West Coast School and West Coast Jazz are some terms that we hear very often while
The West Coast School is used for referring to the composers and compositional style(s) associated with the West Coast of the United States, specifically California. It is categorized as a subgenre of cool jazz, which heavily relied on more on composition and arrangement rather than the individually improvised playing of other jazz styles. However, the West Coast School is not only associated with these forms of jazz music. There is a lot more!
Considering the general sound of the scene, the West Coast jazz featured a rhythm section that inhibits the use of a piano, guitar, or any chordal instrument, tending to a more open and freer sound-which is the key identity of their sound. The scene also featured some unusual use of non-standard jazz instruments such as the French horn and tuba.
Although West Coast Jazz is seen as a synonym for Cool Jazz, there were also “hard swingers” around Los Angeles that embraced harder sounding bebop style. But this hardly comes to mind while referring to our topic.
Sociologically, the reason behind this differentiation of West Coast Jazz being “cooler” may be caused by the lifestyles of the people that live there. Famous Jazz critic Bob Rusch has also commented on the theory:
“The West coast sound perhaps didn’t have the gravitas that the East coast had, but, after all, these were Californians enjoying the sun and the surf and the extent that celebrity offered itself through the studio work that the entertainment industry was offering. So I think, you know, you think of California as sun and surf, you think of New York City as cement and grit, and the music somewhat reflected that.”