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Help me "get" jazz

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Marlat, Jan 7, 2004.

  1. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Okay, heres the deal - I know I should like jazz - and to be honest, some of the stuff I have I dont mind. (ie Marcus Miller, Jaco (solo), Vic Wooten). However, I just don't know where to start to get into some traditional "jazz" music.

    Can you guys help me out with 3 or 4 "essential" jazz CDs (I dont care if the bass isn't Jaco) that will help me trying to get into jazz more. I prefer the funkier side of things, however I am at your mercy.

  2. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Well, traditional isn't really gonna be funky per se, it's going to have upright bass on it most likely. Not that one can't funk on upright, of course.

    Sounds like you might like the 70s fusion stuff for starters. Try one or two Miles Davis sides: "Bitches Brew", "Jack Johnson", and "In A Silent Way" all have some funky playing.

    There's lots more 70s stuff that's funky: Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, and Billy Cobham come to mind. If you dig Marcus and Jaco, you'll hear where a lot of their ideas came from.

    If you want to listen to traditional jazz, the 50s and 60s Miles stuff is a great starting point. "Kind Of Blue", and "Milestones" are two of many classics. Cannonball Adderly, who played for a time with Miles, had some nice funky bands in the 60s and 70s.

    I'd say you'd do well to find a few horn players who move you, and sort of follow their careers back in time. They tend to be a real driving force in the evolution of jazz, IMO.

    You can listen to clips from everything I've suggested on, and probably lots of other places.

    Have fun!

    --Charlie Escher
  3. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Very true. Just listen to "Dirty Dude" by Dizzy Gillipsie. That's quite funky.
  4. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    Miles Davis: Kind of Blue.
    John McLaughlin: Live at Royal Festival Hall

    If I could only listen to 2 albums the rest of my life these are the ones. The contrasting interpretations of "Blue in Green" between the two are especially nice.


  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    There's no reason why you "should" like Jazz - I never liked it at all really, until I was in my late 30s and tried to play it!

    I think that a lot of what makes acoustic Jazz so great, bypasses most people and it certainly went right over my head until I tried playing it and realised what the musicians were actually doing and trying to achieve.

    People always mention "Kind of Blue" - and it is a great album - but it is completely untypical of most Jazz, which is generally faster and more dissonant. It's a great suggestion for an album that wont offend anyone and makes a great "chillout" album - but even Miles' other albums are nothing like this.

    So - play "Live at the Plugged Nickel" - the version of "So What" for example - and you are in whole different world!!

    But this is where Jazz really lives - on the live stage. CDs never made me appreciate acoustic Jazz - it was only seeing bands in a small sweaty club - incredible tempos(very slow and very fast), dynamics, virtuoso playing, great melodies and groups improvisation.

    Very little of this comes across on recordings - you have to be there and appreciate how each gig is a one-off and has it's own magic!!
  6. Essexbass


    Nov 8, 2003
    Reading, U.K.
    Apart from "Kind of Blue", here's a few albums I'd recommend:

    Giant Steps - John Coltrane.
    Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter.
    The Big Beat - Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.
    Sessions 1947/48 - Charlie Parker.
    Greatest Hits - Thelonius Monk.

    The Inner Mounting Flame - The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
    Headhunters - Herbie Hancock.
    Bright Size Life - Pat Metheny.
    Black Market - Weather Report.
    Heavy Weather - Weather Report.

    Hope this helps....
  7. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    My thoughts exactly.

    Also, Mark, you might want to stay away from some of the fusion albums. You may find some of them to be a bit over-the-top (although you mention Jaco, IMO, his work with Weather Report is quite different from that of his solo albums.)

    As far as an album recommendation goes, I suggest Charles Mingus', "Mingus Ah Um."
  8. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I agree with Bruce - there's no law that says you have to like jazz. I think the way in is not directly by understanding and "getting" it - the genre is too diverse, living, breathing and (often deliberately) full of contradictions to boil down to a simple formula.

    Instead, you've got to go by your ears and just listen. If you've got some starting points - Miller, Pastorius, Wooten - try following through the connections. For example, Marcus Miller did a lot of work with Miles Davis, so find out what albums he was involved in and listen to those - see if you can hear his influence. Listen to the Marcus Miller stuff again and see if you can hear influences going the other way. Find out what they were listening to and listen to that.

    Another approach is to buy a sampler CD featuring a whole bunch of different styles of 'jazz'. When you find something you like, dig around and make more connections. Don't get hung up trying to 'get it' - there is no cohesive message. Instead, listen deeply and make connections...

  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Since you mentioned "funky" you might want to check out jazz organists. There's a lot of blues and funk happening in organ combos. Often there is NO bass player since organists can play the bass lines themselves.

