working for the regional radio stations which regularly played jazz. The cabaret and beer hall tradition of German society where people socialize has contributed to a high number of jazz clubs throughout the years, though this has greatly evaporated recently. From the post war years and still, the presence also contributed to the direct influence of American culture-not only in jazz, but pop also. There is one distinct aspect of German jazz which has been evident for several decades. That is the free jazz movement which has continued to exist even after its near disappearance in America. I would trace this to the classical avant-garde tradition of the early 20th century with Schoenberg, Webern, Berg and others of that ilk. Some of Germany’s top practitioners in this regard are Alexander Shlippenbach, Peter Brotzmann and most notably, trombonist Albert Manglesdorf. The free jazz influence was also felt in the former Eastern bloc countries, more so before the end of the Berlin Wall than now. But there are still some festivals completely devoted to avant garde music, while at the same time you can attend pure Dixieland events (a contrast which by the way occurs in almost all of the countries surveyed here). The typical German audience as I have mentioned is the most sophisticated in the world as far as jazz is concerned They are knowledgeable and thought they can be faddish with styles being popular for a while, then fading, usually the highest level of listening takes place there. They are respectful but let you know how they feel. Jazz education exists in several places including, Mannheim, Essen, Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin for the most part alongside longstanding classical programs. Overall, with such a large population, high income levels, and in one area of Germany a sort of cultural tax for each citizen, this country has been a major force for the support of jazz for several decades. Austria is much smaller in population than Germany with the main center of course being Vienna. It also enjoys a rich classical tradition which is virtually inseparable from Germany. There are many fine musicians involved in all kinds of projects especially with chamber music and other types of traditional ensembles being incorporated in various mixtures of sorts. The level of musicianship in Austria is extremely high, but in general the audience is not as discerning as their German neighbors. Although I don’t have a steady rhythm section in Germany as in France and Scandinavia, I have had some important relationships in other ways. Advance Music, run by Hans and Veronica Gruber, have published most of my books as well as chamber music. They have been very supportive, especially in view that many of my teaching materials are not commercial or meant for the wider audience. The same could be said for the record company CMP, run by Kurt Renker. I have done some of my most artistic recordings at the wonderful studio that Kurt has in the German countryside along with one of the greatest engineers alive, Walter Quintus. Our latest project is a solo recording titled “Time Immemorial”. The northwest part of Germany (around Cologne) is home for the WDR (West German Radio) which covers both TV and radio. They are well funded and have a full time jazz big band that does all types of creative projects featuring soloists. I have done work there with Jim McNeeley, Vince Mendoza and in an orchestral setting with Bill Dobbins who now heads both the WDR big band and the jazz department at the Cologne Hochshcule. The whole concept of soloing over large ensembles has added greatly to my skills and besides, it is a thrill of a different sort fronting so many musicians. This experience comes directly from my interaction with the German scene.
There is a natural correlation between the Italian temperament and jazz. For Italians, the energy, joy and enthusiasm of jazz is a natural. The scene as far as musicians is concerned is quite active. Unfortunately, the Italian government(s) do not have their act together enough to subsidize this music at all, nor is there much jazz on radio or TV. This is a bit sad because there is so much culture surrounding them on an everyday level, and there is much support for opera of course. Finally, in the pa st decade jazz was officially recognized by the very traditional university system, which as in most of these countries is state supported, very old and very conservative. The Italian musicians play all kinds of styles from be-bop to free. Besides England and Holland, they have been the most heavily influenced by American jazz. Possible due to their operatic tradition and ecclesiastical music, they definitely have a gift for melody and for some reason the trumpet has been quite popular for Italian jazz artists. Some notable trumpeters are Enrico Rava, Flavio Boltra and Paolo Fresu. The Italian audience is by far the most enthusiastic and warmest that one encounters. They love everything usually. In fact, it is hard to separate the Italian life style of great food, wine, high fashion, beautiful towns and villages, medieval art and culture everywhere as well as the mellifluous sounding language from their enthusiasm about jazz, film, opera, painting and the arts in general. For that matter they are equally enthusiastic about gossip. After all, the term “paparazzi” originates with the Italians! They are a most remarkable people and the musicians and audience alike reflect this. Touring in Italy is extremely enjoyable (outside of the frequent transport strikes).I always enjoy playing with the acclaimed pianist Franco D’Andrea, trumpeter Paolo Fresu and saxophonist Maurizio Giammarco among others. Also in Italy I have recorded some repertoire CDs for Red Records and original music for Soul Note. Just to give you an insight into the attitude of European record producers, I quote what the owner of Soul Note, Giovanni Bonnandrini said to me when I asked if a particular project was al l right. He said: “The only thing is that the music be creative”!! (How many American producers would say that?)
