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Thread: Jazz, where does one draw the line?

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    Senior Member Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    Default Jazz, where does one draw the line?

    A few days ago Dan Ante queried if big band swing is jazz, I would suggest much of it is: however there are some big bands which fall a bit short such as Billy May and the Elgarts, to my mind they are "dance bands". Admittedly many of the other big bands did play for dances Miller, Ellington, Basie, Herman, Goodman, and the band that raised Dan's query, the Squadronaires; not sure if Kenton ever played for dancing.

    Some tracks - particularly the vocals - are probably not to be classed as Jazz except possibly with singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Joe Williams. One band I find difficult to classify is Earl Bostik.

    Some people may consider boogie and blues separate genres, allied to jazz, definitely for me, are they "welcome" in the Jazz hole?
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    Senior Member Pat Fairlea's Avatar
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    Paul Whiteman? A dance band, in my view, but Artie Shaw was definitely jazz.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorsetmike View Post
    Not sure if Kenton ever played for dancing.
    He sure did. I saw him at Disneyland in the '70s, and one set was dancing, and the next set was jazz, and back and forth. The dancing sets irritated us purists.
    Last edited by Manxfeeder; Dec-02-2018 at 18:26.

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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    well blues is a big part of jazz (a lot of jazz tunes are blues)... about the distinction between true jazz bands (like Ellington) and dance bands (like Glenn Miller) I think the difference is the improvisation. Orchestras of Ellington or Count Basie were always improvising (well, not truly always, since they also had some completely written music, and sometimes they also played the same solos), dance bands were mostly playing written music. That's the main distinction.
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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Where does one draw the line?

    For me, it’s when the music stops swinging, whether it’s in a concert or a dance performance. And Stan Kenton was also one of the ones who played for dances... Where I draw the line is at a Cecil Taylor because he usually did everything but swing... Speaking of Stan Kenton, try his Contemporary Concepts album. It swings like crazy with arrangements by Bill Holman and Jerry Mulligan. The Bill Perkins’ solo on Yesterday is eminently danceable, but Kenton had other arrangements he would usually play for dances, including some tunes, believe it or not, by Duke Ellington. I’ve played many of those arrangements and also some by Billy May. May was one of the most swinging arrangers in Hollywood and was known for writing a countless number of arrangements for big bands and vocalists.

    Many of the great swinging jazz soloists came from such bands as Herman, Goodman, and Kenton. Art Pepper and Lenny Niehaus came from the Kenton band, both great players. Niehaus played Cherokee on alto sax on the Contemporary Concepts album and it’s so fabulous that I decided to transcribe it years ago, the arrangement originally written for Charlie Parker, who at one time went on the road with Kenton. (So did Lee Konitz.) This is before Niehaus became famous as an arranger for someone like Clint Eastwood. But jazz doesn’t mean anything to me unless it swings, and that’s where I draw the line.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Dec-02-2018 at 23:18.
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    I prefer not to draw distinctions of genre, though I know I still do think in terms of "this is jazz, this is rock, this is classical" etc. I get confused by the line between "classical" and "jazz", though I can consider that jazz can be classical, and classical can be jazz. After all, Gershwin taught us that when he wrote "Rhapsody in Blue", didn't he? And wasn't it Paul Whiteman's band that premiered that? And, if it can be danced to by a modern dance/ballet troupe, do we call the music classical, jazz, or dance? Does it really matter?

    Probably few will fight you if you bring up Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" album as a good example of jazz. But Brubeck also wrote solo piano music (as well as other types of "classical" styled compositions), that piano music championed on NAXOS releases by pianist John Salmon. Brubeck studied with Darius Milhaud who, apparently, encouraged his student to compose using both classical and jazz elements. Milhaud did such with pieces like his "Le bœuf sur le toit", which happens to be a ballet!

    Brubeck 1.gif Brubeck 2.gif

    Duke Ellington reminds us that "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind." Instead of wondering where lines exist between classical, jazz, dance, pop, rock, death metal, acid jazz, salon/parlour music … whatever, let's rather enjoy the one type of music we all enjoy, the "good music" and leave "the other kind" for other folks who don't seem to mind it so much.
    Last edited by SONNET CLV; Dec-05-2018 at 07:34.

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