Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Weekend Roundup

A day late from the usual Sunday, but having missed last week, I figured the exercise would be worthwhile. Like our trash collection, we're running a day late this week.

Growing up we always had a special dinner on Christmas Eve, then gathered around the tree in the living room and opened presents. I gave up on shopping and presents after my parents died in 2000 -- partly, I suppose, because we moved to Wichita in 1999 to be closer to my family, but after doing serious shopping I got sick and missed that last Christmas. We tried to keep the tradition going, but it fizzled out when my brother and his family moved away. The only thing I kept was the Christmas Eve dinner, which I've ever since subjected my sister and her son to. I rustled up a bit pot of paella last night, with a lobster, some shrimp and scallops instead of the usual clams. I figured I'd do some tapas on the side, but didn't come up with much: potatoes with tuna and egg, a white bean salad, a pisto (onions, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cooked down to a paste), sauteed mushrooms in garlic sauce, some olives, a loaf of "bake it yourself" garlic bread. Per a tradition that only started after we returned to Wichita, I made date pudding (topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream) for dessert. I was feeling pretty depressed, but the sensation vanished as soon as I started cooking. That's pretty much all I have to show for 2017, but it feels like I'm accomplishing something when I do it.

Biggest story from the last couple weeks were the Republican tax bill: a massive giveaway to corporations, proprietors who can take advantage of the "pass-through income" provisions, and to the growth and consolidation of aristocracy, and eventually a drain on the economy and an excuse for cutting back on actually useful services the government provides. But also very important are the end of FCC "net neutrality" rules and the latest round of sanctions against North Korea. Of course, the latter could instantly jump to the head of the list.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important political stories of the week [Dec. 22]: Congress passed a major tax cut; The government won't shut down for Christmas; Affordable Care Act signups remained robust; Republicans turned on Robert Mueller; and The 4 biggest policy stories of the week, explained [Dec. 15]: A Democrat won a Senate election in Alabama: Doug Jones; Republicans wrote their tax bill; Sexual harassment accusations kept rolling Congress; Net neutrality. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • The real cost of the Republican tax bill: Argues that the models showing revenues down by $1-1.5 trillion will likely be proven low, not least because IRS enforcement under Trump is likely to be slack. I would add that actual revenues in Kansas have consistently fallen short of expectations, because the Brownback cuts allowed unanticipated scams.

    • The tax cut expectations game.

    • What "affordable housing" really means.

    • We're witnessing the wholesale looting of America:

      Throughout the 2016 campaign, the political class talked a lot about "norms" and how Donald Trump was violating them all. He brushed off fact-checkers, assailed the media, went on Twitter tirades against his critics, and dabbled in racism. Since taking office, his norm busting has spread. Members of Congress who under other circumstances might be constrained by shame, custom, or the will of their constituents have learned from Trump's election that you can get away with more than we used to think.

      Norm erosion is real, and it matters. . . . These scholars are all considering deep, long-lasting differences in cultural norms, but we also know from experience that norms can sometimes shift dramatically in unusual circumstances. Sometimes a blackout or other disaster prompts a few people who would ordinarily be too cautious to break store windows in broad daylight to become more brazen. And the normal course of ordinary life flips into reverse, as those with some inclination toward bad acts recognize a moment of impunity and grab what they can, while those who would ordinarily be invested in upholding order are afraid and stay inside. The sheer quantity of bad acts makes it impossible for anyone to hold anyone accountable. Soon, a whole neighborhood can be in ruins.

      Or a whole country. . . .

      It takes a lot more than Donald Trump to orchestrate the kind of feeding frenzy that's currently playing out in Washington. Nothing about this would work if not for the fact that hundreds of Republican Party members of Congress wake up each morning and decide anew that they are indifferent to the myriad financial conflicts of interest in which Trump and his family are enmeshed. Moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump's inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.

    • Why Trump's tax cuts won't be repealed.

    • Republicans are on tilt with their super-unpopular tax bill.

    • Collective ownership of the means of production.

  • Dean Baker: Bubbles: Are They Back?

    Should we be concerned about a bubble now? Stock prices and housing prices are both high by historical standards. The ratio of stock prices-to-trend corporate earnings is more than 27-to-1; this compares to a long-term average of 15-to-1.

    House prices are also high by historic standards. Inflation-adjusted house prices are still well below their bubble peaks, but are about 40 percent above their long-term average.

    Baker also wrote: Diverting Class Warfare Into Generational Warfare: Round LVIII; e.g.:

    It is also important to understand that government action was at the center of this upward redistribution. Without government-granted patent monopolies for Windows and other Microsoft software, Bill Gates would probably still be working for a living.

    We spent over $450 billion on prescription drugs in 2017. Without government-granted patent monopolies we would probably have spent less than $80 billion. The difference of $370 billion is equal to an increase of a 5.0 percentage point increase in the Social Security payroll tax. But the generational warriors don't want anyone talking about how much money our children to pay drug companies with government-granted patent monopolies.

    Baker is a bit confused about Microsoft -- patents played at most a small role in building its monopoly -- the late 1990s antitrust case which Microsoft lost covered much of this -- but copyrights are essential for maintaining it.

  • Zack Beauchamp: We are sleepwalking toward war with North Korea.

  • Sean Illing: How the baby boomers -- not millennials -- screwed America: Interview with Bruce Gibney, author of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, which looks to be pretty awful. I don't doubt that various age cohorts grow up with different experiences, but there has always been more variation within a generation than change from one to the next. It's not that Gibney is unobservant -- he identifies Ronald Reagan's 1980 election as the turning point from which today's rot stemmed -- but he pairs his superficial groupings with clichéd analysis and bogus measures (especially the growth of debt). Gibney, like so many reactionaries from the 1950s on, blamed postwar affluence for breeding a generation of selfish ingrates who lack the social solidarity bred in their parents by depression and war. As Gibney puts it:

    I think the major factor is that the boomers grew up in a time of uninterrupted prosperity. And so they simply took it for granted. They assumed the economy would just grow three percent a year forever and that wages would go up every year and that there would always be a good job for everyone who wanted it.

    This was a fantasy and the result of a spoiled generation assuming things would be easy and that no sacrifices would have to be made in order to preserve prosperity for future generations.

    Gibney's argument might be more interesting if he focused on things that were truly new and widespread, like that "boomers" were the first cohort to grow up with television and its mass consumer advertising, with news presented more in images than in words, with world travel reduced from months or weeks to hours, with science promising greater control of nature but also raising the spectre of extinction. Maybe some people responded to such sweeping change by becoming sociopaths, but (for a while, at least) the opposite seemed to be happening: in the late '60s and early '70s, the "boomers" were in the forefront of movements for the environment, sexual equality, for consumer rights, for civil rights and against war. You can argue that the new left was too individualistic and too nonchalant about power, and that those weaknesses made it easier for conservative reaction to seize power -- and beset the country with all the ills Gibney decries. But the fact that Bill Clinton, GW Bush, and Donald Trump were all born in 1946 doesn't make them representative of a generation. Indeed, they were clearly exceptional, carefully selected by unrepresentative powers.

    Nothing actual in this piece about "millennials" -- one's political hopes for them (e.g., Steven Olikara: Here's one reason to be optimistic about politics: Millennials in office) lie not in generational change but in the fact that thanks to the conservative reaction they've been so severely screwed. But that only changes if they recognize the real culprits.

  • Ezra Klein: "An orgy of serious policy discussion" with Paul Krugman.

  • Mike Konczal: "Neoliberalism" isn't an empty epithet. It's a real, powerful set of ideas. Good explanation of the word, if you wind up stuck needing to use it.

  • Kevin M Kruse: The Second Klan: Review of Linda Gordon's book, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan and the American Political Tradition.

  • German Lopez: The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment: Three charts here, mapping the tendencies of people "least satisfied" with economics, "most sexist," and "most denying of racism" to vote for Trump. The latter two are highly polarized, as well they should be: Trump was blatantly racist and sexist, especially compared to his opponent, and his campaign actively polarized people on those issues, so of course sexists and racists (not uncommonly the same people) voted for him overwhelmingly. Still, to say he won because he appealed to racism you have to quantify how large that voter share was. Given that racists were already highly aligned with the Republican Party it's hard to see a lot of movement on that score, not that were was none. "Economic dissatisfaction" is another story: that the "least satisfied" tilted toward Trump at all is the surprise -- really, a complete breakdown in the Democratic Party's messaging, all the more damning given how easy it should have been to depict Trump as the poster boy for exorbitant greed and privilege. The underlying facts have never been in doubt. That we keep rehashing them has more to do with politics. Sanders supporters were quick to identify the failed economic hopes of the white lower classes because that's one thing their program addressed and could convert into the additional votes necessary to beat Trump and the Republicans. Diehard Clinton supporters like the racism narrative, because it shifts blame from the candidate to the "deplorable" voters.

  • Premilla Nadasen: Extreme poverty returns to America.

  • Rebecca Solnit: Don't let the alt-right hijack #MeToo for their agenda.

  • Matt Stoller: What is net neutrality? It protects us from corporate power.

  • Matt Taibbi: Bob Corker Facing Ethics Questions? What a Surprise: "The Tennessee senator's financial success has been one of Washington's open questions for years." Corker flip-flopped on the tax bill, first voting against it because it would increase the deficit, then voting for it even though its impact on the deficit hasn't changed (but the joint committee added a break on real estate taxes that evidently saves Corker millions of dollars). More on Corker: Mary Papenfuss: #CorkerKickback Turns Up the Flame Under Senator for His Tax Vote Switch. Paul Krugman, in Passing Through to Corruption, also mentions Corker:

    Senator Bob Corker, citing concerns about the deficit, was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill. Now, however, he says he will vote for a final version that is no better when it comes to fiscal probity. What changed?

    Well, one thing that changed was the insertion of a provision that wasn't in the Senate bill: Real estate companies were added to the list of "pass-through" businesses whose owners will get sharply lower tax rates. These pass-through provisions are arguably the worst feature of the bill. They will open the tax system to a huge amount of gaming, of exploiting legal loopholes to avoid tax.

    But one thing they will also do, thanks to that last-minute addition, is give huge tax breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate -- officials like Donald Trump and, yes, Bob Corker.

  • Todd VanDerWerff: Disney acquiring Fox means big, scary things for film and TV: "Here are five reasons the deal is terrifying -- and only one of them is increased media consolidation."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Incredible Honk

One of the great trombonists of all jazz history, Roswell Rudd, has just died, at 82, evidently of cancer. He was a major figure in the 1960s avant-garde, later refocusing his sense of the tradition into two especially great albums -- 1974's Flexible Flyer, which restarted Sheila Jordan's brilliant career, and 1982's Regeneration, which rekindled interest in the music of Herbie Nichols -- and after a dozen years away from the studio mounted a marvelously wide-ranging comeback. For all his range, he had a singular sound on trombone -- unflinching, a deep and dirty growl -- which made trombone one of my favorite horns, and set a standard: searching for his name in my writings, I've found myself repeatedly trying to measure up other trombonists to him.

I have no time to write anything that does justice to his music, but I figured the least I could do would be to pluck my various reviews of his work out of my Jazz Guides. In this task, I've been helped by Mindspring's discography, although it unaccountably ends around 2002. All I've managed to do is to make a quick pass to weed out some redundancies and asides. I've also added stubs for a few albums I haven't heard (but by no means all of the ones Rudd played on).

Eli's Chosen Six (1955, Columbia) Rudd started off in this Dixieland group. I've only heard one cut on a compilation, and they seem to be an amusing bunch -- not that I wouldn't rather hear more trombone and less vocals.

Eli's Chosen Six: Ivy League Jazz (1957, Columbia)

Cecil Taylor/Buell Neidlinger: New York City R&B (1961, Candid) Originally issued under the bassist's name, Taylor's name added later as the pianist is the draw, especially on the two shorter trio cuts with Billy Higgins; the other two cuts add horns: Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on both; Clark Terry (trumpet), Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Roswell Rudd (trombone), and Charles Davis (baritone sax) on the closer. [8]

Cecil Taylor/Buell Neidlinger: Jumpin Punkins' (1961, Candid) [+]

Cecil Taylor: Cell Walk for Celeste (1961, Candid) Outtakes from the New York City R&B and Jumpin' Punkins sessions that didn't appear in album form until 1988, most quartet with Shepp, Neidlinger, and Dennis Charles, but two tracks with the extra horn quartet, with Steve Lacy's soprano sax by far the most noteworthy. [7]

The Gil Evans Orchestra: Into the Hot (1961, Impulse -99) Evans' masterpiece was his 1960 Out of the Cool, so this title makes sense as the next step, but the album itself is schizo, with two dull orchestral tracks led by trumpeter John Carisi (they do seem to wake up for the third), and three slices of something else by Cecil Taylor's quintet (Archie Shepp, Jimmy Lyons, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray, adding Ted Curson and Roswell Rudd on the closer). [The Taylor tracks were later reissued along with a Rudd session as Mixed.] [5]

Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: School Days (1963, Hat Art -94) Ken Vandermark named one of his best quartets after this album. [9]

Albert Ayler/Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Roswell Rudd/Gary Peacock/Sunny Murray: New York Eye and Ear Control (1964, ESP-Disk -08) Ayler's record, but all names are on the cover and all are notable, the four horns churning tumultuously, with Ayler's tenor sax reaching for the sacred, and Rudd's trombone plumbing the profane. [6]

Archie Shepp: Four for Trane (1964, Impulse -97) [9]

New York Art Quartet (1964, ESP-Disk -08) One-shot avant-garde group, at least until they reunited for a 35th Reunion record, but an important item in trombonist Roswell Rudd's discography -- he dominates the rough interplay with alto saxophonist John Tchicai, while percussionist Milford Graves is at least as sparkling; the sole artiness is the cut that frames a poem, but it too is a signpost of the times, "Black Dada Nihilismus," by Amiri Baraka. [9]

The Jazz Composers Orchestra: Communication (1964, Fontana) A pathbreaking large group assembled by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler to play their pieces and arrangements, which over the next few years rotated to feature other composers, including Rudd (see Numatik Swing Band, below).

