Note: Each month, KPLU invites a teen guest DJ to play his or her favorite pieces on the air. The program is part of KPLU's School of Jazz.
Black Hills High School’s Luke Davis is KPLU’s guest DJ for the month of February. To get to know him better, we asked 17-year-old Luke to answer a few questions about jazz:
Which instrument do you play and why?
I play multiple instruments, but my main instruments are piano, bass, and guitar. I play these because I find that I approach the music differently with each instrument.
Guitar and piano are similar that I go back and forth between being a lead instrument and being a rhythm instrument, and those switches in mentality are fun to me. When playing bass, it is all about the groove, which, especially in jazz, is my favorite part.
What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
My all time favorite jazz piece would have to be “Take the ‘A’ Train” because not only was it one of the very first jazz standards I was exposed to, it has, in my opinion, one of the most recognizable melodies of all time.
Who’s your jazz hero?
I would say that Dave Brubeck is my jazz hero for many reasons. Having always been a fan of odd time signatures, such as songs in five and seven, Dave Brubeck’s songs have always really interested me.
Obviously "Take Five" is his most known song, but I really enjoy the switch between a straightforward swing and a Turkish rhythm in “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” On top of the experimentation with time signatures, his music always just has such a great feel to it, and the odd time signatures never feel forced.
What is jazz, exactly? How would you explain it?
Defining jazz is almost a seemingly impossible task, because one could listen to Big Band Jazz, Cool Jazz, Latin-Inspired Jazz, or any other of the countless subgenres within jazz. These are all completely different sounding styles, but they are within the same genre.
One thing that is common between all subgenres, however, is improvising. To me, jazz is made by the improvising; a jazz combo could play the head of a well known tune a couple times and say they “played” the song, but in order to actually play jazz, you have to feel it. The notes on the page are meant to be interpreted and individualized, not to be played verbatim.