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Jazz, no slouch in music history, has kicked off enough genres and sub-genres to fill a scrapbook.

It brought about rhythm and blues, which begat rock and roll, which has finally spun off progressive rock – a genre that’s since grown so innovative it has apparently managed to become jazz again.

…progressive rock – a genre that’s since grown so innovative it has apparently managed to become jazz again.

Progressive music as a whole appears to have acquired its own characteristic sound of late – using elements once considered too stylized and outlandish to be normal to such a degree that they’ve become commonplace in the genre itself. The result is awesome to listen to, with loads of impressive bands pushing out exciting new music.

Where the music is headed

…progressive rock’s push to new musical ground as its main motivator for existing, it’s awfully odd to notice it trudging deeper and deeper into jazz territory with each new album that surfaces.

Across the pond, bands like Headspace broach philosophical topics in each of their tracks – using their instruments as emotional conduits to invoke the listener’s empathy, while others, like Bent Knee, play at mixing hard and soft influences to poetic lyrics. Brave new stuff.

However, taking into account progressive rock’s push to new musical ground as its main motivator for existing, it’s awfully odd to notice it trudging deeper and deeper into jazz territory with each new album that surfaces. Even the heavy-hitting Animals as Leaders gave up the ghost from the start – opting to refer to their own music as “jazz fusion.”

The progressive rock genre allegedly exists to build on the drug-induced flights of fancy psychedelic rock was known for. It arose as an effort to move even further away from pop-leaning compositions towards more complex, emotive songs. To be free man… Yet, it is mostly jazz, along with folk and classical music that give progressive rock its “unique” feel.

The old has enlivened the new.

We’ve heard it all before

The world’s disorderly stock of rock and roll musicians may soon find themselves elegantly suited in a seated auditorium – laying down extensive ballet accompaniments for a high-brow audience – before realizing they’ve been duped into reinventing old music.

Emotive songs spanning myriad disjointed scene-like compositions all cobbled together into a daunting 30-minute epic are the norm in this genre, but the 7-piece bands, elaborate wind ensembles and gratuitous use of bizarre, obscure instruments drawn out over odd time signatures are old hat in the jazz world. In fact, they’re cornerstones of classic jazz subgenres like bebop and avant-garde.

In the face of such alarming adoption of the same techniques of old jazz by so-called “progressive” rockers, are we not to assume some sort of love-in between the genres is afoot?

The trend grows more and more glaring as prog. rock bands strive harder to divorce themselves of the rock in their roots.

At this point, such mainstays of rock music as vocals, brevity, simplicity and abrasiveness are often eschewed entirely in progressive rock.

Virtuosity and complexity now reign supreme again, just as they did way back when jazzy cool cats blurted out saxophone licks and scratched out their violin solos in three-piece suits.

The world’s disorderly stock of rock and roll musicians may soon find themselves elegantly suited in a seated auditorium – laying down extensive ballet accompaniments for a high-brow audience – before realizing they’ve been duped into reinventing old music. They’ve swapped rebellious musical freedom for demanding musical rigor, all while pushing, in their view, to ever-higher peaks of liberated expression.

Is this how classical music was born?

Not revolution, but regression

Where rock and roll shook off the shackles of “the man” to reach for new musical horizons, progressive rock designs fancy new shackles with which to bind itself.

At the very least, progressive rock serves as a truly ironic turn in musical history – highlighting progress as being relative to the times and the people around to witness it.

Where rock and roll shook off the shackles of “the man” to reach for new musical horizons, progressive rock designs fancy new shackles with which to bind itself. The entire movement of prog. rock seems as complete a regression as could be.

Songs are longer and more elaborate. Bands are larger and more diverse. Song meanings and lyrics are more complex and nebulous.

Let’s face it, we’ve reinvented jazz.

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