A guide to entering the world of jazz

Nessa Ireland, Staff Writer

Jazz is easily one of the most overlooked genres of music out there. It’s reserved for old folks, background sound in movies, and elevator rides. From growing up in a creative household, one that has exposed me to several types of music, it leaves me astounded to see how little my generation has listened to, or even been exposed to, jazz.

I was born into a family of creatives. My dad is a writer, creative designer, and watercolor artist. One of my brothers is a creative director, the other a music artist. My sister can draw, and my mom can even manage to scribble out a cat once in awhile.

Not only do they all create art, they appreciate it by viewing and listening to it as well. One of the most important things in my family’s, and my own, life is music. We live and breathe it. Each of us owns a record player, all with different albums to choose from.

My brother and sister would play Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” and I would sneak into their rooms to listen to it. My mom liked to listen to Fiona Apple (and honestly anything the kids would play), and my dad would put on a range of artists, from country to jazz to John Mayer.

But if there was one genre we could always agree on, it was jazz. Family gatherings were accompanied by soft jazz playing while we all talked. Dinner was served with jazz being played from the downstairs television. Jazz was and is an essential part of my family dynamic.

That said, not everyone has grown up listening to jazz, and not everyone has an interest in exploring it. Most people want to stick with the pop from the radio, or maybe a little bit of rap or indie if they are tired of the mainstream sound.

But even so, those genres are limited. Sure, some pop songs branch out to a jazz-esque sound, and rap can feature gospel, but it still doesn’t capture the essence of jazz. By listening to jazz, one can find upbeat dancing music and calm, smooth tunes at the same time. Jazz isn’t just one sound, it’s several, either combined into one song or separated into different ones.

People can be intimidated by jazz because they don’t know where to begin with it, but if you’re interested in broadening your musical horizons, I’m here to help.

I’m going to start off by recommending some classics: Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. There’s no going wrong here — they’re classics for a reason! For Davis, start with the album Kind of Blue (Legacy Edition) and begin with “Blue in Green.” One of Ellington’s albums that I tend to listen to more is his collaboration with John Coltrane, and it’s simply named Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

Taking a more contemporary view on jazz, Young Jazz Giants and Makaya McCraven are purely instrumental and easy on the ears. Their beats are captivating, transforming instrumental music from drab to exciting. McCraven’s album is called In the Moment and Young Jazz Giants’ is self-titled.

This last artist is easily my favorite. Leon Bridges started making music in 2015, but I discovered him earlier this year while watching an episode of SNL. His music is the epitome of what one might consider jazz: upbeat, smooth, and comforting. Bridges’ album, Coming Home, features different beats and paces that still follow the themes of the other songs. It’s cheerful enough for a car ride and relaxing enough to throw on while doing homework.

And just to make it easier, a playlist titled “jazzy jazz jazz” can be found on my Spotify (username: nessaireland). Happy listening!