The Jazz.com Blog
December 15, 2008 · 2 comments
Instead of selecting his favorite jazz CDs of 2008, Alan Kurtz decided to pick his favorite Visitor Comments from the past year. Of course, this should come as no surprise—since Alan, as jazz.com's resident curmudgeon, is mentioned in the comments section more often than any other writer on the site. Alan is even known to play a starring role in the comments room of other unnamed web locales, wreaking havoc and challenging ideologues of various stripes.
To keep his task manageable, we allowed Alan to snub our Forums, where members of jazz.com's virtual community keep us posted on notable events, debate the merits of John Coltrane, ponder such pressing questions as how many Joe Williamses sang with Count Basie and whether or not "Moonglow" is a ballad, etc. etc. With that exemption, then, Alan surveys our inventory of online visitor commentary from December 2007's launch to date. Readers are invited to chime in below or via email to email@example.com. T.G.
I Knew I Heard It Somewhere Award
After perusing hundreds of visitor comments spread across the 5,500+ features, interviews, track reviews, blogs and encyclopedia entries published by jazz.com this year, I am forced to conclude that, the day God passed out a sense of humor, most jazz fans were absent. My fellow prisoners, we take ourselves way too seriously. Case in point: the response to my review of "Lassus Trombone," wherein I fancifully suggested that composer Henry Fillmore dedicated this staple of the trombone literature to Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus. "This is little other than inventive revisionist history," Tim Roberts scoffed. "'Lassus Trombone' had nothing to do with Orlande de Lassus. The title is intended to reflect Negro minstrel slang for 'molasses.'" Mr. Roberts, I hate to be the one to bring this up, but my short review concludes: "Mo' Lassus, please!"
In pioneering a new form—that is, reviewing individual tracks rather than entire albums—the editors of jazz.com have frankly grappled with the appropriate length for such reviews. During the run-up to our December 2007 launch, the official ceiling specified by our Writer Guidelines was 100 words. In the ensuing year, we've relaxed that limit considerably, often accepting reviews of 200, 300, even 400 words. But it's disheartening to realize that the attention span of some readers cannot accommodate even 100 words. Maybe jazz.com's writers should henceforth be restricted to Tarzan's vocabulary: "Track good! Cheeta like!"
Opinions? We Don't Need No Stinking Opinions! Award
To his review of "Rawalpindi Blues" by Carla Bley & Paul Haines, Walter Kolosky appended a brief footnote describing his reaction to a video about the making of this recording. "At some point early on," Walter relates, "Bley starts smoking a pipe. I don't mean a pot pipe. I mean the type your dad may have smoked in 1958. That was too much for me. I never watched the rest of the video." This offended visitor Jay, who chastised Walter accordingly: "That has absolutely no relevance to the review. Why was it even allowed to be published? A trivial bias like this invalidates all credibility of the reviewer. Next time, stick to the music, and leave your personal opinions at home." Having myself read all 3,600 reviews posted on jazz.com (do not try this at home), I couldn't agree more. The damn things are just filled with opinions. Why were they even allowed to be published? Jazz.com really ought to go back to Square One and publish only reviews without opinions. What a comforting web site that would be!
Passing the Buck Award
Reviewing "Eleanor Rigby" by banjoist Eugene Chadbourne, Ted Gioia couldn't figure out whether this Beatles cover was being played in a major or minor key. "I'm not sure Eugene Chadbourne ever quite made up his mind," Ted remarked. "I might be old-fashioned, but I still think you should make sure your bandmates agree on the chord changes before you record the song." In his visitor response, Eugene Chadbourne helpfully clarified the technical issue, explaining that he'd utilized "a C banjo tuning with the fourth string establishing the C root, with various chord alterations so that a minor feel is also established." He then blamed his keyboardist for the confusion, alleging that "Pat Thomas does not seem to want to learn all the chord changes." Ah, look at all the lonely chord changes. Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?
Let's Not Get Carried Away Award
Responding to hoops fan Ted Gioia's review of "Charles Barkley" by saxophonist Jon Irabagon, visitor Steve raved: "This album is revolutionary. It exemplifies the future of jazz. Everybody in the world should buy this album."
Whoa. Maybe first we could arrange universal health care and worldwide literacy, huh, Steve?
Charles Barkley (b. 1963): athlete and raconteur.
Similes Are Like Wormholes Award
Reacting to Part Two of Loren Schoenberg's interview with critic Gary Giddins, a visitor self-identified only as "fan" observed: "Critics are like uneducated astronomers, watching the universe." That's it. End of comment.
Being laconic is a shortcut through space-time that, as with a Schwarzschild wormhole, provides a tempting, shadowy glimpse across the event horizon but collapses before one can follow its path to another, more enlightening universe. An unexpanded simile is like a bridge to nowhere.
Karl Schwarzschild (1873-1916): physicist and astronomer.
