Adventures in Jazz, part 1

Jazz has pretty much always been a part of my musical consumption in some form or another.  Until recently I actively chose not to pursue it; I just simply did not care.  I knew that Miles Davis inspired King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, and I also knew that the chaotic progressive freak-outs of the Mars Volta owed a lot to jazz in general.  Even though I enjoyed both of those bands, their jazz leanings meant precious little to me.

When I was fourteen I officially discovered Radiohead through the recommendation of a friend.  That summer, in an independent record store in New Haven, I bought Kid A and Amnesiac.  While it took me many listens to properly digest the complexity of what Radiohead were trying to accomplish, one of the songs that instantly stood out to me was “Life in a Glass House,” the last song on Amnesiac.  The song features a trumpet played by jazz musician Humphrey Lyttelton that crawled under my skin in the best way.  Even so, I never researched Lyttelton and my jazz education went no further for another year.

All of this amounted to very little until I was shown a Japanese cartoon—known as anime—called Cowboy Bebop.  A show that features what I consider to be the greatest soundtrack ever made, Cowboy Bebop uses jazz, blues, folk, and jazz-fusion as its own character.  I fell in love with both the show, and the music, going so far as to track down the multiple soundtrack CD’s.  Now I knew what I liked, and I knew that I liked it a lot.  But things progressed very slowly.

When I was 16 and 17 I could rave about Dick Parry’s saxophone on Dark Side of the Moon, enjoy the jazz fusion of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats, but all of that came naturally; on some level I still refused to search out and properly rifle through the genre.  For me, jazz had to come slow, what I realize now to be painfully slow.

The greatest thing that could have happened to me recently was my re-evaluation of Bruce Springsteen.  I’ve never been a great fan of The Boss, and even though I think Born to Run is overrated, the song “Meeting Across the River” is pure perfection.  Randy Brecker’s trumpet floats through the song, turning a good track into an exceptional one.  Disregarding Clarence Clemons saxophone—which I’ve come to love– it was Randy Brecker that got through to me in a big way.

And now, on somewhat of a whim, I have over twenty jazz albums to work through by Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock.  Let’s see if this thing really sticks.


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January 2012
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