Growing up, one of my favorite songs was “Sing Sing Sing” by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. I can still remember when I heard it for the first time in a Chips Ahoy commercial. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. It made me want to dance, it made me want to shout and (predictably) it made me want to sing.
My education (so to speak) in jazz music has continued on since the first time I saw that Chips Ahoy commercial. Not shortly after that, I discovered a Glenn Miller CD on my Mom’s bookshelf and decided to listen to it. Again, I was blown away! My love affair with jazz was officially underway, and aside a brief period in my late teens when all I wanted to do was smoke weed and listen to bands like Mortician and Sepultura, I was hooked. Jazz and I would become inseparable like two lovers destined to find one another.
In my late teens, after coming out of my weed induced death metal fog, I had become a fairly large fan of music. All music, but jazz was certainly a big part of that. For the next few years I continued to learn about and study the greats. Armstrong, Holiday, Brubeck, Davis….shit, my favorite drummer in the entire world was (and still is) Gene Krupa! That dude hit the skins like Bonham did, just 40 years earlier. Amazing!
Through my studies, I realized that jazz shared many of the same attributes as my “other” favorite music, industrial music. Bands would form and operate as a loose collective of individuals that would come and go. Musicians would play with who they wanted, when they wanted, often exchanging members and creating whole new sounds along the way. This, much like industrial music (the band Pigface has had 300+ members) is something that has inspired me to keep researching, keep learning. In both genres, I had to know the players and what they did. It was like memorizing the roster of your favorite baseball team, only to do it again the next season. Brilliant!
The one defining difference however between jazz and industrial (aside from the obvious) was that jazz was no longer something that was tangibly created and received. There didn’t seem to be a really solid market for the type of music that I loved so passionately. While I was going to shows for industrial bands that I really loved (KMFDM, Acumen Nation, Thrill Kill, NIN, etc.), jazz had taken a backseat as far as popularity, sales, and touring artists were concerned. There were definitely some bright spots for jazz during those times (Wynton Marsalis is pretty great, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who didn’t release a single bad song in their time), but for the most part, the style of jazz that I loved seemed to go underground or away completely. (Side note: I’m not an idiot. I know that jazz didn’t disappear, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I’m sorry, but bands like Dotsero don’t cut it as a jazz band for me. C’mon. A fucking space flute? Really??? Talented, yes but not the jazz I wanna hear.)
Then last year, I took a trip down to New Orleans with my girlfriend. I was really excited to see what the city was all about. I was ready to experience the culture and food, but most importantly, the music. And the Big Easy didn’t let me down. It was incredible! The jazz music that I had been looking for all along was still around. It was just down there. One of the artists that our host introduced us to was Trombone Shorty. Check out this video:
That’s how it’s supposed to be done! The emergence of Trombone Shorty on the national scene, combined with Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy win kind of (at least in my mind) brought about a new age of jazz music. Sure, the music itself is different than what I grew up with, but it certainly draws it’s influence from the era that I love….
Then today, when I was reading CNN for my daily morning news, I ran across article and video by an artist named Jonathan Batiste. After watching his video about his take on jazz, I immediately went and checked out his work. After reading and listening to his poignant views about a music I love, I was sure that his music would be just as good as his expressed views, but much to my delight, it was even better! Check it out:
How fucking fantastic was that? Seriously. This guy is only 26 years old and he’s already making a name for himself! Amazing.
For a long time, I considered jazz music to be dead. To be a relic of the past. And sure, the majority of the jazz music I love is gone. Probably never to be emulated or done again. While the Fitzgerald’s, Shaw’s and King Oliver’s of yesteryear may never be repeated, I feel much better knowing that artitsts like Trombone Shorty and Jonathan Batiste are there to pick up the slack and carry on the tradition. I guess now jazz shows may become relevant in my world again.
What do you think? Is there a jazz band that you love that doesn’t get any recognition? Let me know in the comments section or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.