August 2003 Notebook
Index
Latest

2014
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2013
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2012
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2011
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2010
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2009
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2008
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2007
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2006
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2005
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2004
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2003
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2002
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2001
  Dec
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Music: Initial count 8469 rated (+24), 927 unrated (-21). Productive week, closing off September's Recycled Goods. But not much incoming.

  • Africando: Volume 1: Trovador (1994, Stern's Africa). New York-based, Latin musicians, African (Senegalese) vocalists. The connection between salsa and Africa (Senegal in particular) has been long established and somewhat two-way. Still, not as buoyant as salsa can be, not as complex as mbalax, not much of a novelty or diversion either. B
  • Africando: Volume 2: Tierra Tradicional (1995, Stern's Africa). More of the same, except it's sounding a bit better this time, possibly because the singers have a bit more grit in their voices. B+
  • African Salsa (1993-97 [1999], Stern's/Earthworks). Dates aren't given, so they are inferred from the notes: these cuts are relatively recent Senegalese salsa -- nothing from earlier bands with pronounced Latin influences, like Orchestra Baobab. Rather, these overlap the career of Africando, which seems to be the most prominent and, at least in American salsa circles, the best established band. One cut of Africando here, one Mapenda Seck, one Alioune Kasse, four Super Crayor de Dakar, seven Papa Fall. To someone who doesn't follow salsa at all well -- certainly not as well as he follows West African music, which doesn't seem like much to brag about either -- this sounds much more conventionally salsa than African, but the rhythm is a shade more supple and complex, the vocals vigorous. A-
  • Roland Alphonso: Something Special: Ska Hot Shots (1956-66 [2000], Heartbeat). Vintage instrumental tracks, a couple of which stand out impressively, but for the most part these are just vintage instrumental tracks. B
  • Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble: Exile (2003, Enja/Justin Time). Israelis, Palestinians, and others play folk music, pop, and avant-jazz syncretically, building on the shared experience of exile. A-
  • Burnt Sugar: That Depends on What You Know: Fubractive: Since Antiquity Suite (2002, Trugroid). Much to admire here: the main part is built up from guitar/bass lines that somewhat resemble the electric groove lines that Miles Davis developed, but these are subtler, more intricate, more layered. Vijay Iyer's piano takes over in a couple of spots, adding to the rhythm. The vocal stuff is less persuasive, and leads to some artiness that gives me pause. There are two more volumes following this one, and I haven't heard them, so I'm grading this one cautiously. B+
  • "Clinton": Disco and the Halfway to Discontent (2000, Astralwerks). Tjinder Singh (Cornershop) spinoff. Starts with a slow, understated "people power in the disco hour" chant. Perhaps because of that first song -- a fragment of a study toward a great Cornershop album -- this record has the inevitable feel of being disposable. It is, after all, a side-project, relating to Cornershop in much the same way that David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts related to Talking Heads. Not sure if that's fair -- there is, in fact, a lot of very interesting shit going on here -- but none of it rises to the standards we've grown to expect from Cornershop. B+
  • Kali Z. Fasteau: Oneness (2003, Flying Note). Although she's playing sax on the cover, this opens with her on piano, with a Coltrane-ish tenor sax from Mixashawn Rozie. Nice start. The second cut, same lineup, is less striking. "Elephants Dance" reconfigures with Mixashawn on djembe, Kali on mizmar, and Marvin Bugalu Smithon drums: more percussive. Kali switches to soprano sax for "Leap," nai flute for "Silverfish," and double mizmar for "Sound and Silence" -- all short pieces of odd winds over percussion. On "Some Peace" Kali picks up the alto sax. The stretch from "Leap" through "Some Peace" flows quickly -- short pieces that sort of fold into the erratic worldbeat background. "Tomorrow?" is just Kali's voice with drums, the voice treated somehow. More double mizmar, more nai flute. More treated voice with drums. "Advice and Dissent" brings Mixashawn back on tenor, as impressive as the starter, although it's Newman T. Barker's drums that stand out the most this time. "For New York and Jenin" is a longer (6:58) piece for nai flute, cello, djembe and percussion -- probably the nicest work in that vein here. "Appreciating People" comes back with Mixashawn on tenor sax, Kali on piano, Bugalu on drums -- another impressive outing. "Coming Together" brings Kali back on soprano sax, with Mixashawn on tenor and Newman T. Barker on drums, a nice sort of wrap-up piece. A mixed bag: interesting textures, variations, rhythms, but only the piano-tenor-drums cuts make much of an impact. B+
  • The Best of Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1956-57 [1997], Verve). How many ways can you slice and dice their three albums together? The first two are essential, and Porgy & Bess has its moments, so it's almost impossible to construct an inferior sampler, but a redundant one is a piece of cake. A-
  • The Best of the Flamingos (1953-61 [1990], Rhino). Doo-wop group, one of those "bird groups." "I Only Have Eyes for You" is the classic everyone knows. This is padded to 18 cuts, useful for reference purposes, but it runs on the slow side, and nothing else blew me away. B
  • Marty Grosz & Keith Ingham and Their Paswonky Serenaders: Unsaturated Fats (1990, Stomp Off). With Peter Ecklund (cornet), Joe Muranyi (clarinet, soprano sax), Dan Barrett (trombone), Greg Cohen (bass), Arnie Kinsella (drums). Ingham plays piano, like he's been doing it all his life, which he probably has; Grosz plays guitar, banjo, and sings a bit -- the handful of vocals here neither bring Waller back to life, nor kick him up a notch, as Armstrong can do. Grosz is sort of the Eddie Condon of Germany -- he's dependable on rhythm, rounds up ace musicians, and makes sure everyone has a dandy ole time. But while these guys take to swing just fine, they're basically a trad band, and what works best is when the horns start to see-saw. Superb work. A-
  • The Holy Modal Rounders: Good Taste Is Timeless (1971 [2003], Sundazed). Early lyric from "Once a Year": "I bought you a new horoscope/with all the horrors you like best." "Black Bottom" is one cover I already know; "Boobs a Lot" is one original I've heard of. Fresh liner notes by Peter Stampfel: hooray for that! "Spring of '65" is probably the best thing here. The banjo thing on a Joe Maphis tune is also fine, as is the one about the alligator. Two pieces drag quite a bit -- at least one is written and sung by Webber, who's not in the best of shape. B+
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain: 21 Singles (1984-98 [2002], Warner Bros./Rhino). The earliest singles were solid melody closeted with barbed-wire noise. As they stripped the noise away, they were left with building blocks so solid that they could pass for the perfect post-newwave alt band. That's roughly the transition from Psychocandy to Automatic, which Christgau dissed for death mongering gloom lyrics that somehow I never heard -- too impressed, perhaps, with those building blocks. The Christgau CG list stops there, but I hung on for Stoned and Dethroned, which made my top-ten list for 1994, but I've missed the rest of their oeuvre -- including Honey's Dead, which contributes a single here, "Reverence," where the death mongering is so blatant not even I can ignore it. I'll also note that "I Hate Rock n Roll" sounds more believable than "I Love Rock n Roll" -- the latter comes off as late-Ramones-plus-horns, territory I'd just as soon not go into. But the rest of this holds up pretty well; it corrals mostly good cuts from albums I haven't heard and from albums I doubt that I'll revisit again. A-
  • Jack Johnson: On and On (2003, Moonshine Conspiracy). Pleasantly engaging, at least at first -- this does wind down a bit toward the end. Singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar, group limited to bass and drums, nice little slightly latin rhythms; he got a warm, slightly plaintive voice. Seems to be associated with Ben Harper, who's never done anything for me. B
  • Kaito U.K.: Band Red (2003, SpinArt). People who review this album start reaching for analogies, which invariably seem to come up short. (Christgau mentions Liliput, Sonic Youth, the Go-Go's and Bis; my problem with Liliput is that I can understand them even in German, whereas I have no idea what's going on here. I'm less certain about Bis, perhaps because they annoy me similarly.) That may mean that they're somehow sui generis, but "Nothing New" sounds annoyingly like something else I can't quite place -- maybe Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd? It's the one idyllic pasture in what is mostly a nasty, twisty thicket of thorns. The twists come from a tendency to shift in and out of rhythm, which is more disorienting than their thrash. And then, what does it mean that the little clap-blocks at the end also remind me of Pink Floyd? Maybe that I'm getting too old for this shit -- not so much the noise, the punks, the grrrls, just the sheer artiness of it all. B
  • Massive Attack: 100th Window (2003, Virgin). The big problem with trip-hop is that it's always been potentially the most boring music on earth. While this is not quite there, it is so featureless that it at least begs the question. B
  • David Murray/James Newton Quintet (1991 [1996], DIW). This is one of several projects which joined Murray and Newton. Newton is sort of the odds-on champ in the arena of jazz flute, although I have usually found his work rather tedious. Murray, of course, is at least as eminent in the much more competitive field of tenor sax -- and plays bass clarinet as well, which complements the flute. The Quintet lists six players, including two drummers who presumably played on separate days, but the cuts aren't listed by date or personnel. There are some outstanding saxophone runs here, as well as excellent John Hicks piano and Fred Hopkins bass. So the only real question mark is Newton. I like Newton best when he complements, as on the little hoot that ends one tune. I like Murray best when he plays, and his solo on "Doni's Song," with Hopkins backing, is one of his best ballad turns. After which, Newton chimes in with some flute that is eerily beautiful. B+
  • Music from the Yiddish Radio Project (1923-52 [2002], Shanachie). The Barry Sisters on "Samon and Delilah": "she gave the guy a haircut/and poked out both his eyes." The Andrews Sisters doing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" sounds like a ringer, but Dave Tarras is the real thing. After doing the "Second Avenue Square Dance" I propose a stop at the 2nd Avenue Deli. B+
  • Nashville: The Early String Bands, Volume One (1926-38 [2000], County). These dates are gleaned from the booklet, which while generally informative doesn't provide much discographical information. The most recognizable names here are Uncle Dave Macon, Arthur Smith, and Sam McGee. Humphrey Bale and Paul Warmack are two others who show up several times. Very nice, solid collection. B+
  • Michel Petrucciani: Live at the Village Vanguard (1984 [2002], Blue Note). A piano trio, long out of print, with Palle Danielsson (bass) and Eliot Zigmund (drums), pretty much a tour de force for Petrucciani. A-
  • Renee Rosnes: As We Are Now (1997, Blue Note). First rate quartet, with Chris Potter (tenor/soprano sax), Christian McBride (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums). My only caveat is Potter, who has a slick, plasticky tone that I've never much cared for, although he can knock off some impressive runs. The other three are near perfect, and Rosnes in particular has a touch that seems just right. The title cut, where Potter lays out, is sublime -- as Rosnes recedes into delicacy, McBride and DeJohnette provide just the right amount of complement. A-
  • Ronnie Scott: The Night Is Scott and You're So Swingable The strings I could pretty much do without, but they're only minimally intrusive here: the real show is Scott's tenor saxophone, which is authoritative and often quite beautiful. B+
  • Otis Taylor: Respect the Dead (2002, Northern Blues). This made a splash when it came out: it sounds old and primitive, but the sonic depth and resonance is strictly modern studiocraft. B+
  • Malachi Thompson: Rising Daystar (1999, Delmark). Gary Bartz gets a "with Special Guest"; the only other sideman I recognize is the late Fred Hopkins, who plays on and gets a dedication for the final track, "Circles in the Air." Thompson calls his outfit "the Freebop Band" -- nothing I hear here really sounds Free to me, but it does produce a jaunty sort of post-bop, more in the direction of hard bop. Lot of piano here. Dee Alexander takes a vocal on "Surrender Your Love" -- jaunty, again. Well, spoke too soon: "Fanfare for Trane" is farther out -- rather typically so. "Song for Morgan" is better -- no need to apologize for hard bop there. The Hopkins piece at the end has no trumpet, just a fine bass solo, some drums, and Thompson rebopping over the free meter. It's odd, but fitting. B+
  • The Lucky Tomblin Band (2003, Texas Works). Not sure why I got this, but Tomblin's record is a nice, easy-going piece of country music, loose where the genre tends to run either up-tight or worse. First song is drenched in steel guitar. Nothing really stands out, but I've played this three times and enjoyed every moment. B+
  • Tricky: Nearly God (1996, Island). Artist name does not appear on cover, but we know better. The lack of an artist name isn't the only thing that is understated here: the whole record seems to recoil into its grooves, which are pleasant enough. B
  • Tricky: A Ruff Guide (1994-99 [2002], Island). 17 cuts from Tricky's pre-Blowback solo period, including 6 from (or in alternate versions of) his first album, Maxinquaye. That album was generally considered to be a landmark of the decade, but it was one that left me cold and indifferent -- perhaps part of the idea, but not necessarily one worth buying into. I've gone back to the record several times in the last few years, gradually revising my opinion upward (as of this writing it's moved from B- to B+, and I'm probably not done, although I doubt that it will rise more than one more notch -- in particular, the sense of novelty never gets a second chance to assert itself), but I've found myself enjoying just about everything he's done since. The one truly great cut from the first album, the Public Enemy song "Black Steel," appears here in its "Radio Edit," which has the drums brought up front, interesting mix. The second best thing here, "Overcome," also comes from Maxinquaye. Hmmm. A-
  • Tripleplay: Expansion Slang (1998 [2000], Boxholder). A trio, with Nate McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums), and Ken Vandermark (reeds). Two short pieces written by McBride, three long ones by Vandermark. McBride and Newton are both based in Boston, so the idea behind Tripleplay is to provide Vandermark with a regular band when he would visit the Hub. (He's originally from Rhode Island, and lived in Boston before moving to Chicago.) Outstanding sax here -- particularly on "Alumni Forms," which pitch-wise sounds like soprano, although I've never heard soprano played with such emphasis. A-

