Monday, September 22. 2014
Music: Current count 23843  rated (+29), 523  unrated (-5).
A sub-30 week. For a while I thought it was going to be even lower.
On the other hand, more A- records than usual. Much of the credit for
the latter goes to Robert Christgau: the return of his Consumer Guide
(or as he now prefers Expert Witness) alerted me to Homeboy Sandman
and Shaver, and prodded me to check out John Hiatt's latest -- I knew
it was out there, but given his last half-dozen albums I wasn't in a
big hurry to file another low B+. As it was, I followed up with Hiatt's
best-of, which combs those low B+ albums for a much better collection.
Christgau also wrote about Iggy Azalea in his new
Billboard column. I knew the name and thought her appearance on the
Ariana Grande album was its high point, but hadn't put together how much
I might like her.
Blog status is still uncertain. I noticed I've been getting a lot of
spam comments (I hardly know any other kind), which is an indication
that the database is accessible. I also heard from a reader depending
on the RSS feed, wondering whether I was all right. The "faux blog"
doesn't generate any RSS, so that notification avenue had been blocked.
(Pretty good solution: follow me on
Twitter.) So I went back
and added all the missing posts to the "real blog," and have kept them
in sync for the last week. That's a pain, but not understanding what
happened, and having no confidence that it won't happen again, for now
I lack a better solution.
Shopping advice request: I'm going to be traveling a lot soon, and
I'd like to buy a small Bluetooth speaker bar, like a Bose MiniLink
(strikes me as pricey) or Jambox Mini (clearly not as good). Anyone
have some advice/experience? I think it should allow for a wired stereo
connection (so I can plug in that IPod I foolishly bought a couple years
ago), but it will mostly be used with a new Chromebook, which should
make it possible to listen to Rhapsody on the road (if not in the car).
New records rated this week:
- Afghan Whigs: Do to the Beast (2014, Sub Pop): too heavy for me, but otherwise impressive, suggests growth over their long hiatus [r]: B+(**)
- Iggy Azalea: Ignorant Art (2011 , Grand Hustle, EP): debut EP mixtape, goes straight for the snatch not trusting you yokels to respond to anything subtle [r]: B+(**)
- Iggy Azalea: The New Classic (2014, Island): Australian rapper sneaks up on America via the Dirty South -- she's got a mouth and is gonna use it [r]: A-
- Kevin Hildebrandt: Tolerance (2012 , Summit): guitarist-led organ trio with Radam Schwartz, swings hard especially on the covers, sings some too [cd]: B+(**)
- Hal Galper Trio: O's Time (2014, Origin): veteran pianist, lot more crunch and risk than those Mehldaus but also more things that don't work [cd]: B+(**)
- Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: We're Back (2014, Whaling City Sound): Ron Carter and Kenny Barron make dreams come true, on '70s soul skewed to Wonder [cd]: B+(**)
- John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender (2014, New West): evidently included turning in his most consistent song album since Riding With the King [r]: A-
- Homeboy Sandman: Hallways (2014, Stones Throw): alt-rapper, beats seem a bit off but he talks his way around them, makes sense, small pleasures [r]: A-
- William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas: Live at the Vilnius Jazz Festival (2013 , NoBusiness): drums-sax duo, free improvs sound like comsummate skill [cd]: A-
- Imarhan Timbuktu: Alak Warled (2014, Clermont): average Saharan desert blues band, vocals never break ranks with the charming rhythmic lilt [dl]: B+(**)
- Sami Lane: You Know the Drill (2014, Mixcloud, EP): Bournemouth DJ uploads a 29-minute hip-hop flow, hard stuff, for her 23 followers on Mixcloud [dl]: B+(**)
- Alexander McCabe/Paul Odeh: This Is Not a Pipe (2014, Wamco): alto sax/piano duets, the latter steadying, but the sax is what you want to hear [cd]: B+(**)
- Jason Moran: All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller (2014, Blue Note): a dance tribute to Fats Waller, impressive pianistics and a surprise sax solo, but singers are way off [r]: B+(*)
- Nicholas Payton: Numbers (2013 , Paytone): New Orleans trumpet legend laid down some cushy riddim tracks, decided they didn't need trumpet dubs [r]: B-
- Peripheral Vision: Sheer Tyranny of the Will (2014, self-released): Canadian postbop quartet, cites Shorter and Rosenwinkel as influences, gets there [cd]: B+(*)
- RED Trio & Mattias Stĺhl: North and the Red Stream (2013 , NoBusiness): Rodrigo Pinheiro's avant-piano trio plus vibes, not just for tinkle [cd]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- John Hiatt: Here to Stay: Best of 2000-2012 (2000-12 , New West): label/era best-of usefully reduces handful of inconsistent albums into one real solid one [r]: A-
- Shaver: Shaver\'s Jewels: The Best of Shaver (1993-2001 [2013, New West): no doubt Eddy Shaver added something to his old man's songs -- guitar, also production smarts [r]: A-
Old records rated this week:
- Steve Lacy/Andrea Centazzo/Kent Carter: In Concert (1976 , Ictus): a trio, his most stable format, bass steadying the soprano warble [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy/Andrea Centazzo: Tao (1976-84 , Ictus): duets, soprano sax and percussion on a cycle of pieces, constant invention with light touch [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy Trio: The Window (1987 , Soul Note): an even better trio, original tunes, dazzling style and touch, none of the usual irritants [r]: A-
- Steve Lacy Double Sextet: Clangs (1992 , Hat Art): only piano and voice are doubled, and as usual voice is the problem, not just Aebi this time [cd]: B+(**)
- Ron McClure Quintet: Descendants (1980 , Ken): BS&T bassist, has had long, little noticed solo career, offers tasty bits of Scofield and Harrell [cd]: B+(**)
- Medeski Martin and Wood: Last Chance to Dance Trance (Perhaps): Best Of (1991-1996) (1991-96 , Gramavision): label best-of on their way up; the Monk-Marley segue is swell [cd]: B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau: The Art of the Trio: Volume One (1996 , Warner Brothers): piano with Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy, makes big title claim, neither nails/blows it [r]: B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau: Art of the Trio: Volume 4: Back at the Vanguard (1999, Warner Brothers): like Vol. 2, back at Village Vanguard, a bit faster and sharper, not necessarily better [r]: B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau: Progression: Art of the Trio, Volume 5 (2000 , Warner Brothers, 2CD): I've rationalized the titles, but actually they're not quite the same, same for the music [cd]: B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau: Anything Goes (2002 , Warner Brothers): continuing through the trio albums, always comes close, never quite blows me away [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: The Russian Concerts Volume 2 (FMR): October 14
- Frank Catalano/Jimmy Chamberlin/Percy Jones/Chris Poland/Adam Benjamin: Love Supreme Collective (Ropeadope): September 30
- The Tommy Igoe Rhythm Conspiracy (Deep Rhythm): September 23
- Darrell Katz and the JCA Orchestra: Why Do You Ride? (Leo)
- Lefteris Kordis: "Oh Raven, If You Only Had Brains . . .": Songs for Aesop's Fables (2010, Inner Circle Music)
- Rafael Rosa: Portrait (self-released)
- Spoke: (R)anthems (River)
Sunday, September 21. 2014
This week's scattered links:
David Atkins: Unsettling science:
Steve Koonin has an obfuscatory piece in the Wall Street Journal today
claiming that the science of climate change isn't settled. But it's not
the usual radically ignorant posturing. As with much of the evolution
of the conservative "debate" over climate, it represents another move
in the shifting ground of conservative chicanery intended to paralyze
action to solve the problem.
Koonin doesn't dispute that the climate is changing and that the
world is getting hotter. He doesn't dispute that humans are causing
the change through greenhouse gas emissions. He doesn't even dispute
that these changes are dangerous. His position is that because we don't
fully understand all of the complex reverberating effects of climate
change, we can't make good climate policy yet.
[ . . . ]
Of all the cynical arguments against action on climate change,
Koonin's ranks among the most disturbing because it's so obviously
calculated by a very smart person to make a radically irresponsible
conclusion just to protect a few entrenched economic elites.
By the way, a
People's Climate March took place in New York City today:
A comment I noticed on Twitter, from Robert Loerzel:
GOP lawmakers say there's no definitive scientific proof that there's
a Climate Change march today.
Carikai Chengu: How the US Helped Create Al Qaeda and ISIS: I've
alluded to this many times of late -- it's hard to think of Al Qaeda
without thinking of William Casey, even more so with Henry Kissinger
a new book -- but this bears repeating, especially since this
includes a few wrinkles I didn't even recall:
The fact that the United States has a long and torrid history of
backing terrorist groups will surprise only those who watch the news
and ignore history.
The CIA first aligned itself with extremist Islam during the Cold
War era. Back then, America saw the world in rather simple terms: on
one side, the Soviet Union and Third World nationalism, which America
regarded as a Soviet tool; on the other side, Western nations and
militant political Islam, which America considered an ally in the
struggle against the Soviet Union.
The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan,
General William Odom recently remarked, "by any measure the U.S. has
long used terrorism. In 1978-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law
against international terrorism -- in every version they produced,
the lawyers said the U.S. would be in violation."
During the 1970's the CIA used the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as
a barrier, both to thwart Soviet expansion and prevent the spread of
Marxist ideology among the Arab masses. The United States also openly
supported Sarekat Islam against Sukarno in Indonesia, and supported
the Jamaat-e-Islami terror group against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in
Pakistan. Last but certainly not least, there is Al Qaeda.
Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed
his organization during the 1980's. Former British Foreign Secretary,
Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably
a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that
Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of "the database" in
Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of
Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the
Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan.
The article gets a little cloudier as it approaches ISIS. As far
as I know -- and I haven't read Patrick Cockburn's new book on ISIS,
The Jihadis Return, but I've read much of his reporting --
nobody's assembled a good accounting of the CIA in Syria. We do know,
for instance, that ISIS arms are overwhelmingly American, but we do
not know to what extent those arms were provided by the US by Syrian
rebels, looted from Iraq, or provided by Saudi Arabia or Qatar --
nations which are nominally allied with the US but are free to use
militant jihadis to implement their programs. Chengu does regard
ISIS as an offshoot from Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, but that runs somewhat
counter to the fact that another Syrian group, Al Nusra, claims the
Al Qaeda brand. The problem with secret organizations like the CIA
operating in Syria is that there's never any accountability, and
therefore never any reason for discipline or restraint. I think
that's reason enough to abolish the CIA (at least he "operations"
end of the racket): they can never plausibly deny anything, no
matter how outrageous, because their entire existence is based on
secrecy and lies. The US will never be able to be taken at its word
as long as the CIA exists.
Andrew Levine: Fear of a Caliphate, long and rather rambling, but
this much is surely true (bold added):
Talk of caliphates serves the IS's purpose, much as beheadings on You
Tube do. And talk is cheap, and become cheaper. Since 9/11, the cost
of getting America to do itself in has plummeted.
And so, the IS, wins: Obama's America is off to war again.
Worry about that; not about what the IS says it wants to establish
in the region or the world.
The potential for harm resulting from the United States and other
Western powers fighting against the IS is greater by many orders of
magnitude than any harm that the IS can do in the areas it controls.
As I've written before, what brought the World Trade Center towers
down wasn't Al Qaeda; it was gravity. As long as the US responds to
provocation with the same unthinking, unreflective automation as the
laws of physics, we'll never be able to command our fate.
Juan Cole: Shiite Militias of Iraq Reject US Return, Threaten to Attack
US Forces: More proof that US intervention against ISIS will be a
colossal failure even the Americans manage to kill every Arab who leaves
his house dressed in black. Nor are the threats only coming from Muqtada
al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army: the Badr Brigades and foreign minister
Ibrahim al-Jafari are upset that the US snubbed Iran in putting together
their "coalition of the killing." The Iraqi Army (effectively another
Shiite militia) is beginning to chafe about depending on US air support.
And Prime Minister al-Abadi is unlikely to have any wiggle room to make
concessions to Sunni tribes with the Shiite militias staging their own
revolt. Rather than destroying ISIS, the only thing the US mission is
likely to accomplish is the secession of Kurdistan from Iraq. Cole adds:
It is difficult to tell how serious these militia leaders' pronouncements
are, since they might be attempting to save face with their followers even
as they benefit from the US air cover. On the other hand, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haqq
actually did in the past kidnap US troops, and the Mahdi Army fought them
tooth and nail in spring of 2004, inflicting high casualties on them. Since
President Obama's air campaign requires Special Ops forces like Navy Seals
or Green Berets to be on the ground with the Iraqi Army, they should
apparently watch their backs. The people they are trying to help against
ISIL don't seem to appreciate their being there. And many of them seem
to prefer Iran's help.
Speaking of which, Kerry seems to have softened the anti-Iran stand (see
Changing US-Iran Relations: Kerry: Iran has a Role in Defeating ISIL
Militants, although I don't think we've heard the last from AIPAC
on this). The fact remains that the US is opposed to Assad in Syria,
but eager to fight against Assad's worst enemy, even if it winds up
aligning with Assad's allies to do so.
Matthew Kalman: Hoping War-Weary Tourists Will Return to Israel:
While Israel has generally been able to escalate its war on Gaza
without incurring any real costs or hardships for its first-class
citizenry, wars still make tourists nervous, so it shouldn't be a
surprise that Israel's tourist business has declined of late. (I
think it was during the 2006 war on Lebanon when we worried that
some of my wife's relatives were going to Israel; upon checking,
we were relieved to find out they had gone to Auschwitz instead.)
This year should have been a record year for Israeli tourism. In 2013,
Israel attracted 3.6 million foreign visitors. Numbers from January
to June showed a 15 percent increase. Then the war began in July,
and the number of visitors slumped. In July and August, the number
of tourists fell to 400,000, down from 578,000 in the same period
last year, a 31 percent decline. Ninety percent of cruise ship
United States flights to Israel were banned for 24 hours after a
rocket landed near Ben-Gurion airport. There was little damage and
few casualties, but those who came found themselves running for shelter
as air-raid sirens wailed in Tel Aviv.
The Israel Hotels Association said that occupancy rates, usually
80 percent in July, fell below 40 percent. Top hotels offered deep
discounts. The new Ritz-Carlton in Herzliya slashed its room rate to
$400 from $575. In Jerusalem, Hilton's new Waldorf-Astoria offered a
10 percent discount online and a 20 percent discount for inquiries
Dan Hotels, which owns the King David in Jerusalem, warned shareholders
in August that third-quarter revenue was liable to fall by 30 percent
because of war-related cancellations.
Wasn't the King David the hotel the Stern Gang blew up in 1948?
Kalman doesn't mention the most famous tourist during the war: a
Palestinian-American teenager visiting Jerusalem, where his cousin
was immolated by Israeli settlers, after which he was beat and
arrested by Israeli police, and was only allowed to leave the country
after Israel's normally servile allies in the US embassy intervened.
The article details various ideas Israelis have to revive the tourism
industry, but they don't include forgoing future wars, opening up
Gaza, or inviting Palestinian refugees to "come home" for a visit.
Alice Rothchild: Gaza and the American awakening:
The seven week war on Gaza is theoretically over though Israeli forces
continue limited incursions into the beleaguered and bombed out strip
of coastal land and over 11,000 wounded and 100,000 homeless pick through
the rubble of their lives, mourn their dead children, and survive hungry
on the generosity of overstretched international aid. The headlines are
all Abbas and airstrikes in Syria and Netanyahu declaring without a shred
of credible evidence that ISIS is Hamas and Hamas is ISIS. Even more
invisible are the ongoing land grabs, continued Jewish settlement growth,
and arrests and killings of Palestinians in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem. [ . . . ]
Although the media has largely turned its gaze elsewhere, the war in
Gaza has forced more of these kinds of contradictions to become painfully
obvious to liberal Jews in the US. While the Israeli government talks about
"pinpoint strikes" and "unprovoked attacks from Hamas" it has become
increasingly difficult to ignore the massive destruction of the Gazan
infrastructure, hospitals, schools, government buildings, UN facilities,
homes. With more than 60 Israelis dead and a Jewish population fearful
of the ever increasing reach of the primitive Qassam rockets, it is time
to ask if three devastating attacks on Gaza in six years and a policy of
periodically "mowing the lawn" is a long-term strategy that leads to an
end to Palestinian resistance and a secure Israel.
Jay Caspian Kang: ISIS's Call of Duty:
The similarities between ISIS recruitment films and first-person-shooter
games are likely intentional. Back in June, an ISIS fighter told the BBC
that his new life was "better than that game Call of Duty."
[ . . . ]
The use of video games as a recruiting tool is not new. The United
States Army has, for the past decade, offered "America's Army," an online
multiplayer shooter; it is among the most downloaded war games of all time
and has been credited with helping boost enlistment. In 2009, according to
the New York Times, Army recruiters hoping to attract enlistees
from urban areas set up stations in a Philadelphia mall where kids could
play video games and, if they so chose, talk to someone about what life
in the armed forces would be like. [ . . . ]
Aside from the recruitment films tailored to evoke video games, they
also have released a series called Mujatweets, which stresses the
brotherhood of ISIS fighters and shows them handing out candy to children.
Paul Krugman: Wild Words, Brain Worms, and Civility:
First, picturesque language, used right, serves an important purpose.
"Words ought to be a little wild," wrote John Maynard Keynes, "for they
are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking." You could say, "I'm
dubious about the case for expansionary austerity, which rests on
questionable empirical evidence and zzzzzzzz . . ."; or you could
accuse austerians of believing in the Confidence Fairy. Which do you
think is more effective at challenging a really bad economic doctrine?
Beyond that, civility is a gesture of respect -- and sure enough,
the loudest demands for civility come from those who have done nothing
to earn that respect. Noah felt (and was) justified in ridiculing the
Austrians because they don't argue in good faith; faced with a devastating
failure of their prediction about inflation, they didn't concede that they
were wrong and try to explain why. Instead, they denied reality or tried
to redefine the meaning of inflation.
And if you look at the uncivil remarks by people like, well, me, you'll
find that they are similarly aimed at people arguing in bad faith. I talk
now and then about zombie and cockroach ideas. Zombies are ideas that
should have been killed by evidence, but keep shambling along -- e.g.
the claim that all of Europe's troubled debtors were fiscally irresponsible
before the crisis; cockroaches are ideas that you thought we'd gotten rid
of, but keep on coming back, like the claim that Keynes would never have
called for fiscal stimulus in the face of current debt levels (Britain in
the 1930s had much higher debt to GDP than it does now). Well, what I'm
doing is going after bad-faith economics -- economics that keeps trotting
out claims that have already been discredited.
[ . . . ]
And of course, people who engage in that kind of bad faith screech
loudly about civility when they're caught at it.
I never think of myself as a rock critic more than when I'm writing
about politics. Rock critics are always sensitive to ambient noise, and
looking for some choice words to break through the din.
Also see Krugman's
Return of the Bums on Welfare, about "John Boehner's resurrection of
the notion that we're suffering weak job growth because people are living
the good life on government benefits, and don't want to work." Conclusion:
So basically the right is railing against the bums on welfare not only
when there aren't any bums, but when there isn't any welfare.
Amanda Marcotte: Creationism is just the start: How right-wing Christians
are warping America's schools: This, of course, is nothing new -- I
recall reading Paul Goodman's book Compulsory Mis-Education back
in the 1960s, when it first occurred to me that the ideological purpose
of school was to brainwash the masses. Still, the broad consensus of
received wisdom in the 1950s at least gave lip-service to science and
smarts, and painted US history as progressive -- we were taught that
the US fought for independence and free trade, that the North faught
against slavery, and that the reunited US frowned on imperialism and
put an end to fascism (although we still had to read Animal Farm
on the evils of Godless Communism). Now, however:
The attempts to indoctrinate children into the belief that America
is basically a Christian theocracy are bad enough, but that's not the
only conservative agenda item the books are trying to trick students
into buying. The books also try to subtly discredit the civil rights
movement by implying that segregation wasn't so bad, with one book
arguing that white and black schools had "similar buildings, buses,
and teachers," which the researchers argue "severely understates the
tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools."
Researchers also found that the books were playing the role of
propagandist for unregulated capitalism. One textbook argues that
taxes have gone up since 1927, but society "does not appear to be
much more civilized today than it was" back then. It's an assertion
that ignores the much reduced poverty and sickness, improved education,
and even things like the federal highway system, all to make an
ideological point. Another book argues that any government regulation
whatsoever somehow means that capitalism ceases to be capitalism, a
stance that would mean capitalism has never really existed in all of
That these books are stuffed full of lies and propaganda is not a
surprise. From the get-go, the State Board of Education made it clear
it was far more interested in pushing a right-wing ideology on students
than actually providing an education. In July, the Texas Freedom Network
reviewed the 140 people selected to be on the panels reviewing textbooks.
Being an actual expert in politics or history practically guaranteed you
couldn't get a slot, as "more than a dozen" Texas academics with expertise
who applied got denied, while conservative "political activists and
individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got
places on the panels." Only three of the 140 members of the panel are
even current faculty members at Texas universities, but a pastor who
used to own a car dealership somehow got a spot.
Heather Digby Parton: Wingnuts' crippling Ebola fury: Why they're enraged
about fighting a disease: Superficially most of these wingnuts appear
to be griping about ISIS rather than Ebola, but I suppose that's because
they prefer threats they can misunderstand to ones they cannot grasp, or
maybe they just prefer enemies they can kill to diseases that could kill
them. For example, Allen West:
The world need to step up against Islamo-fascism but I suppose fighting
Ebola is easier for a faux Commander-in-Chief than to fight a real enemy
of America. Nice optics there Barack, good try to change the subject,
and make yourself seem like a leader fighting a really bad flu bug --
all the while you dismiss the cockroaches who behead Americans.
Then there are the right-wingers who fear illegal child refugees
will sneak Ebola into the country. Unless, of course, we head them
off by setting up an ambush on the Syria-Iraq border.
Paul Rosenberg: We really must remember the epic failures of George W.
Bush: Frank Bruni asks, "Whenever Barack Obama seems in danger of
falling, do we have to hear that George W. Bush made the cliff?" Well,
yes, not that there was no cliff before Bush, but it got much steeper
and less study under Bush's eight years of malign neglect and extreme
But the real problem here was not that Obama supporters attacked Bush.
It was that Obama himself did not. [ . . . ]
While it's true that we can't undo Bush's mistakes, that hardly
means it's foolish to keep them in mind. It would be foolish to forget
them, after the terrible price we've paid -- and at the same time when
the architects of that disaster are urging another mission in the Middle
East to "destroy" ISIS.
And yet, as with domestic policy, Obama's most significant mistake
has been his reluctance to break sharply with previous Republican policy,
call out their failures, and hold them responsible. War crimes have not
even been investigated, much less punished -- only those who sought to
expose them have been prosecuted. Yet, holding our own accountable for
their misdeeds would work wonders for regaining trust throughout the
I don't see how you can blame Obama's supporters. He did promise
change when he ran in 2008, and I'm pretty sure most of us took that
as meaning change from G.W. Bush, who gave us seven years of stupid,
pointless wars; two huge tax giveaways to the already rich; runaway
deficits; a bad recession early, a fake recovery, and an even worse
recession late, which he turned into a trillions of dollars of gifts
to the big banks; perversion of the criminal justice system and the
right-wing politicization of civil service; major failure in federal
disaster relief; complete inattention to festering problems like
health care and climate change; utter disregard for international
law. Obama, the Democrats, the press, everyone should have routinely
repeated that list, not so much to heap scorn upon the Republicans
(although they certainly deserve to be shamed) as to warn ourselves
against repeating such disastrous policies.
Indeed, most of Obama's problems since taking office result not
from the few changes Obama did manage -- Obamacare, for instance,
is a success by any measure, at least against the previous system
if not against the single-payer system we would have preferred --
but from the many ways he continued and conserved Bush policies.
Wednesday, September 17. 2014
Every year dozens of books are published about a topic that only a
handful of Americans care about: specifically, those with cushy "think
tank" jobs, plus a few military officers and State department bureaucrats
who aspire to those jobs. Most assume that the US has a rightful role
running the World Order, with some fretting that China or some other
nation is going to butt in and offering sage advice on how the US can
secure its rightful role. Against these stalwart hegemonists, now and
then someone will argue that a "multipolar" isn't such a calamity, but
they are in the minority, and are still so obsessed with dominance
they needn't fear about losing their status as Very Serious Thinkers.
The books, of course, are nonsense, predicated on unexamined ideas:
that chaos and war are the natural state of the world, that order is so
valuable you have to accept it from whoever can impose it, that inequality
is the best we can do given man's venal nature. That is, of course, the
way conservatives think about everything. Unfortunately, it is also the
way liberals usually think about the foreign world, given how readily
they have sucked up the prejudices of the West's imperial past. In 2003
Jonathan Schell published an antidote to that kind of thinking, a book
called The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of
the People. It was published just as the neocon ideology had become
fashionable and powerful enough to "create new reality" in Iraq, and
predicted failure for such hubris. Ten years later the results should
be clear, but still the foreign policy elite natters on, too absorbed
in their own prejudiced thoughts to have noticed their failures.
Case in point: a new book called World Order by America's
most venerable war criminal, Henry Kissinger. Fortunately, we don't
have to actually read the book: we can skim through the New York
review by John Micklethwait -- editor-in-chief of The Economist,
the kind of journalist who makes his living chronicling the rarefied
world of conservative "think tanks." (Micklethwait's most famous book
is The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which every
4-5 pages reiterated the mantra that conservatives are America's "idea
people." He also wrote A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden
Promise of Globalization  and God Is Back: How the Global
Revival of Faith Is Changing the World , extolling the wonders
of free capital flows and fundamentalism, respectively. His latest is
The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State,
about how the future belongs to oligarchies that are able to usurp the
powers of the state.) Rarely has reviewer and subject been so perfectly
matched to bring out the worst in a book.
However, before we dive into the review, I should point out that
there is an alternative approach to international relations that is
wholly absent in the thinking of Kissinger and Micklethwait: the
idea that order can be obtained through the consent of equal nations
with a common commitment to basic, inalienable human rights and a
just body of international law. In the wake of two horrific world
wars, and the advent of even more destructive nuclear weapons, that
idea got so far as the founding documents of the United Nations --
before that body got turned into a cartel of superpowers -- and the
basic ideas have reappeared occasionally since. I could elaborate
more, but for now just keep the idea in mind.
The first quarter of Micklethwait's review is sheer flattery:
If you want to understand the point of Henry Kissinger, play this
mind game: Imagine that the nonagenarian had run American foreign
policy since Sept. 11, 2001, instead of two groups that had spent much
of the previous quarter-century condemning him. First came the
democracy-touting neoconservatives, who saw his realpolitik as
appeasement, and now liberal Democrats, who insist nation-building
must begin at home -- and therefore hate foreign entanglements, let
alone grand strategies.
Might a little realism have been useful in Iraq, rather than the
"stuff happens" amateurism of the Bush years? Would a statesman who
read Winston Churchill on Afghanistan ("except at harvest time
. . . the Pathan [Pashtun] tribes are always engaged in private or
public war") have committed America to establishing a "gender
sensitive . . . and fully representative" government in Kabul? Would
Kissinger have issued a red-line warning to Syria and then allowed
Assad to go unpunished when he used chemical weapons? Or let a power
vacuum gradually develop on Vladimir Putin's borders? Or looked on as
the South China Sea became a cockpit of regional rivalries?
[ . . . ]
Yes, passion, for this is a cri de coeur from a famous
skeptic, a warning to future generations from an old man steeped in
the past. It comes with faults: It is contorted by the author's
concerns about his legacy and by a needless craving not to upset the
Lilliputian leaders he still seeks to influence. It also goes over
some of the same ground as previous works. But it is a book that every
member of Congress should be locked in a room with -- and forced to
read before taking the oath of office.
It's not as if Kissinger didn't have the ear of the Bush Administration
after 9/11. He was, after all, Bush's first pick to chair the commission
that would report on the 9/11 attacks. (He turned the job down for fear
of having to disclose who his consulting clients were.) If he had any
reservations about Bush's approach to Iraq or anything, he was remarkably
circumspect about voicing them. And since when has Churchill been an
expert on anything? He always said he hadn't been elected to preside
over the dismantling of the British Empire, but no one did more to wreck
it, which he repeatedly did by insisting on substituting his prejudices
for any understanding of or empathy for the empire's subjects. On the
other hand, Kissinger's own record is nearly as bad. The suggestion
that he would have handled Syria and Ukraine better than Obama has --
admittedly a low bar -- overlooks how much his own policies contributed
to those conflicts today.
The premise is that we live in a world of disorder:
[ . . . ] Hence the need to build an order -- one
able to balance the competing desires of nations, both the established
Western powers that wrote the existing international "rules"
(principally the United States), and the emerging ones that do not
accept them, principally China, but also Russia and the Islamic
This will be hard because there never has been a true world
order. Instead, different civilizations have come up with their own
versions. The Islamic and Chinese ones were almost entirely
self-centered: [ . . . ] America's version,
though more recent and more nuanced, is also somewhat self-centered --
a moral order where everything will be fine once the world comes to
its senses and thinks like America (which annoyingly it never quite
does). So the best starting point remains Europe's "Westphalian"
balance of power.
The Westphalia treaties ended the 30 Years War in 1648 with a set
of agreements between nations/states/cities to respect each other's
autonomy and work with each other in prescribed ways. This later led
to an ever-adjusting set of alliances to maintain a balance of power --
which mostly worked to keep the peace in Europe (and to export war to
the third world) until its colossal failure in 1914. Kissinger always
thinks in the past, and far enough back as to ignore recent novelties
like the European Union, so balance of power is the best he can do.
Unlike the neocons, he recognizes that the US isn't the sole power in
the world, one suspects this has less to do with realism than with
the fact that it takes multiple powers to balance.
After all, while the neocons hate Kissinger, he has never really
reciprocated. The reason, I think, is that both worship power. It's
just that the neocons think they have so much power they can create
their own reality, and Kissinger, well, he's never been to type to
point out "the Emperor's new clothes" -- he's too much of a flatterer
for that, too worshipful of power.
The review goes on and on iterating Kissinger's past examples, a
litany of Richelieu, Metternich, Palmerston, Talleyrand -- curiously
enough, courtiers like Kissinger and not the monarchs they served.
Kissinger goes on to belittle the European Union:
. . . as Kissinger notes in one of his more withering asides,
unifications in Europe have only been achieved with a forceful uniter,
like Piedmont in Italy or Prussia in Germany.
For Kissinger, historical change not accomplished by force hardly
counts. Then he explains Putin and Russia:
Kissinger also canters eloquently through Russia. Vladimir Putin's
nationalism makes more sense once you understand the historical chip
on his shoulder and his country's centuries-long, remorseless
expansion: Russia added an average of 100,000 square kilometers a year
to its territory from 1552 to 1917.
Again, nothing like a historical factoid to explain away current
behavior or policy. This one is about as facile as trying to explain
the Bush occupation of Iraq as the latest wrinkle on Manifest Destiny.
It may indeed be that a nation capable of the former is predisposed
to the latter, but that leaves a lot of intervening history unexamined
in favor of a pat answer.
Still, the book stalls a bit with Islam. Religion used to be one of
Kissinger's blind spots: The word does not appear in the index of
Diplomacy. Now Kissinger seems to have swung too far the other
way. Islam's failure to differentiate between mosque and state suddenly
explains virtually everything (though not, presumably, the success of
the largest Muslim-dominated state, Indonesia). Iran is perfidy
personified. By contrast, Israel is a victim, "a Westphalian state" in
a sea of unreason. He does not mention its unhelpful settlement-building
or examine the Jewish state's own extremists (the man who killed the
peacemaking Yitzhak Rabin is a "radical Israeli student"). It all feels
like a rather belated olive branch to the Israeli right and its supporters
in America's Congress.
I suppose this is where you notice that Micklethwait is British: he
can't quite fall for the poor, tiny, beleaguered Israel line that is
political orthodoxy in the US. Kissinger has been around the block
enough to know better too, but to say so would take principles, or
courage, neither a Kissinger staple. Propounding ignorance about
Islam, on the other hand, takes neither. It's right up his alley.
