Blog Entries [0 - 9]
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Last week's 6-candidate mini-debate reminded us that the Iowa Caucuses
are fast approaching: February 3. It will be the first opportunity any
Americans have to vote for candidates, the remnants of a field that has
been reduced by half mostly through the whims of donors and the media.
Unfortunately, the Americans voting will be Iowans. I was reminded of
this by John Kerry, campaigning these days for Joe Biden. Kerry scored
a surprise win in Iowa in 2004, kicking off an ill-fated campaign that
resulted in a second term for GW Bush and Dick Cheney. As I recall, a
lot of weight then was put on the idea of "electability," with many of
Kerry's supporters figuring that Kerry's military record would sway
voters against Bush. They miscalculated then, yet they're still in
position to choose our fates.
I've been rather sanguine about the Democratic nominating process
so far, but closing in on the start of actual voting, everyone is
starting to get on my nerves. Even Sanders, who has by far the best
analyses and positions, and the most steadfast character, but who
I fear the media will never respect much less accept, and who will
be hounded repeatedly with mistruths and misunderstandings. (The
articles below that explicitly call out CNN will give you pretty
glaring examples of what I mean.) Even Warren seems to have decided
that the way to gain (or save) votes from Sanders is by resorting
to half-truths and innuendo. I discuss one example below, but the
whole pre-debate dust-up reflects very poorly on her, not least
because it was done in ways that leave scars over trivial issues.
Meanwhile Biden seems to be getting a free pass as he's blundering
I haven't been bothered much by the so-called moderates' plans,
because no matter who wins it's effectively the right-most half of
the party in Congress that will be passing laws and setting policy.
But it does bother me that they've spent so much time trashing
Medicare for All. In don't have a problem advocating half-measures
to ameliorate the present system here and there, and figure that
as a practical matter that's how reform will have to happen, but
even the most reticent Democrat should realize that single-payer
would be a better solution, and is a necessary goal. They really
should acknowledge that, even if they doubt its practicality. But
instead they're attacking it on grounds of costs and/or choice,
which is simply ignorant.
I'm also rather sick of the "electability" issue, not least
because I'm convinced that no one really understands the matter,
because it's unprovable (except too late), and because it invites
strong opinions based on nothing more than gut instincts. Still,
I write about it several places below. Clearly, I have my own
opinions on the matter, but can offer no more proof for them
than you can for yours. I only wish to add here that one more
thing I believe is that the election will turn not on whether
the Democrats nominate one candidate or another but on whether
Americans are so sick and tired of Trump they'll vote for any
Democrat to spare themselves. And in that case, why not pick
the better Democrat?
Some scattered links this week:
Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates.
Who do record ocean temperatures matter?
Bernie Sanders's lonely 2017 battle to stop Iran sanctions and save the
Trump's evil is contagious: "The president has shown us exactly what
happens when good people do nothing."
Lisa Friedman/Claire O'Neill:
Who controls Trump's environmental policy?: "Among 20 of the most
powerful people in government environment jobs, most have ties to the
fossil fuel industry or have fought against the regulations they are
now supposed to enforce." Names, faces, resumes. E.g., David Dunlap,
Deputy head of science policy at EPA, former chemicals expert for
Koch Industries, earlier VP of the Chlorine Institute (representing
producers and distributors); currently oversees EPA's pollution and
toxic chemical research.
Dan Froomkin:, in a series called Press Watch:
The willful ambiguity of Putin's latest power grab.
Why do Trump supporters support Trump? Book review of Michael Lind:
The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite.
A fairly critical one, as the reviewer thinks Lind is a bit gullible
when he attributes economic fears to Trump voters.
Yes, the UK media's coverage of Meghan Markle really is racist. We
just finished streaming this season of The Crown, which reaffirmed
our understanding that the British monarchy is a preposterous institution
inhabited by ridiculous people. The series reached the 25-year mark in
Elizabeth II's reign, finding her lamenting the steady decline of the
nation and the decay of its imperial pretensions, to which we could only
add that the next 25 (actually 40 now) years would be even worse for
British pretensions of grandeur. Few things interest me less than the
bickerings of the Windsors, or surprise me less than that the few who
still cling to monarchist fantasies would resort to racism when pushed
into a corner. Indeed, back in the 1990s when I worked for a while in
England, I was repeatedly struck by the casual racism of white Brits
(even those quick to frown on American racism).
Phyllis Bennis on Dem debate: Support for combat troop withdrawal is
not enough to stop endless wars. Bennis noted:
You know, I think one of the things that was important to see last
night was that all of the Democratic candidates, including the right
wing of the group, as well as the progressives, as well as Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were vying with each other essentially
to see who could be more critical of the Iraq War. They all have said
that at various points, but last night it was very overt that this
was a critical point of unity for these candidates. Now, whether that
says much about the prospects for the Democratic Party is not so
clear, but I thought that was an important advance, that there's a
recognition of where the entire base of half this country is, which
is strongly against wars.
The center blows itself up: Care and spite in the 'Brexit election'.
"Flood the zone with shit": How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy:
"The impeachment trial probably won't change any minds. Here's why." Not
his usual interview piece (although he cites interviews along the way).
Makes many important points; for example:
As Joshua Green, who wrote a biography of Bannon, explained, Bannon's
lesson from the Clinton impeachment in the 1990s was that to shape the
narrative, a story had to move beyond the right-wing echo chamber and
into the mainstream media. That's exactly what happened with the
now-debunked Uranium One story that dogged Clinton from the beginning
of her campaign -- a story Bannon fed to the Times, knowing that the
supposedly liberal paper would run with it because that's what
mainstream media news organizations do.
In this case, Bannon flooded the zone with a ridiculous story not
necessarily to persuade the public that it was true (although surely
plenty of people bought into it) but to create a cloud of corruption
around Clinton. And the mainstream press, merely by reporting a story
the way it always has, helped create that cloud.
You see this dynamic at work daily on cable news. Trump White House
adviser Kellyanne Conway lies. She lies a lot. Yet CNN and MSNBC have
shown zero hesitation in giving her a platform to lie because they see
their job as giving government officials -- even ones who lie -- a
Even if CNN or MSNBC debunk Conway's lies, the damage will be done.
Fox and right-wing media will amplify her and other falsehoods; armies
on social media, bot and real, will, too (@realDonaldTrump will no doubt
chime in). The mainstream press will be a step behind in debunking --
and even the act of debunking will serve to amplify the lies.
Australia's weird weather is getting even weirder.
Joe Biden is still the frontrunner but he doesn't have to be.
"Biden is surviving on the myth that he's the most electable Democrat.
The Democratic debates' biggest (electoral) losers, by the numbers.
Elizabeth Warren usually makes well-reasoned arguments to advance
carefully thought-out plans, but I found her debate point on the
superior electability of women (or maybe just Amy Klobuchar and
herself) to be remarkably specious and disingenuous. She said:
I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at
people's winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look
at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections.
The only people on this stage who have won every single election
that they've been in are the women, Amy and me.
She went on to add that she was "the only person on this stage
who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30
years." The time limit was especially critical there, as Bernie
Sanders defeated an incumbent Republican to win his House seat
in November 1990 -- 30 years ago, if you do some rounding up.
The time limit also excluded Joe Biden from comparison, as his
first Senate win (defeating Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs),
was in 1972, 48 years ago. One could also point out that Warren's
win over "Republican incumbent" Scott Brown in 2012 wasn't really
an upset: Brown had freakishly won a low turnout special election
in 2010 in a heavily Democratic state -- the only one that had
rejected Reagan in 1984, one that hadn't elected a Republican to
the Senate since Edward Brooke (1967-79) -- which made him easy
pickings in 2012.
PolitiFact ruled that Warren's quoted statement was true, but
the only way they got to 10 was by counting three "ran and lost
for president" elections -- two for Biden (1988 and 2008), one
for Sanders (2016). Sanders had 6 of the other 7 losses, all from
early in his career, the House race in 1988 (against Peter Smith,
who he beat in 1990). The other loss was Pete Buttigieg's first
race, in 2010 for Indiana state treasurer, against a Republican
incumbent in a solidly Republican state. One could say lots of
things about this data set, but Warren's interpretation is very
peculiar and self-serving -- so much so I was reminded of the
classic sociology text, How to Lie With Statistics.
If you know anything about statistics, it's that sample size
and boundary conditions are critical. Comparing two women against
four men (one who's never run before, the other much younger so
he's only managed three races, two of them for mayor) isn't much
of a sample. The 30-years limit reduces it even more, excluding
a period when Biden and Sanders were undefeated. That's a lot of
tinkering just to make a point which is beside the point anyway.
When I go back to Warren's quote, the first thing that strikes me
is that the premise is unproven ("the best way to talk about who
can win is by looking at people's winning record") and frankly
suspect. I can think of dozens of counterexamples even within
narrowly constrained contexts, but that just distracts from the
larger problem: that running for president is vastly different
from running for Senator or Mayor. (Biden's experience running
for VP may count for something here, but not much.) Moreover,
running against Trump poses unique challenges, just because he's
so very different (as a campaigner, at least) from the Republicans
these candidates have faced and (more often than not) beat in the
past. In fact, the only data point we have viz. Trump is the 2016
presidential election, which showed that Hillary Clinton could not
beat him (at least in 2016 -- and please spare me the popular vote
numbers). Indeed, based on history, we cannot know what it takes
to beat Donald Trump, but if you wish to pursue that inquiry, all
you can really do is construct some metric of how similar each of
the candidates is to Clinton. Even there, the most obvious points
are likely to be misleading: Clinton is a woman, and had a long
career as a Washington insider cozy to business interests (like,
well, I hardly need to attach names here). On the other hand,
Trump today isn't the same as Trump in 2016. Still, there is
some data on this question, not perfect, but better than the
mental gymnastics Warren is offering: X-vs-Trump polls, which
pretty consistently show Biden and/or Sanders as the strongest
head-to-head anti-Trump candidates. Maybe they could falter
under the intense heat of a Trump assault. Maybe some other
candidate, once they become better known, could do as well.
But at least that polling is based on real, relevant data --
a far cry from Warren's ridiculous debate argument.
: Brown got 51.9% of 2,229,039 votes in 2010; in 2012, with
Obama at the head of the ticket, Warren got 53.7% of 3,154,394
votes, so turnout in the special election was only 70.6% of what
it was in the regular election. Aside from the turnout difference,
Obama/Biden carried Massachusetts in 2012 with 60.7%, leading
Warren by 7 points -- one could say she coasted in on their
coattails. Warren did raise her margin in 2018, to 60.4%, a bit
better than Clinton's 60.0% in 2016.
No Senator is less popular in their own state than Susan Collins:
Yeah, but when she loses in 2020, she'll never have to go there again.
She can hang her shingle out as a lobbyist and start collecting the
delayed gratuities she is owed for selling out her constituents and
what few morals she ever seemed to profess.
New evidence shows a Nunes aide in close conversation with Parnas.
Trump signed a "phase one" trade deal with China. Here's what's in it --
and what's not.
The case for Elizabeth Warren: Second in Vox's slow release of
"best-case" arguments for presidential candidates, following
Matthew Yglesias on Bernie Sanders.
Joe Biden's agreeable, terrific, very good, not at all bad week.
But, by all appearances, the fact that Biden is no longer capable of
speaking in proper English sentences will be no impediment to his
political success -- in the Democratic primary, anyway.
Bernie isn't trying to start a class war. The rich are trying to finish
Trump tax cuts gave $18 billion bonus to big banks in 2019.
Bernie Sanders' foreign policy is too evidence-based for the Beltway's
The fundamental cause of all this rabid irrationality is simple: America's
foreign-policy consensus is forged by domestic political pressures, not
the dictates of reason. Saudi Arabia's oil reserves may no longer be
indispensable to the U.S. economy, but its patronage remains indispensable
to many a D.C. foreign-policy professional. Israel may no longer be a
fledgling nation-state in need of subsidization, but it still commands
the reflexive sympathy of a significant segment of the U.S. electorate.
Terrorism may not actually be a top-tier threat to Americans' public
safety, but terrorist attacks generate more media coverage than fatal
car accidents or deaths from air pollution, and thus, are a greater
political liability than other sources of mass death. And the Pentagon
may have spent much of the past two decades destabilizing the Middle
East and green-lighting spectacularly exorbitant and ill-conceived
weapons systems, but the military remains one of America's only trusted
institutions, and its contracts supply a broad cross section of capital
with easy profits, and a broad cross section of American workers with
5 takeaways from the Democratic debate in Iowa:"
- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's friendship has seen better days.
- In hindsight, Joe Biden probably shouldn't have voted for the Iraq War.
- Tom Steyer wants you to know that he will put his children's future above
"marginal improvements for working people." [This, by the way, is an
unfair and misleading dig at Steyer for opposing USMCA. Given that
Steyer is famous as a billionaire, you might think "his children's
future" has something to with the estate tax, but (like Sanders) he
is rejecting USMCA for its failure to make any positive step toward
limiting climate change.]
- Amy Klobuchar made one-half of a very good point. [But only as part
of "an argument against tuition-free public college."]
- Iowans' fetishization of politeness (and/or, the Democratic field's
political cowardice) is a huge gift to Biden.
Jim Naureckas/Julie Hollar:
The big loser in the Iowa debate? CNN's reputation.
Heather Digby Parton:
Lev Parnas spins wild tales of Trumpian corruption -- and we know most
of them are true.
Trump targets Michelle Obama's signature school nutrition guidelines on
Lev Parnas's dramatic new claims about Trump and Ukraine, explained.
One-term presidents: Will Donald Trump end up on this ignominious
list? Various things I'd qibble with, starting with "the list
starts out well" -- I'd agree that John Adams and John Quincy Adams
were great Americans with mostly distinguished service careers, but
the former's Alien and Sedition Acts were one of the most serious
assaults ever on democracy, and his lame duck period was such a
disgrace that Trump will be hard-pressed to top -- and his decision
to omit one-termers who didn't run for a second, like the lamentable
John Buchanan. But this dovetails nicely with one of my pet theories:
that American history can be divided into eras, each starting with
a major two-term president (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt,
and, sad to say, Reagan) and each ending with a one-term disaster
(Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, Trump?). I can't go into detail
here, but will note that each of these eras ended in profound
partisan divides, based on real (or imagined) crises in faith in
hitherto prevailing orthodoxies. That's certainly the case today.
The Reagan-to-Trump era is anomalous in its drive to ever greater
levels of inequality, corruption, and injustice, which have found
their apotheosis in Trump.
Trump is a remorseless advocate of crimes against humanity.
Key architect of 2003 Iraq War is now a key architect of Trump Iran
policy: Remember David Wurmser? He was a major author of the 1996
neocon bible A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
(which advocated "pre-emptive strikes against Iran and Syria"), author
of the 1999 book Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam
Hussein, worked for VP Dick Cheney, helped "stovepipe" intelligence
in the build-up to the Iraq War. After Bush, he cooled his heels in the
employ of right-wing think tanks, then landed a Trump administration
job thanks to John Bolton.
The Netherlands has universal health insurance -- and it's all private:
Sure, you can make that work. Their system is much like Obamacare, with
an individual mandate and "a strongly regulated market," so "more than 99
percent" are covered, insurance companies have few options to rip off
their customers. Also "almost every hospital is a nonprofit," and subject
to government-imposed cost constraints. None of this proves that the Dutch
system is better than other systems with single-payer insurance, but that
it would be an improvement over America's insane system. TR Reid wrote an
eye-opening book on health care systems around the world, showing there
are lots of workable systems with various wrinkles: The Healing of
America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care
(2009). I don't recall much from Netherlands there, but he did especially
focus on Taiwan and Switzerland, because they were relative late-adopters,
and their systems were implemented by right-of-center governments. The
Swiss system basically kept everything private, but imposed strict profit
limits. Until then, Switzerland had the second highest health care costs
in the world (after the US, which it had tracked closely). Afterwards,
Swiss costs held flat -- still the second most expensive, but trailing
the US by a growing gap. So, sure, the Swiss came up with a better system
than they had (or we have now), but one that's still much more expensive,
with slightly worse results, than countries like France and Japan, which
seem to have found a better balance between cost and care. [PS: For
another data point, see Melissa Healy:
US health system costs four times more to run than Canada's single-payer
William Barr: The Carl Schmitt of our Time. You know, the eminent
Nazi jurist and political theoretician.
Trump just hired Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers: Alan Dershowitz and
Kenneth Starr -- I'm not even sure Epstein was the low point of either
legal career (even if we don't count Trump yet). Many more articles
point this out. One that seems to actually be onto something is:
Laura Ingraham praises Trump for putting together a legal team
straight from "one of our legal panels".
Is there a way to acknowledge America's progress? He makes a fairly
substantial list of things that do mark progress (certainly compared to
when I was growing up), yet, as he's very aware, there's Trump, his cabal
of Republicans, and the moneyed forces that feed and feast on his and
their corruption. If those who oppose such trends tend to overstate the
peril of the moment, it's because we see future peril so very clearly.
Still, I reckon those who can't (or won't) see anything troublesome at
all will find the hyperbole disconcerting, and I don't know what to do
about that, beyond trying to remain calm and reasoned. This piece is
followed by "But can they beat Trump?": where Sullivan tries to weigh
the Democratic field purely on electability consideration. He's most
withering on Warren, and most sympathetic to Biden, but gives Sanders
the edge in the end. His list of positives is worth reading:
I have to say he's grown on me as a potential Trump-beater. He seems
more in command of facts than Biden, more commanding in general than
Buttigieg or Klobuchar, and far warmer than Elizabeth Warren. He's a
broken clock, but the message he has already stuck with for decades
might be finding its moment. There's something clarifying about having
someone with a consistent perspective on inequality take on a president
who has only exacerbated it. He could expose, in a gruff Brooklyn accent,
the phony populism, and naked elitism of Trump. He could appeal to the
working-class voters the Democrats have lost. He could sincerely point
out how Trump has given massive sums of public money to the banks,
leaving crumbs for the middle class. And people might believe him.
On the other hand, he argues that "the oppo research the GOP throws
at him could be brutal," and gives examples that impress me very little.
Most of them are sheer red-baiting, and I have to wonder how effective
that ploy still is. Sure, many liberals of my generation and earlier
find this very scary, but well after the Cold War such charges have
lost much of their tangible fear -- even those liberals who still hate
Russia must realize that the problem there now is oligarchs like Trump,
not Bolshevik revolutionaries. Sure, Trump attacking Bernie is going
to be nasty and brutish, but I expect it will be less effective than
Trump attacking Biden as a crooked throwback to the Washington swamp
of the Clintons and Obama -- charges that Bernie is uniquely safe from.
