Being a music fan means dealing with a series of obsessions. Some of them grip you for a while, fade, and then make you wonder what you were thinking two years later. Many of them last, though, and some creep up again at surprising times. If you’re lucky, you won’t get re-obsessed with some group’s music after you’ve sold off their recordings.
In 2008, as usual, I went through a series of obsessions. For a while towards the end of the year, I was listening to a lot of Freddie Hubbard. I’d liked him for a long time, and saw him talk back in the 90’s after he suffered lip trouble and scaled down his trumpet career, but I took him for granted for a while. He wasn’t the subtle artist that Miles Davis was, but his effortless expertise and sense of melody are always a pleasure, and his recordings follow jazz history from the 60’s Van Gelder days through the 70’s time of CTI, Fender Rhodes and strings. I tracked down various records of his, and then he died, which was rather eerie.
Then, around the same time, it was the Grateful Dead again. This was the early 90’s Dead (it’s been a few months since I listened to any 70’s shows), around the time I tuned in and at the end of the time when it seemed, at least in a far-fetched way, that their best music could still be made at their next show. The improv events were shorter, and they were often concentrated in the obscure corners of “Drums” and “Space” rather than in extended “Dark Stars” and “Other Ones” but they were there. And I have thought that they might deserve more attention than they have gotten. Or possibly not, but with so much music there, it’s hard to resist the temptation to delve into it.
I thought about what I listened to in 2008 because Dean asked us for “best of 2008” lists. “Best of” lists are as much a part of the end of the year as garish light displays and cold weather. Each critic in the shrinking number of print newspapers presented one. I think they earned their money.
Not much new music in 2008 grabbed me. In fact, the year in general wasn’t one of my favorites. Like most of us, I will remember it for little other than the one big event, the one I spent most of the year tracking and that generated optimism when much of what happened in music (and elsewhere) generated pessimism.
There were exceptions, and some of those came to my attention by way of those weary “best of” lists. Just as people resolve to exercise more or smoke less, I found myself resolving to check out some artists, a few of whom grabbed me with recent discs when given the chance. People such as Erykah Badu, the Fiery Furnaces, TV On The Radio (admittedly a holdover from 2006) and Lil Wayne (admittedly a holdover from 2007). Or Animal Collective, who I haven’t heard yet but have overwhelming enough hype that it seems necessary to deal with them. In our jamband corner, meanwhile, there was hope coming from a recommitted effort from Mike Gordon, and the ensuing promised recommitment from his former band.
This made me think about this year. I have spent some listening time already with music recorded in January 2009, thanks to a NPR podcast documenting jazz guitarist and composer Kurt Rosenwinkel at the Village Vanguard. And the Umphrey’s McGee release that just hit the street sounds quite promising, although I doubt I’ll bother with the special online bonus material device they keep mentioning.
Perhaps in 2009 I will have a best of list at the end of the year. It’s a good thought, although it may go the way of most resolutions.