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Monday, May 21, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29733 [29697] rated (+36), 351 [349] unrated (+2).

Got a rude shock from Twitter this afternoon when I went to announce that I had finally posted my Sunday Weekend Roundup column. After the initial shock wore off, I figured out that they didn't like my browser so decided to force me to use their "mobile" interface. It is, necessarily, more compact, dispensing with stats like how many followers I have, how many notifications I haven't looked at, and other features -- not least the form to enter a new tweet. When I found the icon, it threw away the rest of the screen. I imagine a lot of you interact with Twitter through your phones, so you're used to this, but after an experiment I stripped their ap from my phone. I'm no Luddite, but did find that the value added was far less than the nuisance received.

Turns out that my secondary computer still gets the regular user interface, so I can go there (as I've had to do for Facebook for several years now). I have 298 followers. Been stuck there for a few weeks, and thought of making a pitch here to push me over the 300 number. (Would be nice to break 300 followers before I break through 30,000 records rated, no?) Link is under Networking to the left, or here.

One other thing I noticed on Twitter today is that the proportion of advertisements in the feed has exploded -- as it did in Facebook maybe a year ago. It looks like they've taken a big step on the curve from enticing people with a free service to turning it into a major public nuisance. Of course, that's happening all over the Internet these days -- as if everyday life wasn't troubling enough. I reckon I'll have to stop being so offended if/when I start pulling shit like that myself, but for now I entitled to complain.

I've been reading Michael Ruhlman's Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, which follows a brief history of how grocery stores developed with a much longer investigation into the current business of one local chain Ruhlman is particularly fond of: Heinen's, in and around Cleveland (and Chicago). I've read a number of Ruhlman's books, going back to The Soul of a Chef (2000), most recently The Elements of Cooking (from 2007, but I read it, along with Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, to take a break from something in 2016).

The thing that Ruhlman reminded me of is how much the technology and business of good has changed during my lifetime, and that it's mostly been for the better -- despite many other metrics that have been in more or less constant decline since I was born in 1950. Ruhlman attributes this to customer demand, and paints a picture of a vibrantly functioning capitalism constantly adapting to meet demands for broader and more exotic selection, fresher and less contaminated produce and meats, and (most of all) more convenient ways of obtaining tastier meals. Sure, his favored grocery chain seems to be working harder than most to satisfy those desires, but I can see faint echoes of that in the two chains that dominate my home town (Kroger and WalMart, so probably yours too). And it is true that when capital, competitive markets, innovation, and real personal demand come together capitalism can be a wondrous thing. I'm often haunted by the question of why, if business (especially finance) is so rotten and government so corrupt, so many people think their lives are better than ever. Good food helps explain that.

But Ruhlman also notes that profit margins in groceries are exceptionally thin -- something which has probably spared chains like Heinen's from the devastation of private equity firms. But I'd like to single out one more factor: taste. As Adam Smith knew, markets only work when they are transparent, which is to say when the buyer knows exactly what she is buying. As MBA students soon learn, the trick to increasing profits is to make products opaque, so people can never really understand just what they are buying. (This is why medicine has been such a long-term profit engine.) But everyone has a taste for good food, and that's what keeps the industry at least relatively honest. (Not that big processed food companies haven't exploited our weak spots for salt, sugar, and fat, but even that is relatively easy to see around.) Moreover, most of the workers and businessfolk throughout the food chain take pride in their products and services, in marked distinction to the widget-counters who dominate other industries.

Speaking of food, my late sister's birthday is tomorrow, so I'll be cooking for her son and some friends tomorrow. Last year she requested Indian for her birthday, so I figured I'd reprise that menu (with a couple of minor changes) this year: lamb and fish curries, several vegetable dishes (cabbage, greens, eggplant, green beans), cucumber raita, a simple rice pilaf, some warmed-up frozen paratha (I've made scratch, but hardly seems worth the trouble). Thought I'd go with Mom's legendary coconut cake for dessert this time. (Last year was a flourless chocolate cake with ice cream.) Need to wrap this up and go shopping -- such dinners usually take 3-5 grocery store stops, but this one should actually be relatively easy. And I'll miss a couple days of searching out new music. However, this past week offers a pretty broad selection, so enjoy.

[PS: Back from shopping, which proved not so easy. Took me four hours, four stores: Sprouts (most of the vegetables), Dillons (lamb, halibut, yogurt), Whole Foods (bulk rice, cabbage), and Asia Bazaar (ghee, bread, urad dal, a coconut). I expected to get by with just the first two, as I have almost all of the more esoteric Indian ingredients already in stock (maybe not urad dal, but I could have skipped it). However, Dillons disappointed me, among other things getting rid of their bulk goods section, and I didn't feel like buying a 5 lb. package of rice there. Also, no coconut, and when I got to Whole Foods I remembered I forgot the cabbage. I had enough ghee and bread, but by then I thought I might as well stop at Asia Bazaar to make sure I don't run out. Also found some nice okra there, which I hadn't planned on. Not sure how much cooking I'll get done tonight, so I may wind up having to cut dishes tomorrow.]

A couple of very brief notes on the music. I went into some Otis Redding back catalogue after noticing the new compilations. All of the B+(***) albums could have come in higher had I not recalled the other records I've heard so well. I had a couple of Redding's early LPs, but really fell for him again with the 3-CD The Otis Redding Story, which came out in 1989 and still remains definitive. Needless to say, it's pretty remarkable for a guy who only recorded six years to have amassed that much great music. I also have three of the four 1968-70 posthumous albums at A- (The Dock of the Bay and Love Man are the ones omitted below).

LaVette, of course, is relatively minor, but the new record made me want to dig deeper. Her best previous record remains A Woman Like Me (2003). Christgau gave a full A to the new record here, as well as reviewing two Wussy albums (one EP, one LP) that he likes much more than I do. I previously gave the EP, Getting Better, a B+(*) a while back. I like the album a bit more, but I'm more suspicious I've overrated it than under.

New records rated this week:

  • 3hattrio: Lord of the Desert (2018, Okehdokee): [r]: B+(**)
  • Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: An Angel Fell (2018, Strut): [r]: B+(**)
  • MC Paul Barman: (((Echo Chamber))) (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Playboi Carti: Die Lit (2018, AWGE/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Benoît Delbecq 4: Spots on Stripes (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm: Blues Dharma (2017 [2018], GB): [cd]: A-
  • Flatbush Zombies: Vacation in Hell (2018, Glorious Dead): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bill Hart Band: Live at Red Clay Theatre (2017 [2018], Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Red Notes (2018, Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (2018, Verve): [r]: A
  • Igor Lumpert & Innertextures: Eleven (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (2018, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Solon McDade: Murals (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • MJO Brothers Present: Hip Devotions (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Mount Eerie: Now Only (2018, PW Elverum & Sun): [r]: B+(*)
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism (2018, Naïve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nuance Crusaders: Reflections (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
  • Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (2018, Rough Trade): [r]: A-
  • Matt Piet & His Disorganization: Rummage Out (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Puth: Voicenotes (2018, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rival Consoles: Persona (2018, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rolo Tomassi: Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (2017 [2018], Holy Roar): [r]: B+(***)
  • Matthew Shipp: Zero (2018, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(*)
  • Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (2018, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Rune Strøm Quintet: Fragments (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vin Venezia: Fifth and Adams (2015-16 [2018], Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Wussy: What Heaven Is Like (2018, Shake It): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Xcerts: Hold on to Your Heart (2018, Raygun): [r]: B

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

  • Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions (1967 [2018], Rhino): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Bettye LaVette: Child of the Seventies (1962-73 [2006], Rhino Handmade): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bettye LaVette: Tell Me a Lie (1982, Motown): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bettye LaVette: I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (2005, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bettye Lavette: Worthy (2015, Cherry Red): [r]: B+(**)
  • Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (1967 [1968], Atco): [r]: A-
  • Otis Redding: Tell the Truth (1967 [1970], Atco): [r]: B+(***)
  • Otis Redding: Remember Me: 22 Previously Unissued Tracks (1962-67 [1992], Stax): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Anschell: Shifting Standards (Origin)
  • Phil Haynes & Free Country: 60/69: My Favorite Things (Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): June 1
  • Ernie Krivda and Swing City: A Bright and Shining Moment (Capri): June 15
  • Bongwool Lee: My Singing Fingers (Origin)
  • Ben Markley Quartet: Basic Economy (OA2)
  • No Fast Food: Settings for Three (Corner Store Jazz): June 1
  • J. Peter Schwalm: How We Fall (RareNoise): advance, June 8

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Once again, a week with too damn much to report, and too little time to collect it all. Nothing on elections in Iraq (last week) or Venezuela (coming soon; US media already bitching like crazy over Maduro stealing the election and driving the "once prosperous" country ever deeper into ruin). Nothing on primaries in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, nor on prospects for November. A little bit on Korea, written before the US backed down and called off the war games that threatened to derail the talks. Fred Kaplan notes: One Month Before His Summit With Trump, Kim Jong-un Is the One Calling the Shots. (Considering John Bolton and Donald Trump as alternatives, that's really not such bad news.) Just a wee bit on the Mueller "witch hunt." Didn't even get around to the book I'm reading.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that you shouldn't miss this week, explained: Gina Haspel is America's new director of the CIA (six Democrats supported Haspel, who ran Bush-era torture programs, while two Republicans opposed, with McCain absent); Net neutrality won a vote in the Senate (52-47 to overrule the FCC, although the House is unlikely to concur); The North Korea summit is suddenly in trouble (Yglesias doesn't mention continuing US war games that North Korea objects to, but does note that John Bolton keeps insisting on things that North Korea is unlikely to ever agree to); There's an Ebola outbreak in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo):

    But if things get bad, the United States, traditionally a world leader in epidemic response, has greatly diminished capacity in this regard. . . . Inconveniently, the head of the National Security Council's global health security efforts abruptly left earlier this month as part of a Bolton-inspired shake-up. His whole team has been dismantled, and budget cuts have already forced US public health agencies to scale back their international work.

    Other Yglesias links:

    • It might take a black candidate to beat Trump's toxic racial politics: "Cory Booker's path out of the identity vs. economic politics quagmire. . . . Booker's solution is essentially the one Obama offered -- reassure voters of color by putting one of their own in charge, and then let the politician spend his time making his case to the white voters." I've long regarded Booker as a crony of Wall Street, so even if he does make the case while campaigning I have little hope that he won't revert to form in office. As with Obama, that doesn't strike me as a long-term winning formula, which is what the Democrats really need. For what it's worth, I think the class vs. identity debate within the Democratic Party is muddled and confused.

    • 4 winners and 3 losers from the primaries in Pennsylvania and Nebraska: Winners: Pittsburgh-area socialism, Democratic women, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, tattoos. Losers: Rick Saccone, Oregon, DCCC (although I don't get the slam against Oregon).

    • Trump helps sanctioned Chinese phone maker after China delivers a big loan to a Trump project: I'm not a fan of US sanctions against Iran and North Korea -- they're meant to buttress a harsh and vindictive foreign policy, and they depend on imperious overreach by the US government into foreign commerce. Still, it's viciously amusing to see Trump all wound up about lost jobs in China, especially since the obvious explanation is old fashioned graft.

    • Cruelty is the defining characteristic of Donald Trump's politics and policy: "John Kelly says separating kids from their parents is fine because of 'foster care or whatever'." But that's just one example.

      From new Medicaid rules that hurt people with disabilities to rewriting bank regulations to favor predatory lenders to siding with Dow Chemical's lobbyists over pediatricians to keep allowing the manufacture of a pesticide that poisons children's brains, the circle of people who are subject to harm by a regime that practices the law of the jungle is ever widening.

      Very few of us are as rich or powerful as Trump, his Cabinet, his circle of friends and family, or his major campaign contributors. All of us will lose out from an ethic that licenses the strong to oppress the weak. Foreign-born children are uniquely disempowered in the political system, so they bear the brunt for now. But almost all of us will need help or protection at some point.

      Also see Masha Gessen: Taking Children From Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror.

    • Why are we taking Donald Trump's Korea diplomacy seriously? "All he does is lie and break promises. This will be no different." Sure, but why be so pessimistic about it? Yglesias sounds like he buys the whole argument that it's all North Korea's fault that we don't get along swimmingly with them -- even going so far as to buy the argument that acknowledging their existence by merely meeting is some kind of huge concession. The fact is that whatever deal emerges will almost completely be shaped by the two Koreas, and the planets seem better aligned than usual for such an agreement. In this context, Trump may have an advantage over past US presidents: ignorance, inattention to detail, a weak understanding of America's imperial posture, and an eagerness to claim credit for things he did nothing to make happen. He also has some advisers who realize that the US has no good options with North Korea -- not least because the US has painted itself into a corner by insisting on denuclearizing North Korea without having any way to force the issue. (Ever escalating cycles of sanctions are a nuisance for North Korea, but they don't threaten the survival of the regime; moreover, they underscore how hostile the US is, and how important it is that North Korea have a nuclear deterrent against US aggression.) Admittedly, Trump has some aides like John Bolton who are prefer the use of military force, but the people who actually run the DOD harbor no delusions that such an attack could be launched at a tolerable cost. So if the Koreas present him with a fait accompli, would he really screw it just to humor Bolton? I wouldn't put it past him: hiring Bolton and withdrawing from the Iran deal certainly seem to be a secret desire for failure. But even as the smart money bets on Trump doing something stupid, I don't see any reason to cheer him on.

  • Zeeshan Aleem: Trump missed Congress's deadline for getting a NAFTA deal done. Now what? Not much, unless Trump decides to blow the whole existing deal up, which would, well, nobody knows what that would do. One thing it wouldn't do is restore pre-NAFTA jobs and demographics. This is partly because businesses that have been taking advantage of the arrangement for 25 years now aren't likely to roll over (or lose influence in all three countries), but also the pact's many losers (in all three countries) have moved on (or been trampled under). Any new deal will generate new winners and losers, so everyone advising the process have their own angles. As for Ryan's "deadline," that assumes Trump will come up with a Republican-favored deal, but the GOP is likely to be as divided as Democrats on any such change.

  • Zack Beauchamp: Santa Fe High: Texas lieutenant governor blames shooting on "too many entrances": "too many exits" too: "There aren't enough people to put a guard at every entry and exit." It's not clear to me that shootings have anything to do with entries/exits, but one real threat that you'd like to have more exits for is fire. Maybe fires are rarer these days than shootings, but they do happen, and they are things that school administrators properly worry about.

    There are a number of practical problems with this idea. If you have a mass shooter in the building, you don't want to trap people in the building. It's not obvious that security guards would be able to spot someone concealing a weapon even if they were at every door; in fact, there were two armed guards at Santa Fe on Friday. And closing most of the entryways to a school would create a serious fire hazard.

    More fundamentally, this all feels like an absurd kind of deflection.

  • Caleb Crain: Is Capitalism a Threat to Democracy? Basically, a review of Robert Kuttner's new book, Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? -- although he starts off with a long disquisition on Karl Polanyi and his 1944 book The Great Transformation ("as the world was coming to terms with the destruction that fascism had wrought"). For another review, see Justin Fox: How Rampant Globalization Brought Us Trump. One thing I've noticed is how reviewers tend to drop the key word "Global" from the title. Kuttner doesn't have a problem with the well-regulated mixed economies of Western Europe and America from the 1940s through the 1960s: they combined strong growth rates with broad distribution of wealth. Rather, he blames the political rise of global finance since the 1970s, by the 1990s capturing center-left parties (e.g., Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in the UK), ultimately discrediting the left such that populist resentment often wound up falling for the far right.

  • Sean Illing: How TV trivialized our culture and politics: Interview with Lance Strate, author of Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman's Brave New World, as a surrogate for late media critic Neil Postman, most famous for his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985). Seems like I bought but never read that book -- or maybe I'm thinking of his 1992 book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, by which time Postman was turning into something of a neo-luddite. The context for Amusing, of course, was Ronald Reagan, an actor who played the role of president, but unlike Trump today, Reagan at least tried to act presidential, since that's what the role expected. Trump lacks Reagan's craft and discipline as an actor, or even as a human being. Rather, taking Postman's title to its absurd conclusion, Trump channels Reagan less through "reality TV" than through the "zombie apocalypse" genre: with Trump we not only get the death of democracy, we get to watch it mindlessly devouring itself, as reality itself has become more horrific than the dystopias Postman could imagine in his lifetime (he died in 2003). Strate does note that "I think Postman held out great hope for education as a way of addressing these problems." Postman wrote several books about education, but the one I read and treasured as a high school dropout was Teaching as a Subversive Activity, written with Charles Weingartner in 1969. The authors there posited that the highest goal of teaching was to get students to develop acute "bullshit detectors." Needless to say, that was not on the curriculum of the high school I dropped out of, nor has it gained much currency since then. Indeed, the recent focus on nothing but test scores teaches "crap-detection" only by burying students in it. It's not like critical thinking has disappeared, but those in power have done their best to banish it to the isolated corners of society, and are reaping the fruits of their astonishing incompetence. In some sense it would be comforting to blame all this on the obliteration of words by images. Still, I'm somewhat more suspicious of the triumph of money over morals.

    For another take on Trump/Reagan see:

  • Susan B Glasser: Is Trump the Second Coming of Reagan? "[Brett Baier] knows that our current president is louder, cruder, and ruder than Ronald Reagan, 'a counterpuncher' from New York far different from the genial Republican predecessor."

  • Sarah Kliff: The new Trump plan to defund Planned Parenthood, explained: "Women's health clinics that provide abortions or refer patients for the procedure will be cut off from a key source of federal funding under new Trump administration rules expected to be released Friday."

  • Matthew Lee: Pompeo: 'Swagger' of State Department Is 'America's Essential Rightness': In his recent closed door pep talk, Pompeo reportedly said: "Swagger is not arrogance; it is not boastfulness, it is not ego. No, swagger is confidence, in one's self, in one's ideas. In our case, it is America's essential rightness. And it is aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America's core principles." Maybe the words he understands even less than "swagger" are: "arrogance," "boastfulness," and "ego." He went on to underscore his confusion by adding: "we should carry that diplomatic swagger to the ends of the earth; humbly, nobly and with the skill and courage I know you all possess." OK, add "humbly" to the list of words he doesn't begin to understand.

  • Dara Lind: Trump on deported immigrants: "They're not people. They're animals."

    If Trump understands his own administration's policy, he's never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.

    This is who Donald Trump has been for his entire political career. The worst-case scenarios about his dehumanizing rhetoric -- that they would foment large-scale mob violence or vigilantism against Latinos in the United States -- have not been realized. But neither have any hopes that Trump, as president, might ever weigh his words with any care at all, especially when encouraging Americans to see human beings as less than human.

    Also see: Juan Escalante: It's not just rhetoric: Trump's policies treat immigrants like me as "animals".

  • Charles P Pierce: Can the Republic Recover from Donald Trump?: Good question, but the post is all question, no answer. I don't think this quite rises to the level of an assumption, but the default sentiment is that before Trump we had norms, and now clearly we don't. But wouldn't it be, uh, normal to revert to norms once the disruption is removed? I don't think that's how it works. To pick an obvious example, GW Bush did a lot of shit -- tax cuts, defense buildup, the War on Terror, "no child left behind," "tort reform," the pivot away from "Peace Process" to Sharon on Israel, packing the courts with right-wingers -- that Barack Obama never came close to reversing. In fact, he rarely tried, because even though there was voluminous evidence that nearly everything Bush touch made the world worse, he tacitly accepted that changed world order. To reverse what Bush did, Obama would have had to work much harder than Bush did to break it all. We can debate whether Trump is even worse than Bush, but one thing that is clear is that Trump's world is even more fragile than Bush's, because so much of what Bush (and Clinton and Bush and Reagan and, sad to say, Carter, Ford, Nixon, and LBJ) broke was never fixed. On the other hand, Trump's efforts to wipe out everything worthwhile Obama did have already been almost complete, achieved with remarkable ease. On the other hand, they haven't fixed anything. They've simply made everything worse. It's like we're struggling against the second law of thermodynamics, where it take enormous energy to order anything, but no effort at all to let it turn to shit.

    I don't normally read Pierce, but he seems to have been on quite a roll lately, at least title-deep:

  • Frank Rich: Trump's Jerusalem Horror Show: Structured as an interview, so it quickly wanders onto other topics, like Kelly Sadler's "joke" about John McCain dying and the Trump legacy of never apologizing for anything bigoted (or merely stupid), and praise for the late journalist Tom Wolfe. For what little it's worth, I don't think I ever read anything by Wolfe, but I was aware of him and always suspected that his "Radical Chic" was the opening salvo in the long term assault on liberal sympathies for the poor and downtrodden, dismissing them as elitist conceits, conveniently dismissing the problems themselves.

    For more on the Jerusalem embassy event, see: Michelle Goldberg: A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem:

    The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don't convert will burn forever. . . .

    This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump's Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 40 miles away. Since March 30, there have been mass protests at the fence separating Gaza and Israel. Gazans, facing an escalating humanitarian crisis due in large part to an Israeli blockade, are demanding the right to return to homes in Israel that their families were forced from at Israel's founding. . . . The Israeli military has responded with live gunfire as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. In clashes on Monday, at least 58 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

    The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tell us a lot about America's relationship to Israel right now.

    Somewhere in all of this people have forgotten why moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem matters in the first place. The British held a League of Nations mandate for Palestine since 1920, after the colony was carved out of the former Ottoman Empire. That was renewed by the UN on its founding in 1945, but the British tired of trying to rule Palestine, so threw the problem back to the UN to sort out by 1948. The UN convened a commission to "study" the issue, and they came up with a partition plan that would divide Palestine into three sections: a mostly Jewish segment across the Jezreel Valley, down the coast, and extended through the Negev to Eilat; an almost exclusively Muslim-Christian territory broken into three segments (Gaza, West Bank, West Galilee) plus the isolated city of Jaffa; and, finally, an "international" area centered on Jerusalem. Ben Gurion and the Zionists lobbied hard to secure UN approval of the partition plan, then took that mandate and launched offensives to capture Jerusalem, West Galilee, and Jaffa, and to reduce and concentrate Gaza. Meanwhile, Transjordan grabbed up the West Bank and East Jerusalem, dividing the city while leaving the Palestinians nothing. Subsequent UN resolutions, following international law, insisted that Palestinian refugees should be able to return in peace to their homes, and that the expansion of Israel following the 1967 war, especially the annexation of greater Jerusalem, was "inadmissible." The US has always supported (in word, anyway) the sanctity and applicability of international law, and in the 1980s the PLO reoriented itself to embrace a solution based on law.

    One might argue that the US has never been really serious about international law, especially as Americans have claimed the right to ignore any parts they find inconvenient (e.g., the refusal to join the International Criminal Court, and the decision to ignore POW status/rights in the Global War on Terror). But Eisenhower was willing and able to pressure Israel to return land seized in 1956 (although Johnson made no similar effort in 1967), and Carter got Israel to reverse its 1977 intervention in Lebanon (which Reagan fatefully allowed to resume in 1982). At least, GWH Bush and Clinton made something of an effort to get "two state" peace talks going, but since 2001 (when GW Bush and Sharon came to power) the US has steadily retreated, often just rubber-stamping Israeli decisions on war and foreign policy. (Obama did negotiate the Iran nuke deal over Israeli objections, but he did nothing effective to advance peace and justice in the area Israel controls.) With Trump, what we are seeing is a total surrender of American interests to Netanyahu's political agenda. The embassy move is hardly the worst submission, but given its long centrality has great symbolic portent. This is well understood in Israel and among Palestinians, but given how long and how thoroughly Americans have deceived themselves about Israel, it is scarcely commented on here. The fact that Israel can bomb Iranians in Syria and shoot marchers in Gaza with absolutely no concern for how bad such acts look is testimony to how completely Trump has surrendered to Israel (or maybe just to Sheldon Adelson, who speaks fluent Trump, sealing the deal with a $30 million check).

    More links on Israel-Palestine:

  • Zachary Roth: Is the System Rigged Against Democrats? Sure it is, right down to the New York Times substituting a Reagan campaign poster for the book cover or any other relevant graphic in this review of Davis Faris' slim book It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. Unfortunately, Faris focuses on re-rigging the system:

    To end gerrymandering, Faris says, they should scrap the winner-take-all method we use to elect members of the House and replace it with a system known as "ranked choice voting" that better reflects voter preferences. To fix the problem of Democratic underrepresentation in the Senate, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico should get statehood, and California should be split into seven separate states. Democrats should add seats to the Supreme Court and fill them with progressives. And they should reform voting laws to ban onerous voter ID requirements, re-enfranchise ex-felons and automatically register everyone to vote.

    I'm not unaware of structural factors which make the system less representative and less responsive to voter wishes, but the real problem Democrats face is getting voters to trust and support them, which is pretty much the same thing as getting Democrats to trust and support a clear majority of the voting public -- enough to overcome whatever structural deficits the party endures. Thanks to the Republicans' ideology, platform, and track record, that shouldn't be hard -- but, of course, given the pervasive influence of money, media, and mythology, it is. I wouldn't call this dirty, but one thing Democrats have to learn -- something that Republicans have definitely figured out -- is that it matters whether they win or not.

  • Dylan Scott: Who is the freeloader: the working poor on food stamps -- or corporations that don't pay them enough? Sen. Sherrod Brown starts with the insight that food stamps, medicare, etc., effectively subsize companies who underpay their workers by allowing people to work for less than they really need to live on, then tries to turn the tables on those companies. But he doesn't come up with a very good way of doing so, and his rhetoric about "corporate freeloaders" plays into the conceit that getting something for nothing is morally wrong. If you want to reduce welfare benefits, a more straightforward way to do that would be to legislate higher minimum wages. Even so, that leaves some problem cases, like earners trying to support larger families (more children or other dependents). In many cases, it would be preferable to provide more welfare benefits, and pay for them out of taxes on excessive profits and wages. Unfortunately, many liberals buy into the notion that welfare is a bad thing, and think they're scoring points with phrases like "corporate welfare." Doesn't the Constitution talk about "promoting the general welfare" as being one of the tasks of good government? Isn't the right's generic attack on government effectively an effort to reduce the general welfare?

    I think this confusion about welfare partly explains why the farm bill has become such a political football. See Tara Golshan: A House revolt over immigration just killed the farm bill -- for now. I don't really understand what immigration has to do with this, and indeed the reports are contradictory: evidently some Republicans want to force action on DACA, and others want to vote on a more restrictive anti-immigrant bill. For some time now, there has been a right-wing faction which opposed government efforts to stabilize agricultural markets -- rhetorically their complaints about "corporate welfare" have some resonance with liberals -- but this year they've managed to insert some poisonous "work requirements" into the food stamp program, moving Democrats into opposition. By taking advantage of mainstream Republicans' embrace of Trump cruelty, a few dozen Koch-funded fanatics are threatening American agribusiness. It's an interesting example of dysfunction within the GOP.

  • Emily Stewart: Donald Trump is raging over the Mueller investigation on Twitter; also by Stewart: Roger Stone acknowledges he might be indicted, and Donald Trump Jr. and Trump aides were reportedly open to foreign help in 2016 election beyond Russia (especially UAE and Saudi Arabia). I am of the camp that regards Mueller's investigation as largely a distraction, although it does tangentially touch on two more serious stories: the profound corruption of the US electoral process, and the deeply ingrained corruption of the Trump family and their cronies and enablers. Still, one thing remains amusing: how guilty Trump continues to look. As I recall, the thing that finally got to Nixon about Watergate wasn't the specific crime, but all the other things he was doing that could have been exposed in the investigation (of course, many "dirty tricks" did in fact come to light).

    There's been a big media push from Republican flacks complaining about how the Mueller investigation has now dragged on for an entire year, so that got me to wondering how long the Starr investigation into Clinton lasted? There's a chart of all past Special Counsel investigations in Amelia Thomson DeVeaux: Mueller Is Moving Quickly Compared to Past Special Counsel Investigations, and it shows that Starr's "Whitewater" investigation lasted a little more than six years. The upshot there was that Starr eventually caught Clinton in a lie that had nothing whatsoever to do with the original subject, but which provided House Republicans with an excuse to impeach Clinton (even knowing there was no chance the Senate would convict him). The Clinton/Starr experience convinced many of us that the Special Counsel law was an invitation to political abuse, and it has rarely been used since then. (The only time before Russia was the Valerie Plame leak, which was one of the shortest ever.) When Trump wails about the "greatest witch hunt ever," he's being very forgetful (as well as whiny).

  • Matt Taibbi: The Battle of Woodstock: "First in a series of diaries from the oddest House primary race in America" -- NY-19, where Taibbi is following Jeff Beals. Enter the DCCC. Hard to tell whether their ignorance or interest will turn out more self-defeating. Speaking of the DCCC and the Democratic Party old guard, see: Joe Biden Clarifies He's No Bernie Sanders: "I Don't Think 500 Billionaires Are Reason We're in Trouble, adding "The folks at the top aren't bad guys." Maybe not all of them, but ones like Sheldon Adelson, Charles Koch, Robert Mercer, Art Pope, and Betsy DeVos kind of skew the sample. Oh, also Donald Trump -- he may or may not be a billionaire, but he plays one on TV. Billionaires who donate to Democrats aren't exempt, either. Bill Gates was in the news last week making fun of Trump, but one shouldn't forget his effort to corner the Internet back in the 1990s, resulting in a conviction for antitrust violations.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29697 [29660] rated (+37), 349 [356] unrated (-7).

Once again, counted the list below and found my rated count short, so checked everything, adding four grades. Also noticed one item missing from the list. Still two short, but harder to check that direction, and will soon be forgotten anyway. Presumably the Year 2018 list is accurate. I've been adding quite a few records to the Music Tracking list, mostly based on various AOTY lists -- up to 772 records at the moment (OK, vs. 3690 for 2017, but 1742 for 2016; by the way, rated counts are: 279, 1179, 1167; if you figure we're 25% into 2018 -- counting January in the previous year as we're always playing catch up -- the track this year is for 1116 albums, down a bit but not much).

Confidence Man and Kali Uchis are currently ranked 1st and 5th on AOTY, and I might not have noticed them otherwise. (Not that their picks are a lock, as shown by 3rd-ranked Black Foxxes and number ten Hot Snakes -- I was also pointed toward the latter by Phil Overeem, and I've followed most of his tips.) I also noticed Kate Nash on AOTY's lists, but nowhere near the top. Top record I haven't heard yet is Saba's Care for Me (2), followed by the Xcerts' Hold on to Your Heart (6), and many more from 13th down.

The Ry Cooder record was reviewed by Robert Christgau here -- also Mount Eerie's Now Only, 14th on AOTY's list, which I'll get to in due course. As of this writing, Christgau's website is still down. This has been reported to the hosting company, who are reportedly working on it. We had another outage a few months ago, but they've generally been rare.

One thing that I should note is the confusing product choices surrounding the 25th anniversary of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. I gave the preferred grade to the 3-CD box, but actually only listened to the MP3-only The Girly-Sound Tapes -- effectively solo demos for the album and the leading edge of Phair's career. The box combines a remaster of the classic album with the Tapes, and as best I can tell, the 3CD set (although not the 7LP box) is actually cheaper than the MP3 Tapes alone. I can say that I was seriously considering an A- for Tapes, but consumer guidance (and the desire just to picture one cover) steered me the other way.

A couple of links to recommend:

I was particularly pleased to see the mention of Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports ("a Carla Bley album in all but name").

I should also note that avant-guitarist Glenn Branca has died (1948-2018), but can't really say much about him. Legendary, but I never got around to listening to his records -- possibly because too many had "Symphony" in the title.

New records rated this week:

  • Anteloper: Kudu (2017 [2018], International Anthem): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Black Foxxes: Reiði (2018, Spinefarm): [r]: B
  • Greg Burk: The Detroit Songbook (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Byrne: American Utopia (2018, Nonesuch): [r]: B
  • J. Cole: KOD (2018, Roc Nation): [r]: B+(**)
  • Confidence Man: Confident Music for Confident People (2018, Heavenly): [r]: A-
  • Ry Cooder: The Prodigal Son (2018, Fantasy): [r]: A-
  • Robert Diack: Lost Villages (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • DJ Koze: Knock Knock (2018, Pampa): [r]: B
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Desert (2015 [2018], L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Fickle Friends: You Are Someone Else (2018, Polydor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet: Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Henderson: Be Cool (2018, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (2017 [2018], Palmetto): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Hopkins: Singularity (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens (2018, Sub Pop): [r]: B
  • Hayley Kiyoko: Expectations (2018, Empire/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses: End Times (2014 [2017], Unseen Rain): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Matt Lavelle/Lewis Porter/Hilliard Greene/Tom Cabrera: Matt Lavelle Quartet (2016 [2017], Unseen Rain): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Kate Nash: Yesterday Was Forever (2018, Girl Gang): [r]: A-
  • Juan Andrés Ospina Big Band: Tramontana (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Reggie Quinerly: Words to Love (2017 [2018], Redefinition Music): [cd]: B
  • Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore (2017 [2018], Much Prefer): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Saba: Bucket List Project (2016, Saba Pivot): [r]: B+(**)
  • Edward Simon: Sorrows & Triumphs (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gary Smulyan: Alternative Contrafacts (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hans Teuber & Jeff Johnson: Deuce (2017 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kali Uchis: Isolation (2018, Virgin EMI): [r]: A-
  • Marije Van Dijk: The Stereography Project Feat. Jeff Taylor and Katell Keinig (2018, Hert/Membran): [cd]: B
  • Darryl Yokley's Sound Reformation: Pictures at an African Exhibition (2018, Truth Revolution): [bc]: B

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

  • Liz Phair: The Girly-Sound Tapes (1991, Matador): [r]: B+(***)
  • Liz Phair: Girly-Sound to Guyville (1991-93, Matador, 3CD): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Gary Smulyan Quartet: Homage (1991 [1993], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Smulyan: The Real Deal (2002 [2003], Reservoir): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Justin Brown: Nyeus! (Biophilia): June 29, packaging, no CD
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Beyond Dimensions (FMR)
  • Amos Hoffman/Noam Lemish: Pardes (self-released): June 1
  • Adam O'Farrill: El Maquech (Biophilia): June 1, packaging, no CD
  • William Parker: Voices Fall From the Sky (AUM Fidelity, 3CD): June 15

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I finally finished reading Katy Tur's Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. That would be the Trump campaign, which she covered from May 2015 to election night, choosing the most value-neutral terms she can stomach ("craziest"?). Pretty short on analysis and critical insight, but she found herself the target of Trump's ire and bullying often enough to develop a real distaste for the man -- especially during rallies where Trump whipped up the frenzied masses and threatened to unleash them on the press section. Still, she witnessed enough of Trump's effect on his adoring crowds to take them seriously -- just not enough to tell us much about them. That's partly because a large slice of the book is about her art and craft; i.e., how trivial TV "news" reporting really is. The book is organized with chapters on the road intercut with as many bits on election day and night, as it dawns on everyone that the unthinkable has happened. One memorable line: "To actually watch Trump's miracle come in is a shock like missing the last stair or sugaring your coffee with what proves to be salt. It's not just an intellectual experience. The whole body responds." The following page (p. 279) includes a bit on Michael Cohen (no longer "best known for an appearance on CNN back in August") celebrating at the victory party.

This is the third (or fourth or fifth) book on the election season I've read, after Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus and Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, and one might also add Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In (first part a memoir of the campaign, followed by a platform statement) and/or David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (more on the campaign, especially the DNC hacks, but carries into a critique of the Trump administration). None of these are likely to stand as history -- Taibbi has the best instincts, but threw his book too fast from already dated pieces without sorting out or understanding the whiplash. Nor have I seen much that looks promising.

I suspect that when historians finally develop the stomach to relive the 2016 campaign, they'll recognize in Trump's campaign rallies some variant on the common theme of religious revivalism mixed in with a surprisingly adroit scam of both mass and highly-targeted media, with the Kochs, Mercers, and (yes) Russians lurking in the background. On the other hand, most Democrats couldn't see how brittle and lacklustre Clinton's path to the nomination was, and therefore how vulnerable she was to a shameless demagogue like Trump. Much of this is hinted at in various chronicles and broadsides, but thus far most observers have been so committed to their particular views that they've overshot the mark.

On the other hand, each new week offers more insights into the strange worldview of Donald Trump and the increasingly strange world he is plunging us into. The two major stories this past week are Trump's repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal (oddly juxtaposed with official optimism for a similar deal with North Korea) and much more information about Trump attorney Michael Cohen's efforts to cash in on his client's election.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The week's 4 biggest political stories, explained: President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal; Trump set a date to negotiate a nuclear deal with Korea (June 12 in Singapore); Michael Cohen got caught with his hand in the cookie jar; Trump admitted he's not doing some stuff ("the White House admitted that despite those promises, there will be no 2018 infrastructure bill . . . Trump dropped promises to have Medicare negotiate cheaper rates"). Other Yglesias posts:

    • Drug company stocks really liked today's Trump speech on drug prices: Chart shows the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals index spiking after the speech (although note the momentary dip, as if it took a few minutes for the early tough talk to be discounted. "The president is very selective about which promises he keeps, with the "economic populist" ones seemingly always the ones to end up on the cutting room floor."

    • There's an easier way for California to build greener housing: just build more homes. Hard to read the chart here, but the states with 40+ tons or carbon dioxide per person are Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, and (I think) Louisiana. On the low end, with less than 10 tons, are District of Columbia, New York, California, Oregon, and (I think) Massachusetts.

    • Sheldon Adelson cuts $30 million check to help House Republicans win the midterms. "The $30 million the octogenarian casino billionaire is spending on the midterms may sound like a lot, but it's actually a drop in the bucket compared to what Adelson's heirs will gain thanks to the estate tax cut provisions of Trump tax bill alone. . . . The same goes for even richer people like the Koch brothers, who are planning to spend even larger sums in the midterms."

    • Michael Cohen's LLC got secret corporate payments. What about Trump's shell companies? More significant than the revelation that a crony like Cohen would seek to profit from his association with Trump is the revelation that a number of big name companies were eager to buy his "services."

      In a normal presidency, it would be very difficult to make large, secret cash payments to the president of the United States as a means of currying favor with him. You could donate to his reelection campaign, but that would have to be disclosed. And you could hire people who you believe to have a relationship with him in hopes that they can peddle influence on your behalf (as AT&T and Novartis apparently did with Cohen), but it might not work.

      But there would be basically no way to directly pay the president in secret. Trump has changed that. It's completely unclear how Avenatti came to be in possession of the documents that reveal the payments to Essential Consultants, but it came about due to some kind of leak. Had they not leaked, we would still be in the dark. And since no financial documents related to any of the many LLCs that Trump controls personally have leaked, we have no idea who is paying him or why. . . .

      If Trump disclosed his tax returns, as is customary for presidential candidates, then those returns would contain fairly detailed statements regarding the incomes of these various entities. It would, of course, still be possible to conceal the true source of income through the use of further shell companies. A firm that wanted to pay Trump could, for example, create an indirectly controlled intermediary shell company, give money to that shell entity, and then have the shell entity hire DT Aerospace (Bermuda) LLC or whichever other Trump-owned firm it likes. But if we saw Trump's books, we would at least see clear evidence of him getting paid by mystery entities that could then be investigated by Congress or by journalists on their own terms.

      Without the tax returns, however, we know nothing.

      The tax return issue has long since fallen off the front burner of the political debate. It has come to be viewed in some circles as an esoteric or pathetic hang-up of Trump's opponents. But it's quite clear that the Trump Organization continues to be aggressively profit-seeking, quite clear that companies and individuals with interests in American politics openly seek to court Trump's favor by patronizing his hotel and clubs, and now clear that at least some companies with significant regulatory interests have also sought to advance their policy agenda via secret cash payments to an LLC controlled by a Trump associate.

      More Cohen links:

    • Republicans are deploying troll feminism to try to get Gina Haspel confirmed: "Bad-faith arguments about gender representation from people who don't believe in it."

    • Stormy Daniels is crowding out Democrats' 2018 message.

  • Barbara Ehrenreich: Patriarchy Deflated.

  • Henry Farrell: The "Intellectual Dark Web," explained: what Jordan Peterson has in common with the alt-right: In response to Bari Weiss: Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web, a group of "thinkers" whose common thread seems to be an eagerness to rationalize various forms of bigotry. IDW, evidently taken from a website which follows and certifies them, strikes me as a silly name. Such people don't seem to be especially obscure -- the best known to me is Sam Harris, who promotes atheism by slandering Islam. (Chris Hedges featured him prominently in I Don't Believe in Atheists.) As Farrell points out, there is nothing new in their fancy for theories of racial and sexual superiority -- indeed, we're not far removed from a time when such pseudo-science was commonplace. For another reaction, see Michelle Goldberg: How the Online Left Fuels the Right, which doesn't really argue what the title suggests -- more like how hard it is for the left to be understood through the jaundiced views of the right.

    One suspects the same title writer had a hand in Gerard Alexander: Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think You Are. I'm not as touchy about petty slander of liberals as I am of the left, probably because as a teen, even though I had absorbed most of the liberal/progressive view of American history, I associated liberals with the Cold War and even more so the hot war in Vietnam, and I wound up devouring books like Robert Paul Wolff's The Poverty of Liberalism. I mellowed later, partly as most of the liberal hawks turned into neocons, and partly because middle class society I grew up in no longer looked so oppressive. Still, I've always maintained a basic distinction between liberals and leftists: the former focus on individuals and their freedom, emphasizing equal opportunities over results; the latter think more of classes and aggregates, of social relations, and aim for equal results (within some practicable limits). Conservatives rarely bother with such distinctions: their cardinal principle is to preserve inequality from birth onward, so they view liberals and leftists as interchangeable, and this has led to an uneasy alliance between defined by a common enemy. Still, my disquisition is beside the point here. Alexander is one of those who group anyone resisting the conservative onslaught as liberal. And his point is that liberals aren't as effective as they should be, because they're kind of annoying:

    Liberals dominate the entertainment industry, many of the most influential news sources and America's universities. This means that people with progressive leanings are everywhere in the public eye -- and are also on the college campuses attended by many people's children or grandkids. These platforms come with a lot of power to express values, confer credibility and celebrity and start national conversations that others really can't ignore.

    But this makes liberals feel more powerful than they are. Or, more accurately, this kind of power is double-edged. Liberals often don't realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be. In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.

    In fact, liberals may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way. I'm not talking about the possibility that jokes at the 2011 correspondents' association dinner may have pushed Mr. Trump to run for president to begin with. I mean that the "army of comedy" that Michael Moore thought would bring Mr. Trump down will instead be what builds him up in the minds of millions of voters.

    I rather doubt that even the premise is true here. There are a lot of conservatives in academia, and behind the scenes right-wing donors (like the Kochs) have inordinate influence. Media and entertainment companies (increasingly the same thing) are owned by rich megacorps, backed by even richer bankers. The media isn't divided between left and right. It is either blatantly right-partisan or equivocally mainstream, attempting to balance "legitimate" politician viewpoints while covering news only to the extent it fits within the conventional wisdom and is entertaining. Needless to say, this dynamic has been very helpful for the right -- not just by bottling much of their base up in a propaganda bubble, where they can dismiss inconvenient news as the work of liberal elites, but by demanding their "enemies" grant them a degree of legitimacy that never need be reciprocated.

    As for the "army of comedy," it's pretty certain that no Trump fans are tuning in, so whatever umbrage they take comes secondhand, usually with context removed (see, e.g., the right-wing reaction to the Michelle Wolf event). I've watched Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers -- thanks to DVR, just the opening parts -- ever since the election, and I must say that they have helped to make this stretch of time more tolerable. They offer a useful but not-very-reliable daily news recap -- mostly stories I've already read about -- but more important for me is the solidarity with the audience: I'm reminded every weekday night that I'm not alone, that there are a lot of people out there as appalled by Trump as I am. (Indeed, proof of audience numbers is that fact that staid corporations allow those shows to air.)

    Alexander goes on to fault liberals for attacking racism with "a wide brush," to harping on "microaggressions," to their "tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority." Still, there's nothing pecularly liberal about these complaints. Conservatives hold almost identically opposite views -- what else can you make of their constant harping about "political correctness" and "liberal elites"? On the other hand, conservative umbrage is often about changing the subject -- e.g., try squaring the complaint that "liberal politicians portrayed conservative positions on immigration reform as presumptively racist" with Trump's "shithole countries" remark. Maybe it is possible to construct an anti-immigration platform that isn't racist, but it's damn hard to sell it to the American people on any other basis, and we have good evidence that many of the people who are pushing such a program are doing so for staunchly racist reasons. And consider this paragraph:

    Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.

    Not only can you substitute "conservatives" for "liberals" there, doing so would make it even more true. Maybe the title should have been, "Conservatives, You're Not as Smart as You Think You Are"?

  • Conor Friedersdorf: It's Time for Trump Voters to Face the Bitter Truth: "Republicans elected a president who promised to take on D.C. -- instead, Trump has presided over an extraordinary auction of access and influence." It seems like it's only a matter of time before even Trump voters realize how extraordinarily corrupt Trump and his circle are, with Michael Cohen's influence peddling a prime example:

    Back in 2016, "established K Street firms were grabbing any Trump people they could find," Nick Confessore reported in "How to Get Rich in Trump's Washington," a feature for The New York Times Magazine. "Jim Murphy, Trump's former political director, joined the lobbying giant BakerHostetler, while another firm, Fidelis Government Relations, struck up a partnership with Bill Smith, Mike Pence's former chief of staff. All told, close to 20 ex-aides of Trump, friends, and hangers-on had made their way into Washington's influence business."

    Brian Ballard, a longtime Trump acquaintance, seems to have leveraged his relationship to the president most profitably. The Turkish government is among his firm's many clients. Politico says Turkey pays $125,000 per month. Why does it find that price worthwhile?

    George David Banks was a top energy aide to Donald Trump who came from the world of lobbying. But he quit his job in the White House when he couldn't get a security clearance. Here's what he told E&E News, an energy trade publication: "Going back to be a full-time swamp creature is certainly an attractive option." Then he rejoined his former post at the American Council for Capital Formation, a think tank and lobbying group. I guess he wasn't joking.

    Remember when Trump told you that he would release his tax returns and then never did? Remember when he said that if he won the election he would put his business interests aside? "Ever since Trump and his family arrived in Washington they have essentially hung a for-sale sign on the White House by refusing to meaningfully separate themselves from their own business interests," Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien notes. "That's certainly not lost on the companies that do business in or with Washington. They know that in Trump's swamp, you pay to play."

  • Tara Golshan: Trump may just blow up the farm bill over demanding food stamp work requirements. I've long seen the Agriculture bill as a compromise deal between rural politicians who want market supports for farmers and agribusiness and urban politicians who want to fund SNAP (the "food stamp" program). Both sides have been uneasy about such a deal -- stupidly, I think, especially when they resort to anti-welfare arguments. Some wish to cut back or kill off what they see as subsidies to corporate agribusiness, and I don't doubt that there are aspects of the bill that could be tightened up. But much of the business side of the bill is necessary to stabilize notoriously volatile markets, and that stability and solvency helps make food relatively affordable for everyone. Some libertarians oppose such efforts, but most conservatives are fine with business-as-usual, so the far-right has focused on blowing up SNAP, and their chosen vector is "work requirements" for recipients. In one sense that seems innocuous: most SNAP recipients do in fact work -- albeit for wages too low to feed their families. Actually, there are four key beneficiaries to SNAP: the recipients; their employers, as this helps to keep low-wage jobs viable; retailers, who cash food stamps at retail prices; and agribusiness (farmers but especially processed food companies), who benefit from the larger market. But while most Republicans approve of at least the last three, the "moral critique" of welfare has become such a reflex among the far-right -- not least because Democrats from Daniel Moynahan to Bill Clinton have lent credence to the chorus -- that all they can see is an opportunity to harass and hurt poor people. Not a big surprise that Trump should get caught up in their rhetoric. Among other things, there is probably no area of government that he understands less about than agricultural policy. (Not that there aren't other areas where zero applies, but given that rural areas voted so heavily for him, his lack of understanding and interest is especially glaring.)

    By the way, one of the most outspoken saboteurs of agriculture bills past was Tim Huelskamp, who represented the massive 1st District in west Kansas. He wound up upsetting farmers and businesses in the district so badly that they challenged him in the Republican primary and beat him -- the only case I know of where a right-winger has been purged by regular Republicans.

    For another comment on the agriculture bill and SNAP, see Paul Krugman: Let Them Eat Trump Steaks, where he notes:

    And yes, this means that some of the biggest victims of Trump's obsession with cutting "welfare" will be the very people who put him in office.

    Consider Owsley County, Ky., at the epicenter of Appalachia's regional crisis. More than half the county's population receives food stamps; 84 percent of its voters supported Trump in 2016. Did they know what they were voting for?

    In the end, I don't believe there's any policy justification for the attack on food stamps: It's not about the incentives, and it's not about the money. And even the racial animus that traditionally underlies attacks on U.S. social programs has receded partially into the background.

    No, this is about petty cruelty turned into a principle of government. It's about privileged people who look at the less fortunate and don't think, "There but for the grace of God go I"; they just see a bunch of losers. They don't want to help the less fortunate; in fact, they get angry at the very idea of public aid that makes those losers a bit less miserable.

  • Jen Kirby/Emily Stewart: The very long list of high-profile White House departures: Cheat sheet, in case you need a reminder. Actually, not nearly as long as it should be.

  • Ezra Klein: American democracy as faced worse threats than Donald Trump. "We had a Civil War, after all." Point taken, but I have little confidence that, should Trump be deposed (even routinely in the 2020 election) that some/many of his supporters won't also elect "to exercise their Second Amendment rights." And after that, Klein's list starts to peter out. "We interned families of Japanese descent." Yeah, bad, but how is that really different from what INS is doing now? Or that we're currently running the largest and most intensive mass incarceration system in the world? "We pitched into the Iraq War based on lies." And Trump has recommitted us to the domain of truth? How can anyone write this the same week Trump tried to destroy the Iran nuclear deal? Or a year after Trump withdrew from the Paris Accords? I suppose Klein does us a service reminding us that "the era that we often hold up as the golden age of American democracy was far less democratic, far less liberal, far less decent, than [we think it was] today." Where he gets into trouble is in omitting those bracketed words, implying that today's political/economic/cultural order is more democratic, more liberal, and more decent than any time in America's past. One might credit some people with striving to make that true, but damn few of them hold any degree of power or even influence, and those people who do are pretty damn explicit about their campaign against democracy, liberalism, and decency (although they may prefer other words). The fact is nobody knows how bad it actually is, let alone how bad it's likely to get. The fact is that Trump has maintained the same 40% approval rate he was elected with, despite near-daily embarrassments. The Republicans hold structural advantages in Congress and the courts and all across the nation that they exploit ruthlessly and without shame. And the rich people who bankrolled them are only getting richer, with segment of the media in their pockets -- making sure that no serious changes are possible, regardless of how bad they screw things up.

    I don't mind that Klein is trying to put forth "the case for optimism about America." Nor do I doubt that he brings up things that could help to change the current course. And he's young enough to enjoy some hope that he'll live to see a change. But that's far from a lock, or even a good bet. Much of today's bad policy will only have incremental effect, slowly adding up until something serious breaks -- a causality that many won't notice even when it's too late. It was, after all, decisions early in the 1980s under Reagan that led to stagnant wages, inflated profits, and poisonous inequality. Al Qaeda and ISIS are direct descendants of the US decision in 1979 to back Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan, although that too can be traced back to American decisions from 1945 on to take a dominant role in Middle Eastern oil and, only slightly later, to turn against the Soviet Union and progressive movements everywhere. Alongside the Cold War, the late 1940s passage of Taft-Hartley started to turn the tide against labor unions, over time reducing them from a third to a twelfth of the private sector workforce. The failure to take climate change seriously is similarly rooted in the politics of oil, and in the corruption that the Reagan-era mantra "greed is good" promoted. Trump and virtually all Republicans have embraced this ideology and continue to promote it -- indeed, will so until it fails them, most probably catastrophically.

    I'm pretty suspicious of people like Yascha Mounk, interviewed by Klein in the audio accompanying this piece (and no, I didn't listen to the interview), but I do think Trump is "breaking norms" in ways that are simply treacherous. For instance, see Jen Kirby: Poll: most Republicans now think Trump is being framed by the FBI. Now personally, I'm pretty suspicious of the FBI, and I realize that they have a long history of abusing their power to hunt and hurt those they regard as enemies. Still, Trump is not the sort of guy who easily finds himself on the FBI enemies list. But more importantly, the source of this suspicion is clearly the Trump camp, in a cynical attempt to condition his followers to reject any actual evidence of wrong-doing. This is actually an old trick -- one Trump plied before the election when he argued that the system is rigged against him and vowed not to accept "fake news" reports of his loss.

  • Mark Landler: Clashing Views on Iran Reflect a New Balance of Power in the Cabinet: Article credits John Bolton as the decisive force behind Trump's abandonment of the agreement Obama and Kerry negotiated to resolve the supposed crisis of Iran's nuclear program (really just separating uranium isotopes), with Mike Pompeo the swing vote, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis opposed ("but did not push the case as vocally toward the end"). More Iran links:

    • Peter Beinart: Abandoning Iran Deal, U.S. Joins Israel in Axis of Escalation, who sums up in a tweet: "There are now two Wests. One, led by the leaders of Germany, France + UK, which believes in liberal democracy and international law. And a second, headquartered in Washington + Jerusalem, which holds those values in contempt." By the way, Beinart previously wrote: Trump May Already Be Violating the Iran Deal.

    • Phyllis Bennis: Is Trump's Abandonment of the Iran Nuke Deal a Prelude to War? Given that Israel attacked alleged Iranian targets in Syria within hours of Trump's announcement, I'd have to say yes. Israel had spent the previous week warning about Iran's desire to attack Israel, so it seems likely that Netanyahu was hoping to provoke an attack. Had it come from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel could respond like they did in 2006. On the other hand, had it come from Iran itself, Israel would no doubt have appealed to Trump to do the honors -- given that US forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf were much closer to Iranian targets. I doubt that Trump actually wants to start a war with Iran, but subcontracting US foreign policy to Israel and the Saudis runs that risk. It was, after all, those countries which put all the pressure on Trump to break the Iran deal. Indeed, they put all the pressure on the US to address the so-called crisis of Iran's "nuclear program" in the first place, only to reject the only possible solution to their anxieties. For more on Israel, see Richard Silverman below. For more on the Saudis, see Ben Freeman/William D Hartung: How the Saudis Wooed Donald Trump.

    • Michael Klare: The Road to Hell in the Middle East.

    • Trita Parsi: Who Ordered Black Cube's Dirty Tricks? Hired by the White House, the Israeli company was tasked to "find or fabricate incriminating information about former Obama administration officials, as well as people and organizations that had a part in securing the Iran nuclear deal."

    • Paul R Pillar: Hold the Deal-Killers Accountable.

    • Matt Shuham: Promising Chinese Jobs, Trump Commits to Backing Off Iran Sanctions Violator ZTE: At least Trump cares about someone's jobs.

    • Richard Silverman: Bibi Gins Up Another War to Save His Political Ass: Within hours of Trump's deal breaking, Israeli planes bombed Iranian targets within Syria. And, well, "Bibi's polling numbers have shot through the roof since the last attack on Syria."

    • Jon Swaine: US threatens European companies with sanctions after Iran deal pullout.

    • Stephen M Walt: The Art of the Regime Change: The assumption of the deal breakers is that when the Iranian people realize that they can no longer enjoy the fruits of friendship with the US, they'll revolt and overthrow their clerical masters and replace them with a new regime that will show sufficient deference to the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Either that, or they'll do so after the US blows up a sufficient swath of the country. Neither, well, seems very realistic, not that the US lacks the capability to show them what real nuclear powers can do.

      Otto von Bismarck once quipped that it was good to learn from one's mistakes but better to learn from someone else's. This latest episode shows that the United States is not really capable of learning from either. And it suggests that Winston Churchill's apocryphal comment about the United States always doing the right thing should now be revised. Under Trump, it appears, the United States will always do the wrong thing but only after first considering -- and rejecting -- all the obviously superior alternatives.

    • Philip Weiss: By wrecking Iran deal, Trump politicized Israel: Not that that hurts Trump, but virtually every Democrat in Washington supported the Iran nuke deal, and now it's going to be hard for them to deny that Israel was the driving force behind wrecking it.

      If there was one bright spot in the day, it was the almost universal anger and anguish that followed Trump's speech, and the determination to try and undo his action by any means the rest of us can. Even the neoconservatives who have pushed this action seemed afraid of what it meant. Even Chuck Schumer, who had opposed his own president on the Iran deal three years ago because of the "threat to Israel," was against Trump.

      On the other hand, just this week Sheldon Adelson wrote the Republicans a $30 million check. Sure suggests "pay to play" is still live and well in the new Trump swamp. Also that the US can be steered into war pretty damn cheap.

  • Dara Lind: Donald Trump is reportedly furious that the US can't shut down the border:

    Nielsen, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, apparently tried to explain to the president that the federal government is constrained in what it can do by the law, but Trump reportedly wasn't having it. "We need to shut it down," he yelled at Nielsen at one point, per the Post report. "We're closed."

    Yelling at people is a management tactic for President Trump; sometimes his anger inspires long-held grudges, but sometimes it dissipates once he's gotten it off his chest. But he's spent the past month in an apparent panic about the border, and his outburst at Nielsen shows it isn't going away.

    The president's tantrum is totally divorced from policy reality: The government can't "shut it down," and Nielsen and Sessions appear to be working aggressively to do what they can to crack down at the border. But Trump's panic is the inevitable consequence of treating the current situation at the border as an unprecedented crisis -- which Nielsen's DHS, as well as the White House, has made a concerted effort to do.

  • Aja Romano: The fight to save net neutrality, explained: "Congress or the courts could still save net neutrality -- but don't get your hopes up." Important piece, originally written in December 2017 and newly updated.

  • Dylan Scott: The 6 most interesting parts of Trump's mostly disappointing drug price plan. I don't see anything here that fundamentally changes the pharmaceutical industry, with a couple things that could conceivably make their predation worse (e.g., "Allow certain Part D drugs to be priced differently based on different uses "). Most ominous is: "Undertake some vaguely defined changes to US trade policy to try to address the disparity between what the US pays for drugs and what other countries pay" -- i.e., get other countries to pay more for American drugs than current negotiated prices. This has actually been a long running trade agreement strategy, as US has always been willing to trade manufacturing jobs to coax other countries into paying more "intellectual property" rents. That's why the deals have often turned out to be lose-lose propositions for American workers.

    More on drug prices/profits:

    • Sarah Kliff: The true story of America's sky-high prescription drug prices. Well, mostly true. Kliff assumes that private pharmaceutical companies have to make profits in order to attract investments to develop new drugs. That's only sort of the way it works now: drug companies spend a lot more money on things like marketing than they do on r&d. Moreover, their r&d expenses are targeted on things with the highest return, not necessarily on the greatest need. For instance, an expensive continuing term treatment for a widespread problem like cholesterol or inflammation is better for business than a cure for a rare condition. On the other hand, a lot of medical research is already funded by government, and more would be even more effective -- not least because information can be shared, instead of hiding it in closed, competitive corporate labs. One can even negotiate a treaty whereby (virtually) all nations agree to invest a minimum amount to produce treatments that everyone can use. (That would answer Kliff's argument that US companies, motivated by undoubted greed, produce a disproportionate amount of the world's cures -- not that I'm sure that's even true.)

