What’s new…how is the world treating you?
On a recent trip to New York City it really got me thinking about “What’s New”, not necessarily the 1939 classic tune but rather “what’s new” musically in jazz.
I’m always looking for new music to buy or am checking out new musicians to see what’s happening and doing my best to keep up to date.
Through the course of jazz history new developments and new discoveries have lead to new styles of jazz. Since the late 60’s and early 70’s there hasn’t been many new discoveries like there was in the decades preceding.
I believe we are at a stage where everything that has come before is very equal. In that, I believe that when new discoveries were made there was a dismissal of the “old” (by some) and a herald of the “new” (by others). These days we still have a division of “new” and “old” but it seems more younger people are accepting of many styles as opposed to just the “new” or latest style that’s emerged.
The more I thought about this, after my travels, the more I started to hone in on a concept. It’s not a new concept in fact it’s as old as the dawn of civilization.
So, for me, if I’m playing jazz and it’s not “new” or different in some way then I’m not really playing anything “new” nor am I challenging myself. This is not a foreign concept to many people, hopefully. However, there are musicians that don’t understand playing a blues or jazz standard or ‘Take the “A” Train’ is an opportunity for you to play it differently each time and to always be creating something new.
Now before we get too divided on this one, I already mentioned we are in a time where anything and everything is acceptable.
If we move away from music for a moment and think about a great philosopher of our time or past, their thoughts blow our minds with their concepts or new ideas about science or whatever the topic. However, when they communicate those ideas they still need to use language i.e. words. They’re not trying to change language to a point where it’s not recognizable to understand what it is they’re doing, they’re using the same language that many others know to convey their ideas.
If we come back to music and particular jazz, this is one of the wonderful things about jazz is that we can converse with each other just like we do when we talk to each other. We don’t say the same words every day in the same order, we draw upon all the words we know but we don’t use all of them all of the time and we only use what words we need to in the conversation we are having. We adjust our speech/language to suit our group of people or audience and we can change our language very rapidly.
I don’t think any of the innovations in jazz have happened by someone setting out to do something new, rather I believe the innovations have happened from people using the language to convey their own ideas which have resulted in something that is unique that other people also enjoy and value.
There are many great musicians in jazz, not all are innovators. What makes a great jazz musician is their individuality. That individuality comes from using language to express and convey thoughts and ideas.