Ontdef3. What is the definition of jazz?
🎷 SECTION UNDER Less CONSTRUCTION than before: Can Always Be Improved by Editing 🎷
- 1 Discussion
- 2 Controversy over Defining Jazz
- 2.1 Assessment of the views of Gunther Schuller and Hughes Panassié
- 2.2 Assessment of the views of Peter Townsend
- 2.3 Assessment of the views of Joel Dinerstein
- 2.4 Assessment of the views of Scott Deveaux and Bill Kirchner
- 2.5 Assessment of the views of Jonathan McKeown-Green and Justine Kingsbury on jazz
- 3 Principled Predictions of New Jazz Genres
- 4 Wikipedia on Defining Jazz
- 5 The Etymology of "Jazz"
- 6 The Importance of Defining Jazz
- 7 Why jazz is not just an institutionally practice-mandated musical genre
- 8 What is Meant by Definition
- 9 How Jazz Can Be Defined
- 10 Does Jazz Have Essential Properties?
- 10.1 The Importance of Improvisation
- 10.1.1 Reasons to Believe A) Improvisation is "the most defining feature of" and "central" to jazz and (B) Armstrong, Ayler, Coleman, and Coltrane each played jazz improvisations are False
- 10.1.2 Reasons to Believe A) Improvisation is "the most defining feature of" and "central" to jazz and (B) Armstrong, Ayler, Coleman, and Coltrane each played jazz improvisations are True
- 10.1.2.1 Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971)
- 10.1.2.2 Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930 - June 11, 2015)
- 10.1.2.3 John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 - July 17, 1967)
- 10.1.2.4 Albert Ayler (July 13, 1936 - November 25, 1970)
- 10.2 What Is Meant By Essential?
- 10.3 Are There Any Necessary Conditions For Playing Jazz?
- 10.3.1 Are There Any Necessary Conditions For Playing Music?
- 10.3.2 Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
- 10.3.3 True Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
- 10.3.4 False Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
- 10.4 Objection to Requiring Conscious Intention for Music Production
- 10.5 What are necessary conditions for playing jazz?
- 10.6 What Are Not Sufficient Conditions For Playing Jazz?
- 10.7 Are There Any Sufficient Conditions For Playing Jazz?
- 10.7.1 A sufficient condition for playing jazz
- 10.7.2 The Ornette Sufficiency Condition
- 10.1 The Importance of Improvisation
- 11 Is jazz a process?
- 11.1 What are processes?
- 11.2 The processes of jazz
- 11.3 Implications for jazz being a process
- 11.3.1 Individual sonorities cannot be used to delineate jazz as a musical genre
- 11.3.2 Individual sonorities can be used to delineate jazz as a musical genre
- 11.3.3 DOWNBEAT BLINDFOLD TESTS identifying musicians by an individualized sound:
- 11.3.4 Why Rock musicians have less emphasis on having a personal idiosyncratic musical style
- 11.3.5 Why jazz musicians have more emphasis on having a personal idiosyncratic musical style
- 12 Amazon Echo's definition of jazz
- 13 André Hodeir's Definition of Jazz
- 14 Young and Matheson's Definition of Jazz
- 15 Assessment of Thomas E. Larson's characterization of jazz
- 16 Alternative Jazz Taxonomies
- 17 Chris Washburne on the politics of defining jazz
- 18 Paul Rinzler's Definition of Jazz
- 18.1 Rinzler's Fuzzy Logic Approach in The Contradictions of Jazz
- 18.2 Rinzler's Onion Model Definition of Jazz
- 18.2.1 Summary of Chapters from Rinzler's The Contradictions of Jazz
- 19 The Galactic Model for Defining Jazz
- 19.1 Why Latin, Big Band, and Free are all jazz
- 19.2 Why HSI is central to jazz
- 19.3 The Galactic Model for Jazz
- 19.4 What is Central to Jazz
- 19.5 Clearly True Claims About Jazz
- 19.6 Why need a Galactic model for jazz?
- 19.7 The Structure of a Galactic model for jazz
- 19.8 Implications of the Galactic model
- 19.9 Explanatory Power of the Galactic model
- 19.10 A Galactic Picture of Jazz
- 20 Overview and Summary of Defining Jazz
- 21 NOTES
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Controversy over Defining Jazz
Numerous scholars, theorists, critics, music reviewers, and many famous jazz musicians have all disdained or pooh-pooed, or even outright rejected, the possibility of producing a successful, satisfying, and correct definition of jazz.
In 1957, Leonard Feather opens his book on jazz with a belief that a definition of jazz is a "near-impossibility."
“With the belated emergence of jazz from its long-suffered role as the Cinderella of esthetics, and with its gradual acceptance in many previously closed areas, the definition of its nature, always disputed among critics and to some extent among musicians and the public, has become a near-impossibility. (bold not in original)
In 1973 Duke Ellington comments on the apparent overinclusion of too many different types of music under the jazz label.
“I don't know how such great extremes as now exist can be contained under the one heading.”
“What is jazz? It seems proper to begin our historical discussion of jazz by defining it, but this is a famous dead end: entire articles have been written on the futility of pinning down the precise meaning of jazz. Proposed definitions have failed either because they are too restrictive—overlooking a lot of music we think of as jazz—or too inclusive—calling virtually any kind of music "jazz."” (bold and italic not in original)
Opposed to this pessimism about the possibility of defining jazz, Peter Townsend, (senior lecturer in the School of Music and Humanities at the University of Huddersfield in England), some of whose views are examined below, writes as if it may be as easy to define jazz as it is to define anything else.
“Jazz is often thought of as being mysterious, elusive and hard to define. But since the meaning of a word is its use, jazz is no harder to define than anything else (try defining 'popular music', for example), provided one has decided how to use the word. (bold and bold italic not in original)
Assessment of the views of Gunther Schuller and Hughes Panassié
The Encyclopedia Brittanica entry (all Schuller quotations are from the "Jazz" article in Brittanica) written by American musicologist, composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian and jazz musician Gunther Schuller, as we see below, first defines jazz, or at least attempts a detailed delineation and characterization of jazz and its origins and its musical influences, while then immediately claiming the futility of trying to define it.
“Jazz, [is a] musical form, often improvisational, developed by African Americans and influenced by both European harmonic structure and African rhythms. It was developed partially from ragtime and blues and is often characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch, and the use of original timbres.
“Any attempt to arrive at a precise, all-encompassing definition of jazz is probably futile. Jazz has been, from its very beginnings at the turn of the 20th century, a constantly evolving, expanding, changing music, passing through several distinctive phases of development; a definition that might apply to one phase—for instance, to New Orleans style or swing—becomes inappropriate when applied to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz. Early attempts to define jazz as a music whose chief characteristic was improvisation, for example, turned out to be too restrictive and largely untrue, since composition, arrangement, and ensemble have also been essential components of jazz for most of its history. Similarly, syncopation and swing, often considered essential and unique to jazz, are in fact lacking in much authentic jazz, whether of the 1920s or of later decades. Again, the long-held notion that swing could not occur without syncopation was roundly disproved when trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Bunny Berigan (among others) frequently generated enormous swing while playing repeated, unsyncopated quarter notes.” (bold not in original)
➢ What are the reasons why Gunther Schuller maintains that jazz cannot be defined?
Schuller first claims that if anything is "constantly evolving and changing" then it is futile to try to define it. This initially might seem like a legitimate reason to reject defining something because if the thing being defined keeps changing its properties then it appears that there is nothing stable enough to be defined since definitions are fixed and don't change.
However, this turns out to be a bad reason against defining something. Just because things change, by itself, does not make definition of something impossible. Consider a simple example at first. Can the word "everything" be defined and be defined accurately and well? Why, yes, it can. The definition of everything means to include all things of any kind. Dictionary.com reports the meaning of the pronoun "everything" as meaning “every single thing or every particular of an aggregate or total; all.” Notice that this, on the face of it, would seem to be a perfectly acceptable and correct definition of "everything." If Schuller's constantly evolving objection were correct, then the pronoun "everything" could not be defined because "everything is constantly changing and evolving" while true is irrelevant to the possibility (and actuality) of being able to define what "everything" as a pronoun means. For two more similar counter-arguments see Ontdef3. Arguments for the impossibility of defining jazz where it is argued automobile can be defined even though the car industry evolves and incorporates new unforeseen styles of cars and also Ontdef8. What is a bicycle?. Since bicycle can be defined even though new styles of bicycles come into existence, then just because new unforeseen styles come into existence does not make it impossible to have a satisfactory definition.
➢ Why does he think that jazz definitions must be doomed to failure?
Schuller claims that any definition of jazz at an earlier phase can be "inappropriate" when applied to a later phase of jazz.
“[a] definition [of jazz] that might apply to one phase—for instance, to New Orleans style or swing—becomes inappropriate when applied to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz. (bold not in original)
➢ What would make a jazz definition inappropriate, according to Schuller?
Presumably, Schuller believes that were one to use swing as a necessary component of jazz, then since free jazz doesn't swing, it couldn't qualify as jazz. It is clear by this reasoning that Schuller accepts that free jazz counts as jazz so therefore one could not use swing to pick out all jazz. And, this is, indeed, what Schuller then claims!
But who says swing is the correct definition for all of jazz? Swing is a non-starter as a necessary property for all of jazz if not all jazz swings, which Schuller already concedes.
So, on this recommendation, don't use swing as the key component for a definition of jazz. Nothing follows from failed attempts at definition that would establish by itself that defining jazz is not possible.
Furthermore, if Schuller accepts his own reasoning, then this constantly unstable musical genre, jazz, should be difficult to recognize. Yet Schuller, just as he had first defined jazz then denied that it was possible to do so, once again appears to contradict himself when he claims jazz is "instantly recognizable" and distinguishable from "all other musical forms." How could this be possible if the subject was constantly "changing phases"?
“Jazz, in fact, is not—and never has been—an entirely composed, predetermined music, nor is it an entirely extemporized one. For almost all of its history it has employed both creative approaches in varying degrees and endless permutations. And yet, despite these diverse terminological confusions, jazz seems to be instantly recognized and distinguished as something separate from all other forms of musical expression. To repeat Armstrong's famous reply when asked what swing meant: "If you have to ask, you'll never know." To add to the confusion, there often have been seemingly unbridgeable perceptual differences between the producers of jazz (performers, composers, and arrangers) and its audiences. For example, with the arrival of free jazz and other latter-day, avant-garde manifestations, many senior musicians maintained that music that didn't swing was not jazz. (bold not in original)
Schuller may have had a different sort of argument in mind when he said that a “definition [of jazz] that might apply to one phase—for instance, to New Orleans style or swing—becomes inappropriate when applied to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz. ” The background assumption required by his claim is that jazz develops different forms over time. The type of example he could have in mind would be exemplified if a chair existed for a time and then a carpenter turned it into a small boat that you couldn't reasonably sit upon any longer. The previous criteria for being a chair would be inappropriate to use to evaluate a boat because using a chair criteria would not be a good evaluative means for assessing the qualities and definition of the chairhood of the boat 🚣 .
So, one can see that if this were true of jazz, then an earlier definition for chair would be a poor choice for evaluating the boat's chair worthiness.
Things can change over time more slowly so that it is easier to imagine the two falling under the same category.
➢ What things maintain their identity because of slow changes resulting in contradictory properties?
A top choice has got to be humans, both their bodies and their personhood with slow changes to an individual maintaining its identity over time resulting in having contradictory properties at different times. For examples start with the human body. Except for unusual alternative philosophical perspectives, the generally accepted view amongst all concerned is that it is the same human body from fetal formation up through death 💀. Evaluators who are biologically knowledgeable about human reproduction and human anatomy count the early formation of a unit structure from both parents remaining the same physical body because of its causal connections throughout its organically functioning (you're alive) existence. Yet this one and the same human body over time can have at different times contradictory properties. At birth the body could be mostly bald, then later in life completely hairy on the top of the head, then when old one could go back to being bald. How can the same object be both bald and non-bald? The answer is that this object has these oppositional properties at different times. The same sailing ship could first be not painted, then painted. The paint of the ship could be first all white 🛳 , then later the same ship is painted black . Similarly, this same type of phenomena can occur for personal identity. At one time the very same person could first be an introvert, then later in life be an extrovert. Or, a person could when young have a bubbly charming personality, but later in life be all gloom and doom.
Could the musical genre of jazz be like this? At one time jazz doesn't swing, then later in time it does, then even later after that it doesn't swing again? It may be possible given that Dixieland doesn't swing, then big bands do, then free jazz doesn't, if each of them still counts as being the same musical genre over time, namely each is jazz.
Let us take a brief detour from investigating Schuller's positions and reflect upon the Armstrong quotation of "if you have to ask, you will never know." This actually does not make any sense at all. Suppose Thelonious already innately knows what is jazz. A mark of knowing is to be able correctly to answer questions about what it is that is known. If someone who did not know what jazz is were now to ask Thelonious what is jazz, should not a knower such as Thelonious be able to educate and inform this questioner with the correct answer as to what is jazz? Of course he should be able to answer the question if he already knows the answer. If Thelonious cannot answer the question, then this is strong evidence that Thelonious does not innately know the answer already.
Furthermore, in this scenario, the ignorant questioner after learning what Thelonious knows to be the correct definition for jazz has now learned the answer to what is jazz by asking the question thereby proving the blatant falsity of anyone who claims "if you have to ask, then you will never know." In fact, the very opposite of this claim is true, as all scientists would agree. If you do not ask, then you will never know.
➢ Assuming for now that the above reasoning is correct, why would Armstrong make such a curious remark?
It is fairly clear that the point of this remark is to get the questioner to stop asking the question. This is most certainly an anti-intellectual response and is rejecting any possible merit to any investigation into the nature of music that qualifies as jazz. Anti-intellectual knee jerk reactions are always wrong precisely because intellectual investigations always have merit even when they are mistaken. How could anyone ever find out something is a mistake if they don't first articulate the position and viewpoint?
Let us now return to assessing Schuller's view from our Armstrong detour.
While it is partially true that some musicians rejected free jazz because it didn't swing, this, in fact, cannot be used to rule out free jazz as a jazz sub-genre. The reason is because there is plenty of jazz besides free jazz that doesn't swing, as Gunther Schuller concedes when he states that swing and syncopation can be missing from "authentic jazz." Much earlier jazz prior to swing big band music didn't swing and significant amounts of contemporary straight ahead jazz doesn't swing. Swing cannot be used as either a necessary or as a sufficient condition for jazz. See "What are not sufficient conditions for jazz" and since jazz can exist that doesn't swing it cannot be a necessary condition either.
Not all theorists agree with this. French music critic Hughes Panassié held that swing was a necessary requirement for jazz.
That this is so for Panassié is confirmed by quotations found in Jeffrey H. Jackson's, Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris, (2008) whenever the issue is brought up. For Panassié, any music that doesn't swing cannot qualify as jazz as he makes crystal clear below:
“According to Panassié, jazz music represented a fundamental rupture in the stream of European musical style, and it demanded both a new kind of listener and a different critical audience to appreciate it. The question that the new, modern audience must ask itself is whether the music "swings." "Where there is no swing," Panassié explained, "there can be no authentic jazz." Panassié attempted, largely in vain, to describe this quality of the music. Swing "is a sort of 'swinging' of the rhythm and melody which makes for great dynamic power," he said. It is syncopation and dance, he suggested, and therefore not necessarily inherent in the melody or in how it is played. Quoting an article by Mougin, Panassié agreed that "swing is the swinging between the strong beat and the weak beat—or beats—in a measure." Such definitions were clearly tautological, but Panassié insisted that anyone acquainted with swing could recognize it objectively. Nevertheless, he quickly pointed out its subjective nature and the fact that "such a way of playing cannot be acquired by conscientious study." "Swing is a gift"—he remarked, "either you have it deep within yourself, or you don't have it at all." On this basis, Panassié dismissed bands such as Hylton's—a recurring foil in his book—that lacked the fundamental component of swing. "An orchestra like Hylton's," he quipped, "does not, please notice, make bad jazz; it is not jazz at all." And he excluded the "symphonic style" of Gershwin and others from "real jazz" as only "distantly related to hot music." (bold and bold italic not in original)
According to Panassié, swing could not be "acquired by conscientious study." This should come as quite a surprise to all of the music faculty who have been teaching their jazz students how to swing for the past fifty years at least. Enough said. So, swing can be taught and it does not require an innate ability. When Panassié claims that "either you have it [swing] deep within yourself, or you don't have it at all," this can easily be proven false. Start with a beginning jazz student who does not yet know how to swing, then teach him or her how to swing, and then the proof is that before being taught he or she could not swing, but after instruction and practice the student now can swing musically. This proves simultaneously that swing is not innate and can be acquired through instruction and practice, as has now been known by jazz students and jazz faculty for at least the last fifty years.
“No music could be real jazz if it did not swing, but there was more than one way for a band to do so. Real jazz could be played straight or hot. To play "straight" meant "playing the piece just as it is written, without modifying it." Straight performances were tied to the notes on the page, yet they could be done in a swinging style. To play hot "means to play with warmth, with heat.' and was based on variations of melody and intonation that were improvised anew with each performance." Although both hot and straight were still real jazz because both were based on swing, Panassié elevated hot music as the ultimate form. It came from the personalized interpretation of a composition given to it by each musician rather than merely playing the notes as they appeared on the page. Hot jazz, he said, came from the musician's soul. (bold not in original)
Even in 1958, jazz writer and music critic Nat Hentoff finds Panassié's parochial tastes to be too limiting if they end up excluding from the jazz pantheon the musical works and jazz musicians from the later and more modern jazz sounds of Bebop and beyond including the improvisational mastery of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, or the fiery trumpet work of Dizzy Gillespie, or the many modern styles of jazz represented by the music of Miles Davis.
“In view of Panassié's religious belief that most modern jazz isn't jazz at all, do not expect to find any records by [Charlie] Parker, [Dizzy] Gillespie, [Miles] Davis, etc. (bold and bold italic not in original)
➢ Who counts as legitimate jazz musicians, according to Panassié's discography of jazz?
Nat Hentoff tells us some of the musicians that were included in Panassié's discography:
“There are large sections for [Duke] Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, [Fletcher] Henderson, [Jimmy] Lunceford, [Count] Basie, Big Bill (Bissonnette), [Earl "Fatha"] Hines, [Fats] Waller, and [Chick] Webb, among others. The often eerie imbalance caused by Panassié's pontifical taste leads not only to the omission of the moderns but to the inclusion of only four Billie Holiday titles contrasted with over ninety for [Mezz] Mezzrow who is, 'Panassié assures us, the only white man capable of playing the blues like a Negro.”
Panassié recognized an important point about (good) jazz performers. They must themselves be excellent composers because they are improvising concurrent with their playing. (See Ontimpr1. What is improvisation?).
“Panassié emphasized the importance of improvisation to hot jazz precisely because it shifted the traditional balance between composer and performer, thus producing another distinction between jazz and art music. (bold not in original)
Having made this observation that helps to distinguish jazz from non-improvised music, it should be a surprise for Panassié to exclude Beboppers from his jazz universe. The Beboppers were superior improvising composers, plus the most fascinating thing about this whole debacle of Panassié's is that much of Bebop actually swung! For an outstanding example of a swinging song listen to "Star Eyes" at Amazon or Youtube's original album version of "Star Eyes" by the Charlie Parker quartet recorded in 1951 with Miles Davis on - trumpet, Walter Bishop, Jr. on piano, Teddy Kotick on double bass, and Max Roach on the drums, or the even hotter live version of "Star Eyes" at Youtube.
Anyyone who recognizes swing will certainly hear it in this tune. At this point Panassié could go one of two ways, both disastrous for his exclusion of more modern jazz performers. Either he could agree that "Star Eyes" is swinging so counts as jazz proving that he should not automatically exclude the Beboppers or all of the modern players who have performed the song from jazz, or he could deny that "Star Eyes" was a Bebop song, which it is when performed by Bird, so he would be wrong again.
Assessment of the views of Peter Townsend
In his book, Jazz in American Culture (pictured here)
Peter Townsend writes about the question of defining jazz. He seems to state early on that there is no problem with providing a definition for jazz, then he proceeds to cast doubt on this suggestion.
“Statements about jazz beg questions of definition. Jazz is often thought of as being mysterious, elusive and hard to define. But since the meaning of a word is its use, jazz is no harder to define than anything else (try defining 'popular music', for example), provided one has decided how to use the word. The preferred definition of jazz in this book stays close to the musical basis, for the reasons already stated. But jazz can be defined relatively narrowly or relatively broadly. Some writers have restricted its usage to the musical styles they prefer, like the 1940's revivalists who denied the word 'jazz' to any of the post-New Orleans styles. On the other hand, some recent exponents of Jazz Studies have expanded the term to include the entire phenomenon of jazz including all its representations, derivatives and social implications. These shifts in the meanings of the word could be made transparent by other signals, such as marking them 'jazz (1), 'jazz (2)', 'jazz (3)' and so on. It is probably wiser to accept Krin Gabbard's conclusion that jazz is 'the music that large groups of people have called jazz at particular moments in history', and then to use the word in the sense that emphasizes the qualities that one considers important. (bold not in original)
When Townsend remarks above in his opening sentence that "statements about jazz beg questions of definition" he is not referring to the well known fallacy by the same name wherein a premise presupposes the truth of its conclusion, but rather he merely means that the question should be asked as to what is jazz. His second sentence that jazz is no harder to define than anything else is implausible. If jazz were so easy to define why doesn't Townsend go ahead and define it?
Merely deciding how one is going to use the word 'jazz' brings us little closer to being able successfully to define it. Suppose we follow Townsend's advice and decide how we want to use the word say as a style of music that is to to be distinguished from other genres of music that is non-jazz. Now we know how we want to use the word, but there remains the unanswered questions as to what are the features of jazz that permit it to be so distinguished from other non-jazz music. Townsend remains mute on this hard question even though he claims not to when he claims that his (or anyone's) 'preferred' method for defining jazz "stays close to the musical basis." But what is that musical basis and how is it to be used so as to distinguish jazz from non-jazz?
As can be seen many, many possible musical bases fail sufficiently to distinguish jazz from non-jazz regardless of how jazz gets defined more broadly or more narrowly. (See What are not sufficient conditions for playing jazz?). Townsend's suggestions do not work whether one tries a narrower or a broader approach. First consider his narrow suggestion of limiting jazz to "the 1940's revivalists who denied the word 'jazz' to any of the post-New Orleans styles." This doesn't work if one believes jazz includes music other than just a New Orleans Dixieland style. If we stuck to this definition then almost all other music that has been called jazz would be excluded from being jazz and this is just unacceptable. It would eliminate virtually all jazz music developed since the 1940's, which is the vast majority of music that has been (correctly) thought to be jazz, including Bebop, big band swing, modal, cool, soul, or even the more suspect jazz-rock fusion, smooth jazz, free jazz, and so on. Hence, drawing too narrow a boundary around jazz excludes music that most theorists wish to include at least some other types other than just New Orleans styles of jazz.
Townsend next notes a broader definition of jazz that “expand(s) the term to include the entire phenomenon of jazz including all its representations, derivatives and social implications.” Does this help better to define jazz? Not really. First, a music's representations and derivatives is far from being clear. What are these? Is a jazz event a derivative or not? Are the painter Matisse's jazz series of paintings a representation of jazz, and to what extent? Likely Townsend believes that the most significant of these three (representations, derivatives, and social implications) are the social implications. Consider, however, that a music's social implications could possibly mirror a different genre of music's social implications. That is, two different genres of music could have the same social implications, as may, for example, possibly be true of the equally African-American inspired music which is the blues. If blues and jazz had comparable social implications, then bringing in social implications may well not permit distinguishing jazz from non-jazz. Furthermore, suppose that both of the following claims were true: (T1) Free jazz is a form of jazz, but (T2) Free jazz has some different social implications (as well as different representations and derivatives) than other forms of straight ahead jazz. If true, and it is extremely likely that it is, social implication differences are irrelevant for defining jazz were (T1) to be true, which it probably is since free jazz has less overall social acceptability than has straight ahead jazz, then free jazz could not be jazz were these social implications, etc. to be different contradicting (T1).
Townsend then finally settles on accepting a suggestion by Krin Gabbard's that “jazz is "the music that large groups of people have called jazz at particular moments in history", and then to use the word in the sense that emphasizes the qualities that one considers important.” Neither of these suggestions are useful or acceptable for defining jazz. We cannot just accept as an intellectually satisfying definition of jazz that it is a music defined by what people have called jazz since some music that has used the nom de plume of jazz, such as acid jazz, turned out not to be jazz. (See Why acid jazz is not jazz). Emphasizing the qualities that you feel are important is just as much another failed suggestion if the qualities you feel are important are found in other genres of music besides jazz. If you find that swing can be an important feature of jazz this is unhelpful in attempting to define jazz since some non-jazz music has swing, such as rockabilly music, and some jazz fails to swing, such as much modern mainstream jazz, not to mention free jazz.
“A related premise of this book is that what is called jazz is in any case a certain segment or area selected out of a continuous terrain of American musical styles. It has no precise boundaries, and at its fringes it shades off into a range of other musics. The territory of jazz touches 'pop' music, 'country' music, the blues, 'classical' music, rock and roll, and so on, and at times can hardly be distinguished from them. There are styles and artists that pose questions about boundaries and classifications: was Frank Sinatra a jazz singer? Was Louis Jordan a jazz musician? Was 'Western Swing' part of jazz or of country music? The idea of the limits of a music like jazz, of its boundaries, should be reassessed in the way that Gregory Nobles proposes for the idea of the 'frontier': as an area characterized by a 'complex pattern of human contact', not simply as a cut-off point between well-defined separate entities!” (bold not in original)
Regarding the boundaries of jazz as a style of music, Townsend may well be correct that when we get into more fringe type of musical areas that jazz can be more undetermined as jazz. The idea that jazz boundaries can be ragged is supported by Paul Rinzler in his masterwork, The Contradictions of Jazz, where Rinzler defends that one should understand jazz as having a fuzzy logic whereby jazz can be along a continuum with varying strengths and degrees of jazz. Still, Townsend appears to go too far if he believes that there are times when jazz “can hardly be distinguished from” pop music, or country, the blues, classical music, or rock and roll. While it is true that Third Stream is a combination of classical music and jazz and jazz/rock fusion synthesizes jazz with rock, it still is hyperbolic to proclaim that jazz and these other forms at the fringes cannot be distinguished from each other.
Townsend continues his development of these lines of thought by marking jazz out as a region of music.
“Jazz is more like a region than a nation. Nevertheless, it is still possible to state some positive characteristics that mark out the region. For positive definitions, one can refer to a useful brief version by Lewis Porter: "Jazz is a form of art music developed by black Americans around 1900 that draws upon a variety of sources from Africa, Europe and America." Jazz as a segment of American music is, by a consensus of most writers, identifiable by reference to its rhythms, its repertoire, its use of improvisation and its approach to instrumental sound and technique, and these features are reflected in the description of jazz as a music in Chapter 1.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Staying with his fundamental approach of defining jazz in musical terms, Townsend proposes to accept what he finds to be a "useful version" for defining jazz put forth by Lewis Porter. If we evaluate Porter's suggestion as a definition for jazz it is easy to see that Porter's definition for jazz remains unsuccessful for the primary reason that Porter's definition equally applies to blues music that was also primarily developed by African-Americans around the turn of the century with musical sources deriving from Africa (using a pentatonic scale), Europe (using a diatonic musical scale), and (North) American influences (work songs, call and response, gospel, and so forth).
Lastly, the idea that jazz can be identified by its rhythms, repertoire, improvisational sonic techniques and approaches is welcomed, but also cannot by themselves be either necessary nor sufficient conditions for jazz. (See What are necessary conditions for playing jazz? and What are not sufficient conditions for playing jazz?). Is there such a thing as a distinctive jazz rhythm only used in jazz music? This doesn't sound correct. Certainly repertoire cannot distinguish jazz from non-jazz because many jazz standards came from non-jazz songs, such as Sonny Rollins's "I'm an Old Cowhand" from Rollin's album "Way Out West," or his jazz version of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," or all of the jazzers who covered it, or John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" from the non-jazz musical "The Sound of Music" that no one considered this song to be jazz until performed by Coltrane. Many non-jazz musics incorporate improvisation into their respective non-jazz musical genres including Indian ragas from Indian classical music, country, blues, rock, rap, and on and on. Hence, Porter's list, while certainly relevant to jazz, does not yet constitute a definition that would pick out all and only jazz.
Assessment of the views of Joel Dinerstein
Joel Dinerstein, author of numerous tomes on coolness, when reviewing John Gennari's book, Blowing Hot and Cold, holds that jazz critics managed a "unique intellectual achievement" by developing, shaping, and codifing the 'formal categories' by which jazz is to be analyzed and understood. Here is how he puts these claims:
“Blowin’ Hot and Cool [by John Gennari] simultaneously functions as a history of jazz, an intellectual history of jazz, and a survey of jazz discourses—no small feat—all as rendered through the guru of the jazz critic. As opposed to jazz musicians, who have often refused to categorize jazz, “emphasiz[ing] the social messages embodied in the music,” the achievement of a personal sound, and “jazz . . . as a form of communal bonding, [and] ritual,” jazz critics have inhabited a range of modernist stances predicated on cross-racial exchange. [John] Gennari casts the music’s white proselytizers, columnists, and impresarios along a continuum of paternalism, patronage, friendship, primitivism, and vernacular patriotism, and its black writers and impresarios (Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch) as tightrope walkers of integrationist and separatist ideologies, cultural affirmation and diasporic identity, neoclassicism and avant-gardism. From the moment John Hammond and Leonard Feather stepped into the Savoy Ballroom in 1935 with the explicit intention not to dance but to listen—“the Ur-stance of the jazz critic”—they positioned themselves as discursive gatekeepers “distinct from the dancing mass body, caught up in an imagined sense of privileged intellectual and emotional communion with the music.” Gennari seeks neither to redeem nor delegitimize their cultural work but to highlight their unique intellectual achievement: they shaped an undervalued popular music into a vernacular art music by successfully creating the formal categories through which the music is understood. (bold and bold italic not in original)
➢ Is it true that jazz writers and critics are fully responsible for the categories used to analyze and appreciate jazz?
Doesn't this emphasis on jazz writers and critics (presumably for both Gennari and Dinerstein) production of formal jazz categories and concepts used to 'understand' jazz ignore another important causal source for jazz category analytical constructions, namely the jazz musicians and their compositions themselves? Don't we want to give at least some credit to the performers themselves, and not just the people who write about the jazz phenomena? Should not Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Ornette Coleman, etc. be given at least some credit and responsibility for the, as Dinerstein writes it, development of the "formal categories through which the music is to be understood"?
If the above musicians had not developed their compositions that helped produce bebop, or big band compositions representing themes, such as Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy", or Mary Lou Williams's 'sacred music', or the harmolodic style of music developed by Ornette Coleman and his players, or George Russell's, "Jazz in the Space Age," third stream style, there would not exist the music that jazz writers and critics end up analyzing with their 'formal categories.' If the music itself did not exist, there would be nothing for the writers to be discussing, or anything to analyze. Doesn't the source for the formal categories, the musicians and musical compositions, themselves shape what those categories are to become? It would seem so.
Assessment of the views of Scott Deveaux and Bill KirchnerSome people believe that jazz and its concept may conform to Morris Weitz's  of open concepts where the things falling under that concept are unstable because no set of necessary and sufficient conditions can be found that captures all current and future objects that are and will fall under such a concept. The content of an open concept is constantly changing and cannot be pinned down. As soon as anyone can define what is jazz (or art), a performer will accomplish something in the spirit of jazz that is outside the current definition and then it is unclear what to say about this new music, or so it is often claimed.
This point of view is represented by Scott Deveaux, Professor of Critical & Comparative Studies at the University of Virginia in the McIntyre School of Music, as holding that one should avoid defining jazz “in musical terms.”
“Defining jazz is a notoriously difficult proposition, but the task is easier if one bypasses the usual inventory of musical qualities or techniques, like improvisation or swing (since the more specific or comprehensive such a list attempts to be, the more likely it is that exceptions will overwhelm the rule).” (bold not in original)
But herein lies madness. How else could one come up with a definition of jazz as a music if one ignores its "musical qualities," as recommended by Deveaux? Of course, for anyone who thinks that there really is nothing in common between different jazz genres and that they have just been lumped together under the jazz umbrella as a result of historical accidents, this would be a way to ignore jazz's musical qualities. For more discussion on these points see Ontdef3. Why jazz is not just an institutionally practice-mandated musical genre.
Undaunted, Deveaux continues by explaining various reasons for rejecting jazz/rock fusion or free jazz/the new thing/avante-garde as qualifying as jazz. You should be especially sensitive when reading the below quotation for what would appear to be a blatant contradiction in his own theory. First he denies that jazz can be defined, yet below argues that there is nevertheless an "essential nature to jazz" and then adds insult to injury by claiming the essential nature of jazz "is the process of change itself" while incredibly denying that jazz fusion and free jazz qualify as jazz even though these are the very changes to which he refers.
“Much as the concept of purity is made more concrete by the threat of contamination, what is not is far more vivid rhetorically than what it is. Thus fusion is "not Jazz" because, in its pursuit of commercial success, it has embraced certain musical traits—the use of electric instruments, modern production techniques, and a rock- or funk-oriented rhythmic feeling—that violate the essential nature of jazz. The avant-garde, whatever its genetic connection to the modernism of 1940's bebop, is not jazz—or no longer Jazz—because, in its pursuit of novelty, it has recklessly abandoned the basics of form and structure, even African-American principles like "swing." And the neoclassicist stance is irrelevant, and potentially harmful, to the growth of Jazz because it makes a fetish of the past, failing to recognize that the essence of Jazz is the process of change itself.” (bold not in original)
How can there be "contamination" on Deveaux's views of jazz if the nature of jazz is to change? The only way to change is to incorporate 'contaminations' into jazz, so again he contradicts himself.
Deveaux is far far from being alone in rejecting the possibility of defining jazz. For example, this belief that it is fruitless to try to define the nature of jazz music appears to be the view of Bill Kirchner, in his “Introduction” to The Oxford Companion to Jazz, (Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 5):
“Throughout the—roughly speaking—century-old history of jazz, there have been numerous attempts to ‘define’ what the music is or isn’t. None of these has ever proven successful or widely accepted, and invariably they tell us much more about the tastes, prejudices, and limitations of the formulators than they do about the music. You’ll find no such attempts here.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Assessment of the views of Jonathan McKeown-Green and Justine Kingsbury on jazz
(1) “We are hard-pressed for criteria distinguishing even central cases of jazz from most nonjazz. (2) Much canonical jazz does not emphasize improvisation; much country and folk music does. (3) People who enjoy central cases of jazz from one subgenre are not especially likely to enjoy jazz from other subgenres. Such disunity is easily explained historically. (4) For example: influential swing soloists invented bebop; their experiments influenced swing performance style; since swing was jazz, it was natural to authorize bebop. Rock ’n’ roll, despite sharing many features with swing, had roots in rhythm and blues and country. (5) By covering some styles more than others, DownBeat and other jazz journals steered readers toward those styles.” (numbered sentences not in original)
Wow, a lot to talk about after that, right? Break it on down sentence by sentence and give the ideas a good read and see how they hold up, right?
(1) “We are hard-pressed for criteria distinguishing even central cases of jazz from most non-jazz.
This is just blatantly not true. Of course it depends upon what you mean by "criteria" for “most non-jazz.” Nevertheless, on any standard reading for “most” meaning “in the majority of instances” it is easy to tell what is and isn't jazz. For proof, go into any record store and count all albums not under the jazz label, then count all albums in the jazz section and one discovers that only 2-3% of all albums are labeled as jazz. This is also true in the music market in general—jazz no longer sells well. So, rather than not being able to tell, it is easy to tell. Almost 98% of all music sales is not considered to be, nor is it, jazz.
“However, just a year later, in 2012, [jazz sales] fell to 2.2%. It rose slightly to 2.3% in 2013 before falling once again to just 2% in 2014. That 2% represents just 5.2 million albums sold by all jazz artists in 2014. In comparison, the best-selling artist of 2014, Taylor Swift, sold 3.7 million copies of her latest album ‘1989’ in the last 2 months of 2014 alone.” (bold not in original)
So, no it is just not true that jazz cannot be easily told apart from most non-jazz. By what criteria this is happening is a separate question. Still, these criteria are well known. Country music, while it can be improvised and by some performers (see below) it is an important part of their performances, in its recorded song version it is not typically improvised because it doesn't need to be. Nor does it use standard jazz harmonic musical language, nor does it have complex syncopation (using odd rhythmic patterns), and so forth. Wikipedia on country music describes it as “often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms and harmonies accompanied by mostly string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars (such as pedal steels and dobros), and fiddles as well as harmonicas.”
Jazz, on the other hand, usually does not use only "simple forms and harmonies," but rather complex forms with complex harmonies. Regardless of the criteria used, everybody, especially record store owners, are seldom if ever confused, as to where to place Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, or even Gary Clark, Jr. in the categories used in their store.
McKeown-Green can respond that the above misses his point. He didn't claim people couldn't tell jazz from non-jazz but that there is no criteria for accomplishing this. Maybe. Still, if he is in agreement that at least 90% of all record sales are not considered jazz mustn't there be some criteria by which this successful separation distinguishment is occurring?
So, what might McKeown-Green's explanation for how a criteria unknown category, which he claims true for jazz, can be so successfully distinguished from all other forms of music. One way he might attempt to account for jazz being distinguished from 97% of all other music would be to base his answer around past historical judgments made about previous artists and their music and how it has been categorized. If Miles Davis's albums in the past were categorized as jazz then the next one should be so as well based on past precedent.
Isn't there a big problem with this approach of using inductive reasoning and historical evidence for making decisions about what musical genre an album should fall under? Of course, this cannot be a correct model for determining genre classifications because an artist that had an album under a previous musical genre could now be playing music that is of a different genre, as Miles Davis did during his career.
The major failing of any such historical inductive model for determining musical classifications is that it is not bothering to listen to the music and then and only then deciding what category that particular music falls under or within.
CONCLUSION: It cannot be only past historical classifications that determine what musical genre a new album of music should fall under.
What other non-criteria motivated classification schemas might McKeown-Green appeal to besides the historical inductive one?
McKeown-Green provides several suggestions relative to which jazz might be defined without using any sonic or experiential properties of jazz. McKeown-Green suggests at least four possible non-sonic approaches for defining jazz that can be given these labels:
- (1) using “our intuitions and classificatory trends,” or
- (2) using a “recursive-historical definition,” or
- (3) defining jazz in terms of how jazz “performs a particular function in our cognitive or social lives,” or
- (4) using a “relevant institution” to determine what qualifies as jazz.
Let's first read McKeown-Green's suggestions about these possible definitional attempts before they are then critiqued afterwards.
“Perhaps a serviceable, accurate, future-proof characterization of our folk conception that respects the fuzziness of the boundaries is recoverable [(1)] from our intuitions and classificatory trends, but surely it would invoke properties other than sonic and experiential ones. It might be a [(2)] recursive-historical definition that details how an event gets to be jazz if it is suitably related to prior jazz. A successful definition of this kind would plot a pattern through the evolution of our conception, revealing either deep stability in that conception or a network of different, but related, conceptions that change and cross-fertilize in ways that can be explained systematically. Alternative characterizations would say that an event gets to be jazz just when or to the extent that it [(3)] performs a particular function in our cognitive or social lives or is [(4)] accepted as jazz by a relevant institution. Because of the unruliness and consequent unpredictability of jazz’s development, I doubt that any definer could reliably discern a recursively describable historical pattern or diachronically stable function. Perhaps an institutional definition would fare better, but such definitions are subject to well-known difficulties, and I will not speculate here about the prospects of characterizing our conception of jazz in this way. What matters for what follows is that, because of border skirmishes and especially future uncertainties, we cannot usefully define our conception of jazz solely in terms of sonic or experiential properties or intentions like those that Kania invokes in his definition of music. (bold and parenthesized numbers not in original)
- (1) Regarding the first suggestion of using intuition and classificatory trends does not seem like a serious suggestion by McKeown-Green in the case of jazz since he doesn't believe there exists any coherent principled reasons why the jazz sub-genres that have all been put under the more general genus of jazz have been placed there. Because jazz sub-genre inclusion under jazz as a general type is arbitrary or unprincipled, according to McKeown-Green, any intuitions or classificatory trends someone could have might be anything.
- (2) Regarding his second suggestion, McKeown-Green cannot give much credence to the use of any recursive-historical definition for jazz since this requires the possibility of "detailing how an event gets to be jazz" by being "suitably related to prior jazz". McKeown-Green does not accept that later jazz has any intrinsic connection to earlier jazz sub-types. Therefore, the recursive-historical approach that is supposed to show "a deep stability" in our conception of jazz, according to McKeown-Green, shall never find such a thing since he presumes it doesn't exist. Neither would McKeown-Green believe that jazz has a "network of different, but related, conceptions that change and cross-fertilize in ways that can be explained systematically" since he doesn't find any systematic connections between jazz sub-genres.
- (3) Does jazz play a unique function in our "cognitive or social lives" per McKeown-Green's third suggestion? It is hard to see how it could be unique to jazz whatever anyone might come up with as an answer. If true that there are no unique jazz cognitive or social functions, then this would fail as a definitional attempt. Additionally, whatever the answer here would not be so much about the music itself as it would be about the perceivers of the music and this is the wrong subject matter for a definition of jazz. Suppose all fire trucks play a unique cognitive or social function in people's lives. Do we now better understand and know what is a fire truck? No, we do not, so this is a failed suggestion from the start.
