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

AAJ Staff By

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Nowadays, when I'm trying to get friends and family into jazz, I tell them to get: Miles Davis: Kind of Blue or Miles Ahead Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard or Portrait In Jazz Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage John Coltrane: Blue Train Horace Silver: Song For My Father Oliver Nelson: Blues and the Abstract Truth Dave Brubeck: Time Out

Everyone I've tried these albums out on has always come back wanting to know more. Until the formula doesn't work anymore, I'm sticking with it.




Date: 06-Nov-1998 12:55:03
From: José Domingos Raffaelli ( jdr@musicshop.com.br )
According my experience with three friends I tried to expose jazz, I've been succeeded with two of them. I suggested them to begin with piano-bass-drums trios, as George Shearing, Erroll Garner and the first and second Ahmad Jamal. Well, two of them were converted to jazz. Of course, I avoided to suggest trios of Thelonios Monk, Hsrbie Nichols and Bud Powell, really advanced for a beginner. Today both are fanatic jazz fans and they have beautifulk record collections with hundreds CDs. The other friend I couldn't call to our jazz army considered jazz too complicated, preferring stay listening pop music.


Date: 13-Nov-1998 10:29:25
From: David G. Whiteis ( whiteis@ipfw.edu )
Very interesting topic here—& an important one. A lot of us (myself included) tend to let our enthusiasm slip over into prostelityzing (sp?), & it's easy to come off as judgmental or hipper-than-thou when doing that.

Back in the 70s, I ran in the same social circles as a set of brilliant & inspired, but definitely hard-core, aficionados. They were pretty harsh—you almost felt as if you had to hide your record collection when they came over. I remember being so put off by their "jazz nazi" attitude that I pretty much abandoned the entire musical genre until a few years later, when I decided to give it another chance & get into it on my own. I really felt uncomfortable about the idea that music (in my case, hippie stuff like the Dead, the Allmans, etc.) that had, for better or worse, been a good friend to me, that had inspired me & helped me through times both good & bad, that was an integral part of who & want I considered myself (& my "world") to be, was somehow being deemed as beneath contempt by people using standards I didn't understand, & which they really didn't bother to explain to me.

It also didn't help that there were strong political, ideological, & (I must address this) racial isssues involved—Great Black Music was the sound of the masses in revolt; most else was bourgeois pablum designed to keep people narcoticized, rip off their culture, & make money for the Estalblishment. Shit, I was half convinced that when the Revoltution came, I was gonna end up in a concentration camp or something for enjoying the music of the Oppressor!

In fact, however, it was that same "hippie music" that eventually inspired me to explore jazz—I literally remember thinking to myself, "Duh! If improvization sounds so cool on a guitar, I bet it sounds even cooler on a saxophone!" So I went out & investigated some names I'd heard of —Monk, Miles, Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, Coltrane— & —lo & behold!— it WAS "cool" (in all senses of the term)!

AND, in addition, it turned out that those interminable (insufferable?) acid-laced guitar solos I remembered from Garcia & Co. actually opened my ears to the idea of free-form improvization, w/ out specific chord changes or melody lines—after hearing enough second sets of enough Dead concerts, I found that Pharoah Sanders didn't sound all that "unmusical" to me at all—he sounded, in fact, like someone who was thinking along the same lines as the people I was familiar w/, but doing it better, with greater vision & spirit. So, in fact, I owe that "incorrect" music a lot—it got me to where I am today, aesthetically speaking.

All of which is to say—I think we need to be a little "zen" about this stuff—bring folks to where they can experience & hear the music, & let it grow inside them & reveal itself to them in its own way.

Does that STILL sound patronizing? Hope not...


Date: 16-Nov-1998 00:57:44
From: Miles ( boplicity@drbs.com )
I totally agree with Jason that there are most certainly specific jazz artists and albums that should appeal to listeners.

That is, if the listener doesn't find something they appreciate when listening to Kind of Blue, My Favorite Things, Time Out, etc, then it probably doesn't matter what the listeners background is.

In any realm, music, architecture, literature, there are paradigms that have wholly influenced that realm and cannot be ignored. For good reason too. Ask anyone who likes rock and roll (hard, acid, alternative, speed metal, whatever) if they appreciate Jimi Hendrix?

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