Like many people, I was saddened to hear about the passing of Pharoah Sanders. I love his music and want to write something, but I need to think a bit about how to do that in a way that’s meaningful to me and to my readers.
In the meantime, I’m going to complain about something incredibly banal and inconsequential. Last week, I noted that the late Ramsey Lewis, whose influence on jazz, R&B, and pop music is undeniable, has not received seen the same barrage of master recordings, authorized bootlegs, and archival remasters as jazz musicians who are more household names. While this is unfortunate, this does make sense to me. I’m likewise disappointed that a good number of Pharoah Sanders 1980s albums released on the Theresa label are not available on many streaming services and only available as rather price CD imports. (I’m particularly disappointed to no longer have my copy of Sanders’s Rejoice where he is joined by Bobby Hutcherson on vibes among many others. It is on Youtube, though. If anyone has a high quality rip of this album and is willing to share…)
I tend to listen to moderately obscure music at times and some of these things are only available on CD. I’m also susceptible to the arguments put forward by guys like John Darko for why they continue to buy CDs. I like the idea of making sure artists get paid more for their work than they would if it were streamed (even if the idea of “owning” music or books feels a bit perverse to me). In any event, I often find myself conflicted between the ease of streaming music and the desire to listen to more obscure recordings or to collect things.
Over the last couple of weeks, there have been two new released that have attracted my attention. The first is John Coltrane’s Blue Train: Complete Masters. This reissue of this classic 1958 Coltrane album is in Blue Note’s fancy Tone Poet series meaning that it really is all about its release on 180 g vinyl. Of course, you can also get it on CD and through most steaming services. As the title indicates, it includes quite a few alternate takes (which appear on the second LP or CD). The alternate takes appear loosely in the order that they appear on album. This is nice because it helps a listener keep mental track of the original recording and discern the differences present in the alternate takes. For example, it feels like Lee Morgan plays more freely in the “Blue Train (Take 7)” than in the version released on the album.
(And, yeah, I thought of Rejoice because it includes a version with vocals (!!) of Coltrane’s now standard “Moments Notice” which originally appeared on Blue Train).
I was also happy to enjoy the latest from the acclaimed Miles Davis bootleg series which featured out takes from the sessions that produced his late classics, Star People (1983) and You’re Under Arrest (1985). Unlike the Coltrane masters, these outtakes do not have the benefit of the original recordings.
This, of course, is understandable considering the complex rights situation. What’s more vexing is the decision to put two versions of the same song back-to-back. I love Miles Davis’s version of “Time After Time” as much as anyone, but close to 15 minutes of it leaves me wanting something else. The back to back versions of “Hopscotch” at different tempos is nice, but it has me wanting to skip ahead (see what I did there?) to the reggae tinged version of “What’s Love Got To Do With It?“
It has become a standard refrain from folks into vinyl and CD that listening to an entire album by an artist is a lost art. As I sit in my comfy chair listening to Rejoice on YouTube without track breaks, thorough or deluxe liner notes or even a track listing, I definitely encounter the music differently. For this very reason, I might be a bit reluctant to buy volume 7 of the otherwise outstanding bootleg series on CD. I’m not sure this is an album that I’d enjoy listening to from start to finish, not because the music isn’t great (it is!), but because instead of releasing an album worth of alternate takes, this is a hatfull of tracks designed, it would appear for skipping and selecting on streaming services rather than setting and enjoying on a physical spinning medium.