By Riva Rubin
Music: the universal language bound by rhythm, melody, and harmony. Music is a unique form of communication that comes in a grand variety of genres and types. There is something that caters to every individual and touches every emotion one can think of. One specific genre full of technical understanding, soul, culture, rhythm, and emotion is jazz.
Pinewood is known for its close community and spirit, but not necessarily for its appreciation and range of musical culture. That is where jazz comes in. Even though performing arts director Katie Linza introduces a range of diverse pieces to her choirs, this music does not typically translate into student life. I believe it is a matter of becoming aware of other music genres and diversifying one’s tastes through the appreciation of what one does not yet know.
What we know today as modern jazz was established by bebop. Bebop started in the mid 40s of the 20th century in New York. It is based on fast tempo and difficult improvisations following the changes present in harmony, not melody. Some of the foundational names include Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk. Such music paved the way for these cats you yourself may have heard of, knowingly or not: Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, and Julie London.
There are many foundational tunes that are learned by every jazz musician and carefully listened to. One of these tunes is Giant Steps by John Coltrane. Feared for its quick chord changes following the circle of fifths, Giant Steps is known for these sensational changes that made for difficult improvisation. In my experience, one of the tunes I have carefully studied is “Nica’s Dream” by Horace Silver. Jazz songs teach you something remarkable every listen, and in the case of “Nica’s Dream,” one’s ear becomes hyper aware of song form and improvisational structure.
As mentioned, one, if really listening, can learn a lot from jazz and not only technically regarding theory. Jazz has a unique ability to offer raw emotional expression, true soul, unparalleled culture and stories, and groove. It is undeniably worth listening to and experiencing. Some may call it an “excuse for wrong notes,” but it is a soulful art form based in genuine expression.
Jazz would greatly enrich the Pinewood community and environment through what it can teach. The history provides a very unique and complex story behind the lives of certain groups in America that isn’t taught in the traditional classroom setting. It is also very engaging as it trains your ear to analyze and understand music, rather than to just listen to it.