Stories » John Coltrane - Blue World makes Something Else 'Best of 2019'

Top 10 for Dec

John Coltrane - Blue World makes Something Else 'Best of 2019'

Bookmark and Share

I first became acquainted with Chekhov's tale nearly 100 years after it was written. For those unfamiliar with the story's premise: During a discussion about capital punishment, a young lawyer wagers that he can endure 15 years of voluntary house arrest and solitary confinement against a rich banker's promised payout of millions.

Like many readers, I've often wondered how I myself might respond in such circumstances. In the story, one of the conditions of the bet is that the lawyer could request books to read; of course, I would update these terms to include LPs and compact discs for my listening pleasure and study. Imagine being able to request the complete recorded output of Bruce Springsteen, or all Bob Dylan's bootlegs, or every obscurity the Beatles committed to tape. And why not? You'd certainly have time to listen to it all.

But I recently had a revelation: In the context of the internet and digital media, we're now in a very similar situation. If you look hard enough (and in some cases, you don't even have to look hard at all), you can find in some form or another pretty much every song you'd ever want to hear.

Some calculate that there at least 40 million songs out there. So, matching a modest estimate of life expectancy with a similarly modest estimate of songs and running times produces this result: Even if you listened to music 24/7, you would still need about five or six lifetimes to hear every song once.

Now in my case, I tend to listen to music a lot like Chekhov's lawyer requests reading materials: I go through phases, like when I was an angsty 18 year old and listened to mostly nothing but the Doors for months on end; I did the same many years later with the Velvet Underground when their multiple stereo mixes, mono mixes and associated related live recordings became officially available. Or all the Led Zeppelin reissues. Or my recent fascination with prog. Or Euro-retro rock. Or ska. You get the point.

It's also just as easy to find oneself going down the rabbit hole (borrowing a different literary convention by a different author) and listening to everything and anything at all and nothing in particular, much like the way the not-so-young-anymore lawyer chose his reading materials 15 years later in an effort to preserve himself.

Maybe that's the case for modern music in general, and whatever audience is left that hasn't pledged its allegiance to e-sports – or maybe that's just me in particular. If so, I don't know if the following Best of 2019 list is indicative of such an act of desperate listening on my part. Still, if nothing else, this year's new releases – along with some that are just new to me – indicate that there is still plenty of music out there in which to be interested.

JOHN COLTRANE – BLUE WORLD (JAZZ): Not so much a reissue, as a lost session from a Canadian National Film Board production. Featuring John Coltrane's classic quartet, this 1964 recording helps complete the historical record more than anything. Still, most Coltrane fans will probably consider it an essential acquisition.

SEE THE Something Else PAGE