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Named one of the "Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area," Kim Nalley is hailed as one of world's best jazz & blues singers. Visit Kim online at kimnalley.com.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Illegal, Immoral, Insensitive... or Just A Matter of Technology?

The brouhaha around NPR intern Emily White and other people who make unauthorized copies or downloads of CDs reminded me of my youth and how hard it was to obtain music. The time and cost associated with making someone a mixed tape was considerable. Heck, we had albums that we didn't even bother bringing out unless there was special company present.

I ruined many a LP playing it too much while trying to cop the changes to a song. Or putting pennies on the needle head to stop skipping on a scratch. Searching around for recycled bins of records or begging someone to make you a rare copy. Fixing a tape that popped from fast rewinding with scotch tape.

Now it is incredibly easy. Almost everything is YouTube or iTunes and not only can you listen to a CD umpteen times, but the software to burn a CD or record yourself and burn a CD is bundled into almost every computer. And blank CDs are considerably cheaper than a 90 minute blank cassette, although I doubt an Ella Fitzgerald CD has the same glass-shattering power of Memorex.

Copying music has become so simple and cheap that the younger generations cannot fathom the idea that what they are doing is illegal. If you do not believe me, just read the comments from "An Open Letter to Emily White," published on The Trichordist website a few months back.

Of course maybe they do realize it, and it is just a matter of technology making things easier. I certainly was no saint in my youth. Back when I earned maybe a hundred dollars a week and my rent was $200 a month I managed to save up enough money to get a TASCAM 4 track recorder. It is what any serious musician did back then. You couldn't really make a demo tape with a boom box and expect to a get a fancy club gig. While hanging outside of Muziki Roberson's jam session at the Tropical Haight, a street person sold me a SHURE Beta58 microphone for $50, case included. In hindsight I am sure it was probably hot, but as a struggling wanna-be artist all I could think of was, "This is a great price and I really need it!" I hooked up that mike to my TASCAM and started recording. I didn't have a rehearsed band to record with nor could I afford pay to pay a band to record so I did the unthinkable. I recorded with a Jamey Abersoll.

For those of you who doesn't know who (or rather, in this case, what) a Jamey Abersoll is, I will explain. Jamey Abersoll is jazz educator who released a series of "Play-Along with the Masters" albums. They were great and terrible at the same time. Great because Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Ben Riley were playing multiple choruses for you to solo over. Terrible because Kenny, Ron and Ben can't actually hear you and comp to what you are playing, so you are very limited in what you can do.

I had a few of these albums, except for the blues one. I didn't need that one because I used the piano solo from "After Hours" on the Dizzy Gillespie album "Sunny Side Up" to practice the blues. Jamey Abersolls were intended for saxophonists to "woodshed" over so they have far too many choruses for a vocalist to sing or even scat over for a demo tape. Instead, I spiced it up a bit by having a friend, Tony Gairo, come over and blow some choruses on his tenor sax ending in enough time for me to take the head out.

Then I took my little TASCAM Abersoll cassette demo around town and shopped myself for hire. None of the club owners ever called me out on it so I don't think they noticed.

What do you think? Was shopping around an Abersoll demo with Kenny Baron, Ben Riley and Ron Carter for club gigs more or less worse than Emilly White having 11,000 songs in her library... yet only paying for 15 CDs?

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