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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rooting Interests

The following quote comes from Glenn Greenwald, but it could be from anyone critical of the Bush Iraq War, and the context doesn't matter, because any context would do just as well:

Glenn Reynolds defends Joe Klein and "responds" to my post by (a) accusing me of rooting for the U.S. to lose and (b) re-printing an e-mail he received from Michael Yon who claims that, in Anbar, "the guns are mostly quiet now" and the Infantry Task Force with which he is embedded "hardly have fired their weapons." Yon claims that things are so peachy in Anbar that the meetings of the Task Force are "more administrative than combat oriented."

The Reynolds assumption here is that losing is a state of mind. The corrollary is that the US would win in Iraq, sooner or later, were it not for all the defeatists back home fretting and carping over hysterically imagined bad news. This is in turn rooted in the myth that the peace movement lost the Vietnam War -- not the generals and the politicians, and certainly not the Vietnamese. The assumption makes for powerful rhetoric, although in the end is works more to assuage the consciences of the war boosters than to discredit war opponents.

The problem is that I can't conceive of anything any definition of "we" can win in Iraq. Killing everyone just shows our depravity to the world. Short of that, many Iraqis will resist, which both disrupts our occupation and ensures further war. Painting an Iraqi face on the occupation turns Iraqis against each other, as well as against us. In the short term that hurts Iraq worse than it does us, but we're accumulating debts we'll never repay. In the end, we will give up and Iraq will revert to the Iraqis, and all the wrath we have sown will be remembered. As we've seen, Bush can postpone that reckoning. Indeed, he seems determined to push it out past the end of his term, regardless of the costs either to Iraq or to the US -- such is his vanity, and his commitment to the delusional world of political myth. But even he has never given us a definition of victory that can be empirically verified.

One thing we should have learned by now is that "rooting" makes no difference -- indeed, makes no sense at all. It has no effect. All it does is frivolously insert one's head into an out-of-control process. Even that presumes the possibility of a positive outcome, which we can't imagine -- at best I hope for a least worst case scenario, which I hardly expect because I don't expect the folks in charge to wise up to their errors, much less confess to them. Unfortunately, people in power don't reverse gears like so easily. Germany and Japan discredited their WWII regimes after they were utterly defeated. Britain and France only grudgingly gave up their colonial empires which had nearly bankrupted them. The Soviet Union is a rare case that tried to reform itself but fell apart in the process. The US is a long ways from admitting the follies of its arrogance, even though the costs of going through the motions are becoming unsupportable. One can hope for reason, but more likely than not the US will change only when something breaks so bad that no other option is possible. The least worst scenario is sooner rather than later, not that one can "root" for that. On the other hand, a survey of this paragraph's late empirse shows that all are better off now than when they were on top. Worse things could happen to the US, like clinging indefinitely to a shred of hope for victory when no such thing is possible.


Ten US soldiers were killed in Iraq on Tuesday, bringing the May total to 115. My basic reaction is indifference. Of course, they're being killed. That's what happens when you invade and try to control a foreign country -- especially if "you" are George W Bush and the foreign country is Iraq. Of course, the soldiers are just pawns in this game, but I'm not tempted to romanticize them or to take pity on them. They're free enough they could have refused. They could have known better, and should have known better. By their participation, they gave their assent to their government's imperial designs; although they bore no direct responsibility, they have, willingly one presumes, become symbols of the policy. So I disdain the uniform, but once a soldier is taken out of the fight, you just have one more person, killed or maimed, a life wasted for a wrongheaded policy. It's foolish, on many levels, to call those soldiers "heroes" -- given that all Bush is really fighting for these days is time, dead soldiers are little more than ticks of the clock.

The same day over 100 Iraqis were killed. I find myself indifferent about them too, again seeing them as inevitable consequences of the same wrongheaded policy. It's not that I don't care, or don't recognize how disturbing these deaths are, let alone how poisonous they are for the future. Each is a tragedy, irreversible, a scar we will bear as long as memory functions. But in the larger picture, these deaths -- theirs, ours, it matters little to me, and shouldn't to you either -- are pointless. There's nothing, no one, to root for, or even against, in this war. It just needs to end. And while it would be best if it ended with an understanding of why it was wrong, that's unlikely -- given that we weren't smart or wise enough to have avoided it in the first place.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bacevich

After a career in the military which he converted into a Ph.D. in history, Andrew Bacevich moved from writing pieces for National Review to becoming a prominent critic of the neocons' superpower foreign policy. His son followed in his footsteps, in that he joined the military and went to war. That ended when he was killed in Iraq. Bacevich wrote a Washington Post op-ed on this that should be read. In particular:

As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. [ . . . ] I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

He points out that the 2006 elections were clear on Iraq, but the new Democratic majority has failed to stand up for the will of the people. He goes on to discuss the dissatisfying reactions of his own Congressfolk -- the two famous liberal senators from Massachusetts and a congressman, each nominally but hopelessly opposed to the Iraq war. (I can only imagine what he might have gotten out of the assholes who supposedly represent me.) He sees a political system totally owned by money: "Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008."

I passed that point a long time ago -- so far back that I think of this analysis as a Marxist cliché. After all, beyond shock and disillusionment lie further questions, like why do the rich, being so able to manipulate politics, wind up doing such stupid things with their power? The conventional answer there has something to do with ideology, but saying that merely opens the door. For example, why do the rich support greedy policies which exacerbate conflict? Partly they have an unrealistic infatuation with their own power; partly they lack the ability to see themselves as others see them.

But actually I think the answer is worse than that. As best I can figure it out, the American political system has been hacked -- maybe scammed is a better term? Just to take one prime example, the point of the K Street Project wasn't to serve business better. It was to discipline business-financed lobbyists to serve the Republican Party. The businesses get multi-billion dollar favors out of this, and they no doubt look good on the balance sheet, but the result is that the businesses are stuck following Bush into the hellhole of Iraq. The Republicans have invested heavily in learning how to push buttons -- not least in figuring out which buttons are worth pushing and which are not. That the media is owned by the rich plays into their hands, but it hardly explains their success in controlling the debate. The fact that Bush can blithely ignore public opinion just goes to show you how confident he is that the public is powerless.


At WarInContext, Paul Woodward reacted to Bacevich's column in an interesting way:

Perhaps the most telling difference between the antiwar movement against the war in Vietnam, and that opposed to the war in Iraq, is that the former took place within a milieu of thoroughgoing questioning and criticism of American culture.

He goes on to point out various examples of how Iraq War opponents have casually acquiesced to the war's intellectual and cultural base, such as the "support our troops -- bring them home" nostrum. That so much antiwar argument tries to grasp onto prowar concepts -- is, for instance, the war making us safer from terrorism or not? -- just goes to show how slanted the playing field is. It also shows the extent to which truth has been devalued in American politics. If the point of debate were to find the best answers, we would strive to free debate from our prejudices, but you don't see that happening at all. Rather, we let our minds be shuttered from such basic, empirically credible propositions as that war almost never promotes freedom or justice. And it's not just that ideology has blinded us, although there's plenty of that. It's that the political process has been hacked, by people committed to the proposition that the only thing that matters is winning. George Bush is their poster boy: it's not like he could win on his own anything that wasn't fixed.

To find a comparable group of political con artists, you have to go back to the Nazis. They proved equally masterful at flattering Germany's rich and powerful, and at marshalling the Volk, filling their heads with visions of greatness and reinforcing their sense of righteousness -- especially righteous indignation -- all the while stealing them blind and driving the nation to ruin. Their aims and goals were in plain sight for those who cared to look, yet they managed to convince most that to raise even the simplest questions would be treasonous. And long after their failures had become manifest they managed to keep their supporters in line, offering ready-made excuses -- like the treacherous hidden powers of Jews or liberals or Satan -- while taunting the resolve and will power of their own supporters.

Woodward's point about our loss of a critical, questioning culture is valid, but we didn't just lose it: the ascendency of the political right depended on erasing our collective memory of past mistakes as well as restoring blind obedience to the self-appointed forces of order. I recall a book from the Vietnam War era by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner called Teaching as a Subversive Idea, where they argued that the most important thing that every student student should develop is a finely-tuned bullshit detector. That book is long out of print now. But had students learned and kept that skill, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.

Those of us who did manage to develop working bullshit detectors have for the most part been immunized against the Bush propaganda, but the attitude also makes us loathe to counter on the same level. The best we can do is to try to seek truth in spite of the torrent of myth and manipulation. Setbacks, like what Bacevich feels in failing to save his son, occur all the time, tempting one both to self-pity and to despair -- emotions that, however justified or even realistic, offer no help. The only way out is advance truth over politics, and the only chance for that is to, one by one, do it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Music: Current count 13197 [13168] rated (+29), 853 [869] unrated (-16). As predicted, a rough week. Worked on Jazz CG early on, struggling. Switched to Recycled Goods later on, just to get that out of the way. Played some old junk while I was distracted, so rated count actually looks pretty good. RG is actually done, subject to edit and the usual posting delays. Next week is make-or-break on Jazz CG. Should also wrap up much of the house stuff. One thing to note here is that many Recycled Goods reviews didn't get copied here, as used to be my custom. Don't know whether that's a good idea or not.

  • James Brown: The Singles, Volume Two: 1960-1963 (1960-63 [2007], Hip-O Select, 2CD): Brown first single in 1956, "Please, Please, Please," hit #6 on the R&B charts, but he struggled after that, with only two more top-ten singles in the '50s, and five -- if anything, less memorable -- more for the period covered here. His breakthrough came in 1965 with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, "I Got You (I Feel Good)," and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," but Live at the Appollo, recorded in 1962, confirms that he was already a showman of the highest order. Before he got that new bag, his repertoire was so spotty that half of these songs could have been Isley Brothers rejects, but he brings such fervor to them that most work anyway -- "Baby, You're Right" shows what he can do. Completism in the service of genius. A-
  • Michel Doucet & Beausoleil: Hot Chili Mama (1987 [1993], Arhoolie): Old fashioned, spiced up. B+
  • Funkadelic: By Way of the Drum (1989 [2007], Hip-O Select): George Clinton juggled two great funk bands and many clever side projects in the 1970s before the business mess brought them all crashing down. In 1982 he resorted to doing business under his own name, releasing four good but declining albums on Capitol. He then took a shot at regrouping Funkadelic for MCA, but no album issued, and he wound up dropping a couple of records for Prince's label. This is the first release of the aborted MCA album, with four extra bonus versions of the title track -- by far the hardest rhythm track here, straight or dub or rapped up in fishy vocal samples. The rest is the sort of thing Clinton produces when he's scratching his ass: surefire beats and self-referential jokes, complete with a cover -- Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" -- slinking from absurd to sublime. B+(**)

  • Benny Goodman: The Complete Capitol Trios (1947-54 [1999], Capitol Jazz): Three sessions from 1947; three more from 1954. The pianists were Teddy Wilson and Jimmy Rowles in 1947; Mel Powell in 1954. The drummers Jimmy Crawford and Tom Romersa in 1947, Eddie Grady and Bobby Donaldson in 1954. The pianists get their name on the cover as "featuring"; the drummers don't. Gets a little trad at times, but nothing to complain about. A-
  • Lil' Son Jackson: The Complete Imperial Recordings (1950-54 [1995], Capitol, 2CD): Sort of a Texas version of Mississippi John Hurt, gentle and lyrical, but peppered with flakes of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin' Hopkins. B+


Jazz Prospecting (CG #13, Part 11)

As predicted, this past week has been a tough one for prospecting. I've had people working in the house almost every day, and I've had an unusual number of errands pulling me away. The situation got so bad I decided I might as well take a break and do what I could do on June's Recycled Goods column. I didn't clean up as much as usual there, but did manage to scrap together a 43-record column -- a bit shorter than usual, but still an honest month's work. So that's out of the way, and I'm hoping the house gets squared away on Tuesday, or doesn't drag on much beyond that. This coming week is make or break for Jazz CG. I'm further behind than I'd like, and still not sure of pick hits and duds, but I have plenty to work with. Should get it done, and looking forward to getting it behind me.


John Ettinger: August Rain (2003, Ettinger Music): San Francisco-based violinist, arrived in 1992 from Arizona. This is his first album, after kicking around in various obscure bands and projects, ranging from Clockbrains ("psychedelic punk band") to LBJ (with Lukas Ligeti) and work with Scott Amendola, who returns the favor here. The tone and tempo are set by Art Hirahara's Fender Rhodes, which with Amendola's programmed beats and Ettinger's loops sustains a bubbly groove most of the way through, providing plenty of structure for the violin to swing and saw against. The effect is reminiscent of soul jazz, but lighter in tone -- more fancy, less grease. B+(**)

John Ettinger: Kissinger in Space (2006, Ettinger Music): A much more ambitious run of music than on his debut -- more varied, which among other things means some slower pieces. I still don't have a sense of him as a violin stylist, although he hits every mark he sets. But I'm much impressed with his networking: he tapped Arizona schoolmate Tony Malaby for a second voice, and his SF connections brought in Nels Cline Singers Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on drums. B+(***)

Jimmy Hall & the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Collective: Build Your Own Fire (2007, Zoho): Hall sung and played harmonica for Wet Willie, a second- or third-tier Southern rock group back in the '70s, well back of a pack that included the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Like most of his brethren, Hall's a blues fan deep down, a point made explicit on Wet Willie's first album cover. Hall had a couple of 1980-82 albums, not much since. This one is a tribute to Muscle Shoals guitarist-composer Eddie Hinton, whose own checkered blues career died in 1995. Not much to it, but when such second- or third-tier characters get together to honor one of their own, their minor virtues somehow gain in stature. B+(*)

Hector Martignon: Refugee (2007, Zoho): Pianist based in New York. Don't know where he's a refugee from. Website notes that he attended Freiburger Musikhochschule in Germany and lived in Brazil for a year. Website claims he's played on hundreds of albums, but AMG only lists 20, including an early '90s stint with Ray Barretto. No recording dates here, but website describes an album scheduled for Fall 2003 that sounds much like this one. This is his third. Mostly originals (6 of 8), with various groups that all reduce to piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. Epicycles of dense rhythm, sometimes stretching to the point of chaos, but with powerful forward momentum. In other words, sounds Afro-Cuban to me. B+(*)

Steve Khan: Borrowed Time (2005-07 [2007], Tone Center): Guitarist, has recorded steadily since 1977. Evidently his early work qualifies as fusion, but the only two records I've heard -- Let's Call This (1991, Polydor) and Got My Mental (1996, Evidence) -- are eloquent pieces of postbop guitar craft. This starts promising, with Monk and Coleman done simply, albeit with extra Latin percussion. But as the record winds on, the Latin percussion, in one case augmented by tabla and tambura, takes over and the guitar melts into the smooth groove. B [June 5]

Chris Byars: Photos in Black, White and Gray (2006 [2007], Smalls): Saxophonist, born and lives in New York. Plays alto, tenor, and soprano here; has played flute and clarinet elsewhere. Has worked at Smalls since 1994, recording in his own Octet and in the group Across 7 Street, and behind various others, mostly label mates. This one is a quartet, with Sacha Perry on piano, Ari Roland on bass, Andy Watson on drums. Byars writes: "I believe this recording conveys part of the secret of how jazz itself never grows old. In the same way I like to pick up the repertoire of 1950's giants Gigi Gryce and Lucky Thompson, here we have some key material of the 1994-2003 Smalls decade . . . and several years the wiser." The Smalls circle strikes me as an attempt to innovate within a formalized tradition -- postbop is the inevitably sloppy framework, of which this is a small subset. I've never been able to say much about that approach; rather, I just roll with the punches, recognizing stuff that sounds both proper and fresh, sorting it out from stuff that sounds less so. But mapping this to Gryce's alto and Thompson's tenor makes sense to me. Had I heard Bryars' pieces on those guys albums I would be pleased but not surprised. Bryars' soprano would fit into that tradition too if only there was an equivalent model -- I can't think of one. Perry and Roland get some good solo space as well. A-

Nińo Josele: Paz (2006, Calle 54): Flamenco guitarist, turned on to jazz when Bronx trumpeter Jerry González recruited Josele for a flamenco-themed album. This one meditates on Bill Evans, whose music, starting with "Peace Piece," comes off even more delicately on solo guitar, occasionally complemented by matching bits of trumpet (González, Tom Harrell), sax (Joe Lovano), or voice (Freddy Cole, Estrella Morente). B+(**)

Ibrahim Ferrer: Mi Sueńo (1998-2005 [2007], World Circuit/Nonesuch): The Buena Vista Social Club crooner was evidently working on this when he died in 2005, leaving demos with his strong and eloquent voice, only needing some filling out. The pieces are boleros with elegant, uncomplicated arrangements -- they fit his voice and don't wear anyone out. One track was recorded in by Ry Cooder in 1998. The others are undated. B+(**)


And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.

Pablo Aslan: Avantango (2003 [2004], Zoho): The first of two albums by an Argentinian bassist, now resident in New York. It more than lives up to the title. You may read about merging jazz with tango, or jazzing up tango, but the real goal here is to push tango to unimagined extremes. Still, in the end the bandoneon, violin, and above all three vocals by Roxana Fontan mark this as uncompromisingly rooted in the classics, even if the horns and piano beg to differ. B+(**)

Pablo Aslan: Buenos Aires Tango Standards (2006 [2007], Zoho): The bassist's second album approaches tango from another perspective. Where Avantango pushed it to extremes, this one eschews the signature bandoneon and violin in favor of a straight jazz quintet -- trumpet, sax, piano, bass, drums. The standards are more orthodox, but subtler, less jagged, emphasizing the melodies over the twists and turns, opening them up. After all, that's what jazz does. A-

Joe Zawinul: Brown Street (2005 [2007], Heads Up, 2CD): Sticker says: "Zawinul revisits Weather Report classics for the first time." His former band never impressed me much, although there was never any doubt as to the individuals' talents, keyboardist included. But Zawinul's rhythm section goes Weather Report's one better, adding African beats to Latin. And the WDR Big Band adds horn depth, punching up the arrangements. B+(*)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Hot 'N' Heavy (2006 [2007], Delmark): Live at the Ascension Loft. Percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's group is now a quartet, with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Ernest Dawkins on sax, and Fareed Haque on guitar, each having stellar moments, especially when it does indeed get hot and heavy. Tails off a bit toward the end, where the threat of a vocal looms, but is ultimately unrealized. B+(***)

Chicago Underground Trio: Chronicle (2006 [2007], Delmark): Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor have been doing business as Chicago Underground whatever since 1998, sometimes with third or even fourth members -- bassist Jason Ajemian is the new ingredient this time. They've also been thickening up their cornet-percussion duo with electronics, which have reached a new plateau of density and ugliness this time. Often fascinating, sometimes wearing; I always love the cornet, and am increasingly impressed by Taylor's vibes. Not sure what Ajemian is responsible for, but his credits include electronics, so he may be the secret to the density. Also available on a DVD, which I have but haven't watched. B+(**)

Bob French: Marsalis Music Honors Bob French (2006 [2007], Marsalis Music/Rounder): Of all the post-Katrina New Orleans albums, this one does the best job of pretending nothing has changed, but that's the veteran drummer's stock in trade. Ever since he inherited Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, he's kept the faith, plying the family trade. B+(***)


Unpacking:

  • Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (Savant)
  • Brother Ali: The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Being There (ECM)
  • Kassaba: Dark Eye ()
  • Andy Milne + Grégoire Maret: Scenarios (Obliqsound): advance
  • Andy Milne: Dreams and False Alarms (Songlines)
  • The Essential Ray Price (1950-80, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD)
  • Psalm One: The Death of Frequent Flyer (Rhymesayers Entertainment): advance
  • Putumayo Presents: Latin Jazz (Putumayo World Music)
  • The Rodriguez Brothers: Conversations (Savant)
  • So Called: Ghettoblaster (JDub)
  • Trans Formers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Edition) (1985-86, Volcano/Legacy)
  • Akiko Tsuruga: Sweet and Funky (18th & Vine)
  • Miroslav Vitous: Universal Syncopations II (ECM): advance, July 24
  • Eberhard Weber: Stages of a Long Journey (ECM): advance, July 24
  • Sam Yahel Trio: Truth and Beauty (Origin)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Long War Comes Home

Elizabeth Kolbert has a note in The New Yorker (May 28, 2007) about Rachel Carson, on the 100th anniversary of her birth. The piece starts with a discussion of the USDA's efforts to eradicate red imported fire ants, using pesticides that caused major ecological damage, while denying or ignoring scientific reports. This inevitably segues into a survey of the the home front in Bush's long war:

Six years into the Bush Administration, it's basically the ant wars all over again. At key agencies, a disregard for inconvenient evidence seems to be a prerequisite. A memo prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in mid-March, for example, revealed that officials of the White House Council on Environmental Quality had made more than a hundred and eighty changes to a status report on global warming, virtually all of which had the effect of exaggerating scientific uncertainties and minimizing certainties. (The official responsible for most of the changes, Philip Cooney, had come to the White House from the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon Mobil.) A report by the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior, also issued in March, chronicled numerous instances in which a high-ranking department official, Julie MacDonald, had pressured government scientists to alter findings on threatened species. MacDonald, the report pointedly noted, had "no formal educational background in natural sciences, such as biology." (She has since resigned.) As it happened, the report on MacDonald was released right around the time that the former second-in-command at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.

Meanwhile, the Administration has done its best to gut the safeguards put in place after [Carson's book] Silent Spring. When, for instance, the EPA proposed new rules on mercury emissions from pwoer plants, the proposal turned out to contain several paragraphs lifted, virtually verbatim, from an industry lobbyist's memo. (With minor changes, those regulations are now in effect.) Just last month, the Administration proposed new rules on the retrofitting of old power plants. The more or less expllicit purpose of the rules is to accommodate a power company, Duke Energy, that the EPA had itself sued for violating the Clean Air Act. Also last month, the EPA announced that it would once again delay taking action on two drinking-water contaminants, perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel, and MTBE, a fuel additive.

This kind of thing doesn't get reported much, mostly because with all of Bush's malfeasances the media's triage operations never seem to get past the most acute disasters. But Bush (or Cheney or Rove or whoever pulls the strings behind Incurious George) made sure from inauguration day that every nook and cranny of the federal government was staffed with operatives enforcing the party line. The old knock on Ronald Reagan was that he talked a good game, but didn't actually deliver much. You can't say that about Bush and Cheney: they've made damn sure that their sponsors got their money's worth.

The true costs of Bush's rollback on environmental protections may be impossible to tally up. Degradation is often incremental, its costs only becoming apparent when some "tipping point" is crossed. But one thing that is clearly lost is time. Some problems may be easy enough to recover from, but others, like oil depletion and global warming, look suspiciously like ticking bombs, and things like extinction are by definition permanent, irrecoverable losses. Every bit as troubling is how Bush and company have convinced many that politics trumps everything else, including science and for that matter fact. I don't doubt that overvaluation of science has gotten us into trouble, but swinging to the other extreme leaves us bewildered and helpless. That in general seems to play into the right's political agenda, as long as the accumulation of disaster doesn't shake the faith of the ignorant following the blind. The other side of that equation is that the more Bush succeeds, the worse disasters it will take to steer us back to reality.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fateful Choices

When someone, like Jimmy Carter (for instance), says Bush is the worst president ever, the media cops go into a fury over how all of a sudden the debate has degenerated to shameless name calling -- anything to avoid debating the evidence behind the proposition. To compare Bush to Hitler, the Republicans to the Nazis, and the parts of America that elected Bush and the Republicans to Nazi Germany, is way beyond the pale. But once again, the main thing the reaction serves is to foreclose analyzing the merits of the proposition. It's certainly not like the media cops are working themselves into any such dither when one of their own, even an O'Reilly or a Coulter, reduces the argument to pure slander.

Clearly there are important differences between Germany under Hitler and America under Bush: the former existed in a time when empire and racism were still in fashion, so much so that they could be proudly acclaimed as goals worth fighting major wars for. Another critical difference is that the US is to a large extent engaged in defending an effective empire, whereas Nazi Germany aspired to take one. On the other hand, there are some limited concerns where Nazi Germany is one of the few relevant historical analogies. The most important of these is the question of to what extent did the German people support the Nazis, when did they finally conclude that the Nazis were leading them to ruin, and why weren't they unable to do anything about it. To ask those question does not presuppose that Bush's America is as bad as Nazi Germany. The two cases don't have to be equivalent for the question to be asked.

Richard J. Evans has a review of Ian Kershaw's book Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, in the June 4 issue of The Nation, which delves into the Nazi end of this question:

Like other historians working on the project, Kershaw sought to reconstruct the history of Nazi Germany "from the bottom up" by using the extensive reports of the SS Security Service and local government officials on public morale and the voluminous and very detailed accounts of popular opinion smuggled out of the exiled German Social Democratic Party leaders in Prague by agents based in Germany. The resulting picture was complex and highly differentiated. Instead of presenting the conventional postwar clichés of a ruthless dictator bending everyone to his will, Kershaw showed a huge variety of popular responses to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, ranging from resistance and opposition through dissent and indifference ot enthusiasm and praise.

In this vision, relatively few Germans were committed Nazis; most were lulled into acquiescence by Nazi propaganda and Nazi achievements in one or another area, objecting -- sometimes with success -- only when the regime interfered directly with the innermost values of their daily lives, most notably in matters of religious practice. All of this of course raised the question of how the regime managed to put its policies into effect. In The "Hitler Myth" Kershaw showed how the propaganda image of the Führer provided until near the end of the war a repository for people's hopes and aspirations that deflected many of their discontents onto his subordinates or held out the prospect that he would eventually find a remedy. People were reluctant to believe that in reality Hitler was a many driven by a fanatical hatred of the Jews, a boundless desire for conquest and, at bottom, a deep contempt for the mast of ordinary Germans.

One of the biggest problems we face is the inability of so many Americans to see Bush's manifest failures as the likely consequence of his personal traits and ideological precepts. On the other hand, those of us who see those things clearly are mostly the same people who saw them clearly in the first place. Hitler's ability to dazzle and/or cower ordinary Germans never worked on his initial victims, Communists and Jews, even if the latter occasionally underestimated him. But evidently Hitler was able to isolate his critical political base from his unfolding disaster long enough that they never knew what hit them. In fact, it's possible that the majority of ordinary Germans didn't definitively turn against Hitler until around 1947, a couple of years after defeat. That doesn't make me very optimistic that the American people will wise up to Bush.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Elizabeth de la Vega: US v Bush

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor, which gives her a relatively unique perspective on the legal affairs she has been writing about at TomDispatch. Her book is an expansion of those pieces. United States v. George W. Bush et al. is a thought experiment, where she argues a case before a hypothetical federal grand jury with the intent of indicting Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Powell for fraud in their selling of the Iraq war. Her case depends on the relevant law for fraud cases, of which Enron is a prominent example. Even aside from the legal details, the book is useful for its clear-headed, succinct detailing of the propaganda effort.


I only marked one quote in the book, although there is much more of note, including a particularly good chronology toward the end of the book.

