How would you define jazz music in musical definition terms and layman's terms? This music was introduced in the 40's and it was very popular at that point in time and is still admired by many today.
We found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related chord changes we could play the thing we'd been hearing as “Jazz”. Does it sound very complicated? And I’m sure I haven’t defined Jazz in any way!!
Well, that’s our stance even today. I feel music in any form is far beyond definition because it’s a perspective and that’s why we as general audience, say his/her music is great, awesome, fantastic, bad, worst etc.
Everything in this world has a history and so does music in its various forms. Here is a sneak peek into the history of Jazz pulled out from Jazz music archives website.
How it started…
The development of jazz begins in New Orleans during the late 19th century when brass bands would perform in marches, parades and funerals playing anything from military tunes to rags in a polyphonic style similar to African-American vocal music. Since many of these marches were very lengthy, the tunes would have to be repeated many times leading the performers to improvise on the melodies to relieve their boredom. Over time, as the musicians left New Orleans and spread their music to other cities, the marching aspect was phased out and instruments that could be played while seated, such as the piano and trap drum set, began to enter the jazz scene. Starting in the second decade of the century and leading into the 1920s, jazz began to diversify and different genres such as Dixieland and Classic Jazz began to emerge.
Under the guiding hands of Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong, 1920s Classic Jazz developed into Swing Jazz and the golden age of the Big Band was born. After the demise of the Big Band era, jazz began to split into even more genres; first Be-Bop and Jump Blues, and then followed soon by Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Bossa-Nova, Afro-Cuban and Soul Jazz. In developments that came slightly later, Jazz also took in the worlds of concert hall composition and abstract expressionism thus creating the genres Third Stream, Avant-Garde Jazz, Post-Bop and Progressive Big Band.
The arrival of loud amplified instruments to the world of jazz via the musical worlds of rock, funk and RnB again brought many changes to jazz, as well as new genres such as Classic Fusion and Funk Jazz. Since the 1980s, jazz has taken on so many genres and influences that creating easily definable genres is becoming increasingly difficult. Many current jazz artists can be found on JMA in genres such as World Fusion, Nu Jazz, Acid Jazz, Dub Fusion, Post-70s Eclectic Fusion, DJ Hip-Hop Jazz, DrumnBass Jazz, and Post-Fusion Contemporary.
At JMA, we not only try to include an extensive data base of jazz artists, but we also try to include those artists from other genres who have had an influence on the world of jazz, as well as those artists who come from a jazz background but work in genres besides jazz. Some of those artists can be found in genres such as Jazz Related Rock, Jazz Related RnB, Exotica, Soundtracks, Funk, Latin Rock, Jazz Related Improvisation and Jazz Related Blues.
But why the word “Jazz”
As with many words that began in slang, there is no definitive etymology for jazz. However, the similarity in meaning of the earliest jazz citations to jasm, a now-obsolete slang term meaning spirit, energy, vigor and dated to 1860 in the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, suggests that jasm should be considered the leading candidate for the source of jazz.
A link between the two words is particularly supported by the Daily Californian's February 18, 1916, article, which used the spelling jaz-m, although the context and other articles in the same newspaper from this period show that jazz was intended.
Jasm is thought to derive from or be a variant of slang jism or gism, which the Historical Dictionary of American Slang dates to 1842 and defines as "spirit; energy; spunk."
(So says Wiki)
Finally to our song
This composition of the band was impelled by the Kotturpuram Bridge (Chennai, India) and its notorious traffic. We were discussing in general about seven beat structures (Misram in Carnatic Music) and how it could be segued into a melody. We had already done a song called El-County (Irish genre) using it and as the discussion progressed, I came up with the idea of adding a four count interval to every beat in the seven structure. Technically it would mean 28 in all (7*4).
This rhythm structure is called “Tisra Tiruputa” in Carnatic Music. Must say, the car’s dash board bore the brunt of the exploration (as it’s mostly been).
To my surprise, Giri (Keyboard player) and Harish (Melodyhorn player) sprang up with a spout of ideas. I say it’s a surprise because, it was the first time they thought of such a rhythm structure and the ideas they came up with were so much in rhythm.
Giri quickly recorded these ideas in his mobile phone, just for it to be improvised and structured in the studio later. Harish christened the audio file as “The Kottur Jazz”!!
From Kottur Jazz to Northern Lights
Two days later, with the rain clouds for company, the band gathered in a practice pad for a jamming session. I suggested that we start with The Kottur Jazz.
All the other band members who hadn’t listened to the idea were so excited on hearing it. Carl (Bass player) came with a bass line and the drummer Bharath was right on it.
Karthick (Violinist) and Vijay (Flautist) were of the idea of incorporating Carnatic melody elements into the song.
It was a great experience putting all these elements into the planned 7 beat structure. Just then, when we thought that we were done with ideating, Giri came with an idea of shifting the beat structure from 7 to 6/8.The song now was on a roller coaster, taking a complete turn. So it was decided to have the chorus in 6/8 which comes through as the chorus in the latter half of the song.
Then came another shift from Karthick and Vijay who suggested that the main groove must be in 4/8 to make the song more organic.
It was almost three and a half hours into the jam when we badly needed a break.
Never thought that samosas, tea and biscuits would be such thought provoking catalysts.
Our song was there when we resumed the jam!! How can I ever find words to explain the fact that the song was just there, right in front of us for us to discover it. Consensus could never be explained better, but for that moment.
Since everything about the song from its inception to its present structure is so amazing, spontaneous, beautiful and unexplicable just like the Aurora Borealis of the poles, we decided to name the song Northern Lights.
So, what’s it all about?
This song in the strictest sense doesn’t fall under the definition of a Jazz song. But as I have already said, music is a perspective. We would call it the Indian Jazz, may be a new genre if it doesn’t exist already, but if it does , then, yeah its Indian Jazz or World Fusion …
As a band, we thank Shutter 24, who shot the song for us. The fascinating thing about Shutter 24 is the fact they are a group of passionate artists who have come together in a way that Band Oxygen did. I could call them a band of cinematographers. They understand music well and you will realize it when you watch the video. The cuts, drags, close-ups etc. are so much in sync with the music that we played during the shoot. That is harmony on and off the screen.
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