Bored with Rock…?

Dear Editor,

I often say, “Jazz is not for the musically challenged.” I will add that it is only for those who want a challenge. The most complex forms of jazz are extremely hard and require serious effort.

Routinely jazz goes where all other music does not dare, and it has had the greatest impact on all other musical genres than all the others put together.

Since 2010 I have attended four Portland Jazz Festivals. I have been encouraged by the fact that with each successive festival I’ve attended, there have been more and more young people in attendance. What I have been hearing is many young people have finally gotten bored with rock/pop music and have taken to listening to jazz as it challenges them like rock/pop cannot.

The commitment that is required of jazz’s musicians and fans is way beyond what all other musical genres demand. Serious jazz from the likes of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray and Sun Ra is very difficult. One thing that makes their music so challenging is much of it has a spiritual component. This is especially so with Coltrane, Murray and Ayler.

Ayler created a musical language so original and bizarre that musicologists are still trying to understand it over 50 years later. A childhood friend of Ayler (who was raised a Pentecostal) stated that Ayler was often speaking in tongues on the saxophone.

Generally not recognized is that these avant garde jazz innovators were using their music as an expression of their spiritual life. I am convinced that John Coltrane’s music was a way for him to gain a spiritual state of consciousness.

When in San Francisco visit the Saint John Coltrane Church (2097 Turk Street).

From my book “A Journey into Jazz” (our library):

“In 1970 a friend and I went to a typical hippie pot party at the house of someone he knew. I had with me the album, ‘Sunny Murray on ESP,’ hoping to play it to see how people would react. When put on the stereo the party immediately transforms. ‘Angels and Devils’ was the first tune played and right off this boisterous party became, except for the music, dead-quiet. Looking around I could see that everyone had gone inside themselves with all totally immersed in the music.”

Yes, jazz is not for the musically challenged, but for some mind altering substances can help.

Lee Santa

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