Sunday, June 26, 2016

Learn at your library

So far this month I have written about how you can discover jazz through an artist, album or song. This week I wanted to share different resources to discover jazz, such as through radio and festivals. 

Thelonious Monk

Read my previous posts, Discover jazz, Planting the seeds and Through one album

Each week in June I will be writing about ways to discover jazz for yourself through examples and tips.


Learn at your library


1. Check out your local library's jazz collection

You can learn a lot about the music by going to your local library. Physically seeing the jazz section of CDs helps to learn about new artists, and discover CDs from the artists you already know. For example, if you have heard of Thelonious Monk you can go to the library and find various albums such as Monk's Dream and Solo Monk. Seeing the album art and reading the liner notes is helpful for learning more about the artist as well.

Another thing you can do is write down the sidemen of an album you like and research in the library if they have their own albums. For example, if you like the album Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, then you could look up albums with John Coltrane and discover his albums, such as Blue Train and Impressions.


2. Find local jazz concerts 

Jazz is, without a doubt, best heard live. With a simple google search you can find jazz clubs in your area. For example, there are numerous jazz clubs around Boston, including Scullers, Regattabar, Wally's, among others.

If you have trouble deciding which show to see, you can call or email the club and ask for recommendations based on the artists you like. Club websites often link to the artist website, YouTube, SoundCloud, which can also help you determine what the act would sound like.

Another tip is to find local arts organizations websites, and see if they list any free jazz concerts in your area. Free concerts are often held at colleges with a music program, local libraries, or town centers. For example, ArtsBoston and JazzBoston are Boston concert calendars. You can also sign up for Jazz Near You from All About Jazz to get emails about local concerts in your area.

Many restaurants have jazz brunches or live entertainment during dinner. This is a great way to start listening to jazz while also going out with family and friends. Thelonious Monkfish, Ryles, Beehive all have jazz brunches around Boston.


3. Attend a jazz festival

Jazz festivals are an invaluable resource to learn about jazz. Festivals vary from free outdoor events, to indoor ticketed concert series. 

Free festivals are great to bring friends and family to. These informal festivals will help you hear different types of jazz while also being able to come and go as you please. Examples of free festivals around Boston are the Cambridge Jazz Festival, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival

Larger festivals are often ticketed. Outdoor jazz festivals, such as the Newport Jazz Festival, are in a large field and often have multiple stages and larger schedules. Whether you choose to stay at one stage all day, pick and choose acts at different stages or even just walk around, you will hear diverse acts. You can save the festival schedule for reference so you can look up the artists' music before or after you attend. Also, you may start to recognize artists playing at local clubs from the festival. 

Indoor ticketed festivals are often held as a concert series, either over the course of a season, month, or week. Oftentimes these festivals are similar to attending a jazz club, but the festival allows for more choices in jazz programming. The Rockport Jazz Festival is an example of this. 



4. Jazz radio or podcasts

Another free resource for learning about jazz is through radio stations and podcasts. Radio programs have a wide range of music depending on the theme of the station. Some programs focus on new releases by current jazz musicians, while others may focus on an era or style, such as swing or Latin jazz. 

Podcasts are perfect to listen to while driving to work, on the train or bus, or doing chores. This form of media often combines short clips of music with interviews or historical information. Some of my favorite podcasts are Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, Jazz Profiles with Nancy Wilson and Jazz Stories.

Some apps that I recommend for this include JazzBird and NPR Music. JazzBird is a free global radio app lets you listen to live, hosted jazz shows all over the world. NPR music is a free app that offers podcasts, radio stations and news articles.


Final Thoughts: 
From libraries, to concerts, festivals, podcasts, radio programs and apps, jazz is easily and readily available to discover!


Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Through one album

So far this month I have written about how you can discover jazz through one artist or one song. Today I wanted to take a similar route and talk about the influence one album can make.



Read my previous posts, Discover jazz and Planting the seeds.

Each week in June I will be writing about ways to discover jazz for yourself through examples and tips.

Through one album

Oftentimes the way we are introduced to jazz is through one album. Maybe a Benny Goodman album was lying around the house that sparked an interest, or a family member gifted a Charlie Parker album to you. For this post, I will be using the Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool as an example, as it was one of the first jazz albums that I loved.


1. Who recorded the album?

Birth of the Cool is a compilation album by trumpeter Miles Davis which features his nonet. 


What other famous albums did Miles Davis record? Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew are two seminal works. What other albums did Davis record in the same time period? Birth of the Cool was recorded between 1949-1950, while Dig was recorded in 1951. 

