Waxing & musings. The future of digital music is streaming— not ripping, burning or downloading. What does this mean in plain English? According to last week's New York Times, a growing number of Web-based enterprises are emerging that will charge consumers a flat membership fee to access a giant online music library. Theoretically, you will simply log in to your account and play whatever you want in the library and as often as you want. [Pictured: Blue Dominance, screenprint, 1997, by Bridget Riley]
In layman's terms, this means that instead of physically owning CDs and downloads, you'll rent unlimited access to a giant musical library in cyberspace. Even though there's an eerie lease-a-family quality about this concept, it's clearly a great idea. No more "lifeboat" decisions about which books to toss at home to make shelf space for new CDs. And no more fears about hard-drive crashes taking down your music library.
But as we know, not all great ideas are ultimately successful. The picture phone seemed like a gas of a concept until minicams were installed in laptops over the last few years, allowing you to squawk and gawk. Now it turns out no one really wants to see or be seen while talking to friends and family.
Projecting this "sounds great but I'll pass" model onto the online music library, the question is whether such ventures will fill a real need. Of course, much will depend on the service's subscription fee and sound quality. And whether the target audience will give up the ownership aspect of music collecting, and whether listeners will be willing to pay for more music than they already own and share.
For jazz fans, the biggest question mark is whether you'll be able to find everything you want, from box sets to obscure albums like the one pictured here. As we know from past music ventures, it's doubtful that jazz will become a fully stocked music category in the early stages of these e-library businesses. My guess is that classic rock, pop and rap will kick off the catalogs, followed by country and classical. Jazz, as always, will surely come last, with today's smooth jazz stars first to make it onto the virtual music shelf.
What does all of this mean? The odds that such an online-only library will satisfy a jazz fan's needs or even be designed for the jazz fan's sensibilities are slim to none. And like being stuck with a cordless phone in a blackout, I wouldn't want to find that I'm chordless if my Internet connection goes dead or the e-service goes bust. I think I'll continue to hunt and gather for now.
And the winner is... According to Tom Lord of The Jazz Discography, the No. 1 recorded jazz tune of all time is Body and Soul, with 1,947 jazz versions logged at the TJD database to date. Coleman Hawkins would be happy to hear that!
Speaking of Brazil, in the wake of my post last week on Ithamara Koorax's terrific new album, Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook (it's impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to it), I did some bossa nova snooping online and found two delightful clips featuring Astrud Gilberto in the 1960s.
This one from 1966 features Astrud lip-syncing her Gil Evans-arranged recording of her then husband's tune, Bim Bom. Dig the smooth bossa nova-jazz dancing by Jean-Pierre Cassel...
And this one is a live performance (here she's really singing) The Girl From Ipanema with Stan Getz and Gary Burton...
David Amram. Last week David sent along this clip from 1995, when he was interviewed by a New York news station on the Greenwich Village scene in the 1950s. David's sentiment and spirit remain timeless...
Tito Puente. Trumpeter and arranger Marty Sheller sent along the following clip of Tito Puente's orchestra at the Umbria Jazz Festival in 1997. The band is playing Marty's arrangement of I Concentrate on You, with Bobby Porcelli on alto sax...
Doug Payne. Jazz writer and producer Doug Payne recently started Sound Insights, a jazz and music blog. Doug is also keeper of the CTI Records flame—including all of the lush Pete Turner-photographed CTI album covers, a complete CTI discography and more here.
Live jazz. Marty Sheller also told me about this site—You Are What You Hear: A Live Jazz Blog. It features hundreds of live performances by jazz artists for listening only.
DVD discovery of the week. A new series of DVDs was released recently that manages to combine great music with smart history and well-told tales. When I popped on Masters of American Music's Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker, I fully expecting a cliche offering. What I found was a terrific story illustrated by rare interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Haynes, Jay McShann, Chan Parker and others.
Even if you know the Charlie Parker story inside and out, it's told here with renewed grace and import, in a highly animated and dramatic fashion. In fact, the narration writing was so good I grabbed the packaging to see who had a hand in its development. The DVD was written by Gary Giddins [pictured] and directed by Gary and Kendrick Simmons. No wonder it's so good. This DVD is for anyone who wants an entertaining refresher on Parker—or as a gift for those who aren't familiar with him or jazz but want an intro to the artist and music. Perfect for those who ask: "Who was Charlie Parker and what's the big deal?"
The other three DVDs in the Masters of American Music series are Thelonious Monk: American Composer, Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday and The Story of Jazz.
You'll find Celebrating Bird here. The other three DVDs are pictured and offered if you scroll down the Amazon page.
Oddball album cover of the week. As strange album covers go, Percussive Jazz takes the cake. This 1960 big band album for the Audio Fidelity label featured a bunch of heavyweights, including Doc Severinsen, Eddie Costa, Sam Most, Romeo Penque and Phil Bodner. A dumb art director and designer, and an even dumber label owner. Makes you wonder why they didn't just opt for the more popular cover vice of the period—half-clad models.