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the nature of jazz

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Richard_Halley
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Jazz strikes me as being highly irrational and anti-Objectivist. I'm surprised Ayn didn't rip into it savagely--and I bet she did privately.

I don’t know of any principle in Ayn Rand’s aesthetics that would rule out the artistic merit of jazz music. If, as Rand said, music offers "a concretization of [one's] sense of life," then jazz music offers a treasure-trove of joyous, life-affirming compositions. In fact, if you visit the web site Music With An Ayn Rand Connection, you’ll find music files of several jazz tunes and performers that Rand is known to have liked. In particular, listen to “Canadian Capers” and “Doin’ the New Low Down.”

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I'm a great fan of documentarian Ken Burns and he did a whole thorough 8-hour special on jazz in his "American" series (which oddly also included baseball and the civil war).

It did a decent job providing some historical perspective & insight, as well as covering some of the important artists. BUT, in spite of anything in it's favor, I was very dissatisfied with how little mention Gershwin got. His influence is felt to this day in jazz. In fact, the cycle 5 motion that many jazz tunes have used for the last 80 years is by jazz musicians called "Rhythm Changes" because it's based on the chord changes in the chorus of "I Got Rhythm".

Further, there is little or nothing on several musicians that were Titans in jazz. Bill Evans & McCoy Tyner get next to NO time at all mentioned. & yet these guys were crucially influential. Tyner is still around, still swinging, still outplaying cats 50 years younger than him. I know that you can only include so many people. But, where are Art Tatum or Joe Pass? These guys were the pinnacle of jazz musicianship on their instruments (piano & guitar, respectively).

Finally, my main contention with Burns' "Jazz" is that it's central "theme" seemed to be a constant rambling on "racial prejudice" & "miserable tragedies" that somehow these arists were able to "transform" into beautiful music. Worse, the documentary never clearly describes what jazz is, how & why it can be differentiated from genres. It doesn't even try.

I really wanted to believe, but in the end it wasn't at all convincing.

Convincing of what?

Jazz just doesn't speak to me.

Fair enough. Except, then you say...

In fact--it sounds like the enemy.

Do you mean some jazz music you've heard? Do you mean the manner in which Ken Burns told his version of the "historical story of jazz"? Could you please be a little more specific about the nature of what you see as the enemy?

Those are strong words. I would hate it if you missed out on some of the most beautiful, quintessentially American music ever made simply because of a misunderstanding or bad premise.

The best of jazz seems to be that which lacks the phony jazz "soul" and is strongly "anti-jazz." For me,  the best jazz is that rare stuff which actually DOES condescend to have a decent rhythm and, above all else, a thoughtful, creative, pleasant, fun melody.

Now that is a good conception of the best of any music, not just jazz. The question here is: Why do you think that is the "rare stuff"?

Jazz strikes me as being highly irrational and anti-Objectivist. I'm surprised Ayn didn't rip into it savagely--and I bet she did privately.

Highly irrational?! What the hell jazz are you listening to?

Please be careful of what you "bet" Ayn Rand may or may not have said/thought about anything of which you do not know with certainty. That's the sort of thing you might regret.

Also, please, find the time to listen to some good jazz. Such an animal does exist. :)

I don’t know of any principle in Ayn Rand’s aesthetics that would rule out the artistic merit of jazz music.  If, as Rand said, music offers "a concretization of [one's] sense of life," then jazz music offers a treasure-trove of joyous, life-affirming compositions.  In fact, if you visit the web site Music With An Ayn Rand Connection, you’ll find music files of several jazz tunes and performers that Rand is known to have liked.  In particular, listen to “Canadian Capers” and “Doin’ the New Low Down.”

Very good point. "treasure-trove of joyous, life-affirming compositions"...I like that, nice phrase! & that site does have perfect examples. Thanks. Notice also a Gershwin tune on there! "Nice Work If You Can Get It" ("Lovin' who loves you/ And then taking that vow/It's nice work if you can get it/And you can get it/Won't you tell me how?!")

