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So, What is Summer Jazz?

by Curtis Davenport of CurtJAzz Radio

July 2020 –– There’s Bop, Swing, Modal, Free, Latin, Soul and Contemporary; a category of jazz for every taste. This time of year, people often ask me this question, one that is simple but not so categorically easy: “What is Summer Jazz?”

Around this time of year, we are looking to feel good and take it slow, and our musical choices reflect that vibe. Summer Jazz can come from any of the major categories, it can mention the season but that’s not a requirement, the tempo should be upbeat but not enough to break a sweat (too hot for that). On the other hand, it can’t be so slow that it kills the vibe. Summer Jazz is like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, infamously described hard-core pornography “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within the shorthand description and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”

Most of the time Summer Jazz lives around the Soul, Latin and Brazilian genres; music that is usually about the groove. The organists are popular: Charles Earland, Brother Jack McDuff, Richard “Groove” Holmes are in heavy summer rotation. CTI albums are also big (Stanley Turrentine, Deodato, Freddie Hubbard) Mid ‘60’s Blue Note? (Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Grant Green) Absolutely! Let’s add some Latin – Cal Tjader, Wille Bobo and Brazilian (Jobim, Sergio Mendes, the Gilbertos). How about some jazzy radio hits? (“Grazin’ in the Grass”, “Summer Wind”, “Take Five”). All typical ingredients in a great mix of Summer Jazz.

Now, light the grill, open a cold one of your choice and add the music of your choice to make your summer just right! We’ve got a sample list to get you started. You can make your own, to fit your mood. Enjoy your jazzy summer!

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