An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, June 20, 2022
Music: Current count 38165  rated (+45), 93  unrated (-4).
When I mentioned to my wife that I had written a "rant about reparations" yesterday, she visibly gulped. This morning she admitted "it was not as bad as I feared." See: Speaking of Which. When I wrote the piece, I wasn't aware (or didn't recall, or maybe I noticed but it just didn't sink in) that the State of California had a task force studying reparations, and that it had just [June 1] released an interim report. Otherwise, I would have included some links, like:
It seems very likely to me that a 500 pp report would contain a lot of information that should be better known, and that they would come up with a number of proposals that are worth considering in their own right, even if (like me) you are wary of trying to sell them as reparations. (Not that there aren't some people who buy into the "liberal guilt trip" logic they usually come off as, and certainly not to offend the people who really do feel guilty.) For instance, one apparently modest proposal is to end "voter approval for publicly funded 'low-rent housing.'"
One pet idea I have is to designate the poorest neighborhoods in major cities as "upgrade zones," where money would be offered to resident homeowners to improve their properties. Advisers would be provided to help owners plan their upgrades, and to negotiate fair prices with contractors, and review their work. The lender (probably city government) would receive a lien to cover the cost of upgrades, but the lien would be written off over 10-20 years, provided the original owner continues to occupy the house. Owners could choose to resell their houses, in which case the remaining lien would be paid off ahead of previous mortgages. Property tax assessments would also be frozen as long as the lien exists, but may be adjusted when the property is sold. This wouldn't help renters much, but could be combined with a program to help renters buy their houses, and thereby become eligible for upgrades.
Needless to say, a similar type of program could be offered more broadly for "green" upgrades, which is another case where helping individual homeowners helps the whole public. I've got a lot of ideas along these lines. If I was younger I'd consider opening a "think tank." Actually, 20+ years ago I had the idea of writing open source business plans, which other people could pick up and run with. (For an example on home automation, look here.)
I did write a bit about inflation yesterday, but more and more I'm convinced that what we're seeing is a self-induced oil panic -- the decision to blockade Russian oil after Putin invaded Ukraine is the pivot, but sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, and continuing conflict in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen also reduces supply -- compounded by monopolistic concentration, which gives companies great leeway to raise prices. In this context, raising interest rates if a blunt and misguided weapon. The one area where higher interest rates may help is in reducing the amount of profitable leverage available to speculators who are to some extent driving up prices. (If you think prices are going to rise, you can bet on that, and help make it happen. But higher interest rates make such bets more expensive and more risky -- especially with the Fed threatening to induce a depression.) I'm glad I'm not one of the economists who recommended that Jerome Powell be re-appointed "because he had learned his lesson." I've always said that Biden should have appointed someone who would look out for him.[*] (Obama made the same mistake with Bernanke, and Clinton with Greenspan.)
[*] I considered singling Larry Summers out, because I was so offended by a line asserting that Summers has been proven right in his prediction that Biden's early stimulus would be inflationary. Now I see that Summers is still peddling the discredited NAIRU theory, saying: "We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation -- in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployent or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment." As Jeff Stein noted, what Summers is calling for is "devastating joblessness for millions of poor American workers." Zachary Carter added that this is "really bad economics." I miss George Brockway, who worked so hard to expose the intellectual and moral vacuity behind NAIRU (stands for Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment; Yglesias has a piece on NAIRU here; Brockway wrote about it in his collection of New Leader columns, Economists Can Be Bad for Your Health: Further Reflections on the Dismal Science).
At this point, the single most important thing Biden should be doing is impressing on Zelensky the need to end the war, and reassuring Putin that if a fair solution is arrived at, Russia can be more secure and engage world commerce without being plagued by sanctions. He also needs to start dealing honorably with the raft of countries that are currently on the US "shit list" (most likely to be joined soon by Colombia and Brazil[**]).
