How to spread Jazz…

I’m a jazz fanatic since childhood. When I meet someone that claims to “love music”, it often means that they would gladly part with hundreds of dollars to see Pink, Taylor Swift, Billy Joel or Red Hot Chili Peppers “live”.

How would you introduce these celebrity t-shirt concert fans to jazz? They’re completely content to expose their ears to deafening SPLs at a concert, yet ask me to turn it down three times in a matter of minutes.

My girlfriend that trained as an opera singer in her youth, cannot relate to music without words (much jazz).

How can you explain instrumental jazz to the uninitiated? Analogies? Musicians? Tracks? Albums?

My best to you all and happy listening.
—Chris V


What initially attracted you to the genre?

Perhaps start here. Share what you found compelling.

For many jazz calls out for an explanation. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? And why are they doing it to me? :slight_smile:

Rock, pop, and orchestral scores do not require explanation. They are our culture’s primary musicsl forms. We know where the music is going. We know the musical gestures. We are comfortable with what we hear.

Jazz is so removed from the mainstream we don’t know what it is and what its rules are.

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Play “easier to listen to” jazz pieces that would be more receptive to the different audiences you’re talking about. Something lighter, but real.

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Seriously? I do it this way…


Yes. People have a perception of jazz as what’s played on a crappy jazz cable tv music channel, not knowing what real jazz is. Real, loud, heavy jazz won’t bring people in. It draws the reaction “turn that music down”. Exposure to something lighter, not lite-fm garbage, but something beautiful, could draw others in naturally.

Good luck !

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Maybe a usual rock listener needs:

  • a trusted guide to be introduced to a different genre (be aware, “trusted” means a friend/parent who knows rock better than him and who is able to share the same passion with him - a jazz lover who doesn’t know rock tends to appear distant and snobbish to rock lovers)
  • a basic introduction in order to be able to discern the difference between classic jazz (50’-60’) and other styles (70’ and modern). Bop, swing often sounds like “oldish” Bossa Nova is easier, but distant to his habits. Coltrane could be difficult for a newbie, other performers that are already well known could be a better way to start with and give him the ability to search albums on his own
  • the right jazz albums/artists to start (it doesn’t matter if “always the same famous” Krall, Miles)
  • when and how jazz should be listened to. A rock lover is used to play music in his life while traveling by car, wearing earbuds on the metro/street, having a shower and… SINGING. This is a crucial difference. Start suggesting album to be played while cooking or having dinner with friends, this is a good way for beginners. Then, show him/her how jazz could touch the soul when played in different moments (when you are reading a book, alone in a quiet room, dimmering the lights). A rock lover uses to play music doing other things, distracted, jazz could surprise him BECAUSE for the first time he experiment listening to music only. This could be something new for him/her.
  • there is always a right time for jazz, not necessarily now. Our tastes changes in our lives. A rock lover will tend to discover jazz albums spontaneously only in particular circumstances. Let him/her free to enjoy jazz because it’s the right moment, the decision must come naturally.
  • needless to say that a decent (audiophile) system always helps driving towards this jazz music discovery

As you have already understood, this is based on my personal experience of rock lover when I was introduced to jazz (in my 20’) thanks to a savvy experienced friend. Still today I alternate rock phases with jazz phases in my life.

And recently I’m trying to introduce to jazz my 20yo son who loves grunge and plays guitar… a real challenge. I need to be patient.

Hope that helps.


I have had these discussions a few times, mostly with teens. Assuming the person is open to exploring the question of why jazz, I start with a conversation about improvisation. If that sparks, I move forward with some melodic examples. If the spark becomes a flame, I buy them Kind OF Blue.


This is a great place to start for many people.

Ad lib improv sounds like aimless noodling until they understand what is going on and why.

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I’ve never tried to convert anyone, but just offhand I’d suggest playing something easily accessible,and at a conservative volume level. I’d suggest any of countless medium tempo songs with a 4/4 walking bass line would supply a pulse that a neophyte might find attractive — something to enable hearing the structure clearly in a familiar time signature, around which everything else revolves. A strong, simple groove, in other words. My two cents.


I’ve never really found any predictably successful method. I really haven’t tried for decades. It is what it is. A lot of the material presented as “jazz” these days. . . I think has gone beyond jazz into some sort of avant garde improvisational thing. . . and some persons can slip right into that and not follow the tradition that led there–that is what I have seen most recently in my closest environment–persons moving directly to avant gard jazz or jazz incorporating many elements of other genres from really noisey rock/electronic music or fusions of world and rock music.

There’s a lot of that for sure. We had a sax player who couldn’t seem to count and we could only stop his solos with a shovel from behind.


As a child, I hated jazz when my father played it.
And now I mostly listen to jazz.
My father, who sadly died far too young when I was 15, should have seen me now.
My love for jazz music came from the ease with which these musicians improvise.
And then the annual Norts Sea Jazz festival in The Hague.
Since this festival moved to Rotterdam, I also dropped out.
This no longer has much to do with jazz IMO.


Interesting. I have always preferred music without words. To me, words are not music. You cannot hum words or play words at a piano recital. Words are “things” that allow you to sing along with the music(melody). Hence, that is why I like jazz. Just my two cents.


Many piano players mumble during their playing.
And don’t forget drummers.
For example, Art Blakey or Elvin Jones :wink:

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Most of my hi fi friends prefer vocals. I don’t. Although I’ll occasionally have a listening session of vocals with singers whose voices sound like instruments; Ella, Frank for example.

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…but can they mumble without playing?


Someone else has already probably already mentioned…
Start with vocal Jazz and even easier, Jazz covers of popular songs?

One of my absolute favorite albums in recent times is Chantal Chamberland, Temptation:

All Jazzy covers. Really good and sounds great.

Diana Krall, too of course.

Image from


Answering this question, I think, is to start with the artists and albums from different styles of Jazz
See if anything sticks?
Preprogrammed playlists on streaming services?

But in the end it’s like the old saying goes, “…you can lead a horse to water…”
Kinda like golf. Your first swing, you miss or duff. And you either say, “This is stupid! Screw this!”, and never do it again.
Or, you say, “Bring that fraking little ball back here and lemme try that again!”
Some take. some don’t.

Or via crossover.

India Arie & Raul Midon - Back to the middle NSJ 2007 - YouTube

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