Lately I have been noticing more and more bands that label their music as jazz-ish, or they at least use the word in definition of their style.
I cannot say that I approve this, as I don’t feel (about many of these bands) that there is really any jazz in their playing.
This made me think about the essential question “What is JAZZ?”
For me, jazz requires two main elements, to be called jazz: improvisation and swing.
Many listeners, but even musicians, call something jazz, and they base their opinion on the fact that there is a certain amount of improvisation in the songs. However, when the music does not apply swing, then in my opinion it cannot be labeled jazz, but rather improvised something (rock,metal,whatever…).
And swing – for me it is even more important than improvisation in defining jazz. Music which does not have the element of swing, even if it uses other elements of jazz, is not jazz. Therefore jazzmetal, jazzrock, fusion, nujazz etc., that means styles that do not use both swing and at least a certain amount of improvisation, should not really be called jazz. I prefer to use terms like “rock (metal,fusion…) that uses some elements of jazz.”
I know it might sound like banal hair-picking, but I really think it is a disgrace to jazz to use its name for things that are completely un-jazz.
I love all kinds of jazz. Even if not using lots of improvisation, but THEY HAVE TO SWING.
Let’s call things with the right names, ok?
P.S. How do you recognize a (decent) jazz musician? Well, he swings and he can improvise…