April 2012 Notebook


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Expert Comments

Something from left field:

Thought I'd throw this track out and see what you think -- http://goo.gl/di2XQ -- something I'm working on for Recycled Goods. Motorpsycho is a very prolific Norwegian rock band. This is the first I've heard of them, and while I initially suspected metal it now seems likely they're closer to Hawkwind than to Motorhead. (Group was named for the Russ Meyer film.) The Source is saxophonist Trygve Seim. I know him mostly from ECM albums, but seems to have had a wilder and woolier adolescence. Deathprod (Helge Sten) throws in some cheesy electronics. Album runs out of gas before the end, but they were onto something here.

Cam Patterson replied:

Even if the album isn't all there, it's something new under the sun. Reminds me just a little of a Swedish band from a completely different era (the 60s) that Tom hipped us to, Parson Sound, whose lone CD is already going for collector's prices even though it was released only a few years ago. Zoltar's Revenge has it if you want to check it out: http://goo.gl/XJ9rZ

Also, names like The Source and Deathprod remind of of Metalocalypse. Have we not talked about this cartoon here yet? Each episode is a ten minute bite of hilarity, condescension, and reverence toward that weirdest and most fastidious corner of the rock culture haunted house. All three of the seasons so far are available on DVD, and I understand a new season is on the way. It's even better than "The Blizzard of Ozz"!

Milo Miles, on Motorpsycho:

I missed how these guys came up, but I have around 14 albums by them. Saw a performance at Terrastock 5 and that was all it took.

Chris Monsen:

Re: Motorpsycho. They're kind of a big deal over here (i.e. Norway) in so many ways -- much of it extra-musical -- that it would take several posts to cover it all. They've evolved from a psychedelic post-grunge band into something else entirely, a group that frequently dabbles in jazz-ish territory, as well as guitar pop, psychedelia and hard rock (they've covered The Who's "Young Man Blues" close to every single time I've seen them, my "first" being some time around 1996.)

At their best, these elements come together as a singular unit of sound that has been unlike much in modern rock -- groovy and hard yet buoyant -- and can only be described as "that Motorpsycho sound". I tend to prefer their poppier sides, and so Blissard from 1996 is my personal fave (11 times "Teen Age Riot" would be a bit unfair to them, and somewhat contradicts the first sentence in this paragraph, but the analogy has stuck with me ever since I first heard it.), while their consensus classic has been Timothy's Monster, a double album from 1994 which saw them stretch in all kinds of directions.

They are also very outspoken about record collecting and about their influences, and at their least impressive, these influences shine through too clearly. It doesn't help much that I've never been big on prog rock (with notable exceptions, of course), that their fave Sun Ra album is Space is the Place while it is among my least fave of his, and that I find that the kind of 70s West Coast rock they tried to copy on three albums in the mid 2000s isn't worth paying much attention to in the first place.

They've hit something approaching old form on their last few albums, though, and they've always been a great live band.

They're very nice guys, too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Krugman Charts

I haven't had much time to post, or even surf, this week, but I do want to point out two remarkable charts from Paul Krugman's blog.

First, under Cameron's Remarkable Achievement, shows that the austerity program of Britain's Tory/Liberal government has managed to drag the recovery into a ditch, making this recession worse in the UK than the Great Depression was:

Of course, Britain in the 1930s was home not just of Keynesianism but of John Maynard Keynes himself. I dare say no current economist will make a comparable mark without a fundamental change in politics, since the whole mantra of austerity is little more than ideological cover for an upper class which would rather wreck the economy than lose even a tad of their relative advantage.

The second one is from American Austerity, which tracks public employment under the first terms of Clinton and Bush -- you may recall, Clinton inherited a recession in 1992, and Bush had one develop as the stock market deleveraged from the dot-com boom and 9/11 happened -- and Obama, who inherited a grossly larger recession. Obama, with a fairly large stimulus program, should have far exceeded either of them, but in fact he's had the rug pulled out from under his administration with massive cuts, mostly at the state and local level:

Krugman explains:

That spike early on is Census hiring; once that was past, the Obama years shaped up as an era of huge cuts in public employment compared with previous experience. If public employment had grown the way it did under Bush, we'd have 1.3 million more government workers, and probably an unemployment rate of 7 percent or less.

Krugman's been beating on the austerity fad all week, especially in his column: Death of a Fairy Tale, but also in blog pieces like The New Voodoo (another chart there, plotting austerity vs. change in GDP and showing that it consistently reduces growth, often winding up on the negative side), and The Secret of Our Non-success (another chart on how government expenditures, exclusive of transfers, have plumetted), and It's All So Confusing, including this quote from Dean Baker:

Of course there can be economists who are opposed to the idea that stimulus can work as an article of religious faith. Economic theory also predicts that for a large enough sum of money there will be economists who will say that the stimulus did not work regardless of what they actually believe to be true.

And next week he'll have a book out to reiterate all of this, and remind us he's been right all along. Which he has been.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Expert Comments

Nate Smith pointed out a discrepancy in my Downbeat Poll file. I responded:

Thanks to sharpsm for the correction, as well as the plug. The Uri Caine record slipped my mind, as did Jimmy Owens' Monk Project (IPO) -- a very nice rehash for all you Monk fans (give or take "'Round Midnight"). Uri Caine is one of the very top pianists of his generation, so I try to keep up with when I can. But I haven't gotten any Winter & Winter releases in the last 3-4 years, so that means occasionally grabbing something on Rhapsody. I still have a pretty severe gag reflex when it comes to classical music, and Caine tests that about every third release. So my graded list is pretty mixed, but when he's on he's really dazzling.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Downbeat Critics Poll Notes

This is the second year I've voted in Downbeat's Critics Poll. As I went through their electronic ballot, I tried to take notes below. In most cases this consists of going through their suggestions and noting anyone who seems plausible, then going through my own previous notes and database and adding anyone who seems equally deserving. Then I pick three, and sometimes try to justify that pick. Or all to often I gripe about the category, the suggested ballot, the sometimes odd decisions about who to list in the "Rising Star" section. The ballot process inevitably takes more than a day, and can get quite painful. I hear they give voters a T-shirt for their trouble, but they didn't send me one last year.

To see the rest of my notes, go here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19806 [19772] rated (+34), 762 [763] unrated (-1). A fairly normal week, with about half of the newly rated records down in Jazz Prospecting below, the other half stashed away for Recycled Goods and Rhapsody Streamnotes in early May. Perhaps inspired by last week's massive bookkeeping clean up, I started off by picking well-aged items from the queue -- six 2011 releases, none remotely close to breaking into last year's list. I still have 40 2011 releases pending, so I'll try to keep knocking them down, but they sure don't look promising.

Clipper Anderson: The Road Home (2010-11 [2012], Origin): Bassist, originally from Montana, first album, leads a piano trio with Darin Clendenin on piano and Mark Ivester on drums. Wrote 6 of 11 pieces, the covers including two from Bill Evans. Mixed bag. The pianist most likely would be happy to play Evans all night, but there's also a piece where the bass actually leads, and another (less successful) where guest vocalist Gretta Matassa scats out front. Anderson croons one too, a lullaby, sort of. B-

Lynne Arriale: Solo (2011 [2012], Motéma): Pianist, b. 1957 in Milwaukee, 14-15 albums since 1993, pretty sure this isn't her first solo outing. Half originals, two Monks plus standards from Lerner & Lowe, Cole Porter, Billy Joel -- she nearly always drops in something from the rock era. B+(*)

Chris Brubeck's Triple Play: Live at Arthur Zankel Music Center (2011 [2012], Blue Forest): Dave Brubeck's son, plays trombone, bass, piano, sings. Triple Play adds Joel Brown (guitar) and Peter Madcat Ruth (harmonica, ukulele, hi-hat, jaw harp), both with more vocals. Cut live with special guests Dave Brubeck (piano) and Frank Brown (clarinet). Song list is evenly split between Brubeck standards and old blues ("Rollin' & Tumblin," "Phonograph Blues," "Black and Blue," "St. Louis Blues," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"), so you find these stretches of fancy time-shifting piano in between the harmonica blues. Seems at odd with itself, but Chris Brubeck compounds the conundrum with a "5/4 boogie woogie" called "Mighty Mrs. Hippy" with a long intro to explain the pun, and that segues into a harmonica-led "Blue Rondo a la Turk." B+(***)

Mindy Canter: Fluteus Maximus: One Session, One Take (2011, Mindela Music): "16 songs were recorded live, in a small, one room studio in northern California. All songs were done in one take including Hammond B3 (dubbed in same session)." Canter, who has a few previous albums, plays flute and keyboards, backed with guitar, bass, and drums. All covers, from "16 Tons" and "Happy Trails" to "Watermelon Man" and "Do It Again" -- oh, and "Mercy Mercy Mercy." Light pop funk on the first half; then Denny Geyer starts singing, proving he's not Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Tennessee Ernie Ford (nor Merle Travis). B-

Andy Clausen: The Wishbone Suite (2011 [2012], Table and Chairs): Trombonist, from Seattle, website says he's 19, has been a bandleader since 14, won a "Gerald Wilson Award for Jazz Composition" in 2009, graduated high school in 2010, studied at Juilliard that fall, returned to Seattle to cut this in 2011. Group is a quintet, with Ivan Arteaga (clarinet), Gus Carns (piano), Aaron Otheim (accordion & piano), and Chris Icasiano (drums & glockenspiel). Interesting combination of instruments, mostly soft sounds, reminds me a bit of Claudia Quintet, maybe a bit more baroque. Not what you'd expect from a trombonist, let alone a teenager. B+(**)

Romain Collin: The Calling (2012, Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1979 in France, won a Monk prize, studied at Berklee, based in New York, second album. Mostly piano trio (Luques Curtis and Kendrick Scott), with extra guitar on three tracks, plus overly sweet cello on two of those. Has a distinctive rhythmic sense, making this lean and dense, except when it isn't. B+(*)

Jared Gold: Goldenchild (2010 [2012], Posi-Tone): Organ player, based in New York; fifth album since 2009, a trio with Ed Cherry on guitar and Quincy Davis on drums. About half originals, covers starting with "A Change Is Gonna Come" and winding up with "When It's Sleepy Time Down South." Light touch, intricately weaved with the guitar for mild mannered funk. B+(*)

Jim Holman: Explosion! (2009-11 [2012], Delmark): Pianist, from Chicago, first album, a very upbeat affair, even a whiff of boogie woogie in the piano. Gets even more uproarious on the four cuts with tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano from the 2011 session. Finishes with four earlier cuts, two with alto saxophonist Richie Cole. B+(**)

Kenny & Leah: All About Love (2011, K&L): Soderblom is their shared last name. Kenny plays tenor sax, has a real nice tone. Leah sings, mostly standards, plenty of love songs for that, including "Corcovado" for the obligatory Jobim; has a crisp edge to her voice. Fifth album together, big age difference but for now it seems to work. Five songs with a big string orch drag a bit, but the combo pieces move along. B+(*)

Jocelyn Medina: We Are Water (2011, self-released): Singer-songwriter, studied at Berklee and Manhattan School of Music, based in Brooklyn, second album. One cover here, from Hermeto Pascoal. Band, built around Kristjan Randalu on piano with Rodrigo Ursala on tenor sax and flute, has a real jazz feel, and she likes to scat -- is more convincing then than with her lyrics. B-

Eivind Opsvik: Overseas IV (2011 [2012], Loyal Label): Bassist, from Norway, moved to New York in 1998; has average 5-6 side credits since about 2006. Describes Overseas as a band name, this being their fourth album. Group includes Tony Malaby (tenor sax, a frequent collaborator), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Jacob Sachs (harpsichord, farfisa, piano), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, tympani, vibes). Rather rockish, but in using repeated rhythmic signatures and in indulging in complexly layered noise -- Seabrook's guitar leads more than the sax -- but the harpsichord offers an ironic nod to chamber music, as does the organ to church music. A-

Mark O'Toole: The Crooner (2011, self-released): Crooner, like he says, more Bennett than Sinatra, based in Las Vegas, where there is a market for this sort of thing. Songs are classic. Arrangements way past their expiry date. You may find yourself hating this and still feel compelled to sing along. You may even improve on it. C+

John Raymond: Strength & Song (2011 [2012], Strength & Song): Trumpet player, based in New York, first album, produced by Jon Faddis, with Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Javier Santiago on piano and Fender Rhodes, plus bass and drums -- pianist Gerald Clayton and alto saxophonist Tim Green get cover "featuring" credit for two songs each. Trumpet leads are strong and clear, and the guitarist does a notable job weaving in and out. B+(*)

Ro Sham Beaux: Ro Sham Beaux (2011 [2012], Red Piano): First album for Boston group: Zac Shaiman (saxes), Luke Marantz (keyb), Oliver Watkinson (bass), Jacob Cole (drums, glockenspiel). Don't know anything about the band or what they think they're up to. Wouldn't call this pop or fusion or experimental rock or much of anything else: name presumably means something else, but bounces around in my brain and comes out rambling shambles. B

Jim Van Slyke: The Sedaka Sessions (2011, LML Music): Singer, second album, does 15 Neil Sedaka songs, two duets with the auteur. Backed by piano trio, simple enough, the main question how to react to his voice, high-pitched, struck me as girly at first, but that may just have been "Love Will Keep Us Together." The later songs get more theatrical. B