The book recovers speed with Asia. Kissinger compares Britain's
effect on India to Napoleon's on Germany: In both cases multiple
states that had seen themselves only as a geographic entity discovered
a national one.
Another remarkable example of Kissinger's ability to look at al
the complexities of history and only see power relationships, then
to take the narrowest thread and explicate it through some totally
unrelated event in European history. Sure, Britain united India
politically -- more Bismarck than Napoleon, I'd say, until they
also split it into two warring halves -- but they also destroyed
India economically. (One thing I wonder is whether Kissinger would
have been so successful had stayed in Europe, where his audiences
and patrons might actually know much of the history he revels in.)
There is some repetition here with his last book on China, but he
moves quickly through the Middle Kingdom's self-absorbed history,
where foreign policy was largely a matter of collecting tribute
through the emperor's Ministry of Rituals and where soldiery was
little valued ("Good iron is not used for nails. Good men do not
become soldiers"). In 1893, even as Western forces were overrunning
the country, the Qing dynasty diverted military funds to restore a
marble boat in the Imperial Palace.
Middle Kingdom? Another example of forcing the present into the
distant past so he can avoid having to understand what's happening
there. I like the line -- "Good men do not become soldiers" -- but
modern China does not lack for soldiers, or for nails. While modern
China must in some sense continue to reflect and resonate ancient
China, the nation's remarkable economic growth of the past 20-30
years is more due to forced modernization. This is a modern (perhaps
even postmodern) phenomenon -- unexplainable through ancient history,
but also non-analogous to the processes that created similar results
in Europe and America. In particular, China (and most of East Asia,
Japan a partial exception) achieved its wealth without building on
imperialism, so is unlikely to look at the world the same way Europe
and America do. Needless to say, that's a thought Kissinger is
Is modern America capable of leading the world out of this?
Kissinger never answers this question directly, but the chapters on
his own country read like a carefully worded warning to a treasured
but blinkered friend. America comes to the task with two deep
character faults. The first, bound up with its geography, is a
perception that foreign policy is "an optional activity." As late as
1890, its army was only the 14th largest in the world, smaller than
Bulgaria's. This is a superpower that has withdrawn ignominiously from
three of the last five wars it chose to fight -- in Vietnam, Iraq (the
younger Bush version), Afghanistan. The second is that the same ideals
that have built a great country often made it lousy at diplomacy,
especially "the conviction that its domestic principles were
self-evidently universal and their application at all times salutary"
-- the naďveté of Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and the
neoconservatives' forays in the Islamic world.
[ . . . ]
But the current disorder is more complex: chaos in the Middle East,
the spread of nuclear weapons, the emergence of cyberspace as an
unregulated military arena and the reordering of Asia. The challenge is
"not simply a multipolarity of power but a world of increasingly
contradictory realities," Kissinger writes. "It must not be assumed that,
left unattended, these trends will at some point reconcile automatically
to a world of balance and cooperation -- or even any order at all."
[ . . . ]
How do America's current leaders shape up? Here the book is both
irritatingly coy and implicitly devastating. There is no direct
criticism of the Obama administration and even a slightly comic
paragraph expressing Kissinger's deep personal admiration for George
W. Bush -- in the midst of a section on the cluelessness of his foreign
policy. But under the equivocation and the courtiership, the message
is clear, even angry: The world is drifting, unattended, and America,
an indispensable part of any new order, has yet to answer even basic
questions, like "What do we seek to prevent?" and "What do we seek to
One of my favorite rock lyrics is from the band Camper van Beethoven,
and goes like this: "If you weren't living here in America/you'd probably
be somewhere else." There are several problems with being self-centered.
One is that you can't see yourself as others see you, and as such you
have no clue when you do something wrong. Back when the US army was
smaller than Bulgaria's it still did things that were wrong -- 1890,
the very year Micklethwait cites, was the date of the Wounded Knee
Massacre -- but those wrong things were much smaller in scope and more
isolated from the rest of the world than they are today. I don't know
why Kissinger/Micklethwait complained about the size of the 1890 army.
Back then, the US was already the most prosperous nation in the world,
without getting into the trap of managing overseas colonies (although
it often treated Central America like one). Nor was the US isolated:
with the possible exception of the UK, no nation traded more all around
the world. What more do they want?
The notion of America as an "indispensable nation" dates from WWII,
when latent industrial might turned the tables against the Axis --
although we conveniently forget that most of the actual fighting was
carried out by the Soviet Union and China. Unfortunately, Americans
had too good a time in that war -- a massive Keynesian stimulus,
strict profit controls, and a sense of common purpose pushed a
previously depressed economy into overdrive, while all of the war's
destruction took place elsewhere. By the time the war was over, over
half of the world's industrial capacity resided in the US, and America
alone had the financial power to jumpstart the world economy. After
some early gestures to build a peaceful world community, Truman got
distracted and decided that the US should side with capital in the
international class war, so efforts like the Marshall Plan were turned
into political weapons against not just the Soviet Union but the whole
working class. The "Cold War" somehow managed not to destroy the world,
but the US repeatedly supported desperate attempts by colonial powers
to recapture their empires, and corrupt dictators and oligarchs when
independence was inevitable, while isolating nations that had the gall
to turn toward communism. Ultimately, the big loser of the Cold War
wasn't the Soviet Union, which gave up the game, but America's own
middle class democracy.
Micklethwait, possibly echoing but at least distilling Kissinger,
described the Cold War thusly:
In the Cold War, America's moral order worked: There was a clear
adversary that could eventually just be outmuscled, there were
compliant allies and there were set rules of engagement.
After the Soviet Union fell, America's foreign policy elites were
beside themselves with triumphal glee -- proclaiming The End of
History and looking forward to The Clash of Civilizations --
but their triumph was little more than a con. Had Reagan's rhetoric
caused the Soviet Union to disintegrate, why did communist states the
US confronted much more aggressively (like Cuba and North Korea) stay
communist? If communism was a dead end, how was China able to post
the world's strongest economic growth record over the last 25 years?
Moreover, when you sift through the real rubble of the "Cold War"
you find enormous chasms where the US took the wrong side of history
and left enormous destruction in its wake: the "chaos in the Middle
East" that Micklethwait bemoans is largely the result of America's
Cold War embrace of Salafist jihadism -- a program, by the way,
initiated in the 1970s when Henry Kissinger came up with the bright
idea of propping the ultraconservative Saudi monarchy up as a US
proxy in the Middle East (and soon thereafter Afghanistan). To say
"America's moral order worked" is well beyond insane.
This isn't to say that the US should have no role in the world
(although that would clearly be an improvement over the one the US
has practiced for nearly seventy years now). Clearly there are
useful and valuable things a large and rich nation can do in the
world -- the $750 million Obama just proposed to fight the ebola
epidemic is a nice gesture (although, as
Nick Turse recently documented, the US has a terrible track
record of running "humanitarian projects" in Africa). But what
needs to be done is for the US to meet other countries in forums
that give everyone a fair and equal shake, and for that to happen
the US has to stop throwing its weight around, trying to bully
everyone else into submission. More specifically, the US needs to
develop a genuine commitment to peace and human rights, to equality
and justice, to a sustainable stewardship of the earth. To do that,
a good first step would be to stop listening to Henry Kissinger.
In fact, a good step would be to extradite him to the Hague, to
finally be tried as the war criminal he was (and is).
Monday, September 15. 2014
Music: Current count 23814  rated (+39), 528  unrated (+4).
Rhapsody Streamnotes last
Tuesday, I kept diving into the old music, moving from Julius Hemphill
to Henry Threadgill, then to Steve Lacy (still not done there). I was
surprised to find that I liked the two early albums so much (both ***
in Penguin Guide; I went back and replayed the 4-star all-Monk
Explorations but left it at B+). And I was further surprised
that none of the later albums rated that high -- though I am just
filling in holes in a catalog I've previously heard much of. (Before
this week I had 37 albums rated filed under Lacy's name; now 51;
there are still 21 unheard albums in the database.) For the record,
I previously had the following Lacy records rated A- or A (counting
one filed under Roswell Rudd's name):
- School Days (w/Roswell Rudd, 1963)
- The Forest and the Zoo (1966)
- Esteem: Live in Paris (1975)
- Regeneration (w/Roswell Rudd and others, 1982)
- Morning Joy: Live at Sunset Paris (1986)
- Sempre Amore (w/Mal Waldron, 1986)
- One More Time (w/Joëlle Léandre, 2002)
- Early and Late (w/Roswell Rudd, 1962-2002)
A couple of those came out after his death in 2003. I suppose I should
also note that Lacy has more low grades (B or below) than nearly any other
jazz musician of his stature: I find a lot of his 1970s work to be very
sloppy, and I have a lot of trouble any time he hands the mic to his wife,
Irčne Aëbi (although my horror has somewhat diminished with this latest
batch of records). He also has a lot of solo albums that are intrinsically
limited -- Only Monk (1985) is one of the B records, even though
it seems like it should be better. Some more in the queue, and any time
I find something more I'll give it a listen.
Not many new records: most of last week's haul came in today and
barely got catalogued. Spent a lot of time with the two TUM records.
It should be noted somewhere that they have the best documentation
and packaging of any jazz label in the world. Also spent quite a
bit of time with Lomax, whose 2010 album, The State of Black
America, made that year's top-ten list. Saxophonist Edwin
Bayard is key to both, one of the most powerful young players I've
heard this decade.
I've kept the original tweet grade for Loudon Wainwright III below,
but the database grade is somewhat more generous. Although I single
out one extraordinarily bad song, it should be noted that nothing
else on the album rises to the level of Older Than My Old Man
Now (my top-ranked record of 2012). Also, my complaint about
that "2nd Amendment Xmas anthem" isn't political (as I tweeted,
"even if it's satirical and anti-gun"). Some brilliant ideas just
don't work, nor do stupid ones, regardless of artistic license.
(By the way, Matt Rice has a more judicious Wainwright review
Recommended music links:
Robert Christgau: Expert Witness: first installment of the new
Consumer Guide focuses on alt-rap records: Atmosphere, The Roots,
Homeboy Sandman, Open Mike Eagle; three A-, two HMs. More coming
each Friday. There's also an
interview with Christgau where he pegs Black Portland as
his favorite album of the year. I thought Atmosphere and The Roots
might have some upward potential when I reviewed them back when,
but I didn't get anything promising out of Black Portland --
although Tatum, Rice, and others did.
New records rated this week:
- Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams (2014, Blue Note): singer-songwriter narrowly framed, both on cover and with guitar, as if we should pay more attention, but should we? [r]: B
- Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms: From the Region (2013 , Delmark): vibes-bass-drums trio with Flaten & Reed, doing much to let the leader roam/soar [cd]: B+(***)
- Kalle Kalima & K-18: Buńuel de Jour (2013 , TUM): guitarist, quartet adds bass, accordion, and alto sax, all melting together, thick & juicy [cd]: B+(***)
- The Mark Lomax Trio: Isis & Osiris (2012 , Inarhyme): drags early, but Edwin Bayard's sax is often mesmerizing, drummer pretty good too [cd]: A-
- Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (2012 , TUM, 2CD): another 2CD monster but spare, with Henry Threadgill jousting, Lindberg & DeJohnette [cd]: B+(***)
- Loudon Wainwright III: Haven't Got the Blues (Yet) (2014, 429): pretty good album, as usual, except for that 2nd Amendment Xmas anthem [r]: D-
Old records rated this week:
- John Wolf Brennan/Alex Cline/Daniele Patumi/Tscho Theissing/John Voirol: Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights (1993-97 , Leo): [r]: B+(**)
- Julius Hemphill: Raw Materials and Residuals (1977 , Black Saint): early sax trio with cello and percussion, explosive postbop, seductive melodies [r]: A-
- Julius Hemphill/Warren Smith: Chile New York (1980 , Black Saint): sax-percussion duets, kind of sketchy as improv can sometimes be [r]: B+(**)
- The Julius Hemphill Sextet: At Dr. King's Table (1997, New World): ghost band, six-piece sax choir laying out some of his most storied harmonies [r]: B+(***)
- The Julius Hemphill Sextet: The Hard Blues: Live in LisbonB+(***)
- Jay Clayton & John Lindberg: As Tears Go By (1987 , Jazzwerkstatt): half tortured voals, half String Trio of New York, some pretty great Marty Ehrlich [r]: B+(*)
- Steve Lacy: Soprano Sax (1957 , Prestige/OJC): first album, shows his horn off on Monk & Ellington, with very engaging Wynton Kelly on piano [r]: A-
- Steve Lacy: The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy (1960 , Candid): mostly trio as Lacy lays out his unique soprano sax style, covering Monk, Parker, and Taylor [r]: A-
- Steve Lacy with Don Cherry: Evidence (1961 , New Jazz/OJC): two-horn quartet with bass/drums, indecisive squabbles over the usual fare (Ellington, Monk) [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy: Scratching the Seventies/Dreams (1969-77 , Saravah, 3CD): box rolls up 5 albums as Lacy gets weird, often several ways at once [r]: B+(*)
- Steve Lacy/Andrea Centazzo: Clangs (1977 , Ictus): soprano sax and percussion duets, a rickety contraption with whistles, bird calls, clanging [r]: B+(**)
- Steve Lacy Quintet: Troubles (1979, Black Saint): tricky, slippery tunes with Steve Potts on second sax, Irene Aebi on violin or cello (or voice) [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy: The Flame (1982, Soul Note): trio with Bobby Few (piano) and Dennis Charles (drums), bits of genius and bouts of flailing [r]: B+(*)
- Steve Lacy/Mal Waldron: Live in Berlin (1984 , Jazzwerkstatt): typical mix for frequent duet partners, can get dense, also somewhat fanciful [r]: B+(**)
- Steve Lacy: More Monk (1989 , Soul Note): solo soprano sax, all Monk tunes, played fairly straight but stripped to bare bones [r]: B+(*)
- Steve Lacy/Mal Waldron: "Let's Call This . . . Esteem" (1993, Slam): duo, one of many they've done but too often they play past one another [r]: B+(**)
- Steve Lacy Trio: The Rent (1997 , Cavity Search, 2CD): trio, with Jean-Jacques Avenel and John Betsch, live before enthusiastic crowd, stretches into 2CD [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy Trio: The Holy La (1998 , Freelance): same trio, cut in studio in France, lovely kalimba stretch, two Aebi vocals (not too bad) [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Lacy: The Beat Suite (2001 , Sunnyside): fine texts from famous beat poets, slippery and kinky music as only Lacy can, starchy vocals [r]: B
- Steve Lacy: November (2003 , Intakt): solo soprano sax, probably his last, a nice summation of his art; one vocals shows he can't sing either [r]: B+(**)
- John Lindberg: Trilogy of Works for Eleven Instrumentalists (1984 , Black Saint): belabored title and scores but somehow comes together impressively [r]: B+(***)
- John Lindberg: Quartet Afterstorm (1994, Black Saint): bassist-led, but trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and pianist Eric Watson star in taut ensemble [r]: A-
- John Lindberg Ensemble: A Tree Frog Tonality (2000, Between the Lines): quartet with Wadada Leo Smith and Larry Ochs bursting out, Andrew Cyrille superb [r]: B+(***)
- Pago Libre: Stepping Out (2004 , Leo): pianist John Wolf Brennan's avant-chamber group, violin dominating alphorn/flugelhorn, no drums [r]: B+(***)
- Henry Threadgill Sextett: You Know the Number (1986 , Jive/Novus): three horns, cello, bass, two percussionists, a boisterous avant-garde circus [r]: A-
- Henry Threadgill Sextett: Easily Slip Into Another World (1987 , Jive/Novus): picks up where predecessor left off, more or less inspired, vocal ok [r]: B+(***)
- Henry Threadgill: Song Out of My Trees (1993 , Black Saint): five pieces all over the map, like a grieving vocal over accordion/harpsichord/cellos [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Rashied Al Akbar/Muhammad Ali/Earl Cross/Idris Ackamoor: Ascent of the Nether Creatures (NoBusiness): CDR [LP only]
- Daniel Blacksburg Trio: Perilous Architecture (NoBusiness): CDR [LP only]
- Gianni Lenoci/Kent Carter/Bill Elgart: Plaything (NoBusiness): CDR [LP only]
- Jack Cooper: Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra (Planet Arts)
- William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas: Live at the Vilnius Jazz Festival (NoBusiness)
- Peripheral Vision: Sheer Tyranny of the Will (self-released)
- RED Trio & Mattias Stĺhl: North and the Red Stream (NoBusiness)
- Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast: Settle (2014, NCM East)
- Rosenna Vitro: Clarity: Music of Clare Fischer (Random Act): September 30
Sunday, September 14. 2014
On September 10, getting a jump on the unlucky 13th anniversary of
Al-Qaida's planes attacks, President Obama laid out
his plans for the fourth US invasion and assault on Iraq:
Barack Obama became the fourth consecutive American president to
deliver a prime time speech to the nation about Iraq on Wednesday,
vowing to wage "a steady, relentless effort" to wipe out ISIS, the
Sunni militant group in Iraq and Syria which recently beheaded two
"Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy,
ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism
strategy," Obama said.
The president was quick to emphasize that this won't be a war like
Iraq or Afghanistan, instead likening it to U.S. engagement in Yemen
and Somalia. He said it "will not involve American combat troops
fighting on foreign soil," and will instead involve "using our air
power and our support for partner forces on the ground" to attack ISIS
(also called ISIL).
"If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat
beyond that region -- including to the United States," Obama said. He
stressed that the strategy will be conducted with global allies,
saying the four elements of his plan are air strikes, support for
rebel forces on the ground, counter-terrorism and intelligence and
humanitarian assistance to civilians.
[Some quick notes: the second invasion of Iraq was under Clinton,
when US forces drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of the Kurdish enclave;
that was done without a military engagement, although Clinton also
conducted a sporadic air war against Iraq over much of his two terms,
a practice Bush continued upon taking office in 2001. US troops first
entered Somalia in 1992, so how is that working? The first person
Obama ordered killed was a Somali pirate in 2009. The US killed a
leader of Al-Shabab there as recently as Sept. 2. The US started
using drones over Yemen to assassinate alleged terrorists in 2002,
so that, too, is at best a slowly evolving "success" story.]
As usual, Obama managed to offend everyone with his position --
the hawks for not acting sooner and more recklessly; the rest of us
for throwing us back into another pointless, hopeless war. For a
guy who claims his first principle of foreign policy is "don't do
stupid shit," Obama just blew it. As near as I can tell, he did
this for three reasons:
When US troops finally left Iraq, due to the Iraqi government's
refusal to sign a "status of forces agreement" that would give US
troops immunity to commit crimes against Iraqis (as they had been
doing since 2003), Obama chose to celebrate the occasion as a great
American success story, and as such he became party to a war that
he had campaigned against. So when the success story unraveled and
Iraq sank back into a civil war that the US had started by turning
Shiite death squads against Sunnis, Obama felt obligated to repair
the damage, even where Bush and 160,000 US troops had failed. (Obama
made a similar gaffe when he touted a false recovery from the Bush
recession, leading people to think he was responsible for the whole
crash.) The net effect is that Obama is willing to destroy his own
reputation in order to salvage Bush's. That sure isn't the "change"
millions of people voted for Obama to bring about.
Obama is a pushover, and he let himself get snowed here. A
lot of people have been pushing for war against ISIS lately, and
they've painted the group as unspeakably evil, pulling out every
cliché and playing on every prejudice that has ever been used to
sell Americans on a war in the Middle East. Granted, most of the
people who've been agitating for war against ISIS were already
trying to push the US into war in Syria against ISIS' primary
enemy, the Assad regime. Many of them belong to the "real men
go to Tehran" faction that wanted to extend the 2003 invasion of
Iraq to overthrow the governments of Iran and Syria. But all the
publicity of ISIS' beheadings and massacres has gripped people
initially inclined against escalating a war, even, some would
say, the Pope (but see
this for a more nuanced reading). For someone like Obama, who
periodically feels the need to prove he's no pacifist, the chance
to vanquish a foe as abhorent as ISIS was irresistible.
Finally, Obama has outsmarted himself, thinking his peculiar
combination of aggression (bombing, special forces) and restraint
(no regular combat troops) will work magic while avoiding the risks,
the abuse and blowback that inevitably follows American troops all
around the world. The fact remains that no matter how light or heavy
you go in, bombing will inevitably kill the wrong people, intelligence
will inevitably be incomplete or faulty, and the proxy forces that
the plan so relies on will have their own agendas, ones that will
become more rigid with the commitment of American support.
Perhaps the worst thing about Obama's speech and the policies he
previously put into place is the open-ended commitment he's made to
the very same Iraqi political leaders whose misbehavior made ISIS
appear to many Iraqis (Sunnis, anyway) to be the lesser evil. Now
they know that when they fuck up again the Americans will have to
stick with them, because the US can never afford to lose face. (On
the other hand, maybe they should review the story of Ngo Dinh Diem.)
But nearly every aspect of the speech/plan is flawed. ISIS came into
existence in the crucible of Syria's civil war, and some group like
it will inevitably reappear as long as the civil war goes on, so it
will prove impossible to stop ISIS without also ending Syria's civil
war. Chances of that are thin as Obama has sided with the rebels
against Assad, not realizing that the most prominent rebel group
is ISIS, and that the US-favored "moderates" are firmly aligned with
ISIS. The situation in Iraq is no simpler, with the US fighting in
favor of the central government against ISIS but also siding with
Kurdish separatists against the central government. The desire to
work through proxies adds complexity, but perhaps not quite the mess
of a full-blown invasion and its inevitably messy occupation. Plus
you have the problem of managing domestic expectations. Obama came
out with a clever limited intervention plan in the much simpler
context of Libya and, well, look at how that blew up. Obama put a
lot of emphasis on the counterinsurgency doctrine Gen. McChrystall
tried to implement in Afghanistan, and failed totally at. American
soldiers are peculiarly inept at fighting Muslims, yet the are held
on such high pedestals by politicians like Obama that their repeated
failures are overlooked. Similarly, the diplomatic alliances the
US will surely need are often unapproachable due to other conflicts --
Iran and Russia are the major cases, but the traditional wink-and-nod
green light for Saudia Arabia to finance groups like ISIS also comes
And one should probe deeper, although there is little chance that
Obama will. Nothing is so opaque to those who believe that "America
is a light unto the nations" as the actual past behavior of the US.
Since the 1970s the US has financed Jihadis, and has encouraged the
Saudis and others to actively proselytize their fundamentalist brand
of Islam, even as it has turned back against us. Similarly, America's
Cold War ideology, still very much institutionalized, keeps us from
working in any meaningful way to with liberal, socialist, or any kind
of progressive movements in the Middle East.
The US government is similarly ignorant about ISIS, as are the
American people -- even more so as they only enter the equation as
targets for propaganda, where ISIS is made to look at evil as possible
while the good intentions and great deeds of the US are never subject
to scrutiny. We are, after all, the leader of the free world, as such
obliged to act to defend civilization, something no one else has the
resources or moral character to do. And so on, blah, blah, blah. To
be sure, part of the problem here is that ISIS hasn't been running
the sort of media relations program that, say, the Israelis mount
when they go on a five-week killing binge like they did this summer
in Gaza. Rather, ISIS has contemptuously killed journalists who might
have helped them get their story out. They must, after all, have
stories: even the Taliban, who weren't much better at PR, could go
around the room and recount the lost limbs and eyes that scarred
nearly every one of their commanders. Like the Taliban, ISIS sprung
from the killing fields of despotic regimes and foreign occupiers.
I'm not aware of any journalist who has gotten close enough to ISIS
to present their side of the story, although Nir Rosen's In the Belly
of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq (2006) and
Dahr Jamail's Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded
Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007) got relatively close to earlier
generations of anti-US resistance fighters in Iraq. The journalist who
has written the most about ISIS is Patrick Cockburn, who wrote The
Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (2006), and who has a new
book on ISIS: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.
For a sampling of his recent writings on ISIS, see:
Some quotes from Cockburn's Sept. 9 piece:
The US and its allies face a huge dilemma which is largely of their
own making. Since 2011 Washington's policy, closely followed by the
UK, has been to replace President Bashar al-Assad, but among his
opponents Isis is now dominant. Actions by the US and its regional
Sunni allies led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey, which were
aimed at weakening Mr Assad, have in practice helped Isis.
[ . . . ]
So far it looks as if Mr Obama will dodge the main problem facing
his campaign against Isis. He will not want to carry out a U-turn in
US policy by allying himself with President Assad, though the Damascus
government is the main armed opposition to Isis in Syria. He will
instead step up a pretense that there is a potent "moderate" armed
opposition in Syria, capable of fighting both Isis and the Syrian
government at once. Unfortunately, this force scarcely exists in any
strength and the most important rebel movements opposed to Isis are
themselves jihadis such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and the
Islamic Front. Their violent sectarianism is not very different to
that of Isis.
Lacking a moderate military opposition to support as an alternative
to Isis and the Assad government, the US has moved to raise such a
force under its own control. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), once lauded
in Western capitals as the likely military victors over Mr Assad,
largely collapsed at the end of 2013. The FSA military leader, General
Abdul-Ilah al Bashir, who defected from the Syrian government side in
2012, said in an interview with the McClatchy news agency last week
that the CIA had taken over direction of this new moderate force. He
said that "the leadership of the FSA is American," adding that since
last December US supplies of equipment have bypassed the FSA
leadership in Turkey and been sent directly to up to 14 commanders in
northern Syria and 60 smaller groups in the south of the country. Gen
Bashir said that all these FSA groups reported directly to the
CIA. Other FSA commanders confirmed that the US is equipping them with
training and weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles.
It appears that, if the US does launch air strikes in Syria, they
will be nominally in support of the FSA which is firmly under US
control. The US is probably nervous of allowing weapons to be supplied
to supposed moderates by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies which
end up in the hands of Isis. The London-based small arms research
organisation Conflict Armament Research said in a report this week
that anti-tank rockets used by Isis in Syria were "identical to M79
rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operating under the Free
Syrian Army umbrella in 2013."
In Syria and in Iraq Mr Obama is finding that his policy of
operating through local partners, whose real aims may differ markedly
from his own, is full of perils.
Some more links on Iraq, Syria, and ISIS:
Tony Karon: Obama promises a long and limited war on Islamic State:
The IS thrives as a result of the alienation of Sunni citizenry by Syrian
and Iraqi regimes and the breakdown of the central state in both countries.
The Islamic State has taken advantage of the enduring hostility to U.S.
intervention in the region -- and also of Washington's subsequent retreat
and passivity. It trades off Iran's sectarian support for allied Shia
militias, Gulf Arab support for equally sectarian Sunni militias and
Turkish hostility to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which translates
into an open border for thousands of international volunteers to cross
and join the IS. The gradual collapse of the nation-state itself in Syria
and Iraq has allowed the IS to break away from the transnational conspiracy
strategy of its Al-Qaeda precursor to raise its black flag in a growing
power vacuum that covers huge swathes of territory.
Phyllis Bennis: The Speech on Diplomacy That Obama Should Have Given Last
What's missing is a real focus, a real explanation to people in this
country and to people and governments in the Middle East and around
the world, on just what a political solution to the ISIS crisis would
really require and what kind of diplomacy will be needed to get there.
President Obama should have spent his fifteen minutes of prime time
tonight talking about diplomacy. Instead of a four-part mostly military
plan, he should have outlined four key diplomatic moves.
First, recognize what it will take to change the political dynamics
of sectarianism in Iraq. [ . . . ]
Second, instead of a Coalition of the Killing, President Obama should
have announced a new broad coalition with a political and diplomatic,
not military, mandate. It should aim to use diplomatic power and financial
pressures, not military strikes, to undermine ISIS power.
[ . . . ]
Third, the Obama administration should, perhaps this month while
Washington holds the presidency of the UN Security Council, push to
restart serious international negotiations on ending the complex set
of multi-faceted wars in Syria. [ . . . ]
Finally, an arms embargo on all sides should be on the long-term
Without political agreement, there is no solution. All you can do
with military power is try to shift the power relationships between
the sides -- in the hope of getting a more favorable agreement. But
if all you have are military goals, they are pointless. And the value
of shifting those power relationships goes down if you're willing to
consider an equitable agreement. No side can legitimately ask for
Paul Woodward: Is ISIS a terminal disease?:
President Obama might have been slow to come up with a strategy for
defeating ISIS but he seems to have been much more resolute in his
choice of metaphor for describing the enemy.
After James Foley was murdered, Obama said, "there has to be a
common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread." A few
days later he said: "Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won't be easy
and it won't be quick." Again, last night he said: "it will take
time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL."
Woodward offers three reasons why he thinks Obama like the cancer
Obama's political goal appears to be to secure support for an open-ended
relatively low-key military operation that will be of such little concern
to most Americans that it can continue for years without any real
I'm less impressed by his "reasons" -- what struck me more from the
quotes is (1) the assumption that it is his (or "our") body that has
been struck by the cancer, and that therefore the US is entitled to
treat it; and (2) how reducing the acts of people to the level of a
disease sanitizes our process of killing those people.
John Cassidy: Obama's Strange Bedfellows: The Right Liked His Speech:
Quotes from Rush Limbaugh, John Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer, and Larry
Kudlow applauding Obama's speech. (Podhoretz called it "the most Republican
speech Barack Obama has ever given.") However, afterwards, the right started
looking for high ground further to the right:
If a vote takes place in Congress -- and, at this stage, it's unclear
whether that will happen -- most G.O.P. members will likely express
support for unleashing the U.S. military on the jihadis. (Opposing the
President "would be a huge mistake," Kudlow warned.) The pressure from
the right will be aimed at expanding Obama's war, not stopping it. More
bombing; more U.S. service members involved; more everything. That will
be the line.
It's already being laid down, in fact. "Air strikes alone will not
accomplish what we're trying to accomplish," House Speaker John Boehner
said on Thursday. "Somebody's boots have to be on the ground." Some of
Boehner's foot soldiers went further -- quite a bit further. "This is a
stalemate strategy," said John Fleming, a Louisiana congressman who
serves on the House Armed Services Committee. "I think that we would
want to see an all-out war, shock and awe. We put troops on the ground,
we put all of our assets there after properly prepping the battlefield,
and in a matter of a few weeks we take these guys out."
Of course, when you're the greatest power the world has ever known,
all it should take is a few weeks.
Andrew J Bacevich: Obama is picking his targets in Iraq and Syria while
missing the point: Starts off by trying to out-think David Brooks,
offering that "the core problem" of the era is "a global conflict pitting
tradition against modernity." That conflict exists, of course, but Jihadists
aren't militant defenders of tradition. They belong to a more specific
reaction, one in response to imperialist exploitation working through
the corrupt elites of many Muslim countries, not against modernity's
individualistic ethos. Still, the following point is well taken:
Destroying what Obama calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
won't create an effective and legitimate Iraqi state. It won't restore
the possibility of a democratic Egypt. It won't dissuade Saudi Arabia
from funding jihadists. It won't pull Libya back from the brink of
anarchy. It won't end the Syrian civil war. It won't bring peace and
harmony to Somalia and Yemen. It won't persuade the Taliban to lay down
their arms in Afghanistan. It won't end the perpetual crisis of Pakistan.
It certainly won't resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
All the military power in the world won't solve those problems. Obama
knows that. Yet he is allowing himself to be drawn back into the very war
that he once correctly denounced as stupid and unnecessary -- mostly
because he and his advisers don't know what else to do. Bombing has
become his administration's default option.
Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues
to drift, guns blazing.
Fred Hof: We Can't Destroy ISIS Without Destroying Bashar al Assad First:
Hof worked for the Obama administration 2009-12 and has not rotated to a
Middle East policy think tank, so I count him as untrustworthy, but his
main point strikes me as true:
The Islamic State -- just like its parent, Al Qaeda in Iraq -- cannot be
killed unless the causes of state failure in Syria and Iraq are addressed
and rectified. Although such a task cannot be the exclusive or even
principal responsibility of the American taxpayer, the president's
strategy, its implementation, and its outcome will be incomplete if it
remains solely one of counter-terrorism.
