Why does Jazz have to change pieces to being unrecognisable?

Hola a todos. In the last week over the jazz station I listen to, they’ve played Over the Rainbow at least twice that I’ve heard, although not the same arrangements. Everybody knows that piece, right? Since when was/is Over the Rainbow a jazz piece? It’s from musical theatre. It’s not jazz. When they announced it after they played it, I suspect some listeners asked: “That was Over the Rainbow? I never would have guessed that!” Or at least that’s what I asked. I knew what they were playing having played the original piece on the piano in high school. But I was left with the thought: Why does jazz have to fuck with pieces and alter them, change them in some cases to the extreme, add “fillers” to them so that they almost don’t sound anything like the original piece? I mean, you hear the original piece in the occasional melody notes that they still play, sort of. Although sometimes the melody line is not the same as in the original. Sometimes the melody notes go way off from the original and are changed as well. There is a way of playing a piece in a jazz style while remaining faithful to the original piece, and I know that because I’ve done so. But what I often hear on this jazz station is not that. Familiar pieces are sometimes/too often taken to an extreme to see how far off or away from the original the artist can make the piece sound. What’s the point of that? In order to call it jazz?

In the classical music genre — particularly for transcriptions — what is considered the finest music and the finest musicians are taught this — is to remain as faithful to the original score as possible. That seems to be the opposite in jazz as in veer as far away from the original as possible. When I hear examples of what I’m talking about, I talk to my radio and ask the artist on the radio: How much more are you going to fuck with this piece to turn it into “jazz” as opposed to what it was in the first place?

On the same station, I keep hearing language about “an all-star cast” when they announce the ensemble of musicians who performed the music. Musicians are not a “cast.” Musicians are part of what’s known as an ensemble. It’s a musical term. The word “cast” is a word from the theatre, as in the cast of actors.

A brief aside on using language/words incorrectly: This sort of reminds me of this silly new fad I’m seeing of where the techies are calling their sites “platforms” and everyone else is falling in line with that language. Non-tech sites are doing the same. They’re referring to their “platform.” From my research, in correct tech terminology the platform is the operating system on which the site runs. It’s not the site itself. The techies are not even using their own tech language correctly according to the definition of platform in the tech context, or they are ignorant of that. What was wrong with the word “website” or “site” when referring to Tw*tter or FB or any of these other millionaire/billionaire-owned, corporate, waste-of-time, Orwellian-named “social media” sites? I think the techies think that “platform” sounds more pretentious, elitist and bougi, Dahling. Another new ludicrous language change: With the fires we’ve been having in California, they’re calling fires “complexes.” Insanity. So what will they call (housing) complexes in the future? Fires? They’re also calling corporate headquarters “campuses.” These corporations have nothing to do with education, nor should they. A campus is not a place of corporate greed. A campus is where a University, College or Conservatory is located for educating people. But these days, up = down, peace = war, just more insanity. Call things what they are not.

Now back to music: The word “ensemble” is a musical term. And “all-star” — isn’t that corporate sports language? (the “all-stars” team) — sounds very sheeple to me as if someone is trying to hype the musicians of the ensemble who performed the music and sell them. No need to hype musicians. Their music speaks for itself. Listeners can decide for themselves about the quality of the musicians and the music played without being told/brainwashed that they are all “an all-star cast.” So I wish radio presenters would abandon the “all star cast” rubbish because you’re playing music, not theatre, and again in music, musicians are part of an ensemble. That’s what they’re called. They are not called a “cast.” I’ve also heard this language on one classical music station. They don’t know the difference either! And when I hear this “all-star cast,” it speaks to the musical ignorance of the person using it and it also sounds like they’re needlessly trying to hype the artists and sell them.

I also wish that some of the presenters would stop their over-selling of the music and artists. After each piece or group of pieces played, there’s no need to gush about how “great, wonderful, that’s was just beautiful, just great, great, just wonderful, great and beautiful” each piece is. I mean, you can do that occasionally for really exceptional performances, but to do that after every piece played it’s all a bit much. And I sense that some presenters do all of this gushing on automatic pilot. Merely by habit. The listener can decide the quality of the music on their own. They don’t need to be brainwashed that it’s all “great, wonderful and beautiful,” do they? Chau.—el barrio rosa

Related: Shouldn’t a Latin Jazz programme sound Latin throughout?