Mark Weinstein: El Cumbanchero (2011, Jazzheads): Flute player, sixteen albums since 1996, nearly all of them Latin, at least since Algo Más in 2004. With Aruán Ortiz on piano, who also did the arrangements -- strings on most tracks. B+(*)

Dan Wilensky: Back in the Mix (2011 [2012], Speechless Productions): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1961 in Ann Arbor, MI; cut a record in 1997, and now three more since 2010. Mostly quartet with Mark Soskin (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), and Tony Moreno (drums), adding trumpeter Russ Johnson on four cuts. Nice, rich tone, shows off especially well on tunes like "Falling in Love With Love." B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Abercrombie Quartet: Within a Song (ECM): advance, July
  • Arild Andersen: Celebration (ECM): advance, June
  • Black Music Disaster (Thirsty Ear): advance, June 5
  • Ablaye Cissoko/Volker Goetze: Amanké Dionti (Motéma)
  • Florian Hoefner Group: Songs Without Words (OA2)
  • Irène Jacob & Francis Jacob: Je Sais Nager (Sunnyside)
  • Andy Jaffe: Manhattan Projections (Big Round)
  • Jazz Soul Seven: Impressions of Curtis Mayfield (BFM Jazz)
  • Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (ECM)
  • Jeremy Long: In Suspension (Innova)
  • Hailey Niswanger: The Keeper (Calmit Productions)
  • Sebastian Noelle: Koan (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba: XXI Century (5Pasion, 2CD): May 29
  • Louis Sclavis Atlas Trio: Sources (ECM): advance, June
  • Tessa Souter: Beyond the Blue (Motéma)
  • John Surman: Saltash Bells (ECM): advance, June
  • Ben Tyree: Thoughtform Variations (self-released): June 26
  • Matt Ulery: By a Little Light (Greenleaf Music, 2CD)
  • Manuel Valera: New Cuban Express (Mayo)
  • Florian Wittenberg: Artefacts: Solo Electronics (GEMA)
  • John Yao: In the Now (Innova)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • John Prine: The Singing Mailman Delivers (1970 [2011], Oh Boy, 2CD): Prehistory and trivia, the sort of thing that might get tacked onto a 2-CD "deluxe" reissue of his 1971 debut John Prine, except that Prine owns the tapes and decided to release them himself. In 1970, Prine was working as a mailman during the week and playing weekend nights at the Fifth Peg in Chicago. In August, he recorded solo demos of 11 songs -- the first disc here. The second is the tape of a live performance, backed by bass guitar, with 12 of his songs (mostly repeats) plus a Hank Williams medley. Some songs were works in progress -- "Sam Stone" was still titled "Great Society Conflict Veteran's Blues" -- but there's little here that didn't get sharper on the studio album [still grade A]. B+(***)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Henry Farrell: Happy Krauthammer Day:

    It's that time of the year again -- it's been five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months plus five months since Charles Krauthammer told us

    Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem.

    I'll confess that I was a bit disappointed last week, when Charles Krauthammer didn't make the cut for Atrios' shortlist for Wanker of the Decade (he did get a nod-in-his-direction though; Fred Hiatt's nod was intended to honor the Washington Post's editorial page as a whole). But having reflected a bit, I think this was the right call. To be a really first rate wanker, you have to be at least partially oblivious to what you are. I've always had the sense that Krauthammer knows exactly what he is -- nasty and thoroughly mendacious. Not a wanker then, but rather worse than a wanker. He's whatever it is that Karl Rove is (when rugose and squamous entities drag out their tortured forms from under rocks, to caper and desport themselves beneath the gibbous moon, they console themselves at least they're not working for American Crossroads).

    By the way, next year will be the tenth anniversary. Still writing for the Washington Post, still syndicated, still on the talk shows.

  • Ed Kilgore: Journey to the Center of Ted Nugent's Mind:

    In a nugget from last weekend's National Rifle Association annual meeting, Ted Nugent offered this warning:

    "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year," Nugent said, according to a video posted on YouTube by the NRA. "If you can't go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil America hated administration, I don't even know what you're made out of."

    Don't know if this means we need to put Ted on suicide watch come November 7 if things don't turn out his way, or just let the police know he's threatening to do a crime so he can get himself incarcerated. But it's a fine reflection of the wingnut mind at its deepest that he seems to think us godless socialists care enough about his ravings to persecute him.

    TPM reports that the NRA has scrubbed Nugent's video from its website, after Romney distanced himself from it. TPM also reports that Bishop of Peoria Compares Obama and Contraception Mandates to Hitler and Stalin. There are plenty of sane reasons one might be unhappy with Obama, but his opponents keep resorting to insane ones -- suggesting they may be insane themselves.

  • Paul Krugman: The Drywall Chronicles:

    So Mitt Romney gave a speech at a closed Ohio drywall factory, which he tried to use as a symbol of Obama's economic failure. The symbolism was perfect -- not as an illustration of Obama's failure, but as an illustration of just how stupid Romney thinks we are.

    Even regular reporters noticed that the factory in question closed under, yes, George W. Bush -- a fact Romney failed to mention, although his campaign scrambled to cover for him afterwards.

    What I didn't see mentioned was the point that this was a drywall factory -- that is, a supplier of a product largely used in home construction. It's one thing to say that Obama should have revived the economy as a whole; it's another to say that he should have brought back the housing bubble!

    Krugman also provides a chart comparing job losses during the first 3 years + 3 months of the Bush and Obama administrations:

    If you bother doing the math, you'll also notice that Bush's job losses were cushioned by growth in public sector jobs, whereas Obama's total was made much worse by public sector job cuts. Bush started out with a much milder recession, and his main remedies were tax cuts for the superrich and the fiscal stimulus of big post-9/11 military deficits, which, uh, didn't work very well. (From 2004-07 the economy under Bush did grow, but almost exclusively from the unsustainable housing bubble.) Krugman brings this up because Romney's proposed solutions are pretty much the same as Bush's: tax cuts for the rich, and more wars.

    I'm beginning to think that Obama's big mistake wasn't that his stimulus package was too small (although it was) but that he didn't end the Bush tax cuts as soon as he entered office (perhaps keeping some of the bottom end cuts, but not necessarily the "middle class" ones he wanted to keep). Had he done so, he wouldn't have been nearly as vulnerable to complaints about his deficits -- they would pretty much vanish when the economy picked up -- which would have given him more leeway to spend in constructive fashion, or at least more resolve to fight back against debilitating cuts.

  • John Quiggin: The Coming Boom in Inherited Wealth: Inequality is up, even more so -- 93% of additional income in the US in 2010 went to the top 1% -- but some argue that "those at the top were more likely to earn than inherit their riches." Depends on what you mean by "earn" but Quiggin adds:

    The fact that currently wealthy Americans have not, in general, inherited their wealth follows logically from the fact that, in their parents' generation, there weren't comparable accumulations of wealth to be bequeathed. More generally, starting from the position of relatively (to earlier periods and to the current one) equal income and wealth that prevailed between about 1950 and 1980, growing inequality of income must precede growing inequality of wealth, since wealth is simply the cumulative excess of income over consumption (and US high-income earners have not been notable for restraint as regards consumption).

    So, given highly unequal incomes, and social immobility, we can expect inheritance to play a much bigger role in explaining inequality for the generations now entering adulthood than for the current recipients of high incomes. That will include direct transfers of wealth as well as the effects of increasingly unequal access to education, early job opportunities and home ownership.

    One more thing to emphasize is that over the last few decades, the right-wing movement was almost exclusively financed by people who were born to wealth -- the Kochs, Olins, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Coors, and so forth. Same for major figures in the movement, from Bill Buckley to Bill Kristol, and for that matter G.W. Bush. Aside from the Kochs, most of these figures are far from the top of the list, but their politics starts from their aristocratic sense of entitlement. Back in the more equitable 1950s, before greed became something to brag about, it seemed more likely that at least some of the fortunates might redirect themselves to public service -- the Kennedys, even the occasional Rockefeller and Harriman. Less so now, as the concentration of wealth occurs alongside a diminished sense of social responsibility.

  • Adele Stan: Koch Coughs Up Another $Mil for Pro-Walker Group: The group is called The Republican Governors Association, which has bought up $3 million worth of advertising to defend the recalled Wisconsin governor. One reason this caught my eye is that Koch Industries got a nice headline in the Wichita Eagle last week for their generous donation to help out with tornado recovery in south Wichita: they donated $100,000. Koch's headquarters are in Wichita, but they're on the north side of town and weren't affected by the tornado.

Expert Comments

Someone complained about this year being a bit slack so far:

As for how 2012 is shaping up, here's one metric: by April 22, 2011, Christgau had identified 15 A- or better 2011 releases (17 by end of April). This year, the number is 22 2012 releases (at least by my records, which count Oka! as 2011). Probably more EPs this year, and definitely more free downloads.

If 2011 still seems like a bigger year, that's probably because more of those 16 are big names -- Paul Simon, TV on the Radio, Tune-Yards, Drive-By Truckers, Yuck. Less of that this year, so far anyway.

Can't check the numbers, but my impression is that my metacritic file rankings are down this year: only 10 records so far with 20+ favorable reviews, topping out at 30 (Cloud Nothings). PJ Harvey was way above that last year. But I only count 4 good records in the current top 10 (haven't heard Spiritualized yet, but I'm not counting on it), and it wasn't any better last year, so maybe that's not a good metric.

I have 27 A- or better records on my current list (11 jazz). Not sure how that compares with this time last year, but it's roughly on track.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Roundup

Another batch of 40 more/less new books. Last one came out on February 9, and as it turns out I almost have enough piled up for an immediate follow-up, so I mostly went with the most promising political, economic, and historical efforts. Next time, especially if it's sooner rather than later, will be more scattered.

Andrew J Bacevich, ed: The Short American Century: A Postmortem (2012, Harvard University Press): Collection with eight other contributors, including Walter LaFeber -- one of the first to document this century of hubris and folly.

Dean Baker: The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (paperback, 2011, Center for Economic and Policy Reserach): Short (168 pp.), defines "loser liberalism" as policies that "want to tax the winners to help the losers," and argues that progressives would be better off working "to structure markets so that they don't redistribute income upward." Seems like the right idea to me.

Peter Beinart: The Crisis of Zionism (2012, Times Books): Liberal hawk, in fact made a big stink about the point, insisting that only liberals can "win the war on terror" -- a thesis that held up fairly well during the Bush reign but hasn't fared so well under Obama. Also a big-time Israel-lover, eager to defend Zionism even though its record is even more tattered than that of the liberal hawks, but again with a proviso -- something about how the occupation is destroying the soul of Zionism. Even goes so far as to argue for boycotting products from Israel's West Bank settlements, which has made him public enemy number one to the other big-time Israel lovers: the ones who really dig the Chosen People's dominance over the natives -- makes them feel that Old Testament virility.

Josh Bivens: Failure by Design: The Story Behind America's Broken Economy (2011, Cornell University Press): I doubt that America's economy was designed in any meaningful sense, but comparing it to a design -- which is to say determining whether it serves any purpose, and what -- should be good for some insight into its dysfunction.

Otis Brawley/Paul Goldberg: How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America (2012, St Martin's Press): An oncologist, practices in a hospital in Atlanta that is the last resort for patients without means, which is largely why he goes in for evidence-based medicine and doesn't go in for kickbacks. Turns out that some of the most lucrative cancer treatments in America do little good and/or much harm, and he's got cases.

David Brock/Ari Rabin-Havt/Media Matters for America: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine (paperback, 2012, Anchor): Probably the single most important factor in America since Obama was elected has been the existence of a full-time, full-press propaganda force dedicated to tearing him down. No other president has had to face such a persistent and unscrupulous foe -- well, Clinton, maybe, but that was during Fox's infancy, where these methods were first hatched but far from perfected. Evidently much of this comes from Brock's website, which exercises the proper level of due dilligence, so you and I don't have to.

Chuck Collins: 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It (paperback, 2012, Bennett-Koehler): Short (144 pp) book by the director of IPS's Program on Inequality and the Common Good, and he has other activist credentials. The fact of growing inequality should be beyond any doubt at this point. The bigger problem is explaining why it is such a problem, in large part because instead of there being one large reason, there are so many small ones.

Steven A Cook: The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (2011, Oxford University Press): Survey of Egypt's history post-Nasser, made all the more timely by the revolt against Mubarak's sclerotic rule. Was looking for a book like this back when the revolution was unfolding, but such books always show up late. Cook previously wrote: Ruling but Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (paperback, 2007, Johns Hopkins Press).

David Corn: Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party (2012, William Morrow): Starts with the 2010 elections and tries to turn that sow's ear into a silk purse (repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell, passing New START, caving in on the Bush tax cuts, killing Bin Laden, etc.). A piece of political history, no doubt, but inspirational?

Douglas Dowd: Inequality and the Global Economic Crisis (paperback, 2009, Pluto Press): Another book on the consequences of inequality, making some of the connections to financial collapse that the new James Galbraith book (Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis) makes. I could append this there, as I do sometimes, but everything written on this topic is important.

Mary L Dudziak: War-Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (2012, Oxford University Press): Looks at how we've traditionally thought of times at war, and why such concepts have become so confused as the US has warlike conflicts without any sort of formal nation-wide mobilization.

