Dizzy Gillespie – “Salt Peanuts”

Year: 1947

Fun fact: the beginning notes of this jazz classic is a direct nod to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring. Gillespie was a fan of Stravinsky, and he wanted to turn jazz into a “high art” for normal Americans who were turned off by Europe’s tight control over classical music and opera. That’s why the first phrases sound so tight and strange compared to the loose feel of the rest of the piece – it’s a direct acknowledgment of where the music came from and where it wants to go.

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Kamasi Washington – “Final Thought”

Year: 2015

Album: The Epic

I heard a lot from websites/writers/friends that I had to check out Kamasi Washington immediately¬†because he was amazing and he was doing¬†important things in music. Whenever I feel like everyone is telling me to check out something, I usually don’t. That’s why I’m not watching “Masters Of None” or “Making A Murderer” – too much immediate hype turns me off.

Of course I’m also an idiot, so I didn’t bother listening to The Epic when it first came out. If I did, it would have been on my end-of-year albums list.

It’s the kind of album that’s just the right amount of complex and accessible, the kind of jazz album that those who aren’t as well versed in the genre can still pick up on the kind of risks and experiments Washington is doing. It’s bold yet inviting, and now I won’t sleep on any new music from Washington.

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GENTLE LOVE – “Singing Emotions”

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Album: Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies

Release: 2014

Label: Scarlet Moon Records

When I moved to New York this summer I already had a few songs picked out for my days and nights living in the city. I actually had a full playlist ready to go. These were overly romantic songs which, in my head, would be the songs that I would listen to while walking through the streets of Manhattan or sitting by a window and quietly observing the tall buildings and fancy New Yorkers surrounding me. Norah Jones, Belle & Sebastian, Simon & Garfunkel, early Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, and more. If this sounds like Kid Moves From The Midwest To New York City And Golly Look At All The Bright Lights, then you’re right.

However, I just heard a song that trumps any Norah Jones or Belle & Sebastian – and it’s a song from the video game Chrono Cross! It’s actually a jazzy-reinterpretation of one of game’s songs, “Singing Emotions”, but I wouldn’t think twice if it was in a Woody Allen movie. Since Woody Allen movies are the reason why many people move from the midwest to New York, this song fits right in.

The song was originally composed by Yasunori Mitsuda for the 1999 Playstation game, yet in the hands of GENTLE LOVE (AYAKI on piano, Norihiko Hibino on saxophone, and Naoko Sato on percussion) this song could now replace Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” in the opening credits of Manhattan.

The rest of this album is also worth checking out – Prescription for Sleep includes jazz reinterpretations of songs from classic video games such as Super Mario 64, multiple Final Fantasy and Elder Scrolls games, Donkey Kong Country, and many more. This year another album in the series came out and it includes more video game music as cool jazz. Check it out and enjoy.

Listen to the original version below:

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