Not jazz.

I think I finally grew into jazz. I always said I liked jazz since childhood, but that was based upon pop-jazz fusion: the fan-fiction jazz of Sting, Manhattan Transfer, Basia, the big band swing of the 1930s and 40s, the theme from the Pink Panther, etc. Half of that is not real jazz.

After I started receiving formal music instruction, I realized that playing jazz is difficult. Unfortunately there are a lot of musicians who think they can play jazz and can't. Real jazz is a "vibe" to put it into twenty-first century slang. It requires quite a bit of technical skill, yet that alone is woefully insufficient. This is what brought about the "elevator music" cliché.

I started with the easy, accessible jazz: Dave Brubeck's material, which I think of as "white jazz." Brubeck's band was pretty good. But they were too precise, too coordinated. Many musicians can figure out the key, the time signature, and the scales, yet they tend to play jazz with too much precision, as if it were classical music. Good jazz musicians do not play jazz that way. Jazz is improvisational, and the musician plays around the beat and around the key. Improvising within the scale and within the rhythm are insufficient.

I really enjoy listening to jazz, but I'm doubtful I could ever play or write jazz. I think I'll stick to rock and country.1.

My current list of jazz artists:

Art Blakey

Lee Morgan

John Coltrane

Miles Davis

Herbie Hancock

I'm kind of lukewarm on Hancock's studio recordings but the live material is good. Come to think of it, jazz is generally better live.


1 Like jazz, the blues is also improvisational. Rock and roll isn't "just the blues" as most guitarists say. Being a drummer, I can easily point out that rock has a back beat and most of the blues is played with a shuffle. Guitarist say rock and blues are the same because they are both played on blues scales. Obviously that isn't the whole story. If rock were "just the blues" we wouldn't call it rock and roll. Nor is that the only difference. This topic deserves an entire essay but I don't know if I would publish that on this blog.


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