Monday, September 21. 2009
Matthew Yglesias: Fiscal Responsibility: This post bummed me out as much as anything I've seen in recent weeks. Even Yglesias, framing estate tax breaks as a fiscal responsibility issue, misses the point. If people recognized the most basic point I learned as a young child -- that America is a land where each person can achieve according to their own efforts -- the necessity of high estate taxes would be common sense. America was founded in revolt against aristocracy, yet 233 years later politicians trip over each other trying to feather the nests of the born-rich. After eight years of a disastrous Republican president elected largely on his inherited name you'd think that Democrats (if that's what you call Lincoln and Bayh) would be especially alert to this. Of course, Bayh is a second generation senator, a Democrat only because he was born one, like he was born rich, dumb, and entitled. Yglesias gives us Paris Hilton as his illustration of the born-rich, but that's too kind. She at least has a sense of humor about her upbringing.
Enough here to dump out, although I hardly feel like it. Been in a terrible mood, and it's affecting my writing. Actually listened to a good deal more this past week, but moved nine more records to the relisten shelf without writing down my first impressions.
Digital Primitives: Hum Crackle & Pop: (2007-09 , Hopscotch): Trio: Cooper-Moore (vocal, banjo, twinger, diddley-bow, mouth bow, flute), Assif Tsahar (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Chad Taylor (drums, m'bira, percussion). Previous album together was called Digital Primitives, so this is another band in the wake of an album. Acoustic group, with Cooper-Moore's homemade instruments definitively a primitive one. Early on Tsahar struck me as a guy who'd just screech when he ran of ideas, but the only time that happens here is when it's the right thing to do. I caught a couple of YouTube videos of Cooper-Moore, which make me realize I should revise my view of him as a hermit. He's the life of the party here, and Taylor rounds him out into a terrific rhythm section. His one vocal is a bit trite, but he no doubt means it as profound. A-
Donny McCaslin: Declaration (2009, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, you know that. I've always been impressed by his chops. He's one guy who can show up at a session and run away with it. But his albums always left me lukewarm, at least until last year's Recommended Tools, where he cut the complexity down to a bare-bones trio and just blew: my review line was, "like he's strayed from Chris Potter's footsteps to chase after Sonny Rollins." Well, he's back to Potter-ville here (or Douglas-ton) with a piano-guitar quintet -- Edward Simon, Ben Monder, Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez -- plus a brass choir on 5 of 8 songs. Fancy postbop arranging, slinky harmonies, less emphasis on sheer virtuosity. Sounded better the second play than the first, so I'll keep it open. [B+(**)]
George Colligan: Come Together (2008 , Sunnyside): Piano trio, one of the most consistently impressive pianists of his generation (b. 1970), but I've yet to hear a full record I really like -- admittedly, I missed a skein of well-regarded albums on Steeplechase. Liner notes advise: "It might take 2 listens to hear our lifetimes of musical development." Having played this 5 or 6 times, I'm sure it takes more. I don't have any complaints or insights. I do have a long-established pet peeve against covering Beatles songs -- maybe I know them too well as originals, or maybe they're just such protean rock they're unjazzable -- but they nail the title tune about as well as I can imagine. B+(**)
Melissa Walker: In the Middle of It All (2009, Sunnyside): Vocalist, b. 1964, graduated from Brown, fourth album since 1997, after three on Enja. Standards, more or less: only "Where or When" has been done a lot; title cut is from Arthur Alexander, a soul singer who's basically a cult item; second song comes from Peter Gabriel; the one that most struck me was "Mr. Bojangles," drawn out nicely with her exaggerated loops. Arranged by Clarence Penn and Christian McBride, with Adam Rogers and Keith Ganz on guitar, Aaron Goldberg on piano and (most significantly) Fender Rhodes, and most valuably Gregoire Maret on harmonica. B+(**)
