If an alien were to land on planet Earth, knock on my door and ask me, “PUNY HUMAN, WHAT IS JAZZ?”, first I would temporarily pass out, then once recovered I’d play him Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins, and more specifically the opening track St. Thomas. For me it’s the very definition of jazz; a recognisable standard with just the right amount of improvisation, nothing too abstract, and with faultless interplay between the four musicians (which of course is the perfect amount). Finger-clickingly cool and swinging as heck too, it does something to me that no other music seems to.
Speaking as a relative jazz newb, I reckon that the average Joe would also want to suggest something similar. I believe that hard bop is the sound that a lot of folks would most associate with the word ‘jazz’, even if they’d never heard the term and thought that hard bop is something you might do at the disco.
So, what piece of music to you is the very definition, the epitome, of jazz? And why?