All that jazz
Jazz is nearly 100 years old, but that doesn’t mean the genre is easily explained, understood or even universally adored.
That’s OK, several local musicians agreed. When in doubt about the direction a jazz tune is headed, or whether it’s all that interesting, get up and dance. Soon, a song will come along better suited to your musical taste.
In the coming weeks and months, jazz music will take over a variety of western Colorado venues. And to better understand jazz — face it, jazz can seem dissonant — it’s best to understand that not all jazz is the same. After all, the genre originated nearly a century ago in New Orleans
“Don’t assume you know what it is until you listen to a lot of it,” said Tim Currey, a musician with the local jazz band Influx.
“Some will say that jazz was born in 1895, when Buddy Bolden started his first band. Others will say (it started) in 1917 when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band,” according to neworleansonline.com, a website dedicated to New Orleans.
Either way, the music has had plenty of time to evolve across the United States and around the world.
Jazz has gone from the syncopated sounds of trumpet and cornet-focused New Orleans jazz of the late-1800s, to the complex international flair of more modern Latin jazz, with all kinds of styles in between, including complex harmonies, lyrical melodies and the development of instrumental solos most synonymous with jazz.
“The thing that bridges all different styles together is improvisation,” said Darin Kamstra, the director of jazz studies at Colorado Mesa University and a member of the Faculty Jazz Quartet.
New Orleans jazz gave way to the smoother more lyrical sounds of the big band era. After big band, came bebop, which had more instrumental virtuosity and a faster tempo, Kamstra said.
Bebop “is probably, today, the style most central to the ideals of jazz music,” he said.
Styles introduced after bebop in the late-1930s and early-1940s maintained that instrumental improvisation central to jazz. Names given to styles birthed in or after the 1950s include: soul jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz and fusion.
Although the number of influential jazz musicians has waned through the years, there are plenty of current singers and bands out there who play jazz music or whose music is heavily influenced by jazz, local musicians said.
Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Amy Winehouse and Adele are powerful modern female voices with blues and jazz vibes, said Currey, Influx bandmate Jason McGlynn and Dennis Reuss of Generations Jazz Ensemble.
Chicago, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Weather Report are more modern, recognizable jazz-style bands, they added.
“The goal of jazz is musicians are having fun, and, as a result, the audience is, too,” Reuss said.
“The band and the audience are one with the music.”
In terms of what style of jazz will be most popular in Grand Junction this summer, well, that’s tough to say, the musicians conceded.
“We could play the same tune twice in a row and play it completely differently but still musically,” Kamstra said.
“That’s the freedom of jazz,” McGlynn said.