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Jonathan Hielkema

My Jazz Story

I approached jazz first through progressive rock. In my early teens, I was a budding music fan and was introduced to bands like Yes and Rush through a peer of mine who played in a local band. I enjoyed some of that music, but then discovered John McLaughlin's band The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which affected me physically and mentally like no other band had before. The music was more liberated, freer to do what it pleased. There was tight interconnection between band members, who performed as virtuoso individuals but kept both ears and their head in the group. I got an eMusic subscription a year or so later and began downloading jazz guitar and fusion records, including those by Nels Cline and Jonas Hellborg. My favorite jazz album now is The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus, a diverse and fearless (and fearlessly self-indulgent) album that does what jazz does best, which is to put an individual’s consciousness on display in the most open and fascinating way that music can. I would not advise new jazz fans to start with Mingus, but instead to approach jazz from a vantage point that you’re comfortable with. If you love singer- songwriters and can’t warm to purely instrumental music, or if you are a hardcore punk fan, or a proghead like I was, or a classical music obsessive, jazz is big and open enough to accommodate artists in all kinds of styles and disciplines. Anyone can like jazz. I firmly believe that. It just takes a little bit of work.

My Favorites

  1. John Coltrane - Ascension
  2. King Crimson - Red
  3. Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
  4. Radiohead - Kid A
  5. Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
  6. Rachmaninov - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  7. Olivier Messiaen - Quatuor pour la fin du temps
  8. Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye
  9. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
  10. Miles Davis - Dark Magus