There's also a third piece here, "Of royalty, choice, and duty," about
Chance Swaim/Jonathan Shorman:
Kansas energy company abandons plans for $2.2 billion coal power plant.
This is a pretty big victory for envrionment-conscious Kansans, but
the irony is that it comes at a point when virtually all political
obstacles against been overcome. In the end, the company decided
that coal-fired electricity is simply a bad investment. Kansans
have followed this story for more than a decade, at least since
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius halted development on the plant expansion.
After she left to join Obama's cabinet, her successor reversed
course, and Gov. Sam Brownback was a big booster, but Obama's EPA
became an obstacle. Under Trump, all the political stars have
aligned to promote coal, but the economics have shifted so much
that coal use is declining all across the nation. Despite frantic
efforts by the Kochs and Trump, wind power has become a major
source of electricity in Kansas (fossil fuels account for less
than half of Kansas electricity -- nuclear also helps out there).
And thanks to Obama's support for fracking, natural gas has also
become cheaper relative to coal. So it looks like we've lucked
out, and been spared from the worst effects of having so corrupt
a political system in Topeka and Washington. For that matter,
Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has lucked out too, being saved
from such a bad investment.
CNN's debate performance was villainous and shameful: "The 24-hour
network combines a naked political hit with a cynical ploy for ratings."
11 US troops were injured in Iran's attack. It shows how close we came
Trump wanted to repeal an anti-corruption law so US businesses could bribe
foreigners. Based on a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip
Rucker and Carol Leonnig: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J Trump's
Testing of America. For more, see: Ashley Parker:
New book portrays Trump as erratic, 'at times dangerously uninformed'.
Also, by the authors, Carol D Leonnig/Philip Rucker:
'You're a bunch of dopes and babies': Inside Trump's stunning tirade
against generals. For another book review, see Dwight Garner:
A meticulous account of Trump's tenure reads like a comic horror
story. Also see the comment by Steve M:
In which I normalize Trump, up to a point, which quotes from the
above, and adds:
Well, actually, it is normal. Trump is a Republican. Both conservatives
and the mainstream media agree that a Republican can't insult the troops,
by definition. Only Democrats (and people to the left of the Democrats)
can insult the troops.
This is part of a larger problem that's plagued us over the past
forty years. The world of politics has been incapable of reacting with
sufficient outrage to Iran-contra, George W. Bush's post-9/11 toadying
to the Saudis and Iraq War debacle, and Trump's Putin bootlicking
because, performatively, Reagan, W, and Trump were all military-lovers
and flag-wavers. The conventional wisdom is that right-wingers are
correct: The telltale sign of disloyalty to America is insufficient
jingoism. If you're a Republican, you're never a menace to America,
even if you're actively doing it harm.
21 Saudi military trainees in the US are being sent home for anti-US
media and child porn. Evidently the two traits weren't mutually
exclusive, as the subsets numbered 17 and 15. Real reason was the
Saudi trainee who went on a shooting spree
at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. Said trainee was
killed, so isn't one of the 21.
Trump has apparently wanted to kill Soleimani for quite a while -- since
as far back as 2017.
Let them fight!: "A great nation deserves a raucous and argumentative
primary, not a fake demonstration of unity." Choice line here: "If Warren
saw this as a way to innocuously smarm her way to the top . . ."
Joe Biden skates by again. Notes that none of the other candidates
are really attacking Biden, who remains the front-runner:
This pattern of behavior raises, to me, a real worry about a potential
Biden presidency. Not that his talk of a post-election Republican Party
"epiphany" is unrealistic -- every candidate in the field is offering
unrealistic plans for change -- but that he has a taste for signing on
to bad bargains. There's potential for a critique of Biden that isn't
just about nitpicking the past or arguing about how ambitious Democrats
should be in their legislative proposals, but about whether Biden would
adequately hold the line when going toe-to-toe with congressional
Jet crash in Iran has eerie historical parallel: You mean in 1988,
when the US "accidentally" shot down an Iranian airliner, killing 290
people? Doesn't excuse this time, nor does this time excuse that time.
Both were unintended consequences of deliberate decisions to engage in
supposedly limited hostilities. They reflect the fact that the people
who made those decisions are unable to foresee where their acts will
take them and/or simply do not care. And while it's difficult to weigh
relative culpability, the fact that the US alone sent its forces half-way
around the world to screw up must count for something. For more examples,
see Ron DePasquale:
Civilian planes shot down: A grim history.
Monday, January 13, 2020
Music: Current count 32614  rated (+39), 229  unrated (+0).
I've finally heard that NPR's Jazz Critics Poll will be published
tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM. I've been given advance URLs for
poll results and for the accompanying
essay by Francis Davis.
No time to write much more.
still not indexed.
EOY Aggregate still a work in progress. My own EOY lists for
growing. Did play a couple of 2020 releases last week. Going
back and forth between the
2019 tracking files reminds
me of the cartoon depictions of the decrepit old man representing
the old year giving way to the new year baby. Every year we get
older, but 2019 hurt more than most.
New records reviewed this week:
Franck Amsallem: Gotham Goodbye (2018 , Jazz
& People): French pianist, born in Algeria in 1961, grew up in
Nice, moved to New York in 1986, back to France in 2001. Has a dozen
albums since 1990, this a lush postbop quartet with Irving Acao most
impressive on tenor sax.
John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (2019 , Freedom
Road): Trumpet player, wrote something he calls "President Gillespie
Suite," but doesn't provide any words to advance his cause. Only real
drawback I see is that he's dead, but late in life he filled admirers
with the sort of awe presidents once enjoyed (well, at least before
Nixon). Bailey gets some nice trumpet in here, but pretty regularly
gets smoked by his saxophonist, Stacy Dillard.
B+(**) [cd] [01-20]
Lea Bertucci: Resonant Field (2017 , NNA Tapes):
Composer/sound artist, based in New York, main instrument is alto sax,
but more important here is a large grain silo which frames everything
in echo and resonance.
Black to Comm: Seven Horses for Seven Kings (2019,
Thrill Jockey): Marc Richter, based in Hamburg, Germany, close to a
dozen albums since 2006, one namechecking Coldplay, Elvis &
John Cage (2011). Leftfield electronica: dense, harsh, menacing.
Boy Harsher: Careful (2019, Nude Club): Electropop
duo, beats reminiscent of the new wave 1980s (OMD, New Order, Cabaret
Voltaire) but more claustrophobic, something they're calling darkwave.
Haven't deciphered many words, but the beat goes on and on and on.
Bremer/McCoy: Utopia (2019, Luaka Bop): Danish duo,
Jonathan Bremer plays bass, Morten McCoy piano, fourth album together.
Easy listening: pretty, soothing, nothing more.
Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (2019, Kafou
Music): Kora master from Senegal, "part of the great line of Cissokho
griots," fifth album. I find it a bit awkward.
Theo Croker: Star People Nation (2019, Sony
Masterworks): Trumpet player, born in Florida, spent seven years
in China before landing in Los Angeles. Second album was In
the Tradition for Arbors, but since 2014 he's moved toward
hip-hop fusion, with mixed results. Rarely a plus when someone
Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (2019, Silver
Age): Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck, with the self-sufficient duo
7L & Esoteric, eighth album together since 2013, on their own
again after meet-ups with MF Doom and Ghostface Killah. Mad comic
cover art, songs that are dynamic and funny, often built on killer
Czarface: A Double Dose of Danger (2019, Silver Age,
EP): Bears the group credit, but just a 10-cut, 28:26 instrumental
album that fell through the cracks, released just after the group's
Jeff Davis: The Fastness (2019, Fresh Sound New
Talent): Drummer, based in New York, originally from Colorado,
formerly married to pianist Kris Davis. Sixth album since 2010,
With tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby, reminding me of his
scene-stealing form on the early Kris Davis Quartet records,
plus Russ Lossing (keyboards), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar),
and Eivind Opsvik (bass).
Bertrand Denzler/Dominic Lash: Pivot (2019, Spoonhunt):
Tenor sax and bass duo. One 31:21 piece, not much to it, drone-like.
Mr Eazi: Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London
(2018, Banku Music): Nigerian singer, at least born there, but
started in Ghana, titling his previous one Life Is Eazi, Vol.
1: Accra to Lagos. Beats bounce more like reggae than highlife,
slips up once in a while, but much of this is very attractive.
Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (2019, Crammed Discs):
Nigerian producer Leke Awayinka, first album, raps some over
electro-beats. Lots of ideas here, most work, some don't.
Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala:
A Garland of Ragas (2018 , Meta): Big project, "composed
and improvisationally conducted" by percussionist Adam Rudolph, who
concludes: "This album feels like the culmination of everything I've
been reaching for throughout my career." Massive indeed, with forty
Laurence Hobgood: Tesseterra (2019, Ubuntu Music):
Pianist, from North Carolina, musical director for Kurt Elling,
several albums since 2000. Piano trio plus string quartet ETHEL,
some tricky covers ("Wichita Lineman," "Blackbird," Ravel, Debussy,
Sting), doesn't seem promising but somehow works.
Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (2019
, Jazzbeat Productions): Alto saxophonist, from Connecticut,
recorded four albums 1989-93 then took a long break after his label
folded. Returns here with a spry hard bop quintet.
B+(**) [cd] [01-17]
Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (2019, Merge): British
electropop group, formed by producers with the idea of fusing elements
from 1990s drum & bass with 1980s Afrobeat. They then recruited
London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ghanaian guitarist Alfred
Bannerman, and various horns and percussionists. Third album, true to
Michael Janisch: Worlds Collide (2019, Whirlwind):
Bassist, from Wisconsin, studied in Boston, moved to New York, then
to London. Large postbop group with trumpet (Jason Palmer), two saxes
(George Crowley and John O'Gallagher), guitar (Rez Abbasi), keyboards
(John Escreet), and two drummers, the leader playing electric as well
as acoustic bass. Up for fusion, but fancier.
Lauren Jenkins: No Saint (2019, Big Machine): Country
singer-songwriter, from Texas, first album (after an EP), knows her
tropes, has a voice and sounds plenty authentic.
Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West:
Five Times Surprise (2018 , Cuneiform): Two guitarists,
six-string electric violin, drums, six-string bass.
Egil Kalman & Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds
(2019, Shhpuma): Swedish bassist, plays modular synthesizer here, in
two long duets with the guitarist, based in Oslo and Berlin. Guitar
slowly picks, against subtle background shading.
Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (2019, The Leaf Label):
Drummer, born in US, grew up in India, based in London but recorded
some of this in Mumbai. In London he fits in with an expansive jazz
scene, but this sounds more like hip-hop, especially with an array
of rappers from India, but also note some fine sax leads, and lots
of exotic percussion.
Kim Lenz: Slowly Speeding (2019, Blue Star): Rockabilly
singer, recorded four albums as Kim Lenz & the (or Her) Jaguars.
Slows it down here, but keeps the grit and the smoldering heat.
Christian Lillinger: Open Form for Society (2018
, Plaist Music): German drummer, has appeared -- rarely
first but often with his name on the banner -- in quite a few
albums since 2009, and pulls much of his circle together tight:
three pianists, two mallet players, two bass players, cello, and
scattered electronics. Many rough edges, emphasis on percussion,
although the piano leads are striking.
Brian Lynch Big Band: The Omni-American Book Club: My
Journey Through Literature in Music (2019, Hollistic
MusicWorks): Trumpet player from Wisconsin, started out as a
mainstream guy, playing hard bop with Horace Silver and Art
Blakey, got a taste for big bands with Toshiko Akiyoshi, and
most importantly for Latin music with Eddie Palmieri, turning
into a specialist. All that is evident here. Sure, there are
tics that turn me off, but he invariably bounces back with
something wondrous. Less evident from the music is his reading
list, which pairs two authors for each of nine songs -- some
examples: David Levering Lewis and W.E.B. DuBois, Ned Sublette
and Eric Hobsbawm, Naomi Klein and Mike Davis, Amiri Baraka
and A.B. Spellman.
Brad Mehldau: Finding Gabriel (2017-18 ,
Nonesuch): Pianist, has mostly done trios since 1993, opts for the
kitchen sink this time, with scattered horns and strings, blustery
swells of sound, and voices on most songs. It escapes being awful --
indeed, has its moments, especially the saxophones (2 cuts).
Microtub: Chronic Shift (2018 , Bohemian Drips):
"A trio of tuba players focusing on microtonality": fourth release, with
Robin Hayward, Martin Taxt, and Peder Simonsen. Two pieces, barely tops
30 minutes. While the ambience is pleasing enough, it's unlikely you'd
identify this as tuba music, let alone three instruments.
J. Pavone String Ensemble: Brick and Mortar (2019,
Birdwatcher): Jessica Pavone, plays viola here, violin elsewhere;
studied with Anthony Braxton, teaming up with Mary Halvorson on
several projects. Ensemble here has two violins and two violas,
a fairly narrow range, with harsh tones that rattle my nerves.
The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019, Warner
Brothers): Los Angeles garage pop band, led by Lydia Night,
second album, brash and catchy.
Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings (2019, RCA):
Pop producer, I guess, born in England, raised in New York, also
lives in Los Angeles. Records feature guest singers: Miley Cyrus
and Angel Olsen the most famous, Yebba and Lykke Li get the most
work. The stars are the most distinctive, which means they seem
the most out of place.
Gary Smulyan & Ralph Moore Quintet: Bird's Eye
Encounter! (2018 , Fresh Sound): Two saxophonists,
baritone and tenor, recorded live in Basel, Switzerland, backed
by Olivier Hutman (piano), Stephan Kurmann (bass), and Bernd
Reiter (drums). Moore was one of my favorite mainstream saxmen
in the 1990s, but seems to have vanished after 1996. He's less
distinctive here than Smulyan, as they romp through a nice set
of hard bop covers.
Jim Snidero: Project-K (2019 , Savant):
Alto saxophonist, seems to have passed through a portal and found
himself in a Dave Douglas project. Aside from the trumpeter, the
band includes Orrin Evans (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Rudy
Royston (drums), and Do Yeon Kim (gayaguem, a Korean zither).
Feels fractured, or quirky, with some potential upside.
B+(***) [cd] [01-24]
Earl Sweatshirt: Feet of Clay (2019, Tan Cressida/Warner,
EP): Odd Future rapper, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, based
in Los Angeles, father a South African poet and political activist. Short
(7 songs, 15:26), cryptic. Rhythm swims upstream. Maybe life's like that?
Tuba Skinny: Some Kind-a-Shake (2018 ,
self-released): New Orleans trad jazz band, members started busking
around 2005, cut their eponymous debut in 2009, and have released
an album most years since. Todd Burdick's sousaphone looms large.
William Tyler: Goes West (2019, Merge): Guitarist,
considered folk (not unlike John Fahey) although not clear to me that
his primitivism runs very deep. Maybe because, given the choice, he
so often opts for lush.
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Endless Boogie: Vol. I, II (2005 , No Quarter,
2CD): Rock jam band from Brooklyn, name from a John Lee Hooker album,
formed eight years before they committed to wax two 3-song LPs (second
side of each is a single 25-minute piece). Vocals here and there, but
are secondary to the two-guitar grind, which is muscular enough to
hold up for 25-minute runs.
Martial Solal: And His Orchestra: 1956-1962 (1956-62
, Fresh Sound): French pianist, emerged as a major figure in
the early 1950s, presented here in large groups from nine to eighteen
pieces. Some of France's top players, plus US refugees like Lucky
Thompson and Kenny Clarke, but the piano is what you focus on.
Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Flight
17 (1978 , Nimbus/Outernational): First record from the
pianist's Los Angeles community organizing project, originally listing
him as "conductor." Brilliant in spots, the piano (of course), also
[Played 2014 reissue from Nimbus West bandcamp.]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Party (Troubadour Jass) [02-07]
- John Vanore: Primary Colors (Acoustical Concepts) [02-07]
Saturday, January 12, 2019
As actual voting is just around the corner, I've started to stray from
my no-campaign pledge. Part of this is that my wife has gotten much more
involved, and is regularly reporting social media posts that rile her up.
She's strong for Bernie, and I've yet to find any reason to argue with her.
Several pieces below argue that only X can beat Trump. For the record, I
don't believe that is true. I think any of the "big four" can win -- not
that there won't be momentary scares along the way. Trump has some obvious
assets that he didn't have in 2016: complete support of the Republican
political machine, which has been remarkably effective at getting slim
majorities to vote against their interests and sanity; so much money
he'll be tempted to steal most of it; and even more intense love from
his base. On the other hand, he has a track record this time, and he's
never registered an instant where his approval rating has topped 44%.
Plus I have this suspicion that one strong force that drives elections
is fear of embarrassment. Thanks to the Hillary Clinton's unique path
to the nomination, that worked for Trump in 2016, but no one on the
Democratic side of the aisle is remotely as embarrassing as Trump --
well, Michael Bloomberg, maybe. He's the only "major" candidate I can
see Trump beating. Indeed, if he somehow manages to buy the Democratic
nomination, I could see myself voting for a third party candidate.
I'm not saying he would be worse than Trump, but a Democratic Party
under him would never be able to right the wrongs of the last 40+
One indication of the current political atmosphere is that Trump's
"wag the dog" attack on Iran didn't budge public opinion in the least
(except, perhaps, in favor of Bernie among the Democrats). Trump walked
back his war-with-Iran threat, no doubt realizing that the US military
had no desire to invade and occupy Iran, and possibly seeing that the
random slaughter of scattered air attacks would merely expose him
further as a careless monster. Still, he did nothing to resolve the
conflict, and won't as long as his Saudi and Israeli foreign policy
directors insist on hostile relations. He sorely needs a consigliere,
like James Baker was to Bush Sr., someone who could follow up on his
tantrums and turn them into deals (that could have been made well
before). All he really needs to do to open up Iran and North Korea
is to let the sanctions go first, to establish some good will, and
let those countries be sucked into normalcy with mutually beneficial
trade. Most other foreign policy conflicts could be solved without
much more effort. And he has one advantage that no Democrat will:
he won't have a psycho like Donald Trump constantly attacking him
from the right, arguing that every concession he makes is a sign of
weakness. The only deal he's delivered so far (USMCA) is a fair test
case. It sailed through without serious objection because the only
person deranged enough to derail it kept his mouth shut.
