Why jazz *mostly* doesn't work for me

I know we had a thread specifically about smooth jazz not too long ago… Ah, here it is.

There’s actually some 20s Kyser as well. He recorded a half-dozen selections for Victor in 1928-29:
Not all of his stuff is jazz, of course, nor was it considered jazz at the time (“Goodman and Kyser and Miller help to make things bright / Mixing hot licks with vanilla, jukebox Saturday night!”). But there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in his orchestra’s output.

For Dixieland, it helps to listen to the early material, which was really quite audacious, energetic, and decidedly not to everyone’s taste when it first came out. Here’s “Tiger Rag” by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, recorded in 1918:

Good jazz can also be quiet and reflective without crossing into the bebop category. One of the best recordings of any kind of music, IMHO, is “Body and Soul” by the Benny Goodman Trio (Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa) from July 1935.

In any case, do a lot of listening to (and reading about) the early, pre-bebop era of jazz. You may find that it suits your taste better and doesn’t all sound like indistinguishable mush.

I agree about early Dixieland–it was very fresh stuff. For me it’s not so much about period. I like Hancock’s output 60s-80s. I like Monk. I am a fan of jazzy show tunes like the stuff in the Gold Diggers movies, etc. To me, it really comes down to a distinctive composition/song and distinctive presentation.

I don’t know if this can add anything substantial to the conversation, but as an old guy who has listened to jazz for many many years, I can say that in the past 25 years or so, at least, much of what passes for jazz is ersatz. There are tons of guys out there who play music that sounds like jazz, because it has certain elements of it - a sense of improvisation, solo work over a harmonic background, a traditional drum track, but it lacks musicality. I understand this is a hard term to define, but that’s what this “music” is missing and that’s why it only seems to attract people who think they’re supposed to like it because it’s…jazz. It isn’t jazz. It only sounds like jazz. In Chicago, the only radio station that plays anything that approaches jazz anymore is a college station - WDCB. And sometimes, they do play the classics, and if you turn on the radio when one of these tunes is on, you can hear it right away. It swings. And if you turn on the station when they’re playing the other crap, you can tell that, too, because while it sounds a lot like jazz, it has no soul. It doesn’t swing. It’s all figures and no music. The solos have no shape, they don’t relate to the melody, they just noodle around, and it makes me sad for those who think they’re listening to good music, because they’re not. Smooth jazz? That’s not even jazz. That doesn’t even quack like a duck.

You might some time in your life need improvised music (that isn’t trying to crush you into submission), to save your sanity. Jazz will be there for you. It may be an acquired taste but if you get it it can make other modern music sound like it’s standing still, mentally.

But you have to think for yourself and follow up on the scholarship. You can’t judge Jazz on smooth jazz. If you owned the records and sold them you probably are trying herein to justify and feel better about that decision. You’ll rationalize it out.

It’s not believable that Jazz players sound better because the chords are loose. I get the feeling you don’t want to listen. Sorry to psychoanalyze but that’s a cop out.

Most Jazz from 1950-1970 wasn’t smooth or bebop or dixieland. Try some Blue Note LPs.

Jazz is going to disappear without people that care. We used to have Jazz every night all night on the radio here. Now it’s two nights a week. It’s a cultural lodestone that you may not need now, but might someday.


I guess someone had to play the “you don’t get it” card. You played it.

It’s bullshit. I still have a lot of jazz in my collection. I “think” when I listen to Herbie Hancock and Thelonius Monk, thank you very much.

Well you asked. You have a poor idea of what jazz is and does and you post about it. You find it too much work to find out and listen for good stuff. You hear some lame sax at the coffee shop and decide that’s what is wrong with jazz. And then you don’t want to hear anything else said.

You said you have a few, and then a lot of jazz? You don’t know?

Take Herbie: There was a whole community of musicians around Herbie Hancock. They appeared on his records. He appeared on theirs. It didn’t happen at gunpoint. It happened because these were the sharpest musical minds around, anywhere:
Ron Carter
Wayne Shorter
Miles Davis
Joe Henderson
George Coleman
Tony Williams
Hank Mobley
Lee Morgan
Bobby Hutcherson

Are you really saying you listened to all these guys records and they are bums compared with “Herbie!”?

If you don’t like jazz that’s OK but you can’t get a rubber stamp visa that you actually “get it” and have determined that it’s valueless, not from anyone who listens to it anyway.

Your problem with it is in your mind and not in the music.

