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Transitioning to Jazz from Smooth Jazz.

Discussion in 'Music' started by trivium911, Sep 24, 2018.
  1. trivium911
    Hi Guys,

    im wondering if there are any modern jazz artist's that are easier to get into than the likes of Miles Davis and some of the other ones. I like some of his music however i find alot of his stuff is difficult to get into and sometimes i just dont have the patience for it, as it seems like i have to look/listen harder for the song and melodies to flow. The smooth jazz i like is Lowell Hopper, Chris Botti, Clinton Forbston, Brian Culbertson ect.

    I was hoping for newer artists, since im not a huge fan of music older than the 70's.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
  2. ADUHF
    Excellent question.

    I'm not that familiar with recent smooth jazz artists, or straight ahead artists. The 70's, and to some extent the 80's was more my era for that sort of thing. But I listened to a few pieces by some of the artists you mention above to try to get a feel for what you're into.

    All I can really do is tell you some of folks I Iiked or listened to back in the day, which would be mostly 80's and earlier. I played trumpet in my HS jazz band in the 70's, so I'll start with those...

    Chet Baker
    Dizzy Gillespie (old, but alot of fun)
    Doc Severinsen
    Don Cherry
    Freddie Hubbard
    Herb Alpert
    Hugh Masekela
    Louis Armstrong (also old, but also fun)
    Maynard Ferguson
    Quincy Jones
    Wynton Marsalis

    I think a couple of the above may still be active. Wynton surely.

    Doc and Maynard were more show-boaty type players. So they may not be as in line with your tastes as some of the others. All the above are worth a try though imo.

    I couldn't find anything on YT by Forbston btw.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  3. Tex Irie
    Eric Darius - (Goin' All Out! is a good place to start)
    Nate Najar
  4. trivium911
    Thanks guys, looks like im giving
    more attention and time to the genre and glad im am since its been very interesting so far. Miles davis is actually really good, however bitches brew needs a special occasion. I will try some of the suggestions though.
  5. Tex Irie
    It's a great genre of music. I totally forgot Donald Byrd.. All of his works are worth checking out.
    Oliver Sain.
    And basically anyone that performed at the Capital Jazz Fest or The Montreux.
  6. gimmeheadroom
    Miles was ALL over the map. He has some truly classic work and some real crap. It's easy to see how people who are not into jazz would not like a lot of it. Hell, I don't like a lot of it and I've been listening to jazz and Miles for over 40 years.

    Anyway, smooth jazz and older than the 1970s don't go together, so far so good :p

    I am not sure that smooth jazz is a good way for people to transition to jazz. And it goes without saying you don't have to like jazz. Maybe you just don't like it, or maybe you haven't heard the kind of jazz you want. I used to spend a lot of time listening to the radio as new releases came out. Radio has changed a lot and jazz is so huge if you don't have a lot of time or some good guidance from somebody who listens to your needs it can be hard.

    Generally speaking I hate smooth jazz so I will list some of the artists I know of in that category who I have heard some ok or pleasant stuff from. BTW I have never heard of anybody you mentioned but that is to be expected. I guess there are probably a bunch of internet radio channels for smooth jazz so that would probably be a good place to start.

    I am sure as soon as I click "Reply to Thread" I'll face-palm myself, but just off the top of my head in the smooth jazz category I think starting in the 1980s:

    Bob James
    Pat Metheny
    Dave Grusin
    John Klemmer
    Grover Washington, Jr.

    Not necessarily smooth jazz and not necessarily jazz, but some jazz/smooth/pop flavor here:

    George Benson (Breezin', White Rabbit, In Flight (tremendous bass work on Everything Must Change))
    Earl Klugh (early few albums)
    Joe Sample (ranges from real jazz with The Crusaders but kinda turned smooth when he went solo, again, most of his early albums are very pleasant listening)
    Quincy Jones (Sounds and Stuff Like That, others)

    If I can help with finding the kind of jazz you like I will try.
    ADUHF and kid vic like this.
  7. ADUHF
    Speakin of Q...

  8. ADUHF
    There are words to this tune btw. :) Penned by Jon Hendricks.

  9. Tex Irie
    Eumir Deodato also worth checking out.
  10. Tex Irie
    ADUHF likes this.
  11. serman005
    A few more not really Smooth Jazz artists I have enjoyed over the years:

    Weather Report ('Sporting Life' is a good one to start with IMO)
    Yellowjackets ('Four Corners' and 'Greenhouse' are good ones)
    Lee Ritenour ('Stolen Moments' is sublime--what a guitar player)
    John Coltrane ('Blue Train' is good)
    Pat Metheny ('Secret Story' is spectacular and unique, among others--'Speaking of Now' is another favorite)
    Keith Jarrett Standards, Vol's. 1 and 2
    ADUHF likes this.
  12. gimmeheadroom
    Some good stuff there. I was thinking about Weather Report. I didn't mention it but I think it's a good suggestion. I was also thinking of mentioning Lee Ritenour but I have only heard pieces of a few albums.

