Jazz for someone who doesn't like jazz.

I've toyed with the idea of looking into jazz. Not sure why. Not sure what I'm looking for. Maybe just something to sound good on my system. I realize jazz is a broad category but much of what I hear I have not been attracted to. Don't ask me what I've heard.
What I'd like is a recommendation of two or three albums to start with. (I know that's insane)

And since I've given next to nothing to go on I'll point out a few things that I do like that might help narrow it down some maybe.

Jazz-like stuff I do like: Steely Dan. Almost all of their stuff. Van Morrison's jazz influenced stuff like Astral Weeks.
I like blues. Delta and hill country hard core blues.

I like a wide variety of rock from heavy metal, to prog rock to classic R&B.
Does any of that help? I know this is a crazy request but if I could get some recommendations I'll at least have somewhere to start. Not looking for specific recordings yet. Just content. When I find what I like I'll research the best recordings.
Thanks for any possible advice.

I want to be clear, if you don't like Trombone Shorty, you are dead inside. I mean, stone cold dead. ;-)
A good way to start is smooth jazz guitar.  (Just pick any album from the artists below)

Marcus Miller......will test your bass resolution.
Dominic Miller
Chuck Loeb

And for vocals- Susan Wong
Oregonpapa is your man for this.
He helped me a LOT with exactly the same quandary.
Some of his choices were excellent.
Maybe shoot him a pm?
@n80 - Good to see you posting. Seems like I haven’t seen you on A-goN for a while. I hope all is well with you.

I’m not really much of a jazz fan, but I do like Steely Dan and I’ve heard plenty of jazz that I do enjoy (and much that I don’t enjoy!). I’ll try to post a few tunes to this thread every once in a while as something comes to mind.

@mortsnets - Mentioned Bill Frisell. I just listened to David Sanborn - "Another Hand" album a couple of nights ago. Bill Frisell plays guitar on that album and it is fantastic, but very melancholy. Probably not the right album if you are depressed. But, it sets a mood that reminds me of the times we’re living in today. Good stuff. Check out the album, starting at the beginning.

Here’s another good album to start with: Ramsey Lewis - "Wade in the Water" Fun, upbeat stuff.

One more - Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery - "The Dynamic Duo" Another fun one.

Have fun and enjoy.
Jazz makes more sense when you know something about how it’s evolved over maybe a century. Get out of that Steely Dan and Van Morrison mindset for a while, and try listening to what they listened to, jazz wise. Dig up a copy of the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, and give it a listen some evening.  It’s about 5 LPs set up chronologically. All of these selections are well chosen. See if there’s anything that hits home for you. You might get a surprise or three.
@erik_squires , so Erik, the good news is that it looks like I’m not completely dead inside. Trombone Shorty is good. Looking forward to digging deeper of course, just sampling things right now.

Marcus Miller is good. Maybe a little more funky than I’m looking for but a lot to like. Will dig some more there too.

Liking Bill Frisell’s Nashville album. Not sure I’d have called it jazz though.

Almost all of what I’ve listened to sounds well engineered and really exercise the system. I like what I’m hearing all the way around in terms of production quality.

uberwaltz, I might PM him and see if he’ll check in on this thread.

@reubent I’ve been fine. Just sort of settled in with my system; happy with it and no plans for upgrades etc so I haven’t had much to talk about in that regard. Have missed the music discussions here and need to get back into those. Feeling like I’ve gotten into a rut with my current music and like I might need to expand my horizons a little and thought jazz might help that. So I’m going to explore it. Will look into your recommendations as well. Thanks.

A lot of what I’m hearing so far seems very contemporary. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, but I might like to hear some classic jazz (is that a thing?) recommendations as well.
@goheelz , thanks for that recommendation. I was typing the question about the foundational stuff as you were posting.
A fun, approachable classic jazz album is The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Time Out"

Jazz. A lot of incoherent noisy lines about nothing. Unless it is Miles Davis. Start there.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Best selling jazz album of all time mainly because it appealed (was accessible) to people who didn't necessarily like jazz.  
Yeah, I am kind of in the same boat, really like some jazz-influenced work but not all that into jazz per se. Agree with easy, the more what I would call approachable jazz that truly is jazz would be Miles Davis. He's definitely jazz yet more melodic and relatable than most.

