As a genre of music, Jazz has been very difficult to define relative to other genres of music. This difficulty arises due to its ever-evolving nature that allows it to borrow from other genres and fuse different musical styles yet maintaining its identity.
Jazz has been identified with its origin in America as a black man’s music due to its origin with the black American who developed it and used it as a tool for identity. The difference between jazz and other music genres is that each jazz musician usually comes up with his or her own style and composition through the beats and arrangement of the different musical keys.
Although people identify it as a very simple music that can be easily listened and followed by any individual without any musical background, it also comes out as a very complex kind of music due to the way the beats are arranged and played out. Listening to jazz creates different kinds of feelings in an individual. The paper presents a description of jazz music based on a concert performance I attended.
Effects of Performance on the Mind
Listening to jazz performance gives different feelings to the listener depending on the type of jazz music being played and the mood of the individual listener. Listening to soul jazz leaves a very different feeling within a person because of the way the music plays to the ears and the mind of the individual.
When jazz is played, it takes away all the attention of the individual. Therefore, one is able to concentrate on every single beat that is being played. The uniqueness of jazz to the mind comes about from the nature of many jazz compositions, which are unique to each individual composer (Stolz 2).
After listening to a soul jazz performance, the writer finds that there was calmness at first in the mind of the writer as he kept on listening to the initial beats while trying to connect the rhythm of the specific play. This brought about the serenity of mind that is usually associated with inner peace. One element about jazz music is that it takes few moments of an individual to pick up the rhythm and the beats before he or she can start enjoying the music.
Therefore, it requires one to be attentive at first, thus calling the listener to shut everything else to give the wholes stage of the mind to the music. Going to listen to a jazz performance, the writer did not have any predetermined reactions expected from the music other than to listen and plainly enjoy the evening. In the performed piece, the main instruments were the Hammond organ, drums, and the tenor saxophone (Longuet-Higgins and Lee 427).
When played, the Hammond organ brought about a tranquil ambience that would be disrupted by the saxophone to draw the attention of the audience to the work being done on the stage. When soul jazz is played out, it creates a nostalgic mood that reminds the writer of some past moments of life. It creates a memory lane that one walks through as the beats play out. The monotonic beat of drums holds the whole memory lane narrative as the saxophone leads the mind.
Moods and Expectations
The expectations of the writer affected his mood when he left the concert. Whereas he expected to listen to music, the ambience that came out of the performance was very relaxing. It gave some mind-provoking thoughts as the writer tried to retrace the performance later on. The writer left the concert more relaxed relative to when he came in because the quality of music that came out due to improvisation was amazing.
Watching a jazz concert is unique in its own way because of the way the audience applauses after any piece has been performed. This generated excitement within the writer as he realized the sharing of the same feeling with other members of the audience (Kamin 285). The writer came out of the concert in an excited spirit by feeling happy about how he had spent his time by maintaining the value for his money.
After having attended other music concerts before, jazz performance was unique in its own way because of the element of surprise that would come from the performance. Whereas other concerts were predictable in a way, the jazz concert was very unpredictable due to improvisation by the individual performers. The ability to remix some old pieces with beats from different backgrounds while maintaining the identity of the original piece was amazing. It left the writer excited about how good music can be.
Improvisation in music can be described as the creation of original works in real time as the performer belts out the performance on stage. As Johnson- Laird explains, “Improvisation depends on the ability to extemporize new melodies that fit the chord” (415). During the concert, the day’s performance was Gershwin’s rendition.
The improvisation beat was achieved through the drums, which were played in a random rhythm that clearly was not part of the scrip, but was infused in the whole piece and fitted in as if it had been rehearsed. The exciting bit about improvisation is evident when the player does it singularly or when the whole group is doing it.
This technique was so exciting due to the ability of performers to keep track of the whole performance and/or exit the improvisation without losing their beat. Improvisation in this case brought about excitement in the writer. It led the writer to try to hum along the beat as he kept track of the beat. The most intriguing thing about improvisation is that it is unpredictable and that only the performer has a clue about what is going to happen next.