- (4) Regarding the use of a relevant institution to determine the status of jazz sub-genres for inclusion or exclusion under the jazz umbrella, it doesn't seem like there are any relevant institutions. McKeown-Green himself appears to admit this when he writes that “No rigorous constraints govern the evolution of the criteria for identifying instances of jazz. No Academie de Jazz arbitrates. Nor does jazz, like atoms and mammals, play a well-defined causal role in some theory about the world’s workings. Thus, the story of jazz could easily have gone differently.” According to McKeown-Green, there are no relevant institutions and any institution's position could have been overturned in some possible world. Additionally, McKeown-Green is loathe to speculate about an institutional determination for a definition of jazz because of the “well-known difficulties” not to mention the problem, according to McKeown-Green, of “the unruliness and consequent unpredictability of jazz’s development.”
- Lastly, when McKeown-Green writes that “What matters for what follows is that, because of border skirmishes and especially future uncertainties, we cannot usefully define our conception of jazz solely in terms of sonic or experiential properties or intentions” that this just doesn't follow. If it did follow that whenever there exists "border line cases" (presumably what McKeown-Green means by “border skirmishes”) and “future uncertainties” that something could not be defined, then nothing can be defined because these two aspects/problems exist for all definitions. Anything you define will have potential borderline cases where the objects in question are potentially problematic for a definition. This, by itself, cannot be a definition stopper or definitions could not exist. Since definitions do exist this is a reductio ad absurdum argument that borderline cases and future uncertainties do not prevent a possible definition for jazz.
“However, this verdict does not apply to all institutionally-mandated kinds. Disjunctive definitions of chairs, letterboxes, beds, toothpicks and mental states are almost certainly criterially inadequate; in each case a more unified account is available which picks out the condition in virtue of which the things in question count as things of the kind in question. To be preferred in such cases are definitions in terms of some function which they perform, or are designed to perform, or are well-adapted to performing, or once performed when things of that kind first came on the scene. . . . Even if there were only a small number of ways to make chairs, it would probably be better to define chairhood with reference to some functional role than it would be to build a disjunctive definition from an exhaustive list of sufficient conditions. Even so, we think that in some cases—and jazz is probably one—a disjunctive definition will be adequate.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Notice that they appear to concede that if one could come up with a definition of jazz that could provide “a more unified account” because it “picks out the condition in virtue of which the things in question count as things of the kind in question” that this would “be preferred in such cases.”
Continuing on now with McKeown-Green's second sentence from his above paragraph where we found him asserting that:
(2) Much canonical jazz does not emphasize improvisation; much country and folk music does.
Why does McKeown-Green even bother to say this? Presumably the reason is to block any move that stresses the importance of improvisation for picking out jazz as a musical genre and stopping this move because improvisation is used in other genres besides jazz. Still, while it needs to be conceded that some canonical jazz did not always have improvisation, such as some Duke Ellington orchestra numbers, it cannot be said that this is true for much or most canonical jazz, however canonical jazz ends up getting cashed out. Improvisational jazz skills have always been, and continue to be, highly touted and praised. Jazz does emphasize great improvisations and great improvisers such as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. The list is a mile long in jazz. There are great country music improvisers such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, or the somewhat less well know Marty Stuart. From the more traditional country family we have Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Hank Williams or the Stanley Brothers. Charlie Haden reports that these traditional country stars were not always “following a score; they’re improvising.” Country musicians are going to improvise for the same types of reasons that jazz improvisers do because it is fun, challenging, and helps eliminate boredom. Bluegrass musicians are well known for having a lot of improvisation in their music.
Certainly it is true that Duke Ellington's orchestra often, especially when playing live, had a significant amount of improvisation performed during their music. For a 'canonical example' take Paul Gonsalves's 27 improvised choruses during the live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 of Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." As reported at Wikipedia this was not an uncommon occurrence for Gonsalves and the Ellington orchestra.
(3) People who enjoy central cases of jazz from one subgenre are not especially likely to enjoy jazz from other subgenres. Such disunity is easily explained historically.
Now how does McKeown-Green know this to be true? Has he taken a survey or just speculated? It is true that if you like jazz you might not especially like jazz-fusion. On the other hand, Miles Davis's album "Bitches Brew" brought a lot of rock and roll aficionados into more appreciation for jazz. Let us speculate ourselves. Suppose you like traditional jazz from the 1940's through the 1950's, which includes big band swing and Bebop. It is a safe bet, you probably also enjoy soul jazz, hard bop, cool jazz, modal jazz, bossa nova, and latin jazz. This, if true for a significant portion of the jazz listening community, would refute McKeown-Green's assertion here.
Of course, he may have in mind that you may not care for free jazz or jazz-rock fusion, or even smooth jazz. Whether history can explain this remains to be seen.
(4) For example: influential swing soloists invented bebop; their experiments influenced swing performance style; since swing was jazz, it was natural to authorize bebop. Rock ’n’ roll, despite sharing many features with swing, had roots in rhythm and blues and country.
Here is where McKeown-Green purports to provide such a history, or at least it is his next sentence. But, he appears to contravene his own assertion that if you like one sub-genre you might dislike the next. Swing soloists, like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, helped invent Bebop and many jazz afficionados, not all, found Bebop an acceptable jazz form that they enjoyed. Rock n roll did not come from jazz, but from R & B and country, so little wonder Rock n Roll is not considered, nor is it, jazz.
(5) By covering some styles more than others, DownBeat and other jazz journals steered readers toward those styles.
Granted that if all that is meant by this sentence is that publicity, public exposure, and publicly revealed accolades from admired critics could influence public opinion to some extent, then fine. This is not the radical picture had by McKeown-Green. He maintains that editors and writers at Downbeat could possibly even determine and affect what counts as jazz no matter what the other touted music may be better thought of as falling under.
Is it believable that if some crazy editor, (or even many) at Downbeat were to have started touting Elvis Presley, or better yet, Elvis Costello,as the next jazz superstar, he could have swayed the jazz community to accept this. Instead, he or she would have been fired because of the huge backlash that readers of the magazine would have done as pushback on the baloney involved.
The reason why Downbeat covered new styles of jazz was because they judged (correctly) that these new styles merited attention as falling within the jazz umbrella. Of course it is also true that in the 1970's the magazine started to cover rock. (And, the best thing of all was the year Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 the Downbeat readers voted him into the jazz hall of fame purely out of respect and not because of his jazz prowess).
➢ How believable is it that Bebop not be jazz?
“No rigorous constraints govern the evolution of the criteria for identifying instances of jazz. No Academie de Jazz arbitrates. Nor does jazz, like atoms and mammals, play a well-defined causal role in some theory about the world’s workings. Thus, the story of jazz could easily have gone differently. The beboppers might have left jazz critics behind, attracting new listeners. Bebop might then not have been regarded as jazz. Fledgling rock ’n’ roll might have occupied more space in DownBeat. Nothing in the previous practice signaled that certain styles, and not others, would count as jazz later. Nor is it likely that actual jazz history reflects a more principled, strategic, elegant, or otherwise defensible program than all counter-factual ones. (bold and bold italic not in original)
Start with his first sentence concerning no rigorous constraints governing jazz genre identifications. McKeown-Green cannot just assume this is true without begging the question. An opposing view to his position is that there are at the very least constraints on jazz genre identification and those constraints are the musical features found in jazz itself. If someone only plays standard and typical polka music they are never playing jazz because the polka music does not satisfy the constraints that jazz music places on the genre itself.
IMPORTANT PRESUMPTION FOR EVALUATING WHAT COUNTS AS JAZZ: Certainly, jazz history and jazz critic's perceptions and audience's judgments are influenced and can be changed by economic, cultural, religious, and/or societal circumstances and factors. That is not the crucial question/issue. The more important question concerns how particular counter-factual situations are to be judged, and who should be doing the judging. It should not be judged by possible counter-factual judges from these alternative scenario situations who undoubtedly could be found to judge that Bebop does not in their judgment qualify as jazz. No. The only acceptable, non-question begging judges must be from, and only from, the current and actual past jazz history, and not some possible past history, which could well totally affect all judgmental and evaluative assessments. The question concerns the actual history of jazz up to current jazz history and only from there making judgments about what can and cannot qualify as jazz. This past jazz history must be taken into account for determining future jazz sub-genres inclusion under the genus of jazz even though the absence of the new sub-genre from past jazz history cannot be the sole reason for excluding it from being a sub-genre of jazz.
Thus, let us answer the questions regarding some of McKeown-Green's claims:
➢ Could Beboppers have left all jazz critics behind in any possible universe?
Certainly, it is easily conceivable that there is a possible world where Bebop is shunned and more traditional jazz was considered the only true jazz. That's because that scenario is what actually happened in the actual universe, ours, up to a point anyway.
It is well established and well known that there was significant pushback from the jazz community against the Beboppers because it was more difficult music to play and to listen to and it represented jazz as a more artful music, technically demanding, perceived as less pleasant to listen to by some. So, this possible world is actual and exists as a genuine possibility.
Furthermore, suppose that Nazi Germany won World War Two. All jazz critics are loyal followers of the Nazi party and agree that Bebop for numerous reasons is not jazz because jazz gives glory to whatever, but Bebop gets shunned and disqualified to count as genuine jazz because it is produced by . . . (fill in any reason).
CONCLUSION: Bebop could have been shunned by all jazz critics.
WAIT! Yes, the Nazi critic scenario as a possible universe can be granted. This, however, is not the important question. The important question is whether the Nazi critics are correct that Bebop should not qualify as jazz from the current points of view about jazz.
What arguments prove the Nazi critics are mistaken that Bebop is not jazz
➢ Why do the Nazi critics believe Bebop is not jazz?
The Nazi critics reasons for discounting Bebop as not qualifying as jazz are inappropriate for this kind of assessment. They are rejecting the music based primarily, if not exclusively, on racial grounds and who produced and caused this music to exist. This speaks nothing towards what kind of music that it should be classed as being and which genre. Musical sources, such as finding out some music was created in Cheraw, South Carolina by mill workers tells us nothing about what kind of music that it is. Therefore the Nazi critics can be wrong, if Bebop counts as a type of jazz.
➢ Why believe that Bebop is a type of jazz?
It is false that anyone could just arbitrarily choose to combine two or more musical genres and give them their own genre name and that this would produce a new genre under that name. Suppose some producer says “I'm going to make a new genre of music called Country Opera by just taking country albums and Opera albums and putting them together on the same CD.” 
➢ Has this producer now invented, created, or even discovered the music genre of country opera?
Absolutely not. There is no genre of music country opera. Even if the CD's sold well it could just be that country albums sell well and the buyers ignore the opera. Even if the same people like both country and opera music equally it does not in any way follow that there there is such a genre of music as country opera.
➢ What is required for the musical genre of country opera to exist?
Country opera could exist if a composer became successful at making opera that featured country music components in significant ways. The operas are about the same themes as are many country songs. There are country musical instruments played from the orchestra like slide guitar, banjo, guitar, yodeling maybe, and so forth.
What does this establish with an argument? Not all musical genres are identical to all others arbitrarily. If you are playing the blues you are not playing opera, or jazz, or polka music. Just because some critic says Bebop is not jazz it does not follow from arbitrary reasons as necessarily true that it is not jazz.
➢ What makes it possible that Bebop could be jazz?
Suppose that there are legitimate musical reasons to justify that Bebop qualifies as being in the jazz universe. What would they be?
On the Galactic model defining jazz the super black hole towards which all jazz genres gravitate both to and from we have HSI (hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, syncopation, and improvisation.) While none of these by themselves is sufficient or necessary for music to be jazz, most jazz, importantly including Bebop, has all three. Additionally, the stronger a musician is with respect to skills regarding all three properties of HSI causes a higher regard for this musician within the jazz community. The greatest players have had strengths in these areas, although it is sometimes said that Coleman Hawkins, an influential jazzman in anyone's book, had more of a limited capacity to play the blues than someone like Lester Young.
➢ Is McKeown-Green correct that jazz as a musical genre is not a natural kind? Is it true that “ . . . jazz, like atoms and mammals, [does not] play a well-defined causal role in some theory about the world’s workings”?
Really, this is an interesting question. If McKeown-Green does not provide any argument(s) for this claim then he would just be begging the question here. What are his reasons for denying natural kindhood to jazz that can play a causal role in a theory of the workings of the universe?
He supplies at least two considerations, or perhaps they are better thought of as proposals, for believing that if the proposals are true then jazz cannot be a natural kind.
Critique of McKeown-Green Proposal #1
McKeown-Green Proposal #1: If jazz we're not a natural kind then “the story of jazz could easily have gone differently. The beboppers might have left jazz critics behind, attracting new listeners. Bebop might then not have been regarded as jazz. Fledgling rock ’n’ roll might have occupied more space in DownBeat.”
Let us assess this first proposal. Could jazz be a natural kind (of music) and still have had a different history than it actually had? Possible worlds are non-contradictory and therefore consistent scenarios describing possible jazz universes. Few philosophers and theorists, besides Spinoza, would reject the existence of a possible world a lot like the actual world up to a specific point in time, but then something gets changed. For example, it is imaginable that any famous figure in jazz might not have existed. If Louis Armstrong had never existed then jazz history would have been significantly different. Still, it is believable that even if Ornette Coleman had not existed that free jazz would have still been discovered if the possible world scenario is more or less the same up to Ornette's entry onto the music scene. It is well know that Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh prior to Coleman had dallied with free form jazz-like structures, and Ornette while hugely influential was not the only jazz influencer who promoted and worked on free jazz. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to believe that in a possible universe up to Ornette Coleman, but without him, that free type jazz could still have been promoted and come to the forefront in some jazz musician's repertoire even without the existence of Coleman and his musical compositions.
This counter-argument is meant to parallel a claim that is sometimes made about Albert Einstein and his theory of (special) relativity of 1905. He was ahead of his time, but inevitably, and likely within the next 20 to 50 years, relativity theory would have been discovered.
➢ Why is it so inevitable that relativity theory would have been discovered eventually you ask even without Einstein?
- The Lorentz equations and Poincare's mathematical discoveries are often mentioned as leading to relativity theory.
- The negative findings of the Michelson-Morley experiment could contribute to motivating a relativistic account and explanation. 
- The problem of the perihelion orbit of the planet Mercury was not going to go away and physicists needed to come up with how to account for this precession other than using Newtonian mechanics which could not explain the orbit's properties with high accuracy.
- Maxwell's equations were already well known and relativity theory is a helpful step even with all of relativity theory's weird counter-intuitive implications it is needed to account for much well known odd physical phenomena. Nothing else would do the job and the ideas once found are consistent with much other theorizing in physics.
➢ Without the existence of Ornette Coleman was the discovery of free jazz inevitable?
On similar grounds to that argued for Einstein's theory of relativity, one can claim the same sort of inevitability for free jazz under some circumstances. Just like other physicists had produced material from which relativity might be discovered, other musicians had worked on expanding the jazz vocabulary and providing new genre production. Some musicians such as Albert Ayler, or John Coltrane, and many European musicians struck out on their own paths like Peter Brötzmann could have continued to work on jazz in a freer fashion even if Ornette Coleman had not been born.
➢ Do any of these considerations about the possible inevitable discovery of other forms of jazz, such as perhaps modal, soul, cool, third stream, and/or free jazz support the claim of jazz as a natural kind?
Sure. Why not? In the same way relativistic laws of nature govern the interaction of space-time and speeds of physical objects because these laws exist in the universe, one can argue, as Platonistically inspired realists maintain, that all musical compositions antecedently exist as abstract objects in musical space and are only discovered by their composers, but not created since they already have eternal existence. Surely this would make them have some sort of natural kind status because of their existence as abstract objects together with their being capable of groupings of the relevant items.
➢ Why believe in natural kinds anyway?
Natural kinds, according to Wikipedia, are non-artificial in the sense that they are types that exist independently of person's classifications and categorization. They already are a type under which only objects having these same features qualify as being tokens of that type.
“In analytic philosophy, the term natural kind is used to refer to a "natural" grouping, not an artificial one. Or, it is something that a set of things (objects, events, beings) has in common which distinguishes it from other things as a real set rather than as a group of things arbitrarily lumped together by a person or group of people. If any natural kinds exist at all, good candidates might include each of the chemical elements, like gold or potassium. Physical particles, like quarks, might also be natural kinds. That is, they would still be groups of things, distinct from other things as a group, even if there were no people around to say that they were members of the same group. The set of objects that weigh more than 50 pounds, on the other hand, almost certainly does not constitute a natural kind. A more formal definition has it that a natural kind is a family of "entities possessing properties bound by natural law; we know of natural kinds in the form of categories of minerals, plants, or animals, and we know that different human cultures classify natural realities that surround them in a completely analogous fashion" (Molino 2000, p.168). The term was brought into contemporary analytic philosophy by W. V. Quine in his essay "Natural Kinds", . . . According to Quine, . . . kind-hood was logically primitive: it could not be reduced non-trivially to any other relation among individuals. Cultural artifacts are not generally considered natural kinds.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy supports the understanding of natural kinds as existing outside of the purview of human arbitrary categorizations.
“Scientific disciplines frequently divide the particulars they study into kinds and theorize about those kinds. To say that a kind is natural is to say that it corresponds to a grouping that reflects the structure of the natural world rather than the interests and actions of human beings. (bold and bold italic not in original)
There are a couple of things that require clarification. When Molino above in the Wikipedia quotation describes natural kinds as "entities possessing properties bound by natural law" this is ambiguous. On the one hand, what isn't bound by natural law? Nothing in the natural universe is not bound by natural law so on this conception everything is a natural kind. This is probably not what someone like Molino had in mind. More likely what Molino had in mind is that natural kinds are the property types found in laws of nature, as when we say force is identical to mass times acceleration, or in e=mc2 where c is a natural kind referencing the speed of light. This speed is non-arbitrary and has never been arbitrarily determined by any person or group of people. Neither has any group of people arbitrarily stipulated what are the properties of light. No humans could ever have even imagined that light has wave-particle duality; it's just too weird and alien to all past human thinking. This was a discovery of an antecedently existing phenomena and did not get created through human conventions or arbitrary stipulations.
Still, the final sentence quoted above from Wikipedia that "cultural artifacts are not generally considered to be natural kinds" would seem to impact upon music and musical genres since these are cultural artifacts.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Natural Kinds from a realist perspective requires scientific natural kinds needing to satisfy six criteria.
“1. Members of a natural kind should have some (natural) properties in common. This is a necessary condition of kindhood, but not a sufficient condition, for objects of very different kinds may share some natural property. As Mill (1884) remarks, white objects do not form a natural kind. Natural properties here are often taken to be intrinsic properties. . . . . Some, it should be noted, hold that not all natural properties are intrinsic.
2. Natural kinds should permit inductive inferences. This is a point emphasized by Whewell (1860) and Mill (1884), and is central to Quine's (1969) discussion of natural kinds (see Section 1.2.1). On its own, this criterion also does not help distinguish natural kinds from sets of objects sharing some natural property, and in that sense does not go beyond criterion 1. Criterion 2 is also necessary but not sufficient condition on natural kind classifications.
3. Natural kinds should participate in laws of nature. This may be considered as a stronger, metaphysical version of criterion 2. It is correspondingly more contentious: if something is a duck, then it has webbed feet; but one need not hold that such inductively obtained conditionals regarding biological kinds must constitute laws of nature. Even if this is a necessary condition, like criteria 1 and 2, it fails to be a sufficient criterion. For laws of nature may concern natural qualities and quantities that do not define kinds (e.g. Newton's law of gravitation).
4. Members of a natural kind should form a kind. Criteria 1–3 supply related conditions that fail to be sufficient for kindhood. We may expand on Mill's example of white things, which do not form a natural kind; neither do negatively charged things, nor do things with a mass of 1 kg. It is not immediately clear what this criterion requires, but we may say that an adequacy condition on a satisfactory account of what kinds are must address this ‘kindhood’ question (Hawley and Bird 2011).
5. Natural kinds should form a hierarchy. If any two kinds overlap at all, then one is a subkind of the other, or they are identical (Kuhn 2000; Ellis 2001, 2002). This is exhibited, for example, by Linnaean taxonomy in biology. If any organisms from different species are members of the same genus, then all members of both species are members of that genus.
6. Natural kinds should be categorically distinct. There cannot be a smooth transition from one kind to another (Ellis 2001). For then the borderline between them could not be one drawn by nature, but one that is somehow or other drawn by us. In which case the kinds would not be genuinely natural. This is exhibited by the chemical elements. (bold not in original)
➢ Does jazz as a musical genre satisfy all six criteria?
Criteria 1 can be met by jazz sub-genres because they do have some natural properties in common. Regarding criteria #2, there are inductive inferences one could make about jazz situations. Criteria #3 would seem to be the hardest for jazz to satisfy since there seem to be no laws of nature with the kind jazz entering in to the equation. While McKeown-Green would deny that jazz forms any coherent (or consistent or unified) type, other theorists believe that jazz may form a kind thereby satisfying criteria #4. Does jazz as a kind rank in a hierarchy with other kinds? Who knows exactly what this means or implies for jazz. Criteria #6 is definitely not satisfied by jazz as a musical form since someone like Paul Rinzler holds that jazz comes in varying degrees of jazz and he uses fuzzy logic as his background assumptions for how to assess and evaluate different degrees of falling within a specific musical genre such as jazz.
➢ Can natural kinds have fuzzy boundaries and not be categorically distinct?
Sometimes it is said that electrons are candidates for being natural kinds yet electrons have wave-particle duality and the application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle requires that some categories will be indeterminate because there is a "fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known." It isn't just that it is not known, but that it is not simultaneously knowable because of inherent indeterminacy. Hence, even natural kinds can have some of their properties with some categorical indistinctness or indeterminacy. If natural kinds can have some indeterminacy then criteria #6 may be mistaken, thereby permitting jazz that can come in degrees be a kind too.
At the end of Proposal #1 it is suggested that rock and roll could have ended up as counting as jazz. Well, this is sort of true of the music labeled as jazz/rock fusion. This is not really what McKeown-Green has in mind, however. He imagines a much more radical proposal where, for example, every song on the Beatles "White album" could have been judged to be jazz in some possible world.
➢ Is it believable that the Beatles played jazz on every song of their "White Album"?
Intuitions may differ. On one hand, it is not inconceivable that this gets reported as true in an influential publication such as Downbeat. But, can the claim be justified as true is the more important question? Again, if we switch the minds of the evaluators to where each evaluator judges all songs from the "White album" to qualify as jazz is this a possible world where the concept of jazz in the actual world and how jazz is judged as jazz in this possible world are using the same conception of jazz as here in the actual universe? McKeown-Green has a problem here. He cannot argue that there is no stable conception of jazz in the actual world because there is a possible world where their use of the word "jazz" uses a different concept for jazz than the one in the actual world proving there is no such stable concept.
To see this problem for him more clearly, I presume that McKeown-Green accepts that in the actual world there are at least some stable conceptions and some of these refer and maintain their stableness because they are referring to pre-existing natural kinds that don't change over time. Let us assume gold is such a stable concept. If you don't like gold just substitute any other concept that you believe is stable over time and then have the argument proceed in the same way this one is about to. Next, assume that Earth Two is a possible universe where their term "gold" picks out the same things that ours does in the actual world on Earth One except they also include cats in their conception of gold things. In our actual world terminology (and conceptions) we would describe Earth Two as using the word "gold" to mean 'gold or a cat.' When Earth Twoians see a cat they say there goes by some gold. Do these two different conceptions and the changes in the use of the word "gold" prove that gold as it is used on Earth One (the actual Earth) does not refer to a natural kind? No, it does not, therefore it doesn't disprove it when on Earth Two the word "jazz" from the point of Earth One conceptions understands the Earth Two conception of jazz to mean 'jazz or rock and roll.' Just like gold could still be a natural kind reference in the actual universe so too could jazz be such a kind in the actual universe. At least it is not disproven by jazz meaning 'jazz or rock' on possible Earth Two.
Critique of McKeown-Green Proposal #2
McKeown-Green supplies a second proposal for believing jazz is not any sort of stable musical kind. He cites the apparent hodge-podge generation of future jazz genres that have maintained the jazz name. He also discounts any historical account as reflecting any principled way by which to justify what has been included and rejected from lying underneath the jazz umbrella term. Here's how he puts these points:
“Nothing in the previous practice signaled that certain styles, and not others, would count as jazz later. Nor is it likely that actual jazz history reflects a more principled, strategic, elegant, or otherwise defensible program than all counter-factual ones.” (bold not in original)
➢ Are there any previous practices or principled reasons accounting for jazz sub-genres inclusions as jazz?
The question is large and contentious. Part of the contentiousness comes from musical sub-genres that some theorists wish to exclude from falling under the jazz genus and they are perhaps not sub-genres of jazz. Possible candidates in this disputed area can include jazz/rock fusion, free jazz, acid jazz, or smooth jazz. Let us for the moment just leave out any easily contested sub-genre for now and focus on those sub-genres that the vast majority of music theorists would incorporate as species falling under the genus of jazz. These sub-genres include swing, big band, modal jazz, cool jazz, West Coast jazz, soul jazz, hard bop, Bebop, and so forth.
➢ Regarding just these uncontested sub-genres, is there any "principled reasons" or "previous practices" that permit predictions of the inclusion of these sub-genres under the jazz umbrella?
Whatever sub-type of jazz you believe to be jazz can be shown to have musical affinities with all of the other uncontested sub-genres of jazz. Big bands did not always swing but the very same jazz big band song can be swung or not swung. Why is either one jazz? The point is that the swung version and the unswung version would still have a lot in common. The swung version differs from the non-swung version in having different rhythmic emphases. Every other feature could be virtually identical. If the unswung version counts already as jazz, it is hard to see why the swung version with only some different rhythmic emphasis couldn't also count as jazz.
Bebop uses many musical features and techniques from earlier jazz styles, including hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, syncopation, and much improvisation. What Bebop added were extending chord forms up into 11ths and 13ths and using more advanced harmonic techniques. Speed of execution, 16th notes, 32nd notes, and technically demanding performances on their respective instruments also were featured during Bebop performances. If you are already playing jazz and then you just moderately speed up your playing this doesn't seem as if it would end up not being jazz merely from faster executions of notes and chords.
Many future jazz sub-genres remained true to being music good for dancing, including big bands, swing music, soul jazz, and especially Latin jazz, where every tune is danceable. That dancing was an important motivation for jazz is held by Gunther Schuller in his "The Influence of Jazz on the History and Development of Concert Music," where he writes that “In its earlier history and development from a true black folk music through a nationally popular entertainment music to a world art music, jazz was indeed primarily a dance music, and proud of it. It derived much of its strength and sustenance from being a dance music. But jazz has long ago moved beyond the realm of dance and entertainment functions, those being limitations not inherent to the deeper nature of jazz.” (bold not in original)
Predictions are based on time periods and contexts from within which hopefully reasonable estimates of likelihoods can be estimated. From the fact that early jazz music was danceable one could predict some future currently unknown sub-genres of jazz will also likely be danceable.
The reason this is even relevant in light of the fact that many other genres of music besides jazz are also danceable is because of the claim made by McKeown-Green that there were no principled ways for predicting what future unknown sub-genres of jazz might be like given that it is known what current jazz genres are like. Does the danceability of some jazz genres that came into existence over time as their own type of jazz help refute the claim that there are absolutely no principled ways to accomplish successful future predictions about what these future jazz genres might be like? That some jazz music is found agreeable by dancers is such a principle thereby refuting McKeown-Green's assertion.
McKeon-Green would perhaps not dispute the above so far as it goes. Undoubtedly though, he will argue that some modern jazz, especially free jazz, is not all that danceable and how then could one predict that jazz would end up being both danceable and This is his very point. When even within one century so-called jazz 'genres' have been included that have opposite properties, then there could not be any consistent principled way to have predicted each of the genres inclusions under the one jazz species label. What can be said to address this?
Paul Rinzler would point out that even just taking a single jazz genre that this one genre includes at least four pairs of opposing practices as reflected in the title of his book, The Contradictions of Jazz.
To McKeown-Green's second point regarding the indefensibility of actual jazz history having any more precedence as a model for jazz than any other possible counter-factual musical history, Paul Rinzler in his The Contradictions of Jazz appears to take offense at this notion. Rinzler argues in his book that to determine how best to characterize jazz music one must turn to its actual historical developments to understand the jazz tradition and his claim is that the jazz tradition in the actual world is the only correct standard for evaluating and best charactering it as a genre of music.
“If there is something in the music that makes us call it jazz, then that aspect of the music is part of the tradition and definition of jazz. Tradition defines identity, much like definition does. Tradition is logically necessary if we are to talk about something we call ‘jazz.’ The question is not whether there is a tradition in jazz, but what that tradition is.” (bold not in the original)
If we take Rinzler at his word here, then he must reject McKeown-Green's proposal that any counter-factual history of jazz is as good as the actual history.
➢ Why believe Rinzler here over McKeown-Green?
McKeown-Green does seem to have a pre-disposition to believe that numerous categories are so fluid that they could easily have had alternative developments in other possible worlds where in these possible scenarios the reference classes are different. A dramatic claim in this regard is McKeown-Green stating that whales could well not have been classified as mammals. Here's the quotation first and then let's consider the feasibility of his suggestion.
“Whales are classed as mammals, though they might not have been. This precisifies the criteria for being a mammal along one trajectory rather than another, but those criteria are still consistent and handy.”  (bold italic not in the original)
Whales in the actual world are categorized as being members of the mammal category. Mammals are a type of animal that satisfies several conditions such as:
- all mammals are warm-blooded animals (endothermic: which means they need to provide their own body heat through their metabolism); they keep a high body temperature that strives to remain constant in different temperature environments.
- breathe oxygen from air using lungs.
- have hair.
- give birth to live young.
- and females feed their offspring milk from mammary glands.
In the actual universe whales satisfy all of these conditions. Furthermore, whales evolved from land based mammals. Hence, it is not shocking that they remained as mammals while evolutionarily adapting to the water. They are related genetically and biologically to the hippopotamus, which is also a mammal.
For McKeown-Green's suggestion that whales might not have been classified as mammals the whales would have had to have had a different evolutionary history. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if an animal had enough of a change in evolutionary history that that animal should not be classified as a mammal, then this animal would not be a whale, therefore McKeown-Green's suggestion is incoherent.
Principled Predictions of New Jazz Genres
Is there anything in previous jazz practices that permit predictions of inclusion for future jazz genres. Start at the beginning of the history of early jazz between 1899 and 1917. We have Ragtime music and we have Dixieland, piano professors from Storyville, the start of combo's, such as Buddy Bolden's, King Oliver's, or the Original Dixieland Jass band.
Most music histories claim one of two things. They either say Ragtime was a pre-cursor to jazz or that it counts as an early form of jazz. Wikipedia: Original Dixieland Jass band (ODJB) as “a Dixieland jazz band that made the first jazz recordings in early 1917. Their "Livery Stable Blues" became the first jazz record ever issued. The group composed and made the first recordings of many jazz standards, the most famous being "Tiger Rag". . . . ODJB billed itself as the "Creators of Jazz". It was the first band to record jazz commercially and to have hit recordings in the new genre. Band leader and cornetist Nick LaRocca argued that ODJB deserved recognition as the first band to record jazz commercially and the first band to establish jazz as a musical idiom or genre. (bold and bold italic not in original)
Encyclopedia Brittanica has a fairly balanced description of Ragtime.
“Ragtime, propulsively syncopated musical style, one forerunner of jazz and the predominant style of American popular music from about 1899 to 1917. Ragtime evolved in the playing of honky-tonk pianists along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the last decades of the 19th century. It was influenced by minstrel-show songs, blacks’ banjo styles, and syncopated (off-beat) dance rhythms of the cakewalk, and also elements of European music. Ragtime found its characteristic expression in formally structured piano compositions. The regularly accented left-hand beat, in 4/4 or 2/4 time, was opposed in the right hand by a fast, bouncingly syncopated melody that gave the music its powerful forward impetus. (bold not in original)
➢ What 'principled' predictions can be made from here regarding new future unknown jazz genres?
It could be predicted that when this music expands from being primarily a piano style to the use and interaction between more musicians with different types of musical instruments that the music would, or could with probability, retain its interest in being danceable and rhythmically interesting and challenging to play as a result of the use of syncopation. To produce such syncopation one must have a regular beat against which musicians place rhythmic accents on either the weak beats or the off beats. (For more information about syncopation see Ontmusic30. What is syncopation?).
An easy prediction is that future jazz genres would sometimes be in 4/4 or other time signatures, and these future jazz genres often do use 4/4 time.
While it is underplayed in the above characterization of Ragtime, the use of European elements based on a diatonic musical scale and synthesized with (an African) pentatonic (blues) scale is highly significant. Another prediction that can be made on this basis then is the existence in future jazz of such a hybridized musical schema. Again, almost all future jazz genres (free jazz being an exception) also depend heavily on such hybridization of a diatonic with a pentatonic musical scale.
Early jazz in the 1910's and 1920's had plenty of improvisation sometimes occurring simultaneously by multiple players. It could be predicted that improvisation of the jazz materials would occur in future jazz styles. A primary reason for the emphasis on improvisation is because of its inherent creativity, interest, and technical challenges. Musicians after spending so much time (ten years or a minimum of 10,000 hours for expert skill levels in general) to develop their improvisational skills will undoubtedly want to use them. Plus, musicians like to improvise who can because they get to use their musical imaginations and have the fun of interacting in surprising and imaginative ways with other musicians.
If these predictions had been made they would have all turned out to be correct. The new jazz styles as they came into existence, such as Bebop, cool jazz, West Coast jazz, soul jazz, modal jazz, and so forth all are musics that contain hybridized music that synthesizes diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, significant amounts of syncopation, and highly touted improvisations and musicians with wonderful chops on their respective instruments.
➢ Why was Bebop developed?
Naysayers against the prediction of Bebop include the well known music writer and critic, Leonard Feather.
“The evolutionary course of any art form tends to defy crystal-gazing. Just as it would have been impossible for an art student of the nineteenth century to foresee accurately the arrival of cubism, just as no musician even in 1941 could predict the upheaval that was to be wrought by bop only three years later, the prognosis for jazz must be heavily qualified by an admission that the only predictable factor is its unpredictability. (bold not in original)
The irony of these opening remarks gets revealed when in the very next sentence he claims that “most musicians have formulated a view . . . of what the future may hold [for jazz].” You cannot have it both ways: either future jazz cannot be predicted because of its unpredictability and then having "most (jazz) musicians" having predictions for what the future of jazz might hold. Surely this is talking out of both sides of your mouth.
The reason this is important is because the possibility of future jazz predictions is being called into question by Leonard Feather (and others). Feather made the claim that even in 1941 Bebop could not have been predicted by any musicians. Perhaps we might grant that most musicians may not have been able to predict Bebop in 1941, but the claim that no musician could have predicted Bebop permits us to choose any musicians we might want as possible counter-examples. How about we try to get predictions from each of the future founders of Bebop and see what they could predict in 1941 about the possibilities concerning Bebop that more fully emerges in the next three to four years? It may well be that either Dizzy Gillespie, or Charlie Parker, or Thelonius Monk, or Charlie Christian, or Kenny Clarke may have been able to make some relevant predictions about future jazz leading to Bebop, don't you think? So, it isn't, in fact, totally unpredictable. Also, there is the argument that it is not logically or metaphysically impossible for Bebop to have been predicted in 1941 because there is a non-contradictory possible world where this occurs, thereby proving its possible to predict Bebop in 1941.
Similarly, while Cubism is an intriguing and complex art movement, the idea of multiple perspectives and abstraction are not unreasonably possible predictions from knowledgeable art theorists prior to the development of cubism. Feather's claim that “it would have been impossible for any art students say in 1905 to predict something like cubism” as an art movement is hyperbolic on the grounds that it is not logically or metaphysically impossible. There does exist a possible universe wherein Fred the art student in 1905 predicts cubism. This is not a self-contradictory world therefore such a prediction is both logically and metaphysically possible, not impossible, as Feather would have it. Unlikely, perhaps, but definitely not impossible.
ASIDE: It seems reasonable to hold that the social and political consequences were unforeseen at the very start of the internet. Suppose this is just granted without argument. So, no one did predict Facebook, the Arab Spring, texting, etc. The other question, though, is were these predictable, not just didn't get predicted. Certainly after the fact when we know all about these phenomena from exposure to these phenomena it does not seem impossible for them to have been predicted by someone who sat down and thought long and hard about what having global communication with a huge information database available to the masses might cause to happen.
Woody Herman predicted in 1957 (in the next quotation below) the distinct possibility of World Music jazz whereby jazz played in other countries integrates some of their musical traditions and styles into their own jazz performances, as Nguyên Lê does with his incorporation of Vietnamese style music into his jazz, or Don Cherry who studied African, Indian, Turkish, and Brazilian musics incorporated into his jazz while utilizing numerous international flutes, free jazz's return to the field holler and the blues, John Coltrane's incorporation of traditional music from Africa, India, and the Near East, or Bossa Nova, or Afro-Cuban, or even Latin jazz.
“As to the international aspect, the future for jazz generally speaking looks much brighter abroad than at home. A lot of people overseas have been making great strides in terms of originality, and I am inclined to think that certainly within the next 25 years there will be groups that set up their own kind of jazz, their own styles, in many other countries.” (bold not in original)
“Just as jazz moved geographically through various phases in this country–New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, and so forth–I believe it will go through a series of changes on an international rather than intra-national level,” Lewis observes. “The influence and impact of jazz playing and writing in other countries will be felt increasingly.” (bold not in original)
Following Herman and Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie independently predicts incorporation of World Music into future jazz in 1957.
“[Jazz] will probably be ‘’’mixed up with these other nationalities’’’—Indian scales and so forth—it’s getting around the world so fast now . . . their touch is going to seep into it. I believe we’ve gone as far with the European music as we are going to go. . . . I’ve actually been working along those lines myself—sometimes I’ve played some things I heard in Pakistan. And a lot of musicians are going to be going over to Asia and everywhere and they’re going to add to what they already know.” (bold not in original)
In a letter addressing the future of jazz 25 years after 1957, composer and clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Guiffre, maintains that older school jazz forms will still be played in the future, and he was correct. He goes on to presciently predict free jazz when Ornette Coleman hasn't yet recorded his "Free Jazz" album until 1959.
“Dixieland, swing, and bop will still have their players and audiences. Cool music will settle into a category (which it is establishing now). There will be a strong atonal school (both writing and improvising).” (bold not in original)
After citing all of the above jazz predictions, Feather again comes back to being a pessimist about any jazz predictions, even when citing his own prediction about jazz that came true!
“The writer [Leonard Feather himself], who has been listening to jazz avocationally since 1929, professionally since 1933, can recall only a single prediction he made during the first years of listening that was ultimately to achieve realization: that jazz would prove to be playable in ternary time. Nothing else of consequence that has happened to jazz in all these years ever became evident until it was immediately upon us. A reader glancing at these pages in 1984 will observe, it is reasonable to assume, that the quarter century between now and then turned out to be no more predictable than the events in the previous generation.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Shortly after these comments, Feather makes another accurate prediction about future jazz.
“But today [Lee] Morgan, objectively, must be judged in terms of the listener's awareness of earlier contributions by [Dizzy] Gillespie and the other pioneers of the 1940's. Jazz in the next 25 years will certainly continue along these lines: the innovation of today will be the cliché of tomorrow. (bold not in original)
And Feather continues to predict that jazz innovations in one sub-genre of jazz will spill over into other jazz sub-genres.
“A cross-breeding process will continue to take place in the seemingly independent areas of jazz styles. Just as Dixieland effects are employed by such modern jazzmen as Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer, bop has invaded the supposedly "pure" Dixieland territory of Eddie Condon band and the New Orleans ramparts of the Louis Armstrong combo. (bold not in original)
There are multiple reasons needed to account for the origins and development of Bebop. One of the important factors was the genuine interest jazz musicians of the period had in exploring new music. Two of the instigators of modern jazz, Bird (Charlie Parker) and Diz (Dizzy Gillespie) were musically knowledgeable. Parker was interested in expanding the music's harmonics. Both were interested in developing a challenging and technically difficult music to play and to improvise upon.
➢ How does this help to predict the development of free jazz?
Because jazz musicians were interested in and constantly pursued the expansion and breaking into new musical boundaries it is not unpredictable that freer forms of music would develop in the future, ultimately leading to free jazz. Ornette Coleman's music often had Charlie Haden supplying a walking bassline, and the drummer keeping time using jazz rhythmic techniques. Ornette himself plays with a lot of blues feeling coming from earlier jazz forms.Curiously, in their respective early reviews of Ornette Coleman's double quartet collective improvisation album, "Free Jazz," both music reviewers, Pete Welding (1935-1995) John A. Tynan (1927-2018) Pete Welding's five star review claims that Coleman's double quartet “carries to their logical (though some listeners will dispute this term) conclusion the aesthetic principles present to a lesser degree quantitatively, at least—in his previous recordings. On repeated listening, however, the form of the work gradually reveals itself, and it is seen that the piece is far less unconventional than it might at first appear. It does not break with jazz tradition: rather, it restores to currency an element that has been absent from most jazz since the onset of the swing orchestra—spontaneous group improvisation.” (bold not in original)
John A. Tynan's negative zero star review of the album also stresses the inevitability of Coleman's musical direction when he says that “Where does neurosis end and psychosis begin? The answer must lie somewhere within this maelstrom. If nothing else, this witch's brew is the logical end product of a bankrupt philosophy of ultra-individualism in music. (bold not in original)
This constant searching for new musical horizons to incorporate into current jazz practices can be used to explain why World music could interest jazz performers and jazz listeners. The use of popular tunes being jazzed up can be used to predict integration and employment by future jazz musicians of incorporating previously established songs, or even established genres into the jazz sphere. Hence, Miles Davis on his album "Doo-Bop" using Easy Mo Bee to rap/hip-hop, or interest by jazz musicians in country music, as represented by Sonny Rollins on his album "Way Out West," or the more recent forays into countrified jazz by Charlie Haden, Bill Frisell, or John Scofield, for examples.
