May 2012 Notebook
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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Glen Allen

Obituary in the Wichita Eagle today:

Allen, Glenn Edward, 95, retired Plant II Manager for Beech Aircraft passed away on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Preceded by his wives Dolores (Harrison) and Lucille (Hull), brother Lawrence Allen and sister Genevieve McNabb. Survived by sons Bob (Marsha) Allen of Derby, David (Sandy) Allen of Wichita, Don (Karen) Hull of El Dorado, daughter Glenda (Dennis) Ebert of Colwich; sister-in-law Dorothy Allen of San Antonio, TX; grandchildren Jason Allen, Jami (Ben) Nance, Josh Hull, Kari Hull, Nathan (Lindsi) Hull, Jon Hull, Kevin (Jennifer) Ebert, Julie (Brandon) Walsh, Melissa (Kris) Haverkamp, Becky (Justin) Longhofer; 15 great grandchildren, 4 nieces and 3 nephews. Visitation with family 5-7 p.m. Friday; rosary at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1; funeral service 10 a.m. Saturday, June 2, all at DeVorss Flanagan-Hunt Chapel with burial to follow at Calvary Cemetery. Condolence may be offered at www.devorss flanaganhunt.com

Last url is botched. One link that does work is here.

For me, the biggest surprise there was that Lucille had previously passed away. This link archives the first 25 words of her obituary (December 24-25, 2010 -- the rest is behind a paywall):

Allen, Lucille A., 83, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Wichita. She was born November 21, 1927 to John and . . .

Lucille was previously married to my uncle, Robert Lincoln Hull, Jr. (Bob). A search into the obit files reveals:

Hull, Robert Lincoln, Jr., 79, of Las Vegas, NV, retired City of Wichita transit bus driver for 33 yrs, died Tuesday, July 20, 2004. He was born on April 30, 1925 to Robert L. Hull, Sr. & Mabel M. (Lundberg) Hull in Spearville, KS. He was a WWII . . .


Tried googling some other relatives I haven't heard from in a long time:

  • Forrest Lee Brown: b. 1927-03-19; Beenverified reports a Forrest W Brown, age 85, in Arlington or Lake Stevens, WA, listing Helen Jean Brown as a possible relative. Right age, last known address was in Lake Stevens; don't have wife written down, but Helen Jean sounds familiar.
  • Joe Alb Brown: b. 1930-04-03; Whitepages lists 75 Joseph Browns in WA; Beenverified has an age 82 Joseph A Brown in Port Orchard, WA; age is right, but last known address was in Everett. As I recall, wife was Betty. Found obit for Betty Jean Brown (b. 1926-11-26 in Cimarron, KS; d. 2006-10-23 in Snohomish, WA), but her husband was Bill Brown, so no match.
  • James Lemon Brown: b. 1933-10-23; BeenVerified lists James Lee Brown, 78, in Shohomish/Lake Stevens/Everett, WA; also James L Brown, 78, in Everett, WA; either possible, don't recognize any possible relatives (but then I wouldn't).
  • Orbrey Burns: b. 1925-04-13; Whitepages lists 1 in Sun Lakes, AZ; Geni has birthdate right, gives middle name as Olatha, lists Rhoda Gloria Weisman (b. 1933-02-01 in Chicago, IL; maiden name Bogoff; d. 1996.11-28 in Chandler, AZ) as wife (she was his second).
  • [Donald] Dewane Hixon: b. 1933-02-16; married Bobbie Hixon; mentioned as survivor in Verdell's obit.
  • Joe Ben Hixon: b. 1935-08-28; Ancestry.com has a Social Security Death Index record behind its paywall; mentioned as preceded in death in Verdell's obit (incorrectly identified as brother-in-law); d. 2009-02-03.
  • Marjorie Hixon: b. 1937-10-30; married Ray Aderholt; mentioned as survivor in Verdell's obit.
  • Verdell Hixon: b. 1939-11-25; d. 2011-01-27. Found obituary for Charlie 'Chuck' Verdell Hixon; born in Stroud, OK; "survivors include his longtime loving partner Lou Lawhorn; his daughter, Brenda L. Meyer, and son-in-law Robert O. Meyer; his grandson Tyler Hazelton; his daughter, Charlotte A. Swetland." Moved from OK to CA at age 12 (probably 1952).

Also some details on people I knew to be dead:

  • Murph Brown: b. 1903-05-06; d. 1990-04-21 (86); SS issued in Washington.
  • Nora M. (Norie) Brown: b. 1903-03-17; d. 2002-05-06; wife of Murph Brown, d. 1990; parents were James "Buck" Cotter and Alzeria (King) Cotter, of Vidette, Arkansas.
  • Ruby M. Burns: b. 1905-10-12; d. 1992-03-12, Wichita, KS; SS issued in Kansas.
  • Otis Hixon: b. 1911-05-03, d. 1967-07, San Jose, CA; SS issued in Oklahoma.
  • Rose Agnes Gehrer: b. 1923-05-19; d. 2007-12-02 (84)
  • Yona Julian: b. 1971-09-08; d. 2007-11-10 (36)
  • Rebecca Springer Hull: b. 1948-07-04; d. 1987-07 (39); SS record misspelled (Hul)
  • Billie Appelhans: b. 1927-12-24; d. 2012-03-16 (84); Eagle obit lists as Billie Jean Elmore (Dorothy) Appelhans; Linda (Joplin) has a blog, noted cause of death: sepsis. Married to John J. Appelhans (b. 1927-04-20; d. 1994-02-28) 1946-06-12, shortly after graduating from North HS, Wichita, KS. Five children: James Terry (Sandy), Rhonda Lynn, Linda Sue Joplin (Corby), Marilyn Jean Olvera (Mark), Michael John (Diana).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rupert Murdoch Adores Sam Brownback

An excerpt from the Wichita Eagle blogs, published in today's paper:

An editorial in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal headlined "What's Right With Kansas" praised Gov. Sam Brownback for calling the bluff of GOP tax-cut opponents and "signing the biggest tax cut in Kansas history," declaring that in contrast to the fiscal actions in France and Washington, "some enlightenment reigns in the American heartland." The editorial concluded: "Low tax rates aren't the only policy needed for growth, and Kansas would be better off had Senate Republicans agreed to reduce loopholes while cutting rates. But the tax cut will force state politicians to restrain spending, and above all it sends a signal to businesses and taxpayers that Kansas wants more of both." The editorial made no mention of the schools and social services that will bear the damaging brunt of the restrained spending. The Wall Street Journal editorial board has singled out Brownback for praise repeatedly this year.

Even before Rupert Murdoch bought up the Wall Street Journal, the editorial page there could be depended on to relish any policy that might help make the rich richer, regardless of its impact on everyone else. In the 1980s they championed Arthur Laffer's supply side doodles. In a pointed reminder of how reigning public thought has refused to learn anything from the repeated economic debacles of conservative rule, Brownback used state funds to hire Laffer to propagandize his tax cut scheme.

The tax cut is projected to almost immediately throw the state into deficit, which the "starve the beast" devotees will insist on meeting with spending cuts. Given how severely education and public works have already been cut, it's not clear where more cuts are going to come from. (Jails? Police? Only real way to cut that would be to legalize marijuana, which doesn't seem to be on the agenda although it's not totally off the radar.) But one thing that should be obvious is that growth isn't in the cards. One good thing about state spending is the money gets spent (and multiplied) in-state. But tax cuts for the rich don't result in more local spending. The main beneficiaries are guys like Phil Ruffin, who puts most of his money into Las Vegas.

Of course, that's a level of detail that the Wall Street Journal could care less about. They're happy as long as the rich get richer, and if in the process government in Kansas becomes dysfunctional, no skin off their teeth.

Expert Comments

Trying to catch up. This one is by Robert Christgau, from the Jack White thread:

God this album-is-dead thing is tedious. I've written about it many times, too. It's been an element of both of my two most recent year-end pieces--but since I have 2000 words, dispatched briefly. The last one was going to begin with that ridiculous rumor that CDs would no longer be manufactured at the end of 2012 until I did some due diligence and discovered--I'm doing this from memory and may have some facts slightly wrong six months later, but hey, it's only a blog post, right?--that the sole source of the rumor was one cranky, hit-seeking European website; that few sources were cited and none were named; and that many debunks and denials had surfaced.

Aesthetically, the deal has always been and continues to be this. With very few exceptions, an album gets an A minus when it has enough good songs to warrant random replaying by convenience-seekers like me. But what those good songs generally establish is that the artist is substantial enough that songs you didn't like at first will grow on you, and sometimes they do.

I could write many thousands of words on this subject, but this will do until somebody offers to give me a buck for each of them. I write for money and am proud of it.

To a large extent, Christgau has managed to get paid to write what he wants to anyway, but the insistence on the dollar sign does pen him in -- to what extent we'll never know. But he did volunteer this on Pete Seeger:

I don't ordinarily do this kind of contextualization, but let me say that as someone who cared about Seeger for a year or two in the late '50s I've played the many Folkways reissues that came my way to little avail--just too many blank spots. There may be other live records I don't know know about, but this functions as a very serviceable best-of--I liked it to start and, perhaps because I came in as a respectful ex-fan, it grew on me. Never noticed the crowd noise problem Matt complained about, but that may be because at this particular moment in folkiedom sing-alongs were such a big deal I just take them for granted, and this one was par for the course with, as I recall, no especially ragged clapping (long a bane). Also, no "Little Boxes." That's big. What an awful song--and when you hear the crowds snicker at its "jokes," well, you'll know why by then I was an anti-folkie.

Cam Patterson, from the Seeger thread:

Greg Magarian noted our host's review of The Essential Pete Seeger from Recyclables, and I'm not nearly enough a resource on Vanguard-era Seeger to answer Greg's question (I've got a big blind spot from the point when folkies were no longer hillbillies until the time that they were also rockers, at least by association). And the 2-CD The Essential Harry Belafonte that Xgau partnered with the Seeger compilation is too much of a mildly good thing, with what is probably dubious song selection to boot. But the 19-song version of Harry Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall that I landed on instead adds enough island breeze to the folk and novelty tunes to totally win me over. The sound is great, too. So much so that I also tried Returns to Carnegie Hall, which is a bridge too far. Odetta cancels out Miriam Makeba, the song selection is weak, and the sound borders on atrocious.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19959 [19952] rated (+7), 741 [745] unrated (-4). Been out of town most of last week, so nothing to report here. Have the mail unpacked but not catalogued, so the unrated count doesn't reflect anything in the past week. Took two previously-packed sets of CDs with me, so I've been listening to oldies and goodies.

Sample road listening:

  • Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven
  • Louis Armstrong: 16 Most Requested Songs
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams: It's the Talk of the Town and Other Sad Songs
  • This Right Here Is Buck 65
  • Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind
  • Elizabeth Cook: Welder
  • Crescent City Soul: Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet
  • Das Racist: Relax
  • Fats Domino: My Blue Heaven
  • Joe Ely: Honky Tonk Masquerade
  • Lightnin' Hopkins: Blues King Pins
  • Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse
  • Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions: The Anthology: disc 1
  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister: disc 1
  • Mekons: Ancient & Modern 1911-2011
  • David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español
  • Rod Picott: Welding Burns
  • Jimmy Rushing: Rushing Lullabies
  • Teddy Bears: Devil's Music
  • Bunny Wailer: Crucial!
  • Neil Young: International Harvesters: A Treasure

Should have a relatively short Recycled Goods if not on June 1 then shortly thereafter. Also have a short Rhapsody Streamnotes, but will hold that back until after A Downloader's Diary runs (and don't have a firm grip on when that will be). As for Jazz Prospecting, that may take a while, although I will note that quite a bit of stuff came in while I was away.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19952 [19915] rated (+37), 745 [754] unrated (-9). Typical week, which increasingly includes not getting much mail -- although a few of the unpacking items do look promising (Amado and Threadgill, if you must know). Sorry to have been so tardy in getting to the Byron album. I packed it in a gravel case some time ago, meaning to spend some time with it, and effectively it got lost. (Gilkes also came from that travel case.) Torn between trying to catch up and look ahead -- all the best prospects are toward the end of a long queue.