New York Art Quartet: Mohawk (1965, Fontana)

New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965, Cuneiform -10) Short-lived group, long remembered. Danish alto saxophonist John Tchicai teamed with trombonist Roswell Rudd to cut two 1964-65 albums, an eponymous one on ESP-Disk that has remained in print more often than not, and a second that soon vanished, leaving us with nothing more until the pair got together in 1999 and cut 35th Reunion. These radio shots add significantly to their legacy, another 70 minutes (compared to 43 on the first album). The bass and drums slots were variable: Finn von Eyben plays bass here, and Louis Moholo drums. Rudd was working out the logic of free jazz trombone, and Tchicai lets him run with it, filling in and edging around. [9]

New York Art Quartet: Call It Art (1964-65, Triple Point 5LP -13) Extravagant packaging, with the 5 LPs each in its own jacket, packed alongside a 156-page clothbound book, both enclosed in a very handsome plywood box. The group, with Roswell Rudd on trombone and John Tchicai on alto sax, was more at home in Copenhagen than in New York. They cut the one album they're known for on ESP-Disk, another for Fontana in England, but other recordings have leaked out over the years -- notably Old Stuff, released by Cuneiform in 2010, and now this stack of "previously uncirculated" vinyl. Hard for me to evaluate -- among other things I'm no longer accustomed to 15-20 minute chunks -- but everything I play has its fascinating points. [9]

Roswell Rudd (1965, Free America/Verve -05) The great trombonist trades lines with alto saxophonist John Tchicai, creating a bouncy polyphony that never quite slips into a groove; a radio shot tape, sound quality so-so. [+]

Archie Shepp: Live in San Francisco (1966, Impulse -98) [5]

Roswell Rudd: Everywhere (1966, Impulse -67) The trombonist's only name album for a major label in the 1960s, a session -- four cuts, 47:15 -- that has only been reissued as part of Mixed, co-headlined by Cecil Taylor (prepends three Taylor cuts, one with Rudd). With Giuseppi Logan (flute/bass clarinet), Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Lewis Worrell/Charlie Haden (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums). [8]

Archie Shepp: Three for a Quarter/One for a Dime (1966, Impulse -69) [5]

Archie Shepp: Mama Too Tight (1966, Impulse -98) [5]

Cecil Taylor/Roswell Rudd: Mixed (1961-66, Impulse -08) [+]

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1968, JCOA)

Charlie Haden: Liberation Music Orchestra (1969, Impulse -96) [+]

Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969, Flying Dutchman -70) Front cover just says "Gato" under the title. Album opens with flute, then a little vocal, before blossoming into one of the most identifiable tenor sax tones ever. Interesting line up here, with the first hints of his Latin/tango rhythm melded with Roswell Rudd's trombone growl. [8]

Carla Bley/Paul Haines: Escalator Over the Hill (1968-71, JCOA) [5]

Roswell Rudd and the Jazz Composer's Orchestra: Numatik Swing Band (1973, JCOA) Sheila Jordan sings. [9]

Roswell Rudd: Flexible Flyer (1974, Black Lion -95) One of my all-time favorite albums, with Sheila Jordan singing and Rudd's the only horn voice, remarkably tasteful piano by Hod O'Brien and a rhythm section that could swing free but doesn't. [10]

Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd/Kent Carter/Beaver Harris: Trickles (1976, Black Saint) [4]

Roswell Rudd: Blown Bone (1976, Phillips)

Roswell Rudd: Inside Job (1976, Arista/Freedom) [3]

Carla Bley: Dinner Music (1976, Watt)

The Carla Bley Band: European Tour 1977 (1977, Watt -78) [+]

Enrico Rava Quartet (1978, ECM) [9]

Laboratorio Della Quercia (1978, Horo)

The Carla Bley Band: Musique Mechanique (1978, Watt -79) The title piece here is broken into three movements, each marked by a striking mechanicalism in the movement: the rhythm lurches in small, sharp locksteps, while there is much huffing and puffing -- notably from the lower reaches of the bass section, especially Bob Stewart's tuba. Roswell Rudd sings during the middle movement, with a similar mechanical thrust. And Karen Mantler's glockenspiel adds something to the final movement. The two other pieces are less distinctive, and less obviously humorous, and for that matter less obviously interesting. [5]

The Definitive Roswell Rudd (1979, Horo)

Roswell Rudd/Steve Lacy/Misha Mengelberg/Kent Carter/Han Bennink: Regeneration (1982, Soul Note -83) [10]

That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984, A&M -85) [One track, credited to Terry Adams and Friends.] [+]

Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd: Dark Was the Night -- Cold Was the Ground (1993, Music & Arts) [+]

Allen Lowe/Roswell Rudd: Woyzeck's Death (1994, Enja -95) The second collaboration, with Lowe (tenor sax) composing up to the title piece and the trombonist contributing the last two pieces. With Randy Sandke (trumpet) and Ben Goldberg (clarinets) backed by piano-bass-drums. A meditation on Georg Buchner's famous play (left unfinished at the playwright's death), a bit awkward and dramatic, but great to hear Rudd. [6]

Steve Swell Quartet: Out and About (1996, CIMP) Probably the best avant-trombonist to come along since Rudd starts his career by entertaining the master.

Elton Dean Quartet + Roswell Rudd: Rumours of an Incident (1996, Slam)

Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Tony Levin/Paul Rogers/Roswell Rudd/Keith Tippett: Bladik (1996, Cuneiform)

Roswell Rudd: The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 1 (1996, CIMP) [9]

Roswell Rudd: The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 2 (1996, CIMP) [5]

Elton Dean's Newsense (1997, Slam -98) The saxophonist in early 1970's prog-rock group Soft Machine, although that barely (and rather obliquely) hints at his jazz career (up to his death in 2006). It helps here to know that Dean led a 1976-81 nonet called Elton Dean's Ninesense (including South Africans Harry Miller, Louis Moholo, and Mongezi Feza, also Harry Beckett from Barbados), so the name here introduces a new nonet. The horns are dense and thick, but few stand out. [6]

Ab Baars Trio + Roswell Rudd: Four (1998, Data)

Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: Monk's Dream (1999, Verve -00) [+]

Roswell Rudd: Broad Strokes (1999-2000, Knitting Factory) Eclectic, it sez here. Big groups, small groups, too many vocals (awful ones at that), some great trombone. A mishmash. [5]

Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd: Live in New York (2001, Verve) Ten or so years ago, Roswell Rudd was working in a Catskills hotel when Francis Davis tracked him down to write a "whatever happened to?" article about him. Since then he's come back big enough to share top billing in this reunion of Archie Shepp's '60s quintet, soon after sharing top billing with Steve Lacy on 2000's Monk's Dream. This is the better album, partly for the obvious reason that Shepp's run-of-the-mill blues vocals are infintely preferable to Aëbi's stilted operatics. But top-of-the-line billing is not just newfound recognition for the doyen of avant-garde trombonists, this record rides on Rudd's compositions, and resounds with trombone (abetted by second trombonist Grachan Moncur). [9]

Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002, Cuneiform 2CD -07) One thing that distinguished both Lacy and Rudd is that they vaulted directly from trad jazz to the avant-garde, pausing only to snatch up the songbooks of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Instrumentation had something to do with this: before Lacy, the only known soprano sax master was Sidney Bechet, while, pace J.J. Johnson, the trombone had long been a New Orleans staple for dirtying up the lead trumpet -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without a Kid Ory or Trummy Young or Jack Teagarden. The first Lacy-Rudd quartet only cut one album, School Days (1963), but it was landmark enough that Ken Vandermark named his trombone-powered pianoless quartet after it (and everything School Days released was golden). The four early cuts here are unreleased demos -- three takes on Monk and one on Cecil Taylor -- and they are major finds, keys to how to turn a song inside out and make something new of it. The group broke up with Lacy moving to France and Rudd teaming up with Archie Shepp and others before fading into obscurity. Finally, they regrouped for tours in 1999 and 2002, with a new album, Monk's Dream. The rest are live shots from the tours -- long pieces, mostly Lacy's improv frameworks, plus Monk and Nichols and a sprightly pseudo-African riff from Rudd. They don't blow you away so much as they resonate with the authoritative voices of two major careers bound together at their ends. [9]

Sex Mob: Dime Grind Palace (2003, Ropeadope) Group formed in 1998 -- Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Briggan Krauss (sax), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums -- with nine albums through 2016, this their fifth, joined here and there by various guests, notably Peter Apfelbaum, John Kruth, Scott Robinson, Marcus Rojas, and Roswell Rudd (the latter brings the grind to 10 of 16 cuts). [8]

Roswell Rudd's Malicool (2003, Sunnyside) The veteran avant-garde trombonist meets Toumani Diabate and friends for some rather atmospheric kora, balophone, ngone, djembe, guitar, bass and 'bone. Rudd sounds fine in this context, and Diabate sounds much like he always does, but you'd think the meeting ought to have generated a little more edge. Like maybe they could use a drummer? [+]

Roswell Rudd & the Mongolian Buryat Band: Blue Mongol (2005, Sunnyside) The great jazz trombonist engages a conservatory-trained Mongolian folk group; part of the interest is the similar harmonics between trombone and throat singing, but the highlight is when Rudd cops a Beach Boys line for "Buryat Boogie." [9]

Roswell Rudd/Mark Dresser: Airwalkers (2004, Clean Feed -06) Bass-trombone duo. Seems to me this is more Dresser's show: he does this sort of intimate abstraction quite often, it's always difficult to follow but sometimes interesting when you do. Always great to hear Rudd, and a rare treat to hear him this rough but still in control. But not a record that will convert anyone. [7]

Anita O'Day: Indestructible! (2004-05, Kayo Stereophonic -06) Well into her 80s, she doesn't swing as hard as she used to, and her voice is more gone than not, but she inspires a couple of near-faultless bands. Roswell Rudd rumbles on three tracks, including "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer." Joe Wilder stands out on the other tracks. O'Day's post-prime recordings have always been a matter of taste and sentiment: you have to like her a lot to see past the decline, but that's easy to do. [7]

Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro: El Espíritu Jíbaro (2002-06, Sunnyside -07) One of Rudd's world music match-ups, with Bobby Sanabria reinforcing Toro's Puerto Rican country beat, and Rudd just being the great trombonist he's always been. Better than his beatless Mali album; not as intriguing a mix as those Mongolian throat singers. [8]

Roswell Rudd Quartet: Keep Your Heart Right (2007, Sunnyside -08) New album of (mostly) old songs, the few the great trombonist managed to write lyrics for. They're set up for Sunny Kim, the first singer he's used since he rediscovered Sheila Jordan. Unfair for anyone to have to walk in Jordan's shoes, but I'm not sure I'd think much of Kim in any case. To her credit, she fares best on two songs Jordan sung on Flexible Flyer, ably negotiating the same tricky phrasing; elsewhere she ranges from competent to not. Piano and bass do little, and I still wonder what Rudd has against drums (or drummers). The trombone is glorious. [6]

Chuck Bernstein: Delta Berimbau Blues (2007-08, CMB) Minimalist gutbucket blues played on a Brazilian diddley bow, with Roswell Rudd for a choice cut. [8]

Roswell Rudd: Trombone Tribe (2008, Sunnyside -09) Several tribes, actually: the title group with three trombones and Bob Stewart on tuba; one called Bonerama with five plus a sousaphone; the Gangbe Brass Band of Benin; and Sex Mob, which qualifies when Rudd weighs in; also, scattered unnamed groups with everyone from Eddie Bert to Ray Anderson to Josh Roseman. And what do trombone tribes do? Duh, party! [9]

The Second Approach Trio With Roswell Rudd: The Light (2009, SoLyd) Passing through Moscow, the trombone great gets sucked into a maelstrom of flying scat and piano -- like he never left the '60s. [7]

Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11, Music & Arts 3CD) Probably better known for his books and compilations -- the 9-CD American Pop: An Audio History From Minstrel to Mojo and the 36-CD That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History plus their separately published books, with a new 36-CD blues series in the works -- than for his original music. I first discovered him when Francis Davis tabbed his first two self-released 1990-92 albums as Pick Hits in an earlier edition of Jazz Consumer Guide -- critical admiration that continues as Davis wrote liner notes for this release. Based in Maine, mostly cut with a local group occasionally spiced with outside star power -- Marc Ribot, Matthew Shipp, Roswell Rudd, Lewis Porter -- this digs deeper than I could have imagined into blues form, blues notes, and blues psyche, turning every aspect over and inside out. Lowe plays alto, C melody, and tenor sax, and guitar. While most of the guitar is played by Ray Suhy or Marc Ribot, Lowe especially stands out on "Williamsburg Blues" -- his guitar with Shipp's piano. Three discs means some sprawl, comparable I'd say to 69 Love Songs in that neither the theme nor the invention wears thin. (Well, maybe a bit in the middle disc.) [10]

Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (2011, Sunnyside) An smorgasbord with Cuban, Cajun, Chinese, and Malian guests, topped by "Danny Boy" stripped down to a bare 'bone. [8]

Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside) With the "Joe Hill" suite at the end, this could have been called Trombone for the Masses: I don't mind the rapper there but the NYC Labor Choir takes some getting used to even though I feel like saluting the political point. Everything else is just superb: the opening "Ghost Riders in the Sky" with Steven Bernstein's slide trumpet, Bob Dorough on "Here, There & Everywhere," Fay Victor on "Trouble in Mind," Michael Doucet's violin on "Autumn Leaves" and "Tennessee Waltz," familiar songs that seem perfect when they pop up: "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Green Onions," "Unchained Melody," "September Song." As for "Joe Hill," well, organize. [10]

Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse: August Love Song (2015, Red House -16) Masse is a singer from Maine, part of the folk group The Wailin' Jennys but also has a couple jazz albums. She wrote one-and-a-half songs here -- the half segues into "Old Devil Moon" -- and the trombonist wrote two songs, the rest from the standards repertoire. With Rolf Sturm on guitar and Mark Helias on bass, what I love is the trombone growl and rumble, but the others, not least the singer, do their part too. [9]

Bob Merrill: Cheerin' Up the Universe (2013, Accurate -15) Trumpet player, crooner, don't know if he's related to the famous songwriter of the same name (1921-98), but is clearly much younger and still living. Band includes John Medeski, Russ Gershon, Nicki Parrott, and George Schuller, and Harry Allen and Roswell Rudd drop in for a cut apiece. [7]

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (2015, Rare Noise -16) Free jazz quartet, everything joint-credited, presumably improvised on the spot. The trombonist has done things like this in the distant past, none recently, and never has he got the mix this right. Saft has emerged as an exceptional free jazz pianist, and the bassist and drummer know the game. [9]

Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise) Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalese, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. [9]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 29021 [28995] rated (+26), 389 [388] unrated (+1).

