Lately I’ve been neglecting my favorite “sub-genre” of jazz, what might be considered ‘classic’ jazz. A few weeks ago, I was on the Internet and stumbled upon a great documentary on saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Of course I knew who he was, but I didn’t know his story. As a side note, I LOVE biopics and documentaries, but I have a soft spot for musicians. To me, a musician’s life story is also the story of his/her art. In order to best appreciate the music, one needs to be able to appreciate the artist’s story.
So I watched this documentary in awe and drawn to his music. I’ve actually never been a fan of the saxophone, but something about Gordon’s story and the life he poured into the instrument just touched me. Now I can’t get enough Dexter Gordon! Along those lines, I started listening (again) to Newark, New Jersey-based and listener-supported jazz station, WBGO, the ONLY local radio station that plays “Real Jazz, Right Now.”
I find jazz to be the most interesting music genre. There are so many forms of jazz, each one with unique and varied styles. Acid, bebop, classic, fusion, smooth, contemporary – all terms used to describe different forms of a music style that grew from African-American culture in the early 1900s. My father introduced me to jazz (namely what I call ‘classic jazz’) when I was a little girl; we listened to WBGO in the car while running errands, and he would encourage my reading by learning the names of artists on his album covers. I distinctly remember learning the name “M-A-Y-N-A-R-D F-E-R-G-U-S-O-N”! As a young girl of 10 or 11, I appreciated the ‘organized confusion’ of jazz – I was fascinated by piano riffs, bass solos and horn playing that was so improvisational, it sounded like a hodgepodge of random sounds. And yet, those sounds came together and made beautiful music. I think jazz is best enjoyed live, or the recording of a live set, simply because the magic is in the improvisation. Jazz musicians always seem to be in a perpetual jam session. Songs go on and on, and you get caught up in the music. Classic jazz is a style of music that doesn’t necessarily put me in any particular mood. It is a style that just encourages me to listen and enjoy the pure musicianship. It is an incredible feeling to just LISTEN to the instruments.
I have always said that if trapped on a desert island, with only one genre of music at my disposal, I would easily choose classic jazz. The thought of me on an island with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Art Blakey and a host of other jazz greats gives me life!