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Classical and Neoclassical Jazz Series II+, Jazz Education and Individuality


Welcome to our appendix post on classicist jazz on the Classical and Neoclassical Jazz Series! In this series of posts, we analyze the emergence of classical and neoclassical jazz in the 80s, from the point of view of a jazz critic using Berendt and Huesmann's The Jazz Book as our reference. Let's start!


It is essential to mention that the time of the progress in classical jazz occurs and the popularization of jazz education coincide. This, surely, is not a coincidence. Opposing to free jazz basis in neoclassical jazz, classical jazz was more technical and fragmented and had a high opinion of virtuosity in instrument technique with its bebop basis.


The new music education centers -which emerged and popularized in the late 70s- were everywhere. From little courses to workshops and conservatories, young musicians learned improvisation techniques, harmony, chord analyses, and more jazz theory. Jazz books with different, specific contexts were all around and were easy to find for a young, learning musician. Officially, jazz was starting to get globalized and monopolized with books.


Although the last claim might be too assertive, in the 80s, there were lots of modern and traditional musicians who were disturbed by this spread. Jazz education was clearly easier to access. Furthermore, jazz education was full of technicalities and was making the jazz "schooled". These new features of a young classical jazz musician were clearly in contradiction with the ideology behind classical jazz. Back in the bebop era, young musicians did not have a school. They learned jazz by going to jazz clubs as much as possible and listening to music until the mornings. Bebop jazz was the product of this organicity and naturality.


However, this was clearly not how an average young jazz musician learned jazz in the 80s. This era of young musicians underwent a methodic, technical education that emphasized virtuosity and theory. Although it is clear to see that the 80s jazz musicians were way beyond in instrumentation technique than their old colleagues, they were lacking the individuality and the spirit of jazz. The jazz education was not enough to create a sense of individuality while teaching instrumentation, harmony, etc. Ultimately, the nature of jazz does not allow itself to be taught and monopolized with education.


One definitely needs education to learn jazz in the modern world. If one wants to become a good jazz musician, one should create individuality within their music. It is apparent that individuality cannot be taught, therefore one should find their own way to create individuality and live with jazz.