Standards or originals?

This post at Rifftides is an interesting peek into the challenges of hearing all the new music that is being made. This is an issue for me as a fan, I can’t imagine how bad it is for well known writers who are sent hundreds of CDs. I commented on the post, but it was a comment by Ken Dryden that got me thinking.

BTW, I loved Ken Dryden when he played for the Habs. Actually I am pretty sure it was this Ken Dryden.

Anyway, Ken wrote this:

Many writers complain about artists who insist on recording nothing but originals, despite the fact that even media veterans (print, web or radio) who’ve been immersed in jazz for decades have never heard of any of the musicians. With a backlog of hundreds (or more) jazz CDs awaiting a hearing, the chance of rising to the top for a review or airplay is made considerably more difficult by such releases. At least one familiar song or composer might help a CD get a hearing.

I guess I can see his point of possibly playing something if it had a name I recognized on it, even if it is a song name, but to be honest, I really don’t need to hear another recorded version of Stella By Starlight, or Giant Steps, or My One and Only Love.

When I play live, I often play classic jazz tunes from Monk, or Mingus, or Ornette. I don’t plan on recording any of those tunes. One reason is financial, and it goes back to the plethora of indie recordings that started the whole conversation. If I record someone else’s tunes, I have to pay the mechanical license fees for those tunes. Three covers that are 8 minutes each just added several hundred dollars to my budget. Granted if the best musical result comes from a few covers, then we should pony up for the mechanicals.

For me as a listener, the best musical result rarely comes from the covers. I want to hear something new. Oddly, as I am writing this I am listening to Available Jelly’s In Full Flail, and as I wrote the words “I want to hear something new” their version of the Beach Boys’ “Catch A Wave” came on, and I am totally digging it, not that their version is much like the Beach Boys… Anyway, I don’t want to compare all musicians on the equal turf of standards, I want to experience each in a setting of their own creation. Maybe that’s just me…