A conversation between two friends who are not musicians and whose personal histories could hardly be more different. Through a series of conversations we explored those journeys, compared and contrasted our stories, and discussed just why this music affects us so deeply. We discussed specific musicians in terms of whether we liked, did not like, or were indifferent to their music, and why we either agreed or not. In these conversations we posed various questions to each other, hoping to discover and articulate certain essences that we might share. One thing we agreed upon up front is that we are neither musicians nor music critics. In fact, we’re not convinced that the field of music criticism is even a valid endeavor. Music description and personal reaction, however, is another matter. In our conversations we tried to describe our reactions to specific musicians and “schools” of music, without labeling the music as “good” or “lousy”. You will see that this doesn’t prevent us from disagreeing and disagreeing in spirited fashion, while always trying to focus on why our personal reaction is what it is.
Is jazz serious art music? Is jazz in fact America’s classical music? I contend that much jazz is both. This paper is an exploration of these questions, not a history of jazz, although I will have to recount some historical facts. Rather, it is an examination of this music from two perspectives, seeking a convincing argument for my assertions.