To bebop or to rock? - That is the question! 

To bebop or to rock? - That is the question! As a guitarist, that question is hard to answer. I have spent many years playing both jazz and rock music. I've also spent many years studying other styles such as country and blues guitar. I enjoy playing all those styles but jazz and rock have been the two styles I've enjoyed playing the most.

To a non-musician, the question may seem ridiculous. After all music is music - right? So why not play all the styles of music? The problem is that each genre of music has it's own intricacies and music language. To truly master a style of music, one must commit themselves to that music style completely for a time until it is completely understood.

One answer might be to play what they call fusion music. Fusion music is where different languages are combined from different genres within music. Like where you would use the sound of a rock 'n roll guitar with distortion, but the note choices you would use come from the jazz language. Almost all guitarists are fusion musicians to some degree because rock 'n roll primarily uses the guitar, and is the most popular form of music in the world. There's one problem with playing fusion music - in order to fuse together styles of music you must understand all the intricacies and the language of both styles. In other words, you must be the master of all the styles of music that you're fusing together.

I think that the answer for me is to play jazz music, because it is the style that I have spent the most time mastering and that I understand the most. Of course the wild rock 'n roll beast in me will always exist and will come out in my playing. But if you listen to real jazz - that is in there - that rock 'n roll beast came directly from it. Swing era big band music made people go wild and made them dance. Bebop was the music of the underground current within America in the 1940s and 50s. The first popular political protest songs were written by jazz musicians.

Jazz music is about rebellion and going against the grain of what is acceptable within main stream society. Jazz questions authority and asks of the audience to think about the music that they are listening to. Jazz asks of it's players to reach deep within themselves and to pull out that which would not normally come from them, because - Jazz is Freedom!


James Murrell