Jazz – The Ultimate* in Naked Communication

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.

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14 Responses to Jazz – The Ultimate* in Naked Communication

  1. emiliano says:

    Music, books and cine, these are the food to my soul, and “Summer Time” is one of my best from more than forty five years since the first time I listened to it.
    I have the opportunity of seeing “Porgy and Bess” of Gershwin at The Real Theatre in Madrid made by an incredible Opera Singers and Dancers from South USA and could enjoyed the Opera and the song once more, but this time at a living perfomance.

    More than ninety famous singers have sung “Summer Time” along the years, from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerard or Kiri Te Kanawa.
    Nothing more could be added.

    Yes, I feel myself nake in heaven when something so good sounds., the same as with Mozart or Bethoveen.
    Good music always plays among instruments and human voices, that´s the gift to our hears and feelings.
    Thank you Warren.

  2. peter says:

    Thanks warren for all the useful info

    eslpod has become a fixturing part in my life. Used to be fitting:))

    Sorry if i am awfull ,spelling wise . honest ,I have a who-cares attittiude twards spelling

  3. Dimitry says:

    In my opinion jazz is an awful bore.
    It is not my kind of music.

  4. Tania says:

    Hi! Like the classical music not everyone can understand and listen to the jazz music.We have no tradition in jazz music in my country .
    Still, there are some annual jazz festivals in Romania. I have read a book on jazz “Jazz-a Story With Blacks”. So, I know some jazz performers such as Louis Armstrong,
    Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald. I have read on L. Armstrong’ life. I like jazz music but I am not a fan. For me the jazz music is beautifully simple, emotional, sad and very sensual. Listening to it at night I can imagine dancing with a lot of wishes in a night club.
    Jazz music needs time to feel it, without haste.

  5. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, I like so much your jazz hits so I searched for the lyrics on Wikipedia to understand them better. “The Thrill is Gone ” is a real thrill.
    I know the song “Summertime” but I did not know that it was composed by George Gershwin in 1935 nor it was a popular jazz standard.
    We would like to find out together with you the jazz greatest hits. Please, be our guiding.

    “All I can do is wish you well.”


  6. Tania says:

    Hi! I like and blues, gospel and soul. I think the latin jazz is more attractive here in Europe.

  7. emiliano says:

    Jazz music needs too much feelings and a kind of voice that usually white people doesn´t have. Now there are good white jazz singers, but some years before it was nearly impossible for white singers to sing jazz music as the voice needs to have some vocal cords and tones that some throats don´t have.
    More or less like “Flamenco”, the spanish music and songs, that is so difficult of executing to singers from other countries that aren´t spaniards gypsys
    or with hot blood like the people from the south of Spain.

    Usually these songs are from people that have suffered too much along their history, their feelings are in their music, and have something intrinsically popular that is authentic, their souls are in their music and songs.
    For us sometimes it is difficult to get the gist of it, but we may feel something of the art and we may know that these music is just
    unique and quite emotional. This is music that comes from the heart and from their souls.

    I like it but not so much as it deserves may be because I am not the most appropriate person to love it. My roots are different
    and my culture is quite different too.
    I can appreciate the so marvelous voices of these jazz singers, the high quality level of their musics, their imagination, improvisation just in the moment of playing and always their good humor.
    Is always lovely to see them playing and yes, of course, if you want to proof the good quality of any hifi equipment……. it is just
    necessary to have a good jazz music at hand……the best to prove a good high hifi equipment.
    It doesn´t matter if the music is from thirty or fifty years long. The sound of piano, saxofones, trumps, guitars or battery is the best to proof
    HiFi, and the human voices incredible good of texting with good new bajfles or amplifiers.

    The good pop musicians have now the jazz influence always.
    We may see Eric Clapton, Mark Knophler, Jimy Hendrich, Mikel Jackson, and so much of them.
    In their concerts they do nearly new improvisations of their records that is just what made them great at the stage.
    Also the Jazz influence is so evident that they agree about it in their comments.

    To love a kind of music we need to listen to it as much as possible. Some times it happens with clasical music, chamber music, and of course
    Opera……, the most difficult music to be fond of.
    Once you begin to listen to Opera there is nothing like it…….and It´s the same with Jazz, Flamenco, Chamber Music, Country, Blue Grass, Guitar
    Concerts or which ever good authentical art music that men have done along our history.

    “”””””””” Now Spain is playing it´s final against Holland…..my nerves are at the top, I can´t resist the emotion and prefer to be here
    writing this long long allegation about music””””””””””””””

  8. Tania says:

    Hi! I saw a headline in the WSJ : Jazzman Herbie Hancock’s Carnegie Hall Birthday Party. Thanks to the English Cafe 228 I understood what it is a party at the
    Carnegie Hall.

  9. Tania says:

    Hi! Congratulations for Spain the new leader of the football, dear Emiliano.

  10. emiliano says:

    Dear Tania, thank you very much.

    This is incredible………but true.
    Holland has a rough play, indeed, I was very dissapointed with its way of playing.
    Lot of yellow cards, and one red card…….a very hard and dirty play.
    I have to say it.

    Germany instead has a fair play all the match, the same as Spain, no cards, no kicks to the legs and so on.
    Congratulations to Germany for the third place.

  11. Tania says:

    Hi! Yes, Germany is my favourite team.

  12. Luís Roberto Martin says:

    Hi Emiliano,

    Although I’m Brazilian, yesterday I felt like my great-grandfather, Spanish.
    I screamed very high with the goal of spain. A great celebration.

    Congratulations for all Spanish people.

    !!!! Viva la Furia !!!!

    Hugs from Brazil.

  13. emiliano says:

    Thank you so much Luis Roberto, yesteday was an incredible day here in Madrid, not anybody may imagine such hundred of thousands persons that were only celebrating a feast with the football team who win our first Champion World Cup.
    Your country has won five Cups already, but to us is the first.

    Never I have seen so many people in the streets of Madrid, and we are specialist having hundred of thousands spaniards in several
    manifestations along the last years.
    Yesterday was different, everybody was happy singing and moving the spanish flags, incredible nice to me.

    The song “We are the Champions” was played once and again……and I was remebering the Lucy´s Post in the Blog.

    It has been the bigest manifestation in Spain and it takes in Madrid, but like a feast…..not to protest against nothing or for
    a sad even.
    Now I have to say “Que Viva el Football para siempre” and I retire all my the words I said before against it.
    Seeing what I saw yesterday, a country fully congregated with a team and its country flag shouting and singing
    “yo soy español español español” and Viva España…..I have to say “Thank You” to all the football players
    of the World.
    If you were living here possible you may know what I am talking about, it´s just difficult to explain to a person not being spaniard
    or living here for a long period of time.
    I am really very happy, at last my eyes have seen something very unusual and may be this is a point of change.
    Thanks again Luis Roberto.

  14. Kuong Do says:

    I don’t like Jar, I like Pop music. Maybe my ears are not good enough.

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