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Jazz Primer

What's the best way to introduce someone to Jazz?

By Published: December 9, 2004
Date: 23-Jul-1999 00:03:38
From: Kenan Hebert ( fluxion23@hotmail.com )
This newslist has become more about reminiscing than giving advice, and I think that's appropriate. What did Louis Armstrong say? "If you have to ask, you'll never know." I started out listening to Spyro Gyra and Kenny G, but my tastes evolved quietly, in my own way (in a silent way, pun intended). I never asked anyone. I just bought and bought and read a lot of liner notes. (I learned as much about writing from the liner notes as I did about jazz.) Nobody can tell you what is so great about Coltrane's tone, about Armstrong's phrasing, about Bill Evans' lyricism. That's why it's art. A guy once asked me at a party about jazz. "I'm just getting into jazz," he said, "what should I be listening for?" Louis' quote lept to mind, but as an answer to a direct question, it's too dismissive. So I thought for a long moment, and finally said, "Color." Yes, color. The way a shade of blue can belong totally to Matisse for the moment that you're looking at it, so can Miles' famed muted trumpet when it bends a certain note. You just hear it. You just know it. That's all. I first heard "Blue Train" late in high school, and I played the hell out of it. To me, it was the perfect soundtrack to taking off a girl's bra in the hour between when school let out and Mom got home from work. The perfect sound to hear in a post-orgasmic haze, staring out the window at a late-spring sky. I only understood why so many call it "haunting" very recently. Like, last week. I popped it in for the first time in months, and my mind was in the right place, and the stars were in allignment, and I hadn't eaten any heavy meals, and, for whatever reason, I heard it in a new way. It wasn't just cool, it was cool and dark. Nobody on the face of the planet could've ever explained that to me. I couldn't explain it to anybody else. I treasure the friends of mine who know what I'm talking about.


Date: 25-Jul-1999 11:43:44
From: Alice
Tie him/her to the bed posts and do deliciously dirty things to them with jazz in the background. Say nothing about the music, never even talk about the subject. But everytime they are tied to the bedposts play jazz in the background.

I repeat—never, never even bring up the subject of jazz. Gradually she/he will drift toward jazz, gradually she/he will begin examining strange CDs, and before long will have drifted into the underworld of jazz.


Date: 28-Jul-1999 22:54:49
From: Pat Robertson
ALICE: You give me the shivers, babe.


Date: 31-Jul-1999 09:34:20
From: Sal M.
I have to agree with the comments that say just casually play the music. If someone has good ears they'll pick up on it sooner or later. Also, I've treated some friends to concerts/club gigs (carefully chosen)and made sure they first had a couple of beers/drinks. The latter helps people leave behind their apprehensions and prejudices. Sitting fairly close to the musicians is also a good idea—so it's a new experience visually too.


Date: 02-Aug-1999 11:55:35
From: Colin Gillman ( colin@pluspoint.co.uk )
Viewpoint from a 'newbie'

I made a conscious decision to 'get more seriously into jazz' about three years ago. There I stood, in the HMV jazz section, asking everybody who came in what did they recommend to a 'newbie.' Wow! What a dumb way to begin...I really thought a whole bunch of strangers would be able to advise me. After all, hadn't I been led to believe that 'jazzers' were a really nice, pleasant and friendly bunch of people that would always take time out to chat about their passion? Hmmm...they did that all right, but unfortunately I didn't have a clue about what the heck they were on about! I'd never heard of hardly any of the artists they mentioned. OK, so I tried another tack. How about starting with an instrument, that'll be a great intro. I liked the sound Oscar Peterson made, so I'd say: "I like Oscar Peterson but I really want to discover something new, something exciting. I've heard all this talk about jazz and I really want to learn about it—can you help?" But all I got was references to more people I'd never heard of, and neither did HMV! I stayed in that store for about three hours trying this and that to 'find inspiration.' I must say that the guy behind the counter was very patient with me, he played most of what was available from the recommendations I'd been given, but it still wasn't the sound I'd wanted—I never did buy anything either!


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