Before jazz, for example the Cool Jazz. Many

Before
taking this course, my understanding of jazz was a kind of music genre that embodies
relaxation, happiness and uplifting emotions.

It is usually associated with dancing as well as African American culture. After months of learning
and practice, I began to form new concepts about jazz. Although it is
impossible to come up with a perfect definition of what is jazz, I started to
realize that jazz is usually characterized by three main features that are
swing feelings, improvisation, and bluesy flavor, though there are exceptions
(Lesson 2b). I also gradually equipped myself with listening techniques that
allow me to appreciate jazz music from a more comprehensive perspective. For
instance, by learning the seventh chord which is commonly and even dominantly
adopted in the jazz genre, I could define whether a piece of song belongs to
jazz or possesses jazz elements with more confidence.

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Like any other music genre, jazz also proceeded and
evolved along the time, from pre-modern jazz, for instance the New Orleans
Jazz, to modern jazz, for example the Cool Jazz. Many great jazz musicians
stood out due to their contribution to the evolution of jazz. Among all the innovators,
Miles Davis was the one that I admired the most. I have analyzed his most
distinguishable song, the “Bitches Brew”, which was a precedent of fusion jazz
that incorporated rock music into jazz. However, his earlier works were also
worth analyzing, from which we could see his early steps of innovation. “Milestones”
was Miles Davis’s experimental creation in terms of modal jazz, it laid the
foundation for his future production, for instance the “So What” and the “Kind
of Blue”. “Milestones” was the name for both the album as well as the song
within that album. It was recorded in 1958, eleven years prior to the publishing
of “Bitches Brew” (milesdavis.com). The production of “Milestones” marked the
beginning of Davis’s journey of the modal jazz. Modal jazz is jazz that replaces
chord progressions with musical modes, for instance substituting the chord
progression with the Dorian mode (Lesson 10). In this case, Miles Davis exactly
implemented this technique, that throughout the music we could define the G Dorian
mode. He abandoned the traditional chord progression and created the music
based on only two harmonies that are G minor and A minor. Due to this bold
change, musicians were able to invent their own melodies without the
restriction and limitation of harmonic progressions. As for the structure, the
form of this piece had an AABBA structure. Another breakthrough was the formed
the sextet including himself, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Red Garland,
Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones as performers, playing trumpet, tenor
saxophone, Alto saxophone, piano, bass, and drums, respectively
(Milesdavis.com).

 

The overall emotion of this piece was lively and
uplifting that was achieved by implementing fast tempos. It started with all
performers playing together. Then, at 0:39 the first solo started and it belong
to Cannonball Adderley. His improvisation during the solo was incredibly
effortless, and the mixture of normal rhythms and syncopation made his
performance stand out. Following the first solo, Miles Davis started his solo
right after Adderley (2:00). Comparing to Adderley’s solo, Davis’s solo was
less intense and furious, but more bluesy with slower tempos. At 3:21, Davis’s
solo came to an end and it was immediately followed by John Coltrane’s solo. Due
to the abandonment of traditional chord progressions, we could tell that it
gave more freedom to the musicians when improvising. At 4: 42, the solo was
taken over by the repetition of the G Dorian. In sum, due to Miles Davis’s
innovation, we are able to appreciate the improvisation that are created freely
by these musicians. And from the evolutionary perspective of view, there is no
doubt that this piece opened up a new era of modern jazz as well as modal jazz.

 

Nowadays, more and more modern singers are incorporating
jazz genre into their production. For example, Norah Jones and Lady Gaga. After
learning this course, now I could identify what specific elements are being
used or what jazz style is being adapted to the music. Therefore, with the
knowledge of jazz music, it helps us appreciate jazz better instead of merely
listening to the melodies and thus it enables us to enjoy jazz music at a
deeper level.