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Why Jazz isn't more popular

Ed

Founder
Staff member
Administrator
#1
This weekend my wife asked me out of the blue - "what's the name of that song by Dave Brubeck?" I knew she meant "Take 5" which is credit to Paul Desmond but I decided I would run with it. :)

So I tell her the tune and she proceeds to fire up the whole album on Rhapsody.

As it is playing during dinner it occurs to me that even though the album is filled with odd time signatures that the music is unbelievably catchy to this day. It's melodic and interesting at the same time.

Then it further occurs to me as to why we all bemoan the lack of popularity of jazz. Jazz has become to a large degree "art music". Jazz fans have become jazz snobs. The experimental took over and now rules the roost.

To use a rock and roll analogy, imagine if in 2020 the only legitimate rock and roll was that which was derived from Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Robert Fripp. The "popularity" of that music would be limited with the general public.

This is to a large degree what has happened with jazz. I would argue that there are not any modern day Brubecks and for that we are all poorer.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#4
"It can ( and indeed should ) be said that if you find listening to jazz fun then you don't really understand it.

The whole point of attending a jazz gig is to demonstrate to your friends and colleagues that you're a cut above the run-of-the-mill people who prefer to listen to more structured forms of music, and that your preference implies intelligence, courage, wit and sagacity."

Too funny.
 

Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#5
Retread: That was a good one.

I don't listen to nor attend any jazz events other than trad or maybe some swing. What I've heard of the rest of it sounds severely non-musical and narco-laced (sorry if I sound repetitive). To me, most forms of jazz are played by highly-skilled masters-of-their-instruments but who have forgotten the audience (at least most of the audience) and instead focus on themselves intending to dazzle other musicians with their skill.

I always laugh when Pete posts a link to Coltrane's soprano whenever soprano-tone is mentioned. Gawd-awful doesn't fully describe it. DAVE
 
#6

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#7
Well, I generally link to a video of myself playing to demonstrate how much I suck at playing soprano. G'head and check out the link.

Why I Don't Like Jazz:

Well, first of all, let me say that I do like some jazz. I like most of the stuff by Dave Brubeck (and, by extension, Paul Desmond), I like some Miles Davis, Stephane Grapelli, and just about anything that has bass clarinet or flute. I particularly like Yoko Kanno's band, The Seatbelts (which is generally a big band and features a lot of bass clarinet and flute work). I also like a lot of big band stuff, in general, provided the people that play it don't have a Guy Lombardo vibrato. I loved Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing Sing, for instance.

That being said, a lot of the jazz music in the past few years is a small ensemble, where someone introduces a solo and then says (audibly or written), "Take it, trumpet!" or some such. You can take these solos, in toto, out of one "song" and put it into another by the same composer and it'll fit just fine. In other words, small ensemble jazz has become rap: it all sounds the same. Which is great for, well, background music at a restaurant.

I think it's great that some players are such virtuosos on their respective instruments and they demonstrate this so often. Unfortunately, they can't find a good melody or harmony to save their lives. They can just play good solos.
 

Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#9
Laughing - again.

I'm glad that my first soprano-listening experience was Joe Darensbourg (who played with Armstrong) and then George Probert with the Firehouse Five plus Two in the same evening. THAT led me to soprano and a life-time of playing pleasure with the things.

Had I seen this first, I woulda run for the hills. DAVE
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#12
the interesting correlation here is the big/jazz band i'm in is now starting to play maynard furgeson stuff .. of course, the band leader is a trumpet player. Funny how that works.
That's why I've started my own Big Bands (two right now). I get to pick the music for the most part. I luv Basie's stuff but no one around here does it. I was told that music isn't popular (it has turned out to be very popular), it isn't danceable (don't even know where to begin, it is too), and people won't stay in the groups to play this stuff.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#14
I don't mind MF .. played it in college as lead alto and my best friend was a trumpet player. but I don't think the trumpet (or trombone) section is strong enough in this group .. kinda obvious in the practices. plus, now they want me to play the flute parts. But on the other hand, they have promised me some Goodman and Shaw pieces.


concidentally there is this nice ad at the top of "how to play jazz" ..... hmmmm .......
 
