The Web: Up for a little Jazz Ed? Verve can get you started.
I have remarked here before that discussions
of jazz have a habit of turning on an understanding of its history. One of the glories of
the jazz community, musicians and fans alike, is that its members approach jazz in a more
informed way than fans of pop.
My friends and acquaintances notice how important jazz is to me and, because they quite
naturally wish to partake in the delight, I'm frequently asked to come up with a list of
seminal jazz recordings to get them started down the road to jazz literacy.
I've done it many times, and it's a daunting task. The reason is that I find my tastes
changing with age and an inclination to salt the mine -- fed by my enthusiasm for a
particular artist, sub-genre, tune or instrument -- must be resisted if I am to offer a
fair view of a wealth of musical treasures.
Many of you, no doubt, also have been approached by others who are looking for something a
little more musically nourishing than the latest single by Counting Crows.
Be of good cheer, my friends, for there is much help out here in cyberland. I've spent
several months looking for websites on the Internet that can assist jazz neophytes and
experienced listeners alike. From time to time, I expect to share with my SkyJazz readers
the fruits of the research, which, as is true with most research, is continuing as I
If you are a regular visitor to SkyJazz, you already know of the great resources to be
found here in the "Information" section of our website. A monthly roundup of
happenings in the jazz world can be found under "Jazz News" and there are links
to artists' websites, other jazz-oriented sites, and the featured "Discovery"
artist of the week. The "While You Listen" section lets you browse as you enjoy
our shows. All this assumes a certain sophistication, a compliment we pay to our
visitors in the hope they'll bring others along and keep jazz healthy.
But the beginner needs a more structured approach. And the Verve Music Group has a helpful
section on their website at www.verveinteractive.com/jazzed/ titled "Jazz Ed."
The section, it appears, was put together by jazz educator Dr. David Schroeder of the
faculties of New York University and The New School, and edited by two men, Ben Young and
I especially like the chronological nature of the entries, a feature that gives the
explorer a pretty firm overview of the history of the music. In addition to 30-second
samples by three or four artists to illustrate the music of each period, a
"recommended listening" list at the end of each section makes available the
titles a true pilgrim can further explore.
A quibble, however, is that the site is used as a marketing tool for the products of Verve
and its subsidiaries, and that means some pretty important works won't be found or
recommended for further listening. For example, while the fusion section's text mentions
Miles Davis' "Miles In The Sky,"
"In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew," which were, of course, recorded
on Columbia, the suggested listening list mentions only work by Chick Corea, Headhunters
(sans Herbie Hancock), Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, all artists with albums on labels
such as Verve Forecast, GRP and Blue Thumb that fall under the Verve umbrella. So this is
not the final stopping point for the neophyte jazz researcher. Still, the brief
descriptions of the twisty path jazz has taken to reach the present day are helpful
starting points for the beginner.
Taking up with the blues, the sites explores that genre as the root of jazz, and
progresses through the early period up to the 1920s, dances its way through the Swing Era
of the 1930s and '40s, takes a mambo down the Latin jazz corridor and then returns to
bebop of the late 1940s and early '50s.
By the time we've found our way through the cool and hard bop periods of the 1950s and
1960s, the site wisely treats Third Stream as the important influence it is, having
brought together elements of jazz with classical tradition.
Avant garde, bossa nova, groove, contemporary, smooth and vocal all get their due, so
that, even if the recommendations are a bit skewed in the favor of Verve, there is value
for the beginner in the exposure to various styles.
In summary, the site has the commercial aroma about it, but that can be forgiven on two
counts: the textual descriptions are well-written and to the point, and the examples are
well-chosen, if limited. Additionally, Verve has been dusting off the classic recordings
from its impressive vaults for many
years now, and I've found them, for the most part, to be welcome additions to my music
Do you have a favorite jazz site on the Web? If so, let me know and I'll take a look at