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Jazz Stories: 2017

Jazz Stories: 2017
Michael Ricci By

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All About Jazz—a longstanding internet destination for all things jazz—is a community bound by its love of the music.

Since March 2016, we've solicited jazz stories from our members asking them to answer any of a handful of questions and we wanted to recognize some of our submissions from 2017. New stories arrive daily and we've gathered over thousands to date—well over EIGHT years of jazz stories!

Inspired, touching, funny, helpful (to newbies) or simply providing snapshots in jazz history, we've included several that capture the spirit of jazz and articulate the many reasons why we love the music.

So, on with the stories...

From Shelly Liebowitz

My parents used to play all of the big band music and I was hooked at an early age. I had a 2 cousins in music business and they had a great influence on me. I was working at Roulette Records on rock acts when I met Count Basie. I was fascinated with his style and we would talk music for hours. He introduced me to Sammy Davis Jr and then to Ella Fitzgerald the rest as they say is history!

From Akosua Gyebi

The first jazz record I bought was Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard. When I was in high school, I somehow stumbled across the track "My Man's Gone Now" and was instantly transfixed. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. So I saved up (times were hard for a teenager back then) and went out and bought the album.

From Dan McClenaghan

I've always loved music. One of my earliest memories is from 1956, my older brothers bringing home two brand new 45 rpm records: Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" and Bill Haley and the Comets' "See You Later Alligator." The animal themes appealed to this four year old. And the sound of Elvis' up-from-the-gut power and The Comets' shake-rattle-and-roll rhythm mesmerized me. Jazz came to me later, in 1968, via a friend's Chico Hamilton album, The Dealer (Impulse!, 1966). I was hooked. I still am.

From George Richardson

I love jazz because of the freedom of expression and endless fusion of genres and styles old and new.

I was first exposed to jazz when my college tutor played Charles Mingus "Haitian Fight Song" in class and it just opened my mind to a world of musical possibilities and that's where my journey started. After that I continued to explore new genres always looking forward to be moved again like the first time i heard pure soul and feeling poured out in that stampede of a bass solo!

The best show I ever attended was GoGo Penguin—all of their concerts have be a life experience.

The first jazz record I bought was Charles Mingus Featuring Eric Dolphy, Live at Cornell 1964.

My advice to new listeners is don't just give up because of some confusing manic be-bop line that sound's like noise because you've never heard anything like it before. It takes time to appreciate new art whether visual or audio but like all art there are many styles, sub-genres and beautiful marriages of different musical cultures under the canopy of "Jazz" music. It's so vast it's worth searching for that first composition or artist whose sound suits you and once you find that you will grasp a deeper understanding of art in its creativity and still see its ever evolving form changing and growing right in front of you. Whether musician or listener being open to one thing can lead to the ability to be open to many other things both in and out of music but music can be a great catalyst for starting a creative journey of your own that will hopefully never end.

From Mark Klemow

I was first exposed to jazz when I took a Jazz & Blues class in college in the early '80s. Gary Giddins (at the time, jazz critic for the Village Voice) was the instructor and his passion for the music ignited a fire in me that burns brightly to this day.

From Simon Pilbrow

I was first exposed to jazz via playing Scott Joplin rags on piano in early 1970s, reading a book about Joplin and then how jazz evolved from this and the blues and marching bands through Louis Armstrong et al, and then seeking out the music on some wonderful jazz radio programs in Melbourne Australia in the 1970s, and via our next door neighbour Terry's jazz record collection, and then trying to play the music with my brother Tim—and that's where my love of this great music began. It hasn't stopped growing.

The first jazz record I bought was the mid-1940s recording Sugar Hill Shuffle by Count Basie and His Orchestra.

My advice to new listeners is to start with the earliest jazz and move forward—there are now 100 years of recorded jazz to enjoy, and it all makes a lot of sense if you listen chronologically, and your listening 'ears' will grow with the music Then whatever you hear will fit into a rich historical context... listen and enjoy all of it... and read all you can about the music and its creators—it will enrich your understanding and point you to the greatest musicians and the best music to listen to. Be prepared for a lot of exciting surprises and to be continually amazed by this great music. Keep on listening and enjoying it! If you find a musician or style you particularly enjoy, then just immerse yourself in it!

From Joe Gatto

My personal best Jazz story/experience is while on vacation in New York City in July 2014, I got to go with my good friend to the memorial service for great Jazz pianist, Horace Silver. We heard the announcement on New York's best Jazz radio station WBGO, and decided to go.

