WHAT MAKES JAZZ DIFFERENT

 

Jazz has all the elements that other music has: It has a melody; that’s the tune of the song, the part you’re most likely to remember. It has harmony, the notes that make the melody sound fuller. It has rhythm, which is the heartbeat of the song. But what sets jazz apart is this cool thing called improvisation.

Many listeners new to Jazz who may be casual, or fans of other music may wonder what makes Jazz different from other music? At times, the sheer amount of artists, recordings, and styles seem overwhelming. Especially in the online universe newcomers seek information in Jazz message board communities and often get discouraged by the complexity of discussion.

A jazz orchestra, also called a “big band,” typically consists of 5 saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, and a rhythm section (made up of piano, bass, guitar, and drums). Sometimes the Jazz Orchestra will add vibraphone (which is a part of the xylophone family), clarinet, violin and singers to the group.

Jazz fans everywhere lament that jazz seems like a dying art form overwhelmed by the simpler music of country, rap, hip-hop, and whatever it is that most kids listen to these days. But the professional “coaches” at the festival reassured the audience that “jazz is in good hands.” Fortunately, many school and university music programs teach jazz.
Learning to play any musical instrument is hard, but playing jazz is the ultimate challenge. In jazz you not only have to know the tunes, but you also have to use the chord structure and complex rhythms to compose on the fly.

A jazz professor, during a critique session, had two bands re-play a number from their performance. About one-third of the way through, he silently and casually walked through the rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, and drums) and picked up the sheet music. The kids went right on playing without skipping a beat, because they had already memorized the sheet music. His point was they were using the sheet music as a crutch and not engaging with each other.

Musicians talk to each other with their instruments, and listening is a big part of jazz improvisation. Students needed to be engaged with what each member of the rhythm section was doing, and, moreover, the rhythm section needed to interact with the Saxes, trombones, and trumpets.

First, there is passion. jazz band singapore stirs the emotions, from blues to ballads to hot swing. If Jazz doesn’t make you want to jump up and dance, you better check your pulse to see if you are still alive. That brings up this point: Jazz is fun! Learning chemistry, for example, is almost never considered by students to be fun, but teachers should be thinking of ways to make it fun.

Second is that jazz is personal. A jazz student intellectually owns his instrument. He or she owns the assigned space on the bandstand. How well someone has learned jazz is public knowledge. They can’t hide. What you know and can do is on public display, all the time in practice sessions with fellow band members and, of course, in public performances.
Third is that jazz is ultimate constructivism. All teachers know about constructivism, which is the idea that students have to do something to show they have mastered the learning task. Jazz bands and combos demonstrate personal accomplishment all the time in rehearsals and stage performances.

Fourth, jazz is social. Jazz performers perform as a group, either in a big band or combo. Jazz band directors make very clear their high expectations that everybody in each band class should become as proficient as they can. But jazz performance provides the public reward, in the form of public applause.