On Sept. 4, 2002, Bush held a news conference on Iraq where he repeatedly hyped the "serious threat" Iraq posed, but emphasized "that he hadn't decided what to do about it." One day later, he did something (pp. 150-151):

On September 5, 2002, approximately one hundred United States and British planes dropped precision-guided munitions onto Saddam Hussein's major air-defense facility to prepare the way for U.S. Special Forces helicopters from Jordan to enter Iraqi air space. They used at least seven types of aircraft, including U.S. F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes.

Had anyone been paying attention to what Bush was doing rather than what he was saying it would have been clear that Bush had already launched the war. However, the media, even beyond their usual predilection for reporting words over facts, had become so inured to US presidents bombing Iraq that one more such event failed to register with them. After all, Bush had bombed Iraq before -- just a few days after he was inaugurated, in fact, way before 9/11. And Clinton bombed Iraq so many times it became a standing joke -- a staple reinforced on shows like The West Wing, further normalizing it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Impeachment

Gary Kamiya in Salon on Why Bush hasn't been impeached:

But there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off -- and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day.

Kamiya offers several explanations, starting with the notion that many Americans were so committed to Bush's crimes that they can't acknowledge their own culpability. However, at least half of those who initially backed Bush's Iraq adventure have turned against him. That might be enough to tilt a representative Congress to impeach, especially given the clear fact that Bush is personally incapable of admitting his mistakes and extricating us from the war. Without impeaching Bush (and Cheney too, presumably first), we're stuck watching the calendar as the disaster unnecessarily deepens. But Congress is far from representative. They are politicos, selected for their survival skills in the normal course of American politics, which starts and often ends with raising money. A big part of their survival is how they fit into the party mold: in business that's called branding, and in fact a party's brand is largely set by, or against, whoever's president. The Democrats couldn't break loose from Clinton to render an independent judgment; the Republicans are if anything even more slavishly invested in Bush. The numbers mean it's impossible to remove Bush unless more than a third of the Senate Republicans repudiate their party leader, which for this generation is inconceivable.

Still, Kamiya is right in the sense that too many people still see Bush's failures as some sort of tactical mishap rather than as the logical consequence of a deeply flawed worldview. Parts of that worldview are still widely accepted as conventional sense, including most of the "war on terrorism" nonsense, like the dogma that showing any weakness will expose us to further attacks. The worst such cases are those like Madeleine Albright who argue that Bush shouldn't have invaded Iraq but now that we're there, we're stuck because we can't afford to lose face. (Uh, how exactly have we not lost face already?) Certainly, if we could bring a large majority of Americans around to seeing empire as a hopeless goal, war as a self-defeating program, and "America: The Last Best Hope" as conceited nonsense, impeachment of Bush and Cheney wouldn't be hard to get on the agenda.

One more Kamiya quote, for future reference:

But the unique gravity of war surrounds it with a kind of patriotic force field. There is an ancient human deference to The Strong Man Who Will Defend Us, an atavistic surrender to authority that goes back through Milosevic, to Henry V, to Beowulf and the ring givers, and ultimately to Cro-Magnon tribesmen huddled around the campfire at the feet of the biggest, strongest warrior.

That's no doubt a big part of Bush's success, but history is littered with strong men who were backstabbed as their disasters mounted -- Milosevic, from the above list, with Ceaucescu and Mussolini two more prominent and not unrelated examples. That Bush has survived thus far is due to a number of factors, not least that the United States is a pretty tough country to sink. But gradually his deeds are catching up with him, and as they do, expect some self-diagnosis of where those who once backed him made their mistakes. The idea that Bush is a Strong Man is one of them; another is that a Strong Man is a viable defense.


Noam Chomsky/Gilbert Achcar: Perilous Power

I've bought many of Chomsky's recent books, including Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, but haven't read them. I greatly respect his command of the relevant history, generally agree with his analysis, and sympathize with his fundamental political precepts, but find his writing painful to read -- not for the substance, which is after all the point, but for his monomaniacally embittered tone. To some degree, it is necessary to have some respect for the architects of American imperialism, if only to keep them from falling into caricature, and away from any comprehension.

Chomsky didn't always have this problem, but it seems to have grown over decades, perhaps a matter of losing patience, or maybe just the result of having been proven so right so often without receiving his due recognition. Not that he remains a voice in the wilderness: since 9/11 his books have been bestsellers, he has become a celebrity speaker, and for many of us who have somehow managed to escape the "manufactured consent" he criticized in an earlier book, he has become something of an oracle.

His interviews tend to avoid the worst traits of his prose, so I figured this set of dialogues with Gilbert Achcar -- a French middle east expert with an explicitly Marxist perspective -- might be a good chance to check up on him. As it turned out, the book wasn't all that satisfactory: a lot of stuff I already knew, too much back-and-forth trying to reconcile positions that mostly turned on different reactions to keywords. So I didn't wind up marking much, but it's the sort of book where any random page is likely to provoke some thought.

Chomsky talks about Israel's decision in 1971 to reject Egypt's peace offer (p. 167):

Israel had a crucial choice at that point. Israeli officials -- as we know from Cabinet records and other internal discussions -- recognized that they were being presented with a peace offer, and they had to decide whether to accept or reject it. They rejected it. They said we will not withdraw to the borders, which, at the time, meant we will not eliminate the northeast Sinai settlements. Incidentally, the next year Jordan came along with a very similar offer, but Israel didn't even respond to that. So there was an opportunity for peace along the lines of Resolution 242, offering nothing for the Palestinians but an international peace among the Arab states and Israel -- and Israel rejected it.

The crucial question, as always, was what the United States would do. We don't have internal U.S. records from that period yet, but it's pretty clear what happened. There apparently was a dispute between the State Department, which wanted to accept it, and Henry Kissinger, who was national security advisor, who wanted to reject it. I suspect his motives were mostly that he was trying to take over the State Department, which he later did, so it was probably bureaucratic maneuvering. But Kissinger's position we know, because he wrote about it in his memoirs; it was what he called "stalemate" -- there was no reason for Washington do do anything since the United States has the military force. It was a view that assumed Arabs didn't know which end of a gun to hold, and so the United States could just do what it wanted by force. Kissinger's position won the internal U.S. policy debate. And this was critical, because Israel at that point made a fateful decision in favor of expansion instead of real security.

Chomsky, on the dismantling of Israeli settlements in Sinai as a result of the Camp David agreements (p. 169):

Israel tried to brush aside these aspects of the accords. It decided to interpret them as meaning it could increase settlements, but not in Egypt, so it pulled out of Yamit.

And it's striking that the way Israel pulled out of Yamit was very much like the Gaza disengagement of September 2005. It was a staged, carefully orchestrated trauma. The general in charge explained that it had all been completely worked out with the settlers, that this would be a dramatic event in which Israeli soldiers with tears coming from their eyes would remove the poor settlers from their homes, and that this should never happen to Jews again, recalling the famous slogan "Never again." Never again would Jews be removed from their homes. There was a lot of ridicule of this staged event in the Hebrew press at the time. In fact, the Ha'aretz headline said, "Operation National Trauma, '82." And the 2005 Gaza disengagement was just a replay -- a very carefully staged national trauma to send the same message: Never again must this happen to Jews, the West Bank is ours; that's the message.

From Gilbert Achcar's epilogue (p. 221):

Now, if U.S. forces in Iraq are to be compared to a firefighting force, the truth of the matter is that they are led by highly dangerous arsonists! Ever since the occupation started, the situation in Iraq has steadily and relentlessly deteriorated: This is the undeniable truth, which only blatant liars like those in Washington can deny, insisting that the situation is improving in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary. Iraq is caught in a vicious circle: The occupation fuels the insurgency, which stirs up the sectarian tension that Washington's proconsul strives to fan by political means, which in turn is used to justify the continuing occupation. The latest major way in which U.S. occupation authorities are throwing oil on the Iraqi fire, according to Shiite sources, is by helping the Islamic Party -- the Iraqi Arab Sunni group closest to Washington and to the Saudis -- build an armed wing that is already taking part in the sectarian feud.

There is no way out of this burning circle but one: Only by announcing immediately the total and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops can a decisive step be taken toward putting out the fire. This would cool down the Sunni insurgency that the Association of Muslim Scholars has repeatedly pledged to call to a halt as soon as a timetable for the withdrawal of occupation troops is announced. It would dampen as well the sectarian tension, as Iraqis will then look squarely at their future and feel compelled to reach a way to coexist peacefully. And if ever they came to the conclusion that they needed a foreign presence for awhile to help them restore order and start real reconstruction, it should definitely not be one composed of troops from countries that harbor hegemonic ambitions over Iraq, but one that is welcomed by all segments of the Iraqi people as friendly and disinterested help.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Music: Current count 13168 [13150] rated (+18), 869 [862] unrated (+7). Had several interruptions, including a major one today trying to pull this together. Only dealt with jazz this week -- more replays than new discs.


Jazz Prospecting (CG #13, Part 10)

Did manage to transition to mostly playing stuff from the replay shelves. Did manage to write some actual text for the column. Both of those are indications that it is coming to a close, although I can't claim to have made a huge amount of progress. House chores interrupted me on several occasions, with Tuesday scheduled for more of the same, and who knows how many more days like that are in the cards. Still haven't settled on pick hits or featured dud, although there are candidates. Also need to do some work on Recycled Goods this week. Not sure how to balance that.


Oscar Peterson and Friends: JATP Lausanne 1953 (1953 [2007], TCB): Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts were like all-star games: random sets of headliners turned loose on things like "C-Jam Blues" -- the 19:23 opener here, where everyone gets their turn to spin, slam, and dunk. It's ironic that Peterson wound up on top of this belatedly released radio tape. At 27, he was Granz's handyman, little known, but a fast, hard swinging pianist who raised the play of everyone else on the floor. The frontliners here were Flip Phillips, Lester Young, Willie Smith, and Charlie Shavers -- with the latter's blistering trumpet setting the pace. The last two cuts drop down to a trio, with Peterson, Smith, and Gene Krupa: both give Peterson some solo space, and remind us why Smith was widely regarded as one of the three great alto saxophonists of the swing era, along with Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter. B+(***)

Charles Mingus: In Paris: The Complete America Session (1970 [2007], Sunnyside, 2CD): One day, a batch of old songs, a group that doesn't rank among his great ones -- Eddie Preston on trumpet, Charles McPherson on alto sax, Bobby Jones on tenor sax, Jaki Byard on piano, Dannie Richmond (of course) on drums -- yielded two quickie LPs on the French label named America, minor blips in the Mingus discography. The master takes that went into the LPs fit on the first disc. The alternate takes, including many false starts, fill out the previously unreleased second disc. None of this is earth shaking, ear opening, or even moderately important. Still, if you didn't know better, the first disc could pass for a typical Mingus tour de force, and the scraps hold together better than they have any right to. B+(**) [May 22]

Charles Mingus Sextet With Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964 (1964 [2007], Blue Note, 2CD): This is touted as a true find -- actually, "a truly spectacular never-before-released performance" -- but I don't hear it. Actually, I don't hear much of anything, which surprises me. The same sextet -- Johnny Coles on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor sax, Jaki Byard on piano, Dannie Richmond on drums, as well as Dolphy on alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet -- recorded Town Hall Concert 1964 two weeks later, an important album in the Mingus discography, then went off to Europe and recorded more, including a much bootlegged Paris concert that Sue Mingus insisted on officially releasing under the title Revenge! This starts out rather slow, with Byard doing a solo piano impression of Art Tatum and Fats Waller, followed by Mingus taking on "Sophisticated Lady" solo, then the band joins in for 29:42 of only intermittently coherent "Fables of Faubus." Nor does it get much better, although "Take the 'A' Train" and "Jitterbug Waltz" are at least recognizable. Dolphy is a major disappointment, especially given what he was doing on his own in what turned out to be his last year. His flute, in particular, is never more than a novelty, and sounds especially corny on "Jitterbug Waltz." This is an advance, and there are some things evidently screwed up on it. Will withhold final judgment until the final arrives. [B-] [July 17]

Family Pet (2007, Foreign Frequency): This is a slab of 12-inch vinyl, with no info other than label name and something about 45rpm. Also have a 7-inch 45rpm which credits A.M. Haines with keyboard and vocal, Will Berdan II with percussion. Website describes group as "Maine's free form rock duo." Put the side with one cut on, and it sounds like free form noise, which doesn't do much for me one way or another. Then the turntable, an old B&O, lifted the stylus and stopped spinning. The 33/45 switch works, but otherwise the arm is stuck and the platter doesn't spin. So that's as far as I got. No telling when/if I'll ever get back to it, so I will mark it with two grades: one for what it sounded like when it was playing, and another for what it sounds like now. Got email from Berdan suggesting it might be a dud, so presumably he'll be satisfied either way. B/E

Cyminology: Bemun (2007, Challenge): German group, led by vocalist Cymin Samawatie, who describes herself as "the daughter of Iranian emigrants." Group also includes Benedikt Jahnel on piano, Ralf Schwarz on double bass, Ketan Bhatti on drums, with guest guitar from Frank Möbus on two cuts. Songs are based on Persian poetry, and the drums tend to fit that. I disliked the high, arch vocals at first: reminded me of European vocal traditions, but it may be that the same attitude is cultivated by all classical traditions. The instrumental sections are more ingratiating: the piano and bass are well situated in the jazz world, and the drums -- not specified, but it sounds like hands are intimately involved -- add a world beat aspect. B

Lafayette Gilchrist: Three (2007, Hyena): Third album, but could just as well refer to the number of musicians, or maybe even David Murray's "3d family" -- Gilchrist works with Murray. This time the piano trio appears to be purely acoustic. Most pieces have a regular pulse. Booklet refers to Sun Ra, James Brown, Andrew Hill, and CLR James. [B+(**)]

Stan Bock Ensemble: Your Check's in the Mail (2006 [2007], OA2): Trombonist, based in Oregon, but studied at Fort Hays State here in Kansas back in the early '70s -- I have some cousins who went there a bit before. Has a couple of albums with his semi-large (8 piece) Ensemble, as well as some group efforts at Latin jazz and Klezmer. This is bright, burly, fairly boppish, with a group tribute to James Brown. B+(*)

Louis Sclavis: L'Imparfait des Langues (2005 [2007], ECM): Working off an advance copy here, although the release date is April 24, so presumably this is out, but not part of the top tier promotion. Quintet here, with Marc Baron's alto sax joining Sclavis' usual clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax combo in an unusually fierce -- for Sclavis, and especially for ECM -- front line. Blame that on the rhythm section: Paul Brousseau's keyboards, Maxime Delpierre's guitars, François Merville's drums. They keep the beat steady and charging -- effectively this is a fusion album, improvised enough to keep it interesting. [B+(***)] [Apr. 24]

Stephan Micus: On the Wing (2003-06 [2007], ECM): Advance copy. German composer, multi-instrumentalist. AMG classifes him as New Age -- not a good term, but I don't know what would be. Has 17 or so albums, going back to the mid-'70s, his first one featuring: voice, guitar, shô, Thai flute, sitar, rabab, Bavarian zither, shakuhachi. This one has most of those, notably less voice, and quite a few more, played solo but pieced together into a 10 part suite. Sounds vaguely South/East Asian, but nowhere in specific. No doubt interesting musicologically, but pretty static to my ears -- after all, I tend to agree with Ellington on these matters. B [Apr. 24]

Gianluigi Trovesi/Umberto Petrin/Fulvio Maras: Vaghissimo Ritratto (2005 [2007], ECM): Advance copy. Trovesi is an established saxophonist with records going back to 1978, playing alto clarinet here. Pianist Petrin, like Trovesi, comes out of Italian Instabile Orchestra. Percussionist Maras has played with Trovesi since early '90s. A "chamber improvisation" project which pulls together melodies from classical and pop sources. Starts slow, but proves to be enticing, hard to resist. Title translates as "vague impression" or "beautiful picture" or something like that. [B+(**)] [Apr. 24]

Pierre Favre Ensemble: Fleuve (2005 [2007], ECM): Swiss drummer, around since the late '50s, started in Dixieland -- has gigs with Lil Hardin Armstrong and Albert Nicholas on his resume -- then moved to free jazz and dabbles in world beats. Seven piece group, with guitar, soprano sax/bass clarinet, harp, tuba, bass guitar, double bass, and percussion/drums. I could do without the harp, but Philipp Schaufelberger's guitar impressed me, and focusing on the drummer helps. B+(*) [Apr. 24]


And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.

Owen Howard: Time Cycles (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer-led postbop quintet, with two saxophonists up front, Gary Versace on piano, John Hebert on bass. The saxophonists are John O'Gallagher on alto, Andrew Rathbun on tenor, both playing a bit of soprano. They tend to play tight together, which usually isn't a good sign, but the drummer shakes things up enough to keep the other from clumping. B+(**)

Frank Carlberg: State of the Union (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): I reckon if you want to make a political statement you might as well come out and say it, but singing it, against a free jazz backdrop, can get sticky. The first three cuts form "The Presidential Suite," starting with "The Word Is" -- a "nostalgic piece" about Bill Clinton's parsing problems -- and ending with the gloomy title assessment. In between, the title is "We Much Prefer," but the lyric you hear repeated infinitum is the word "stupidity," which about sums up the transition from then to now. The singer is Christine Correa, whose deep diva voice reminds me of Aebi, except much more listenable. The remaining pieces move from politics to more abstract poesy -- one on a red piano is appealing, and one on disemboweled babies seems almost as disheartening as all that stupidity. Carlberg plays piano, leading a group including Chris Cheek on tenor sax, John Hebert on bass, and Michael Sarin on drums -- all superb, the somber pacing at least forcing them to think. B+(***)

Jeff Newell's New-Trad Octet: Brownstone (2007, BlueJazz): Newell's interest is in gospel, as shown by the two final pieces: an interesting take on "Amazing Grace" and a rousing original with vocals called "Fill the Temple." Hard to say what is new here other than his membership in the so-called New Baptist Church, but his trad is rooted in pre-jazz -- three Sousa pieces lead off, then a suite of "March," "Bolero," "Waltz," "Zydeco," and "Reprise" called "Hymn Pan Alley." Still, they sound fresh, not musty. B+(**)

Chie Imaizumi: Unfailing Kindness (2006, Capri): Japanese composer/arranger, following in Maria Schneider's footsteps, with help from trumpeter Greg Gisbert, who serves both. Straightforward arrangements, packed with power, a basic primer in what big bands are good for. Last track features a vocal with gospel punch -- not my thing, but not bad either. B+(**)

Alvin Fielder Trio: A Measure of Vision (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed): Fielder's a 70-year-old drummer, originally from Mississippi with stops in New Olreans and Chicago on his way to nowhere in particular. His discography is pretty much limited to work with Joel Futterman, Kidd Jordan, and/or Dennis González, veteran avant-gardists who have worked in obscurity far afield from the usual power centers. Here he referees for González and pianist Mike Parker, the former affecting a smoky, dingy tone, the latter sharp and percussive. Three cuts are joined by González sons, with Stefan's vibes an abstract treat. B+(***)

Billy Fox: The Uncle Wiggly Suite (2004 [2007], Clean Feed): Percussionist-composer, draws on world music from Cuba to Pakistan plus a lot more, deploying 13 musicians without ever coalescing into a big band. Lots of interesting details. Don't know what the big picture is. B+(*)

Stefano Bollani: Piano Solo (2005 [2007], ECM): The label gave this a big push, and it's easy enough to see why. If I'm less enthusiastic, it's for the usual personal reasons: I just have trouble hearing clearly, and therefore concentrating on, the solitary instrument. When I do force myself to tune in, I find this thoughtful, resourceful, shy -- it makes me come to it, unlike the few solo pianists on my A-list: James P. Johnson, Art Tatum, Earl Hines, who else? No easy way to check -- Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert is one, Jim McNeely's At Maybeck is another, and there are probably a few more, but damn few. B+(**)

Omer Klein/Haggai Cohen Milo: Duet (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent): Bass often sounds transparent on records -- part of the background, a source of extra resonance, but unequal to any of the lead instruments. Milo's bass here sometimes seems to be a mere extension of the piano, like an extra pedal that gives the deep strings more freedom of movement. But the sonic depth of the bass makes the piano sound richer and fuller, and the presence of another keeps the pianist moving. I can't say that Klein is a more adroit pianist than Bollani, say, but he holds my ears closer, and doesn't disappoint. B+(**)

Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Live in Japan (2004 [2007], CAM Jazz, 2CD): I've cooled on this since my first flush of enthusiasm -- maybe the informality of the live setting, maybe just the length. Pieranunzi is a fine pianist, especially on the slow stuff like was featured on Ballads, recorded about the same time with the same trio. Johnson and Baron are superb -- no surprise there. B+(**) [May 22]

Anat Fort: A Long Story (2004 [2007], ECM): This is not all slow, but inches along with deliberate thoughtfulness, Fort's piano framed by Ed Schuller's bass and Paul Motian's drum haiku. At trio level, this would be add one more worthy name to the long list of pianists, starting with Bill Evans, that Motian has coaxed along. But the real treat here is Perry Robinson, who plays clarinet and ocarina on most of the album. He plays softer than usual, but adds a jagged edge to the soft piano cushion. B+(***)

Queen Mab Trio: Thin Air (2005 [2006], Wig): Rather difficult music: Ig Henneman's viola is apt to squeak, or squawk even. Lori Freedman's bass clarinet isn't enough to overwhelm it, and is prone to squawking as well. Marilyn Lerner's piano provides what passes for rhythm, but only occasionally. But while this is unlikely to convince doubters, I'm finding it coherent, and the discomfort just stimulating enough to want to follow. B+(**)


Unpacking:

  • Rodrigo Amado/Carlos Zíngaro/Tomas Ulrich/Ken Filiano: Surface: For Alto, Baritone and Strings (Clean Feed)
  • The Birdhouse Project: Free Bird (Dreambox Media)
  • Anthony Braxton/Joe Fonda: Duets 1995 (Clean Feed)
  • Jeff Buckley: So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley (1993-97, Columbia/Legacy)
  • Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note)
  • The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone)
  • José Conde y Ola Fresca: Revolucion (Mr. Bongo) *
  • Dick De Graaf Quartet: Moving Target (Soundroots)
  • Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (Altrisuoni)
  • Michael Fein: Four Flights Up (Dreambox Media)
  • The Essential Maynard Ferguson (1954-96, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Love Letters From Ella (Concord): advance, July 31
  • The Essential Benny Goodman (1934-52, Columbia/Bluebird/Legacy, 2CD)
  • Maria Guida: Soul Eyes (Larknote)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Being There (ECM): advance, June 5
  • François Ingold Trio: Song Garden (Altrisuoni)
  • Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (1944-2002, Epic/Legacy)
  • Steve Khan: Borrowed Time (Tone Center): June 5
  • Mark Knox: Places (Dreambox Media)
  • David Lackner: Chapter One (Dreambox Media)
  • Joélle Leandre/Pascal Contet: Freeway (Clean Feed)
  • Abbey Lincoln: Abbey Sings Abbey (Verve)
  • Charlie Mingus: Tijuana Moods (1957, RCA Victor/Legacy)
  • Monk's Music Trio: Monk on Mondays (CMB): Sept. 1
  • Nordic Connect: Flurry (ArtistShare)
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. 1: The Complete Abashiri Concert (Widow's Taste, 2CD)
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. II: The Last Concert (1982, Widow's Taste)
  • Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro: El Espíritu Jíbaro (Sunnyside)
  • Sten Sandell Trio + John Butcher: Strokes (Clean Feed)
  • Just Like a Woman: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the '60s (1967-78, RCA/Legacy)
  • Sonic Openings Under Pressure: Muhheankuntuk (Clean Feed)
  • Trio Nuevo: Jazz Meets Tango (Soundroots)
  • The Wild Magnolias/They Call Us Wild (1974-75, Sunnyside, 2CD)
  • David Witham: Spinning the Circle (Cryptogramophone)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ira Chernus: Monsters to Destroy

I first noticed Ira Chernus at TomDispatch, where he's written a number of trenchant comments. He teaches religious studies at the University of Colorado. His book is Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin (2006, Paradigm, paperback). It's an essay on the mythology of neoconservatism in general and George W. Bush in particular. By mythology I mean the stories one tells about the world and one's relation to it. Political programs take a back seat here to the fundamental percepts that convince neoconservatives of the rightness of their beliefs. This becomes all the more important for someone like Bush, where many followers respond not to the logic of his arguments but to their ability to sense the powers of his conviction. It seems to be a matter of human instinct to, in times of peril, follow whoever seems most certain of his leadership.

Chernus describes his approach (p. x):

This book is my story about the Bush administration's stories. The punch line of my story is that the administration has chosen unending warfare as its route to escape from moral terror. The main goal of the war on terrorism is not to end anti-American attacks. The main goal is to give Americans a global arena where they can show their moral strength, their allegiance to permanent moral values, and their ability to hold back the whirlwind of change. To prove all that, Americans need to be fighting against sin, evil, and moral weakness; they need monsters to destroy. So the point of the war is not to win. It is, on the contrary, to keep on fighting monsters forever.

In delving in to the development of neoconservatism, Chernus cites neocon pater familias Irving Kristol on modernity (pp. 26-27):

According to Kristol, today's middle-class life is "the most advanced form of the good society attainable within history." The key to this best-of-all-possible societies is capitalism, because it turns people into virtuous bourgeois citizens. They know that they must compete in the marketplace, Kristol argues; they can't be winners unless they take the risk, of becoming losers. Sine they want to be winners, they accept "the merits of deferred gratification," controlling desire today to get more tomorrow. And they know that they have to submit their selfish desires to conventional moral rules in order to protect society. In other words, the virtuous bourgeoisie have to fight against other people, against the world, and most of all against their own deepest urges. They must wage that battle constantly or they will lose their personal balance, and the society they depend on for their precarious balance may fall apart. That makes them "a people of firm moral convictions, a people of self-reliance and self-discipline.

However, capitalism has to sell its goods. So it needs consumers who abandon self-discipline and put their material pleasures ahead of morality. By making material prosperity the highest value, capitalism leads bourgeois people into "a religious vacuum," with no fear of sin. Once sinful desire is freed from the old restraints, Kristol claims, it is insatiable; it won't respect any boundaries. Since government must support capitalism, it must allow and perhaps encourage people to pursue prosperity above all, even though they are likely to corrupt themselves in the process.

This leads to a cult of power, above all military (pp. 29-30):

The neoconservatives first issued their call for greater military strength to counter the weakness caused, they claimed, by new left-wing ideals at home. Podhoretz reflects their scale of priorities when he writes: "Neoconservatives undertook the job of rebuilding intellectual and moral confidence in the values and institutions on which American society rests, not to mention the actual physical defenses on which the country's security depends." As Edward Linenthal says, "They feared that America was morally tired and military weak after its failure of nerve in Vietnam." Historian Andrew Bacevich agrees: "American weakness was the problem [for the neocons], not American might. Weakness endangered those who relied on the United States for protection; it also sowed confusion among the American people."

As neocons saw it, the growing power of the radicals left the U.S. and the whole world adrift in chaos. Political scientist Robert Rucker warned of "a growing disjunction between power and order." Like all neocons, he assumed that world order is preserved only by military force.

