The role of the artist is to use their voice to make sense of the world around them. It is a way to give feeling to a perspective. Perhaps an artistic work seeks to provide order where the artist sees disfunction or perhaps that work serves simply as a statement from the perspective of its creator. The role of jazz in the spectrum of artistic mediums is special. It is a construct where musicians create order from chaos on the spot, and develop ideas and communicate through the language and process of the blues. It is art unlike any other and is as fresh today as ever.
Jazz takes American values as well as the American experience and stylizes it into music. It conveys what it means to be young, and what it means to be an american better than any other form of art. Specifically, the music provides students with the opportunity to confront concepts such as freedom, responsibility, balance of power, and negotiating our individual role within that balance.
Secondly, the very nature of the blues is an artistic construct more inclusive than any other. The greeks developed several dramatic styles including romance, comedy, tragedy, and satyr. The blues, as a construct, can deal with all of these in a single stroke. The soloist is both the storyteller, and the heroic figure as the very form of a solo provides space for the performer to create and develop a statement that is unique to them. The blues also contains the healing power for the affliction known by the same name. While the topic of so many blues lingers on tragedy, we seldom feel bad when listening to a well played blues. The subject might be tragic, but the playing of the blues keeps that tragedy at bay and in fact releases healing power.
If the classical symphony is akin to a great novel, a jazz work is short story. Each piece contains a setting, and specific characters (the individual soloist) that has to confront a problem and come out of it victorious. These works are a snapshot of life or a dedication to a person or place. In classical music, these short descriptive works are called Tone Poems. In 1943 Ellington coined the term Tone Parallel. For each of these pieces, in a span of just 3 minutes, musical theme, solo development, and a climactic statement all become reconciled.
Today’s students are in a long line of jazz performers who specifically used the blues as an expressive device for their individual growth, or to make a collective statement. We hope that this evening’s performers will do the same for you and that this concert provides a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic world, and that the specific incantation of the blues tradition will have healing power for both performer and audience!