Jazz Resources

Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny. ~Frank Zappa

I don’t care too much about music. What I like is sounds. ~Dizzy Gillespie


This coming weekend I’m manning the computer lab at the Evanston Township High School Jazz Festival, a jazz fest for high school jazzers in and around the Chicago area, and from further afield, too. I’m putting together some resources that the budding jazz musician will find helpful, including sites for listening, blogs, freeware, software, podcasts, and anything else that might be useful. Some of the software I’ve mentioned in one or two earlier posts (Sibelius, Aviary, NoteFlight, Audacity, Band in a Box, etc). I’ll put links to that software here, but won’t go into much detail. If you’re not into actually playing jazz, you should certainly check out some of the listening opportunities, and some of the podcasts as well. Great stuff there…. Enjoy!

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

Listening Chops

If you want to play jazz, or any music for that matter, you have to listen. You have to absorb all those intricate and subtle details of sound that make jazz jazz, or that make rock rock, or that make raga raga. Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry said, “Imitate, assimilate, innovate,” and that first step can’t happen without listening. Below are some great places to listen. For free!

Pandora: Most people know about this site already. It’s an outgrowth of the music genome project. Plug in a key word (an artist, a genre, a song title), and Pandora will make a radio station for you based on your key word. This can be a great way to discover recordings you didn’t know about, and artists you didn’t know about.

Musicovery: If you’d like a more visual experience to find jazz (or any other genre) related to how you feel at the moment, try this interesting site. Fun to play with. I just found a great version of “Body and Soul” by Roy Eldridge (Little Jazz). Woot!

Lala: According to TechCrunch: “Lala May Have Just Built The Next Revolution In Digital Music. The company has the best streaming music product on the Internet today, and a business model that doesn’t burn cash.”

Accujazz: This is a fantastic site, not only because it’s got great jazz recordings to listen to for free, but the way they’re organized is brilliant. By genre, by decade, by artist, by instrument, and a whole bunch of other great ways to organize the music. I’m currently totally diggin the Blue Note channel. Fantastic stuff! Highly recommended.

Jazz Blogs

Here are some of the jazz blogs I subscribe to. Blog is short for “web log” of course, and it’s a place where you can read and respond to the thoughts of folks you might not otherwise get to interact with or see in person. There are thousands of bloggers out there, so you’re bound to find a few that are interesting. Save time and collect them in one place.

The aggregator I use is the Google Reader, a fantastic cloud computing tool.  Many other options exist, but it’s a good idea to have one that collects all the blogs (and podcasts) you’re interested in one spot. Saves vast amounts of time.

A Blog Supreme: NPR’s fantastic contribution to jazz blogging.

Accujazz Blog: Related to the radio station mentioned above. Good information.

The Jazz.com Blog: Want to go deep? Here’s the place. I’m just getting to this one, but like what I’ve read so far.

About.com’s Jazz Blog: About.com’s contribution to jazz blogging. Good info here, too, especially if you’re new to jazz.

All About Jazz: Not technically a blog, but tons of info here: writing, pics, vid, discussion, etc.

Jazz Lives: Written by Michael Steinman, writer and jazz addict. Nominated as one of the Best Jazz Blogs of 2009 by the Jazz Journalists Association. I just discovered this blog and look forward to exploring it.

Dave Douglas’s Blog: A good blog by DD, mostly about his music and other issues in jazz (like the hot debate over metronome use), lots of free sound files of Dave and his various groups. There are probably a lot of blogs out there by jazz musicians, but I haven’t looked into them much. If you know of a good one, please leave a comment with the address, and thanks!

Jazz Podcasts

All of these podcasts can be subscribed to either on the site (which is the link provided) or on iTunes. Just run a search using the right name and you’ll be able to subscribe via iTunes. This is how I get all my podcast subscriptions as it saves time and is automatic. Many on this list come from Blogspot’s list, many of which I’d already subscribed to, but there are a few new ones here I look forward to hearing.

Word Jazz: Okay, this one doesn’t have much to do with jazz, but it’s a very cool series of spoken word pieces done by poet Ken Nordine. who worked with cool jazzer Chico Hamilton for a while.

30 Years of Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland: This NPR show is truly fantastic. McPartland, a piano player, interviews and plays with jazz luminaries and has been doing it for decades (btw, this link isn’t a podcast, but follow the “more” link and you’ll find the podcast button). On this site you can scroll over pics, click on them and get a good 5 minute clip from interviews. One of the best sites I’ve seen in some time, and a great resource. Thank you, intertubes. Thank you, NPR!

Conversations with Christian (McBride): This is a podcast you have to get through iTunes (it’s free), and can be had in either audio or video formats (vids can also be found through CM’s Facebook page). The first one is w/ Eddie Palmieri. As a bonus here are a bunch of McBride’s videos playing with a host of fantastic musicians.

Wynton Marsalis: Video podcast series now in over 100 episodes. A major insight into the great trumpeter’s work, including extensive HD footage of band rehearsals, master class footage, concert footage, album trailers, spoken word, pdf samplers of written work…. Good stuff, but can’t be had in audio-only, so it won’t go on an iPod shuffle….

The Traneumentary: Sweet! Just discovered this and am psyched to explore the 33 episodes up already. Presents interviews on John Coltrane‘s music with many jazz greats including McCoy Tyner, Charles Tolliver, Sonny Rollins, Steve Kuhn, Jimmy Cobb, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano and many more. Available at the site, or through iTunes. Free.

We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out: A multi-part series exploring the impact of jazz music on social change movements and African-American history and culture. The series features conversations with musicians, authors and educators who have studied the music and its impact, experienced it first hand and, in some cases, created it.

Jazz Profiles: An in-depth look at the greatest performers who have influenced the history of jazz; presented by host Nancy Wilson. Highly recommended! (subscribe here)

GWU Presents American Jazz: Traditional jazz and the stories behind the music. Hosted by George Washington University’s Dick Golden, listen Saturdays from 10am-Noon on Sirius-XM Channel 70. Podcasts Now Available. Listen in iTunes.


Audacity: Free audio editing software. I’ve written about this before and posted some video tutorials on slowing a piece down and changing its key. We’ll be using this in the ETHS Jazz Festival computer lab to slow down a fast improvised solo, making it easier to learn by ear.

Band-in-a-Box: This program has been around for a while (it was invented by a dentist, but don’t let that scare you away) and is a pretty handy tool, especially if you’re trying to learn how to improvise or to play with others. It’s one of the more expensive programs, however, ($99-$349) but I find it quite useful. You enter chord names, choose from hundreds of musical styles, and the machine creates a backup band for you to jam with. Recent additions to the BBX tools use recordings of actual musicians for a more  realistic sound. There are add-ons that can be easily found (often for free) that have a suite of pre-entered chord progressions. I have the entire Real Book series, for example (Real Books are a large collection of jazz standards). I just open up a tune like ‘Round Midnight and away I go. Lots of tutorials out there for this program, too. Overview of the program will be given at the Jazz Fest.

Noteflight: Free notation software

Aviary Audio Editor: Free loop-based software (in the cloud)

Other software here and here from a previous post.

Have fun, and good luck with your practice!

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Hi Intentionalpractice,
    Neat Post If you have any aspiring trumpet players reading the blog, I would like with toot my own horn if I might! I have a surprisingly cool trumpet program that is 4 months lengthy and emphasizes range plus upper register stamina….Please post so a limited different trumpet players can pay a visit to these programs.
    I look forward to your next post
    Thanks for referring any new students my way!

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