Jazz Seems Less Accessible Without a Good Music Tour Guide

jazz performance
Image by Aaron Cabrera from Pixabay

There have been a few times in my life when I discovered new genres or styles of music. I moved from being completely unfamiliar with them all the way to becoming a fan. Every time this has happened, there was one constant: I had a music tour guide. This tour guide was often a friend who was into that type of music. They had the willingness and the patience to introduce me and recommend specific artists. This happened with soul, goth, thrash metal, rap, blues, and others. Each time, I found myself feeling grateful to my tour guide for expanding my musical world.

Until recently, I never realized how difficult it might be to discover a new type of music without a tour guide. I had a brief introduction to jazz during childhood in the form of exposure to a few jazz records. Since then, I've found it difficult even to know where to start with exploring jazz. I know a few artists I like and a handful of albums I love, but they are the same artists and albums found on the "introduction to jazz" websites. That's where I started, after all.

I've determined a few styles of jazz I don't care for, through trial-and-error. Part of what makes it difficult is that I lack the terminology to describe what I like and don't like. I couldn't go into a record store (if such things still existed) and ask what they'd recommend to someone who liked a particular style. I don't even know the names of the various styles.

I've only met one person who could have been a jazz tour guide, but that was a lifetime ago back in college. He was only there for a year or two before dropping out, and we didn't get along well. From what I remember, I didn't find the type of jazz he was into very appealing anyway. I have encountered a couple of people since then who listened to jazz, but neither had the patience to try to teach me anything. Both seemed more interested in insulting my jazz-related ignorance.

I have bought some jazz albums without hearing them first, but this rarely works out. I've tried listening to some jazz radio when I found it available but little of what I heard had any appeal. Reading websites that offer recommendations has been somewhat helpful. At least, this has helped me expand the scope of what I like a bit, but I still don't feel like I have any idea what I'm doing.

I suppose another option I haven't tried would be to spend some time in online forums focused on jazz. I bet I'd be able to learn some things there and get more informed recommendations. Then again, I suspect I may discover is that my jazz tastes are limited. I seem to enjoy a small number of artists and albums recorded in the 1950s and 60s. There's nothing wrong with that, but it makes me wonder if I could sustain the effort to go beyond whatever style that might be.

One other thing I've discovered is that I have to be in the right mood or state of mind to appreciate jazz. If I am there, I usually love it; if not, I get impatient and tune out. I've never had this problem with metal! I'd bet this is about me not finding jazz very accessible. I don't know enough to appreciate some of what I'm hearing. But it also means that jazz is unlikely to ever be my favorite type of music. I suppose that's okay, though it does lead me to feel like I'm missing out at times.

Some will say that I'm making this more complicated than it needs to be. Music should be enjoyed like other forms of art. They'll say I should listen to whatever I like, enjoy it, and not overthink it. They may be right, though I suspect I'd enjoy it more if I could describe what I liked and find more of it. Who would have guessed that music tour guides would be so useful?