APRIL 30, 2014
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MS. CARRINGTON: Well, we’re really happy that you’re here to help us celebrate International Jazz Day, which was proclaimed by UNESCO in 2011, and it’s celebrated tomorrow. So we’re hoping you have just enough time to maybe file a story. And you’ll see we’ve got some great, great content for you. And we really couldn’t be in better hands than with the experts that we’ve lined up for you tonight.
So I’ll briefly introduce them. I think you have their bios. And they’ll also be available for one-on-ones. While we move to the musical portion of the program, you could do one-on-ones with them, and you could also talk to the musicians after they play. So we’ll be very flexible on how we do this.
So let me introduce Dr. Darden Purcell, who is the Director of Jazz Studies at George Mason University. And she’s a jazz vocalist herself. She’s performed with many of the world’s top jazz artists and was formerly in the Washington, D.C. Air Force Band, which I thought was very neat. (Laughter.)
Pleased to also have with her her colleague, Professor Jim Carroll, who is the founder of the George Mason Jazz Studies. He plays jazz saxophone. He’s performed at festivals throughout the world. We were just talking about Japan, where he’s also spent some time. But I have to say I was most struck in his bio by the fact that he’s toured with Michael Jackson, and I can’t wait to go tell my children tonight. They’re going to think that is really neat.
It also gives me great pleasure to introduce Elijah Jamal Balbed – Balbed, sorry – who is a native jazz musician right here in Washington, D.C. He’s been hailed as the best tenor saxophonist in 2013, the best new jazz musician in 2010, by the Washington City Paper. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak at Evermay. I don’t know if you know – small foundation that tries to promote music, and this was just a few weeks ago, and I remember thinking how fun it would be to get you to the Foreign Press Center. Well, a few weeks – fast forward a few weeks later and we have him here. So I promised him lots of good publicity from this, so you please must file great stories and get interest in Bulgaria so they’ll invite him to come and play there.
So the program tonight is going to be very informal. You see we’ve set up some wine and food, and at any time help yourself to anything you would like. And hopefully – we can’t really approximate a jazz club here, but to the extent that we can, make yourself at home.
So what we’ll do is have a little bit of background on the history of jazz from Dr. Purcell, a little bit more on the theory of the music of jazz from Dr. Carroll. We’ll take just a quick second to move a bit of the chairs off the stage, and then we’ll move to an actual concert with some explanation from Elijah, who’ll explain what he’s playing and what he’s doing at that point, – accompanied by Tim Whalen on the keyboard. So you’re really getting the benefits of a lot of musical talent tonight.
So with that, let me turn it over to Dr. Purcell, and enjoy yourself and please have fun.
MS. PURCELL: Great. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it, especially – International Jazz Day is such an important day for us. This is one of the first times that George Mason University is officially kind of being a part of it, and we have a concert tomorrow night, so we’re just really, really thrilled to be here.
My portion of the talk that I wanted to talk about today with you is kind of an overview of the history of jazz. I teach a development of jazz course, which is a course that Professor Carroll taught for about 15 years. And it’s so important for us to kind of keep this music alive for the students, and they need to understand the history and kind of the cultural significance as to why this music is so important. Many of them don’t really know why. So my portion of this is going to be just kind of an overview of all the jazz styles.
Jim and I were talking about, do we talk about the musicians? Do we talk about the vocalists? And quite frankly, we realized we can’t so much because we’re going to leave too many people out. So we decided to do more of a chronological approach of the music.
So one of the things that you kind of have to ask yourself about is: How do we define jazz and kind of how to we categorize jazz? A lot of people have different definitions for jazz. Is it certain – only certain instruments can play jazz? Is it only a certain repertoire that’s being performed? And so it’s kind of – if we categorize it, it’s a little bit easier to kind of categorize it, like I said, in a chronological approach.
Some ways that we can categorize it is the way that players improvise the music, and we’re going to see that as we move through the different eras – also, the different types of harmonies and rhythms that are part of the music. Again, this is linked strongly to the different genres if we’re talking about traditional jazz versus bebop or swing versus, I guess, maybe cool jazz or traditional jazz or something like that. So we can categorize by those certain elements.
One thing to remember about jazz is that it’s not a single strain of styles. It’s not – when a new style started, the old style was not rendered obsolete, basically. And in fact, that’s even more relevant now than ever because you can pretty much go anywhere and hear all sorts of different styles of jazz. You can hear swing, you can here bebop, you can hear avant garde. But one thing to realize as we move through these different eras, that the era before is not obsolete. It’s still kind of going, going along at the same time.
And another thing that I think is really, really important and one of the aspects that I like to talk about with my students is the idea of evolution versus revolution. I think that’s incredibly important with this music as well, too, because these different styles are obviously evolving out of an older style, but sometimes they’re also kind of revolting against that style. So you will see as we kind of go through 100 years of the history of jazz how each style is an evolution but also a revolution to the style – to the previous style before.
One of the things we have to talk about when we talk about jazz is the origins of jazz. Where did it come from? It primarily came from kind of brass band and ragtime piano styles of the 1800s. So we have all this kind of – we have military bands and brass bands and we have kind of string bands and we have the ragtime piano styles, and all of those kind of coming together helped to create basically what we know as jazz.
By 1920s, it’s basically fully formed. It’s being performed in New Orleans, it’s being performed in New York, in Chicago. And there are – actually there are three trends that led to the birth of jazz. One of them is taking liberties with the melody and the accompaniment. So that means changing them – made a melodic alteration or a rhythmic alteration, but definitely changing the written music from what you see on the paper.
