Jazz Stories: 2017

Michael Ricci By

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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 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.

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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