In Polish, it’s called “Zal.” A special kind of melancholy that pervades Chopin’s music. We recognize it as the Blues. Which might explain why, from Art Tatum to Joe Zawinul, if you scratch a jazz pianist, you’ll invariably find a student of Chopin.
Tatum played a Waltz, modern-day jazzman Jacque Loussier prefers Nocturnes. But the vast majority of jazzmen are drawn to the catchy riffs and bluesy chords of Chopin’s Preludes and Mazurkas. Dutch jazzman Peter Beets has a new disc called “Chopin Meets the Blues”. He says, “Melodic embellishment is at the heart of everything that Chopin wrote.” Beets hears blues and be-bop in Chopin; a jazz group called the Burgstaller Martignon 4 hears the Brazilian rhythms of Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Polish Pianist Leczek Mozdzer finds the blue note and short motifs – he calls them “loops” – in Chopin’s Mazurkas great source material for his bluesy improvisations. And Mozdzer thinks that’s a tradition that truly faithful to Chopin’s style:
“He was one of the biggest improvisers of that time. So I’m sure if he were alive today Chopin would be a jazz musician.”