Mr. Silver's family, friends, fans, and plenty of Jazz musicians (like Lou Donaldson telling great stories) packed an old Episcopalian church in the Lower East Side, played his music, and eulogized this great man. We walked out feeling full of soul. I'd never felt such a soulful vibe before.

I love jazz because it makes me feel great when I listen to it! So, I listen to it a lot.

I don't have words for how to describe the feelings conveyed in Jazz. Music teachers come up with wonderful adjectives, and can turn a phrase to communicate what it's like to hear the opening notes of "Freddie Freeloader" for example.

Me, I just like to listen to it. I like to search for Jazz songs that are new to me, or re-listen to an iconic track with new ears. I want to keep having that groovy feeling I get when I hear Jazz I haven't heard before, yet immediately grabs my attention and keeps coming with layers of soulful music.

The best Jazz show I ever attended was Christian McBride Trio at the Columbus Jazz & Ribs Festival. He is such a gracious showman, and his band grooves hard!

My advice to new listeners is to explore the vast catalogs on the iconic labels like Blue Note to get into the Hard Bop players, explore the New Orleans sound, get hip to the current Jazz musicians that make the art form thrive today—and broaden your horizons & enrich your life with the world's most soulful music.

From Mike Jurkovic

I love jazz because it expands the soul and frees the mind from the standard thumpa-thumpa 4x4.

I was first exposed to jazz in high school. Brubeck's Jazz Goes to College, Garner's Concert by the Sea, and Trane's A Love Supreme.

I met David Amram, Marilyn Crispell, Paul Motian, Hiromi, and others.

The first jazz record I bought was A Love Supreme.

My advice to new listeners be fearless.

From Don Phipps

I love jazz because it combines elements of improvisation, innovation, and structure and incorporates blues, classical music, and world music idioms.

I was first exposed to jazz in high school where I "tried" to play the clarinet and saxophone. My love of music grew into dabbling with the piano and guitar as well. Played in school jazz bands in college.

I have met and/or interviewed Art Blakey, Ralph Towner, Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton, Elvin Jones, Sam Rivers, Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye, Joseph Jarmin, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Evan Parker, William Parker, Henry Threadgill, Cooper Moore, Matt Otto, Jane Ira Bloom, Donald Harrison, Terrence Blanchard, Don Pullen, Billy Higgins, and Cecil Taylor to name a few.

My advice to new listeners -remember that jazz has a vast catalog. No one can listen to everyone no matter how much time you have. My strategy is to spin new music often, explore areas of the back catalog as time permits, respect and learn about past masters to inform my appreciation of new and current masters, and keep an open mind. Jazz is very much a "flow" music—cerebral, emotional—but clearly a music of the moment. And the best jazz is in the moments where creative, improvisation, innovative and classical influences all come together to produce art at the highest level.

From Perry Thoorsell

I love jazz because it is a blend of group dialog, empathy, and individual meritocracy. Only jazz brings these diverse elements together in such an uplifting and satisfying way.

From Jim Worsley

I love jazz because...jazz is soothing...jazz is beautifully complex....jazz is Django and Steve Gadd....jazz is cool...jazz is hard bop and big band....jazz is cats, birds, and chops...jazz is Hank Mobley and Hiromi.....jazz enriches the soul....jazz is hot....jazz is fusion and the blues....jazz is Paul Chambers and Jean Luc Ponty...jazz is evocative... jazz is at the center of the universe...jazz is Arturo Sandoval and Michael Brecker...jazz is free and invigorating...jazz is timeless....jazz is bebop and latin...jazz is Vinnie Colaiuta and Marcus Miller...jazz is the Blue Note...jazz is an eternal groove...jazz is essential...jazz is Freddie Hubbard and Joe Sample...jazz is forever.

From Zette St.Charles

I love jazz because it takes me to my escape place as a writer!

I was first exposed to jazz at 16 driving around in my t-top yellow corvette and my father was a local DJ and dedicated this song "to my princess in her yellow carriage" and played Doc Severinsen's "The World's Gone Home" (1975) and I was forever hooked.

From Robert Miller

I love jazz because the music is ever-changing. Great improvisational music is never played the same exact way twice. The framework may be the same, but the notes change with the interplay and mood of the musicians as well as the feedback and mood of the audience. Pop is the exact opposite—every song is played note-for-note. Boring!

