Jazz Listening Lab shows importance of discussing music

Jack Kopanski

The Kent State Performing Arts Library hosted a “Jazz Listening Lab” series Tuesday night, focused on listening to some of Louis Armstrong’s, an African American jazz trumpeter, most famous pieces.

Christopher Coles, adjunct professor with the Jazz Studies program, hosted the event and began with Armstrong’s piece, “Alligator Hop.”

“Where would you expect this music to be heard,” Coles asked. “Speakeasies, clubs, marches … things like that. It was a very, very social music. (Used in) silent films, even.”

Then, Coles pulled out what he considered to be one of Armstrong’s most innovative pieces of music, “West End Blues.”

“This is the recording that makes Louis Armstrong … Louis Armstrong,” Coles said. “This is what I believe to be Louis Armstrong’s biggest contribution to Jazz music. This allowed black musicians to have their opportunity to shine too. They probably wouldn’t have been there if there hadn’t been Louis Armstrong.”

Coles also talked about the overreaching amount of joy a Louis Armstrong piece could bring about.

“It was a party,” Coles said. “That’s what I love about his music, even his more serious stuff like his ‘Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five or Hot Seven,’ there’s just this overwhelming amount of joy, in the way these guys played.”

For any students interested in learning more about Louis Armstrong, or any other musician or genre, Joe Clark, director of the performing arts library, suggests students take advantage of one of the many resources offered to them.

“Any Kent State student, if you’re on campus, you can access it and if you’re off campus you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), and it’s a jazz music library,” Clark said. “There are tens of thousands of jazz tracks in there, and you can stream commercial free.”

Not only can students access music through that site, but for just Armstrong in particular, the library has over 30 different pieces that students can either check out from the library or access through the database, ranging from CDs to DVDs and even books.

Coles concluded the night with a playing of what is perhaps Armstrong’s most well-known piece, “What a Wonderful World.”

“When you think of Jazz, you think of Louis Armstrong,” Coles said.

Afterwards, Clark talked about the importance of putting on these listening labs and other things of this nature.

“Listening to music has always been a communal event,” Clark said. “When music was performed hundreds of years ago, it was in a community.  It’s really important to make that happen again. But also discuss the significance of music, we can all learn from each other, so it’s really a great laboratory (to) listen and build on other people’s knowledge.”

The performing arts library will be putting on another listening lab  at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 in room D-004 of the Performing Arts Center.

Jack Kopanski is the performing arts reporter for The Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected].