A new era of Jazz takes a younger generation of listeners
by Frances Moffett
Jazz’s rich history and its undeniable impact on every genre of music has allowed it to sustain for decades, making it one of the most relevant forms of music today. The ever-evolving musical form is taking on a vibrant, more upbeat cadence and tone, making it jazz you can dance to and attracting a younger, more modern audience in the process.
“Contemporary jazz is for the hip-hoppers who have gone to college, graduated and now have corporate jobs,” Frank Goss, regional manager of Close Up 2 Contemporary Jazz Lounge, told the Defender. “You can’t really take hip hop to corporate, and so there is a huge influx of young professionals who are looking for an alternative and the alternative is contemporary jazz.
“Also, unlike traditional jazz, this is music you can dance to-dancing is back in the jazz repertoire,” he said.
Using traditional jazz as a foundation, contemporary jazz can be considered a melting pot of music. With the genre’s popularity around the world, it continues to evolve, taking on the local and regional cultural influences and sounds and creating a whole new subset of jazz music.
As Goss puts it: “[Jazz] morphs; it is a living, breathing art form. It's constantly changing-it went from big band to bebop and then from bebop to jazz with greats like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and then Miles Davis came along and pushed the envelope even further. And now a lot of the major players are younger and are really pushing the music and becoming creative with it. They’re borrowing from R&B, pop, reggae and even classical music like Beethoven and Bach.”
Contemporary jazz music is just about everywhere, and as a leader in this new movement, Goss’ main objectives are to continue providing a platform that allows the music to grow even more and give the musicians who play it the opportunity to further create and push the envelope. Goss, who has been in this business for 30 years, is achieving this through daily live performances at the Chicago and Atlanta locations of Close Up 2, as well as by producing a contemporary jazz and neo-soul festival in Atlanta, along with a partnership with the Chicago Jazz Festival.
One of the musicians moving this genre along is Rockford, Ill., native Harlan Jefferson. Jefferson has been a musician for 30 years and plays the alto saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute; he also sings. He performs with his award-winning band So So Tight all over the Midwest and said that his style of contemporary jazz is “smooth and creamy like your soul on a warm summer day.”
“My style of contemporary jazz blends a mixture of soul, gospel, reggae, funk, hip hop and traditional jazz,” he said. “When I was a teenager studying music, I also was a hip hop DJ on the side to make extra money. Most of the young people from that era moved away from hip hop and pop to contemporary jazz because most of the up-tempo and slow grooves are danceable, recognizable and at the same time, it can be soothing. My music is like an outreach ministry. Myself and others like me have gained fans through our craft from people who typically wouldn’t like jazz until they heard our music because it’s so diverse.”
Audley Reid, a saxophonist who’s been in the music business for 30 years, said that the styling and feel of the music writing differentiates contemporary jazz from the traditional style, but also the fact that it is appealing to a younger audience.
“We are dealing with a younger generation of listeners,” he said. “The young writers and performers are tapping into the current social and economic environment. Music and the various styles must change because of the personalities of the writers and musicians. The word‘jazz’ in some people’s view takes you back to the Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington era. We are dealing with new sounds and approaches that in some areas make contemporary jazz more economically appealing. The level of musicianship impacting contemporary jazz has opened up the jazz world [overall] to a broader audience.”
Guitarist Buddy Fambro, a Chicago native, speaks along a similar line, saying, “I think contemporary jazz is continually finding new audiences. It tends to serve as the bridge for listeners seeking familiar contemporary rhythms supporting extended instrumental improvisations. If you grew up listening to Earth Wind & Fire in the 80s and like the sound of a pianist spontaneously adding melodic ideas, then it may be a more natural progression to start listening to Joe Sample playing ‘Carmel’ or Ramsey Lewis playing ‘Sun Goddess.’ Then as your ears open up to more possibilities, you might go back to explore more traditional settings of jazz piano, such as Oscar Peterson or Ahmad Jamal.”
No matter the style or the listener, it is clear that jazz-in all its forms-will continue to be an influential part of music. Jefferson said, “Contemporary jazz will be around forever because the soulful performance requires a deep sense of calling. Well-played jazz is one of the deepest expressions known to man. It flows from the heart and is therefore capable of reaching the heart.”
Fambro added: “I really cannot predict where jazz music is going. I will say that it is constantly evolving and is the sum total of all its proponents. Technology has greatly influenced jazz in the last 20 years and will probably continue to have a significant influence. Whether or not it is creating new instruments or new distribution systems for people to listen, jazz will thrive!”
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Pre HIV/AIDS Education Benefit Gala Fundraiser
Harlan Jefferson & So-So Tight
ISTHMUS | The Daily Page, Madison Wis.
