Compilation : instructions for use

Making a compilation can be both dream and nightmare for the selector: personal taste versus a more critical point of view.

Alessandro Zanoli - 2018-04-17
Compilation : instructions for use -

I was very flattered when asked to compile an anthology of Swiss jazz by the FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council. One of the repressed and unconfessable ambitions of the music critic is probably that of making one’s own CD with the music he/she loves. Joking aside, my first concern soon after was the fear of putting too much trust in my personal tastes. The aim of the exercise should surely be to keep an open and fair eye on the overall landscape in order to take a large and significant photograph of the national music scene.

Admitted and granted that (in the age of mass digitization) the item ‘compilation’ is still a valid tool for promoting cultural awareness, the risk is that an anthology be judged by its omissions and not so much for its choices. The compiler has to take responsibility for privileging some artists above others. Indulging one's tastes or maintaining an Olympic fairness? That is the question.

Furthermore, the field of work is quite extensive. Swiss jazz record production has been intense and rich in recent years. It must also be said that the working context of ‘jazz’ musicians has undergone a great transformation. Young people who launch themselves onto the market do not feel the need for stylistic categories to define their music. A compilation of current Swiss jazz must therefore have the courage to widen and restrict its parameters even beyond the categories that its editor might imagine.

This signifies a lot of things. For those who know the reality of Swiss jazz (whatever that may be), it is very clear that regional cultural factors play an important role, for example, in terms of its overall physiognomy. The on-duty critic must have the courage to step outside "local" perspective. In addition, it’s the critic’s role to point out interesting examples, found perhaps in little-known fields of Swiss musical activity, in terms of what might surprise and stimulate the listener.

Now, all this reasoning is really very theoretical. We know that a compilation can never be totally representative of a musical cultural context. There are many limits that influence the actual collection, for example, quantitative, temporal, editorial and technical issues. In the end, I think the only possibility that remains is to try and accept the compiler’s inevitable partiality, reading the particularity of the choices as a kind of aesthetic trait in itself. In other words: if each compilation is the compilation «of» someone, it is precisely thanks to the arbitrariness of the personal choices that it derives its reason to exist.

As for me, I wanted - or even better - I was forced in all honesty to carefully consider the field of music that I know best, that of Swiss Italian jazz. And since my first attempt last year I had to / wanted to give space to the contribution of young artists of great stature. They are a little less known than their confederate peers, but no less valid. It is no exaggeration to say that I am very proud of their work and I present it with equal pride to the enthusiasts.

Hence, it was with great pleasure that I accepted again this year to retrace the steps of new Swiss jazz (I repeat, whatever that may be). Well aware of the fact that this work of testimony must look in all directions and consider many factors, including historical ones. My choice to include artists who are no longer considered ‘young’ in the anagraphic sense should not be surprising. All that is not known is young to our ears, and above all, can open the way towards fresh curiosity and discovery. I hope you agree with me: new Swiss jazz is that which has yet to be played. I really hope I can convince you that a good compilation should intrigue and stimulate listeners to go looking for it. Happy listening.

(PS: while I've been working on assembling the musical "puzzle" for 2018, I have realised one thing: putting the tracks together is not a casual task. Taste influences not only the choice but also the running order. Examining the various tracks with attention and repeated listening, one realizes that links, affinities, connections and fractures are also created - and hence, all these factors must be taken into consideration. This is what makes the work really intriguing and enjoyable. A compilation, in fact, really has some trait of artistry in itself. It must be balanced with its musical flow, as well as being varied and surprising. In brief, it is true that for once the critic can also be, in small part, the creator ... may the musicians forgive me).


Listen to the new Compilation


Alessandro Zanoli

I am a regular jazz contributor to« Azione, the Ticino weekly Migros magazine», I also collaborate with the radio Rete Due (RSI) and other newspapers, including the « AXE, Guitar magazine »in Rome. I’ve written a brief history of Ticino jazz for the magazine "Art and History". I have interviewed over a hundred Swiss and foreign jazz musicians including Dollar Brand, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, MIke Stern, Billy Cobham, Kenny Barron, Marc Ribot, Archie Shepp, Franco Ambrosetti, George Gruntz, and many others. I worked for ten years in the press office of JazzAscona and am a founding member of the Lugano Jazzy Jams Association and the Jazz Club in Bess. I am currently a member of the music Subcommittee of the Ticino Education and Sport Department which awards Swisslos music subsidies to the region.