Thursday, November 4, 2010

Talkin' Verve With A Twist (1997)

Another one of those themed multiartist Verve compilations: Talkin' Verve With A Twist, 1997. The theme of this one seems to be lounge jazz, as was popular back at the turn of the century. Oh, we Gen X-ers do love our irony.

Like the Cool volume, Verve's compilers seem to have felt it necessary to dip into their non-Verve-proper holdings to make this work. About half of everything here was originally released on Mercury, Metro, MGM, or Fontana. I don't know enough to know if that means anything, except that perhaps Verve's releases in the '60s, while working - pioneering? - the same pop-jazz territory, still had more jazz cred than these other labels' offerings. I dunno.

In any case, these are pretty straight pop, with enough horns to fool you for a moment or two, but usually no real improvisation. So it's as pop that most of it has to be judged. Some of it is okay: the Xavier Cugat numbers are pleasant, Art Heatlie and the Electric Saxophone's take on "Peter Gunn" is fun, Willie Bobo's "It's Not Unusual" is as awesome as you think it will be. And some of it is dire: poor Stan Getz tootling through "Marrakesh Express," Blossom Dearie embarrassing all within hearing with "Blossom's Blues" - I feel like I need to add a few extra sets of quotation marks to that last one just to distance myself from any assumption that I might accept it as a blues...

Quotation marks. The liner notes, by John Corbett this time, are a doozy, imagining a turn-of-the-century hipster drinking cocktails and reading Susan Sontag's "Notes On Camp."
Literally - that's the conceit. It's a valiant try, but in the end it just makes my head hurt. I'm of the generation raised on camp and irony, so that I, like I suspect most of the people I know, sometimes can't figure out whether I really like something or just "like" it, or whether there's any difference at all... But Sontag's essay has never proved particularly helpful to me in sorting through these issues, and Corbett's, while kind of entertaining, just feels weird. Like, does he think this music is worth re-releasing or not? Does it have any musical value, anything to offer that's worth taking out of the quotation marks? I can't tell from his essay. Maybe he assumed none of his readers would care. But I do.

No comments: