Does the language of Jazz differ from the language of other forms of music? Making reference to a particular work of Jazz and a piece from another genre, compare and contrast these pieces of music. Make reference to the form and structure within each work

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The language of jazz is very different from (some) other forms of music, say classical music, because unlike classical music, which was, mainly written by the ‘upper classes’ for the ‘upper classes’, to be listened to as chamber music behind polite talk, or in a huge concert hall as an evening out; jazz came up from the black urban cultures; its influences of African slave music, and gospel, working class music. Jazz was the music of the bars and club, having come from the simple blues, and ragtime pieces of New Orleans, to become the sophisticated as it spread to New York, Paris and London becoming a social ‘rage’; but even now it would seem odd to have a jazz concert in a well lit concert hall with everyone dressed up; jazz belongs to an ‘under culture’ and seems to have real power in the music when its heard in small, dark, smoky clubs.


The two works I have chosen to compare are Artie Shaw’s (Arthur Ashawsky) Concerto for Clarinet parts one and two and, J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto (grosso) No.4 in G, first movement.


The large swing bands of the 0’s were led by virtuoso instrumentalists like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, and Artie Shaw. These ‘bands’ concentrated on precision and ‘show case’ works (such as Concerto for Clarinet), though standard repertoire came in for these bands (which were sometimes as big as orchestras) their members were often strong personalities, and always brilliant musicians, so improvisation still played a large part in the swing bands.


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The language of jazz has had mass influence on many areas of music; pop often has its syncopated rhythm, modern band music has its wandering solos. The influence of jazz on classical music has been huge too, with pieces that bridge the gap between the two genres, like Debussy’s ‘Golliwogg’s Cake-walk’, Stravinsky’s ‘Ebony Concerto’, everything from Gershwins ‘Porgy and Bess’, and Artie Shaw’s ‘Concerto for Clarinet’. These pieces tend to fit into a classical form, but sound more like standard jazz, and nothing like what you’d expect.


Artie Shaw (b. 110) was a solo jazz clarinettist, ‘big band’ leader, and composer. A freelance musician who formed his own band in 16 and swing band in 18, they had a number of large hits, such as ‘Begin the Beguine’, ‘Frenesi’, and ‘Concerto for Clarinet’ (140).


The concerto for clarinet is in classical concerto form


Section Exposition


Key Tonic Dominant


Instruments Orchestral Solo with Orchestra Orchestral


Themes P TT K KT P TT S K KT


Development Recapitulation


Foreign Keys to Dominant Tonic


Solo with orchestra Solo Solo with orchestra Solo Orchestra


New Material Cadence P TT (S) K Cadenza KT


P = primary theme


S = secondary theme


K= closing theme


TT= traditional tutti


KT= closing tutti


Concerto for Clarinet is for solo instrument and orchestra, and although it sticks to classical concerto form, the solo still manages to sound improvisational, and the orchestras harmonies are (mainly) just a ‘twelve bar’ chord sequence. The opening almost a fanfare from the (large) brass section of the orchestra, and sounds like its going to lead into a ‘big band’ 0’s dance piece, like the ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B’ or something. This is followed by a slow first section which has string orchestra playing, under a clarinet solo making it sound like its going to be a piece of classical music, but the clarinet solo sounds very improvised, and uses a lot of intervals you’d normally expect to hear in jazz, like diminished fifths, and lots of fourths.


As this clarinet solo finishes, the piano comes in with drums; at this point it really stops barring any resemblance to classical music, in everything but form. The drums give the whole piece a ‘swing’ feel, and then a solo soprano saxophone comes in giving it the highly syncopated feel of jazz. Artie Shaw wrote this piece as a showcase for his talent as a soloist, and the talent of his bands other solo members.


All the soloists, the clarinettist (Artie Shaw), the soprano saxophonist, the alto saxophonist, the pianist, the drummer, and the trumpet players solos are to a high virtuosic standard, and manage to sound improvised, although the whole piece was scored. At the end of the development section, there’s a open chord cadence, which almost sounds like the piece is going to end, but the clarinet goes on to do the ending proper (recapitulation) on its on, and


Artie Shaw pushes the clarinet right to its upper limit with amazingly smooth tone, before doing slides down the scales for the rest of the orchestra (ripieno) to come in for the final one chord, so the piece ends with a perfect cadence.


Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750) was a great organist, pianist, and composer (sometimes called the father of music), although his music was not influenced by jazz; his music was way ahead of its time!


Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Grosso is completely classical music, as a standard Baroque concerto, it has very obvious solo and tutti parts, and everything is strictly in time. This concerto too follows (the above) form, only as a concerto grosso has a concertino of violin and two recorder, or flutes instead of a solo instrument, and a string orchestra under it as the ripieno. This concerto, like Artie Shaw’s concerto for clarinet begins in ritornello form (A short, recurring, instrumental passage first appeared in the early operas. A small section consisting of several musical ideas is stated usually in the beginning as a tutti passage, and this recurs -either in full or in part- at various moments within a movement). Thought out most of the piece the concertino plays a theme, and the ripieno echoes it. There is a lot of ‘question and answer’ going on between the concertino and ripieno in this piece, But Bach does not stick completely to what you expect because the ripieno violin lines become quite independent at about bar 1. Also Bach gives the cellos a melodic accompaniment (That’s like giving the main solo to a tuba in jazz)! This is almost unheard of in Baroque music, at which point the cello was considered just a basso continuo instrument.


Bach’s concerto (like Artie Shaw’s) is a showcase for its soloists. The solo violin line includes huge long incredibly fast runs, of notes, which do not lie easily for fingering, syncopated rhythms, position changes (in fast runs) and TRIPLE stopping at one point! The two solo recorder parts (two because although the Baroque recorder was louder than the modern recorder, it still wasn’t a loud instrument) have no places to breath marked, and at one point have twenty five bars of long runs before a rest to draw breath (obviously they must of used cleverly hidden staggered breathing)!


In Bach’s time there wasn’t really jazz around to influence his work, yet his work still has in it features you might expect to see within jazz music. His syncopated rhythms, and long, fast running violin solos are very similar in style to the long improvised solos from the clarinet in ‘Concerto for Clarinet’, and the way he pushes the boundaries of what the violin can do, like with the triple stopping, very like the very high ending of the clarinet from Artie Shaw’s piece, and of course both pieces are in the same (basic) form, because they’re both Concertos; so maybe its fair to say that Bach has influenced jazz!!


The language of jazz does differ from other forms of music, because it’s had so many influences, western classical music, African music, and gospel music. It doesn’t differ quite so much from forms that came after it, like pop because pop has been influenced by jazz; but jazz seems to fit quite happily in to most forms of music, even classical forms, as Artie Shaw’s ‘Concerto for Clarinet’ shows.





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