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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How I got into jazz

It has been too long. I haven’t written a post for over a year. I devoted all my focus to other things in my life, but recently I found myself wanting to start writing about music again. So here I am. I’ll write one post a week from now on, so stay tuned. And please comment - feedback is always nice!
Since it’s been a while, I thought it would be appropriate to do something slightly different. This one will be a personal story. It might be a silly story, but it is actually quite important to me, so I’m going for it anyway. I wanted to tell you the story of how I discovered Jazz (and the rest of the music I listen to today).


It should be clear to anyone reading this blog that I’m really into music. To me, it’s one of the finest things life has to offer. The music I listen to and enjoy is something I identify myself with. It isn’t an overstatement to say that it’s a part of who I am. But it hasn’t always been like this.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”Friedrich Nietzsche

Today, it plays a big part of my everyday life. It probably does for most people, I just tend to be quite ebullient and passionate about it (why do you think I write a blog on it). It fills most of my time - music is around when I work, study or relax. I love taking time off just to put on a good record, and do nothing else at the same time. I get a kick out of reading books on music and musicians. But in the end, it’s simply about the beauty, intricacies and the sheer perfection of good music, that draws me so much.
Nowadays, I listen mostly to Jazz and Blues. Some years back, I actually thought I didn't like that kind of music and in a lot of ways I didn't. I felt like it's not for me, because it's too complicated and I would  never 'get it'. I'd be intrigued by it, but stopped myself, thinking you have to be a musician or special kind of smart, to get it.

Then one day, I watched WALL-E.

In one scene near the beginning of the movie, a song inconspicuously started playing. A lovely trickling piano sounded the room and then, the most beautiful trumpet I’ve ever heard entered with gusto. I was still not aware of an impact that this would have on me. Then, as the rich, coarse voice, full of love and romance sang ‘Hold me close and hold me fast, the magic spell you cast…’ I would start noticing something. I wouldn’t know what it was until later, but I was moved. After it ended, the music left a profound presence in the room. I was mesmerized. I kept asking myself "What was that song?". As I’m writing this, I’m aware of the absurdity to write down such significance to WALL-E, but at that time, it was everything. Not the movie, but what it brought to me. The movie ended, and I was still just asking myself that question. I resorted to the the Internet gods, asking if they know what song it was. I couldn’t find it, so eventually I went through the whole soundtrack, until I came across the familiar sound.

La Vie En Rose.
Louis Armstrong.

Hm, I had heard of him. Well, I knew him to the extent of 'What a Wonderful World'. And I vaguely remembered a music class in elementary school, where we mentioned him in relation to something about jazz. I was a bit surprised that this was the man behind the song. Little did I know, that this song, and this musical colossus will change my life. I Immediately looked for the song on Youtube - I had to hear this magic again. And I did. I listened to it one more time, then I started clicking through related songs. I carefully listened to every song, savoring each note. With every single song, I was taken deeper into the rabbit hole. It was like meeting someone for the first time, falling for them, and then wondering where they've been your whole life. I never knew I could feel such joy listening to music. Music like this was unknown to me and I was swept away.

Thus began my journey to the wonderful music of Louis Armstrong and ultimately to the world of Jazz, Blues and Soul. In the following weeks, I would continue exploring Satchmo's music and even after the initial excitement wore off, there would be a song every now and then, that would stop me from what I was doing, and just make me marvel at the beauty. To this day, Louis Armstrong is my all-time favorite musician.

After falling so desperately in love with his music, I started doubting my previous decision that Jazz is not for me. Suddenly I was drawn to it. Most of it was still a sound I wasn't used to, but I decided to start exploring it. I watched a great documentary - Jazz, by Ken Burns, which in turn, introduced me to many important figures of jazz history. I started listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Clifford Brown, Fats Waller, Robert Johnson and many more. I relished their music. And with every new artist, every song, every record, one thing became clearer and clearer. I found my passion.

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