Jazz: From New Orleans to Copenhagen to Outer Space
It’s the genre that has influenced so many of the world’s biggest artists and inspired generations of music lovers: we hereby offer a sneak-peek into the ever changing landscape of jazz.
Miles Davis and his trumpet. (Photo: Aaron Rapoport)
Originating and remaining the sound of protest and expression from slave-era blues and ragtime, jazz was officially born in New Orleans around the end of 19th century. Multi-generational jazz families such as the Marsalis family were once the rule in New Orleans. Free jazz bassist and poet Henry Grimes from Philly, who played with avant-garde experimentalists such as Thelonious Monk, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner and many more, was one of many greats who passed away in 2020. Celebrate his life in sound with a special 1959 recording with Sonny Rollins and Pete LeRoca.
Many international players came to the country in the 50s and 60s. Clubs not just in Copenhagen played backdrop to some of jazz’s biggest stars. In 1928 Josephine Baker danced the dance at Tivoli that made her a symbol of the Jazz Age, where she performed semi-nude in a banana leaf skirt that’s now become the stuff of legend. She famously refused to perform for segregated audiences anywhere. Listen to this rare recording of Baker below.
The peaceful Danish capital was nicknamed 'Copenhaven' as people fled prejudice in the US. Years after Louis Armstrong's rapturous 1933 CPH Central Station show, this Afro-Jewish orchestra named Harlem Kiddies set Copenhagen alight in the 40s; sometimes audiences reached 8000. The 50s and 60s saw many talented Black jazz players land in Copenhagen to transform the scene. Ben Webster, Ernie Wilkins, Coleman Hawkins made CPH their home. Saxophonist Dexter Gordon (godfather of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich) even referred to himself as 'Ben Gordonsen of Amager.'
No one nailed avant-garde like Sun Ra, the Alabamian experimental bandleader whose 60s-era Arkestra pioneered Afrofuturist jazz and baffled rock psychedelia stars of the time. And then there was Annette Peacock: the electronic pioneer has never revealed her birthday other than it being in the year of 1941, making her 80 in 2021. Still active, Peacock created avant-garde prog-jazz-rock albums like I'm the One and X Dreams and is dubbed one of the true greats of music. Listen to the visionary here.
Wynton the Grammy Grabber
In 1983, at the age of 22, Wynton Marsalis became the only musician to win Grammy Awards in jazz and classical music during the same year. At the award ceremonies the next year, he won again in both categories. Find a waterfront to walk by, and spark a moodagent based on Wynton's classic track ‘I Cover the Waterfront.’
Making a name for himself playing with the likes of Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, and Bill Evans, prolific jazz bassist Gary Peacock famously brought a Zen Buddhist sensibility to his performance. In 1964, Peacock briefly joined Miles Davis' quintet.
David Bowie explored free jazz on Blackstar, his trippy parting album that served as somewhat of a cosmic, coded letter detailing his impending death. He had recruited a revered New York jazz quartet led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin to play on it.
2021 saw one of the most revered and evocative spiritual jazz records of all time finally digitized. Cosmic jazz queen Alice Coltrane had an awakening in 1980s India, where she taught music at an ashram and created the ecstatic and Turiya Sings, released only on cassette to other members of the ashram - until now. Listen to it here.
Supergroups of the 21st century
In recent years, the likes of tenor saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Lotus have been said to have brought about a jazz renaissance. Dinner Party’s self titled debut LP came out in 2020 - why not give it a spin at your next dinner party - or try sparking a moodagent from ‘Freeze Tag?’
More 2020s jazz we dig
The multi-talented Manchester based artist IAMDDB moves effortlessly between hip-hop and urban jazz. Her 2020 single ‘Night Kapp’ is a chilled tune with late night city vibes and sharp soulful rhymes.
Another all-reaching record of great heights, 2020’s Help is an intimate, abstract jazz-pop experience from Duval Timothy, featuring soundbites and production, guitar reverbs and gospel vocals from contemporaries that include his relatives and loved ones.
Listen to the curated playlist below of new and old jazz sounds, featuring many of the artists mentioned.