This morning, Connor Cole, a young Facebook friend, someone with good taste, casually asked me to list the recordings that had impressed me in the past year. I’ve stopped composing “ten best” lists because I know that I will hurt the feelings of someone I’ve left off. (I once applied for a job where there were openings for five people, and was told afterwards that I was number six, a memory which still, perhaps absurdly, stings.) But Connor’s request pleased me, so I began thinking of the recordings of 2019.
Perhaps it was that I wasn’t fully awake, but I came up with almost nothing, which troubled me. So I began searching through blogposts and came up with these reassuring entities (new issues only) in approximate chronological order, with apologies to those I’ve omitted, those discs which I will write about in 2020:
IN THIS MOMENT, Michael Kanan, Greg Ruggiero, Neal Miner
NEW ORLEANS PEARLS Benny Amon
UNSTUCK IN TIME Candy Jacket Jazz Band
NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU Danny Tobias, Mark Shane
RAGTIME — NEW ORLEANS STYLE, Volume 2 Kris Tokarski, Hal Smith
PICK IT AND PLAY IT Jonathan Stout
BUSY TIL’ ELEVEN Chicago Cellar Boys
TENORMORE Scott Robinson
UPTOWN The Fat Babies
COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT Andrew Oliver, David Horniblow
A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE, Alex Levin
DREAM CITY David Lukacs
THE MUSIC OF THE BIRD AND THE BEE Charles Ruggiero, Hilary Gardner
LESTER’S BLUES Tom Callens
WINTER DAYS Rebecca Kilgore, Echoes of Swing
The majority of those discs are musician-produced, funded, and released — which is yet another blogpost about “record companies” and their understandable attrition. Economics, technology, and a changing audience.
But that list made me go back in time, decades of trading money for musical joy.
In late childhood, I would have walked or bicycled the mile to Times Square Stores and bought Louis’ Decca JAZZ CLASSICS for $2.79 plus tax. A few years later, Monk cutouts on Riverside at Pergament or Mays. E.J. Korvette. Lester Young and Art Tatum Verves at Sam Goody’s. A British enterprise, Tony’s, for exotic foreign discs. In New York City, new Chiaroscuro issues at Dayton’s, Queen-Discs at Happy Tunes.
In the CD era, I would have stopped off after work at Borders or the nearby Tower Records for new releases on Arbors, Concord, Pablo, and import labels. Again in the city, J&R near City Hall for Kenneth, French CBS, and more. But record stores gave way to purchasing by mail, and eventually online. Mosaic Records was born, as was Amazon, eventually eBay.
So today the times I actually visit “a record store,” it is to browse, to feel nostalgic, to walk away with a disc that I had once coveted — often with a deceased collector’s address sticker on the back — but I am much more likely to click on BUY IT NOW in front of this computer, or, even better, to give the artist twenty dollars for a copy of her new CD.
What happened? I offer one simple explanation. A musician I respect, who’s been recordings since 1991, can be relied upon to write me, politely but urgently and at length, how I and people like me have ruined (or “cut into”) his CD sales by using video cameras and broadcasting the product for free to large audiences.
So it’s my fault. I killed Decca, Columbia, and Victor — Verve, Prestige, and Riverside, too. Glad to have that question answered, that matter settled. Now I’m off to do more damage elsewhere.
May your happiness increase!