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.
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)
I bought this album back in high school, before I had any inkling of how to listen to jazz. I didn’t understand it and sold it for cash. Now that I’ve had rudimentary schooling in jazz, I picked it up again at the library book sale. I get it now.
Johnny Cash, American Recordings
I remember the accolades heaped upon this album at the time of its release, but I hadn’t gotten into country music yet. So I had no interest in Johnny Cash. Now that I know more about his life and music, I see what all the fuss was about.
This album was listed in the book 1,000 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I found a copy of it at the thrift store. I liked it enough.
PJ Harvey, Rid of Me
To Bring You My Love gets the highest praise among PJ Harvey’s albums, but I couldn’t get into it. I much prefer Rid of Me.
Pop Will Eat Itself, This Is the Day … This Is the Hour … This Is This!
This album got good reviews in all the magazines I read as a teenager, but I hesitated on getting it. I would eventually find a ratty vinyl copy selling for cheap decades later. Teenaged self should have been the one to take that plunge.
Sly and the Family Stone, Stand!
Too many tracks on this album have been licensed to sell products, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to diminish them. Or maybe we’re just more chill about music licensing these days.
Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club
I totally forgot that “Wordy Rappinghood” was a Tom Tom Club track. I dug that track so much as a kid, I annoyed everyone around me by singing it.
Weezer, Weezer (Teal Album)
The meticulousness this covers album takes in reproducing the originals is ridiculous and admirable.