2. What are all the songs on the album?

"Move," "Jeru," "Moon Dreams," "Venus de Milo,"  "Budo," "Deception," "Godchild," "Boplicity," "Rocker," "Israel," "Rouge" and "Darn That Dream" are the tracks on Birth of the Cool.


What is your favorite track on the album? Maybe your favorite track is "Venus de Milo" by Gerry Mulligan. Who was Gerry Mulligan? Mulligan was a baritone saxophonist, composer and arranger. What do you like about the song? Is it the tempo, melody, or the solos? 

3. What is the personnel? 

Birth of the Cool has a large personnel because it was recorded over the course of two years, so different tracks feature different musicians. The personnel includes Miles Davis on trumpet, J.J. Johnson on trombone, Gunther Schuller on french horn, Lee Konitz on alto saxophone, Gerry Mulligan on baritone saxophone, John Lewis on piano, Al McKibbon on bass, Max Roach on drums, among many others. 


Which voices stood out from the band? Did you like Lee Konitz's light alto saxophone sound? What other albums did Lee Konitz make? Maybe you will listen to his album Motion. Or maybe you liked the use of french horn in the nonet. Gunther Schuller was a conductor, composer, historian and musician. Maybe you will discover his compositional works such as his string quartet and other orchestral pieces. 

4. What style is the album? 

It is easy to get caught up in too many terms or styles or sub-genres. Yet, it is helpful to realize Birth of the Cool is regarded as seminal in the history of cool jazz, which is a style of jazz that is lighter in tone and tempo. 


Who were some other major musicians in the cool jazz movement? Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Stan Getz, Lennie Tristano, Dave Brubeck and Chet Baker are some musicians of that style. What makes Lee Konitz different from other alto saxophonists such as Charlie Parker?

5. Explore! 

Maybe you will decide to explore more cool jazz albums or to delve into the music of Lee Konitz. You may like the arrangements of Gil Evans and discover that he collaborated with Miles Davis to write the album Sketches of Spain. Or, maybe you like the sound of orchestral jazz and will discover the music of bandleader Claude Thornhill


Final Thoughts: 
Albums are a powerful tool for learning because they contain a launching board for jazz's many musicians, composers, arrangers, styles, time periods and soloists. 

What jazz album(s) got you interested in jazz?

Miles Davis

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Planting the seeds

This week I wanted to build off of last week's post, Discover jazz, where I went through different ways to start listening to jazz. In the post, I explained how you can build a music collection from a particular artist you enjoy by learning their discography. I used Miles Davis as an example to showcase the various connections you can build from just one artist.  

This week I wanted to show a similar yet different route to discovering jazz. Many people are familiar with popular jazz standards by listening to the radio at a coffee shop, restaurant or mall. You may discover a new favorite song while at a brunch or bar that plays live music while out with friends. In this way, you can discover jazz history through just one song.



Each week in June I will be writing about ways to discover jazz for yourself through examples and tips.

Planting the seeds


A song or standard is a great way to plant the seeds of learning since they are typically recorded by numerous artists. For this post, I will use the popular song "Take Five" as an example since it is commonly heard at jazz brunches and restaurants. 


1. Who wrote the song?

Once you know the song title, you can easily search for its composer and history. "Take Five" is a composition by Paul Desmond performed by the Dave Brubeck quartet on the 1959 album Time Out

Some jazz standards were originally from plays or movies. Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are some of the composers that helped build the American Songbook. 


What do you like about "Take Five"? Do you like the relaxed feeling of the song? Do you think the melody is catchy?

2. What are the other songs from the album?

Once you know the original album, you can find out what other songs are on it. Time Out also includes, "Blue Rondo à la Turk," "Strange Meadow Lark," "Three to Get Ready," "Kathy's Waltz," "Everybody's Jumpin'"  and "Pick Up Sticks."


Do you like any of the other tracks from the album? Does "Take Five" blend well with the other tracks on Time Out

3. What is the personnel?

Time Out features Dave Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums. 


Maybe from the song "Take Five" you discover you love the cohesive sound of the group. What makes this particular personnel stand out? Do you enjoy Paul Desmond's alto saxophone tone? Is it the repetitive pull of the rhythm section?

4. Who else recorded the song?

By a simple YouTube search, you can find numerous versions of "Take Five," including tracks by Carmen McRae, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Tito Puente


With each version of "Take Five" you can discover how one song can be adapted for different styles, instrumentations, groups and purposes. 


