The Rock Fan’s Guide to Jazz

jazz

Jazz is one of America’s greatest cultural contributions. But with more than a century of music to explore, it can be hard for rock listeners to find their way in. Jazz writer John Corbett joins Jim and Greg to offer up the Rock Fan’s Guide to Jazz.

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Rock Fan’s Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus

If you’ve had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there’s an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan’s Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is fuddy-duddy music from a bygone era. Instead, it’s an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

John Corbett’s jazz recommendations for rock listeners

  • Sonny Rollins, Strode Rode from Saxophone Colossus
  • Luis Russell & His Orchestra, The (New) Call of the Freaks
  • Duke Ellington, Concerto for Cootie
  • Miles Davis, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down from Bitches Brew
  • Ornette Coleman, Voice Poetry from Body Meta
  • The Thing, Have Love Will Travel from Garage

Jim

There’s no better desert island track for the Rock Fan’s Guide to Jazz than Starship by MC5. Starship comes from the band’s debut album Kick Out the Jams and showcases its musical influences. The perfect merger between the two genres, the godfathers of punk took a poem by jazz icon Sun Ra and turned it into a song. This eight minute long track exemplifies a wild free jazz experience where the band is leaving the earth and the stage. For Jim and many others, MC5 was a gateway for rock fans to jazz. Do you have a question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.

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