This left the writer confused at some moments because the unpredictability of the beats could easily set in with a new tune, thus throwing everyone off track. This style is what makes jazz unique when compared to other forms of music because the melodies have to fit with the chord sequence (Johnson- Laird 415). Improvisation leads to the infusion of different music techniques as performers play out during the concert.
During the improvisation section of the music, provocative competence drew my attention most as it cut clearly through the scripted performance to bring out a strange beat in the presentation. The beat was louder relative to all the others besides being more aggressive to the ears. This was mostly done using the saxophone and the Hammond Organ. Barrett describes this mode of improvisation as “interrupting habit patterns” (607).
Although improvisation is usually random, experts believe that most performers rely on stock phrases that they trust so that their performances do not run the risk of becoming incoherent. The performance emulated Ronny Scott’s improvisation styles by using the saxophone more. The style was then backed by the rehearsed beats from other instruments for the recital to maintain its rehearsed track.
Chord substitutions were also used in performance to achieve rhythm changes as an improvisation technique. According to Hodson, this technique can be traced back to the 1963 performance by Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm A Ning” (68). This form of improvisation brought about intellectual stimulation due to its complex nature. Some pieces of improvisation can be described as simple while others need high technical abilities for the performer to achieve them, thus bordering on intellectual capabilities.
Interaction during Performance
Jazz performance is usually a team play. As a result, it requires the interaction between performers themselves as well as the interaction between the performers and audience. Upon watching this jazz performance at a local club, it unfolded out as all other jazz performances. At first, the performers concentrated on their individual instruments as they introduced the performance slowly. At this point, interaction between the group and the audience was minimal.
In fact, it changed as the beats started ascending. The middle of the performance ushered in the interaction between performers as saxophonist moved to where the drummer was positioned to play as they danced to the rhythm created by the saxophone. This created a form of communication between performers as their input continued to increase with the tempo. At the same time, as the performance kept on picking.
The audience too swung into action as some of them started dancing to the tune and applauding the performance. This spurred the performers to turn to the audience with the saxophonist using the mobile ability to move into the crowd as it played. Applause from the crowd simply animated the performers more and more as the concert hit a crescendo with the performers playing more aggressively.
Kamin compares the reaction of the audience in a jazz performance with that of a rock performance where he finds out that the two performances are similar concerning synergy (280). Whereas a rock performance has a lot of energy, the crowd’s reaction is proportional to the energy of the performance. In case of the jazz performance I attended, the crowd kept swinging according to the beats and rhythm.
Every single piece had the crowd applauding at the end while the performers always had a word of thanksgiving. Another way the performers used as an interacting mode was the introduction of a piece of music before the band started playing. This automatically connected the writer with the piece that was going to be played. Jazz pieces always connect an individual to the performance because they require all the attention for the different beats to make sense.
Following and understanding jazz takes a considerable amount of time and knowledge. However, it is crucial to point out that jazz can still be enjoyed by an individual without trying to find out the specific category of jazz. In fact, unlike other genres of music, jazz evolves all the time with a lot of improvisation from individual groups, which fuses so many different styles that cannot be casually defined in the end.
Barrett, Frank. “Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations: Implications for Organizational Learning.” Organizational Science 9.5 (1998): 605-625. Print.
Hodson, Robert. Interaction, Improvisation and Interplay in Jazz. New York (NY): Routledge, 2007. Print.
Johnson- Laird, Philip. “How Jazz Musicians Improvise.” Music Perceptions 19.3 (2002): 415-442. Print.
Kamin, Jonathan. “Parallels in the Social Reactions to Jazz and Rock.” The Black Perspective in Music 3.3(1975): 278-298. Print.
Longuet-Higgins, Herbert and Charles Lee. “The Rhythmic Interpretation of Monophonic Music.” Music Perception 1.1(1984): 424-441. Print.
Stolz, Nolan. “Teaching Jazz Improvisation Using Macro Analytical Techniques.” Musical Insights 4.1(2013): 1-20. Print.