Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, August 20, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Here's a lead story for the week: Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, has died at 80. Annan had the misfortune of being Secretary General at a time when the US decided to stop giving lip service to international institutions and go its own way with its own ad hoc "coalitions of the willing." He is remembered for consistently and presciently warning the US against Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nor was that the last time Annan failed tragically in the cause of peace. In 2012, the Arab League appointed him to mediate in Syria's civil war, but the US refused to participate, letting the war continue another six-plus years. See, e.g., Michael Hirsh: The Syria Deal That Could Have Been:

Former members of Annan's negotiating team say that after then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 30, 2012, jointly signed a communique drafted by Annan, which called for a political "transition" in Syria, there was as much momentum for a deal then as Kerry achieved a year later on chemical weapons. Afterward, Annan flew from Geneva to Moscow and gained what he believed to be Russian President Vladimir Putin's consent to begin to quietly push Assad out. But suddenly both the U.S. and Britain issued public calls for Assad's ouster, and Annan felt blindsided. Immediately afterward, against his advice, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice offered up a "Chapter 7" resolution opening the door to force against Assad, which Annan felt was premature.

Annan resigned a month later. At the time, the soft-spoken Ghanaian diplomat was cagey about his reasons, appearing to blame all sides. "I did not receive all the support that the cause deserved," Annan told reporters in Geneva. He also criticized what he called "finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council." But former senior aides and U.N. officials say in private that Annan blamed the Obama administration in large part. "The U.S. couldn't even stand by an agreement that the secretary of State had signed in Geneva," said one former close Annan aide who would discuss the talks only on condition of anonymity. "He quit in frustration. I think it was clear that the White House was very worried about seeming to do a deal with the Russians and being soft on Putin during the campaign." One of the biggest Republican criticisms of Obama at the time was that he had, in an embarrassing "open mike" moment, promised Moscow more "flexibility" on missile defense after the election.

Philip Gourevitch: Kofi Annan's Unaccountable Legacy is far more critical of Annan, especially for the international failure to intervene in the Rwanda genocide. I don't doubt that Annan tended to blame the peacekeeping failures that plagued the UN during his tenure (and long before and ever since) on the members, who left the UN with few options. Still, one can counter that US interventions in Somalia and Kosovo fared no better, and probably made matters even worse.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Franklin Foer: How Trump Radicalized ICE: This is an interesting story. "When Donald Trump was elected, Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE until his retirement in June, said that the new president was 'taking the handcuffs off' the agency." Same concept here as Cheney's unshackling the CIA to set up their torture sites and populate them with "renditions." Both agencies were evidently seething with latent criminality, which their new political masters unleashed and actively encouraged. So it's not surprising that ICE agents have become more aggressive and heavy-handed since Trump took over, but the fact is they were pretty brutal before. Indeed, they have this theory, called "self-deportation," which dramatizes their brutality and injustice in hopes of terrorizing immigrants into leaving the country. Actually, when you read the details, a more accurate and scandalous term comes to mind: ethnic cleansing.

    By the way, Foer credits Kris Kobach with the theory behind "self-deportation":

    The work undertaken by Sessions, Hamilton, Miller, and their ilk is based to some degree on a theory first developed by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. Over the past year, Kobach has emerged as a prime bête noire of the left because of his ferocious, ultimately doomed attempts to stamp out a phantom epidemic of voter fraud. But for many years, he served as a lawyer for an offshoot of the Federation for American Immigration Reform -- the loudest and most effective of the groups pressing for restrictive immigration laws. In that position, he helped write many of the most draconian pieces of state-level immigration legislation to wend their way into law, including Arizona's S.B. 1070.

    Kobach set out to remake immigration law to conform to a doctrine he called self-deportation or, more clinically, attrition through enforcement -- a policy that experienced a vogue in 2012, when Mitt Romney, campaigning for president, briefly claimed the position as his own. The doctrine holds that the government doesn't have the resources to round up and remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the nation, but it can create circumstances unpleasant enough to encourage them to exit on their own. As Kobach once wrote, "Illegal aliens are rational decision makers. If the risks of detention or involuntary removal go up, and the probability of being able to obtain unauthorized employment goes down, then at some point, the only rational decision is to return home." Through deprivation and fear, the government can essentially drive undocumented immigrants out of the country.

  • Shadi Hamid: Trump Made Socialism Great Again: Title is way too cute, not least because it's getting hard to see anything good in "great." But there has been a public rehabilitation and resurgence of socialism in America, and Trump has made a minor contribution to that. I see four reasons for this. By far the most important is that inequality has reached unprecedented levels in the United States, with profound effects not just on most folks' living standards but even more so on their prospects for the future. Needless to say, this realization is much more pressing for young people than it is for people my age. Second, socialism today is exemplified by the social democracies of Western Europe, which are democratic, allow individual freedom and private enterprise, but also provide not just a "safety net" for the unfortunate but broad support for an expansive middle class. We see in Europe that broadly equitable societies are realistic options. Indeed, Americans can look back to their own past -- the Progressives, the New Deal, the Great Society -- for similar options, which were only recently thwarted by concerted right-wing political corruption. Third, the Cold War propaganda hysteria against socialism has lost its credibility -- partly because bogeymen like Stalin have vanished into the dustbin of history, and partly because the rabid anti-socialists always got more worked up over liberal reformers like FDR and MLK. (One example of their overkill: in early 2009 we hired a guy to lay some tile, and he insisted on listening to Rush Limbaugh as he worked. That's when I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Obama is a socialist.) As for Trump's contribution, the key thing he did was to discredit the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party, mostly by showing that they couldn't even beat the most ridiculous politician in American history. Of course, his contributions don't end there. He's also pushing objective conditions over the precipice of what most Americans can stand. And he's making billionaires look as venal and incompetent as the last Romanovs.

    Paul Krugman, who's far from my idea of a socialist, weighs in on Something Not Rotten in Denmark:

    Should Democrats simply ignore Republican slander of their social-democratic ideas, or should they try to turn the "socialist" smear into a badge of honor?

    But these aren't very deep divisions, certainly nothing like the divisions between liberals and centrists that wracked the party a couple of decades ago.

    The simple fact is that there is far more misery in America than there needs to be. Every other advanced country has universal health care and a much stronger social safety net than we do. And it doesn't have to be that way.

  • Umair Irfan: Ryan Zinke's claim that "environmental terrorists" are to blame for wildfires, explained.

    If Zinke is looking for someone to blame, he may want to look at his own boss. For the second year in a row, the Trump White House proposed eliminating the Joint Fire Science Program, a research initiative across six agencies, including the Interior Department, to improve forest management and help firefighters. It's especially alarming given that fire seasons are getting longer and conflagrations are becoming more destructive.

    Also: Ryan Zinke Uses Climate-Fueled Wildfires to Boost the Timber Industry -- and It's Not the First Time.

  • Jason Johnson: Is Trump a racist? You don't need an n-word tape to know. Talk about points that should be obvious, but after decades of "gotcha" journalism feeding into (and ushered along by) the bloodlust of expecting "zero tolerance" punishments, the isolated forbidden word is about the only thing the media can trust themselves to recognize. Late night, in particular, is thrilled with Omarosa because she's practically handing them the prefab jokes. The only interesting question about her is when exactly did she decide to double cross Trump, and to what extent did she then engineer her self-serving revelations? Most people who get trampled on don't have the foresight or wherewithal to tape their villains, but clearly she did.

  • Ellen Knickmeyer: US Says Conserving Oil Is No Longer an Economic Imperative: Just one of a bunch of recent Trump initiatives that go way beyond stupid -- in this case, probably three or four dimensions of stupid. There are several reasons for conserving oil: the world's supply is finite, and at present consumption rates that means we will run out in much less time than we can expect our progeny to survive; as the supply declines, it becomes more expensive to get at reduced quantities; oil is a commodity, which means we can replace domestic losses with imports, but at increasing costs (e.g., trade deficits); even if we did have infinite resources, a major by-product of burning oil is global warming, which has already altered the climate and at some point may do so catastrophically. All of this used to be common sense. For instance, oil-poor countries like Germany have long taxed oil heavily to suppress demand and imports. Back in the 1950s, a geologist named Hubbert came up with the concept of peak oil, which said that oil production will increase up to a peak point, then decline steadily thereafter. Oil production in the US peaked in 1969, but the industry was able to replace lost production and satisfy growing demand with imports -- the US trade balance turned negative in 1970, and increased steadily after that. Every oil field goes through such a boom-and-bust cycle. When a national government owns its oil, it tends to think about how to conserve that resource for a relatively long period, but with indidivual owners (as in the US) there is an active race to exhaust the supply as quickly as possible. (The famous Spindletop field in Texas was pumped dry in three years.)

    You heard a lot about peak oil back in 2000-04, when world oil production was plateauing amid much turbulence. You don't hear much about it now because over the last decade secondary extraction (e.g., fracking) has improved enough to temporarily reverse the post-1969 production decline. A normal person would be pleased at this turn of events (provided that the environmental costs of fracking aren't too onerous, which is hardly proven), but still recognize that there are other compelling reasons to conserve oil. But oilmen aren't normal: their only concern is to extract as much money from the ground as fast as possible. So, of course they're lobbying Trump to bring back gas guzzlers. And of course, that's what Trump's doing, because in Trump's world only now matters, and the only thing now matters for is making obscene amounts of money.

  • Andy Kroll: Inside Trump's Judicial Takeover: Not just the Supreme Court, but all of them, and all Trump has to do is to pick names off a pre-screened list:

    If Republicans retain control of the Senate this fall -- to say nothing of Trump in 2020 -- McGahn and Leo and McConnell could have as much as 20 percent of the American judicial system to fill. As Heritage's Malcolm puts it, "This is the president's legacy."

  • Micah Lee: NSA Cracked Open Encrypted Networks of Russian Airlines, Al Jazeera, and Other "High Potential" Targets. Also: Alleen Brown/Miriam Pensack: The NSA's Role in a Climate-Changed World: Spying on Nonprofits, Fishing Boats, and the North Pole.

  • Jennie Neufeld: Trump's $92 million military parade is postponed -- for now.

  • Michael Peck: How Russia, China or America Could Accidentally Start a Nuclear War: Several scenarios here, including escalations from cyberattacks and/or anti-satellite defense. Part of the problem here is that the line between conventional and nuclear weapons systems is more often blurred than people realize. Indeed, all sorts of tricky lines are continually being set and tested. The fact that no one has yet responded to a cyberattack with conventional military force doesn't mean that no one ever would. Indeed, every time a country gets away with a cyber caper, they grow more confident that they can do so with impunity, meaning they can take on greater risk. This sort of "defense" gaming is inherently unstable. Yet things like Trump's Space Force are almost certain to push it over the brink. Russia's efforts to hack US elections are dangerous not so much because they might tip a close election in favor of a dangerous imbecile (although that's been super unfortunate for most of us) but because they set a baseline for ever greater mischief.

  • Richard Silverstein: Israeli Attempts to Overthrow Corbyn and Other Foreign Leaders: No other country is so brazen in its attempts to influence foreign political systems as Israel. Even Russia has to work in the dark, buying influence where it can (as with Manafort and Flynn). Israel, on the other hand, can tape into long-standing supporters in the US and UK.

  • Emily Stewart: Donald Trump's sudden interest in quarterly earnings reports, explained: Someone told Trump that it would be better for businesses if instead of having to file quarterly reports to the SEC they could wait six months, so he's having the SEC "look into it." The most obvious impact is that it would be harder for investors to make informed valuations of companies. It would also increase the value of insider information, and make it easier for management to obfuscate (or downright fudge) results. As Stewart notes, this wouldn't affect the Trump Organization, which doesn't file SEC reports because it is privately owned. But as you can see, reduced scrutiny often means increased fraud. You can see why Trump might think that's a good idea.

  • Emily Stewart: Trump reportedly plans to strip more security clearances to distract from the news cycle: Former CIA director John Brennan was the first, and evidently Bruce Ohr (of the Justice Department) is on deck. Part of the idea may be that Brennan's loss of his security clearance will make it easier to cast doubt on his criticism of the Trump administration, although the notion that this is just a play for the news cycle is a simpler and more Trumpish explanation. It also plays up a false issue: instead of talking about why so much of what the government does in our name is classified secret, we wind up arguing over which past and future insiders are entitled to know. As for Brennan, no matter how much delight you might take in him bashing Trump, he's so much a creature of the dark recesses of the state that we have no reason to trust him anyway. Indeed, the world would be a better place if fewer people like him had top secret clearances. Of course, Trump has no intention of helping us here. He's just following his own petty, spiteful ego.

    Still, one interesting question is raised by John Cassidy: How Important Is the Protest Against Trump From the National-Security Establishment? While the ins and outs of security clearances mean nowt to you and me, no less than seven ex-CIA directors have signed a letter objecting to Trump's dis of Brennan. Cassidy thinks this may be a "have you no shame" moment as the responsible establishment finally turns against Trump's juvenile antics. However, while it's not surprising that all those ex-CIA directors should stick together, I seriously doubt that any of them have any real popular standing -- in large part because the CIA hasn't done anything deserving of popular respect in its seventy-year history. The most astonishing thing I've ever seen Trump do was to stand up at one of his rallies and make fun of Obama saying "God bless America" -- the most unobjectionable thing any American can say, but also, as Trump's cynical fans understand perfectly, the most pointless. After Helsinki, lots of politicos tried to shame Trump for not believing the leaders of "America's intelligence community" on Russian interference. But, really, why should anyone believe anything those characters have to say? Especially when they can declare their evidence top secret, so it can't even be examined.

  • George F Will: Another epic economic collapse is coming: Yes, I know, smart people lie Nomi Prins have been saying this for some time. But what are we to make of someone like Will, who (if memory serves) sure didn't have the vaguest clue of the recession coming ten years ago? Helps that he's reading Robert Schiller this time. (Schiller's done a wide range of important economics, but his specialty was housing bubbles, and he identified that one 4-5 years before it burst.) On the other hand, there's no evidence that he understands him, or much of anything else either. Will's worried a lot about public debt/GDP levels. The real problem there has less to do with the ratio but the fact that under Trump increasing deficits are the result of tax cuts for the rich and more military waste, neither of which contribute to growth or any other useful investment or spending.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism: She's introduced a bill called the Accountable Capitalism Act, which "would redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class -- without costing a dime." As I understand it, this is mostly effected by changing the balance of corporate governance and responsibility. Over the last 30-50 years, corporations have been able to act solely to maximize shareholder value, which has turned them into giant machines for sucking up value and wealth and channeling it to financial investors, with a large slice reserved for the CEO. This has caused a lot of bad things to happen, both to the hollowed out corporations and to the society at large. One real world example of how this could have been done differently comes from Germany, where corporations are required to distribute board seats to employee representatives (co-determination). With employees on the board, even if strictly in a minority role, corporations are less inclined to bust unions and to ship jobs abroad. Workers, in turn, are more productive and produce higher value products. One result is that Germany runs trade surpluses, whereas the US runs massive deficits. There are lots of things like this that can be done -- some in the private sector (like Warren is proposing), some public -- and any real plan is going to take a lot of tinkering with, but it is refreshing to see any Democrat actually getting serious about inequality, coming up with anything more than mere band-aids or platitudes.

    Needless to say, the closer we get to being able to implement some of these things, the more the rich are going to go ape-shit over the threat to their privilege. Yglesias offers an example: Kevin Williamson's unhinged attack on Elizabeth Warren's corporate accountability bill, explained. Also on Warren's bill: Ganesh Sitaraman: We must hold capitalism accountable. Elizabeth Warren shows how.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Democrats are nominating an unprecedented number of women to run for Congress: "So far across the 41 states that have held their primaries, 41 percent of all Democratic Party nominees -- and 48 percent of all non-incumbent nominees -- are women, a level that simply obliterates all previous records." Needless to say, this seems perfectly appropriate given who the figurehead of the Republican Party is. Also: Ed Kilgore: GOP's Fate in the Midterms Is in the Hands of Women.

  • Julian E Zelizer: The New Enemies List: More about Nixon's famous Enemies List than the one Trump is compiling, but this fits in with Trump's efforts to purge those he suspects of disloyalty, especially in the Justice Department, as well as his broader propaganda campaign to inoculate his fan base from the outside chance that the media might start reporting real news. Especially note his tweet that White House Counsel Don McGahn is not a "John Dean type 'RAT'," adopting the gangsta voice he assumes is his right.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30119 [30076] rated (+43), 325 [337] unrated (-12).

Server crashed Thursday and has been down since, so I don't have anywhere to post this. Latest message says: "We are trying to get your server online today. Thank you again for your patience." Evidently it was damaged by a power surge, and it took a couple days for them to get the undamaged servers up. Second message had something about disk drives, suggesting they have some slow and tedious salvage method. Presumably the worst-case scenario is starting again from scratch on a new server -- probably faster, maybe a bit cheaper. Most of the websites are cloned or backed up elsewhere, so I don't expect much permanent loss -- although a couple have been managed to someone else, and I don't know the state of his backups. Reconfiguring all of the domains and accounts (8-10) isn't something I remember how to do, so will be a bit of a slog.

Of course, this situation is somewhat worse coming a couple months after my local server crashed, costing me a lot of data loss. I've been able to rebuild my local copies of websites from the server, but differences in software revisions have caused a lot of code to break. I haven't been doing full updates since then, so things have gotten a bit precarious. (Robert Christgau's website is on its own virtual server, so is still up. I updated about 95 files recently, but still have a bunch more to work on before I can do a complete resynch.) I've been taking it easy since the disruption, trying to avoid panic and depression. So far, so good, but I imagine the cumulative weight of all this stress will take a toll. I'm sure not as confident in my mastery of this technology as I thought I was.

Meanwhile, been playing music. Continued my scan through my reggae list, especially seeking out albums I previously owned and marked as U in my database. Wound up with just two U records left (both by Big Youth). Decided to play some Jon Hassell after that, starting with two albums I used to own but never got registered in the database, then picked up a couple more that Christgau had liked. Finally, moved on to U-rated rap albums, having a bit less success at finding them (still unrated: M.O.P.'s Handle Ur Bizness [EP], Twice Thou's The Bank Attack, MTV: The First 1000 Years: Hip-Hop. Moving on to the rock lists next. Maybe at some point doing this I'll knock the unrated list down to something I can print out and physically search for.

