Monday, February 1, 2010

Jazz In January: Outliving its Namesake Month

Ah, the first month of the first year of the new decade is over. How did you do? Are things looking good for the 10's? We made sure to get things off to a solid start here at AccuJazz. We celebrated a made-up, month-long holiday called "Jazz in January," where we gave you, the listeners, some lovely new channels as gifts. Even though it's February, we're going to keep the JIJ decorations up on the site for a little while. You don't take the Christmas tree down on December 26th, do you?

As detailed in the last post, we launched a channel devoted to jazz musicians with January birthdays as well as channels based on the line-ups of both SFJazz and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

To finish up Jazz in January, we've launched channels devoted to two great jazz record labels that celebrated significant anniversaries last year: Blue Note, who just celebrated 70 years in business, and ECM, who turned 40.

My boss and I have been talking about the idea of label-specific channels for a while, but for some reason or another (probably the fact that we had no lack of ideas for channels), it has only now become a reality. Judging from listener feedback on the shoutbox (on the AccuJazz homepage) and on twitter, it was a good idea.

In an age when record labels are becoming less and less central to the dissemination of indie music styles (like jazz), Blue Note and ECM have stood the test of time as reliable curators of music with strong brand identities.

They are among the few record labels that have a specific "sound" associated with their name. In fact, "ECM feel" has been widely accepted as a musical term indicating a loose, straight 8th note rhythmic pulse. "The Blue Note Sound" is a commonly used phrase in jazz discussions, usually referencing the classic hard bop of Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon and Lee Morgan. To be sure, both labels have released plenty of music that doesn't fit either of those stereotypes, but the fact that their names have entered the lexicon as something beyond mere music business middlemen is notable.

What's exceptional about these two labels is that they have continued releasing all types of adventurous new music in the 21st Century. When you pop on the Blue Note channel, you'll hear everything from Sidney Bechet to Jason Moran. Likewise with ECM; you might hear Keith Jarrett's famous Koln Concert followed by some sax/accordion duets by Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli, from their spacious 2008 album Yeraz. You'll likely be surprised by the music on both channels.

Happy listening, and do let us know if you have any other suggestions for future channels. There are plenty in the bullpen now, but we're always looking for new ideas.