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Monday, December 11, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28995 [28950] rated (+45), 388 [390] unrated (-2).

First time I calculated the rated count I came up with 31, which looked way low. A closer look kicked it up to 37, and then I went back and rechecked everything in the rated list and found a bunch of records missing grades. I also recalled that I had played two Yaeji EPs, so fixed that. Final rated total winds up pretty close to the upper bounds of a good, solid week. Contributing were two things: one was that I was recuperating from the previous week's cooking madness, taking it easy with hardly any distractions; the other was that I used a good deal of my chill time aggregating EOY lists, which suggested a lot of records to check out. Can't say as they've generated a lot of finds thus far, although one list pointed me to the legendary Kenyan band, and their label's Bandcamp page led me to the Andina compilation. My tip for the '90s pop compilation came from Robert Christgau (at the time I couldn't find the other one he liked, Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems, but I've found it now, so next week).

I finally got the Jazz Critics Poll ballot data last night, so I'm swamped with work to do to check and format that data. Still not sure when NPR is going to run -- probably this week, quite possibly before I get my part done. Otherwise I'd write something about how the EOY list aggregate is shaping up, but I suppose you can see for yourself. As I initially suspected, Kendrick Lamar's Damn is well ahead, with the next four slots very close (83-78 by my count, compared to 114 for Lamar and 55 for 6th place Vince Staples: Lorde, LCD Soundsystem, SZA, and St. Vincent. I've compiled far fewer lists than I have in recent years, but I'll note that AOTY's 2017 Music Year End List Aggregate currently shows the same top six albums in the same order (although they have Lorde opening up a clear gap over a virtual tie between LCD Soundsystem and SZA). Their top ten rounds out with War on Drugs, Father John Misty, Sampha, and National, with Slowdive 11th. My top 11 has the same records, order slightly shuffled.

After that we disagree more, with Mount Eerie dropping from 12th on their list to 28th on mine; Tyler the Creator from 13th to 19th; the XX from 21st to 38th, Taylor Swift from 36th to 68th. There are fewer dramatic improvements on my list, although the early UK bias certainly helps Jane Weaver (from 40th to 16th). I'll know more, and be able to say more, next week. One thing I will note is that my list has picked up on so few jazz lists that it's completely useless for predicting the Jazz Critics Poll.

One final note: after reviewing it, I discovered that Octopus is actually scheduled for Jan. 28, 2018 release, so it doesn't appear in my 2017 Jazz List. I did find the FCT album after I cast my Jazz Critics Poll ballot, so as usual it took me just a few days to find an A- album I had missed.


New records rated this week:

  • Bargou 08: Targ (2017, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice (2017, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pan Daijing: Lack (2017, Pan): [r]: B-
  • Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (2016 [2018], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • Angelo Divino: Love A to Z (2017, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Fabiano Do Nascimento: Tempo dos Mestres (2017, Now-Again): [r]: B+(**)
  • FCT = Francesco Cusa Trio Meets Carlo Atti: From Sun Ra to Donald Trump (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Nick Fraser: Is Life Long? (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Friesen: Structures (2017, Origin, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Aldous Harding: Party (2017, 4AD): [r]: B
  • Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste: Reverso: Suite Pavel (2017 [2018], Phonoart): [cd]: B+(**)
  • King Krule: The OOZ (2017, True Panther Sounds): [r]: B
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B-
  • Joao Lencastre's Communion 3: Movements in Freedom (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Van Morrison: Versatile (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Order: NOMC15 (Pledge Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gard Nilssen's Complete Unity: Live in Europe (2016 [2017], Clean Feed, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orchestre Les Mangelepa: Last Band Standing (2017, Strut): [r]: A-
  • Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens (2017, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (2017, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Princess Nokia: 1992 Deluxe (2017, Rough Trade): [r]: B
  • Nadia Reid: Preservation (2017, Basin Rock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Riddlore: Afro Mutations (2015 [2016], Nyege Nyege Tapes): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rina Sawayama: Rina (2017, The Vinyl Factory, EP): [r]: B-
  • Sirius: Acoustic Main Suite Plus the Inner One (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: The Kid (2017, Western Vinyl): [r]: B
  • Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 2 (2017, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Swift: Reputation (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tune Recreation Committee: Voices of Our Vision (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding (2017, Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology (2017, Fire): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wolf Alice: Visions of a Life (2017, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yaeji: Yaeji (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yaeji: EP 2 (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet: Vol. 2 (2017, Modica Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Visitor (2017, Reprise): [r]: B
  • Waclaw Zimpel/Jakub Ziolek: Zimpel/Ziolek (2017, Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Andina: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 (1968-78 [2017], Tiger's Milk/Strut): [r]: A-
  • Bro. Valentino: Stay Up Zimbabwe (1979-80 [2017], Analog Africa, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Oté Maloya: The Birth of Electric Maloya on Réunion Island 1975-1986 (1975-86 [2017], Strut): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Now That's What I Call 90s Pop (1990s [2017], UMG/Sony): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Taylor Swift: 1989 (2014, Big Machine): [r]: B+(***)
  • Waclaw Zimpel: Lines (2015 [2016], Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp: Heptagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Jeff Cosgrove: Live in Baltimore (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (Leo, 2CD)
  • Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley/Brandon Lopez/Gerald Cleaver: Octagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Nate Wooley: Philosopher's Stone (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Joe Hertenstein: Scalene (Leo)
  • Takaaki: New Kid in Town (Troy)

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Weekend Roundup

The Democrats in Congress, especially the leadership, have had a really bad week, and I fear they've inflicted grave wounds on themselves. John Conyers and Al Franken have resigned after enormous pressure from the party leadership, leaving the party with fewer votes, summarily ending two notable careers. I especially blame Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer. Back in 2016 Hillary Clinton like to posit a "Commander-in-Chief Test," figuring she'd compare favorably to Donald Trump by emphasizing her own fondness for military adventures -- I think her hawkishness was a big part of why she lost, but my point isn't to rehash her delusions. Rather, what we saw last week was a "Shop Steward" test, which Pelosi and Shumer utterly failed. They let a little media pressure blow them over. More importantly, they failed to insist on due process, on the most basic principles of traditional American justice, and in doing so they sacrificed political standing and insulted and demeaned the voters who had elected Conyers and Franken.

Supposedly, one thing the Democrats hope to achieve in sacking Conyers and Franken is "the moral high ground" -- demonstrating their superior sensitivity to and concern for victims of sexual misconduct (pretty broadly defined). In theory, this will pay off in defeating Roy Moore in next week's Alabama Senate race and/or in putting pressure on Donald Trump to resign. In fact, Trump was elected president after 19 women accused him of various shades of assault, and after he bragged about as much. While Moore is facing a closer election than Alabama Republicans are used to, he remains the favorite to win Tuesday. And while some Democrats imagine that if Moore wins the Senate will refuse to seat him, I can't imagine the Republicans sacrificing power like that. Nor, quite frankly, should they. (The only duly elected member I can recall either branch of Congress refusing to seat was Adam Clayton Powell, in a shameful travesty -- although, come to think of it, they did take months before allowing Al Franken to enter.)


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that mattered in politics this week: The tax reform hit some snags ("Senate Republicans appear to have written a corporate AMT provision that they intended to raise a little bit of revenue in a sloppy way that actually raises a ton of revenue and alienates the businesses who were supposed to benefit from a big tax cut"); President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Al Franken announced he'll resign; The government will stay open for a couple of weeks. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • We have a trial date: March 19, "the beginning of the trial at which the Justice Department will seek to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner." There is no shortage of good reasons for blocking this merger, and indeed for untangling all of the past mergers between data transit and content companies, although it's surprising to see Trump's DOJ lifting a finger to prevent the further concentration of predatory corporate power.

    • Apple could get a staggering $47 billion windfall from the tax bill:

      What's particularly striking about this windfall is that though Apple has been a fierce advocate for corporate tax reform -- $47 billion is a lot of money after all -- Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained over and over again that shoveling billions into his corporate treasury won't boost his investment spending.

      He already has plenty of cash, but beyond that, when Cook wants Apple to invest more, he borrows the money.

    • Tomorrow's financial crisis today: Points out that less than ten years after the worst recession since the 1930s Trump's administration is working to undermine the Treasury's Office of Financial Research and "let banks take on more risky debt:

      The nature of a banking crisis is you probably won't have one in any given year, regardless of how shoddy your regulatory framework is. As long as asset prices are trending upward, it just doesn't matter. In fact, as long as asset prices are trending upward, a poorly regulated banking sector will be more profitable than a well-regulated one.

      It's all good. Unless things blow up. But if your bad policymaking takes us from a one-in-500 chance of a blow-up in any given year to a one-in-20 chance, you're still in a world where things will probably be fine across even an entire eight-year span in office. Probably.

      Trump has taken a lot of risky bets in his life. And though he's often lost, he's usually been insulated by his inherited wealth and by his very real skill at structuring deals so other people end up holding a lot of the downside. Any presidency inherently has that kind of structure with or without skill. Presidents suffer when they make mistakes, but other people suffer more.

      ?he key phrase here is "as long as asset prices are trending upward." The surest way to keep asset prices rising is to let rich people make and keep more money, which is what happened from the Bush tax cuts forward to 2007-08. What broke then turned out to be pretty simple: a big chunk of those assets were built on subprime mortgages, and the people who signed up for the mortgages weren't able to grow their incomes enough to cover their debts, so they defaulted; meanwhile, the banks had leveraged themselves so much they couldn't cover their losses, so they started to fail in a cascade that threatened to make the "domino theory" look like small potatoes. But the government, especially the Fed, stepped in and pumped several trillions of dollars into the banks to prop them up so they could unwind their losses more gracefully, while the government did very little to help the little people who suffered the brunt of the recession. (I was going to say "virtually nothing," but things like extended unemployment benefits did help keep the recession from matching the desolation caused by the Great Depression.) We're already seeing asset bubbles in things like the stock market. The whole point of Trump's tax cuts and deregulation is to feed this bubble, even though there is no clear way to sustain the trend or to appease the financier's appetite for ever greater profits. Coupled with a massive collapse of business ethics -- this has been growing since the "greed is good" Reagan era, but Trump is an even more shocking role model -- it's only a matter of time before the whole edifice collapses.

    • We need a healthier conversation about partisanship and sexual assault.

    • The tax bill is a tax cut, not a culture war: Pushes back against the idea that Republicans chose targets to "reform" by how much they would hurt "blue states" (the SALT deduction being the obvious example). Shows that the overriding reasoning behind the cuts/reforms is to favor the rich over the poor, regardless of where they may live or do business. Of course, the real cost to poor and working Americans won't appear in scoring the bill -- it will come later in the form of service cuts and the ever-widening chasm between "haves and have-nots."

    • Republicans need Roy Moore to pass their tax bill.

    • Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from.

    • Democrats need to get a grip about the budget deficit: "The tax bill is bad, the debt is fine." ARgues that "Bush's deficits were fine and Trump's will be too" and that "Obama's deficits were way too small."

    • Don't worry about the debt.

  • Matthew Cole/Jeremy Scahill: Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter "Deep State" Enemies: Evidently one of Erik Prince's schemes, notably backed by Oliver North. One suspicious point is that the scheme would still report to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, figuring him more loyal to Trump than to the "Deep State" he nominally manages a big chunk of. Also see Aram Roston: Private War: Erik Prince Has H is Eye on Afghanistan's Rare Metals. Evidently the mercenary leader is trying to turn his private army into some sort of modern British East India Company colossus.

  • Juliet Eilperin: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument: Helps explain why Trump and Zinke radically shrunk the borders of the National Monument (see maps). The land still belongs to the federal government, but will now be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For info on what that means, see Adam Federman: This Is How the Trump Administration Gives Big Oil the Keys to Public Lands.

  • Tara Golsham: Rep. Trent Franks, who is resigning immediately, offered staffer $5 million to be his baby surrogate: One of the more bizarre stories of recent weeks: Arizona Republican, "a deeply conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the most pro-life members of Congress. Evidently he has that kind of money, and assumes it entitles him to run roughshod over others.

  • Jim Kirby: Hillary Clinton's emails got as much front-page coverage in 6 days as policy did in 69: An analysis of New York Times -- your newspaper or preferred media source may vary (with some never matching that 6-day email window), but for a supposedly sober and serious news source, that's pretty disgusting. One might argue that Hillary's email controversy speaks to her character, but no more so than hundreds or thousands of Donald Trump anecdotes. Even so, you'd think it sensible that news coverage of an election would focus more on likely policies and future scenarios than on past personal quirks. The only excuse I can think of is that today's campaigns are often as shallow as the media covering them -- or at least try to be.

  • Rashid Khalidi: After Jerusalem, the US Can No Longer Pretend to Be an Honest Broker of Peace: Actually, that was clear even before Trump ordered the US embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Khalidi knows damn well -- he's even written a whole book about it: Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. What I've yet to see anyone comment on is why the US didn't move the embassy earlier. The basic reason is respect for international law, which as this week's announcement shows has sunken to new lows in Washington. The 1947 UN resolution proposing partition of the British Mandate in Palestine -- a resolution that David Ben-Gurion lobbied fervently for -- called for dividing the Mandate into two states, but keeping Jerusalem separate as an international area. Immediately on declaring independence in 1948, Israel launched a military offensive aimed at expanding on the borders the UN prescribed. The main target of that offensive was Jerusalem, which wound up divided between Israeli and Jordanian forces. In 1967 Israel launched another war and drove Jordan from East Jerusalem and the West Bank -- territories that the UN ordered Israel to return, despite Israel's almost immediate annexation of Jerusalem and environs. Israel's de facto control of Jerusalem has never been squared away with the rulings of international law, so no country with respect for international law has conceded Israel's claim. "Until now," you might say, but the US has increasingly shown contempt for international law, and this is just one more example.

    By the way, a headline in the Wichita Eagle today: "After US decision on Jerusalem, Gaza protests turn deadly." First line of article explains how: "Two Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday after rocket fire from the enclave hit an Israeli town, as the death toll in violence linked to President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital rose to four." No damage was reported from the Gazan rockets. For info about the other two deaths, see: Peter Beaumont/Patrick Wintour: Two Palestinians shot dead and one critical in riots after Trump speech. Also: Raja Shehadeh: I have witnessed two intifadas. Trump's stance on Israel may ignite a third.

  • Sarah Kliff: Obamacare sign-ups defy Trump's sabotage campaign.

