Straight, no cheaters.

I found my six-disc set of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and ripped the first three discs today. I hadn’t been listening to much jazz in the last three months and now I’ve dived back into it. This is exactly the kind of jazz I love.

When I listen to this music it does the same thing as the classical music I grew up with; it completely sucks me in. I don’t want to do anything but listen and follow the melodic line, the rhythm, everything, as closely as possible. I find myself smiling at little musical jokes and getting shivers when something unexpected happens.

Music geeks my age or younger are all about post-rock music. If they’re enthusing about an innovative artist, chances are it’s Four Middle Class Kids Making Somewhat Dissonant Noises to a Pop Beat. There are probably at least two electric guitars involved, and if they don’t exactly make rock and roll music, that’s their background. If they do a cover song, it’s likely to be a post-Beatles pop number.

And then I put on a CD like this and think: The most sophisticated and subtle music America produced is here. It’s from the late fifties and early sixties. And it was made by largely uneducated people from poor families, most of them from a mistreated and disadvantaged ethnic group, working under tremendous commercial pressure. The music these people made still feels new today. And there’s more innovation and exploration in one of these songs than a hundred faux naive indie pop albums can muster.

I still like pop music. I can’t be one of those “Well now that I’ve heard jazz I can’t be bothered with pop music” elitists. But the armies of college kids with guitars and Pavement CDs have some catching up to do.

13 thoughts on “Straight, no cheaters.

  1. i agree, a lot. i mostly fall into that post rock group, except that i can’t live without my swing and jazz and blues and classical. and my old crooners too.
    it would do a lot of people some good to just calm down and take the time to listen to what gramma and great gramma listened to. it was fuckin good shit. without it, we would have no music at all. that alone is worth a little more damn respect.

  2. i agree, a lot. i mostly fall into that post rock group, except that i can’t live without my swing and jazz and blues and classical. and my old crooners too.
    it would do a lot of people some good to just calm down and take the time to listen to what gramma and great gramma listened to. it was fuckin good shit. without it, we would have no music at all. that alone is worth a little more damn respect.

  3. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve never been able to truly appreciate jazz. Maybe because anyone who ever tried to foist it upon me would get very self-righteous about it, maybe I’m just not very smart. I am adept at enjoying and playing (in varying degrees) any other style of music, but jazz leaves me at the corner in the rain.
    I’m glad you can get so much out of it. I wish I could.
    Who was at D’s tonite? Any good?

  4. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve never been able to truly appreciate jazz. Maybe because anyone who ever tried to foist it upon me would get very self-righteous about it, maybe I’m just not very smart. I am adept at enjoying and playing (in varying degrees) any other style of music, but jazz leaves me at the corner in the rain.
    I’m glad you can get so much out of it. I wish I could.
    Who was at D’s tonite? Any good?

  5. On second thought, I am a NUT for Big Band jazz from the 30’s and 40’s. Cab Calloway is one of my heroes and I own almost everything he ever released (which is alot). A label in France did a chronological reissue job on him a few years ago that is sensational.
    I saw him perform at the Vine Street Bar And Grill back in 1992… something like that. He was phenomenal, even at that advanced age. Just a three piece piano-led band and his daughter. Did an absolute surreal version of “Good Time Charley’s Got The Blues” where he’d hold out the word “win” to a preposterous length. ie: “Some gotta wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin, some gotta lose…”
    A friend got him to autograph his tie. I couldn’t bring myself to approach him – and I don’t get startstruck too easily.

  6. On second thought, I am a NUT for Big Band jazz from the 30’s and 40’s. Cab Calloway is one of my heroes and I own almost everything he ever released (which is alot). A label in France did a chronological reissue job on him a few years ago that is sensational.
    I saw him perform at the Vine Street Bar And Grill back in 1992… something like that. He was phenomenal, even at that advanced age. Just a three piece piano-led band and his daughter. Did an absolute surreal version of “Good Time Charley’s Got The Blues” where he’d hold out the word “win” to a preposterous length. ie: “Some gotta wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin, some gotta lose…”
    A friend got him to autograph his tie. I couldn’t bring myself to approach him – and I don’t get startstruck too easily.