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Music: Initial count 8445 rated (+8), 948 unrated (+3). Doing Recycled Goods this week, so some of these may be brief.

  • American Polka ([2002], Trikont). The notes say that the Lager-Olsen Quartet cut 130 sides between 1915 and 1927, so their contribution here is probably the oldest one. Most are much more recent, with groups like Polkacide and the Polish Muslims and the Happy Schnapps Combo well represented. Frankie Yankovic is probably the big name here; Los Lobos is a ringer, while Elliott Sharp and Guy Klucevesk are a bit on the highfalutin' side. B+
  • The Essential Babyface (1989-97 [2003], Epic). This duplicates seven songs from A Collection of His Greatest Hits, while adding 7-8 more (the margin of uncertainty a medley). B+
  • Mildred Bailey: Mrs. Swing (1929-42 [2003], Proper, 4CD). Discs:
    • "Squeeze Me": Starts with her first record, cut with Eddie Lang; then more band sides, with the Dorsey Brothers, Casa Loma, and Benny Goodman. The pace picks up with "Mildred Bailey and Her Swing Band" -- an outfit with Chu Berry, Teddy Wilson, and Red Norvo -- with "Someday Sweetheart" and "When Day Is Done" particularly sharp. The next four cuts are by "Mildred Bailey and Her Alley Cats" -- Bunny Berigan, Johnny Hodges, Teddy Wilson, and Grachan Moncur -- a bluesy "Willow Tree," her classics "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Squeeze Me." Then some cuts with Norvo, then another integrated studio band under Bailey's name -- Artie Shaw, Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby, Cozy Cole, Eddie Sauter arranging -- with an exquisite "For Sentimental Reasons." Date up to 1936.
    • "Rockin' Chair": 9 cuts here fronting for Red Norvo, the other 16 with her own Orchestra -- some of the latter are Norvo bands, some are integrated studio bands. Dates from 1936 to 1938. Includes the Eddie Sauter-arranged "Rockin' Chair" -- her signature tune -- and a terrific "Lover Come Back to Me."
    • "Born to Swing": This stretches from Feb. 10, 1938 to Sept. 14, 1938, a bit more than seven months which might be considered the peak of her career. Although Bailey gets top billing on about half of the cuts, her orchestra was the same as his (Red Norvo's). Great song: "As Long As You Live (You'll Be Dead If You Die)."
    • "There'll Never Be Another You": This carries on from Sept. 1938 to March 1942, but this is front-loaded, with 20 cuts up through 1939, 3 cuts from 1940, and 2 from 1942. The groups are more varied than on the third disc -- mostly with Red Norvo, but some with Benny Goodman, and a few studio bands, especially with John Kirby's group (Charlie Shavers, Billy Kyle, Russell Procope).
    Overall, this is terrific stuff: one suspects that the compilers had an ear out for the accompanists, but that's partly because what makes Bailey a great jazz singer is surrounding her with great jazz. Cut for cut, the following Columbia comp is probably a bit better, but this is close enough. A
  • Mildred Bailey: The Incomparable Mildred Bailey (1933-42 [2003], Columbia/Legacy). A nice, compact, single-CD introduction, but 14 of these 18 cuts are also on the Proper box. The exceptions: "Shoutin' in That Amen Corner" (Sept. 5, 1933; cut with the Dorsey Brothers, a similar song to her earlier take of "Is That Religion?" on the Proper box; I think it's terrific -- fierce vocal, hopping backup, and unlike "Is That Religion?" it doesn't fight with the memory of other versions [Billy Banks?]); "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" (June 14, 1939; a fun standard, cut with John Kirby's band and an upbeat Eddie Sauter arrangement; fine solos by Charlie Shavers and Buster Bailey; the Proper box includes "Moon Love" from this session); "Blue Rain" (Nov. 3, 1939; a Mercer/Van Heusen ballad, cut with a small band where only Teddy Wilson and Ben Webster are identified -- how hard could that have been?); "I'm Nobody's Baby" (Apr. 2, 1940; good standard, a band that includes Teddy Wilson and Roy Eldridge, both with smart solos). I also checked this against the earlier Best of Big Bands comp on Columbia, which I had rated B, but there's only one song in common. All in all, this is a really superb selection, with "The Weekend of a Private Secretary" and "Wham (Re Bop Boom Bam)" (Roy Eldridge chimes in with a complenting vocal) especially outstanding. A
  • Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 (1951-64 [2003], Abkco). This effectively replaces the criminally out-of-print The Man and His Music. The deltas are: Added: "Lovable" (typically spectacular vocal around a nothing song), "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" (cover of a 1946 Nat Cole hit, seems rather ordinary), "You Were Made for Me" (not sure about this one; has some earmarks of Cooke's great hits, but is what's lacking merely prior recognition? -- one problem is the backing vocals, which are often lame but subpar here), "Summertime" (Gershwin, of course; taken at a snail's pace, an eloquent statement, natch), "Little Red Rooster" (a misstep, the blues form is something he's never had the gait for, and the heavy blues instrumentation just rubs it in; trying to outsing Howlin' Wolf is another misstep), "Sugar Dumpling" (sounds classic, even with the female chorus, especially with the strings), "Tennessee Waltz" (fine song, taken at a brisk pace, works just fine), "Jesus Gave Me Water" (this closes back at the beginning, with a song from Cooke's first Soul Stirrers session, done not quite acapella; then it ends with a bit of spoken word, not sure who from, but not Cooke). Dropped: "That's Heaven to Me" (), "When a Boy Falls in Love" (), "Rome (Wasn't Built in a Day)" (), "Love (Will Find a Way)" (), "Somebody Have Mercy" (), "Soothe Me" (). Meant to check out the latter, but for some reason can't find the disc. A
  • Sam Cooke: Sam Cooke at the Copa (1964 [2003], Abkco). Introduced by Sammy Davis Jr., and the songs, aside from a few certified Cooke hits, could just as well be coming from Sammy's songbook: "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "Bill Bailey," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Frankie and Johnny," and so on up to "Tennessee Waltz." Well, I have a bit of trouble envisaging Sammy doing "Blowin' in the Wind," but it has the ring of a sermon, the one gospel touch in the set. A-
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Juan-Les-Pins (1964 [2002], Verve, 2CD). Two-plus hours with Tommy Flanagan (piano), Bill Yancey (bass), Gus Johnson (drums), and Roy Eldridge (trumpet). A bit strange that the initial sequence of songs ("Hello Dolly!," "Day In, Day Out," "Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'," "I Loe Being Here With You," "People") restarts toward the end of the first disc, with "People" starting the second disc. The first sequence was recorded the first day, the second the second day -- which evidently went into a third set or maybe more -- there are four takes of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." A-
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Love Songs: Best of the Verve Song Books (1956-63 [1996], Verve). The third best-of from the classic series, a little bit of everything, all of it superb. I'm especially struck by "Prelude to a Kiss" -- the band (Ellington's, natch) is sublime, and Duke never hired a singer who could hold a candle to her (although Adelaide Hall may have done more interesting things with candles). The next one, "All Too Soon," features gorgeous saxophone -- Paul Gonsalves. And those are just the slow ones -- it may be that anyone can carry the fast ones, but who else can swing them like Ella? A
  • Flying Funk: Ultra Heavy Funk and Rare Grooves From Flying Dutchman, Bluebird and RCA (1968-75 [2003], Bluebird). One of two comps of pieces originally on the Flying Dutchman label, but this one is padded with other RCA catalog material, including two fast and loose tracks by Nina Simone. Funky organs, soul jazz, a relatively musical Gil Scott-Heron, odds and ends. B+
  • Flying Groove: Rare Grooves and Jazz Classics From Bluebird and Flying Dutchman (1963-75 [2003], Bluebird). More oddments: this starts with the Gil Evans Orchestra playing Jimi Hendrix ("Crosstown Traffic"), with a roomfull of top-rate musicians -- Hannibal Peterson, Billy Harper, Bruce Ditmas, John Abercrombie, Howard Johnson -- I guess it's Hannibal doing the vocal. Harold Alexander's "Mama Soul" is agreeably grooveful, and Esther Marrow's "Walk Tall" is a decent soul shot. Diedre Wilson has a very satisfying vocal tack on "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes." This keeps going, rather improbably through a string of artists as untrustworthy as Lambert Hendrics & Bavan, Wild Bill Davis, Tom Scott, Gil Scott-Heron ("The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," an obvious one), then two Oliver Nelson cuts -- one with Count Basie -- before it overreaches with David Axelrod's "Messiah (Overture)" -- like the Hendrix, another big jazz band tackles unlikely material, but this time without the flair of Gil Evans. Gato Barbieri's "El Pampero" makes up much of the lost ground. A-
  • The Jimmy Giuffre 3: The Easy Way (1959 [2003], Verve). With Jim Hall (guitar) and Ray Brown (bass), Giuffre is credited on the back cover with saxophone, but pictured on the front with clarinet. B
  • The Guitar and Gun: Highlife Music From Ghana (1981-84 [2003], Stern's/Earthworks). John Collins' Bookor Studios was was of only two working recording studios in Ghana during the 1980's, a tumultuous period for Ghana, wracked by revolution and civil war. These pieces were cut near the front lines -- the guitarist on the cover was a working soldier taking a pleasant break. The music here for the most part eschews the horn-laced dance bands of the big cities -- Wolfa Rockson is the mild-mannered exception. Rather, it rides on sweet guitar lines and lifts off with gospel vocals: Francis Kenya's Guitar Band is sublime, while the Baptist Disciple Singers, Genesis Gospel Singers, and Cavalry Bells Supreme Christian Singers are exalted. A
  • Horace X: Sackbutt (2003, Omnium). Beats, fiddles, clarinet, did I mention beats? The fiddles and clarinet give it lots of old world feel -- Balkans, Middle East, India -- but the vocals run more toward Jamaica (or Johnny Rotten?), and the beats seem to come out of the UK melting pot. Longer on feel than effect; the whole thing seems disposable, with little doubt that someone else will come along and do it better, not that it's clear what that might mean. B+
  • The Kings of Highlife: The Vibrant Music of West Africa ([2003], Wrasse). Offhand, this is the best general overview of highlife I have heard. However, it is interesting that it shares five cuts from the recently released Rough Guide to Highlife (noted below). Most of the cuts come from Nigeria. Sir Victor Awaifo, "Guitar Boy" (also on RG, marvelous song, rhythm jumps right out, the guitar chimes); Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, "Makojo" (long, light guitar intro; percolates in background of lead vocal, which is chantlike and evocative, with light use of a chorus behind and horn along side; reminiscent of Sunny Ade); Sir Victor Awaifo, "Joromi" (another great one); Dr. Victor Olaiya, "Omo Pupa" (also on RG, and another great one); Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, "Osondi Owendi" (again, one that sneaks up on you, the rhythm patient, little shifts and breaks); Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, "Anate" (another shift up front, gospel-styled vocals right in your face); Paulson Kalu, "Okwudili" (first non-major name, fine song, strong singer, another evangelist); Wura Fadaka, "Sanman Adugbo" (upbeat band, kind of an old, hollow sound); Chief Inyang Nta Henshaw, "Esonta" (also on RG); Gentle Man Ejeagha, "Ikpechakwa A-Akem Kpee" (1975, Igbo, guitar/percussion, very nice sax, ); Celestine Ukwu, "Igede" (also on RG, 1976, some vibes-like instrument, interacting with something conga-like, guitar, the vocal only pops up briefly); Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, "Bere Bote" (also on RG, prototypical highlife guitar, percussion, sax, looping vocals); Celestine Ukwu, "Usondu" (vocals feels like a longing, eloquent ballad, set against a light backdrop of guitar and percussion, with horns added for highlighting); Dr Victor Olaiya, "So Fun Mi" (nice closer, elegant guitar, muted vocal). A
  • Leadbelly: When the Sun Goes Down, Vol. 5: Take This Hammer (1940 [2003], Bluebird). These 1940 recordings seek to recreate the chain gang prison roots of Leadbelly's folk music -- roots not far removed from slavery, as both take the same sort of perseverance. B+
  • Lifesavas: Spirit in Stone (2003, Quannum Projects). Mike tells me that the words are really ace. That's SFFR; for now I'm just sold on the beats. A-
  • Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges (1959 [2003], Verve): A smallish group, with Claude Williamson (piano), Buddy Clark (bass), Mel Lewis (drums). Relaxed blues, gorgeous of course. A-
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1980 [2003], Virgin). "Electricity" is a great single; "Messages" is just fine as the follow-up. Otherwise, the strategies here are oblique, but this lyric from "Pretending to See the Future" sounds prophetic: "we appear to be in control of our fate/just like soldiers believe they're in control of a war/but it's moving so fast we cannot see what we've done/we're losing our eyes just to say that we've won." A-
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Organisation (1980 [2003], Virgin). Adds five bonus tracks, including a remix of "Electricity" to close. A-
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Architecture and Morality (1981 [2003], Virgin). Slower, darker, more oblique. "Joan of Arc" is the centerpiece here, but isn't much more than a march musically, a nursery rhyme lyrically. Several instrumentals, some shit just plodding. The textures are not without interest, but shit happens when a danceband neglects its beats. This was a danceband, no? B
  • Max Romeo: Ultimate Collection (1970-77 [2003], Hip-O/Island). "War Ina Babylon" was one of those songs so classic that it carried a 1976 album of the same name, and made the modest songs that accompanied it look like so much filler. So one thing to do here is to try to pay attention to the small details: an argument over conflicting white and black versions of the bible, an assertion that "Socialism Is Love," and much channeling of the poor and oppressed. "One Step Forward" and "I Chase the Devil" are first rate pieces -- he discovers a little ratcheting sound that works as a hook. Still, this is far from "ultimate" -- misses his early Trojan hit "Wet Dream" and his well-regarded 1978 album Open the Iron Gate. A-
  • Steel Pulse: Ultimate Collection (1978-91 [2000], Hip-O). "Uncle George" consists of repeated chants of "George Jackson/Soledad Brother" -- the distance there is fatal. Distance seems to be endemic in this band of UK Jamaicans -- it softens their focus, pulls their punches. Nine of these 16 cuts come from their first two albums. B+
  • Merle Travis: Hot Pickin' (1943-52 [2003], Proper, 2CD). The dates here are limited by the 50-year copyright rule, but that still leaves this set with a representative selection of Travis' work. Rhino's Best of Merle Travis only has two cuts after the cutoff date here: 1953's "Re-Enlistment Blues" and 1968's guitar instrumental "Cannonball Rag." This set closes with a 1952 guitar instrumental "Cannonball Rag," so call that a draw. This set drops one other song from the Rhino, a 1950 single called "Trouble, Trouble." Razor & Tie's more recent Best of Merle Travis: Sweet Temptation 1946-1953 has two cuts not here: "Any Old Time" (a Jimmie Rodgers song) and "Re-Enlistment Blues." A-

