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Sunday, January 19, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Last week's 6-candidate mini-debate reminded us that the Iowa Caucuses are fast approaching: February 3. It will be the first opportunity any Americans have to vote for candidates, the remnants of a field that has been reduced by half mostly through the whims of donors and the media. Unfortunately, the Americans voting will be Iowans. I was reminded of this by John Kerry, campaigning these days for Joe Biden. Kerry scored a surprise win in Iowa in 2004, kicking off an ill-fated campaign that resulted in a second term for GW Bush and Dick Cheney. As I recall, a lot of weight then was put on the idea of "electability," with many of Kerry's supporters figuring that Kerry's military record would sway voters against Bush. They miscalculated then, yet they're still in position to choose our fates.

I've been rather sanguine about the Democratic nominating process so far, but closing in on the start of actual voting, everyone is starting to get on my nerves. Even Sanders, who has by far the best analyses and positions, and the most steadfast character, but who I fear the media will never respect much less accept, and who will be hounded repeatedly with mistruths and misunderstandings. (The articles below that explicitly call out CNN will give you pretty glaring examples of what I mean.) Even Warren seems to have decided that the way to gain (or save) votes from Sanders is by resorting to half-truths and innuendo. I discuss one example below, but the whole pre-debate dust-up reflects very poorly on her, not least because it was done in ways that leave scars over trivial issues. Meanwhile Biden seems to be getting a free pass as he's blundering along.

I haven't been bothered much by the so-called moderates' plans, because no matter who wins it's effectively the right-most half of the party in Congress that will be passing laws and setting policy. But it does bother me that they've spent so much time trashing Medicare for All. In don't have a problem advocating half-measures to ameliorate the present system here and there, and figure that as a practical matter that's how reform will have to happen, but even the most reticent Democrat should realize that single-payer would be a better solution, and is a necessary goal. They really should acknowledge that, even if they doubt its practicality. But instead they're attacking it on grounds of costs and/or choice, which is simply ignorant.

I'm also rather sick of the "electability" issue, not least because I'm convinced that no one really understands the matter, because it's unprovable (except too late), and because it invites strong opinions based on nothing more than gut instincts. Still, I write about it several places below. Clearly, I have my own opinions on the matter, but can offer no more proof for them than you can for yours. I only wish to add here that one more thing I believe is that the election will turn not on whether the Democrats nominate one candidate or another but on whether Americans are so sick and tired of Trump they'll vote for any Democrat to spare themselves. And in that case, why not pick the better Democrat?


Some scattered links this week:

  • Damian Carrington: Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates. Also wrote: Who do record ocean temperatures matter?

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • Aida Chávez: Bernie Sanders's lonely 2017 battle to stop Iran sanctions and save the nuclear deal.

  • Timothy Egan: Trump's evil is contagious: "The president has shown us exactly what happens when good people do nothing."

  • Lisa Friedman/Claire O'Neill: Who controls Trump's environmental policy?: "Among 20 of the most powerful people in government environment jobs, most have ties to the fossil fuel industry or have fought against the regulations they are now supposed to enforce." Names, faces, resumes. E.g., David Dunlap, Deputy head of science policy at EPA, former chemicals expert for Koch Industries, earlier VP of the Chlorine Institute (representing producers and distributors); currently oversees EPA's pollution and toxic chemical research.

  • Dan Froomkin:, in a series called Press Watch:

  • Masha Gessen: The willful ambiguity of Putin's latest power grab.

  • Anand Giridharadas: Why do Trump supporters support Trump? Book review of Michael Lind: The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite. A fairly critical one, as the reviewer thinks Lind is a bit gullible when he attributes economic fears to Trump voters.

  • Maya Goodfellow: Yes, the UK media's coverage of Meghan Markle really is racist. We just finished streaming this season of The Crown, which reaffirmed our understanding that the British monarchy is a preposterous institution inhabited by ridiculous people. The series reached the 25-year mark in Elizabeth II's reign, finding her lamenting the steady decline of the nation and the decay of its imperial pretensions, to which we could only add that the next 25 (actually 40 now) years would be even worse for British pretensions of grandeur. Few things interest me less than the bickerings of the Windsors, or surprise me less than that the few who still cling to monarchist fantasies would resort to racism when pushed into a corner. Indeed, back in the 1990s when I worked for a while in England, I was repeatedly struck by the casual racism of white Brits (even those quick to frown on American racism).

  • Amy Goodman: Phyllis Bennis on Dem debate: Support for combat troop withdrawal is not enough to stop endless wars. Bennis noted:

    You know, I think one of the things that was important to see last night was that all of the Democratic candidates, including the right wing of the group, as well as the progressives, as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were vying with each other essentially to see who could be more critical of the Iraq War. They all have said that at various points, but last night it was very overt that this was a critical point of unity for these candidates. Now, whether that says much about the prospects for the Democratic Party is not so clear, but I thought that was an important advance, that there's a recognition of where the entire base of half this country is, which is strongly against wars.

  • David Graeber: The center blows itself up: Care and spite in the 'Brexit election'.

  • Sean Illing: "Flood the zone with shit": How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy: "The impeachment trial probably won't change any minds. Here's why." Not his usual interview piece (although he cites interviews along the way). Makes many important points; for example:

    As Joshua Green, who wrote a biography of Bannon, explained, Bannon's lesson from the Clinton impeachment in the 1990s was that to shape the narrative, a story had to move beyond the right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media. That's exactly what happened with the now-debunked Uranium One story that dogged Clinton from the beginning of her campaign -- a story Bannon fed to the Times, knowing that the supposedly liberal paper would run with it because that's what mainstream media news organizations do.

    In this case, Bannon flooded the zone with a ridiculous story not necessarily to persuade the public that it was true (although surely plenty of people bought into it) but to create a cloud of corruption around Clinton. And the mainstream press, merely by reporting a story the way it always has, helped create that cloud.

    You see this dynamic at work daily on cable news. Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway lies. She lies a lot. Yet CNN and MSNBC have shown zero hesitation in giving her a platform to lie because they see their job as giving government officials -- even ones who lie -- a platform.

    Even if CNN or MSNBC debunk Conway's lies, the damage will be done. Fox and right-wing media will amplify her and other falsehoods; armies on social media, bot and real, will, too (@realDonaldTrump will no doubt chime in). The mainstream press will be a step behind in debunking -- and even the act of debunking will serve to amplify the lies.

  • Umair Irfan: Australia's weird weather is getting even weirder.

  • Malaika Jabali: Joe Biden is still the frontrunner but he doesn't have to be. "Biden is surviving on the myth that he's the most electable Democrat. He's not."

  • Louis Jacobson: The Democratic debates' biggest (electoral) losers, by the numbers. Elizabeth Warren usually makes well-reasoned arguments to advance carefully thought-out plans, but I found her debate point on the superior electability of women (or maybe just Amy Klobuchar and herself) to be remarkably specious and disingenuous. She said:

    I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people's winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women, Amy and me.

    She went on to add that she was "the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years." The time limit was especially critical there, as Bernie Sanders defeated an incumbent Republican to win his House seat in November 1990 -- 30 years ago, if you do some rounding up. The time limit also excluded Joe Biden from comparison, as his first Senate win (defeating Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs), was in 1972, 48 years ago. One could also point out that Warren's win over "Republican incumbent" Scott Brown in 2012 wasn't really an upset: Brown had freakishly won a low turnout special election[1] in 2010 in a heavily Democratic state -- the only one that had rejected Reagan in 1984, one that hadn't elected a Republican to the Senate since Edward Brooke (1967-79) -- which made him easy pickings in 2012.

    PolitiFact ruled that Warren's quoted statement was true, but the only way they got to 10 was by counting three "ran and lost for president" elections -- two for Biden (1988 and 2008), one for Sanders (2016). Sanders had 6 of the other 7 losses, all from early in his career, the House race in 1988 (against Peter Smith, who he beat in 1990). The other loss was Pete Buttigieg's first race, in 2010 for Indiana state treasurer, against a Republican incumbent in a solidly Republican state. One could say lots of things about this data set, but Warren's interpretation is very peculiar and self-serving -- so much so I was reminded of the classic sociology text, How to Lie With Statistics.

    If you know anything about statistics, it's that sample size and boundary conditions are critical. Comparing two women against four men (one who's never run before, the other much younger so he's only managed three races, two of them for mayor) isn't much of a sample. The 30-years limit reduces it even more, excluding a period when Biden and Sanders were undefeated. That's a lot of tinkering just to make a point which is beside the point anyway. When I go back to Warren's quote, the first thing that strikes me is that the premise is unproven ("the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people's winning record") and frankly suspect. I can think of dozens of counterexamples even within narrowly constrained contexts, but that just distracts from the larger problem: that running for president is vastly different from running for Senator or Mayor. (Biden's experience running for VP may count for something here, but not much.) Moreover, running against Trump poses unique challenges, just because he's so very different (as a campaigner, at least) from the Republicans these candidates have faced and (more often than not) beat in the past. In fact, the only data point we have viz. Trump is the 2016 presidential election, which showed that Hillary Clinton could not beat him (at least in 2016 -- and please spare me the popular vote numbers). Indeed, based on history, we cannot know what it takes to beat Donald Trump, but if you wish to pursue that inquiry, all you can really do is construct some metric of how similar each of the candidates is to Clinton. Even there, the most obvious points are likely to be misleading: Clinton is a woman, and had a long career as a Washington insider cozy to business interests (like, well, I hardly need to attach names here). On the other hand, Trump today isn't the same as Trump in 2016. Still, there is some data on this question, not perfect, but better than the mental gymnastics Warren is offering: X-vs-Trump polls, which pretty consistently show Biden and/or Sanders as the strongest head-to-head anti-Trump candidates. Maybe they could falter under the intense heat of a Trump assault. Maybe some other candidate, once they become better known, could do as well. But at least that polling is based on real, relevant data -- a far cry from Warren's ridiculous debate argument.

    [1]: Brown got 51.9% of 2,229,039 votes in 2010; in 2012, with Obama at the head of the ticket, Warren got 53.7% of 3,154,394 votes, so turnout in the special election was only 70.6% of what it was in the regular election. Aside from the turnout difference, Obama/Biden carried Massachusetts in 2012 with 60.7%, leading Warren by 7 points -- one could say she coasted in on their coattails. Warren did raise her margin in 2018, to 60.4%, a bit better than Clinton's 60.0% in 2016.

  • Sarah Jones:

  • Ed Kilgore: No Senator is less popular in their own state than Susan Collins: Yeah, but when she loses in 2020, she'll never have to go there again. She can hang her shingle out as a lobbyist and start collecting the delayed gratuities she is owed for selling out her constituents and what few morals she ever seemed to profess.

  • Catherine Kim: New evidence shows a Nunes aide in close conversation with Parnas.

  • Jen Kirby: Trump signed a "phase one" trade deal with China. Here's what's in it -- and what's not.

  • Ezra Klein: The case for Elizabeth Warren: Second in Vox's slow release of "best-case" arguments for presidential candidates, following Matthew Yglesias on Bernie Sanders.

  • Eric Levitz:

    • Joe Biden's agreeable, terrific, very good, not at all bad week.

      But, by all appearances, the fact that Biden is no longer capable of speaking in proper English sentences will be no impediment to his political success -- in the Democratic primary, anyway.

    • Bernie isn't trying to start a class war. The rich are trying to finish one.

    • Trump tax cuts gave $18 billion bonus to big banks in 2019.

    • Bernie Sanders' foreign policy is too evidence-based for the Beltway's taste.

