Recommended jazz albums expand your music & get you swinging

Some people avoid jazz music because they aren’t sure what it is. The most defining aspect of jazz is improvisation. Players make up solos on the spot, usually following the harmonic structure of the song they are playing. It is hard to define all of what is labeled jazz, but improvisation is the key component. Jazz is usually very rhythmic and often has a laid-back feel called “swing.”

New Orleans is widely considered the birthplace of jazz, which developed in the early 20th century. New Orleans was a melting pot of many cultures from around the world because of its importance as a trade route. People of African, French, Caribbean, American Indian, Italian and German descent made New Orleans their home. This mix of cultures lead to a mix of musical influence. Jazz eventually emerged from blues, ragtime, marches and other forms of music. There are eight varying types of jazz with more than 30 recognized subgroups, so there is a lot to choose from. Early Jazz, Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Cool, Free and Fusion are some of the more prominent styles.

If you’re new to jazz, I recommend you listen to the following albums. These were created by small groups who used a lot of  improvisation.

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The following big band sounds will get you swinging!

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Experience live jazz

There is nothing like experiencing jazz music live. You’ve got the opportunity to enjoy live jazz when the Topeka Jazz Workshop plays a free concert Sun, Aug 15, 3-5pm at Evergy Plaza, 603 S. Kansas Ave, in downtown Topeka. The Topeka Jazz Workshop is an 18-piece big band of regional players who are keeping the tradition of big band music alive. Bring folding chairs or a blanket to sit on, maybe an umbrella for shade and a cool non-alcoholic beverage to relax and enjoy the show. You can also bring your dancing shoes and swing dance moves downtown!

Perry is part of the collection development team, focusing on music, media and fine arts. He has a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University as well as a master’s degree in music from the University of North Texas. A Topeka native, he returned to his hometown after spending more than a decade on the road as a professional trumpet player.