A Layman’s Guide to Jazz


Over my four years at Buckell, I’ve explored various subjects outside of my management major.  The courses I’ve enjoyed most outside of Taylor Hall tend to cluster in the music building.  I’ve taken “Introduction to Modern Jazz” with Phil Haynes, the veteran New York drummer who has been featured on over 50 albums.  I’ve also had the pleasure to take “Jazz, Rock and Race” with our favorite in-house trumpeter and director of the jazz band, Barry Long.  This semester, I am also enrolled in “History of Jazz” with Professor Long.  

Given my solid introduction to jazz education, I have come to appreciate the colorful spectrum of this genre.  I’ve compiled some of my favorite tunes from my favorite artists for your listening pleasure:


“Take Five” by Brubeck




If you take a listen, I think you’ll be surprised to learn that you’ve actually heard this song in some form over the course of your time watching TV and going to the movies.  The song was released in 1959 by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, becoming the best selling jazz single of all time over the next two years.  Dave Brubeck is widely regarded as a key pioneer for “cool jazz.”  If you don’t know what it means to be “cool,” just take a listen to this tune.  You’ll feel yourself lifted, spontaneously redressed in a sharp tuxedo, and strutting down a bustling late night NYC boulevard.


“A Love Supreme Part III: Pursuance” by John Coltrane




Holy drum solo!  Released in 1965, this song predates some influential work by John Bonham, the legendary drummer of Led Zeppelin.  If you listen to the drum solo that open this piece, you’ll be blown away by how much Bonham looked to this style for influence in his hard rocking.  The man rocking the drums on this piece is Elvin Jones.  Needless to say, Coltrane kills it in this song as well.  He pushed forward the idea of “hot” and “free” jazz with this album, held by many as the best album in jazz history.


“Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis




I heard this tune for the first time in Haynes’s class on Modern Jazz.  What a song!  It’s the kind of free-spirited, piano driven song that makes you want to hop, skip and step across campus with a group of your best friends.  It is truly a song for easy listening that displays the talents of pianist, Bill Evans, and trumpeter, Miles Davis.  The album even features John Coltrane on saxophone from when he played in Miles’s band!  If you listen closely, you can hear the free spirited sound in Coltrane’s saxophone that would provide the base for his later, progressive tunes.