      The fundamental cause of all this rabid irrationality is simple: America's foreign-policy consensus is forged by domestic political pressures, not the dictates of reason. Saudi Arabia's oil reserves may no longer be indispensable to the U.S. economy, but its patronage remains indispensable to many a D.C. foreign-policy professional. Israel may no longer be a fledgling nation-state in need of subsidization, but it still commands the reflexive sympathy of a significant segment of the U.S. electorate. Terrorism may not actually be a top-tier threat to Americans' public safety, but terrorist attacks generate more media coverage than fatal car accidents or deaths from air pollution, and thus, are a greater political liability than other sources of mass death. And the Pentagon may have spent much of the past two decades destabilizing the Middle East and green-lighting spectacularly exorbitant and ill-conceived weapons systems, but the military remains one of America's only trusted institutions, and its contracts supply a broad cross section of capital with easy profits, and a broad cross section of American workers with steady jobs.

    • 5 takeaways from the Democratic debate in Iowa:"

      1. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's friendship has seen better days.
      2. In hindsight, Joe Biden probably shouldn't have voted for the Iraq War.
      3. Tom Steyer wants you to know that he will put his children's future above "marginal improvements for working people." [This, by the way, is an unfair and misleading dig at Steyer for opposing USMCA. Given that Steyer is famous as a billionaire, you might think "his children's future" has something to with the estate tax, but (like Sanders) he is rejecting USMCA for its failure to make any positive step toward limiting climate change.]
      4. Amy Klobuchar made one-half of a very good point. [But only as part of "an argument against tuition-free public college."]
      5. Iowans' fetishization of politeness (and/or, the Democratic field's political cowardice) is a huge gift to Biden.
  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Jim Naureckas/Julie Hollar: The big loser in the Iowa debate? CNN's reputation.

  • Heather Digby Parton: Lev Parnas spins wild tales of Trumpian corruption -- and we know most of them are true.

  • Daniel Politi: Trump targets Michelle Obama's signature school nutrition guidelines on her birthday.

  • Andrew Prokop: Lev Parnas's dramatic new claims about Trump and Ukraine, explained.

  • Matthew Rozsa: One-term presidents: Will Donald Trump end up on this ignominious list? Various things I'd qibble with, starting with "the list starts out well" -- I'd agree that John Adams and John Quincy Adams were great Americans with mostly distinguished service careers, but the former's Alien and Sedition Acts were one of the most serious assaults ever on democracy, and his lame duck period was such a disgrace that Trump will be hard-pressed to top -- and his decision to omit one-termers who didn't run for a second, like the lamentable John Buchanan. But this dovetails nicely with one of my pet theories: that American history can be divided into eras, each starting with a major two-term president (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and, sad to say, Reagan) and each ending with a one-term disaster (Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, Trump?). I can't go into detail here, but will note that each of these eras ended in profound partisan divides, based on real (or imagined) crises in faith in hitherto prevailing orthodoxies. That's certainly the case today. The Reagan-to-Trump era is anomalous in its drive to ever greater levels of inequality, corruption, and injustice, which have found their apotheosis in Trump.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • William Saletan: Trump is a remorseless advocate of crimes against humanity.

  • Jon Schwarz: Key architect of 2003 Iraq War is now a key architect of Trump Iran policy: Remember David Wurmser? He was a major author of the 1996 neocon bible A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (which advocated "pre-emptive strikes against Iran and Syria"), author of the 1999 book Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, worked for VP Dick Cheney, helped "stovepipe" intelligence in the build-up to the Iraq War. After Bush, he cooled his heels in the employ of right-wing think tanks, then landed a Trump administration job thanks to John Bolton.

  • Dylan Scott: The Netherlands has universal health insurance -- and it's all private: Sure, you can make that work. Their system is much like Obamacare, with an individual mandate and "a strongly regulated market," so "more than 99 percent" are covered, insurance companies have few options to rip off their customers. Also "almost every hospital is a nonprofit," and subject to government-imposed cost constraints. None of this proves that the Dutch system is better than other systems with single-payer insurance, but that it would be an improvement over America's insane system. TR Reid wrote an eye-opening book on health care systems around the world, showing there are lots of workable systems with various wrinkles: The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (2009). I don't recall much from Netherlands there, but he did especially focus on Taiwan and Switzerland, because they were relative late-adopters, and their systems were implemented by right-of-center governments. The Swiss system basically kept everything private, but imposed strict profit limits. Until then, Switzerland had the second highest health care costs in the world (after the US, which it had tracked closely). Afterwards, Swiss costs held flat -- still the second most expensive, but trailing the US by a growing gap. So, sure, the Swiss came up with a better system than they had (or we have now), but one that's still much more expensive, with slightly worse results, than countries like France and Japan, which seem to have found a better balance between cost and care. [PS: For another data point, see Melissa Healy: US health system costs four times more to run than Canada's single-payer system.]

  • Tamsin Shaw: William Barr: The Carl Schmitt of our Time. You know, the eminent Nazi jurist and political theoretician.

  • Emily Shugerman: Trump just hired Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers: Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr -- I'm not even sure Epstein was the low point of either legal career (even if we don't count Trump yet). Many more articles point this out. One that seems to actually be onto something is: Laura Ingraham praises Trump for putting together a legal team straight from "one of our legal panels".

  • Andrew Sullivan: Is there a way to acknowledge America's progress? He makes a fairly substantial list of things that do mark progress (certainly compared to when I was growing up), yet, as he's very aware, there's Trump, his cabal of Republicans, and the moneyed forces that feed and feast on his and their corruption. If those who oppose such trends tend to overstate the peril of the moment, it's because we see future peril so very clearly. Still, I reckon those who can't (or won't) see anything troublesome at all will find the hyperbole disconcerting, and I don't know what to do about that, beyond trying to remain calm and reasoned. This piece is followed by "But can they beat Trump?": where Sullivan tries to weigh the Democratic field purely on electability consideration. He's most withering on Warren, and most sympathetic to Biden, but gives Sanders the edge in the end. His list of positives is worth reading:

    I have to say he's grown on me as a potential Trump-beater. He seems more in command of facts than Biden, more commanding in general than Buttigieg or Klobuchar, and far warmer than Elizabeth Warren. He's a broken clock, but the message he has already stuck with for decades might be finding its moment. There's something clarifying about having someone with a consistent perspective on inequality take on a president who has only exacerbated it. He could expose, in a gruff Brooklyn accent, the phony populism, and naked elitism of Trump. He could appeal to the working-class voters the Democrats have lost. He could sincerely point out how Trump has given massive sums of public money to the banks, leaving crumbs for the middle class. And people might believe him.

    On the other hand, he argues that "the oppo research the GOP throws at him could be brutal," and gives examples that impress me very little. Most of them are sheer red-baiting, and I have to wonder how effective that ploy still is. Sure, many liberals of my generation and earlier find this very scary, but well after the Cold War such charges have lost much of their tangible fear -- even those liberals who still hate Russia must realize that the problem there now is oligarchs like Trump, not Bolshevik revolutionaries. Sure, Trump attacking Bernie is going to be nasty and brutish, but I expect it will be less effective than Trump attacking Biden as a crooked throwback to the Washington swamp of the Clintons and Obama -- charges that Bernie is uniquely safe from. There's also a third piece here, "Of royalty, choice, and duty," about you-know-what.

  • Chance Swaim/Jonathan Shorman: Kansas energy company abandons plans for $2.2 billion coal power plant. This is a pretty big victory for envrionment-conscious Kansans, but the irony is that it comes at a point when virtually all political obstacles against been overcome. In the end, the company decided that coal-fired electricity is simply a bad investment. Kansans have followed this story for more than a decade, at least since Gov. Kathleen Sebelius halted development on the plant expansion. After she left to join Obama's cabinet, her successor reversed course, and Gov. Sam Brownback was a big booster, but Obama's EPA became an obstacle. Under Trump, all the political stars have aligned to promote coal, but the economics have shifted so much that coal use is declining all across the nation. Despite frantic efforts by the Kochs and Trump, wind power has become a major source of electricity in Kansas (fossil fuels account for less than half of Kansas electricity -- nuclear also helps out there). And thanks to Obama's support for fracking, natural gas has also become cheaper relative to coal. So it looks like we've lucked out, and been spared from the worst effects of having so corrupt a political system in Topeka and Washington. For that matter, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has lucked out too, being saved from such a bad investment.

  • Matt Taibbi: CNN's debate performance was villainous and shameful: "The 24-hour network combines a naked political hit with a cynical ploy for ratings."

  • Peter Wade:

  • Alex Ward:

  • Libby Watson: Let them fight!: "A great nation deserves a raucous and argumentative primary, not a fake demonstration of unity." Choice line here: "If Warren saw this as a way to innocuously smarm her way to the top . . ."

  • Matthew Yglesias: Joe Biden skates by again. Notes that none of the other candidates are really attacking Biden, who remains the front-runner:

    This pattern of behavior raises, to me, a real worry about a potential Biden presidency. Not that his talk of a post-election Republican Party "epiphany" is unrealistic -- every candidate in the field is offering unrealistic plans for change -- but that he has a taste for signing on to bad bargains. There's potential for a critique of Biden that isn't just about nitpicking the past or arguing about how ambitious Democrats should be in their legislative proposals, but about whether Biden would adequately hold the line when going toe-to-toe with congressional Republicans.

  • Karen Zraick: Jet crash in Iran has eerie historical parallel: You mean in 1988, when the US "accidentally" shot down an Iranian airliner, killing 290 people? Doesn't excuse this time, nor does this time excuse that time. Both were unintended consequences of deliberate decisions to engage in supposedly limited hostilities. They reflect the fact that the people who made those decisions are unable to foresee where their acts will take them and/or simply do not care. And while it's difficult to weigh relative culpability, the fact that the US alone sent its forces half-way around the world to screw up must count for something. For more examples, see Ron DePasquale: Civilian planes shot down: A grim history.

Monday, January 13, 2020


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32614 [32575] rated (+39), 229 [230] unrated (+0).

I've finally heard that NPR's Jazz Critics Poll will be published tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM. I've been given advance URLs for the poll results and for the accompanying essay by Francis Davis.

No time to write much more. December Streamnotes still not indexed. EOY Aggregate still a work in progress. My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz still growing. Did play a couple of 2020 releases last week. Going back and forth between the 2020 and 2019 tracking files reminds me of the cartoon depictions of the decrepit old man representing the old year giving way to the new year baby. Every year we get older, but 2019 hurt more than most.


