"Jazz? No, I don't listen to that stuff." "Jazz? No, it's too boring?" "How can you listen to music with no words?" "That stuff puts me to sleep." We've all heard it before. I'm often surprised by the number of people who claim not to like jazz, or won't openly admit to liking it. Apparently, they think there is some sort of stigma attached if one admits that they like jazz. Society would have all of us openly admitted lovers of jazz music to walk around wearing a large scarlet letter "J" on our garments.
Most people who claim to not like jazz aren't even aware that there are different types of jazz. They don't realize the term given is not homogenous. They tend to lump it all together into one category, which they identify with either the straight-ahead traditional sound, or what is labeled as smooth by most commercial radio stations.
Several years ago, I worked for a major electronics retailer. We were required to have video and audio systems on while the store was open, and to have CD's on hand to demo for interested customers. Of course, we interpreted this policy rather loosely to mean that we could play whatever we wanted to hear throughout the day. During most of my shifts, one could hear music by The Rippingtons, Fourplay, David Sanborn, Dave Koz, Warren Hill, Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Bob James, and others playing throughout the store.
Our store manager at the time (a rock aficionado) heard me playing "Aspen" from The Rippingtons Live in LA, and immediately inquired what it was. I told him, then mentioned that the group is one of the top contemporary jazz groups in the genre, and he couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe that jazz could sound like that. Another co-worker, primarily an R&B and Hip-Hop fan, always loved hearing Al Jarreau's Greatest Hits, particularly the song, "Roof Garden," and often requested that I bring that CD in for him to hear whenever we worked together. Fourplays' "Chant," and "101 Eastbound," and David Sanborn's "Chicago Song," were three songs I often used to demo the sound quality of speakers and sound systems. After sealing the deal, customers inevitably inquired about the music and where they could purchase it. Warren Hill even helped me sell a stereo to a college student who bore the same name as the tune Hill named for his wife, "Tamara."
I won’t say that I've tricked people into listening to and appreciating the music I love. Tricking implies deceit. I will say that I slipped them a musical mickey. To be more specific, I slipped them a jazz mickey. They never knew what hit them, and they were all the better for it.
- Mary Bentley