Meanwhile, actually made a dent in the new jazz queue. I haven't been getting much, and most of what's been in the mail recently has September (or later) release dates, so didn't seem like a rush. Also took a look at Dan Phillips, who had sent me a download link for his latest a few months back. I downloaded it, but wound up reviewing it from Napster. Also found it and more on Bandcamp. I didn't go all completist on him, but did find one from 2017 I liked even more than the new one. (His Decaying Orbit, credited to Chicago Edge Ensemble, was also on my 2017 Jazz List.)

Other main thing I've been doing has been to collect the political bits from my notebook. I created one book file for 2001-2008 (766k words, 1590 pages), another for 2009-2012 (708k words, 1768 pages), and I've just filled out a third for 2013-2016 (675k words, 1666 pages). Most likely I'll do the same thing for post-2016. At the same time, I've collected various non-music, non-political notes into a sidecar file (currently 324k words, 780 pages): autobiographical bits, notes on friends and family (many deceased), work on the house, computers, cooking, movies and television I've watched, pets, various maladies. Should be useful for the long-procrastinated memoir, but mostly it's gotten me reviewing the late stages of my life. Not sure whether I should be proud of all the work I've put into writing since Laura told me she'd rather I do that than start that home automation business, or ashamed of all the time I've wasted while not making any sort of tangible living. Probably will depend on whether she (or anyone else) can carve all this writing up into several worthwhile books.

At some point I'll share these files -- assuming that at some point I get a working server, or come up with some other suitable outlet.

PS: Occurs to me that I should make one more pass through the notebook to pick out the music writings that I didn't already stick in to the jazz guide books. Some good material there, especially from the Expert Comments period. Unfortunately, also a lot of lists and statistical analysis that are likely to be of little if any general interest. I wish someone else would take a crack at that, not least because such a person would start with a different vantage point. Also, I already have way too much to work with already.

New records rated this week:

  • American Aquarium: Things Change (2018, New West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Aguankó: Pattern Recognition (2018, Aguankó): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dennis Llewellyn Day: Bossa, Blues and Ballads (2018, DDay Media Group): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gayle Kolb: Getting Sentimental (2018, JeruJazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mahobin: Live at Big Apple in Kobe (2018, Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Debra Mann: Full Circle: The Music of Joni Mitchell (2018, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lonnie McFadden: Live at the Green Lady Lounge (2018, Jazz Daddy): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nicole Mitchell: Maroon Cloud (2017 [2018], FPE): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dan Phillips Trio: Divergent Flow (2017 [2018], Lizard Breath): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dan Phillips Quartet: Converging Tributaries (2017, Lizard Breath): [bc]: A-
  • Dan Phillips/Hamid Drake: Trail of Inevitability (2017 [2018], Lizard Breath): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Pittman: Kinship (2018, Slammin' Media): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Serpentwithfeet: Soil (2018, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B
  • Amanda Shires: To the Sunset (2018, Silver Knife): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: On Audiotree Live (2018, Audiotree, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Tibbetts: Life Of (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Don Drummond: Don Cosmic (1960-65 [2017], Studio One): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ad the Voice: Maxi-Single (2007, Statik Entertainment, EP): [r]: A-
  • Bob Andy: Retrospective (1970-75 [1986], Heartbeat): [r]: B
  • Black Uhuru: Brutal (1986, RAS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Uhuru: Brutal Dub (1986, RAS): [r]: B
  • Dälek: From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots (2002, Ipecac): [r]: B+(**)
  • DJ Muggs: <Muggs Presents: The Soul Assassins, Chapter 1 (1997, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Clint Eastwood & General Saint: Stop That Train (1983, Greensleeves): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alton Ellis: Alton Ellis Sings Rock and Soul (1967, Coxsone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Eminem: Eminem Presents the Re-Up (2006, Shady/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (1977 [1978], Lovely Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Hassell: Earthquake Island (1978, Tomato): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Hassell: Power Spot (1983-84 [1986], ECM): [r]: A-
  • Jon Hassell: Maarifa Street (Magic Realism 2) (2005, Nyen): [r]: B+(**)
  • J-Live: All of the Above (2002, Coup d'Etat): [r]: B+(*)
  • Maroon: The Funky Record (1987 [1988], Arb): [sc]: A-
  • Mighty Diamonds: Right Time (1976, Virgin): [r]: A-
  • Sway and King Tech: Wake Up Show Freestyles, Volume 2 (1996, All City): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Tibbetts: Steve Tibbetts (1976 [1995], Cuneiform): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Steve Tibbetts: Yr (1980 [1988], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • UB40: Signing Off (1980, Virgin): [r]: B+(***)
  • UB40: Present Arms (1981, Virgin): [r]: A-
  • UB40: UB44 (1982, DEP International): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mia X: Unlady Like (1997, No Limit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tappa Zukie: In Dub (1976 [1995], Blood & Fire): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Anderson: Melting Pot (Label1)
  • Bad Luck: Four (Origin): August 17
  • Calm Waters Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler (Whaling City Sound)
  • Debra Mann: Full Circle: The Music of Joni Mitchell (Whaling City Sound)
  • Peter Nelson: Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema (Outside In Music): August 31

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Haven't made my transition to posting on Notes on Everyday Life: partly inertia early in the week, but my server vanished from the web Thursday evening and still (late Sunday) hasn't come back. Not being able to do anything about this -- ISP says they've had a "power problem," adding that some hard drives were damaged and "we are attempting to slave primary drives on several servers," evidently a slow process -- I went ahead and assembled a Weekend Roundup, not that I have anywhere to post it.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Jonathan Chait: Trump Invites For-Profit Colleges to Exploit Students: Sure, too late to help Trump University, but Betsy De Vos believes in the principle that if government has to subsidize education, the benefits should go to business, not students.

  • Jane Coaston: What Sunday's Unite the Right 2 rally tells us about the state of the alt-right in America: I'd just as soon ignore the whole thing (at least as long as Trump himself doesn't make an appearance, or send a personal representative, like Steven Miller or Jared Kushner). He has little need for the "bad optics" ("marching with tiki torches and chanting slogans from the Third Reich") and media hassle of associating himself with these poseurs. After all, his own stand up act at "campaign rallies" is safer and more effective, and most importantly reinforces his own movement leadership. So why doesn't he try to shut Unite the Right down? Probably because he figures counterprotests and media flak will redound to his benefit: the more his enemies attack him, the more he seems like the lord and protector of his fan base. (See Laura McGann: Donald Trump seems fine with Nazis gathering on his lawn.) So I'd skip the counterprotests as well (not that I won't be amused when the latter outnumber the former, as has usually been the case). As we've seen, targeted protests against Trump/Republican policies have drawn much larger crowds than anyone can imagine here. Still, the season is coming when the most critical protests against Trump will be at the ballot box.

  • Kevin Cook: Joe Pyne Was America's First Shock Jock: A little nostalgia here, as I watched Pyne regularly in the late 1960s. Always thought he was something of an asshole, but he wasn't stupid. I liked a few of his guests (like Paul Krassner) and didn't mind him eviscerating some of the others (like George Lincoln Rockwell and, especially, Nathaniel Branden). The article includes a Krassner story I didn't witness but read about in The Realist. I hadn't heard the Frank Zappa one, also pointing out Pyne's wooden leg.

  • Jason Ditz: Trump, Pence Again Announce Intentions to Establish 'Space Force'. So ridiculous, it looked to me like getting Pence to hold the press conerence was meant to permanently demolish his political career. (Mattis also appeared, and looked every bit as dumbfounded, but most news outlets skipped over that. I thought Jimmy Kimmel had the best line on this: "The logo for the Space Force should just be a picture of money being shredded and thrown at the moon." Actually, instead of "money" I thought Kimmel said "a trillion dollars." Although ridicule is the obvious reaction, one piece that takes this proposal seriously is Fred Kaplan: Space Farce, where among other tidbits you will find that there already is an Air Force Space Command, "founded in 1982 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, has 36,000 personnel and budget this year of $8.5 billion" -- so they'll finally have something to defend: their turf in the ensuing budget battles. There's also the even larger, $15 billion National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which runs all (or most) of America's spy satellites. Kaplan sees lots of practical issues, but doesn't raise basic ones, like what sort of message does forming an expensive Space Force sends to the rest of the world. On the one hand, it's a challenge to other countries to start deploying weapons in space, if for no other reason than to counter the US challenge. On the other, it tells the world that the US is aiming to radically expand its ability to rain devastation on every corner of the Earth, even more so than they can currently do. The hedge is that no other nation would be able to spend money on this level, but the admission is that no other nation is deranged enough to do so: that hardly makes anyone feel more secure. And while we're used to the stock line that arming ourselves preserves the peace, the temptation to use new weapons is all but irresistible: it's only a matter of time before someone like Madeleine Albright comes around and taunts you with "what's the purpose of having this magnificent army if you can't use it?"

    Kaplan cites China's test of technology means to disable satellites, but doesn't point out the obvious message: you can't secure space-based weapons, so don't bother building them. Indeed, one of the cardinal rules of war is that it's much easier to break things than to protect them. Chalmers Johnson illustrated this in The Sorrows of Empire when he showed how easy it would be for a hostile force to destroy every satellite in Earth orbit: just launch a dumptruck load of gravel, which traveling at 18,000 mph would soon shred every last one, and make it impossible to ever rebuild.

  • Adam Gopnik: The Las Vegas Massacre Report and the Rise of Second Amendment Nihilism.

  • Sam Knight: Jeremy Corbin's Anti-Semitism Crisis: Huh? I couldn't even follow the logic of the charges, which generally follow the form: over decades of activism, Corbyn associated with X who in some other context said Y which out of context could be deemed an anti-semitic slur, especially if you count any criticism of Israel as such. Making matters worse, Corbyn has tried to deny and/or explain away the charges. Of course, a conscientious reporter wouldn't bother reporting innuendo like this, much less trying to inflate it into a "crisis." Even Knight is pretty clear that there's nothing here, so why is he adding to it? This reminds me of the old Lyndon Johnson story:

    Legend has it that LBJ, in one of his early congressional campaigns, told one of his aides to spread the story that Johnson's opponent fucked pigs. The aide responded "Christ, Lyndon, we can't call the guy a pigfucker. It isn't true." To which LBJ supposedly replied "Of course it ain't true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it."

  • Will Porter: Iran Sanctions Aren't Just Counterproductive, They're an Act of War: True enough, but when the country that proclaims and enforces them is massively more powerful and massively more terrifying, what can the victim do about it? Commit suicide? Pretend they can reciprocate with their own sanctions? Appeal to the UN or World Court? The latter might be a reasonable recourse if the power differential hadn't already rigged them. Maybe that leaves some asymmetric options, like aiding terrorists, but there's no way you can game that out as a winning strategy. In the case of Iran, the one hope is that Europe will not support the US sanctions, reducing the effectiveness of American bullying.

  • Grant Smith: Can the US Keep Lying About Israel's Nukes?

  • Michael Weiss: What Russia Understands About Trump: Putin built his career and regime on alternately coddling and cornering oligarchs. And that's pretty much all Trump is: vain and corrupt.

  • Fareed Zakaria: Looking Back at the Economic Crash of 2008: A review of Adam Tooze: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. Tooze is a British economic historian, best known for The Wages of Destruction, a history and analysis of the German economy under the Third Reich; also The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931. One point here I never quite realized:

    What this shows is that the US power elite -- a consensus shared by Bush and Obama -- had come to put the interests of global capital above those of ordinary Americans. Indeed, this shift, which had never been debated politically, started with the post-WWII Cold War, when the US sided with capital against labor everywhere, even to the point of supporting failing empires and corrupt dictators. This was explicit with the Marshall Plan, but that could still be viewed in national terms, as a win-win deal for American and European business. What happened later was that capital flows became so free globally that the Fed couldn't stimulate the American economy without much of the cash injection crossing borders. Indeed, the 1990-92 recession mostly resulted in dollars flooding currency bubbles in Mexico and East Asia. (Conversely, aggressive stimulus spending by China after 2008 helped shore up the economies of Europe and America. European central banks were less effective because they were politically caught up in the austerity fad.)

    The second key point here is that while the technocrats did a good job of propping the banks up and halting the slide into depression, the way they did it cost them much of their political credibility -- discrediting the political center and fueling "populist" parties both on the left and the right.

  • Some Yemen/Saudi Arabia links: I don't really know what to make of these:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30076 [30033] rated (+43), 337 [344] unrated (-7).

I made my usual last-minute push just before publishing July Streanotes on Tuesday, and for once found some A-list records at the last minute. After that, I resumed my mop-up of old Silkheart jazz (leaving about fifteen titles that I couldn't find on Napster; they are all on Bandcamp, but only a few songs each, so can't really be reviewed), and wandered on as the spirit moved me (e.g., found a Darius Jones album I missed). Finally, I spent the latter half of the week listening to old reggae.

Two things steered me toward reggae. One was the Nat Birchall Meets Al Breadwinner album, which I found a review of on Bandcamp Daily. The review started with Birchall, but went on to mention and link to a half-dozen older reggae titles, including a Skatalies album (Foundation Ska) I knew and recommend, a Count Ossie album similar to (possibly overlapping) one I have but never graded, and a Tommy McCook set I didn't know. I played a couple of those (still, especially, want to check out the Don Drummond), and they led to others. The other thing that steered me toward reggae was an Xgau Sez letter which argued that Clinton Fearon's Mi Deh Yah was one of the five greatest reggae albums ever. I doubted this. I had never even heard of Fearon (former bassist/backup singer for the Gladiators, which I only knew of through anthologies). Also, the competition starts with four A+ records -- Natty Dread (Bob Marley), Two Sevens Clash (Culture), Anthem (Black Uhuru), Making History (Linton Kwesi Johnson) -- and includes full A albums by the Abyssinians, Black Youth, Cedric Im Brooks, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Higgs, Ras Michael, Pablo Moses, Niney, Augustus Pablo, Sly & Robbie, Toots & the Maytals, UB-40, and Bunny Wailer. (Dozens more with A- records, including: Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown, Junior Byles, The Chantells, Count Ossie, Desmond Dekker, Dillinger, Leonard Dillon, Clint Eastwood, Winston Hussey, Gregory Isaacs, Macka-B, Tommy McCook, Freddie McGregor, Junior Murvin, Mutabaruka, Lee Scratch Perry, Prince Far I, Ernest Ranglin, Rebel MC, Max Romeo, Skatalites, Steel Pulse, Peter Tosh, U-Roy, Willi Williams, Delroy Wilson, and Yellowman. Admittedly, this list is all 20th century, as I skipped more recent artists, but they're few and far between.) Still, I figured it was worth checking out, so did, then followed up with some Gladiators.

That got me looking at my Reggae file, and I honed in on two sets of records: ones I had ungraded copies of, and a few that Christgau had A-listed but I hadn't heard. That added up to quite a few albums. Of course, it's much easier to deal with an ungraded album by streaming it than by tracking down the physical copy. I've done that a few times in the past, and should do it more often in the near future. The unrated count was up around 800 when I started tracking it in the notebook (Feb. 2003), soon jumped over 900, peaked at 1157 (July 2004), rising dramatically on record-buying binges, especially trips out of town and close out sales as Wichita's last decent record stores bit the dust. But after I started getting jazz promos in the mail, my shopping atrophied, and the unrated count slowly dropped: dipping under 1000 in Dec. 2004, 900 (Mar. 2005), 800 (July 2007), 700 (July 012), 600 (Dec. 2012), 500 (Dec. 2014), and 400 (Mar. 2015), with plenty of bumps along the way. Still, with streaming it's been easier (and often more interesting) to look up new records than to dig through my mess to find unrated physical product. (I do have some unrated shelves, but a lot of records on the unrated list are folded into other collections, if indeed I still own them. Still, would be gratifying to knock the number down to whatever the current queue float amounts to. As I am writing this, the only unrateds left in the reggae file are two Big Youth albums.

New records rated this week:

  • Stefan Aeby Trio: The London Concert (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Simon Barker/Henry Kaiser/Bill Laswell/Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mudang Rock (2017 [2018], Fractal Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nat Birchall Meets Al Breadwinner: Sounds Almighty (2018, Tradition Disc): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Coup: Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack (2018, UMGRI Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Ben LaMar Gay: Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun (2010-18 [2018], International Anthem): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Maria Grand: Magdalena (2018, Biophilia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rich Halley 3: The Literature (2017 [2018], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Brian McCarthy: Codex (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sloan: 12 (2018, Yep Roc): [r]: B
  • Günter Baby Sommer: Baby's Party [Guest: Till Brönner] (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Underworld & Iggy Pop: Teatime Dub Encounters (2018, Caroline, EP): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Sounds (1985 [2018], Wewantsounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Erroll Garner: Nightconcert (1964, Mack Avenue): [r]: A-
  • The Gladiators: Symbol of Reality (1982 [2018], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tommy McCook & the Agrovators: Super Star/Disco Rockers (1977 [2018], Pressure Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Lillian Allen: Revolutionary Tea Party (1986, Redwood): [r]: A-
  • Black Uhuru: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1979-80 [1981], Taxi): [r]: B+(***)
  • Black Uhuru: The Best of Black Uhuru [20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection] (1979-84 [2004], Island): [r]: A-
  • Black Uhuru: Now (1990, Mesa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: Grounation (1973 [2016], Dub Store, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Clinton Fearon: Mi Deh Yah (2010, Makasound/Makafresh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hans Geisser-Guerino Mazzola Duo: Folia/The Unam Concert (2000 [2001], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Gladiators: Presenting the Gladiators (1969-76 [2006], Sankofa): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Gladiators: Studio One Singles (1969-78 [2007], Heartbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Hooker Quartet: Lifeline (1988 [1989], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • William Hooker Ensemble: The Firmament Fury (1989 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Itals: Brutal Out Deh (1982, Nighthawk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Darius Jones: Book of Mae'bul (Another Kind of Surprise) (2012, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus: Nyabinghi (1974 [2006], Charly): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ras Michael: Know Now (1989, Shanachie): [r]: B+(*)
  • Roscoe Mitchell/Brus Trio: After Fallen Leaves (1989 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pablo Moses: Pave the Way (1981, Mango): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pablo Moses: Pave the Way Dub (1998, Tabout): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pablo Moses: Pave the Way + Dubs (1981-98 [2004], Young Tree, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: The Roots of Reggae (1973 [2001], Recording Arts, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Johnny Osbourne: Truth and Rights (1979 [1980], Heartbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hal Russell NRG Ensemble: The Finnish/Swiss Tour (1990 [1991], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hal Russell-Joel Futterman Quartet: Naked Colours (1991 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hal Russell: Hal's Bells (1992, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shaggy: Pure Pleasure (1993, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steel Pulse: Reggae Fever (1980, Mango): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steel Pulse: The Best of Steel Pulse [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1978-91 [2002], Hip-O): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steel Pulse: Rastanthology (1978-96 [1996], Wise Man Doctrine): [cd]: A-
  • Jason Stein & Tim Daisy: Alive at Woodland Pattern Book Center (2014, Relay): [bc]: B
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Globe Unity (1966 [1967], SABA): [r]: A-
  • Wailing Souls: Wild Suspense (1979, Mango): [r]: A-
  • Wailing Souls: Wild Suspense [+ Dub] (1979 [1995], Mango); [cd]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Chris Monson: Seldom in the Well (self-released)
  • The Tiki Collective: Muse (Vesuvius Music/Slammin' Media)

Miscellaneous Album Notes:

  • Black Uhuru: The Best of Black Uhuru [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1979-84 [2004], Island): A-
  • Steel Pulse: The Best of Steel Pulse (1978-91 [2002], Hip-O): B+(***)
  • Steel Pulse: Rastanthology (1978-96 [1996], Wise Man Doctrine): A-

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I'm thinking this will be the last Weekend Roundup, at least in its current form. I've been going through my old notebooks, collecting my scattered political rants and writing into LibreOffice files which I hope to mine for a book (or three or five). I started the notebook in 2001, and kept it going as a backup when I refocused my writing into blog form. My first Weekend Roundup appeared on September 1, 2007, so I've been doing this pretty much weekly for more than ten years. The concept dates back even further, as I did irregular posts that were basically collections of links plus comments. (For a while, I called them Weekly Links.)