New records reviewed this week:

Franck Amsallem: Gotham Goodbye (2018 [2019], Jazz & People): French pianist, born in Algeria in 1961, grew up in Nice, moved to New York in 1986, back to France in 2001. Has a dozen albums since 1990, this a lush postbop quartet with Irving Acao most impressive on tenor sax. B+(***)

John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (2019 [2020], Freedom Road): Trumpet player, wrote something he calls "President Gillespie Suite," but doesn't provide any words to advance his cause. Only real drawback I see is that he's dead, but late in life he filled admirers with the sort of awe presidents once enjoyed (well, at least before Nixon). Bailey gets some nice trumpet in here, but pretty regularly gets smoked by his saxophonist, Stacy Dillard. B+(**) [cd] [01-20]

Lea Bertucci: Resonant Field (2017 [2019], NNA Tapes): Composer/sound artist, based in New York, main instrument is alto sax, but more important here is a large grain silo which frames everything in echo and resonance. B+(*)

Black to Comm: Seven Horses for Seven Kings (2019, Thrill Jockey): Marc Richter, based in Hamburg, Germany, close to a dozen albums since 2006, one namechecking Coldplay, Elvis & John Cage (2011). Leftfield electronica: dense, harsh, menacing. B

Boy Harsher: Careful (2019, Nude Club): Electropop duo, beats reminiscent of the new wave 1980s (OMD, New Order, Cabaret Voltaire) but more claustrophobic, something they're calling darkwave. Haven't deciphered many words, but the beat goes on and on and on. A-

Bremer/McCoy: Utopia (2019, Luaka Bop): Danish duo, Jonathan Bremer plays bass, Morten McCoy piano, fourth album together. Easy listening: pretty, soothing, nothing more. B

Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (2019, Kafou Music): Kora master from Senegal, "part of the great line of Cissokho griots," fifth album. I find it a bit awkward. B+(**)

Theo Croker: Star People Nation (2019, Sony Masterworks): Trumpet player, born in Florida, spent seven years in China before landing in Los Angeles. Second album was In the Tradition for Arbors, but since 2014 he's moved toward hip-hop fusion, with mixed results. Rarely a plus when someone sings. B

Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (2019, Silver Age): Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck, with the self-sufficient duo 7L & Esoteric, eighth album together since 2013, on their own again after meet-ups with MF Doom and Ghostface Killah. Mad comic cover art, songs that are dynamic and funny, often built on killer riffs. A-

Czarface: A Double Dose of Danger (2019, Silver Age, EP): Bears the group credit, but just a 10-cut, 28:26 instrumental album that fell through the cracks, released just after the group's Ghostface session. B+(*)

Jeff Davis: The Fastness (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, based in New York, originally from Colorado, formerly married to pianist Kris Davis. Sixth album since 2010, With tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby, reminding me of his scene-stealing form on the early Kris Davis Quartet records, plus Russ Lossing (keyboards), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). B+(***)

Bertrand Denzler/Dominic Lash: Pivot (2019, Spoonhunt): Tenor sax and bass duo. One 31:21 piece, not much to it, drone-like. B- [bc]

Mr Eazi: Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London (2018, Banku Music): Nigerian singer, at least born there, but started in Ghana, titling his previous one Life Is Eazi, Vol. 1: Accra to Lagos. Beats bounce more like reggae than highlife, slips up once in a while, but much of this is very attractive. B+(***)

Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (2019, Crammed Discs): Nigerian producer Leke Awayinka, first album, raps some over electro-beats. Lots of ideas here, most work, some don't. B+(**)

Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas (2018 [2019], Meta): Big project, "composed and improvisationally conducted" by percussionist Adam Rudolph, who concludes: "This album feels like the culmination of everything I've been reaching for throughout my career." Massive indeed, with forty musicians credited. B+(***)

Laurence Hobgood: Tesseterra (2019, Ubuntu Music): Pianist, from North Carolina, musical director for Kurt Elling, several albums since 2000. Piano trio plus string quartet ETHEL, some tricky covers ("Wichita Lineman," "Blackbird," Ravel, Debussy, Sting), doesn't seem promising but somehow works. B+(**)

Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (2019 [2020], Jazzbeat Productions): Alto saxophonist, from Connecticut, recorded four albums 1989-93 then took a long break after his label folded. Returns here with a spry hard bop quintet. B+(**) [cd] [01-17]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (2019, Merge): British electropop group, formed by producers with the idea of fusing elements from 1990s drum & bass with 1980s Afrobeat. They then recruited London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ghanaian guitarist Alfred Bannerman, and various horns and percussionists. Third album, true to formula. B+(**)

Michael Janisch: Worlds Collide (2019, Whirlwind): Bassist, from Wisconsin, studied in Boston, moved to New York, then to London. Large postbop group with trumpet (Jason Palmer), two saxes (George Crowley and John O'Gallagher), guitar (Rez Abbasi), keyboards (John Escreet), and two drummers, the leader playing electric as well as acoustic bass. Up for fusion, but fancier. B+(**)

Lauren Jenkins: No Saint (2019, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter, from Texas, first album (after an EP), knows her tropes, has a voice and sounds plenty authentic. B+(**)

Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West: Five Times Surprise (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Two guitarists, six-string electric violin, drums, six-string bass. B+(**) [dl]

Egil Kalman & Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds (2019, Shhpuma): Swedish bassist, plays modular synthesizer here, in two long duets with the guitarist, based in Oslo and Berlin. Guitar slowly picks, against subtle background shading. B

Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (2019, The Leaf Label): Drummer, born in US, grew up in India, based in London but recorded some of this in Mumbai. In London he fits in with an expansive jazz scene, but this sounds more like hip-hop, especially with an array of rappers from India, but also note some fine sax leads, and lots of exotic percussion. A-

Kim Lenz: Slowly Speeding (2019, Blue Star): Rockabilly singer, recorded four albums as Kim Lenz & the (or Her) Jaguars. Slows it down here, but keeps the grit and the smoldering heat. B+(**)

Christian Lillinger: Open Form for Society (2018 [2019], Plaist Music): German drummer, has appeared -- rarely first but often with his name on the banner -- in quite a few albums since 2009, and pulls much of his circle together tight: three pianists, two mallet players, two bass players, cello, and scattered electronics. Many rough edges, emphasis on percussion, although the piano leads are striking. B+(***)

Brian Lynch Big Band: The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music (2019, Hollistic MusicWorks): Trumpet player from Wisconsin, started out as a mainstream guy, playing hard bop with Horace Silver and Art Blakey, got a taste for big bands with Toshiko Akiyoshi, and most importantly for Latin music with Eddie Palmieri, turning into a specialist. All that is evident here. Sure, there are tics that turn me off, but he invariably bounces back with something wondrous. Less evident from the music is his reading list, which pairs two authors for each of nine songs -- some examples: David Levering Lewis and W.E.B. DuBois, Ned Sublette and Eric Hobsbawm, Naomi Klein and Mike Davis, Amiri Baraka and A.B. Spellman. A-

Brad Mehldau: Finding Gabriel (2017-18 [2019], Nonesuch): Pianist, has mostly done trios since 1993, opts for the kitchen sink this time, with scattered horns and strings, blustery swells of sound, and voices on most songs. It escapes being awful -- indeed, has its moments, especially the saxophones (2 cuts). B

Microtub: Chronic Shift (2018 [2019], Bohemian Drips): "A trio of tuba players focusing on microtonality": fourth release, with Robin Hayward, Martin Taxt, and Peder Simonsen. Two pieces, barely tops 30 minutes. While the ambience is pleasing enough, it's unlikely you'd identify this as tuba music, let alone three instruments. B

J. Pavone String Ensemble: Brick and Mortar (2019, Birdwatcher): Jessica Pavone, plays viola here, violin elsewhere; studied with Anthony Braxton, teaming up with Mary Halvorson on several projects. Ensemble here has two violins and two violas, a fairly narrow range, with harsh tones that rattle my nerves. B

The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019, Warner Brothers): Los Angeles garage pop band, led by Lydia Night, second album, brash and catchy. B+(***)

Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings (2019, RCA): Pop producer, I guess, born in England, raised in New York, also lives in Los Angeles. Records feature guest singers: Miley Cyrus and Angel Olsen the most famous, Yebba and Lykke Li get the most work. The stars are the most distinctive, which means they seem the most out of place. B+(*)

Gary Smulyan & Ralph Moore Quintet: Bird's Eye Encounter! (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound): Two saxophonists, baritone and tenor, recorded live in Basel, Switzerland, backed by Olivier Hutman (piano), Stephan Kurmann (bass), and Bernd Reiter (drums). Moore was one of my favorite mainstream saxmen in the 1990s, but seems to have vanished after 1996. He's less distinctive here than Smulyan, as they romp through a nice set of hard bop covers. B+(**)

Jim Snidero: Project-K (2019 [2020], Savant): Alto saxophonist, seems to have passed through a portal and found himself in a Dave Douglas project. Aside from the trumpeter, the band includes Orrin Evans (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), and Do Yeon Kim (gayaguem, a Korean zither). Feels fractured, or quirky, with some potential upside. B+(***) [cd] [01-24]

Earl Sweatshirt: Feet of Clay (2019, Tan Cressida/Warner, EP): Odd Future rapper, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, based in Los Angeles, father a South African poet and political activist. Short (7 songs, 15:26), cryptic. Rhythm swims upstream. Maybe life's like that? B+(*)

Tuba Skinny: Some Kind-a-Shake (2018 [2019], self-released): New Orleans trad jazz band, members started busking around 2005, cut their eponymous debut in 2009, and have released an album most years since. Todd Burdick's sousaphone looms large. Several vocals. B+(***)

William Tyler: Goes West (2019, Merge): Guitarist, considered folk (not unlike John Fahey) although not clear to me that his primitivism runs very deep. Maybe because, given the choice, he so often opts for lush. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Endless Boogie: Vol. I, II (2005 [2019], No Quarter, 2CD): Rock jam band from Brooklyn, name from a John Lee Hooker album, formed eight years before they committed to wax two 3-song LPs (second side of each is a single 25-minute piece). Vocals here and there, but are secondary to the two-guitar grind, which is muscular enough to hold up for 25-minute runs. A-

Martial Solal: And His Orchestra: 1956-1962 (1956-62 [2019], Fresh Sound): French pianist, emerged as a major figure in the early 1950s, presented here in large groups from nine to eighteen pieces. Some of France's top players, plus US refugees like Lucky Thompson and Kenny Clarke, but the piano is what you focus on. B+(**)

Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Flight 17 (1978 [2019], Nimbus/Outernational): First record from the pianist's Los Angeles community organizing project, originally listing him as "conductor." Brilliant in spots, the piano (of course), also the drums. [Played 2014 reissue from Nimbus West bandcamp.] B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Party (Troubadour Jass) [02-07]
  • John Vanore: Primary Colors (Acoustical Concepts) [02-07]

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Weekend Roundup

As actual voting is just around the corner, I've started to stray from my no-campaign pledge. Part of this is that my wife has gotten much more involved, and is regularly reporting social media posts that rile her up. She's strong for Bernie, and I've yet to find any reason to argue with her. Several pieces below argue that only X can beat Trump. For the record, I don't believe that is true. I think any of the "big four" can win -- not that there won't be momentary scares along the way. Trump has some obvious assets that he didn't have in 2016: complete support of the Republican political machine, which has been remarkably effective at getting slim majorities to vote against their interests and sanity; so much money he'll be tempted to steal most of it; and even more intense love from his base. On the other hand, he has a track record this time, and he's never registered an instant where his approval rating has topped 44%. Plus I have this suspicion that one strong force that drives elections is fear of embarrassment. Thanks to the Hillary Clinton's unique path to the nomination, that worked for Trump in 2016, but no one on the Democratic side of the aisle is remotely as embarrassing as Trump -- well, Michael Bloomberg, maybe. He's the only "major" candidate I can see Trump beating. Indeed, if he somehow manages to buy the Democratic nomination, I could see myself voting for a third party candidate. I'm not saying he would be worse than Trump, but a Democratic Party under him would never be able to right the wrongs of the last 40+ years.

One indication of the current political atmosphere is that Trump's "wag the dog" attack on Iran didn't budge public opinion in the least (except, perhaps, in favor of Bernie among the Democrats). Trump walked back his war-with-Iran threat, no doubt realizing that the US military had no desire to invade and occupy Iran, and possibly seeing that the random slaughter of scattered air attacks would merely expose him further as a careless monster. Still, he did nothing to resolve the conflict, and won't as long as his Saudi and Israeli foreign policy directors insist on hostile relations. He sorely needs a consigliere, like James Baker was to Bush Sr., someone who could follow up on his tantrums and turn them into deals (that could have been made well before). All he really needs to do to open up Iran and North Korea is to let the sanctions go first, to establish some good will, and let those countries be sucked into normalcy with mutually beneficial trade. Most other foreign policy conflicts could be solved without much more effort. And he has one advantage that no Democrat will: he won't have a psycho like Donald Trump constantly attacking him from the right, arguing that every concession he makes is a sign of weakness. The only deal he's delivered so far (USMCA) is a fair test case. It sailed through without serious objection because the only person deranged enough to derail it kept his mouth shut.

More links on Iran, war, and foreign policy:


Some scattered links this week:

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32575 [32538] rated (+37), 230 [228] unrated (+2).

I might as well go ahead and post this, as I'm nowhere near getting to a reasonable breakpoint. I haven't even done the indexing for last month's Streamnotes file. Nor do I have much to add on EOY lists. Latest I have on NPR's posting of the Jazz Critics Poll results is "end of this week or beginning of next." I've since got a request to write a little something by Thursday, so I'd say early next week is the more likely date.