How the neocons gained ground against the "realists" (pp. 47-48):

"Realists" assume that nations always face both present and future military threats. That's why the end of the cold war left the "realists" perplexed. They all confronted the dilemma summed up succinctly by Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "I'm running out of demons." More than ideology was at stake here. As Powell later admitted, a military without enemies would be an easy prey for the budget-cutters in Congress. "We knew that unless we came up with an overarching strategy to guide reductions, the Pentagon's political enemies were likely to come after us with a chain saw." So Powell resorted to another basic "realist" premise: Life is inherently threatening, because it is unpredictable. The U.S. needs "the ability to respond to the crisis nobody expected, nobody told us about, the contingency that suddenly pops up at 2:00 in the morning. . . . The real threat is the unknown, the uncertain.

I believe that the election of Ronald Reagan marked a distinct turn away from reality. That turn ultimately advanced the neocons, who were supreme most of all in their fantasies (p. 53):

The end of the cold war spawned a tempting fantasy of imperial omnipotence on a global scale. The neocons want to turn that fantasy into reality. But reality will not conform to the fantasy; it won't stand still or keep any semblance of permanent order. So the neocons' efforts inevitably backfire. Political scientist Benjamin Barber explains that a nation with unprecedented power has "unprecedented vulnerability: for it must repeatedly extend the compass of its power to preserve what it already has, and so is almost by definition always overextended." Gary Dorrien sees insecurity coming at the neoconservatives in another way, too: "For the empire, every conflict is a local concern that threatens its control. However, secure it may be, it never feels secure enough. The [neocon] unipolarists had an advanced case of this anxiety. . . . . Just below the surface of the customary claim to toughness lurked persistent anxiety. This anxiety was inherent in the problem of empire and, in the case of the neocons, heightened by ideological ardor."

If the U.S. must control every event everywhere, as neocons assume, every act of resistance looks like a threat to the very existence of the nation. There is no good way to distinguish between nations or forces that genuinely oppose U.S. interests and those that don't. Indeed, change of any kind, in any nation, becomes a potential threat. Everyone begins to look like a threatening monster that might have to be destroyed.

One major thread in the book is the eternal struggle against sin, which neocons insist we must face through discipline and vigilance. Eternal struggle feeds into eternal war (p. 54):

Journalist Ron Suskind has noted that neocons always offer "a statement of enveloping peril and no hypothesis for any real solution." They have no hope of finding a real solution because they have no reason to look for one. Their story allows for success only as a fantasy. In reality, they expect to find nothing but an endless battle against an enemy that can never be defeated. At least two prominent neocons have said it quite bluntly. Kenneth Adelman: "We should not try to convince people that things are getting better." Michael Ledeen: "The struggle against evil is going to go on forever."

This vision of endless conflict is not a conclusion drawn from observing reality. It is both the premise and the goal of the neocons' fantasy. Ultimately, it seems, endless resistance is what they really want. Their call for a unipolar world ensures a permanent state of conflict, so that the U.S. can go on forever proving its military supremacy and promoting the "manly virtues" of militarism. They have to admit that the U.S., with its vastly incomparable power, already has unprecedented security against any foreign army. So they must sound the alarm about a shadowy new kind of enemy, one that can attack in novel, unexpected ways. They must make distant changes appear as huge imminent threats to America, make the implausible seem plausible, and thus find new monsters to destroy.

The appeal of neocons (p. 102):

The effort is futile, however. The fight must go on forever. Ed Dobson, a former leader of the high-profile conservative Christian group Moral Majority, observed that its members were "good at being against something. We never were good at being for something." Bobbie Kilberg, who was the president's envoy to evangelicals in the George H.W. Bush administration, also saw a political motive at work here: "What better way to galvanize your troops than to have Bill Clinton to fight against? He was a new bad guy. They no longer had the bad guy of communism. . . . . They had a lot of trouble raising money and organizing in the last two years of the Bush administration, because there was nobody to be angry at." Dobson saw well enough where this oppositional stance leads: "A fighting mindset will often get you in trouble. . . . . In the political arena, what propelled us was the chance to have a fight over the issues. But the truth is we just want to keep on fighting."

War in turn becomes the supreme test of character (pp. 117-118):

Whether the American people stood firm or fell into wobbly complacency, David Brooks was sure of one thing. Foreign affairs would take center stage in public discourse for a long time to come: "Nobody is going to be in the mood for a domestic culture war anytime soon." If the neoconservatives had their way, though, there would be little need for a domestic culture war. As their interpretations of 9/11 showed, they were taking the fundamental issues of the culture war and mapping them onto a global war on terrorism. The new war would be the sole arena in which the strength of the American character would be tested. It would be, Brooks concluded, "the gut-check of the nation."

Neocon faith quickly reduces into a manipulation of meaningless symbols, ultimately doing no more than rallying us against them (p. 124):

To choose against the United States was to choose, not a different set of values, but a nihilistic life with no values at all. In the crucial September 20 speech, Bush called the attackers "heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. They follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism . . . . abandoning every value except the will to power." Their urge to dominate the world, he implied, came not from any specific ideological commitments but from a sheer, unbridled, self-seeking lust for power -- from the essence of sin itself. "They have no justification for their actions. The only motivation is evil." "They're flat evil. That's all they can think about, is evil." "An enemy has emerged that rejects every limit of law, morality and religion. . . . . Behind them is a cult of evil." This cult committed "pure malice while daring to claim the authority of God. . . . . We cannot fully understand the designs and power of evil." Addressing schoolchildren, the president said: "These attacks are from some people who just are so evil it's hard for me to describe why. It's hard for us to comprehend why somebody would think the way they think and devalue life the way they devalue it and to harm innocent people the way they harmed innocent people. It's just hard for all of us adults to explain."

Events like 9/11 are stripped from history and reduced to matters of moral identity (p. 135):

In this story, Bush's first reaction to 9/11 is mainly about moralistic duty to punish. "Somebody is going to pay," he says to his aides. "We're going to find out who did this and we're going to kick their asses." He describes the attackers as "cold, calculating killers . . . . [who] hate everything that is not them." But he puts the issues of good versus evil in the context of his faith and culture stories. "There is a value system that cannot be compromised. God-given values. These aren't United States-=created values." It is very important, he stresses, that "we never look like we are creating -- we are the author of these values."

Until the will to war itself becomes moral identity (p. 156):

Bush took up the neocons' call to use the war in Iraq as the new front in the battle for American moral strength. In this case, as usual, a leader's warning of impending national destruction turned out to be fantasy. Yet it demonstrated Corey Robin's observation that, "once a leader starts pondering the nation's moral and physical extinction, he enters a world where the fantastic need not give way tot he factual. The worst-case scenario seem[s] as real as the realest fact." Robin suggests that leaders "seem to imagine that destruction with the greatest of ease" for the same reason neocons so easily imagine it: "There is something deeply appealing about the idea of disaster, about manfully confronting and mastering catastrophe. For disaster and catastrophe can summon a nation, at least in theory, to plumb its deepest moral and political reserves, to have its mettle tested, on and off the battlefield."

And freedom just a codeword (pp. 166-167):

So the word freedom becomes a convenient shorthand for whatever moral virtues they want to tout at the time -- and whatever war they may want to start at the time. When any government is seen, for any reason, as a threat to U.S. interests, it can be declared an enemy of freedom and thus a candidate for "regime-change." Beyond this, a commitment to freedom binds the administration to nothing in particular. The freedom the administration seems to prize above all is the freedom to promote virtually any policy in the name of freedom.

The neocons give it up to big business (p. 168):

A crucial part of globalizing the American dream is, as always, spreading the blessings of capitalism around the globe. "Policies that further strengthen market incentives and market institutions are relevant for all economies," the 2002 NSS declares. "Pro-growth legal and regulatory policies . . . lower marginal tax rates . . . [and] international flows of investment capital are needed to expand the productive potential of these economies." The document justifies its demand for unfettered capitalism in terms of ideology as well as self-interest, and the ideology is "compassionate conservatism." "We have a moral obligation to measure the success of our development assistance by whether it is delivering results," the text declares. But the results are measured just as much in moral as in monetary terms: "The concept of 'free trade' arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person -- or a nation -- to make a living."

Again, the effect being that the US military is the mercenary force not of American citizens but of global capitalism (p. 169):

The first Bush NSS was drafted by the National Security Council, headed by Condoleezza Rice. Reflecting Rice's conversion tot he neocon creed, it alls for "a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty." Since there is only one valid way to define freedom and liberty -- the way U.S. policymakers define it -- this amounts to saying that the U.S. will create the conditions in which all can choose to live their own version of the American way. In the Bush administration's language, freedom is the generic code word for all U.S. values and interests. To defend freedom is, by definition, to defend the power and wealth of the United States. So all people must choose either to help defend the U.S. or to be an enemy of freedom and therefore of the United States. The document calls this "a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests."

Following 9/11, the neocons first offensive was to squash any instinct Americans had toward peace (p. 186):

But this alternative [peace movement] story went virtually unheard. The mainstream media did not offer it, and "when the huge news outlets swing behind warfare," media critic Norman Solomon rightly notes, "the dissent propelled by conscience is not deemed to be very newsworthy." So, in the first months after the [9/11] attack, the public largely embraced the administration's story wholesale. As Cokie Roberts told her NPR audience, there might be dissenting voices in the U.S., but "none that mattered." (Roberts, an influential journalist, publicly acknowledged that she was "ready to believe" whatever U.S. military leaders said because she was "a total sucker for the guys who stand up with all the ribbons on and stuff.") There seemed to be a nearly universal consensus that America had to wage a war on terrorism, that there were indeed monsters to destroy. Sine then, voices that "matter" have been heard dissenting on the Iraq war and (less often) on other specific Bush policies. But when it comes to the question of whether to wage a long-term war against terrorism, Cokie Roberts's point seems as true as ever. Despite all the insecurity that the war on terrorism breeds, most of the media and public seem content to remain in a national insecurity state.

Kerry failed to dislodge Bush in 2004, in large part because he accepted much of Bush's war on terrorism story without convincingly showing Bush's level of conviction (p. 187):

This put Kerry on the defensive, forcing him to respond to these charges every day, leaving him little time to put forward a proactive agenda. Whenever the "flip-flop" charge was hurled, every Kerry retort merely confirmed that the election was a referendum on the "character" issues of strength, firmness, and certainty, played out in the arena of national security -- a referendum Kerry was bound to lose. Kerry contributed heavily to his own defeat by embracing the fundamentals of Bush's war on terrorism story. He criticized his opponent not for fighting wars against terrorism and Iraq, but only for fighting them ineffectively. So he invited the public to judge him by the standards of Bush's war story, not realizing that this one story had the values of all the other Bush stories embedded in it.

Chernus looks back to the '60s antiwar movement for an alternative story. The most important part of this, I think, is the intensity of the counterrevolution against the '60s (pp. 220-221):

The antiwar movement sparked a critical view of American and multinational capitalism, among believers and nonbelievers alike. Interest in Gandhian nonviolence as the antidote to militarism grew as never before, drawing large numbers of nonrelgious people for the first time. Domestically, all sorts of new paths opened up for social and economic justice as well as spiritual fulfillment. In these arenas, too, change came through alliances among people who based their morality on individual choice and those who relied on transcendent principles. The '60s era was unique because it brought together a heightened commitment to individual freedom, an intensified quest for trans-human moral foundations (on the political left as well as the right), and a host of new movements for progressive social change. "The '60s" might best be seen as a fervent experiment to bring all of these strains of culture together -- to meet all the criteria for the new story that the peace movement needs -- in a distinctively American way.

For some peace activists, it became an experiment in a new style of life that would make the whole issue of security much less significant for both the individual and the whole society. A popular book of the day was Alan Watts's The Wisdom of Insecurity. But it might be more precise to say that some were groping toward a vision of life that would make the categories of security and insecurity less relevant, perhaps even meaningless. The Vietnam war era was unique in U.S. history because it spawned a mass grassroots movement that fused this vision with organized protest against the national security policies of the U.S. government. It showed that huge numbers of people could mobilize to challenge the very foundations of the national security state.

The '60s experiment had a double-edged impact on American life. It frightened conservative moralists into the political arena, where their anti-'60s backlash still enjoys the media spotlight. But outside that spotlight, millions continue the quest begun in the '60s. Steven Waldman and John C. Green, reviewing the statistical studies, find that the "religious left is almost exactly the same size as the religious right but receives much less attention." Those on the left work to change political, economic, and social structures precisely because they hold moral values that come (they say) from an authoritative source beyond themselves. At the left end of the political spectrum, some gather in groups like the Catholic Workers, Sojourners, and Tikkun. Others hold their beliefs privately and often quietly.

People often talk about a backlash against the '60s political and cultural movements, but counterrevolution is a more accurate term. Most importantly, it was an organized political movement designed to discredit the '60s, and its success can be measured in how most Americans view the '60s. The critical issues were race, sex, and war. Each was handled differently: race was distorted into crime; sex was attacked most directly, although ultimately abortion became the focal issue; war was quietly swept aside as the military went for deterrent power and professional discipline, martial ideals without the mess of body bags.

Friday, May 18, 2007

How I'm Feeling Now

I don't write much about personal stuff here. I remember when the '70s were christened the Me Decade. While that phrase has gone out of fashion, that's probably because subsequent decades have demanded more intensely self-referential, self-obsessive, self-worshipful adjectives, and I can't think of any catchy enough. Perhaps this can be solved with a little math: the '80s as the Me˛ Decade, the '90s as the Meł Decade, and so forth -- although thus far the '00s are simply the Bush Decade, a continuation of the trend only if you happen to be George W. Bush.

But after a couple of disruptive, unsettling days, I feel like indulging myself a bit. I have a lot of projects. I'm actually pretty good at planning projects, and I'm not bad at managing fairly complex projects, but I do seem to have a lot of trouble getting work done myself. Aside from the intellectual exercises in trying to save the world, or more commonly understand our doom and gloom, an unreasonable compulsion to try to review every shred of music I can get my hands on, and a few website projects, I've had a few domestic homeowner projects, which grew dramatically following the Feb. 25 events.

My father had quite a reputation as a handyman. After much reflection, I'm not sure I'd credit him much further than that. His carpentry was solid and functional, but he didn't care all that much about finish -- the worst was the time he repainted the '49 Ford with a brush. As an electrician he was flat out dangerous. But he could fix almost anything, and convert the most worthless junk into semi-worthless curiosities. He bought a house before I was born and lived in it until he died, but he bought a couple more along the way for something to work on. When I was young, he expanded our house by 40%: he contracted out the foundation and framing, then finished it all himself. I've seen him hack usable rooms out of attic spaces. Any time we needed a new piece of furniture, we'd go down to the lumber yard, or the junk store.

That all seemed normal at the time, and while I wasn't nearly as good at following in his footsteps as my brother was, I did pick up a few things along the way. When I moved out on my own, I started buying tools like I knew what I was doing, and for a brief period I went through a period where I built a dozen or more pieces of furniture. I always figured that when I had my own house I'd rebuild it like he did. I always imagined him helping, but my first house was far away in Boston, and by the time I moved back to Wichita he wasn't much able to help. The upshot is that I've had this frustration building up of all the things I've wanted to do to a house but never got around to doing. So now we've decided to put some money into the house, which has set me off and turned me into something of a loose cannon.

One thing I've long wanted to do is to network the house: to put in a structured wiring system to centrally manage low power wiring to every room in the house. So that became part of the plan, even though in a 1920-vintage house it's much easier said than done. I want to be able to see the entire front porch, so decided by install some surveillance cameras. And I want to be able to communicate without opening the door, which means an intercom system. Also wanted new, stronger doors. All of this took a long time to shop for. Only now are we getting some of it installed -- Wednesday was D-Day for the doors, which also took most of Thursday, and I still have some mess to clean up, while we're still awaiting parts that they forgot about. The wiring is started but not operational yet -- the front door has the new intercom button, but it's not plugged in yet. I hope to get at least the first phase -- intercom and cameras -- working next week, but it's been a long, slow ordeal.

I also had to replace two computers, so I figured I'd buy a bunch of pieces and build them. I worried a lot about what would be my main Linux system, so I went with a conservative AMD X2 system, ASUS motherboard, 2GB RAM, RAID-mirrored 320 GB hard drives, GeForce 7600 GT video card. It came together without a hitch. The other system would run Microsoft Windows, which I need to deal with some media formats. I figured that everything there would be supported, so ordered a little more cutting edge system: Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel motherboard, 2GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, GeForce 7950 GT video card, Vista 64 Bit Ultimate Edition. It's been a nightmare. The Antec power supply was evidently DOA. The EVGA video card had a broken capacitor. I took it to a local repair shop, who replaced the power supply and pronounced the machine (except for the video card) fit. EVGA never acknowledged my RMA request, so I returned the board to Newegg, who refunded my money. I bought another video card, plugged it in, and tried to load Vista. It doesn't work -- says there's "a hardware problem" but not what. Sounds like a Microsoft problem to me, but I'm stuck and aggravated, and not sure what to do next.

Eventually I hope to move the router down to the structured wiring cabinet in the basement. Also run the phones and cable through there, and eventually the music as well. I want to build a gateway server down there to beef up the router, and add audio and video archives to tap into from anywhere in the house. To do that I need to get wiring upstairs, and to do that I've started to work on access through the attic. Thus far I've managed to build up a cache of lumber to go into the attic, and to clean up a bit around the entrance, but that's another slow project.

Longer term I want to install vinyl siding and soffits on the upstairs -- first floor is mostly brick. I've been shopping that job off and on for years. Like many such jobs, it's more than I can do, but within the grasp of my imagination. Plus, like my father, I'm picky about it. Thus far I've seen siding estimates for everything from $3800 to $17000. I came close to settling on one before last winter closed in and other problems knocked its priority down.

Longer term than that would be remodelling the kitchen: I hate the self-suffocating stove -- a fancy KitchenAid gas unit where the oven sucks so much air away from the burners that they fail to light, or if lit burn so unevenly that the igniters kick in -- and the counter tops are crap. The rest is more/less tolerable, but I really need a vent, and more storage would be better. Decor is something we haven't touched since moving in, other than by covering almost every wall with book or CD shelving. The latter would be improved with more built-ins. My niece fancies a career in interior design, so I'm looking to her for ideas. The only other big thing on the drawing board would be to carve a second bathroom out of the larger bedroom. That might be the biggest functional improvement, but it's also the most separable and the least necessary -- for now, the easiest to postpone.

I bought a home design software package to run on the Windows box when/if I get it running. I should then be able to build a 3D model of the entire house, inside and out. No telling how much mischief that will get me into, but for now, at least, it doesn't work. In theory it should help. In practice it will most likely be another weird and buggy piece of software that will irritate me to no end. Maybe it will inspire another endless project: a paper design for a free software replacement.

When these projects go right you feel like you're able to understand and take some measure of control over your world. When they don't, you feel like a hopeless idiot, blinded by the hubristic notion that you think you can have it all your way. As it is, I keep getting bounced back and forth between these poles, ultimately making me think that the real expertise I'm developing is a finer understanding of how and why so many things go wrong. But that's something I've been doing all my life, so it may just be the paradox of the thinking human condition.

This week's jazz got interrupted by the door ordeal, so I've fallen a bit behind, but should recover for the June deadline. Recycled Goods shouldn't be too bad. Got a gratifying note from Randy Haecker at Legacy, concluding "You review more music than anybody!" He should know, because he send me more than anyone. I got a request from the Voice to write something for the June Jazz Supplement, but figured I had too much else looming, so turned it down. In some sense, that's an admission that I don't see much of a future in jazz writing, but it's a good sign that they wanted a piece.

Also interrupted was the blog, but after skipping two days, I write three pieces today. Started working on a book post yesterday, pulling quotes from Ira Chernus' Monsters to Destroy. I have so many books like that to thumb back through, that will probably be my fallback mode over the next few weeks. On the other hand, I haven't gotten back to a scratch file entry I started at least a month ago: the idea was to raise the question of whether it would be worthwhile to try to hack the notebook and other writings into a chronology of the Bush era. I don't know, but it seems possible. One thing there's plenty of is volume.

Just a few more pages to go in Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow, with many more books awaiting my attention. Thought I'd take a break yesterday and cook dinner. Tried to make chicken biryani and screwed it up several ways. It's a dish I've had bad luck with in the past, but I figured I knew better by now -- another case of overreach. But everything else, especially the brinjal bartha (eggplant, tomatoes, onions, spices), came out fine. So it's been going; so it seems always to go. I'm feeling fortunate. For one thing, I know it could be much worse.


More Home Front

The May 17 New York Times has as front page picture of a wildfire in southern New Jersey, which as of press time had burned 13,500 acres. I'm only vaguely conscious of wildfires in Texas or California or points between -- a regular occurrence in recent years, the almost inevitable result of draught and sprawl -- but I can't recall any major fires in the various years I lived in New Jersey. But this one can't be blamed on mother and human nature. This one was caused by the Air National Guard, training to wreak havoc in parts of the world we never see. Of course, if the US wasn't trying to rule the world, such "accidents" wouldn't happen. So chalk this up as yet another hidden, unaccounted cost of the Global War on Terror -- Terror of Global War is more like it.

This is also worth remembering next time your politicians get all worked up about the threat of closing a nearby military base. They're real good at counting up all the economic benefits of those bases, but they're all but blind to the costs. Just to pick one memorable example, back in the '60s we had a loaded KC-135 tanker from McConnell AFB drop from the sky into a residential neighborhood, killing a dozen or so people, and incinerating a couple of city blocks. That would have ranked as one of the top ten terrorist acts in US history, but we habitually exempt the Air Force from such accounting. In fact, we exempt them from all sorts of regulations. A large swath of Wichita is uninhabitable -- at least that's my opinion -- due to aircraft noise. The military is by far the largest polluter in America, and has no incentive to change given that they are exempt from environmental laws. And they have plenty to do with the price of gas: anyone inclined to complain about SUVs hasn't thought much about what it takes to fill up the Army's rigs, let alone the Air Force.

It may be impossible to come up with a cost-benefit analysis of the US military, given how intangible the benefits are. But we ought to be able to get a better grasp of the costs.


The Home Front

Short item from the Wichita Eagle today, titled "Comic books go boom at county garage," by Joe Rodriguez:

A "suspicious device" left inside the Sedgwick County parking garage on Thursday turned out to be a foot locker filled with comic books.

The Wichita Police Department bomb squad was called to the parking garage at Elm and Main at about 4:30 p.m., when someone discovered the box stuffed behind a vehicle on the third floor of the garage.

Authorities closed the garage and the streets around it, forcing people who were parked there to wait more than two hours to return to their vehicles.

The box was detonated at about 6:30 p.m. An investigation is ongoing.

"The times we live in, I'd rather be safe than sorry," said sheriff's Capt. Sam Houston. "I know we inconvenienced a lot of people today, but you just never know.

Chalk this up as a hidden cost of the Global War on Terror, which is itself a cost of running America's global empire and military-industrial complex. It's often said that Americans, in the "homeland" at least, are never asked to sacrifice for their nation's wars, but this is one such sacrifice. The question is whether it will be properly accounted for.

I also have to wonder whether blowing up an unidentified, uninspected box is a good way to dispose of it. That may be relatively safe if the box is a conventional bomb, but a box of chemicals could be made more dangerous by explosion. Such predictable behavior would itself open up opportunities for terrorists.

It is easy to see how unthinking rule-based behavior leads to stuff like this. We had an unrecognized person knock on our front door last night, so following our new rules of engagement didn't open the door. It was an awkward, impolite moment, and chances are very slim that engaging him would have resulted in anything worse than a minor waste of time. On the other hand, I worry about becoming prisoners of our own rules. And I worry that obsessing on preventing past disasters will keep us from thinking coherently about the unexpected future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Patent Myths

I read the following in James Surowiecki's May 14, 2007 New Yorker column, titled "Exporting I.P.":

Our recent free-trade agreement with South Korea is a good example. Most of the deal is concerned with lowering tariffs, opening markets to competititon, and the like, but an important chunk has nothing to do with free trade at all. Instead, it requires South Korea to rewrite its rules on intellectual property, or I.P. -- the rules that deal with patents, copyright, and so on. South Korea will now have to adopt the U.S. and E.U. definition of copyright -- extending it to seventy years after the death of the author. South Korea will also have to change its rules on patents, and may have to change its national-health-care policy of reimbursing patients only for certain drugs. All these changes will give current patent and copyright holders stronger protection for longer. Recent free-trade agreements with Peru and Colombia insisted on much the same terms. And CAFTA -- a free-trade agreement with countries in Central America and the Caribbean -- included not just longer copyright and trademark protection but also a dramatic revision in those countries' patent policies.

Given that the most of the world's patents, copyrights, etc., are owned by the American and multinational corporations that dominate US politics, and especially trade policy, these deals are little more than a legalistic method for the rich to collect rents from the poor. This is simply one more obstacle that prevents developing countries from advancing toward a more equitable standard of living with those countries who have a head start staking out their legal turf. This is a big problem, but we have trouble even conceiving of it.

As Richard Stallman likes to point out, "intellectual property" is a mixed bag with little coherency to it. Copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc., are different beasts, united only in that they favor those who rely most heavily on lawyers. Of these, the worst by far are patents. Copyrights at least apply to works that are distinctive due to their complexity and that are inessential: e.g., my writing a novel doesn't prevent you from writing a novel, because there's no way that two independently created novels will match. But with patents, which are allowed on relatively generic ideas, that happens all the time -- distinguishing priority in patents often reduces to a legal contest, which favors the politically connected. (Note the terms that the trade agreements dictate: that other countries recognize the patents that the US Patent Office recognizes.) An even bigger problem with patents is that we grant monopoly rights to their holders. This encourages companies to price covered products to whatever formula maximizes their return -- in the case of a uniquely effective medicine, this may literally mean your money or your life. This also lets companies use their legal position to frustrate competition. One irony here is that the effect of patent extension is the opposite of free trade.

One reason we have patents is that economists propagate myths about their value. Surowiecki does his part by saying: "Intellectual-property rules are clearly necessary to spur innovation: if every invention could be stolen, or every new drug immediately copied, few people would invest in innovation." Actually, by people he means corporations: few corporations would invest in developing proprietary monopolies, which is kind of a tautology. Innovation is actually a broader form of activity, inasmuch as much innovation currently goes unpatented. Patents actually have much more to do with the legal culture of the corporation than with the scientists and engineers who do research and development. Moreover, much discovery and innovation, including virtually the entire development of 20th century science, takes place outside of corporate labs. But even if you buy the argument that the loss of patent monopolies might reduce privately funded innovation, it would be trivial to compensate for that with public funding. And the returns of such funding would be greater, because all ideas would be subject to public scrutiny and improvement, and any could be adopted without the burden of monopoly rents.

The big money in patents these days is in pharmaceuticals, a story that provides ample evidence why patents are bad even within the US. The extraordinary profits attainable via patents steers privately funded research toward patentable products, away from any refinement of proven generic treatments. The research is mostly done in secret, where other researchers cannot critique or contribute. The results, and their marketing, are colored by business interests. One result is that prices increase, as opposed to most other development areas, where innovations aim to lower costs and, in the absence of patents, prices. As these costs are ultimately paid for by everyone, either privately or through government, it should be easy to see that public funding of pharmaceutical research would save money and result in more effective development. Yet even among people who realize the urgent need for health care reform, very few even broach the issue of patents.