    Keith Jarrett is certainly true jazz and not smooth jazz. But what he plays is generally more approachable that some of what the OP probably objected to. Still, good that you suggested specific albums because I think Jarrett also went on kindof a weird exploratory phase that was hard to listen to. I may be remembering this wrong.

    Coltrane- could never be considered smooth jazz. But there is a TON of great stuff there. Just might trip over some more hardcore jazz if you're not careful. Just mentioning this- and you did say they're not smooth jazz- but the op should be careful or he'll find himself right back in good old 1955 again if he stumbles over the wrong Jarrett, Trane, etc :wink:
    serman005 likes this.
  13. trivium911
    some good suggestions, thanks guys. i actually have Grover Washington Jr and Benson on vinyl and they are really good...agree that they are not quite smooth jazz but not quite jazz since their work is not improvised. I actually like coltrane now that i listen to it more, agree that some of the stuff miles had was all over the place...love "kind of blue" but who doesn't? if one does not that they truly do not like jazz.
  14. gimmeheadroom
    Benson does indeed have true jazz albums, quite of few of his early works were jazz and he was a session man on a lot of great recordings. He transitioned to a sort of jazzy pop-fusion but even then there are many jazz elements on his albums like Jorge Dalto's short but wonderful piano solo on "This Masquerade" to Phil Upchurch's wonderful bass work on In Flight. As time went on he moved pretty clearly into pop but he still has tons of jazz and jazz/pop albums in his catalog. I like California Dreaming from his White Rabbit album but that whole album is quite good.

    If you enjoy some Coltrane then Giant Steps is classic and then on to A Love Supreme.

    I should have said, since you mentioned Kind of Blue that it's difficult to go wrong with Bill Evans if you like more lyrical jazz. Bill Evans played piano on that album, he was also a session man for some important bands, and he had a prodigious if short solo career. Sunday at the Village Vanguard is a great album, very intimately recorded but it could be that Waltz for Debby, which I understand was recorded at the same event and released separately, might be even more enjoyable. The choice of songs on that album is superb aside from Milestones which seems very out of place to me and I feel clashed very badly with Bill Evans' style. The only thing that might bother some people about Bill Evans is that he played a fairly small catalog of standards, and so many albums have the same songs. He was a craftsman and an artist with a very delicate touch, and I believe he brought out the best in Miles Davis. When Bill and Miles played together, Miles' playing was at its pensive best, deep, penetrating, patiently saying what he wanted to say, with gorgeous clarity.

    Oscar Peterson has some fantastic work and a huge catalog from a long career. He is certainly among the top jazz pianists of all time. The Exclusively for My Friends series is a great place to start. The tracks are all enjoyable but my favorite of those albums is Blackbird (Bye, Bye, Blackbird). This short but incredible rendition is an absolute textbook on stride piano that would make Fats Waller and Art Tatum jump for joy.

    I love Monty Alexander's albums, Love and Sunshine is at the top of my list of world's best piano albums. Jamento is very good and so are a lot of his other ones. Monty is unusual that he brings his Jamaican heritage into play and creates a unique style of jazz I haven't heard elsewhere.

    Another favorite of mine is McCoy Tyner. He had a very long career (as far as I know he is still around) and put out some wonderful albums. His jazz is very workman-like, honest, and visceral. SuperTrios is a good start. Some of his work is not so approachable but that album will give you an idea what McCoy Tyner has to say.

    I also think Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage is wonderful. Freddie Hubbard is absolutely mind-blowing on the title track, although he gets a little carried away at times. Herbie Hancock had a career similar to Miles in that he ranges from jazz to hard bop (to the extent that is possible on piano), some electronica (Sunlight), and some totally off the wall stuff which is hard to distinguish from noise, the sound of electric pianos bouncing down 50 flights of stairs or thrown off the top of an office building :wink:

    Anyway, jazz is huge, it's classic American music that has extended its reach to the whole world and has many subcategories and variants. There is something for everyone :)
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  15. gimmeheadroom
    Responding to myself... another very approachable (and remarkable) Miles Davis album is Sketches of Spain. Like a lot of Miles albums there are several variants of this. I got the two CD set cheap at a local shop. This is a rather unusual orchestral production with some really fantastic woodwinds- oboes and Miles, who would have thought! - all wrapped up in great arrangement courtesy of noted jazz big band leader/arranger Gil Evans, and as expected some very appealing playing by Miles Davis. Some of this has a dreamlike quality. I noted one strident section but most of it is really wonderful.

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