The jazz record producer is fast going the way of the typewriter repairman and movie-theater usher. I don't mean the guys who create historic box sets. Those will always have an audience. I mean the person in the past who had an album vision and recruited musicians to record, created an intriguing title, supervised the cover art and then assembled a track order that enticed and entertained buyers. You know, those guys. [Photo: Rudy Van Gelder's studio in the '50s, the workspace of many producers]
In the iTunes era, where tracks outweigh albums, the services of those who can develop a complete package are no longer needed. This is especially so as major record companies start shuttering CD plants. While you and I may think in terms of albums, a growing segment of the music-buying population doesn't. For them, an album is the thing that their parents keep pictures in and music is files that go in folders. [Pictured, right: George Avakian]
Which is a shame. The producer's personality, quirks and taste played a critical role in shaping the albums most of us love most. These ranks include George Avakian, Orrin Keepnews, Alfred Lion, Bob Weinstock, Teddy Reig, Norman Granz, Voyle Gilmore [pictured], Lee Gillette, Creed Taylor, Teo Macero and so many others.
So leave it to Britain to start a retro trend that indirectly celebrates this noble figure. According to an article entitled "Are Record Clubs the New Book Clubs?," the BBC News Magazine reports:
"A growing number of music-lovers unhappy about the way album tracks are enjoyed in a pick-and-mix fashion have decided to take action [and form clubs]. The rules are strict. No talking. No texting. You must listen to every song on the album."
What a great idea! Admittedly, not every album conceived by even the best producers is worthy of a full listen today. But those that are complete classics should be consumed this way—quietly and in their entirety. Here are seven that I would happily sit down and listen to silently from start to finish:
- Chris Connor: Lullabys of Birdland (Bethlehem)
- Miles Davis: Miles Ahead (Columbia)
- John Coltrane: Blue Train (Blue Note)
- Thelonious Monk: Thelonious in Action (Riverside)
- Maynard Ferguson: Maynard '63 (Roulette)
- Yusef Lateef: The Centaur and the Phoenix (Riverside)
- Bobby Timmons: This Here Is Bobby Timmons (Riverside)
Billy Taylor. If you weren't in New York on January 10 for the late pianist Billy Taylor's memorial at Riverside Church, here it is, courtesy of Bret Primack:
And here are Billy's friends and their fond recollections...
Pepper Adams. Bill Kirchner sent along an email bringing to my attention a valuable and engaging tribute site to baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. Go here.
Wanted: 30 videographers. The Jazz Journalists Association is looking for participants in its jazz journal video program. The JJA will select 30 applicants and provide them with Pocket Camcorders and training for shooting, editing and posting. Learn more at Eyejazz.tv. Here's more...
Peppy site. Reader Alan Warner hosts a fabulous, fun blog on a wide range of pop, rock and jazz topics. Go here.
Oddball album cover of the week: Add a page to our on-going book of LP covers featuring art directors who executed literally. Here, singer Teresa Brewer stands at a window with a forlorn look on her face. What isn't clear from her expression and body language is whether the lover ever showed up in the first place.