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Jazz Today, Jazz Tomorrow

I. Jazz Today

A. Three Types of Jazz Artists Today


Today’s jazz artists are basically going in one of three directions: traditional, contemporary mainstream, or "anything goes."

  1. Traditionalists are performing jazz mainly patterned on Blues, Swing, Bebop, and Hard Bop; in other words, they exclude Free Jazz and Fusion.
    1. Traditionalists believe that what they play is "real jazz," not the various hybrids and "add-ons" (according to them) that occurred in the 1960s and since. They are also known as "jazz purists."
    2. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is at the forefront of this movement. He is an internationally acclaimed musician and has played a major role in the resurgence of jazz.
  2. Contemporary mainstream jazz artists are influenced mostly by Hard Bop sensibilities.
    1. Contemporary mainstream jazz artists use, for the most part, Hard Bop instrumentation and musical forms.
    2. However, within the Hard Bop framework, contemporary mainstream jazz artists continue to push the music forward, e.g., ever increasing technical proficiency on their instruments, expanded musical harmonies (more difficult and complex chords and chord progressions), and deeper and varied emotions expressed.
    3. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard is one of today’s most important contemporary mainstream jazz artists.
  3. Anything goes” jazz artists will put all kinds of music into the pot and stir it up; these can include but are not limited to:
    1. all styles of jazz
    2. classical music (mostly of the 20th and 21st century variety)
    3. world music (i.e., music from other parts of the world), especially from South America and Asia
    4. all styles of blues, rock, rhythm and blues, Latin, funk, hip-hop, ska, rap, and popular music
    5. Two important jazz musicians in the “anything goes” camp include saxophonist Dave Liebman and trumpeter Dave Douglas.

B. "Crossover" Artists



trumpeter Roy Hargrove 



bassist Christian McBride 



saxophonist Joshua Redman 

C. Big Bands Today


Big bands (17-18 piece ensembles) are here to stay, not so much in the professional ranks (very few professional big bands exist), but in America's schools.

  1. There are thousands of middle school, high school, and college/university big bands.
  2. Repertoire consists of all styles of jazz from traditional big band swing to big band arrangements of bebop, cool, hard bop, and fusion; new arrangements are being written and performed all the time (as well as classics from the past). 

D. Non-Traditional Instrumentation


Besides the traditional "jazz instruments" (saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums, guitar, human voice), jazz is increasingly being performed on non-traditional jazz instruments as well, especially violin (an exceptional jazz violinist on the scene today is Regina Carter). Today, jazz can be heard on such "non-jazz" instruments as viola, cello, oboe, bassoon, and French Horn. 

E. Women in Jazz


  1. In the past, instrumental jazz has been primarily a male dominated art form; however, today more and more women are studying and performing jazz and becoming an integral part of the jazz scene.
  2. One of the top female jazz trumpet players on the scene today is Ingrid Jensen.
  3. One of today's few steadily working professional big bands is an all female group: DIVA (for a listening example, click "Something's Coming" below). 

Audio Snippets

F. Vocal Jazz


  1. Jazz vocalists have always been an important part of jazz's rich history. Today, vocal jazz is not only important, it is credited with introducing jazz to many who might not otherwise have given jazz a chance (because there are words, or lyrics, more people can relate to vocal jazz than instrumental jazz)
  2. Popular jazz vocalists on the scene today include Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson

G. Listening Examples



Geri Allen’s “Dolphy’s Dance” on The Instrumental History of Jazz 



Danilo Perez’s “PanaMonk” (as in "Panama" and "Thelonious Monk") -- click below to listen 



any recent recordings of any of the previously mentioned jazz artists 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer PanaMonk - Danilo Perez

H. Cultural Implications



In our society, we have traditionalists, mainstreamers, and "anything goes" types. 



Jazz is better for its diversity, and so is America. 



As time goes on, diversity is more and more accepted and cherished as an integral part of this nation.  



Many believe diversity is America's most defining characteristic. 

the thelonious monk institute of jazz
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