  • German Lopez: Roy Moore: America "was great at the time when families were united -- even though he had slavery." Anyone who thinks that the problem with Moore is his fondness for underaged girls clearly hasn't paid any attention to his politics or to his political legacy. More worrying is Moore's unwavering contempt for the law -- after all, Moore has been stripped of his position on the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to submit to federal law, specifically the First Amendment. When Donald Trump tries to tout Moore as the "law and order candidate" he does little more than expose his own flimsy and dicey relationship to the law. (Meanwhile, Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, has a distinguished record as a federal prosecutor, credentials that only someone as reality-challenged as Trump can readily dismiss.) I wish I could say that Moore's casual endorsement of slavery is even more shocking, but we've always known him to be a racist. After all, Alabama's given us George Wallace and Jeff Sessions, so how much worse can Moore be? Well, this statement is a pretty good example: "I think it [America] was great at the time when families were united -- even though we had slavery. They cared for one another. People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction." The most obvious problem is that slavery was a system which denied family life and bonds, one that allowed slaveowners to prevent or break families by selling members. He could hardly be clearer that he doesn't regard blacks as people -- as Lopez notes, only one of many blind bigotries Moore espouses. Still, I detect another curious note in the quote: it's like he's trying to channel ideologues like George Fitzhugh who tried to defend slavery as anti-capitalist -- an alternative to the coarse materialism that Bible-thumpers like Moore so despise.

    More on Moore:

  • Andrew Prokop: Michael Flynn's involvement in a plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East is looking even shadier: More "Russia" scandal this past week, but one should recall that Russian schemes under Putin have nothing to do with fomenting world revolution or curtailing US imperial ambitions: they're founded on pure oligarchic greed, which isn't at all unlike the Trump approach to business. E.g., this piece summarizes a "whistleblower" report about a deal Flynn was working on:

    According to the whistleblower, [Alex] Copson flat-out said the following things:

    • That he "just got" a text message from Flynn saying the nuclear plant project was "good to go," and that his business colleagues should "put things in place"
    • That Flynn was making sure sanctions on Russia would be "ripped up," which would let the project go forward
    • That this was the "best day" of his life, and that the project would "make a lot of very wealthy people"
    • That the project would also provide a pretext for expanding a US military presence in the Middle East (the pretext of defending the nuclear plants)
    • That citizens of Middle Eastern countries would be better off "when we recolonize the Middle East"
  • David Roberts: A moment of truth arrives for Rick Perry's widely hated coal bailout: Long article, really should be a much bigger scandal than anything having to do with "sexual misconduct" -- with billions of dollars of benefits going to five coal companies, paid for by rate hikes from millions of consumers, and championed by a moron like Rick Perry, it wouldn't even take much of a stretch from the media to blow this up, but evidently they're too lazy to care.

  • Aja Romano: MSNBC won't cut ties to Sam Seder after all: succumbing to alt-right outrage was a "mistake": Another cautionary tale, showing you can't trust anything reported on right-wing media, and that the kneejerk "zero tolerance" reactions of "liberal" media combines are set up perfectly to be scammed. More: Ryan Grim: MSNBC Reverses Decision to Fire Contributor Sam Seder.

  • Mark Joseph Stern: The Trump Administration Just Declared War on Public Sector Unions.

  • Corey Williams/David Eggert: Conyers' Congressional Seat Won't Be Filled for Nearly a Year: So, Nancy Pelosi browbeat Conyers into resigning his seat, certain that a Democrat would replace him -- the current gerrymander of Michigan concedes that -- but evidently the Republican governor of Michigan can simply hold the seat open for a whole year?

Monday, December 4, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28950 [28931] rated (+19), 390 [391] unrated (-1).

I spent most of last week planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking a massive dinner for the Wichita Peace Center's 25th Annual Dinner, with major (indispensable) help from Janice Bradley, Max Stewart, and Russ Pataki, with a few others pitching in on dinner days, notably including people I didn't know who hung around to help clean up. I fixed a range of Indian dishes: lamb and potatoes in a cream sauce (rogani gosht), tandoori chicken in a tomato-butter sauce (makhni), fish tikka, patiala pilaf (minus the fried onions), a sweet potato/chickpea curry, mattar paneer (peas with cheese), bharta (smoked eggplant), cabbage, kali dal, cucumber raita. We served appetizers at the tables, including a minted aloo chat (potato salad), coconut relish, pineapple sambal, a hot tomato chutney, paratha (flatbread), tapioca chips, a couple of store-bought chutneys (brinjal, lime pickle). Had spice cake and a Moroccan fruit salad for dessert. Best compliment I had was when one friend came up to me and cooed in my ear, "the food is divine." I had my quibbles with the fish and rice -- partly frustration as they were the last things done and both ran into unexpected problems.

Mark McCormick was the featured speaker (buy his new book here). He gave a nice speech, and was even better fielding questions, stressing how we've become disconnected and desensitized to the problems around us. Partial proof of that was evident in the disappointing turnout: a little over 40 people this year, compared to 60 last year. (Not getting an accurate RSVP count until too late, I prepared food for 60, so we had a lot left over.) I was pretty much a wreck by the time it was done. Doubt I'll be able to do it again, but afterwards Max was trying to figure out ways to spread the work out -- I've never been very good at delegating -- and I was wondering whether paella might scale up better. Don't need to decide for nearly a year.

I published the November roll-up of Streamnotes last week. on Tuesday. With everything else going on, I didn't expect I'd be able to find anything new to add to what I had noted last Music Week. But I found four of this week's five A- records in the day between Music Week and Streamnotes: the David S. Ware archival set (from 2010, so still new enough) wasn't unexpected, and the two Chicago tenor saxophonists (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, dba Made to Break and Boneshaker, respectively) were right up my alley. But Re-TROS, a tip from Chris Monsen's 2017-in-progress list, was totally unexpected: a Chinese alt-rock group, at times (but not all the time) sounding like a cross between Pulnoc and Konono No. 1 (on Bandcamp, by the way).

December 3 was the deadline for ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll. I resorted my top jazz picks and submitted the following:

New records:

  1. William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (AUM Fidelity, 2CD)
  2. Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra)
  3. Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
  4. Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (Intakt)
  5. Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
  6. Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain)
  7. Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz)
  8. François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (FMR)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup)
  10. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (Not Two)

Reissues or historical:

  1. American Epic: The Collection (1916-36, Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 5CD)
  2. Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999, NoBusiness)
  3. The Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance)

Vocal album: Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)

Debut album: Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz) -- I allowed that if groups aren't eligible (leader Michael McNeill has several albums under his own name) the best individual pick is probably Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl).

Latin Jazz album: Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro) -- I noted that Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music) was actually higher on my list, but I thought Alegria's album was more Latin Jazzy.

My ranking is highly proximate. Parker is the only download, and I probably haven't played it enough, but the two contrasting quartets reminds me of Ornette Coleman's marvelous In All Languages, where he split a double-LP among two groups (more distinctive ones than Parker's). Each half is potentially great, but I still haven't moved it above the A- bin. I replayed maybe half of the top ten last week, but there's still not a lot of distance from top to bottom, or even throughout the A-list.

I was going to make a comment based on something Robert Christgau said in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, but I can't look up the quote due to an "ad blocker" snit fit I don't feel like indulging. As best I recall, he said something about most critics viewing EOY lists as personal branding exercises. My list can be viewed that way. To the extent that I have a brand, or a public persona, it's that of someone who listens far and wide, doesn't follow fashion, and doesn't want to get pigeonholed. On the other hand, this year's list is more avant than usual, and leans toward people I've repeatedly favored in the past -- something I've noticed a lot this past year (while suspecting as some kind of a rut, but not caring enough to break out of).

My Best Non-Jazz of 2017 list is even more problematical, not least because I've cared for it less. I haven't, for instance, played 2nd-ranked Run the Jewels or 3rd-ranked Sylvan Esso since I initially graded them, so early in the year that they were necessarily slotted high on the list. I don't have a Pazz & Jop invitation yet. When I do, I expect I'll do a lot of shuffling, if only to "fit my brand" as it's becoming increasingly impossible to believe that I'm sorting out anything objective.

But if I had to draw a single conclusion out of these lists, it's that nothing this year matters nearly as much to me as the records I've regularly put on top-ten lists in past years -- especially a decade or more back; e.g., in 2007:

  1. Manu Chao: La Radiolina (Nacional/Because)
  2. John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)
  3. Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (Atavistic, 2CD)
  4. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)
  5. Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)
  6. David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
  7. Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-)
  8. Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (Hot Cup)
  10. ROVA: The Juke Box Suite (Not Two)

Or 1997, when the sample size was only 155 records:

  1. Cornershop: When I Was Born for the Seventh Time (Warner Bros.)
  2. Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (Verve)
  3. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (DIW)
  4. Ani DiFranco: Living in Clip (Righteous Babe, 2CD)
  5. Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone (Hence the Reason) (Enja)
  6. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind (Columbia)
  7. Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (Mapleshade)
  8. Latryx: The Album (SoleSides)
  9. Nils Petter Molvaer: Khmer (ECM, 2CD)
  10. Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador)

I don't have earlier lists I can readily tap into, but 1987 and 1977 would be even more memorable to me -- especially the latter, as it came right after I moved to New York City, during my first stretch writing rock crit for the Village Voice, a time when I really cared about my favorite records, and managed to put a lot of time into them. That doesn't happen any more, and while I suspect the variable is me, I can't totally eliminate the music. I mean, doesn't postmodernism start with ironic detachment? Then why shouldn't it end simply with indifference?

I'm not saying that music in 2017 sucks. This year is more/less as good as last year and the year before and so on -- the only long term trends worth noting are that there's more to listen to every year and less time to devote to it. But what is indubitable is that the world in 2017 sucks, so it's getting harder for music to overcome all that drudgery. And, sure, that's probably worse for someone my age, because pretty much everything gets worse as you get old.

By the way, I have started to aggregate EOY lists, using the same formats and methodology as last year. Thus far I have something like four early lists (Mojo and three British record shops, so all UK) plus three individual JJA top-tens, plus I'm counting my grades as I go along, so take this with several distinct grains of salt. The only thing I'm fairly sure of thus far is that LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is the only record with a decent chance of challenging the obvious favorite, Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Moreover, the three jazz lists I've thus far tallied don't offer a single clue how the Jazz Critics Poll is going to sort out (not a single record appears on more than one ballot so far (nor on mine). If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Vijay Iyer's Far From Over wins, but it doesn't have a vote so far.


New records rated this week:

  • Espen Aalberg/Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Susana Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol. 4 (The Bali Tapes) (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 [2017], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (2017, Delmark): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Joe McPhee/Pascal Niggenkemper/Stĺle Liavik Solberg: Imaginary Numbers (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kjetil Mřster/Jeff Parker/Joshua Abrams/John Herndon: Ran Do (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeb Loy Nichols: Country Hustle (2017, Inkind): [r]: B-
  • Penguin Cafe: The Imperfect Sea (2017, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(**)
  • Margo Price: All American Made (2017, Third Man): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ada Rave Trio: The Sea, the Storm and the Full Moon (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 [2017], New Atlantis): [bc]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York, 2010 (2010 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [dl]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Hamad Kalkaba: Hamad Kalkaba and the Golden Sounds 1974-1975 (1974-75 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Los Cameroes: Resurrection Los Vol. 1 (1976 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984 (1976-84 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Bonecrusher (2012, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (U of T Jazz): December 15
  • New York Electric Piano: State of the Art (Fervor)

Sunday, December 3, 2017


Weekend Roundup

I spent literally most of last week trying to cook for 60 at the Wichita Peace Center Annual Dinner on Friday, and I've been sore and tired ever since. Thought compiling this post might feel like a return to normalcy, but nothing's normal any more.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories of the week, explained: Senate Republicans are on track to pass their tax cut (as, indeed, they did); We found our about more sexual harassers (especially Matt Lauer); After Rexit (Rex Tillerson, rumored gone but hanging on); North Korea launched a long-range ICBM (one that could theoretically hit anywhere in the continental United States). Other Yglesias posts:

    • Republicans may regret this tax bill: This seems intuitively right. The biggest political issue in America today is increasing inequality and its various effects, including the binding of political power and personal security to private wealth. Moreover, this is an issue with a strict partisan divide: Republicans are doing everything they can to concentrate wealth and power in the donor class, and Democrats are more or less opposed to this and more or less in favor of a more equitable society (at least like the ones of the New Deal/Great Society era, but with less racism). To the extent people understand the tax bill, it is wildly unpopular, so it's something Democrats can and will run on. It also goes a long ways toward absolving the Democrats' own culpability for increasing inequality: that the Republicans would, strictly through a party-line vote, do something this brazen when inequality is already so severe (and so unpopular) -- and Trump's deregulation program and blatant surrender of the people's government to business interests -- should expose them for all to see. Yglesias cites Josh Barro: The Republican tax plan creates big long-term opportunities for Democrats. By the way, one thing Barro argues that I don't for a moment believe is: "a corporate tax cut should tend to cause wages to rise a little bit, because a lower corporate tax rate makes the US a more attractive location to employ people."

    • We're all in Kansas now: A reference to Gov. Sam Brownback's notorious tax cuts, the enormous fiscal damage they caused, the slower degradation of infrastructure and services, and their near-zero boost to the economy (possibly sub-zero compared to nationwide economic growth during the same period). The only real difference between what Brownback passed and what the Senate just passed is that the US government is able to float much more debt, and thereby soften the degradation. By the way, Brownback, anticipating confirmation as Trump's Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty, recently gave a "farewell address," not to the public but to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, where the only advice he could offer to his successor is pray.

    • Trump's Treasury Department is lying about its own analysis of the tax bill

    • The tax bill's original sin: The idea that the corporate tax rate must be reduced from 35% all the way to 20%, a much steeper cut than anyone was even agitating for a few years ago (e.g., the Business Roundtable was proposing 25% as recently as 2015). One thing I don't understand is why no one is pushing a progressive tax on business profits: maybe 10% for the first $1M, 15% for $1-10M, 20% for $10-50M, 25% for $50-250M, 30% for $250M-$1B, 35% for $1-5B, 40% above $5B. Probably those rates should be a bit higher, and various loopholes should be filled -- I'd like to see the overall reform on corporate tax rates produce more (not less) revenue. But something like this would benefit most companies while only penalizing companies that use their sheer size and/or monopoly positions to reap huge profits. And slowing them down would be good for everyone.

    • Matt Lauer totally blew it on Trump's blatant lying about Iraq and Libya

    • The rules of "how Congress works" have changed: Points out that the Senate tax bill faced concerted opposition from many special interest lobby groups ("the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Homebuilders, the AARP, police unions, hospital associations and the AMA, and the higher education lobby"), as well as polling poorly among the public, yet Republicans stuck to their partisan ideology and passed it anyway. That's not how interest group politics has generally worked in Washington. Yglesias doesn't say this, but it more generally fits the model of class warfare. He does note that the Democrats could have crafted a more viable ACA had they not catered to special interest groups, in the vain hope that selling out to lobbyists would rally Republican support for a bipartisan bill.

