Jazz It Up

Jazz band
CC 2015 Jimmy Baikovicius

I’ll admit it. My knowledge of jazz could fill a thimble. I know more about classical, which has never been my go-to. My knowledge of rock is, if I may be so humble, encyclopedic. It spills over into country even. But jazz has always been a pleasant sounding mystery to me.

And maybe that’s why my Sirius XM receiver is always tuned to Real Jazz (67) and Watercolors (66) anymore. I don’t know about it. So everything is new!

That’s not to say I’m completely ignorant. I know who the Marsalis brothers are, and I’ve lusted over a 180g vinyl copy of Miles Davis’s Kinda Blue that I never picked up. I can pick out Dave Brubeck within a bar, and I’ve lamented Diana Krall did not sound all that great in the last live performance I saw from her. My stepson loves Sinatra, and I insist he get to know Tony Bennett (who sounds awesome in his 90s!)

I do rideshare on weekends. On a recent trip to San Francisco, an Uber driver had jazz on and told me I should play it when I drive. Passengers, he explained may not like rock or hip hop or country. Classical will bore half of them. But no one objects to jazz. Upon my return to Cincinnati, he was proven right. Only a couple my first weekend back objected. They were also monumentally drunk and demanded Beyonce. (Hint: Ask for an aux cable if you want to use your phone in an Uber or Lyft car.) One other guy complained, but he wasn’t the paying passenger and complained about everything. (Also, massively drunk. My backseats emerged unscathed.) That’s two rides out of about fifty. So I think that’s a good sample set, don’t you?

I think jazz works because it’s not the same thing played over and over again. It’s not something kids play to annoy their parents or vice-versa. For perspective, I annoy my stepson with Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. Man wants his Post Malone, whom I think uses too much Autotune.

But there’s a difference in jazz that I don’t like, and that comes from the live shows. In rock, in hip hop, in country, the musicians talk mainly to transition from one song to the next. In classical, if the conductor talks, it’s very briefly. Jazz musicians seem to need to tell a story between songs. It could be the rideshare driver in me not wanting my passengers to get bored, but I really hate that. I often find myself flipping stations.

Still, jazz is mostly new to me, even when it’s old. And it’s in everything. Listen to Dr. Dre. Listen to half the rockers who’ve ever graced a CD. And think country is immune? Wynton Marsalis did a killer cover of Mickey Gilley’s “You Don’t Know Me,” a song that puts him head and shoulders above his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis. (And miles above their cousin Jimmy Swaggart, but I’ve said that about Jerry vs. Jimmy for years. Something about owning your vices and letting loose, when Jerry Lee does very well.)

It’s something I haven’t listened to much in my travels, but it’s definitely a welcome change for my ears.