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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Do People So Often Fear Jazz?

         I know people who will say they don't like certain foods and then I'll ask them if they've tried them and they'll say no.  If they haven't tried something how do they know they won't like it?  Jazz is often like that.  Or perhaps someone is enjoying something like spinach dip at a party.  You might go up to them and ask if they like spinach and they might answer that they've hated spinach since they were a kid.  Curious, you might inquire if they like the spinach dip they seem to be savoring.  They might be somewhat surprised that they are enjoying something they thought they hated.  Jazz is also something like that.

Why do people often have such a negative perception toward jazz?

          As in the examples about food, I think it often comes down to negative preconceptions based on what they have heard said by others.  Often we formulate our opinions based on how others feel.  For some reason, over the past several decades jazz has become associated with "old" music or music for geeky types.  It has gained an unsavory reputation with many people that continues to this day.  

         Perhaps the advent of rock and roll displaced the jazz which was the rebel music of its time.  Jazz became associated with older generations and was not cool to younger people.  The "jazz" label developed a stigma which has remained up to the present time.  However, jazz continued to be recognized by musicians who continued to incorporate the sounds into their music.  Pop music fans were hearing jazziness and actual jazz without really associating the sounds with jazz.

            Now many parts of the country have "smooth jazz" FM radio stations that play jazzy music that would often fit the category of adult contemporary soft rock.  There are also the mellow jazz sounds of instrumentalists like Kenny G, George Benson, or David Sanborn.  This form of jazz is melodic and easy to listen to.  This is the music that also might be piped into business establishments.  The label of "jazz" is de-emphasized, probably to the relief of harder core jazz fans who look down on this jazz lite.

            The sounds of jazz permeate the listening of most of us, though we are often unaware of this.  Therefore most of us have our music tastes categorized into labeled listening that does not include the terminology of jazz so that when we are presented with something labeled as jazz we tend to shun that music.  Jazz is mistakenly been portrayed to always be either old or something enigmatic, void of melody and filled with runs of notes, discord, and harsh sounds.

           I believe that if people were educated about the history of jazz, the artists involved, the types of jazz, and the influence of jazz, then they would be more readily open to listening to jazz in its various forms.  Allowing oneself to become accustomed to the sounds and have the ability to identify the styles would demystify the music for the casual listener.  One should really taste the food before deciding whether or not one likes it.

             What intimidates you about jazz?  Have you ever really set out to listen to jazz and opened your ears and mind to it?   Will you be more receptive to the idea of listening to jazz in the future?


  1. Good Day Lee, anther debatable post
    through researching about jazz I have a different perspective about the music.

    Enjoy your day.

  2. Jazz also shows up in a lot of movie soundtracks, so people hear it more often than they think.

  3. I enjoy listening to jazz. People do seem intimidated by jazz. I'm not sure why. I am going to try to get my country favs up but I may be late. I'm going out of town for the long weekend.

  4. I love most jazz. But there is that free, improv jazz that I just can't abide though.

    I agree with Alex. I think most people have heard and enjoy jazz, they just haven't yet gone out of their way to really listen to it.

  5. I do have a Herb Alpert (sp?) 45 - "Rise."

  6. Yvonne - I think you can appreciate something more if you know more about it.

    Alex - movies, tv, commercials-- jazz and its influence is everywhere.

    Carol F. -- Look forward to hearing more people's country favorites. Shouldn't be as intimidating as jazz.

    Carol K-- Chalk up one more jazz fan.

    Palindrome -- I think the free form complex stuff is what gives jazz its "bad" name. Most people don't have the patience to learn to like those more complex forms.

    L. Diane -- Herb Alpert would be catagorized as a jazz musician and he has been responsible for promoting a lot of jazz to the public.

    Betty --- Try it you'll like it! It is sometimes an acquired taste that has to be cultivated.

  7. LEE ~
    Yeah, I think you've hit the nail right on the head. Those who automatically dismiss Jazz probably do so thinking that all Jazz is of the Free-Form or Be-Bop variety. They never realize that one could remove those particular styles and still have 90% of all recorded Jazz still standing. Some of it every bit as catchy as a Pop song.

    In fact, as you said yesterday, there's a lot of Jazz that HAS been inserted into Pop songs. No Jazz? No Chicago. No Jazz? No Michael McDonald-led Doobie Brothers. No Jazz? No Beach Boys. (The Beach Boys modeled their sound after a Jazz vocal group called The Four Freshmen).

    I wonder how many Steely Dan fans realized that The Dan was covering a Duke Ellington piece when they recorded "East Saint Louis Toodle-oo".

    All of that Nelson Riddle music that backs the singing of Frank Sinatra - what duz folks think dat iz? Rock 'N' Roll?

    You know, it's funny, but one could remove that great saxophone solo from the Pink Floyd song "Money" and put it on an Archie Shepp record and all the Floyd fan's would ask, "Hey, where'd the Rock 'N' Roll sax solo go?" while the Archie Shepp fans would be saying, "What a cool Bluesy-Jazzy sax solo!"

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  8. Truthfully when I was a teen I couldn't stand Jazz. I think it was because I just didn't understand it at that time. Now that I am older my tastes have broadened! There still are some styles of Jazz that I'm not crazy about but most of it I can now appreciate! Love Di ♥

  9. I find some jazz too clangy and alcks any real rhythm. However, I enjoy the majority of it because it's quite the opposite - full of rhythm and a great sound.

    But that can be said of any genre of music really.

  10. StMc-- I think you could just about pull any good horn part out of a rock song and put it in a jazz context and make it work.

    Diana -- You're right, I think an appreciation of jazz often comes with more mature listening approaches.

    Lynda-- Like Stephen said above, probably only a small percentage of jazz fits the unpleasantness of sound as you describe. There always seems to be a few rebels in any genre.

  11. My father-in-law was just giving me a history of Archie Schepp/ Herb Alpert era jazz stuff last weekend. Great to see it reviewed here, though I just don't have much jazz in my collection, not enough to make a list for sure!

  12. For me personally, Jazz was simply an evolution from classical - actually much easier listening than many of the 20th Century classical compositions - somewhat avant-garde, but challenging in format and tonal qualities, but embracing solid ideas of what is pleasing to the mind and the ear if one listens closely. It is an unknown format for many as far as listening, but is no more difficult to understand than rock.

  13. I.O.-- Not really familiar with the music of Archie Shepp, though I've heard the name. Herb Alpert has been a huge musical influence for about 50 years.

    Paula--I agree about the 20th century classical-- some of it is much more difficult to get into than most jazz. It's a matter of aural acclimation. I'm sure that many pure jazz or classical listeners find rock very alien sounding.


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