One who desires that an item remain true to its essence and free from added influences holds the characteristics of a purist. But when it comes to music, one can bet on change – even if they despise it.
An argument had by most and quite often is that surrounding the foundation of jazz and its growing evolution.
Highly celebrated trombonist J.J. Johnson once described jazz as being restless. “It won’t stay put and it never will,” he said. That ideology is one that has proven true over time.
From the era of big band to contemporary, modern, and smooth jazz, to even including the fusion of hip hop, jazz establishes a foundation and evolves.
“It’s a living, breathing body of work and it’s forever spreading. The next frontier that jazz is conquering is global,” states Frank Goss, regional manager of the Close Up 2 Smooth Jazz Club located in Chicago’s financial district, Atlanta, and soon Miami.
Since Close Up 2′s inception in the late ‘80s, Goss has been challenged by non-believers stating that his vision of opening a non-traditional jazz club wasn’t going to work.
“Everyone was like, a jazz club won’t work; you have to have a dance club. And I said, no, it will work and not only will it work, but it’ll appeal to the Black professionals as well, as it will be a very diverse environment,” the former musician says.
Still not convinced by Goss’ claims, the naysayers started humming to a different tune once the club actually opened up. “When we opened, it kind of took off and we got articles written by Black Enterprise at the time and I was on the Phil Donahue show…that was before Oprah,” he laughs.
The problem that usually stops a movement in its tracks is that fear of change and evolution. The foundation, if it is/was strong enough from the beginning will always remain, but may foster various growing components.
“When you look at the history of jazz,” Goss begins, “when jazz was created, we came out of the big band. Charlie Parker, Coltrane created this four-piece quartet kind of music. It was a radical change and the people in big band were saying that that’s not music.”
Today, the evolution of jazz has concocted a formula that engages music lovers from all walks of life and shows diversity in age.
“You can’t take hip hop to corporate and that’s the dilemma,” Goss states, speaking on the jazz interests of Generation Y. “You can’t take your corporate clients to a hip hop concert.
“So the next best thing was to find music that matched their lifestyle and now the information generation has moved to contemporary jazz because it has borrowed elements from hip hop and the salvation of neo-soul.”
When you take into account the volumes of work produced by the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, their musical synergies wined-and-dined improvisation and adventure – something feared by traditionalists.
These musicians pushed the envelope in the realm of jazz and what became the idea of what jazz was “supposed” to sound like.
Goss says, “I’m a Miles Davis disciple; he always pushed jazz. He created the ‘Birth of The Cool’ with Gil Evans and he just kept going and then he did Bitches Brew, which brought fusion into jazz-rock, then he pushed even more. And before he died, he collaborated with a hip hop artist. The point is, jazz is ever evolving.”
In a new age and definition of jazz, musicians stepping to the stage are bringing forth their experiences. They’re taking all of their trainings and incorporating that with their multiple interests to extend a sound that reigns true to their being.
“Our club has over one-hundred odd bands that play there and I give them the freedom within the framework of jazz to just stretch. To take old pieces and turn them upside-down and create new things,” Goss says proudly.
His experimental measures using young and emerging musicians to create their style and define their identity has drawn us 20-somethings to contemporary and smooth jazz in a sense that allows us to move and upgrade our music collections.
Goss says, “Here’s the key thing – classical jazz is to sit back and listen to. What makes contemporary jazz so appealing is that you can dance to it. We’ve 360′d and we’re back to dancing, and that’s really important.”
That’s the excitement of Close Up 2. The establishment stirs a free-range ambience where it’s safe to build a new relationship with the music. Even newbies to the arena can fall in line with the vibes.
“I have some of the highest level musicians performing at the club and I tell them, ‘Every time you play here, do something new, create something, introduce some of your own material, take the old standard and flip it upside down, tear it apart and reconstruct it the way you want to.’ And that’s created this really interesting body of contemporary jazz,” Goss enthuses.
Music is the rhythm of life. And jazz, whether contemporary or traditional, is forever.
(For more information, visit www.closeup2jazz.com.)