Arranging a larger music collection can be a pretty daunting task, especially if it spans a larger number of genres and styles. Add to this the fact that you can file many CDs under different categories, that classical music adds a whole other dimension to the problems you are bound to encounter after a few years and what you get is … chaos. Mind you, not in my house, but I’ve seen collections that not only spanned I don’t know how many categories but were also placed in just about as many rooms and/or various assorted piles and heaps around that collector’s hallowed halls.
At some point, of course not literally, I took a very sharp axe to my collection and decided to drastically reduce the complexity by coming up with my very own way of arranging what I had. I have no idea how your mind works, but mine has spent so much time thinking about music, categorizing it, reading and learning about it and I (that’s me, myself and I) know where to file away CDs according to my more or less quirky way of thinking. I consciously decided not to follow any outside advice or adhere to some of the stricter filing systems other nutty collectors might have liked to see imposed on a global scale.So, and don’t laugh out loud please, I chopped my collection up into 6 sections (so far, also arranged from the left side of the storage area to the right):
- Pop, Rock and Blues
- “Fusion and Stuff”
- “ECM Sound”
That’s it (and has been transferred 1:1 to the folder structure on my PC for digital files). I could go on for hours why I chose that way of storing my collection, but suffice it to say that it has helped me find what I have and has certainly helped me avoid buying CDs I already had.
What I want to talk about today is that rather weird section which goes under the obscure misnomer “Fusion and Stuff”.
There was a time in my life in which my musical interests most definitely slanted towards that what many people like to call “fusion”. After a while I started lobbing “Easy Listening” stuff in there as well and after it had become apparent that I just had too many artists that were either crossover artists or, in my humble opinion, did not (at all) fit into the category they were filed under in shops or other people’s collections, they ended up there as well. In the end, my “Fusion and Stuff” category became a sanctuary for all those artists that I did not deem worthy enough to be a member of another category.
In the beginning, my “Fusion and Stuff” category was just that, a section for what I would have considered to be fusion music.
It all started innocently enough.
Sometime around the end of the 1970s, a good Spanish friend of mine managed to convince me of the fact – and I’m still indebted to him today – that there was more to music than Heavy Metal and Punk. I had known that of course, but around that time I was ignoring it all together. All my jazz and whatnot had been relegated to the dusty corners of my shelves and if it wasn’t loud, at times obnoxious and, most importantly, strictly the opposite of what many other people were listening to, it didn’t get a center spot and was left to stand and rot.
In came Enrique with a few LPs. See, Enrique and I played drums and percussion and whereas I was giving everything the 2 by 4 treatment, Enrique kept on playing these intrictate and surprising bits, with dynamics, pattern shifts, amazing bassdrum figures and lots of syncopated stuff, to boot.
At some point, to be quite honest, I started feeling like and idiot and asked him where he was getting the stuff from. Of course I knew the answer, but I wanted him to play it for me, show me and, most importantly, teach me. I had heretofore turned a deaf ear everytime he was playing what he liked and in that way, I was certainly as arrogant as can be.
The moment all of that changed I can pinpoint and still have before my inner eye, including the time of day, the weather conditions and the atmosphere. It was on an extremely warm summer day in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the basement of our house, just after lunch when most of the neighbourhood was taking a nap (= best time to practice some drums). Enrique started the session off with the Gerry Brown’s intro to “The Dancer” off Stanley Clarke’s “School Days” (1976) album. Shortly thereafter he launched into Clarke’s more intricate and extremely funky “Silly Putty” (Steve Gadd on drums) and … BOOM!
I was hooked.
And I was embarrassed that I couldn’t play any of it really well (or at all). I had to fight hard to wrap my brain around these patterns (especially because we didn’t have the rest of the band to go with it), to get the ghost notes down right, to change my sticking for the fast breaks, to … you get the picture. I felt humbled and had the eminent feeling that I sucked (which I’m sure I did).