Brubeck Time Out is really an exercise in time signatures. (Time Out is a play on time, each cut using a different unusual time signatures like 9 8, 6 4, 5 4, etc.) I wonder if it would be so popular if it hadn't been used in so many movies....

Charles Mingus, (Mingus)4 is a monster. And not sure if the jazz officials will call it jazz for sure but if they will then the kings of listenable jazz are Satchmo and Duke. 

Ellington Jazz Party in Stereo and Satchmo Plays King Oliver are awesome music and bona fide audiophile classics.
Donald Byrd - Blackbyrd
Michael Franks
Paul Hardcastle
Earl Klugh
earlier George Benson
Gregory Porter

for straight ahead, non pop influenced jazz
concur - 60’s Miles Davis, CTI Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal

Good luck this is fertile ground
Checkout any of the Joe Zawinul/Wayne Shorter-led band recordings: Weather Report! A superb collective effort spanning decades!
Miles Davis "Big Fun" is a much more interesting album IMO
Monty Alexander "My America" is another great sounding album
War "The World Is A Ghetto [40th Anniversary Expanded Edition"]Extra Tracks
I am not sure it is classified as jazz , but it is very jazzy and very Good

So, blues, after just a short intro, you can tell: that’s Buddy Guy’s guitar, or BB King’s, or Jonny Lang, you can tell that’s Little Walter’s harmonica, .... Delta Blues, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, ... you quickly recognize both their instrument’s sound and voice. And you know which one’s you came to like/love/don’t after a while. You also know which instruments you like more than others.

It’s the same for Jazz. You find what primary instruments and whose voice you respond to, you will eventually find which jazz support players you like, and seek out their musical projects (hearing them supporting others has a lot to do with proper recording/engineering). Then, within your preferred artists, good/bad/great recordings. Don’t let ’sounds great on my system’ be a large factor too early.

I presume you are going to start via Pandora, ... IOW something FREE, to hone in on what you might eventually spend money on. Then, you risk some hard earned cash, mostly successful, some disappointing.

Start a station, i.e. piano: a master, not a singular star, meaning: don’t try Miles Davis too early, don’t try Thelonius Monk too early, try Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, .... Red Garland, Earl Fatha’ Hines, let it run for a few days, don’t try to isolate anyone too early, just let it flow.

There are ’eras’, progressive, especially Saxophone, you have the modern ability to do a quick search, learn something, pick an artist, start a Pandora station, all within 1 minute, for free.



Bob James, FourPlay, Four 80 East, Chris Standring, Rippingtons, Dave Grusin, David Benoit, George Benson ...

You’re going to get zillions of suggestions, any of which might or might not do much for you.

Unfortunately I find that Jazz is a gourmet dish (much like Classical). It demands certain conditions before it can be fully savoured, (for me a fast deep bass response and good timbral definition is a must). Otherwise,without those 2 key ingredients, it can like most gourmet food, often leave a disappointingly weak taste.

Pop music on the other hand is much like fast food - a dish that can be more or less enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

Having said all that, my suggestion would be almost anything by Bill Evans.
If you stream, I suggest "The Jazz Groove" out of S.F. You will get a good selection of "laid back" Also Jazz24 out of Seattle will give you some good exposure. You might find some artists that you enjoy. Jazz is my favorite music idiom.
+1 on the Weather Report suggestion.
Also check out the live recording, "Swiss Movement", by Les  McCann with Eddie Harris.
It is really hard to guess what might click with any given listener.  I know someone who, when he was first interested in jazz, borrowed some CDs from me.  He liked Coltrane, so I put together a bunch of Coltrane CD's, and just for laughs, I threw in "Interstellar Space."  Guess which Coltrane CD he liked the most.

