Javier Subatin

ESML — Lisbon’s Superior School of Music

Contemporary Jazz: Understanding Jazz Composers’ Current Reality

This research project has its basis in the observation of the current reality of contemporary jazz, where composition and written music are taking on great importance. This investigation brings together several matters of study on contemporary jazz; and questions that could be answered by today’s jazz composers.
Considering the recent developments in jazz, as Stefano Zenni (2012) claims, “the emphasis may shift more and more to composition [rather than improvisation]” (p. 1). The composition is taking on more importance for the contemporary jazz artist. Are contemporary jazz musicians searching ways for being more coherent and clear in their creative process looking beyond the boundaries of the style? The question that leads this study is: How the current reality of contemporary jazz composers is? Therefore, the goal of this investigation is to understand the motivations that lead the contemporary jazz musicians to be composers; the composing techniques that they are using; their opinions about improvisation, performance, composition and the aesthetics boundaries of jazz; among other aspects of the current reality.
The focus is on the contemporary jazz composers, from all over the world, that are enriching and innovating the style, considering jazz as an adopted music of the local cultural life in Europe and South America, as well as in the United States, where jazz has its origins.
The collected data – obtained by semi-structured interviews – has helped to analyze, understand and consolidate a background for further and more specific research. The results may be a subject of interest to educators, students, musicians, composers and researchers that work in the field of jazz music style and jazz composition.

Keywords: contemporary jazz; improvisation and performance; jazz composers, jazz aesthetics; jazz composition techniques


Born in Buenos Aires in 1985, Javier Subatin is a contemporary jazz composer and guitarist based in Lisbon. He is currently working on his first album as a composer. A project of a guitar-piano duo with the renown Portuguese pianist João Paulo Esteves da Silva. He is also working in what he called interactive compositions where using an interactive application, the listener has the possibility of being part of the piece by activating loops and making his own version of the composition. Additionally, Javier is working, as composer and bandleader, on a septet project with young musicians of the Superior School of Music. And he is conducting a research study about jazz compositional process with the collaboration of the renown composer Ed Neumeister. In 2017, he has been finalist in the Komeda Jazz Festival composers’ competition in Poland. And in 2015, he participated in the Montreux Jazz Festival guitar competition.