A jazz playlist for Ben

I am not a jazz fanatic, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I was asked to put together a playlist for a friend of mine, in order to tempt him to the genre (if jazz is such a thing). All art suffers from the tyranny of taxonomy. Music more so than any other art form. Yet jazz is about transcending these things. Poor old jazz.

Any credentials I possess are partial and particular. I love Gilles Peterson and Late Junction on BBC Radio. I occasionally hang out at Cafe Oto in Dalston. I am a proud owner of a HMV102 Gramophone and a number of 78s that put the structural integrity of my flat at risk. Hipster, moi? So this is the jazz playlist that I have put together. It follows a roughly chronological order. It is not meant to be comprehensive in any way. Just a selection of tunes that I like, and that I think you will like, that all fall (in one way or another) under the classification of “jazz”.

Two other, superior tour guides in the cathedral of jazz lie at your disposal. One is Eric Hobsbawm and the other is Ken Burns. Read them, watch them, soak in their storytelling delight. These two sages of olde, along with my playlist, hopefully capture at least some of  jazz’s origins, main points of juncture and development, while along the way hinting at where it has cannibalised from other musics and (in turn) other musics have taken from jazz. You’ll hopefully recognise a sample or two.

Many of these tunes will be familiar to you. No apologies about that. The heavy presence of that cool, 50s and 60s jazz, is because so much of this music is a soundtrack to an imagined life. A life which is urban, nocturnal, curious and without anything close to a thudding metronome. Sometimes the imagined becomes real, either by design or accident. That’s when this really works. Enjoy:


All The Jazz Band Ball – Bix Beiderbecke & His Gang
Begin The Beguine – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman
Si tu vois ma mère – Slow – Sidney Bechet, Claude Luter et son orchestre
Strange Fruit – 1939 Single version – Billie Holiday
Ain’t Misbehavin – Django Reinhardt – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
La Vie En Rose – Single Version – Louis Armstrong
So What – Miles Davis
Moanin’ – Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
‘Round Midnight – Miles Davis
Look For The Silver Lining – Chet Baker
Blue in Green – Miles Davis
Peace Piece – Bill Evans
Take Five – Dave Brubeck
Bitches Brew – Miles Davis, Mark Wilder
Unsquare Dance – Dave Brubeck
Cantaloupe Island – Herbie Hancock
Holy Thursday – David Axelrod
Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock
Think Twice – Donald Byrd
Yèkèrmo Sèw (A Man of Experience and Wisdom) – Mulatu Astatke
Music For A Found Harmonium – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Take Me To The Mardi Gras – Bob James
Shine It – Medeski, Martin & Wood