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Timeless Art of Jazz Music Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 14th, 2022

Introduction

Nowadays, people love and cherish jazz music for its bizarre melodies, lovely instrumental mixes, and caressing voices. It is generally agreed that this musical genre has gained popularity among the representatives of different social groups around the world, making jazz musicians be universally recognized. There is no sense in mentioning that jazz has become a favorite subject for contemporary writers. Still, modern jazz musicians should take their predecessors as role models because they may lose their musical legacy by not taking it seriously.

The Early Days of Jazz

Indeed, it took time for jazz music to achieve imperishable fame. According to Brennan, in the first half of the twentieth-century jazz was considered to be the interaction between African-American and European musical traditions, an opposition of low and high music (4). The main peculiarity about it was the fact that African-Americans finally became visible to the wealthy part of the population. They proved to the whole world that art, in general, is not about skin color. In fact, it is hard to find a single person not knowing the stars of the golden ages of jazz. For instance, Lois Armstrong is sure to be ranking highly in the list of celebrities of the past. He was even mentioned as the most eminent jazz musician in the story “Sonny’s Blues” (Baldwin 7-48). This story deserves special attention to understand what role jazz played in the 1950s-1960s.

The Crime of Being a Born Musician in Trying Times

Actually, one should never forget that people had to live in hard conditions after the war in general. As far as Harlem is concerned, it was practically impossible to earn one’s living by means of honest labor. The main character of the story is a person trying to escape from Harlem to seek a better life. However, adulthood turns out to be not full of hardships because a grown-up man has to abandon his true vocation for a dull career to become a successful member of society. The problem is that Sonny is keen on jazz; he wants to be a musician like Charlie Parker. Instead of it, he becomes a family disgrace accused of drug peddling. In the end, it is jazz that brings him to life and gives him the desire to live.

The Dawn of Jazz

While analyzing “Sonny’s Blues”, one may notice that Lois Armstrong is the only jazz singer known by Sonny’s brother. Meanwhile, the main character’s role model is Charlie Parker because Lois Armstrong is believed to be old-fashioned. This speaks a lot about what jazz was popular in different times. Sonny’s generation probably adored bebop, the main creator of which was Charlie Parker. Fortunately, jazz was no longer associated with “the abuse and exploitation of black musicians” (Horne 10). They started to spread their wings and make a sufficient contribution to the music of the 20s century. Among outstanding musicians of that time is Ella Fitzgerald, known for her purity of voice and intonation. It is interesting to admit that Armstrong and Fitzgerald were singers, but Parker was a jazz saxophonist.

Soloists vs. Instrumentalists

Admittedly, singers have always been more popular compared to instrumentalists. If one takes any band, no matter what musical genre it belongs to, people will mostly recognize the soloist. It is always the soloist who is considered to be the frontman of the band. Nevertheless, instrumentalists get their piece of glory too. For instance, James Jonson can be named as a father of the so-called “Harlem stride.” Besides, jazz pianists are always compared with classical pianists. According to recent researches, they tend to outplay the latter when it comes to improvisation (Bianco 383-394). The mere presence of such researches proves the fact that high-level jazz pianists have gained acknowledgment and have a special place in people’s hearts these days.

To Regain the Former Glory

Another area of discussion concerning the development of jazz is the bad quality of modern music compared to the old age of jazz. Finkelstein claims that people tend to create music taking into consideration common people’s tastes (1). Nowadays, musicians are so much concerned with profit that it seems to be easier to correct mistakes using electronic devices. Still, there are many relatively good musicians, but nobody may be given a title of a star equal to Lois Armstrong. The first name that comes to one’s mind is Amy Winehouse, who is famous for mixing different genres in her songs. Her musical flair helped her to win Mercury Prize and Brit Award as the best British singer in 2007. It seems to be of importance that Freddie Mercury was one of the pioneers in cross-genre collaborations.

Conclusion

To conclude, jazz music has been developing for many years. After the war, it was considered to be the so-called “black music” associating with poverty and crime in districts like Harlem. However, later on, jazz music became generally recognized. The story “Sonny’s Blues” serves as an illustration of the transitional period when to be a member of a jazz band was neither longer a stigma nor a reason for pride. Still, the jazz stars of that era are considered to be an example for modern jazz bands. Hopefully, today’s jazz will become great again by merging with other musical genres and creating brand new ideas.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Edited by Sasha Feinstein and David Rife, Indiana UP, 2009.

Bianco, Roberta, et al. “Musical Genre-dependent Behavioral and EEG Signatures of Action Planning: A Comparison between Classical and Jazz Pianists.” Neuro Image, vol. 169, 2018, pp 383-394.

Brennan, Matt. When Genres Collide: Down Beat, Rolling Stone, and the Struggle between Jazz and Rock. Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

Finkelstein, Sidney Walter. Jazz: A People’s Music. Mariwai Books, 2018.

Horne, Gerald. Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music. Monthly Review Press, 2019.

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