Another trend is taking liberties with the tone quality. So instead of just hitting the note and staying on the note, maybe you kind of bend down from the note or you bend up from the note. Or perhaps you use a different kind of mute, maybe a plunger mute or a Harmon mute or something like that to change the actual tone quality.
And then, finally, we have to talk about this too, is that it’s African Americans creating new types of music. This would be ragtime. This would be blues. These are kind of the three important trends that led to, I guess, what we call the birth of jazz.
And the interesting thing about it, too, is that basically African music, when they came over here, it should have died out. They were not allowed to bring their musical instruments at all. They were not allowed to bring anything with them over here. But what happened is that what they brought kind of started, I guess, infiltrating European music. So they started putting their spin on European music, and that’s what kind of helped lead to more maybe syncopated rhythms or certain aspects that kind of allowed them to be creative and have a little bit of their home within this European music here.
If we talk about the birthplace of jazz, who knows where the birthplace of jazz is? New Orleans, right? New Orleans. And the reason why New Orleans was such an incredible place and the birthplace of jazz is because, number one, it’s geographically located in a wonderful area. It’s right on the Mississippi River. It was a port city, and it was a major, major city of commerce. And what we have in this incredible city is not only do we have a wonderful location, but then we have all of this diverse culture that’s coming together. We have Germans, we have Italians, French, Spanish, African, and Creoles. And you have all these people kind of coming together, working together, living together in New Orleans and bringing their cultures together, and their cultures kind of start combining.
It’s also at the turn of the century, so it’s the turn of, I guess it would be the 20th century – it’s a major cultural center too. Most people didn’t know that at that time, the city of New Orleans had three opera companies and they had two symphonies, two fully formed symphonies. There are a lot of major cities right now in the nation that do not have that much cultural. So people really like to get out and enjoy their culture in New Orleans. And then we have this blending of all these beautiful backgrounds together.
Because there were so many people that enjoyed going out and the entertainment, it kind of created this almost a party atmosphere where it’s every single time you went out to a social event, there was live music being played. And a band is present at almost every single activity. So you have social events, funerals, parades, political speeches, and a band is there. And of course, on top of all of this too, we have dancing as the number one activity in the 19th century and the early 20th century too. So we have this wonderful city of commerce. It’s incredibly cultural. We have a very diverse group of people that are there all working and kind of performing together. And there is such a high demand for music. And then even more so, just for music, there’s a high demand for fresh material. So what happens is the music – the musicians start stretching and altering and blending the music to come up with something new, basically, to give the audience, because there’s so much music being performed. And this ultimately is kind of what we – what ends up being jazz.
And in particular, the word “jazz” is kind of an interesting – it’s an interesting word when you think about where it actually came from, and it really started out – and Jim, you can also correct me on this, to add to – it started out as more of an adjective, really. They would call – if you were playing music, they would want you to “jass it up.” It actually started out as j-a-s-s. They’d want you to jass it up, and then it ended up kind of turning into the word “jazz” as we knew. So it was more of an adjective to describe, “Well, why don’t you do something different with this music? Why don’t you create something a little bit different, something new.”
One of the first – so we’ve kind of talked about the birthplace of jazz; we’ve talked about how we categorize it. But now what we’re going to do – I’m going to dive right into the different style periods. And we have some very definitive style periods, and also the timing of these style periods. The first style period is early jazz, and that basically runs from 1920s to about 1935. And one of the reasons why we know about this, and why we can appreciate it, is because by this time we’re able to record it. There was a lot of music that was happening that, before 1917 or before the 1920s, hadn’t been recorded yet. So even though we know that it’s happening, we really have no record of it.
But the first genre that we can really talk about is early jazz. And the main concept of early jazz – first of all, it was a small ensemble jazz. You would have clarinet, trumpet, banjo, tuba – maybe string bass, but it kind of more started out as tuba – drums. And so it was a smaller kind of ensemble music, and the most important aspect of this music is the collective improvisation. And collective improvisation, if you don’t know, is when everyone is kind of improvising together. It’s not the jazz that we’re used to now where you have a soloist that’s improvising, and then another soloist improvises. Everyone was kind of improvising together at the same time. And so what I’m going to do – kind of through this process, I’m just going to talk about the genres, say how they’re kind of significant and some of the aspects of it, and then also list a few groups that were important to this genre.
There were two groups – there were more of them as well, too, but for this talk – the first one is King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band. That’s – if you haven’t checked them out, they’re pretty incredible. Joe King Oliver was the leader of this group, and the reason why he’s significant, and his band is significant, is because he was the mentor and teacher to Louis Armstrong. He was the one that brought Louis Armstrong into his band, and then Louis kind of moved on to his solo career. And another interesting fact about this band, too, is that Louis Armstrong’s wife Lil Hardin was the piano player in this orchestra. So I always think that’s pretty fascinating, too, to think that at the turn of the 20th century, you have a female pianist in an all-male band with Louis Armstrong and Joe King Oliver, and that’s kind of a pretty incredible fact.
The second band that I want to talk about that can be a little bit of a controversial group that’s linked to trad jazz is the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. And this – the reason why this group is significant to this era is because they were the first to be recorded. They were the first group to be recorded, but they were all – an all-white group.
And – in fact, there’s an interesting story that – I think it was Freddie Keppard. I think it was Freddie Keppard. Freddie Keppard was another coronetist at the time, and somebody asked Freddie Keppard: “We want to record you. Let’s record you.” And Freddie Keppard was – didn’t want people to see what he was doing. He was afraid that people would steal his style. So he said, “No, I don’t really want to be recorded. That’s fine. I kind of want to keep what I’m doing to myself.” So then the Original Dixieland Jazz Band ended up being recorded in 1917.
