Do-wee-dee-bop-bop-oh-yeah-jazz. Jazz seems to be a music genre a world away from the music of the 21st century. Now, my generation listens primarily to rap, pop, hip-hop, etcetera, but jazz? That falls by the wayside unless perhaps you happen to be a musician or a music major. Many people my age associate jazz music with their parents or even their grandparents. It is not a music genre that is on their radar. However, jazz has an immense influence on modern music, which can be seen through artists like Kanye West who sample music from the greats of jazz like Ray Charles. The tremendous success Kanye West and Jamie Foxx had with “Gold Digger” which was sampled from Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” proves that jazz music is still a force to be reckoned with. Jazz has a rich history and jazz singers have such a commitment and love for their craft which is something I was fortunate enough to witness at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola when we saw Arturo O'Farrill & Claudia Acuna perform.
Sitting at the cool, calm atmosphere of Dizzy’s club Coca Cola, I found myself being swept away by the energy that Claudia, Arturo and the rest of the band created during their set. Whether Claudia was portraying a coy femme fatale or Arturo was acting as the cool, humorous maestro, I found myself becoming more and more caught up in the world that they created. For 90 minutes, I was in a world of jazz, being captivated by the stories they told through song. Whether Claudia was singing in English or Spanish, I felt like I understood. The songs had so much more heart and soul then the music of our generation. And you could tell the performers were genuinely happy to be there, whereas many performers these days don’t even bother to show up to the concerts many of their fans eagerly anticipate. The intimate setting of Dizzy’s made me feel closer to the artists and you could tell they were truly in love with what they were doing, which made it that much better. The yummy food didn’t hurt either! As I was watching, I found myself wondering more about the history of jazz and Arturo O’Farrill and Claudia Acuna.
Jazz originated in the 20th century in African-American communities in the Southern United States. It was marked by its use of blues notes and improvisation. Jazz music also started many sub genres:
Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, from New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin jazz fusions such as Afro- Cuban and Brazilian jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz-rock fusion from the 1970s and late 1980s developments such as acid jazz, which blended jazz influences into funk and hip-hop(wikipedia.org).
Other music forms are marked by the fact that the performer most likely plays the song as it was written; however, in jazz the performer takes more liberties and rarely plays the same song twice in the same way. The way the performer plays the song depends on his mood, the audience’s reception, interaction with other band members or a number of other circumstances. Jazz was originally defined by black artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington; however as time passed and the genre grew, Latin and other cultures began to put their own spin on jazz music.
Latin jazz is an infusion of African and Latin musical influences. Claudia Acuna began singing Chilean pop, rock, folk and opera. She fell in love with Jazz after listening to Frank Sinatra and Sara Vaughan. She moved to New York City in 1995 and became a fixture on the jazz scene by performing at Arturo’s, the Zinc Bar and Small’s. Arturo O’Farrill masterfully combines Latin music with jazz, so when he and Latin trained Claudia met and began working together, it was a match made in heaven. Their work came to reality with their CD “In These Shoes” which has jazz and Latin music as well as a Van Morrison composition. That’s what I love about jazz. It has a way to break down cultural barriers, and instead of cultures having very separate and distinct sounds, artists find a way to mesh them together to make something beautiful.
Dizzy’s was the perfect place for me to have one of my firsts encounters with jazz music up close and personal. The beauty of Dizzy’s is being able to look out at the breathtaking view of New York and Central Park while listening to music without the noise of the city interfering. It is close and intimate, and you really feel connected to the performers. I thought Dizzy’s was a wonderful experience, and I’m very glad we had the chance to go.