Russ Feingold: While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era (2012, Crown): There are several books the former senator could have written now that he has the time, including one on the sordid influence of money in elections -- a big part of why he was turned out. This one appears to focus on how the Senate responded to 9/11: how little they knew, how they were handled by Bush's warmongers, how little they cared about the consequences of their (in-)actions. I doubt that he goes as far as he should, but he was one of the few people who didn't get totally swept up in the hysteria, so at least he should stake out that much.

James K Galbraith: Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis (2012, Oxford University Press): His last book, The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should To (2008) is my pick for the best political book of the last decade. This look to go deeper into the inequality chasm growth that preceded what he calls the Great Financial Crisis, and tries to show how one caused the other. I think that's right, and will move this to the top of my must-read list.

Joshua S Goldstein: Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (2011, Dutton): I think the thesis is basically right, although I'm less certain about the effectiveness of international peacekeeping forces than I am about the general sense that war is a losing proposition, inimical to everything we aspire to in life today.

Arthur Goldwag: The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right (2012, Pantheon): Blurb talks more about the old hate -- "hysteria about the Illuminati," McCarthyism, Henry Ford's anti-semitism -- which leaves us short of understanding what's new about the new hate. No doubt there are plenty of examples, but why it resonates is more important. Only by skimming the surface can you treat Henry Ford as a populist.

Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012, Pantheon): Heard a line recently that sums up politics these days: "either you're preaching to the choir, or talking to a wall." This psychologist thinks he knows why, something having to do with our tendency to react emotionally with our "moral taste buds" while only seeking post hoc reinforcement from reason. For an example of how people find what they want, an Amazon reader wrote: "This book is a fun read for conservatives because it pokes more holes in liberalism than it does in conservatism."

John Horgan: The End of War (2012, McSweeney's): Science writer, argues that war is not intrinsic to human nature nor inevitable, and that we are in fact trending towards ending war. I think one way to look at this is to look at the rationales that are used to advocate and serve in war: they've changed markedly over the last few centuries. One might point out that the US used to have a War Department that rarely went to war, but now that we've renamed it the Department of Defense it's always involved in one shootout or another, so this is a thorny subject, correct I think, but a habit hard to break.

Van Jones: Rebuild the Dream (2012, Nation Books): Obama's "green jobs" czar for a few days in 2009 until Obama left him high and dry, lynched on Rush Limbaugh's tree. He's back now, with an organization he named his book for, like the eery shadow of a campaign theme Obama used in 2008 and is unlikely to bring up ever again. Pitch: "America is still the best idea in the world. The American middle class is still her greatest invention. Rebuild the Dream is dedicated to the proposition that -- with the right strategy -- both can be preserved and strengthened for generations to come."

Michael T Klare: The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources (2012, Metropolitan Books): The next logical evolution of his argument after Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Politics of Energy. I've long thought that the conflict part of the equation is overrated, in part because it is impossible to see any national public interest in what the US does to support capitalists (with virtually no distinction between US and foreign), in part because the US military posture is so counterproductive.

Robert Jay Lifton: Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir (2011, Free Press): A psychiatrist, b. 1926, studied brainwashing during the Korean War, went on to study survivors of Hiroshima and of several incidents of genocide, writing a number of remarkable books along the way: e.g., Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1968); Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1968); Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans -- Neither Victims nor Executioners (1973); The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (1986); Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism (2000); Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation With the World (2003). He didn't do a full book on Abu Ghraib, but did weigh in on the subject, so I expect there's some of that here.

Michael Lind: Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States (2012, Harper): Big subject, 592 pp. is likely to require much conceptualizing while still compressing the subject. Lind has usually nipped around the corners, sometimes usefully, sometimes not (I can't see ever forgiving his defense of the Vietnam War). [April 17]

Marc Lynch: The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (2012, Public Affairs): After a rash of quickies last year, the books on the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and throughout the Arab world are starting to appear in earnest. Could try for a list, but they're still a bit scattered. Lynch has a longstanding understanding of the region, plus has some contacts with US diplomatic sources (given more play in the blurb than I suspect they're worth).

Tracie McMillan: The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table (2012, Scribner): Author worked in the fields of California, at Walmart in the produce isle, and in the kitchen at Applebee's, and got a sense of how we treat food these days, and as such how we treat ourselves.

Chris Mooney: The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don't Believe in Science (2012, Wiley): A delicious title, but I doubt he can deliver the goods, and not just because brains don't seem to be the operative organ governing Republicans. By all accounts, his first book (The Republican War on Science) was spot on, but he's gotten sloppier as he's gotten more aggravated.

Cullen Murphy: God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World (2012, Houghton Mifflin): Murphy dates the Inquisition as an official process to 1231 and tracks it for nearly 700 years, but also points out that many more recent processes share its essential features -- McCarthyism is one that occurs to me, and the burgeoning US security state continues in its wake. Murphy is a "big picture" historian, as shown by his previous book, Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America.

John Nichols: Uprising: How Wisconsin Reneweed the Politics of Protest From Madison to Wall Street (paperback, 2012, Nation Books): The American people did something monumentally stupid in November 2010, allowing a fanatic cadre of Republicans to take over the House of Representatives in Washington and to sweep nearly all of the state houses in the upper midwest. When the consequences of this lapse of sanity became obvious, the people of Wisconsin were first and foremost in standing up to right. This sketches out what happened there, in Ohio, and on to Occupy Wall Street: instant history, in case you weren't paying enough attention. Also see: Erica Sagrans, ed: We Are Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Uprising in the Words of the Activists, Writers, and Everyday Wisconsinites Who Made It Happen (paperback, 2011, Tasora Books); Mari Jo Buhle/Paul Buhle, eds: It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest in America (paperback, 2012, Verso, with an intro by Nichols); Dennis Weidemann: Cut From Plain Cloth: The 2011 Wisconsin Workers Protests (2011, Manitenahk Books); Michael D Yates: Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back (paperback, 2012, Monthly Review Press).

Elaine Pagels: Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, & Politics in the Book of Revelation (2012, Viking): The history of the odd book at the end of the Bible. The main points strike me as familiar, but it's helpful to spell them out at length -- to show how the historical specifics are reflected as hysterical prophecy. Pagels has written a lot on early Christianity, e.g., The Gnostic Gospels. One intriguing title: The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics.

Bill Press: The Obama Hate Machine: The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks on the President -- and Who Is Behind Them (2012, Thomas Dunne): The key is the last clause: I don't see much point in rehearsing all the nonsense unless you can tie it all down to sources, especially ones that certainly must know better.

Ahmed Rashid: Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan (2012, Viking): Wrote the standard book on the pre-2001 Taliban (Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia) and a major book on how the US war in Afghanistan has destabilized the region (Descent Into Chaos: The US and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia). More specifically on Pakistan, which as the US finally backs out is likely to remain as the main legacy of the near-sighted, myopic mess. Also new: Stephen P Cohen, et al: The Future of Pakistan (paperback, 2012, Brookings Institution Press).

Noam Scheiber: The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery (2012, Simon & Schuster): Reportedly some kind of inside story, like Ron Suskind's 2011 Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, so much of it must be redundant other than carrying the story a bit further -- the lack of subsequent good news making the "fumbling" all the more pointed. Suskind's title was clever, but this one is nonsense.

Anthony Shadid: House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): American journalist, has covered the Middle East remarkably for many years -- cf. his book on the US invasion of Iraq, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War -- before dying early this year in Syria. A memoir of rebuilding his family's ancestral home in Lebanon, thinking about the world around it.

Robert J Shiller: Finance and the Good Society (2012, Princeton University Press): Major economist, especially authoritative on bubbles and their consequences -- he was, I think, the first guy to smell out the housing bubble, but he had the advantage of having written Irrational Exuberance about the high-tech stock bubble, and also co-authored a book on behavioral economics called Animal Spirits. More big questions here.

David K Shipler: Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America (2012, Knopf): Quick sequel to his 2011 book, The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties. Has written big books in the past, and obviously felt like saying more here.

Jeffrey St Clair/Joshua Frank, eds: Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (paperback, 2012, AK Press): With so much room to snipe at Obama from the left, I'm disappointed that no one has really hit the mark. (I've read Tariq Ali, who rung up Bush like nobody's business; also Roger Hodge, Robert Kuttner, Tom Engelhardt, and Chris Hedges, but not Glenn Greenwald, at least in book form.) But this seems like a particularly cheap way to do it, not just by assembling pieces from such principled critics but by adopting that whole hope/illusion nonsense.

David C Unger: The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs (2012, Penguin Press): For 60+ years now, the US has responded to every lapse and chink in its defense by building more defense, and by deploying it ever more aggressively around the world. The result has been a self-sustaining avalanche of failures for which we have but one answer: more, the inevitable answer given the stress on absolute security.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel: The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in the Age of Obama (paperback, 2012, Nation Books): A collection of columns, blog posts, whatever, swept up over several years regardless of relevance.

Tim Weiner: Enemies: A History of the FBI (2012, Random House): Previously wrote Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, a useful book that could be more critical. The FBI should be more straightforward, but probably isn't. The first clue is that their preoccupation seems to be not criminals but "enemies."

Gary Weiss: Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul (2012, St Martin's Press): Looks into Rand's web of influence since her death in 1982 -- most obviously Alan Greenspan and various Tea Party crackpots. Not sure if Weiss is a believer or a critic, but you'd have to have an exaggerated sense of Rand's importance to bother exploring this matter.

Jeffrey A Winters: Oligarchy (paperback, 2011, Cambridge University Press): An enduring concept -- case studies include ancient Athens and Rome, medieval Venice and Sienna, and, of course, the modern US.

Matthew Yglesias: The Rent Is Too Damn High: What to Do About It, and Why It Matters More Than You Think (e-book, 2012, Simon & Schuster): Short essay (about 70 pp?) on urban planning, argues that rent control and zoning restrictions lead to high rents and high costs of living in dense cities. I've largely stopped reading his blog, in part because I zone out when he writes about these specific topics (and especially parking). I might care more if I lived in one of those cities, or if he got into the large picture of how rentier interests have corrupted public policy.

Some forthcoming books I'm looking forward to:

  • Michael J Sandel: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012, Farrar Straus and Giroux): [April 24]
  • Paul Krugman: End This Depression Now! (2012, WW Norton): [April 30]
  • Steve Coll: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (2012, Penguin Press): [May 1]
  • Gail Collins: As Texas Goes . . . : How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (2012, Liveright): [June 4]

Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010; paperback, 2012, Free Press): Now that racial discrimination has been formally banned, why is it that "more African Americans are under correctional control today . . . than were enslaved in 1850"? Why does the US (you know, "the land of the free") hold more of its people in prison than any other country in the world?

Adam Hochschild: To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (2011; paperback, 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Focuses on England during the first World War, especially on those who opposed the folly of that war, in contrast to those who promoted and luxuriated in it.

Bethany McLean/Joe Nocera: All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis (2010; paperback, 2011, Portfolio Trade): One of the best-regarded of the scads of books on the financial meltdown of 2008, which political stupidity has compounded into the greatest depression of our lives.

Bill Moyers: Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues (2011; paperback, 2012, New Press): Interview transcripts, most with interesting people, get to many interesting questions. I've found that the interview format often offers an exceptionally focused yet friendly introduction to a person.

Jason K Stearns: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa (2011; paperback, 2012, Public Affairs): I doubt that as many as one in five Americans who are aware of the Rwanda genocide have any idea that the subsequent war in neighboring Congo has wound up killing many more people. One of the few major books on the subject. Another is Gerard Prunier: Africa's World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (2008; paperback, 2011, Oxford University Press).

Trying to scratch up the paperbacks, which I was very short in, I've picked up a bunch more books, so the next installment should be sooner rather than later. It would be easier if one could just look for books in a bookstore, but that's becoming impossible. (I think books account for less than 40% of the floor space in our last remaining Barnes & Noble.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Wanker Decade

Atrios has run a series of posts, starting with nine runners up and converging on "the one true wanker of the decade." He distinguishes "wankers" from "wingers" so as to give a pass to the furthest right ideologues, propagandists, and lunatics -- possibly because there's no end of them, also because the research quickly overwhelms anyone's sense of humor. So his game are mostly self-professed centrists who repeatedly wind up doing the right's dirty work. He also looks for writers perched on big media outlets. (Alex Pareene has done similar, more comprehensive lists. See his Hack Thirty from 2010 and his 2011 Hack List.)

The Eschaton list in top-to-bottom order:

  1. Tom Friedman
  2. Fred Hiatt
  3. Andrew Sullivan
  4. Joe Klein
  5. Mark Halperin
  6. William Saletan ("Lord Saletan," as Atrios insists on calling him)
  7. Jonah Goldberg
  8. Diane Sawyer
  9. Richard Cohen
  10. Megan McArdle

I don't have strong feelings here, mostly because these are people I almost never read -- Sullivan is an exception, and I find his ranking a bit puzzling -- and in some cases have never heard of. (Fred Hiatt is one, but I'm told he runs the Washington Post's editorial page, which makes it possible to knock all these blokes off with just one slot: "Krauthammer. Broder. Hoagland. Kristol. Novak. Cohen. Lane. Cupp. Thiessen. Kurtz. Samuelson. Diehl. Kelly. Noonan. Will. Ignatius. Parker. Marcus. Milbank. Gerson." A couple names there don't ring a bell either, but I can fill in first names (and more) for most of them -- Robert Samuelson being a particular pet peeve.