And the tune that kind of brought this early jazz or this traditional jazz to the forefront was Livery Stable Blues, or Livery Stable Blues. And on the second side of that album is Dixie Jazz Band One-Step as well. So we have our first recording in 1917 of jazz. Interestingly enough, it was recorded in New York City, but it was recorded with this kind of New Orleans sound.
So from the early jazz, we move on to the most popular style of jazz pretty much ever. Does anyone know what that is? Swing. Swing. Actually, early jazz and traditional jazz is sometimes kind of known as Dixieland as well, too. We have a professor at George Mason University who’s the leading expert on traditional jazz in the nation, and he does not like the term “Dixieland” at all. That – I guess it’s not – just because of kind of how it’s linked to other things, he – we really prefer “early jazz” and “traditional jazz.” So that – but that’s exactly what it is.
The next style period that we get to is swing, and swing ran from roughly 1935 to 1945. Again, that’s kind of the height of the popularity of it. Obviously it didn’t go away, but that was the height of popularity. Now what happens with the instrumentation from early jazz to swing is we move from small ensembles to big bands, to large ensembles, which creates an entirely different sound.
A couple really interesting facts about the swing era: number one is that it accounted for 70 percent of all the profits within the music industry, which is incredible to think that any genre of jazz accounted for 70 percent of all the profits. Some of the band leaders made $15,000 a week. $15,000 a week in 1935. That shows how popular this style was, and it was just incredible. Whereas early jazz – I know. I wish – believe me, we all wish – I’m like, “15,000? That’s incredible.” I tell my students that too, and their mouths just fall open. I’m like, “I know. It’s a lot of money in today’s world.” So when we think of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and Count Basie and – again, not all of these bands were making that much money. But they were doing really, really well for quite a while there.
So while we have the smaller – or the small-ensemble approach of early jazz, obviously with the swing era, we move into big bands, which was almost a 20-person band. Sometimes these orchestras could even be larger. A lot of them had vocalists with them. Sometimes they had groups of vocalists. So now we’ve really expanded the instrumentation. Whereas collective improvisation was kind of more of the performance aspect in early jazz, in swing it moves to more written arrangements and then solo improvisation as well, too. So – which again, I always – as I’m teaching this class, I always think evolution versus revolution. We have everyone improvising together, then the next phase of it, now we have everyone playing together a written arrangement, but the improvisation is now something completely and totally different.
Like I said, some of the bands of that era that I’m sure you’ve all have heard of: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb – which was the band that Ella Fitzgerald kind of shot to fame – Fletcher Henderson, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, who – Jim Carroll played in the Woody Herman band – Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey.
Saxophones, too. The instrumentation turns to – as kind of a certain point, too, where certain instruments start to stand forward as kind of star instruments. Instead of having the whole ensemble approach like early jazz, now all of a sudden we’re beginning to have some stars. Saxophone becomes the predominant instrument, and two kind of star soloists for the big bands were – Coleman Hawkins played in Fletcher Henderson’s band. One of the most significant things that Coleman Hawkins did was his 1939 recording of Body and Soul. That kind of changed the way improvisation went, pretty much throughout the rest of jazz. And then Lester Young was kind of the star soloist in Count Basie’s band.
And then we also have some vocalists as well, too. Billie Holiday performed with Count Basie’s band and Artie Shaw’s band, and then Ella Fitzgerald, she got her start with the Chick Webb Orchestra. And of course Frank Sinatra got his start with Tommy Dorsey. So that’s the swing era, 1935 to 1945.
The next era that we’re going to move on to is – moves almost entirely kind of away from swing. Whereas swing – one of the other things that I have to say about swing, it was a dance-oriented music. This music was all about dancing. It was incredibly popular. People loved it. This is when you had the riots at the Paramount Theater, when you had – it was the most popular music of the day, and it’s because people wanted to dance to it. They really – that’s what they wanted, especially coming out of the Great Depression, of the stock market crash of 1929. The swing era was perfect for kind of making people get in a better mood if they wanted to dance and have a good time.
The next genre that we go to, which is also different, is the bebop era. This is 1945 to basically 1955. This is the era that we call – it’s kind of the first modern jazz style. So basically any jazz that’s kind of discussed after 1940 we refer to as basically modern jazz. Anything before 1940 is kind of classic jazz. And what do you think we do after the swing era? Where do you think the instrumentation goes? Goes back to smaller groups. So we have the large bands, right, that had about 20 people. And then all of a sudden, the bebop era, now we move to a small group of maybe five or six intrumentalists.
One of the reasons why we did that is because even though the band leaders were making so much money, and the swing – the big bands of swing were doing really well, they couldn’t keep up with it financially. Clubs could no longer afford to play bands that maybe might have had 25 people. And some of these bands in the swing era too, they were not living – maybe the band leaders were doing well, but the bands were not necessarily living this luxurious life. A lot of times they would play and they would get on a bus and they’d drive to the next town, and they may be able to take some time and find a shower and grab a bite to eat before they got onstage, and then they got on a bus and they went to another town.
So – but the fact of the matter is a lot of the clubs and a lot of the places, they could not keep up with how much money it was going to take for these swing bands. So the smaller kind of groups, bebop – kind of emerges from this.
Another reason why bebop emerges too is that the players want to play different music. They want to improvise differently. They do not want the confines of swing – the swing arrangements. This music moves almost entirely from arranged music to basically fully improvised music. This was a listening-based music. These players – they might play in their swing bands, and then they would go to Minton’s Playhouse and they may play another three hours. They played the music that they wanted to play. It was really not for dancing at all. Like I said, it was mainly for a listening-oriented music.