All of the promos in my queue are 2020 releases, so I figured they could wait as I try to mop up what I've missed from 2019. Also, when I've been away from the computer, the CDs I've been playing have been old jazz: some Ellington, Hawkins, Webster, and a lot of Armstrong -- an especially pleasant surprise to find Armstrong's terrific Newport sets on the computer.

The B+(***) record with the most potential is the Sturgill Simpson. I only gave it one play, and really wasn't in the mood for an arena rock album -- much closer to that than to neotrad or neocosmopolitan coutry, a trend that Nashville artists like Eric Church have pursued of late. Still, an impressive performance, his third straight B+(***) in my book. On the other hand, Omar Souleyman's fifth straight A- was an easy call, not that I can keep any of them straight. Didn't hurt to be reminded of the humanity that the US has tried so hard to snuff out for decades now.

Also nice to find a new electronica artist I really like.


New records reviewed this week:

Acid Arab: Jdid (2019, Crammed Discs): French acid house group, although the names don't strike me as especially French (or at all Arab): Minisky, Carvalho, Casanova, Borne, Bourras. But the vocals are mostly Algerian, and guests (samples?) range from Turkey to Niger, so the concept comes through clear enough. B+(*)

Joe Armon-Jones: Turn to Clear View (2019, Brownswood): British keyboard player, member of Ezra Collective and a common fixture on the London jazz scene. Some promise, but the guest vocals tend to scatter. B [bc]

Blacks' Myths: Blacks' Myths II (2019, Atlantic Rhythms): DC duo: bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Crudup III -- names I've run across on other obscure (and often noisy) projects. This lays the sound on thick, and if that isn't clear enough, Thomas Stanley provides some words. B+(**) [bc]

Burna Boy: African Giant (2019, Atlantic): Nigerian rapper Damini Ogulu, based in London, fifth album. B+(*)

Crazy P: Age of the Ego (2019, Walk Don't Walk): English electropop group, formed 1995 by Chris Todd (Hot Toddy) and Jim Baron (Ron Basejam), called themselves Crazy Penis until 2008. Eighth album. Dance beats, upbeat, might fuck you up. B+(***)

Fruit Bats: Gold Past Life (2019, Merge): Eric D. Johnson's Chicago rock band, eighth album since 2001. At best they offer songcraft with nice little hooks. B+(*)

(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (2019, Domino): G stands for Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, singer-songwriter, started DIY/lo-fi, third record on Domino. Highest-rated record I hadn't heard by EOY (32, vs. 58 for Holly Herndon and 61 for Jenny Hval). Not awful, possibly an interesting weirdo, if you care. B

Geometry [Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Tomeka Reid]: Geometry of Distance (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Voice, cornet, guitar, and cello. The latter pluck abstractly, the former work on building some drama, not necessarily a plus. B+(*) [bc]

Ghost Rhythms: Live at Yoshiwara (2019, Cuneiform): French group, jazz-rock fusion with accordion and fiddle referring back to folk dances, possibly the concept behind the name -- not that they don't prog out on occasion. B+(*) [dl]

Hash Redactor: Drecksound (2019, Goner): Post-punk quartet from Memphis, first album (discounting Demo Tape 2017). Most reminiscent of the Fall, down to the vocals. B+(**)

William Hooker: Symphonie of Flowers (2019, ORG Music): Free jazz drummer, early works date from 1975, no artist credits here, but someone plays impressive piano, various electronics, some sax, and one cut veers into African chant vocals. Still, until the last two cuts go over the deep end with effects, the drums dominate, as they should. B+(**)

IPT: Diffractions (2018 [2019], ForTune): Polish improv trio: Szymon Wojcinski (keyboards), Jakub Bandur (violin), Jakub Gucik (cello). Chamber jazz, slowly grows on you. B+(***) [bc]

The Japanese House: Good at Falling (2019, Dirty Hit): English singer-songwriter Amber Bain, name refers to a property in Cornwall. Plays guitar and keyboards, and sings. First album after a number of EPs, introspective electropop. B+(*)

Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel (2019, Thrill Jockey): Bass-and-drums duo from Providence, RI; eighth studio album since 1999, mostly noise with just enough beat and tune to suggest the noise is an aesthetic choice. People who don't normally gravitate to this sort of thing have been known to like them -- sometimes. I'm actually impressed by this, but only managed to finish it by turning the volume down. B+(*)

Anna Meredith: Fibs (2019, Moshi Moshi): British electronica composer, describes this as "technicolour maximalism" with "visceral richness," which means it's a bit much. B

The Messthetics: Anthropocosmic Nest (2019, Dischord): Guitarist Anthony Pirog and two guys from Fugazzi. No vocals, all rock grind, maybe too fancy for punk but nowhere near jazz. B+(*)

Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes (2019, Don Giovanni): Camae Ayewa, more poet than rapper, and on her second album adroit enough in the studio to make some knotty, almost impenetrable music. B+(**)

Gurf Morlix: Impossible Blue (2019, Rootball): Austin-based singer-songwriter, tenth album, good tribute album to Blaze Foley a while back, was married to Lucinda Williams for a while. Nice set of blues-based songs. B+(**)

Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy: Legacy Alive: Volume 6 at the Sidedoor (2019, Onyx Productions): Drummer, joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at 21 as a second drummer and stayed through the band's last major phase. Here he keeps the flame lit, convening a stellar group of Blakey alumni for the master's centennial -- Bobby Watson (alto sax), Bill Pierce (tenor sax), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Geofrey Keezer (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass) -- to expand upon the songbook. B+(**)

Portico Quartet: Memory Streams (2019, Gondwana): British group, nominally jazz but mostly because no vocals, their sound a mix of electronics, Chinese hang, with a sax for melody. B+(*) [bc]

Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury (2019, Elektra): Metamodern country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, opens his fourth album with a pretty nifty guitar instrumental. He reminds me that Nashville has become the home of swaggering mainstream rock music, and he lives up to the title here. I suppose I should be more impressed. B+(***)/p>

Omar Souleyman: Shlon (2019, Mad Decent/Because): Syria's most famous wedding singer, has a dozen-plus albums that are more/less interchangeable. This one is short (6 songs, 34:14), but that seems about right given the intensity. A-

Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: The Peyote Dance (2019, Bella Union): New York group, debut 2012, not much on who they are but the approach uses electronically processed field recordings and spoken word. In this one Smith reads from Antonin Artaud's writing on his 1936 trip to Mexico, where the poet went to kick heroin and wound up experiencing peyote. Good to hear Smith's voice, but the music is cryptic (at best). B+(*)

Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: Mummer Love (2019, Bella Union): Same framework, but the writer is Arthur Rimbaud, his subject to Harrar, Ethiopia, "the epicenter of Sufism in Africa." Smith's role is reduced, but the samples include discernible rhythm and chant vocals, so score one for Africa. B+(**)

Special Request: Vortex (2019, Houndstooth): Paul Woolford, electronica producer from Leeds, issued records under his own name from 2002 before adopting this moniker in 2012. Rhythm tracks, often quite fast, the complexity in the echo as they drive you manically along. A- [bc]

Special Request: Bedroom Tapes (2019, Houndstooth): "Comprised solely of lost material from a recently discovered box of cassettes that emerged in the process of a house move." Implies that they're quite early, but the rhythm sketches are well developed. B+(***) [bc]

Special Request: Offworld (2019, Houndstooth): A third album within a six-month stretch, and indeed something of a stretch, but the vocal added to "237,000 Miles" adds a new dimension to his work, and the beats in the middle are as compelling as those on Vortex. The long final mix, with its dramatic pauses and ambient fuzz, took longer to come around. A- [bc]

Vinny Sperrazza/Jacob Sacks/Masa Kamaguchi: Play Sonny Rollins (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano trio, drummer first named. Group has at least four more albums, each on another composer: Cy Coleman, Tadd Dameron, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan. B+(*)

Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops (2019, Joyful Noise): Australian "supergroup," with Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin from the Drones, and others from other groups I don't recall. Second album. Less noise, more funk -- promising, but ends with a bit of bombast. B+(*)

Summer Walker: Over It (2019, Interscope): Neo-soul singer-songwriter from Atlanta, first album. Long jams, a bit awkward. B

Yola: Walk Through Fire (2019, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): British singer-songwriter Yolanda Quartey, first solo album after an EP and several with the group Phantom Limb. PopMatters picked this as the year's best Americana album, possibly because Dan Auerbach produced the album in Nashville, but I don't generally hear that. The title cut is certainly an exception, but more often than not this builds to a grandiosity I find grating. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Fred Anderson Quartet: Live Volume V (1994 [2019], FPE): Recorded at the tenor saxophonist's Velvet Lounge, during a stretch when he rarely recorded. With Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), Tatsu Aoki (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: The Complete Newport 1956 & 1958 Recordings (1956-58 [2019], Legacy): Duke Ellington's Newport sets are more famous, especially his smashing comeback (or more precisely, Johnny Hodges' return) in 1956. And there's no shortage of live Armstrong sets from the 1950s: The California Concerts is my favorite, with 4-CDs spanning 1951-55, starting with what I still think of as the real All-Stars (Hines, Teagarden, Bigard, Shaw, Catlett), but hardly losing a beat as the second tier (Billy Kyle, Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, plus singer Velma Middleton) take over. They're been represented by 1956's The Great Chicago Concert, but the 1956 Newport set is every bit as potent, with Armstrong himself in an especially ebullient mood. The 1958 set is marginally less extraordinary: Peanuts Hucko replaced Hall, they do some more atypical material (including "Tenderly," a calypso, and a Latin-tinged "Ko Ko Mo"). On the other hand, Jack Teagarden drops in, with Bobby Hackett, for a reprise of "Rockin' Chair." [NB: This seems to be a digital-only release; it was previously released on 4-LP by Mosaic in 2014. Total length 144:43, which could fit on 2-CD.] A-

Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years (2006-13 [2017], Dualtone, 2CD): Texas singer-songwriter, for a long time I figured he'd never top his debut -- Old No. 1 in 1975 -- but he kept plugging away, recording for Sugar Hill 1988-2002, then in 2006 getting another shot on Dualtone. He recorded four albums there, reduced here with some extras, not least a few live remakes of old songs. B+(***)

Jaye P. Morgan: Jaye P. Morgan (1976 [2019], Wewantsounds): Singer and actress, given name Mary Margaret Morgan, had some hits 1953-59, recorded rarely after 1962, appeared on The Gong Show 1976-78. This obscurity flirts with disco, settles for ballads. B [bc]

John Prine: Chicago '70: The Early Sessions (1970 [2019], Hobo): Two sets a year before Prine released his first album: one broadcast from the 5th Peg, the other an interview by Studs Terkel. Effectively demos, just guitar and voice, remarkable for an unrecorded artist to have so many memorable songs: 12 made his first album, 5 more his second, 3 more later, the other 2 (one a Hank Williams medley) show up on The Singing Mailman Delivers -- Prine's own comp of his 1970 tapes, to which this doesn't add much. B+(***)

Patrice Rushen: Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recorddings 1978-1984 (1978-84 [2019], Strut): Started out as a jazz pianist, with three 1974-77 albums on Prestige (first one with no vocals), before switching to disco at Elektra: five albums, charted 98-39-71-14-40 pop. This selects 15 songs (79:21), often going with extended (12-inch) versions. Nothing very classic here, but she can stretch a funk vamp, even with repetitive vocals, even with none. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Ben Webster/Don Byas: Giants of the Tenor Sax (1944-45 [1988], Commodore): Not playing together: five cuts of Webster in Big Sid Catlett's Quartet, three of Byas with Slam Stewart, and three more of Byas with Hot Lips Page Orchestra. Repackaging Commodore's catalog, they used the same title to combine Chu Berry and Lucky Thompson sets -- more of a generation split, with 14 years separating Berry and Thompson (and Berry's death in 1941, before Thompson got started), whereas Byas is only three years youger than Webster. Nothing monumental, and the sax theme breaks down when Page takes over, singing two of his three. B+(**) [cd]

Ben Webster and His Quartet: Wayfaring Webster (1970 [2000], DayBreak): Tenor sax great, backed by a piano trio I don't recognize, on a previously unissued radio shot from Netherlands. This comes late in Webster's career (d. 1973), but he sounds fine, and the band doesn't hurt. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Live! Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial (Summit) [01-17]
  • Purna Loka Ensemble: Metaraga (Origin) [01-17]

Sunday, January 5, 2020


Weekend Roundup

In his 2019 State of the Union address, Donald Trump warned:

An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It doesn't work that way!

