History of Jazz app is absolutely fantastic: A review

| Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Sometimes I wish I was a music reviewer. There are a few things in life that I hold as being too “sacred” for me to write about because I’d never do it justice, or I’d ultimately end up hating something that I love too much. Music is one of those things. When I’m not off trying to track down interesting post topics for this particular website, I’m usually trying to track down new music. People who know me well, know what I’m talking about.

It’s not very often that the two passions in my life intersect with each other, and I actually prefer it that way, but this History of Jazz application that I was asked to review has me all worked up.

I haven’t had this application for more than 12 hours, and I can’t help myself. I really wanted to get this out as soon as possible and share it with everyone. A couple of years back I took a History of Rock N’ Roll course in college as my last elective. The course was awesome, but something always felt like it was missing. Reading about the music, and listening to recordings on cassette tapes (yup, I took the course in 2009) provided only half of what the course should have offered. Tracking influences from generation to generation throughout the text was a bit of a chore. The course was excellent, but it could have far exceeded expectations had the course director actually taken the time to bring the curriculum up to date with new technologies. This History of Jazz application is everything my History of Rock and Roll course should have been. I’m not exaggerating—this application is fantastic.

What’s Macgasmic about History of Jazz

Being able to start at the beginning, with Ragtime, and progress through time beyond Bebop, Cool Jazz, until Nu Jazz and beyond is priceless. Having a visual record at your fingertips is only half of the equation though. The History of Jazz application also provides you with other insights in the form of videos and articles on selected topics. So you not only get to read about artists and styles, but you also get to see the original musicians playing some of their best songs. It’s not covers and renditions by modern musicians—the videos are actually the people you’re learning about, and that’s pretty huge. As an aside, the videos are all from YouTube, so you could both have some difficulty in the future, and find them on that website. I noticed one or two videos didn’t work, so it appears that they’re pulling the videos from YouTube directly. As long as the RIAA doesn’t go all crazy with the take down notices, you should be alright.

The fun doesn’t end there though. The History of Jazz application also has iTunes tie-ins that let you download albums and songs from the artists you’re listening to or watching  video of from driectly within the application. So if you’re enjoying the groove the musicians are laying down, you can buy up parts of their catalog and listen to it in iTunes or on your iPod.

What could use some polish

The application’s user interface is very modal. While it looks great and illustrates its purpose quite well, I often found myself swiping and dragging sections of the app where they clearly didn’t intend me to. Instead of staying idle, pages would close or new sections would open. It wasn’t a big deal at first, but when trying to figure out how to expand an article for the first time, it becomes a little bit tedious having to re-open my page. That’s really the only thing I had a hard time with while using this application.

Final thoughts

As you can probably tell from my post, I absolutely love this application. I would love it if they expanded their application library to include Rock N’ Roll, and Rhythm and Blues histories.  If they manage to put out that content in this particular format I’ll buy both immediately.  If you’re interested in Jazz, or genuinely curious about music history, then this application is for you.

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