Spent most of the week sorting out the Jazz Critics Poll ballots, but got slowed down the last few days. Every year we do a Hanukkah party: no religious significance, basically just an excuse to fry up some latkes for friends. Over the years I've added a few side dishes: I salt-cure a chunk of salmon, make some chopped liver, make my own applesauce (we still buy the sour cream). Last year I baked some rye bread to go with the chopped liver. This year I did honey rye rolls (from The Gefilte Manifesto), and whipped up a batch of their "everything bagel butter." I also had some sauerrubben (salted turnip) left over from a previous meal, and the citrus-carrot horseradish, so I made a terrine of gefilte fish (used dover sole) to go with that. I also fried up and pickled some frozen perch fillets I found in the freezer. The centerpiece were the potato pancakes: 3 lbs of russets, 3 onions, 3 eggs, fried in grapeseed oil in three skillets. I don't get to eat until the frying's done, by which time everyone else are pretty well sated.

For a light dessert, we had a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with a wine-sugar syrup and a second bowl of vanilla cream. I recently bought a 12-cup food processor, which made quick work of the onions and potatoes, the chopped liver, and the other tasks I presented it with (although it wasn't great at mixing up or kneading the bread). Prep work was pretty relaxed. The frying caused problems, first tripping the smoke alarm, then the range hood shut down. Doesn't seem to be a permanent problem, but it's never been so fussy before.

I played golden oldies while cooking, hence the low rated count. Also lost more than a few hours to a carpentry project: a new pantry rack that'll attach to the basement door. Bought some more paint for that today. Should get it up in a couple of days.

One casualty of this work was no Weekend Roundup yesterday. You can, at least, check out Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest policy stories of the week, explained: A Democrat won a Senate election in Alabama; Republicans wrote their tax bill; Sexual harassment accusations kept roiling Congress; Net neutrality (i.e., the end of, so your ISP can start auctioning you off to the highest bidder). Given that a candidate as inept and disgusting as Roy Moore still managed to get 650,000 votes (48.4%), I doubt the good news about Alabama will last long. Everything else is more/less horrible. The takeaway is that Republicans don't care about doing vastly unpopular things as long as they advance their owners' agenda. Even if they blow up and cost them a couple elections, like 2006-08, they believe they can claw their way back to power. Yglesias' piece, a piece arguing Why Trump's tax cuts won't be repealed, reveals part of the reason: a profound lack of ambition from the Democrats.

Another thing I didn't have time for was working on the EOY Aggregate List. Picked up a couple lists, but nothing much changed. Much of what I did come up with was suggested by various jazz lists, but still lots of things not on Napster or Bandcamp. Finally wound up with Ron Miles' I Am a Man on YouTube, but that's hardly a fair medium for reviewing. Note three B+(***) records among the vault discoveries: Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Oscar Pettiford all did well in the Jazz Critics Poll, but one spin (especially for the 2CD items) wasn't enough to convince me. Indeed, I also had Call Super pegged at B+(***) before I chanced an extra spin this afternoon, and enjoyed it enough to nudge it over the line.

I was saddened, and given that he was only 61 years old, shocked to hear that Ralph Carney has died. He grew up in Ohio, played clarinet (saxophone, all sorts of other instruments) in the Akron-based new wave rock group Tin Huey -- kind of a big deal c. 1979, with Chris Butler going on to form the Waitresses -- and released a few albums from 1987 on. I'm especially fond of two of the jazzier ones: Carneyball Johnson (2006) and Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (2009); also fine, by the latter group, was Seriously (2011). I wrote him once for records, and he was uncommonly gracious and generous, leading me to his work on several fine "spoken word" albums: Ira Cohen's The Stauffenberg Cycle, Robert Creeley's Really!!, and David Greenberger's OH, PA. He was probably most widely known for his long association with Tom Waits, but he did much more than that.

Keely Smith (originally Dorothy Jacqueline Keely) also passed away last week. She got a job singing for bandleader Louis Prima in 1949, married him in 1953, divorced him in 1961. Prima did some good work as far back as 1934 and had some hits in the '40s, but their period together (along with saxophonist Sam Butera, aka "the wildest") made them stars, especially in Las Vegas. Especially notable is their 1958 Live From Las Vegas. She continued recording up to 1965, then made brief comebacks around 1985 and 2000. The only album I noticed came out in 2005, a thoroughly enjoyable recapitulation of her heyday called Vegas '58 -- Today.

New records rated this week:

  • Fabian Almazan: Alcanza (2017, Biophilia): [r]: B-
  • Denys Baptiste: The Late Trane (2017, Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ernaldo Bernocchi: Rosebud (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Alan Broadbent With the London Metropolitan Orchestra: Developing Story (2017, Eden River): [r]: B+(*)
  • Call Super: Arpo (2017, Houndstooth): [r]: A-
  • Billy Childs: Rebirth (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: B-
  • Ben Goldberg School: Vol 1: The Humanities (2017, BAG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet: Jersey (2017, Motéma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keyon Harrold: The Mugician (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazzmeia Horn: A Social Call (2017, Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sherman Irby & Momentum: Cerulean Canvas (2017, Black Warrior): [r]: B+(*)
  • Irreversible Entanglements: Irreversible Entanglements (2015 [2017], International Anthem/Don Giovanni): [r]: A-
  • Ingrid and Christine Jensen: Infinitude (2016, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(**)
  • Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (U of T Jazz): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nick Maclean Quartet: Rites of Ascension (2017, Browntasaurus): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Makaya McCraven: Highly Rare (2016 [2017], International Anthem): [r]: B+(***)
  • Zara McFarlane: Arise (2017, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gary Meek: Originals (2017, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Uwe Oberg/Rudi Mahall/Michael Griener: Lacy Pool 2 (2017, Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Emile Parisien/Vincent Peirani/Andreas Schaerer/Michael Wollny: Out of Land (2016 [2017], ACT): [r]: B
  • Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (2017, Paytone/Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gary Peacock Trio: Tangents (2016 [2017], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: Dreams and Daggers (2017, Mack Avenue, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeremy Udden/John McNeil/Akyer Kobrinsky/Anthony Pinciotti: Hush Point III (2017, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • The Bill Evans Trio: On a Monday Evening (1976 [2017], Fantasy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (1959, Sam, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems (1975-2016 [2017], Sony Music Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • Perseverance: The Music of Rick DeRosa at North Texas (2011-15 [2017], UNT): [cd]: B-
  • Oscar Pettiford Nonet/Big Band/Sextet: New York City 1955-1958 (1955-58 [2017], Uptown, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Uwe Oberg/Christof Thewes/Michael Griener: Lacy Pool (2006 [2009], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Wali Ali: To Be (Mendicant)
  • Vinny Golia Wind Quartet: Live at the Century City Playhouse: Los Angeles, 1979 (Dark Tree)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28995 [28950] rated (+45), 388 [390] unrated (-2).

First time I calculated the rated count I came up with 31, which looked way low. A closer look kicked it up to 37, and then I went back and rechecked everything in the rated list and found a bunch of records missing grades. I also recalled that I had played two Yaeji EPs, so fixed that. Final rated total winds up pretty close to the upper bounds of a good, solid week. Contributing were two things: one was that I was recuperating from the previous week's cooking madness, taking it easy with hardly any distractions; the other was that I used a good deal of my chill time aggregating EOY lists, which suggested a lot of records to check out. Can't say as they've generated a lot of finds thus far, although one list pointed me to the legendary Kenyan band, and their label's Bandcamp page led me to the Andina compilation. My tip for the '90s pop compilation came from Robert Christgau (at the time I couldn't find the other one he liked, Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems, but I've found it now, so next week).

I finally got the Jazz Critics Poll ballot data last night, so I'm swamped with work to do to check and format that data. Still not sure when NPR is going to run -- probably this week, quite possibly before I get my part done. Otherwise I'd write something about how the EOY list aggregate is shaping up, but I suppose you can see for yourself. As I initially suspected, Kendrick Lamar's Damn is well ahead, with the next four slots very close (83-78 by my count, compared to 114 for Lamar and 55 for 6th place Vince Staples: Lorde, LCD Soundsystem, SZA, and St. Vincent. I've compiled far fewer lists than I have in recent years, but I'll note that AOTY's 2017 Music Year End List Aggregate currently shows the same top six albums in the same order (although they have Lorde opening up a clear gap over a virtual tie between LCD Soundsystem and SZA). Their top ten rounds out with War on Drugs, Father John Misty, Sampha, and National, with Slowdive 11th. My top 11 has the same records, order slightly shuffled.

After that we disagree more, with Mount Eerie dropping from 12th on their list to 28th on mine; Tyler the Creator from 13th to 19th; the XX from 21st to 38th, Taylor Swift from 36th to 68th. There are fewer dramatic improvements on my list, although the early UK bias certainly helps Jane Weaver (from 40th to 16th). I'll know more, and be able to say more, next week. One thing I will note is that my list has picked up on so few jazz lists that it's completely useless for predicting the Jazz Critics Poll.

One final note: after reviewing it, I discovered that Octopus is actually scheduled for Jan. 28, 2018 release, so it doesn't appear in my 2017 Jazz List. I did find the FCT album after I cast my Jazz Critics Poll ballot, so as usual it took me just a few days to find an A- album I had missed.

New records rated this week:

  • Bargou 08: Targ (2017, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice (2017, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pan Daijing: Lack (2017, Pan): [r]: B-
  • Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (2016 [2018], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • Angelo Divino: Love A to Z (2017, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Fabiano Do Nascimento: Tempo dos Mestres (2017, Now-Again): [r]: B+(**)
  • FCT = Francesco Cusa Trio Meets Carlo Atti: From Sun Ra to Donald Trump (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Nick Fraser: Is Life Long? (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Friesen: Structures (2017, Origin, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Aldous Harding: Party (2017, 4AD): [r]: B
  • Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste: Reverso: Suite Pavel (2017 [2018], Phonoart): [cd]: B+(**)
  • King Krule: The OOZ (2017, True Panther Sounds): [r]: B
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B-
  • Joao Lencastre's Communion 3: Movements in Freedom (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Van Morrison: Versatile (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Order: NOMC15 (Pledge Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gard Nilssen's Complete Unity: Live in Europe (2016 [2017], Clean Feed, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orchestre Les Mangelepa: Last Band Standing (2017, Strut): [r]: A-
  • Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens (2017, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (2017, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Princess Nokia: 1992 Deluxe (2017, Rough Trade): [r]: B
  • Nadia Reid: Preservation (2017, Basin Rock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Riddlore: Afro Mutations (2015 [2016], Nyege Nyege Tapes): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rina Sawayama: Rina (2017, The Vinyl Factory, EP): [r]: B-
  • Sirius: Acoustic Main Suite Plus the Inner One (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: The Kid (2017, Western Vinyl): [r]: B
  • Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 2 (2017, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Swift: Reputation (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tune Recreation Committee: Voices of Our Vision (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding (2017, Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology (2017, Fire): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wolf Alice: Visions of a Life (2017, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yaeji: Yaeji (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yaeji: EP 2 (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet: Vol. 2 (2017, Modica Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Visitor (2017, Reprise): [r]: B
  • Waclaw Zimpel/Jakub Ziolek: Zimpel/Ziolek (2017, Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Andina: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 (1968-78 [2017], Tiger's Milk/Strut): [r]: A-
  • Bro. Valentino: Stay Up Zimbabwe (1979-80 [2017], Analog Africa, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Oté Maloya: The Birth of Electric Maloya on Réunion Island 1975-1986 (1975-86 [2017], Strut): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Now That's What I Call 90s Pop (1990s [2017], UMG/Sony): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Taylor Swift: 1989 (2014, Big Machine): [r]: B+(***)
  • Waclaw Zimpel: Lines (2015 [2016], Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp: Heptagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Jeff Cosgrove: Live in Baltimore (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (Leo, 2CD)
  • Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley/Brandon Lopez/Gerald Cleaver: Octagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Nate Wooley: Philosopher's Stone (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Joe Hertenstein: Scalene (Leo)
  • Takaaki: New Kid in Town (Troy)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekend Roundup

The Democrats in Congress, especially the leadership, have had a really bad week, and I fear they've inflicted grave wounds on themselves. John Conyers and Al Franken have resigned after enormous pressure from the party leadership, leaving the party with fewer votes, summarily ending two notable careers. I especially blame Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer. Back in 2016 Hillary Clinton like to posit a "Commander-in-Chief Test," figuring she'd compare favorably to Donald Trump by emphasizing her own fondness for military adventures -- I think her hawkishness was a big part of why she lost, but my point isn't to rehash her delusions. Rather, what we saw last week was a "Shop Steward" test, which Pelosi and Shumer utterly failed. They let a little media pressure blow them over. More importantly, they failed to insist on due process, on the most basic principles of traditional American justice, and in doing so they sacrificed political standing and insulted and demeaned the voters who had elected Conyers and Franken.

Supposedly, one thing the Democrats hope to achieve in sacking Conyers and Franken is "the moral high ground" -- demonstrating their superior sensitivity to and concern for victims of sexual misconduct (pretty broadly defined). In theory, this will pay off in defeating Roy Moore in next week's Alabama Senate race and/or in putting pressure on Donald Trump to resign. In fact, Trump was elected president after 19 women accused him of various shades of assault, and after he bragged about as much. While Moore is facing a closer election than Alabama Republicans are used to, he remains the favorite to win Tuesday. And while some Democrats imagine that if Moore wins the Senate will refuse to seat him, I can't imagine the Republicans sacrificing power like that. Nor, quite frankly, should they. (The only duly elected member I can recall either branch of Congress refusing to seat was Adam Clayton Powell, in a shameful travesty -- although, come to think of it, they did take months before allowing Al Franken to enter.)

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that mattered in politics this week: The tax reform hit some snags ("Senate Republicans appear to have written a corporate AMT provision that they intended to raise a little bit of revenue in a sloppy way that actually raises a ton of revenue and alienates the businesses who were supposed to benefit from a big tax cut"); President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Al Franken announced he'll resign; The government will stay open for a couple of weeks. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • We have a trial date: March 19, "the beginning of the trial at which the Justice Department will seek to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner." There is no shortage of good reasons for blocking this merger, and indeed for untangling all of the past mergers between data transit and content companies, although it's surprising to see Trump's DOJ lifting a finger to prevent the further concentration of predatory corporate power.

