Musings In Cb: Phases and Stages

Chris Burnett - Selmer (Paris) Saxophone Artist

We just completed our Summer Session at the Kansas City Youth Jazz program with a concert at MCC Penn-Valley on Sunday.  It was amazing on several levels.  

Phases and stages …

And, like the music we call “jazz”, the progression of ensemble performances (from newer to older students in jazz experience) illustrated the phases and stages that we all encounter in most any context.  I really enjoy working with the Kansas City Youth Jazz program at all levels – administration, students and faculty alike.

Our collective agenda is music …

There could be 100 such programs serving the Kansas City metro area and there would still be a need for another because there would still be more young artists who could be reached.  In the Kansas City Youth Jazz program we have the opportunity to teach the technical aspects of the art form indeed.  And, the students who participate are interested in learning music to this detailed degree.  That’s cool.

Jazz music is about “improvisation” – both, understanding the theory involved, and then doing it in an applied context within the song form being performed.  We spend most of our time teaching our students how music works, not just the notes to individual and collective instrumental parts that make up the arrangement of individual songs. That’s cool.

Jazz is not dead or dying …

Jazz music has never been the most popular of “popular music styles” – during any era.  However, literally thousands of students will continue to graduate from established jazz studies programs around the world each semester for the indefinite foreseeable future.

The opportunity of generations …

The opportunity of our contemporary generations of Baby Boomers forward, is to continue to grow the next generations of literate artists and literate advocates of jazz music – regardless of the flavor of this music one prefers.  Jazz music must be engaged beyond a groove and a beat.  We don’t need to change any of the styles of jazz or improvised music in attempts to be more popular.  I have never seen such attempts truly work to that end.

Yes, the groove and the beat are still essential elements, but the underlying harmonic structure is vital to really “getting it” as both, a performer and a listener.  Those of us who understand these things can continue to facilitate the next phases and stages of the music’s technical evolution and inculcation within the fabric of society.  

Programs like Kansas City Youth Jazz allow artists who can teach to share what we know with others who want to know, and this type of sharing inherently expands the jazz experience to new audiences, while it creates new jazz scenes everywhere.  

This sharing of the music by the past generations used to be done in Kansas City by playing every night at one of the 100+ jazz clubs in town.  That time is in the past.

We now have a plethora of platforms with which to invite others to engage the music.

Peace, Cb

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Also see: KCUR 89.3 FM – Kansas City Youth Jazz