In this threadentitled “What should you like, but don’t” - in Post #60 I comment on how many folks have stated that they don’t like Jazz. I argue that perhaps they aren’t grounded in some of the basics of jazz. **Novelty Bobble **and a few other dopers come back with some thoughts, and by Post #75 NAF1138 has asked that a thread be started on jazz appreciation.
So here we are.
The purpose of this thread is to give folks who don’t know jazz - who have listened a bit and really, really hate some of the stuff they heard - and give them a safe place to ask questions.
So - if you HATE jazz - that’s cool; feel free to keep hating it and I feel no obligation to convince you otherwise - YMMV right? But if you aren’t sure WHY you hate jazz - and/or would like to figure out what you might like about jazz and isolate the parts that you really, really hate - well, maybe a thread like this can help.
And since many, many other Dopers are jazz fans, I am sure most questions can be answered - help me out here jazz cats!
So, to start - a few observations about listening to jazz:
[li]Know, broadly, about what jazz you hate - when folks say they hate jazz, they are often referring to specific sub-categories. Jazz started at the turn of the 1900’s in New Orleans, and up through the 40’s, the jazz being created is stuff, O Jazz Hater, you probably like or at least don’t hate - I will see if I can find a few links:[/li][/ul]
Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 - early New Orleans/ Dixieland Jazz - you may not like the song, but it doesn’t evoke that “hate” you feel for jazz, right?
Benny Goodman Sing, Sing, Sing- what, you don’t like this??? What’s wrong with you man?! ;) Top-Shelf swing jazz - just big, fully orchestrated and fun. I would be very surprised if a Jazz Hater singled this type of swing jazz out for hate. Again, you are welcome to not like it, but I don’t this is a song that pushes jazz-hate buttons…
What folks most typically start to hate is Small-Combo Jazz, especially when it moves into **Be-Bop **and Hard Bop. Small Combo just means that it is a 4, 5 or 6 piece band, not a full orchestra. BeBop is a style of jazz that emerged in the 40’s. Here’s a classic from the genre - Kokoby Charlie Parker. Feelin’ the hate yet? This is the 1940’s jazz equivalent of heavy metal shredding - boys feelin’ macho and stretching it out technically…
Building on Bop, many jazz soloists tried to explore things further - John Coltrane is known for pushing boundaries. In this clip, which I posted in the other thread, we see a couple of styles. Miles Davis plays beautiful, accessible trumpet solos in this version of So What - but 2 minutes in, Coltrane takes over - can you hear the difference? Do your ears shut down? That’s because Coltrane is taking the Bop approach you heard from Charlie Parker and breaking even more rules. He is the equivalent of Modern Art. He is “playing out,” i.e., outside - breaking rules. By the time he gets to his revolutionary verison of My Favorite Things, he might as well be spattering paint on a canvas (it starts out melodic and all Sound-of-Musicky, then just, well - listen to it) - i.e., “my 3 year old can violate a saxophone just as well…”
But - here’s the point: if you love Impressionism and Matisse’s art, and many examples up to the wacky Modern Art that surfaced, well - that’s jazz. You probably love the just-over-the-line early jazz (like Impressionism - it was a new language but not super challenging once you learn the language) - it’s when the rules start to really get broken that your ears shut down…
So - you can avoid Bop and Coltrane and Out playing - but if you want to listen to some of that early small-combo jazz, or at least “get it a bit more” - what are some guidelines? Here are two - and help me out here, jazz Dopers, I am sure there are more:
[li]Follow the High Hat - most of us grew up on Pop, Rock, Country, etc. - the beat is kept on the snare or kick drum - boom-spat, boom-boom-spat, right? - but with small-combo jazz, they use the little sandwich cymbols, aka the high-hat, to keep the time. If you listen to that version Koko I link to above - it is a bad recording and you CAN’T hear the high hat - it just sounds like random sounds if you don’t know how to fill in the rhythm - they are just playing superfast. But listen to this recording of Dizzy Gillespie’s Salt Peanuts- the “tsk tsk tsk” of the high hat kicks of the song and makes it MUCH easier to follow. Still superfast, but listenable.[/li][/ul]
[li]Know the Difference between a Lead and a Solo - this is tricky. Just like we grew up listening to music with a specific approach to keeping time, same with solo work. As a rule, pop/rock/country leads are, well leads - they are instrumental breaks designed to fit into the song. Yes some go for a long time and get jammy, but you are meant to listen to them, well, musically. Small-combo/bop jazz solos are NOT leads - they are SOLO’s - a much better comparison would be with improv theater; imagine a person being handed a set up and then expected to just talk on the topic. They can be mellow or get outraged - they are certainly going to quote some of their favorite thinkers and speakers. But there is going to be a wandering, exploratory feel - they are NOT trying to fit into a song; the song was just a launching point to frame their point of view. If you go back and listen to So What, you can hear where Miles, then Coltrane, each take their queue and then try to express themselves in a solo format - they are NOT playing leads…[/li][/ul]
Okay - that’s a long start; sorry if I lost everyone and if this thread just dies, well, I gave it a shot. So - does this help you figure out what you hate about jazz and, hopefully, what you might like about it? It would be great to hear from some jazz haters with examples, questions or just rants…