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It’s Top 40! It’s Nostalgic 80s Hits! No—it’s Jazz.
Music is one of the most important criteria on which to judge a person’s maturity. The maturation path of musical interest resembles that of the marvelous microorganisms meandering throughout our bodies: It’s only when our musical tastes have had time to culture, the musical genres of bacteria have had time to multiply, and microbiotic enzymes have arrived to eat away at all the musical mishaps of yesteryear that we have truly evolved into the ever-feared—adult. Our stinky cheese has cured to reach its ultimate stench desired by cheese connoisseurs everywhere.
Often, we begin by listening to whatever is available, whether it be radio, our older sister’s outdated CD collection, or our parents’ dusty record ensemble.
Now don’t get me wrong. This germination stage is crucial to the development of a well-rounded and sophisticated musical taste—one worthy of being featured in a classy, yet trendy indie flick. We all need to experience the wonderfully matter-of-factly grungy voice of Alanis Morrisette before we move on to bigger and brighter melodies. But that’s just it—we must move on. It is these seedling tastes which propel us to the sophisticated musical tastes we will develop in our formative teenage years.
I will admit, growing up, I was a victim of the AM 1580: Radio Disney! Top 40 (whatever you wanna call it) music station. What can I say? I was the product of a generation of youths inundated with formulaic pop songs that only took 14 people to write, 1 person to sing, and 1 auto tuner to make sound presentable. This gestation period of my musical life, which I have coined my “Blue Period,” was acceptable, as I was only a 4th grader, not ready for the sexual innuendos or degrading comments made against women by male and female artists alike.
It wasn’t until I heard the smooth and jazzy syncopated rhythms of Maroon 5’s 2003 album Songs About Jane that my musical roots truly planted themselves. No longer was I listening to the overused and predictable melodies belted out by the late, great Hannah Montana. I was living the offbeat rhythms and quirky modulations of “Martha My Dear.” My love of complicated musical melodies and hemiolas blossomed as I learned there were songs better than One Republic’s “Apologize” or Rhianna’s “Only Girl (In the World).”
Growing ever still, the echoes of my Disney-filled past still ringing in my ears, I learned of the great musical geniuses of the 1970s—masters of the 4-minute instrumental interlude—and eventually, the masterminds of vocal manipulation and improvisational song.
One artist led to the next as I zoomed back in time through the decades, finally circling fully to the jazzy home I knew best: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Amy Winehouse fill my ears.
So now you’re probably thinking: “It took her 10 years just to arrive at the same conclusion she’d already made—that jazz is the best, most sophisticated, most matured, adult genre imaginable?! The light buzz beneath literal elevator conversations is the ideal maturation of our stinky cheese??”
Well, in a word,
Jazz is not defined by the bland, pre-recorded-Muzak that customer service hubs further annoy their customers with while on call waiting.
Jazz is an amalgam of improvisational rhythms, complex key changes, and big band backups.
And did I mention? Every jazz performance is different. Musical phrases aren’t repetitive, they’re reprisal. Vocalization isn’t predictable, it’s imaginative. A synthesizer doesn’t create a monotone underlying musical progression, a live band carries the listener on a musical journey.
Jazz is the epitome of musical creation. Jazz is the Munster only those with carefully trained noses can smell and enjoy. Jazz is the not just the way of the past; it’s the way of the future.