      Had Democrats gone down a different path and pushed a bill with a strong public option with payment rates linked to Medicare, we would have seen a very different health policy trajectory over the past few years.

      Premiums would have been lower, which would have meant federal subsidy outlays would have been lower, which would have made it affordable for Congress to make the subsidies more generous. Enrollment in ACA exchanges would have been higher; there would have been no issue with "bare counties"; and, because of lower premiums, the "just pay the fine" option would have been less attractive, leading to more stable risk pools.

    • A deficit trigger can't fix the GOP tax plan

    • Crisis at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also on this, see Matt Taibbi: Trump's Consumer Victory Officially Makes a Joke of Financial Reform.

    • New dynamic score shows the Senate tax bill raises debt by more than advertised

    • The theory behind Trump's tax cuts is exactly what gave us the failed Bush economy: "An influx of foreign hot money isn't what we need." A lot of meat here, but one could dig deeper. Foreign money will drive up asset prices, which will be a windfall for business owners, but once they sell out those businesses will no longer be rooted in the owners' communities. Foreign ownership of American companies has been a mixed blessing: some have gone easier on depressing labor costs, but most wind up operating as American companies do -- as, indeed, whatever they can get away with here -- and they're ultimately as likely to export or automate jobs away as any other capitalists. As Yglesias notes, much of the influx will eventually be converted into bidding up real estate prices (he calls this "housing boom 2.0" but I'm more skeptical that the subprime boom is repeatable, and unless average Americans start making more money -- inconceivable under Republican rule -- we're all stuck in the subprime market). His other point is that the expected influx will strengthen the dollar, hurting exports and manufacturing jobs, so while the rich get richer, the workers get stiffed.

    • If the GOP tax plan is so good, why do they lie so much about it? Partly, I suspect, it's just force of habit, but they really don't have anything potentially popular to offer -- they're just scamming for the donor class, and they'll make the suckers pay for it.

  • New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist:

    With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders' primary goal is to enrich the country's elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

    The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

    Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

    Other links on the tax bill:

  • Gordon G Chang: Is Donald Trump Getting Ready to Attack North Korea? One theory floated here is that the US could disable North Korea by bombing the pipeline that delivers oil from China and/or their one oil refinery. Or, better still, the US could intimidate China into shutting down the pipeline. I don't see how North Korea's leadership does not take the former as an opening salvo in a war, one that forces them to retaliate. As for China, they probably understand that keeping their oil lifeline open is necessary to keeping the peace. And there are real limits to how much the US can push China around without hurting American investments in China (or much worse). At some point Trump's people need to decide whether North Korea having a deterrent against an American attack that no one in the US military wants to launch is really such a big problem. At present it mostly seems to be an affront to the egos of those who still believe the neocon sole-superpower promise of world domination. Sadly, most of the writers in this "War in Asia?" issue of The National Interest seem to buy into such delusions.

  • Thomas B Edsall: The Self-Destruction of American Democracy: After raising the question of whether Putin backed Trump out of pure malice for the American people, and quoting Henry Aaron (Brookings senior fellow, presumably not the Hall of Famer) that "Trump is a political weapon of mass self-destruction for American democracy -- for its norms, for its morality, for sheer human decency," he has to admit that "we Americans created this mess." Then he starts worrying about America's declining influence and esteem in the world, offering a chart showing only two (of 37) other countries with higher approval numbers for Trump than for Obama: Israel (up to 56 from 49) and Russia (way up to 53 from 11). I think the biggest drop was in Sweden (93 to 10), followed by Germany (86 to 11), Netherlands (92 to 17, South Korea (88 to 17), and France (84 to 14). Britain and Canada dropped down to 23, from 79 and 83 respectively. Still, loss of approval hasn't yet done much damage to the empire (although Egypt's decision to allow Russian air bases is perhaps a harbinger). But this is more to the point:

    Add to Trump's list of lies his race baiting, his attacks on a free press, his charges of "fake news," his efforts to instigate new levels of voter suppression, his undermining of the legitimacy of the electoral process, his disregard for the independence of the judiciary, the hypocrisy of his personal posture on sexual harassment, the patent lack of concern for delivering results to voters who supported him, his contempt for and manipulation of his own loyalists, his "failure of character" -- and you have a lethal corruption of democratic leadership. . . .

    At the moment, Trump's co-partisans, House and Senate Republicans, have shown little willingness to confront him. The longer Trump stays in office, the greater the danger that he will inflict permanent damage on the institutions that must be essential tools in any serious attempt to confront him.

    Edsall's error is that he doesn't recognize that those Congressional Republicans are every bit as contemptuous of democracy as Trump. Indeed, he gives Trump too much credit, and Charles Koch and Paul Ryan not nearly enough.

  • Jill Filipovic: The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election: I'm not so sure about the headline, but is there something more than coincidence going on here?

    Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official "commander-in-chief forum" for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer's with Mrs. Clinton -- talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton's 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

    A pervasive theme of all of these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn't that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status. . . .

    It's hard to look at these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place. When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That's exactly how some commentary and news coverage treated Mrs. Clinton.

    Of course, it's possible that an individual's hostility to Hillary has more to do with her being a Clinton than a woman. There's no doubt that many in the media treated her unfairly. Still, I'm more struck by how gingerly they treated dozens of more damning scandals, especially Trump's own sexual abuse history. Filipovic also wrote: Matt Lauer is gone. He's left heartbreak in his wake.

  • Susan Hennessey et al: The Flynn Plea: A Quick and Dirty Analysis. One recalls that from early on Flynn was offering testimony for immunity. One thing the guilty plea suggests is he does indeed have something to further Mueller's investigation as it closes in on Trump's inner circle. Also note that while investigations into foreign interference in American elections has always focused on Russia, the incident Flynn pleaded guilty to involved lobbying Russia for Israel: see Philip Weiss: Flynn's plea on Russia influence reveals . . . Israel's influence!; also Richard Silverstein: Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israeli Settlements. Trump's reaction, of course, was to turn up the crazy: Dana Milbank: Get ready for Trump's fireworks:

    I tried to ignore the Trump shenanigans this week, instead writing about the drug industry executive Trump tapped to oversee drug pricing and about the administration lawyer who orchestrated Trump's takeover of the CFPB after serving as lawyer for a payday lender cited by the CFPB for abuses. But such pieces generate only a fraction of the clicks of pieces I and others write about Trump's pyrotechnics.

    Those pyrotechnics are going to increase now that Mueller has turned Flynn. Trump's distractions will be impossible to ignore. But we -- lawmakers, the media and the public -- need to keep our focus on the real damage Trump is doing.

  • Shira A Scheindlin: Trump's new team of judges will radically change American society:

  • Paul Woodward: Have we been lied to about the Kate Steinle case? Steinle was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant, Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted of murder charges last week. Zarate had been deported five times, which "made him a very effective villain for Trump's border security campaign messages." The shooting was clearly an accident, and it's pretty unlikely the case would ever have been prosecuted had Zarate been a card-carrying NRA member. But Trump (aka "the xenophobic, racist, bigot, defiling the Oval Office") went ballistic over the verdict.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Streamnotes (November 2017)

Don't have time to count, but probably a large edge below for jazz over non-jazz releases, partly because I still get some jazz in the mail, partly because it's easier to find about about jazz things of likely interest, partly because I'm more confident of my views there. Good late run of free jazz albums, bringing my very much in progress Best Jazz Albums of 2017 A-list to a 73-49 edge over Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2017. I should caution you that order of both should shuffle a lot in the next couple weeks.


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10370 records).


Recent Releases

2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017, Def Jam): A rapper from Georgia, Tauheed Epps, fifth big label album plus a dozen mixtapes, many of the latter playing off the Trap Music concept -- not sure how that fits in here, as this all bangs pretty hard. Runs long, too, but develops some appeal. B+(*)

Thomas Anderson: My Songs Are the House I Live In (2017, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, self-released a long-titled but marvelous debut in 1988 and has kept working at it -- ninth album in my databse, but there are probably more. He's clear enough I can follow the words, and smart enough I want to, and while this may not be his deepest set, the keyboard-heavy music sets it up so elegantly I want to keep working on it. A-

Nicole Atkins: Goodbye Rhonda Lee (2017, Single Lock): Singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2007, based in Nashville but no country influence I can detect. Cites the Brill Building as a prime influence, but don't hear that either. B

Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): Tenor saxophonist, based in Nashville, teaches at Tennessee State, has at least one previous album. Standards, some as smoothly honed as "Isn't She Lovely" and "The Girl From Ipanema," easy listening without being overly smooth. Backed by piano-bass-drums, guest guitar on two cuts, a Dara Tucker vocal that doesn't hurt, very pleasant stuff. B+(**) [cd]

Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): Violinist, from New York, has a couple of previous albums, plays in Jazz Passengers, Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce, and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. Trio here with Kris Davis on piano and Michael Sarin on drums, pushing the beat every which way. B+(***) [bc]

Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): Jazz singer, best known for her long (since 1979) role in Manhattan Transfer, has more than a dozen solo albums (one in 1992, more regularly since 2003), many songbook exercises. Sondheim is probably the biggest name on Broadway not to have entered the Great American Songbook repertoire, partly because he came late to the party. Indeed, if the exception proves the rule, consider "Send in the Clowns": one of his earliest songs (1973), one that Count Basie couldn't swing and Sarah Vaughan couldn't sing, little improved yet it's the best thing here. B- [cd]

Big Thief: Masterpiece (2016, Saddle Creek): Brooklyn indie band, principally singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker, who can slow the band down to a coo or layer on the noise in this debut album. B+(*)

Big Thief: Capacity (2017, Saddle Creek): Second album, Adrianne Lenker looking very un-rock-star-like on the cover, singing more heartfelt ballads inside. B+(**)

Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): Icelandic singer-songwriter, many albums since she left the Sugarcubes in 1992, huge star though she works in a unique niche -- folktronica, sources say, but really much weirder than that implies. Sprawling (71:38) album, daunting for non-fans but more listenable than most. B+(*)

Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): Finnish guitarist, group name comes from his 2014 album (stylized eCsTaSy), with Paul Lyytinen (saxophones, flute), Jori Huhtala (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). Guitar mostly leads, taking command so thoroughly that the sax eventually reduces to shading, not that it started out that way. B+(***) [dl]

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): Drummer, released Brian Blade Fellowship in 1998 and this is a 20th anniversary reunion, with Jon Cowherd (keybs), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor sax), and Chris Thomas (bass) continuous members, with Dave Devine taking over the guitar slot. Densely, artfully layered postbop, doesn't move or engage much. B-

Robt Sarazin Blake: Recitative (2017, Same Room, 2CD): Singer-songwriter from Bellingham, Washington; started as Robert Blake, later went as Sarazin Blake, and seems to have settled on this moniker although Robert Sarazin Blake works for his Bandcamp pages. This seems far removed from his folk roots: while I'm often impressed by his wordplay (good examples are "Couples" and "Work"), I'm more so by the music, especially when the decidedly non-folkie saxophone wails. A-

Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): Free sax trio: Mars Williams (reeds, toys), Kent Kessler (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Third group album, seems to have mellowed a bit but then Williams reels off the most inspired broken field sax run I've heard all year. A- [bc]

Mihály Borbély Quartet: Be by Me Tonight/Gyere Hozzám Estére (2016, BMC): Hungerian clarinetist, a pleasant (and memorable) surprise for me shortly after I started writing Jazz CG in 2004 but I never ran across him since, until this. The leader also plays tarogato, alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, tilinko, and supelka, Balász Horváth on bass, and István Baló on drums, and most importantly Áron Tálas on piano. Nice but less memorable. B+(**)

Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream but he's always had an extra edge, leads a sextet here including Marquis Hill on trumpet, Joel Adams on trombone, and Nick Mazzarella on alto sax. B+(**) [bc]

Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): Rock band, from Long Island, cut four albums 2001-09, breaking up until 2014 when they returned to the studio and started work on this "fifth and final album." Not sure if disbandment is the result of frontman Jesse Lacey's "sexual misconduct" scandal or just that they're growing tired: this lumbers along with some artfulness, but left me empty. B

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Tel Aviv (2016 [2017], Not Two): Sax (or clarinet)/trombone/drums, two long improv pieces, full of strife and churn as you might expect, doesn't strike me as favorably as the same trio's recent Live in Copenhagen, recorded six months earlier. B+(**)

Jonas Cambien/Adrian Myhr: Simiskina (2017, Clean Feed): Piano-bass duets, Cambien born in Belgium but based in Myhr's native Norway. Intimate chamber jazz feel, but not so simple. B+(*)

Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): Large band from Toronto -- two trumpets, two trombones, three saxes, bass and drums -- led by William Carn (trombone) and Tara Davidson (alto sax), playing original material, some arrangements credited to other band members. Has some zip, with no one getting out of line. B [cd]

François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 [2017], FMR): Canadians, alto sax-drums duets, long-time collaborators, working live in London, they must have a dozen of more/less equivalent albums by now, especially if you count the ones with a guest pianist. Still, they all sound great to me, the only way this is not exceptional. A- [cd]

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Rev (2013-16 [2017], Anzic): Drummer, from Canada, has a couple previous albums including one from 2014 titled Turboprop. Sextet, with two saxophones (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn, who also contributes a song), piano, bass, and drums. Two originals push the peddle, the other pieces mostly from sources I don't recognize, with the Radiohead cover lost on me, but "Pennies From Heaven" is sweet indeed. B+(**) [cd]

Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): Mainstream pianist, has worked with trio partners Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums) since 1998 -- hard to ask for better ones, and their early albums were sparkling though it's been a while since I've been impressed. B+(**)

Corey Christiansen: Dusk (2015 [2017], Origin): guitarist, from and still based in utah, has a handful of records since 2008, nice metallic ring to his tone, claims to be exploring Americana here (all originals except for one trad.). mostly backed by bass-drums, adding keyboards and percussion for 3 (of 8) tracks. b+(*) [cd]

Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (2016 [2017], Anzic): Israeli reed player, based in New York, found a niche on clarinet and is the reigning poll winner there. Ten musicians -- trumpet, trombone, baritone sax/bass clarinet, guitar, piano, vibes, bass, and drums -- plus Oded Lev-Ari as Musical Director, who also gets cover credit. Most impressive when they tap into old-time swing, even though they're none too smooth, or throw in a klezmer curveball. B+(***)

Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): Alto saxophonist, cut a record called Alto Madness in 1977 and played up the madman theme for many years, then seemed to disappear, but came back with a strong "Ballads and Love Songs" album in 2016. He doesn't go overboard on his Latin twist album -- guest castanets on one song but otherwise no extra percussion or specialists. Four originals (two with "Breeze" in the title), more standards than trad Latin pieces, but he has fun working on his tinge, and his alto is as lovely as ever. B+(***) [cd]

Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): Singer, refers to John and Alice Coltrane as her parents but was born before they married, so birth father was probably Kenny "Pancho" Hagood, a jazz singer who started in Benny Carter's big band. Discogs credits her singing on a Gap Band album in the 1980s, and it looks like she had one previous album in 1996 as Miki Coltrane. Very capable singer, can't say that "Tin Man" strikes me as a worthy standard but she swings it and adds some Latin percussion. Good band, including brother Ravi and Lonnie Plaxico. Mother Alice gets a credit for a bit of spoken word. B+(**) [cd]

Miley Cyrus: Younger Now (2017, RCA): Sixth studio album, but started as a teen so she's still pretty young: 24. Still, she's sounding older, and more tinged with her country roots -- with or without godmother Dolly Parton singing along. B+(*)

Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): Jazz singer from Canada, Toronto I think, third album, wrote five songs loosely tied in with his subject. Voice is far off the mark, but at least his small group swing stays clear of the big band bombast of Gregory Porter's tribute. Also, Sheila Jordan guests on "Straighten Up and Fly Right." B [cd]

David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 [2017], Kopasetic): Swedish group, David is bassist Carlsson, the "Angels" three women: Sofie Norling (vocals), Maggi Olin (keyboards), and Michala Řstergaard-Nielsen (drums), with Olin and Norling writing the majority of the music and lyrics. Third album, Ingrid Jensen adds some trumpet. B+(*) [cd]

Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): Dismissed by Christgau as "depressive and folk-leaning" in his rush to get to the simultaneously released Vol. 2, John McCauley's blend of Americana drawl and indie-rock is just a little flat, lacking more in energy than in interest, which is well crafted as always. B+(*)

Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): Tries harder to get your attention, starting with a crash of guitar and drums. Band stays loud, which sounds better but little (if any) more interesting. B+(*)

Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (2017, ITI): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Hide Tanaka on bass and Fukushi Tainaka on drums -- his website's upcoming shows list includes quartets and quintets led by Tainaka. One original, standards include "Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as well as bop standards by Hank Mobley, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. Expertly, tastefully done. B+(***) [cd]

Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): Translates as Disappointment, a German group, based in Berlin, first recorded in 1995, with Axel Dörner on trumpet, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, and a shifting cast at bass and drums -- currently Jan Roder and Michael Griener, plus new this time out Christof Thewes on trombone. All original material, although their roots as a Monk tribute band -- tapped by Alexander von Schlippenbach for Monk's Casino -- show through in their irrepressible bounce and quirk. A- [cd]

Jeff Dingler: In Transit (2017, self-released): Bassist, has at least one previous album, with Brad Shepik (guitar), Lou Rainone (piano), Gustin Rudolph (drums), plus extra percussion on 4/8 tracks. Shepik especially stands out. B+(**) [cd]

DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 [2017], Not Two): Trio dates back to 1999: Hamid Drake (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Ken Vandermark (unspecified reeds). Eighth album together -- counting as one the 7-CD Past Present (2008-11) -- usually a bit rough and hyper but working in some especially eloquent stretches this time. A- [bc]

Matthieu Donarier/Santiago Quintans: Sun Dome (2017, Clean Feed): Duets, tenor sax/clarinet and electric guitar. Abstract textures, not enough reverb to count as drone, nor interesting enough. B-

Sinne Eeg: Dreams (2017, ArtistShare): Danish jazz singer, eight albums since 2003, wrote six (of ten) songs (all in English), favoring Cole Porter with two covers -- including an "Anything Goes" updated for the Trump era. First-rate band, working in Brooklyn: Joey Baron, Scott Colley, Jacob Christofferson, Larry Koonse. B+(**) [cd]

Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 [2017], Hatology): Swiss tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, a member of Manuel Menguis Gruppe 6 but most of his discography since 2011 has been with Chicago avant-gardists, including the pianist and drummer here. B+(***)

ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 [2017], Kopasetic): Gress is a well-known, well-regarded, relatively mainstream bassist, and no doubt helps out here (he even contributes 4/9 songs), but bass tends to sink into the background, and he's no exception. Rather, what we have is a Swedish tenor sax-piano-drums trio (Henrik Frisk, Maggi Olin, Peter Nilsson), with Frisk and Olin splitting the other songs 3-2, and the sax sounding especially luscious. B+(***) [cd]

Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): Mostly plays electric bass, sometimes fretless, but also takes one cut on acoustic and plays some guitar. Lineups vary song to song, with the faster, heavier fusion pieces holding up best, especially when Cuong Vu joins on trumpet. B+(**) [cdr]

Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live at Jazz Room Cortez (2016 [2017], Cortez Sound): With partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Keisuka Ohta on violin, and Takashi Itani on drums. Some sections are so quiet I lose track and start wondering if my equipment (or other gear) is on the fritz. Both Ohta and Tamura also credited with voice -- another distraction. At least it ends strong. B [cd]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 [2017], Libra): Her most star-filled big band, all thirteen names I recognize on the back cover -- 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes, Nels Cline on guitar but no piano, the leader content to conduct -- but none especially stand out from the grooves. Perhaps the somber theme, which starts out too quiet and never quite raises the horror the piece commemorates. B+(**) [cd]

Lee Gamble: Mnestic Pressure (2017, Hyperdub): British DJ and electronica producer, half-dozen albums since 2009. Has a touch of industrial glitz, not much more. B+(*)

Howe Gelb: Future Standards (2016 [2017], Fire): Indie rocker, led Giant Sand from 1985 through 27 albums, started supplementing them with solo albums in 1991, 22 so far, and he's run a couple other bands. Plays cocktail piano and sings in a sly whisper, backed by three bass-drums pairs. B+(*)

Tee Grizzley: My Moment (2017, 300/Atlantic): Detroit rapper Terry Sanchez Wallace, father murdered, mother jailed for drugs, did time himself, first album. Opening freestyle needs work, but he tightens up with some beats. B+(*)

Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): Drummer, born in Sweden, parents Finnish, based in Berlin; trio, with sax (Per "Texas" Johansson) and electric bass (Daniel Bingert), has three short albums (this one is 27:01) all with Fusion in the title. That doesn't quite pigeonhole them -- certainly no throwback to '70s fusion although they do evince a rockish fondness for noise and monster bass riffs. B+(**) [cd]

Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): Usually plays trumpet, but credit here is "Steiner/Crumar EVI" -- stands for Electronic Valve Instrument, a breath-controlled analog synthesizer originally developed in the late 1970s. Band adds pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums for a pleasant groove with hints of Hawaiian. B+(*) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): English group, pianist Hawkins' trio with bass (neil Charles) and drums (Stephen Davis), plus vocalist Mitchener, who has an avant-garde stance that stretches the music out in odd directions, not necessarily making it more pleasing. B+(**) [cd]

Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 [2017], International Anthem): Avant string trio: violin, cello, and double bass, respectively, with Dee Alexander singing the title track (Swift also credited with "voice"). B+(**)

Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): Alto/soprano saxophonist, twenty-plus albums since 1989, multiple side credits with Nat Adderley, Cedar Walton, and John Hicks. Has a quartet here with Cyrus Chestnut, Yasushi Nakamura, and Carl Allen, but adds a lot of guest slots: 3 cuts each for Nicolas Bearde (vocals) and Russell Malone (guitar), more for Steve Turre (trombone), Brad Mason (trumpet), and Sam Dillon (tenor sax). B+(*)

Dre Hocevar: Surface of Inscription (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Drummer, from Slovenia, several albums, this one strikes me as especially scattered, with piano/voice/electronics/bass/reeds in the credits, yet more often than not they barely break the noise threshold. B-

Adam Hopkins: Party Pack Ice (2015 [2017], pfMENTUM EP): Bassist, from Baltimore, based in Brooklyn, nothing previous under his own name -- indeed, neither cover nor website suggest this is anything other than an eponymous group album, but I first ran across him in Quartet Offensive, and he's played on at least one Ideal Bread album, also with Kate Gentile and Patrick Breiner (one of two saxophonists here; the other is Eric Trudel). Also with guitar (Dustin Carlson) and drums (Nathan Ellman-Bell). But he does compose here, and the publicist thinks this is his album. Seven short but dense/heavy pieces, 24:24. B+(*) [cdr]

Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): Kinshasa group, has an album in the label's Congotronics series although here they focus more on group singing than on junkyard percussion. But this doubles as a soundtrack, with three Arvo-Part-penned tracks switch over to the Orchestre, totally breaking the intensity and flow. B+(**) [bc]

Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): Bonus CD to above but appears as a separate thing for download. The remixes dub in their own distractions, with only a couple cuts showing off the source Congatronics, but at least their are no neoclassical interludes. B+(*)

Kelela: Take Me Apart (2017, Warp): Last name Mizanekristos, born in DC, parents immigrated from Ethiopia, first album but a previous mixtape and EP were well-regarded enough to come to my attention. Soul, the sort of easy-beat warbly keybs in fashion lately, more befitting a singer who skipped gospel to start out in jazz and moonlight with a prog metal band. B+(**)

Jon Langford: Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls (2017, Bloodshot): The once-and-future Mekon, long based in Chicago, went to Alabama and cut this glimpse of the apocalypse the day after the Trump election, a bit unsettled and unsure, except of where their musical roots lie. B+(***)

Large Unit: Fluku (2016 [2017], PNL): Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's 13-piece band: three reeds, three brass (including tuba), guitar, electronics, doubling up at bass (both electric and double) and drums, plus a credit for "live sound." The long title cut builds on a long rhythmic vamp with all sorts of exciting chaos. Still, they hold your interest when they slow it down for disassembly, probably because you anticipate that it will come together in wonder again . . . as it does. A- [bc]

The Billy Lester Trio: Italy 2016 (2016 [2017], Ultra Sound): Piano trio recorded in Italy with Marcello Testa on bass and Nicola Stranieri on drums. All original pieces, nice show of contemporary postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Memphis, first album 1968. One solo track, the rest with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums), plus trumpet (Freddie Hendrix) on three tracks, percussion (Cyro Baptista) on one. I expected something less frenzied for a postbopper in his 80s, and the early sax takes it easy, but the trumpet pushes everyone over the top, and they seem to prefer it like that. B+(*)

Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): Ken Vandermark quartet, eighth album since 2013 although half of the personnel has changed, employing Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics) at least since 2015. Three pieces, Vandermark typically awesome, the sound mix around him full of nice surprises. A- [bc]

Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): Lisa Markley and Bruce Balmer, she sings, both play guitar, and despite the title write some extra lyrics -- reworking, for instance, "Lennie's Pennies" into "Hundred in a Dollar." "Lush Life" and "Caravan" are most familiar, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]

Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo (2015 [2017], Troubadour Jass): Cover reads "An Evening With Delfeayo Marsalis" before the title, so that can be parsed variously. The family's trombonist, leading his quartet (including papa Ellis on piano), recorded live at Western Michigan University. Warm New Orleans vibe, trombone sounds special. B+(**) [cd]

Roy McGrath: Remembranzas (2017, JL Music): Saxophonist, backed by piano, bass, drums, and lots of congas, starting off with a spoken word about immigration, then plunging deep into the Latin tinge. Lots of print on the package, but nearly impossible to read (mostly white on light gray). [CD crapped out near the end, but I figured I had heard enough.] B [cd]

Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 [2017], Not Two): Tenor sax, bass, and drums, recorded live at Roulette in New York City. Unreconstructed free jazz, some remarkable passages where McPhee seems to be accompanying himself with rumble patterns breaking into flights. B+(***)

Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (2017, New World): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has a couple previous albums, leads a large cast here (15 names on back cover, but not clear whether they're all regulars -- the most obvious one is vocalist Fay Victor, who has some trouble navigating the tricky music. B+(*) [cd]

Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely (2017, Goldenlane): Sixteenth album for Loretta Lynn Morgan, starting in 1989 and including one previous duet album with the late Mel Tillis' little girl, two years later with ten albums of her own, one in 1983 and the rest since 1991. All covers, starting with one from K.T. Oslin, some as well known as "Tennessee Waltz" and "The End of the World," unexpected males joining in on a creepy "Summer Wine." B+(**)

Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 [2017], Metatrope): Bassist from San Diego, leading a trio with Tobin Chodos on piano and Kjell Nordeson on bass. Strong, risky piano work, following a solo bass album that rated nearly as high. B+(***) [cd]

The National: Sleep Well Beast (2017, 4AD): Debut album in 2001, seventh overall, singer-lyricst Matt Berenger has a great voice for indie rock, especially when composer-brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner keep the beats fluid and piquant. B+(***)

Paal Nilssen-Love/Frode Gjerstad: Nearby Faraway (2016 [2017], PNL): Drums-sax duets, the latter playing alto and tenor, also Bb and contrabass clarinet. The drummer has a lot of albums with avant saxophonists. He's very responsive here, and Gjerstad gives him quite a workout. B+(***) [bc]

Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 [2017], Hispid/PNL): Nine-piece group from Norway, "brass heavy" (three saxophonists I recognize -- Lotte Anker, Anna Högberg, Julie Kjaer -- and three trumpeters I don't), Sten Sandell on piano, two drummers (Paal Nilssen-Love and Stĺle Liavik Solberg). Two improv pieces add up to 45:55, a striking free-for-all that retains interest when they separate and stalk one another. B+(**) [bc]

Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (2017, self-released): Canadian jazz singer, eighth album, has a couple JUNO Awards, a small and rather cute voice, runs through thirteen songs. Nice band, with Guido Basso on trumpets, Phil Dwyer on saxophones, and Reg Schwager on guitar, but no drummer. B+(*) [cd]

The Paranoid Style: Underworld USA (2017, Bar/None, EP): Principally Elizabeth Nelson, following up her one full-length album with a second (or third) EP, this one six songs, 17:17, with a catchy, single-worthy closer ("Revision of Love") and other snappy songs that have yet to sink in, maybe because I keep thinking "Hawk vs. Prez" should be about jazz. B+(***)

Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): British free jazz titan, just playing tenor sax this time out, in an improv Krakow set with a Polish trio: Lukasz Ojdana (piano), Maciej Garbowski (bass), Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums). Still, doesn't feel like a pickup band deal. The piano leads and comping are always interesting, and the drummer pays close attention, accenting everywhere. Parker, too, is always on point. A- [bc]

William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): The bassist has run two quartet configurations over many years: his freewheeling two-horn Quartet with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Lewis Barnes (trumpet), the latter replaced here by Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, and the group In Order to Survive with Brown and pianist Cooper-Moore -- both groups with Hamid Drake on drums. One full disc of each here, and while the new trumpet player doesn't match the old one, Cooper-Moore is as breathtaking as ever. A- [dl]

Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (2017, Cherry Red): Originally from Akron, one of my favorite bands of the late 1970s, in business ever since with singer David Thomas essential for continuity, but while none of the original musicians appear here, I often find the guitar reminding me of The Modern Dance, not to mention the drums. A-

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 [2017], Leo, 2CD): Tenor sax-piano duets, in case you're not sated after seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp earlier this year. Seems a little sketchy at first, but there are stretches where they click (as usual). B+(**)

Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): Saxophonist and clarinetist, leads a big band, doesn't list himself among the saxophonists but front and back covers show him with a clarinet. Produced by drummer Ben Perowsky. Recorded in Brooklyn, lots of household names in the band. Four originals, rooted in swing and bop, covering Ellington and Powell with an Ira Hawkins vocal extolling "the Basie sound." B+(*) [cd]

Pink: Beautiful Trauma (2017, RCA): Alecia Moore, from near Philadelphia, Broke through as a punkish pop star just out of her teens, like a generation ago. In 2010 she titled her best-of Greatest Hits . . . So Far! -- usually the kiss of death for a career, but her 2012 album was solid (some thought better, with world sales pegged at 7 million) and this one only tails off in an overly dramatic finale. B+(**)

Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): Jazz singer, vastly overrated I think, but comes closer to Cole than I expected, a little stuffy but not really the problem. The "core band" (Christian Sands, Reuben Rogers, Ulysses Owens) is probably OK, too, but hard to tell with the London Studio Orchestra slugging out Vince Mendoza's over-the-top arrangements. Still, Porter can't be excused for the one new song he wrote. C+

Lee Ranaldo: Electric Trim (2017, Mute): Sonic Youth founder-guitarist, side projects go back to 1987 but took on a more serious air once the group disbanded, inhabiting an echo of the legend without really being able to flesh it out. Some lyrics by novelist-fan Jonathan Lethem. Guest spot for Sharon Van Etten. B+(*)

Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): Chinese rock group, "underground" but how would we know? Some vocals (even some in English), but rhythm tracks predominate, some quasi-industrial, some new wave danceable, some sound like Pulnoc fortified by a Kinshasa junkyard, which is to say really amazing. A-

Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Toronto, based in New York, seems to be his first album. Features guitarist Matthew Stevens, with Orlando LeFleming on bass, Eric Doob on drums, and the Westerlies (a trumpet-trombone quartet) on five tracks. Not sure that the latter is a plus -- they certainly change the group's chemistry. B+(**)

Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): Country singer from Prince Edward Island, cut two albums on a Toronto label, then turned some heads with the EP South Texas Suite early this year. Follows that up here with a third album. Terrific sound and voice, but I can't say the songs stick with you. B+(**)

Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 [2017], American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, teaching at Berklee, has recorded as part of the Rosenthals with his bluegrass-oriented father, in the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band, and in Either/Orchestra, with a previous album under his own name in 2001. Group here adds two saxophones, bass, and drums, for some fairly standard postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Rostam: Half-Light (2017, Nonesuch): Last name Batmanglij, born in DC, parents immigrated from Iran, first solo album after ten years with Vampire Weekend (all three major albums) and a couple side projects. Plays pretty much everything here -- fourteen side credits, but only the cellist on more than one track (4). Finds his own groove, sound a bit off for me, but could be beguiling. B+(**)

Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalise, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. A- [cdr]

Adam Rudolph: Morphic Resonances (2017, M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, has recorded extensively since 1992, featured mostly as a composer here, with seven pieces divvied up between five groups -- the Momenta String Quartet gets the first two, totalling 26:30, which I find unpleasantly arch, while a flute-guitar duo (Kaoru Watanabe and Marco Cappelli) get two shorter pieces. My favorite by far is the Odense Percussion Group. B+(*) [cd]

Romeo Santos: Golden (2017, Sony Latin): Born in the Bronx, father Dominican, mother Puerto Rican, led the bachata band Aventura (which sold out Yankee Stadium for a concert) before going solo. Third album, mostly in Spanish, got some beat to it. B+(*)

A. Savage: Thawing Dawn (2017, Dull Tools): First name Andrew, singer-guitarist for Parquet Courts taking a solo flyer, stripped down, only hinting at his band sound on the final track, then pulling back. B+(*)

Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): Quasi-industrial postrock trio, the group name a mashup of member names Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Toller (guitar), and David Meier (drums). Grind impressive at first but doesn't go all that far. B+(*) [dl]

Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 [2017], New Atlantis): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, tends toward noise but stretches that out some here, the sextet including Chuck Bettis' "throat/electronics," cello, bass, and two drummers. [7/10 cuts] B+(**) [bc]

Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love (2017, Static Shock): Philadelphia rockers, got noticed for three 7-inch EPs (since collected as Compilation) before releasing this debut album. Singer Tina Halliday has a harsh bark, not quite a shriek, and the guitar-bass riffs are solid and tuneworthy. B+(**)

Shelter: Shelter (2016 [2017], Audiographic): Yet another Ken Vandermark group, a quartet, although he only has a 3-2-2-2 composition edge over Nate Wooley (trumpet), Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass and guitar), and Steve Heather (drums and crackle box). B+(***) [bc]

Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): Big Nashville star with a TV gig I've never seen but most likely why People named him "sexiest man alive." Has a fine country voice, picks down-to-earth songs (only one co-credit here). B+(*)

Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (2017, OA2): Alto saxophonist, also play soprano, not sure where (or when) she was born, but she studied in Oklahoma City, and is based in Oregon. Backed by piano-bass-drums, all originals except for "Passion Flower," bright postbop. B+(**) [cd]

Paula Shocron/Germán Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 [2017], Hatology): Piano-bass-drums trio, three joint credits, two for Shocron, one each for the others, plus covers of Mal Waldron and Charles Tolliver. Strong, favoring dense chords over noodling. B+(**)

Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 [2017], Pi): Singer, dancer, multi-instrumentalist (credits here: Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, piano), born in Illinois, parents immigrated from Taiwan and East Timor, graduated from Stanford ("in opera with classical violin and ballet training"), fourth album, band (Jade Tongue: vibes, flutes, viola, bass, drums, percussion -- all well-known NY names) named for her first, joined here by Mivos Quartet (strings). Music evidently written for a ballet, choreographed by Satoshi Haga. I imagine the total performance to be mesmerizing, but as a record I find it alternately arch and quaint, classical motifs with bent Asian notes -- not my thing, I guess. B+(*) [cd]

Slow Is Possible: Moonwatchers (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Portuguese group, second album after eponymous effort in 2015: André Pontifice (cello), Bruno Figuera (alto sax), Duane Fonseca (drums), Joăo Clemente (electric guitar/electronics), Nuno Santos Dias (piano), Ricardo Sousa (double bass). B+(*)

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): Duets, the French pianist nearly 90 at the time, Liebman playing soprano and tenor saxophones. Six standards, with Miles Davis a common bond, the pianist fascinating, Liebman listening and contributing with great care. B+(***)

Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 [2017], Loyal Label): Drummer, called his 2014 album Apocryphal and thought that would make a good group name. Quartet with Loren Stillman (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). I'm not used to Seabrook playing inside the band without his customary cloud of noise, but he fits nicely with Stillman's sweet tone. B+(**)

St. Vincent: Masseduction (2017, Loma Vista): Canadian Annie Clark's fifth (or sixth) album, her bestseller and evidently a critical favorite -- I'd guess top-five in year-end polls but little chance of topping Kendrick Lamar, for starters. A bit arch and arty for my tastes, but always interesting, never more so than here, where half the songs quickly click, and more welcome should I ever give it more than the three spins I've logged. Title song pronounces it "mass seduction" and pairs it with "mass destruction": she has a point, a deeper one than critiquing Trump, although that's part of it. A-

Gabriele Tranchina: Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes (2017, Rainchant Eclectic): Born in Germany, based (I think) in Paris, with an eye on Brazil and other points south -- though two of her covers are from Mancini. B+(**) [cd]

Trio S: Somewhere Glimmer (2017, Zitherine): Doug Wieselman (compositions, clarinets, loops, banjo), Jane Scarpantoni (cello), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, "wollesonics"). Rather quiet, atmospheric even, pleasant and marginally interesting. B+(*)

David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (2010 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Another posthumous tape for the late tenor sax giant, this one a year after his kidney transplant and about two years before he died. So it's worth noting that he's in remarkable form here, with a couple of solo stretches (some on stritch), but especially when William Parker (bass) and Warren Smith (drums) help out. A- [dl]

Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): Guitarist, from Toronto, lists as idols Mike Stern, Pat Metheny and Steve Vai. Band shares billing and keeps pushing him, and it helps when alto saxophonist Richard Underhill jumps out front. B [cd]

Mark Wingfield/Markus Reuter/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2016 [2017], Moonjune): Two guitarists -- Reuter's credit is "Touch Guitars AU8" (8-string, hollow body, individually tunable pickups) -- and drums. Fits neatly into a fusion bag. B [cd]

Deanna Witkowski: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (2017, Tilapia): Pianist, discography dates back to 1999 -- I have her filed under vocals, but she doesn't sing here. All her arrangements of hymns -- all but one public domain -- for piano trio. Pleasant, and fairly innocuous. B [cd]

Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (2017, ATO): Country singer, ninth album since 1997, co-wrote half of the fourteen songs -- the Frizzell and Jones covers overdone, the others less memorable but the title mood is sustained. B+(**)

Charlie Worsham: Beginning of Things (2017, Warner Bros. Nashville): Country singer from Mississippi, studied at Berklee, second album, co-credits on 9/13 (really 12) songs, gets a nice neotrad sound but mostly wastes it -- "Southern by the Grace of God" seems more than a little dated, but is still less offensive than "Birthday Suit." B

Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): Mainstream saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano), from Brooklyn, shares a vocal with Andrea Miller, wrote three (of nine) songs, two more by his pianist Benito Gonzalez, with Keyon Harrold on trumpet, plus bass and drums. Takes nearly everything at a breakneck pace, a lot of bounce in his step. B+(**) [cd]

Mark Zaleski Band: Days, Months, Years (2016 [2017], self-released): Alto/soprano saxophonist, third album, also credited with bass, brother of pianist Glenn Zaleski (present), joined by Jon Dean on tenor sax, Mark Cocheo in guitar, and Oscar Suchanek on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): Bassist, based in Rhode Island, discography shows he's played on a dozen albums but this appears to be his first leading. Quintet, with Eric "Benny" Bloom on trumpet, Mark Tucker on tenor sax, Leo Genovese on piano, and Rafael Barata on drums, with Tucker and Genovese also contributing songs. Mostly upbeat, saxophonist gives a good accounting. B+(*) [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 [2017], Norton): I've long been a fan of Dion DiMucci's Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965), which traces his shift from doo-wop ("Ruby Ruby," "Donna the Prima Donna") to Dylan emulation, including his 1965 single "Kickin' Child" (third from the end). Columbia released two albums built around the doo-wop singles, then nothing until they mopped up in 1969 (Wonder Where I'm Bound, the title a song from this shelved album). Should at least have some historical value, but I'm with the label here: a single, a couple decent covers (not the Dylan), some really awful shit (the Dylan not the worst). C-

Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): Eleven songs, familiar and typical if most not actually written by the late country star, performed by artists of varying quality but distinctive enough they add something to the easy-going vibe that was Williams' trademark. Choice cut: Brandy Clark, "I Believe in You." [Missing on Napster: Garth Brooks, "Good Ole Boys Like Me."] B+(***)

Motörhead: Under Cöver (1992-2014 [2017], Silver Lining Music): English metal band, formed in 2015, hung it up in 2015 when bassist-auteur Lemmy Kilmister died. One of the few metal bands I've tolerated and occasionally enjoyed -- as Christgau noted in 1980, "no preening solos or blow-dried bullshit." Sure, I haven't checked all five of the A- records Christgau identified from 1984-91, but I enjoyed 2011's The World Is Yours. This compiles eleven covers, roughly half from metal bands that I've heard of but mean nothing to me, the other half from the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and David Bowie -- all sturdy enough to bear up under the extra weight. B+(***)

Old Music

Mihály Borbély Quartet: Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody (2014, BMC): This slightly earlier quartet has a different pianist, Dániel Szábo, and the leader's credits limited to saxophone and tarogato. Title song actually from Hungarian-American guitarist Attila Zoller, with the remaining pieces by unknown-to-me Hungarian-sounding names. Pretty lively, and good as the new pianist is, this one may be even better. B+(***)

Die Enttäuschung: 4 (2006 [2007], Intakt): German quartet, had an early fascination with Monk. Axel Dörner on trumpet and Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, plus second bassist (Jan Roder) and original drummer (Uli Jenneißen). Discography unclear, as 1 (2002) is different from their original (1996) eponymous album, and instead of 2 and 3 there's a second eponymous album before 4 and 5. B+(***)

Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 [2010], ESP-Disk): Guitarist, first album at 23, also credited with vocals, mandolin, flute, timpani, marimba, percussion, but what caught my attention was the three young horn players: Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. Still, those horns are generally wasted, although Lake has some moments, and gets into the label's ad hoc aesthetic with flute and percussion. B

Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 [1997], Contemporary/OJC): Second album -- Cassandranite has earlier recordings but wasn't released until 1989 -- scales back the debut's sax attack, limiting Benny Maupin to one song, with Ramon Morris on two of the three others. That should bring the trumpet out front more, but he tends to slipstream the freebop. B+(**)

Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 [1993], RED): Quintet, recorded live in Bologna, Italy, with Steve Turre (trombone/conch shells), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Tony Reedus (drums). Four cuts, first two by Shaw. B+(**)

Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 [1998], 32 Jazz): Originally on Muse, which tended to steer the trumpet player back to the mainstream, here with a sharp quintet -- Steve Turre (trombone), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Carl Allen (drums) -- playing standards, ending with a blues from Turre. B+(**)

Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Boneshaker (2012, Trost): Sax-drums-bass trio, Williams started out as a Hal Russell protégé, with Kessler was in the original Vandermark 5, with the Norwegian drummer joining many other Vandermark groups. Basically, just what the title promises. B+(***) [bc]

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:


Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 [1996], Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo

Monday, November 27, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28931 [28909] rated (+22), 391 [394] unrated (-3).

Rated count down, mostly attributable to Thanksgiving, when I fixed a small dinner: roast goose with potatoes, baked zucchini niçoise, oven-braised pumpkin, sweet and sour cabbage. All recipes were new to me, and came out as well as hoped. For dessert I made three pies: maple pecan, chocolate pecan, and key lime. For the first two, I tried two different pie shell recipes, and found the "easy" one not only not as good but also not as easy. The key lime had a graham cracker crust that came out rather crumbly, but otherwise I was very pleased.