What I'd like to see are some more specific lists: especially, which journalists/pundits were most effective at shutting down any sane discussion of 9/11 and the march to war in Afghanistan? I have a much clearer picture of Iraq (Judith Miller and Kenneth Pollack are key figures there, also George Packer). And what about the insanity of thinking it safe to turn Congress over to Republicans in 2010? I mean, a lot of "opinion makers" were simply negligent in not realizing what that would mean.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19772 [19630] rated (+142), 763 [878] unrated (-115). Every now and then I find unrated records in the database that I know I've written up somewhere. After bumping into a few of those over the last couple weeks, I finally took a close look at the unrated list and found about 120 bookkeeping lapses. The actual rated count for this past week is probably close to 25 -- 16 Jazz Prospecting below, plus a few items for May's Rhapsody Streamnotes. There should be two major chunks on the unrated list: I bought a lot of stuff real cheap during record store closeouts c. 2002-03, before I started getting lots of new stuff in the mail, and those things have been sitting around ever since; then there's the new stuff I haven't gotten to yet. In between there are a few things I got and never bothered with -- Verity gospel, those United States Air Force Band sets, some prog-rock advances, a lot of Xmas records. I have a box with about 16-inches of low priority jazz stuff that I haven't looked at since I sorted it, and another box of advance-only things that are getting old. There are also some old LPs that I may not even have any more -- sold off most of the LPs when we left NJ in 1999, and there are things that may just be lost. But it's been depressing to have made so little progress in knocking down the unrated number, so I'm glad to find that such a large part of the problem has been bookkeeping error. (The unrated list is here. As I've been writing this, I've knocked five more records off it, which will be accounted for next week.)

Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring: Friendly Fire: Live at Smoke (2011 [2012], High Note): Two stellar mainstream saxophonists, Alexander on tenor, Herring on alto, flashy piano solos by Mike LeDonne, with John Webber on bass and Carl Allen on drums. Standards (except for Herring's closer) -- one I haven't heard in a long time is "Sukiyaki," a pop instrumental hit from the 1960s. Bright and upbeat, but no evidence of cutting -- very friendly, indeed. B+(**)

Terence Blanchard: Red Tails (2011 [2012], Sony Classical): Trumpet player doing soundtrack work -- the movie is based on the Tuskegee airmen who broke the color line as fighter pilots in WWII. He's done that before, starting with scoring Spike Lee's Malcolm X in 1992, and he has no qualms about cranking out clichéd movie pomp -- lots of brass frills and typmani here, storm clouds everywhere. Even works "America the Beautiful" into his "End Credits" here. The only respite comes with the four period tunes he didn't write tacked on at the end, credited respectively to Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Maxine Sullivan, and the Ink Spots. C+

Michel Camilo: Mano A Mano (2011, Decca): Pianist, b. 1954 in the Dominican Republic, I count 17 albums since 1985, has the chops to have a real tour de force in there somewhere. This is a trio with Charles Flores on bass and Giovanni Hidalgo doing Latin percussion. Covers from Lee Morgan and John Coltrane, lots of originals, smart and savvy, nicely spiced. B+(**) [advance]

Oscar Castro-Neves: Live at Blue Note Tokyo (2009 [2012], Zoho): Brazilian guitarist, b. 1940 in Rio de Janeiro, has a dozen albums since 1987, now based in Los Angeles. Shares vocals with Leila Pinheiro on a mixed bag of tunes, some classic -- can't complain about the Jobim when it tops the show. B+(*)

Mike Cottone: Just Remember (2011, self-released): Trumpet player, from Rochester, studied at Eastman and Juilliard, based on New York. First album. Hard bop group, with Jeremy Viner on tenor sax, Kris Bowers on piano, the latter making the strongest impression. Nice "Stardust" at the end. B

Ryan Davidson: Ryan Davidson Trio (2010 [2011], Debris Field): Guitarist, in a trio with Ryan Hagler on bass and Ryan Jacobi on drums. Tight, electric sound, with a whiff of Americana (first song is "Ghost Riders in the Sky"). B+(*)

Conrad Herwig/Richie Beirach/Jack DeJohnette: The Tip of the Sword (1994 [2012], RadJazz): Trombonist, b. 1959 in Oklahoma, has close to 20 albums since 1987; veered into Latin jazz with his 1996 Latin Side of John Coltrane, and has rarely returned, but this earlier set has none of that. If anything he leans avant here, although Beirach's piano softens the tone. The drummer needs no introduction. B+(**)

In One Wind: How Bright a Shadow! (2011, Primary): Six-person group from somewhere -- website refuses to show me any info until I upgrade Flash, which I have blocked anyway -- only name I recognize is flute-clarinet player Steven Lugerner, but he's only here for decoration any way. Three singers, guitar, bass, and drums, plus extras whenever they feel the need for more flutes. I find the record unlistenable -- they seem incapable of sustaining a tempo more than two bars, but of course I mean unwilling -- but not uninteresting (which means they sometimes make it work, but not as often as, say, Captain Beefheart). C+

Josh Levinson Sextet: Chauncey Street (2011 [2012], self-released): Trumpet player, from Brooklyn, not aware of him having any previous records, although he's probably been around a while (for one thing, he dates the title song to the 1990s). Straightahead hard bop group, with Kenny Shanker on tenor (and soprano) sax, Noah Bless on trombone, Jeb Patton on piano, plus bass and drums. Beat has a funk influence and occasional Latin tinges, and the trombone helps. B+(*)

Alex Lopez: We Can Take This Boat (2011, Lopez Music): Tenor saxophonist, studied at New England Conservatory, which means Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone. First album, piano-bass-drums plus guitar on 5 (of 8) tracks. All originals. Mainstream, strong voice. B+(**)

Jeff Parker Trio: Bright Light in Winter (2011 [2012], Delmark): Guitarist, b. 1967 in Bridgeport, CT; based in Chicago, with a handful of records more/less under his own name, more than thirty side credits, mostly avant-leaning groups, not least Chicago Underground. This is a trio with Chris Lopes (acoustic bass, flute, synthesizer) and Chad Taylor (drums), all three writing pieces. Milder than I expected, focusing on delicate melodic lines. Grows on you. B+(**)

Enrico Pieranunzi: Permutation (2009 [2012], CAM Jazz): Piano trio, with Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Seems like I'm always impressed but never have a lot to say about him. B+(***)

Eric Reed: The Baddest Monk (2011 [2012], Savant): Pianist, b. 1970, lots of records (AMG counts 23) since 1990, basically a mainstream player. Did a Monk-themed album last year, The Dancing Monk, which left much to be desired, but fixes those problems here. Taps Seamus Blake for Monk's favored tenor sax role, and adds Etienne Charles' trumpet for a change of pace and extra polish -- Matt Clohesy plays bass, and Henry Cole drums. The combo lights up the brightest pieces, especially "Bright Mississippi." "'Round Midnight" remains the odd song out, an irresistible choice even though it doesn't fit. The idea here is to turn it over to singer José James, and that's an idea. Two Reed originals meditate on Monk, including the title song done solo, which makes for an effective coda. B+(**)

Andy Sheppard/Michael Benita/Sebastian Rochford: Trio Libero (2011 [2012], ECM): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano here), b. 1957 in England. Won a prize with a record contract at Antilles in 1989: the one record I heard was a rather dazzling pop-fusion thing, leaving the impression that he's sort of the British David Sanborn, but I could be totally off. A string of records for Provocateur ended in 2004. Later I noticed him in Carla Bley's entourage, and now he has two records on ECM. This is a sax trio with Benita on bass and Rochford on drums, credits well distributed. Everything is done at a slow burn, repaying your attention all the way. A-

Melissa Stylianou: Silent Movie (2010 [2012], Anzic): Singer, from Toronto, fourth album since 2003. She co-wrote three pieces, one with pianist Jamie Reynolds, and combined them with nine widely mixed covers -- Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, "Smile," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," "Moon River," one Brazilian tune (not by Jobim). With Pete McCann on guitar and Anat Cohen on clarinet and sax providing nice touches. B [advance]

Nils Weinhold: Shapes (2011 [2012], self-released): Guitarist, b. in Germany, based in New York, first album, trading leads with tenor saxophonist Adam Larson, backed by Fabian Almazan on piano/rhodes, Luques Curtis on bass, and Bastian Weinhold on drums. B+(*)

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

Gerry Beaudoin: The Return (2011 [2012], Francesca): Stumbled across this on Rhapsody, spun it once, and was disappointed. Later received a copy, so figured I'd give it another try, and it turns out to be pretty much what I had expected. Beaudoin's a tasty guitarist with a thing for swing, and his quartet here features hard-swinging tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, who elevates everything he touches. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amadou & Mariam: Folila (Nonesuch)
  • Ballister: Mechanisms (Clean Feed)
  • Budman/Levy Orchestra: From There to Here (OA2)
  • Dan Cavanagh Trio: The Heart of the Geyser (OA2)
  • Tom Harrell: Number Five (High Note)
  • Boris Hauf Sextet: Next Delusion (Clean Feed)
  • Florian Hoefner Group: Songs Without Words (OA2)
  • Stacey Kent: Dreamer in Concert (Blue Note): advance, June 5
  • Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 1 (Clean Feed)
  • Steve Lacy: EstiEstilEstilhaços: Live in Lisbon (1972, Clean Feed)
  • Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Brooklyn DNA (Clean Feed)
  • Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Orbiting (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • RED Trio + Nate Wooley: Stem (Clean Feed)
  • Elliott Sharp Trio: Aggregat (Clean Feed)
  • Rafael Toral/Davu Seru: Live in Minneapolis (Clean Feed)
  • Larry Willis: This Time the Dream's on Me (High Note)


  • De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present . . . First Serve (Duck Down)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tornado Day

I spent most of Saturday, April 14, watching television. The only shows on was the weather, which I could supplement with the radar feed from Weather Underground. The Storm Prediction Center had forecast "a high risk of severe weather" -- the last time that was forecast was April 7, 2006, in advance of an outbreak of over 100 tornadoes -- and the dead center of the risk area was very close to (maybe a bit south of) Wichita, KS. The day's weather map showed a cold front straight north-south along the Colorado-Kansas and New Mexico-Texas borders, and a stationary front hanging from the north end of the cold front northeast across Nebraska toward Chicago. As the cold front swept across Kansas southerly winds swept moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico, collecting into storm cells tracking from 30-70 mph north-northeast, turning more east as they crossed I-70 in north Kansas. These cells generally started across the border in Oklahoma, or possibly in Texas, and they started in the west.

EF4 tornado near Marquette, KS

Weather is serious business here in Kansas, with the television station competing fiercely for viewership with the latest, fanciest radar system feeds, live storm tracker reports, viewer-supplied photos, etc. (It's a big farm state, and not unusual for city people to have come off farms -- both of my parents did.) So it was possible to watch nothing but weather from noon, when the first tornado touched down in Hodgeman county (southwest KS, north of Dodge City) until well after midnight. At a typical moment late-afternoon, there were four widely separated storm cells, each moving northeast, each with a well-defined hook on the south edge near the rear of the storm indicating a large tornado. The new radars can measure wind shear, and they can distinguish hail from rain and debris sucked up by a tornado from hail -- remarkable images, I can say, as someone who's watched tornados come and go ever since the one that obliterated Udall, KS back in 1955[1].

Wikipedia lists 122 reported tornadoes during this outbreak, but currently only lists 13 as confirmed. Some of the reports are redundant, referring to the same tornado as it progressed -- presumably, as they evaluate the damage and sort out the paths the spottings will be sorted out. Some of the early tornados passed through territory I knew well. The Hodgeman county tornado was very close to the farm where my great-great-grandfather homesteaded c. 1870, and moved north of Spearville, where my father was born, and Kinsley, where an aunt lived for many years -- I must have visited that are a hundred times. Later a tornado kicked up between Geneseo and Little River, in Rice county, which is where my grandfather had a farm in the 1950s. That tornado then moved northwest toward Marquette, where he had moved in 1960, and where an aunt lived, then skittered northeast toward Salina.

Another tornado formed between Mullinville and Greensburg, south of Kinsley, then moved very fast northeast, crossing US-50 near St. John, and turning east to take another pass at Marquette. A later tornado took a similar path, slightly to the north, near Kanapolis and Brookville, then just missed Salina to the north. I later looked at a map of accumulated precipitation that consisted of four or five long streaks following these storm paths, separated by troughs that got virtually no rain.

Later storms moved a bit closer, into McPherson county, but all of those storms were well clear of Wichita, which was overcast all day and intermittently windy. First storm that worried me popped up north of Enid, OK, and crossed into Kansas near Bluff City -- reported as a "half-mile wide wedge tornado." This same cell cut across Harper and northwest Sumner counties into Sedgwick, aiming toward Haysville in Wichita's south suburbs. I haven't heard of any damage in Haysville, but a couple miles east an EF-3 tornado did massive destruction in Oaklawn, then hit the massive Spirit (formerly Boeing) plant, crossed McConnell AFB, did some damage at US-54 and Greenwich, and proceeded northeast past Andover and El Dorado for another 80 miles or so before eventually blowing out over the Flint Hills east of Cassoday.

