Piano image via Shutterstock

Mozart was a pop star

by Alexander Burke

Listening to, and playing jazz brings me closest to an experience that I would describe as “Divine.” However, jazz has become a bad word in many circles, as it often becomes merely a technical exercise.

I moved to Los Angeles over a half decade ago and have lived through events that feel like a bad novel. I now lead an emerging pop band, play with a number of well-known artists and compose for film and TV. Suddenly immersed in the world of pop, I was shocked to discover how complex and challenging pop music is harmonically and rhythmically. This is in stark contrast to views of my former university music professors.

People often forget that artistes/composers like Mozart, Liszt, Miles Davis and Louie Armstrong were the pop stars of their time. I have an acquaintance, John Reynalds, an amazing guitar player who refers to old composers as “Vintage Pop.” I agree.

I drove back to LA recently after a performance in Palm Springs. Having forgotten my CD’s and iPod adaptor, I surfed the radio desperate for any station. After an intolerable few minutes, I stumbled on a station playing a Keith Jarrett Trio recording.

The moment I heard Jarrett play the first few notes on the piano, nothing else seemed important. It may sound trite, but it felt as if I walked out of a smoky bar into a clear, crisp night. There is a truth being told in Jarrett’s playing and I hear it on every listen without fail.

As technology develops, life speeds up, and “Anticipatory Nostalgia” becomes more ramped. This is something we crave, an acceptance and reverence of the moment, with no concern or worry of the past, future, and who will tweet or Facebook us.

This is why there has been such a huge influx of improvisation in art this decade. Our society is desperate to be present.

When I listen to Keith Jarrett play, all the formalities, silliness and eccentricities of society fade away. If this is all our culture has to offer, it’s enough. To live, and experience this, makes it a worthwhile journey.

This essay is not to discount pop music that I adore, play and listen to everyday. Nor is this to proselytize jazz. You’re more then welcome to hate it, I could care less.

This rambling essay is simply to state, and explain why, without affectation or insecurity, that I love Jazz.

Alexander Burke

About Alexander Burke

Alexander Burke is a Los Angeles based film composer, producer and multi instrumentalist. He is also a member of the band Magnolia Memoir.

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