The Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Jazz is one of America's greatest cultural contributions. But with more than a century of music to explore, it can be hard for rock listeners to find their way in. Jazz writer John Corbett joins Jim and Greg to offer up the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz.

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Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.




There's no better desert island track for the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz than "Starship" by MC5.“Starship”comes from the band's debut album Kick Out the Jams and showcases its musical influences. The perfect merger between the two genres, the godfathers of punk took a poem by jazz icon Sun Ra and turned it into a song. This eight minute long track exemplifies a wild free jazz experience where the band is leaving the earth and the stage. For Jim and many others, MC5 was a gateway for rock fans to jazz. Do you have a question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.

Featured Songs

  1. A-ha, Take On Me, Take On Me (Single), Warner Bros., 1984
  2. J. Balvin, Ay Vamos, Ay Vamos (Single), Capitol Latin, 2014
  3. Miles Davis, Freddie Freeloader, Kind of Blue, Columbia, 1959
  4. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Dippermouth Blues, Dippermouth Blues (Single), Gennett Records, 1923
  5. Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Begin the Beguine, Begin the Beguine (Single), RCA Victor, 1938
  6. Charlie Parker Quintet, Donna Lee, Donna Lee (Single), Savoy Records, 1947
  7. Modern Jazz Quartet, Concorde, Concorde, Prestige, 1955
  8. Jimmy Smith, Back at the Chicken Shack, Back at the Chicken Shack, Blue Note, 1960
  9. Sarah Vaughan, Lullaby of Birdland, Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown, EmArcy, 1954
  10. Cecil Taylor, Steps, Unit Structures, Blue Note, 1966
  11. Return to Forever, Spain, Light as a Feather, Polydor, 1973
  12. John Coltrane, Naima, Live at the Village Vanguard Again!, Impulse!, 1966
  13. Ornette Coleman, Lonely Woman, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Atlantic, 1959
  14. Charlie Parker Septet, A Night in Tunisia, A Night in Tunisia (Single), Dial, 1946
  15. Lawrence Welk, Calcutta, Calcutta (Single), Dot Records, 1961
  16. Sonny Rollins, Strode Rode, Saxophone Colossus, Prestige, 1957
  17. Louis Jordan & The Tympany Five, Saturday Night Fish Fry, pts. 1 & 2, Saturday Night Fish Fry (Single), Jump Blues, 1949
  18. Wayne Shorter, Witch Hunt, Speak No Evil, Blue Note, 1966
  19. Luis Russell & His Orchestra, The (New) Call of the Freaks, single, Okeh, 1929
  20. Duke Ellington, Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, Ellington at Newport, Columbia, 1956
  21. Duke Ellington, Concerto for Cootie, Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band, Bluebird, 1940
  22. Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra, Interplanetary Music, We Travel the Space Ways, Saturn, 1967
  23. Weather Report, Teen Town, Heavy Weather, Columbia, 1977
  24. Miles Davis, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, Bitches Brew, Columbia, 1970
  25. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin', Moanin', " Blue Note, 1959
  26. Ornette Coleman, Voice Poetry, Body Meta, Artists House, 1978
  27. Albert Ayler Trio, Ghosts: First Variation, Spiritual Unity, ESP-Disk, 1965
  28. Ornette Coleman, Him and Her, Of Human Feelings, Antilles, 1982
  29. Charles Mingus, Mode F – Group and Solo Dance, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Impulse!, 1963
  30. The Thing, Have Love Will Travel, Garage, Smalltown Superjazz, 2004
  31. Peter Brötzmann Octet, Machine Gun, Machine Gun, FMP, 1968
  32. Dave Matthews Band, Ants Marching, Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95, RCA, 1997
  33. The Grateful Dead, Truckin', Europe '72, Warner Bros., 1972
  34. Radiohead, Life in a Glasshouse, Amnesiac, Parlophone, 2001
  35. Brad Mehldau, Paranoid Android, Largo, Warner Bros., 2002
  36. MC5, Starship, Kick Out the Jams, Elektra, 1969
  37. The Beatles, Any Time at All, A Hard Day's Night, Parlophone, 1964
  38. Ringo Starr, Postcards from Paradise, Postcards from Paradise (Single), Universal Music Enterprises, 2015
  39. George Harrison, My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, EMI, 1970
  40. Danny Elfman, The Theme from Batman, Batman: Original Motion Picture, Warner Bros., 1989
  41. *NSYNC, I Thought She Knew, No Strings Attached, Jive, 2000


hollywoodreporter.com Norway to turn off FM billboard.com Takeaways from IFPI Report corbettvsdempsey.com John Corbett's "Extended Play" downbeat.com DownBeat magazine sonnyrollins.com Sonny Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus" dukeellington.com Duke Ellington milesdavis.com Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew" vervemusicgroup.com Ornette Coleman's "Body Meta" soundopinions.org Greg's Miles Davis DIJ soundopinions.org Neneh Cherry/The Thing review bandcamp.com The Thing's "Garage"