Odds And Ends

Miscellany accumulates, each unrelated matter of some importance but too small for an item of its own. The solution—hardly an innovation—is to put them all in the same container, call it Odds And Ends and get the jumble out of my mind and into yours.

More Help For Japan

Following last Monday’s fundraiser at the New York’s Village Vanguard for northern Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami victims and today’s at Vitello’s in Los Angeles, Seattle’s Jazz Alley announces a similar humanitarian event. For singer Gail Pettis’s engagement April 19 and 20, the club will donate cover charges to the Japanese Red Cross. Her band will be stars of the Pacific Northwest jazz community: pianist Darin Clendenin and bassist Clipper Anderson Tuesday night; pianist Randy Halbertstadt and bassist Jeff Johnson Wednesday night; drummer Mark Ivester both nights. For details, see this article. For a Rifftides revew of Pettis’s latest CD, go here. For a clip of her singing with Halberstadt, go to this archive post.

Carmen Staaf

Speaking of pianists from the Northwest (barrrrruuuumpah), Jim Wilke will feature Carmen Staaf on his Jazz Northwest broadcast this Sunday in a concert recorded during last fall’s Earshot Jazz Festival. Here are details from Jim’s announcement.

The pianist’s early training and experience was at the Washington Middle School and Garfield High School jazz programs. Since leaving Seattle, Carmen Staaf has completed a double degree program at Tufts University (anthropology) and New England Conservatory (music), taught piano for four years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, won the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Pianist Competition in Washington DC, and is now active member of the New York City jazz scene, performing and touring with her trio as well as with other groups. Her trio is also featured this week on NPR’s JazzSet.

In this Earshot Festival performance, she is joined by her New York trio mates, Kendall Eddy on bass and Austin McMahon on drums. Selections from the concert will also be issued as a new Carmen Staaf Trio CD on April 15, so this broadcast also serves as a preview of the new CD.

Jazz Northwest broadcasts Sunday, April 10 at 1 PM (PDT) on 88.5, KPLU and at the same time streams live on the web at kplu.org. Staaf’s trio is the rhythm section on Jeff Chang’s excellent debut CD, reviewed in October in this Rifftides roundup.

Language: “The Likes Of”

I haven’t done a tabulation, but my estimate is that 63.5% of all news releases and PR blurbs accompanying review copies of albums contain the phrase, “the likes of.”

His career includes performances with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

I wonder who those “likes” were. This fuzzy usage isn’t confined to flackery. You may see it in nearly any context. I once read in a history book that Abigail Adams, the wife of the second US president, maintained her interest in politics after John Adams’s term and was supportive of “the likes of Thomas Jefferson.” Ah, yes, there were so many like Jefferson, it’s hard to keep them straight.

The Backlog

When the world was young, before the digital revolution, a few major record companies and a few independent labels recorded jazz. Each of the majors and some of the independents released a handful of long playing vinyl albums a month. It was possible for a reasonably conscientious critic to keep up with what was happening in jazz, at least with what was making it to records. Even after compact discs became common in the mid-1980s, the number of releases did not drastically change. As the technology became more accessible and cheaper, however, and the traditional systems of marketing, sales and distribution broke down, musicians began taking their careers—including making and selling records—into their own hands.

That was in many ways a significant step forward in the movement toward freedom of the artist from the strictures of contracts and royalty arrangements of the companies. Some major labels and independents disappeared. Some morphed together into enormous multi-label complexes. A few independents became processors packaging and distributing CDs made by musicians who otherwise have no connection to the labels. By the new century, it was relatively inexpensive and not too demanding technically for a musician to become his own record operation and to use CDs as announcements or business cards.

Now, an established reviewer is likely to receive, unsolicited, dozens of CDs a week. My personal record (hah) is 15 in one day. Sometimes the albums come directly from musicians, sometimes from publicists who constitute a cottage industry accommodating the desire and legitimate need of artists to call attention to their work. The frustrating fact of life that results for the reviewer, is that there are not enough waking hours to sample—let alone give a full hearing to— the embarrassment of what may be riches flowing into his mailbox. Of course, I will listen to the latest CD by Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano or Dave Holland, the newest Mosaic box, the previously unissued Kenny Dorham. It is much less a sure thing that I will pull from the stacks of beckoning review copies a collection of originals by one of this spring’s new Berklee, NEC or Monk Institute graduates. All of this is just to tell you that if you are a musician who has sent a CD, I cannot promise you that I will review it. I can’t even promise you that I will hear it. Like so much in life, that isn’t fair.

I wish that there were a way to absorb music. Alas, listening is still a linear activity.

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