A Look at Bill Evans's 15-Year-Old Pianist Grandson
And other updates on previous posts
The start of a new year is an especially good time to evaluate the previous one. So let’s revisit some articles from the past, and see how things fare.
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BILL EVANS HAS A 15-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON WHO IS STUDYING HIS MUSIC
I’ve written on several occasions about jazz pianist Bill Evans (1929-1980), whose music has been a major part of my life since my teenage years. (And I will be writing about Evans again in the near future.)
Music lovers find both grandeur and tragedy in this artist’s life (as my essay on “The Final Days of Bill Evans” makes clear).
But the video below is simply heartwarming.
The pianist’s wife Nenette Evans sent me this video of their 15-year-old grandson. His name is Jaden Maurice Evans, who is a student in North Carolina. She tells me that Jaden “loves his grandfather.”
I know many of you do too, and will feel the same joy I did in seeing this youngster at the piano.
Nenette tells me Jaden’s combo has been invited to the 16th Charles Mingus High School competition in New York in February.
IS APPLE ROTTING?
I’ve repeatedly predicted here that Apple will underperform expectations—the company simply can’t generate significant growth without a large acquisition (most likely of Disney).
But fans of Apple don’t like to hear this. So I’ve gotten pushback from Cupertino cheerleaders, who insist that Apple is still a growth business. (However, several of them have deleted their pro-Apple comments in recent weeks—an ominous sign in its own right.)
All the recent numbers support my rotting Apple thesis.
Last week, three different stock analysts downgraded Apple stock—and a fourth analyst did the same today. Here’s a typical headline from yesterday.
Analysts believe that the iPhone business and other hardware product lines are in deep trouble. News of a 30% decline in iPhone sales in China during the first week of 2024 was especially alarming. Meanwhile, Apple’s services business are underperforming.
My hunch is that 2024 will be the year of human reality, not virtual reality—which brings us to the next item on my update list.
ARE WE SEEING THE FIRST STIRRINGS OF A NEW ROMANTICIST MOVEMENT?
I recently offered speculative comments on the rise of a New Romanticism in our culture. I said this based on what I’m hearing everywhere now.
People are increasingly suspicious and hostile in the face of intrusive technology in every aspect of their lives. In both their actions and words, they readily express greater trust in human feeling and emotional attachments—embracing them as more flexible, more desirable, more real than digital screens and cold calculation.
It’s like 1800 all over again. Back then a similar rebellion against tech dominance (in the form of the Industrial Revolution) was led by musicians, poets, painters and other creative spirits.
Could it happen again?
I want to write more about this topic in the future. In the meantime, I note that several subsequent articles have also announced a New Romanticism, three of them appearing in the last few days. They cite my essay on the subject, but offer more evidence for this anticipated cultural shift.
Ross Barkan writes about “The New Romantic Age” on Substack
In The Guardian, he announces in another headline, that “The Zeitgeist Is Changing. A Strange, Romantic Backlash to the Tech Era Looms.”
Another journalist, Sandy Harjo-Livingston, has decided (in still another headline) that “A Curious Tech Rebellion is Brewing Among Young People.”
Maybe we’re all wrong. But the fact that others are reading the tea leaves in the same way tells me that the times are a-changin’.
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE—YOUNG PEOPLE ARE TURNING TO JAZZ
Speaking of romance (with a small ‘r’ this time), I recently wrote about a strange situation—namely young people telling me that jazz is romantic.
This shocked me the first time I heard it. Jazz has been called all sorts of things over the years—from sinful to boring. But romantic?
I now encounter more signs of a jazz resurgence among the rising generations. A research report predicts a jazz revival among Millennials and GenZ. This analysis draws on billions of searches on the Pinterest website, where the following topics are especially popular.
And the most popular jazz among youngsters is the retro kind I discussed in my article on romantic music.
This definitely isn’t the revival that the jazz police want—those bros despise anything tainted with nostalgia or lovey-dovey (or even Laufey-soppy) longings. But this may be the one they get.
