Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jazz & Me - Part 5 - Wayne Shorter

It’s rare that a musician’s most famous song is also one of my personal favorites. Wayne Shorter’s Footprints is one of those unusual exceptions. The intro bars on the bass sets up an ethereal and enigmatic calm that I find a constant in Wayne’s music.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jazz & Me - Part 4 - Herbie Hancock

I was listening to Herbie Hancock a full two decades before I knew who he was or what jazz was.
Herbie in 1983 wrote the chart-topping hit Rockit that was one of the first radio singles to use turntable scratching. When I was eight years old, Top 40 radio stations were so into this song that I probably heard it four or five times a day. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the song came from a piano prodigy who by his early 20s had composed some of the most ground-breaking jazz that the genre had seen. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jazz & Me - Part 3 - McCoy Tyner

Isa and I got married on a beach in a small town in eastern Venezuela in 2005. We did the whole thing on the cheap largely because we did almost everything ourselves – from sewing the tablecloths and writing the ceremony to figuring out the menu and choosing the music. I spent a day with my brothers burning CDs (that’s right), including one with a selection of jazz. This was long before I began this informal study of jazz, but two of those songs were by my now-modal-hero McCoy Tyner. The first was this one, called Contemplation:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jazz & Me - Part 2 - What do you mean “modal?”

Jazz can be trying on the ear because it has a harmonic complexity that is foreign to most musical ears. To put it another way, jazz arranges chords in ways that go against the grain of the unwritten rules that govern most rock, pop, country or classical music. Listening to jazz often left me feeling lost for precisely this reason.

Jazz & Me - Part 1

It came across the radio as I was flipping through stations on a bright yellow Sports Walkman. A walking bass rumbling from below, a piano tinkling from above, a snare and high-hat holding them together.  I don’t know what songs I heard, who performed them or what era or style of jazz they came from. I was sitting on a bus in Bogota in September 1996, heading toward the university on a college semester abroad. I was expecting those months would leave me well-versed in Latin culture and music. That day, instead, I felt like I had discovered jazz – even though I’d been listening to it for years.