At the time I had one of those after-school and weekend jobs at Burger King, hoping to earn enough cash to complete my small drum set with some decent Zildjan cymbals and better hardware, but for the following weeks, every single cent I earned went into the purchase of “fusion” albums. I took – literally – every cent of my hard-earned money to a long-defunct record store called “Bristol Music Center” on the world-famous walking street that cuts right through Copenhagen’s center, and I walked home with a load of albums by such luminaries as Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, George Benson, George Duke, John McLaughlin, LPs with David Sancious, anything with Steve Gadd on it, Airto Moreira, Lenny White, Billy Cobham … the list seemed endless.
Most of my friends had begun to think I was having my first midlife crisis, but as soon as they figured out that I still enjoyed the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal“, the relatively new sounds of the punk movement and bands and artists like the Police and Joe Jackson that had started rising to the top of the crop around then, and they let me have a few minutes at each meeting or party to try to convince them that my fusion stuff was “more intelligent” and whatever other moniker I could come up with.
I don’t know if any of you have ever been down that road, but it quickly spiraled out of control, reaching the height of depravity once I started buying into the entire GRP catalog (Lee Ritenour and all the other inmates). It really didn’t stop until the middle of the 1990s and …
… I started HATING the stuff.
It took me a while to get out of that permanent daze I often found myself in and to notice that everything I had loved so much had – slowly but surely – turned into a slush pile of formulaic nothing- and emptiness. Muzak. All of it.
And then I buried it all deep in the nook and crannies of my collection and ever so often I would take out a CD or two and start playing it only to turn it off immediately again. I couldn’t stand any of it anymore.
I literally got a queasy feeling after three notes of anything and had to leave the room or turn the stereo off. You think I’m exaggerating? Believe me, I’m not. Until today I still haven’t recovered.
A minute change is happening right now as I have almost completed ripping larger parts of my collection to digital files. I’m actually listening to those earlier Stanley Clarke CDs again, I’m enjoying George Benson’s “Weekend in LA” as much again as I did way back when, but 99% of what I have has remained untouched since the middle 90s.
I don’t know how many times I have tried to give a lot of it another spin or how often I have thought of selling all 8 to 10 meters of it, but I always begin to have a bad conscience when thoughts of parting with it all pop up. A lot of this music was a large part of my life and I somehow hope that one day I will develop a taste for it again, as much as some of the earlier (70s) fusion appeals to me again right now, but my subconscious keeps on screaming “NOT bloody likely” or “never no mo’ Ritenour”. 😉
All of this is only the first half of the story though.
As I mentioned before, I started “pushing” other artists into that category. Let’s take an example that usually stops every useful music conversation dead in its tracks. Diana Krall. I have to admit that I really liked her stuff for a while, up until and around the last two good albums “When I Look into Your Eyes” (1999) and “The Look of Love” (2001), plus, of course, the 2002 live album, “Live in Paris”. I always admired her style and the great musicians she surrounded herself with. In fact, it was Ray Brown’s and Jeff Hamilton’s endorsement of her that turned me onto her stuff.
“Yes” (at times, in theory), but definitely a resounding “No” (in my book).
Off she went into “Fusion and Stuff”. The only thing I can defend my decision with is that I didn’t want the whole run of her output to end up between Lee Konitz and Gene Krupa. I still believe that would somehow teint my jazz category.
I think you’ll know what I mean if I publically admit that I also have Norah Jones, Dave Koz and even (one) Kenny G. CDs. Sounds arrogant, I know, but today I think that most of what I had bought obsessively throughout the late 80s and almost the entire run of the 90s is, err, not worth my time anymore. There was a time when I walked by a second hand store each and every day to work (and back) and I just snatched up all of these CDs for next to nothing. They were good to have for guests, many of them I actually liked as well for a while, but there came a moment from which onwards I simply couldn’t listen to more than 60 seconds of the stuff without getting nausea.
There are exceptions, of course, and I do still enjoy the odd “Mezzoforte” CD, an earlier Krall release, one or two Dave Gruisin recordings, etc. but by and large … “Fusion and Stuff”.
It has actually become a negative label in my house, simply because whatever ends up in there is pulled out once every decade or so.
And that’s where the crux lies.
The other day I went through it all and decided there was worthwhile stuff in there that should actually go into a new category. I have no idea what it should be called, but somewhere along the lines of “Pretty Decent Fusion and Stuff” could be a solution, weeding out the recordings that still give me the creeps today, eventually to be dumped into some sales bin somewhere.