Jazz Appreciation MOOC1

January 2014

How did I get into Jazz? Well as Pete Waterman says lots of us post-war kids who got into music owe it to our Mums, who were perhaps rock n’roll fans before marrying but bought records and turn their kids onto them. In my case my Mum took me to the NAAFI in Herford during 1959 and bought, brrmm, brrmm – The Everly Brothers Til I Kissed You!;  

Yeah, not Jazz… But the UK had no music radio, and wouldn’t have until 1967 (check the movie The Boat that Rocked for more on this). What little music that gained ‘needle time’ on the radio was very mainstream, which, in the 50s, meant Mrs Mills, Russ Conway, Broadway musicals and operatic show tunes. My Dad liked Frank Sinatra since Songs for Swinging Lovers (?) and then, joy of joys, Frank Sinatra starred with Louis Armstrong and the family went off to see High Society – Well Did you Evah! 

High Society created a number of family catch-phrases such as “have you heard its in the stars, next July we collide with Mars.” Fortunately Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby also took the opportunity to introduce us to Jazz as well and Now you has Jazz 🙂 

The Shadows released Apache in 1960; and what little air time was available started to be taken by the newly emerging popular music. Which was great for me, I was just 9 it was lively music and wonderfully distracting for a kid with no musical background. Meanwhile in the UK, on the live music scene, jazz, but mostly trad jazz, dominated and suppressed skiffle and rock n’roll. From this Acker Bilk, with Stranger on the Shore, and Kenny Ball, became chart and radio staples. Here’s a New Orleans (?) version of Midnight in Moscow (!)

Some jazz percolated through as modern standards that the BBC, the only radio station in the UK, would play. Take Five by Dave Brubeck, which cemented my interest in drums, and the short version of Girl from Ipanema featuring Astrid Gilberto. I’ve always loved the long version as it is a samba, a pop song and when Stan Getz takes off it is a cool jazz tune, a full fusion trilogy in just 5 wonderful minutes. Girl From Ipanema

Then The Beatles arrived and blew open the music scene in the UK, most interestingly with bands like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers which acted as a finishing school for young musicians with classical and jazz backgrounds and made them popular musicians by saturating them in the blues. Bands like Manfred Mann had blues and jazz musicians rocking out, and when Bruce and Baker left Mayall and formed Cream you had a jazz rhythm section driving a rock band. I caught them on TV in 1966 and was transfixed as they played I Feel Free;  

I started seeing bands live then and one or two of them had jazz influences, Family for instance. Then I went to the annual rugby club party in 1968 and they had booked the Fairport Convention, who failed to turn up and, in their infinite wisdom, the booking agency replaced drunken folkies with the intense jazz-inspired free-form rock of the early Soft Machine, yay! – Hope for Happiness;  

That was it! I had to buy a drum kit, my instrument of choice, I sold all my albums, bought a rubbish kit and started beating away and became immediately disenchanted with rock drummers, except Mr Baker in Cream and Robert Wyatt in Soft Machine. Reading in the liner notes that the music was a drum oratorio for Tony Williams I bought the new Miles Davis album Filles de Kilimanjaro and immediately heard supreme drumming and ensemble playing that made complete sense to me – Tout de Suite  

Miles followed that jazz oratorio with In A Silent Way, where the groove became the thing, whether it was chillout, or workout or, best of all changed gears. Teo Macero was playing with the tapes and suddenly Miles was making more progressive music than the progressive rock bands who were still working out how to make their grand statements of contortion. Miles said  Shhh! and made it /Peaceful  

So I got into jazz because I wanted to learn the drums and, for me, only jazz drummers were interesting. More on me, drums and various drummers in Let There Be Drums.


One Response to “Jazz Appreciation MOOC1”

  1. […] wrote a blog post about his experience getting into jazz, and I thought it would be a good idea to do the same: reading Fred’s post reminded me of […]

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