When I first heard jazz in the '60s it was more background music rather than study material. I was a passive listener in my house, but at least the music was played. It didn't feel different or jolting because early soul, which was played constantly, was very connected to the blues and had enough rhythmic elasticity to feel close to swing.

When I became a serious listener of jazz and a musician, it was a bit overwhelming. I didn't understand the improvisational aspects, conceptual design or the complex rhythms. I was coming out of rock and soul and started listening to jazz fusion....which was about 10 steps technically above rock. Then I was introduced to bebop and the swinging pulse of jazz, now as a student of the music. I was fortunate though to have folks around me that not only loved jazz but could talk with me about the music in layman's terms. As an aspiring jazz musician I was no longer just a listening novice.

jae jazz audience

Jae Sinnett's view from stage. When he performs, he enjoys educating audiences about the nuances and complexity of jazz music.

Looking back, those informative conversations on the music were profoundly important in helping me get to a better place of understanding and appreciating jazz. In my career I've met many people that would like to delve into jazz listening but are intimidated by its sophistication and complexity. Some would say just listen to the music and see how it makes you feel. There's truth in this, but I remember how beneficial those early jazz conversations were and how much they helped me in getting comfortable with listening to and performing jazz. Simple points of reference helped me considerably…like someone sharing that jazz is a type of language that you don't necessarily have to understand but can learn to appreciate its melodic and rhythmic inflections. You may not understand French, as an example, but you can appreciate the inflections of how the language is spoken.

This is why I love speaking about this music. During our shows I always give bits of musical information on what we’re performing to give folks a better perspective on the method to the madness. I think it's very helpful for the music if more of us that play and teach the music seriously, talk about it to and engage the general community.

Jae Sinnett hosts Sinnett in Session, The R&B Chronicles, and Students in Session on WHRV FM. He also shares his love of the culinary arts on Cooking with Jae on Facebook every Sunday at 6 p.m. Plus, catch up with past episodes