ECM is finally streaming, and I'm here to tell you what's good
As some of you might have heard, the legendary Munich label ECM finally jumped on the streaming bandwagon. Yes, Manfred, I wholeheartedly agree that the beautiful music your label publishes demands to be listened on CDs and LPs, but these are harder and harder to take on a plane. With iPod Classic not sold anymore and iTunes morphing into Apple Music, music lovers will soon be left with only 3rd party solutions to keep actual music files on their smartphones.
Jazz Music in 2016
2016 was, as The Verge put it, “a good year for weird jazz.”1 I’d go even further: both 2015 and 2016 show that jazz is an evolving genre, and that it became more exciting than ever before. Influences of hip-hop and electronic music are becoming more visible, new artists pop-up in places you’d never expect (I’m looking at you, LA) and push music into new territories. So while I do appreciate The Verge’s recommendations (especially Shabaka and The Ancestors),2 I had to add some of my own.
Best Jazz Albums of 2015
In the spirit of 2015 summaries, I felt like sharing my recommendations for the best, in my view, jazz albums of yesteryear. The list is, of course, highly subjective and biased towards contemporary and European jazz.1 I also admit that the great majority of what I listen to comes from ACT Music label, since many of my favorite artists record for them, and thus it’s somewhat easier for me to explore their catalogue.
Ornette Coleman Dies at 85
It is with great sadness that I read the news about Ornette Coleman’s death. Ornette was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard of, an artist that inspired my love for jazz but also profoundly expanded my understanding of improvisation and free jazz. There are a lot of great anecdotes about Ornette Coleman, like those about other musicians reportedly paying him not to play during his early days, and those about him studying music theory in an elevator while he had a part time job as an elevator operator.
“All of my colleagues — composers and arrangers — are seeing huge cuts in their earnings,” says Paul Chihara, a veteran composer who until recently headed UCLA’s film-music program. “In effect, we’re not getting royalties. It’s almost amusing some of the royalty checks I get.” One of the last checks he got was for $29. “And it bounced.”
Scott Timberg writes about how the recent rise of streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Pandora affects royalties in the world of niche music. It’s sad, but not unexpected. However, at least in Europe a jazz/classical music enthusiast observes a growing number of websites that sell uncompressed audio files from small labels. There’s the German Highresaudio and the Norwegian Gubemusic, and both these services have a pretty big catalogue (at least compared to the American HDTracks).1 They are also both targeting the narrow group of listeners, and their catalogues contain mostly jazz and classical music. Which brings us to the second quote from the article:
Here’s a good place to start: Say you’re looking for a bedrock recording, the Beethoven Piano Concertos, with titan Maurizio Pollini on piano. Who is the “artist” for this one? Is it the Berlin Philharmonic, or Claudio Abbado, who conducts them? Is it Pollini? Or is it Beethoven himself? If you can see the entire record jacket, you can see who the recording includes. Otherwise, you could find yourself guessing.
My question is: why hasn’t anyone figured this out yet? It’s an at-least-decent business idea, and there’s a consumer group that can be easily targeted. Jazz fans complain about Spotify’s lack of content all the time. They also tend to be affluent (or pose as such, or are willing to spend more money on music), so you can charge them more. And they’re often suffering from audiophiliac illness.
Create an elite, expensive streaming service for jazz and classical lovers. Take our money!
Jazz icon Charlie Haden dies at 76
I am very sad to read that Charlie Haden died last Friday.1 He was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard about, when my dad bought the now legendary “Beyond the Missouri Sky” (Verve 1997) record, and I immediately fell in love with his great bass lines and compositions. Then I learned about Charlie Haden’s history with Ornette, and I also realized he played with Keith Jarrett’s quartet in the 70s.
Wayne Shorter Quartet at USF Verftet (NattJazz 2014)
I first heard about Wayne Shorter when my dad bought the brilliant “1+1” (Verve 1997) album he recorded with Herbie Hancock. I listened to it and was blown away – the soprano saxophone in the hands of Wayne Shorter sounded like nothing I heard before. I had a “jazz band” in my music school at the time,1 and I told the guys “Look, Shorter and Hancock play without drums and bass, so we can do it too!
Keith Jarrett Trio 30th Anniversary Tour at De Doelen, Rotterdam
Last Thursday I went to a Keith Jarrett Trio concert in Rotterdam. It was probably the best jazz concert experience I’ve ever had. The very first “contemporary” jazz1 album I’ve listened to was “Standards, Vol. 1” (ECM 1983). My dad bought it when I was a teenager and played it to me, because I wanted to know other kinds of jazz than swing and bebop. I didn’t like it at first.