It Might As Well Be Spring

Last night on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” there was a jazz category. The contestants left it for last and then failed to answer a single question. America’s classical music, indeed.

On New Year’s Eve I made a resolution to work on my jazz piano chops. It’s the only resolution I’ve kept through March. My girlfriend made the same resolution, so I’ve been rewatching Ken Burns’ documentary with her. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Now I’m not suggesting you need to be like me and Bruce, Richard, Charlie and Alan and get hep to the jive. But really, why be an ickaroo any longer? — CC

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32 Comments on "It Might As Well Be Spring"

  1. I feel slightly ashamed to admit that even as I love Jazz, I am completely ignorant of the great classics and masters of the genre. Almost all music from that era, across the entire world, was so much better than anything today. How do I start learning about Jazz? Is there a Jazz appreciation website somewhere?

  2. Sal, as naive as your post sounds, I want to thank you for the spirit behind it. You love the music (you even capitalized it!) even though you don’t know much about it. That shows that you’ve simply responded to the sound, and you’ve dispelled the notion that getting into jazz requires some great apprenticeship into music theory, etc. Just listen and enjoy.

    As for the naive part, it should be very easy to take immediate charge of your own musical education. You can start with the Ken Burns documentary I mentioned, likely available at your local library. I’m currently watching it streaming on Netflix, another option. While at the library there should be a ton of introduction to jazz books. If you’d like your own copies, check Amazon or your local bookstore.

    Some googling should reveal starter sites in just a few seconds, and you can also click the “Jazz” button in the category column here on this website. It will give you many names to go check out, which you can do on Spotify for free.

  3. A few months ago, while surfing the car radio dial for some easy listening for my 1 year son and I to listen to on the way to daycare/work, I stumbled upon WHRV’s, Harvard University radio, “Jazz Spectrum”. I’ve enjoyed some jazz since I first watched the Ken Burns documentary, but I’m getting a little bit more into now.

  4. Jeff Jarmuth | March 22, 2013 at 9:16 am |

    I love the bebop sound that was popular from the 40s to the mid-60s. However, it’s very difficult to find radio stations that play this kind of jazz exclusively. Too many mix in the self-indulgent jazz that seems to be where it’s at now or, worse, “smooth” jazz that always sounds to me like the soundtrack from soft core porn like “Red Shoe Diaries.”

    An internet streamer called is the only place that I’ve found that has great jazz stations to choose from. Perhaps as many as 80 genres…

  5. Different moods mean different jazz, but I’m always on the lookout for live Gypsy jazz à la Django

  6. Getz and Gilberto sounded great until the noise (“jazz”) started :-(

  7. I came by my love for jazz through my dad (he was a big fan) and I’m fortunate to have a full time jazz station in my part of the world called based out of Toronto Canada. My usual unwind routine at the end of the day is reading a good book and listening to either Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans on the stereo.

  8. CC – great post for a Friday!

    Sal S. – Start with JazzWax: Once you have read every article and followed all his reading suggestions you will be very knowledgeable. Marc Myers is a leading writer on jazz and writes for the WSJ and just had a new book come out, “Why Jazz Happened” which presents the genre from the perspective of its structural influences.

    Ken Burns’ doc is an accessible start just keep in mind that it is more “the history of jazz according to Ken Burns and Wynton Marsalis” than a truly objective piece of work. Search any musician on youtube and you will come across some rare footage: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey…

    A super hip doc on Jackie McLean is right here: is one of the best jazz stations in the country. Diverse programming and very informed hosts. If you listen for a week you will be exposed to all the genres of jazz and get a good feel for what sounds speak to you.

    Happy listening!

  9. I Like some Jazz: Kind of Blue or Birth of the Cool
    Some drives me nuts: The shape of things Come
    It cant be too hyper or too smooth.

  10. Sal – and anyone else who is interested,
    Not sure where you are from but you could check out 89.9 FM New York, WKCR, the radio station at Columbia University. They play a good deal of jazz and Phil Schaap has a radio show near every morning. Phil is something akin to a living jazz history book and includes a wealth of historical background with the tracks he plays every day. I agree that just listening to jazz doesn’t require a knowledge of the theory at work in the tunes and improvisations but I do think that more intellectual and disciplined listening is required to appreciate the music.

