Slayer planet

Meltzer leaves L.A., tosses Ornette, Parker, Dolphy, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Lester Young, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor

Earthquake aftermath, Sherman Oaks
  • Earthquake aftermath, Sherman Oaks
  • Image by Ted Soqui

Getting rid of records, right, because of the goddamn quake. Like bricks, dead albums fall heavy. They fell and they fell — hard — and in five months of aftershocks have fallen some more. Less hard but still. Bricks I have too — I use them as bookends, as paperweights — and they fell, hard, loud and heavy, if not nearly as far. Less high on shelves, and less of ’em. I have THREE THOUSAND jazz albums, man, at least a thousand rock albs, and who knows how many hundreds of blues, reggae, R&B, folk, comedy, novelty, whatnot. Whew.

Seismograph reading, Northridge earthquake

Seismograph reading, Northridge earthquake

Dead I say because they’re fucking obsolete. I hardly play any anymore. Don’t think I’ve listened to 30 in the last year. When I’m sitting writing I can’t be bothered with in and out of sleeves, dust ’em, 20-minute sides, get up, turn ’em over, change and care for ’em.

Gas fire

Gas fire

Much as I try to evade such inevitabilities, like any other schmuck I’m a creature in the end of topical hands historically dealt. Easy chases out less easy. And although no audiophile snob, or audiophile anything, I admit the pops and cracks of long-loved vinyl bother me; the warps. Though my equipment is nowhere good enough to allow me to encounter/experience the true glorious wonderfulness of CD sound (if such biz be not mere hype but true), original digital recordings so far sound okay to me.

Freeway overpass

Freeway overpass

Then I think of all my poor records — how angry do you want me to be? I amass this massive stack — a collection, more than a collection, almost a library (people come over just to hear stuff; mags call me with “fact check” questions) — many many many of which will never be issued on CD I would bet my pud. Easy decommissioning less easy, they’ve become soundless bric-a-brac. Do they still even make styluses?

Lindley Avenue, Northridge

Lindley Avenue, Northridge

I pick ’em off the floor, restack ’em, shelf upon shelf, left to right, A to Z. Some cover damage but no breakage, thank heck I’m not 20 years older and they’re 78s. But what an empty chore, what an everlasting gig — it dawns on me — like I’m saving/preserving dusty, crumbly museum pieces. Feeling like a Flying Wallenda (speaking of all-fall-down), I flash on that line from their penultimate crackup: ich kann nicht mehr halten. One Wallenda tells the others he can’t hold it no more — just prior to dropping them — and I can’t keep this up much longer myself. If I can imagine having nothing — move the epicenter a dozen miles and we’re talking Nothing — I can live with less of Something, a lot less something, easy. But dropping to this less rather than that less could be one tough slide. (Better keep a ladder and a net.)

Some choices are snaps. Any LPI haven’t played in 13 years, or played only once, back when I first got it, or that surprises me to see now still around at all. Like the Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson Quartet, Dancing on the Tables, an import on Steeplechase, with Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Billy Hart. Did I even play it once? The guy’s a passable first-unit European bass player, no Oscar Pettiford but what the hey, kind of at times an old-fashioned joke compared to contempo Euros like, for ex., Peter Kowald and Maarten Altena, but he’ll do. He’s on ten billion albums, behind everybody from Bud Powell to Lee Konitz to Anthony Braxton, he’s consistent, dependable, blah blah blah, but I picked this up (used) only because it featured him as leader. Which is no reason in even the laziest of times to keep something — spinning once and forgetting — and no reason nohow now.

Or the eponymous Codona — Don Cherry, Collin Walcott, Nana Vasconcelos — on ECM. Sitar (Walcott) in a front-line jazz setting? C’mon. This one I don’t think I even got through the first listen, and kept it only ’cause it’s long been my wont to be a Don Cherry completist — hey, he worked with Ornette Coleman, played some great seminal trumpet in the late ’50s, early to mid ’60s — a luxury I can no longer afford so fuck it, g’bye, G’bye too to Don’s mid-’70s Hear and Now on Atlantic (annoying neo-fusionish bullcrap) and Brown Rice on A&M/Hori-zon (ditto and worse). And speaking of Ornette-derived completisms, Charlie Haden’s Folk Song (with Jan Garbarek and Egberto Gismonti, on ECM), g’bye to that too. And Exploring the Scene by “The Poll Winners” — Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne — on Ornette’s original label, Contemporary, which I’ve saved unplayed for the last 11 years on one pretext only: a tepid run-through of Ornette’s “The Blessing” (along with “So What,” “The Duke,” “Doodlin’,” etc.) cut in August ’60 — possibly the earliest recording of an Ornette tune by somebody else: ’bye.

Other “affiliations” that can go: Double, Double You by Kenny Wheeler (played straight man a couple times for Braxton, but his sound, his tone, has always made my skin crawl); Expansions by McCoy Tyner (so what if he turned cartwheels with John Coltrane, ’s no way I feel like hearing him this week with Hubert Laws and Gary Bartz); Night Music by Woody Shaw (who recorded with Eric Dolphy a year before Eric died, and thought of himself — even if it rarely showed — as Coltrane-influenced, but other-wise/even so...keep it).

There’re some people I was never a completist for, or if I was I didn’t mean to be, like Stan Getz — nobody needs 24 Stan Getz albums. Especially post-bossa nova trash on Columbia — Another World; ’80s repackage The Lyrical Stan Getz — and RCA — A Song After Sundown, with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Or okay, Horace Silver, 17 albums, fine, but 19? So I jettison Silver yn Wood, featuring “The Tranquilizer Suite,” and That Healin Feelin, the one with him in a turban, nice cover — but he’s also on electric piano, and oh those vocals (ulp) by Andy Bey.

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