Let me start off Black History Month with a personal reflection.
I lived more than 40 years not knowing shit about jazz. Musically, my main bag was funk... P-Funk in particular.
I was also deep into ’70s pop and soul... the music I grew up on. (Plus, of course, the Beatles.) My tastes had broadened into areas like South African music and rock en español.
As for jazz, well... I dug Cab Calloway from childhood on. When I discovered the World Saxophone Quartet in 1984, I became a fan. And I got around to copping “Kind of Blue” in the mid-’90s. Played it to death.
But Monk? Mingus? Trane? I was absolutely ignorant. (Never mind cats like Booker Little, Joe Henderson and Sonny Criss.)
Then came the autumn of 2003.
I was writing a pilot script about an L.A. private detective, and I had a half-assed notion that the character was into classic bebop... just because that’s a sound you don’t hear in TV dramas.
Already a music downloader, I went to eMusic.com and got a few modern-jazz MP3s. Also bought a few CDs... basically at random.
My mind was immediately blown.
I made up for lost time by acquiring vast amounts of small-group jazz from the 1950s and ’60s. It was an obsession that waned only when I started to blog. (Then this became my obsession).
The private-eye project went nowhere. But now – 4,000 MP3s and 300 CDs later – I have a basic familiarity with the hard-bop repertoire and all the major players. I can call myself a jazz head.
Below are some of the tunes that turned me out. It was a revelation to me that modern jazz had hooks... like the best pop records.
And that it could groove as hard as the best funk.
I don’t expect this music to trigger in you what it triggered in me. But these tracks move me emotionally... because they still evoke that wonderful feeling of discovery from five years ago, when jazz opened itself unto me.
Click the titles to listen on my Vox blog.
1. “Strode Rode” – Sonny Rollins
(With Max Roach killing his drum kit.)
2. “Ching Miau” – Yusef Lateef
(I’m aware of only two other tunes with a 5/4 time signature: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission: Impossible” theme.)
3. “Delilah” – Clifford Brown and Max Roach
(With Harold Land on tenor sax.)
4. “Jump Monk” – Charles Mingus
(With two unsung horn players: George Barrow on tenor and Eddie Bert on trombone.)