Q: Do you have any suggestions for what albums I might check out if I wanted to get into jazz? I’ve, of course, heard bits and pieces of things before flipping through radio stations, in restaurants, etc., but nothing ever really grabbed me. What should I check out that might ignite the interest?
A: Alright, the pressure’s on. This will be tough, but I’ll tell you what got me interested in jazz beyond being a purely technical study in the shed. It’s obvious, but I have to say it: Everyone’s tastes are different, and I have no idea where you are coming from, musically speaking. I’ll try and list a few traditional favorites and then fill you in on what first grabbed me, followed by what I’m digging right now.
A more traditional offering:
These albums are more along the lines of what you would expect to be familiar with in a scholastic setting:
- Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
- John Coltrane: Blue Train
- John Coltrane A Love Supreme
- Dave Brubeck Time Out
- Bill Evans Waltz for Debby
- Lee Morgan The Sidewinder
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Free For All
- Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch
- Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil
This list could go on forever, but this list is plenty to get you started.
What got me fired up early on:
- Weather Report 8:30
- Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
- Peter Erskine You Never Know
- Dave Holland Extensions
- John Scofield Blue Matter
- World Trio World Trio
- Joshua Redman Elastic
- Avishai Cohen Gently Disturbed (I’m huge fan of Avishai’s compositions. He has a tone of albums and I love them all although some are very different than others. Gently Disturbed is a nice intro into his style of writing. If you like it, check out some of the other stuff!)
- Marc Johnson Sound of Summer Running
- Kurt Rosenwinkel Deep Song
- John Scofield Überjam
- Chick Corea The Ultimate Adventure
- Lionel Loueke: any of them
I still listen to much of the stuff that got me fired up early on as well, but this list gets a little more current. I also listen to a lot of other music, but this is a solid look into my jazz library.
I’m thrilled that you asked this question because the thing I run up against the most when teaching is the fact that people are trying to study jazz without listening to jazz. It can’t be overstated enough: To play and/or effectively study jazz, you must be listening to the music. It’s more than an academic exercise and good for you for trying to dig through the rubble to get to some stuff that’ll inspire you in the shed!
Check some of this stuff out, and I encourage you to pull stuff up on Youtube and look at the related videos, make Pandora playlists and see what pops up, just use technology to work for you and bring up things you might not know to look for. You’re bound to find something that piques your interest if you approach it with an open mind and give things time to sink in. Give yourself some distraction-free time to really listen and let it take over for a bit. I bet you’ll lock onto something new pretty quickly.
Readers, this is a great opportunity to get the conversation going and let us and the world know what you’re listening to these days. I want to know, too! What are you digging in the jazz world right now? Please share in the comments.