(Yes, the quote automatically changes daily: No, I don't check it for quality.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Introduction to Jazz Music

At an internet site where I participate had a regular poster, who is quite informed about music in general, and who has a working knowledge of jazz music, inquired as to what to hear next. About a dozen very informed folks posted their insights, and I added the following after they'd posted much of the jazz "canon."

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"Before my brief addition to others' efforts, I'd commend Ken Burn's documentary on Jazz that he did seven years ago. Though it has its shortcomings, it's a tremendous introduction to this collection of musics we call jazz.

I'm also pro-sampler, and will begin my list with a little gem called, "Songs that Made the Phone Light Up."

Weather Report's "8:30" is live, and has stunning solos by some of the greatest musicians ever to walk the earth.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba is perhaps the greatest pianist living (bar none, of any genre), and I'd leave it to another to recommend a specific album, as I haven't kept up with my listening for the last several years.

Cannonball Adderley's seminal, funky, fun album, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" is a blast, and features the same piano player (who wrote the title track) who with Saxophonist Wayne Shorter left Miles Davis' band, and started Weather Report. Joe Zawinul just died recently.

I will wager a substantial sum that you will love the piano of Bill Evans, and might commend to you, "Everybody Digs Bill Evans," which though uneven, will give you a sense of the man and his music, or perhaps, "Someday My Prince Will Come."

The great pianist Benny Green had a stunning album early in his career, "Testifyin'."

He told me to buy the late Oscar Peterson's "Night Train," and I would add to that recommendation Oscar's "Bach's Blues."

"Bird with Strings" doesn't normally get on my list, but given your taste for harmony, it is on this one. Bird was of course the nickname of Charlie Parker, who some would argue (including me) was one of the four most influential musicians of the 20th Century.

For Stan Getz, hear more of his work with a then young Chick Corea on "Captain Marvel."

For Chick, please buy his Mozart concert, and then "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs." He is a great genius.

His duet album with Herbie Hancock (who was this year's Grammy Album of the Year winner - NOT just jazz, but the whole shabang) must be in your collection. "In Concert, Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock" is I believe the name of the album, and there are two out, though one is still out of print, last I checked.

To Duke Ellington's must-hear list, check out "Live at Newport," as it is quite accessible, and will give you entree into one of the other top four 20 Century musicians' oeuvre.

For an unusual pairing, and damned beloved, hear two bassists in a quintet making unbelievable amounts of music on Ron Carter's "Piccolo," so named for his piccolo bass, with Buster Williams as the other bassist.

For guitarists, add in Pat Metheny's "First Circle."

A tear-jerker and tour-de-force if there ever was one, also buy the Modern Jazz Quarter's, "The Last Concert," which is also is a favorite of the leader of local stars Lavay Smith & the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, Chris Siebert.

I'm looking around the living room: on the wall is an enormous framed print of Miles staring down at me, his finger to his lips, giving the advice he rarely was able to accept himself. For Miles, to give context, get one of the albums that was recorded right here in San Francisco - their names escape me for now.

You love music, and you are sincere. That is all which is required to enjoy this: an open mind an heart, and time for the noise that is any new language to slowly gel into something which speaks to us.

I wish you great joy in your discovery."

Perhaps you, dear reader, might find some joy in these recordings, too.