Monday, November 15, 2010

Destination Out Asks Important Questions

Destination Out strikes again with an excellent post featuring tracks from the obscure Cecil Taylor album Fly Fly Fly! Fly Fly! They contend that this is one of Taylor's albums that could best introduce new listeners to his occasionally daunting work.

"We know countless avant jazz newbies who wanted to explore Cecil Taylor and inevitably picked up Unit Structures. It was on Blue Note, so it had to be fairly tame, right? Cue panic and stricken looks. Unit Structures is a great record but hardly the place to start. We hate to think how many potential Cecil Taylor fans it’s scared the pants off."

The end the post with a couple of questions: "What are some albums you play to interest open-eared friends? Are there any adventurous jazz albums that you wish you’d waited to hear?"

The open-eared friends question is an interesting one for me since I work at a public library and have become the default "music guy" who assists people in looking for music that they might like. I usually start curious newbies off with the basics: Kind of Blue, Mingus Ah-Um, The Far East Suite. These albums have enough melodic content to give the new listener a foothold while offering them a glimpse of the best jazz to offer. For younger people I also encourage them to check out contemporaries like Jason Moran, Ben Allison and Dave Douglas. It's a tough call, you don't want to overwhelm people but at the same time hope to show them that jazz is a diverse and vibrant artform.

For the latter question, When I first started getting into jazz in college I dove in with both feet, making the transition from jam-based rock 'n' roll like The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band to jazz fusion beginning with Bitches Brew and then moving on from there. I started moving backwards from there checking out records by Miles Davis and his sidemen and then found in the Library a record called Transition by John Coltrane. I thought "Cool, another record by the guy who did My Favorite Things..." Knowing nothing about free jazz or Coltrane's role in it, I took it home and put it on my turntable. The shock of the music was visceral and overwhelming. First I thought there was something wrong with the stereo or the record, but I began to realize that they were fine, and that there was something wrong with me. I was totally unprepared to be thrown in at the deep end, and this sense still pervades today: I've grown to love Coltrane's free music, but the shock of the sheer power and audacity of albums like Transition, Ascension and Live in Seattle among others still makes me step back.

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