    • Paul Krugman: What's Good for Pharma Isn't Good for America (Wonkish).

    • Dylan Scott: The blockbuster fight over this obscure federal program explains America's drug prices: All about 340B.

  • Emily Stewart: Trump taps private equity billionaire for intelligence advisory role: Stephen Feinberg, co-CEO of Cerberus Capital, which owns shadowy defense contractor DynCorp -- one of their big cash cows was training the Afghan police force. Stephen Witt wrote a profile back last July: Stephen Feinberg, the private military contractor who has Trump's ear.

  • Todd VanDerWerff: The rise of the American news desert: "Predominantly white rural areas supported Trump. They also often lack robust local media." Sees local media as "a necessary counterbalance to national narratives," and notes that:

    The slow death of local media has contributed to the epistemic closure in conservative circles, especially in rural areas. That's led to the proliferation of so-called "fake news" stories, widely spread on Facebook, which are sometimes outright untrue and sometimes just a hugely misleading presentation of a true news story.

    No one has been sure how to puncture that conservative media bubble, to combat the narratives that lots of rural white voters have come to believe are true. It's impossible to contradict fake news with "real news" when the sources offering that real news aren't trusted.

    But local media outlets, which used to carry that sort of clout within their communities, are being economically strangled by an environment that increasingly requires turning to nationally syndicated programs and stories, rather than the sort of local focus that used to mark these outlets. . . .

    Conservatives have spent decades effectively discrediting the national media among their partisans. But that effort wouldn't have been as effective if there weren't space for it to flourish, in places where local news organizations have been strangled or cut to the bone.

    My first thought was that there is a national media desert as well, but then I thought of cable news and it started looking more like a jungle, where constant fear of snakes and spiders and the inability to see more than a few feet makes it impossible to grasp what's really going on.

  • Alex Ward: Pompeo: US and North Korea "in complete agreement" on goals of Trump-Kim summit: Of course, nobody know what he thinks he's talking about. The article posits a series of steps by North Korea (along with "robust verification," etc.), each to be followed by some sort of "reward" (mostly in the form of reduced sanctions) for their good behavior. That doesn't sound like a very fair deal to me, which matters because stable deals need to be based on mutual respect and fairness, not on who can apply the most pressure. Moreover, Ward buys into the company line that:

    North Korea has also historically been a very tough country to negotiate with, in large part because it routinely breaks the deals it agrees to. The US and other countries have been trying to come to a diplomatic, negotiated agreement with North Korea over its nuclear program since 1985. It's broken its commitments multiple times with the US, including walking out on a denuclearization deal in 2009.

    My impression is that the US is the one who has repeatedly sabotaged the various talks with North Korea (see, e.g., Six-party talks, which started in 2003 and ended without agreement in 2009). What's always been lacking has been American willingness to normalize relations with North Korea. Maybe Trump and Kim realize that's the only possible deal, and maybe they understand that neither country can afford to continue the impasse. Still, Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal should be proof that the US cannot be trusted to keep its promises.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29660 [29628] rated (+32), 356 [372] unrated (-16).

When I unpack an album, I record it in five separate files: my Year 2018 file, my Music Tracking 2018 file, a scratch file which gets folded into my next Music Week post, another scratch file which has review stubs for all of the unrated jazz records in my queue, and what I call my database: actually a set of 20-some text files that get run through a program I wrote to generate a big big table, my Music Database intro file, and the bunch of genre/period-specific files linked to from there. It's not that I don't understand the principle of normalization, but this system evolved over time from something much simpler, and it still works (for the most part). In fact, I usually do a pretty good job of logging those new records in all of those places.

Where I often fall down is when I grade an album. Not only to I usually have to update all of those files (as well as doing nearly all of the unpacking work for streamed albums), I also write a review in working Streamnotes draft file. And, of course, it gets more complicated around EOY time, when I'm compiling my aggregate file and sorting out my jazz and non-jazz EOY lists. It turns out that I sometimes (on average 2-3 times per week) skip one or more of those, most commonly the database files, resulting in short rated counts. When I ran my program this week, I came up with 23 albums rated. I wasn't real real surprised. I didn't have any major disruptions last week, but came up with way more than a normal week's worth of A-list records, and they tend to take more time -- often 3-4 plays; in fact, the only one I see this week that only got two plays was Tommy Flanagan's Giant Steps.

But I was a little surprised, so I counted the records listed below, and came up with 24. Clearly I had missed something, so I went back and rechecked my U-rated albums, and caught a couple from last week, a couple from the previous week, and a few more from further back. In fact, the list below is probably missing something, but that's harder to check and will soon be forgotten.

Three of the A-list records were among the pile I pulled out as strong prospects when trying to wrap up April Streamnotes: Kira Kira, the two Henry Threadgill; the others in that pile scored high B+: Angelika Niescier and Samo Salamon B+. Cardi B and Janelle Monáe are perhaps the most anticipated pop/rap albums of the season. Cardi B won Pazz & Jop's singles category last year, and that single is on the album, where it doesn't even stand out like hit singles usually do. Monáe's album temporarily topped Album of the Year. (It's since slipped to 4th, but with 28 reviews, vs. an average of 10 for the three records above it. I haven't heard those three yet, but will look for them next week.) Good chance both records will place top ten in this year's EOY aggregates -- not that my grades have any sway or much correlation there. For whatever it's worth, I got to Cardi B (and to Princess Nokia) before Christgau published last week (both records were on Phil Overeem's list, as was Ceramic Dog's YRU Still Here? and a few other things I listened to but didn't like as much).

Christgau reviewed Willie Nelson the week before, but the record didn't show up on Napster until some time last week. The old Tommy Flanagan record popped up as a "new featured" release, as did Van Morrison and the also-ran Blue Note jazz. I was reminded of Tune-Yards by Michael Tatum, who also has a new "Hall of Records" post on The Rolling Stones, Out of Our Heads (US edition). Playing this now on Napster, just because it was easier to dig out. I know I have the CD somewhere, graded A, but no note on whether it's US or UK edition, so my copy probably predates the reissue that made the distinction. I vividly remember buying "Satisfaction" as a single, thinking it was the greatest thing I had ever heard (and also loving the back side, "The Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man"), but I didn't buy a Stones LP until High Tide and Green Grass. Hard in those days to scrape together enough money to buy a record. Guess I made up for that later.

I can't recall when the last time I had no new mail to unpack was. Nothing today either. Still getting links for downloads but most of them go into the trash immediately. (Exceptions today: a William Parker 3-CD box, Voices Fall From the Sky, and new work from Matt Lavelle. I also kept Posi-Tone's latest link, but can't say I've been very diligent about following them since I stopped getting CDs.) I suppose the good news is less filing, and less clutter. But I've already lost that battle.

Looking forward to a week where there's virtually nothing I have to do.

New records rated this week:

  • Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Kenny Barron Quintet: Concentric Circles (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Terence Blanchard: Live (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here? (2018, Northern Spy): [r]: A-
  • Chamber 3: Transatlantic (2016 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Nels Cline 4: Currents Constellations (2017 [2018], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elysia Crampton: Elysia Crampton (2018, Break World, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Czarface/MF Doom: Czarface Meets Metal Face (2018, Silver Age): [r]: A-
  • Dave Gisler Trio: Rabbits on the Run (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kira Kira: Bright Force (2017 [2018], Libra): [cd]: A-
  • Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (2018, Bad Boy): [r]: A-
  • Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco: You're Driving Me Crazy (2018, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing (2018, Legacy): [r]: A-
  • Angelika Niescier Trio: The Berlin Concert (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red (2018, Rough Trade, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rob Schwimmer: Heart of Hearing (2018, Sunken Heights Music): [cd]: B-
  • Susana Santos Silva: All the Rivers: Live at Panteão Nacional (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sonar With David Torn: Vortex (2017 [2018], RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Henry Threadgill: Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (2017 [2018], Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More Dirt (2017 [2018], Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (2018, 4AD): [r]: B

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

  • Eliane Elias: Music From Man of La Mancha (1995 [2018], Concord): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Tommy Flanagan: Giant Steps: In Memory of John Coltrane (1982, Enja): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Nothing in the mail last week.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Another week, more links:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The week's 4 big political stories, explained: Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy payoff (according to new Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; funny typo here referring to Trump layer "Cohn"); Scott Pruitt scandals are metastasizing; Trump finally got a top-notch lawyer (after Ty Cobb quit, and no, not Giuliani -- someone named Emmet T Flood, whose past employers included Antonin Scalia, Bill Clinton, GW Bush, Dick Cheney, and Hillary Clinton, none of whom wound up in jail, despite, well, you know); The economy added 164,000 jobs in April (another typo here, "1640,000"). Other Yglesias posts:

    • The simplest, most important question the White House can't answer: "Why did the president fire James Comey?"

      All that said, Sanders's statement from the podium today was a reminder that Trump really is on some level an abnormally rotten, abnormally dangerous figure to hold such high office.

      He fundamentally rejects the notion that the American state exists to serve the public interest and that he, in his role as president, is likewise a servant of the public. He instead wants to "run the government like a business" (as the cliché goes) in the most literal and retrograde way imaginable -- for his own personal benefit, constrained if at all by the letter of the law or, more properly, by what he can manage to get away with under the law.

    • 4 political science lessons from Kanye West's embrace of Donald Trump: "Normal people are instinct-driven rationalizers motivated by group loyalty dynamics, not ideologies." Cites a book by Milton Lodge and Charles S. Taber, The Rationalizing Voter, to argue that West's fondness for Trump is intuitive rather than rational, and that this isn't uncommon:

      When Bill Clinton was president, for example, highly attentive Republicans were more likely than less attentive Republicans to say the budget deficit was rising. They knew the falling deficit was a key Clinton talking point and they knew they didn't like Clinton, so they "knew" he was lying about the deficit.

      West, somewhat similarly, seems to be "learning" a lot of pseudo-facts about the history of race in America in response to his decision to affiliate himself with Trump, rather than deciding to affiliate with Trump after undertaking a revisionist study of race in America.

    • Trump's Stormy Daniels tweets show how easy he is to blackmail: "A man who dispenses cash for secrets this easily is a risky man to have in office."

      This is exactly why Sally Yates warned Trump long ago that Michael Flynn was a security risk, but rather than address the risk, Trump tried to hush it up.

      That's been the story of Trump's whole life -- breaking the rules and using money he inherited from his father to make problems go away. It's been a remarkably successful strategy for him, despite considerable collateral damage to the long list of people he's screwed over -- from unpaid contractors to defrauded Trump University students -- and now that he's president, we all get to pay the price for his various cover-ups.

    • Cities hoping to win Amazon's HQ2 should watch what they wish for. Yglesias is concerned that "an influx of good-paying jobs" would cause an increase in rents that would gobble up gains and hurt more people than the new business would help -- unless, that is, the new site built enough additional housing to compensate. Many candidate cities are already burdened by high rents, so don't have that flexibility. Left unsaid is that landlords, who seem to have more political clout than renters, would benefit from driving up rents (although they're likely to get stuck with paying the taxes that Amazon gets to duck).

    • Ukraine cut off cooperation with Mueller to curry favor with Trump:

      And even more troublingly, it's not just Trump and not just Ukraine.

      The administration is currently nearing an important decision on Iran policy, a topic that many Middle Eastern countries have strong feelings about and interests that do not align perfectly with those of the United States. Trump has known business dealings with many of these Gulf monarchies, and we have no idea what secret deals he's making or what cash payments are being funneled through his clubs.

      No previous president would have dared to wallow in such a morass of conflicts of interest. Then again, no previous president would have led foreign countries to believe that their receipt of security assistance was dependent on them seeking to actively obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation.

    • Mike Pence hails Joe Arpaio as a "tireless champion . . . of the rule of law: "The vice president is all in on Trump's shocking attacks on basic institutions."

    • Study: overhyped media narratives about America's fading white majority fuel anxiety

    • T-Mobile's proposed takeover of Sprint, explained: A fascinating piece. Among other things, I learned that T-Mobile and Sprint are both owned by foreign conglomerates (one German, the other Japanese) that have been reluctant to inject new capital. Meanwhile, the top two wireless companies, Verizon and AT&T, both descend from Bell operating companies and have many interlocking investors (the top three of both are Vanguard, Blackrock, and State Street), so they tend to be competitors in name only.

    • Democrats' 2018 impeachment dilemma, explained: "Impeaching Trump polls poorly, but Democratic candidates can't ignore the elephant in the room." One point worth making is that Republicans tried pushing a narrowly partisan impeachment process against Bill Clinton in 1998, one that never had a prayer of passing the Senate, and it more or less backfired on them. Without significant Republican support, impeaching Trump won't succeed either (and replacing him with Mike Pence wouldn't do anyone any favors either). So at this point, and realistically even if Democrats win narrow margins in both House and Senate in 2018, the sensible position would be to wait and see. One thing a Democratic Congress can do is to investigate Trump and to limit his power, and there's no reason not to promise to do just that. It's even possible that Trump might blossom as a constructive dealmaker given Democratic control of Congress. It's also possible that he could turn even more paranoid and self-destruct, but you can't predict either before the conditions change.

  • Charlotte Alter: The Walls That Hillary Clinton Created: Review of Amy Chozick's Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, a book I suppose could be interesting if/when it compares/contrasts Clinton's two presidential campaigns, both starting out as slam/dunk favorites and winding up in the trash can of history: what did she learn? and why didn't that work? One problem seems to be that she never cultivated a working relationship with the press:

    People who know Clinton often complain that the press, and therefore the public, never gets to see how warm and funny she is in person. Chasing Hillary is the best explanation so far of why that is. Chozick describes Clinton's press shop (which she calls "The Guys") as an anonymous gang of manipulative, unresponsive and vaguely menacing apparatchiks who alternate between denying her interview requests (47 in total, by her count), bullying her in retaliation for perceived negative coverage ("You've got a target on your back," one of them tells her) and exploiting her insecurities about keeping up with her (often male) colleagues. The campaign quarantined the press on a separate bus and, later, a separate plane, often without even an accompanying flack to answer basic questions.

    As for the petty stuff, there seems to be quite a lot in Chozick's book, as there is in the one I'm reading now, Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, where Tur gets bullied as much as Chozick, only more often by the candidate directly (she covered Trump, in case that wasn't obvious). Also in The New York Times Book Review, let me mention John McCain: By the Book, which is actually pretty reasonable, not least because he sticks with well-known books (The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, For Whom the Bell Tolls; asked about Vietnam, he offers two Bernard Fall books and Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie; and he promises to read Ron Chernow's Grant next). Good chance his ghostwriter Mark Salter helped him out.

  • Jason Ditz: Giuliani: Trump Will Kill Iran Nuclear Deal:

    Speaking this weekend at an anti-Iran conference, President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani declared that the president would withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal. He went on to insist this would lead to regime change in Iran.

    Giuliani held up a piece of paper meant to represent the Iran deal, yelling at the crowd "what do you think is going to happen to that agreement?" He ripped up the paper and then spat on it. President Trump has previously set an ultimatum of May 12 for withdrawing from the deal.

    Given how loudly Trump administration flaks have been announcing the intent to withdraw from the "worst deal ever," it seems unlikely not to happen. Peter Van Buren predicts: US Is Playing With Fire if It Walks Away From the Iran Nuclear Deal on May 12. My personal opinion is that if the other five signatories stick with the deal Iran will too, so the only effect that Trump will have is to keep US businesses from trading with Iran (e.g., halting a large order for Boeing airliners), and generally make the US look like a rogue nation with no regard for world peace (something which may contribute to scuttling prospects for a denuclearizing agreement with North Korea -- possibly part of the reason the usual suspects are pressing this issue now). Of course, withdrawing from the deal could just be a first step toward war with Iran, something Israel and Saudi Arabia would be keen to cheer on but lack the wherewithal to undertake themselves (unless Israel wants to be the one starting a nuclear war). But rather than pushing war as their reason, the deal's opponents are rekindling fantasies that the Iranian people will revolt and overthrow the regime. Certainly, if the stated US goals for the deal were serious, there is no reason to withdrawal. For instance, see Fred Kaplan: Bibi's Iran Speech Was a Bust. Trita Parsi had the same thought: Did Israel Inadvertently Make Case for Staying in Nuke Agreement? Also note: Mark Townsend/Julian Borger: Trump team hired spy firm for 'dirty ops' on Iran arms deal, and Borger's solo Trump's dirty ops attack on Obama legacy shows pure hatred for Iran deal. For another prediction, see: Saeed Kamali Dehglan: If Trump destroys the nuclear deal, Iran will fall to its hardliners.

  • Thomas Frank: Are Democrats finally read to unfriend Facebook and Silicon Valley? "Not so long ago, Barack Obama was drinking in Mark Zuckerberg's psychobabble about bringing the world together." Of course, the real bond between Silicon Valley and Clinton/Obama Democrats was money. Clinton's late-1990s boom was largely based on Internet promotion, and Obama tried to do the same thing with non-fossil energy businesses, and Sillcon Valley's donations kept the Democrats (Obama and the Clintons, anyway) competitive. If that's changing, it's because as tech businesses grow, they become more focused on bottom line, and more predatory, so they seem less and less like unequivocal innovations. But also, while there's no denying that Clinton and Obama made them money, there's also a growing suspicion that average Democratic voters got very little from electing them -- indeed, an increasing number of voters became so cynical that they figured they had little to lose by taking a chance on Trump. Also, it turns out that Trump was able to use "social media" more effectively. Still, I doubt any Democrats soliciting big money are going to unfriend anyone who pays up. I'm not even sure they should. But if we've learned anything in the last year it's that high tech isn't an unambiguous blessing.

  • Dhar Jamail: Explosions and Crashes: Military Aircraft Are a Threat to US Civilians: "On April 3, a third military aircraft crashed in just one 24-hour period." Jamail has too many recent crashes to mention one of the biggest ones, which happened here in Wichita in 1965, when a KC-135 tanker with 31,000 gallons of jet fuel dropped out of the sky to raze an entire city block (killing 30, 23 on the ground).

  • Mike Konczal: How low can unemployment go? Economists keep getting the answer wrong. It's down to 3.9% now, according to one measure anyhow. Back in the 1970s economists came up with something they called "the natural rate of unemployment," below which inflation ensues. We're way below what economists thought the number was then, and we're still not seeing significant inflation. For a prescient critique of the theory from the late-1990s see the writings of George P. Brockway. (By the way, Brockway's The End of Economic Man: Principles of Any Future Economics is the book you should start with if you want to read one book about economics.) One thing I'd like to add is that the assumption that increasing wages are the main cause of inflation is baked into the theory, which is why it's always been a cudgel against tightening of labor markets. That's not to deny that increasing unemployment, which is what the theory prescribes to counter inflation, doesn't reduce inflation, but it does so not by decreasing the costs of products and services but by reducing the demand for them. Conversely, most of the price increases we've seen since the theory was developed have come from monopoly rents and capital demands (and in some cases, like OPEC or Enron, artificially induced supply shortages). Meanwhile, the enormous inrease of asset prices we've seen since 1980 isn't counted as inflation at all -- it's merely considered to be the dividends of wealth.

  • Don Lefler/Tim Potter: County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell indicted on bank, wire fraud and money laundering: Local Wichita story, but file it under "when bad things happen to bad people." The article describes O'Donnell as "a rising star" in the Republican Party in Kansas. Indeed, he's won three elections by age 33: Wichita City Council, Kansas State Senate, and Sedgwick County Commissioner. His ran for the Senate as part of the right-wing purge of Republican moderates, defeating popular incumbent Jean Schodorf in the primary and hanging on for a narrow win. In the legislature, he sponsored a bill to place draconian limits on welfare recipients, including prohibition from withdrawing more than $25 at a time from a bank ATM, as well as a long list of other "luxuries." (At the time, I wrote that O'Donnell "is a textbook example of how ignorant and unrealistic a sheltered and pampered young person can be." See my notebook, under "Cathy O'Neil: Kansas redistributes money from the poor to the banks.") The article doesn't mention a scandal that O'Donnell was involved in involving underage drinking. Lynn Rogers, a popular member of the Wichita School Board (and a former Republican) decided to run as a Democrat against O'Donnell, a race that O'Donnell dodged by running for County Commissioner instead. (Rogers won.) The article does include critical comments from Richard Ranzau, who has been feuding with O'Donnell recently. Ranzau is an arch-conservative, but compared with O'Donnell comes of as principled. I saw another article where Jim Ward noted that O'Donnell has always "played fast and loose." Looks like he finally got caught. He's charged with federal crimes, so maybe Trump will pardon him.

