It is a funny thing but when you are young, you expect things to be short- lived and to fade almost as quickly as they become popular, like the crazes of deely boppers, leg warmers and clackers, which at the time, were must-haves. It was the same with musicthe teenage idols in the '70s were The Bay City Rollers, Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, The Who and Queen. At the time, each craze enjoys a brief passion unless, like some of us, you always preferred jazz; but inevitably, life, loves and responsibilities take over and you put these things to one side in corners of the mind, cherished and valued but considered indulgent, nostalgic and part of your youth. Then somehow you're the grown up. Everything changes in life, including music, and this, really, is as it should be.
Yet, lurking in those quiet corners of the mind are memories, bits of music still unexplored. You find yourself in the enviable position of being able, at last, to go to gigs with no qualms about who is relying on you, what time you have to get home or whether the household will fall apart if your taxi service is not there to collect. Your responsibilities have diminished and briefly there is a bit of money in your pocket because you are still earning and the house is paid for, just. Out come the boxeswhatever happened to.....? You check; yes, they still play the odd gig in a pub. You go, along with friends, the crowd gets bigger at each gig and suddenly, favorite bands are making a comeback. Or you find they never stopped playing.
We live in a world of speed. Everything works quickly, information travels at speeds unthinkable in the past. Food, cars, travel; everything moves at the speed of light. Careers take precedence over family life, the youth are tuned in, hip, street savvy, online, texting, downloading, listening to all kinds of strange music. What they don't know is that they are not the only ones. Their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are also rediscovering bands, giving them a new lease of life and our stages, surprisingly enough, are filled with musicians and bands of, shall we say, a certain age.
In these times, when youth appears to be all, it is an odd phenomenon that many singers and musicians from the '70s and '80smany of whom are in their 60s, 70s or 80s themselvescan still fill the largest arenas and theatres. The stalwarts have never gone away and continued to have hits. Status Quo, Elton John, U2, Cliff Richards, Macca, Paul McCartney, Sonny Rollins and endless other sexa, septa and even octagenarians still thrill fans and fill the largest stadiums. Others have been quiet for years and recently made wondrous comebacks. These include Adam Ant, Take That and many more.
Compare men and women of a similar agesay 65+and many of us envisage people we know with white hair, a bit heavier than when they were 40 or so , talking about the 'youths of today,' seemingly unable to use the Internet and enjoying their bus passes. The thought of them charging across a stage, singing ribald lyrics and gyrating to thrill an audience of people from 19-70 years of age is laughable and yet, these are the same people, give or take a few hits, several thousand pounds and a different lifestyle, we watch, pay to see and enjoy. Paul McCartney is 70, Mick Jagger, 68, Elton John, 64 and David Bowie, 65. The Smiths, Jimmy Cliff (63), Adam Ant (57)...the list goes on and reads like a set-list from the '80s.
A browse through my Sunday papers saw mentions of The Who's Pete Townsend with a new project, David Cassidy (61) was on The One Show (a UK magazine show) recently and a positively youthful Donny Osmond (55) recently completed a successful UK tour. These are only a few of the string of stars from the '70s and '80s now appearing again. It is, at times, like a strange kind of time warp. A festival date in Bedford last summer saw Toots and The Maytals (Toots is at least 65) playing the main stage (brilliantly) and the year before they were at Glastonbury.
Quite why we hold these stars of the past in such affection is unclear until you realize that they are "us," or the "us" we might become. There is a great truism in the fact that, while the body gets older, the person within is formed during their teenage years and early twenties. Inside every middle aged man (and woman) is that sneering, devil-may-care, scruffy, rebel of their youth. We still harbor that ambition to get up onstage, make good music, dance and be who we were in our youth. We want a sense of those carefree, pre-kids and responsibility days and, happily for us, we can afford to pay for men and women of our age to help us rekindle them and show us we are far from past it.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.