In 2014, I ran into server performance problems with the blog, and started a backup/sidecar mechanism I called "the faux blog" -- a set of flat files that a new script could organize into a LIFO (last in, first out) blog format. After that server company went out of business, I fell back to using the "faux blog" exclusively. This made it more of a conscious job to make new posts -- I basically had to update the whole website -- so I found myself falling back into a rut: Weekend Roundup on Sunday, Music Week on Monday, pretty much nothing else (except for the now-monthly Streamnotes). Anyhow, going back through the notebooks, I noticed two things after I started Weekend Roundup: the frequency and atomicity (focus on a single discrete topic) of my posts diminished; on the other hand, the overall amount of material I posted exploded (nearly doubled) -- partly, maybe even mostly, because I was quoting more.

In some sense, the latter meant that I was using the notebook as originally attended, as a repository for notes. However, now that I am finally trying to mold 15-20 years of writing into a more coherent, longer-lasting body of work, it occurs to me that I might be better off returning to a proper blog platform, where I can do short posts, on discrete points of interest, and post them immediately without having to carry the overhead of website maintenance. Fortunately, I already have a usable blog set up, Notes on Everyday Life. The name recycles a tabloid some friends published in 1972-74 in St. Louis, a mix of counterculture and new left theory. Ten or more years back I realized that my writing had two distinct audiences -- one into music, the other politics -- so I speculated that placing them in separate domains might make them more accessible. I registered the domains -- the music would go into Terminal Zone, also named for a 1970s publication -- and did some work building the websites, but neither survived my first great server crash. I've long harbored vague ideas of reviving both, even pipe dreams of hosting a community of kindred spirits, but at the moment, this seems like a sensible step. I've been finding myself caught in a bind where I'd come up with something more to say than I could squeeze into a tweet but not enough to add a whole blog post to the current website.

Needless to say, that still leaves room for posting Weekend Roundup here: basically as a weekly digest of smaller blog posts. And until I get my head into the new scheme, here's one more gathering of the links:

  • Miriam Berger: Israel's hugely controversial "nation-state" law, explained: Well before Israel declared its independence from Britain in 1948, the Zionist Settlement in Palestine (the "Yishuv") had established itself as a separate, self-contained, and exclusive society. The Israeli state established its dominance in the war that followed, Arabs under Israel's thumb have been treated as second class citizens (or worse), subject not just to inequal treatment but to separate laws. The new law doesn't change any of that, although it does promise some symbolic hardening of the lines. But more important, it sends a message to the world -- at least that part of the world that believes in civil rights, in human rights, in equal treatment, irrespective of race, religion, or creed -- that the socio-political order in Israel is fixed, unchangeable, eternal. It's not just a feature of Israel, it's its very essence. One wonders why take such an extreme stand now, especially as support for Israel is waning in Europe and the United States. I think a big part of that has to do with Trump, who supports Netanyahu unconditionally without demanding even the most token recognition of international law and norms. I'm reminded of an incident in 1937, when Britain's Peel Commission first recommended partitioning of Palestine, and went the extra mile by proposing transfer of Arabs out of the Jewish enclaves, Ben-Gurion hadn't asked for that, but given the opportunity couldn't help but endorse it. It was, after all, implicit in the Zionist program at least since 1913. With Trump proving so pliant, this must have seemed like the ideal moment for the Israeli right to show its true colors.

  • Tara Isabella Burton: Pope Francis officially updated Catholic teaching, calling the death penalty "inadmissible": When I read this, I flashed on how it might tilt our overwhelmingly Catholic Supreme Court, but then I recall how selective Republicans can be when it comes to the teachings of major religions. Actually, the case that capital punishment, at least as practiced in the US over the last 30-50 years, violates the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Constitution. You'd also think that anyone with a libertarian bent would come down against letting the government execute people.

  • Stephen F Cohen: Trump as New Cold War Heretic: I don't doubt that many Americans exploit Cold War tropes and clichés when they agitate against Russia, simply because they're lazy and appealing to prejudice is often the easiest path. We've seen the same trick applied elsewhere, as when hawks played up old antipathies to Assad and Gaddafi to push for US military intervention in Syria and Libya, or the ease Israel and Saudi Arabia enjoy in turning us against Iran. Still, this only works if we can see continuity between when the prejudices were set (the Cold War) and now. That, of course, is why Russophobes make such a big deal about Putin having worked for in the KGB. We can speculate on why Clinton, Bush, and Obama made so little effort to deconflict the US-Russia relationship. One certainly suspects that sectors of the US military/security complex wanted to preserve Cold War tools like NATO, and that was easier done with Russia cast as a rival or foe. After all, had the US and Russia proceeded to effective nuclear disarmament there wouldn't be any market for a lucrative anti-missile system. It also helps that Russians have a bit of attitude -- a sense of national self that dates back to the Tsars, so they take offense when the US expects them to roll over while we depose friendly regimes in Yugoslavia and Syria, and more pointedly in Georgia and Ukraine, while moving armed forces to Russia's border. Putin's popularity is based on his ability to restore a sense of dignity and independence that had suffered badly under Yeltsin. Within Russia's spectrum, he's nowhere near the real demagogues on this point, but he gives the neo cold warriors enough rope. It shouldn't surprise us that Trump is relatively immune from such scheming -- even before the Clinton crowd jumped on the bandwagon. Trump knows that Russia changed dramatically following the collapse of the Soviet Union, mostly because he could do business with the new Russia. The old Soviet Union never achieved a state of equality, but after the fall it became even more inequal than the US, with gangsters and former officials grabbing vast swathes of state-owned property. They have, in short, created a world run by and for billionaires, a world of Trumps. Complain as you will about Putin's repression, his control of the press, his use of spies and hacks, his contempt for democracy, but there's nothing there Trump doesn't admire and crave. Conversely, Putin must have seen Trump as a Godsend: finally, an American political leader he can deal with, the old-fashioned way, with cash. On the other hand, none of this qualifies Trump as "a cold war heretic." That implies that Trump has a conscious command of historical context, when the opposite is the case. Where Cohen is most useful is in unpacking the complaints of the renascent cold warriors -- e.g., their frenzied reactions to the Trump-Putin summit. I'd go further and say that it's extremely important not to rekindle anything like the Cold War that scuttled the New Deal and the prospect of solving world conflicts through the UN. To do that we need to be clear on all sides. It's actually a good thing that Trump and Putin think they can do business together. One might wish for better leaders on both sides, but one can only change oneself. Beyond that all you can do is to respect common principles and look for opportunities that benefit all -- something that the US has never done since embarking on its post-WWII great power ego trip.

  • Jason Ditz: Congress Passes $716 Billion Military Spending Bill: "This was the single largest increase in military spending year-over-year in 15 years, and is the latest in the annual push between President Trump and Congress to see who can outdo the other in spending increases." Some more details: $716 Billion Military Spending Bill Won't Create Space Force, Limits Involvement in Yemen War.

  • Briahna Gray: Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Went to War With Partisanship in Kansas, and about 4,000 people showed up to meet them here in Wichita.

  • Naomi Klein: Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not "Human Nature" A response to the long New York Times article, Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.

  • Nomi Prins: The Disrupter-in-Chief: I'm not going to argue against critics who think that Trump's major economic moves -- deregulation of just about everything but especially banking, tax cuts to increase inequality, tariffs to provide politically useful short-term profits, the trade war risk of said tariffs, increased bets on the arms trade (with its risk of further wars and blowback) -- aren't setting us up for another crash. I especially won't argue with Prins, who covers all these points and has an impressive track record of sniffing out looming disasters. However, before we get to Prins' bang, I figure we'll suffer through a few whimpers. The first problem is that the economic indicators Trump most likes to brag about are very weakly linked to the economic perceptions of the overwhelming majority of Americans. In a normal economy, such low unemployment rates should result in wage growth, yet we see very little of that. Similarly, virtually nothing from Trump's tax cuts has gone to higher wages (or even bonuses). Meanwhile, cost of living continues to go up -- gas prices are an obvious factor there, and housing is tight enough we're beginning to see a bubble. The statisticians may think this is a great economy, but ordinary people aren't feeling it. Second, virtually none of the bills that will eventually be suffered for increased risk due to deregulation have come due yet. That will happen, piecemeal, chaotically, over years and sometimes longer, and those costs are likely to really hurt. Same is true for other unfunded externalities, like climate change. This year's fires and storms are what you get for ignoring decades of scientific warnings, and the only direction we can see from here is worse. Inequality is another factor that hurts now and will only get worse over time.

    I should also say that I suspect that today's nominal growth rates are overstated and unsustainable. The Trump administration is actually doing a lot of things that slow the economy down. Trump's attack on immigration seeks to shrink the economy. His tariffs also constrict the economy. The only way tariffs make sense is if they're matched to a program of investment to build up protected industries that can eventually stand on their own. I'm not opposed to efforts to improve the balance of trade, but to do that you need to increase exports as well as reduce imports. I recall William Grieder proposing an across-the-board imports tax -- indeed, that's the only form of tariff the WTC allows. On the other hand, going industry-by-industry, country-by-country only increases the opportunity for (and costs of) graft. That at least is a racket Trump understands.

    Note that John Cassidy has similar reservations about the economy: The Hidden Danger for Donald Trump in the Economy's Growth Spurt. Matt Taibbi also wrote Why Killing Dodd-Frank Could Lead to the Next Crash.

  • Somini Sengupta/Tiffany May/Zia ur-Rehman: How Record Heat Wreaked Havoc on Four Continents: Stories from Algeria (124F on July 5), Hong Kong (over 91F for 16 straight days in May), Pakistan (122F on April 30), Oslo (over 86F for 16 consecutive days), Los Angeles (108F on July 6); also wildfires in Sweden and "one Swedish village just above the Arctic Circle, hit an all time record high, peaking above 90 degrees Fahrenheir." On California's fires, see Alissa Greenberg/Jason Wilson: As California burns, many fear the future of extreme fire has arrived. On the media, see: Emily Atkin: The Media's Failure to Connect the Dots on Climate Change; also: Joe Romm: Fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion to kill US climate action, new study finds.

  • John Sides: What data on 20 million traffic stops can tell us about 'driving while black': Pretty much what you could have guessed.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump is making Medicare-for-all inevitable: ACA was conceived as a political compromise that everyone could get behind, even if hardly anyone actually liked the idea. It promised that everyone could get comprehensive health insurance at a tolerable cost, without upsetting any existing business interests. And it promised to slow down rising costs without undermining quality care. Most Democrats realized that it wasn't nearly as efficient a solution as single-payer, but we were assured that it was good enough for now, and wouldn't run into the sort of political obstacles -- industry opposition and fear propaganda -- that a single-payer system would have to surmount. Of course, it didn't turn out that way: even after all the industry lobbyists cut their deals and signed off, the Republicans revolted, partly incoherent ideology (anti-government, pro-market, anti-equality, pro-business, even when the rip-offs are pure fraud), partly sheer obstructionism. And indeed, the Republicans came close to scuttling the law, partly by exploiting real flaws in its design. Even after it passed, they sued, and fought a state-by-state battle against the Medicaid expansion piece. Still, by 2016, the program was a modest success, and could have been tacitly accepted, but Trump and the Republicans decided to make its destruction a test of their power. Sure, they failed to outright repeal the law, but they've repeatedly attacked aspects of the law that threaten to throw it out of whack. Their first effort here was to limit insurance company compensation for losses due to adverse selection risk -- the effect here was to push up premium costs. Then they decided to allow junk insurance policies -- where insurance companies can refuse to pay for services that ACA had deemed to be necessary for everyone. Such policies can be sold cheaper, but only by shifting the costs to higher risk (or more responsible) people. The net effect is higher costs for less coverage, on top of all the other ways the industry has adjusted to further game the ACA system. Private insurance has never worked very well, and has gotten progressively worse as the whole industry became more intensely profit-seeking. The clearest measure of this is how health care as a share of GDP has steadily grown from 5% to 10% to 15% to 20%: if left uncontrolled, expect it to gradually devour the entire economy. ACA was as much an attempt to save an untenable system as to reform it. If Trump turns ACA into a failure, the only viable option left is socializing the system: single-payer, and a lot more regulation of the private sector. However, that assumes something we have no real reason to expect: a happy ending, where we wind up doing something that works. At least it's definitively proven that socialized medicine works: every other wealthy nation has (with minor variations) such a system, and every one of them delivers better health care results at significantly less cost. Still, American politicians have time and again refused to implement reasonable reforms, just as they've insisted on making the same mistakes over and over again. And if the election of Trump proves anything, it's that we're not getting any smarter about our problems or how to solve them. (One indication that single-payer is getting closer: Dylan Scott: The case for single-payer, explained in 3 charts.)

    Yglesias also wrote: Netroots Nation, explained. As Yglesias points out, Obama was a big hit at the precursor Yearly Kos conference in 2007, but lost all interest when he became president, leaving network-based activism in a lurch, at least in terms of influence in and for the Democratic Party. One result was that under Obama the Democratic Party largely folded up as a grassroots political organization, at the same time as Republican donors like the Kochs were plowing millions into their fake tea party noisemakers. On the other hand, having been beaten down so bad, at this year's confab they're finally looking up. Even the old Democratic Party warlords are starting to get hungry. However, do read Yglesias' major post this week: Centrist Democrats are out of ideas. Of course, that's what always happens when you spend eight years making excuses to your voters for why you can't get anything progressive implemented, while at the same time bragging to your donors about how you're keeping the riff raff in check. At this point, even what passed for ideas eight years ago -- e.g., ACA, "cap-and-trade" -- don't pass the smell test.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Streamnotes (July 2018)

Second largest monthly haul this year. As with February, the trick is chasing down a lot of old jazz records on Napster (100 then, 60 this month, for totals of 165 and 163).

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 June 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (11469 records).

Recent Releases

Against All Logic: 2012-2017 (2018, Other People): Nicolas Jaar, electronica producer from Chile based in New York, used this alias (sometimes abbreviated A.A.L.) for a couple of EPs 2013-14, but this period compilation seems to be new (previously unreleased) work. Nothing ambient here: hard dance beats with heavy samples and shrill vocals, sometimes over the top -- meant to be fun, mostly is. B+(***)

Amen Dunes: Freedom (2018, Sacred Bones): Damon McMahon, released his first record as Inouk in 2004, one under his own name in 2006, and since 2009 five as Amen Dunes. Singer-songwriter fare, slight whine in his voice but not in the music. B+(*)

Tucker Antell: Grime Scene (2017 [2018], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, leads a quartet with guitar and organ nodding toward soul jazz, plus Jason Palmer on trumpet for 5/8 cuts. B+(**) [cd]

Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018, Domino): In which Alex Turner tries his hand as a cocktail bar crooner, segueing into a tryout for a horror show. C+

John Bailey: In Real Time (2017 [2018], Summit): Trumpet player, debut at age 52 but he has side credits going back to 1988. Quintet with Stacy Dillard on tenor/soprano sax, John Hart on guitar, Cameron Brown on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums. Sharp, upbeat, makes a splash, two Brazilian covers (Nascimento and Gil). B+(**) [cd]

Barker Trio: Avert Your I (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): Drummer Andrew Barker, led a sax-piano trio I liked back in 2003 but only rarely heard from since. Another sax trio here, with Michael Foster (tenor, soprano, electronics) and Tim Dahl (electric bass). Intense, screechy. B+(*) [bc]

Beach House: 7 (2018, Sub Pop): Dream pop band from Baltimore, principally Victoria Legrand (vocals/keyboards) and Alex Scally (guitar/keyboards). Seventh album, settling into a middle-aged groove that suits them, without going bland. B+(**)

Beats Antique: Shadowbox (2016, Antique): Oakland group, world fusion although Middle Eastern dub hits the high points, founded over a decade ago by belly dancer Zoe Jakes, David Satori, and Tommy Cappel. Interesting concept, somewhat scattered results. B+(***)

Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce (2018, Asylum Worldwide, EP): Frederick Ross, of New Orleans, "the undisputed Queen Diva of Bounce Music." Loud, lots of bounce. Four cuts, 14:33. B

Big Heart Machine: Big Heart Machine (2017 [2018], self-released): Eighteen-piece big band (standard horns; vibraphone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums in the rhythm section), conducted by Miho Hazama, compositions by Brian Krock (alto sax), produced by Darcy James Argue. Nothing strikes me as special, not that they didn't put a lot of effort into it, and they did at least achieve big band volume. B [cd]

Binker and Moses: Alive in the East? (2017 [2018], Gearbox): British duo, Binker Golding (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums), although there are also guests here and there, including Evan Parker (tenor/soprano sax, pretty hard to miss). Sounds like guitar on one track, but the closest credit seems to be harp (Tori Handsley. Rather scattered, would take some time to sort out, but much is terrific, not least the drums. A- [bc]