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad came as a surprise, but the post facto comments by Bush and Ashcroft couldn't have been more rote. We are hopelessly mired in ruts of rhetoric, and nothing is likely to change unless one can start to recognize real changes in the world around us. That the UN bombing came as a surprise may just be an illusion based on the recent war debate, where Bush and Powell failed to secure UN blessing for the US invasion of Iraq. From that, and the fact that the US and UK went ahead and invaded anyway, we tend to think that the UN is a different, broader, fairer, more reasonable force than the US/UK "coalition" -- and we tend to see it as a much better alternative: that handing the occupation over to the UN would be more welcome to the Iraqis, and would permit a more stable, less poisoned reconstruction effort. Still, try to imagine how the UN is viewed by Iraqis: the UN supported the 1991 war; the UN imposed the sanctions that have gone so far to strangle the Iraqi economy; the UN weapons inspection teams never certified that Iraq had eliminated its WMD, thereby prolonging the sanctions and providing excuses for the US to further punish and ultimately to invade and occupy Iraq. How wrong might ordinary Iraqis be to view the UN as US stooges? In the US, we find it easy to dismiss this argument because we're aware of the long-running right-wing political critique of the UN, which has basically become dominant with the ascendancy of the neocon hawks.


Just noticed a report that lists the US as having the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world. This should be a wake-up call, but it's clearly been coming on for a long time now, and it is really just another example of those ruts of rhetoric.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I haven't written much about the US in Iraq, probably because it has all unfolded so predictably. Iraq is caught between two pincers: one is the inevitability of Iraqi resistance, the other the arrogance and ineptness of the American occupation. The former was presaged by the 1991 war, and by the long, cruel regime of sanctions that followed, punctuated by further bombing attacks, which only had the effect of punishing the Iraqi people for leaders who in turn were able to use the siege to oppressively tighten their control. Those policies, pursued by three US presidents for more than a decade, implemented with indifference, indeed total contempt, for the Iraq people, have specifically destroyed any possible credibility that the US might have claimed to be seen as a liberator or benefactor of the Iraqi people. But even beyond the history of specific US policies dealing with Iraq, US policies elsewhere in the Arab world and throughout the third world have made it seem highly implausible that the US can be trusted to do anything of long-term benefit to the Iraqi people.

What's happened since Iraqi resistance emerged has only served to make it appear stronger and more viable -- not, of course, in the sense that they can hope to drive the US out but in anticipation that they can make it painful enough that the US will eventually choose to quit the struggle. The US has managed over the last 20+ years to fight wars with so few casualties that now none are expected, which gives them a very low pain threshold. The response is both to button up and to lash out, both of which make US forces appear to be more alien and more hostile, while at the same time making them less effective as security forces and less responsible as administrative forces. Recent sabotage of oil and water pipelines are something we can expect to see regularly, especially as long as the Iraqi people hold the US responsible for infrastructure failures.

On the other hand, the US appears to be nearly clueless in its occupation. There are many reasons for this: most obviously that the US military's core competency doesn't extend far beyond the art of blowing things up. Even logistical support of US troops seems to be a strain -- the death of a US soldier due to heatstroke is a particularly poignant sign of failure and incompetence. Language (the need to mediate virtually every communication through translators) is obviously a huge problem, which burdens every effort to work with and through the population. And the lack of security makes it all but impossible to bring in civilian help to repair critical infrastructure. But these are the sort of problems that any occupier would face, even one that could reasonably be viewed as benign.

The US faces far deeper problems, which are rooted in the delusions that the Bush administration entertained in selling the war and in conceiving of its solution. As an MBA, Bush should be aware that the single most effective prerequisite for selling anything is the ability to project conviction. The rationales for the Iraq war never had much merit, and the risks associated with the war have always loomed large, but Bush et al. somehow managed to convince first themselves and then key parts of the power structure that their rationales were sound and that the risks were manageable. In doing so they have become trapped in their own lies and delusions. Most obviously, this is why they didn't plan for contingencies that they had to discount in order to sell their case. And now, given the actual level of Iraqi resistance, and given the collapse of their delusions about popular and international support for their war and occupation, about all that Iraqi oil that was supposed to pay for the venture, they find themselves swamped in a mess that offers no way out.

But this gets worse for Bush, because Iraq isn't the only thing he and his possee are deluded about: Bush's handling of crises in America has faired little better. After all, the stories about blackouts and water shortages and snipers aren't all postmarked Baghdad. Bush's ideological straightjacket not only doesn't work in Iraq -- it doesn't even work here. The examples are numerous -- far too numerous to go into here. But some idea of the enormity of the problem, and how clueless Bush is regarding it, can be gleaned from a fairly simple and self-evident rule of thumb: that the only viable direction for change is toward greater equality and freedom. Freedom alone he might be able to handle, since freedom suggests the right to do what one wants, and Bush definitiely likes the idea of doing what one wants -- so long as "one" is Bush or at least a big campaign donor. But that sort of freedom inevitably tramples on the freedom of everyone else; it's only in moving toward greater equality that more people benefit from the system and thereby become part of the system. The core fact is that without the earnest participation of workers nothing really works in complex technological economies, and that everyone who inhabits those societies depends on their ability to trust those workers. What we're seeing in Iraq is a society where trust has been completely undermined by the presence of a foreign, hostile military culture. In the US we rarely see such active hostility, but the indifference and contempt of those who hold power toward those who merely work (in contrast to those who move capital) is spreading rot more slowly, but just as surely.

The bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad today, and last week's bombing of the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, are especially troubling acts. Both are attacks on groups that might have worked to mediate and ameliorate the US occupation. Consequently, they serve to make it all the harder for the US to withdraw at all gracefully. It's hard to tell what the intent might be in selecting such targets, and it's far from clear that there is any real coordination between these bombings and other more clearly targeted forms of resistance. But the suggestion is certainly raised that if/when the US withdraws there will be a bloody civil war in Iraq. (That shouldn't come as a surprise; indeed, that's always been in my potential risks file on this conflict, which to my mind was one of those worst case scenario risks where the sheer magnitude of the downside swamps out its improbability. Not that it ever was all that improbable: in effect there pre-existed a civil war truce between the Kurds and the Baathist regime, which could be destabilized at any time; it's also worth noting that Afghanistan is already in a state of civil war, only marginally realigned with the US intervention.)

I haven't written much about Iraq recently, because most of what I have to say boils down to a bunch of told-you-so's. What you seen now are the consequences of the decision to go to war. That decision was not necessary in any sense that can be reasonably articulated. The people who sold and implemented that war did so by denying the facts and what could logically be inferred from them, and by deluding themselves as to their motives and intentions. This is what they've gotten from those decisions and acts, and this is what those who believed them have gotten in return. And the prospects for the future range from more of the same to a whole lot worse. I don't have any bright ideas for fixing what has been broken, other than to remove from power the criminals who set this war in order. But even that won't solve the problem; it is merely the prerequisite to starting to redress the damage.


I picked up a couple of slim books from the library two weeks ago, and managed to get them read by their due date. The books were Shibley Telhami's The Stakes: America and the Middle East: The Consequences of Power and the Choice for Peace, and Walter Mosley's What Next: A Memoir Toward World Peace. They both represent personal takes on an increasingly impersonal subject, but then it seems like reasonable people are fated nowadays to respond personally, as if reason is so rare it can be considered a personal quirk.

