The Jazz.com Blog
May 21, 2008 · 0 comments
It's usually a bad sign when you start talking to yourself — but I can at least claim a jazz precedent. Years ago, Bill Evans developed the concept of "conversations with himself" for a series of over-dubbed piano recordings. Your indefatigable blogger now adopts the same approach in the first of a series of self-inflicted Q&As.
Have you faced any ethical dilemmas lately?
I've realized that if I want my Lakers to play the Celtics in the NBA finals, I need to root for Boston in the Eastern Conference play-offs. This creates tremendous cognitive dissonance. I had to take two aspirin at half-time during Tuesday night's game.
Is this an East Coast versus West Coast type of thing?
Most people have childhood psychological scars from Mom and Dad. Mine came repeatedly at the hands of Bill Russell and John Havlicek.
Is jazz like basketball?
Absolutely. They both feed off the creative tension between running the plays and ignoring the plays. You need to know when to follow the Xs and Os, and when to improvise.
Which sports team is the jazziest?
The Brazilian national soccer team. If athletics were music, they would be Kind of Blue and Giant Steps all mixed together.
If you weren't a jazz writer, what would you want to do with your life?
My boyhood dream was to be photographer for a surf magazine. I had visions of an editor phoning me up and saying: "Ted, grab your camera and catch the next plane to Tahiti."
Do you surf?
Almost as well as Brian Wilson.
What keeps you jazzed about jazz?
I like to listen to new music every day. And not always to jazz. In fact, I tend to get more excited about music that doesn't try to fit into the pre-defined categories.
What good music have you been listening to lately?
The Zenph Studios re-workings of Art Tatum's 1949 Shrine Auditorium concert. I will be writing about that in a few days. The Zenph team rebuilt this music from the ground up, one note at a time, much as they did with their release of Glenn Gould�s version of Bach's The Goldberg Variations a year ago.
What else is sizzling on my iPod? Hmmm, let's seee . . . The Mandé Variations by Toumani Diabaté; Songlines by Derek Trucks. I like the two recent ECM releases by Marilyn Mazur and Marcin Wasilewski. The latest CD from the The North Mississippi All-Stars. Maceo Parker's Roots and Grooves. The new piano trio projects from Brad Mehldau and Taylor Eigsti. Also Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues -- but it's hard to pick which I like better, Tatiana Nikolayeva's version of Shostakovich or Keith Jarrett's. It's probably worthwhile having both.. . . . A lot of other things, too. But each of those CDs is a pleasure to hear.
Why is the music industry in such bad shape?
The music industry has lost confidence in its own product. Music is magical. Music is a source of enchantment. But for the magic to work, you need to believe in it. Most record label execs stopped believing a long time ago. Instead they put their faith in marketing and hype. And if the people selling the records don't believe in the magic, how can you expect the fans to do so?
How can you tell these things?
Just look at the packaging and marketing. You could tell by looking at the old Blue Note releases that they possessed serious mojo. The magic was there on the LP cover. Even today you can tell that the folks at ECM believe in the magic, because it is apparent in their graphic design—which sends a simple message: listen to this music and experience the mojo. But most labels resort to gimmicks and tricks, and even if the music has metaphysical dimensions, its almost hidden by the time it gets to the retail store.
More to the point, you can also see this lack of confidence in the choice of talent and the approach to projects. It seems . . . . how should I put this? . . . that too many non-musical factors drive these decisions.
How can we get the magic back?
The labels need to hire people with a burning passion for music, and then let them follow their bliss. The listening public will soon want to join in on the fun.
What's the worst thing that happened to you this week?
Fifty dollars to fill up the tank . . . ouch! But I got an oil change the same day and it only cost $21.95. Does Jiffy Lube have some special cheap source of oil that the service stations don't know about?
What's the best thing that happened to you this week?
I got a favorable comment on my Philip K. Dick review from Tessa B. Dick, the author's widow. That's almost like a blessing from the great man himself.
Mr. Dick, for his part, is currently residing in an alternative universe, and doesn't have Internet access.
What are you reading now?
I'm about halfway through Lush Life by Richard Price, and greatly enjoying it.
Does Billy Strayhorn show up in that book?
He hasn't yet . . . but I still have two hundred pages to go.
If jazz is like basketball, why is the music industry suffering while sports teams are so successful?
In sports, you have to put the best team on the field, or else you lose games. The music industry stopped doing that around fifty years ago. If the major labels went back to featuring the best talent in the world, you might be surprised how well the music sold.
Any predictions for the Finals?
Mark my words . . . the Lakers over the Celtics in seven.
This blog entry posted by Ted Gioia.