Ya like jazz?


Douglas Sandford

Jazz is a very broad genre of music that has had an avid following since its inception in the 1920s. In Christian Gallo’s History of American Music class, we’ve been going over jazz and its progression through culture.

One prominent artist we’ve learned about is arguably one of the most influential figures in jazz history, that being Louis Armstrong. He grew up in New Orleans, in a neighborhood nicknamed, “The Battlefields.” Although he dropped out of school and spent time in Juvenile Hall, Armstrong became a prominent jazz player due to his trumpet skills. My favorite Louis Armstrong pieces can be found in the 2014 album, “The Columbia and RCA Victor Live Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars.” This compilation has some amazing songs, including “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and “Mack the Knife.” Both of these songs are very up-tempo and progressive, and have amazing trumpet and drum solos.

Another jazz musician that I discovered is a piano and synthesizer player named Sun Ra. Ra started producing music in 1956 and is credited to over 20 albums, my favorite being “Fireside Chat With Lucifer.” Sun Ra isn’t a traditional jazz player, his music is more focused on the avant-garde and bebop sides of jazz. “Fireside Chat With Lucifer” has five songs, my favorite being “Nuclear War.” In this piece, Sun Ra comments on the tensions created by nuclear threats through profane lyrics. I like this piece, because the melody is very simple and lyrics regarding nuclear war are still relatable today. The fact that they are said over a smooth jazz beat makes them feel rebellious and empowering.

Finally, Count Basie is a musician that has recently caught my attention. In 1935, Basie founded “The Count Basie Orchestra” and started playing jazz all around the country, developing the Kansas City Sound. Basie’s work can be heard in Frank Sinatra’s hit song, “Fly Me to the Moon,” as The Count Basie Orchestra is the backing band for Sinatra. Freshman Caleb Reeve, whose favorite Basie piece is “Rusty Dusty Blues,” said that the song “is very nice and relaxing, but at the same time very energetic and makes me feel like I am living in the 1930s.”