Based on my interaction with teens and young adults, I went out on a limb a few weeks ago and made two sweeping claims: First, Facebook's counter-intuitive functionality and its determination to host mindless chatter were putting the social networking site at risk. Second, a growing number of young people have abandoned TV for their smart phones and laptops. [Photo above: Veil, Necklace by Caroline Broadhead, 1983]
News from this past week seems to offer evidence on both counts. According to a page 1 article in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook's fiscal growth is slowing on the eve of its IPO due to enormous spending on back-office support and expansion efforts. Though Facebook boasts 900 million users worldwide, one can't help but assume that adding to its woes is boredom by users. The e-yapping craze seems to be peaking, and unless Facebook matures beyond its college-level platform, there's a good shot that users will abandon the site going forward. After all, having 900 million users signed up doesn't mean that those users are, well, using it. [Pictured above, Painting detail of Roses, Gaeta by Cy Twombly, 2009]
The second news item came from The New York Times, which reported that TV's prime-time ratings have dropped, and that changing TV habits are at fault. According to The Times, new viewership lows for network series have been recorded nightly among 18- to 49-year-olds. I don't know about you, but all of the people I know in their early 20s—male and female—have no clue what's on and don't care. They don't watch TV.
You can chalk up some of this boob-tube falloff to increasingly busy evening work schedules. College-grad hires are working harder and later (until around 8 or 9 p.m. in many cases) in an effort to move up and out of entry-level jobs that aren't paying nearly enough to allow them to support themselves.
What do these two news stories tell us? That the way in which young people consume visual diversions is changing. All of this news actually bodes well for music, which can be consumed while working, preparing presentations, working out and unwinding.
While we're on the subject of deteriorating interest in visual entertainment, anyone notice that most people you know can't remember the last time they went to the movies?
"The closest I ever came to meeting Charles Mingus was when I followed him up the stairs of the Jazz Workshop in Boston on a wintry Sunday afternoon. He’d just finished his matinee set, and as he headed out to Boylston Street in a belted, butterscotch-brown leather coat, he slipped on the icy sidewalk." [Photo of Charles Mingus by Michaël von Gimbut]
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Elvin Jones, hombre. Zev Feldman at Resonance Records sent along a link to this oddball movie clip featuring drummer Elvin Jones...
CD discoveries of the week. Johnny Cash's voice always reminds me of pulling into the family driveway after being away for a while. It's so welcoming. On Johnny Cash: The Soul of Truth, Bootleg Vol. 4, we once again hear one of this country's finest folk-gospel artists. We tend to think of Cash as a country singer, but he wasn't really. Most of his material tells the story of struggle, redemption and Americana. This is evident on this new two-CD release of previously unreleased gospel material recorded between 1974 and 1982 in Nashville and Hendersonville, Tenn. As for the sonic quality of this material, it's breathtaking. Dig When He Comes, Children Go Where I Send Thee and Waiting on the Far Banks of Jordan.
Dexter Gordon relocated to Europe in 1962 and didn't move back until 1976. By then, the jazz scene in the U.S. had changed dramatically, with the acoustic scene nearly abandoned. Upon his return, Gordon signed with Columbia and the following year wound up in Montreal with his working band of George Cables (piano), Rufus Reid (bass) and Eddie Gladden (drums). Now, Maxine Gordon has given permission for the release of Dexter Gordon: Night Ballads, Montreal 1977 (Uptown). Recorded at the city's Rising Sun club, the material is sterling Gordon, particularly a 20-minute version of Old Folks. I could have done without Gordon's penchant for reciting song lyrics before lifting sax to mouth, but in the digital age, you can simply uncheck these.
Back before Lady Gaga, Madonna, James Brown, the Beatles, Jackie Wilson and Elvis Presley, there was Little Richard. The R&B shouter preferred to stand while playing the piano, and it's impossible to overstate how his music transfixed audiences and transformed rock and roll into sexually charged music. His bump-and-grind recordings were so potent that Presley covered two of his songs in 1956. On Here's Little Richard (Concord), Richard's original 1957 album of Specialty singles has been remastered. Bonus material includes two demos and an interview with Art Rupe, Specialty's founder. The live-wire quality about Richard's attack makes this 55-year-old album as fresh as the day it was recorded.
Electric bassist Amanda Ruzza is one bad, funky string bender. On This Is What Happened, Ruzza clearly loves the sound of her own instrument, which works for me. Lots of rubbery snap here backed by Fender Rhodes as well as reeds and a trombone on different tracks. Ruzza was born in Brazil, her mom is Chilean and loves opera while her Italian dad is a rocker. But now she's based in the U.S. Dig Larry and I, Costanara, Gin and the title track.
Nothing clears the head like seductive Brazilian music, and pianist-composer Anne Sajdera turns on the charm on Azul (Bijuri). Sajdera offers up a splendid mix of originals and jazz standards, including Love Dance, Wayne Shorter's Ana Maria and I Should Care, which is given an exotic and smart arrangement. Sample these but also catch Sajdera's own Sambinha. A jazz-samba album that shows the creative breadth and beauty of a San Francisco charmer.
You'd never know from Mina Agossi's singing voice that she's French. But you can hear it in her passion. On Red Eyes (Naive), Agossi has made interesting song choices, including Archie Shepp's The Stars Are in Your Eyes and Jimi Hendrix's Red House. There's also a clutch of unusual originals. Shepp joins Agossi with a jolie-laid vocal and tenor sax solo on The Stars and just tenor on Red House. Downtown music for the hipster set.
Romain Collin has a dark, Russian touch on The Calling (Palmetto). Most of the original tracks have a smoldering build, with modern electronic touches added thanks to synthesizer programming. But perhaps my favorite track is Horace Silver's Nica's Dream. which Collin interestingly slows down to ballad tempo.
Oddball album cover of the week. How American poet Walter Benton managed to get Atlantic to record his 1943 book of poetry, This Is My Beloved, set to an original Vernon Duke score is beyond me. The diary-form prose was Atlantic's first 12-inch 33 1/3-rpm LP, released in 1949. The cover of this re-issue is as enigmatic as a haiku. Looks as though the woman's boyfriend is helping to identify her to officials just as the prison she's escaping from threw on the spotlights.