The essential problem that has permitted the Islamic State to roam
freely in parts of Iraq and Syria amounting in size to New England is
state failure in both places. Redressing this failure is far beyond
the unilateral capacity of the United States, as occupation in Iraq
and ongoing operations in Afghanistan demonstrate. Still the fact
remains that until Syria and Iraq move from state failure to political
legitimacy -- to systems reflecting public consensus about the rules
of the political game -- the Islamic State will remain undead no matter
how many of its kings, queens, bishops, rooks, and pawns are swept
from the table. And yet a strategy that does not address how America
and its partners can influence the endgame -- keeping the Islamic
State in its grave -- is simply incomplete.
Hof refuses to consider the possibility that in order to kill ISIS
the US could change sides and support Assad, possibly under some
face-saving deal that would cut the "moderate" rebels some slack,
maybe promising some democratic reforms to isolate ISIS. He basically
wants to run the entire US Army through Damascus ("Airstrikes will not
suffice . . . A ground element is essential, as it has
been in Iraq.") What he doesn't explain is how, once Assad has been
swept away, the US establishes a government in Syria that is broadly
accepted by the bitterly-divided Syrian people as legitimate -- one
cannot, for instance, point to US efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,
or Somalia as providing any comfort or confidence.
US Pins Hope on Syrian Rebels With Loyalties All Over the Map:
After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias
fighting President Bashar al-Assad -- and one another. Among them, even
the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons
over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside
extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.
"You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that
respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don't
exist," said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis
blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It is a very
dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer."
[ . . . ]
The Obama administration's plans to arm Syrian rebels have been
troubled by false starts since April 2013, when Mr. Obama first
authorized the C.I.A. to begin a secret training mission in Jordan.
Months after the authorization, the White House still had not
delivered details to Congress about the C.I.A.'s plans, and it was
not until September 2013 that the first American-trained rebels
returned to Syria from Jordan.
To date, the C.I.A. mission in Jordan has trained 2,000 to 3,000
Syrian rebels, according to American and Arab officials.
To expand the training, Mr. Obama announced a plan in June to spend
up to $500 million for scores of American Special Forces troops to
train up to 3,000 rebels over the next year. But the proposal languished
on Capitol Hill as lawmakers complained that the plans lacked specific
details. A revised plan now calls for as many as twice that number of
fighters, analysts said.
Even if Congress approves the Pentagon plan, as now appears likely
after Mr. Obama's speech on Wednesday, military planners said it would
be months before the fighters, to be trained at a base in Saudi Arabia,
would be battle-ready.
Fatigue from three years of war has left most of those forces exhausted
and short of resources. Since pushing ISIS from parts of northern Syria
early this year, Syria's rebels have few military advances to point to
and in many areas have lost ground, to Mr. Assad's forces and to ISIS.
But in many places they remain busy fighting Mr. Assad and are not eager
to redirect their energies to ISIS -- even while many say they hate the
Rami G Khouri: Why Obama Has Picked the Worst Allies for His War on
ISIS: Khouri thinks that the Arab states that Obama is trying to
line up for the war against ISIS may be effective in the short-term
but will only make Jihadism more prevalent in the future.
The combination of foreign-led military power and local Arab government
partners that must anchor a successful attack to vanquish the Islamic
State is the precise combination of forces that originally midwifed the
birth of Al-Qaeda in the 1980s and later spawned its derivative -- the
Islamic State -- today. [ . . . ]
The jails of Sunni-majority Arab regimes represent an important aspect
of the mistreatment and humiliation that many prisoners experienced,
especially those jailed for their political views rather than crimes.
Their jail experiences ultimately convinced them to fight to topple
their regimes as part of Al-Qaeda's aim to purify Islamic lands from
apostate and corrupt leaderships.
The fact that tens of thousands of Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis,
Sudanese and other Arabs are in jail today on often questionable
charges -- including many in Gulf Cooperation Council states who are
jailed simply for tweeting critical remarks about their governments --
suggests that Arab autocracy continues to define and plague the region
as a driver of homegrown Arab radicalism and terrorism.
Moon of Alabama: The Caliphate's Anti-Imperial/Imperial Dualism:
Asserts: "The Caliphate is based on original Wahhabi ideas which were
in their essence also anti-colonial and at first directed against the
Ottoman rulers." Those anti-imperial ideas also work against the US,
but the juicier target is the Saudi royal family, which made the
original pact with Abd al-Wahhab and, in their general subverience
to the UK and US may be seen as not holding up their end of the deal.
Much of this has to do with the way the Saudis distribute dividends
on their oil. A small fraction of the money goes through the state
to build a social welfare network which keeps the peace by making
Saudi citizens wards of the state and elevating them above migrant
workers who do the real work and are kept on very short leashes.
But most of the money goes to the numerous princes of the royal
family, who are much like the pampered scions of rich estates all
over the world: spoiled, sheltered, conceited, given to flights of
grandeur and folly. American bankers love these Saudi princes --
some are serious, but most are easy marks. The princes themselves
are schizo: blessed with wealth they never earned, some turn into
notorious playboys, some turn pious and shameful. The latter, plus
some wealthy scions of non-royal families like Osama Bin Laden
and their cohort in the Persian Gulf monarchies, are the ones who
finance jihadists, who hire poor, disaffected Muslims to die for
God, to expiate the sins of the Saudis. Of course, when the Americans
come calling, the top Saudis are quick to condemn the traitors in
their ranks, but they are less eager to cut them out because deep
down they are trapped in their piety. The caliphate is a deep idea
dating back to Muhammad himself -- indeed, the Turks wouldn't have
made a mockery of it had it not worked -- so it's no surprise that
its first appearance of reality should be so dramatic.
The new Caliphate followers are copies of the original Wahhabis who
do not recognize nation states as those were dictated by the colonial
"western" overlords after the end of the Ottoman empire. They do not
recognize rulers that deviate, like the Saudi kings do, from the
original ideas and subordinate themselves to "western" empires. It
is their aim to replace them. As there are many people in Saudi Arabia
educated in Wahhabi theology and not particular pleased with their
current rulers the possibility of a Caliphate rush to conquer Saudi
Arabia and to overthrow the Ibn Saud family is real.
In that aspect the Caliphate is anti-colonial and anti-imperial.
That is part of what attracts its followers. At the same time the
Caliphate project is also imperial in that it wants to conquer more
land and wants to convert more people to its flavor of faith.
Both of these aspects make it a competitor and a danger to imperial
U.S. rule-by-proxy in the Middle East. That is, I believe, why the
U.S. finally decided to fight it. To lose Saudi Arabia to the Caliphate,
which seems to be a real possibility, would be a devastating defeat.
The author cites two pieces by Alastair Crooke that are worth
You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism
in Saudi Arabia, and
Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family
as the New Emirs of Arabia. A lot of interesting material in those
two pieces. (One thing I didn't realize was that King Abdullah has made
a number of reforms liberalizing Islamic law in Saudi Arabia: recognizing
legal doctrines other than the Salafist, and Shiites to consult their own
legal scholars. All this, of course, exacerbates the split with hardcore
He also cites a "twitter story":
Billmon on Doublethink in U.S. Foreign Policy. Punch line:
Whether U.S. diplos still believe their liberal international bullshit
isn't a particularly important question but it is interesting. I tend
to think that they do: Both as classic Orwellian doublethink, a product
of social conditioning, and on time-honored principle that a salesman
has to believe in his/her product, no matter how fantastical. "Goes
with the territory."
Richard Phillips/Stephan Richter: The dumbest US foreign policy question
asked this century: Who "lost" Syria?
And this begs the question: What are U.S. politicians saying when they
say they want to save Syria?
The answer to this can only be found in American hubris. Syria is not
America's to save. The reality is that only Syrians can save Syria --
just as it is only Iraqis who can save Iraq and only Afghans who can
Seeking an answer to the question "Who lost Syria?" is a foolhardy
quest on the part of U.S. politicians. Rather than a serious question,
it is just another manifestation of Washington's favorite political
sport -- blamesmanship.
Davis Merritt: Americans not ready for the truth about ISIS:
Former Wichita Eagle editor, usually a level-headed thinker, gets
all wrapped up in the futility of wars in the Middle East:
The religious extremism that defines the Middle East has been going on
for more than a thousand years. The West has been involved for more than
900 of those years. From Pope Urban's first crusade in 1095 to President
George W. Bush's ignorantly declared "crusade" amid the rubble of the
World Trade Center, extremists on both sides have periodically fanned
No American president can erase that history nor diminish its allure
to radical Islamists who want to write the next chapter in our blood.
Anyone who believes a few months of bombing can eradicate this latest
iteration of religious intolerance is living a fantasy.
Our 21st-century mindset doesn't tolerate lengthy wars; the half-life
of our resolve is about 18 months. So the president best avoid the word
"war," which implies beginning and ending points.
Unfortunately, neither can he say the truth: This is going to be
life in our world; learn to live with it.
A year ago Americans so overwhelmingly rejected Obama's proposal to
bomb Syria for using chemical weapons, recognizing that it wouldn't
solve anything and wouldn't even make a dent given all the other acts
of war. Indeed, it seemed probable that Congress (for once listening
to the American people) would have voted authorization for bombing
down. Now, supposedly an air war against ISIS enjoys popular support,
with Congress gung ho not only to authorize strikes but to appropriate
billions of dollars to train American proxies to fight the ground war.
This turnaround depends on being able to identify ISIS as uniquely
evil and dangerous, and while flashy stories of beheadings and mass
killings help, I suspect the main cause is deep-seated islamophobia
triggered by the prospect of resurrecting the caliphate. Last year
Syria was viewed as just another internecine sectarian conflict
between people we don't know or care about thousands of miles away.
The caliphate, on the other hand, would be a symbol of growing
Islamic power, an alarming shift in the world order, and that's
what starts dredging up reassuring memories of Pope Urban -- even
though most people who know the history of the Crusades regard them
as an embarrassing blight on European civilization. Merritt accepts
such wars because, regarding "religious extremism" as timeless, as
if the fight today is about an ancient character trait, and not
about anything more tangible -- like oil, or the ability of US
bankers to fleece Saudi princes, or the international market for
arms, or the constant jockeying of regional powers and their
never-very-dependable proxy groups. Those are all things that,
pace Merritt, we really shouldn't have to live with.
Paul Woodward: Most Americans support war against ISIS but lack
confidence it will achieve its goal: A NBC News poll says that
"62 percent of voters say they support Obama's decision to take
action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while 22 percent oppose it."
But also that "a combined 68 percent of Americans say they have
'very little' or 'just some' confidence that Obama's goals of
degrading and eliminating the threat posed by ISIS will be achieved."
Woodward dissects these numbers. Among other points:
"Do you think President Obama presented a credible
strategy for destroying ISIS?" If the answer's "no" and this is why
you lack confidence in this war, then I'd take that as a fairly good
indication that you are following this story reasonably closely.
Of course the most obvious reason why Americans would be skeptical
about the chances of success for a war against ISIS is the fact that
after sinking trillions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and
the war on terrorism, al Qaeda still exists.
As has happened so many times before, Obama formulates his policies
in reaction to banal, superficial, political imperatives whose primary
purpose is to fend off critics.
On Thursday he presented his strategy for destroying ISIS because
only days before he got slammed for admitting he didn't have a strategy.
After he made various comments suggesting that he only aimed to
contain ISIS and was thus criticized for underestimating the threat
it poses and for being too timid in his response, he answered critics
by saying that his aim was to destroy ISIS.
After it was pointed out that fighting ISIS in Iraq would accomplish
little if it could continue to consolidate its strength in Syria, Obama
said the fight would be taken to Syria.
Each of his steps is reactive and political -- as though the primary
task at hand was to deflect criticism.
Probably more stuff to write about, but that's enough for now. I'd
be happy to return to writing about inequality, which is really the
big chronic issue of our era. Or maybe that old standby, the stupidity
of conservative Republicans (here's a
Ted Cruz example; and here's
Steve Fraser: The Return of the Titans, on the Kochs and their ilk).
Or global warming even, but the last couple
months have been overwhelmed by war news, and the one person who
could do something sensible and constructive to defuse conflicts
and resolve problems has repeatedly, almost obsessively managed to
make them worse. That person is US President Barack W. Obama. Yes,
he's finally sunk that low.
Tuesday, September 9. 2014
It's been 18-19 days since the
last one, but I've kept my nose to the grindstone and come up with
101 records here. That matches 101 last time, and only trails two (of
13) columns this year -- the biggest one was back on
March 19, when I cruised
through the Johnny Cash catalog.
A brief reminder here: the main reason I can cram so many records
in is that I don't spend much time with any of them. (That isn't totally
true: I must have played Richard Galliano six times before I bumped it
to A-, and I think the Margots got four spins each. But it's certainly
the rule: to get a second play a record has to convince me it has some
potential to rise on the grading scale. Most A- records got at least two
plays (Caffeine is one exception I recall), as do many (but probably not
a majority) of high B+ records.
About one-quarter of the records below are CDs that were sent to me
(or, very rarely, things I bought). Almost all of those are jazz, and
I still generally play everything I get no matter how awful it looks
(see Ricky Kej and Novox below). The other three-quarters I play on
the computer, most often from streaming sources like Rhapsody and
Bandcamp (where the latter presents full albums). I also get a fair
number of download links in the mail, but lately have done very little
to follow them -- some recent technical problems have added to my
customary disdain for such work. The streamed records are at a slight
disadvantage: I'm slightly less likely to give them a second spin,
my computer speakers aren't as good as the stereo speakers, nor do
the MP3 sources match up in sound quality. But all of the streamed
records start with some sort of rep, even if (cf. Dirty Loops) it
proves unfounded or downright ridiculous. And, of course, I'm more
likely to credit genres and labels of past interest -- dance pop,
Americana, underground rap are things I tend to follow -- and I
don't bother with stuff I generally dislike -- metal is the obvious
example. As my jazz mail declines, I've tried to compensate with
Rhapsody, but that only goes so far.
One thing that helps me figure out what to look for is my
tracking file, which I recently
expanded to retain my grade info. It includes a lot of stuff I'll
never bother with but it's useful to know it exists. Not nearly as
much information as past metacritic files, and as a result of not
doing that work I'm not nearly so much aware of what other people
are thinking. But that's just one more reason to ignore "alt/indie
rock" I've never much cared for -- New Pornographers is always a
good example of that.
Three sections below: new new records, new old records, and old
oldies. The middle section is always the short one, but it's the
sort of thing I previously covered in Recycled Goods (and would
today if it wasn't totally impossible to get the goods). The old
music section is a crate dig, and what shows up there varies much
by my mood. Most of what's there this time are older records from
Bandcamp stash (also shared by Peter Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson,
Joe McPhee, and Paal Nilssen-Love, but I've focused on Vandermark),
and most of the rest come from my attempt to find Penguin Guide
4-star (and more often these days 3.5-star) jazz records -- although
at present I'm just sort of poking around there (no special reason
why John Lindberg and Jeff Palmer should be the main focus other
than that I've missed them in the past). The odd record out, The
Best of Joy Division, was suggested by
Michael Tatum. I try to catch up when I can.
I've also included a two lists of Catalytic-Sound records that
I didn't review this time: one (much the longer) I previously rated,
and another I haven't gotten to. Note that one reason some records
stuck on the latter -- notably the second Audio One -- is that the
site doesn't provide the full album. Can't review what you can't
hear (although sometimes it's tempting).
Good chance I'll get another one of these posted by the end of
September. Beyond that, who knows?
These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from
Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays,
accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on
August 21. Past reviews and more information are available
here (5302 records).
New Releases (More or Less)
Audio One: An International Report (2014, Audiographic):
One of Ken Vandermark's many recent big band projects: ten pieces (four
reeds, cornet, trombone, viola, bass, vibes, drums) -- much of the power
in the saxes where either Vandermark or Dave Rempis is having a terrific
day (I'm not betting on Mars Williams or new altoist Nick Mazzarella,
although I'm sure they help beef up the roaring ensemble sound). [One
reason I initially hedged here is that the same group also recorded
The Midwest School starting the night before. Only one track
available, not enough to review, but has more of that underlying r&b
romp I so like.]
The Bad Plus: Inevitable Western (2014, Okeh):
Piano super-trio: Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, Dave King, all three
contribute songs here and do considerable work elsewhere. Heavy on
the melodrama, perhaps, but such muscular chops, the sort of physical
prowess you expect in a western.
Bahamas: Bahamas Is Afie (2014, Brushfire/Island):
Singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen, from Toronto, has a winning way with
the confessional ballad, and can fancy it up a bit on occasion, not
that he always feels the need.
Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot):
A singer-songwriter from Mississippi who went to Memphis instead of
Nashville. Still, only when he pulls out all the country tricks do
the songs come alive ("Daddy Was a Skywriter," "The Highway Home").
The Bug: Angels & Devils (2014, Ninja Tune):
Kevin Martin, produced a lot of records 1990-2003 (when I finally
noticed Pressure), but they've thinned out since, this the
first in six years (during which he's been involved with Black
Chow and King Midas Sound). Best when he goes upbeat, possibly
Jamaican, but slow can be dull, and sometimes he seems to be more
interested in horror soundtracks.
The Cellar and Point: Ambit (2011-13 , Cuneiform):
Self-described as a "garage chamber" outfit. The "chamber" part
is earned by the preponderance of strings -- violin (Christopher
Otto), cello (Kevin McFarland), guitar (Terrence McManus and
Christopher Botta, with latter doubling on banjo), and electric
bass (Rufus Philpot) -- and percussion (Joe Bergen on vibes and
Joseph Branciforte on drums). The latter keep this moving, but
the strings all melt together.
Common: Nobody's Smiling (2014, Def Jam): Chicago
rapper, tenth album since 1994, a major label affair though only
about half of the guest spots ring a bell. Conceptually, about his
hometown, not a happy place these days. Fully half of the songs
are above the line, quotable even if not that notable. Dragging
my feet on the other half.
Eliana Cuevas: Espejo (2014, ALMA): Originally from
Venezuela, now billed as "Canada's Latin Music Queen," has a handful
of albums since 2003, writes and sings in Spanish so I'm not catching
much here, but musically seems pretty generic.
The Delines: Colfax (2014, El Cortez): Low-keyed
countryish rock group from Portland though the title song suggests
Denver, singer is Amy Boone although Willy Vlautin -- a novelist
Christgau has written about and the leader of Richmond Fontaine --
seems to be the songwriter. Stories about working on oil rigs and
wandering the streets in a PTSD fog are realer than usual. And the
music reminds me of a group called the Vulgar Boatmen -- slow and
Dirty Loops: Loopified (2014, Verve): Swedish group,
three male faces on the cover, touted as "ambitious jazz, prog rock,
R&B, and electronic dance-inflected pop music" -- not sure I hear
any of that, but I suppose if you jammed all that into a blender and
turned it to goop you might get something like this: synth fireworks
with histrionic vocals.
Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: Someday World (2014, Warp):
Hyde is the singer from Underworld, with a dozen or so albums 1988-2010
and a solo since. He takes the songs a little faster and harder than
Eno usually does,
Simone Felice: Strangers (2014, Dualtone):
Singer-songwriter, formerly of the Felice Brothers which made quietly
tuneful countryish-rock albums from 2006 and continue without him.
With a little more harmony, this could be another of them.
The Felice Brothers: Favorite Waitress (2014, Dualtone):
More harmony than brother Simone's album, of course, also more mayhem as
"Cherry Licorice" demonstrates.
5 Seconds of Summer: 5 Seconds of Summer (2014, Capitol):
Australian group: AMG argues they're the logical intersection of Green
Day and One Direction, although I don't know (or appreciate) the former
well enough to hear it. But you do get "boy group" harmonies with an
upbeat beach-rock vibe. Problem is it's as white as the antipodes, and
sooner or later orchestrated cheer wears thin.
Four Year Strong: Go Down in History (2014, Pure Noise,
EP): After four 2007-11 albums, a five track, 16:36, EP. Very upbeat,
with everyone trying to shout over guitar trying to drown everyone out --
a death spiral I see little value in.
Roddy Frame: Seven Dials (2014, AED): Scottish
singer-songwriter, first appeared in Aztec Camera with a near-perfect
1983 debut album (High Land, Hard Rain), about as lush and
catchy as pop albums get. The band folded in 1995 and he's been
knocking out solo albums since 1998, but this is the first I've
noticed. Still has a knack for pop melodies, but perfect is no
longer an option.
Larry Fuller: Larry Fuller (2013-14 , Capri):
Mainstream pianist, started out working with singer Ernestine
Anderson, has also appeared in Jeff Hamilton Trio and with John
Pizzarelli. Second trio album, all standards -- "Both Sides Now"
counts, but it's "C Jam Blues" and "That Old Devil Moon" that always
get my attention.
Richard Galliano: Sentimentale (2014, Resonance):
French accordion player, has recorded a lot since 1990, building
on the folk roots of his instrument, delving into tango and film
scores, always working in the jazz tradition -- draws on Ellington
and Coltrane here, Horace Silver too. With Tamir Hendelman's piano
and Anthony Wilson's guitar this risks becoming overly lush, but
that's sentimentalism for you.
Ben Goldberg/Adam Levy/Smith Dobson: Worry Later (2014,
BAG Productions): Clarinet-guitar-drums trio plays ten Monk tunes.
Ariana Grande: My Everything (2014, Island/Republic):
No longer a teen star, AMG says when this dropped she "was poised to
be the reigning pop diva of the mid-decade," citing her superior vocal
chops -- as if her rival is Adele and her archetype is Mariah Carey.
I always figured conceptual audacity was more important, but I've
spent much more time listening to Madonna and Gaga (and Lily Allen
and Nicki Minaj). But at least Grande has the studio budget, and
gets the expected results, more or less. But one play didn't reveal
the smash that will keep drawing the masses back so the rest can
sink in -- unless it's "Bang Bang" (with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj)
but I see that's only on the sucker-priced "deluxe edition."
Eric Harland's Voyager: Vipassana (2014, GSI Studios):
Drummer, second album but he was well established before his 2010
Voyager album, winning polls based on over 100 side credits
since 1997. Don't have a detailed credits list, but hype sheet
mentions Walter Smith, Julian Lage, Taylor Eigsti, Nir Felder, a
couple others. The instrumental passages behind Smith's tenor sax
are lush and grooveful. On the other hand, several cuts have vocals,
often just as window dressing, and they're awful.
Phil Haynes: No Fast Food: In Concert (2012 ,
Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, coming off a very good duo record
with trumpeter Paul Smoker, collects a couple of trio concerts with
David Liebman (more tenor than soprano sax) and Drew Gress (bass).
Joe Henry: Invisible Hour (2014, Work Song):
Singer-songwriter with a "plain Joe" persona and a natural touch
for everyday life serves up another helping.
Horse Meat Disco: Volume IV (2014, Strut): A collective
of four London DJs, remixing tracks that more/less date to the golden
age of disco -- where it all comes from isn't clear at this vantage point,
but the only track I immediately recogmized was "Getting to Know You,"
credited as "Getting to Know MC (Funked Over Mix) to Shahid Mustlaf MC,
but ultimately one of my favorite ever Parliament songs. [The CD version
has two discs, the second with "unmixed" versions of 12 (of 16) songs.
The digital release matches CD1. The 2-LP only includes 11 (of 16) songs.
Rhapsody only has 14 tracks (omitting "Got to Work (Hot Toddy Mix)" and
"I Love Your Beat").]
Ikebe Shakedown: Stone by Stone (2014, Ubiquity):
Seven-piece Afrobeat band from Brooklyn, second album, section horns
but no solos, no vocals either -- none of which is a big deal one
way or the other.
Jason Jackson: Inspiration (2012 , Jack &
Hill Music/Planet Arts): Trombonist, has a couple previous albums,
this one cut in three sessions with big bands and string orchestras --
credits list is a sore sight for tired eyes, but the names you know
are mainstreamers -- Roy Hargrove, Slide Hampton, Steve Wilson,
Terell Stafford, Rufus Reid. Some talented postbop there, but the
strings are a huge drag.
Ricky Kej/Wouter Kellerman: Winds of Samsara (2014,
Listen 2 Africa): Indian keyboardist and South African flautist, a
shared connection in Mahatma Gandhi and interest in Nelson Mandela,
various voices and what not, undercutting its modest exotica with
Wiz Khalifa: Blacc Hollywood (2014, Atlantic):
Puff of smoke on the cover, follow up to Rolling Papers.
Enjoyed two plays and don't have a thing to say, and no, I wasn't
smoking along. Mostly thinking about something else, which the
music suited fine.
Nils Landgren Funk Unit: Teamwork (2013, ACT):
Swedish trombonist, started as a mainstream player until he got
on the funk bandwagon, even singing some. Nothing George Clinton
needs to worry about, but more enjoyable than you'd expect. [I
started listening to this year's digital-only Extended
Version, then clipped it back to last year's CD -- not
actually much of a trim.]
Matt Lavelle/John Pietaro: Harmolodic Monk (2014,
Unseen Rain): Monk songs, done up with tricks from Ornette Coleman
as if the originals weren't kinky enough. Lavelle plays cornet,
flugelhorn, and bass clarinet (like no one else). Pietaro plays
vibes, bodhrán, congas, and percussion, a thin counterpart to
Lavelle's brave soloing.
Dave Liebman Big Band: A Tribute to Wayne Shorter
(2014, Summit): Seven Wayne Shorter tunes, arranged by Mats Holmquist,
and featuring Liebman probably because he handles both soprano and
tenor sax parts much like the model, whom he famously replaced (don't
recall right now how directly) in Miles Davis' band. On the other
hand, Liebman's always looked back to an earlier Davis saxophonist:
The Magic Words: Junk Train (2006 , Shake It,
EP): Lisa Walker (of Wussy) solo project, released in a run of 100
at the time, plus 25 more with handmade covers. Only runs 8 cuts,
28:15, so lo-fi I'm not really sure of much I've heard, but two
plays suggests there's something there.
Dean Magraw & Eric Kamau Gravatt: Fire on the Nile
(2014, Red House): Guitar and drums, respectively, a duo. AMG credits
Magraw with eight albums since 1994, classifying him as folk and new
age, probably because one of the albums was called Celtic Hymns.
The label is basically a blues outfit, but this is on the jazz side
of grooveful. Gravatt (b. 1938) is older, and keeps it honest.
The Margots: Pescado (2013, Okka Disk): Milwaukee
singer-lyricist Adrienne Pierluissi got help from guitarist John
Dereszynski and saxophone colossus Ken Vandermark to flesh out songs
for her lyrics. The latter's horns turn out to be notably tasteful,
as is the guitar, nicely setting up the deadpan tilt of the voice.
I doubt the lyrics rise far enough above the music, but when she
switches to Spanish I know better than to wonder.
The Margots: Soplé (2014, Okka Disk): More of the
same, but more songs rock and a few slow way down, and more are in
Spanish (at least I assume that's what it is -- the Bandcamp page
is tagged "brazilian jazz" and "tropicalia" but also "european free
jazz" and really this sounds like none of the above). Vandermark's
sax is less prominent but still tasty, and Adrienne Pierluissi is
one cool chanteuse.
J Mascis: Tied to a Star (2014, Sub Pop): Dinosaur Jr.
frontman, has recorded own albums since 1996 despite the occasional
band reunion. His last one, Several Shades of Why, surprised
me. This was more like what I was expecting: unassuming and less than
prepossessing, guitar that can get your attention, and a voice that
can lose it.
John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension: The Boston Record
(2013 , Abstract Logix): Interesting that as he passes into his
70s the original fusion guitarist seems more focused on the here and
now than on the transcendental goals he sought long ago. Live record,
concluding a US tour with Gary Husband on keybs and drums, Etienne
Mbappe on bass, and Ranjit Barot on drums. Hard edged, compressed,
more than a little clunky.
The Muffs: Whoop Dee Doo (2014, Cherry Red): Pop-punk
band from LA led by singer Kim Shattuck, around since the early 1990s,
back with first album since 2004, on an oldies label no less. Choppy,
cheeky, cheezy even.
Novox: Over the Honeymoon (2014, Label Z Production):
French band, from Lyon, leader-guitarist Pierre Alexandre Gauthier
cites George Clinton and Jimi Hendrix as chief influences, but he
finds it easier to fake the funk than play like Hendrix. Two horns,
synths, a turntablist, no singers but some vocal clutter. Probably
more accurate to call this "post-rock" -- but not everything that's
unclassifiable is interesting.
Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk (2014, Arista):
Bit off more than he could chew last time, ending up with his first
record that didn't go gold, so this time he borrows a page from Luke
Bryan and starts off with three party anthems in the first five (make
that four of seven: "when life gives you limes/make margaritas") --
albeit parties I want no part of. On the backstretch, he tries to
return to the sincere liberalism that won him Yankee admirers --
a JFK snippet, a song bragging about that "American Flag on the
Moon," an inclusive "Country Nation," another about "Going Green,"
then finally he taps Tom T. Hall for the obligatory Jesus song.
Still, even at his best he's awfully shallow: after all, "if you
want to know who we are/it's on the logos of our caps." More and
more I'm making him out as a "crunchy con."
Pattern Is Movement: Pattern Is Movement (2014,
Hometapes): First notes here sounded like a new wave throwback,
but this gets considerably softer, drippier, and drearier than
Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger: Reverie (2014, Leo):
Berger plays piano here, his original instrument although he is
better known for vibes, in a long career that puts him well into
his 70s now. He does a lovely job of setting up -- interviewing
is the word that comes to mind -- the Brazilian avant-saxophonist,
who pours emotion into his leads.
Anthony Pirog: Palo Colorado Dream (2014, Cuneiform):
Guitarist, first album, trio with Michael Formanek and Ches Smith,
doesn't have much flow or groove but that's the idea, something less
predictable than Montgomery or McLaughlin. Does get more interesting
toward the end when he works some feedback in.
Jeff Richman & Wayne Johnson: The Distance
(2014, ITI Music): Guitar duets, a couple with extra percussion.
Richman has more than a dozen albums since 1986. Johnson has a
somewhat shorter list going back to 1980. Pleasant picking,
strikes me as "new age" but is a cut above what gets classified
Ritmos Unidos: Ritmos Unidos (2014, Patois): Latin
jazz octet from Indiana, second album, drummer Mike Mixtacki seems
to be the central figure, also playing timbales and bata drums and
taking the vocal leads, but the most distinctive aspect of their
sound is the wash of steel pans.
Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis: Our Year (2014, Premium):
Second album for husband-wife team, both with substantial solo careers
behind them. Reading credits left-to-right, I filed their first under
Willis. Alternating vocals plays to their strengths, wears neither
Jason Roebke: Combination (2014, self-released):
Chicago bassist, works in avant circles, leads a quartet here with
Greg Ward (alto sax), Brian Labycz (modular synth), and Frank Rosely
(drums). A little thin and warbly.
Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: The New Standard
(2014, Rare Noise): Piano trio, although Saft plays some organ too (good
chance he's played more organ than piano over the years). All original
material, with 4 (of 10) songs jointly credited, so the notion that any
of these pieces will emerge as standards is far fetched.
Akira Sakata/Johan Berthling/Paal Nilssen-Love: Arashi
(2014, Trost): Japanese alto saxophonist, born early 1945 in Kure (a
naval base town near Hiroshima), so in his first six months he survived
numerous conventional bombings as well as the first atomic bomb. Has
a substantial discography, especially since 2000 as he's played more
with free jazz figures around the world. He's on a tear here, sharply
accented by a drummer who's played often with Peter Brötzmann and/or
Ken Vandermark -- he most closely resembles the former, but even faster
on alto, and he adds a dimension with his vocals, as harsh as his horn.
Akira Sakata/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Ketil Gutvik/Paal Nilssen-Love:
The Cliff of Time (2013 , PNL): Alto sax/clarinet,
cello/electronics, electric guitar, drums. The sax is as frenzied as
in Sakata's Arashi, but the sound is more muddled -- may have
something to do with production or reproduction although the extra
instruments are suspect as well. Terrific drummer.
Masahiko Satoh/Paal Nilssen-Love: Spring Snow (2013
, PNL): Piano-drums duo, the pianist's name is often transliterated
as Sato. He was born in 1941, and has a substantial discography since
1970, although it takes some digging to find it. Seems like a talent,
in this company flashing some avant moves on two long cuts.