    • Apple could get a staggering $47 billion windfall from the tax bill:

      What's particularly striking about this windfall is that though Apple has been a fierce advocate for corporate tax reform -- $47 billion is a lot of money after all -- Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained over and over again that shoveling billions into his corporate treasury won't boost his investment spending.

      He already has plenty of cash, but beyond that, when Cook wants Apple to invest more, he borrows the money.

    • Tomorrow's financial crisis today: Points out that less than ten years after the worst recession since the 1930s Trump's administration is working to undermine the Treasury's Office of Financial Research and "let banks take on more risky debt:

      The nature of a banking crisis is you probably won't have one in any given year, regardless of how shoddy your regulatory framework is. As long as asset prices are trending upward, it just doesn't matter. In fact, as long as asset prices are trending upward, a poorly regulated banking sector will be more profitable than a well-regulated one.

      It's all good. Unless things blow up. But if your bad policymaking takes us from a one-in-500 chance of a blow-up in any given year to a one-in-20 chance, you're still in a world where things will probably be fine across even an entire eight-year span in office. Probably.

      Trump has taken a lot of risky bets in his life. And though he's often lost, he's usually been insulated by his inherited wealth and by his very real skill at structuring deals so other people end up holding a lot of the downside. Any presidency inherently has that kind of structure with or without skill. Presidents suffer when they make mistakes, but other people suffer more.

      ?he key phrase here is "as long as asset prices are trending upward." The surest way to keep asset prices rising is to let rich people make and keep more money, which is what happened from the Bush tax cuts forward to 2007-08. What broke then turned out to be pretty simple: a big chunk of those assets were built on subprime mortgages, and the people who signed up for the mortgages weren't able to grow their incomes enough to cover their debts, so they defaulted; meanwhile, the banks had leveraged themselves so much they couldn't cover their losses, so they started to fail in a cascade that threatened to make the "domino theory" look like small potatoes. But the government, especially the Fed, stepped in and pumped several trillions of dollars into the banks to prop them up so they could unwind their losses more gracefully, while the government did very little to help the little people who suffered the brunt of the recession. (I was going to say "virtually nothing," but things like extended unemployment benefits did help keep the recession from matching the desolation caused by the Great Depression.) We're already seeing asset bubbles in things like the stock market. The whole point of Trump's tax cuts and deregulation is to feed this bubble, even though there is no clear way to sustain the trend or to appease the financier's appetite for ever greater profits. Coupled with a massive collapse of business ethics -- this has been growing since the "greed is good" Reagan era, but Trump is an even more shocking role model -- it's only a matter of time before the whole edifice collapses.

    • We need a healthier conversation about partisanship and sexual assault.

    • The tax bill is a tax cut, not a culture war: Pushes back against the idea that Republicans chose targets to "reform" by how much they would hurt "blue states" (the SALT deduction being the obvious example). Shows that the overriding reasoning behind the cuts/reforms is to favor the rich over the poor, regardless of where they may live or do business. Of course, the real cost to poor and working Americans won't appear in scoring the bill -- it will come later in the form of service cuts and the ever-widening chasm between "haves and have-nots."

    • Republicans need Roy Moore to pass their tax bill.

    • Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from.

    • Democrats need to get a grip about the budget deficit: "The tax bill is bad, the debt is fine." ARgues that "Bush's deficits were fine and Trump's will be too" and that "Obama's deficits were way too small."

    • Don't worry about the debt.

  • Matthew Cole/Jeremy Scahill: Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter "Deep State" Enemies: Evidently one of Erik Prince's schemes, notably backed by Oliver North. One suspicious point is that the scheme would still report to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, figuring him more loyal to Trump than to the "Deep State" he nominally manages a big chunk of. Also see Aram Roston: Private War: Erik Prince Has H is Eye on Afghanistan's Rare Metals. Evidently the mercenary leader is trying to turn his private army into some sort of modern British East India Company colossus.

  • Juliet Eilperin: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument: Helps explain why Trump and Zinke radically shrunk the borders of the National Monument (see maps). The land still belongs to the federal government, but will now be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For info on what that means, see Adam Federman: This Is How the Trump Administration Gives Big Oil the Keys to Public Lands.

  • Tara Golsham: Rep. Trent Franks, who is resigning immediately, offered staffer $5 million to be his baby surrogate: One of the more bizarre stories of recent weeks: Arizona Republican, "a deeply conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the most pro-life members of Congress. Evidently he has that kind of money, and assumes it entitles him to run roughshod over others.

  • Jim Kirby: Hillary Clinton's emails got as much front-page coverage in 6 days as policy did in 69: An analysis of New York Times -- your newspaper or preferred media source may vary (with some never matching that 6-day email window), but for a supposedly sober and serious news source, that's pretty disgusting. One might argue that Hillary's email controversy speaks to her character, but no more so than hundreds or thousands of Donald Trump anecdotes. Even so, you'd think it sensible that news coverage of an election would focus more on likely policies and future scenarios than on past personal quirks. The only excuse I can think of is that today's campaigns are often as shallow as the media covering them -- or at least try to be.

  • Rashid Khalidi: After Jerusalem, the US Can No Longer Pretend to Be an Honest Broker of Peace: Actually, that was clear even before Trump ordered the US embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Khalidi knows damn well -- he's even written a whole book about it: Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. What I've yet to see anyone comment on is why the US didn't move the embassy earlier. The basic reason is respect for international law, which as this week's announcement shows has sunken to new lows in Washington. The 1947 UN resolution proposing partition of the British Mandate in Palestine -- a resolution that David Ben-Gurion lobbied fervently for -- called for dividing the Mandate into two states, but keeping Jerusalem separate as an international area. Immediately on declaring independence in 1948, Israel launched a military offensive aimed at expanding on the borders the UN prescribed. The main target of that offensive was Jerusalem, which wound up divided between Israeli and Jordanian forces. In 1967 Israel launched another war and drove Jordan from East Jerusalem and the West Bank -- territories that the UN ordered Israel to return, despite Israel's almost immediate annexation of Jerusalem and environs. Israel's de facto control of Jerusalem has never been squared away with the rulings of international law, so no country with respect for international law has conceded Israel's claim. "Until now," you might say, but the US has increasingly shown contempt for international law, and this is just one more example.

    By the way, a headline in the Wichita Eagle today: "After US decision on Jerusalem, Gaza protests turn deadly." First line of article explains how: "Two Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday after rocket fire from the enclave hit an Israeli town, as the death toll in violence linked to President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital rose to four." No damage was reported from the Gazan rockets. For info about the other two deaths, see: Peter Beaumont/Patrick Wintour: Two Palestinians shot dead and one critical in riots after Trump speech. Also: Raja Shehadeh: I have witnessed two intifadas. Trump's stance on Israel may ignite a third.

  • Sarah Kliff: Obamacare sign-ups defy Trump's sabotage campaign.

  • German Lopez: Roy Moore: America "was great at the time when families were united -- even though he had slavery." Anyone who thinks that the problem with Moore is his fondness for underaged girls clearly hasn't paid any attention to his politics or to his political legacy. More worrying is Moore's unwavering contempt for the law -- after all, Moore has been stripped of his position on the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to submit to federal law, specifically the First Amendment. When Donald Trump tries to tout Moore as the "law and order candidate" he does little more than expose his own flimsy and dicey relationship to the law. (Meanwhile, Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, has a distinguished record as a federal prosecutor, credentials that only someone as reality-challenged as Trump can readily dismiss.) I wish I could say that Moore's casual endorsement of slavery is even more shocking, but we've always known him to be a racist. After all, Alabama's given us George Wallace and Jeff Sessions, so how much worse can Moore be? Well, this statement is a pretty good example: "I think it [America] was great at the time when families were united -- even though we had slavery. They cared for one another. People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction." The most obvious problem is that slavery was a system which denied family life and bonds, one that allowed slaveowners to prevent or break families by selling members. He could hardly be clearer that he doesn't regard blacks as people -- as Lopez notes, only one of many blind bigotries Moore espouses. Still, I detect another curious note in the quote: it's like he's trying to channel ideologues like George Fitzhugh who tried to defend slavery as anti-capitalist -- an alternative to the coarse materialism that Bible-thumpers like Moore so despise.

    More on Moore:

  • Andrew Prokop: Michael Flynn's involvement in a plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East is looking even shadier: More "Russia" scandal this past week, but one should recall that Russian schemes under Putin have nothing to do with fomenting world revolution or curtailing US imperial ambitions: they're founded on pure oligarchic greed, which isn't at all unlike the Trump approach to business. E.g., this piece summarizes a "whistleblower" report about a deal Flynn was working on:

    According to the whistleblower, [Alex] Copson flat-out said the following things:

    • That he "just got" a text message from Flynn saying the nuclear plant project was "good to go," and that his business colleagues should "put things in place"
    • That Flynn was making sure sanctions on Russia would be "ripped up," which would let the project go forward
    • That this was the "best day" of his life, and that the project would "make a lot of very wealthy people"
    • That the project would also provide a pretext for expanding a US military presence in the Middle East (the pretext of defending the nuclear plants)
    • That citizens of Middle Eastern countries would be better off "when we recolonize the Middle East"
  • David Roberts: A moment of truth arrives for Rick Perry's widely hated coal bailout: Long article, really should be a much bigger scandal than anything having to do with "sexual misconduct" -- with billions of dollars of benefits going to five coal companies, paid for by rate hikes from millions of consumers, and championed by a moron like Rick Perry, it wouldn't even take much of a stretch from the media to blow this up, but evidently they're too lazy to care.

  • Aja Romano: MSNBC won't cut ties to Sam Seder after all: succumbing to alt-right outrage was a "mistake": Another cautionary tale, showing you can't trust anything reported on right-wing media, and that the kneejerk "zero tolerance" reactions of "liberal" media combines are set up perfectly to be scammed. More: Ryan Grim: MSNBC Reverses Decision to Fire Contributor Sam Seder.

  • Mark Joseph Stern: The Trump Administration Just Declared War on Public Sector Unions.

  • Corey Williams/David Eggert: Conyers' Congressional Seat Won't Be Filled for Nearly a Year: So, Nancy Pelosi browbeat Conyers into resigning his seat, certain that a Democrat would replace him -- the current gerrymander of Michigan concedes that -- but evidently the Republican governor of Michigan can simply hold the seat open for a whole year?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28950 [28931] rated (+19), 390 [391] unrated (-1).

I spent most of last week planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking a massive dinner for the Wichita Peace Center's 25th Annual Dinner, with major (indispensable) help from Janice Bradley, Max Stewart, and Russ Pataki, with a few others pitching in on dinner days, notably including people I didn't know who hung around to help clean up. I fixed a range of Indian dishes: lamb and potatoes in a cream sauce (rogani gosht), tandoori chicken in a tomato-butter sauce (makhni), fish tikka, patiala pilaf (minus the fried onions), a sweet potato/chickpea curry, mattar paneer (peas with cheese), bharta (smoked eggplant), cabbage, kali dal, cucumber raita. We served appetizers at the tables, including a minted aloo chat (potato salad), coconut relish, pineapple sambal, a hot tomato chutney, paratha (flatbread), tapioca chips, a couple of store-bought chutneys (brinjal, lime pickle). Had spice cake and a Moroccan fruit salad for dessert. Best compliment I had was when one friend came up to me and cooed in my ear, "the food is divine." I had my quibbles with the fish and rice -- partly frustration as they were the last things done and both ran into unexpected problems.

Mark McCormick was the featured speaker (buy his new book here). He gave a nice speech, and was even better fielding questions, stressing how we've become disconnected and desensitized to the problems around us. Partial proof of that was evident in the disappointing turnout: a little over 40 people this year, compared to 60 last year. (Not getting an accurate RSVP count until too late, I prepared food for 60, so we had a lot left over.) I was pretty much a wreck by the time it was done. Doubt I'll be able to do it again, but afterwards Max was trying to figure out ways to spread the work out -- I've never been very good at delegating -- and I was wondering whether paella might scale up better. Don't need to decide for nearly a year.

I published the November roll-up of Streamnotes last week. on Tuesday. With everything else going on, I didn't expect I'd be able to find anything new to add to what I had noted last Music Week. But I found four of this week's five A- records in the day between Music Week and Streamnotes: the David S. Ware archival set (from 2010, so still new enough) wasn't unexpected, and the two Chicago tenor saxophonists (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, dba Made to Break and Boneshaker, respectively) were right up my alley. But Re-TROS, a tip from Chris Monsen's 2017-in-progress list, was totally unexpected: a Chinese alt-rock group, at times (but not all the time) sounding like a cross between Pulnoc and Konono No. 1 (on Bandcamp, by the way).

December 3 was the deadline for ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll. I resorted my top jazz picks and submitted the following:

New records:

  1. William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (AUM Fidelity, 2CD)
  2. Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra)
  3. Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
  4. Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (Intakt)
  5. Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
  6. Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain)
  7. Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz)
  8. François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (FMR)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup)
  10. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (Not Two)

Reissues or historical:

  1. American Epic: The Collection (1916-36, Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 5CD)
  2. Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999, NoBusiness)
  3. The Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance)

Vocal album: Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)

Debut album: Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz) -- I allowed that if groups aren't eligible (leader Michael McNeill has several albums under his own name) the best individual pick is probably Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl).

Latin Jazz album: Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro) -- I noted that Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music) was actually higher on my list, but I thought Alegria's album was more Latin Jazzy.

My ranking is highly proximate. Parker is the only download, and I probably haven't played it enough, but the two contrasting quartets reminds me of Ornette Coleman's marvelous In All Languages, where he split a double-LP among two groups (more distinctive ones than Parker's). Each half is potentially great, but I still haven't moved it above the A- bin. I replayed maybe half of the top ten last week, but there's still not a lot of distance from top to bottom, or even throughout the A-list.

I was going to make a comment based on something Robert Christgau said in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, but I can't look up the quote due to an "ad blocker" snit fit I don't feel like indulging. As best I recall, he said something about most critics viewing EOY lists as personal branding exercises. My list can be viewed that way. To the extent that I have a brand, or a public persona, it's that of someone who listens far and wide, doesn't follow fashion, and doesn't want to get pigeonholed. On the other hand, this year's list is more avant than usual, and leans toward people I've repeatedly favored in the past -- something I've noticed a lot this past year (while suspecting as some kind of a rut, but not caring enough to break out of).