Andy Biskin: 16 Tons: Songs From the Alan Lomax Collection (2018, Andorfin): Clarinet player, has mostly worked with traditional and early American melodies, like his exploration of Stephen Foster. By "the Alan Lomax Collection" he means ancient folk songs that Lomax recorded in his tours of the 1930s South and Appalachia, starting and ending with "Sweet Betsy From Pike." His group evokes another Americana tradition: brass bands, although here he's joined by three trumpets, and nothing else but drums, which gives it an odd, postmodern air -- I'm tempted to say Ivesian, but I'm not confident I'm expert enough to make that stick. B+(**) [cd]

Leon Bridges: Good Thing (2018, Columbia): Retro soul singer, still in his 20s, second album, got his sound down pat. B+(*)

Justin Brown: Nyeusi (2015-17 [2018], Biophilia): Drummer, from Oakland, also plays keyboards here, probably his first album although he's played with various jazz groups (also Thundercat and Flying Lotus). With Jason Lindner and Fabian Almazan on keyboards, Mark Shim on "wind controller," and Burniss Travis on bass. [Packaging did not include CD -- evidently some kind of "environmentally friendly" inconvenience.] B

Jarod Bufe: New Spaces (2017 [2018], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, first album, a quartet with Tim Stine on guitar, Matt Ulery on bass, Jon Deitemeyer on drums. Starts quite impressive, doesn't quite sustain but remains very listenable. B+(***) [cd]

Burna Boy: Outside (2018, Atlantic): Damini Ogulu, from Nigeria, combines hip-hop, dancehall, and Afropop, in a rather mixed bag. Includes a feat. Lily Allen, but not as good as his on her album. B+(*)

Camila Cabello: Camila (2018, Syco/Epic): From Cuba, moved to Miami at age 5, appeared on The X Factor and failing there was pooled into Fifth Harmony. First solo album. Fairly generic pop, gaining strength on the ballads, ease when she lets up a bit. B+(**)

The Carters: Everything Is Love (2018, Parkwood/Roc Nation): Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, and his wife, the even more famous Beyoncé, in concept at least resolving the marital issues that fueled their respective last albums. Beats more in his domain than in hers, but maybe I'm just much more familiar with his work -- I never really got into her recent records, and didn't like the early ones at all. Of course, being filthy rich they can hire whatever extra talent they need (note Pharrell Williams on the single). Still can't complain about that. B+(***)

Neko Case: Hell-On (2018, Anti-): Singer-songwriter, born in Virginia, moved to Vancouver in 1994, joined the alt/indie group New Pornographers there and has stuck with them while running a solo career that started alt-country but hasn't sounded like that for well over a decade (even in her folkie harmony group with K.D. Lang and Laura Veirs). But her versatility makes her anonymous, a chameleon with no distinct identity. Clearest example here is a duet Eric Bachmann wrote and dominates. B+(*)

Brent Cobb: Providence Canyon (2018, Low Country Sound/Elektra): Country singer-songwriter from Georgia, third album. B+(**)

The Coup: Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack (2018, UMGRI Interscope): Boots Riley, Oakland rapper, called his first group the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective, changing the name to the Coup in 1992. We last heard from the in 2012 on Sorry to Bother You, a title Riley recycled for his film debut this year. I don't know much about the movie ("a bananas satirical comedy about code-switching and exploitative capitalism"), but his soundtrack offers nine in-your-face pop songs, with Tune-Yards adding jangly noise to the infectious "Hey Saturday Night," Janelle Monáe adding cyborg cool to two more songs, and guest raps from Killer Mike and E-40. Short (35:46), tight, explosive. A-

Tomasz Dabrowski Ad Hoc: Ninjazz (2018, ForTune): Polish trumpet player, backed by a Japanese piano trio visiting Warsaw: Hiroshi Minami (piano), Hiroki Chiba (bass), and Horishi Tsubo (drums). Opens up with solo trumpet, then the trio jumps in very aggressive. Tails off midway, running out of steam. B+(*) [bc]

The End: The End (2018, RareNoise): Norwegian group, two major saxophonists (Mats Gustafsson and Kjetil Møster), Anders Hana on baritone guitar, Greg Saunier (drums/voice), and Sofia Jernberg (voice). The noise level, even without the vocals, exceeds what I find tolerable. And the vocals are way over the top. D+ [cdr]

Florence + the Machine: High as Hope (2018, Virgin EMI): Singer Florence Welch and keyboardist Isabella Summers, group name a contraction of Florence Robot and Isabella Machine, with a couple others since 2007, and more here. B+(*)

Future and Young Thug: Super Slimey (2017, Epic/300 Entertainment/Freebandz): Atlanta rappers, mixtape came out last October to scant notice. Reviews I've seen complain about lack of chemistry. Indeed, it comes off as fairly anodyne, not so slimy after all. B+(*)

Future: Beast Mode 2 (2018, Epic/Freebandz): Classified as a retail mixtape, name checks a 2015 mixtape. Low key but catchy "sing-rap blues." A-

Ben LaMar Gay: Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun (2010-18 [2018], International Anthem): Producer, I guess, "has been creating music professionally for over 20 years now," as Gay, Ben Lamar, or other permutations of his full name, working in the interstices of "jazz, blues, hip-hop and electronic." This is compiled from eight years of unreleased work, with a couple dozen musicians floating in and out. He's credited with cornet, synth, voice, flute, and "other instruments." More pastiche than jazz, often interesting, but would take quite some effort to sort out. B+(**)

Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (2018, ESGN/Empire, EP): Rapper Frederick Tipton, from Gary, IN, styled the artwork after Teddy Pendergrass, but not so similar beyond that. Ten tracks, 25:02. B+(**)

Gorillaz: The Now Now (2018, Parlophone): Originally a cartoon sketch by Jamie Hewlett, their first album (way back in 2001) brought Britpop-going-world maestro Damon Albarn together with estimable hip-hoppers known as Dan the Automator, Del the Funkee Homosapien, and Kid Koala. But six albums in, only Albarn remains, which with all the synth washes isn't much different than you'd expect had Blue stuck together. Evidently the cartoon still has more brand appeal. B-

Maria Grand: Magdalena (2018, Biophilia): Tenor saxophonist, from Switzerland, based in Brooklyn, also sings some though credits are unclear, crediting Jasmine Wilson and Amani Fela with spoken word; also guitar (Mary Halvorson), piano (David Bryant and Fabian Almazan), bass, and drums. [received packaging without CD] B+(**)

Grouper: Grid of Points (2018, Kranky, EP): Liz Harris, I've been filing her under electronica from first notice, but that's not a good fit, especially here. Nor is "ambient" or "dream pop" (Wikipedia's suggestions), although "ambient dream pop" might work. The central instrument here is piano, with voice (don't know if her own) arranged like an aura. Seven cuts, 21:52. B

Grupo Mono Blanco: ¡Fandango! Sones Jaroches de Veracruz (2018, Smithsonian Folkways): I don't see any recording dates, even in the substantial booklet PDF. The group (translates as White Monkey) was formed in 1977, its leader, Gilberto Gutiérrez, born in 1958, looking in photographs younger (but not a lot) than his present age. I've seen some evidence of a 2004 album called ¡Fandango! credited to Mono Blanco y Stone Lips, but there's no mention of Stone Lips here. The music is a regional folk style ("jarocho" from Veracruz, which seems to have more African influence) that goes back at least to the mid-1800s. Voice(s), guitar-like instruments, percussion, nothing rushed. B+(***)

Rich Halley 3: The Literature (2017 [2018], Pine Eagle): The letter suggested "something different," but I didn't look at the fine print before putting on what appeared to be his usual tenor sax trio. I didn't notice the difference until I heard "Mood Indigo" wafting through, although I should have picked up earlier that they were doing standards: Monk, Davis, Coleman, and Jimmie Rodgers came earlier, with more Monk and Coltrane, Mingus and Sun Ra, a boisterous "Motherless Children" to follow. Terrific. A- [cd]

Haley Heynderickx: I Need to Start a Garden (2018, Mama Bird): Folkie singer-songwriter from Oregon, first album after a couple of EPs, acoustic guitar style harkens back to John Fahey, eventually finds a band -- the title song is choice, partly because its actual title is "Oom Sha La La." B+(**)

Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap (2018, All Money In/Atlantic): LA rapper, Ermias Asghedom, started out with a series of Bullets Ain't Got No Name mixtapes. First studio album, with guest spots for Pugg Daddy, Kendrick Lamar, The-Dream, Cee-Lo Green, a bunch more. Hard and dense, almost impenetrable. B+(*)

Susie Ibarra: Perception (2017, Decibel Music): Percussionist, credits musicians as DreamTime Ensemble, has a chamber jazz feel even with the drums: piano/guitar, violin, cello, electronics, voice (Claudia Acuña). B

The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): Neo-soul group from Los Angeles's Odd Future orbit, fourth album, lead singer Sydney Bennett (aka Syd the Kyd, or just Syd on her solo debut), with a guitarist named Steve Lacy co-writing most of the songs and singing some. Pretty laid back, low-key, something you might get comfortable with, not turned on. I'm tempted to call it ambient groove. B+(**)

Juice WRLD: Goodbye & Good Riddance (2018, self-released): Jared Higgins, 19-year-old rapper from the Chicago suburbs, based in Los Angeles. They grow up so fast these days. B+(*)

Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): The third entry in Kanye West's parade of seven-cut productions, with West forming a duo with Kid Cudi. Title track has some appeal, as does the Louis Prima sample. Seven cuts, 23:50. B+(*)

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (2018, Strut): Youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, wound up running his legendary father's band -- fitting because he's a dead ringer, playing alto sax, singing, writing and leading irresistibly bouncy political rants. If they run shorter than his father's side-long essays, that's because he has even more to complain about, and hope for. A-

Kyle: Light of Mine (2018, Atlantic): Rapper Kyle Thomas Harvey, from Ventura, CA, first studio album after a couple of mixtapes. Has a charming light touch both rapping and singing. A-

Jeremy Ledbetter Trio: Got a Light? (2018, Alma): Pianist, from Toronto, with Rich Brown on bass and Larnell Lewis on drums, with a couple of guest vocal spots. Trained in classics, is "musical director and producer for calypso superstar David Rudder," plays in a Latin jazz band called CaneFire. Album ranges widely, chops impressive, still nothing seems to stick. B [cd]

Jennifer Lee: My Shining Hour (2018, SBE): Bay Area singer-songwriter, last name Sevison, wrote 11/13 songs, covering Harold Arlen and Abel Zarate. Three previous records. Long credits list, most for only a track or two, adding to the eclecticism. B [cd]

Peggy Lee: Echo Painting (2017 [2018], Songlines): Cellist, from Vancouver, should be well known by now but Google still brings up the singer, even when you add "cello" to the search string. Ten-piece band here, four horns and five strings (including guitar and pedal steel). Mostly orchestral, taken at an even stroll, but on a couple of tracks guitarist Cole Schmidt goes berserk, bringing lots of noise. As a bonus track, Robin Holcomb does a nice job of singing "The Unfaithful Servant." B [bc]

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens (2017 [2018], Blue Note): The tenor saxophonist's group includes Bill Frisell (guitar), Greg Leisz (pedal steel and dobro), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Eric Harland (drums), although it drops down to just Lloyd and Frisell on the last two tracks. So it lists a bit toward Americana, taking on a roughened and battered air with the guest vocalist (on 5 of 10 songs, 4 her own, one from Jimi Hendrix) -- not enough to take command, leaving you with a rather pretty curio. B+(***)

Nicolas Masson/Colin Vallon/Patrice Moret/Lionel Friedli: Travelers (2017 [2018], ECM): Swiss saxophone/clarinet player, backed by pianor-bass-drums. A bit atmospheric, the way the label likes them. B+(**)

Pete McCann: Pay for It on the Other Side (2017 [2018], McCannis Music): Guitarist, from Wisconsin, based in New York, discography goes back to 1998, often impressive but goes a bit over the top here, with Henry Hey's organ the main amplifier, Matt Clohesy on electric as well as acoustic bass, John O'Gallagher on alto sax, and Mark Ferber on drums. B+(*) [cd]

Lori McKenna: The Tree (2018, CN/Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter, folk division, with possibly the clearest, most immediately appealing batch of songs in a twenty-year career. Does tail off a bit toward the end. A-

Joachim Mencel Quintet: Artisena (2015 [2018], ForTune): Polish pianist, also plays hurdy-gurdy, "inspired by traditional Polish dances" (not to mention Chopin). With violin, guitar, double bass, and drums. Nice chamber jazz feel. B+(*) [bc]

Shawn Mendes: Shawn Mendes (2018, Island): Teen pop star from Canada, still just 19 on his third album, all three number ones both in Canada and the US. Co-wrote all of the songs, co-produced most, some quite striking ("Nervous," "Like to Be You") but even the bare ballad "Perfectly Wrong" is captivating (with a swell the hook). Has a soul voice, verging on falsetto but not committed to it. B+(***)

Migos: Culture II (2018, Quality Control): Three Atlanta rappers, had a commercial breakthrough with last year's Culture so decided to do it again, then thought it might be clever if Culture II was not just a sequel but twice as long. Wears on your patience, especially as they only have one distinctive beat framework to squeeze everything into. B+(**)

Nas: Nasir (2018, Mass Appeal/Def Jam, EP): Part of producer Kanye West's 7-song EP series, with West co-writing all of the songs (along with Mike Dean and rapper Nasir Jones). B+(**)

Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days: El Maquech (2018, Biophilia): Trumpet player, brother Zach (drums, both here and with Adam in the O'Farrill Brothers), son of Arturo, grandson of Chico. Quartet with Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (tenor sax) and Walter Stinson (bass). [Packaging did not include CD.] B+(*)

Old Crow Medicine Show: Volunteer (2018, Columbia Nashville): Country string band, formed 1998 in Harrisonburg, VA; topped the bluegrass charts with 2004's O.C.M.S. and have been a folk-bluegrass institution ever since. Motto: "I ain't gonna change my sound/when I get to Nashville town." Ain't gonna start thinkin' either. B+(*)

Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (2018, Warp): Daniel Lopatin, from Massachusetts, parents from Russia, makes electronica, though not much beat here, some vocals (by Lopatin and/or guests), the sonic squiggles interesting but he seems to be all over the place. B+(*)

Houston Person & Ron Carter: Remember Love (2018, HighNote): Tenor sax and bass duets, both major players since the early 1960s, with a couple of previous albums together -- their Chemistry was my favorite jazz album of 2016. Ballads here, even slower than usual, possibly suggesting that they're losing a step, or maybe just playing for their own pleasure (others might prefer fewer/shorter bass solos). B+(***)

Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (2017 [2018], MAMA): Alto saxophonist, from Virginia, not a lot under his own name but shows up in a lot of New York area big bands. Figured as we're approaching the 50th anniversary of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis's pioneering fusion music should get the treatment. Shows that may not have been such a good idea -- that not everything sounds better with more brass.. B [cd]

Pocket Aces: Cull the Heard (2016 [2018], Creative Nation Music): Trio, names listed alphabetically -- Aaron Darrell (bass), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), Curt Newton (drums) -- all pieces jointly credited, but Hofbauer is by far the best established, and effectively the lead. Nothing splashy, just tight, prickly probing at what may possibly be a melody. B+(**) [cd]

Post Malone: Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018, Republic): Austin Richard Post, from Syracuse, second album (first: Stoney), described as "a rich kid whose parents essentially paid his way into music," which leads to a lot of other dumb shit -- odds appear to be 50-50 that he'll turn into Kid Rock. Still, he makes a strong first impression, singing more than rapping but with a rapper's focus on the words, and not just slinging them out. B+(**)

Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (2018, Morphius/ReR Megacorp): Keyboard player, best (almost totally) known from Pere Ubu, concocts a bunch of sonic tableaux that can be ominous, or just spooky. B+(*)

John Raymond & Real Feels: Joy Ride (2018, Sunnyside): Flugelhorn player, originally from Minneapolis, based in New York, has a couple previos records including 2016's John Raymond & Real Feels. Trio with Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Postbop, moderate pace, nice resonance between the horn and guitar. B+(**)

Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Ithra (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): Chicago trio, Rempis plays alto and tenor sax, matched against cello and bass, which tend to slow him down without providing an effective counterpoint. Still remarkable in its own way. B+(**) [cd]

Dave Rempis/Jasper Stadhouders/Frank Rosaly: Icoci (2017 [2018], Aerophponic): Stadhouders plays guitar and electric bass, giving this a little more boost than the sax/strings trio. Drummer helps, too. B+(***) [cd]

Rhio: A Rhio Good Thing (2018, Beso): Standards singer, also does four songs by "long-time partner" and producer Leigh Crizoe. Standards start with "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl," pass through Phil Ochs and Jobim, and end with "Hoy Quiero Aprender." Probably just my mood, but I found "God Bless the Child" especially touching -- not an emotion her voice suggests. B+(*) [cd]

Roller Trio: New Devices (2018, Edition): British jazz-rock trio from Leeds: James Mainwaring (sex), Chris Sharkey (guitar/bass, replacing Luke Wynter), Luke Reddin-Williams (drums). B+(*)

Royce Da 5'9: The Book of Ryan (2018, EOne): Detroit rapper, Ryan Montgomery, formed a duo with Eminem in 1998 called Bad Meets Evil, briefly joined D12, then went solo in 2002 (regrouping as Bad Meets Evil for a 2012 EP). Recorded two more duo albums as PRhyme, returning here for his seventh solo. Some good politics. "Caterpillar Remix" (with Eminem and Logic) is a blast. B+(*)

Dori Rubbicco: Stage Door Live! (2017 [2018], Whaling City Sound): Standards singer, cover says "backed by the John Harrison Quintet," meaning pianist John Harrison III, and not quite all of the six musicians listed. Standards lean towards '70s rock, which works much better on something like "Twisted" (which they can swing) than "Imagine" (which they can't). B+(**) [cd]

Saba: Care for Me (2018, Saba Pivot): Chicago rapper Tahj Malik Chandler, second album after some mixtapes, worked with Chance the Rapper (who appears here). Might be onto something, but listening conditions make it hard to sort out. B+(***) [sp]

