Dan doesn’t just love guitars. I’m Dan and I love jazz and blues.
Feedly (my rss feed reader) alerted me to this NPR blog article: You Aren’t Too Dumb To Like Jazz which in turn sent me to The ‘Jazz Boyfriend,’ And Your Musical Litmus Tests For Compatibility.
The first article starts with the question of whether you need some sort of super brain to like jazz – if you don’t like it, it must be because you don’t get. This apparently is one of the common complaints about jazz by those who claim not to like it, but not the only complaint.
What I hear more often are people who cite some jazz tune or performance or experience which they didn’t like and conclude they don’t like jazz. The example in the article are jazz soloists who leave the theme for an extended time.
Whenever I hear this I wonder what type of music this person likes and whether they apply the same standards to their favorite music. Is the person a classical music lover? If so, does he feel the same way about Schoenberg as he does about Mozart? Or perhaps she’s a rock lover. If so does she equally enjoy the Beach Boys, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles and Kiss?
I believe the biggest reason most people don’t like jazz is because they haven’t listened to enough of it to know the range of music it encompasses. Long jazz solos? Some I enjoy and some leave me cold. But even if all long jazz solos left me cold it wouldn’t mean I don’t like jazz. After all, how many people don’t care for Grateful Dead extended solos yet claim they love rock.
However, on the compatibility issue I believe it helps a relationship if there is at least a complimentary overlap in musical tastes. My two biggest musical loves are jazz and blues. My wife was already a jazz lover when I met her. It would have been terrible if she didn’t “get” jazz. However, I had to introduce her to the blues. Fortunately for me she took to it.
Back years ago when I was dating I did have litmus tests – musical and otherwise. Most of my tests weren’t instant deal breakers – just big warning flags. The test closest to being a deal breaker was Barry Manilow. I don’t know whether to apologize to those who disagree with me or just have pity on them. If a woman’s taste in music ran to Barry Manilow I probably would not be seeing her again. However, I merely hoped she had an appreciation for jazz.
Music can be said to engage the soul or the heart and yes sometimes the intellect. Music can be felt without thinking and can be understood without feeling.
I come back to Arnold Shoenberg as my test case for people who claim they don’t like jazz. Arnold Shoenberg, if you are unfamiliar with his work, was a modern classical music composer whose compositions were “atonal”. You might compare him to similarly atonal jazz. I knew about his work before college but was forced to learn about his work in a Music Survey course I took as an undergraduate.
Once I understood what Shoenberg was trying to accomplish I was able to appreciate the music on an intellectual level. But truthfully, I would never want to be forced to sit through an entire performance of one of his works. It just wouldn’t be enjoyable for me. Does this mean I don’t like or don’t understand classical music? No, that would just be silly.
So, if you’re one of those who claims to not like jazz, please, just give jazz a chance. Listen to a variety of styles. Listen to different periods of jazz. Listen to the classics of jazz. Download some classics and start with shorter pieces. You might find you like some of it. And if you like any of it then you don’t hate it. If any of it moves you or engages you in any way, then you “get” at least that piece.