Monday, March 27, 2017

Music Week

Seems like every time I post a Weekend Roundup, only minutes later I find a piece that I should have mentioned. This week's major one was Mike Konczal: Four Lessons from the Health Care Repeal Collapse. Very thoughtful, very smart piece on what last week's Trump-Ryan cave in means for now and the near future. First photo in the piece shows demonstrators with two placards: "Healthcare is a right, not a privilege!" and "Thanks to the ACA I am having my surgery tomorrow!" As I tried to stress in yesterday's post, Republicans tried to tout how their "repeal and replace" agenda would somehow be better for all (or most, or maybe just some) Americans, but they couldn't spell out any details on paper that plausibly backed up their claims. Nobody's denying that someone could come up with a better replacement -- the big story from last week that I didn't come up with any links for is how people all over the political map were looking at single-payer insurance -- but clearly the Republicans' pet ideas would only do the opposite (stripping some 24 million people of insurance, driving premiums for everyone else through the roof, protecting insurance companies from malpractice and fraud claims, providing even more tax breaks to the very rich).

It's beginning to look like people have somehow managed to sort out the key concepts behind the ACA -- especially that universal coverage is the only sane foundation for the health care system -- from its shoddy and corrupt implementation. One of the most interesting moments from last week was watching Charles Krauthammer on Fox News lament this very point. There is much more to be said about this and related issues -- like how Donald Trump has created a prison for himself in the increasingly psychotic Republican Party -- but that will have to come later.

Meanwhile, my week in music.

Music: Current count 27951 [27921] rated (+30), 397 [403] unrated (-6).

I've had an extremely weird week, one artifact being that my work space is in scary disorder. The counts above don't include unpacking last week's mail -- I didn't do that until this afternoon -- and I've added one more rated album below even though it's not in the count above. I've been especially lax on getting to new jazz records -- the pending queue is up to 46 records. I've also had scant interest in new 2017 releases (especially Christgau's pick last week, the 5-CD Magnetic Fields monument -- actually only 50 songs, less than the 69 Stephin Merrit squeezed onto 3-CD on his last excessive binge but still an awful lot from someone I like to a much more limited degree). So the only thing that's kept the rated count from collapsing is diving into old music. This week I continued my Chuck Berry dive to its end in 1979's Rock It -- maybe there are later live albums I haven't noticed.

I also started my way into Al Green's gospel period -- actually what kicked that off was noticing Al Green Is Love in Napster's new releases list. (Christgau regraded it significantly up a few years ago, but it hadn't been available and my LP is long gone, so I've been wanting to revisit.) I also checked out Gato Barbieri's early work, stopping at Under Fire and Bolivia, since I reviewed a twofer of those back in early Recycled Goods days (a very solid A-). I suppose I should revisit Chapter Four: Alive in New York since it won its Penguin Guide crown -- I have it at B+(*), as the weakest of Barbieri's Impulse "Chapters."

What got me looking at Barbieri was working on collecting reviews and database entries for my jazz guides. I've finished going through my notebook and the various column archives, and have gone through the first four database files. I'm currently 7% into Jazz (1960-70s) (i.e., at Gary Bartz). It's a slow, tiring process, with a lot more to process (looks like 10,939 rated albums, assuming I am indeed 7% through the current file). The jazz guides are divided into two books, one for 20th and the other for 21st century records. The former has virtually all of the known reviews, so I'm mostly adding stubs for records I rated before I started blogging everything. It currently stands at 554 pages (260,890 words), and will probably top 600 pages before I'm done (or start writing new reviews, like this week's Gato Barbieri records).

The first draft of the latter was constructed from Jazz Consumer Guide reviews. I took all of the column reviews and stuffed them into a huge text file, and I've been pulling those reviews out and adding them to the book as I go through the database files. It currently runs 217 pages (91,123 words) and is growing rapidly. (The text file has 1,097,330 words, but that's inflated with redundant reviews and metadata, but at least half of that will eventually be copied over, so I'd swag the 21st Century book upwards of 1300 pages.)

It remains to be seen whether those books will interest anyone, or even be fit to be published. There is, for instance, a lot of redundancy that should be moved to introductions to each artist. There is also the question of whether what's left, aside from the ratings, will be worth reading. My opinion waxes and wanes as I sort through this stuff. I also note lots of stuff missing (I developed my database as a sort of search list, so it has a lot of stuff that I've seen favorably reviewed but never got to myself) -- especially early on, while the 21st Century book has numerous albums of no lasting interest whatsoever.

By the way, I'm using a numeric grading system for both books, but I needed to map my letter grades mechanically. I considered two possible scales, one where A- == 8 and another where A- == 9 and B == 5, and decided to go with the latter (against, I should note, the advice of pretty much everyone I consulted). One reason is that for all practical purposes I've stopped issuing A+ grades (the last jazz record to earn one was James Carter's Chasin' the Gypsy in 2000, and before that you have to go back to 1990 for Pharoah Sanders' Welcome to Love, then 1986 for Don Pullen's Breakthrough and Sonny Rollins' Plays G-Man, then 1980 for Art Pepper's Winter Moon). Further back you'll find a couple dozen A+ albums: a handful each for Armstrong and Ellington, a couple each for Hawkins and Hodges, a few landmarks from Fletcher Henderson, Tatum, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Coleman, Davis, and Roswell Rudd (oh, and singers: Holiday, Fitzgerald, and Rushing).

Still, I'm not sure that those records are so much better than the 400 (or so) plain A jazz records; most took on added significance for me as I sorted through the tradition. Even those A records peter out over time: including A+, I count 64 since 2000 (15.2% of 420); the only repeat artists are: Billy Bang (2), Steve Lehman (2), Mostly Other People Do the Killing (2), David Murray (3), William Parker (7), Matthew Shipp (2), Ken Vandermark (5). (One each for: Nik Bärtsch, Tim Berne, Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton, James Carter, Ornette Coleman, Jon Faddis, Avram Fefer, Rich Halley, Craig Harris, Michael Hashim, Benjamin Herman, Jim Hobbs, Vijay Iyer, Pandelis Karayorgis, Martin Küchen, Adam Lane, Mark Lomax, Allen Lowe, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy Martin, Nils Petter Molvaer, Michael Moore, Barbara Morrison, Houston Person, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Sonny Rollins, Roswell Rudd, Randy Sandke, Bernardo Sassetti, Jenny Scheinman, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Irène Schweizer, Paul Shapiro, Tommy Smith, Sonic Libration Front, Assif Tsahar, Velkro, David S. Ware, World Saxophone Quartet.)

End of month is coming up fast, so I need to post Streamnotes this week. Hopefully I'll come up with something new in the next couple days.

Too late for last week's "recommended links," but Robert Christgau published a piece at Billboard on Chuck Berry: Yes, Chuck Berry Invented Rock 'n' Roll -- and Singer-Songwriters. Oh, Teenagers Too.

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (1955-64 [1967], Chess, 2LP): A
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (1955-64 [1973], Chess, 2LP): Built a playlist to re-check this: contains some of my favorite Berry songs, things that reappear in later one-CD anthologies, but also had a lot of non-canon songs, most of which proved delightful. A-

New records rated this week:

  • Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (2016 [2017], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (2016 [2017], Blue Canoe): [cd]: B-
  • Doug MacDonald: A Salute to Jazz Composers: Jazz Marathon 2 (2016 [2017], BluJazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville! (2016 [2017], BluJazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (2015 [2017], FPE): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Miles Okazaki: Trickster (2016 [2017], Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (2016 [2017], Meta/M.O.D. Technologies): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gato Barbieri: In Search of the Mystery (1967, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969 [1970], Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gato Barbieri: Fenix (1971, Flying Dutchman): [r]: A-
  • Gato Barbieri: El Pampero (1971 [1972], Flying Dutchman): [r]: A-
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits (1966 [1989], Mercury): [r]: B-
  • Chuck Berry: From St. Louie to Frisco (1968, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chuck Berry: Concerto in B-Goode (1969, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chuck Berry: Back Home (1970, Chess): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1971, Chess): [r]: B-
  • Chuck Berry: The London Chuck Berry Sessions (1972, Chess): [r]: B
  • Chuck Berry: Bio (1973, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry (1975, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Berry: Rock It (1979, Atco): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chuck Berry: Rock 'N Roll Rarities (1957-64 [1986], Chess): [r]: B+(***)
  • Al Green: Truth N' Time (1978, Hi): [r]: B+(**)
  • Al Green: Tokyo . . . Live (1978 [1981], Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Al Green: Precious Lord (1982, Myrrh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Al Green: I'll Rise Again (1983, Myrrh): [r]: B+(**)
  • Al Green: Trust in God (1984, Myrrh): [r]: B

Grade changes:

  • Al Green: Al Green Is Love (1975, Hi): [r]: [was: B+] A-
  • Al Green: Love Ritual (Rare & Previously Unreleased 1968-76) (1968-76 [1989], MCA): [r]: [was: A-] B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (Acoustical Concepts)
  • Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (Summit)
  • Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (Groundblue)
  • Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (Fresh Sound New Talent): April 28
  • Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (Summit)
  • Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (Tanner Time, 2CD): May 5