The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

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

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in this disagreement. Thus the two columns of comments do not represent any selective or slanted quotation. As far as it is pos­sible to generalize one may say that they reflect the predominant attitudes of these two groups. Nor can it be claimed that the musicians are receptive only to music from their own particular field, since all are well known for the breadth and perception of their jazz interests and are capable of understanding and appreciating every phase of the art.
It should be axiomatic that music can best be judged in terms of how it sounds to the human ear. This was the only standard used by the musicians in the above judgments; the factors of age and historical perspective were not allowed to distort their instinctive reactions. When jazz is truly timeless, as are the 30-year-old solos of Armstrong or the Ellington masterpieces of the 1930s, it calls for no special pleading, no extrinsic considera­tions on the part of either the critic or musician; it continues to stand on its musical merits.
True musical merit can hardly be said to govern the emotions of the listener who grows ecstatic over the tremulous exercises of a group of jazz primitives. His reaction, rather, is comparable with that of the observer who, overhearing a group of children going through the customary juvenile procedure on Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Three Blind Mice, gasps in disbelief and exclaims: "Listen! They're singing a canon!"
The argument so often used among jazz traditionalists that "you don't need to reject Bach and Beethoven just because you understand Stravinsky and Schoenberg" uses a palpably false analogy, implying as it does that jazz has come no further in its brief life than classic music has in two or three centuries.
In order to provide a true parallel for the early jazz of Buddy Bolden and Bunk Johnson it would be necessary to retrogress to the chaotic stage in which music found itself before the first true codification and the development of the Gregorian chant. One does not hear much sixth century music being played nowadays, for the valid reason that it would sound unlistenably crude and formless to the present-day ear, just as the early jazz sounds to the present-day jazz musician.
A truer analogy could be drawn between the pre-Gregorian