Let me confess up front that while I really love jazz, I am quite a bit more knowledgeable about rock n’ roll (who played in which band, when an album came out, etc.) than I am about jazz. Perhaps this blog will force me to listen and learn more. (And I’m certainly willing to be corrected).
And while I pretty much grew up with rock and roll, I don’t believe I heard my first real jazz tune until I was 18. I was in my first year of college (and soon to drop out). A friend of mine who wanted to get into jazz as a bassist – and whom I’d gone to a number of concerts with in high school – grabbed me and dragged me over to the school library during a break. He sat me down, had me put headphones on and made me listen to “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane.
I cannot tell you that I instantly enjoyed it. Well, I’m sure I liked it to a certain extent but I can’t say that it immediately blew me away. I was too much into rock and roll and my tastes weren’t yet broad enough. I don’t think I really appreciated it till a few years later when another friend turned me on to Weather Report, a band made up largely of guys who had worked with Miles Davis. And so I then got into jazz-rock or fusion. (More on that in a later post).
Eventually all this led me back to Miles Davis. It’s probably pretty much of a cliché to say Miles is my favorite but it is very much true. Not only was he a groundbreaker but his music is, to me, very listenable and his trumpet-playing is instantly recognizable. (By “listenable” I mean accessible. I am not a big fan of “outside” jazz which, to me, sounds like a bunch of guys playing different tunes. Jazz by its very nature is outside enough.)
What’s interesting about Miles is that he never seemed to stand still. Not only was everything he did of a high caliber, he always had top-notch bands and went through various phases (cool, bebop, modal, fusion, etc). And while I liked fusion, I really loved (and still do) the “classic” jazz sounds he produced.
The clip below is from his second great quintet of the mid-60’s. The lineup consists of guys who have all made names for themselves and outstanding contributions to jazz: Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums). Shorter was a founding member of the aforementioned Weather Report.
Oh, and my friend did go on to a lifetime in bass. His name is Michael Visceglia and he played – and for all I know still plays – bass with Suzanne Vega. Not jazz, no, but I know he did a lot of studio work. And since I believe he’s tired of the road, the last I heard he was playing bass in the “Kinky Boots” orchestra.