The Sound of Surprise: Jonathan Schwartz on Jazz

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Jonathan Schwartz has devoted his life to music. Over fifty years in the music industry, a musician and a disk jockey, has deepened his relationship to music - especially jazz. 


Jazz is the sound of surprise. That from the gentle writer Whitney Balliett many years ago. Yes indeed, the sound of surprise; music invented on the spot, after the theme, the melody, written by Gershwin or Irving Berlin or Harold Arlen.

Harold had the blues for much of his life, and wrote it all down in "Stormy Weather," "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues," "Ill Wind," "Last Night When We Were Young," and in his masterwork, "Blues In The Night." The last two titles are, as Harold said, "my tapeworm songs." That is, melodies that flow into other melodies, and other melodies that all join hands as one, allowing musicians many adventures as they design surprises.

The tapeworm songs, as voluptuous as they are, need not be the only source for jazz players to call upon. Irving Berlin's "Always," Richard Rodger's "Blue Moon," Cole Porter's "I Love Paris," have received cerebral attention from the great players - Miles Davis, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Harry Edison, Oscar Peterson, and the dozens of other great musicians who have found, in jazz, the opportunity for personal expression. I've always thought that rock was jazz under pressure. Listen to Jimi Hendrix, a jazz musician if ever there was one. And discover Clapton's "Blue Moon" quote on the great recording of "Sunshine Of Your Love," Cream's ultimate success. 

Jazz is intimate, an on the spot admiration for the existing theme, an affirmation of personal voice, a revealing of sorrow so deep. Jazz is what you think, the snapshots of years gone by, of lies told, of books read, of children gone, of fathers vanished, of ebullient hours of love. Of solitude. Jazz is the sound of surprise.