Reviews, reviews, reviews…

Well, only two of them actually. It’s a interesting experience reading reviews of your published work that aren’t by anonymous referees, as is normally the case in academia. And when you’re publishing on a subject like a famous record by Keith Jarrett, then it turns out that reading what the jazz press think is an interesting exercise. They’re both nice positive reviews, but I suppose like most authors, I’m naturally drawn to what else they think I should have done.

The New York Jazz Record thinks that I tend to ‘over-philosophize’. Which I take as a compliment actually, because most of my academic peers think that I tend to avoid wordiness in favour of clarity. So perhaps I do spend quite a bit of time in the book thinking about what certain aspects of the record say about certain issues (liveness, improvisation, and so on), but I think I’d rather do that than just spend my time doing nothing but analysis, or telling a story.

The Jazz Journal, meanwhile, thinks that I’m fine when talking about the music, but they’re not so sure I explain why that particular record should be the one everyone owns. I think I disagree actually, but then they say that part of the problem is that The Koln Concert isn’t really a jazz record at all. But in saying that they’re making my point for me. Jazz studies, by and large, doesn’t have frameworks to deal with records when they become something beyond that enjoyed by a relatively select audience. In fact, we don’t really have even so much work in musicology on that (the exception I’d make is Tia DeNora’s work).  So perhaps I’m writing about The Koln Concert as a jazz scholar, looking out and trying to understand the idea of a jazz record that isn’t a jazz record. But I hope not really. The whole point of understanding The Koln Concert is that it has become something that jazz records don’t (and shouldn’t?) normally become. The result is that it allows us to reflect on the preconceptions we bring to the utility and function of recorded music.