Give Jazz a Chance
Almost everyone I know hates jazz music, and I completely understand why. Until about five or six years ago, I hated it too. I couldn’t stand the constant noodling, the dissonant harmonies, or the unconventional melodies. Too me, jazz always seemed like a genre of music that existed solely for the enjoyment of the musicians playing it; as if the listeners were irrelevant. And while I still dislike noodling, dissonant harmonies, and weird melodies, I have learned to really enjoy jazz, or some of it at least. I wouldn’t really call myself a “true” jazz fan, because I am only really a novice appreciator of jazz music. And while jazz will never be able to topple my three favorite genres of music – blues, classic rock, and bluegrass – it has become a permanent love of mine.
So, my goal is to convert a few of you jazz haters into mild jazz appreciators by helping you find some good stuff. Here is a brief list of some of my favorite jazz artists, songs, and/or albums which covers a wide variety of styles. (I won’t go into detail here about the various styles of jazz on this list – traditional jazz, New Orleans jazz, bebop, post-bop, gypsy jazz, acid jazz, etc. – if you want more info on styles, just send me a comment and I’ll inform you the best I can.) This list should be helpful to anyone who may be interested in getting a jazz collection going. Use this as a jumping off point to do your own exploration to find what you like. Please listen to these songs all the way through, because some of them take while to get to to sweet spot. I’ll provide links where I can.
Artist – “Song” or Album – (Original Writer) – My brief description.
Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – “In a Sentimental Mood” – (Duke Ellington) – Hauntingly beautiful.
John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things” – (Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstien II) – McCoy Tyner’s piano solos are fantastic. (The link only gives you about 2/3 of the entire song, but it’s enough for you to get the idea.)
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – (Miles Davis) – Arguably the best jazz album of all-time. Every song is a classic. Here is just a taste of that album:
“Blue in Green” – Kind of Blue – (Miles Davis) – How could anyone not like a song this beautiful?
“So What” – Kind of Blue – (Miles Davis) – The epitome of cool.
“All Blues” – Kind of Blue – (Miles Davis) – More ultra-cool Miles Davis.
Miles Davis – “Summertime” – (George Gershwin & DuBose Heyward) – You’ve heard this song a million times, but here’s the coolest version.
Cannonball Adderley & Miles Davis – “Autumn Leaves” – (Joseph Kosma & Jacques Prevert) – A much more interesting song than the standard version.
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – (Miles Davis & Gill Evans) – Another fantastic album; one that has quite a unique sound. Imagine brooding Spanish guitar music played on a trumpet and that’s the feeling of this album. Here’s a taste of Sketches of Spain:
“The Pan Piper” – Sketches of Spain – (Miles Davis & Gill Evans) – Different, but cool.
Wes Montgomery – “Round Midnight” – (Thelonious Monk) – Wes Montgomery’s ability to solo with entire chords is brilliant.
Wes Montgomery – “Bumpin’ on Sunset” – (Wes Montgomery) – Smooth as silk.
Django Reinhardt – “Improvisation No. 4” – (Django Reinhardt) – Although the video doesn’t actually show Django playing, the guy in the video does a great job of covering this song. A really beautiful piece of music.
Django Reinhardt – “Improvisation No. 1” – (Django Reinhardt) – The audio quality isn’t the best, but you can still hear Django’s unbelievable talent and virtuosity.
Django Reinhardt – “Nuages” – (Django Reinhardt) – A super laid back song to just groove to. Django does many wonderful different versions of this song.
Louis Armstrong – “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” – (Eddie DeLange & Louis Alter) – Awesome laid back traditional jazz.
Louis Armstrong – “La Vie En Rose” – (Edith Piaf & Louis Gugliemi) – Okay, so the lyrics are cheesy, but it’s still a beautiful song.
John Coltrane – Giant Steps – (John Coltrane) – Another classic jazz album from John Coltrane. Here’s a taste:
“Naima” – Giant Steps – (John Coltrane) – Melancholic but beautiful.
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme – (John Coltrane) – A classic jazz album. It can be a bit difficult to listen to at times, but just allow the tension to build so you can experience the release.
The New Orleans Jazz Vipers are a pretty awesome traditional New Orleans jazz band that you should check out.
Billie Holiday is just fantastic. Do yourself a favor and look into some of her stuff. Here are a couple of samples:
I’m sure you’ve heard of Wynton Marsalis, but you may not have heard of Kermit Ruffins – check him out too.