More links on Iran, war, and foreign policy:
Trump's "Mission Accomplished" moment?
Tucker Carlson is not your new best friend: "The Fox News host's
antiwar stance doesn't erase all that other ugliness."
Will this billionaire-funded think tank get its war with Iran?
"The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' militaristic influence
on US policy toward Iran is working. Suleiman's assassination is evidence
The Iraq War hawks are back: "Some of the biggest backers of the Iraq
War sure have a lot of opinions on Iran."
The West is still buying into nonsense about Iran's regional influence.
Sean Collins/Jen Kirby:
A Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran: What we know: "Iran has admitted
to accidentally shooting down the plane."
'History has proven her right': Barbara Lee's anti-war push succeeds on
Karen J Greenberg:
Killing Qassim Suleimani was illegal. And predictable. As this
piece notes, America's history of assassinating foreign leaders goes
back at least to 1960, with Patrice Lumumba ("success") and Fidel
Castro ("failed"), but had been prohibited in 1976, and only returned
to favor with GW Bush's Global War on Terror. I'd add that what really
turned it into fashion was envy of Israel's "targeted killings," which
really picked up in the 1980s.
Shane Harris/Josh Dawsey/Dan Lamothe/Missy Ryan:
'Launch, launch, launch': Inside the Trump administration as the
Iranian missiles began to fall. Key point here is that Iran
tipped off Iraq well before the missile strike, and Iraq passed
the information on to the US, so as to minimize casualties. Zero
casualties made it easier for Trump to stand down after the strike,
which was evidently just for show. As I recall, Trump did the same
thing, tipping Russia on a big US strike against a Syrian air base:
another big show that did little effective damage.
John Hudson/Missy Ryan/Josh Dawsey:
On the day US forces killed Soleimani, they targeted a senior Iranian
official in Yemen. They missed, but they did hit someone. For more,
see: Alex Emmons:
US strike on Iranian commander in Yemen the night of Suleimani's
assassination killed the wrong man.
The case against killing Qassem Soleimani: Interview with Dina
Esfandiary. Vox paired this with
The case for killing Qassem Soleimani, where Alex Ward interviewed
Bilal Saab. Both are so-called experts (Saab a former Trump flunky),
sharing a lot of DC groupthink about Iran (and the US -- the "against"
case regards Iran as every bit as evil and duplicitous as "for" does).
No one dares venture that a reason to argue against the killing is that
it's bad (both practically and, dare we say?, morally) for any country
to go around killing people in other countries.
Samya Kullab/Qassam Abdul-Zahra:
US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan.
Michael McFaul/Abbas Milani:
The minimal value of Trump's 'maximum pressure' on Iran. I wrote
some about sanctions under Nichols below, but left out one point:
even when sanctions have devastating impact on the target nation's
people, they are rarely effective at deposing political leaders or
toppling their governments. The obvious example is that the only
communist countries to hold fast after 1989-92 were the ones the
US subjected to the most vindictive pressure: North Korea, Vietnam,
Cuba, and China.
Bush's Iraq hawks had Trump's back this week.
Trump's Twitter threats against Iran cultural sites borrow from the ISIS
playbook: Could also have mentioned the Taliban's destruction of
ancient Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan.
Sanctions are economic warfare. There's an unnecessary word in that
title: Sanctions are warfare, meant to impoverish an "enemy," to cripple
their economy, ultimately to impose widespread suffering on all of the
people in the target country. The most extreme sanctions are literally
designed to starve the "enemy" into submission. Americans (like Trump)
like them, not just because they are effective in imposing pain, but
because they are asymmetrical. The economies of the US and its "allies"
(some should be called "co-conspirators"; others are more like hostages)
are so large that they can easily absorb the pain of not dealing with
the target country, while the target is prevented from engaging in
normal trade with much or most of the world. This size difference
means that no proportionate response in kind is possible. That's why
long-term victims of US sanctions like North Korea and Iran wind up
seeking other countermeasures, such as developing nuclear weapons --
as we've seen, the only measure that seems to get American attention.
Trump didn't back down from starting a war with Iran last week. He
actually escalated on ongoing war -- one that won't end until the US
suspends its sanctions against Iran, and permits Iran to normalize
its relations with the rest of the world.
Trump's conflict with Iran exposed the real difference between Biden
and Sanders. Good chance this has something to do with Sanders'
recent poll advances. First thing Laura told me after the Soleimani
assassination was "Trump just elected Bernie president."
Nathan J Robinson:
How to avoid swallowing war propaganda. Robinson also has a recent
book out, Why You Should Be a Socialist, as well as an earlier
one, Trump: Anatomy of a Monster (2017). Here's an
interview by Teddy Ostrow. The interview piece offers links to
highly critical pieces he wrote about Pete Buttigieg
About Pete) and Joe Biden
Chum). He turned me off a while back with a piece I don't recall
well enough to look up now -- possibly something snippy about Bernie
Sanders, but his latest thoughts on the campaign are worth reading:
Everyone is getting on the Bernie train. For example:
We need a candidate who fully understands the stakes. They need to know
the source of what has gone wrong and have a radical alternative. . . .
They can't capitulate before the fight starts. They need
to have a moral seriousness that shows they take the pain of others
seriously. They need to fill people's souls, to assuage their fears,
to challenge them to be their best selves, and to present a vision of
the beautiful world that could be if humanity got its act together,
versus the horrendous world that will be if we allow the deadly logic of
nuclear weapons and climate change to continue unfolding. This moment
demands something, a kind of power, we have never before mustered, a
resolve we have never before felt, a breadth and depth of vision we
have never before dared to pursue.
I cut a line from that paragraph: the one that starts "they can't
be some tepid compromiser." He's talking about Elizabeth Warren, and
I've been deluged today from her supporters taking umbrage that one
of Sanders' staffers suggested that she is the "second best" candidate,
so I figured we could do without the side-swipe. But I will note that
Robinson has a long paragraph on Warren that is pretty devastating:
look for the one that starts, "Personally I have long believed that
Elizabeth Warren would be a disaster against Donald Trump." Some of
his points don't bother me much, but "She is evasive where Bernie is
frank" does cut to the quick.
Iran plane crash likely caused by violations of international law -- by
both Tehran and Trump.
Donald Trump is the war crimes president. In his dreams, maybe.
He certainly lacks the elementary sense of right and wrong to steer
clear of war crimes, but neither does he have the track record of
GW Bush, let alone a Richard Nixon, and he still ranks well behind
others, notably Harry Truman (still the only person in history to
order the use of nuclear weapons on cities). On the other hand,
those presidents used larger wars to camouflage their crimes, and
probably didn't feel much kinship with the soldiers who carried
their directives out, let alone those who exceeded their orders.
Trump, on the other hand, has probably caught up with his reviled
predecessor Obama, who himself set records for "targeted killings."
Moreover, Trump's pardon of "Navy SEAL Commander Eddie Gallagher,
a rogue soldier who routinely shot civilians in Iraq for the hell
of it, and finally stabbed to death a barely conscious captive
young ISIS fighter who was the lone survivor of a missile hit on
an enemy house," shows a personal bloodlust beyond any president
I can recall.
The administration's deceptions about the Soleimani strike are a big
The House sent a major message about checking the president's war powers
on Iran. Now why don't they follow it up with another impeachment
article? By the way, this time it appears that Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo
are also equally culpable, so why not name them too?
Some scattered links this week:
The Trump administration is still struggling to get its story straight
on why it killed Soleimani. Some curious phrasing, from Defense
Secretary Mark Esper: "What the President said with regard to the four
embassies is what I believe as well."
Nancy Pelosi explains what Democrats gaind by holding onto the articles
Trump encourages new anti-government protests in Iran.
The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to not rule on Obamacare
until after the 2020 election.
Another earthquake hits Puerto Rico, with aftershocks expected: A
6.4 on Tuesday, then a 5.9 on Saturday, with many aftershocks (45 and
counting of at least 3.0).
Trump has created a loophole to allow pipelines to avoid environmental
review. Refers to the Lisa Friedman article, below. When I first
read reports about this rule change, it was phrased vaguely in terms
of generic infrastructure projects, like bridges and roads, and meant
to cut through costly bureaucracy on projects where the environmental
impact was obviously limited. Pipelines are another story. They leak,
and the environmental impact of leaks is enormous. And at this point,
it's probably impossible to argue that a new pipeline won't increase
global warming, so eliminating that consideration is a life-and-death
matter to pipeline developers.
As Australia fires kill animals and destroy property, costs of climate
change become clear: "For those spuriously claiming climate ambition
comes at a cost, let Australia's black summer serve as a potent reminder
that inaction does, too."
Trump cited GOP Senate impeachment pressure as reason to kill Soleimani:
"You're not supposed to use foreign policy that way." Not that such
scruples stopped Bill Clinton when he was impeached.
Maybe nominating Michael Bloomberg for president isn't a crazy idea:
Chait's reasoning is that "only [Bloomberg] can outspend Trump five to
one." That's putting a lot of faith in the power of money to buy elections,
especially through lavish spending on TV. How's that working out? See:
Bloomberg and Steyer $200m spend on TV ads: "Steyer's spending in
South Carolina is beginning to slowly move the polls: he is now placed
fifth with 5% of projected Democratic voters." However, he's stuck at
1.5% nationally. Bloomberg is supposedly doing better nationwide --
I've seen polls as high as 7% -- but he's not even in the race for
Iowa or New Hampshire, nor has he qualified for a single debate, so
all he has going is his TV ad buy, and even there his selling point
is "Trump = bad," not Bloomberg offers unique hope for the real
problems the country faces. (Also see:
Michael Bloomberg outspent the entire Democratic field in TV ads last
week.) Sure, it might be nice if the Democrats could draw on
Bloomberg's deep pockets, but Bloomberg himself is by far the
most reactionary, elitist, offensive candidate in the running (a list
which, by the way, still includes John Delaney). [PS: Also see:
Michael Bloomberg is open to spending $1 billion to defeat Trump,
"even if the nominee was someone he had sharp differences with, like
Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren."]
Iraq War at 154: Who voted for it, who didn't, and where are they
Donald Trump's worst deal: The shady story of Trump Tower Baku.
Miriam Elder/Ruby Cramer:
Donald Trump is starting to fixate on Bernie Sanders.
The global war on error: "No, that's not a typo." And yes, error
is winning, handily.
What an Elizabeth Warren presidency would look like. This is paired
with Daniel Denvir:
What a Bernie Sanders presidency would look like. Both are pretty
good, although I'd give Sanders the edge for a foreign policy which
is based on principles of justice for all, and a political strategy
which promises to venture out to states beyond the "blue wall." I
don't think Warren is opposed to either point, but her instincts for
landing on the right side are less sure. The other thing about Warren
is that her appeal hasn't spread beyond college-educated professionals.
That should change if she's nominated, much like Buttigieg will wind
up with strong support from blacks if he makes it to November, but
Bernie has so far done a better job of broadening his base. In
These Times and didn't bother attempting to assay other Democratic
Party candidates. I doubt anyone really has a clue what a Buttigieg
presidency might look like. On the other hand, we can picture a Biden
one all too well.
John F Harris:
'He is our OJ': "Readers explain why they're standing with Trump during
impeachment." Author also wrote:
Impeachment and the crack up of the conservative mind.
As Australia burns, its leaders are clinging to coal.
Boeing employees mocked FAA and 'clowns' who designed 737 Max. As
one internal email put it, "this airplane is designed by clowns, who
are in turn supervised by monkeys." Reminds me of a friend who worked
for Boeing, telling me of a company meeting where a manager bragged,
"this isn't your father's Boeing any more." For the record, my father
retired from Boeing as soon as he could draw his pension, and refused
to ever fly in a Boeing airplane.
What will another decade of climate crisis bring?
Trump's art of the steal: "How Donald Trump rode to power by parroting
other people's fringe ideas, got himself impeached for it -- and might
Study links Medicaid expansion to 6 percent reduction in opioid overdose
A new study finds increasing the minimum wage reduces suicides.
Mark Mazzetti/Ronen Bergman/David D Kirkpatrick:
Saudis close to Crown Prince discussed killing other enemies a year
before Khashoggi's death.
Tabula rasa: Volume one. Part of his "old-person project" -- writing
about what he never got around to writing about. I'm a big McPhee fan,
but this isn't especially promising.
The Trump administration's subtle, devious plan to dismantle abortion
rights: "The Supreme Court could quash the right to an abortion
entirely through procedural shenanigans."
The Trump administration has finalized an agreement to deport asylum
seekers back to Honduras.
Trump tried to get E Jean Carroll's lawsuit dismissed. It didn't work.
The future of America's context with China: "Washington is in an
intensifying standoff with Beijing. Which one will fundamentally shape
the twenty-first century?" Reminiscent of the 19th Century's "Great
Game" between Britain and Russia -- a contest which said much about
the self-absorption of so-called great powers, not least their inability
to consider that the rest of the world might have other plans.
The most popular crook in America: Larry Hogan, the "very popular"
Republican governor of Maryland. For more, see Eric Cortellessa:
Who does Maryland's governor really work for? Pareene writes:
I've argued that, in many respects, the presidency of Donald Trump
is more "normal" than some people would like to admit. That is, it's a
logical end point of where conservatism has been moving, rather than an
inexplicable break from a system that was working as intended. But even
so, in his personal behavior and incendiary rhetoric, Trump is aberrant --
and, it should always be noted, he is deeply unpopular. The country, by
and large, doesn't want what Trump has wrought. His election was both
overdetermined and something of a bizarre fluke, which would, arguably,
not have happened had it not been for geography and our illogical modern
interpretation of archaic founding documents.
Hogan, on the other hand, is exactly the "normal" to which politicians
like Joe Biden promise to return us when they try to speak into existence
a Republican Party that they can "work with."
How political fact-checkers distort the truth: "Glenn Kessler and
his ilk aren't sticking to the facts. They are promoting a moderate
How to dump Trump: Rick Wilson on Running Against the Devil.
Wilson is "a top Republican strategist with 30 years' experience," and
that's the title of his new book, a sequel to his 2018 book Everything
Trump Touches Dies.
Charles P Pierce: He writes more than a dozen short
posts a week,
many interesting, although for me it gets tiresome to delve
through all of them when I usually have some other source for the
same story (usually covered in more depth). Still, some titles
that caught my eye this week:
Pelosi: House will send impeachment articles to the Senate next week.
What will happen to the Trump toadies? "Look to Nixon's defenders,
and the Vichy collaborators, for clues." Steve M. has his doubts:
Frank Rich's delusions of cosmic justice.
The equality conundrum. Much nitpicking, not sure he comes up with
Kansas has reached a deal to expand Medicaid, covering 150,000 people.
Not a "done deal," as there are still Republicans who will fight it.
Amy Davidson Sorkin:
In Ohio, Trump lists the sacrifices he makes for the nation.
Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational
Elizabeth Warren's new plan to reform bankruptcy law, explained
Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020. Surprised
to see this, given that Yglesias last tried his "electability" argument
to push Amy Klobuchar, and more generally given his designation as the
2019 "neoliberal shill of the year." This is supposed to be the "first
in a Vox series making the best case for each of the top Democratic
contenders," but I haven't noticed any of the others yet. Meanwhile,
there's Katelyn Burns:
Sanders tops latest Iowa poll, but the 2020 Democratic primary is still
a four way race.
The US-Saudi alliance is deeply unpopular with the American people.
The strong economy is an opportunity for progressives. Claims that
"voters are happy with the economy," citing a
CNN poll where 76 percent of voters rate economic conditions as
either "very good" or "somewhat good." Includes a chart that shows
that "pick-up in wage growth has come from low-wage industries" --
something I've seen others cite, but what I haven't seen is a chart
that distinguishes between low-wage workers who got raises due to
minimum wage increases compared with purely economic effects on the
labor market. There's no reason to attribute the former to Trump or
the Republicans -- just the opposite. And while raises for low wage
workers help, the poor are still poor, and prices -- Yglesias cites
child care as a major concern -- eat up a good chunk of income. But
even if Yglesias is right that most people are no longer worried
about the economy, he's also right that Democrats have other issues
to run on:
But one nice thing about a strong labor market is that it creates
political space to finally pay attention to the myriad social problems
that can't be solved by a "good economy" alone -- things like child
care, health care, college costs, and environmental protection -- that
during, the Obama years, tended to be crowded out by a jobs-first
Good times, in other words, could be the perfect opportunity to
finally tackle the many long-lingering problems for which progressives
actually have solutions and about which conservatives would rather not
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Music: Current count 32575  rated (+37), 230  unrated (+2).
I might as well go ahead and post this, as I'm nowhere near getting
to a reasonable breakpoint. I haven't even done the indexing for last
Streamnotes file. Nor do
I have much to add on EOY lists. Latest I have on NPR's posting of the
Jazz Critics Poll results is "end of this week or beginning of next."
I've since got a request to write a little something by Thursday, so
I'd say early next week is the more likely date.
All of the promos in my queue are 2020 releases, so I figured they
could wait as I try to mop up what I've missed from 2019. Also, when
I've been away from the computer, the CDs I've been playing have been
old jazz: some Ellington, Hawkins, Webster, and a lot of Armstrong --
an especially pleasant surprise to find Armstrong's terrific Newport
sets on the computer.
The B+(***) record with the most potential is the Sturgill Simpson.
I only gave it one play, and really wasn't in the mood for an arena
rock album -- much closer to that than to neotrad or neocosmopolitan
coutry, a trend that Nashville artists like Eric Church have pursued
of late. Still, an impressive performance, his third straight B+(***)
in my book. On the other hand, Omar Souleyman's fifth straight A- was
an easy call, not that I can keep any of them straight. Didn't hurt
to be reminded of the humanity that the US has tried so hard to snuff
out for decades now.
Also nice to find a new electronica artist I really like.
New records reviewed this week:
Acid Arab: Jdid (2019, Crammed Discs): French acid
house group, although the names don't strike me as especially French
(or at all Arab): Minisky, Carvalho, Casanova, Borne, Bourras. But
the vocals are mostly Algerian, and guests (samples?) range from
Turkey to Niger, so the concept comes through clear enough.
