Can jazz survive Generation F? The "F" here stands for "flighty," and anyone who has watched people in their 20s listen to music today knows what I'm talking about. Songs in iTunes libraries and on iPods serve mostly as white noise for this demographic group. Music is what you put on while working, organizing photos on your computer, i-Chatting or texting. [Image: Aleksander Bak]
This generation's electronic multitasking skills were honed as its members matured with the personal computer. Show me a 21-year-old today and I'll show you someone who can do a half-dozen things at once on the computer—combining work, socializing, videos and music. While iTunes injected music into the computer workspace (desktop), work always is the primary focus. [Image: Brad Norr]This isn't a new phenomenon. Back in the early 1950s, radio was much more popular and influential than TV among those who owned both. That's because people could drive, clean house, read the paper and work in the yard while the radio was on. The same couldn't be said for TV, which demanded your full attention.
But the way music is consumed today among young people doesn't bode well for jazz. In addition to treating music as sound rather than art, Generation F rarely listens to an entire track, let alone an entire album. The record industry has been grappling with this album problem since the arrival of the digital download. Buyers cherry pick what they want for 99 cents rather than purchase entire albums. Which means most personal iTunes libraries are vessels for thousands of individual songs. Melody fatigue sets in fast and fingers commonly click for the next song before a track is through.
Jazz is listening music. You need to pay attention and become absorbed by what the musicians are doing, how they're communicating and why what they're doing is special. Jazz has never been mass market music—it's not ideal for dancing, its melodies are complicated to listen to, and its history is too deep for a casual relationship. Now add a generation that hasn't been trained to concentrate on what they're listening to and it's hard to see how jazz will be perceived as meaningful going forward by a large percentage of this group.
One can only guess how the next generation coming up will consume music.Ada Louise Huxtable. Following my article in last week's Wall Street Journal on New York City office lobbies from the 1950s and early 1960s—and breaking news about the Time & Life Building (here)—I received a lovely email from esteemed architecture critic and historian Ada Louise Huxtable:
"Wonderful piece—who else is a connoisseur of those lobbies and could have written so delightfully and knowledgeably about them! So glad the Wall Street Journal gave it such a great display. Liked the anchoring quotes, too. They added that extra stamp of 'authoritative comment.' And you may have scooped the other papers by uncovering the new locale. Lovely."
There's nothing like hearing words of praise from a person whose work you've long admired. [Pictured (top) Philip Johnson and Mies Van Der Rohe with the Seagram Building model in 1955; (above) Ada Louise Huxtable in the 1970s]
Paul Wood. Architect Paul Wood sent along a swell email from his home in France on my Mad Men piece, as well as the following photo he took of Lever House in 1965 from the Seagram Building's plaza on Park Ave.:
Radio tracks. Reader David Perrine sent along a link to a site called Jango that lets you listen to full tracks of albums. Here's a link to Brettina, an album I wrote about last week. From there, you can click on different artists to hear other material.
Billy Taylor. Yesterday was Billy Taylor's birthday. He's 89. Back in 1958, Billy appeared regularly on The Subject Is Jazz, a television show showcasing jazz artists of the period. This clip, courtesy of Bret Primack, is one of the most fascinating in the series and features George Russell, Billy Taylor and Bill Evans:
CD discoveries of the week: Brazilian organist Fabio Fonseca's CD Opus Samba connects with the early 1960s, when Hammond B3 masters from Rio de Janeiro like Walter Wanderley used the instrument to great effect. Like Wanderley, Fonseca adds zesty flavor and syncopation to the samba. Fonseca's Vida Vira Vida is of this tradition, as is Samba da Copa. This CD has summer written all over it, and Fonseca's command of the instrument and authentic Brazilian flavor is uplifting. The entire album is a blast and was produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro, with liner notes by Doug Payne. You'll find Fabio Fonseca's Opus Samba as a CD and download here.
Most good baritone saxophonists wind up sounding like Gerry Mulligan. Which is a good thing, since Mulligan perfected the instrument's jaunty-basso grunt as a superb small-group player. Adam Schroeder certainly has Mulligan's intonation and zig-zaggy feel on his debut CD, A Handful of Stars. But Schroeder has something else: A passion for what makes this instrument special—a big, bossy sound that swaggers on swingers and mopes on ballads. You hear Schroeder's feel on I Don't Want to be Kissed, Quincy Jones' Jessica's Birthday and Barry Harris' Nascimento. You'll find Adam Schroeder's A Handful of Stars here.
Oddball album cover of the week: Not satisfied to simply place a model or two on the cover with vibist Terry Gibbs, the art director of this LP had the models place the steel keys in places the male consumer's eye was sure to look. I'm not sure how the two mallets under the floor-model's chin enhances the composition, but then again the felt-tipped sticks make about as much sense as the hood and gloves she's wearing.