Objections and Replies to Predicting Future Jazz Genres
RETRODICTION Objection: What has been argued above regarding principled predictions for future jazz genres incorporations into the jazz universe is not so much prediction of what future jazz genres are going to be like as mere retrodiction. By knowing what future jazz genres have existed since 1917 up through the early 21st century of course one can appear to make predictions about what features these sub-genres are going to have because one already knows what musical features they have. This is little more than just retrodictions of looking from the present back into the past and then claiming knowledge of the future and this accounts for the success of such 'predictions.' Soul jazz, modal jazz, and Latin jazz do have a lot of syncopation, hybridization, and improvisation so little wonder that these so-called 'predictions' turn out to be true.
REPLY TO the RETRODICTION Objection: It is false that the predictions are merely retrodictions. Early jazz did synthesize a European diatonic musical scale with an African pentatonic scale when creating the hybridized music of jazz. Syncopation truly is an important feature of early jazz and is part of what enables musicians to 'jazz up' a tune. Improvisation was a skill used and highly admired by fellow musicians and audience members alike. Hence, it is unsurprising that a prediction that future unknown jazz genres from the point of view of 1917 would predict future unknown jazz genres would have these particular musical features, therefore making these genuine predictions and not merely retrodictions.
NOT ALL SUB-GENRES of JAZZ WERE PREDICTED Objection: Free jazz as a sub-genre of jazz could not reasonably have been predicted by early jazz theorists even up to 1950. But, the inclusion of free jazz, if it is now considered to be a jazz sub-genre, proves McKeown-Green's point that there is no coherent or principled reasons for including any particular sub-genre under the jazz label, or whether free jazz should or should not be conceived of as jazz. Whether or not free jazz, for example, should or should not be classified as jazz is not dependent upon intrinsic musical features common to jazz as a musical kind because there is no such natural musical kind, and free jazz follows no particular musical practices. Thus, the inclusion or exclusion of free jazz as a genre of jazz can only result from institutionally mandated forces that include many other causal factors besides musical ones, such as economic, social, political, religious, etc.
REPLY to NOT ALL JAZZ SUB-GENRES WERE PREDICTED Objection: It is true that free jazz could not easily have been predicted. It is especially not likely that free jazz could have been predicted by any early jazz theorists around 1917. Anyone making such a prediction would have been laughed at because of the apparent absurdity of the claim that in the future there will be a music with limited number of musical rules that can still count as jazz, etc.
This, however, is irrelevant. Why you ask? Because it is not whether free jazz could have been predicted, but whether or not from today's point of view it makes sense from a musical point of view to include free jazz as a sub-genre of jazz.
Gunther Schuller perhaps hints at the inclusion of free jazz within the jazz genre because of what he terms "the deeper nature of jazz."
“But jazz has long ago moved beyond the realm of dance and entertainment functions, those being limitations not inherent to the deeper nature of jazz.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Gunther Schuller's point could be that the deeper nature of jazz, first (A) has a nature, contrary to McKeown-Green's claims that it does not, and (B) could include free jazz as a sub-genre of jazz because of this (hidden) deeper nature of jazz. This is not to say that Schuller would have to agree with either of these points.
David W. Megill and Paul Tanner argue that future jazz genres following Bebop have often followed the melodic practices used in the earlier jazz forms. Significantly, they point out that even free jazz, if it is to maintain its connection to the jazz tradition, needs to utilize musical components from that tradition.
“Later jazz styles have been reflective of the melodic practice of bop, even when the rhythmic feel in the rest of the ensemble has changed drastically as in fusion. This style places a "steady state" rhythmic foundation under a melody line that is individualized with accents and varying degrees of rhythmic independence. This feature may be one of the most consistent attributes that separates jazz from other musical activities since the beginning of this century. The one exception to this statement is avant-garde jazz, which can theoretically redefine any of the traditional underpinnings of jazz. They must, however, retain some relationship to the tradition or risk losing the support of that tradition. Generally, even in very free groups like The Art Ensemble, jazz idioms appear frequently as reference points to the tradition from which they were launched.  (bold not in original)
Presentation, analysis, and critique of Alan Lawrence's views on defining jazz
At All About Jazz author Alan Lawrence gives his views on problems with defining jazz in his article What is jazz?. To make it easier to assess the merits of Lawrence's assertions (in green font) critique of his remarks are interspersed in blue font.
What is jazz? Those three words form one of the toughest questions in music. Ask a hundred people and you are likely to get as many different answers.
That there might be diversity in people's answers to the question of how to define jazz is not relevant to whether or not there can be an effective definition of it. If you asked 100 people to define gall bladder you would get a lot of blank stares and diverse answers, but this would in no way show that gall bladder cannot be defined. In fact, the definition of gall bladder is that it is the small sac-shaped organ beneath the liver where bile is stored after secretion by the liver and before its release into the intestine.
In fact, we don't want to ask arbitrary people for their opinions about jazz. Instead we want to address experts on music and especially on jazz. Here it seems clearer that many many responses from the experts would be in accord with each other. There would be less diversity. Additionally, the fact that some genres of jazz are found suspicious by some experts would not show that of the music that virtually all experts agree is incontestably jazz that there might not be something in common with all of the incontestably jazz that could be used to define it.
Few things have given me more pleasure in life than listening to the music we call jazz. Even after hearing several thousand recordings in over 15 years and seeing countless live shows, I cannot offer a definitive definition of the word "jazz."
The fact that Alan Lawrence cannot give a definition of jazz says nothing about whether or not jazz can be defined. Perhaps Lawrence cannot define gall bladder either. Suppose he worked at a butcher shop and had seen thousands of cow gall bladders. It still wouldn't follow from Lawrence's ignorance about the function of a gall bladder that this organ cannot be defined.
The challenge may lie in the term "jazz" itself. Can a living music, one that may well be the most colorful and varied art form in the world, be defined by a single word?
Is this a really believable claim? Absolutely not! Art itself in the wide open artworld is much more "colorful and varied" than jazz by itself. Art in the artworld includes innumerable styles and types of art from conceptual art to Impressionism and from Pop art to earthwork installations to Christo's wrapped island to Chris Burden having himself shot with a .22 gun in the arm. Now there's some real variety in action with a living art world constantly challenging itself and all of it is under the same one word "art."
Sure there are a lot of types of jazz and for a list go here at Ontology: Types of Jazz & Related Musics, but it still doesn't follow that because there are a lot of types of something that the unifying element could not be defined. There are a really large number of automobile types, but "automobile" can still easily be defined. For proof of this and it's relevance to defining jazz see Vehicle Counter-example to the Multiple Styles argument that shows that (S1) Anything with many styles cannot be successfully defined is false.
After pondering that question for this feature, I'd have to say no. The music that falls into the jazz idiom takes on infinite faces and influences including swing, bebop, cool, fusion, smooth and avant-garde. As jazz spread across the globe, the music took on more and more sounds.
Surely Lawrence is being hyperbolic here when he mentions "infinity." It is certainly false that jazz has had an infinite number of anything related to it. There have not been an infinite number of causal factors that created jazz because there have only been a finite number of events or causes since the beginning of time after the Big Bang in our universe. He then mentions not an infinite number of styles of jazz but a total of six measly jazz types. Jazz as a music did spread across the globe and has taken on new sounds and influences from other musics but not an infinite number of them, which is not even theoretically possible.
Let's go back to our fictional survey of 100 people. What kind of responses would we get? Some may call anything with saxophone or trumpet jazz. Others may base their definition on the feel of the music. Does it swing? Still others base their views of what defines jazz on the reputation of the musicians. Some say there must be improvisation for it to be jazz.
As already argued the mere fact of disagreement amongst people surveyed for their definition of jazz shows and proves nothing other than that there is lack of agreement. It doesn't make it impossible to define something. Consider these fictional people's responses.
- Is any music played with a saxophone or trumpet jazz? Absurd answer because these instruments are used in many kinds of music that are not jazz, such as classical music and rock and roll.
- Can one base a definition for jazz on the "feel" of the music? What kind of feel are we talking about? Presumably Lawrence may have in mind something like "If it feels like jazz, then it is jazz (to me)." This feeling argument has been refuted here at Ontdef4. Unhelpful definitions of jazz - Jazz is a Feeling. Furthermore, this is somewhat of a ridiculous claim since many people might think a saxophone solo in a rock song is jazz when it is not jazz. No one should want arbitrary subjective responses to inform correct answers to any questions period.
- Can swing be the definition for jazz? Absolutely not. Some jazz exists that doesn't swing such as plenty of modern jazz performances and some music swings that isn't jazz such as rockabilly.
- Jazz can be defined on the basis of the reputation of musicians. This doesn't even make any sense that it could be defined based on reputations of musicians. Maybe what Lawrence had in mind is that jazz is the music played by these musicians who have a jazz reputation. This won't work as a definition for jazz because these very same musicians sometimes play music that is not jazz, as when sitting in with a rock band, for example.
- Improvisation can be achieved while playing any style of music so improvisation cannot be sufficient for music to be jazz. See Ontimpr1. What is improvisation? and Does Jazz Have Essential Properties?
There is little argument that two key elements of jazz are improvisation and swing. Let's briefly look at each:
Unquestionably, most jazz involves a degree of improvisation. In most jazz settings, someone is usually improvising. But, not all improvised music can be called jazz. The Grateful Dead rarely played what was written, but they certainly are not considered a jazz band. Conversely, not all music found in the jazz bins is improvised. Consider some of Duke Ellington's tightly arranged suites. While improvisation is without a doubt an integral part of jazz music, it is not an absolute.
Lawrence certainly is correct here about improvisation being neither sufficient nor necessary for music to qualify as jazz and for the reasons he supplies. Non-improvised jazz exists (Duke Ellington compositions performed without improvisation) and improvised classical music or blues music is not automatically jazz. For further discussion on necessary and sufficient conditions for jazz see Are There Any Necessary Conditions For Playing Jazz? and Are There Any Sufficient Conditions For Playing Jazz?
Swing is even harder to define. What is swing? It is a feeling more than a concrete concept. Swing is that element that makes you move your body or want to dance. It is a buoyancy that lives in much of what we call jazz . . . the propulsive beat and forward momentum.
Swing is not just a feeling and it has a well defined concept, contrary to Lawrence's assertions. His remarks are better suited to what should be said about "being in the groove." The reason swing is not just a feeling is because it is a way to play music by having a particular rhythmic pulse and rhythmic pulses are not feelings but ways to play music. The concept of swing refers to “a particular rhythmic technique (most commonly associated with jazz but also used in other genres) that involves alternately lengthening and shortening pulse-divisions.”  What Lawrence seems to have in mind is the more colloquial use of the word "swing" that is better associated with the word "groove," as explained at Wikipedia:“The term swing has two main uses. Colloquially, it is used to describe the sense of propulsive rhythmic "feel" or "groove" created by the musical interaction between the performers, especially when the music creates a "visceral response" such as feet-tapping or head-nodding (see pulse).”
But, does jazz always swing? Absolutely not. Anyone familiar with the works of Cecil Taylor or Anthony Braxton knows that their music is the antithesis of swing, yet most would define their music as jazz.
So, that brings us back to the main topic, "What is jazz?" In his book "Jazz Styles," Mark Gridley offers that music need only to be associated with the jazz tradition to be called jazz. Instead of a strict definition, we use the word "jazz" to describe a character of the music. The lines have been blurred. Is Bitches Brew jazz or rock? I'd file it under jazz. My father would call it rock.
Can there be such a thing as a jazz tradition if we don't know which music counts as jazz? It doesn't seem possible. Should we count any music associated with the jazz tradition as jazz? Absolutely not since blues music is associated with the jazz tradition, but it is not jazz. Is Miles Davis's album "Bitches Brew" jazz? Well, it is jazz rock fusion so both Lawrence and his father are correct to that extent at least.
What you call jazz, I might not consider jazz at all. I can't tell you how many times I mention my love of jazz, only to hear "Oh, I love Kenny G." To me, Kenny G and the rest of his so-called smooth jazz cronies, do not play jazz. It certainly neither swings nor contains much, if any, improvisation. To them, Cecil Taylor or Sun Ra is the furthest thing from jazz. They might think it is noise.
Kenny G. probably improvises more than Lawrence believes. Is smooth jazz jazz?
Bottom line: If it feels like jazz to you ---- It is jazz. That's the beauty of this music! (bold and bold italic not in original)
Could there be any worse conclusion? The assertion is baldfacedly false. People cannot just call any kind of music jazz just because they "feel like it" and always be correct. There is plenty of music that is not jazz, period. Lawrence was trying to put a positive spin about jazz as his concluding sentence, and for this he can be forgiven, but not his reasons which are bogus.
Wikipedia on Defining Jazz
- Wikipedia on Defining Jazz makes these claims regarding problems of defining jazz:
"Jazz has proved to be very difficult to define, since it encompasses such a wide range of music spanning a period of over 100 years, from ragtime to the 2010-era rock-infused fusion. Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions, such as European music history or African music. But critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt argues that its terms of reference and its definition should be broader, defining jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of the Negro with European music" and arguing that it differs from European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time defined as 'swing'," involves "a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role" and contains a "sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician." In the opinion of Robert Christgau, "most of us would say that inventing meaning while letting loose is the essence and promise of jazz." 
A broader definition that encompasses all of the radically different eras of jazz has been proposed by Travis Jackson: "it is music that includes qualities such as swing, improvising, group interaction, developing an 'individual voice', and being open to different musical possibilities."
Krin Gibbard has provided an overview of the discussion on definitions, arguing that "jazz is a construct" that, while artificial, still is useful to designate "a number of musics with enough in common to be understood as part of a coherent tradition".
In contrast to the efforts of commentators and enthusiasts of certain types of jazz, who have argued for narrower definitions that exclude other types, the musicians themselves are often reluctant to define the music they play. As Duke Ellington, one of jazz's most famous figures, said: "It's all music".
- At It's All Music Johannes Luebbers explains why he can find it problematic for himself to have the label of jazz placed upon the music he composes and performs. Luebbers explains that:
In my experience as a composer, the defining of genres can also be limiting to the creation of work. In the same way that I find the label 'jazz composer' inadequate as a description of myself to others, I find it can actually limit me when I sit down to write. The parameters imposed by the genre, perceived or otherwise, can become a prison from which it is hard to escape. Within the jazz genre there are, as in any genre, certain stylistic conventions and traditions, and as soon as you think of yourself as a 'jazz composer' the ability to escape these conventions becomes increasingly difficult."
This is exciting. Notice that an explanation for Johannes Luebbers' complaint would be that jazz has musical forms, musical conventions, and musical practices that make it into a coherent, or at least specific genre of music. Luebbers here indirectly makes the case for there being such a thing as jazz as a legitimate style or approach to music making. These features that Luebbers complains can limit his composing can be the very same features that one can use to pick jazz out as a distinct genre of music with these features being used to define jazz as a musical genre.
The Etymology of "Jazz"
Before arguing for what musical characteristic seems most prominent in jazz music we shall first consider the origin of the meaning of the word “jazz” and recount its interesting etymological history.
One way to approach a definition of jazz is to look at the etymology of the word. Unfortunately, the word “jazz” has an especially obscure and controversial origin.
“The origin of the word "jazz" is one of the most sought-after word origins in modern American English. The word's intrinsic interest—the American Dialect Society named it the Word of the Twentieth Century—has resulted in considerable research, and its history is well-documented.” (bold not in original)
The 1976 Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary list entries for “jazz” as a substantive:
As a noun:
- ➢ a type of music originating among American Negroes, characterized by its use of improvisation, syncopated phrasing, a regular or forceful rhythm, often in common time, and a ‘swinging’ quality.
- ➢ Energy, excitement, ‘pep’; restlessness, excitability.
Bob Rigter explains how the confluence of these elements came together to produce the new musical form of jazz:
“The mutual influence of Creole musicians and proletarian black musicians led to the birth of jazz. The Creole’s executional sophistication and theoretical knowledge of European music, the black musician’s practical creativity and emotional intensity, and, last but not least, the shared rhythmical roots of blacks and Creoles, gave rise to the music of one suppressed class of colored musicians.” (bold not in original)
As a verb:
➢ To speed or liven up; to render more colorful, ‘modern’, or sensational; to excite.
➢ To play (music, or an instrument) in the style of jazz.
➢ To have sexual intercourse (with); slang.
SUMMARY: of the etymology of the word “jazz”:
- Bob Rigter argues that the etymology (word origin) of the word “jazz” is likely to come from the French word “chasse” (to chase). Rigter finds significant that jazz music originated in New Orleans—a French language culture.
- Creole peoples were of French and/or Spanish origins mixed with African races and Creole musicians were often highly accomplished and well trained in the European musical traditions.
- In 1896, the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson relegated Creoles to the status of blacks and caused them to suffer the economic and social stigmas of segregation. This forced accomplished Creole musicians to perform with musically less schooled black musicians.
- The results were that black performers from an aural tradition who played their instruments by ear, used African rhythms and scales, and often improvised on a song’s form were combined with European trained Creole musicians. The two groups playing together helped to create a new hybrid form by synthesizing these components together to produce jazz.
- Alyn Shipton argues that jazz spread quickly to the rest of the world because of its “combination of syncopation, unusual pitching, vocal tones, and raw energy . . . Its message was universal, and it stood for something new, something revolutionary, something risqué that overturned the old orders of art music and folk music alike.”
The Importance of Defining Jazz
As pointed out by Matthew W. Butterfield in Oxford Bibliographies in 2011:
Defining jazz has been central to delineating the disciplinary purview of jazz scholarship, but this has never been easy. As a body of more or less “popular” music disseminated in recorded form, the music has undergone rapid development over the course of its history, and each transformation in style has prompted debate among jazz musicians, critics, and fans as to whether or not the new style was in fact jazz. Such debates have often revolved around the role of improvisation and its relative emphasis in any given style, the degree to which each new form of the music could be understood to “swing”—i.e., to exhibit a valued rhythmic quality thought to be essential to good jazz—and the extent to which each new style manifested certain core African or African American musical concepts and principles. The latter consideration has prompted many scholars to eschew parochial considerations of style altogether and situate jazz not as a distinctive form of music in its own right but as one expression among many within the very broad category of “black music.”
To follow this latter path and not try to determine how "jazz is a distinctive form of music" is to give up trying to define it musically. It is amazing how many theorists adopt this attitude just because jazz is hard to define. Think about how defeatist this is. Would a cancer researcher ever say, "Well, you know, cancer is so hard to figure out exactly what it is, so instead of trying to define it biologically we are just going to treat it as merely "one expression among many within the very broad category of" how someone can die?! This would never happen. Similarly, then, just because cancer and jazz are hard to define does not actually supply a reason why such an investigation should not continue.
Why jazz is not just an institutionally practice-mandated musical genre
Some theorists find no good account for why jazz sub-genres have been grouped together and all fall within the jazz genus as sub-species of jazz other than historical accidents and institutionally-mandated explanations.
Jonathan McKeown-Green and Justine Kingsbury are such theorists.
“There will be plenty of contested material (like smooth jazz) about who’s status the community disagrees and plenty of borderline material (like much of Chick Corea’s chamber music) which everybody should agree is only sort of jazz. A perfect definition of jazz, or of any relevantly similiar institutional-mandated kind, would reflect these sorts of phenomena.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
“These findings may facilitate informed judgments about the adequacy of particular definitions. Here is a conjunctive definition: Jazz: syncopated music of early twentieth century, African-American origin. Even a non-aficionado can immediately surmise that it is likely to be extensionally inadequate. Jazz is a practice-mandated kind. The evolution of the determining identificatory practice is probably messy and unlikely to be capturable so elegantly. This definition might serve as a gateway definition—as a first step in familiarising a newcomer with the boundaries of jazz—but its form alone suggests that it includes, or excludes, too much from the extension to count as adequate. Something disjunctive is almost bound to be better. (bold and bold italic not in original)
But McKeown-Green and Kingsbury do not stop there. They argue that jazz has no coherent musical nature coordinating the various sub-genres into a stable genus, rather only outside non-musical factors determining what does and what does not constitute jazz.
“Sometimes, though, the analyst might reasonably conjecture that no principle at all subsumes the things picked out by a particular folk conception. Given the way practices evolve, this is not surprising. In the next section, I illustrate this situation by documenting the haphazard evolution of our conception of jazz. Then, in Section IV, I argue that some of the lessons we learn about jazz apply to music. Specifically, I argue that if there is any unity and practical utility to be found in our conception of music, we will only find it by examining features—perhaps functional, institutional, or recursively describable ones—other than the sonic, experiential, and intentional features that Kania invokes in his definition. (bold and bold italic not in original)
On McKeown-Green's picture (mirrored by Kingsbury), the music called jazz has "no principle at all" that explains why the various musics are included under the jazz conception other than folk conceptions and what has been included under it has been "haphazard" and was definitely not based on any "sonic" or "intentional features." If we are understanding these claims correctly, McKeown-Green and Kingsbury deny that there is any coherent and musically principled way(s) to justify the various and sundry musics all given the jazz label. Furthermore, according to them, the only relevant causal factors that could account for any "unity" or "practical utility" must come from either "functional," "institutional," or "recursively describable" non-musical features.
Put more simply, McKeown-Green and Kingsbury hold that jazz as a musical genre and all of its associated sub-genres contains no musical principles that could possibly account for all of the music that has been (correctly) understood to be sub-genres of jazz.
They conclude that a definition of jazz must be a hodgepodge cobbled together without a coherent synthesis.
“We suspect that it [the definition for jazz] will be either a long disjunction of conditions, each of which identifies a distinct genre (like swing, or bop), or else a cluster definition built out of conditions which each identify a musical or contextual property (like blue notes, or the influence of Miles Davis). Strictly speaking, we are here defining the kind of thing that is determined by the concept of jazz that operates in the community at the moment. In 1950, before the advent and exclusion of rock ’n’ roll and before the inclusion of hard bop and some of the mambo, the community’s concept of jazz was different and covered a much less diverse range of stuff. Who knows what new sorts of stuff will count among the jazz fifty years from now? The crucial point is that our classificatory habits often develop in the wild in the community and are subject to sundry pressures, amongst which taxonomic coherence probably exerts comparatively little pressure. . . . Hence, in the case of jazz (and sport and religion and much else), there are likely to be no unifying commonalities and we must characterise the kinds in question by identifying all the different sufficient conditions and gluing them together.” (bold not in original)
When McKeown-Green claims that “In 1950, before the advent and exclusion of rock ’n’ roll and before the inclusion of hard bop and some of the mambo, the community’s concept of jazz was different and covered a much less diverse range of stuff.” This remark can be challenged.
Should anyone correctly say that in 1950 people's concept of a bicycle 🚲 was different than it is in 2017? It is true that in the 1950's there would be many unusual vehicles classified in 2017 as bicycles that the hypothetical 1950's person would not be aware of, but would the concept of a bicycle need to have been different? While true that the scope, range, and exemplars of actual bicycles and bicycle types has greatly expanded since 1950, arguably the concept of a bicycle has remained the same.
➢ How can this be proven that the concept of a bicycle has stayed the same through changes and additions to the bicycle universe from 1950 to the present day?
Here are two relevant considerations. First, find a dictionary from 1950 and compare the definition there to one from the present. If the two match, then this is evidence the concept of a bicycle has remained stable. We can top this because here is Webster's dictionary definition of bicycle from 1913 and it agrees with the contemporary definition: “a light vehicle having two wheels one behind the other. It has a saddle seat and is propelled by the rider's feet acting on cranks or levers.” Second, go back in time and ask someone from 1950 if they agree with the current definition of a bicycle. If the person agrees with the current definition then he or she probably has the same conception of a bicycle even in 1950.
Additionally, McKeown-Green and Kingsbury hold that jazz as a musical term and what that term picks out exists as a "practice-mandated kind" and that the only satisfactory definition of jazz must be one that describes whatever gets picked out by the relevant community's practices for identifying jazz.
“Our answer draws on the idea that there are two contrasting sorts of reason one might have for offering definitions. On the one hand, there are lots of kinds of stuff that we refer to or make use of in our lives. It is part of our practice to notice certain things and to group them in certain ways. Sometimes our ways of classifying things depend on their appearance; sometimes they depend on their function; sometimes they depend on our community's evolving ideas about how reality itself is organised. But ultimately, many of the ways we categorize things are due to our own or our community's entrenched and evolving classificatory practices. We have, for instance, a practice of grouping certain things together and calling them jazz. Unsurprisingly, we sometimes take an interest in what it takes to be a thing of one of these practice-mandated kinds. What, we might ask, is jazz? Hence, we offer definitions which are adequate to the extent that they satisfactorily describe the stuff picked out by the relevant community's relevant identificatory practices. To a first approximation, a definition of jazz ought to count something as jazz if and only if the community regards it as jazz. (bold not in original)
Let us evaluate whether it is true that the only satisfactory definition of jazz must be one that describes whatever gets picked out by the relevant community's practices for identifying jazz.
Who would be the relevant community for determining what ought to be jazz? Could it just be all humans? This would include dead humans and they are notorious for not being able to pick out anything period, so all humans cannot be the relevant community. What about all living humans from birth to death? Human babies are also well known not to be good or appropriate judges for what is or isn't jazz. Limit the human class to all living adult humans. Many of these individuals are mentally defective so again should not be included in any relevant community for making good judgments about jazz. Many more of these humans are insufficiently knowledgeable to be competent judges. What about the relevant community just being all living humans knowledgeable about jazz? While this sounds more promising who is going to be assessing which humans are and which humans are not knowledgeable about jazz? Given that on McKeown-Green's and Kingsbury's presumptions there is no coherent musical picture there isn't too much to go on as to what should or should not count as jazz and therefore there are no living humans who can be knowledgeable about jazz other than just knowledgeable about the history of what has been labeled jazz in the past. But how does this in any way help anyone to determine whether a new style of music should or should not be included as a type of jazz? It doesn't, according to McKeown-Green and Kingsbury, but then there cannot be any relevant community of evaluators on their principles.
➢ What then determines whether a new musical genre should or should not fall under the jazz label?
On McKeown-Green's and Kingsbury's position it cannot be determined in any musically principled way what new genres should or should not be included as jazz sub-genres. He gives as an example of the potential arbitrariness of what might or might not have been considered to be jazz that Bebop might not have been classified or considered to be jazz, while Rock and Roll could have been called, labelled, and been considered by all relevant communities to be jazz.
“No rigorous constraints govern the evolution of the criteria for identifying instances of jazz. No Academie de Jazz arbitrates. Nor does jazz, like atoms and mammals, play a well-defined causal role in some theory about the world’s workings. Thus, the story of jazz could easily have gone differently. The beboppers might have left jazz critics behind, attracting new listeners. Bebop might then not have been regarded as jazz. Fledgling rock ’n’ roll might have occupied more space in DownBeat. Nothing in the previous practice signaled that certain styles, and not others, would count as jazz later. Nor is it likely that actual jazz history reflects a more principled, strategic, elegant, or otherwise defensible program than all counter-factual ones.  (bold not in original)
“Jazz evolves desultorily, and some of the relevant decisions are in the future, where the definition cannot reach.”  (bold not in original)
"Desultorily" is an adjective which means either 1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful, as in "a desultory conversation." or 2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random, as in "a desultory remark."
➢ Is it true that jazz as a musical genre "has no order" and that musical genre's that are connected with jazz are connected "at random"?
McKeown-Green certainly thinks these are true of jazz and its various sub-genres. This would mean that the inclusion of Bebop as a jazz sub-genre has no rhyme or reason for its inclusion as jazz and that its connection to past genres termed jazz are random, unconnected, and lack any constancy or connection to prior jazz sub-genres.
Really, his view is that there are no connections whatsoever between say Big band swing music and Bebop. This claim can be refuted if connections can be found that are non-random and constant in both or connected together in some coherent non-random fashion.
➢ What are the non-random connections between Big band swing and Bebop?
- Both are music.
- Both use a hybridization of the European diatonic scale with an African inspired pentatonic scale.
- Both use syncopation.
- Both use improvisation in their musical practices.
- Both use melody, harmony, and rhythm to produce music.
- Both use standard jazz instruments such as drums, bass, piano, saxophones, trumpets, etc.
- Both sometimes use vocalists.
Now someone might object that the above list is not unique to just the two genres of music of Big band swing and Bebop, but can also be true of Rock and Roll, or the blues. This, however, is irrelevant as an objection regarding the original McKeown-Green claim that there are no principled or coherent connections between the two genres, but that this connection is random and arbitrary.
CONCLUSION: Since these connections are neither random nor arbitrary and have coherent and principled connections, McKeown-Green's original claim of desultoriness for all jazz sub-genres is false.
Is any current conception of jazz necessarily limited?
Jonathan McKeown-Green maintains that any folk conception of jazz is necessarily limited by ignorance of future (possible) sub-genres of jazz.
It should be noted immediately that were jazz not to be merely determined by 'folk conceptions' that all of his arguments assuming this would be moot.
“Nevertheless, suppose that I successfully characterize our current folk conception of jazz in terms of experiential and sonic properties and intentions to manifest them: I accurately distinguish jazz, nonjazz, and penumbra. My definition would exploit classificatory facts not available to a definer circa 1920. I, in turn, lack access to data about future stylistic innovations and the unforeseeable tendencies of our heirs to dub or disqualify them. Like one from 1920, my definition would not be future proof. Mine would only specify the extent to which an item counts as jazz now. It might be sociologically interesting, but arguably no other benefits accrue. (bold not in original)
McKeown-Green claims without argument, only bold assertion, that no earlier jazz definition based on "sonic properties" could know classificatory facts available to future jazz definers. Why does he think this? The most likely reason is that Dixielanders in 1920 would be ignorant of, for example, soul jazz or free jazz, by definition because these genres of jazz were entirely unknown to these Dixielanders; they would not have understood, nor comprehended either, and they would probably not believe the jazz they were playing was a sub-genre of the same jazz genus as soul-jazz or free jazz, or this is how McKeown-Green sees it.
There are several responses possible here starting with free jazz is contentious so not entirely fair to use it since it has weaker sonic connections to Dixieland style jazz than, say, has soul jazz. Second, we don't want the Dixielanders to be judging what is and isn't jazz from their own point of view. Instead we educate them about jazz so they are as knowledgeable about the history of jazz as anyone and then we ask them if they think soul jazz should be included as jazz. Many of them would end up agreeing that soul jazz is jazz just like Dixieland because of the synthesis of a European diatonic musical scale with an African pentatonic one, significant amounts of syncopation and the use of highly valued improvisational techniques (see the Galactic model for defining jazz and HSI) found in both Dixieland and Soul jazz. They are both dance musics, music for entertaining, popular etc.
By "classificatory facts," McKeown-Green is assuming genre classifications, but why not use music classificatory facts? McKeown-Green presumes musical classificatory facts are either irrelevant or useless since which sub-genres are included as jazz has no sonic properties that can account for which sub-genres get included or excluded. Is this question begging against the sonic approach to sub-genre classifications? Yes it is.
"My definition would exploit classificatory facts not available to a definer circa 1920. I, in turn, lack access to data about future stylistic innovations and the unforeseeable tendencies of our heirs to dub or disqualify them.” (bold not in original)
This very last remark about "unforeseeable tendencies of our heirs to dub or disqualify them" commits itself to some unlikely, or possibly incoherent suggestions, regarding future sub-genres of jazz's disqualifications. According to McKeown-Green, it is possible for most currently accepted jazz sub-genres to be disqualified as being jazz. How does this idea strike you? Could Big band swing music, or cool jazz, or hard bop ever be drummed out of the jazz universe in some possible world? Sure, it could be described in such a way as to be true in that universe that cool jazz is shunned for complex reasons and external (likely political, cultural, or religious) factors where cool jazz is considered not to be jazz.
This, however, is not the real question. The real question is whether cool jazz here in the actual universe could ever be drummed out of the actual jazz universe. Here the answer is less obvious and more perplexing, possibly ultimately being an incoherent suggestion.
General consensus amongst all current jazz experts (not counting philosophers), with zero exceptions, is that the music labelled and performed by cool jazz musicians qualifies as jazz.
➢ Could the game played by the professional team called the Boston Red Sox ever be found in the future not to have been a team that ever presented a baseball game, but had only been mistakenly thought to have exhibited baseball?
Suppose that there has been a gigantic hoax and all past players for the Boston Red Sox have been Martian robots so no humans were involved. Would it not still be true that what the Martian robots had been doing during their professional careers was playing the game of baseball? Could this ever be undermined as a fact by future changes in conceptions about baseball? It doesn't seem possible does it? Therefore, the same claim can be true for jazz. Once all current experts agree that this indeed has been a baseball game and that cool jazz is definitely a sub-genre of jazz, it cannot be taken away or undermined as a fact by any future unforeseen baseball or jazz history.
It is true that there could be some possible universe that has that same history up to 2017 as the actual world and then later in time cool jazz is now rejected as being jazz. Would this prove that cool jazz could ever correctly be classified as not being jazz using the 2017 conceptions about jazz? No. If that possible world were to happen all it would mean is that all of the theorists in that possible are wrong because cool jazz is jazz.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, McKeown-Green's suggestion that it is true that cool jazz could be correctly found in the future not to qualify as jazz is an incoherent suggestion.
It is not non-musical classificatory facts that are relevant IF genre classification can proceed by using musical components of jazz and any other relevant features, such as jazz practices that help isolate jazz as a genre of music.
The biggest problem that McKeown-Green perceives for any possible definition of jazz is that it is impossible to predict what future music will or will not count as jazz and no current definition could anticipate what these acceptable or unacceptable sub-genres of jazz will be, except by accident, or as McKeown-Green puts it "by fluke."
“Only fortuitously could this visionary produce a definition of music in terms of its real or intended sonic or experiential properties, whose extension includes Ono’s Toilet Piece/Unknown. There were insufficient clues in the musical landscape of mid-nineteenth-century Europe to motivate the inclusion of any material that lacks all basic musical features. A columnist who was musically, philosophically, and anthropologically capable enough to diligently reflect on music as it was and could be might have pictured a future in which such items were regarded as music. But even if this prevented him or her from discarding the possibility that those items should count as music, categorically including them would mean riskily predicting, beyond the mandate of prevailing intuitions and practices and perhaps contrary to the definer’s own intuitions, that the criteria for delineating music would follow a particular path. So even if Kania’s definition accurately captures the folk’s conception of music at the beginning of the twenty-first century, his anticipator’s success in describing that same conception is lucky, not prescient. (bold not in original)
“Nevertheless, suppose that I successfully characterize our current folk conception of jazz in terms of experiential and sonic properties and intentions to manifest them: I accurately distinguish jazz, non-jazz, and penumbra. My definition would exploit classificatory facts not available to a definer circa 1920. I, in turn, lack access to data about future stylistic innovations and the unforeseeable tendencies of our heirs to dub or disqualify them. Like one from 1920, my definition would not be future proof. Mine would only specify the extent to which an item counts as jazz now. It might be sociologically interesting, but arguably no other benefits accrue. (bold not in original)
When McKeown-Green claims that no definition of jazz could be future proof because of the potential future inclusion of currently unknown jazz sub-genres his argument presumes that the only kind of definition for jazz must just be a disjunctive list of sub-genres of jazz. If this definitional presumption holds, then McKeown-Green would be correct in his claim, if there are future unknown sub-genres of jazz.
➢ Are lists of disjunctive components the only possible definitional type for jazz? What other kinds of definitions for jazz could there be?
➢ Is it possible to have a definition for jazz that would be future proof?
Yes, and here is how to motivate the seeking of a future proof definition of jazz.
Suppose that McKeown-Green's original argument had been about automobiles. He could have argued that no definition of automobile could ever be considered satisfactory because there can in the future be unknown new model sub-types of the automobile such as Packard, Tesla, or Curmudgeon (car company begins production in 2075). Would the existence of Curmudgeon sub-types of the automobile prevent a definition of the automobile now? No, it does not. An automobile is “a passenger vehicle designed for operation on ordinary roads and typically having four wheels and either a gasoline or diesel internal-combustion engine, or electric motors, or a hybrid combination of these. 
The same argument can be made for bicycles, which are "vehicles with two wheels in tandem, usually propelled by pedals connected to the rear wheel by a chain, and having handlebars for steering and a saddlelike seat." For more discussion on this point see Ontdef8. What is a bicycle?.
DISCUSS FLUKE QUOTE
“So even if Kania is right about what gets counted as music now, he cannot, except flukily, predict what else will get counted as music in the future. (bold not in original)
“The other bad news item was fatal even to our hypothetical definition of jazz, and I think the sort of definition of music we are discussing cannot avoid it either. Any such definition can only aspire to specifying what currently gets counted as music. Given conceptual conservatism, we can expect it to include among the music most if not all of what clearly counted as music in former times. However, if the definition accurately identifies criteria that always will track what gets counted as music, this is a fluke. (bold and bold italic not in original)
Is jazz as a genre of music exhausted by our conception of it?
Fascinating issue here with the answer clearly being a resounding "No" even according to McKeown-Green. Our conception of anything is time dependent because it is possible sometimes to alter or change conceptions over extended periods of time. McKeown-Green himself has already argued that because of the possible incorporation into the jazz genre of future unknown jazz sub-genres that any current conception of jazz must not be what exhausts a conception of jazz. Jazz conceivers, because they cannot anticipate (fully) all future possible sub-genres of jazz must leave open what future conceptions of jazz might possibly include. Jazz conceptions can always be different and change, according to McKeown-Green's own position.
Hence, when McKeown-Green asserts that "jazz is plausibly exhausted by our conception of it" he contradicts himself since our conception of it includes possible sub-genre's that we cannot currently (easily) conceive.
“Is it like jazz in that its nature is plausibly exhausted by our conception of it? Is it like a rainbow, on Jackson’s story, in that its nature is at least partly determined by factors beyond our conception of it but constrained by that conception?” (bold not in original)
If jazz's nature is not "plausibly exhausted" by our current conception of it then it may well be that jazz is more like a rainbow precisely because "it's nature is partly determined by factors beyond our (current) conception" but still constrained by the musical nature of the phenomena itself, just like it is for our conception of gold.
“Nothing in the previous practice [of past jazz genres] signaled that certain styles, and not others, would count as jazz later. Nor is it likely that actual jazz history reflects a more principled, strategic, elegant, or otherwise defensible program than all counter-factual ones.”  (bold not in original)
We have seen how the claim that “nothing in the previous practice [of past jazz genres] signaled that certain styles and not others would count as jazz” is likely false. The reasons are that (A) not any arbitrary musical style can be classified as jazz contrary to McKeown-Green's assertions to the contrary. He is just wrong if he is claiming that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as standardly played by classical orchestras could be jazz. He is not wrong that in some possible universe people use the word "jazz" to apply to the Fifth, but then that word would no longer have the same meaning or reference classes as we have in the actual world for the term "jazz." As we might put it, what is called jazz in this other possible universe is not jazz, using our understanding of what jazz consists of based on the jazz tradition from the actual world.
And (B) a second reason for rejecting any claim that requires we ignore previous jazz practices for determining a definition for jazz and instead appealing to something like McKeown-Green's institutionally practice mandated conception/definition of jazz is that it is criterially inadequate.
“Likewise, if Putnam is right, we should not define a tiger as a large striped feline beast of prey, or even as a beast of prey which is actually large, striped and feline: these definitions miss the fact that a tiger gets to be a tiger in virtue of its genetic profile and its ancestry. If Putnam is right, this definition is criterially inadequate just like the earlier definition of an equilateral triangle—and maybe this would be a good way of describing what is wrong with it.” (bold not in original)
Jazz musicians and some theorists use musical features and musical considerations to distinguish jazz from other musics and genres. Since any jazz theorist who believes the best way to understand the nature of jazz as a music is by centering primarily (or in a significant way) upon musical features, then any opposing theory that ignores such musical features and claims definition determinations are mandated by non-sonic and non-musical institutional practices are always going to be judged to be criterially inadequate definitions.
Just like tigers are tigers based on "the fact that a tiger gets to be a tiger in virtue of its genetic profile and its ancestry" so to does jazz get to be jazz based on the facts concerning its musical profile and its musical ancestry.
Consider four purposes for which a definition of a kind of thing might be consulted. Not every definition whatsoever need meet all four expectations, and there are other rewards that definitions can deliver, but, I suggest, quadruple failure strongly indicates a dearth of practical applications.
First, one might want a definition to illuminate the shared nature of the kind-mates. We expect this from a definition of a natural kind. Maybe jazz lacks a shared nature. Anyway, a successful characterization of our current conception like the one we envisage supplies none. It yields a procedure for generating the current extension of our conception, but the folk treat jazz as a persisting kind, and we cannot trust our definition to foretell its fortunes.
Second, one might want a definition to state criteria used in practice to identify whether (or the extent to which) something is of the kind. A good definition of a mother-in-law obliges: you identify mothers-in-law by identifying spouses’ mothers. Our envisaged specification of our conception of jazz will not yield identificatory criteria. These are likely to include a network of defeasible heuristics associated with subgenres, central cases, and individual careers: “This is jazz because it’s hard bop; that’s jazz because of the breathy sax solos; those are jazz because Monk wrote them.” Heuristics vary from person to person, even for central cases where there is no disagreement about whether there is jazz.
Third, one might want a definition to isolate the criteria implicit in decisions about which marginal or novel things are of the kind. We expect this from a legal definition of malice aforethought. We do not find it here. Jazz evolves desultorily, and some of the relevant decisions are in the future, where the definition cannot reach. (bold not in original)
How communities shape definitions
Aesthetian theorists have noted that identity determiners can focus on intention or focusing on conventions of artistic judgments produced by an artistic community. SUBJECT NEEDS CLARIFICATION.