My Best Non-Jazz of 2017 list is even more problematical, not least because I've cared for it less. I haven't, for instance, played 2nd-ranked Run the Jewels or 3rd-ranked Sylvan Esso since I initially graded them, so early in the year that they were necessarily slotted high on the list. I don't have a Pazz & Jop invitation yet. When I do, I expect I'll do a lot of shuffling, if only to "fit my brand" as it's becoming increasingly impossible to believe that I'm sorting out anything objective.

But if I had to draw a single conclusion out of these lists, it's that nothing this year matters nearly as much to me as the records I've regularly put on top-ten lists in past years -- especially a decade or more back; e.g., in 2007:

  1. Manu Chao: La Radiolina (Nacional/Because)
  2. John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)
  3. Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (Atavistic, 2CD)
  4. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)
  5. Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)
  6. David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
  7. Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-)
  8. Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (Hot Cup)
  10. ROVA: The Juke Box Suite (Not Two)

Or 1997, when the sample size was only 155 records:

  1. Cornershop: When I Was Born for the Seventh Time (Warner Bros.)
  2. Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (Verve)
  3. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (DIW)
  4. Ani DiFranco: Living in Clip (Righteous Babe, 2CD)
  5. Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone (Hence the Reason) (Enja)
  6. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind (Columbia)
  7. Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (Mapleshade)
  8. Latryx: The Album (SoleSides)
  9. Nils Petter Molvaer: Khmer (ECM, 2CD)
  10. Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador)

I don't have earlier lists I can readily tap into, but 1987 and 1977 would be even more memorable to me -- especially the latter, as it came right after I moved to New York City, during my first stretch writing rock crit for the Village Voice, a time when I really cared about my favorite records, and managed to put a lot of time into them. That doesn't happen any more, and while I suspect the variable is me, I can't totally eliminate the music. I mean, doesn't postmodernism start with ironic detachment? Then why shouldn't it end simply with indifference?

I'm not saying that music in 2017 sucks. This year is more/less as good as last year and the year before and so on -- the only long term trends worth noting are that there's more to listen to every year and less time to devote to it. But what is indubitable is that the world in 2017 sucks, so it's getting harder for music to overcome all that drudgery. And, sure, that's probably worse for someone my age, because pretty much everything gets worse as you get old.

By the way, I have started to aggregate EOY lists, using the same formats and methodology as last year. Thus far I have something like four early lists (Mojo and three British record shops, so all UK) plus three individual JJA top-tens, plus I'm counting my grades as I go along, so take this with several distinct grains of salt. The only thing I'm fairly sure of thus far is that LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is the only record with a decent chance of challenging the obvious favorite, Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Moreover, the three jazz lists I've thus far tallied don't offer a single clue how the Jazz Critics Poll is going to sort out (not a single record appears on more than one ballot so far (nor on mine). If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Vijay Iyer's Far From Over wins, but it doesn't have a vote so far.

New records rated this week:

  • Espen Aalberg/Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Susana Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol. 4 (The Bali Tapes) (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 [2017], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (2017, Delmark): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Joe McPhee/Pascal Niggenkemper/Stĺle Liavik Solberg: Imaginary Numbers (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kjetil Mřster/Jeff Parker/Joshua Abrams/John Herndon: Ran Do (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeb Loy Nichols: Country Hustle (2017, Inkind): [r]: B-
  • Penguin Cafe: The Imperfect Sea (2017, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(**)
  • Margo Price: All American Made (2017, Third Man): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ada Rave Trio: The Sea, the Storm and the Full Moon (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 [2017], New Atlantis): [bc]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York, 2010 (2010 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [dl]: A-

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

  • Hamad Kalkaba: Hamad Kalkaba and the Golden Sounds 1974-1975 (1974-75 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Los Cameroes: Resurrection Los Vol. 1 (1976 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984 (1976-84 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Bonecrusher (2012, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (U of T Jazz): December 15
  • New York Electric Piano: State of the Art (Fervor)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Weekend Roundup

I spent literally most of last week trying to cook for 60 at the Wichita Peace Center Annual Dinner on Friday, and I've been sore and tired ever since. Thought compiling this post might feel like a return to normalcy, but nothing's normal any more.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories of the week, explained: Senate Republicans are on track to pass their tax cut (as, indeed, they did); We found our about more sexual harassers (especially Matt Lauer); After Rexit (Rex Tillerson, rumored gone but hanging on); North Korea launched a long-range ICBM (one that could theoretically hit anywhere in the continental United States). Other Yglesias posts:

    • Republicans may regret this tax bill: This seems intuitively right. The biggest political issue in America today is increasing inequality and its various effects, including the binding of political power and personal security to private wealth. Moreover, this is an issue with a strict partisan divide: Republicans are doing everything they can to concentrate wealth and power in the donor class, and Democrats are more or less opposed to this and more or less in favor of a more equitable society (at least like the ones of the New Deal/Great Society era, but with less racism). To the extent people understand the tax bill, it is wildly unpopular, so it's something Democrats can and will run on. It also goes a long ways toward absolving the Democrats' own culpability for increasing inequality: that the Republicans would, strictly through a party-line vote, do something this brazen when inequality is already so severe (and so unpopular) -- and Trump's deregulation program and blatant surrender of the people's government to business interests -- should expose them for all to see. Yglesias cites Josh Barro: The Republican tax plan creates big long-term opportunities for Democrats. By the way, one thing Barro argues that I don't for a moment believe is: "a corporate tax cut should tend to cause wages to rise a little bit, because a lower corporate tax rate makes the US a more attractive location to employ people."

    • We're all in Kansas now: A reference to Gov. Sam Brownback's notorious tax cuts, the enormous fiscal damage they caused, the slower degradation of infrastructure and services, and their near-zero boost to the economy (possibly sub-zero compared to nationwide economic growth during the same period). The only real difference between what Brownback passed and what the Senate just passed is that the US government is able to float much more debt, and thereby soften the degradation. By the way, Brownback, anticipating confirmation as Trump's Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty, recently gave a "farewell address," not to the public but to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, where the only advice he could offer to his successor is pray.

    • Trump's Treasury Department is lying about its own analysis of the tax bill

    • The tax bill's original sin: The idea that the corporate tax rate must be reduced from 35% all the way to 20%, a much steeper cut than anyone was even agitating for a few years ago (e.g., the Business Roundtable was proposing 25% as recently as 2015). One thing I don't understand is why no one is pushing a progressive tax on business profits: maybe 10% for the first $1M, 15% for $1-10M, 20% for $10-50M, 25% for $50-250M, 30% for $250M-$1B, 35% for $1-5B, 40% above $5B. Probably those rates should be a bit higher, and various loopholes should be filled -- I'd like to see the overall reform on corporate tax rates produce more (not less) revenue. But something like this would benefit most companies while only penalizing companies that use their sheer size and/or monopoly positions to reap huge profits. And slowing them down would be good for everyone.

    • Matt Lauer totally blew it on Trump's blatant lying about Iraq and Libya

    • The rules of "how Congress works" have changed: Points out that the Senate tax bill faced concerted opposition from many special interest lobby groups ("the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Homebuilders, the AARP, police unions, hospital associations and the AMA, and the higher education lobby"), as well as polling poorly among the public, yet Republicans stuck to their partisan ideology and passed it anyway. That's not how interest group politics has generally worked in Washington. Yglesias doesn't say this, but it more generally fits the model of class warfare. He does note that the Democrats could have crafted a more viable ACA had they not catered to special interest groups, in the vain hope that selling out to lobbyists would rally Republican support for a bipartisan bill.

      Had Democrats gone down a different path and pushed a bill with a strong public option with payment rates linked to Medicare, we would have seen a very different health policy trajectory over the past few years.

      Premiums would have been lower, which would have meant federal subsidy outlays would have been lower, which would have made it affordable for Congress to make the subsidies more generous. Enrollment in ACA exchanges would have been higher; there would have been no issue with "bare counties"; and, because of lower premiums, the "just pay the fine" option would have been less attractive, leading to more stable risk pools.

    • A deficit trigger can't fix the GOP tax plan

    • Crisis at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also on this, see Matt Taibbi: Trump's Consumer Victory Officially Makes a Joke of Financial Reform.

    • New dynamic score shows the Senate tax bill raises debt by more than advertised

    • The theory behind Trump's tax cuts is exactly what gave us the failed Bush economy: "An influx of foreign hot money isn't what we need." A lot of meat here, but one could dig deeper. Foreign money will drive up asset prices, which will be a windfall for business owners, but once they sell out those businesses will no longer be rooted in the owners' communities. Foreign ownership of American companies has been a mixed blessing: some have gone easier on depressing labor costs, but most wind up operating as American companies do -- as, indeed, whatever they can get away with here -- and they're ultimately as likely to export or automate jobs away as any other capitalists. As Yglesias notes, much of the influx will eventually be converted into bidding up real estate prices (he calls this "housing boom 2.0" but I'm more skeptical that the subprime boom is repeatable, and unless average Americans start making more money -- inconceivable under Republican rule -- we're all stuck in the subprime market). His other point is that the expected influx will strengthen the dollar, hurting exports and manufacturing jobs, so while the rich get richer, the workers get stiffed.

    • If the GOP tax plan is so good, why do they lie so much about it? Partly, I suspect, it's just force of habit, but they really don't have anything potentially popular to offer -- they're just scamming for the donor class, and they'll make the suckers pay for it.

  • New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist:

    With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders' primary goal is to enrich the country's elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

    The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

    Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

    Other links on the tax bill:

  • Gordon G Chang: Is Donald Trump Getting Ready to Attack North Korea? One theory floated here is that the US could disable North Korea by bombing the pipeline that delivers oil from China and/or their one oil refinery. Or, better still, the US could intimidate China into shutting down the pipeline. I don't see how North Korea's leadership does not take the former as an opening salvo in a war, one that forces them to retaliate. As for China, they probably understand that keeping their oil lifeline open is necessary to keeping the peace. And there are real limits to how much the US can push China around without hurting American investments in China (or much worse). At some point Trump's people need to decide whether North Korea having a deterrent against an American attack that no one in the US military wants to launch is really such a big problem. At present it mostly seems to be an affront to the egos of those who still believe the neocon sole-superpower promise of world domination. Sadly, most of the writers in this "War in Asia?" issue of The National Interest seem to buy into such delusions.

  • Thomas B Edsall: The Self-Destruction of American Democracy: After raising the question of whether Putin backed Trump out of pure malice for the American people, and quoting Henry Aaron (Brookings senior fellow, presumably not the Hall of Famer) that "Trump is a political weapon of mass self-destruction for American democracy -- for its norms, for its morality, for sheer human decency," he has to admit that "we Americans created this mess." Then he starts worrying about America's declining influence and esteem in the world, offering a chart showing only two (of 37) other countries with higher approval numbers for Trump than for Obama: Israel (up to 56 from 49) and Russia (way up to 53 from 11). I think the biggest drop was in Sweden (93 to 10), followed by Germany (86 to 11), Netherlands (92 to 17, South Korea (88 to 17), and France (84 to 14). Britain and Canada dropped down to 23, from 79 and 83 respectively. Still, loss of approval hasn't yet done much damage to the empire (although Egypt's decision to allow Russian air bases is perhaps a harbinger). But this is more to the point:

    Add to Trump's list of lies his race baiting, his attacks on a free press, his charges of "fake news," his efforts to instigate new levels of voter suppression, his undermining of the legitimacy of the electoral process, his disregard for the independence of the judiciary, the hypocrisy of his personal posture on sexual harassment, the patent lack of concern for delivering results to voters who supported him, his contempt for and manipulation of his own loyalists, his "failure of character" -- and you have a lethal corruption of democratic leadership. . . .

    At the moment, Trump's co-partisans, House and Senate Republicans, have shown little willingness to confront him. The longer Trump stays in office, the greater the danger that he will inflict permanent damage on the institutions that must be essential tools in any serious attempt to confront him.

    Edsall's error is that he doesn't recognize that those Congressional Republicans are every bit as contemptuous of democracy as Trump. Indeed, he gives Trump too much credit, and Charles Koch and Paul Ryan not nearly enough.

  • Jill Filipovic: The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election: I'm not so sure about the headline, but is there something more than coincidence going on here?

    Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official "commander-in-chief forum" for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer's with Mrs. Clinton -- talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton's 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

    A pervasive theme of all of these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn't that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status. . . .

    It's hard to look at these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place. When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That's exactly how some commentary and news coverage treated Mrs. Clinton.

    Of course, it's possible that an individual's hostility to Hillary has more to do with her being a Clinton than a woman. There's no doubt that many in the media treated her unfairly. Still, I'm more struck by how gingerly they treated dozens of more damning scandals, especially Trump's own sexual abuse history. Filipovic also wrote: Matt Lauer is gone. He's left heartbreak in his wake.

  • Susan Hennessey et al: The Flynn Plea: A Quick and Dirty Analysis. One recalls that from early on Flynn was offering testimony for immunity. One thing the guilty plea suggests is he does indeed have something to further Mueller's investigation as it closes in on Trump's inner circle. Also note that while investigations into foreign interference in American elections has always focused on Russia, the incident Flynn pleaded guilty to involved lobbying Russia for Israel: see Philip Weiss: Flynn's plea on Russia influence reveals . . . Israel's influence!; also Richard Silverstein: Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israeli Settlements. Trump's reaction, of course, was to turn up the crazy: Dana Milbank: Get ready for Trump's fireworks:

    I tried to ignore the Trump shenanigans this week, instead writing about the drug industry executive Trump tapped to oversee drug pricing and about the administration lawyer who orchestrated Trump's takeover of the CFPB after serving as lawyer for a payday lender cited by the CFPB for abuses. But such pieces generate only a fraction of the clicks of pieces I and others write about Trump's pyrotechnics.

    Those pyrotechnics are going to increase now that Mueller has turned Flynn. Trump's distractions will be impossible to ignore. But we -- lawmakers, the media and the public -- need to keep our focus on the real damage Trump is doing.

