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HomeLJS PodcastJazz Tips and AdviceJazz, Racial Injustice, and What This Music Really Means (feat. Kyle Younger)

Jazz, Racial Injustice, and What This Music Really Means (feat. Kyle Younger)

Welcome to episode 222 of the LJS Podcast where today we have on special guest Kyle Younger on the show to discuss the history of jazz and its ties to the racial oppression of the African American community. Jazz is African American music, and we cannot understand or play this music without recognizing the oppression of those who created this music.

Listen to episode 222

When we play jazz music and when we practice jazz music, it’s important that we remember that it is African American music and it was born out of slavery. It was born out of racism, injustice, oppression, and it developed under injustice and oppression. 

And music is always the reflection of the times. It’s always the reflection of the people who are playing the music. And we can never untie jazz and playing jazz, or not connect the two together. They are so intertwined. 

And so it’s important that when we play this music, we have a reverence, we have an understanding of what this music really means, just even outside of the notes and the theory and how to play it. 

Now, I am not the right person to deliver this message, obviously. So I’ve got a very special guest on the show today, multi-instrumentalist, educator, and jazz aficionado, Kyle Younger, to share what jazz music means. 

Not only what it means to the African American community, but what it should mean to us, and what we should think about when we play this music.

In this episode:

1. Jazz is a music born out of slavery, injustice, and oppression.

2. When we play this music we need to understand the context of which the music was created.

3. Jazz is music created by African Americans but shared with all. Jazz is love.

Important Links

1. Kyle’s Book Suggestions: Beneath the Underdog

2. Music is My Mistress

3. The Jazz Life

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Brent, thank you so much for this inspiring episode you provided for us with Kyle Younger and his broad, deep and personal knowledge of the journey of jazz which affects us all. In all music there is a story … this story is one that we all need to understand and appreciate to understand the perspective of jazz from its roots and the suffering and determination of the black musicians to bring their story through their music to share with the world. And to share with love … thank you Brent and Kyle.

  2. Listening to this podcast is worth as much as listening to jazz theory!! Play with purpose everyone!!
    My favorite line from this podcast:
    “The worst sound you can ever make isn’t playing a wrong note. It’s playing mechanically!”

  3. This podcast presents very powerful messages. I got into jazz just because I loved its sounds, harmony and improvisations. Thank you for giving me a much better understanding of the historic/social context and a whole new level of appreciation for the art form. I will definitely take up Mr. Younger’s suggestions to read up on the musician’s history and to look at the time period in which the piece was created. It will be so much more meaningful to learn it with that perspective in mind.


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