Stephen Davies in Definitions of Art Chapter 8 culminates in an imaginative synthesis of artistic intentions becoming community standards and having primacy of practices lord over individual intentions.
“Chapter 8 is the most stimulating and original part of the book: its core and apex. . . . [Davies] resists the dominant view (in particular, Susan Feagin's critique of the institutional theory which sees intentions and conventions in competition with each other) and argues instead for a symbiotic relation between the two in which artistic conventions—as institutionalized within the artworld—take "logical primacy" over intentions (p. 204). Thus, although intentions are "critically relevant" to an object's status as art, it does not follow that they must be "treated as autonomous determinants of the conventions in terms of which critical practice structures its interpretations of artworks" (p. 119). Rather, artistic conventions capture and constitute the practices of the artworld; "art making and art interpreting are activities structured by social practices and conventions" which are necessarily "institutionally structured," that is, "art is necessarily, and not merely incidentally, social" (p. 217). In his final chapter, Davies unsurprisingly defends his reformulation of the institutional theory as a type of procedural definition and concludes that the functional and intentional approaches pale by comparison. (bold not in original)
Cannot Davies's analysis be applied directly to a good way to analyze jazz? Intentions and conventions are symbiotic with each influencing the other and conventions being used predominantly for determining excellence until intentions of musicians cause a paradigm shift that eventually gets adopted into a convention for this new paradigm. An interweaving takes place with conventions and artistic practice holding more sway over aesthetic judgments of quality of performances. Should a new paradigm occur it usually opposes previous conventions, but here other forces take effect that ends up determining the new conventions for these musical practices. Jazz, too, is an institutionally structured music making practice with the institution being the jazz community.
What determines when music is a type of jazz?
Why should everybody agree that Chick Corea’s chamber music is only sort of jazz? Isn’t a good answer here supposed to explain from a musical property’s point of view WHY this chamber music doesn’t count as full blown jazz. Is it merely institutionally generated arbitrary and subjective reasons as to why Corea’s music is not full blown jazz or are there deeper not arbitrary and not subjective causes, reasons, and explanations accounting for and justifying the status of Corea's chamber music in relationship to jazz?
Could some form of music, say Indonesian gamelan, or Australian digeridoo, be included under the jazz genre through fiat. Are the institutionally mandated inclusions of new sub-genres arbitrarily determined as to what sub-genres get included under the jazz umbrella or not?
What makes jazz rock fusion have any jazz in it at all and how much jazz does it have? Same question for smooth jazz, or acid jazz?
Generally speaking, we know the answers to these types of questions and can defend them with musical features answers and not just an appeal to an answer like “because some committee says so, or that's just what all the critics agree on, or that's just how the history of jazz occurred.”
➢ What are these musical features and why do they rule these genres of music in or out from the jazz umbrella. Start with the easiest case first. Is acid jazz jazz?
Why so-called acid jazz is not a sub-genre of jazz
What makes the problem hard to begin with is so-called acid jazz itself is unclear what sort of musical genre it is in itself. The term acid jazz was coined by some DJ's so as to be able to label a particular style of, in effect, lounge and dance music of a relatively distinctive style type. Acid jazz tends to be highly repetitive, has a distinctive rhythmic pulse and strong groove, can have significant synthesizer usage, and can use obscure jazz tracks as a component of the sound produced.
It doesn't take too long before one gets convinced that as a type of musical genre acid jazz is not a coherent jazz sub-genre. Wikipedia goes so far as to say it is no longer even an actual musical genre because it has been dropped for better descriptive genre names that better reflect the kind of music that is being presented, such as Fusion Rap.
Wikipedia defends this position:
“Acid jazz, also known as club jazz, is a musical genre that combines elements of jazz, soul, funk, and disco. Acid jazz originated in the London club scene of the mid-1980s in the rare groove movement and spread to the US, Japan, Eastern Europe, and Brazil. Major acts included Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Us3, and Jamiroquai from the UK and Buckshot LeFonque and Digable Planets from the US. The rise of electronic club music in the mid to late 1990s led to a decline in interest, and in the twenty-first century, the movement became indistinct as a genre. Many acts that might have been defined as acid jazz are now seen as jazz-funk, neo soul, or jazz rap. (bold not in original)
Immediately from the initial description of acid jazz it is a conglomeration of many different styles of music with much non-jazz included, namely soul, funk, and disco. None of these three as typically performed qualify as falling within the jazz genre. If jazz-funk is itself a jazz sub-genre and a particular song has been categorized as both acid jazz and jazz-funk, then this song may well be jazz (to some degree), but this does not imply that there is any coherent category of music labelled acid jazz.
The name itself of "acid jazz" is a consequence of people referring to acid house music sometimes combined with obscure jazz track musical lines.
Musicmap.info provides a description of acid jazz as a poorly characterized name for this style of music and explains its relationships to other genres.
“Acid Jazz is a crossover genre gone too far: there is barely any Jazz left in it. There’s actually almost zero ‘acid’ about it as well, except a slight psychedelic sound, placing it high on the chart for poorly chosen genre names. In fact it’s more of the deepest funky Fusion combined with Rap, so Fusion Rap would be more appropriate. But the name is no error: Acid Jazz was a deliberate and firm reaction from the British Soul scene against the fiddling “nonsense” of Acid House. The leading record label–also named Acid Jazz–was determined to compensate Acid House with what they regarded as “quality music,” heavily influenced by Rare Groove records. A steady Hip-Hop breakbeat, lots of percussion, jazz harmonies and funky basslines (often with the aid of a synthesizer) are the key flavors of Acid Jazz. These elements blend perfectly until the roots of the genre are no longer traceable. It was a short but popular craze, right before EDM conquered the music scene. Due to its highly danceable nature, a new type of dance, Jazzdance, was invented along with it (which became more or less a synonym of the music itself). It can be hard to separate Acid Jazz from Jazz Funk with heavy breaks, if it wasn’t for the (abundant) use of vocals.” (bold not in original)
Notice that some of the original acid jazz style of music used obscure jazz tracks with dj's mixing in lots of other stuff in a danceable (disco-ish) format. Soon, however, the wheels fell off the tracks and the amount of jazz involved dwindled down to very little.
CONCLUSION: Acid jazz is not a jazz sub-genre and many conclude it is mislabeled as a form of jazz.
➢ What is acid house music?
Acid house is a sub-genre of house music developed around the mid-1980s by DJs from Chicago. The style was defined primarily by the deep basslines and "squelching" sounds of the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer-sequencer. . . . Acid house's minimalist production aesthetic combined house music's ubiquitous programmed 4/4 beat with the electronic ‘squelch' sound produced by the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer-sequencer by constantly modulating its frequency and resonance controls to create 'movement' in otherwise simple bass patterns. Other elements, such as synthetic strings and stabs, were usually minimal.
What is Meant by Definition
- “Definitions and Art Theory,” Lee B. Brown, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 27 (4), 1969, pp. 409-415.
How Jazz Can Be Defined
Jazz Could be Defined If It Had Essential Properties
Anything with essential properties can be defined. Essential properties are those that determine the essence of something, meaning what it is.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the nature of, as well as differences and relationships between, essential and non-essential, or accidental, properties:
"The distinction between essential versus accidental properties . . . is currently most commonly understood in modal terms: an essential property of an object is a property that it must have while an accidental property of an object is one that it happens to have but that it could lack. . . . the use of the word “must” reflects the fact that necessity is invoked, while the use of the word “could” reflects possibility. The notions of necessity and possibility are interdefinable: to say that something is necessary is to say that its negation is not possible; to say that something is possible is to say that its negation is not necessary; to say that an object must have a certain property is to say that it could not lack it; and to say that an object could have a certain property is to say that it is not the case that it must lack it."
Does Jazz Have Essential Properties?
The Importance of Improvisation
At the Scolastic Magazine website titled "Culture and Change: Black History in America" as they review the history of jazz in America often admiring Wynton Marsalis's insights into jazz and using his audio clips to explain improvisation under the section titled Improvisation: The Expression of Freedom it says:
"Improvisation is the most defining feature of jazz. Improvisation is creating, or making up, music as you go along. Jazz musicians play from printed music and they improvise solos. From the collective improvisation of early jazz to the solo improvisation of Louis Armstrong to the free jazz of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane, improvisation is central to jazz."
For more information, discussion and argumentative issues about improvisation see Ontimpr1. What is improvisation?.
From these observations at least two main points can be discerned, and the second one is surprising from Wynton Marsalis's neo-classicist conservative point of view. The two points are:
(A) Improvisation is "the most defining feature of" and "central" to jazz.
(B) Armstrong, Ayler, Coleman, and Coltrane each played jazz improvisations.
Examining these two claims (A) and (B), it can be seen that both are problematic until further clarifications and justifications are given for believing them to be true.
Reasons to Believe A) Improvisation is "the most defining feature of" and "central" to jazz and (B) Armstrong, Ayler, Coleman, and Coltrane each played jazz improvisations are False
Why (A) is false: If the "most defining feature" of improvisation were to mean either or both a necessary and/or sufficient condition for being jazz is that it contain improvisation, then each of these claims is false. Improvisation is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for music to qualify as jazz.
- Improvisation cannot be a necessary condition for being jazz because jazz exists with no improvisation at all. Everyone believes Duke Ellington wrote and performed jazz with his orchestra without improvisation, although some of it could sound like it was being improvised. Non-improvisational jazz would be impossible if improvisation were a necessary condition for music to qualify as jazz.
- Improvisation cannot be a sufficient condition for being jazz because much improvised music exists that everyone believes NOT to be jazz. Rock musicians, Indian musicians on tablas and sitars, even Mozart, each has improvised music without having played any jazz.
- Improvisation cannot be BOTH a necessary condition and a sufficient condition for being jazz if improvisation is neither necessary nor sufficient for being jazz.
Why (B) is false: Wynton Marsalis has been critical of free(er) jazz and free improvisations and might well deny that the free improvisations of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Ornette Coleman were actually jazz improvisations, even while being artistically valuable. The primary reason Marsalis could give for denying these impressive improvisations as qualifying as jazz is that by its very nature free jazz being free conforms to no particular rules of jazz. Marsalis and others could argue that it is of the essence of completely free improvisation that it could not be jazz because if it was jazz then it wouldn't be free. Arguably, this is the reason why entirely 'free' jazz could never qualify as jazz. This free music follows no obvious rules or principles so disqualifies itself from being jazz, or so goes the argument.
Reasons to Believe A) Improvisation is "the most defining feature of" and "central" to jazz and (B) Armstrong, Ayler, Coleman, and Coltrane each played jazz improvisations are True
Why (A) is true: (A) is true because improvisation IS central to mainstream and standard form jazz; it just cannot be used to delineate the borders within which all jazz falls.
Gunther Schuller certainly thinks improvisation is central to the mindset of jazz musicians.
“Nonetheless, one important aspect of jazz clearly does distinguish it from other traditional musical areas, especially from classical music: the jazz performer is primarily or wholly a creative, improvising composer—his own composer, as it were—whereas in classical music the performer typically expresses and interprets someone else's composition.” (bold not in original)
Schuller points out that jazz has always maintained an in-between status as regards pre-composed versus improvised compositions.
“Jazz, in fact, is not—and never has been—an entirely composed, predetermined music, nor is it an entirely extemporized one. For almost all of its history it has employed both creative approaches in varying degrees and endless permutations. (bold not in original)
Why (B) is true: (B) would be true if Louis Armstrong, as well as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler in their freer moments were still playing jazz.
➢ Why could this be true?
Consider each musician in turn. They are not all the same, to say the least, so need to be judged and evaluated individually.
Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971)
Everyone agrees Louis Armstrong played many jazz improvisations. Why? If we knew what the musical factors were in these performances then this could help determine the answer to whether Coleman, Coltrane, and Ayler (hereafter the big three/free) were playing jazz improvisations. As often in philosophy the answer is it depends. Here's why. The answer could be yes the relevant musical factors in Armstrong's improvised solos could determine whether the big three were playing jazz if all four used the same, similar, or comparable musical factors as Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong Discography
Ornette Coleman (March 9, 1930 - June 11, 2015)
It can be argued that Ornette's music in his album "Free Jazz" even in freer moments still contains musical features recognizable within the jazz music traditions.
Ornette Coleman Discography
- JazzDisco's Ornette Coleman album index
- All Music's Ornette Coleman Discography with album covers
- Discogs's Ornette Coleman Discography with album covers
- Columbia University Short List
- Ornette Coleman albums Rated
- Ornette Coleman Big Album Covers
- Wikipedia's Ornette Coleman Discography
John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 - July 17, 1967)
As we proceed and progress the complexity of Coltrane's music makes analysis and evaluation more and more challenging. Everyone agrees that when John Coltrane started he was both a sax horn honker in the “walk on the bar” tradition, and also a journeyman sax player. He didn't start getting more into his own until he started playing with both Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. After that we get "Giant Steps," "Blue Train," "A Love Supreme," "Ascension," "Om," "Africa Brass," "Interstellar Space," etc. and a lot of this music is not free jazz.
➢ Which of John Coltrane's recordings are the most free jazz?
Wikipedia: John Coltrane reports that Coltrane's second quartet developed from 1965 through 1967 was moving more into free jazz. For some inexplicable reason, the Wikipedia article quoted below leaves out two musicians that played on Coltrane's Ascension namely the obscure Dewey Johnson on trumpet and the fabulous Art Davis on bass.
“In his late period, Coltrane showed an increasing interest in avant-garde jazz, purveyed by Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and others. In developing his late style, Coltrane was especially influenced by the dissonance of Ayler's trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, a rhythm section honed with Cecil Taylor as leader. Coltrane championed many younger free jazz musicians such as Archie Shepp, and under his influence Impulse! became a leading free jazz record label.
After A Love Supreme was recorded, Ayler's style became more prominent in Coltrane's music. A series of recordings with the Classic Quartet in the first half of 1965 show Coltrane's playing becoming increasingly abstract, with greater incorporation of devices like multi-phonics, utilization of overtones, and playing in the altissimo register, as well as a mutated return of Coltrane's sheets of sound. In the studio, he all but abandoned his soprano to concentrate on the tenor saxophone. In addition, the quartet responded to the leader by playing with increasing freedom. The group's evolution can be traced through the recordings The John Coltrane Quartet Plays, Living Space, Transition (both June 1965), New Thing at Newport (July 1965), Sun Ship (August 1965), and First Meditations (September 1965).
In June 1965, he went into Van Gelder's studio with ten other musicians (including Shepp, Pharaoh Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Marion Brown, and John Tchicai) to record Ascension, a 40-minute piece that included solos by the young avant-garde musicians (as well as Coltrane), and was controversial primarily for the collective improvisation sections that separated the solos. After recording with the quartet over the next few months, Coltrane invited Sanders to join the band in September 1965. While Coltrane frequently used over-blowing as an emotional exclamation-point, Sanders would overblow entire solos, resulting in a constant screaming and screeching in the altissimo range of the instrument.” (bold and bold italics not in original)
John Coltrane Discography
- Wikimedia on John Coltrane's Discography
- John Coltrane Discography: The Official Website with album covers
- John Coltrane Discography by JazzDisco.org with complete song titles and personnel listings
- John Coltrane album index by JazzDisco.org
Albert Ayler (July 13, 1936 - November 25, 1970)
Albert Ayler was an American avant-garde jazz saxophonist, singer and composer who was first taught to play the alto saxophone by his father Edward. They often played together in church.
Wikipedia: Albert Ayler describes Ayler's early musical development as follows:
“As a teenager, Ayler attended John Adams High School on Cleveland's East Side, and graduated in 1954 at the age of 18. He later studied at the Academy of Music in Cleveland with jazz saxophonist Benny Miller. Ayler also played the oboe in high school. As a teenager, Ayler’s understanding of bebop style and mastery of standard repertoire earned him the nickname of “Little Bird", after Charlie “Bird” Parker, in the small Cleveland jazz scene.”
“In 1952, at the age of 16, Ayler began playing bar-walking, honking, R&B-style tenor with blues singer and harmonica player Little Walter, spending two summer vacations with Walter's band. In 1958, after graduating from high school, Ayler joined the United States Army, where he switched from alto to tenor sax and jammed with other enlisted musicians, including tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Ayler also played in the regiment band. In 1959 he was stationed in France, where he was further exposed to the martial music that would be a core influence on his later work. After his discharge from the army, Ayler tried to find work in Los Angeles and Cleveland, but his increasingly iconoclastic playing, which had moved away from traditional harmony, was not welcomed by traditionalists.” (bold not in original)
- When he joined the army and began playing with Stanley Turrentine, among others, he switched to tenor saxophone, although occasionally playing alto and soprano as well.
- Musicians that Ayler played with include Don Cherry (pocket trumpet), Sunny Murray (drums), Gary Peacock (bass), Alan Silva (double bass), Roswell Rudd (trombone) and Cecil Taylor (piano). These musicians helped to found the free(er) and free jazz movement(s).
- Musicologists find in Ayler's music sounds that remind them of both church and military music. The church-like influences can be heard and read into Ayler's album, "Spiritual Unity," which was recorded in Ayler's most prolific recording year of 1964.
“In 1963, Ayler returned to the US and settled in New York City, where he continued to develop his personal style and occasionally played alongside free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. 1964 was the most well-documented year of Ayler’s career, during which he recorded many albums, the first of which was "Witches and Devils" in March of that year. Ayler also began his rich relationship with ESP-Disk Records in 1964, recording his breakthrough album (and ESP’s very first jazz album) "Spiritual Unity" for the then-fledgling record label. ESP-Disk came to play an integral role in recording and disseminating free jazz.”
There is certainly music on record with Ayler playing that qualifies as jazz. Where the controversy arises is in Ayler's more unstructured moments. We know from his biography above that he was certainly trained originally in standard jazz practices. You don't get the nickname "Little Bird" if you cannot play Bebop in a conventional manner and Bebop is agreed on by all counts to qualify as jazz so it is certain that early on Ayler played jazz. The question remains about his (later) recordings.
- Albert Ayler Downbeat interview
- The Guardian's "50 great moments in jazz: The shortlived cry of Albert Ayler"
Albert Ayler Discography
- Albert Ayler album index by JazzDisco.org
- Albert Ayler Discography by JazzDisco.org
- Albert Ayler catalog index by JazzDisco.org with listing of which personnel played on individual songs
- Albert Ayler session index by JazzDisco.org
|1962||The First Recordings Vols. 1 & 2||Bird Notes|
|1963||My Name Is Albert Ayler||Debut Records|
|1964||Swing Low Sweet Spiritual||Osmosis|
|1964||Albert Smiles With Sunny [Live]||Inrespect|
|1964||New York Eye And Ear Control||ESP|
|1964||Albert Ayler [Live]||Philology|
|1964||The Copenhagen Tapes||Ayler|
|1964||The Hilversum Session||Osmosis|
|1965||Sonny's Time Now||Jihad|
|1966||At Slug's Saloon, Vol. 1 & 2 [Live]||ESP|
|1966||Lörrach Paris 1966 [Live]||Hathut Records|
|1966||Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village [Live]||Impulse! Records|
|1967||Love Cry||Impulse! Records|
|1968||New Grass||Impulse! Records|
|1969||Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe||Impulse! Records|
|1969||The Last Album||Impulse! Records|
|1970||Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Vol. 1||Shandar|
|1970||Live on the Riviera [Live]||ESP|
|2004||Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962–70)||Revenant Records|
|2006||The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings||ESP|
Reasons: high form skill, difficult, admired and admirable, challenging, why musicians like and value jazz, requires skill, allows for spontaneous group interaction and the emergent properties that spontaneous composition can achieve, KIND OF BLUE level solos with virtually no rehearsal.
What Is Meant By Essential?
Are There Any Necessary Conditions For Playing Jazz?
On the surface it is likely going to be difficult to find any necessary conditions that are uniquely distinctive of jazz. The reason for this being that if there were such necessary conditions that were unique to jazz they would already have been discovered and be known. These features, were they to exist, would be obvious. Below numerous candidates for possible necessary conditions possibly unique to jazz (but they aren't) will be considered, examined, and rejected as necessary candidates. Before this is done, let us consider a preliminary matter first.
➢ What necessary conditions are required for something even to qualify as music? See Ontmusic0. What is music?
➢ What features necessarily apply to jazz by virtue of jazz being music?
Are There Any Necessary Conditions For Playing Music?
➢ What are necessary properties of music?
This is a large and difficult topic. Rather than try to give a definitive answer first consider candidates for necessary conditions. It will help to delimit the problem if we start with necessary conditions for the performance of music.
Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
➢ What happens necessarily during a musical performance?
True Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
- Musicians are required to cause the music to exist.
- The musicians are persons.
- The persons are intentional agents.
- The musician is intentionally producing the music.
➢ How does one go about proving that any conditions are necessary for performing music?
One clear approach for addressing this question is to imagine situations where music occurs but the proposed necesssary condition has not been met. Let us test this out for the above four proposed necessary conditions for playing music.
Suppose then that musicians that are persons do not exist. We are on Earth Two which is just like Earth except that no persons ever exist on the planet. Is it possible on such a planet that music gets developed or performed or just spontaneously comes into existence? Is this coherently conceivable?
On this personless planet, Earth Two, could an exemplification of music ever be caused by non-person causal agencies and be exhibited? On a Platonistic timbral sonicism, as advocated by Julian Dodd where each work of music eternally exists as an abstract object, then it would be possible for music to become exemplified in personless Earth Two. Dodd's timbral sonicism holds that any sonic event that exhibits the acoustical properties required to be an exemplification of an already existent abstract musical work would count as an exhibition, or instance, or tokening of that work. Since all musical performance types eternally exist any sonic exemplification of that abstract type counts as an instance of that particular musical work. Hence, if such an acoustic event gets caused by non-intentional and non-person causal agencies it would still nevertheless qualify as an instance of music, according to Platonistic sonicists, and therefore it is logically possible on these assumptions to have music occur that has not been caused by any person or intentional agencies.
However, while the Platonistic assumptions of Dodd's timbral sonicism makes non-intentionally produced music possible as an instance of that eternal type, this requires the antecedent existence for this to be possible of having an exemplification of an eternally existing musical work with no intentional agents. However, this may very well be a decisive objection against such a Platonistic view were intentional music production by persons in fact a necessary condition for music to exist. For more considerations to this effect see below at Objection to Requiring Conscious Intention for Music Production
False Necessary Conditions For A Musical Performance
- False Necessary Condition: The music consists of sounds that can be heard. If neither sounds exist or if the sounds cannot be heard then no music has been performed.
As intuitive as it might seem that music requires hearable sounds, this is a false claim, according to some philosophers. Several philosophers, including Andrew Kania in his article, “Silent Music,” have argued for the existence of music that even when performed both makes no sounds and is not hearable.
➢ What does it mean to be hearable? Just as important, hearable by whom?
Hearability is a tricky concept because there are ambiguities as well as degrees.
One of the ambiguities concerns whether one means potentially or actually hearable/heard.
- Something is potentially hearable if someone could possibly hear it.
- Potentially Hearable Items, but not heard:
- - The proverbial falling tree with no one nearby to hear it.
- - A far enough away hummingbird's wings flapping sound.
- - A meteor hitting the Moon's surface.
- - Very quiet sounds that no one hears but could be amplified to be heard with equipment.
- - Very low sounds below 20 cycles per second that is below the threshold of typical human hearing ranges.
Something could be hearable, meaning potentially hearable, but in fact wasn't heard, or it could mean has been actually heard and by virtue of that the heard item qualifies as having been hearable.
Because people can easily suffer frequency damages to their hearing what one person can hear another with frequency damage to their hearing might not be able to hear the same sounds. It is clear that the person who can hear the music would agree it is music, so the person who cannot hear it cannot correctly claim that no music has been performed. It was performed, but not heard by you is not a contradiction.
Martian High Frequency Music Objection to Hearability Requirement
Wikipedia: Hearing range states that non-humans have a hearing range that can surpass humans in both hearing extra low frequencies or extra high frequencies, with typical humans having a hearing range of 20-20,000 Hz (cycles per second).
“Several animal species are able to hear frequencies well beyond the human hearing range. Some dolphins and bats, for example, can hear frequencies up to 100 kHz. Elephants can hear sounds [as low as] 14–16 Hz, while some whales can [even] hear subsonic sounds as low as 7 Hz (in water).”
Below is a table of animal hearing ranges and as can easily be observed there are many species with superior hearing ranges than humans, at both ends of the spectrum, but especially the higher frequencies.
If this is correct, then imagine Martians who have the hearing range of dogs from 50 Hz to 45,000 Hz. Typical human hearing stops at 20,000 Hz. So Dogs and these hypothetical Martians who are adult persons of an advanced civilization can hear sounds above double the best human hearing to over 45,000 cycles per second. Such high frequencies can be heard by dogs and Martians, but not by humans. Suppose Martian music is in this high frequency range not hearable by standard humans. The fact no humans can actually hear the Martian high frequency music does not entail no music exists, or was just performed and enjoyed by these Martians. It just is the case that some music cannot be heard by humans. There is no reason to limit what ontologically is music to what can be heard sonically by humans. This would be a form of a priori auditory speciesism.
Objection to Requiring Conscious Intention for Music Production
Can a sleeping musician while sleepwalking play the piano and be playing music? If the answer is "Yes" then this intention to play music can be unconscious and need not be consciously intended. Of course, the proof is in the pudding.
Here is an apparent example of a sleepwalking young girl playing the piano. It is reported that in the morning she had no memory of having played the piano. This supplies evidence that no conscious intention of playing is required for someone to play the piano. After all, playing a piano is to move one's fingers on the keyboard and thus can be done robotically. Interestingly, her performance does sound quite musical from the few snippets she actually plays. Listen to it yourself and you be the judge. Was she making music?
Someone could object, however, that precisely because she was not currently and actively aware of playing and had no direct conscious intention to play that therefore she was not making music, but only making sounds on the piano.
➢ How can we decide which of these two types of events occurred here? Was it music making or only sound making?
While it may not be known what is the correct answer to these questions, one can make a case for how it is possible that a sleepwalker could be making music and not just causing sounds on the piano. The case is this. Suppose that during her sleepwalking and encountering of the piano she unconsciously intended to be playing the piano and had an unconscious intention to be playing music.
➢ What evidence could there be for someone having a complex intention as to unconsciously intending to be playing music? What is required for someone to have intentions anyway? What is an intention?
Definition of intention
Wikipedia on intention defines intention as “a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought. . . . Thus, an intentional action is a function to accomplish a desired goal and is based on the belief that the course of action will satisfy a desire. . . . The proposed [intentional] connective chain is that desire causes intention, which causes action, which causes outcome. The Intentional Chain maps the linking of a desire to the satisfaction of a goal via the intermediary intention.”
So, intentions are mental states that function to accomplish future actions to achieve a desired perceived goal.
Arguments for the existence of unconscious intentions
Some sleepwalkers sleep on a second floor bedroom and during sleepwalking go down the stairs to the bottom floor. Walking down any stairs is an extremely complex bodily activity requiring many kinesthetic and complex motor and balancing shifts, not to mention extremely dangerous. Walking down stairs is such a complex activity that robots with legs are difficult to program, yet the human sleepwalker often does so easily and without injury. How is this possible?
One possible answer to how the sleepwalker can traverse down (and back up afterwards sometimes) stairways is because the walker unconsciously recognizes his or her location and unconsciously intends to go down the stairs in some sense and to some limited degree. This accords well with the definition of intention. The complexity of the activity is a reason to believe that an agent must have the relevant intentions to perform the actions observed in order to account for how this activity was accomplished by that agent without mishap.
This same sleepwalking girl is reported to have once while sleepwalking sung 'Bicycle Race' by Queen, then went back to bed and the next day she said she had a dream about singing with Freddy Mercury in front of a huge crowd. Here we have more evidence that she did intend to be singing this song while sleeping if one can intend something in a dream. It just so happens that her physical actions corresponded to her dreamed actions. This makes it more believable that she did produce music 🎶 while asleep.
A second reason for not requiring a direct conscious intent to produce all music is because musicians when playing and improvising can get into an egoless flow state. In such a flow state, musicians have muscle memory and the production of the music can be by effortless mastery. No direct conscious intentions are required during these flow states. Wikipedia: Flow (Psychology) reports that during a flow state that there must be "a loss of reflective self-consciousness." The music plays you, and your intentions do not dictate the flow of musical performance. As soon as deliberate and reflective conscious intention occurs then this self-awareness drops one out of a flow state.
➢ Everyone agrees that jazz is music? Why?
What reasons and arguments can be given to prove that jazz is music?
- No one denies that jazz counts as music.
- The word "jazz" means "jazz music" by definition.
- If it is known what is music, then one can recognize that jazz falls under this category. For an analysis of the nature and properties of music see Ontmusic0. What is music?. There it is explained that music when performed typically consists of sound events using musical instruments (or the human body, also potentially a musical instrument) that has melody, rhythm, and harmony.
- Wikipedia on Necessity and Sufficiency
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Necessary and Sufficient Conditions
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Necessary and Sufficient Conditions
What are necessary conditions for playing jazz?
Any conditions necessary for playing any kind of music would also be necessary conditions for playing jazz since jazz is itself music.
- ➢ Are there any peculiar necessary conditions for playing jazz?
Arguably, there are some necessary conditions. Below are some proposals with justifications and investigations of objections to each one.
How are we to judge whether condition J (for jazz) is necessarily present in all jazz music? By examining all jazz performances and see if each contains condition J might be a first step. Still, there remain many problems, confusions and difficulties when we go to assess this situation. We already know that even if every examined jazz performance contained condition J that this would not yet prove that this condition was necessarily present in all jazz performances because perhaps in the future assessors could judge that their exemplar is a jazz performance yet it failed to satisfy condition J. A further confusion/difficulty consists of there always being an automatic reply to anyone who claims to have found a musical event that was jazz but failed to meet condition J, the defender of its being a necessary condition can object by claiming that the proposed counter-example is not jazz because it doesn't have condition J! What then?
The answer is to consider other avenues of approach to these kinds of issues. Suppose someone proposes a sort of conceptual intuitive challenge. The background assumption will be to ask ourselves what our intuitions are about jazz and see if any of these will be necessary conditions precisely because they are analytical/conceptually necessary truths of the form "A is A." Under standard assumptions used in virtually all natural languages a noun when used a second time and with no intentions to have the second occurrence in a sentence makes any difference as to how to interpret it, that is, to read both the first "A" in an identical manner to that of how to read the second occurrence of "A." The "is" can be read as identity or as predication, which is not the identity relationship because when using the predicative relationship one denies or presumes the falsity of the identity claim. If I say "The apple is red" I am denying the claim that the apple is identical to the color red. In the predication relationship, the predicate is potentially a larger class under which the subject qualifies as being included in that group of propertied objects as having one or more of those without having to be identical as two separate groups or things, such as some apples are in the group of red things without the apple needing to be identical to the set of red things.
Proposed necessary conditions for performing jazz
- (N1) A jazz performance must be a musical performance; hence, if there is no music being played or performed, then there cannot be any jazz being played or performed either. This is necessary because it is an analytic truth that when jazz is used as a noun it includes and always refers to a specific genre of music. The sentence "Jazz is music" cannot be false because it is analytically true, therefore also a priori and necessary.
- (N2) A jazz performer necessarily intends to be performing jazz.
This intention can be conscious or unconscious. Under usual circumstances performing jazz musicians are self-consciously aware that she or he is playing jazz and are consciously intending to be so doing. Under unusual circumstances, such as a sleepwalking jazz sounding sonic event, a musician may fail to be consciously aware that he or she is playing jazz because they are asleep, so not be conscious of what current activities and actions are taking place by themselves. Walking sleepwalkers are not at that time consciously aware of their activities. We know this because sleepwalkers when told after waking up that they walked around the house while asleep, the sleepwalkers will be ignorant that this happened while they were sleeping. Nevertheless the sleepwalking person going down stairs must be unconsciously intentionally going down the stairs and unconsciously cognizant of the environment even when asleep in order for us to account for the sleepwalker's successful traversal of going down the stairs without falling and breaking his or her neck!
➢ Objection question: Why cannot a sleepwalking piano player be non-intentionally playing jazz on the piano, say from just using muscle memory?
Answer to Objection question: A possible answer to the objection question concerns what we might say if we found out a sleepwalking piano player was not unconsciously intentionally playing jazz piano. Our reaction could be that they are not playing jazz, but merely hitting piano keys that makes sounds, not music. With no intention, consciously or unconsciously to be producing music it seems as if no music could be being produced; only sounds from striking the piano keys.
To motivate this answer suppose a person has never seen a piano and never heard any music. Let us call this person who is entirely and completely ignorant of music Robinson Crusoe, who grew up on an island where music didn't exist. One day a fully functioning piano washes up on shore. Crusoe goes over and hits the piano keys for one minute, and by complete accident, Crusoe hits keys in the correct order so it sounds just like someone playing Thelonious Monk's tune "Misterioso." Would anyone correctly judge that Crusoe had just played music because he had just sounded like he had played Monk's tune? It doesn't seem intuitively right to claim this. If this intuition is correct, what is missing from the Robinson Crusoe scenario? Crusoe's ignorance of music in general, and ignorance of Monk's tune in particular, rules out that Crusoe played either music or that particular tune precisely because the scenario is missing Crusoe's intentions to be playing music and playing Monk's song. Of course, the problem with this so-called intuition is that it just ends up committing a fallacy of begging the question against the argumentative opponent who asked the original objection question, so that's a problem.
- (N3) In jazz, the performance is always primary over any pre-composed composition.
Interestingly, (N3) may be a non-musical parameter that is necessary for every jazz performance. This feature is put forward by well-known jazz musician, educator, and jazz theorist Dave Liebman. While explaining how best to understand jazz rhythmic techniques he points out a well known fact about jazz in general: where the composition is secondary to the performance itself.
“When one listens to music what are the key elements that a listener responds to aside from the obvious factors of volume and intensity? Beyond the actual notes played (melody and possibly harmony depending upon the music) there are two aspects that immediately affect any listener. This is especially true in an improvised art such as jazz where the composition is secondary to the performance itself. It is also true that these two elements are central to discerning the style and musical personality of the artist. In jazz, if we were to give five saxophonists the same notes to play in the same tempo and context, why would we immediately know that player one was Sonny Rollins while the other was for example Wayne Shorter?
The first impression that affects the listener is the sound emanating from the instrument. The tone that is heard is an extension of that artist’s voice and on a deeper level, their persona. This is why instrumentalists in any serious music spend so much time learning to control tone quality and sound. In the final result it is the voice of the performer through an instrument that is being heard.
In jazz after tone, it is what I call “time feel” that most expresses an artist’s unique conception. The manner in which the player rhythmically phrases is to an even larger degree more revealing than the actual melodic and harmonic content. It conveys a truly physical impression to the listener which is difficult to describe in words.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
The reason for (N3) is fundamentally because of jazz musician's focus on improvisation whereby the challenge is to produce meaningful and enjoyable music spontaneously even if it is based off of a pre-composed song. The challenge in jazz is always to be creative and this usually involves going beyond what is available solely in a pre-composed musical score.
➢ Could there be any jazz that violates (N3) and makes the composition primary over the performance?
It doesn't seem impossible at first glance. To make the case, first remove improvisation from the picture. There are plenty of jazz performances that do not deviate from playing an established musical score. Suppose we consider Hal Overton'sTown Hall concert of a composed Thelonious Monk tune where Overton has gone to considerable lengths to arrange, rehearse, and finally accurately present a sophisticated and exacting presentation of a Monk composition. Could not this be a case where the composition, its arrangement that has also been pre-determined and not spontaneously improvised, are primary over the performance of the Monk composition and Overton's arrangement?
Here is an argument that even in this case the performance will be primary. Suppose that even though there is no intended compositional improvisation that is supposed to take place a saxophone player, say Charlie Rouse, does a small embellishment that had not been in the pre-composed score or arrangement. This added embellishment is clearly part of the performance of the song. If this embellishment adds to the overall high quality of the music, then all parties concerned, namely, the composer (Monk), the arranger and conductor (Overton), the musicians involved in the performance (Rouse and everyone else active in the performance), the live audience attending the concert, and even all those who eventually purchase this recording will all approve of Rouse's embellishment if it positively contributes (which the counter-example assumes to be true). This proves that the performance is primary over the composition. On the other hand, if a classical trumpeter does any severe embellishment that cannot be found in Hayden's symphony, no one will approve her 'variation' away from the pre-composed musical score. This shows (N3) is a correct necessary condition for playing jazz.
- (N4) Jazz requires a built in tension between European diatonic and African pentatonic musical elements including promotion of a music culture that is neither this nor that, but somehow this and that, and something else, too.
(N4) is promoted by anthropologist and jazz researcher and multiply published author, Frank A. Salamone when he explains why jazz drummer Elvin Jones thinks that all of jazz could not follow into so-called free jazz. Here's what Salamone explains and concludes:
“Ultimately, "free jazz" music failed, largely because, as noted by Elvin Jones, one of its great stars, its success would have meant the death of jazz. Tension between European and African elements is required for jazz to exist (a culture that is neither this nor that, but somehow this and that, and something else, too).” (bold italic not in original)
- (N5) Jazz requires a juxtaposition of seemingly polar opposites and this is essential to the (survival of the) form.
Ultimately Salamone also supports (N5) because he finds it basically entailed by (N4) when he finishes off his support for N4 by promoting N5 as well:
“This juxtaposition of seemingly polar opposites is essential to the survival of the form.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
One could correctly presume from the title of Paul Rinzler's 2009 tome, The Contradictions of Jazz, that Rinzler's entire book provides reasons for believing N4 and N5 are necessary conditions for jazz.
An objection to N4 (and possibly N5) would be if free jazz still qualifies as jazz. In at least some free jazz, and probably in most of it, there is not a use of hybridizing of the European diatonic musical scale with an African pentatonic one. If free jazz is jazz and does not use a synthesis of diatonic and pentatonic scales then these are not necessary for playing jazz. Just for the record, using these two scales is not sufficient for jazz either since the blues uses both scales too and blues playing is not jazz playing.
- (N6) Jazz necessarily involves improvisation.
Unfortunately, N6 is false. Jazz can be performed as a complete musical work or performance with absolutely no improvisation as pointed out below by Gary Iseminger when investigating claims of Philip Alperson from Alperson's article "A Topography of Improvisation."
“Philip Alperson operates "under the assumption that jazz necessarily involves improvisation" ("A Topography of Improvisation," The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 68, No. 3 (SUMMER 2010), p. 280). Now it does not seem that it is an essential feature of any particular jazz performance that it involve improvisation: the status of a big hand performance as a jazz performance would not be compromised if the typically eight-bar-long solos were omitted or were not improvised. But what Alperson says elsewhere, that in jazz, "improvisation is at the center of the musical practice" ("A Topography of Improvisation," p. 274 emphasis added), seems just right. If the practice of jazz has an essence, improvisation is surely one of the most important constituents of it.
What shall we think about Iseminger's last claim? Is he now contradicting himself? Could improvisation fail to be a necessary condition for performing jazz while improvisation is still essential to performing jazz?
It does not have to be a contradiction. Iseminger is not changing his mind here. He steadfastly maintains that improvisation is not necessarily present in any one particular jazz performance. Still, he concurs with Alperson that improvisation lies at the very core of jazz performances, generally speaking. How is this reconcilable?
One way to prove that improvisation is essential to jazz even if it is not found in every jazz performance is to imagine a jazz musician who cannot improvise. A musician incapable of improvising would not be considered a jazz performer by all other jazz musicians. Hence, improvisational abilities are necessary to be a jazz performer, but not for jazz performances per se.
- (N7) Jazz players must necessarily be improvisers.
Fortunately, this strikes anyone who thinks about it briefly as necessarily true. Any musician who cannot improvise cannot be considered a jazz musician as typically conceived. The point of jazz talent is precisely to be able to create new previously uncomposed music on the spot.
“He hones in on jazz improvisation, beginning from a characterization of improvisatory activity in general, "spontaneous achievement within the constraints of the possible" ("A Topography of Improvisation," p. 274). moving to an account of improvisation in music, which can include "more or less minor ornamental embellishments to a composed work" (A Topography of p. 275), to the kind of improvisation characteristic of main-stream small group jazz of the last sixty years or so. in which we are beholding, as jazz pianist Bill Evans puts it, "the process of making one minute's music in one minute's time, whereas when you compose you can take one minute's music and take three months to compose it" ("A Topography of Improvisation," p. 275). We have "the sense that we are actually witnessing the shaping activity of the improviser. It is as if we in the audience gain privileged access to the performer's mind at the moment of creation" ("A Topography of Improvisation," p. 274).
Already we can see that, if this is an important part of what we appreciate in an improvised performance, we cannot say that "how it sounds" is all that matters. It matters as well that it is the result of spontaneous activity, for something analogous to Danto's exhibition of indiscernibles can easily be imagined where what we hear is not the result of the player's spontaneous activity but of the skillful reproduction of a product of someone else's spontaneous activity.” (bold not in original)
What Are Not Sufficient Conditions For Playing Jazz?
There is a long laundry list of bad possible answers to this question. The table below on the left states the alleged sufficient condition followed on the right by why it cannot be a sufficient condition because it doesn't guarantee jazz exists whenever that condition is satisfied.
