Back in the early 1990s, I was an anglophile indie kid with stunted music taste that mostly revolved around British shoegaze and dream pop. My first real band Ozean - that’s us in the photo - was largely (and aesthetically) inspired by Slowdive and Cocteau Twins. Friends and I spent a lot of time and money at the now defunct Tower Records in Campbell, California where we befriended Dan, a trusted record store clerk who would give a knowing nod whenever ringing up a My Bloody Valentine EP or a RIDE single. This was always encouraging as he was one of those older cooler guys we looked up to.
One day while purchasing the new issue of Melody Maker and a Pale Saints CD, Dan leaned in and asked, “Hey, are you into old jazz?” Nobody had ever asked me that question before.
At the time, Henry Rollins was talking in interviews and on MTV’s late night weekend show 120 Minutes about listening to recordings outside the comfort zones of alternative music. He talked about how Iggy and the Stooges got him into old jazz and how that genre was the alternative music of its time. During the 1950s and 1960s, jazz was the sound of the underground. It was championed by beatniks, mods, hep cats, and proto counterculture music heads.
After telling Dan that I was “jazz curious,” he slipped this curated complimentary compilation of vintage Fantasy label jazz into my yellow cellophane bag. Shortly after arriving back home, I brewed a pot of coffee and slid this CD into the first slot of my five-disc changer. It didn’t take long for Tower Records Original Jazz Classics to work its magic on my ears. The warm, bouncy bass line of Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond’s “Crazy Chris” set an upbeat tone congruent with my caffeine buzz before Desmond’s flirty melody on the alto sax lured me like the Pied Piper, right into the swing of this seven-minute-long song. Following this, the vibrant vibraphone notes of Cal Tjader’s “Mamblues” danced out of my speakers and now it felt like a party, punctuated by other magical moments like the cool bopping “Straight Street” by John Coltrane or the svelte and smoky swing of Sonny Rollins’ “Way Out West."
By the end of the compilation, I was hooked – and curious to hear more old jazz. I soon learned that most of these recordings could be bought for cheaper on vinyl than CD. And so began the expansion of my record collection. In reminiscing about those days and that formative compilation, I’ve recently recreated it via Pandora’s deep music catalog. Now all those songs can be heard in their original sequential order on this Pandora Story. I hope that it might turn some more music enthusiasts on to jazz or maybe even bring a smile to seasoned jazz fans. Enjoy!