Holland, England, Ireland and Spain
All of these countries (except Spain) have in common the large effect of American jazz. Maybe it is language, because even the Dutch are quite fluent in English. In England itself, there is a long tradition of “trad” (dixieland), but there have also been great beboppers and free musicians. London, like Paris and New York is a world city with all the different influences from former colonies and immigration affecting the music. For years, one of the most famous clubs in the world, Ronnie Scotts has been presenting world class jazz. Jazz education exists to some degree and there have been a lot of notable jazz journalists, books and periodicals coming from Britain. The staid English audience is a given, but they are the most hospitable of peoples, genuinely gracious and polite. The list of notable English musicians is impressive: Dave Holland, Tony Oxley, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler (Canadian but living in England for years) and John Taylor to name a few. The Netherlands is a small and very densely packed country which has an extensive university system for jazz education. The Dutch musicians are highly skilled and very adept at all styles with a wide range from be-bop to free. The audiences are good and have an exceptional tolerance for free jazz which has been widely accepted there. Musicians such as Hans Bennink and Wilhelm Breuker have excelled in this music. One of the biggest festivals in the world runs in the Hague there during the summer called the North Sea Festival. Ireland which is truly tiny in population has in recent times really come up in jazz. They are obviously tied to both the U.S. and England, but due to a handful of energetic musicians led by bassist Ronan Guilfoyle, as well as the strong artistic tradition native to this island culture, the Irish sound is becoming more individual, especially in the realm of rhythm. Spain, relatively new to jazz and more isolated culturally, has of course its own rich flamenco tradition which permeates the entire society there. In both Barcelona and Madrid there are full time schools where hundreds of students of all ages study around the clock. The progress of the Spanish musicians has been remarkable over the past decade. Although they bear some similarities to the Italians and the lyrical heritage, they possess a soulfulness and rhythmic intensity all their own.
The fact that a musician like myself, steeped in American jazz and New York in particular, can be fortunate enough to share spiritual moments with so many people from a different part of the world is a testament to the universal appeal and potential power of this music. I honestly feel that the future will see more and more international collaborations for jazz musicians coming from all parts of the world, infusing the music with a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm .For sure, Europe has definitely been a god send for the life of jazz.
Written by George Charonitis
Although there were jazz inspired musicians and fans a long time ago, only during the last twenty years there's a strong jazz movement creating a local tradition that is worth mentioning.
Jazz in Hellas, nowadays is taking an interesting ethnic path that is both creative and conventional, retaining an identity of its own.
The real jazz story in Hellas begins in mid-seventies, after the fall of the military junta. In a strong cultural, social and musical background that included folk songs like rembetika (referred often as the Greek blues), excellent folk music from the mountains and islands and contemporary urban songs by top Greek songsters and composers like Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis or Dionyssis Savopoulos, it was difficult for a strange improvised type of music in the jazz tradition to become a status. But the very nature of the Hellenic folk music, that is also improvisational, opened the door to jazz in an easier way.
The freedom of expression in jazz gave a way to experimentalist Greek musicians to open their horizons. A movement of both mainstream jazz and improvised music started and developed in Athens, Salonica and other cities around Hellas. The second half of the seventies was a period of exchanging ideas with a lot of visiting musicians from the United States and Europe.
It was also a period that a Hellenic jazz discography and concert production started to develop.
All took shape around the now legendary George Barakos Jazz Club in the ancient district of Plaka in Athens -a joint that now is history. Some Greek musicians, like pianist Sakis Papadimitriou and reed player Floros Floridis, are well known around the European scene,
the former recording albums with Leo or Adda Records and the latter playing with prominent modern jazz musicians of the caliber of Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker, Peter Kowald a.o. with a quantity of about 20 jazz (and jazz related) records per year (made by independent or major
companies), with a lot of young musicians and groups playing in a small number of jazz clubs, with artistic tendencies that cover a wide spectrum of tastes (from post-bop to Avant-garde, from rhythm and blues to acid jazz), the Hellenic Jazz Scene is searching for identity.
