It’s easy to look at something that’s unfamiliar with disdain, rejecting any sort of artistic merit it may or may not have. Listening to someone such as Charlie Parker for the first time, the legendary alto saxophonist, could conjure up a yawn or disinterest in the music. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Generally exposing people to a type of music such as Jazz for the first time is met with great difficulty.
Another dilemma met when talking about Jazz to a non-listener is where to begin? With such a large catalog of music where should a non-listener begin?
There are different genres of Jazz, just as there are different genres of Rock. Some of these different divisions of Jazz include ragtime, bebop, hard bop, Afro-Cuban, bossa nova, fusion, and the very ambiguous “modern Jazz.” With this in mind, should you start at the very beginning with ragtime and dixieland, or should you start with something fairly new? I’d say start out with a Jazz musician whose attitude and style of playing is similar to the music you listen to everyday.
Someone, for example, who enjoys poignant ballads may come to cherish the music of Bill Evans. Although not limited to ballads, Bill Evan’s touch on the piano is one of ease, reflecting a gentle, kindred spirit.
The following list will consist of music genres accompanied by a jazz musician or two. Those who like any of the following genres may like the artist attached to that particular genre; it’s worth a listen I assure you.
Cannonball Adderly – Live at San Francisco
Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
Dave Brubeck – Time Out
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
Anything Ornette Coleman
Anything Eric Dolphy
Anything Django Rheinhardt
Wes Montgomery – Full House and Smokin’ at the Half Note
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ and The Big Beat
Anything Nat King Cole
Anything Ella Fitzgerald
And if you find this whole idea superfluous then just listen to Miles Davis’ records that span from the 50s to the 70s and choose an album that you like. After you’ve decided on what album you like then take a look at the musicians that he played with on that particular album. Once you know who those musicians are then check out some of their albums. For example, Davis’ Kind of Blue , a Jazz masterpiece, features Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans. If you like that album then listen to Coltrane’s solo records, Adderly’s solo records, etc. It’s a good method, seeing that Miles Davis was like a chameleon, playing different types of Jazz while maintaining his signature sound.