Heavy lobbying by interested parties has managed to keep patents and copyrights out of the political debate, except when they try to push those rights even further. In the case of trade agreements, they argue that enforcing their monopolies worldwide will help to reverse America's trade deficits. This not only ignores the fact that hardly any Americans actually benefit from those monopolies. It also ignores the fact that intellectual property owners are increasingly foreign and/or multinational corporations. Just one example is that none of the four music majors is American owned. The pharmaceutical industry is little different.

It wasn't always like this. Developing countries should consider America's own example. Surowiecki writes:

The great irony is that the U.S. economy in its early years was built in large part on a lax attitude toward intellectual property rights and enforcement. As historian Doron Ben-Atar shows in his book Trade Secrets, the Founders believed that a strict attitude toward patents and copyright would limit domestic innovation and make it harder for the U.S. to expand its industrial base. American law did not protect the rights of foreign inventors or writers, and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, in his famous "Report on Manufactures," of 1791, actively advocated the theft of technology and the luring of skilled workers from foreign countries. Among the beneficiaries of this was the American textile industry, which flourished thanks to pirated technology.

There's a lot more to be written about these issues, but the point that struck me most strongly about this piece is that we are stuck in a mental rut here that is leading us to do exactly the wrong things. And I say "we" here because this isn't just a Bush thing -- Clinton was every bit as happy to curry favor from IP profiteers. The same stupid repetition of economic myths favoring monopolies is part of the general pall of dark ages descending upon us. Unless we start to push back that tide, we are doomed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Music: Current count 13150 [13122] rated (+28), 862 [869] unrated (-7). Kept my nose to the grindstone listening to jazz all last week. Did manage to follow plan and switch to replays midweek, opening up some space both in the incoming and replay shelves. The rated count will occasionally hit 30 when I'm doing Recycled Goods, but rarely tops 20 in Jazz CG mode, so I figure I moved a lot of product this week.


Jazz Prospecting (CG #13, Part 9)

Focused on jazz this week, making considerable progress against the plan: started off on new stuff, then midweek switched to the replay shelves, opening up a little breathing room in both. Wrote a couple of things for the CG itself, as well as a healthy set of notes below. This coming week will be more of the same, shading further toward finishing the column, although I have until the first week of June or so to do that.

Got some mail last week wondering whether my comment about not getting excited about good records was an unhealthy psychological state. The fact is that good records are the norm in jazz. After awhile, I hear one and think, oh dear, there's another. I'm not sure whether to call the B records good or not, but everything B+ and up is well conceived and executed and offers considerable pleasure. Unfortunately, I can't use all of them beyond this blog, so I have to sort them out, using other criteria that I can't describe and that sometimes even surprises me. Exciting was a word I tried to use in that capacity. I can't think of a better one, even though it's a merely quantifiable stimulus-response. It may even work best for my purposes when I'm a little numb, as happens when I listen to a lot of self-evidently good stuff.

One reason I mention this is that I want to point out that I really do like my honorable mentions -- in theory, all of the B+(***) and some of the B+(**) records. Most of them got dinged for having one or two merely ordinary cuts, but they have a lot of exemplary music, some genuinely exciting. The B+(*) records are different: most are items that I appreciate, respect, often admire, at least professionally, but don't much like, personally anyhow; others, of course, are just mixed bags, but unlikely to have much that I actually dislike. (Two cuts of that usually gets you a B-, and more worse.) Still, all of these good, very likable records are stuck in a numbers game with things that get rated even higher. At this point in the CG I have 30 records rated A- (some provisionally) vying for the main section, which is already a good deal more than I can fit. For one reason or another, I find them even more remarkable than the very good records I slot as honorable mentions. The key to being able to write a Consumer Guide is the discipline of being able to sort those out -- even if my criteria are purely subjective, which they are, applying them consistently at least gives readers something they can evaluate and adjust to. I'd like to think that the prospecting notes, the database, etc., all of which amount to a pretty exhaustive set of data, make me a more useful resource, even if they don't make me a better critic.


Bobby Hebb: That's All I Wanna Know (2005 [2007], Tuition): Born into a vaudeville family, making his stage debut at age 3 in 1941. Passed through Nashville, working for Owen Bradley and Roy Acuff, becoming one of the few blacks to work the Grand Ole Opry. Wrote "Sunny," one of the big hits of 1966, and had a couple of other minor hits, but only two albums in 1966-70 before this reprisal, which doesn't so much try to put him back on the map as stake out where he's been. His life might make for a TV movie, but he's a lightweight singer and these are old stories: the one that works best is his duet on "Sunny" -- still his calling card. B

The Unseen Guest: Out There (2005, Tuition): German label, owned by Schott. Don't know why I'm getting this. Two singer-songwriters, Declan Murray and Amith Narayan, with additional musicians mostly with Indian names, mostly playing Indian instruments. Management based in Singapore. I shouldn't spend the time, but this isn't bad. The music is mostly guitar and mandolin on top of the Indian percussion, with violin and harmonica for variety on one cut each. Lyrics in English, and I can't complain about them either. B+(**)

Enders Room: Hotel Alba (2006 [2007], Tuition): Of the three releases on this label, this one at least bears some resemblance to jazz, mostly because Johannes Enders' first choice in instruments is saxophone, followed by flute and clarinet. However, he also plays various keyboards and does a little programming, in what is basically an update of Krautrock, Eno, and jazztronica -- not unlike some of the records Tucker Martine has produced. Two pieces with vocals are droll but don't register strongly. I read a quote asserting that Enders is "Germany's answer to Joshua Redman" but I don't hear anything to back that up. At least here, the sax seems secondary to the synths, which at best remind me of Eno's pre-ambient structuralism. B+(**)

Antonio Adolfo/Carol Saboya: Ao Vivo/Live (2005 [2007], Points South): Father/daughter, from Brazil, the former plays piano, the latter sings. Adolfo has a formidable reputation in his own right as a composer and arranger. He opens the set with a delightful piece before Saboya enters on the second song. She's a very agreeable singer, but the initial brightness starts to dim a bit toward the end. The song credits include most of the usual suspects, starting with Jobim, and only including one by Adolfo. Not sure whether this counts as jazz in Brazil or just MPB. I suspect it fits the same niche as cabaret does here. B+(**)

Carl Allen & Rodney Whitaker: Get Ready (2007, Mack Avenue): Basic rhythm guys, keying off two Motown covers from Robinson and Gaye, as old-fashioned today as soul jazz was in the '60s. But they keep the quiet storm loose and limber, giving Cyrus Chestnut and Rodney Jones their best outing in years. Steve Wilson plays warm and fuzzy alto sax. B+(**)

Térez Montcalm: Voodoo (2005 [2006], Marquis): One thing rock and roll did was make life tough for interpretive singers. Before, songwriters spread their wares like spores, and natural selection favored singers with voice, nuance, and payola. After, most singers hawked their own songs, and those that didn't have them seemed somehow deficient, regardless of vocal skills. It got so bad that good singers wound up stuck in jazz. I bring this up because even though Montcalm wrote three songs here and picked a couple that qualify as pre-rock (although not by much), what grabs me here are her striking reworkings of rock-era pop, especially Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Don't know much about her. Hails from Canada. Only address I've seen was Alberta, but she wrote one song in French. Don't know her age, but it says something that she introduces "How Sweet It Is" by talking about how she discovered James Taylor. Plays guitar. Has a voice that beats you into submission, not unlike Annette Peacock. Maybe there's a future for rock-era standards after all. [B+(***)]

Abbey Lincoln: Abbey Sings Abbey (2007, Verve): Few singers I've listened more to and gotten less out of -- such is her reputation, or maybe it's just Gary Giddins' fault. So I wasn't expecting much here, but this starts off with a gallopping pedal steel-enhanced "Blue Monk" before getting down to business recycling the singer's originals. There's a bit of re-recording your hits here, but that's less unbecoming in a jazz singer that it is for, say, Merle Haggard. But it does give you a chance to bump up the average quality level, and while I recognize many, they're not things I've grown accustomed to. [B+(*)] [May 22]

Mark Murphy: Love Is What Stays (2007, Verve): The Penguin Guide described Murphy's previous Till Brönner-produced Once to Every Heart as "a slightly strange one-off," but this one's another. Slow, lush, wrapped in strings, almost talked through. Murphy's been recording for fifty years now, during which I've scarcely paid him any attention. Didn't like him when he was hip, but even then he had some tolerable music. The half where he is backed by the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin is deadening; the other half too, with sensory deprivation replacing the torture. Lee Konitz plays on one track, but I was too bummed out to notice. D

Alan Bergman: Lyrically, Alan Bergman (2007, Verve): Songwriter, lyricist actually -- music credited to Michel Legrand, Lew Spence, Dave Grusin, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mandel, Marvin Hamlisch -- taking a crack at singing his own songs. No recording dates, but presumably it's recent, which puts him in his 80s (born 1925). Voice holds up fine. Songs are stage and film fare, famous enough to put him into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and get him a spot on the board of the Barbra Streisand Foundation. One problem is that Verve sent him to Berlin along with Mark Murphy, but he lucked out better with the Berlin Big Band and Radio Orchestra instead of Murphy's Orchester, plus he got Jeff Hamilton to help him along. (Well, except for "The Way We Were," which probably deserved it anyway.) B-

Sean Bergin's SONG MOB: Fat Fish (2005-06 [2007], DATA): Plays sax, clarinet, etc. Based in Amsterdam; born 1948 in Durban, South Africa. He's named his band MOB before, an acronym for My Own Band. SONG MOB, as he capitalizes it, is his own band with extra vocalists: Mola Sylla, Phil Minton, and Maggie Nicols. The latter two are familiar names in English free improv. Sylla moved to Amsterdam from Senegal, bringing a griot flavor -- most evident in the first song, which he wrote. Bergin's band includes some well known names, hardly just his own band: Wolter Wierbos, Eric Boeren, Ernst Glerum, Han Bennink, Alex Maguire -- didn't recognize him last week, but do now. The music manages to be odd and comfortably playful at the same time -- seems to be a Dutch specialty. I have more trouble with the vocals, not that they lack for interest. B+(*)

Kreepa: Inside-a-Sekt (2006 [2007], Monium): Bad time: playing this but I can't read the cover notes, let alone figure this out. Mostly electronics, or "electro-noise" as the website puts it, with a little trombone. English, I think, but distributed out of the Netherlands. Interesting. Will get back to it. [B+(**)]

Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues: A Love Letter to New Orleans (2006 [2007], Arbors): AMG lists Kellso as born 1936, but his website says 1964. From Detroit. Plays trumpet. Joined James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band in 1988, appearing on a couple of my favorite trad jazz albums of the '90s (Original Jelly Roll Blues and Hot Club Stomp: Small Group Swing, 1993-94). Went on to work with Ralph Sutton, Ruby Braff, Marty Grosz, Randy Sandke. This is the third album under his own name, or fourth if you count a featured slot with Johnny Varro. Although New Orleans is on Kellso's mind, this is closer to the small group swing of Dapogny's albums than it is to New Orleans-style trad jazz. He does Jelly Roll Morton, but also Duke Ellington, and he does a rousing retread on Monk's "Bye-Ya" as well as a vibrant "Panama." The band helps out a lot, especially Evan Christopher on clarinet and Matt Munisteri on guitar and banjo -- in many ways Munisteri is the album's real star, but his one vocal isn't one of them. B+(***)

Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 [2007], Arbors): Davern died in Dec. 2006, almost a year and a half after these sessions. He recorded a number of Soprano Summit albums with Bob Wilber, originally dedicated to Sidney Bechet, but he generally preferred clarinet over soprano sax. Ken Peplowski joins Davern on clarinet on most of these pieces, occasionally switching off to tenor sax. The double-your-pleasure theme also involves pairing Howard Alden and James Chirillo on guitar and banjo. Spotty but marvelous when it all works. Ends with a nice reworking of the Kid Ory classic as "Muskrat Samba." B+(***)

Susan Pereira and Sabor Brasil: Tudo Azul (2006 [2007], Riony): Brazilian singer, working in New York at least since 1991, although I'm not aware of any previous records. She wrote five of ten songs, sings them with authority but not all that distinctively. What makes the album work is the band. The horns stand out, even Laura Dreyer's flutes, even more so her alto and soprano sax and Claudio Roditi's spots on trumpet. [B+(***)]

Avishai Cohen: As Is . . . Live at the Blue Note (2006 [2007], Razdaz/Half Note): Israeli bassist, based in New York, continues a steady run of first-rate work. Plays electric as well as the big fiddle, and puts the former to good use on the opening "Smash," matching up against Sam Barsh's electric keyboards. Quintet, Diego Urcola on trumpet, Jimmy Greene on various saxophones. Closes with a long, inventive take on "Caravan." No oud, nothing exotic. Not sure how much stock to put in it. Comes with a DVD I haven't seen yet, and may never. [B+(***)]

Mark Soskin: One Hopeful Day (2006 [2007], Kind of Blue): Pianist. Not a lot under his own name, but since 1976 has worked for Billy Cobham, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Mann, Bobby Watson, Pete and Sheila Escovedo, others. Credits Cedar Walton as an influence, which sounds about right. Wrote 4 of 9 pieces here, but not the best stuff -- "On the Street Where You Live" is a sweeping, swirling opener. One of those records I lost interest in midway and punted, then kept hearing too many good things to simply dismiss. The band is superb -- from back to front: Bill Stewart, John Patitucci, Chris Potter. Anyone who thinks Potter's the great saxophonist of his generation will find more ammunition here. John Abercrombie joins for two pieces, which are merely typical. Pianist is fine, and takes the last one solo. B+(*)

Bobby Hutcherson: For Sentimental Reasons (2006 [2007], Kind of Blue): I think this is Hutcherson's first album since Skyline in 1999, although he's been prominent on the SF Jazz albums. This one is very straightforward: a vibes-piano quartet, all standards, some jazz but mostly pop. Vibes and piano work well together: the tones are similar, the dynamics varied enough to provide some interesting contrast. The pianist is Renee Rosnes, and she makes the stronger impression. But the sentiment is riding on Hutcherson for a comeback. B+(**)

Donny McCaslin: In Pursuit (2007, Sunnyside): Technically one of the most impressive tenor saxophonists of his generation, a dependably exciting sideman, an ambitious composer, generous to his friends, baffling to me. After reading that Samo Salamon is touring with him, I was surprised to see Ben Monder here, but Monder excels at the sort of backing he plugs in here. Dave Binney produced, and adds stealth alto sax to fatten up the harmony, at least when McCaslin isn't burning down the house. I just wonder why he doesn't do more of it. And why he plays flute. Then I read the "thanks" and encounter more common sources of confusion: Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, God. Mysterious ways, indeed. [B+(**)]


And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.

Jim McNeely/Kelly Sill/Joel Spencer: Boneyard (2007, Origin): Mainstream piano trio. McNeely is an impressive, engaging pianist, ably supported by Sill and Spencer. Still can't find much to say about it. B+(**)

Hal Galper/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop: Furious Rubato (2006 [2007], Origin): Another good mainstream piano trio, a bit more aggressive than McNeely, a bit less lyrical. B+(**)

Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra: Maria Juanez (2004 [2007], TCB): An alto saxophonist, Leali came up through Count Basie's ghost orchestra, and does them one better in this crisp, vibrant, and above all loud outing. Not as Latin as the title cut suggests, nor as consistently clever as a marvelous "Pink Panther" promises, but able to push the old blues formula into ever higher energy orbits. Atomic, indeed. B+(***)

Scott Colley: Architect of the Silent Moment (2005 [2007], CAM Jazz): Colley's bass lines bounce around in and out of time, giving this a rather inconsistent and unsettling foundation, making it hard to follow even if it sometimes seems worth the effort. The core band is a quartet with Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Craig Taborn on keyboards, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Alessi makes a big impression, as he often does. Four guests also pitch in: Dave Binney, Jason Moran, Gregoire Maret, and Adam Rogers. The only one I particularly noticed was Binney, on soprano. B+(*)

Uri Caine Ensemble: Plays Mozart (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter): Or plays with Mozart, like cat with rat. Much of the fun here comes from the induced chaos of DJ Olive's turntables, Nguyęn Lę's electric guitar, the tension of Ralph Alessi's trumpet against Chris Speed's clarinet, the mischief of Jim Black's drums. Still, improbably, the bit that won me over was an oasis of solo piano in the middle, which much as I hate to admit it, could have been faithful to the original. B+(***)

Jason Lindner: Ab Aeterno (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound World Jazz): A piano trio with many twists and turns -- the pianist also plays melodica and mbira, bassist Omer Avital switches to oud, and drummer Luisito Quintero employs all manner of exotic percussion. Still, the piano itself seems fixed in the postbop jazz tradition, a fixed point the constellations whirl around. Closes with a gospel called "New Church" -- a stately, sober finish. B+(***)

David Smith Quintet: Circumstance (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Seamus Blake plays tenor and soprano sax, comes from Vancouver, has seven albums under his own name (two on Fresh Sound, five on Criss Cross), and has shown up as a sideman on a half-dozen releases per year since 1992. He fits into mainstream records but has a knack for elbowing his way to the outside, as he does here. Smith is a Canadian trumpet player, and they make a fine pair, with Nate Radley's guitar along with bass and drums. Exemplary postbop, bright, lively, full of fire and finesse. Sounds just like it's spozed to. B+(***)

Logan Richardson: Cerebral Flow (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent): The debut album from a Kansas City alto saxophonist starts accapella, then takes flight over free rhythms strongly accepted by Mike Pinto's vibes. Next up is a wry-toned ballad with Mike Moreno's guitar filling in. Step by step, Richardson works around the edges, showing everything you can do with an alto sax except sit on it. A-

Samo Salamon NYC Quintet: Government Cheese (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, from Slovenia, where I believe he's still based, although he hangs out enough in New York to have developed some powerful connections. Clearly, he favors fast crowds. His previous FSNT album, Two Hours, featured Tony Malaby, Mark Helias, and Tom Rainey. This one goes with Dave Binney, Josh Roseman, Helias, and Gerald Cleaver. He's got a tour set up now with Donny McCaslin, John Hebert, and Cleaver. Also has two albums I haven't heard on Splasc(h) with mostly Italian groups, but Binney appears on one and Tyshawn Sorey on the other. What I have heard is high-powered, exciting stuff. Only caveat is that his preference for crowds hasn't given him a lot of space to stretch out, so it isn't clear yet how distinctive he is. But he sure likes to play. B+(**)

Taylor Haskins: Metaview (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Postbop quintet, with Adam Rogers on guitar instead of the usual piano player. Haskins plays trumpet; Andrew Rathbun is the saxophonist. Haskins composed it all. His resume includes a lot of commercial work, which ties into his knack for melodies, and a lot of big band work, which shows up in his arrangements. Starts off with a bit of keyboard for the self-evident "Biorhythm." Closes real strong with an upbeat choice cut called "Itty Bitty Ditty." B+(**)

Mitchell Forman: Perspectives (2005-06 [2006], Marsis Jazz): Pianist, does a lot of work with electronic keybs and synth drums, had early credits with Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, but most of his meal ticket has come from fusion and pop jazz. Song selection includes two originals and a likely range of personal favorites. I like the cheesy electric take on Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" that kicks this off, but two Beatles songs remind me of how they've been abused as instrumentals. B+(*)

The Four Bags: Live at Barbčs (2006, NCM East): Quartet, natch. Interesting instrumentation, with trombone, accordion, electric guitar, and reeds (soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), and a Schoenberg cover to add to the oddness. Still, nothing to really push the album along, so it drags and eventually wears you down. B

Anat Cohen: Poetica (2006 [2007], Anzic): This is a showcase for Cohen's clarinet work, taking a mix of Israeli and Brazilian songs and pieces by Jacques Brel and John Coltrane. Half are just quartet, with Jason Lindner on piano, Omer Avital on bass, Daniel Freedman on drums. The other half add a string quartet, which is a bit like sprinkling sugar on something that's already too sweet. It's not without appeal, and at best it gives you a rush. B+(*)

Anat Cohen & the Anzic Orchestra: Noir (2006 [2007], Anzic): The strings don't take as much of a toll here as on Poetica, mostly because they're outgunned in numbers and in volume. Cohen plays tenor, alto and soprano sax, as well as clarinet, and she gets help on the saxes from Ted Nash, Billy Drewes, and Scott Robinson. Plus there's a phalanx of brass, led by brother Avishai -- not to be confused with the bassist (a tip I much appreciated, and figured I should pass along). Then there are the Brazilians, with Guilherme Monteiro on guitar and more in the rhythm section. Cohen works that connection several times, including a medley of "Samba de Orfeu" and "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." The latter is so strong, so crisp, so bright I wish they had taken a shot at a whole post-Katrina album. But Cohen and arranger Oded Lev-Ari had other game in mind. B+(***)


Unpacking:

  • André Ceccarelli: Golden Land (CAM Jazz)
  • John Ettinger: August Rain (Ettinger Music)
  • John Ettinger: Kissinger in Space (Ettinger Music)
  • Fanfare Ciocarlia: Queens and Kings (Asphalt Tango)
  • Todd Herbert: The Path to Infinity (Metropolitan)
  • Jefferson Airplane: Sweeping Up the Spotlight: Live at the Fillmore East 1969 (RCA/Legacy)
  • Alison Faith Levy & Mushroom: Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers (4Zero)
  • Lucky 7s: Farragut (Lakefront Digital)
  • Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (Black Tri): Aug. 1
  • Charles Mingus Sextet With Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964 (1964, Blue Note, 2CD): advance, July 17
  • Listen My Friends: The Best of Moby Grape (1967-69, Columbia/Legacy)
  • Porter-Di Castri-Sferra Trio: Italian Encounter (Altrisuoni): Sept. 1
  • Boots Randolph: A Whole New Ballgame (Zoho): June 12
  • The Remains (1966, Epic/Legacy)
  • Daniel Bernard Roumain: Etudes 4 Violin & Electronix (Thirsty Ear): advance, June 26
  • Paul Scea: Contemporary Residents (BluJazz)
  • Judi Silvano: Women's Work: Live at Sweet Rhythm NYC (JSL)
  • Golda Solomon: First Set (JazzJaunts)
  • Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (JazzJaunts)
  • Tied + Tickled Trio: Aelita (Morr Music): advance, June 19
  • TLC: Now & Forever: The Video Hits (LaFace/Legacy): DVD
  • Waverly Seven: Yo! Bobby (Anzic, 2CD)
  • World Circuit Presents . . . (World Circuit, 2CD)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Losing Our Way in Afghanistan

The New York Times has an article on Afghanistan today, by Carlotta Gall and David E. Sanger, titled "Civilian Deaths Undermine Allies' War on Taliban." It starts off:

Scores of civilian deaths over the past months from heavy American and allied reliance on airstrikes to battle Taliban insurgents are threatening popular support for the Afghan government and creating severe strains within the NATO alliance.

Afghan, American and other foreign officials say they worry about the political toll the civilian deaths are exacting on President Hamid Karzai, who last week issued another harsh condemnation of the American and NATO tactics, and even of the entire international effort here.

What angers Afghans are not just the bombings, but also the raids of homes, the shootings of civilians in the streets and at checkpoints, and the failure to address those issues over the five years of war. Afghan patience is wearing dangerously thin, official warn.

It's worth noting that Karzai has complained about this so many times in the past, and that the only thing he's achieved in doing so is to demonstrate how little control over the situation he has. Karzai thereby appears as a tool of NATO and the Americans, rather than the other way around.

But American officials say that they have been forced to use air power more intensively as they have spread their reach throughout Afghanistan, raiding Taliban strongholds that have gone untouched for six years. One senior NATO official said that "without air, we'd need hundreds of thousands of troops" in the country.

Nothing's actually forcing the US to advance this war except the ideology that insists on complete domination over everyone within Afghanistan -- a purely military cast on a fundamentally political problem, one that has repeatedly failed since the late '70s.

While NATO is now in overall command of the military operations in the country, many of the most serious episodes of civilians deaths have involved United States counterterrorism and Special Operations forces that operate separately from the NATO command.

Again, here we have an imposed goal -- basically, 9/11 revenge -- which is allowed to run roughshod over the dire need to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan. Like the preference for air power over ground troops, and the frequent humiliation of Karzai, what this demonstrates most clearly is how Americans elevate their own base desires over the needs, interests, and basic human rights of others. Whatever moral high ground we thought we held following 9/11 has been dissipated by the US government's acts ever since. We've killed more than Bin Laden. We've destroyed much more. We've show ourselves to be every bit as self-centered, self-righteous, indiscriminate, and contemptuous of others. I'm not arguing that we should overlook crimes committed by Al Qaeda or the Taliban. We should scrupulously document all such crimes. But we need to figure out a way to decouple revenge from those crimes, because we have proven incapable of focusing revenge on the guilty. Indeed, in our self-righteousness, we've lost the ability to determine right from wrong.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Afghanistan, Too

The notes that I laid out in yesterday's post proposing a framework for ending or containing the Iraq war should also be applicable to Afghanistan. In many ways the Afghanistan war is harder to understand than Iraq. The war in Afghanistan is less intense primarily because Iraq is much more urbanized. The ethnic and sectarian demographics in Afghanistan are more complex, but the fracturing is less clear and certainly not as well publicized. The longterm impoverishment and brutalization in Afghanistan is if anything deeper than in Iraq, but this effect may be masked, first by the fact that Afghanistan was much poorer to start, and that war has been going on there even longer. But we also tend to make two intuitive judgments that cloud our picture: we assume the Karzai government is more benign because it has broad international support from NATO and the UN, unlike Iraq; we also assume that the Taliban is utterly, intrinsically evil, both on its own track record and by its association with Al Qaeda. The Taliban is not undeserving of its reputation, but we forget that its original support was for its role as a reform movement against the chaos and corruption of the warlords -- a situation which we largely restored in returning those same warlords to power. The bottom line is that the Taliban are a real political force within Afghanistan, and the only way to secure peace there is to bring them, or at least their supporters, into the political process. And to secure that political process with enough economic development to benefit everyone. One thing that would be constructive in that regard would be for the Afghan government to legalize the poppy business -- otherwise, we penalize Afghan farmers for securing their land. That this is unthinkable in Washington is further evidence of how far we are from solving anything. But then solving things was never the point of Bush's Long War.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Losing Ugly

I just finished reading Ali Allawi's The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (2007, Yale University Press). I'll go back and dredge up the quotes I marked later, but for now I want to say something about the conclusions he does and doesn't reach. The significance of the book is that it is the first of its kind, telling the story of the US occupation of Iraq from within the purview of the Iraqi anti-Saddamist political class. Allawi was one of the exiles who moved into positions of power under several of the occupation regimes. He does a relatively good job of keeping enough critical distance from the various factions to give each a fair account. He only occasionally mentions himself, always in the third person, but at one point he talks about advising UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to push for a provisional government of apolitical technocrats -- more or less the way he sees himself.

