I’ve always thought that appreciation months were silly. If something is worth appreciating, why can’t we just be thankful for it all the time rather than just one month out of the year? It almost seems like its made less important once there is an appreciation month. I felt that way when I found out that April is Jazz Appreciation Month. I didn’t know it before this year but when I found out I thought “Has Jazz really escaped people’s lives that much that it needs an appreciation month?” We don’t have a Rock appreciation month, or a Pop appreciation month. So why does Jazz?
Jazz is really the last genre in this country that should have an appreciation month. It is the first American genre. It was made in the U.S.A.! American folk music relied heavily on English, Irish and Scottish forms. Blues music relied on African forms. But Jazz took certain techniques from many different genres and combined them to make a new thing entirely. It hurdled us on to the World stage and other countries started taking our music a little more seriously. Jazz should be always appreciated for these facts.
I realize there are hundreds of thousands of people who always have Jazz on their mind but for others who may not think about Jazz at all, I doubt an appreciation month will suddenly make a person love Thelonious Monk or John Coltrane.
So let’s instead talk about our favorite Jazz musicians. Those who we appreciate every month out of the year. Not just during April or any other month. Let’s appreciate the music which added so much to our culture and way of life. I’ll start and feel free to add yours in the comments.
When I want to listen to Jazz, more often than not, I start with Thelonious Monk. I love the dissonance in his piano playing style. Whenever one of his songs reaches the improvisation point, I feel like it the song becomes fragile and that it could fall apart at any moment. Its the use of space and the notes that are never played when you expect something to be there. It keeps my attention unlike any other. His melodies are also extremely lyrical despite the dissonance. His style transcends a piano part and it sounds as though there is something there backing him up on every key stroke.
AKA, “Bird”. Bebop Jazz is almost depressing for me to listen to. Not because of the emotions involved in the music but because its so acrobatic and I often wonder how its even possible to play that fast. Hearing Charlie Parker play fast lines on the sax almost makes me want to make give up music altogether and try something else but the awe I am left in is so inspiring. It makes me want to try to get to that level of playing with the harmonica someday.
One of the greatest voices in Jazz, Billie Holliday was able (and still is able!) to capture a listener’s attention with her pure talent and raw emotions. Her slightly raspy voice is honest and you can hear the troubles she’s been through with each note. I know it might be a cliche, but I get a lump in my throat every time I hear “Strange Fruit”.
Other Go-To Jazz
I also love Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck and Medeski, Martin and Wood but I’ve listed enough. Now it’s your turn. Let me know your go-to Jazz every month out of the year in the comments.