The Birth of Nu Jazz


Jazz is in the process of undergoing a drastic change. Prior to the late 60’s Jazz music was not taken seriously, when compared to Classical music. It was thought of as a party music, played by untrained players. That has definitely changed. Jazz is now the dominant curriculum at most music conservatories and music schools. The Jazz community has done to good a job in transforming public opinion, that Jazz is now seen as a stuffy, staid art form played and listened to by high brow intellectuals. This is supported by the fact that most contemporary Jazz compositions rely more on playing technique than on songwriting passion. The thing that made Duke Ellington and Count Basie music so exciting was their catchy, even hummable melodies. Take Five, Grazing in the Grass, and Mercy, Mercy, Mercy are examples of Jazz that was played at a high level, yet reached the top of the pop charts.

Nu Jazz is to (traditional) Jazz what punk or grunge was to Rock. It took it (Rock) from the hands of virtuoso soloists (for example: Yngwie Malmsteen) and gave it back to the kids in the garage (Curt Cobain). This stimulated Rock by putting it back into the garage. It reintroduced the DIY aspect to rock. Anyone with a guitar and the mastery of three chords was once again able to express him or herself. The listening public has enjoyed some wonderful songs as a result. The songs are the focus, not the individual prowess of the musicians.

Nu Jazz instrumentation ranges from the traditional to the experimental, the melodies fresh, and the rhythms new and alive. It makes Jazz fun again. Most listeners don’t take lessons, so Nu Jazz doesn’t give them one. Instead, it exposes the players as people. The music is accessible. To some extent, it was Miles Davis, with his exploration of new rhythms and textures (Big Fun and On The Corner), that planted the seed for this movement.

The Nu Jazz audience is made up of Alternative, Hip-Hop, and traditional Jazz listeners. Hip-Hop and College radio stations are the first to leap on the bandwagon and support this exciting new format.

by Tony Brewer

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08/06/2007 Water Rules
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