Are we almost done with the social networking thing yet? Like many of you, I Tweet and Facebook daily because I understand that these are digital universes where millions of people congregate. As you know, part of my mission is to let everyone on the planet know about JazzWax (be sure to tell your friends). So Tweeting and Facebooking once a day is sort of a must. [Pictured above, Shay by Laura Pannack, 2010]
What I don't get is how some people are able to find time in their schedules to e-chatter all day long. I'm also puzzled by others who are convinced that strangers truly want to know their every thought and sneeze, and that they believe their personal reports are actually entertaining.
Einstein said everything dies eventually—unless its value continues to increase over time. Actually, he didn't say that, I did. But if he had, Einstein would illustrate the point by saying that Google's value is increasing—you need information throughout the day so you continue to use it. Or that Amazon's value is clear—when you want to shop, you continue to go there to evaluate prices and buy. [Pictured above, Man with Straw Hat by Saul Leiter, c. 1955]
But the gimmick known as social networks—where people merely yammer, complain and reflect sardonically—surely must have a term limit. The entire process of communicating to no one in particular on these sites has become, for lack of a better word, dull.
As far as I can tell, Facebook seems close to reaching its tipping point—and just as it's planning to go public. There have been so many bad design changes at Facebook, each one worse than the next. Functionally, it's so convoluted, counter-intuitive and creaky that I often take a pass.
Twitter isn't too far behind—though its enforced brevity and appetite for compressed literary wise-assery make it slightly more entertaining and valuable.
One more thing: I'm noticing that fewer people older than age 40 are bothering with Facebook. Young college graduates also seem to be posting less often. Those new to the workforce are finding they have less time than in college to keep up with their 50,000 friends and have moved on. [Illustration above by Saul Steinberg]
I could be completely off-base here, but the novelty of social networking seems to be wearing thin, and Facebook in particular seems played.
The World of Henry Orient. I've always been a fan of this odd film, largely because it features lots of shots of New York in 1963-4. If you also love this film, you'll enjoy John Colapinto's piece in The New Yorker, in which he tracks down the teenage stars. Go here.
Ella and Frank. JazzWax reader and Sharp Nine Records founder Marc Edelman sent along this clip of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Hard to know why Fitzgerald was so routinely cast as a sad sack in televised duets—or why someone thought having Sinatra sing uncomfortably rude lyrics to her would be a hoot. But hey, that's entertainment...
Carmen McRae. Singer Carol Sloane [pictured, right] remembers singer Carmen McRae, as only Carol can. Go here.
CD discoveries of the week. Here's another terrific CD in the Legends Live series: Cannonball Adderley Quintet at Liederhalle Stuttgart (JazzHaus) recorded live in March 1969. The Adderley group—with Adderley on alto sax, his brother Nat on trumpet, Joe Zawinul on keyboards, Victor Gaskin on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums—was at the height of its jazz-soul prowess. Tracks include Why Am I Treated So Bad, Work Song and The Painted Desert. And the fidelity, like all of the albums in this series, is spectacular.
If you love Toots Thielemans, you'll dig Yesterday & Today (Out of the Blue). This new two-CD set features rare tracks recorded between 1946 and 2001. A life-spanning look at the famed Belgian guitarist, harmonica-player and whistler places him in nearly every type of setting. Early guitar tracks are bop originals, followed by work with George Shearing, Hank Jones, Urbie Green, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and often on harmonica. All of the swinging tracks were selected by producer and Thielemans' friend Cees Schrama, who hunted for material that's hard or impossible to find. Thielemans' uncanny understanding of the American jazz idiom and his ability to engage the listener without succumbing to mawkish nostalgia is unrivaled. Sample Early Autumn, from 1958.
To understand the roots of the British Invasion, a good place to start is the traditional jazz and blues movements in England in the 1950s. One of Britain's most revered trad jazz trombonists and bassists is Chris Barber, who will soon turn 82. On Memories of My Trip (Proper) a two-CD set, Barber is heard in many settings, from the early 1960s until 2010. He's teamed with everyone from Eric Clapton and Van Morrison to Edmond Hall and James Cotton. In the years pre-dating the Invasion, American blues artists crossed the Atlantic to tour in the '50s and early '60s and often were teamed with British musicians, Barber among them. Sample Kansas City, featuring Barber with Muddy Waters and Pinetop Perkins.
Maggie and Terre Roche were and are talented roots-folk sisters who had the misfortune of recording just as the market was saturated with female singer-songwriters. Their 1975 Columbia album Seductive Reasoning (Real Gone Music) has just been reissued, and the gentle, plaintive music holds up well. While the sisters didn't have the urgency of Joni Mitchell, the gospel bang of Laura Nyro, or the polished veneer of Carly Simon, their voices here were pure, and Maggie's songs were lyrical and meaningful. The pair, of course, went on to join their sister Suzzy to become The Roches. The album was recorded with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section down in Alabama. On If you Empty Out All Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change they were joined by Paul Simon. Once forgotten but now unforgettable.
I guess you could call New World Beat's After Carnival (COM) a smooth-jazz recording, but applying such a label might be a tad unfair. With the merging of Richard Sprince's vibes and Matt Vashlishan's soprano and alto saxes, there's a cool, bouncy vibe to this one that goes beyond the music that often accompanies pictures of the Caribbean at YouTube. The band is from Miami and here focuses on Brazil. Sample It's Not Far. For when your head needs a break.
Oddball album cover of the week. I'm not sure why Jack Jones covered Carly Simon's theme to The Spy Who Loved Me in the late '70s or why it required him to be placed on a raft-sized island on the waterfront of a major city. But there you have it. To make matters worse, this was a disco album—and an awful one at that. I kid you not.