I spent about as much time replenishing the Streamnotes file as I did with Jazz Prospecting last week. Was unimpressed with Beach House first time I played it, then surprised when Christgau gave it an A- in Expert Witness, and finally replayed it, ultimately finding it as uninteresting as ever, although I did wind up retuning my reasoning. Looking at my 2012 in progress file it appears that half or more of the entries are for things I heard on Rhapsody -- comparing the green to the blue in the 2012 metacritic file is even starker, although the sort moves the green up and the blue down. Coloring in the latter seems like an especially hopeless task. In fact, just building the file is more than I can really manage.

This has lead up to another of my existential crises. I'm thinking I'll take a few weeks off and lay low -- go see some relatives (and some countryside), try to fix up some things around the house, maybe file (or dispose of) some of the mess, get some reading done. Wrists are getting real sore, and my right arm feels like dropping off. Not looking forward to another summer as brutal as last one. And I'm ever more fearful over the political domain, although I'm heading toward an age where that's not going to be my problem any more.

(Playing Lamb as I wrote the above. No point in making you wait for that.)


Don Byron New Gospel Quintet: Love, Peace, and Soul (2011 [2012], Savoy Jazz): After Mickey Katz and Raymond Scott, among other sources less specific and idiosyncratic, yet another niche for Byron's clarinet. (Would have included Jr. Walker, but Byron played alto sax that time.) Inspirations here include Thomas Dorsey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Eddie Harris and George Russell, aunt Dorothy Simon, and Donald Byron Sr. Vocals predominate, with DK Dyson counted in the quintet, and Dean Bowman given a guest shot. Also on hand are Xavier Davis (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), and guests include Brandon Ross, Vernon Reid, and Ralph Alessi. Hot enough to overcome my increasing resistance to gospel, especially when the clarinet races to the front. A-

Dan Cray: Meridies (2011 [2012], Origin): Pianist, b. 1977, studied at Northwestern in Chicago. Fifth album since 2001, a quartet with bass, drums, and Noah Preminger on tenor sax -- a significant plus. B+(*)

Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Twenty Dozen (2011 [2012], Savoy Jazz): The venerable New Orleans institution sticks to its guns, and for good reason: the early instrumental cuts here are lackluster, but the nth edition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" finally shakes all the cobwebs loose and turns this into a party. B+(*)

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra: All Out of Peaches (2011, New Folk): Fusion band out of Minnesota -- self-description runs "Chick Corea meets The Dixie Dregs meets A Prairie Home Companion." Four albums, including two volumes of Songs We Didn't Write. Sound is dominated by Lisi Wright's "fiddle" over guitar-bass-drums, which can wear thin but is fun for a good while. B+(*)

Marshall Gilkes: Sound Stories (2011 [2012], Alternate Side): Trombonist, b. 1978, third album since 2005: a quintet, with Donny McCaslin on tenor sax, Adam Birnbaum on piano, bass, and drums. Gilkes wrote all the pieces, keeps it all nicely balanced, the trombone leads as muscular as the sax. B+(**)

Boris Hauf Sextet: Next Delusion (2010 [2012], Clean Feed): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano here), b. 1974 in England, based in Vienna, but seems like all his friends are in Chicago: sextet here includes Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Frank Rosaly (drums), Steven Hess (drums, electronics), and Michael Hartman (still more drums). In other words, this sextet reduces to a reeds/drums duo, with electronics reinforcing either side. Striking passages, some dead spots. Hauf claims "more than 40 CD, Vinyl and online releases." I don't have a handle on him, but AMG lists him under "avant-garde" (only crediting him with 2 albums), so they don't either. B+(*)

Jazz Punks: Smashups (2012, self-released): First album from group: Sal Polcino (guitar), Robby Elfman (sax), Danny Kastner (piano), Michael Polcino (bass), Hugh Elliot (drums). Basic idea is to take a rock theme, like the Who's "I Can See for Miles," and lay a jazz riff on top of it, like Miles Davis's "No Blues," the result retitled "I Can See Miles." Or the Beatles + Wayne Shorter ("She's So Heavy" + "Footprints" = "Heavyfoot"), Led Zeppelin + Dizzy Gillespie ("Mystic Mountain Hop" + "A Night in Tunisia" = "Led Gillespie"), or the Clash + Paul Desmond ("Should I Stay or Should I Go" + "Take Five" = "Clash Up"). The Polcinos tend to get the rock parts, Elfman the jazz. Entertaining, occasionally witty, but not much punk, not that I can't see why they didn't call themselves Jazz Classic Rockers. B+(*)

Andrew Lamb: Rhapsody in Black (2006 [2012], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1958 in North Carolina, gravitated toward AACM, Brooklyn, and Europe. Has a spotty discography but he always makes a strong impression wherever he pops up. This is a quartet with two drummers (Michael Wimberly and Guillermo E. Brown), Tom Abbs working the lower registers (bass, tuba, didgeridoo), and Lamb on sax, flute, clarinet, and conch shell. He runs through the gyrations of an extended suite -- the soft flute segment (which I think leads into the shell) is right on the mark, but the rough stuff is even better. A-

Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group: Signing (2011 [2012], Motéma): Vibes and piano, group also means bass and drums. Locke has more than two dozen albums since 1990. His collaboration with pianist Keezer goes back at least to 2006's Live in Seattle, but this round works out much better, nicely balanced, flashy moments from both, and more depth -- bassist Terreon Gully deserves a mention. B+(***)

Sebastian Noelle: Koan (2010 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, born in Germany, based in New York. Fourth album; the first a set of solos and duos with Gene Bertoncini. Group here includes Loren Stillman (alto sax), Thomson Kneeland (bass), Tony Moreno (drums), and, on 4 (of 11) cuts, George Colligan (piano). The piano can lift or push this over the top, but Stillman is always an asset, and the guitar weaves everything together. B+(**)

Dudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band: People Calling (2011 [2012], Origin): Wright plays bass; wrote 7 of 11 songs. Owens plays tenor and soprano sax; wrote the other 4. With piano (Willerm Delisfort), drums (Clif Wallace), and trumpet (Justin Stanton) on the last four cuts. Postbop with a bluesy base. B+(*)

Twopool: Traffic Bins (2010 [2012], Origin): Swiss group: Andrea Oswald (alto sax), Andreas Tschopp (trombone), Christian Wolfarth (drums), Jonas Tauber (cello) -- I've seen Tauber, who plays bass elsewhere, identified as the leader, but all the pieces are free group improvs, the growl and stutter of the trombone spaced out, picked apart by the cello, the sax adding some melodic form. Origin started out as a local Seattle label, but has branched out, especially Chicago, but also to central Europe. Jonas directs their "Zürich Series" -- now up to seven records. B+(***)

Eyal Vilner: Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band (2010 [2012], Gut String): Saxophone player, b. 1985 in Israel, leads a conventional big band, mostly staffed with New York musicians (Ned Goold and Dan Block are in the sax section), through songs like "Woody 'N You" and "Un Poco Loco" that get off on the harmonics and swing. Includes three vocal features for Yaala Ballin, especially superb on "The Nearness of You." B+(*)

Spike Wilner: La Tendresse (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Pianist, has more than a handful of albums since 2000, a couple recorded live at Smalls, the New York club he owns. Before Smalls, he was house pianist at the Village Gate, and he brings that sensibility to this piano trio. Four originals, covers from Joplin to Monk with a lot of songbook fare in between. B+(**)

Larry Willis: This Time the Dream's on Me (2011 [2012], High Note): Pianist, b. 1940, has twenty-some albums under his own name since 1970, many more as a collaborator or sideman. This one is solo, a clear taste of what he's been doing all along. B+(**)

Nate Wooley/Christian Weber/Paul Lytton: Six Feet Under (2009 [2012], NoBusiness): Trumpet, bass, drums, respectively. Lytton is the best known, one of the major drummers of Europe's avant-garde, but Wooley has been prolific since 2002, even more so since he started releasing records under his own name in 2009 (AMG lists eight, missing this one -- an LP release limited to 300 copies, so I'm glad to have received my CDR). Scratchy, lots of low volume, high pressure maneuvers, making the few sections where the trumpet breaks loose all the more impressive. B+(**) [advance]

Brandon Wright: Journeyman (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, second album, first was called Boiling Point, and this is another pot-boiler: mainstream sax quartet, David Kikoski on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, Donald Edwards on drums. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Jeb Bishop: Burning Live at Jazz Ao Centro (JACC)
  • Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto: Brasilianos 3 (Adventure Music)
  • Eddie Gomez: Per Sempre (BFM Jazz)
  • Avi Granite's Verse: Snow Umbrellas (Pet Mantis)
  • Maria Neckam: Unison (Sunnyside)
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (Pi): June 26

Purchases:

  • Motel Lovers ([2007], Trikont)
  • Mutamassik: Masri Mokkassar: Definitive Works (1996-2003 [2005], Sound Ink)

Expert Comments

Actually, from Art Protin, on Facebook:

The role of money in the economy is movement, all other uses are secondary. Jobs and sales depend on that movement. How is it then that so many people accept the absurd notion that efforts to concentrate money in one place (one pocket) could result in more jobs? Why, with decades of failure to deliver on such (impossible) promises, are politicians able to repeat the nonsense that rich people create jobs without the public stoning them for their lies?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:


  • Glenn Greenwald: The American Character: Starts by complimenting a Fareed Zakaria piece (not something one does all that often -- as Greenwald puts it, "a reliable and pleasant purveyor of conventional 'centrist' wisdom").

    What Zakaria is describing here, of course, is a permanent, sprawling Surveillance State, one that has been inexorably built over the course of six decades but which has massively accelerated under two different dministrations in the post-9/11 era and which has no end in sight. Quite the opposite.

    One of the reasons I loathe Election Years -- which actually endures for 18 months -- is because the vast bulk of the most consequential political issues are completely ignored by virtue of enjoying full bipartisan consensus. The transformation of America into a full-scale Surveillance State is, on every level, indescribably significant; as Zakaria put it, it "now touches every aspect of American life." Its never-ending growth results in a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens to the private sector corporations which operate it; it empowers unaccountable public and private sector factions which surveil and store massive amounts of private information about the citizenry; it is conducted entirely in the dark and thus further eliminates notions of transparency and accountability; and it destroys any remnant of personal privacy, the indispensable attribute which fosters and enables creativity, dissent and challenges to orthodoxy and has thus long been viewed as the most central right, the one that anchors all the others.

  • Paul Krugman: Win Some, Lose Some:

    Is it possible that I have misjudged Mitt Romney?

    My take has always been that he's a smart guy who also happens to be both ambitious and completely amoral; he decided that his career can best be advanced by pandering to the crazies of the right, and will say anything to that end.

    More and more, however, he has been coming out with statements suggesting that he is, in fact, a dangerous fool. [ . . . .] I'm beginning to suspect that we can -- that outside of whatever he did at Bain, Romney really is ignorant as well as uncaring.

    Case in point was JPMorgan Chase's recent $2 billion trading loss -- "no biggie," according to Romney.

  • Andrew Leonard: Sabotage: The New GOP Plan: May 4 post (finally catching up), on Paul Ryan's Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, designed to avoid the war cuts mandated by last summer's debt ceiling deal:

    But a close look at the insidious nature of proposed cuts is stil revealing, even in the midst of all the posturing. Ever since the midterm elections of 2010, House Republicans have been honing a new approach to government. Forget about old school "starve the beast" politics, the simple-minded belief that lowering taxes and depriving the government of revenue will ultimately topple the social welfare state. The new school tactic is sabotage. Break the government. Pour sugar into the gas tank. Steal the spark plugs.

    Ryan's new package of cuts takes aim at the heart of the two biggest pieces of legislation Democrats passed during the Obama administration, bank reform and healthcare reform. The details are wonky, but the goal is clear. By defunding crucial mechanisms designed to ensure that the laws actually work as intended, Republicans achieve two goals simultaneously: They avoid the anathema of cuts to defense spending, while rendering the legislation that they hate so much not just toothless, but incapacitated.

    Machiavelli would applaud. Republicans may have lost the 2008 presidential election, but their insurgency-style guerrilla tactics ever since have ensured that the war is far from over. In 2012, the politics of sabotage rule Washington.