There are at least two main reasons why sufficient conditions can fail to guarantee that jazz exists under those conditions. Either the condition is not specific enough to actually pick out jazz, such as were it to be claimed that riding a bicycle is sufficient for playing jazz. This fails to be sufficient since riding a bicycle is not a musical activity while playing jazz is such an activity. The other main reason why a sufficient condition can fail even were it to somehow pick out some jazz when it also picks out non-jazz music. Here's the type of example. It is claimed being a color is sufficient to be a red color. However, merely being colored by itself is insufficient for being a red color since blue is a color (thereby satisfying the alleged sufficient condition for being red), but being blue is not being red.
|Proposed Sufficient Condition for Playing Jazz||Reason(s) for Insufficiency|
|Playing a saxophone.||Other forms of music besides jazz can be played with a saxophone.|
|Using a swing rhythm.||Some non-jazz music uses a swing rhythm such as "Rumble in Brighton" rockabilly by Stray Cats.|
|Music played by African-American musicians.||African-American musicians sometimes play music other than jazz, for example soul and pop singer Al Green.|
|"Jazz is the sound of freedom"— Sidney Bechet||Since there is no such thing as the sound of freedom this does not help to define jazz. If something could be the sound of freedom what music gets ruled out? Can punk rock be the sound of freedom, too? If punk rock can be considered the sound of freedom, then this feature (the sounds of freedom) cannot be used to uniquely pick out a particular genre of music.|
|Music played with improvisation.||Some jazz has no improvisation, while some improvised music, as can be found in rock and roll or the blues, is not jazz.|
|Music developed around the turn of the 20th century in the United States.||Several genres of music developed around the turn of the century such as the blues, Ragtime, and Appalachian folk music including jug bands, honky tonk and bluegrass, and the early roots of country music. None of these are jazz genres.|
|A type of music of black American origin characterized by improvisation, syncopation, and usually a regular or forceful rhythm, emerging at the beginning of the 20th century.||Blues music that is not jazz can have forceful rhythms, syncopation, and improvisation and it too was primarily developed by African Americans.|
|Music that uses brass and woodwind instruments and piano, and sometimes guitar and occasionally violin.||Other forms of music besides jazz can be played with any or all of these instruments.|
|Music born out of and evolved through the African American experience in the U.S. from slave songs and spirituals (religious African American folk songs).||These same remarks can be said about the blues.|
|Jazz has an ability to absorb aspects of other music styles and transform them into something entirely new and different. Emerging in the first decades as an unpolished folk music, jazz reflected diverse influences.||Is the genre of jazz the only music that can transform other music into something different? No, country music can countrify a song, while blues music can bluesify it. Is there any other music besides jazz that is an unpolished folk music. Yes there is—some blues music can be considered unpolished folk music. Many types of music in addition to jazz reflect diverse influences, such as rock and roll, or soul music (influenced by gospel and church music).|
|Music directly resulting from West African influences on European derived music styles and popular American music.||While partially correct for jazz it is not sufficient for jazz since the same points are true of blues music which is not jazz.|
|Music resulting as a consequence of combining elements from Blues, marching bands, polkas, field hollers and work songs, religious music, ragtime and West African music.||Isn’t this at least somewhat true of rock and roll music?|
|An instrumental music that prides itself on strenuous virtuosity.||It is true that jazz strives to have highly accomplished musicians, but so do all other forms of music, especially classical orchestras, plus jazz is not always instrumental, but can include vocalists using lyrics.|
|“Jazz is a kind of music in which improvisation is typically an important part. In most jazz performances, players play solos which they make up on the spot, which requires considerable skill. There is tremendous variety in jazz, but most jazz is very rhythmic, has a forward momentum called "swing," and uses "bent" or "blue" notes. You can often hear "call-and-response" patterns in jazz, in which one instrument, voice, or part of the band answers another. (You can hear Ella Fitzgerald and Roy Eldridge do "call and response" in Ella's Singing Class.) Jazz can express many different emotions, from pain to sheer joy. In jazz, you may hear the sounds of freedom—for the music has been a powerful voice for people suffering unfair treatment because of the color of the skin, or because they lived in a country run by a cruel dictator.”||Other music improvises besides jazz. Other music besides jazz can be "very rhythmic," such as marches. Some jazz does not swing. Blues music uses "bent" and "blue" notes. Call and response can occur in non-jazz music, such as gospel or country. Many musics are taken to express emotions besides jazz, such as solemn or sad classical music. "The sounds of freedom" is a problematic conception, but conceivably can be found in other music such as punk rock, perhaps.|
|“Defining jazz is a notoriously difficult proposition, but the task is easier if one bypasses the usual inventory of musical qualities or techniques, like improvisation or swing. . . . More relevant are the boundaries within which historians, critics, and musicians have consistently situated the music. One such boundary, certainly, is ethnicity. Jazz is strongly identified with African-American culture, both in the narrow sense that its particular techniques ultimately derive from black American folk traditions, and in the broader sense that it is expressive of, and uniquely rooted in, the experience of black Americans. This raises important questions at the edges—e.g., how the contributions of white musicians are to be treated and, at the other end of the spectrum, where the boundary between jazz and other African-American genres (such as blues, gospel, and R & B) ought to be drawn. But on the whole, ethnicity provides a core, a center of gravity for the narrative of jazz, and is one element that unites the several different kinds of narratives in use today.”||Deveaux provides his own refutations for any suggestion that ethnicity would help to delineate jazz from other musical genres since jazz is not exclusively an African-American performed art throughout its entire history and non-jazz musics, such as blues and Gospel, are just as involved with predominantly African-American ethnicity.|
|“Jazz is a musical art form characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms, and improvisation. It has been called the first original art form to develop in the United States of America and partakes of both popular and classical musics. It has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, in African American music traditions, including blues and ragtime, and European military band music. After originating in African-American communities around the beginning of the 20th century, jazz gained international popularity by the 1920s. Jazz has also evolved into many sometimes contrasting subgenres including free jazz.”||Borisov provides an accurate description of important musical features found in jazz, but not all jazz improvises (Duke Ellington Orchestra), syncopates (free jazz), has blue notes (Latin jazz), swings (lots of jazz doesn't swing, not to be confused with still having a groove), call and response could be missing, probably even without polyrhythms you could still have jazz. So none of these conditions are necessary for jazz. But, could they be jointly sufficient? No, because if you add call and response to a Stray Cats rockabilly improvising performance with polyrhythms (syncopation is a form of polyrhythms), then you would still have Rockabilly, but not jazz. It is doubtful that jazz is the first original art form in the US, even if it is one of America's contributions to major musical art forms. Isn't the Blues an American art form and it is prior to jazz so would have a better claim of being first. If referring to the continental United States, then native americans had much earlier original art forms than jazz in clothing, sand paintings, ceremonial or war bonnet headdresses, weavings, jewelry, the list is endless. Even referencing the political United States prior to jazz there were (possibly 'original') art forms by Americans in glassblowing, horseshoe art, American Western wear, American gun engraving art (engraved 1873 Colt single action revolver and knife set commemorating the Abilene Centennial), and so on.|
|“Jazz is a musical form that relies on improvisation and rhythmic urgency. Improvisation is a primary way that jazz musicians express themselves, requiring them to be inventive and create music on the spot. Such musical artists often do this by changing melodies rhythmically or embellishing the melody. The rhythm of jazz is often syncopated, which is when accents occur on the off-beat, and it may be polyrhythmic, which is when multiple, contrasting rhythms occur at the same time.” (bold not in original)||These aspects mentioned are true of jazz, but also of other musics that are also improvised, syncopated, and inventively created, such as often found in improvised blues, improvised rockabilly, or improvised rock and roll.|
|A quiz at Study.com on the elements of jazz gives no correct answer for defining jazz in its choices. It is clear they think the first three answers each define jazz so that (4) is supposed to be the non-jazz answer.
* QUIZ QUESTION: Which of these is NOT a definition of jazz music?
|All four answers are problematic and fail to define or not define jazz. (1) is not adequate because it fails to rule out American blues, or American improvised rock and roll, or even American punk music that is spontaneously improvised. (2) refers to European American performance styles which is practically meaningless; there is no such one thing or performance style as this. What musicians when serious, as all jazz musicians are when performing, take a casual attitude towards the music? None. So, (3) does not define jazz. Lastly, (4) is not even false of jazz because there are plenty of strict rules of musical performance that are followed and practiced by jazz musicians, such as showing up on time, staying in rhythm, knowing where one is, etiquette of soloing, and so on, as well as conforming to many rules of musical production.|
|“Jazz: Born in America, jazz can be seen as a reflection of the cultural diversity and individualism of this country. At its core are openness to all influences, and personal expression through improvisation. Throughout its history, jazz has straddled the worlds of popular music and art music, and it has expanded to a point where its styles are so varied that one may sound completely unrelated to another. First performed in bars, jazz can now be heard in clubs, concert halls, universities, and large festivals all over the world.”
“The Birth of Jazz: New Orleans, Louisiana around the turn of the 20th century was a melting pot of cultures. A major port city, people from all over the world came together there, and as a result, musicians were exposed to a variety of music. European classical music, American blues, and South American songs and rhythms came together to form what became known as jazz.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
|Blues, which is not the same musical genre as jazz, can also be thought of as “a reflection of the cultural diversity and individualism of this country." It is false that jazz as a genre of music is “open to all influences." Jazz for example is not open to disco music, or Philip Glass's minimalism, or being repetitive and boring. It is not open to using high frequencies that humans cannot hear. It is not open to immoral practices for creating music. There are plenty of things jazz is not open to that could be an influence. Really there cannot be punk jazz where musicians who cannot play their instruments particularly well thrash around and try to play in a punk jazz style. It just doesn't work. |
Non-jazz music can still have improvisations with personal expression as in improvised rock and roll, such as the immediately personalized expression of the late blues rock star Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Are There Any Sufficient Conditions For Playing Jazz?
If one could find a set of musical properties such that everyone agrees that were all of these properties to exist concurrently within and during a musical performance that that performance would be jazz, then this might count as a sufficient set of conditions. An immediate problem with this proposal is its dependence on unanimity of all individuals doing the judging. It is well known that unanimity about musical performances being or not being jazz can be hard to come by especially for certain alleged sub-genres of jazz.
To avoid the need for unanimous judgment, consider a different tact. Suppose a set of musical conditions could be found that on the face of it most people would agree this conglomeration of conditions, when found in a musical performance, sounds like jazz to them, then challenge any nay-sayers to find a musical performance that most people agree fails to be jazz, but that meets all of the musical factors specified in the sufficient set of conditions under consideration. The idea simplified is this. Can anyone find a counter-example to a claim that a particular set of musical factors are always sufficient to guarantee jazz is being played? If the answer is that no counter-examples can be found, or at least, have yet to be found, this lends support and justification that this set of conditions is sufficient for jazz performance.
A sufficient condition for playing jazz
The three elements central to the jazz tradition are improvisation, syncopation, and the synthesizing and hybridizing of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales. For support of these three conditions as being central for understanding jazz see The Galactic Model for Defining Jazz and the Jazz Videos on "The Complexity of Defining Jazz" on the Galactic model by Dr. David C. Ring and Dr. Charles Otwell.
At the "Jazz in America" website it reports that jazz has been thought to result from the synthesis and sudden hybridization of the Euopean diatonic scale with an African pentatonic one.
“Jazz is a union of African and European music. From African music, jazz got its (1) rhythm and "feel" (2) "blues" quality, and (3) tradition of playing an instrument in [one's] own expressive way, making it an "extension" of [a] human voice. From European music, jazz got its (1) harmony, that is, the chords that accompany the tunes (e.g., the chords played on a piano). Jazz harmony is similar to classical music's harmony, and (3) most musical instruments . . . originated in Europe (e.g., the saxophone, trumpet, piano, etc.” (bold not in original)
If one considers a form of music that has all three of these (hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation) plus the performers are using what are called standard (jazz) harmonies, then this is a sufficient condition for being jazz music. The claim is that there is no music that features these four conditions that fails to be jazz. Seeing as how there are no counter-examples, this justifies this as a sufficient condition for jazz.
Because a blues player when playing blues, but not playing jazz, could be improvising, syncopating, and hybridizing the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, this proves these three conditions jointly are not always sufficient for playing jazz. If the fourth condition is added of using standard (jazz) harmonies, then it is claimed there are no non-jazz counter-examples to the claim of sufficiency, and such a musical performance would no longer be classified as playing the blues.
Circularity Objection to these as sufficient conditions for playing jazz
Isn't it cheating because of the circularity involved in the sufficiency conditions of jazz being contained in the definition of "standard jazz harmonies"? One cannot have a satisfactory set of sufficient conditions for playing jazz if it were claimed that it is sufficient for playing jazz whenever one is playing jazz. Isn't this basically all that is happening when the fourth condition is added of using standard jazz harmonies when defining jazz?
Reply to Circularity Objection
The answer to the question of circularity can be answered if a non-question begging way of characterizing standard (jazz) harmonies can be found.
➢ So, what are standard (jazz) harmonies?
- Jono Kornfeld's Basic jazz chords and progressions
- Jono Kornfeld on 7th chords
- Wikipedia on harmonization and jazz harmonization
The Ornette Sufficiency Condition
“Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but different each time,” said Ornette Coleman.
If this were true, that jazz is the only music where the same note can be meaningfully different each time it is played in the same song, would it prove as a sufficient condition for jazz?
Reasons to think the Ornette condition is sufficient for jazz
Ornette was not contemplating all possible musical genres when he made this remark. Neither was he actually thinking about what were sufficient conditions for playing jazz. There is no argument here yet. What can be added so that we can turn this into an argument that this Ornette condition would always make the music being played jazz?
For sure, it seems as if it is theoretically possible that one could pursue generating a non-jazz musical genre that satisfies the Ornette condition of a note being played a different way or having different musical effects each time a song is played. Suppose one does this with the blues genre. It may even be true that depending upon how the blues player is feeling that he or she might play a song's notes with different feelings and different musical meanings.
Reasons to think the Ornette condition is not sufficient for jazz
Why can't rock music have the same note mean different things meaningfully in the same song? It can and here is how. A star has a hit song at a fast pace, but when he gets older he plays the song at a slower pace. The same note now has meaningful differences during the same song contravening the Ornette condition for sufficiency for any music to count as jazz. In neither case of the rock star playing the same note more quickly or more slowly was he playing jazz. This proves as a counter-example to the Ornette sufficiency claim since the Ornette condition has been met (same note with different meaning), but the music failed to be jazz, so the Ornette condition was not sufficient to produce jazz.
Why the Rock Star counter-example fails to prove the insufficiency of the Ornette condition
What the Rock Star example proves is that non-jazz genres of music can have examples where the same note in the same song can have different meanings. Suppose this is conceded. Does it prove the Ornette condition is insufficient for jazz? No, it does not because to satisfy the Ornette condition requires more of a genre of music than the mere possibility of two occasions wherein the same note takes on different meanings in the same song. The Ornette condition has a more rigorous standard than that.
➢ What is this enhanced standard that requires more than the possibility of two different meaningful occasions of the same note during the same song?
What Ornette Coleman explicitly says is that jazz is the only music that could possibly satisfy the Ornette condition wherein one does play the same note each time but different each time. This does not require that a jazz musician does play the same note different each time and this is a good thing because often jazz musicians in the same song play the same note the same way with the same meaning. Ornette did not intend to be denying that music can never be played the same way twice because if he did this the non-jazz genres of music would satisfy the Ornette condition and then it could not be a sufficiency condition for jazz.
The challenge then becomes to attempt to modify the Rock Star example into a counter-example of this enhanced Ornette condition.
➢ The question then becomes, "Could a rock star each and every night play the same note to be meaningfully different in some way?
Here we should take pause. It is true that performers often perform the same song over time in a consistent way. This is to say much of the time the same note in the same song is not played in a meaningfully different way because it is and can be played in the same way. When people rehearse they are trying to consistently play the same note in a song in the same way and not in any sort of meaningfully different ways.
One might then object that this is merely an empirical matter. As a matter of fact, rock stars don't play the same note in the same song differently each time. It is not a matter of what actually happens, so it might be conceded that no non-jazz genres of music ever actually do play the same note differently on each occasion in the chosen song, but instead the question is whether it would be possible for a rock star while only playing non-jazz music to play the same note differently each time in the same song. One might be disinclined to believe this. It is easy and convenient, often required or demanded by producers, other band mates, as well as audience members that one play the same note in the same song in the same way.
➢ What about jazz? Are the same points about Rock above also true of jazz?
Arguably they are not true of jazz especially if the Ornette suffiency condition were true. In Ornette Coleman's actual case he might have actually never played a note in the same song the same way so that each performance had its own distinctive performance properties showing it to be possible for the Ornette condition at least to be satisfied by a jazz performer.
In summation, at least the following seems to be true. In Rock music it is unlikely that a performer would make each performance of the same note to have a different meaning during each playing of the same song. In jazz, on the other hand, it is possible that a jazz performer could have a distinctive playing of the same note with distinctively different features each time performed.
CONCLUSION: While the Ornette condition might not prove to be an absolute sufficiency principle it appears that it can be true of jazz and much less likely true of any other genre of music.
Is jazz a process?
It is uncertain what it means to claim jazz is a process and especially what the implications of this might be. Let's start with determining what processes are, apply this to jazz, and then try to fathom its implications.
What are processes?
Processes are activities using patterns and methods of routine and semi-routine actions. They can be technical, methodical, and semi-formal means of accomplishing goals. Thus, processes are series of actions, steps, or operations taken in order to achieve a particular end or goal state.
Dictionary.com defines process used as a noun to be:
- 1. A systematic series of actions directed to some end, as in "to devise a process for homogenizing milk."
- 2. A continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner, as in "the process of decay."
The processes of jazz
The great jazz improviser Walter Theodore "Sonny" Rollins maintains that jazz is a process.
““The process can be applied to anything—country songs, arias, anything,” he [Sonny Rollins] argues vigorously. “This is what makes jazz the greatest music in the world. It’s a force of nature; it has no boundaries. You can jazz anything up; you can improvise on anything. If a song happens to strike me in a certain way, I’ll use it, even if other people don’t think of it as a jazz tune.” (bold not in original)
Taking the meaning of process to be a series of actions taken to produce particular goals would make Rollin's belief be correct since jazz improvisations are themselves a series of directed actions striving to achieve particular goals.
➢ What are the goals of jazz improvisations?
The question remains, however, is jazz other than or more than just a process?
To address this topic, suppose some one made parallel claims for say, classical music or rock and roll. Could either of these be just a process? We know that there are processes involved for either classical or rock. Some of the processes involved in classical music are to set up an orchestra, have a conductor, rehearse each section of the orchestra, then rehearse all sections together and eventually produce a classical music performance. Would anyone ever then claim classical music is only a process? No, they would not and for the reasons that there is also a product that results from these processes, namely, classical music itself, either in the form of a score, or a recording, or the sounds heard during the applications of these processes. Additionally, you could have all of the classical music processes just described be used by an orchestra with a conductor that produces non-classical music. So, it cannot be that any music is only a process since these processes lead to different types of products and the products themselves, i.e., the type of music caused to exist is not itself a process, but the product resulting from the application of the relevant processes involved.
CONCLUSION: Jazz is more than just a process.
CONCLUSION: Not every song can be jazzed up and become jazz.
Someone might object that the problem has been misunderstood. It wasn't a question about whether a five piece jazz combo could play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but whether the Fifth symphony could be turned into jazz. Here we have a really nice thought experiment that could be actualized with enough resources in the actual world.
Can Beethoven's Fifth Symphony be turned into jazz?
➢ How could this be figured out with an argument that makes the conclusion's truth be more likely than not?
5th to Jazz THOUGHT EXPERIMENT #1: Get jazz musicians who also can play classical music well, such as Wynton Marsalis, who has won Grammy awards in Jazz and many classical recordings. Have them fill every seat of an orchestra capable of performing Beethoven's Fifth in a standard way. What now would you have them do differently to produce jazz? If you have them digress from the Beethoven score too much, then arguably they are no longer playing the Fifth. If you play the Fifth straight, then in the middle at an appropriate time you have someone like Wynton Marsalis play an improvisation that can be related to the Fifth symphony, then the full orchestra comes back to finish the score traditionally, then you have only produced a hybridized music of two genres, but definitely not classical music turned into jazz.
Because of the Fifth's countermelodies and complex harmonics intended to be achieved by Beethoven within particular parameters to change these too much is no longer to be performing the Fifth symphony. If each musician while performing starts to improvise the orchestra will have stopped playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, so how are you going to jazz up, or treat the Fifth to a jazz process, such that it turns this music into jazz?
Someone might object that the standard of both jazzing up the Fifth and requiring its song identity to more or less rigidly conform to Beethoven's sheet music is too inflexible a criteria for song identity in the jazz community. When jazz musicians improvise on a song and even change quite a bit about the song during a performance they often justifiably claim to have played that very song even if it does not so closely compare to the notes on the sheet music for it. Because of this higher laxity for song identification, perhaps with this reduced standard for song performance and identity improvising musicians could perform Beethoven's Fifth.
➢ How can Beethoven's Fifth be turned into Jazz?
The simple answer is that it can. A piano has sufficient 'orchestral' power so that it can develop and reproduce the main harmonic and other polyphonics such that a successful performance of the Fifth could be accomplished. However, it is still an open question as to whether it can be played in a jazz manner, as Sonny Rollins commits himself to holding in the above quotation. It may be improvising off of the Fifth, this is the claim anyway, the song will no longer sound close enough to competent judges ears to have been a performance of that orchestral work.
What you certainly can do is include references in a musical composition whereby some listener's musical memories are reminded of songs, such as if someone plays a little of the Hawaii 5-0 theme song, or the Beethoven Fifth riff of "Da, Da, Da, Daaaa" by Dr. Who on his guitar starting at 1:43 minutes through 1:50 (read left side of screen for time).
ASIDE: For the classic example of an orchestra claiming performance of a particular piece of music that they are clearly not playing listen to the Portsmouth Sinfonia (not) performing Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."
For comparison's sake, here is what the well played version with familiar melodies sounds like of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and here you can jump cut to the one minute spectacular ending where cannons can go off. You don't hear any of these components in the Portsmouth Sinfonia version.
CONCLUSION: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony may be difficult to turn into jazz.
Implications for jazz being a process
Joachim-Ernst Berendt (1922-2000) has attempted a definition of jazz, or at least a firm characterization of its musical aspects. The final element that he mentions in his characterization concerns the individuality of sonic expression.
“[Jazz] contains a sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician.” (bold not in original)
Let us take this dimension and explore it in some detail. Can individual sonority play a significant role in determining which music should and which music should not count as jazz?
Individual sonorities cannot be used to delineate jazz as a musical genre
Every musician, jazz or otherwise, sounds unavoidably like themselves by definition and most have their own quirky and idiosyncratic ways of playing their instrument and the resulting music. Still, many violinists have worried that they may not have as distinctive an individualized identifying sound as Jascha Heifetz had.
One of the truly remarkable things about Ornette Coleman is that he sounds like himself and how he plays music whether he is using his alto saxophone, trumpet, or violin! If this is true, then every form of music has individual sonorities occurring during their performance relating to the individuals involved who are producing the music and so this aspect of music making is hopeless for distinguishing between different genres of music.
For example, if Charles plays the piano in his own distinctively Charles generated way, then these individual sonorities will occur whether Charles is playing jazz or rock and roll, so individual sonorities cannot distinguish between different musical genres.
Individual sonorities can be used to delineate jazz as a musical genre
“Max Roach is part of this serious hierarchy of musical giants. All great instrumentalists have a superior quality of sound, and his is one of the marvels of contemporary music.” (bold not in original)
First, while the above reasoning regarding individual sonorities being idiosyncratic are generally speaking true, they are not always true because some people can play in other people's styles. There are performers who instead of playing like themselves can play in the musical style of someone else. For example, there is a piano player who can play so he first sounds like Earl Hines, then Art Tatum, and then Thelonious Monk. If so, then one does not always sound and play like oneself necessarily as argued above.
Second, the arguments given in the cannot section above misses the point being made about using individual phrasing to distinguish jazz as a genre of music. Let us develop the claim some more and see if Berendt's suggestion can be used to distinguish jazz as a musical genre from all other one's.
It is true that virtually everyone's singing voice sounds different from everyone else's singing voice. Unless we are having a vocal imitator, no two people are going to sound exactly alike when singing the same song. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Jimmy Rushing do not all sound alike. Now Mr. Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr. sound more like each other, but not identical sounding. Sinatra has crisper articulation of his lyrics than does Connick, who has more of a New Orleans accent than Sinatra's Hoboken one. If Frank is singing a non-jazz song he still sounds like Frank Sinatra. It follows that individual vocal styles cannot be used to distinguish jazz from non-jazz.
To get around and avoid this point, let us take vocals out of the picture and only consider instrumental music. Now can individual phrasing and distinctive sonorities be used to distinguish jazz from non-jazz?
Here we start to see that there may be something to this claim. Consider classical music and typical classic trumpet playing of a Hayden symphony. The trumpeter(s) during his or her performance is typically expected to play the piece cleanly with a relatively pure tone when producing the notes involved. Any classical trumpet player who added a lot of vibrato, growls, slurs, and bending of notes would be frowned upon by the conductor of the orchestra, nor would the typical classical listening audience appreciate these types of embellishments.
To the contrary, jazz musicians often use all of these embellishment techniques and they often need to do so because they are working with a hybridized musical scale system which has diatonic and pentatonic scales. To get in between these scales and to get from one to another sometimes requires slurring of notes, or blue notes. This is something that classical players (typically) do not do. Furthermore, much jazz has been related to vocalizations where the human voice is not staying within any particular musical scale system. Additionally, jazz musicians often wish to relate their music to sounds heard in the external environment such as trains, birds, wolf whistles, and instrumental or voices that growl, sing, whisper, slur, and uses of glissando.
Having one's own distinctive and easily recognizable personal 'sound' is a goal towards which (virtually) all (good) jazz musicians strive. It is relatively easy to recognize in just a few bars if the player is Miles Davis, or Bill Evans, or John Coltrane, etc.French music critic, record producer, and impresario Hughes Panassié agrees with the point
“No music could be real jazz if it did not swing, but there was more than one way for a band to do so. Real jazz could be played straight or hot. To play "straight" meant "playing the piece just as it is written, without modifying it." Straight performances were tied to the notes on the page, yet they could be done in a swinging style. To play hot "means to play with warmth, with heat" and was based on variations of melody and intonation that were improvised anew with each performance." Although both hot and straight were still real jazz because both were based on swing, Panassié elevated hot music as the ultimate form. It came from the personalized interpretation of a composition given to it by each musician rather than merely playing the notes as they appeared on the page. Hot jazz, he said, came from the musician's soul. (bold and bold italic not in original)Famous music theorist, Gunther Schuller, in his Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for "Jazz," emphasizes the relevance and significance of individualized musical
“Most early classical composers (such as Aaron Copland, John Alden Carpenter—and even Igor Stravinsky, who became smitten with jazz) were drawn to its instrumental sounds and timbres, the unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and stringless ensembles), and its syncopations, completely ignoring, or at least underappreciating, the extemporized aspects of jazz. Indeed, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instruments—the way they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notes—characterize jazz playing to such an extent that if a classical piece were played by jazz musicians in their idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.” (bold not in original)Well known music critic Robert Palmer writes that during Ornette Colemen's quartet's Five Spot cafe in 1959 that a notable feature amongst many distinctive features was the use of individualized sounds during their performances.
“This new approach to group playing looked ahead with its polyrhythms, geared to exploration rather than to predetermined patterns, and its melodies that proceeded through a complex of unstated modulations rather than riding on a cushion of traditional chord progressions. But the music looked back through the jazz tradition with its collective improvisations and its personal, speechlike approach to intonation and phrasing, so much like the ensemble and solo styles of the early Southern and Southwestern blues and jazz musicians.” (bold not in original)
Saxophonist (primarily tenor), George Coleman, tells Kermit Ruffins at an interview for the NEA about hearing Charlie Parker's individual sound for the first time and how it motivated him to become a jazz player on the saxophone.
“GEORGE COLEMAN: Then I heard Charlie Parker. And Charlie Parker was it for me.
RUFFINS: 2015 NEA Jazz Master, George Coleman.
COLEMAN: Well, it was his improvisational prowess and his fantastic technique on alto saxophone and the sound was so unique.
RUFFINS: That sound is what inspired Coleman to pick up his own sax and blow. (bold not in original)
So, it may not be so far fetched to include as an aid for determining which genre of music one is listening to if we include that the music has players using distinctively recognizable sonic and idiosyncratic musical techniques and sounds, as stated at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History website.
“THE NATURE OF JAZZ: Jazz musicians place a high value on finding their own sound and style, and that means, for example, that trumpeter Miles Davis sounds very different than trumpeter Louis Armstrong (whose sound you can hear in Louis's Music Class.) Jazz musicians like to play their songs in their own distinct styles, and so you might listen to a dozen different jazz recordings of the same song, but each will sound different. The musicians' playing styles make each version different, and so do the improvised solos. Jazz is about making something familiar--a familiar song--into something fresh. And about making something shared—a tune that everyone knows—into something personal. Those are just some of the reasons that jazz is a great art form, and why some people consider it "America's classical music." (bold not in original)
Miles Davis reports that all of his favorite jazz men have their own distinctive and individualizing sound on their instruments.
“Just like Trane's style was his own, and Bird's and Diz's their own, I don't want to sound like nobody but myself, whatever that is.” (bold not in original)
“Bebop is the music of revolt: revolt against big bands, arrangers . . . Tin Pan Alley—against commercialized music in general. It reasserts the individuality of the jazz musician . . . ” (bold not in original)
In his book, A History of Jazz Music 1900-2000, Piero Scaruffi writes that jazz intentionally tried to reflect timbral properties of the human voice.
“Compared with European music, that for centuries had "trained" the voice to sound as perfect as the instruments, jazz music moved in the opposite direction when it trained the instruments to sound as emotional as the human voice of the blues.” (bold not in original)
Evidence for this stress on individualized musical expression and personalized sound can be found in responses to Blindfold tests given to jazz musicians by Downbeat and elsewhere. During the musician's analysis and reactions to music they are hearing without any prior knowledge of what was going to be played to them, they often remark things like "I knew from the use of these particular musical techniques that the drummer was . . . " or "that is either Sonny Rollins or someone who has studied a lot of Sonny's licks, etc."
Here are some actual examples from Downbeat magazine and elsewhere as to what musicians have said about personal styles while trying to identify the players involved in the music they just heard.
DOWNBEAT BLINDFOLD TESTS identifying musicians by an individualized sound: 
In these blindfold tests, the (blindfolded) musician responding has not been informed prior what would be played. The interviewer then elicits information and evaluations about what was played. Notice how frequently the blindfolded musician resorts to responding with an individual person's style of playing supporting the importance of this point for and how that person has represented a style of playing. Even when discussing what someone else may be copying or imitating or just mirroring unknowingly, the blindfolded refer to "what this or that musician plays like." It may be used in reference to more than just one aspect of a person's performance including sounding like something the blinfolded judger identifies with a particular person's distinctive sound, or style, or technique, or sonic properties.
These are not all the same things, that is, techniques differ from sonic properties because someone could use two different "techniques" on the same instrument to produce the same "sonic effect."
- Sonny Rollins' Blindfold test in Downbeat 1966: 
Duke Ellington, "Lady Mac," from "Such Sweet Thunder," Columbia Records, with Russell Procope, alto saxophone; Clark Terry, trumpet.
Sonny Rollins: “This record is immediately recognizable as having a Duke Ellington sound. The soloists sound like Russell Procope, possibly, and Clark Terry on trumpet. It's very important to have a sound that you can recognize immediately, and, of course, Duke is an institution now in music.” (bold not in original)
- Roy Eldridge's Blindfold test in Downbeat 1966:
Afterthoughts by Roy Eldridge: “I guess I'll have to go along with you, Leonard—you can't tell just from listening to records [whether the musicians are white or black]. But I still say that I could spot a white imitator of a colored musician immediately. A white musician trying to copy Hawkins, for instance. And, in the same way, I suppose I could recognize a colored cat trying to copy Bud Freeman. I can only talk about individual sounds that have made it, highly individualized sounds. But you take a sound like Tommy Dorsey gets—any good musician could get that. OK, you win the argument [about being able to identify the race of a musician only by listening; you cannot]!” (bold not in original)
3) Dizzy Gillespie. Medley: I Can't Get Started / Round Midnight from 'Something Old - Something New.' (With James Moody on alto.)
Monk: “Dizzy, he had a crazy sound, but he got into that upper register, and the upper register took the tone away from him. That was the Freddy Webster sound too, you know, that sound of Dizzy's. (Later) That's my song! Well, if that's not Diz, it's someone who plays just like him. Miles did at one time too.”
Leonard Feather: “You like the way they put the two tunes together?”
Monk: “I didn't notice that. Play it again. (Later) Yes, that's the Freddy Webster sound. Maybe you don't remember Freddy Webster; you weren't on the scene at the time.
5) Phineas Newborn. Well, You Needn't from the 'Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn' on Contemporary.
Monk: “He hit the inside wrong - didn't have the right changes. It's supposed to be major ninths, and he's playing ninths (walks to the piano, demonstrates). It starts with a D-flat Major 9 . . . See what I mean? What throws me off, too, is the cat sounds like Bud Powell. Makes it hard for me to say anything about it. It's not Bud; it's somebody sounding like him. . . . (Later) It's crazy to sound like Bud Powell, but seems like the piano player should be able to think of something else too. Why get stuck with that Bud Powell sound?”
8) Denny Zeitlin. Carole's Garden from 'Carnival' on Columbia. (With Jerry Granelli, drums).
Monk: “No, but you need that kind too . . . It reminded me of Bobby Timmons, and that's got to be good. Rhythm section has the right groove too. Drummer made me think of Art Blakey. Hey, play that again. (Later) Yeah! He sounds like a piano player! (Hums theme) You can keep changing keys all the time doing that. Sounds like something that was studied and figured out. And he can play it; you know what's happening with this one. Yeah, he was on a Bobby Timmons kick. He knows what's happening. (bold not in original)
- Marian McPartland's oral history in 1997 and 1998 from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History describes Teddy Wilson's sound/style.
“I used to sit by the record player. . . . That’s how I heard all the great players, was on I think a wind-up gramophone, . . . Teddy Wilson, of course. I used to sit hours trying to do what he did, play some of those little sparkly runs. (bold not in original)
2. Clifford Brown. “Stockholm Sweetnin” from Clifford Brown Memorial ; Prestige). Arne Domnerus, alto; Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, trumpet; Lars Gullin, baritone; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Gunnar Johnson, bass; Jack Noren, drums; Quincy Jones, composer. Recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953.
Mingus: “I heard a trumpet player up in the front that sounded like Art Farmer. The second solo? I don’t think I liked it as much as the first. Not that it matters . . . My opinion doesn’t matter much. What’s Lee Konitz doing on a record with these guys? . . . The rhythm section has no guts at all.
The baritone player sure has a lot of warmth; could it have been Gerry Mulligan?
Well, I just like Art Farmer so very much—that little airy sound he gets in the front of the notes—I like him even if he is old fashioned and doesn’t know it. (bold not in original)
I’ll tell you why I know Duke [Ellington] isn’t here. You listen to that record of Duke’s that came out a while ago with Dizzy on it, and hear the way Duke comps in there. There’s a lot of young cats around that could learn from the way Duke comps. This cat on the Hodges record [it was Billy Strayhorn on piano] played every chorus on the blues and played it different; he didn’t create nothing; that’s why I knew the piano player wasn’t Duke, that it was just anybody trying to cop out.
- Miles Davis's third Blindfold test (first and second in Downbeat Sept. 21, 1955 and Aug. 7, 1958) interviewed by Leonard Feather in Downbeat June, 1964:
7. Eric Dolphy, "Mary Ann" from the album "Far Cry, New Jazz" with Booker Little, trumpet; Dolphy, composer, alto saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano.
Miles Davis: “That's got to be Eric Dolphy—nobody else could sound that bad! The next time I see him I'm going to step on his foot. You print that. I think he's ridiculous. He's a sad motherfucker.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
- Miles Davis's fourth Blindfold test interviewed by Leonard Feather in Downbeat Part 1, June 13, 1968:
3. Archie Shepp, "The Funeral," from the album "Archie Shepp in Europe", Delmark, recorded 1963 with Don Cherry, cornet; John Tchicai, alto saxophone; Shepp, tenor saxophone.
“You're putting me on with that! . . . I know who it is - Ornette, fucking up the trumpet and the alto. I don't understand that jive at all. The guy has nice rhythm on saxophone.” . . .
Leonard Feather: “Actually, you got that one wrong—it wasn't Ornette. It was an Archie Shepp date with John Tchicai on alto and Don Cherry on trumpet.”
Miles Davis: “Well, whoever it is, it sounds the same—Ornette sounds the same way. That's where Archie and them got that shit from; there sure ain't nothing there.” (bold not in original)
- Miles Davis's fourth Blindfold test interviewed by Leonard Feather in Downbeat Part 2, June 27, 1968:
2. Sun Ra, “Brainville” on Sun Song, Delmark, recorded in 1956 with Dave Young, trumpet; Sun Ra, composer.
Leonard Feather: “Do you think that's a white group?”
Miles Davis: “The trumpet player didn't sound white. . . . I don't know, man. You know, there's a little thing that trumpet players play to make a jazz sound, that if you don't have your own sound, you can hear an adopted jazz sound, which is a drag, especially in the mute. I mean you can tell when a guy's got his own thing.” (bold not in original)
7. Sonny Stitt, "I Never Knew" from The Complete Roost Sonny Stitt Sessions, on Mosaic, recorded in 1959; released 2001. Stitt, tenor saxophone; Jimmy Jones, piano; Roy Haynes, drums.
Branford Marsalis: “He's got the Gene Ammons and the Charlie Parker, which equals Sonny Stitt. Go ahead, Sonny! The vibrato was like that Chicago blues swinging funky-gritty thing, and there's that Kansas City kickin' jump blues feeling. (bold not in original)
Why Rock musicians have less emphasis on having a personal idiosyncratic musical style
Again, it is granted that vocally most people's singing has a very distinctive and recognizable style. Rock musicians such as Rod Stewart can be recognized by his voice in just a few notes. Still, the voices of some other singers can sound like Rod.
Sometimes in rock the performers are intended to stay within a certain style of singing. This is shown most definitely in the movie Rock Star (2001) starring Mark Wahlberg as Izzy.
“After the end of the tour, Izzy [played by Mark Wahlberg] reports to the next series of Steel Dragon recording sessions with song concepts and artwork for the band's next album. The rest of the band rejects Izzy's ideas, with Kirk explaining that the band has to stay true to the "Steel Dragon thing" to fulfill fan expectations. Izzy is angered upon realizing that he was only recruited for his vocal abilities.” (bold not in original)
In the movie it is made really clear that his new band only want Wahlberg to sing in the style and manner of the band's previous lead vocalist and they do not want him to sound like himself.
This same sort of thing happened to Lester Young when he joined Fletcher Henderson's band and he was replacing the more muscular tenor saxophone sound of Coleman Hawkins. Of course, Lester, being Lester, just ignored the advice and stuck to his own style of playing, much to the relief of jazz history. However, he still got fired!
“Henderson’s musicians were used to the big tenor sound of Coleman Hawkins, but Lester’s sound was lighter and thinner. And even though they recognized his enormous talent, they were not happy with his sound. They thought that the saxophone section lacked a proper bottom because his tenor sounded almost like an alto. So in the end, Henderson had to let him go, and take in Ben Webster instead.
It is true that instrumentally many musicians in non-jazz genres often have their own highly distinctive sound such as Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughn, or Leo Kottke on guitar. Consequently, it remains unclear how to incorporate the criteria of distinctiveness into any definition using this chacteristic into a definition for jazz.
CONCLUSION: Nevertheless, it remains true that jazz players are renowned for having personal styles of playing and a personal sound so this feature seems relevant when attempting to characterize jazz.
Why jazz musicians have more emphasis on having a personal idiosyncratic musical style
In their Jazz 12th edition textbook, which is a significant achievement, authors Paul O. W. Tanner and David W. Megill, present their case for the importance of individual musical expression within jazz. This is not to say that other musical genres, such as rock or classical music, do not have musicians known for their sound, such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, or Yo-Yo Ma, but that this is a genuine phenomena in jazz and may assist in helping to distinguish it from other genres even if it is not unique to jazz.
“In classical music, each instrument has an "ideal" sound or tone, or at least there is a consensus as to what the ideal sound is. The jazz musician, though, finds such conformity of little importance. As long as the sound communicates well with peers and listeners, the jazz musician appreciates the individuality of personal sounds. This situation, in which personal expression is more important than aesthetic conformity, often causes listeners not accustomed to jazz to questions the sounds that they hear.
Certain sounds peculiar to jazz have their origins in oral tradition and are the result of instrumentalists attempting to imitate vocal techniques. Jazz singers and instrumentalists use all the tone qualities employed in other music and even increase the emotional range through the use of growls, bends, slurs, and varying shades of vibrato, employing any device they can to assist their personal interpretation of the music. Jazz musicians have always had a great affinity with good singers, especially those whose interpretation closely resembles their own. Such singers include the early great blues singers and other talented performers such as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, and Betty Carter.
Distinctive jazz instrumentation produces unique sounds. For example, a featured saxophone section or a rhythm section is seldom found in other types of music. Although it is a mistake to claim that trumpet or trombone mutes are indigenous to jazz (mutes were used in the 1600s), it is true that a larger variety of mutes are used in jazz.
To many listeners, the sounds of jazz are personified and identified through the musical interpretation of specific artists. Listeners who have not heard much jazz are often surprised that the well-initiated can recognize a soloist after hearing only a few notes—at least within the listener’s preferred style. Talented jazz musicians seem to have their own personal vibrato, attack, type of melodic line, choice of notes in the chord—indeed, their own sound.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Let's review Tanner and Megill's points.
- In contrast to classical music, jazz musicians incorporate many sonic embellishments rather than having the purer tone of a classical musician. Jazz musicians do this often as a means to imitate or relate to vocalizations, but also because their use of the diatonic with a pentatonic musical scale can utilize these techniques (slurring etc.) as a means for transitioning between the two musical scales.
