Ken Dryden, estimable liner note author and Allmusic.com reviewer, writes in response to yesterday’s post about the Rhapsody critics poll.
Doug, please share your method of winnowing the huge list of new releases and reissues down to a manageable list from which to make your final picks, I think everyone would be interested. I know it is easier for me if I highlight possible picks monthly for possible inclusion on my new arrival log.
One thing I always have to note is that not all of us have had time to hear or even obtain some of these CDs listed by other writers over the course of a year.
Ken, as responsible reviewers trying to stay on top of a jazz scene in the throes of a perpetual population explosion, ideally you and I would listen to everything. In boxes on my office floor (shelf space is a golden memory) are approximately 600 CDsmost of them unsolicited. Assuming that each of them runs an hour, by listening steadily 40 hours a week for 15 weeks I could hear them all, if the men in the white coats hadn’t taken me away by week 10. By the end of the 15th week, a few hundred more albums would have shown up.
I log everything that comes in on a computer spread sheet and put Xs by the albums that are self-evident musts; a new Sonny Rollins, an Armstrong reissue, something by Charlap, Pelt, Jarrett, Mahanthappa or d’Ambrosio, to pull a few names out of the air. The little yellow things in the photograph are notes to myself about prospective review points. The CDs sticking up at an angle are albums I have sort of, maybe, decided to write about. Now that every recent Berklee or North Texas graduate is a record company sending CDs or downloads as business cards, I make choices by name recognition, instinct or the influence of something as subjective as package design or the readability of the accompanying news release. It’s amazing to me that most of these fledgling musicians seem to have press agents. (Did Bird have a press agent?) Well, we don’t want to overlook the next Parker, Evans or Coltrane, but we can’t hear everything.
As for your second point, I know one reviewer whose goal is to have a copy of every jazz record ever made. Samuel Beckett could have based a play on that. I’m willing to resign myself to missing a few.