All the cool kids fancy themselves music aficionados. We all want to be on the new dopeness first and be steeped in crates of rare old school vinyl that no one this side of Medicare has ever heard. Even the most well versed music heads tend to have one notable limitation however, cross-genre expertise. So while most of the cool kids tend to be up on the latest Theophilus record and vintage Donny Hathaway, lots of territory goes unexplored. Sadly one of the most foreign genres to Generation Y is jazz. Jazz was the art form that birthed American cool and introduced the world to African-America’s penchant for musical trail blazing. It’s a beautiful genre that ranges from soothing to soaring, while always maintaining an air of urbanity and elegance.
If you travel abroad you’ll find jazz clubs abound in European cities. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but would appreciate readers weighing in on the proliferation of jazz on other continents in the present day. One thing is for sure though, jazz is a dying art form in it’s country of birth. Locally celebrated jazz club Yoshi’s has had to open up to an ever-increasing range of genres of music to stay afloat. Diversity is good, but when you’re seeing a Too $hort show at one of the nation’s most renowned jazz clubs, you know that times have changed.
Thankfully, Oakland producer, designer, educator and music connoisseur Nick James of The Free Experience is lending us a little expertise via his Free Jazz mixtape series. He shared the following with 38th Notes regarding the project:
The Free Jazz Mixtape is a project showcasing the history, innovation, and most importantly, the music of Jazz. It is not titled after the sub genre of Jazz called “Free Jazz” nor is it representative of Ornette Coleman’s album of the same title. The Free Jazz series is a way to shine light on Jazz given it is in the shadows of other genres that have benefitted from contemporary forms of promotion like video, internet, and social networking. The scope of Jazz is far greater than that of Hip-Hop. Over a half century of music has been created and is collecting dust in people’s record collections. Free Jazz is a way to liberate the archives and repackage one of America’s greatest contributions to the arts.
Growing up in a jazz house, I always wanted to promote my love of Jazz with my peers. My father was a jazz artist from the late 60s to late 70s and played throughout the Bay. He even wrote a piece for Archie Shepp who is featured on the mixtape. Even though I grew up on rap, I benefited from being exposed to jazz at a young age. The selections on the project are meant to serve as a bridge to Jazz for the Hip-Hop generation. When I listened to Hip-Hop growing up, I heard the parallels between the two genres. The sampling of Jazz is the obvious connection, but freestyling is often overlooked as a central connection to jazz. To be able to riff and stay on subject is exactly the same as jazz improvisation. Furthermore, Hip-Hop and Jazz are genres that provide spaces of free expression. The song, “Nuclear War,” by Sun Ra is unquestionably Hip-Hop. To have a bunch of people in the studio chant, “If it blows then yo ass gotta go” exemplifies the same bluntness and courage Hip-Hop utilizes to express its ideas. Lastly, I used a lot of songs that have been sampled throughout Hip-Hop. Original compositions that have been sampled by De La Soul, Jay-Z, Madvillain, Madlib, The Roots, and Edo G are all on this volume. I will continue to repackage my collection and share it with the world. Two more volumes will come out this year.