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Jazz Primer

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

By Published: December 9, 2004
Date: 14-Aug-1999 14:34:50
From: Simon L.
I think you do have to know what a person listens to so that you can make a bridge. If they listen to blues/R&B I'd take a different approach than if they listen to classical music. The bridge in the 1st case might be Hank Mobley, in the second maybe Bill Evans, the pianist. You have to be sensitive to a person's taste. This will open the door.


Date: 15-Aug-1999 11:44:02
From: Walter W.
If you want my advice I'd say keep them away from the technical noodling jazz (be-bop, fusion, avant-garde etc.)- stuff that has jettisoned the human heart and soul. Go back to Ellington, to Armstrong, to Basie, to Lester Young, to Roy Eldridge, to Coleman Hawkins, to Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson, and Billie Holiday. Jazz has been running away from its heart for decades—don't be a part of that mistake.


Date: 15-Aug-1999 23:31:40
From: Zeek
Walter—you old tub thumper—good to hear from you again. Although your outrageously narrow outlook is always amusing it's simply not fair to write off all of jazz of the past half century or so. There's plenty you'd like if you'd really listen.


Date: 17-Aug-1999 21:43:34
From: Brent W.
Jazz is like Scotch.....you really need to develope a taste for it...but once you do, its like having a soulmate thats with you forever!! Ever since I was a kid of about 10 or 11 I always like the big-band sound. It wasn't 'till I was around 21 and stationed in Germany that I became wild over the likes of Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Mile Davis, et al. We all evolve in one way or another. Today my main love is in the area of contemporary jazz...mainly because of one man....Dave Grusin. c];->


Date: 17-Aug-1999 22:42:29
From: Robert Walker-Smith ( RWlkrSmith@aol.com )
I'm glad to see a variety of points of view here. As for me—classic newbie, have been for years. I keep trying to listen—"My Favorite Things" and "Love Supreme" by Coltrane, "Sketches of Spain" and "Kind Of Blue" by Davis—but it seems like there's something I should know that I don't. My subjective impression is that one has to know something about music to appreciate jazz, and it's necessary to appreciate it in order to enjoy it. And before you jump to conclusions—my musical illiteracy is to the point where I cannot tell when a given piece of music changes key, much less what key it's in. It's only recently that I've even learned what 'key' _is_. So—thoughts, anyone?


Date: 18-Aug-1999 19:05:53
From: Reynolds
If you appreciate the music you are probably hearing more than you are giving yourself credit for; you are probably intuiting the changes. I don't know if it's that important that you can write out the key changes. I suspect ear training is the issue here. I've been listening to jazz for decades and enjoy the music and I couldn't write out the key changes—I'm not a musician. And yet I listen to more and more complex music in a richer way; my musician friends don't think it's a big deal. There are many different ways to listen to a piece of music.

Maybe there's an analogy with literature—technically I couldn't tell you what William Faulkner or Robert Frost are doing but I do enjoy the read and plenty of great literature criticism talks about the writings in thematic ways—never mentioning structural details or iambic pentameter shifts into other meters. Nobody thinks all criticism or appreciation has to be of that nature—it certainly can, and that is useful, but there's lots of ways to read something.




Date: 21-Aug-1999 12:17:33
From: Julie Daniels
I'll go with the Smithsonian Collection—it is every bit as good as the two comments above suggest/describe. It's a joy to listen to and the book/liner notes are superb.


Date: 23-Aug-1999 14:59:39
From: Gordon Polatnick ( taiwo21@dcdu.com )
I find that people are either hungry for or appalled by the idea of jazz. It's akin to people who are dying to travel and see the whole world, and those who choose the known comforts of their own world. To expose either group to jazz, I'd start with the elements already familiar to them: Compositions that have been in their lives forever, that have also traveled all over the jazz map. Cole Porter; Gershwin; songs from the Ellington band are good launching off points. Compositions with recognizable melodies and lyrics that many know or could quickly learn, can lead the initiate through all the phases of jazz as these standards are constantly showing up as proving grounds for new talent. Frank Sinatra's "My Cole Porter," or any of the Ella "Songbooks" are excellent primers. From there it's going to be hit or miss. Different interpreters of these compositions will attract or repel the listener. Individual tastes will determine whether Clifford Brown is God or not. It's also more enjoyable to see live jazz when you can recognize the melody and try to follow its transmutations through the various solos.


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