  • Andrew Leonard: Kansas' Nasty New Tax Plan: Rare for someone writing on either of the coasts to notice what's happening in Kansas, but this much is true:

    Kansas is special. In most American states in which Republicans control the state legislature, the GOP busies itself with redistricting efforts designed to minimize the chances of Democratic electoral success. But in Kansas, the fight is over new districts cooked up to get rid of moderate Republicans. Similarly, nearly all Republican-dominated states are working hard to limit the ability of women to get abortions, but only in Kansas will you hear a state legislator compare rape to a flat tire.

    Something is clearly the matter with Kansas, so it may be it's not the wisest idea to go overboard extrapolating from the state's behavior to potential developments on the national scene. On the other hand, if you're wondering what complete Republican control of the U.S. government at the federal level would look like, Kansas does offer some clues.

    Take taxes, for example. Last week, Kansas House and Senate negotiators agreed on a new tax plan that will sharply cut income taxes for wealthy state residents while at the same time raising taxes on the poor. The result, predictably, will be a shortfall in state revenue that will undoubtedly force additional cuts to state services. [ . . . ]

    The details are different, but the basic outline is similar to the ideas codified in Paul Ryan's Mitt Romney-endorsed budget: We'll pay for tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting services that help the poor. Romney might not be as conservative as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, but when the bills passed by a GOP-controlled Legislature start arriving on his desk, his response will be identical: He'll sign it.

  • Andrew Leonard: Corporate Criminals Gone Wild: Interview with Charles Ferguson, who produced the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job (worth seeing, maybe more than once), and who has a new book coming out: Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (May 22, Crown Business). All worth reading, and he makes sure to spread the blame among Clinton and Obama, but you have to conclude that the Bush administration's nonchallance about regulating anything and enforcing any laws on business is what made the atmosphere so conducive to wrongdoing. Here's a sample quote from Ferguson:

    But you know, when I was in academia and also when I was running a software company I had a fair amount of contact with portions of the financial sector, investment banking industry, and the venture capital sector. And certainly they were already pretty rapacious and pretty politically conservative. But they would never then have said and done the things that they say and do now. I recently was at a dinner in New York City and one of the people there was a very, very successful man who is on the borderline between venture capital and private equity. And this guy went into an extended rant about how he was at a disadvantage because he had to pay 15 percent capital gains taxes. When I was first dealing with venture capitalists in a significant way, the capital gains tax rate was 28 percent, and nobody was complaining. Then they got them reduced to 20 under Clinton, and then later 15 under Bush. Plus, they got a rollover provision so if they took the proceeds of a venture capital investment and rolled it over into a new venture capital investment it was tax-free. At that point, we've reached nirvana, what more could there be?

    But now we're in this environment where this guy was loudly and aggressively complaining that he has to pay 15 percent to the government. And if that's where you're at, then of course you are going to complain about Dodd-Frank. You are going to complain about everything. If you have already got 96 percent of what you want, why not take the remaining 4? That's where the culture of American finance is right now, and I think it's really dangerous for the country.

  • Andrew Leonard: Romney's Solar Flip-Flop:

    Of course, back in 2007, Romney also believed that climate change was man-made and supported a global cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Now he says "we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet" and "I do not believe in cap-and-trade." So it shouldn't be all that much of a shock that Romney is giving the cold shoulder to solar power. If there's one thing we know about Mitt, he never allows his past positions on an issue to weigh him down.

  • Alex Pareene: David Brooks, "Structuralist":

    David Brooks is everything that's wrong with elite opinion in America. The president reads him and takes him seriously. That is why the opinions of venal faux "reasonable" clowns like Brooks matter. Brooks today sums up the new argument for not actually doing anything to alleviate worldwide unnecessary hardship: The problem is "structural," not "cyclical"! [ . . . ]

    This is Brooks' conclusion:

    But you can only mask structural problems for so long. The whole thing has gone kablooey. The current model, in which we try to compensate for structural economic weakness with tax cuts and an unsustainable welfare state, simply cannot last. The old model is broken. The jig is up.

    It's so sad, but everyone will now just have to accept that social democracy is an impossibility. We have learned that "the old economic and welfare state model is unsustainable," so shut up about your unemployment benefits running out and there being no jobs still.

    Actually, if Brooks had just stopped at "it's a structural problem" he'd be right, but he missed what the structural problem is. It isn't that there's some sort of mismatch between jobs and skills -- there always is a little disconnect there but if employers wanted certain skills they could easily train for them. The real problem is that there's no way to reverse the decline of wages except by changing the rules of the labor market -- e.g., by forcing wages up, reducing hours, etc.

  • Alex Pareene: America's Idiot Rich: Based on "multiple media accounts of billionaire thought and an entire special issue of the New York Times Magazine, but especially the account of one Thomas Conard, one of Mitt Romney's confreres at Bain Capital. He has a book coming out arguing that massive wealth disparity "is an unalloyed Good Thing," something he'd like to see doubled (and has contributed over a million dollars to Romney's campaign to help bring about):

    Conard also detests charitable giving and has developed a statistical method for finding a spouse, because he is a sociopath. Because he is very wealthy, he is very used to his ideas being taken seriously -- even economists offer him (qualified) praise. He is utterly convinced that his book will convince every serious person that wealthy finance industry titans not only deserve their wealth, but make society a better place for all. He has basically taken what is a gut feeling among his class and turned it into a philosophy and an argument.

  • Alex Pareene: The Book of Mitt: Long post, an excerpt from Pareene's e-book The Rude Guide to Mitt, where Pareene is rude to Mitt's Mormonism. A taste:

    The Mormonism of the 19th century bears little resemblance to Mitt Romney's Mormonism. Mitt Romney's Mormonism is the impossibly cheery "Donny and Marie" variety, not the armed apocalyptic homesteading cult member variety. Tolstoy -- referring to the scrappy/crazy 19th century version -- called Mormonism "the American religion," and he decidedly did not mean that as a compliment. But the modern church still deserves the title. It's the Coca-Cola religion, with a brand that denotes a sort of upbeat corporate Americanness, considered cheesy by elites but undeniably popular in pockets of the heartland and abroad. [ . . . ]

    The modern Mormon aesthetic is deeply indebted to Walt Disney, but somehow even more square. Their grand temples look like variations on Cinderella's castle. Their religious music sounds like Oscar-nominated Alan Menken-penned hymns. Their annual pageants -- I highly recommend attending the Hill Cumorah pageant in upstate New York, in which formative stories from the Book of Mormon are acted out for an audience of thousands just beside the actual hill where Smith found the plates -- are spectacular, involving massive casts and lavish costumes and thrilling theatrical effects, paired with the cheesiest imaginable dialogue and storytelling, like a vintage Disneyland animatronic "Ben-Hur." (The sound system was easily the best I've ever heard at a large outdoor performance. Each line of risible King James pastiche narration was crystal clear from a hundred yards out.)

    It's very easy to make fun of a religion that literally takes communion in the form of Wonder bread, but the appeal of all that mandated clean-cut decency is also pretty easy to figure out. It pairs well, for example, with motivational business leadership books. In France, church leaders encouraged a young Mitt Romney to study "Think and Grow Rich," the landmark self-help book written in 1937 by motivational guru Napoleon Hill. Romney had his fellow missionaries read it, and told them to apply the lessons to their mission work. [ . . . ]

    This sort of "think yourself rich" bullshit, with its promise of a foolproof path to success made up of basic lessons in persistence and confidence combined with pseudo-scientific hokum, is a great philosophical fit with Mormonism, which teaches that men are on a spiritual progression toward Godhood. And the fantastic thing about Mormonism is that you can apply the early 20th century version of "The Secret" -- want something very, very badly and you will make it real with thought powers! -- toward the amassing of material riches both here on Earth and after death, because Mormon doctrine says the believer will continue working and procreating in the afterlife. That may sound tedious and frankly hellish to you and me (though you do eventually get your own planet!), but this exaggerated re-conception of the Protestant work ethic is an essential tenet of Mormon culture and dogma. It helps that Mormonism is decidedly less squicky about rich people than traditional Christianity. (Again, Tolstoy really nailed it with that "American religion" thing.)

    Another excerpt is Rich. Weird. Romney. Pareene also has an earlier post the touchy subject of making fun of someone else's religion -- The Coming War on Mormon Jokes. Needless to say, the problem with Romney is not his religion; it's his politics. How nutty (or treacherous even) a religion seems has more to do with your personal distance from it than anything else, and other people are likely to think the same about you -- even if you're an atheist and are convinced you've gotten rid of all that nuttiness and treachery. On the other hand, people with right or left politics can be found attached to virtually every religion (including none) -- I'm inclined to argue that fact shows the irrelevance of religion, especially compared to more predictive traits like class, but I do find -- and G.W. Bush certainly reinforced this point -- the gloss that religion gives to bad politics to be especially toxic.

    It occurs to me that the practice of presidents (and presidential candidates) wearing their piety on their sleeve only dates back to Jimmy Carter. Kennedy actively campaigned against his religion. LBJ was so confused or indifferent he wound up attending Catholic masses on occasion, after starting out in a church which I know (all too well) regarded such as utter nonsense. And he was followed by the war criminal Nixon, nominally a Quaker.

  • Charles P Pierce: The Rise of Deb Fischer and the Grifter Conservative: Republican Senate primary in Nebraska, which Fischer wound up winning.

    A Fischer win, of course, would be an act of cannibalism on a par with the nomination of Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and a further indication that there is very little room within the party in which Willard Romney can "pivot to the center." On the state level, the party is a tight, hard crystal of pure crazy. Given the right combination of circumstances, any Republican can fashion any other Republican as being of "the Left" or "the Establishment." If done successfully, this can render the targeted candidate unelectable in a primary. In this case, she would demonstrate that a candidate endorsed by the Club For Growth (Stenberg) and another one backed by both the Tea Party Express and Citizens United (Bruning) can be rendered insufficiently conservative. This leaves the state party on the ideological scale somewhere to the right of an Uzi. It's also a great indication that "conservatism" is more performance than principle, more intellectual style than actual substance, and more dogwhistling than ideology.


One reason I've missed many weaks doing this, and have much more than usual this time, is Salon's redesign. It features some Javascript bugs (or are they features?) that literally kill my browser, so I stopped looking at it. But most of the above links are from Salon: I scraped them up by using a second computer, some newer software, plus I turned Javascript off. I had started using this setup to harvest data for my metacritic file. Although Javascript does some useful things, designers have been grossly abusing it ever since it came out, and that's turned into the rule (plus other nuissances like Flash) for music zines. It's a long, sore slog to collect that data, and turning the baubles off is a first step. (Of course, what I really need are more automated tools, although actually looking at the review pages does provide some useful information gathering.) Anyhow, this proved to be useful for cracking Salon. Reminds me especially how invaluable Andrew Leonard is.

While I'm on a roll, I could expend this considerably, but will hold the rest for next week. Means indeed there will be a next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer (1948-2012)

Shocked to hear that Donna Summer has died, at 63, lung cancer, reportedly the result of inhaling toxic particles released by the WTC attack in September 2001: chalk one more death up to Osama bin Laden, but also give an assist to the New York building codes that allowed the World Trade Center to be packed with asbestos, and to fifty-some years of US foreign policy in the Middle East, torn as always between the schizo aims of making the world prosperous for Exxon and Citibank (and Boeing) on the one hand, and hastening the apocalypse on the other.

