I discovered Jazz about half a year ago. I had watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, the movie was set in the 1920's and to fit the era the soundtrack consisted mostly of Jazz, swing, to be exact.

I had encountered swing before and didn't think much of it, however, that was usually in the context of modern bands playing "retro," trying to reinject masters like Duke Ellington into the pop music machine. This time, however, the swing was real. I liked it.

What grabbed me was the rhythm section. They set an atmosphere in those tracks that was relaxed, yet it had an energy to it. Some people have described Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as feeling like Manhattan right before morning traffic. That was the kind of feeling I got from the rhythm section in those tracks, I wanted more of it.

So after the movie was over I hit Napster and, being the lazy bum I am, typed in Jazz as my only search parameter and hit enter. A whole slew of artists came up, as one might expect. I didn't recognize any names except for one: John Coltrane. My 8th grade English teacher had been a big Trane fan, and had posters of him stapled up on the walls of his classroom. I figured if Trane was good enough for an old Alaskan English buff he was good enough for me. I picked the Trane track I saw and commenced the download. Thus it begins...

That track was Lazy Bird. Lazy Bird is on the album My Favorite Things which marks the transitional point between Trane's earlier work and his later, modal experiments. On the album Trane and company had been absorbing some ethnic Indian playing styles, and it shows on all the tracks. In short, I was turned off.

Fortunately, I was persistent. Still using the word jazz as my only search parameter I hit Napster a few more times until I found Dave Bruebeck's Blue Rondo Ala Turk. It was perfect in every way. I listened to that piece over and over again, and Bruebeck taught me a lot. In short, I first began to learn how to listen to Jazz from that one piece. I was getting hooked on this stuff, so I decided to actually learn about the artists and the history and such.

After reading up on the subject I returned to Napster to get a whole bunch of Miles Davis recordings. Mostly his sextet/quintet stuff. I still, however, don't consider this to be my discovery.

That would come for when I napstered two albums: Kind of Blue by Miles and A Love Supreme by Trane. Combined these two completly revolutionized everything I thought about music. I couldn't stop listening to them, I couldn't stop listening to everything Trane and Miles had to say on those albums. More importantly, it became very hard for me to go back and listen to rock or pop or what have you. All of that stuff just seemed hollow. It was official, I was a jazzophile.

"Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis and "Blue Train" by John Coltrane are always credited as the albums that brought most new fans into the jazz genre and justly so. When you think about it, you begin to realize that a lot of these new fans are going back to the improv stylings of jazz (mostly the post-Parker era between the mid-1950s to 1970) because they realize that it's the foundation for a lot of the modern music that they listen to now. Where would modern rock, electronic, and hip-hop be if jazz didn't do the groundwork in the 20th century? The dynamics of playing off each other's sound is something that jazz built and perfected for a whole new generation of musical artists.

Anyway, forgive my little "rant" there...since I discovered jazz many years ago, it holds a dear place in my heart. I strongly urge all music fans to give it a try...start off with the above two albums and move into other recordings such as "Sketches of Spain" and "Miles Ahead" (Miles Davis and Gil Evans), "Screaming the Blues" (Oliver Nelson), "A Love Supreme" (John Coltrane), "Saxophone Colossus" (Sonny Rollins). Yes, I obviously lean heavily on the "cool" era but this is where it all began for me. After that, you can go wherever you want...jazz has a plethora of styles and artists to choose from.

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