Further disruptions over the weekend: stereo went on the blink on Saturday, which drove me to listening to so-so albums on Napster. It (for reasons currently unfathomable) started working on Sunday, but I couldn't focus, as I was cooking several Indian dishes to get an idea how several menu ideas for next week's Peace Center Annual Dinner might play out. I'll be directing dinner for sixty on Friday, December 1, and until then I expect to have very little time for music. Menu will be Indian (except for dessert), mostly because I can cook more recipes ahead of time, making the logistics relatively manageable. Still, an enormous amount of work for an amateur like myself.

The dinner work already wiped out any chance at a Weekend Roundup -- possibly the first one I've missed since Trump was elected (though I may have blocked something out -- I do recall at least one threat to throw in the towel).

Current plan is to publish November's Streamnotes on Tuesday. Not likely to have much not already in the file, and there's at least a small chance I might not get the indexing done. But it needs to get up before the end of the month, and I won't have any time after Tuesday. Still will have more records than October (current count 114).

While I'm at it, I'd like to recommend Mark E. McCormick: Some Were Paupers, Some Were Kings: Dispatches From Kansas. McCormick wrote an op-ed column at the Wichita Eagle, and this collects many of his best pieces, not least on the perennial topic of race relations. Laura Tillem helped edit and design the book, and I helped her a bit with the conversion from one hideous Microsoft format to another. By the way, McCormick will be giving the main presentation at Friday's Peace Center 25th Annual Dinner.

By the way, François Carrier sent me a note asking that I mention his crowdfunding project. I routinely ignore requests to post notices, and certainly don't want to encourage more of them, but a few years ago when I got especially flustered I wrote a mass email to everyone who was sending me CDs announcing my intent to stop reviewing. François wrote me back immediately and insisted he was going to keep sending them anyway. As you can see here, few musicians have given me more pleasure more consistently. So by all means, encourage him to play and record more.


By the way, I thought the iconic story of last week was when Trump pardoned the turkey on Thanksgiving, and said "I feel so good about myself doing this." (See Jessica Contrera.) When I first read the quote, I thought it the perfect example of his narcissism. Only when I saw the video later did the full perversity sink in. As Contrera notes, the lead up to the quote was: "Are we allowed to touch? Wow." The video looks like Trump groping the turkey as he says, "I feel so good about myself" -- his look suggesting fond remembrances of other birds he's groped.

Another iconic moment was captured in this tweet by Daniel Dale (picture here; story here):

Trump is holding this event honouring Native American code talkers, and insulting Warren as "Pocohontas," in front of a portrait of president Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act.

Very sad to see John Conyers caught up in the sex abuse scandals. He was first elected to the Congress in 1964 and was one of the first dozen House members to vote against the Vietnam War. Aside from his brief post-9/11 lapse, he has been one of the most consistent critics of American belligerence abroad, as well as a steady champion of civil rights and liberties. Not perfect, I guess -- I certainly don't like his "Pro-IP Act" -- but for a very long time one of the very best Congress had to offer.


New records rated this week:

  • Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): [r]: B+(*)
  • Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): [cd]: B
  • Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 [2017], Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely< (2017, Goldenlane): [r]: B+(*)
  • Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: A-
  • William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [dl]: A-
  • Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): [r]: C+
  • Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 [2017], American Melody): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 [2017], Norton): [r]: C-

Old music rated this week:

  • Die Enttäuschung: Die Enttäuschung 4 (2006 [2007], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (Pyroclastic): January 28
  • Angelo Divino: Love A to Z (self-released)
  • Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste: Reverso: Suite Pavel (Phonoart): February 9
  • Thiefs: Graft (Le Greffe) (Jazz & People): February 5
  • Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet: Vol. 2 (Modica Music): December 8

Monday, November 20, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28909 [28874] rated (+35), 394 [391] unrated (+3).

The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):

  1. LCD Soundsystem: American Dream [**]
  2. Aldous Harding: Party
  3. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN [A-]
  4. The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
  5. Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
  6. Thundercat: Drunk [*]
  7. The National: Sleep Well Beast [***]
  8. Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens
  9. Paradise Lost: Medusa
  10. Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
  11. Slowdive: Slowdive [*]
  12. St. Vincent: Masseduction [A-]
  13. Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator [*]
  14. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
  15. Oh Sees: Orc
  16. Nadia Reid: Preservation
  17. Ryan Adams: Prisoner [*]
  18. Spirit Adrift: Curse of Conception
  19. Richard Dawson: Peasant [B]
  20. Father John Misty: Pure Comedy [B-]

Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).

The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.

With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.

Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.

Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.

One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.


New records rated this week:

  • Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): [cd]: B-
  • Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): [r]: B
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 [2017], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 [2017], Kopasetic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 [2017], Not Two): [bc]: A-
  • Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 [2017], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 [2017], International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 [2017], Metatrope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 [2017], Hispid/PNL): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 [2017], Leo, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Shelter: Shelter (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Paula Shocron/German Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 [2017], Hatology)
  • Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 [2017], Pi): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 [2017], Loyal Label): [r]: B+(**)
  • Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 [2010], ESP-Disk): [r]: B
  • Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 [1997], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 [1993], RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 [1998], 32 Jazz): [r]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kyle Motl: Transmogrification (2016 [2017], Metatrope): title previously reviewed as Solo Contrabass, label self-released; B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 [1996], Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Airstream Artistry: Jim Riggs' Best of the TWO (UNT, 3CD)
  • Ernaldo Bernocchi: Rosebud (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (Origin)
  • David Friesen: Structures (Origin)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (Libra)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (Delmark)
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Legacy: Neil Slater at North Texas (UNT, 4CD)
  • Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk Blue (self-released): January 5
  • Nice! Jay Saunders' Best of the TWO (UNT, 2CD)
  • One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2017 (UNT)
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (OA2)
  • Perseverance: The Music of Rick DeRosa at North Texas (UNT)
  • Steve Slagle: Dedication (Panorama): January 4
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (Origin)

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Weekend Roundup

I've often heard that "politics is the art of the possible" -- the quote is most often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, who continued: "the attainable -- the art of the next best." Bismarck is best known now as the architect of the modern welfare state, something he achieved with autocratic Prussian efficiency, his generally satisfactory answer to the threat of proletarian revolution. But the earlier generations he was better known as the founder of German militarism, a bequest which less pragmatic followers parlayed into two disastrous world wars. Then, as now, the "possible" was always limited by preconceptions -- in Bismarck's case, allegiance to the Prussian nobility, which kept his innovations free of concessions to equality and democracy.

After immersing myself into the arcana of mainstream politics in the 1960s -- I used to trek to the library to read Congressional Quarterly's Weekly Reports, I subscribed to the Congressional Record, and I drew up electoral maps much like Kevin Phillips -- I pivoted and dove into the literature of the politically impossible, reading about utopian notions from Thomas More to Ignatius Donnelly to Paul Goodman (whose Utopian Essays & Practical Proposals is a title I still fancy recapitulating). But I never really lost my bearings in reality. In college I worked on the philosophy journal Telos, which taught one to always look toward ends (or goals) no matter the immediate terrain, and I studied neo-Kantians with a knack for making logic work to bridge the chasm. Later I turned into an engineer, and eventually had the epiphany that we could rationally think our way through complex political and economic problems to not necessarily ideal but much more viable solutions.

From the start I was aware of the standard and many other objections to "social engineering." No time to go into them now, but my background in engineering taught me that I have to work within the bounds of the possible, subject to the hard limits of physics and the slightly messier lessons I had learned from my major in sociology. Without really losing my early ideals -- my telos is equality, because that's the only social arrangement that is mutually agreeable, the only one that precludes scheming, strife, and needless harm -- I came to focus on little steps that nudge us in the right direction, and to reject ideas that couldn't possibly work. Thinking about this has made me a much more moderate person, without leading me to centrism or the notion that compromise is everything.

A good example of a political agenda that cannot be implemented -- indeed, one that offers nothing constructive -- was provided a while back by Alan Keys, a Republican presidential candidate whose entire world view revolved around teenagers having sex and how society needs to stop them. Maybe his analysis has some valid points, and maybe there are some paternalistic nudges that can trim back some of the statistical effects (like the rate of teen pregnancy), but nothing -- certainly no tolerable level of coercion -- can keep teenagers from being interested in sex. Of course, Keys was an outlier, even among Republican evangelicals. Only slightly more moderate is Roy Moore, who's evidently willing to carve out an exception for teens willing to have sex with himself. You might chalk that up to hypocrisy, which is common among all Americans, but is especially rife among conservatives (who regard it as a privilege of the virtuous rich) and evangelicals (who expect personal salvation for the fervor with which they damn all of you). But Moore's own agenda for making his peculiar take on Christianity the law of the land is every bit as dangerous and hopeless as Keys' obsession with teen sex.

The most chilling thing I've read in the last week was a column by Cal Thomas, Faith in Politics, where he urges conservative evangelicals to put aside their frivolous defenses of Roy Moore and go back to such fundamentals as Martin Luther's 95 Theses, where "Luther believed governments were ordained by God to restrain sinners and little else." The striking thing about this phrasing is how cleverly it forges an alliance with the libertarian right, who you'd expect to be extremely wary of God-ordained governmental restraint. But sin has always been viewed through the eyes of tyrants and their pet clergy, a "holy alliance" that has been the source of so much suffering and injustice throughout world history.

News recently has been dominated by a seemingly endless series of reports of sexual misconduct, harassment and/or assault, on all sides of the political spectrum (at least from Roy Moore to Al Franken), plus a number of entertainers and industry executives. Conservatives and liberals react to these stories differently -- aside from partisan considerations (which certainly play a part when a Senate seat is at stake), conservatives are hypocritically worked up about illicit sex, while liberals are more concerned with respecting the rights of women. Yet both sides (unless the complaint hits particularly close to home) seem to be demanding harsh punishment (see, e.g., Mark Joseph Stern: Al Franken Should Resign Immediately Michelle Goldberg and Nate Silver agree, mostly because they want to prove that Democrats are harsher and less hypocritical on sexual misconduct; indeed, instant banishment seems to have been the norm among entertainers, which Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and Jeffrey Tambor having projects canceled, as well as more delayed firings of Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and Harvie Weinstein). This drive to punish, which has long been a feature of America's notion of justice, can wind up making things worse (and not just because it could trigger a backlash, as Isaac Chotiner and Rebecca Traister discuss).

I'm sure many women have many things to object to here -- the Weinstein testimonies seem especially damning, and I suspect the hushed up Ailes and O'Reilly legacies are comparable -- but I'm finding some aspects of the whole brouhaha troubling. Sex is a messy subject, often fraught and embarrassing to negotiate, subject to wildly exaggerated hopes and fears, but inevitably a part of human nature -- I keep flashing back on Brecht's chorus: "what keeps mankind alive? bestial acts." On the other hand, we might be better off looking at power disparities (inequality), which are clearly evident in all of these cases, perhaps even more so in entertainment than in politics. I can't help but think that in a more equitable society, one that valued mutual respect and eased up a bit on arbitrary punishment, would be bothered less by these problems.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest stories in politics this week: The House passed a major tax bill ("but the House bill, as written, doesn't conform to Senate rules and clearly can't pass"); Senate Republicans drafted a tax bill ("that does conform to Senate rules at the expense of creating an even starker set of financial tradeoffs"); Bob Menendez isn't guilty (I would have said something more like "dodged conviction via mistrial"); Things are looking worse for Roy Moore. Other Yglesias posts last week:

    • Senate Republicans' tax plan raises taxes on families earning less than $75,000. The chart, clearly demonstrating how regressive the plan is, is for 2027, without showing how one gets there. To satisfy the Senate's "budget reconciliation" rules many of the tax cuts have to expire in less than ten years, so this is the end state the bill aims for, probably with the expectation that some further cuts will be renewed before they run out (as happened with the Bush cuts). So on the one hand, this exaggerates the "worst case" scenario, it also clarifies the intent behind the whole scam.

    • Watch CEOs admit they won't actually invest more if tax reform passes: Gary Cohn feigns surprise that so few CEOs raised their hands.

      The reason few hands are raised is there's little reason to believe that the kind of broad corporate income tax cut Republicans are pushing for will induce much new investment. . . . The biggest immediate winners, in fact, would be big, established companies that are already highly profitable. Apple, for example, would get a huge tax cut even though the company's gargantuan cash balance is all the proof in the world that the its investments are limited by Tim Cook's beliefs about what Apple can usefully take on, not by a limited supply of cash or a lack of profitability.

    • Bill Clinton should have resigned: "What he did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price." I've sympathized with versions of this argument -- Gary Wills has written much on how Clinton should have resigned, and I'm on record as having said that Had I been in the Senate I would have voted to convict him (less because I agreed with the actual charges than because I felt he should "pay the price" for other things he did that were wrong -- at the time I was most upset about Clinton's bombing of Iraq, something his Republican inquisitors applauded, prefiguring the 2003 Bush invasion). However, I was under the impression that whatever he did with Lewinsky was mutually consented to and should have remained private. Indeed, before Clinton (or more specifically, before the Scaife-funded investigation into Clinton) politicians' private affairs had hardly ever become objects of public concern. (I suppose Grover Cleveland, America's only bachelor president, is the exception.) Given that all US presidents have been male, you can argue that this public nonchalance is part of a longstanding patriarchal culture, but there's no reason to think that the right-wingers who went after Clinton were in any way interested in advancing feminism. Perhaps Clinton himself could have turned his resignation into a feminist talking point: Yglesias insists, "Had Clinton resigned in disgrace under pressure from his own party, that would have sent a strong, and useful, chilling signal to powerful men throughout the country." Still, I doubt that's the lesson the Republicans would have drawn. Rather, it would have shown to them that they had the power to drive a popular, charismatic president from office in disgrace using pretty flimsy evidence. While there's no reason to doubt he did it for purely selfish reasons, at the time many people were delighted that Clinton stood firm and didn't buckle under right-wing media shaming (e.g., that was the origin of the left-Democratic Move On organization). As for long-term impact, Yglesias seems to argue that had Clinton resigned, we wouldn't have found ourselves on the moral slope that led to Trump's election.

    • The tax reform debate is stuck in the 1970s: "The '70s were a crazy time," but he could be clearer about what the Republican tax cut scheme was really about, and vaguer about the Democrat response -- worry about the deficit came more after the damage was done (until they Democrats were easily tarred as advocates of "tax-and-spend"). And even though he's right that the situations are so different now that allowing companies and rich investors to keep more after-tax income is even less likely to spur job growth now, the fact is it didn't really work even when it made more sense. Here's an inadvertently amusing line: "The politics of the 1970s, after all, would have been totally different if inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and labor force growth were all low while corporate profits were high." I'd hypothesize that if corporate profits were artificially raised through political means (which is pretty much what's happened starting with the Reagan tax cuts in 1981) all those other factors would have been reduced. Increasing corporate profits even more just adds to the burden the rich already impose on us all.

