When I was a kid jazz sounded as foreign to me as Chinese. The riffs, improvisations and scatting had no rhyme or reason to me. It all sounded like vaguely organized noise.
A friend, who was far more musically mature than I was at the time, loaned me a Ronnie Laws album, Friends and Stranger. I was hooked. The title track was something that I could easily understand and even dance to. It was like a switch flipped in my musical mind. I begun to appreciate the improvised variations on a theme, the complexity and interplay of instruments that until then seemed to be not playing the same tune. And I grew to appreciate the skill and mastery of those folks who could do it all effortlessly.
Now I'm all about jazz. Since my introduction so many years ago I've been acquainting myself with standards, styles, and artists and it's been a fun excursion so far. I'm still learning and wish I'd learn to play an instrument when I was a kid.
A side benefit of learning to appreciate jazz is that I now appreciate other forms of music more. Now classical music sounds more precise, Rock rocks me and R&B rhythms move me more. But jazz is at the root of it all.
I'm a huge fan of live jazz. I love sitting in a intimate club where the musicians are no more than a few steps away, well plucked bass notes thumping in my chest, wine loosening my inhibitions, and familiar tunes made new again through masterful improvisations.
If you don't think you're a jazz fan it could be that you were just not exposed to it like I was, and haven't had that seminal moment where a certain tune played by a particular artist flips that switch in you and suddenly you get it.
Or something like that.
Regardless, here are three iOS apps that should delight jazz lovers and at least cultivate a healthy respect for the music style by those who aren't yet. So lets get to them.
Blue Note [14.3 MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: EMI Records Limited]
Blue Note's catelog is amazing!
I've mention this app before, but it is a required mention anytime you talk about jazz and iOS.
BlueNote is a record label that focused on jazz. It was home to a dizzying array of jazz greats like Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Humphrey. If you bought any great jazz albums from the 40's, 50's, or 60's chances are you bought a BlueNote album.
And the articles are well worth reading
The company now offers a free iOS app that lets you explore articles about its artists and the music they played. It also offers 30 second clips of tunes in playlists and featured albums, giving you a taste of amazing music.
The app also lets you subscribe to a streaming service that offer full access to BlueNote music and videos. But if you don't want to pay there is still a huge amount of material available for free. If you like jazz, this is your app.
Ken Burns [24.8 MB, all iPads capable of running iOS 5.1 or later, Maker: American Documentaries Inc.]
Yes, Ken Burns is a videographer. So, what does he have to do with jazz?
Jazz is enjoyed and played around the world, but it originated right here in the U.S.A. Ken Burns has put together an app that looks at different aspect of American history and how it has shape this country. Of course, jazz is part of that history.
The app offers bite sized video featuring subjects that range from The Great Depression to race relations delivered in commentaries and stories that focus of the subjects at hand. The app has a beautiful interface that's easily navigated, listing topics in a timeline fashion.
The Ken Burns app is free and includes the section on innovation for free as well. Five other sections are available for purchase, but there's a lot in the Innovation section to make it well worth a download.
NPR Music[14.2 MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 5.1 or later, Maker: NPR]
NPR Music is another app that I've mentioned before, but bares mentioning again because it is absolutely wonderful.
Regardless of your musical tastes, NPR Music has a section for you and its filled with articles, videos and more. You can also stream genre centric web radio stations which obviously plays tunes, but also displays what tune it is and the artist playing it.
You can create playlists of your favorite articles and videos and save them for enjoying offline. This is all high quality stuff too. HD videos and sounds and amazing photos are everywhere. Each article is well written and offers new insights on the subject at hand. Jazz fans will find a lot to love about NPR Music, there a whole section devoted to the genre and enough material to keep you busy for a long time.
Great jazz and other music too
What's best is that there's nothing to buy. You get articles, videos, and music for free. If you love jazz, or music in general, get NPR Music.
That's almost a wrap..., I want to mention Jazz.FM 91 as well. The app is like a Canadian version of NPR Music, except that its dedicated solely to jazz. The app offers articles, podcasts, and music through a easy interface, and it's completely free. Check it out.
NOW that's a wrap for this week.
Be sure to also check out Max Axe, this week's Free App of the Week. It's an addictive action game for those enjoy that sort of thing. Also free this week is Bridges, the Single of the Week from Brood.
Happy Valentines Day to all.