Jazz is not talked about, a lot has been written about it but, realistically, it is best when it is listened to. You can cry or rejoice to jazz, dance on your tip-toes, look with your eyes wide open and absorb the emotions through your skin.
Jazz is a specific form of music, emerged at the end of the 19th century in New Orleans with roots in traditional African music. Primarily it was folk music of the enslaved African blacks in America, but, in time, it gained the status of an art movement and became the foundation of blues and rock’n’roll. The answer to the question of how is it that New Orleans, of all places, would become the cradle of this sound lies, first of all, in its geographical position. It sits at the delta of the Mississippi at the Gulf of Mexico and was one of the largest ports to which the slave ships sailed, carrying the enslaved Africans. African traditional music, under the influence of the local folk lore and music and performed on European instruments, was named jazz.
When radios were discovered in the 1920ies, only the sky was the limit for jazz.
Back in the day, the most popular performer was Bessie Smith, nick-named “the empress of blues”; but, like many true divas, she met a tragic end – she died in a traffic accident in 1937. During the Prohibition, jazz flourished: in the speakeasies, where alcohol was served in secret, jazz was the music of choice.
Louis Armstrong also played an important role. His improvisations influenced many of the jazz greats, like Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, Bing Crosby; the style then spread to vocal performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
Jazz went through a rough patch when in 1971 one of the most influential jazz musicians, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong died. It seemed that jazz died with him. But in 1983, with the emergence of compact disks, a new hope was born. Jazz was being re-recorded, from records to discs, and many a compilation with this type of music was put on the market.
The story of the Serbian jazz scene is the story of artists from Serbia, who built their careers abroad. In addition to legendary jazz internationals, Duško Gojković and Stjepko Gut, there is a younger star as well, pianist Bojan Zulfikarpašić (Bojan Z), who has been living and working in France since 1988.
Conditions for a more substantial development of the domestic scene emerged after the end of World War II, both in the sense of original work and in the sense of interpretation. The films Young Man with a Horn, Sun Valley Serenade and Dancing in water had a lasting impact on post-war generations. Our famous jazz drummer once said that he was shaped, as an artist, exactly by the film Dancing on water.
Certainly, one of the key events when it comes to the domestic jazz music was the establishment of the Entertainment Orchestra of Radio Belgrade in 1948. In 1954, after its strings left, it became the Jazz Orchestra of Radio Belgrade. For years, Vojislav Simić and Zvonimir Skerl had major roles in leading this orchestra. Any jazz musician worth his salt in this region made their first step exactly in this orchestra.
Belgrade still has excellent jazz clubs, even to this day. I will mention only Ptica (The Bird) by name. But something that can be recommended in any case, and could even become a sort of a musical game – would be to chase down any performance by the unrepeatable Duško Gojković. He comes here from time to time and his playing is fantastic. I have three notches on my belt for that one, so far.
And, of course, there is the Belgrade Jazz Festival that has already become a general place for good sound.
Jazz will never be left out in the cold – we look forward to a jazzing autumn and winter.
By: Aleksandar Đuričić