The main thing that Telhami brings to the table is some experience in polling Arabs in the Middle East. He marshalls sufficient evidence to make the case that Arab opposition to Americans is policy-driven and has little (if anything) to do with cultural factors -- envy of American freedom, etc. This isn't much of a revelation -- Jedediah Purdy figured out the same thing just chatting with young professionals in Cairo. Telhami also has polls from elsewhere in the world which pretty much reveal the same thing, and point out that Arabs are not even all that exceptional in their low opinion of US policy. One weak spot in the book is his discussion of the Barak phase of the Oslo negotiations, which he sees as floundering on the issue of Jerusalem. Tanya Reinhardt and others have argued that Jerusalem was a relatively minor issue, but that the resolution of the refugee problem was much more significant. That's always been my impression as well. But in general Telhami's analyses and proposals are relatively sensible.

Mosley's book interweaves a memoir of his father with his own modest efforts to plot out an activist program for promoting world peace. Mosley addresses his book to black Americans, and it's interesting to think of the post-9/11 antiterrorism regime refracted through the prism of the negro experience in America. For one thing, Mosley points out that his father didn't realize that he was an American until he found himself being shot at by Germans in WWII; but given that he had in fact been shot at just like white Americans were shot at, he came to realize that he ought to have rights just like all other Americans, and that realization changed his life.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Music: Initial count 8437 rated (+16), 945 unrated (+16). Change for unrated is actually accumulated over two weeks, due to a snafu last week.

  • Black & Proud: The Soul of the Black Panther Era, Vol. 1 ([2003], Trikont). Songs: Sam Dees, "Heritage of a Black Man" (1975, is slavery, sets the stage, thematic background for what needs to be settled now); Last Poets, "Panther" (1997, from Time Has Come, only the occasional lyric -- e.g., a reference to gangsta rap -- is out of place for what is mostly an early '70s comp; "no more health care/no more dreams/no more heroes/no more themes"; spare beats and rap, like they've been doing it since back in the day); Sons of Slum, "Right On" (1972-75, according to the Stax singles comp; remake of the Marvin Gaye song, faster and with horns); Staple Singers, "Brand New Day" (1970, has a gospel rise on the chorus, "we gotta put our heads together/and see where we go from there"); George Soule, "Get Involved" (1974, "oh you silent majority/who haven't been speaking out . . . all you do is sit on your you-know-what/and never do a thing"); Grady Tate, "Be Black" (c. 1969, released as "Be Black Baby" on Skye 4520); Gil Scott-Heron, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" (1971, relatively famous piece, conga track with Scott-Heron declaiming a series of negatives, like "the revolution will not go better with coke"; ends with "the revolution will not be televised/the revolution will be live"); Segments of Time, "Song to the System" (1972, another strong soul move); Derrick Harriott, "Message From a Black Man" (1976, cover of a song by Strong/Whitfield, originally by the Temptations from 1969; Harriott's Jamaican beat is subdued, but the falsetto vocal is strong and moving, and the shouted "I'm black and I'm proud" drives the point home); Marvin Gaye, "You're the Man" (1972 follow-up to "What's Going On," moderate pace, plaintive falsetto, "don't you understand/there's misery in the land"); S.O.U.L., "Tell It Like It Is" (1972, funk track, horn accents; artist name stands for "Sounds of Unity and Love"); Last Poets, "Black Wish" (1970, a series of rapped wishes, over crude beats with background chants, their sort of thing back when it wasn't anyone else's; "and I know/that that wish will come true"); Ghetto Reality, "James Brown" (1970, elemental gospel melody, sung in unison, "born in Augusta, Georgia/James Brown/he was a poor little shoeshine boy/now he's the king, the king of soul/hey hey hey"); Curtis Mayfield, "Ghetto Child" (1970 hit, great bass line for short lyric phrases, "I was just a nothing child/why couldn't they just let me be?"); Darongo, "Let Me People Go" (1973); Camille Yarbrough, "All Hid" (1975, spoken word over a jazz-funk track, building up as it goes to something intense, not far removed from Patti Smith); Melvin Van Peebles/Sweet Sweetback's Baadass Song, "Won't Bleed Me" (1971, noise thrash, "it won't bleed me" repeatedly); Getto Kitty, "Stand Up and Be Counted" (1972, "peace and freedom is my goal," organ and horns); Miriam & Mbongi Makeba, "Do You Remember Malcolm" (1975, from South Africans, exiled in Guinea, but a pretty typical period funk track). A-
  • Black & Proud: The Soul of the Black Panther Era, Vol. 2 ([2003], Trikont). Songs: Syl Johnson, "I'm Talkin' Bout Freedom" (1970, "oh what a world this would be/if everyone could feel free"); Gil Scott-Heron, "Who'll Pay Reparations on My Soul?" (1970, congas, rides hard on title query, not a lot of detail); Earl Sixteen, "Malcolm X" (date? -- says '70s, but Earl's first AMG-listed album was 1980, with no songs listed; reggae feel, Joe Gibbs produced); Galactic, "There's Something Wrong With This Picture" (on 1995 or 1996 album, group formed in 1993, but sound straight from '70s; New Orleans funk, nice sax, heavy drums, "give me my acres/and give me my mule"); Cipher Jewels, "2000 Years" (rap on a minimal rhythm track, scratches, talks about who built things around us, who built the pyramids?); Cannonball Adderley, "Walk Tall" (1970, spoken intro, "a lot of stuff going on in this ghetto/you got to walk tall; song itself is funk instrumental, composed by Joe Zawinul, sax and keyb); The Main Ingredient, "Black Seeds" (1971, fairly mainstream period soul); Derrick Harriott, "Brown Baby" (1970?; Gamble/Huff song, done reggae); The Sounds of Black, "Sounds of Black" (date?; unexceptional soul); Hank Ballard, "Blackenized" (late '60s?; light shuffle beat, "I don't know whether you realize/before you get recognized/you got to be blackenized"; as a lecture, reminds me a bit of Joe Tex); Tribe, "What We Need" (1972?; associated with Detroit's Tribe Records?; loose, jazzy feel); Staple Singers, "Respect Yourself" (1971 hit, easy rhythm, catchy, uplift, "if you don't respect yourself ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot"); Walter Heath, "You Know You're Wrong" (1974, "you say you believe in the bible/but you got to get down with survival," anti-junkie, self-respect sermon; Mayfield theme, but not nearly as good); Larry Williams, "Wake Up" (1957, "we've been sleeping way too long"; the age doesn't seem like much of a throwback); Marlena Shaw, "I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free)" (1969, song done by Nina Simone in 1967, but this is no doubt jumpier); Gil Scott-Heron, "Lady Day and John Coltrane" (1971, "could you call on Lady Day/or could you call on John Coltrane/could they wash your troubles away?"; propulsive rhythm, dinky electric piano); Last Poets Featuring Chuck D, "Down to Now" (1997, pre-rap spoken word artists meet the Public Enemy, intro rap typical for group, then a bit of chorus and on comes Chuck D, deeper but by his usual standards a little slow); Assata Shakur & Asian Dub Foundation, "Reluctant Warrior" (Shakur is a Black Panther, convicted in 1972 of a police murder in NJ "despite lack of evidence," who escaped to Cuba; this takes her spoken words and weaves beats around them; this shows up in a 1998 collection called Still Dancing on John Wayne's Head). B+
  • Bill Charlap: Stardust (2002, Blue Note). In print that doesn't quite qualify for a subtitle, it says, "The Bill Charlap Trio plays the music of Hoagy Carmichael." Charlap got a lot of notice for this; in general he's been getting a lot of notice, as he's one of the most sure-fingered interpreters of the standards repertoire to have emerged in the '90s. The trio consists of Kenny Washington (drums) and Peter Washington (bass), and they're superb, especially on one of the finest takes on "Georgia on My Mind" I've run across: simple, stately, refined, beautifully measured. However, five cuts are dolled up with guests -- Frank Wess adds gorgeous sax to "Rockin' Chair" and "Blue Orchids," and Jim Hall contributes characteristically tasteful guitar, the two vocal cuts (courtesy Tony Bennett and Shirley Horn) carry the good taste too far. This has been sitting ungraded for quite a while because it's a close call, but for now we'll go against the singers. B+
  • Dmitri From Paris: Sacrebleu (1996, Sourcelab). This is a pleasant little tryst, although I've hardly noticed it passing by, at least until the 10:11 "lounge instrumentale" at the end, with toy latin percussion, fake strings, and flugelhorn, which is a dreamy little piece of escapism. But then it drops into dead space and pastiche. B
  • Dave Douglas: Freak In (2003, Bluebird). Part of my interest here is that Douglas is integrating some synths, which throws him into the fray with Shipp, Molvaer, et al. Turns out that there is not a lot of that, but there is quite a bit of fine trumpet. Should give it a few more spins before I say much more, but it sounds good. Songs: "Freak In" (kicks off with an up beat in a rock-fusion vein); "Culver City Park" (starts with diddly electronics, topped with some slow trumpet, then evolves with some nice guitar [Marc Ribot] and more emphatic trumpet); "Black Rock Park" (starts on electric guitar, fragments with no real rhythmic connection); "Hot Club of 13th Street" (not so hot -- more contorted guitar and electronic rubble, with trumpet waxing eloquent); "Eastern Parkway" (more of a beat-track, in the electric Miles sense, a rough rhythm with electronics and sporadic trumpet riffs; best cut so far); "November" (more atmospheric, slightly latin beat, nice trumpet); "Porto Alegre" (snatch of vocal, amateur and acapella, then it eases into la-la land); "The Great Schism" (back to the beat, fairly major sax solo [Chris Speed], drums both rock and tribal, taking over a good chunk of the piece, before the trumpet sums up); "Wild Blue" (words garbled at start, little bits of sound); "Maya" (more atmosphere, pretty in pieces, wanders in and out without registering much); "Traveler There Is No Road" (more rockish, particularly in the intro guitar and drums). B+
  • F/i: The Past Darkly/The Future Lightly: Rare & Unreleased 1983-1989 (1983-89 [2002], Lexicon Devil, 2CD). This is a band from Milwaukee, who play instrumental rock around various electronic drones, inspired perhaps by krautrock, perhaps by Eno, perhaps by the progenitors of industrial, perhaps by the Velvet Underground. Their works are currently on an Australian label. This one was lauded in a review in Mojo. The first disc is full of electronic waves and atmospherics; the second rocks a bit. Looks like they're still in business. B+
  • Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong: Ella and Louis Again (1957 [2003], Verve, 2CD). This reissue restores seven cuts omitted from the first CD reissue: "Makin' Whoopee" (L carries this one, the rasp on his voice and the shadings on his innuendo are extraordinary, a light touch on a heavy punch; the big difference vs. Ray Charles is the piano), "Comes Love" (just E, as supremely confident as ever), "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" (L, long at 8:42, the band laying low early on before they start to pick up a bit, with L rising to every challenge), "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" (another E song, 7:36 long, nice little fillip on "the song that Crosby sings"), "Willow Weep for Me" (L, with a typically great trumpet break), "Ill Wind" (E, the slowest and perhaps the least interesting thing on this record), "I Get a Kick Out of You" (L). A
  • Junior Murvin: Police and Thieves (1977 [2003], Island). This always seemed like a slight and somewhat precious album, but over the years it's gained stature as part of producer Lee Perry's canon. But in re-encountering this music 25 years after the fact I find myself most deeply touched by what seemed so slight in the first place: Murvin's falsetto. "Police and Thieves" and "Rescue Jah Children" are songs that heighten their sense of outrage through their timidity; but while "False Teachin'" and "Lucifer" seem like diversionary targets, they reveal an unexpected toughness and determination. That is, after all, one thing that happens when the children suffer. A-

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Cooked a small dinner last night: dahi murgh, aloo piaza, through together a little cucumber raita at the last minute, and had some very aged chutneys. Should be putting these recipes into the recipe file, but that is one of many things that seem to be lagging in keeping this antique website updated. The chicken and potato recipes come from Sahni's standard cookbook. The potatoes were particularly good; had a potato left over, so I made another small batch and dropped the leftovers into it to warm.