Joe Armon-Jones: Turn to Clear View (2019, Brownswood):
British keyboard player, member of Ezra Collective and a common fixture
on the London jazz scene. Some promise, but the guest vocals tend to
Blacks' Myths: Blacks' Myths II (2019, Atlantic Rhythms):
DC duo: bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Crudup III -- names I've
run across on other obscure (and often noisy) projects. This lays the
sound on thick, and if that isn't clear enough, Thomas Stanley provides
Burna Boy: African Giant (2019, Atlantic): Nigerian
rapper Damini Ogulu, based in London, fifth album.
Crazy P: Age of the Ego (2019, Walk Don't Walk):
English electropop group, formed 1995 by Chris Todd (Hot Toddy)
and Jim Baron (Ron Basejam), called themselves Crazy Penis until
2008. Eighth album. Dance beats, upbeat, might fuck you up.
Fruit Bats: Gold Past Life (2019, Merge): Eric D.
Johnson's Chicago rock band, eighth album since 2001. At best they
offer songcraft with nice little hooks.
(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (2019, Domino): G
stands for Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia,
singer-songwriter, started DIY/lo-fi, third record on Domino.
Highest-rated record I hadn't heard by EOY (32, vs. 58 for Holly
Herndon and 61 for Jenny Hval). Not awful, possibly an interesting
weirdo, if you care.
Geometry [Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Tomeka Reid]:
Geometry of Distance (2018 , Relative Pitch): Voice,
cornet, guitar, and cello. The latter pluck abstractly, the former work
on building some drama, not necessarily a plus.
Ghost Rhythms: Live at Yoshiwara (2019, Cuneiform):
French group, jazz-rock fusion with accordion and fiddle referring
back to folk dances, possibly the concept behind the name -- not
that they don't prog out on occasion.
Hash Redactor: Drecksound (2019, Goner): Post-punk
quartet from Memphis, first album (discounting Demo Tape 2017).
Most reminiscent of the Fall, down to the vocals.
William Hooker: Symphonie of Flowers (2019, ORG Music):
Free jazz drummer, early works date from 1975, no artist credits here,
but someone plays impressive piano, various electronics, some sax, and
one cut veers into African chant vocals. Still, until the last two cuts
go over the deep end with effects, the drums dominate, as they should.
IPT: Diffractions (2018 , ForTune): Polish
improv trio: Szymon Wojcinski (keyboards), Jakub Bandur (violin),
Jakub Gucik (cello). Chamber jazz, slowly grows on you.
The Japanese House: Good at Falling (2019, Dirty
Hit): English singer-songwriter Amber Bain, name refers to a property
in Cornwall. Plays guitar and keyboards, and sings. First album after
a number of EPs, introspective electropop.
Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel (2019, Thrill Jockey):
Bass-and-drums duo from Providence, RI; eighth studio album since
1999, mostly noise with just enough beat and tune to suggest the
noise is an aesthetic choice. People who don't normally gravitate
to this sort of thing have been known to like them -- sometimes.
I'm actually impressed by this, but only managed to finish it by
turning the volume down.
Anna Meredith: Fibs (2019, Moshi Moshi): British
electronica composer, describes this as "technicolour maximalism"
with "visceral richness," which means it's a bit much.
The Messthetics: Anthropocosmic Nest (2019, Dischord):
Guitarist Anthony Pirog and two guys from Fugazzi. No vocals, all rock
grind, maybe too fancy for punk but nowhere near jazz.
Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
(2019, Don Giovanni): Camae Ayewa, more poet than rapper, and on
her second album adroit enough in the studio to make some knotty,
almost impenetrable music.
Gurf Morlix: Impossible Blue (2019, Rootball):
Austin-based singer-songwriter, tenth album, good tribute album
to Blaze Foley a while back, was married to Lucinda Williams for
a while. Nice set of blues-based songs.
Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy: Legacy Alive:
Volume 6 at the Sidedoor (2019, Onyx Productions): Drummer,
joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at 21 as a second drummer and
stayed through the band's last major phase. Here he keeps the flame
lit, convening a stellar group of Blakey alumni for the master's
centennial -- Bobby Watson (alto sax), Bill Pierce (tenor sax),
Brian Lynch (trumpet), Geofrey Keezer (piano), Essiet Essiet
(bass) -- to expand upon the songbook.
Portico Quartet: Memory Streams (2019, Gondwana):
British group, nominally jazz but mostly because no vocals, their
sound a mix of electronics, Chinese hang, with a sax for melody.
Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury (2019, Elektra):
Metamodern country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, opens his fourth
album with a pretty nifty guitar instrumental. He reminds me that
Nashville has become the home of swaggering mainstream rock music,
and he lives up to the title here. I suppose I should be more impressed.
Omar Souleyman: Shlon (2019, Mad Decent/Because):
Syria's most famous wedding singer, has a dozen-plus albums that
are more/less interchangeable. This one is short (6 songs, 34:14),
but that seems about right given the intensity.
Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: The Peyote Dance
(2019, Bella Union): New York group, debut 2012, not much on who they
are but the approach uses electronically processed field recordings and
spoken word. In this one Smith reads from Antonin Artaud's writing on
his 1936 trip to Mexico, where the poet went to kick heroin and wound
up experiencing peyote. Good to hear Smith's voice, but the music is
cryptic (at best).
Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: Mummer Love
(2019, Bella Union): Same framework, but the writer is Arthur Rimbaud,
his subject to Harrar, Ethiopia, "the epicenter of Sufism in Africa."
Smith's role is reduced, but the samples include discernible rhythm
and chant vocals, so score one for Africa.
Special Request: Vortex (2019, Houndstooth):
Paul Woolford, electronica producer from Leeds, issued records
under his own name from 2002 before adopting this moniker in
2012. Rhythm tracks, often quite fast, the complexity in the
echo as they drive you manically along.
Special Request: Bedroom Tapes (2019, Houndstooth):
"Comprised solely of lost material from a recently discovered box
of cassettes that emerged in the process of a house move." Implies
that they're quite early, but the rhythm sketches are well developed.
Special Request: Offworld (2019, Houndstooth): A
third album within a six-month stretch, and indeed something of a
stretch, but the vocal added to "237,000 Miles" adds a new dimension
to his work, and the beats in the middle are as compelling as those
on Vortex. The long final mix, with its dramatic pauses and
ambient fuzz, took longer to come around.
Vinny Sperrazza/Jacob Sacks/Masa Kamaguchi: Play Sonny
Rollins (2018 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano trio,
drummer first named. Group has at least four more albums, each
on another composer: Cy Coleman, Tadd Dameron, Benny Golson, Lee
Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops (2019, Joyful Noise):
Australian "supergroup," with Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin from
the Drones, and others from other groups I don't recall. Second album.
Less noise, more funk -- promising, but ends with a bit of bombast.
Summer Walker: Over It (2019, Interscope): Neo-soul
singer-songwriter from Atlanta, first album. Long jams, a bit awkward.
Yola: Walk Through Fire (2019, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch):
British singer-songwriter Yolanda Quartey, first solo album after an
EP and several with the group Phantom Limb. PopMatters picked this as
the year's best Americana album, possibly because Dan Auerbach produced
the album in Nashville, but I don't generally hear that. The title cut
is certainly an exception, but more often than not this builds to a
grandiosity I find grating.
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Fred Anderson Quartet: Live Volume V (1994 ,
FPE): Recorded at the tenor saxophonist's Velvet Lounge, during a
stretch when he rarely recorded. With Toshinori Kondo (trumpet),
Tatsu Aoki (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums).
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: The Complete Newport
1956 & 1958 Recordings (1956-58 , Legacy): Duke
Ellington's Newport sets are more famous, especially his smashing
comeback (or more precisely, Johnny Hodges' return) in 1956. And there's
no shortage of live Armstrong sets from the 1950s: The California
Concerts is my favorite, with 4-CDs spanning 1951-55, starting
with what I still think of as the real All-Stars (Hines, Teagarden,
Bigard, Shaw, Catlett), but hardly losing a beat as the second tier
(Billy Kyle, Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, plus singer Velma Middleton)
take over. They're been represented by 1956's The Great Chicago
Concert, but the 1956 Newport set is every bit as potent, with
Armstrong himself in an especially ebullient mood. The 1958 set is
marginally less extraordinary: Peanuts Hucko replaced Hall, they do
some more atypical material (including "Tenderly," a calypso, and
a Latin-tinged "Ko Ko Mo"). On the other hand, Jack Teagarden drops
in, with Bobby Hackett, for a reprise of "Rockin' Chair."
[NB: This seems to be a digital-only release; it was previously
released on 4-LP by Mosaic in 2014. Total length 144:43, which
could fit on 2-CD.]
Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years (2006-13
, Dualtone, 2CD): Texas singer-songwriter, for a long time I
figured he'd never top his debut -- Old No. 1 in 1975 -- but
he kept plugging away, recording for Sugar Hill 1988-2002, then in
2006 getting another shot on Dualtone. He recorded four albums there,
reduced here with some extras, not least a few live remakes of old
B+(***)Jaye P. Morgan: Jaye P. Morgan (1976 ,
Wewantsounds): Singer and actress, given name Mary Margaret Morgan,
had some hits 1953-59, recorded rarely after 1962, appeared on The
Gong Show 1976-78. This obscurity flirts with disco, settles for
John Prine: Chicago '70: The Early Sessions (1970
, Hobo): Two sets a year before Prine released his first album:
one broadcast from the 5th Peg, the other an interview by Studs Terkel.
Effectively demos, just guitar and voice, remarkable for an unrecorded
artist to have so many memorable songs: 12 made his first album, 5
more his second, 3 more later, the other 2 (one a Hank Williams medley)
show up on The Singing Mailman Delivers -- Prine's own comp of
his 1970 tapes, to which this doesn't add much.
Patrice Rushen: Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recorddings
1978-1984 (1978-84 , Strut): Started out as a jazz
pianist, with three 1974-77 albums on Prestige (first one with no
vocals), before switching to disco at Elektra: five albums, charted
98-39-71-14-40 pop. This selects 15 songs (79:21), often going with
extended (12-inch) versions. Nothing very classic here, but she can
stretch a funk vamp, even with repetitive vocals, even with none.
Ben Webster/Don Byas: Giants of the Tenor Sax (1944-45
, Commodore): Not playing together: five cuts of Webster in Big
Sid Catlett's Quartet, three of Byas with Slam Stewart, and three more
of Byas with Hot Lips Page Orchestra. Repackaging Commodore's catalog,
they used the same title to combine Chu Berry and Lucky Thompson sets --
more of a generation split, with 14 years separating Berry and Thompson
(and Berry's death in 1941, before Thompson got started), whereas Byas
is only three years youger than Webster. Nothing monumental, and the
sax theme breaks down when Page takes over, singing two of his three.
Ben Webster and His Quartet: Wayfaring Webster (1970
, DayBreak): Tenor sax great, backed by a piano trio I don't
recognize, on a previously unissued radio shot from Netherlands. This
comes late in Webster's career (d. 1973), but he sounds fine, and
the band doesn't hurt.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Live! Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial (Summit) [01-17]
- Purna Loka Ensemble: Metaraga (Origin) [01-17]
Sunday, January 5, 2020
In his 2019 State of the Union address, Donald Trump warned:
An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the
only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous
partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation,
there cannot be war and investigation. It doesn't work that way!
the quote slightly differently: as Trump saying that
the only things that could stop America (by which he meant himself)
are partisan investigations and stupid wars. Trump has blundered his
way into both now.
After the Democrats won the House in 2018, it was inevitable that
they would start investigating the Trump administration's rampant
corruption and flagrant abuses of power, something Republicans in
Congress had turned a blind eye to. It was not inevitable, or even
very likely, that Trump would be impeached. Speaker Pelosi clearly
had no desire to impeach, until Trump gave them a case where he had
run so clearly afoul of national security orthodoxy that Democrats
could present impeachment as fulfillment of their patriotic duty.
On closer examination, it's possible that the only war Trump was
thinking of in the speech was one of Democrats against himself, but
he had waged a successful 2016 campaign as the anti-war candidate --
a challenge given his fondness for bluster and violence, but one made
credible by his opponent's constant reminders that she would be the
tougher and more menacing Commander in Chief. But as president he's
followed his gut instincts, and escalated his way to approximate war
with Iran: not his first stupid war, but the first unquestionably
attributable to his own folly.
The simplest explanation of how Trump got into war against Iran
is that he basically auctioned US foreign policy off to the highest
bidders, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. (One should recall that
Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is also Benjamin Netanyahu's
fairy godfather.) Israel and Saudi Arabia wanted Trump to tear up
Obama's anti-nuclear arms agreement with Iran, so he did. They wanted
Trump to strangle Iran with extra sanctions, so he did. They also
wanted Trump to directly attack "Iranian-backed" militias in Iraq
and Syria, so once again he did their bidding. That belligerence
and those escalations have gotten us to exactly where we are, and
it was all totally unnecessary, if only Trump had attempted instead
to build on the good will Obama originally established. Granted,
Obama could have gone further himself toward opening up cordial
relations with Iran, but he too was limited by Israel and Saudi
Arabia -- indeed, the letter of his agreement was meant to satisfy
Israeli and Saudi demands that Iran halt nuclear weapons efforts,
and indeed was the only possible approach that achieve those demands.
The only thing that opposition to the treaty proves is that the
demands weren't based on serious fears -- they were nothing but
political posturing, meant to scam gullible Americans.
The only other explanation I can think of is that Trump has an
unannounced foreign policy agenda, which basically inverts Theodore
Roosevelt's dictum: "speak softly but carry a big stick." Perhaps
Trump realizes that America's "stick" isn't nearly as intimidating
as it was during the era of the Roosevelts, so he's compensating
by shouting, often incoherently. Even if he doesn't realize the US
has lost the respect and trust it once enjoyed -- in decline due to
years of increasing selfishness and numerous bad decisions, further
exacerbated by Trump's "America first" rhetoric -- the frustration
of defiance must boil his blood. Whatever insight he once had about
investigations and wars has long since been buried in the hubris of
his rantings. That loss of clarity makes him even stupider than
usual, leading him beyond blunders to crimes, against us and even
The result is that once again we're praying, and not for the
redemption of the inexcusable behavior of the Trump administration,
but for the greater sanity of Iran's leaders, the discipline not
to play into Trump's madness. Unfortunately, Americans have never
shown much aptitude for learning from their mistakes. Indeed, the
only people who have ever learned anything from war were those
who lost so badly their folly could not be shifted elsewhere --
e.g., Japan after WWII. Iran's eight-year war with Iraq wasn't a
full-fledged defeat, but Iranians suffered horribly, and that has
surely dampened their enthusiasm for war. On the other hand, the
sanctions they already face must feel like war, without even the
promise of striking back.
PS: I wrote the above, and most of the comments below, on
Saturday, before this story broke: Riley Beggin:
Iraqi Parliament approves a resolution on expelling US troops after
Soleimani killing. As I wrote below, this would be the best-case
scenario. Since Iraq appears to have no control over what US forces
based there actually do, the only way Iraqis can escape being caught
in the middle is to expel the Americans. Moreover, it's hard to see
how Trump could keep troops in Iraq without the consent of Iraq's
government. Note that this won't end the threat of war. The US still
has troops and navy based around the Persian Gulf, from which it can
launch attacks against Iran. But expulsion should extricate Iraq from
being in the middle of Trump's temper tantrum.
On the other hand, Mike Pompeo has already rejected Iraq's vote,
saying, "We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States
to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign." See
Pompeo sticks up for US presence as Iraq votes to eject foreign
Here are some links on Trump and Iran:
The US has no friends left in Iraq.
Trump's Iran war has begun. One thing that bothers me about this
and similar pieces is the repeated assertion that "neither side wants . . .
a full-scale war." It's quite possible that no one in a position of
real power in Iran wants such a thing, as the US has undoubted power
to literally destroy every inch of Iran, killing nearly all Iranians
and leaving the country an uninhabitable wasteland. But it clearly is
the case that there are some Americans, in or close to the government,
who want nothing less than full-scale war against Iran, and they have
been bankrolled by Israel and Saudi Arabia, who see an American war
against Iran as furthering their own "Middle East ambitions."
Neither the US nor Iran appears to want a full-scale conflict, meaning an
extended US bombing campaign inside Iran's borders or a ground invasion.
Such a conflict would be devastating to both sides. However, when two
enemies like these start openly shooting at each other, neither side
wants to be seen as the one who blinks first. The result is a cycle of
attacks and counterattacks, which has the potential to spiral outside
of anyone's control.
The closest recent analogy may be the Egyptian-Israeli
Attrition, over the Suez Canal between the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Egypt vacillated between armed attacks and peace proposals, and
eventually regained the Canal and the Sinai Peninsula through the
1979 Camp David Accords. That's a case where the indecisiveness
of the border skirmishes lead to a larger war, and the threat of
further wars led to the US-brokered agreement. However, US-Iran
is a fundamentally dissimilar conflict. A closer conflict model
might be the UK-China Opium Wars of the 1840s, where an imperial
power, protected from counterattack by thousands of miles, waged
war on the periphery of a country it couldn't conquer and occupy,
to secure commercial demands meant to enrich itself and to weaken
and impoverish its opponent. Same thing happened between the UK
and Iran, only there Britain was able to secure the concessions
they desired -- most profitably, control over Iranian oil -- with
more pedestrian measures: bribes. Also recall that Iranian enmity
against the US started with the CIA coup in 1953, which restored
foreign control over Iran's oil, most of which went to American
companies. American enmity against Iran started in 1979, when the
revolution reclaimed Iran's oil for its people.
The embassy attack revealed Trump's weakness [01-01]: "By abandoning
diplomacy, the president risks war, humiliation, or both -- and has put
himself at Iran's mercy." This was written before the assassination of
Soleimani, so could arguably be charged with taunting Trump to show how
tough he really is -- or how dumb he really is. That's always a risk to
dwelling on how much America's military-based influence has declined of
late -- especially with presidents who'd rather be seen as tough than
as smart. (McGeorge Bundy made that distinction between Johnson and
Kennedy, but the split between Trump and Obama is even more glaring.)
On the other hand, America's military looks weakened because it's been
much overused since 2001. While the damage it has wrought all across
the Middle East and North Africa is staggering, the people who fight
us now are by definition the ones who have survived the slaughter,
who have learned the limits of "shock and awe," and who have been
hardened against further threats. Trump's flaks have described the
mass murder as establishing a deterrent, but deterrents are mental
constructs; examples are mere atrocities. True that the US could kill
many more people: with nuclear weapons, tens or even hundreds of
millions, but that would make it impossible even for us to deny
what kind of monsters we've become. (And make no mistake, America's
wars abroad are driven mostly by domestic politics, by self-image.)