In the end he sees much fault both in the way the US set up and ran the occupation and in the way Iraqi politicians and bureaucrats mishandled their own responsibilities. Where the book comes up short, I think, is that he actually spends very little time on the American policies and initiatives, especially the behind-the-scenes stuff as you get past Bremer and the CPA. Evidently, he wasn't close enough to all that to get into details. As such, his book sheds little light on what is still one of the major mysteries of the conflict: why, given nominal but public sovereignty, has Iraq's political class failed to point the US military toward the exits? As Allawi recognizes in his conclusion, nobody in Iraq actually likes, let alone trusts, the US presence in the country. Yet it persists, eating away at the country until nothing is left.

I've speculated for a long time that the way the war would end would be for Iraq's democratically elected parliament to demand US exit. I saw an article this morning that a Sadrist deputy announced that they had majority backing for an exit timetable. So it still seems possible, but one can only imagine the pressure Khalilzad et al. will bring to bear. It will make an interesting book some day. If there's a single lesson to be drawn from Allawi's book, it is that damage accumulates over time. As he points out, the exiles' memories of Iraq were far removed from the Iraq they returned to after two decades of war, sanctions, and Saddam Hussein's brutal suppression of his real and imagined enemies. The net effect is that it becomes progressively more difficult to break out of past patterns.


The following is a thought-experiment: a rather simplified plan for defusing the disastrous situation in Iraq. The odds of this working are less than in the past, except that it is possible that both Americans and Iraqis are becoming disabused of their previous conceits and ambitions, weary of the continued bloodletting, and anxious to put together some modest accommodation. Still, the fact that it's so easy to sketch this out should rebuke the ideologues who continue to perpetuate this war.

  1. The US has to renounce any intentions or special interests in Iraqi affairs, to halt any efforts to covertly influence Iraqi politics, and to dismantle its military and exceptional presence in Iraq. The US may instead work to support appropriate international organizations such as the UN, NATO, IMF, etc., in support of broad consensus goals -- like humanitarian relief, human rights, economic development -- but the US should not be seen as leading or directing any such efforts. This is a big conceptual problem for the US, and is the main obstacle to making any progress in Iraq.

  2. There should be an international summit regarding Iraq, which will include representatives of all neighboring states and interested powers, and all political factions in Iraq, both inside and outside the current political system. The invitations should be sufficiently inclusive as to include states like Israel and factions like Al-Qaeda in Iraq, although the conference is not dependent on their agreement. The purpose of the conference is to establish agreement on a new political structure for Iraq, outlined below.

  3. A broad international agreement will establish Iraqi neutrality. No external nation may attack or infiltrate Iraq, or provide arms or resources to any faction within Iraq. The US and allied forces will immediately withdraw to its bases, establish rules of engagement that limit those forces to returning fire, and remove those forces and armaments from Iraq. The US will have up to six months to do so.

  4. The Iraqi government as constituted under US occupation will be dissolved by its own agreement. If it is unwilling to do so, the US will withdraw hastily, the international community will agree to isolate Iraq, and the government will be left to stand or fall on its own, with no outside assistance or interference.

  5. The new Iraqi political structure will be to divide the country into its current 18 administrative regions -- or more, depending on how best to handle Baghdad. Each will have a government based on new elections, which will establish that region's legal system. Each will have its own self-defense militia. Most assets of the current central government will be transferred to the regions.

  6. The central Iraqi governemtn will be radically reduced. Natural state monopolies like the oil industry, the national airlines, and the central bank, will be incorporated with ownership distributed to the regions by population. All mineral resources will be owned by the oil corporation, and shared equally by the regions, regardless of where the resources are located. The residual minimal state will also be jointly "owned" by the regions, the regions will be free to assign a greater degree of federalism once their own political systems are established.

  7. Each region will have a right to request military assistance to defend itself against aggression from other regions and/or foreign forces. The international community will provide forces, primarily air forces, stationed nearby to respond, without prejudice, to such requests. The rules for engagement will be clearly established. One requirement is that a region can only request action in its own territory. The US will not command these forces.

  8. The international community will establish a large development fund for reconstruction of Iraq. These funds will come with certain strings attached. In particular, they may be withheld for violations of international standards regarding human rights, corruption, etc. These purse strings will be the only means the international community will have to influence the political behavior of Iraq and its regions. They will be applied transparently, and will not be under US control. Such strictures should be kept deliberately modest.

The key to all of this is the need to contain the violence. Most regions have a single dominant demographic group, so if they can be contained, they will quickly stabilize -- admittedly, mostly under Islamist control. Stability in multi-sect regions like Baghdad may involve further division. Regional independence solves most of the problems associated with one sect attempting to dominate the others. Decentralizing government reduces the potential common spoils that the sects/regions have to fight over. Corporatizing separate areas of business simplifies management to more technical issues, which should be easier to agree on. Treating oil as a shared national resource gives everyone an equal stake in maximizing the returns. Many of these proposals may not be ideal in the long run, but they reflect the present fragmentation of the country.

There are things that I'd like to see that I didn't list. I'd like to see a strong federal courts system that defends individuals' rights against the regions. I'd like to see a right to move anywhere in the country. I'd like to see some central power able to deal with environmental issues. I'd like to see the death penalty abolished, and a very lenient system of inquiries into past injustices, aimed mostly at education. Some of these things may eventually come to pass, but they are far less important now than establishing basic stability.

Obviously, the problem with all this is that none of the parties are up to it. All major political groups in Iraq have been shocked into defensive sectarianism, habboring deep desires for vengeance that put them constantly at each other's throats. Iraqi skill sets have deteriorated severely, while corruption and incompetence have seemed adaptive. The US is in many ways even worse: so accustomed to interfering in other nations, so resentful of nations that have displeased us -- Iran and Syria are especially relevant here, as is a sizable slice of Iraq. My suggestion that you invite Al Qaeda will certainly be rejected out of hand. Indeed, they may very well refuse to participate, but the principle is that everyone who is willing to live in peace within a legal process should be allowed to do so. Ergo, it should be Al Qaeda's choice to stand inside or outside the system -- not something that we decide because we view them as unforgivable. Same thing could be said about the Ba'athists and many other Iraqi factions. One thing I've gotten from Allawi's book is a deeper understanding of how profoundly destructive the Iraqi Ba'ath regime was. Another is how little improvement their righteous victims have had to offer.

Actually, I doubt that Al Qaeda would buy into this scheme, but their failure would only marginalize them. The bigger problem is that Bush won't buy in either, and he, not unlike Al Qaeda, wears marginalization as a badge of honor. Conflicts depend on agreement for stable resolution, and agreement, like gravity, is biased in one direction. It is far easier to agree that two sides deserve respect and equal rights than it is to get one to acquiesce to the domination of the other. Yet this does not occur to conservatives like Bush, because their entire worldview presumes that they are superior, and therefore entitled to direct everyone else. The problem here is that conservatives don't change their minds -- they just redouble their efforts until they fail catastrophically. After all, once people realize that their power can be challenged, their gig is up.

So I don't expect Bush to adopt anything like what I outlined above. He's still stuck in the mental rut of thinking that there is such a thing as victory, even though everything he has tried to do has failed. In particular, it's clear that the resistance will persist until the US leaves. It should also be clear that the Sunnis will never be able to put the Shiites and Kurds back into the Saddamist bottle. That stalemate would be all the more certain if foreign forces restrain themselves from enterng the fray. And once stalemated, the only way out for all Iraqis will be to negotiate a fresh compact of mutual respect. Those are the parameters of the conflict. The longer it takes to recognize that, the more gracelessly the US will lose.


Ultimately, this thought-experiment depends on the assumption that there is a compromise that almost everyone can see as fair and equitable -- in other words, as just. That compromise is based on equal rights for individuals. The political elites in the US and much of both the developed and undeveloped worlds have yet to embrace that logic -- indeed, their elevated rank depends on such denial. And that in turn has left them blind to simple solutions.

Indeed, Bush still talks improbably about victory, as if there could be any such thing. The fact is that all war entails loss, and often offers nothing but. The remaining question for Iraq is how gracelessly we lose.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Master of Disaster

The Master of Disaster came to Kansas yesterday -- first to gawk at the tornado destruction in Greensburg, then to pose for pictures wielding a chainsaw and hugging smiling Republicans. He was probably telling them, this was just an Act of God -- you should have seen what I did to Fallujah. Then he left, secure in the knowledge that FEMA will find some way to route the government's disaster money to Halliburton. There are, after all, oil wells in the vicinity.

Even as nowhere as Greensburg is, Bush's photo-op was just one of many ways it's connected to Iraq. As the Governor pointed out, the Kansas National Guard and most of their equipment are out in Iraq now, hard-pressed to respond to events back home. It also turns out that Greensburg was quickly set upon by looters. The first four arrested were US soldiers from Ft. Riley, who evidently picked up some bad habits in Iraq. I wonder whether, had they resisted and been shot, they'd get their mugs pasted on those "Fallen Heroes" TV roll calls.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Recycled Goods #43: May 2007

Recycled Goods #43, May 2007, has been posted at Static Multimedia. It's been kind of a mop-up month with a lot of small label items, especially world, jazz, and whatever's in between. The big surprise in this context was that a cluster of folk music albums popped up -- most surprisingly the Anne Briggs record. I'm mostly at the mercy of the publicists as to what I cover, but this month five albums came from the library, including a good Rough Guide and some stuff I wouldn't have bothered asking for.

Wasn't hard getting this month's column done for once. Indeed, I have enough left over for a good start on June. Also have a lot of future work on the shelf, including Legacy's series on Sly & the Family Stone and Leonard Cohen, Allen Lowe's massive history of early jazz, That Devilin' Tune (a book and 36 discs), and a pile of Cuban classics that I picked out of the recommendations in the back pages of Ned Sublette's Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. The latter has recently been reissued in paperback. I recommend it highly.


Here's the publicists letter:

Recycled Goods #43, May 2007, is up at Static Multimedia:

  link

48 records. Index by label:

  Adventure Music: Mario Adnet
  Blue Navigator: Peter Stampfel
  Blue Toucan: Nanny Assis
  CD Baby: Sofia Koutsovitis
  Challenge: KCP 5
  Concord: Ray Charles/Count Basie, Explorations
  Cuneiform: The Microscopic Septet (2)
  Curb: Tim McGraw
  Dreyfus: Michel Petrucciani
  ESP-Disk: Frank Wright, New Ghost, Yma Sumac, Tammen Harth Rosen Dahlgren
  Fresh Sound: Nacho Arimany
  High Note: Funky Organ
  Inak: Billy Cobham
  Inner Knot: Juan Carlos Quintero
  !K7: Matthew Herbert
  Light in the Attic: Karen Dalton
  Mel Bay: John Pisano
  Narnack: Lee Scratch Perry
  Numero Group: Good God
  Oh Boy: Todd Snider
  Playa Sound: Edition Pierre Verger (2)
  Smalls: Omer Avital
  Sony/BMG (Legacy): DJ Quik, Gloria Estefan, Mobb Deep, Charlie Rich
  Sunnyside/Circular Moves: Juliete Greco, Henri Salvador
  Talking Taco Music: Ben Bowen King
  Telarc: Oscar Peterson
  Times Square: Lura, Mariza
  Tumi: Papa Noel
  Water: Anne Briggs
  WEA (Nonesuch): Bebel Gilberto, Gipsy Kings
  WEA (Rhino): Peter Paul & Mary
  WEA (Reprise): Chris Isaak
  World Music Network: Merengue, Merengue & Bachata
  World Village: Tinariwen

This is the 43rd monthly column. Thus far I've covered a total of 1831
albums in Recycled Goods.

Thanks again for your support.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Music: Current count 13122 [13102] rated (+20), 869 [860] unrated (+9). Listened to a lot of new jazz. Didn't rate enough of it to make much of a dent. Got more left than I'm looking forward to.

  • Fred Hersch at Maybeck (Maybeck Recital Hall Series Volume Thirty-One) (1993 [1994], Concord): A very serious young jazz pianist with strong song-sense and exceptional skill, working solo through everything from "Body and Soul" to Monk and Ornette, with two originals for good measure. I've tended to downrate Hersch lately, perhaps because he's so subtle, or just so consistent. But he's a player who doesn't depend much on the swing that a trio provides. He's more of an artiste, with the genuflections that word entails. So maybe this is where I should cut him some slack. B+


Jazz Prospecting (CG #13, Part 8)

Spent the entire week listening to new jazz, but keeping up is beginning to feel like a hopeless proposition. The done list -- rated, still in play for better or worse -- is at 116, enough for two or three consumer guides. The unrated queue is at 177, not counting today's mail. Don't know how I can get through all that. The real problem isn't the rejects, which at least are quick; it's the good records I can't get excited about. Seems like there's more and more of them lately, which may mean that I'm running out of gas. Will keep slogging through this cycle and evaluate later. I've asked for a publication date -- late June seems possible. So the plan here is to shift prospecting from first-plays to replays this coming week, then focus on writing the column the following week.


Bill Sheffield: Journal on a Shelf (2006, American Roots): Not a jazz record, but Bill Milkowski reviewed it in Jazz Times, so I figure that opens an opportunity for a second plug. Sheffield fancies himself as a bluesman, but he comes off more as an alt-country folkie with a strong preference for blues forms. I singled out a song called "I Don't Hate Nobody" for my singles list last year. It even convinced me to waste less time on the despicable scum in the White House, although I still haven't fully internalized it. I like his blues guitar too. A-

Havana Carbo: Through a Window . . . Like a Dream (2006 [2007], MODL Music): Born in Havana, don't know when; raised in US, don't know when; refers to NY high school years but also a marriage to "a Cuban Economics major she met while a student at pre-Castro's Villanova University in Havana." Started singing in 1984, recording an album, Street Cries, on Soul Note in 1987. So I figure she's probably in her 60s. Her voice weathered, she goes with slow pieces that don't sound like much at first, but grow on you, like the subtle attraction of gravity. B+(*)

Ed Reed: Sings Love Stories (2006 [2007], Blue Shorts): Jazz singer. Grew up in Watts. Claims to have been in high school talent shows with Esther Phillips and Bobby Nunn, which pretty well dates him. Also claims to have sung in San Quentin with Art Pepper in the band, and on his rare occasions out of jail to have done "open mikes" with Wardell Gray, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon. This appears to be his first album, and he's looking pretty good, and not just because everyone I've listed thus far is long gone dead. He gets props on the cover from Tootie Heath and Sheila Jordan. They're not far off base, but whereas Jordan can take the approach of singers like Jon Hendricks and Jimmy Scott and add something ineffable, Reed just has the basic moves. His songbook isn't very interesting, and he merely does it justice. I might be more impressed if I had a higher opinion of his peers. B

Darby Dizard: Down for You (2004 [2007], One Soul): Annoying website, cruel and unusual punishment even by the norms of Flash websites. Not much in the way of facts, but aperçus like this: "I remember scat singing to myself around age 15. I have no idea why." Well, neither do I. Seven screens later, she concludes: "Every sound that you hear is there because it has been carefully considered by not one or two, but four engineers sitting in a room going over every song with a fine tooth comb. The website designers and CD designers in France have outdone themselves. I can never thank the team at One Soul enough for all that they have done to make this CD the success that I hope it will be." Which reminds me that the album is pretty annoying too -- as much for the little tchochtkes the quartet of engineers dropped in as for the obviousness of the '50s songbook and the singer's penchant for overdramatization. On the other hand, her voice has some traction, and she handles "In Walked Bud" well enough. B- [July 1]

Elin: Lazy Afternoon (2004-05 [2006], Blue Toucan): Full name: Kathleen Clelia Elin Melgarejo. Raised in Sweden, parents were Peruvian and Irish. After high school in Nörkopping, moved to Miami to study music. Somehow wound up cast as a Brazilian singer, with an appropriate rhythm section launching "Fascinating Rhythm." However, a check of the credits reveals an impressive list of jazz players: Harry Allen, Anat Cohen, Claudio Roditi, Alan Ferber, Tom Varner, Hendrik Meurkens, Erik Friedlander. Still, not much comes from all this promise on paper. They can play Brazilian, but don't stick with it, so the record winds up sounding eclectic, and most of the guest stars are wasted -- Anat Cohen is the one who makes the most of her time. Both band and singer do a notable job with "Lush Life." B

Hiromi's Sonicboom: Time Control (2006 [2007], Telarc): Seven of nine songs have "time" in the title. One more mentions "clock" and "jet lag"; the other is "Deep Into the Night." Brings Brubeck to mind, but those thoughts are quickly dispelled. In the past, Hiromi Uehara has stradled the line between pop jazz and real jazz -- she likes electric keyboards and grooves but still does some interesting things with them. That hasn't set well with most of the reviewers I've read, but I've enjoyed the last two albums, listing one as a Honorable Mention, just letting the other slip past. But this record is an irredeemable mess. She's added guitarist Dave Fiuczynski to her trio, and he travels too much ground too fast, alternately getting too fancy or too slick, or on the change-of-pace slow pieces plain lost. Only toward the end does the pianist come out a bit. Too little, too late. B-

Turtle Island String Quartet: A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane (2006 [2007], Telarc): There are those who regard the Coltrane Quartet's A Love Supreme as the crowning achievement of the jazz canon, and they have a case. But this group manages to drain every ounce of interest from the score, even Jimmy Garrison's bass, and not just because the Turtle Islanders wield nothing heavier than a cello. With the last two movements reduced to 2:44 and 2:47, the acknowledgment here is their lack of ideas. The album itself is flushed out to 64:17 by the inclusion of other pieces, some by Coltrane ("Naima," "Moment's Notice"), some associated with him ("My Favorite Things" is the one sure shot here), and some written in his honor. But no "Giant Steps," let alone "Ascension." Maybe that ROVA record wasn't so bad. C+

Scott Tinkler: Backwards (2007, Extreme): Hails from Australia, plays trumpet, professionally since 1983, with half a dozen records, of which I've heard none. The obligatory list of folks he's played with ranges from Branford Marsalis to Han Bennink. This album is no doubt atypical, if for no other reason than he plays solo. I can't think of more than 3 or 4 trumpets players who've done that. It's clearly a tough job physically, and the results are necessarily sparse. Still, he holds my attention as well as anyone. B+(*) [June 8]

Holly Hofmann/Mike Wofford: Live at Athenaeum Jazz, Volume 2 (2006 [2007], Capri): Flute/piano duos. Wofford is a fine pianist and an adept accompanist, but Hofmann rarely overcomes the limits of her instrument. Compared to this their previous album, Minor Miracle, was aptly named. B-

Bob James: Angels of Shanghai (2004-05 [2007], Koch): I've heard very little of James' smooth jazz, and missed his famously avant ESP-Disk debut completely. The Angels here are a group playing traditional Chinese instruments. They set the mood, but don't dominate, especially when James plugs his synth in. His piano work is more interesting. One vocal piece, of no particular relevance, but radio marketing demands one. Almost works. B

Robert Irving III: New Momentum (2004-06 [2007], Sonic Portals): AMG lists Irving's styles as: R&B, Crossover Jazz, Fusion, Funk. That might be true of Irving's first album from 1990, but these are conventional piano trios, with a Bill Evans song, a pair from the Miles Davis songbook, and a bunch of originals that go no further afield. Irving spent most of the '80s with Davis -- not a prime period, but it must have been an interesting gig -- and some time in the '90s with David Murray. More recently he's worked with Kahil El'Zabar, who contributes liner notes here, and Wallace Roney. So chalk this up as serious. I just don't find a pianist trying to split the distance between Hancock and Tyner all that interesting. But I do like the artwork. B

Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment (2006 [2007], Telarc): Another piano trio, also leaning on the Miles Davis songbook -- two pieces by Davis, one each by Coltrane and Shorter. Repeats "Nefertiti" from Robert Irving's record, answering any doubts I had about possible underrating. I haven't cared for Camilo's recent records, but there's no doubting his skills, and this Dominican-Cuban-Puerto Rican trio makes or a stimulating mix -- Charles Flores on bass, and especially Dafnis Prieto on drums. [B+(**)]

Paquito D'Rivera: Funk Tango (2006 [2007], Paquito): To some extent I try to string these records together, at least when I see something that follows reasonably close, but when I picked this out I wasn't expecting to deal with another "Giant Steps." This is actually an odd mix of things. "Funk Tango" is a song title, but so is "Final Waltz" and "Contradanza" and "Como un Bolero," any of which would work just as well -- for that matter, so would "What About That!" Diego Urcola, playing trumpet and valve trombone, is very much as prominent as D'Rivera on alto sax and clarinet. Various pianists, including Ed Simon, with Hector del Curto on bandoneon for those tango moments. I don't put much stock in their grasp of funk, but their pan-Latin mishmash sounds fine. Can't say much for "Giant Steps" -- in this context, a dull closer. B+(*) [May 22]

Dino Saluzzi/Anja Lechner: Ojos Negros (2006 [2007], ECM): Bandoneon-cello duets. Saluzzi is an Argentine who's done some notable work in the past, but seems to be slowing down lately. Lechner is a German cellist with classical credits, an ECM album of Chants, Hymns and Dances by Gurdjieff and Tsabropoulos, an appearances on previous ECM jazz albums by Saluzzi and Misha Alperin. This one is especially slow and resonant. It started growing on me about half way through, and deserves another listen. [B+(**)]

John Abercrombie: The Third Quartet (2006 [2007], ECM): Guitar, violin (Mark Feldman), bass (Marc Johnson), drums (Joey Baron). Kind of hard to follow what the guitarist is doing here, especially with the violin so much in play. Feldman strikes me as the most conventionally classical-oriented of the better known jazz violinists, so I tend to tune him out. But parts of this album do engage my attention. Johnson and Baron are superb, as usual. [B+(*)]

Roni Ben-Hur: Keepin' It Open (2005 [2007], Motéma Music): Guitarist, born in Israel, moved to New York in 1985, has five records since 1995. He's done impressive work, but this one is pretty tame, especially when trumpeter Jeremy Pelt takes the lead. Ronnie Mathews does a nice job on piano, while Santi Debriano and Lewis Nash do whatever's needed. The last two cuts move nicely on Latin rhythms, which give Ben-Hur something to work with. B+(*)

Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 [2007], Leaf Note): Alto saxophonist, born in Japan, based in New York since 1989. First album. Composed all but one of the pieces, and rounded up a superb quintet: Roy Campbell on trumpet and flugelhorn, Andrew Bemkey on piano and bass clarinet, Ken Filiano on bass, Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. Mostly free, but she has a disciplined sound, even when she gets rough. She plays xaphoon, some kind of bamboo sax, on one cut, slow with a Japanese folk feel that Thompson gets into. One song has a dramatic torrent of words attributed to Golda Solomon. Both experiments work, as does her main course. [B+(***)]

Jerry Granelli/V16: The Sonic Temple: Monday and Tuesday (2006 [2007], Songlines, 2CD): The band is a quartet, so I guess the band name allocates four cylinders per member, not that that makes much sense. Switching metaphors, the liner notes describes the band as "like a chemical reaction." As anyone who's fiddled with chemistry sets can tell you, that doesn't do them justice. Two guitarists: David Tronzo is credited with electric slide guitar, Christian Kögel with plain old electric guitar. Brother J. Anthony plays electric bass, while the leader drums and attacks steel sculpture. Two discs, one each for two nights, each live with no edits, each with the same eight songs in same order but the versions differ significantly. First night is more experimental, with the drummer figuring more. Second night tends to slide back into blues mode. B+(***)

The Fred Hersch Trio: Night and the Music (2006 [2007], Palmetto): Bread and butter: one Porter, two Berlins, two Monks, some originals to fill the gaps, including one from bassist Drew Gress. He's done this sort of thing so long and so consistently that I've lost my ability to tell the difference from one record to another. Or perhaps it's just my will? B

The Bad Plus: Prog (2006 [2007], Heads Up): Label is sometimes given as Do the Math Records; their logo's on the back above Heads Up, but only the latter is on the spine. The group, of course, is Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass, Dave King on drums. Each is notable on his own. Together sheer muscule of the bass and drums forces the piano to aim for sharp edges. All three are able to ramp their volume and speed up and down so fast that they become improvisational vectors in their own right. The result is an acoustic piano trio that projects hard rock power, a point they underscore by covering rock anthems instead of tin pan alley standards. They do three or four this time, depending on what you make of Bacharach & David's "This Guy's in Love With You." The others are "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (Tears for Fears), "Life on Mars" (David Bowie), and "Tom Sawyer" (Rush). Only the Bowie is instantly recognizable to me, although I've no doubt heard many of the dozens of Bacharach-David covers, starting with Herb Alpert's 1968 hit. In between, all three craft originals -- Anderson's "Giant" impressed me the most this time around. [B+(***)]

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage (2006 [2007], Heads Up): Sometime in the late '90s when I was well into my obsessive research into the whole history of jazz I was flipping through a book -- don't recall which one, and don't see anything handy that jobs my memory -- where I was shocked to see Brecker described as the most influential saxophonist of his generation, or something to that effect. At the time I barely knew the name: I had listened to some Brecker Brothers and didn't much care for them; I knew about his legendary studio work, but wasn't much of a Carly Simon fan either; I may have heard one or two of the relatively few albums he released under his own name, but wasn't much impressed by them either. I've listened a bit further since them, but the five records in my lists are graded from B down to C+. That isn't an exhaustive sample, but he only has around 15 albums, so it's a fair sample. At best he struck me as a strong technician, a guy who could push a saxophone through its paces with something approximating mastery. He also struck me as real cold, as someone with nothing but technique -- which I found particularly unsettling given how anthropomorphic the tone of a saxophone could be. Moreover, his attempts to build larger musical structures never impressed me. But now he's dead, following a horrifying illness -- myelodysplastic syndrome killed my father as well -- which held up the release of what's now his last album. It's easily the best Brecker record I've heard. His technique -- what Branford Marsalis memorably described as "that Mikey shit" -- is front and center, his tone a bit frail perhaps, a rare and welcome humanization. The band qualifies as all-star -- Pat Metheny, John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette, the piano divided between Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau -- but they're all there for him. Need to give it some more time. I don't expect this to confirm the hyperbole, but it may help make some sense out of it. [B+(**)]

Joshua Redman: Back East (2006 [2007], Nonesuch): Looks like he's recovered. The illness began when Redman was cast as Lester Young in Robert Altman's Kanas City. From that point he overhauled his sound, thinning his tone and loosening up his dynamics in emulation of Young. That may not have been such a bad idea -- after his first two auspicious albums, Redman had gotten into repeating himself, and he did get at least one good album -- 2000's Beyond -- out of the concept, before he discovered the organ and looked like he might follow Javon Jackson's trajectory, albeit at a much higher level. This one is dedicated to his late father Dewey Redman, who joins in on Coltrane's "India" and closes the album on his own. Before East takes over with two originals ("Mantra #5" and "Indonesia") and "India," Redman has some fun with the West, including a marvelous take on "I'm an Old Cowhand." Mostly tightly focused sax trios, with a 7-to-3 ratio of tenor to soprano, and nothing to apologize for on the weaker instrument. I was too busy writing to catch the first two cases where he slips a second sax in -- Joe Lovano's tenor on "Indian Song" and Chris Cheek's soprano on "Mantra #5" -- so I'll need to study this some more. [A-]

