Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Sympathy for the Mekons.

The New Yorker runs down their top ten jazz recordings of 2004, in alphabetical order. (The intro text that ran in the print magazine doesn't appear here.) As someone who purports to be something of an authority on jazz -- at least that's what it says in the "about the author" section of a book proposal now moldering on the desks of several editors -- it is with some chagrin that I confess that I ain't heard a one of them. This is due to several factors, among them limited income and no "reviewer's copies" gravy train (except occasionally by proxy).

But it also brings to mind another reason why I'll never be any kind of reliable source for a year-end list (aside from the failing memory) -- which is itself cause for a list:

5 Inane Rules for Buying Music
1. DO NOT PAY RETAIL. A Massachusetts Jew in New York, I could no sooner pay retail than eat my own head. It would take a catastrophic genetic mutation at the RNA level to allow me to pay full price for a CD. This leaves sales and used bins as the only sources for "new" music.
2. DO NOT BUY CDs OF TITLES ALREADY OWNED ON LP OR CASSETTE (homemade or store-bought). This is related to the skinflintiness of #1. Why duplicate what you already have, even if it means you'll never listen to the thing again, ever? That would just be silly.
3. FAVOR THE NEW AND OBSCURE ITEM OVER THE UNASSAILABLY, MIND-BENDINGLY FANTASTIC KNOWN COMMODITY. "Hey, the Frausdots, I've barely heard of them, surely I should bring that home and put A Love Supreme back -- I mean, Coltrane, sure, but what untold pleasures await me as delivered by the Frausdots!"
4. SERENDIPITY IS MY CO-PILOT. What serendipity like, serendipity get.

And there you have it: why a top-ten list from these quarters is totally useless. That said, I have been pleasantly surprised by the sounds coming off of The Sweetness of the Water -- Spring Heel Jack with Wadada Leo Smith et al. (thanks again, JJ) -- but how much of that is due to the fact that the length of the disc aligns perfectly with that of my daily commute, I'm not sure.

Also, Tom Hull takes over Robert Christgau's usual Consumer Guide page at the Voice this week, and picks an exceptionally varied group of jazz titles, two of which even I have heard -- Harmony & Abyss and Souls Saved Hear -- though I'm not over the moon about either of them. Hull, whose own taste seems to hover somewhere between out and way out, saves his best line for the Duds section, talking about Chick Corea: "The problem with fusion wasn't that good jazz was cheapened by crass rock and roll. The problem was that so many fusioneers were suckers for bad rock." Amen.

Oh, and Joe Levy should really be the only guy allowed to write about Pavement.


Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

One way around paying retail but still having great selection is to get used CDs off and amazon marketplace. I've had realy good experiences with both so far. Don't be at the mercy of yr local CD Merchant! Get the Wrens, Libertines, Mountain Goats and other shimmering audio finery that your mojo might not turn up at Academy.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

Yeah, thanks. I fear I'm too under the sway of items 3 & 4 on the list to deliberately go out and try to buy something in particular -- you know, that I want -- but it's worth a shot.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

Who the fuck are the Frausdots? Did you pick them because their amazingly obscure name and rep nicely illustrated your point? Or have I been sleeping on some new indie sen-say-shun?

I feel you on Point #3, but I don't think you fully know the pleasures that await you from the Wrens, Libertines, etc. as opposed to buying stuff you already gots. As for Point #4, you should consider finding good music on-line at a rilly cheap price it's own form of serendipity -- cuz believe me, often it is.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

Maybe this should be it's own post, so call me lazy. But that NYer Jazz Top 10 is strictly squaresville, with some Alice Coltrane thrown in to shore up the hip cred. Okay, the Charles Lloyd-Billy Higgins duet thing is supposed to be real good (it's evenon our excel list), but I believe that was released in 2003. Otherwise, very middle-of-the-road. I suppose I should be glad they even deign to do a jazz top 10 -- but I'm not! Liked the Hull Consumer Guide, which seems more our speed and tackles many worthwhile titles even if he overrates a few of them. Worth keeping him in mind. I believe you sent me a link his website a while ago, yes? And how do you like keeping more chatty email like comments in the, uh, comment section as opposed to a post? (Feel free to respond to that via email).

10:46 PM  
Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

Ok, as concerns the Frausdots, you have already heard them: they do "Soft Light" on the Bitstream mix. The song was courtesty fluxblog. When I later saw the album at Academy, I couldn't resist. Naturally, in true mix tape fashion, "Soft Light" was the best song on there by a country mile. If the disc holds up well after being used as a coaster, you're welcome to it.

As for the NYer list, yeah, totally square. Hull does have his own site. Odd that Francis Davis doesn't get the nod, given his status at the Voice.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

"Soft Light" -- right. Really good song. You have the full track list for that bitstream mix, btw? Only seem to have the song titles right now.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you guys just GET A ROOM already? Seriously, have this out somewhere else, would ya? We're tryin' to get some SLEEP over here. Oh, and Prof, anyone ever mention to you that the chief reason for buyin' CDs (and replacing those old cassette jobbies) is that they just plain SOUND better?

7:28 PM  

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