What is Jazz?

You want to find out more about jazz but you’re not really sure where to start.

You’re not even sure what jazz actually is.

Here’s where Cosmic Jazz can help.

We think the best thing you can do is just listen and explore.


We didn’t choose the word cosmic by accident. Jazz is all kinds of music not one; it’s everywhere around us and yet often completely hidden; it doesn’t have much of a presence on the radio, on television or in the music stores – and yet it’s one of music’s greatest inventions.


So what is jazz? There are no good definitions – just good music.
But try this for size:

Jazz is. The most vibrant, kick-ass creative music to emerge in the 20th century. It is the musical soul of America, if America possesses such a thing, and is every bit as radical, funky, deeply venal and cut-throat, yet ethereal, roots-obsessed, flashy, hip (it’s practitioners invented every bit of the language the whole English-speaking world now regards as it’s very own of-the-minute slang) and outrageously larger than the country itself.
Jazz is. The source, the mother-lode, for all popular strands of music which have emerged since the late 1940s. If you think something in the world of rock, rap, dance or even further afield is new, then dig a little deeper than its high-gloss finish and you’ll find someone listening very closely to an innovation made in the jazz field of another decade. As Leroi Jones once wrote of John Coltrane: “If you can hear, this music will make you think a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even become one of them.”

Jazz is. The ultimate hybrid, the outcast mongrel of music which, in the beginning decades of the last century, was recognised as music only fit to be played for whores, gamblers, cocaine addicts, drunks and criminals. …No wonder so much of this music was loud, full of buzz and nervous energy, busting with the search for personal and creative freedom.

Jazz isn’t. Some sad bunch of middle aged men wearily negotiating ‘tough’ chord changes with all the enthusiasm of a knitting circle in Milton Keynes. Equally, it’s not some smart-ass rinky-dink pianist playing juked-up cocktail music with a smile on his face and a heart the size of a pea.

Jazz matters. It matters so much it hurts when the music really connects with you. Just listen to what the greats of the genre can do with a single phrase, with one single gut-wrenching note: they can grab your attention like a smack around the face, then turn your heart and your soul inside out while you’re trying to catch your breath. This is startlingly honest music which opens you up inside, sizzles through your nervous system and gives you a second chance at life.
[from Tower Jazzguide – Keith Shadwick – 1999]
So now’s the time. Let your journey begin here.
Tune into Cosmic Jazz every Thursday between 8 and 10pm on www.icrfm.co.uk

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