The Jazz Thread

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The Jazz Thread

Post by Number 6 » 05 May 2017, 01:21

It seems as though there are a few jazz lovers here, so I thought I'd start a thread for discussion of such things. So, to start, I'll ask this: let's suppose a friend is curious about jazz. Said friend is willing to listen to two albums, no more, no less, to decide if the genre appeals to him. What do you recommend?
I'd start with A Love Supreme and Branford Marsallis' I Heard You Twice the First Time. But my jazz tastes are fairly vanilla.
Runners up would include Mingus' Ah Um and Coltrane's Blue Train.
Kind of Blue is brilliant, but I must quote the woman from That 80s Show who, when asked for that album by a college kid, replied, "You're not ready."
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 05 May 2017, 02:04

Number 6 wrote:It seems as though there are a few jazz lovers here, so I thought I'd start a thread for discussion of such things. So, to start, I'll ask this: let's suppose a friend is curious about jazz. Said friend is willing to listen to two albums, no more, no less, to decide if the genre appeals to him. What do you recommend?
I'd start with A Love Supreme and Branford Marsallis' I Heard You Twice the First Time. But my jazz tastes are fairly vanilla.
Runners up would include Mingus' Ah Um and Coltrane's Blue Train.
Kind of Blue is brilliant, but I must quote the woman from That 80s Show who, when asked for that album by a college kid, replied, "You're not ready."
If he isn't ready for Kind of Blue, he sure as hell ain't ready for A Love Supreme. The problem with starting with Kind of Blue is that you could end up being disappointed with every other jazz album you ever hear. (And, by the way, isn't that record store bit stolen from a Jack Black line in High Fidelity?)

First, a disclosure: I pretty much listen to jazz exclusively from late Be-Bop to right before Fusion, from Bird through Miles up to but not including Bitches Brew. Those are my tastes and I'm sticking to them, so anything I recommend will be from that period.

Second, when someone says he's "willing to listen" to a couple of albums, I'm already suspicious. Is he going to give them one hearing or will he go back to listen to each of them a few time? Also, it would be helpful to know what sort of music he already likes, what his favorite music is, because I'd probably choose different albums for someone into classical music than someone into rock.

But if I didn't know that, I'd probably give him two albums, ask him to really sit down and pay attention to both of them at least once or twice, then to put them on now and then as "background" music. I think jazz makes more converts when it sneaks up on people than when it hits them over the head.

My two albums would probably not be anyone else's choices. First, John Coltrane's Ballads and, second, Miles Davis' 58 Miles. More obvious choices, My Funny Valentine or Giant Steps and Kind of Blue or any of the four Prestige Quintet albums. But I like my first choices for their ability to whet someone's appetite slowly and subtly, and if neither Miles nor Trane can hook you, you're probably not going to get hooked.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Number 6 » 05 May 2017, 02:32

Just for clarity, there is no actual friend here, just a hypothetical. But your caveats make sense.
A Love Supreme is what did it for me. I think it works because it is so emotional. Much Jazz (Take 5, as mentioned in an earlier thread) can be technically impressive, but a bit bloodless. Love Supreme is nothing, if not passionate.
Also, I generally agree on the Jazz timeline (Bitches Brew, despite being heralded as brilliant by some, sounds like the dissonant honkings of an epileptic goose being beaten with a sack of angry cats to me.) I do like Branford Marsallis a lot, though I'm less impressed by his brother.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by dhex » 05 May 2017, 06:58

first off your friend is really weird. "two albums, no more, no less. then i decide what i think of an entire body of work."

on the other hand he's more fair than i am. but still. odd.

no spotify? there are some good playlists on there. also playlists like "jazz after dark" and "coffee jazz" which are basically just muted bop and cute barista fluff respectively.

kind of blue is great, if a little sedate. i would follow your heart and go with kind of blue and a love supreme, which is easily my favorite thing (my favorite things is ok ish). if he feels nothing there, then dude is dead from the neck up.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Sandy » 05 May 2017, 08:30

Headhunters does everything Bitches Brew does, but better. Heavy Weather also does it, and that covers fusion.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Warren » 05 May 2017, 11:24

My firs thought is "what kind of jazz"? There's a long road between swing and west coast jazz. Louis Armstrong is practically a category all by himself. And in my own head, instrumentals and standards are two distinct categories. "You're not ready for that" really is the key. What are they ready for? You don't want to bore them with something too remedial. Finding good jazz is like finding a good chess opponent.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by dead_elvis » 05 May 2017, 23:08