We live just northwest of downtown Wichita, about six miles from the storm path. We spent about an hour in the basement, with only the radio on, so we were a bit sensory-deprived. We got some very heavy rain, possibly a bit of hail and wind, but mostly rain -- much more than the new drain I dug in the backyard could handle. Elsewhere there was quite a bit of local flooding. Electric power was a bit iffy here, but held up. Doesn't seem to have been much damage outside of the tornado path, but there over 100 poles were knocked down, blacking out 20,000 people and closing roads.

After that cleared, another line of storms developed to the west and started moving east: I suspect this was finally the cold front moving through. Around 2am the Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Sedgwick county, but the storm weakened and passed through Wichita by 3am with some lightning and more rain. That would seem to have been enough drama for one day and night, but the worst for us happened about 3:30am when I heard a loud hissing sound, and went into the bathroom to find the supply hose broken loose from the toilet and spraying water all over the place. I turned the valve shut and mopped up the water, including big drops collecting on the ceiling.

Got up around noon to a bright and sunny day where everything seemed normal again. Drove to the hardware store to get the part to fix the toilet, and saw no damage in the area -- river was a bit up, and saw some baby ducks on it. I haven't tried to drive anywhere near the damage, but looked through the slide shows at Kansas.com. I've also seen photos of isolated damage out west and north, but most of the territory those storms crossed is empty -- farms and ranchland -- so there isn't much to hit. (The population of Hodgeman county is 1,916; one of the lowest in Kansas.) What differentiated the Wichita tornado was that it had something to hit, but even so it was only a glancing blow.

According to the TV news tonight, there were 93 tornados in this bout. The TV people were all very happy that no one had been killed in Kansas last night, but when I woke up this morning 5 people had been killed in Woodward, OK. After the storm cleared Wichita I had figured that the later storms would be weaker, so I was distressed to see that there were still new tornado warnings in Oklahoma. The Woodward one (in northwest Oklahoma, just east of the panhandle) hit around midnight, so that would have been one of the ones I saw.

The Wichita tornado was last spotted near Cassoday shortly before midnight -- since that cell had developed in Oklahoma it had covered over 200 miles in about six hours, nearly all the time with a large tornado on the ground. That was the last Kansas tornado, although today there was one more in Oklahoma, several in Nebraska, one in South Dakota, another in Minnesota.

Gov. Brownback was quick to declare Sedgwick County a disaster area, and to come to Wichita to survey the damage at Spirit, and promise state aid to get the factory back into working order. I don't know whether he spent much time in Oaklawn, which before it was hit was one of the poorest neighborhoods in the metro area. Ironic, you might think, for a guy who spends so much of his time trying to undermine and dismantle government, but there's really no one else to turn to when disaster strikes. I've been saying all along that disaster response is the fundamental test of how well government serves -- something Clinton proved when he promoted FEMA to cabinet level, and something Bush found out when he tried to gut the department.

But also important is the Weather Service. Without them we would have been in Udall yesterday. (Or Mississippi, which invariably leads the nation in the most people killed per tornado.)

[1] The Udall tornado in 1955 was the deadliest ever to hit Kansas, killing 77, more than 10% of Udall's population, injuring another 270 (close to 50%), damaging every building within city limits, destroying most. Udall is 24 miles southeast of Wichita, just off a road we used to take to go visit relatives in Oklahoma. The Weather Bureau failed to forecast the storm, and there were no warnings. Afterwards, there was a major push to create a storm warning system.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Expert Comments

Results from the 2003 singles poll (first number = votes, second number = runner-up mentions):

  1. Outkast: "Hey Ya!" 20 + 1 - 5 number one votes
  2. Panjabi MC feat. Jay-Z: "Beware of the Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke)" 16 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  3. Beyonce feat. Jay-Z: "Crazy in Love" 15 + 1 - 3 number one votes
  4. Justin Timberlake: "Rock Your Body" 15 + 1
  5. White Stripes: "Seven Nation Army" 9 + 2 - 1 number one vote
  6. Johnny Cash: "Hurt" 9 + 1
  7. R. Kelly: "Ignition (remix)" 9 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  8. Buck 65: "Wicked and Weird" 9 + 0
  9. The Roots feat. Cody Chesnutt: "The Seed 2.0" 8 + 3
  10. Kelis: "Milkshake" 8 + 2
  11. Postal Service: "Such Great Heights" 8 + 2
  12. Fountains of Wayne: "Stacy's Mom" 8 + 1 - 1 number one vote
  13. !!!: "Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard" 8 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  14. Lil Jon feat. Ying Yang Twins: "Get Low" 8 + 0 - (2 votes are for the remix)
  15. Electric Six feat. Jack White: "Danger! High Voltage" 7 + 2
  16. Outkast: "The Way You Move" 7 + 1 - 1 number one vote
  17. Missy Elliott: "Pass That Dutch" 7 + 1
  18. Justin Timberlake: "Senorita" 7 + 0
  19. Justin Timberlake: "Cry Me a River" 6 + 0
  20. Todd Snider: "Beer Run" 6 + 0
  21. New Pornographers: "The Laws Have Changed" 5 + 1
  22. The Rapture: "House of Jealous Lovers" 5 + 1
  23. Kanye West: "Through the Wire" 5 + 1
  24. Junior Senior: "Move Your Feet" 5 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  25. Liz Phair: "Why Can't I" 5 + 0
  26. Warren Zevon: "Keep Me in Your Heart" 4 + 1
  27. The Wrens: "This Boy is Exhausted" 4 + 0
  28. The Wrens: "Everyone Chooses Sides" 4 + 0
  29. 50 Cent: "In da Club" 3 + 4
  30. A.R.E. Weapons: "Don't Be Scared" 3 + 1
  31. Black-Eyed Peas feat. Justin Timberlake: "Where Is the Love" 3 + 1
  32. Dizzee Rascal: "I Luv U" 3 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  33. Drive-By Truckers: "Outfit" 3 + 0 - 1 number one vote
  34. The Go-Betweens: "Caroline and I" 3 + 0
  35. The Darkness: "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" 3 + 0
  36. Fountains of Wayne: "Bright Future in Sales" 3 + 0
  37. Christina Aguilera: "Beautiful" 3 + 0
  38. The Shins: "So Says I" 3 + 0
  39. Postal Service: "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" 3 + 0
  40. Fannypack: "Cameltoe" 2 + 2

I have no singles sense and no usable notes, so I didn't even consider submitting a ballot. As it is, I only recognize five songs from the list -- "Milkshake," "Beer Run," "Cameltoe," and the two FoWs (undoubtedly, the only two FoWs I can recall). Of course, I must know the Buck 65 -- from my top album that year, Talkin' Honky Blues. Singles picks with albums on my A-list:

  1. Buck 65: Talkin' Honky Blues (WEA Canada)
  2. Kelis: Tasty (Star Trak/Arista)
  3. Warren Zevon: The Wind (Artemis)
  4. Drive-By Truckers: Decoration Day (New West)
  5. Electric Six: Fire (XL)
  6. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
  7. Panjabi MC: Beware (Sequence)
  8. Todd Snider: Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms (Oh Boy)
  9. Fannypack: So Stylistic (Tommy Boy)
  10. Missy Elliott: This Is Not a Test (Gold Mind/Elektra)
  11. Johnny Cash: American IV: The Man Comes Around (American)
  12. Black Eyed Peas: Elephunk (A&M)
  13. OutKast: Speakerboxx/The Love Below (Arista) {2}
  14. Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve/Virgin) {2}
  15. The Postal Service: Give Up (Sub Pop) {2}

Singles picks with no A- or better albums: !!!, 50 Cent [Get Rich or Die Tryin' - B], Christina Aguilera, A.R.E. Weapons, Beyoncé [Dangerously in Love - C], The Darkness, Dizzee Rascal, The Go-Betweens [Bright Yellow Bright Orange - B+], Junior Senior [D-D-Don't Stop the Beat - B-], R. Kelly, Lil Jon, New Pornographers, Liz Phair [Liz Phair - B+], The Rapture [Echoes - B+], The Roots, Justin Timberlake {3}, Kanye West, White Stripes [Elephant - B+], The Wrens {2} [The Meadowlands - B+].

Excluding jazz -- 2003 was the year my Jazz CG started, so I had quite a bit -- and the above singles albums, also on my A-list:

  1. Lyrics Born: Later That Day . . . (Quannum Projects)
  2. Amy Rigby: Til the Wheels Fall Off (Signature Sounds)
  3. Akrobatik: Balance (Coup D'Etat)
  4. NOFX: War on Errorism (Fat Wreck)
  5. Al Green: I Can't Stop (Blue Note)
  6. Chris Knight: The Jealous Kind (Dualtone)
  7. Lifesavas: Spirit in Stone (Quannum Projects)
  8. Abdoulaye N'Diaye: Taoué (Justin Time)
  9. Bettye Lavette: A Woman Like Me (Blues Express)
  10. Jean Grae: The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP (Babygrande)
  11. DJ Wally: Nothing Stays the Same (Thirsty Ear)
  12. Ludacris: Chicken-N-Beer (Def Jam South)
  13. Timbaland & Magoo: Under Construction Part II (Blackground/Universal)
  14. Kimya Dawson: My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess (Important)
  15. Brother Ali: Shadows on the Sun (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
  16. Lucinda Williams: World Without Tears (Lost Highway)
  17. James Blood Ulmer: No Escape From the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions (Hyena)
  18. Rancid: Indestructible (Hellcat)
  19. June Carter Cash: Wildwood Flower (Dualtone)
  20. Four Tet: Rounds (Domino)
  21. McEnroe: Disenfranchised (Peanuts & Corn)
  22. The Bug: Pressure (Rephlex)
  23. Yo La Tengo: Summer Sun (Matador)
  24. Kid Koala: Some of My Best Friends Are DJ's (Ninja Tune)
  25. Willie Nelson & Ray Price: Run That By Me One More Time (Lost Highway)
  26. Joe Ely: Streets of Sin (Rounder)
  27. Ramiro Musotto: Sudaka (Fast Horse)
  28. Brigitte DeMeyer: Nothing Comes Free (BDM)
  29. The Klezmatics: Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf! (Rounder)
  30. Murs: . . . The End of the Beginning (Definitive Jux)
  31. Pink: Try This (La Face)
  32. Merle Haggard: Like Never Before (Hag)
  33. Aceyalone: Love & Hate (Project Blowed)
  34. Steinski's Burning Out of Control: The Sugarhill Mix (Antidote)
  35. Bebo & Cigala: Lágrimas Negras (Calle 54)
  36. Boban Markovic Orkestar: Boban I Marko (Pirahna)
  37. Mamani Keita & Marc Minelli: Electro Bamako (Palm)
  38. Mr. Lif: Sleepyheads (Thought Wizard)
  39. The Blueprint Project (Creative Nation Music)
  40. The Bottle Rockets: Blue Sky (Sanctuary)
  41. Rosanne Cash: Rules of Travel (Capitol)
  42. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Pig Lib (Matador)
  43. EG Kight: Southern Comfort (Blue South)
  44. Daughter: Skin (Aum Fidelity)
  45. Pet Shop Boys: Disco 3 (Sanctuary)

Lots of underground hip-hop there, plus a few obscure country singers, plus some dance music, Africana, and punk. Only singles artist I see there is Pink.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rhapsody Streamnotes (April 2012)

Pick up text here.

Expert Comments

Christgau's EW installment wasn't up when I posted Rhapsody Streamnotes, but when I got up I saw that he had raised my grade-B Spoek Mathambo to a full, staggering grade-A. (Also an A- for Big KRIT, which I haven't managed to track down.) I posted this (with a side, becuase someone asked for Christgau's opinion on Bill Evans):

When I posted Jazz Prospecting yesterday, I promised to post Streamnotes today. I had it all done last night, so waited until after midnight (server time, which is on Pacific). Hadn't seen this EW when I did, otherwise I might have held back my one-pass pan of Mathambo. Guess I should give it another shot, but it sure didn't sound like much at the time. I generally do give records that sound like A- material a second (or even a third) play -- the Vandermark 5 is a exception there, but I've been playing Håvard Wiik (Atomic) all week and know the rest of the group exceptionally well (and its two hours, and I just found it yesterday), so I'm pretty sure of myself there. Sometimes I give borderline material an extra chance if people I like like them (I must have played the Burial EP five times, but still didn't budge). But I almost never give what initially sounds like a B a second chance. (And when Tatum offers a second opinion, it's usually that the records are much worse than I had suspected; sometimes also with what I see as mid-B+ fare, like The Men this time, also Dierks Bentley.)

By the way, the one to play before you give up on Bill Evans is Sunday at the Village Vanguard (which doesn't lose much in its expanded 3CD Complete version). I'm not a huge fan, nor much of a piano trio devotee, but that's one undeniable record.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19630 [19580] rated (+50), 878 [882] unrated (-4). Rated count up this week, partly because I've been adding to an overstuffed Rhapsody Streamnotes (should be up tomorrow), partly because I've been streaming other stuff for May's Recycled Goods (more avant-jazz, but not from FMP), and partly because with all the poking around I caught quite a few bookkeeping errors where I had failed to note previous grades. Also, there's a fairly hefty slab of Jazz Prospecting below.

