In an interesting pair of posts on his blog, David's Waste of Bandwidth, David Toub has sounded off on the pros and cons of the Internet music store eMusic.com. In his first post, Toub succinctly described the way the site works -- a subscription format entitles you to X-number of downloads per month, which are provided in MP3 format without DRM coding. And unlike some other subscription-based services, if you cancel your eMusic subscription, the files you've already downloaded continue to work. But Toub also noted that the site's offerings, limited to independent labels only, can be limiting if you know exactly what you want but can't find it. In his second post, Toub reconsidered that position, noting that a more diligent search turned up unanticipated treasures.
I bring this up because eMusic has hired me to review a few jazz albums for them lately -- Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar, Cecil Taylor's The World of Cecil Taylor. Recently, I was invited to create what's called an "eMusic Dozen": a sort of starter pack organized by a certain theme -- a genre, a style, an artist, a label, a historical period. Specifically, in response to the New York Times article about the alternate canon of '70s jazz that roared into being as the result of challenges from Dave Douglas and Ethan Iverson, I was asked to compile a '70s jazz Dozen, which was posted at the end of last week.
The project was a serious challenge, since I was limited to eMusic's holdings, ruling out all major-label recordings and a substantial number of indie releases mentioned during the original flurry of blog posts. Some artists -- Coleman, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett -- could not be included at all. In a few other cases, I had to choose a representative recording that might not have been an overall first choice for an artist or group, but which nonetheless gave a representation of what made their work significant.
In the end, I tried to balance old and new, traditional and avant-garde, domestic and international releases, in order to present a concise overview of vital '70s recordings. I don't expect that everyone will agree with my conclusions, but here's what I came up with, in alphabetical order:
Art Ensemble of Chicago - Chi-Congo
Duke Ellington - The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse
Dizzy Gillespie - Dizzy's Big 4
Steve Lacy - Scratching the Seventies/Dreams
Art Pepper - Straight Life
Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams
Revolutionary Ensemble - The Psyche
Sam Rivers - Waves
Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio - Pakistani Pomade
Woody Shaw - Blackstone Legacy
Sun Ra - Languidity
McCoy Tyner - Echoes of a Friend
(Full disclosure: I am compensated for my eMusic writing, both through payment for reviews and access to a limited number of complimentary downloads. But let me state for the record that I'm not posting this to sell eMusic subscriptions and I don't get a kickback; I'm just putting my effort out there in the blogosphere, to keep discussion and debate alive.)