[**] As Ryan Grim tweeted, "The Colombian right conceded the election, acknowledged it was fair and represented the will of its people." Then he cited the reaction from Ron DeSantis: "The election in Colombia of a former narco-terrorist Marxist is troubling and disappointing. The spread of left-wing totalitarian ideology in the Western Hemisphere is a growing threat. Florida stands with Colombian Americans on the side of freedom." When are Americans going to understand that immigrants no longer get to dictate who wins in the countries they left? I'm especially sick and tired of Cubans, who were generously welcomed to America (despite the fact that some of them turned out to be Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), holding American foreign policy hostage just to vent their spite. (Sure, one can say the same thing about East Europeans who came here and turned into political totems -- e.g., to pick a more recent example than Zbigniew Brzezinsi or Madeleine Albright, Ukrainian war hawk Alexander Vindman.)
Feeling better this week, if not about the world, at least in my little corner of it. The mini-split air conditioner in the bedroom appears to be truly fixed, which is good for a couple more hours of sleep most nights. These days, even trivial tasks like replacing a porch light or a toilet fill valve feel like accomplishments. Finally making some progress with sorting and storing. Even managed to get the "unrated" list below 100. I have little idea where those 93 LPs and CDs actually are (other than a pile of USAF CDs), but the search is on.
Didn't have too much trouble finding new records to play this week. The demo queue is pretty close to empty, aside from two Wadada Leo Smith boxes (12-CD total, enjoying Emerald Duets today). Dave Sumner's Bandcamp reports pointed me to a lot of interesting items, as did Christian Iszchak's consumer guide (Lalalar wasn't an instant hit, but I stuck with it). Auntie Flo and Shawneci Icecold seemed interesting enough to merit a bit of a dive, even though not much came out of it. I heard about the latter because he wrote in, and I felt like doing some due diligence. I suppose I should mention that the father of one of the Nova Twins is a virtual friend of my wife's. That may have put some pressure on me to get to the record early, but I also pegged their debut, Who Are the Girls, at A-, so it was only a matter of time.
I'm hoping to do a Q&A sometime this week, although I don't currently have a lot to chew on.
New records reviewed this week:
Chad Anderson: Mellifluous Excursions Vol. 1: Where You Been (2022, Mahakala Music): Drummer, has a previous solo album, with Zoh Amba (sax/flute), Warren Smith (vibes), and Barry Stephenson (bass), plus Ankhitek's sharp spoken word on two tracks. B+(***) [bc]
Auntie Flo & Sarathy Korwar: Shruti Dances (2022, Make Music): Former is Brian D'Souza, a British DJ/producer, originally from Goa, "known for taking World Music into the future." Discogs lists four previous records, possibly worth a deep dive. Korwar was born in the US, raised in India, based in London, a percussionist I've had my eye on -- his More Arriving was on my 2019 A-list. His tabla contrasts with the electronics ("meditative drones"), an intriguing synthesis but ultimately a bit thin. B+(**) [sp]
Yaya Bey: Remember Your North Star (2022, Big Dada): R&b singer, originally from Brooklyn, based in DC, second album, nice flow but gradually loses definition. B+(**) [sp]
Steve Davis: Bluesthetic (2022, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream trombonist, debut 1995, I should probably go back and check out his early albums on Criss Cross, but they are probably much like his recent batch. A compatible, distinguished group here: Peter Bernstein (guitar), Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), Christian McBride (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums). Not so bluesy, but nice ballad ending. B+(*)
Tetel Di Babuya: Meet Tetel (2021 , Arkadia): Singer from Brazil, also plays violin, actual name Marcela Venditti (or Marcela Sarudiansky -- the name used for the song credits). Mostly in English, with one cover (the closing "Someone to Watch Over Me"), although others (like "Willow Don't You Weep") are substantially familiar. B+(**) [cd]
