It seems like a new era of jazz music has begun: jazz artists like Kamasi Washington or BadBadNotGood are on everyone’s lips, indie and electronic bands mix the genre into their sound and new jazz festivals arise. Right in the middle of that are GoGo Penguin, an acoustic electronica band that uses jazz and rock elements to make their sound unique. As it is sometimes hard for people who arent’t used to listen to jazzy music – which sometimes can be a bit harder to understand and get into then some other genres – we came up with the idea to ask Nick Blacka, one member of the British trio, for a little guide to get into jazz. Find it below.
Please name your top three Jazz records
It’s so difficult to just choose 3 because whatever you choose so much gets left out.
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Strange Place for Snow – EST
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Which records do you recommend people who don’t have a clue about Jazz and want to get into it?
Kind of Blue. It’s become almost like a cliché now but it’s famous for a reason and has become sort of a blueprint for a lot of music that has followed.
Thrust – Herbie Hancock. Basically any of the Headhunters fusion era stuff like Manchild and Headhunters but this particular one did it for me.
At The Pershing – Ahmad Jamal Trio. Possibly just for the track Poinciana alone. The Awakening is also a great album. A lot of hip hop guys in the 90s and early 2000s sampled him a lot and I can understand why. Great arrangements and nice tunes, not too challenging.
Please comment on the following artists/albums
His influence on modern music can’t be underestimated. He also had an uncanny ability to find the best musicians who worked together so well. The first quintet right through to the Bitches Brew era. They are so musically different but moving forward and embracing the times. I only wish that Hendrix had lived long enough to make the planned record with Miles Davis. That could’ve been very interesting.
In terms of influence Coltrane has a similar thing to Miles. Despite dying at a fairly young age his career was full and varied. His pursuit of evoking the emotional and spiritual in music later in his career was a pivotal change in jazz. I’m not a Coltrane aficionado but I love his early albums as a leader like Blue Train and later on in his career the aforementioned A Love Supreme.
The Köln Concert – Keith Jarrett
This one seems to be a pianist’s rite of passage. I know it was one of the first jazz albums that Chris (our pianist) owned and was an early influence on his playing. I used to live with another pianist who played this album all the time too. Despite Keith Jarrett’s outrageous outbursts at the audience in more recent years, there’s no denying that he’s a talented musician.
As a bassist I had an inevitable phase of checking out Weather Report when I was young just for Jaco Pastorius. I don’t really enjoy listening to Weather Report these days though.
We really like what these guys are doing. Although they’re clearly more influenced by hip hop than us we still feel there are some similarities between us and the crossover of styles. We love their tune Can’t Leave the Night and often play it at the end of our gigs. Great bass drop!
I think with the jazz resurgence that everybody is talking about at the moment then naturally one musician will get elevated to the position that Kamasi now occupies. I think it’s great that his music is crossing over and he’s opening up another world of music to a younger audience. Every generation needs that figure and it’s often brought about through an association with hip hop. In this case with Kendrick Lamar and To Pimp A Butterfly. We see Kamasi around at festivals and on gigs but it feels like we occupy different musical worlds. I guess that’s the good thing about jazz and music in general is the variation that can occur under this one heading.