Watched two movies on TV last night: vegging out seemed to be in order after a few strenuous but unproductive days. The movies themselves can easily be dismissed. Clint Eastwood's Blood Work is in the running for the most preposterous serial killer storyline of all time. Hollywood's fondness for serial killers seems to be the idea that you can serve justice in the end while having lots of gore and mayhem along the line, but they seem nowadays -- maybe they're just despertate for depth? -- to be more about the crime-solvers than about the killers, and they carry so much psychological baggage that you start wondering whether the killers are anything more than projections from the damaged psyches of the solvers. But while the storyline may have been inevitable, at least you figure that there'd be some interesting details with Eastwood, but they're all wrong: he lives on a boat, gets harrassed by the usual authority figures, sleeps with the young Latina who guilt-trips him out of retirement; and Anjelica Houston's role as his doctor is shrill and one-note. The end is, of course, as cliched as they get.

The other movie was Spiderman, which at least was supposed to be fantasy. The thing that always gets me about these vintage cartoon-based blockbusters is the naturalness and inevitability of crime -- indeed, of supercrime. Of course, there wouldn't be much point in having superheroes without proportionate crime. A second theme is the ambiguity of scientific progress -- a fulcrum for good, of course, but also for astonishing evil, which right now seems to be the most purely '30s aspect of the genre. The path of science since then has tended to make science fiction duller -- at least the science-based subset -- since science has tended to close off more possibilities than it has opened up, even in the realms of cloning and genetic manipulation, which still manage to generate more than a little fear. The modernism back in the '30s was still convinced that the future had an edge and a great unknown beyond it, and everyone else in the '30s had reasonable suspicions that the world as they knew it was veering dangerously out of control. Which is no doubt why comics superheroes seem so dated, so much of that period -- much as Godzilla belonged to the early '50s. The more interesting question is why these old franchises should have any relevance today. The real answers are probably quite dull: the franchises are sufficiently pre-sold as to make them seem like sound investments; the market demographic predictably spans generations; spiffy new special effects plausibly claim to be able to translate comics to live action; they offer spectacular violence firmly set in cartoon irreality. Of course, the same basic dynamics apply to Lord of the Rings, which is set in a somewhat more antiquated cartoon universe, and these days it also applies to Star Wars installments wherever they fit in the time line. Still, Spiderman is an obnoxious movie, and the notion that there are so many people willing to see it that it is some sort of all-time box-office champ raises serious questions about the kind of world we live in . . . even if we take it for granted that the urge toward escapism says nothing specific about the world one is escaping from.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Music: Initial count 8421 rated (+12), 929 unrated (0). Actually, I failed to jot these numbers down at the start of the weekly entry, so the count has been reconstructed by adding up the previous week's grades, but the unrated is basically lost, so we'll leave it unchanged.

  • Mahmoud Fadl: The Drummers of the Nile Go South (2001, Piranha). Not sure whether this is a reissue of a 1997 album of the same title, or it's just a good title worth using again. Nubian music, in the style of Ali Hassan Kuban, with large ensembles, lots of drums, chant vocals. About a third of the cuts are just percussion; they work both as clinics and connectives with the larger ensemble pieces. Wish I had a better handle in the artist/context, but I like this quite a bit. A-
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ken Burns Jazz (1938-63 [2000], Verve). She's got a huge discography, but this hits a remarkable number of the obvious high points: her first hit ("A Tisket, a Tasket"), Chick Webb's Orchestra with and without Webb, her famous "Flying Home" scat, her famous Gershwin duo with Ellis Larkins, her famous "Smooth Sailing" scat, her classic "Lullaby of Birdland," classic pieces from the Gershwin and Ellington songbooks, a duet with Armstrong ("Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"), her notorious "Mack the Knife," big bands from Billy May to Count Basie, small groups with Lou Levy, her Opera House gig with Roy Eldridge and what amounts to the Saxophone Hall of Fame. Anyone who doesn't already know at least a third of this is just plain ignorant. Only reason I hadn't gotten around to this before is that I'd already heard everything here but the last two cuts. Not sure if this is actually better than The Best of Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song -- it's certainly more comprehensive and varied, but her previous all-time best sampler sticks to her immensely rich and vibrant 1956-63 prime and throws you a couple of curves lest you get too comfortable. But this one does what it's supposed to do, which is to educate by astonishing. A+
  • McEnroe: Disenfranchised (2003, Peanuts & Corn). Sounds more than a little like Buck 65 -- not sure if this is a valid generalization about white Canadians (the distances are huge, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver, but I suppose the latitude is the same), or it just has to do with underground hip-hop from well out of the 'hood. But although the vocal accent is real close, the beats and blips here are a bit heavier, and the persona is less personal. Lots of good lines: "a vulture never knows when to say when." A-
  • New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs (2001, Smithsonian/Folkways). This type of compilation rarely (if ever) works, the disparate styles tending to cancel each other out, and the aesthetic that puts them together is probably suspect too. Still, when I played the first disc, the salsa and griots were pretty much as good as I had expected, but the Albanians and Chinese stood out, and only the steel drums annoyed. The second disc is similarly diverse and mostly interesting -- an Irish (Ellen Ivers) piece rings loudly, as does one of the Haitian (the other being a gospel choir which has its place too). Didn't hear it all, due to some glitches in the second disc. Obviously, part of the reason it works as well as it does is that New York being New York some/many of these artists are first rate professionals. B+
  • No Doubt: Return of Saturn (2000, Interscope). This was a big hit, and they've gotten a lot of press -- although the latter has been more preoccupied with singer Gwen Steffani's navel than with their music. I had heard they were ska-related, and AMG lists similar artists like the Skatalites, Sublime, Madness, the Specials, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but also Joe Jackson, the Stray Cats, Weezer, Adam Ant, Lene Lovich, and the Electric Light Orchestra. Thanks guys. This is all I've heard, and I can't detect an ounce of ska here. Don't think they sound like any of the above either, although I can't say for sure that I remember what Adam Ant actually sounded like. Well, "Starting Problem" borrows heavily from Lene Lovich, but that's it. The first 2-3 songs sound competent enough, and one called "Marry Me" has a beat which while not ska may have a Caribbean antecedent. But many of the cuts are undistinguished, middling ordinary rock moves. B-
  • Walter Norris: Love Every Moment (1992 [1993], Concord). One of those well-regarded pianists I hadn't gotten around to, now I find myself with three albums in the backlog, so I pulled this one out mostly to get it out of my face. Piano trio with Putter Smith (bass) and Larance Marable (drums); don't know Smith but Marable has been around, notably as part of Charlie Haden's Quartet West. Smart, solid, skillful record. B+
  • Panjabi MC: Beware (2003, Sequence). One of the artists on Trikont's Globalista anthology, perhaps the only one I had heard of, if only barely. Bhangra-influenced hip-hop, heavier and denser and a bit more glum than Cornershop, all of which are limits but not disabilities: just means it takes longer to fall in love. A-
  • Astor Piazzolla/Trio Animae: 3 Minutos con la Realidad (2001, Cascavelle, 2CD). Since his death, Piazzolla has slipped over the line from being a performer to a composer in the usual classical music sense. The artists here are a piano-violin-cello trio, and the second CD includes three pieces by José Bragato, another tangoista so the fit is a natural. Most of this is suitably beautiful, mostly teased out of the strings, but the absence of bandoneon keeps it from ever lifting off. In short, sounds like it's veering toward classical repertoire too. B
  • Swing Tanzen Verboten! (1933-44 [2003], Proper, 4CD). This covers jazz under Nazi hegemony: in Germany in the '30s, and in occupied Western Europe in the '40s. This reminds me of a movie that came out a few years back called Swing Kids, which seemed too preposterous to bother watching. Prior to that there was a Sylvester Stallone movie called Victory, which matched a POW team against the German National team, with predictable Hollywood ending. I suppose those are pieces of a minor trend toward humanizing Nazi Germany; more serious efforts include Spielberg's Sgt. Ryan movie and the Richard Rhodes book on the Einsatzgruppen -- the latter makes the case that the extermination factories were intended as much to desensitize the human feelings of the SS as to kill Jews more efficiently. The latter is a more subtle argument than I can go into here, but it should be clear that the author isn't pulling his punches. This set delves into what happened to music under the Nazis, which wasn't good, but wasn't comparable or for that matter in any way consequential, so it is really limited both as history and as musicology. The four discs are thematic, so here goes:
    1. German Swing, Dance and Jazz Bands 1937-1944: Erhard Brauschke, Albert Vossen, Kurt Hohenberger, Willy Berking, Oscar Joost, Michael Jary, Helmuth Zaharias, Teddy Kleindin, Willi Stanke, Willi Stetch, artists you've never heard of, and never will hear of again. This is rather tame minor league swing -- you can tap your toe to it, but nothing sends you to the doc to find out what the hell was that. The only hint that it comes from Germany is a dash of accordion and the few vocals, although a couple of cuts have the easy gait of waltz music. I have no idea how this stands up against equivalent US bands -- makes me wonder a bit what the early Lawrence Welk sounded like, but not enough to research it. (The late Welk was a much-despised icon of my childhood, but I mostly find myself wondering whether my grandmother, who loved Welk so, ever realized that he was Catholic). The one exception to this is "Stomp," by Hot Club Frankfurt, which has raw rhythm and unfinished orchestration, giving it a little vitality.
    2. Charlie and His Orchestra: Nazi Propaganda Swing: This is where the set gets weird. The swing band is more proficient than the first disc, the songs are mostly well-known American standards (often by Jewish composers), and the vocals are in English. That's because these cuts were propaganda aimed at US/English, with interposed messages ("got the blackout blues, blue as I can be" to the tune of "St. Louis Blues"). There's an uncanny resemblance here to Hank Williams' taunt of Joe Stalin.
    3. Swing in Occupied Europe 1940-1944: This leads off with three cuts from Sven Asmussen. The rest are unknowns to me, mostly Scandinavian and Dutch. The feel is lighter and more varied than the German bands.
    4. Swing in Belgium and France 1940-1944: Django Reinhardt is the big name here. He leads off with seven cuts, but 1942-43 wasn't the best of times for Django. The others are unknown to me.
    Hard to know how to grade something like this -- especially the second disc, which I sometimes find to be witty despite its horrible intent. Others, of course, could be flat-out appalled, and they're entitled. Reinhardt is available in much better configurations, so he shouldn't count for much here. I give it some credit for history and for digging up shit I'd never have known about otherwise. But still I don't expect to ever play any of these discs again, so take that as a caveat on a grade that may be inappropriately dispassionate. B-
  • Tin Hat Trio: The Rodeo Eroded (2002, Ropeadope). Mark Orton plays guitar, dobro, banjo; Bob Burger plays accordion, piano, celeste, harmonica; Carla Kihlstedt plays violin, viola, trumpet violin; that leaves out a few instruments, but that's roughly the idea. Oh, and Willie Nelson sings "Willow Weep for Me." Other guests provide drums and/or percussion on three tracks, but generally they go without. The accordion and strings make for a nice slightly avant-ish tango band, although the point may be more to play Frisell bluegrass with a little more avant edge (especially compared to the way Frisell actually plays bluegrass). B+
  • Zwan: Mary Star of the Sea (2003, Reprise). Ex of Smashing Pumpkins, the one major group from the grunge binge of the early '90s that I somehow never managed to hear. Singer reminds me a bit of R.E.M., which isn't a complement, and the variation is in the direction of heavier. The music is heavier too -- thick is the word that comes to mind. Not that it's awful -- it's on the alt side of metal, but it's way too slow for punk, not rootsy, not fun, and not clear enough to let the songwriter's wit seep through (if indeed there is any). In short, it's the sort of rock-corn that I find to have very little interest. And when you have very little interest, it's hard to concentrate enough to rate it properly, and unlikely that you'll ever return to it. But given all due consideration, it would probably wind up being a: B-
  • The Best of ZZ Top (1970-75 [1977], Warner Brothers). Early profit-taking, from ZZ Top's First Album through Fandango, their early push to arena-level fame before they took their break and came back with their best-ever Deguello. Pretty fair blues band, but early on they mostly got by on Texas chauvinism, which went further in concert than on vinyl. I suspect this comp has been eclipsed by others. They're my brother's favorite band (possible exception, but not necessarily so: Led Zeppelin), so one of these days I'll borrow les oeuvres complètes and try to sort it all out. B

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Magazine: Downbeat, August 2003: Time for their annual Critics Poll, which makes this a nice time to second guess the experts. Herewith are most of the categories (ignoring the "Rising Star" sections, which are harder to gauge: they involve a distinction between established and rising that depends on what one thinks about what other people think -- usually a hopeless task).

