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Speed kills the swing/time to get back to dancing.

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  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    old south, I'm with you. My belief is that jazz players started leaving their audience behind in the 1940s when they created bebop. Granted, tastes change and so do musicians, but jazz was once popular entertainment, and then it became a more and more esoteric art form. The musicians quit playing for the audience and started playing for each other, with every performance becoming a contest to see who had the best chops. The newer "songs" for the most part don't have a recognizable melody, certainly not a hummable one, and they really just seem to be frameworks for hot improv. I'd be willing to bet that at least half the people who claim to like modern jazz really don't understand it at all but think it's cool to appear as though you do.

    Fortunately, there is still an audience for classic jazz, as proven by the people who come out to hear the modern GJ bands. It's still a niche, but a growing one. I had the pleasure this past weekend of playing for perhaps the tenth time at the Halifax (Nova Scotia) Jazz festival with a 20 piece swing orchestra, and it was one of the best attended events of the week, with a full tent, dancing, and a whole lot of happy people. My GJ band played there last year, and we had about 500 people come out and got a standing O at the end. The next act was an outstanding local musician who proceeded to play very intricate, cerebral modern jazz, and within half an hour the tent was over half empty. I felt sorry for the guy, but the audience made a statement with their feet.

    We in the GJ band have just recently started actually playing for dances, and we've had to learn to take the tempos down quite a bit, but I for one have a lot more fun watching people dance to our music rather than just sit there and listen.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • oldsoutholdsouth New
    Posts: 52
    Klaatu,

    That is fantastic! BTW, I love Nova Scotia - used to have a major crush on a fiddle player up that way....

    I think the reason jazz may have changed from popular music to more esoteric, as you put it, is the academic influence. If you learn to play mostly by ear, from other musicians, in clubs and in dance environments - whether small group or big band - you learn to play for the audience. If you want to make a living, you've got to give the folks what they want to hear! But, if you learn from textbooks and professors, you are going to focus more on theory. Like in the old movie when the maestro meets Louis Armstrong and is blown away because he is playing notes outside of the scale. BTW, speaking of movies, if you ever get a chance to see a documentary called "Free Show Tonight", narrated by Roy Acuff, you'll see some terrific country/blues/jazz... a highlight is when a guitar and fiddle duo play "My Blue Heaven", then play (and sing) it backward! SHOWMANSHIP!!!!! and rare talent!

    I've been really getting into early vocal jazz lately and finding, to my surprise, that I really enjoy the early crooners and "sweet" singers. If I ever get another band together, I'd love to do some Nick Lucas, WHispering Jack Smith, Mills Brothers and Ink Spots tunes. I'll be playing in a college town and I think the music would be so very different from what the kids are used to that it may just be a very big hit... or a flop... you never know.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    Who's the :wink: fiddle player? I know it's not me, 'coz I don't play fiddle. Or violin, for that matter.

    I think the changeover started when musicians got bored playing dance charts and started jamming after hours in the clubs, from which bebop emerged. But yes, once the academics got hold of jazz, it was all over. Jazz schools now teach a very theoretical approach which may be academically interesting but strikes me as very mechanical. I know lots of highly trained musicians who can't play by ear to save their lives, and others who have had just enough training to be paralyzed by it all. Take the fake sheets away and they're helpless. They can't hear the changes, and so they have no idea what friggin' mode to play over.

    We all know Django knew nothing of theory, and the same it true of gypsy musicians today. Charlie Christian didn't know theory, neither did Wes Montgomery, and I've heard it said that George Benson doesn't, either. That's probably why their playing is so appealing, it comes from within, not from four years of conservatory.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • oldsoutholdsouth New
    Posts: 52
    I met Natalie MacMaster when she was a teenager - I've never seen anything like her since.... awesome is too bland a term...

    But, back to what you were saying about theory. My favorite guitarist these days is Martin Taylor - in one of his instructional videos, he warned against spending too much times on scales. He advises to just learn the chromatic scale and the major scale (so you'll know how to build chords), then focus on arpeggios and just playing melodies as they sound to your ear. He said that most educated jazz musicians sound stiff and unoriginal. I guess like Louis Prima said when asked if he read music "not enough to hurt me none." And, nobody swung as hard as Prima!

