Jazz: An Acquired Taste

I have been enjoying and listening to music since I was a teen but only started listening to jazz in the late 90s. I always thought Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Eagles, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and much more were ultimate. Ivan, formerly an indie record shop owner recommended my first jazz CD. It sounded bizarre to me at first but eventually I was hooked. Jazz is an acquired taste like wine, which is not for everyone. It takes time to appreciate and be intrigued.

ORIGINS

Jazz originated amongst African Americans in New Orleans, US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Wikipedia). Since the 1920s, jazz has become to be recognized as a major form of musical expression. Although it is deeply rooted in West African music, different cultures have contributed their own styles to the art form. Malaysia has very few jazz musicians. There are many kinds of jazz. Some are played by big bands and others by small groups. The varieties include swing, bebop, cool, modern, and fusion. Its classification is quite wide and confusing. It’s easier to mention the names of musicians – Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington just to name a few.

Image by Chuck (Sting album cover)

PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENT

Although it originated from the US, musicians all over the world have played it and influenced the development of new styles. Over the years of listening there is one word I almost always come across- improvisation. It means to perform and compose at the same time. Today, most musicians call it “jamming” or “jam”. Basically, jazz musicians just make up their music as they go along resulting in originality. This is very significant to jazz musicians because being original is very important. In my experience, I’ve heard many different arrangements of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” released in 1993. Sometimes it’s unfamiliar until it gets to a certain tune. Several versions of a tune are different which makes it interesting and unique. Improvisation distinguishes jazz musicians from pop musicians who merely change rhythms. It’s more difficult to recall and recognize many jazz songs than pop.

Image by Chuck (Miles album cover)

KIND OF BLUE (MILES DAVIS)

ORIGINAL RECORDING: 1959

It is my first jazz CD and the most played in my collection. I shall not dwell on other facts of the album as there is an overload of information about this masterpiece virtually everywhere. The question is why is it the most played CD in my collection considering that I own a wide range of CDs of various genres? The reason might be as complex and intriguing as the genius himself, Miles Davis.

The first track “So What” is my favourite. It’s a nine-minute recording with a simple rhythmic hook (short riff) and an unforgettable melody. The tunes are catchy and very relaxing. It is probably the only track I remember well. The first time I listened to the album, I was fascinated by the melodic content. I guess that’s what defines modal jazz. Musicians are able to understand and explain the concept better. During many listening sessions with an audiophile friend of mine, we found it rather hilarious trying to figure out the tune.

Kind of Blue is the most celebrated album in the history of jazz to the extent that it has been included in the National Recording Registry. There are numerous releases post-1959 including my copy (1997 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.). This particular reissue has an alternate take on Flamenco Sketches.

Bill Evans wrote “These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere. The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see will find something captured that escapes explanation.”


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Chuck
Author: Chuck

Just a guy who enjoys reading and a dose of jazz everyday.