Carl Saunders: America (2013 , Summit): Trumpet
player, broke in as a teenager in 1960 under Stan Kenton and worked in
many surviving big bands of the 1960s, including Buddy Rich and Maynard
Ferguson, as well as in his uncle Dave Pell's octet. Has close to a
dozen albums under his own name since 1995. The small group (piano,
bass, drums, percussion) sets his trumpet off nicely. Seven originals,
five covers -- "America the Beautiful," Chopin, Jobim, "I Can't Get
Started," "How Deep Is the Ocean" -- a bit corny.
Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth (2014, Lightning
Rod): A fairly legendary songwriter, noted for songs that were often
funny and catchy and corny at the same time, early on he was regularly
outsung by his clients but the margins have narrowed so his biggest
problem these days are songs that don't get past their titles ("The
Git Go" and "Long in the Tooth"); well, that and the chances you've
heard a few before -- like "Last Call for Alcohol" or "Hard to Be an
Outlaw" (on Willie Nelson's latest, reprised here complete).
Side A: In the Abstract (2013 , Not Two): Ken
Vandermark sax trio, with piano (Hĺvard Wiik) and drums (Chad Taylor).
Second album, after 2011's impressive debut, A New Margin. This
is more mixed, perhaps because the slower, more abstract pieces close
in on the territory of that other Vandermark-Wiik trio, Free Fall
(named after the Jimmy Giuffre album) -- I prefer the harder-edged
pieces where Vandermark plays baritone sax.
Tim Sparks: Chasin' the Boogie (2013 , Tonewood):
Guitar player, I file him under klezmer since many of his early albums
focused on Jewish folk music -- Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays
Naftule Brandwein (2009) is one I'm particularly fond of -- but he
starts out closer to the fingerpicking style of John Fahey. Doesn't
chase the boogie very hard here, but everything here is very pleasant
as background and intricate enough to engage you. The closing "Blue
Bayou" is especially lovely.
Spider Bags: Frozen Letter (2014, Merge): Garage-punk
outfit, based in Brooklyn, singer Dan McGee has a talkie voice and a
bit of a drawl. First four songs go fast (3:30 max), the other four
stretch out (5:11-6:32) as they kick up the drone.
Statik Selektah: What Goes Around (2014, Duck Down
Music): DJ, so even though he gets lots of shout outs he depends on
his fairly illustrious guest rappers -- slightly more than half names
I recognize -- to get the messages across, or to make them up on the
fly. And they aim for more gold than their underground reps should
make them accustomed to.
Ed Stone: King of Hearts (2014, Sapphire Music):
M.D. and sometime smooth jazz guitarist, third album, anesthetized
grooves with a couple of nondescript vocals for those radio slots.
Street Priest: More Nasty (2012 , Humbler):
Guitar-bass-drums trio (Kristian Aspelin, Matt Chandler, Jacob Felix
Heule), "fragmenting free funk into textural noise"; 4 cuts, 35:29,
available as a download or a limited run cassette (250 copies).
Randy Travis: Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am (2012
, Warner Brothers): Presumably the leftovers from the session
that produced Vol. 1, so I suspect my more favorable response
must be a change in me. Covers, country classics with a few lapping
into the 1970s (including two Kristoffersons, too many). But also,
Travis doesn't sound as broken or weary as I recall. And while no
one improves on Lefty Frizzell, Travis mostly holds his own.
Ken Vandermark's Topology Nonet: Impressions of Po Music
(2013, Okka Disk): Featuring Joe McPhee, whose 1981 album Topology
was the first of a handful of albums credited to "Joe McPhee Po Music" --
at the time a group varying between 7-9 players. (Later Po Music groups
dropped down as far as four members.) Vandermark's group includes three
saxes (McPhee, Dave Rempis, Vandermark doubling on clarinet), cornet,
trombone, cello, vibes, bass, drums, but the "impressions" -- based on
McPhee titles -- are pretty hit-and-miss.
The Bill Warfield Big Band: Trumpet Story (2013-14
, Planet Arts): Trumpet player, although he's spent most of
his career teaching, arranging and conducting the occasional big
band album since 1988. For the trumpet theme here he leaves the
big solos to Randy Brecker, but the trumpet story itself isn't all
that clear or pronounced -- at least it's less clear than Vic Juris'
guitar, which stands out over two pianists and the usual clatter of
Wussy: Duo (2013, Shakt It, EP): Out-of-print limited
release for Record Store Day 2013, hadn't noticed it as streamable
until now. Runs 7 tracks, 24:07, reportedly demos but with full band
sound, and the songs are substantial enough. Just not much to it, not
that their fans won't be lining up "to be the first to squeal."
Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Cables to the Ace (2014, Communicating Vessels):
Label compilation -- having entered through the Green Seed I expected
more hip-hop but got only two cuts, the best ones here. The balance
is some kind of alt-rock, nothing memorable nor particularly annoying.
Chances are some (maybe even most) of these groups could turn in a
decent B+ album, but the mix doesn't help.
Jay Clayton & John Lindberg: As Tears Go By
(1987 , Jazzwerkstatt): I've seen two different reissue covers
(as well as the 1988 original on ITM) and the differ, one adding
& More Songs to the title, the other & Some More
Songs, the latter also dropping the ampersand from the credit
and slipping String Trio of New York in between. [Rhapsody has the
former, but attributes the record to Various Artists.] Unable to
sort this out, I reverted to the original credit/title. Lindberg
appears on all tracks. His String Trio of New York colleagues
James Emery and Charles Burnham join on 4 (of 8), with Marty
Ehrlich on reeds (mainly clarinet) on three others. Discogs
credits Clayton as singing on four, but didn't notice her on
the title track. Aside from the title track and "Drifting"
(Jimi Hendrix), the rest of the songs come from band members
(3 Lindberg; 1 each Burnham, Ehrlich, Emery). In other words,
this is something of a mess, basically a sketch for as many as
three separate albums. The one I want to hear more of is the
one starring Ehrlich.
Hyperdub 10.1 (2006-14 , Hyperdub, 2CD):
Ten year label anniversary sampler, specializing in a variant of
electronica called dubstep. Drums have a certain hollow log feel,
pretty consistent for a comp and nice when the music is loose,
but there are spots when it gets tedious. The label is planning
two more anniversary sets. Not sure when/if I'll get to them.
Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories (1965 ,
Resonance, 2CD): Early, these two previously unreleased sets came
on the heels of Lloyd's auspicious debut, Of Course, Of Course,
retaining guitarist Gabor Szabo (also just breaking in) and bassist
Ron Carter, replacing Tony Williams with Pete La Roca, and before
Lloyd's more popular albums on Atlantic. Interesting parallels here
both to Rollins and Coltrane, although Lloyd had a softer tone and
integrates better with his group -- Szabo is terrific throughout.
Both sets include a stretch on flute, very much in character.
Pete Magadini: Bones Blues (1977 , Sackville/Delmark):
Drummer, led two albums 1976-77, two since then. This a sax quartet with
Don Menza on tenor, Wray Downes on piano, and Dave Young on bass -- all
strangers to me, but a mainstream blowing sessions like the old Prestiges,
a strong sax man, gets off on the right foot with "Old Devil Moon."
Don Pullen: Richard's Tune (1975 , Sackville/Delmark):
The pianist's first name album, a solo cut on the road in Canada and
originally released as Solo Piano Album, now named for its first
song, one dedicated to Muhal Richard Abrams -- a good hint if you want
to locate him, but he already has more rhythmic muscle even if his fully
developed style was still a few years away.
Suburban Base: The History of Hardcore, Jungle, and Drum 'n'
Bass: 1991-1997 (1991-97 , New State, 3CD): Label comp,
the label in question a side venture of a suburban London record store
called Boogie Times. I haven't developed any sense of how to tell the
numerous taxonomies of electronic dance music apart, and this doesn't
help -- very little doc here, no names I recognize, little reason to
differentiate even by disc. Still, functional, and something of a
AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark: Hidden in the Stomach
(1996 , Silkheart): The first of five records where Ken Vandermark
sat in with Mats Gustafsson's sax trio (Peter Janson on bass, Kjell
Nordeson on drums). Two covers help pin this down: Charlie Haden's
"Song for Che" and Albert Ayler's "Ghosts/Spirits."
AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark: I Wonder If I Was Screaming
(2000, Crazy Wisdom): The last of five albums with Vandermark sitting in
with Mats Gustafsson's late-1990s trio, soon to be replaced by The Thing.
The perennial problem with Vandermark-Gustafsson groups is to keep the
friction from melting them down. Here the trick appears to be tighter
Artifact iTi: Live in St. Johann (2008 , Okka Disk):
Ken Vandermark (reeds) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) pick up a couple
local musicians for Austria's Festival ArtActs 2008: Johannes Bauer
(trombone) and Thomas Lehn (synthesizer). One long piece (36:18), two
short ones (total another 11:00), highlights exciting, a few of those
quiet stretches that may force a live audience to focus but on record
tend to blank out.
Billy Bang Quintet: Invitation (1982, Soul Note):
With Charles Tyler (alto/baritone sax), Curtis Clark (piano), Wilber
Morris (bass), and Dennis Charles (drums), a solid (but less than
spectacular) outing for the violinist.
John Wolf Brennan/Alex Cline/Daniele Patumi/Tscho Theissing/John
Voirol: Shooting Stars and Traffic Lights (1993-97 ,
Leo): Piano, drums, bass, violin, soprano/tenor sax -- a group which
later recorded (generally without drums) as Pago Libre. Effectively
an avant-chamber setup, the violin more prominent than the sax.
Caffeine: Caffeine (1993 , Okka Disk): Ken
Vandermark (reeds), Jim Baker (piano), and Steve Hunt (percussion):
group played together as late as 2005 but this is their only album.
Not many examples of Vandermark with piano, which is surprising
considering how well he plays off Baker's frenzied block chord
The John Carter Octet: Dauwhe (1982, Black Saint):
Clarinet player, appeared on landmark Horace Tapscott albums like
The Dark Tree earlier and had a long-running quartet with
cornetist Bobby Bradford, doubled in size here but not in sound --
additions include James Newton on flute, Red Callender on tuba,
and Charles Owens on soprano sax, oboe, and clarinet. African
references abound, but the record doesn't quite go there.
Cinghiale [Mars Williams/Ken Vandermark]: Hoofbeats of
the Snorting Swine (1995 , Eighth Day): Title sounds
like the sort of noise rout both are capable of (especially in
one another's company), but what we get instead are fairly balanced
sax/clarinet duets exploring a wide range of possible interactions.
DK3: Neutrons (1997 , Quarterstick): Ken
Vandermark trio with a pair of rock musicians: guitarist Duane Denison
(Jesus Lizard) and drummer James Kimball (Laughing Hyenas, although he
also wound up with Jesus Lizard). Beats tend to be regular, and
Vandermark prefers riffing along to breaking loose, so this approaches
a post-rock ambience he never returned to.
The Frame Quartet: 35mm (2009, Okka Disk): What's
most distinctive here is the admixture of electronics by bassist
Nate McBride and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Otherwise, this is Ken
Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet plus Tim Daisy on drums
powering their way through Vandermark 5 pieces, a little less
edge without the second saxophonist, and because the electronics
aren't ultimately that helpful.
Joy Division: The Best of Joy Division (1979-80
, Rhino): I've long felt that the two albums, Unknown
Pleasures and Closer, stand up well enough on their
own, and rated both above the Substance 1977-1980 and
Permanent: Joy Division 1995 compilations, with their
marginal trivia. Of course, we now know that after deep-voiced
Ian Curtis hung himself the band took a turn for the better as
New Order, the prototype here more tangible than the dead end.
John Lindberg: Trilogy of Works for Eleven Instrumentalists
(1984 , Black Saint): The bassist composed the three pieces, but
the most conspicuous credit alongside many genuine names is "conductor"
Anthony Braxton. Four brass (including Vincent Chancey on French horn),
three reeds (including Marty Ehrlich doubling on flute), piano, guitar,
bass, and drums. Seems a little clunky at first but eventually coheres
into something surprising.
John Lindberg: Luminosity: Homage to David Izenzon
(1992-06 , Music & Arts): Solo bass, with a couple vocal
asides. Izenson was noted for his arco bass work with Ornette Coleman.
John Lindberg: Quartet Afterstorm (1994, Black Saint):
With Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone), Eric Watson (piano), and Ed Thigpen
(drums), a rather freewheeling album with juicy solo spots (not least
for the bassist) and taut ensemble work.
John Lindberg Ensemble: Bounce (1997, Black Saint):
Bassist-led quartet, the tunes do favor a sort of bounciness, closer
to pogoing than swing or bop, scratched out schematically by Dave
Douglas on trumpet, with Larry Ochs less conspicuous on saxophones.
John Lindberg Ensemble: A Tree Frog Tonality (2000,
Between the Lines): Two-horn quartet, with Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet
and Larry Ochs on soprano/tenor sax, players who are willing to stray
well outside the lines, and a superb Andrew Cyrille on drums.
John Lindberg: Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk
(2001 , Between the Lines): I don't know the work of Charles
Ives or Louis Gottschalk well enough to connect the dots, but the
credit sheet shows all original material by the bassist. The group:
Baikida Carroll (trumpet), Steve Korn (reeds, bansuri), Susie Ibarra
Paul Motian Quintet: Misterioso (1986 , Soul
Note): With trio mates Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, plus a second
saxophonist (Jim Pepper) and a bassist (Ed Schuller). Two Monk tunes,
frequent targets for drummer Motian. The rest fractured originals.
Paul Motian Trio: One Time Out (1987 , Soul
Note): With Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano, starts a bit wobbly but
ends with a powerhouse piece ("Circle Dance").
The Kevin Norton Ensemble: Knots (1997, Music &
Arts): Drummer-vibraphonist, backed with cello and bass, with Bob
DeBellis on clarinet, alto sax, and bass clarinet -- looks like
David Bindman and David Krakauer also play clarinet on three tracks
NRG Ensemble: Bejazzo Gets a Facelift (1997,
Atavistic): Saxophonist Mars Williams joined Hal Russell's band in
1979, and after Russell died in 1992 Williams kept the band going,
recruiting Ken Vandermark as the other saxophonist. They cut three
albums as NRG Ensemble, this last one cut after Vandermark formed
the Vandermark 5, with Williams as the other saxophonist. Specialty
here is the racing saxes, and like most dirt track racing there are
plenty of crashes and spills, some funny, some not so.
Pago Libre: Stepping Out (2004 , Leo): Name
reportedly formed from bits of member names, although at this point
that's far from obvious -- "bre" is pianist John Wolf Brennan, the
one constant, here joined by Arkady Shilkloper (alphorn, flugelhorn),
Tscho Theissing (violin), and Georg Breinschmid (bass). Avant-chamber
jazz, with violin prominent and no drums, although this one swings
more readily than their earlier efforts.
Jeff Palmer/John Abercrombie/Arthur Blythe/Victor Lewis: Ease
On (1992 , Sledgehammer Blues): Organ player, has a handful
of albums with an especially notable band here -- alto saxophonist Blythe
is a good deal more avant than your average soul jazz players but can
work some blues licks in easily enough, while Lewis is a mainstream
drummer who can touch up anything.
Jeff Palmer/Arthur Blythe/John Abercrombie/Rashied Ali: Island
Universe (1994, Soul Note): Swapping drummers (Ali replaces
Victor Lewis) pushes alto saxophonist Blythe back into the avant-garde,
moving this from organ-based soul jazz to something well beyond. The
guitarist has always been one to go with the flow, even when it gets
choppy as it does here.
Sten Sandell Trio: Face of Tokyo (2008 , PNL):
Avant-piano trio, with Johan Berthling on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love
on drums. Recorded live in Tokyo in two half-hour chunks.
Alan Skidmore: After the Rain (1998, Miles Music):
Tenor/soprano saxophonist, an important figure in the British avant-garde
but you'd never guess that from this collection of ballads, backed by
Colin Towns' lush but undistinguished strings. Quite lovely, just a
bit shy of sublime.
Territory Band-4: Company Switch (2004 , Okka
Disk, 2CD): Ken Vandermark's big band, honoring (if not really following)
the old blues-based territory bands from Kansas City and points south
and west. The bands were numbered, this particular edition numbering
eleven musicians: two brass (Axel Dörner, Jeb Bishop); three reeds
(Vandermark, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Dave Rempis), piano (Jim Baker),
cello (Fred Lonberg-Holm), bass (Kent Kessler), two drummers (Paal
Nilssen-Love and Paul Lytton), and Lasse Marhaug (electronics). This
was the first Territory Band set to slop over to a second disc, in
large part because they spread the options out more, moving beyond
raw spontaneity to follow up a more deliberate plan -- if only it
were more clear.
The Thing: Action Jazz (2006, Smalltown Superjazz):
Mats Gustafsson's long-running sax trio, with Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten
on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. They made their first splash
featuring very hoary free jazz riffs on alt-rock hits, hooked to a
barely recognizable refrain. But by this point they've diversified,
covering Lars Gullin, Ornette Coleman, Yosuke Yamashita, Lightning
Bolt, and others plus an original named "Strayhorn."
Vandermark Quartet: Solid Action (1994, Platypus): Second
Quartet album, two years before the Vandermark 5's first record, from a
time when he was just out of NRG Ensemble and still playing with avant-rock
groups like the Flying Luttenbachers. This has frequent collaborators Kent
Kessler on bass and Michael Zerang on drums, plus Daniel Scanlan playing
violin/guitar/cornet -- as the counterpoint to Vandermark's tenor
sax/clarinet/bass clarinet. Lots of interesting, surprising moves; also
a tendency to get tied up.
Ken Vandermark: Standards (1994 , Quinnah):
I don't see any song credits, and don't recognize any song titles,
so consider the title a joke. Vandermark plays three tracks each
with four "improvising trios": Kent Kessler (bass)/Hamid Drake
(drums); Mars Williams (sax)/Michael Zerang (drums); Jim Baker
(piano/synth)/Daniel Scanlan (guitar/violin; and Kevin Drumm
(guitar)/Steve Hunt (drums). Trying on different looks, but the
final session with Drumm starts off explosively.
Ken Vandermark: Strade d'Acqua/Roads of Water (2008
, Multi Kulti): A soundtrack to a film by Augusto Contento.
Band contains many Chicago regulars including Jeff Parker (guitar)
and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) but no extra reeds so no jousting,
just soundtrack-ish colors and moderate background pacing.
Additional Consumer News:
Catalytic-Sound I still haven't heard:
- AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark: Live at the Glenn Miller Café (1999, Wobbly Rail): 0/4 tracks
- Nils Henrik Asheim/Paal Nilssen-Love: Late Play (2006 , PNL)
- Audio One: The Midwest School (2014, Audiographic): 1/5 tracks
- Peter Brötzmann: Wels Concert (1996, Okka Disk)
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: At Molde 2007 (10 Years 10tet) (2007 , Okka Disk)
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Walk, Love, Sleep (2011 , Smalltown Supersound, 2CD)
- Peter Brötzmann/Shoji Hano: Funny Rat (1991 , EGG)
- Peter Brötzmann/Kent Kessler/Hamid Drake: Live at the Empty Bottle (1998, Okka Disk)
- Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Paal Nilssen-Love: Ada (2011, self-released)
- Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love/Mats Gustafsson: The Fat Is Gone ()
- Peter Brötzmann/Massimo Pupillo/Paal Nilssen-Love: Roma (2008 , self-released)
- DKV Trio: Past Present (2008-11 , Not Two, 7CD)
- Terrie Ex/Paal Nilssen-Love: Hurgu! (2011, PNL)
- Full Blast & Friends: Sketches and Ballads ()
- Mats Gustafsson: Parrot Fish Eye (1994, Okka Disk)
- Mats Gustafsson: Slide ()
- Hairy Bones: At Fresnes (2009 , self-released)
- Lasse Marhaug/Paal Nilssen-Love: Stalk (2004 , PNL)
- The Joe McPhee Trio: First Date: Live at the Third Annual Vision Festival (1998-2004 , CJR): 1 (of 2) tracks/li>
- Joe McPhee/Raymond Boni/Dominic Duval/Michael Bisio: Port of Saints (2000 , CJR)
- Vandermark 5: Live @ the Empty Bottle 1997 (1997, Savage Sound Syndicate): 0 tracks
- Vandermark 5: Thinking on One's Feet (1999, Savage Sound Syndicate): 0/7 tracks (Seth Tisue refers to album as Vandermark 5 vs. Santo)
- Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie (1993, Platypus): 0/10 tracks
- Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger (2011 , Smalltown Superjazz): 1/10 tracks
- Witches & Devils: Live at the Empty Bottle (): 1/4 tracks
Records at Catalytic-Sound I have previously heard and rated:
- AALY Trio/DKV Trio: Double or Nothing (1999 , Okka Disk) [*]
- AALY Trio/Ken Vandermark: Stumble (1998, Wobbly Rail) [B-]
- Fred Anderson/DKV Trio: DKV Trio With Fred Anderson (1996 , Okka Disk) [*]
- Atomic/School Days: Nuclear Assembly Hall (2003 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Atomic/School Days: Distil (2006 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Ab Baars Trio & Ken Vandermark: Goofy June Bug (2007 , Wig) [**]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Stone/Water (1999 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet Plus Two: Broken English (2000 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet Plus Two: Short Visit to Nowhere (2000 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Images (2002 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Signs (2002 , Okka Disk) [B]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Be Music, Night (2005, Okka Disk) [**]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 1 (2006 , Okka Disk) [***]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 2 (2006 , Okka Disk) [**]
- Peter Brötzmann/Hamid Drake: The Dried Rat-Dog (1994 , Okka Disk) [B]
- Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Massimo Pupillo/Paal Nilssen-Love: Hairy Bones (2008 , Okka Disk) [A-]
- Peter Brötzmann/Peter Friis Nielsen/Peeter Uuskyla: Medicina (2004, Atavistic) [A-]
- Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Sweet Sweat (2006 , Smalltown Supersound) [**]
- Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Woodcuts (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz) [**]
- Peter Brötzmann/Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller: Full Blast/Black Hole (2008 , Atavistic) [***]
- Peter Brötzmann/Peter Uuskyla: Born Broke (2006 , Atavistic) [***]
- Cato Salsa Experience and the Thing with Joe McPhee: Sounds Like a Sandwich (2004 , Smalltown Supersound) [**]
- DKV Trio: Baraka (1997, Okka Disk) [*]
- DKV Trio: Live in Wels and Chicago (1998 , Okka Disk) [***]
- DKV Trio: Trigonometry (2001 , Okka Disk) [***]
- FJF: Blow Horn (1995 , Okka Disk) [*]
- FME: Underground (2004, Okka Disk) [A-]
- FME: Cuts (2004 , Okka Disk) [A-]
- Free Fall: Amsterdam Funk (2004 , Smalltown Superjazz) [*]
- Fire Room: Broken Music (2005 , Avatistic) [B]
- Gold Sparkle Trio/Ken Vandermark: Brooklyn Cantos (2002 , Squealer) [**]
- Mats Gustafsson/Barry Guy/Paul Lovens: Mouth Eating Trees and Related Activities (1992, Okka Disk) [B]
- Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (2006 , Clean Feed) [A-]
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz) [A-]
- Lean Left: Live at Café Oto (2011 , Unsounds) [**]
- Made to Break: Provoke (2013, Clean Feed) [***]
- Joe McPhee: Sonic Elements: For Pocket Trumpet and Alto Saxophone (2013, Clean Feed) [*]
- Joe McPhee/Peter Brötzmann/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang: The Damage Is Done (2008 , Not Two) [**]
- Joe McPhee/Peter Brötzmann/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang: Guts (2005 , Okka Disk) [***]
- Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Tomorrow Came Today (2007 , Smalltown Superjazz) [A-]
- Joe Morris/DKV Trio: Deep Telling (1998 , Okka Disk) [**]
- Joe Morris/Ken Vandermark/Luther Gray: Rebus (2006 , Clean Feed) [A-]
- Joe Morris/Ken Vandermark/Hans Poppel: Like Rays (1996 , Knitting Factory) [B-]
- Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Dual Pleasure 2 (2003 , Smalltown Supersound) [B+]
- NRG Ensemble: Calling All Mothers (1993, Quinnah) [B+]
- Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (2005-06 , Atavistic, 2CD) [A]
- Resonance Ensemble: Kafka in Flight (2011, Not Two) [A-]
- Resonance Ensemble: What Country Is This? (2012, Not Two) [A-]
- School Days: Crossing Division (2000, Okka Disk) [A-]
- School Days: In Our Times (2001 , Okka Disk) [A-]
- Side A: A New Margin (2011, Clean Feed) [A-]
- Sonore: No One Ever Works Alone (2003 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Sonore: Call Before You Dig: Loft/Köln (2008 , Okka Disk) [*]
- Spaceways Incorporated: Thirteen Cosmic Standards (2000, Atavistic) [A-]
- Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul (2002, Atavistic) [A]
- Steelwool Trio: International Front (1994 , Okka Disk) [A-]
- Territory Band-1: Transatlantic Bridge (2000 , Okka Disk) [B+]
- Territory Band-2: Atlas (2001 , Okka Disk) [**]
- Territory Band-3: Map Theory (2004, Okka Disk) [B]
- Territory Band-5: New Horse for the White House (2005 , Okka Disk) [*]
- Territory Band-6 with Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 , Okka Disk) [***]
- The Thing/Ken Vandermark: The Immediate Sound (2007, Smalltown Superjazz) [*]
- Trespass Trio + Joe McPhee: Human Encore (2012 , Clean Feed) [**]
- Tripleplay: Expansion Slang (1998 , Boxholder) [A-]
- Ken Vandermark: Furniture Music (2003, Okka Disk) [B+]
- Ken Vandermark: C.O.D.E.: Play the Music of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy (2008, Cracked Anegg) [***]
- Ken Vandermark: Mark in the Water (2010 , Not Two) [*]
- The Vandermark 5: Burn the Incline (2000, Atavistic) [B+]
- The Vandermark 5: Free Jazz Classics Vols. 1 & 2 (2000-01 , Atavistic, 2CD) [A-]
- The Vandermark 5: Airports for Light (2002 , Atavistic) [A-]
- The Vandermark 5: The Color of Memory (2004 , Atavistic) [A-]
- The Vandermark 5: Alchemia (2004 , Not Two, 12CD) [A-]
- The Vandermark 5: A Discontinuous Line (2005 , Atavistic) [A-]
- Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 , Atavistic) [A-]
- Ken Vandermark Barrage Double Trio: Utility Hitter (1995, Quinnah) [A-]
- Ken Vandermark/Brian Dibble: Duets (2002 , Future Reference) [B+]
- Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project: Straight Lines (1998 , Atavistic) [A-]
- Ken Vandermark/Pandelis Karayorgis: Foreground Music (2006 , Okka Disk) [**]
- Ken Vandermark/The Resonance Ensemble: Head Above Water, Feet Out of the Fire (2012-13 , Not Two, 2CD) [A-]
Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets
following the grade:
- [cd] based on physical cd
- [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
- [bc] available at bandcamp.com
- [sc] available at soundcloud.com
[os] some other stream source
- [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely
available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist
Sunday, September 7. 2014
The Wichita Eagle op-ed page featured Trudy Rubin'
Decision Time on ISIS today, three days after the column originally
appeared. Having clamored for more war for years, she must be happy now
that Obama has vowed to "destroy and degrade ISIS" and hopscotched around
the world lining up a new "coalition of the willing" to share the dirt
and blame for another foreign intervention in Iraq and Syria (the last
one having been such fun). Rubin, meanwhile, has gone on seeking further
dragons to slay:
If Putin's actions in Ukraine aren't an invasion, then what is?
Obama's been busy working on locking the US into a war there too. (See
David Frum: Obama Just Made the Ultimate Commitment to Eastern Europe,
something Frum is ecstatic about.) This series of events has reduced my
opinion of Obama to its lowest point ever. Some of this I explain in my
comment on the Peter Beinart piece below, yet even now I doubt that I've
pushed that argument far enough. Perhaps one reason I'm so appalled is
that there doesn't seem to be much uproar over what has to be judged the
most significant American pivot towards war since Bush invaded Iraq. As
Beinart puts it, "[Obama's] fierce minimalism fits the national mood.
President Obama's Mideast strategy is not grand. It's not inspiring.
It's not idealistic. But it's what the American people want and what
their government knows how to do." Really?
That so few rank-and-file Democrats feel up to holding Obama
responsible for his repeated belligerence probably has more to do
with the perception that the Republicans have become a full-fledged
threat to civilization. This is in stark contrast to the 1960s,
when we had no trouble turning on Lyndon Johnson -- and when the
Democratic Party essentially short-circuited the accomplishments
of the New Deal and Great Society out of a blind commitment to an
insane war in Vietnam. Like Johnson, Obama seems bent on sacrificing
whatever good he's accomplished on the altar of war. Little comfort
that he hasn't accomplished much to squander.
Some scattered links this week:
Peter Beinart: Actually, Obama Does Have a Strategy in the Middle East:
Argues that Obama is neither dove nor hawk, but "a fierce minimalist" --
which is to say he's a hawk who prefers small game taken with little risk
or long-term commitment. Of course, that doesn't explain his "Afghanistan
surge" -- in retrospect, that looks like a time-limited concession to the
military, a way of saying "put up or shut up." Beinart goes further than
the facts suggest:
On the other hand, he's proven ferocious about using military force to
kill suspected terrorists. [ . . . ] By contrast,
Obama's strategy -- whether you like it or not -- is more clearly
defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can
menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting
a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his
sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.
It's not that simple: Libya never was a threat to American civilians
(at least not until he intervened there). And he's actually broken new
ground in using drones to kill American citizens. So I think the focus
on "terrorist" targets has more to do with scale and risk. He's come to
realize that the US military isn't very effective (and often is down
right counterproductive) when deployed en masse, so he's avoided that.
He also seems to recognize that the US military isn't very effective
as an occupying force: they inevitably embarrass themselves, breeding
resentment and rebellion. On the other hand, give him the opportunity
to kill some "terrorist" and he's happy to pull the trigger. Republicans
taunt him as weak, so he's anxious to prove he's a natural born killer.
One could do worse than minimizing risk and damage, but "minimalism" is
a trap Obama walked into, either because he has no principles or because
he has no willpower to defend them against his security bureaucracy.
Kathy Gilsinan: To Kill a Terrorist, about one of Obama's minimalist
"success stories": the killing of Somali "terrorist" leader Ahmed Abdi
Godane. The most likely result there is that Al-Shabab replaces Godane
with another even-more-embittered leader and nothing more changes. And
I might as well point out Beinart's more recent post,
Pursuing ISIS to the Gates of Hell. Obama's vow "to destroy and
degrade ISIS" remains a bit muddled (why put the weaker verb second?),
and framing it with a "Jacksonian" revenge drama doesn't help.
Andrew O'Hehir: From 9/11 to the ISIS videos: The darkness we conjured
I think it's worthwhile to revisit the examples of Stockhausen and
Baudrillard, and their ideas too, in considering a new outrage that is
both literal and symbolic: the ISIS beheading videos. The criminal acts
depicted in those videos are on an entirely different scale from 9/11,
and it's important not to lose sight of that fact amid the understandable
shock and revulsion they have engendered. But the intended effect is
strikingly similar, and the ISIS videos are conceptually and historically
related to 9/11 as tools of provocation and propaganda. They are designed
to make a ragtag band of apocalyptic rebels look like a symmetrical
adversary to the world's greatest military power; to incite an exaggerated
response from that power, driven by panic and hysteria; and to attract
rootless millennials, both from the West and the Muslim world, to their
incoherent cause. So far it seems to be working.
I'm far less certain that the intent behind the beheading videos is
to provoke the insane response that Obama and nearly everyone on his
hawkish right have committed to, but that's the effect. Rather, they
show a profound inability to step outside of their own skin and see
themselves as others will see them -- a trait that Obama et al. sadly
share with them. If they were smart, they'd court journalists and get
them to at least cast reasonable doubts about their fanaticism. Of
course, if they were smart, they'd recall Islam's past tolerance for
other religions, a principle ("no compulsion in matters of faith")
which had allowed Christians and Yazidis (and Jews) to persevere
through more than a millenia of past caliphates. And they'd play up
the fact that they're seeking freedom from despotic police states
in Damascus and Baghdad. But no side is playing this smart: they
each tailor their propaganda to suit their own prejudices, confirming
their greatest fears and enabling their most vicious and violent
cadres to commit acts that will only exacerbate the initial problem.
Nick Turse: American Monuments to Failure in Africa? Until the US
military created the US Africa Command in 2007, you heard very little
about American military operations in Africa, because there really
weren't many. Now the US military is all over the continent, shooting
people and blowing shit up but also spreading their budget around on
"feel good" projects, much like they did in Iraq and Afghanistan:
As with Petraeus's career, which imploded amidst scandal, the efforts
he fostered similarly went down in flames. In Iraq, the chicken processing
plant proved a Potemkin operation and the much ballyhooed Baghdad water
park quickly fell into ruin. The country soon followed. Less than three
years after the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq teeters on the brink of catastrophe
as most of Petraeus's Sunni mercenaries stood aside while the brutal
Islamic State carved a portion of its caliphate from the country, and
others, aggrieved with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad, sided with
them. In Afghanistan, the results have been similarly dismal as America's
hearts-and-minds monies yielded roads to nowhere (where they haven't
already deteriorated into death traps), crumbling buildings, over-crowded,
underfunded, and teacher-less schools, and billions poured down the drain
in one boondoggle after another.
More Israel links:
Jeffrey Goldberg: Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, and Israel: "I'm now glad
to report [ . . . ] that Elizabeth Warren has confirmed
for us that, on questions related to Israel, Clinton has nothing to fear
from her, at least."
Ofer Neiman: Israeli officer tosses Palestinian shepherds from their land
so settlers don't have to hear Arabic: Not only is the occupation brutal,
it can also be petty. Note that Arabic is an officially recognized language
in Israel. That anyone could think otherwise is testimony to the prevalence
of segregation in Israel and the occupied territories.
Avi Shlaim: For Israel, the beginning of wisdom is to admit its mistakes:
Not that he offers any indication that anyone in Israel is ready to do so --
least of all Netanyahu, whose "popularity plummeted from 85% at the beginning
of the operation to 38%."
Richard Silverstein: Mossad-Affiliated Israeli NGO: Khaled Meshal to the
Hague: Of course, "Israel hasn't signed the ICC protocol, in an attempt
to keep its own generals and spymasters out of the Hague defendant's chair."
Yet one of Israel's front groups wants the Hamas leader charged. Curiously
enough it's not for those "rocket attacks" Israel provokes then whines
about. It's because Hamas executed a number of Palestinians believed to
have collaborated with Israel during their latest round of war against
Gaza. I'm not fond of the death penalty, and it's hard to be sure of due
process in such a short timespan, but it probably isn't hard to link up
collaborator reports with specific bombings and deaths. Hillel Cohen has
written two books on Israel's use of Palestinian collaborators, one from
1917-48, the other from 1948-67, and obviously the practice hasn't changed
much over 47 years of occupation. For another twist on recent war crimes,
Hannibal Directive Focus of War Crimes Inquiry. Max Blumenthal also
The Hannibal Directive.
Philip Weiss: British pol is beaten by man in Israeli army t-shirt, and
the chattering classes are silent: Isn't this the great fear, that
the violence in the Middle East will be furthered by terrorists in the
Kate: As world watched Gaza, Israel announced 1472 new settlements in West
Bank: And many other stories, like house demolitions in Jerusalem,
an orchard chopped down by settlers near Hebron, the Gaza death toll
continuing to grow even after ceasefire (including a 7th Israeli
civilian). For a view of some of the destruction in Gaza, follow this
Assaf Sharon: Failure in Gaza.
Also, a few links for further study:
Kathleen Geier: Can we talk? The unruly life and legacy of Joan Rivers:
Seems about right, though I'm less of a fan.
Some critics claim to discern a humanistic project behind Rivers' comedy
of cruelty. For example, Mitchell Fain argued that River "says things out
loud what we're all thinking, in our worst moments," and that by doing so,
"the monster gets smaller." What seems far likelier is that the monster
gets socially sanctioned. For decades, a staple of Rivers' act have been
nasty jokes about female celebrities who are fat, stupid, or slutty, and
male celebrities who are allegedly gay. If she ever talked smack about
straight male celebrities, I'm hard-pressed to think of any examples.
That brings us to Joan Rivers' politics, which mostly were horrible.
On the plus side, she was pro-choice, an early supporter of gay rights,
and an Obama supporter. On the negative side, there is pretty much
everything else. Rivers was a lifelong Republican, and made many comments
over the years that left little doubt about her right-wing views. She
hated the movie Precious, not for aesthetic reasons, but for
frankly political ones ("I thought, Oh, get a job! Stand up and get a
job!"). Just last month, she voiced strong support for Israel's military
actions actions in Gaza and said that the Palestinians "deserve to be
dead." She adored Ronald Reagan and shamelessly fawned over the British
royal family. When writers on her show Fashion Police, who were
working full-time and only making $500 a week, went on strike, she
refused to support them. At times, her humor was outright racist.
John Mearsheimer: Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West's Fault:
A useful corrective to a lot of prevailing assumptions. Clearly,
the US (neocon) effort to extend NATO to the borders of Russia
has been deliberately and unnecessarily provocative, although one
could also argue that deep-seated fears that Russia might revert
its past patterns, both before and after the 1917 Revolution, of
trying to control what it thought of as its satellites had more
to do with NATO's expansion. Moreover, while US-backed "democracy
projects" were effectively an attempt at foreign subversion, it
would seem that Russia has been organizing support in Ukraine as
well. In America we reflexively assume we're acting with the best
intentions, but with Cold War blinkers we make little distinction
between democracy and neoliberal economic policies that lead to
inequality and corruption -- something the post-Soviet bloc has
had bitter experience with. There is much to be said in favor of
UN-based programs promoting democracy and human rights throughout
the world, provided such programs focus on need -- Saudi Arabia
is always a good place to start -- rather than the neocon checklist
of governments they dislike.
More dissenting pieces on Ukraine:
Jim Newell: GOP's Kansas nightmare: How a red state is on verge of
unthinkable upsets: I'd caution against counting these chickens
before they hatch, but so far the evidence does suggest that the
Democrats greatly improve their prospects at the polls when they
bother to run candidates. The Senate contest this year represents
a different twist on that, with Democrat Chad Taylor dropping out
to let independent Greg Orman run unfettered. I'm not sure that was
such a good idea, but Orman has a lot more money to work with, and
he might woo more Republicans -- they're pretty regimented on the
far right at the moment, but in doing so they've pissed a lot of
their own off. Also see
Nate Silver. As for the governor, Brownback is widely regarded
as a complete fuck up -- I look forward to campaign commercials
showing him and Rick Perry praying for rain. But oddly enough he's
not only doubled down on the lie that his tax cuts are "working" --
I think that's a euphemism for rich-getting-richer; the new joke is
that the only thing flatter than Kansas is the Kansas economy --
but instead of moving center to pick up votes he's been moving right
for more money. To be specific, the Kochs have been trying to kill
wind power subsidies, which many Republicans (including Brownback
until his flip) favor because it means manufacturing and service jobs
plus big royalties to farmers. The Kochs regard wind power as heresy
against free markets, but if you want to dig a bit deeper, see
Lee Fang: Charles Koch founded anti-environment group to protect
big oil industry handouts.
Monday, September 1. 2014
Music: Current count 23744  rated (+43), 523  unrated (-7).
Main thing that happened this week was that I stumbled across the
Catalytic-Sound website on Bandcamp. Ken Vandermark set this up,
and it currently showcases 137 albums by Vandermark and several of
his closely aligned friends: Peter Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Joe
McPhee, and Paal Nilssen-Love. (Bassist Ingebrigt Háker Flaten has
website with a
good deal of overlap.) Shortly after I wrote my first
Village Voice piece on Vandermark, he sent me a big box of his
recordings -- I was thinking of doing something similar to my
Parker-Shipp CG but never
seemed to have the time -- so many of these are familiar. In fact,
next RS column has a list of 80 Catalytic-Sound records I've
previously reviewed/rated. Still, the site fills in some gaps,
so I spent a good deal of last week picking off the Vandermark
releases (I'll get back to Brötzmann et al. in due course). One
problem is that not every album can be streamed completely, but
the exceptions are (at present, anyway) few. Still, several
omissions particularly disappointed me: the early Vandermark
Quartet album Big Head Eddie (1993), and the brand new
Audio One: The Midwest School (2014) -- its companion,
An International Report, was the week's top find (I
also gave an A- to the early Caffeine). One I have
yet to get to is the 7-CD DKV Trio: Past Present box.
I suppose you could make arguments both ways as to whether
omitting tracks maximizes cash returns -- the idea behind making
all this music available is to sell it -- but for someone who
tries to cover as wide a swath as possible and who has little
time to double back, these sites are a terrific convenience and
help. I wish there were more of them, and hope they stay as open
I haven't been able to update the blog this past week, although
I occasionally do still receive mail about nonsense comments, so
it must be sort of working some of the time. I haven't made any
real progress toward moving on, and hardly know where to begin.
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
- Audio One: An International Report (2014, Audiographic): yet another Vandermark large band, live at Green Mill, expect action, don't be too picky [bc]: A-
- Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot): singer-songwriter from Mississippi, went to rock in Memphis but country songs are fresher [r]: B+(*)
- The Bug: Angels & Devils (2014, Ninja Tune): best when he goes upbeat with that dub thing, but also has a penchant for horror soundtrack poses [r]: B+(*)
- Common: Nobody's Smiling (2014, Def Jam): Chicago rapper explores and deplores his home town, not that it isn't tough everywhere else [r]: B+(***)
- Eliana Cuevas: Espejo (2014, ALMA): originally from Venezuela, now "Canada's Latin Music Queen" -- a small fish in a barren pond [cd]: B
- Dirty Loops: Loopified (2014, Verve): three Swedish gents: synth fireworks and histrionic vocals driven by a frantic post-disco beat [r]: C+
- Four Year Strong: Go Down in History (2014, Pure Noise, EP): 5-song EP by punkish group so irrepressibly loud and catchy they're extra annoying [r]: B-
- Larry Fuller: Larry Fuller (2013-14 , Capri): mainstream pianist, came up working with singers and plays juicy standards in this trio, "C Jam Blues" a fave [cd]: B+(***)
- Richard Galliano: Sentimentale (2014, Resonance): French accordion player works the jazz tradition for sentimental moods, played up to the hilt [cd]: A-
- Ariana Grande: My Everything (2014, Island/Republic): no doubt she has what it takes to be a pop star; the question is whether she can make us care [r]: B+(**)
- Eric Harland's Voyager: Vipassana (2014, GSI Studios): mainstream drummer's second album, assembles a fancy band then wastes it with vocal dressing [cdr]: B-
- Horse Meat Disco: Volume IV (2014, Strut): old disco obscurities remixed to sound like old disco obscurities, plus "Gettin' to Know You" [r]: B+(**)
- Ricky Kej/Wouter Kellerman: Winds of Samsara (2014, Listen 2 Africa): Indian keyboard player meets South African flautist for synth-not-so-exotica [cd]: C
- Wiz Khalifa: Blacc Hollywood (2014, Atlantic): after two plays, all I can confirm is that this stoned rapper makes agreeable background music [r]: B+(**)
- J Mascis: Tied to a Star (2014, Sub Pop): Dinosaur Jr. frontman returns to form, his voice cracking and hiding behind some pretty decent guitar [r]: B+(*)
- Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk (2014, Arista): first half party anthems and livid fantasies; on the backstretch turns into a crunchy con [r]: B-
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: The New Standard (2014, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Carl Saunders: America (2013 , Summit): spent most of his life in big bands but sounds great as the sole horn here, even when the covers turn corny [cd]: B+(*)
- Side A: In the Abstract (2013 , Not Two): Ken Vandermark reeds trio with Havard Wiik and Chad Taylor, more varied than Free Fall but lands there [bc]: B+(**)
- Spider Bags: Frozen Letter (2014, Merge): garage-punk with a talkie-voiced singer who seems worth listening to, plus they can stretch a riff [r]: B+(*)
- Ed Stone: King of Hearts (2014, Sapphire Music): guitarist-singer, touted as "the new George Benson," he isn't even that, much less the old one [cd]: C+
- Street Priest: More Nasty (2012 , Humbler): guitar-bass-drums trio, can't (or won't) fake the funk so they bust it into shards and stray noise [cdr]: B+(**)
- Randy Travis: Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am (2012 , Warner Brothers): covers from the classics to Kristofferson, leftovers from Vol. 1 but ring truer [r]: B+(**)
- Ken Vandermark's Topology Nonet: Impressions of Po Music (2013, Okka Disk): Joe McPhee plays McPhee a generation removed, scaled up, not so po [bc]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Cables to the Ace (2014, Communicating Vessels): [cd]: B
Old records rated this week:
- AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark: Hidden in the Stomach (1996 , Silkheart): Ken Vandermark joins Mats Gustafsson's rowdy trio, highlight Haden and Ayler covers [r]: B+(**)
- AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark: I Wonder If I Was Screaming (2000, Crazy Wisdom): tighter songwriting limits meltdown by combustible sax men [bc]: B+(**)
- Billy Bang Quintet: Invitation (1982, Soul Note): scrounging, found one I hadn't heard and didn't find it especially remarkable, relatively [r]: B+(**)
- Caffeine: Caffeine (1993 , Okka Disk): Ken Vandermark, Jim Baker (piano), Steve Hunt (drums): I've never heard Baker play so explosively -- sure lights V up [r]: A-
- The John Carter Octet: Dauwhe (1982, Black Saint): adds decorative flute, oboe, tuba, African references to more visceral quartet with Bobby Bradford [r]: B+(**)
- Cinghiale [Mars Williams/Ken Vandermark]: Hoofbeats of the Snorting Swine (1995 , Eighth Day): Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams play sax/clarinet duets, w/surprising interactions [bc]: B+(***)
- DK3: Neutrons (1997 , Quarterstick): Ken Vandermark trio with guitar-drums from Jesus Lizard, one of those post-rock experiments he no longer does [bc]: B+(***)
- The Frame Quartet: 35mm (2009, Okka Disk): Vandermark 4, scratches second sax for an admixture of electronics, interesting but not quite the same [bc]: B+(***)
- The Kevin Norton Ensemble: Knots (1997, Music & Arts): drummer-vibraphonist, toys with Monk and swaps in various clarinets, a mix converging on same [r]: B+(***)
- NRG Ensemble: Bejazzo Gets a Facelift (1997, Atavistic): post-Hal Russell group with Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark racing, crashing, flips [bc]: B+(***)
- Territory Band-4: Company Switch (2004 , Okka Disk, 2CD): Vandermark 11-piece big band, for once does more than just thrash and raise hell [bc]: B+(**)
- The Thing: Action Jazz (2006, Smalltown Superjazz): Mats Gustafsson's power sax trio diversifies, not the worst thing that can happen to them [bc]: B+(**)
- Vandermark Quartet: Solid Action (1994, Platypus): a blast from the past, when V was straddling avant rock and jazz, making trouble for both [bc]: B+(***)
- Ken Vandermark: Standards (1994 , Quinnah): four "improvising trios," nothing standard, just a first taste of DKV, more Mars, some guitar thrash [bc]: B+(**)
- Ken Vandermark: Strade d'Acqua/Roads of Water (2008 , Multi Kulti): soundtrack, hushed tones, moderate tempos, a little color, everyone makes nice [bc]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms: From the Region (Delmark)
- Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories (1965, Resonance, 2CD): September 16
- Pete Magadini: Bones Blues (1977, Sackville/Delmark)
- Dean Magraw & Eric Kamau Gravatt: Fire on the Nile (Red House): October 14
- Parker Abbott Trio: The Wayfinders (self-released): October 23
- Don Pullen: Richard's Tune (1975, Sackville/Delmark)
Sunday, August 31. 2014
Having a lot of trouble focusing these days. Partly the number of
things broken and need of (often expensive, sometimes just time consuming)
repairs has been mind-boggling. And with the blog on the blink, I've fallen
into a two-day week rut, compiling "Music Week" on Mondays then trying to
catch up with the world on "Weekend Roundup" on Sundays. Several of the
bits below could have been broken out into separate posts -- indeed, I
wonder if they shouldn't all be.
I'm thinking especially of the Michelle
Goldberg "Two-State" comment as something I could have written much more
on. I don't know if I made the point clearly enough below, so let me try
to sum it up once more: there are several distinct but tightly interlocked
problems with Two-State: (1) the natural constituency for Two-State (at
least among pro-Israelis) is the "liberal Zionists" -- an ideology based
on an unsustainable contradiction, and therefore a diminishing force --
and without supporters Two-State is doomed to languish; (2) when liberals
break from Zionism (which is inevitable if they have both principles and
perception) they must do so by committing to universal rights, which means
they must at least accept One-State as a desirable solution (Goldberg, by
the way, fails this test); (3) as long as [illiberal] Zionists refuse to
implement Two-State (and they have a lot of practice at staving it off),
liberals (anyone with a desire for peace and justice) should regroup and
insist on universal rights (e.g., One-State); (4) under pressure, I think
that Zionists will wind up accepting some version of Two-State rather than
risking the ethnic dilution of One-State. People like Goldberg would be
better off getting ahead of this curve rather than trying to nitpick it.
Someone like Netanyahu has thousands of excuses for postponing agreement
on a viable Two-State solution. On the other hand, he has no legitimate
defense against charges that Israel is treading on the basic human rights
of millions of Palestinians under occupation. That's where you want to
focus the political debate. And that shouldn't be hard given Israel's
recent demonstration of its abuse of power.
The march to war against ISIS is another subject worthy of its own
post. There are many examples, but the one I was most struck by this
week was a
letter to the Wichita Eagle, which reads:
The threat of ISIS appears similar to the threat of the Nazis before
World War II. The Europeans ignored Adolf Hitler's rising power because
they were tired of war.
As ISIS spreads through the Middle East at will, our nation's leaders
are assessing how to counter this threat. ISIS is well-equipped, having
seized abandoned equipment the United States gave the Iraqi army, and it
is growing in strength, numbers and brutality.
What is the U.S. to do? That decision is in the hands of our nation's
leaders. However, with the future leader of ISIS having said in 2009 to
U.S. soldiers who had held him prisoner, "I'll see you in New York,"
trying to avoid conflict because we're tired of war should not be the
Much of Europe succumbed to Hitler because Europeans were "tired of
Similar? Germany had the second largest economy in the world in the
1930s, one that was reinvigorated by massive state spending on munitions
at a time when the rest of the world was languishing in depression. Even
so, Hitler's appetite far exceeded his grasp. Germany was able to score
some quick "blitzkrieg" victories over France, Norway, and Poland, and
occupy those countries through fronts offered by local fascists -- the
Vichy government in France, Quisling in Norway, etc. But even given how
large and strong Germany was, it was unable to sustain an assault on the
British Isles, and its invasion of Russia stalled well short of the Urals.
And, of course, provoking the US into entering the war hastened Germany's
loss, but that loss was very likely anyway. It turns out that the world
is not such an easy place to conquer, and authoritarian regimes breed
resistance everywhere they tread.
In contrast, ISIS is a very limited backwater rebellion. Its extremist
Sunni salafism limits it to about one-quarter of Iraq and maybe one-half
of Syria, and it was only able to flourish in those areas because they
have been severely war-torn for many years. They lack any sort of advanced
manufacturing base. Their land is mostly desert, so very marginal for
agriculture. Their "war machine" is built on confiscated weapons caches,
which will quickly wear out or be exhausted. They do have some oil, but
lack refineries and chemical plants. Moreover, their identity is so narrow
they will be unable to extend their rule beyond war-torn Sunni regions,
where they're often viewed as more benign (or at leas less malign) than
the Assad and Maliki regimes.
So it's hard to imagine any scenario where ISIS might expand beyond its
current remote base: comparing it to Germany under Hitler is laughable.
The one thing they do have in common is an enthusiasm for war, developed
out of a desire to avenge past wars. You might say that that the West
after WWI was "tired of war" but that seems more like a sober assessment
of how much was lost and how little gained even in winning that war --
after Afghanistan and Iraq, most Americans are similarly dismayed at how
much they've lost and how little they've gained after more than a decade
of war. Many Germans, on the other hand, were willing to entertain the
delusion that they only lost due to treachery, and that a rematch would
solve all their problems. It's easy in retrospect to see this asymmetry
in war lust as a "cause" of the war, but jumping from that insight to a
conclusion that the West could have prevented WWII by standing up to
Hitler sooner is pure fantasy. To prevent WWII you'd have to go back to
Versailles and settle the first phase of what Arno Mayer later dubbed
"the thirty-years war of the 20th century" on more equitable terms --
as effectively (albeit not all that consciously) happened after WWII.
As with post-WWI Germans, ISIS' enthusiasm for war is rooted in many
years of scars -- scrapes with the French and British colonialists, with
Israel, with brutal Baathist dictators, with the US invasion of Iraq and
American support for Kurdish and Shiite militias. Most ISIS soldiers grew
up with war and know little else -- in this the people they most closely
resemble are not the Nazis but the Taliban, a group which resisted long
Russian and American occupations, separated by a bloody civil war and a
short-lived, brutal but ineffective period in power. On the other hand
the idea that the US should shrug off their "war weariness" and plunge
into another decade-plus struggle with another Taliban knock-off isn't
very inspiring. Isn't repeating the same steps hoping for different
results the very definition of insanity?
Still, the war drums keep beating. The Wichita Eagle has had three
such op-eds in the last week on ISIS: from Charles Krauthammer, Cal
Thomas, and Trudy Rubin -- each with the sort of screeching hysteria
and ignorance of ecology I associate with finding roaches under the
bathroom lavoratory. Clearly, what gets their goat more than anything
is the very idea of an Islamic State: it looms for these people as
some sort of existential threat that must be exterminated at any cost --
a reaction that is itself every bit as arbitrary, absolutist, and
vicious as what they think they oppose. But in fact it's merely the
logical response to the past wars that this same trio have urged us
into. It's worth recalling that there was a day when small minds like
these were equally convinced that the Germans and Japanese were all
but genetically disposed to hatred and war. (Robert Morgenthau, for
instance, wanted to spoil German farms with salt so they wouldn't
be able to feed enough people to field an army -- that was 1945?)
Europe broke a cycle of war that had lasted for centuries, not by
learning to be more vigilant at crushing little Hitlers but by
joining together to build a prosperous and equitable economy. The
Middle East -- long ravaged by colonialism, corruption, and war --
hasn't been so lucky, but if it is to turn around it will be more
due to "war weariness" than to advances in drone technology. The
first step forward will be for the war merchants to back away --
or get thrown out, for those who insist on learning their lessons
the hard way.
Some more scattered links this week:
Michelle Goldberg: Liberal Zionism Is Dying. The Two-State Solution Shouldn't
Go With It. This starts off with a point (a major concession, really)
that bears repeating:
In 1948, Hannah Arendt published an essay in the magazine Commentary --
at the time still a liberal magazine -- titled "To Save the Jewish Homeland."
She lamented the increasingly militaristic, chauvinistic direction of Zionism,
the virtual unanimity among Jews in both the United States and Palestine that
"Arab and Jewish claims are irreconcilable and only a military decision can
settle the issue; the Arabs, all Arabs, are our enemies and we accept this
fact; only outmoded liberals believe in compromises, only philistines believe
in justice, and only shlemiels prefer truth and negotiation to propaganda and
machine guns . . . and we will consider anybody who stands in
our way a traitor and anything done to hinder us a stab in the back."
This nationalist strain of Zionism, she predicted, might succeed in
establishing a state, but it would be a modern-day Sparta, "absorbed with
physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests
and activities." It would negate the very humanistic Jewish values that
originally fed the Zionist dream. "Palestine Jewry would eventually separate
itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into
an entirely new people," she writes. "Thus it becomes plain that at this
moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected
at the price of the Jewish homeland."
It's difficult to avoid the conclusion, sixty-six years later, that she
Goldberg then cites Antony Lerman's recent
The End of Liberal Zionism:
The romantic Zionist ideal, to which Jewish liberals -- and I was one,
once -- subscribed for so many decades, has been tarnished by the reality
of modern Israel. The attacks on freedom of speech and human rights
organizations in Israel, the land-grabbing settler movement, a growing
strain of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, extremist politics, and
a powerful, intolerant religious right -- this mixture has pushed liberal
Zionism to the brink. [ . . . ]
The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary,
a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying
out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved
through colonization and purification of the tribe.
"Liberal Zionist" is a contradiction that cannot survive. Indeed,
in Israel it is all but dead. The key tenet of liberalism is belief
in equal rights for all. In Israel it is virtually impossible to find
any political party -- even "far left" Meretz -- willing to advance
equal rights for the "Palestinian citizens of Israel" much less for
those Palestinians under occupation. On the other hand, the debate
as to whether Zionism is inherently racist has been proven not just
in theory but empirically. As Max Blumenthal shows in Goliath: Life
and Loathing in Greater Israel, everywhere you look in Israel you
see growing evidence of racism.
In America, it's long been possible for many people (not just Jews)
to combine domestic liberalism with an unthinking, uncritical allegiance
to Israel. Of course it's getting harder to sustain the ignorance that
allows one to think of Israel as a just nation. (The so-called Christian
Zionists -- or as Chris Hedges puts it, "American fascists" -- require
fewer illusions, since they are likely to be racist and militarist at
home as well as abroad.) It sounds like Goldberg -- an early J-Street
supporter -- has started to make the break, but she's still not willing
to go full-liberal and endorse full and equal rights for all Israelis
and Palestinians -- the so-called One-State Solution. She wants to
salvage the so-called Two-State Solution, with Israel returning (for
the most part) to its 1967 borders and an independent Palestinian state
in Gaza and the West Bank (with or without Jerusalem as its capitol).
The Two-State Solution was originally proposed by the UN in 1947, but
the Zionist leadership weren't satisfied with the proposed borders, and
the Palestinian leadership objected to the whole thing, preferring a
unified democracy (with a 2-to-1 Arab majority) where nobody would have
to move. After the 1949-50 armistice lines were drawn, Israel greatly
expanded its borders and had expelled over 700,000 Arabs from its
territory, ensuring Jewish demographic dominance. Those borders, which
held until 1967, have long been accepted as permanent by most Palestinian
groups and by all neighboring Arab countries: a deal that could have been
made by Israel any time since the mid-1990s, but which wasn't, because
no ruling party in Israel would accept such a deal, nor would the US or
the so-called Quartet (which had endorsed the deal) apply significant
pressure on Israel to settle. There are lots of reasons why Israel has
taken such an intransigent stand. One is that the demise of liberalism
leaves Israel with no effective "peace block" -- the price of occupation
has become so low, and the political liabilities of peace so high, that
Israel currently has no desire to change the status quo.
This is, of course, a huge problem for anyone who believes in equal
rights and/or who puts a positive value on peace in the Middle East.
Such people -- by which I mean pretty much all of us (except for a few
warmongers and apocalypse-hungry Christians) -- can only make progress
toward a settlement by putting pressure on Israel, which is to say by
increasing the costs to Israel of its present occupation policies. One
way is to counter Israeli propaganda, to expose the facts of occupation
and to delegitimize Israel's position. Another step is BDS, with the
prospect of growing ever more extensive and restrictive. Another is to
adjust the list of acceptable outcomes: that may mean giving precedence
to the inclusive, equal rights One-State Solution over the unsuccessful
The fact is that Two-State was a bad idea in 1947 and remains a bad
idea today: it is only slightly less bad now because the "ethnic cleansing"
that could have been avoided in 1947 is ancient history now; it is also
slightly worse because it leaves us with a lot of refugees who will still
be unable to return to Israel, and who still have to be compensated and
patriated elsewhere. The dirty secret of the Two-State Solution is that
it leaves Israel unaltered (except for the relatively trivial loss of some
settlements) -- free to remain the racist, militarist Sparta it has become
ever since 1948. That's why Israel will choose Two-State over One-State:
Two-State guarantees that their Jewish state will remain demographically
supreme, whereas One-State risks dilution of their ethnic solidarity. But
even if the West's game plan is Two-State all along, you're not going to
get there without playing the One-State card. If a US administration
finally decides we need to settle this conflict, it won't start (as Obama
did) by demanding a settlement freeze; it will start by demanding equal
rights for all within whatever jurisdictions exist, and complete freedom
from Israel for any jurisdictions that do not offer full and equal Israeli
citizenship. Only then will progress be made. The problem with Goldberg's
plea is that she's still willing to sacrifice her principles for Israel's
Ezra Klein: The DNC'a braidead attack on Rand Paul: Paul's been
reading Hillary Clinton's neocon ravings, and responded: "We are lucky
Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not
bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS."
The DNC's response: "It's disappointing that Rand Paul, as a Senator
and a potential presidential candidate, blames America for all the
problems in the world, while offering reckless ideas that would only
alienate us from the global community. [ . . ]
That type of 'blame America' rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a
conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing
in the world. In fact, Paul's proposals would make America less safe
and less secure." Klein adds:
This is the brain-dead patriotism-baiting that Democrats used to loathe.
Now they're turning it on Paul.
There are a few things worth noting here. The first is the ferocity
with which the DNC responded to an attack that was, in truth, aimed more
at Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama. The second is the degree to which
a Rand Paul-Hillary Clinton race would scramble the politics of national
security, with Democrats running against Paul in much the way Bush ran
against Kerry. And the third is that it's still the case in foreign
policy, the real divide isn't left vs. right, but interventionists vs.
Actually, the "real" political divide is between status quo cons like
Obama and Clinton on the "left" side and various flavors of crackpots
(including Rand) on the "right." But in foreign policy, the latter have
come to include a growing number of non-interventionists, not so much
because they believe in peace and justice as because they've come to
realize that imperial wars bind us closer to the dark-skinned aliens
we claim to be helping, and because some of them begin to grasp that
the security apparatus of the state they so loathe (mostly because it's
democratic, or pretends to be) could just as easily turn on them.
Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton have managed to hire virtually every
known "liberal interventionist" as part of their efforts to toady up
to the military-security complex, even though virtually none of their
real-world supporters buy into that crap. Someone smarter than Rand Paul
could turn this into a wedge issue, but he'll tie it to something stupid
like preventing the Fed from counteracting recessions.
Paul Rosenberg: Don't do it, Hillary! Joining forces with neocons could
doom Democrats: One thing on his mind is LBJ and Vietnam (who like
Hillary was willing to do "dumb stuff" to not appear cowardly), but
there's also this:
Here's the dirtiest of dirty little secrets -- and it's not really a secret,
it's just something no one ever talks about: The entire jihadi mess we're
facing now all descends from the brilliant idea of "giving the Soviets their
own Vietnam" in Afghanistan. How's that for learning a lesson from Vietnam?
Well, that's the lesson that Jimmy Carter's crew learned -- and Ronald Reagan's
gang was only too happy to double down on.
Richard Silverstein: The Jingoism of Anti-Jihadism: Starts with a
Netanyahu quote from September 11, 2001, that's worth being reminded of
(from New York Times):
Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States
and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, "It's
very good." Then he edited himself: "Well, not very good, but it
will generate immediate sympathy." He predicted that the attack would
"strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced
terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a
massive hemorrhaging of terror."
I remember watching him on TV at the time, as well as a similarly gloating
Shimon Peres, and a slightly more somber John Major offering to share with
the US Britain's vast experience in cultivating terrorists. You couldn't
ask for better examples of how to react badly and make a problem worse.
Silverstein then quotes from Hillary Clinton's
Atlantic interview ("They are driven to expand. Their raison d'etre is
to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank --
and we are all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain
that? I'm thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat."):
Here you have a perfect example of the sickness I outlined above. In the
1950s communism was the bugaboo. Today, it's jihadism. Clinton's conception
of the latter uses almost exactly the same terms as those of the Red Scare:
words like expansionist, angry, violent, intolerant, brutal, anti-democratic.
There's even a touch of Reaganism in Clinton's portrayal of the fall of
communism. There's the notion that through all of our machinations against
the Soviet Union -- the assassinations, the coups, the propping up of
dictators -- all of it helped in some unspecified way to topple Communism.
She further bizarrely characterizes our anti-Communist strategy as an
"overarching framework," when it was little more than knee-jerk
oppositionalism to the Red Menace.
What is most pathetic about this political stance is that it offers no
sense of our own identity, of what we stand for. Instead, it offers a
vague, incohate enemy against whom we can unite. We are nothing without
Next up is David Brooks, if you care. Richard Ben Cramer, in How
Israel Lost: The Four Questions (by the way, probably the best single
book about Israel in the last twenty years) hypothesizes that the reason
Israel is so determined not to negotiate an end to the conflict is that
its leaders fear losing the shared identity of having a common enemy in
the Palestinians. Take the conflict away and the various Jewish subgroups --
the Ashkenazi, Sephardim, Mizrachi, Russians, Americans -- will splinter
and turn on each other, fighting over diminishing spoils in a suddenly
For more on Netanyahu, see
Remi Brulin: Israel's decades-long effort to turn the word 'terrorism'
into an ideological weapon.
More Israel links:
Also, a few links for further study:
Dean Baker: Subverting the Inversions: More Thoughts on Ending the Corporate
Income Tax: Baker is arguing that the inefficiencies caused by the
Corporate Tax Avoidance Industry are so great that we might be better off
eliminating the tax altogether: if there were no tax, there'd be no need
for corporations to pay lobbyists and accountants to hide their income,
and we'd also eliminate scourges like private equity companies. First
obvious problem here is that leaves a $350 billion revenue shortfall,
which Baker proposes recovering with higher dividend and capital gains
tax rates. (Of course, we should do that anyway.) One long-term problem
is that federal taxes have radically shifted from being collected from
businesses to individuals, which makes the tax burden more acutely felt
by the public. A VAT would help shift this back, but so would anything
that tightened up loopholes and reduced corporate tax evasion. Another
advantage of having a corporate income tax is that it could be made
progressive, which would take an extra bite out of especially large
and/or profitable companies -- the former mostly benefitting from
weak antitrust enforcement, the latter from monopoly rents -- which
would both raise more revenue and take it from companies that are
relatively safe from competition. I'm not strictly opposed to what
Baker is proposing, but I'd like to see it worked out in a broader
context that includes many other tax reforms that tackle inequality,
lack of competition, globalization, and patents more systematically.
I suspect Baker would prefer this too.
Also see Baker's
Patent Monopolies: The Reason Drug Companies Pushed Synthetic
Andrew Hartman: Hegel Meets Reagan: A review of Rick Perlstein's
The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.
Medium's CSS is actually pretty f***ing good. [Warning: very nerdy.]
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. The visual design properties of web
pages can generally be controlled by attaching CSS code to the "generic
markup code" in a web page (something called HTML). Having worked with
pre-Web GMLs (Generic Markup Languages, especially the standardized one,
SGML), I've always been very "old school" about coding web pages, which
means I've never embraced CSS as a programming paradigm. So my reaction
here was first one of shock that so much work went into this. (Looks like
four programmers for a couple years, although it's unlikely that they only
wrote CSS.) I was also at a loss for much of the terminology (LESS? SASS?
mixin?), not that I can't guess what "z-index" implies. It's not that I
haven't learned anything in the 15 years since I started building web
sites, and it's certainly not necessarily the case that what's changed
has changed for the better, but if I'm going to get over the hump of
embracing this change I need good examples of making it worthwhile. And
this, I suspect, is one.
Anya Schiffrin: The Rise and Fall of Investigative Journalism: An
international compendium, spun off from her new book, Global Muckraking:
100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World. This, by
the way, is one of the few things I've read this week that make me feel
Rebecca Solnit: Men Explain Things to Me: Reprints the title essay,
or at least an early draft of it, to Solnit's new book. Of course, I've
had clueless men explain things to me, too. (A few clueless women as
well, but singling out men is within reasonable statistical norms.) And
in groups I have a relatively sensitive CSMA/CD switch, so I'm easily
interrupted and loathe to reclaim the floor, so the larger the group
the more likely I am to be regaled with unrefuted (not irrefutable)
nonsense. Much of my consciousness of such dynamics comes from reading
early feminist texts long ago, revelatory even in cases where women are
reacting not so much to gender as to implicit power relationships --
something gender was (and not uncommonly still is) inextricably bound
up in, but something that didn't end with gender. So Solnit's stories
speak to me, even when the precise terminology is slightly off. [One
of my favorite tech acronyms, CSMA/CD stands for "carrier sense multiple
access with collision detection" -- an algorithm for efficiently deciding
when a computer can send data over a common bus network. The same would
work for deciding who speaks when in an open room, but actual results
are often distorted by volume and ego.]
A few more links on Michael B. Katz:
One more little thing. I put aside the August 19, 2014 issue of the
Wichita Eagle because I was struck by the following small items on page
Man sentenced to more than 7 years in prison . . . Scott Reinke,
43, was given 86 months in prison for a series of crimes including burglary,
theft, possession of stolen property, making false information and fleeing
or attempting to elude law enforcement. . . . In tacking on the additional
time last Friday, [Judge Warren] Wilhelm noted Reineke had a criminal
history of more than 50 felony convictions.
Kechi man gets nearly 10 years for child porn . . . Jaime Menchaca,
34, of Kechi pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography
and was sentenced to 110 months in prison. . . . In his plea, Menchaca
admitted that on Sept. 13 he sent an e-mail containing child pornography
to a Missouri man.
There's also another piece on page 5A:
Sex offender pleads guilty to child porn . . . Dewey had a 1999
conviction in Pueblo, Colorado, for attempted sexual assault of a child.
He admitted in court Monday that he was found last September with images
and videos of child pornography that he obtained via the Internet.
Prosecutors and the defense have agreed to recommend a 20-year prison
term when Dewey is sentenced on Nov. 4.
This struck me as an example of something profoundly skewed in our
criminal justice system. I won't argue that child pornography is a
victimless crime (although what constitutes pornography can be very
subjective), but possession of a single image strikes me as a much
more marginal offense than repeated instances of property theft. (I
don't think I even noticed the last case until I went back to look
for the first two; it's harder to judge.) Glad the burglar/thief is
going to jail, but wonder if it wouldn't make more sense for the
child porn defendant to spend some time with a shrink, and maybe pay
a nominal fine.
Also on the front page of the Eagle is an article called "Kan. GOP
lawmakers vow to look out for oil interests": Senator Roberts, Reps.
Huelskamp, Pompeo, and Jenkins prostate themselves at a Kansas
Independent Oil & Gas Association confab. They all agreed they
wanted lower taxes and less regulation. Nobody said much about the
recent tenfold increase in earthquakes.
Monday, August 25. 2014
Music: Current count 23701  rated (+43), 530  unrated (-6).
Was surprised to see rated count over 40, then looked closer and the
subtraction result turned out to be an impossible 143. Looks like I slipped
a digit two weeks ago. That was about when I had an editing accident and
lost several hundred grades, sending me into a panic trying to figure out
how to fix the breach. This seems to be the summer of things breaking --
I still figure that's better than the summers of mysterious lung diseases
a few years back. Thinking about it, the 43 count means I've been listening
to more Rhapsody, which I'll explain by last week's oversized
Streamnotes plus the
fact that my
pending queue is nearly dry
(18 new 2014 records, or 10 not counting this week's unpacking).
I can remember days when I had more than 100 unrated in the queue.
I still have some items from previous years I haven't gotten to
(although only 1 of those was from 2013, a piece of vinyl I should
look for), so we're talking real low priority stuff. No wonder my
eye is wandering.
This year I decided not to do my
all-consuming metacritic file
(link is to 2013), but needing some kind of aide de memoire I've kept
a running list of albums considered noteworthy and assigned priorities
to them to give me something to work with. Recently, it looked like
this, but since I was weeding out albums
once I had heard them, it was pretty much useless for anyone else. So
it occurred to me that it would be better to keep those records in,
and for that matter to add my grades (where available). The combined
file now looks like
this. I've added some options to
select based on priority levels, so you can get the old format
like this if you have any
reason to do so. There's also an option to get an
even bigger file with all
the "priority 0" records I've noted -- everything mentioned in AMG's
weekly featured releases gets noted in the data file, even if I
consider it to be of no interest whatsoever. Currently the data
file lists 1644 records. Since last year's metacritic files ran to
(7868+1100) records, I haven't been looking very hard. But as my
queue drains I'll work on that some more. (I especially want to
beef up the jazz listings.)
I fell behind on
Twitter, wound up having
to knock out nine tweets to wrap this up. Even so, I skipped a few
of the "old music" albums -- they'll show up next Rhapsody Streamnotes,
although you can check out Michael Tatum for Joy Division, below.
Wrote one tweet for Jeff Palmer -- an organ player in my database
I had no other consciousness of -- but played two albums, both good,
but when you trade in Victor Lewis (a drummer I revere) for Rashied
Ali you get an extra spark.
Speaking of Twitter, I retwitted one from Mike Konczal last night:
Sad that Michael Katz has passed away. A remarkable scholar, very
important to me. Read Tom Sugrue's moving tribute:
I added my own two cents:
Let me add that Michael Katz's history of the early school reform
movement as class thought control/socialization was a key insight to
Katz wrote a lot of books, but the only ones I read were The Irony
of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century
Massachusetts (1968; reissued 2001), and Class, Bureaucracy, and
Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America (1971; expanded
1975). He found that the early proponents of universal education like
Horace Mann -- a name we knew because Wichita named a school for him --
were less concerned with offerng opportunities to Irish immigrants than
with socializing them in proper New England ways, and conversely that
the Irish resisted such efforts to brainwash them. I read these books
when I was a high school dropout with my own intense distrust of an
educational system that seemed geared to turn us into regimented factory
workers (if we survived the army and Vietnam).
Katz later moved on to write about America's welfare system, in books
like In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in
America (1986; expanded 1996), The Undeserving Poor: From the
War on Poverty to the War on Welfare (1990), and Improving Poor
People: The Welfare State, the "Underclass," and Urban Schools as
History (1995), and more recently has published on immigration.
Most recently, he wrote Why Don't American Cities Burn? (2011),
about a murder in Philadelphia and all the attendant baggage of race
and class. I hadn't thought much about Katz until The Undeserving
Poor showed up in one of my recent book trawls. Interesting how
his career developed. For more, see this
In Memoriam by Thomas Sugrue (whose own books include The
Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
(2005), Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil
Rights in the North (2008), and Not Even Past: Barack Obama
and the Burden of Race).
One more Twitter note, or at least semi-related. Medium is either
a spinoff or an independent venture funded with Twitter money -- I
don't pretend to understand how it works, but I have heard that they
have some money to hire writers, and have hired Robert Christgau to
write some Expert Witness/Consumer Guide posts. He has an account now
that you can follow. He'll
explain it all in an introductory post on September 2, followed by
the first actual CG reviews on September 5.
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
- Auction Project: Slink (2014, self-released): violinist Heather Martin Bixler outshines the leaders, offering shape and substance to the usual postbop [cd]: B+(*)
- Henry Butler/Steven Bernstein: Viper's Drag (2014, Impulse): band named Hot 9 after Armstrong-Hines, comparisons neither can live up to [r]: B+(***)
- Calle 13: MultiViral (2014, El Abismo/Sony Music Latin): Puerto Rican rappers with a political agenda, unintelligible to folks like me, but at least I feel it [r]: B+(***)
- Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: Someday World (2014, Warp): Eno teams up with an inferior singer, so he tries to compensate by writing better songs [r]: B+(*)
- Dave "Knife" Fabris: Lettuce Prey (2010 , Musea): guitarist into fusion and classical but also makes room for Ran Blake to do his thing [cd]: B-
- Simone Felice: Strangers (2014, Dualtone): one of the Felice Brothers tries his hand solo, forsaking those nice harmonies [r]: B+(*)
- The Felice Brothers: Favorite Waitress (2014, Dualtone): minus Simone, turns out they have more fun and edge, even a taste for mayhem [r]: B+(***)
- FKA Twigs: LP1 (2014, Young Turks): the sort of singer Tricky uses, OK as long as she comes up with music on that level, which isn't often [r]: B
- Hercules & Love Affair: The Feast of the Broken Heart (2014, Moshi Moshi): EDM, a bit slow, cartoonish even, but that's their shtick, isn't it? [r]: B
- Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas: Secret Evil (2014, Instant): Detroit group, straight rock & roll with a slight vocal skew, distinctive I'd say [r]: B+(***)
- Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital (2011-13 , AUM Fidelity): dense piano chords slow the saxman down, for better or worse [r]: B+(*)
- Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (2013 , Concord): a Louis Armstrong tribute that misses its mark on so many levels I never conceived possible before [r]: C
- Roddy Frame: Seven Dials (2014, AED): singer-songwriter from Aztec Camera, 15 years into a solo career has pop charms but no more dazzle [r]: B+(*)
- Phil Haynes: No Fast Food: In Concert (2012 , Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): drummer-led trio with Dave Liebman and Drew Gress, all sharp edges for two live discs [cd]: B+(***)
- Wayne Horvitz: 55: Music and Dance in Concrete (2012 , Cuneiform): i.e., immobile: no swing, no bop, no hop, no strut, just fairly rich chamber jazz [cdr]: B
- Rebecca Kilgore with the Harry Allen Quartet: I Like Men (2013 , Arbors): title concept could use sharper songs, saxophonist could use more space [r]: B+(*)
- Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (2014, Cumbancha): Congolese star draws big beats and brass from salsa, supercharged with soukous guitar [r]: A-
- John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension: The Boston Record (2013 , Abstract Logix): as the fusion guitarist ages, he eschews transcendence for hard and clunky [r]: B
- Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (2011 , Pi): George Russell student, explores high concepts with approaches I rarely care for [cd]: B+(**)
- Myriad 3: The Where (2014, ALMA): Canadian piano trio, hits a semi-popular niche like EST even if they aren't the influence [cd]: B+(**)
- Novox: Over the Honeymoon (2014, Label Z Production): French septet with fake funk horns, synths, turntablist, guitarist leader, vocal clutter [cd]: C+
- Picastro: You (2014, Sonic Clang): intriguing little group, basically slowcore with falsetto vocals, fractured and crazed around the edges [r]: B+(*)
- Pink Martini & the Von Trapps: Dream a Little Dream (2013 , Heinz): the extra voices add a somber air, belying camp eclecticism from Brahms to ABBA [r]: B+(*)
- Anthony Pirog: Palo Colorado Dream (2014, Cuneiform): guitar trio with Michael Formanek and Ches Smith, not much flow or groove, feedback helps [cdr]: B+(*)
- Jeff Richman & Wayne Johnson: The Distance (2014, ITI Music): guitar duets, fancier picking than new age but fills that pleasantry niche [cd]: B+(*)
- Ritmos Unidos: Ritmos Unidos (2014, Patois): Latin jazz octet from Indiana, Afro-Cuban bata drums, timbales, the distinctive splash of steel pans [cd]: B+(**)
- Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (2014, Yep Roc): NJ singer-songwriter with warm voice and such fine country-folk form he could be new T-Bone Burnett [r]: A-
- Seth Walker: Sky Still Blue (2014, The Royal Potato Family): blues singer-songwriter, hits paydirt with "Jesus (Make My Bed)" but everything else is a bit tepid [r]: B
- The Bill Warfield Big Band: Trumpet Story (2013-14 , Planet Arts): Randy Brecker solos, but the trumpet theme is underdeveloped; Vic Juris shines [r]: B+(*)
- Anna Webber: Simple (2013 , Skirl): sax/flute trio with Matt Mitchell and John Hollenbeck stretching and skewing, best when all three thrash [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971 , Tompkins Square):old-fashioned Appalachian solo fiddle, obscure reissue of a legend if playing with Peter Stampfel counts [r]: B+(***)
Old records rated this week:
- Joy Division: The Best of Joy Division (1979-80 , Rhino): [r]: A-
- John Lindberg: Luminosity: Homage to David Izenzon (1992-96 , Music & Arts): [r]: B+(**)
- John Lindberg: Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk (2001 , Between the Lines): [r]: B+(***)
- Paul Motian Quintet: Misterioso (1986 , Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Paul Motian Trio: One Time Out (1987 , Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
- Jeff Palmer/John Abercrombie/Arthur Blythe/Victor Lewis: Ease On (1992 , Sledgehammer Blues): [r]: B+(***)
- Jeff Palmer/Arthur Blythe/John Abercrombie/Rashied Ali: Island Universe (1994, Soul Note): organ player goes avant with Rashied Ali/Arthur Blythe, and John Abercrombie follows suit [r]: A-
- Ted Rosenthal: My Funny Valentine (2007 , Tokuma): piano trio nicely balanced for playing 11 juicy standards associated with Helen Merrill [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Richard Galliano: Sentimentale (Resonance): September 30
- Jason Jackson: Inspiration (Jack & Hill Music): October 14
- Kalle Kalima & K-18: Buńuel de Jour (TUM): September 16
- Dave Liebman Big Band: A Tribute to Wayne Shorter (Summit)
- Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger: Reverie (Leo)
- Carl Saunders: America (Summit)
- Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (TUM, 2CD): September 16
- Tim Sparks: Chasin' the Boogie (Tonewood)
Sunday, August 24. 2014
The first thing to note here is that the Four Wars of 2014 -- Ukraine,
Syria, Iraq, and Gaza -- are still going strong, and the conflicting
interests super- and not-so-super-powers have in them offer excuses
enough to frustrate any efforts at mediation. There have also been
reports of shelling along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu, and the
US is upset about China challenging a US "reconnaissance plane" near
the Chinese border.
The least-reported of these conflicts is in the Ukraine, where
various "pro-West" or "pro-Europe" forces staged a coup against
Russia-leaning President Viktor Yanukovich in February. As Ukraine
shifted to the West, various revolts broke out in heavily Russian
southwest Ukraine. Crimea declared independence and asked to be
annexed by Russia, which Putin readily agreed to. Other separatist
militias seized power elsewhere in southeastern Ukraine, and the
"pro-West" Kiev government has been trying to suppress the revolt
the old-fashioned way, with bombing and strafing. It's unclear to
what extent Russia has been actively promoting and supporting the
separatists: NATO and Kiev have asserted various instances, and
Putin has steadfastly denied them.
The result so far is that the civil war in
(around Dontesk) has resulted in about 4,000 deaths -- I don't
think that includes the Malaysian airliner that was shot down,
surely an accident but part of the war's "collateral damage."
The US has clearly sided with the "pro-Western" government in
Kiev and taken a leading roll in attempting to punish Russia
with sanctions. No one thinks Russia is totally innocent here,
but the US position is the result of a long neocon campaign to
advance NATO to Russia's borders, to corner and cower Russia
to prevent the emergence of any non-US military or economic
power center. And the failure to cover this war is largely due
to blithe assumptions of US benevolence and Russian malevolence
going back to Cold War dogma, as well as an abiding belief that
force is an effective solution to the world's problems.
If the US was not so entangled in its faith in military force,
you would see a concerted effort to mediate the four wars. Rather,
Obama has embraced force as America's fundamental strategy in all
four arenas. (Syria is only slightly murky here: the US dislikes
both sides but can't see any option other than searching for a
third side to arm.) The US is most directly involved in Iraq,
where we've taken a sudden interest in protecting small minorities
like Yazidis and Turkmen who have the most propaganda value. Then
there is Gaza, where the ceasefire has been repeatedly broken by
Israel, still refusing to open Gaza's borders to allow a semblance
of normal everyday life. As I've written before, the "truce" terms
Hamas offered at the beginning of the recent military hostilities
were completely fair and reasonable. Netanyahu's continued rejection
of the terms should make you reconsider just who "the terrorists"
are in this conflict. The Gaza death count has continued to climb
over 2100. Another Israeli civilian was killed in recent days,
bringing the total to 4, in one of the most one-sided massacres
of recent times.
While it is possible that ISIS is indeed a terrorist group one
cannot negotiate with -- at least that's what the hawks want us to
believe -- Hamas has practically been begging for a deal since
they entered Palestinian electoral politics in 2006. Israel has
not only rejected their every overture, Israel repeatedly drags
them back into armed conflict. The US is schizophrenic about this:
on the one hand we spend a lot of money trying to support the "good
Palestinians" over in the West Bank in the vain belief that if we
can improve their economic well-being that will help us move toward
peace. On the other hand, any time Israel decides to trash whatever
good we've done, we applaud and make sure to replenish their arms.
I want to quote a section from Josh Ruebner's Shattered Hopes:
Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (p. 190):
Promoting "economic growth" for Palestinians living under Israeli
military occupation, while simultaneously flooding Israel with the
weapons and providing it with the diplomatic protection it needs to
entrench this military occupation, is a nonsensical proposition. At
best, these policies reveal that the United States is working at
cross-purposes; at worst, they signal that it is trying to reconcile
Palestinians to their open-air prison existence by making it slightly
more palatable. What USAID fails to understand publicly is that
Israel's military occupation is specifically designed to de-develop
the Palestinian economy, not to encourage Palestinian economic
Israel's eviscertation of teh Palestinian economy is integrally
woven into the very fabric of its military occupation in innumerable
ways. The hundreds of roadblocks, checkpoints and other barriers to
movement that Israel maintains in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
inhibit the transportation of people and goods, which forces the
ever-increasing localization of the economy. Israel's blockade of the
Gaza Strip has reduced its population to penury and almost total
reliance on international charity for survival. Even before, Israel's
formal imposition of the blockade on Gaza in 2007, Israel's earlier
destruction of the Gaza Strip's only airport and its prevention of the
building of a seaport there had greatly constricted Palestinians in
the Gaza Strip from engaging in international trade. Similarly,
Israel's wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and its control of
the West Bank's border corssings with Jordan, greatly reduce trade
opportunities as well. Finally, Israel's widespread razing of
Palestinian agricultural land and fruit-bearing trees, along with the
expropriation of Palestinian land and water resources for its illegal
settlements, have devastated the Palestinian agricultural sector.
The US at least nominally wants peace in Palestine, just not enough
to stand up to Israel, which at most wants quiet but is willing to
settle for hatred as long as Palestinians remain powerless -- which
is one effect of mired in a hopeless economy. In one telling note,
it's worth noting that the power plant in Gaza that Israel blows up
every few years is insured by the US: Israel breaks it, we pay to
fix it, then we pay Israel to break it again. It's a perfect example
of government waste, but Americans don't seem able to see that, in
large part because we think our interests extend everywhere, we think
we have to choose sides everywhere, and we choose those sides on the
basis of ignorance and identity.
Some scattered links this week:
Ed Kilgore: Jeffords and the GOP's March to the Right: Vermont's
last Republican Senator, James Jeffords, has died. He's best remembered
for switching parties in 2001, denying Cheney's stranglehold on the
Senate. Kilgore drew up a list of "moderate" Republican senators from
1976, just 25 years back, on the even of the Reagan juggernaut, and
found 17 (of 38) qualified (not including the likes of Bob Dole and
Howard Baker Jr.), adding VP Nelson Rockefeller and (more of a stretch)
President Gerald Ford. Since then the Republican Party has been purged
as rigorously as Stalin's CP -- the only division today seems to be
between those who are categorically insane and those who are merely
Philip Weiss: Hillary Clinton just lost the White House in Gaza -- same
way she lost it in Iraq the last time: Some wishful thinking here,
but it's worth noting that Clinton has strayed outside the bounds of
partisan propriety, notably in attacking Obama's stated intent -- I'm
hesitant to call it a policy without more evidence that he's actually
trying to follow it -- of "not doing stupid shit."
Hillary's done it again. Her pro-war comments in that famous interview
two weeks ago have painted her into a right wing neoconservative corner.
In 2016, a Democratic candidate will again emerge to run to her left
and win the party base, again because of pro-war positioning on the
Middle East that Hillary has undertaken in order to please
The last time it was Iraq, this time it was Gaza. Hillary Clinton had
nothing but praise for Netanyahu's actions in Gaza, and echoed him in
saying that Hamas just wanted to pile up dead civilians for the cameras.
She was "hepped up" to take on the jihadists, she said that Obama's
policy of "not doing stupid shit" was not a good policy. She undermined
Obama for talking to Iran and for criticizing Israel over the number of
civilian casualties in Gaza. She laid all the fault for the massacre at
And once again, Hillary Clinton will pay for this belligerency; she
won't tenant the White House.
Weiss knows he's "going out on a limb" so he cites some polling that's
Consider: Gallup says that Israel's actions in Gaza were unjustified
in the eyes of the young, people of color, women, and Democrats, and
overwhelmingly in some of those categories 51-25% disapproval among
the young. 47-35 percent among Democrats, 44-33 among women, 49-25
The problem, of course, is that while the majority of Democrats
may have broken from AIPAC over Gaza, how many Democrats in Congress
have? Not Elizabeth Warren. Not even Bernie Sanders. Certainly some
hypothetical Democrat could score points against Clinton in primaries
by painting her as a warmonger and pointing out how her obeissance
to AIPAC only serves to prolong conflict in the Middle East, but it's
impossible to identify a real Democrat who could effectively make
those points. (Dennis Kucinich, for instance, tried twice, failed
abysmally, and doesn't even have his House seat to stand on now.
Howard Dean pretty much permanently discredited himself when he
became a lobbyist for the Iranian terrorist group MEK.)
The main thing that bothers me about Clinton isn't policy --
not that there aren't many points to disagree on -- so much as the
stench of dynasty. More and more the Democratic Party resembles
the so-called progressive parties of Pakistan and India, cynically
ruled by corrupt families and cliques that needn't offer their
supporters anything more than a small measure of protection from
the viciousness of their opponents. You'd think that 238 years
after the declaration of democracy in America we would have become
more sophisticated than that -- indeed, we probably were, but have
recently devolved into the present kleptocracy. Obama at least
offered a symbolic break from the Bush-Clinton dynasties, but in
the end that was only symbolic: his administration was rife with
Clinton partisans, and he sealed the party's fate by breaking up
the grassroots organization that had elected two Democratic
Congresses -- foolishly or cynically preferring to "deal" with
lobbyists and Republicans rather than risk democracy within his
More Israel Links:
Kate: Soldiers fire on Palestinian protesters in Nablus, including 14-year
old boy: compendium of many news reports. One reports a poll where:
"over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a
Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason"; "over 75 percent
of participants did not approve of apartment buildings being shared between
Arabs and Jews"; "sixty percent of participants said they would not allow
an Arab to visit their home"; 40 percent said "Arabs should have their
right to vote for Knesset revoked"; 55 percent said "Arabs and Jews should
be separated at entertainment sites." Hard to see how anyone could look at
these figures and not recognize that Israel has become profoundly racist
Gershom Gorenberg: It's Time to Stop 'Managing' the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict and Just End It: "The demands raised in the failed Cairo
negotiations are exactly what Israel and the Palestinian unity government
should have sat down to discuss in early June."
Annie Robbins: 'Common Dreams' website traps Hasbara troll spewing
anti-Semitism: An example of false flag propaganda, meant to poison
serious discussion of Israel.
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian: The constant presence of death in the lives of
Philip Weiss: 'NYT' op-ed calls on Jews to abandon liberal Zionism and
push for equal rights: In a nutshell, "equal rights" is the common
denominator argument for all occasions, but especially for beleaguered
minorities wherever they may be. It's intuitively right, and it's the one
settlement that can appeal to all sides. It is, therefore, a position
frequently advanced by Diaspora Jews. On the other hand, Israel is an
ethnocracy, a place where one "chosen people" controls the state and
uses it to oppress others -- a distinction that is becoming increasingly
impossible to ignore. Cites the piece,
Antony Lerman: The End of Liberal Zionism, which says: "I still
understand its dream of Israel as a moral and just cause, but I judged
it anachronistic. The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic
and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious
messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national
self-realization to be achieved through colonization and purification
of the tribe."
Also, a few links for further study:
Patrick Cockburn: How to Ensure a Thriving Caliphate: Excerpt from
Cockburn's forthcoming [January 6?] book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS
and the New Sunni Uprising. There is a shortage of reliable info
about ISIS, as well as a lot of propaganda. (The most laughable was
Trudy Rubin claiming to know "The Truth About ISIS.") Not sure this
helps a lot either, although the key point that the jihadists derive
from the US disruption of Iraq is well taken. More detailed and less
The leader of ISIS is 'a classic maneuver warrior', although the
tactical comparisons to Genghis Khan strike me as bullshit.
Thomas Frank: "Wanted Coltrane, Got Kenny G": Interview with Cornell
West, reference is to Obama. "It's not pessimistic, brother, because
this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren't pessimistic.
We're prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark.
Rahawa Haile: Should Musicians Play Tel Aviv? This kicks around the
various reasons foreign musicians shouldn't play in Israel, with some
asides on other related cases -- apartheid-era South Africa, obviously,
but Haile also mentions concerts in "unsavory" dictatorships like Libya
(under Gaddafi) and Turkmenistan, plus Stevie Wonder's decision to not
bother with Florida after the Zimmerman verdict. Oddly, Haile spends
much more time on Israel's often rabid reaction to African refugees --
mostly from Sudan, where Israel tried to score anti-Arab propaganda
points -- than with Israel's second- or third-class treatment of
Palestinians (actually, those in Gaza are probably more like fourth).
(Max Blumenthal's book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel
has quite a bit on Israeli racism against African refugees, but that
is just one instance of the more general loathing right-wing Israelis
hold for nearly all goyim.) Neil Tennant is quoted: "in Israel anyone
who buys a ticket can attend a concert." That, of course, depends on
what you mean by "in Israel": if you live in Ramallah, 15 miles away,
you can't buy tickets to see the Pet Shop Boys in Tel Aviv, nor can
you if you live in Gaza, more like 40 miles away. Tennant is not only
wrong, he is wrong in a particularly misleading way: his experience
of Israel is of a normal, relatively peaceful and prosperous society,
which is true enough for the "Tel Aviv bubble" but completely false
for much of the territory subject to Israeli state terror. One thing
that perpetuates Israeli state terror is the sense that its preferred
citizens enjoy of never having to pay a price for their consent to
living in such a state. When an international artists boycotts Israel,
that at least sends a message that there is some cost to running such
a state, even if it's not likely to have any real effect. The fact is
that Israel cannot be forced into changing its ways: the only way
change will come about is if Israelis become conscious of how far
their nation has strayed from international norms of peace and human
rights. For that reason I welcome all such boycotts. On the other
hand, I don't keep track of who played Israel when or why. (One of the
few I recall is Madonna, who made a documentary about a non-concert
trip to Israel and the Occupied Territories, which if I recall correctly
was very effective in exposing at least part of the brutality of the
regime.) Nor do I discriminate against Israeli jazz musicians -- I must
have written about close to 100 and I'd be surprised if the grade curve
strays from any other national group. They are individuals, and while
many may support their political leaders, many do not -- in fact a very
large percentage of them are expatriates, living in New York, London,
Paris, and elsewhere -- and in any case, as an American I know as well
as anyone that there is very little individuals can do about their
D.R. Tucker: The Powell Doctrine: Some notes on Lewis Powell,
including his notorious US Chamber of Commerce memo that largely
laid out the platform for right-wing business' takeover of American
politics, and other things, including a defense of Roe. vs. Wade.
Thursday, August 21. 2014
Three-and-a-half weeks since
last time, this one snuck
up on me: with the summer doldrums I'm as surprised as anyone to count
101 squib-reviews below. New jazz slowed to a trickle more than a month
ago, with occasional advances for September-October releases. I've
scratched the bottom of my barrel, and consulted most of the usual
authorities. Still, unless you've been following my
Twitter feed, you're
unlikely to have run across more than two of nine A- new records
this month. (Golem's Tanz and Spoon's They Want My Soul --
also the Calypso set further down -- appeared in Michael Tatum's
Downloader's Diary; The Green Seed got a passing mention in one
of those Expert Witness messages via Facebook.) Clean Feed and Intakt
are labels I key on (although cf. Hassler and Laubrock below). I saw
mention of Ricardo Lemvo and Jonah Tolchin (and Jessica Hernandez) in
PopMatters -- not my idea of a reliable review source, but one has to
look somewhere. Aside from a couple jazz records that dropped straight
into my mailbox, everything I bother with has some critical rep behind
it somewhere. I don't have a real metacritic file this year -- just a
crib sheet of little use to me and
probably none to you.
In the old music section, I've been following my Penguin Guide
4-star search list less than my nose: recent records on Intakt (Michael
Griener, Aki Takase, Trio 3) led me down several rabbit holes, and
reminded me that I had never finished those Nobu Stowe records the
artist sent in many years ago. The Punk 45 compilations were
recommended by Jason Gubbels (a third one is not yet on Rhapsody).
Soul Jazz (and subsidiary Universal Sound) is another label I'd like
to key on -- hence the Sergio Mendes one-shot. Unfortunately, looks
like a lot of their catalog isn't available, especially the Studio
These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from
Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays,
accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on
July 30. Past reviews and more information are available
here (5201 records).
New Releases (More or Less)
Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of
Joni Mitchell (2013 , Origin): Bay Area jazz singer, several
albums since Soul Eyes in 1985, this a collection of Joni Mitchell
songs, done much like Mitchell did them -- similar voice, keybs, guitar,
only slightly burnished by Sheldon Brown's reeds.
Clarice Assad: Imaginarium (2014, Adventure Music):
Brazilian singer, daughter of guitarist Sergio Assad, straddles pop,
jazz, and classical, but in "A Morte Da Flor" falls off the deep end
of the latter.
Auction Project: Slink (2014, self-released): Quintet,
name comes from a 2010 album credited to alto saxophonist David Bixler
and pianist Arturo O'Farrill, with violinist Heather Martin Bixler
unnamed but on cover, and bass and drums. This one adds featured guest
guitarist Mike Stern on two cuts and uillean pipes on one.
Baloni: Belleke (2012 , Clean Feed): String
trio, no violin but viola (Frantz Loriot), cello (Joachim Badenhorst),
and bass (Pascal Niggenkemper), touted as "slow boiling, chamber
jazz-like, surrealistic soundscapes" -- I'd scratch the "chamber"
clause, which implies a degree of politesse not evident here. Rather,
you get a scratchy search for a profound sound that generally eludes
Benyoro: Benyoro (2014, self-released): New York-based
group playing West African pop music, led by vocalist Yacouba Sissoko-Kora,
from Mali. One of the percussionists also hails from Mali, the bass player
from Martinique, the Djembe player from New Rochelle, but authenticity
isn't a problem here -- it just doesn't soar quite as high as you'd like.
Bolt: Shuffle (2013 , Driff): Avant quartet --
Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon, analog electronics), Eric Hofbauer
(guitar), Junko Fujiwara (cello), Eric Rosenthal (drums, percussion) --
offers scratchy little miniatures -- 19 that they recommend you shuffle --
too impolite and eccentric for chamber jazz, uprooting expectations.
Anthony Branker & Word Play: The Forward (Towards Equality)
Suite (2014, Origin): Composer and director of a septet plus
singer Alison Crockett, with guest spoken word from schoolchildren
who have some serious wishes for a better world (none of which involve
cutting taxes on the rich). Mainstream with soul flair, the horns --
David Binney (alto sax), Ralph Bowen (tenor/soprano sax, flute), and
Conrad Herwig (trombone) especially striking.
Bobby Broom: My Shining Hour (2014, Origin): Guitarist,
started out in soul jazz with Charles Earland, has close to a dozen
albums on his own as well as side credits in groups like Deep Blue
Organ Trio. This is a trio with bass and drums, all standards, no
breakthroughs but very listenable, especially songs with a little
zip like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Jitterbug Waltz."
Henry Butler/Steven Bernstein: Viper's Drag (2014,
Impulse): Bernstein is a trumpet player who started avant with an
interest in the tradition and became arranger for Robert Altman's
Kansas City project, which in turn led to his Millennial
Territory Orchestra. Butler is a New Orleans pianist/singer who
first worked with Bernstein on Kansas City and has bumped
into him a couple times since -- not clear if this was recorded
at their 2012 Jazz Standard sets or that was merely the point
when this concept came together. They call their nine-piece band
the Hot 9 after Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, and there's
the rub: Bernstein isn't Armstrong, nor is Butler Earl Hines (nor
as a singer can he carry Jimmy Rushing's tune), and the band is
full of talented musicians who can play classic jazz but none
are specialists who live it. That isn't a crippling complaint --
the record is great fun and I'd love to see the band live -- but
it is a bit more than a nitpick.
Calle 13: MultiViral (2014, El Abismo/Sony Music Latin):
Puerto Rican rap group, with a reggaeton streak although that's hardly
the only genre they can jump, and the few bits I can understand show
some political smarts (as does a guest list that includes Silvio Rodriguez,
Tom Morello, John Leguizamo, and Eduardo Galeano). Even in purely musical
terms, I like the hard raps best.
Mario Castro Quintet/Strings: Estrella de Mar/Promotional
Edition (2014, Interrobang): Young tenor saxophonist, from
Puerto Rico, graduated Berklee, sounds like a slightly scruffier
David Sanchez, promising enough, but the quintet is cluttered, the
strings are crappy, and the singer, well, unnecessary. "Promotional
Edition" is printed prominently on the cover in what otherwise is
fancier packaging than most commercial releases see, so I decided
to honor the fact rather than puzzle over it. Of course, it puts
an unfathomable distance between what I heard and what you might
be able to buy.
Collier & Dean: Sleek Buick (2013-14 ,
Origin): Tom Collier plays vibes, marimba, xylophone, and keyboards.
Don Dean bass, percussion, keyboards, ukelele, classical guitar.
Backup varies, with appearances by Don Grusin (piano) and Ernie
Watts (tenor sax), and drums split between Ted Poor and Alex
Acuńa. Bubbly, frothy groove music.
Wayne Coniglio/Scott Whitfield: Fast Friends (2012
, Summit): Two mainstream trombonists, looks like Coniglio's
first album but Whitfield has close to a dozen since 1997. Three
originals (one Coniglio, two Whitfield), "I'm Confessin'" a gem
among the not-very-standard covers.
Cortex: Live! (2014, Clean Feed): Norwegian avant
jazz quartet patterned on Ornette Coleman's classic, two previous
albums but no one I've heard of: Thomas Johansson (cornet), Kristoffer
Alberts (reeds), Ola Hřyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums). I have a
nagging doubt that anyone so inspired could do this: rather than
breaking rules and blazing new paths the sax-cornet interplay just
seems so right, although it wouldn't without a lot of innovation
that now seems so normal.
Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman Quartet: Birdies for Lulu
(2013 , Intakt): Piano and violin for the leaders, bass (Scott
Colley) and drums (Billy Mintz) fill the group out. He paints curtains
of ice, she breaks them.
Jorrit Dijkstra: Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland
(2013 , Driff): Five reed players -- Dijkstra, Phillip Greenlief,
Kyle Bruckmann, Frank Gratkowski, Jon Raskin -- including clarinet, oboe,
and English horn as well as various saxes, three players also credited
with electronics. Can get ugly in the lower reaches, or squeaky in the
Diva: A Swingin' Life (2001-12 , MCG Jazz):
Drummer Sherry Maricle's long-running all-female big band, two cuts
featuring Nancy Wilson recorded at MCG in 2001, the rest with quite
a bit of turnover from an engagement in Lincoln Center eleven years
later, with Marlena Shaw singing on two pieces, including a Basie
"Blues Medley" they were born to swing. A lot of pop in the brass
Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (2013
, Concord): Starts with "What a Wonderful World" from the wrong
end of Louis Armstrong's songbook, then segues into the worst version
of "Mack the Knife" I've ever heard -- a judgment I rendered even
before Mike Ladd's rap. Hard to blame the trumpet players (Nicholas
Payton, Terence Blanchard, Arturo Sandoval), but the rest of the band
cuts the wrong rug, and the good Dr.'s slurred vocals slide all over
the place -- a sharp contrast to Armstrong, who always had his unwieldy
voice under perfect control. Of course, a tribute doesn't have to sound
like its target -- if it did, what would be the point? But nothing here
comes close, except Bonnie Raitt's cameo, and "When You're Smiling."
Jorge Drexler: Bailar en la Cueva (2014, Warner
Music Latina): Singer/songwriter from Uruguay, based in Spain, has
a dozen (or so) albums since 1992. Strikes me as closer to MPB than
to salsa -- for a guy who can't tell Spanish from Portuguese he
reminds me mostly of Caetano Veloso, with a slightly more eccentric
John Ellis & Andy Bragen: Mobro (2011 ,
Parade Light): Saxophonist, has an interestingly eclectic catalog
which takes an odd turn here, providing the music for a play by
Bragen, the combined effect way more operatic than I can handle.
Dave "Knife" Fabris: Lettuce Prey (2010 ,
Musea): Guitarist, has appeared on several albums with pianist
Ran Blake (who gets "featuring" credit here), but this seems to
be his first album. It's a "kitchen sink" conglomeration with
a wild mix of fusion and classical -- a Ginastera string quartet,
some Prokofiev, "Sabre Dance," one of those horrible operatic
sopranos -- and some smaller pieces, including a nice bit of
"Mood Indigo" at the end.
FKA Twigs: LP1 (2014, Young Turks): "Half-Jamaican"
UK native singer-songwriter, Tahilah Barnet, nicknamed Twigs, has
two EPs, now an LP, backed with trip-hoppy electronics. Her thin,
warbly voice is something Tricky led us to expect, and as long as
this can pass for Tricky pop it holds up OK, but doesn't have
anywhere else to go.
Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed (2012 , Hot Cup):
Pianist, second album, trio with Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass
and Max Goldman on drums. Played this several times and have very
little to say about it -- a nice mix of Evans-esque melodic sense
with a more Jarrett-like rhythmic push, I guess.
Golem: Tanz (2014, Discos Corason): Punk-klezmer
group led by accordionist-singer Annette Ezekiel Kogan, with Aaron
Diskin as a second singer, the band anchored by violinist Jeremy
Brown and noted jazz trombonist Curtis Hasslebring. Several albums,
this the first on a Mexican label, produced by Tony Maimone (Pere
Grand Fatilla: Global Shuffle (2014, self-released):
Boston group, a spinoff from world-jazz eclectics Club D'Elf, pared
down to a quartet: Robert Cassan (accordion), Matt Glover (electric
mandolin), Mike Rivard (double bass, sintir), and Fabio Pirozzolo
(percussion, voice): Argentine tangos, Italian Tarantellas, Turkish
sacred Sufi songs, Irish reels, Moroccan trance, Bulgarian dance,
all erudite and enjoyable, but nothing that shakes the rafters.
The Green Seed: Drapetomania (2014, Communicating
Vessels): Two rappers, two DJs, all the vinyl scratch sounds like a
throwback to the '80s but the samples are more fluid, and the
underground message is conscious, even when conflicted on matters
of the heart. Matters of state, those are more obvious.
Michael Griener/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk:
Willisau & Berlin (2012-13 , Intakt): Some parsing
options here: Griener (drums), Roder (bass), and Thewes (trombone)
previously recorded an album called Squakk, effectively the
group name here, but Griener is listed above Squakk, the
others, including newcomer Mahall (bass clarinet, clarinet, baritone
sax), below. Mahall not only adds a useful change of pace, he refocuses
Haitian Rail: Solarists (2014, New Atlantis): Rough
avant-jazz group, plenty of thrash especially between the guitar (Nick
Millevoi) and trombone (Daniel Blacksberg). Bassist Edward Ricart also
contributes a song -- the only band member who doesn't is drummer Kevin
Shea, already famous for MOPDTK, less famous for Talibam and other
marginal noise projects.
Hans Hassler: Hassler (2011 , Intakt): Folk
background, "the true Swiss king of accordion," leads a quartet with
two jazz clarinetists (Jürgen Kupke, Gebhard Ullmann on bass), plus
percussion. Feels rushed and cramped.
Hercules & Love Affair: The Feast of the Broken Heart
(2014, Moshi Moshi): Disco group, fifth album including a DJ-Kicks.
I figure cartoonishness is a bit of their shtick, but sometimes they overdo
it, and more often they cut short the beats.
Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas: Secret Evil (2014,
Instant): Detroit group, has a straightforward, almost trad rock and
roll form, the singer-songwriter's voice slightly off in a way that
ultimately distinguishes her. First album after a couple EPs, one
titled Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes.
Wayne Horvitz: 55: Music and Dance in Concrete (2012
, Cuneiform): Pianist, although he only composed and mixed these
pieces, collaborating with Yukio Suzuki (choreography and dance),
Yohei Saito (video artist) and Tucker Martine (producer/engineer).
They were recorded at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA (out on the
Olympic Peninsula), using the concrete bunkers and cistern for
resonance. The group includes five horns (trumpet, trombone,
clarinet/bass clarinet, alto and soprano sax) plus strings and
voice (Maria Mannisto), for a quasi-classical effect.
Ibibio Sound Machine: Ibibio Sound Machine (2014,
Soundway): British group with roots in Nigeria, led by singer Eno
Williams with musicians from Ghana and Brazil. Framed by bits of
gospel, deeper beats in the middle.
Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid
Recital (2011-13 , AUM Fidelity): Alto sax-piano
duets, performed live at various spots following the 2011 studio
album Cosmic Lieder. Jones is an intense player, sometimes
extraordinary (cf. Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing))
and sometimes just a pain in the ears (his Little Women albums,
especially Lung). Shipp's dense clustering mostly slows
him down, precluding either extreme.
Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (2014, Driff):
Boston-based pianist with a mostly local live in Chicago group -- Dave
Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone saxes), Keefe Jacckson (tenor sax, bass
clarinet), Nate McBride (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). It's almost
too much to work with, as the patches where the horns drop out reveal.
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Zone (2014, Greenleaf Music):
Trombonist, second album with his quartet Catharsis -- Mike Rodriguez on
trumpet, also bass and drums -- adding guests Scott Robinson (tenor sax)
and Camila Meza (voice). The vocals offer an intriguing tangent, but wind
up too much.
Rebecca Kilgore with the Harry Allen Quartet: I Like Men
(2013 , Arbors): Standards singer collects a list of songs about
men: "The Man I Love," of course, also "The Gentleman Is a Dope," "He's
a Tramp," "He's My Guy," "Marry the Man Today," "The Man That Got Away,"
and so forth -- the biggest turnoff for me was "Goldfinger." Saxophonist
Allen should be a big help here, but he doesn't add much.
Jonas Kullhammar/Jřrgen Mathisen/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg:
Basement Sessions Vol. 3: The Ljubljana Tapes (2013 ,
Clean Feed): Two tenor saxophonists (the former also credited with
soprillo sax and flute), bass, and drums. The two previous volumes
were trios without Mathisen, and Vol. 2 was most impressive.
This live successor has its hot spots, but also tends to slip on by.
Lake Street Dive: Bad Self Portraits (2014, Signature
Sounds): Singer Rachel Price reminds me of Elvin Bishop recycling blues
clichés, but Bishop was slighter and had more fun.
Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana
(2012 , Clean Feed): An octet, with two trumpets (Nate Wooley,
Susana Santos Silva), trombone (Reut Regev), three saxes (David Bindman,
Avram Fefer, Mat Bauder), drums (Igal Foni), and the leader's bass mixed
up so it's always audible, the heartbeat of a growing, growling organism --
the most Mingus-like of bassists, both for his compositions that sum up
all worthwhile jazz history and as a bandleader who can whip a group up
into something larger than itself.
Ingrid Laubrock Octet: Zürich Concert (2011 ,
Intakt): German avant saxophonist, her octet limited to two horns
(Tom Arthurs' trumpet is the other), with guitar-cello-bass strings,
accordion in addition to piano, and drummer Tom Rainey doubling on
xylophone. Intricate layering without much solo punch, but that
seems to be the idea.
Azar Lawrence: The Seeker (2011 , Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, cut his first album in 1974 and doesn't have many
since, but he's such a powerful presence if you've ever heard him pop
up anywhere, even on the side, you're likely to remember the name.
Quintet with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Benito Gonzalez (piano),
Essiet Okon Essiet (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums). Big,
dramatic sound, overwhelming all else.
Gordon Lee with the Mel Brown Septet: Tuesday Night
(2014, Origin): Lee is a pianist-composer, wrote everything here
(lifting a bit from Rachmaninoff), and is counted in drummer Brown's
septet (two saxes, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums). Feels
cluttered and rushed, the solos indistinct.
Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (2014,
Cumbancha): The most Cuban-sounding of Congolese stars, this has
outsided salsa rhythms with soukous guitar supercharge, for an
unrelenting up, up, up. Crazy machine, indeed.
Vincent Lyn: Live in New York City (2013 , Budo):
Pianist and kung-fu master, several albums, I don't doubt his proficiency
but the charm here is tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana.
Bob Mamet: London House Blues (2014, Blujazz):
Pianist, from Chicago, brother of playwright David Mamet, half
dozen or so albums since 1994, evidently spent some time in
smooth/crossover jazz although this is an exemplary mainstream
trio, two originals, familiar standards, bright, sparkling even.
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Make My Head Sing . . . (2014,
ATO): Singer-songwriter with two previous albums produced by Dan
Auerbach (Black Keys). This one done with husband Jesse Newport
(mostly bass) and a drummer, is distinguished first of all by the
crunchy guitar, supposedly a tribute to '90s grunge.
Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline: Woodstock Sessions
Vol. 2 (2013 , Indirecto): Last heard with John Scofield,
as natural a fit for the organ-drums-bass trio as one could imagine,
I have to say they've traded up. Cline is a guitarist more inclined
to cut against the grain than go with the flow, which makes this a
much rougher-edged combination. M & M (if not necessarily W) have
been moving in more avant circles since their early success, and that,
too, pays dividends here.
Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Intergalactic
Beings (2010 , FPE): She plays flute, a minor part
of the sound and action here, mostly roiling around the dirty
bass end with David Boykin's tenor sax/bass clarinet, Jeff Parker's
guitar, Joshua Abrams' bass, and (especially) Avreeayl Ra's often
stunning percussion. You also get strings (violin/cello), trumpet,
and Mankwe Ndosi's voice in the messy mix.
Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (2011
, Pi): Tenor saxophonist, born in North Carolina, has a Ph.D.
in ethnomusicology, probably started with his father, Jamal Modir,
a Persian percussionist, but he's been all over, studying Persian,
South Indian, West African, and Japanese music (among others), but
most importantly he is a George Russell protégé -- his first album
was called In Chromodal Discourse (1992), and the one prior
to this one was Post-Chromodal Out! (2012). This one comes
with equations and sketches resembling particle physics. The music
itself I find even more daunting, with strings everywhere (ETHEL,
a quartet), those quasi-classical vocals I hate so much, and lots
of santur, plus a bit of Amir ElSaffar trumpet.
Joe Morris Quartet: Balance (2014, Clean Feed): Guitarist,
with Mat Maneri (viola), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums)
in a strings thing, with Maneri doing the main job of shaping the scratchy,
Sam Most: New Jazz Standards (2013 , Summit):
Jazz flautist, cut his first records in 1953, this one sixty years
later -- a month before his death, in many ways this sums up his whole
career: the high bebop lines, a side of baritone sax, a goofed up scat
Myriad 3: The Where (2014, ALMA): Canadian piano trio --
Chris Donnelly (piano), Dan Fortin (bass), Ernesto Cervini (drums, winds) --
dabbling sometimes in electronic synths. Second album, all three write
(but mostly Donnelly), postbop but suggests a bit of EST niche if not
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (2014,
Reprise): A personable young retro-rocker in the late 1970s when he
introduced his lightweight "classic rock" formula, he remains personable
and listenable 35 years later, and doesn't seem all that much older.
Picastro: You (2014, Static Clang): Intriguing little
group, basically slowcore with falsetto vocals, occasional fracturing
or crazing around the edges.
Pink Martini & the Von Trapps: Dream a Little Dream
(2013 , Heinz): With the last surviving member of the Trapp Family
Singers, Maria von Trapp, passing at age 99, the legacy vocal group is
mostly filled with great-grandchildren, doing August von Trapp originals,
Rodgers and Hammerstein (you know, The Sound of Music), a tango,
pieces from Africa and China, and bits of schmaltz from Brahms and ABBA.
Such postmodern eclecticism is a Pink Martini trademark and this is very
much their album, the extra voices adding an excessively somber air.
Greg Reitan: Post No Bills (2014, Sunnyside): Pianist,
fourth album since 2009, a trio with Jack Daro and Dean Koba. Three
originals, seven covers, two of those standards ("Stella by Starlight,"
"I Loves You, Porgy"), the others by fellow pianists (Jarrett, Sample,
Silver, Corea, Zeitlin).
Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa (2014, Cuneiform): Drummer,
group includes Timothy Young (guitar) and Devin Hoff (bass). Second
album, jazz-rock fusion pushing hard on the guitar.
Irčne Schweizer/Pierre Favre: Live in Zürich (2013,
Intakt): The great Swiss pianist cut a series of duo albums from 1986
on with various drummers, and Favre's entry was possibly the best --
the closest competitor was Han Bennink. This rematch gives you a sense
of the dynamics, plus an unexpected boogie-blues at the end.
75 Dollar Bill: Olives in the Ears (2014, self-released):
Lo-fi guitar-drum project, guitarist Che Chen credits a teacher from
Mauritania for his mix of Arabic modes and Saharan blues, plus drummer
Rick Brown, and some others chip in here and there. Available on cassette
tape as well as digital download.
Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (2013 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, originally from Israel, now based
in New York, second album, backed with bass and drums.
Sohn: Tremors (2014, 4AD): Toph Taylor, from London,
first album, singer-songwriter with electronics. Moby-ish if not quite
Spoon: They Want My Soul (2014, Anti-): Texas rockers
with a long history of corraling pop hooks unveil an edgier sound without
losing their knack -- if anything, they've upped their game.
Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves
(2012 , Auand): Electric bass, tenor sax, drums, respectively.
Talmor, b. 1970 in France, is best known for his collaborations with
Lee Konitz, but those feature his string arrangements, where he it
is a delight to hear his mellow saxophone -- e.g., the closing "You
Go to My Head," which more than once convinced me to give this another
Aki Takase/La Plančte: Flying Soul (2012 , Intakt):
Starts like chamber jazz with violin (Dominique Pifarély), cello (Vincent
Courtois), clarinet (Louis Sclavis) and piano/celesta (Takase), but no
one -- least of all Pifarély -- wants to leave it at that, yielding a
rather bracing diceyness as it develops.
Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (2014, Yep Roc): First
album for a young singer-songwriter from New Jersey with a vintage
country/folk feel, a knack for smartly structured, sensitive and
sensible songs -- if anything, reminds me most of T-Bone Burnett.
Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring (2013 , Intakt):
Fifth album for Oliver Lake's sax trio supergroup -- Reggie Workman
and Andrew Cyrille -- formed in 2001, plus superstar pianist Iyer for
his second ride. Remarkable talents all around, the pianist especially,
but Lake doesn't grab me like he can. Cyrille's closing "Tribute to Bu"
is hard to top.
Matt Ulery: In the Ivory (2013-14 , Greenleaf
Music, 2CD): Chicago bassist, has a habit of thinking big, as this
sprawling opera indicates. "Contemporary classical music" always
seemed like an nomenclature, but then it's never been clear what
else to call new works in the Euroclassical tradition -- I, for one,
am reluctant to call them jazz although as jazz gains an ever deeper
toehold in the academy jazz musicians are increasingly inclined and
prepared to veer that way. This sounded awful to me at first, but
then the piano reps, and then the strings -- Zack Brock is the
featured violinist -- started to cohere. In the end even the singers
(Grazyna Auguscik and Sarah Marie Young) aren't that bad. Not that
I wouldn't rather hear something that swings or bops or honks or
skronks or blasts out in some new direction.
Harvey Wainapel: Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2 (2013 ,
Jazzmission): Bay Area Sax/clarinet player, follows up his 2007 Amigos
Brasileiros with another volume, this with nine songs encountering
nine groups of "great Brazilian musicians" for some lush lounge music.
Seth Walker: Sky Still Blue (2014, The Royal Potato
Family): Blues singer-songwriter with a handful of albums, both guitar
and voice strike me as rather tepid (presumably that's not just white).
Only song that hits paydirt is "Jesus (Make My Bed)."
Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard (2014,
Corona Music): Trombonist from West Virginia, second album, plays one
Davis song, one Ferguson, one from McCoy Tyner, two from his tenor
saxophonist Matt Parker (who has a postmodern feel for older jazz),
three of his own. Swings hard throughout, and piles on the horns for
the Ferguson piece.
Anna Webber: Simple (2013 , Skirl): Canadian
flutist, mostly plays tenor sax here, second album, trio with Matt
Mitchell (piano) and John Hollenbeck (drums) doing much to stretch
and skew the album. Best when all three thrash, but has a few spots
when nothing much seems to be happening.
The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live
(2014, Driff): Six-piece group dedicated to exploring Steve Lacy's
slippery music take their act to Italy after two superb studio albums.
All recognizable names: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis
Karayorgis (piano), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola),
Jason Roebke (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Slips a bit here and
there, but many strong passages.
Walter White: Most Triumphant (2013 , Summit):
Trumpet player, from and likely still based in Michigan, refers to
a "30 year career" but only a couple albums as leader. This is a
quartet with piano-bass-drums, half originals, half covers ranging
from Chopin to "Bye Bye Blackbird" -- easy to fall for the latter.
Gets a bright, sharp tone, and while the band isn't exceptional
they do move things along smartly.
Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (2013 ,
MCG Jazz): Sax-drums duets, not sure if Wilson plays anything but alto
but it's mostly in that range. Three Wilson originals, two Ellingtons,
Fats Waller, two Monk medleys, Gillespie, Ornette Coleman, "Freedom
Jazz Dance." Wilson is fine, but this is an even better showcase for
Nash, probably the best mainstream drummer since, well, ever.
Tom Wolfe: Solerovescent (2014, Summit): Guitarist,
probably his second record although with gray hair and such a common
name I may not be looking hard enough. Bright postbop, with Ken
Watters on trumpet, both electric and acoustic bass, and drums.
Wooden Wand: Farmer's Corner (2013 , Fire):
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter James Jackson Toth, has something
like sixteen albums since 2004. Mostly guitar, providing a nice,
shambling, country-ish air.
J.J. Wright: Inward Looking Outward (2013 ,
Ropeadope): Pianist, leading a trio with Ike Sturm and Nate Wood,
manages to stake out a rumbling beat and ride it a long ways.
Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969
(1955-69 , Soul Jazz): Probably too many songs about reincarnation,
a common trope for wits with doubts about the human condition. These
wordslingers, after all, are all wits -- I'm particularly amused by the
one who'd rather talk to Khrushchev than Bulganin -- and the lightweight
beatwise music is always a delight.
Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971 , Tompkins Square):
Folk musician born in Brooklyn in 1935, played banjo alongside Peter
Stampfel's fiddle in MacGrundy's Old-Timey Wool Thumpers in 1960 --
no album, but a group name worth repeating. His only album was this
1971 solo violin effort, a cult item limited to 750 copies. Only for
aficionados of the old-time music, but fine for that.
Arto Lindsay: Encyclopedia of Arto (1996-2012 ,
Northern Spy, 2CD): First appeared in the late-1970s New York No Wave
band DNA, rooting him in avant-noise, but as he moved on into the 1980s
he revealed a second side rooted in Brazil, where he spent time growing
up. First disc here collects studio tracks from 1996-2004 (O Corpo
Sutil, Mundo Civilizado, up through Invoke and
Salt). Second disc is taken from 2011-12 live shots and is
rather dicier, more primitive, sometimes abstract, sometimes wrapped
in noise, often remarkable.
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66: Stillness (1971 ,
Universal Sound): Roughly the end of pianist Mendes' hit period which
began with the bossa nova in the year he named the band. Lani Hall is
the singer, quick to cover L.A. stalwarts like Stephen Stills and Joni
Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America,
Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys
Its Young (1973-80 , Soul Jazz): Only two songs here I
know well ("The Modern Age" and "Chinese Rocks"), the remaining groups
more unknown than not -- the best known, the Flamin' Groovies, shows
up with a single from 1973, harder-edged than their 1969-71 albums let
alone anything in their lame post-1976 pop period. While there are songs
called "Kill the Hippies" (Deadbeats) and "Kill Yourself" (Lewd), they
are barely proto-hardcore, way short of the Reagan-era Let Them Eat
Jellybeans hardcore comp, so without seeing the booklet -- always
a strong suit with this label -- it's hard to credit their "American
nation destroys its young" thematic. Doesn't sound like that; just art
going into a postmodern primitivist phase with more product than usual
falling through the cracks.
Punk 45: Underground Punk and Post-Punk in the UK 1977-81,
Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing as Society: Get a Job, Get a Car, Get
a Bed, Get Drunk! (1977-81 (2014), Soul Jazz): More obscurities --
e.g., none of these bands showed up on Rhino's 1993 DIY: UK Punk I:
Anarchy in the UK, only three I recall (Television Personalities,
Swell Maps, very early Mekons). Nothing here strikes me as especially
great, but they're nowhere near scraping the bottom of the barrel, as
the clatter and clank flow surprisingly well.
The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! (1975-84
, Virgin, 2CD): After listening to the first two Punk 45
compilations and noting their obscure provenance, I recalled this UK
set (graded A by Christgau), and while it's long out-of-print, I had
little trouble finding the songs and lining them up in Rhapsody's mixer
(the only one missing is Adam and the Ants' "Deutscher Girls," perhaps
for the better). Each disc starts with the Sex Pistols and never hits
that level of punk fury again -- no Clash or Vibrators, the US picks
rarely get out of New York (Jonathan Richman, Devo, and the Tubes are
exceptions) -- so they encroach upon new wave for hits, picking out
relatively crunchy tunes even from Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson.
Not as tight thematically as Rhino's 1993 two DIY: UK Punk
volumes, but no one I knew in New York in the late 1970s listened to
just punk or new wave: we jumped back and forth, like the compilers
Michael Griener/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk
(2008 , Jazzwerkstatt): Avant-trombone trio, the drummer and
bassist listed first, perhaps alphabetically. Unfamiliar with Thewes
but this seems like par for the course as far as German trombonists
go -- a course including Albert Mangelsdorff and Conrad Bauer.
Richard Hell: Spurts: The Richard Hell Story (1973-92
, Rhino): Bassist Hell doesn't seem to have played on all of these
cuts, but those he missed he (co-)wrote and/or remixed -- Neon Boys,
Television, Heartbreakers, Dim Stars, bands he played with at some point
or other -- and tracks 4-13 recapitulate his 1977-82 heyday with the
Voidoids. Discogs credits the liner notes to Robert Christgau and Carola
Dibbell, but they're not (yet) on the website. I stumbled upon this by
sheer accident. Nice best-of plus brilliant trivia, at least until they
get to the dimly remembered Steve Shelley-Thurston Moore Dim Stars.
Oliver Lake: Heavy Spirits (1975 , Black Lion):
Second album for the alto saxophonist, pasted together from two sessions --
a quintet with Olu Dara (trumpet) and Donald Smith (piano), followed by
three tracks with two violinists, a solo track, then one with trombonist
Joseph Bowie plus drums. Shows promise but packs too many different looks.
The Oliver Lake String Project: Movement, Turns &
Switches (1996, Passin' Thru): Lake tries to burnish his bona
fides as a composer by building this around a string quartet, some
piano (Donal Fox), even laying out on a cut. Not that it doesn't work,
but not really what one turns to him for.
Oliver Lake Quintet: Talkin' Stick (1997 ,
Passin' Thru): A typical album for the alto saxophonist, the quintet
including Geri Allen on piano and Jay Hoggard on vibes instead of a
Oliver Lake Steel Quartet: Dat Love (2003 ,
Passin' Thru): Lyndon Achee's steel pan drums provide the group name
and add a measure of mellow to what otherwise is a typical Lake sax
trio, extended blowing on a high level, although also a bit more
mellow than usual.
