In the CD player in the car is “The Best Jazz Album in the World …Ever!”. It’s really rather a painful listen.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like jazz. I like quite a lot of jazz. But I don’t like all jazz. Jazz goes from the fluid, melodic and beautiful through to the strident, discordant and downright shite.
But, this is “The Best Jazz Album in the World… Ever!” so it must be good, right?
Technically, it’s 2 albums, as there’s 2 CDs. CD 1 is largely vocal, CD 2 instrumental. On CD1 I found 2 tracks out of 22 I could stand to listen to. CD 2 fared slightly better, with 4 or maybe 5 out of the 22. And the best thing? I’ve already got these tracks on other albums. Usually the ones they were originally released on.
This got me wondering who this album might be aimed at. It’s attempting (and failing) to encapsulate the whole of jazz in 44 tracks. This is a damn-near impossible task. Frankly you’d be better off not bothering and just pointing people towards certain iconic albums and a website that says “Too much emphasis on drums? Okay, steer clear of Art Blakey and try Gerry Mulligan, see if the sax does it for you.” “Like the trumpet? Okay, give Bix Beiderbecke and Humphrey Lyttleton a shot.” “Not enough of a coherent tune? Maybe jazz isn’t the thing for you.”
Then, by extension, I got to wondering who these “Best in the world!” albums are actually aimed at. I’ve looked at the track listings for the rock albums and reckon I could do better myself! I’ve either got the tracks they’re selling already or I’ve made a conscious decision never to listen to the song in question again and wonder why on earth it’s on the CD. Argent’s “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” leaps unbidden to mind. Hell, normally the original is much better than the cover version but in this case? I’ll take the KISS track from Bill & Ted any day. Are they meant to save you time? Just in case you’ve not got round to ripping your CDs and making your own “Best of” compilations for the car, we’ll kinda put this one together in a half-arsed way, grabbing a random selection of stuff and calling it “Best of.”
And “Best ever”? Well, until someone releases another track that eclipses everything that has gone before. Take all those interminable “Best Christmas Album” out there pre-Darkness. They’re not the best, they don’t have “Don’t let the bells end” on them. And anything that doesn’t have Motorhead singing “Run, Rudolph, Run” or Alice Cooper’s “Santa Claws is Coming to Town” equally isn’t going to be “Best” anything.
I can sort of understand “<insert band/artist here>’s Greatest Hits” – sometimes you really don’t want to listen to every single track on “A Night at the Opera”, you do just want Bohemian Rhapsody. And there are always tracks by artists you wish they’d never put on their albums.
But back to jazz. As this is my blog, I’m going to name the absolute best jazz album in the world, ever! 2 saxophone gods, Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster, for the somewhat unimaginatively titled “Gerry Mulligan meets Ben Webster.” That’s the best jazz album in the world, ever. End of.