Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jazz songs for when you're feeling blue: part 2

My second post on this blog was, "Jazz songs for when you're feeling blue", which I posted on January 5th, 2014. I wanted to go back to this idea, and share more songs that help take away the blues.
My oil painting of Thelonious Monk

Jazz songs for when you're feeling blue: part 2

1. My Foolish Heart - Bill Evans Trio

Bill Evans has been a favorite of mine these past few months. His playing has an immense sense of melancholy and purity. And I think, in an odd way, hearing a musician that can share this sense of melancholy is refreshing and helps me when I am feeling the same way. There is something peaceful and clear in every note Evans plays as if to say, "it's okay".

2. Lil' Darling - Count Basie 

Sometimes when I am feeling down I just need to go slow and appreciate the simple things in life. This song is a quintessential reminder to go slow in life. It's a light walking tempo with a relaxed beat. This makes me walk a bit slower and relax a bit more with just one listen. How can you be stressed when Count Basie is playing?

3. My Funny Valentine - Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker

I have to say, I play the baritone saxophone for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was obsessed with "The Simpsons" when I was little, where Lisa Simpson plays the baritone saxophone. Secondly, I heard a recording of Gerry Mulligan when I was an early teen, and thought it was the most beautiful sounding instrument in the world. So this recording helps me refocus in life. Why do I love what I do? It's all here in this recording. 

4. You've Changed - Sarah Vaughan 

I can't think of a jazz ballad that gets me like this one. The lyrics seem to narrate a life. Every time people get to me, this song will be on repeat. If I feel let down by a person, I will go to my instrument and play this song, and that becomes my therapy. It's a way of getting feelings out. 

5. Lover Man - Charlie Parker

"Lover Man" is such a gorgeous song, and I love this particular recording of it. Charlie Parker had many troubles in life, and this song was recorded at an extreme low point in his life. Nonetheless, it's as if when I listen to this I can see Bird across the room. I feel an immense sense of closeness to this recording, his sound, everything.

6. Blood Count - Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

This song can make me weep. Billy Strayhorn wrote this as he was dying; it brings a sense of detachment and a great passion for life at the same time. Johnny Hodges brilliantly narrates these feelings through the alto saxophone. The giant shout chorus in the middle of the song seems to be fighting fate.

7. Glad To Be Unhappy - Paul Desmond

Paul Desmond has an unmistakable sound - dry and birdlike. Paul Desmond, much like Bill Evans, has a very melancholy sense to his ballad playing. And I think that feeling can only come from a human - that's why I love jazz. Humans create and improvise this music - it's personal and raw and unapologetic. And this unapologetic quality helps me when I am feeling down. 

8. Blue in Green - Miles Davis

This song is the reason I started this blog. It was Christmas break, I was alone, I was sad, and I was misunderstood (in my own mind). Then this song came on my iPod and I felt a jolt. I jumped up and told my dad I needed to write about jazz and tell everyone how much I love it and why kids my age should listen to it. I rushed to set up a blog without knowing anything about blogs, and I couldn't stop writing. I didn't know what I was getting into, I just kept on playing this song. Now it seems to bring me back to that moment of energy. 

9. Ruby My Dear - Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk transcends music to me. He is one of the voices of jazz that whenever I listen to him he seems to be talking to me. Thelonious embodies so many things I wish to be - fearless, passionate, full of integrity, unapologetic, fierce. I love drawing him because Monk is a symbol of jazz - an icon. And his music, with all its jagged lines and punches, embodies life.

10. They Say It's Wonderful - John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

This entire album is pure bliss. I particularly love the lyrics to this song. Hartman's rich voice inflects the melody with such beauty with his subtle phrasing. Coltrane solos with such an attachment to the melody in this recording. His tone is striking, direct, and full. This song is a conversation: comforting and calming.

Final Thoughts: 
I think what makes music such a strong force is its ability to bring humanity to the world. Sadness can come from stress, loss, detachment, disappointment - but whatever you are feeling can be cured by music. Jazz has helped create positivity in my life; from the thrill of festivals like Newport or Montreal, to the excitement of live concerts, to the relaxation of CDs and podcasts - jazz is joy.

Student tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival are $20

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday!

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