Jazz Quotes · James Lomax Photography

Jazz Quotes · Saturday March 17, 2007

Jazz is an intensified feeling of nonchalance

– Françoise Sagan

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know

– Louis Armstrong

One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Do you?

– Bix Beiderbecke

I like to sleep. There is no set time of day for sleep. You sleep when you’re tired, that’s all there is to it.

– Thelonious Monk

I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.

– Miles Davis

I hate straight singing, I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it, that’s all I know.

– Billie Holiday

It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.

– Dizzie Gillespie

Wrong is right.

– Thelonious Monk

I’d been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used all the time. I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes I could play the thing I’d been hearing..I came

– Charlie Parker

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise

– George Gershwin

The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen

– Duke Ellington

Jazz is the music of the body

– Anais Nin

I don’t have a definition of jazz…You’re just supposed to know it when you hear it.

– Thelonious Monk

Jazz is rhythm and meaning

– Henri Matisse

By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with

– Duke Ellington

Don’t threaten me with love, baby; let’s just go walking in the rain

– Billie Holiday

It’s like a language. You learn the alphabet, which are the scales. You learn sentences, which are the chords. And then you talk extemporaneously with the horn. It’s a wonderful thing to speak extemporaneously, which is something I’ve never gotten the
hang of. But musically I love to talk just off the top of my head. And that’s what jazz music is all about.

– Stan Getz

At this time the fashion is to bring something to jazz that I reject. They speak of freedom. But one has no right, under pretext of freeing yourself, to be illogical and incoherent by getting rid of structure and simply piling a lot of notes one on top of the other. There’s no beat anymore. You can’t keep time with your foot. I believe that what is happening to jazz with people like Ornette Coleman, for instance, is bad. There’s a new idea that consists in destroying everything and find what’s shocking and unexpected; whereas jazz must first of all tell a story that anyone can understand

– Thelonious Monk

But you listen to Coltrane and that’s something human, something that’s about elevation. It’s like making love to a woman. It’s about something of value, it’s not just loud. It doesn’t have that violent connotation to it. I wanted to be a jazz musician so bad, but I really couldn’t. There was no way I could figure out to learn how to play.

– Wynton Marsalis

I don’t know where jazz is going. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.

– Thelonious Monk

Finally Beiderbecke took out a silver cornet. He put it to his lips and blew a phrase. The sound came out like a girl saying ‘yes’

– Eddie Condon

There is no art without intention

– Duke Ellington

This is so nice, it must be illegal

– Fats Waller

What I came back to is that jazz is a music to be played and not to be intellectualised on

– Gerry Mulligan

A jazz musician is not a jazz musician when he or she is eating dinner or when he or she is with his parents or spouse or neighbors. He’s above all a human being . . . the true artform is being a human being

– Herbie Hancock

Put it this way: jazz is a good barometer of freedom

– Duke Ellington

Forgive me if I don’t have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand

– Ella Fitzgerald

My life is music, and in some vague, mysterious and subconscious way, I have always been driven by a taut inner spring which has propelled me to almost compulsively reach for perfection in music, often — in fact, mostly — at the expense of everything else in my life.

– Stan Getz

At a time when individualism is becoming an endangered species, jazz represents a celebration of the individual

– Ellis Marsalis

Life is not about finding our limitations, it’s about finding our infinity

– Herbie Hancock

Sometimes I wish I could walk up to my music for the first time, as if I had never heard it before. Being so inescapably a part of it, I’ll never know what the listener gets, what the listener feels, and thats too bad.

– John Coltrane

There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind

– Duke Ellington

Some people try to get very philosophical and cerebral about what they’re trying to say with jazz. You don’t need any prologues, you just play. If you have something to say of any worth then people will listen to you

– Oscar Peterson

Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time

– Ornette Coleman

Sustained intensity equals ecstacy

– Wynton Marsalis

Overall, I think the main thing a musician would like to do is give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things that he knows of and senses in the universe. . . That’s what I would like to do. I think that’s one of the greatest things you can do in life and we all try to do it in some way. The musician’s is through his music

– John Coltrane

Some guys dig ditches, I have a band. It’s what I do.

– Woody Herman

As long as there is democracy, there will be people wanting to play jazz because nothing else will ever so perfectly capture the democratic process in sound. Jazz means working things out musically with other people. You have to listen to other musicians
and play with them even if you don’t agree with what they’re playing.

– Wynton Marsalis

There are four qualities essential to a great jazzman. They are taste, courage, individuality, and irreverence. These are the qualities I want to retain in my music.

– Stan Getz

This is my dilemma. I’m a guy who makes things up as I go along so nothing is ever finished – there are so many layers. So when you solo, yeah, you might get into one thing, but then, hey, everything has implications! You can hear the next level. And that’s how I feel about improvising-there’s always another level.

– Sonny Rollins

We’re not like pop musicians who have to perform the same top ten tunes every night of a tour.

– Oscar Peterson

All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.

– John Coltrane

I have to admit that more and more lately, the whole idea of jazz as an idiom is one that I’ve completely rejected. I just don’t see it as an idiomatic thing any more…To me, if jazz is anything, it’s a process, and maybe a verb, but it’s not a thing. It’s a form that demands that you bring to it things that are valuable to you, that are personal to you. That, for me, is a pretty serious distinction that doesn’t have anything to do with blues, or swing, or any of these other things that tend to be listed as essentials in order for music to be jazz with a capital J

– Pat Methany

Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple.

– Keith Jarrett

I don’t need words — it’s all in the phrasing

– Louis Armstrong

Don’t bullshit… just play

– Wynton Marsalis

I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.

– John Coltrane

Jazz is not background music. You must concentrate upon it in order to get the most of it. You must absorb most of it. The harmonies within the music can relax, soothe, relax, and uplift the mind when you concentrate upon and absorb it. Jazz music
stimulates the minds and uplifts the souls of those who play it was well as of those who listen to immerse themselves in it. As the mind is stimulated and the soul uplifted, this is eventually reflected in the body

– Horace Silver

It’s a shame that jazz is now being turned into dried fruit. It’s becoming quantified, diced and defined. It’s becoming an idiom. To me if it’s anything, jazz is a verb – it’s more like a process than it is a thing.

– Pat Methany

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

– Duke Ellington

Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that bullshit and just play

– Charlie Parker

Art is constant tension and release. That is where artists live, between the two, or at times, submerged in either. The challenge is never ending perfection is impossible, it could always be different, better, or worse. It’s not important, just process and
striving to be like the man who walks the trapeze maintaining balance.

– Dave Liebman

Jazz is music made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions

– Johnny Griffin

If someone has been escaping reality, I don’t expect him to dig my music.

– Charles Mingus

Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, man, jazz is jazz

– Louis Armstrong

It’s only a word. What’s in a name? Nothing! Cats say, “Call me Muhammed so-and-so.” But what’s the difference? A name doesn’t make the music. It’s just called that to differentiate it from other types of music.

– Art Blakey

I’d like to play for you one of my compositions, my only composition

– Dizzie Gillespie

I cannot say what I think is right about music. I only know the rightness of it

– Keith Jarrett

When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air, you can never capture it again

– Eric Dolphy

Don’t clap, I’m not a jazz band for Christ’ sake

– Dylan Moran

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats

– Composition by Charles Mingus


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