The Jamie Saft Quartet: Blue Dream (2017 [2018], RareNoise): Pianist, got an early start on organ and keyboards so his emergence as a conventional pianist has been a revelation. Quartet is fairly mainstream with Bill McHenry (tenor sax), Bradley Christopher Jones (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), leaning to ballads, but not that simple. Three covers, including a whiff of "Sweet Lorraine." A- [cdr]

Rafal Sarnecki: Climbing Trees (2017 [2018], Outside In Music): Polish guitarist, based in New York, has at least one previous album. Music, with Lucas Pino on tenor sax/bass clarinet and Glenn Zaleski on piano, has a whimsical quality, but I don't care for the scat vocals (Bogna Kicinska). B

Ty Segall: Freedom's Goblin (2018, Drag City): Garage rocker from Laguna Beach, CA, tenth album since 2007. Revealed a T-Rex fetish on an EP mid-way, and I'm hearing echoes all over this record. Not as catchy, nor as cutesy, which matters less on the rare track when Segall cranks up the noise. Overkill at 19 tracks, 74:48. B

Ty Segall & White Fence: Joy (2018, Drag City): The latter's Blogspot is titled "White Fence/Art Collective." Discogs lists ten albums since 2010, including two with Segall. I don't know what they sound like on their own, but their first album was on Make a Mess Records, before they moved on to Woodsist, Castle Face, and Drag City. Here they stoke Segall's T-Rex fetish, making it less pop and more cleverly underground, generally a plus. B+(*)

Shame: Songs of Praise (2018, Dead Oceans): British post-punk band, debut album. Have some rage issues and not a lot of range, but can construct a satisfying song; e.g., "Friction." B

Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder: The World of Dew (2018, Human Resource): Trumpet and guitar duo, Shragge playing something he calls the Dragon Mouth Trumpet, as well as flugelhorn and shakuhachi. Melodies are inspired by various zen poets, also Charles Bukowski. B+(*) [cd]

Sibarg Ensemble: Cipher (2016 [2018], self-released): Based in California, led by Iranian vocalist Hesam Abedini, with a mix of Iranians and American jazz musicians (bassist Kyle Motl is the one I recognize), lyrics from classic poems including Rumi and Omar Khayyam. B+(**) [cd]

Marc Sinan/Oguz Büyükberber: White (2016 [2018], ECM): German guitarist, mother "Turkish-Armenian," has several previos albums, two previous credits on ECM, in a duo with the Turkish clarinetist (also electronics), with several pieces including 1916 field recordings made in German detention camps of Armenian prisoners of war. B

Skee Mask: Compro (2018, Ilian Tape): Munich DJ Bryan Müller, second album, attractive breakbeats with the occasional splash of ambient. Nothing spectacular, but quite attractive. B+(***)

Sloan: 12 (2018, Yep Roc): Alt-rock band originally from Halifax c. 1992, since relocated to Toronto, add pop hooks to their guitar jangle, impressing some friends back in the 1990s but always sounding rather generic to me. Still going, title probably signifies their 12th studio album, only the second I've checked since 1993. Perked my ears a bit mid-way, but lost my interest toward the end. B

Snail Mail: Lush (2018, Matador): Singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan, first album, young (19), takes her guitar seriously. Band adds bass and drums, and producer Jake Aron through in some unobtrusive bells and whistles. B+(*)

SOB X RBE: Gangin (2018, Empire): Acronym for Strictly Only Brothers x Real Boi Entertainment. From Vallejo, CA, four members: DaBoii, Yhung T.O., Slimmy B, and Lul G. Group had a turn on Black Panther. Wouldn't call this gangsta, but it's pretty ghetto. Would like it better if it weren't so, uh, parochial. B

Sophie: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (2018, MSMSMSM/Future Classic): Singer-songwriter, electronica producer, DJ. First proper album, after a 2015 compilation of singles and odd bits that attracted a following but mostly just confused me. (Among other things, I took Sophie to be an alias for Samuel Long. Now I see that her name is Sophie Xeon, from Scotland, although that still looks a little suspicious.) Broken beats, smashed up shrouds of sonic fuzz. Best song contrasts "Whole New World" with "Pretend World," and I'm as confused as ever. B+(***)

Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: After Caroline (2017 [2018], Northern Spy): Bass clarinetist, based in Chicago, has a couple albums under this group name, a trio with Jason Roebke (bass) and Mike Pride (drums). Stein struck me as awkward and tentative when he first appeared, but he's turning into a powerhouse. A- [bc]

Sunflower Bean: Twentytwo in Blue (2018, Mom + Pop): Alt/indie trio from Long Island, two lead singers -- Julia Cumming (bass) and Nick Kivlen (guitar) -- and a drummer. "Musical Influences" section on their Wikipedia page is an amusing mish-mash, but Tame Impala is the one they named a song for. B+(*)

The Thing: Again (2017 [2018], Trost): I usually take promo copies that look like this as actual releases -- many releases these days are done up with minimal packaging -- but I see from Discogs that my copy is a promo: back cover is different, and I didn't get the Brian Morton liner notes. Three tracks, timed for vinyl (39:06). Group cut their eponymous debut in 2000 (one of their best), the little known (back then) rhythm section now stars in their own right (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love), with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson bringing the noise. There are limits to how much thrash and squeal I can stand in free jazz, and he can easily cross that line, but he generally doesn't here -- even with Joe McPhee helping on the middle track. Still not easy listening, but easier here to appreciate their talent. A- [cdr]

Toronto Jazz Orchestra: 20 (2017 [2018], self-released): Big band, founded in 1998 to play repertory, including works by Stan Kenton, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, and Bob Brookmeyer. Josh Grossman directs, and for their 20th anniversary wrote most of the material -- plus a cover of Brad Mehldau's arrangement of "Dear Prudence." B+(*) [cd]

Turnstile: Time & Space (2018, Roadrunner): Hard rock group from Baltimore, tight enough some regard them as punk, with only three songs approaching 3 minutes (total 13: 25:15) but the howl is closer to metal, and I'd guess they know their math, but don't want to show off.. B+(*)

Underworld & Iggy Pop: Teatime Dub Encounters (2018, Caroline, EP): English EDM duo, started in Cardiff in 1980, sound eternally vital, at least on the opener. Pop toasts along, a role he was born to play, again best on the opener. Three songs top 7 minutes, total for all four 27:28. B+(**)

Verve Jazz Ensemble: Connect the Dots (2018, Lightgroove Media): New York group, postbop I guess (although not by much), handful of albums, organized here in various configurations from trio to septet, with drummer Josh Feldstein the leader, Steve Einerson on piano, Elias Bailey on bass, and Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet) and Jon Blanck (tenor sax) the principal horns. Sounds like most people expect jazz to sound like. B [cd]

Kobie Watkins Grouptet: Movement (2017 [2018], Origin): Drummer, from Chicago, father played drums in church, has a previous album, side credits mostly with Bobby Broom. Basic hard bop quintet, with tenor/soprano sax (Jonathan Armstrong), trumpet (Ryan Nielsen), piano/Fender Rhodes, and bass. Watkins originals, plus one by Nielsen, and closes with a swinging cover of "Manteca." B+(**) [cd]

The Weeknd: My Dear Melancholy (2018, XO/Republic, EP): R&B singer from Toronto, Abel Tesfaye, one of the first artists to build his career on free mixtapes, since going on to release three studio albums and this mini (6 tracks, 21:50). Has his sound down so tight it's gotten to be difficult to discern any difference in his songs (or albums). B+(*)

Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, UMGRI/Interscope, EP): Rapper from Philadelphia, formerly known as Dizzle Dizz, debut consists of 15 songs, each exactly 1:00 long, most cryptic, some funny. Easiest to find with a video, which fills each minute with wonder and awe. B+(***)

Dr. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag (2018, Basin Street): New Orleans trad clarinet player, fifteen or so albums since 1983, this one marking the 300th anniversary of his home town's founding. Classic songs, some vocals (trumpet player Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown), lots of brass (from cornet to sousaphone) and banjo, Steve Pistorius on piano. B+(**)

Buster Williams: Audacity (2017 [2018], Smoke Sessions): Bassist, from Camden [NJ], father was a jazz musician, got his start as a teenager playing with Jimmy Heath, then Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt. Cut his first album in 1975, with fifteen more since, plus hundreds of side credits. Sax-piano quartet, six original pieces plus one each from his band: Steve Wilson (sax), George Colligan (piano), and Lenny White (drums). B+(*)

Kamaal Williams: The Return (2018, Black Focus): Keys, based in Loncon, first solo album after his Yussef Kamaal duo with Yussef Dayes and a pile of singles/EPs as Henry Wu. Jazz-funk trio, with Pete Martin on bass and Joshua McKenzie (MckNasty) on drums. B+(**)

Florian Wittenburg: Four Waves (2018, NurNichtNur): German composer, works with electronics but also credited here with organ and vibraphone, employs a bit of help this time. Oriented a bit more toward jazz than avant-classical or ambient, but with a good deal of overlap. B+(***) [cd]

Wye Oak: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs (2018, Merge): Alt/indie duo from Maryland, named after the state tree, with a half-dozen albums since 2007: Jenn Wasner (vocals) and Andy Stack (drums), both also credited with guitar, bass, and keyboards, plus they've added a regular bassist for the road. Nice pop vibe. B+(*)

Years & Years: Palo Santo (2018, Polydor): British synthpop band, second album. Beats danceable, vocal harmonies soft. As for content: "The album and its imagery will continue the concept of a genderless dystopian society populated by androids known as Palo Santo." So maybe their soullessness is just artifact? B

YoshimiO/Susie Ibarra/Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe: Flower of Sulphur (2018, Thrill Jockey): First two are drummers, the former also known as Yakota Yoshimi. Lowe, whose aliases range from Rob Lowe to Lichens, adds electronics and voice, shadings that can color or distract from the drums. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Don Cherry: Home Boy (Sister Out) (1985 [2018], Wewantsounds): Trumpet player, made his mark in Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet, later in their three-quarter reunion Old and New Dreams. In between, he enjoyed a remarkable career, mostly in Europe, mixing avant-jazz and world music, expanding everyone's mind. This was cut in Paris in 1985, a mixed bag of funk beats, reggae, African percussion, spoken word, a soul ballad (sung by Cherry), sea shells, some proto-industrial disco. Can't say it all works, but gives you a taste of the breadth of an extraordinary love for the world. B+(***) [bc]

Erroll Garner: Nightconcert (1964 [2018], Mack Avenue): Piano trio with Eddie Calhoun (bass) and Kelly Martin (drums), a previosly unreleased midnight set at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Sparkling standards served with the pianist's usual flourishes. Fine sound. Piano jazz fans will be thrilled. A-

Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975 (1973-77 [2018], Elemental Music): From the tenor saxophonist's exile years in Denmark, four previously unreleased tracks from his first-ever tour of Japan, with Kenny Drew (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums); sly vocal on "Jelly, Jelly, Jelly" presumably Gordon. CD adds one earlier and one later track with slightly different personnel, both superb. B+(***)

Millie Jackson: Exposed: The Multi-Track Sessions Mixed by Steve Levine (1972-79 [2018], Ace): Levine's a British producer, active since 1975, his most famous act Culture Club. Jackson's an r&b singer with some good albums and minor hits in the 1970s, best known risqué (cf. Live and Uncensored). Her heyday coincided with disco, so her music was danceable, but never as slick as strings Levine's remixes enmesh her in. Still, sometimes she breaks free. B

Woody Shaw: Tokyo '81 (1981-85 [2018], Elemental Music): Six tracks from the trumpeter's Tokyo gig, with Steve Turre (trombone), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Tony Reedus (drums), capped by a 14:48 "Sweet Love of Mine" credited to Paris Reunion Band (an octet with Shaw and Dizzy Reece on trumpet, Slide Hampton on trombone, Johnny Griffin and Nathan Davis on sax), recorded in Den Haag in 1985. B+(**)

Old Music

Ahmed Abdullah Quartet: Liquid Song (1987, Silkheart): Trumpet player, born Leroy Bland, played in New York's loft scene in the 1970s, joined Sun Ra in 1976. Not a lot under his own name, but I've filed two A-listed group albums there (Melodic Art-Tet and the Group's Live), as well as his own Tara's Song. With Charles Brackeen (tenor sax), Malachi Favors (bass), and Alvin Fielder (drums). Follows and adds something to the his mentor's avant-swing vision. A-

Ahmed Abdullah: Ahmed Abdullah and the Solomonic Quintet Featuring Charles Moffett (1987 [1988], Silkheart): Not sure why drummer gets the featuring credit, other than that he wrote two of eight pieces (Abdullah penned the rest). Quintet is rounded out with David S. Ware (tenor sax/stritch), Masuhjaa (guitar), and Fred Hopkins (bass). (Masujaa, aka Hugh Riley, also has side-credits with Ronald Shannon Jackson and Henry Threadgill from 1987-2004.) B+(***)

Bob Ackerman Trio: Old & New Magic (1993, Silkheart): Saxophonist, credit plural (also clarinet and flutes), not a lot under his own name but has recorded with Dennis Gonzalez and Pam Purvis and popped up recently (well, 2012) in the Essex Improviser's Collective. A serious student of the instrument -- even owns his own saxophone shop -- with several titles referring to Coltrane, Hodges, Carter, and Bartok. Backed by Wilber Morris on bass and Dennis Charles on drums. B+(***)

Gene Ammons & Dexter Gordon: The Chase! (1970 [1996], Prestige): Title track is Gordon's famous bebop romp with Wardell Gray, one of the most legendary sax duos in jazz history. Meanwhile, Ammons made a specialty out of sax jousts, mostly with Sonny Stitt, so this seems like a natural pairing. Not all fast stuff, which given that Ammons is an all-time great ballad artist (and Gordon isn't too shabby) is jake. Even the original 4-track LP was split between two run-of-the-mill rhythm sections. Bonus cuts, pushing the CD to 70:49, include a Vi Redd vocal on a Billy Eckkstine song. A-

Binker and Moses: Dem Ones (2014 [2015], Gearbox): British improv duo, Binker Golding (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums), just the two of them with no overdubs. Good basic combination, nice intro without the added complication of guests. B+(***) [bc]

Binker and Moses: Journey to the Mountain of Forever (2016 [2017], Gearbox, 2CD): First disc recapitulates their first album, with more interesting tenor sax/drums duets. Second disc anticipates their third by adding a mixed bag of guests: Byron Wallen (trumpet), Tori Handsley (harp), Sarathy Korwar (tabla), Yussef Dayes (drums), and Evan Parker (tenor/soprano sax), but not yet to such dramatic effect. B+(**) [bc]

Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Denis Charles Trio: The Last Concert: Dankeschön (1998 [2000], Silkheart): Saxophone trio, with bass and drums. Trio recorded several albums in 1997-98 before Charles died, a couple weeks after this set. (Morris died in 2002.) While Borgmann is a very solid improviser, this especially serves as a reminder of the unsung skills of the ill-fated rhythm section. B+(***)

Charles Brackeen: Bannar (1987, Silkheart): Avant saxophonist, tenor but leads off with soprano here, from Oklahoma, fairly short discography with a 1968 debut, three more as a leader in 1987, a few side credits from 1973 (Don Cherry) through 1989 (Dennis González, who plays trumpet here). Quartet with Malachi Favors (bass) and Alvin Fielder (drums). One vocal, extolling love for Allah. B+(*)

Roy Campbell Pyramid: Communion (1994, Silkheart): Avant-trumpet player, from Los Angeles, a leader of Other Dimensions in Music and the Nu Band until his death in 2014, recorded three albums with his Pyramid Trio -- this is the first -- with William Parker on bass and various drummers (Reggie Nicholson here). B+(**)

Roy Campbell Pyramid Trio: Ethnic Stew and Brew (2000 [2001], Delmark): Third album, third drummer, with Hamid Drake (replacing Zen Matsuura of Ancestral Homeland). The world focus extends to "Impressions of Yokohama," where William Parker plays shakuhachi, but also ranges from the ancient "Imhotep" to the breaking news of "Amadou Diallo" (you know, shot 47 times by New York police, an event repeated many times since, but still unmatched for savagery). A-

Daniel Carter/William Parker/Roy S. Campbell Jr./Rashid Bakr: Other Dimensions in Music (1989 [1995], Silkheart): Pretty clearly intended as a group from the start, and should be credited as such for four later albums up to 2011 (Campbell died in 2014), but the names are spread out across the top of the cover: sax (alto and tenor, also flute and trumpet), bass, trumpet (flugelhorn, recorder), drums. Four long pieces (15:27-22:58), exploring without discovering much. B+(*)

Andrew Cyrille: What About? (1969 [1992], Affinity): Drummer, from Brooklyn, family Haitian, joined Cecil Taylor Unit in 1964, developing into one of the avant-garde's most remarkable drummers. First album, originally released in BYG's Actuel series in France. Five pieces, solo percussion, of marginal interest, nonetheless remarkable. B+(*)

Andrew Cyrille & Maono: Metamusicians' Stomp (1978, Black Saint): Quartet with two horns -- Ted Daniel on trumpet and David S. Ware on tenor sax -- plus Nick DiGeronimo on bass. Ware seems rather restrained here, but within those limits sounds uniquely like himself. B+(***)

Andrew Cyrille: Special People (1980 [1981], Soul Note): Same quartet, although the bassist's name is given as Nick De Geronimo here (DiGeronimo seems to be correct, although I can't find either name elsewhere). The bassist is actually pretty active here, although the horns (especially Ware) get the glory. B+(***)

Andrew Cyrille-Richard Teitelbaum Duo: Double Clutch (1981 [1997], Silkheart): Teitelbaum plays keyboards and electronics, not much under his own name, but he's played in drummer Cyrille's group, also with Anthony Braxton. With neither a proper leader, they takes a while to find themselves. B+(*)

Andrew Cyrille Quintet: Ode to the Living Tree (1994 [1995], Venus): Recorded in Senegal with an all-star group: David Murray (tenor sax/bass clarint), Oliver Lake (alto sax), Adegoke Steve Colson (electric piano), Fred Hopkins (bass). Two Cyrille pieces, one each by Murray and Colson, plus a 19:12 slice from "A Love Supreme." Loud, raucous even, still feels cluttered and slipshod. B-

Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: South Side Street Songs (1993, Silkheart): Chicago saxophonist (alto, tenor, flute) improvises joyous avant-street music, mostly quintet steeped in Sun Ra and AACM, with trumpet (Ameen Muhammad), guitar (Jeff Parker), bass (Yosef Ben Israel), and drums (Avreeayl Ra) -- album cover drops one of the latter while adding trombonist Steve Berry (one cut). B+(***)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ancestral Song: Live From Stockholm (1987 [1988], Silkheart): Chicago drummer Kahil El'Zabar's long-running project, first heard on 1981's Three Gentlemen From Chikago (saxophonists Henry Huff and Edward Wilkerson were the other two), most recently in 2014 celebrating their 40th anniversary. Trombonist Joseph Bowie replaces Huff here -- like Wilkerson, also adding to the percussion. The live mix has the loose informality that has always been the group's signature. B+(***)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ka-Real (1997 [2000], Silkheart): Up to a quartet here, with Atu Harold Murray an extra percussionist (earth drums, talking drum, flute), and Ernest Dawkins taking over Wilkerson's sax slot. Of course, Dawkins and trombonist Joseph Bowie also contribute to the percussion. B+(**)

Joel Futterman Quartet: Vision in Time (1988 [1990], Silkheart): Pianist, originally from Chicago but moved to Virginia Beach in 1972, retaining his avant inclination, maintaing ties with AACM pioneers like Joseph Jarman (tenor sax/bass clarinet) here. CD drops down to piano trio for a couple of bonus cuts. The latter are interesting enough, but blot out my impressions of Jarman, who should be key here. B+(**)

Joel Futterman Trio: Berlin Images (1991, Silkheart): Unconventional piano trio, with Raphé Malik on trumpet and Robert Adkins on drums. The piano still dominates, taking pounding solos and breaks between jousts. B+(***)

The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Quintet: Nickelsdorf Konfrontation (1995 [1996], Silkheart): Recorded live in Austria, with Futterman's trio (Jordan on tenor sax and Alvin Fielder on drums) augmented by Mats Gustafsson (tenor/baritone sax) and Barry Guy (bass). [Napster edition abridged.] B+(*)

The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Trio With Alvin Fielder: Southern Extreme (1997 [1998], Drimala): Piano-sax-drums trio, Futterman originally from Chicago but long resident in Virginia; the others from Louisiana and Mississippi, but the drummer also has a Chicago connection (played with Sun Ra in the 1950s and was an early AACM member). Seems to be Jordan's debut, although he's the same age as Fielder and 11 years older than Futterman, who recorded his first back in 1979. Given that most centers of jazz in the US Southeast tend to mainstream or even retro, this is extreme indeed. B+(**)

Joel Futterman and Ike Levin: Live in Chicago (2007 [2017], Charles Lester Music): Futterman's model as a pianist is no doubt Cecil Taylor -- a connection made even more obvious when he recorded a series (1984-91) of albums with Jimmy Lyons. He got similar results with all the others -- Hal Russell, Kidd Jordan, Raphé Malik (trumpet), and again here with Levin, a tenor saxophonist from Chicago who replaced Jordan in 2004. Here they drop down to a duo for a live set, two pieces: "Rhizome" (51:26) and "Renewal" (9:03). Nice that they can slow it down for an occasional respite, and that it's lovely when they do. B+(***)

Charles Gayle Trio: Spirits Before (1988 [1989], Silkheart): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Buffalo, moved to New York City in the 1970s, spending many years there homeless, playing on the streets. Cut his first albums for this Swedish label -- three in one week, including this trio with Sirone on bass and Dave Pleasant on drums -- then finally got some attention in 1991 with Touchin' on Trane (FMP), a Penguin Guide crown album. Sounds pretty typical of his 1990s work, but no one could have known that at the time. Rather, one heard echoes of Ayler's holy ghost, with newfound urgency. B+(***)

Charles Gayle Trio: Homeless (1988 [1989], Silkheart): Same trio, recorded the same two days as Spirits Before, the CD fleshed out with two extra tracks beyond the LP's four -- originals except for "Life Every Voice" (although it's not much more recognizable). aB+(**)

Charles Gayle Quartet: Vol. 1: Translations (1993 [1994], Silkheart): With two bassists -- William Parker (also cello and half-size violin) and Vattel Cherry (also kalimba and bells) -- and drums (Michael Wimbley), with Gayle credited with bass clarinet and viola in addition to tenor sax. I'm not sure when Gayle developed his signature interest in scratchy strings, but it's the dominant motif here. While his sax struggles mightly against that backdrop, it rarely breaks out. B+(*)

Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet: Namesake (1987, Silkheart): Avant trumpet player from Dallas, second album after his superb debut Stefan, a little messier but packed with power -- a second trumpet (Ahmed Abdullah), two saxes (Charles Brackeen and Douglas Ewart, also on clarinet and flute), with Malachi Favors (bass) and Alvin Fielder (drums). B+(**)

Dennis Gonzalez New Dallasangeles: The Desert Wind (1989, Silkheart): Septet, presumably with some musicians from Los Angeles although the recorded this in Dallas. Trumpet, trombone, two saxes (Charles Brackeen and Michael Session), cello, bass, and drums (Alvin Fielder, who composed one piece). Seems torn between fancy and free, not all that satisfactory either way. B+(*)

Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray: Citizens Bop (1946-52 [1994], Black Lion): Two tenor saxophonists, early boppers, played together often in the late 1950s -- most famously on "The Chase" and "The Steeplechase" (the name later taken by the Danish label that welcomed Gordon in 1964), but it looks like the duo are only together on the 1952 session here (7 tracks), with Gray alone on four tracks from 1946 and one from 1947. These sessions were first released in 1966 by Fontana as The Master Swingers!, and indeed they swing more than bop. B+(**)

Dexter Gordon: Dexter Blows Hot and Cool (1955 [2010], Essential Jazz Classics): Originally a 9-track album for Dootone -- along with Daddy Plays the Horn (also 1955), Gordon's only albums between 1953-1960 -- picked up five bonus tracks from two months earlier, with different piano and drums but same bassist (Leroy Vinnegar). B+(***)

Dexter Gordon: The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (1960, Jazzland/OJC): After producing outstanding records for Savoy and Dial 1947-53, Gordon only released two 1955 albums until this Cannonball Adderley-produced comeback shot, launching his second prime period. (A third one can be mapped from his return to the US in 1976, although he recorded regularly while in Denmark, especially for the SteepleChase album named for him. Sextet, the rest of the band nothing special (best known are Dolo Coker on piano and Lawrence Marable on drums), but the saxophone is ummistakable. B+(**)

Dexter Gordon: Body and Soul (1967 [1988], Black Lion): Recorded live in Copenhagen with his usual quartet: Kenny Drew (piano), NHØP (bass), and Albert Heath (drums). Five covers, 9:31-13:25 stretches of four standards and Lou Donaldson's "Blues Walk." B+(**)

Dexter Gordon: The Tower of Power (1969 [1993], Prestige/OJC): Still in Copenhagen, but Back on an American label for the first of eight albums through 1973. Quartet with Barry Harris (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums), plus James Moody for the opening double sax chase. B+(**)

Dexter Gordon: More Power! (1969 [1994], Prestige/OJC): Same quartet, same session, and keeping with the "more" theme five cuts (instead of four), two (instead of one) with James Moody joining in. Seems like he can crank out records at this level whenever he gets the chance. B+(**)

Dexter Gordon: The Jumpin' Blues (1970 [1994], Prestige/OJC): New quartet, recorded in New York: Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Roy Brooks (drums). Leans heavily on bop standards and lights them up. B+(***)

Dexter Gordon: The Panther! (1970 [1992], Prestige/OJC): Another quartet -- not sure he ever enjoyed sharing the set with a trumpet -- and a relatively good one, with Tommy Flanagan (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), and Alan Dawson (drums). Includes a long "Body and Soul," and a relatively short "The Christmas Song" -- especially nice where corny was more likely. A-

Dexter Gordon: Ca' Purange (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): Spoke too early about Gordon eschewing trumpets, as he's joined here by Thad Jones (also on flugelhorn), with Hank Jones on piano, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums. Four pieces, just 31:25, with the saxophonist playing even less. B+(***)

Dexter Gordon: Generation (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): Formal attempt at a Hard bop quintet, the saxophonist joined by trumpet Freddie Hubbard), piano (Cedar Walton), bass (Buster Williams), and drums (Billy Higgins) -- impressive on paper, but nothing special. CD adds a second take of "Milestones." B+(*)

Dexter Gordon: Tangerine (1972 [1975], Prestige/OJC): Looks like leftovers, with three tracs from the Ca' Purnage quintet, plus one from the Generation quartet, appearing a couple years after Gordon left Prestige. B+(**)

Dexter Gordon Quartet: The Apartment (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): Ubiquitous Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen managed to break into this superb lineup of Americans in Copenhagen: the tenor saxophonist, Kenny Drew (piano), and Tootie Heath (drums). B+(***)

Dexter Gordon Quartet: Something Different (1975 [1980], SteepleChase): What's different is guitarist Philip Catherine instead of a piano player. NHØP is on bass, Billy Higgins drums. B+(***)

Dexter Gordon Quartet: Biting the Apple (1976 [1977], SteepleChase): Recorded in a New York studio about a month before his live Homecoming at the Village Vanguard. Backed by Barry Harris, Sam Jones, and Al Foster. B+(***)

Dexter Gordon: Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard (1976 [1977], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): I remember this as a big deal at the time, and even managed to wrangle a free ticket to one of the sets, but remember little other than the hulking presence of the saxophonist. Backed by Woddy Shaw (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums) -- some sources also credit Rene McLean (sax), but most don't. Starts in a good mood, working in one of his trademark quotations early. Shaw is in especially fine form, further inspiration for the conquering hero. A-

Grupo Mono Blanco: Soneros Jarochos: The Arhoolie Recordings 1989-1990 (1989-90 [2006], Arhoolie): Clearly dated, produced by Chris Strachwitz on a trip to Veracruz, with five musicians but only four on the cover, the only constant between here and the new(er) Smithsonian record the leader Gilberto Gutierrez Silva. The harp gives this a distinctly percussive sound, but sometimes it sounds like the microphone got left in the wrong room. B+(***)

Jim Hobbs Fully Celebrated Orchestra: Peace & Pig Grease (1993 [1994], Silkheart): Alto saxophonist from Indiana, possibly his first album -- although Babadita has a lower catalog number, and is attributed to the more generic Jim Hobbs Trio, even though this group is the same trio, with Timo Shanko (bass) and Django Carranza (drums). Touches on Ornette; 10:08 "Ice on Fire" really takes off. [PS: cover scan shows recorded January 19-20, 1993] A-

Jim Hobbs Trio: Babadita (1994, Silkheart): Alto sax trio, with Timo Shanko (bass) and Django Carranza (drums), same as his Fully Celebrated Orchestra group -- don't have a recording date, but seems likely this came earlier. Also don't have song credits, but "A Posse" is pure Ornette Coleman -- only one of several distinct impressions he makes. B+(***)

William Hooker/Billy Bang: Joy (Within)! (1994-95 [1996], Silkheart): Drums and violin (with Bang playing flute on the title tune), from two live sets at Knitting Factory, about a year apart. Seems marginal at first, until Bang finds his magic, and the drummer manages to keep up. B+(***)

'Kidd' Jordan Quartet: New Orleans Festival Suite (1999 [2002], Silkheart): Avant saxophonist from New Orleans, plays tenor, with Joel Futterman on piano (also soprano sax), William Parker (bass), and Alvin Fielder (drums). Jordan was a well-kept secret until Katrina, when he was evidently discovered among the wreckage -- he even managed to play cameos in Tremé (at one point, Wendell Pierce's trombonist blurts out, as Jordan and Donald Harrison enter, "here come the real jazz musicians"). Two half-hour pieces plus an 11:58 closer, nothing sweet to it, the sax caustic, the piano explosive. B+(***)

Steve Lacy Sextet: The Gleam (1986 [1987], Silkheart): One of the soprano saxophonist's favorite configurations, with at least six Sextet albums from 1974-92. Group includes Steve Potts (alto/soprano sax), Bobby Few (piano), Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass), Oliver Johnson (drums), and Irène Aebi (violin/vocals). I dislike Aebi's vocals so much I usually dock Lacy's albums one notch per song. Not so bad here, but much better when she lays out (or just plays violin). B+(*)

Steve Lacy: 5 x Monk 5 x Lacy (1994 [1997], Silkheart): Soprano saxophone, solo, five Monk songs, five originals, both sets deliberate and methodical. B+(**)

Jimmy Lyons/Andrew Cyrille: Something in Return (1981 [1988], Black Saint): Alto sax/drums duo, both played in Cecil Taylor's most legendary group, but hardly need any help or outside inspiration here. Warms up with a sly take on "Take the A Train," followed by two pieces each, winding up with a joint improv, the extraordinary 15:41 "Fragments I." A-

Jackie McLean Featuring Dexter Gordon: The Meeting (1973 [1990], SteepleChase): The first of two albums from two nights at Montmartre Jazzhus in Copenhagen, originally The Meeting Vol. 1 followed by The Source Vol. 2, with the volume numbers dropped on reissue, as more tracks were added. The saxophonists were backed by local residents Kenny Drew (piano), Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), and Alex Riel (drums), with Drew writing three (of five) pieces. McLean earns his top billing. B+(***)

Alexander von Schlippenbach: Globe Unity (1966 [1967], SABA): Album attributed to the pianist (his first), recorded a month after the Berliner Philharmonie concert that launched his famous free jazz ensemble. Cast of thirteen, including two drummers (Jackie Liebzeit, Mani Neumeier), two bassists (Peter Kowald, Buschi Niebergall), three brass (cornet, trumpet, tuba), five reeds (including Peter Brötzmann and Willem Breuker, plus Gunter Hampel on bass clarinet and flute) -- most very young at the time (Schlippenbach was 28). This could be taken as the founding document of the European avant-garde: might even lead to the conclusion that instead of evolving piecemeal, it erupted in a big bang. A-

A Tribe Called Quest: Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveller (1989-91 [2018], Jive/Legacy): Released in 1992, remixes of songs from their first two albums and/or period singles "If the Papes Come" was the flip of "Can I Kick It?"). Not sure whether the goosed up mixes increase the appeal or complicate a vibe that was too subtle for me to grasp back then. Either way, some first rate songs. B+(***)

Assif Tsahar Trio: Ein Sof (1997, Silkheart): Tenor saxophonist, born in Israel, moved to New York in 1990. Seems to be his second album (after Shekhina in 1996, on Eremite), a trio with William Parker (bass) and Susie Ibarra (drums). Terrific energy out of the gate, but does wear you down a bit. B+(***)

David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 1 (1990 [1991], Silkheart): Pictured on cover playing flute, which he does on 7/8 tracks, more than tenor sax (2), saxello (3), or stritch (1). His quartet, which first recorded in 1988, features Matthew Shipp (piano) and William Parker (bass), with Marc Edwards the drummer. Lots of potential here, at least on the tenor sax tracks, where Ware is a commanding presence, and Shipp's comp rumble is already unique. B+(**)

David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 2 (1990 [1994], Silkheart): Flute tracks down to two, vs. saxello (1), stritch (2), and tenor sax (3). B+(**)

David S. Ware Quartet: Oblations and Blessings (1995 [1996], Silkheart): Drummer -- the only position that changed over the Quartet's 15-year run -- now Whit Dickey, no doubt brought in by pianist Matthew Shipp, whose trios started with and still feature Dickey. Ware has settled on tenor sax. B+(***)

Revised Grades

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

A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990, Jive): Rechecked this after the remixes above, figuring I had almost certainly underrated it -- if only because I could still recall a number of songs (probably thanks to The Anthology, which came out in 1999 after they broke up). Of course, the remixes have a bit more punch, but the flow here shows they were really onto something, and it just took me way too long to appreciate what. (And no, not 28 years: I have their next three albums at A-, a slight drop for the 4th, and also highly recommend The Anthology and their 2016 reunion album. A-


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
  • [sp] available at

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30033 [30010] rated (+23), 344 [345] unrated (-1).

Week didn't start until Wednesday, after we got the air conditioning fixed, or probably later given how sleep-deprived I was by then. Returned to the Silkheart catalog, figuring that might be easiest, although by the end of the week, trying to move quickly through so much avant-squawk made it hard to distinguish. Generally speaking, the Sun Ra veterans came out on top, probably because they still swung some. The Ernest Dawkins record is probably the best of the B+(***), although they're all pretty good. And, of course, I strayed off-label for a few things that caught my eye. Unfortunately, Napster only had one cut from Dawkins' Jo'burg Blues, so that remains unreviewed.

New music, mostly picked from Napster's lamentably short "featured" lists, didn't yield much of interest, although I started playing the digital-only reissue of a 1992 collection of A Tribe Called Quest remixes before I knew what I was getting into. Most of the songs originated on their debut album, and I was surprised how many I recalled, especially given that at the time I only gave the album a B -- sure, probably from their 1999 best-of The Anthology. Seemed pretty likely that I had underrated their debut. I was tempted to quietly nudge the grade up to B+, but wound up re-checking the album, and decided A- would be more appropriate. Biggest caveat I had was their paean to veganism, but (on principle at least) that's not something I either credit or begrudge.

One background note is that I've been reading the questions sent into Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez, and one of the most common threads there is to ask about records he rated low at the time but has since come to regard more highly. I can think of a couple dozen for him, a few more for me, but realistically we only find such shifts (or errors) when there is some current reason to revisit. I'll also note that Christgau feels even less compulsion than I do to match his graded list to his current taste, partly because he's more disciplined at spending his listening time on paying projects, partly because he puts a higher value on the authority of his grades. On the other hand, I'm almost never certain of my grades, figuring they're never more than my latest impression, worth jotting down because I figure any small bit of information is better than none. At one point, I even thought about adding a parameter to the grades: a second number which would indicate an estimate of certainty. For instance, I might add [1] to indicate a single play, [2] for two, maybe even [∞] for the Pet Shop Boys' Very -- the last record I can remember playing at least once a day for more than three months. That might help, but it's just another wild ass guess, and would be a lot of extra hassle.

