Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seminal Listening

I'm not sure what spurred this post, except perhaps my Portland discovery of Frank Tirro's Jazz: A History, mentioned earlier. My mention of that during a panel discussion prompted fellow panelist, Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson to probe deeper about books that spur our further exploration of jazz at an early age.

That spun into further thinking about the seminal discs that ignited my interest in jazz when I was solidly settled into a life in rock music.

In the early '60s, my father had a habit of playing LPs back-to-back on Sunday mornings. There was something exotic about this, perhaps because it revealed a much different side of my civil servant dad who did the dutiful 9-to-5 during the week. He displayed fairly catholic tastes during these listening sessions — spinning everything from my brothers' Elvis Presley and Kingston Trio records to original cast recordings of Broadway musicals. What caught my ear most were discs by Bennie Goodman (especially one with Charlie Christian on guitar), Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey.

My own listening at this time was running toward bad-boy rock: electric Dylan, early Rolling Stones, The Byrds.

Jazz went on hold in the mid-'60s, but burst back in when a friend brought over a Charlie Parker LP. I dug back through my father's collection and discovered a great little recording called Two Of A Mind by Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond, and Wes Montgomery's California Dreaming. By this time I was deep into guitar rock, especially Hendrix and the Allman Brothers Band, so I was wide open to discovering John McLaughlin, which immediately led to Miles Davis' Live-Evil, Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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