I don’t know what you thought when you saw that title. In fact, I’m not sure what I thought when I saw it for the first time. But since the article is about jazz, one of my favorite kinds of music, and it was written by Garr Reynolds, a writer I enjoy, I clicked on the link and read it.
Usually the word naked means without clothes. But the writer isn’t writing about naked musicians! He uses this familiar word in a different way to say something about jazz. I’ll show you what he said, but before I do, let me tell you a little about jazz.
Jazz is a kind of music that began around 1900 in the southern part of the U.S. The earliest jazz musicians were African Americans. Today, jazz is popular around the world. In traditional jazz, each song is a kind of musical conversation. During the song, the musicians listen to each other, and each one adds musical ideas to the conversation. Each time they perform a song, the conversation is different. When jazz musicians add something to the musical conversation, they improvise, which means to compose (invent or make up) while they are playing or singing. This is the most important characteristic, or part, of traditional jazz.
You can listen to a very good example of improvisation in this recording of The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King. He sings in the first part of the song, but from the middle to the end, there is a wonderful, mostly quiet, conversation between King, who plays the guitar, and the piano. Occasionally, you can hear a second guitar adding to the conversation. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear them “speak” to and “answer” each other and keep the conversation going.
Now, let’s return to jazz and naked communication. Here’s what Reynolds writes in his article:
Jazz is one of the purest (most complete; not mixed with anything else) forms of self-expression. We need more jazz in this world. Jazz is also the epitome (the best example) of naked communication. The legendary (famous because of great ability) jazz musician Don Cherry said that “music is one of the arts that make a person completely naked.” … This is especially true for jazz.
Reynolds describes a CD – Lucky by Molly Johnson – he received as a gift. After he listened to it, he wrote that Johnson’s interpretation of (the way she sang) the song Summertime is a lovely example of naked communication. And then, he adds a list of words to help us understand what he meant.
According to Reynolds, naked communication is:
- honest (not trying to show off, or make other people think you’re special or important)
- transparent (nothing hidden, for example, she shows how she feels)
- raw (natural and strong)
- emotional (full of feeling)
- beautifully simple (not decorated; without extra things)
- rich (full of interesting ideas or facts) and meaningful (full of expression; full of meaning or purpose)
Now here’s a video of Johnson performing Summertime. When you listen to it, do you see or hear the words Reynolds used?
What do you think? Was Reynolds right? Does it make sense to use naked this way? By the way, did you notice the jazz conversation between the other two musicians when Johnson wasn’t singing?
I think Reynolds’ description is very good. And I think she’s very good. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to order the CD!
~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach; creator of Successful English, where English learners can learn how to make English a permanent part of their lives.
* In the title, Jazz – The Ultimate in Naked Communication, ultimate means the best example of naked communication.