  • Hall of Fame: Wayne Shorter. This is a once you're in, you're off the ballot deal, so it depends on who's already in. It looks to me like the ballot favors two types: the recently dead (#2 Ray Brown, #6 Billy Higgins, #8 Tito Puente, #11 Ruby Braff, #12 Art Farmer, #13 Mal Waldron), and older guys who are working real hard (#1 Shorter, #3 Roy Haynes). Of course, Shorter has a good case. But the only guy in the top 15 I can't make a good case for is Puente, but people who know him better think he's major. Of the top 15, I'd be most likely to pick Lee Konitz -- it's been over 50 years since Subconscious-Lee, which hardly suggests that we're rushing things, I have him down for an A- on 1997's Another Shade of Blue, and while I haven't gotten to his later albums, Giddins put 2001's Parallels in his top-10 list. Of the others in the top-15, the late Mal Waldron is a personal favorite. But it's hard to think of Waldron without also thinking of his partner on one of his very best albums, Jackie McLean. As far as I'm concerned, McLean is one of the all-time greats, yet he's not in, and not in the top-15. Major omission. There are probably a lot more. David Murray has done enough to qualify, but he's young enough that I don't mind letting him add to his resume. Steve Lacy is another guy like that. Don Pullen, however, is no longer with us, and I think he rates at least as high as Bud Powell (1966).
  • Jazz Artist: Wayne Shorter. I read this category as what have you done for me lately? (Otherwise #12 Sonny Rollins should sue.) But I don't have an obvious pick from the published top-12. Outside the list a good case can be made for David Murray and Matthew Shipp, both of whom are not only producing at peak levels, they're moving the art with them. Two others are William Parker (who has a lot to do with Shipp's success, and actually has better albums in his name) and Ken Vandermark.
  • Jazz Album: Wayne Shorter Quartet, Footprints Live!. Good record, but well down on my list, which would probably be topped with Spaceways Inc.'s Version Soul. Of the 13 records listed, I've only heard four, and would give a slight edge to the Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas, and Jason Moran, Modernistic.
  • Jazz Reissue: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Deluxe Edition). One of the greatest jazz records ever, and the bonus disc just gives you more to savor. Don't have anything else on the list (at least in these specific reissues, but I have heard most of the music in question). A couple of other sets worth mentioning: Coleman Hawkins, The Bebop Years (Proper); Duke Ellington, Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band (Bluebird).
  • Soprano Saxophone: Wayne Shorter. Even though I know he plays a lot of soprano, and I've read a lot about his soprano, I've never actually noticed Shorter playing soprano, never thought of him as anything but a tenor player. So his regular high showing in this category always puzzles me. The published list itself is full of impostors: most just dabble on soprano. Even #10 Bob Wilber rarely plays it except when he's in Bechet mode. The only ones who play soprano full time are #2 Steve Lacy and #4 Jane Ira Bloom, and few of the others play it predominantly -- #5 Jane Bunnett, #6 Evan Parker, #12 Lol Coxhill. Of course, Lacy is my pick -- his recent playing has been sublime, only marred by his wife's horrid singing.
  • Alto Saxophone: Lee Konitz. No problem here, but having missed his latest records (not much distribution), I might be tempted by #7 Arthur Blythe. Other candidates I haven't heard much from lately: #5 Ornette Coleman, #8 Jackie McLean, #10 Bobby Watson, #11 Anthony Braxton, legends all. #2 Kenny Garrett seems to have moved completely MOR; don't know about #3 Greg Osby, who hasn't impressed all that much.
  • Tenor Saxophone: Joe Lovano. I think Lovano's great, even if his concept albums don't always hold water. But I'd have to vote for David Murray (not in top-12) over Ken Vandermark (#7 on Rising Star) list, with an honorable mention to Daniel Carter. It's been a while since we've heard from #2 Sonny Rollins and #7 James Carter, both of whom produced exceptionally great albums last time out, so I wouldn't write them off either.
  • Baritone Saxophone: James Carter. Carter does a good job of featuring his baritone on record, but he plays in so many weight classes it's hard to rank him in anything but tenor. #4 Hamiet Bluiett is the main guy in this weight class, and I haven't heard anything to suggest otherwise. Don't know #2 Gary Smulyan.
  • Trumpet: Dave Douglas. It turns out that Stanley Crouch's racialist attack on Douglas was originally written as a paean to Wynton Marsalis, but Jazz Times edited out all of the Marsalis references. We had no problem getting the context, but it had seemed uncharacteristically subtle and somewhat devious that Crouch would only write about Douglas, without mentioning Marsalis. So that explains that. Douglas has been pounding Marsalis (#3 this year) in these polls for years now -- he has more votes than Marsalis and #2 Roy Hargrove combined. I find his records to be very inconsistent, but I usually find a way to blame that on Mark Feldman and/or Chris Potter, but Douglas' trumpet itself is rarely shy of magnificent. If Marsalis seems more consistent, it's only because he's conceptually more limited. So I basically concur, but I'd like to hear more of #7 Wadada Leo Smith's recent records.
  • Trombone: Steve Turre. Terrific player, probably more productive lately than #3 Roswell Rudd or #7 Ray Anderson, both of whom I'd prefer career-wise. But I'd probably cast my vote for #6 George Lewis -- don't have exactly why on the tip of my tongue, but it seems like he's become a lot more active recently, and he's probably the most versatile and thoughtful player of the bunch.
  • Clarinet: Don Byron. Not many players, at least ones who specialize (among those who don't: #2 Marty Ehrlich, #3 Ken Peplowski, 50 years old this year, a belated discovery, and while he mostly plays clarinet he plays other reeds as well. I like Byron, but my pick would be Perry Robinson, who burns up William Parker's Bob's Pink Cadillac -- best lead clarinet album I've heard since, well, Perry Robinson's Funk Dumpling, long time ago.
  • Flute: James Newton. Again, a long list of dabblers, with only Newton, #9 Herbie Mann and #10 Robert Dick specializing. Newton's by far the big name here, but I find his music arcane and classicist. I much prefer Dick, mostly because he likes big ass flutes, things that sound more like bass clarinet, even lower and more hollow -- digeridoo territory. Of the dabblers, the most enjoyable is #4 Frank Wess.
  • Guitar: John Scofield. No real problem with this choice. old fashioned; #10 Marc Ribot has a couple of good Cuban records; I've been listening quite a bit to #13 Joe Morris, who leaves me feeling uncertain. The guys who get a little louder and funkier -- Wolfgang Muthspiel, Jean-Paul Bourelly -- didn't make the list, not even the Rising Stars. Trying to think who else there is: Nels Cline? Marc Ducret? Dave Stryker? Martin Taylor? Don't know Kurt Rosenwinkel, who has a reputation (#2 Rising Stars).
  • Piano: Keith Jarrett. There are probably more very good players here than under any other instrument. The published list goes: #1 Jarrett, #2 Brad Mehldau, #3 Kenny Barron, #4 Cecil Taylor, can quibble about order, but nobody on that list is undeserving. The Rising Stars list went: #1 Moran, #2 Charlap, #3 Ethan Iverson, #4 Danilo Perez, #5 Uri Caine, #6 Vijay Iyer, #7 Matthew Shipp, #8 Omar Sosa, #9 Eric Reed, #10 Frank Kimbrough, #11 Orrin Evans, #12 David Hazeltine. This is more mixed, and five of these guys -- boths lists are all male, surprising given that there are more notable women on piano than any other instrument -- I'm not familiar with: everyone from Iyer (the subject of many raves) down excepting Shipp and Reed. (Shipp, by the way, seems to be caught in the middle: with 20+ records in his own name, plus another 50+ that he's played on, it's hard not to regard him as Established.) Still, this comes so far short of exhausting the subject that I was able to come up with an additional 50 names from a quick scan of my files -- that is, 50 eminent stars out of a total list of nearly 300 pianists. I'll spare you the whole list, but just as a sample here's 15 who didn't make these lists: Geri Allen, Paul Bley, Joanne Brackeen, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, John Hicks, Andrew Hill, Abdullah Ibrahim, Marian McPartland, Myra Melford, Renee Rosnes, Martial Solal, Cedar Walton, Randy Weston, Jessica Williams. Of all these people, the one I would probably have voted for would have been Shipp, since he's the guy I've listened to the most, and his ideas have been framing the most interesting music of late. But Shipp seems limited technically compared to some, and the main thing I find impressive about his recent work is its percussiveness -- that's what powers his new jazz-electronica fusion. But if you want pure virtuosic percussion, Shipp pales against Taylor and Valdes. Still, it's hard to get upset about the choice of Jarrett, who has a long and rich resume, even if he seems to have settled into a trio rut. I haven't followed his Trio closely -- for my degree of interest there isn't enough variation to warrant record-by-record interest -- but the last time I checked he was superb.
  • Drums: Roy Haynes. Haven't heard his new record, which Giddins loves, 2000's Trio was first rate. He only had one record released during the '80s, but he's been cranking them out since 1992, and is insanely vital for a 77-year-old. #3 Elvin Jones is a year younger, and I'd say his recent trio albums with Joe Lovano and Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor are even more impressive. #6 Max Roach is a couple of years older than Haynes, and I think highly of his new record with Clark Terry, too. Which makes it hard for young guys to break into this business, but for my money the best drummer working today is #10 Hamid Drake. One conspicuous omission from the list is Paul Motian. Also Tony Oxley. Don't know Matt Wilson (#9, #1 Rising Star).
  • Percussion: Ray Barretto. List includes a couple of drummers who range beyond their kit, plus some world music stars. Don't know Barretto, but of course I've heard of him.
  • Bass: Dave Holland. Of course, I have to go with #4 William Parker (he also scored #9 as a Rising Star, although he's edged past 50 now, and contributed to 150+ albums over 29 years). Never tried counting up Holland's albums, but it's safe to say that there have been more of them, including some of the most important albums in the history of the jazz avant-garde (Conference of the Birds is especially classic). Much the same can be said about #3 Charlie Haden, and any of the three would be unexceptionable winners. Don't know Scott Colley (#12, #1 on Rising Star list), although I've heard some records he's on. One young guy who is clearly headed up the list is Reid Anderson (#4 Rising Star).
  • Electric Bass: Steve Swallow. Don't know. Haven't listened to Swallow much recently, and am barely familiar with half of the top-12 here.
  • Electric Keyboards/Synthesizer: Joe Zawinul. Another thin list: Shipp came in #10 here, but I doubt that he's played electronic keyboards on more than five albums, most impressively David S. Ware's Corridors & Parallels. #5 Chick Corea has, I think, only been playing acoustic piano for a few years now, and that's probably true of #2 Herbie Hancock as well. So in a sense Zawinul dominates this category by being famous and relatively persistent. I never thought much of him, but I do sort of like his Faces & Places album, and I sort of like #3 John Medeski, but I don't have any idea who I'd vote for.
  • Organ: Joey DeFrancesco. I remember a few years back that someone wrote a spectacularly ill-timed article pondering on why it was that all of the major organ players were black. The exception I thought of immediately was #7 Barbara Dennerlein, but there's also DeFrancesco, and close to half of the top-12 here. Haven't heard anything recent by #3 Jimmy Smith -- easily the dominant organ player of the last 40+ years -- nor by #2 Larry Goldings nor by #6 Jimmy McGriff. And I don't know DeFrancesco, so I don't know who I'd pick. Dennerlein, maybe.
  • Violin: Regina Carter. Well, I know what to do in this one:
  • Vibes: Bobby Hutcherson. Haven't heard anything recent from him, but he's the living legend now that Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton are gone. #2 Gary Burton is talented, but has too many really bad albums to take seriously. I seem to be the only one who finds #3 Stefon Harris (#1 Rising Star) just plain dull. The guy I do like is
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Toots Thielemans (harmonica). He wins this every year. Of course, we're comparing apples to oranges to apricots to whatever #3 Bela Fleck is. Of the top-12, I like #5 David Murray (bass clarinet). There's also #8 Howard Johnson (tuba), but I like Bob Stewart on tuba better. I'd also take Rabih Abou-Khalil over
  • Male Vocalist: Kurt Elling. The only ones I like on this list are #3 Kevin Mahogany and the funny guys from #9-11 (Bob Dorough, Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg). The degree of confusion here is suggested by the fact that Elling came in #7 on the Rising Star list (Mahogany was
  • Female Vocalist: Cassandra Wilson. Know more of these, and and the recent ones haven't been her best, but I'd still vote for her. Also like #5 Patricia Barber.
  • Acoustic Jazz Group: Wayne Shorter Quartet. Hard category to judge -- presumably you're looking for group interaction, not just front line power. The other three legs of Shorter's Quartet are pretty sturdy -- that has a lot to do with his rebound. But is the David S. Ware Quartet disqualified because Shipp's gone electric? Actually, even if it is I still might go with the Vandermark 5.
  • Electric Group: Medeski Martin & Wood. No real opinion here -- not even sure what counts. Matthew Shipp's Thirsty Ear groups -- usually quintets, but with revolving front lines -- seem like the most important development. I like MM&W, but not always.
  • Big Band: Dave Holland Big Band. I think Holland has only done one big band record, so that doesn't strike me as much qualification to lead this category. But the #2 Mingus Big Band always seemed like a step backwards too -- it may take a big band to coax the sound level of a small Mingus group, but that's because you don't have Mingus in charge. I'd probably vote for #8 Vienna Art Orchestra.
  • Composer: Wayne Shorter. This is a hard category in what is often an improvised music, and it takes a long time for non-technical listeners to begin to distinguish the composition from the performance. We can do that now with guys like Monk and Mingus, but I'm not so sure about #11 Anthony Braxton, even though his opuses are numbered over 200 these days (not counting the ones he wrote before he ran out of diagrams). It's possible that the conventional wisdom rates Shorter higher as a composer than as a player -- I've been listening a lot to his work with Art Blakey recently, and he wrote a lot of the pieces that Lee Morgan got up and ran with. Footprints Live was, I think, mostly old tunes, so I wonder what he's been doing lately. But if it's comparable (and I haven't heard Alegria, #4 on the album list) he's got a case here.
  • Arranger: Maria Schneider. No opinion here, other than that I didn't like #11 Andrew Hill's well-regarded big band album, which is presumably why he's here.
  • Producer: Michael Cuscuna. Only opinion here is that Shipp's been producing most of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, which is my thing.
  • Record Label: Blue Note. The majors (#3 Verve, and for jazz purposes #6 Fantasy) have lots of things going for them, but the most interesting label I've found recently is Thirsty Ear, under Shipp's artistic direction. But it's kind of a phony category.
  • Blues Artist/Group: Buddy Guy. Actually, I think that Sue Foley (unrated) has been the most consistent blues artist of the last 10 years. Followed perhaps by Guy Davis (also unrated).
  • Blues Album: Solomon Burke, Don't Give Up on Me. Only heard two of the records on the list, and only liked Alvin Youngblood Hart's Down in the Alley, and gave that a B+.
  • Beyond Artist/Group: The Roots. Well, Beyond means something different to me. Their finishing list: #1 Roots, #2 Caetano Veloso, but Youssou N'Dour's record was even better. But when I think of Beyond I'm more tempted to say Manu Chao. Or DJ Shadow.
  • Beyond Album: Ry Cooder/Manuel Galban: Mambo Sinuendo. Haven't heard it. Best record that I have heard was Youssou N'Dour's Nothing in Vain, followed by Baobab's Specialist in All Styles and the Roots' Phrenology. But my recent lists are published elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I want to add one more note on the honestreporting.com propaganda film, Relentless. The one image that most haunts me from the film comes from the background at the rally where Rabin was assassinated. Consider this question: if you want to prove that Israel has bent over backwards in its fruitless search for peace, who's your heroic figure? Well, let's face it, it's not Yitzhak Shamir (not mentioned in the film). It's not Benjamin Netanyahu (also not mentioned). It's not Golda Meir or Moshe Dayan (also not mentioned, although Dayan is a more interesting case than most people realize). And it sure ain't Ariel Sharon (also not mentioned, although his image sneaks in). It's Yitzhak Rabin, of course. Rabin was a complicated character: he was the IDF commander in charge of the expulsions of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramleh, the IDF chief of staff during the 1967 war, Israel's ambassador to the US during the period when US support for Israel skyrocketed, and twice Prime Minister -- before Oslo, he was most notorious for his "we will break their bones" quote about how he intended to put down the Intifada; but there's also evidence that he had a conscience about his actions, and that he may have been moving toward a viable peace stance (although one can also argue that his participation in the Oslo Peace Process was purely cynical -- that breaking bones had failed so he realized that the only way to end the Intifada was to make a deal with Arafat, but that in his continued [accelerated is more like it] building of settlements he saw the Peace Process as just a more sophisticated tactic for subduing Palestinian opposition). But the image that the film leaves you with isn't Rabin the peacemaker; it's the anti-Rabin posters at the rally where he died, in particular the one showing Rabin wrapped in Arafat's signature headdress.

