It’s formal season at Kenyon and as we don our semi-formal attire, it might be nice to compliment your sophisticated air with some jazz. Now, I know some think, “Kids don’t like jazz and nor should they,” and they’re right. But to ease the transition into the genre, try these songs. Melodies you’ll recognize, with that jazzy essence.
Blackbird– Brad Mehldau
One of these days I’ll have to do an all Brad playlist, but until then he will probably appear in every one. I love Brad, and this song is one of my particular favorites. Larry Grenadier’s pedaling bass starts off alone before slowly fading behind Mehldau’s piano. Finally, Grenadier slams out of the static line and gives the song a new surge in power. What began so delicately now erupts into one of Mehldau’s most regarded solos. He finally takes you home all by himself, cascading the range of the piano as if he were performing modern rag-time.
(Theme From) Chariots of Fire – Bad Plus
As long as we’re on the topic of great bass intros, I can’t leave this one out. Reid Anderson thumps out a bass line that sounds like it could score a heist montage before Dave King comes thundering in hard on the drums. You start to wonder how this is even a version of the song you were expecting until pianist Ethan Iverson hammers down the melody perfectly on top. Through brief interludes of free jazz where Iverson must grow at least four extra fingers, this song takes on you a brilliantly bizarre journey.
Riverwide – The Joshua Redman Elastic Band
The original Sheryl Crowe song is also a very good song, but I only ended up only finding that version through Redman’s atmospheric power-ballad. A deep shuffle provides a nice base layer for Redman’s sparse and psychedelic riffing and no acid-jazz take would be complete with copious layers of electric keys wavering around the melody.
Holocene – Bob Reynolds
Reynolds, who makes his real dough playing for John Mayer, lends his near impeccable chops to this Bon Iver dreamy ballad. Though it may come off a bit smooth-jazzy at first, wait until Reynolds starts ripping. His tone bites more than anything Kenny G could ever whip up. This recording marks a huge victory for Reynolds, who could barely afford to release the album due to licensing and other fees and had to rely on the generosity of kickstarters and Mayer (who plays guitar on the album). It’s a huge up and comer, debuting in the top ten for iTunes jazz.
The Eraser – Christian Scott
It’s popular in jazz today to do Thom Yorke songs. Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau, and The Kenyon Jazz Bands are all doing it. Here, Scott preserves the airy quality of the original while also giving it a new, perhaps more political meaning. Scott features this track on an album with tracks such as “KKPD,” “Died In Love,” and “American’t.” When this song is thrown in with the others, its original somberness reaches new heights. Scott’s muted trumpet wails while Milton Fletcher Jr’s piano vibrates around one strategically placed piece of paper (don’t worry, you’re speakers aren’t broken).