  • Dara Lind: Trump tells 57,000 Hondurans who've lived in the US for 20 years to get out: "It's yet another move that will turn people who are in the US legally into unauthorized immigrants." The program is TPS (Temporary Protected Status), originally a temporary program but for Honduras was set up in 1998 and only covers people in the US by then. Each nation is reviewed separately. If the Trump administration continues to end TPS programs, by 2020 some 400,000 who currently have legal status in the US will lose their protection and be subject to deportation.

  • Jedediah Purdy: Normcore: A review of "crisis-of-democracy" books, a booming genre since Trump got elected, specifically: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die; Yascha Mounk: The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It; David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic; William A. Galston: Antipluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy; and E.J. Dionne Jr, Norman J. Ornstein, and Thomas E. Mann: One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported. More books in this vein are available, and beyond that there are numerous efforts to reëxamine historical fascists in light of Trump, and there is another stack of books hoping to impeach Trump -- an impossible cry for a broken system to fix itself.

    What is missing from these works, and the commentariat that they represent, is a genuine reckoning with twenty-first-century questions: whether we have ever been democratic, and whether the versions of capitalism that have emerged in the last forty years are compatible with democracy. The crisis-of-democracy literature largely presumes that these debates have been settled, so that any doubts about that settlement must be symptoms of confusion or bad faith. That is why these books do not rise to the crisis that occasions them. Answering basic questions about the relationship between democracy and capitalism is the only credible response to the present crisis.

    Purdy locates this bewilderment about capitalism and democracy to what he calls "the long 1990s" -- the triumphalist conclusion that once the Soviet Union fell everybody understood that the only viable system was politically democratic and robustly capitalist. (Of course, nobody takes China seriously as a counter-example.) Since the early 1990s, both US political parties have vied with each other to increase inequality -- the main difference that while Republicans focus on zero-sum transfers, the Democrats favor the sleight-of-hand game they call growth. While this rivalry has been lucrative for the wealthy, it has left pretty much everyone else not only poorer but with a diminished sense of power over their lives and future. The result was that in 2016, politics took a disturbing detour from the agreed-upon virtues:

    The energy in 2016 was entirely elsewhere. Everyone sensed this -- except, perhaps, the Clinton campaign. Sanders and Trump stood for opposite principles and visions of the country, but the two candidates shared an indifference to the standard formula of American politics: constitution + heroic history = America. This was the equation that made Barack Obama, John McCain, and Ted Cruz divergent participants in a single political culture. Sanders talked like what he is, a person of the democratic left, to whom America is a place to be worked on, not in itself a source of meaning or identity. Trump departed from Cold-War rhetoric in the opposite direction. To hear him speak, he might never have heard of the Constitution (other than the Second Amendment, a euphemistic hook for his favored themes of violence and racialized fear), the Revolution, or the Civil War -- or for that matter the civil rights movement, a redemptive touchstone for Cold-War liberalism. For him, America is not a philosophical problem or a historical challenge, but a chance to beat down whoever falls on the wrong side of the border or the loyalty test. "America, fuck yeah!" as Team America would have it.

    The thing that really defined Trump's political language was its nihilism about politics itself, the appetite it stoked for political bullshit that doesn't even pretend to hold together, but just staggers from one emotional trigger to another. Trump essentially short-sold the high-minded political style of the late Cold War, betting that it would prove weaker than it looked under pressure -- that people neither expected much from government nor thought it important enough to be well run; that a lot of voters despised their political class and the cultural and financial elites around it; and that recreational cruelty and you-can't-bullshit-a-bullshitter snark would feel more authentic than any respectably sanctioned appeal to better angels. We are, he intimated, the barbarians we've been waiting for.

    Also see Daniel Denver/Thea Riofrancos: Zombie Liberalism, a review of Mounk's book. As they point out, Mounk argues that "to fight the far right, liberals should reclaim a more inclusive nationalism." Problem is, that sounds more like a plan to fight the left (often the fight centrists prefer to pick).

    Despite the appeal to pragmatism, Mounk's political vision is utopian, his ideal polity a kind of liberal sublime. In a distant place far outside of history, virtuous trustees of public reason skillfully mobilize the best of nationalism while fending off its "dangerous excesses." Entranced, Mounk sees in nationalism a muscular tool for legitimizing the political-economic order: "Nationalism is like a half-wild beast. As long as it remains under our control, it can be of tremendous use." Who is the "beast," and who is the "us" into which Mounk places the reader?

    From long ago, the left has held a critique of nationalism: that it is (mostly) an artificial division of people into groups for the purpose of furthering conservative hierarchies. This hasn't kept leftists from invoking nationalism for their own purposes -- especially to organize resistance against colonial powers. Still, it's never really set well, as it runs counter to the fundamental that all people should be equal and free. When Mounk argues for his more enlightened nationalism, he's sacrificing this very fundamental for political expediency. Of course, as a self-conscious anti-populist, his pitch is aimed at elites (admittedly, liberal ones) -- necessarily so, as who else would agree to continuing rule by elites?

    Also see: Corey Robin: Democracy Is Norm Erosion:

    Two or three weeks ago, I had an intuition, a glimpse of a thought that has kept coming back to me since: the discourse of norm erosion isn't really about Trump. Nor is it about authoritarianism. What it's really about is "extremism," that old stalking horse of Cold War liberalism. And while that discourse of norm erosion won't do much to limit Trump and the GOP, its real contribution will be to mark the outer limits of left politics, just at a moment when we're seeing the rise of a left that seems willing to push those limits.

    I get what Robin is saying here, but I'm not happy with the term "extremism" here, mostly because a lot of the things the "norms defenders" dislike, especially on the left, don't strike me as extreme at all. In particular, peace and equality aren't extreme all-or-nothing propositions. They are ideals which should orient us for everyday decisions. But until recently what passed for serious, legitimate political discourse excluded left ideals, and therefore even practical proposals, as "extremist."

    Robin concludes:

    For now, I'll merely leave us with this thought: democracy is a permanent project of norm erosion, forever shattering the norms of hierarchy and domination and the political forms that aid and abet them.

  • Aziz Rana: The Left's Missing Foreign Policy: Well, not my left, but you know who he's talking about:

    At the outset of the 2003 Iraq War, I caught up after some years with a friend and professor of mine, who had close links with the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment. He was dismayed by the turn of events, and not only because of the collective insanity that seemed to grip the Bush White House. Despite the massive global protests, a surprisingly large number of people within Washington and the Democratic Party's think tanks and policy circles backed the invasion, sometimes tacitly, often explicitly. He described the run-up to the war as being like finding yourself in an Ionesco play, watching your friends turn into rhinoceroses. . . .

    In 2008 Obama distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton as an antiwar candidate, but once in office his administration and foreign policy team were staffed by pro-war faces and their protégés, from Clinton herself to Joe Biden and Samantha Power, along with many of the exact people my professor lamented all the way back in 2003. And, as has been noted, Obama's staffing decisions led to policies shaped by the same faulty logic that produced Iraq -- the most obvious example being the American-led regime change in Libya, on supposedly humanitarian grounds, that left tens of thousands dead, with lingering devastation that continues to drive an enormous exodus of refugees. . . . After eight years of Obama's wars, the only policy positions in the Democratic Party continue to be those presented by the same national security establishment that acquiesced to the Iraq invasion.

    I would have said Afghanistan instead of Iraq, as the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was the original sin of the Global War on Terror. Indeed, if Obama had understood that, he wouldn't have wound up hiring so many Iraq War accomplices. But Rana is right that the mindset which made the decision to attack Afghanistan dates back much further, at least to the 1940s. He goes on to sketch out the rudiments of a new foreign policy, starting:

    The first is a global commitment to social democracy rather than free market capitalism (as embodied in austerity, neoliberal privatization, and trade agreements built on entrenching corporate property rights). . . .

    "Do no harm" would be another key principle.

    If you look back to Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" and the founding documents of the United Nations, you'll find the germ of a policy promoting social democracy worldwide as the basis for world peace. The first corruption of that occurred when the US reverted to its pre-Roosevelt foreign policies of promoting US business interests abroad, more aggressively than ever before, leading to the CIA overthrowing democratic government that had offended United Fruit (Guatemala) and Anglo-Iranian Oil (Iran) and widespread support for crony dictators from Rhee Syngman (South Korea) to Ngo Dinh Diem (South Vietnam) to Augusto Pinochet (Chile) to a long list (continuing) of Saudi kings -- a practice which has demolished any hope for world good will.

    Rana also wrote Goodbye, Cold War, which (perhaps too) optimistically started:

    The 2016 election was the last election of the cold war. The conflict that molded generations of American elites has ceased to function as the framing paradigm of American politics. Even decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, an account of the cold war -- and of cold war victory -- contained disagreement in Washington and formed a consensus that linked the center-left to the center-right. This consensus, based on a set of judgments that coalesced in the aftermath of World War II, concerned everything from the genius of America's domestic institutions to the indispensability of its global role. These judgments gave coherence to the country's national identity -- allowing both Barack Obama and Bill Kristol to wax poetic about America's special destiny as a global hegemon -- and legitimacy to its economic policy. But with the 2016 election, the cold-war paradigm finally shattered.

    Of course, pockets of Cold War romantics remain in both parties, most ominously Democrats around Hillary Clinton who see Russia as the invidious force behind their fall from power. I remain convinced that the main reason Clinton lost was that people associated her with foreign wars, a point underscored by her obsession with "the commander-in-chief test." While Trump was/is scarcely less bellicose, his "America first" stance puts an end to the "leader of the free world" conceit. Allies, at best, view him warily, while the empire seems to be running on autopilot, tugged about by leaders (like Israel and Saudi Arabia) with their own agendas. This is a situation where the people are well ahead of their leaders. Hence I expect the latter to struggle to catch up.

  • Emily Stewart: Michael Cohen freed up $700,000 in potential loans ahead of the election. Then he paid Stormy Daniels. New Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani went on TV last week to push the line that paying blackmail is something routine that lawyers like Cohen and himself do for their clients, so there's nothing unusual (or even very interesting) about Cohen paying $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. Still, the date of the transaction -- October 15, three weeks before the November 8 election -- is suspicious. That's very close to the date when James Comey announced that the FBI reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails (dragging Anthony Wiener's name into the mix), which is to say the date Clinton started to tank in the polls. Maybe Trump's hardcore supporters wouldn't have been phased about the porn star story, but at the very least you have to admit that the media would have gone apeshit over the story, and that would have significantly blunted the impact of Comey's leak. I've long thought that one reason voters turned against Clinton was that they knew that had she been elected, she would be dogged from day one with an endless series of pseudo-scandals, enough to keep her from ever really getting down to the job of being president. Fairly or not, voters wanted to spare themselves the embarrassment. (Of course, they failed. Trump has similarly been dogged by scandal, the only difference being that his scandals are more substantial, and he looks even guiltier.)

    The damning fact is that Cohen's payment denied Americans the right to know before voting something they know now -- this is as significant as any of the other efforts to tilt the election, just harder to grasp because it's something that, thanks to Cohen's anticipation, didn't become public in time to be taken account. In this, it rather resembles Watergate, which happened before the 1972 election but wasn't investigated adequately until after Nixon won a second term.

    More on Cohen: William K Rashbaum et al: How Michael Cohen, Trump's Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire.

Daily Log

Discarded from last week's Weekend Roundup:

  • Gloria Origgi: Say goodbye to the information age: it's all about reputation now. Italian philosopher, has a recent book, Reputation: What It Is and Why It Matters. Thesis:

    There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people's judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced.

    We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the 'information age', we are moving towards the 'reputation age', in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. Seen in this light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence today. It is the gatekeeper to knowledge, and the keys to the gate are held by others. The way in which the authority of knowledge is now constructed makes us reliant on what are the inevitably biased judgments of other people, most of whom we do not know.

    This is true as far as it goes, but in my experience reputation is earned by consistently providing information which makes sense given one's experience and accumulated understanding of how the world works. Predictably, anthropogenic climate change is Origgi's next paragraph example, although she doesn't offer it in value-neutral terms. Sure, most people are satisfied with whatever political media they prefer, which may affirm or deny science that is beyond your reach or grasp. Still, to believe a position it really needs to make sense beyond your personal preferences. For instance, I might notice that pretty much all of the deniers have some compromising relationship to the fossil fuel industries, whereas virtually all independent scientists conclude that such change is happening, in accordance with principles which can be articulated separately. Moreover, I can point to my own experience for examples which correlate with the science.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29628 [29604] rated (+24), 372 [362] unrated (+10).

Not a huge rated count, but wrapping up April's Streamnotes I made a special effort to check out my best prospects, and after I hit my post deadline I kept working in that vein. The result is way more than the usual crop of A- records. Probably would have picked up Kira Kira's Bright Force but didn't get it written up in time, so I have to give it another spin. [Pictured right, to be listed next week, but make of that what you will.]

My most important tip source this week was Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (48) -- his first in a rough couple of years, but a complete return to form. Also helpful was Phil Overeem's My Favorite Records of 2018, a Third the Way Out, and Chris Monsen's 2018: favorites, which expanded from 10 to 18 records last week. Less useful was that I added the top 100 AOTY Highest Rated Albums of 2018 to my meta-list. That introduced me to a few records that showed up elsewhere (like Dream Wife), but I aside from the Nashville women (Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, Sarah Shook) I haven't explored this list much. (Couldn't find Saba; Janelle Monáe, Willie Nelson, and five others only showed up after my trawl.)

I was pleased to see Overeem post a link to Streamnotes for the Expert Witness group at Facebook, not least because it generated a lot more discussion than my own Facebook posts. A couple points here:

  • The "deluxe edition" reissue of Sonny Rollins' Way Out West came out as double vinyl, a limited edition, already sold out. I gave the record a full A, basically because none of the new material (mostly alternate takes) slacked off from the original album, and while there's a little patter, it doesn't detract either. Still, I can't recommend you run out and buy it. I'm not an audiophile, so couldn't comment on the sound if I wanted to, which I don't. But at this point I consider vinyl a nuisance (I still have 300+ albums, but almost never play one, and I've been slow getting to the new ones I sometimes receive). But even so, there are a bunch of '50s Rollins albums you really should have in addition to Way Out West -- especially Work Time and Saxophone Colossus.

  • I was only vaguely aware of The Ex before their compilation Singles, Period: The Vinyl Years 1980-1990 appeared in 2005 (see my RG review), but I made a big dive after they put their work up on Bandcamp (see, e.g., my Streamnotes reviews). You can find a grade list here. Also noteworthy are a whole side series of matches between Terrie Ex (né Hessels) and jazz notables, starting (as far as I can tell) with Han Bennink in 2001 and peaking (so far) with Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo in 2010. Lots to explore here. Early on the Ex had a sort of parallel to the Mekons: both were politically-oriented post-punk bands, and Jon Langford shows up on some early Ex albums. The third group in this constellation is Zu, from Italy, but they've been much less prolific. Their high point was Radiale (2004) with Ken Vandermark's funkiest free jazz group, Spaceways Inc. -- my first Jazz Consumer Guide Pick Hit. My interest in them diminished after they moved into metal, but their early work is interesting, and they (especially bassist Massimo Pupillo) sometimes show up in the same jazz circles.

I didn't bother with the White House Correspondents' Dinner when I was collecting yesterday's Weekend Roundup, but did take a look at Michelle Wolf's keynote sketch later on. Not as funny or as cutting as I would have liked -- she didn't have much flow, mostly knocking the jokes off like reading from a laundry list -- but the current administration (most of all its Leader) are so thin-skinned that glancing blows provoked howls of rage. I've always thought this was a bizarre ritual -- it's not like crime beat reporters host events with murderers and rapists to gently needle one another -- but the only time I ever paid much attention to it was Stephen Colbert's bravura 2006 performance. For a general review, see Emily Stewart: The Michelle Wolf White House Correspondents' Dinner controversy, explained, but for deeper issues look up Matt Taibbi: Michelle Wolf Slays Useless White House Correspondents' Dinner. For what it's worth, I think Trump's right not to attend, though I'm pretty sure it's not for the right reasons.

New records rated this week:

  • Erlend Olderskog Albertsen: Rodssal Neen Glassdor (2018, Dugnad Rec): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Berry: Everything, Compromised (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B-
  • The Breeders: All Nerve (2018, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (2017 [2018], AUM Fidelity): [cd]: A-
  • Chloe x Halle: The Kids Are Alright (2018, Parkwood/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • District Five: Decoy (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dream Wife: Dream Wife (2018, Lucky Number): [r]: B+(***)
  • Frode Gjerstad Trio + Steve Swell: Bop Stop (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Go! Team: Semi-Circle (2018, Memphis Industries): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jean Grae & Quelle Chris: Everything's Fine (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
  • The Heat Death: The Glenn Miller Sessions (2018, Clean Feed, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (2018, Dare2, 2CD): [cdr]: A-
  • Nick Millevoi's Desertion Trio With Jamie Saft: Midtown Tilt (2017 [2018], Shhpuma): [r]: B
  • Ashley Monroe: Sparrow (2018, Warner Nashville): [r]: B-
  • Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (2018, MCA Nashville): [r]: B
  • Orquesta Akokán: Orquesta Akokán (2018, Daptone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Years (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sly & Robbie Meet Nils Petter Molvaer Feat Eivind Aarset and Vladislav Delay: Nordub (2016 [2018], Okeh): [r]: A-
  • Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (2016 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (2018, Ninja Tune): [r]: A-

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

  • Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (2013-14 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: A-
  • Neil Young: Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live (1973 [2018], Reprise): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 2002 (2002 [2003], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 40 Years (2006 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tiffany Austin: Unbroken (Con Alma): June 1
  • Andrea Brachfeld: If Not Now, When? (Jazzheads): May 18
  • Dan Cavanaugh/Dave Hagedorn: 20 Years (UT Arlington)
  • Dead Composers Club [Noah Preminger/Rob Garcia]: Chopin Project (Connection Works)
  • Ron Di Salvio/Bart Plateau: The Puglia Suite (Blujazz)
  • Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm: Blues Dharma (GB)
  • Maria Grand: Magdalena (Biophilia): May 11: empty package, no CD
  • Danny Green Trio Plus Strings: One Day It Will (OA2)
  • Bill Hart Band: Live at Red Clay Theatre (Blujazz)
  • Deanne Matley: Because I Loved (self-released): May 11
  • Solon McDade: Murals (self-released)
  • MJO Brothers Present: Hip Devotions (Blujazz)
  • Nuance Crusaders: Reflections (Blujazz)
  • Marije van Dijk: The Stereography Project (Hert)
  • Vin Venezia: Fifth and Adams (Blujazz)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Big story of the week is the optimistic meet up between Korea's two leaders, or at least it would be if we actually knew the story. Most American foreign policy pundits have been working overtime to diminish our hopes, and Trump's glib sunniness (with ominous "we'll see" asides) isn't very reassuring. Fred Kaplan tries to sort this out (see What Is Denuclearization Anyway?:

As has been clear from the moment the subject came up, one obstacle to a successful summit is that both leaders are going into it with conflicting premises. Kim thinks Trump is caving to the reality of a North Korean nuclear arsenal; Trump thinks Kim is caving to the pressure of U.S. sanctions and threats. Both are probably right to some degree, but it's hard to see how the talks can produce a lasting peace if each man thinks that he has the upper hand at the outset and that, therefore, any deal must be struck on his terms.