Robin Eubanks + EB3: Live Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], RKM): Trombonist, probably best known for his work in the Dave Holland Quintet, but he has 8 albums on his own. This is a trio with keyboardist Orrin Evans and drummer Kenwood Dennard. All three are also credited with keyboard bass, and Eubanks downloads some loops, so the undertow is definitely electric. Can't add much more: played this three times while almost constantly distracted, and need to move on. So rating is an impression, and I'll try to figure out why later. One minor annoyance is that I don't see any date/location information, which seems all the more neglectful in a live album. [B+(**)]

James Blood Ulmer: Bad Blod in the City: The Piety Street Sessions (2006 [2007], Hyena): The city, natch, is New Orleans, home of Piety Street Studios, the latest stop on Ulmer's and Vernon Reid's tour of America's blues studios. Originals like "Katrina" and "Survivors of the Hurricane" lead off, and near the end there's "Backwater Blues" from the wake of the 1927 flood. In between this wanders and wobbles a bit, with a rap-prefiguring Willie Dixon tune called "Dead Presidents" thrown in "for comic relief" -- quote from hype sheet; the booklet itself has virtually nothing to say. Ulmer's jazz background may be the key to keeping his blues records loosey-goosey, but it's getting hard to tell them apart. Charles Burnham's electric fiddle is a plus here. B+(***)

Joăo Paulo: Memórias de Quem (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Solo piano. First time I tried to look him up I wound up with the Portuguese wikipedia page for Pope John Paul. AMG credits him with eight albums since 1998. Don't know any more than that. Picked this out at a bad time, but I don't have the time to spend on stuff I consider marginal. The piano itself doesn't sound all that great, but I like his rhythmic ideas and find his riffing interesting. If I gave it more time, it might rise a notch or so. Or not. B

George Gee and the Jump, Jivin' Wailers Swing Orchestra: If Dreams Come True (2007, GJazz): One cut recorded in 1999; the rest Jan. 3-4, 2007. Gee bills himself as "the only Chinese-American Swing big band leader." Pictures on his website show him doing just that: standing out front, an emcee cheering the band. Walt Szymanski is listed as musical director, credited with most of the arrangements; also plays trumpet and sings, but John Dokes and Carla Cook also appear as vocalists. Gee's a big Basie fan, but also pulls material from Goodman, Henderson, and others. Good band, including Michael Hashim, a longtime favorite. Good music. Gee has half-a-dozen albums in his catalog. They all look to be much the same, even the one titled Buddha Boogie. B+(*)

Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Recorded over three days in Portugal, with four pieces by Lane and three by Vandermark. Nilssen-Love has played frequently with Vandermark, including some notable duets and in School Days, a two-horn quartet similar to this lineup. Broo plays trumpet in Atomic, which merged with School Days for a 2004 album, Nuclear Assembly Hall, so those three are connected. I think the connection with Lane is new. It's hard to tell offhand what difference Lane makes, but he's been putting together a very impressive body of work. On the other hand, Vandermark is impossible to miss. He mostly plays baritone sax here, with lesser amounts of clarinet and bass clarinet, and he's become a very powerful baritone player. Need to give this more time, especially given that it's not the sort of thing you want to listen to during a tornado warning. [B+(***)]

The Rocco John Group: Don't Wait Too Long (2006 [2007], COCA Productions): COCA stands for Coalition of Creative Artists. Looks like a front group: their "contributors" include three-fourths of this quartet, no other musicians, but a few painters, dancers, poets, etc. Rocco is Rocco John Iacovone. He plays alto sax, and wrote the songs. The group started as a trio in 1997, adding trumpeter Michael Irwin for this album to make a freewheeling pianoless quartet. AMG has no record of Iacovone before this album, but the website lists five albums, a couple cut off the beaten path in Alaska. Iacovone reportedly "cut his teeth" playing in Sam Rivers loft-era orchestra; also studied with Lee Konitz. Album could move up a notch, but it's so much down my alley I feel the need to go cautious. [B+(***)] [June 2]

Wishful Thinking (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): I tend to associate trumpet-sax-piano-bass-drums lineups with hard bop, but that doesn't work here: this is closer to free than postbop. I look for leaders lurking behind group names, but four of five musicians here -- the drummer excepted -- write about evenly, and none is bucking for a masters degree in harmonic theory. Sometimes I pick one by reputation, but I don't recognize any of these guys: Johannes Krieger (trumpet), Alípio C[arvalho] Neto (tenor sax), Alex Maguire (piano), Ricardo Freitas (electric bass), Rui Gonçalves (drums). Let's see: Neto and Maguire are producers; Luis Delgado mastered the disc; Neto and Delgado mixed it; and Neto wrote the liner note, so I guess he wins on points. Neto comes from Brazil, Maguire from the UK, Krieger from Germany, the others from Portugal. Lively, complex, interesting, too varied to really get a good grip on. [PS: Further research shows that Neto and Gonçalves were in IMI Kollektief; Maguire has played with Michael Moore, Elton Dean, Sean Bergin, and Pip Pyle -- I've only heard one of those albums, Moore's White Widow, an A-; nothing more on the others. It takes a while for names to sink in with me. Also there are bits of conventional postbop harmonizing, although the label's assertion of "good hard bop with a funky electric bass and a wild piano going from the stride tradition to God knows where" is pretty misleading.] B+(*)

Jan Shapiro: Back to Basics (2006 [2007], CDBaby): So, I go to her website, and it starts a Flash sequence of photos sliding into view, starting with a scared-looking child and ending with a curly brunette morphing into a dyed blonde who's clearly been through a lot. Then I click enter and get a lecture on how I not only have to upgrade to Flash Player 8, I have to disable the pop-up window blocker in my browser. So fuck that. What else do we know? Born 1959. Educated in St. Louis and at SIU in nearby Edwardsville. Teaches voice at Berklee. Looks like this is her third album. Straightforward arrangements of standards, with a piano-guitar-bass-drums band that does its job. Good singer, even on the slow ones once she gets your attention. If I were doing choice cuts, "Sister Sadie" would be one. B+(*)

Judith Owen: Happy This Way (2006 [2007], Couragette): English singer-songwriter, seventh album, according to AMG, where she's classified as Jazz (Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Jazz). They also quote Jamie Cullum describing her as "a female Randy Newman -- not sure whether that's sexist or just plain wrong. If Newman wrote a song called "We're Only Human" it would make you wonder more than this one does. No doubt she's a skilled singer, but the music is constructed mostly out of string swatches, sounding like wallpaper. Not impressed with her songwriting either, but there's little here to make me give it any thought. In a jazz singer that may not be a fatal flaw, but it doesn't make for much of a Randy Newman. C+ [May 22]


And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.

Robert Glasper: In My Element (2006 [2007], Blue Note): I haven't become a fan yet, but there are things here that I like, especially the free stretch in "Silly Rabbit," but also when he keeps the flow basic. If I gave this enough time, I might even go higher, but I doubt that it would be cost-effective. Some day he might take one of his ideas to the point where it becomes worthwhile to sort him out. Meanwhile, it would be churlish to pick on him just because he has a major label contract when so many others are consigned to obscure labels. For one thing the guys with the major label contracts are more likely cut out. B+(*)

Francisco Mela: Melao (2005 [2006], AVYA): First album by a Boston-based Cuban drummer is almost an embarrassment of riches. He taps Joe Lovano, George Garzone, and Anat Cohen for various tenor sax duties, with Cohen also playing clarinet; Lionel Loueke and Nir Felder for guitar; Leo Genovese for piano and electric keyboards; Peter Slavov for bass. The drumming is fascinating in its own right, but takes different tangents depending on where the stars go. The reed players excel, especially Garzone. It's easy to see why this got many votes for best debut of last year. My own choices were more narrowly focused. B+(***)


Unpacking:

  • Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder: At Night (Songlines)
  • Donald Byrd: Cat Walk (1961, Blue Note)
  • Todd Dameron/John Coltrane: Mating Call (1956, Prestige)
  • Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (Arbors)
  • Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book (1963, Prestige)
  • Alan Ferber Nonet: The Compass (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Fujin Raijin (Victo)
  • Dexter Gordon: Clubhouse (1965, Blue Note)
  • Roy Haynes/Phineas Newborn/Paul Chambers: We Three (1958, Prestige/New Jazz)
  • Helena: Bang! Dillinger Girl and "Baby Face" Nelson (Sunnyside)
  • Andrew Hill: Compulsion (1965, Blue Note)
  • Bobby Hutcerson: For Sentimental Reasons (Kind of Blue)
  • Jewface (Reboot Stereophonic)
  • Thad Jones: Detroit-New York Junction (1956, Blue Note)
  • Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (Arbors)
  • Roland Kirk/Jack McDuff: Kirk's Work (1961, Prestige)
  • Joe Lovano & Hank Jones: Kids: Duets Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (Blue Note)
  • Harry Manx/Kevin Breit: In Good We Trust (Stony Plain)
  • Donny McCaslin: In Pursuit (Sunnyside)
  • Jackie McLean: New and Old Gospel (1967, Blue Note)
  • Thelonious Monk Trio (1952-54, Prestige)
  • Maria Muldaur: Naughty Bawdy & Blue (Stony Plain)
  • Andre Previn: Alone (Emarcy): solo piano, advance, June 26
  • Arturo Sandoval: Rumba Palace (Telarc)
  • Matt Shulman: So It Goes (Jaggo): advance
  • Mark Soskin: One Hopeful Day (Kind of Blue)
  • Suphala: Blueprint (Suphala)
  • Senti Toy: How Many Stories Do You Read on My Face (Circular Moves)
  • Art Taylor: A.T.'s Delight (1960, Blue Note)

Purchases:

  • Golden Afrique Vol. 1 (1971-88, Network, 2CD)
  • Golden Afrique Vol. 3 (1939-88, Network, 2CD)
  • Roots of Rumba Rock: Congo Classics 1953-1955 (Crammed Discs, 2CD)
  • 7L & Esoteric: A New Dope (Babygrande)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Greensburg

Seems like a few dozen tornados hit western Kansas each year. In most cases, it's the best place for them. Aside from a few grossly polluted meat factory towns, there's damn little to hit out there. The southwest corner is once and future desert, temporarily irrigated as a tax shelter for profits from a sizable natural gas field. But the water comes from the soon-to-be-depleted Ogalala aquifer -- not that the gas is going to last much longer. The northwest corner has neither gas nor water -- just enough shortgrass to graze cattle on. But Friday night a tornado, and a big one at that, managed to hit something: a town called Greensburg, or should I say former town? Aside from the grain elevator, there's not much left standing. (See pictures.)

Greensburg is 120 miles straight west of Wichita. I've driven through town at least a hundred times, mostly on my way to visit relatives in Kinsley and Dodge City. (My father was born on a farm near Spearville, about midway between Kinsley and Dodge City. His grandfather, I believe it was, homesteaded there in the 1870s.) Greensburg is the seat of Kiowa County, which otherwise is empty farmland. The latest census reported 1574 people lived there, but my recollection is that during the '50s more than 3000 lived there. Other little factoids I remember include that Kiowa was one of the four Kansas counties still dry in the '60s, and that it was one of the 3-5 most heavily Republican counties. Those things may have changed as well: one newspaper report noted that the "pub" was one of the few building still standing, and the Democratic Party minority leader in the state senate comes from Greensburg. One other thing that changed was that the signs pointing to the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well have gotten smaller and fewer over the years, although you couldn't miss them. Presumably the well itself went unscathed, but the museum and gift shop are splinters now.

The tornado was rated EF-5, which is to say it was off the Fujita scale that was recently Enhanced to measure more powerful tornados. This one left a footprint 1.5 miles wide and 22 miles long, with wind speeds in excess of 200 mph. I've lived here over 30 years, through many tornado reports, but none that huge. FEMA's on the case now, but the odds that Greensburg will be rebuilt aren't good. It's not so much that anyone fears it might happen again, although clearly such storms are likely to happen elsewhere. It's just that the area was already dying. Rural America limps along living off its depreciation, while new investment goes elsewhere. And the long term trends, already evident in the last 25 years, are against it: the farms consolidate and depopulate; the small towns create few new jobs, offer little in the way of attractive services, and age; the aquifer is running dry; and global warming models promise hotter and dryer weather -- western Kansas will become eastern New Mexico without the elevation to lower the temperature. Twenty-some years ago there was a big flap over a couple of New Jersey academics arguing that the best thing to do with western Kansas in the long run would be to turn it into a Buffalo Commons. That's still in the cards.

A couple of years ago I drove around north of Dodge City and Spearville and searched out the houses of two of my father's uncles -- places I hadn't been since the early '60s. Both houses still stood, but hadn't been inhabited for decades. Uncle Otto's was pretty decrepit even when he lived there, and had turned into little more than a pile of rubbish. Uncle Jim's was a nice place when we would visit there, but while it was more intact, it too had worn down to bare wood and broken windows. That's what usually happens -- call it entropy. I also drove through Kinsley, which was about half the town it used to be: not that it shrunk physically, but it sort of caved in on itself, like what old age does to you. Greensburg was like that too, but entropy isn't always gradual. This time the long, slow, imperceptible decay got compressed into a few horrifying minutes. The only good news is that now at least some people will notice. The irony is that what made Greensburg seem so pathetic all these years was how hard they tried, mostly in vain, to get anyone's attention. And now it's too late.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Bush's Iraq war triumph. Until then I had never paid much attention to Roman history, so didn't understand what a triumph originally was: an elaborately parade stage to glorify victorious conquering generals, to share that glory with an adoring populace, boosting popular support for the empire. Needless to say, the rationale behind such a triumph is domestic politics, but the fact that what we see here in America is broadcast all across the globe should raise some caution flags. Bush's gloating turned out not to play so well, at first abroad, and eventually here as well. Most inappropriate of all was the "Mission Accomplished" banner, implying closure but revealing the utter cluelessness the occupying authorities would demonstrate in the months to come.

This one event illustrates the constant theme of the last four years. The Bush administration has fought two parallel wars in two parallel universes. The important one was for the hearts and minds of American voters, which was necessary in order to hang on to the levers of power, enabling them to pursue the rest of their agenda. The other was the struggle between illusion and reality in Iraq, which ultimately mattered only insofar as it threatened to derail their primary interest. Every subsequent initiative has operated on these same two fronts, with the same priorities. The "surge" is first and foremost an effort to kill the Baker-Hamilton plan and put Bush back on the offense, to reassert that he's in charge. The effect on the ground in Iraq is secondary, as Bush willingly trades surging losses for time denying defeat.

Actually, the two fronts predate the war. In fact, they were easier to manage before the war started, because reality in Iraq had no way to make its presence felt in American public opinion. Indeed, the only Iraq that mattered to the war mongers was the strawman used to sell the war. We were treated to visions of a diabolical Iraqi dictator who spent every waking moment plotting attacks on America. And we were treated with visions of a helpless people waiting and praying to be liberated -- a myth witnessed by Iraqi exiles but needed to downplay the potential downside of a Western superpower occupying a Muslim land. People have wondered why the US didn't plan for the hazards of occupation, but to do so would have been to admit that there were hazards, and that would have made the sale all the harder. So "Phase IV" of the war was hand-waived so completely that it didn't even figure into the "Mission Accomplished" four years ago.

One thing we tend to forget is that Bush's triumph was made with some trepidation four years ago. The situation on the ground was already dicey, and deteriorating. The triumph took place for domestic political reasons only: those who bought the whole pitch expected just such a victory, and they browbeat Bush into affirming it. What else could he do? Tell them it was just a pack of lies, and that the prospects were only going to get worse? He still can't 'fess up to that. And so he locked himself in an endless stream of denials and delusions, and he's carried much of the country along with him. The reason is that he's been as shrewdly focused on domestic war politics as he's been ignorant and careless of the situation in Iraq. If the war has proven anything, it's that political acumen in the US has been severely retarded. But then what other kind of people would have elected a party built on an alliance of the rich, the stupid, and the downright mean?

George W Bush is at the intersection of those three traits. And he has a knack for articulating those traits in terms that signify divine guidance and purpose. And he has the good sense to keep most of his dirty work out of plain sight. Those are what brought him to the Republican nomination and the presidency. If his goal was to make the rich richer, the stupid stupider, and the mean meaner, you have to admit that he has made remarkable progress -- so much so that it wouldn't be outrageous to claim mission accomplished. Were it only over!

People still wonder why Bush chose to start this war. He certainly hasn't been plausibly forthcoming on the matter. Other people in his administration may have had other reasons, but I think it's clear that his choice was based on his desire to lead the nation in wartime, which he saw as a powerful source of short-term political capital and, in the long run, historical stature. He learned part of that lesson from the experience of his father's administration. The one refinement he made was to recognize that war glory wains fast once you settle back into peacetime -- a fate he could avoid by keeping the war going. The events of 9/11 gave him a pretext for war, which he pounced on immediately, announcing not a short war of retribution but an endless crusade. When Afghanistan looked like it might end too soon, he moved on to Iraq -- in the process rekindling the fight in Afghanistan. Had Iraq worked out better, he had a long list of future projects: Syria, Iran, Haiti, Lebanon, Somalia, North Korea, Russia, China. With Iraq going sour, all he had to do was stretch it out, which was easily accomplished by provoking sectarian civil war. That didn't make Americans happy, but it did manage to float him past the 2004 election.

Obviously, he can't just come out and say that he started these wars stretching out forever just to enhance his electability -- that's a degree of cynicism even his admirers would have trouble stomaching. Besides, he doesn't have to: he can point to 9/11 as having thrust these wars onto America. What this ignores is an exceptional degree of recklessness the administration displayed from taking office to 9/11. Instead of attempting to recover from Clinton's failure in handling the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he gave Sharon a green light to destroy it. He hastened to renew Clinton's periodic bombardment of Iraq. He reneged on Clinton's progress with North Korea. He rattled sabers at China and Russia. He threatened the whole world by weaponizing space and by refusing to do anything about global warming. He undermined the UN, the world courts, every vestige of international law. He spent nine months spoiling for a fight, which Al Qaeda finally took him up on.

Right after the 2000 election The Onion ran a piece on how Bush intended to put an end to peace and prosperity. It says something about this country that the only ones in public who saw it coming were regarded as satirists. You'd have to go all the way back to the Nazis to find a gang so intent on destruction and so disciplined at achieving it. And who the hell would believe that that's what Bush was up to?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Missing Links

Well, this has been a hopeless, stupid, depressing project. Good thing I set an arbitrary deadline to cut it off, otherwise I could spend many more days getting further bummed out.

One thing I wonder about is the sample size and shape of the jazz records I hear. At this point it almost completely depends on what publicists send me, which is more arbitrary than I would like. I've done some surveys in the past that the number of new jazz records coming out each year is approximately 2000 [see note below], so the 500 or so that I get amounts to about 25%. That's pretty good if you're a realist or pretty bad if you're a perfectionist. It's certainly means that I find more than 25% of the records I would wind up liking because there is some selectivity in the equation: some people think before they send me crap, and I almost never ask for things I know aren't going to be interesting.

[Note: At least that's my guess. I tried to count them all back in 2004, and got 1473 new records, 865 old (including new releases of old radio tapes, as well as reissues and compilations). So the 2000 figure included some fudge for what I couldn't find. In fact, I guessed the maximum number was 3000, but by there you're really wearing the market thin.]

Anyhow, I got it in my head that I'm missing a lot of stuff. Actually, that's pretty clear just by looking at what gets reviewed in Jazz Times, Downbeat, Cadence, The Wire, etc. So I thought I'd start with those magazines, issues January 2007 to present, and jot down everything I never got. That didn't work out perfectly because I couldn't find several of the issues, and I got bored and annoyed going through Cadence. Then I went through the newsletters from Downtown Music Gallery and Verge Music and added a few things. I also took a look at AMG's 2007 jazz releases (768 to date), and checked out a couple of label websites.

By the time I quit I had listed 361 more/less new records, 46 reissues, and 6 various artist compilations. I probably had several hundred more that I could have listed but I skipped over them for various reasons -- never heard of artist and/or label, wasn't sure it was new, wasn't sure it was jazz, etc. I'll publish the rest in the extra text, but for now let me just list the highlights:

  • Harry Allen/Randy Sandke: Turnstile (Nagel-Heyer)
  • Ari Ambrose: Whatever Happens (Steeplechase)
  • Billy Bang Quintet: Above and Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids (Justin Time)
  • Johannes Bauer/Thomas Lehn/Jon Rose: Futch (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Big Satan: Live in Cognito (Screwgun)
  • David Binney: Cities and Desire (Criss Cross)
  • David Binney: Oceanos (Criss Cross)
  • David Binney: Out of Airplanes (Mythology)
  • Raoul Bjorkenheim/UMO Jazz Orchestra/Juhani Aaltonen/Iro Haarla: The Sky Is Ruby (TUM)
  • Seamus Blake: Way Out Willie (Criss Cross)
  • Ruby Braff: And His Musical Friends (Jump)
  • Anthony Braxton: 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg) 2005 Phonomanie VIII (Leo)
  • Anthony Braxton Sextet: (Victoriaville) 2005 (Victo)
  • Anthony Braxton 12+1 Tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (Firehouse12)
  • Willem Breuker Kollektief: At Ruta Maya Café (Bvhaast)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Michael Zerang: Live in Beirut (Al Maslakh)
  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Never Been Kissed: The Groidest Shiznits 1999-2006 (Trugroid)
  • Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: The Middle Picture (Firehouse12)
  • Bill Carrothers: I Love Paris (Pirouet)
  • Bill Carrothers: Keep Your Sunny Side Up (Pirouet)
  • Daniel Carter/Andrew Barker/Sabir Mateen: Not on Earth . . . in Your Soul! (Obico)
  • Nels Cline/Andrea Parkins/Tom Rainey: Downpour: Live 2006 (Victo)
  • Marc Copland: Some Love Songs (Pirouet)
  • Lol Coxhill: More Together Than Alone (Emanem)
  • Harold Danko: Times Remembered (Steeplechase)
  • Kenny Davern Trio: No One Else But Kenny (Sackville)
  • Elton Dean & the Wrong Object: The Unbelievable Truth: Live In Paris October 2005 (Moonjune)
  • Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (Stomp Off)
  • Dave Douglas: Live at the Jazz Standard (Greenleaf Music)
  • Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Philip Gibbs/Hamid Drake: Peace and Joy (Slam)
  • Eliane Elias: Around the City (RCA/Bluebird)
  • Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (Concord)
  • Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio featuring Billy Bang: Big M: A Tribute to Malachi Favors (Delmark)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Live at the Ascension Loft (Delmark)
  • John Ettinger: Kissinger in Space (Ettinger Music)
  • Eye Contact: War Rug (KMBjazz)
  • Irving Fields Trio: My Yiddishe Mama's Favorites (Tzadik)
  • Flat Earth Society: Psychoscout (Bonk/Crammed Discs)
  • The Chico Freeman Project: Out of Many Comes the One (Arabesque Jazz)
  • William Gagliardi: Younger Dryas (CIMP)
  • George Garzone: One Two Three Four (Stunt)
  • Giorgio Gaslini: L'Integrale Vols 5 & 6: 1968-70 Antologia Cronologica (Soul Note)
  • Frank Gratkowski/Misha Mengelberg: Vis-ŕ-Vis (Leo)
  • Steve Grossman Quintet: I'm Confessin' (Dreyfus)
  • David Hazeltine: Blues Quarters, Vol. 2 (Criss Cross)
  • Jimmy Heath Big Band: Turn Up the Heath (Planet Arts)
  • Heavy Metal Duo [Bob Stewart/Ray Anderson]: Work Songs and Other Spirituals ()
  • François Houle: Aerials (Drip)
  • Human Feel: Galore (Skirl)
  • Iskra 1903: Chapter Two (Emanem)
  • The Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble: Drum Dance to the Motherland(Eremite)
  • Jon Jang: Paper Son, Paper Songs (Asian Improv)
  • Hank Jones/Christian McBride/Jimmy Cobb: West of 5th (Chesky)
  • Marty Krystall: Plays Herbie Nichols (K2B2)
  • Steve Lacy: At the New Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 2002 (Hatology)
  • Andy LaVerne: Time to Dream (Steeplechase)
  • Andy Laverne Trio: Intelligent Design (Steeplechase)
  • Sylvain Luc: Joko (Dreyfus)
  • Jan Lundgren: In New York (Marshmallow)
  • The Mahavishnu Project: Return to the Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform)
  • Michael Marcus: Soulifications (Soul Note)
  • Charlie Mariano/Ali Haurand/Daniel Humair: Frontier Traffic (Konnex)
  • Joe McPhee/Paul Hession: A Parallax View (Slam)
  • Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau: Quartet (Nonesuch)
  • Frank Morgan: Night in the Life: Live at the Jazz Station (Highnote)
  • Simon Nabatov/Tom Rainey: Steady Now (Leo)
  • Mark O'Leary/Cuong Vu/Tom Rainey: Waiting (Leo)
  • Original Silence: First Original Silence (Smalltown)
  • Tony Oxley/Derek Bailey: The Advocate (Tzadik)
  • Nicholas Payton/Bob Belden/Sam Yahel/John Hart/Billy Drummond: Mysterious Shorter (Chesky)
  • John Patitucci: Line By Line (Concord)
  • Rich Perry/Harold Danko: Rhapsody (Steeplechase)
  • Michel Petrucciani: Piano Solo: The Complete Concert in Germany (Dreyfus)
  • Adam Pieronczyk: Busem Po Sao Paulo (Meta)
  • Odean Pope Quartet: To The Roach (CIMP)
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet: Rip Tear Crunch (482)
  • Joe Rosenberg Quartet: Monsoon (Black Saint)
  • Bernt Rosengren: Late Date: A Tribute to Lars Gullin (Mirrors)
  • Jarmo Savolainen: Songs for Trio (KSJAZZ)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. I (Intakt)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. II (Intakt)
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Winterreise (Psi)
  • Irene Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau and Taktlos (Intakt)
  • Wadada Leo Smith/Gunter 'Baby' Sommer: Wisdom in Time (Intakt)
  • Sonore: Only the Devil Has No Dreams (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Terell Stafford: Taking Chances: Live at the Dakota (MaxJazz)
  • Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Tuesday Wonderland (Emarcy)
  • Steve Swell/David Taylor: Double Diploid (CIMP)
  • Gregory Tardy: Steps of Faith (Steeplechase)
  • Joe Temperley: A Portrait (Hep)
  • Tin Pan Aliens (Stunt)
  • Erik Truffaz: Arkhangelsk (Blue Note)
  • Assif Tsahar/Cooper-Moore/Chad Taylor: Digital Primitives (Hopscotch)
  • Bebo Valdés: Bebo (Mojito)
  • Bebo Valdés/Federico Britos: We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together (Mojito)
  • Kenny Werner: Democracy: Live at the Blue Note (Half Note)
  • Phil Woods: American Songbook (Kind of Blue)
  • John Zorn: Six Litanies for Heliogabalus (Tzadik)

A few of these records have actually been promised to me, and more will no doubt show up, especially if I chase them down. Some the only option is to buy or borrow, which isn't likely to happen soon. Better would be some sort of trustworthy referral system, affordable discs, and some way to limit risk on mistakes. It's easy enough to imagine how something like that might work, but we seem to be a long, long ways from the will to make it happen.

