A New Way of Seeing Jazz

Aesthetic Realism and The Siegel Theory of Opposites offer a new way of understanding the beauty of jazz and all music.


I grew up outside of Philadelphia and have lived in New York for over 20 years. I'm a jazz pianist, singer, arranger, choral conductor and music teacher. I've been teaching full-time for about 18 years. Currently I teach on the junior and senior high school levels, though I've taught from elementary school through college. I also teach privately. Since 1985 I've been studying Aesthetic Realism, first in consultations and now in professional classes taught by Ellen Reiss.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Jelly Roll Morton

As I read about music in general--and jazz in particular--time and again I find authors supporting (though usually unconsciously) the of the Siegel Theory of Opposites.

Recently, I began reading a book titled 88: The Giants of Jazz Piano, by Robert L. Doerschuk. On page 7, in the chapter about Jelly Roll Morton, he writes this:

“And no better example of momentum at relaxed tempos exists in traditional jazz than the version of ‘Grandpa’s Spells,’ recorded [by Morton and his Red Hot Peppers on December 16, 1926], with Andrew Hilaire contributing some inspired drum fills.”

Doerschuk is implying that one of the great things about this recording is that it puts together the opposites of energy and calm, "momentum at [a] relaxed [tempo]." If this is true about the music--and I think it is--then it shows Jelly Roll Morton and his band are doing what we want to do all the time. How many times have we felt a day had "momentum," as we busily--even frantically--rushed from thing to thing, with barely a chance to catch our breath? Or, conversely, that an afternoon dragged on dully, we couldn't get ourselves going, and felt hardly any momentum at all? We want both momentum, energy and calm, a relaxed feeling--and we want to feel them at the same time. Good music satisfies that desire.