And this – the bebop genre really kind of changed the ratio between arranged and improvised music. Like I said, it was fully – basically fully improvised.
One of the places that’s linked to kind of the innovation and the birth of bebop is Minton’s Playhouse in New York City. Again, it was a lot of these after-hour clubs where they would have cutting contests, basically, and the players would get up and play and anyone could kind of come and sit in and try to challenge the players.
Whereas the swing music was kind of predictable and mainly meant for dancers, bebop is more unpredictable. The melodies and the harmony is more complex, and like I said, it’s very unpredictable. So it’s not really – it’s not for dancers. It’s not for kind of easy listening.
Some of the innovators for bebop were, of course, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. There were many others too, but those are kind of the most important innovators of that time.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, we move on to kind of many different styles. We call it hard bop, funky jazz, cool jazz, or modal jazz. And these were, again, styles that were kind of – some of them were a variance of bebop. Some of them were kind of harkening a little bit back to swing. So again, they’re kind of evolving and they’re changing from the different – from swing and from bebop.
Hard bop, if you kind of have to define hard bop, it’s really a driving swing kind of blues-drenched feel. This was music where the people – it was coming out of a certain culture. It was coming out of the African American culture, and they really wanted a music that spoke to them. So a lot of the tunes from the hard bop era might be The Preacher, might be Back at the Chicken Shack. It was – this was music that was kind of tinged with some – maybe some gospel and some blues, and it was just this, like, kind of powerful, downhome kind of dirty swing. But it was incredible.
This was kind of the antithesis of another style that was going on at the same time, which is cool jazz. Cool jazz, also known as West Coast jazz, was kind of happening more in California. And it was predominantly happening with many of the white jazz players, except the interesting thing about it is that the – some of the white players that were doing this – cool jazz is linked to Count Basie and Lester Young, their kind of style of playing. It’s a little bit more of a minimalist approach. So even though a lot of the white players kind of gravitated to this cool jazz style, it was definitely coming from Count Basie.
And that was kind of the opposite of what hard bop was doing at the time. Even though both of them are harkening a little bit back to swing, where the music is getting a little bit simpler, it’s moving away – a little bit away from bebop, some of the people that are linked, obviously, with cool jazz – Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, who we just lost about a year ago. And like I said, it was influenced by Count Basie and Lester Young.
Funky jazz is kind of a subcategory of hard bop. And then of course, we move into modal jazz. Modal jazz is where, instead of having kind of complicated harmonies, chord progressions that you have to stick with, we’re dealing more with modal scales or maybe one or two chord progressions. So that really changed the way improvising went as well. Instead of being locked into a specific chord progression, where – like bebop, all of a sudden now we’re opening up the harmonic kind of context so the improvisers can go in a different area. And some of the people that are linked with this – Miles Davis: Kind of Blue. Milestones by Miles Davis was really the first album that kind of started delving into this modal approach, but Kind of Blue, which of course is the best jazz selling album of all time, was definitely firmly solidified in this modal approach. And then, of course, John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, and Bill Evans.
After kind of the hard bop/cool jazz type phase in the 1960s and 1970s, we really moved more into avant-garde free jazz, jazz-rock fusion. So I think it’s – I always think it’s fascinating that bebop is very structured, and actually this is one of the greatest living bebop players around, so I’ll let him talk more about that.
It’s very structured, and then we start moving a little bit away from it harmonically, the harmonic complexity of it, with cool jazz and hard bop, and then we really start moving away with avant-garde and free jazz. And with avant-garde and free jazz, there can be no preset chord progression. Sometimes there’s no preset melody, sometimes there’s no preset tempo at all. Sometimes it’s just people get together and they just play anything, anything at all. So there’s – now we’ve moved completely away from any type of confines. Two other people that were heavily linked with this, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor.
And then when we – interestingly enough, so now we move way out to this kind of avant-garde and jazz – free jazz, and then we also – within the 1970s, we start moving towards jazz rock and jazz fusion. This – jazz rock and jazz fusion – this is the first genre that has widespread popularity since swing, which I find that fascinating that this is the first genre that we get back to. It’s incredibly popular. And I think one of the reasons why is, number one, we are kind of combining genres. We’ve got electronic instruments used in rock. There’s an increased use of drums, which again is kind of more inviting to dancers. And then there’s – the harmonic complexity is a little bit less. It’s kind of in between jazz and rock, so I think it’s a little more attainable for people.
Some of the groups that obviously were linked to jazz rock and fusion – Weather Report, we’ve got – Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was an incredibly popular album, Chick Corea and Return To Forever. So these are some of the people linked with this.
And then in the 1980s, we move into kind of new age, smooth jazz, acid jazz. Obviously, when anyone thinks of smooth jazz, they probably think of Kenny G, otherwise known as Kenny Gorelick. I think that was his real name but they changed it for the stage name. This is a really popular style of jazz that kind of happens in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s waning in popularity a little bit now. Some of the radio stations have had to drop the format, but it’s still pretty popular. Kenny G, David Sandborn, Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum.
Acid jazz is a really kind of interesting genre. This started by a DJ, basically, in England, and this is kind of like a subculture of jazz where it’s got links to kind of hip-hop and rave and club music. And I can remember being in high school and hearing this tune – I think it’s by US3 or US-3 and it was Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia), right? And so I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh, okay, well, that’s interesting. I think that’s Herbie Hancock.” So now we kind of are, like, sampling jazz and we’re kind of putting it with different types of beats and, like I said, hip-hop and kind of the rage culture.
And then I guess there’s this new age jazz, which can kind of be linked to, I guess, Windham Hill Records, although I don’t really know how popular that is, but – so that is a very brief rundown of about a hundred years of jazz. And right now, I’m going to turn it over to Professor Jim Carroll who’s going to speak to you about the theoretical side of jazz.
