Thinking Through Jazz

Terminologies in jazz are very logical; changes, root, turnaround, collective improvisation, trading 4’s, bridge, shout chorus, walking bass, stride, ride…

Firstly let’s think about a tree and how it anchors itself on the ground through its ‘roots’. Let’s also think about how far and deep the ‘roots’ can travel underground to ensure the wellbeing of a tree as a whole. But wait a minute, how often do we think about the ‘roots’ when we appreciate the beauty of any tree it’s branches, leaves, flowers or even when we enjoy it’s tasty fruits? We often don’t pay that much attention and perhaps within that we could also think about our societies and the significance of our history and cultures (‘roots’) as anchors of all things, and furthermore the importance of memory…

But back to jazz for now, I feel the ‘root’ note [often employed by the bass] has a similar function in jazz. It makes everything else shine but itself and as an observation I have been looking at how most of my favorite piano players; McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston and others respect and pay a lot of attention to the ideology of embracing and viewing the ‘root’ note as the fundamental principle in improvisation, the ‘root’ note as a common point of reference for all and a point departure to high spheres.

I am still trying to look into how as improvisers we could possibly make improvised music accessible as a thinking space for society that could be studied, adopted and applied in dealing with issues in our daily lives and problem solving…


Nduduzo Makhathini

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