The rest of the data follows. Don't expect this exercise to happen again any time soon. (It would, however, be much easier if someone picked up the ball dropped by the demise of Jazzmatazz.)

Extra Text

The list was compiled from the following sources:

  • AMG: select new jazz releases
  • Cadence [1,5]
  • Downtown Music Gallery: select items from newsletter
  • Downbeat [1,3,4]: minus blues, beyond
  • Jazz Times [2,3,5]
  • Verge: select items from newsletter
  • Wire [1,2,3]: jazz/improv, select others

The following are new records (or newly released archival tapes, as best I can tell), that I rate as lower priorities than the ones I pulled out above.

  • Noel Akchote: So Lucky (Winter & Winter)
  • Brian Allen: Synapse (Braintone)
  • Oren Ambarchi/Keith Rowe, Squire (For4Ears)
  • Julian Arguelles Trio: Partita (Basho)
  • Patti Austin: Avant-Gershwin (Rendezvous)
  • Dave Ballou: Insistence (Steeplechase)
  • Dave Ballou/Greg Gisbert/Tim Hagans/George Colligan: Jam Session, Vol. 22 (Steeplechase)
  • Count Basie: Basie Is Back (Concord)
  • Walter Beasley: Ready for Love (Heads Up)
  • Richie Beirach Trio: Manhattan Reverie (Venus)
  • Ken Berman: In Mind (IxChel)
  • Bethany & Rufus: 900 Miles (Hyena)
  • Faruq Z Bey with Northwoods Improvisers: Infa'a (Obico)
  • Pat Bianchi: East Coast Roots (Jazzed)
  • Michael Bisio/Tomas Ulrich Duo: Pulling Strings (CIMP)
  • Kim Bock Quartet: Secrets (Steeplechase)
  • John Wolf Brennan/Alex Cline/Daniele Patumi/Tscho Theissing/John Voirol: Shooting Stars & Traffic Lights (Leo)
  • Terrence Brewer: The Calling: Volumes One and Two (Strong Brew)
  • Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: Spirit Music (ArtistShare)
  • Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: Celebration: New Works (Challenge)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller: Full Blast (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Paul Brown & Friends: White Sand (Peak)
  • The Brubeck Brothers Quartet: Intuition (Koch)
  • Craig Buhler: Capistrano Sessions (Discernment)
  • Jackie Cain/Roy Kral: Echoes (Jazzed Media)
  • Royce Campbell: Elegy to a Friend (Moon Cycle)
  • John Carter/Bobby Bradford Quartet: Seeking (Hat Hut)
  • Kent Carter: Intersections (2004-5) (Emanem)
  • Eugene Chadbourne/Dave Fox: The Foxbourne Chronicles (Assembled Sound)
  • Stanley Clarke: Standards (Kind of Blue)
  • Alex Clements: Emily's Song (Alex Clements)
  • Billy Cobham: Drum 'n' Voice Vol. 2 (Nicolosi)
  • Conspiracy of Equals (Leo)
  • Patrick Cornelius: Lucid Dream (Patrick Cornelius)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier: Lonelyville (Intakt)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier: Signs and Epigrams (Tzadik)
  • Joe Craven: Django Latino (Compass)
  • Randy Crawford/Joe Sample: Feeling Good (Universal)
  • Stephan Crump: Rosetta (Papillon Sounds)
  • Judi D: Nightshade (JudiD)
  • Christian Dahl Trio Featuring Bob Rockwell: God Bless the Child (Marshmallow)
  • Daisy: Daisy's Places (Moserobie)
  • Neil Davidson: Grain (Creative Sources)
  • Terry Day: 2006 Duos (Emanem)
  • Day & Taxi: Out (Percaso)
  • Joey DeFrancesco: Live: The Authorized Bootleg (Concord)
  • Rein De Graaff: Blue Lights (Bluejack)
  • DeMania Trio: DeMania (Tropo)
  • Moe Denham: The Soul Jazz Session (Thortch)
  • Arielle Dombasle: C'est Si Bon (Sony)
  • Roberta Donnay: What's Your Story (Rainforest)
  • Drumheller: Wives (Rat-Drifting)
  • Scott DuBois Quintet/Dave Liebman: Tempest (Soul Note)
  • Brad Dutz: When Manatees Attack (Pfmentum)
  • Dominic Duval String Quartet: Mountain Air (CIMP)
  • Dominic Duval/Jimmy Halperin: Monkinus (CIMP)
  • Dominic Duval/Joe McPhee/Jay Rosen: Trio X: Roulette at Location One (Cadence)
  • The Electrics: Live at Glenn Miller Cafe (Ayler)
  • Tommy Emmanuel: The Mystery (Favored Nations Acoustic)
  • Sidsel Endresen: One (Sofa)
  • Sabine Ercklentz: Steinschlag (L'Innomable)
  • Charles Evans/Peter Evans & the Language Of: No Relation (Greatbend)
  • Falkner Evans Trio: Climbing the Gates (Consolidated Artists)
  • Kellylee Evans: Flight or Flight? (Enliven)
  • Malachi Favors/Maghostut Trio: Live at Last (Rogue Art)
  • Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López: Aurora (Kaya)
  • Victor Fields: Thinking of You (Regina)
  • Bob Florence: Eternal Licks and Grooves (Mama)
  • Dan Fogel: 15 West (Laughing Waters)
  • Freedom of the City 2006 (Emanem)
  • Jurgen Friedrich: Seismo (Pirouet)
  • David Friesen: Connection (ITM)
  • Fred Frith/Chris Cutler: The Stone: Issue Two (Tzadik)
  • Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Fujin Raijin (Victo)
  • Joel Futterman/Benjamin Tomassetti: Coherence (JDF)
  • Kenny G: I'm in the Mood for Love: The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time (Arista)
  • Vincent Gardner: Good Book, Chapter 1 (Steeplechase)
  • Stephen Gauci Quartet: Wisps of an Unknown Face (CIMP)
  • Gemini Soul featuring Ajamu Akinyele: Liquid Soul (Pearl)
  • Terry Gibbs: Findin' the Groove (Jazzed Media)
  • Joe Giglio Trio: 3 Spirits (Bella Fierenzi)
  • Joe Gilman Trio: View So Tender: Wonder Revisited, Volume One (Capri)
  • David Gilmore: Unified Presence (RKM Music)
  • Gil Goldstein: Under Rousseau's Moon: Live at the Blue Note (Half Note)
  • Jeff Golub: Grand Central (Narada)
  • Kathleen Grace Band: Songbird (Kathleen Grace)
  • Frank Gratkowski/Dave Fox/David Menestres/Ian M Davis: ORM (Umbrella)
  • Burton Greene: Retrospective 1961-2005: Solo Piano (CIMP)
  • Burton Greene Trio: Ins and Outs (CIMP)
  • Burton Greene Quintet: Signs of the Times (CIMP)
  • Nanci Griffith: Ruby's Torch (Rounder)
  • John Gross/Dave Frishberg/Charlie Doggett: Strange Feeling (Diatic)
  • Giovanni Guidi: Tomorrow Never Knows (Venus)
  • Onaje Allan Gumbs: Sack Full of Dreams (18th & Vine)
  • Mats Gustafsson/Yoshimi P-We: Words on the Floor (Smalltown)
  • Tim Hagans: Beautiful Lily (Pirouet)
  • David Haney Trio: Blues Royale (CIMP)
  • Joel Harrison: Harbor (Highnote)
  • Fritz Hauser: Flip/Solodrumming (Celestial Harmonies)
  • Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra: It's a Bear (Stomp Off)
  • Arve Henriksen: Strjon (Rune Grammofon)
  • Ari Hoenig: Inversations (Dreyfus Jazz)
  • Linda Hopkins: The Living Legend Live! (FreeHam)
  • Carolyn Hume: Solo Piano Works (Leo)
  • Gary Husband: A Meeting of Spirits (Alternity)
  • Ibrahim Electric: Absinthe (Stunt)
  • Klaus Ignatzek/Susanne Menzel: Seasons (Nagel-Heyer)
  • Clark Ingram: When You Came (IvJoy)
  • Keefe Jackson's Fast Citizens: Ready Everyday (Delmark)
  • Christian Jacob Trio: Contradictions (WilderJazz)
  • Tomas Janzon: Coast to Coast to Coast (Changes)
  • Clay Jenkins: Blues State (Jazz Compass)
  • Jill Jensen/Jack Grassel: It's About the Music (Frozen Sky)
  • Willie Jones III: Volume III (W13)
  • Mauricio Kagel: Quirinus' Liebeskuss (Winter & Winter)
  • Jason Kahn/Norbert Möslang/Günter Müller/Keiichiro Shibuya/Maria: Signal to Noise: Volume 1 (For4Ears)
  • Henry Kaiser: Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei (Balance Point Acoustics)
  • David Kane: Machinery of the Night (Magellan)
  • Achim Kaufmann/Michael Moore/Dylan van der Schyff: Kamosc (Red Toucan)
  • Michael Keith/John Oswald/Roger Turner: Number Nine (Emanem)
  • Fergus Kelly/David Lacey: Bevel (Room Temperature)
  • Grace Kelly: Every Road I Walked (Pazz)
  • Scott Kinsey: Kinesthetics (Abstract Logic)
  • Mark Knox: Places (Dreambox)
  • Hans Koch/Martin Schutz/Fredy Studer: Tales From 30 Unintentional Nights (Intakt)
  • Ithamara Koorax: Brazilian Butterfly (Irma)
  • Kristin Korb: Why Can't You Behave (Double)
  • Ernie Krivda: Live in New York City (Cadence Jazz)
  • Ernie Krivda Quintet: Stellar Sax (CIMP)
  • David Lackner: Chapter One (Dreambox)
  • Steve Lacy: Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (1981, Jazzwerksatt)
  • Bireli Lagrene: Djangology/To Bi or Not to Bi (Dreyfus)
  • Michael Landau Group: Live (Tone Center)
  • Walter Lang: Lotus Blossom (Pirouet)
  • Jed Levy: Gateway (Steeplechase)
  • Bernd Lhotzky/Chris Hopkins: Tandem (Echoes of Swing)
  • Rudy Linka: Beyond the New York City Limits (Sony/BMG)
  • Frank Locrasto: When You're There (MaxJazz)
  • Chuck Loeb: Presence (Heads Up)
  • Jeff Lorber: He Had a Hat (Narada)
  • Lionel Loueke: Virgin Forest (ObliqSound)
  • The Lounge Art Ensemble: Music for Moderns (Fuzzy)
  • Low Dynamic Orchestra: Music by Cage, Cardew, Mats Persson & Improvisations (Alice)
  • Lucky 7s: Farragut (Lakefront Digital)
  • Romero Lubambo: Softly (MaxJazz)
  • Katrine Madsen: Supernatural Love (Stunt)
  • Hugh Marsh: Hugmars (Cool Papa)
  • Tina Marsh: Inside the Breaking: Volume 1 (CreOp Muse)
  • Mat Marucci/Doug Webb Trio: No Lesser Evil (Cadence)
  • Mat Marucci/Doug Webb Trio: 3 the Hard Way (CIMP)
  • Sabir Mateen: Prophecies Come to Pass (577)
  • The Kazu Matsui Project: Pioneer (Mesa/Bluemoon)
  • Nilson Matta & Friends: Walking With My Bass (Blue Toucan)
  • Kit McClure Band: Just the Thing (Red Hot)
  • Ron McClure: Soft Hands (Steeplechase)
  • Doug McDonald: Gentle Rain (Sea Breeze)
  • Craig McIver: A Horse of a Different Rhythm (Dreambox Media)
  • Seth Meicht: Illumine (CIMP)
  • Misha Mengelberg/ICP Orchestra: Weer Is Een Dag Voorbij (ICP)
  • Getachew Mekuria/The Ex & Guests: Moa Anbessa (Terp) *
  • Metamorphosis: Luff (Leo)
  • Pino Minafra: Terronia (Enja)
  • Neal Miner: The Evening Sound (Smalls)
  • Phil Minton Quartet: Slur (Emanem)
  • Chieli Minucci: Sweet Surrender (Shanachie)
  • Giovanni Mirabassi: Canto Piano (Minium Music)
  • Roscoe Mitchell: No Side Effects (Rogue Art)
  • Wolfgang Mitterer: Coloured Noise: Brachial Symphony for 23 Musicians and Electronics (Kairos)
  • The Miyumi Project: Re:Rooted (Southport/Asian Improv)
  • Marisa Monte: Infinito Particular (Metro Blue)
  • Morning 40 Federation: Ticonderoga (M80)
  • James Muller: Kaboom (Birdland)
  • Stephanie Nakasian: Thrush Hour (VSOP)
  • Ed Neumeister Quartet: Reflection (ArtistShare)
  • Nils: Ready to Play (Baja/TSR)
  • Dan Nimmer Trio: Kelly Blue (Venus)
  • No Spaghetti Edition: Sketches of a Fusion (Sofa)
  • The Number: The Making of Quiet Things (Slam)
  • Hod O'Brien: Blues Alley -- Third Set (Reservoir)
  • Hod O'Brien/Ted Brown: I Hear a Rhapsody (Blue Jack)
  • Eivind Opsvik/Aaron Jennings: Commuter Anthems (Rune Grammofon)
  • David Ostwald: Blues in Our Heart (Nagel-Heyer)
  • Paradigm Shift: Street Expressionism (Nagel-Heyer)
  • Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Zafiro (Maya)
  • J.D. Parran & Mark Deutsch: Omegathorp: Living City (Y'all of New York)
  • Rebecca Paris: You Don't Know Me (Saying It With Jazz)
  • Sarah Partridge: You Are There: Songs for My Father (Nagel Heyer)
  • Roberta Piket: Love and Beauty (Thirteenth Note)
  • Jimmy Ponder: Somebody's Child (Highnote)
  • Tineke Postma: For the Rhythm (Munich)
  • Rob Reddy's Gift Horse: A Hundred Jumping Devils (Reddy)
  • Benny Reid: Findings (Concord)
  • Eddie Reyes: Lost World (Gemini Rising)
  • Melvin Rhyne: Front and Center (Criss Cross)
  • Stephen Riley: Easy to Remember (Steeplechase)
  • River Raisin Ragtime Revue: Ragtime Detroit (Stomp Off)
  • Sherri Roberts: The Sky Could Send You (Blue House)
  • Reginald Robinson: Man Out of Time (88Playa Music)
  • Adam Rogers Trio: Time and the Infinite (Criss Cross)
  • Daniel Rosenboom: Bloodier, Mean Son (Nine Winds)
  • Frank Rosolino: The Last Recording (Sea Breeze)
  • Ned Rothenberg's Sync With Strings: In Diaspora (Tzadik)
  • Thomas Ruckert: Blue in Green (Pirouet)
  • John Russell: Analekta (Emanem)
  • Paolo Rustichelli: Neopagan (Next Age)
  • Taiko Saito: Koko (Pirouet)
  • Tao G Vrhovec Sambolec/Tomaz Grom: Tilt (L'Innomable)
  • Sten Sandell Trio: Oval (Intakt)
  • Carlos Santana/Wayne Shorter: Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival (Image)
  • Matthias Schubert: Trappola (Red Toucan)
  • Dave Scott: Naivete (Steeplechase)
  • 774th Street Quartet: A Rare Thing (Bloody Murder)
  • Elliott Sharp/Reinhold Friedl: Feuchtify (Emanem)
  • Jack Sheldon: Listen Up (Butterfly)
  • Travis Shook: Awake (Full Gallop)
  • Jon Simon Project: Soar (Silver Lining)
  • Frank Sinatra: Sinatra: Vegas (Reprise)
  • Alan Skidmore/Tony Oxley/Ali Haurand: S.O.H. Live in London (1983, Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Johnny Smith/Mark Holzinger/Chris Justin: San Francisco Bay Jazz (Napa Rain)
  • Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (Golda Solomon)
  • Omar Sosa: Live ŕ FIP (OTA)
  • Southern Stompers: Zulus Ball (Stomp Off)
  • Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Frameworks (1968-73) (Emanem)
  • Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Quintessence (Emanem)
  • Squat (Namaste)
  • Dan St. Marseille Quartet: Swinging With the Saint (Resurgent)
  • Strunz & Farah: Fantaseo (Selva)
  • Gregory Tardy/Wayne Escoffery/Christian Winther: Jam Session, Vol. 21 (Steeplechase)
  • Chris Tarry Group: Sorry to Be Strange (Cellar Live)
  • Grady Tate: From the Heart (Half Note)
  • Fred Taylor & Inquest: Processional (Crinkle-Cuts)
  • Michael Thomas Quintet: It Is What It Is (JazHead)
  • 3ósity (Capri)
  • Times 4: Relations (Groove Tonic)
  • Tomo: I'll Always Know (Torii)
  • Brian Trainor & Friends: Why Try to Change Me Now? (Summit)
  • Bert Turetzky: Tributes (Nine Winds)
  • Ronald Turner and the Fashion Statement: Love Prevails (Pocketslam)
  • Two Bands & a Legend (Smalltown)
  • Gebhard Ullman: Basement Research: Live in Münster (Not Two/WDR)
  • Gebhard Ullman/Chris Dahlgren/Art Lande: Die Blaue Nixe (Between the Lines)
  • Kasper Villaume: Hands (Stunt)
  • Rick Wald 16/NYC: Castaneda's Dreams (Glowbow)
  • André Ward: Crystal City (Orpheus)
  • Chris Washburne and the Syotos Band: Land of Nod (Jazzheads)
  • Salim Washington/Harlem Arts Ensemble: Harlem Homecoming (Ujam)
  • Wasteland: All Versus All (Transparent)
  • Kim Waters: You Are My Lady (Shanachie)
  • Joan Watson-Jones: I Thought About You (Eye of Samantha)
  • Mark Weaver: Brassum Live (Pfmentum)
  • Paul Wertico Trio: Another Side (Naim)
  • Scott Whitfield: Speaking of Love (Summit)
  • Scott Whitfield Quintet: Live at Charlie O's (Summit)
  • Havaard Wiik/Hakon Kornstad: The Bad and the Beautiful (Moserobie)
  • Bruce Williams Quartet: More to Go (Brushwood)
  • Steve Williams: New Incentive (Elabeth)
  • Anna Wilson: Time Changes Everything (Transfer)
  • Anthony Wilson Nonet: Power of Nine (Groove Note)
  • Dave Wilson Quartet: My Time (Dreambox)
  • Reuben Wilson: Movin' On (Savant)
  • Spanky Wilson & the Quantic Soul Orchestra: I'm Thankful (Ubiquity/Tru Thoughts)
  • William Woods: The Hear and Now (Whaling City Sound)
  • Pamela York: The Way of Time (Jazzful Heart)

Also some single-artist reissues/compilations:

  • Cannonball Adderley: Quintet in San Francisco (Riverside)
  • Donald Byrd: Off to the Races (Blue Note)
  • Donald Byrd: Cat Walk (Blue Note)
  • Hoagy Carmichael: In Person 1925-1955 (Avid)
  • John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (Concord)
  • John Coltrane: Traneing In (Prestige)
  • Miles Davis: Cookin' (Prestige)
  • Lou Donaldson: Lush Life (Blue Note)
  • Kenny Dorham: Jazz Contrasts (Riverside)
  • Kenny Drew: Undercurrent (Blue Note)
  • Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Dexter Gordon: Clubhouse (Blue Note)
  • Johnny Griffin: Introducing Johnny Griffin (Blue Note)
  • Joe Henderson: Power to the People (Milestone)
  • Andrew Hill: Solo: Mosaic Select (Mosaic)
  • Andrew Hill: Compulsion (Blue Note)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Swing's the Thing (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Illinois Jacquet and His Orchestra (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Illinois Jacquet: The Message (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Bosses of the Ballad (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Go Power! (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Thad Jones: Detroit - New York Junction (Blue Note)
  • Nick LaRocca: 1960 (Kazoo Lips)
  • Pat Martino: Hombre (Prestige)
  • Jackie McLean: 4, 5 and 6 (Prestige)
  • Jackie McLean/Ornette Coleman: New And Old Gospel (Blue Note)
  • Thelonious Monk: Plays Duke Ellington (Riverside)
  • Lee Morgan: City Lights (Blue Note)
  • King Oliver: Off the Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (Archeophone)
  • Duke Pearson: Right Touch (Blue Note)
  • Art Pepper: The Complete Abashiri Concert (Widow's Taste)
  • Oscar Peterson: Birth of a Legend: Historic Carnegie Hall Concerts (Giant Steps)
  • Paul Quinichette: Like Pres (Mighty Quinn)
  • Django Reinhardt: Keep Cool (Five Four)
  • Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins Plus Four (Prestige)
  • Charlie Shavers: Complete Intimate Interpreations (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Charlie Shavers: Horn O' Plenty (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Charlie Shavers: Complete Recordings 1/2/3 (Lonehill Jazz)
  • Horace Silver: Doin' the Thing (Blue Note)
  • Horace Silver Quintet: You Gotta Take A Little Love (Blue Note)
  • Sun Ra: Celebration for the Comet Kohoutek (ESP)
  • The Sun Ra Arkestra: Springtime in Chicago (Leo)
  • Art Taylor: A.T.'s Delight (Blue Note)
  • Stanley Turrentine: Spoiler (Blue Note)
  • Tony Williams: Mosaic Select (Mosaic)

Also various artists compilations:

  • Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life (Blue Note)
  • How Low Can You Go: Anthology of the String Bass (1925-1941) (Dust-to-Digital)
  • Kenton Portraits: A Loving Salute (Tantara)
  • Legends of Jazz With Ramsey Lewis, Season One (LRSmedia)
  • New Orleans Jazz Acetates Vol. 1 (Kazoo Lips)
  • Viva Carlos! (Tone Center)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

That '90s List

A few weeks ago I got a request from the editors of Destination Out for a top-ten list of the 1990's. They wanted to construct a successor to a Village Voice Best of the 1980s Jazz Poll. The ballots were due May 1. I wrote back and asked them to nag me later, which they didn't do. Fortunately, I remembered for once, and the basic task wasn't hard: I just cribbed from my Jazz A-List file, then sorted the results from memory:

  1. Pharoah Sanders: Welcome to Love (1990, Timeless)
  2. James Carter: The Real Quietstorm (1995, Atlantic)
  3. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (1996, DIW)
  4. Nils Petter Molvaer: Solid Ether (1999, ECM)
  5. David Sanchez: Obsesion (1998, Columbia)
  6. Billy Jenkins: True Love Collection (1998, Babel)
  7. Massimo Urbani: The Blessing (1993, Red)
  8. George Coleman: My Horns of Plenty (1991, Birdology)
  9. Vandermark Five: Target or Flag (1997, Atavistic)
  10. Harry Allen: Blue Skies (1994, John Marks)
  11. David Murray/George Arvanitas: Tea for Two (1990, Fresh Sound)
  12. Chris Barber: Panama! (1991, Timeless)
  13. David Murray: Creole (1998, Justin Time)
  14. Don Pullen: Ode to Life (1993, Blue Note)
  15. David Murray: Shakill's Warrior (1991, DIW/Columbia)
  16. Lee Konitz: Jazz Nocturne (1992, Evidence)
  17. Barney Wilen: New York Romance (1994, Sunnyside)
  18. Marian McPartland: Plays the Benny Carter Songbook (1990, Concord)
  19. Stan Getz/Kenny Barron: People Time (1991, Verve Gitanes, 2CD)
  20. Joe Lovano: From the Soul (1991, Blue Note)
  21. James Carter: Conversin' With the Elders (1996, Atlantic)
  22. Abraham Burton: The Magician (1995, Enja)
  23. Yusef Lateef/Archie Shepp: Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp (1992, YAL)
  24. Eddie Harris: There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem) (1990, Enja)
  25. Wolfgang Muthspiel: Black and Blue (1992, Amadeo)
  26. William Parker: The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity)
  27. Billy Harper: Live on Tour in the Far East, Volume 2 (1991, Steeplechase)
  28. David Murray: Jazzosaurus Rex (1993, Red Baron)
  29. Kenny Barron/Mino Cinelu: Swamp Sally (1995, Verve)
  30. Ernie Wilkins: K.a.l.e.i.d.o.d.u.k.e. (1990, Birdology)
  31. Lester Bowie: The Fire This Time (1992, In+Out)
  32. Stephen Scott: Aminah's Dream (1993, Verve)

I've been griping about limiting top records lists to ten for a long time now. Ten records a year leaves out most of the really interesting ones. Ten records for a whole decade is just one per year. The curious thing about this list is how it converges onto a single type of album: it's not just that saxophonist dominate (8 of 10, 22 of 32), but that they converge on gorgeous ballad albums. It's fitting then to note that Welcome to Love is the most stupendously gorgeous sax ballad album ever.

The non-saxophonists include: 2 trumpets (Molvaer, Bowie); 1 trombone (Barber); 2 guitars (Jenkins, Muthspiel); 4 pianos (Pullen, McPartland, Barron, Scott), and 1 bass (Parker). Just from memory, I think you'll find saxophones on 6 of those 10. Scott is the only piano trio. Another artifact is that only Vandermark, Parker, and Jenkins would be considered avant at this point, although Murray, Pullen, and Bowie have been there and done that. (Jenkins is odd in another way: it's the only vocal album.)

A far wider range of material shows up in the A- lists. To some extent this is a matter of design: one of the questions I ask myself when deciding between A and A- is whether someone not especially inclined toward the record type would still go for it. That rarely happens with avant-garde jazz -- note, for instance, that after Murray the artist with the most '90s A- records in my database didn't make the cut: that was David S. Ware. I'll include the full 1990's A-List in the extra text.

I also made some quick comparisons to the 1970s and 1980s (details in the extra text). The main thing this shows is that the full 1990s A-list (294 records) is more than double the corresponding 1980s A-list (141 records). The 1980s list is only marginally longer than the 1970s list (134 records). The difference in A/A+ records is less striking (32 to 21 to 28), but still significant, especially given how time validates the upper end of the list. It's harder to do something similar for the '60s, at least quickly, given how many compilations show up in my data, but weeding them out I get about 50 A/A+ and 265 A-List.

As everyone knows, the '20s were officially the Jazz Age, and jazz remained immensely popular up to around 1945 when Charlie Parker and Louis Jordan started to split the ranks, but recorded jazz didn't really peak, at least artistically, until 1960. The '60s saw a decline as founders like Armstrong, Ellington, and Hawkins passed, as well as important postwar artists like John Coltrane. Business suffered and important labels died, leaving younger musicians -- Andrew Hill is a prime example -- with few opportunities to record. So the 1970-95 period is regarded as relatively fallow, but jazz held on in its refuges -- Europe, academia, the lofts of downtown NYC -- and started to recover in the 1990s. How much is attested to by these numbers. It's still not terribly popular, let alone big business, but there are more jazz musicians recording more albums now than ever before. The one conclusion I draw from my 2000s-to-date list (also in the extra text) is not that the numbers are still climbing -- that's partly sample bias, since I'm listening to more stuff sooner -- but that the records on the new list are much more stylistically diverse than on the 1990's list or its predecessors.


