Jazz, the Lesser Known Baby Boomer Music and its Great Artists

Usually when we talk about the music that shaped our generation, we think of Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Stones. But as Gary Carter sees it, some of our generation’s best music was from lesser known, but more soothing artists … jazz artists. All you have to do is, just let the music flow.

Accompanied by a robust gin & tonic, I retired the other evening to a quiet spot in front of the fire to ponder the fate of the universe and perhaps consider my own as well. It was deepening twilight, or, as the Scots would so sweetly term it, in the gloaming. It’s always useful to peace-of-mind to find a moment for reflection, or to think your way through whatever’s tumbling around in your head — or at least to try.

The legendary jazz artist Zoot Sims.

The legendary jazz artist Zoot Sims.

And I did make a valiant attempt to wrangle disparate thoughts whirling around like a Hendrix solo. But I found myself succumbing more and more to the music I’d clicked on to complement my contemplation, without real consideration for what was playing— just what was already in the box.

Certainly something I knew well, a jazz recording some thirty years old that became more and more seductive as I closed out everything else and just let it flow. Proof yet again that perhaps music hath the power to soothe the savage beast.

In this case, it was Zoot Sims and Joe Pass doing the soothing — sax and guitar, nothing else needed—on a disc aptly named “Blues for Two.” I am no stranger to this duet, considering it a long-standing favorite. But perhaps in light of what was in my own head, what started seeping in was recognition of the rich art being produced, the respectful interaction of two consummate professionals doing what they loved. Nothing flashy here, no one-upmanship, no flashes to prove brilliance. No need to!


Jazz guitarist Joe Pass, elegant in all ways.

Jazz guitarist Joe Pass, elegant in all ways.

Tasteful — maybe that’s the right word — and elegant. Pass providing a lightly chorded backdrop against which Zoot swings, then drops back to let the guitar take over. Or slow, lyrical ballads that meander gracefully up and down the range of emotions, the instruments and men manning them complementing one another. I’ve always loved Zoot’s sound— rich and full and soulful— and Joe was the master of wonderfully understated, patiently clear chords and notes. Both soloists of renown, made even better paired together. Men graced with talent, honed by perseverance.

Yet when all else falls away, it’s the heart and soul of the music that crawls inside you, offering peace and solace to your savage beast. Sometimes I forget to listen. But when I do, when I press my mind to go still, it’s a very real blessing. Doesn’t matter what you like or what moves your soul if you just let it exert its power over you. As a buddy of mine would say, gives you another reason to live.

If you want another reason for yourself, click on this audio by Zoot Sims and Joe Pass on YouTube …


  1. We all have a go-to Jazz artist that seems to open up the pressure valve on life. Our’s is Charlie Parker with Strings. We live in a mid-century house, and even the blond bricks and clerestory windows seem to breathe and come alive when we lower the needle on that album. The snap and crackle of the vinyl just adds to the experience. So many to choose from: Ella, Coltrane, Tatum, Ray Charles, the list goes on. If people listened to more Jazz, their cost for prescription drugs would go down. What a great post. Thank you!

  2. Yes, music is good and I dig all of them, as mentioned above, Jimi H., the Beatles and Beethoven (Bartok, no, not so much). But this is just fantastic, love Sims and Pass! Wow, makes me feel so much better, many thanks for reminding us boomers of the kind of music we really like!

  3. My old city editor at the Washington Star would have been a little more severe with his blue pencil, but there’s no arguing with the writer’s sentiments or his taste in jazz. You can’t do better than Joe Pass and Zoot–unless you count the great Al Cohn-Zoot Sims quintet of the ’50s and ’60s.

    I do agree that the gloaming is a fine time to listen to jazz. Another lovely word for that time of day is “crepuscule,” as in Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie.”

    I love jazz and live to play it. But I also dig Jimi H., the Beatles and the Stones. And Beethoven and Bartok. Music is good.

  4. Indeed, I am of the pre-Boomer generation who has lived through all the musical experiences since, and I couldn’t agree more with this excellent posting. Boundless gratitude to you for it.

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