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  • Ethan Wai Chi Leung

So What About Jazz

After a long and strenuous morning of classes, it was finally time for my last period of the day. I entered the Jazz Improv classroom and prepared myself for class when Mr. Roeckle announced that he was going to play a piece titled So What? by Miles Davis. At first the song was light and gentle, introduced by a soft chord progression from the piano followed by a few occasional notes played by the bass. Although it was simple, the smooth opening ushered me into the music, almost as if the ensemble of music notes picked me up and carried me into the piece. Suddenly, an abrupt sound came from the cymbal. The tempo and volume of the music drastically increased, creating a feeling of suspense and liveliness. As the music progressed with a more fast-paced rhythm, my foot naturally started tapping along with the beat of the music. After a few measures, Miles Davis, the trumpet player, slid into the piece with his solo by teasing the listener with a few simple short notes. Davis gradually began to play more complex and longer phrases while simultaneously maintaining a casual, careless attitude in his music. The way Davis played his trumpet was like storytelling. The tone of his music and emphasis on certain notes created a conversation through the chords and notes between himself and the rest of the bandmates. His playing style made me reflect on the trumpet sitting on my own lap. How could I develop better playing skills and engage an audience like Davis? It must have taken Davis a long time to develop such an ease and skill with his instrument. Whenever the melody of his solo was too intense and complicated, Davis would gently soften the tone of his music by reverting to a simple melody. As Davis slowed down his rhythm, the energetic feeling I had would subside and would transform into a sense of tranquility. After Davis’ solo, the sax player began playing his own improvised part. One after the other, each instrument player had his or her own unique style that made the compilation of tunes together diverse and colorful. Each time a new solo was played, I felt like I was able to picture the musician as John Caltorone, Paul Chambers, “Cannonball” Adderly, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans, and Davis rather than them being a trumpet player, a sax player, bass player, drum player, and piano player. At the end of all the solos, the piano took over and slowly faded away the melody. Unlike many other songs, the piece So What? tells the story of Davis and his bandmates through high level improvisation and technique, and is one of the reasons why I want to continue developing my passion in Jazz.



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