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Why I Listen to Everything

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius

Lately, I’ve been running across a lot of music that’s been pulling my attention away from jazz. In a way, I sort of feel like I’m betraying where I’ve been devoting most of my energy. Between thinking up all kinds of idea for this site and what I try to do with [KRTU], I feel like I’ve made jazz my wife, or at least my pretty steady girlfriend.

So when I get on Twitter ranting and raving about how much I love the new [Sufjan Stevens EP] or [Seu Jorge and Almaz’s album], I wonder if I’m making some grave indiscretion known to the public. This isn’t like playing Radiohead. As it relates to modern mainstream jazz, they’re pretty much the industry standard as "the rock folks jazz folks love to cover." But sometimes, I’m really digging the chillwave sounds of Washed Out and Toro y Moi.

Some time ago, back when my tastes were really beginning to expand, back when I was in those oh so impressionable teenage years when I first started listening to the jazz station where I now share some air and when I hit up KaZaa for any alternative band I hear of with my dial-up connection, I realized that I could no longer confine my ears to one specific genre. What mattered most to me was true musicianship. Can this artist master his or her instrument? What Is the artist’s intention? Was that intention accomplished? Is this work captivating?

In time, I had blurred the lines of whatever I heard and by the time college (and its broadband connections and shared networks with folks’ interesting, diverse iTunes libraries), I could hold my own with my diverse musical knowledge and tastes yet I gained a desire for more. I hungered for more of every genre. The lines continued to blur. But my friends noticed something about my music. It all, while diverse, has a certain sensibility. They thought it was low energy, but I knew what it was almost immediately. It all sounded like jazz to me, even when it clearly wasn’t.

That same intricacy, that some musicianship, that same mastery is present when I hear Sufjan Stevens, Seu Jorge and Almaz, or Punch Brothers (which I probably should revisit their new album again soon, come to think of it). It’s thinking like that that enables [Vijay Iyer] to work with [Das Racist] and [Mike Ladd] or [I’m not alone in my thinking].

Utlimately, I enjoy good music and I can try to leave it at that. The boundary lines blur over time and I often have to defend my tastes, but I know that there are many out there like me who feel the same way about the wide gamut of works that make up the totality of music. Just as Miles Davis moved forward in his career, people like his work or they don’t. They can call it whatever they wish. Branding is one of those things more important for hardcore fans and jazz journalists anyway. I’d like to think I’m a little of both, so a name is still a name. But when you get right down to it, I love good music for just being good music.

Except metal. I keep trying but I just can’t get it.

Anthony Dean-Harris is a contributing writer for [African-American Reflections] and hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on [91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio]. More of his writing can be found at his blog, [In Retrospect] and you can also [follow him on Twitter].