Starting in January 2007, a little of three years ago, I have now reached my 1,000th CD review, actually three days ago already.You can view the full list here.
This is certainly a feat, quite obsessional maybe, but certainly passionate. Actually, I have no idea what other reviewers do, but it does sound like an impressive figure.
My passion is for the music. My motivation is to get this great music known to more people. To get it out of the shadows, to drag it a little higher above the waterline, to make sure it gets noticed, to make sure it gets appreciated.
Fantastic musicians such as William Parker, Joe McPhee, Roy Campbell, Andrea Centazzo, Gianni Mimmo, Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Dixon, Mats Gustafsson, Marcin & Brat Oles, Hamid Drake, Satoko Fujii, Dans Les Arbres, Frode Gjerstad, Paul Dunmall, Lotte Anker, Tony Malaby, Sten Sandell, Joëlle Léandre, and many, many more, .... never or rarely get reviewed in newspapers or magazines. They bring the real music. Real and unadultered by other interests. Pure and authentic.
These musicians are not stars : they are artists. They don't seem to care about promotional activities, or branding. More often than not the names of their bands change with each record, which are hard to find, on labels with unclear life expectancies. These musicians and labels all share the same characteristics : they give themselves fully: dedicated to their art, without compromise. That by itself deserves appreciation and recognition.
Why is this music so passionating?
In a few words : free jazz and avant-garde jazz try to create new listening experiences, creating new sounds and sound possibilities in a world without boundaries : anything is possible. The process is often a risky undertaking, both for the musicians and the listeners alike. You take your chances. You don't know where you will end.
If successful, the end result is one of absolute artistic integrity and authenticity, reaching deep into emotional expressivity through new form : playing with timbre, shifting between harmony and dissonance, attraction and repulsion, familiarity and the unknown, but always creating tension full of paradoxes and contradictions, full of intensity, no holds barred ... free. Free. Free.
This is not possible without great technical skills and musical vision ... and a deep sense of humanity.
For the listener the experience is all or nothing: there is no escape : you have to surrender to the sounds, the noise sometimes, the extreme innovation, the never-heard-before, but you also get the incredible reward and joy of hearing something so true and beautiful, so real and deep, breaking through the boundaries of the known, out of the mediocritiy and shallowness of mainstream music, out there in the open : the ultimate listening experience. You participate in a musical adventure, a journey, together with the musicians. Open ears require open minds. No preconceptions, no expectations. Just listen.
Over the years my taste has evolved. I can listen to things that I could not understand and appreciate five years ago. Listening a lot does that to you. So if an album does seem a little disconcerting at a first listen, sometimes (not always), it's worthwhile to keep listening, get into the music, let go of the voice in your head.
By coincidence, this 1000th CD review coincides almost with the 500,000th visitor to this blog, and luckily still in an ascending trend, with a steady and also increasing 25,000 visitors a month, which is not bad for the kind of music under review.
My only ambition is to get the music known. There is no other reason. I have been asked to participate in networks, to put advertisements on my blog, to participate in commercial deals. I have not been really inclined to join these offers. Keep it simple, keep it pure. I joined forces with Instantjazz in order to get access to new material (thanks, Tony!), also as a means to direct you, the reader, to a place where you can actually buy the music.
Today, most of the CDs are sent to me by the labels, or by the musicians themselves, or once in a while even by a fan! But I still buy CDs, especially downloads from eMusic or iTunes (I just downloaded Jeff Platz & Daniel Carter).
So thank you all for sending me material. I apologize to all of you whose music I have not managed to review, but I have to be selective too. At any given time, I have a pile of thirty to fifty CDs waiting for review. At this moment, this pile contains seventy-four CDs - all waiting patiently to be listened to, to be reviewed.
How do I go about writing the reviews?
I spend at least two hours a day in my car, listening to new stuff. In the evening, between 10pm and 1am, I listen and write. My reviews are often characterized by their shortness, with the occasional mistake, typo and other consequences of speedy delivery, and with the limited vocabulary of a non-native English speaker. I try to capture the music in a few phrases. That's by definition impossible, but worth a try.
Why am I always so positive in my evaluations?
Hard to believe maybe, but I listen to more records than I review. Some get dumped after a few minutes of listening : not fitting the profile of the blog, or just not good, or not to my taste. I just want to review what I like. It's easier to recommend than to be negative.
Do I have a life?
Sure thing. I am not sure my wife and children always appreciate what I listen to, but yes, sometimes they do. What they don't appreciate are the car trips : get in the car, all quiet and peaceful, then dad switches on the car ignition, and the sudden blast at maximum volume of a Brötzmann tentet coming out of the speakers catapults them back on the street. A great listening experience.
Anyway, I thank them for their patience.
And I thank you, reader and music fan, for your interest.
Keep reading, keep listening!