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Is Jazz Dying? Finding Your Taste For Classic Jazz

Charlie Parker playing his jazz saxophone.
Charlie Parker, Photo by William Gottlieb

Overture

The very question itself—“Is jazz dying?”—seems to be a question that just won’t die. Not everybody is going to like jazz, and that’s fine. To some, its an old boring genre, only good for elevator music. But at Feria Magazine, jazz is the rich and sophisticated taste of class, first class.

The Jazz Band Wagon

You’re not Feria Forward without a Charlie Parker tune on your playlist. I get it, jazz classics are not exactly trending on social media. You’re likely more interested in Drake, Taylor Swift, or Harry Styles (which is totally fine by the way). And when you’re getting ready for that house party on a Friday night, classic jazz doesn’t come to mind when discussing pre-game music.

Look, I’m not going to pretend like I’ve been listening to Charlie Parker or any jazz icons since day one. I only really started listening to these classics in recent years after watching 2014’s Whiplash and after taking some swing dance classes. Talk about hopping on the band wagon. I never disliked jazz. I just never truly came to appreciate its beauty until later in life. So, yes, I totally hopped on the jazz band wagon. And so should you!

There’s nothing wrong with acquiring a new taste. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. It’s a part of your growth. Especially when it’s good taste. Watching the film Whiplash introduced me to names like Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich. I’m not ashamed to say I had never heard of them before that. Of course, I already knew names like Ray Charles, Miles Davis, & Frank Sinatra, because I guess they’re just more popular names. But as I began exploring jazz more in depth, I discovered for myself the exceptional brilliance of Weather Report, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman.

Ornithology

Charlie Parker

If you are unfamiliar with Charlie Parker’s work, I very much invite you to listen to Parker’s Mood. You may not hear it play in a night club or at some house party. But if you allow your imagination to run free, you’ll find yourself in a coffee shop in New York City in the Autumn of 1948. You might even smell the aroma of the coffee beans boiling in a French press pot and the whiff of an Arturo Fuente Breva cigar as the soft sounds of Parker’s saxophone enamor the dimly-lit room.

If you’re looking for a more upbeat tempo, then you need to listen to what is perhaps Parker’s most notable work, Yardbird Suite. If you haven’t taken up east coast swing or Lindy Hop, you’ll want to after listening to this brass poetry of a Parker classic. Even if you never do dance out a triple-step, at the least your fingers will be drumming along with the percussions of Yardbird Suite, a symbol of Black American excellence that can should be appreciated by every generation, including ours.

Count Basie

When I lived in Savannah, Georgia, me and my swing dance club would visit Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop every Saturday night. We would swing dance in the ice cream shop like it was the 1950’s. They even had a juke box! And let me say, Count Basie’s One O’Clock Jump takes me right back to Leopold’s and the times I shared with the swing club. I hope you’ll give Count Basie a try and make his music part of a fine memory in your own life.

Buddy Rich

Finally, I want to share with you my favorite jazz work of all time. That would be the rendition of Birdland by Buddy Rich, the greatest jazz drummer to ever live. Originally composed by Joe Zawinul of Weather Report in 1976, Buddy Rich along with the Buddy Rich Band covered their own version in 1978. And in my opinion, The Buddy Rich Band did it better. It’s really a timeless song with such an elevating bassline. I just enjoy it, and if you’re still exploring classic jazz, I know you will too.

These are some of my favorites, but really, there is so much more.

Feria’s Last Call

If you’re new to jazz, watch a film like Whiplash or La La Land. There’s plenty out there! I am still exploring jazz myself and there’s so much I have yet to find. So you can certainly explore with me! Take up a swing class! East coast swing! Watch performances online, go to a jazz fest in your area, build your own playlist of jazz classics. And if you can, get some jazz titles on vinyl! While jazz classics may never trend on social media, they will musically decorate your life, your very esteemed life of class.■

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