Tracking the Movements of Celebrities Award
In his Conversation with Jim Hall, Patrick Spurling interrogates the guitarist: "You live in Greenwich Village … in the good neighborhood?" Seemingly taken aback, Hall concedes: "Yeah, well, yeah it is. But it’s not my fault." Among those who've made it such a fascinating neighborhood, Hall cites actress Meryl Streep. This offhanded remark caught the attention of sharp-eyed reader P. van Dean, who informs us: "Someone should tell him that Meryl Streep moved out of the Village awhile ago."
Thank goodness we've cleared that up! Now when Jim Hall walks his dog Django around the block, the two of them will not be on the lookout for the shapely legs of Meryl Streep. Who says jazz.com does not provide a public service!
Some Auld Acquaintances Are Best Forgot Award
Walter Kolosky's review of "Jean Pierre" by saxophonist Bill Evans triggered a trip down memory lane for jazz.com visitor Stevie Edwards: "Hey Bill: Long time. Put your memory cap on! We met in Charlotte NC at Jonathan's Jazz Cellar, 1988. You came to my duplex after your gig, had a friend with you from Chicago with a nickname that escapes me (tall guy). We 'made out' – haha. Comin' back to ya? How could you forget another 'petite blonde'? Hey, let me 'book' you in Atlanta sometime. un petit bisou, Karen Edwards (nickname Stevie)."
I don't know, Stevie. Maybe it's those suggestive quotation marks you put around the word "book,"
but I doubt you'll be hearing from Bill anytime soon.
English Is Not My First Language Award
Endorsing my review of "Oleo" by the classic 1956 Miles Davis Quintet, visitor Bior Yian enthuses: "This song simply kicks asses!" Whether Bior Yian means hardy gregarious perissodactyl mammals (genus Equus) or obstinately stupid people, we simply concur.
Fair Warning Award
Bill Barnes's review of "You're Gonna Hear From Me" by singer Cathy Rocco stirred a flurry of enthusiastic replies. Teresa Glynn called this 2008 release "one of the most refreshing CDs I have heard in a long time." Barbara James assented: "Cathy's album is fantastic!" According to Andy Lalasis, "Cathy is one of the world's best kept secrets and that has to end!!!!" Steve agreed, although perhaps significantly using one less exclamation point: "What a great CD!!!" Patte deemed it a "must-buy album." For Adam McDonough, "This is one of those timeless records. Thank You!!!" To Robert Conti, it "defines World Class. Bravo, well done!" Ron Joseph raved: "Wow, absolutely sensational!" Barefooted Jimmy Mulidore judged it "outstanding in all aspects. She has always knocked my socks off." John said, "Simply fantastic!" Carl S weighed in: "GREAT! Simply wonderful. This should attract a large audience." Charlie Prose waxed poetic: "So much Talent / So much Style / The whole world needs to hear / This wonderful Lady sing." Max Schmeidl found it "very clear that she is truly a sensational Jazz Artist." Greg Stevenson concluded: "Best female vocals I've heard for quite some time. Excellent!"
This avalanche of superlatives, however, was a bit much for jazz.com's editor-in-chief. "And don't forget her orchestration skills," Ted Gioia advised. "Because there seems to be some serious behind-the-scenes orchestrating going on right here on this comment board." Man, there's always gotta be a spoilsport in the crowd. But, hey, we were given fair warning! After all, the CD is titled You're Gonna Hear From Me.
Best Comment Bar None Award
arnold jay smith's Octojazzarian Profile of "Dr. Billy Taylor" elicited this from jazz.com visitor Herbie S.: "I was about 5 years old when I saw Billy Taylor perform and speak about jazz music on Captain Kangaroo. I distinctly recall calling my mother over to the TV to ask her if she ever heard of this man. He was all smiles while playing the piano and speaking about music, and all the while I, too, was all smiles. Dr. Taylor's music, energy and excitement were highly contagious. I told my mother that day, 'I don't know how he makes the piano sound that way, but I want to learn how
Dr. Billy Taylor, artwork by Suzanne Cerny to play like that.'
"Unfortunately, my father had lost his battle with cancer two years prior, and my family spent most of its savings on his treatment. I could not afford piano lessons, but I did learn to play by ear and even had a professional career in music as a pianist/keyboardist until I became a social worker and university professor. I owe so much to Dr. Taylor. He helped to nurture in me something positive during a very sad and dark period for a young boy; something that was always there whenever I was depressed or needed a friend. It was, for many years, my best friend. Thank you, Dr. Taylor. I will always remember you and your influence in my life very fondly. You have given me so much, and continue to give me joy every time I have the good fortune to hear you play, and to witness how much joy music brings you, and how contagious your joy is to listeners. You are truly a blessed man, and we are all blessed to have you and your music in our lives. Sincerely, Herbie S."
This blog entry posted by Alan Kurtz.