It’s All Good

The thing I miss most about not being on the editorial staff at Keyboard (I left in 2002, after 25+ years) is that I no longer get to check out the new CDs. For most of that time, I was the chief record reviewer (which meant LPs, when we started the magazine in 1975). Every month, dozens or hundreds of new releases would arrive in my office, and I got to listen to them.

It was an education and a half. Keyboard always strove (and still does) to be eclectic with respect to style and genre, so I was listening to new jazz, old-style jazz, straight-up classical, avant-garde, hip-hop, prog rock, new age, fusion, hardcore synthesizer techno, and indie releases that were absolutely unclassifiable — you name it, it landed in the big tub. When I started, I knew very little about jazz. I learned!

In the early years, we kept a good record library, which contained both new releases and older material we had picked up for research. But by the late 1980s, the library was becoming unwieldy. Also, the company had gone through a few management changes, and the new bosses were less interested in … well, let’s be honest. They were less interested in music than the old bosses had been.

At some point (by now the chronology is hazy) they decided to liquidate the library. So I got to cherry-pick the stuff I wanted in my personal collection. After that, I kept right on cherry-picking. Every month, the CDs I liked best wound up on my shelves.

I was thinking about this today because I’ve been clearing out a storage locker in which a bunch of stuff has been gathering dust since I was laid off. I gave a couple of hundred CDs to the local Friends Of The Library (great organization!), mostly the techno, which I can’t imagine ever wanting to listen to again. What I have left is an amazing collection — the best of the best — everything from Bach to Meat Beat Manifesto.

Not only keyboard music, either: Sometimes the silly record companies would send us everything they released, whether or not it was suitable for review in Keyboard. I’ve got box sets of Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, for instance. But lots of amazing keyboard CDs, too — Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, you name it. Plus a ton of classical CDs, some of which I picked up when I was a member of one of those CD clubs (Columbia, I think).

It’s a supremely disorganized collection; there’s one Weather Report album, for instance, not a complete history of the band. But there’s enough great music here that I’ll never be able to listen to it all.

Even so, I’m a slut. I wish I was still at Keyboard, specifically so I could keep on scooping up the great new releases.

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