Jazz is a big umbrella. As in the umbrella depending on which way you're holding it, contains American popular music.
America, mongrel in her nature, in general, is, following, logically in her illogic, a musical mutt.
From the agricultural fields of The South, to the sports taking in a minstrel show in town or maybe on tour out on the hayseed circuit in the rural diaspora, what you might call jazz or jass might be the blues, and from syncopation once one is not dancing and it becomes Art, not Art Tatum nothing against Tatum but the form with a capital A, like, blown to elemental bits blissy in urbane deconstructionist spiritual warring, we can encompass the whole maghilla with it. Walk down tin pan alley, conversate about which booze drugs love and other vices of the human heart and just generally what it means to reflect what it means to be alive.
There will be about fifteen hundert things I will leave off and/or forget about, but the trails of American jass muzak are not be be roadmapped in exacting delineation. This reporter suggests digging your own various rabbit holes. There will be no test. Build your own school.
Speaking of roots, or at least umbrellas in the ground, depending of course which way the tree is pointing and what ritual you perceive, Yazoo Records' Jazz The World Forgot collections are as good as any resource for the pre historical recorded artifacts of early jazz.
If Louis Armstrong ever seems like a cliche, you haven't time traveled right. Horn and voice, immensely so. Innovator. Whether he's singing "Dinah," or, "Stardust Memories," which is known to inspire what I believe they call "nostalgia" in some professions.
Bix Beiderbecke, not too far behind Armstrong on the horn list, "Since My Best girl Turned me down." Bix is another one who soundly reminds me that there is life on this planet.
When we talk about guitar, folks like to say "Django," but, while I say that too, I mostly like to say, "Eddie Lang."
Speaking of Eddie Lang, When I talk about him, and his guitar, that usually leads to me speaking upon Emmett Miller, which really brings the mongrel to the conversation table.
There's not much point talking about anything if we don't talk about Bessie Smith.
You might ask isn't jug band music blues instead of jazz, but then I suppose you might as well ask, to quote the tune: "Somebody tell me what makes this jug band drink?" If that was too much drinking, "Let's all take whiff on Hattie now."
I mean, if we talk about Eddie Lang and/or Emmett Miller, we might as well talk about Lonnie Johnson and Clara Smith who ponder having had too much, see also Memphis Jug Band which you may have just did unless of course you've had too much and then you might see them even if they're not there.
We haven't really talked about the piano, Fats Waller has a lot to say even if he's just asking "How Can You Face Me Now?" Fats is so big, we give him two, like Armstrong; he's theatrical. Big in most of all the ways one can be big, in fact.
Were we talking about the piano? In the realm of folks forgetting things, it's too often forgot that Nat King Cole was one of the greatest piano players/stylists of all time.
Cab Calloway, like Fats Waller, reminds us to never, ever forget that jazz can be and usually is a theatrical form, even if the theater is as subtext. But this ain't latent form mastering obvious form here:
By the time you get to Bird, things start to get so disassembled they are reassembled. Don't ask me why I love this selection. Okay, I'll tell you: it's like action painting with a sax for a brush over a corn ball pop canvas, yet lyrically the tune is about the imminence of death.
Louis Jordan in that what's his nuts big Jazz documentary touched upon this mostly poo pooed Louis Jordan as proto rock and a writer of "novelty songs," but we here at Doc, Inc. reject that as bunk. We have dancers to prove it.
Slim Gaillard didn't even get named dropped in the Ken Burns, that's his name, public broadcasting documentary, just a photo of him drinking wine on the screen when Jordan is mentioned, but we here at Doc, Inc. observe that anyone who creates his own hep language, vout, and can write songs about snacks, poodles, cement mixers, etc. and so on is Our Hero.
I love Billie. And I love Lester. When Billie and Lester perform together, it transcends the transcendence of the abstract concept of love itself. Also, it's my theory, they together are as solid a concept, a stone upon which to step, to transition from jazz as show business to jazz, by intent or not, as Art.
When we get to the cool bop of Miles Davis, even if selections from "Kind of Blue" border the ubiquitous, it doesn't mean the pivot isn't real.
But when we talk about Thelonious Monk we deconstruct to where it all is reconstructed, singular figure.
Coltrane went his own way. This is a "greatest hit," but that doesn't mean he and his quartet don't take another pop song and go to some other place, and don't let me get in your way from following this to all sorts of areas to which Trane ascended.
It seems like by the time bop folded into what Ornette Coleman laid down in his "Shape of Jazz to Come" album, there's about a million paths to follow. I'm afraid if I bring up Sun Ra now to James, for whom this list is being tossed toward, along with anyone else who wants to get in on the game of tossing, he might never come back. That was more than ten things, and we didn't even talk about Chet Baker much less Sun Ra, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.