Abstracts of issue 15 (2002)

Minas I. Alexiadis

Towards a Definition of Jazz Music based on the Nature of this Idiom and the Characteristics of Musical Practice

This article’s intention is to present briefly the essential characteristics of jazz music, in trying to detect the common core of jazz through all its phases and to suggest a reasonable definition. The article discusses the derivation of the word “jazz”, matters of jazz rhythm, specific characteristics of jazz harmony and jazz melody (mainly the influence of blues and pentatonic tone material), the peculiar timbre-tone color, the phrasing in jazz, and the phenomenon of swing in relation to all these factors. The article discusses further matters of texture in different kinds of jazz performance, matters of orchestration and arrangement, the nature of improvisation, which is essential in jazz, and concludes that representative jazz music occurs when all the above crucial elements are present and interpreted in a specific jazz style.

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