Sunday, April 20, 2008

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

I decided I wanted to put aside my Bose headphones, great though the sound was. The iPod is clearly meant to be a vehicle for delivering sound to Jblradmicblkear buds. But there are three problems with every version of headphones I have tried: one is that I just don't think they are good for my hearing. There is an argument to the contrary, in the case of inner-ear models: they exclude all other noise so you can turn the volume down. I am not convinced. Second, and this might be the major complaint, they are very isolating. Finally, I thing that music sounds more genuine when it is bouncing off of walls and such.

So I bought a JBL radial micro iPod dock. The gosh darned thing is the size of a small wall clock and delivers marvelous sound. It isn't dirt cheap, but it's half the price of the Bose alternative that Target was selling. And now I can listen to jazz while I talk to other persons in the kitchen.

One of the first things I listened to on the JBL Radial was part one of the 2007 Retrospective on In The Groove: Jazz and Beyond. I have frequently complained about hero worship among jazz fans. But as I have confessed, I am as guilty of it as anyone. Most of my Jazz Notes have been about the celestials who were big on the scene when I was born. Ken Laster's great radio show helps somewhat to correct this tendency, and bring us the jazz that is being created in this millennium. One very fine piece on the recent show was New York Dream, by the Mike Di Rubbo Quartet. It features a very strong melody that will be easily accessible to someone who is new to jazz, combined with all the compositional genius that makes authentic jazz so much more interesting to me than most other genres. In fact, I had already purchased the CD, NY Accent: Live at the Kitano, after hearing several cuts on earlier on ITG podcasts.

Note to Record Companies: Podcasts like Ken Laster's are not stealing your music. They are selling it for you, free of charge!

Another CD I bought after hearing it on ITG was Eric Alexander's Temple of Olympic Zeus. Another sax man, his playing is so energetic and muscular, I kept picking the jewel case back up as I listened to see just how closely he was related to Jove.

Joe_lovano_joyous_encounter_2005773I have also been listening to is Joe Lovano. I can highly recommend two of his CD's: Joyous Encounter (2005), and From the Soul (1991). The latter was listed as part of the Core Collection in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, but it is by far the more challenging of the two.

Lovano's playing is gorgeous. A few weeks ago I had Joyous Encounter
playing on my office computer. In the curved half circle of our new offices, music floats out of rooms and down the hall without drifting back into other rooms. But no fewer than three colleagues walked into my room to ask what that beautiful music was.

Empyrean_isles Finally, let me recommend a couple of pieces by a certified member of the jazz pantheon. The ITG Retrospective includes a piece from the new Herbie Hancock/Joni Mitchell collaboration: River: the Joni Letters. I have always loved Joni Mitchell's jazz songs. River is one of those rare Christmas songs that is sad and beautiful because of it. Hancock's most famous disc is probably Maiden Voyage (1964). It is certainly part of the bedrock of any jazz collection. But just as good is Empyrean Isles, recorded at the same time with the same band minus George Coleman on tenor sax. I picked it up in a Borders in Springfield, Missouri, just after Christmas. Good as each is on its own, together they make up an epic moment in the history of America's music.

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