It's a hard way, but it seems to find a route in the last years.
The important thing about Greek jazz is the opening to ethnic traditions, trying to make an interesting summary of Hellenic folk melodies in a jazzy background.
That tendency is more profound in the case of improvising musicians than is in the case of straight jazzmen. This is a problem that will take some time to find an acceptable solution - but time is on our side! The presence of steady annual jazz festivals is a little problematic.
Salonica International Jazz Festival and Patras International Festival are in a way of financial crisis -but everyone is hoping for the best! I mean, we are hoping for the best ...
Arthur “Art” Blakey , known later as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, was an American jazz drummer and bandleader. The legacy of Blakey and his bands is not only the music they produced, but also the opportunities they provided for several generations of jazz musicians.
“Music washes away the dust of every day life”.
William John Evans , known as Bill Evans was an American jazz pianist. His use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines influenced a generation of pianists. He is considered by some to be the most influential post World War II jazz pianist.
“I’m using the insides of sounds to move around in a very subtle way which, I think, ends up being inevitable. I feel its the only solution to that particular problem that I presented myself”
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo.
“Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.”
Charles Mingus Jr. was an American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. His compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop, drawing heavily from black gospel music and blues, while sometimes containing elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music. He once cited Duke Ellington and church as his main influences.
“Just because I’m playing jazz I don’t forget about me. I play or write me the way I feel through jazz, or whatever. Music is, or was, a language of the emotions.”
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Parker was a highly influential jazz solist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and advanced harmonies. Parker was a blazingly fast virtuoso, and he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.
“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art”.
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed “the sound of surprise. In the 1940s Gillespie, with Charlie Parker, became a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. He taught and influenced many other musicians, including trumpeters Miles Davis, Jon Faddis, Fats Navarro.
“I always try to teach by example and not force my ideas on a young musician. One of the reasons we’re here is to be a part of this process of exchange”.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. In the words of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe “In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington.
“What is music to you? What would you be without music? Music is everything. Nature is music (cicadas in the tropical night). The sea is music, the wind is music. The rain drumming on the roof and the storm raging in the sky are music. Music is the oldest entity. The scope of music is immense and infinite. It is the ‘esperanto’ of the world”.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella,” was an American jazz and song vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves , she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
“Forgive me if I don’t have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand”.
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz.
“Over all, I think the main thing a musician would like to do is give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things that he knows of and senses in the universe. . . That’s what I would like to do. I think that’s one of the greatest things you can do in life and we all try to do it in some way. The musician’s is through his music.”
Louis Armstrong nicknamed Satchmo or Pops , was an American trumpeter, composer, singer and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in jazz
“Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it. Always love it”
“Making money ain’t nothing exciting to me. You might be able to buy a little better booze than the wino on the corner. But you get sick just like the next cat and when you die you’re just as graveyard dead as he is”.
Miles Dewey Davis III was an American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. With his ever-changing directions in music, Davis was at the forefront of a number of major stylistic developments in jazz over his five-decade career
“Jazz is the big brother of Revolution. Revolution follows it around.”
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, “O.P.” by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, and received other numerous awards and honours over the course of his career. He is considered to have been one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, who played thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.
“Some people try to get very philosophical and cerebral about what they’re trying to say with jazz. You don’t need any prologues, you just play. If you have something to say of any worth then people will listen to you”
Patrick Bruce “Pat” Metheny is an American jazz guitarist and composer. He is the leader of the Pat Metheny Group and is also involved in duets, solo works and other side projects. His style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, Latin jazz, and jazz fusion. Metheny has three gold albums and 20 Grammy Awards and is the only person to win Grammys in ten different categories. He is the brother of jazz flugelhornist and journalist Mike Metheny.
“If jazz has to be termed as a wave, then music is a sea, but if the reflectors in the water is the chord”.
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered “one of the giants of American music”. Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire. Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington.
“A genius is the one most like himself”.
Wynton Learson Marsalis is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, music educator, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has promoted the appreciation of Classical and Jazz music often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammys in both genres, and was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for Music for a jazz recording.
“As long as there is democracy, there will be people wanting to play jazz because nothing else will ever so perfectly capture the democratic process in sound. Jazz means working things out musically with other people. You have to listen to other musicians and play with them even if you don’t agree with what they’re playing. It teaches you the very opposite of racism and anti-Semitism. It teaches you that the world is big enough to accommodate us all”