    Organists to check out: Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff, Joey DeFrancesco, Shirley Scott, Richard "Groove" Holmes

    Somewhat related to organ combos is what was known in the 60s as "soul jazz", where the emphasis was more on a Motown type beat (called "boogaloo" in those days) than the typical fast swing tempos of bebop. Many soul jazz players had organists in their bands.

    Soul jazz artists to check out: Stanley Turrentine, Lou Donaldson, Eddie Harris, "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford, the Crusaders, Willis "Gatortail" Jackson, Les McCann
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - I used to do that before I really got into Jazz - so I had Mysterious Traveller and Heavy Weather by Werather Report and then thought it would be interesting to get albums that Joe and Wayne had played on - this got me into "In a Silent Way" - which everybody seems to like - even non-Jazz fans.

    I think the real point I was making is that Jazz is very different live - so on most CDs, solos tend to get limited, because of the need to make an album fit an LP or 78! :eek:

    Whereas, live a soloist will take as long as they need to make a statement, based on how they are feeling and their interaction with the other musicians.

    I know that for me, it made a lot more impression live and "in your face" - a great Tenor Sax player, for example, taking 15-20 minutes on a solo that made complete sense to the audience in context, but wasn't about self-indulgence at all, necessarily!!

    CDs are great for what they are, but I always feel they are restrained, compared with the live experience of Jazz which rarely comes across on CD .

    So - one of my favourites is Miles' "Live at the Plugged Nickel" - having been to quite a few Jazz gigs now, I can imagine how exciting, seeing this band really was. But when I first heard the album - it just struck me as mystifying - what are they doing and why!! How do they know where they are? etc etc
  11. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    Good call, Brian. Another great artist to check out in this genre is Jimmy McGriff.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Lots of good input here.

    Also, Mark, you might want to stay away from some of the fusion albums. You may find some of them to be a bit over-the-top (although you mention Jaco, IMO, his work with Weather Report is quite different from that of his solo albums.)

    Mark mentioned three guys who strike me as very definitely over the top, and who were obviously inluenced by (or involved in) 70s fusion. OTOH, I mainly listen to the ECM stuff when I listen to 70s jazz these days; the production values on most of the guitar/rock oriented sides are pretty awful IMO. Blow By Blow still holds up pretty well though, I'd say.

    It's all relative of course, I can listen to Meditations or Free Jazz and not think of the word "abstract", although I will go for "dissonant".

    I used to play DJ at a small community station. My job was to help people find an entree to jazz appreciation. That was in the 70s, so fusion was what worked back then. A lot of purists didn't think that music was jazz then, and many still don't.

    Everyone so far has offered something worthy, I think. I love all that organ stuff myself. We see lots of Hammonds in jam bands in the local clubs. The Scofield and MMW groove stuff might be something you'd dig too, Mark. One benefit of those guys is that you can still go see them play live, although I don't know how often they get to Oz.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Agreed; in their day, though, those recordings were considered 'out'(& NOT "Jazz" by some). ;)
    Alan Shorter's Orgasm was considered 'out' there/Avant Garde, too. Listening to it seems almost rather tame.

    One of my 1st Jazz albums was Mingus' Changes II(I later added Changes I)...IMO, both of these still hold up very well today; I prefer either over Ah Um.
    Mingus At Carnegie Hall was another of my early Jazz album buys...pretty intense playing.

    I would suggest Miles' Live At The Plugged Nickel over KOB, too.

    You can't go wrong with Wayne Shorter's Blue Note era stuff...The All Seeing Eye is pretty heavy.

    "Funky/R&B" '70s Jazz-
    Herbie Hancock's Headhunters
    ...or Fat Albert Rotunda(you can hear Jaco covering "Wiggle Waggle" on the The Early Years boxset).

    If you're looking for recent material by bands that are still playing live-
    Dave Holland 5-tet(Prime Directive)
    Ben Allison(Seven Arrows, Ride The Nuclear Tiger, Peace Pipe

    If you really want some head-bangin' stuff-
    Peter Brotzmann's Big Band
    Last Exit(Brotz, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Laswell, & Ronald Shannon Jackson)
  14. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    I would suggest Miles' Live At The Plugged Nickel over KOB, too.

    Oddly, I don't know that side. I will soon though. Jazz At The Plaza has always been a favorite of mine. Milestones is a desert island disk for me, no question.

    If you're looking for recent material by bands that are still playing live-
    Dave Holland 5-tet(Prime Directive)

    I've taken lots of non-jazzers to see Holland, and recommended his records to anyone who'd listen. I think most people need a grounding in other stuff first, but I'd never diss a Holland recommendation, for anything he's done.

    Last Exit(Brotz, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Laswell, & Ronald Shannon Jackson)

    Hmmm, are you trying to scare Mark, or suck him into the fold? :cool:

    How about some Steve Coleman and Five Elements? Drop Kick and Curves of Life are slamming, and plenty funky.
  15. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Can someone, if its not too much trouble, explain a little bit about the sub-genre's of jazz ie fusion, smooth jazz, avante garde etc and what I could expect to hear or a "seminal" artist. I have tried, but the discographies for people, like Miles Davis are just too long to chug through. I need a good starting point! I will definately take you guys up on some of the cd recomendations.

    Thanks for your help.

    PS - I was joking a bit about "getting" jazz - I just want to get into it (ie start listening to a bit) and found the whole genre ver overwhelming and hard to approach ... I thought it would be easy after I bought my beret and cigarette holder :cool:
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    I had the LP in the late '70s/early '80s.
    Columbia issued The COMPLETE Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 in the '90s. COMPLETE as in 7, count 'em, S-E-V-E-N Cds. I waited until Columbia House ran one of their 70% off sales...there is a single disc 'sampler'.
    The band is Miles' 2nd "Great Quintet".
    Williams is raging through all the sets. ;)

    Steve Coleman is bad. He shows up on some of Dave Holland's stuff, too(e.g. Triplicate).
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Wow...a very brief overview-
    (For simplicity's sake, I divided the various era by wasn't that 'neat' by a long shot).

    1920s-Early Jazz(Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet)
    1930s-Swing(Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins)
    1940s-Bebop(Bird Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk)

    1950s-Cool Jazz(Miles, Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz)
    1950s-West Coast(Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker)
    1950s-Hard Bop(Sonny Rollins, Miles, Coltrane, Horace Silver)
    ...Hard Bop subgenres-Soul Jazz & Funky Jazz(Cannonball Adderly, Lee Morgan, Grant Green)

    1960s-Modal Jazz(Coltrane, Miles)
    1960s-Free Jazz/the New Thing(Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Eric Dolphy)
    1960s-Post Bop(Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Miles, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea)

    1970s-Jazz Rock(Miles, Tony Williams Lifetime, Santana, Chicago, Miles)
    1970s-Fusion(Return To Forever, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Steps Ahead)

    1980s-Smooth Jazz(Spyro Gyra, Rippingtons, Grover Washington, Jr)

    1990s to Present-Anything goes?
    The "hipper" of today's players use everything they've heard &/or morph, crossbreed, etc

    I will also add the AACM(Artist for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) movement outta Chicago is muy importante!
    Art Ensemble of Chicago, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Sun Ra, Muhal Richard Abrams).
  18. bassmantele


    Jul 22, 2003
    Boston MA USA
    Good synopsis. To amplify:

    Early jazz - New Orleans - each instrument plays a different "voice". Polyphonic, probably influences from Cuba, as well as the native African-American blues.

    Swing - Louis Armstrong influences everyone else with his time sense and creativity. Band leaders write parts to mimic Armstrong's "swing" and soloists copy his strong voice. This is dance music.

    Bop - piano harmony gets more complex and soloists follow. Dizzy teaches horn players altered harmonys and Bird and Diz play double-fast. Small group "art" music - you can't dance to it, it's meant to be listened to and respected. Death of jazz as a "popular" music.

    Hard bop - basically, jazz after Bird. Everyone wants to be Bird, transcribes solos from records. The best find their own voices.

    Cool jazz/West Coast - Bird's shadow is so big, guys need to do something different. Partially a "white" response to bebop, a strong Classical influence, but also following from Miles Davis and Lester Young. Different things to different people.

    Modal jazz - Miles turns away from the increasing complexity of chord changes that had been going on throughout the history of jazz and stressed melody.

    Free jazz - Ornette said "stop playing background" and gets rid of the piano. If you can break most of the rules, why not break all of'em?
    Coltrane tells his wife he's not playing jazz any more.

    The rest - Rock rears it's ugly head and kills off what's left of jazz. College kids stop buying jazz albums and start buying guitars. Jazz musicians fight a rear guard action but go off in a million different dirctions - some good, some bad.

    My two cents.
  19. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    All these and Sun Ra, Too...
    And Earl Hines....Mingus....Pharoah Sanders... Eddie Harris....Woodie Herman...Duke Ellington...Count Basie...Ray Charles
  20. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    OKay, thanks for all your help - there is a lot of info there, so I have decided I will buy 9 cds in the next few weeks - 3 from the 50's, 60's and 70's.

    Can anyone help me out with these CDs - as I said, im not looking for the "best" or whatever, just 3 that will give me a good overview of jazz.

    I take it "Kind of BLue" should be in there. I've also heard I would probably like Herbie Hancock's stuff.

    Thanks so much for everyone's who has contributed, this is going to be an interesting few weeks!