surinenglish

Jazz rules

Jazz music is a mightily broad church. From Ella Fitzgerald to Weather Report, the definition of what constitutes jazz seems like a pretty moveable feast to say the least. The first time I remember doing a cartoon double take at the radio was when some DJ or other said something about "the great jazz singer, Ray Charles". Mr Charles had never sounded much like jazz to my ears, I can tell you. Then, as time progressed, I'd see posters for people like Van Morrison headlining jazz festivals. Eh? How on earth is the old Irish curmudgeon in any way related to jazz? The whole arena was, and indeed is, completely baffling.

To this end, I thought I'd offer some clear guidelines as to what truly constitutes jazz, so that we can all get some proper focus going here.

First rule is that there must be a drummer who tish, tish, tishes on a hi hat cymbal all the way through the piece, preferably with wire brushes. If he can also sport a greying spindly beard and a shirt even a golfer wouldn't be seen dead in, this certainly helps. Secondly, at least one of the eight guitarists needs to be practising his scales at all times, and not necessairily in the same key as the other musicians present. It's always a bonus, if it's a live performance, if a member of the audience can periodically yell something like, "Hey there, fast fingers! When does the tune start?!" at him. This won't lead to the inclusion of any discernible melody at any point but will, at least, provide some light relief from the earnest nature of the whole shebang.

Another jazz requisite is to have somebody constantly plinking and plonking away at a xylophone in the background or even - unforgivably - in the foreground. Apparently, it's essential that they are holding two beaters - or whatever they're called - in each hand, crossed over like a giant chopstick/cotton bud combination. Plonk, plonk plinketty plonk is generally deemed to be more than sufficient in almost every situation.

Any piano player present should always avoid any pleasantly normal chords like, say, C major, and instead consistently plump for dissonant fifths and major sevenths leaving the listener so uncomfortable with the lack of resolution in the music that eventually he's forced to cry out in anguish "Please! Please! I beseech you! Resolve it! C major! C major! Please!" At which point he's usually carted off to padded cell somewhere to spend the rest of his days humming Beatles tunes because at least they actually have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Jazz is in fashion currently, and very popular with all age groups, it seems.

I'd actually rather listen to a bit of Ray Charles.