Whats and Wherefores


Whatís the reason for this site? In half a lifetime of buying jazz albums, Iíve based a lot of purchases on things Iíd read about certain titles. Both the AMG and Penguin guides were handy bibles, yet there are times when the reviews fall short and leave you wanting more info about the music over anything else. So my intent is to give the reader a detailed idea of what an album sounds like, along with dispensing my personal opinions. As for technical musical references, Iím aware that some of my comments will only make sense to musicians. But I encourage music lovers to learn as much about the actual craft as they can, as it can only aid appreciation.

Why isnít Artist X or Album Y included? A) I donít have any of that artistís stuff. B) Iíve got that album but no inclination to write about it. C) Iím working on it. In a nutshell, this website is just me reviewing most of my personal collection, with no pretense of being a comprehensive jazz resource. So there are scores of major artists absent, and also absent albums from the artists I do review. Iím aware that Jackie McLean had a career before and after Blue Note, for example, but I donít have all those titles to write about. So I offer what I can, or at least what I feel is interesting.

Why no ratings? Because itís arbitrary to begin with, and I donít want to wake up one morning and decide that a certain title really needs 4 stars instead of 3 and a half, etc.

When did you start writing? The idea was conceived somewhere in 2004 (or maybe earlier) and writing commenced in bulk from there. I cannibalized a couple of reviews I wrote for a popular online retail site (after deleting them from that site) and I also redid a few reviews that I wrote for a local entertainment weekly. Apart from those small head starts, the vast majority of text was written explicitly for this website.

CD, MP3, SACD, LP? I donít even know how to download a music file, nor do I yearn to tote my collection on a handheld pod. Every title reviewed here has been purchased on CD. Burns are okay as a temporary measure, but I grew up at the tail end of the LP era, where album artwork was part of the full effect, and I need the booklets/artwork/liner notes, etc. The other reason I buy everything is so that my patronís voice registers with the record companies - albums need sales to stay in print. Thatís what a record company understandably looks for, vis-a-vis their business concerns. If I want Blue Note to continue reissuing valuable titles on CD, Iíd better be willing to let them know with my wallet. Same with other niche companies. Sounds like a fair transaction to me.

CDs might be a hair below LPs at their sonic best, but Iím not rich enough to be a vinyl audiophile, and CDs do have convenient listening advantages. (Even if they have erased the old Side A and Side B distinctions.) But I remember my early days as a young record buyer, and the unique scent of a freshly opened 12Ē.

I tend to upgrade where possible, in terms of remastering. Generally, the remasters of the music I listen to (Blue Note RVGs, Fantasy K2s, etc) are improvements over initial issues. But not always.

As for SACD or DVD-Audio, Iíll stick with CDs as long as I can. I like keeping my music titles in the same format. Surround mixes donít interest me much, especially if the music was originally intended for stereo only. Changing formats is a major event that a civilized Westerner should only have to do once in a lifespan, and since Iíve already jumped from cassettes/LPs to CDs, and from VHS to DVD, I feel Iíve discharged the lifetime requirements. The important thing is that the music itself not be lost in a frenzy of vanguard hardware and competing formats.

How often do you update? How may I contact? Updates will come sporadically and will be noted on the front page. My email contact is chris at jazzshelf dot org.


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