Jazz Day: Jazz Albums for Beginners

Davis’s Kind of Blue, Brubeck’s Time Out, Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um, and Coltrane’s Giant Steps – these albums broke into the mainstream, despite the belief that jazz is hard and unattainable music. April 30th is World Jazz Day.

The history of jazz is replete with outstanding musicians, despised geniuses, rejected by audiences who did not care about their work, and discouraged by the poor opinion of jazz as unattainable and arrogant music. At the time, even those whose names and achievements are treated today as the basis of contemporary music suffer from misunderstandings. Every now and then mainstream music favorably sounds like jazz; Some albums have found their way onto shelves in culture houses and student rooms.

One of the most prominent contemporary jazz musicians, Branford Marsalis, said in an interview with PAP, exasperated by the lack of interest in jazz from the general public.

“Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis is considered one of the most popular jazz albums. Recorded in 1959 at Columbia Studios in New York, it established a new canon, a new form of jazz expression – jazz archetype. Fascinated by the music of the French Impressionists, Davis decided to weave their ideas into his music. He was assisted by Canadian arranger and composer Jill Evans, and the first attempts at the so-called cool jazz were released as the album “Birth of the Cool”.

Davis, a former assistant to Charlie Packer, is tired of “hot jazz” that reflects the staggering pace of life in the American big city. He was looking for a new, more distinct and contemplative form. He recorded “Kind of Blue” with John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (pianist Wynton Kelly played one of the songs). The album’s popularity made Davis a star – even in the white-dominated, racist music world of the late 1950s and early 1960s – and for his musicians it turned into a “stepping stone” to great careers. Among them, the most famous – and perhaps the most important – was the saxophonist John Coltrane, who celebrated his greatest success after 1959, and redefined the concept of jazz in works such as “Rise” and “Higher Love”. Two weeks after his “Kind of Blue” session, Coltrane recorded one of his most popular albums today, titled Giant Steps. The seven songs on the album became not only standards – like the song “Naima” – but also material upon which the technique was developed by later generations of saxophonists. “Giant Steps” is also Coltrane’s most significant album show, called “Sound Papers” – Wall of Sound, which was released on “Soltrane” two years ago. Coltrane eventually became a “personal saint”, an idol and a “spiritual guide” for the young jazz musicians who surrounded him with a cult-like cult, which also contributed to the musician’s early death. He would say, “I will be a saint,” affirming his belief in salvation through art.

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Photo: EPA/Skip Bolin

“Take five”

The most famous jazz piece seems to be “Take Five”, recorded by the quartet of pianist Dave Brubeck, although it was written by the saxophonist of the group Paul Desmond and released in 1959 on the album “Time Out”. The song has been used in television commercials, series, and movies. Although it shouldn’t be a hit – it was created solely for Brubeck drummer Joe Morello to showcase his art. He felt neglected. The distinctive motif, built around a solo rhythm, was turned into a radio song, and the Brubeck quartet became America’s most popular jazz band—also sent behind the Iron Curtain and, in 1958, performed in Poland—and the pianist’s face appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The so-called “West Coast Jazz” – warm and melodic – conquered America. In 1959, “Kind of Blue” and “Time Out” hit stores. That same year, Ornette Coleman traveled from Los Angeles to New York to lead the revolution. His band’s series of concerts at the Five Spot Club turned into a war between the “adults” and “the youth”. The “young” guy doesn’t want to play special chords anymore. They did not want to play any strings at all, but relied on intuition and collective improvisation. Their music was created “on the spot”, yet it resulted from feeling. Journalists later called it free jazz and dismissed it as incomprehensible nonsense, cacophony. Today, the album “Shape of Jazz to Come” doesn’t sound radical, but in 1959 Ornette Coleman was beaten up during a break from his concert to attack tradition; He did not gain fame or fortune, but he made one of the most important revolutions in the history of jazz. New York jazz Karim sat in front of the Five Spot Theater and openly demonstrated her rejection of “new music”. Charlie Haden, 22, was playing with his eyes closed. He was afraid of Charles Mingus’ glare.

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Photo: PAP/CAF-Przemek Wierzchowski

“Under the underdog”

In 1959, a new album was also released by Mingus, a double bass player and composer known for his impulsive nature and tough personality. Expressive views on political and ethnic issues. “I am Charles Mingus. Half black, yellow, half yellow, little, not really, not white enough not to be black”—he introduced himself in his famous autobiography “Under the Underdog.” His music was also a mix – it was traditional jazz, swing and be-bop, mixed with traditions of aggressive blues and gospel music.

In “Ah Um” he gave his views artistic expression. The most famous song from the album “Fables of Faubus” was dedicated to Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who opposed the law and did not approve of merging the schools. In 1957, Phobos called on the National Guard to ban 9 black teenagers from entering school – until then only whites. Unleash the Little Rock Crisis. In the original version of the song, Mingus and drummer Danny Richmond shouted angry pieces about the governor over the music. However, an instrumental version was released on the album; The Columbia brand got scared and refused to publicly insult the politician. The “proper” version eventually appeared on “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus” in 1961, which was published by a smaller, more independent publishing house.

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Photo. John Murphy / flickr.com

electronic jazz

One of the best-selling works of jazz was recorded, but not in the “golden age” – at the turn of the fifties and sixties of the last century, and in 1975. Pianist Keith Jarrett, one of the associates of Miles Davis during the ‘electro’ phase of his career, came to Cologne in January 75 – at the invitation of 17-year-old Vera Brands – had very different plans for the evening concert than the album “Koeln Concert” finally filled and was greeted with delight by students around the world.

The instrument that was waiting for Jarrett at the Cologne Opera – other than the one that had been agreed upon – was identified. Collapsing, he decided not to perform the prepared material, believing that the rickety little piano would not do the music justice. He decided not to cancel the show, although he had intended to do so. He went up on stage – only at 23:30 – and plunged into spontaneous improvisation. Played for over an hour and a half. The album, released in the same year, has sold more than 3.5 million copies to this day.

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