I was first exposed to jazz when I was 20 years old. Before that I only played rock and roll. I took a music course that summer at a local NYC college, and as part of the course they set up each student with a private teacher. As luck would have it I was matched with Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane's bassist. Jimmy opened my eyes and ears to jazz. He taught me how to "walk" on the bass. He was an inspiration. When I decided to return to Boston in the fall he set me up with several musicians there, and my musical life took off from there.

I met Sonny Stitt, the great alto saxophonist, in the early 1970s at a famous club outside of Boston called Lennie's On The Turnpike. He was the headliner that evening and my band—Sagov—was the opener and backing band for Sonny. What made the night especially memorable is that when Sonny took the stand he was stone cold drunk. I mean he could hardly stand. But when the spotlight shone on him somehow he played, and played masterfully. No one in the audience had a clue that he was drunk. It must have been muscle memory.

The best show I ever attended was about 5 years ago when I saw Chick Corea together with Gary Burton at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. I have long adored both musicians. In fact, Sagov opened for Gary Burton in Boston in 1973. And Chick has been one of my idols for many years including his Return To Forever days. Hearing these two masters play together was just awe inspiring.

The first jazz record I bought was Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. This album was the start of the fusion era in jazz, which I loved. The record was unlike anything that I had ever heard. It didn't really consist of tunes. It was more like long tone poems, with an electric feel. Totally captivating.

My advice to new listeners is to keep an open mind. Jazz is an experimental form of music. So you must open your ears and accept the artistry.

From Danijela Milic/LeitmotivArts

For me jazz represents more than music—it is a form of dialogue that knows no boundaries and unites people of different cultures, religions and nationalities. To me jazz represents freedom of expression and tolerance, spontaneity and improvisation. Its beats are recognizable and yet, like the world around us, jazz is ever changing and evolving. Jazz draws on different national and local music cultures, it honors and respects the past while at the same time provides room for innovation and creativity.

From Kevin Davy

I love jazz because of the music itself, and how it has touched me over the years. I was first informed of jazz, through seeing and listening to Louis Armstrong in movies and hearing his trumpet and singing. I was also informed by listening to my dad's old records, which included a lot Jamaican ska, and rock-steady tracks, many of which had horn sections, and jazz soloing incorporated into the tracks. This took me into deeper interest later on, and from there, it actually inspired me to want to play jazz myself.

From Theo Pywowarczuk

The best show I ever attended was Pat Metheny during his "Secret Story" tour in the '90s. I was blown away at the synchronicity of this large bunch of fabulous musicians and vocalists. It was spellbinding, and remains in my top three ever concerts.

The first jazz record I bought was Weather Report's "Mysterious Traveller."

My advice to new listeners follow the trails: find an album you love, then listen to what the individual musicians have done elsewhere. It's an extremely rewarding journey!

From Nelson Gonzalez-Torres

I love jazz because it is spontaneous use of notes, and infectious rhythms, with split-second thought. It is like playing a sport at high speed. I first remember hearing it played in a public broadcast television station in Puerto Rico where they were playing post-bebop jazz with a bluesy style that surpassed what some rockers were trying to do in the late 60's. A friend also played "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," Jimmy Smith's organ and big band album. It blew me away. I was hooked.

From Nat Seelen

So I remember being at the Regattabar Jazz Club, in Cambridge. I must have been fifteen years old, something like that, and my parents brought me to see Branford Marsalis and his quartet. That was when Branford was touring with Tain Watts, Joey Calderazzo, and Eric Revis, and they were playing "A Love Supreme." We had the original on LP back at the house (I know -this was in the early 2000s, but we still had it on LP!), and Branford's band was just killing it on stage. Anyway, Watts was doing his best Elvin impression in "Pursuance" when Branford gave his colleagues a sly look. Watts's eyes were closed! As the energy in the room pushed higher and higher, Marsalis, Revis, and Calderazzo quietly left through the side door. The Zildjians erupted with the touch of Watts' sticks and as we hit the climax of his solo, Watts' eyes blinked open to find himself alone, on stage, flipping lightly into time in front of two hundred lucky guests. Oh come on!

From Laura Ainsworth

I love jazz's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinetist, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto saxophonist they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.

He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.

Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.

From Jules Travers

I became jazz fan after meeting Miles Davis at a café in Forest National (Belgium) in 1984.

From Christopher A Wade

Jazz is a different experience for everyone that hears it. It is never the same way twice and your experience... is your experience. Jazz is all about spontaneity, improvisation, not conforming to's all about style.

