How To Understand Jazz

July 15, 2017
Understanding jazz is a lot like understanding espresso. You don’t need to know their inner workings to enjoy and appreciate either.

There’s a common attitude that you need some degree of musical knowledge as a prerequisite to listening to jazz. Sure, understanding some of what’s going on gives you more insight and allows you to appreciate its nuances. However, consider that people drink espresso because ultimately they love how it tastes, not because they understand it.

You don’t need to know that the 14-16 grams of coffee that’s been ground through a burr grinder requires 30 pounds of tamping pressure applied, and then 195-205° F water forced through the coffee grounds with nine bars of pressure. It takes a lot of training and talent to make a great cup of espresso, just like it takes a lot of practice to play great jazz.

I’ve heard jazz that’s technically great that I could care less about. I’ve had espresso that, despite fulfilling all the technical requirements, I feel apathetic about.

When you hear great jazz, or taste a great shot of espresso, you don’t need know what goes into it. Good jazz and good espresso moves you. They speak in ways that words can’t.