    That said though, I don't think that learning theory or anything else hurts musicianship, so long a you don't mistake it for music. Music comes from the soul, not from notation.
  • SpaloSpalo England✭✭✭✭ Manouche Guitars "Modele Jazz Moreno" No.116, 1980's Saga Blueridge "Macaferri 500", Maton 1960's Semi, Fender Telecaster, Aria FA65 Archtop
    Posts: 186
    "I don't think that learning theory or anything else hurts musicianship, so long a you don't mistake it for music. Music comes from the soul, not from notation."

    Nicely put.

    Sp
  • In the early 20th century most composed (classical) music got away from the concept of tonally centered melodic statements. In the 40s the leading edge jazz guys seem to have followed on with that idea to some extent or another.

    The more intellectual the music the smaller the audience. The more facile and technically oriented the improvisation is, the smaller the audience is.

    We get to choose which road we take.

    Me, I prefer helping people enjoy themselves. Bring on the melodies and the dancers :lol:
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    Jazzaferri wrote:
    In the early 20th century most composed (classical) music got away from the concept of tonally centered melodic statements. ... The more intellectual the music the smaller the audience.
    Very true. That's probably why Mozart and Brahms still bring people to the concert halls, Berg and Webern not so much.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    I read a book/article (forget which) some years back on the transition from Swing to Bop. The transition had nothing to do with academics; the musicians themselves chose to up the tempos and make the songs more complex, in part to weed out the lesser musicians from after hours jams. The exclusivity was self-imposed. I think academia sometimes tends to like things that are less popular (It's easier to publish papers on things that aren't so widely written about.). Certainly Bird, Coltrane, Coleman, Monk, et al. were not academics. The interest from academia was not proactive, but reactive. The music itself became cerebral. Dancing became near-impossible, and jazz went from the big dance halls of the swing era, to the smokey clubs of the bop era. But don't blame academics. The musicians chose this path on their own.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 561
    I'm glad to see my post stirred up such a conversation. I agree wholeheartedly that bop turned jazz away from being for the audience, and towards being for the player. This is why I have never particularly liked "Jazz", but I LOVE Django. Bop jazz has no melodic foundation that can be dropped in on and heard. You must listen from the beginning of the song to begin to understand how they got to where they are.
    Frankly, the "AVERAGE" listener often couldn't even tell you who is playing lead and who rhythm, so when you don't have easily understandable tonal centers, the masses turn away.

    I am one of the rare musicians who has also been at one time a semi-professional tap dancer, so I listen with both a musicians ear, AND a dancers ear, making me a bit schizo at times.

    On an ASIDE, out here in sunny northern CA, we have a barefoot dance movement happening, where people gather in dance halls and dance freestyle to dj music, no alcohol is sold (though people often arrive altered somehow)... At these dances (their names range from - Ecstatic dance, to Dance journey, to Mass transit, etc) I often hear swing played with a "house music" style drum and bass driving the rhythm.
    food for thought.
    Cheers
    Anthony
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    The musicians chose this path on their own.
    Michael, I couldn't agree with you more. I firmly believe it was the musicians that started the change and made it happen. My point was that once the academics got hold of jazz and analyzed it to death, they made that the basis of their teaching methods and passed that on to generations of academically trained musicians. But yes, by all means, the musicians were the drivers behind bebop and everything that's happened since. And in fairness, musical tastes were changing, swing was on its way out. Jazz went one way, popular taste went another, one way led to bebop, the other to the crooners and then to rock 'n' roll.

    I liken jazz at the academic level to the golf swing. Once golf teachers got access to film and later to video, they analyzed the golf swing to death, so that they can tell you exactly where your hands, head, shoulders, hips, head, feet, knees, and just about every imaginable other body part should be at any point in the swing, not to mention the clubhead, shaft, your hat, the moon, and you name it, totally ignoring the fact that the golf swing is not a series of positions, it's a movement. This sells millions of dollars worth of golf magazines, instructional books, and lessons, and has probably got untold numbers of golfers tied up in knots trying to screw their bodies into the proper position at every point in their swing, forgetting that the whole object is to make that ball go from here to there.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
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