Monday, March 07, 2005


I had never paid much attention to jazz.
Growing up, I was a pop fan, as were my siblings. My parents, who came to adulthood during the swing era, had some old Benny Goodman records as well as a bit of Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert, and I do vaguely remember my sister buying an album or two by Thelonius Monk and Wes Montgomery, but overall, jazz was not really part of my vocabulary.
In college, I occasionally tried to listen to what was at the time current in jazz, but I found the music of Return To Forever and Weather Report dissonant and ugly -- it sounds like a band tuning up, I remember saying -- and on the other hand found Chuck Mangione and Al Jarreau to be just a little better than Muzak.
So, anyway, I never knew much about jazz.
Then, recently, I watched Ken Burns' television series, Jazz, and my eyes began to open. One episode a weekend, I learned something about the history of this musical form.
In addition to the series, I read through the companion coffee-table book (though not consecutively. I read bits and pieces about the artists I have become interested in).
Now, it has become a passion. I'm listening to Miles Davis as I write this. John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie have been in my CD players for the past few weeks. So has Billie Holiday, but mostly the late-career, raspy voiced Lady Day, who I find much more interesting than the earlier swinging Billie. Still, she's the only vocalist I'm much interested in at the moment -- although I'm going to try some Sarah Vaughn.
For one who previously listened to little besides vocal pop and rock music, that's saying something.
I still don't think I like fusion or free-form jazz. I'm not sure I could take Cecil Taylor.
I'm more drawn to swing, bebop and the smooth jazz of the late 1950s and early 1960s than to other periods. And bossa nova. Although I'm generally not much on orchestral arrangements of pop music, I think it serves as a great setting for Charlie Parker's improvisations.
So now, I'm a jazz expert.
Well, I am as far as you know. I'll spout my opinions of "Bird" and "The Prez" as if I know what I'm talking about.
It's fun to gain an appreciation for a whole new genre of music. I don't care if you think I don't know what I'm talking about.
I'm having fun.