Are young men coming undone? In an age when computers and handheld devices require greater socializing, deft communication skills and emotional honesty, are some young men ill-equipped for the future? Are some outraged by their changing identities—particularly when father figures from older generations complain bitterly about their shifting status?
The old male traits—acting tough, showing off and keeping silent—are being replaced by co-existence, co-operation and compromise with others, particularly with women. Are some young males unable to make the leap and therefore feeling inadequate? Are these males more willing to lash out? And are some more prone to murderous violence because they have easier access to weapons of destruction and online information about how to build them?
All of this crossed my mind when trying to connect the psychological dots last week running between Boston, Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona and elsewhere. In each case, young males casually killed and injured innocents, young and old. The motive in each case was different, to be sure, and in some cases mental illness and fanaticism appear to have played a role. But I wonder whether feelings of inferiority and inadequacy also are in the flash-point mix.
Even the white-capped Boston bomber, who was a long-time resident of the city's suburbs and reportedly respected by classmates and parents, had a dark, murderous side. Despite being part of his neighborhood's social fabric and an accomplished high school student, something snapped. Was it really a more violent and influential older brother? Cruel parents? Exposure to poisonous family views here or online? Emails from angry friends in his native land abroad? Way too early to tell.
What is clear is that this kid and a growing number of young males are prone to violent fantasy. Some try to regain their status by lashing out and satisfying a father's or uncle's notion of how they should man-up. Others turn to violent video games and action movies and comics. Others go further—particularly when religious zealotry, illegal drugs or ignored prescription meds are involved.
We know that shifting social standards, perceived slights, emasculation and the stigma of being outside the mainstream can get ugly. One-word slurs for outcasts—"hippies," "nerds," "weirdos," "queers" and worse—have been around for some time. So has bullying and other forms of intimidation that shove others beyond the parameter of social circles. What's different now? And why are so many young males winding up as mass killers?
Hopefully someone will figure out how seemingly benign young men become mass-murdering score-settlers. And why young women—even bullied and depressed ones—don't seek this type of retribution. The answer is surely complex and probably has something to do with our youth culture in general. Over the past 10 years, we've seen a lurch away from inspiring music, thought-provoking literature and the arts and toward dark fantasy, instant celebrity, nagging technology, icy electronica and violence.
Perhaps someone will help us make sense of why so many of these destructive crimes are being committed by loathing young males. Something clearly is wrong.
Take Five. Reader and jazz writer Joe Lang sent along the following clip of The Sachal Studios Orchestra from Lahore, Pakistan, playing a cover of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Take Five...
Tom Jones and Elvis Presley. In the wake of my conversation with Tom Jones in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, I thought I'd share this amusing jape...
Songwriter tips. Thinking of a career as a songwriter? Are you already a songwriter who would love to write a hit? Here are 10 foolproof ways to critique your own songs—sage advice from BMI. Go here.
78s set straight. Reader John Cooper sent along a link to a post by a fellow who has figured out how to turn a crunchy 78-rpm record into a pristine-sounding recording. Go here.
More on Beverly Kenney. For those interested in the life of Beverly Kenney—the jazz singer who committed suicide in her 20s in 1960—JazzWax reader and blogger Bill Reed has done extensive research. You can read his post on Kenney here. There's more here and here.
Still more on Kenney. Reader Pierre Giroux from Toronto wrote to say he had reached out to drummer Archie Alleyne, one of the musicians mentioned in my post on the new photos of Beverly Kenney that surfaced. Says Pierre: "I am afraid that after 50-plus years, memories are often dim. Archie recalls that Kenney was very young, which if she was in Toronto in the mid-'50s, she would not have been more than 23 or 24. Also that she was quite shy and that shyness seemed to reflect itself in the way she approached and sang the material she was using. Hope this helps."
Joe Alterman and mentor. Pianist Joe Alterman has always admired pianist Ahmad Jamal—particularly his recordings for Argo. Joe has met and spoken with Jamal in the past and has played with bassist James Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley—both members of Ahmad Jamal's trios. So it was with great surprise when Joe was playing the Blue Note on April 16, he looked out and saw Jamal in the audience. As Joe wrote...
"Last night was such a thrill! I can't tell you how amazing it was to look down from the piano and see Ahmad sitting right there, smiling up at me. That meant a whole lot to me, although it was a bit frightening when I almost quoted Israel Crosby's bass line from But Not For Me but caught myself just in time. A real thrill, and I'm so glad someone caught me coming into the audience to say hello to Ahmad [pictured above].
Here's Joe performing You Are My Sunshine...
Band behind bars. U.K. reader Philip Andrews sent along a link to the following documentary on the '70s Huntsville prison band in Texas that specialized in soul.
Charles Mingus radio. WKCR in New York will presents its annual "Charles Mingus Birthday Broadcast" on Monday (April 22). The station will play the bassist-composer's recordings around the clock for 24 hours, starting at midnight (EDT) on Sunday. You can tune in on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
JazzWax on the radio. If you missed Bob Collins of WRHU-FM in New York interviewing me about my book, Why Jazz Happened, you can listen to the entire 30-minute chat with music by clicking below.
CD discoveries of the week. Giacomo Gates is hands down my favorite male vocalist on the scene today. His last album—The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs Of Gil Scott-Heron—knocked me out. Now, he's back singing all Miles Davis on Miles Tones: Giacomo Gates Sings the Music of Miles Davis (Savant). Gates comes out of the club-singer tradition, most specifically vocalese—words added to jazz songs and signature instrumental solos. Think King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson and Mark Murphy. Gates's hipster baritone, conviction and spry vocal solos take you back to a time when people read poetry in the park and jazz was about the joy of life and intellectual pursuits. Attention Don Was at Blue Note.
Ronnie Cuber is one aggressive baritone saxophonist. On Live at JazzFest Berlin (SteepleChase), you hear him wail away on Horace Silver's Tokyo Blues, Clare Fischer's hard bossa Coco B and his own Arroz Con Pollo. What sets Ronnie apart from many baritones today is his heady big band experience and R&B, Latin and funk dues. What I love about Ronnie is that he never dances around on songs. Instead, he's in there turning over tables and biting bottle tops off with his teeth. The level of intensity is always near-boil and his lines are daring, churning and fluid. Best of all, his baritone always sound like two seals wrestling. Or the mutterings of a grumpy sailor. The sound is grunty, gritty and swinging.
The French have always had a thing for Latin music. The attraction is the passion and style. On Rhythm of the Heart, French singer Raquel Bitton is joined by a 20-piece orchestra, and the result is a Havana cocktail with Champagne. Unlike most American singers who take on French songs, Bitton rolls her "r's" authentically with Piafian elan. Meanwhile, the band chunka-chunks along with drama and mystique. I studied French but can't make out the lyrics. It doesn't matter. She's worked up about something on each track—lost loves, cheating beaus and nostalgia for a long-ago love. This CD takes you on a trip to a place where makeup and manners mattered.
Oddball album cover of the week.
Easily the oddest jazz cover of them all, this one for Pacific Jazz rankled Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner when it was released in 1957. As a result, the cover was changed in '58 to a studio photo by William Claxton and the LP was renamed Portrait of Heath. Not sure what irked Hef more—the logo or the puppets. In fact, what do those puppets mean? The original design was by Chuck Hyman and the photo was by Peter Gowland.