Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Natural Selection

Last night, trolling Tower Records looking for hidden gems, I found a disc of Wayne Shorter's music recorded by Enrico Pieranunzi. I've looked at about 40 different charts by Shorter in the past six weeks, so this caught my eye; and it was released by Challenge Records, which is usually a seal of quality. I picked it up and carried it around for awhile, trying to decide whether to buy it; but ultimately, I put it back.

Partly, it's January; my wallet is recovering from Christmas, and my head is still ringing with financial resolutions. But as I was standing in the aisle reading the track list, it occurred to me, "I've got all of Shorter's albums. Why don't I just go home and listen to him play his music?"

Enrico Pieranunzi is a top shelf pianist. As a matter of fact, I expect tomorrow's mail delivery to include his new album (also on Challenge), a double-CD recorded live with Hein van de Geyn and André Ceccarelli. I'm sure Infant Eyes is more than simply driving in Shorter's tracks; I'm sure that Pieranunzi plotted an original tack and brought something worthwhile to each tune. I would like to hear it; I added it to my list, and I'll pick it up someday.

But I'm getting older; and I'm becoming stingier, more critical, and far less willing to drop a coin on every kid slinging a horn who sprints down the turnpike. I used to consider it a badge of honor that I knew all their names, and could speak intelligently about their styles as soon as they broke out. I've watched too many of those bright young could-be's drop into private lessons and disappear from sight forever. Now, I consider it a waste of my time.

I'm not yet a cynic. When I listed my Top 10 albums from last year, it wasn't hard to think of ten; I started with about 30, actually, and edited. There's plenty of great music being made. But whereas I once found value in trying to know everything, today I'm less willing to invest time on mediocrity. A great CD is going to reveal new facets upon repeated listening, and I'm going to enjoy each time more than the last — so that's where I want to focus my attention.


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