Mike’s Monthly Musings – March

In the Listening to Jazz group recently, individual members have been asked to choose several examples of work by one of their favourite musicians.  After a session by myself on tenor saxist Stan Getz, we have heard something of the work of Dave Brubeck and more recently, the pianist Brad Meldhau.  The general feeling amongst the group is that this approach has worked well.  It still leaves time to hear a few other records, but also give us a longer and deeper look at a particular musician – a bit like focussing on Beethoven or Debussy for a whole session.
For me as group organiser it has been especially interesting.  The presenter is asked to say a few words why they like a particular musician and why they have chosen the specific examples played.  Hearing these accounts gives an insight into what the presenter likes about jazz and the musician they have chosen to discuss.  It may be that they grew up with a specific sound at a particular time, as was the case with the Brubeck exposition.  And since we have musicians in the group, it allows further insight into how an artist plays and why they are seen as important to the presenter – as was the case with Meldhau.  And despite my holding extensive examples of the work of both Brubeck and Meldhau, both presenters selected tracks which I had either not heard before or to which I had not given much attention.  And at least one case caused me to re-consider my initial evaluation of a recent Meldhau cd.
In part these surprises – if that is what they are – are brought about because with around 3000 jazz records in the house, an individual disc has to be really outstanding and appealing for me to play it several times.  It is a collection to which I am constantly adding, both vinyl and cd.  In preparing sessions I often go through my racks and shelves looking for things to play and discover records that I have not played in anything up to 50 years or more!  In any one month I might play thirty or more discs in order to select the 15 or so tracks I need to fill a varied two hour session, and we are still scratching the surface of the collection.  Early jazz appears along with the latest offerings, highlighting a singer as well as tracks by the so-called jazz greats, traditional, mainstream, modern and (occasional) avant garde, all designed to produce a balanced programme designed to appeal to all tastes.  Occasionally the odd howler occurs, but on balance over the last ten years group members have stayed the course… and as at least one person puts it – they get to hear music to which they might not choose to listen if left to their own choices!  And like me they will have learnt quite a lot as we’ve gone through over a thousand examples over the nearly ten years the group has been in existence.  There is still a lot to look forward to, but for me especially it will be the sounds the group members choose when they present their special selections!  Mike Goldsmith.