Watch: A Brief History of Jazz by Some of the Genre’s Freshest Faces

So, what, exactly, is jazz? We know it’s black music, we know that many of the artists of the genre are political. But how does one define an art form so heavily based on improvisation and live instrumentation?


Better question: Is jazz dead?

The Root asked three fresh faces in jazz to school us on the genre: Kamasi Washington, Russell Hall and Sullivan Fortner.

“I feel like jazz was one of our first universally accepted and shared expressions of our intellect,” Washington says. The saxophonist has toured with Snoop Dogg and helped Kendrick Lamar make his acclaimed albums To Pimp a Butterfly and Damn.

“Jazz is the direct connection to God, through improvised music,” Hall says. The Kingston, Jamaica, native started playing the double bass at 14. He’s a recent graduate of the Juilliard School and has played as a music director at world-renowned venues like Jazz at Lincoln Center. This millennial has got skills.

Fortner started playing the piano at 14. He is hopeful about the genre’s future. “As long as there are people that are trying to learn the music and the origins of the music, the music won’t die,” Fortner says.

See the entire video above.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.



Jazz is the direct connection to God

Also known by his stage name, John Coltrane.