If you are looking for a survey, "The Best of Blue Note" is a decent double album to start off.  Blue Note put together better compilations in the past, but the current "Best of" is decent.

I would also get Sonny Rollins "Saxophone Colossus."  If the song "St.Thomas" doesn't hook you, I would be amazed.
george, as you will learn, jazz is a very broad and deep subject.  There are many periods, styles, and sub-sets.  So many that it can be difficult to make recommendations to anyone starting out.  Just look at the variety suggested here so far.

Two of the largest selling jazz albums of all times have been mentioned, Miles' "Kind of Blue" and Brubeck's "Time Out".  I think Brubeck is enjoyed by a broader selection of listeners and as such is more accessible.  Miles is deeper and may required more from the listener to appreciate.

Something like the Smithsonian album can be helpful since it presents a broad perspective time wise and with many styles.

Someone really basic would be Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, AKA "pops".  He recorded from the late '20s to early '70s.  Here's one link to a classic performance with Jack Teagarden and All Stars -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJFgKfuy1oM
Otherwise, I think a pop-oriented selection of jazz may provide one of the easier entries.  One subset is called light jazz.  It is quite popular but to me sounds like what I'd hear waiting in the dentist's office.  I think you can find some real jazz that is not heavy, jarring, or discordant that you can enjoy while offering more substance than the typical light jazz.  Here's the Ramsey Lewis Trio with a song very popular at the time -

Another of that type would be the Crusaders.  They started out as the Jazz Crusaders but changed their name in an attempt to appeal to a broader market (few jazz musicians sell albums or concerts in big numbers).  None the less, they were comprised by very good musicians -

Lastly to suggest one less pop-oriented example which is still melodic, try this by Bill Evans (the earlier pianist, not to be confused with the later sax player) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv2GgV34qIg

There is a wide, wonderful world out there in jazz, diverse enough that I believe most anyone can find something they like.  These are only a few suggestions.  Enjoy the hunt!
I suggest that you begin your jazz journey with some Dixieland.  In particular, try Evan Christopher, a clarinetist who plays updated (i.e., not the Preservation Hall style) New Orleans-style Dixieland.  His Clarinet Road Vol I:  The Road to New Orleans is a superb place to start, and Delta Bound and This Side of Evan are also good.

Have fun!
Unless you're riding in an elevator or on telephone hold, avoid smooth jazz. Most of it is neither smooth nor jazz.
Thanks guys. Not checking out of the discussion but I'm down at my cabin with no internet access other than spotty cell data.

Lots to process here. Will be checking out a lot of the recommendations.

Some stuff is just immediately not for me. Other stuff catches my ear.

Amazon Music is actually working right now and we're listening to Marcus Miller's M2 album. The good news is that my wife actually likes this stuff. System at the cabin is a huge step down from home system but still sounds pretty good and she's digging it which is unusual.

A little more background: Without thinking about what is and isn't jazz, I've been familiar with Louis Armstrong for decades and have several albums mostly because my wife likes it. Also have a number of Nina Simone songs. Have a few Basie albums I never listen to but might now.

As I was talking to my wife about this (jazz) she reminded me of an older couple we have known for years who live downtown near us (small southern city near Charlotte) who is really into jazz. They often have musicians in their home to play for small groups and every year they have an intimate jazz event at a local venue with known (how well known I don't know) bands and musicians. My wife has wanted to go for years and we get invited every year but it is not cheap and I have always declined. Last year they had Noel Friedline, Maria Howell, and some others. Don't know who they are but Maria Howell seems marginally famous. Not sure who they will have next year. Cost is about $130 per person but includes dinner and drinks so maybe not that expensive.....considering what pop and rock tickets cost these days. The event is in December each year so maybe we'll go. It will make the wife happy anyway.
Thanks again for the intro and recommendations. Not sure I'm all in at this point but will continue to explore.

