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Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
February 7, 2020

Jazz Notes with Judy Adams




The Art of Listening to Jazz

Jazz has been around since before the beginning of the 20th century. But unlike other genres, it keeps on growing, picking up new fans along the way. Many of them love the music but say they wish they knew more about it…. Below is a new installment in our on-going series of “The Art of Listening to Jazz”.




Jazz is a true musical art form and listening to Jazz is also an art.


It involves listener participation. And, the more we “hear”, the more we can appreciate, from its complex melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, to its use of improvisation where the musicians use this centuries-old performance art to create music “in the moment” making each performance a unique experience.


Most of the time there is a rhythmic or melodic theme that one is improvising off of. It is an organized sequence of notes that creates a central idea or phrase that is often repeated throughout the piece.



Photo by InStock


Concentrating on these themes is what guides the listener through to the improvisation.


Although it is spontaneous, it still involves special techniques musicians utilize. Sometimes the theme is played with different modes or scales. Some artists will alter the phrasing by keeping the general frame work the same but changing other aspects of the piece.



Jazz improvisational styles also vary from musician to musician. Some leave elements of the theme intact, allowing it to be prominent enough to shine through the improvisation, while others favor a more abstract, formless approach. Each type of Jazz seems to favor a different approach to improvisation as well. Traditional Jazz favors a more conservative approach while contemporary Jazz encourages the musicians to be more adventurous and experimental.


The attentive listener will be able to hear the alterations in the thematic material enough to appreciate the musician’s individual interpretation of the music. Most of the “pop” and “classical” music we hear doesn’t contain these free-form opportunities. But it is this intellectual and artistic depth that attracts us to the Jazz experience in the first place. It’s also what gives Jazz its lasting appeal because no two performances are alike.





Art Tatum, the Vogue Room, New York
1946 or 1948

Photo: William P. Gottlieb, Wikipedia

Art Tatum, (1909 – 1956) was a Jazz pianist who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Jazz pianists and improvisors of all time. He was also a major influence on later generations of Jazz pianists. Critic Scott Yanow wrote, “Tatum’s quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries”.





Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

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