One of the nicest things about hosting a music show here at NCPR is that nearly every day there is at least one new CD waiting in the mailbox. Sometimes it’s a real gem, sometimes not, but the excitement of ripping open the package to see what’s inside is always there. It’s not unlike the feeling I got as a kid walking in to my local record shop with 15 bucks in my pocket. The anticipation of hearing music that I’ve never heard before is, thankfully, a feeling that has not diminished over the years.
If you take that thrill of musical discovery and feed it massive amounts of steroids, that might come close to explaining what I felt this past week. Let me explain.
Every month I pay ten dollars for a subscription to Spotify. It’s a Swedish software company that allows unlimited listening to music of all types. It’s somewhat similar to iTunes except you pay a flat monthly fee rather than paying per-song. And you’re only renting the Spotify songs until you end your subscription. After that, they disappear from all of your devices.
The jazz selection on Spotify has always been quite good. But this week Blue Note Records released a special app for Spotify that allows access to the label’s entire catalog dating back to 1939. We’re talking hundreds of hours of some of the best jazz ever recorded all in one place. Just extraordinary!
The catalog is searchable by date, artist, instrument and more. There’s a “Blue Note 101” section for people who are new to jazz and want a friendly introduction to it, and there’s even a way to listen to hundreds of examples of Blue Note songs that have been sampled in pop and hip-hop tunes.
The layout of this app is more like a finely-curated exhibit than a sterile software program. The biographies of each artist are brief and enlightening, and the way it points out similarities between artists tells you that it was put together by jazz experts, not software developers. Best of all, this app seems to be acknowledging that jazz is almost entirely ignored by young people and it’s time to really do something about it.
You may not use Spotify but your kids or grandkids probably do. If so, why don’t you encourage them to download the Blue Note app (it’s free for Spotify subscribers) and see if they don’t find themselves enjoying Lee Morgan or Gonzalo Rubalcaba or Bobby Hutcherson. Who knows? Maybe, like me, they’ll feel like it’s 1983 and they just walked in to the best record store on earth with a million bucks in their pocket.