When I say it's my favorite kind of book, I don't mean to say I'm in love with reference books of all kinds--you won't find me pouring over a pile of concordances and dictionaries in my free time--but with books packed with what I call "little bits," tiny discreet prose pieces that that give a colorful take on a particular topic and then close up shop. A short attention span like mine--and what begets poetry and poets if not a short attention span in love with literature--feats on these little reviews, gobbling two or three at a sitting, then saving the book for later, like the last few cookies on the plate. But what a bountiful plate--as soon as I've had what seems to be my fill (looked up all the albums by Sam Rivers, as I did this morning, for instance), leaving the plate seemingly empty, lo and behold, it is full again as my craving shifts to Ornette Coleman!
I'm being a bit silly with my cookies here, but what I'm getting at, too, is that I think it's this kind of reading that has in fact drawn us as a culture to the Internet. Folks are always bemoaning the Internet's affect on our cultural attention span, as if the Web has killed the patient brain cells that would allow anyone to crack the heavy covers of Swan's Way. But I would argue that the Internet also answered for a craving that was there all along, the same one that has always had the intelligentsia flipping right to "The Goings On About Town" section of The New Yorker before tackling this week's often underwhelming short story. By which is mean it is not merely bad that we read briefly and widely online--diving into In Search of Lost Time is no more an act of will now than it ever was.
I love these kinds of reference books, especially when they're about music. On an average chilly Monday, you might also find my nose buried in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, which, admittedly, is rather awkwardly written, but is the best place to find out about the time your uncle Mickey and Bobby Zimmerman crossed paths in 1983. Michael Gray, the Encyclopedia's author, really seems to have covered everything--if you have an Uncle Mickey and he did indeed bump into Dylan, I wouldn't be surprised to find he's in there. So, read briefly and often, I say.
Now on to today's suggested listening, another jazz disc you probably don't care to know about. Yesterday, I urged you to seek out a great LP by Louis Armstrong. Today I'm going to fast forward to something much newer. May I recommend Cerebral Flow by the young sax player Logan Richardson, a debut disc released by the Spanish Fresh Sounds label in 2007. Richardson, who is from Kansas City, is indeed young--like me, he's turning 30 this year (I'm actually turning 30 on Friday, but more about that later)--and he seems to me to be exemplary o f what contemporary mainstream jazz has to offer. Like contemporary mainstream poetry, contemporary mainstream jazz is a synthesis of "traditional" and "experimental" strains. On Richardson's first album (there is a second album called Ethos released early this year, but frankly I find it less interesting) you'll hear some "out" playing descending from the wilder 60s albums of folks like Coleman, Rivers,Dolphy and of course Coltrane. But you'll also hear some accessible "in" playing. Usually, you'll hear both on the same tune. The compositions and arrangements are also a neat blend of in and out, and there's also the excellent vibraphone playing of another young artist named Mike Pinto (the vibes are most delicious of jazz's sounds to my ear: drums with melody, a piano you can hit, chords in which you can feel every note). This album is not hard to find online. I dare you to see what you think.