Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Powerful and the Subtle: Dave Holland and Chris Potter

The difference between a listening to jazz live and listening to a jazz recording is analogous to watching a baseball game in the stands versus watching the game on TV.  Some there are who will tell you that only the live experience is real.  This is truer among jazz fans than among baseball fans. 

The latter example tells the tale.  All things considered, I'd rather watch a great ballgame in the stadium.  The late evening summer sun, the air and the echoes, the smell of popcorn and beer, these don't come through even in HD.  Nevertheless, there is much to be said for TV.  You see more, and when it counts, you get to see it twice.  These days you can run the DVR back to take a third look.  No seat in the stadium beats the camera view. 

The analogy breaks down over the fact that one will listen to good music over and over.  The ideal, I suppose, would be to sit in a jazz club listening to a great performance, and then get the recording of that performance on your iPod.  Even better, you might get a video recording on the event. 

For Christmas this year I got a new iPod.  My old one had 60G's of storage space.  With 750 jazz albums and a lot of podcasts, I filled the damn thing up.  My new one has 160G of space.  So much to do, so little time.  I confess: I want to have my whole collection at my disposal all the time. 

The first new thing I put on my new baby was The Dave Holland Quintet/Extended Play:Live at Birdland.  This is live jazz at maximum power.  Almost all the cuts are more than ten minutes in length.  I would love to have been there, but I can be there again and again.  Here is a sample. 
Dave Holland Quintet/Prime Directive/Extended Play: Live at Birdland
 This is live page four jazz at its best.  Trust me.  There will be that guy who keeps dancing ridiculously hard, only he will be in your head.  Chris Potter fills in on sax.  He is as sharp and compelling as ever.  I think that Holland's genius is evident in the inclusion of a trombone (Robin Eubanks) and vibes (Steve Nelson).  Billy Kilson plays drums. 

For a little contrast, here is a cut from a recent Chris Potter album.  Potter has a large ensemble behind him.  It is lush, poetic, bread and sauce.  Hearing this live would be a great experience.  But it is just as well heard on your iPod, and it's easier to go to the bathroom.  This cut is wonderful:
Chris Potter 10/Family Tree/Song for Anyone
Well, Happy New Year, Jazz Babies!  I am getting pretty lonely here.  If you like this blog, post a note or two. 


  1. The lack of jazz postings has been making me twitchy, glad to have you back. Personally I'm debating if I should use some Christmas money on some Esbjorn Svensson Trio, or buy the 50 year 2-disc edition of Ah Um, a shameful whole in my collection, or get myself a couple of Havanas. Decisions, decisions. Hope you had a nice Christmas.

  2. Nothing really compares at all to a great live jazz performance... I've been to two great performances in the last two weeks, plus another decent one. If you have never had a chance to check out the Atlantis Quartet, you should. They are amazing live, though both their albums are great as well. I've been on a jazz high for close to two weeks now, and I don't plan on coming down soon... Thanks for helping feed that.

  3. Will: I have been traveling for the holidays, but I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack! The Havanas sound really nice, but that is literally burning through money. Ah Um is something you really should have in your collection. I guess from your note that this is a special edition. I have the old one.

  4. John: it must be nice to live where you can hear a lot of live jazz. I once did, but was too busy to make use of it most of the time. But I did see Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass and Ray Brown, and a couple of years ago I saw Joe Lovano. Live jazz is great.

    I appreciate the tip about the Atlantis Quartet. I don't know them, but I will be sure to check them out.

    Happy New Year to all.

  5. Good advice about burning money, but I read it after I'd bought a couple of Havanas :)
    I have decided to go for Ah Um, it's been on my must by list for too long. Good to have you back, Happy New Year.