≡ Menu

BRAIN JAZZ: “Social Media” in 1989

First published here in 2003, but written for The Well in 1989.


“Jazz is often described as being an extremely individualistic art form. You can figure out which jazz musician is playing because one person’s improvisation sounds only like him or her. “What we think is happening is when you’re telling your own musical story, you’re shutting down impulses that might impede the flow of novel ideas.” – – ScienceDaily

We don’t fill in a formula of departments and features and tips and quips every hour every day every week.

We’re jamming.

We just make up our content on the fly. No going back. No edits. Working in raw ASCII. Keyboarding. Mainlining others’ thoughts.

Lock and Load. Fire and forget.

It’s like an endless orchestra of brain musicians high on brain jazz.

If you can type and have something to say, you can sit in on the session and jam.

If you can take it high if you can take it low if you can tie it in a knot if you can tie it in a bow. If you can throw it o’er your shoulder like a continental soldier…

You. Can. Play.

You can play. Any number can play. ANY NUMBER can play a number and that number is always an unknown number. But if you can play unknown numbers you can sit in on the session and jam.

If not, you can just log in and kick back and watch the others go at it.

You never know what you’re going to get, or which way the next person is going to bend the thread in your head.

You’re just there, in real-time, and saying, really, whatever comes into your head. Cause you can’t know what you think until you see what you say. . . . man.

Sometimes it’s flat, even more often predictable, and, yes, it can get really boring…. just like a lot of modern jazz.

But still. . . . man. . . .  there are times — rarer now to be sure — when the whole thing . . . the thread . . . . woven through everyone’s head. . . .

Just. Takes. Off. . .

And you find yourself thinking things you never thought you’d think remembering licks long forgotten and saying things you never planned to say to a lot of people who are coming right back at you, jamming harder and seeing if you can all somehow take it higher.

Not to be profound, just to take it around. It’s like being in a Doctor Strange far out on the range in an intellectual groove and you’ve got lift off.

Have this happen a couple of times and you’re hooked, man. Like me, man.

I’ve been hooked for years, man. . . .

but it doesn’t rule my life,

. . . . man.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Francis W. Porretto August 31, 2022, 3:12 AM

    — Working in raw ASCII. —

    Hey! What about us?
    — The EBCDIC Died For You League —

    • Vanderleun August 31, 2022, 9:01 AM

      OH ALL RIGHT! You can also be in the geezer club.

  • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 6:22 AM

    Jazz is almost all improvisation around a basic melody and a set of complex chords and rhythms. It is the “improv” that makes it extremely difficult to play well and also makes it nearly impossible to be understood by a non-musician. It resembles Blues in its improv but not in its complexity. Chord and rhythm structures in Blues are quite basic. Thus Blues solos are readily understood by almost everyone, though they can be extremely demanding to play.

    Improvisation in music is a relatively recent thing. Professional musicians until perhaps Mozart (1756 – 1791) and his piano cadenzas were required to repeat with mathematical precision the musical notation placed in front of them. Veering away from what the composer wrote was considered a form of arrogant heresy and was not permitted. For his piano pieces Mozart only wrote “suggestions”, not actual notation. The pianist was expected to arrange a solo around the composer’s ideas. Beethoven (1770 – 1827)—once a student of Mozart—took this idea further still.

    “As with the main piece, the cadenza allows composers to express themselves creatively on their own, as well as give solo pianists a chance to shine.”

    Improvisation became almost a form a madness with Paganini (1782 – 1840). His violin solos were considered impossible to play except by Paganini himself. Even today very few violinists care to take on a Paganini solo or to improvise around one of his musical themes. Listen to his “24 Caprices for Solo Violin” and you will understand. The finest interpreter of Paganini is Salvatore Accardo (1941 -).

    It was the advent of the inexpensive electric guitar that brought to the masses the ability to play music at home and improvise to their desire. And thus were born Jazz, Blues and Rock and Roll.

    “Invented in 1932, the electric guitar was adopted by jazz guitar players, who wanted to play single-note guitar solos in large big band ensembles.”

    The first professional performer of the electric Jazz guitar was Oklahoma raised Charlie Christian (1916 – 1942). He brought the guitar from a rhythm instrument to a solo instrument.

    And the rest is History.

    • james wilson August 31, 2022, 3:01 PM

      Yo, Mike, Paginnini is not interpreted, it is launched, according to the degree of insane talent of the performer. Whoever is first among that little gathering, it is not Accardo.

      Ludwig was the first and likely the greatest improviser. He made his fame early on doing just that in wealthy salons.

      Well before that, Wolfgang at long last finally yielded to request that he hear the young man and described him as a an unkempt heavy fingered oaf. Generations do not pass without incident.

      Those were better days when fistfights erupted in concert audiences between Brahms and Wagner afficianados, whereas I sat in orchestras hoping the audience would boo the pretentious work we were premiering. But they were ever polite.

      • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 3:56 PM

        The debate about “the best interpreter of Paganini” is alive and well. My money is and always will be on Accardo. He has recorded more of Paganini than anyone else.


