We just wrote the following to a student asking for recommendations of jazz artists. We share it, lightly edited to conform to the style of the blog, for the benefit of gentle readers needing a respite from politics and economics:
There are so many great artists to recommend! We'd recommend exploring at this web site as a way to begin. Ken Burns's PBS documentary on jazz is not necessarily the definitive word, but you won't listen to any bad music by listening to what he recommends.
Here are some of the great names of jazz who comprise much of our personal playlist:
We recently gave a friend the one-disc version of the two-disc set described here. We could definitely recommend this as a fine collection of great performances with very accessible grooves.
Note that we eschew the subgenre labeled "smooth jazz," which is comprised largely of repetitive R&B-style licks without a lot of substance. "Smooth jazz" is for people who don't want to listen to the music. If unobtrusive background sounds are what you seek, you may be out of luck with all our recommendations, which tend to cause the listener to tap feet, snap fingers, sigh contentedly and occasionally exclaim, "Oh, yeah!" or "Go, man!" In that unfortunate case, go for the contemptible wallpaper music of Dave Koz, Kenny G and other extinguishers of the flame. Then there's the "New Age" school of Windham Hill Records, with such pabulum as George Winston. This is "music" for people who find smooth jazz too challenging, the aural equivalent to Zoloft and warm milk.
Your hipster professor,