Art Works Blog

Can't Help Falling in Love with Jazz

April 14, 2010
Washington, DC

Me with 2010 NEA Jazz Master Muhal Richard Abrams (left)  during the NEA Jazz Master celebration. Photo by Tom Pich

I didn't hear much jazz when I was growing up. My parents played mostly country/western, and, with apologies to Rocco, it was not pleasant to hear George Jones or Roger Miller warbling full-volume early on a Saturday when my father thought we had slept long enough. My older siblings listened to pop and rock music, so it wasn't until I went to college that I really heard my first jazz album, and what an album it was: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.

Yes, the album that launched a million jazz fans. But it has everything: swinging melodies, hot playing. Coltrane soaring while Cannonball brings it down-home and bluesy, Miles (one of the NEA's first Jazz Masters) tossing off riffs that will find a thousand imitators, and one of the strongest rhythm sections in jazz—Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb on drums—what's not to love? Since then my tastes have evolved to stranger and more difficult music, but I never tire of returning to Blue—unlike many a popular music album that began to lose its luster after numerous listenings, Kind of Blue actually gets more interesting, more complex, the interaction of the musicians more nuanced. And for me, it's that ability to stay fresh upon repeated listenings that makes jazz such a powerful music.

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