#15
You can take these solos, in toto, out of one "song" and put it into another by the same composer and it'll fit just fine.
I believe I understand what you are trying to say... but I perceive this statement as rather simplistic. It would sound really strange to cut a solo out of one rhythmic, harmonic (even energetic) context and simply stick it into another context.

Unfortunately, they can't find a good melody or harmony to save their lives. They can just play good solos.
The ability to "just play good solos" must be the understatement of, at least, the new year...

It doesn´t surprise me at all that so-called smooth jazz is by far more popular than mainstream modern jazz.
In most cases, it is less complex- rhythmically, melodically and harmonically. I´m not putting it down, per se.

But the subtleties of harmonic changes and melodic development may, indeed, be beyond the comprehension of most (untrained) listeners.
But, then again, isn´t a lot of classical music really beyond the comprehension of most of the general public?

I mean, who (even among musicians) really "truly understands" Beethoven´s Diabelli Variations when they hear them?
 
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Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#17
I believe I understand what you are trying to say... but I perceive this statement as rather simplistic. It would sound really strange to cut out a solo out of one rhythmic, harmonic (even energetic) context and simply stick it into another context.



The ability to "just play good solos" must be the understatement of, at least, the new year...

It doesn´t surprise me at all that so-called smooth jazz is by far more popular than mainstream modern jazz.
In most cases, it is less complex- rhythmically, melodically and harmonically. I´m not putting it down, per se.

The subtleties of harmonic changes and melodic development may, indeed, be beyond the comprehension of most untrained listeners.
But, then again, isn´t a lot of classical music really beyond the comprehension of most of the general public?

I mean, who (even among musicians) really "truly understands" Beethoven´s Diabelli Variations when they hear them?
Whoa, like, it must be true cuz this is over my head....:emoji_rolling_eyes:
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#18
It doesn´t surprise me at all that so-called smooth jazz is by far more popular than mainstream modern jazz.
In most cases, it is less complex- rhythmically, melodically and harmonically. I´m not putting it down, per se.

The subtleties of harmonic changes and melodic development may, indeed, be beyond the comprehension of most untrained listeners.
But, then again, isn´t a lot of classical music really beyond the comprehension of most of the general public?

I mean, who (even among musicians) really "truly understands" Beethoven´s Diabelli Variations when they hear them?
Yeah, I can hear you. Although I have to confess that by these standards I'd put myself into the "untrained listeners" group as well.
For instance, Beethoven's "Egmont" chose to disclose their greatness or depth or pythagoresqueness unto my modest self only after several rehearsals, and so I can relate to the "being lost" impression of the first-time listener - some pieces are simply harder to digest than others, and Dave's question whom we're actually playing for is quite important. Not everyone catches subtle melodic and harmonic changes (I probably don't unless I have a pint or two intus) and the notion of "Trane spotters" made me laugh, maybe of helplessness or insight.
Let's face it - much of what we perform isn't mainstream, maybe that's good, maybe it isn't, but we should be aware of that fact. Music is like a painting meant for ears rather than eyes, and we might be investing a bit more time to explain what's actually so great about it. We've read it elsewhere - school programmes are cut and ditched, and elevator music choices don't do much to advance the grand public musically, so it's up to those at the other end of the musical food chain to praise the virtues of their diet.
We must maintain a vocabulary so that those who can't play but can listen can actually tell their folks at home what they experienced in that smoke-hung cellar last Saturday.
Duh, I should really get off that cheap plonk. :oops:
 
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SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#19
Thanks for the reference to the Hayes website. I've just finished a very pleasant two hours reading his posted musings, and (aside from the impenetrable "British-isms" contained therein) enjoyed every minute of it.
 
#20
I also find his instrument reviews interesting. He's both a tech and a player, and has posted detailed information about construction and playing characteristics of various saxes that pass through his shop. He's not popular with some Keilwerth loyalists because of his disclosure of warped tone holes on new saxes. All in all, a fascinating site.
 
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