Influential Musicians Who Shaped Modern Jazz

Jazz 6 Musicians Who Shaped Modern Jazz

Jazz is a type of music characterized by syncopation, rubato, usually heavily accented rhythms, dissonances and individualized melodic variations. It also utilizes chords such as the minor-major seventh (also referred to as an mD7).

The defining Cool masterpiece features six of pianist Dave Brubeck’s compositions, including the famous ‘Take Five’ (written in 5/4 time). Sophisticated and accessible, it is an essential addition to any jazz collection.

Thelonious Monk

From his angular, spacious playing to his dissonant chords, pianist and composer Thelonious Monk left behind a legacy that is still heard onstage today. He is considered one of the founders of modern jazz and was an influence on musicians who developed the bebop era, including John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

Despite being overlooked by many during the 1940s and ’50s, Monk’s unwavering belief in his music helped him to persevere. His work at the Five Spot and the release of his 1956 LP Brilliant Corners earned him new acclaim, as well as a reputation among musicians. His style can be a bit intimidating at first, but once you realize it is all intentional, Monk’s music is something truly special. He also possessed a sly sense of humor and an uncanny ability to connect with audiences.

Miles Davis

After leaving the Juilliard school, Miles toured and recorded with the jazz greats, absorbing their improvisational styles. He later pioneered modal jazz and expanded into fusion, incorporating rock rhythms, Jimi Hendrix-inspired musical figures and R&B chord structures into his work.

On the boxed set of Directions (released in 1989), Teo Macero culled two takes of ‘Konda’ with Henderson, Grossman, McLaughlin and DeJohnette, one of which contains an adapted Sly Stone bass line. However, Davis must have judged that he hadn’t fully exhausted the ensemble’s potential because four days later he returned to record the track again.

This time, he used keyboards, electric guitar and tabla. He also emphasized rhythmic density and shifting textures, pushing the group into the avant-garde. Modern musicians like Flying Lotus and Questlove have cited this album as a major influence on their music.

Chick Corea

NEA Jazz Master and DownBeat Hall of Fame pianist Chick Corea is best known as an innovator of jazz-fusion, but he also recorded straight-ahead jazz with groups including the Bud Powell tribute band, Thelonious Monk and his own trio. Corea has continued to expand the scope of his music with acoustic ensembles like Origin and the Akoustic Band, and electric bands like Return To Forever and the Elektric Band.

In his early days he worked with vibraphonist Gary Burton, and they made several duet albums. Corea would later work with vocalist Gayle Moran, and he continued to record in various settings throughout the decades. His acoustic piano work was particularly strong, and his performances were notable for their range of emotion and creativity. The album My Spanish Heart from 1976 is a perfect example.

Bill Evans

Evans’ influence on piano has been immense. He brought an introspective and melancholy approach to the music, as well as a rich harmonic language. In particular, he introduced a style of modal jazz to the mainstream scene.

His playing was informed by Bud Powell and Horace Silver, but he grew more influenced by Lennie Tristano’s long flowing lines. He also had a deep interest in 20th century classical composers.

He played a significant role in Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album, bringing to the band’s sound sprung rhythms and pastel-like harmonic colors. His subsequent trio albums with bassist Paul Motian and drummer Kenny Clarke were more dynamic but still incorporated a melancholy inclination. Sunday at the Village Vanguard (reissued with two additional tracks on American Jazz Classics) and Alone are both cherished by fans of his music.

Michael Blake

Michael Blake was born in the desert and has a deep love of horses. He rescued and raised many wild mustangs and continues to do so. He has also written several books and was the author of the Oscar-winning film “Dances with Wolves.” He has a strong connection to the West and has been an advocate for the protection of wild mustangs.

Saxophonist Michael Blake is a distinctive presence on the modern creative jazz scene. His unique sonic vision bridges avant-garde, post-bop and global traditions. He has performed with a range of eclectic artists and is the co-leader of the Lounge Lizards ensemble. He has released several albums with Stunt Records and has a broad, globally minded perspective on his music.

His latest album, Dance of the Mystic Bliss, reflects his grief and frustration during the pandemic in 2020, while other tracks show heart bursting optimism.

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