Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Jazz Age

Even back in high school, I had been a dabbler in jazz. Had some Monk, Miles and Coltrane. Good stuff, but not enough to take up any significant percentage of my record collection. And when Mrs. Ec and I started dating, I'd usually throw on the jazz show on WGBH at night if we were just hanging out. Nice background music, but just as easily could have been classical music.
And that's about where the jazz stayed in my musical universe for about the next five or six years, an enjoyable but occasional change of pace. And then something changed. I don't know if it was the change of the millennium, turning 30, or what, but I began turning to jazz in a big way.

Miles, Monk, Mingus, Brownie, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon. It was a time in my life when I still loved music, but rock had lost some its luster and spontaneity for me. Even though the jazz I prefer is at least 40 years old, I found the same kind of excitement I that I had when I first discovered punk rock. And while punk was fast and exciting, the hard bop jazz I learned to love had those attributes with the addition of being played by musicians with incredible technical skill. Listening to the Clifford Brown/Max Roach band is to hear music that is at once incredibly powerful and played at the highest level.

Jazz, at its best, combines the thrill of improvisation within a tightly honed group. While I doubt I'll ever be someone who listens to only jazz—I just love too many types of music too much—it does take up more of my listening time. While I am happy these days to download a rock song or two here or there if I like it, jazz is now the one genre where I can still be a little obsessive about owning complete albums and knowing who played with who on what session.


Blogger Jazz said...

I really got into jazz after starting to go to the Montreal Jazz Fest regularly (ok, pretty much every night for 15 or so years). It has changed a lot now, but at the beginning it was very jazz oriented. I still remember listening to some things and wondering how I could have missed out for all those years. Like you, I got into jazz in my thirties and love the old stuff.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Suldog said...

Although, as you know, heavy metal and hard rock are my first loves, I've always enjoyed jazz, a lot. Spent many an evening on the WGBH and WBUR end of the dial, and will occasionally lose myself in some of my Dad's old vinyl. He was into Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Brubeck, J. J. Johnson, Oscar Pederson, Peter Nero - some of it daring, some of it pretty straightforward and bordering on muzak. I prefer big band and swing, myself, and within that I generally prefer those who lean towards kickin' instrumentals - think Charlie Barnet.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Clifford Brown is my absolute hero. I played trumpet through college (peaking with a short stint in the Mark Masters Jazz Composers Orchestra of LA. I still listen to Brownie, Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell all the time. I went out to the Jazz Bakery over this past weekend and saw Randy Brecker, who was outstanding. He had Patrice Rushen on piano, and she was incredible. A great evening.

2:21 PM  

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