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Celebrate International Jazz Day with VMP

On April 30, 2021

Happy International Jazz Day!

Back in 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared April 30 as International Jazz Day to create a regular opportunity to celebrate and highlight jazz and the genre’s cross-cultural history, impact and importance across the world.

While jazz of all subgenres has sometimes been misconstrued in the public consciousness, gaining an unfair reputation for inaccessibility or headiness, we’ve long believed that jazz is for everyone. Over the past few years at VMP and on the VMP Magazine, we’ve attempted to locate entry points and further education for a multitude of subgenres, so that jazz heads and beginners alike can experience the genre’s magic.

Below, you’ll find a curation of past jazz-related “10 Best” lists and other jazz content for you to get lost in, so you can celebrate International Jazz Day expanding your mind with old favorites or new-to-you treasures.

The 10 Best Albums For A Jazz Beginner

“Jazz deserves more than being relegated to uncomfortable situations. It deserves to be consumed by anyone and everyone willing to open their ears and feel what often isn’t being said but played.

“That’s where this list can help. As a jazz lover myself, but nothing close to what I’d call a proper aficionado, I reached out to my close friend and gifted jazz musician, Ryan Kowal, to help compile this list and share his insight.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Jazz Albums For Continuing Your Jazz Studies

“Given that we’re talking about an entire genre here, especially one with such a huge number of important players, it’s impossible to just throw out a single list of 10 records that newbies need in their collection. Hell, it’s difficult to just stick to 20! But look, once you get through those first 10 records and this additional batch, we’re confident that you’ll at least have a better grasp on the genre.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Jazz Rap Albums To Own On Vinyl

“Back when A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip was a teenager, the legend goes, his father overheard him playing some hip-hop and said it reminded him of bebop. That connection, drawn in the opening seconds of Tribe’s 1991 album The Low End Theory, at first seems a little odd. Musically, late ’80s rap and mid-’40s jazz have very little in common, the former defined by 4/4 rhythms and looped melodies, the latter by its “anything goes” approach to rhythmic structure and melodic composition. But if you look at each genre as a cultural movement, paying particular attention to the backlash each initially received, hip-hop and bebop share more parallels than you’d expect.

“Both genres succeeded in infuriating the majority of the preceding generation, usually a sure sign of their cultural importance. Sure enough, jazz and hip-hop have both stood the test of time, and as is also nearly inevitable for two genres that have been around more than 20 years, commingled in extraordinary ways.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Avant Garde Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“I don’t care what anyone says, the more obscure jazz artists you know about, the cooler you are. Jazz has made a comeback in recent years, so having a basic knowledge of the major players is key to your social reputation (if you’re hanging out with the right people, that is). If you really want to separate yourself, it’s time to get to know some avant-garde jazz artists.

“This isn’t a be-all-end-all list, but it considers players of different eras and will give you a good basis to jump-start your exploration into the world of weird jazz. Pick up all these albums on vinyl, check the liner notes, and buy more from all the side musicians while you’re at it. All these artists broke free from the confines of what jazz was ‘supposed’ to be and forged ahead on their own path.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Live Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“Jazz-heads won't let me lie: There's no better way to experience jazz than live performance. Sure, the sound quality in some venues isn't as good as that of a million bucks recording studio, and the possibility of post-production is not on the table. However, the improvisatory nature of jazz makes live performance the quintessential way to experience the genre. ​ “There are plenty of influential studio recordings you must listen to when dipping into jazz. Go ahead, put those records on and let them broaden your musical horizons. But if you really want to get a grasp on the genre, listening to live albums will give you a different kind of insight and enjoyment. They will let you take a look inside the performers' heads, as they feed off the audience and try their best to convey what's on their mind in a particular night. No second chances, no studio overdubs, just raw emotion and improvisatory genius. The following are some of the finest live jazz albums available on vinyl, and a sort of guide for you to expand your jazz knowledge and record collection.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Modern London Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“There’s no need to sterilize the hyperbole: London’s local jazz scene is having what you might call ‘a moment.’ We are witness to a surge of ingenuity that may well meet the criteria of being historic; a creative boom led by young musicians finding new angles to a classic genre that feel fresh and imaginative. It’s music that captures the pluralistic flavor of the U.K. capital. In the backdrop of Brexit-era Britain and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment — punctuated by the horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire and the Windrush scandal — this doesn’t just feel refreshing, it is vital.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Soul Jazz Records To Own On Vinyl

“Jazz began life as social music (but not #SOCIALMUSIC… sorry, Don Cheadle). The advent of bebop had drawn some chin-strokers into the audience, but dancing was still most of jazz's raison d'être until the late 1950s, when intrepid early explorers of the music's harshest angles — John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler — began to delve into music that, while still intended for collective uplift, was hardly conducive to rug-cutting. Meanwhile, another set of largely Black musicians were making inroads in mainstream pop by adding increasingly sleek flourishes to more dancefloor-friendly R&B, in a stylistic amalgam we've all come to know as soul music.

“Plenty of musicians with jazz chops wanted to keep up with the times, but were neither comfortable going full pop nor diving headfirst into the chaotic din of ‘The New Thing.’ Instead, these musicians found a way to bring the social, danceable element of jazz into modern times, taking the soul sound of Motown and Stax and infusing it with the free-wheeling improvisations and fleet-fingered dexterity of bebop and cool jazz. The results, collectively known as soul jazz, were funky, sophisticated and run through with sinuous grooves. Little before or since has been as thumpingly danceable; it's not for nothing that these records were picked clean for samples starting in the late 1980s, when the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets and The Beastie Boys raided their respective parents' record stashes to slice and dice some funky music of their own.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Smooth Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“Whatever your exposure to this music, be it via your parents’ obsessive love of Kenny G or that time you got stuck in an elevator for seven hours, now is a great time to make some new positive memories. Straight outta the very same fusion scene that yielded now-iconic records like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, many of the artists who would pioneer this relaxing, sensual offshoot arrived at it quite naturally. Explore the soul sounds of the 1970s for long enough and you’re bound to stumble into its jazzier corners, expressed in a number of the latter genre’s splintering trends during the decade.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Vocal Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“Jazz enthusiasts are about as varied as they come in terms of their preferences in jazz styles, favorite instruments, Miles Davis-era rankings, and, yes, whether vocal jazz is as good as instrumental jazz. The answer to the latter is a resounding ‘Yes!’ How can we talk about jazz without talking about the great jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald?

“The focus of vocal jazz is obviously on the singer; the voice is the instrument. It makes sense, then, that most vocal jazz will be framed in a more traditional song form. Words and lyrics add a structure but this is not necessarily limiting. Rhythmic variation plus the innovations of scat singing (wordless syllables) and vocalese (words are added to instrumentals) meant the voice can go toe-to-toe with even the best instrumental solo with improvisation in phrasing, rhythm and pitch. Thus vocal jazz songs can range between pop/musical standards and more experimental forms. The sky's the limit.”

Read more here.

The 10 Best Modern Jazz Albums To Own On Vinyl

“What are the 10 best modern jazz albums?

“In doing our research, we gathered a lengthy list of projects from the past 10 years or so. We eventually picked apart records we otherwise love or respect, casting them aside for albums that truly deserve a place on such a list. These selections do more than just showcase the best of what jazz has to offer in the past decade; they show exactly how alive and well jazz has and continues to be, no matter what coverage you may see for these artists. You won’t see many of these acts making headlines on your favorite music sites, but they are getting their shine in their own ways, whether it’s through critical acclaim or, in one very specific case, a friggin’ Pulitzer Prize.”

Read more here.


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