Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jazz is a party

My sketch of Fats Waller
This past week I was reminded that jazz music is party music. I went to a New England Conservatory concert featuring student performances of Fats Waller music. The groups were directed by Jason Moran, and even played some of Moran's arrangements from his own project, "Fats Waller Dance Party".

I have written about Fats Waller a few times on my previous posts, "Rediscovering Jazz Artists" and "A Concert Experience- Jason Moran 'Fats Waller Dance Party'". At the NEC concert, everything started out as a normal jazz concert. Yet, as the last song "Ain't Misbehavin" was played, everyone got up and started dancing!

Listen to Fats Waller play, "Ain't Misbehavin'":

To learn more about Jason Moran's 'Fats Waller Dance Party' project, read this NPR article, "Jason Moran Takes Fats Waller Back To The Club".

To learn more about stride piano, read this NPR article, "Stride Piano: Bottom-End Jazz" and this PBS biography. Also listen to this NPR podcast, "The Genius of Fats Waller".

Jazz is a party

Jazz used to  be played at "rent parties". Tenants would hire musicians to play at a social occasion and would collect money to go towards paying their rent. This type of informal, social music is where a lot of stride piano or boogie woogie music was played. Stride piano is a type of piano playing characterized by a constantly moving and leaping left hand - the left hand would 'stride' between different octaves of the piano. 

Listen to Fats Waller play stride piano with James P. Johnson here

Some notable stride pianists were James P. Johnson, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, and Fats Waller. These pianists brought a lot of technical skill to their playing, but also kept a lot of humor within their music. One listen to the crazy Fats Waller reminds us all to laugh at life. Because stride musicians played at parties, people would dance to this music making the music bouncy and lively. 

Listen to Willie 'The Lion' Smith play "Echoes of Sping/ Tea for Two": 

My sketch of Erroll Garner
Listen to Eroll Garner play, "Honeysuckle Rose": 

My sketch of James P. Johnson

Listen to James P. Johnson play, "Carolina Shout":

Listen to Fats Waller playing "'Taint Nobody's Business If I Do":

Final Thoughts: 
Jason Moran playing piano
I don't really know if it's a bad thing per se if jazz audiences sit down. Yet, I do know some of my favorite memories with my friends have been going out and dancing. So a mix of these two worlds - my passion for jazz and my joy from dancing - really made my week brighter.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem" where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also have a drawing and song of the day, so stay updated! This week of stride piano inspired my haiku, "Honey".

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