Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year's resolution for music critics

Repeat after me -- I will never again write anything resembling this:

... three and a half hours of intelligent groove, informed by jazz but rarely beholden to it, with improvisation as a binding but nonidiomatic force.

One piece began with a faintly samba-like invocation before clamping down on a vamp in quintuple meter.

....medium-tempo tension and dense contrapuntal cross-hatching....

As a sideman he has long been known for feverish disruption, lurching fast from one premise to the next. [This CD] established him as a bandleader-composer of calmer, more woozily immersive aims.

The songs were often abstracted, but "M__________," which closed the set, unfolded on deceptively simple terms: a quarter-note melody, played by Mr. S______ with sighing restraint, before an eventual onrush of distortion.

[The band] played a more variegated and simply thrilling set than either of the openers, delivering not only derivations of New Orleans funk... but also variations on spaghetti-western soundtracks, Middle Eastern music, retro faux-reggae and texture-mad free jazz.

[The bass'] strong masonry of tonic notes...

[The piano] would linger over melodic phrases in the song and then add a single banged note like an exclamation point; at other times he seemed to be meditatively walking away from the song, building chordal patterns that fragmented and dissipated as the rest of the band stayed on the watch.. He made the piano misbehave: it grew argumentative and disruptive; it mumbled and receded dramatically, like smoke after a shelling.

...sketching a three-note pattern over a seven-beat cycle [while] bass and drums struck up a crosscurrent, clattering and oblique...

I have no desire to embarrass any active practitioners, so these examples are not current; I've been saving them for a while. Let's hope that those whose writing is displayed above have since moved on to honest work, or else have enrolled in remedial courses in English composition.

Oh, yes -- classical reviewers, you're not exempt from this resolution. No more of this, please:

His playing fuses the aristocratic elegance of the 'golden age' with contemporary fastidiousness. In his hands fusty interpretive accretions built up over generations are peeled away to reveal pristine musical surfaces. Structures torn asunder by subjective whimsy regain their organic composure.

Fusing elegance with fastidiousness? This is praise? Is this reviewer getting paid by the syllable?

What a way to make a living. Thank goodness I'm just an enthusiast.


  1. Give me those old quarter-note melodies, they're good enough for me!

  2. Give me that good ol' quintuple meter every time -- with cross-hatching!