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The Jazz tradition: Quo vadis?

The Finnish Jazz Federation – or Suomen Jazzliitto – has recently initiated a public debate on the current state and future of jazz.

The concept – under the heading of Jazzpresso – is a part of the multi-faceted project Jazz Finland, and it involves social media and live discussion sessions. In the Jazzpresso series the articles are the fuel to the flame. Clearly the name for the debate initiative is a play on coffee – espresso. The debate is described as a «conversation around a coffee table».

Starting on the first of every month the web site Jazz Finland will publish an article authored by a «Finnish or international jazz persona» to start a new discussion. The first entry is by teacher, composer and jazz musician Jukkis Uotila, professor at the acclaimed Sibelius Academy. His essay, What will happen to the tradition of jazz music in the future?, is available here. He argues for the need of revitalising the Afro-American tradition in modern, also Nordic, jazz and jazz education – and seems almost to suggest that most of what has been happening in modern European jazz since 1965 has been misguided! He also makes the controversial claim that arguing that there is «a new European improvisational musical style, without calling it jazz … is very unethical».

There is an underlying topic he does not discuss – not the boring question of what jazz is – but whether jazz is a specific genre or not. I remind the readers of Bill Evans’ view on this. Here’s what I call The Bill Evans Theorem on Jazz: «It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s feeling».

Every month’s lead writer appoints and challenges the next months writer. The writer in the Jazzpresso series in March will be saxophonist Jukka Perko.

This can be fun to follow!

Text: Johan Hauknes

Photo: Finnish Jazz Federation