As a musician, I entered the world of jazz kind of sideways. I use the term “musician” a little loosely here; I’m more of a songwriter, and consider my level of musicianship merely “functional”. I also use the phrase “entered the world of” fairly loosely; although I have a definite gift for listenable improvisation, I’m hardly what I’d call a “jazz musician”. Here’s an example of an actual jazz musician:
My first foray into the world of “jazz” was a result of listening to the artists on the ECM label as a teen, while maybe occasionally smoking marijuana and jamming to the LP’s on my guitar. While many of the label’s artists were competent “classic jazz” musicians, a fair number of them were doing stuff that probably qualifies more as experimental music than jazz. Part of what jazz is supposed to be all about is not knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and this is nowhere more likely to happen than when you, for instance, put a Norwegian soprano sax player on a beach with a windharp. Saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s dabblings were some of my favorites, and were amongst a number of influences (like listening to Brian Eno and Brand X) that shaped my approach to music.
Some Examples of “Jazz” that Influenced Me:
All of which helped me become something of a dope when it comes to my knowledge of “traditional jazz”. I have friends who are terrible musicians – and maybe even have what I consider to be terrible taste in music – who have a much more encyclopedic knowledge of who played what with whom and what the lineage of it all is. Probably my main connection with a jazz great is that when I play golf (which is never) I use the words “Dexter Gordon” to pace my swing.
Behind the Scenes of “Well I should have…”
Which is why I immediately fell in love with the idea behind Jon Benjamin’s new album Well, I Should Have…*. If you know who Benjamin is at all, you probably know him as the voice of Archer, or might at least recognize his voice from other animated shows like Bob’s Burgers or Dr. Katz. I say “fell in love with the idea behind”, because, well, the album is actually pretty terrible. But the dry ironic humor at work here is brilliant, and let’s face it: to an inexperienced ear, this may actually sound like visionary jazz piano work. We’ll let you decide. The limited edition vinyl version sold out pretty quickly, but you can still get the album on Amazon.
NPR also did a fun segment about the release.