One of the most respected genres all across the board since its inception, jazz has taken a scholarly approach in recent years due to the development of modern music, which differs significantly from the roots that were once set by jazz standards and improvisation. Modern pop music differs from original jazz in a number of ways, but even when it is influenced by it, modern pop music doesn’t share much of the ADN of complicated and unpredictable chord progressions, rhythmic intricacy and jamming, poetic approach.
However, since the expansion of alternative music has taken over what used to be known as the “indie world”, original, faithful jazz has been given a second opportunity to develop and adapt itself to the modern era, from Alice Coltrane’s nephew’s adventurous electronic solo project Flying Lotus, to his frequent collaborators, including Kamasi Washington and bass prodigy Thundercat. There’s definitely a movement happening in the underground, and it is long due.
Jazz and Hip-hop
In 2015, popular rapper Kendrick Lamar released his third studio album “To Pimp a Butterfly”, which in one form or another, made use of experimental jazz and included most of the previously mentioned artists and more, in order to create a document of black history, sole creativity and emotional impact, which resulted in one of the best albums of the decade. Its fusion of jazz and funk blew the doors opened for future endeavors in the genre and has generated a renewed interest in reviving old jazz values.
Taking advantage of this new opportunity, Kamasi Washington released a triple LP titled The Epic, which was received with rave reviews and almost unanimous praise, in no small part because of Kendrick’s support and the album’s own sense of prodigious, late-era Miles Davis influences. Even though the album was certainly steered towards a more traditional jazz approach, the albums that followed from the previously mentioned collaborators, took a different turn, incorporating funk and soul elements into jazz and making it known black music is here to stay once again and reclaiming ownership over a tradition that has been long forgotten by the masses, only coming through in recent years through underwritten or overdramatized blockbuster stories, such as La La Land or Whiplash.
The Modern Age
I cannot stress the presence of jazz fusion and funk in the modern era, but it is necessary to sing its praises. Even in an era when the king of all things funky and fusion-y, Prince, is now gone and left behind a highly diverse and hard-to-understand legacy, other artists have concentrated in taking the reins and crafting a new era of musical, conceptual and artistic progression. Masterpieces from the current era may include Flying Lotus impressively uniform “You’re Dead!”, Thundercat’s long-awaited jazz fusion, funk statement “Drunk”, previously mentioned modern masterpiece, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and to mention a more recent release, Kamasi Washington’s recent ambitiously quiet EP “Heaven and Earth”. Let there be no doubt that jazz is getting a second wind in our modern age and we can only be oh so thankful to take an advantage of it and sail to unknown places where we can actually revive the genre’s wild, unruly spirit.