I was talking to someone the other day about how great Jazz music is, and how it really is a big influence on Rock music, especially the modern Jamband scene. He looked at me like I was crazy, and proceeded to give me the old stand-by lecture on the origins of Rock and Roll. You know the one, "In the beginning, God created the Blues . . . blah blah blah . . . Rock and Roll." What's always bothered me about that "rock came from the blues . . . period" way of thinking, aside from it being about as far from factual as possible, is that it's a shining example of how people really don't think when they listen to music.

Yes, blues music evolving into early R&B very much sounds like early Rock and Roll. They are sonically similar. But influence goes beyond just sound. Influence is about common ideas, and over the years Rock has shared common ideas with virtually every kind of music that preceded it (Blues, R&B, Country, Folk, Classical, Jazz etc.) as well as continuing, to this day, to assimilate new sounds that arrived on the musical landscape after it's inception (Rap, Disco, Techno etc).

Exhibit A: The Rolling Stones. Considered by many the greatest Rock and Roll band of all time, The Rolling Stones have been plugging away at this rock thing for over forty years. As the elder statesmen of the genre, the Stones can serve as a microcosm for all of Rock and Roll. They've done it all, good and bad. They've had members die, members quit, had bad periods, great periods, drug problems, sex scandals, jail time, club gigs, stadium gigs, deaths at their gigs. You name it and the Stones have done it or dealt with it. They also prove my point about rock's various influences more completely than any other band I can think of.

Looking through the Rolling Stones' catalog, you will surely find the blues songs that the casual listener thinks of as their only influence. Things like "Love In Vain" or "I Just Want to Make Love To You". But then you will also find country songs like "Far Away Eyes" or "Country Honk". And you'll find Disco songs like "Miss You" and "Emotional Rescue." And you'll find Reggae songs like "Cherry Oh Baby" and "Too Rude." And you'll find Techno songs like the recent EP of "Sympathy For The Devil" remixes. You'll find a half dozen genre's and mixtures of genres in their music . . . and guess what . . . it's only Rock and Roll.

Anyway, I gave a long rambling version of the above to the guy I talked about in the first paragraph. In the long version I talked about Dylan and his musical relationships with Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. I talked about how The Pogues and Flogging Molly took traditional Irish music and turned it into a new type of Punk Rock. I talked how bands like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit created a new genre by fusing Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop. And I talked about how a large portion of Heavy Metal is actually based on Classical music. He conceded my points and then told me that I still hadn't explained how Jazz and Rock specifically were intertwined in any way. So I made him a mix tape.

Charlie Christian
Benny Goodman
I started out with Jazz. Charlie Christian to be exact. As a member of many of Benny Goodman's groups, Charlie Christian established the electric guitar as a viable instrument in Jazz. The track I selected by "the genius of the electric guitar" as Christian was known in the thirties and forties was one called "Waitin' For Benny." The tune was recorded by the Benny Goodman Sextet, sans Benny himself, who hadn't yet arrived at the studio. I picked it both for the way it shows the base instrumentation of Rock and Roll being present in Jazz fifteen years before Rock existed, and the way it shows, in my opinion, what the greatest attribute of Jazz music is the desire to just play regardless of anything, including whether or not the band leader is even in the building . . . the desire, that is, to jam.

Following "Waitin' For Benny" and for no real reason other than the fact that it seemed like the right thing to do, I picked out a rockin' little number by the Benny Goodman Quartet, this time including the man himself. The song was "Runnin Wild."

Charlie Parker
Charlie Watts
Next up, I jumped ahead a few years and picked a cut by the incomparable saxophonist Charlie Parker a.k.a. Bird. "Relaxin' at Camerillo" seemed like a good choice since it once again featured the electric guitar. Immediately following Bird's tune and this is where it starts to get really interesting came a second version of "Relaxin' at Camerillo." The second version was by the Charlie Watts Quintet . . . as in Charlie "The Drummer of the Rolling Stones" Watts. The tune came from an entire album Watts did a few years back called A Tribute to Charlie Parker. Interestingly enough, the rock musician's version of the song did not include the electric guitar as Bird's had.

