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What is Jazz?






1. A great example is Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue. For information on ordering this CD, go to www.amazon.com (item #B000002ADT).

VIII. A Perfect Democracy

A. Democracy


Democracy is a government in which power and responsibility are vested in the people and exercised by them. According to Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" (for more on democracy, click here). 

B. Democracy and Freedom


Although the terms democracy and freedom are often used interchangeably, they are not the same; democracy is individual freedom but with responsibility to the group.

  1. In a democratic society, individuals have the freedom to do whatever they wish as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else.

  2. In a perfect democratic society, what the individuals happen to freely choose to do enhances the whole group.

  3. If all people freely chose to work hard, not commit crime, be fair, and not discriminate, we would have a perfect democratic society.
    1. unfortunately, not all people think this way
    2. things like greed, people wanting power, and racism get in the way

C. A Jazz Combo as a Society


A jazz combo is an example of a perfect democracy.  



Each player has the freedom to play whatever he/she wants. 



But, at the same time, each player wants to play something that will not only please himself/herself, but make the whole group sound better as well, enhancing the overall sound. 



Musicians work together on this, supporting each other while not compromising their own artistic individuality. 



The best jazz bandleaders (e.g., Miles Davis) want their fellow musicians (AKA sidemen) to express themselves the way they want and not just do the bandleader's "bidding." 



In jazz, the best bandleaders encourage their sidemen to think and play however they wish, knowing that the entire group, in turn, will get more ideas and be inspired to play better individually and collectively. The leader and the sidemen work through each song as a team, learning from, complementing, and enhancing each other as they go along. 



This is the same for the rhythm section and soloist. The rhythm section players want to support, complement, excite, spur on, interact with, and enhance the soloist; the soloist, in turn, wants to interact with, inspire, and be inspired by the rhythm section. 



Jazz musicians realize that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. 



Each individual part is enhanced by the group, i.e., each individual player gets better and comes up with more musical ideas because of the others in the group. 



Together the musicians can do so much more than they could ever do individually. They need each other to accomplish their individual and collective goals. 



Jazz musicians realize the music is better because each player is different; it brings something new to the music. 



If everyone in the band were the same, the music would probably be boring (there wouldn't be much give and take, learning from one another, or enjoyment). 



In a jazz group, it doesn't matter what color you are or what your ethnicity is. What matters is who you are inside and how you play. 

D. Listening Examples


Listen to any recording by Miles Davis1. Can you "hear" democracy at work? 

E. Imagine


Just imagine how it would be if our society worked like a jazz group... 

the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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