Words with David Amram, Part II: What Place for Jazz?

Part II of a discussion with musician/composer/arranger/conductor/author and man of many musical talents, David Amram.

What comprises jazz? Is it basically all fusion?

If you play chopsticks with one finger, your fingers are moving in different directions, so unlike planned songs with parallel fifths and harmonies, everything is automatically fusion when you have more than one person playing at once. You’re already fusing the different elements. It’s like a great chef who doesn’t simply boil the water; they’re putting different things together to put something new and different that provides nutrition for the soul.

Jazz makes people aware of all the beautiful music of the world that was created  by people who were improvisers and players who had a sense of what was real and what was heartfelt, and what was not. Relying on instinct, they were able to do something at that moment. Charlie Parker wrote “Now’s the Time” and it was an anthem – it still is.

Now was, is and always will be the time because now is the right time. There are fantastic lessons you can learn from jazz even if you are not lucky enough to play it. I was one of those lucky people. I was fortunate and knew somehow as a kid when I became an adult saying please and thank you and can you show me that again, please, slower…if you can say it respectfully that’s your tuition in the hangout college. My main continual course in life is to never forget how to say please and thank you.

I learned being around farmers, don’t ever feel bad if you ask questions; that’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you want to become better and more knowledgeable. Your job is to pass on what you bequeath.

The other thing I learned from jazz artists is that they had the ability to keep it so for real that the idea of becoming the superstar or “see my lawyer” is not part of what the music represents or what it’s about. When it was taught in that way it killed European classical music, being all about status and snobbism. It’s what’s inside the package, not the wrapping. The lightning is out of the bottle and it’s not going to go away. “NOW IS THE TIME” – a whole generation is able to wade through the sleaze and find those needles in the haystack. Don’t forget that it’s there to inspire you to tell your story.

For more information visit www.davidamram.com.

Photos courtesy of David Amram. Top photo [Amram with Benny Golson] (c) Steve Friedman 2009.

(c) 2020 Debbie Burke

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