Michael Jackson – King of Jazz

There is an alternate universe in which Michael Jackson is the King of Jazz. This is something of which I am quite sure. In this world, Marvin Gaye went on to produce several groundbreaking jazz albums after his critically acclaimed 1965 release A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole. In this world, Jill Scott is widely known as our generation’s Etta James heralded for her interpretation of “All I Could Do Was Cry.” And in this world, Robert Glasper has already won his 3rd Grammy for Album of the Year. And, as I said before, in this world, Michael is king.

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While I jest, the greater joke is that this commentary is rooted in a substantial reality; because Michael Jackson could have been the King of Jazz. It’s a funny afterthought to a career that was largely defined by sequin-covered military jackets and mind-blowing theatrics. His legacy would seem to be that of a man completely contradicting any moniker relating to jazz, but this, like so many other things, is only perception. Finding the reality of it all requires one to step beyond the manufactured smoke and blinding glare of stage lights. The truth is much more interesting.

What many forget is that Michael and the world of jazz did meet, if for only one night. They were introduced by Stevie Wonder and their brief encounter was recorded in song.

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At its core, “I Can’t Help It” is a jazz record. An oft-overlooked composition from the Jackson songbook, the track features a chord progression undeniably rooted in something before its time. Michael’s delivery is so impeccably smooth, it’s almost forgettable. It’s shocking to think that he scats his way through practically half of a record without anyone blinking an eye. It came naturally to Michael, in the same way it came naturally to Ella, Nat, and Billie before him. This was jazz and Michael played his role to absolute perfection.

Perhaps, this is why the song has gained such a cult following amongst jazz artists in recent years. I’ve often considered standards such “Body and Soul” or “Maiden Voyage” to be prerequisites for inclusion into the expansive list of artists who claim jazz as their home. But maybe a new generation is emerging that needn’t go back that far. Maybe, they can delve into the jazz repertoire of the one we call the “King of Pop.” This is the aspect of music’s greatest legacy, I can’t help but think of on this particular day.

On what would have been the 53rd birthday of Michael Jackson, I look back at an individual whose voice moved with an unparalleled fluidity. He carried the vocal stature of a jazz singer, while providing the popular sound to a modern generation. Had he been born in a different era, we would be lauding his execution of the Cole Porter songbook as one of the finest to date. Even so, I am thankful for what he has given us in a contemporary setting, providing iconic sounds from the realm of jazz, rock, and R&B. Today, I hide away in my alternate universe remarking the genius of a man who simply had no musical limits.

Written by: Paul Pennington


Michael Jackson – King of Jazz http://t.co/EzutRK3T “……the genius of a man who simply had no musical limits”

posted by Tania D (@TeeDee777) on 05.10.12 at 5:24 am

King of rock, pop, soul and….jazz:

posted by Lauren Trainor (@lmt4mj) on 05.10.12 at 2:18 pm

Thanx!!! @lmt4mj @JoeVogel1 #KingofPop Rock, Soul….& JAZZ ♬ Michael Jackson ♬ #MJ #LongLivetheKing #MJForever #BAD25 http://t.co/Ff9Xm8qj

posted by Ms Mo (@MJJRealRealm) on 05.10.12 at 7:39 pm

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[…] ντράμς δηλαδή, με το μπάσο. Ο Μάικλ είχε την στόφα ενός μεγάλου τραγουδιστή της Τζαζ. Αυτό είχε πεί και ο Quincy Jones, ο παραγωγός του, ο οποίος […]

[…] ντράμς δηλαδή, με το μπάσο. Ο Μάικλ είχε την στόφα ενός μεγάλου τραγουδιστή της Τζαζ. Αυτό είχε πεί και ο Quincy Jones, ο παραγωγός του, ο οποίος […]

This is a brilliant article. Im a singer composer pianist myself. Im 31 years old so Im an 80s kid. But my father was a strict jazz lover amateur guitarrist that got me playin jazz standards on piano listening to herbie hancock or Joh coltraine while I was listening int he radio to michael Jackson,Madonna or Bobby Brown.
My father had a huge jazz collection of vynils,and Marvin gaye and Motown. People often forget that Quincy Jones was overall a jazz producer. They overlook all the wind sections and arrangments in Michael Jacksons albums that were rooted in jazz.
Michael himself has said he knew of Quincy as a jazz producer,from his father records and in the begining he never thought of him as a pop producer.
Many songs written by Michael himself are rooted in jazz and blues.
Just take a listen to The girl is mine,listen to the melodie and you will find a song Nat king cole could sing.
Take a listen to “Another part of me” from BAD. another jazz groove.
Take a listen to the first song Michael ever wrote”blues away” from a jacksons album.
Take a listen to the masterpiece “the lady in my Life”.
Take alisten to one of his latest songs “butterflies” sang beautifully.Already a classic among soul jazz artists
There are many unreleased songs by Michael floating in youtube that cross the R&B field and are more blues and jazz rooted.Maybe he thought they were not crossover enough to reach a wide demographic,and he was probably right about that in terms of album sales
Michael understood jazz and blues and he was a very gifted vocalist. He aproached the genre in few ocasions but everytime he did it was an absolute classic that people cover to this day.
I do believe I cant help it,is the base of the socalled”neosoul” sound.
Yes Stevie wrote the song but Michael took it to the stratosphere. and That is the sound every soul artist longs to have.
Stevie had ahuge jazz infleunce in the 70s and Michael studied him closely as well as Marvin Gaye.
People who say Michael Jackson wasnt a jazz singer are really ignorant
With Smile even thou he sang it in a more streissand style he showed his love for the great standards.We can only dream of how would it been to have him recording a whole album of covers with Quincy Jones.

I consider myself a jazz fusion artist or however you wanna call it. I play and write jazz balads.also funky R&B music with a touch of jazz. I grew up being a hardcore fan of Michael jackson Stevie Wonder Nat king cole Ella miles davis and virtually anybody you can think of,singers and isntrumentalist from yesterday and today.And to me Michael Jackson is among the greatest jazz singers of all time,he just decided not to show it to the world very often.Thats why he is the king cause he is the only born talent able to pull a hard rock song so rough and a smooth jazz standard. Streissand cant,Prince cant. He could

Another great example of MJ aproaching the jazz genre.I hope somewhere in between his gold awards and dramatic episodes he found time to record a coulple standards and that I get to see it released

If you have time you can visit my website.Ive written and produced recorded every song. You will definately hear the MJ infleunce and the jazz influence.
the songs in my website are the most mainstream with light touch of jazz,for more jazzy songs check my soundcloud set


Blessings and RIP Michael Jackson

posted by Fede4real on 10.03.13 at 9:06 am
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