After a long period of reading, I’ll listen to music and zone out for a while. Then my brain becomes unclogged and I can go back to reading.
I recently found jazz to be a surprisingly efficient way to relax. I like the stuff that’s more on the smooth side. I know nothing about jazz right now, so you can recommend the greatest artists and chances will be that I have never listen to them.
First, let’s narrow down what kind of jazz it is you like. If you want “smooth” jazz, I’m going to just go with cool jazz. Cool jazz is a great starting point if you aren’t sure what you like, but want something fairly accessible while also being mellow. Dave Brubeck’s Time Out is one of the highest selling jazz albums ever. Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool is also highly recommended, but his other album, Kind of Blue, is often regarded as one of the best jazz albums of all time. It features the likes of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, and Bill Evans, all of whom are highly recommended, atleast their work in this period (mid '50s, about).
You might also want to try Lester Young, who was the major influence for the whole cool jazz style. Also, one of my personal favorites is Django Reinhardt. While it seems a bit antiquated now, his gypsy jazz is some of the smoothest you’re gonna find.
My starting point was ELLA: The Very Best of Ella Fitzgerald. She’s had more “Best Of” albums than KISS has had farewell tours, but they’re all great and this one is the finest.
There’s a Seattle-area NPR station, KPLU, that runs a streaming jazz internet radio show,
obtainable through this link. It’s also reachable through the iTunes radio channels (Click on Jazz and then on JAZZ24 from KPLU). It’s one of the best samplers of what’s out there and available.
I’m not sure it passes the Jazz Law of Kosher, but Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, Lovett’s first plunge into the jazz idiom, is one of my all-time favorite albums. I keep losing it and buying it again.
Depends what I’m reading, but if it’s something that needs a bit of concentration then I find these two albums work well as reading background - I can’t explain why but the rhythmn and sounds complement things for me:
ZebraShaSha, if you like smooth jazz, please do yourself a favor and check out Paul Hardcasle. He records some music under his own name and some under the name of The Jazzmasters.
He employs a wonderful singer by the name of Helen Rogers on most of his non-instrumental work. Her voice fits his music as perfectly as Astrid Gilberto’s fit with the music of Stan Getz or Sérgio Mendes.
You can check out Paul Hardcastle/Jazzmasters and some other excellent musicians of this genre here.
I’ve been reading SD for a couple of years now but never bothered to write in on the forums till now but I just have to throw in my two cents here. I want to Definitely second Ella Fitzgerald as she can be both fun and sassy as well as smooth and soulful. My personal unwinding music tends to be female jazz vocalists like her, Sarah Vaughn, Nora Jones, and my new favorite, Thornetta Davis. Check out Ms. Davis’ Live album recorded at the Music Menu.
I saw his Large Band show just this last Saturday night in Fort Worth. That was my first large sample of Lyle Lovett. My (and the audience’s) favorite stuff was the western swing/big band flavored stuff. The show was over two hours long and there was pretty much something in it for everyone. The swing and the gospel stuff was best, though.
Joe Pass is another favourite of mine, and despite the massive popularity of ‘Virtuoso’, I’d recommend ‘Meditation’. And to add to the Ella recommendations earlier, there are three delightful albums of Ella and Joe - ‘Easy Livin’’, ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘Speak Love’.