AFRICAN AMERICANS, IMPROVISATION, AND “SWING” MAKE JAZZ UNIQUE!
The “Swing” that I am talking about is not the sub genre of Jazz called Swing that was the thing in the early 30’s to about 1945.
What I am writing about is the feel of the music.
Frank Zappa said, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Ella Fitzgerald clearly knows what Jazz is. Here is her description of “Swing.”
“Jazz is why, er–swing is–well, you sort of feel–uh–uh–I don’t know–you just swing!”(Ella Fitzgerald)
One of my “Spaceook” friends believes in the SILVER LINING theory of life. Every bad thing has a good side. I don’t agree. As much as I love Jazz…
And I LOVE JAZZ! I would have “wished it to the cornfield” if it meant there would never have been the horror of 400 Million Africans transformed into property.
Africans took the European instruments and added their own rhythms, intervals and pitch. That pitch variation is called Blue Notes. Blue notes are outside of and between the European 12 note chromatic scale. (Think of the seven white notes and 5 black notes)
So what does the marriage of Europe and Africa in American music sound like. Here is a great example. Lets take the European orchestra concept, with all of their instruments, take the African seasoning and “structure” the improv to fit into the box. What do you get? Benny Goodman and “Sing. Sing, Sing”
Another thing that Jazz musicians do, especially in solo improvisations is to alter the tones of the notes. Sometimes the players let the pitch fall off at its release. Sometimes they slide one pitch into another. Sometimes they bend a pitch into a note. Jazz cats also use different types of vibrato, from rapid, to slow to none at all.
Jazz cats create a melody in the moment that has never existed before. The big deal is that the solo has to work with the harmony and the chord being played while anticipating how the solo is going to fit in with the next chord to be played. There is no music like Jazz! Jazz was born from the need of every human to discover and express their own individual and unique humanity. Jazz has always struggled to get “out of the musical box” and that is EXACTLY why it is embraced by all races and cultures.