The main thrust of the movie is to make Arafat out to be the villain -- a guy who even when he talks about how much he wants peace is constitutionally incapable of it. So why, then, make Rabin out to be a clone of Arafat? Certainly we can discount the superficial idea that they're trying to make the point that Rabin, like Arafat, was a deceitful scoundrel, that nobody should have trusted a word that he said. For one thing, nobody really believes that (although the parallels are interesting). And it can't be because they feel the need to include every little historical detail -- they did, after all, totally omit any mention of Israel's Lebanon adventure. Rather, the people who put the film together don't seem to be able to mask their hatred for Rabin even though they cynically exploit his legacy, the Oslo Peace Process. But it may not be so personal: what they really hate is the notion that Israel should have to make any concessions to anyone ever. To their mind, Rabin's great crime was that he compromised. The same images, and the same threat of assassination, has hung over every Israeli Prime Minister since then, and the Israeli polity has bought this notion, moving ever right-ward: from Peres to Netanyahu to Barak to Sharon, each guy tougher than the one before. Nowadays even Sharon is fending off verbal abuse from Israelis who think even he is compromising, and he's beefed up his security detail accordingly. You'd think that sooner or later this rightward march would burn itself out in utter failure. Actually, I think it has, but the Israeli right is so enamored with its might, and so consumed with hate, that they haven't noticed yet.

One more note: one of the statistics that is offered in the film is that 72% of the children in Gaza see themselves as wanting to become suicide bombers when they grow up. This is meant to illustrate how the Palestinian Authority's education system has inculcated fear and hate throughout the population, but consider for a moment the sheer math of it all: 72% of the children in Gaza works out to be more than 200,000 suicide bombers. The actual number of suicide bombers in all of Israeli history ranks in the small hundreds -- don't know the number, but it's probably more than 100 but less than 300, in that sort of range anyway. So they're talking about multiplying that by 1,000 or so -- an immense human tragedy in the making. Of course, this won't actually come to pass, but the mere suggestion should make us realize that there is a real problem brewing here, that is not going to be ameliorated by hate propaganda like Relentless.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Music: Initial count 8409 rated (+19), 929 unrated (-13).

  • Akrobatik: Balance (2003, Coup D'Etat). The beats are nice, chunky, deft. The raps are sane, smart, articulate. Underground, right! Perhaps the best I've heard in the better part of a year. A-
  • Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake, "Kidd" Jordan, William Parker: 2 Days in April (1999 [2000], Eremite, 2CD). This is the sort of thing that people who think they hate avant-garde jazz actually hate: two saxophones, riffing aimlessly, with no beat, no melody, no harmony, tone not far removed from plug ugly. Anderson is a venerable figure from Drake's home base in Chicago; Jordan is a little known player from New Orleans, who has cut several albums with Parker. Crank it up and some features start to emerge: first that the drummer is spectacular, and then that the bass player isn't chopped liver either. Also the horns start to separate into lines that start to make a little sense. But if you're not committed, don't bother. B-
  • Joey Baron: Tongue in Groove (1992, JMT). Baron is a drummer with avant-garde leanings and associations, although his drumming is more eclectic than that (not that avant-garde drumming isn't eclectic). This was his first album, a trio with two horns, often playing in unison, which leaves him a fair amount of space to drum. The horns are Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone) and Steve Swell (trombone), who also have avant-garde leanings and associations, and are top-notch players. Yet in this stripped down format, as often as not what emerges is humor -- the inherent ridiculousness of a trio format which is incapable of swing (no bass) or stride (no piano), where the key sound is the dirty vibrato of Swell's trombone, and where Eskelin's tenor is almost as ugly. The potential upside of such a combination is very limited; it's hard to imagine any way to turn this into a great album, but in its great humor, in its elemental chops, it nonetheless is about as good as it can be. B+
  • Tim Berne: The Sevens (2002, New World). Just when I start to get used to Berne's rough, raw style, he goes all arty on me. The horns here are packaged as a saxophone quartet (the ARTE Quartett), which means they play together, forming chords and harmonies from their separate monophonic horns: it basically sounds like a pipe organ, and moves with the same lumbering grace. To which Berne adds two guitarists (Marc Ducret and David Torn), adding a layer of sugar on top of the saxophonic whipped cream. Actually, one guitar/tape loop piece (i.e., no saxophones), "Tonguefarmer," is very interesting. And "Sequel X," with just Ducret on acoustic, is fine. But the sax choir -- a sound I've never much cared for -- turns my stomach. B-
  • Roy Campbell: New Kingdom (1991 [1992], Delmark). Pyramid Trio (Campbell-Parker-Matsuura) for three cuts, some extra players for the rest. In general, the smaller group works better; in other words, extra vibes and alto sax/flute don't help much, when the point is to tune in on Campbell's trumpet. (Although Zane Massey's sax on "Peace" does sound pretty good, and Bryan Carrott's vibes aren't exactly in the way.) B+
  • Habib Koité & Bamada: Baro (2001, Putumayo). Malian guitarist, has much the same feel as so many other Malian guitarists (Ali Farka Touré being perhaps the model), which at its best is easy going and delightful. B+
  • Les Paul: How High the Moon (1937-51 [2002], ASV). One 1937 cut ("Just Because"), the rest start from 1944 and cluster towards 1951. Two things here: light, cheesy vocals on light, cheesy pop tunes, not all of which are attributed to Mary Ford; some pretty slick guitar, even if it is light and cheesy too. From what little I've heard, I like Paul a lot better than I like Chet Atkins, who somehow managed to make his lightness sound high falutin' anyway. Paul is purely SFFR for me. This seems like a decent introduction, but I wouldn't mind hearing an instrumental album either. And remember that the 1951 cutoff date here is just something the lawyers imposed. B+
  • South African Legends (1981-2000 [2000], Putumayo). Without going deeply into the details, this seems like a representative South African sampler: Soul Brothers, Mahlathini & Mahotella Queens, West Nkosi, Hugh Masekela, Lucky Dube, Johnny Clegg, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The only one I don't recognize immediately is Vusi Mahlasela. Dube and Clegg, of course, are the dull spots. Ladysmith was a high point, and I'm not normally enamored with them. B+
  • Uncle Tupelo: No Depression (1990 [2003], Columbia/Legacy). The title song is a chestnut from the Carter Family, used both here and as the title of a magazine which has championed alt-country. Jay Farrar went on to form Son Volt; Jeff Tweedy went on to Wilco. Robert Christgau has always pooh-poohed the songwriting here, and consequently I never felt all that tempted to indulge, but my first impression here is that they do have the sound down pat: more rock than country, with some major thrash on pieces like "Factory Belt," and only "No Depression" clearly in the time-worn country vein. I've always been more impressed by sound than by songwriting -- Bob's a lit guy, after all, and I'm not (can't say that I never touch the stuff, but I doubt that I've averaged more than one novel per year over the 30 years since I belatedly entered college -- did read a bit more during the five years between dropping out of high school and entering college); where we diverge is often along the sound vs. songwriting divide. So I have to admit that I'm finding this to be rather impressive: a sort of straighahead midwestern factory-town rock, sympathetic to and informed by country (there's also a Leadbelly cover). B+
  • Fred Van Hove/'t Nonet: Suite for B . . . City (1996, FMP). Nonet seems to be some fremdwort for "too many horns," but the real atrocity here is vocalist Annick Nozati, who makes me think that Aebi would be an improvement. The short sections when Van Hove gets to play his piano without horns or voice are actually quite impressive -- angular and abstract but not much like anyone else I can think of -- not Cecil Taylor, but sort of in that direction. (Joachim Kühn?) Lines for one or two horns can also be phrased beautifully. There's also some amusing trombone (Paul Rutherford? or Johannes Bauer?) in the middle of the long fourth piece -- and three minutes from the end Van Hove cranks up the piano in a fast rhythm, the voice zings in, and its busts all to hell, a very remarkable onslaught of sound. The last piece reprises all of the above. I'm impressed enough to want to hear something else by him. But I doubt if I'll ever play this one again. C+
  • The David S. Ware String Ensemble: Threads (2003, Thirsty Ear). Working off an advance here -- real thing is due in mid-September -- so I need some working notebook space here. The DSWSE is Ware's regular quartet (William Parker, Matthew Shipp (on Korg Triton Pro X), Guillermo E. Brown) plus Mat Maneri (viola) and Daniel Bernard Roumain (violin). Roumain is "a rising star in the classical world," or something like that. Maneri is well known by now, an avant-jazzer whose father (Joe Maneri) straddles the far-avant-classical/jazz spectrum (e.g., big on microtonal work). The pieces are: 1. Ananda Rotation (Ware riffs slowly against sheets of background, sounds more like synth than strings); 2. Sufic Passages (built around a little rhythmic vamp); 3. Weave I (starts with Ware plus drums, the first thing that sounds at all characteristic); 4. THREADS (this rolls gently, starting with synth and adding the strings, which become increasingly prominent); 5. Carousel of Lightness (a dreamy little landscape); 6. Weave II (more sax and drums). In case you're wondering, Ware's interest in strings has little to do (if anything) with Charles Gayle's string pieces, even through they both share Parker. A-
  • World Lounge ([2002], Putumayo). Songs: Jasmon, "Dimdanana" (Germany, indistinct world beats); Nicola Conte, "Missione a Bombay" (Italy, sitar, tabla, beats); Gotan Project, "Santa Maria" (France/Argentina, tango, of course); Mo' Horizons, "Foto Viva" (Germany); Mau Mau, "Venus Nabalera" (Italy, nice beat); Blue Asia, "Abyssinean Dub" (Japan); Arling & Cameron, "Shiva's Daughters" (Netherlands, more sitar); Montefiori Cocktail, "Agua de Beber" (Italy); Dissidenten, "Instinctive Traveler (Funked Up Mix)" (Germany); Hamid Baroudi, "Trance Dance (DJ Krush Mix)" (Algeria); Pink Martini, "Sympathique" (USA, French vocal, sounds loungey). This turns out to be delightful easy-listening, but none of the artists (possible exceptions Gotan Project and Pink Martini) have distinctive concepts -- how many European sitar bands do we really need? -- and none of them have the discipline to focus their concept into what goes these days for art. So this is basically what it is peddled as: easy listening, worldly, light, pleasant. As a genre, of course, this only stands to get worse: think of New Age vs. to Brian Eno and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, or Heavy Metal vs. Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult. But I don't know who the defining artists are here -- probably no one on this comp, and not the Afro-Celt Sound System either. B+

