How to fix the way-too-long-jazz-cd problem.

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A few posts back I wrote about what I feel to be a problem with many new jazz cds now: their-way-too-longness.  Well I’ve come across two recent solutions that address two of the three possible reasons I came up for why folks are putting out so many long albums.

(I cannot offer a solution to the third possible cause, as I know of no way to get around an artist’s narcissism.) 

Reminder of possible cause 1: “Most of the CDs I get, regardless of how I get them, are often by musicians who are not household names and who are often putting up their own cash to record their projects.  In this case I can totally understand the impulse to record as much of their music as possible, because who knows when the next chance to record their work will be.

Solution to cause 1: In the liner notes to the Andrew Oliver Sextet’s latest, 82% Chance of Rain, Oliver explains the disc’s separation into two different sets, which are each concluded by the band’s theme song, “Only A Quality Lime for Eric Gruber” (what happened to the days when a band’s theme song was called “theme”?): “In these days of 70-minute-plus albums,  I hope such a format will make the album pleasantly digestible, as it were” (you can imagine my elation as soon as my eyes first saw what he was saying). It’s a novel concept that I would have never thought of.  Don’t want to budget 65 minutes to listen to the whole thing?, then start on track six, which happens to be the title track, to hear the second mini-set.  Ok, so it’s still a long album, but hey, think of it as two different albums and you’re good to go.  Way cool Andrew Oliver Sextet, way cool.  Way to represent PDX (that’s Portland, OR for all you gringos).

…..now onto the second solution….

Reminder of possible cause 2: “Household names – or at least “Established Talent,” as the Downbeat critics poll category goes – such as Bill Frisell, who seemingly have a new band and record them every other month probably want to document as much of their new band as possible, as chances are the next record is going to be completely different.

Solution to cause 2: Do what Dave Douglas and Keystone have done with their new album Spark of Being and release a tidy 45 minute version of their project and simultaneously release it with a box set of all the music from the session.  The complete Spark of Being box set takes up three discs: the second disc, Figure 2: Expand is the single album that most folks will purchase; while the first disc, Figure 1: Soundtrack (64 min.), is – I assume – the full soundtrack to the Spark of Being film and has slightly different versions of some of Expand‘s tracks; the third disc (55 min.), Figure 3: Burst offers all new tunes, save for “Creature (Closure).”  Taken together Douglas’ & co.’s box set is a well conceived and executed document of the Spark of Being project.  Each disc is slightly conceptually different from the others, and as such they are able to stand on their own – giving the brave soul (I was probably the only person at their KC gig to buy it) three separate and aesthetically rewarding albums.  Douglas’ approach on Spark of Being offers one answer to how to best document a project: it gives the average consumer an excellent, digestible album that is not bogged down with superfluous tracks, and it gives the über-nerds such as myself, who barely hesitate to throw down the 40 bucks, the chance to hear everything one of their favorite artists has to say.

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