Trump seems glued to this delusion. On Sunday, after watching MSNBC's Chuck Todd question whether Trump had received anything in return after handing Kim "the huge gift" of agreeing to meet with him in the first place, Trump tweeted: "Wow, we haven't given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!"

Trump was referring to news reports of a speech that Kim had given the day before. But an official record of the speech, delivered at a plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea, reveals that Kim agreed to no such thing.

Rather, Kim said that no further tests of nuclear weapons or medium-to-long-range ballistic missiles "are necessary" (italics added), given that North Korea has "successfully concluded" the process of building a nuclear arsenal. And because of this completion, Kim went on, "the overall situation is rapidly changing in favor of the Korean revolution" -- i.e., in favor of North Korea's triumph.

This is very different from a conciliatory gesture to stop testing. As for closing his nuclear test site, it appears that the site was slated for a shutdown already, having been gutted by the spate of recent weapons tests.

Finally, contrary to the early news reports about the speech, Kim said nothing in the speech about denuclearization. In fact, he described his nuclear arsenal as "a powerful treasured sword for defending peace."

Kaplan also notes that Kim has little reason to trust US pledges on denuclearization: both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi shut down their nuclear programs to appease the US and got toppled anyway. Iran did the same, and while they haven't been overthrown Trump and Pompeo are now saying they will scotch the deal while encouraging Israel and Saudi Arabia to attack Iranians in Syria and supposed proxies in Syria and Yemen. He didn't mention the agreement Jimmy Carter negotiated with North Korea in the 1990s, which Clinton and Bush reneged on, leading North Korea to resume its since-completed work on nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, it's just possible this time that Trump and co. will be pushed out of the driver's seat on negotiations. South Korea has the power to make its own deal, and the US would find it impossible to keep troops in South Korea without permission. South Korea could also blow a huge hole in the US sanctions regime, and those are the two main issues for North Korea -- probably enough to get the North to mothball (but not totally dismantle) its rockets and nuclear warheads, to open up trade and normalize diplomatic relations. Given how gloomy the "military option" is -- a point I'm sure Mattis and DOD have made many times -- that may not even be such a bitter pill for Trump.

America's ability to dictate to its allies has been slipping for decades, but Trump's "America first" agenda accelerates the decline. For instance, one reason South Korea has long been a willing client was that the US was willing to run large trade deficits to help build up the South Korean economy. Trump, before he got so excited with his "fire & fury" and "little Rocket Man" tweets, started by pulling the US out of TPP, criticizing bilateral trade agreements with South Korea, and demanding the South (and everyone from NATO to Japan) to pick up more of their own defense tabs. All these signs point out that the US is becoming a less reliable and cost-effective ally, and as such will continue to lose influence.

More links on Korea:

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest stories of the week, explained: Kim Jong Un crossed the DMZ; Bill Cosby is guilty; Ronny Jackson will not be VA secretary; Mike Pompeo was confirmed as secretary of state. Other Yglesias posts:

  • Peter Beinart: American Jews Have Abandoned Gaza -- and the Truth. Also: Eric Levitz: Natalie Portman and the Crisis of Liberal Zionism.

  • Walker Bragman/Michael Sainato: The Democratic Party is paying millions for Hillary Clinton's email list, FEC documents show.

  • Masha Gessen: What James Comey and Donald Trump Have in Common: Title forces a point that isn't really born out in the article. True enough, both have a single-minded focus -- Comey on truth and Trump on loyalty -- to which they sacrifice any shred of human compassion.

    Part of Comey's zeal is prosecutorial: he headed an agency that loves to punish people for the coverup rather than the crime. For Comey, this is principle rather than method. As a U.S. attorney, he writes, he made sure that Martha Stewart went to jail -- not, he stresses, because she engaged in insider trading of a kind that would have warranted but a warning, but because she lied about it. As the F.B.I. director, he hoped that his agents would catch Hillary Clinton in a lie about her e-mail servers. By this time, investigators had concluded that the use of Clinton's private server had caused no damage, but Comey makes it clear that his primary concern and objective was to catch the former Secretary of State in a lie. The pursuit of the prosecutable lie has been a cornerstone of F.B.I. strategy, especially in its post-2001 incarnation as an anti-terrorism agency, and Comey wastes no time reflecting on its tenuous relationship to actual crime, or actual justice.

  • Jonathan Greenberg: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes. One of Trump's earliest scams: his campaign to get his name on the Forbes 400 list, including a guest appearance by Trump's "personal lawyer" Roy Cohn (you surely didn't think that Michael Cohen was the sleaziest lawyer in Trump's stable?). For more on Cohn, see: Frank Rich: The Original Donald Trump:

    For years it's been a parlor game for Americans to wonder how history might have turned out if someone had stopped Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot JFK. One might be tempted -- just as fruitlessly -- to speculate on what might have happened if more of New York's elites had intervened back then, nonviolently, to block or seriously challenge Trump's path to power. They had plenty of provocation and opportunities to do so. Trump practiced bigotry on a grand scale, was a world-class liar, and ripped off customers, investors, and the city itself. Yet for many among New York's upper register, there was no horror he could commit that would merit his excommunication. As with Cohn before him, the more outrageously and reprehensibly Trump behaved, the more the top rungs of society were titillated by him. They could cop out of any moral judgments or actions by rationalizing him as an entertaining con man: a cheesy, cynical, dumbed-down Gatsby who fit the city's tacky 1980s Gilded Age much as F. Scott Fitzgerald's more romantic prototype had the soigné Jazz Age of the 1920s. And so most of those who might have stopped Trump gawked like the rest of us as he scrambled up the city's ladder, grabbing anything that wasn't nailed down.

  • Mike Konczal: Actually, Guns Do Kill People: "The research is now clear: Right-to-carry laws increase the rate of violent crime."

  • Paul Krugman: We Don't Need No Education: Trying to explain the wave of teacher strikes in Red States, he focuses on money:

    So what happens when hard-line conservatives take over a state, as they did in much of the country after the 2010 Tea Party wave? They almost invariably push through big tax cuts. Usually these tax cuts are sold with the promise that lower taxes will provide a huge boost to the state economy.

    This promise is, however, never -- and I mean never -- fulfilled; the right's continuing belief in the magical payoff from tax cuts represents the triumph of ideology over overwhelming negative evidence.

    What tax cuts do, instead, is sharply reduce revenue, wreaking havoc with state finances. For a great majority of states are required by law to balance their budgets. This means that when tax receipts plunge, the conservatives running many states can't do what Trump and his allies in Congress are doing at the federal level -- simply let the budget deficit balloon. Instead, they have to cut spending.

    And given the centrality of education to state and local budgets, that puts schoolteachers in the cross hairs.

    How, after all, can governments save money on education? They can reduce the number of teachers, but that means larger class sizes, which will outrage parents. They can and have cut programs for students with special needs, but cruelty aside, that can only save a bit of money at the margin. The same is true of cost-saving measures like neglecting school maintenance and scrimping on school supplies to the point that many teachers end up supplementing inadequate school budgets out of their own pockets.

    That's all true enough, and probably most of the story, but leaves out some particularly nasty partisan calculations. Republicans have long viewed teachers' unions as a political liability, and as such have wanted to hurt them. Indeed, much of their fondness for charter schools (and vouchers for private schools) is rooted in union-busting. More recently, some Republicans (Rick Santorum was an early adopter) have started to question the value of education at all -- pointing out that liberal arts education tends toward liberal politics, playing into a tradition of anti-intellectualism that was history when Richard Hofstadter wrote about it fifty years ago, yet seems to reinvent every time elites need to find political suckers. At the same time, elite (and later public) colleges have shifted from scholarships -- which helped smart-but-poor students like Clinton and Obama find comfortable homes in the ruling class -- to debt, trying to preserve elite jobs for the scions of the upper class.

    When mass education first became a popular idea among elites, back in the mid-19th century, it was seen as a way to socialize immigrants, to fold them into American society and its growing economy, but it also represented opportunity and upward mobility and justice. We no longer live in a world which looks forward to its future. Rather, the rich are entrenching themselves in fortresses (both literally and figuratively), hoping to blight out everyone else.

  • Nomi Prins: The Return of the Great Meltdown? Wrote one of the better books about the 2008 crash (It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street), but looking at Trump's recent Fed appointees and the Republican effort to unwind Dodd-Frank, she's anticipating a rerun in her new book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World. Also on TomDispatch, Todd Miller: An Unsustainable World Managed With an Iron Fist, on the militarization of the border with Mexico. Miller, too, has a book: Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security.

  • Alex Ross: How American Racism Influenced Hitler: Takes off from James Q. Whitman's recent book, Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. What could be made clearer is that there were two American models (not unrelated but distinct in our minds) for Hitler: the "Jim Crow" laws which codified a racial hierarchy, which South Africa adapted for Apartheid and could easily be adapted to discriminate against Jews; and "Manifest Destiny," the umbrella for driving Native Americans off their lands and into tiny, impoverished reservations, while killing off enough to constitute a cumulative genocide. As Ian Kershaw describes Hitler:

    His two abiding obsessions were violent anti-Semitism and Lebensraum. As early as 1921, he spoke of confining Jews to concentration camps, and in 1923 he contemplated -- and, for the moment, rejected -- the idea of killing the entire Jewish population. The Holocaust was the result of a hideous syllogism: if Germany were to expand into the East, where millions of Jews lived, those Jews would have to vanish, because Germans could not coexist with them.

    I have often thought that Hitler's quotes about how America dealt with its native population should be pursued at great length. Ross cites two books that do this: Carroll Kakel's The American West and the Nazi East: A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective (2011, Palgrave Macmillan), and Edward B. Westermann's Hitler's Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars: Comparing Genocide and Conquest (2016, University of Oklahoma Press).

    America's knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass death struck Hitler as an example to be emulated. He made frequent mention of the American West in the early months of the Soviet invasion. The Volga would be "our Mississippi," he said. "Europe -- and not America -- will be the land of unlimited possibilities." Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine would be populated by pioneer farmer-soldier families. Autobahns would cut through fields of grain. The present occupants of those lands -- tens of millions of them -- would be starved to death. At the same time, and with no sense of contradiction, the Nazis partook of a long-standing German romanticization of Native Americans. One of Goebbels's less propitious schemes was to confer honorary Aryan status on Native American tribes, in the hope that they would rise up against their oppressors.

    Jim Crow laws in the American South served as a precedent in a stricter legal sense. Scholars have long been aware that Hitler's regime expressed admiration for American race law, but they have tended to see this as a public-relations strategy -- an "everybody does it" justification for Nazi policies.

  • Micah Zenko: America's First Reality TV War: "The Trump administration's latest missile strikes in Syria were never going to accomplish anything. But the show must go on."

  • Neri Zilber: Israel and Iran's escalating shadow war in Syria, explained: Not really explained, in that the author fails to emphasize that Israel is the one provoking further escalations. Also, there is no real chance of this developing into a conventional ground war. Sure, both sides have missiles that can reach the other, but Israel has a distinct advantage there: nuclear warheads. There's no reason to doubt that Iran has any reason for stationing military forces in Syria other than for supporting the Assad regime, which Israel has never regarded as a serious threat (at least since 1979, when Israel signed a separate peace deal with Egypt, precluding any future alliance). Israel, on the other hand, has periodically bombed Syria even before the Civil War gave them cover. They regard Iranian troops as an unacceptable provocation because they might inconvenience Israeli air strikes. And also, quite significantly, because Israel recognizes it can take advantage of American prejudices against Iran to push its alliance militarily. For evidence this is working, see Carol Morello: Pompeo says U.S. is with Israel in fight against Iran. Pompeo is also anxious for the US to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, which is up for renewal on May 12. Among other preposterous things, he claims that North Korea won't be bothered if the US breaks its word on a similar deal. In the past, North Koreans have often pointed to Libya, which agreed to dismantle its nuclear program only to have the US bomb the country and kill its leader, leaving chaos in its wake, so there only seem to be two possible explanations for Pompeo's indifference: either he has totally unreasonable expectations about North Korea's willingness to disarm themselves, or he's looking to undermine any possible Korea deal. Given his neocon credentials, one suspects the latter. Meanwhile, the purpose of the Israel trip (with side trips to Riyadh and Amman) seems to be to stoke anti-Iran feeling before Trump drops out of the Iran deal.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Streamnotes (April 2018)

This month has been a dull, slow slog. Still, even when nothing else motivated me, I could go through the routine: put a record on, give it a spin, hear clearly enough to render a grade, and sometimes a comment or two. Not a banner month, but not bad for going through the motions. And where my shorter (84 records) March Streamnotes struggled to find A-list records (2 new and 2 old, 0/1 non-jazz), this one has quite a lot to recommend (12 new, 6 old, 5/1 non-jazz). Two things helped: one is that I finally started paying some attention to lists and reviews; the other is that instead of taking my new jazz queue FIFO, I snuck a look and picked a half-dozen stronger candidates to check out (hence the late breaks for Schlippenbach and Carter).

Note that the Streamnotes count has topped 11,000 (since December 2007, so a little more than 1,000 per year; in 2014 I folded Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods in, picking up any CDs I happened to get or buy). I've long been inclined to favor breadth over depth, but Rhapsody (now Napster) was what made that possible. Later this year, the ratings count should pass 30,000 (currently 29,619, so -381, or if nothing stops me, 12-15 weeks).

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on March 27. Past reviews and more information are available here (11040 records).

Recent Releases

Erlend Olderskog Albertsen: Rødssal Neen Glassdør (2018, Dugnad Rec): Norwegian bassist, played in Akmee (trumpet-piano-bass-drums quartet with a good album last year, Neptun) and Filosofer, seems to be first album under his own name (although the Bandcamp page attributes the record to "Dugnad rec"). Expands on Akmee by adding alto sax (Martin Myhre Olsen) and trombone (Nilas Granseth). Ensemble can kick up a powerful ruckus, but doesn't lose interest when they cut back. B+(***) [bc]

Arild Andersen: In-House Science (2016 [2018], ECM): Norwegian bassist, one of several future stars attracted to George Russell in the 1960s, debuted on ECM with the highly recommended Clouds in My Head in 1975, and lately has been running a trio with Paolo Vinaccia on drums and Tommy Smith on tenor sax. This one took me longer than 2008's Live in Belleville, but Andersen is a steady leader, and Smith can be explosive. A- [dl]

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase (2017 [2018], ECM): Swiss pianist, rhythm-focused quartet (formerly quintet) dates back to 2002, with Sha (clarinet/alto sax), Thomy Jordi (bass), and Kaspar Rast (drums). Title is "a term from martial arts, means 'moving together' in the sense of matching energies." Builds on its minimalist base in divers remarkable ways. A- [dl]

Nat Birchall: Cosmic Language (2018, Jazzman): For a long while, it seemed like every young saxophonist tried to sound like John Coltrane. That's less obvious now, perhaps in small part because Birchall nails it so perfectly. He even goes the extra step of returning the intense searching of Coltrane's last period back to the structure of the quartet. Still, has a few off moments. B+(***)

Martin Blume/Tobias Delius/Achim Kaufmann/Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains (2016 [2018], NoBusiness): Listed alphabetically: drums, tenor sax/clarinet, piano, bass. Good spots for Delius and Kaufmann, although they tend to isolate. B+(**) [cdr]

Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (2012-14 [2018], Origin): Levine is the late US Poet Laureate, winner of Pulitzer Prizes, and like many poets of his generation has much to say about jazz. He also taught for many years at Cal State Fresno, as has saxophonist Boone, who wrote most of the music here -- luxurious riffing behind the poet's words. Cut over four sessions, with numerous guests poking in for a song or a few -- Chris Potter, for instance, joins the "Homage to Sonny Rollins," Tom Harrell "I Remember Clifford," Branford Marsalis "John Coltrane," Greg Osby "Charlie Parker." Levine also knows work. A- [cd]

The Breeders: All Nerve (2018, 4AD): Band, formed by Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly in 1989, the latter replaced by sister Kelley Deal in 1992, with wide spaces between their five albums (1990, 1993, 2002, 2008, 2018). Dense, powerful, stalls toward the end. B+(*)

Jakob Bro: Returnings (2016 [2018], ECM): Danish guitarist, tenor so records since 2005, third for ECM, a quartet with Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet/flugelhorn), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums). Even with the trumpet this tends to fade into oblivion. B

Chris Byars: New York City Jazz (2016 [2018], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, classic bebop player although he's given a good deal of thought to 1950s mainstream sound, including tributes to Duke Jordan, Lucky Thompson, Gigi Gryce, and Frank Strozier. Sextet with John Mosca (trombone), Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Ari Roland (bass), and Stefan Schatz (drums). Two Gryce songs among four covers here. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (2017 [2018], AUM Fidelity): Mostly an alto saxophonist, Carter is also credited here with flute, trumpet, clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones. Not nearly as famous as his bassist and pianist, he is actually older, and has played on quite a few of their better albums, including in Parker's Other Dimensions in Music quartet. No drummer here, so Shipp takes a strong rhythmic role, with Parker fattening the sound and occasionally taking charge. Not one of Carter's flashier performances, but he adds color and flavor. A- [cd]

Brian Charette/George Coleman: Groovin' With Big G (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): Organ-tenor sax quartet, with Vic Juris on guitar and George Coleman Jr. on drums. Charette has a relatively fresh take on the B-3, but is happy to lounge in this company, with the octogenarian saxophonist sounding nearly as good as he did a couple years back on A Master Speaks, or for that matter 1991's definitive My Horns of Plenty. B+(***)

Anat Cohen/Fred Hersch: Live in Healdsburg (2016 [2018], Anzic): Clarinet and piano duets, the pianist exercising his best manners as an accompanist, so the limit must be the clarinet. B+(*) [bc]

Tim Daisy/Michael Thieke/Ken Vandermark: Triptych (2016 [2017], Relay): Drummer, arbitrating between clarinet and Vandermark -- often an overwhelming force of nature, playing tenor sax and bass clarinet here, throttled back enough to keep the trio nicely balanced. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Daisy: Music for Lying Still (2017, Relay, EP): One 25:15 piece, solo but not just drums -- no idea where the shaky electronics (or whatever it is) comes from. B+(**) [bc]

Tim Daisy's Fulcrum Ensemble: Animation (2017 [2018], Relay): Drummer-led all-star group, strikes me as freebop given all the angles: Josh Berman (cornet), Steve Swell (trombone), Dave Rempis (alto/bari sax), James Falzone (clarinet), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). B+(***) [bc]

District Five: Decoy (2017 [2018], Intakt): Swiss quartet, from Zürich (although recorded in Köln), guitarist Vojko Huter the main composer, with Tapiwa Svosve (alto sax), Xaver Rüegg (double bass), and Paul Amereller (drums), Huter and Svosve also credited with synths/electronics. First album. Not fusion -- that sort of density, but something more complex. B+(**) [cd]

Dream Wife: Dream Wife (2018, Lucky Number): British group, three women, met in Brighton although lead singer Rakel Mjöll hails from Iceland, play hard, a little squeaky around the edges. Choice cut: "F.U.U." B+(***)

The Ex: 27 Passports (2018, Ex): Dutch group, career approximately parallels the Mekons starting from similar postpunk and politics, but where the Mekons dabbled with country, the Ex took an interest in jazz and Africa. Still, Arnold de Boer's vocals retain their punk bark, and drummer Katherina Bornefeld is as welcome a change of pace as Moe Tucker. As for the guitarists, they've never before cranked out such driving thrash -- even when they were trying to drown out Ken Vandermark in Lean Left. Can't say much for the words yet, but they've always been right on. A

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ninety-Nine Years (2017 [2018], Libra): Not quite a big band: three trumpets, three reeds, trombone, bass, two drummers. Fujii composed and conducts but doesn't play, and her piano is missed -- not that the orchestra can't generate plenty of intensity, but it could use something more to bridge the gaps. B+(**) [cd]

Frode Gjerstad Trio + Steve Swell: Bop Stop (2018, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist from Norway, played in Detail (1981-94) and led Circulasione Totale Orchestra, starting his trio with Jon Rune Strøm (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) in 1999. This is a live set from The Bop Stop in Cleveland, kind of a free-for-all but gets more interesting further along. B+(**)

Victor Gould: Earthlings (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): Pianist, second album, trio with Dezron Douglas (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums), with guests Tim Warfield (soprano sax), Godwin Louis (alto sax), and Kahlil Kwame Bell (percussion) -- the saxophonists on three tracks each. Four originals, six standards and jazz covers, starting with Mulgrew Miller and Horace Silver; i.e., where he's coming from. B+(**)

Johan Graden: Olägenheter (2017 [2018], Moserobie): Pianist, Swedish (I think), seems to be first album under his name (a couple others listed Konrad Agnas or Andreas Pollak first). With Josefin Runsteen (violin), Per Texas Johansson (clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, saw), Pår-Ola Landin (bass), and Agnas (drums), has a chamber feel with extra sparkle. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (2016 [2018], Firehouse 12, 2CD): Guitarist, one of Anthony Braxton's students, has a couple dozen albums since 2004, a very mixed bag as far as I'm concerned, but some of her oeuvre is truly exceptional. This may be her most ambitious effort, adding vocalist Amirtha Kidambi and trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire to her Thumbscrew trio (Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara). Best work I've heard from the trumpeter, but the singer not only leans toward opera, she drags the songs that way too. B+(*) [bc]

The Heat Death: The Glenn Miller Sessions (2018, Clean Feed, 3CD): Scandinavian free jazz quintet, mostly (I think) Swedish, with three famous horn players -- Mats Aleklint (trombone), Kjetil Møster (tenor sax, clarinet), Martin Küchen (alto/sopranino sax, flute) -- plus bass (Ola Høyer) and drums (Dag Erik Knedal Andersen). When I first saw this, I assumed the title referred to Stockholm's Glenn Miller Café, but the hype sheet offers no dates or location and claims: "the resulting music has few resemblances to what the Glenn Miller Orchestra continue to do until this day, but the spirit is here, exploring aspects which were implicitly, but never fulfilled, with all the respect to the historic figure who conceived it." I'm pretty sure that's nonsense, as are the references to Chris McGregor, Jaki Liebezeit, and thermodynamics. B+(**)

Tim Heidecker: Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs (2017, Jagjaguwar): Comedian, writer, director, actor, sometime musician, since at least 2001 although I can't say as I've noticed him before. Maybe because his satire isn't funny enough? This barely breaks 30 minutes with a bonus remake of "Trump's Private Pilot. Reportedly, Paul Simon nixed the inclusion of "I Am a Cuck" (sung to "I Am a Rock"). Not sure whether to laugh or cry. B

Gerry Hemingway/Samuel Blaser: Oostum (2015 [2017], NoBusiness): Duets, drums and trombone. First rate players, but not exactly a match made in heaven. B+(*) [cdr]

Lauren Henderson: Ármame (2016 [2018], Brontosaurus): Singer, originally from Massachusetts but with Caribbean roots and a degree in Hispanic Studies wrote four songs here, all with Spanish titles. Band offers lots of support, including extra percussion. B+(*) [cd]

Monika Herzig: Monika Herzig's Sheroes (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Pianist, born in Germany, came to US on an exchange program in 1988 and stuck around. All-woman band with Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Ada Rovatti (tenor sax), Jamie Baum (flute), Reut Regev (trombone), and Leni Stern (guitar), plus bass, drums, and extra percussion, with several band members contributing songs (Herzig three plus a "House of the Rising Sun" arrangement). Some strong solo moments, and a Latin thing at the end. B+(*) [cd]

Il Sogno: Birthday (2015 [2017], Gotta Let It Out): Trio: Emanuele Maniscalco (piano), Tomo Jacobson (double bass), Oliver Laumann (drums). First group album. One cover from Ennio Morricone, the original pieces cutting a fine line, evenly balanced. B+(**) [cd]

Jon Irabagon Quartet: Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (2016-17 [2018], Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, made a big impression with Mostly Other People Do the Killing and elsewhere. Still, his own records have been erratic, even though he's often a powerhouse. Here, for instance, an odd mix with Luis Perdomo (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), plus Tim Hagan (trumpet). Awesome in spots, annoying in others. B+(**) [cd]

JPEGMAFIA: Veteran (2018, self-released): Baltimore rapper Barrington Hendricks, did four years in USAF, second album, wildly experimental, all chopped up and screwed over. Has a rep among people I follow, and occasional moments do sound promising, but I can't follow it, and don't (yet) see any reason I should. B [bc]

Roger Kellaway Trio: New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (2017 [2018], Summit): All compositions by Carl Saunders (b. 1942, three years after the pianist; a trumpet player with Bill Holman, Stan Kenton, Bob Florence, and Gerald Nilson, with a half-dozen albums under his own name), so maybe not so standard. A fine piano player, with Jay Leonhart on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (2018, Septic Tiger): Irish folk singer-songwriter, staunchly (and sometimes militantly) working class. Seems like someone I should cotton to, and indeed I've liked a couple of his previous albums. But I hate the title, the title song even more, and care little for the various ups and downs, not all of which are fairly dismissed. B+(*)

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Radiant Imprints (2018, OFF): Young tenor saxophonist, first albums came out on a major label (Okeh) so I figured him for a mainstream player, but he showed impressive chops and raw vitality. Since then he's fallen into obscure projects (e.g., Heroes Are Gang Leaders) and labels, and winds up here in a sax-drums duo, an avant specialty. Taylor has done this sort of thing before. He not only gets a terrific performance, he gives one. A-

Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (2018, Don Giovanni): I think I first first ran into Kupferberg when Grove Press published a very slim book of his, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft (1966). It offered advice I could have used at the time, but as I recall wasn't all that useful. Nor was what I thought of as his sequel, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working (actually written in 1961). I probably read some of his poetry, but unlike his buddy Ed Sanders -- they formed a rock group in 1964 called the Fugs -- nothing especially memorable. Still, he was a hero to several generations of folkie-anarchists, including Lewis and his older fiddle player here, Peter Stampfel. Lewis allows himself leeway to "interpret and/or "misinterpret" Kupferberg's songs. The music palpably picks up when Kupferberg/Lewis stole it from someone talented (e.g., "I Wanna Hold Your Foot"), and the large-scale sing-alongs tidy his oeuvre up about as much as one could hope. A- [bc]

Dave Liebman/John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music of Sidney Bechet (2017 [2018], Origin): Mostly soprano sax and guitar duets, Liebman also credited with wood flute and piano. Probably not a huge surprise that someone who plays as much soprano as Liebman does should want to do a Bechet tribute, but from his early days with Miles Davis Liebman's always been a Coltrane fan, and I've never noticed any previous linkage. Indeed, while these are mostly Bechet songs, they don't sound much like him. Nor does Stowell show much affinity, although his nylon-string and fretless baritone guitars are slinky as his norm. B+(*) [cd]

Johan Lindström Septett: Music for Empty Halls (2018, Moserobie): Guitarist, also plays pedal steel guitar, spreads out a very diverse album with at least one song as catchy as the "Peter Gunn" theme, another called "Europe Endless Boogie," various spots for his horns that break into free territory -- Jonas Kullhammar (sax), Per Texas Johansson (clarinet), Mats Aleklint (trombone) -- then adds a splash of strings for the closing "Hymn." B+(***) [cd]

The Doug MacDonald Quintet/The Roger Neumann Quintet: Two Quintets: Live Upstairs at Vitello's (2017 [2018], Blujazz, 2CD): Neumann plays tenor sax, runs the more conventional quintet, with trumpet (Carl Saunders), piano, bass, and drums. MacDonald is a guitarist, with tenor sax (Rickey Woodard), piano, bass, and drums. I don't really understand why they didn't cut their own albums, but the transitions were pretty seamless. Both play energetic, mostly jazz standards, a bit hotter than the norm. B+(*) [cd]

The Maguire Twins: Seeking Higher Ground (2017 [2018], Three Tree): Drummer Carl, bassist Alan, identical, mother Japanese, father American, grew up in Hong Kong, moved to Memphis at 15, now 21 and, well, awful cute. Band made up of seasoned hard boppers -- Gregory Tardy (tenor sax), Bill Mobley (trumpet), Aaron Goldberg (piano) -- and they let it rip. B+(*) [cd]

Todd Marcus: On These Streets (A Baltimore Story) (2017 [2018], Stricker Street): Bass clarinet player, from Baltimore, has a previous album. The usually upbeat music here is contraposed with various sound fragments rooted in injustice and unrest, with a vocal that leans gospel without going over the top. George Colligan is a steady driver on piano. Paul Bollenbeck (guitar) and Warren Wolf (vibes) also appear. Gary Bartz and Darryl Harper wrote liner notes. I doubt it fits or flows very well, but give him credit for trying to do something exceptional. B [cd]

Ashley McBryde: Girl Going Nowhere (2018, Warner Nashville): Country singer from Arkansas. First album, co-wrote all but one song. Band can get heavy -- "classic rock influences" -- but she's more impressive when she strips everything away except for a thin whisper of guitar -- e.g., "Andy (I Can't Live Without You)." B+(**)

Erin McDougald: Outside the Soirée (2018, Miles High): Standards singer, born in Ohio, based in Chicago, has at least one previous album. Can't read the hand-lettered booklet (looks to offer quite a bit of info) but did note the presence of saxophonists Dave Liebman and Dan Block, trumpeter Tom Harrell, and vibraphonist Mark Sherman -- all pluses in a very respectable effort. B+(**) [cd]

Nick Millevoi's Desertion Trio With Jamie Saft: Midtown Tilt (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Guitarist, based in Philadelphia, trio with electric bass (Johnny DeBlase) and drums (Kevin Shea), with Jamie Saft joining on organ (as he did on Millevoi's 2016 album Desertion) plus Ashley Tini (vibes/percussion) on three tracks. Fusion album, power moves laid on thick. B

Modern Mal: The Misanthrope Family Album (2017, Mal): Christgau was reminded of Leonard Cohen and Dolly Parton. The former's voice is almost eerily duplicated, but I don't hear Parton and the music averages out as a bit less than the Handsome Family. B+(*)

Ashley Monroe: Sparrow (2018, Warner Nashville): Like Kacey Musgraves, the Pistol Annie singer-songwriter makes a pop move, which with Dave Cobb producing means buried in strings. I still like her voice, but everything else is turned to mush. B-

Michael Morreale: MilesSong: The Music of Miles Davis (2016 [2018], Summit, 2CD): Trumpet player, has a previous album. This is a quartet, with Tony Regusis (piano/Fender Rhodes), bass, and drums, so a pretty straight, mainstream presentation of fourteen songs -- only four by Davis, a few more from Hancock or Shorter, the rest standards that Davis played. B+(**) [cd]

Diane Moser: Birdsongs (2017 [2018], Planet Arts): Pianist, has several previous albums including a duo with Mark Dresser on avant label CIMP. This doesn't even hint at that, although the bassist here, Ken Filiano, can certainly go that direction. Third player is Anton Denner on flute and piccolo, still not especially birdlike. Way too sedate to sustain my interest, although the piano is interesting when I manage to focus. B [cd]

Michael Moss/Accidental Orchestra: Helix (2016 [2018], 4th Stream): Clarinet player, several previous albums, leads a large orchestral ensemble -- 22 pieces but only one trumpet, one trombone (Steve Swell), two saxes (one also flute), but six strings (including Jason Kao Hwang), two guitars (Billy Stein and Rick Iannacone, the latter credited with "ambient guitar"), and four percussionists (including Warren Smith on vibes and Badal Roy on tabla). B+(**) [cd]

Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (2018, MCA Nashville): The most genteel of the Pistol Annies generation of country women, she's still very a very comfortable listen on a slow ballad, but has mostly turned this album over to the producers to craft into pop schmaltz, over-orchestrated but not danceable enough. B

Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice (2017 [2018], Centering): Wife and husband, the former a dancer and organizer of New York's annual Vision Festival. Discogs credits her with a couple of vocal performances, but this is where she steps out front with her spoken-word poetry accompanied by Parker's donso n'goni and bass. I never really get the spirit/myth stuff, but won't fault her cry for hope and justice. Parker is restrained, otherwise he'd steal the show. B+(***) [cd]

Danielle Nicole: Cry No More (2018, Concord): Last name Schnebelen, a blues/soul singer-songwriter, plays guitar and bass guitar, second (or third) album after an EP. I suspect she'll fall ever more clearly on the blues side, partly because that's how voices age, partly because she's already leaning hard on her guitar. B+(*)

No Age: Snares Like a Haircut (2018, Drag City): Noise pop duo, guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Allen Spunt, fifth album, everything they've done so far makes a strong impression, although none of it has stuck with me. Every time I've played this album I've heard non-obvious echoes of a Go-Betweens song. One thing I'm sure of is that I'll never play anything else and find it reminds me of No Age. Still, the sound here moves way beyond noise, with an undeniable vitality. After three plays I enjoy every moment of it. But after three days I doubt I'll remember any of it. A-

Meg Okura/Sam Newsome/Jean-Michel Pilc: NPO Trio Live at the Stone (2016 [2018], Chant): Violin/soprano sax/piano. Okura describes what she does as Chamber Jazz, but she's hard pressed to smooth over the rough edges of her partners. B+(*) [bc]

Meg Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Ima Ima (2018, Chant): Violinist, born in Japan, based om Mew York, converted to Judaism, title draws one word from Hebrew, another from Japanese, translates as Mom Now. Group isn't strictly Asian: guitarist Rez Abbasi is the only one I'm sure of, while I have doubts about Tom Harrell (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Sam Sadigursky (bass clarinet/clarinet), Pablo Aslan (bass). Also a drummer, contrary to usual chamber practice, but I suppose the harp makes up for that. B+(*) [bc]

William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (2017 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): Four musicians -- Parker, Jeff Schlanger, Anne Humanfeld, Leonid Galaganov -- playing Parker compositions on AquaSonic waterphones invented by Jackson Krall. The instrument can be bowed or struck, so this bears some resemblance to a cello/percussion group, but higher pitched, with extra resonance due to the water. Leans toward noise to start, but grows from there to become quite haunting. B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (2017 [2018], Leo, 3CD): Tenor sax/piano duets, as if last year's seven-volume The Art of Perelman-Shipp hadn't exhausted the topic. Of course, it probably didn't. It may even have merely paved the way for this level of intimacy. On the other hand, they're not doing anything they haven't done many times before. B+(***) [cd]

Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame (2018, self-released): Canadian group, fourth album since 2010, co-leaders Michael Herring (bass) and Don Scott (guitar), backed by the somewhat more famous Nick Fraser (drums) and Simon Hogg (tenor sax). Complex groove with some sharp edges, closing with an exceptionally catchy vamp. B+(***) [cd]

Roberta Piket: West Coast Trio (2017 [2018], 13th Note): Piano trio with Darek Oleszkiewicz (bass) and Joe La Barbera (drums), plus guitarist Larry Koonse on two cuts, and percussionist Billy Mintz on one. Two originals, rest covers, ranging from Djavan to John Hicks. B+(*) [cd]

Chris Platt Trio: Sky Glow (2017 [2018], self-released): Guitarist, from Canada, first album, trio with bass and drums. Nice flow, a little light. B+(*) [cd]

Marvin Pontiac: The Asylum Tapes (2017, Strange and Beautiful): Fictional artist invented by Loung Lizards saxophonist John Lurie. His back story started with birth in Mali in 1932, mother Jewish from New Rochelle, father a west African who abandoned him, grew up in Chicago playing blues harmonica, copying Little Walter; went nuts, believing he had been abducted and probed by aliens; hit and killed by a bus in 1977. Pontiac first appeared in our world when Lurie released his Greatest Hits in 2000. Not much sax here; mostly guitar and growl. Can't claim it's as good as Beefheart, but if you miss him you might welcome a kindred spirit. A-

Noah Preminger: Genuinity (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, has racked up an impressive discography quickly. This is a quartet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Kim Cass (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), playing nine originals, showing his range and burning up front and toward the end. B+(**)

John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (2018, Oh Boy): First record of new songs since 2005's Fair and Square, with its pointed anti-Bush songs. Still, no (even oblique) mention of Trump this time: just a batch of scrimpy songs about love and death, mostly the latter. He practically looks dead on the cover, and his throat-cancer-damaged voice has deteriorated even further, making this hard to listen to at first. Still, you get used to all that, and start noticing his little tics of wit. By the end, he's in heaven, and rather than mourning you're wishing you could come along for the ride. A-

Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Without a Trace (2015-17 [2018], Origin): Big band leader, arranges and conducts, also plays a little trombone and alto flugelhorn. Four Reeves originals, three covers, band (featuring Steve Wilson) has a lot of power and swagger. One vocal, by Carolyn Leonhart, reminds me how awkward it seems to try to wrap words around tricky melodies. B [cd]

The Rempis/Daisy Duo & Guests: Dodecahedron (2017 [2018], Aerophonic, 2CD): Rempis plays alto and baritone sax, Daisy drums. Third duo album, though they've played together much more than that, going back midway Vandermark 5. The first disc is a live duo set. The second a studio session with guests (no track credits, but sounds like one at a time): Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Jim Baker (piano), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Steve Swell (trombone), Katie Young (bassoon), Aaron Zarzutzki (electronics). A remarkable sax player, running through a wide range of moves, but still a little tiring. B+(**)

Jay Rodriguez: Your Sound: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, from Colombia, plays most of them and flute and bass clarinet as well -- the latter is my favorite part here. Billy Harper also plays tenor sax, with Larry Willis on piano, Eric Wheeler (bass), J.T. Lewis (drums), and Billy Martin (percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star (2017 [2018], Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute, leads a septet with tenor sax, E-trumpet, vibes, two basses, and drums. Some fine stretches, especially when I focus, but slips by when I don't. B+(***)

Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (2016 [2018], Intakt): Back in 1966, a hitherto unknown 28-year-old German pianist assembled Europe's (and, really, the world's) first avant-jazz orchestra -- originally an ad hoc merger of groups led by Gunter Hampel, Manfred Schoof, and Peter Brötzmann (ages 29, 30, and 25). The group grew to 18 the next year, and recorded regularly over the next decade, regrouping later for significant anniversaries, with their 50th marking more time than had passed between ODJB's first jazz records and Globe Unity's founding. Still 18 strong here, with Von Schlippenbach, Schoof, and Gerd Dudek returning from the original band, plus Evan Parker, Tomasz Stanko, and Paul Lovens from the 1970 group. Cutting edge then, still pretty far out. A- [cd]

Derek Senn: Avuncular (2016, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo: wife, two kids, day job, second DIY album. With songs about "Vietnam" and "Monica Lewinsky" and "The Drinky Drink" -- you know, the world. B+(***)

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Years (2018, Bloodshot): Country rocker from North Carolina, worked through a couple bands before coming up with the Disarmers, had their 2015 debut picked up by Americana label Bloodshot in 2017, so this is the sequel. Drinks a lot, rocks a little, at least no strings (yet). B+(*)

Alex Sipiagin: Moments Captured (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): Trumpet player, born in Russia, moved to US in 1991, flashy, wailing over two energetic saxophonists -- Chris Potter (tenor) and Will Vinson (alto/soprano) -- backed by John Escreet (keybs), Matt Brewer (bass), and Eric Harland (drums), with two vocals by Alina Engibaryan. None of the horns lack for chops, but I don't care for the keyboards, or the vocals. B

Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt: Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (2017 [2018], Savant): The leaders play hard bop alto sax and trumpet, same as Cannonball and Nat -- and the latter's "Worksong" closes the album on a high note. Backed by David Hazeltine, Nat Reeves, and Billy Drummond. Could be a long-lost Adderley Quintet album, except that they stick to the top tier of the songbook. B+(**) [cdr]

Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (2018, Impulse!): London-based group, led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, with Oren Marshall on tuba and two drummers. Third album: Hutchings has other projects, like Shabaka and the Ancestors and the Comet Is Coming. Nine songs, each named "My Queen Is" and some name -- the two most familiar to me are Harriet Tubman and Angela Davis, but other track down to Africa and its diaspora. More than a few vocals, evidently guests. Nothing on the reptile, which is just as well. A-

Spectral [Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs]: Empty Castles (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): Recycles a 2014 album name as group name. Johnston plays trumpet, the others saxophones: Rempis (alto/baritone), Ochs (sopranino/tenor). Interesting enough, but plods without a rhythm section pushing everyone along. B+(**) [bc]

Spin Cycle [Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen]: Assorted Colors (2017 [2018], Sound Footing): Drums and tenor sax, with Pete McCann (guitar) and Phil Palombi (bass). Bright postbop, the guitarist neatly tying it all together although the sax, of course, is up front. B+(**) [cd]

Superorganism: Superorganism (2018, Domino): British pop group that previously did business as the Eversons, plus significant others from New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan-via-Maine. So irregular I doubt I would have given the time of day except for Christgau's pick, which motivated me to give them three or four extra spins. Got to where I rather like them, but they still seem like harder work than a pop group should be. B+(***)

John Surman: Invisible Threads (2017 [2018], ECM): Usual horns -- soprano/baritone saxophones, bass clarinet -- backed by Nelson Ayres (piano) and Rob Waring (vibes/marimba), names on the cover but below the title. B+(***) [dl]

Tracey Thorn: Record (2018, Merge): Singer-songwriter from England, started in the 1980s group Marine Girls but became much better known in Everything but the Girl. Released a solo album in 1982, then four more since 2007. Touted as "nine feminist bangers," I can't say much about the feminism, but the "bangers" are pretty muted. One exception: "Dancefloor." B+(**)

Frank Wagner: Frank Wagner's Floating Holiday (2016 [2018], MEII): Bassist-led piano trio, with Marco Di Gennaro on piano and David Meade on drums. Wagner's songs, done with a light touch. B [cd]

Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (2018, Passin' Thru): Tenor saxophonist (also plays flute and oboe here), born in Memphis, grew up in Detroit, has a few albums since 1998. This one suggests some sort of relationship to Julius Hemphill's Dogon AD (one of nine songs here). With Melanie Dyer (viola, voice), Hill Greene (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums), looking back at the tradition and remaking it. B+(***) [bc]

Dan Weiss: Starebaby (2018, Pi): Drummer, based in New York, plays tabla elsewhere, shows up on quite a few interesting records but I've never gotten into his own. This one too, although he surprised me twice: first with two talented pianists who mostly play synths and contribute damn little (Matt Mitchell, Craig Taborn); second by turning the album over into heavy-handed fusion thrash, a far cry from guitarist Ben Monder's usual rut although closer to electric bassist Trevor Dunn. B [cd]

Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (2016 [2018], Moserobie): Norwegian pianist, best known for work in groups like Atomic and Free Fall, third trio album with Ole Morten Vågan (bass) and Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums). Often struck me as a bit ornate for those groups, but that works to his advantage here, as does a challenging rhythm section. B+(***) [cd]

Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (2018, Southern Domestic): Eric Goulden, second-tier Stiff Records star from 1979, floundered a lot from there but somehow wound up marrying the best singer-songwriter of the 2000's and got top bill on three duet albums, two better than anything he had previously done. This year they decided to do their own albums, and while his isn't as good as hers, it's still pretty good: loud, chunky, a bit of dissonance. B+(***) [bc]

Pablo Ziegler Trio: Jazz Tango (2017, Zoho): Argentine pianist, played in Astor Piazzolla's group and carries on, calling what he does Nuevo Tango. Trio adds Hector Del Curto (bandoneon) and Claudio Ragazzi (guitar), the relatively small group permitting a lot of piano flourish. B+(*)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops: The Complete Verve Studio Albums and More (1957 [2018], Verve, 4CD): Norman Granz got his hooks into Armstrong in 1957, using Ella Fitzgerald as bait. They recorded three albums together: Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again, and Porgy & Bess. The first two are classics, with Ella picking faves from her extraordinary explotation of the Great American Songbook, and Armstrong gamely singing along, with occasional splashes of trumpet. We always knew that Armstrong had a remarkable voice, but he had rarely picked such sophisticated fare, so the surprise was how flexible and subtle he could be. Less well known are three more studio albums Armstrong cut for Granz in 1957: one with Oscar Peterson's quartet (with Herb Ellis on guitar), and two with Russ Garcia's string-laden orchestra. This box devotes a CD to each, padded out with alternate takes and false starts. The fourth disc is titled "A Day With Satchmo: August 1, 1957," flushed out with twenty-two takes of four songs. I decided to excerpt the three albums (see below), then make a pass through the extras -- more listenable than I expected, but not a bright spot in Armstrong's stellar career. B

Louis Armstrong: The Nightclubs (1950-58 [2017], Dot Time): Tapes from Armstrong's personal archives, 16 tracks, all his usual sextet plus singer Velma Middleton on the back 9; Barney Bigard gives way to Edmond Hall on 11; Jack Teagarden to Russ Phillips on 3 and Trummy Young on 7; Earl Hines to Marty Napoleon on 3 and Billy Kyle on 8; Arvell Shaw to Mort Herbert on 11 (with Dale Jones 3-6 and Milt Hinton on 7), Cozy Cole to Barrett Deems on 8; plus an intro from Billie Holiday. Nothing you haven't heard before, but a nice survey of the decade. B+(***)

Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker (2000 [2018], Confront, 2CD): British avant guitarist, in a trio with Mark Wastell (cello) and Simon H. Fell (bass), plus percussion here and there by tap dancer Will Gaines, and some unattributed narration/exhortation. The strings tend to meander abstractly. B

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Willisau) 1991 Studio (1991 [2018], Hatology, 2CD): Previously released as the front half of a 4-CD box -- presumably the June 2 concert CDs will re-appear soon. This is one of the great quartets of all time -- Marily Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- in their last year after a decade together. One of their most extraordinary recordings. A-

Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour [The Bootleg Series Vol. 6] (1960 [2018], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): A quick one, three cities in four days -- Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen -- winding up the five-year tenure of Davis' first great quartet, with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Coltrane, well into his string of recordings for Atlantic, was bursting with fresh ideas, not that Davis was willing to give up the lead. Good chance most (or all) of this has appeared before, early on European labels like Dragon, later on Acrobat's 2014 4CD box, All of You: The Last Tour 1960 (which misses Paris but adds other shows in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands). A-

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: After the Fall (1998 [2018], ECM, 2CD): The Standards Trio, fifteen years after they set out, a set deemed worth recovering twenty years later: a return following a bout of "chronic fatigue" which kicked off what turned out to be one of the trio's prime periods -- 2002's My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux is a personal favorite. Twelve tunes, mostly from jazz sources (although you'll barely note "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"), stretched with their usual consummate skill. B+(**)

Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (2013-14 [2018], Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist, plays them all here, with pianist Mathias Landaeus' trio on two sessions (different drummers), each previously released on vinyl. Küchen is best known for his Angles groups, but is a terrific free saxophonist, while the rhythm is just regular enough to let him vamp and boogie a little. A- [cd]

Kirk Lightsey/Harold Danko: Shorter by Two: The Music of Wayne Shorter Played on Two Pianos (1983 [2017], Sunnyside): Cover notes "remastered." Music as advertised. B+(**)

Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07 [2018], Blue Engine): The band backing a wide range of singers, some exceptional -- Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson -- most not (although Eric Clapton's later session with Marsalis was the best album either artist released in this century). The jazz musicians don't get to show off their chops much, but they can fall back on credible blues. B+(*)

Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (1994 [2018], NoBusiness): Two bassists, one American but based in France since 1972, the other Japanese, died in 1998 leaving a couple dozen albums I haven't heard -- an early duo with Dave Burrell (1974), at least one more with Phillips. This doesn't particularly sound like bass, more like an underground orchestral soundtrack to a horror flick that never turns really horrible. B+(***) [cd]

Sonny Rollins: Way Out West [Deluxe Edition] (1957 [2018], Craft): An early masterpiece, the wood block intro a pure joy even before he saunters into "I'm an Old Cowhand" and ventures far beyond. The reissue -- as far as I can tell digital only -- basically doubles the album with alternate versions spliced with some dialogue. Can't say it offers new insights. You shouldn't skip Work Time or Saxophone Colossus or even Plays for Bird, but I've played just the extras three times and enjoy them as much as I do the original album, and that's one of his very best. A

We Out Here (2018, Brownswood): Contemporary jazz sampler from London, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings by far the best known although I recognize a few other names. Common trait is that the groups favor a groove though some also lean ambient. B+(*)

Neil Young: Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live (1973 [2018], Reprise): A live set immediately following the recording of one of Young's most extraordinary albums, one that would sit on the shelf nearly two years before its June 1975 release. Nine of the album's twelve songs appeared here, along with "Walk On" (introduced for the encore as an "old song," but was a 1974 single from On the Beach). Not sure that the live album offers anything extra, the reprise is even stronger than on the album, and I've had songs from this stuck in my head all week. A-

Old Music

Louis Armstrong: Satchmo Serenades (1949-53 [2000], Verve): Eight cuts from a 10-inch LP released by Decca in 1952, backed by Sy Oliver's Orchestra, plus ten tracks from various 78s with various combinations of Oliver and All Stars. Decca pushed Armstrong to be more pop, and the songs -- including two from Hank Williams -- reflect that. Not that Armstrong can't claim them, with "It Takes Two to Tango" a prime example. B+(**)

Louis Armstrong: Ambassador Satch (1955 [2000], Columbia/Legacy): The All-Stars -- Edmond Hall (clarinet), Trummy Young (trombone), Billy Kyle (piano), Arvell Shaw (bass), Barrett Deems (drums) -- tour western Europe, picking from shows in Amsterdam and Milan. Not really his standard show: fewer vocals, more ensemble dixieland, culminating in a riotous "Tiger Rag." Reissue adds three tracks, including a "Clarinet Marmalade" to feature Hall, who was already having a ball. Armstrong was vastly popular in Europe, and these tapes are riddled with applause. The State Department took advantage of his popularity, using him as a goodwill ambassador, notably on tours of eastern Europe -- a practice he stopped in 1957 to protest Eisenhower's "gutless" inaction on civil rights. A-

Louis Armstrong: Louis Under the Stars (1957 [1958], Verve): After the Ella and Louis albums, Norman Granz had the idea of featuring Armstrong on a set of sappy standards -- "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Stormy Weather," "You're Blasé," "Body and Soul" -- backed by Russ Garcia's soupy orchestra. Not really his thing, but he nails them anyway. B+(*) [2:1-8 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong: I've Got the World on a String (1957 [1960], Verve): With Russ Garcia again. The songs lean a bit more toward blues, but the orchestra is incapable of swing. B [1:1-10 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong/Oscar Peterson: Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (1957, Verve): Seems like everyone Norman Granz recorded during the 1950s had a meet up with Peterson sooner or later. These cuts started out as a spinoff to Ella and Louis, with similar songbook standards. Some (like "You Go to My Head") strike me as overly slow, but like the Fitzgerald sets Armstrong again proves his flexibility and nuance. Rhythm section includes Herb Ellis (guitar) as well as Ray Brown and Louie Bellson. B+(**) [3:1-13 of Pops Is Tops]

Louis Armstrong: Louis and the Good Book (1958 [2001], Verve): A (mostly old testament) gospel program, backed by Sy Oliver's Orchestra -- seven pieces, including former All Stars Trummy Young and Billy Kyle, no strings -- and a ten-voice choir. Unmistakable voice and trumpet, humdrum arrangements (aside from "Shadrack," one of his staples). Reissue adds eight tracks, mostly redundant aside from two Elder Eatmore sermons. B

Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong and His Friends (1970, Flying Dutchman): His last album, recorded over four days in May, 1970, a little more than a year before he died. The song titles, rather than the friends' names, on the front cover. On the other hand, the friends I recognize were mostly young musicians at the time, and only one shares a vocal -- Leon Thomas, on "The Creator Has a Masterplan (Peace)." The music was arranged by Oliver Nelson, with strings, congas, a chorus on four tracks (notably "We Shall Overcome" and "Give Peace a Chance" -- Ornette Coleman joined on those two), and plenty of sharp horns. No trumpet from the leader, but he sings and hams a bit, with "Boy From New Orleans" especially winning. Includes a remake of his last hit, 1967's "What a Wonderful World" (which became the title of a later, reordered RCA reissue). Actually, hard to convey how peculiar (weird even) this album is: he comes of as some sort of septagenarian flower child, making a peace-and-love album knowing how much he's overcome to get there. B+(*)

Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 2002 (2002 [2003], Intakt): Sandwiched between 20th Anniversary (1986) and 40 Years (2006), an isolated reunion for Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano) and Manfred Schoof (trumpet), with three saxes (Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky), two trombones (Hannes Bauer, Paul Rutherford), two drummers (Paul Lovens, Paul Lytton). One 74:05 piece, reminds you they're still kicking, hard. Some spectacular soprano sax solos. B+(**)

JPEGMAFIA: Black Ben Carson (2016, Trashfuck): First album, after a mixtapes and a couple of EPs. Difficult musically, but not as hard to follow as Veteran, in large part because when he rails "bitch I'm Ben Carson" you know he's trying to be funny as well as vicious. Choice cut: "The 27 Club." B+(*)

Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams: "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" (2014 [2016], self-released): "Mostly live in the studio Sept. 2014" -- two days, with Caitlin Gray and Heather Wagner (bass and drums, vocals both), wedged discographically between the tour following Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams and Manhattan, where several songs later surfaced. Asks the timely question, what would Pussy Riot do? B+(***) [bc]

Alexander von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 40 Years (2006 [2009], Intakt): Roster is 15 deep, with four trumpets, four trombones, four reeds, two drummers, the leader on piano, and no bass. Three (of six) pieces by the leader, the other three by alumni Willem Breuker and Steve Lacy and newcomer Kenny Wheeler (at least I hadn't noticed him in previous lineups, but he's played in similar groups like LCJO). Where 2002 often gave way to Peter Brötzmann brawling (absent here) and Evan Parker showing off, this feels more like a group album. B+(***)


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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29604 [29570] rated (+34), 362 [365] unrated (-3).

Made a decent sized dent in the new jazz queue, especially over the weekend when I found it easier to just pull something out than try to figure out what to look up on Napster. I did, however, chase down a few recommendations from Chris Monsen, Phil Overeem, and Robert Christgau. Though not on his list yet, I think it was Monsen on Facebook who mentioned that the Ex have a new record out. Someone wondered who they were, so I pointed out I had rated 24 of their records (7 A-). Probably inappropriate for me to rate the new one as high as I did on a single Bandcamp play, but the grade was pretty clear by midway, and only got better from there out. For more, see Bandcamp Daily's A Guide to (Nearly) Four Decades of Dutch Punks The Ex).

The Ex came out of a Expert Witness discussion on the best records of 2018 (so far). One name that popped up frequently and is both on Monsen's and Overeem's lists is JPEGMAFIA's Veteran. Hip-hop, very (as they say) experimental. I didn't get into it at all, but I had a somewhat easier time with his earlier Black Ben Carson. Also from that thread, Jeffrey Lewis' Works by Tuli Kupferberg. In some ways I think the older "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" sounds better -- just Lewis and two women who sometimes sing, versus the mass singalong on the new album -- but I've had a soft spot for Kupferberg, and even if he weren't dead he'd never be able to frame his work in better light.

I continue to have problems with Christgau's picks. I don't think there's been one I've said "yeah!" to since Shopping's The Official Body (2/23), although I liked Laurie Anderson's Landfall more than he did, and already had Amy Rigby's The Old Guys at A-. Some I reviewed respectably earlier but haven't replayed: Taylor Childers' Purgatory, Alvvays' Antisocialites, Yo La Tengo's There's a Riot Going On, and Rapsody's Laila's Wisdom. But few have been as disappointing as Jinx Lennon's Grow a Pair. And while I wasn't much impressed with Superchunk's What a Time to Be Alive, it tops Monsen's list. I also noted that Milo Miles raved about Mast's Thelonious Sphere Monk last week. And Overeem wrote a rave review of Tracey Thorn's Record. He also likes the Lewis Kupferberg album, plus two of my recent favorites: John Prine's The Tree of Forgiveness and Sons of Kemet's Your Queen Is a Reptile.

Of the B+(***) records below, one that stands out is William Parker's Lake of Light. It's a quartet of aquaphones, so sounds like harps and percussion under water -- a bit too weird for me, but maybe not for you.

The Armstrongs are just some mop up after last week's not especially recommended Pops Is Tops box. The Nightclubs would make a nice time capsule entry as it tracks the evolution of Armstrong's 1950s All Stars, although there are better examples of live Armstrong from the era, including all four CDs in The California Concerts. Ambassador Satch strays from his usual live show, as if he worried that Europeans were still expecting ODJB dixieland, so he decided to show them how it's really done. Probably the best "Tiger Rag" ever.

April ends next Monday, so it would seem a good idea to wrap up a Streamnotes post by Friday/Saturday. Despite my distractions earlier this month, the draft file currently holds 90 records (14 A- or A) so it's shaping up as a pretty solid month.

I want to note that I received a couple dozen personal letters over recent weeks, and I was touched and comforted by those who wrote -- some with fond memories, other from people I've never met but who clearly appreciate my work and care. I have yet to respond to any of those letters, for which I apologize. Sometime sooner or later I hope to, but for now I want all of you to know how thankful I am for your friendship and concern.

New records rated this week:

  • Chris Byars: New York City Jazz (2016 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Daisy/Michael Thieke/Ken Vandermark: Triptych (2016 [2017], Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tim Daisy: Music for Lying Still (2017, Relay, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Daisy's Fulcrum Ensemble: Animation (2017 [2018], Relay): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Ex: 27 Passports (2018, Ex): [bc]: A
  • Johan Graden: Olägenheter (2017 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tim Heidecker: Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs (2017, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
  • Lauren Henderson: Ármame (2016 [2018], Brontosaurus): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Monika Herzig: Sheroes (2016 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Il Sogno: Birthday (2015 [2017], Gotta Let It Out): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jon Irabagon Quartet: Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (2016-17 [2018], Irabbagast): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Roger Kellaway Trio: New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (2018, Septic Tiger): [r]: B+(*)
  • James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Radiant Imprints (2018, OFF): [r]: A-
  • Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (2018, Don Giovanni): [r]: A-
  • Dave Liebman/John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music of Sidney Bechet (2017 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Maguire Twins: Seeking Higher Ground (2017 [2018], Three Tree): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Todd Marcus: On These Streets (A Baltimore Story) (2017 [2018], Stricker Street): [cd]: B
  • Ashley McBryde: Girl Going Nowhere (2018, Warner Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Diane Moser: Birdsongs (2017 [2018], Planet Arts): [cd]: B
  • Michael Moss/Accidental Orchestra: Helix (2016 [2018], 4th Stream): [cd]: B+(**)
  • William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (2017 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Rempis/Daisy Duo & Guests: Dodecahedron (2017 [2018], Aerophonic, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star (2017 [2018], Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Derek Senn: Avuncular (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Spectral [Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs]: Empty Castles (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Frank Wagner: Frank Wagner's Floating Holiday (2016 [2018], MEII): [cd]: B
  • Dan Weiss: Starebaby (2018, Pi): [cd]: B
  • Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (2016 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)

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

  • Louis Armstrong: The Nightclubs (1950-58 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Louis Armstrong: Satchmo Serenades (1949-53 [2000], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Louis Armstrong: Ambassador Satch (1955 [2000], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: A-
  • Louis Armstrong: Louis and the Good Book (1958 [2001], Verve): [r]: B
  • Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong and His Friends (1970, Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(*)
  • JPEGMAFIA: Black Ben Carson (2016, Trashfuck): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams: "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" (2014 [2016], self-released): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet: Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner (Whaling City Sound): April 27
  • Juan Andrés Ospina Big Band: Tramontana (self-released): April 20
  • Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore (self-released): May 25

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