Just as a cinephile might consider projection options for the home theater he or she will never be able to afford, I’ve spent far too many train rides daydreaming about a dedicated listening room that exists only in the Land of Oz. Fellow jazz obsessives, you know the sort: audiophile turntable that could be traded for a used car; speakers positioned in their thoroughly tested sweet spots; hardwood shelving built into the walls, packed with vinyl and CDs organized by record label; an Eames lounge chair with matching ottoman.
As with most things, reality hasn’t measured up. I live among modest gear in a cramped Queens apartment stuffed to the gills with CDs and books, plus a storage unit whose rental payments have eclipsed the value of its contents 1,000 times over. For a while, this constant, unwinnable struggle to catalogue gave me a different aspiration: to rent one of those clutterless hypermodern pads exclusive to cellphone commercials and CSI: Miami. I could control all of my music through an iPad and wouldn’t have to dust ever again. My girlfriend wouldn’t have to live between boxes of Blue Note promos at the world’s shabbiest performing arts library.
But MP3 and streaming sound does good music no justice, and I loathe reading liner notes online. And in recent years-especially over the past couple of months-a succession of vault releases from Resonance Records has restored my faith in and allegiance to the CD era. This issue is saturated with coverage of those packages, from the main attraction (Bill Evans) through Opening Chorus (the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra) and into the reviews section (Stan Getz/João Gilberto, Larry Young, Sarah Vaughan). Usually I’d be concerned about appearances of favoritism, but anyone who owns these sets knows the score.
Most important, the music has been one occasion for reevaluation after another. Through Resonance’s efforts we’ve experienced Coltrane’s singing voice, and with respect to Young or Wes Montgomery, heard fascinatingly unformed playing by musicians yet to settle into stylistic trademarks. In the case of Bill Evans, one of jazz’s great unlived bands gets its rightful studio release a half-century late. (There too the performance differs from our mind’s eye, with surprisingly hard angles.) The voluminous liner essays, interviews and rare photos included in these products might recall the ’90s box-set explosion, but I don’t recall much from that period that exhibited Resonance’s level of dedication to research and excavation. The company does make its releases (and notes) available via download, but you’ll want this stuff in your hands.