On the other hand, the US still has much leverage diplomatically.
The Iran deal that Trump tore up is ample testimony to how far Iran
was willing to sacrifice its sovereign rights to appease the US and
Europe. It's equally clear that North Korea would shelve its nuclear
arsenal in exchange for an economic opening -- basically the same
deal that the US happily offers South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, even
Communist China and Vietnam. The problem is that Trump has no clue
how "the art of the deal" really works. His only mode is bullying,
which does little more than create resistance, while exposing the
real limits of his power.
The assassination of Suleimani escalates the threat of war:
"President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal nearly
two years ago started the US down this path with Iran."
Iran just outplayed the United States -- again [12-31] (not that
I give a shit what Boot thinks on this).
Trump's Iran aggression deserves full-throated opposition. Related:
Anti-war protesters organize around US following killing of Iranian
general. By the way,
we had a protest in Wichita, which drew about 150 people. Also,
look at this.
Trump thinks attacking Iran will get him reelected. He's wrong.
Trump's attacks on Obama were the purest form of projection. They reflect
his cynical belief that every president will naturally abuse their powers,
and thus provide a roadmap to his own intentions.
And indeed, Trump immediately followed the killing of Qasem Soleimani
by metaphorically wrapping himself in the stars and stripes. No doubt he
anticipates at least a faint echo of the rally-around-the-flag dynamic
that has buoyed many of his predecessors. . . .
But presidents traditionally benefit from a presumption of competence,
or at least moral legitimacy, from their opposition. Trump has forfeited
his. He will not have Democratic leaders standing shoulder to shoulder
with him, and his practice of disregarding and smearing government
intelligence should likewise dispel any benefit of the doubt attached to
claims he makes about the necessity of his actions. Trump has made it
plain that he views American war-fighting as nothing but the extension
of domestic politics. We should believe him.
Martin Chulov/Ghaith Abdul-Ahad:
Iran ends nuclear deal commitments as fallout from Suleimani killing
Iraq's worst fears have come true -- a proxy war is on its doorstep.
Some other recent Cockburn columns:
Trump and his team are lying their way to war with Iran.
Trump tweets threat to commit war crimes in Iran.
Trump's Soleimani assassination: It's all about the oil. Actually,
the article doesn't make much of a case for that -- not that control
of Iranian oil wasn't the prime consideration in the 1953 CIA coup in
Iran, or in Britain's numerous interventions over the previous century.
But the most immediate effect of war around the Persian Gulf is the
effect it has on driving worldwide oil prices up, which makes it a
bonanza for oil companies all around the world. On the other hand,
peace with Iran would risk flooding the market with cheap Iranian oil,
which would hurt profits everywhere else.
Iran loses its indispensable man: "The killing of Qassem Soleimani
robs the regime of the central figure for its ambitions in the Middle
East." I'd take this argument with several grains of salt, as the US,
Israel, and Saudia Arabia have long made a habit of exaggerating Iran's
"ambitions in the Middle East," and have had considerable success at
getting the US media to repeat their claims. His killing would only
make a critical difference if: he had substantial autonomy in directing
Quds Force operations outside of Iran, and his successors are inclined
now to change their strategy and tactics. It's hard to imagine the
assassination of any US general (at least since US Grant) making such
a difference. If anything, it's more likely that the vacuum will set
off a contest to see which of his possible successors will be the
most militantly vengeful.
The dangers posed by the killing of Qassem Suleimani. In 2013,
Filkins wrote a previous profile of Suleimani:
The shadow commander.
Graham E Fuller:
US foreign policy by assassination.
The Soleimani assassination: "The long-awaited beginning of the
end of America's imperial ambitions."
Prominent Iraq War supporters think Soleimani killing was a great
Falih Hassan/Tim Arango/Alissa J Rubin:
A shocked Iraq
reconsiders its relationship with the US: "The killing of General
Suleimani, intended as a shot against Iran, could accelerate an
Iranian objective: pushing the United States military out of Iraq."
This is probably the best-case scenario: Iraq tells the US to remove
its troops, if not necessarily to close its embassy. The government
in Iraq is already unpopular, and siding with the US when Trump is
ordering bombing within Iraq is bound to be massively unpopular.
War with Iran.
A second airstrike against Iranian targets in Iraq: what we know:
"The attack comes one day after a major escalation in US-Iranian
Why Trump assassinated Soleimani and what happens next.
Trump just declared war on Iran: "There is no other way to look
at the killing of Qassem Soleimani."
Trump once again proves himself clueless on Iran and North Korea.
It's time to worry about war with North Korea again. "The logjam stems
from the fact that both leaders are, in their own ways, delusional." I
didn't link to this last week, because Kaplan likes to parrot much of
the conventional Washington blather on North Korea, but North Korea and
Iran are linked in several critical ways: both nations have long been
isolated from any contact, let alone normal trade, with the West; that
isolation in both cases started with acts of war, which the US has never
made any effort to resolve; both have sought to force an opening through
the intimidation of building themselves up as nuclear powers; the US
regards both regimes as utterly abhorent, so refuses any reconciliation
without regime change, which they hope to achieve by impoverishment and
starvation. There are minor differences: notably that North Korea has
been isolated longer, and has developed a serious arsenal of weapons
that could inflict real damage, both on neighbors and as far away as
the continental US; and that US "allies" Israel and Saudi Arabia have
been more aggressive at pushing the US to escalate the conflict with
Iran -- not that Japan and, until recently, South Korea haven't been
hostile to North Korea, thereby reinforcing American instincts. The
US feels entitled to judge other countries, and to punish the ones it
disfavors with sanctions, thinking them somehow more merciful than
outright war. That may make sense when the sanctioned nation refuses
even to negotiate, but both North Korea and Iran have both made it
clear that they want more normalized relations with the US and others.
Trump's refusal to offer any sanctions relief even after three summits
is perverse and self-defeating, which is why Kim is tempted to return
to his previous threats and taunts. Trump's treatment of Iran is even
more contemptuous. Maybe in his business experience, Trump suffers no
consequences when he imperiously demands submission from suitors, but
the world doesn't work like that. The US sanctions regime doesn't let
North Korea or Iran simply take their business elsewhere.
Biden: Trump is 'incredibly dangerous and irresponsible' as the 'walls
The US can only lose in war with Iran. I take it as axiomatic
that no side can win in war. The most you can say is that some sides
lose more than others, but in the long run that evens out as well.
But one thing to note here is that the US has a lot more to lose
than Iran (currently impoverished by cruel sanctions) has -- perhaps
as large an asymmetry as the differences in destructive power.
Fox News is already accusing Democrats who question Trump of being
aligned with Iran. E.g.,
Sean Hannity calls for Trump to discard rules of engagement with Iran
and "bomb the living hell out of them".
As Sanders and Warren vow to block war with Iran, Biden and Buttigieg
offer better-run wars. That seems a little unfair, as the salient
point Biden and Buttigieg are making is that they offer leadership
smart enough not to make such blunders (although they could have been
clearer on the point). But the fact is nobody knows how to run wars
better. The common denominator is always what Donald Rumsfeld called
"the military we have," and efforts to make that military smarter,
more agile, more sensitive, more responsive, more principled, have
After Mossad targeted Soleimani, Trump pulled the trigger.
Extreme inequality will fuel Middle East turmoil and uncertainty into
the new year. Posted Dec. 12, so before the latest specifics, but
relevant nonetheless. Author also wrote
Resolving Lebanon's crisis.
Killing Soleimani was worse than a crime: "It was a blunder."
Always the optimist -- well, at the launch of a war, anyway.
Trump faces swift backlash for killing Soleimani as Iraqi Parliament
votes to expel US troops. Note especially this:
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has made some shocking revelations
that put the assassination of Soleimani in a completely different light.
He told the Iraqi parliament on Sunday that he "was supposed to meet
Soleimani on the morning of the day he was killed, he came to deliver
me a message from Iran responding to the message we delivered from Saudi
If this account is true, Trump -- perhaps deliberately -- acted to
scuttle an effort to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Nathan J Robinson:
How to avoid swallowing war propaganda: "Cutting through bad
arguments, distractions, and euphemisms to see murder for what it
Trump's tweets about Obama using war with Iran to win reelection are
very awkward now: "In order to get elected, Obama will start a
war with Iran." So, if he believed that worked, is Trump "wagging
the dog" now?
Trump's predictions not only turned out to be false, but the irony is
that instead of starting a war, the Obama administration's diplomacy
resulted in the multilateral Iran nuclear deal. Now that he's president,
however, Trump has gone down a very different path, unilaterally pulling
the US out of the nuclear deal, pursuing a "maximum pressure" campaign
aimed at crippling Iran's economy, and assassinating the head of the
country's paramilitary forces.
It's no secret by now that many of Trump's attacks on his political
foes are projection. He's spent months accusing former Vice President
Joe Biden of corruption, despite the fact that Trump himself is arguably
the most corrupt president in American history. He called Obama "a total
patsy" for Russia even though he's never been able to bring himself to
say a cross word about Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also attacked
Hillary Clinton for purportedly silencing women who accused her husband
of sexual misconduct at the same time Trump's lawyer was making illegal
hush payments to women to cover up affairs.
Missy Ryan/Josh Dawsey/Dan Lamothe/John Hudson:
How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general. One problem with
having an egotistical moron as president is that it's awfully easy for
underlings to steer him in ill-considered directions.
David E Sanger:
For Trump, a risky gamble to deter Iran: "The goal was to prove American
resolve in the face of Iranian attacks." The effect was to challenge Iran
to show greater resolve in the face of even larger American attacks.
With Suleimani assassination, Trump is doing the bidding of Washington's
most vile cabal.
9 big questions about Qassem Soleimani's killing, answered by an expert:
interview with Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the
Trump vows to target '52' sites if Iran retaliates for Soleimani death.
I don't know about you, but I associate this class of threat with Nazi
Germany, which promised to kill a hundred random people for every German
soldier killed in their occupation of the Balkans. I can't think of any
other examples, although Israel approaches that ratio, at least in Gaza.
I've long said that American neocons suffer from Israel-envy, as they
try to incorporate more and more elements of Israel's occupation strategy
into American foreign policy (e.g., targeted assassinations).
Mohammad Ali Shabani:
Donald Trump's assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt
The real risk of assassinating Soleimani.
Trump lit a fire by exiting the Iran deal & poured gasoline on
it by assassinating Soleimani.
Qassim Suleimani's killing will unleash chaos: "Revenge is not a
Democrats warn of the dangers of war while Republicans fall in line
after the killing of Iran's Qassem Soleimani. I thought Warren's
blame-Soleimani-first tweet was lame, then I read Klobuchar's: "Our
immediate focus needs to be on ensuring all necessary security
measures are taken to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel
in Iraq and throughout the region." Not even Sanders, whose opposition
to an Iran war was unequivocal, said the obvious: "what the fuck are
American troops doing in Iraq in the first place?" The only Democratic
tweet to make a key point was by Tim Kaine, blessed with the clarity
of hindsight: "Trump's decision to tear up a diplomatic deal that was
working and resume escalating aggressions with Iran has brought us to
the brink of another war in the Middle East." Understand that much and
you won't get snowed by the propaganda.
Trump threatens Afghan Armageddon. Quotes Trump: "If we wanted to
fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week.
I just don't want to kill 10 million people."
The killing of Qassem Suleimani is tantamount to an act of war.
Some scattered links this week:
If Ukraine is impeachable, what's Afghanistan?: "A misguided war that
drags on inconclusively for more than 18 years is, I submit, a great
Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to put himself above the law: "The
Israeli prime minister's latest attempt to avoid jail time further
demonstrates his treat to democracy."
Marketing psychiatric drugs to jailers and judges: "Drug companies
are courting jails and judges through sophisticated marketing efforts."
Can we survive the post-truth era? "How Donald Trump's perverse brand
of B.S. took over American politics."
Trump covering up scheme to use Justice Department to punish CNN.
EPA's scientific advisers warn its regulatory rollbacks clash with
established science. I suspect they also violate the laws that
established the EPA in the first place. I'd like to see Democrats
in the House write up another impeachment article over this.
Australia is committing climate suicide: "As record fires rage, the
country's leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom." Related:
Anti-war protesters were right about Afghanistan. Amen, and about
time someone said so. I believed that going to war in Afghanistan was
the original sin, the cardinal mistake from which every other atrocity
of the Global War on Terror flowed. I was in New York on 9/11. I lost
someone dear to me. She was a secretary in the World Trade Center, and
I spent time grieving with her family. I also went to the first anti-war
demonstration I could (in Union Square Park). I started blogging around
then, and I've never regretted an anti-war post. That 80% of Americans
at the time supported Bush's insane and cruel "crusade" only shows how
thoroughly our brains had been permeated by the militarism this country
has relished since WWII. (By the way, Bernie Sanders recently admitted
that his 2001 vote for the war was a grave mistake, going so far as to
acknowledge that Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote
against the war.)
Trump rule would exclude climate change in infrastructure planning.
The legacy of destructive austerity: "The deficit obsession of
2010-2015 did permanent damage." I've often thought that the Democrats
made a major mistake in not reversing the Bush tax cuts (and for good
measure raising rates on estates, capital gains, and the top bracket) as
soon as they took over Congress and the Presidency in 2009. They could
have deferred some of the tax increases on account of the recession,
but at least they would have defused most of the deficit alarms. As
it was, they waited until after they lost the 2010 election, at which
point their leverage was lost.
Chelsea Manning spent most of the last decade in prison. The UN says her
latest stint is tantamount to torture.
Iowa and New Hampshire are skewing coverage of the Democratic primary:
"If not for the polling results in those two states, no one would be
talking about Sanders." I normally don't bother with horserace journalism,
but this strikes me as especially egregious. According to 538, Sanders
is in second place nationwide, with 17.8% (behind Biden's 27.5%, ahead
of Warren's 15.0%, way ahead of Buttigieg's 7.7%). Sure, he's running
closer in Iowa (20.6%, second to Biden's 22.0%, ahead of Buttigieg's
19.4%, Warren's 13.3%, and Klobuchar's 7.0%), and he leading in New
Hampshire (21.3%, to 21.1% for Biden, 14.4% for Warren, and 13.7% for
Buttigieg; Klobuchar is next at 4.9%). LeTourneau spends most of her
space complaining about how white Iowa and New Hampshire are -- point
taken -- but the main thing those two states have going for them is
the intensity and intimacy of campaigning there. That they vote first
makes them inherently newsworthy. I'd also add that they are real swing
states, as opposed to South Carolina, which has only voted Democratic
once since 1960 (Carter in 1976). LeTourneau just wants to call the
other 48 states for Biden, race over. Nor does she care that Sanders
led all Democrats in
fundraising last quarter, with Buttigieg also leading Biden. The
real question is why various sectors of the media were conspicuously
ignoring Sanders for much of last year. LeTourneau shows how much they
still want to.
Man who gutted voting rights says Americans 'take democracy for
granted': "John Roberts wants you to know that the unelected
judges who keep sidelining voters and empowering plutocrats are
the guardians of our democracy."
Trump's tent cities are on the verge of killing immigrant children.
Gregory P Magarian:
Trump's most tragic legacy will be seen in ranks of judiciary
Former Navy SEAL capitalizes on newfound fame: "After receiving
presidential clemency, Edward Gallagher has left the SEALs to become
a pitchman and conservative activist." Related: Charles P Pierce:
Make no mistake. Edward Gallagher will be a star of the Republican
At every opportunity, Trump recklessly degrades American justice.
California now requires solar panels on all new homes. That's not
necessarily a good thing.
India: Intimations of an ending: "The rise of Modi and the Hindu
Astra Taylor talks about crushing debt, the 2020 race, and why we don't
live in a democracy.
Goodbye to William Greider, a great American Democrat.
Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name:
"Outside entities are raising huge money in Trump's name, despite disavowals
from the campaign, and spending little of it on 2020." No surprise that
there's a swamp of fraud surrounding Trump. He inspires it, and they're
nothing if not gullible.
Entire West Virginia correctional officer class fired following
investigation into Nazi salute photo.
2019: A year the news media would rather forget.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Music: Current count 32538  rated (+47), 228  unrated (-2).
Took an extra day to post Music Week this week. I figured I had
one more day in the month to work with, or actually one more day
to wrap up the year in calendar time, so I got in a little extra
listening. Also used the time to add some lists to the
EOY aggregate. Got up
to Radio X in
list of lists. Haven't done anything from the NPR Jazz Critics
Poll yet -- should be up in early January, not sure exactly when --
nor have a tracked down the JJA lists (that usually track JCP
ballots). Hence, very little data so far on jazz (other than my
I did get an invite to join something called
Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, and picked off a
couple dozen ballots there. My rule there was to only count
ballots from people I recognized, which mostly means members of
the Expert Witness Facebook group.
This week's records were mostly things I took an interest in
while compiling lists. The one major exception was that I resolved
to listen to the last 2019 releases in my promo queue, including
a couple I just got this week. The result is that, for now at
least, the "pending" lists in my
2019 file are empty. On the
other hand, I've tried not to accidentally delve into
2020 releases (looks like I
have 18 records waiting).
Quite a few B+(***) records below (15). Probably means I moved too
fast, at least on a few of them. (Kajfes is the one jazz record I'm
most tempted to review, especially after his Nacka Forum record got
an A-. But also I rarely give rap and electronica records anyway near
enough attention, although that didn't stop YBN Cordae or Atom[TM],
or for that matter Sault.)
All of this month's reviews have been rolled up in
December 2019 Streamnotes,
but I haven't done the usual indexing yet. Usually takes me 3-4 hours
to do it all, and if I hold back for that I'll be even later. Sometime
next week. More lists too. Maybe next week I'll be able to say a few
things about the EOY Aggregate, and have some more general reflections
on the year. Or maybe I'll just decide I'm due for a break.
New records reviewed this week:
Abjects: Never Give Up (2019, Yippee Ki Yay):
London-based post-punk trio, all women, all immigrants (from Spain,
Japan, Italy) -- something Brexit is meant to put an end to, so
they wrote a song about it.
Albare: Albare Plays Jobim (2019, Alfi): Wikipedia
describes Albert Dadon as "an Australian businessman, philanthropist
and musician." He was born in Morocco, grew up in Israel and France,
moved to Australia in 1983, where he runs Ubertas Group ("a diversified
funds management and property development company"), and has been
chairman of United Israel Appeal and Melbourne Jazz Festival. Also
plays guitar, as Albare, and has a series of quite respectable albums.
He dresses Jobim's melodies up in fancy strings -- arrangements by
his pianist, Joe Chindamo, providing a backdrop the guitar darts
Backxwash: Deviancy (2019, Grimalkin, EP): Trans
rapper from Zambia, based in Montreal. Eight tracks, 21:01. Most
hard and/or furious, although "You Like My Body the Way It Is"
changes everything up.
Philip Bailey: Love Will Find a Way (2019, Verve):
Soul singer, did the high leads for Earth Wind & Fire's big hits,
went solo in 1983, released 10 albums through 2002 (as well as a
gospel compilation), nothing since until this one. Three originals
(two with help from Robert Glasper), two from Curtis Mayfield, one
Marvin Gaye, several credited to jazz musicians, odd song out is
"Once in a Lifetime" (Talking Heads).
Barker: Utility (2019, Ostgut Ton): British techno
producer, based in Berlin, first album after some EPs and a duo.
Fairly minimalist synth patterns, very attractive.
Bonzo Squad: There's Always Tomorrow (2019,
self-released, EP): Chicago quartet, group name comes from a title
released in 2016 under saxophonist Corbin Andrick's name. He's
credited with "reeds" here, the others "keys/lasers," "bass/pedals,"
and "drums." Seven tracks, 28:31. Nothing special about the groove,
but the sax does soar above.
Boogie: Everythings for Sale (2019, Shady/Interscope):
Rapper Anthony Dixson, from Compton, first album after three mixtapes.
Peter Brötzmann: I Surrender Dear (2019, Trost):
German avant-saxophonist, defined the noise wing of the movement
with his 1968 classic Machine Gun and has rarely let up in
the fifty years since. But he does take it easy here, feeling his
way solo through a batch of covers (counting Misha Mengelberg's
"Brozziman"). sometimes awkwardly.
Deep State: The Path to Fast Oblivion (2019, Friendship
Fever): Athens, GA post-punk group, sounds promising until they slow
Dumb: Club Nites (2019, Mint): Postpunk band from
Vancouver, BC. Not so dumb. Kind of catchy, even.
Earthgang: Mirrorgang (2019, Dreamville/Interscope):
Atlanta-based hip-hop duo, third album (first on a major label).
Choppy, often rushed, with the occasional brilliant splotch.
Emmeluth's Amoeba: Chimaera (2019, Řra Fonogram):
Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, leading a group with piano
(Christian Balvag), guitar (Karl Bjorĺ), and drums (Ole Mofjell).
Second album. Impressive stretches.
Gang Starr: One of the Best Yet (2019, TTT/Gang
Starr): Hip-hop duo, six albums 1989-2003, founder MC Guru died
in 2010, leaving some vocal tracks (2005-09) that are the basis
for this "seventh and final studio album," produced by DJ Premier,
with extra guest vocals. Keeping it old style.
Elena Gilliam/Michael Le Van: Then Another Turns
(2019, Blujazz): Standards singer and pianist (who wrote music to
one song). I only found one previous album for her (as Elena), but
she's old enough to snag a "Living Legend of Jazz" honor, and her
voice supports the claim. Nice piano leads too, backed with bass
and drums, with spots for trumpet and saxophone.
Devin Gray GPS Trio: Blast Beat Blues (2019, Rataplan,
EP): Drummer, with Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax) and Luke Stewart (bass),
five short pieces (13:47), too fancy for punk jazz, but that's the
Devin Gray: Devin Gray's Algorhythmica (2019, Rataplan,
EP): Two pieces, 5:28 and 5:36, composed by the drummer and played by
a quartet with Maria Grand (tenor sax), Mara Rosenbloom (piano), and
Carmen Rothwell (bass). Ambitious postbop, but just a sketch.
Jason Hawk Harris: Love & the Dark (2019, Bloodshot):
Singer-songwriter, from Houston, based in Los Angeles, on an alt-country
label, first album. Reportedly darkly powerful on his own ("the literary
and sonic audacity of early Steve Earle"), but went overboard with the
The Hot Sardines: Welcome Home/Bon Voyage (2019,
Eleven): Retro-swing band from New York, formed in 2007 by pianist
Evan Palazzo and fronted by French singer Elizabeth Bougerol, got
my attention with their eponymous 2014 album. This one's live from
Koerner Hall in Toronto and Joe's Pub in New York, familiar songs,
warmed up nicely.
Insignificant Other: I'm So Glad I Feel This Way About You!
(2019, Counter Intuitive): Alt/indie band from Birmingham, Alabama,
punkish guitar-bass-drums trio with Sim Morales the singer.
Loraine James: For You and I (2019, Hyperdub):
From London, first album, produces glitchy electronica, vocals up
front, including her brand stake, "Glitch Bitch."
Goran Kajfes Tropiques: Into the Wild (2019, Headspin):
Swedish trumpet player, at least seven records since 2000, second with
this quintet -- Christer Bothen (bass clarinet), Alexander Zethson
(keyboards), Johan Berthling (bass), Johan Homegard (drums) -- after
three with his Subtropic Arkestra.
Ari Lennox: Shea Butter Baby (2019, Dreamville/Interscope):
Neo-soul singer, original name Courtney Salter, first album, goes
through the motions, impresses on occasion but not much sticks.
Danny Lerman: Ice Cat (2019, Blujazz): Saxophonist,
studied at UNT and Berklee, pictured on soprano. Short album, five
tracks (31:18), most with funk beats and vocals, can impress you
with his instrument.
Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor (2019, self-released):
Canadian rapper, from Toronto, started in a group called the Sorority.
First solo album, after an EP.
Nacka Forum: Sĺ Stopper Festen (2019, Moserobie):
Scandinavian free jazz group, sixth album since 2002, originally a
quintet but now down to four: Goran Kajfes (trumpet), Jonas Kullhammar
(saxophones), Johan Berthling (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums),
with most switching off to other instruments (Osgood to vibes and
organ). All write, but mostly Kullhammar.
The New Pornographers: In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
(2019, Concord): Rather arty alt/indie band from Vancouver, seemed
like a big deal with their debut in 2000, but I didn't like that one,
and despite repeated attempts have never found much in their fairly
substantial catalog. This sounds as good as any for a few minutes,
then loses interest. More string synths than I recall. The change of
pace helps ("You Won't Need Those Where You're Going").
Isabelle Olivier/Rez Abbasi: OASIS (2019, Enja/Yellowbird):
Harp (with electronics) and acoustic guitar, backed by Prabhu Edouard
(tabla & kanjira) and David Paycha (drums). Title an acronym for
Olivier Abbasi Sound In Sound. After an unsettling "My Favorite Things,"
originals, mostly from Olivier, whose harp blends in but is frequently
overrun by the percussion.
Henrik Olsson/Ola Rubin: Olsson/Rubin (2019, Barefoot):
Guitar and trombone, both Swedish (although Olsson is based in Copenhagen),
label is a collective. Instruments are rarely used conventionally, with
rough bits of electronic noise most common. Still, fairly listenable for
Rozina Pátkai: Taladim (2018 , Tom-Tom): Hungarian
singer, strikes me as folk-pop but she's drawn a lot on bossa nova in the
past, and promoted this as a jazz record.
Lee Scratch Perry: Heavy Rain (2019, On-U Sound):
Reportedly a dub remix ("companion to") the auteur's Rainford,
one of this year's best albums. Not obviously redundant: all new song
titles, a couple guests (Eno's piece is "Here Come the Warm Dreads"),
relaxed, happy to indulge whatever odd sounds emerge.
Lee Scratch Perry: Life of the Plants (2019, Stones
Throw): Label just names the Jamaican dub master, but a sticker adds
Peaking Lights (Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis) and Ivan Lee, who are
probably responsible for the electronics the rest is built on. Five
nine-minute tracks, same powerful groove.
Sampa the Great: The Return (2019, Ninja Tune):
Sampa Tembo, born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, studied in California,
based in Australia, first album, after a couple of mixtapes. Sings,
raps, entertains many guests, epic sweep running on for 19 songs,
Sault: 5 (2019, Forever Living Originals): Nothing
I can find on this group or (more likely) individual, but name means
a leap or jump, or less archaically "a fall or rapid in a river."
First album, followed in short order by 7. I've seen various
comparisons, but not the one that occurred to me: Chic. Well, minus
the great bass lines, but everything else is there, and new again.
Sault: 7 (2019, Forever Living Originals): Second
album, released less than five months after the debut, extends the
groove and, if anything, tightens up the songcraft.
Derek Senn: How Could a Man (2019, self-released):
Folksinger-songwriter, from California, third album. Has some stories.
Somersaults [Olie Brice/Tobias Delius/Mark Sanders]: Numerology
of Birdsong (2018 , West Hill): Bass-sax-drums trio,
Delius playing tenor and clarinet, kept the title of their previous
record as a group name. Smart, measured free jazz.
Svetlost: Odron Ritual Orchestra (2019, PMG):
Eleven-piece jazz band from Skopje, Macedonia. Two long pieces,
each starting slow before flowering into something splendid.
Thick: Thick (2019, Epitaph): Post-punk trio from
Brooklyn, guitar-bass-drums, all women, all credited with vocals,
sound thickens into shoegaze. Three songs, 9:04.
Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five: Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to
Chuck Berry (2019, BMG): Small Faces guitarist, tried his hand
at a solo career in the 1970s but settled for the job security of
another British Invasion blues band. He wrote a sloppy intro here
("Tribute to Chuck Berry"), then reverted to form, coasting on
someone else's genius. Imelda May sings a blues, he sings the rest
with a broad grin, and the band is super-hot.
Billy Woods: Terror Management (2019, Blackwoodz Studioz):
Rapper, born in DC, parents intellectuals from Jamaica and Zimbabwe, spent
the 1980s living in Africa, got into music in the late 1990s, part of Armand
Hammer, has a dozen albums more/less on his own. This one would take some
time to sort out.
YBN Cordae: The Lost Boy (2019, Atlantic): Rapper
Cordae Dunston, from North Carolina, grew up in Maryland, wound up
in Los Angeles, in a collective that goes by YBN (e.g., YBN Nahmir,
YBN Glizzy, YBN Almighty Jay). First album, after several mixtapes
(as Entendre). Sound stories, cute skits, various guests but holds
Young Nudy & Pi'erre Bourne: Sli'merre (2019,
RCA): Atlanta rapper Quantavious Tavario Thomas with producer Jordan
Jenks, who has an album and several mixtapes on his own. Guest spots
for 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, and Lil Uzi Vert.
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Atom[TM]: Lassigue Bendhaus/Matter (1992 ,
AtomTM Audio Archive, 2CD): One of many aliases for Uwe Schmidt,
German electronica producer based in Chile. Clangy beats, whisper
vocals, runs too long but very impressive. No idea about dozens
more where this came from.
Burial: Tunes 2011 to 2019 (2011-19 , Hyperdub,
2CD): British electronica producer William Bevan, variously classed as
dubstep, downtempo, and ambient, released two proper albums 2006-07,
but only EPs since then -- seven of them collected here, sequenced
(mostly) latest to earliest, vainly trying to reverse a decade-long
decline. (My EP grades, from 2019 to 2011: B, B, *, **, A-, A-, ***.)
First disc is over half done before anything catches my ear. Second
is better, maybe even worth the while.
Masahiko Satoh/Sabu Toyozumi: The Aiki (1997 ,
NoBusiness): Piano-drums duo, major figures in Japanese avant-garde
since 1969 (Satoh) and 1974 (Toyozumi). Two pieces (37:24 + 19:51),
relentlessly inventive, most impressed by the drummer.
Olie Brice/Tobias Delius/Mark Sanders: Somersaults
(2014 , Two Rivers): Delius plays tenor sax and clarinet, with
bass and drums -- all English, although Delius has long lived in
Amsterdam, his best known band the ICP Orchestra.
Emmeluth's Amoeba: Polyp (2017 , Řra Fonogram):
Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, group based in Oslo, first
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Albare: Albare Plays Jobim (Alfi)
- Bonzo Squad: There's Always Tomorrow (self-released, EP)
- Harrison˛: Trout in Swimwear (self-released) [02-09]
- Never Weather: Blissonance (Ridgeway) [01-17]
- Henrik Olsson/Ola Rubin: Olsson/Rubin (Barefoot)
- Dave Soldier: Zajal (Mulatta) [01-01]
Sunday, December 29, 2019
No intro. Didn't really feel like doing this in the first place,
but had tabs I wanted to close.
Some scattered links this week:
Trump's executive order on anti-semitism isn't about protecting Jews.
A NATO expert criticized Trump on Twitter. So a US ambassador barred him
from speaking at a conference. Stanley Sloan. I meant to write some
about this, at least after Robert Christgau endorsed and circulated a
link to Sloan's talk notes. I can't go into it here, other than to note
that I thought the talk was horrible. (The extent of Sloan's delusion
can be gauged by his book title: Defense of the West: NATO, the
European Union and the Transatlantic Bargain. You can see from
that title why he's the sort of guy who gets invites to speak at NATO
Does the left have any better ideas than Obama's? "The Obama era
produced the most sweeping combination of social reforms, economic
rescue, and regulation of any presidency in half a century." That's
bullshit hyperbole, depending on a very low bar, and overlooking
the much more effective "reforms" of Reagan, the Bushes, and even
Trump, just because they've nearly always been for the worse. Those
50 years include 40 since Reagan's "revolution," following what now
looks like prefiguring by Nixon and Carter -- a period of Democrats
trying to frame their policy objectives in Republican terms (e.g.,
as "market reforms"), to ever less avail. Chait wants to rail against
recent re-evaluations of Obama's works, but I see those as necessary
steps to clear the air of zombie ideas:
President Trump's dream is to become America's Viktor Orbán: "Why
the president and his supporters are following the Hungarian autocrat's
Elizabeth Dias/Jeremy W Peters:
Evangelical leaders close ranks with Trump after scathing editorial.
California is burning -- nationalize PG&E.
Is Donald Trump the second 9/11?
California's fires prove the American dream is flammable: "If we want
to keep cities safe in the face of climate change, we need to seriously
question the ideal of private homeownership." Not the conclusion I would
draw, even from only reading this article.
Behind the bewildering recent incidents of anti-semitism. Later,
"We are living in a touristic prison": Palestinians on life in the holy
city of Bethlehem.
Astead W Herndon:
'Nothing less than a civil war': These white voters on the far right
see doom without Trump. E.g., "Mark Villalta said he had been
stockpiling firearms, in case the 2020 election does not go in the
A world to win: "Decolonization and the pursuit of a more egalitarian
international order." Review of Adam Getachew's book, Worldmaking After
Empire: Rise and Fall of Self-Determination.
2019 was a brutal year for American farmers.
The hidden histories in the periodic table: "From poisoned monks and
nuclear bombs to the "tranfermium wars," mapping the atomic world hasn't
David D Kirkpatrick:
How a Chase Bank chairman helped the deposed Shah of Iran enter the
US: "The fateful decision in 1979 to admit Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
prompted the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and helped
doom the Carter presidency."
Is nuclear power worth the risk?
Big money and America's lost decade. "Yes, the rich have too much
political influence." One might addd, "in both political parties," but
the key event of the "lost decade" was the Republican takeover of the
House in 2010, which shifted political focus away from merely serving
the rich (which Clinton and Obama did more successfully, flamboyantly
even, than any Republican) to impoverishing working Americans.
The cruelty of a Trump Christmas: "Republicans aren't Scrooges --
they're much worse."
Republicans are fiscally reckless and irresponsible: Of couse they
are. But they benefit from a double standard, as the media only seems
to take the charge seriously if directed against a Democrat.
The 2010s were the decade that bent democracy to the breaking
Eric Lipton/Maggie Haberman/Mark Mazzetti:
Behind the Ukraine aid freeze: 84 days of conflict and confusion:
"The inside story of President Trump's demand to halt military assistance
to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda."
False idol -- why the Christian right worships Donald Trump.
Holly Otterbein/David Siders:
Democratic insiders: Bernie could win the nomination.
Adam K Raymond:
Thw world's 500 richest people increased their wealth by $1.2 trillion
The Trump administration just snuck through its most devious coal subsidy
The Christmas Eve confessions of Chuck Todd: "That disinformation was
going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he
says he discovered it."
Future generations will look back on Trump's latest wind turbines rant
in awe and horror.
The massive triumph of the rich, illustrated by stunning new data.
Why did Trump ditch his church in Palm Beach on Christmas Eve for
evangelical service? I predict that by election day he'll convert
to Pentecostalism. That way his gibberish will be excused as "speaking
Katrina vanden Heuvel:
Remembering Bill Greider: "Bill was an American heretic: inquisitive,
unwilling to accept conventional dogmas, and always a voice for the
A sampling of pieces by William Greider:
American hubris, or, how globalization brought us Donald Trump
[2018-04-19]: "It was 'free trade' mania, pushed by both major political
parties, that destroyed working-class prosperity and laid the groundwork
for his triumph."
What killed the Democratic Party? [2017-10-30]: "A new report offers
a bracing autopsy of the 2016 election -- and lays out a plan for
Why American democracy has descended into collective hysteria [2017-09-28]:
"We are a great power in decline -- but neither party has a clue what to
do about it."
It's Groundhog Day in Washington, with Trump peddling the same old Reaganite
snake oil [2017-04-28]: "Tax cuts for the wealthy didn't increase
government revenue then, and they're not going to now. It's mourning
again in America."
Here's what you need to know about the Federal Reserve [2017-03-17]:
"We demand way too much from the central bank -- but that's because our
elected politicians have done almost nothing to revive the economy."
Whom should we blame for our deranged democracy? [2016-09-20]:
"Laying it all on Trump is too easy -- both political parties are out
of touch and distant from the people."
How Trump dog-whistles the business establishment [2016-03-18]:
"He cleverly woos the GOP base on issues like trade, but this working-class
hero is actually a willing agent of the 1 percenters."
How Donald Trump could beat Hillary Clinton [2016-03-11]: "In the
general election, he could win by running to her left -- and her
Vietnam is the war that didn't end [2015-05-05]: "Forty years later,
we still haven't confronted the true lesson of Vietnam."
How the Democratic Party lost its soul [2014-11-11]: "The trouble
started when the party abandoned its working-class base."
Why was Paul Krugman so wrong? [2013-04-01]: "Everyone's favorite
Nobel-winning Keynesian is no longer gravely deluded on the global
economy. How much can we trust him now?"
