Jazz for a novice listener?

A colleague of mine asked for recommendations on “solid albums” for a fairly novice jazz listener. I’m sure every jazz musician and fan has his or her answer; here’s mine:

Perhaps try a random walk approach: listen to a good jazz radio station (WBGO from Newark, NJ for example) and see what catches your ear. You can then explore from there.

For specific albums, one of my favs is Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven” (1963), a classic small-group recording, featuring several “names” who are still playing today (bassist Ron Carter, for example, plays at The Hamilton Live in Washington, DC June 13).

Another good starting point IMHO is anything from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, which was something of a grad school for several generations of musicians over 30 years. If you listen to any live jazz today, you’ll probably hear strong influences from the sound of these two groups.

What would be your recommendations?

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One thought on “Jazz for a novice listener?

  1. I think one reason jazz is not as popular today as it could be stems from the fact that some musicians forget that, according to Warne Marsh, jazz improvisation is “the spontaneous creation of beauty.” There’s a lot o jazz that can sound beautiful to us jazz nerds but not the general public. I think Bill Evans is an example of a musician who never forgot this, and his music is accessible to anybody even if they don’t appreciate his rich and complex counterpoint and harmony. Also, many of the great unwashed seem to prefer vocal music to instrumental music.

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