Here's my entire Jazz A-List for the 1990s, listed by artist then by recording date. All records are A- except as noted (1 A+, 31 A, 262 A-).

  • Rabih Abou-Khalil: Blue Camel (1992, Enja)
  • Rabih Abou-Khalil: Tarab (1992, Enja)
  • Aesop Quartet: Fables for a New Millennium (1999, 8th Harmonic Breakdown)
  • Affinity: Plays Nine Modern Jazz Classics (1993, Music & Arts)
  • Affinity: A Tribute to Eric Dolphy (1995, Music & Arts)
  • Howard Alden: Your Story -- The Music of Bill Evans (1994, Concord)
  • Harry Allen: A Night at Birdland Vol. 1 (1993, Nagel Heyer)
  • Harry Allen: Blue Skies (1994, John Marks) [A]
  • Arild Andersen: Hyperborean (1996, ECM)
  • Ray Anderson: Wishbone (1991, Gramavision)
  • Ray Anderson/Han Bennink/Christy Doran: Cheer Up (1995, Hat Art)
  • Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone (Hence the Reason) (1997, Enja)
  • Reid Anderson: Abolish Bad Architecture (1999, Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Ginger Baker: Falling Off the Roof (1996, Atlantic)
  • Ballin' the Jack: Jungle (1999, Knitting Factory)
  • Billy Bang/Sun Ra: A Tribute to Stuff Smith (1992, Soul Note)
  • Billy Bang: Bang On! (1997, Justin Time)
  • Chris Barber: Panama! (1991, Timeless) [A]
  • Patricia Barber: Modern Cool (1998, Premonition)
  • Guy Barker: Into the Blue (1994, Verve)
  • Joey Baron: Down Home (1997, Intuition)
  • Kenny Barron/Mino Cinelu: Swamp Sally (1995, Verve) [A]
  • Gordon Beck: For Evans' Sake (1991, JMS)
  • Bob Berg: Another Standard (1997, Stretch)
  • Dick Berk: Bouncin' With Berk (1990, Nine Winds)
  • David Berkman: Handmade (1998, Palmetto)
  • Art Blakey/Dr. John/David "Fathead" Newman: Bluesiana Triangle (1990, Windham Hill)
  • Terrence Blanchard: Jazz in Film (1998, Columbia)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Young Warrior, Old Warrior (1995, Mapleshade)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (1997, Mapleshade)
  • Arthur Blythe: Retroflection (1993, Enja)
  • Lester Bowie: My Way (1990, DIW)
  • Lester Bowie: The Fire This Time (1992, In+Out) [A]
  • Ruby Braff/Ellis Larkins: Calling Berlin Vol. 1 (1994, Arbors)
  • Anthony Braxton: Willisau (Quartet) 1991 (1991, Hat Art)
  • Anthony Braxton: Charlie Parker Project 1993 (1993, Hat Art)
  • Anthony Brown/Asian American Jazz Orchestra: Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire (1998, Asian Improv)
  • Dave Burrell/David Murray: In Concert (1991, Victo)
  • Abraham Burton: Closest to the Sun (1994, Enja)
  • Abraham Burton: The Magician (1995, Enja) [A]
  • Don Byron: Music for Six Musicians (1994, Elektra/Nonesuch)
  • Uri Caine: Toys (1995, JMT)
  • Uri Caine: The Sidewalks of New York: Tin Pan Alley (1999, Winter & Winter)
  • Ernie Carson: Every Man a King (1993, GHB)
  • Benny Carter: Harlem Renaissance (1992, Musicmasters)
  • Benny Carter: Elegy in Blue (1994, Musicmasters)
  • James Carter: JC on the Set (1994, DIW)
  • James Carter: Jurassic Classics (1995, DIW/Columbia)
  • James Carter: The Real Quietstorm (1995, Atlantic) [A]
  • James Carter: Conversin' With the Elders (1996, Atlantic) [A]
  • James Carter: In Carterian Fashion (1998, Atlantic)
  • Thomas Chapin: Insomnia (1992, Knitting Factory)
  • Thomas Chapin: Haywire (1996, Knitting Factory)
  • Doc Cheatham/Nicholas Payton: Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (1996, Verve)
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Revelation (1993, Atlantic)
  • Clusone Trio: Soft Lights and Sweet Music (1993, Hat Art)
  • Ornette Coleman/Joachim Kühn: Colors (1996, Verve/Harmolodic)
  • George Coleman: My Horns of Plenty (1991, Birdology) [A]
  • Steve Coleman: Rhythm in Mind (1991, Novus)
  • Steve Coleman: The Tao of Mad Phat/Fringe Zones (1993, Novus)
  • Ravi Coltrane: Moving Pictures (1997, RCA)
  • Marilyn Crispell: Contrasts: Live at Yoshi's (1995, Music & Arts)
  • James Dapogny: Original Jelly Roll Blues (1993, Discovery)
  • James Dapogny: Hot Club Stomp: Small Group Swing (1994, Discovery)
  • Jack DeJohnette: Dancing with Nature Spirits (1995, ECM)
  • Robert Dick: Third Stone from the Sun (1993, New World)
  • Robert Dick: Jazz Standards on Mars (1998, Enja)
  • Bruce Ditmas: What If (1994, Postcards)
  • Pierre Dřrge: Music from the Danish Jungle (1995, Dacapo)
  • Dave Douglas: Constellations (1995, Hat Art)
  • Dave Douglas: In Our Lifetime (1995, New World)
  • Dave Douglas: Soul on Soul (1999, RCA)
  • Kenny Drew Jr./Lynn Seaton/Marvin "Smitty" Smith: Secrets (1995, TCB)
  • Marty Ehrlich: Malinke's Dance (1999, Omnitone)
  • Either/Orchestra: The Calculus of Pleasure (1990, Accurate)
  • Kahil El'Zabar/David Murray/Fred Hopkins: Love Outside of Dreams (1997, Delmark)
  • Ellery Eskelin: Figure of Speech (1991, Soul Note)
  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: One Great Day (1996, Hatology)
  • Tommy Flanagan: Sunset and the Mockingbird (1998, Blue Note)
  • Ricky Ford: American-African Blues (1991, Candid)
  • Michael Formanek: Wide Open Space (1990, Enja)
  • Sonny Fortune: Monk's Mood (1993, Konnex)
  • Sonny Fortune: Four in One (1994, Blue Note)
  • Von Freeman: Never Let Me Go (1992, Steeplechase)
  • Bill Frisell: Good Dog Happy Man (1999, Elektra)
  • Hal Galper: Just Us (1993, Enja)
  • Jan Garbarek/Ustad Fateh Ali Khan: Ragas and Sagas (1990, ECM)
  • Jan Garbarek: Star (1991, ECM)
  • Jan Garbarek: Officium (1993, ECM)
  • Kenny Garrett: Black Hope (1992, Warner Brothers)
  • Giorgio Gaslini: Lampi (1994, Soul Note)
  • Charles Gayle: Touchin' on Trane (1991, FMP)
  • Herb Geller: Birdland Stomp (1990, Fresh Sound)
  • Stan Getz/Kenny Barron: People Time (1991, Verve Gitanes, 2CD) [A]
  • Rubén González: Introducing ... Rubén González (1997, World Circuit)
  • Dusko Goykovich: Bebop City (1995, Enja)
  • Georg Gräwe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Saturn Cycle (1994, Music & Arts)
  • Don Grolnick: Nighttown (1991, Blue Note)
  • Steve Grossman/McCoy Tyner: In New York (1991, Dreyfus)
  • Marty Grosz/Keith Ingham: Unsaturated Fats (1990, Stomp Off)
  • Charlie Haden: Dream Keeper (1990, Blue Note)
  • Charlie Haden: Haunted Heart (1992, Verve)
  • Charlie Haden/Hank Jones: Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs (1995, Verve)
  • Charlie Haden/Kenny Barron: Night and the City (1996, Verve)
  • Scott Hamilton: East of the Sun (1993, Concord)
  • Scott Hamilton: Organic Duke (1994, Concord)
  • Roy Hargrove: With the Tenors of Our Time (1994, Verve)
  • Billy Harper: Live on Tour in the Far East, Volume 2 (1991, Steeplechase) [A]
  • Craig Harris: F-Stops (1993, Soul Note)
  • Eddie Harris: There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem) (1990, Enja) [A]
  • Michael Hashim: Lotus Blossom (1990, Stash)
  • Michael Hashim: Keep a Song in Your Soul (1996, Hep)
  • David Hazeltine: The Classic Trio (1996, Sharp Nine)
  • Mark Helias: Loopin' the Cool (1994, Enja)
  • Joe Henderson: The Standard Joe (1991, Red)
  • John Hicks: Lover Man: A Tribute to Billie Holiday (1993, Red Baron)
  • Tyrone Hill/Marshall Allen: Out of the Box (1997, CIMP)
  • Susie Ibarra: Radiance (1999, Hopscotch)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: No Fear, No Die/S'en fout la mort (1993, Tiptoe)
  • Sherman Irby: Big Mama's Biscuits (1998, Blue Note)
  • Ethan Iverson: The Minor Passions (1999, Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • D.D. Jackson/David Murray: Peace-Song (1994, Justin Time)
  • D.D. Jackson: Rhythm Dance (1996, Justin Time)
  • Javon Jackson: When the Time Is Right (1993, Blue Note)
  • Guus Janssen: Zwik (1996, Geestgronden)
  • The Jazz Passengers: (ndividually Twisted|1996, 32 Records)
  • Billy Jenkins: Still . . . Sounds Like Bromley (1995, Babel)
  • Billy Jenkins: True Love Collection (1998, Babel) [A]
  • Leroy Jenkins: Live! (1992, Black Saint)
  • J.J. Johnson: Heroes (1996, Verve)
  • Marc Johnson: The Sound of Summer Running (1997, Verve)
  • Hank Jones: Upon Reflection: The Music of Thad Jones (1993, Verve)
  • Sheila Jordan: Lost and Found (1990, Muse)
  • Steve Khan: Got My Mental (1996, Evidence)
  • Lee Konitz/Barry Harris: Lullaby of Birdland (1991, Candid)
  • Lee Konitz: Jazz Nocturne (1992, Evidence) [A]
  • Lee Konitz: Another Shade of Blue (1997, Blue Note)
  • Lee Konitz: Sound of Surprise (1999, RCA)
  • Dianne Krall: Love Scenes (1997, Impulse)
  • Yusef Lateef/Archie Shepp: Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp (1992, YAL) [A]
  • Andy LaVerne: First Tango in New York (1993, Musidisc)
  • Lou Levy: Lunarcy (1992, Emarcy)
  • Dave Liebman: Setting the Standard (1992, Red)
  • John Lindberg: Resurrection of a Dormant Soul (1995, Black Saint)
  • Charles Lloyd: Voice in the Night (1999, ECM)
  • Jon Lloyd: Four and Five (1998, Hatology)
  • Joe Locke: Wire Walker (1992, Steeplechase)
  • Joe Lovano: Landmarks (1990, Blue Note)
  • Joe Lovano: From the Soul (1991, Blue Note) [A]
  • Joe Lovano: Tenor Legacy (1993, Blue Note)
  • Joe Lovano: Quartets (1995, Blue Note)
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Fascination (1998, Blue Note)
  • Allen Lowe: New Tango '92 (1992, Fairhaven)
  • Adam Makowicz: The Music of Jerome Kern (1992, Concord)
  • Guido Manusardi: The Village Fair (1996, Soul Note)
  • Rick Margitza: Work It (1994, Steeplechase)
  • Rick Margitza: Hands of Time (1994, Challenge)
  • Branford Marsalis: Requiem (1998, Columbia)
  • Branford Marsalis: Contemporary Jazz (1999, Columbia)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Standard Time, Vol. 6: Mr. Jelly Lord (1999, Columbia)
  • Christian McBride: Gettin' to It (1994, Verve)
  • Ken McBride/Curt Newton/Ken Vandermark [Tripleplay]: Expansion Slang (1998, Boxholder)
  • Jim McNeely: At Maybeck (Maybeck Recital Hall Series, Volume Twenty) (1992, Concord)
  • Marian McPartland: Plays the Benny Carter Songbook (1990, Concord) [A]
  • Marian McPartland: In My Life (1993, Concord)
  • Joe McPhee: Linear B (1990, Hat Art)
  • Joe McPhee: Impressions of Jimmy Giuffre (1991, CELP)
  • Brad Mehldau: Introducing Brad Mehldau (1995, Warner Bros.)
  • Myra Melford: Now and Now (1991, Enemy)
  • Myra Melford: Above Blue (1998, Arabesque)
  • Misha Mengelberg: No Idea (1996, DIW)
  • Nils Petter Molvaer: Khmer (1996, ECM)
  • Nils Petter Molvaer: Solid Ether (1999, ECM) [A]
  • Jemeel Moondoc/William Parker: New World Pygmies (1998, Eremite)
  • Michael Moore: Bering (1993, Ramboy)
  • Ralph Moore: Who It Is You Are (1993, Denon)
  • Jason Moran: Soundtrack to Human Motion (1999, Blue Note)
  • Paul Motian: And the Electric Bebop Band (1992, JMT)
  • David Murray: Special Quartet (1990, DIW)
  • David Murray/George Arvanitas: Tea for Two (1990, Fresh Sound) [A]
  • David Murray: Fast Life (1991, DIW)
  • David Murray: Ballads for Bass Clarinet (1991, DIW)
  • David Murray/Milford Graves: Real Deal (1991, DIW)
  • David Murray: Shakill's Warrior (1991, DIW/Columbia) [A]
  • David Murray: South of the Border (1992, DIW)
  • David Murray: Shakill's II (1993, DIW)
  • David Murray: For Aunt Louise (1993, DIW)
  • David Murray: Jazzosaurus Rex (1993, Red Baron) [A]
  • David Murray/Dave Burrell: Windward Passages (1993, Black Saint)
  • David Murray: Quintet With Ray Anderson and Anthony Davis (1994, DIW)
  • David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (1996, DIW) [A]
  • David Murray: Creole (1998, Justin Time) [A]
  • Sunny Murray: We Are Not at the Opera (1998, Eremite)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Black and Blue (1992, Amadeo) [A]
  • Keith Nichols: Henderson Stomp (1993, Stomp Off)
  • Walter Norris/George Mraz: Hues of Blues (1995, Concord)
  • Niels-Henning Řrsted-Pedersen/Renee Rosnes/Jonas Johansen: Friends Forever (1995, Milestone)
  • Pago Libre: Wake Up Call: Live in Italy (1997, Leo)
  • Eddie Palmieri: Palmas (1994, Elektra/Asylum)
  • Paris Washboard: Love for Sale (1996, Stomp Off)
  • Leon Parker: Belief (1996, Columbia)
  • William Parker: Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy (1995, Homestead)
  • William Parker: The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity, 2CD) [A]
  • Mario Pavone: Dancer's Tales (1996, Knitting Factory)
  • Ivo Perelman: Sad Life (1996, Leo Lab)
  • Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson: One With the Wind (1993, Muse)
  • Bobby Previte: Weather Clear Track Fast (1991, Enja)
  • Don Pullen: Random Thoughts (1990, Blue Note)
  • Don Pullen: Kele Mou Bana (1992, Blue Note)
  • Don Pullen: Ode to Life (1993, Blue Note) [A]
  • Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor/Elvin Jones: Momentum Space (1999, Verve)
  • Joshua Redman: Joshua Redman (1992, Warner Bros.)
  • Joshua Redman: Wish (1993, Warner Bros.)
  • Marc Ribot: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos (The Prosthetic Cubans) (1998, Atlantic)
  • Perry Robinson: Angelology (1996, Timescraper)
  • Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins + 3 (1996, Milestone)
  • Renee Rosnes: As We Are Now (1997, Blue Note)
  • Ned Rothenberg: Real and Imagined Time (1993, Moers)
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba: The Blessing (1991, Blue Note)
  • Roswell Rudd: The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 1 (1996, CIMP)
  • Hilton Ruiz: A Moment's Notice (1991, Novus)
  • David Sanborn: Upfront (1991, Elektra)
  • David Sanchez: Obsesion (1998, Columbia) [A]
  • Pharoah Sanders: Welcome to Love (1990, Timeless) [A+]
  • Pharoah Sanders: Crescent with Love (1992, Evidence)
  • SaxEmble: SaxEmble (1996, Qwest/Warner Bros.)
  • John Scofield: Groove Elation (1994, Blue Note)
  • John Scofield: Quiet (1996, Verve)
  • Stephen Scott: Aminah's Dream (1993, Verve) [A]
  • Stephen Scott: Renaissance Suite (1994, Verve)
  • Bud Shank: Lost in the Stars (1990, Fresh Sound)
  • Bud Shank: I Told You So! (1992, Candid)
  • Sonny Sharrock: Highlife (1990, Enemy)
  • Archie Shepp: I Didn't Know About You (1990, Timeless)
  • Mark Shim: Mind Over Matter (1997, Blue Note)
  • Matthew Shipp/William Parker: Zo (1993, Thirsty Ear)
  • Matthew Shipp: The Multiplication Table (1998, Hatology)
  • Matthew Shipp: Expansion, Power, Release (1999, Hatology)
  • Silver Leaf Jazz Band: New Orleans Wiggle (1999, GHB)
  • Sonny Simmons: Transcendence (1996, CIMP)
  • Tommy Smith: Blue Smith (1999, Linn)
  • Tomasz Stanko: Bosanossa and Other Ballads (1993, Gowi)
  • Tomasz Stanko: Leosia (1996, ECM)
  • Tomasz Stanko: Litania: The Music of Krzysztof Komeda (1997, ECM)
  • Bobo Stenson: Serenity (1999, ECM)
  • Lew Tabackin: I'll Be Seeing You (1992, Concord)
  • Lew Tabackin: What a Little Moonlight Can Do (1994, Concord)
  • Aki Takase/David Murray: Blue Monk (1991, Enja)
  • Horace Tapscott: Thoughts of Dar Es Salaam (1997, Arabesque)
  • Martin Taylor: Spirit of Django (1994, Linn)
  • Henri Texier: Respect (1997, Label Bleu)
  • Three of a Kind/Stanley Turrentine: Meets Mr. T. (1994, Minor)
  • Mark Turner: Yam Yam (1994, Criss Cross)
  • James Blood Ulmer: Black and Blues (1990, DIW)
  • Massimo Urbani: The Blessing (1993, Red) [A]
  • Ken Vandermark [Steelwool Trio]: International Front (1994, Okka Disk)
  • Ken Vandermark [Vandermark Five]: Single Piece Flow (1996, Atavistic)
  • Ken Vandermark [Vandermark Five]: Target or Flag (1997, Atavistic) [A]
  • Ken Vandermark: Straight Lines: Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project (1998, Atavistic)
  • Ken Vandermark: Design in Time (1999, Delmark)
  • Tom Varner: The Window Up Above (1998, New World)
  • Roseanna Vitro: Catchin' Some Rays: The Music of Ray Charles (1997, Telarc)
  • Bennie Wallace: The Old Songs (1993, Audioquest)
  • Bennie Wallace/Tommy Flanagan/Eddie Gomez/Alvin Queen: Bennie Wallace (1998, Audioquest)
  • Bennie Wallace: Someone to Watch Over Me (1999, Enja)
  • Jack Walrath: Serious Hang (1992, Muse)
  • Cedar Walton: Manhattan Afternoon (1992, Criss Cross)
  • David S. Ware: Flight of I (1991, Columbia/DIW)
  • David S. Ware: Third Ear Recitation (1992, DIW)
  • David S. Ware: Godspelized (1996, DIW)
  • David S. Ware: Go See the World (1997, Columbia)
  • David S. Ware: Surrendered (1999, Columbia)
  • David S. Ware: BalladWare (1999, Thirsty Ear)
  • Tim Warfield: A Cool Blue (1995, Criss Cross)
  • Tim Warfield: Gentle Warrior (1998, Criss Cross)
  • Bobby Watson: Present Tense (1992, Columbia)
  • Bobby Watson: Quiet as It's Kept (1998, Red)
  • Ernie Watts: Unity (1995, JVC)
  • Ernie Watts: Classic Moods (1998, JVC)
  • Frank Wess: Tryin' to Make My Blues Turn Green (1993, Concord)
  • Randy Weston: The Spirits of Our Ancestors (1991, Antilles)
  • Randy Weston: Khepara (1998, Verve)
  • Joe Wilder: Alone With Just My Dreams (1991, Evening Star)
  • Barney Wilen: Sanctuary (1991, Ida)
  • Barney Wilen: New York Romance (1994, Sunnyside) [A]
  • Ernie Wilkins: K.a.l.e.i.d.o.d.u.k.e. (1990, Birdology) [A]
  • Jessica Williams: Jessica's Blues (1996, Jazz Focus)
  • Tom Williams: Straight Street (1993, Criss Cross)
  • Matt Wilson: Going Once, Going Twice (1998, Palmetto)
  • Francis Wong: Legends and Legacies (1997, Asian Improv)
  • Reggie Workman: Summit Conference (1993, Postcards)
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Selim Sevad: A Tribute to Miles Davis (1998, Justin Time)
  • James Zollar: Soaring With Bird (1997, Naxos)
  • Chucho Valdés: Briyumba Palo Congo (1999, Blue Note)


The top list from the 1970s is as follows, with a total of 134 albums down to A-:

  1. Roswell Rudd: Flexible Flyer (1974, Black Lion)
  2. Miles Davis: A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970, Columbia/Legacy)
  3. Jimmy Rushing: The You and Me That Used to Be (1971, RCA)
  4. Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson: Witchi-Tai-To (1973, ECM)
  5. Ornette Coleman: Dancing in Your Head (1973, Verve)
  6. Air: Lore (1979, Novus)
  7. Dudu Pukwana: In the Townships (1973, Earthworks)
  8. Arthur Blythe: Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1978, Koch)
  9. Dave Holland: Conference of the Birds (1972, ECM)
  10. Art Pepper: Living Legend (1975, Contemporary)
  11. Miles Davis: Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall (1974, Columbia)
  12. Michael Mantler/Robert Wyatt: The Hapless Child and Other Inscrutable Stories (1975, Watt)
  13. Mahavishnu Orchestra: The Inner Mounting Flame (1971, Columbia)
  14. Zoot Sims: And the Gershwin Brothers (1975, Pablo)
  15. Keith Jarrett: Belonging (1974, ECM)
  16. Charles McPherson: Beautiful! (1975, Xanadu)
  17. Art Pepper: Straight Life (1979, Galaxy)
  18. Eastern Rebellion: Eastern Rebellion (1975, Timeless)
  19. Anthony Braxton: Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (1976, Arista)
  20. Abdullah Ibrahim: Voice of Africa (1976, Kaz)
  21. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall (1974, Rhino)
  22. Sonny Stitt: Tune-Up! (1972, Muse)
  23. Archie Shepp/Horace Parlan: Goin' Home (1977, Steeplechase)
  24. Gene Ammons: Fine and Mellow (1972, Prestige)
  25. Marian McPartland/Jimmy McPartland: A Sentimental Journey (1972, Jazz Alliance)
  26. Willis Jackson: Bar Wars (1977, Muse)
  27. Charles Mingus: Changes One (1974, Rhino)
  28. Art Pepper: Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard (1977, Galaxy)

The 1980s list:

  1. Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man (1986, Milestone)
  2. Don Pullen/George Adams: Breakthrough (1986, Blue Note)
  3. Art Pepper: Winter Moon (1980, Galaxy)
  4. Ornette Coleman: In All Languages (1985, Caravan of Dreams)
  5. David Murray: Deep River (1988, DIW)
  6. Ornette Coleman: Of Human Feelings (1982, Antilles)
  7. Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree: 1 (1989, Hat Art)
  8. James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey (1983, Columbia)
  9. Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman: Song X (1985, Nonesuch)
  10. David Murray: Ballads (1988, DIW)
  11. Steve Lacy: Morning Joy: Live at Sunset Paris (1986, Hat Art)
  12. Abdullah Ibrahim: Ekaya (1983, Ekapa)
  13. Don Pullen: New Beginnings (1988, Blue Note)
  14. Bobby Watson: Love Remains (1986, Red)
  15. David Murray: Ming (1980, Black Saint)
  16. Art Pepper: With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 (1981, Galaxy, 2CD)
  17. Bob Wilber: Dancing on a Rainbow (1989, Circle)
  18. Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz (1989, Milestone)
  19. Vienna Art Orchestra: From No Time to Rag Time (1982, Hat Art)
  20. Mal Waldron/Jackie McLean: Left Alone '86 (1986, Evidence)
  21. Barney Wilen: Wild Dogs of the Ruwenzori (1988, Ida)
  22. Roswell Rudd: Regeneration (1982, Soul Note)

The expansion continues in the new decade, although my own data may be inflated somewhat since I started covering jazz. So for what it worth, here's how the 2000's are shaping up:

  1. James Carter: Chasin' the Gypsy (2000, Atlantic)
  2. David Murray: Like a Kiss That Never Ends (2001, Justin Time)
  3. Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do (2000, Milestone)
  4. William Parker: Raining on the Moon (2001, Thirsty Ear)
  5. Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (2005, Sound Grammar)
  6. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (2004, High Two)
  7. William Parker: Scrapbook (2002, Thirsty Ear)
  8. Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001, Justin Time)
  9. Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul (2002, Atavistic)
  10. Alex Von Schlippenbach: Monk's Casino (2003-04, Intakt, 3CD)
  11. Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss (2004, Thirsty Ear)
  12. William Parker: Sound Unity (2004, AUM Fidelity)
  13. Jon Faddis: Teranga (2005, Koch)
  14. Tim Berne/Drew Gress/Tom Rainey: Pre-Emptive Denial (2005, Screwgun)
  15. Tommy Smith/Brian Kellock: Symbiosis (2004, Spartacus)
  16. Triage: American Mythology (2004, Okka Disk)
  17. Davis S. Ware: Corridors and Parallels (2001, AUM Fidelity)
  18. Michael Hashim: Green Up Time (2001, Hep)
  19. Craig Harris: Souls Within the Veil (2003, Aquastra, 2CD)
  20. Vandermark 5: Elements of Style . . . Exercises in Surprise (2003, Atavistic)
  21. Arthur Blythe: Focus (2002, Savant)
  22. Anthony Braxton: 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (2003, Leo, 4CD)
  23. Roberto Juan Rodriguez: El Danzon de Moises (2002, Tzadik)
  24. Zu/Spaceways Inc.: Radiale (2003, Atavistic)
  25. William Parker: . . . And William Danced (2002, Ayler)
  26. Vandermark 5: Free Jazz Classics Vols. 3 & 4 (2003-04, Atavistic, 2CD)
  27. David Murray: Gwotet (2004, Justin Time)
  28. World Saxophone Quartet: Political Blues (2006, Justin Time)


Apr 2007 Jun 2007