  11. If you are outside the Denver area, you can listen online to the great jazz station we have here – KUVO. Best way to learn about the huge variety of jazz is to just start listening and immerse yourself in it. The station has knowledgeable DJs (always with the cool tidbits) and programs that serve as a great jazz education as well.

  12. Yes I love jazz. Not to be confused with the “smooth jazz” radio format craze of the late 80’s & beyond. You know, the Kenny G crowd. Elevator music for the tragically unhip.

  13. I enjoy styles that riff off a general melody, while that melody is still discernible. I don’t know if that can even be classified as jazz though.

    That nervous stuff is fine live, but I can’t stand it when I’m trying to get work done. Everyone should appreciate jazz, but liking it is another matter.

  14. Best jazz radio station I ever heard -WBGO out of Newark, NJ (online stream) Jazz all day, plus Blues hour M-F afternoons 3 to 4, Rhythm Review (50s,60s,70s, soul and R and B) Sat. morning. Great DJs, Great stuff.

  15. Knowing the answers to “Jeopardy!” questions unanswered by the contestants: what is the best? Apologies for my pathetic gloating in advance.

  16. Swiss Movement. Eddie Harris & Les McCann

  17. Mr. Wyllys | March 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

    I can “get down” to dixie land…but everything else just tends to bore me…I can see how others like it though…

  18. Straıght Arrow | March 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

    Jazz is to music what Black Fleece and York Street are to style.

  19. Astrud would sound gorgeous singing the telephone book.

  20. Funny you should mention the telephone:

  21. Richard Meyer | March 23, 2013 at 4:06 am |

    But I mostly dig the sounds of the classic jazz from the big band era, as well as some of the stuff from the pre-fusion 60’s Since then, a lot leaves me cold.

  22. I grew up listening to big band music, in addition to rock and roll. As far as jazz is concerned, I can listen to the early stuff, and dixieland. I even have a few 78’s from the 1920’s and 30’s that I play on an old victrola. The beebop and 50’s beatnik stuff never appealed to me.

    In 1975, I attended a Duke Ellington/Dizzy Gilespie concert at the newly opened Heinz Hall in Piittsburgh. After a leisurely dinner at Johnny Garneau’s Golden Spike, I and two friends walked across the street to the Hall. In those days, people dressed to the nines for such occasions. Suits and tuxedos on men, dresses and gowns on ladies. A few men had loud pimpy type attire, fashionable in the day. The Duke’s band was directed by the aging Cab Callaway, the Duke was probably deceased.

    I expected to hear the easy swing of the big band era, but the music was anything but. I could see people sent “far out” by the selections. Can’t say I enjoyed any of it. My buddy, (nicknamed the Duke) who had been invited like me, (by the jazz lover) likened the experience to being on combat manuevers. I did not reply out of courtesy and respect to my host and other patrons.

    The Duke didn’t enjoy the Duke.

  23. I’m an addict, and a frequent listener, but by no means an expert. One of great things about the genre is the rich history behind the music and its musicians. To me, learning about a musicians personal history after getting familiar with the music makes it all the more enjoyable.

    These days I’m leaning heavily on Duke Ellington, in particular his albums Ellington Indigos and In a Mellotone.

  24. my favorite sounds in the world are my nephews’ voices, and Miles Davis playing anything, but especially when he had the Harmon mute on (the 50s and early 60s Miles in particular,Im not a fusion fan)-I personally love Sinatra and Miles for similar reasons-the range of their talents-they can make you laugh, smile, cry, just feel life so deeply. .

  25. James Redhouse | March 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

    For the Purists Among Us:

    “It Might As Well Be Spring” minus the jazz:

  26. Keymonte C. | March 25, 2013 at 8:50 am |

    I first checked out this site last year when you did a piece on Hampton Hawes. I must say that since then I check the site regularly and Hampton is in heavy rotation.

  27. Thanks kindly, Christian- I was hoping someone would pick up that line (!).

  28. Dixieland and big band swing: yes. Something relaxed and cocktail-loungey (like The Eddie Higgins Trio’s album “Dear Old Stockholm”): yes. Samba, mambo, bossa nova, rumba, cha-cha, and the like: yes.

    Bop, fusion, and all other noise: no, thank you.

    If it’s jazz (however that is to be interpreted) and you can’t dance to it, then it’s not for me.

    Must be my background in dance and classical music.

  29. No surprise you’re a square, Henry. You just came out in favor of “a strict set of menswear rules.”

  30. Yep! L7 all the way and proud of it!

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