I was first exposed to jazz as a child. My parents were avid jazz fans and by the time I was five years old I was listening to all types of Jazz—everything from Mose Allison, Nancy Wilson and Astrud Gilberto to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Dave Brubeck.

I have met many musicians in my time, but my most memorable encounter happened when I was about 20 years old and I met Nancy Wilson—needless to say... I was mesmerized!

The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny Group at The Meadowbrook Amphitheater in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Pat and the Group performed cuts off of a new CD that wasn't out for release yet. It was called the "First Circle"! I was blown away! The first jazz record I bought was by John Tropea called "Tangerine." My advice to new listeners: "Jazz is not about hearing it, it's about feeling it. Take the time to listen and you will hear something new every time you do."

From Clemens Grassmann

I love jazz because it gives you the opportunity to express your deepest emotions and feelings without any words. Activating all senses, listening to your surroundings and being aware of who and what you are in the moment creates an environment that takes your mind and body to a different place for a while once you embrace and let go. It teaches you how to share, live in the present and become one with the people around you. You overcome your ego to become part of something greater.

I was first exposed to jazz in my High School Big Band. My first steps were tremendous fun and set me on the path I would eventually pursue to become a dedicated professional musician. It was through my former music teacher that I started listening to and learning jazz which led me to the reception of a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music where I received the Armand Zildjian Percussion Award and met and studied with masters and mentors such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Ralph Peterson Jr., Billy Kilson, Kenwood Dennard, Danilo Pérèz and Joe Lovano, whose influence in shaping my art, craft and personality is deeply rooted in my mind and beliefs and reveals itself whenever I connect with music.

From Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius

I love jazz because it speaks to a place inside me that no other music can touch.

From Jeff Byrnes

I was first exposed to jazz by my buddy Tom Reaves, the drummer in our high school jazz band. He spun me Miles Davis' Milestones album, and as soon as that up-tempo "Dr. Jackle" (or "Dr. Jekyll," depending on your copy) kicked off, I was hooked.

From Steve Vermeulen

I like the freedom that jazz encompasses. You listen as the performer plays, but you also think about his direction and often puzzle out where it's all going. It's not passive, which is great.

And I like the personal element, in that it's relatively easy to find smaller scale jazz performances where you are both close to the music and the musician.

On a different tack, it's also easy to find great recordings, great venues and great company.

From Patrick Keyes

I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.

I met so many great musicians—including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie—by attending concerts and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.

The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.

The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.

My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or the genre or anything -this is music that is best experienced through discovery.

From Joseph La Barbera

I love jazz because it communicates so completely.

I was first exposed to jazz as a child by my parents on some wonderful 78 RPM recordings followed by Miles Davis LPs my brother Pat brought home.

I met McCoy Tyner with my brothers when we were teenagers. He played in Rochester with Coltrane and spent his entire break talking with us outside the club.

The best show I ever attended was Miles Davis sextet at Lennie's on the Turnpike in Boston. The band was Miles, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Gomez and Tony Williams. Incredible!

The first jazz record I bought was Donald Byrd Pepper Adams Quintet on Brunswick with Herbie Hancock, Laymon Jackson and Jimmy Cobb.

My advice to new listeners... jazz is about feeling so don't try to be too analytical about it; just react as you feel.

From Peter Campbell

I was first exposed to jazz or what could be considered foundations of jazz through musicians not typically associated with it: Joni Mitchell and Stephen Sondheim. Both "pushed the envelope" when it came to musical genres and vocabulary. Both have explored the harmonic and structural possibilities of song. As a vocalist who works within traditional song structure, I look for those harmonic and rhythmic possibilities to inspire my work.

From Jana Nyberg

Growing up, jazz always filled our home. I played jazz as soon as I could in school bands and summer programs, on flute and piano. It wasn't until college that I happened into singing jazz when asked to step up from the piano and sing Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss" with the big band. Jazz is such an exciting musical playground. Each time you play a tune, it's different—based on who you're playing with, the arrangement, and the improvisation. Jazz is America's true original art form, and it brings me great joy. As Louie Armstrong said, ..."you can even live your life by it."

From Lila Ammons

I love jazz because it's in my blood. Albert Ammons, boogie pianist, and Gene "Jug" Ammons, tenor saxophonist, were my grandfather and uncle.

I was first exposed to jazz, listening to my parents' records of Gene Ammons, Sarah Vaughan, George Shearing, Earl Garner, etc.