Also, under unpacking, you'll note that the previous week's mail drought ended -- although the hoped-for package from Clean Feed has yet to materialize (although one from our friends in Lithuania did). Need to think about future this week, especially now that lots of things that have dragged me down over the last month have started to clear up. [Update: The Clean Feed package arrived later today.]

Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (2011 [2012], Savant): Drummer, b. 1942, broke in big in 1964 on albums by Freddie Hubbard and Andrew Hill, and was a regular on Blue Note in the 1960s. Picked up the vibraphone along the way, and has a dozen or so albums under his own name -- but not much like this live big band effort. Chambers' "Moving Pictures Suite" -- three movement at the top of the record, plus the fourth at the end -- is a mess. But the five pieces in between let the nearly-all-star band shine -- especially the three that don't feature vocalist Nicole Guiland, especially the one that started out in Count Basie's big band. B

Meredith D'Ambrosio: By Myself (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Singer, plays piano, b. 1941, 16th album since 1978, only her 2nd since 2001. She writes some, but this is all written by Arthur Schwartz, mostly with Howard Dietz's lyrics (also Maxwell Anderson, Johnny Mercer, and E.Y. Harburg, one song each). Done simply, just her piano and voice, nice and easy, a very quiet, intimate night music. B+(**)

Rick Drumm and Fatty Necroses: Return From the Unknown (2010 [2012], self-released): Drummer, first album as far as I can tell, the group name a reference to the cancer Drumm was diagnosed with in 2009. Like most drummers, he likes a groove. Guitarists Fred Hamilton and Corey Christiansen add to it, and the horns -- Pete Grimaldi on trumpet, Mike Brumbaugh on trombone, and especially Frank Catalano on sax -- build on that. B+(*)

Jürgen Hagenlocher: Leap in the Dark (2011, Intuition): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1967 in Germany. Website lists 10 albums since 1997 (AMG has three of them). This is a snappy post-hard-bop quintet assembled in New York: Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), David Kikoski (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Nate Smith (drums). Moves right along, the rare slow bits just there to feature the rich tones. B+(**)

Jeff Hamilton Trio: Red Sparkle (2012, Capri): Drummer-led piano trio, with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass -- no formal credits table on the package, but they are mentioned in passing in Leonard Maltin's liner notes. Hamilton has ten albums since 1982, but is best known as co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra -- the big band backup much favored by singers like Diana Krall. B+(*)

Ross Hammond Quartet: Adored (2012, Prescott): Guitarist, based in California (Sacramento, I think), has five previous records since 2003, nothing much in his bio. Quartet adds Vinny Golia (tenor/alto/soprano sax), Stuart Liebig (bass), and Alex Cline (drums), with producer Wayne Peet on piano for one cut. Not getting anything from Golia's Nine Winds label, it's a rare treat to hear him elsewhere, and he puts on a terrific performance here, fierce and lyrical. Harder to tell about the guitar. B+(***)

Billy Hart: All Our Reasons (2011 [2012], ECM): Veteran drummer, didn't have much under his own name until this star-laden group promoted him to front man, but he's responded this time by writing 4 (of 9) songs -- pianist Ethan Iverson and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner split the remainer, 3 to 2, with bassist Ben Street just helping out. Too bad the pieces aren't crisper: Turner isn't up to speed, and no one else picks up the slack. B+(*)

Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has eleven (or more) albums since 1993, some with the group Mousetrap. Quintet, with two saxophones -- Steve Adams, from ROVA on alto and soprano (and flute), and Dan Plonsey on tenor -- plus piano (Scott Looney) and drums (Jim Bove). Actually, I'm not sure why this isn't Plonsey's record: he wrote all of the tunes (except for the Coltrane/Dolphy medley). Plonsey is another Bay Area performer I hadn't heard of: has a half-dozen albums since 1997, plus side-credits like Eugene Chadbourne, Anthony Braxton, and Tom Waits. The monsters on the cover strike me as an attempt to play up the humor while sneaking through what is by far the most avant record this label has yet released. B+(***)

Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band: Eleven (2011 [2012], Deep Rhythm Music): Drummer, has one previous album in 1996, plus there's a 2007 album credited solely to Birdland Big Band. Igoe has scattered side credits going back to 1989, notably with New York Voices (which explains the two Darmon Meader songs here; no vocals, though). Band credits 19 members, but if you factor out the guests (only on some tracks) and the trumpet platoon it drops down to conventional size (no guitar, only three trombones). Don't recognize many names, but appreciate the crisp section work and rhythmic drive. You have to wonder why more big bands don't do "Moanin'." B+(*)

Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990 [2012], High Note): B. 1928, but aside from the one-shot Portrait of Sheila in 1962 she didn't really get her career going until the late 1970s, and still hasn't been given her due -- although she's spent so much time travelling and teaching since 1990 I'm not finding dozens of aspiring jazz singers acknowledging their debts to her. Early on she paid plenty of dues, chasing Bird, and catching his pianist Duke Pearson. George Russell finally put her in front of a microphone: I'd put that on the list of his major accomplishments-- along with synthesizing Cuban be-bop for Dizzy Gillespie, teaching Miles Davis and John Coltrane how to use modes, introducing electronics to jazz, and inspiring a whole generation of Scandinavian jazz stars. I first ran into her on Roswell Rudd's mid-1970s albums -- the totally forgotten Numatik Swing Band and the even-more-marvelous Flexible Flyer -- and followed her through Steve Kuhn's group, into her solo albums -- many with nothing more than bass fiddle for accompaniment. This set, recorded "live in concert, circa 1990," is one of those, with the former Harvie Swartz on bass. More standards, less be-bop/vocalese, than her studio albums, which means more touchstones you think you know but will hear something new in here. Her control is so remarkable that even though she breaks up laughing in the Fats Waller medley she never misses a note. Only in the closer, "I Could Have Danced All Night," does she finally lose it, a joke you can't help but enjoy. A-

Anders Jormin: Ad Lucem (2011 [2012], ECM): Bassist, b. 1957 in Sweden, has at least a dozen albums since 1988. Song cycle, texts in Latin, commissioned for Swedish Jazz Celebration 2010, with two vocalists: Mariam Wallentin (of a group I've heard of, Wildbirds and Peacedrums) and Erika Angell (of two I haven't: Thus:Owls, The Moth). The vocal pieces, which aren't quite art-song or choral, let alone folk or pop, don't especially interest me. The instrumental passages, with Jon Fält on drums, lots of plucked bass, and superbly tasteful clarinet and tenor sax by Fredrik Ljungkvist, do. B+(*)

Jonny King: Above All (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1965 in New York, studied at Princeton and Harvard Law, had three albums 1994-97, and now a fourth, a trio (Ed Howard on bass, Victor Lewis on drums), all original pieces. Mainstream piano jazz, fast and assured. B+(**)

Guy Klucevsek: The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour (2011 [2012], Innova): Accordion player, b. 1947 in Pittsburgh, AMG classifies him as avant-garde but in many ways he's a traditionalist, poking his way through European folk music. Eclectic mix here, with three Satie pieces, progressive folk group Brave Combo on six more, scattered jazz musicians like Dave Douglas, Marcus Rojas, and John Hollenbeck, some talk, some song, lots of accordion. B+(**)

Neil Leonard: Marcel's Window (2009 [2011], Gasp): Plays alto and soprano sax, originally from Philadelphia, teaches at Berklee. Looks like he also has a 2001 album (Timaeus), although his website doesn't mention it. Postbop quartet, pianist Tom Lawton nearly steals the show in a couple of sections, plus Lee Smith on bass and Craig McIver on drums. B+(*)

Davy Mooney: Perrier Street (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist-vocalist, originally from New Orleans, now based in New York; has two previous records. As a vocalist, has a Chet Baker affectation, giving way to Johnaye Kendrick on five songs. As a guitarist, he's too buried to tell, although the slinky postbop occasionally takes shape, at least when saxophonist John Ellis takes charge. C+

Piero Orodici: Cedar Walton Presents (2011 [2012], Savant): Fine print: "with the Cedar Walton Trio" -- Walton (piano), David Williams (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). One thing that sets Walton apart from nearly every other pianist since he started in the mid-1960s is his featured use of saxophonists (both on his own records and, especially, as Eastern Rebellion). It's relatively easy to focus on his piano here, because what he does goes way beyong comping -- he sets up all the structure the saxophonist needs. The saxophonist in question, Odorici, was b. 1962 in Bologna, Italy, and has a fistful of records on Italian labels, starting with First Play in 1989. Odorici's tenor sails through six standards and one original each by Odorici and Walton, an impressive intro, although it's the rhythm section that makes this special. B+(***)

Johnny Padilla: Bright Morning (2012, self-released): Saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor -- the latter is pictured), second album (I've been able to find) after one in 1998. Likes to play long and fast bebop runs, with guitarist Zvonimir Tot getting some similar solo space. Bits of Latin percussion add little, and the delicately colored change-of-pace is dull. B

Marc Rossi Group: Mantra Revealed (2009-11 [2012], Innova): Pianist, teaches at Berklee, AMG lists three records since 1988. This one starts off with a piece for Carnatic guitarist Prasanna and moves on in genre-hopping world-fusion fashion. B+(*)

Cinzia Spata: Into the Moment (2010 [2011], Koine): Singer, from Italy, where I gather she has a considerable reputation, now based in New York. Second album (as far as I can tell), backed by pianist Bruce Barth, bass and drums, with some trumpet by Ken Cervenka and tenor sax by George Garzone. Mostly standards -- "My Favorite Things," "Soul Eyes," "Tea for Two," "East of the Sun" -- horns nicely arranged, striking voice, likes to scat. B+(**)

Thollem/Parker/Cline: The Gowanus Session (2012, Porter): Thollem McDonas is a pianist from San Francisco, has played on 20-some albums since 2005; might file half under his name, since his specialties seem to be solo and duo sets. The others are bassist William Parker and guitarist Nels Cline. Group improv, broken into six tracks but pretty much one movement, with a lot of rough spots along the way. B+(***)

TriBeCaStan: New Deli (2011, Evergreene Music): Mostly John Kruth, who writes most of the material, and Jeff Greene, plus assorted hangers on, guests, and "special guests," on their third group album. Kruth and Greene play scads of world instruments, Kruth leaning toward mandolin/banjo, Greene more of a percussion guy. Steve Turre and Claire Daly are among the better known guests, and Badal Roy is a "special guest." I applaud the cosmopolitanism, but in three albums they've never managed to turn this into more than a very agreeable mix. B+(**)

Anne Walsh: Go (2011 [2012], self-released): Standards singer, mostly (wrote one original here). Originally from Massachusetts. Fourth album since 2006. Nice, clear voice, a light bounce to the arrangements, not the strings help. B+(*)

Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal (2010 [2012], Capri): Piano and flute, respectively; married in 2000, which has intertwined their discography. With Downbeat's poll approaching, I'm reminded that Hofmann will be near the top of the flutist list -- she has a dozen or so albums since 1989, and there aren't many flute players in jazz -- and Wofford -- with twice as many albums going back to 1966 -- won't even make the piano ballot. He is a superb player, but not quite someone you'd slot ahead of contemporaries like Ran Blake and Paul Bley. He carries the album here, with Hofmann and trumpet player Terell Stafford scratching and clawing to keep up. For once I don't mind the weakness of the flute, but the sound is tuned down so low that Terrell's trumpet doesn't sound any brighter. B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Todd Bishop Group: Little Played Little Bird: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Origin)
  • Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Down Here Below: Tribute to Abbey Lincoln Volume One (Red Piano): April 24
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Twenty Dozen (Savoy Jazz)
  • Amit Friedman Sextet: Sunrise (Origin)
  • Narada Burton Greene: Live at Kerrytown House (NoBusiness)
  • Jazz Punks: Smashups (self-released)
  • Guilermo Klein/Los Gauchos: Carrera (Sunnyside): May 22
  • Andrew Lamb: Rhapsody in Black (NoBusiness)
  • Joel Miller: Swim (Origin)
  • Tony Monaco: Celebration: Life-Love-Music (Chicken Coup/Summit)
  • Miles Okazaki: Figurations (Sunnyside)
  • Nate Radley: The Big Eyes (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Anne Sajdera: Azul (Bijart)
  • Tom Tallitsch: Heads or Tails (Posi-Tone)
  • The Thing with Barry Guy: Metal! (NoBusiness): advance
  • Henry P. Warner/Earl Freeman/Philip Spigner: Freestyle Band (1984, NoBusiness)
  • Spike Wilner: La Tendresse (Posi-Tone)
  • Nate Wooley/Christian Weber/Paul Lytton: Six Feet Under (NoBusiness): advance
  • Brandon Wright: Journeyman (Posi-Tone): May 25


  • Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Universal Republic)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Downloader's Diary (19): April 2012

Insert text from here.

This is the 19th installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010, totalling 499 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Expert Comments

Fraptron posted this jazz playlist:

To everyone who gave me pointers on creating a jazz playlist way back on the Childish Gambino posts, I've finally created an introductory list for my friend.

