Marcus Crowder, theatre critic for the Sacramento Bee, has written extensively on jazz and pop music. He gives credit to his mother - and Miles - for his love of jazz.
I learned to love jazz through my mother and the records she used to play around the house when I was young. I grew up on Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Gloria Lynne, The Ramsey Lewis Trio, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Erroll Garner, and Duke Ellington. I can see the record jackets now - Billie's "Lady In Satin," Ramsey's "The In Crowd," "Ella Sings Cole Porter," "Erroll Garner Concert By the Sea," "The Modern Jazz Quartet Plays No Sun in Venice." I played them all trying to understand what she heard in the music.
She told me stories about seeing people play while she lived in New York - a distant other worldly Holiday at a cramped basement club in Harlem, Horace Silver at a regular gig he had around the corner from her apartment, going back stage to meet the elegant Ellington who behaved in a manner befitting his famous moniker. It was romantic and mysterious.
The first jazz concert I saw was at Freeborn Hall, and my mother drove there and dropped me off where I met some friends who brought me back home to Foothill Farms. It was Les McCann and Eddie Harris touring behind the success of their “Swiss Movement” album. The late great Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó opened the show.
I remember her coming into my room one day and handing me an album she had just bought. “I think we need to hear what Miles is saying right now,” she said. It was “Bitches Brew.” It’s impossible to underestimate the effect that had on me. I always understood because she was very clear about it that jazz was art created by black people and it was important because of that.
This is part of a series about falling in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.