Thoughts from Jazz Percussionist, Paul Vogler 2014
Jazz is the ultimate equal opportunity employer and the harshest imposer of reality, proving that we may have equal opportunity, but not equal outcomes. Our individual talents, hard work and even luck create the opportunities that determine our artistic futures. The up side is that jazz relishes those differences. Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, two of the most well known jazz artist of all time, certainly didn’t have the technical abilities of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. Yet their willingness to create based on their strengths, inventiveness and spirit has earned them accolades and respect that are without equal in jazz.
Sometimes, we musicians think too much about Jazz in terms of technique and theory, overlooking the concepts and history of this great American art form.
Jazz like the blues was born in post-civil war America. This new music gave young Americans the aesthetic and the voice that allowed them to move forward from slavery and old Europe with its Victorian standards into the new century.
Jazz embodies the American ideals of rugged individualism, liberty, freedom, independence and ingenuity. Jazz also promotes creativity, dialogue, cooperation and community.
Nowhere in American art is freedom of speech and personal responsibility realized in a more immediate way than on the bandstand. You have the freedom to speak your mind and your spirit through your instrument; and the responsibility to make it meaningful and uniquely you. Jazz defines America and America it.
It seems we are in a post-modern America that needs, as much now, as then the opportunity to break from our past and move forward. Those same ideals of rugged individualism, liberty and ingenuity that inspired and served jazz musicians of the 20thCentury give us the freedom to create and recreate jazz nightly in our own unique way.