Is there a more universally loved and listened to type of music besides jazz? The resounding answer is ‘No!’ Perhaps classical music comes a close second but bear in mind that traditional classical music has been around (literally) for centuries. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is the same piece of music every time you hear it no matter which orchestra performs it or who the conductor is.
Jazz, on the other hand, is really alive. It oozes life, and each jazz musician finds their own ‘note between the note’ no matter the instrument it’s played on, or the artist who plays it. For example, Bitches Brew, the ground-shaking 1970 recording by Miles Davis, literally changed the horizon for jazz. It has been performed thousands of times in the past 44 years by innumerable musicians – each and every one breathing new life into that seminal piece of music.
Did you ever hear the legendary Tony Bennett sing Azure by the great Duke Ellington? It’s hypnotic. But it is completely different to the recording by Ella Fitzgerald. She is completely Ella. He is totally Tony. But at the end of the day, it’s still jazz. Iconic jazz vocalists like Fitzgerald and Bennett take a song and make it their own – breathing their own artistic life into it. It’s what makes jazz music always as fresh as a daisy. There is nothing dull about jazz music. (If there is, then you have the wrong musician playing it.)
There is hardly a civilized country on this Earth that does not play jazz music in one format or another. Each country has its own special love for it. The Cubans still go mental for Arturo Sandaval, and nobody but nobody loves Dizzy Gillespie like the Americans. Roy Haynes is one the most recorded jazz drummers ever. He lives for this music. It’s what keeps him going strong at the fine age of 89 and he still is in demand around the world. If he got any more popular in Japan, they’d probably have to give him honorary citizenship.
People in their twenties can love jazz just as much as someone in their sixties or older. The music is heard by each listener according to the life they have led. That’s the special beauty of jazz that no other category of music can offer. A young man listening to Bumpin’ by Wes Montgomery can listen to it with all the promise of a good Friday night in a pub. An older guy will hear it with the reflection and nostalgia that comes with a life well lived. They can see each other across a venue and raise a beer to the same piece of music with the shared appreciation as if to say, ‘Now that was a fine piece of music.’
A young woman can dig Embraceable You by Sarah Vaughn but for different reasons than an older woman who has loved her man wisely and not long enough. It’s the very same beautiful song written by George and Ira Gershwin but it’s falling on two separate, different pair of ears. But, it’s still jazz sung in the purest form by Sarah (who I always think has silk scarves in her throat instead of vocal chords.) She is an original and one of a kind. Just like jazz.
Jazz will reach out to you but you have to find it first. You have to find it on the radio or at local clubs. Not everyone can fly to Radio City Music Hall in New York City or the O2 Arena in London to hear an already established artist play for 90 minutes. It has to be more accessible than that. There has to be places where an ‘up and comer’ can practice his/her ‘chops.’
So where are these places? New York City is littered with them and, in actual fact, I am told that there are 58 such venues in Dublin. Do you know where they are? Wouldn’t it be nice to grab a date or travel as a group on a Friday or Saturday evening to a venue in town and treat yourself to a night of memorable music? Wouldn’t you like to know which artist is releasing what new cd and be one of the first to buy a copy? And what would be wrong with having more than one or two radio stations presenting more than a paltry couple of hours of jazz music per week?
This column is going to start letting you know the who, what, where, when and why of the jazz world.
This column is going to bring jazz music alive for you.
Watch this space!
Words: Tom (Buddy) Cahill