I've performed and worked with many wonderful artists, including Leonard Bernstein, Axel Zwingenberger, John Pizzarelli, Charlie Watts, Houston Person, Bennie Golson, Jon Faddis, etc.

Some of the best jazz shows I've ever attended were Lena Horn's "One Woman Show" in NYC, Sarah Vaughan in concert, Sippie Wallace, Count Basie Big Band in concert, and Cab Calloway at Carnegie Hall. I enjoy listening to a number of vocalists, such as Bessie Smith, Johnny Hartman, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, and more.

The first jazz record I bought was Miles Davis's, "Kinda Blue."

My advice to new listeners is to listen to all styles and learn jazz and blues history. Above all, enjoy every minute learning about the jazz experience.

From Eddie Becton

I was first exposed to jazz as a baby. When I was a child, my parents regularly played classic jazz, i.e., Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Montgomery, Silver, etc. I vividly remember sitting in front of the stereo as a kid, rocking back and forth to jazz, so the music is embedded in me. As a life-long jazz lover, I eventually became a jazz educator and producer/host of a very popular jazz radio program in Los Angeles, California.

I love jazz because it is so free. I can think, feel, and dream to jazz, and it allows my mind to flow and expand, musically and otherwise. I also love jazz because it, much like other forms of music, allows opportunities to bring people from all walks of life together. What makes jazz more significant to me, though, is its historical significance; that is, how jazz served, in part, as a method of bringing communities together, a cultural/social/spiritual conduit.

From Torben Westergaard

I love jazz because of it, to me, combines craft and creativity in a way that both challenges the soul and touches the heart.

From Jay Epstein

The best show I ever attended was: The John Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmie Garrison, Elvin Jones at the Guthrie Theater Minneapolis 1964. I was a high school jazz musician, but totally unprepared for the astounding, direct communication I received from the Quartet. It was as if Trane knew all of my life's feelings, joys, sorrows, angst, ecstasies, regrets, & spiritual searches and was saying to me,'Yes, I know you, Jay, we are alike as brothers.' I had an epiphany that night that has carried me through my life.

From Roy Prinz

I grew up in an environment filled with music. Our family owned a resort hotel in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Music from the twentieth century played at home from New Orleans jazz, swing, big bands and the resort featured performers in the styles of the day ranging from Dixieland, swing, folk, blues and rock. Summertime in the Berkshires offered a plethora of live performances from modern jazz, rock and classical. As a small child I played piano but that eventually changed to guitar influenced by the popular era. While attending the University of Massachusetts I participated in the jazz program where my music/jazz education accelerated with classes and workshops taught by Dr. Frederick Tillis, Max Roach and Archie Shepp. The inspiration from those beginnings remains and I've been an enthusiastic student/player ever since.

From J. Robert Bragonier

I love jazz because I can still remember how it made me feel the first time I heard it. This love of mine dates back nearly 65 years. I can't remember exactly where I was, but a woman, accompanied by a pianist, was singing. I was like someone who had previously seen only in black-and-white, who suddenly saw the world in Technicolor. Having mostly only heard church music (with piano or organ accompaniment), I remember thinking, "Oh, my god! Listen! She's singing, but he's not playing what she's singing. He's not playing any of the melody! And, they're not even together; she's lagging way behind him! (Oh, wait; there, she just caught up.)"

"And, listen to those chords he's playing: they're gorgeous! Where have those chords been hiding on MY piano? And, the rhythms: how can he play such different rhythms with his two hands and not get mixed up? And, look: he doesn't even have any notes written on his music! Just notations, like, 'G-7,' 'F-7,' 'EbΔ,' 'A7b9,' 'GbΔ,' 'Fsus,' 'Eb-7,' 'Bbsus,' 'Bb7,' 'EbΔ.' (These are notations for the chord changes in the first ten measures of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes.")

My parents both sang in college, and my mother continued to sing in church choir; she played the piano a little as a child, but neither parent listened to music in the home. They started me with piano lessons at age 4 and were supportive of my talent, but they actively discouraged my interest in jazz; I think my mother actually believed that jazz's influence was evil, in a religious sense. My piano teacher was rigidly classical in orientation, and the notion of jazz lessons was totally out of the question.