I’ve been really digging the U.K. Jazz scene: 

Alfa Mist 
Moses Boyd 
Yussef Dayes/Yussef Kamaal

Or just check out the “We Out Here” comp. Tons of good recs on this thread :-) 

tom scott
chuck loeb 
acoustic alchemy
miles davis
keiko matsui 
larry carlton

Wow, interesting that all the responses so far completely overlook the whole west coast jazz scene. Start by listening to some Art Pepper or Chet Baker. The best ever played....
Once upon a time, I read that everybody has one jazz album. Miles Davis' Kind of blue. I have it, too.

Start there, it is palatable for people who have only two jazz albums.

There is enough different versions/pressings/etc. of Kind of blue to have you hunting for years. Some are really good.You also have to decide do you prefer messed-up speed, or the original speed. No kidding.

Other suggestions above may be more to your liking in the end, but the way you describe your goal it is hard to start with anything but Kind of blue.
Please take a chance and listen to one or more of these (past the first few seconds of ads of course) with a GOOD pair of headphones:






If you like any of them, that means you like smooth jazz (COMPLETELY different from "normal jazz") then try joining jazzradio.com, smooth uptempo.

Sonny Rollins, Charlie Byrd, Django Rhinehart, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Herb Alpert and Charles Mingus. That’ll get you off to a good start. 
Miles,’”Kind of Blue” just listen then don’t then listen to it again. Then don’t, then listen to the notes not being played and then you’ll begin to like what you like better than what you thought you liked. It’s kinda like that with jazz. 
I was asking a similar question as you about 3 years ago. 

I started with Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, like many have recommended, it is very easy to listen to and has broad appeal. 

I dug in and tried to learn about the artists and the history of jazz, which has made the exploration even more interesting. There are many good documentaries out there to help with that. 

At least for now my favorite jazz is stuff from the mid 50’s to mid 60’s. I love the sound stage and imaging that was captured in many of the recordings. Dave Brubeck’s Time Out is very good for that. 

Other favorites that have not been mentioned by others are:
Art Blakey - A Night at The Birdland Vol 1
Hank Mobley - No Room for Squares
Lee Morgan - Sidewinder
Cannonball Aderly - Something Else

Enjoy the exploration!

After that, try some of the big-band era groups, or New Orleans style jazz. Never met anyone who wasn’t captivated by Professor Longhair’s incredibly great piano work. 
If you really hate jazz, listen to Kenny G.  Every real jazz musician and jazz fan hates Kenny G.
So many relevant comments and good suggestions.  From blurry beginning through so many styles and influences to the  fuzzy ill defined jazz fusion(s).  Samplers are good in many ways but I appreciate the approach of a child.  I listened to what my father played liked what grabbed me, a good hook if you will and went from there.  Try as you did not to give hints, your tastes in rock and popular music give some clues maybe.  Albums as “a work” in any genre are conceptual.  So many so different.  I’ll take a shot and give you just one album with three masters.  Duke Ellington’s MONEY JUNGLE with Charlie Mingus and Max Roach.  Pretty deep/complex but accessible.  Find one album, live or studio, you love and then explore from there.
There are some great Jazz selections already listed, so no need to repeat them here.   If you want to take a step from Rock towards Jazz, you might consider Fusion or Progressive Rock genres.

I find Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, even Carlos Santana and Craig Chaquico as excellent blends of rock and jazz influences.   Pay attention to some of the groups and musicians they play with and branch from there.

What a wonderful journey of discovery as you open to new genres of music.   Enjoy!
Danny Gatton (a favorite of many other great guitarists), Robben Ford (the only musician who worked with both Miles Davis and George Harrison ;-), Mose Allison (a pianist/singer who should be quite accessible to a Van Morrison lover).
@n80. Excellent suggestions above. I see you are near Charlotte. I live in Columbia and have lots of the above recommendations on vinyl. You are more than welcome to come listen. Also, go to the jazz event you mentioned. You can’t go wrong with that. Those type of events are special. My journey to jazz started with being raised on the Beatles and Motown, then digging British and 70s rock, prog, blues, fusion, singer/songwriters, then discovering real jazz and the masters. Still listen to it all. Music is a great lifestyle!