FinderDoug wrote:And I may have been snooty about 'smooth' jazz for a time, the way the guy who discovers French Bordeaux looks down his nose at the superb California Zinfandel that was all the rage in his own wine cabinet just a few years before.
I can see that, and rather like the wine analogy. Smooth Jazz got a bad reputation from the purists who, as you note, looked down their noses at it. But the thing is, Smooth Jazz has its place at the table and boasts some of the most generously talented musicians on the planet. I don't think anyone will take this as a biased point of view, but in the world of popular music (as opposed to classical) jazz musicians tend to have significantly better chops than do pop artists.
This is not to reflect badly on other musicians. We mentioned Eddie Van Halen, who is a supremely gifted rock guitarist. No question. And he has bled into pop music (Michael Jackson's Beat It
) with terrific results. But he is a rock guitarist. I doubt he has the ability to do B.B. King-style Blues, or Freeman's Jazz.
Jeff Beck is probably the best example of a cross-genre guitarist, starting as a simple rock and roller and migrating into blues, heavy metal and jazz. It takes serious chops to pull this off with any kind of credibility, and jazz training is essential to build them up.
I sense serious howls of protest, but consider this: a jazz musician must, by definition, have the ability to sense rhythm and the musicality of a piece. They have to mold their style to the group style without losing any of their own feel for the piece being played. At the same time they may be called upon to invent something on the spur of the moment -- a solo -- and then drop seamlessly back into the group mix. That doesn't happen too often in rock, pop or heavy metal. When it does, you're dealing with the best of the best musicians. If you take your better-than-average house band musician and let them sit in with jazzers, watch the deer-in-the-headlights as they're thrown a solo.
Meanwhile jazz musicians can sit down in a group of strangers and riff off of each other as if they'd been playing together for years. I've seen it happen a hundred times, including just two weekends ago when Cris played a gig with a different bass player than usual (last minute gig and both her regulars were booked). The first song the guy just played along, sounding out the band and getting a feel for the groove. Second song he was in the pocket and by the third he took a solo that matched what he was hearing from the rest of the band.
Again, there are dramatic exceptions. I'm speaking in general terms, not to any specific musician.
But by and large, a jazz player can play any other kind of popular music. The reverse is much more rarely the case.
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