One question I get asked much from new listeners to jazz is what jazz recordings I would recommend for someone just starting to listen. That's a tough question to answer because improvisation on just about any level in good jazz can be challenging for a new listener. Also, the rhythms can be overwhelming. As with any genre, these elements can present interesting challenges for the new listener.
Jazz is mostly played with a "swing" rhythm. Most music outside of jazz isn't, so it can be a sound that takes some getting used to. There is a bit of conditioning in how you hear music. As is the case with many types of music, patience is required. Here are five recordings I would recommend to new listeners, or to seasoned ones who may have never heard them. There are many I could choose from but these represent the music beautifully on so many levels.
There are melodic compositions, from standards to originals. The improvisation isn't too stretched out. The song forms are relatively simple in structure. The music definitely swings so they are good for familiarizing yourself with the feel of straight ahead jazz and the swing pulse. Also, on many of these recordings, the songs aren't too long. This collection also represents, I think, the sound of jazz in terms of real instruments, and the recording quality is accurate. You hear the “natural” sound of the instruments. You’ll hear percussion, acoustic bass, piano and various horns. Importantly, you’ll experience the "collective-ness" of group interaction, which is of paramount importance in jazz. And the music is played by some of the greatest musicians that ever played the music.
These recordings pretty much represent a particular style in jazz, but it's a very significant fundamental style which acts as the foundation to the music. Several recordings contemporary to these have many of the same elements. None of these are considered modern jazz records by today's standards. These are just a few of many I could suggest, and I'm sure others would have their recommendations, but I thought it would be nice to suggest a few titles that would be a good introduction to jazz.
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