My first three LP records were jazz: I distinctly remember that they were Kurt Edelhagen's Jazz from Germany, The Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, and George Van Eps' Mellow Guitar. I was an exchange student to Sweden at age 17, and all the way over (10 days on the MS Seven Seas), I hung over the shoulder of Del Cummings, a student bound for Germany and the best young jazz pianist I had ever seen play, soaking up his every riff and nuance. During my senior year, after I returned, I played trombone in jazz big bands and combos whenever I could, but I remained frustrated at my inability to progress, untutored, in playing jazz piano.

In college I learned to play and improvise on the vibes, surreptitiously and entirely self-taught. My exposure to recorded jazz blossomed, however, when I got a job disc jockeying jazz and classical music at the college radio station. I worked my way through undergraduate school, and into medical school, in this manner, absorbing as much knowledge and appreciation of jazz as possible. At some point, I realized that my discrimination and taste had surpassed my talent; as a performer, I clearly did not meet my own standards. Since I questioned how good I could be, and since I had neither the time nor opportunity to practice and improve, I resolved to limit my playing to the record player, radio, and ultimately, the CD player. There are just too many people I'd rather listen to, and too little time, for me to waste it attempting to entertain myself.

Highlights of those early years include taking my wife of more than 50 years, Barbara, to hear the Dave Brubeck Quartet on one of our first dates in late 1956; meeting George Shearing when he came over to the fraternity house after a campus concert in the spring of 1957; listening and dancing to the big bands of Les Brown, Ted Heath, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and numerous others during those years; and spending many late evenings listening to our housemother's collection of jazz records, hour after hour...

What is it exactly that I love about jazz? It's hard to put into words, but its swing and blues tonalities resonate in my soul in a way that no other music does. Jazz is America's "classical music"; it is truly America's gift to the world. Its hypnotic rhythms, and its syncopation, with the melody falling just a smidge ahead or behind the beat, give a feeling of forward motion, a sense of tension and release, that never fail to enthrall me, to grab and hold my attention and never let it go. When a jazz master improvises on a common theme, I continue to hear that theme in my head during the presentation; together, the theme and the overlying improvisation create for me a beautiful and exciting internal counterpoint. Finally, a live jazz performance is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event; an improvised solo will never, ever be played in exactly that same manner again. This fact gives the jazz performance an immediacy, uniqueness, and evanescence (like a snowflake, bubble, or sunset) that totally composed music can never attain. For me, these qualities keep jazz ever fresh and new, and ever fascinating.

From Ginger Wireman

I have a son who plays bass, and I love watching him interact with the others when they play, the eye contact and nods that are a secret language only they understand... I love jazz because of the creativity and fluidity it allows musicians. I love when they pull quotes from other songs. Drummers and pianists, in particular blow my mind.

I was first exposed to jazz records in my home growing up, big band and swing. But I was a band kid in HS and college (well more like a band groupie in marching band color guard). I learned to like all styles.

The best show I ever attended was Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, just last fall. Those guys are just amazing players, so much fun. My advice to new listeners is to try different periods and types of jazz. There's jazz for everyone. If you find someone you like, do a little research to see who they were influenced by and follow that path.

Also, sign up for Jazz at Lincoln Center on Livestream, especially if you're not in a big city and don't have access to live shows.

From Nina Beck

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 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.

From Perry Alexander

I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of "Hey Jude" they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.

My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.

From Gerry Sanders

I love jazz when it moves me emotionally, especially when it swings; it makes makes me smile. I play a bit, too, with a local big band.

I was first exposed to jazz in the 4th grade. In high school I was lucky enough to see Dave Brubeck live twice and my music teachers brought me to two Sunday afternoon Count Basie performances in a local nightclub. Brubeck and Basie have been, along with the Duke later, my touchstones in Jazz: cool Brubeck and swinging Basie.

Later in life, I volunteered to do Google Adwords for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival and in the course of time, I met Azar Lawrence, with whom I became friends. I saw Azar at Dizzy's in NY in 2012, one of my more memorable jazz performances. Great man, gentle soul, powerful sound.

I used to host BackYard Jazz house concerts in Santa Rosa, CA. but I've moved on now. I still support Healdsburg Jazz Festival and use my BackYard Jazz newsletter to alert BackYard Jazz fans to local jazz performances. I also post to JazzNearYou.

My advice to new listeners is listen with your eyes closed.

From Lentsoe Mamatela

Jazz is a way of life, there are very complex matters in life that cannot be explained in a sentence succinctly, my discovery of jazz encouraged me to look beneath the surface and to pursue and live life passionately.


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