Donkeyjazz: Play the Blues (2021, Singo): When Napster updated their web interface recently, they offered me a list of "popular jazz artists," headed by this outfit I had never heard of. (Followed by: Maureen, George Benson, Boney James, Fireboy DML, Soul II Soul, Kenny G, Gregory Porter, Nina Simone, Brian Culbertson, Herbie Hancock, Jean Turner; so 4 of 12 I've never heard of; 2 are legends with as many bad records as good; 1 perhaps could have been a legend but wasted it completely; 1 is a singer with some critical rep but nothing I like; 1 is a r&b group with 2 good records 1989-90 but has nothing since 1997; rest, as far as I know, are pop jazz hacks.) When this came up again, I figured WTF and clicked on it. I mean, there's lots of stuff I haven't heard of, and some of it might be worth hearing. But I was surprised to find that Discogs haven't heard of Monkeyjazz either, and shocked that Google has nothing on the album (not even the Napster link). Closest I came was a brief YouTube video ("Donkey Jazz - Freestyle rap/jazzy au piano"), but no vocals here, and the keyboard is vanishingly thin. By the way, Singo is a German company that provides a conduit to streaming platforms, and if you pay them enough they can impersonate a label. Presumably this placement is testimony to their ability to manipulate streaming platforms, because nothing else explains it. C
Cameron Graves: Live From the Seven Spheres (2022, Mack Avenue): Keyboard player, two previous studio albums, member of collective West Coast Get Down, straddles jazz and whatever (website sez: "Classical, Rock and Hip-Hop"). B-
I Am [Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode]: Beyond (2021 , Division 81): Chicago-based sax and drums duo, also features "Sound Healer Therapist and Poet" Jimmy Chan on the 11:29 intro. That didn't engage me, nor did the spiritual searching, but a track toward the end, "Omniscient (Mycellum)," does get it on. B+(**) [bc]
Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter/Brandon Lopez: Toro (2021, Underground45): Pianist, seems to have a good deal more than the two albums listed on Discogs, and more hip-hop than jazz, but this (one track, 51:09) is free jazz, with bass (Lopez) and whatever Carter feels like (sounds like trumpet, not his main instrument, then alto sax, but no faster). B+(*) [sp]
Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter: Familiar Roads (2021, Underground45): Piano and sax duo, nice but doesn't push very hard. B [sp]
Shawneci Icecold & Fatlip: Carte Blanche (2021, Underground45, EP): Hip-hop, appears on streaming services but hard to find further information, but presumably the jazz pianist (above) does the beats (no evident piano). Rapper is probably Derrick Stewart, ex-Pharcyde, but I'm not sure of that. Five songs, 15:45. B+(*) [sp]
Shawneci Icecold & Rob Swift: For the Heads That Break (2022, Fat Beats, EP): Hip-hop, eight short pieces, 11:27, Swift (Robert Aguilar), who started in the 1990s in the X-Ecutioners, brings the turntable spin. B+(*) [sp]
Brian Jackson: This Is Brian Jackson (2022, BBE): Mostly known as the guy who wrote the music for Gil Scott-Heron (1971-80), has a couple albums of his own, as well as other collaborations, including a recent Jazz Is Dead. This is on a reissues label with a soft spot for 1970s jazz-funk (e.g., Roy Ayers), but is presumably new ("first solo album in over 20 years"). Still, doesn't sound new. B+(*)
Jones Jones: Just Justice (2020 , ESP-Disk): Avant-sax trio with Larry Ochs (tenor/sopranino), Mark Dresser (bass), and Vladimir Tarasov (drums). Fourth group record, starting with sets in St. Petersburg and Amsterdam released in 2009. B+(***) [cd]
Kaleiido: Elements (2022, Exopac): Danish group, or duo: Anna Roemer (guitar) and Cecille Strange (sax), second (or third) album. Tranquil enough this could pass for ambient. B+(*)
Lalalar: Bi Cinnete Bakar (2022, Bongo Joe): Turkish group, generate an enticing but not especially distinctive grind. Title translated to "all it takes is a frenzy." Takes a while to grow on you, as it's less about the frenzy than the steady power, the relentless flow. A-