She only released one album since 1999 -- Crayons in 2008, something I'll have to catch up with. Meanwhile, I thought I'd mark the occasion by reprinting the piece I wrote on her for The New Rolling Stone Album Guide [link], replacing the RS star-graded discography with data from my database:

Donna Summer

  • Love to Love You Baby (1975, Casablanca) B
  • Love Trilogy (1976, Casablanca) B
  • Four Seasons of Love (1976, Casablanca) B+
  • I Remember Yesterday (1977, Casablanca) B+
  • Once Upon a Time . . . (1977, Casablanca) B+
  • Live and More (1978, Casablanca) B+
  • Bad Girls (1979, Casablanca) A-
  • On the Radio (Greatest Hits) (1979, Casablanca) A-
  • The Dance Collection (1977-79 [1987], Casablanca) B+
  • Bad Girls [Deluxe Edition] (1977-80 [2003], Mercury/Chronicles, 2CD) A
  • She Works Hard for the Money (1983, Mercury) A-
  • The Best of Donna Summer [The Millennium Collection] (1975-83 [2003], Mercury) A-
  • Cats Without Claws (1984, Warner Bros.) B-
  • Another Place and Time (1989, Atlantic) B
  • The Donna Summer Anthology (1975-92 [1993], Casablanca, 2CD) A-
  • Endless Summer (1975-95 [1995], Casablanca) A-
  • VH-1 Presents: Live & More Encore! (1999, Epic) C+
  • The Journey: The Very Best of Donna Summer (1975-2003 [2003], UTV/Mercury, 2CD) A-

When Donna Summer broke her first hit, little more than whispers and moans over a tepid eurodisco beat, her career didn't seem to promise more than another Andrea True. That the best song on her second album was written by Barry Manilow wasn't very promising either. But two things changed all that: producer Giorgio Moroder figured out how to deploy the string synth, and Summer took charge of her material. Turns out that she could sing, belt even. Turns out that she liked rock and roll as much as disco. Turns out that she discovered that niche at the crosshairs of rock, soul, dance, and showbiz pop that Madonna exploited so successfully a decade later.

Summer was born in Boston, but went to Europe to sing on stage in productions of Hair and Godspell. There she hooked up with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, who were cranking out disco fluff as the Munich Machine, and they had a hit with "Love to Love You Baby." Summer became a instant disco icon, and her early records exploited that: the first two albums were more Moroder/Bellotte than Summer, with side-long disco suites on the first side, and filler on the second. Indeed, one of the things that we notice now is that all of Summer's albums were conceived as LP sides, usually laid out in a continuous mix, which makes for some inconsistencies as the sides were piled up on CDs. Four Seasons of Love, a cycle of disco songs for each season, is one of the few albums that benefits from being heard whole; the transitional I Remember Yesterday, with its strong first side and filler plus hit on the second, is less consistent. But two songs there portended where Summer was going: "Love's Unkind" was updated girl group rock, while "I Feel Love," her second big hit, was so propulsive that Brian Eno called it "the future of music."

Summer's next album, Once Upon a Time, was an ambitious double-LP retelling of the Cinderella story, a suite of songs connected by a relentless disco beat. It was a lot to swallow at the time, but it contains some of her strongest work, especially Act One with "Fairy Tale High" and "Say Something Nice." This was an intensive, ambitious period for Summer, with four double-LPs in a two years stretch from 1977 to 1979. Bad Girls was the next new studio set, another big advance in songcraft and a broadening of her music: more rock, more soul, one side of ballads, and hits as compelling as "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," and "Sunset People." The other two doubles were the improbable Live and More and the inevitable On the Radio. The much panned live album actually sounds remarkably fresh now, the sound clear, the energy palpable. Perhaps the reason for the pans was the side-long "MacArthur Park Suite," moved from the Live and More CD to The Dance Collection, but even though it's built around one of rock's all-time worst songs, the extended music there is some of Moroder's most elegant disco, and there's nothing wrong with two interpolated Summer songs. As for On the Radio, it not only sums up Summer's oeuvre to date, half of it was new to LP, coming from singles and soundtracks.

Summer's discography falls apart after 1980: she sued her manager, divorced, changed labels and producers several times, remarried, proclaimed herself born again, moved to Nashville. Not much of her post-1980 work is in print. (Hard to say why; maybe God is punishing her for blaspheming her gay fans.) Still, the Michael Omartian-produced She Works Hard for the Money is one of the best things she's ever done. Another Place and Time, produced by Bananarama braintrust Stock Aitken Waterman, is more rigid rhythmically, but she's more than ever a skilled, powerful singer. This period is chronicled, for better or worse, on the second disc of The Donna Summer Anthology. Since then we only have the second coming of Live and More -- if tragedy returns as farce, perhaps ambition returns as conceit. Then there are the comps: the first disc of Anthology ends with Bad Girls, a fine selection from the rising slope of her career. Endless Summer compresses Anthology's two discs down to one, including two new cuts not likely to stand the test of time. The Millennium Collection only shows that less is less: 11 cuts, 51 minutes, a bare minimum. The Journey is almost a carbon copy, with two (not bad) new songs added, but both comps thin out post-1980. The Millennium Collection is more canonical, using longer mixes to stretch its 11 mostly early cuts to 51 minutes. But the most effective use of her long dance mixes is on the extra disc to Bad Girls (Deluxe Edition).


This was written in 2003, only restoring (and tuning slightly) one line the editor cut. I missed several albums -- in fact, most of what she did from 1980-96. The Wanderer (1980, Polygram) is well regarded (Christgau: A-), the later albums less so. (I missed Cats Without Claws in the RS piece, but included it above -- must have found it later.) The early Giorgio Moroder albums were inconsistent and made minimal use of Summer's voice, but were important at the time. Looking back (without replaying), I'm a bit surprised that I didn't rate Bad Girls and She Works Hard for the Money even higher: the former was a bit much either spread out over two LPs or compressed into one CD, but the latter must have been my most-played LP in 1983. The compilations are massively redundant and invariably flawed -- something you notice every time "MacArthur Park" comes on, although there are versions where the corn is blown away by the whirlwind disco.


Also see Robert Christgau's page here.

Expert Comments

The A:B thing has come up a lot recently in my correspondence with Tatum, with him insisting on its importance and me declining to take the time to do it. E.g., I consider Beach House and Best Coast important enough to check out their new records (at least since Rhapsody makes it so cheap), but not important enough to motivate me to go back to their old records (which I didn't much like anyway). I don't think of myself as a slacker, but I do have to manage my time.

Didn't do an A:B on the last two Cornershop records either. I liked last year's well enough to write it up as an A-, and after 3 plays came to the same grade for this year's, but have no idea which is better. (If memory serves, which increasingly it doesn't, it's the new one, but not by much.) Evidently I like both more than Bob does -- part of that may be that whenever I play a new one my wife comes in and raves about them having "the best beat ever." (Part may be that I waste less time on Beach House and Best Coast: they got one play each; Jack White and Rye Rye got two before I decided they weren't going to get any better.)

I just dusted off some old writings on Donna Summer over at my blog. I wound up writing on her for RS because none of their regulars were interested, late-1970s disco was very important to me, and she was both important then and moved beyond. (Probably also because we were paid by the piece and she had a lot of records to sort through, so the pros didn't consider her cost-effective -- probably why I got George Jones and Willie Nelson, too.) Don't recall whether I replayed everything then, but very likely. Today, however, I have other fish to fry -- currently listening to a trombone player named Andreas Tschopp. He'll probably get a second play, partly because I'm not concentrating well as I write this, also because he's pretty good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rhapsody Streamnotes (May 2012)

Pick up text here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19915 [19880] rated (+35), 754 [761] unrated (-7). The delays in pulling Michael Tatum's excellent "A Downloader's Diary" together this month have stretched out the usual top-of-the-month posts. My Rhapsody Streamnotes should run tomorrow, completing the set. Thanks to the delays, there is more than usual on tap -- as opposed to my fears two weeks ago when I only found 16 notes stashed away in my draft file. Jazz Prospecting is if anything up a bit this week, partly because I'm feeling sated on non-jazz -- or at least I'm running low on enthusiasm and/or curiosity for the low-hanging new releases that Rhapsody offers.

One thing I've noticed me doing more than usual: getting to the end of a record and going blank for a summation line at the end of the note. More than usual, I'm just letting the grade talk in these cases. If I'm unsure of the grade I'll usually replay the record, but if I'm satisfied with the grade it's usually not worth my while to replay a record just to pick up a probably trivial line. (In Jazz CG I would make the extra effort, but I figure this is mostly triage.) I do, by the way, have a bulging shelf of records waiting for Jazz CG. Don't know what else to say about that right now.


David Boswell: Windows (2012, My Quiet Moon): Guitarist. Born in San Francisco; played in a rock band called Metro Jets; does session work in LA. Fourth album since 2004. Plays synth guitar as well as more conventional ones, backed by piano-bass-drums, dense with no rough edges, brightened up by John Fumo's trumpet near the end. B-

Amit Friedman Sextet: Sunrise (2010 [2012], Origin): Israeli saxophonist, google him and you get lots of cheesecake pics of a buxom Israeli model with the same name. Debut album, recorded in Israel, mostly a bright and jaunty sextet with oud or guitar, piano, extra percussion, but the cuts with extra strings can dampen the mood. B+(*)

Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well (2011 [2012], ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1970, not clear how many albums -- e.g., I had his 1999 collaboration with singer Siri Gjaere under his name but it looks like hers came first; five, since 2002, all on ECM, is my best reckoning. This one has Tore Brunborg (tenor sax), Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Jarle Vespestad (drums). B+(***) [advance]

Pamela Hines Trio with April Hall: Lucky's Boy (2011, Spice Rack): Hines is a pianist, her trio adding John Lockwood on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums. She has seven records since 1998, and sole credit for the nine songs here. The songs have lyrics, sung by Hall, who has three albums of her own (scoring the previous Hall Sings Hines for Hall). Hard to put a finger on this, a bit dry, perhaps. B

Florian Hoefner Group: Songs Without Words (2011 [2012], OA2): Pianist, from Germany (I think), first album (as far as I can tell, although his label page says, "His performances are featured on seven CD releases"), a quartet with Mike Ruby (tenor and soprano sax), Sam Anning (bass), and Peter Kronreif (drums), recorded in New York. All originals, mainstream postbop, sax has some blues feel, all very nicely done. B+(***)

Philippe Baden Powell: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series: Vol 2 (2008 [2012], Adventure Music): Son of the legendary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, plays piano, solo on his second album here -- series began with Benjamin Taubkin in 2010. B

Anne Mette Iversen: Poetry of Earth (2011 [2012], Bju'ecords): Bassist, b. 1972 in Denmark, moved to New York to study at New School and settled in. Fourth album, 91:25 straddling two discs; wrote all the music for various poems (Svende Grøn, A.E. Housman, John Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Hardy, Lene Poulsen) sung by Maria Neckam and Christine Skou. The music has a chamber feel, with Dan Tepfer on piano and John Ellis on reeds. I haven't spent nearly enough time with this, and probably won't: not my thing, but remarkable nonetheless. B+(***)

Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 1 (2012, Clean Feed): Tenor/baritone sax, bass, drums, respectively; the leader b. 1978 in Sweden, runs the Moserobie label (which extends well beyond his own work), has at least eight albums since 2000 (Plays Loud for the People is one promising title), plus an 8-CD box called The Half Naked Truth: 1998-2008. First I've heard by him and I'm duly impressed, first by tone and natural feel which line him up as a worthy follower of saxophonists like Arne Domnerus and Bernt Rosengren -- a bit more avant, but that's what we used to call progress. B+(***)

Steve Lacy: Estilhaços: Live in Lisbon (1972 [2012], Clean Feed): Still waiting for the avalanche of previously unissued recordings promised after the soprano sax legend's death in 2004, and eager to look at every piece that does appear to see how it fits into the puzzle. This one has been released before, first on LP in 1972, then on CD in 1996, both on obscure Portuguese labels. Lacy's quintet has rarely raised such a ruckus, and while much of it is hard to take, it does give you a sense of the thrill of freedom. I doubt that this had any role in triggering the revolution that freed Portugal two years later, but if Salazar had heard it I don't doubt that it would have scared the bejesus out of him -- in which case I'd have to grade it much higher. B+(*)

Sinikka Langeland Group: The Land That Is Not (2010 [2011], ECM): Norwegian folk singer, plays kantele (bears a general likeness to a zither or autoharp), sings with great authority. Has at least seven albums since 1994, this being the second on ECM. The group itself is made up of accomplished jazz musicians. The hornwork of Arve Henriksen and Trygve Seim isn't central but is notable when it occurs; same for the rhythm section of Anders Jormin and Markku Ounaskari. B+(**) [advance]

Joel Miller: Swim (2011 [2012], Origin): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), b. in Sackville, New Brunswick; studied at McGill in Montreal. Sixth album since 1998. Covers one piece by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, and wrote the other ten. Quartet includes Geoff Keezer on piano, Fraser Hollins on bass, Greg Ritchie on drums. Upbeat, rich sax tone, lush even. B+(**)

Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Orbiting (2011 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1973 in Cuba, moved to US in 2003, has four albums since 2004. Four originals, four covers (Hermeto Pascoal, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, "Alone Together"). Gives them all a delicate, thoughtful reading, supplemented by David Gilmore on guitar, Rashaan Carter on bass, Eric McPherson on drums. B+(**)

Kate Reid: The Love I'm In (2011, self-released): Singer, plays piano (but also employs Otmoro Ruiz on three cuts), based in Los Angeles, second album: standards, starting with "Just Squeeze Me," includes a long and touching "I Loves You Porgy," a slow and smoldering obligatory Jobim ("Portrait in Black and White"). Striking voice, holds your focus even when she goes real slow (but there's a bit too much of that). Doesn't make much use of the band beyond piano -- Ernie Watts is on the roster but scarcely noticeable. B+(**)

Alan Rosenthal: Just Sayin' (2011 [2012], self-released): Pianist, from New York. First album as far as I can tell, a trio with Cameron Brown (bass) and Steve Johns (drums). Wrote 8 of 9 songs, one dedicated to Mal Waldron; the cover is "Red, Red Robin." B+(*)

Amanda Ruzza: This Is What Happened (2009 [2012], Pimenta): Electric bassist, born in São Paulo, Brazil, Chilean mother, Italian father, speaks all those languages plus English. First album, recorded in Brooklyn. Starts with fuzzy funk and electric piano and Brazilian percussion, later adding some sax bits by Dave Binney. I wouldn't call it smooth jazz, but doesn't push very hard. B

Elliott Sharp Trio: Aggregat (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Seventh album by Sharp (or, as he bills himself here, "E#") that I've heard, all since 2004, which must get me up into the 6-8% range -- let's see: Wikipedia lists 99 albums not counting ones he produced or played as a sideman on, with the earliest album a solo from 1979, but that 99 does include a couple of "collaborative groups" I have filed elsewhere (John Zorn: Downtown Lullaby, Satoko Fujii: In the Tank, Tomas Ulrich: TECK String Quartet); drop them and I'm back at 7 of 90, almost 7.8%. Point is he's someone I know of but have hardly met. For instance, I never knew he sax (tenor and soprano) before, but he does here on nearly half of the album, and he makes much of his efforts, like a slower and more rugged Evan Parker. The rest of the time he plays guitar, where he is faster and develops a harmonic overhang that gives his figures a rich shimmer. With Brad Jones on bass and Ches Smith on drums. A-

Andrew Swift: Swift Kick (2011 [2012], D Clef): Drummer, from Australia, based in New York. First album. Has 17 people on album, mostly recognized names -- Ryan Kisor, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Alexander, Sharel Cassity, Yotam Silberstein are a few -- but aside from George Cables (piano) and Dwayne Burno (bass) most are only a couple cuts each. Moves along at a nice pace, lots of postbop texture, a bit too much kitchen sink but consistently enjoyable. B+(*)

Rafael Toral/Davu Seru: Live in Minneapolis (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): B. 1967 in Lisbon, Portugal, Toral works with a variety of amplifiers and oscillators, in other words electronics. Has at least 15 albums since 1994. This was done live with a drummer (Seru), has the feel of improv. Fooled me a couple times into wondering who was playing sax. B+(**)

Andrea Veneziani: Oltreoceano (2011 [2012], self-released): Bassist, from Italy, based in New York. First album, a piano trio with Kenny Werner expertly filling the hot seat, and Ross Pederson on drums. Veneziani wrote 4 pieces, filling the album out with three brief "Free Episode" group improvs and covers from Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans. B+(**)

Tom Wetmore: The Desired Effect (2011 [2012], Crosstown): Pianist (electric here), based in New York, first album, with alto sax (Jaleel Shaw or Eric Neveloff), two guitars, bass, and drums -- a group he calls (not on the album cover) the Tom Wetmore Electric Experiment. Describes his style as combining "the advanced harmony and rhythm of jazz and classical with the visceral groove of funk and other popular music." That's evident but has yet to develop into something particularly interesting. B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • J.D. Allen Trio: The Matador and the Bull (Savant)
  • Bruce Barth: Three Things of Beauty (Savant)
  • Cactus Truck: Brand New for China! (Public Eyesore)
  • Isaac Darche: Boom-Bap!tism (Bju'ecords)
  • Christian Escoudé Plays Brassens: Au Bois de Mon Coeur (Sunnyside): June 19
  • Matt Garrison: Blood Songs (D Clef)
  • Diego Schissi Quinteto: Tongos (Sunnyside): June 19
  • Jeremy Siskind: Finger-Songwriter (Bju'ecords)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 4CD)
  • Miguel Zenón & Laurent Coq: Rayuela (Sunnyside)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Downloader's Diary (20): May 2012

Insert text from here.


This is the 20th installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010, totalling 521 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bernardo Sassetti (1970-2012)

I did a piece for the Village Voice some years back on record labels, and one of the questions I asked all of my contacts was what was their best-selling record. Clean Feed's Pedro Costa's answer was pianist Bernardo Sassetti. The label tended to go for visiting avant-gardists, whereas he was more in the mainstream, with a touch and sensitivty comparable to Brad Mehldau, and a semipopular sense akin to Esbjörn Svensson. I had read about him in the Penguin Guide before I got on Clean Feed's mailing list, and he was evidently a big deal in Portugal, but few over here had any idea who he was. When I got to his Ascent in 2005, I wrote a tentative Jazz Prospecting note projecting it as a high B+, but by the time I wrote it up it had become a grade A pick hit. His subsequent records were less thrilling, partly because he gravitated more and more toward soundtrack work, which he was remarkably adept at.

I use the past tense because Costa sent out some email a day or two ago informing us that Sassetti had died. He was 41, born in 1970. I gather that he had an accident, falling off a cliff while attempting to take a photo. (You may recall that Svensson also died accidentally at 44, during a scuba diving session.) Sassetti (even more so than Svensson) was one of the most remarkable jazz pianists of his generation. I thought I'd note the occasion by pulling out some of the reviews I wrote, and supplementing them with other records that I had missed (using Rhapsody, noted [R] below). That's what follows:


Bernardo Sassetti: Nocturno (2002, Clean Feed): A trio set, shows the pianist's remarkable touch that elevates even the softest and slowest ballads, nicely framed by Carlos Barretto (bass) and Alexandre Frazão (drums), sometimes teasing him into something more adventurous -- "Monkais" finds Sassetti comping behind the drum solo. A- [R]

Bernardo Sassetti: Indigo (2002-03 [2004], Clean Feed): Solo piano outing, several covers, including two from Monk. He patiently works his way through the paces, his touch luminous as always. B+(***) [R]

Bernardo Sassetti Trio²: :Ascent (2005, Clean Feed): The superscript implies a piano trio raised to a higher power, but here Sassetti uses cello and vibes to lower the energy -- the vibes add mere ghost harmonics to his piano, the cello a sweeter, more wistful bass. Some of this was written for soundtracks, which explains its pensive moods, and why the pieces that pick up volume and speed never threaten to fly loose. This music fits into no known jazz tradition. More like Eno's Another Green World -- unplugged. A

Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed): Soundtrack work, with Quarteto Saxolinia (sax quartet), Cromelque Quinteto (clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, French horn), a battery of percussionists (directed by Miguel Bernat), and various "guests" (flute, alto/soprano sax, tuba, double bass, drums) -- at least he stays clear of strings. Intriguing music, tasteful, but often submerges into the background. B+(**)

Bernardo Sassetti: Dúvida (1964) (2007, Trem Azul): A soundtrack to a Portuguese presentation based on John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, mostly rippling little piano figures with a background of string fuzz. Very minimal, but grows and grows on you. B+(**) [R]

Will Holshouser Trio + Bernardo Sassetti: Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns (2008 [2009], Clean Feed): Accordion player, his trio includes bassist David Phillips and trumpeter Ron Horton, sparkling througout. The pianist blends in, making a less distinct impression. B+(**)

Bernardo Sassetti: Un Amor de Perdição (2009, Trem Azul): Very little info here: presumably another soundtrack, many short pieces for string orchestra that flow together elegantly. B+(*) [R]

Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Another piano trio, calm and focused, spare but ornately pretty, a combination that works out to serene. B+(***)


Not even sure what all I'm missing: his first album (some debate even as to what it's called), a recent record with Fado legend Carlos do Carmo, various side credits, most likely more soundtracks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Expert Comments

First off, three posts by Ryan Maffei on Billy Joel (not an important subject but an important effort, worth preserving somewhere):

There's been so much wondrous discourse on this blog recently that it's been simultaneously edifying and exhilarating to simply sit back and soak it up. But if you'll indulge and forgive me for three easily skipoverable posts, I've prepared a few paragraphs for this here occasion (May 9th). EW is still my favorite all-purpose rock thought bulletin board, and hopefully the following qualifies.

Fifteen wild years ago (was it just yesterday?), I tumbled headfirst into the wicked world of any-old-way-you-choose-it by way of a soft-rock waltz from 1973 that sounded at first like it was sung by a woman, at least to my prepubescent ears. But by the très-pro climax of that first killer bridge, I knew something special was happening, and for the next 13 used CDs (my dad was no penny pincher but he knew I didn't mind) William Martin Joel taught me the art of aesthetic appreciation via pop designed to enchant every indiscriminate rube and their mother. On the occasion of his 63rd b'day, I offer a recent reassessment, in the form of a fan-man's CG:

Piano Man (1973) -- C
As narrative balladry goes, "Piano Man" is nothing special, but the point is how undeniably that melody sells its literary inadequacies. And the slow, repetitive, magnificent "Captain Jack" occupies a bourgeois-punk writing niche Joel was built to handle cleverly, and at which he'd get much cannier. But the rest is immature and unimaginative, with a moment of well-intentioned folk undercut by straight-faced kitsch ("Traveling Prayer") and a moment of ingratiating kitsch undercut by unsarcastic pomposity ("The Ballad of Billy the Kid," whose last verse is unintentional hilarity at its cutest). Not so adept and less self-aware.

Streetlife Serenade (1974) -- B-
The lyrics get smarter and more incisive even as the melodies are somewhat muted, but even if there's no "Piano Man" or "Captain Jack" those melodies are more adventurous than most of the last record. I don't know what "Streetlife Serenader" means or if "Los Angelenos" is insightful, but both are strange, punkish and full of panache. Except for the nastily fantastic "The Great Suburban Showdown," there's a deficiency of the craft Joel would soon excel at -- the other good ones are short or repetitious or lyrically lacking. But only three songs suck, and the silly instrumentals spotlight keyboards that never aren't fun.

Turnstiles (1976) -- A-
At last his vision coheres, and for seven eighths of an excellent LP the sole nags are his sincerity and his precociousness, and then only when the music isn't rousing enough to help you ignore it. His overeager, underinformed statements are no less mature or apropos than any punk rocker's, and his melodies no less riveting within the confines of his chosen genre, which seeks to return to basics further back (and a little less enlightened) than the rocky roots the punks perverted. Accept that Joel saw his soul in Beatle-bred pretensions and you'll soon admire his own; he has all the energetic tunefulness such stuff needs.

The Stranger (1977) -- A
Phil Ramone solves Billy's production problem, and instantaneously illuminates the most intuitive and inventive mercenary craftsman of a decade's worth of committed contenders. One standard-on-arrival after another effervescently explodes into your earphones like a string of gem-filled firecrackers, each track both fastidiously precise and wickedly alive even if the Latin and gospel codas waver. It's as if Paul deigned to think as hard as John, set his sights on the open Elton market and hired Becker and Fagen to punch up his vision. More fun and less dumb than the hacks with whom he's been historically confined.

52nd Street (1978) -- B+
Though bits of the hits here stand out -- the endearingly pointless lapse into an accent on the fun, tough "Big Shot"; the veddy Beatles backup on the sanded-down "My Life" -- they're more prosaic than the last one's, trapped beneath a homogenizing sheen Billy's pizzazz pierces too infrequently. Even as "Honesty" tends bathetic and "Zanzibar" ponderous, the melodies are characteristically crystalline, but the too, too perfect preparation is the problem; the real triumphs are the snappily sexist "Stiletto" and the ebullient "Half a Mile Away," invigorating deep cuts the airwave-aimed production wasn't designed to emphasize.

