I love Jazz. I love Rock ‘n’ Roll, “…put another dime in the juke box baby (written by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker, originally released by Arrow, 1975, RAK; later sung and released by Joan Jet and the Blackhearts,1981, Boardwalk).
Each of these music genres developed in American Culture.
Jazz has its roots in slavery, and the blues. If jazz is good, it sounds like the blues (Wynton Marsalis, speaking in “Jazz, A History of America’s Music, Knopf.Borzoi, 2000).
Billie Holliday sang like an angel, while Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, and others innovated the sound of their instruments.
Rock ‘n’ Roll, too, began in the Black community at a time (of segregation) when White Americans did not tune in to this music. It was Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, who took the beat and gyration, presenting it to mainstream society. Later, Motown brought soul and pop music to our ears, keeping the country alive through difficult times.
When Louis Armstrong and his colleagues toured the United States, they either traveled by train, or packed their car with food and bedding, as they were refused lodging on their travels. They slept in their car (personal conversation, from beyond the green fence in Luxton Lake, NY). Before Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown label (1959), it was difficult for Black musicians to get recording contracts. I highly recommend the film “Cadillac Records” starring Beyonce as Etta James and Adrian Body as Leonard Chess, (Sony and Parkwood Entertainment, 2008) who sold records from his Cadillac and launched the careers of Chuck Berry, played by Mos Def; Little Walter played by Columbus Short; Muddy Waters, played by Jeffrey Wright; Eammon Walker as Howlin’ Wolf.
Both elder Jazz, and adolescent Rock ‘n’ Roll grew from agony and discrimination much as the lotus flower emerges from mud! We now have Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, and can still listen, live, to Sonny Rollins. Rock ‘n’ Roll, too, continues to evolve. We had Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.
Both genres tell a story. In listening to Jazz, I am reminded of the complexity of the blues, the genius of the musicians, as they play with a complexity of style that speaks of anguish, freedom, spirituality and liberation. Jazz improvisation is in the NOW and it is never the same.
Rock ‘n’ Roll kinesthetically moves me through that BEAT starting from my chakras out, to every muscle in my body (see blog, May 27), through yearning, hope, aspiration…I feel playful, and I love that!
Until next week,
PS: I missed my deadline this week due to technical difficulties…Stay tuned…I can’t wait to tell you about it next week’s blog!!!