I remembered the quote slightly differently: as Trump saying that the only things that could stop America (by which he meant himself) are partisan investigations and stupid wars. Trump has blundered his way into both now.

After the Democrats won the House in 2018, it was inevitable that they would start investigating the Trump administration's rampant corruption and flagrant abuses of power, something Republicans in Congress had turned a blind eye to. It was not inevitable, or even very likely, that Trump would be impeached. Speaker Pelosi clearly had no desire to impeach, until Trump gave them a case where he had run so clearly afoul of national security orthodoxy that Democrats could present impeachment as fulfillment of their patriotic duty.

On closer examination, it's possible that the only war Trump was thinking of in the speech was one of Democrats against himself, but he had waged a successful 2016 campaign as the anti-war candidate -- a challenge given his fondness for bluster and violence, but one made credible by his opponent's constant reminders that she would be the tougher and more menacing Commander in Chief. But as president he's followed his gut instincts, and escalated his way to approximate war with Iran: not his first stupid war, but the first unquestionably attributable to his own folly.

The simplest explanation of how Trump got into war against Iran is that he basically auctioned US foreign policy off to the highest bidders, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. (One should recall that Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is also Benjamin Netanyahu's fairy godfather.) Israel and Saudi Arabia wanted Trump to tear up Obama's anti-nuclear arms agreement with Iran, so he did. They wanted Trump to strangle Iran with extra sanctions, so he did. They also wanted Trump to directly attack "Iranian-backed" militias in Iraq and Syria, so once again he did their bidding. That belligerence and those escalations have gotten us to exactly where we are, and it was all totally unnecessary, if only Trump had attempted instead to build on the good will Obama originally established. Granted, Obama could have gone further himself toward opening up cordial relations with Iran, but he too was limited by Israel and Saudi Arabia -- indeed, the letter of his agreement was meant to satisfy Israeli and Saudi demands that Iran halt nuclear weapons efforts, and indeed was the only possible approach that achieve those demands. The only thing that opposition to the treaty proves is that the demands weren't based on serious fears -- they were nothing but political posturing, meant to scam gullible Americans.

The only other explanation I can think of is that Trump has an unannounced foreign policy agenda, which basically inverts Theodore Roosevelt's dictum: "speak softly but carry a big stick." Perhaps Trump realizes that America's "stick" isn't nearly as intimidating as it was during the era of the Roosevelts, so he's compensating by shouting, often incoherently. Even if he doesn't realize the US has lost the respect and trust it once enjoyed -- in decline due to years of increasing selfishness and numerous bad decisions, further exacerbated by Trump's "America first" rhetoric -- the frustration of defiance must boil his blood. Whatever insight he once had about investigations and wars has long since been buried in the hubris of his rantings. That loss of clarity makes him even stupider than usual, leading him beyond blunders to crimes, against us and even against himself.

The result is that once again we're praying, and not for the redemption of the inexcusable behavior of the Trump administration, but for the greater sanity of Iran's leaders, the discipline not to play into Trump's madness. Unfortunately, Americans have never shown much aptitude for learning from their mistakes. Indeed, the only people who have ever learned anything from war were those who lost so badly their folly could not be shifted elsewhere -- e.g., Japan after WWII. Iran's eight-year war with Iraq wasn't a full-fledged defeat, but Iranians suffered horribly, and that has surely dampened their enthusiasm for war. On the other hand, the sanctions they already face must feel like war, without even the promise of striking back.

PS: I wrote the above, and most of the comments below, on Saturday, before this story broke: Riley Beggin: Iraqi Parliament approves a resolution on expelling US troops after Soleimani killing. As I wrote below, this would be the best-case scenario. Since Iraq appears to have no control over what US forces based there actually do, the only way Iraqis can escape being caught in the middle is to expel the Americans. Moreover, it's hard to see how Trump could keep troops in Iraq without the consent of Iraq's government. Note that this won't end the threat of war. The US still has troops and navy based around the Persian Gulf, from which it can launch attacks against Iran. But expulsion should extricate Iraq from being in the middle of Trump's temper tantrum.

On the other hand, Mike Pompeo has already rejected Iraq's vote, saying, "We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign." See Quint Forgey: Pompeo sticks up for US presence as Iraq votes to eject foreign troops.

Here are some links on Trump and Iran:


Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Music Week

December archive (complete).

Music: Current count 32538 [32491] rated (+47), 228 [230] unrated (-2).

Took an extra day to post Music Week this week. I figured I had one more day in the month to work with, or actually one more day to wrap up the year in calendar time, so I got in a little extra listening. Also used the time to add some lists to the EOY aggregate. Got up to Radio X in AOTY's list of lists. Haven't done anything from the NPR Jazz Critics Poll yet -- should be up in early January, not sure exactly when -- nor have a tracked down the JJA lists (that usually track JCP ballots). Hence, very little data so far on jazz (other than my own grades).

I did get an invite to join something called Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, and picked off a couple dozen ballots there. My rule there was to only count ballots from people I recognized, which mostly means members of the Expert Witness Facebook group.

This week's records were mostly things I took an interest in while compiling lists. The one major exception was that I resolved to listen to the last 2019 releases in my promo queue, including a couple I just got this week. The result is that, for now at least, the "pending" lists in my 2019 file are empty. On the other hand, I've tried not to accidentally delve into 2020 releases (looks like I have 18 records waiting).

Quite a few B+(***) records below (15). Probably means I moved too fast, at least on a few of them. (Kajfes is the one jazz record I'm most tempted to review, especially after his Nacka Forum record got an A-. But also I rarely give rap and electronica records anyway near enough attention, although that didn't stop YBN Cordae or Atom[TM], or for that matter Sault.)

All of this month's reviews have been rolled up in December 2019 Streamnotes, but I haven't done the usual indexing yet. Usually takes me 3-4 hours to do it all, and if I hold back for that I'll be even later. Sometime next week. More lists too. Maybe next week I'll be able to say a few things about the EOY Aggregate, and have some more general reflections on the year. Or maybe I'll just decide I'm due for a break.


New records reviewed this week:

Abjects: Never Give Up (2019, Yippee Ki Yay): London-based post-punk trio, all women, all immigrants (from Spain, Japan, Italy) -- something Brexit is meant to put an end to, so they wrote a song about it. B+(**)

Albare: Albare Plays Jobim (2019, Alfi): Wikipedia describes Albert Dadon as "an Australian businessman, philanthropist and musician." He was born in Morocco, grew up in Israel and France, moved to Australia in 1983, where he runs Ubertas Group ("a diversified funds management and property development company"), and has been chairman of United Israel Appeal and Melbourne Jazz Festival. Also plays guitar, as Albare, and has a series of quite respectable albums. He dresses Jobim's melodies up in fancy strings -- arrangements by his pianist, Joe Chindamo, providing a backdrop the guitar darts across. B+(**) [cd]

Backxwash: Deviancy (2019, Grimalkin, EP): Trans rapper from Zambia, based in Montreal. Eight tracks, 21:01. Most hard and/or furious, although "You Like My Body the Way It Is" changes everything up. B+(***)

Philip Bailey: Love Will Find a Way (2019, Verve): Soul singer, did the high leads for Earth Wind & Fire's big hits, went solo in 1983, released 10 albums through 2002 (as well as a gospel compilation), nothing since until this one. Three originals (two with help from Robert Glasper), two from Curtis Mayfield, one Marvin Gaye, several credited to jazz musicians, odd song out is "Once in a Lifetime" (Talking Heads). B+(*)

Barker: Utility (2019, Ostgut Ton): British techno producer, based in Berlin, first album after some EPs and a duo. Fairly minimalist synth patterns, very attractive. B+(***)

Bonzo Squad: There's Always Tomorrow (2019, self-released, EP): Chicago quartet, group name comes from a title released in 2016 under saxophonist Corbin Andrick's name. He's credited with "reeds" here, the others "keys/lasers," "bass/pedals," and "drums." Seven tracks, 28:31. Nothing special about the groove, but the sax does soar above. B

Boogie: Everythings for Sale (2019, Shady/Interscope): Rapper Anthony Dixson, from Compton, first album after three mixtapes. B+(*)

Peter Brötzmann: I Surrender Dear (2019, Trost): German avant-saxophonist, defined the noise wing of the movement with his 1968 classic Machine Gun and has rarely let up in the fifty years since. But he does take it easy here, feeling his way solo through a batch of covers (counting Misha Mengelberg's "Brozziman"). sometimes awkwardly. B+(**)

Deep State: The Path to Fast Oblivion (2019, Friendship Fever): Athens, GA post-punk group, sounds promising until they slow down. B

Dumb: Club Nites (2019, Mint): Postpunk band from Vancouver, BC. Not so dumb. Kind of catchy, even. B+(***)

Earthgang: Mirrorgang (2019, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta-based hip-hop duo, third album (first on a major label). Choppy, often rushed, with the occasional brilliant splotch. B+(*)

Emmeluth's Amoeba: Chimaera (2019, Řra Fonogram): Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, leading a group with piano (Christian Balvag), guitar (Karl Bjorĺ), and drums (Ole Mofjell). Second album. Impressive stretches. B+(***)

Gang Starr: One of the Best Yet (2019, TTT/Gang Starr): Hip-hop duo, six albums 1989-2003, founder MC Guru died in 2010, leaving some vocal tracks (2005-09) that are the basis for this "seventh and final studio album," produced by DJ Premier, with extra guest vocals. Keeping it old style. B+(*)

Elena Gilliam/Michael Le Van: Then Another Turns (2019, Blujazz): Standards singer and pianist (who wrote music to one song). I only found one previous album for her (as Elena), but she's old enough to snag a "Living Legend of Jazz" honor, and her voice supports the claim. Nice piano leads too, backed with bass and drums, with spots for trumpet and saxophone. B+(***) [cd]

Devin Gray GPS Trio: Blast Beat Blues (2019, Rataplan, EP): Drummer, with Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax) and Luke Stewart (bass), five short pieces (13:47), too fancy for punk jazz, but that's the impulse. B+(*) [bc]

Devin Gray: Devin Gray's Algorhythmica (2019, Rataplan, EP): Two pieces, 5:28 and 5:36, composed by the drummer and played by a quartet with Maria Grand (tenor sax), Mara Rosenbloom (piano), and Carmen Rothwell (bass). Ambitious postbop, but just a sketch. B+(*) [bc]

Jason Hawk Harris: Love & the Dark (2019, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter, from Houston, based in Los Angeles, on an alt-country label, first album. Reportedly darkly powerful on his own ("the literary and sonic audacity of early Steve Earle"), but went overboard with the production. C+

The Hot Sardines: Welcome Home/Bon Voyage (2019, Eleven): Retro-swing band from New York, formed in 2007 by pianist Evan Palazzo and fronted by French singer Elizabeth Bougerol, got my attention with their eponymous 2014 album. This one's live from Koerner Hall in Toronto and Joe's Pub in New York, familiar songs, warmed up nicely. B+(***)

Insignificant Other: I'm So Glad I Feel This Way About You! (2019, Counter Intuitive): Alt/indie band from Birmingham, Alabama, punkish guitar-bass-drums trio with Sim Morales the singer. B+(*)

Loraine James: For You and I (2019, Hyperdub): From London, first album, produces glitchy electronica, vocals up front, including her brand stake, "Glitch Bitch." B+(**)

Goran Kajfes Tropiques: Into the Wild (2019, Headspin): Swedish trumpet player, at least seven records since 2000, second with this quintet -- Christer Bothen (bass clarinet), Alexander Zethson (keyboards), Johan Berthling (bass), Johan Homegard (drums) -- after three with his Subtropic Arkestra. B+(***) [bc]

Ari Lennox: Shea Butter Baby (2019, Dreamville/Interscope): Neo-soul singer, original name Courtney Salter, first album, goes through the motions, impresses on occasion but not much sticks. B+(*)

Danny Lerman: Ice Cat (2019, Blujazz): Saxophonist, studied at UNT and Berklee, pictured on soprano. Short album, five tracks (31:18), most with funk beats and vocals, can impress you with his instrument. B- [cd]

Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor (2019, self-released): Canadian rapper, from Toronto, started in a group called the Sorority. First solo album, after an EP. B+(***)

Nacka Forum: Sĺ Stopper Festen (2019, Moserobie): Scandinavian free jazz group, sixth album since 2002, originally a quintet but now down to four: Goran Kajfes (trumpet), Jonas Kullhammar (saxophones), Johan Berthling (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums), with most switching off to other instruments (Osgood to vibes and organ). All write, but mostly Kullhammar. A- [cd]

The New Pornographers: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (2019, Concord): Rather arty alt/indie band from Vancouver, seemed like a big deal with their debut in 2000, but I didn't like that one, and despite repeated attempts have never found much in their fairly substantial catalog. This sounds as good as any for a few minutes, then loses interest. More string synths than I recall. The change of pace helps ("You Won't Need Those Where You're Going"). B+(*)

Isabelle Olivier/Rez Abbasi: OASIS (2019, Enja/Yellowbird): Harp (with electronics) and acoustic guitar, backed by Prabhu Edouard (tabla & kanjira) and David Paycha (drums). Title an acronym for Olivier Abbasi Sound In Sound. After an unsettling "My Favorite Things," originals, mostly from Olivier, whose harp blends in but is frequently overrun by the percussion. B+(**) [cd]

Henrik Olsson/Ola Rubin: Olsson/Rubin (2019, Barefoot): Guitar and trombone, both Swedish (although Olsson is based in Copenhagen), label is a collective. Instruments are rarely used conventionally, with rough bits of electronic noise most common. Still, fairly listenable for that. B+(**) [cd]

Rozina Pátkai: Taladim (2018 [2019], Tom-Tom): Hungarian singer, strikes me as folk-pop but she's drawn a lot on bossa nova in the past, and promoted this as a jazz record. B+(**) [cd]

Lee Scratch Perry: Heavy Rain (2019, On-U Sound): Reportedly a dub remix ("companion to") the auteur's Rainford, one of this year's best albums. Not obviously redundant: all new song titles, a couple guests (Eno's piece is "Here Come the Warm Dreads"), relaxed, happy to indulge whatever odd sounds emerge. A-

Lee Scratch Perry: Life of the Plants (2019, Stones Throw): Label just names the Jamaican dub master, but a sticker adds Peaking Lights (Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis) and Ivan Lee, who are probably responsible for the electronics the rest is built on. Five nine-minute tracks, same powerful groove. B+(***)

Sampa the Great: The Return (2019, Ninja Tune): Sampa Tembo, born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, studied in California, based in Australia, first album, after a couple of mixtapes. Sings, raps, entertains many guests, epic sweep running on for 19 songs, 78 minutes. B+(***)

Sault: 5 (2019, Forever Living Originals): Nothing I can find on this group or (more likely) individual, but name means a leap or jump, or less archaically "a fall or rapid in a river." First album, followed in short order by 7. I've seen various comparisons, but not the one that occurred to me: Chic. Well, minus the great bass lines, but everything else is there, and new again. A- [bc]

Sault: 7 (2019, Forever Living Originals): Second album, released less than five months after the debut, extends the groove and, if anything, tightens up the songcraft. A- [bc]

Derek Senn: How Could a Man (2019, self-released): Folksinger-songwriter, from California, third album. Has some stories. Tunes, too. B+(***)

Somersaults [Olie Brice/Tobias Delius/Mark Sanders]: Numerology of Birdsong (2018 [2019], West Hill): Bass-sax-drums trio, Delius playing tenor and clarinet, kept the title of their previous record as a group name. Smart, measured free jazz. B+(***) [bc]

Svetlost: Odron Ritual Orchestra (2019, PMG): Eleven-piece jazz band from Skopje, Macedonia. Two long pieces, each starting slow before flowering into something splendid. B+(***)

Thick: Thick (2019, Epitaph): Post-punk trio from Brooklyn, guitar-bass-drums, all women, all credited with vocals, sound thickens into shoegaze. Three songs, 9:04. B+(*)

Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five: Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry (2019, BMG): Small Faces guitarist, tried his hand at a solo career in the 1970s but settled for the job security of another British Invasion blues band. He wrote a sloppy intro here ("Tribute to Chuck Berry"), then reverted to form, coasting on someone else's genius. Imelda May sings a blues, he sings the rest with a broad grin, and the band is super-hot. B+(***)

Billy Woods: Terror Management (2019, Blackwoodz Studioz): Rapper, born in DC, parents intellectuals from Jamaica and Zimbabwe, spent the 1980s living in Africa, got into music in the late 1990s, part of Armand Hammer, has a dozen albums more/less on his own. This one would take some time to sort out. B+(**) [bc]

YBN Cordae: The Lost Boy (2019, Atlantic): Rapper Cordae Dunston, from North Carolina, grew up in Maryland, wound up in Los Angeles, in a collective that goes by YBN (e.g., YBN Nahmir, YBN Glizzy, YBN Almighty Jay). First album, after several mixtapes (as Entendre). Sound stories, cute skits, various guests but holds his own. A-

Young Nudy & Pi'erre Bourne: Sli'merre (2019, RCA): Atlanta rapper Quantavious Tavario Thomas with producer Jordan Jenks, who has an album and several mixtapes on his own. Guest spots for 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, and Lil Uzi Vert. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Atom[TM]: Lassigue Bendhaus/Matter (1992 [2019], AtomTM Audio Archive, 2CD): One of many aliases for Uwe Schmidt, German electronica producer based in Chile. Clangy beats, whisper vocals, runs too long but very impressive. No idea about dozens more where this came from. A- [bc]

Burial: Tunes 2011 to 2019 (2011-19 [2019], Hyperdub, 2CD): British electronica producer William Bevan, variously classed as dubstep, downtempo, and ambient, released two proper albums 2006-07, but only EPs since then -- seven of them collected here, sequenced (mostly) latest to earliest, vainly trying to reverse a decade-long decline. (My EP grades, from 2019 to 2011: B, B, *, **, A-, A-, ***.) First disc is over half done before anything catches my ear. Second is better, maybe even worth the while. B+(*)

Masahiko Satoh/Sabu Toyozumi: The Aiki (1997 [2019], NoBusiness): Piano-drums duo, major figures in Japanese avant-garde since 1969 (Satoh) and 1974 (Toyozumi). Two pieces (37:24 + 19:51), relentlessly inventive, most impressed by the drummer. A- [cd]

Old music:

Olie Brice/Tobias Delius/Mark Sanders: Somersaults (2014 [2015], Two Rivers): Delius plays tenor sax and clarinet, with bass and drums -- all English, although Delius has long lived in Amsterdam, his best known band the ICP Orchestra. B+(***)

Emmeluth's Amoeba: Polyp (2017 [2018], Řra Fonogram): Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, group based in Oslo, first album. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Albare: Albare Plays Jobim (Alfi)
  • Bonzo Squad: There's Always Tomorrow (self-released, EP)
  • Harrison˛: Trout in Swimwear (self-released) [02-09]
  • Never Weather: Blissonance (Ridgeway) [01-17]
  • Henrik Olsson/Ola Rubin: Olsson/Rubin (Barefoot)
  • Dave Soldier: Zajal (Mulatta) [01-01]

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Weekend Roundup

No intro. Didn't really feel like doing this in the first place, but had tabs I wanted to close.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, December 23, 2019


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32491 [32466] rated (+25), 230 [226] unrated (+4).

Skipped last week, so this one covers two weeks, with a big hole in the middle. On. Dec. 12, I had surgery to open up my nasal passages, hopefully to breathe better. The surgery was fairly quick, and I was home by noon, but my recovery hasn't been anything to brag about. I did virtually nothing for over a week. Had a follow-up appointment after a week, with the PA poking around, pulling out scabs and clots of blood. During that week I checked email and processed a few late ballots for Francis Davis's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (we did finally match last year's total of 140), but couldn't work for more than 15 minutes at a time (even on something as mechanical as Noisey's EOY list, which took me 4-5 sessions). I didn't feel much better Friday, but found I could get some work done. I only played old jazz for a week, but started streaming some new music -- mostly hip-hop, as it turned out. Pretty much everything I heard landed at B+(**), and this week's reviews are even shorter and shabbier than usual.

Almost finished the week without a single A- record, but Trapline landed 10th on Phil Overeem's year-end list. I still can't tell you why, but three plays convinces me there's enough going on there to merit the grade. Almost added a second one, Emmeluth's Amoeba: Chimaera, from

Chris Monsen's list, but decided I need another play before trying to write anything.

While I was down, I missed three pieces (free, I think) from Robert Christgau's And It Don't Stop subscription newsletter, so I'll do penance for not announcing them in a timely manner here:

Don't have much more to say at this point. The usual tracking files are in the usual places. I've added a few things to the EOY Aggregate, but it is nowhere near up to date (and while I'm likely to add to it, it may never try to make it as comprehensive as in recent years).


New records reviewed this week:

Eric Alexander: Eric Alexander With Strings (2019, High Note): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, called his 1992 debut Straight Up, has 40+ albums since, even more side credits (including more than a dozen in One for All). Cover credits his long-running quartet (David Hazeltine, John Webber, Joe Farnsworth), as well as Dave Rivello for arranging and conducting the strings -- not terribly interesting on their own, but not saccharine fluff either. B+(*)

Gonçalo Almeida/Martin van Duynhoven/Tobias Klein: Live at the Bimhuis (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Bass, drums, alto sax or bass or contrabass clarinet. B+(***)

Rebecca Angel: Santa Baby (2019, Timeless Grooves, 1): Actually, just a 3:28 single, something I wouldn't review but for being sent the CD. Song dates to Eartha Kitt in 1953 -- wonder why it's not done more often. Delicious, and no penalty for quitting while she's ahead. B+(***) [cd]

Atmosphere: Whenever (2019, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minneapolis hip-hop duo, rapper Slug (Dea Daley) and DJ/producer Ant (Anthony Davis), beaucoup albums since 1997. More relationship songs here, always a staple. B+(***)

Courtney Barnett: MTV Unplugged (Live in Melbourne) (2019, Marathon Artists): Recorded October 22, 2019, so little more than a month before the December 6 release date. Her acoustic guitar isn't nearly as potent as her electric, but she picks up resonance with a cello in the band. Also picks up a couple guests, and closes with a strong cover of Leonard Cohen's "Goodbye Marianne." B+(**)

Beck: Hyperspace (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, released some of the best albums of the 1990s, has been hard to even recognize since 1999's funk move, Midnite Vultures. Collaborator here is Pharrell Williams, which should be good for a few cheap hooks. Too bad I couldn't recognize that many. B

Dopolarians: Garden Party (2019, Mahakala): Sextet, or merger of trios: one (relatively young) cluster is made up of Chris Parker (piano), Chad Fowler (alto sax), and Kelley Hurt (voice), and they do most of the writing; the other is well known: Kidd Jordan (tenor sax), William Parker (bass), and Alvin Fielder (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program: Dance of the Cosmos (2019, Akashik, EP): Gregory Shorter Jr., DJ/producer from Los Angeles, 24 albums/mixtapes since 2008, died at 40 in 2019. Dense grooves with scattered talk. [Napster only has 4/5 tracks; other track on Bandcamp, total 28:50.] B+(**)

Lafayette Harris Jr.: You Can't Lose With the Blues (2019, Savant): Pianist, from Baltimore, debut 1992, this a trio with the superb Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. Still not really what I'd call bluesy. B+(*)

Hiromi: Spectrum (2019, Telarc): Japanese pianist, Hiromi Uehara, has recorded steadily since 2003, understands that one key to popularity is keeping it brisk. This one is solo, so she doubles down, and keeps it going for 73:16. B+(**)

Hot Chip: A Bath Full of Ecstasy (2019, Domino): English electropop group, seventh studio album since 2006. Catchy, most of the time. B+(*)

Brittany Howard: Jaime (2019, ATO): Singer-songwriter, gone solo after two records fronting Alabama Shakes, did a fair Otis Redding impersonation there. Bits of retro-soul here, too, mixed in with unclassifiable experiments. Her diva move? B

Kaytranada: Bubba (2019, RCA): Louis Kevin Celestin, born in Haiti, grew up in Canada, second album after a lot of EPs, mixtapes, and production credits (some as Kaytradamus). Has a real knack for pop trifles. B+(**)

José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Live in Moscow (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Portuguese alto saxophonist, backed by two-thirds of RED Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro and Hernâni Faustino, piano and bass), plus his brother Joăo on drums. B+(**)

Jeff Lofton: Jericho (2019, self-released): Trumpet player, based in Austin. Blues-based bop, with "The Christmas Song" a change of pace I'll pardon this week, and two vocal takes of "Compared to What" (by Carolyn Wonderland and Murali Coryell). B+(**) [cd]

Caroline Polachek: Pang 2019, Columbia): Singer-songwriter, leader of Chairlift (3 albums, 2008-16), first solo album (at least under her own name). B+(*)

Slayyyter: Slayyyter (The Mixtape) (2019, self-released): Catherine Slater, electropop singer from suburban St. Louis, first album. Leads with sex, which never comes clear in the dense mix, not that I especially mind. B+(**)

Sly & Robbie/Roots Radics: The Final Battle: Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics (2019, Serious Reggae): Roots Radics started in the late 1970s as the studio band for Channel One, have several dozen albums, mostly meet-ups with dub-oriented singers and producers -- Dunbar & Shakespeare have much the same resume, often working with even bigger stars. No problem evoking reggae's heyday, but not so easy building on that. B+(**) [yt]

Sly & Robbie: Dub Serge (2019, Taxi): Refers back to a 1979 Serge Gainsbourg album, Aux Armes Et Caetera, which Sly, Robbie, Ansel Collins, and other Jamaicans played on (backing vocals were the I Threes: Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Rita Marley). This "remake" disposes of the vocals and makes Gainsbourg's songs unrecognizable, buried under layers of classic dub. B+(*)

Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline (2019, Fontana North): Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo, from the Haisla reserve village of Kitamaat, now based in Vancouver, third album. Hard to get a handle here, but obviously much in jest, and serious nonetheless. A-

Stormzy: Heavy Is the Head (2019, Merky/Atlantic): English rapper Michael Owuo Jr., grime star, second album. Fast, dense, some politics, some serious charges. B+(**)

Dave Stryker: Eight Track Christmas (2019, Strikezone): Guitarist, close to 40 albums since 1990, counting the band he co-leads with Steve Slagle. Released Eight Track in 2014 with this no-horn, groove-oriented quartet -- Stefon Harris (vibes), Jared Gold (organ), McClenty Hunter (drums) -- and aside from the season focus this would be IV. Leans secular, with "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" the one non-traditional tune. B [cd]

Sudan Archives: Athena (2019, Stones Throw): Brittney Denise Parks, born in Cincinnati, based in Los Angeles, self-taught violin, learned to feed that through loops and added her voice. First LP after two EPs. Defies genre, so another hip young singer-songwriter. "All we got is the Internet" is a sign of the times, for better and/or worse. B+(**) [bc]

Juan Vinuesa Jazz Quartet: Blue Shots From Chicago (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, from Spain, spent a couple years in Chicago where he put this group together: Josh Berman (cornet), Jason Roebke (bass), and Mikel Patrick Avery (drums). Free jazz, has a nice lyrical feel. B+(***) [cd]

The Who: Who (2019, Polydor): In 1994 they released a box set called Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, but by my calculation it was more like six (1965-71) -- sure, Quadrophenia (1973) has its fans, but the decline through It's Hard (1982) was undeniable. I'd say they set themselves up with "I hope I die before I get old," especially when only Keith Moon did (1978). Aside from profit-taking boxes, this is only their second album since -- Endless Wire appeared in 2006. Got to give them credit here for sounding like no one else. Still, he record runs longer than their inspiration. B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carter/John Stevens: Blue Cat (1991 [2019], NoBusiness): Cornet player, had a legendary two-horn quartet with John Carter, tries to conjure up a bit of that dynamic with alto saxophonist Gjerstad. Recorded in London with local bass/drums legends. B+(**) [cdr]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lila Ammons: Genealogy (self-released) [01-10]
  • John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (Freedom Road) [01-20]
  • Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams (Firm Roots Music) [03-06]
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Nocturnal Animals (L&H Production, 2CD) [01-24]
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity (Libra) [02-14]
  • Gordon Grdina/Matt Mitchel/Jim Black: Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio (Skirl) [01-10]
  • Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (Jazzbeat Productions) [01-17]
  • Kuzu [Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon]: Purple Dark Opal (Aerophonic) [02-18]
  • Jeff Lofton: Jericho (self-released)
  • Nacka Forum: Sĺ Stopper Festen (Moserobie)

Sunday, December 22, 2019


Weekend Roundup

I didn't feel like doing a Roundup this weekend, but found a piece I wanted to quote at length, and figured that might suffice: Andrew Sullivan: What we know about Trump going into 2020. I haven't been a fan of Sullivan's lately (well, ever), and don't endorse his asides on the moral superiority of conservatives, but his assessment of Trump hits a lot of key points, and is well worth reading at length (I am going to add some numbered footnotes where I have something I want to add):

So reflect for a second on the campaign of 2016. One Republican candidate channeled the actual grievances and anxieties of many Americans, while the others kept up their zombie politics and economics. One candidate was prepared to say that the Iraq War was a catastrophe, that mass immigration needed to be controlled[1], that globalized free trade was devastating communities and industries, that we needed serious investment in infrastructure, that Reaganomics was way out of date, and that half the country was stagnating and in crisis.

That was Trump. In many ways, he deserves credit for this wake-up call. And if he had built on this platform and crafted a presidential agenda that might have expanded its appeal and broadened its base, he would be basking in high popularity and be a shoo-in for reelection.[2] If, in a resilient period of growth, his first agenda item had been a major infrastructure bill and he'd combined it with tax relief for the middle and working classes, he could have crafted a new conservative coalition that might have endured.[2] If he could have conceded for a millisecond that he was a newbie and that he would make mistakes, he would have been forgiven for much. A touch of magnanimity would have worked wonders. For that matter, if Trump were to concede, even now, that his phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine went over the line and he now understands this, we would be in a different world.

The two core lessons of the past few years are therefore: (1) Trumpism has a real base of support in the country with needs that must be addressed, and (2) Donald Trump is incapable of doing it and is such an unstable, malignant, destructive narcissist that he threatens our entire system of government. The reason this impeachment feels so awful is that it requires removing a figure to whom so many are so deeply bonded because he was the first politician to hear them in decades. It feels to them like impeachment is another insult from the political elite, added to the injury of the 21st century. They take it personally, which is why their emotions have flooded their brains. And this is understandable.

But when you think of what might have been and reflect on what has happened, it is crystal clear that this impeachment is not about the Trump agenda or a more coherent version of it. It is about the character of one man: his decision to forgo any outreach, poison domestic politics, marinate it in deranged invective, betray his followers by enriching the plutocracy, destroy the dignity of the office of president, and turn his position into a means of self-enrichment. It's about the personal abuse of public office: using the presidency's powers to blackmail a foreign entity into interfering in a domestic election on his behalf, turning the Department of Justice into an instrument of personal vengeance and political defense, openly obstructing investigations into his own campaign, and treating the grave matter of impeachment as a "hoax" while barring any testimony from his own people.

Character matters. This has always been a conservative principle but one that, like so many others, has been tossed aside in the convulsions of a cult. And it is Trump's character alone that has brought us to this point. . . .

The impeachment was inevitable because this president is so profoundly and uniquely unfit for the office he holds, so contemptuous of the constitutional democracy he took an oath to defend, and so corrupt in his core character that a crisis in the conflict between him and the rule of law was simply a matter of time. When you add to this a clear psychological deformation that can produce the astonishing, deluded letter he released this week in his own defense or the manic performance at his Michigan rally Wednesday night, it is staggering that it has taken this long. The man is clinically unwell, preternaturally corrupt, and instinctively hostile to the rule of law. In any other position, in any other field of life, he would have been fired years ago and urged to seek medical attention with respect to his mental health.

Footnotes:

  1. Restricing immigration is a favorite talking point of other "never Trump conservatives" (e.g., David Frum), one thing that helps them keep their identity distinct from liberals. There is a case to be made that low-wage immigrants undermine American workers, but Trump and anti-immigrant Republicans only frame the issue in racial and cultural terms.
  2. Of course, this is sheer fantasy: the "conservative" mindset allowed Trump no room to maneuver toward giving even his white middle class supporters a break from the government, let alone more leverage against their employers and the predators who have been stripping wealth at every turn. They couldn't even imagine a government that helped balance the scales (although that's exactly what the New Deal did, with a bias for white people that Trump might admire). Thus, for instance, the infrastructure bill offered nothing but privatization measures.

Sullivan also has an appreciative piece on his old chum's win in the UK elections: Boris's blundering brilliance, including this bit:

The parallels with Donald Trump are at first hard to resist: two well-off jokers with bad hair playing populist. But Trump sees himself, and is seen by his voters, as an outsider, locked out of the circles he wants to be in, the heir to a real-estate fortune with no political experience and a crude sense of humor, bristling with resentment, and with a background in reality television. He despises constitutional norms, displays no understanding of history or culture, and has a cold streak of cruelty deep in his soul. Boris is almost the opposite of this, his career a near-classic example of British Establishment insiderism with his deep learning, reverence for tradition, and a capacity to laugh at himself that is rare in most egos as big as his. In 2015, after Trump described parts of London as no-go areas because of Islamist influence, Johnson accused him of "a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of president." Even as president, Trump is driven primarily by resentment. Boris, as always, is animated by entitlement. (The vibe of his pitch is almost that people like him should be in charge.)


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, December 9, 2019


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32466 [32422] rated (+44), 226 [230] unrated (-4).

I have very little time to spare on this, so will keep it short. Spent much of the weekend counting ballots for NPR's 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, something Francis Davis started back when we were writing for the Village Voice. Deadline was last night, but there's a good chance that any ballots that arrive today will be counted. I have 132 at present, down a bit from 2018. Some surprises (for me at least) among the new album leaders. Less so among the other categories. This week's haul includes a bunch of records I discovered among the ballots. Still, two/thirds of this week's A- records came from my queue.

Results will probably be posted in about a week. I'm liable to fall out of the loop on that, as I'm scheduled for what should be minor surgery on Thursday, and I'm pessimistic about what I will be able to do the following week or so. In fact, I'm pretty down on getting anything done beforehand either.

