Here’s a case where I really didn’t know what I was giving up when I let it go.
In high school, my perception of jazz was shaped by the repertoire we played in jazz band, the bulk of which stemmed from the music’s early era. We played your Glenn Miller, a bit of washed-over Duke Ellington, something Stan Kenton-ish and even a Spyro Gyra cover.
But my music program wasn’t sophisticated enough to introduce anything like John Coltrane or Miles Davis, so Ornette Coleman was completely off the radar.
At the end of my high school career, I encountered the intersection of modern classical music and jazz known as “downtown New York”. I didn’t understand the traditions from which either came at that point, but I loved the noise it produced.
Before there were online streaming services, there was the music press, and back then, I would read about all kinds of interesting music more than I would actually hear it. That meant taking some leaps for faith based on something somebody wrote in a magazine.
I took that leap with John Zorn and Kronos Quartet, and I liked where I ended up. I took that same leap with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and Crazy People Music didn’t last long in my collection.
The press around the album, as I remember it, described the album as forward-thinking and ground-breaking. It went as far as winning a Grammy Award. I went into Crazy People Music thinking it would be another Naked City.
It sounded pretty standard, which was to say it didn’t stray too far from the kind of jazz pieces we played in band. The heads on Crazy People Music maybe sounded a bit off-kilter, but they sounded nothing like what I could find on Kronos’ Winter Was Hard or White Man Sleeps.
For an album called Crazy People Music, it didn’t sound, well, crazy enough. I played through my cassette copy of the album perhaps once, then went straight back to my Nonesuch albums.
I picked up a CD copy of the album at the Friends of the Seattle Library book sale, about 28 years after I first encountered it. By then, I had learned how to listen to jazz, and I had a better sense of history about the music than I did in high school.
I like it way more now.
And within the confines of Marsalis’ idiom, the album actually does have its moments of craziness. I first went into the album thinking it would structurally crazy. Rather, the crazy stems from the performances themselves. There are some hot takes on this record.
But I think what I missed the most about Crazy People Music is the cover. The quartet looks like they’re having a blast, but it’s a fun rooted in mania. The back cover of the album jumbles the text in a manner where you can’t tell which is up. Fishbone employed a similar effect on the cover of In Your Face.
For 10 months out of the year, I try to post entries every week on this blog. I give myself two months out of the year to take a break.
I’ve done pretty good in keeping with that pattern, but 2019 proved a bit disruptive. So here’s a personal overview of the first half of this year, which should explain why I haven’t been terribly productive.
I took a quick trip back home to Honolulu in January, and it was something of a surprise visit for both myself and my family.
I switched jobs in 2018, and for the first time in 7 years, I got a year-end bonus. It was sizable enough to pay for a plane ticket, and I went back home with one goal: to retrieve a stash of vinyl records my mom found in a box.
I hoped it was the mother lode — my brother’s collection, which contained albums by AC/DC, Prince, Madonna and other bands on which we don’t agree on matters of taste.
The stash did include a fraction of my brother’s albums, but it was mostly my dad’s collection of pre-rock era crooners. My sisters had bought a few albums, but they are completely lost.
I had hoped finding this stash would inspire me to explore my family’s relationship with music. I didn’t really reach any kind of revelation. In fact, the stash is still sitting in a corner of my apartment, mostly untouched since it arrived in the mail.
I did play through a number of my brother’s records. I thought they had warped a bit because most of them skipped. In fact, my needle needed changing, so I might play through them again.
February was an uneventful month, and the only month where I managed to prepare entries for March. It would be the only month I would produce any meaningful content for this site in the first half of the year.
I came down with the flu at the start of March 2019. At least, I exhibited flu-like symptoms, and while I received a shot back in October 2018, the Seattle area was hit with a strain not covered by this year’s vaccine.
At first, I thought I had recovered by the time Friends of the Library Book Sale happened in the middle of the month, but toward the end of the month, I had a relapse that kept my body temperature above 101 for four days.
The fever broke only days before I had to board a plane for a work function in Washington, DC. Once again, I thought I was well enough to go about normal life. I was mistaken.
When I landed in DC, I noticed a pain in my neck. I thought I twisted it. When it persisted by the third day of my trip, I discovered a lump by a lymph node. I remember a similar kind of lump during college, and it turned out to be a bacterial infection that could be treated with antibiotics.
