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Persona Jazz

  • Jazz

    From The Sound of Music by Stephen Gislason

    "I love that word ‘jazz,’ man. Jazz is a beautiful word. I connect jazz not with what’s happening today in America so much as when I was young and listened to Ellington, Miles Davis, Bird, Dizzy Gillespie: how beautiful music was then and how exciting music was then. That’s what I connect myself with.” Joe Zawinul

    I have eclectic musical interests, but the rhythms, ideas and complexity of jazz dominates my music. Some will say that jazz is performance music, that demands novel improvisations from skilled performers. Others will emphasis jazz traditions and perform standards that recall the history of jazz. Since I am studio musician, I enjoy the privilege of private improvisations, thoughtful reflection on the structure and meaning of jazz forms and ample opportunity to score, edit and refine jazz performances before they become a public spectacle. The passionate energy of some jazz pieces has been, for me, healing music supplying energy that pushed and pulled me through hard times.

    Jazz became intellectual music but originated as dance music played by black musicians in New Orleans. Jass referred to sex and the rhythmic dances in the black community were sensual and erotic. Original jazz was band music for dancing, street parades and funerals. Jazz bands featured brass instruments, drums, and woodwinds. The favored brass were coronets and trombones. Pianos, guitars and banjos added ethnic flavors to the Creole bands who played rhythmic, complex arrangements with brief improvisatory breaks.

    The evolution of jazz is fascinating and complex. The coronet was replaced by by the trumpet, saxophones became more important than clarinets, bass fiddles became a standard instrument, and electric guitars eventually replaced acoustic. The drum kit with kick drum, snare, tom, toms and cymbals also became a standard feature of jazz ensembles. In the 30's big bands dominated dance halls and celebrated band leaders and soloists such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong became celebrities. Big bands eventfully shrunk to small bands. Soloists with virtuoso skills became the heroes of jazz. Band musicians would meet in after hours clubs to jam.

    Interesting rhythms and improvisation were two essential elements of jazz. Innovations appeared quickly and were often resisted by more traditional musicians and audiences. Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie invented modern jazz, beginning in the 1940's. Their "bebop" rhythms, sophisticated arrangements and "wild" improvisations inspired the best of the new jazz players. Traditional jazz players scorned the innovators.

    Jazz fusion describes the merging of progressive jazz formats with a wide variety other musical styles including funk, rock, R&B, electronic, Latin and world music. Miles Davis moved his jazz expressions through cool jazz, bop, and modal jazz. The 1968 album “Miles in the Sky” introduced Herbie Hancock playing electric piano and Carter playing an electric bass guitar. In 1969, electronic instruments dominated the next album “In a Silent Way”, an innovative fusion album.

    The musicians who played with Miles often continued to develop fusions styles. 1970’s fusion bands originated with Miles Davis alumni: Tony Williams Lifetime, Weather Report, McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Corea's Return to Forever, and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters band. Herbie Hancock was one of the first jazz keyboardists to use synthesizers. Funk jazz emerged in his albums, Head Hunters 1973 and Thrust in 1974.

    Weather Report, featuring Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter developed "world music fusion jazz." Jaco Pastorius, the electric bass player, went on to great fame and a tragic death in 1987. In 2006, Pastorius was voted "The Greatest Bass Player Who Has Ever Lived" by reader submissions in Bass Guitar Magazine. Zawinul, a jazz keyboardist and composer used synthesizers and retired to his studio to record complete compositions on his own was widely admired. He won the "Best Keyboardist" award 30 times from American jazz magazine.

    Chick Corea, another of the great keyboardists, founded the band Return to Forever in 1972 with latin-influenced music. The band soon evolved into a jazz-rock band. John McLaughlin was influenced by his guru, Sri Chinmoy and created the Mahavishnu Orchestra that merged psychedelic rock with Indian music. Carlos Santana’s band blended Latin salsa, rock, blues, and jazz. Pat Metheny started a fusion band in 1977 that produced popular recordings that made both jazz and pop charts. Cool jazz groups such as Dave Sanborn's bands and the Rippingtons became popular with more melodic pieces that appealed to listeners at home.

  • Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances under the titles Persona Digital, P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort. Music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona Studio's arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are arrangements and performances completed in house by Stephen Gislason. The music selections and their history are explained in the book, Sound of Music.

    Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the The Sound of Music by Stephen Gislason
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