        Forget the Wagner – Brahms contretemps. That was kid stuff. When Stravinski opened his “Right of Spring” in 1913 Paris, the fist fights in the audience began almost immediately. A good time was had all around.

        • james wilson September 1, 2022, 2:29 AM

          All I heard was Accardo struggling with the caprices.
          Here’s one example of a talent that’s left earth, from 1:13
          Not even my favorite violinist but my guess, the last guy to do wht Kremer did here was Pagannini.

          • Mike Austin September 1, 2022, 7:48 AM

            Damn. Kremer is good. I had not heard any of the “Caprices” played so demonically well. And yeah, he played as Paganini would have played. Accardo is a bit too refined and thus too restrained to play the “Caprices”.

            My favorite violinist is Kreisler. I am listening to him right now, as interpreted by the violinist Oscar Shumsky in Kreisler’s “Viennese” style.

            • james wilson September 3, 2022, 2:41 AM

              It is said great talent is a thing we cannot reach; genius is a place we cannot see. Kreisler was genius.
              When he was 55 Kreisler was struck by a cab in NYC and lay comatose for eight days. When he awoke he spoke none of his six languages, but he could speak Latin, a language he learned in public libraries around the world while he toured. Priest were brought in to communicate with him.

  • Arty August 31, 2022, 7:06 AM

    Sounds like a cacophony of mostly discordant sounds to me. Never been a fan.

    • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 7:23 AM

      I can listen to Jazz guitar for an hour or so but not longer than that. Straight-ahead pure-form Jazz is tedious and gives me a headache. Professional Jazz musicians play for other professional Jazz musicians, not the general public.

  • Tom Hyland August 31, 2022, 7:49 AM

    It’s about 90% improv what I do with a jazz piano dude and a couple of others when they sit in. I’m on flute. Max, on piano, has thousands of old standards in his head and is creating, here’s another term, variations. I can kinda recognize the tune, which is flecked with familiar riffs which identify it, then I respond or even push it further ahead within the same rhythm. So we play hide ‘n seek with a tune that goes to delightful places. Never the experimental, discordant noodling that I find quite fatiguing as Arty says.

    p.s. gotta throw this in… totally off topic.

  • ghostsniper August 31, 2022, 10:19 AM

    I don’t “get it” and don’t particularly care for it.
    If push came to shove I would take jazz over any of those foul modern noise cacophonies that have been bantered about for the past couple decades and widely accepted by people with barely more than 2 brain cells.

    • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 11:15 AM

      As would I. It must be said about Jazz that it is music for adults, though it wears on me.

      Several lifetimes ago I would haunt the Jazz clubs of Portland. Not for the music mind you, but for the women. Those clubs were happy hunting grounds indeed.

  • jwm August 31, 2022, 11:43 AM

    Many of my friends were jazz fans. I’m one who doesn’t get it. Lord knows, I’ve tried. Monk, Coltrane, Jaret, any of ’em just annoy me. “But you haven’t heard the *right* jazz”, my friends would say. I don’t like winds much and horns not at all. Jazz simply does not speak to me.
    A few nights ago my neighbors had a party. I got an earful of what the kidz listen to these days.
    It all sounded like a noisy Korean commercial.
    Made me miss surf music.


    • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 1:01 PM

      I taught school for 27 years in 3 countries. I got an earful of the music popular with adolescents. Almost all of it was simply trivial and forgettable. Several times a year I would introduce my students to World Music—stuff from Africa, from Brazil, from Peru, from Arabia and so on. They very much enjoyed it.

      Here is one example, from Daniela Mercury, “O Canto da Cidade”. It is a form of music termed “Axé”.


      Here is another example—a rather tame one to be sure—from The Piano Guys:


      Brazil of course has Bossa Nova, which is really just an exotic form of Jazz though much more musical and thus much more listenable. I would place this Brazilian guitarist against any guitarist alive today.


      • ghostsniper August 31, 2022, 2:40 PM

        Your mention of the word guitarist piqued my interest so I took a peak.
        Indeed, that guy has a prowess of the fretboard that would allow him to play any sort of music he might be interested in. I’ve played guitar for more than half a century but I never had the “consuming” interest to get involved more than at a certain level. For me it’s all about the fun factor, then my interest wanes. Notice, his classical guitar has 7 strings, I’m assuming a dropped D bottom string.

        • Mike Austin August 31, 2022, 4:01 PM

          I started guitar when I was 12 and gave it up when I was 62—seven years ago. Arthritis in my left hand was the proximate cause, but truth be told I could not be as good on the instrument as I wanted to be, which frustrated me to no end. I was glad to see all of my 3o-odd guitars find other homes. It got to the point where I would pick up one of my guitars and I would sense a stranger in my hands. I miss playing not at all.

          • Ed in Upstate NY September 1, 2022, 5:50 PM

            One of the funniest things I ever read on the web was a guy commenting on an Eric Johnson performance: “This is the video that inspired me to give up guitar.”