- There are at least two main reasons why this is done. First, it makes it musically possible and effective to increase the range of emotionally expressive sounds. Perhaps this is because they relate to the human voice which is capable of expressing a wide range of emotions from a wailing sadness to joyful exuberance and everywhere in between.
- Second, great jazz musicians over time develop a distinctively personal sound and style that distinctively identifies them with their playing. This individual sound is an aesthetically appealing feature of jazz musician's musical performances.
➢ Why is this true? What is aesthetically good about having a personalized musical sound and identifiable style?
Amazon Echo's definition of jazz
Amazon's Echo device when asked "Alexa, What is jazz?" replies with this answer in 2017 taken directly from the opening sentence on Wikipedia's Jazz page.
“Jazz is a music genre that originated in African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime.”
➢ Why would Echo use this as an answer to the question of what is jazz? Does this definition pick out all and only jazz?
Let's assess the merits of the Echo (really Wikipedia's) proposed definition for jazz.
➢ What in the definition is indisputably true and what is suspect or problematic?
- Jazz is indeed American music and was first developed in the United States of America.
- Jazz did develop out of musical influences from 'roots' music, of ragtime, and the blues.
- Early jazz development did take place in New Orleans, Louisiana.
➢ Was early jazz as a musical form exclusively developed in the city of New Orleans?
It is suspect, and unlikely that all of the musical developments of early jazz happened exclusively in one geographical location, namely in and around New Orleans. Other geographical locations certainly could be mentioned as possibly relevant when discussing early jazz development. These locations would include Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and so on.
Furthermore, since significant parts of jazz are influenced by African musical influences, as well as Caribbean musical influences by way of Africa, and the blues was not only developed in New Orleans so early jazz wasn't centrally exclusive to New Orleans. Since the blues has important influences on the development of early jazz, no one should put all of the early jazz eggs into the one basket of the New Orleans crucible.
➢ Is the Amazon Echo definition of jazz a good one or not?
André Hodeir's Definition of Jazz
French violinist, composer, arranger, musicologist, and music critic, André Hodeir, was an early jazz theorist and one of a very few theorists who willingly tried to define jazz. Lee B. Brown reports that he even used arguments!
“Although out of date on major points, [André Hodeir] was the journalist/theorist of the late twentieth century who was willing to make bold and penetrating generalizations about jazz and to defend them with actual arguments.” (italics are authors; bold and bold italics not in original)
Lee B. Brown reports that André Hodeir rejected what Brown calls Afropurism, namely that American jazz was primarily or exclusive African influenced musically.
“Influential critics of the 1930s and 1940s argued that the purest jazz is the kind that lies closest to its African roots. This claim they typically combined with a characteristic picture of the African “soul.” The Afropurists saw jazz improvisation, for instance, as a manifestation of untrammeled spontaneity, devoid of the benefits of training and skill, and undistorted by European musical culture. For such a view, see Jazz from the Congo to the Metropolitan by the French critic Robert Goffin who believed that the “real” jazz musician is able to “whip himself up” into a complete state of primitive “frenzy” as he plays (1944, p. 124). Ted Gioia’s The Imperfect Art (1988) does a nice job of profiling this perspective.  (bold and bold italic not in original)
Both Hodeir and Brown reject that American jazz was primarily either mostly African or mostly European. Both see jazz as a genuine synthesis and hybridization of both African musical elements (pentatonic scales, polyrhythms, vocalizations using instruments, slides between diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, including sounds between the white and black keys on a piano) and European musical practices (diatonic musical scale, emphasis on harmony, most jazz instruments). Brown points out that American jazz is not purely either African or European so that a purist version of either position cannot succeed.
“It is worth adding that Hodeir’s argument against Afropurism, if sound, ought to be equally telling against Europurism. It makes no more sense to say that in jazz we hear a genuinely European soul expressing itself in an alien African context [i.e., Europurism] than it does to say that we hear in it a genuinely African impulse breaking through the surface of a European interference [i.e., Afropurism]. . . . Unhappily, even Hodeir never overcame a strain of Eurocentrism that treated jazz as a slight second-class citizen when compared with “serious” European music. But he would have regarded a Europurist view of the elements of jazz as nonsense. (bold and bold italic not in original)
“There is almost no doubt that it was primarily African Americans who invented jazz. However, Afropurists who attempt to find jazz elements intact in African music may be chasing chimeras. As Hodeir puts it, such purists ought, in principle, to legislate against every non-African element that appears in the music. Defenders of the earliest jazz, who famously objected to the more ambitious harmonic agendas of mid-century modernist jazz, for example, Bebop, had to face the fact that even King Oliver’s early recordings already contain dangerous diminished sevenths. Indeed, the purist ought not to accept Western keys or chords of any kind in “real” jazz. (bold not in original)
While denying an Afro or European purism to jazz, Hodeir and Brown concur that American jazz has been significantly influenced by African musical practices, so Brown attempts to catalogue these African musical influences.
“However, the scholarly question that lies behind issues about Afropurism remains: Which, if any, features of jazzcan be found in African practice? Most agree that the call-and-response patterns heard in African music are widely felt in jazz—for instance, in the typical use of the “riff” in jazz, as well as in the practice of “trading fours,” where a pair of improvisers play four-bar segments in alternation. . . . It is also possible that African roots can be detected in what [Gunther] Schuller calls the “democratization” of note values”. He is referring here to the habit of boosting many weak beats up and making them nearly equivalent to, or even stronger than, strong beats. He speculates that players thus partly satisfied, within the alien framework of the European metrical system, the impulse to generate self-propelled African polyrhythms (see Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development, Gunther Schuller, New York: Oxford University Press, 1968, pp. 15–16).” (bold not in original)
How jazz differs from African and European musical influences
“In many fundamentals, however, African music is quite different from European music and from jazz. In most European concert music, rhythm imposes order on sounds that form musical episodes and thereby assists, through metrical contrast, in the generation of large dramatic designs—as exemplified by the broad metrical changes in a classical symphony. By contrast, although African music may gradually change rhythmically over the course of a “performance,” it does not make use of dramatic shifts from one rhythmic pattern to another as an organizational principle. Instead, rhythm is an engine for the liberation of musical values on a continuous basis. In European music, rhythmic deviations only make sense given measures divided with regularity into certain numbers of beats. Within this context, such music can be polyrhythmic—as when three beats are sounded against four. But African music begins with the idea of superimposed rhythmic patterns. This gives rise to hierarchies of such complex interaction that a time lapse between a beat in one line may regularly occur only a fraction of a second after the occurrence of a beat in a parallel line without the former becoming absorbed into the orbit of the latter. (bold not in original)
Jazz uses a rhythmic pattern not found in African music known as swing explained by André Hodeir using a infrastructure/superstructure model.
“This last feature of African music also exemplifies a different kind of rhythmic complexity from that of jazz. African music, in its original, un-Westernized forms, did not make use of European metric patterns, such as march time. Jazz, however, does so—in a specific way, namely through an interaction between these patterns and beats pointedly placed at odds with them. A major result of the interaction of these practices is the characteristic rhythm known as swing. Hodeir explains swing with the help of an infrastructure/superstructure model, according to which, in jazz, notes in the superstructure are eccentrically placed above a relatively steady rhythmic base in the infrastructure, typically in 2/4 or 4/4 time. (Obviously, 3/4 and 5/4 also work.) The result of an effective placement of notes in the superstructure is that musical phrases are felt as moving independently of the underlying pulse and then as being recaptured by it, so that the strata catalyze each other. Igor Stravinsky was speaking of swing in this broad sense in his Poetics of Music, when he describes the giddy sensation we register when jazz tries “persistently to stress irregular accents,” but “cannot succeed in turning our ear away from the regular pulsation of the meter drummed out by the percussion.” The overall effect is a distinctive and recognizable kind of pleasure. Citing an article by Lucien Malson in Les Temps Modernes, Hodeir suggests that in swing we may have an example of “one of the Freudian paradoxes: an unpleasant tension which is associated with pleasure that is, with a partial relaxation” (Evolution and Essence, 1956, p. 196). (bold not in original)
“The relationship between tempo and swing can be modified by variations in rhythmic strategy—as when a soloist doubles his or her pace in relationship to an unchanging tempo in the rhythm section or maintains a slow tempo, but complicates the playing with quavers and semiquavers. Special interest can be aroused if the pulsation is not always beaten out explicitly, as in “stop-time breaks.” The general point is that jazz rhythm reflects a unique interaction between European and African practice. (bold not in original)
Lee B. Brown and André Hodeir both find that blues tonality, while easily found in jazz performances by musician's tendencies to flatten notes at the third, seventh, and fifth intervals of a tempered scale as a result of the synthesizing of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales and this practice is not prevalent in African music.
“The way originally distinct African and European practices are transfigured in jazz by their interaction might well also be part of any solution to the question about the source of blue tonality in jazz, that is, the tendency, in different degrees, to flatten notes at the third, seventh, and sometimes fifth intervals of the tempered scale. Hodeir notes, by the way, that from a purist’s standpoint, these flatted notes ought to be regarded as “just as impure as the ‘altered notes’ of modern jazz” sounded to the later “believer in ‘original purity’” (1956, p. 42). In other words, attempts to locate blue tonality intact in African musical practice have not proven notably successful. (bold not in original)
“But if the explanation is the interaction of Western with non-Western scalar practices, then what non-Western practices? Some theorists (e.g., Hodeir and Mark Gridley) cite pentatonic tonality. But an alternative might be so-called quarter-tone scales, or scales that use the so-called neutral third—a tone, or family of tones, that falls somewhere between a major and a minor third when measured on a familiar tempered scale. So at least some blue notes may represent attempts to strike tones that lie in the cracks between the keys of a piano. String instrument players, guitars for example, have a chance to investigate what lies in the cracks. . . . If this is right, then the textbook representations of a so-called blue scale as it would be played on a tempered keyboard is really a conventionalization of something more elusive.” (bold not in original)
“When we turn to jazz melody, it is well known that there is a peculiarly close relationship between speech and music in African music and jazz. In jazz, horns are taught to speak—a fact that Duke Ellington made an essential part of his writing for “growling” brass instruments. By a reverse twist, jazz singers learned to imitate growling horns. One likely reason for the emergent character of jazz melody is that European melodic material is also skewed by other jazz qualities—which themselves already represent the interaction of African and European qualities, for example, jazz rhythm. The melodies characteristic of improvised jazz reflect the way players toy rhythmically with the musical line, for instance. (bold not in original)
Young and Matheson's Definition of Jazz
“Nevertheless, problems beset the theory, which even its authors seemed to recognize. First, much jazz music fails to conform to the canonic model. Consider “free” jazz of the sort first attempted by Lennie Tristano in 1949. We might treat such a performance as being of a work that can only have one performance, but this is an awkward implication surely. Part of the point of a free jazz performance after all is that it is not of a preexistent work. Second, there exist performances—Coleman’s recorded version of “Lonely Woman,” for instance—not based on any harmonic chord changes but rather on motifs. Perhaps the motific model and the harmonically based canonic model can be given a common characterization, but it is not obvious how to do so.” (Lee B. Brown from "Jazz," The Encyclopedia of Music, edited by Michael Kelly, 2012)
How to marry the harmonic and motivic models using a Young and Matheson style definition
In the same way that a loose tacit set of instructions can be followed and constitute the exemplifications of a particular jazz tune, a similar set of loose standards can be applied to whether one has played a free jazz tune.
➢ What would these loose set of standards be?
We know what they are not! Free jazz players are not permitted to play only the standard changes to the song "Honeysuckle Rose." If someone did this he or she would not be playing free jazz.
To effectively be playing free jazz one needs to express themselves in a musically meaningful way. One should not be too boring or too uncreative, or too inexpressive, and so on. What really counts is that one needs not to be following some pre-determined set of musical chords and notes but rather plays without reference to these.
➢ What are the conventions and loose set of tacit instructions that free players follow when playing together?
“Much jazz music fails to conform to the canonic model. Consider “free” jazz of the sort first attempted by Lennie Tristano in 1949. We might treat such a performance as being of a work that can only have one performance, but this is an awkward implication surely. Part of the point of a free jazz performance after all is that it is not of a preexistent work. Second, there exist performances—Coleman’s recorded version of “Lonely Woman,” for instance—not based on any harmonic chord changes but rather on motifs. Perhaps the motific model and the harmonically based canonic model can be given a common characterization, but it is not obvious how to do so.” (bold not in original)
➢ What common characterization can be given to both harmonic and motivic canonical models?
Why not use as the 'commom characteristic' that whether a jazz improviser is performing harmonically or motivically they are still using/following a loose set of tacit instructions. In an harmonic improvisation, a musician strives to follow the set of chord changes as a structure within which one makes changes rhythmically and melody-wise. In a motivic improvisation, a musician develops new musical patterns that themselves generate patterned themes that produce motifs.
What is a musical motif?
A musical motif (pronounced 'moh-teef') (or motive) is a short succession of notes producing a single impression. It is a short musical idea existing as a salient recurring figure, subject, or theme. It is a musical fragment or succession of notes that takes on special importance within a musical composition. A motif can be considered the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity. What makes a musical motif significant and recognizable results from its being a distinctive and recurring form, shape, and figure, within an existing musical design. Motifs are dominant ideas or features relating to a particular recurring musical pattern. It is typically a brief melodic or rhythmic formula out of which longer passages are developed. An example of a motif is a pattern against which one then plays a counter-melody. Synonyms for "motif" include theme, idea, concept, subject, topic, leitmotif, or even element.
Assessment of Thomas E. Larson's characterization of jazz
Thomas E. Larson points out that “jazz is difficult to define, especially today, because it is performed in so many styles and its influence can be heard in so many other types of music [making] it nearly impossible to come up with a set of hard and fast rules.”
Nevertheless, Larson continues by suggesting that to define jazz “it is helpful to think of a set of loose guidelines that are followed to one degree or another. Five basic guidelines for defining jazz are (1) Improvisation, (2) Rhythm, (3) Dissonance, (4) Jazz Interpretation, and (5) Interaction.”
But Larson’s inclusion of interaction is basically unhelpful for distinguishing jazz from other musical genres. Any music performed by more than one person requires at least some interactivity. Without further elaboration of the differences in respective degrees between two musical types, this category is perhaps relevant, but unhelpful.
And “jazz interpretation” bears the distinction of having the word “jazz” (as a definiendum) being included in its own definiens. This is circular and therefore an unacceptable usage for any definition.
Moreover, Larson’s inclusion of dissonance, while correct, fails to account for the differing degrees of dissonance that distinguish blues, for instance, from jazz. The property of dissonance simpliciter does not distinguish jazz from blues or rock, since the dissonance natural to the hybridization of scales occurs in all three.
But another step in the process of hybridization, the incorporation of European harmonic innovations in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, created a particular jazz dissonance that does distinguish it from rock and blues. This further step of hybridization is responsible for what we today call “standard jazz harmonies.”
STANDARD JAZZ HARMONY: According to Kjell Bäckman, jazz harmony since the beginning of jazz had “Blues and ragtime harmony mainly using simple major/minor triads at the distance of fifths. Swing music enriched the chords with sixths and ninths, but the chord progressions were mainly the same. Bebop further enriched the chords with further colorizations such as b9, #9, #11, 13, etc.”
Due to the types of inadequacies we noted in Larson’s definition, and similar attempts, we need a new approach for how to define jazz and Paul Rinzler in his The Contradictions of Jazz (2008) has come up with one. (See below).
Alternative Jazz Taxonomies
Classic jazz, Modern jazz, and Post-Jazz
At MusicMap.com there is a proposal to divide the history of jazz into three time periods in historical chronological order.
“Over the course of history, there have been attempts to divide Jazz into a small number of categories, which could have been super-genres in their own right. Names such as “Traditional or Post-Jazz”, “First, Second and Third Stream (Jazz)” have been viable options at one time or another, but hold barely any relevance in today’s styles of Jazz. One possible way to structure this whole is by using two pivotal moments—the birth of Bebop and Fusion—to divide the whole into three time periods: Classic Jazz, Modern Jazz and Post-Jazz (aka Post-Fusion or Free-Bop).” (bold and bold italic not in original)
There is nothing stopping anyone from categorizing time periods in the history of a long term phenomena. One actually does it correctly when assessing the writings of Plato, for example. It turns out that it is helpful in understanding different phases in Plato's writing career to think of them in chronological historical order terms of early, middle and late stages. Each writing that gets classified into these specific time periods share many features in common with each other both topic wise as well as stylometrically comparable, and are distinguishable from the other two periods.
Additionally, stylometric analysis of the actual texts found in these three periods can help confirm and justify their inclusion into any of the three periods. Descriptively, the three periods are distinct in style, methodology, and philosophical interests. The early Platonic texts (Charmides, Crito, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Laches, Lysis, and Protagoras), use interlocutors with Socrates investigating primarily ethical issues. The middle period dialogues (Phaedo, Cratylus, Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus), although still having interlocutors dialogue with Socrates, are more in the voice of Plato himself and include investigations of non-ethical philosophical subject matter, such as the existence of abstract objects and development of the theory of forms. The late period pieces (Laws, Sophist, Statesman, Timaeus, Critias, and Philebus) often even forego the use of interlocutors altogether and just write in a prose style format.
If one only uses, in effect, the same historical order structure for categorizing jazz we are left with virtually nothing in terms of explanatory power that could provide any insight into the musical features to be included inside of those historical groups other than the dates. If jazz just comes as early, middle and late then this tells us nothing about how the three groups are the same or differ. Is the late period jazz more or less sophisticated than the middle period? No answer can be forthcoming when the only distinctions being made between jazz groups are chronological order.
The author of the MusicMap.com "Overview:Jazz" quotation that opens this section appears confused because of the very first thing asserted. There is no established usage for the category of "super-genre." There is no bigger 'super-genre' than the label jazz itself and the later suggestion of early (classic), middle (so-called 'modern') and post-bop jazz could not be any larger genre categories. So, any category that is being envisaged here would necessarily be smaller than the overarching species of jazz or the three historical periods, therefore not 'super.' Furthermore, no examples are given because there never was any proposed actual 'super-genre' category.
The next suggested re-categorization for jazz as "traditional jazz" and "post-jazz" is just a two-tiered chronological ordering, simpler than the later three-tiers. The next supposition to 'first,' 'second,' and 'third' stream jazz is just equivalent to the last suggestion of classic (early jazz), 'modern' jazz (middle), and the late period of 'post-jazz.' Additionally, there never was any such categories previously formulated as 'first' or 'second' stream jazz. Third stream is a well known category, but there are no first and second streams of jazz. The label "third stream" comes from Gunther Schuller's combining jazz with classical music that is neither one by itself and it isn't both; it is its own 'third' stream is how Schuller was conceiving of it.
Using the typical labeling categories for sub-genres of jazz has distinctive advantages. The categories are not necessarily tied to any historical chronological ordering. Soul jazz might have happened earlier or later than third stream jazz, for example, at least in principle. Soul jazz, as a jazz sub-genre category, though does tell us a lot about any song that falls under this sub-genre label. Thus, if we are told that "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," composed by Joe Zawinul and performed by Cannonball Adderley's quintet, is a soul jazz performance, then it can be known what musical features are likely to be found in this particular song.
➢ What are the musical features generally found in soul jazz?
- List of Soul Jazz musicians in alphabetical order by last name
- Soul jazz musicians by musical instrument 🎸
What is soul jazz?
Soul jazz is a bluesy influenced approach to playing jazz that has a funkier rhythm section and regularly includes a Hammond B-3 organ. Many soul jazz groups consisted of organ trios influenced by economic concerns because a trio format can produce a lot of music without having to pay more musicians.
“Soul-Jazz, which was the most popular jazz style of the 1960s, differs from bebop and hard bop (from which it originally developed) in that the emphasis is on the rhythmic groove. Although soloists follow the chords as in bop, the basslines (often played by an organist if not a string bassist) dance rather than stick strictly to a four-to-the bar walking pattern. The musicians build their accompaniment around the bassline and, although there are often strong melodies, it is the catchiness of the groove and the amount of heat generated by the soloists that determine whether the performance is successful. (bold not in original)
Yanow further proclaims that pianist Horace Silver was a major figure in the development of the soul jazz style, where he incorporates musical elements from funky style infused bop influenced by the sounds of the church and gospel music, along with the blues. Silver influenced several other prominent keyboardists such as Bobby Timmons, Junior Mance, Les McCann, Gene Harris (with his The Three Sounds), and Ramsey Lewis.
When Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy Smith came on the scene in 1956 with a successful jazz organ trio this sparked an interest in this musical format that typically included a tenor saxophonist, a guitarist, a funky drummer, and an occasional bassist. These trio's included Brother Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland, and Richard "Groove" Holmes, along with such other musicians as guitarists Grant Green, George Benson and Kenny Burrell; tenor saxophonists Stanley Turrentine, Willis "Gator" Jackson, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, David "Fathead" Newman, Gene "Jug" Ammons, Houston Person, Jimmy Forrest, King Curtis, Red Holloway, and Eddie Harris; and alto saxophonist Hank Crawford.
CONCLUSIONS: Categorization of jazz sub-genres into simple tripartite early middle and late jazz sub-genres has almost no explanatory value in contrast with a similar scheme that does successfully capture important distinctions between distinct periods of Plato's writings. Using the more standard high multiple number of jazz sub-genres (soul jazz, cool jazz, free jazz, and so on) is useful for categorizing kinds of different jazz over that of a simpler chronological historical periods approach.
Chris Washburne on the politics of defining jazz
“However, I would argue that this attests to the ossified definitions of jazz that are oftentimes presumed, and to how the industry is acknowledging that we must re-evaluate the prescribed limits imposed on the music and align them with what musicians actually do, as well as with what consumers/listeners/fans do. Producer Quincy Jones provides us with a particularly apt example of the type of assumed limitations of jazz. He states, "What is a jazz record? Any record that sells under 20,000 copies, once it sells over that, it is no longer a jazz record." This begs the question, "why can't jazz be popular and obtain mass appeal?" And when it is, why is it considered either "bad jazz," or not even jazz at all?
It comes down to how jazz is fundamentally defined, and this is a political question. Jerome Harris has identified two definitorial stances: the "canon position," where jazz is seen as a music defined by a specific African American originated genealogy and socially constituted guild, and the "process position" where jazz is viewed as the result of certain African American originated processes and aesthetics manifested in the music. As I have discussed elsewhere, the canon position defines jazz as a sort of endangered species whereby limitations are placed on the constituent boundaries of the music, a high art status is affixed, and the music undergoes an open-ended process of sacrilization. When the jazz tradition is viewed more as an open-ended process, individual musicians are empowered to innovate through a much broader spectrum of media forces than is the case within the strictly canon-based self-conception of jazz as a fossilized establishment. In reality, most musicians use both of these positions, and at specific times, locate themselves on whichever side of this binary that serves them best.
Indeed, musicians such as Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Miles Davis accentuate this fluidity and create real philosophical dilemmas for those who uphold the canon position. For an example of definitorial politics at work, one need to look no further than at the Jazz at Lincoln Center program which provides us with an archetypal manifestation of the canon position in today's jazz scene. Wynton Marsalis and his associates have discovered that this position opens access to large portions of public funds previously reserved for Western Art music traditions. Narrowing their definition of jazz allows them to claim ownership, thus establishing themselves as the gatekeepers of the canon, and, it distances the music not only from its popular music origins and roots, but also from today's popular music scene. (bold not in original)
Let's consider to what extent Washburne is correct that the definition of jazz comes down to a political question.
Suppose the Nazi's win World War Two and jazz becomes anathema and is declared non-music and forbidden to be played. Does this affect whether jazz is or is not music? No, it does not. Does it affect whether jazz performances are good or bad jazz performances? No, it does not. Hence, in these senses, the properties of jazz are not affected by politics and the definition of jazz is not a political question.
What might Chris Washburne have in mind when he claims the definition of jazz can be a political question? Washburne provides his own answer here. He argues that Jazz at Lincoln Center, by attempting to limit the domain of jazz, improved their chances at fund raising and this makes the definition of jazz adopted by Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center to have been a 'political' decision, or so it appears to be Washburne's claim.
➢ What makes something a political decision?
Wikipedia on Politics holds that “Politics (from Greek: Politiká: "affairs of the cities") is the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance—organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (this is usually a hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities. . . . A variety of methods are deployed in politics, which include promoting or forcing one's own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries. . . . It is very often said that politics is about power. (bold not in original)
From the definitions concerning politics given above Washburne clearly turns out to be correct that some definitions of jazz can be understood as reflecting positions of power, economic power, and promotion. But Washburne goes much beyond this when he claims that “it comes down to how jazz is fundamentally defined, and this is a political question.”
➢ Must any fundamental definition of jazz be a political decision?
Suppose that all actual decisions for the entire history of a universe regarding the definition of jazz were in fact political decisions. Would this require that all decisions about the fundamental nature of jazz had to necessarily be political decisions? No, it would not, any more that that in the actual universe no one might ever say that "Exceptional time traveling avocados do not mind the lapses in sleep cycles often found in dogs or Martians" make it necessary that this sentence could not have been said in that universe; it just wasn't said, but not that it could not have been said.
➢ So, what could count as a non-political decision about defining the fundamental nature of jazz, if anything?
A possible way to find a relevant counter-example would be to present an example of a non-political decision, then show how such conditions could be found in a non-political definition for jazz.
Suppose that there is a life or death decision about one of your children. Should you have the operation performed or not? On the face of it, even if there are all sorts of economic factors (cost of performing surgery, etc) and possible political consequences, such as your child grows up to be President, etc., intuitively, the parent's decision would not be politically based, but rather supporting the welfare of that child.
➢ What makes the individual welfare of a child be a non-political decision?
Insread of this being a political decision (about a polis or group) one takes into account one's moral obligations to an individual with rights. The decision is based on moral and ethical considerations which could even contradict any politically motivated decisions.
This at least proves that not every decision must be politically based because the moral judgment and evaluation could override any political considerations.
➢ What could possibly override political considerations when fundamentally defining jazz?
How about truth? Instead of having politics determine that for purposes of representation in Congress, enslaved blacks in a state would be counted as three-fifths of the number of white inhabitants of that state as in the original US constitution, we let the truth decide. Perhaps the musical features of jazz are distinctive enough by themselves to constitute a fundamental definition that is other than political.
Paul Rinzler's Definition of Jazz
Rinzler's Fuzzy Logic Approach in The Contradictions of Jazz
- (1) The CORE of the jazz tradition.
- (2) Undisputedly jazz containing several sub-styles.
- (3) A disputed area.
Let us call this Rinzler's Onion model of jazz about which he makes these characterizations:
“[The] core is the center of the nature and definition of jazz, and defines its tradition. The undisputed area is not part of the very core of jazz, but is universally or widely considered to be jazz, such as modal and quartal harmonies, Latin jazz, some big-band performances with little improvisation, and more. The disputed area contains sub-styles of jazz that some might not consider jazz, such as free jazz, or smooth jazz.” (bold not in original)
➢ What methodology does Rinzler adopt to address the question of what constitutes the CORE of the jazz tradition?
Paul Rinzler’s defense of what constitutes the CORE of jazz relies on important explicit assumptions regarding how to address these types of questions.
Rinzler uses what he calls “fuzzy logic” when providing his definition of jazz so that there are levels of jazz to various degrees. Rinzler argues that fuzzy logic “operates on a continuum and not through mutual exclusion [where something is either A or not-A].”
By using fuzzy logic when presenting his definition of jazz Rinzler can appeal to degrees of truth which does not require something to be either completely true or completely not true thereby allowing for proportional weighting so a particular style of music may be more or less closer to the paradigm examples (the CORE) of jazz.
Rinzler concedes that not everyone needs to concur with what he places in the CORE of jazz:
“One might contest the judgments that make up this definition. For instance, the place that big-band music holds in jazz, as a relatively uncontroversial part of the jazz tradition, might lead one not to include the combo as part of the CORE of jazz.”
The fact that someone might not agree with him about the CORE of jazz does not concern Rinzler since he claims not to be trying to “establish what is jazz and what is not.” Instead his goal is to delineate the jazz tradition using fuzzy logic which “is especially necessary for a definition of jazz because creativity is so important in jazz.”
The goal Rinzler has set himself is to characterize the musical traditions found in jazz over the past 100 years of its history into a fuzzy logic definition of jazz. Tradition is understood by Rinzler to be “anything which is transmitted or handed down from the past to the present. It is those aspects of a society, culture, art form, or discipline that remain stable or unchanging over time.”
A crucial assumption of Rinzler’s approach to defining the jazz tradition concerns characterizing its key musical elements:
“If there is something in the music that makes us call it jazz, then that aspect of the music is part of the tradition and definition of jazz. Tradition defines identity, much like definition does. Tradition is logically necessary if we are to talk about something we call ‘jazz.’ The question is not whether there is a tradition in jazz, but what that tradition is.”
Rinzler on the musical CORE of jazz
The musical elements that Rinzler finds exists in the CORE of jazz that is both from and constitutes the jazz tradition includes:
- ➢ swing/groove
- ➢ improvisation
- ➢ chorus form
- ➢ standard jazz harmony
- ➢ the blues
- ➢ the combo
SWING/GROOVE: Since at least the mid-1930’s, swing was thought to be a significant feature of jazz music and jazz playing. Duke Ellington’s tune from 1932 “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” embodies this philosophy. The main point concerns using syncopation and varying the emphasis typically on the unstressed beats (or off beats) and stressing them to create tension and surprise and often producing a sense of forward momentum, hence swinging.
IMPROVISATION: Everyone agrees that this is an essential and central feature of jazz playing. It places the onus of performance clearly on the individual soloist (or group if done simultaneously) establishing the performer’s level of expertise. Paul Rinzler claims that “improvisation is at the core of jazz, and the essence of improvisation is freedom and individual sovereignty. The improviser has the authority to play whatever he or she wants. This authority cannot be delegated without destroying the idea of improvisation.” (bold not in original)
- Quality improvisation is extremely difficult and takes many years of playing to do well seeing as it consists in simultaneous composition during performance in real time.
CHORUS FORM: According to Paul Rinzler in The Contradictions of Jazz “the great majority of mainstream jazz pieces have a chorus form, which is a chord progression, often thirty-two measures in length, that is repeated throughout the entire performance and which forms the basis for the improvisation.”
STANDARD JAZZ HARMONY: According to Kjell Bäckman, in “Evolutionary Jazz Harmony,” jazz harmony has been “functionally based, which means that each chord has been related to a base note and classified as minor or major, and optionally also enriched with colorization.”
- According to Backman, jazz harmony since the beginning of jazz has “been systematically organized around a tonal center by fifth progressions. Blues and ragtime harmony mainly used simple major/minor triads at the distance of fifths. Swing music enriched the chords with sixths and ninths, but the chord progressions were mainly the same. Bebop further enriched the chords with further colorizations such as b9, #9, #11, 13, etc.”
➢ What is the blues and how does it relate to jazz?
Many jazz musicians find blues to be central to jazz playing.
- Lou Donaldson (b. 1926), famous soul jazz saxophonist claims that “Blues is the backbone, and if you don’t have it in jazz, it’s like taking sugar out of a cake.” 
- Renowned jazz singer Carmen McRae (1920-1994) in her speech “Blues is a Woman” at the 1980 Newport Jazz Festival famously remarked that “Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread—without it, it's flat.”
We gain insight into the nature and origin of the word “blues” by considering some of its definitions below.
Even blues players find a central relationship to exist between jazz and blues.
- World famous bluesman B.B. King (1925-2015) claims that “Jazz is the big brother of the blues. If a guy's playing blues like we play, he's in high school. When he starts playing jazz it's like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.” Dictionary.com defines the blues as:
“a song style, originating with American blacks, that is marked by the frequent occurrence of blue notes, and that takes the basic form, customarily improvised upon in performance, of a 12-bar chorus consisting of a 3-line stanza with the second line repeating the first.” (bold not in original)
The form of the blues can often be AAB.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the blues as:
“a style of music that evolved from southern African-American secular songs and is usually distinguished by a strong 4/4 rhythm, flatted thirds and sevenths, a 12-bar structure, and lyrics in a three-line stanza in which the second line repeats the first: "The blues is an expression of anger against shame and humiliation." (B.B. King). (bold not in original)
The Online Etymology Dictionary defines the blues as:
“a musical form featuring flatted thirds and sevenths, possibly c.1895 (though officially 1912, in W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues"); meaning "depression, low spirits" goes back to 1741, from adj. blue "low-spirited," late 14c.
The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines the blues as:
“BLUES: A kind of music that evolved from that of African-Americans, especially work songs and spirituals in the early twentieth century. Blues pieces often express worry or depression.
THE COMBO: While it is true that jazz musicians frequently play non-solo events with other musicians this is actually not essential to the CORE of the jazz tradition since solo performers were also common occurrences at all stages in the history of jazz. Solo performances have been common from the earliest jazz at the turn of the 20th century with the so-called Professors (Jelly Roll Morton or Tony Jackson) playing solo piano in whore houses in the Red Light district of New Orleans (known as Storyville) to the piano maestros, such as Art Tatum, playing in the 1940’s on 52nd Street in New York City, to Keith Jarrett's famous piano improvisations, such as his The Köln Concert, or Sonny Rollins on tenor saxophone, are all well known for playing individual concerts, such as was recorded on The Solo Album (1985), generating all music by themselves. Hence, the combo is not CORE, but only typical.
Critique of Rinzler's CORE musical elements of jazz
In summary, Rinzler’s CORE of jazz need not include the combo as a key element. Jazz configurations, even in the tradition, can run the gamut from playing solo to twenty or even more musicians. Swing, while important and certainly a past jazz tradition, is no longer required for jazz. Groove is another story since it has such a shady and vague conception to begin with. Groove is not the same as swing because it can consist of non-swing rhythm patterns. Groove is still an important aspect of straight ahead styles of jazz.
This eliminates three of Rinzler’s six CORE elements as not being central to jazz (even if traditional): the combo, chorus form, and swing.
What is left from the original CORE group are: improvisation, standard jazz harmony, and the blues.
These last two (standard jazz harmony and the blues) are subsumed under a central and unifying principle or musical approach that can be called the hybridization and synthesis of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales. The blues influence IS from the pentatonic scale. Jazz harmony exists primarily because of the diatonic scale found in jazz. These points are explained and defended under the Galactic model of jazz below.
Timothy Williamson's Objection to Fuzzy Logic
Timothy Williamson defends traditional logic even for vague concept applications. He has argued that the law of excluded middle for truth-values of true or false holds for all meaningful statements, including vague language, even if we cannot tell which is correct. His primary arguments supporting the law of excluded middle are his objections to the alternative views such as those that use fuzzy logic.
Fuzzy logic denies that every meaningful statement must always be merely true or false. Instead there can be degrees of truth and falsity and there can be a continuum of degrees of truth and falsity between perfectly true and perfectly false with all sorts of intermediate degrees of truth in between.
➢ What is Williamson's objection to fuzzy logic?
His main objection is that fuzzy logic commits itself to making implausible and incorrect claims.
“The kind of alternatives that fuzzy logic proposes does a much worse job of handling these paradoxes. One of the best known alternatives to standard logic is fuzzy logic. When you follow out the consequences of fuzzy logic for these problematic cases, it says some very implausible things.”
Imagine, says Williamson, that there are two qualitatively identical twins named Fred and Ted who each are going bald at exactly the same rate and in exactly the same way. When Fred loses a hair so simultaneously does Ted. Suppose they are now borderline cases where, according to Williamson's understanding of fuzzy logic, it claims that when Fred and Ted start to reach the point of hairlessness where it is unclear whether they are or are not yet bald, fuzzy logic can say of Fred that it is precisely half true that Fred is bald. On the other hand/head, it would also be half true to say that Fred is bald, but Ted isn't.
Given that Fred and Ted's baldness situations are identical, Williamson finds these conclusions of fuzzy logic odious and problematic. Why? Presumably, Williamson believes that it is either contradictory, or at the very least unhelpful for decision makers, to claim of two identical scenarios that one is half true and the other is half false.
Williamson puts it this way:
“That's a completely false description of the situation because it is absolute clear that if one of them is bald, then so is the other [one] and there is no truth at all to the claim that one of them is bald and the other isn't. 
Possible Replies to Williamson's Objections to Fuzzy Logic
Intuitions can differ for different people, different philosophical views, and even within oneself one may have opposing intuitions in different scenarios that end up conflicting. Williamson seems strongly committed to the intuitions lying behind the law of excluded middle for all meaningful statements just to be either one or the other of true or false. It may be that these powerful intuitions are driving some of Williamson's beliefs and it certain seems to be so as represented in the following argument given by Williamson from his book, Vagueness.
“Conjunction may be taken first. Suppose that p is true to the same degree as q. Thus the first and second conjuncts of p & q match the first and second conjuncts of p & p respectively in degree of truth. By generalized truth-functionality, it follows that p & q is true to the same degree as p & p. Since p & p is true to the same degree as p, p & q is true to the same degree as p. Now imagine someone drifting off to sleep. The sentences 'He is awake' and 'He is asleep' are vague. According to the degree theorist, as the former falls in degree of truth, the latter rises. At some point they have the same degree of truth, an intermediate one. By what has just been argued, the conjunction 'He is awake and he is asleep' also has that intermediate degree of truth. But how can that be? Waking and sleep by definition exclude each other. 'He is awake and he is asleep' has no chance at all of being true. Our man is not in an unclear area between the cases in which the conjunction is true and those in which it is false, for there are no cases of the former kind. If intermediate degrees of truth are a matter of vagueness, they characterize cases in which a sentence is neither clearly correct nor clearly incorrect. Since the conjunction in question is clearly incorrect, it should not have an intermediate degree of truth. It is clearly incorrect, although neither conjunct is; one must be careful to distinguish what can be said of the conjunction from what can be said of each conjunct. Thus degree-functionality fails for conjunction.”
Notice Williamson's fundamental assumption made during presentation of his counter-example when he baldfacedly claims that “waking and sleeping by definition exclude each other.” It is this kind of thinking that appears to miss the entire point of fuzzy logic, which is that it may well be that the state of waking and the state of being asleep are not mutually exclusive domains and that it is possible to end up in a gray area where the same person is kind of awake and not awake at the same time. It may well be that these phenomena come in degrees, as fuzzy logic presumes is possible.
Before we talk more about sleep here is an example to ponder that is harder for Williamson's vagueness cutoff points to deal with. Would not Timothy Williamson, in his support of the principle of the excluded middle, believe that solids are not in the same state of matter as liquids and that they are mutually exclusive states, such that something can only be one or the other, but not both simultaneously? While we already know that liquid mercury at room temperature is a very solid-like liquid, it is nevertheless still a liquid. Scientists, however, appear to have found a state of matter under extreme conditions when the same material at the same temperature has features of being simultaneously both a solid and a liquid. See the research reported upon at Science Alert".
When a person falls asleep they typically go through several stages of different types of both consciousness and neurology.
Notice some of the oddish claims—from Williamson's point of view—being made by the author(s) of an internet wellness website discussing the four stages of sleep.
“The Beginnings of Sleep: During the earliest phases of sleep, you are still relatively awake and alert. The brain produces what are known as beta waves, which are small and fast. As the brain begins to relax and slow down, slower waves known as alpha waves are produced. During this time when you are not quite asleep, you may experience strange and extremely vivid sensations known as hypnagogic hallucinations. Common examples of this phenomenon include feeling like you are falling or hearing someone call your name.
NREM Stage 1: Stage 1 is the beginning of the sleep cycle, and is a relatively light stage of sleep. Stage 1 can be considered a transition period between wakefulness and sleep. In Stage 1, the brain produces high amplitude theta waves, which are very slow brain waves. This period of sleep lasts only a brief time (around 5-10 minutes). If you awaken someone during this stage, they might report that they were not really asleep.” (bold not in original)
Williamson would freak out from much of what was said above given his view that waking and sleep are diametrically opposed and one must be in only one of these two states at all times when alive. Instead, the article asserts that "during the earliest phases of sleep you are still awake". Williamson finds this to be a contradiction. On Williamson's mutually exclusive views, it is impossible to have any transition state between waking and sleeping since on his view one can only be in one or the other of the two conditions. There cannot be any transition stage on his understanding of the relevant conditions. Furthermore, Williamson has either to claim that what a person reports upon awaking from Stage 1 sleep that "he or she was not really asleep " that this is either false because they were asleep or true because they were never in Stage 1 sleep. But these reactions belay the facts. The person was in Stage 1 and they believe of themselves that they were not yet in a sleep condition.
Fuzzy Logic approaches can easily deal with what appears to be contradictions (and so impossible to occur) from Williamson's point of view. It claims there can be degrees of wakefulness and degrees of being asleep. Indeed, that there are degrees of being asleep is reflected in the four stages a brain can find itself in during resting periods.
That there are degrees of both wakefulness and sleep seems a natural position to take. Different degrees of wakefulness do seem to occur. Here's a list:
- daydreaming: you are sort of awake and sort of not because it is harder to arouse a daydreamer using external stimulation. When aroused from a daydream, people do not typically say they were asleep. Instead they claim they were deep in thought and perhaps having strong visual imagery.
- falling asleep: as one falls asleep one can notice different consciousness transitions.
- being on drugs: like cocaine, ecstasy, or LSD can change one's energy levels and degrees of feeling wide awake.
- near death experiences: sometimes described as having your life flash before one's eyes would seem to be a different state of waking.
- Temporal slowdown: during an emergency situation some people report that it seems like time has slowed down for them and they can take advantage of this heightened state of consciousness to deal with a problem quickly in real time.
- lucid dreaming: some people claim to be aware of when they are in a dream state and can control their actions better when in this state than when not having a lucid dream.
- confused awake states: resulting from low blood sugar, or deprivations of sleep, food, or water can cause a lessening of one's normal conscious abilities compared to when not in such distressed states.
