Author: Billy Taylor
“Jazz is an American way of creating music. It is also a repertory which formalizes its various stages of development into classical styles which musically articulate American feelings and thoughts. The written literature of jazz has continually evolved out of informal improvisations and has formularized the musical elements and devices which characterize each of these classical styles. In addition to printed scores, there are sound recordings, videos and other pictorial records of almost every style of jazz from its beginning to the present. No other indigenous music reflects so clearly the American ideal of the individual’s right to personal freedom of expression. In many ways, jazz is a metaphor for the American idea of democracy.
Jazz is America’s classical music. As a musical language, it has developed steadily from a single expression of the consciousness of African Americans to a national music which expresses Americana to Americans as well as to people from other countries. As a classical music with its own standards of form, complexity, literacy and excellence, jazz has been a major influence on the music of the world for more than one hundred years. Recognized as a national treasure by the Congress of the United States, this unique American phenomenon defines the national character and the national culture. It serves, in a sense, as a musical mirror, reflecting how we have seen ourselves at different times in our history. A good example of this is the way the movies portray the 1920’s and 30’s using the jazz of those decades to underscore the pictures.”
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