  1. Snake Rag - King Oliver's Creal Jazz Band
  2. Big Butter and Egg Man - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five
  3. Singin' the Blues (Till My Daddy Comes Home) - Bix Beiderbecke/Frankie Trumbauer
  4. Black and Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington & Orchestra
  5. Hotter Than That - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven
  6. West End Blues - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five
  7. Rockin' in Rhythm - Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
  8. Blue Again - Louis Armstrong
  9. Tiger Rag - Art Tatum
  10. Queer Notions - Fletcher Henderson
  11. A Sailboat in the Moonlight - Billie Holiday & Lester Young
  12. Begin the Beguine - Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
  13. Dizzy Spells (live) - Benny Goodman
  14. Cotton Tail - Duke Ellington & Orchestra
  15. I Like Em Fat Like That - Louis Jordan & His Tympany 5
  16. Koko - Charlie Parker
  17. A Night in Tunisia - Charlie Parker
  18. Dexterity - Charlie Parker
  19. Manteca - Dizzy Gillespie
  20. Tempus Fugit - Bud Powell
  21. Jumpin' With Symphony Sid - King Pleasure
  22. I'm An Old Cowhand - Sonny Rollins
  23. What is There to Say? - Bill Evans
  24. In Walked Bud (live) - Thelonius Monk
  25. Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul - Charles Mingus
  26. Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet
  27. Giant Steps - John Coltrane
  28. Freddie Freeloader - Miles Davis
  29. Lonely Woman - Ornette Coleman
  30. Driva'man - Max Roach w/Abbey Lincoln
  31. This Here - Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
  32. Hate & Beard - Eric Dolphy
  33. Song For my Father - Horace Silver
  34. The Sidewinder - Lee Morgan
  35. Nice Work If You Can Get It - Thelonious Monk (It's Monk's Time version)
  36. Welcome - John Coltrane
  37. Country Preacher - Cannonball Adderley
  38. Funky Doo - Eddie Harris
  39. Theme De Yoyo - Art Ensemble of Chicago
  40. Conference of the Birds - Dave Holland Quartet
  41. Honky Tonk - Miles Davis (Live at Philharmonic version)
  42. Rocket Number Nine - Sun Ra
  43. Silence - Keith Jarrett
  44. Down San Diego Way - Arthur Blythe
  45. Sleep Talk - Ornette Coleman
  46. You're My Thrill - Shirley Horn
  47. Novette Number 1 in D Flat Major (Movement 3) - Moondog

So, yes a tad long, but I meant it as something he could listen to and step away from as he works long hours at his job usually with headphones on. Plus, if he were not so obsessive with music I would have trimmed it down considerably. Thanks again everyone for your input.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Expert Comments

From Cam Patterson, actually on Facebook:

I'm not sure it got pointed out that Tom Hull's Recycled Goods went up earlier this week but head on over if you haven't. I'm relieved to see him weigh in on the Hemphill CD that has circulated among some of this crew, surprised and enthused about the Ruby Braff encomium to Bunny Berigan that I downloaded last night, and hopeful that more of you will use this as encouragement to read Tommy Womack's The Cheese Chronicles, and maybe sift through the earlier Womack work that Tom highlights. The Cheese Chronicles is a more sardonic and slapdash (and, of course, male) take on the teeteringly failing indie life that Jen Trynin captured so well in Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be, and equally as good.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Justice Takes a Holiday

From the lead article in the Wichita Eagle today, titled "Five Days with No Courts":

Closing state courts for five days will save about $1.2 million in the court budget, but could cost the state's troubled unemployment budget as much as $750,000.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced that courts will be closed and employees, except judges, will be furloughed for five days between now and June 8, to deal with a $1.4 million shortfall that legislators didn't handle before they ended their regular session Friday.

If all five furlough days take place, the state will lose roughly 60,000 hours of work time.

However, the furloughs are structured in such a way that most court employees will likely be eligible to claim a form of unemployment benefit that will pay roughly 50 to 60 percent of their salaries for the days they're off, court officials said.That money will come from the state unemployment fund, which had to borrow from the federal government during the recession and is still paying back more than $163 million of debt.

It's impossible to overstate what an embarrassment the Kansas state legislature has been since the 2010 elections. While neglecting to keep the state government in decent running order, they've passed laws to restrict voting rights and to make abortions even more costly and more inaccessible. They've killed off state funding for the arts, thereby sacrificing federal funding, but the state has wound up spending close to $500,000 in court trying to defend the constitutionality of their new anti-abortion laws. They still haven't managed to pass a law with new congressional districts: one idiot plan that some keep pushing is to attach heavily-Democrat Wyandotte county (Kansas City, KS) to the sparsely populated far West district that gave a rookie Republican extremist a 72% vote in 2010.

The post-2010 legislature isn't much different than the ones that preceded it -- both were overwhelmingly Republican. The difference is that after 16 years of moderate Republican and/or Democratic governors (Graves, Sibelius, Parkinson), which limited the damage the increasingly right-wing legislators could do, the new guy in the mansion is Sam Brownback. You may recall that Brownback ran for president in 2008 -- miserably, I might add. Now, his ambitions are undiminished, and he's trying to rack up a record as a man of action with his social engineering programs.

But the legislature hasn't bowed down to Brownback. They've actively connived to make his proposals even worse then he intended. For example, Brownback's income tax plan proposed to exempt the Kochs and Ruffins from paying state income taxes, while ending the Earned Income Credit for the poor and gutting deductions for the middle class. The lege -- I might as well start using Molly Ivins's Texas nomenclature since it's equally applicable here -- kept the worst ideas but turned it into a budget-busting monstrosity. It's still up in the air, but the relatively small matter of shutting down the court system is but a taste of what the lege is promising.

It's hard not to think that the end if the Republicans go unchecked in Kansas is a wasteland. Sometimes they do it on purpose. Sometimes they just screw up.

Expert Comments

I dropped this one in, a propos of nothing being discussed:

Ran across this little item on the politics of record reviewing: http://goo.gl/OOBjZ

I've written for a copy of the record (Rich Siegel: The Way to Peace), so we'll see. Gilad Atzmon appears on the record. I recently received a petition asking people to condemn Atzmon for various allegedly anti-semitic statements -- I haven't followed his polemical writings close enough to sort out the context (my conjecture is that being Israeli-born, he doesn't quite appreciate how different Israeli and diaspora Jews are), but I have been shocked by the vitriol some jazz critics -- David R. Adler is the prime example -- hold for him.

Nate Smith (sharpsm) responded:

Tom: Oddly enough, I just finished Howard Jacobson's novel The Finkler Question, which features a character purportedly based on Gilad Atzmon. I had enjoyed some of Atzmon's work in the past but had no idea he was politically radioactive. I did some digging, and, well . . .

  • I'm not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.
  • We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously.
  • It took me years to accept that the Holocaust narrative, in its current form, doesn't make any historical sense.
  • American Jewry makes any debate on whether the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are an authentic document or rather a forged irrelevant. American Jews do control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.

All out of context, I'm sure, but apparently even Palestinian activists have disavowed Atzmon. Anti-semitism spooks me enough that I think I'll find something else to listen to (just as I can always find something other than Ezra Pound to read).

Milo Miles wrote:

Yow. I didn't know all that about the guy, either. I remember I got his Exile back in 2003 or whenever and I noticed the pro-Palestinian slant and thought it was okay playing, but I must have found it wanting in some way because I notice I did not keep it. Sorry to see Robert Wyatt is teaming up with him these days, but am now glad the recent Wyatt releases are so feeble few will hear them.

Robert Christgau wrote:

Neither Tom nor Milo has taken a position that is clear to me. How is one blogger's pusillanimous withdrawal of a not especially coherent positive review (though it was more coherent that the withdrawal) an example of the "politicization" of "record reviewing"? If I'm allowed to copy my positive review of Atzmon's exile (if I'm not it's easy to find on my site), it seems an equally if not more "politicized" record review, which of course Tom didn't complain about. On the other hand, is Milo saying that Atzmon's pro-Palestine position or collaboration with a crippled Stalinist makes his work ipso facto less acceptable? In both cases I really can't tell what's going on here.

I responded:

To recap: Brent Black wrote a generally favorable review of an album by Rich Siegel. He then expunged it from his blog. Siegel quotes Black as explaining (on Facebook, no link provided):

my humble apologies to my jewish friends for reviewing rich sigel [sic] an anti-zionist peace activist that supports the destruction of israel. had i know [sic] who he was and what he was all about i never would have given him 30 seconds of my time. his review is pulled and e mail blocked. again my apologies i stand with israel NEVER against her but firmly against her enemies.

The [sic] was added by Siegel -- I changed parens to brackets. What I meant by politics was that Black bowed to political pressure to suppress the review. The generic term for this is blacklisting (sorry if that seems like a pun).

Atzmon figures into this two ways: he played on the record, but more importantly is that there is a significant movement to condemn him and shun his work -- again, to blacklist him. The petition to condemn him (at least the one I've seen) is phrased like a loyalty oath: anyone who fails to sign it is presumed to be committed to the physical destruction of Israel.

Atzmon is an extremely marginal figure in the political debate over Israel's occupation: their illegal settlements, their denial of Palestinian rights, their refusal to acknowledge the refugees, their threats of war against other countries in the region (most especially Iran). The only reason he's become an issue is that pro-Israeli propagandists want to deflect the discussion, to get people to talk about something other than Israel's own acts and posture.

For my part I've never not reviewed an Israeli jazz record -- I've written at least 100 Jazz Prospecting notes on records by Israeli musicians, quite possibly 200 or more. (Seems like one of the legacies of socialism that the government of Israel puts a lot of money into music education. There are probably more Israeli jazz musicians per capita than in any other country -- Norway and Portugal strike me as the closest competitors.) I don't know anything about the politics of any Israeli musicians unless they've made a point of it. I'm not party to any boycott effort, nor to any blacklisting. I've never described myself as "pro" any side, and I don't think I've ever taken a position that cannot be applied equally to all.

So I'm not out to defend the statements of positions of Atzmon and Siegel. But I do resent, and worry about, the authoritarian attitude that seeks to condemn and expunge them.

Also for Milo (and others): I should caution you against jumping to the conclusion that any self-identified Jew is an anti-semite. I know for a fact that my Jewish wife is a lot less cautious and circumspect when she talks about Jews than I am. (I mean, you don't automatically assume that every rapper who uses the n-word is a KKK supporter, now do you?)

Christgau again:

The part I didn't understand is the anti-Atzmon petition, which is of course reprehensible whatever his exact position happens to be (though I suppose if he was indeed calling for the extermination of Israeli Jews I might change my mind at least a little). Everything else Tom says makes sense.

Milo still thinks Atzmon's "antisemitic remarks make him a jerk." Nate still has no interest in anyone so anti-semitic. I'm not so sure Atzmon is, but that's a different issue.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Recycled Goods (96): April 2012

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3199.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19580 [19545] rated (+35), 882 [889] unrated (-7). Saw a report this week that Wichita is the 6th worst city in the country for allergies right now, and I must say I've rarely been more miserable. Don't think it got to the predicted 90° mark yesterday, and doubt that it will today either, but it will come close enough -- closer to summer temperatures than spring, but I can remember snow this late in the year. Rainy cold front in a couple of days should provide a bit of relief, but the rebound from that should be really awful. Allergies have bothered me for more than 25 years now, and they're always worse in spring. Thought I was escaping the worst when we moved to Wichita from NJ, but it seems to have caught up with us.

Spent most of my listening time preparing for Recycled Goods, which should appear tomorrow, and Streamnotes -- which I'll hold until after A Downloader's Diary appears, probably midweek. So I didn't write up much Jazz Prospecting this week (and wound up holding back one piece, since it's a dupe from Recycled Goods -- at least so far). I figured I wouldn't have enough this week, but this batch has enough quality I might as well let it go. Also, I got so little incoming mail this past week I don't want to further the impression that I'm a has been. Still hoping it's just slow mail keeping me from the new batch from Clean Feed. If not, I probably am done for.

