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20 April 2007 @ 12:23 pm
I have been looking at the music I have on my iPod. For someone who is passionate about music, and rather into numbers and analysis, this is a heady combination: for the first time, I can actually quantify my music collection. It has been a curious exercise.

A while ago, I reckoned that I probably had more versions of the tune A Night In Tunisia than any other. Now I know I am right: I have ten versions of A Night In Tunisia on my iPod, and nine of ’Round Midnight (somewhat tweaked to take account of random variations of the names – Around Midnight and ‘Round About Midnight, for instance; the joys of messy data…).

(And there is a very large caveat here: this is before the large proportion of my Duke Ellington was uploaded, because I was very generously given the complete Duke Ellington on RCA a while ago: twenty four CDs containing many duplications and variations; and I decided to exclude this collection from my analysis, rightly or wrongly. It would certainly skew the volume of material – the minutes and the hours – I have by Duke Ellington – though I shall talk about that a bit later.)

So, A Night In Tunisia closely followed by ’Round Midnight. After that comes Spiritual with seven. Whilst the leader and runner up are by a whole bunch of different people (although I have several versions of A Night In Tunisia by Art Blakey), all but one of the versions of Spiritual are by John Coltrane – and three of those are on the Complete 1961 Village Vanguard sessions; indeed, the tune Spiritual by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny is probably a completely different tune (I don't think it is by Coltrane - I really can't remember; perhaps I should play it...), which means that I only have six versions of Coltrane’s Spiritual, which makes it equal third together My Funny Valentine (two by Miles Davis – and one by Elvis Costello!), Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby, Monk’s Epistrophy and Ellington’s Come Sunday (though five of those are on the complete Black Brown and Beige).

Body And Soul comes in at five versions (but one of those is a Blue Nile track, so really that’s only four…), together with Django, It Never Entered My Head, Move, Coltrane’s Naima, The Meaning of the Blues, and lastly Caravan (none of which is by Ellington!).

Incidentally, the first pop tracks to make a showing have at four versions – The Beast, by The Only Ones (that’s one version on their compilation The Immortal Story – the album version – and three versions on the Live At The BBC CD (two live, one Peel session), and Costello’s Accidents Will Happen.

In terms of hours of music, Miles Davis is way, way out ahead. I have over twenty hours of Miles, from all periods; then it is John Coltrane at nearly seventeen hours and Tommy Smith at thirteen hours. The volume of Tommy Smith is curious: it is largely because I have seen him play a lot, and often pick up CDs at his concerts (indeed, I appear on several of his live recordings: if you listen carefully, you can hear me holler and applaud, along with the rest of the audience).

(If I included the twenty four Ellington discs, I would have about thirty two hours of Duke; without them, I have only five hours worth – which seems woefully little.)

Elvis Costello is in at number four, with nine and a half hours, followed by Stereolab (seven hours; and three different versions of French Disko), and Lloyd Cole (both as the Commotions and solo – six and a half hours).

It is a curious mixture. Both Tommy Smith and Stereolab are over-represented in my CD collection, I’d say – I rarely play Stereolab now. A lot of people I play a lot – John Scofield, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus – aren’t in the top ten by time.
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