Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jazz songs for when you're feeling blue

Most of jazz is improvised- or composed on the spot. That means that the musicians are so skilled they can compose beautiful melodies and haunting lines- oftentimes over a set chord structure- while they are in the moment.

And is improvisation really a new concept for us as humans? Everyday we improvise! When we walk, when we speak, when we do just about everything! We don't plan every second of every single day- we improvise most of our lives.

So I think that jazz is great music for when you're feeling down. I find so much comfort in listening to jazz because it's like someone is speaking to me. These musicians pour their heart out in the moment- and that amount of rawness gives me the most genuine experience. Whenever I feel like I have no one to talk to or nowhere to go, I turn to certain jazz songs.

So, here's a list of some jazz songs for when you're feeling blue that have helped me in my life:

Jazz songs for when you're feeling blue
(Song title, Artist(s), Album) 
(Links to Youtube after description) 

1. "In a Sentimental Mood"...Duke Ellington and John Coltrane..."Duke Ellington and John Coltrane"
I've already mentioned this song on my blog "Reasons why I love jazz", but I just have to reiterate how this song is my saving grace. I can't think of a song that has helped me more than this one. There have been times that I've secluded myself in a room and listened to this song over and over for what seems like hours- that's how much this song means to me. Every note and every line just hits me so hard. With every trouble and heartache I turn to this song, and for the amount of comfort it has brought me, I am forever grateful.

2. "Solitude"...Billie Holiday..."The Complete Commodore/Decca Masters" 
Just as the title implies, this song really is for when you're feeling alone, or if you're missing someone. It's just so introspective, and thoughtful. Billie Holiday is my favorite jazz singer. The way she sings a lyric is so simple, but so full of a raw kind of emotion. She had a hard life and it's like she can put all those life experiences into songs so that I can gradually feel better.

3. "Darn that Dream"...Miles Davis..."Birth of the Cool" 
I can't even start to explain how many times I've listened to this song. I love how the lyrics to this song describe heartache in such a idealistic way. Kenny Hagood on vocals makes every word so personal, and so flowing. And Miles Davis's section of this song just pours out so smoothly. My favorite lyric is "Darn that dream and bless it too, Without that dream I never would have you", and I think the romance and blindness in that lyric is so beautiful.

4. "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry"...Dexter Gordon..."Go!" 
From Dexter's first note, I become completely absorbed into his tone, the mood, the story. Dexter Gordon really knows how to communicate the most sad sorts of songs, and I feel like he isn't playing a saxophone- he is talking to me. And that element of just talking- musical communication on the highest level- makes me feel so much better. He's not flashy, he's just real- one hundred percent real- and that's a rare thing to hear.

5. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"...Charles Mingus..."Mingus Ah Um"
This song was originally written to remember the life and note the death of jazz legend Lester Young. It's a classic Mingus song, and I have to say the composition is so heartfelt. John Handy on alto saxophone just preaches when he solos. It's so soulful, and you can tell everyone in the band truly was working together to really create something special.

6. "If I Should Lose You"...Charlie Parker.."Charlie Parker with Strings"
Besides being one of the most heartfelt jazz standards, and one of my favorite jazz albums, this song just encapsulates a sort of love that most people can't emote. The strings are so beautiful, and Charlie Parker just sings. From the first note of the string introduction I am hooked- and Charlie Parker's first octave jump in the melody just crushes my heart. I don't know if love can be expressed more lovingly than this.

7. "Body and Soul"...Coleman Hawkins..."Body and Soul"
Besides being one of the most famous jazz recordings of all time, this is also one of the most beautiful recordings I can think of. It's so sweet, and he has something so individual to say- I admire that so much. Later on in his solo, he builds intensity in the most endearing way.

8. "Infant Eyes"...Wayne Shorter..."Speak No Evil"
Wayne Shorter is one of the most amazing jazz musicians and composers. I had the privilege of hearing him play live at the Newport Jazz Festival this past summer- and even though his style has changed and he is eighty years old now- he is still all about emotional intensity and communication. And that sort of honesty to your self and your music is so amazing.

9. "Along Came Betty"...Art Blakey and the jazz messengers..."Moanin'" 
Truly a gorgeous song, and such a wonderful band! I love every second of this song. I love the amount of communication between the players, the fluidity, and the unity. Lee Morgan on trumpet and Benny Golson on saxophone play the melody together in such a haunting way.

10. "Acknowledgment"...John Coltrane..."A Love Supreme" 
I would consider it almost a crime to not talk about John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" on this blog post. This entire album is meant to be a spiritual album, and what strikes me most about this album is the sense of purity in Coltrane's playing. The sense of abandonment and focus in his playing is so strong. He uses sound in all ranges and textures to celebrate his love of life and his creator. It goes beyond this world.

Final Thoughts: 
So I encourage you to check out all of these songs. I know these songs have helped me before, so I can only hope they can help others too.

Just know that even when you feel that you are alone or when everything seems to be changing, music will always be there for you to cleanse and to purify.

1 comment:

  1. Grace-Mary, some nice choices here. I'm going to pass this on to Megan, as she loves Jazz as well.