Someone once mentioned to me that jazz was an acquired taste. That might be true for some people, but in my case it has been around me for as far as I can remember. Both my parents were into jazz – don’t ask me which their individual favorites were, but I vividly recall listening to records by the likes Dave Brubeck (the iconic Take 5), Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz and Chet Baker. Of course, I had no idea what the music was about back then, but jazz also became the soundtrack of our road trips, as I would make my father cassette tapes (remember those?) of his favorite records so he could listen to them in his car – and then I would end up listening to them as well.
Though I distanced myself from jazz during my blues-obsessed phase in the 80s, I started gradually going back to it in the 90s while still living in Brazil. I remember that many record stores would have sales of records that they couldn’t sell – and this being forro-driven Fortaleza, jazz records were extremely cheap to purchase. For instance, I bought a copy of Brubeck’s Take 5 for something like $ 4, and many of my Marsalis family records were purchased during that era – I would just go to the local CD store, scour their bargain bin and – voila – would emerge with great gems that would probably cost much more if I had purchased them in the U.S. One example of this is Joe Henderson’s final disc Double Rainbow, a beautiful tribute to the music of Jobim that featured Herbie Hancock, Eliane Elias, Jack de Johnette and the late Nico Assumpcao.
Of all the kinds of jazz out there, I must say that I prefer straight-ahead. I have tried listening to contemporary or experimental material, but I don’t have much of an ear to it. I recall going to shows in Williamsburg and in Chelsea to hear cats screaming into their laptops or running around with guitars while the drummer kept a beat, but I just didn’t get it. Sure, I love my Coltrane, Miles Davis and such, but there are few modern cats I actually enjoy listening to. I like the jazz fusion of Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, of course (I interviewed him once, and worked hard to keep my cool while talking to him), and of the new faces that have emerged in the last few years, I am really hooked to the work of Esperanza Spalding, pianist Hiromi Uehara (two-thirds of my dream trio) and Eldar.
There are also the Latin folks out there who have made a mark of their own like Arturo Sandoval, his former Irakere band mate Paquito D’ Rivera, pianist Eliane Elias, Brazilian jazz guitarist Romero Lubambo and his Trio da Paz band mates Nilson Matta and Duduka Da Fonseca.
These days, I have more jazz in my collection than I can possibly handle, thanks to the labels that constantly send me material to review. I sometimes regret that due to time constraints, I cannot write a review of every single disc that comes to me. I do my best, though – even if many of my editors have been less than cooperative over the years. I acknowledge that the market is changing at warp speed these days and that in order to keep readers interested you have to chase the next big new thing… but if you ignore those who are struggling to get their music out, you are doing a disservice to all of us.