I made a new years resolution this year to expand my musical taste and interests, and specifically, to listen to more jazz. My boyfriend is a super talented jazz pianist and all-around jazz aficionado. I, on the other hand, have an untrained (but good, he says) ear. I love my indie, folk, and pop-rock tunes and appreciate a good guitar lick, beautiful harmony and crafty lyrics. Until recently, Jason Mraz’s scat singing and Herbie Hancock’s piano was the extent of my jazz exposure.
But I’ve made good on my resolution. In the past month, I have seen and listened to more jazz than in my previous 22 years. And man has it been good.
It started in a small venue called the Jazz Gallery in the South Village, where Darcy James Argue’ over-sized group filled easily half the room. While I enjoyed the music, I didn’t feel connected in any way to it. Without any jazz training, I didn’t even know how to talk about it.
But it’s not in my blood to give up. The following night I found myself at Winter JazzFest, an annual gathering of some of the finest jazz musicians from around the world and their most dedicated fans who squeeze their way into five venues in Manhattan’s West Village to jam between the hours of 7pm and 2am. While the talent of Vijay Iyer and many of the other musicians I saw over the course of the evening was self-evident, the nights most impressive act came from Taylor Eigsti, whose 12:30am set at The Bitter End literally woke me up and pulled me into the world of jazz.
Since Winter JazzFest I’ve fallen deeply into the rhythm of three fantastic musicians: Taylor Eigsti, Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato, who often collaborate musically and are featured on each others records.
Taylor Eigsti is a 27-year-old pianist who began his career as a prodigy at age 11. Taylor’s newest release, Daylight At Midnight, features Becca Stevens on a number of songs, including one of my favorite tracks, Magnolia:
Becca Stevens is a New York-based singer, composer and guitarist who The New York Times described as “a best-kept secret.” Her pitch-perfect pure voice and youthful presence came to life for me when I saw her at both Winter JazzFest with Taylor and with Alan Hampton at Symphony Space. Her newest record, Weightless, is undoubtedly the best album I’ve heard in 2012 and should have been on my best of 2011 list. This is the music video from the album’s title track, Weightless:
Finally, after loving Becca and Taylor’s music, I was told without hesitance the next artist to discover was Gretchen Parlato. Sure enough, her hauntingly beautiful and soulful voice on both In A Dream and The Lost And Found validated my entrance into the wonderful world of jazz. This song, Weak, is from Gretchen’s 2009 album In A Dream.
So with these three songs, and many more on each of their records, I pronounce that I am here to stay.