Why Jazz is Not Just Popular Music

If we use “popular music” as a derivative of the expression “music of the people (of ordinary people), jazz is often discarded because neither jazz musicians nor their fans have typically formed a representative sample of the American public. For many people, any type of popular music can now be combined with jazz. As a result, audiences too often come to jazz with widespread misconceptions about what it is and what it is supposed to be. Too often, what is represented as jazz is not jazz at all. Despite the attempts of writers and record companies, promoters and educators and even musicians to blur the lines for commercial purposes, rock is not jazzy and the new age is not jazz, and neither are pop or third stream.

There may be a lot of good in all of them, but they're not jazz. Remember, jazz is a small ecosystem, so most international tours tend to play in local bars, art spaces, and music-focused venues between the biggest festival or club dates. But jazz struggles a bit with this, as many jazz audiences don't want to hear Squarepusher, while many Squarepusher listeners find John Coltrane quite appetizing. Although jazz clubs have largely been replaced by concerts in bars and restaurants, there are plenty of venues for jazz musicians to play. A member of the Black Jazz Art Collective, Escoffery feels that he should be able to celebrate jazz without apology as music of distinctly African origins.

The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired a flourishing of socially engaged artistic expressions in jazz (Breathless, by Terence Blanchard), popular music (Beyoncé's Lemonade) and hip hop (To Pimp a Butterfly, by Kendrick Lamar) that models itself in the artistic vision of jazz. Over the next few decades, many new forms of jazz music emerged, including free jazz, hard bop, smooth jazz, Latin jazz and jazz fusion.Jazz has generated an international and influential lifestyle, an attitude towards life — the hot, the modern and the cool — that is secular, obsessed with youth, obsessed with the marginalized and detached but passionately egocentric, and that has joined other forms of popular music, such as rock and hip hop. As a result, for many young music lovers, old fashioned jazz has been turned into something outdated. Escoffery recognizes his fellow saxophonists Ben Wendel and Rudresh Mahanthappa as jazz musicians because they have mastered the vernacular language and simply speak it with different inflections coming from their own specific influences outside of jazz, in European classical music, in ancient and carnatic South India.

classical music in the latter. This myth was invented by the first jazz writers who, in trying to escape their American prejudices, created a whole world of new clichés based on the myth of the innate ability of the first jazz musicians. The festival embodies the diversity of jazz and invites listeners to explore their own musical development. Although hot jazz is played to this day on the streets of New Orleans, it has been embalmed in Preservation Hall as a well-preserved but inert style of jazz. With the help of the advancement of recording technology and radio broadcasting, big-band swing jazz became all the rage during the thirties and forties until bebop (think Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) began to move jazz music away from its emphasis on dance rhythms. This attitude of cool and modern has influenced literature including the production of the so-called jazz-novel and jazz-poetry, as well as art, speech dress and anti-bourgeois habits of indulgence such as the use of illegal drugs such as marijuana and heroin. While I agree with Marsalis that jazz should not succumb to the meaningless vulgarity of most popular music where Marsalis goes wrong is assuming any relationship with the popular and commercial means annulling it as jazzy. Located in the concert hall where it had long been questioned whether it belonged or not Marsalis rightly legitimizes music as art on par with European classical music at the expense of rejecting the vibrant contemporary jazz scene that lives and breathes in dimly lit jazz clubs every night.

In fact jazz studies as an interdisciplinary field of research and pedagogy formally exist and have their own magazine Jazz Perspectives.

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