R Place on Park, 9 pm
Born into a musical family, Jefferson began playing jazz saxophone professionally when he was 13. Over the years, he's worked soul, funk and gospel into the mix and has opened for Funkadelic, Regina Carter and pre-scandal R. Kelly. His weekly set with drummer Rick Flowers and keyboardist Cheeseburger McClain is a surefire way to liven up a Wednesday night.
CHICAGO JAZZ. NET - REVIEW
Story and Photos by James Walker
Several weeks ago, this writer paid another visit to Chicago's premier smooth jazz club, Close Up 2 on south Clarke Street in the Financial District. Saxophonist Harlan Jefferson and his ace bandmates were "holding court" to the delight of the small but very appreciative crowd. Harlan, a native of Rockford, was accompanied on this evening by veteran drummer Malcolm Banks, guitar sensation Alan Burroughs and newcomer Willerm Delisfort on the keyboard.
They were completing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," with Burroughs wailing away on a nice extended solo. Burrroughs, a veteran sideman is one of Chicago's finest guitarist in the mode of a Ernie Isley and Carlos Santana. He's such a delight to watch perform as he's usually very cool and relaxed while perched on a chair in the background. They followed this number with a Jefferson original, "Get Your Step On," from his 2007 CD entitled, "You're All I Need." By the way , this is a song that's getting air time on WNUA, Chicago's smooth jazz station. Burroughs was again featured on this selection.
The second set began with the playing of R&B standard, "Sunny." Leader Jefferson was featured on this number as he switched up to the soprano. Throughout the remainder of the evening, Jefferson relied heavily on this beautiful instrument to relay his musical message to the audience. Although Chicago has an abundance of outstanding smooth jazz saxophone players, few are his equal when it comes to the soprano. He also used this instrument on R&B's Johnny Gill's "My, My, My." On this number, Harlan snaked through the audience to the pleasure of the assembled masses. On this tune , he handed the lead off to Burroughs with the two engaging in a nice "call and response" routine. The crowded loved this segment and was jubilant. This writer would love to see more of these two working together. They are a natural duo.
Jefferson kept this evening fresh by even giving a couple of numbers a reggae sound. This was done on The Stylist's "People Make The World Go Round," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Earth Wind and Fire's "That's the Way of The World." Versatile keyboardist Willerm Delisfort is responsible for not only the "Reggae" sound on these numbers, but he's also producing the bass line as this group is playing without a bassist. Delisfort, a native of Miami, Flordia migrated to the Chicago area after attending Northern Illinois University. He's played with the likes of Corey Wilkes , Ernest Dawkins, Jabari Lui, Fareed Haque among others. This twenty something keyboardist has a bright future in the Chicago Jazz scene. During their cover of the Stylist tune, Delisfort creatively produced a "steel drum" sound which made this selection fresh and refreshing.
What's a sax led smooth jazz evening without a Grover Washington tribute. Considered by many as the pioneer of smooth jazz, Washington would have been proud of Harlan's rendition of the classic "Mr. Magic." Harlan put his own special touch on the number without creating musical sacrilege. In addition, Alan Burroughs stroking of the 6-string facility with reckless abandon was a thing of beauty. As this set was coming to an end, it appeared that all were gaining energy from one another. They even had some in the audience dancing in the narrow aisles. Most notably, was George Daniels, proprietor of George's Record Shop on the West Side and at Midway Airport. Daniels, a noted dancer, could not contain himself during this number.
Not to be left out during this finale, drummer Banks got off a "sick" solo while keyboardist Delisfort inserted a unique solo more associated with an avant-garde improvised solo. What a performance!!!!!. This aggregate really worked well together on this evening with the introduction of newcomer Willerm Delisfort on the 88s . Let's hope they keep this groove together by performing on a more regular basis as a unit.
For detailed information about Close Up 2's future list of live entertainment, refer to their website at closeup2jazz.com . Also, mark your calenders for their 2nd annual jazz festival the weekend of June 20th at the corner of Van Buren and State Streets featuring, the debut of trumpeter Corey Wilkes first cd, national artist guitarist Stanley Jordan, and the debut of national recording artist Chicago's Nick Colionne's new cd. Again, check their website for a complete listing.
The new CDs are available at cdbaby.com,
Ubiquity Records in Rockford, and also available at Borders and other outlets.
Check out Harlan Jefferson’s new CD release You’re All I Need. This full-length recording of smooth jazz originals is the perfect birthday gift or mood setter for romantic evenings! Check out Harlan’s soothing sax on “Just Groov’in 4 Stella,” “A Smooth Sax Man,” by A.Z. Jefferson and the radio edit and extended bedroom versions of “My My My.”
Check Harlan out at jazzchicago.net and www.myspace.com/harlanjeffersonmusic.
If someone has been escaping reality,
I don’t expect him to dig my music - Charles Mingus
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