Damien Chazelle loves jazz. Not content with extolling the virtues of the genre on his Oscar-winning flicks Whiplash and La La Land, the director has returned with The Eddy, which drops on Netflix today.
The series follows the fortunes of beleaguered venue owner Elliot Udo (André Holland) who is fighting to keep his Parisian jazz club afloat. The verdict on whether the show matches Chazelle's earlier work is still undecided, but one thing that everyone seems to be agreeing on is that the music — which takes centre stage for much of the series, with plenty of live performances — is sounding great.
If you’ve watched the show and have an itching to get more into jazz, then it can be daunting to know where to start — after all, there’s well over half a century’s worth of material to get stuck into.
Here, we’ve picked out six albums that will help you crack the genre — whether you want to dip your toes into the sounds of a well-loved classic, try something markedly more modern, or dive right in at the deep end with some free jazz madness.
Horace Silver — Song For My Father
We learn pretty early on in The Eddy that not only is Udo pretty handy on the piano, but that he also used to be signed to Blue Note — and that’s a big deal. Blue Note is the jazz label, counting greats such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey and countless others among its artists over the years. Horace Silver, the famed pianist, was on Blue Note for 28 years, so he seems a good choice after watching The Eddy. Check out his album Song For My Father, the title track of which is probably Silver’s best known work. It’s catchy, it’s groovy and it’s a perfect place to start.
Songs In A Mellow Mood — Ella Fitzgerald
The Eddy’s house band is fronted by lead vocalist Maja, whose smooth, sorrowful tones are a fine accompaniment to the sombre mood that runs through much of the show. As such, we’d suggest listening to Ella Fitzgerald — one of the all time great jazz singers, alongside the likes of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. And, if it’s more of that melancholy vibe you’re after, check out Songs In A Mellow Mood, a beautifully tender album of gentle pianos and masterful, timeless vocals.
Kamasi Washington — The Epic
Jazz has had something of a renaissance in recent years — something that has no doubt been helped by Chazelle’s jazz-centric work. But one man who's been at the centre of it all is Kamasi Washington. His 2015 debut, The Epic, was surely the best jazz album of the last 10 years, and is a sparkling triumph, dizzying and dramatic. It’s turned many non-believers into jazz fanatics, and got stellar reviews across the board. Don’t be put off by its near-three hour run-time — take it piece by piece, and you’ll find it all goes by quicker than you might imagine.
Ezra Collective — You Can’t Steal My Joy
There’s a scene in the first episode of The Eddy where Udo goes to visit a group of young musicians, practising on a housing estate somewhere in Paris. They play through a composition that shares as much with hip-hop as it does jazz — and it’s a sound that’s been dominating the scene for some years now. There’s a new vanguard of jazz musicians who are taking the traditional sounds of the genre and electrifying them with everything from grime to broken-beat. One of the best examples is London group Ezra Collective, who released the superb You Can’t Steal My Joy last year. Listen to it if you want to hear the sound of jazz to come.
Herbie Hancock — Head Hunters
If you’re enjoying the type of jazz played on The Eddy but want something with a few more flavours, then jazz fusion, which chucks rock, funk, soul and more into the mix, is the answer. Head Hunters, the 1973 masterpiece by legendary pianist and band leader Herbie Hancock, is as good a place as any to begin your journey. It’s an absolute romp of an album, with some of Hancock’s most famous work — you’ll probably recognise the supremely funky bassline on opening track Chameleon.
John Coltrane — Ascension
This one comes with fair warning: it’s a bit bonkers. Ascension, released in 1966, was the point that icon John Coltrane started to shake loose the shackles of jazz up to that point and begin to produce something altogether wilder. It’s an early example of what’s come to be known as free jazz — the sub-genre in which anything goes, flinging convention out the window and getting wholly experimental. It’s certainly a challenging listen, especially if you’re a relative newcomer, with crashing drums, unhinged pianos and freewheeling sax. But as deep ends go, it’s a pretty magnificent one.