And you wield lack of reading comprehension as an aggressive weapon. Plus, you’re condescending.

Hancock and Monk aren’t “good stuff”?

Yeah, that sums up my argument.

I specifically said that the musicianship is often at a very high level.

Go troll elsewhere, dawg.

Jazz lost all sense of melody around the time of Charlie Parker, and not coincidently began a continual regression in public relevance.

Smooth jazz actually has much melody to it, and can be likened more to “instrumental pop” than jazz is all respects other than instrumentation and the use of improvisation.

If you hate jazz because Starbucks has smooth jazz playing then you are actually in line with most jazz enthusiasts. It really is an intellectual music that requires training to fully appreciate.

I’m going to recommend “Blues and Roots” and “Ah Um”–they have some of the same songs on them. Apparently I liked this period a lot (around 1960 but to me it sounds much different than say the Miles Davis stuff of 1960). Also “Mingus Dynasty” from around the same time, if you can find it.

FWIW: my Favorite Mingus album-Let My Children Hear Music.

For a more modern artist, give Trombone Shorty a listen. He’s NOLA old-school, but he’s upped the ante considerably. Here’s a live version of Hurricane Season. Seen live, he brings down the house.

Nobody’s trolling you. Just reflecting your words back and asking.

If Herbie’s name is first on the CD it’s great and if it’s his colleagues, it’s “high level” but not good enough for you , or washed out tonalities, or too facile or something(?).

It’s taste, and there is no blame in it. Appreciating jazz can be about stages and opening your ears over time. Not immediate judgements.

You’re not reading, and you’re being a condescending ass.

I said, for me, the composition comes first. Hancock and Monk mostly write their own music. I’m interested in other musicians that do that too.

You might also try Christian McBride, a wonderful 40-ish bass player who is doing some interesting things.

Or you guys can just continue to turn this thread into a train wreck and the rest of us will go do something more useful.

Popping in to say I agree with Aeschines. Even though I’m not an expert in any way, I’ve listened to a fair amount of jazz. I used to play bass guitar and even played some jazz in a couple flaky groups. But I’ve gotten jazz-fatigue. Some years ago, jazz helped to reinforced my opinions on traditional instrumentation and prompted me to move away towards more experimental stuff. I’ve played with quite a few jazz and classical musicians, some very experienced, who have reached the same conclusion as me at some point or another.

Yeah, well, fine.

I just decided that I hate bluegrass now. It’s just so dated and immature. I’m gonna go and throw away all my fucking bluegrass records.

I’m moving on. Suck my dick, Bill Monroe & Doc Watson.

Yeah!!! Let’s form a mob. Tom waits said the only thing worse than Bluegrass played badly is Bluegrass played well. (I don’t agree. But I love Tom. He was one of my gateways to Jazz)

Thanks! It’s not like I’m absolutely right–it’s just one perspective.

I love bluegrass by the way. I love blues. I love country. The tonalities and instrumentation of all three are fairly limited, and that means that one possibly ends up cherry-picking the best of the best. So it tends to be in all genres.

So, to recap, what makes jazz different?

• Compositions are often not original. One is invited to enjoy an improvisational take on a classic song, for example. (Note that this is different from a cover in another genre in that there is no vocal. When there is a vocal, this criticism does not apply. Moreover, when a composition is original and designed for jazz instrumentation [e.g., “Maiden Voyage” by Hancock], this criticism doesn’t apply.).

For me: I don’t enjoy improvs on the “Great American Song Book.” I’d rather enjoy those songs as songs with vocals.

• Jazz pieces tend to be long, and at the same time they are usually based on improvisation, at least in parts. This is, generally speaking, a risky strategy for musical entertainment. It’s high-risk, high-reward. I am a huge fan, for example, of the first side of Joe Farrell’s “Moon Germs” album. The improvisations are really out there, but it is all based on original composition. Here the risk pays off for me. Often, you get really good musicianship but nevertheless it all starts to sound the same.

For me: I appreciate the musicianship, but most jazz improv doesn’t do much for me. I’d rather listen to pieces with tighter structures. E.g., a Joplin rag instead of piano improv.

• Jazz tonalities tend to be sophisticated but loose. There tends to be a sameness to them.

For me: I’d rather listen to music with higher-constrasting sections, in general.

YMMV. Sorry I responded negatively to some comments in this thread. I think some were uncool, but I want to hold myself to a higher standard of discourse. Thanks!