Ted Rosenthal: My Funny Valentine (2007 ,
Tokuma): Piano trio, playing "11 standards from the vast repertoire
of vocalist Helen Merrill," which is to say eleven of the juiciest
standards around, from "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" to
Nobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy: An die Musik
(2006 , Soul Note): Japanese pianist, based in Baltimore, with drums
and tabla, not exactly a piano trio but the rich, repetitive mid-to-uptempo
piano riffs limit the need for a bassist and the extra complexity to the
percussion is a plus. Stowe sent me a pile of discs quite some time ago,
and if this isn't the best, it's at least the easiest to get into.
Nobu Stowe: L'Albero Delle Meduse (2009 ,
self-released): Scant evidence of this ever being released -- I'm
working off an advance and assume pianist Stowe is the leader only
because he sent it to me. The pieces are joint improvs (except for
the closer, Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To"), and Achille Succi (alto
sax, bass clarinet) is listed ahead of Stowe, the rest: Daniel
Barbiero (bass), Alan Munshower (drums), Lee Pembleton (sound).
Nobu Stowe-Lee Pembleton Project: Hommage an Klaus Kinski
(2006 , Soul Note): Pembleton's credit here is "sound" -- whatever
that means. Better known are the clarinetists, Perry Robinson and Blaise
Siwula, the latter doubling on tenor sax. Veers a bit toward soundtrack
territory -- presumably Pembleton's responsible for the bird and bug
sounds -- which also gives the pianist an excuse to get melodramatic,
something his richly textured style is built for.
Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03
(2004 , Leo): Two avant pianists who have duetted in the past
but not like this, mediated as it is by Illvibe's turntables and
kitchen sink-ism, amplifying the noise level of musicians who can
really bring it.
Aki Takase/Silke Eberhard: Ornette Coleman Anthology
(2006 , Intakt, 2CD): Eberhard plays alto sax, clarinet, and bass
clarinet, in duos with the pianist on a long list of Ornette Coleman
tunes (plus one Takase original). Hot stuff, the piano jumping all over
the tunes, the sax/clarinet providing just enough color contrast.
Aki Takase/Louis Sclavis: Yokohama (2009, Intakt):
Sclavis plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and soprano sax, a lighter
tone and calmer demeanor than Eberhard had on those Coleman tunes,
and the pianist adjusts accordingly. Thoughtful, often lovely.
Aki Takase/Han Bennink: Two for Two (2011, Intakt):
A piano-drums duo, again a marvelous outing for the drummer, especially
when the moment calls for a bit of swing although he's fine with any
or no time, and he's equally adept at setting the pianist up or just
amusing himself while she surprises us.
Tama: Rolled Up (2009, Jazzwerkstatt): Avant piano
trio -- Aki Takase (piano), Jan Roder (bass), Oliver Steidle (drums) --
hits hard for the most part, block-chorded fury, not that it isn't
Leroy Vinnegar Sextet: Leroy Walks! (1957 ,
Contemporary/OJC): Bassist, nicknamed "The Walker" for his walking
bass lines, a theme integrated into most of his handful of album
titles (from his first album here to 1992's Walkin' the Basses).
Cut in Los Angeles with a light, almost frothy West Coast group --
Gerald Wilson (trumpet), Teddy Edwards (tenor sax), Carl Perkins
(piano), Victor Feldman (vibes), Tony Bazley (drums).
Monday, August 18. 2014
Music: Current count 23658  rated (+24), 536  unrated (-10).
Not sure why the rated count slipped this past week -- maybe just
the drag of the server problems, not to mention the drag of all sorts
of everyday hassles. The server problem is that more often than not
the database connections used by the serendipity blog software have
failed (either not established or dropped), resulting in various cryptic
error messages or plain old indefinite hangs. The ISP (addr.com) has
been even more unresponsive, but through all this time (3-4 weeks now)
the server has been up, it's been serving static pages (i.e., everything
on the website below
ocston), although it's hard
for people to tell that when the root index is inaccessible. Moving
the whole blog to another database on another server is a huge and
daunting task -- one that I don't doubt will be necessary, but still
a ways away.
So it occurred to me that a short-term kluge around the database
problem would be to write up a bit of PHP code to manage the most
recent part of the blog with static files. I have that code sort of
working now, so I'll install it and replace the root index page with
something that will explain the problem and offer either the "real
blog" or the "fake blog" options. In the future, I will initially
install new posts using the "fake blog" system, then try the "real
blog." I may add some bells and whistles to the "fake blog," but
most likely it will just be a temporary bridging system until I can
get something stable working.
Trouble finding new A-list albums this week, although three (of four)
releases on Driff sorely tempted me -- I had given A- grades to the first
two Whammies albums, a Pandelis Karayorgis album (Mi3: Free Advice)
was a Jazz CG Pick Hit back in 2007, and Eric Hofbauer's The Blueprint
Project was an A- in 2003. But some combination of bad attitude and
excessive nitpicking held me back on all three -- as, by the way, it did
on the two Punk 45 compilations Jason Gubbels
praised last week (couldn't find the third on Rhapsody), and for that
matter the first two records after played after I closed this week's tally:
Steven Bernstein's Viper's Drag and Anna Webber's Simple.
The only new record to top A- was the Calypso comp Michael Tatum
wrote about last week -- I'm always a sucker for that beat and wordplay.
The other A- doesn't exist on Rhapsody, but I pieced together a mixer
list from other resources and came up with 47 (of 48) songs, close
enough. Still, I'm of two minds about the record. I can't knock so
many great songs, but I'm not sure how useful the compilation really
is, or whether I'd even want a copy. And I am sure that if I was the
sort of person who liked to put playlists together, I could easily
top The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever --
so much for the title.
Reviews on all these records are accumulating, and should trigger
a Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week -- assuming nothing else awful
happens in the meantime, these days pretty wishful thinking.
One aside: Publicist Matt Merewitz wrote today to nudge me on the
Lee Konitz First Meeting: Live in London Volume 1 album out in
June. I wrote back, and thought I might as well share this as it bears
Got it, filed it as a high B+ (***), same as Enfants Terribles
from 2012, slightly better than Standards Live: At the Village Gate
(**) on Enja also this year. Could be he records too much and too casually
to get anyone excited -- I haven't graded anything by him A- since 1999's
Sound of Surprise (although I've missed a lot of albums in that
stretch). He continues to play at a very high level at a time when he
could just coast on his laurels -- his first really great album,
Subconscious-Lee, came out in 1950. I'm not a huge fan, but given
how much he's done for how long, I've voted for him for Downbeat's
HOF ballot four years straight -- really ridiculous that he hasn't been
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
- Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell (2013 , Origin): jazz singer plays the Joni Mitchell songbook straight, just a bit of sax [cd]: B
- Bolt: Shuffle (2013 , Driff): avant quartet -- Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), cello and drums -- play scratchy, eccentric [cd]: B+(***)
- Mario Castro Quintet/Strings: Estrella de Mar/Promotional Edition (2014, Interrobang): tough young tenor saxophonist, but quintet cluttered, strings icky, singer? [cd]: B-
- Collier & Dean: Sleek Buick (2013-14 , Origin): vibes and bass plus friends, makes for bubbly, frothy groove music; sleek? sure; gaudy even [cd]: B
- Wayne Coniglio/Scott Whitfield: Fast Friends (2012 , Summit): mainstream trombonists play not-quite-standards in a celebration of the horn [cd]: B+(**)
- Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman Quartet: Birdies for Lulu (2013 , Intakt): piano and violin, he paints curtains of ice, she breaks them [r]: B+(**)
- Jorrit Dijkstra: Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (2013 , Driff): sax choir (including oboe/cor anglais) with schmear of electronics [cd]: B+(*)
- Jorge Drexler: Bailar en la Cueva (2014, Warner Music Latina): singer-songwriter from Uruguay, sounds like Caetano Veloso with a slightly more eccentric beat [r]: B+(**)
- Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (2014, Driff): Dave Rempis/Keefe Jackson saxes soar and rumble, almost obscuring the superb pianist [cd]: B+(***)
- Azar Lawrence: The Seeker (2011 , Sunnyside): huge sounding tenor sax man, wearing his Coltrane influences on his sleeve [r]: B+(**)
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (2014, Reprise): 35-years on, he's still personable, still lightweight, still catchy (a bit) [r]: B+(*)
- Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): guitar-bass-drums, doesn't fit easily into known schools but doesn't break far either [cd]: B+(**)
- Sohn: Tremors (2014, 4AD): Brit singer-songwriter with electronics, Moby-ish if not quite Moby-like [r]: B+(*)
- Matt Ulery: In the Ivory (2013-14 , Greenleaf Music, 2CD): classical (symphonic/operatic) music from a jazz bassist, so well crafted I can't say I can't stand it [cd]: B+(*)
- Harvey Wainapel: Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2 (2013 , Jazzmission): Bay Area sax player rounds up nine groups of Brazilians for some lush lounge music [cd]: B
- The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live (2014, Driff): avant tribute sextet hits the road, lands in Italy, roughs it up [cd]: B+(***)
- Walter White: Most Triumphant (2013 , Summit): trumpet player from Michigan; bright, sharp tone, band moves things along smartly [cd]: B+(*)
- Tom Wolfe: Solerovescent (2014, Summit): guitarist plays bright, grooveful postbop, with Ken Watters on trumpet, both electric & acoustic bass [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969 (1955-69 , Soul Jazz): the wordslingers are all wits even if the tropes are cliched =k and the riddims help [r]: A-
- Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66: Stillness (1971 , Universal Sound): a classic according to reprint label, best I can figure title derives from Stephen Stills [r]: B+(*)
- Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young (1973-80 , Soul Jazz): pre-Reagan US punk obscurities, not nearly as destructive or incendiary as the compilers would like to think [r]: B+(***)
- Punk 45: Underground Punk and Post-Punk in the UK 1977-81, Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing as Society: Get a Job, Get a Car, Get a Bed, Get Drunk! (1977-81 , Soul Jazz): UK punk obscurities, surprisingly catchy in their neoprimitive ways, their social doom and gloom more earned [r]: B+(***)
Old records rated this week:
- The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! (1975-84 , Virgin, 2CD): Sex Pistols, no Clash, but lots of famous songs, more new wave than punk [r]: A-
- Richard Hell: Spurts: The Richard Hell Story (1973-92 , Rhino): Voidoids mini-best-of, freshly shined up juvenilia, dimly remembered Dim Stars [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ritmos Unidos (Patois)
- Salsa de la Bahia: A Collection of SF Area Salsa and Latin Jazz: Vol. 2, Hoy Y Ayer (Patois, 2CD)
Sunday, August 17. 2014
It's been a very distracting week, what with the blog sometimes working
and more often not. I've been working on a "pseudo-blog" system that should
prove more robust -- throughout the troubles of the last few weeks we've
always been able to serve static pages -- and I should unveil that soon.
Meanwhile, a few scattered links this week:
Matthew Harwood: One Nation Under SWAT:
When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles
Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials
nationwide. Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely
dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or
Nearly a half-century later, that's no longer true.
In 1984, according to Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop,
about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT
teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it's still rising,
though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.
As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids.
Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United
States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University's
School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT
team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding
community into terror.
In a recently released report, "War Comes Home," the American Civil
Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT
raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a
You can draw a couple short lines from the US counterinsurgency wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq to militarized policing: one is that surplus
military equipment is often dumped no charge onto police departments
(Tom Engelhardt starts with a story about the Bergen County Police
Dept. obtaining MRAPs -- armored personnel carriers designed to
survive IED attacks.) Another is the relatively high percentage of
ex-soldiers in police departments. Another is lack of accountability:
with the cult of the troops, it's virtually impossible for the US
military to hold any of its personnel accountable for unnecessary or
excessive force, and as the police become militarized that ethic (or
lack thereof) carries over. (Israel, which used to pride itself on
discipline, has lately become as bad or worse.) Then there's the
increasing proliferation of guns (and "stand your ground" laws) in
the general population. Harwood starts with a story of a Florida man
who heard through social media that he was going to be "burned."
When the man called the police with the threat, he was told to get
a gun and defend himself. The threat arrived in the form of a SWAT
team sent to serve a search warrant: seeing the gun, they killed
the man. Harwood titles one section, "Being the police means never
having to say you're sorry."
Sarah Stillman: The Economics of Police Militarism.
Elias Isquith: Reagan is still killing us: How his dangerous "American
exceptionalism" haunts us today: Always good to read a bad word
about "the Gipper," but this piece is more about Hillary Clinton and
neocon unveiling in the Atlantic. She's always been eager to
show how bellicose she can be, and it certainly doesn't hurt to
put some distance between herself and Obama, especially as long
as she takes positions that don't get tested in practice. But
before going into her, and back to Reagan, I'm reminded of how
Gordon Goldstein, in Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the
Path to War in Vietnam, quoted Bundy on the contrast between
JFK and LBJ: "Kennedy didn't want to be dumb, Johnson didn't want
to be a coward." In this, it's tempting to map Obama onto Kennedy,
and Clinton onto Johnson. Except that Obama doesn't want to be
seen as a coward either, so time and again he backs down and goes
with dumb. Clinton is only promising to get to dumb faster.
Weirdly, Clinton's decision to speak about the U.S.'s role in global
politics as if she, in contrast to Obama, was an unapologetic,
"old-fashioned" believer in American exceptionalism made her sound
like no one so much as Ronald Reagan, the last president who told
a humbled America to buck up and forget its recent mistakes.
[ . . . ]
So here's a prediction about Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential
race. At one point or another, there will be a television ad in which
Hillary Clinton will speak of bringing back the former glory of the
United States. She'll say it's time to mark an end to nearly 20 years
of terrorism, depression, war and defeat. It's time to feel good again
about being the leader of the free world. It's morning in America; and
everything is great.
Actually, that sounds like a good idea, especially if she could
combine it with a policy shift that gets away from the losing struggles
of the last twenty years. One of the interesting things about Reagan
is that with a few minor exceptions -- wasting a lot of money on the
military and helping turn Afghanistan and Central America into the
hellholes they are today -- Reagan was satisfied with "talking the
talk" and rarely pushed it too far. For instance, he spent all of
1980 campaigning against Carter's Panama Canal Zone treaty, but once
he was elected he didn't lift a finger to change it. On the other
hand, Clinton won't be given a pass on her toughness. She'll have
to earn it. How successful she may be will depend on how accurately
she identifies the malevolent forces that have been dragging America
down: namely, the Republicans, and their pandering to the rich and
Saree Makdisi: The catastrophe inflicted on Gaza -- and the costs to
Israel's repeated claim that it targets only rocket launchers or tunnels
is belied by the scale and nature of the weapons it unloaded on Gaza.
Its 2000-pound aerial bombs take down entire buildings along with everyone
in them (almost a thousand buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed
in such air strikes). Its 155mm howitzer shells have a margin of error of
300 yards and a lethal radius of up to 150 yards from the point of impact.
Each of the 120mm flechette shells its tank crews fire burst into a 100
by 300 yard shower of 5,000 metal darts carefully designed to shred human
Having sealed Gaza off from the outside world and blanketed almost half
of the territory with warnings telling people to flee for their lives (to
where?!), Israel has been indiscriminately firing all of these munitions
into one of the most densely-inhabited parts of our planet. Entire
neighborhoods have been leveled; entire families have been entombed
in the ruins of their homes. The catastrophic result of Israel's
bombardment is no surprise.
No surprise -- but also not exactly thought through either; more a
matter of casual disregard. For it's not as though Israel has carried
out this violence in pursuit of a strategic master plan (its endless
prevarications over its objectives in Gaza are the clearest indicator
of this). Such gratuitous outbursts of violence (this episode is the
third in six years) are, rather, what Israel falls back on in place of
the strategic vision of which it is bereft. It can indulge in these
outbursts partly because, in the short run at least -- endlessly
coddled by the United States, where venal politicians are quick to
parrot its self-justifications -- it does not pay a significant price
for doing so.
Sandy Tolan: Going Wild in the Gaza War: "Going wild" was Tzipi Livni's
description of how Israel reacts to any Palestinian provocation they bother
to react to. The idea is to overreact so viciously and indiscriminately
that the Palestinians will learn to fear offending Israel in any way,
settling meekly into their role as "an utterly defeated people." The 2014
edition of "going wild" -- by no means finished yet -- has left over 1,900
Palestinians dead, over 12,000 injured, some 100,000 homeless, many more
displaced, pretty much all of 1.8 million people without power or many of
the other amenities of civilization, like the ability to shop in the
globalized marketplace, or to take a holiday more than 20 miles from
home. Those 1.8 million people have certainly been reminded of Israel's
carelessness and cruelty. It's hard to see that as a lesson that bodes
well for the future. Tolan's first point is that this war could easily
have been avoided had Israel and/or the US recognized and worked with
Hamas, and he steps through a series of initiatives and "truce" offers
that were summarily rejected by Israel and the US -- to this day they
insist that "once a terrorist, always a terrorist" (to which Tolan
can't help but point out that the leaders responsible "for a horrific
massacre in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and the Irgun
bombing of the King David Hotel, killing 91 people" subsequently
became Prime Ministers of Israel). Tolan regards Israel as "a deeply
traumatized society whose profound anxieties are based in part on
genuine acts of horror perpetrated by countless terrorist attacks
over decades, and partly on an unspeakable past history of Europe."
Tragically, Israeli fears have created a national justification for
a kind of "never again" mentality gone mad, in which leaders find it
remarkably easy to justify ever more brutal acts against ever more
dehumanized enemies. At the funeral for the three slain teens,
Benjamin Netanyahu declared, "May God avenge their blood." An Israeli
Facebook page, "The People of Israel Demand Revenge," quickly garnered
35,000 likes. A member of the Knesset from a party in the nation's
ruling coalition posted an article by Netanyahu's late former chief
of staff that called for the killing of "the mothers of [Palestinian]
martyrs" and the demolition of their homes: "Otherwise, more little
snakes will be raised there."
On NPR, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., decried the
"culture of terrorism" in Palestinian society, adding: "You're
talking about savage actions . . . In the case of
Israel, we take legitimate actions of self-defense, and sometimes,
unintentionally, Palestinian civilians are harmed." That day, the
Palestinian teenager Mohammed Khdeir was abducted and burned alive,
and soon afterward, Israel began bombing Gaza.
Within Israel, the act of dehumanization has become institutionalized.
These days, Israeli newspapers generally don't even bother to print the
names, when known, or the stories of the children being killed in Gaza.
When B'tselem, the respected Israeli human rights organization, attempted
to take out an advertisement on Israeli radio naming names, the request
was denied. The content of the ad, censors declared, was "politically
Actually, Israel is more schizophrenic than Tolan admits. One thing
you notice over history is the extreme contrast between the confidence
(to the point of arrogance) of Israel's top security officials (both
in the military and in organizations like Shin Bet) and the dread held
by large segments of public. No doubt that scaring the people lets the
elites do what they want, but that's as much due to the one thing that
both agree on, which is that Israeli Jews are different and infinitely
more valuable than anyone else. Their specialness, after all, is the
whole point of "the Jewish State." Once you believe that, there is no
limit to the dehumanization of others.
More Israel links:
Dan Glazebrook: Israel's Real Target is Not Hamas: It's any possibility
of Palestinian statehood.
Sarah Lazare: Only Mideast Democracy? In Midst of War, Israel Clamps Down
Dylan Scott: For All the Hype, Does Israel's Iron Dome Even Work?:
"The essence of his analysis is this: Iron Dome's missiles almost never
approached Hamas's rockets at the right trajectory to destroy the
incoming rocket's warhead. . . . And if the warhead
is not destroyed, but merely knocked off course, the warhead will
likely still explode when it lands, putting lives and property in
danger." The underlying fact is that Hamas' rockets almost never do
any substantial damage whether they are intercepted or not, and since
they are unguided, deflecting them has no appreciable effect on their
accuracy (or lack thereof). One question I still haven't seen any
reports on is what happens when the shrapnel from Iron Dome rockets
lands. As I recall, in 1991 Israel's US-provided Patriot anti-missile
system did about as much damage as the Iraqi Scuds they were trying
to defend against. That was a heavier system, but another difference
was that Israel's censors had less interest in suppressing reports
of Patriot failures and blowback. Part of the significance of Iron
Dome is that it exemplifies Israel's unilateralist strategy -- Ben
Gurion's dictum that "it only matters what the Jews do" -- so any
failure is not just a technical problem but a flaw in the strategy.
Even if Iron Dome were 85% effective, that would still be a lower
success rate than could be achieved by a truce. Also see:
Or Amit: Checking under Israel's Iron Dome.
Tascha Shahriari-Parsa: Is Israel's Operation Protective Edge Really
About Natural Gas? Turns out there's a natural gas field off the
Gaza coast, estimated in 2000 to be worth $4 billion, so that may be
another angle on Israel's "security demands" to keep the Gaza coast
closed, to keep Gaza under occupation and deny any sort of independent
Also, a few links for further study:
Jenn Rolnick Borchetta: One nation under siege: Law enforcement's
shameful campaign against black America: not on Ferguson -- you
don't think that's the only such case, do you?
Stephen Franklin: Lawyer: 'We Should Stay on the Parapets and Keep
Fighting': The lawyer interviewed here is Thomas Geoghegan,
argues both that the labor movement is essential ("People who talk
about maintaining the welfare state without a labor movement behind
it are kidding themselves. You will not be able to have a full-employment
economy without a labor movement") as is working through the courts
("We don't have majority-rule here. We have a lot of gridlock, and
lots of checks and balances. Over the years, to break gridlock, you
do rely upon the courts to come in from the outside").
Paul Krugman: Secular Stagnation: The Book: Funny name for the
condition where economies don't bounce back from recessions but drag
on with higher unemployment rates and negligible growth for many
years -- Japan in the 1990s now looks like merely an early example
of a more general trend. There's a new
VoxEU ebook with essays on this, something the US is very much
affected by at the moment. Krugman explains more
And let me simply point out that liquidity-trap analysis has been
overwhelmingly successful in its predictions: massive deficits didn't
drive up interest rates, enormous increases in the monetary base didn't
cause inflation, and fiscal austerity was associated with large declines
in output and employment.
What secular stagnation adds to the mix is the strong possibility
that this Alice-through-the-looking-glass world is the new normal, or
at least is going to be the way the world looks a lot of the time. As
I say in my own contribution to the VoxEU book, this raises problems
even for advocates of unconventional policies, who all too often
predicate their ideas on the notion that normality will return in
the not-too-distant future. It raises even bigger problems with
people and institutions that are eager to "normalize" fiscal and
monetary policy, slashing deficits and raising rates; normalizing
policy in a world where normal isn't what it used to be is a recipe
Martin Longman: On Rick Perry's Indictments: I just wanted to take
note of the occasion. It's rare that sitting governors get indicted for
anything, and I don't expect much is going to come out of this. Perry's
supporters are not only likely to see them as politically motivated,
they're likely to take that a proof that Perry's their kind of
politician -- one not above getting his hands dirty.
Monday, August 11. 2014
Music: Current count 23634  rated (+35), 546  unrated (-8).
I've been struggling with MySQL database performance problems at my
ISP (ADDR.COM), and got a frightful scare this morning when I realized
they not only aren't responding to trouble reports, their "live chat"
and "callback" service options are broken, and worst of all I got a
message that they're not accepting phone calls. The static pages on
the website continue to be served. I can login, update my files, and
sometimes even login to the MySQL server. I week or so ago I was able
to get an almost complete mysqldump of the blog database, but in three
files as I went through the grind table-by-table, and in the end one
table was hopelessly lost. Looking at the code that accesses that table,
I decided that there's nothing important there, and tried hacking the
code to avoid the table. Then I dropped and rebuilt the table, which
didn't seem to help but is certainly cleaner. I also tried thinning
out the very large "exits" table, which again isn't really useful --
unless one gets obsessive about user use patterns, and I'm not sure
But late today the blog seemed to be working OK, so I posted
yesterday's Weekend Update and if luck holds I'll follow up with
this post. I'm not under any illusions that this will continue to
work, or that I want to continue to do business with ADDR.COM. So
I'm working on a couple of things to replant the site. The static
pages are no problem, since I have a complete clone of them on a
local machine. The blog is a problem in that it's updated on the
server and not replicated elsewhere. I use a piece of free software
called "serendipity" for it, and it has evolved quite a bit since
I last updated the server. So for it I need to download a new copy,
then figure out how the database dumps fit in with the new code.
I also need to decide whether I want to continue using that code --
I've started using the competing "wordpress" code for other blog
projects, mostly because it looks to be easier to train other people
to use, and also because it seems to be simpler to keep up to date.
And I need to decide whether to move the website to my "hullworks"
server -- which has had its own problems lately -- or to go with
another virtual server deal.
As a transition strategy, I'm working on a very simple version
of blog software, one that uses the file system for storage and a
small amount of PHP code to grease the wheels. I have some of it
working now, will get more of it tonight, and if need be -- e.g.,
if I can't post this tonight -- I should be able to put it into
use (with a limited data set and no comments or RSS feeds) tomorrow.
Right now the main problem is figuring out how to use Apache URI
rewrite rules, but that's only necessary to view single posts with
more/less compatible pathnames. The bigger problem will be how much
old data to collect under what should be temporary riggings.
But enough about my problems. Just finished a pretty productive
music week, bringing the Rhapsody Streamnotes draft file up to 56
records (41+1+14). The two A- new jazz records were finds on the
outstanding Swiss Intakt label -- one I hadn't noticed from 2013.
Intakt also provided two A- old jazz records by Japanese-German
pianist Aki Takase (the third A- Takase is on Leo, again accessible
to me only through Rhapsody). The Nobu Stowe records had fallen
through the cracks from a couple years back. (He's not even listed
in Penguin Guide -- their loss.) I'm not normally such a
piano fan, so this week is something of a fluke.
New records rated this week:
- Clarice Assad: Imaginarium (2014, Adventure Music): distinguished Brazilian jazz diva tangos a bit, then trips and falls into the full-fledged operatic [r]: B-
- Benyoro: Benyoro (2014, self-released): Malian music from New York, mostly yanks but the authenticity is assured at vocals and percussion [r]: B+(***)
- Bobby Broom: My Shining Hour (2014, Origin): guitarist with soul jazz cred, bass & drums, makes a better album by picking better songs [cd]: B+(**)
- Diva: A Swingin' Life (2001-12 , MCG Jazz): two editions of drummer Sherry Maricle's hard swinging, brass busting all-female big band [r]: B+(**)
- Golem: Tanz (2014, Discos Corason): punk-klezmer group led by accordionist-singer Annette Ezekiel Kogan, backed with violin and trombone, goes red hot [r]: A-
- Michael Griener/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk: Willisau & Berlin (2012-13 , Intakt): Rudi Mahall adds more than an option to trombone trio, more than a dimension too [r]: A-
- Hans Hassler: Hassler (2011 , Intakt): "the true Swiss king of accordion" with two jazz clarinetists and percussion, feels rushed and cramped [r]: B
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Zone (2014, Greenleaf Music): trombonist, quartet with Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), dense postbop until the lady sings, and sings [cd]: B+(*)
- Gordon Lee with the Mel Brown Septet: Tuesday Night (2014, Origin): four horns, pianist Lee, bass, drummer Brown, play Lee's tunes, dull, indistinct [cd]: B-
- Vincent Lyn: Live in New York City (2013 , Budo): pianist and kung-fu master, no doubting his chops but Melissa Aldana (tenor sax) helps a lot [cd]: B+(*)
- Bob Mamet: London House Blues (2014, Blujazz): Chicago pianist, smooth/crossover rep but this is a sparkling, standards-heavy mainstream trio [cd]: B+(**)
- Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline: Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 (2013 , Indirecto): where Scofield sweetened the groove, Cline stomps all over it [r]: B+(***)
- Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Intergalactic Beings (2010 , FPE): mostly roiling around the dirty bass end, so don't fear the flute [r]: B+(***)
- Sam Most: New Jazz Standards (2013 , Summit): the grand old man of jazz flute cuts a record a month before death, and sums up his whole life [cd]: B+(**)
- Greg Reitan: Post No Bills (2014, Sunnyside): mild-mannered piano trio, mostly covernig fellow (but hipper) mild-mannered pianists [cd]: B+(*)
- Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa (2014, Cuneiform): drummer-led guitar trio, pushing hard for the proverbial jazz-rock fusion crown, maybe too hard [cdr]: B+(*)
- Irčne Schweizer/Pierre Favre: Live in Zürich (2013, Intakt): Swiss piano great specializes in piano-drums duos, most reliably with Favre [r]: A-
- Spoon: They Want My Soul (2014, Anti-): Texas rockers with pop hooks go for edgier sound without losing their knack, upping their game [r]: A-
- Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves (2012 , Auand): first sense I've had of what a seductive tenor saxophonist Talmor is [cdr]: B+(***)
- Aki Takase/La Plančte: Flying Soul (2012 , Intakt): piano-clarinet-violin-cello, a recipe for chamber jazz, but Pifarely won't leave it there [r]: B+(***)
- Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring (2013 , Intakt): Oliver Lake's sax supertrio (Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) plus guest, huge talent, some lapses [r]: B+(***)
- Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard (2014, Corona Music): trombonist, also plays two from Matt Parker (tenor sax), postmodern retro swing [cd]: B+(**)
- Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (2013 , MCG Jazz): sax-drums duets in the tradition from Ellington to Coleman, further proof of a great drummer [cd]: B+(***)
- Wooden Wand: Farmer's Corner (2013 , Fire): prolific Brooklyn singer-songwriter, mostly guitar, nice, shambling country-ish air [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Arto Lindsay: Encyclopedia of Arto (1996-2012 , Northern Spy, 2CD): a best-of from his middling years, more recent (and weirder/noisier) live shots [r]: A-
Old records rated this week:
- Michael Griener/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk (2008 , Jazzwerkstatt): German avant-trombone trio (Thewes has the horn), after Mangelsdorff/Bauer [r]: B+(**)
- Oliver Lake: Heavy Spirits (1975 , Black Lion): early album pasted from fragments: solo, w/2 violins, w/trombone-percussion, standard quartet [r]: B+(*)
- The Oliver Lake String Project: Movement, Turns & Switches (1996, Passin' Thru): composes for string quartet, sometimes piano, plays along, or not [r]: B
- Oliver Lake Quintet: Talkin' Stick (1997 , Passin' Thru): alto saxophonist in fine form with Geri Allen sharp on piano and Jay Hoggard on vibes [r]: B+(**)
- Oliver Lake Steel Quartet: Dat Love (2003 , Passin' Thru): alto sax trio plus Lyndon Achee's steel pan drums kinda mellowing everyone out [r]: B+(***)
- Nobu Stowe-Lee Pemberton Project: Hommage an Klaus Kinski (2006 , Soul Note): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Nobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy: An die Musik (2006 , Soul Note): piano-drums-tabla trio, Stowe's uptempo riffing sets up percussionists [cdr]: A-
- Nobu Stowe: L'Albero Delle Meduse (2009 , self-released): mystery album of free improvs, Achille Succi's sax probing, scratchy, pianist fills in [cdr]: B+(***)
- Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03 (2004 , Leo): hip-hop turntablism mediates as crashing avant pianists bring the noize [r]: A-
- Aki Takase/Silke Eberhard: Ornette Coleman Anthology (2006 , Intakt, 2CD): bang up piano/alto sax (or clarinet) duets on the big songbook [r]: A-
- Aki Takase/Louis Sclavis: Yokohama (2009, Intakt): piano-clarinet duets, Sclavis stays true to his ECM cool, Takase tones down, plays it safe [r]: B+(***)
- Aki Takase/Han Bennink: Two for Two (2011, Intakt): avant piano-drums, the drummer making it easy to swing, to hop, to crash and burn and fly [r]: A-
- Tama: Rolled Up (2009, Jazzwerkstatt): Aki Takase avant piano trio, block-chorded fury with a little moderation to show who's in control [r]: B+(***)
- Leroy Vinnegar Sextet: Leroy Walks! (1957 , Contemporary/OJC): trademark walking bass lines buoying a light, almost frothy West Coast group [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Cables to the Ace (Communicating Vessels)
- Larry Fuller (Capri)
- The Green Seed: Drapetomania (Communicating Vessels)
- Phil Haynes: No Fast Food (Corner Store Jazz, 2CD)
- Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (Pi)
- Ed Stone: King of Hearts (Sapphire Music)
- Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- Ed Stone: King of Hearts (Sapphire Music)