  • Sean Illing: "The fish rots from the head": a historian on the unique corruption of Trump's White House: An interview with Robert Dallek, who "estimates that historical examples of corruption, like that of the Warren G. Harding administration, don't hold a candle to how Trump and his people have conducted themselves in the White House." One thing I noticed here is how small famous scandals were in comparison to things that are happening every day under Trump: e.g., Teapot Dome ("in which Harding's secretary of the interior leased Navy petroleum reserves in Wyoming and California to private oil companies at incredibly low rates without a competitive bidding process"). Isn't that exactly what Zinke is trying to do with Alaska's oil reserves? Wasn't that Zinke's rationale behind reducing several National Monuments? And how does that stack up against the monetary value of various deregulation orders (especially those by the EPA and FCC)? To get a handle on corruption today, you have to look beyond first-order matters like Trump family business and direct payoffs to the windfalls industries claim from administration largess and beyond to corporate predation that will inevitably occur as it sinks in that the Trump administration is no longer enforcing regulations and laws that previously protected the public. Even short of changing laws to encourage further predation (as Bush did with his tax cuts and "tort reform"), the Trump administration is not just profiting from but breeding corruption. Curiously, Dallek doesn't even mention the closest relatives: the Reagan administration, with its embrace of "greed is good" leading to dozens of major scandals, and the second Bush, which imploded so utterly we wound up with the deepest recession since the 1930s.

  • Cristina Cabrera: Trump Puts on Hold Controversial Rollback of Elephant Trophy Ban: In the "could be worse" department:

    The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service announced on November 16 that it was rolling back an Obama-era ban preventing the import of hunted elephants in Zimbabwe. A similar ban had also been lifted for hunted elephants in Zambia.

    The decision was met with overwhelming backlash, with both liberals and conservatives slamming the move as needlessly cruel and inhumane. The notorious photos of the President's sons posing with a dead leopard and a dismembered tail of a elephant from their hunting expeditions didn't help.

    According to the Service, it can allow such imports "only when the killing of the animal will enhance the survival of the species." African elephants are protected as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, and critics questioned the Interior Department's defense that allowing hunters to kill more of them would enhance their survival.

    To be fair to the Trump administration, "allowing hunters to kill more of them would enhance their survival" is also the common logic that binds together most key Republican initiatives, like their "repeal and replace Obamacare" and "tax cuts and jobs" acts. It's also basically why they made Betsy De Vos Secretary of Education. For more, see Tara Isabella Burton: Trump stalls controversial decision on big game hunting.

  • Alvin Chang: This simple chart debunks the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton sold uranium to Russia: The latest "lock her up" chorus, cheerleadered by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). I can't make any sense of his chart, but the simplified one is easy enough to follow (although it could use a dateline). Still, a couple of troubling points. One is why Russian state-owned Rosatom would buy a Canadian uranium country with operations in the US. Presumably it's just business, and Uranium One still sells (as well as produces) uranium in the US market. The other point is that the Clinton Foundation never has and never will cleanse itself of the stench of operating as an influence peddler with ties into the US government -- although it helps that Hillary is no longer Secretary of State or otherwise government-employed, and it will help more as Clinton's numerous political cronies move away from the family and its foundation.

  • Adam Federman: The Plot to Loot America's Wilderness: Meet Jim Cason, who "seems to be running the show" under Ryan Zinke at the Department of Interior, where he's actively cultivating what promises to be a hundred Teapot Dome scandals.

  • Brent D Griffiths: Trump on UCLA basketball players: 'I should have left them in jail': If run in The New Yorker, this article would have been filed under "Annals of Pettiness."

  • Gregory Hellman: House declares US military role in Yemen's civil war unauthorized: Vote was 366-30, declaring that intervention in Yemen is not authorized under previous "authorization of force" resolutions, including the sweeping "war on terror" resolution from 2001. The US has conducted drone attacks in Yemen well before the Saudi intervention in a civil war that grew out of Arab Spring demonstrations (although the Houthi revolt dates back even further). The US has supported the Saudi intervention verbally, with arms shipments, and with target intelligence, contributing to a major humanitarian disaster. Unfortunately, the new resolution seems to have little teeth.

  • Cameron Joseph: Norm Coleman: I'd Have Beaten Franken in '08 if Groping Photo Had Come Out: Probably. The final tally had Franken ahead by 312 votes, so Coleman isn't insisting on much of a swing. On the other hand, I don't live in Minnesota, so I don't have any real feel for how the actual 2008 campaign played out. Coleman won his seat in 2002 after Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash and was replaced by a shockingly tone-deaf Walter Mondale -- inactive in politics since 1984. Coleman's win was a fluke, and he was never very popular, but Franken had a very tough job unseating him in 2008 -- I suspect his real problem was Upton Sinclair Complex (the famous novelist ran for governor of California in 1934 and lost, in no small part because opponents could pick strange quotes from his novels and present them out of context). Franken's comedy career must have presented Coleman's handlers with a treasure trove of bad jokes and faux pas, so many that the "groping picture" might even have gotten lost in the noise. For his part, Franken bent over backwards to present himself as serious and sober, and six years later was reelected easily, by 10.4 points, an improvement suggesting many of the voters' doubts have been answered. I've never been much of a fan, either of his comedy or of how he cozied up to the military to gain a mainstream political perch. Still, I've reluctantly grown to admire his dedication and earnestness as a politician, a vocation that has lately become ever more precarious for honest folk. So I was shocked when the photo/story revealed, not so much by the content as by how eagerly the media gobbled it up. In particular, TPM, which I usually look at first when I get up for a quick summary of the latest political flaps, filed eight straight stories on Franken in their prioritized central column, to the exclusion of not just Roy Moore (who had the next three stories) but also of the House passing the Republican tax scam bill.

    A couple more links on Franken:

    In addition to Yglesias above, I'm running into more reconsiderations of Bill Clinton, basically showing that the atmosphere has changed between the 1990s and now, making Clinton look all the worse. For example:

  • Fred Kaplan: Trigger Warning: "A congressional hearing underlines the dangers posed by an unstable president with unchecked authority to launch nuclear weapons."

  • Azmat Khan/Anand Gopal: The Uncounted: Long and gruesome article on the air war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, who and what got hit, paying some attention to the mistakes that are never expected but somehow always occur whenever the US goes to war.

    Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike -- 103 in all -- in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014. . . .

    We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting, moreover, revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes, people like Basim Razzo, remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names.

  • Mike Konczal: Republicans are weaponizing the tax code: Key fact here: "Corporations are flush with cash from large profits and aggressively low interest rates, yet they aren't investing." This belies any pretense that cutting corporate tax rates. Without any real growth prospects, the cuts not only favor the rich, the other changes are meant to penalize everyone else, moving into the realm of class war ("capital is eating the economy").

    The crucial thing to realize is that this tax reform effort reflects more than the normal conservative allergic reaction to progressive taxation -- going far beyond undoing the modest progressive grains achieved by Presidents Obama and Clinton. Three major changes stand out: These taxes are far more focused on owners than on workers, even by Republican standards. They take advantage of the ambiguity of what counts as income, weaponizing that vagueness to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

    And after years of pushing for a safety net that works through the tax code, in order to keep more social democratic reforms at bay, Republicans now reveal their willingness to demolish even those modest protections. Their actions make clear that a welfare state based on tax credits and refunds, rather than universal commitments, is all too vulnerable.

    More links on taxes:

  • Josh Marshall: There's a Digital Media Crush. But No One Will Say It: The key sentence here is "The move to video is driven entirely by advertiser demand." The reasoning behind this is left unexplained, but obviously it's because advertising embedded in videos is more intrusive than static space advertising. Part of this is that it's harder for users to block as well as ignore, for the same reason radio and television advertising are more intrusive than print advertising. They're also dumber, because they don't have to offer something useful like information to catch your attention. If past experience is any guide, it also leads to a dumbing down of content, which eventually will make the content close to worthless. This is all bad news for media companies hoping to make bucks off the Internet, and more so for writers trying to scratch out a living from those companies. But more than anything else, it calls into question the public value of an information system based on advertising. From the very beginning, media dependent on advertising have been corrupted by it, and that's only gotten worse as advertisers have gained leverage and targeting data. Concentration of media business only makes this worse, but even if we could reverse the latter -- breaking up effective monopolies and monopsonies and restoring "net neutrality" rules -- we should be questioning the very idea of public information systems built on advertising.

  • Dylan Matthews: Senate Republicans are making it easier to push through Trump's judge picks: Technically, this is about "blue slips," which is one of those undemocratic rules which allow individual Senators to flout their power, but few things in the Republican agenda are more precious to them (or their donors) than packing the courts with verified movement conservatives.

  • Andrew Prokop/Jen Kirby: The Republican Party's Roy Moore catastrophe, explained. A couple impressions here. For one, their listing of Moore's "extremist views" seem pretty run-of-the-mill -- things that some 15-20% of Americans might if not agree with him at least find untroubling. I suspect this understates his extremism, especially on issues of religious freedom, where he has staked out his turf as a Christian nationalist. Second, I've been under the impression that his sexual misdeeds were in the range of harassment (compounded by the youth of his victims, as young as 14), but at least one of the complaints reads like attempted assault -- the girl in question was 16, and when Moore broke off the attack, he allegedly said to the girl: "You are a child. I am the Dictrict Attorney of Etowah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you." I reckon it as progress that such charges are highly credible now. As for the effect these revelations may have on the election, note: "A recent poll even showed that 29 percent of the state's voters say the allegations make them more likely to vote for Moore."

    Also on Moore:

  • Corey Robin: Trump's Fantasy Capitalism: "How the president undermines Republicans' traditional economic arguments." Robin, by the way, has a new edition of his The Reactionary Mind book out, the subtitle Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump as opposed to the original Sarah Palin. For reviews, see John Holbro and Paul Rosenberg.

  • Grant Schulte/James Nord: Oil Leak Will Not Factor Into Decision to Expand Keystone Pipeline: Of course, because right after a 250,000 gallon oil leak time is no time to talk about how approving a pipeline could lead to more oil leaks. Also, note how the authors had to walk back one of their more outrageous claims:

    This version of the story corrects that there have been 17 leaks the same size or larger than the Keystone spill instead of 17 larger than this spill. One of the spills was the same size.

  • Matt Taibbi: RIP Edward Herman, Who Co-Wrote a Book That's Now More Important Than Ever: The book, co-authored by Noam Chomsky, is Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, originally published in 1988.

    The really sad part about the Herman/Chomsky thesis was that it didn't rely upon coercion or violence. Newspapers and TV channels portrayed the world in this America-centric way not because they were forced to. Mostly, they were just intellectually lazy and disinterested in the stated mission of their business, i.e., telling the truth.

    In fact, media outlets were simply vehicles for conveying ads, and a consistent and un-troubling view of the political universe was a prerequisite for selling cars, candy bars, detergent, etc. Upset people don't buy stuff. This is why Sunday afternoon broadcasts featured golf tournaments and not police beatings or reports from cancer wards near Superfund sites.

    The news business was about making money, and making money back then for big media was easy. So why make a fuss?

    It occurs to me that the big money isn't so easy any more, which helps explain the air of desperation that hangs over cable and internet news outlets these days -- their need to provoke fear and stoke fights, building up an air of loyalty. One even suspects that Fox gravitated to right-wing politics less because of its sponsorship than due to a psychological profile of a sizable audience that could be captured. As Taibbi concludes, "It's a shame [Herman] never wrote a sequel. Now more than ever, we could use another Manufacturing Consent."

    By the way, while Herman and Chomsky identified "anti-communism" as their "fifth filter," that should be generalized to denigrating anyone on the US list of bad countries or movements -- especially the routine characterization of Russia, Iran, and Venezuela as non-democracies, even though all three have elections that are arguably fairer and freer than America's 2016 election. One consequence of this is that American media has lost all credibility in many of these nations. For example, see Oleg Kashin: When Russians stopped believing in the Western media.

  • Zephyr Teachout: The Menendez trial revealed everything that's gone wrong with US bribery law: The corruption case against Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) ended in a hung jury mistrial, even short of the appeals process which has severely weakened most anti-corruption laws.

    I'm with the jury: Even after closely following the trial, I have no strong view on Menendez's guilt or innocence, given the laws they have to work with. I do have a view, however, that the Supreme Court has been playing a shell game with corruption laws. It has stripped anti-corruption legislation of its power in two areas: campaign finance laws and anti-bribery laws. The public is left with little recourse against a growing threat of corruption. Whatever happens with this particular case, this is no way to do corruption law. . . .

    It is fitting that the trial ended with a hung jury. The Court has struck down so many laws that would have made this case easier. If laws prohibiting Super PACs were still in place, we'd have no $600,000 donation. But in the very case enabling Super PACs, Citizens United, the Court suggested that bribery laws would be powerful tools to combat corruption threats -- and then went ahead and weakened those laws. . . .

    Was it friendship? Was it corrupt? Or was it our fault for creating a system that encourages "friendships" that blur the line?

Monday, November 13, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28874 [28842] rated (+32), 391 [396] unrated (-5).

Tis the season when most critics (and especially their publishers) start thinking about year-end lists. I expect that before the month is out I'll take my first pass at constructing this year's version of last year's Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. To that end, I started taking a belated look at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 list, and picked out a few things to check out (most successfully, St. Vincent's 8th-rated Masseduction). I sought out several albums from Robert Christgau's recent Expert Witness albums (Pere Ubu's 20 Years in a Montant Missile Silo the only thing I've really liked there recently). I also made a point of looking up everything I had missed on Alfred Soto's Best albums of 2017 -- third quarter edition. Rather surprised I didn't find more there.

The present Year 2017 file lists 834 albums (28 of those pending grades). That's down from 1075 for 2016 by freeze time (January 28, 2017). Figuring I have 11 weeks left, and I've averaged 18.1 new releases per week over the first 46 weeks, that extrapolates to 1033 records: down a bit from last year, but not much. Down more from previous years, of course, but I won't bother dredging those numbers up.

I finally got a bit of work done on compiling the Jazz Guide(s): 21st Century up to 1267 pages (64% through the Jazz '00s database file, up to Ferenc Nemeth); 20th Century edged up to 750 pages as I found a couple stragglers. 21st Century should wind up 1450-1500 pages, hopefully by the end of the year. (So much for my earlier August-September estimates!) Thinking a bit about what should happen next. The drafts are collected using LibreOffice. Obviously, I can export them as PDF, and distribute them as I did the JCG-only version. I don't know the first thing about exporting to ebook formats, but I see there is a Writer2ePub extension, and also a "cross-platform free and open-source e-book reader and word processor" called Calibre. Both of those look promising.

