Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jazz 101: Donald Byrd - A New Perspective

One of my favorite types of music is jazz, but it's not something I've really delved into much here at Setting The Woods On Fire.

This new series is for people who may be interested in jazz but don't know where to start. If you're used to hearing rock or country music, jazz can sound kind of odd. It takes some acclimation, but as you familiarize yourself with the style, your tastes will expand. What once may have sounded odd or unmelodic will begin to sound fresh and interesting. The hard part is finding a starting point.

Listening to jazz is not supposed to be hard work. It should be just as enjoyable as listening to your favorite pop song. I'm going to use this series to highlight the pieces that first caught my attention and made me love jazz.

First up is Donald Byrd's A New Perspective from 1963. Some criticize this LP as being too melodic or too simple, but I think they're missing the point. The appeal of this record is the feeling that Byrd puts into his playing and the mood that is created. The simplicity and the melody are what make this album attractive to new fans. While it may be simple, it's not plain vanilla by any stretch of the imagination. A New Perspective stands out from other jazz albums by Byrd's ingenious use of an 8-voice gospel choir. (Before you reflexively close this page, give it a chance. I'm not a huge fan of the use of choirs in popular music myself--You Can't Always Get What You Want, notwithstanding--but it really works here.)

Check out this bluesy number. I always thought it would be perfect for a movie soundtrack:

Donald Byrd – Cristo Redentor (buy album).

If you like this, the rest of the album won't disappoint.

So, what do you think? Should I keep including some jazz, or just stick to the usual formula here?


Ryan said...

More jazz is always appreciated!

tired said...

more jazz plz,thx

Anonymous said...

Add mine to the votes for more jazz. I really like the idea of an intro to jazz series. But I found this tune to be a baffling starting point. I might have chosen Daev Brubeck's "Take Five", for example. Something more typical of jazz, while still accessable. That said, I look forward to future installments. Good luck.

_ Darius

Anonymous said...

I agree: more jazz would be great. But I'd say don't feel compelled to stick to the obvious choices.


Paul said...

I picked this tune because it was on a mixed tape that I had many years ago. The mixed tape really got me into jazz. Most of the stuff was Blue Note. I agree that Take Five is the classic starting point. But I think this track works because it is melodically simple, bluesy, and has many pop elements.

Anonymous said...

Yes. What Marc said.

Anonymous said...

Great blog,
slowly turning me into country music.

Thanks for this !

jwroblewski said...

Great pick to start with, especially considering how erratic Donald Byrd is. He has some truly wonderful albums and some great flops.

You picked one the finest albums from a guy who experimented with his sound quite a bit through his career. I'm a big fan of this one, The Cat Walk, Electric Byrd and Ethiopian Knights (which I posted a couple months back, if anyone would like to hear it). The last two on the list are a complete departure from his early stuff, but his knack for finding solid melodies still rings through.

Great job again, Paul.

Dave said...

Jazz is OK - as long as it doesn't cut into the country coverage.

fm said...