Listening to Jazz...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by VeganThump, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    I had a discussion once with a good friend about jazz and how to listen to it. This friend of mind is a pianist, and a damn good one at that, classically trained, jazz trained, excellent theory knowledge, etc. Myself, on the other hand, Im an average bass player and my knowledge of theory is relatively basic, though recently i have been studying it much more in depth. Anyway, the discussion was about me listening to the album "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis and went something like this.

    Me: I love the album Kind of Blue, i think its really a great jazz album.

    My Friend: You cant really appreciate that album the way you should.

    Me: What is that supposed to mean?

    My Friend: Since you dont really understand Jazz Theory, you cant appreciate that album, or Jazz in general. Youre just hearing the music and you dont really understand what is going on and why its good.

    Me: !!!

    And so on and so forth, the conversation went on for quite a while and i wont bore you with the rest of it. This conversation upset me so much that im hardpressed to find the words to describe how angry it made me. I want to know, when did Jazz become music only to be enjoyed by intellectual elitists? Did i miss something? Are laymen not able to appreciate Jazz just because they arent schooled in Jazz theory? Is it not enough to just like the way Jazz music sounds and the feelings the music evokes? :confused:
  2. IMHO, your friend is wrong. From your description he seems like a young guy who just learned some techniques of musical bean-counting, and has not yet learned what it means beyond the bean-counting exercises he did in school. He has the cart in front of the horse.
  3. Goodlawdy


    Mar 27, 2008
  4. fmoore200


    Mar 22, 2011
    Charlie Parker didn't care too much for theory (I think he said "learn it and then forget it and play") and Art Blakey couldn't even read music.. It didn't stop them from playing, so why should it stop you from listening?

    Musicians write music generally for non musicians.
  5. Chef FourString

    Chef FourString

    Feb 4, 2011
    Your friend is a pretentious idiot.
  6. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    Exactly!! That was my argument, these jazz guys back in the day weren't all classically trained (though some were), they just played what they thought sounded good and what FELT right. Miles Davis didn't grow up listening to Miles Davis ya know?
  7. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    The thing is, he's not young, he is in his thirties like myself, and made it sound like most "jazz guys" feel the same way, like people who aren't familiar with jazz theory arent able to truly enjoy jazz the "proper way". My nostrils are flaring right now just thinking about that conversation!
  8. I have to agree with this.

    Sounds very elitist, like he's just coming up with a justification for all that knowledge, and to act superior for having it. Probably the kind of guy I'd want to throttle if it came to actually playing with him.

    I got some George Benson in right now and don't seem to have any trouble "getting it".
  9. Actually, he probably did.
  10. fmoore200


    Mar 22, 2011
    Miles isn't the best example, bring the son of a dentist and attending Julliard, but I get what your saying :bag:
  11. Sadly there is this elitist attitude amongst academia musicians. I think what he meant was that being ignorant of the musical changes in harmony and rhythm that jazz morphed into before and after Kind of Blue (something you could read in a book or on puts you in a place of "not understanding" when in fact I think Kind of Blue works so well because it attracts non jazz academia musicians to it. Music is aesthetically pleasing and he was trying to convince himself (by convincing you) that his overload of pretentiousness and theoretical knowledge makes him a more informed music listener than you are, which is complete and utter B.S. Some people are born appreciating music... Victor Wooten started at 2, do you think his brothers argued with him why he aesthetically liked something just because he didn't understand the historical context? Maybe, maybe not.
  12. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    It's just really frustrating to me, I hate when people are like that about music. There are music snobs for every genre, but it seems like the "holier than thou" bit is a little more akin to Jazz. Like there's some sort of secret to unlock in order to get the true meaning of it, I mean come on man, its music!!!!! The funny thing to me about Jazz is that back when Jazz first came to be, classically trained, professional musicians used to scoff at Jazz musicians for being untrained and unprofessional. Then at some point, there was a complete 180 and all of a sudden Jazz now is the music of the musical elite.
  13. JoZac21


    Nov 30, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    When I went to Berklee I ran into asshats like this all the time...

    Who's to say who is able to appreciate one type of music or another or not?

    That's like saying, "you can't appreciate Van Gogh's Starry Night, because you don't know how paint is made".

  14. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    You're right, but Kind of Blue was the album which sparked the discussion so it seemed like Miles should be the example, how about Thenlonius Monk then?
  15. SeaBassTheFish


    May 19, 2011
    Your friend is wrong. And few academics feel that way.
    That's more the opinion you hear from a student who has just begun to scratch the surface of theory (or more likely simple fundamentals) and feels privileged to know a bit of specialized knowledge. But just like any specialized subject, or politics, or life, the more you know, the more you realize you don't know, and the less likely you are to pontificate, especially in a rude manner to one of your friends.
    That's not to say that the way you hear music doesn't change the more you study it and experience it, but to say that you can't appreciate it is complete garbage.

    Bill Evans once said in an interview that he often cares more about the layperson's opinion than other musicians' opinions. It's not hard to understand why.
  16. corsa

    corsa Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Fort Wright, KY
    I think what the OP's friend may have been referring to is that fact that Kind Of Blue was a landmark album for the introduction of modal jazz.

    I've loved that album for a long time but only learned about modal jazz and the album's significance in the last month or so. I appreciate it in a whole new way now (and I'm guessing that's what the friend meant about not appreciating it properly) but that doesn't diminish my earlier love of it. I'm not sure why the friend couldn't take 10 minutes to explain it - the concept is not difficult to grasp.

    This new understanding is both a blessing and a curse for me. I'm always pleased to learn how things work but now I find that I don't listen to the album in the same way. Now I'm listening for the modes and working to identify why the player did what he did at a certain point. I have to make an effort to quit thinking and just let the music move me.

    I picked up the bass because of Chris Squire and Yes. I was introduced to them by my girlfriend (now wife) and their music has meaning for us both. Even though Chris Squire is my favorite bassist, I purposely avoid learning their songs. In their case, I don't want to know, I just want to continue to experience the music without analysis.
  17. fmoore200


    Mar 22, 2011
    I was just messing with you, man, no hard feelings..

    Thelonious Monk is probably my favorite jazz musician bit named Charles Mingus
  18. TDSLaBassiste

    TDSLaBassiste Bass drops and breakdowns since 2009

    Jul 8, 2011
    Southwest Florida
    Nothing's funnier than a jazz snob. So many jazz musicians hated theory and threw tradition out the window when they played. A few decades down the road, people get so pretentious about their taste in jazz that they try to understand the underlying theory behind it and somehow they think it makes them better. I dealt with so many of those people in jazz band in high school, especially the guitarist. Even the teacher was like that. It was a bit uncomfortable for me as a bassist who loved free jazz and spent the three prior years playing everything by ear and inventing my own bass parts to songs. Suddenly, I had a director (a self proclaimed fanatic of bebop and free jazz) who would hang me from the rafters if I didn't play exactly what was on the page.

    There are people like that. You learn to tolerate them.
  19. placedesjardins


    May 7, 2012
    That's super dumb. People can love music without understanding music theory.
  20. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Actually both Bird and Dizzy knew a LOT of harmony theory. The actual quote from Parker is that you have to learn all your chords and arpeggios. Then forget that stuff and play music. His point was that you have to KNOW it so well that you don't think about it any more than one thinks about subject/predicate, verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. when speaking.