MR. CARROLL: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Purcell. That was fantastic. Hello, everybody. I’m just going to speak a little bit and then hopefully open it up for some questions. First of all, I want to thank you, thank you, and thank you so much for your support, and your advocacy encourages us all. We need press and jazz.
We were talking earlier. I took my band to China. We went to Shanghai and Beijing and I couldn’t get any press. And what I did because of lack of funds, I took half of a jazz band and – and it was from George Mason University, and – George Mason University, I love teaching there because of the diversity. We’re doing really well and it’s up-and-coming school number one, U.S. World report, number one up and coming. And we think it’s because of the wonderful faculty, but the fact of the matter is it’s the most diverse university in America, and it’s really my students that I credit. So the band itself – I had an Argentinian, we had – you got Afro-American, we had Philippines. Everything was represented. And then we went over to Shanghai, and within 10 seconds we put a half-Chinese band together. We were playing jazz music, and it was fantastic. And I got zero press. I want to thank you all for your covering International Jazz Day. (Laughter.) No pressure.
And I told my students also – because I learned there’s no such thing as bad press, by the way, as you know. And we always covered what’s happening in the world today. I love basketball, but why is it always that basketball gets the press? Because the Georgetown basketball team had just flown to Beijing and they got a lot of press. Why? The fistfight. So I told my jazz students, “When we get over to China, I want you to beat up the Chinese saxophone players, and on my cue.” And the cue was, “Beat up the Chinese.” And I screamed it out in the middle of rehearsal, and my students were looking at me like, “He’s losing it.”
And they did not beat up the Chinese. You know what they did? They made lifelong friends, and they played music together, and they stay in touch to this day. That’s what this great music does for us. That’s what the State Department – very, very wise. Richard Nixon sent Louis Armstrong around the world as an ambassador of goodwill. And Louis Armstrong could go in there. With the sound of his trumpet he brought the metaphor of democracy, of freedom, and that in America, I can have the life of my choosing.
And for me, I choose not to have the big house and the blah blah blah blah. I chose to be a jazz musician. And a lot of people told me not to do that, and I’ve had the wife – the life of my – my wife. It was a definite faux pas in there, but I’ve had the life of my wildest dreams because of jazz music. And some of those myths, what’s it about, it’s a matter of talent or no talent, and the gentlemen here can tell you and Dr. Purcell can tell you it’s not a matter – and that’s some of the biggest things the general public – and I hesitate to even talk to folks. And it’s not just jazz music, but any of the fine arts. European classical music – that music could not be played with talent. It’s not a matter of talent; it’s a matter of perspiration.
The great Charlie Parker, who is my personal hero along with Louis Armstrong, practiced 11 to 15 hours a day. Can you – have you ever played 11 hours in one day? Like, ever? I’ve never played my – one time I played a circus gig and I played 9 hours straight. And I thought I could bite bolts with my chops after that gig. But think about – and it’s – people want to say that Charlie Parker was a genius and he was – and he was, quite frankly, and he changed this world. But the point that I’m trying to make is it’s the myth.
So we have our popular culture, and it gets all the attention in the court of public opinion – gets the attention. And American Idol – and I love American Idol because there are two things that it does. Number one, it’s from the heart. When those folks are up there singing, it’s from here. They’re not – it’s not some superficial higher-edge sort of packaged (inaudible). The other thing is it usually has groove and it has a rhythm. But what’s lacking is the 10,000 hours, and we all know the book, The Outliers. That’s the number that it takes to master your craft, whether it be economics or music or whatever. But 10,000 hours – and for me, so we do our saturation period. How many, like, four or five hours a day, six hours a day for year after year after year. But here’s the kicker for this room, for my students: I guarantee their success. If they will do that – and this is the great experiment of democracy that I can have the life of my dreams. And I did that – some folks continue to do that so on and so forth.
Two other really quick comments, and I wanted to open it up for questions. George Mason, I want put in a shameless plug for Jazz for Justice. Music brings people together, and at George Mason, what we’ve done is to team up with the Fairfax Law Foundation that started out, and we raise funds for the poor in Fairfax County playing jazz music. It’s been a wonderful partnership. And the attorneys there are kind of like jazz musicians, because they get a bum rap too. All we do is tell the attorney jokes, and I know a lot of them. But since I met Ed Weiner – this has been 12 years ago – Ed now is president-elect of the Virginia State Bar. It’s no coincidence. He’s a real visionary. But we started Jazz for Justice, and we raise more money than any other event in the state of Virginia for the indigent in Fairfax County. And now the program is – and I think it’s a very good use of jazz music, and jazz music has always been involved with social causes of – obviously, our Civil Rights Movement and going back and – all of the struggle of Afro-Americans in this country and these incredible musicians that were discriminated against in such horrible ways, especially my personal hero musically, the great Louis Armstrong.
And really, anything I need to know about jazz I can learn from Louis Armstrong. And also, anything I know about being a man, I can learn from Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong was discriminated against – the Caucasian community, and the Afro-American community called him an Uncle Tom. But boy, this guy was (inaudible). “I’m just about playing the music,” and it was true what he did was profound and that his message had depth and it had weight. Wouldn’t it be great if we had Louis Armstrong right now with everything going on in the world and we can send him around.