Brian Landrus: Red List (2021 , Palmetto): Baritone saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, various flutes. Dedicates this music to "the preservation of our endangered species," with several prominent examples on the cover. He recruited a large supporting cast, and his own leads flow impeccably. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]
George Lernis: Between Two Worlds (2021 , Dunya): Drummer/percussionist, also santur, has at least one previous album. Title is a 5-part suite (24:38), plus three other pieces. Cover notes "Ft. John Patitucci," probably because he's better known than the more prominent musicians: Burcu Gulec (voice), Emiel De Jaegher (trumpet), and Mehmet Ali Sanlikol (piano/voice/oud). B+(*) [cd]
Linus + Nils Økland/Niels Van Heertum/Ingar Zach: Light as Never (2021 , Aspen Edities): Folk-oriented jazz duo of Ruben Machtelinckx (guitar/baritone guitar/banjo) and Thomas Jillings (tenor sax/alto clarinet/synthesizer). debut 2014, later albums with guests, including 2017's Mono No Aware with this trio (hardanger fiddle, euphonium/trumpet, percussion). B+(*) [bc]
Kjetil Mulelid Trio: Who Do You Love the Most? (2021 , Rune Grammofon): Norwegian pianist, based in Copenhagen, has two previous trio albums plus a solo; backed by Bjørn Marius Hegge (bass) and Andreas Skår Winther (drums). B+(**)
Nova Twins: Supernova (2022, 333 Wreckords Crew): British melting pot "bass-heavy duo fusing grime and punk," Amy Love and Georgia South, second album after several EPs. Drums and guitar give them some cred among metalheads, but the bass is a whole lot funkier, and they get up in your face. A-
Jessica Pavone/Lukas Koenig/Matt Mottel: Spam Likely (2019 , 577): Viola/electronics, drums, keytar/3 string guitar (a "keytar" is a lightweight synthesizer on a strap like a guitar). Two pieces (the other is "Binge Listen"), improvs that start with an interesting sound and expand upon it. A-
André Rosinha Trio: Triskel (2022, Nischo): Portuguese bassist, third album, a trio with João Paulo Esteves da Silva (piano) and arcos Cavaleiro (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (2022, Tapestry): Compositions by Tiyo Attallah Salah-El (1932-2018), né David Riley Jones, fought in Korean War, returned to play saxophone, but wound up spending the last 50 years of his life in jail. Salles is a tenor saxophonist, was born in Brazil, came to US in 1995, teaches at U. Mass., has a half-dozen records. He arranged Salah-El's compositions, radiantly backed by piano, bass, and drums. A- [cd]
Satoyama: Sinking Islands (2021 , Auand): Italian quartet, "deeply influenced by the north european jazz, contemporary classical music and world music," fourth album, members play trumpet (Luca Benedetto), guitar (Christian Russano), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (2021 , ESP-Disk): Piano trio, with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums). Shipp has recorded many albums like this, the third with this lineup for this label -- Trio albums with Bisio go back to 2009, with Baker to 2015 (before that, you mostly get William Parker and Whit Dickey). Rhythm has always been his strong suit, and you hear that most clearly when he picks up the pace. B+(***) [cd]
Josh Sinton/Tony Falco/Jed Wilson: Adumbrations (2021 , Form Is Possibility): Leader plays baritone sax, alto flute, and bass clarinet; eighth album since 2011 (plus group work, like in Ideal Bread); backed with piano and drums. B+(***) [cd]
Torben Snekkestad/Søren Kjaergaard: Another Way of the Heart (2021 , Trost): Former plays tenor/soprano sax, trumpet, and clarinet, duo with piano. B+(*) [bc]
Sprints: Manifesto (2021, Nice Swan, EP): Irish post-punk quartet, lead singer/songwriter Karla Chubb, backed by guitar-bass-drums. Four songs, 13:06. B+(*) [bc]
Sprints: A Modern Job (2022, Nice Swan, EP): Moves beyond punk with the spoken word opener, "How Does This Story Go?" -- the music, not the attitude. Title song reveals ambition: "I wish I had a life/ and I wish that this wasn't it." Five songs, 15:29. B+(***) [bc]
