Jazz for Newbies

You learn a few things when you spend 7+ years of your life studying music in college.  Most things that you learn are either misunderstood or totally ignored by the majority of the people on this planet.  To be honest, most of the stuff I learned are things that most people wouldn’t even find interesting (Troubadour’s vs Trouvere’s anyone?  Anyone?  Thought not).  But, and even though, there are many things in music education that are not important or relevant for anyone other than musicians, there are many more things (IMHO) that people should know about music that they ignore.

I don’t think that people are ignorant of these necessarily because they want to be, or because they wouldn’t be happy to learn about them, but it’s just that no one has been able to explain them in such a way that doesn’t make them want to fall asleep.

There is one thing that I am very passionate about that I wish that people could appreciate more, and that is jazz music.  Whenever I ask people what kind of music they listen to eventually they ask me back and I say that I’m into jazz (among other genres).  Nearly everyone says that they like jazz (or appreciate it), but very few of them can name any examples of jazz that they like (apart from “Saxaphone jazz”, and “Kenny G”, or other such generalities).

I’ve tried a number of times to explain to my friends what is so awesome about jazz.  I manage to pique some interest among some, but for the most part I just see their eyes start to glaze over, and then comes the head nod and they say something like “uh huh, yeah that’s so cool”.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine at work about this very topic.  He’s been learning bass and guitar and he got me started on a (probably longer than he wanted) tangent about music and jazz.  He asked me to recommend him some jazz music to listen to so that he could hear what jazz guitar voicings sounded like (they sound very different from most guitar chords you’ve heard on the radio).  That’s when I got the idea of this post.

I got on Spotify (my music service of choice) and set up a playlist for Jazz-Newbies.  A list of songs that, to me, sum up what is awesome and diverse about jazz.

I could sit here and write out all of my touchy-feely thoughts on jazz and how everyone should listen to it.  But to be honest, nothing I could say would do it justice.  Jazz is far too big a subject and encompasses so many genres and decades that I couldn’t sum up jazz into a post that would be any shorter than an eBook.  So I figured I would set up a playlist so that you can listen to some jazz, in all sorts of varieties.  My idea in this is that I often talk about jazz, but I rarely get to “show” them jazz.  And for me, when I started seeing jazz live and really listening to it is when I realized how awesome it is.

On this playlist below I’ve got standard jazz, combos, big bands, fusion jazz of many flavors, vocal jazz, string jazz, bebop, swing, blues, and I even added some more modern, fusion-type jazz that incorporates some hip-hop and funk elements. Some of it is straight ahead, and some is just downright weird.

So I’ve attached the playlist.  My recommendation would be listen to it on random, or just pick random songs that look interesting.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Which ones are your favorites, what would you like to hear more of?

(Keep in mind that this playlist is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all of the “essential” jazz songs, or “important” jazz pieces that changed jazz music.  It’s just a playlist that I think has a wide variety of my favorites/essentials/songs that I think that someone who knows nothing about jazz would enjoy listening to.)

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