So anyhow, that’s enough. I wanted to --
MR. CARROLL: Oh yeah. And if I can, the other part is participate. This is for you all to go to a keyboard some time and have some fun. There are elements to jazz that I think must be there, just like Wynton Marsalis talks about. For it to be gumbo, it has to have certain elements. Some people call it gumbo, but it’s not gumbo. And by the way, jazz music is not salad. This is not a salad. America is not a salad. It’s gumbo. It’s all mixed together. But for it to be gumbo – some people think it’s gumbo, but it’s not gumbo; it’s good soup. For it to be gumbo, it has to have roux. And that’s something you’re going to practice, mixing all the butter and the flour and everything up to get that roux just the right texture. And that’s what jazz music is.
Jazz music mixes everything up, but it has certain ingredients. One ingredient is swing. The music – it has to swing, and what is swing? They say if you have to ask you’ll never know. But unfortunately, I have to ask. But it is true to explain swing – how many of you know what swing is, or that feeling of swing? If you know what it is, you raise your hand right away. You either know or you don’t. Swing’s like sex. It’s exactly like that. Because try to explain what sex is to an adolescent. I have some really young students and I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with them, and it’s like, “Do you have a girlfriend?” “I hate girls.” “Well wait a second.”
And I’m stupid, because I’ll do the, “Let’s teach a pig how to sing.” It’s a total waste of time and it really irritates the pig. So I’m trying to teach my young student, well, someday you’re going to really enjoy this. Let me tell you what this is. Like, what’s the point? And swing is that way. But it’s that feeling that we have, and it cannot be written down. It can only be passed on by ear. We can only learn this great tradition – it is an oral tradition, and that’s an Afro-centric way of teaching.
And our schools in America – I am going to say nothing, because we have a great education system. My wife is from the Philippines, and my wife has more talent in her little finger, speaking of talent, than I have in my whole body. But she didn’t have access to the training that I had. Our education system in America is absolutely amazing and I’m not going to criticize it. However, we teach music backward. We really do. And if we could learn the lesson from jazz music, most people learn to talk after they learn to read. So we become what we call – am I right, you all – button pushers.
And I’m good. I look at the dots on the page and I learn to read music. But most music students are unable to pick up their instrument and play a simple song like (playing music) by ear. It’s true. And this is one thing – if we could learn from the jazz community that this is an oral tradition and it’s passed on by ear, and then later we’re going to learn how to read and write the music.
I could go on and on and on. I’m a professor; I can talk for an hour and say nothing. (Laughter.) I get really good at it. So please – so let me open it up to you all, though, for questions if I could. And for myself or Dr. Purcell.
MODERATOR: Let’s do that. And Dr. Purcell, why don’t you come down in case there’s questions for you. We’ll just ask you to speak into the mike because we’re recording this. So let us know where you’re from. Introduce yourself to them and ask away, and then we’ll hear some more music. We’ve only heard a little bit. You’ve just tantalized us with that. (Laughter.) But Dr. Purcell, why don’t you come down to the mike as well to take any questions.
So who has a question? Don’t be shy. (Laughter.) It’s just us. You need to have some more wine. (Laughter.) Thomas, you have to have a question. Okay, here’s a question.
QUESTION: Kyodo News. Sorry for my bad English. I want to hear a little bit about rhythm. You talked about the style, various styles, but what is the rhythm for jazz?
MR. CARROLL: May I?
QUESTION: Yeah, okay.
MR. CARROLL: (Playing music and swinging.) That’s swing. That’s all I can say about it. (Laughter.) One note’s longer than the other and it’s this and it’s that, but it’s an integration too of accents. It’s dynamic and rhythm. So I have, (plays music). That’s our swing rhythm, and that swing is discovered. If you’ve discovered, you know you’ve discovered it, and if you haven’t yet, you want to keep searching for it. It’s the only reason I play music, and it’s the greatest thing – it’s the second-greatest thing humans can – anyhow. (Laughter.)
Hey, by the way, what’s on your sheet there – go to a piano. What I put there is the blues scale, and the old-timers do not like – that there’s no scale that’s the blues. The blues is way beyond a scale. However, in jazz education, we have a method of teaching where we take scales and begin to get our door open. So when you go to the piano and just hit those notes, the DNA of the scale is interesting intervals. (Plays music.) So I just simply – you push those keys down that – of what I handed out. Go to a piano and have fun doing that, or a computer or anything, to see how I’ve darkened in C, (plays music), la, and then E-flat and then, (sings). That’s the blues scale. And what you can do with that: immediately, you can start to improvise, (plays music), sounds good just to play up and down the scale, (plays music). I’m just playing that scale. You can do that immediately. I like the idea that you can participate and that we can improvise.
In college, we take students and we give them a four-year education and we send them out into the world and ask them to do what? Be creative. Ahh! That’s the greatest thing of jazz education. So, okay, I was a little long-winded, but, please, questions?
MODERATOR: What a great question.
MR. CARROLL: Yes.
MODERATOR: Anybody else? Thomas.
QUESTION: I’m Thomas Goruissian with Al Tahrir Egyptian newspaper. So the whole idea – I heard jazz music all over the world, and it’s somehow – I cannot say all over the world, but for the most part – in many parts of the world. And I don't know if I’m right or wrong; people add some of their cultures to the music. How do you think that this is adding things or, like, disturbing things in the jazz music?
MR. CARROLL: No, no, no, that’s what – I love what you said. He asked about adding things, and that’s what jazz is in the beginning. There is a term called Third Stream, which is a combination of jazz and classical music. It was coined by Gunther Schuller, and I love Gunther Schuller. He’s done such great scholarly work for us. But that’s what jazz is in the first place. It is a mixing of these cultures. It really – and down in New Orleans, as Dr. Purcell mentioned with the symphony orchestra there, but in the beginning, European classical music is all over this music, of course.
