“Well, let me put it this way…you ever been to the dentist? Not me. I suppose I should go to one, but I got enough pain in my life as it is.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy
When I really try to think about my earliest exposure to jazz, the Bleeding Gums Murphy episode of The Simpsons is what comes to mind. I didn’t quite know what jazz was at that pre-teen point of my life. I was familiar with the saxophone but that was about it. Who in the 80’s wasn’t familiar with the sax? I heard the sax on various Huey Lewis and The News songs and that one guy in The Lost Boys played a sax, but jazz as a music genre was still a foreign concept at that juncture.
It wasn’t until high school that I discovered John Coltrane’s Giant Steps album (about the time I joined the high school’s jazz band, more on that another time). A lot of people perhaps rightfully count A Love Supreme as his magnum opus but Giant Steps to me has this undeniable, spirited energy that is perfection to me.
Every song is truly magnificent. My favorite moment on the album is the intro to ‘Countdown’. It starts with a loose drum solo. And I mean LOOSE. It almost sounds like they’re dragging the drum set across the studio floor. This gives a sense of chaos that goes on for a little bit, just long enough for you to wonder what’s going on exactly. Before you know it Coltrane drops in with this beautiful, razor sharp rapid-fire solo that blisters.
My favorite Coltrane song though may have to be his version of ‘My Favorite Things’. It’s a complete re imagining of the song from The Sound of Music. In comparison to the original it’s instrumental and breezier. And you don’t have to deal with the absurd lyrics. But the melody is still there and it’s pushed properly to the forefront.
Coltrane is where it’s at. If you have Amazon Prime there’s an absolute treasure trove of old jazz albums. Best damn $99 a year I could spend.
Was Bleeding Gums Murphy a jazz guy or a blues guy? I may have to go back and rethink my entire life now.