“Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, jazz is jazz.” – Louis Armstrong

Jazz. A relaxing night and day soundtrack. Soothing like syrup and honey. Fresh for the ears. Unlike La La Land‘s Mia, I heart jazz. My friends call me Jazzy Jules, as I happen to be the only jazz admirer in my circle. All my online usernames are jazz-inspired, from jazzy.avenue to jazzontherocks. In fact, an all-jazz CD from the Lazy Sunday Box compilation series that I picked up at a little record shop in Melbourne, Australia is keeping me company as I’m working on this dedication to jazz in the spirit of International Jazz Month.

I grew up with jazz, and it provided the first bits of inspiration for my adventures in music and songwriting. My experience began with the ultimate jazz queens like Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee and my all-time favorite Ella Fitzgerald, whose records I still play these days. I would also put on some Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole plus modern jazz greats like Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Buble and Renee Olstead. All jazz-inspired and Woody Allen films I enjoy, such as Midnight in Paris, When Harry Met Sally, Down with Love and Cafe Society. It was this appreciation for jazz that led me into taking Jazz Lab and Ensemble during my training at the California College of Music in Pasadena, CA (I was incredibly lucky to be mentored by one of jazz’s greats Dee Dee McNeil as well as SWITCH member and astounding soul artist Phillip Ingram who I’m still in touch with). And I’m now left thinking about my singer-songwriter career. In case it never takes off, I just want to be a jazz musician.

With the comeback of all things retro and a swinging band like Postmodern Jukebox that gives jazz a whole new spin, the future of jazz looks brighter than ever. In my opinion, jazz is much more vibrant than the classical genre. It’s adaptable, it’s built on improvisation, and it fosters collaboration and creativity within the players. Everybody is welcome to contribute to it and reinterpret a standard the way they want to. To quote Miles Davis, “Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.” This is definitely the polar opposite of classical music and even musical theatre, where you’re supposed to stick to what’s written on the music sheet.

In jazz, every note is allowed to be sung or played differently, creating a new flavor along the way. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about creating your own vibe in your performance. You can even mix it with other styles to create acid jazz, jazz-soul, acoustic pop-jazz, smooth jazz, French jazz, and so on. In Bill Evans’s own words, “You can’t explain jazz to anyone without losing the experience because it’s feeling, not words.”

And that, my dear friends and readers, is why I find jazz to be both hot and cool. Enjoy this international jazz month, everyone!

Here’s a list of delightful jazz tunes I keep returning to:

  • It Had to Be You
  • As Time Goes By
  • Mona Lisa
  • C’est Si Bon
  • Deed I Do
  • It’s Only a Paper Moon
  • Moanin’
  • Peel Me a Grape
  • Bluesette
  • God Bless the Child
  • Walking My Baby Back Home
  • Cruella DeVil
  • The Nearness of You
  • Sunday Kind of Love
  • Moonglow
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • If I Only Had a Brain
  • ‘Round Midnight
  • I Love Paris
  • Easy Living
  • I Wish You Love
  • Old Devil Moon
  • The Very Thought of You
  • Moon River
  • Witchcraft
  • Orange Colored Sky
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