I’ve been extremely excited about starting this segment on my blog.
The aim: find a variety of songs I like from a genre I wouldn’t typically listen to. Now I’m sure this doesn’t sound like a particularly arduous task, but it’s quite easy to lose sight of how stubborn and stuck in our ways we are when it comes to music.
Change is good and I’m excited find some new music along the way and really push myself out of my musical comfort zone.
This week may be a bit of cop out! See, I already love jazz. To me there is something so warming and nostalgic about it. This could be from listening to my Dad play countless Steely Dan records in the car on the way to school (which have heavy jazz influences) or it could be from discovering an abundance of hip-hop artists who’s beats are heavily reminiscent of classic jazz records. Perhaps even from watching Curious George in my youth, which from my memory had a Jazz soundtrack to accompany each episode (This may be where my memory fails me!).
However, I thought it important to include jazz in this segment, as sadly I don’t spend enough time exploring the genre well and truly.
The idea for this blog post, and ultimately this segment came from a song by Sarah Tandy I heard on radio 2 (radio 2 in the evenings around 8 never fails to impress if you’re looking for some new music). The song titled ‘Half Blue’ had me captivated. It felt remindful of Alfa Mist's sound and Tom Misch’s most recent album ‘What Kinda Music’, which is a personal favourite of mine, and is a much more jazz-centric record than its predecessors.
So, let me share with you a mixture of classic and contemporary Jazz tracks that are new to my ears and may be to yours too!
Slightly overwhelmed, I wondered where good place to start sifting through such a large catalogue of music would be. The Spotify radio for ‘Half Blue’ seemed like a good place to start.
It’s here I found a sensational group, comprised of five Londoners, called Ezra Collective. Despite being a contemporary group, their soulful sound could have jumped right out of 60s, offering a variety of smooth jazz tracks and some more spirited tunes. Each element of the collective compliments one another other perfectly, neither one outshining the other. For my first recommendation, ‘Space is the Place’ is a must listen if you're interested in listening to some slower tracks. However, if you’re not quite sure about Jazz just yet, you may be glad to hear Ezra Collective have a sublime collaboration with Loyle Carner, called ‘What am I to do?’. This song may just satisfy your hip hop needs whilst introducing you seamlessly to jazz.
As I started with the new, I shall move onto the old, though no less relevant! Some could say the building blocks for the many contemporary jazz artists you can hear today. Therefore, the legendary John Coltrane cannot go unmentioned. With tens of albums and remastered records, this was a portfolio of work to make my head spin. Nonetheless, I found an array of songs I really liked.
First ‘Big Paul’ with Kenny Burrell. To me this song is exactly what comes to mind when I hear the word Jazz. ‘Big Paul’ really echos that unique Jazz sound. As a total amateur of the genre, I was looking for a way to describe this. Though hesitant to say scattered, to me that’s how it sounds, but in the best way possible! It’s clear to see why Coltrane is a legend in the Jazz community and beyond.
I’d also like to mention one of Coltrane’s most well-known songs, ‘In a Sentimental Mood’. This number is incredibly easy listening. It was originally introduced to me in a song by Rejjie Snow (a rap artist) titled ‘Olga (1984)’, which samples a pitched down version of Coltrane’s original record.
It’s undeniable that today’s modern artists are uncovering new innovative ways to reinvent the classic jazz sound. One way they’re doing this is by harmoniously blending the genre with another. An artist I came across on my search who perfectly executes this is Robohands. The song that caught my attention, due to its unlikely marriage of genres, is his most recent single ‘Leaves’. Having had a listen to his other records I was expecting a similar, contemporary style jazz track but to my surprise and wonder it was something I hadn’t expected. Robohands combines a modern indie melody, reminiscent of Vacations and Mac Demarco, alongside some of the same stylistic elements that can be heard in his other, more obvious, jazz tracks.
This song for me is great, it combines a sound I often listen to, one that feels like home, with jazz. If you’re not sure on the genre just yet or are looking for a place to begin, ‘Leaves’ by Robohands would be a great place to start. Not to mention it’s been on repeat all week and might have the same effect on you!
I thought it would be extremely inappropriate if I didn’t feature Miles Davis’ name in this post. Well known for being one of the most influential Jazz musicians of the 20th century, as well as a highly skilled trumpeter; Davis’ catalogue of music made me feel like a 5-year-old on Christmas, spoiled for choice on which shiny parcel to open first. So, I thought to start with Davis’ most popular track: ‘Blue in Green’. This song is understandably popular and is incredibly easy listening for fans of any and every genre. Its smooth, slow and incredibly relaxing, whether you plan to really immerse yourself in the genre, or you’re just looking for some tranquil background music.
Now, I know the premise of this segment is to discuss music that is completely new to my ears, but I feel it would be wrong without including some of the following honourable mentions.
Firstly, Jorja Smith’s ‘Rose Rouge’, a newer release which pays homage to a very traditional jazz sound. Smith’s voice compliments the velvety instrumental perfectly. It’s a surprise she hasn’t explored this genre sooner. I think it’s great to see popular artists, who can expect airtime on the radio, delving into styles such as jazz that can often be overlooked by younger generations.
Lastly, I must include Jamie Cullum’s jazz interpretation of Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop the Music’. This has been a personal favourite of mine since I was 8 or 9, when mum came home with a copy of Cullum’s album ‘The Pursuit’. The jazz adaptation ensures to not tarnish the original record but moulds it into something completely new. Certainly, a listen if you’re a Rihanna fan.
Exploring the jazz genre further for this post, has been an extremely enjoyable experience and has only solidified my appreciation not only for its modern artists but its pioneers also, like Miles Davis and Coltrane.