1940s America – you’re enjoying an alcoholic drink from a tea-cup in an underground bar. You’re thrilled from sneaking in to hear Louis Armstrong blast a raw yet powerful sound from his trumpet. Imagine hats, suits, sweat pouring down faces and women lying across pianos. The night is hot, the bar is cramped and people are cheering as a new style of music is being formed.
Jazz is hot. There is something real about it when instruments in their rawest form create a sound that sets the place on fire. There is something romantic about a saxophone wailing into the night and something about a trumpet growling into a plunger that makes your head spin. With all acoustic instruments, the quality of the music is based solely on the person playing. Live jazz is powerful. When the strings of a double bass thud into a quiet night, you become engulfed by its sound.
Yet jazz isn’t as accessible to the average person as it once was. Technology has altered the way we live in many ways, including the way we listen to music. With computer-enhanced music being pumped out of every radio, popular music has become noise pollution rather than a form of self-expression.
In the 1940s Louis Armstrong changed musical history with the invention of scatting, Benny Goodman made people squeal in their chairs with a clarinet and Billy Holiday teased men with her alluring voice. With improvisation, scatting and blues notes being explored, the jazz musicians of the twentieth century pushed the boundaries of music and invented an enthralling style.
Jazz today is rare. It can be found in obscure locations with a handful of music students as the audience. It has evolved into a modern interpretation that in terms of technicality is amazing, yet lacks the quality that makes stomachs drop and heads spin. There are no dance-halls where Dixieland jazz makes people dance until they can’t. Sure, James Morrison is spreading jazz’s love across the nation, yet instrumental music will never be what it was.
Music like everything else erodes with time. It has evolved into something more relatable to people of the twenty-first century. Like many aspects of the past, jazz seems exhilarating and full of passion. Perhaps it’s time to let go of the past and create a new style of music that blows minds and evokes passion.