In the "Introduction" to his book, Vagueness and Degrees of Truth (2008), philosopher Nicholas J. J. Smith (University of Sydney), after a careful survey of the established theoretical positions regarding solutions to the problem/question of vagueness argues in his Ch. 4 that “we need a theory of vagueness that countenances degrees of truth.” (bold not in original)
Rinzler's Onion Model Definition of Jazz
In his ground breaking book, The Contradictions of Jazz, Director of Jazz Studies and music theory at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, Dr. Paul Rinzler explains his approaches and methodologies for mapping out which music qualifies as jazz.
Commentator Mark J. Hanson summarizes some of Rinzler's findings:
“But not only that, jazz gives us clues as to how to make that happen. Improvisational jazz seems like it is primarily about the values of creativity, freedom, self-assertion, and individualism. Each player takes a turn, soloing without being confined to notes on a page. There are no absolutes.”
“But as scholar Paul Rinzler argues, jazz is ultimately about relating these characteristics to their opposites. Musical creativity is not random, but is ultimately built on the tradition and its rules. Freedom of expression is tempered by responsibility to the ensemble and to the audience. Self-assertion is balanced with openness to others and to the unknown. And individualism, found in the personal expression of the solo, is set in the context of the interconnectedness of the ensemble.” (bold not in original)
Summary of Chapters from Rinzler's The Contradictions of Jazz
Summary of Ch. 3 – Interconnectedness
• Interconnectedness refers to mutual relations among people.
- - Jazz group performance can be intimate and emotional so jazz strongly expresses the value of connecting with others (both musicians and audience).
- - Rinzler focuses this chapter not on interpersonal relationships between performing musicians, but rather on musical interconnectedness, which makes an ensemble more than just a collection of individuals.
- - Rhythmic musical interconnectedness: Often jazz musicians align their rhythms in relation to how the other musicians are aligning their rhythms in relation to an underlying pulse. “The resulting rhythmic consensus is interconnected, having been mutually and reciprocally negotiated.” (p. 28)
- - Jazz group performance can be intimate and emotional so jazz strongly expresses the value of connecting with others (both musicians and audience).
• THE GROOVE: is defined as “a regular and consistent articulation of rhythms in relation not only to an underlying background pulse, but in relation to how other musicians in the ensemble articulate their rhythms.” (p. 28; italics not in original)
- - Audience members perceive the groove as a type of forward momentum through which the music seems to flow effortlessly. (p. 28)
- - A groove can vary the rhythm by being slightly ahead of (“pushing ahead”), right on (“being on top”), or behind (“laying back”) a real or imagined background pulse.
- - According to Rinzler, “the groove establishes the most basic type of rhythmic relationship. Most jazz musicians consider the groove to be fundamental to jazz.” (p. 28)
- - One of the reasons that the groove is so fundamental to jazz playing is because the musicians “must be in accord as to how they relate to the beat and to each other rhythmically.” (p. 28)
- - Audience members perceive the groove as a type of forward momentum through which the music seems to flow effortlessly. (p. 28)
• Grooves are determined by (A) Forming a consensus by playing together in the past or negotiating during actual performance. (B) Consistency of rhythmic performance is essential for coordination of band members. This rhythmic consistency can often be within hundredths of a second in accuracy. In a 45 minute set there may be as many as over 19,000 beats performed.
- - The connections between musicians who establish a groove are often emotional and intense. It is a kind of “emotional empathy.” (p. 29)
- - The connections between musicians who establish a groove are often emotional and intense. It is a kind of “emotional empathy.” (p. 29)
• INTERACTION in jazz: “involves the spontaneous and improvised musical reactions of one musician to what another musician in the ensemble has performed.” (p. 30)
- - There are a large number of possible ways in which different members of a group may interact with each other, even within just a quartet of four members. Rinzler calculates there are at least 46 combinations (see pp. 30-31).
- - There are a large number of possible ways in which different members of a group may interact with each other, even within just a quartet of four members. Rinzler calculates there are at least 46 combinations (see pp. 30-31).
• COMMUNITY: are relationships within a group of people.
- - The Ensemble: Combo’s versus Big Bands. A combo is typically three to six people, whereas a big band can have up to eighteen or more members. In a combo, a composer might determine little of the entire performance. This is not true in big bands where the composer and conductor control more of the performance because of the need to coordinate and take advantage of having more players.
- - A combo is driven from the bottom up by the individual performers, whereas a big band is driven from the top down by the composer and conductor in a more authoritarian mode. (p. 33)
- - The interconnectedness in a big band “submits to the single authority of the composer and the interconnectedness is rigid, predetermined, and collectivistic.” (p. 33)
- - In a combo, the interconnectedness is “flexible, spontaneous, and individualistic.” (p. 33)
- - Standard jazz practice permits jazz musicians who have never played together to be able to “come together, and connect in musically intimate ways immediately, quickly, and deeply” as a result of jazz having a “common practice and an assumed base of knowledge, approach, and procedure.” (p. 34)
- - The Ensemble: Combo’s versus Big Bands. A combo is typically three to six people, whereas a big band can have up to eighteen or more members. In a combo, a composer might determine little of the entire performance. This is not true in big bands where the composer and conductor control more of the performance because of the need to coordinate and take advantage of having more players.
Summary of Ch. 4 – Assertion
Four aspects of assertion (p.38):
- ~ Affirmation
- ~ Initiative
- ~ Self Expression
- ~ Fulfillment
Assertion is a primary value in jazz improvisation because:
- ~ It is an affirmation of whatever meaning or emotion the improviser is able to create or communicate to the listener.
- ~ It is an act that requires initiative.
- ~ It allows the improviser to express himself or herself musically.
- ~ It allows the improviser to fulfill his or her musical desires.
It is important to note that assertion has been distinguished from aggression and submission.
I. AFFIRMATION IS POSITIVE
- A. A Great Affirmation (p. 39)
- i. One of the greatest forms of affirmation in art is the word 'yes' (in Rinzler's opinion).
- ii. His example of this is at the end of Ulysses.
- B. Nonverbal Affirmation (p. 40)
- i. A broader way to express an affirmation, beside just with words, is through an act.
- ii. Putting specific words to exactly what part of the music is doing the affirming and exactly what is getting affirmed can be difficult music, sound, can lack semantic content.
- iii. Art in general can be affirmations.
- A. Assertion implies initiative (p. 40).
- i. One definition of to assert is to put (oneself) forward boldly and insistently.
- ii. Asserting oneself, however, requires an affirmative decision to seize the opportunity and to put oneself into the fray.
- iii. Initiative characteristically begins with an intrinsic/internal motivation.
- B. Assertion is optional and not required or automatic, so, one must make an affirmative decision and exercise some initiative in order to be assertive, and that is what jazz musicians do. (p. 41)
- C. In jazz, the standard, as well as the ideal, is that one should take the initiative to assert oneself through improvisation. (p. 41)
- D. Improvisers must have something to say (p. 42).
- i. If an improviser does not have the internal motivation to want to express something, then that improviser probably will be a poor one.
- ii. A jazz improviser needs to have something to say, that is, to assert, by taking the initiative, and making the choice to do so.
III. PUBLIC ASSERTION (p. 42)
- A. A complicating aspect of assertion in jazz improv is that jazz, as a performing art, is public, not private.
- B. A weaker form of assertion might include private initiative and creation, but the stronger form requires initiative and creation to be public and social, and that is the form that jazz generally adopts.
- C. Jazz embraces assertion and initiative in the form of a jam session which are also important.
- i. As an important method by which jazz musicians learn their trade.
- ii. And, in learning how to improvise.
- D. It takes confidence, courage, initiative, and assertiveness to learn one's craft in the public arena of a jam session.
IV. SELF EXPRESSION
- A. From Within
- i. When one takes initiative and asserts or affirms some individual aspect of one's personality, one engages in self-expression. (p. 42)
- ii. When one asserts oneself, one makes a statement becasue there is some internal aspect of one's personality that leadsone to what is asserted.
- iii. Assertion is merely not being afraid to be oneself and to show that to others. (pp. 42-43)
- B. Personal and Deep
- i. Because assertion begins with internal sources, it can express very meaningful and personal things within a person. (p. 43)
- ii. Jazz musicians can tap into a deep unconscious well in order to improvise; they refer to it as laying it all out there. (p. 43)
V. SINCERITY (p. 43)
- A. Ideally a jazz musician has to mean it.
- i. Jazz requires the musician to feel something inside himself or herself sincerely.
- ii. Possible to go through the technically correct form without any internal emotions.
- B. An important jazz improvising goal is finding that place inside oneself where one feels something deeply and use that as the emotional pressure behind the improvisation or performance.
VI. FULFILLMENT (p. 44-45)
- A. The verb “fulfill” means to satisfy requirements or obligations, etc.
- i. One is fulfilled when one is satisfied by expressing one's character and personality.
- ii. Rinzler's example of buying a house.
- B. That assertion can bring fulfillment is an important point because sometimes ther are obstacles to fulfillment.
- C. Jazz improvisation is a discipline that nearly demands that one assert oneself in order to be completely fulfilled.
- D. Play what you want.
- i. Music is widely recognized as having great power over one's emotions.
- ii. Because jazz musicians are not only playing the music, but are composing and also expressing what they consider to be enjoyable, they experience a very high level of fulfillment. (p. 45)
- iii. Improvisers get to play exactly what they want, which is a high level of musical fulfillment.
- E. Don't play what you don’t want to play.
- i. Jazz encourages the attitude of fulfilling oneself musically because it emphasizes improvisation.
- ii. It is part of the contradiction of jazz that jazz educators can appropriately insist that their students learn to play jazz standards as a fundamental part of the idiom while still encouraging them to also play exactly what they want.
- A. Assertion is expressed in jazz through affirmation, initiative, self-expression and fulfillment.
- B. Jazz thus offers musicians an opportunity to become themselves more fully and thereby to achieve musical satisfaction.
Summary of Ch. 5 - Openness
Openness is associated with important jazz values, such as creativity and freedom. (p. 47)
- Freedom means that options are not restricted for choosing, but rather, they are open.
- Creativity asks for an openness to all kinds of possibilities, imagined or not.
- Openness is an important value of jazz because it supports freedom and creativity in jazz, as well as other jazz values.
Rinzler lists four definitions of the word "open that are relevant to jazz: (p. 47)
- Receptivity: Acceptance of input, as in open-minded.
- The Unknown: An open destination, or open questions.
- Continuation: An open-ended ticket.
- Being non-judgmental: Open to any way.
Receptivity: (p. 48)
- Rinzler believes receptivity is "the fundamental aspect of openness" because receptivity describes a state in which someone is "ready, willing, and able to gather and accept input or information" that is being sent their way.
- A jazz musician must listen carefully to every musician in the ensemble in order to figure out in what direction the music may go. Since so much of a musical performance is left unspecified, listening is crucial.
- Jazz musicians have to be active listeners and also be "open and receptive to the emerging group consensus about how the music should proceed."
- Openness and receptiveness allow jazz musicians to listen to the other musicians, note what they are doing, and quickly make subtle musical judgments when the need to do so arises.
The Unknown: (p. 49)
- “Jazz improvisation is an unknown because, ultimately, there are no rules that require how a jazz solo must unfold.” Unpredictability… Jazz as an experiment: “This experimental aspect introduces an ever-present chance of unpredictability and the unknown.”
- Auto pilot vs. pushing the envelope.
Chaos Theory and the Emergent: (pp. 49-50)
- “Very small changes in initial conditions can unpredictably create large changes in later conditions.”
- “What a jazz ensemble might improvise at the beginning of a chorus late in a piece may well depend on what the group improvised at the beginning of previous choruses.”
Embracing the Unknown: (pp. 50-52)
- “The advantage of openness is that new results are always possible, but the disadvantage is a risk of failure.”
The Unknown Requires Strength: (pp. 52-53)
- “Openness requires strength, competence, and confidence.”
- The possibility of danger is always present.
- Improvisation can be understood as a journey.
- A musical composition, in one way or another, is an account of someone’s exploration or a “journey” into the unknown realms of music. In order to make new and original compositions, a musician has to be open to the unknown possibilities of music.
- An improvisation is able to show that “journey” in its rawest form. Because it is raw and unrefined at many times, it requires a sense of openness from the audience as well.
- John Coltrane was always challenging himself to explore different types of possibilities in jazz and improvisation. When he felt that he had explored a certain field enough, he would start over again from the beginning in a different field, even if it meant that his music’s quality would be inconsistent from his previous works.
- Viewing these journeys into the unknown as it is happening, and enjoying it, is one of the essences of openness in jazz.
Continuation: (pp. 53-54)
- Openness can be defined as not reaching the end of a process in time.
- Improvisation in Jazz is not a finished thing. It is the current manifestation of all players former improvisations.
- Improvisation is an ongoing process, connection all of the improviser’s improvisations on a particular piece. The improvisation are linked by harmonic and formal structure.
- Improvisers need to reference back to back improvisations because the current and present improvisation is the same piece. Each improvisation is linked as another version of the improvisers approach to the original piece.
- Basically a improvisational piece is all former pieces together. The piece is always continuing.
Being nonjudgmental makes one less quick to reject ideas.
Ways of being non-judgmental: (pp. 54-55)
- All options are equal: all options are equally appealing; no right or wrong choices.
- Neutrality: not to make a judgment.
- Perspectives: A final judgment as to what is right or wrong may not be possible because of different perspectives.
Right and Wrong Notes:
- “At first, there are right and wrong notes in jazz, at the stage when the students of jazz learn which notes and scales fit with which chords. . . . But ultimately, any note may be played over any chord.” This also depends upon what you do next.
- If there is an artistic purpose to the notes being played by the improviser, any note can be played over any chord. Of course, some still sound more harmonious than others.
Summary of Ch. 6 - Freedom
“Jazz improvisation and dissonance (freedom from melody) are musical realizations of freedom.” (p. 58)
- ● Definition of freedom: some relevant aspects of freedom that help define it:
- ○ Sovereignty (authority to make a choice).
- ○ Presence of options
- ○ Capability of expressing and carrying out a choice.
- ○ Positive versus negative freedoms (choices coming from internal motives versus external forces).
Improvisation: (p. 59)
- ● “Improvisation is at the core of jazz, and the essence of improvisation is freedom and individual sovereignty.”
- ● “The freedom of an improviser stands in contrast to the relative lack of freedom for a performer who is playing a piece of music already composed and notated.”
- ● “For a non-improvising performer, the composer is sovereign over two of the most basic aspects of music—notes and rhythm—but the improviser is sovereign in the composer’s place.” Even so, the improviser is not free from the context in which he or she plays (the group in which he or she is playing), which ties back into Rinzler’s idea of jazz's supporting both individualism with interconnectedness.
Liberation: there is liberation of the improviser “from ‘the tyranny of the score’,” and there is liberation of jazz itself from commonly accepted jazz sounds: the birth of new jazz styles.
- ○ Example: from big-band to bebop. This type of liberation can be applied to any musical movement, and in fact to every art movement. This idea ties into tradition vs. creativity.
Options: (p. 60)
- ● Jazz requires options, not one.
- ● Diversity supports freedom because diversity leads to numerous options to choose which means:
- ○ “the freedom to play various substyles of jazz”, in jazz.
- ○ “a valuable trait for a jazz musician to be versatile,” in general.
Positive and negative freedom: (pp. 60-61)
- ● Freedom has two terms defined by Isaiah Berlin (philosopher and historian): positive and negative freedom.
- ● Negative freedom: “the absence of outside restriction, interference, or coercion.”
- ● Positive freedom: “an expression of self-realization, of internal desires, or of the uniqueness of an individual.”
- ● It’s impossible for positive freedom to occur without negative freedom. When negative freedom happens first, next is to express positive freedom.
- Adolescent rebellion as negative freedom:
- ● A good example of negative freedom in which the desire to be free becomes a goal, usually occurs in teenagers or adolescents.
- ● Examples of music with freedom as a goal are rock music such as some metal, speed metal, or thrash.
Free jazz: (pp. 62-63)
- ● “A controversial style of jazz, a misinterpretation of positive freedom for negative freedom.”
- ● According to free jazz musicians, “freeing an individual to play nearly anything conceivable required responsibility not only among other performers, but to the audience as well.”
- ● Had norms and limitations that help improvisers who wish to use traditional materials to reduce negative freedom.
- ○ Example: Ekkehard Jost- ‘I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside’.
- ● According to free jazz critics: free jazz merely expressed negative freedom, rejecting the established order.
- ○ Example: free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
- ● “However, free jazz has no predetermined harmonic basis: traditional harmonies are not planned, but happen spontaneously.”
Limits of freedom: (p. 64)
- ● Style and the composition limit a jazz musician's freedom to improvise.
- ● freedom in jazz is not absolute but remains an essential characteristic.
Style: (pp. 64-65)
- ● Jazz musicians self-restrict their freedom when improvising so as to conform to various standards of style and interactivity.
- ● Improvisers can decide how much of the style might be stretched or broken.
Composition: (p. 65)
- ● " . . . the composition determines the melody and the chord progression on which the improviser bases the improvisation."
- ● Improvisers can play in a keys different from the key of the composition. This can create harmonic tension.
- ● An improviser has the freedom to ignore an initial set of conditions defined by a composition.
No complete freedom: "beyond the limits of style and the composition, freedom itself is fundamentally limited."
- ● "Any act, including musical ones, can be seen to rest or to be founded on some other act, and not, therefore be completely free or original or creative. . . . Even if a free-jazz saxophonist plays the most outrageous honks and squawks (without even discrete pitches or rhythms in meter)--something in which a listener might find absolutely no rhyme nor reason, and so may think is absolutely free. . . . And if there must always be some context or background against which even the most extreme act is conducted, it cannot be said to be completely free; the background or context is predetermined and this is that part of the act that is not completely creative or free."
Boundaries Accepted or Challenged: (p. 66)
- ● “A type of meta-freedom open to the jazz musician is to accept or push against a boundary to a greater or lesser extent.”
- ● “A boundary can be defined by what we normally call style, which creates a consistent approach to using the materials of music.” “That consistency defines a boundary, which then may or may not be challenged.”
- ● Trumpeter Clifford Brown was one of the most mainstream jazz improvisers who stayed within the boundaries of jazz, for instance his solo on Sonny Rollins's "Pent-Up House." “If Brown would have decided to use more dissonance, or to change to change his phrasing radically, he would have begun to engage the boundaries of mainstream jazz and the initial context of his solo.”
- ● A good example of challenging a boundary is saxophonist and composer John Zorn's solo on his "Latin Quarter." Zorn begins his solo with a radically different idea compared to the surrounding context. Zorn pushes the boundary of what had been established by the performance up to that point.
Summary: (p. 67)
- ● “It is part of the meta-freedom of an improviser that he or she not only chooses how to work within the given boundaries, but also whether or how much to push at or stretch or even break those boundaries.”
- ● “Both positive and negative freedom are expressed in jazz.”
- ● “Positive freedom supports and is connected to some other values in jazz: assertion, initiative, fulfillment, self-expression, the personal, and anti-authoritarianism.”
- ● Freedom is an essential part of jazz.
Summary of Ch. 7 - Responsibility
Responsibility exists to limit people’s freedom and requires them to fulfill the duties and obligations that are owed to individuals, groups or institutions.
Soloists: (p. 68)
- ● “A composer's job is to create music.”
- ● “A soloist is responsible for conception and performance”
- o “Include non-notated elements”
- o “Technical skills”
- o “Include non-notated elements”
- ● “Therefore soloists have complete responsibility”
- o Once you play someone’s music then you take the responsibility for it whether you wrote it or not.
● “Every musician is responsible for the music created because they are all improvising to some extent in limits of style.”
Exceptions are limited: (pp. 69-70)
- ● “Jazz musicians are not responsible for the base or foundation sound.”
- ● “Even though they aren’t responsible they can act as if they are.”
- ● “Once you make something your own (embellish/improvise/play it etc.) you take responsibility for it.”
Responsibility to the ensemble:
The Jazz Ensemble as a Team: (p. 70)
- ● “Play jazz according to Leroy Williams is a team effort with a specific job for everyone.”
- ● “You show your teammate’s strengths and distract from weaknesses and sacrifice someone’s ideas sometimes”
- o Sports = jazz ensemble
- ▪ Given a layout or play which isn’t scripted.
- ▪ Basketball is most similar to jazz with Football most heavily scripted.
- o Sports = jazz ensemble
- ● Responsibility is to behave properly as a professional musician.
- o Show up to gig or practice (90% is just showing up).
- ● “Charlie Parker was irresponsible and it detracted from musical ability and musical product when his music was supposed to be his highest priority.”
Responsibility For Musical Roles: (p. 71)
- ● “A member of a team has a responsibility to the team as a whole to fulfill that member’s role or assigned duties.” (p. 71)
- o Musicians have a responsibility towards the ensemble and towards the audience.
Show Up on Time Musically:
- ● “A fundamental responsibility that jazz musicians accept is to play notes and rhythms accurately and in synchronization…” (p. 71)
- ● Swing example (p. 72)
Wayne Shorter in Weather Report:
- o Shorter had met his responsibility not only towards the audience and style, but also to the ensemble and its goal of collective improvisation
Responsibility to the Craft of Jazz:
- ● “The apparent ease and effortlessness that the best jazz musicians display as they improvise is the result of many, many hours of dedicated discipline and practice” (p. 72)
- o For people of any profession, such as musicians, they must spend countless hours practicing their instrument and mastering the different aspects which are needed to successfully play that instrument.
- o Jazz musicians in particular, must be truly knowledgeable with not only their instrument, but other instruments in the orchestra as well- as they often need to improvise.
Responsibility to the Audience:
- ● “The musician has certain responsibilities… that concern the nature of the music to be played, however there is rarely any explicit contract or expectation about the music” (p. 73)
- o Due to jazz musicians improvising quite often during concerts, they themselves are not even sure of what they will be playing themselves before the show starts.
- o Often times, the advertisement showing the performance date, the composers, etc. will not even let the audience know what songs will be playing.
- ● Jazz musicians are responsible for meeting some of the “audience’s set of expectations about a jazz performance in some fashion” (p. 74)
- o Even though neither the audience, the composers, or performers themselves know exactly what they will be playing, they all have a general idea of what it will be like and they must not go too far out of the boundaries of it being anything, but a jazz performance.
Summary of Ch. 8 - Creativity
Introduction: (p. 77)
- Holding a creative hand in jazz gives musicians the ability to explore more corners in jazz than if they were to mundanely follow every note made by the composer.
- To be creative means to be both productive and novel. To produce, one must create from scratch. To have novelty, the creation must come from an original (new) source.
Tradition: (p. 77)
- The opposite of creativity is tradition.
- Tradition is derived from an old and an already existent source.
- A person can make a new version of the original, but he/she did not invent/create (produce) it. Therefore, he or she is not exactly partaking in creativity.
Interpretation: (p. 78)
- Composers leave traditionally noted Western scores open to interpretation by determining certain, but not all elements of the piece.
- For example, features such as the fermata and crescendo can be noted where to be played, but not so much how to be played.
- In these circumstances, performers can determine for themselves how long a fermata (pause) will last and the rate at which the music will get louder.
Discrete and Analog Elements of Music: (p. 78)
- The elements of music open to interpretation are those that are analog.
- Analog: Continuously variable, or open to change. (Example: The fermata can be anything from short to long, or anything in between.) The opposite of analog is discrete.
- Discrete: Individually separate and distinct (specific).
- Jazz will use the twelve pitches of the chromatic scale to create discrete pitches rather than varying pitches.
- A rhythm of notes is assumed to consist of discrete points in time, coinciding with its onset. In other words, the rhythm starts with the beginning note or sound.
Informal Editing by the Performer:
- A performer may become creative by informal editing, although this may mean he is contradicting the composer’s initial intentions of the piece. However, it is important to note that the player’s purpose is only taking the necessary actions of reaching realizations or self-discovery music throughout the process.
Pitches and Rhythm: (p. 79)
- While informal editing is acceptable in certain situations, interpretations of conventional Western music are far-stretched and an unacceptable violation.
- Unlike the traditionally noted Western score, a conventional Western score is composed in the sense that there should be little to no room for the player to make his/her own interpretations.
- Part of improvisation is experimentation and musicians encourage one another to partake in it even though the audience reaction is unknown or unsure.
- Tricksterism involves disorienting the music or playing in an unexpected manner (mixing things up to mislead the audience). (p. 81)
- Free association involves playing notes as they spontaneously appear in the mind.
- To use this creative tool, musicians open their minds to creative ideas and play them out as music as they appear in the mind.
Improvisational Creativity: (p. 81)
- “Even if swing and groove are not creatively interpreted, they may still be satisfactory or even excellent, but to play an improvisation creatively is widely understood to be crucial in jazz.”
Instrumental Creativity: (p. 82)
- Another way of being creative is with the instrument itself, and playing it in a way it is not normally played. Example: Miles Davis was one of the first jazz musicians to use electronic modification (echo, wa-wa, and the like) on the trumpet.
Stylistic Creativity: (p. 82)
- The boundaries between styles is often blurred and hard to distinguish from one another. However, our goal as philosophers is to approach definitions of different styles in order to more closely study them.
- Defining a style is a judgment and a matter of context as well as a matter of objective musical criteria.
- Jazz has a long history of borrowing from other styles of music for creative inspiration.
- Miles Davis is a pivotal figure in jazz history where he made several innovative styles such as cool, modal, and jazz/rock. (p. 83)
Arranging Creativity: (p. 83)
- Maintaining many or most elements of a style without changing enough so that naming a new style would be more convenient. It is reworking even the most traditional material into new contexts. Musicians can be even more creative when reworking pieces by improvising the arrangements.
The Galactic Model for Defining Jazz
- See the lectures on the Galactic model for defining jazz at POJ Jazz Videos by Dr. David C. Ring and Dr. Charles Otwell, a talk given at Northern Arizona University (NAU), March 31, 2016, jointly sponsored by the NAU Philosophy department, the NAU School of Music 🎶, and the NAU Theatre 🎭 department.
- See the PowerPoint presentation for "The Galactic Model for Defining Jazz" by Dr. David C. Ring and Dr. Charles Otwell at Academia.edu.
The Galactic model for defining jazz claims that all jazz forms, with no exceptions, are influenced and attracted by three major musical factors: hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, syncopation, and improvisation, or HSI (pronounced as "sigh"). The question for each jazz form (big band, modal, cool, or free) is the extent to which these three musical factors enter into the picture. For each jazz genre, generally speaking, each of these three musical factors plays a large and significant role.
Someone might object that these three factors, by themselves, cannot constitute jazz because all three can be found in music that is the blues, and blues by itself is not a jazz musical form or genre. This would be correct. However, according to the Galactic model, the three factors of HSI are the musical features out of which all jazz genres are formed and are influenced by to varying degrees.
The three factors of HSI are neither necessary conditions for music to be jazz, nor are the three jointly sufficient for jazz to exist because blues music is not jazz and can have all three.
➢ Why then are these three features so central to the jazz universe?
An important reason for appreciating the significance of HSI for jazz starts to become more obvious as we consider what these three musical features contribute to the jazz universe.
Improvisation is clearly central to jazz. Virtually all jazz theorists, and importantly all jazz musicians, are going to agree that improvisation is the raison d'être (the most important reason or purpose) for jazz's existence. It is the challenges that good improvisation poses that draws musicians into performing jazz in the first place 🥇. The difficulty and required musical skill level for producing effective and satisfying jazz improvisations should not be underestimated.
The three main elements central to jazz (syncopation, which always exists in jazz swing, improvisation, and a blues influence from the hybridization of the diatonic with a pentatonic musical scale) together with standard jazz harmonies, such as found in Bebop, together are always sufficient for music to be classified as jazz. One cannot find any counter-examples that could have all four yet not count as jazz.
Still, none of these four elements (syncopation, hybridization, improvisation, or standard jazz harmony) are necessary for music to be properly classified as jazz. Outside jazz playing can lack syncopation and standard jazz harmonies. Jazz exists where improvisation doesn't, such as some Duke Ellington's band's performances. Some music that may be jazz, such as free jazz, can fail to use hybridization of a diatonic with a pentatonic musical scale.
- Free jazz, such as played by Ornette Coleman on his “Free Jazz” album, or Peter Brotzmann’s album “Machine Gun,” does not contain standard jazz harmonies, nor does it often contain syncopation.
- Big Band jazz of Duke Ellington and others did not always swing or contain improvisation.
- Latin Jazz does not have to contain a blues influence, so can not be hybridizing diatonic and pentatonic scales.
Hence, if Latin Jazz, Big Band jazz, and Free jazz can count as jazz, then none of the four elements are required for a piece of music to qualify as jazz.
Why Latin, Big Band, and Free are all jazz
➢ What then qualifies the above three music styles (Latin, big band, and free) as types of jazz?
The answer is that each style still contains important elements from the list of CORE elements (HSI) and many listeners believe that these genres can qualify as forms of jazz.
- For example, Latin Jazz, while lacking a blues influence, is probably the style of jazz that contains the most syncopation, can contain significant improvisation, often uses songs from the jazz musical canon, and uses many musical instruments typically found in jazz such as drums, bass, piano, saxophone, trombone, and flute. What distinguishes Latin jazz from other jazz is its emphasis on most songs being danceable with a strong use of percussion instruments like the timbales or conga.
- What Big Band jazz has in its favor for being jazz is that it has a long and distinguished history of having been categorized and labeled as jazz. Few, if any people, during the 1930’s and 1940’s and 1950’s would have called Big Band music of the orchestra’s of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, or Stan Kenton any type of music other than jazz. The fact that sometimes big bands performed songs containing no improvisation does not by itself rule it out from qualifying as jazz.
- An argument in favor of this is a Two Possible Worlds thought experiment. World One is the actual world where Duke Ellington composed a fully scripted piece of music where significant portions of his composition makes it sound like that portion of the music may have been improvised. In possible World Two, those same sections that appear to have been improvised had not been composed or previously determined by a musical score, but the relevant musicians actually improvised these sections. In the thought experiment, this same tune in World One and in World Two sound identical. If the improvised music counts as jazz in both worlds, then wouldn't the sonically identical non-improvised tune in World One also have to qualify as jazz?
- Furthermore, Big Band jazz historically is part of the tradition of jazz playing. Many jazz musicians learned important skills from having played in Big Band formats. Big Bands often use syncopation with a big swinging groove to the rhythm. There is often a blues influence. So, it is not surprising, given that Big Band jazz often has all three components of HSI that it qualifies as jazz even when missing some aspect of HSI in some performances, such as lacking improvisation.
- Many of Duke Ellington’s music (and all of the other Big Bands) often does contain significant amounts of improvisation. Duke was famous for writing for his individual soloists setting them up to take advantage of their individual talents and musical skills from Buber Miley’s slides and growls on the trombone to Johnny Hodges’s alto saxophone playing. Who can forget Paul Gonsalves’s infamous 27 chorus solo at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957 during the performance of Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”? Ellington often wrote music so that it sounded like it was being improvised.
The hardest case to make for a style of music qualifying as jazz may be for the case of Free jazz.
This is perhaps not so hard to do for early free jazz, such as that represented in the oeuvre of the music of Ornette Coleman. His album, "Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation", came out in 1960. His previous albums all from 1959 with the forecasting titles of “Something Else!!!!,” “Tomorrow is the Question!,” “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” and “Change of the Century” contain musical elements that are easily recognizable from earlier jazz traditions. Each album uses a typical jazz quartet format (bass, drums, cornet/trumpet, alto saxophone) and Ornette’s alto saxophone playing can sound bluesy and not so untraditional.
Distinguished jazz author and music analyst, Alan Shipton, writes in his A New History of Jazz that Ornette Coleman is “the most significant jazz innovator of the last 40 years of the twentieth century, and opened up a viable broad highway on which what would become known as “free jazz” was to develop.”
Shipton goes on to explain Coleman’s innovative approach to improvisation.
““The underlying point is the crux of Ornette’s importance to jazz improvisation. If you abandon chord sequences as the basis for improvisation, and use melodic fragments instead, and if you play those fragments at whatever length, pitch, and speed feel right, even if the underlying pulse never changes, you then have the essence of what he began to explore in earnest in the mid-1950’s in Los Angeles.”
Consistent with the Galactic model thesis that HSI constitutes the black hole attractor of the jazz universe, Shipton writes of Coleman’s band, music and playing that:
“The band (in 1959) was loud, it was atonal, in the sense that he and [Don] Cherry both made liberal use of microtonal pitches, and its approach to Coleman’s core repertoire altered constantly from night to night. Above it all was the plaintive sound of his own [plastic] alto saxophone, mingling aggressive and uncompromising modernism with the deep emotional power of blues phrasing and timbre.” (bold not in original)
Coleman's blues phrasing and timbre are significant because it permits listeners to experience a style of some bluesiness consistent with that of the use of a pentatonic scale that produces the bluesiness found in more straightahead jazz, resulting from the hybridization of diatonic and pentatonic scales.
What is untraditional in Coleman's approach is his not conforming to the earlier rules of jazz such as staying in the same musical key during an entire song, or sticking with the chord changes to a song. Coleman and company used a freer approach.
Along somewhat similar lines of thinking is the free jazz music of Peter Brötzmann, (born 1941).
Ekkehard Jost, (1938-2017), German professor of music and himself a baritone saxophone player, has written insightfully on the topic of free jazz in The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz.
“The traditional format of jazz playing prior to 1960] “consisted of a couple of rules and agreements that more or less controlled the individual means of expression of improvising musicians and that regulated musical interaction within a group: the elementary formal framework of a jazz piece (theme – improvisation – theme), its harmonic and metric structure (derived from the theme) and the normative character of a constant fundamental beat. Whereas most of the preceding stylistic developments manifest themselves in gradual changes of technical and expressive means of creation, and sometimes also in the growing complexity of the structure of the background, in the years around 1960 the background itself started to disintegrate. The break from a traditional system of rules led to a precarious situation full of contradictions and insecurity, for with the liberation from old norms the question arose what this liberations should be for.” (italics Jost’s; bold not Jost's)
Jost importantly points out that free jazz did not outright reject following musical rules while encouraging more spontaneous interactivity between performers:
“Free jazz as a stylistic term is therefore only valuable when the freedom promised by the little word ‘free’ is understood as a freedom of choice among an infinite number of alternatives and not merely as a rebellion against tradition. And this of course means that free jazz cannot be understood as a compact style of jazz with definite characteristics and sharply drawn borders, but rather as a stylistic conglomerate, the most essential feature of which is its potential diversity. A few central points among the vast variety of musical changes and innovations that came along with free jazz are as follows:”
- 1) The questioning (not the abolition) of any kinds of rules.
- 2) The growing importance of spontaneous interaction among players, and connected with this, the partial nullification of traditional divisions between soloists and accompanists, and a growing tendency toward collective instead of solo improvisation.”
- 3) The emancipation of sound color, which becomes an independent means of creation and consequently opens the possibility of improvising amelodically.
- 4) The importance of energy and intensity as communicative elements and sources for collective ecstasy.
- 5) A turn towards musical cultures of the Third World and thereby the integration of diverse ‘exotic’ elements into jazz.
- 6) A growing consciousness of social, political and economic problems among musicians and the consequent development of a new form of self-understanding.” (bold, bold italics, and italics not in original)
'Machine Gun' was Don Cherry’s description of how Peter Brötzmann played his saxophone. Bassist on the album, Peter Kowald, reports that the “main objective was to really and thoroughly tear apart the old values, this meaning: to omit any harmony and melody; and the result wasn’t boring only because it was played with such high intensity.”
Ekkehard Jost describes some of the general characteristics found in the context of the album “Machine Gun.”
“Composing is generally limited to a minimum. By and large without themes, the music presents riff-like attacks and interjections, at times directed only in their movement up or down. There is a tendency to use distorted thematic quotations. The players abandon definite pitch as a stable element of musical organization in favor of unstable sound patterns. Structural distinctions result mainly from collective variations of register, density and loudness. Developmental processes lead, somewhat inevitably, towards a limit where individual musical events cannot be strictly identified as such, but combine to become a diffuse, intensive totality.” 
Why HSI is central to jazz
One way of thinking about what is central to the jazz tradition is to think what skills does the ideal jazz musician need to master?
- The ideal jazz musician would be accomplished in all three areas of syncopation, a blues influence using the hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, and improvisation.
- Additionally, the ideal jazz musician can play solo or in a combo of any size, can swing and groove, can use standard jazz harmony, and knows many songs (including melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics) in standard 32 bar chorus form and can play in any key and at any tempo.
One way to try to avoid a specific definition of jazz would be to try following a suggestion of Bill Evans, famous jazz pianist, who said:
“Jazz is not a what, it is a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that the music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists in the time it is created. And anyone who makes music according to this method conveys to me an element that makes his music jazz.”
But there is a major objection to this way of trying to characterize what makes a particular music be jazz. It doesn’t work. (For additional argumentation on these points see Is jazz a process?). There are many kinds of music that are clearly not jazz music in style, but that are nevertheless improvisational in character, such as Indian ragas by Ravi Shankar, rock guitar solo improvs by Phish, or even classical music improvisations by Mozart and Beethoven. These musicians were not syncopating, nor swinging, neither blues influenced (well, maybe Phish), nor utilizing ‘standard’ jazz harmonies, so no one thinks their music is jazz and probably not even Bill Evans!
The Galactic Model for Jazz
The purpose of a Galactic model is to find a model that can explain what all jazz genres are directly influenced by just as in virtually all galaxies is a super massive black hole whose gratitational attraction directs and influences all other objects in that galactic system.
Better definitions supply an explanation of the phenomenon under question. The Galactic model claims to provide an explanation for why a genre or sub-style of music is or is not in the jazz universe.
The relevant concepts in the Galactic model include:
- A synthesis and hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales.
- Syncopation, both off beat and weak beat.
- The blues and a blues influence.
Hybridization of Diatonic and Pentatonic Musical Scales
The diatonic musical scale is European in origin. It is a seven tone scale (such as the church modes) which allows for the richness of, and the European emphasis on, form and harmony. Whereas a pentatonic scale is a five note scale and provides an effective musical system for generating melodies. Often such melodies are accompanied by percussion instruments, which helps to account for the emphasis on rhythm and syncopation in African music. For American jazz the relevant pentatonic scale is African in origin, although pentatonic musical systems have independently popped up all over the Earth's continents.
There are two main forms of syncopation: weak beat and off beat. Weak beat syncopation occurs in common (4/4) time signatures as emphasis on the even-numbered beats (the 'weak' beats, which are beats two and four). In rock, for instance, the snare drum generally accents the second and fourth beats. Whereas off beat syncopation, as it can occur in swing, emphasizes the note occurring at the third sub-division (the 'short' rather than the 'long' note), thus placing a rhythmic accent between beats.
Note that both syncopation types upset the regular feel of the straight beat. If you first think of marches with their more uniform and rigid time signatures and then think of the rhythmic flexibility heard in jazz you can start to understand these differences.
Three Different Meanings of Swing
There are at least three different usages of the term swing.
- A type of rhythmic ‘feel’ in which the beat has three subdivisions, but with (generally) two notes per beat, one on the beat and one on the third subdivision, and also generally including “walking bass.”
- A style of jazz from the 1930’s and 1940’s where the swing feel predominated.
- An evaluative term meaning that a particular performance or band excelled, especially with respect to its rhythmic feel, as in “Basie’s band really swung!”.
Different Meanings of the Blues
- The Blues Style: a genre of music.
- The Blues Form: a repeatable chord structure of 8, 12 or 16 measures.
- The Blues Influence: the use of blues elements such as blue notes and pentatonic riffs in jazz, rock and other genres.
THE BLUES STYLE: A song style, originating with American blacks, that is marked by the frequent occurrence of blue notes, and that takes the basic form, customarily improvised upon in performance, of a 12-bar chorus consisting of a 3-line stanza with the second line repeating the first.
THE BLUES FORM (simple chord pattern)
|I chord | | | |IV | |
|I chord | |V |IV |I | ||
Key Elements of Jazz
- THE BLUES INFLUENCE:
- ➢ Use of “blue notes” (flat 3, 5, 7).
- ➢ Use of slides, bends and other modifications of standard sounds.
- ➢ Loose, somewhat improvisatory treatment of melodies.
- ➢ Use of pentatonic riffs.
- ➢ Use of “blue notes” (flat 3, 5, 7).
CONCLUSION: These five concept of hybridization, syncopation (& swing), a blues influence, and especially improvisation play a prominent role in what specifies the boundaries of jazz.
These five concepts can be used to defend clearly true claims, the recognition and appreciation of these clearly true claims can account for the significant pessimism that has surrounded theorist’s rejection of the possibility of defining jazz.
The generally pessimistic and anti-intellectual attitude adopted by a legion of theorists and commentators can be summarized by the famous comment by world famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong when asked to define jazz. He replied “Man, if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.”
What is Central to Jazz
The three elements or main pillars central to the jazz tradition are HSI [hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation] (pronounced “sigh”):
- Hybridization/Synthesis (H) of a diatonic with a pentatonic musical scale. This includes a blues influence from the use of a pentatonic African musical scale, and synthesizing that with a European influenced diatonic musical scale that accounts for the evolution of jazz harmonies.
- Syncopation (S) (this subsumes swing/groove).
- Improvisation (I) (concurrent composition and performance by same person).
The Three Pillars of Jazz
I. FIRST PILLAR of Jazz: HYBRIDIZATION in three ways:
- IA. Synthesizing and combining the European diatonic and the African pentatonic musical scales. This includes the blues. See Michael Furstner's Blues Lesson 1: BLUES FORMAT
- IB. Willingness to incorporate new musical elements instrumentally such as the timbales, conga, oud, tabla, cello, harmonica, violin, synthesizers, electric instruments, etc.
- IC. Willingness to utilize other musical elements, such as Jelly Roll Morton’s Latin Tinge, advanced harmonic techniques, classical music, rap, rock, soul, groove, swing, etc.
