The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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Perspectives and Objectives
problem. So much music in the name o£ jazz is being performed today that one wonders where a line may be drawn, or whether the use of the term jazz is advisable at all. Is the music of Machito, or Perez Prado, or Cal Tjader's Afro-Cubans jazz? Is the latest LP by a singer of popular tunes who has been hailed in Down Beat as a "a promising new jazz voice" really jazz, or just an empty echo along Tin Pan Alley? Are the atonal, some­times out-of-tempo explorations of such avant-gardists as Charles Mingus, Teddy Charles and Teo Macero jazz, wholly or partially or not at all? Are those critics right who claim that improvisa­tion is all, that "written jazz" is a contradiction in terms?
My own feeling is that the jazz label is applied too frequently nowadays to experiments that have little or nothing in common with the essential nature of jazz; that most of the "new jazz voices" are minor talents whose work should not be so classified; that Frank Sinatra, though certainly the jazzmen's favorite singer, is not a jazz artist; and that the modernists are as guilty of over­indulgence in their broad use of the word jazz as are the tradi­tionalists in the restrictions they place on it.
For the purpose of this book, it is my intention to place a liberal construction upon the term. Anything that has been ac­corded a wide degree of acceptance among musicians as jazz will be dealt with—whether it be the blues-shouting of a favorite rock-and-roll singer or the filigree arrangements of the Modern Jazz Quartet. It does not seem to me to be the main function of a critic to determine what is not jazz.
The attempts to define jazz have frequently reached an ignotum per ignotius dead end. The task of imbuing in the layman, with expositive words, a sensitive understanding of die dry, ascetic beauty of a Miles Davis improvisation is as hazardous an under­taking as an effort to explain English grammatical construction by playing a trumpet solo, Many have tried to explain jazz in words; all have failed. But the more persuasive writers and lec­turers, impressing their audiences with the subject's validity as material for serious discussion, have drawn into the orbit of jazz appreciation a number of potential converts, willing to listen with a broader mind, a more receptive ear.
The artist complains that the role of the critic is parasitic;