An art that brings value to my life is the art of jazz music. Jazz is my art because it’s incredibly diverse and all styles of it are so beautiful. Jazz music can be anything from a happy cheerful second-line to a sad and somber ballad. All are exquisite. Also, it is impossible to hear the same style come from two people. Sure, some musicians copy others to sound like alike them, but no two players create their art the same way. Some put more emphasize on other things rather than their neighbor, but it’s all jazz. Jazz has multiple styles of art inside of it, so it becomes a bigger, more complex piece of literature as you look deeper into it. You need to read between the lines of the music.
The way a musician produces sound is also art. The insane complexities that come with making an instrument speak. For saxophone, it is top teeth on the mouthpiece, having enough mouthpiece inside of your mouth so it doesn’t squeak, but not too much that it does squeak. You must find the happy medium between the two. You need to “not compress your spine,” as I like to say. You must have your neck strap loose enough so this does not happen, but not too loose that the neck of the instrument can never comfortably meet your face. You must line your reed up and tighten your ligature perfectly, or else sound cannot be produced. This is just the beginning of the long list complexities that make playing a saxophone art.
The art of playing jazz saxophone has its own list of complications upon the ones stated in the paragraph before. Unlike concert band music, every note is long unless it is short. Without doing this, you do not get the “jazz sound’ that is necessary. It is vital for the survival of the jazz musician to do this, or else they will never make it. Another skill that is required is confidence. There is no way that you will ever play jazz the way its supposed to be played unless you are confident. You must have the ability to stand up in front of tons of people and play your horn like there’s no tomorrow. If you are incapable of doing this, the truth of the matter is, you will never play jazz. You’ll try to hide behind the music (if there is any) and you’ll pray for the show to be over. You must have the same amount of confidence that an artist must have paint to make a 20ft by 36ft canvas painting, and it must be well crafted.
The way I feel when I play jazz music is unbelievable. I’ve never felt more happy or more engaged. Playing my art form makes me feel like I am on top of the world, and nothing could ever bring me down. The best part of my life was when I was on tour traveling throughout Europe this past summer playing jazz 24/7. I was ‘high on life” as my peers tend to say nowadays. The way that I know playing jazz music is my passion is because as soon as I came home from my month long tour, and wasn’t playing jazz music 24/7, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I was good for. Getting back into the swing of having summer off from my tour, city, and school jazz bands, took a long time, and as soon as it came back, I felt complete again.
Another reason why jazz is my art form is because it has helped me break loose of this shell that I have been trapped in forever. I am not going to stay that I am totally not shy anymore because that would be a lie. But playing music, especially jazz, has helped me break lose. In a concert band setting, you can hide behind the whole ensemble, or behind your section, but in jazz, it’s all you. There’s no one to blame for your mistakes. Rarely anyone has the same part as you, so you’re on your own. It has helped me become a better musician and a better person because when you are put right on the spot to play a solo in front of 500 people in Strassfurt, Germany, what else are you going to do? You get over your fear for those 12 bars of four counts. Yeah the fear may come back, but it disappears as soon as you’re put on the spot again. Before I got really involved in jazz music, I was a shy person and even more shy when it came to music. I was able to do so much due to how much I loved it and how much I wanted to practice, but it was hard for me to do this because of my fear of people hearing me when I play. I was always fine in a concert band setting, where rarely you are the only one playing at a time, but as I got better, and the band got smaller, I learned that it was all me. I only used to practice if I was home alone, and it took a lot for me to get to the point of practicing with my parents home, but that would only work if I was in my room with my door locked and headphones on, music blasting at full volume. Somehow, this tricked my brain into thinking I was alone. I was so afraid of being heard. Playing in a big band setting, you don’t have anytime to be afraid, you learn to get over your fears of playing because you could be the only person playing for a bit, or the whole song could feature you, or you could have something as simple as a four-bar four-count solo.
Jazz is my art because how how incredibly diverse it is. There’s Dixieland which had four main influences; ragtime, military brass bands, the blues, and gospel music. Then there’s Kansas City Blues which is a genre of intense blues music. Then, there’s my all time favorite, music composed by Duke Ellington who had an early “jungle style.” This style is the perfect combination of Dixieland and Kansas City Blues. Duke Ellington remains the most popular jazz musician/writer of the big band era long after his death in 1974. Playing Duke Ellington’s music is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. Even though Mr. Ellington and I did not play the same instruments, I feel that we have a bond. And though, I never got the chance to know Mr. Ellington, I feel as if he wrote, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” just for me. This piece is what finally broke me out of that shell, and I have him to thank.
When I first joined the world of jazz music, I was so lost. I didn’t understand any component of it, and to be brutally honest, I hated it. It wasn’t until I started researching key role model players that had lived before me and my love for the art took off when I started to emulate their tones and styles into my daily playing. I soon learned lots, and got into both jazz bands here at ROHS, an honors city jazz band, and eventually got into my dream; The Blue Lake International Jazz Ensemble. All of this is because of those late nights of researching Duke Ellington and Gerry Mulligan. Gerry Mulligan’s ability to play the baritone saxophone changed my life, and left me wanting more, and he was just what I wanted to be. I wanted to be like his him,playing as much as was humanly possible. That day still hasn’t come, and may never, but I still look forward to very unlikely possibly that I will perfect the saxophone.
Jazz music is timeless and I believe that’s why I love it so much and call it my art. I chose jazz music to be my art because of everything it has done for me and for all the people who have died before me who loved it just as much as me and for all the future people who will play the same arrangements of the top pieces 100 years from now. Jazz music has become my escape route out of my shy old being, and because of it, I have become a better person.