I really shouldn't blame that Bird fellow--Charlie Parker, right?--for my lack of knowledge about jazz. That's irresponsible. Instead, it's the intellectuals, the ones with pointy heads especially, that are at fault. Before WWII, jazz was much like early rock 'n' roll in the way it thrilled the young and shocked the old. Then in the 1950s the eggheads came along and claimed the music as their own and suddenly it was just like classical and you had to be educated in jazz in order to fully appreciate or even understand it. Bone up on your blues, class. There'll be a test tomorrow.
As is often said when art and ignorance clash, I do know what jazz I like, and I like "Take Five":
If you did play the video, you'll notice it's an instrumental. However, a few years later a version with lyrics written by Brubeck and sung by jazz singer Carmen MacRae came out. I like it even more:
I get the impression from people who know a lot more about jazz than me that it's music you're supposed to listen to very carefully, so as not to miss some intricately improvised chord progression that shifts the overall tone blah, blah, blah. But I bet for a lot of people, including those who consider themselves jazz enthusiasts, it occasionally and simply makes good background music. Especially if the piece is familiar. This clip is from Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993). Listen carefully, and see if you can't discern "Take Five" in-between Alan Alda's, Woody Allen's, Diane Keaton's dinnertime patter:
Did you catch the chord progression? Or was Alda laughing too loud?
OK, enough already with "Take Five". Another famous Brubeck piece is "Unsquare Dance", which I also like. It features both hand-clapping and something done on the drums, and is a favorite of tap dancers everywhere, because they enjoy confusing the issue. Is it the clap, the tap, or the drum you're hearing? Watch these two perform and figure it out for yourself:
Finally, to borrow a phrase from the decidedly unjazzlike Steppenwolf, let's take a magic carpet ride. "Blue Rondo à la Turk":
OK, it turns out I'm familiar with all of these pieces. I just didn't know, until I started researching this, their names or that they were by Dave Brubeck or that they were even considered jazz. It's just music I've heard over and over again in movies, TV shows, half-time shows, and talent shows . Maybe even when I've been put on hold.
What a way to get an education.