8.31.2007

what i'm listening to

For many years, I've complained about being music-starved.

We have an abundance of music in our home, but I felt I had no solid time to listen. I can't have music on while I write, even while I write an email. The only decent music time I could find was if and when I cooked dinner - and that is not a regular occurrence. Between baseball and movies, gone are the days when we used to just listen to music all evening.

Living in the suburbs has helped this problem. In New York (or walking around any city), I don't like to use a Walkman, or iPod once they existed. But in the car, it's essential. Recently I've been doing errands with Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, one of my favourites.

Now on my current weekend job, the problem has been eradicated. I'm in a small, shared space, with a group of non-stop talkers. It would be unbearable, except that the non-chatterers all put on headphones. I've been listening to music all day Saturday and all day Sunday, every weekend. I hope not to keep the job too much longer, but right now this is a great plus.

* * * *

The other side of this music-starved condition was that for many years I've been losing my interest in new rock.

This isn't "there's no good music anymore... all the good music ended in [insert year of most carefree, party life]". I kept up with new rock long past most of my peers. But for whatever reason, I increasingly found that the music didn't do anything for me. It all felt too derivative - and I was already attached to the older music, and the new felt like a pale imitation - or it just bored me.

I still have all the bands I love, plus my musical mainstays - blues, swing, Cajun and other rootsy forms. But new rock of almost any type was just putting me to sleep.

While that was happening, my interest in blues and swing was pulling me closer and closer to jazz, but I was too intimidated to dive in. Jazz! It's so big. It means so many things. I didn't know where to start.

But slowly, through friends' recommendations and an excellent jazz station, I started to find my way. The path was no different than how I originally explored blues: find something you like, get to know it, find what's related to it, get to know that. I'll never be an expert or anything close, and there are huge avenues of jazz I'll never walk down, but my list of what I like and what I'd like to hear more of is growing.

So far my short hot-list is mostly from the late 1950s and early 1960s. (I find that interesting, since the blues I love most is from the late 1940s and early 1950s.) Topping the list are Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, all only from a certain period. I'm also going farther back, to Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and farther back still, to some core music I've always loved, like Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and of course Mr Louis Armstrong.

It's exciting to be discovering new - that is, new to me - music that completely absorbs and thrills me. It doesn't happen to me very often, and this is like an avalanche of new and exciting sounds.

11 comments:

mister anchovy said...

I go through phases where I listen to a lot of jazz when I'm painting in my converted shed/studio behind the house. I love music by people like Ornette Coleman, Roland Kirk, Mingus, Erik Dolphy and Sun Ra playing while I work.

L-girl said...

I listen to a lot of jazz when I'm painting in my converted shed/studio behind the house

That sounds heavenly.

All those artists are on my short list, too. Mingus was the first purely jazz artist I discovered, through Joni Mitchell. I like him, Erik Dolphy and Sun Ra a lot.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

My life is such that it's difficult for me to discover new stuff, too, but there's a yearly music festival that I attend that kind of makes SURE I have a regular dose of new stuff. And yearly is about all I can handle getting hooked on someone/something new these days, so it works out perfectly.

I'm like you in that I can't listen to music while I'm writing, but mostly, I listen while I'm shopping or on the bus on my way to work. I suppose if you prefer not to use a Walkman or an iPod, though, that wouldn't work for you.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Oh, and in a bit of delightful coincidence, your own latest find was at my music festival this year. How's that for fun? :-)

L-girl said...

but mostly, I listen while I'm shopping or on the bus on my way to work. I suppose if you prefer not to use a Walkman or an iPod, though, that wouldn't work for you.

I should try it for shopping. Goddess knows there's nothing to hear at the Loblaws. :)

Oh, and in a bit of delightful coincidence, your own latest find was at my music festival this year. How's that for fun? :-)

Who??

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Um...your latest find, i.e., the one you told us about in this post. Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil.

L-girl said...

I've been listening to Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil since 1990 or so. They're one of my mainstay favourites.

I've been listening to them lately as I drive around doing errands. :)

I hope you've been enjoying them!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Ah, gotcha.

I actually didn't get a chance to hear them at the festival--it's a rather big festival, and I was always elsewhere--but I've heard good things. :-)

L-girl said...

I'd love the opportunity to see them live again. I saw them in New Orleans a long time ago (1991?) but not since then. Definitely a great band for a music festival.

Ah, music festivals...! Working weekends for the last umpteen years, I have missed them. I used to love them so much. I know what you mean about great new finds, and once a year being enough right now.

Gazetteer said...

But here's the thing about the newe stuff....especially following up on your previous post re: Hilly's Demise....the kids these days can do it without a place like CBGB's (or, for somebody like me from Lotusland,'The Smilin' Buddha) and they can get it to each other like, zap!

And it's not all derivative (and it's not all by kids either).

When I want to peek over a few of their shoulders I go and some time at Radio 3.

It's actually good.

And if you want three bands that fogies like us can love just go to The Weakerthans, Stars, or Attack In Black.

You can listen to a little of each on my very own current hip-to-be-square playlist there

OK?

(or not - prosetylizin' done, jazz is good too, go Pudge!)

.

L-girl said...

I'm sure there's lots of good stuff out there. I would never doubt that! And it's fantastic the way music can reach us so directly know, straight from artist to listener. Brilliant.

I've just lost my interest. I don't know why. People recommend new bands, and I listen and think, ok, shrug.

Then I listen to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and I'm super excited. A window opens, like when I first heard Muddy Waters or the Band or REM (at various times of my life).

So that tells me where I need to be.

I'm glad you have good new stuff to listen to, too. :)