Until I got swamped over the weekend, I did a fair amount of work on the EOY Aggregate, which has changed rather dramatically. Up to Thanksgiving, the list was dominated by first-half albums which showed up in mid-year lists -- Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow was leading Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Eilish pulled back ahead last week, but the dramatic gains were from: (2) Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell; (4) Angel Olsen: All Mirrors; (5) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen; and (11) FKA Twigs: Magdalene. Among first-half albums, (7) Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising is the one that has gained some spots, evidently because those who can stand it like it a lot.

I was fairly up-to-date before the weekend, but haven't added much since. Should see many more lists in the next week or two, but unclear whether I'll be able to keep up. At any rate, the file is doing most of what it needs to do. Still, not much jazz in it, other than my own grades. I'll add the JCP data when it goes public.


New records reviewed this week:

Awatair: Awatair Plays Coltrane (2019, Fundacja Sluchaj): Polish-Ukrainian trio: Tomasz Gadecki (tenor/baritone sax), Mark Tokar (double bass), Michal Gos (drums). Three stretched Coltrane pieces plus an 10:57 "Improvisation for Jr. J.C." B+(***) [bc]

Bones [Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Nir Sabag]: Reptiles (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Bass clarinet/bass/drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam, released on vinyl. Free jazz, fairly intimate. B+(**) [cdr]

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (New Haven) 2014 (2014 [2019], Firehouse 12, 4CD): One "Improvisation" per disc, each 57:14-64:09, each dedicated to a pop star you probably couldn't blindfold guess (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Merle Haggard). Braxton plays saxes from sopranino to contrabass but no tenor (alto is his main axe), joined by Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and family), Nels Cline (electric guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums). Gave it one play and was delighted, often amazed, never annoyed (well, until the last few seconds of Disc 3). One could spend ages further dissecting, but I doubt I will. A-

Patrick Brennan/Abdul Moimęme: Terraphonia (2019, Creative Sources): Alto saxophonist, from Detroit, has a handful of records including a couple as Sonic Openings Under Pressure, in a duo here with a Portuguese experimental guitarist, who has 25 albums since 2008, mostly small groups with all names on the masthead. Something more than just harsh noise, but that's most of it. B+(*)

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science: The Waiting Game (2019, Motéma, 2CD): Drummer, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson, built a solid post-bop reputation in the 1990s, lately has turned to crossover pop, including quite a bit of hip-hop here, sprinkled with guest stars, with a few political lyrics. Second disc is lighter, a 42:19 instrumental orchestrated by Edmar Colón. B+(**)

Anthony Coleman: Catenary Oath (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Pianist, debut was 1992, some of his early records offered an avant take on klezmer. Solo piano here, starts with a dedication to Roscoe Mitchell, ends with Ellington. B+(**) [cdr]

Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Trilogy 2 (2010-18 [2019], Concord, 2CD): A sequel to the trio's 2014 3-CD Trilogy, adding select tracks from a 2016 tour to leftovers from the first period. B+(**)

Rodney Crowell: Texas (2019, RC1): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Texas, 21 albums since 1978, had a run of hits off his 1988 album (Diamonds & Dirt), but hasn't enjoyed much attention lately. Got some guest help this time, mostly fellow Texans like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, and Billy Gibbons. (Exception to the rule: Ringo Starr.) B+(***)

Nina De Heney/Karin Johansson/Henrik Wartel: Quagmire (2018 [2019], Creative Sources): Bass-piano-drums, the bassist dominating (especially early on), for a very claustrophobic sound. B+(*)

Doja Cat: Hot Pink (2019, Kemosabe/RCA): LA rapper Amala Zandile Dlamini, second album, promises more skin, holds back a bit. B+(**)

Marc Edwards/Guillaume Gargaud: Black Hole Universe (2019, Atypeek Music): American free jazz drummer, played with David S. Ware in the 1980s, teams up here with a French guitarist. Reminds me of Sonny Sharrock, maybe even more intense, but I'm not quite there with it yet. B+(**)

Andy Emler/David Liebman: Journey Around the Truth (2018 [2019], Signature Radio France): French keyboardist, playing organ here, pumped up for dramatic effect like a hoary old soundtrack. The saxophonist builds on that, with tenor and soprano. B+(*)

Erin Enderlin: Faulkner County (2019, Black Crow Productions): Singer-songwriter from Arkansas, has had some success peddling songs in Nashville, third album. Old time sound, lots of booze and wallowing blues, could use a stiffer backbone, or a shot of feminism. B+(*)

Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain (2019, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's rockish power trio, with electric bass (Roland Fidezius) and drums (Rudi Fischerlehner), fourth group record. Seems almost too easy to make this formula work, so the occasional glitches stand out. B+(***)

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Dark Blue (2019, Sunnyside): Duets, baritone sax/bass clarinet and piano, a nice match. B+(**)

Eric Hofbauer's Five Agents: Book of Water (2018 [2019], Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, based in Boston, has done interesting work at pushing the boundaries of postbop without quite crossing over into avant-garde. Comes especially close here, with three veterans of Ken Vandermark's Boston-Chicago nexus -- Jeb Bishop (trombone), Nate McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums) -- plus Jerry Sabatii (trumpet) and Seth Meicht (tenor sax). B+(***)

Eric Hofbauer & Dylan Jack: Remains of Echoes (2019, Creative Nation Music): Guitar and drum duo, picking their way through covers from Ellington to the Police. B+(**)

Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Pierre-Yves Martel/Philip Zoubek: Otherwise (2018, Insub): Tuba player, the others credited with viola da gamba and piano, both also with synthesizer. Two side-long tracks, ambient but never gets too comfortable. B+(*) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 8 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): British jazz group, based in London, quartet with Idris Rahman (sax/fx), Leon Brichard (electric bass), Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), and Satin Singh (percussion), adds another live document to their fast-growing catalogue. Strong bass riffs, flexes a lot of muscle. B+(***)

Katarsis 4: Katarsis 4 (2019, NoBusiness): Sax quartet from Lithuania, biased toward alto -- two members list alto first, the others second (after baritone and soprano) -- so this doesn't have much in common with the harmonic focus of WSQ or ROVA. Some electronics, loads of atmosphere. B+(**) [cd]

Kimchi Moccasin Tango: Yankee Zulu (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Norwegian trio -- Karl-Hjalmar Nyberg (tenor sax), Karl Bjorĺ (guitar), Dag Erik Knedal Andersen (drums) -- the group name parsed for three pieces, the title for the fourth. Avant-noise from the start, can change up a bit here and there, in ways that are ultimately winning. B+(**)

Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (2019, Sunnyside): Arranged and conducted by Ohad Talmor. The nonet balances reeds and strings: 4 each, the leader's alto sax shadowed by flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet; 2 celli between viola and bass; plus George Schuller on drums. Lush and unashamedly gorgeous. B+(***)

Mat Maneri Quartet: Dust (2019, Sunnyside): Leader plays viola, mostly known as son of avant-clarinetist Joe Maneri, and for playing side-roles in Matthew Shipp's orbit. Closer to the mainstream here with Lucian Ban (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Randy Peterson (drums). B+(*)

MC Yallah X Debmaster: Kubali (2019, Hakuna Kulala): Rapper Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde, from Uganda, and producer Julien Deblois, from France, with a short cassette. Densely fractured, could come from any high-tech haven. B+(*)

Tom McDermott: Meets Scott Joplin (2018 [2019], Arbors): Trad jazz pianist, from St. Louis, first record was called New Rags (1982), returns to the old ones here. Mostly solo, but picks up when some friends drop in (notably trombonist Rick Trolsen). B+(**)

Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra: Ámbar (2019, Sony Masterworks): Chilean singer-songwriter, based in New York, has a reputation as a jazz guitarist, fourth album, group adds strings to piano-bass-drums, lush and dramatic (not my favorite combination). B

Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra: Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills College, March 19-20, 2018 (2018 [2019], Wide Hive): No musician credit for Mitchell (78), just composed, orchestrated, and conducted by. Twenty-five piece orchestra, with a fair number of strings and most of the classical horns (but no saxophones), a harp, some exotica. B+(**)

Qasim Naqvi: Teenages (2019, Erased Tapes): Drummer from Pakistan, first noticed in the piano trio Dawn of Midi, has moved more into electronica lately, especially with this "music for modular synthesizer." B+(*)

Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Cellist, grew up near DC, studied in Chicago and built her connections there before moving on to New York. Second Quartet album, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Seems small, like the strings folding back on themselves, but not without its unique Halvorson moments. B+(***) [dl]

Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba: Hallowed (2017-18 [2019], Advance Dance Disques): Postbop pianist, born in Oakland, based in New York, took a turn toward Afro-Cuban jazz with her New Yor-Uba "musical celebration of Cuba in America," and continues here, with three specialists in batá and congas, a raft of horns, and vocalist Nina Rodriquez. B+(***)

Bob Sheppard: The Fine Line (2019, Challenge): Mainstream saxophonist, plays them all but best known for tenor, based in Los Angeles, has a few albums since 1991 but has done a ton of studio work, especially backing vocalists. Backed by piano (John Beasley), bass, and drums, with a few guests. Very respectable outing. B+(**)

Kalie Shorr: Open Book (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Maine, based in Nashville, songs have some country in them, production has a lot of Nashville. B+(*)

Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 1) (2019, RareNoise): Sonar is a Swiss guitar-guitar-bass-drums band, principally Stephan Thelen, tunings feature tritones, rhythm very buttoned down, straight enough for rock, clever enough for jazz. Second album with guitarist Torn, who probably adds something, but fits in so seamlessly it's hard to discern what. A- [cdr]

Tim Stine Quartet: Knots (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Chicago guitarist, has a couple previous albums. Joined here by Nick Mazzarella (alto sax), Matt Ulery (bass), and Quin Kirchner (drums). B+(*)

Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Trombone, piano/organ, drums, a strong outing for a trombonist who's been one of free jazz's leading lights for more than a decade. A- [cd]

Fay Victor: Barn Songs (2018 [2019], Northern Spy): Striking jazz singer-songwriter, closest we have to a second coming of Betty Carter. Dusted off some old songs from her Amsterdam exile, given stark and foreboding framing with cello (Marika Hughes) and alto sax (Darius Jones). B+(**)

Bobby Watson/Vincent Herring/Gary Bartz: Bird at 100 (2019, Smoke Sessions): Three alto saxophonists, Bartz (the eldest, with 13 years on Watson and 24 on Herring) the one I think of most literally as a Charlie Parker clone, but I couldn't pick them apart here. With David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). I don't really feel this as relating to Parker, unless they're just saying all you need is chops. But chops they have, and that can be fun. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dusko Goykovich: Sketches of Yugoslavia (1973-74 [2019], Enja): Trumpet player, a Serb born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, incorporated folk idioms into jazz from Swinging Macedonia (1966) on. Leads a quartet here, fronting the rather lacklustre NDR Radio Orchestra Hannover. B+(*)

Dadisi Komolafe: Hassan's Walk (1983 [2019], Nimbus West): Plays flute and alto sax, only album I can find, quintet with piano (Eric Tilman), bass, drums, and vibraphone, recorded in Los Angeles. Has a deep African vibe. B+(**) [bc]

Yusef A. Lateef: Hikima: Creativity (1983 [2019], The Key System): Tenor saxophonist, changed his name when he converted to Islam, early on developed an interest in African and Middle Eastern music. Recorded a lot from 1957 into the 1970s, hit a thin patch, but bounced back from 1989, first with Atlantic then his own YAL label. This is one of two records he recorded in Nigeria, with a local group with singers and a lot of percussion. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Kristijan Krajncan: Drumming Cellist (2017, Sazas): Slovenian cellist-drummer, overdubs the two instruments, first album, adopted its title as his artist credit on his second (Abraxas). Fills the first half with J.S. Bach's "Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor." B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ellen Edwards: A New York Session (Stonefire Music) [02-22]
  • Amber Weekes: Pure Imagination (Amber Inn Productions) [01-08]

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