So here I am, fourteen years old and just starting to get into jazz beyond the contemporary bands of the day. I wanted to go deeper but the the number of records one can buy on a fourteen year old’s allowance is pretty limited and hell, I didn’t even know if I would like it. The first straight jazz record I bought (based on a glowing review in Rolling Stone magazine) was John Coltrane’s Live In Seattle, not a record for the jazz neophyte and not one I was able to appreciate for many years. Luckily for me, my local public library had a decent record section. I would regularly find records of jazz greats that I would take out and listen to for two weeks at a time. I would soon visit other, bigger library branches to check out what they had, eventually leading me to the mother lode: the New York Public Library at the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts. It had the biggest record collection of any library in the city and I would regularly visit it on a two week basis. The importance of finding this music resource on my life can not be underestimated. It sounds melodramatic but it’s true. I would read in a music magazine about musician X. I would see a record by musician X in the library. I would check it out, adding it’s sounds to the wastebasket that is my brain and becoming one of the potential things I can now draw upon for musical inspiration.
One of the first jazz records that I found at that local library was New Orleans Suite by Duke Ellington (1971). I listened to the first cut, Blues For New Orleans and I was there. It wasn’t the electric blues filtered through young white musicians that I was used to. Instead of electric guitars there were saxophones and trumpets and trombones (oh my!). And it was soooo cool! The cut opens with a quiet musical conversation between Ellington’s piano and the organ of Wild Bill Davis before the sax section goes into the first of many cool blues riffs, with the organ playing fills throughout. Another chorus, another cool riff played the band. The tune then flows into a series alternating choruses between alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (in his last recorded blues) and organist Wild Bill Davis with the horns playing interweaving riffs all around them. After not hearing this song for so long, I’m amazed how it just knocks me. If you know someone who says that they don’t like jazz then play them this tune. If they still don’t get it then I say forget them (IMHO of course).
Duke Ellington – Blues for New Orleans