Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Jazz Appreciation: from Neophyte to Hardcore Listener

I have been a casual jazz listener for years.  When I was attending college, I tried to be a jazz DJ on the student operated radio station.  My career as a radio announcer was a short-lived failure for a variety of reasons. the main one being that I didn't know enough about jazz. 

I don't remember my first exposure to jazz.  It wasn't my parents, who were more easy listening music and vocalist listeners (Sadly, I knew who Peter Nero, Roger Whitaker, and Ray Coniff were at an early age).  I didn't listen to it in high school, it didn't fit into my obsession with Bob Dylan.  So, yes, it must have been college.  I started attending Southern Illinois University in 1981 with a major in Radio and TV.  My advisor, a man named John Holmes, hosted a jazz show on WSIU radio on Friday nights at 10 pm.  Maybe that was it. I will also mention that it was my college years that I discovered Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.  That had to be a contributing factor.

I still didn't take it seriously.  I was the most casual of listeners.  I didn't buy LPs, didn't research the musicians.  Carbondale IL isn't known for it's hot jazz clubs...since there weren't any to speak of.

Years later I moved to Milwaukee and soon discovered WYMS radio. That opened up a whole new appreciation of jazz.  In particular, I listened to Susan Orr in the afternoon.  I learned more about jazz from her than anyone before.  I learned that a real jazz aficionado paid attention to the personnel of certain recordings.  I was fascinated that a record by someone, say John Coltrane, also had other musicians listed on the personnel, but they weren't known as Coltrane's band.  Most of the musicians on the albums also had their own albums.  It would have been easy, had I had the intellectual curiosity, to fall down a jazz rabbit-hole.  

But I didn't have the intellectual curiosity that would have been required.

Like many people, I like a variety of music and go through phases. I like Classical, Rock, Folk, Blues.  I despise Country, New Age, and "Smooth Jazz."  And recently, I have come back to Jazz.  It plays in the studio most of the time.  It's good work music and good morning coffee music.  And as days go on, thanks to streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon streaming, I have unlimited access to jazz recordings.  UNLIMITED!

So while I am working on art, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, and more are playing.  The album above, Cornbread, featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, is a current favorite.  Kind of Blue by Miles Davis?  Definitely!  Moanin' with Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers?  Oh hell yes!  Spyro Gyra?  No.  Never.  It's not allowed on the premises. Jazz, in my opinion, should never be safe.  Smooth Jazz should not be recognized as an art form.

And now I have a reference book to satisfy that intellectual curiosity that I was lacking so many years ago.  The Rough Guide to Jazz by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestly, available of ThriftBooks and Amazon (of course)

Happy Saturday to all!  I am going to make some coffee and listen to...ohh I don't know..maybe some Miles Davis.  Peace to you all.

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