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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Sonny Rollins on RCA (almost complete)

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Sonny Rollins RCA BoxOn many levels, I’m highly pleased with my recent purchase of Original Album Classics by Sonny Rollins. Let me count the ways:

  1. It gathers together in one set five of the six LPs Rollins recorded during his tenure with RCA Victor. (The one that’s missing is The Bridge, his first RCA LP.)
  2. The CDs aren’t totally “original” in that they include additional and alternate performances that expand on the LP issues.
  3. The CDs are packed in mini-LP folders that reproduce the original album covers, front and back. This provides economy, environmental benefits, and ease of handling.
  4. The price is nice. I bought my brand new box from MovieMars (via eBay) for $20.99, including shipping.
  5. The set is manufactured and distributed in the USA by Sony Music Entertainment. I hope that means that my purchase will add a bit to the next royalty check that Rollins gets from Sony.

The music is what it is. I’m not going to second guess Rollins, or for that matter the reviewers, from back in the ’60s. The sound on the CDs is just fine, thanks. I haven’t compared it to the LP versions I have, but I’m very comfortable when I listen.

There’s one thing that rattled me a bit. When I pulled the first CD out of its packet, I found myself looking at a variation of the classic red Columbia six-eye LP label with the name Sonny Rollins on it and RCA logos in the black boxes where the LP eye graphics would have been.

Back in the day, those two companies were direct competitors and Columbia was one of the labels that Sonny Rollins never recorded for. Seeing his name on Columbia red drove home how things have changed in the last 50+ years. I didn’t need that.


Pandora: Radio for today

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Except occasional listening in the car, I’ve pretty much had it with terrestrial radio. As a music lover with a strong propensity for jazz listening, I’ve found that the airwaves have pretty much abandoned me.  So a year or so ago, I pulled the AM/FM tuners out of the audio systems at both my northeast and southwest residences. I still enjoy listening to radio-style programming. In fact I currently enjoy it more than I have in years.  But now all of it arrives as an Internet stream through Roku devices and most is delivered by a virtual DJ who resides on the Pandora music service.  (I also use the Roku to stream a couple of traditional radio stations, more on that in another post.)

I make Pandora stations by specifying artists, genres, albums, or even specific tunes. My station list includes, for example,”Dizzy Gillespie Radio” (artist-centric), “Mariachi Fiesta Mexicana Radio” (genre-centric), and “Royal Roost Live Radio (album-centric).

The Pandora DJ chooses the specific selections to play on any station after I set the general tone of that station, kind of like a program director on regular radio.

Artist and album stations do not limit themselves to tracks by the named artist or selections from the named album. In fact, the service’s licensing agreements with content providers specifies that only a certain number of selections per hour by Dizzy Gillespie, for instance, can be streamed by a user’s Dizzy Gillespie Radio. The other selections will be (or should be) by artists whose music is related to or evocative of Dizzy Gillespie.  Pandora bases all this on what it calls the Music Genome Project.  Generally it works exceedingly well.

Pandora’s most rewarding feature is the ability to make Shuffle stations. Initially it’s automatic. Every station you create is put into a station called My Shuffle.  If you go to Pandora.com through your computer, you can fine tune My Shuffle to include only those stations you feel should be there.

In my case, I put almost all of my jazz-related stations into My Shuffle, but left out the Mariachis, the classical, and the South American Andean music station. I also removed Billy Strayhorn Radio and Jimmy Rushing Radio because Pandora seems to have access to only one album by each and I’ve heard everything Pandora has to offer enough times, thanks. The stations themselves are still on my account so I can fire them up if I feel so inclined.

Making stations around what one might call secondary artists seems to work well for me with jazz. So I have stations for Yusef Lateef (rather than John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins) and Dr. Lonnie Smith (rather than Jimmy Smith). Specificity helps, too. I get better results from Terry Gibbs Dream Band than I did from Terry Gibbs. My Pandora shuffle list (as of this writing) follows. And for more hints on getting as much as you can out of your Pandora listening, I highly recommend this posting from Wendy Boswell at Lifehacker.com.

Here are the Pandora stations that are in My Shuffle.

Ben Webster Radio
Lauren Sevian Radio
Bill Evans Radio
Lester Young Radio
Bud Powell Radio
Manny Albam Radio
Charles Mingus Radio
Mark Murphy Radio
Clark Terry Radio
Omer Avital Group Radio
Clifford Brown Radio
Phineas Newborn Jr. Radio
Dizzy Gillespie Radio
Rahsaan Roland Kirk Radio
Don Ellis Radio
Red Garland Radio
Dr. Lonnie Smith Radio
Royal Roost Live Radio
Duke Ellington Radio
Stan Getz Radio
Eddie Costa Trio Radio
Terry Gibbs Dream Band Radio
Eric Alexander Radio
The Boswell Sisters Radio
Erroll Garner Radio
Thelonious Monk Radio
Fats Waller Radio
Wardell Gray Radio
Jelly Roll Morton Radio
Wes Montgomery Radio
Jerry Gonzalez Ft. Apache Band Radio
Woody Herman Radio
Jimmy Giuffre Radio
Wynton Kelly Radio
Joe Farrell Radio
Yusef Lateef Radio
Johnny Hodges Radio

And here are the stations that I’ve left out of My Shuffle.

Andina-Huayno Radio
Jimmy Rushing Radio
Antonio Vivaldi Radio
Mariachi Fiesta Radio
Billy Strayhorn Radio
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Radio
Esperanza Spalding Radio

Pandora or Spotify? Not really.

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Pandora or Spotify?My first shot at a poll is now posted at the upper left on my main site.

The poll is insanely unscientific, of course.  “For entertainment only” is the usual disclaimer for these sorts Q&A games.

In any case, it offers anyone (you don’t have to register) an opportunity to indicate a preference for either Pandora or Spotfiy, two of the more widely publicized online music services.  But it’s an odd choice.  Aside from allowing listening to music via the Internet, the two could hardly be more different.  Pandora is a variety of Internet radio station.  Spotify is a music library service.  There are plenty more of each out there.

Personally, I prefer Pandora.  What that means is that I prefer the radio model to the library model.  I find it more entertaining, more illuminating, more enjoyable, and easier.  That last bit is the clincher for me.  With Pandora (and other Internet radio providers), I get to do more listening and less searching and organizing.

A more carefully considered phrasing would have been “Internet radio or Internet library?” but that’s a lot less likely to show up in searches.  So it’s “Pandora or Spotify?