Hemispheres: Crossroads (2008-09 , Sunnyside): Group led by percussionist Ian Dogole, who has one previous Hemispheres album, one by Ian Dogole & Global Fusion, a couple under his own name, some earlier work in a group called Ancient Future. AMG lists him as New Age, which doesn't seem quite fair. Two solo pieces here -- one on kalimba, the other on hang -- are basic but intriguing. The other pieces are fleshed out with Sheldon Brown and Paul McCandless on various reeds/horns, Frank Martin on piano, and Bill Douglass on bass. McCandless's presence suggests Oregon, but doubling up on the wind instruments gives us something lusher, which is not necessarily a good thing -- clarinet and English horn, piccolo and soprano sax, like that. Final cut adds Hussein Massoudi tombak and vocals on a Persian piece. For once the vocal helps concentrate and clarify. Cover is a satellite image of Istanbul straddling the Bosphorus. As good a place to start as any. B+(*)
Jim Beard: Revolutions (2005-07 , Sunnyside): Full credit: With Vince Mendoza and the Metropole Orchestra. Three cuts from a 2005 session, the other 7 from 2007. Former has 54 musician credits, latter 51, about half strings in each case, most of the names strike me as Dutch. Keyboardist, b. 1960, fifth album since 1990, the first a large group on CTI, Song of the Sun. Substantial list of side credits, many on synthesizer, also as a producer. Mostly bright, fanciful, the strings neatly tucked in, the horns tame, a little extra percussion. B+(*)
Jason Marsalis: Music Update (2009, ELM): Another Marsalis brother, b. 1977, plays vibes. Third album, a quartet with piano-bass-drums. Mostly light groove pieces, a couple of which build up into something, most of which are pleasant enough. B
Emily Jane White: Dark Undercoat (2008 , Important): Singer-songwriter, AMG considers her Rock and I concur, not that she rocks very hard. Rather gloomy, in fact. Also plays guitar and piano, with bass and drums for backing, plus cello on one cut. Leaves a haunting effect; not sure of its literary merit. B+(**)
Rogério Bicudo/Sean Bergin: Mixing It (2008 , Pingo): Title is a misnomer: these duets don't really mix. Rather, the ex-Brazilian guitarist and ex-South African saxophonist, both now based in the Netherlands, play their own parts in each other's presence. Imagine Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfa in the studio, playing show and tell, trying to figure each other out, without the percussion and all the other stuff that smooth things over. Of course, Bergin's not as smooth as Getz, and Bicudo isn't as slick as Bonfa -- and when he sings Jobim, he reminds me of Astrud Gilberto, affectless, only clunkier, as males tend to be. Bergin's attempt to mix in a bit of Abdullah Ibrahim does little to change the focus on Brazil. Still, I find this charming. B+(**)
Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 , CAM Jazz): Pianist, from Venezuela, moved to New York 1989, 8th album since 1993. Piano trio with John Patitucci on bass (acoustic and electric), Brian Blade on drums. Never impressed me much before, but I like his repeating rhythmic riffing that drives most of these pieces. Seems like fans of the late EST would get off on this. B+(***)
John Abercrombie: Wait Till You See Her (2008 , ECM): Guitarist, a steady producer since the early 1970s, in a quartet with Mark Feldman (violin), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). Feldman, who's perhaps the least swinging violinist in jazz, dominates the sound, so it takes some effort to locate the guitar and note how neatly it fits in. B+(**)
Dave Rivello Ensemble: Facing the Mirror (2002 , Allora): Composer, conductor, teaches at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, founded this 12-piece ensemble in 1993. Studied under Bob Brookmeyer, who wrote the liner notes here. Elaborate postbop shadings, impressive at first but turn out to be of limited interest. B
As If 3: Klinkklaar (2008 , Casco): Dutch piano trio, pianist is Frank Van Bommel, who has a couple of previous albums since 1995. Raoul Van Der Weide plays bass, and Wim Janssen drums. Claims Mal Waldron and Misha Mengelberg as influences -- I can at least hear Waldron. Sharp work; good rhythmic sense and invention. B+(**)
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail this week: