Jazz is a musical genre that originated in the early 20th century and takes its roots in New Orleans. Since its popularization, there have been many subgenres of it that were defined by their historical eras. However, the standard components of jazz include specific musical instruments, syncopation, and the element of swing. The goal of this paper is to analyze the performance of “Bridge” by the Frost Concert Jazz band and outline the specifics of its execution.
The Main Elements of Jazz
Typically, the first difference between jazz and other musical genres that people without a professional background can identify is the specific musical instruments. Saxophones, piano, bass, and drums are the ones mentioned most often. Other than that, jazz musicians, generally, rely on instruments of the brass and percussion families. This choice helps performers achieve the rough and soulful sound that is synonymous with jazz music.
With the aid of instruments of the percussion family, jazz musicians create the effect of syncopation. This term describes a rhythm or a variety of rhythms that make the musical piece sound off-beat and unpredictable, which stops listeners from experiencing a sense of boredom. With this experimental technique, there is a risk of the music sounding forced. It is a sign of a genuinely talented composer if a piece that has the effect of syncopation does not startle the listeners.
The element of swing is considered unique to jazz and is described as giving the audience a feeling of momentum and flow. This effect is typically achieved by elongating one of three eighth notes that follow each other. By its definition, the element of swing can help musicians achieve syncopation. However, it has a broader scope as it also creates a sense of movement within the music.
“Bridge” by the Frost Concert Jazz Band
The chosen musical piece, performed by the Frost Concert Jazz Band of the University of Miami, was composed by the orchestra’s director and conductor John Daversa. This musician is a trumpet player himself, but he is better known as a composer and bandleader. The three Grammies, that he won in 2019, including one for the best large ensemble jazz album, prove Daversa’s success in this area
His role in the performance of “Bridge” might be confusing to casual jazz listeners as, typically, conductors stand in front of orchestras performing classical music. However, the presence of a conductor for a jazz performance is not as much of a rarity as people might assume. As one can notice from the execution of “Bridge”, Daversa’s conducting is very emotive, which is expected from jazz performances in comparison to classical ones.
Many typical jazz instruments are present in this musical piece, including ones of the brass and percussion families such as trumpets, saxophones, and drums. A surprising addition to the ensemble is the flute, which even has a small solo that sounds more reminiscent of classical music than jazz. However, this musical insert near the end helps “Bridge” achieve the effect of syncopation that helps grab the attention of the audience. The percussion solo near the beginning, likewise, pursues the same goal. Throughout the composition, one can hear the swinging eighth notes that were mentioned in the previous section.
“Bridge”, composed by Grammy-winner John Daversa and performed by the Frost Concert Jazz Band, is a musical piece that is an excellent example of modern jazz. This composition has elements that are considered typical for jazz, including most of the instruments and the effects of syncopation and swing. However, “Bridge”, as performed by the Frost Concert Jazz Band, plays with the audience’s expectations by having a conductor and several surprising solos.