My big project last week was to update Robert Christgau's website to prepare for the release of his new book, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017, to be published October 26 by Duke University Press. One stipulation of the contract is that most of the previously published pieces be embargoed from the website for three months before and two years after publication date, so most of the work involved tucking those pieces away, so they'll reappear on the proper date. I did some further work sprucing up the book pages and the Xgau Sez feature, and started the task of converting old pages as I ran into them into proper validated HTML5. The latter wasn't terribly hard, but frustrating in two respects: one had to do with warnings about nesting CSS styles inside tables, which I temporarily fixed by moving the CSS but a better fix would be to get rid of the tables used for page layout; the other was that in most cases I was left with one or two warnings about a squib of non-conforming javascript code I picked up from Twitter. I decided to let that go, but at some point would like to rewrite the code myself, without the warning (and probably a lot of other shit). Sure, you'd think that a state-of-the-art outfit like Twitter could write valid code, but then I accidentally ran a simple Google search result page through the validator, and results there were shocking indeed: 36 errors, 315 warnings.

Turns out that despite my best efforts some of the book pieces weren't even on the website. I did find two in a "nyet" directory that I had forgotten about, and the Chuck Berry obit over on Billboard's website. Not sure offhand what else is missing, but I couldn't find mention of "Sticking It in Their Ear: Bob Dylan" anywhere on the web.

I also managed to add this year's Expert Witness posts to the monthly CG columns (although some are time-locked). They're not in the CG database yet. I still have technical problems reconciling the changed database access code and, until I figure out the UTF-8 requirement I'm reluctant to make an database changes. I'll make another push on this once the dust settles. Thus far I've gotten zero feedback on the update, so I guess that means that I didn't screw it up too bad.

One more project milestone last week: I've been collecting the political posts from my notebook/blog, starting from 2001, initially under the title The Last Days of the American Empire. Sheer verbiage made me split this project into two volumes, one for the Bush era (2001-08), a second from 2009 on (or maybe just for Obama, as Trump is already getting out of hand, and has a different feel. I made it through 2008 a while back, but decided to make a second pass and stick things into a separate personal file, which I call Notes on Everyday Life: family and friends, cooking, house work, computers and blog maintenance, notes on movies and TV, some bits on music (but not the stuff already collected in the jazz guides). I had initially put some of that stuff (mostly movies) into a 2001-09 volume appendix. The 2001-08 tome wound up at 1590 pages (766k words), while Notes has 316 pages (130k words).

I doubt the latter has any but personal interest, although I could refer to it if I ever get around to writing that memoir, and I'm happy to have it better organized. I'd like to think my political writings might have some more general appeal. The most straightforward thing would be to keep the chronicle organization, trim lots of fluff and redundancy, flesh out the framework with historical notes and asides, and add some post-facto commentary. One thing I'm struck by is much of Trump's agenda was introduced by Bush, in many cases implemented much more efficiently. Had Trump not been elected, we should be closing the door on the Bush years -- something Obama should have worked much more dilligently at doing -- but with Trump it's all the more urgent.

I've also kicked around three other book ideas that could pick up words from this journal. One is a dictionary of terms and concepts -- I started working on such a thing a long time ago, and it will take some digging to see if I can find what I actually did. A second is a collection of slightly longer essays on various topics, especially those related to free software and related concepts. My working title here is borrowed from an old Paul Goodman book: Utopian Essays & Practical Proposals. A third possible carve out would be material on Israel-Palestine. I wrote a lot more about that than would make sense for a US-oriented political chronicle. I came up with an outline for such a book a while back, and tried pitching it to a friend to co-write. She didn't bite, but if enough good material already exists, it might be worth reconsidering. (And, of course, the second volume will add to this base. Whereas Bush-Obama-Trump make for clearly differentiated epochs, Sharon-Olmert-Netanyahu is a single piece.

I've started moving on to 2009. Did a lot of work on the house in January, while Israel was smashing up Gaza, and Bush and Obama were keeping their heads down.

One last note: Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko has just died, age 76. He played with Krzysztof Komeda in the 1960s, gravitated to free jazz. He somehow managed to straddle the Iron Curtain, playing in Western Europe in groups like Globe Unity while maintaining his ties to Poland. He recorded primarily for ECM from 1994 on, with Leosia and Litania early masterpieces -- you can find my grade list here. Poland continues to be an exceptionally strong and vibrant jazz venue, with dozens of superb musicians emerging in the last decade or two. Stanko was their pioneering giant.

PS: Will try to get Streamnotes out tomorrow (last day of July).

New records rated this week:

  • Barker Trio: Avert Your I (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Florence + the Machine: High as Hope (2018, Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gorillaz: The Now Now (2018, Parlophone): [r]: B-
  • The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Houston Person & Ron Carter: Remember Love (2018, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Ithra (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Jasper Stadhouders/Frank Rosaly: Icoci (2017 [2018], Aerophponic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ty Segall & White Fence: Joy (2018, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • A Tribe Called Quest: Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveller (1989-91 [2018], Jive/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ahmed Abdullah Quartet: Liquid Song (1987, Silkheart): [r]: A-
  • Ahmed Abdullah: Ahmed Abdullah and the Solomonic Quintet Featuring Charles Moffett (1987 [1988], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bob Ackerman Trio: Old & New Magic (1993, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Dennis Charles Trio: The Last Concert: Dankeschön (1998 [2000], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Roy Campbell Pyramid: Communion (1994, Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roy Campbell Pyramid Trio: Ethnic Stew and Brew (2000 [2001], Delmark): [r]: A-
  • Daniel Carter/William Parker/Roy Campbell Jr./Rashid Bakr: Other Dimensions in Music (1989 [1990], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: South Side Street Songs (1993, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Joel Futterman Quartet: Vision in Time (1988 [1990], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Futterman Trio: Berlin Images (1991, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Quintet: Nickelsdorf Konfrontation (1995 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Trio With Alvin Fielder: Southern Exterme (1997 [1998], Drimala): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Futterman and Ike Levin: Live in Chicago (2007 [2017], Charles Lester Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • 'Kidd' Jordan Quartet: New Orleans Festival Suite (1999 [2002], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990, Jive): [r]: was B, now A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Aguankó: Pattern Recognition (Aguankó)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) (Pi): August 30
  • Mahobin: Live at Big Apple in Kobe (Libra)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I've been wanting to write something about the liberal hawk rants over Trump's summits with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, his snubs of "traditional allies" like the EU, his denigration of NATO, and other acts (or just tweets) crossing the line of politically correct dogma, in some cases even eliciting the word "treason" (the one word I'd most like to vanish from the language). Still, as I ran out of time, I decided to do a quickie Weekend Roundup instead, then found myself sucked into that very same rabbit hole.

I don't know why it's so hard to explain this. (Well, I do know that everywhere I turn I run into new examples of well-meaning idiocy -- the Stephen Cohen piece below has a bunch of examples. A couple more, by Michael H Fuchs and Simon Tisdall, just showed up in the Guardian. There's that piece by Jessica Matthews on "His Korean 'Deal'" over at NYRB. The Yglesias pieces I do cite below are nowhere near the worst.) After all, a key point was written up by the late Chalmers Johnson nearly years ago and recently republished at TomDispatch as Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire.

Another key point is the cardinal rule of democracy: trust your own people to mind their own business, and trust others to mind theirs. It used to be that many Americans (including most Democrats) believed that disputes and conflicts were best handled through international law and institutions, but that notion doesn't even seem to be conceivable any more.

The fact that I missed writing up a Weekend Roundup last week no doubt adds to the eclectic and arbitrary mix below. It's been real hard to sort out what's important., especially when everywhere you look turns up new heaps of horror.

But I also neglected the one bright spot I'm aware of from the last two weeks: we had a rally here in Wichita where Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders spoke and some 4,000 people showed up. This was an event for James Thompson's campaign for Congress (the seat previously held by Mike Pompeo and, before that, Todd Tiahrt). Thompson ran for the vacant seat after Trump nominated Pompeo to run the CIA, losing by a 6% margin a district that Trump won by 28% despite getting zero outside support from the national or state Democratic Parties. Thompson vowed to keep running, and we're hopeful.

Kansas has a primary on Tuesday. Thompson has an opponent, who may have gotten a lucky break with a newspaper article today that claims the only issue separating the candidates is guns: Thompson, a former Army vet, is regarded as more "pro gun" -- not that he has a chance in hell of wrangling an NRA endorsement. Actually, I suspect there's a lot more at stake: Thompson has established himself as a dedicated civil rights attorney, while his opponent worked as a corporate lobbyist.

The Democratic gubernatorial race is a mixed bag, where all of the candidates have blemishes, but any would be better than any of the Republicans (or rich "independent" Greg Orman). Jim Barnett got the Wichita Eagle endorsement for Republican governor, but the actual race seems to be a toss-up between Jeff Colyer (former Lt. Governor who took over when Sam Brownback returned to Washington, and a virtual Brownback clone) and Kris Kobach (current Secretary of State, freelance author of unconstitutional laws, and a big Trump booster). Polls seem to be split, with a vast number of undecideds. Kobach would turn Kansas (even more) into a national laughing stock, which doesn't mean he can't win. Orman came very close to beating Sen. Pat Roberts four years ago, after the Democrat ducked out of the race, but I don't see that happening this time, making him a mere spoiler.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: He seems to have given up on his "week explained" articles, but still writes often and broadly enough his posts are still useful for surveying the week in politics. Most recent first:

    • Closing ads from the Georgia gubernatorial nominees perfectly illustrate the state of the parties: "Stacey Abrams talks about issues; Brian Kemp says he's not politically correct."

      Abrams's ad is called "Trusted" while Kemp's is called "Offends," and they only diverge further from there. Abrams talks about issues, and she talks optimistically about making people's lives better in a concrete way. Kemp, typically for a 2018 Republican, talks exclusively about diffuse threats to the white Christian cultural order.

      Abrams says she has "a boundless belief in Georgia's future," and talks about Medicaid expansion, middle-class taxes, and mass transit.

      Kemp describes himself as "a politically incorrect conservative" and literally does not mention any policy issues. Instead, he says that he says "Merry Christmas" and "God bless you," stands for the national anthem, and supports our troops, and that if that offends you, then you shouldn't vote for him.

    • Trump's enduring political strength with white women, explained: "There are huge divides by age and education."

    • Republicans now like the FBI less than they like the EPA: "Meanwhile, most Americans have an unfavorable view of ICE." On the other hand, that 83-84% of Democrats "have confidence" in CIA and FBI shows them to be pretty gullible.

    • Donald rump is actually a very unpopular president.

    • Swing voters are extremely real: A lot of polling data here. A couple things I'm struck by: that a relatively significant number of voters saw Trump as moderate or even liberal; and that even on extremely polarized issues (like abortion) both parties have large minorities that still vote for their chosen party.

    • Trump says he's "not thrilled" by Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

    • Trump's latest interview on Russia shows the profound crisis facing America: This piece winds up wobbling as severely as Trump does in the interview at its heart. So while this much is true:

      Trump was evasive and ignorant, relentlessly dishonest, and at turns belligerent and weirdly passive -- all in an interview that lasted less than eight minutes. It's clear that he is either covering up some kind of profound wrongdoing or else simply in way over his head and incapable of managing the country's affairs. . . . Trump and Putin sat in a room together for a long time. They presumably talked about something. No staffers were there, so it wasn't that Trump was zoning out while the real dialogue happened at the staff level. . . . And then there is Trump's relentless fishiness on the subject of Russia and hacking. . . . Trump, of course, had nothing of substance to say about this but returned to a longtime theme of his tweets -- that the investigation is a "witch hunt" and that its very existence harms the country -- that completely undermines the pose that he thinks it's bad for Russian state-sponsored hackers to commit crimes against Americans. . . .

      The problem in the US-Russia relationship for a long time now has been that while Russia does a lot that America sees as misbehavior that it wants stopped, there genuinely isn't that much that America affirmatively wants from Russia or that Russia can do for us. And Trump himself has no ideas on this front either. He likes that Putin likes his North Korea diplomacy, and doesn't see that maybe Putin likes it because it's really absurd and Putin doesn't have America's best interests at heart.

      Yglesias thinks the last line is the "best case" scenario -- others readily parrot Cold War memes claiming that Russia's intent is to do harm to America regardless of consequences for Russia. They evince a classic case of projection: attributing motives and even acts to Putin that are really their own. After all, is there any "misbehavior" that America's Russophobes have charged Putin with that American agents haven't carried out many times over? (I won't bore you with the list, but even when it comes to fomenting revolts to annex territory, Crimea is small potatoes compared to Texas and Hawaii. And don't get me started on shooting down civilian airliners.) It's no surprise when conceited, self-aggrandizing nations abuse their power, and from our perspective it's easy to fault Putin's Russia when they do. However, one should respond just as readily when America does the same, and that's a part that's inevitably missing when Yglesias and others rattle off their list of Russian "misbehavior." Also missing is recognition that there is a huge imbalance in interests and power between America and Russia, as should be clear from the areas of dispute: Ukraine and Georgia are literally on Russia's border, traditional trading partners that the US and Europe have conspired to lure away, while NATO expansion has moved American troops ever closer to the Russian border, while new anti-missile systems seek to negate Russia's nuclear deterrent, while sanctions further isolate and impoverish the Russian economy. It may be inappropriate for Russia to interfere in the political affairs of its neighbors, but that isn't a complaint that Americans are entitled to make without focusing their efforts on their own country's same violations.

      It makes perfect sense that Putin and his cronies might see hacking as a way of leveling the playing field, or maybe just poking the beast. (It's certainly not as if the US isn't doing the same thing and then some: my book notes file has a dozen or so volumes on "cyberwar" and the NSA.) I've spent enough time looking at server security logs to know that a lot of mischief arises from .ru (and .zh) domains. And it makes sense that Putin would favor someone like Trump, and not just because they share authoritarian streaks: Putin is tight with many of the oligarchs who managed to snap up so many previously state-owned enterprises, and those oligarchs are used to doing business with billionaires like Trump. If anyone in American politics is capable of putting personal avarice above imperial hubris, it's surely someone like Trump.

      On the other hand, it was at best a long-shot, as Trump isn't smart or coherent or principled or popular enough to drive his own foreign policy, but he has shown that when he makes a conciliatory gesture on the side of peace, contrary to America's "deep state" dogma, that move turns out to be rather popular, even as it elicits furious scorn from establishment pundits. Most alarming here are the liberals/Democrats who think they're doing us a favor by attacking Trump via widespread residual prejudices against Putin and Russia -- who somehow believe that sabotaging the unholy Trump-Putin alliance is progressivism at its finest. I've been wanting to write something deeper about how wrongheaded these people are, but cannot do that here. When I see people who supposedly cherish peace and are committed to democracy throw their beliefs away just to score cheap and meaningless points, well . . . it boggles my mind.

    • Trump gave congressional Republicans the deniability they crave: The rest of Yglesias' Russia pieces are similarly worthless. Trump doesn't have a foreign policy -- what the US does is largely what it's been doing on autopilot for 20 (or maybe 60) years -- but he does have a persona, which waxes hot and cold according to Trump's intuition of how it plays to his public -- a public which relishes grand gestures while having no command of or feeling for details. And like that public, Trump takes many of his clues from how much he offends the self-confirmed experts -- especially those railing about how Trump's attacking "traditional allies" and embracing "our enemies": people who think they're scoring points by embracing all those past strategies which have repeatedly pushed America into conflicts and wars. The tell here is when critics seize on utter nonsense to put Trump down. For instance, this piece recycles the "I think the European Union is a foe" quote. I've seen the interview the quote was taken from, and clearly Trump was tricked into using "foe" for something much closer to rival.

    • It's time to take Trump both seriously and literally on Russia.

    • Asked directly, Putin does not deny possessing "compromising material" on Trump.

  • Damian Carrington: Extreme global weather is 'the face of climate change' says leading scientist: Michael Mann is the scientist, although "other senior scientists agree the link is clear." Europe seems to be especially hard hit at the moment: Patrick Greenfield: Extreme weather across Europe delays flights, ferries and Eurotunnel -- but the heat wave and fires in California rival those in Sweden and Greece.

  • Stephen F Cohen: Trump as New Cold War Heretic: More like the guy who didn't get the memo and wound up trying to wing it.

  • Elizabeth Kolbert: The Trump Administration Takes on the Endangered Species Act.

  • Paul Krugman: Radical Democrats Are Pretty Reasonable.

  • Emily Stewart: One chart that shows how much worse income inequality is in America than Europe: based on Eric Levitz: New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off. Also includes charts showing that the US ranks third in highest "share of households earning less than half the median income" (after Eurozone losers Greece and Spain), and second in "earnings at the 90th percentile as a multiple of earnings at the 10th percentile, for full-time workers" (after Israel, where the 10th percentile is almost exclusively Palestinian). These numbers come from the OECD, and don't include Russia, the only country where inequality has expanded even more radically than in the United States. Much more here (like: "only Turkey, Lithuania, and South Korea have lower unionization rates than the United States"), but here's the chart Stewart referred to:

    Note that the trend line points the same directions in US and Western Europe: that the latter still has considerable and increasing inequality. Indeed, the concentration of capital worldwide is putting increasing pressure on Western Europe, but thus far democratic institutions there have been more effective at resisting the greed and corruption that has managed to so distort politics in the United States. Note especially Levitz's conclusion:

    President Trump spends a great deal of time and energy arguing that American workers are getting a rotten deal. And he's right to claim that Americans are getting the short end. But the primary cause of that fact isn't bad trade agreements or "job killing" regulations -- its the union-busting laws and court rulings that the president has done so much to abet.

  • Matt Taibbi: Why We Know So Little About the U.S.-Backed War in Yemen:

    What the U.N. calls the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" is an unhappy confluence of American media taboos. . . . Yemen features the wrong kinds of victims, lacks a useful partisan angle and, frankly, is nobody's idea of clickbait in the Trump age. Until it becomes a political football for some influential person or party, this disaster will probably stay near the back of the line.

    Taibbi also wrote: Trump's War on the Media Should Make Us Better at Our Jobs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30010 [29979] rated (+31), 345 [340] unrated (+5).

Week was short, for all practical purposes ended Friday or Saturday, when I figured out that the insufferable heat was due to a failed air conditioner compressor. It would have to be replaced, which took until Tuesday. By Saturday afternoon I was so miserable that I decided not to do any writing or even web surfing for the duration -- certainly no Weekend Roundup, although I figured I'd just postpone Music Week. Went to bed relatively early Sunday but only managed about four hours sleep, with a little nap Monday afternoon. Monday night was worse: went to bed at 4:30, and woke up at 7:00, so got up to wait for the service tech, and was up all day. Was so worn out last night I spent an hour staring at a jigsaw puzzle without being able to add a single piece. But by then the house had cooled, and I slept last night. Not enough to catch up, but I'm at least I'm functional today.