Jimmy Smith
Lonnie Smith
Charlie playing Charlie seemed like a pretty strong example of the relationship between Jazz and Rock, but to cement the idea a little more, I decided to show that it works both ways. The next tune I included was one by the recently deceased Jazz keyboardist, Jimmy Smith. The song was
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," originally written and recorded by The Rolling Stones.

Up next was another Jazz version of a Rock song. This time it was slightly more contemporary . . . everyone involved is still alive. The cut was Dr. Lonnie Smith's version of Beck's song "Sexx Laws."

Jaco Pastorius
Now, while bass has always been a part of Jazz, it wasn't until the 1970's that the electric bass (you know that thing that looks like a guitar but bigger and is in every rock group you've ever seen) really became an acceptable ax for a Jazz musician aiming to be a soloist and not just a timekeeper. This was a result of the Charlie Christian-like pioneering of the instrument done by Weather Report's Jaco Pastorius. Aside from being an innovator on an uncommon instrument, Jaco also coined the term "Punk Jazz" which he used to describe the music he was making in small New York City nightclubs with what was essentially a Rock band playing Jazz. "NYC Groove #1" serves as an example of this, and makes it pretty clear that while the music is Jazz, it would also easily be at home at the Bonnaroo Festival, the Jammys, or any other Rock outlet where guys get together some drums, an electric bass, an electric guitar, and just let loose.

For the finale of my CD, I went to a band that is unquestionably a Rock band, The Allman Brothers Band. In the summer of 2003, the Allmans toured the country with a Jazz group called Karl Denson's Tiny Universe opening for them. Every night during the Allman's set, Denson himself would appear on stage at some point and sit in with the band on saxophone. The song I picked to close out the CD was "Instrumental Illness." The album version is about fifteen minutes long, but the version I went with, featuring Karl Denson, clocks in at just under forty minutes and features one extended solo after the next.

Warren Haynes
It's a perfect example of the fusion of Jazz and Rock music. The Allmans who can be Jazzy on their own at times (Think "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed") become even more so with Denson dropping extended sax solos into the mix. It's clear that the screaming guitar solos of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks aren't exactly Charlie Christian-like, but if you stop and listen, you'll see that they actually are very much like the solos of Charlie Parker, just played on a different instrument. It's even clearer that bassist Oteil Burbridge is influenced by no one more than Jaco Pastorius . . . he'll tell you as much if you ask, or watch his DVD. Gregg Allman plays his keyboard like Jimmy Smith and the drummers . . . oh God the drummers in this band warrant their own mix tape.

Most important is the Jam, the incessant desire to wail just a little harder and a little better and a little longer on your instrument than the guy before you did on his; the journey from start to finish with no idea what the hell is going to happen in the middle, and the fact that it's only Rock and Roll . . . or Jazz . . . or whatever.

Mike D'Ariano

Mike's Mix Tape: May 2005
  Waitin' For Benny - From the Charlie Christian album,
The Genius of the Electric Guitar
  Runnin' Wild - From the Benny Goodman album,
The Legendary Small Groups
  Relaxin' at Camerillo - From the Charlie Parker album,
Ken Burns Jazz: Charlie Parker
  Relaxin' at Camerillo - From the Charlie Watts Quintet album,
A Tribute to Charlie Parker
  (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - From the Jimmy Smith album,
Talkin' Verve: The Roots of Acid Jazz
  Sexx Laws - From the Dr. Lonnie Smith album,
Boogaloo to Beck
  NYC Groove # 1 - From the Jaco Pastorius album,
Live in NYC Volume One
  Instrumental Illness - From the Allman Brothers Band album,
Instant Live: Raleigh, North Carolina 8/10/2003 (Available by mail order only)

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