Saturday, August 02, 2003

We've been doing a series of presentations, where we show a videotape from the Jewish Voice for Peace "How Did We Get Here?" series, which features academics from the Bay Area on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We've done four this summer, and intend to do the other four this fall. We've had between 25-40 people attending -- a downward trend, but the 25 people at the fourth seemed very pleased with the quantity and quality of the information that we've made available.

One reaction to this series has been that Judy Press, of the Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation, lobbied one of our sponsors (the Global Learning Center) to "balance" our program by showing a videotape that they provided. This videotape is called Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in Israel, which was produced by honestreporting.com. I won't bother repeating the hype for the film, which you can find here. I've viewed this film, and I'll make a few comments on it below. But first I want to register my general reaction, which is that I find this film to be simply disgusting: it has the moral and aesthetic weight of a snuff film. Admittedly, there's only one instance of a person being snuffed on film -- a Palestinian executed by a firing squad, allegedly for collaborating with Israeli forces -- but it wallows in gore in an obvious attempt to elicit an emotional rather than a rational response to a conflict which has long been overdriven by emotional responses.

The first problem here is the historical record, which as presented here is extremely selective, has glaring omissions, and has at least a few outright factual errors. (I won't bother tracking down all of these, nor dwell on disputed numbers, like how many refugees derived from the 1947-48 war -- 600,000 is the number in the film.) History in the film only briefly touches on the 1947-48 and 1967 wars, then spends most of the film on the post-1993 Oslo period, with a flashback to 1948 to document how relentless Arab terrorism has been.

The wars are both presented as acts of Arab aggression against tiny Israel. The 1947-48 war consists of two factoids: the 1947 UN Partition Plan, seen as legitimizing Israel's statehood, and the Arab states declaration of war in 1948. The suggestion is further made that if the Palestinians had accepted the 1947 UN Partition Plan they would have had a Palestinian state as proposed in the Plan. Perhaps. But when Israel declared independence, it did not accept the UN Plan borders, and indeed by that time Israeli militias had already seized lands well beyond the Partition Plan's borders. Israeli leaders had also worked to prevent formation of any sort of Palestinian state by inviting Transjordan to annex the West Bank. Also not noted was that after fighting broke out, there were a number of further UN efforts at reconciliation, which were all rejected by Israel -- most emphatically when the LEHI militia assassinated UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte. The point of this segment is to establish that the Palestinians were implacably opposed to Israel in the first place, and that the entire Arab world was similarly opposed. That point itself is not necessarily wrong, but the lack of any introspection makes it impossible to understand why people did what they did. In particular, this omits any discussion of why 600,000 (their number) Palestinians fled from Israel's military forces (or in some cases were rounded up and bussed to the border) -- the origin of the still-unresolved refugee problem.

The 1967 war is quickly finessed by talking about how the "Arabs mobilized again for war," and the lands that Israel "won" in the war. As is well known, Egypt's partial mobilization was a response to reports (via the Soviet Union) that Israel was mobilizing to attack Syria, which were lent credence by Israel's aggression in border incidents with Syria, and Israel's unprovoked attack on Samu in Jordan (allegedly in retaliation for a Syrian-sponsored PLO attack). Again, the point is to illustrate Arab intransigence, but the facts were much more complicated than that.

The main part of the film deals with the post-1993 Oslo Peace Process, which it handles in a remarkably disingenuous way. The main technique here is to jump around in time, concocting a background of relentless Arab terrorism as the backdrop for two heroic peace initiatives by Israeli leaders: Rabin and Peres in 1993, and Barak in 2000. As they point out, most of the major issues were postponed in the 1993 Oslo Accords, in what is billed as a "trust building" transitional period. Conspicuously missing from Israel's "relentless" search for peace is any discussion of Netanyahu, who opposed the Oslo Accords when they were signed, who continued to campaign against the Peace Process, eventually (after Rabin was assassinated by a "fundamentalist Jew") becoming Prime Minister. Also missing (aside from a caricature and one oblique reference) is Ariel Sharon, whose election marked the official end of the Peace Process -- although Palestinian violence from the period of Sharon's rule provides most of the fodder for the terrorist backdrop theme.

The Oslo Accords are presented in the form of checklists of commitments made on both sides, with evidence presented to show that Israel met all of its commitments, and that the Palestinian Authority failed to meet any of its commitments. In doing so they skirt the whole issue of the settlements ("not part of the agreement"). But we need to be clear that the settlements were in fact the central issue: the settlements have nothing to do with Israelis having the freedom to live where they choose; rather, each settlement is an assertion of Israeli sovereignty, and it comes at the expense of potential Palestinian autonomy. Consequently, each settlement diminishes the prospects of resolving the postponed issues in a way that leaves the Palestinians with a viable state and a sense that justice has been served. If the main rationale for postponing final status negotiations was to allow both sides to build trust (and thereby perhaps improving their position by eliciting greater generosity from the other side; indeed, without the hope for some improvement in terms Arafat's agreement to the Oslo terms would have amounted to no more than an ignominious surrender), the continuing expansion of the settlements was from the start a poison pill that would undo the gains.

Barak makes his sole appearance to give the Palestinians one last chance at peace. (Strange, isn't it, that a people who so aspire to peace should offer it so infrequently, then withdraw the offers so quickly?) The film trumpets Barak's generous terms: 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza; removal/dismantlement of settlements; Jerusalem as shared capital, including Palestinian control over the mosques on the Temple Mount; return of an "unspecified" number of refugees, and compensation for the rest. Arafat, of course, rejected this generosity -- practically everything they had previously asked for -- out of hand, and planned the Intifada before he had the excuse of Sharon's visit to the Temple Wall. This deal has by now become the biggest myth in Israeli history: not only did the deal never exist in anything like this form, its rejection was fully expected, and has been the basis for Sharon's termination of the Peace Process, his assault on the Palestinian Authority, and his periodic sacking of Palestinian towns. There are both technical and factual problems with this myth. The technical problem is that it selectively joins together two separate rounds of negotiations: at Camp David Arafat rejected an offer that in no way resembled this description, while at Taba real progress was being made toward an agreement (still way short of what's touted here) before Barak rejected the deal. I won't go into the details of what was actually offered/negotiated at these sessions -- for that, see Tanya Reinhardt's Israel/Palestine, especially the discussion of Jerusalem.

So the history in this film is extremely skewed. So is the logic. But it's not really meant to inform or persuade: it's meant to convince, which it does emotionally, sometimes subliminally, but mostly viscerally. Again and again, we see the gore of terror bombings, cut with Arafat's speeches. We also see many clips of Palestinian children, training for war against Israel, being taught to aspire to becoming suicide bombers (we're told that 72% of the children in Gaza want to be suicide bombers when they grow up), again cut with Arafat's speeches. And the speeches are cut up so fine that they carry no context, and needless to say they are in Arabic, with subtitles you can believe or not; by contrast, we have English-speaking Jews to explain their side of the story, by turns confused and sad and plaintive -- why oh why do they hate us so much? It's all effective enough that it even leaves me wondering just what Arafat's relationship to the terrorists really is -- even though I understand logically that: 1) that if Israel indeed wants peace, they would be working to shore up Arafat, since he's proven to be the one Palestinian leader who is credible yet malleable; 2) that the forces in Israel who do not want peace have focused on Arafat precisely because getting rid of him puts Israel back into the "no peace partner" rut; 3) that Arafat faces much Palestinian opposition, from people who regard him as corrupt, from those who think he sold out to Israel, from those who think he's just plain ineffective, and consequently his ability to control that opposition is pretty limited. But it's also possible that Arafat thinks that Israel needs him to control the Palestinians, and when they forget that it wouldn't hurt to crank up a little intifada to remind them. Arafat's biggest problem is that he hasn't been able to shake that sort of suspicion, and this film makes hay with it.

But we can hardly accept this film as proof of suspicion, given how shamelessly it pushes the propaganda buttons, especially in the sequence where we see a Holocaust survivor interviewed, Palestinians burning US flags, the World Trade Center burning, Palestinians dancing in the streets, Saddam Hussein rewarding families of suicide bombers, and a picture of Osama Bin Laden. Then there's also the scene where they talk about a moderate, reasonable Palestinian, who gets shot five times. Then there's the snuff scene. It's all cut so fast you don't have time to think, the soundtrack pumping, the blood, the gore; it's all disgusting, which is no doubt what the producers had in mind.


Jul 2003 Sep 2003