Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Music Of The People

Even in times of great struggle, there has always been great art. With a history we are all quite aware of, jazz always seems to have a tragic side to it. Even as the music got popular, more complex or abstract, we still associate jazz with personal struggle. Although Miles Davis came from a middle class background he was drawn to the “blues in jazz” and that has become his voice that we know and recognize. Historically jazz was a folk art form… something you did not necessarily do to make a living. Buddy Bolden, the legendary cornetist worked at a barber shop to support himself while he played, as did Sydney Bechet, the New Orleans Soprano Saxophonist.

The holy grail of jazz is so much about the personal expression of the artist, the individual voice rather than simply perfecting a skill, the translation of the artists struggle and emotion into music. It is the reason that we love to listen to the tragic ballads of bluegrass, why the most famous love story is Romeo and Juliet, and why we love the rawness and excitement of jazz.
Here is Billie Holiday singing Lady Sings The Blues with Gerry Mulligan and Coleman Hawkins.

So what’s the struggle today? Is jazz still the voice of struggle? Is the image of jazz still the same and true today? I thought about this as I was watching an episode of Treme, the post Katrina New Orleans series that plays on the topic of New Orleans’ struggle after the destruction of Katrina. 

(Notice the cameo of Elvis Costello)

No comments:

Post a Comment