II. SECOND PILLAR of Jazz: SYNCOPATION:
- IIA. Weak Beat Syncopation: Occurs most commonly in 4/4 time. Beats 1 and 3 are the “strong” beats, which are normally felt as stressed. Weak-beat syncopation stresses beats 2 and 4 (usually.) Think of the snare drum in rock.
- IIB. Off Beat Syncopation: Stress on the halfway point between beats in rock and Latin jazz. Stress on the third triplet (approximately) in swing. When we speak of “jazz syncopation” or “swing-like” syncopation, we mean the liberal use of both elements.
“Syncopation is the main rhythmic feature in Jazz, Blues and most Latin style music (Bossa Novas).” as quoted in Michael Furstner's "Blues Lesson 3: SYNCOPATION."
III. THIRD PILLAR of Jazz: Improvisation:
- IIIA. Improvisation is concurrent composition while performing that composition by the same person. For a defense that improvisation often counts as producing compositions see What is improvisation?.
- IIIB. Improvisation is the raison d’être of jazz. This is true at least since the bebop era, when Bird and Dizzy needed a degree of freedom that big-band arrangements, with all the written parts, did not allow. That’s Parker & Gillespie. Improvisation is the primary reason that musicians are attracted to jazz today. It is what makes the characterizations of jazz offered by Duke Ellington and Bill Evans and many others essentially correct. Improvisation elevated jazz from “popular” forms (dance music) to an art form of its own.
Michael Furstner provides some useful metaphors regarding three ways to conceptualize the levels of a song. He claims that every (standard) jazz tune has the three levels of melody, chord progression, and scale progression. These three levels are compared to components in a painting with the melody representing the shapes found in a painting, the chords are the colors filling and surrounding the shapes, while the scales are the resource from which the melody notes and the chord tones are selected and represent the palette that can be used by an improviser or painter.
Following this model, an improvisation may use any one of these three levels or use them in combination. Hence an improvisation may consist in just an embellishment of a song's melody, or could be based on the chord tones of the underlying chords, or an improvisation could be based on the entire palette, namely the underlying scales, which includes all melody notes and chord tones.
Clearly True Claims About Jazz
- (1) Specific instrumentation is not necessary for jazz because jazz can be played with any musical instrument.
- (2) Improvisation is not a necessary feature for music to qualify as jazz because jazz exists that is not improvised (e.g., Duke Ellington big band).
- (3) Improvisation is not a sufficient condition for music to qualify as jazz because many music types other than jazz use improvisation (rock, Indian ragas, blues, etc.).
- (4) Swing is neither necessary nor sufficient for jazz because there is jazz that doesn’t swing (free jazz) and music that does swing that isn’t jazz (for example, rockabilly).
Why need a Galactic model for jazz?
➢ Why not just accept Paul Rinzler’s CORE model, which after all does disavow the project of specifying necessary and sufficient conditions for jazz?
Limitations of Rinzler's Onion and CORE Models
➢ One of the reasons is that Rinzler's Onion and CORE models are relatively static. His CORE follows the relatively stable jazz traditions.
➢ His Onion and CORE account says little about dynamic factors in jazz history, neither about the movement of jazz genre’s status changes, nor anything about altering perceptions amongst jazz experts over time that can and do change. Previous expert’s judgments can, as well as actually have been, mistaken about a genre’s status and how it relates to jazz overall.
➢ Nor does Rinzler’s Onion and CORE models provide much of an explanation for why those non-core jazz genres are included in the undisputed area other than concurrence by the experts.
The Advantages of a Galactic Model for Jazz
➢ A more dynamic and explanatory model for accounting for genres existing in the jazz universe is the Galactic model.
➢ To introduce one of the motivations for having a Galactic model think back about the past history of jazz and people’s judgments about it and its various genres and sub-types.
The Galactic model can account for changes in perception and actual status of sub-types of jazz
Consider jazz in 1910 in the United States:
We ask all well informed judgers to determine whether Dixieland is or is not in the heart and center of jazz music. Their collective judgment would undoubtedly be that this is correct! Dixieland was a major form of jazz at that time.
➢ Was this judgment correct in 1910?
Undoubtedly it was a correct assessment at that time since there were limited other forms of competing. Since it was one of the few sub-types of jazz known to humans, then it was correct to classify Dixieland as the type of music central to playing music that is jazz.
Now jump to the present and consider Dixieland's status and perception changes about it in the United States:
Is Dixieland still considered to be near the heart and core of jazz? Here we think the answer is NO, because Dixieland has been surpassed. It no longer is considered by critics, nor by musicians, nor by the majority of well informed listeners to constitute the heart of jazz. While important, it is now at best early jazz in its teen years (literally).
➢ What explains these jazz status and perception changes regarding Dixieland?
We’ve seen how both judgments, as well as the status of a jazz sub-genre, can change over time. Originally, in 1910, Dixieland was king. In the present, it is now just an elderly auntie. Not only have expert’s opinions altered over time, but the actual status of the genre of Dixieland has now been reduced.
The exact opposite has happened in jazz history regarding the music of Ornette Coleman.
Consider the status of Ornette Coleman's music first from the perspective of the early 1960's and then from today's perspectives:
In the early 1960’s Coleman had many detractors, to say the least. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
♦ Miles Davis dismissed him as “psychologically, the man is all screwed up inside.” (quoted in Jazz Masters of the ‘50s).
♦ Max Roach allegedly punched him in the mouth during his Five Spot residency.
♦ Roy Eldridge exclaimed even after playing with him that “I think he’s jiving, baby?” (Esquire, 1961).
♦ Dizzy Gillespie, “I don’t know what he’s playing, but it’s not jazz.” (Time Magazine, June 1960).
By the end of his career, as reported by Larry Blumenfeld, while “early on (in Ornette’s career he) was met not just with criticism but cruel derision, but by the time of his death (on June 11, 2015) he had earned every major honor imaginable, including a 2007 Pulitzer Prize for composition.” (Jazzis Magazine, “Ornette Passes,” Fall 2015, p. 130)
Coleman’s music (precisely because he was willing to break the mold of older jazz traditions) has swung from the outer fringes of jazz to much closer to the center of jazz playing and tradition.
The Structure of a Galactic model for jazz
➢ How should we account for and provide an explanation for these types of movements amongst both the evaluator’s judgments, as well as the actual objects themselves, the musical sub-genres of jazz?
The Galactic model for defining jazz permits an understanding of WHY there can be such movements of musician’s and theoretician’s evaluations, as well as changes in the actual statuses of any particular genre of jazz. The Galactic model can provide an explanation for these perception and actual status changes.
On the Galactic model, there must be a massive attractor to which all other nearby objects bear a relationship to it. There can be no denying its unrelenting power and influence on everything that happens in that galaxy.
Astronomers believe that at the gravitational center of every massive galaxy there lies a supermassive black hole responsible for coordinating and influencing the movement of large scale objects. Supermassive black holes are inexorably linked to the galaxies that encircle them.
Jazz history reveals that jazz is not a static musical discipline. It is dynamic just like the physical universe. Any model of the nature of jazz needs to account for this dynamism and the Galactic model does just this.
As the universe expands after the Big Bang, gravitational effects occur and physical objects begin to coalesce and form atoms, then molecules, then stars, planets, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and super clusters of galaxies.
Paralleling this in the history of jazz are all of the various sub-genres of jazz, each being a planet or sub-system in the galaxy of jazz held together by the super massive black hole (because of its attractiveness) constituted by the three pillars of jazz: HSI (hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation).
What holds these larger astronomical structures together are super massive black holes that all of the other physical objects orbit around. It is believed by astronomers that every galaxy is organized around a super massive black hole.
This early uniformity in the universe is paralleled in the early world of jazz by there being relatively few forms of jazz. The three that come to mind are New Orleans marching bands, solo piano performers, such as Jelly Roll Morton, and Dixieland combos.
Paralleling this galactic black hole model, jazz has at the center of its universe the super massive black hole constituted by hybridization of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales, syncopation, and improvisation (the three pillars: HSI). Everything else in this universe has a location relative to it.
So, eventually we come to have planet Soul Jazz, planet Free Jazz, planet Dixieland, planet Cool Jazz, and so forth.
The apparent change in status of a sub-genre of art can be only an illusion of perspective and lack of knowledge of other (jazz) genres. It isn’t that Dixieland changed as that other jazz genres were discovered that surpassed Dixieland relative to the core of the three pillars of jazz.
The analogy used is that of ancient astronomers compared to 21st century ones. Perception of the Earth’s status has altered many times throughout history. First, it was believed the Earth WAS the universe. Later, perceptions changed so the Earth was at the center of the universe. Next, not the center, but orbiting the Sun, so part of a Solar System. The Solar System is discovered to be in a galaxy, the galaxy in a cluster of galaxies, the cluster of galaxies existing in a supercluster of galaxies, etc.
At the start of jazz’s Big Bang period (1880’s), there were very few planets in a small galaxy, with Dixieland, solo piano, and marching bands making up the bulk of the entire universe of hearable jazz. So, these genres would be considered exemplars of music that is jazz from the point of view of 1910.
In the early universe, there were fewer planets and galaxies, but as the universe expanded and aged that number continued to increase and structures become more complex.
The same thing happened in the jazz universe. Since 1910, many jazz revolutions have occurred, from Big Band, Swing, BeBop, Soul, Cool, Modal, Fusion, and Free, to name a few. This increases the known Jazz planets that constitutes new genres of jazz.
As jazz styles increased so did the known contents of the galaxy of jazz.
At first planet Free Jazz was considered to lie at the outer fringes of jazz. However, as musicians became more sophisticated and the culture’s ears became more comfortable with dissonance and other advanced harmonic sounds, musicians and listeners alike through familiarity could more easily appreciate the sonic contributions of free jazz. This ends up moving planet Free Jazz closer to the center of the jazz galaxy (and the corresponding perceptions of experts).
The Galactic model partially agrees and partially disagrees with Rinzler’s CORE model. The supermassive jazz black hole (HSI) need NOT include swing, nor chorus form, nor standard jazz harmony (except as it relates to hybridization), nor the combo.
These are all more or less accidental features and NOT essential to the core of music counted as jazz, although they certainly are traditional.
Implications of the Galactic model
So, free jazz can count as being located in the jazz galaxy while sometimes lacking syncopation and more often lacking hybridization.
The justification for including free jazz in jazz on the Galactic Model is clearly the degrees of success players have regarding their improvisations. Jazz players ideally are fantastic improvisers and free jazz players need to be to produce good music.
Having to produce successful and interesting music spontaneously from no musical score whatsoever is an extremely difficult feat. Try it if you don’t believe it. It is so difficult that master improvisers such as Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker could never reproduce exactly what he had just improvised. You either caught it on the tape, or lost it forever. This helps account for the value of a great improvisation.
Rinzler's core model has three areas: the core, definitely jazz, and a disputed area. If we map this, we get an onion with three layers.
But can this type of model explain jazz's features?
What is judged to be in Rinzler’s CORE might change, as he himself admits.
Smooth jazz, Acid jazz, or even Ragtime do not all have the same caché with critics, listeners, and musicians alike. Some genres of jazz are more valued and these differing values affect a genre’s place in the jazz universe.
➢ What makes one type of jazz more admired than another?
The Galactic model for jazz can explain these differences in admiration and value.
In the natural universe every galaxy has at its rotational center a supermassive black hole. In the jazz universe what holds all of the various genres within the jazz galaxy are the three pillars of jazz embodied in HSI (hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation).
The forces driving and constituents of this supermassive black hole for jazz are hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation (HSI). The relative distances that different genres are from this center explains where to rank and place them with respect to each other. Furthermore, we find the metaphor of orbits superior both conceptually and visually to that of the onion model, or even the spiky globe one. The spiky globe model does not have an account of what is making the spines stick out at varying heights from the center.
On the contrary, the Galactic model explains why each sub-genre is located where they are, as well as accounting for the history of people's changing perceptions of the relative locations of genres of jazz.
The Galactic model has some parallels to the Copernican revolution in astronomy. Prior to Copernicus many believed the Earth was the center—a geocentric model demonstrated below on the right necessitating epicycles to account for the (apparent) retrograde motion by the planets—and the sun revolved around it. This is opposed to a sun-centered or heliocentric model (demonstrated below on left).
A parallel in the jazz world was Dixielanders believing their genre of music lay at the center of the jazz universe.
It wasn’t until as late as October 1923 when Edwin Hubble spotted what he first thought was a nova flaring up dramatically in the M31 "nebula" in the constellation of Andromeda. After careful examination of photographic plates he realized that it was a Cepheid star. Hubble measured the distance to the new Cepheid. He could then place M31 a million light-years away, which was far outside of the Milky Way and thus itself a galaxy containing millions of stars.
Similarly at first blush for free jazz except in the opposite direction. Many initial hearers thought to banish free jazz either out of the universe altogether because it was not jazz, or, at best, it existed in the outer solar system far far from the center of jazz.
Ornette Coleman's early freer approach to jazz got support from such forward thinkers as Leonard Bernstein, George Russell, John Lewis (pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet), and eventually practically everybody else.
On the Galactic model we have the Copernican Revolution whereby at least early free jazz is closer to the center of jazz than was first believed by many free jazz opponents just like switching from Geocentrism to Heliocentrism.
Similarly, for Dixieland. Dixieland was first thought to be in the center of the jazz universe, but that has changed over time.
Defenders of Dixieland could claim that their music has all three pillars from the super-massive black hole of jazz HSI: hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation.
This is, in fact, true. However, Dixieland is not a genre that many players pursue, or that gets a lot of recordings, or is primarily enjoyed by the majority of jazz listeners. Hence, the Galactic model concedes that planet Dixieland can be in a similar orbit as some jazz genres, but it remains a smaller and less active system.
Planet BeBop, not only is a larger system/planet than Dixieland, but also orbits nearer to the center of HSI due to its advancements over Dixieland relative to the three categories of the HSI galaxy’s attractors.
Moreover, jazz after Dixieland did more with HSI. Jazz became:
- ♦ More syncopated because of the swing feel.
- ♦ More hybridized due to advances in harmony, and
- ♦ Included more and more sophisticated improvisations.
Explanatory Power of the Galactic model
Why Blues is not Jazz
Early blues features two of the three pillars of HSI: the diatonic-pentatonic hybridization, and fairly significant amounts of improvisation, but lacks significant amounts of syncopation.
Later blues is more syncopated, but still not to the extent that jazz is. Moreover, the sophistication of its harmony and its improvisation remain at the level of rock (the chromaticism and virtuoso improvisation of jazz after Art Tatum and Charlie Parker does not occur.)
Why Rock is not Jazz
For the same reasons, essentially, rock is not jazz. Some late R&B gets very close, however, especially with the sophistication of its harmony. Of course, there are also borderline cases, such as the American a cappella gospel sextet formed in 1980 called Take 6, and in some of the work of Quincy Jones (born 1933), etc.
Why Latin Jazz is Close to the Core of Jazz
The main difference between Latin and non-Latin jazz is the dance feel. Whereas most core jazz would rely on the swing feel, Latin jazz by definition does not. But if anything, Latin jazz is even more syncopated, and contains all the other key elements of Rinzler’s CORE, the Galactic Model’s HSI, as well as Chorus form, virtuoso improvisation, & chromaticism (a more sophisticated harmony).
Chris Washburne, Associate Professor of Music at Columbia University and the founder and director of Columbia’s Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, in his “Latin Jazz: The Other Jazz,” in effect, argues that traditional jazz from its inception of leaving Ragtime and the blues always had Latin influenced musical components, the Jelly Roll Morton coined phrase the 'Spanish tinge', contained and incorporated from within.
On the Galactic model for jazz it is not necessary to make any final decision about where a particular sub-genre lies in relationship to the HSI core, or the actual size of the genre in the future, or even its relative positions to other genres currently.
Expert’s evaluations and judgments in the past about different genre’s status to jazz have sometimes been incorrect.
Free jazz was thought either not even to exist in the galaxy of jazz, or was extremely far from the center. For early Ornette Coleman at least, his music is closer to HSI than was once believed by many. Paul Rinzler's fuzzy logic methodology coheres with the above perspectives about genre status.
A Galactic Picture of Jazz
The picture that we get of the jazz galaxy on a Galactic model with all jazz sub-genres being influenced by and attracted to the supermassive black hole at the center of the jazz galaxy, namely HSI (hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation). It could look like this:
➢ Does the Galactic model provide a definition for jazz?
It depends upon what you mean by definition.
Relative to the specification of sufficient and necessary conditions, there has been provided at least one sufficient condition. That sufficient condition is a genuine theoretical achievement if true. It reveals that at the heart of jazz lies HSI (hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation) and when standard jazz harmonizations are added to the mix the music can be nothing other than jazz.
Many possibilities have been ruled out as necessary conditions.
The goal, however, was never to characterize jazz solely in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions.
What has been provided is an explanation and understanding of the nature of jazz without needing to provide a set of necessary and sufficient conditions because of the possibility of degrees of jazz INCLUSION, following Paul Rinzler's 'fuzzy logic' approach. This is done intentionally because there are forms of music that are closer, as well as, farther away from more straightforward jazz types.
Instead what has been provided is an explanatory model for better understanding the nature and dynamics of jazz. The Galactic model permits powerful explanations for how to determine the status of jazz genres and their positions relative to each other, both their value and significance. It has been justified why the supermassive black hole of jazz is constituted by HSI. HSI motivates and continually drives the jazz universe forward for the foreseeable future. Long live the Jazz Galaxy.
Overview and Summary of Defining Jazz
- It would be possible to define jazz if it were known and agreed upon as to what is being meant by definition. See Ontdef1. What is a definition?
- A definition is a specification of a set of boundary conditions that satisfactorily deliberates the items under investigation and agreed upon by experts and hopefully a vast majority of even non-expert interested parties agree that the items falling under a particular definition are the appropriate items to be included.
- Jazz could be defined to various extents and its boundary conditions delineated by investigating any necessary and/or sufficient conditions for playing jazz.
- The following has been definitively established as true. All of the following are clearly true claims. Any objector disputing them would have to use a different meaning or interpretation of at least one or more of the terms involved.
- Clearly True Claims:
- 1. Neither Improvisation nor syncopation nor swing are essential for music to be jazz nor are any of them necessary conditions for jazz to exist.
- Counter-examples: Duke Ellington's Big Band had jazz numbers where passages did not swing, were not improvised, and sections lacked syncopation. It remained jazz. Therefore, neither swing nor improvisation nor syncopation are necessary for jazz. Free jazz and Latin jazz often don't swing. Latin jazz strikes many as a jazz form. Therefore, swing is not necessary for jazz. Therefore, neither swing, syncopation, nor improvisation are necessary for jazz.
- 1. Neither Improvisation nor syncopation nor swing are essential for music to be jazz nor are any of them necessary conditions for jazz to exist.
- 3. Neither swing nor syncopation nor improvisation are sufficient conditions for music to count as jazz because rockabilly swings (like the Stray cats, but it is not jazz). Many genres of music can contain improvisation including classical, rock, blues, and Indian ragas, to name a few.
- 4. A sufficient condition for music being jazz is if it simultaneously contains syncopation, improvisation, using a synthesis of the diatonic and pentatonic musical scales (hybridization), and standard jazz harmonies. There are no counter-examples. Therefore, this is a sufficient condition for qualifying music as jazz.
- 5. The pentatonic/diatonic musical synthesis (aka hybridization) is not necessary for playing free jazz.
- 6. All three musical properties together of hybridization, syncopation, and improvisation are not sufficient for jazz because blues performances can simultaneously have all three.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part One - The Sources, Ch. 1: "Perspectives and Objectives," 1957, paragraph 1.
- Footnote 2, Music Is My Mistress, Duke Ellington, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1973; reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1976, p. 453.
- Jazz: The First 100 Years, Henry Martin and Keith Waters, Belmont, CA: Thomson Schirmer, 2006, p. 3.
- Jazz in American Culture, Peter Townsend, University Press of Mississippi, "Preface," 2000, p. vii.
- "Jazz," Gunther Schuller, Encyclopedia Brittanica, first paragraph.
- "Jazz," Gunther Schuller, Encyclopedia Brittanica, second paragraph.
- "Jazz," Gunther Schuller, Encyclopedia Brittanica, third paragraph.
- Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris, Jeffrey H. Jackson, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003, (second printing 2004), p. 174.
- The Jazz Review, Book Review by Nat Hentoff of Discographie Critique Des Meil-Leurs Disques de Jazz by Hughes Panassié's, (published by Robert Laf-font, 30, rue de l'Universite, Paris, France), in The Jazz Review, Volume 1, Number 1, November, 1958, p. 45.
- The Wikipedia article on the 20 print jazz series of Matisse reports that the title "Jazz" was provided by the original art publisher Tériade (and not from Matisse himself who had intended the title to be "Circus"). Furthermore, many of the selections have as their primary influences and representations themes other than jazz, including circuses, folktales, and voyages, as reported at Wikipedia:
“The designs were initially intended as covers for Verve, a French art magazine published by Tériade. In 1947, Tériade issued the compositions in an artist’s portfolio. The book included 20 color prints, each about 16 by 26 inches (41 by 66 cm), as well as Matisse’s handwritten notes expressing his thoughts throughout the process. Tériade gave it the title Jazz, which Matisse liked because it suggested a connection between art and musical improvisation. Despite the low number of books printed, Jazz was well received.”
“The circus, the title originally suggested for the book, provided inspiration for the majority of the motifs concerning performing artists and balancing acts. “These images, with their lively and violent tones, derive from crystallizations of memories of circuses, folktales, and voyages,” Matisse explains in the accompanying text. The figure of the circus artist, usually depicted alone, is often seen as a metaphor for the artist himself.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
- Jazz in American Culture, Peter Townsend, University Press of Mississippi, "Preface," 2000, p. viii.
- For a comprehensive list of jazz standards many of which originally were non-jazz tunes, such as Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" made into a jazz tune by Miles Davis (and included on the 2 CD compilation "The Essential Miles Davis,") but not to be confused with the actual jazz standard of "Time After Time" with lyrics by Sammy Cahn and music by Jule Styne from 1946; see Wikipedia: List of jazz standards.
- Book Reviews of Blowin' Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics by John Gennari; Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing by David Yaffe; and Swinging the Vernacular: Jazz and African American Modernist Literature by Michael Borshuk, reviewed by Joel Dinerstein of Tulane University, American Literature Vol. 79, #4, pp. 862-864.
- "Morris Weitz," Aili W. Bresnahan, Philosophy Faculty Publications, 4, 2014 at http://ecommons.udayton.edu/phl_fac_pub/4.
- The following short characterization of Weitz's theory of open concepts is found at Professor Mark Hopwood's Philosophy of Art website explaining their relationship to games and the concept of art: "Weitz's Theory,"
“In "The Role of Theory in Aesthetics," Morris Weitz claims that art is an open concept and cannot be defined by rigid properties or characteristics. Weitz borrows Wittgenstein’s answer and analysis of the question “What is a game?” to show how an open concept works and why it pertains to art. Games are loosely connected concepts that share strands of similarities and consistent properties. There are no strict definition for what is a game, but rather a loose idea of what constitutes a game so when dealing with new concepts in the future we can figure out if its a game. Art faces extremely similar conceptual issues. Instead of trying to specify what can be classified as art through debate, Weitz believes we must accept the basic idea that nobody can truly define exactly what art is. Simply the fact that new artists will continue to push the boundaries of artistic expression is indicative of the issue of trying to define such a broad concept. Theorists need to accept that art is an ever-changing and open concept with a vast array of different forms.” (written by Heffrodo, February 8, 2017 (bold not in original)
- "Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography,” Scott Deveaux, Black American Literature Forum 25, no. 3 (Autumn 1991), pp. 528-29. This quotation can also be found in Paul Rinzler's magnum opus, The Contradictions of Jazz, p. 90.
- “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography,” Scott Deveaux, Black American Literature Forum 25, no. 3 (Autumn 1991), p. 528.
- Permission granted by the Ed Berger Photographic Collection to use his black and white photograph of Bill Kirchner (Photo (c) Ed Berger Photographic Collection); modifications by poj.fm.
- “Introduction” to The Oxford Companion to Jazz, Bill Kirchner, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 5.
- "What is Music? Is There A Definitive Answer?," Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, no. 4, September, 2014, p. 397.
- Dictionary.com definition for “most.”
- Wikipedia: Country music.
- "What is Music? Is There A Definitive Answer?," Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, no. 4, September, 2014, p. 398.
- "Definitions: Does Disjunction Mean Dysfunction?," Justine Kingsbury and Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 106, No. 10, October, 2009, p. 11. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20620204.
- "Jazz and Country Fusion: The Searchers," Geoffrey Himes, JazzTimes.com, published December 1, 2008.
- Downbeat Hall of Fame.
- Assume for the sake of this possible world scenario that Nazi's are unaware of the amount of African-American involvement in earlier jazz while also believing that the all non-black Original Dixieland Jazz band and the Caucasian Paul Whiteman are primarily responsible for prior jazz history's success.
- Wikipedia on Dizzy Gillespie reports Dizzy Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina.
- This possible genre name should not be confused with the similar sounding name of Country House Opera.
- Wikipedia on the song "Intuition" by Lennie Tristano and reports that “"Intuition" is the title of a free improvisation by the Lennie Tristano quintet. It was recorded on May 16, 1949, and is credited as being one of the first two freely improvised jazz recordings, along with "Digression" (made at the same session).” (bold not in original)
- New York Times Obituary of Warne Marsh, December 20, 1987. “[Warne Marsh] made some legendary free jazz recordings with Lee Konitz and Billy Bauer for Capitol Records in 1949.” (bold not in original)
- The Naked Scientists's discussion forum has writers claiming that even without Einstein relativity would have been discovered with one person claiming as early as by 1920.
- Quora has theorists answering the question in the affirmative that "If Albert Einstein had never existed at all in the world, would relativity theory have been found and proposed by others by now?" One author claims inevitability of discovery because of Lorentzian invariance already present in Lorentz's equations independently of any work by Einstein. “Once Lorentz invariance was spotted, the rest of relativity was inevitable because it is essentially nothing more than the extension of Lorentz invariance to apply to all physics, not just electromagnetism.” Another author argues similarly: “Lorentz had found these equations before Einstein, these transformations if interpreted reveal phenomenons like time dilation and length contraction. . . . Successive physicists would have deduced these concepts soon enough.”
- "On the role of the Michelson-Morley experiment: Einstein in Chicago," Jeroen van Dongen, Institute for History and Foundations of Science & Descartes Centre, Utrecht University & Einstein Papers Project, Caltech, reports on Einstein’s knowledge of the Michelson-Morley experiment prior to 1905.
- Wikipedia on tests supporting (general) relativity theory.
- Under some scenarios nothing is inevitable in the sense of necessarily occurs. No one would have developed any more theory of relativity, or any new jazz genres, were the entire Earth to blow up into small pieces and kill all humans.
- In Miles Davis: Dark Prince, author Ken Trethewey writes in the eighth paragraph under the heading "Miles, the artist" that free jazz might predate Coleman's first album in the work of Cecil Taylor. “An obvious example was the revolution in jazz that began in 1959 with the release by Ornette Coleman of an album called "The Shape of Jazz to Come". (Some might attribute the creation of free jazz in an earlier year due to the work of pianist Cecil Taylor.)”
- Wikipedia on Natural Kinds, opening paragraph.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Natural Kinds.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Natural Kinds.
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- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 88.
- "What is Music? Is There A Definitive Answer?," Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, September 2014, p. 396. DOI:10.1111/jaac.12127.
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- UCSB Science Line, "Why are whales mammals and not fish? What are the characteristics of mammals?".
- "The evolution of whales," at "Understanding Evolution" a website created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology with support provided by the National Science Foundation.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica on Ragtime.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, first paragraph.
- Wikipedia on Minton's Playhouse. Minton's was an after hours hangout where the above musicians collaborated, jammed, and created Bebop.
- Wikipedia on Nguyên_Lê reports that “His 1996 album "Tales from Viêt-Nam" blends jazz and traditional Vietnamese music.”
- Jam!: the story of jazz music, Jeanne Lee, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1999, p. 53. ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1.
- Jam!: the story of jazz music, Jeanne Lee, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1999, p. 49. ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1.
- Jam!: the story of jazz music, Jeanne Lee, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1999, p. 51. ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 28.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 31.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraphs 38 and 40.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 46.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 91. There is a conflict in that 25 years before 1984 that Feather mentions in this quotation would be 1959, yet the publication date of the book within which the quotation is found is 1957.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 95.
- The Book of Jazz: A Guide To The Entire Field, Leonard Feather, Part 4-It's Future, Ch. 23 "Horizons: Jazz in 1984," 1957, paragraph 101.
- Theorists have pointed out that a development which jazz could be seen to have paralleled had already taken place in classical orchestral composers going from tonal to more atonal and dissonant features between 1890-1930. For more on the history of this parallel type of development see Wikipedia on "Modernism in Music" where it states:
“Eero Tarasti defines musical modernism directly in terms of "the dissolution of the traditional tonality and transformation of the very foundations of tonal language, searching for new models in atonalism, polytonalism or other forms of altered tonality", which took place around the turn of the century (Tarasti 1979, 272).”
- Downbeat, January 18, 1962.
- Interestingly, no reference at all is made as to where this term comes from, namely, from jazz musicians taking ordinary tunes and then embellishing them with new musical material rhythmically and melodically making mundane material more exciting and lively, hence "jazzing it up."
- "The Influence of Jazz on the History and Development of Concert Music," Gunther Schuller, in New Perspectives on Jazz, edited by David N. Baker, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990, p. 12.
- Jazz Issues: A Critical History, David W. Megill and Paul O. W. Tanner, Wisconsin & Iowa: Brown & Benchmark Publishers, 1995, p. 107. ISBN: 0-697-12571-8.
- Wikipedia on Swing (Jazz Performance), 1st paragraph.
- Joachim E. Berendt, The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond, translated by H. and B. Bredigkeit with Dan Morgenstern, 1981, Lawrence Hill Books, p. 371.
- The New Jazz Book: a History and Guide, Joachim Ernst Berendt, p. 278.
- The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond, Joachim E. Berendt, translated by H. and B. Bredigkeit with Dan Morgenstern, Lawrence Hill Books, 1981, p. 371.
- "Christgau's Consumer Guide," Robert Christgau, The Village Voice, New York, October 28, 1986. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
- "Review of The Cambridge Companion to Jazz," Peter Elsdon, FZMw (Frankfurt Journal of Musicology) No. 6, 2003.
- The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, Mervyn Cooke and David G. Horn, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1, 6.
- Wikipedia, Etymology of the word "Jazz"
- The etymology of the word "JAZZ," Bob Rigter. An abridged version of Bob Rigter (1991), "Light on the Dark Etymology of JAZZ in the Oxford English Dictionary," in Tieken & Frankis (eds.), Language Usage and Description, Amsterdam/Atlanta: Editions Rodopi. ISBN 90-5183-312-1.
- A New History of Jazz, Alan Shipton, 2007, p. 1.
- "Definitions: Does Disjunction Mean Dysfunction?," Justine Kingsbury and Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 106, No. 10, October, 2009, footnote 12, p. 27. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20620204.
- "Definitions: Does Disjunction Mean Dysfunction?," Justine Kingsbury and Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 106, No. 10, October, 2009, pp. 20-21, paragraph 49 (plus or minus 4). Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20620204.
- "What is Music? Is There A Definitive Answer?," Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, no. 4, Fall 2014, pp. 396-397.
- "Definitions: Does Disjunction Mean Dysfunction?," Justine Kingsbury and Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 106, No. 10, October, 2009, p. 578. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20620204.
- The precursor to the bicycle was invented in 1817, but crank propulsion via peddling doesn't occur until 1860, according to Wikipedia. The Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language does not include any entry for bicycle. The reason for this is clear. As reported at Wikipedia under "Etymology" “the word "bicycle" first appeared in English print in The Daily News in 1868, to describe "Bysicles and trysicles" on the "Champs Elysées and Bois de Boulogne." The word was first used in 1847 in a French publication to describe an unidentified two-wheeled vehicle, possibly a carriage.”
- Definitions: Does Disjunction Mean Disfunction? Justine Kingsbury and Jonathan McKeown-Green The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 106, no.10, October 2009, p. 572.
- What Is Music? Is There a Definitive Answer?, Jonathan McKeown-Green, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, no. 4, Fall 2014, p. 398. “Just as bebop might not have been regarded as jazz, material by Cage and Varese could easily not have been regarded as music. . . . Furthermore, just as rock ’n’ roll might have been regarded as jazz . . . .” (bold not in original)
- Dictionary.com definition of "desultory."
- "What is Music? Is There A Definitive Answer?," Jonathan McKeown-Green, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 72, no. 4, September 2014, p. 398. DOI: 10.1111/jaac.12127.
- Dictionary.com defines automobile. Definition modified to include electric and hybrid vehicles, which are the propulsion systems involved in propelling the vehicle.
- Dictionary.com definition of bicycle.
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- Peg Brands Reviews Definitions of Art by Stephen Davies, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 54, No. 2, June, 1994, p. 494. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2108514.
- Wikipedia on acid jazz, opening paragraph.
- Wikipedia on acid jazz.
- Musicmap.info description of acid jazz.
- Wikipedia on acid house music.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica, "Jazz," 2017, fifth paragraph.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica, "Jazz," 2017, third paragraph.
- Wikipedia: John Coltrane.
- Wikipedia: Albert Ayler.
- Hearing Range, second paragraph.
- As reported in The Washington Post December 22, 2009.
- A woman had severe injuries after sleepwalking and falling down the stairs at an unfamiliar house, as reported on January 27, 2014 at the Daily Mail.
- "What is Jazz Rhythm?," Dave Liebman, Dave Liebman Official Website, first three paragraphs.
- Frank A. Salamone, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, has published extensively on the culture of jazz. Salamone has written on Nigeria, Italians of Rochester, and other anthropological topics. Additionally, he plays saxophone and clarinet enough to marvel at the creativity of jazz musicians.
- The Culture of Jazz: Jazz as Critical Culture, Frank A. Salamone, UPA publisher, pp. 9-10, 2008.
- The Culture of Jazz: Jazz as Critical Culture, Frank A. Salamone, UPA publisher, pp. 9-10, 2008.
- "Sonicism and Jazz Improvisation," Gary Iseminger, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 68, No. 3 (SUMMER 2010), pp. 297-299.
- "Sonicism and Jazz Improvisation," Gary Iseminger, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 68, No. 3 (SUMMER 2010), pp. 297-299.
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History website, "What is Jazz?," 2017, first paragraph.
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- "Definition of Music," Marina Borisov, online at Scribd, accessed October, 2017.
- An example of American glass blowing art before the turn of the 20th century includes artistic paperweights made in America as quoted at glass art: "Fine paperweights were originally made by skilled workers in the glass factories in Europe and the United States during the classic period (1845-1870.)"
- Music 101: Help and Review, Chapter 9 (Lesson 34): "What Is Jazz? - History, Characteristics & Instruments," 2nd paragraph.
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- Jazz in America, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz website.
- Jazz, Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2009.
- Oxford dictionary: definition of "process."
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- Music: "What jazz is—and isn't," Wynton Marsalis, New York Times, 17th paragraph, July 31, 1988.
- Haydn's Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major ("Drum Roll"), where the (non-valved) 'natural' trumpets often outline the melody in all four movements.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica, "Jazz," 2017, first five paragraphs.
- "Ornette Coleman and the Circle with a Hole in the Middle," Ornette Coleman interview by Robert Palmer, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, December 1972, now on The Atlantic Online.
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History website, "What is Jazz? The Nature of Jazz," 2017, second paragraph.
- Miles Davis: Dark Prince, Ken Trethewey, "Miles, the Man," second paragraph, Fusion Books, July 15, 2011. ISBN-10: 0956008356. ISBN-13: 978-0956008350.
- "Bebop," Ross Russell, in The Art of Jazz, edited by Martin Williams, New York: Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 202.
- A History of Jazz Music 1900-2000, Piero Scaruffi, "Beginnings: New Orleans," printed and published in USA, 2007, paragraph 25. ISBN-10: 0-9765531-3-9; ISBN-13: 978-0-9765531-3-7.
- Quoted in The Encyclopedia of Jazz, "The jazzman as critic: the blindfold test," Leonard Feather, New York: Bonanza Books, 1960, p. 475.
- Quoted in The Encyclopedia of Jazz, "The jazzman as critic: the blindfold test", Leonard Feather, New York: Bonanza Books, 1960, p. 478.
- Marian McParland oral history NEA Jazz Master Interview of Marian McPartland (March 20, 1918 – August 20, 2013) by Interviewer James Williams (March 8, 1951- July 20, 2004) on January 3–4, 1997, and May 26, 1998 located in the repository of the Archives Center, National Museum of American History as a 178 pages transcript, p. 18
- Miles Davis's third Blindfold test interviewed by Leonard Feather in Downbeat June, 1964.
- Wikipedia: Rock Star movie.
- Lester Young website.
- Jazz, “Sounds Associated with Jazz” from Jazz under "Listening to Jazz," Paul O. W. Tanner and David W. Megill, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing, Inc., 2013, p. 7.
- Wikipedia: Jazz.
- Lee B. Brown, "Jazz," Oxford Reference, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd ed.), edited by Michael Kelly, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 2nd paragraph. ISBN-13: 9780199747108. Published online: 2014. eISBN: 9780199747115.
- Lee B. Brown, "Jazz," Oxford Reference, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd ed.), edited by Michael Kelly, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 3rd paragraph. ISBN-13: 9780199747108. Published online: 2014. eISBN: 9780199747115.
- Lee B. Brown, "Jazz," Oxford Reference, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd ed.), edited by Michael Kelly, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 16th paragraph. ISBN-13: 9780199747108. Published online: 2014. eISBN: 9780199747115.
- Lee B. Brown, "Jazz," Oxford Reference, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (2nd ed.), edited by Michael Kelly, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, paragraphs 4-15 under "Afropurism." ISBN-13: 9780199747108. Published online: 2014. eISBN: 9780199747115.
- * All Music Guide biography of André Hodeir.
* Jazz, Its Evolution and Essence (first published 1956)
* The André Hodeir Jazz Reader
* André Hodeir Discography
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- History & Tradition of Jazz, Thomas E. Larson, Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishing Co., 2002, p. 1.
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- “Evolutionary Jazz Harmony,” Kjell Bäckman, Proceedings of BIOMA Conference, Ljubljana, 2008, p. 2.
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- "Overview: Soul Jazz, Scott Yanow, AllMusic.com.
- "Does Kenny G play Bad Jazz?: A Case Study," Christopher J. Washburne, Bad Music: The Music We Love To Hate, Christopher J. Washburne and Maiken Dernod (eds.), New York: Routledge, 2004, Chapter 6, p. 138.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 90.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 91.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 88.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 92.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 85.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 88.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 59.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 191.
- “Evolutionary Jazz Harmony,” Kjell Bäckman, Proceedings of BIOMA Conference, Ljubljana, 2008, p. 1.
- Quoted in “Riffs on Jazz,” Amazon Kindle Blog by John Anderson, June 12, 2010.
- "Blues is a Woman," Carmen McRae, July 2, 1980 in New York City.
- London’s Sunday Times, B.B. King, November 4, 1984.
- Dictionary.com 2010.
- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2009.
- Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper, 2010.
- The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.
- "Timothy Williamson on Vagueness," listen at Philosophy Bites.
- Timothy Williamson, Vagueness, New York: Routledge, 1996, p. 136. http://www.questia.com/read/108336551/vagueness.
- "The Four Stages of Sleep (NREM and REM Sleep Cycles)."
- Vagueness and Degrees of Truth, Nicholas J. J. Smith, "Introduction," subsection "Part ll: Vagueness," 6th paragraph, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
- "Jazz Lessons" by Mark J. Hanson (guest commentator for the Center for Ethics at the University of Montana), KUFM Commentary, April 27th, 2011, p. 1 at bottom.
- "Jazz Lessons" by Mark J. Hanson (guest commentator for the Center for Ethics at the University of Montana), KUFM Commentary, April 27th, 2011, p. 2 at top.
- The Contradictions of Jazz, Paul Rinzler, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc. subsidiary of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2008.
- A New History of Jazz, Alyn Shipton, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007, p. 771.
- A New History of Jazz, Alyn Shipton, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007, p. 778.
- A New History of Jazz, Alyn Shipton, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007, p. 781.
- The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz, 2nd edition, edited by Barry Kernfeld, Massachusetts and Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 1995, p. 443.
- The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz, 2nd edition, edited by Barry Kernfeld, Massachusetts and Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 1995, p. 444.
- The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Jazz, 2nd edition, edited by Barry Kernfeld, Massachusetts and Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 1995, p. 474.
- Roy Hargrove Interview at Youtube.com where he explains the need for expert jazz musicians to be capable of playing in any key and at any tempo.
- A New History of Jazz, Alyn Shipton, London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001, p. 663.
- * The Burg, "The tragic life of jazz pianist Bill Evans" by Ben Cates March 15, 2017.
* The Bill Evans webpage (inactive)
* "A brief biography of Bill Evans" by Jan Stevens
* Bill Evans discography
- At Wikipedia: Diatonic scale it explains that it is “any seven-note scale constructed sequentially using only whole tones and half tones, repeating at the octave, having a tonal center, and comprising only one tritone interval between any two scale members, which ensures that the half tone intervals are as far apart as possible.”
- Dictionary.com, 2010, definition of the blues.
- "Ornette Coleman appreciation: He's 'like a cat with a whole lot of bongos.'" reported by Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2015. The Louis Armstrong quotation is undated.
- Current Musicology, (Click to read Abstract), Issues 71-73, Spring 2001-Spring 2002.