eMusic.com and ways of checking out new stuff

As I write this, I am listening to a great album by Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel called Riding the Nuclear Tiger. The path that led me to hearing this music covers both old and new ways of discovering new music. I subscribe to three “jazz” magazines: Cadence, Down Beat, and Jazz Times. Probably several times a year I will buy music as a direct result of a review I read in one of those magazines. Maybe not even as a result of what was written in the review, as much as the fact that the review was how I became aware of the album’s existence. More often, what I read in those magazines will put a musician or group farther forward in my consciousness, so I will be more likely to buy their stuff at some point. I guess magazines and radio are the old ways of finding new music, although I don’t hear too much that is “new” on the radio these days.

Moving towards new ways of finding music, Jazz Times offers free mp3 downloads on their website. A few months ago, I downloaded a tune by Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel. I really liked it. When I opened my copy of the January Down Beat, a little card fell out. It was an eMusic promotion card. 50 free downloads with trial membership. I thought it was a special Down Beat reader deal, but it turns out to be their regular trial membership deal.

I was a member of eMusic several years ago. When it changed from $9.99 a month for “all you can eat” to $9.99 a month for 40 download tracks, I dropped my membership. Well, when I went back to check out the Down Beat deal, it reminded me of the things that I dug about it. First off, it is straight up mp3s with no DRM. I like that. More importantly however, is the wide range of stuff that they have, that I want/need to check out. It is a great way to explore new stuff. I first heard the Vandermark 5 through my old eMusic days, and that music has been very influential on me. I burned through my 50 free downloads of my trial membership in the first night. I got lots of cool music though. Ornette (a couple I didn’t have); some John Zorn I have been looking for; an Andrew Hill that I never would have bought in a store, but totally dig; an old Vandermark 5 that I didn’t have; and this Ben Allison that is slammin’. Anyway, I am back in the eMusic fold, and looking forward to more exploration.

Buying an album has become a political act

London Free Press – Dan Brown – Web Exclusive – Buying an album has become a political act

To go to the trouble of actually walking into a record store and paying full price for an actual CD is now a transaction that carries with it all kinds of meaning. It signifies that a music lover is making a choice to support a particular group or musician. It’s a way of saying “I’m casting a vote in favour of the record labels and all of the traditional gatekeepers of the recording industry.”

Or, I would like to add, buying music directly from an artist’s website, either in platic disc or digital format, is casting a vote for that artist, AND for the future of the music industry, or at least one vision of the future of the music industry.

How the RIAA Finds Its Victims – Consumerist

Serial Killers of Suing: How the RIAA Finds Its Victims – Consumerist

I think everyone’s a bit tired of these ******** (my edit, JA), even if they were once sympathetic to their position.

This is an interesting revelation of the process the RIAA goes through to sue people. The labels havee treated their artists like this for years, and now they are treating their customers (or potential customers) terribly as well.

I agree that the music industry is being forced to change. The question is , what will it change into?

2005: The year Jazz became Classical music

2005 was the year Jazz officially became Classical music. Ok, maybe it was just the year that I noticed the change. Maybe the music hasn’t changed, but the culture around the music has definitely changed. There was a point in time where the jazz that was celebrated was the music of change. Bird, Monk, Mingus, Miles and Coltrane all played music that ruffled feathers and confronted the tradition. Now their music has become the tradition, and it is being honored and recreated in the press and concert halls of today.

For quite some time, classical music (or at least the culture around classical music) has been about faithful reproductions of honored repertoire. In 2005, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra released a CD consisting entirely of the music of Charles Mingus. Their previous release was a cover of Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme. In 2005, all of the albums that rated 5 stars in DownBeat magazine were reissues, except one. The one new release that received a 5 star rating was Clark Terry’s recording of the classic Gil Evans arrangements of Porgy and Bess that Miles Davis recorded in the middle of the last century. In the Globe and Mail Jazz Year in Review article, the sub-headline is “It was a lively 2005 for jazz, but fine work from today’s musicians was overshadowed by the resurgence of a long-dead icon.” Ben Ratliff, the NY Times jazz critic, lists an album with no living participants as the best jazz release of the year in his year end top 10 list.

I’m not saying that we should ignore history or past masterpieces. I play music written by Charles Mingus at just about every performance I do with my quartet, but I do it alongside music that I have just written. Earlier this year, in my Art Diet post, I suggested that we all go back and listen to Kind of Blue again. The great music of the past is still great, but it was great at its creation because it was new.

I’m not really complaining, just observing the fact that jazz has made the turn towards becoming a repertory music presented in concert halls by musicians in concert black attire to audiences that are reading the programs notes about the composers dates and the performers conservatory degrees.

Should we come up with a new term for the music played by searching improvisers with swinging rhythm sections?

Kenny Wheeler, plus Ornette and Pat

One of the things I like about downloadable music is that it really enables impulse buying. The other day I was perusing the Grammy nominations in the jazz category, and noticed a nominated album that I hadn’t heard of. It is What Now? by Kenny Wheeler, with Chris Potter, John Taylor and Dave Holland. I though it looked interesting, and 5 minutes and a trip to the iTunes store later, I was listening to it.

Now comes the other side of easy access. I don’t mind paying $10 (or less sometimes) for 128k AAC files of music I want to explore. Generally if it is something I know I want, I’ll order the CD instead of download it. Of course once the CD gets here I usually read the notes once, rip it (at a much higher bitrate), and put the CD in a folder with the other hundreds of CDs whose music now usually gets played on my computer or iPod. Anyway, to the music…

What Now? cover

I really like this music. There is no drummer, yet it still swings. Wheeler and Potter compliment each other well. Chris plays some stuff that is very souful and moving. Lately, my listening has been Kenny Wheeler deficient, and this album is encouraging me to remedy that situation.

Another recent iTunes pick up is the 20th Anniversary re-issue of Song X by Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman.

Song X cover

To my ears, the beauty of Ornette is the melodies he plays throughout everything he does. His presence brings out the great melodic skill of Metheny as well. Like most free-ish outings, there are a few things that don’t work as well as the rest of the album, but the good stuff is so good. The new tracks are enough to justify checking this out, even if you have the original issue.

This album was first released in 1985. I was 15 and listening to a lot of Spryo Gyra and Maynard Ferguson. I had just bought a Jazz at the Philharmonic that had J.J. Johnson on it, and my friend Clint had just turned me on to Miles Davis Four and More. My musical journey had just begun, and I had no idea what was in store for me. I am sure that the first I ever heard about Ornette was from the press around the original release of this album. Shortly thereafter I heard “Lonely Woman” and that melody has been lodged in my brain ever since.

The melodies of Ornette…

Wired News: Mom Fights RIAA Suit Solo

Wired News: Mom Fights RIAA Suit Solo

Jenni Engebretsen, spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, the coalition of music companies that is pressing the lawsuits, would not comment specifically on Santangelo’s case.

“Our goal with all these anti-piracy efforts is to protect the ability of the recording industry to invest in new bands and new music and give legal online services a chance to flourish,” she said. “The illegal downloading of music is just as wrong as shoplifting from a local record store.”

But I guess trying to extort a single mother of 5 is less wrong than shoplifting.

Her travail started when the record companies used an investigator to go online and search for copyrighted recordings being made available by individuals. The investigator allegedly found hundreds on her computer on April 11, 2004. Months later, there was a phone call from the industry’s “settlement center,” demanding about $7,500 “to keep me from being named in a lawsuit,” Santangelo said.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that Kazaa style file-sharing is copyright infringement and theft. I just think that the RIAA is doing their cause more harm than good in the way they are dealing with the issue.