There’s only one musical genre that people regularly play that I really don’t like. Jazz. I don’t like it. I don’t enjoy any form of it. At all.
I’m pretty eclectic in my musical tastes, but if I’m in someone’s house and they put on jazz I want to leave. If it’s bebop I am annoyed at all the sounds flying at my ears. If it’s something older I roll my eyes at how corny it sounds. If it’s jazz singers I grit my teeth.
There is not a single jazz artists whose music I enjoy. Not Louis Armstrong, not Ella Fitzgerald, not Frank Sinatra, not Thelonius Monk. Not John Coltrane. Not Miles Davis. Not Billie Holliday. No one.
I tried to get into it. In my college days a lot of punks were listening to jazz, because at times it was uncompromising, it was abrasive. It was music played by drugged out rebels. Kind of like punk. But played by people with skill. But I just never really got it, started to feel like a pretentious ass and so I gave up.
Probably the biggest reason I started to actively dislike it began on the day my friend explained to me the basics of pop music. It was like someone explained to me how music worked! I had a key to unlock all the secrets of popular music. Maybe not all, but enough to get understand the basics.
That key does not work for Jazz. Jazz doesn’t follow the same musical patterns that pop music does. Nor does it follow the same rules that blues does, which is even simpler than pop. In fact, I don’t know if it follows any rules at all, and my brain just can’t handle that. Hearing jazz after finally figuring out pop was like learning to read Spanish and then being handed a book in Chinese. DAMN I need to figure this reading thing out again!
There’s also the matter of how i have been exposed to the various kinds of music I like. I’ve heard rock and roll live dozens and dozens of times. I’ve heard people rap and I’ve danced to rap music in clubs. Same goes with country. They’re a part of my life in a way that jazz has not been, except when someone has played it on their stereo. Which I’m more and more realizing is the worst possible way to introduce music to someone.
I started thinking about this the other day. I’ve listened to a lot of bands live and thought- wow that was really good, even when their music isn’t something I would normally play on my stereo. And if I make the mistake of looking them up on Youtube or something similar, I sometimes question my previous judgement. But I shouldn’t. Recorded sound can’t capture the same magic as a live performance.
Music is just better live. Maybe it will be this way with jazz. My wife wants to go hear jazz live and for once, I’m actually thinking this could be good. Music doesn’t have to be just sound- it is feeling the rhythm. It is seeing people perform. It is the response of the people around. Maybe I can let go of my hangups with how Jazz works and just enjoy it. We’ll see.