Glass Houses (1980) -- A-
Who says conformist formalists can't feign punk? Billy did just that throughout The Stranger, the album that signified the moment he gained total security over his negligibly hedged talents, which informed its vigor. Here, the radio obligations that dulled 52nd Street erode less edge, but the hard stuff is still slicker than necessary. Yet it's also quite exciting, and only suffers for its pose when the pose is the point (as on the opener). Meanwhile, the soft stuff ranges from killer McCartney to solid Wings, and when he tries to imitate Elvis Costello he tries "Alison," after which "Sleeping With the Television On" beats Elvis Costello.

Songs in the Attic (1981) -- B+
Billy sounds worst when he sounds embalmed, so his live record is live indeed, tangible traces of shows that were probably a hell of a time bleeding blissfully through the cracks of a band just shy of too tight. But he sounds his best in the studio trappings that highlight the contours of his craft. Ergo, while all the songs from the first three albums are fleshed-out, full of life and appealingly familiar (effecting the "that one!" "that one!" excitement of concerts and their documents), they hit the same ceiling the Turnstiles tracks do -- each spotlights the irrepressible enthusiasm of a melodic magician and palpable non-genius.

The Nylon Curtain (1982) -- A
Joel was never your average hitmaker -- intermittently ignorant yet never unintelligent, consciously pop-conventional yet never merely in it for the money -- but this record's left-field weirdness has no canonical antecedent. The proselytic passion fueling "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon," meaner and brainier than Bruce's and no worse for craft, is powered by music that dodges cliché by uniting broken-glass fragments of radio tropes in beguiling, bizarre ways. The other vocals and lyrics are beautifully cracked and perfectly felt, and he uses his synths and strings in unerring service of gorgeously unnerving bad-dream atmospherics.

An Innocent Man (1983) -- A-
Joel's most consistent pleasure-platter is his first intentional radio concession, a gesture the perpetually smarmy have a hard time dealing with perfect grace. And yet the grace is there -- Joel's studious knack for structure and hook fly out of every cranny of the faux-soul he intends on exuberantly effortless singles like "The Longest Time," "Tell Her About It," "Keeping the Faith" and the gently cheeky "Uptown Girl." The lesser tunes do bear a slight parodic hollowness -- Joel is more adroit at sendups than he is at actual evocations, and the 80s component of its built-in nostalgia isn't always welcome. But everything swings.

Cold Spring Harbor (1983) -- B
The 1971 abortion with the grainy/hairy cover art, formerly an unwitting Chipmunks spinoff, repurposed as capitalization on a career that was on the verge of another creative hiccup, unless you count the sales of Greatest Hits Vols. I & II as an active achievement. In many ways it's constitutionally repulsive, half an hour of syrupy banality with nary a good lyric, lightly dusted with hackneyed, tasteless little updates. But it's actually difficult to detest. The melodies and vocals are lovely even absent any real rock 'n' roll; little Billy had been bathing in those Beatles LPs, and "Everybody Loves You Now" kicks like an overgrown foal.

The Bridge (1986) -- B+
After avoiding the sale of organic 70s slick for synthetic 80s slick through the first five years of the new decade, Joel dove headfirst into current trends for two shitty songs he appended as penalty tracks to his first hits package. The Bridge sees him going full whore -- opening with a Sting imitation and showcasing Ray Charles and Cyndi Lauper, the record reeks of Reaganomics. No longer young enough for any boyish awkwardnesses, he throws himself into the role of square pro with confident conviction. Several terrific songs exist under the dated sonics, but the anonymous gloss lends every one an unfortunate aftertaste.

Storm Front (1989) -- B+
Not being a great lyricist or anything else that invites timeless respect dogged Joel into his first dinosaur years; a pop ho 'til the end, he had no choice but to adapt to a shifting set of trends, and by '89 the fit was unbecoming. The production, straddling 80s techno and 90s arena, is the most vulgar on any of his records, and at 40 his voice has lowered into an energetic but overwrought bellow. Under the haze of corn and commerce, the writing is recognizably and worthily wonderful; the sound adds harsh insult to the few injuries he stumbles into, but the songs endure, and conclude with what may be his finest one.

River of Dreams (1993) -- B+
Twenty wild years after his true debut, Joel sidles fluidly into one more chart-raping model with a vitality that (apparently) hasn't dulled an inch. Though flawless anonymity is still the sound he ends up with (the expectation-departures of his early 80s LPs are but a faded memory by now), it's a lot less cluttered than the last two albums, and there's generous punch behind stronger songs like the delicious "The Great Wall of China." The failures of inspiration are among his most generic, but he dives into every cheesy choice with such muscle it's hard not to get caught up in every shamelessly soulless little melodic construct.

Fantasies and Delusions (2001) -- C+
Though I'm not as ill-versed re: classical music as you might think (it was my first pre-Billy Joel love), I'm not sure how to properly assess this. It sounds a lot like iffy Chopin (and probably a lot of others, albeit none too obscure or post-Romantic) distilled into a military polonaise of consciously obvious tricks -- Joel writes opuses like he writes pop. And like his pop, this is a friendly soundtrack for any endeavor, except (this is crucial) driving; not all classical is for simply sitting and attending, but it's obvious he intended for this to be. Another, even crucial-er difference: it doesn't exactly stick with you when it isn't on anymore.

Jason Gubbels commented on my Recycled Goods column:

In case anybody here missed it, Tom Hull put down for posterity a wonderful appreciation and career overview of young Norwegian jazz bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and if a Norwegian jazz bassist doesn't sound like your sort of thing, well, hang on a second. As Tom notes, Flaten has put up 62 albums on Bandcamp for free streaming (and purchase, of course), adding

They not only give you a detailed picture of his art, they provide a remarkable cross-section of what's happened in the Norwegian jazz scene over the last two decades -- folk jazz, jazztronica, punk jazz, and avant projects ranging from a Jimmy Giuffre tribute project to sheer noise.

Here's the direct link to Tom's reviews of these records, only a few of which I've listened to yet. I've been anxious to track down more of Flaten's work since coming across his duo recording with Joe McPhee earlier this year, Brooklyn DNA. This is absolutely the guide I was hoping for.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Bit Decay

The blog suffered some sort of mishap today: basically a configuration file vanished and had to be rehacked by hand. I haven't yet restored it to its former glory, but thought for now I should post a notice. I will return to it as I get time and inspiration.

Update: Disabled a couple of event plugins that were mucking with the stored HTML code, and reset the theme to my personal standard, so now it looks like we're pretty much back. Added an "HTML Nugget" block to the top left -- something I've been meaning to do for a long time, although I still expect I'll have to tweak the wording. Should be a general description for the website. The main thing driving this isn't clarity. It's that facebook likes to grab the first bunch of words it reads when you link to something on the site, and hitherto all it's come up with was a laundry list of links.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Expert Comments

Main pick was Death Grips' The Money Store. First review was so short that the second review's album cover came out indented.

I must admit that I don't understand the "d/b/a" clauses under Death Grips: ok, backwards?, what? Unsolicited editing advice (feels strange to put the shoe on that foot): change the second to "a/k/a" and the third to "well" with commas and drop the hyphens, which (thanks to MSN's invisible sabotage) always cause me problems anyway.

Noticed the formatting problem and figured it would be fixed by the time I got up, but I see not, and most likely understand why. I fix this sort of thing by adding a style="clear: left" attribute to the paragraph tag, but MSN wouldn't let you do anything like that -- indeed, that would enable all sorts of mischief.

By the way, the Death Grips album is one I had already panned in an as yet unpublished Streamnotes. Gave it another spin today, admired a number of things about it, but a little over midway got so annoyed with it I shut it down and let my review (plus a parenthetical) stand.

Christgau responded:

As a quick Google search just confirmed--top hit--d/b/a means doing business as. I know not everyone knows that right off the bat, but, well, that's how I do business. In the first two cases d/b/a follows the name by which the individual in question was previously known to the public, while the name after the d/b/a is the name he assumes for the purposes of this commercial venture; the third is my idea of a joke, which I continue to find kinda funny myself. Jesus, it's a "blog." Aren't I allowed to indulge myself occasionally for my decreased pay? Isn't that supposed to be how "blogs" work?

My riposte:

I know what d/b/a means; even done it a few times myself. I wouldn't even have a problem leaving out the slashes, as I often do (but more often for "aka"). I just tend to assume that the real name comes before "doing business as" and the alias assumed for business purposes comes after, so I was surprised that someone named MC Ride would change his name to Stefan Burnett when he made a rap record. Odds are the two names were swapped. Indeed, the Wikipedia page lists "Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride"; same for "Andy Morin aka Flatlander." Seems to me that "a/k/a" can bed transitive, but if I was still in grade school trying to diagram "X d/b/a Y" I'd recognize "doing business" as a verb and look for subject and object. Admittedly, never got better than a B back then. As for making a joke, sure, by all means. This is an album that could use some.

Christgau, again:

Stefan Burnett is what it says on the physical; maybe MC Ride is his hip-hop name as opposed to his rock name, who knows. Likewise Flatlander is a name that only Googles in connection with Death Grips even though Zach Hill & Andy Morin are listed as co-producers in that order on the physical. My wording stands.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19880 [19845] rated (+35), 761 [765] unrated (-4). Published Recycled Goods mid-week, after frantically struggling to finish the big section on Norwegian avant-bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Got no feedback on that, but I was happy that I could do it, and it certainly helped me to appreciate the range of Flaten's artistry. A Downloader's Diary is trickling in. Still no idea when it will run, but odds are this week sometime. Rhapsody Streamnotes will follow: I managed to puff it up from a lowly 16 records a week ago to 41 as of today, and will add more while I have more time. Managed to do an update to Robert Christgau's website. Renewed the domain name for Terminal Zone, so that's still in the works, even if I only have such a trivial accomplishment to point to.

Jazz Prospecting continues to limp along. Had an interesting day Saturday when an extended series of sax quartet records clicked -- some are below, and some in the Streamnotes file since that's where I'm putting the new jazz I don't get but managed to sneak a listen to. Very little to unpack this week, but I don't have Monday's mail yet -- some weeks I grab that before I post, some weeks not.


Gene Ess: A Thousand Summers (2011 [2012], SIMP): Guitarist, born in Tokyo, grew up in Okinawa, studied at George Mason University. Fourth album since 2003, all standards, features Nicki Parrott singing (but not playing bass; that's Thomson Kneeland), plus piano and drums. I've always found Parrott's vocals charming, no less so here, and the guitar breaks are eminently tasteful. B+(**)

Joel Harrison 7: Search (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist, has a dozen albums since 1996. Has long had an interest in picking over rock pieces, exemplified by Gregg Allman's "Whipping Post" here. Has lately explored extending his guitar sound with a few more string instruments -- violin (Christian Howes), cello (Dana Leong), and bass (Stephan Crump) here, all superb jazz musicians -- and that's rarely if ever worked so well as on the first two-thirds here. Also helping: Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Gary Versace (piano, organ), and Clarence Penn (drums). The dull spot comes from Olivier Messaien. B+(**) [advance]

Masabumi Kikuchi Trio: Sunrise (2009 [2012], ECM): Pianist, b. 1939 in Japan. AMG comments on his "vast discography," but only lists 14 albums under his name, starting in 1980. A fan called Poomaniac has more details, going back to 1963, with his first album as a sole leader in 1970, preceded by a Hino-Kikuchi Quintet joint in 1968. His early work manages to rope in nearly all of the names you're likely to have heard of from the 1960s jazz scene in Japan: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Sadao Watanabe, Terumasa Hino. In the 1970s he started working with Gary Peacock, and in the 1990s he led a trio called Tethered Moon with Peacock and (who else?) Paul Motian -- the only fragment of his discography I'm familiar with. This is his first on ECM, again a trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and, again, Motian on drums -- you can construct a pretty impressive hall of fame just from pianists who Motian has played with. As usual, his presence here looks like zen-like disengagement, allowing the piano to emerge with remarkable clarity. B+(***)

Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (2011 [2012], ECM): Pianist, dates back to the early 1960s -- did an album in 1963 with the intriguing title, Country and Western Sound of Jazz Pianos -- has consistently done fine work although I've never heard anything (even from his Sheila Jordan co-led group) that really blew me away. Trio, with longtime collaborator Steve Swallow and the always superb Joey Baron. Near the top of his game. B+(***)

Daunik Lazro/Jean-François Pauvros/Roger Turner: Curare (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Three guys I had never heard of (well, Pauvros somewhat), but should look into. Lazro is a French saxophonist (baritone and alto here); AMG lists ten albums 1980-2000, nothing since, but Discogs has at least five more. Pauvros plays guitar, Turner drums. Both have been around since the late 1970, far enough off the beaten path that AMG files both under Avant-Garde. Most impressive when they get rowdy, but I'm hearing much more sax than guitar, but the quiet spots don't quite cohere. Probably should turn it up. B+(**)

Mockuno NuClear: Drop It (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Sax-piano-drums trio, more or less Lithuanian: Liudas Mockunas, Dmitrij Golovanov, and Marjius Aleksa. Mockunas, b. 1976, has at least three previous albums. Mostly avant stretch, but sometimes they get a groove going and that's where they raise it up a level. B+(***)

Miles Okazaki: Figurations (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist, third album, does his own graphic design (which is almost worth the price of admission), wrote all eight pieces here. The guitar lines are tense and spring open to drive this quartet, but your ears will chase after alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, at the top of his game. With Thomas Morgan on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. A-

Nate Radley: The Big Eyes (2011 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, first album after a dozen or more side credits since 2004. With Loren Stillman on alto sax, plus Fender Rhodes, bass, and drums. Wrote all the pieces. Strong flow with lean postbop lines; some further developed by Stillman, engaging as usual. B+(**)

The Ben Riley Quartet: Grown Folks Music (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Cover adds "featuring Wayne Escoffery," and shows the tenor saxophonist standing next to the veteran drummer, the others (Ray Drummond on bass, Avi Rothbard or Freddie Bryant on guitar) off-camera. Riley, with only two other albums under hisown name, started out c. 1960 with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin, but is best known from Thelonious Monk's 1960s quartet, which continued post-Monk as Sphere. Two Monk tunes here, plus five other standards. Mature stuff, confident, relaxed, the guitar just flows, the sax rides along, occasionally dropping in some wit but mostly sounding supreme. A-

Jerome Sabbagh: Plugged In (2011 [2012], Bee Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973 in France, based in New York, four previous albums starting with North in 2004. Cover here says "featuring Jozef Doumoulin" -- Belgian electric keyboardist who half of the pieces here (7 of 14; the rest by Sabbagh). With Patrice Blanchard on electric bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Not sure that the electricity makes a difference, but the sax is eloquent, towering even. B+(**) [advance]

Tom Tallitsch: Heads or Tails (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, doesn't specify but he's pictured with a tenor, b. 1974, based in New York. Fourth album, a quartet with organ (Jared Gold), guitar (Dave Allen), and drums (Mark Ferber). All originals, except for the Neil Young cover at the end ("Don't Let It Bring You Down"). Grooveful, tasty guitar runs, sax doesn't push any boundaries but there's plenty of meat to it. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Raoul Björkenheim/Anders Nilsson/Gerald Cleaver: Kalabalik (DMG/ARC)
  • Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond (Pine Eagle)
  • Human Spirit: Dialogue: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival (Origin)
  • Michael Sahl & Eric Salzman: Civilization and Its Discontents (1978, Labor)
  • Christian Scott: Christian aTunde Adjuah (Concord, 2CD): advance, July 31
  • Jesse Stacken: Bagatelles for Trio (Fresh Sound New Talent): advance, June 12
  • Rich Thompson Trio: Generations (Origin)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Expert Comments

Christgau website announcement:

I did an update to robertchristgau.com today. All Expert Witness reviews to date are (should be) in the database. You can use get_ylist.php to get the 2012 releases, get_dlist.php to get a range by review date, etc. Changelog.php has details on the update. (All these are relative to root.) Only one old piece, but I did finish retyping Carola's Paris Review story. There's also an updated intro to Carola's corner. Please look around and let me know what I screwed up and what could be improved.

We've been wondering why artist pages, in particular, rank so poorly in Google. If anyone has insight into that, I'd like to hear from you.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Expert Comments

Something I kicked out, off topic:

Way off topic, but something on reviews and writing.

Trying to sort out Ted Nash's latest (on Rhapsody, with virtually no credit or recording info online), I ran across this "review" -- reads more like fan mail, and some of the worst critical prose I've ever read:

In "The Creep" you have obviated an exigent agenda which saps the energy of the unknown, subduing it and giving it life so that it becomes a vitally living thing that's brought into the bright and revealing light of creativity with your overwhelmingly capacious imagination. Yes, indeed you have an imagination that has no quadrilateral boundaries, so that you are affected not only from the bowels of your saxophone but by the movement of your obedient pen as well -- each bearing earmarks of your motivational heart, the creative basis of everything of any consequence.

The writer was Benny Golson, a pretty great tenor saxophonist and one of the few major 1950s jazz musicians still left. I need to play the record again, in part to see if I can figure out why Paul de Barros thinks it has anything to do with Ornette Coleman, but it's the third straight mainstream sax album I've played today that seems likely to end up on my A-list. They should send me records like this.

Back on topic: from what I read Adam Yauch suffered from the same thing that killed my sister-in-law earlier this year. Real bad way to go.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Recycled Goods (97): May 2012

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3254.

Expert Comments

After notice that one commenter's father had died, a number of witnesses offered autobiographical snippets about how their own interests in music developed from their parents. Robert Christgau offered this:

I don't think of myself as coming from abnormally musical or artistic family the way Carola did, but reading these accounts maybe that's not true. Born 1916 and 1917, both parents played a little piano, as did my very church-oriented Aunt Mildred and to a small extent my showbiz-loving maternal grandfather, a major figure in my life. I had a great-aunt who liked to sing at parties too. To me all this stuff seems pretty normal, but maybe it's kind of a lot--curious to know what people think. (I wouldn't study piano because I hated to practice, which among other things cut into my reading.) Insofar as whether my mother or my dad influenced my tastes, I really feel as if it was mutual. I grew up with parents who actively enjoyed music without being obsessed with it. But when they went out on a rare date, maybe for my mom's birthday, and saw South Pacific, that was big. There was a nice radio-phonograph and a modest collection of 78s, maybe 20 or 30, mostly big band, although my mom loved Sinatra. But soon they bought the South Pacific album, which was still a physical album with a bunch of 78s in it. I played the hell out of it. Eventually Grandpa took me to see it himself.

Could quote many more of these: most are touching, personal, interesting. Mine goes like this:

My parents had no interest in music, although my mother (1913-2000) eventually became a big George Jones fan and especially enjoyed country-gospel. I think the only time my father (1923-2000) showed any awareness of music was one time he quoted Little Jimmy Dickens -- he did, at least, have a sense of humor. They talked about dancing before I was born, and my mother recalled seeing Tommy Dorsey once, but that was about it. They bought a piano and arranged lessons for my little sister when she was five, but it never occurred to them that boys might take an interest in music. We did have a toy that would play 45s, and a short stack of mostly novelty records. In my teens I bought a stereo, but didn't have more than a couple dozen LPs by the time I was 20. After moving to St. Louis a few friends helped open my ears, and Don Malcolm got me to start writing, but nearly everything I've learned about music comes from reading and lots of exploration. Took off, of course, when Christgau saw some of my early stuff and invited me to write for the Voice, and again when Tatum got me to write Recycled Goods.

By the way, new RG up today. Lots of Norwegian jazz.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Fraud and Its Opposite

Found in the Wichita Eagle's Opinion Line section Saturday:

Some voters may be lukewarm to Mitt Romney for various reasons. But he is pro-American, honest, loves his country, and values liberty and the principles and ideals that have made this country great. He's the exact opposite of our current president.

Leaving honesty aside for the moment, I can't seem how anyone can think that Obama is in any way opposite to this kind of superficial patriotism: he's opposed to the country he is president of? he hates the country that elected him president? he despises the liberty that allowed him to be elected? he doubts the greatness of the country he leads? he rejects the "principles and ideals" sanctimoniously claimed throughout America's history? If nothing else, for any of that to be true would require an astonishing lack of ego unprecedented in the history of American politics.

Nothing Obama says suggests that any of these things are remotely true. Indeed, his success is largely due to his skill at turning his story into something that flatters most Americans into thinking that this is indeed a great nation based on noble principles and ideals. To argue that Obama is the opposite of all he actually says demands that he be utterly disingenuous and deceitful -- a tough order for someone to practice all his life. And even if he had once believed, as Rev. Wright put it, that God should damn America, having become president, why should he prefer to be the agent of damnation when he could just as well work for redemption? Nearly everyone wants to see himself as just and righteous. Why shouldn't Obama?

It doesn't take much reflection to see that people who suspect Obama of such perfidy are deeply suspicious of their own sins and/or the sins of their ancestors. Their America has been scrubbed clean, rid of embarrassments like natives and slaves, of lower orders who challenge the justice of the rich and successful. They may fear that Obama, as a black, might seek redress for slavery and segregation, or as a near-foreigner -- what with his Kenyan father, Indonesian experience, his growing up in Hawaii -- that he seeks to undermine American imperialism. More likely, they fear that he's a ordinary Democrat, out to tax and regulate the rich and redistribute their success to the undeserving poor and (formerly) middle classes. Not that they can articulate that fear in those very terms: after all, in America too many of the rabble still can vote, as Obama's election proved.

Again putting honesty aside for the moment, there's no reason to doubt that Romney, as much as Obama, adheres to that same litany of patriotic virtues. Indeed, it's hard to find a politician short of Lyndon Larouche who wouldn't pass that test. The problem is that Romney's America is a much smaller country than Obama's: it is whiter, and richer; it owns more property, and does less work. When Romney goes to a NASCAR race, his "friends" are team owners. Obama probably spends as much of his day circulating among the rich and powerful, but at least he can see that there is a bigger America out there. When he looked at Tayvon Martin, a teenager slain by a vigilante in Florida, he could imagine having a son who would look like that. Safe to say that's one thought that never crossed Romney's mind.

That's a real difference, and it may be enough of one to explain how Manichaeans like the Opinion Line writer might exaggerate such a difference into an argument that Romney and Obama are opposites. But while real and significant, the difference I see still looks rather marginal. Obama, for instance, talks a lot about the phantom middle class but hardly ever mentions the poor -- officially, 15%, or about 46 million Americans.[1] His economic policies have restored corporate profits and stock prices to pre-recession levels, but have scarcely affected unemployment levels, while real wages (therefore consumer demand) have continued to atrophy.

Of course, much of the poor results can be blamed on Republican obstruction in Congress and policies at the state and local levels, but could one reason Obama has been so ineffective be that he doesn't identify with the losers in the current politico-economic system? After all, he isn't one of them, and his very success has served to insulate him from them. He differs from Romney in that he wasn't born to the rich class, and in that his everyday work has rarely depended on the brutal skills of profit maximization -- as Romney's work at Bain did -- and that as a Democrat his political success depends on the votes of the less-than-rich -- but the latter only happens once each election cycle. And given the Republicans these days the only other choice they have is to stay home -- which was pretty much the story of the 2010 debacle, not that Obama cared much.


Much more one can say about patriotism: mostly how easily it can be manipulated in support of war. The two World Wars were cases in point, and while the first one now looks like farce -- the silly attempts to salvage sauerkraut by renaming it wouldn't be equalled until Bush's minions de-Frenchified their Freedom Fries -- but the second became a serious effort at nation-building. One thing the Democrats learned from total mobilization was that it undercut the greed that had marked American capitalism and led to a much more equitable society, based on shared sacrifice and responsibility and a sense of fairness that cut across class lines. Of course, when the war against the Axis ended, the class war returned with a fury, but the Democrats had learned a poisonous lesson: that Truman's Fair Deal could most easily be secured through patriotic embrace of war.

