By Grace-Mary Burega –
Jazz. A single word that encompasses a world full of ideas and people. Multifarious and diverse, yet unifying.
As a young adult, I often feel alienated by my love of jazz. I live in a world of swing and bebop, yet my friends seem confused by the name “jazz.”
When I was a bit younger, I didn’t listen to the radio because I felt like pop music was fake. Yet, by being surrounded by my friends, my peers, my generation, I’d say I really can and do love pop music. Across all genres there are songs or artists that really speak to me. By living with it, I have come to love it.
Sometimes I think that my peers don’t list to jazz because they have this misconstrued perception of what it is. I think this confusion comes from a lack of exposure to the music. I know from my own experience that my early public school music classes didn’t mention jazz. In fact, I didn’t know who Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker were until I was a teenager.
In addition to teaching about Mozart and Beethoven, public schools should emphasize American music masters such as Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Miles Davis. Also, jazz history can easily be incorporated into American history classes, especially when learning about the jazz era and civil rights.
I wanted to write about why I love jazz because I think people my age should have the opportunity to learn about it and love it. Well, I can’t truly define it, but I’ll give you reasons why I can say jazz is my life, and I wouldn’t want to live any other way.
Reasons why I love jazz
As explained through ten jazz songs that have changed my life
- “Blue in Green” from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue
Because within the first ping from Bill Evans on the piano, I feel a pang of emotion in my gut. Because one chord can take me to a reflective, quieter place. Because Miles can paint a picture and John Coltrane can cry – all with one note. Because while listening to this song, I become a different person – I become solemn, calm, and introspective. And it’s all because of the mood, the atmosphere, the colors blue in green.
- “In a Sentimental Mood” from Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Because I don’t know how I would cope with life without this song. Whenever I am feeling down, isolated, or just sentimental, I put this song on repeat. Because I don’t know how to be alone with myself, and this song allows me to feel like at least someone – somewhere – knows how I’m feeling. Because whenever I feel like I’m going to cry my eyes out, or my soul is aching, or I’m about to lose all hope I can play this song and gradually feel better. Because what Coltrane and Duke captured on this song is beyond music – it’s the human experience.
- “If I Should Lose You” from Hank Mobley’s Soul Station
Because Hank Mobley’s tone. Because the lyrics are “If I should lose you the stars would fall from the sky, If I should lose you the leaves would wither and die” – and I think that captures how I feel about my family and friends. Because his solo is so bluesy and soulful, and he develops musical ideas like he’s speaking to me. Because it’s an all star band – and Wynton Kelly is out of this world.
- “But Not for Me” from Chet Baker Sings
Because it’s just so relaxing. Because it’s just so romantic. Because the way he plays trumpet is an extension of his voice and vice versa. Because his solo is just simple and I can sing along with the entire thing. Because I am just so calm while listening to it. Every word he sings I believe.
- “All of Me” from Billie Holiday
Because it’s just so heart-wrenching. Because it’s the jazz song I always sing in the shower. Because only Billie can mean so much with so little. Because it’s hushed and puts me in a calm demeanor. The lyrics speak to me, and I feel like Billie is emoting how I feel.
- “Someday my Prince will Come” from Dave Brubeck’s In Her Own Sweet Way
Because it’s just so sweet and tender. Because Paul Desmond has a tone as light as air. Because it’s a jazz waltz that carries me along in a trance-like state. Because it’s a Disney song and reminds me of when I was a little kid. Because it’s not showy – it’s not trying to overdo anything. I feel like I’m in a fantasy.
- “Without a Song” from Sonny Rollins’ The Bridge
Because how can you be more hopeful than this song? Because the story behind this song – Sonny Rollins took a hiatus from performing to find himself. He practiced on a bridge for a few years shaping himself and his playing, and this album was his comeback. Because I can sing everyone’s solos, and I can feel the elation. Because I know the lyrics are “Without a song the day would never end, without a song the road would never bend, when things go wrong a man ain’t got a friend, without a song” – and that just speaks to me.
- “Just Friends” from Charlie Parker with Strings
Because I can say without this album I don’t know where I would be. Because this album was Charlie Parker’s dream – and “Just Friends” was his favorite song that he ever recorded. Because the strings bring lushness and his solo is just so divine. Because I genuinely feel something while listening to him play – and even though I never met him, I feel like we understand each other.
- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” from Dizzy Gillespie’s Sonny Side Up
Because how can you have any worries while listening to this song? Because I feel so happy while listening to this. Because every solo emits a beam of sunshine and Dizzy’s singing makes me laugh so hard. “Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street” – and I think the lyrics really describe the aim of jazz – finding the positive in life – and that’s how I want to live my life.
- “There is No Greater Love” from Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons’ Boss Tenors
Because this song is so happy and light. Because Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons are the perfect match for each other. Because everything Sonny plays is so light hearted and joyful – and from his first note I start smiling. Pure happiness in a song.
So I hope if you’ve never listened to jazz, you can find some time to check these songs out and maybe explore the genre. These are by no means a depiction of what all jazz sounds like – they are just some of my personal favorites that I wanted to share.
Maybe jazz won’t become your life, but maybe you’ll find some new music that speaks to you. And isn’t that the goal of all music – to speak to you?