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Did you say jazz ?

Louis Armstrong, Jazz Hot n°104

Today many refuse to define jazz music that for fear of being excluded from it.

It was not always so, especially for Jazz Hot and its founder Charles Delaunay. As early as 1935, the question of defining of this strange music from another continent, North America, which held such remarkable specifications that it was distinguished in 1919 by Ernest Ansermet, the great conductor and eminent musicologist, in an article about Sidney Bechet, the foundation of New World music, so called by Anton Dvorak.

The intuition of the first amateurs and activists of jazz was supported by the idea that art isn't the result of academic knowledge –it tends to universality as opposed to folklore– but the expression of a culture's brilliance, which applies both to European music, called ‘classical’, as well as to jazz.

We are not going to rehash  the origin and definition of jazz, which is discutable, but 80 years of history on a daily basis, 40 000 pages and over 700 issues of Jazz Hot (regular issues, special ones, supplements, war bulletins 1939-1945) clarifies this great, on-going debate about art (Rabelais, Rousseau, Ansermet argued in their days) renewed in XXth century by the irruption of jazz and cinema.

Jazz is also this special music that gave a color to the musical creation that surrounds us to this day, popular music (especially in the USA, Europe and France), classical music, folklore (gypsy music, klezmer, country, music from Africa, etc.) and even mass commercial music (pop rock, international popular music, world music, etc.), even if the latter, domineering and normalizing, is a poor extraction that harms human intelligence and the notion of popular art.

That this influence is the result of an African-American minority, marginal and segregated  reveals that the conviction of an artistic expression can move mountains. That it was only made possible in democracies tells enough about jazz, a music of liberation, that needs a favorable political frame for exist.

Jazz is not just a set of keys floating in the air, it is first a culture, a philosophy, a state of mind, an attitude towards life and other people, and the artists of this music very broad and democratic from its beginning (unlike the star system) –allows us to say what belongs to jazz and what does not as much as the color of blues and the swing rhythm– and an expression open to the world.

Jazz Hot has been following, accompanying, encouraging, recounting and promoting this adventure for 80 years in a independent framework with the enthusiasm that accompanied all the generations. It is a sign among others (its faculty to cross borders) that jazz elevates the spirit.

Yves Sportis
Traduction : Mathieu Perez