What Songs Are Gateways Into Enjoying Jazz?

Themes and variation

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As an art form, jazz can often be either passionate or mesmerizing, spontaneous or calculated, inviting or intimidating. It’s a unique style of music in that it is somehow at all times perceived to be both inclusive and exclusive; which is always odd and difficult to navigate.

For some, it’s little more than the soundtrack of their holiday shopping trips, but for others, it’s something powerful that relentlessly beckons to their very souls. The problem is, whatever songs provide our “way in” to listening to jazz, can greatly influence how we perceive and relate to the genre at large. And there’s a whole lot of styles under that big jazzy umbrella…

So in today’s riveting episode of our podcast, we sat down with Peter Martin, a phenomenal jazz musician, music educator, and founder of the online learning site, Open Studio, to discuss “Gateway Jazz Songs” — with songs by Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Robert Glasper, and even the feline Disney rom com, The Aristocats.

Join us and check out the Episode 30 of Themes and Variation below:

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And just a small housekeeping note from us here at Soundfly: if you’d like to learn more about how to harness the intersections between jazz improvisation, piano, and hip-hop beat making in your own music, you’re going to love Soundfly’s newest course with pianist and producer, Kiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beats.

Episode 30 Highlights

1. Peter on Gerald Clayton’s solo from “Strasbourg / St. Denis.”

Peter: “You know, Gerald sets up, again without any kind of planning I know but just with a very advanced sense of musical architecture. You know he starts that solo where he does and you know there’s a science actually behind started it muted and stuff like that’s gonna set things up in a way in the places you can go because this is very static um, you know harmonically. This is all just sort of one diatonic area with I think like one other little chord but I mean it’s very static harmonically so melodically and rhythmically and texturally, that’s your areas to play, that’s your playground to go into.”

2.  Carter on the solo feature and group listening in “Butterfly.”

Carter: “So Rob’s solo on this track, beautifully phrased, tons of space, tons motivic development, some hallmarks of a great solo.  There’s also this really amazing build and peak that the band reaches together. So you’re learning like, you gotta listen to each other when you’re playing this style of music and you can ride that wave together, so I wanna play this peak for you guys. We also get a very, you know Derrick Hodge kinda pays homage to the original Paul Jackson bass line here at this moment.”

3. Mahea on the gateway nature of “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.”

Mahea: “Ultimately I think this is probably a gateway jazz song for far more people, just because it’s Disney and Disneys popular and so if jazz wasn’t a part of your upbringing, this might be the jazz you experienced as a child.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Every time we launch a new episode, we create a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the theme. And you can add to it! We want to hear your favorite gateway jazz songs that you can so go ahead and add them to the playlist yourself below!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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