Carmen McRae's version of "Take Five showcases inventive lyrics while Tito Puente and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra expand the original quartet setting to a larger format. These differences add interest and make the song sound fresh each time.


5. Explore! 

Explore each version of "Take Five" and discover what makes you love the track. Based on your answers to the above questions, maybe you will decide to explore albums by Paul Desmond or Carmen McRae. You may listen to other Dave Brubeck albums such as Jazz Goes to College or Brubeck Plays Brubeck. Or maybe you love the sound of the big band from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and will come across the bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. 


Final Thoughts: 
A jazz standard heard at a restaurant, bar, live concert or mall can be a powerful influence to expand your own music collection and ultimately come in contact with the music you personally love. 

I also want to stress that jazz is more than just music: it is a powerful tool for education, history, self reflection and activism. Just one song can plant the seed to inspire others to make a change. 

Dave Brubeck

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Discover jazz

Whenever I meet new people and tell them that I am a jazz musician there is always a lot of interest. For many people, jazz music was not introduced through school music or history classes, or through popular music. Movies and media portray jazz as a mysterious music that has a small following in clubs and bars, and it is often associated with the 1920s Jazz Age. Pictures of swing dancing and big bands come to mind - and that is completely valid, but jazz is so much more than that picture.

John Coltrane

What made me love jazz while starting out was the feeling I have while 'discovering' it when I was 14. Without constant input or 'homework' assigned to me, I looked up the history and the important musicians. I figured out the most famous albums and who was on each of them. I learned of the sub-genres and historical influences. And, I quickly started teaching my others about it because the sound captured my heart. It is exciting and liberating to take learning into your own hands.

In this way, I wanted to give some tips for how anyone can learn about jazz and discover the history on their own terms. Each week in June I will be writing about ways to discover jazz for yourself through examples and tips.

Louis Armstrong

Discover jazz


1. Learn the most important figures

I think the best way to start learning about jazz is by figuring out some of the most influential figures. With a simple google search of "jazz musicians," for example, pictures of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk come up.

Start by building off of a couple of names. You do not need to know any more than a couple names to start listening to jazz and you do not need to be overwhelmed by how much music there is out there.

Listen to the musicians on your short list. You can do this on YouTube, iTunes, etc. You can even go to your local library and check out their jazz collection. Sample a couple songs or an entire album. For example, by just searching "John Coltrane" on YouTube, the first result was his My Favorite Things album.


Pick your favorites from the list - it is perfectly fine to only like one or two of the five musicians listed - jazz is diverse and different albums may appeal to you. For example, from the list your favorite musician could be Miles Davis.

2. Listen to your favorites

Now that you have a musician you connect with, start figuring out their most influential albums. By a simple search of "Miles Davis," you'll find a list of his albums and box sets divided into time periods.

Now that you have a list of his albums, just start listening! Maybe you'll pick to listen to Kind of Blue or Birth of the Cool or Miles Ahead. Whatever looks interesting. Keep in mind that each album is unique, and styles changed throughout history.


3. What did you like the most?

What album did you like most by Miles Davis? Let's say after listening to a few your favorite album is 'Round About Midnight. Make a mental list of why you liked that album.

Did you like the individual musicians? The album features Miles Davis (tpt); John Coltrane (ts); Red Garland (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d).

Did you like one of the songs in particular? Maybe the track, "Round Midnight" stood out. The composer of that song is Thelonious Monk.

Did you like the sound of the jazz trumpet? Look up other jazz trumpet players: Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown.


4. Explore!

From 'Round About Midnight you can branch out and find albums by John Coltrane. Or you can find different versions of the song "Round Midnight" - maybe you'll discover trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's version or vocalist Ella Fitzgerald's version. Or you can discover other compositions by Thelonious Monk such as "I Mean You." The possibilities are endless, and there's no way to go wrong. Forming connections based on what you personally like is invaluable.


Keep on listening to your favorite jazz musicians. There is nothing wrong with being attached to one or two favorites and listening to them on repeat. Sometimes I go through weeks of only wanting to listen to Thelonious Monk!

By learning Miles Davis' discography, for example, you will come in contact with much of jazz's other key figures: John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea. Just noticing these names will help you become aware of jazz history.

Final Thoughts: 
Learning about jazz doesn't require a textbook, a lot of money, or intense studying. You can start as simple as exploring one jazz musician and then finding connections based on what you personally love! It's not a race and it's not a contest. At the end of the day jazz is about what speaks to you.



Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.