Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We can't *all* have good taste in music

My friends know that I've long been a fan of new wave music - Howard Jones, A Flock Of Seagulls, Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, etc. After all, growing up in the early 80s new wave seemed like a breath of fresh air after the musically-barren 70s (not all of which was bad, of course). And as I've gotten older and "more mature" (wink!) I still like new wave but my tastes have also broadened. I found plenty to like throughout the 90s and I gained an appreciation for classical symphonies while still in my early 20s, although I never really found much to like in country music. But over the last few years I've added jazz to my musical interests.

It wasn't that simple, however. I really don't care for loud and noisy saxophones or trumpets - and to many people that's the essence of jazz music. But if you've seen the Tom Hanks movie "That Thing You Do" you might remember the fictional Del Paxton. There's a song called "Time To Blow" on the soundtrack which surprisingly contains no instruments in which the musician might blow. But that's the kind of jazz I liked! Not knowing anything about jazz, though (growing up in Utah, Jazz was a basketball team, to me), I didn't really know how to find more of it. Then I happened to discover Bill Evans.

Everybody Digs Bill Evans: Keepnews CollectionI heard about the reissue of "Everybody Digs Bill Evans" (originally recorded in 1958) on NPR and realized that what I liked was the sound of a "piano trio" - just a piano, a bass, and some drums. It's an easy-going yet up-beat sound that reminds me of the music that always seemed to be playing in the background in the cool restaurants in old 50s and 60s movies. To me, the very first song here, "Minority," exemplifies this perfectly. It's up-beat and bouncy, yet relaxing at the same time. Several songs are just Bill Evans solo on the piano, like "Young and Foolish," and while some are more subdued and even a bit melancholy, this is great stuff.

Thelonious Monk Trio: Rudy Van Gelder Remasters
Another trio favorite is the Thelonius Monk Trio (recorded in 1952 and 1954 and released in 1957). "Blue Monk" and "Bye-Ya" are a couple of my favorites, and most of these songs have been covered by other artists. The tone of the piano sometimes sounds a bit shrill to me, but I'm certainly no expert on how it should sound. Sometimes you can even hear Monk in the background on a few tracks, evidently having fun while they play.

Groove YardI also found a quartet I really like. Groove Yard by The Montgomery Brothers (released in 1961) adds the smooth guitar of Wes Montgomery to the piano, bass, and drums. Because he used his thumb instead of a pick the sound is more mellow than sharp. It's also a familiar sound because he went on to greater fame in more "popular" music later in the 60s. But this album is a classic from his earlier times, and features his equally talented brothers, Monk and Buddy.

I've also found some good stuff from Chick Corea (I especially love "Windows") although some of his stuff gets a bit "avante-garde" which just sounds disorganized and chaotic to me, but at least now I have a better idea of where to look for "good jazz" music. But I’ve already got some great music to play while just hanging out around the house - upbeat yet relaxing. Not everyone in the family agrees with me... but I guess we can't all have impeccable taste in music, right?


  1. That part of the Jazz world is a good one. I used to sing in a jazz choir with just a drummer and pianist to accompany us. It was awesome. Thanks for the CD tips.

  2. Thanks Liz - I always thought you likely had good taste in music, too. Bill Evans is probably my favorite, and I've got another of his on my wish list.