  7. I’m probably less guilty of that than others, but it’s still more true than I’d like it to be, at least as far as the kind of jazz that’s most revered–the Davis/Coltrane era. I was raised by my great-grandma and we were dirt-poor, so I grew up on her 78s of jazz and swing artists, but they were mostly 20s-40s–Cab Calloway, the Mills Brothers, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, early Sinatra, the King Cole Trio. In that era I’m pretty well-versed, but the later stuff, I was never exposed to it. I have–and love–Giant Steps and My Favorite Things and Kind Of Blue and Sketches Of Spain and whatnot, but honestly I’m a little intimidated by the more “advanced” jazz. I have the interest and appreciation, I just don’t know where to jump in or what to listen for.
    I’m probably not standard-issue indie kid, either. The only other records in the house were 60s/70s power pop and bubblegum (most of which were salvaged from a dumpster) and 50s-60s country and whatever was on the radio, which in Phoenix was mostly Guy Lombardo and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (same difference). My indie education came later, in bleeding-edge-poseur-indie record stores. I envy your childhood including classical music–I didn’t hear a note of classical until I was probably 17, and while I enjoy it a lot and make an effort to educate myself, again, I’m totally intimidated and not sure how to find my way to what I’d like/appreciate best.
    But, um, enough about me and my blinkered philistine pig-ignorance.

    1. i’ve heard that the Leonard Bernstein kids’ tv specials from the 50s (the maestro explaining classical music to kids, and conducting) have been released on dvd recently. might be worth checking out as a start.

  8. I’m probably less guilty of that than others, but it’s still more true than I’d like it to be, at least as far as the kind of jazz that’s most revered–the Davis/Coltrane era. I was raised by my great-grandma and we were dirt-poor, so I grew up on her 78s of jazz and swing artists, but they were mostly 20s-40s–Cab Calloway, the Mills Brothers, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, early Sinatra, the King Cole Trio. In that era I’m pretty well-versed, but the later stuff, I was never exposed to it. I have–and love–Giant Steps and My Favorite Things and Kind Of Blue and Sketches Of Spain and whatnot, but honestly I’m a little intimidated by the more “advanced” jazz. I have the interest and appreciation, I just don’t know where to jump in or what to listen for.
    I’m probably not standard-issue indie kid, either. The only other records in the house were 60s/70s power pop and bubblegum (most of which were salvaged from a dumpster) and 50s-60s country and whatever was on the radio, which in Phoenix was mostly Guy Lombardo and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (same difference). My indie education came later, in bleeding-edge-poseur-indie record stores. I envy your childhood including classical music–I didn’t hear a note of classical until I was probably 17, and while I enjoy it a lot and make an effort to educate myself, again, I’m totally intimidated and not sure how to find my way to what I’d like/appreciate best.
    But, um, enough about me and my blinkered philistine pig-ignorance.

  9. I bought Sketches of Spain in grad school two years ago and it’s my only jazz record. I like it a lot, and I like live jazz when I’m in good company, but I find myself intimidated by this genre and all its seeming intricacies.

    1. That was actually the first real jazz record I bought; it’s an amazing achievement.
      I decided at some point that I wasn’t going to try to figure out jazz and become That Jazz Guy, and instead I just listened to a lot of it, and now I can’t stop listening to it. I’m still not an expert and I like it that way.

      1. I haven’t been listening to a lot of jazz lately (currently ripping Badfinger and Adrian Belew – interesting combination). Although I actually took a course in the history of jazz in college and actually know a bit about it, that’s more just my brain being a great big sponge than anything else. I think your comment about That Jazz Guy pretty much is where I stand.
        For what it’s worth, my first two jazz albums were Milestones and Monk’s Music. The version of “Well You Needn’t” on the latter is still one of my favorite pieces of music ever.

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