My initiation to Jazz was inevitable, I suppose. My dad was the bassist in a Jazz band with his three brothers & one sister in the 1940s & 1950s. He gave up the life of a professional musician and became a barber many years before I was born. (My mother had grown weary of touring with three kids and an upright bass in a station wagon.)
My parents loved mostly big band jazz & the standards. On any given evening, I’d hear, alternating with classical music, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and the occasional Bobby Darin or Satchmo tune pumping through our not-quite-state-of-the-art “Hi-Fi” as they used to call them.
Before long, competition for time-sharing on the old Hi-Fi came from my older brothers & sisters. I began hearing other, very “non-Jazz” music more often: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Electric Prunes, Iron Butterfly, The Dave Clark Five, Steppenwolf, etc.
I was about 10-years-old when my oldest brother Ross started rehearsing in our garage with his rock band. I’d been playing guitar for seven years at this point. My intense love of music (and I have to admit, seeing the attention of teenage girls the band was getting) were the turning point for me deciding to become (I thought) the best guitarist on earth! I practiced five to six hours a day, got in my first rock band at age 13, and pursued that for many years.
In the mid '70s my drummer Rick bought a load of albums of “new” music. We sat down, and for the first time ever, I heard the mesmerizing playing of some of the best musicians I’d ever heard: John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, and other amazing musicians. It was unimaginable to me that a music form could evolve so much. There’s quite a distance between Harry James and Alan Holdsworth.
Of course, my father, being a purist, denied that this music was Jazz at all.
Now, when I hear an old song by Glenn Miller, Sinatra or any of those pieces my dad once played, what I once thought was uncool “mom and dad’s music” immediately takes me over with sentimentality and my senses are filled with memories of days and people forever gone – a fitting soundtrack to my own life history.
This is part of a series about how CapRadio staff fell in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.