And they asked the great Charlie Parker what influence does classical music have on your music, and he answered it, “None whatsoever.” However, I think it was just arrogant of folks to ask the great Charlie Parker. But European harmonies are all in this music, and this is a wonderful thing about the blues. Listen to this. I can play this on the blues, (plays music), which is really major and minor at the same time. Will you play a B-flat major chord? (Plays music.) Major, (plays music), minor; immediately I’m integrating these harmonies. The blues really is. Billie Holiday said it’s being happy and sad at the same time. We can all relate to that. That metaphor of integration is found throughout. What about – hey, one more time, can you play this? (Plays music.) What about this? I could go, (plays music), Stravinsky, or I could go, (plays music). All of those things are going to be welcome in the blues. So, every culture.
Of course, Duke Ellington was the great Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain traveling the world and getting all these ideas and cultures and bringing them back to America. But the idea that we add to this and that it has expressions throughout the world, that’s what the music is and everybody’s welcome. It’s a really, really great question.
Anybody else? Any other?
QUESTION: I have another question.
MR. CARROLL: Oh, another?
QUESTION: Sorry. I mean, there is --
MODERATOR: That’s okay. We have time. We have time.
QUESTION: I have another question (inaudible). The other thing which is always like any creative or artistic work done all over the world, people always worry about the time factor and technology factor, which is like how things are changing now, even the paintings and sculpture. And how, just from your perspective, is going to be changed in the coming 10 or 15 years?
MR. CARROLL: Yeah, well, this is a – with regard to technology, yeah, it’s a great question. And first, technology has been all over this music from Jump Street. Of course, the one thing that we have with jazz that we do not have in European classical music – what did Bach sound like? We don’t know what Bach sounded like. My brother plays principal trumpet in the San Antonio Symphony and he said that tradition’s been passed on by ear. No, it hasn’t.
I know that it hasn’t because – the reason I know this is 1999 was the centennial of Duke Ellington’s birth. It’s his birthday, as a matter of fact. And we were touring with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, really great players – Lew Soloff was in the band, Sir Roland Hanna was on piano, Charlie Young was in the band. This was an incredible band. And we were playing a tribute to the great Duke Ellington and we traveled all over Canada and Europe and we’re recreating this music. I came home after the – and the band sounded good too, by the way. I sounded good too. (Laughter.) We came – I came home after the tour and put on some of the original recordings. We weren’t even close. What’s changed? The rhythm in particular, the bass, (sings). All of that has changed.
So how close are we going to get to playing Bach? And by the way, Quantz talks about this in his treatise on playing the traverse flute. Bach did not play even eighth notes. They swung their rhythms. I wonder what that music sounded like. But he talks about that in there. And that was dance music too, and I have a mind that that music was way more sophisticated rhythmically than we realized, like jazz music is infinitely sophisticated. And the rhythms that Charlie Parker played and the rhythms that Louis Armstrong played were specific. They weren’t just kind of approximations. Louie was popping a time feel in there that was just profound. So regarding all of those sorts of things and embedded in this music is this deep, profound sense of rhythm.
And I lost my train of thought. For some reason, I started thinking about Louie Armstrong, but – oh, technology, I apologize. So from Jump Street, we have recordings now, okay? And even to some degree, Beethoven, technology was involved because when we developed the modern piano, Beethoven wrote for that piano. So you had to have that piano, so they had to buy those pianos to play Beethoven’s music. So it’s always influenced. Nowadays, what I’m finding with my young students, of course, the access is there. I mean, I can go and I can immediately see Charlie Parker, the one recording that exists, or I can see Louis Armstrong, so on and so forth.
So regarding the access to it, on the other hand, just in simply the – like the television distracting all of us, the technology is distracting my young students. And to have a young person who’s willing to go in a practice room and put in four or five hours a day, we don’t have those students doing that like they used to. So in that regard, regarding the music itself, it’s wonderful. I mean, there are so many things. But the technology, again, in my mind, is a means to an end and we get hung up in it sometimes.
But I’ve learned not to criticize, and I’ll admit too that I’m pretty backward when it comes to technology, and I could learn from my young students. But it’s a good – I didn’t answer that question very, very well, but I don’t think blaming on technology – I think it can be used well, but again, it’s a means to an end and I think that our artistic endeavors always have to reign supreme.
MODERATOR: Dr. Purcell, do you have any thoughts on that question or any other questions?
MS. PURCELL: No, I think --
MODERATOR: No? It’s a tricky one. It’s a tricky one, right? Any other questions? We have some – oh, here, yeah, we’ll go to the second row.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this. My name is Mladen Petkov from the Bulgarian National Radio, and I have a question for Dr. Purcell because you mentioned Billie Holiday, and if I’m not mistaken, Candy Dulfer is a female jazz musician.
MS. PURCELL: Okay.
QUESTION: And you said that there are not that many females in jazz. Can you talk more about females, female musicians in jazz in general?
MS. PURCELL: Well, compared to the men, there are not that many female musicians, really. There are more vocalists involved in jazz than actual instrumentalists. But there were all-female bands in the swing era. I think it was called the Sweethearts of Rhythm. There were a couple of female bands. They were all female players. But that is something that’s – that’s something that we’re definitely looking into more now, of why more females are not kind of gravitating to actually playing instruments – a lot of them are gravitating to singing, obviously – but to actually playing instruments. We have one female alto player in the college band, and she’s fantastic. She’s great. And the females that are out there are really incredible musicians.
So that’s actually a really good question as to kind of why we’re kind of – they’re not as – maybe as attracted as to playing instruments, or maybe it’s the style of music, or maybe it’s because it’s primarily predominantly men. I don’t really know. That’s a good question. I didn’t really answer that very well, but --
QUESTION: I just wanted to get of other examples (inaudible).
