Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Serving dog and mammon

I link to the current Ben Ratliff review of a Coleman Hawkins performance which, apparently, sheds new light on the classic "Body and Soul" that's one of Hawk's best known solos. You can look around and see the latest jazz news about William Savory's collection of disc transcriptions. Had they been released in his lifetime, or close to the time of recording (late 1930s and onward) they would be called "bootlegs" like famous recordings by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, etc.--- recorded performances by fans.
The big news is that the Savory survivors have sold the discs to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Even bigger is the news that they'll probably digitize and release them commercially, after giving lip service to the various ownership conundrums. The reportage on this topic, at least in the New York Times, includes some strangely annotated excerpts on their website, and a boatload of reader comments predictably bemoaning the belated and perhaps restricted access to this material.
Ben Ratliff, a real asset to the NYTimes for the jazz world, clarifies that "Nobody is yet in any position to assess when, how or what portion of the recordings can be commercially released." Since the National Jazz Museum owns the discs, which can be easily digitized, the Times is echoing Gene Kelly "Gotta Dance!" This newspaper which clearly supports "work for hire" transparently got Ratliff to write a legal disclaimer into his review. The first article, reporting the acquisition, suggests that ownership of the aircheck music on the discs is unclear. It's worth reading the comments to both articles because the ephemera aspect of a jazz solo is well displayed. And so is another chapter in the evolution of copyright practice, using old jazz as a foil.

1 comment:

moneyblows books and music said...

Another good one from the newspaper that's still delivered to my door: The NY Times rewrote Ben Nuckols 9/19 AP story about the Frank Zappa bust installed that day in Baltimore. According to Nuckols, "Sunday's ceremony marked the 25th anniversary of Zappa's testimony before Congress on freedom of expression for recording artists, though the scheduling was coincidental. Zappa had testified against proposed warning labels about lyrical content, calling them a path to censorshiop."(sic)
No mention was made of Zappa's allegation that the record industry had made a bargain with censors which granted them latent rights over the use of blank tape sold in stores.
Neither did the Times mention this wrinkle. But they elegantly altered the phrase about censorship to this: "....25th anniversary of Zappa's Senate testimony-- at which he compared the labeling of explicit records to censorship--"
It would have been nice to mention the "blank tape tax" which Zappa presciently opposed. It still lives today in the form of the "private copying levy"-- here's a link: