Formats are harder to cherish than the music contained on them. They are not some mystical artefacts that need an altar built for worship, although collectors go to elaborate trouble to do just this. Most are fine depending on use. It has taken me time to reluctantly get used to streams. Now, I like their convenience and the sound quality on certain sites is better than others where once I was hostile so there is more of a choice as the technology improves. I definitely prefer them to downloads which I usually in my impatience avoid, not really seeing the need to keep huge stocks of music files on my computer.
Best for me is CD, followed by vinyl although I hardly listen to vinyl these days at all because it is less practical and not really portable! Cassettes used to be a format I really enjoyed and still like the thought of, but the tape breaks easily so they do not have a lot of staying power and rewinding or fast forwarding to find the right bits was always a pain as was deciphering the tiny writing on the often frustratingly origami-fied artwork.
The one format I do not like however are EPs (78s were before my time). No nothing to do with a 1920s ragtime banjo player or his more famous guitar-playing son, EPs stand for “extended play” they are a little bit of a misnomer as even in the heyday of vinyl even they were short (not as extended as) albums clocking in at about 25 minutes-long or four tracks. They ‘extended’ the single yet somehow diminished its impact.
These days you will find plenty of EPs as streams or downloads. They are often the output of new bands starting out who want to get some tunes out there pronto. I think of an EP if I am being charitable as a short story and again I am not madly keen on short stories for the very good reason that novels offer the full picture. A short story, with notable exceptions say by James Joyce or William Trevor, is only a beginning, you get so far and then you get no further I suppose. The best short stories convey mood and character and slow things down as if to compensate for their brevity. A lot of jazz acts struggle with brevity, let’s face it, and by contrast to storytellers go at it hell for leather.
With EPs the shorter length is not enough to really allow the band to show what they can do. More just a statement of intent they tend to be forgotten about or downgraded in terms of significance once the full debut album comes along. They often act as glorified demos for industry-use mainly and I can see the point there but demos are never the Real McCoy, more like partly thought-through audition pieces that are the means to the end of getting a foot in the door. I appreciate that it is hard getting enough material together for a full album but surely it is worth the wait rather than put out EPs that too easily will get forgotten about in time or prove to be self-plundered for the eventual album which by then given the recycling going on may seem a bit reconditioned. A single track is better not that you can do much with the release of an eight minute improvisation all on its tod although online that’s much more satisfying and achievable especially through live videos of single tunes or songs recorded live at gigs. Jazz singles are pretty rare in terms of physical product certainly. Yet a song is a song, a tune is a tune and always will have staying power if they succeed as compositions in performance. Four or even five songs however just cry out dot dot dot: to be continued. Jazz ultimately, and we all know this, is an album art even if it seems less so in an online world but EPs don’t fill the gap.