I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately. When I go a week or so without listening to some form of jazz, it’s probably a sign that I’m moving too fast and not taking enough time for myself. Jazz allows me to clear my mind, and in doing so, it allows me to shift from thinking with my head, to thinking with my heart. Lately I’ve been obsessed discovering jazz tracks and artists I’m unfamiliar with. For a long while now I was so content with the fact that most of my favorite tracks have so much re-playability, that I had forgotten how fun it was to discover new gems. There’s a lot of truth in jazz. If you’re listening to it correctly, you’re not trying to understand it, you’re simply wrapped up in feeling it.
To me, jazz is the greatest manifestation of self expression and struggle. Not to knock literature, visual art or even other forms of music but there’s a truth and imperfection about jazz that really speaks to me and is very liberating. Allowing mostly wordless music to be your voice is a brave thing. It’s not always going to be understood, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. Since jazz musicians did more playing than speaking, I decided to seek out quotes and sayings that might give some insight to who they were and what they were about. While one quote should not define a man, it definitely sheds some light on what makes them tick. A lot of their words about jazz can be applied to every day life. Here are some great jazz tracks along with some of my favorite quotes from jazz musicians.
If you’re a jazz or history fan, or maybe want to learn a bit more about jazz, be sure to check out one of the greatest educational pieces about the origins and musicians by Ken Burn’s & PBS entitled JAZZ. The ten part series is chalk full of information, footage and interviews and does a great job highlighting many lesser known musicians who were an integral part of building the foundation of this great American art form. It’s available on Netflix instant streaming.
“I never even thought about whether or not they understand what I’m doing . . . the emotional reaction is all that matters as long as there’s some feeling of communication, it isn’t necessary that it be understood.”―John Coltrane
“I would like to be a scholar in whatever I do, a scholar is never finished, he is always seeking and I am always seeking.”―Ahmad Jamal
“[Music]…if you don’t make mistakes you aren’t really trying.”— Coleman Hawkins
“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.”―Thelonious Monk
“I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason why it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”―Charles Mingus
“I always try to teach by example and not force my ideas on a young musician. One of the reasons we’re here is to be a part of this process of exchange.”―Dizzy Gillespie
“The real innovators did their innovating just by being themselves.”―Count Basie
“We in the Western world suffer from too many categories and classes; we’ve forgotten that we all still have diapers on. We’ve separated music from life.”―Ornette Coleman
“Sometime you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”―Miles Davis
“Jazz is music made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions.”―Johnny Griffin
“Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.”— Art Blakey
“I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That’s all I know”.— Billie Holliday
“Damn it, when I’m bombastic, I have my reasons. I want to be bombastic-take it or leave it.”— Dave Brubeck
“By and large, jazz has always been the kind of many you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.” ―Duke Ellington