Wednesday, June 13, 2012
I still can't believe the impact of technology on music. I am a non-techie; it all seems like musical magic to me. I am reaching the downhill slope of my run through life, so there is a lot of technological change in my rear-view mirror. I remember sitting in my room at the age of 15, wearing out my "Kind of Blue" LP on my cheap Sears portable stereo, trying to figure out how Miles injected simple phrases with such beauty and intensity. I remember spending hours producing a mix-tape for my brand new Sony Walkman so I could be immersed in Tower of Power and Ray Charles during my morning commute. I had a Sony Discman, enjoying my favorite J.J. Johnson CD as I moved about. Then, on October 23, 2001, Apple introduced the first iPod - 1,000 songs in your pocket!! Holy crap!! I was beside myself in excitement. By the time I got around to buying an iPod, the capacity was up to 10,000 songs. I uploaded my entire CD collection to that sucker in 2004. It took a solid week.
Just for fun, take a look at the Steve Jobs YouTube video of the iPod introduction. Doesn't the iPod look lame and clunky? That wheel thingy on the front is totally retro now. In this age of touch screens and cloud-based data storage, the iPod Classic is heading down the road to obsolescence, following the path of the 8-track tape, the cassette and the compact disk. I still have and use my old-skool mega-iPod with the wheel interface, but I am now listening to something else. It is crowding the iPod from my ears. It is Pandora.
Yeah, it has been around for a while and my eldest daughter has been onto it for years. I started fiddling around with Pandora at least two years ago and found it amusing to run it in the background as I worked on my laptop. A few months ago, I discovered that I could have Pandora stream to my smartphone thus turning it into a portable music player. I set up a bunch of stations - Trombone Shorty Radio, Dexter Gordon Radio, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Radio, Muddy Waters Radio - then I hit Quick Mix. It is like having a personal DJ with telepathy. Pandora knows what I like before I have heard it. I heard that Pandora can access over 1 million songs.
This morning, I heard Howard Tate sing "Eight Days on the Road" thanks to Pandora. Now, that is about as soulful and funky as a man can be! I like Aretha Franklin's version of this song, but it is nowhere near as REAL as Howard's version. The song is from the pen of Jerry Ragavoy, a prolific soul songwriter (a Jewish fella, of course) who also wrote "Get it While You Can" (covered by Janis Joplin) and "Time is on My Side" (covered by the Rolling Stones).
Right after Howard Tate, Pandora served up Dexter Gordon playing an amazing version of "Ruby My Dear," his tenor sax caressing the phrases and purring the theme. Then came Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, The Diplomats of Solid Sound, Chet Baker and Otis Redding. And I thought, "Magic."