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The Fear of Making the Jump to Jazz

Posted: December 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , ,
Some guy named Miles

Should you know who these eyes belong to? Oh yes indeed.

Do you know any true music fans? You know, those type of people you meet at a party that say “Oh, like, I like all types of music, yeah.” Suuuure you do. Slap some experimental noise in their face and you’ve already thwarted their self proclamation, yet that’s a bit drastic I suppose. Reggae is too easy thanks to Bob Marley and punk is so saturated with non-punk and punkettes these days that it’s a joke to even bring it up as a possible genre to identify with.  Even country has become more widely accepted, if only because Shania Twain poppified it many years ago from its original roots form.  By the way, if you’re a country fan please go listen to some Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, and Emmylou Harris.

What I’m getting at is, there is likely going to be some music genre that someone will balk at when you mention it. The best one to throw around is jazz. If someone likes jazz then they likely have a nice musical palette. If they don’t like jazz then they either haven’t heard enough of it or they don’t get it yet. Hey, that’s fine, as it sometimes takes time. I did not like jazz much at all when I was in my teens. I was too interested in Weird Al Yankovic and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince anyway. Er, let’s move on.

Jazz is a genre of music that you should get to know, but not too quickly. Jazz shouldn’t be rushed and ideally you should absorb it as if it’s another person in the room that is simply hanging out. Don’t expect anything out of this person at first, nor should you dismiss it if it doesn’t entertain you within five minutes. Like a good friend, sometimes the best way to spend time with someone is by simply being in their presence and enjoying their company. Jazz is that friend.

Before I roll on with why jazz is great to let flow into your ears, let’s address why people don’t like jazz. Usually people think it’s either boring, sounds the same, or is just old music like classical and blues. It’s true, one is most likely going to associate jazz with music with no vocals and many instruments that can be found at symphonies. Because there’s no dance beat, deep bass lines, or flashy gimmicks associate with much of jazz, many can’t be bothered with the quieter, autotune-less jazz music.  It’s a pity, for jazz can enrich one’s life more than any of the modern day pop stars ever will as time rolls on.

I cannot tell you the exact moment of when jazz clicked for me, but I imagine it was my inner feeling of needing to ‘get it’. Jazz is historic, it’s what many resort to for relaxation, and it’s usually considered as a more heady form of music. Also, like brussel sprouts and consistent exercise, it was something I had a feeling would be good for me. It took awhile, too. It can be hard to put the rock ‘n roll and indie music aside for a bunch of horns, saxophones, and pianos.

But I did it. I can safely say that jazz is one of the best forms of music out there when you need to cool off, be productive, or maintain a comfortable mood. The slower tracks that have merely a crooning saxophone and light snare drum taps is enough to make you feel you’re in the most comfortable leather reclining chair. The sharp pops of trumpet and flashy piano playing of more upbeat songs can make you wish that you were in the midst of a party and that everyone was going to have a great time for hours. For many records, these moods interchange from track to track as the artist flaunts his or her versatility while keeping your head working with all the diversity of instruments and tempos. Each song also feels like a meal instead of a mere filler between the hits and singles. You can get a real, fulfilling sense of satisfaction when listening to a complete jazz record.

I can gush about my appreciation of jazz further, but I must admit that despite my enjoyment of the genre I am by no means an expert. There are so many jazz artists out there playing with such a wide array of professional backing musicians that it can be overwhelming to sort them all out. If you are thinking of giving jazz a real chance to win you over, I would suggest starting with popular veterans and their quintessential records. Here’s a list that I can vouch for:

  • Miles Davis (that guy above, by the way) – “Kind of Blue”
  • John Coltrane – “A Love Supreme” (and so many more)
  • Duke Ellington – “Duke Ellington & John Coltrane”
  • Charles Mingus – “Mingus Ah Um”
  • The Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Time Out”
  • The Bill Evans Trio – “Portrait in Jazz”
  • Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – “Getz/Gilberto”


Like I said, this is only a start.  As it usually goes, if you like an artist then dig into their discographies.  Some guys, like Miles Davis, had many different periods so if you don’t like where he was in the fifties then maybe you’ll like him in the seventies.  Artists from the earlier big band/swing periods, like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Benny Goodman, are also fine choices to check out.  There’s also the jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, and Ella Fitzgerald that are momentous when it comes to talent and enjoyability.  Really, once jazz hooks you it can open up so many avenues for you to follow.  Trust me, I’ve gone through this myself and I’m always running into albums that I have yet to hear but absolutely need to.

If you find that your indie pop has gotten predictable or that the volume of your heavy metal needs to be turned down once in awhile, consider taking the plunge into jazz music.  You may not like it now or five years from now, but if you give jazz a chance you may find that its long term rewards are worth the effort.

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