The Jazz Styles

Q: What are the styles we use in jazz?

Swing – “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that _______”

From Wikipedia: In jazz and related musical styles, the term swing is used to describe the sense of propulsive rhythmic “feel” or “groove” created by the musical interaction between the performers, especially when the music creates a “visceral response” such as feet-tapping or head-nodding (see pulse). The term “swing” is also used to refer to several other related jazz concepts including the swung note (a “lilting” rhythm of unequal notes) and the genre of swing, a jazz style which originated in the 1930s.

As swing jazz was dance music and coevolved together with swing dances such as the Lindy Hop, the term swing can be understood as music that makes you want to dance. Even though there is overlap between these concepts, music from any era of jazz or even from non-jazz music can be said to have “swing” (in the sense of having a strong rhythmic groove or feel).

While some jazz musicians have called the concept of “swing” a subjective and elusive notion, they acknowledge that the concept is well-understood by experienced jazz musicians at a practical, intuitive level. Jazz players refer to “swing” as the sense that a jam session or live performance is really “cooking” or “in the pocket.”

If a jazz musician states that an ensemble performance is “really swinging,” this suggests that the performers are playing with a special degree of rhythmic coherence and “feel.” Although referring to a “sense of swing” is often done in the context of ensemble performances (e.g. a jazz combo or band), even an unaccompanied soloist can be said to be performing with “swing.”

Swing Feels & Tempo’s

  • Medium Swing
  • Fast Swing
  • Slow Swing

Medium swing is the most commonly referred to tempo. And when someone says swing, that’s usually what they are thinking.  90 to 140 BPM (beats per minute) Think 120 is 2 beats per second.

When slowing the tempo down, it’s common to subdivide the feel.  The process of adding extra emphasis to the eighth notes, or maybe triplets within a beat.  At around 60 BPM you may naturally hear a triplet feel divided. 1 and ah, 2 and ah, 3 and a 4 and ah.  This becomes the 12/4 feel. This subdivision will naturally show up in the phrasing of your solos.

When speeding up, we tend to play the phrasing more straight and less “swing”.  Emphasis becomes more dynamic and not so much rhythmic.

Other terms used to describe Swing and tempos

  • Bop
  • Up
  • Medium

Be Bop Commonly thought of as fast swing. Typically a straighter rhythm in soloing and lines.
Latin FeelsCommon practice in latin is to play straighter but syncopated rhythms.

Most Commonly:

  • Bossa
  • Samba
  • Afro Cuban

From wikipedia

Latin jazz is jazz with Latin American rhythms. Although musicians continually expand its parameters, the term Latin jazz is generally understood to have a more specific meaning than simply jazz from Latin America. A more precise term might be Afro-Latin jazz, as the jazz sub-genre typically employs rhythms that either have a direct analog in Africa, or exhibit an African influence.

The main categories of Latin jazz are:

  • Afro-Brazilian jazz—includes bossa nova and jazz samba.
  • Afro-Cuban jazz—jazz rhythmically based on clave, often with a rhythm section employing ostinato patterns from Cuban popular dance music.

In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English: ‘obstinate’) is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. The best-known ostinato-based piece may be Ravel’s Boléro.
Waltz’sUsually 3 or 6 beats per measure, jazz waltz’s are super cool.  Depending on tempo will depend on what type of phrasing you would use in your solo’s, either straight (ie. Bop or swing.)

Common time signatures for Waltz’s

  • 3/4
  • 6/8

from wikipedia:  A Jazz waltz is a waltz in jazz style, thus played in a syncopated 3/4. A few familiar jazz waltzes are: “My Favorite Things”, “Jitterbug Waltz”, Vince Guaraldi’s “What Child Is This” (a.k.a.) “Greensleeves”, and “Skating” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Don’t forget All Blues an Some Day My Prince Will Come – Miles Davis recordings.  And Waltz for Debby by Bill Evans.

Note: you can also mix styles. Like 6/8 latin, etc.

Ballads Slower tempo. Drummers typically get their brushes out.

Wikipedia:  A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally “dancing songs”. Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of the British Isles from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many ballads were written and sold as single sheet broadsides. The form was often used by poets and composers from the 18th century onwards to produce lyrical ballads. In the later 19th century it took on the meaning of a slow form of popular love song and the term is now often used as synonymous with any love song, particularly the pop or rock power ballad.

Other Styles:Street Beat, Rock, Funk, Gospel, 12/8, 5/4, 7/4
Street Beat is commonly New Orleans style marching jazz. Lot’s of snare an lot’s of fun.

Well, all these styles can be fun.

In Jazz we like adding styles. It’s part of the culture of this music to include styles we like, including popular music of the day.  We have been doing it ever since our beginnings.

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