Jazz music works on normal people.
Every normal person should immediately get a jazz-adviser and listen to some new music, because…
Jazz music might not be what you think it is
Any jazz-adviser will tell you that the word ‘jazz’ describes a process (musicians collaborate and improvise) more than an output. It really isn’t about a certain style or sound. Look at the listings page for a jazz club and you’ll see the words Soul, Blues, Cuban, Latin, Funk, Swing, Gospel, Hip-hop, Bop, Pop, and on and on. Not long ago, Ronnie Scott’s had a Flamenco night, for heaven’s sake. If you think you hate jazz music, you might be the guy who won’t touch Italian food because he once choked on an olive.
You’re already enjoying it
Remember the horsemeat scandal of 2013? It didn’t matter whether you were biting into a Findus lasagne or a Waitrose burger, somewhere in there was Romanian horse. So it is with music. If you loathe jazz and want it out of your diet, you’d better start by binning all your music that was recorded after 1900 because that was when jazz started to work its way into the supply chain of music. The same for the musicians themselves. The ‘jazzers’ – anonymous but versatile – are filling recording studios all over the world. They’re recording with the pop artists you know and love. They’re the engine that powers popular music. If you don’t like that, you’d better go back to Beethoven.
The music gives you more
JazzJanuary’s performances scored one direct hit after another, on testers of all ages. If you’re a normal person and you’d been there with us, chances are this music would have worked on you, too. Besides, even if the songs aren’t your cup of tea, the musicianship is mind-bending. Once you’ve watched Steve Gadd play a drumkit, you’ve seen the instrument explored to its known limits. From that day on, whatever music you’re listening to, if there are drums in it you’ll hear them in higher resolution. You’ve had the musical equivalent of a cataracts operation. As the surgeons say, these treatments are life-enhancing. You shouldn’t delay them.
The venues give you more
To watch the best pop music you’ll need to get yourself to an arena, whereas leading jazz artists can be seen at the 606 Club. There, you’ll sit within 20 feet of the band, and when you arrive, instead of searching your bag, they’ll offer to hang it up for you. Then, the cheerful staff will bring you a drink. By comparison, the O2 will charge you four times as much for your ticket, whether standing (you’ll be able to hear but not see) or seated, which means you’ll see but not hear. The number of high-visibility vests on show make an O2 performance feel less like a celebration of music and more like the scene of a motorway accident. There are queues everywhere and a plastic cup of beer costs more than the Trident programme. We’ll all carry on watching arena bands, of course, but it takes a jazz club to remind us of the price we pay for our pop music habit.
The musicians give you more
The musicians we’ve been watching are among the most skilled and talented of all the Jazz-people, yet they’ve found time to speak to us after their performances. Us jazz-testers have asked some daft questions, yet still managed to go home without the imprint of a saxophone across our faces.
The next generation of musicians will give you even more
JazzJanuary has revealed where the jazz-people come from. There are schools for them, as there are for vicars. But how could a ‘Jazz Studies’ course possibly prepare a student for the business of earning a living? There are certain things demanded by industry – ‘Entrepreneurship, Commitment, Agility, Collaboration’ – that you hear a lot from business graduates, but not from musicians. Well, it turns out the student Jazz-people don’t use these words because they’re too busy living by them.
You want agile? How about 10 seconds’ notice to stand and play an improvised solo? Collaboration? That’s what jazz music’s founded on. Entrepreneurship? These students are freelancers before the end of their first term. They’re expected to get out into the world, sell their skills, perform and earn. Not for them, the orderly transition from education into ‘the world of work’. There’s no HR department waiting to look after them. No graduate scheme, no pension plan. If they seem a bit nocturnal, it’s not because they’re lazy, it’s because they’re the bomber crews of students: going out by night, unsure of what’s awaiting them. They’ll continue like this, on a wing and a prayer, for another five years before they can hope to become established their field. But they’ll push on, no matter what the odds. That’s the ‘commitment’ bit covered. Besides their astonishing output (see NYJO and Royal Academy Big Band tests) these people offer friendly advice at every turn. They’re the best role models your kids could meet.