Your Turn

What Is Jazz? And Are You a Fan?

Jazz player

This month, News & Notes is focused on jazz music. Though it's the foundation of
black music, some love it ... and some don't.

Are you a jazz fan? If so, who are some are your favorite artists?

Or if you find yourself intimidated by the art form, tell us why.

On today's show, we got a crash course with three renowned experts. Take a listen and share your thoughts.



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Thank you for the piece on jazz today. I heartily agree with your guest's comment that jazz ought not to be seen as the "spinach" of music. I was disappointed in the subtext of Farai's questions, that same old tired conversation about jazz not being as broadly embraced as pop, hiphop, rock, etc., therefore "is it dying/dead?". It is not the number of fans that determine whether any kind of art form is alive, vital or valid. In fact, I would argue that most often the best art and music is that which is not embraced by the masses, as this inherently implies an average taste. Please, can we have conversations about jazz without this subtext?

Sent by Jane Schantz | 1:56 PM | 7-3-2008

Thanks Farai Chideya & News & Notes,
For focusing on the art form of Jazz. I hear what Jane Schantz is saying, but I at the same time I understand Farai's subtext in trying to maybe get the Hip- Hop Generation ( incuding herslf) more open to this great art form. It has been one of my concerns for a long time that the Hip- Hop generation might be closing themslves off from other forms of music such as Jazz & the Blues, & this would limit their scope in understanding & creating newer forms of music, after Hip-Hop is no longer popular at least, in it's current form.

I have noticed that Euro- American & others from the same generation as the Hip- Hop Generation are a little more open to exploring Jazz & Blues than African Americans; why is this? Could it be shame & indifference?

I fear that if the Hip-Hop Generation only samples Jazz,& Blues, which is fine,in & of itself.... but they will find themselves at a dead end in the next decade or so. Not knowing how to make & play on real instruments & therefor real music.Maybe the current situation of music being cut out of the public schools are at fault, I don't know? But i feel it is of paramount importance that they open themslves up to Jazz & other forms of music.

I'm of the Civil Rights Generation & I grew up with Jazz Big Band music being played in our household, along with the Blues, Rock & Roll, & even some country & Western, along with some Classical Music; which to this day I have very eclectic taste in music.

Some of my favorites in jazz are, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan & on & on....

Sent by Robert H. | 7:12 PM | 7-3-2008

I've recently started to really appreciate jazz. There's nothing like live music to convert you (thanks SFJazz). Allen Toussaint, Dee Bridgewater & Hugh Masekela are some of my favorite artists.

Sent by KALW Country | 7:41 PM | 7-3-2008

according the the rria armstrong, ellington & fitzgerald have sold about 250,000 units each yr since their deaths! at its best 'blues-based music aka jazz (the art form) is in-the-end just excellent if not great music -- which lends itself to any human being interested enough to 'egage, grapple & wrestle' the the art form for its audio wealth ...priceless!!!

Sent by dirtyblues | 9:28 PM | 7-3-2008


Sent by ROXANNE | 12:34 PM | 7-4-2008

loved the segment. do another. made me stay in car till it was over.

Sent by j brown | 2:01 PM | 7-4-2008

Jazz is wonderful, it soothes my soul and warms my heart. I will never forget the man that actually introduced me to this wonderful art. I didn't know anything about Jazz, until this cool nite in 1979 on a school trip he escorted us to Rutgers University where Dizzy Gillispie was playing this evening and I was sold. Thank you Mr. Sherriff...

Sent by Wanda | 11:53 AM | 7-7-2008

As a classically trained bass player who also plays jazz, there are comparison between the two genres. Both seem to be played in staid environments where one doesn't tend to get up and dance. After a song is played in both places --and sometimes after an especially good solo-- the audience applauds politely. Finally, I believe that people think that both genres are "dead" largely because we put both genres in museum-like arenas and are expecting pieces written by dead people.

But classical and jazz are very much alive, thank you very much. The best classical performance I've heard was from a street singer in San Francisco, a baritone, singing "Rigaletto." I've also heard great four-piece jazz work done at a dive bar near my house in San Diego.

I also believe that when jazz and classical composers bring in the sounds of our time (hip-hop, emo, even punk rock), audiences can hear that both genres are not museum pieces.

Out of full disclosure, my favorite group when I was growing up was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and that was because they brought jazz and classical influences to rock audiences.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 5:48 PM | 7-7-2008

Please add Shirley Horn to the list. Check out her Verve Music Group CD from 2001: "Shirley Horn...You're My Thrill." It is flawless.

Sent by Monica from Kentucky | 4:09 PM | 7-9-2008

What is jazz? Jazz is a term given to American classical music by aristocrats when they visited the brothels in New Orleans and heard the black musicians play and sing the sounds of freedom. They sought to deny it its dignity by giving it a name that means a donkey and have failed because it is loved by folks world-wide who appreciate fine art. I am a veteran writer/radio announcer who realized long ago that this sophisticated, emotional, heart-felt music is a reflection of our society and that maybe our society is not as refined as it was, say, during Duke Ellington's time, when he insisted on his musical group being called "an orchestra" and that they all wear tuxedos or suit and ties. How this country became less cultured is for historians to write about and analyze.
As a researcher, I just find it amazing that such a delicate, smooth art form, was born out of black oppression and discrimnation, and that it continues to thrive and blossom. One of the subjects I find quite interesting is what I call The Carolina Connection and the fact that over 75, and counting, jazz musicians were born in North Carolina. There were the big four--John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, and Nina Simone. But there are many others, some known, like Percy Heath, Woody Shaw and Dr. Billy Taylor, and some obscure, like Hugh Brodie and Waymon Reed, Sarah's Vaughan's fourth husband. All of these musicians have the same contributing factors that caused them to become great jazz musicians. They were all a part of the great Black migration out of North Carolina to the cities of the eastern seaboard. Some of them and their families left because of American apartheid (legal segregation) and black male lynchings. Duke Ellington's father, James Edward, known as J.E., a butler at The White House, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina. He migrated to Washington, D.C., around the turn of the 20th century, because of the high incidents of black male lynchings in his area.
Suppose he didn't have to migrate from Lincolnton because there was no such thing as black male lynching? Would there have ever been a Duke Ellington?

Larry Reni Thomas
Chapel Hill, NC

Sent by Larry Reni Thomas | 6:55 PM | 7-11-2008