Remember this? Nervously extracting a purchase of music from its wrapping and inserting it into the reproduction device (CD player? Tape Player… record player?!) not knowing quite what it will sound like!! Will I like it? Will it be any good?
I re-experienced this yesterday having popped into recently relocated paradise. Whilst there I spotted Sleeper, just released on ECM, a double CD of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet previously unreleased from 1979. I had a pretty shrewd idea what it might sound like. The band was one of my early discoveries when I really started listening to jazz. I was instantly captivated then, gradually acquired all their recordings including Personal Mountains, released at the time and recorded on the same tour as this new release. Still you can never be quite sure, and this release has some new material for this band (I can feel anorak tendencies kicking in, so I’ll refrain from detailing these and which ones I’ve transcribed!). Mysteriously, I also left the shop with the James Farm CD, Joshua Redman’s band. I’ve only read about them – but was pretty sure I’d like it, but you can never be certain.
And what of that nervous moment then? Does anyone put them self in that position any more? With instant download of individual tracks, streaming services (many free), it seems almost perverse not to have sampled, checked out the music first and maybe just listened again and again for free via my Internet connection. Not such a good thing for the artist. Well maybe it is perverse to still buy CDs without knowing quite what you’re getting, but I did get a bit of thrill as I sat to listen, and a bigger one as the expectations were met. Where all that instant and free access is leading I don’t know. Is it generating a bigger audience? making it harder for musicians to earn a living directly from sales of their music? Both? Manfred Eicher (of ECM) seems unsure, I think the ECM catalogue has been removed from Spotify.