  • Shira A Scheindlin: Trump's new team of judges will radically change American society:

  • Paul Woodward: Have we been lied to about the Kate Steinle case? Steinle was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant, Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted of murder charges last week. Zarate had been deported five times, which "made him a very effective villain for Trump's border security campaign messages." The shooting was clearly an accident, and it's pretty unlikely the case would ever have been prosecuted had Zarate been a card-carrying NRA member. But Trump (aka "the xenophobic, racist, bigot, defiling the Oval Office") went ballistic over the verdict.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Streamnotes (November 2017)

Don't have time to count, but probably a large edge below for jazz over non-jazz releases, partly because I still get some jazz in the mail, partly because it's easier to find about about jazz things of likely interest, partly because I'm more confident of my views there. Good late run of free jazz albums, bringing my very much in progress Best Jazz Albums of 2017 A-list to a 73-49 edge over Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2017. I should caution you that order of both should shuffle a lot in the next couple weeks.

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10370 records).

Recent Releases

2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017, Def Jam): A rapper from Georgia, Tauheed Epps, fifth big label album plus a dozen mixtapes, many of the latter playing off the Trap Music concept -- not sure how that fits in here, as this all bangs pretty hard. Runs long, too, but develops some appeal. B+(*)

Thomas Anderson: My Songs Are the House I Live In (2017, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, self-released a long-titled but marvelous debut in 1988 and has kept working at it -- ninth album in my databse, but there are probably more. He's clear enough I can follow the words, and smart enough I want to, and while this may not be his deepest set, the keyboard-heavy music sets it up so elegantly I want to keep working on it. A-

Nicole Atkins: Goodbye Rhonda Lee (2017, Single Lock): Singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2007, based in Nashville but no country influence I can detect. Cites the Brill Building as a prime influence, but don't hear that either. B

Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): Tenor saxophonist, based in Nashville, teaches at Tennessee State, has at least one previous album. Standards, some as smoothly honed as "Isn't She Lovely" and "The Girl From Ipanema," easy listening without being overly smooth. Backed by piano-bass-drums, guest guitar on two cuts, a Dara Tucker vocal that doesn't hurt, very pleasant stuff. B+(**) [cd]

Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): Violinist, from New York, has a couple of previous albums, plays in Jazz Passengers, Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce, and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. Trio here with Kris Davis on piano and Michael Sarin on drums, pushing the beat every which way. B+(***) [bc]

Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): Jazz singer, best known for her long (since 1979) role in Manhattan Transfer, has more than a dozen solo albums (one in 1992, more regularly since 2003), many songbook exercises. Sondheim is probably the biggest name on Broadway not to have entered the Great American Songbook repertoire, partly because he came late to the party. Indeed, if the exception proves the rule, consider "Send in the Clowns": one of his earliest songs (1973), one that Count Basie couldn't swing and Sarah Vaughan couldn't sing, little improved yet it's the best thing here. B- [cd]

Big Thief: Masterpiece (2016, Saddle Creek): Brooklyn indie band, principally singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker, who can slow the band down to a coo or layer on the noise in this debut album. B+(*)

Big Thief: Capacity (2017, Saddle Creek): Second album, Adrianne Lenker looking very un-rock-star-like on the cover, singing more heartfelt ballads inside. B+(**)

Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): Icelandic singer-songwriter, many albums since she left the Sugarcubes in 1992, huge star though she works in a unique niche -- folktronica, sources say, but really much weirder than that implies. Sprawling (71:38) album, daunting for non-fans but more listenable than most. B+(*)

Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): Finnish guitarist, group name comes from his 2014 album (stylized eCsTaSy), with Paul Lyytinen (saxophones, flute), Jori Huhtala (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). Guitar mostly leads, taking command so thoroughly that the sax eventually reduces to shading, not that it started out that way. B+(***) [dl]

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): Drummer, released Brian Blade Fellowship in 1998 and this is a 20th anniversary reunion, with Jon Cowherd (keybs), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor sax), and Chris Thomas (bass) continuous members, with Dave Devine taking over the guitar slot. Densely, artfully layered postbop, doesn't move or engage much. B-

Robt Sarazin Blake: Recitative (2017, Same Room, 2CD): Singer-songwriter from Bellingham, Washington; started as Robert Blake, later went as Sarazin Blake, and seems to have settled on this moniker although Robert Sarazin Blake works for his Bandcamp pages. This seems far removed from his folk roots: while I'm often impressed by his wordplay (good examples are "Couples" and "Work"), I'm more so by the music, especially when the decidedly non-folkie saxophone wails. A-

Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): Free sax trio: Mars Williams (reeds, toys), Kent Kessler (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Third group album, seems to have mellowed a bit but then Williams reels off the most inspired broken field sax run I've heard all year. A- [bc]

Mihály Borbély Quartet: Be by Me Tonight/Gyere Hozzám Estére (2016, BMC): Hungerian clarinetist, a pleasant (and memorable) surprise for me shortly after I started writing Jazz CG in 2004 but I never ran across him since, until this. The leader also plays tarogato, alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, tilinko, and supelka, Balász Horváth on bass, and István Baló on drums, and most importantly Áron Tálas on piano. Nice but less memorable. B+(**)

Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream but he's always had an extra edge, leads a sextet here including Marquis Hill on trumpet, Joel Adams on trombone, and Nick Mazzarella on alto sax. B+(**) [bc]

Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): Rock band, from Long Island, cut four albums 2001-09, breaking up until 2014 when they returned to the studio and started work on this "fifth and final album." Not sure if disbandment is the result of frontman Jesse Lacey's "sexual misconduct" scandal or just that they're growing tired: this lumbers along with some artfulness, but left me empty. B

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Tel Aviv (2016 [2017], Not Two): Sax (or clarinet)/trombone/drums, two long improv pieces, full of strife and churn as you might expect, doesn't strike me as favorably as the same trio's recent Live in Copenhagen, recorded six months earlier. B+(**)

Jonas Cambien/Adrian Myhr: Simiskina (2017, Clean Feed): Piano-bass duets, Cambien born in Belgium but based in Myhr's native Norway. Intimate chamber jazz feel, but not so simple. B+(*)

Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): Large band from Toronto -- two trumpets, two trombones, three saxes, bass and drums -- led by William Carn (trombone) and Tara Davidson (alto sax), playing original material, some arrangements credited to other band members. Has some zip, with no one getting out of line. B [cd]

François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 [2017], FMR): Canadians, alto sax-drums duets, long-time collaborators, working live in London, they must have a dozen of more/less equivalent albums by now, especially if you count the ones with a guest pianist. Still, they all sound great to me, the only way this is not exceptional. A- [cd]

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Rev (2013-16 [2017], Anzic): Drummer, from Canada, has a couple previous albums including one from 2014 titled Turboprop. Sextet, with two saxophones (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn, who also contributes a song), piano, bass, and drums. Two originals push the peddle, the other pieces mostly from sources I don't recognize, with the Radiohead cover lost on me, but "Pennies From Heaven" is sweet indeed. B+(**) [cd]

Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): Mainstream pianist, has worked with trio partners Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums) since 1998 -- hard to ask for better ones, and their early albums were sparkling though it's been a while since I've been impressed. B+(**)

Corey Christiansen: Dusk (2015 [2017], Origin): guitarist, from and still based in utah, has a handful of records since 2008, nice metallic ring to his tone, claims to be exploring Americana here (all originals except for one trad.). mostly backed by bass-drums, adding keyboards and percussion for 3 (of 8) tracks. b+(*) [cd]

Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (2016 [2017], Anzic): Israeli reed player, based in New York, found a niche on clarinet and is the reigning poll winner there. Ten musicians -- trumpet, trombone, baritone sax/bass clarinet, guitar, piano, vibes, bass, and drums -- plus Oded Lev-Ari as Musical Director, who also gets cover credit. Most impressive when they tap into old-time swing, even though they're none too smooth, or throw in a klezmer curveball. B+(***)

Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): Alto saxophonist, cut a record called Alto Madness in 1977 and played up the madman theme for many years, then seemed to disappear, but came back with a strong "Ballads and Love Songs" album in 2016. He doesn't go overboard on his Latin twist album -- guest castanets on one song but otherwise no extra percussion or specialists. Four originals (two with "Breeze" in the title), more standards than trad Latin pieces, but he has fun working on his tinge, and his alto is as lovely as ever. B+(***) [cd]

Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): Singer, refers to John and Alice Coltrane as her parents but was born before they married, so birth father was probably Kenny "Pancho" Hagood, a jazz singer who started in Benny Carter's big band. Discogs credits her singing on a Gap Band album in the 1980s, and it looks like she had one previous album in 1996 as Miki Coltrane. Very capable singer, can't say that "Tin Man" strikes me as a worthy standard but she swings it and adds some Latin percussion. Good band, including brother Ravi and Lonnie Plaxico. Mother Alice gets a credit for a bit of spoken word. B+(**) [cd]

Miley Cyrus: Younger Now (2017, RCA): Sixth studio album, but started as a teen so she's still pretty young: 24. Still, she's sounding older, and more tinged with her country roots -- with or without godmother Dolly Parton singing along. B+(*)

Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): Jazz singer from Canada, Toronto I think, third album, wrote five songs loosely tied in with his subject. Voice is far off the mark, but at least his small group swing stays clear of the big band bombast of Gregory Porter's tribute. Also, Sheila Jordan guests on "Straighten Up and Fly Right." B [cd]

David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 [2017], Kopasetic): Swedish group, David is bassist Carlsson, the "Angels" three women: Sofie Norling (vocals), Maggi Olin (keyboards), and Michala Řstergaard-Nielsen (drums), with Olin and Norling writing the majority of the music and lyrics. Third album, Ingrid Jensen adds some trumpet. B+(*) [cd]

Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): Dismissed by Christgau as "depressive and folk-leaning" in his rush to get to the simultaneously released Vol. 2, John McCauley's blend of Americana drawl and indie-rock is just a little flat, lacking more in energy than in interest, which is well crafted as always. B+(*)

Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): Tries harder to get your attention, starting with a crash of guitar and drums. Band stays loud, which sounds better but little (if any) more interesting. B+(*)

Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (2017, ITI): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Hide Tanaka on bass and Fukushi Tainaka on drums -- his website's upcoming shows list includes quartets and quintets led by Tainaka. One original, standards include "Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as well as bop standards by Hank Mobley, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. Expertly, tastefully done. B+(***) [cd]

Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): Translates as Disappointment, a German group, based in Berlin, first recorded in 1995, with Axel Dörner on trumpet, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, and a shifting cast at bass and drums -- currently Jan Roder and Michael Griener, plus new this time out Christof Thewes on trombone. All original material, although their roots as a Monk tribute band -- tapped by Alexander von Schlippenbach for Monk's Casino -- show through in their irrepressible bounce and quirk. A- [cd]

Jeff Dingler: In Transit (2017, self-released): Bassist, has at least one previous album, with Brad Shepik (guitar), Lou Rainone (piano), Gustin Rudolph (drums), plus extra percussion on 4/8 tracks. Shepik especially stands out. B+(**) [cd]

DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 [2017], Not Two): Trio dates back to 1999: Hamid Drake (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Ken Vandermark (unspecified reeds). Eighth album together -- counting as one the 7-CD Past Present (2008-11) -- usually a bit rough and hyper but working in some especially eloquent stretches this time. A- [bc]

Matthieu Donarier/Santiago Quintans: Sun Dome (2017, Clean Feed): Duets, tenor sax/clarinet and electric guitar. Abstract textures, not enough reverb to count as drone, nor interesting enough. B-

Sinne Eeg: Dreams (2017, ArtistShare): Danish jazz singer, eight albums since 2003, wrote six (of ten) songs (all in English), favoring Cole Porter with two covers -- including an "Anything Goes" updated for the Trump era. First-rate band, working in Brooklyn: Joey Baron, Scott Colley, Jacob Christofferson, Larry Koonse. B+(**) [cd]

Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 [2017], Hatology): Swiss tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, a member of Manuel Menguis Gruppe 6 but most of his discography since 2011 has been with Chicago avant-gardists, including the pianist and drummer here. B+(***)

ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 [2017], Kopasetic): Gress is a well-known, well-regarded, relatively mainstream bassist, and no doubt helps out here (he even contributes 4/9 songs), but bass tends to sink into the background, and he's no exception. Rather, what we have is a Swedish tenor sax-piano-drums trio (Henrik Frisk, Maggi Olin, Peter Nilsson), with Frisk and Olin splitting the other songs 3-2, and the sax sounding especially luscious. B+(***) [cd]

Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): Mostly plays electric bass, sometimes fretless, but also takes one cut on acoustic and plays some guitar. Lineups vary song to song, with the faster, heavier fusion pieces holding up best, especially when Cuong Vu joins on trumpet. B+(**) [cdr]

Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live at Jazz Room Cortez (2016 [2017], Cortez Sound): With partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Keisuka Ohta on violin, and Takashi Itani on drums. Some sections are so quiet I lose track and start wondering if my equipment (or other gear) is on the fritz. Both Ohta and Tamura also credited with voice -- another distraction. At least it ends strong. B [cd]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 [2017], Libra): Her most star-filled big band, all thirteen names I recognize on the back cover -- 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes, Nels Cline on guitar but no piano, the leader content to conduct -- but none especially stand out from the grooves. Perhaps the somber theme, which starts out too quiet and never quite raises the horror the piece commemorates. B+(**) [cd]

Lee Gamble: Mnestic Pressure (2017, Hyperdub): British DJ and electronica producer, half-dozen albums since 2009. Has a touch of industrial glitz, not much more. B+(*)

Howe Gelb: Future Standards (2016 [2017], Fire): Indie rocker, led Giant Sand from 1985 through 27 albums, started supplementing them with solo albums in 1991, 22 so far, and he's run a couple other bands. Plays cocktail piano and sings in a sly whisper, backed by three bass-drums pairs. B+(*)

Tee Grizzley: My Moment (2017, 300/Atlantic): Detroit rapper Terry Sanchez Wallace, father murdered, mother jailed for drugs, did time himself, first album. Opening freestyle needs work, but he tightens up with some beats. B+(*)

Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): Drummer, born in Sweden, parents Finnish, based in Berlin; trio, with sax (Per "Texas" Johansson) and electric bass (Daniel Bingert), has three short albums (this one is 27:01) all with Fusion in the title. That doesn't quite pigeonhole them -- certainly no throwback to '70s fusion although they do evince a rockish fondness for noise and monster bass riffs. B+(**) [cd]

Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): Usually plays trumpet, but credit here is "Steiner/Crumar EVI" -- stands for Electronic Valve Instrument, a breath-controlled analog synthesizer originally developed in the late 1970s. Band adds pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums for a pleasant groove with hints of Hawaiian. B+(*) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): English group, pianist Hawkins' trio with bass (neil Charles) and drums (Stephen Davis), plus vocalist Mitchener, who has an avant-garde stance that stretches the music out in odd directions, not necessarily making it more pleasing. B+(**) [cd]

Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 [2017], International Anthem): Avant string trio: violin, cello, and double bass, respectively, with Dee Alexander singing the title track (Swift also credited with "voice"). B+(**)

Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): Alto/soprano saxophonist, twenty-plus albums since 1989, multiple side credits with Nat Adderley, Cedar Walton, and John Hicks. Has a quartet here with Cyrus Chestnut, Yasushi Nakamura, and Carl Allen, but adds a lot of guest slots: 3 cuts each for Nicolas Bearde (vocals) and Russell Malone (guitar), more for Steve Turre (trombone), Brad Mason (trumpet), and Sam Dillon (tenor sax). B+(*)

Dre Hocevar: Surface of Inscription (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Drummer, from Slovenia, several albums, this one strikes me as especially scattered, with piano/voice/electronics/bass/reeds in the credits, yet more often than not they barely break the noise threshold. B-

Adam Hopkins: Party Pack Ice (2015 [2017], pfMENTUM EP): Bassist, from Baltimore, based in Brooklyn, nothing previous under his own name -- indeed, neither cover nor website suggest this is anything other than an eponymous group album, but I first ran across him in Quartet Offensive, and he's played on at least one Ideal Bread album, also with Kate Gentile and Patrick Breiner (one of two saxophonists here; the other is Eric Trudel). Also with guitar (Dustin Carlson) and drums (Nathan Ellman-Bell). But he does compose here, and the publicist thinks this is his album. Seven short but dense/heavy pieces, 24:24. B+(*) [cdr]

Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): Kinshasa group, has an album in the label's Congotronics series although here they focus more on group singing than on junkyard percussion. But this doubles as a soundtrack, with three Arvo-Part-penned tracks switch over to the Orchestre, totally breaking the intensity and flow. B+(**) [bc]

Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): Bonus CD to above but appears as a separate thing for download. The remixes dub in their own distractions, with only a couple cuts showing off the source Congatronics, but at least their are no neoclassical interludes. B+(*)

Kelela: Take Me Apart (2017, Warp): Last name Mizanekristos, born in DC, parents immigrated from Ethiopia, first album but a previous mixtape and EP were well-regarded enough to come to my attention. Soul, the sort of easy-beat warbly keybs in fashion lately, more befitting a singer who skipped gospel to start out in jazz and moonlight with a prog metal band. B+(**)

Jon Langford: Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls (2017, Bloodshot): The once-and-future Mekon, long based in Chicago, went to Alabama and cut this glimpse of the apocalypse the day after the Trump election, a bit unsettled and unsure, except of where their musical roots lie. B+(***)

Large Unit: Fluku (2016 [2017], PNL): Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's 13-piece band: three reeds, three brass (including tuba), guitar, electronics, doubling up at bass (both electric and double) and drums, plus a credit for "live sound." The long title cut builds on a long rhythmic vamp with all sorts of exciting chaos. Still, they hold your interest when they slow it down for disassembly, probably because you anticipate that it will come together in wonder again . . . as it does. A- [bc]

The Billy Lester Trio: Italy 2016 (2016 [2017], Ultra Sound): Piano trio recorded in Italy with Marcello Testa on bass and Nicola Stranieri on drums. All original pieces, nice show of contemporary postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Memphis, first album 1968. One solo track, the rest with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums), plus trumpet (Freddie Hendrix) on three tracks, percussion (Cyro Baptista) on one. I expected something less frenzied for a postbopper in his 80s, and the early sax takes it easy, but the trumpet pushes everyone over the top, and they seem to prefer it like that. B+(*)

Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): Ken Vandermark quartet, eighth album since 2013 although half of the personnel has changed, employing Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics) at least since 2015. Three pieces, Vandermark typically awesome, the sound mix around him full of nice surprises. A- [bc]

Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): Lisa Markley and Bruce Balmer, she sings, both play guitar, and despite the title write some extra lyrics -- reworking, for instance, "Lennie's Pennies" into "Hundred in a Dollar." "Lush Life" and "Caravan" are most familiar, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]

Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo (2015 [2017], Troubadour Jass): Cover reads "An Evening With Delfeayo Marsalis" before the title, so that can be parsed variously. The family's trombonist, leading his quartet (including papa Ellis on piano), recorded live at Western Michigan University. Warm New Orleans vibe, trombone sounds special. B+(**) [cd]

Roy McGrath: Remembranzas (2017, JL Music): Saxophonist, backed by piano, bass, drums, and lots of congas, starting off with a spoken word about immigration, then plunging deep into the Latin tinge. Lots of print on the package, but nearly impossible to read (mostly white on light gray). [CD crapped out near the end, but I figured I had heard enough.] B [cd]

Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 [2017], Not Two): Tenor sax, bass, and drums, recorded live at Roulette in New York City. Unreconstructed free jazz, some remarkable passages where McPhee seems to be accompanying himself with rumble patterns breaking into flights. B+(***)

Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (2017, New World): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has a couple previous albums, leads a large cast here (15 names on back cover, but not clear whether they're all regulars -- the most obvious one is vocalist Fay Victor, who has some trouble navigating the tricky music. B+(*) [cd]

Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely (2017, Goldenlane): Sixteenth album for Loretta Lynn Morgan, starting in 1989 and including one previous duet album with the late Mel Tillis' little girl, two years later with ten albums of her own, one in 1983 and the rest since 1991. All covers, starting with one from K.T. Oslin, some as well known as "Tennessee Waltz" and "The End of the World," unexpected males joining in on a creepy "Summer Wine." B+(**)

Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 [2017], Metatrope): Bassist from San Diego, leading a trio with Tobin Chodos on piano and Kjell Nordeson on bass. Strong, risky piano work, following a solo bass album that rated nearly as high. B+(***) [cd]

The National: Sleep Well Beast (2017, 4AD): Debut album in 2001, seventh overall, singer-lyricst Matt Berenger has a great voice for indie rock, especially when composer-brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner keep the beats fluid and piquant. B+(***)

Paal Nilssen-Love/Frode Gjerstad: Nearby Faraway (2016 [2017], PNL): Drums-sax duets, the latter playing alto and tenor, also Bb and contrabass clarinet. The drummer has a lot of albums with avant saxophonists. He's very responsive here, and Gjerstad gives him quite a workout. B+(***) [bc]

Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 [2017], Hispid/PNL): Nine-piece group from Norway, "brass heavy" (three saxophonists I recognize -- Lotte Anker, Anna Högberg, Julie Kjaer -- and three trumpeters I don't), Sten Sandell on piano, two drummers (Paal Nilssen-Love and Stĺle Liavik Solberg). Two improv pieces add up to 45:55, a striking free-for-all that retains interest when they separate and stalk one another. B+(**) [bc]

Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (2017, self-released): Canadian jazz singer, eighth album, has a couple JUNO Awards, a small and rather cute voice, runs through thirteen songs. Nice band, with Guido Basso on trumpets, Phil Dwyer on saxophones, and Reg Schwager on guitar, but no drummer. B+(*) [cd]

The Paranoid Style: Underworld USA (2017, Bar/None, EP): Principally Elizabeth Nelson, following up her one full-length album with a second (or third) EP, this one six songs, 17:17, with a catchy, single-worthy closer ("Revision of Love") and other snappy songs that have yet to sink in, maybe because I keep thinking "Hawk vs. Prez" should be about jazz. B+(***)

Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): British free jazz titan, just playing tenor sax this time out, in an improv Krakow set with a Polish trio: Lukasz Ojdana (piano), Maciej Garbowski (bass), Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums). Still, doesn't feel like a pickup band deal. The piano leads and comping are always interesting, and the drummer pays close attention, accenting everywhere. Parker, too, is always on point. A- [bc]

William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): The bassist has run two quartet configurations over many years: his freewheeling two-horn Quartet with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Lewis Barnes (trumpet), the latter replaced here by Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, and the group In Order to Survive with Brown and pianist Cooper-Moore -- both groups with Hamid Drake on drums. One full disc of each here, and while the new trumpet player doesn't match the old one, Cooper-Moore is as breathtaking as ever. A- [dl]

Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (2017, Cherry Red): Originally from Akron, one of my favorite bands of the late 1970s, in business ever since with singer David Thomas essential for continuity, but while none of the original musicians appear here, I often find the guitar reminding me of The Modern Dance, not to mention the drums. A-

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 [2017], Leo, 2CD): Tenor sax-piano duets, in case you're not sated after seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp earlier this year. Seems a little sketchy at first, but there are stretches where they click (as usual). B+(**)

Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): Saxophonist and clarinetist, leads a big band, doesn't list himself among the saxophonists but front and back covers show him with a clarinet. Produced by drummer Ben Perowsky. Recorded in Brooklyn, lots of household names in the band. Four originals, rooted in swing and bop, covering Ellington and Powell with an Ira Hawkins vocal extolling "the Basie sound." B+(*) [cd]

Pink: Beautiful Trauma (2017, RCA): Alecia Moore, from near Philadelphia, Broke through as a punkish pop star just out of her teens, like a generation ago. In 2010 she titled her best-of Greatest Hits . . . So Far! -- usually the kiss of death for a career, but her 2012 album was solid (some thought better, with world sales pegged at 7 million) and this one only tails off in an overly dramatic finale. B+(**)

Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): Jazz singer, vastly overrated I think, but comes closer to Cole than I expected, a little stuffy but not really the problem. The "core band" (Christian Sands, Reuben Rogers, Ulysses Owens) is probably OK, too, but hard to tell with the London Studio Orchestra slugging out Vince Mendoza's over-the-top arrangements. Still, Porter can't be excused for the one new song he wrote. C+

Lee Ranaldo: Electric Trim (2017, Mute): Sonic Youth founder-guitarist, side projects go back to 1987 but took on a more serious air once the group disbanded, inhabiting an echo of the legend without really being able to flesh it out. Some lyrics by novelist-fan Jonathan Lethem. Guest spot for Sharon Van Etten. B+(*)

Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): Chinese rock group, "underground" but how would we know? Some vocals (even some in English), but rhythm tracks predominate, some quasi-industrial, some new wave danceable, some sound like Pulnoc fortified by a Kinshasa junkyard, which is to say really amazing. A-

Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Toronto, based in New York, seems to be his first album. Features guitarist Matthew Stevens, with Orlando LeFleming on bass, Eric Doob on drums, and the Westerlies (a trumpet-trombone quartet) on five tracks. Not sure that the latter is a plus -- they certainly change the group's chemistry. B+(**)

Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): Country singer from Prince Edward Island, cut two albums on a Toronto label, then turned some heads with the EP South Texas Suite early this year. Follows that up here with a third album. Terrific sound and voice, but I can't say the songs stick with you. B+(**)

Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 [2017], American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, teaching at Berklee, has recorded as part of the Rosenthals with his bluegrass-oriented father, in the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band, and in Either/Orchestra, with a previous album under his own name in 2001. Group here adds two saxophones, bass, and drums, for some fairly standard postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Rostam: Half-Light (2017, Nonesuch): Last name Batmanglij, born in DC, parents immigrated from Iran, first solo album after ten years with Vampire Weekend (all three major albums) and a couple side projects. Plays pretty much everything here -- fourteen side credits, but only the cellist on more than one track (4). Finds his own groove, sound a bit off for me, but could be beguiling. B+(**)

Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalise, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. A- [cdr]

Adam Rudolph: Morphic Resonances (2017, M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, has recorded extensively since 1992, featured mostly as a composer here, with seven pieces divvied up between five groups -- the Momenta String Quartet gets the first two, totalling 26:30, which I find unpleasantly arch, while a flute-guitar duo (Kaoru Watanabe and Marco Cappelli) get two shorter pieces. My favorite by far is the Odense Percussion Group. B+(*) [cd]

Romeo Santos: Golden (2017, Sony Latin): Born in the Bronx, father Dominican, mother Puerto Rican, led the bachata band Aventura (which sold out Yankee Stadium for a concert) before going solo. Third album, mostly in Spanish, got some beat to it. B+(*)

A. Savage: Thawing Dawn (2017, Dull Tools): First name Andrew, singer-guitarist for Parquet Courts taking a solo flyer, stripped down, only hinting at his band sound on the final track, then pulling back. B+(*)

Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): Quasi-industrial postrock trio, the group name a mashup of member names Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Toller (guitar), and David Meier (drums). Grind impressive at first but doesn't go all that far. B+(*) [dl]

Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 [2017], New Atlantis): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, tends toward noise but stretches that out some here, the sextet including Chuck Bettis' "throat/electronics," cello, bass, and two drummers. [7/10 cuts] B+(**) [bc]

Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love (2017, Static Shock): Philadelphia rockers, got noticed for three 7-inch EPs (since collected as Compilation) before releasing this debut album. Singer Tina Halliday has a harsh bark, not quite a shriek, and the guitar-bass riffs are solid and tuneworthy. B+(**)

Shelter: Shelter (2016 [2017], Audiographic): Yet another Ken Vandermark group, a quartet, although he only has a 3-2-2-2 composition edge over Nate Wooley (trumpet), Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass and guitar), and Steve Heather (drums and crackle box). B+(***) [bc]

Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): Big Nashville star with a TV gig I've never seen but most likely why People named him "sexiest man alive." Has a fine country voice, picks down-to-earth songs (only one co-credit here). B+(*)

Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (2017, OA2): Alto saxophonist, also play soprano, not sure where (or when) she was born, but she studied in Oklahoma City, and is based in Oregon. Backed by piano-bass-drums, all originals except for "Passion Flower," bright postbop. B+(**) [cd]

Paula Shocron/Germán Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 [2017], Hatology): Piano-bass-drums trio, three joint credits, two for Shocron, one each for the others, plus covers of Mal Waldron and Charles Tolliver. Strong, favoring dense chords over noodling. B+(**)

Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 [2017], Pi): Singer, dancer, multi-instrumentalist (credits here: Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, piano), born in Illinois, parents immigrated from Taiwan and East Timor, graduated from Stanford ("in opera with classical violin and ballet training"), fourth album, band (Jade Tongue: vibes, flutes, viola, bass, drums, percussion -- all well-known NY names) named for her first, joined here by Mivos Quartet (strings). Music evidently written for a ballet, choreographed by Satoshi Haga. I imagine the total performance to be mesmerizing, but as a record I find it alternately arch and quaint, classical motifs with bent Asian notes -- not my thing, I guess. B+(*) [cd]

