Is Apple in serious trouble? Will we see its phone, computer and music divisions spun off as separate companies in the coming years as Google grabs the phone side, Samsung takes the computers and Universal snaps-up music?
The answer to the first question seems like a resounding yes. Earlier this year, the iPhone maps app was found to have serious directional flaws. Eventually, the Apple maps division head was sent packing.
Now the music side seems clueless. Anyone enjoying the new iTunes 11.0? Anyone? That's what I thought. If I knew what I know now, I never would have clicked to update the software, and wish I had version 10.7 back.
The new iTunes interface is a disaster from the user's standpoint. Clearly, Steve Jobs ran Apple like a family business—involved in every aspect and detail, making sure the geeks were kept appropriately in cages and guarded by the company's user-experience crew.
Something has changed. If teams of executives and creatives on the music side can produce a new version of iTunes that is illogical and destroys the ease-of-use of previous versions, we can only imagine that Apple has a destructive internal power struggle on its hands.
A short list of why iTunes 11.0 is a mess: You can't reduce the size of the platform as you could in the past, allowing you work on your desktop (the MiniPlayer is a joke); you no longer can see the album covers, which I used to love; importing music and transferring into folders is more cumbersome and illogical; creating new playlist folders is a pain; and menus that should drop down drop up instead, requiring you to move the horsey platform around to see them. I'm sure there are dozens of other problems I've forgotten or missed that are eating at you, too.
Who in heaven's name at Apple came up with the changes and who beta-tested them? My guess is Job's worst nightmare is coming to pass: Apple's geeks have wriggled free and are now running the show, insisting on changes for changes' sake and not to improve the lives of users—the company's original mission.
If Jobs were still with us, one can assume that the music head would be on the same bus home as the maps guy.Subscribe to JazzWax for free—and receive my daily column in your email in-box at night. Just add your email address to the box in the right-hand column and hit "subscribe."
Also—follow me on Twitter (marcmyers@jazzwax) and Facebook (Marc Jazzwax Myers).writing about my new book, Why Jazz Happened, last week:
Michael Steinman of Jazz Lives writes...
"The book is consistently lively because Marc, like the best investigator, is deeply curious and not easily satisfied with the pat answers previous works have (sometimes) offered. And his curiosity has taken him to contemporary reporting . . . but most often it has taken him to the primary sources." For more, go here.
Lee Mergner, publisher of JazzTimes, writes in Northeastern magazine...
"Deftly written to accommodate those who don’t know much about jazz, Myers’ matter-of-fact style holds a steady rhythm. The book also contains plenty of nuanced interpretation for the serious jazz aficionado and should encourage another listen to this music genre." For more, go here.here.
David Allyn mystery. Anyone know the answer to this one? Apparently late singer David Allyn recorded Pleasant Dreams backed by an orchestra and strings (not the Barry Harris version). And Bob Prince arranged Here's the Way It Is and another version of Where You At (not the version on the Lucky Day album). Also, David apparently recorded with pianist Paul Smith. The problem is these recordings don't turn up in his discography. Anyone know anything? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Image. Director Raymond De Felitta has posted on The American Image—an hour-long color documentary that NBC aired in 1966 on New York's Whitney Museum, which had just opened. Raymond's father Frank De Felitta supervised, produced and directed the film. You'll find Raymond's post here. Here's Part 1 of the documentary at YouTube (other parts can be found next to the clip)...
CD discoveries of the week. Singer Sandy Stewart has just released Something to Remember (Ghostlight), accompanied only by Bill Charlap, her pianist son. Sandy has a rich, experienced and passionate voice that grabs you. And even though the songs are familiar, Sandy brings a new, just-right perspective to each one. Bill's playing, of course, is tasteful and feeds right into Sandy's style. In this regard, the album reminds me of the Bill Evans-Tony Bennett outings in the '70s. Two superb artists simpatico with each other's vision, staying one step ahead to set up the next phrase. Perfect for introspection during those early winter evenings.
If you have room in the cart for one more holiday album, dig Corky Hale's Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas (Beverly Hills). Corky was Billie Holiday's piano accompanist for a time in the late '50s, as a first-call West Coast studio musician, she played harp on nearly every major pop session with strings in the late '50s and '60s, including Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series. Here, she's on harp swinging holiday favorites but always delivering hip lines rather than playing them angelically straight. One of the finest recordings of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas you'll hear as well as a hip take on The Dreidel Song. Holiday music in experienced hands. More on Corky here.
The Live at Smalls series produced by Smalls, the New York jazz club, is uniformly excellent. Two more additions are sets by bassist Dezron Douglas and bassist Tyler Mitchell. Hard bop is front and center on the Douglas album—including Barry Harris's Bish, Bash, Bop and Gigi Gryce's Minority as well as originals. Trumpeter Josh Evans and tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard are backed by Douglas, pianist David Bryant and drummer Willie Jones III. Mitchell's set also is hard bop in flavor, but with a funk-soul undercurrent. Four of the five tracks were written by Mitchell, and trumpeter Evans is joined by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, pianist Spike Wilner and drummer Eric McPherson. New-jazz showcases in live settings. These also are available at iTunes.
Pianist Scott Healy has been around. In addition to playing piano on Conan, he has recorded with many rock and soul artists as well as composed, arranged and scored for various classical orchestras and ensembles. On Hudson City Suite, all of these talents come together for a nine-track that's rich in brass, time signatures and mood. There are upward of 10 players on each track, and the result is reminiscent of Duke Ellington and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Music that's constantly changing and evolving.
This album has everything going against it—a two-CD set featuring instrumental tracks to albums of a band you may never have heard of. But it's a terrific set just the same. The band was Jellyfish, a San Francisco power-pop band that recorded two albums in the late 1980s and early '90s. Their two most important albums were Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993). What makes this album so fascinating is that it's comprised of instrumental mixes of each record. Left in the vault for decades, Jellyfish: Stack-a-Tracks (Omnivore) takes these instrumental tracks and ingeniously results in a psychedelic-pop symphony. If you can get your hands on it, the double album is sensational. Sgt. Pepper's meets Jefferson Starship—without the vocals.
In 1972, jazz split in two directions—jazz-fusion and soul-jazz. Fusion was aimed primarily at younger, rock-oriented college students while soul-jazz was promoted to adults in urban settings. Black and white audiences listened to both. That year, Blue Note released Bobbi Humphrey's Dig This, which featured the flutist with a symphonic funk backdrop on some tracks and percussion-electronica on others. Now Real Gone Music has remastered and reissued Humphrey's second album, and it sounds beautifully lavish. Humphrey's playing is sylph-like, and the arrangements capture the Shaftian period perfectly, from I Love Every Little Thing About You to Smiling Faces and The Theme From Fuzz. A soul-jazz album with a welcoming female touch.
Speaking of the flute, Jeremy Steig recorded a funkadelic album in 1970 called Wayfaring Stranger for Blue Note. Like Humphrey's album, this reissue and remaster from Real Gone is a period piece. Though it sounds a bit like soundtrack music for Bullitt or a Mod Squad episode, it's still terrific. If you dig jazz with a late '60s California spin, this one's a beaut. With Steig was Sam Brown on rock guitar, Eddie Gomez on bass and Don Alias on drums. This is pure coffee-house plotting music of the highest order with a love-in twist.
Oddball album cover of the week.
Back in the mid-'50s, one of Columbia's earliest series of 12-inch LPs was called Quiet Music. These were mood albums for those special times. For whatever reason, our model looks as though she said "no" moments earlier but was ignored. Strangely, nearly all of the covers in the series features models who look scared to death. More down the road.