“It’s like Jazz but more urban.”
“It’s like a cross between hip-hop and Jazz.”
“It’s ALMOST like Jazz.”
“…but that’s not REAL Jazz…”
These are some of the statements that have been made about Jairus Daigle’s most recent album, EnMotion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s gotten much more positive feedback from people that love and appreciate his work, and we value that feedback and those fans.
So, why did these comments get under my skin? Because they came from the types of people that are trying to put Jazz in a box; purists who think this expressive art form has to adhere to strict standards in order to be called by its name.
Even though I’ve put a lot of work into my understanding of music theory and development of technical skills, I don’t think it’s best to try to define Jazz in terms of either of those concepts.
Many sources describe the origins of Jazz music as the results of combining Blues and Ragtime. I don’t think it’s nearly that simple. Jazz music was created as part of the evolution of the musical expression of the Black Diaspora. Field hollers became Negro sprituals which then became the Blues which later became Jazz.
Of course, by that time African Americans had the ability to share and inspire art in many more ways, with many more people, and in many more places than they did when they were in bondage. So, while some claimed Rock N Roll was the death of Jazz, it was actually just an evolution of it. So was R&B and the many other classifications of Jazz we started to see from the 1930s and beyond.
Jazz has continued to evolve as an art form, and unlike many Jazz lovers, I don’t feel the need to define every manifestation of it. Some say it’s not as popular as it once was, and that may be true, but I think if we focus more on what it is than what it isn’t, we’ll see that it’s more present than many of us realize.
Jazz is not formulaic. It’s not like a molecule where changing one element makes it a different substance. So even if it doesn’t sound like Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, or Louis Armstrong, it can still be Jazz. So, if it’s Jazz but the instrumentation includes instruments like violin or electric guitar? It’s still Jazz. Sounds like Jazz but more Blues-y? Still Jazz. Improvisation happens in the form of a young rapper with an agile or melodic flow switching their cadences? Still Jazz. A big band arrangement of a Taylor Swift tune? Still Jazz.
So this playlist is our love letter to the genre. It’s a list of Blues and Jazz influenced tunes that are modern manifestations of the art form. It’s for the people that care more about enjoying Jazz than defining it. Keep in mind, this is a living playlist. Songs will be added and maybe (but probably not) removed. Right now, it’s got a pretty laid back feel, so while I recognize the awesomeness of more energetic Jazz inspired tunes like (like Black Sabbath’s “Wicked World”) and I absolutely love the Blues laced songs by Aerosmith and Justin Timberlake, you won’t hear much of that here… yet. Give me time. I’ll work them in.
Anyway. I hope you enjoy our playlist. That’s what it was created for.