Some people hate jazz. Not just “dislike” or “find irritating,” or even “don’t get.” No, they hate it. Some have even been known to say, “God, I really hate jazz!!!” Leaving the Lord out of it, this negativity makes jazz lovers wonder, “Why?"
If you look closely at people with jazz-hatred issues, you'll find five root causes of this sad disease, outlined below. However, there are possible cures. Today's jazz-hater may become tomorrow's jazz-tolerator.
1. Fear of the unknown
Symptom: Feeling, as fatmammycat does, that “there are two types of people in this world, people who like jazz and people who would rather perforate their ear drum with a rusty knitting needle than listen to it.”
Cure: Stay away from knitting needles. Also, consider this. Some jazz does not sit easily with the musical memory, thought to be a factor in whether or not most people are drawn to specific kinds of music. That's part of why jazz, at first listen, may seem unknowable. The cure? Make it knowable. Take one fun jazz tune; listen to it once a week until you realize you don't hate it.
Look for US3's "Cantaloop, Flip Fantasia," Vince Guaraldi's theme to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares For Me," for a start.
2. Fear of 'endless noodling'
Symptom: Feeling, as trweiss does, while listening to John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” that you are listening to “endless noodling that never comes to any satisfactory conclusion.”
Cure: First, it must be noted that what might be deemed "endless noodling” is evident in various kinds of music (for example, live shows by the Dave Matthews Band or former members of the Grateful Dead). Regardless, there are two cures. One, listen to highly structured jazz with minimal soloing, a la Dave Brubeck, or the collected works of Michael Bublé. A second cure, specific to the “Giant Steps” complaint, is to watch this.
3. Fear of 'pretentious idiots'
Symptom: Feeling, as File Life does, “All such people [jazz musicians] I have EVER encountered have all turned out to be pretentious idiots, who seem to be living under the impression that they are God’s gift to music.” Or as Mitch of the United Kingdom puts it, “I feel inferior because often, the people talking about Jazz [sic] in such glowing terms, are intelligent and invariably posses some musical ability — both qualities that I don't have.” Clearly this root cause of jazz-hate is a belief that jazz is elitist, pretentious and otherwise a club to which you will not be extended a membership.
Cure: Go to a jazz club. Tell the person you sit next to you know nothing about jazz. That person, if a jazz fan or musician, will be so happy that you are there at all that you may even get a free drink out of it. (Also, remember there’s a difference between expertise and elitism. If someone with the former practises the latter, why, that’s just snobbishness, common to all kinds of music.)
4. Fear of many chord changes
Symptom: As part of musical memory (see number 1), the idea of so many damn chord changes can lead to jazz-hating. That's why this guy admitted, “... my dislike for [jazz] is enhanced by the attitudes of jazz musicians and zealots toward 3 chord wonders such as myself telling me what I do can't be good because it isn't difficult to play.” (See also number 3).
Cure: There are as many different colours of music in the jazz rainbow as there are colours in the rainbow rainbow. Pick a colour without many chord changes. Miles Davis in modal, Kind of Blue mood, for example. Or all those funky, souly, jazz 1960s Blue Note Records releases. How complicated is Lee Morgan’s "The Sidewinder," for example? Not very.
5. Fear of not knowing where to begin
Symptom: Failure to launch, and we’re not talking terrible Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker movies. But it's true there is a vast amount of jazz. And the sheer breadth of recordings by artists whose names may be unfamiliar has been known to cause this kind of jazz paralysis.
Cure: There are customized albums for this very purpose, and we list several to help any jazz-hater just get over it, already.
1. Beginner’s Guide to Jazz
2. Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of American Music
3. A Child's Introduction to Jazz, narrated by Cannonball Adderley
4. Let’s Get Acquainted With Jazz (For People Who Hate Jazz)
(Courtesy of Vsop Records)