I think a lot depends on where the listener is, and I'd taylor it depending on how adventurous they are in the genres they already listen to. I'm a total novice when it comes to jazz, but one of the things I've learned over the years is it's helpful to give people something familiar to latch on to when listening to something new. If someone's favorite pop is bland and their favorite classical piece is Pachelbel' s canon, you might be best off with the old standards with singers (because the format of the 4 minute pop song will be so familiar), and early stuff from the 20s, 30s and 40s, that musical language is so thoroughly baked into later pop it won't be completely foreign. Or some sort of fusion, and maybe something afro-cuban. If they mostly listen to pop but are pretty familiar with a broad swath of pop culture, I'd throw in Coltrane's My Favorite Things because they'll recognize the tunes. If their favorite pop is Throbbing Gristle and their favorite classical is Bartok I'd feel free to give them the really hard stuff, for fear of putting them off with something too bland.

I also think this is a difficult question because one tends to immediately jump to "what are the important landmarks that people should listen to", except those are sometimes not the best entry points for a newcomer.

Honestly, I'm going to go against the grain and say Brubeck Time Out. It lands in a pretty safe space that people from a wide variety of musical adventurousness can appreciate; it's accessible without being completely vapid. I don't really hear it as cold, either (maybe I'd say it's so cold it's cool). Even through crappy youtube/laptop, I hear a lot going on in the phrasing and tonal variety, more than some other contemporaneous albums by famous jazzers. After Ornette Coleman died I listened a lot to Shape of Jazz to Come* and jeebus as much as I like the music they sound like they don't know how to play their instruments. And My Favorite Things, that sax sound peels paint off the wall, it's like nails on a chalkboard. To me that gets a little bit in the way of the expression. I just learned he played soprano sax on that so that might be part of it but somehow Branford Marsalis manages to make a decent sound.



*(this was because I'd only learned about him in music history class as an experimental atonal guy and wanted to explore what else he did)
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Sandy » 06 May 2017, 12:55

Yeah, if they love Michael Jackson, then Miles Davis's version of "Human Nature" might be a good starting point.

Likewise don't knock early Flim & the BBs for accessible but real jazz.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by lunchstealer » 06 May 2017, 13:25

Louis Armstrong brings some legit jazz in a pop song format.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 May 2017, 13:37

Sandy wrote:Yeah, if they love Michael Jackson, then Miles Davis's version of "Human Nature" might be a good starting point.

Likewise don't knock early Flim & the BBs for accessible but real jazz.
Well, that's sort of the problem as I see it. I mean, sure, Dixieland is definitely jazz, but it isn't the jazz I or most people who would call themselves jazz fans listen to outside NOLA or Mississippi Riverboats. Same with swing. Yes, there were great swing bands with great jazz musicians, but swing was first and foremost dance music and introducing someone to jazz with swing or Dixieland almost certainly wouldn't be answering the mail. You'd get an "Oh, sure, I already know that music" or some such.

That's why I think you have to start somewhere during or after bebop. And the reason I don't like the idea of fusion, aside from not liking fusion jazz, is that it muddies the waters. You wouldn't, at least I wouldn't try to introduce someone to rock with a Mahavishnu Orchestra album, never mind how it arguably falls into a sub-genre of rock.

That's to say, I think most people who ask to be introduced to jazz have, whether they know it or not, that particular period in mind when they ask.
Louis Armstrong brings some legit jazz in a pop song format.
Louie Armstrong is one of the jazz gods, but I wouldn't introduce someone to jazz by playing his Hot Fives or, at the other end of his career, "Hello Dolly" or "What A Wonderful World." (The Ken Burns Jazz CD for Armstrong, otoh, is an excellent sampler.)

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by lunchstealer » 06 May 2017, 15:44

A live show from the 50s Louis Armstrong and His All Stars seems like a pretty accessible intro that's not boring but not intimidating.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Andrew » 06 May 2017, 16:05

I'd be open to some suggestions of where to start. Ideally, albums I can find on YouTube to listen to at work. To give an idea of where I'd be starting from:

I like Mahavishnu Orchestra (Birds of Fire is in my "top-10 of all genres" list). I liked the first two Soft Machine albums, but haven't explored too much beyond those. The first few 80s Allan Holdsworth albums are generally enjoyable, but any jazz stuff of his I've found on YouTube strikes me as uninteresting technical exercises. I recently listened to some Henry Cow and found it... impenetrable. I like rock-based improv like King Crimson and the Grateful Dead but have a hard time really noticing/appreciating if more than 2 musicians are simultaneously doing improv-type things.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Warren » 06 May 2017, 16:11