I took ibuprofen all week to deal with the pain until I could return to Seattle and get an opinion from my primary care physician.
I didn’t make it that far.
By the end of the week, I had lost my voice, and swallowing food was difficult. The lump had grown. I went to a clinic, and the practitioner told me to go to the emergency room at Virginia Medical Center in Arlington. She was concerned the lump would start to block my air passage.
So I took the DC Metro to the ER. The doctors did a CAT scan. They didn’t like what they saw. I was admitted into intensive care and stayed in the hospital for three days.
I missed my flight back to Seattle.
My company rallied around me till I was well enough to fly back two days after I was discharged. The antibiotics did the trick, but boy, I was wiped out for the next two weeks. I did, however, regain enough of my strength for a trip to London I had booked last year.
When I planned my London trip, I thought I would be in normal health to handle another trip three weeks later to Austin for the record convention. I so I booked that as well.
I hadn’t planned on getting sick and falling behind on work.
While the trip was also restorative, it pretty much meant I would neglect this site for yet another month. Between recovery and travel, I had little time and no energy to write.
So now we’re here in June 2019. Of the past six months, only one has had regularly-scheduled posts. To be honest, I’ve rather enjoyed time away from this site, but I do feel self-conscious for post nothing but Purchase Log entries.
That got me thinking about my recent listening habits. The volume of albums I acquire from week to week has resulted in much shallower listening. Before 2012, I bought fewer albums but listened to them a lot more deeply.
I’ve found myself juggling multiple story ideas without the time or energy to turn any of them into something readable.
I’m not going to promise an actual return to regular updates. It will happen when it happens. My calendar, however, has cleared up significantly. No more flights for the rest of the year. I’m honestly tired of airports.
So any return to regularly scheduled updates would happen in the second half of this year. I’m still trying to catch my breath from the first half.
Anthony De Mare, Pianos and Vocals (Music of Meredith Monk and John Cage)
Given how well De Mare sequenced the pieces on this album, I bet recitals featuring these works would have been amazing.
Easterhouse, Waiting for the Redbird
Contenders is the album that has remained in print, but Waiting for the Redbird appealed to me more as it played on the turntable.
Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson
The Janet we know today began with Control, and it’s the furthest Miss Jackson will go in live performances. Of the two albums that preceded it, this self-titled debut has the better songs.
Justin Timberlake, Futuresex / LoveSounds
I think I reacted more to the production of this album than to the actual songs.
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
I didn’t find Golden Hour terribly impressive, but I didn’t want to dismiss Kacey Musgraves out of hand. So I picked up Same Trailer Different Park when I found it at the thrift store. That’s when I understood.
I didn’t realize just how much Kalapana’s first album dominated radio broadcast in Hawaii during the 1970s. I picked up a vinyl copy of the album on a whim, having grown up with the name but not necessarily the music. It turns out I heard them a lot when I was still too young to care about building a music collection.
I’ve been fascinated by the third mode of limited transposition since we covered them in a music theory class I took in 2017. The Turangalîla Symphony is one of those works you’re told to know, even if takes you a while to get around to listening to it. The 2-disc vinyl edition of this recording includes Toru Takemitsu’s November Steps, which gets dropped on subsequent CD reissues.
I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.
I traveled to Austin for the record convention this past weekend. I didn’t find much of what I wanted, but I did find a lot of what I didn’t know I wanted. This list includes purchases at Waterloo Records and End of an Ear.
Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!
Kronos Quartet with Masha and Marjan Vadat, Placeless
a-ha, Hunting High and Low
Bill Frisell, Before We Were Born
Dwight Yoakam, Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room
Grizzly Bear, Shields
Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
Joy Division, Closer
Robert Palmer, Pride
Robert Palmer, Some People Can Do What They Like
Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time
Tomita, The Planets
Witold Lutoslawski, Symphonies / Concertos / Vocal and Choral Works
Branford Marsalis Quartet, Crazy People Music
Everything But the Girl, Everything But the Girl
Franz Josef Haydn, Streichquartette, op. 20, 2 & 4 (Quarteto Esterhazy)
Giovanni Palestrina, Pope Marcellus Mass / Stabat Mater / Three Motets (Pro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner)
Janet Jackson, Janet Jackson
Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar
Megadeth, So Far … So Good … So What!
Olivier Messiaen, La Nativité du Seigneur (Jennifer Bate)