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Groove and Blues in Jazz Music

Groove and Blues in Jazz Music

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Published by Michael Erlewine
Groove and Blues in Jazz

by Michael Erlewine

Michael Erlewine, founding of the All-Music Guide, has published a number of books on The Blues, his most recent being “Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals.” This article is about where in jazz blues lovers will find the feeling and heart they find in blues, and a list of recommended music.
Groove and Blues in Jazz

by Michael Erlewine

Michael Erlewine, founding of the All-Music Guide, has published a number of books on The Blues, his most recent being “Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals.” This article is about where in jazz blues lovers will find the feeling and heart they find in blues, and a list of recommended music.

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Published by: Michael Erlewine on Jan 07, 2011
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10/04/2013

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Groove and Blues in Jazz
Groove and Blues in Jazz
By Michael ErlewineMusic is good for the soul. It is one ofthe best medicines that I know of andthe better the music, the better I feel.Hearing the good stuff makes all thedifference. And that is what this article isall about -- how to locate the best bluesmusic. Blues is so radical -- such a rootmusic -- that it fuses with and gives riseto other music genres with ease. Jazzcritics point out that the roots of jazz canbe found in the blues. This article isabout where in jazz blues lovers canhear and feel those roots -- the blues in jazz.It is almost forty-five years since I wasdigging through the 45-record bins inChicago looking for blues 45s during theday and hanging out nights in clubs like
Theresa’s Lounge o
n the South Side ofChicago watching Little Walter, JuniorWells, and other great bluesmen playlive. Those days are gone and so is thatmusic. And the music that we heard liveback then does not always comethrough on just any recording. It is goodto know what recordings have the realstuff.A little background on where I amcoming from: I have been a blues and jazz lover for over fifty years. This articleis about blues in jazz, and I am gettingto that. My first love is the blues and ittook me some time to get much into jazz. At first about the only way I couldhear jazz was through a blues filter, soany jazz I got into had to have thoseblues elements. Now that I know myway around the jazz catalog, I know thatit contains some real treasures for blues
lovers. But don’t expect the standard 12
-bar blues progression. Blue notes arefound in jazz, but seldom in the formblues lovers are used to in bluesrecordings. It is the blues as a feeling,the soul-full experience of the blues andgospel elements that can be found in jazz. So, I am writing this for blueslovers who may want to explore jazzthrough the same blues doorway I wentthrough.The jazz I love is the blues in jazzwhether that means bluesy jazz, funky jazz, original funk, soul jazz -- termswhich I will explain in due course. I tendnot to like (very much) jazz that does nothave some kind of blues or modalelement in it. Swing and bop, to thedegree that they lack the roots sound ofblues and gospel, fail to hold myattention. I like my jazz with blues,please.
 
Groove and Blues in Jazz
Something I realized some time ago isthat jazz (and most kinds of music) areeither energizing or calming in theiroverall effect. If you are the kind ofperson who needs something to get youmoving (to energize you), then you willbe attracted to music that is agitatingand energizing like: marches, Dixieland,bop, free jazz, and other forms ofprogressive jazz. It appeals to thosewho need that cup of coffee in life -- geta move on! It stirs you up.However, if you are a person (like me)who tends to be very active andsometimes even hyper, then you needmusic to relax and calm you like blues,original funk, soul jazz -- groove music.It helps to get you in a soothing groovethat dissipates energy -- relief!Regardless of the fact that as a personwe may (in general) be drawn to musicthat either stimulates or calms us, attimes all of us may need some pick-me-up music and at other times some slow-me-down stuff.You will find that the above (admittedlysimplistic) concept works very well.Blues and the blues that is in jazz (forthe most part) has to do with the releaseand expression of feelings. The effect is
calming to the system. It is “get down”and relaxin’ music. Here is a brief tour of 
the bluesy stuff in jazz.
An Abbreviated History of Blues inJazz
This is an abbreviated history because Iwant to just skip over the standardplaying-the-blues-progression in jazzstuff. There is not much of it anyway. Ifyou like blues, you already know that bynow. For now, we will also pass on all ofthe old-time blues found in traditional jazz -- the early New Orleans jazz.There is plenty of great old blues andblues-like music to hear there and youwill want to hear it someday. But it is justtoo much like the blues that you alreadyknow. The same goes for what fewblues tunes came out of the swing andbig-
band era. You don’t need a guide to
check swing blues tunes out becausethere are not that many of them. Whenyou can find them, they are pretty muchstraight-ahead blues songs or tunesplayed with a big band. Further, thearranged feeling of the big band is notup to the impromptu kind of blues
feeling you may be used to, so let’s
pass on that too.When I speak of blues in jazz, I meansome get-down funky blues sounds inthe jazz that you have not heard before,
so let’s just get to that. If this history
stuff bores you, skip over it and just readthe recommended albums list. Startfinding and listening to some of thepicks. As mentioned, we will pass overthe earlier forms of jazz including theNew Orleans varieties, Dixieland, andswing. However, since a lot of thebluesier jazz that may interest you grewout of bop (bebop), you will need toknow what bop is and how this musicstyle came to be. We will start there.
 
Groove and Blues in Jazz
Bop (bebop)
Bop distinguished itself from the popularbig-band swing music out of which itemerged by that fact that it is most oftenplayed in small groups. You can heareach of the players as separate sounds.And while swing can have a groove thatsoothes you, bop is wake-me-up music.Its faster tempos, more elaboratemelodies, and complex harmonies donot tend to establish a groove. It is morefrenetic, even frantic, than swing. In
other words, this is not relaxin’ music.
Bop has an attitude.Unlike the large swing bands, wherethere were a few featured soloists, mostmembers of the small combo could anddid solo -- democratic. In addition to anincrease in improvisation and solovirtuosity, there was little dependenceon arrangements. And fast tempos too.Bop is more energetic (read agitating)than swing, with the rhythm sectionkeeping the time on the ride cymbal.Bop tunes can be very fast, often withelaborate harmonies and complex chordchanges that take an expert player tonegotiate. In fact, fluency in bop becamethe benchmark of the young musician.Bop is a sophisticated music that canbe, for many, somewhat of an acquiredtaste. In this respect it resemblesclassical music. Here are some bopartists and a sample album of them attheir best:
Bop originators:
Charlie Parker (just about any album;the box sets are the best)
Dizzy Gillespie, “Dizziest”/Bluebird
 Thelonious Monk,
“Thelonious with John Coltrane”/OJC
 Bud Powell,
“Genius of Powell Vol. 1”/Polygram
 Dexter Gordon,
“Our Man in Paris”/Blue Note
 
Miles Davis, “First Miles”/Savoy
 
Fats Navarro, “The Fabulous Fats
Navarro, Vol 1-
2”/Blue Note
 
Sonny Stitt, “Constellation”/Muse
 
J.J Johnson, “The Emminent Jay JayJohnson Vol 1”/Blue N
oteMax Roach,
“Freedom Now Suite”/Columbia
 Lucky Thompson,
“Lucky Strikes!”/Prestige
 
Tad Dameron, “Mating Call”/Prestige
 
1950s Bop Players:
Sonny Rollins, “Newk’s Time”/Blue Note
 Jackie McLean,
“Let Freedom Ring”/Blue Note
 
Oscar Peterson, “The Trio”/Pablo
 
Clifford Brown, “Brownie”/Emarcy
 
Phil Woods, “Pairin Off”/Prestige
 
Kenny Dorham, “Una Mas”/Blue Note
 
Barry Harris, “Live in Tokyo”/Xanadu
 
Tommy Flanagan, “Thlonica”/Enja
 

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