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: In Motion (2010 [2012], Leo): Third record for this trio in the last year or so, after Inner Spire (Leo) and All Out (FMR), and they're all pretty close to interchangeable: Carrier's alto sax always probing and poignant, his decade-plus relationship to drummer Lambert has long been telepathic, the Russian pianist something of a mystery, but he's by now so tightly entwined he's integral to the set. A-

Ellery Eskelin/Dave Ballou/Michael Formanek/Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan (2011 [2012], Skirl): I filed this under drummer Devin Gray, who wrote all the music and dominates the publicity materials, but the cover suggests the attribution above. Starts off with a section that sounds like they're trying to find their key, but once they settle down this starts to get interesting -- the two horns (Eskelin on tenor sax, Ballou on trumpet) slipping in and out of synch, the bass and drums fluttering about. B+(***)

John Moulder Quintet: The Eleventh Hour: Live at the Green Mill (2011 [2012], Origin): Guitarist, has 5-6 albums since 1993, figure him for postbop but don't put too much weight on what that might mean. Group includes Geof Bradfield (saxes, bass clarinet), Jim Trompeter (piano), Larry Gray (bass), and Paul Wertico (drums). Live in Chicago, a long set, Bradfield is typically strong which gives the guitar something to play off against. Struck by how the finale rises at the end, like a rock band would do. B+(*)

Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara: At Somewhere There (2009 [2011], Barnyard): Parker, of course, is one of the giant figures in the English/European avant-garde, with well over 100 records since 1967 -- with Globe Unity Orchestra, followed in 1968 with appearances on Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun and Spontaneous Music Ensemble's Karyobin. The latter two are Canadians, playing bass and drums, part of the free-ish AIMToronto Orchestra, in effect Parker's local pick-up band for this live, single-cut improv blast. With so many albums, it's hard to pick and choose, but I like this one because he sticks to tenor sax and keeps it short (39:56) and simple -- but not too simple. A-

Scott Tixier: Brooklyn Bazaar (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Violinist, b. 1986 in France. First album, with guitar, piano, bass, and drums (bassist Massimo Biolcati is the name I recognize); wrote all his own pieces, and makes an impression dashing through the less interesting arrangements. Vocals on one piece add to the chamber music aura. B

The Michael Treni Big Band: Boy's Night Out (2011 [2012], self-released): Trombonist, from Falmouth, ME; studied at University of Miami, taught there and at Berklee; ran a technology company from 1985 on, and claims a couple patents. Booklet starts with the line: "the history of jazz is rife with dramatic comebacks where big league musicians returned to the spotlight with renewed power and conviction after years of scuffling in obscurity," citing examples Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, Frank Morgan, and Henry Grimes. About all I can find for Treni's pre-hiatus period is a side credit with Bobby Watson, but he returned with an album in 2009, and a better one here. Conventional big band (piano, no guitar), plus a string quartet on two cuts, tightly arranged, flows exceptionally well, not a lot of solo space, few names I recognize (Jerry Bergonzi is the major exception). B+(**)

Upper Left Trio: Ulternative (2011 [2012], Origin): Piano trio -- Clay Giberson (piano, keyboards), Jeff Leonard (basses), Charlie Doggett (drums) -- fourth album, all write (but Doggett only gets one song in). Very solid postbop group, nothing spectacular but I've played this a half dozen times and it's never been less than engaging. B+(***)

Piet Verbist: Zygomatik (2010 [2012], Origin): Bassist, b. 1961 in Belgium; graduated Brussels Conservatory in 1994. First album; doesn't have much of a side discography either, but wrote all the pieces, leading the album off with a bass intro a la Mingus. Uses Fender Rhodes instead of piano, and features tenor sax, adding a bari sax on three cuts. The tenor is split between Fred Delplancq early on and Matt Renzi on the latter half. No surprise that Renzi bumps this up to a higher energy level, adding the edge that makes this album memorable. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Boswell: Windows (My Quiet Moon)
  • Tommy Womack: Now What! (Cedar Creek)


  • Ani DiFranco: Which Side Are You On? (Righteous Babe)
  • Madonna: MDNA (Interscope)
  • John Prine: The Singing Mailman Delivers (1970, Oh Boy, 2CD)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Willem Breuker & Leo Cuypers: . . . Superstars (1978, FMP): Of the Dutch avant-garde, anyway, usually heard in larger conflagrations, but just the two of them here, Breuker on various saxes and clarinets, Cuypers piano; not intimate, nor even much of a duo, the two mostly switching off like tag team wrestlers, Breuker often reaching not for the right note but the funny one, and playing two saxes simultaneously on his "Kirk" tribute. B+(***) [bandcamp]
  • Christmann Schönenberg Duo: We Play (1973, FMP): Trombone player, born in Poland during the war, like Roswell Rudd in many ways, including his ability to tap into Kid Ory while playing stuff from another world: free grunge, kicked left and right by his percussionist cohort. B+(***) [bandcamp]
  • Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 73: Live in Wuppertal (1973, FMP): Alexander von Schlippenbach's pathbreaking free jazz orchestra, ten horns -- counting Peter Kowald's tuba -- plus piano, bass and drums; I might be happier had they explored "Wolverine Blues" further -- their trad jazz deconstruction anticipated Air -- or if they dabbled more in recognizable forms, like their idea of a "Bavarian Calypso" or the march "Solidaritätslied," but there's no energy crunch here: their full bore cacophony -- Schlippenbach and Kowald are credited with "conduction," more like artillery guidance, as the "Maniacs" finale brings down the house. A- [bandcamp]
  • Georg Gräwe Quintet: New Movements (1976, FMP)
  • Pianist-led group, with trumpet, sax, bass, and drums -- no names that I instantly recognize -- in what may be his first record, more than a decade earlier than anything AMG or Discogs list; the 20-year-old pianist would have been the most unknown of the lot at the time, but he shows remarkable poise in the midst of a very lively free-for-all. B+(**) [bandcamp]
  • Peter Kowald: The Complete Duos: Europa America Japan (1986-90, FMP): The German avant-garde's premier bassist cut many duets, including three albums (Europa, America, and Japan, for where they were recorded) shuffled into two CDs here -- an initial sampler released in 1991, and a second volume in 2003; 37 cuts, ranging from 2:19 to 7:00, with 26 partners, the Berlin and New York sessions with familiar names and instruments, the Tokyo sets much less so, a peculiar form of exotica; one could whittle this down -- a first approximation would be to keep the saxes, drums, and the remarkable pianist Irène Schweizer, while dropping the vocalists and thinning out the Tokyo sessions -- but largesse is the essence here, the more contexts the bassist navigates, the more impressive. A- [bandcamp]
  • Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: SelbViert (1979 [1980], FMP): Saxophonist, b. 1933 in Germany and wound up in the East after the war where he seems to have been an important figure, although the records I've noted him on have been free jazz efforts in the West, including his work with Globe Unity and Zentralquartett; this is a freewheeling quartet with Heinz Becker's trumpet bouncing off his soprano, alto, and clarinet, with Klaus Koch on bass and Günter Sommer on drums; rough at first, but one dare devil move after another works, improbably for sure. B+(***) [bandcamp]
  • Michael Smith Quartet: Live in Berlin: Austin Stream (1976 [1977], FMP): A pianist from Kentucky, moved to France in 1972 and cut this and one more album before returning to the US in 1980; with Claude Bernard (alto sax), Kent Carter (bass), and Laurence Cook (drums); the saxophonist makes a strong impression, as do the piano leads. B+(**) [bandcamp]
  • Günter Sommer: Hörmusik (1979, FMP): German drummer, a significant figure in the avant-garde, tries his hand at a solo album -- not all drums, but everything that doesn't go bang at least flutters and twitters; one piece, 34:49, originally split over two LP sides, now pasted back together. B+(*) [bandcamp]

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Ari Berman: The .000063% Election:

    At a time when it's become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation's political conversation -- drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% -- electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .000063%. Those are the 196 donors who have provided nearly 80% of the individual contributions raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each. [ . . . ]

    Otherwise the super PACs on both sides of the aisle are financed by the 1% of the 1%. Romney's Restore Our Future Super PAC, founded by the general counsel of his 2008 campaign, has led the herd, raising $30 million, 98% from donors who gave $25,000 or more. Ten million dollars came from just 10 donors who gave $1 million each. These included three hedge-fund managers and Houston Republican Bob Perry, the main funder behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, whose scurrilous ads did such an effective job of destroying John Kerry's electoral prospects. Sixty-five percent of the funds that poured into Romney's super PAC in the second half of 2011 came from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, otherwise known as the people who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007-2008. [ . . . ]

    In his book Oligarchy, political scientist Jeffrey Winters refers to the disproportionately wealthy and influential actors in the political system as the "Income Defense Industry." If you want to know how the moneyed class, who prospered during the Bush and Clinton years, found a way to kill or water down nearly everything it objected to in the Obama years, look no further than the grip of the 1% of the 1% on our political system.

    This simple fact explains why hedge-fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, or why the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a single-payer universal healthcare system, or why the planet continues to warm at an unprecedented pace while we do nothing to combat global warming. Money usually buys elections and, whoever is elected, it almost always buys influence.

    In the 2010 election, the 1% of the 1% accounted for 25% of all campaign-related donations, totaling $774 million dollars, and 80% of all donations to the Democratic and Republican parties, the highest percentage since 1990. In congressional races in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spent the most money won 85% of House races and 83% of Senate races.

    The media loves an underdog story, but nowadays the underdog is ever less likely to win. Given the cost of running campaigns and the overwhelming premium on outspending your opponent, it's no surprise that nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median net worth of a U.S. Senator is $2.56 million.

    Paul Krugman, citing Timothy Noah, has a variant post on the above that he calls Crankocracy:

    What I would note, however, is that to a large extent we've been living in Noah's crankocracy for decades. There have been limits on the ability of rich crackpots to intervene directly in elections, but not on their ability to finance think tanks, provide sinecures for deferential politicians, and so on. And the prevalence of crankocracy explains a lot about our current state of affairs.

    For what the money of rich cranks does is ensure that bad ideas never go away -- indeed, they can gain strength even as they fail in practice again and again. The notion that wonderful things happen if you cut taxes on the rich and terrible things happen if you raise them has a stronger hold than ever on the GOP, despite the experience of the Clinton tax hike and the Bush tax cut. Climate denialism gains force even as the planet warms. And so on.

    And this isn't just a matter of self-interest on the part of rich cranks; even they will suffer if the economy remains depressed for decades, or the planet becomes unliveable. But those are fact they'd rather not believe in, and their resources ensure that lots of people share their blinkers.

  • Chris Bertram: The new enclosures as a threat to freedom: Britain's Tory/LibDem government wants to privatize parts of the road network. Bertram lists similar examples, and more are in store, as the potential for the private sector to profit by squeezing the public is much greater than anything they could honestly invent:

    No doubt our "libertarian" friends approve of this shift, but those who don't have an ideologically distorted view of liberty should be alarmed. First, the extension of chargeable private space means that the range of actions permitted to individuals who lack money is reduced. Lack of money reduces your purely negative freedom,[1] as anyone who tries to perform actions encroaching on the state-enforced private property of others will quickly discover. Second -- and this point should hold even for those silly enough to reject the view that private property restricts the freedom of those who have less of it -- the increase in privatized public space means that we are increasingly subject to the arbitrary will of private owners concerning what we can and can't do. Rights of assembly? Rights of protest? Rights to do things as innocuous as take a photograph? All of those things are now restricted or prohibited on formerly public land across the United Kingdom or subject to the permission of the new private owner. The interest of those who endorse a republican conception of freedom is thereby engaged, as is those of liberal persuasion who think a list of basic liberties should be protected: less public space, less capacity to exercise those basic liberties. The proposed privatization of the roads is just an extension of this. [ . . . ]

    fn1. For an argument to this effect and a demolition of the idea that lack of money confers lack of ability rather than unfreedom, see G.A. Cohen, Freedom and Money (PDF)

  • Ed Kilgore: Trayvon Martin Case: Roost, Meet Chicken: Laura had been talking about this case for several days before I read anything, and this was my first introduction -- now more than a week old, but pace Stalin, I tend to take statistics much more seriously than I do individual cases.

    I hadn't paid much attention to the Trayvon Martin case until yesterday, but I can now understand why it is generating so much outrage. For all that it resembles a hundred old-school "police brutality" cases where a young black male met a bad end in a murky encounters with white men in authority, it's actually something different: a lesson in what might happen when a society decides to deliberately supplement its police forces by heavily arming citizens and hoping they act responsibly.

    Sometimes they don't, and sometimes, moreover, if you pass laws designed to give people the benefit of doubt when they are defending themselves you can give vigilantes a license to hunt and kill. The more we learn about the Martin case, the more it looks like that is exactly what happened, with the injustice compounded by the tendency of the actual authorities in Florida to take the side of a gun-toting neighborhood ethnic cleanser with an attitude and an arrest record against an unarmed black teenager brandishing a bag of Skittles and just trying to get out of harm's way.

    For one thing, I wasn't aware of those "stand your ground" laws (even though Kansas, sure 'nuff, has one). One commenter added, quoting a Tampa Bay editorial:

    Since the law went into effect, reports of justifiable homicides have tripled, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It has been used to absolve violence resulting from road rage, barroom arguments and even a gang gunfight. In 2008, two gangs in Tallahassee got into a shootout where a 15-year-old boy was killed. The charges were dismissed by a judge citing the "stand your ground" law.

    OK, that starts to sound serious, like statistics.

  • Ed Kilgore: The "What Then" Debate: "Now that there is a reasonable possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down as unconstitutional the individual mandate that represents the glue holding the Affordable Care Act together," Kilgore checks up on some opinion-takers: James Carville, Robert Reich, David Frum -- who has the best quote:

    "Repeal" may excite a Republican primary electorate that doesn't need to worry about health insurance because it's overwhelmingly over 65 and happily enjoying its government-mandated and taxpayer-subsidized single-payer Medicare system. But the general-election electorate doesn't have the benefit of government medicine. It relies on the collapsing system of employer-directed care. It's frightened, and it wants answers.

    Kilgore sums up:

    Since conservatives cannot go back to what they were proposing just a few years ago -- you know, a competitive system of private insurance options complemented by an individual purchasing mandate and federal regulation of coverage denials and rates -- they may have problems responding to this scenario.

    Sure, Republicans have their highly misleading pet rock proposals to hold down premiums -- interstate insurance sales and "tort reform" -- and a shriveled booby prize of an approach to extend health insurance to people who are routinely denied coverage -- state-run "high-risk pools" that typically offer crappy coverage at astronomical rates. But all the focus on ObamaCare since 2009 has obscured the fact that most people who are not on Medicare pretty much do hate the health care status quo ante, and will expect both parties to propose new reforms.

Mar 2012 May 2012