It occurs to me that the collected writing would be more useful reorganized as a website. LibreOffice can export as HTML, but I'd need some way to explode the file into many webpages. It's possible that there is an extension somewhere to support that, but thus far is looks like a job for custom programming. That's something I'll need to look into and think about -- not that I haven't thought about pouring my database and reviews into a website for a long time now. It's just that I've always had trouble coming up with an album-based database schema to hang everything on. In recent years I've been gravitating more toward an artist-based schema, even though it doesn't normalize as nicely. That's probably the level I'd try to explode an HTML export of the Jazz Guides. One idea is to dispense with the database and just use Mediawiki, organizing the reviews by artist. In that case one could simply cut and paste from the book to the website. That would still be a lot of work.

More troubling for me is the amount of editing that the reviews require. The relatively easy part is stripping out the redundancy that occurs when discrete reviews are stacked up under an artist name. I expect to move dates, instruments, band associations, and other such attributes to a brief artist intro, cutting them out of the album reviews. In many cases that leaves virtually nothing but the credits and grade. It would be nice to flesh them out a bit, but that now appears to be a job for another lifetime, or for someone else. At this point, I'd be happy to let my framework stand as a starting point for someone else to build on, or maybe a whole community. Unclear whether anyone is interested.


One thing I neglected to mention last week was Downbeat's 82nd Annual Readers Poll (October 2017 issue). Biggest surprise for me was the late Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017) finishing second on the HOF ballot. I had him filed under rock (1970s) and hadn't rated (or heard) any of his albums. Wikipedia says he "was cited as an influence by a host of rock, metal and jazz guitarists" but the following list of twelve only includes one name I recognize as jazz (Kurt Rosenwinkel). I suppose I should do some research, possibly starting with Gordon Beck's Sunbird (1979; Beck's 1967 Experiments With Pops, with 3rd place finisher John McLaughlin, is a favorite) and two Tony Williams albums not yet in my database.

McLaughlin would have been a perfectly respectable choice. I've heard at least two dozen of his albums, with Extrapolation (1969) and Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) early masterpieces. Fourth- and fifth-place finishers Les Paul and George Benson would have been disgraceful picks, although I can point to at least one superb record each is on.

The HOF winner, Wynton Marsalis, is a ho-hum choice: a solid hard bop trumpeter, probably better than Kenny Dorham or maybe even Woody Shaw but less exciting than Lee Morgan and not as versatile as Freddie Hubbard. He also became a huge celebrity, built an empire at Lincoln Center, and wrote some of the most ponderous compositions of the era. I've always liked him best when he was least serious. I credit him with three A- records: his soundtrack Tune In Tomorrow (1990); his Jelly Roll Morton tribute, Mr. Jelly Lord (1999); and his Play the Blues meetup with Eric Clapton (2011). Dorham and Shaw, by the way, have two A- records each, in shorter careers.

Elsewhere, the winners were on the stodgy side of mainstream -- the relatively hip picks were Chris Potter (tenor sax), Anat Cohen (clarinet), and I can never fault Jack DeJohnette (drums). Two flat out bad picks: Snarky Puppy (group), and Trombone Shorty (trombone). (Well, Gregory Porter too, but consider his competition.) I don't have time to go deeper down the lists, but for example, Marsalis won trumpet, and I'd have to drop to 13th to find someone I would have voted for ahead of him (in fact did: Wadada Leo Smith; Dave Douglas came in 15th; 4th-place Terence Blanchard gave me pause).

Only other down-ballot pick I'll mention is Geri Allen, who came in 3rd at piano. Would have been a pleasant surprise, but she died to get there, and still got beat by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, who haven't produced exceptional albums since the early 1970s (OK, I did rather like Corea's 2014 Trilogy).


New records rated this week:

  • 2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017, Def Jam): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nicole Atkins: Goodnight Rhonda Lee (2017, Single Lock): [r]: B
  • Big Thief: Capacity (2017, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(**)
  • Corey Christiansen: Dusk (2015 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (2016 [2017], Anzic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Miley Cyrus: Younger Now (2017, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 [2017], Kopasetic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lee Gamble: Mnestic Pressure (2017, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Howe Gelb: Future Standards (2016 [2017], Fire): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tee Grizzley: My Moment (2017, 300/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kelela: Take Me Apart (2017, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Billy Lester Trio: Italy 2016 (2016 [2017], Ultra Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo (2015 [2017], Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Roy McGrath: Remembranzas (2017, JL Music): [cd]: B
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (2017, New World): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The National: Sleep Well Beast (2017, 4AD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (2017, Cherry Red): [r]: A-
  • Pink: Beautiful Trauma (2017, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lee Ranaldo: Electric Trim (2017, Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rostam: Half-Light (2017, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
  • Romeo Santos: Golden (2017, Sony Latin): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love (2017, Static Shock): [r]: B+(**)
  • Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (2017, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • St. Vincent: Masseduction (2017, Loma Vista): [r]: A-
  • Gabriele Tranchina: Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes (2017, Rainchant Eclectic): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mark Wingfield/Markus Reuter/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2016 [2017], Moonjune): [cd]: B
  • Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Worsham: Beginning of Things (2017, Warner Bros. Nashville): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Motörhead: Under Cover (1992-2014 [2017], Silver Lining Music): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks (sorry I forgot to post last week):

  • Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (Not Two)
  • Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (self-released)
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (FMR)
  • Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (Scat Cat)
  • David's Angels: Traces (Kopasetic)
  • Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (Intakt)
  • Brad Garton/Dave Soldier: The Brainwave Music Project (Mulatta): January 5
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (Moserobie)
  • Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (Intakt)
  • Nick MacLean Quartet: Rites of Ascension (Browntasaurus)
  • Negative Press Project: Eternal Life: Jeff Buckley Songs and Sounds (Ridgeway)
  • Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (Pi)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Veterans of Jazz (self-released)

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Weekend Roundup

Matt Taibbi is a dedicated, insightful journalist and a terrific writer, but ever since the 2016 campaign started he's repeatedly gotten tripped up by having to meet advance deadlines for Rolling Stone that have left many of his pieces dated on arrival. His latest is especially unfortunate: A Year After Trump's Election, Nothing Has Changed. The factoid he chose to build his article around was a recent poll arguing that 12 months later, Trump would probably still win the 2016 election. The assumption is that Trump is still running against Hillary Clinton. Trump, of course, has been in the news every day since the election, and is already raising money for 2020 and making rally appearances in active campaigning mode. Aside from her self-serving, self-rationalizing book tour Clinton has largely dropped out of site, conceding she's not running again, and not scoring any points attacking Trump -- not that Trump's stopped attacking her, most recently accusing her of being the real "Russia colluder." Still, the poll in question shows Trump and Clinton in a dead 40-40 tie -- i.e., both candidates are doing worse than they did one year ago, but in the interest of sensationalism, the author gives Trump the tiebreaker ("Given that Trump overperformed in key, blue-leaning swing states, that means he'd probably have won again.")

As it happens, Taibbi's article was written before and appeared after the 2017 elections where Democrats swept two gubernatorial races (in VA and NJ), and picked up fairly dramatic gains in down-ballot elections all over the country. For details, start with FiveThirtyEight's What Went Down on Election Night 2017. Nate Silver explains further:

Democrats had a really good night on Tuesday, easily claiming the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, flipping control of the Washington state Senate and possibly also the Virginia House of Delegates, passing a ballot measure in Maine that will expand Medicaid in the state, winning a variety of mayoral elections around the country, and gaining control of key county executive seats in suburban New York.

They also got pretty much exactly the results you'd expect when opposing a Republican president with a 38 percent approval rating.

That's not to downplay Democrats' accomplishments. Democrats' results were consistent enough, and their margins were large enough, that Tuesday's elections had a wave-like feel. That includes how they performed in Virginia, where Ralph Northam won by considerably more than polls projected. When almost all the toss-up races go a certain way, and when the party winning those toss-up races also accomplishes certain things that were thought to be extreme long shots (such as possibly winning the Virginia House of Delegates), it's almost certainly a reflection of the national environment.

Silver also notes:

  • President Trump's approval rating is only 37.6 percent.
  • Democrats lead by approximately 10 points on the generic Congressional ballot.
  • Republican incumbents are retiring at a rapid pace; there were two retirements (from New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo and Texas Rep. Ted Poe) on Tuesday alone.
  • Democrats are recruiting astonishing numbers of candidates for Congress.
  • Democrats have performed well overall in special elections to the U.S. Congress, relative to the partisanship of those districts; they've also performed well in special elections to state legislatures.
  • The opposition party almost always gains ground at midterm elections. This is one of the most durable empirical rules of American politics.

The thing I find most striking about these election results is the unity Democrats showed. Mainstream Democrats still bitch about lefties who defected to Ralph Nader in 2000, but as someone who remembers how mainstream Democrats sandbagged McGovern in 1972 (and who's read about how Bryan was repeatedly voted down after 1896), I've long been more concerned about how "centrists" might break if anyone on the left wins the Democratic Party nomination. Yet last week saw a remarkably diverse group of Democrats triumphant. The lesson I take away from the results is that most voters have come to realize is that the problem isn't just Trump and some of his ilk but the whole Republican Party, and that the only hope people have is to unite behind the Democrats, regardless of whether they zig left or zag right. Especially after last week's flap over Donna Brazile's book Hacks, that's good news.

It's also news that belies Taibbi's main thesis: not so much that nothing has changed in the year since Trump's shocking election win as the charge that we're still responding as stupidly to Trump as we did during the campaign. On the former, the administration's worker bees have torn up thousands of pages of regulations meant to protect us from predatory business, major law enforcement organizations have been reoriented to persecute immigrants while ignoring civil rights and antitrust, and the judiciary is being stock with fresh right-wingers. The full brunt of those changes may not have sunk in -- they certainly haven't hit all their intended victims yet -- but even if you fail to appreciate the threats these changes have a way of becoming tangible very suddenly. And given how Republican health care proposals polled down around 20%, you may need to rethink your assumptions about how dumb and gullible the American people are.

Republican proposals on "tax reform" are polling little better than their effort to wreck health care. This polling is helping to stall the agenda, but Republicans in Congress are so ideological, and so beholden to their sponsors, that most are willing to buck and polls and follow their orders. What we've needed all year has been for elections to show Republicans that their choices have consequences, and hopefully that's started to happen now.

But whereas the first half of Taibbi's article can be blamed on bad timing, the second half winds up being even more annoying:

Despising Trump and his followers is easy. What's hard is imagining how we put Humpty Dumpty together again. This country is broken. It is devastated by hate and distrust. What is needed is a massive effort at national reconciliation. It will have to be inspired, delicate and ingenious to work. Someone needs to come up with a positive vision for the entire country, one that is more about love and community than blame.

That will probably mean abandoning the impulse to continually litigate the question of who is worse, Republicans or Democrats. . . . The people running the Democratic Party are opportunists and hacks, and for as long as the despicable and easily hated Trump is president, that is what these dopes will focus on, not realizing that most of the country is crying out for something different.

Well, I'm as eager as the next guy for a high-minded conversation about common problems and reasonable solutions, but that's not what politics is about these days (and probably never was). But let's face it, the immediate problem is that one side's totally unprincipled and totally unreasonable, and the only way past that is to beat that side down so severely no one ever dares utter "trickle down" again. They need to get beat down as bad as the Nazis in WWII -- so bad the stink of collaboration much less membership takes generations to wash off. Then maybe we can pick up the pieces.

As for the "hacks and opportunists," sure they are, but they're approachable in ways the Republicans simply aren't. I've seen good people, hard-working activists, come into Wichita for years and urge us to go talk to our Congressman, as if the person in that office (remember, we're talking about Todd Tiahrt, Mike Pompeo, and Ron Estes) was merely misinformed but fundamentally reasonable. I've met plenty of hacks and opportunists who are at least approachable, but not these guys. They've sold their souls, and they're never coming back.

By the way, Thomas Frank's article on the Trump Day anniversary runs into pretty much the same problem: We're still aghast at Donald Trump -- but what good has that done? Well, the American political system doesn't give you a lot of latitude to repair a botched election -- everyone in office has fixed terms, the option of signing recall petitions is very limited (and doesn't apply to Trump), impeachment is virtually impossible without massive Republican defections -- so sometimes being constantly aghast is all one can do. And while the last three US presidents had their share of intractably obsessive opponents, they pale to the numbers of people constantly on Trump's case. Frank wants to minimize our effect, not least because he wants us to consider bigger, wider, deeper, older faults that Trump makes worse but isn't uniquely responsible for.

Trump's sins are continuous with the last 50 years of our history. His bigotry and racist dog-whistling? Conservatives have been doing that since forever. His vain obsession with ratings, his strutting braggadocio? Welcome to the land of Hollywood and pro wrestling.

His tweeting? The technology is new, but the urge to evade the mainstream media is not. His outreach to working-class voters? His hatred of the press? He lifts those straight from his hero Richard Nixon. His combination of populist style with enrich-the-rich policies? Republicans have been following that recipe since the days of Ronald Reagan. His "wrecking crew" approach to government, which made the cover of Time magazine last week? I myself made the same observation, under the same title, about the administration of George W Bush.

The trends Trump personifies are going to destroy this country one of these days. They've already done a hell of a job on the middle class.

But declaring it all so ghastly isn't going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House. Waving a piece of paper covered with mean words in Trump's face won't make him retreat to his tower in New York. To make him do that you must understand where he comes from, how he operates, why his supporters like him, and how we might coax a few of them away.

The parade of the aghast will have none of that. Strategy is not the goal; a horror-high is. And so its practitioners routinely rail against Trump's supporters along with Trump himself, imagining themselves beleaguered by a country they no longer understand nor particularly like.

As an engineer, I've long related to the idea that you have to understand something to change it -- at least to change it in a deliberate and viable way -- but politics doesn't seem to work that way. For nearly all of my life, the most powerful political motivator has been disgust. And while that may seem like a recent bad trend, I pretty clearly remember characters like Dick Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and George Wallace. So it really doesn't bother me when people are simply aghast at Trump without understanding the fine points. Sure, at some point we need to get a better idea of what to do, but all the present situation demands is resistance, and as people line up to defend and demean Trump, those connections Frank wants us to learn are getting made.


My tweet for the day:

Wasn't #VeteransDay originally Armistice Day (a celebration of peace at the end of an unprecedentedly horrific war)? I guess when the US went to a permanent war footing, they had to rename it.


Some scattered links this week:

-- next