When big business needs a favor, George Bush gets the call [1984-04-12]:
"Ronald Reagan's back-door man."
The education of David Stockman [1981-12].
Other recent pieces on Greider:
Senate Republicans were laser-focused on confirming judges in 2019 -- even
the unqualified ones.
Monday, December 23, 2019
Music: Current count 32491  rated (+25), 230  unrated (+4).
Skipped last week, so this one covers two weeks, with a big hole in
the middle. On. Dec. 12, I had surgery to open up my nasal passages,
hopefully to breathe better. The surgery was fairly quick, and I was
home by noon, but my recovery hasn't been anything to brag about. I
did virtually nothing for over a week. Had a follow-up appointment
after a week, with the PA poking around, pulling out scabs and clots
of blood. During that week I checked email and processed a few late
ballots for Francis Davis's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (we did finally
match last year's total of 140), but couldn't work for more than 15
minutes at a time (even on something as mechanical as Noisey's EOY
list, which took me 4-5 sessions). I didn't feel much better Friday,
but found I could get some work done. I only played old jazz for a
week, but started streaming some new music -- mostly hip-hop, as it
turned out. Pretty much everything I heard landed at B+(**), and
this week's reviews are even shorter and shabbier than usual.
Almost finished the week without a single A- record, but
Trapline landed 10th on
Phil Overeem's year-end list. I still can't tell you why, but
three plays convinces me there's enough going on there to merit the
grade. Almost added a second one, Emmeluth's Amoeba: Chimaera,
Chris Monsen's list, but decided I need another play before trying
to write anything.
While I was down, I missed three pieces (free, I think) from
And It Don't Stop subscription newsletter, so I'll
do penance for not announcing them in a timely manner here:
Don't have much more to say at this point. The usual tracking files
are in the
usual places. I've added a few things to the
EOY Aggregate, but it is
nowhere near up to date (and while I'm likely to add to it, it may
never try to make it as comprehensive as in recent years).
New records reviewed this week:
Eric Alexander: Eric Alexander With Strings (2019,
High Note): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, called his 1992 debut
Straight Up, has 40+ albums since, even more side credits
(including more than a dozen in One for All). Cover credits his
long-running quartet (David Hazeltine, John Webber, Joe Farnsworth),
as well as Dave Rivello for arranging and conducting the strings --
not terribly interesting on their own, but not saccharine fluff
Gonçalo Almeida/Martin van Duynhoven/Tobias Klein: Live at
the Bimhuis (2017 , Clean Feed): Bass, drums, alto
sax or bass or contrabass clarinet.
Rebecca Angel: Santa Baby (2019, Timeless Grooves,
1): Actually, just a 3:28 single, something I wouldn't review but
for being sent the CD. Song dates to Eartha Kitt in 1953 -- wonder
why it's not done more often. Delicious, and no penalty for quitting
while she's ahead.
Atmosphere: Whenever (2019, Rhymesayers Entertainment):
Minneapolis hip-hop duo, rapper Slug (Dea Daley) and DJ/producer Ant
(Anthony Davis), beaucoup albums since 1997. More relationship songs
here, always a staple.
Courtney Barnett: MTV Unplugged (Live in Melbourne)
(2019, Marathon Artists): Recorded October 22, 2019, so little more
than a month before the December 6 release date. Her acoustic guitar
isn't nearly as potent as her electric, but she picks up resonance
with a cello in the band. Also picks up a couple guests, and closes
with a strong cover of Leonard Cohen's "Goodbye Marianne."
Beck: Hyperspace (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter,
released some of the best albums of the 1990s, has been hard to even
recognize since 1999's funk move, Midnite Vultures. Collaborator
here is Pharrell Williams, which should be good for a few cheap hooks.
Too bad I couldn't recognize that many.
Dopolarians: Garden Party (2019, Mahakala): Sextet,
or merger of trios: one (relatively young) cluster is made up of
Chris Parker (piano), Chad Fowler (alto sax), and Kelley Hurt (voice),
and they do most of the writing; the other is well known: Kidd Jordan
(tenor sax), William Parker (bass), and Alvin Fielder (drums).
Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program: Dance of the Cosmos
(2019, Akashik, EP): Gregory Shorter Jr., DJ/producer from Los Angeles,
24 albums/mixtapes since 2008, died at 40 in 2019. Dense grooves with
[Napster only has 4/5 tracks; other track on Bandcamp, total 28:50.]
Lafayette Harris Jr.: You Can't Lose With the Blues
(2019, Savant): Pianist, from Baltimore, debut 1992, this a trio
with the superb Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. Still not really
what I'd call bluesy.
Hiromi: Spectrum (2019, Telarc): Japanese pianist,
Hiromi Uehara, has recorded steadily since 2003, understands that
one key to popularity is keeping it brisk. This one is solo, so
she doubles down, and keeps it going for 73:16.
Hot Chip: A Bath Full of Ecstasy (2019, Domino):
English electropop group, seventh studio album since 2006. Catchy,
most of the time.
Brittany Howard: Jaime (2019, ATO): Singer-songwriter,
gone solo after two records fronting Alabama Shakes, did a fair Otis
Redding impersonation there. Bits of retro-soul here, too, mixed in
with unclassifiable experiments. Her diva move?
Kaytranada: Bubba (2019, RCA): Louis Kevin Celestin,
born in Haiti, grew up in Canada, second album after a lot of EPs,
mixtapes, and production credits (some as Kaytradamus). Has a real
knack for pop trifles.
José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Live in Moscow (2018 ,
Clean Feed): Portuguese alto saxophonist, backed by two-thirds of RED
Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro and Hernâni Faustino, piano and bass), plus his
brother Joăo on drums.
Jeff Lofton: Jericho (2019, self-released): Trumpet
player, based in Austin. Blues-based bop, with "The Christmas Song"
a change of pace I'll pardon this week, and two vocal takes of
"Compared to What" (by Carolyn Wonderland and Murali Coryell).
Caroline Polachek: Pang 2019, Columbia): Singer-songwriter,
leader of Chairlift (3 albums, 2008-16), first solo album (at least
under her own name).
Slayyyter: Slayyyter (The Mixtape) (2019, self-released):
Catherine Slater, electropop singer from suburban St. Louis, first
album. Leads with sex, which never comes clear in the dense mix,
not that I especially mind.
Sly & Robbie/Roots Radics: The Final Battle: Sly &
Robbie vs. Roots Radics (2019, Serious Reggae): Roots Radics
started in the late 1970s as the studio band for Channel One, have
several dozen albums, mostly meet-ups with dub-oriented singers and
producers -- Dunbar & Shakespeare have much the same resume,
often working with even bigger stars. No problem evoking reggae's
heyday, but not so easy building on that.
Sly & Robbie: Dub Serge (2019, Taxi): Refers
back to a 1979 Serge Gainsbourg album, Aux Armes Et Caetera,
which Sly, Robbie, Ansel Collins, and other Jamaicans played on
(backing vocals were the I Threes: Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths,
and Rita Marley). This "remake" disposes of the vocals and makes
Gainsbourg's songs unrecognizable, buried under layers of classic
Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Trapline (2019, Fontana North):
Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo, from the Haisla reserve village
of Kitamaat, now based in Vancouver, third album. Hard to get a handle
here, but obviously much in jest, and serious nonetheless.
Stormzy: Heavy Is the Head (2019, Merky/Atlantic):
English rapper Michael Owuo Jr., grime star, second album. Fast,
dense, some politics, some serious charges.
Dave Stryker: Eight Track Christmas (2019, Strikezone):
Guitarist, close to 40 albums since 1990, counting the band he co-leads
with Steve Slagle. Released Eight Track in 2014 with this no-horn,
groove-oriented quartet -- Stefon Harris (vibes), Jared Gold (organ),
McClenty Hunter (drums) -- and aside from the season focus this would
be IV. Leans secular, with "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" the one
Sudan Archives: Athena (2019, Stones Throw): Brittney
Denise Parks, born in Cincinnati, based in Los Angeles, self-taught
violin, learned to feed that through loops and added her voice. First
LP after two EPs. Defies genre, so another hip young singer-songwriter.
"All we got is the Internet" is a sign of the times, for better and/or
Juan Vinuesa Jazz Quartet: Blue Shots From Chicago
(2018 , NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, from Spain, spent a
couple years in Chicago where he put this group together: Josh Berman
(cornet), Jason Roebke (bass), and Mikel Patrick Avery (drums). Free
jazz, has a nice lyrical feel.
The Who: Who (2019, Polydor): In 1994 they released
a box set called Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, but by my
calculation it was more like six (1965-71) -- sure, Quadrophenia
(1973) has its fans, but the decline through It's Hard (1982)
was undeniable. I'd say they set themselves up with "I hope I die
before I get old," especially when only Keith Moon did (1978). Aside
from profit-taking boxes, this is only their second album since --
Endless Wire appeared in 2006. Got to give them credit here for
sounding like no one else. Still, he record runs longer than their
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carter/John Stevens: Blue
Cat (1991 , NoBusiness): Cornet player, had a legendary
two-horn quartet with John Carter, tries to conjure up a bit of that
dynamic with alto saxophonist Gjerstad. Recorded in London with local
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Lila Ammons: Genealogy (self-released) [01-10]
- John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (Freedom Road) [01-20]
- Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams (Firm Roots Music) [03-06]
- Yelena Eckemoff: Nocturnal Animals (L&H Production, 2CD) [01-24]
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity (Libra) [02-14]
- Gordon Grdina/Matt Mitchel/Jim Black: Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio (Skirl) [01-10]
- Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (Jazzbeat Productions) [01-17]
- Kuzu [Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon]: Purple Dark Opal (Aerophonic) [02-18]
- Jeff Lofton: Jericho (self-released)
- Nacka Forum: Sĺ Stopper Festen (Moserobie)
Sunday, December 22, 2019
I didn't feel like doing a Roundup this weekend, but found a piece
I wanted to quote at length, and figured that might suffice:
What we know about Trump going into 2020. I haven't been a fan of
Sullivan's lately (well, ever), and don't endorse his asides on the
moral superiority of conservatives, but his assessment of Trump hits
a lot of key points, and is well worth reading at length (I am going
to add some numbered footnotes where I have something I want to add):
So reflect for a second on the campaign of 2016. One Republican
candidate channeled the actual grievances and anxieties of many
Americans, while the others kept up their zombie politics and
economics. One candidate was prepared to say that the Iraq War
was a catastrophe, that mass immigration needed to be controlled,
that globalized free trade was devastating communities and
industries, that we needed serious investment in infrastructure,
that Reaganomics was way out of date, and that half the country
was stagnating and in crisis.
That was Trump. In many ways, he deserves credit for this wake-up
call. And if he had built on this platform and crafted a presidential
agenda that might have expanded its appeal and broadened its base, he
would be basking in high popularity and be a shoo-in for reelection.
If, in a resilient period of growth, his first agenda item had been
a major infrastructure bill and he'd combined it with tax relief for
the middle and working classes, he could have crafted a new conservative
coalition that might have endured. If he could have conceded for a
millisecond that he was a newbie and that he would make mistakes, he
would have been forgiven for much. A touch of magnanimity would have
worked wonders. For that matter, if Trump were to concede, even now,
that his phone call with President Zelensky of Ukraine went over the
line and he now understands this, we would be in a different world.
The two core lessons of the past few years are therefore: (1)
Trumpism has a real base of support in the country with needs that
must be addressed, and (2) Donald Trump is incapable of doing it
and is such an unstable, malignant, destructive narcissist that he
threatens our entire system of government. The reason this impeachment
feels so awful is that it requires removing a figure to whom so many
are so deeply bonded because he was the first politician to hear them
in decades. It feels to them like impeachment is another insult from
the political elite, added to the injury of the 21st century. They
take it personally, which is why their emotions have flooded their
brains. And this is understandable.
But when you think of what might have been and reflect on what has
happened, it is crystal clear that this impeachment is not about the
Trump agenda or a more coherent version of it. It is about the character
of one man: his decision to forgo any outreach, poison domestic politics,
marinate it in deranged invective, betray his followers by enriching
the plutocracy, destroy the dignity of the office of president, and
turn his position into a means of self-enrichment. It's about the
personal abuse of public office: using the presidency's powers to
blackmail a foreign entity into interfering in a domestic election
on his behalf, turning the Department of Justice into an instrument
of personal vengeance and political defense, openly obstructing
investigations into his own campaign, and treating the grave matter
of impeachment as a "hoax" while barring any testimony from his own
Character matters. This has always been a conservative principle
but one that, like so many others, has been tossed aside in the
convulsions of a cult. And it is Trump's character alone that has
brought us to this point. . . .
The impeachment was inevitable because this president is so
profoundly and uniquely unfit for the office he holds, so contemptuous
of the constitutional democracy he took an oath to defend, and so
corrupt in his core character that a crisis in the conflict between
him and the rule of law was simply a matter of time. When you add to
this a clear psychological deformation that can produce the astonishing,
deluded letter he released this week in his own defense or the manic
performance at his Michigan rally Wednesday night, it is staggering
that it has taken this long. The man is clinically unwell, preternaturally
corrupt, and instinctively hostile to the rule of law. In any other
position, in any other field of life, he would have been fired years
ago and urged to seek medical attention with respect to his mental
- Restricing immigration is a favorite talking point of other
"never Trump conservatives" (e.g., David Frum), one thing that
helps them keep their identity distinct from liberals. There is
a case to be made that low-wage immigrants undermine American
workers, but Trump and anti-immigrant Republicans only frame
the issue in racial and cultural terms.
- Of course, this is sheer fantasy: the "conservative" mindset
allowed Trump no room to maneuver toward giving even his white
middle class supporters a break from the government, let alone
more leverage against their employers and the predators who have
been stripping wealth at every turn. They couldn't even imagine a
government that helped balance the scales (although that's exactly
what the New Deal did, with a bias for white people that Trump
might admire). Thus, for instance, the infrastructure bill offered
nothing but privatization measures.
Sullivan also has an appreciative piece on his old chum's win in
the UK elections:
Boris's blundering brilliance, including this bit:
The parallels with Donald Trump are at first hard to resist: two
well-off jokers with bad hair playing populist. But Trump sees
himself, and is seen by his voters, as an outsider, locked out of
the circles he wants to be in, the heir to a real-estate fortune
with no political experience and a crude sense of humor, bristling
with resentment, and with a background in reality television. He
despises constitutional norms, displays no understanding of history
or culture, and has a cold streak of cruelty deep in his soul.
Boris is almost the opposite of this, his career a near-classic
example of British Establishment insiderism with his deep learning,
reverence for tradition, and a capacity to laugh at himself that is
rare in most egos as big as his. In 2015, after Trump described parts
of London as no-go areas because of Islamist influence, Johnson
accused him of "a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly,
unfit to hold the office of president." Even as president, Trump is
driven primarily by resentment. Boris, as always, is animated by
entitlement. (The vibe of his pitch is almost that people like him
should be in charge.)
Some scattered links this week:
Sarah Almukhtar/Rod Nordland:
What did the US get for $2 trillion in Afghanistan? Nordland also
The death toll for Afghan forces is secret. Here's why.
Robert P Baird:
The art of the Democratic deal: "How Nancy Pelosi and her party
navigated a historic week in the House of Representatives."
The shamelessness of Bill Barr.
Senate Republicans have already made up their minds on impeachment.
Julia Belluz/Nina Martin:
The extraordinary danger of being pregnant and uninsured in Texas.
Christianity Today called for Trump's removal. Here's why that doesn't
How new voting machines could hack our democracy.
Juliet Eilperin/Steven Mufson:
The Trump administration just overturned a ban on old-fashioned
The field guide to tyranny: Review of Frank Dikötter: How to Be
a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century, and
Daniel Kalder: The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They
Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy.
Why so many people who need the government hate it: Interview with
Suzanne Mettler author of The Government-Citizen Disconnect.
Pull quote: "If we become more and more anti-government, we're against
ourselves. We're against out own collective capacity to do anything."
No, evangelicals aren't turning on Trump.
The right and wrong lessons from Corbyn and Labour's defeat.
Roge Karma/Ezra Klein:
In 2020, Joe Biden and the "moderates" are well to Obama's left.
Examples group Sanders/Warren and Biden/Buttigieg and compare both to
Obama in 2008. Had they picked Klobuchar for their "moderate" sample,
the waters might have been a good deal muddier. (Same for Bloomberg.)
Lots of reasons for the shift left, not least that even in the rare
cases Obama managed to fulfill a promise, his solutions were no way
near adequate to address the problems. I'm actually surprised that no
one has tried to claim the "moderate lane" by conceding that Sanders
is right on where we want to go but wrong on tactics, offering instead
shorter steps that point us in the right direction, ones that one can
build momentum on. One obvious thing is to promote schemes to expand
on Medicare for more and more people. Every time Buttigieg attacks
Medicare-for-All he exposes the loss of a couple points from his IQ.
Before long, he'll sink below Beto O'Rourke, maybe even John Delaney.
By then he'll be finished.
What's Russian for 'I told you so'? How American exceptionalism
suppressed the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. I have a few
quibbles here, but the main point (referencing "the
Afghan war's equivalent of the Pentagon Papers) is valid, and
one could build even more on the similar US/USSR experiences there:
both shared a list of stages, for much the same reasons:
- A rash decision to invade for purely internal political reasons,
using excessive force, producing an illusion of instant success.
- The hubris of imposing a centralized political structure, defined
by nothing more than elevating local cronies, who would be kept in
line by tolerating corruption.
- The gradual development of a rural-based resistance, initially
underestimated because the invaders and their cronies were so full
- A massive military escalation to suppress the insurgency, because
US/USSR political leaders (no matter how skeptical) couldn't say no
to their military leaders.
- A gradual drawdown of occupying forces as escalation failed and
the costs grew excessive.
- A final withdrawal combined with promises of material support,
ultimately leading to collapse of the crony government (in the USSR
case; the US is still fighting to forestall the inevitable).
Karon is right that Americans failed to recognized these parallels
because Americans think they're different and special, even when
they're doing the exact same things. Of course, they rarely even
realized they were doing the same things. For one, they took credit
for the Soviet failures in the 1980s, and knew that they wouldn't
have to face comparable subversion by a foreign power. They knew
they had more force at their disposal, and much deeper pockets --
which kept them in the war for a decade longer than the Russians,
not that it's done they any good.
