Skip to main content

3rd December 2013

Opinion: Why Everyone Should Listen to Jazz

Nathan Pigott outlines why Jazz might be the genre for you

Listen to a conversation on any bus on the Wilmslow road bus corridor on a Monday morning and you’ll be beguiled by stories of students’ hedonistic weekends. Most often the conversation turns to “how sick the DJ was at the house party” and a discussion of the various genre-defying mixes that emanated from the oversized rig ensues. Yes, we take the music we hear on nights out very seriously, and a culture has evolved where people go to house parties to hear a specific DJ.

Here in Manchester we’re lucky to be able to experience great quantities of quality dance music almost everywhere we go, but how many of us actually think about where it comes from and what it actually is? You may be able to guess where I’m going with this.

If you think about it, practically all the dance music we come across is in some way indebted to jazz. Sounds like a sweeping statement, but starting with Disco each consequent movement has taken an element from jazz and incorporated it into its sound, from the obvious sampling of jazz breakbeats in hip-hop to the more subtle incorporation jazz harmony into deep house.

I’ll illustrate this with some examples. Why not start with one of the first ever disco records? Manu Dibango’s ‘Soul Makossa’ (1972) is a prime example of how jazz rhythm has influenced dance music. Here we see the emphasis placed on 2 and 4 of a four beat bar, rather than the typical 1 and 3. This has been an important feature of ‘swing’ rhythm in jazz from the 1930s onwards.

Moving on 40 years and elements of jazz are used by many House, Techno and Trance musicians. Examples range from the explicit sampling of jazz musicians themselves (such as in St. Germain’s album Tourist) to the more subtle incorporation of swing rhythms into most Techno tracks (that certain bounce you can hear is what a jazz musician would call swing) – I could go on but word limits are restricting so you’ll have to trust me.

But why does this mean that you should listen to Jazz? Isn’t it outdated and elitist, and anyway that’s why we’re seeing so many modern reinterpretations of it? Put simply, no. The reason why you should listen to Jazz, like so many of your favorite artists have, is because many of the themes and underpinning concepts behind Jazz are still relevant today. Rebellion, anger, oppression; these are the things that make it so exciting and so current.

Jazz has inspired musicians of consequent generations. Surely this must be down to the fact that they felt something within it is so valuable that it must be preserved for anyone who hans’t been exposed to it?

So, go to Matt and Phred’s on a Monday Jam night to see the local talent (there’s lots!) and go find out which jazz artists inspired your favorite DJ to see what kind of Jazz you may be into. I promise you’ll be intrigued, if not delighted.

More Coverage

John Power: “The idea was to make a seminal record”

During his solo tour of the UK, we catch up with John Power to discuss new Cast music, the Liverpool music scene and his relationship with Lee Mavers

Peace live in Manchester: Worcester indie rockers return to their roots

Worcester’s finest, Peace, embark on a return to live performances following a five-year hiatus

The BBC Radio 6 Music Festival returns to Manchester in March 2024

Now stationed permanently in Greater Manchester, The BBC Radio 6 Music Festival returns in March 2024

CMAT live in Manchester: “…or, should I say CMATchester?”

A gut-wrenching new LP, but the same old cowboy boots… the Irish singer/songwriter enthrals Manchester’s 02 Ritz