Slow Is Possible: Moonwatchers (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Portuguese group, second album after eponymous effort in 2015: André Pontifice (cello), Bruno Figuera (alto sax), Duane Fonseca (drums), Joăo Clemente (electric guitar/electronics), Nuno Santos Dias (piano), Ricardo Sousa (double bass). B+(*)

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): Duets, the French pianist nearly 90 at the time, Liebman playing soprano and tenor saxophones. Six standards, with Miles Davis a common bond, the pianist fascinating, Liebman listening and contributing with great care. B+(***)

Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 [2017], Loyal Label): Drummer, called his 2014 album Apocryphal and thought that would make a good group name. Quartet with Loren Stillman (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). I'm not used to Seabrook playing inside the band without his customary cloud of noise, but he fits nicely with Stillman's sweet tone. B+(**)

St. Vincent: Masseduction (2017, Loma Vista): Canadian Annie Clark's fifth (or sixth) album, her bestseller and evidently a critical favorite -- I'd guess top-five in year-end polls but little chance of topping Kendrick Lamar, for starters. A bit arch and arty for my tastes, but always interesting, never more so than here, where half the songs quickly click, and more welcome should I ever give it more than the three spins I've logged. Title song pronounces it "mass seduction" and pairs it with "mass destruction": she has a point, a deeper one than critiquing Trump, although that's part of it. A-

Gabriele Tranchina: Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes (2017, Rainchant Eclectic): Born in Germany, based (I think) in Paris, with an eye on Brazil and other points south -- though two of her covers are from Mancini. B+(**) [cd]

Trio S: Somewhere Glimmer (2017, Zitherine): Doug Wieselman (compositions, clarinets, loops, banjo), Jane Scarpantoni (cello), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, "wollesonics"). Rather quiet, atmospheric even, pleasant and marginally interesting. B+(*)

David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (2010 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Another posthumous tape for the late tenor sax giant, this one a year after his kidney transplant and about two years before he died. So it's worth noting that he's in remarkable form here, with a couple of solo stretches (some on stritch), but especially when William Parker (bass) and Warren Smith (drums) help out. A- [dl]

Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): Guitarist, from Toronto, lists as idols Mike Stern, Pat Metheny and Steve Vai. Band shares billing and keeps pushing him, and it helps when alto saxophonist Richard Underhill jumps out front. B [cd]

Mark Wingfield/Markus Reuter/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2016 [2017], Moonjune): Two guitarists -- Reuter's credit is "Touch Guitars AU8" (8-string, hollow body, individually tunable pickups) -- and drums. Fits neatly into a fusion bag. B [cd]

Deanna Witkowski: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (2017, Tilapia): Pianist, discography dates back to 1999 -- I have her filed under vocals, but she doesn't sing here. All her arrangements of hymns -- all but one public domain -- for piano trio. Pleasant, and fairly innocuous. B [cd]

Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (2017, ATO): Country singer, ninth album since 1997, co-wrote half of the fourteen songs -- the Frizzell and Jones covers overdone, the others less memorable but the title mood is sustained. B+(**)

Charlie Worsham: Beginning of Things (2017, Warner Bros. Nashville): Country singer from Mississippi, studied at Berklee, second album, co-credits on 9/13 (really 12) songs, gets a nice neotrad sound but mostly wastes it -- "Southern by the Grace of God" seems more than a little dated, but is still less offensive than "Birthday Suit." B

Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): Mainstream saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano), from Brooklyn, shares a vocal with Andrea Miller, wrote three (of nine) songs, two more by his pianist Benito Gonzalez, with Keyon Harrold on trumpet, plus bass and drums. Takes nearly everything at a breakneck pace, a lot of bounce in his step. B+(**) [cd]

Mark Zaleski Band: Days, Months, Years (2016 [2017], self-released): Alto/soprano saxophonist, third album, also credited with bass, brother of pianist Glenn Zaleski (present), joined by Jon Dean on tenor sax, Mark Cocheo in guitar, and Oscar Suchanek on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): Bassist, based in Rhode Island, discography shows he's played on a dozen albums but this appears to be his first leading. Quintet, with Eric "Benny" Bloom on trumpet, Mark Tucker on tenor sax, Leo Genovese on piano, and Rafael Barata on drums, with Tucker and Genovese also contributing songs. Mostly upbeat, saxophonist gives a good accounting. B+(*) [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 [2017], Norton): I've long been a fan of Dion DiMucci's Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965), which traces his shift from doo-wop ("Ruby Ruby," "Donna the Prima Donna") to Dylan emulation, including his 1965 single "Kickin' Child" (third from the end). Columbia released two albums built around the doo-wop singles, then nothing until they mopped up in 1969 (Wonder Where I'm Bound, the title a song from this shelved album). Should at least have some historical value, but I'm with the label here: a single, a couple decent covers (not the Dylan), some really awful shit (the Dylan not the worst). C-

Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): Eleven songs, familiar and typical if most not actually written by the late country star, performed by artists of varying quality but distinctive enough they add something to the easy-going vibe that was Williams' trademark. Choice cut: Brandy Clark, "I Believe in You." [Missing on Napster: Garth Brooks, "Good Ole Boys Like Me."] B+(***)

Motörhead: Under Cöver (1992-2014 [2017], Silver Lining Music): English metal band, formed in 2015, hung it up in 2015 when bassist-auteur Lemmy Kilmister died. One of the few metal bands I've tolerated and occasionally enjoyed -- as Christgau noted in 1980, "no preening solos or blow-dried bullshit." Sure, I haven't checked all five of the A- records Christgau identified from 1984-91, but I enjoyed 2011's The World Is Yours. This compiles eleven covers, roughly half from metal bands that I've heard of but mean nothing to me, the other half from the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and David Bowie -- all sturdy enough to bear up under the extra weight. B+(***)

Old Music

Mihály Borbély Quartet: Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody (2014, BMC): This slightly earlier quartet has a different pianist, Dániel Szábo, and the leader's credits limited to saxophone and tarogato. Title song actually from Hungarian-American guitarist Attila Zoller, with the remaining pieces by unknown-to-me Hungarian-sounding names. Pretty lively, and good as the new pianist is, this one may be even better. B+(***)

Die Enttäuschung: 4 (2006 [2007], Intakt): German quartet, had an early fascination with Monk. Axel Dörner on trumpet and Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, plus second bassist (Jan Roder) and original drummer (Uli Jenneißen). Discography unclear, as 1 (2002) is different from their original (1996) eponymous album, and instead of 2 and 3 there's a second eponymous album before 4 and 5. B+(***)

Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 [2010], ESP-Disk): Guitarist, first album at 23, also credited with vocals, mandolin, flute, timpani, marimba, percussion, but what caught my attention was the three young horn players: Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. Still, those horns are generally wasted, although Lake has some moments, and gets into the label's ad hoc aesthetic with flute and percussion. B

Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 [1997], Contemporary/OJC): Second album -- Cassandranite has earlier recordings but wasn't released until 1989 -- scales back the debut's sax attack, limiting Benny Maupin to one song, with Ramon Morris on two of the three others. That should bring the trumpet out front more, but he tends to slipstream the freebop. B+(**)

Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 [1993], RED): Quintet, recorded live in Bologna, Italy, with Steve Turre (trombone/conch shells), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Tony Reedus (drums). Four cuts, first two by Shaw. B+(**)

Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 [1998], 32 Jazz): Originally on Muse, which tended to steer the trumpet player back to the mainstream, here with a sharp quintet -- Steve Turre (trombone), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Carl Allen (drums) -- playing standards, ending with a blues from Turre. B+(**)

Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Boneshaker (2012, Trost): Sax-drums-bass trio, Williams started out as a Hal Russell protégé, with Kessler was in the original Vandermark 5, with the Norwegian drummer joining many other Vandermark groups. Basically, just what the title promises. B+(***) [bc]

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:

Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 [1996], Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)


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

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28931 [28909] rated (+22), 391 [394] unrated (-3).

Rated count down, mostly attributable to Thanksgiving, when I fixed a small dinner: roast goose with potatoes, baked zucchini niçoise, oven-braised pumpkin, sweet and sour cabbage. All recipes were new to me, and came out as well as hoped. For dessert I made three pies: maple pecan, chocolate pecan, and key lime. For the first two, I tried two different pie shell recipes, and found the "easy" one not only not as good but also not as easy. The key lime had a graham cracker crust that came out rather crumbly, but otherwise I was very pleased.

Further disruptions over the weekend: stereo went on the blink on Saturday, which drove me to listening to so-so albums on Napster. It (for reasons currently unfathomable) started working on Sunday, but I couldn't focus, as I was cooking several Indian dishes to get an idea how several menu ideas for next week's Peace Center Annual Dinner might play out. I'll be directing dinner for sixty on Friday, December 1, and until then I expect to have very little time for music. Menu will be Indian (except for dessert), mostly because I can cook more recipes ahead of time, making the logistics relatively manageable. Still, an enormous amount of work for an amateur like myself.

The dinner work already wiped out any chance at a Weekend Roundup -- possibly the first one I've missed since Trump was elected (though I may have blocked something out -- I do recall at least one threat to throw in the towel).

Current plan is to publish November's Streamnotes on Tuesday. Not likely to have much not already in the file, and there's at least a small chance I might not get the indexing done. But it needs to get up before the end of the month, and I won't have any time after Tuesday. Still will have more records than October (current count 114).

While I'm at it, I'd like to recommend Mark E. McCormick: Some Were Paupers, Some Were Kings: Dispatches From Kansas. McCormick wrote an op-ed column at the Wichita Eagle, and this collects many of his best pieces, not least on the perennial topic of race relations. Laura Tillem helped edit and design the book, and I helped her a bit with the conversion from one hideous Microsoft format to another. By the way, McCormick will be giving the main presentation at Friday's Peace Center 25th Annual Dinner.

By the way, François Carrier sent me a note asking that I mention his crowdfunding project. I routinely ignore requests to post notices, and certainly don't want to encourage more of them, but a few years ago when I got especially flustered I wrote a mass email to everyone who was sending me CDs announcing my intent to stop reviewing. François wrote me back immediately and insisted he was going to keep sending them anyway. As you can see here, few musicians have given me more pleasure more consistently. So by all means, encourage him to play and record more.

By the way, I thought the iconic story of last week was when Trump pardoned the turkey on Thanksgiving, and said "I feel so good about myself doing this." (See Jessica Contrera.) When I first read the quote, I thought it the perfect example of his narcissism. Only when I saw the video later did the full perversity sink in. As Contrera notes, the lead up to the quote was: "Are we allowed to touch? Wow." The video looks like Trump groping the turkey as he says, "I feel so good about myself" -- his look suggesting fond remembrances of other birds he's groped.

Another iconic moment was captured in this tweet by Daniel Dale (picture here; story here):

Trump is holding this event honouring Native American code talkers, and insulting Warren as "Pocohontas," in front of a portrait of president Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act.

Very sad to see John Conyers caught up in the sex abuse scandals. He was first elected to the Congress in 1964 and was one of the first dozen House members to vote against the Vietnam War. Aside from his brief post-9/11 lapse, he has been one of the most consistent critics of American belligerence abroad, as well as a steady champion of civil rights and liberties. Not perfect, I guess -- I certainly don't like his "Pro-IP Act" -- but for a very long time one of the very best Congress had to offer.

New records rated this week:

  • Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): [r]: B+(*)
  • Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): [cd]: B
  • Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 [2017], Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely< (2017, Goldenlane): [r]: B+(*)
  • Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: A-
  • William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [dl]: A-
  • Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): [r]: C+
  • Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 [2017], American Melody): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 [2017], Norton): [r]: C-

Old music rated this week:

  • Die Enttäuschung: Die Enttäuschung 4 (2006 [2007], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (Pyroclastic): January 28
  • Angelo Divino: Love A to Z (self-released)
  • Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste: Reverso: Suite Pavel (Phonoart): February 9
  • Thiefs: Graft (Le Greffe) (Jazz & People): February 5
  • Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet: Vol. 2 (Modica Music): December 8

Monday, November 20, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28909 [28874] rated (+35), 394 [391] unrated (+3).

The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):

  1. LCD Soundsystem: American Dream [**]
  2. Aldous Harding: Party
  3. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN [A-]
  4. The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
  5. Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
  6. Thundercat: Drunk [*]
  7. The National: Sleep Well Beast [***]
  8. Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens
  9. Paradise Lost: Medusa
  10. Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
  11. Slowdive: Slowdive [*]
  12. St. Vincent: Masseduction [A-]
  13. Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator [*]
  14. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
  15. Oh Sees: Orc
  16. Nadia Reid: Preservation
  17. Ryan Adams: Prisoner [*]
  18. Spirit Adrift: Curse of Conception
  19. Richard Dawson: Peasant [B]
  20. Father John Misty: Pure Comedy [B-]

Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).

The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.

With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.

Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.

Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.

One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.

New records rated this week:

  • Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): [cd]: B-
  • Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): [r]: B
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 [2017], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 [2017], Kopasetic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 [2017], Not Two): [bc]: A-
  • Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 [2017], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 [2017], International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 [2017], Metatrope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 [2017], Hispid/PNL): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 [2017], Leo, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Shelter: Shelter (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Paula Shocron/German Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 [2017], Hatology)
  • Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 [2017], Pi): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 [2017], Loyal Label): [r]: B+(**)
  • Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)

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

  • Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 [2010], ESP-Disk): [r]: B
  • Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 [1997], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 [1993], RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 [1998], 32 Jazz): [r]: B+(**)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kyle Motl: Transmogrification (2016 [2017], Metatrope): title previously reviewed as Solo Contrabass, label self-released; B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 [1996], Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Airstream Artistry: Jim Riggs' Best of the TWO (UNT, 3CD)
  • Ernaldo Bernocchi: Rosebud (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (Origin)
  • David Friesen: Structures (Origin)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (Libra)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (Delmark)
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Legacy: Neil Slater at North Texas (UNT, 4CD)
  • Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk Blue (self-released): January 5
  • Nice! Jay Saunders' Best of the TWO (UNT, 2CD)
  • One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2017 (UNT)
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (OA2)
  • Perseverance: The Music of Rick DeRosa at North Texas (UNT)
  • Steve Slagle: Dedication (Panorama): January 4
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (Origin)

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