The one piece of work I did manage to do was to post the first batch of questions and answers on Robert Christgau's website. Joe Levy suggested that Christgau do this to help promote his new book, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017. The obvious model is Ask Greil, where Greil Marcus fields readers' questions. That feature was put together by using the WordPress blog tool, but I thought it would work better with some custom coding. I had this pretty much worked out before the weekend catastrophe, but had trouble with the final edits, and couldn't respond to some style issues under the circumstances. We should have a page intro and a link to the question form. I'd like to have a banner instead of the usual H2 title. Joe wanted to insert some links, but I lost them (as well as a couple edits), and didn't feel up to tracking them down.

Current plan is to publish a batch of these every other Tuesday -- which, as long as I'm in the loop probably means early AM (or as I prefer to think of it, late Monday). Currently have 160 questions, so demand has already way outpaced supply. My scheme will present the most recent dozen or so, letting you scroll back through the rest (like the news file). But I've thought a bit about making it easier to search back through the archive, possibly using keywords or simple text search, maybe more complex queries. It also should be possible to develop some sort of FAQ, but that would involve moving the q&a into the database, and that would complicate the still unsettled work flow.

Meanwhile I'm trying to manage three sets of work involving the Christgau website. The first problem is that after my computer crash, I had to rebuild my local copy of the website from the server copy, and that revealed a fairly substantial amount of code breakage: PHP 7 dropped support for a number of functions, including literally all of the MySQL database interface. Until I fix that (in a way that remains compatible with the PHP 5 the server is running) I can't do a general website update. I got about a third of the way through that before I got distracted by a bunch of other things several weeks ago.

Second, I need to update files to enforce a contractual embargo on various articles that are going into the new book. That's supposed to be done this week (three months before publications date), so has the tightest deadline. I was working on that before the air conditioning went out, and need to get right back to it after I post this. Instead of doing a general update, I figure I can do that by just updating a select subset of files, but they still have to be changed in ways that work on both platforms. Also, I'm trying to change them in ways that will also work in the future.

That introduces the third set of work: the website is overdue for a comprehensive redesign. When I originally built it back in 2001, I wrote it to conform to "HTML 4.01 Transitional," using ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) character set encoding (which works for all Western European languages), implemented using PHP 3 and whatever MySQL was then (I think also 3). Some newer features have been incorporated piecemeal, but I've been fighting a rearguard battle to keep what I have working for more than a decade (I found a 2008 notebook entry about codeset problems). I'm not sure what all this entails, but a good start is to make the files conform to HTML5, and that's what I'm trying to do now, in a piecemeal framework. However, some changes will have to be applied globally -- the viewport change to better support phones, replacing table layout with CSS, and (most traumatically, I'm sure) converting to UTF-8.

I hope to have the book support and enough of the code breaks fixed to do a partial update by the end of the weekend. After that, I think the next step is to build a separate beta website, first locally then on the server, to work out the kinks in the redesign. I'd be curious if anyone has ideas to incorporate -- technology, of course, and graphics (obviously something I'm weak in) but perhaps more importantly matters of usability.

The other thing to note here is that my rated count passed a pretty major round number this week: 30,000. I suppose I should go back through the notebook and plot the rise. I'm not even sure when I started keeping a rated list. I bought my first computer -- and last Apple, an Apple II -- in 1979, but didn't do a very good job of carrying data forward until I set up my first Linux machine in 1998, which if memory serves was my sixth or seventh generation machine. (I still have that machine, and only shut it down a year ago, when I replaced it with an appliance router.) Sometime before 1998 I had a file called "records.txt" which was an alphabetized list with letter grades as a crib sheet (an aide de memoire in case I got confused over "which was the good one" of some poorly remembered artist). But in its early days, the list didn't capture everything I owned, much less had heard.

I had very few LPs before I went to college -- maybe three dozen bought in the 1960s -- and didn't grow much until I left college and finally got a job, setting type in St. Louis. At that point, I started driving all over town, shopping every week, sometimes buying things simply because the cover enticed me. (Not always successfully, but that's how I got into Roxy Music and Ducks Deluxe.) When I moved to New York in 1976, I had a plywood filing cabinet with six drawers, each of which could hold over one hundred albums (you could thumb through them, cover facing), plus a shelf on top with two dividers that could hold a couple hundred more. Not sure when I filled them up and moved on to industrial shelving -- probably after I moved to New Jersey in 1980. I didn't write about music in the 1980s, so I probably slowed down, but my income went up, so maybe I didn't. I think I had somewhere between 2000 and 3000 LPs when I started buying CDs, rather late in that game. The CD numbers exploded in the mid-1990s as I got seriously into jazz (and had a private office where I could play music while I worked), and exploded again for a few years after moving back to Kansas in 1999 (and worked at home, before I became freer still). And from 2003 on, especially after the Voice started publishing my Jazz Consumer Guide, I started getting promos. The rated count jumped further once I started streaming Rhapsody. I started writing Streamnotes in 2007, figuring that as long as I was listening, I should take notes, and the grade is the simplest, most gut level form of note.

The earliest rated count I can find in the notebook is from February 2003, when the count passed 8,000, so I've averaged about 1,420 per year since then (or 118 per month, or 27 per week). Perhaps we should divide this stretch into two periods, before and after streaming. February 2008 is a fair dividing line, I averaged 1230/year (101/month, or 24/week), which with streaming rose to 1510/year (125/month, 29/week). This confirms my subjective feeling that 30-count weeks are very common, and that 10-year average still seems to be the case. This year seems to be on track: counting 133 records in July's Streamnotes file, I have 912 graded records for the year-to-date (130/month, 30/week).

That would put me on track to hit 40,000 in seven years (August 2025), and 50,000 seven years later (2032), but it's unlikely I'll be able to sustain that pace for anything close to that long -- I'd be close to 75 for the former, 82 for the latter. And every year, with well over 50,000 new records coming out, I'd fall ever further behind -- my list shrinking into an ever smaller sampling. I'm sorry but the more I do this, the more insignificant it feels.

As for this week's haul, I noticed new vault tapes from Dexter Gordon and Woody Shaw, so I thought I'd see what else Napster had that I hadn't heard. Turns out there was very little by Shaw, but quite a bit of Gordon -- hence this week's "old music." One album in particular I wanted to listen to was Homecoming, since I had wrangled myself a ticket to one of Gordon's Village Vanguard shows (the only time I saw him, or for that matter the famous club). Also turns out that Shaw was on stage with Gordon there -- something I didn't recall, probably because I wasn't aware of him at the time. Still more Gordon I didn't get to (mostly on European labels, especially the one named for his tune: SteepleChase).

New records rated this week:

  • Beats Antique: Shadowbox (2016, Antique): [r]: B+(***)
  • Future & Young Thug: Super Slimey (Epic/300/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Future: Beast Mode 2 (2018, Epic/Freebandz): [r]: A-
  • Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (2018, ESGN/Empire, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jennifer Lee: My Shining Hour (2018, SBE): [r]: B
  • Lori McKenna: The Tree (2018, CN): [r]: A-
  • Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (2018, Morphius/ReR Megacorp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rhio: A Rhio Good Thing (2018, Beso): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ty Segall: Freedom's Goblin (2018, Drag City): [r]: B
  • Sophie: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (2018, MSMSMSM/Future Classic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Four Waves (2018, NurNichtNur): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975 (1973-77 [2018], Elemental Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Woody Shaw: Tokyo '81 (1981-85 [2018], Elemental Music): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gene Ammons & Dexter Gordon: The Chase! (1970 [1996], Prestige): [r]: A-
  • Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray; Citizens Bop (1946-52 [1994], Black Lion): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: Dexter Blows Hot and Cool (1955 [2010], Essential Jazz Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (1960, Jazzland/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: Body and Soul (1967 [1988], Black Lion): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Tower of Power (1969 [1993], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: More Power! (1969 [1994], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Jumpin' Blues (1970 [1996], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Panther! (1970 [1992], Prestige/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Dexter Gordon: Ca' Puange (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: Generation (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dexter Gordon: Trangerine (1972 [1975], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: The Apartment (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Something Different (1975 [1980], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Biting the Apple (1976 [1977], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard (1976 [1977], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Jackie McLean Featuring Dexter Gordon: The Meeting (1973 [1990], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kids See Ghosts [Kanye West/Kid Cudi]: Kids See Ghosts (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: was B+(*), B+(**)
  • Pusha T: Daytona (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: was B+(**), B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Stefan Aeby Trio: The London Concert (Intakt): August 18
  • Simon Barker/Henry Kaiser/Bill Laswell/Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mudang Rock (Fractal Music): September 14
  • Dennis Llewellyn Day: Bossa, Blues and Ballads (DDay Media Group): AUgust 25
  • Rich Halley 3: The Literature (Pine Eagle)
  • Gayle Kolb: Getting Sentimental (Jerujazz): August 31
  • Nicole Mitchell: Maroon Cloud (FPE): August 10
  • John Pittman: Kinship (Slammin' Media): August 24
  • Günter Baby Sommer: Baby's Party [Guest: Till Brönner] (Intakt): August 18

Monday, July 16, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29979 [29939] rated (+40), 340 [342] unrated (-2).

Easiest way for me to scrounge for new music is to bring up the "featured" lists on Napster, descending into my dozen or so "favorite" genre lists. (Not most useful, but sometimes easy trumps.) One surprise record on their jazz list was 5 x Monk 5 x Lacy, a Penguin Guide 4-star album that had eluded me, so I jumped on it. It had been released on the Swedish Silkheart label back in 1997, and it turns out that a whole passel of old Silkheart releases have just appeared on Napster (and probably other streaming services, as well as Bandcamp -- unfortunately only limited cuts on the latter, so they're useless for me to review). I scanned through my database and came up with a list of 24 Silkheart records I had noted but hadn't heard, and listened to 18 of them last week. Before this bonanza appeared, I had several Silkheart albums at A-:

  • Dennis Gonzalez: Stefan (1986) [A-]
  • Matt Lavelle: Spiritual Power (2006 [2007]) [A-]
  • Sirone Bang Ensemble: Configuration (2004 [2005]) [A-]
  • Steve Swell's Kende Dreams: Hommage à Bartók (2014 [2015]) [A-]
  • Booker T. Trio: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1988) [A-]

I'll probably hit some more of them up in the coming week(s). Another album I picked out of the Napster featured lists is the Millie Jackson remix. It raised my hopes that label Ace's compilations would also be available, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Tempted me to go and take a dive through her back catalog, but I held back. Very likely my database picks will stand: the 1974 concept album Caught Up, the 1979 Live and Uncensored, and to mop up the rest, Rhino's 2-CD compilation Totally Unrestricted. The remix album frames her in disco strings with occasional but weak horns. Pretty useless, although not even Levine can suffocate "Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night."

Some hip-hop too. Robert Christgau did an Expert Witness on a batch of six recent EPs, including four of Kanye West's 7-cut productions. I listened to four of them in previous weeks: Pusha T: Daytona [***], Kids See Ghosts [*], Gift of Gab: Rejoice! [A-], Kanye West: Ye [*]. I should revisit the first two; good chance both could be nudged up a notch. (Ye is more likely to drop one.) I did bump my initial Tierra Whack grade up after seeing her video: Welcome to Whack World: A Visual and Auditory Project by Tierra Whack. I still have reservations about musical flow, but it doesn't feel too short or incomplete when you keep your eyes glued to the screen. I've never been a fan of EPs. Always thought one needs more time to develop a statement or even a feel, but the recent vogue for mini-albums looks to be unstoppable. Probably ties to shorter attention spans and a huge explosion of digital product. On the other hand, Christgau has always been a big fan of EPs. Probably relates back to his early preference for singles over albums, and his complaints when CDs were introduced about them being too long.

Last Friday we announced a new feature on Christgau's website, Xgau Sez, where Christgau will answer readers' questions. Here's a form for submitting questions. The idea came from Greil Marcus's Ask Greil posts. The timing has something to do with promoting Christgau's new (October 2018) essay collection, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017. The initial plan is to answer questions in batches of a half-dozen or so, every other week. I've counted 73 submissions to date (not counting 2 spam). I imagine he'll pick and choose the questions that pique his interest, and adjust the quantity and frequency accordingly, depending on how much other work he has (quite a bit at the moment) and his other commitments.

Meanwhile, I need to do a fair amount of work to support this new feature, and also to promote the new book. In particular, the book contract requires that most of the essays and reviews in the book be removed from the website for an extended period (if memory serves, five years), so I have to identify and flag all of those. Also write up a new book page. I hope to get most of this work done by the end of the week, but I'm still hampered by the crash and its attendant conversion issues. I'm only about half way through rewriting the PHP files that access the database. (The database interface library was rewritten between PHP 5 and PHP 7 with new function names.) Until that work is done, I won't be able to do a comprehensive update of the server, so I'll have to poke selected files.

Complicating this is the longer-term need to convert the website character set from ISO-8859-1 (which handled Western European languages) to UTF-8 (which handles all languages), and to upgrade the HTML markup from 4.1 (Transitional) to 5.0. The former is simple in principle -- just run the program iconv on everything -- but has to be done all at once, upsetting the whole apple cart. The latter is complex, but may be done somewhat incrementally -- I don't have a real good handle on it. It would also be a good time to do some re-design, especially to make the website easier to use from smart phones. I'm far behind the learning curve there. Would appreciate any suggestions on this sort of thing.

One big problem from last week appears to have been solved. I was experiencing sudden garbage screen updates, where pieces of previously rendered windows would pop up suddenly on top of things I was working on. I suspected the problem was the video card. Those things have much more memory than is needed for a simple screen buffer, so the computer can offload window manager display lists and buffers. Anyhow, problem has vanished since I installed a new video card (an ASUS R7240-2GD3-L 2GB, cost $75).

One more (important) news item: Mike Hull has released a short video on Sacred Space, a collaborative art project that my sister, Kathy Hull, took a leading role in conceiving and executing back in 2002. It consists of eight portals: doorways from around the world, each opening to landscapes featuring endangered wildlife, viewed through the prism of the world's major religions. The portals are 7-8 feet high, 5-6 feet wide. The exhibition includes a labyrinth in the middle of the room, and origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. It is currently exhibited at Wichita State University, and will be up until August 31, 2018. However, the longer-term future of the exhibit is up for grabs. We are looking for a future home for the artwork. Anyone interested should get in touch with Mike (contact details in video). Special thanks to Joanna Pinkerton, who designed three of the portals, and appears in the video. Kathy was very excited about this showing before her death in March this year.

PS: One thing that must mark me as an old-fashioned UNIX hand is a fondness for obsolete tools like the classic spell program. (Newbies seem to prefer the interactive ispell, which steps you interactively through a file, giving you alternative choices to toggle in; spell just lists possible misspelled words one per line, leaving it to you to figure out what to do about them.) I had to explicitly download spell to even get it. But when I run it on HTML files, it routinely flags lots of markup, especially URLs, as possible errors. Some while back I had written a shell script to sift the HTML tags out before piping a file through spell, but that got lost in the crash. Finally took a few moments to rewrite the script, and came up with this:

sed '/^#\^[cdh]/d
s/<[/a-z][^>]*>//g' $* | spell

First line throws out some meta-markup I use in my faux blog files. Second is a perhaps over-simplistic way of deleting HTML tags (without deleting HTML comments or PHP markup, which often span multiple lines, but rarely occur in things I need to spellcheck). I could add code to strip HTML entities, but again they very rarely show up. A more useful enhancement would be to add a post-filter to weed out complaints about non-dictionary words that are commonly used (e.g., Silkheart, ECM, Interscope, remix). One way to do this would be to figure out how to add books to ispell's dictionary. Another would be to pipe the output through fgrep -vw and the "good word" list.

PPS: Played Daytona three more times, and it didn't budge, but Kids See Ghosts picked up a notch.

New records rated this week:

  • The End: The End (2018, RareNoise): [cdr]: D+
  • Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap (2018, All Money In/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Susie Ibarra: Perception (2017, Decibel Music): [r]: B
  • Kyle: Light of Mine (2018, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens (2017 [2018[], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nicolas Masson: Travelers (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pete McCann: Pay for It on the Other Side (2017 [2018], McCannis Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nas: Nasir (2018, Mass Appeal/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roller Trio: New Devices (2018, Edition): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dori Rubbicco: Stage Door Live! (2017 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Blue Dream (2017 [2018], RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Rafal Sarnecki: Climbing Trees (2017 [2018], Outside In Music): [cd]: B
  • Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder: The World of Dew (2018, Human Resource): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Marc Sinan/Oguz Büyükberber: White (2016 [2018]. ECM): [r]: B
  • Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, UMGRI/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • YoshimiO/Susie Ibarra/Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe: Flower of Sulphur (2018, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Millie Jackson: Exposed: The Multi-Track Sessions Mixed by Steve Levine (1972-79 [2018], Ace): [r]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Charles Brackeen: Bannar (1987, Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille: What About (1969 [1992], Affinity): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille & Maono: Metamusicians' Stomp (1978, Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Cyrille: Special People (1980 [1981], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Cyrille-Richard Teitelbaum Duo: Double Clutch (1981 [1997], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille Quintet: Ode to the Living Tree (1994 [1995], Venus): [r]: B-
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ancestral Song: Live in Stockholm (1987 [1988], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ka-Real (1997 [2000], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Spirits Before (1988 [1989], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Homeless (1988 [1989], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Gayle Quartet: Vol. 1: Translations (1993 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet: Namesake (1987, Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dennis Gonzalez New Dallasangeles: The Desert Wind (1989, Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Hobbs Fully Celebrated Orchestra: Peace & Pig Grease (1993 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: A-
  • Jim Hobbs Trio: Babadita (1994, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • William Hooker/Billy Bang: Joy (Within)! (1994-95 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Lacy Sextet: The Gleam (1986 [1987], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Lacy: 5 x Monk 5 by Lacy (1994 [1997], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Lyons/Andrew Cyrille: Something in Return (1981 [1988], Black Saint): [r]: A-
  • Asif Tsahar Trio: Ein Sof (1997, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 1 (1990 [1991], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 2 (1990 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Oblations and Blessings (1995 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Brian McCarthy: Codex (self-released)
  • Dave Rempis/Jasper Stadhouders/Frank Rosaly: Icoci (Aerophponic)
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Ithra (Aerophonic)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Four Waves (NurNichtNur)

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