Rouse Awards – Ben Bradshaw examines evolution of jazz into pop
18 Nov 2019
Ben Bradshaw (Upper Sixth) considered how jazz developed into contemporary mainstream music for his Rouse Award-winning project.
As an accomplished musician – Ben plays piano and trumpet, with which he composes his own jazz-tinged tunes – he was keen to delve deeper into the evolution of the genre, which he describes as “the pop music of its day in the 1930s”.
He felt artists such as Amy Winehouse, and more recently Tom Misch and Samm Henshaw, had a strong jazz influence in terms of their style, arrangements and orchestration, albeit with a modern slant incorporating other genres such as soul, funk and hip hop.
Ben said: “Playing in groups at school fostered my interest in jazz. I’ve been listening to it for years, but I’d never looked into it from a technical point of view.
“My research involved quite a mixture of resources. As well as reading some very good technical books that had a lot of chord voicing information, I listened to quite a lot of music and made playlists of every style and genre of piece that I wanted to reference in the essay.
“I also spoke to people who are experts in that field, such as my jazz teacher (David Ferris), to gain some first-hand knowledge I couldn’t get through a book. When you dive into the music, you can see parallels everywhere of how things have evolved over time.”
Hear Ben talk more about his findings into the journey of jazz in influencing modern pop music below.
As well as writing the essay, Ben used the expansion of his musical know-how to write and record three pieces to complement his research. He recruited musician friends to add saxophones, trombones and drums to his compositions.
He said: “Although I’ve sequenced instruments and recorded music before, the major thing I gained from the project was learning how I can incorporate more technical harmony into my own music.”