SSWAN [Jessica Ackerley/Patrick Shiroishi/Chris Williams/Luke Stewart/Jason Nazary]: Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disorder (2020 , 577): A while back, I got a package of CDs on the 577 label that hadn't been released yet (4 of 5 I couldn't even find release dates for, and this one is still close to 3 months out, but the demo queue is damn near empty). This is about what I'd expect: three pieces (36:52) of medium tempo, medium noise avant tinkering. Principles play: guitar, sax, trumpet, bass, and drums. I especially like the way the guitar weaves in and out. B+(***) [cd] [09-02]
Gebhard Ullmann/Gerhard Gschlössl/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Michael Haves: GULFH of Berlin (2018 , ESP-Disk): First four -- tenor sax/bass clarinet, trombone/sousaphone, bass/cello, drums -- released a 2014 album called GULF of Berlin. In addition to his initial, Haves adds "live sound processing" (whatever that is). B+(**) [cd]
Devin Brahja Waldman & Hamid Drake: Mediumistic Methodology (2019 , Astral Spirits): Alto sax/drums duo. Starts a little slow, but doesn't leave at that. B+(**) [bc]
Weakened Friends: Quitter (2021, Don Giovanni): Indie band from Portland, Maine; second album after a couple EPs, Sonia Sturino the singer/guitarist, with Annie Hoffman (bass/vocals) and Adam Hand (drums). B+(**)
Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (2021, Schoolkids): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, started in a band called Government Cheese, solo albums since 1998, surprises with a couple of covers here ("That Lucky Old Sun," "Miss Otis Regrets"). A straight rocker with some stories, including one about a minister buying ice cream, and another about Elvis. B+(***)
Eri Yamamoto/Chad Fowler/William Parker/Steve Hirsh: Sparks (2022, Mahakala Music): Japanese pianist, has had a close relationship with Parker (bass) since she moved to New York. Hirsh plays drums, with Fowler playing stritch and saxello, instruments which dial back his sound just enough to make clear how inventive he can be. A- [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Barney Wilen: Zodiac (1966 , We Are Busy Bodies): French saxophonist (1937-96), backed by Karl Berger (vibes/piano), Jean-François Jenny Clark (bass), and Jacques Thollot (drums), plays 12 short pieces (one for each zodiac sign), intended as a soundtrack but the movie never got made. B
Auntie Flo: Goan Highlife (2011, Huntleys & Palmers, EP): Brian D'Souza, originally from Goa -- a colonial enclave claimed by Portugal in 1510 that India invaded and annexed in 1961 -- moved to Glasgow, and eventually to London. This was his first record, two tracks, 12:44: Indian percussion/strings, chants, some electronics, the seed of a formula. B+(*) [sp]
Auntie Flo: Future Rhythm Machine (2021, Huntleys & Palmers): First legit album, eight tracks, 33:04, three with featured guests. Still seems to be dancing around the concept. B+(*) [sp]
Auntie Flo: Theory of Flo (2015, Huntleys & Palmers): Second album, features a singer named Anbuley on six (of 10) tracks. B+(*) [sp]
Auntie Flo: Radio Highlife (2018, Brownswood): Bigger album, more guests, many from Africa, although nothing that especially strikes me as classic highlife. B+(**) [sp]
Jakuzi: Hata Payi (2019, City Slang): Turkish synthpop band, second album. Not exactly Krautrock, but not far removed. B+(**)
Sarathy Korwar & Upaj Collective: Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions (2019 , Night Dreamer): London-based drummer, draws on Indian percussion, second album with this fluid group (5 members here -- sax, guitar, keyboards, violin, drums -- vs. 11 for their 2018 My East Is Your West). B+(***) [bc]
The United States Air Force Academy Band: The Falconaires: Sharing the Freedom (2010 , self-released): Other name on the cover is "Lieutenant Colonel Larry H. Lang, Commander." Big band, playing standards with a few originals mixed in, with TSgt Crissy Saalborn taking three vocals. Her "Nature Boy" isn't bad, but all the TSgt- and MSgt- and SMSgt-prefixes gives me the creeps. Nor do I take comfort in that the USAF has worse ways of "sharing the freedom." B- [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: