Dixieland, Swing, Big Band, East Coast, West Coast, European, Be Bop, Swing, Hard Bop, Free Form, Avante garde, Vocalese, Mainstream, Cool, Latin, Modal, Soul, Fusion, Smooth, Acid, Nu ...
All the above (with the exception of 'Fusion' which follows it) can precede the word Jazz. No wonder newcomers to the genre can find it difficult to know where to begin.
Sometimes, particular artists sit happily within one of these sub sections & some artists straddle several of the above.
The one thing that is certain is that all of the above are 'jazz' but also that none of the above are 'Jazz' - It is a moving target, much like attempting to track an electron only to discover that the very act of viewing changes it's state and it's no longer what it was when you first looked.
Consequently, attempting to pidgeonhole what is, by it's very nature, a moving target is ultimately an act of folly. So where do we begin ?
As Duke Ellington
once said, 'it's all music', yet some people at the time also declared that Duke's music was NOT jazz as it was orchestrated, yet we all now know Big Band Jazz and accept it as such. Some giants of the genre, such as Miles Davis
, successfully moved from one area to another over time, scarcely pausing for breath as he did so.
To me, 'Jazz' is music where you throw away the safety net & take a chance. We only have eight notes to play with, boys & girls, so it's a conscious decision to attack the arrangement of those notes in such a way as to stimulate (or even alienate) the ears & mind of the listener. The natural assimilation of eastern micro-tones, scales & intervals into Jazz was as inevitable as breathing in order to keep moving forward. It is organic music that lives, breathes, and evolves over time.
You, the listener, decide at which stop on the journey you wish to get off or, indeed, whether to stay on to see where the ride takes you.
You may find that you have an affinity with certain instruments, certain sub categories, or even an empathy with the journey of certain artists in the field.
If you like music, but 'don't like Jazz', re-read the above again. I think the two statements are mutually exclusive.
I believe that somewhere in the huge genre that is Jazz, there is something for everyone and that is what makes it unique in the musical world.Prince
played with Miles Davis. Gil Evans
planned to work with Jimi Hendrix
. One of the first composers to compose deliberately for rhythm was Igor Stravinsky. Frank Zappa has had more Jazz musicians in his band than rock musicians - often at the same time! Take a chance.
As Frank Zappa
himself once said, 'Maybe one in ten people in the audience is following what I am doing at any one time, but that person is getting off beyond his or her wildest dreams'.
As to how you might become that 'one in ten', more next time ...