Let me point out the obvious: This shift in musical tastes is not unconnected to the New Romanticist movement (with a capital ‘R’) discussed above.
MORE ON DUKE ELLINGTON’S 1940 CONCERT IN NORTH DAKOTA
Some months back, I wrote about Duke Ellington’s historic 1940 dance hall concert in Fargo, North Dakota—now considered one of the greatest live performances of mid-century American music.
It’s still the most noteworthy thing to occur in Fargo not involving a woodchipper. And it all happened by chance, because some fans took steps to make their own amateur recording.
Billy Bratcher in Burlington, Vermont owns the autographed album sleeve from the night of the performance. He reached out to me (via David Beckett). Bratcher gave me permission to share this photo.
Fans of this edition of Duke Ellington’s band (his finest ever, in my opinion) will recognize many of the signatures.
MORE WARNING SIGNS OF A SHRINKING MACROCULTURE
Last month I predicted that 2024 will be a year when the macroculture (huge legacy media outlets) gets outpaced by the microculture (nimble freelancers on alternative platforms).
I anticipate that many of the most important news scoops of 2024 will happen on alternative platforms. Let’s see if that actually takes place.
Meanwhile I’m seeing daily reports of turmoil in the large legacy outlets. For example:
CNN may be forced to merge with CBS News because “there is no more growth to be had.”
And the Washington Post, according to a report published last week, has lost most of its audience—and few readers want to subscribe.
Meanwhile, 43 YouTube channels are now attracting more than a half billion views per month.
And I’m constantly hearing stories about creative people bypassing the system. Musicians I’ve never heard of explain how they generate 60 million streams per month on Spotify without a record label.
A few days ago, a fantasy writer raised a million dollars for her new book from fans via a crowdfunding platform—and no publisher needed. That’s a new record.
You won’t hear these things from the macroculture—it’s news they prefer to ignore. But alt platforms are already the source of growth and action is in 2024.
And it’s only January.
MUSICIANS LOSE THE POWER OF SPEECH, BUT STILL MAKE REMARKABLE MUSIC
In a chapter from my book Music to Raise the Dead, I shared case studies of musicians who lose their power of speech after a stroke—but somehow continue their music careers. The loss of verbal expression doesn’t impact the quality of their music—and in some instances they may even be better artists after the stroke.
This new profile of jazz singer Linda Sharrock provides another inspiring story. Five years after her stroke, she began recording again, and has released five albums since then.
Mike Rubin reports in the New York Times.
It wasn’t until after she’d received multiple standing ovations that most of the audience realized the 76-year-old singer wasn’t able to speak: Sharrock became aphasic after a 2009 stroke that paralyzed her right side; she now uses a wheelchair….
[Saxophonist Mario] Rechtern began gradually coaxing Sharrock to perform again. “She started to develop first this growl sound, this cry, because she couldn’t articulate,” he said. “Out of the blues and this typical sound, she found this explosion.”
DOES SPOTIFY HATE HUMAN BEINGS?
I’ve warned repeatedly that music streaming platforms will use AI as their ultimate cost-cutting tool—and will explore every possible way of displacing human creativity with algorithms and bots.
Now Bloomberg reports that Spotify is working to replace human playlist curators with AI. Streams from human playlists are dropping 50%, while algorithms get more power.
Ashely Carman offers more details in this article.
One former employee says the tool was created to foster a more merit-based system with a greater emphasis on data — and less focus on the taste of individual curators….
The trend towards automated music discovery at Spotify shows no sign of slowing down. One internal presentation titled “Recapturing the Zeitgeist” encourages editorial curators to better utilize data…..
These days, Spotify is also promoting something called Discovery Mode, wherein labels and artist teams can submit songs for additional algorithm pushes in exchange for a lower royalty rate.
The last point is alarming. The bot will help human musicians, but they need to agree to smaller payouts.
I will definitely write more on this too in 2024.