Unfortunately, the war Truman and his liberal followers agreed to was the cold war against communism, which is to say the struggle of capital to subdue labor, or more simply of the rich to dominate the poor. That, at last, was a war the Republicans could happily endorse, as it undermined the unions and eroded the limited social democracy Roosevelt (and later Johnson) had introduced, replacing the genuine shared national unity of WWII with the symbolism of military might and the trappings of flag and religion and the cult of global capitalism.

Much more can be written about this, but suffice it to say that for Democratic politicians patriotism is a seductive trap: one that allows them to feel solidarity with a much more inclusive group of American citizens without challenging any of the totems of the cult, thereby giving their opponents free shots to beat them down. Indeed, Obama's solution is to have become fiercer and more cruelly efficient than Bush ever was.[2]

As for honesty, it's easy to find both sides deficient. Clearly, the opinion writer has grossly mischaracterized Obama, but then Romney himself, and virtually every other Republican candidate, has repeatedly made claims about Obama that have no basis in fact. Obama's deceptions are much more subtle: where they seem to have no scruples as to how far they'll go in slandering him, he goes way out of his way to flatter them, to vouch for their integrity, and to legitimize their crackpot ideas. But what he loses in the process is any chance to get to the truth about what needs to be done to move toward a more just and equitable (and peaceable) society.


[1] See Sabrina Tavernse: Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on 'Lost Decade':

Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year [2010], the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it.

And in new signs of distress among the middle class, median household incomes fell last year to levels last seen in 1996.

Economists pointed to a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard.

"This is truly a lost decade," Mr. Katz said. "We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we're looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s."

The bureau's findings were worse than many economists expected, and brought into sharp relief the toll the past decade -- including the painful declines of the financial crisis and recession -- had taken on Americans at the middle and lower parts of the income ladder. It is also fresh evidence that the disappointing economic recovery has done nothing for the country's poorest citizens.

[2] A good example is how Obama has played up the anniversary of his hit squad against Osama Bin Laden, a singular accomplishment that Bush not only missed but mocked. See Tom Engelhardt: A Global-Profiling President for a longar list of examples; also, less critically, Peter L. Bergen: Warrior in Chief.

Liberals helped to elect Barack Obama in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and probably don't celebrate all of the president's many military accomplishments. But they are sizable.

Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda's leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Ironically, the president used the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech as an occasion to articulate his philosophy of war. He made it very clear that his opposition to the Iraq war didn't mean that he embraced pacifism -- not at all.

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people," the president told the Nobel committee -- and the world. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man, and the limits of reason."

So this is what Obama really meant when during the campaign he said that he wanted to change how we think about war. Evidently he sees war as endemic to the human condition, and as essential to forging unity behind his presidency. In a way we're fortunate that the Republicans have so little grasp of reality, otherwise Obama would be tarnished with their endorsement. It's hard to overstate how much it feels like Obama's presidency has merely become the extension of Bush's.


Throwaway paragraph:

It's often said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, but other things work as well: religion, family, anything that the public is unwilling or uneager to question. The Democrats lost a Senate election in Massachusetts a couple years ago because their candidate disrespected the Red Sox.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 19845 [19806] rated (+39), 765 [762] unrated (+3). Was trying to work on another post Monday -- actually something left over from the weekend -- so I figured for once I'd slip the usual Monday post, but in the end I got neither done. But I also needed to get a couple records out of the way before Recycled Goods runs later this week, and the extra day helped with that. Right now, my plans (or should I say hopes?) are to get Saturday's political post out tomorrow, the Recycled Goods on Thursday, Downloader's Diary shortly after that, and Rhapsody Streamnotes shortly thereafter. The latter is currently very thin, something I've worked on very little the last 2-3 weeks, so I'd like to catch up there. On the other hand, the jazz backlog grew last week, so I'm probably screwed either way. Also have to write something on Steve Coll's big ExxonMobil book. My proposal to review Paul Krugman's new book was ignored, but I'm anxious to get to it as well. Plus new books on inequality by James Galbraith and Timothy Noah. And I got my own book to write. Maybe I should stop thrashing so much on music?


Ballister: Mechanisms (2010 [2012], Clean Feed): Sax trio, with Dave Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Second group album after the limited edition String. Three long cuts, free-wheeling improv with a lot of squawk, its cacophony largely redeemed by the very high energy level, its interest mostly in the electronics the cellist uses to extend his range and amplify his contribution. B+(**)

Pat Battstone and Richard Poole: Mystic Nights (2011, Bat's Tones Music): More commonly Patrick Battstone, pianist, b. 1954, studied with Joanne Brackeen, day job as a rocket scientist at Draper Labs. Second album with vibraphonist Poole; can't find much else they've done. Just the two of them, piano/vibes. Does a nice job of hitting its intended mark. B+(*)

Maureen Choi: Quartet (2011, self-released): Violinist, studied at Michigan State and Berklee, based in Detroit. Probably her first album, with Rick Roe (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Sean Dobbins (drums). Standards, starting with "Caravan," ending with "Donna Lee"; mostly set up by the piano, with violin sketching out the melody. B+(*)

Todd Clouser's A Love Electric: 20th Century Folk Selections (2012, Royal Potato Family): Guitarist, b. 1981, from Minneapolis, studied at Berklee, based in Los Cabos, Mexico. Called his last album A Love Electric, now promoting that title to group name, and promising three group records this year. The folk tunes here include pieces by Buddy Holly, Neil Young ("The Needle and the Damage Done," Nirvana, Velvet Underground ("Heroin"), Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, Malvina Reynolds, and trad. Loopy, silky guitar, Fender Rhodes, some trumpet and/or trombone, Cyro Baptista on percussion. B+(**)

Jimmy Earl: Jimmy Earl (1995 [2012], Severn): Bass guitarist, b. 1957 in Boston, studied at Berklee, has two 1995-99 albums (newly reissued), many more side credits (AMG shows 90 lines). Musicians come and go here, although the keybs and drums are pretty interchangeable, the latter compatible with the programmed drums on several tracks. Not many horns (one trumpet track, two soprano sax). He's trying to keep it light, more jazztronica than funk, and often succeeds. B+(*)

Jimmy Earl: Stratosphere (1998 [2012], Severn): Presumably named for the thin oxygen and general chill, more hospitalable to the computers that seem to have taken over -- at some point subtlety risks turning into noodling. B

Wayne Escoffery: The Only Son of One (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist (plays soprano on the last cut), b. 1975 in London, UK; moved to New Haven, CT when he was 11; studied under Jackie McLean; eighth record since 2001. Mainstream player, has always had a lot of flashy technique, is developing a sensitive, nuanced ballad tone, much evident here. With Orrin Evans on Fender Rhodes and piano, and Adam Holzman on keyboards -- the latter meant to suffice for strings, and just as well given how much worse a phallanx of strings could be. B+(***)

Lisa Hilton: American Impressions (2012, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, born "in a small town on California's central coast," studied at UCLA, based in Los Angeles, has 16 albums since 1997. Don't know if she's related to Paris. Her early albums (covers anyway) suggested light cocktail jazz -- one was actually titled Cocktails at Eight, others Feeling Good and My Favorite Things (with her draped over the piano, like Michelle Pfeiffer), but she's gotten more, um, serious, composing 10 pieces here (of 12, the others from Ellington and Mitchell), and has recruited a very serious band: J.D. Allen (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Maybe too serious: Allen, in particular, is severely underused, mostly providing color around the piano figures, which tend toward deep rumbling. America's getting to be an unsettling place. B+(*)

Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Brooklyn DNA (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): McPhee's credit here reads, "pocket trumpet, soprano and alto saxophones," which may be why this duo with the Norwegian bassist doesn't hold up as robustly has their 2010 duo, Blue Chicago Blues (Not Two), where McPhee played tenor sax. Starts off with the catchy "Crossing the Bridge" -- a reference to Sonny Rollins, part of that Brooklyn DNA -- and gives Flaten ample opportunities to fiddle. B+(***)

Anders Nilsson: Night Guitar (2012, Soundatone): Guitarist, b. 1974 in Sweden, moved to New York in 2000. Has a fusion group called Aorta and various side projects and credits, rarely playing on an album where you don't find yourself perking up and wondering who that guitar player is. This one is solo, so you know, and like most solo albums this is a bit slower than usual; also more carefully rounded into coherent pieces, less explosive as such. B+(**)

Aruán Ortiz/The Camerata Urbana Ensemble: Santiarican Blues Suite (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, from Cuba, came to US in 2003. Third album, commissioned by the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, performed by an ensemble with three violins, viola, cello, two basses, two pianos (Katya Mihailova in addition to Ortiz), flute, percussion, and some voice in one spot. Too classical for my taste, but the clave broke the ice, and the strings have an airy elegance that may proove appealing. B+(*)

RED Trio + Nate Wooley: Stem (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Piano trio from Portugal: Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (bass), Gabriel Ferrandini (drums, percussion; he was born in Monterey, CA, his father a Portuguese from Mozambique, his mother Brazilian). Their eponymous 2010 release was one of the best piano trios I've heard lately. They carry on here, crisp and crinkly, adding the trumpet player, who takes more of focus but doesn't do much with it. B+(**)

The Duke Robillard Jazz Trio: Wobble Walkin' (2011 [2012], Blue Duchess): Guitarist, b. 1948, co-founded Roomful of Blues, later played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds; started to edge into jazz on his 1997 Duke Robillard Plays Jazz and has continued to step that way. This trio includes Brad Hallen on acoustic bass and Mark Teixeira on drums. Four Robillard originals, nine covers -- standards like "All of Me" and r&b like "Hi-Heel Sneakers" -- done with a light guitar sheen that sounds more like Herb Ellis than Robillard. One vocal: guest Mickey Freeman on "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You." B+(*)

Mary Stallings: Don't Look Back (2011 [2012], High Note): Singer, in her 70s now; cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 then dropped out of site until Concord rediscovered her in c. 1990, when they were really good at that sort of thing, and she's produced ten albums since -- 2005's Remember Love is still my favorite. A dilligent, precise interpreter of the Carmen McRae school, she offers readings of a dozen standards here, as simply as possible, with Eric Reed on piano, sometimes Reuben Rogers on bass and Carl Allen on drums. B+(***)

The Thing with Barry Guy: Metal! (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Released only as a 2-LP, edition limited to 600 copies; I'm working off a CDR. The Thing is a noisy Norwegian avant trio: Mats Gustafsson (saxes), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). They have ten albums since 2000 (plus a 3-CD box), several with guests including Ken Vandermark (who uses each of them in various groups) and Jim O'Rourke (ex-Sonic Youth). This one adds the venerable English avant-garde bassist Barry Guy, who no doubt adds something but it can be hard to sort out just what anyway (short of headphones: Guy's got the right channel). When he's not tearing up the joint, Gustaffson groans monophonically, giving the others something to play off of. B+(**) [advance]

The Jens Wendelboe Big Band: Fresh Heat (2008 [2012], Rosa): Trombonist, from Norway, has at least a dozen albums since 1982, mostly big band (or Big Crazy Energy Band, as he put it); seems to have moved toward US lately, working with Westchester Jazz Orchestra and Blood Sweat & Tears. Conventional big band line up, only with piano and bass plugged in, and Deb Lyons singing. B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants: The Lost Sessions 1974 (Linus)
  • Ralph Bowen: Total Eclipse (Posi-Tone)
  • Georg Breinschmid: Fire (Preiser)
  • Chris Cortez: Aunt Nasty (Blue Bamboo Music)
  • Rick Davies: Salsa Norteña (Emlyn)
  • Luis Durra: The Best of All Possible Worlds (Lot 50)
  • Orrin Evans: The Flip Script (Posi-Tone)
  • The Harris Group: Choices (self-released)
  • Frank Lowe: The Loweski (1973, ESP-Disk)
  • Manner Effect: Abundance (self-released)
  • Christina Morrison: I Love (Baronesa)
  • Ben Powell: New Street (self-released)
  • Jane Scheckter: Easy to Remember (self-released)
  • Heiner Stadler: Brains on Fire (1973, P&C Labor, 2CD)
  • Marzette Watts: Marzette Watts and Company (1966, ESP-Disk)
  • Frank Wright Quartet: Blues for Albert Ayler (1974, ESP-Disk)

Purchases:

  • Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound)


Apr 2012 Jun 2012