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Metal music and gangster rap are examples of music designed with a view to "torturous reality that is crushing me." Jazz, even in its sad and melancholic moments, is still musical and pretty, so whatever the message of the saddest songs is, it still contains beauty and benevolence, insofar as it contains harmony, melody, and songs that touch the soul.

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The jazz band I'm in just put some songs up here: http://www.myspace.com/lssjazz

We're not all extremely talented, some are introductory players, but we all have a good time. Click the site and the tunes will play.

The last song is quite melancholic like you guys have seemed to mention, but has a different type of beauty than the other songs.

Edited by ex_banana-eater
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The jazz band I'm in just put some songs up here: http://www.myspace.com/lssjazz

Thanks for the link & the tunes! What inst. are you playing?

The 1st tune is kind of a "70's straight-ahead-no-swing-thing". I like the descending flat-3, two, flat-2 (as a tritone sub for 5!) progression that ends the main theme.

The 2nd tune starts with some nice swinging piano. I'm guessing the title references the trombone parts. Interesting breaks before & in the solos.

The last, "Misty", is a beautiful tune. Difficult melody to negotiate in places. "Look at me...I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree". Ah, that's good stuff...

...we all have a good time.

Sounds like it! Thanks again for sharing. The one important thing that has been missing from this thread is some actual music.

I have some solo guitar jazz arrangements here: Recital Tunes

The "jazz tunes" are my arrangements of "Over the Rainbow" & Gershwin's "Sweet & Lowdown". Basically pretending I'm Joe Pass. :)

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  • 2 years later...

I'm shocked that I haven't herd more people talking about Herbie Hancock and the headhunters, or WeatherReport. Jaco Pastorious has to be the greatest bassist of all times and Joe Zawinul who composed the famous hit "Birdland", and lets not forget the great Wayne Shorter on saxophone who also collaborated with Steely Dan for the album Aja (one of the best albums ever next to Heavy Weather). Also my personal favorite (not only jazz but guitarists period) Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, Lee Ritenour , Denny Dias, and Pat Martino.

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I'm shocked that I haven't herd more people talking about Herbie Hancock and the headhunters, or WeatherReport. Jaco Pastorious has to be the greatest bassist of all times and Joe Zawinul who composed the famous hit "Birdland", and lets not forget the great Wayne Shorter on saxophone who also collaborated with Steely Dan for the album Aja (one of the best albums ever next to Heavy Weather). Also my personal favorite (not only jazz but guitarists period) Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, Lee Ritenour , Denny Dias, and Pat Martino.

Well, I'm much more a hard-bop straight-ahead guy myself and prefer my Hancock in Maiden Voyage territory, and perhaps I'm just a benighted bourgeois fuddy-duddy but I still think Ron Carter is the best bassist. For me, something like Geri Allen's Twenty-One with Ron Carter and Tony Williams is dreamy-good stuff indeed; to me, that's ambrosia. On the other hand, I don't think we have much argument about Wayne Shorter's abilities (though you might laugh at my saying Hank Mobley's under-rated in comparison--not that he's as good, just that he had the misfortune of playing when he did). And notice how it all comes back to Miles Davis? Maybe I'm just not as advanced as you... (Seriously, your dudes are just not my cup of tea, but they don't offend me either, what I've heard. And jazz guitar, I'm just not much of an afficionado apart from Django; but since I don't seek it out, I don't know much beyond Joe Pass and Pat Metheny, both of whom I like, so I don't count my opinion as worth more than a bucket of cold spit.)

Edited by Adrian Hester
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I love gypsy jazz like Django Reinhardt, jungle jazz like Duke Ellington, divas like Ella and Nina, as well as big-band like Benny Goodman. Not to mention the jazz-classical hybrid of Gershwin :wub:

I love jazz that is lucid and has good rhythm and sense of life (and there is plenty, usually if you go back far enough), though there is plenty of terrible jazz (most of it I find is American) like Thelonious Monk, which is too... experimental for me, I like my jazz more tame.

Edited by athena glaukopis
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