What is jazz

What is most important thing is jazz music? What makes jazz music so unique?

Is it improvisation? Certainly not, because improvisation isn't new. Aside from folk music worldwide, most of the pipe organ performances in church service were improvised by the organist back in Early Music era. Their improvisation was similar to what we do in jazz improvisation. There is a chord progression, whether preplanned or improvised, then improvised melodies on top of it.

The most important thing in jazz music that sets apart from other kind of music is its groove. While other type of groove oriented music asks for tightness, jazz music calls for time feel against each other.

On top of the beat

On the beat

Behind the beat

For example, Erroll Garner's left hand is on the beat, while his right hand is always behind the beat, and that grooves. Drummer like Philly Joe Jones plays extremely laid-back ride cymbal while playing hi-hat on top of the beat. Then you bring monster bass players to it. Ray Brown, Ron Carter, they are all on top of the beat, way ahead of drummer, that drives the band. This is the thrills in jazz time feel, that makes jazz so unique.

Unfortunately it is often misunderstood if improvising is the most important thing in jazz music. It is only the second important thing. Still we want to play cool improvisation. Unless you are a genius, knowledge becomes important.

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Time feel is everything



Swing Jazz

Before "what is jazz today" was established


Louis Armstrong: Before WWII era, Laid back time feel isolated to solo performer, while the rest of the band is on the beat



Count Basie Orchestra - Corner Pocket (1962): Base and drums on the beat together



Erroll Garner Plays Fly Me to the Moon: His left hand on the beat, while the right hand behind the beat



Be Bop

Charlie Parker and his Be Bops style establishes bass on top of the beat and drums behind the beat to give wider beat space for the soloist who can then play the mix of on top of the beat and behind the beat to create the speed and the thrill




Miles Davis

The birth of the cool jazz style: less notes, more groove with bass on top of the beat and drums behind the beat



Tony Williams who can switch between behind the beat and on top of the beat, while Ron Carter who can be on top of Tony's on top of the beat




Aggressive Time Feel


Kenny Burrell plays on top of the beat, while his drummer, Sherman Furgason gives funk music like wide beat feeling



Pat Martino (before who lost his memory) played incredibly meticulous behind the beat


Learn to listen to bass and drums to understand the jazz groove. Grooving jazz is always bass on top the beat even when there is no drummer. Bass has to drive the group, and there is a definit difference between on top of the beat and rushing. Rushing won't groove. On top of the beat means digging down the beat.


Funk Music: Tightly behind the beat between bass and drums




Go Go style: same as Funk but more hop


Brazilian Time Feel



Latin Music Time Feel


Reggae: Caribbean music is on the beat, yet it grooves hard


The simplified explanation of the difference between Japanese and/or Asian groove and the rest


The beat that is thrown away from the drum


The beat that is struck down to the drum