Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Halfway There

With the recent acquisition of the recording Air Time by Air, I have officially managed to obtain 93 of the 185 recordings of the "core collection" as set out in the eighth edition of the Penguin guide to jazz recordings. (And yes, I know there is a ninth edition, but I started the eighth edition and that is the list I'm working to.) When I started my jazz recordings collection almost two years ago, it was a relatively easy task to find recordings in the core collection that I didn't have and to learn about the stars and great recordings over the history of jazz. Having progressed this far, however, now I am encountering certain "issues":

1) Most of the low hanging fruit has been picked. Of the 185 albums on the list, some are obvious classics, multi-million sellers, and are sort of like "Witness" T-shirts in Cleveland: they're everywhere. Now that I've got those, I'm left with fruit that is well up in the tree. Hard to find, yes, but in some cases, even impossible.

2) The higher-up hanging fruit is not only harder to find, but more expensive. Remaining single CD's on the list mostly go for $12-17, even used, and sets for anywhere from $20 to $77, and higher. One example: early last week, I found a copy of The Art Ensemble of Chicago 1967-68 on e-bay. The seller wanted $150 for it. It normally sells for between $125 - 180 on various music websites. Since I don't much care for the avant-garde work of Roscoe Mitchell, I certainly wasn't going to shell out that kind of money for a set I wasn't going to get much play out of, so I offered $35. One other buyer offered $78, which is what it eventually sold for. But with $5 CD's pretty easy to find and less than $10 the norm, I find I like my jazz music the same as my wine: Why pay $35 for one you might not like when you can get three for $30 that you will probably like at least as much, if not more?

3) The remainder of the list is pretty esoteric and often, not even enjoyable. Even jazz musicians and fans I talk to don't always know what I'm talking about when I ask them "What does Alexander von Schlippenbach sound like?" and, "Where can I pick up Tomasz Stanko's latest CD?" I mean, I once went to great lengths to track down a boring record by Evan Parker - The Snake Decides - buying it from the UK for about $20. I listened to it once. I even found Stanko's Leosia at a decent price last week. (Haven't got it yet, so don't know if that's going to work out.) Nothing sucks more than spending two months and $25 to get a recording that you just don't like. It's one of the perils of jazz music collecting, however, so I'm putting up with it, but that won't stop me from griping about it here.

So, why do it?

Well, the thrill of the chase, and all that. But really, you only have to look at the Yoity Tot list to find a number of records you may or may not have heard of (at least 95% of them were completely unknown to me two years ago) that really are worth hearing and will more than make up for the money and time spent ending up with duds. It is a collection, after all, and it's mine.

But let's not forget: I might as well keep going, because...

I'm halfway there.

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