Reading: Music Hound // We Got The Jazz

Music Hound // We Got The Jazz

When we now live in a world with everyone showing their ass hanging out of their pants (metaphorically speaking), it is refreshing to be reminded by Jazz what “cool” really is. Understated, confident, stylish, with a healthy dose of artistic rebellion. These artistes paved the way for soul, funk, and more importantly for our time, Hip Hop. It has influenced all the best: from the Golden Era of Tribe and De La, through to Kanye, Kendrick and now Chance. Jazz may look old but it’s sound is now, forever now. Much like the best of music & art. As well, it is essential to always have knowledge of at least a few Jazz tracks tucked away in your back pocket to be a proper gentleman.

Miles Davis – So What 

The ultimate Jazz badass, Miles could make any Young Thug crumble with only just his stare. His playing in contrast is often muted, beautifully constrained, and hopelessly romantic. This cut leads off what is perhaps the most famous Jazz album of all time, ‘Kind of Blue’. It is also the biggest selling Jazz record ever released and last year according to Billboard, the 5th best selling vinyl in the US. The beat has such swing, the piano hypnotizes, but it is Miles’ solo as it reaches the refrain of ‘So What’, that epitomizes what would become known as the “New Cool”. And Miles had it in spades.

Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream (Take 8)

The music jumps with such a jaunt that begins down in your feet but soon rises thru your whole body up to your head. It is not long before you want to zip out of your chair and enter that famous dance scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Band of Outsiders’, the one that was later famously appropriated by Tarantino for Pulp Fiction. Monk himself would often leave his piano and just pace the stage with a smoke or two in hand, as if lost in a reverie of his own composition. Likened to a Beatnik savant, Thelonious was almost like a Looney Tunes caricature of East Village cool. For Thelonious though, this was no put on, he was born into Jazz.

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme P.1 – Acknowledgement

Hands down, probably the most beautiful and soulful full-length ever recorded is Coltrane’s ‘ A Love Supreme’. This really is where the 60’s civil right movement begins, not with that easy listening Sam Cooke stuff. It is a spiritual crying call to the white American community that black lives really matter. A revolution in its dissonant tone, yet at the same time there is a softer side to this cut that makes it’s just easy enough to digest at a soiree. Though you will never mistake this for background music. Unfortunately, Coltrane later became the tragic embodiment of a larger struggle in the Jazz scene with alcohol & drugs, dying at the young age of 40 from liver cancer. But his saxophone sings as beautifully today as ever. When I hear Kamasi Washington’s licks on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Pimp a Butterfly’, alI I can hear is Coltrane.

Kamasi Washington – Change of the Guard

As jazz propelled from 60’s cool to 70’s anger, it pretty much left the general population behind. It became way to technical, soulless or even worse there was a contrasting easy listening movement which took away all of it’s bite. But there is now a new wave of cats coming up, that don’t have the last name Marsalis. It all starts in downtown Los Angeles with this man right here, Kamasi Washington, who is making Jazz relevant again. His fingerprints are all over Kendrick Lamar’s last two records, from arranging the strings to its soaring saxophone solos. This track is from his album ‘Epic’, which is an incredible 21st century fusion masterpiece. Just don’t call it the rebirth of cool.

Robert Glasper, Miles Davis feat Erykah Badu – Maiysha (So Long)

Much respected pianist and producer Glasper, was given the keys to Miles Davis musical vault for his latest opus, ‘Everything’s Beautiful’. Released this past week in celebration of what would have been Miles’ 90th birthday. Here he reinterprets an obscure Miles deep cut from his 70’s funk fusion period into a shimmying Bossa nova shaker that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stereolab record. Erykah Badu writes new lyrics while channeling her best Billie Holiday to lovely effect and you have a rare track that takes a classic and makes it better in it’s own distinct style. This is a perfect summer sunset siren call and I dare you to find a better one released in 2016.