This is the first piece I've noticed from the Koch-funded Quincy
Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Some other pieces from their
The USMCA trade deal passes the House in a rare bipartisan vote:
385-41, "after Democrats secured changes to labor and pharmaceutical
provisions." For background, Kirby also wrote:
USMCA, Trump's new NAFTA deal, explained in 600 words. Also:
Democrats -- and Trump -- declare victory on USMCA.
"We're looking for undecideds": Pete Buttigieg's campaign is pitting
its public option against Medicare-for-all.
The Nobel went to economists who changed how we help the poor. But some
critics oppose their big idea. Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee,
Michael Kremer, and randomized control trials (RCTs).
Pete Buttigieg is raising money from Silicon Valley's billionaires --
even as Elizabeth Warren attacks him for it.
The strange death of social-democratic England.
Boris Johnson's 'radical' Brexit agenda.
How Mike Bloomberg made his billions: a computer system you've probably
Reis Thebault/Hannah Knowles:
Georgia purged 309,000 voters from its rolls. It's the second state to make
cuts in less than a week. The other is Wisconsin: see Marisa Iati:
A judge ordered up to 234,000 people to be tossed from the registered
voter list in a swing state.
Emily Todd VanDerWerff:
The 18 best TV shows of 2019: I probably watched more TV this year
than any since the 1960s. Took this as a checklist. Listed shows I
- True Detective (HBO) [B]
- Chernobly (HBO) [A-]
- Barry (HBO) [B+]
- Succession (HBO) [B+]
I watched previous seasons of (9) Mr. Robot (USA), but it
got pretty disconnected from reality last time, so I haven't given
it much thought this round. I watched one show each of (6) Lodge
49 (AMC) and (1) Watchmen (HBO). Commercial breaks killed
the former, and I didn't see any point to the latter. No idea what
I'd recommend in place of this list -- I'd have to rumage through
a bunch of lists, as they're not coming readily to mind. I suppose
watching 21 seasons of Silent Witness kept us away from lots
of other series.
The 21 TV shows that explained the 2010s. Never even heard of
the top pick here -- Nathan for You (Comedy Central) -- but
more series I've watched substantial chunks of:
- The Leftovers (HBO) [B+]
- The Americans (FX) [A-] -- skipped part of first season,
but got back into it later.
- Orange Is the New Black (Netflix) [A-]
- Hannibal (NBC) [B+]
- Girls (HBO) [B+]
- Mr. Robot (USA) [B] -- haven't watched latest
season (but probably will; at least it's on DVR)
- American Crime Story (FX) [B+] -- only watched the
first (O.J. Simpson) season)
- The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) [B] -- only watched the
- Game of Thrones (HBO) [A-]
- Barry (HBO) [B+]
- Better Call Saul (AMC) [B+]
- Homeland (Showtime) [B+]
- Justified (FX) [A]
- Manhattan (WGN America) [A-] -- despite some of the
fictions really bothering me.
- Rectify (Sundance) [A-]
- Silicon Valley (HBO) [B+]
- Succession (HBO) [B+]
Watched small bits of (5) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), (9)
Atlanta (FX), (10) Bob's Burgers (Fox), Black-ish.
There's also a list of "10 shows I loved that started in the 2000s
and ended in the 2010s":
- Big Love (HBO) [A-]
- Breaking Bad (AMC) [B] -- missed a couple seasons in middle,
when it was unbearably horrible.
- The Good Wife (CBS) [B+] -- on average, sometimes better.
- Mad Men (AMC) [A]
- Parks & Recreation (NBC) [A]
Pentagon halts operational training for Saudi military students after
At war with the truth: "US officials constantly said they were making
progress. They were not, and they knew it, an exclusive Post investigation
found." An introduction to "The Afghanistan Papers," with links to "more
than 2,000 pages of interviews and memos" -- a collection widely compared
to "The Pentagon Papers" (from the Vietnam War). Whitlock also wrote
Part 2: Stranded without a strategy.
From disbelief to dread: the dismal new routine of life in Sydney's
smoke haze. Related: Naaman Zhou/Josh Taylor:
The big smoke: how bushfires cast a pall over the Australian summer.
Democrats' 2020 economy dilemma, explained.
Amy Klobuchar deserves a closer look from electability-minded Democrats.
A lot of reporters thought Klobuchar got a boost from her performance at
the December debate (e.g., see
Amy Klobuchar made the biggest gains with voters at the debate),
but from the bits I overheard -- I was working in a neighboring room --
I found her singularly annoying, and not just because her political
stance has moved so sharply to the far right end of the Democratic
Party spectrum. Yglesias cites her winning margins in Minnesota
compared to other Democrats (that is, more liberal ones), although
in my experience lopsided statewide margins most often reflect weak
opposition campaigns -- something that doesn't happen in presidential
contests. The more relevant "electability" question is how does she
stack up directly against Trump? If the world neatly balanced on a
left-right scale, being close to the right might be an advantage.
But her centrism is a mix of "see no problems, broach no solutions" --
and who really cares about that? Trump at least sees problems, even
if his answers are half-hearted and ill-reasoned. For another argument
on electability, see Carl Beijer:
Joe Biden will lose a general election to Donald Trump: but "there
is one safe bet -- it's Bernie Sanders."
American democracy's Senate problem, explained.
To win reelection, Trump should try to deliver on his economic populist
promises: But he won't, because the Republicans won't let him do
anything significant on Yglesias's list (even as the Democrats give
him minor victories on USMCA and drug prices). Still, every Democrat
should memorize the section on "Trump's litany of broken promises" --
only problem there is that they never expected him to deliver on such
promises, because they saw immediately how much of a fraud he is.
Air pollution is much more harmful than you know.
Monday, December 9, 2019
Music: Current count 32466  rated (+44), 226  unrated (-4).
I have very little time to spare on this, so will keep it short.
Spent much of the weekend counting ballots for NPR's 14th Annual
Jazz Critics Poll, something Francis Davis started back when we
were writing for the Village Voice. Deadline was last night, but
there's a good chance that any ballots that arrive today will be
counted. I have 132 at present, down a bit from
2018. Some surprises
(for me at least) among the new album leaders. Less so among the
other categories. This week's haul includes a bunch of records I
discovered among the ballots. Still, two/thirds of this week's A-
records came from my queue.
Results will probably be posted in about a week. I'm liable to
fall out of the loop on that, as I'm scheduled for what should be
minor surgery on Thursday, and I'm pessimistic about what I will
be able to do the following week or so. In fact, I'm pretty down
on getting anything done beforehand either.
Until I got swamped over the weekend, I did a fair amount of
work on the
EOY Aggregate, which
has changed rather dramatically. Up to Thanksgiving, the list was
dominated by first-half albums which showed up in mid-year lists --
Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow was leading Billie
Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Eilish
pulled back ahead last week, but the dramatic gains were from:
(2) Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell;
(4) Angel Olsen: All Mirrors;
(5) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen; and
(11) FKA Twigs: Magdalene. Among first-half albums,
(7) Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising is the one that has gained
some spots, evidently because those who can stand it like it a lot.
I was fairly up-to-date before the weekend, but haven't added much
since. Should see many more lists in the next week or two, but unclear
whether I'll be able to keep up. At any rate, the file is doing most
of what it needs to do. Still, not much jazz in it, other than my own
grades. I'll add the JCP data when it goes public.
New records reviewed this week:
Awatair: Awatair Plays Coltrane (2019, Fundacja
Sluchaj): Polish-Ukrainian trio: Tomasz Gadecki (tenor/baritone
sax), Mark Tokar (double bass), Michal Gos (drums). Three stretched
Coltrane pieces plus an 10:57 "Improvisation for Jr. J.C."
Bones [Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Nir Sabag]: Reptiles
(2017 , NoBusiness): Bass clarinet/bass/drums trio, recorded
in Amsterdam, released on vinyl. Free jazz, fairly intimate.
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (New Haven) 2014 (2014 ,
Firehouse 12, 4CD): One "Improvisation" per disc, each 57:14-64:09,
each dedicated to a pop star you probably couldn't blindfold guess
(Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Merle Haggard). Braxton plays
saxes from sopranino to contrabass but no tenor (alto is his main axe),
joined by Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and family), Nels Cline (electric
guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums). Gave it one play and was delighted,
often amazed, never annoyed (well, until the last few seconds of Disc
3). One could spend ages further dissecting, but I doubt I will.
Patrick Brennan/Abdul Moimęme: Terraphonia (2019,
Creative Sources): Alto saxophonist, from Detroit, has a handful
of records including a couple as Sonic Openings Under Pressure,
in a duo here with a Portuguese experimental guitarist, who has
25 albums since 2008, mostly small groups with all names on the
masthead. Something more than just harsh noise, but that's most
Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science: The Waiting Game
(2019, Motéma, 2CD): Drummer, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson, built
a solid post-bop reputation in the 1990s, lately has turned to crossover
pop, including quite a bit of hip-hop here, sprinkled with guest stars,
with a few political lyrics. Second disc is lighter, a 42:19 instrumental
orchestrated by Edmar Colón.
Anthony Coleman: Catenary Oath (2018 , NoBusiness):
Pianist, debut was 1992, some of his early records offered an avant take
on klezmer. Solo piano here, starts with a dedication to Roscoe Mitchell,
ends with Ellington.
Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Trilogy 2
(2010-18 , Concord, 2CD): A sequel to the trio's 2014 3-CD
Trilogy, adding select tracks from a 2016 tour to leftovers
from the first period.
Rodney Crowell: Texas (2019, RC1): Country
singer-songwriter, originally from Texas, 21 albums since 1978,
had a run of hits off his 1988 album (Diamonds & Dirt),
but hasn't enjoyed much attention lately. Got some guest help
this time, mostly fellow Texans like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle,
Lyle Lovett, and Billy Gibbons. (Exception to the rule: Ringo
Nina De Heney/Karin Johansson/Henrik Wartel: Quagmire
(2018 , Creative Sources): Bass-piano-drums, the bassist dominating
(especially early on), for a very claustrophobic sound.
Doja Cat: Hot Pink (2019, Kemosabe/RCA): LA rapper
Amala Zandile Dlamini, second album, promises more skin, holds back
Marc Edwards/Guillaume Gargaud: Black Hole Universe
(2019, Atypeek Music): American free jazz drummer, played with David
S. Ware in the 1980s, teams up here with a French guitarist. Reminds
me of Sonny Sharrock, maybe even more intense, but I'm not quite
there with it yet.
Andy Emler/David Liebman: Journey Around the Truth
(2018 , Signature Radio France): French keyboardist, playing
organ here, pumped up for dramatic effect like a hoary old soundtrack.
The saxophonist builds on that, with tenor and soprano.
Erin Enderlin: Faulkner County (2019, Black Crow
Productions): Singer-songwriter from Arkansas, has had some success
peddling songs in Nashville, third album. Old time sound, lots of
booze and wallowing blues, could use a stiffer backbone, or a shot
Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain (2019, Clean Feed): Alto
saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's rockish power trio, with electric bass
(Roland Fidezius) and drums (Rudi Fischerlehner), fourth group record.
Seems almost too easy to make this formula work, so the occasional
glitches stand out.
Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Dark Blue (2019, Sunnyside):
Duets, baritone sax/bass clarinet and piano, a nice match.
Eric Hofbauer's Five Agents: Book of Water (2018 ,
Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, based in Boston, has done interesting
work at pushing the boundaries of postbop without quite crossing over
into avant-garde. Comes especially close here, with three veterans of
Ken Vandermark's Boston-Chicago nexus -- Jeb Bishop (trombone), Nate
McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums) -- plus Jerry Sabatii (trumpet)
and Seth Meicht (tenor sax).
Eric Hofbauer & Dylan Jack: Remains of Echoes
(2019, Creative Nation Music): Guitar and drum duo, picking their
way through covers from Ellington to the Police.
Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Pierre-Yves Martel/Philip Zoubek: Otherwise
(2018, Insub): Tuba player, the others credited with viola da gamba
and piano, both also with synthesizer. Two side-long tracks, ambient
but never gets too comfortable.
Ill Considered: Ill Considered 8 (2018 , Ill
Considered Music): British jazz group, based in London, quartet with
Idris Rahman (sax/fx), Leon Brichard (electric bass), Emre Ramazanoglu
(drums), and Satin Singh (percussion), adds another live document to
their fast-growing catalogue. Strong bass riffs, flexes a lot of muscle.
Katarsis 4: Katarsis 4 (2019, NoBusiness): Sax quartet
from Lithuania, biased toward alto -- two members list alto first, the
others second (after baritone and soprano) -- so this doesn't have much
in common with the harmonic focus of WSQ or ROVA. Some electronics,
loads of atmosphere.
Kimchi Moccasin Tango: Yankee Zulu (2018 , Clean
Feed): Norwegian trio -- Karl-Hjalmar Nyberg (tenor sax), Karl Bjorĺ
(guitar), Dag Erik Knedal Andersen (drums) -- the group name parsed for
three pieces, the title for the fourth. Avant-noise from the start, can
change up a bit here and there, in ways that are ultimately winning.
Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (2019, Sunnyside):
Arranged and conducted by Ohad Talmor. The nonet balances reeds and
strings: 4 each, the leader's alto sax shadowed by flute, clarinet,
and bass clarinet; 2 celli between viola and bass; plus George
Schuller on drums. Lush and unashamedly gorgeous.
Mat Maneri Quartet: Dust (2019, Sunnyside): Leader
plays viola, mostly known as son of avant-clarinetist Joe Maneri,
and for playing side-roles in Matthew Shipp's orbit. Closer to the
mainstream here with Lucian Ban (piano), John Hébert (bass), and
Randy Peterson (drums).
MC Yallah X Debmaster: Kubali (2019, Hakuna Kulala):
Rapper Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde, from Uganda, and producer Julien
Deblois, from France, with a short cassette. Densely fractured,
could come from any high-tech haven.
Tom McDermott: Meets Scott Joplin (2018 , Arbors):
Trad jazz pianist, from St. Louis, first record was called New Rags
(1982), returns to the old ones here. Mostly solo, but picks up when
some friends drop in (notably trombonist Rick Trolsen).
Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra: Ámbar (2019,
Sony Masterworks): Chilean singer-songwriter, based in New York, has
a reputation as a jazz guitarist, fourth album, group adds strings
to piano-bass-drums, lush and dramatic (not my favorite combination).
Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra: Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills
College, March 19-20, 2018 (2018 , Wide Hive): No
musician credit for Mitchell (78), just composed, orchestrated, and
conducted by. Twenty-five piece orchestra, with a fair number of
strings and most of the classical horns (but no saxophones), a harp,
Qasim Naqvi: Teenages (2019, Erased Tapes): Drummer
from Pakistan, first noticed in the piano trio Dawn of Midi, has
moved more into electronica lately, especially with this "music for
Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New (2018 , Cuneiform):
Cellist, grew up near DC, studied in Chicago and built her connections
there before moving on to New York. Second Quartet album, with Mary
Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).
Seems small, like the strings folding back on themselves, but not
without its unique Halvorson moments.
Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba: Hallowed (2017-18
, Advance Dance Disques): Postbop pianist, born in Oakland,
based in New York, took a turn toward Afro-Cuban jazz with her
New Yor-Uba "musical celebration of Cuba in America," and
continues here, with three specialists in batá and congas, a raft
of horns, and vocalist Nina Rodriquez.
Bob Sheppard: The Fine Line (2019, Challenge):
Mainstream saxophonist, plays them all but best known for tenor,
based in Los Angeles, has a few albums since 1991 but has done
a ton of studio work, especially backing vocalists. Backed by
piano (John Beasley), bass, and drums, with a few guests. Very
Kalie Shorr: Open Book (2019, self-released):
Singer-songwriter from Maine, based in Nashville, songs have some
country in them, production has a lot of Nashville.
Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 1)
(2019, RareNoise): Sonar is a Swiss guitar-guitar-bass-drums band,
principally Stephan Thelen, tunings feature tritones, rhythm very
buttoned down, straight enough for rock, clever enough for jazz.
Second album with guitarist Torn, who probably adds something, but
fits in so seamlessly it's hard to discern what.
Tim Stine Quartet: Knots (2018 , Clean Feed):
Chicago guitarist, has a couple previous albums. Joined here by Nick
Mazzarella (alto sax), Matt Ulery (bass), and Quin Kirchner (drums).
Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish
(2018 , NoBusiness): Trombone, piano/organ, drums, a strong
outing for a trombonist who's been one of free jazz's leading lights
for more than a decade.
Fay Victor: Barn Songs (2018 , Northern Spy):
Striking jazz singer-songwriter, closest we have to a second coming
of Betty Carter. Dusted off some old songs from her Amsterdam exile,
given stark and foreboding framing with cello (Marika Hughes) and
alto sax (Darius Jones).
Bobby Watson/Vincent Herring/Gary Bartz: Bird at 100
(2019, Smoke Sessions): Three alto saxophonists, Bartz (the eldest,
with 13 years on Watson and 24 on Herring) the one I think of most
literally as a Charlie Parker clone, but I couldn't pick them apart
here. With David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl
Allen (drums). I don't really feel this as relating to Parker, unless
they're just saying all you need is chops. But chops they have, and
that can be fun.
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Dusko Goykovich: Sketches of Yugoslavia (1973-74 ,
Enja): Trumpet player, a Serb born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, incorporated
folk idioms into jazz from Swinging Macedonia (1966) on. Leads a
quartet here, fronting the rather lacklustre NDR Radio Orchestra Hannover.
Dadisi Komolafe: Hassan's Walk (1983 , Nimbus West):
Plays flute and alto sax, only album I can find, quintet with piano (Eric
Tilman), bass, drums, and vibraphone, recorded in Los Angeles. Has a deep
Yusef A. Lateef: Hikima: Creativity (1983 , The
Key System): Tenor saxophonist, changed his name when he converted to
Islam, early on developed an interest in African and Middle Eastern
music. Recorded a lot from 1957 into the 1970s, hit a thin patch, but
bounced back from 1989, first with Atlantic then his own YAL label.
This is one of two records he recorded in Nigeria, with a local group
with singers and a lot of percussion.
Kristijan Krajncan: Drumming Cellist (2017, Sazas):
Slovenian cellist-drummer, overdubs the two instruments, first album,
adopted its title as his artist credit on his second (Abraxas).
Fills the first half with J.S. Bach's "Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor."
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ellen Edwards: A New York Session (Stonefire Music) [02-22]
- Amber Weekes: Pure Imagination (Amber Inn Productions) [01-08]