D.A. Ridgely wrote: I mean, sure, Dixieland is definitely jazz, but it isn't the jazz I or most people who would call themselves jazz fans listen to outside NOLA or Mississippi Riverboats. Same with swing. Yes, there were great swing bands with great jazz musicians, but swing was first and foremost dance music and introducing someone to jazz with swing or Dixieland almost certainly wouldn't be answering the mail. You'd get an "Oh, sure, I already know that music" or some such.
I strenuously object.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 May 2017, 19:26

There aren't that many contemporary jazz clarinetists for some reason. But, Goodman aside, if you like jazz clarinet, you should check out Eddie Daniels.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Warren » 06 May 2017, 19:56

D.A. Ridgely wrote:There aren't that many contemporary jazz clarinetists for some reason. But, Goodman aside, if you like jazz clarinet, you should check out Eddie Daniels.
Thank you I will. Any love for Artie Shaw?
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 May 2017, 20:10

Warren wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:There aren't that many contemporary jazz clarinetists for some reason. But, Goodman aside, if you like jazz clarinet, you should check out Eddie Daniels.
Thank you I will. Any love for Artie Shaw?
Yes, don't get me wrong; I like Big Band / Swing music. I just don't think it's a good place to begin introducing someone nowadays to jazz.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Warren » 06 May 2017, 20:13

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
Warren wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:There aren't that many contemporary jazz clarinetists for some reason. But, Goodman aside, if you like jazz clarinet, you should check out Eddie Daniels.
Thank you I will. Any love for Artie Shaw?
Yes, don't get me wrong; I like Big Band / Swing music. I just don't think it's a good place to begin introducing someone nowadays to jazz.
Okay, how about Django Reinhardt?
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 May 2017, 20:23

Warren wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:
Warren wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:There aren't that many contemporary jazz clarinetists for some reason. But, Goodman aside, if you like jazz clarinet, you should check out Eddie Daniels.
Thank you I will. Any love for Artie Shaw?
Yes, don't get me wrong; I like Big Band / Swing music. I just don't think it's a good place to begin introducing someone nowadays to jazz.
Okay, how about Django Reinhardt?
Never really listened to him that much. As I said at the beginning, I have a fairly narrowly circumscribed period of jazz that constitutes somewhere around 95% of all my listening and Django Reinhardt, if I recall correctly, was just on the early fringes of bebop. Also, fair or not, I just don't see the guitar as a jazz instrument, and lest this get into another petty squabble, I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just saying what my subjective opinion happens to be.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by lunchstealer » 07 May 2017, 00:31

I was thinking more of And His All Stars. Accessible but strong, Jazzier than swing, and basically the groundwork for bebop. That and Time Out or dunno maybe The Birth of the Cool, or is that too far into the bebop for first-timers? Really depends on your audience, I guess. A prog guy or a dhex will be bored stiff, but it's fun in the right mood. If they're into pre-Wall Pink Floyd or Parliament et al, then something like Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters would be good.



Bela Fleck and the Flecktones can be kind of good, too, especially if you're bringing in someone who's had a lot of '90s HORDE/jam experience, because he's played guest banjo on at least one song by every one of those guys.



It's hard to tell what's accessible to the not-jazz because my dad was a massive trad/dixieland guy and my mom was mostly classical but also played a lot of coolish-modern stuff like MJQ and Flim and the BBs (plus I lived in a house with Sandy just before he went off to major in Jazz Theory and Composition. By the time I was out of high school I'd seen Herbie Mann and Marian McPartland and a bunch of the later-lesser bebop types at various festivals and concerts.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by Andrew » 19 May 2017, 12:53

My listening so far:

Head Hunters - fantastic.

Tribute to Jack Johnson - great, but cheating since it has McLaughlin on guitar. So that's fusion and not jazz per DAR.

Weather Report's Heavy Weather and Mysterious Traveller - need more time with these. Had some stuff I liked, but also a lot of uninteresting mush.
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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by lunchstealer » 19 May 2017, 19:12

Andrew wrote:My listening so far:

Head Hunters - fantastic.

Tribute to Jack Johnson - great, but cheating since it has McLaughlin on guitar. So that's fusion and not jazz per DAR.

Weather Report's Heavy Weather and Mysterious Traveller - need more time with these. Had some stuff I liked, but also a lot of uninteresting mush.
I like Domino Theory a bit more than Heavy Weather. Less of the Jazz-Odyssey noodling bits.

Is fusion, though. As is Head Hunters.

It's probably between this track and Watermelon Man from Headhunters for my favorite fusion track.

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Re: The Jazz Thread

Post by lunchstealer » 09 Jul 2018, 02:02

Originally to be posted in the Earworm thread because it's been going through my head for about a week now, especially that bari.

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