The Musician’s Guide to Jazz

Our talented Kansas City teacher Joe P has shared his insights about jazz with us:JoeP

If you ask 50 people about what they think jazz is, you will get 50 different answers. Someone might say jazz is “The Girl from Ipanema” I heard on the elevator this morning. Another might say it was the performer in the subway riffing on “Take Five”. Yet another might say it's three guys playing in a small room to a crowd of about 20 people, yet everyone in the crowd is in the music just as much as the people on stage. The great part is that everyone is right!

Here is the thing, jazz is America's only original art form. It started in America, and has spread all over the world. It is enjoyed by everyone from New York to New Zealand. This blog will help get everyone a basic understanding of the musical aspects of jazz, so you can go out and start playing and teaching it to your students.

The first thing about jazz, and the most important is listening. Get a hold of some recordings and listen. Not listen while you are cleaning the house, but sit down with your attention focused on the music. Pick on instrument to listen for and keep listening to that instrument the entire song. Try and figure out the rhythms, listen to the changes in dynamics, sit down and plunk out some of the notes they use in their solos. For singers out there, listen to how they use their voice to get a certain emotion out of you, and how they keep up at those crazy fast tempos! Here are some performers to look into:

Pianists: Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck (“Take Five” was one of his bands most famous charts)

Singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra

Drummers: Tito Puente, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich

Trumpet: Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis

Saxophone: Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond

These are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. These musicians are listed to get you a jump start on listening. They are some of the greats and their music is very accessible to get your hands on. If one artist isn't your cup of tea, no sweat! Pick another and find something that you really love listening to. Next time we'll talk more nuts and bolts about the musical aspects of jazz.

Have fun!

Joe P Joe P

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