MS. PURCELL: Oh, other examples? Oh, of female musicians? Well, we have --
QUESTION: Most of them are, as you said, vocalists.
MS. PURCELL: Sure.
QUESTION: Most of them vocalists, not instrumentalists.
MS. PURCELL: Sure, yeah. Well, we have – actually, we’ve got some really good female musicians right here in Washington D.C. We’ve got Liesl Whitaker, right? Liesl Whitaker’s a fantastic trumpet player. She’s incredible. We’ve got Lee Pelzer. She’s a bari sax player. Of course, there’s kind of a plethora of vocalists out there. Let’s see, if I’m thinking of kind of famous – can you think of famous?
MR. PURCELL: Oh, yeah, well, Mary Lou Williams, yeah. She was one of the – kind of the first – she was a piano player. And I think it was Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy, big band. And there’s actually kind of like a Mary Lou Williams festival now that celebrates women. There’s also the DIVA Big Band too. Is it Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes? Is that all women? Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes, they’re kind of an all-female band.
So they’re definitely – that they’re definitely out there, and I think growing in popularity for sure.
MS. CARRINGTON: You give us an idea for next International Jazz Day. (Laughter.) We’ll find the women, we’ll find the women.
Are there other questions? Here in the middle.
QUESTION: My name is Bahaa Abdelkader. I work for Al Youm, Egypt. And you mentioned that the State Department – or Nixon – that he sent Louis Armstrong on a tour, which is a very brilliant idea, like, you will find many people around the world who might not – dislike the U.S. foreign policy but who would just like Louis Armstrong and his music. So do you think it’s still possible, like, to apply a similar idea today, and the State Department maybe, like, doing this? And who they would – who do you think they would – you would send in this case, except for Lady Gaga, of course? (Laughter.)
MS. PURCELL: Yeah. No, of course, we were talking about that earlier, absolutely. I think it’s brilliant when our politicians – if they could understand, it’s a great use of this. We get along so well. And one thing I have learned from studying Louis Armstrong, when we go out – when I was in China, what did I talk about politics? Nothing. I don’t know anything about politics. I mean, I really don’t. (Laughter.) So it’s just this perfect way of really instantly bringing people together. And jazz musicians of all – especially during the civil rights period, jazz musicians were the first to integrate.
And regarding women, it’s not the men jazz musicians that are – every jazz musician I know, if you can play, you’re welcome on the bandstand, and it doesn’t matter what race you are, what color you are, how old you are. I mean, it’s nondiscriminatory, so it’d be a great – it’s a great idea. And I think the State Department is continuing to do that, and there are bands that are – that travel around. But I think Louis Armstrong was such a star. Of course, today we have Wynton Marsalis, who is our Leonard Bernstein of the jazz world. And he’s a great spokesman, and he’s doing such great work at Lincoln Center. And this is his – I just read an article. He’s trying to get something started in Shanghai.
But I’d like to do Third World – all these arts, and not just jazz music, but the orchestras who are emerging in Third World countries and are making – you’ve probably heard of this – making makeshift instruments and turning into some incredible – but one thing about jazz, it’s true that we have all the answers and nobody else does – I certainly don’t intend that. And to speak to my colleagues in the jazz community, it’s not good for us ever to criticize any other kind of music. Duke Ellington would never do that. They were always trying to, what do you think about rock music or this music, and Ellington would never – he was not against anything. He was just for jazz. And he would always say there’s only two kind of music: good and the other kind. (Laughter.)
Music’s like people. There’s no bad race of people. There are just individual folks that are screwed up. (Laughter.) Like songs, I mean, we hear them all the time on the radio – individual songs, not styles of music. So it’s really – and thank you for your support.
MS. CARRINGTON: And by the way, I mean, the State Department’s open to ideas. If you have a band from here you’d like to send to Egypt, let us know. We continue to do those kinds of programs, so – we do. Yeah.
Are there any other questions, or does everybody just want to hear more music? Thomas, is that another question?
QUESTION: Just one.
MS. CARRINGTON: One more.
MS. CARRINGTON: And anybody else who didn’t get a chance?
MS. CARRINGTON: Oh, you had – okay.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Go ahead and I will --
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. In my view, jazz music is – jazz is the music of conversation and communication and interaction and responding ideas as great and interrupting more complex and more nuance for (inaudible). Don’t you think these politicians around here should play like that?
MR. CARROLL: Well, yeah, that is a – that’s fantastic. And again, the interaction that takes place in jazz in real time – when you hear these young men play, you’ll hear that. And we’ll hear comping and they’re playing off of one another.
But that’s one of the great things about it in a conversation – again, Afro-centric, and then the call and response that comes from the church as well. And European classical music, certainly we had that antiphonal aspect of it. But it’s just one of the – I mean, I could go on and on and on about that technically. I wanted to do a little more theoretically of those kind of aspects and how our metaphor of democracy, our metaphor of personal expression – but jazz answers that question: How can I be me without getting in the way of you being you? And a lot of times on the bandstand, interestingly, in the Ellington Orchestra, they didn’t like one another. (Laughter.) They didn’t get along personally. But boy, did they get along when they played together. So very – I don’t think I answered your question all that well, but certainly, that’s an important --
MS. CARRINGTON: Well, I think at this point since we want to leave time for the music, Dr. Purcell and Professor Carroll are available for quick one-on-ones out here if you’d like to do that. And we’ll take just a minute to set up the stage. And in the meantime, please have some drinks and food and relax. It’s dinnertime, so we want you to eat a little something so that you can enjoy the music more. So if you’ll just give us a couple of minutes, we’ll get set up for that.
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