Tuesday, February 6, 2007
All That Jazz
Alright, let's talk Jazz. Alright, I'm one of those people who when asked, "what kind of music do you listen to?", I answer "pretty much everything". At a time, it was truly just about everything from pop, to pop/rock, to alternative, to country, to hiphop, to thrash metal, to indie rock...like the list went on and on. However, when it comes down to it, although I'll give most music a chance, and I genearlly don't hate any type of music, there's definitely a list of genres I listen to more than others.
Recently, say over the last 5 years, Jazz has become one of those genres. My love for Jazz really started with Jazz guitar. I play guitar myself and so I'm always impressed with good guitar playing - and there's nothing more impressive than Jazz guitar (ok, Don Ross is pretty damn good too.) Aside from that though, the thing I loved about Jazz guitar (and I realized this about most jazz music in general), was that it set such a good mood for whatever you were doing. For example, if you're hosting a dinner party, or a party where you just have general mingling going on at one point, and you really want to stand out? Slap on some jazz music. If you live in a samll apartment, filling you space with jazz music all of a sudden makes it feel really classy. And what about Christmas? There's no better music to play during the spirited season than Christmas Jazz music (of note is A Charlie Brown Christmas, greatest christmas album of all time). However, the thing, aside from the mind-blowing technique of the jazz guitarists, and the amazing mood setting that jazz offers, there's one major reason you should be listening to it: basically it's really good music.
Now there's a catch. Over the years, because my love for jazz has grown, I've started to discover, like any other music, there's music that's good, and music that's not good. The jazz that's not good? SMOOTH JAZZ! Grrr....smooth jazz is really nicely polished recorded jazz that instantly brings Kenny G to mind. It just sounds really corny. The kind of jazz that I like is the old school bare-bones recorded stuff. We're talking Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny Burrell, Thelonius Monk, etc. Now obviously jazz has a broad range, and a lot of the newer artists are still recording in the old style, so when I say 'old school' I'm not referring only to old recordings.
Aside from the classics, there's a couple artists who have come along just recently who are absolutely phenomenol. Everyone knows about the first one I'm going to talk about, Norah Jones. Granted, she blends other types of music, but you can play her music side by side with classic jazz and not miss a beat. With her third album released just the other day, Norah Jones has done really well for herself and has done an amazing job of bringing good jazz into the mainstream. There's no denying it, Norah Jones is everything the hype says she is.
Another artist that's borderline jazz, but only because his sound is reminiscent of Norah Jones (that is, he sounds like NJ, and NJ sounds like Jazz, but he doesn't sound that jazzy himself) is Amos Lee. I wouldn't say he's nearly as good as Norah Jones, but he definitely has a couple of tracks worth listening too. Again, he's another mesher of styles so, some of his tunes are very jazzy, other are not.
But I've saved the best for last. There's an artist who's a little lesser known that's come out recently who has definitely captured the jazz essence from the past and polished it up nicely for modern day listening. Everytime I play her CD, people are always asking me if its Ella Fitzgerald. She's a favourite among music supervisors in hollywood as her music's been used several times in pretty big movies. And finally, her first release, Careless Love, is agurably my favourite album in the last 5 years or so.
I'm talking about Madeleine Peyroux.
Sometime when I starting getting old and started listening to CBC radio, I caught "Don't Wait too Long" one of her big singles and I instantly fell in love. I got a hold of her album Careless Love and let me tell ya', what an album. If you absolutely hate jazz, of course you won't like it, but if you have even the most remote admiration for this genre, you have to hear this album. The nice thing about jazz albums, and people may argue that this is what makes jazz bad, is that different songs don't stray much from the mood that jazz sets. Like from the upbeat happy, to the romantic love songs, there's not a huge leap. That's what makes is such a good album - it flows really nicely together. That what makes albums like "O" by Damien Rice so amazing, the whole album has a mood to it. Given, it's a lot easier to do in jazz, because all Jazz sounds pretty similar, but still. Madeleine Peyroux came out recently with a follow-up, Half the Perfect World, back in the summer of 2006, and although not as good as Careless Love, it was still a strong album.
Now, I'm not going to claim that I'm a huge jazz buff, I'm pretty new to the field. I mean jazz listeners are notorious for their "collections", and I what I have could hardly be considered a collection. However, I am getting into it, and I highly recommend you guys start listening to it. If you need a starting point, I'm going to have another edition of Casey's Mix of the Moment that's jazz themed. But until then, check out Madeleine Peyroux, Norah Jones, Wes Montgomery, June Christy, and Kenny Burrell. Thanks for reading, and all that jazz.
Btw, the best Jazz albums I've heard (yes, I'm a sucker for the holiday albums)
A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Indigo Presents Holiday Jazz by Various Artists
Careless Love by Madeleine Peyroux