Monday, January 26, 2009

Jazz, Blues, Improvisation and Rootwork

Jazz and blues always find a place in the hearts of public radio fans, and so there is always a jazz watering hole for those thirsty for this flavor of refreshment. Sometimes they share the same station, with classical music, sometimes not. And I am always glad that I have these available.

Now these stations might be community supported stations, but not necessarily NPR, and some of those are great stations too.

Jazz is good for stretching music to very elastic forms, exploring all sorts of variations in a melody, and exposing rich veins of listening experience that you can only get from mining the lode from a variety of angles. Jazz musicians are some of the most creative around, improvising new takes on classical music, popular music and world music.

Blues is what gave birth to jazz, and blues has feeling and mood thicker than honey. Great for dancing and letting off some steam. Relax after a tough day with some blues. Cut loose on the weekend with somebody you like to drink and dance with. Blues doesn't just encourage you to let your hair down, it encourages you to let it all down. It's potent stuff, and that's why lots of stations are prone to program a good dose of it on Friday nights and Saturday nights. Of course, the diehards say that every day is a good day for the blues. Blues is roots music. It reaches you right at your roots.

Kind of interesting how the two styles of music relate. Jazz can reach up into etheric realms, and it can be relaxing, yet in the hands of some players, it can be chaotic sounding and aggressively paced. It has a great range that way. Jazz has a longer history of integrating world music influences into its repertoire, creating some amazing combinations. In recent years, there have been some wonderful collaborative recordings between blues musicians and African musicians, rendering a sweet, earthy mix.

These two forms of music are unique to America, and without blues there would have been no rock n roll or hip hop. Those roots grow deep. One of the beauties of both is their encouragement of improvisation. The very forms themselves seem to nurture invention. Next time you are hungry for something a little deeper than the current flavor of pop music, check out some jazz and blues.

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