Quo vadis Swing-Jazz?

    Speed, High-Speed and even more Speed?

    The actual development of Swing-Jazz, especially of Jazz-Manouche is giving reason for worries. Regrettably it seems that “speed” nowdays has become the average magic spell. And many (especially young musicians) seem to think, that if they can play even faster than others (maybe even fast than Django Reinhardt ever could), that they are “very good” musicians or guitarists.

    Quo vadis Swing-Jazz?

    This issue is on since some time, but latest since Bireli Lagrene, Jimmy (image left) or Stochelo Rosenberg have made their incredible playing tempo to their brandmark, many others try to copy that behavior.

    There is nothing to argue about “copying” or “adoring the masters”. It´s a normal fact that we all in nature and as a child learn from imitating.
    But it seems that there has broken out a real “speed-competition” amongst many young (Sinti-)musicians as other guitarists, which could eventually burry this music finally.

    It meanwhile urges some kind of “Speed-Marathon”, as you could hear and see it with many jamsessions at the annual “Festival Django Reinhardt” in Samois-sur-Seine.

    Quo vadis Swing-Jazz?

    Every(!) song gets played way too fast, regardless the original Tempos (which the composer might have had an idea about when writing the song), as every songs has “its own” speed at which it works best and at which it may discover its full and best impression.

    The former “Swing“, so to say “swingin, wipping, dancing” of this music gets abroad. Has this music been dance-music at its time, you may not be able to dance with your lady at the immortal speed the former songs get played at today. At least it would look rather funny than real dancing at speeds of 300 BPM and more (which is no rarity these songs are played at these days).

    And thats how it sounds like. Listening to tunes like “Minor Swing”, “All of Me” or “Them there eyes” at actual jamsessions that are played at these kind of speeds, the most of it starts sounding like scraping and shredding with one million notes. The real sense of Swingjazz, the “grooving” and “swingin” have gone astray.
    You cant distinguish anymore wether a melody or enjoy it, nor do the following solos have any impression just beeing “shot out” with uncountable notes.

    Of course it is sometimes adorable and respectable what some (even very young musicans) show off technical knowhow and playing skills. But this question may be asked nevertheless: is that the sense of music?

    Miles Davis, the famous trumpet player should have said once:

    “… it´s not the NUMBER, but the KIND OF notes that you play which make you speak out as a musician…”.

    (Miles Davis)
    Quo vadis Swing-Jazz?

    I can only agree with that. Maybe its just an expression of our crazy, unsecure and scary time, that one doesnt want to take exactly that (time) anymore. But therefor want to shoot out everything very quick and dirty.

    And of course: there is nothing to argue against “speed” in general. Because: if you have practised a thing really often, you may (play) it also very fast one day. But that is just hard work at first, but no earning first hand. Nothing special.

    Quo vadis Swing-Jazz?

    If speed for example in a solo “serves” the music, so that a musical expression is bound to it (like Django Reinhardt used speed in his playing IF the song or a passage required it), then there is nothing to argue about speed.

    But music in general, should not be transferred into “competition”, no egomaniac comparison of “i am better that you” (whatever “better” should mean in music at all).
    Music should be communication (and stay it). Between the musicians (at first hand) and the listeners (at second). Just then music would unfold its full potential. I am deeply convinced about that fact.

    That said the actual development of Swing doesnt give me fun but rather worries. Music changes, this is fully normal. Also Swingjazz. And that it doesnt anymore sound like 1930 at times of Django and the Hotclub too.
    But if the whole essence of music or a song gets lost, just because it is only about shredding out a million notes, the real beauty of (this) music has become past already.

    Bertino Rodmann

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