The Jazz.com Blog
December 20, 2007 · 0 comments
For more than a year, a team of twenty-three critics has been working under my direction on an ambitious project to review the most important performances from the century long history of jazz music. But with an interesting twist: while many reviews of jazz CDs have been written over the years, we wanted to focus on individual tracks.
This is a Herculean task, and before we are finished, we will need to tackle more than ten thousand reviews. But such a project is necessary to fill a gap in the jazz world. For a variety of reasons, jazz fans need – and deserve – a more focused source of music criticism than is provided by the standard CD review.
The advantages of reviewing individual tracks are many. By focusing on songs instead of CDs, a reviewer can give readers much clearer guidance. The critic no longer needs to fret over how to assess a CD that might have one or two strong tracks mixed in with weaker material. And an emphasis on individual songs frees us from the confusion wrought by fickle record label execs, who constantly re-package the same material in different compilations, ensuring that the CD recommended one year is out of print the next. But above all, the rapid rise of i-Pods and legal sources of downloading suggests that the future of music will be driven by the track not the disk, and reviewers need to adapt to this brave new world of electronic commerce.
Traditionalists should not fret about this change. In many ways, we are merely returning to the way the music world previously operated, when the industry focused on selling “singles,” the A-side of a 78 or 45 rpm record. But even before the rise of recorded sound, music was composed, performed and consumed one piece at a time. Modern technology is simply returning us to this natural state of affairs.
Another difference in jazz.com reviews is a move away from the 1-5 star rating system that has often been employed to evaluate recordings. In practice, few records received one or two stars, and even fewer were awarded five star reviews. As a result, most records were lumped together into a three or four star category that made it difficult for fans – or critics – to make more nuanced evaluations. At jazz.com we have adopted a 100 point scale, which allows much clearer and more subtle distinctions. (A guide to this 100 point system can be found here.)
But the value of any system of reviews depends, in the final analysis, on the critical judgments of the people making the evaluations. I have worked hard to build a team of smart, knowledgeable reviewers. I have tracked down specialists with deep expertise in specific areas of the jazz tradition, and given them a forum to share their know how. We have not made any attempt to "dumb down" our reviews, or squeeze them into some generic mass market formula. Sometimes they are provocative, or perhaps even go against the grain of received opinion, but they will always be interesting and passionate. The end result is a unique resource for jazz fans. And (unlike most sources of reviews) we allow the reader to add comments and contrary opinions.
I say “end result,” but in fact we still have much to do. We continue to expand our team of jazz critics, and we have an aggressive plan to publish a significant number of new reviews every month.
In the meantime, take a test drive. See what we have to say about some of your favorite jazz artists by using our music review search engine in the left sidebar on this page. And check back again on a regular basis to see what new additions we have made.
Finally, if you have deep expertise in jazz music and strong writing skills, you can inquire about joining us in our grand reviewing project by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog entry posted by Ted Gioia