When folks thought Jazz, religion was not the first consideration that came to mind back in the Roaring Twenty daze. The new American sound called “Jazz” dropped into American life in the 20’s by challenging what it felt like to live in America as a Jazz musician. Civil Rights, Poverty, Women’s Rights and ultimately the emancipation from society’s deadly moral clutches. Especially impacting the Cultural Revolution through the Literary Arts, i.e., Poetry, fashion, lifestyles and mass media were transformed by this so called “basement” music that took the United States and the World by a storm of “Tsunami” magnitude. Jazz music also exacerbated the racial tensions in the post war period. Jazz improvisation is different in the sense of learning the process of being a musician, for instance sight singing, music theory and improvisational styles. Well the part we never see nor realize is the reason why Monk, Miles, Coltrane, or Herbie Hancock make improvisation look so easy and simple is that they practiced till their fingers and lips bled; they listened, learned and emulated their idol’s sound to near perfection; studied jazz improvisation techniques and last but the most important ingredient is EXPERIENCE and the wisdom they gained along the way. The thing is jazz was like studying life and the process of expressing it is where all the practice and time pay off, but you would never know it. Why? Because it’s their passion. So the job, home, family took on a whole new meaning. As always, society can’t help itself but to judge what they don’t understand. That applies to Jazz and its literary expressions. They are filled with the same elements of music theory like timbre, cadence, color, rhythm just to name a few and are expressions of American Life.
Ted Joans (1928-2003), a poet and artist dropped into the scene achieving notoriety as a graffiti artist spray-painting “Bird Lives” on city walls immediately after the death of Charlie Parker in 1955, he spent his entire career writing poems about jazz or that imitated jazz playing. The most popular and well read jazz poem of his is “Jazz is My Religion.” In this brief excerpt, devotion to a pure, non-commercial jazz is seen as a form of piety, the purity of the commitment matching the purity of the art, a common feeling among many jazz fans and musicians of the post-World War II era.
Also emerging at the same time as Joans was Beat poet Bob Kaufman (1925-1986), whose poetry was often improvised on the spot, frequently not written down, in much the spirit of the jazz musician. Free Jazz was emerging and Jazz lead the way in terms the phenomenal women, the Harlem Renaissance and Free Jazz. Religion and Spirituality has always been at the heart of all Jazz.
Jazz Is My Religion
by Ted Joans
holy places are too commercial (like churches) so I
don’t dig the
sermons there I buy jazz sides to dig in solitude Like
Harlem U.S.A. used used to be a jazz heaven where most of
sermons were preached but now-a-days due to chacha
rotten rock ‘n’roll alotta good jazzmen have sold their
souls but jazz
is still my religion because I know and feel the message
like reverend Dizzy Gillespie/Brother Bird and
Armstrong/Minister Monk/ Deacon Miles Davis/ Rector
Priest Ellington/ His funkness Horace Silver/ and the great
John, John COLTRANE and Cecil Taylor They
Preach A Sermon
That Always Swings!!
Yeah jazz is MY religion Jazz
is my story
it was my mom’s and pop’s and their moms and pops
from the days of Buddy Bolton who swung them blues to Charlie
Ornette Coleman‘s extension of Bebop Yeah jazz is my
Jazz is unique musical religion the sermons spread
joy to be able to dig and swing inside what a
jazz is/YEAH BOY!! JAZZ is my religion and dig this:
it wasn’t for
us to choose because they created it for a damn good
reason as a
weapon to battle our blues!JAZZ is my religion and its
international all the way JAZZ is just an Afro-American
and like us its here to stay So remember that JAZZ is
but it can be your religion too but JAZZ is a truth that is
black and blue Hallelujah I love JAZZ so Hallelujah I
dig JAZZ so
Yeah JAZZ IS MY RELIGION…….
Thank you for swinging by…Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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