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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rhapsody Streamnotes (November 2013)

Pick up text here.

Daily Log


Greg Morton posted his Julieta Venegas review that I had omitted from the Turkey Shoot.

Julieta Venegas: Los Momentos (Sony Music Latin)
Music in languages I don't understand presents a barrier only if the music qua music is boring or if the performances are weak. Otherwise, it's an enlightening window into a different way of life and frequently an exciting testament to our common humanity by using a universal language, cf., Mahlathini and the Queens, Orchestra Baobab, and to the point, Julieta Venegas. Affirming as Mexican though born in Long Beach, CA in 1970, singing only in Spanish on now six studio albums, one live one, and one Greatest Hits, she became a national success with the string of Bueninvento, Si', Limon y Sal, MTV Unplugged and Otra Cosa that covered the last decade. While Bueninvento feels transitional, a teenager trying to fill out an adult's wardrobe, and the MTV album peaks high but levels off, the two strongest, Si' and Limon y Sal are chock full of pop enjoyment -- harmonies, hooks, humor, love, dancing, even the occasional social commentary. Fun, fun, fun with smarts and a heart, you might say. Like Smokey Robinson on a good day. Otra Cosa was the insular version; as if recorded in a hermetically enclosed studio with no air movement. Los Momentos triples down on that tendency. Thin vocals that used to be exuberant, tame or even nonexistent instrumental interplay, mild tempos, dim/mechanical production, an overall sonic deadening. Quoted as "inspired by the situation in Mexico and the difficult times the country is experiencing"; in this case, I guess you do have to speak the national language because the universal one has lost its charm. B MINUS

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Special: 2013

Pick up text here.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Shoot: 2013

Pick up text here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22445 [22396] rated (+49), 565 [559] unrated (+6).

Rated count continues high because I'm focusing more on Rhapsody than on the physical jazz records covered here. November's Streamnotes column is up to 72 entries at the moment, and will have more by the end of the month when it finally runs. On the other hand, the jazz queue has been shrinking. The 18 records in this week's unpacking would have been an average week in years past but this is the first week with that many since October 7, and the overwhelming majority of this week's catch are 2014 releases.

I'm thinking about abandoning my practice of holding reviews until release weeks. Not much difference this week, nor likely to be in the near future, except that I do think it makes sense to hold back on 2014 releases until all the 2013 list-making madness ends. I have made one format change this week. It's nice to have a picture or two at the top of the post, but until now those have been reserved for A- (or better) albums. I usually reformat and cache those cover scans, but for last year's Turkey Shoot albums, and more recently for Tatum's trash albums, I've started linking album covers at cdconnection.com with my preferred size constraints. So it occured to me that I could use the same trick to grab a high B+ record when I have nothing A-. The source only has about half of the jazz albums I look for, and they don't show new records until release date so that presents a Monday/Tuesday problem. But at least I found my first choice today.

Big music review week coming up: Turkey Shoot on Thursday, November 28, followed by Black Friday Special on Friday and my wrap-up Rhapsody Streamnotes column on Saturday. One reason the latter looms to large is that I've benefited from the research of the dozen critics taking part. Another is that as the year closes I've been tightening up the metacritic file. Maybe the week after we can do some handicapping on year-end lists. I haven't seen any such lists yet this year, but they should start coming in fast and furious. (UK mags, in particular, seem to like to run them in December.) And Francis Davis is already bugging me for my Jazz Critics Poll ballot (deadline December 8), so the season will soon be upon us.


Dewa Budjana: Joged Kanyangan (2013, Moonjune): Guitarist, b. 1963 in Indonesia, has been in the band Gigi since 1994; sixth solo album since 1997, although only two are listed at AMG. Fusion-oriented band -- Larry Goldings (organ, piano), Bob Mintzer (saxes, clarinets), Jimmy Johnson (bass guitar), Peter Erskine (drums) -- although the rhythm picks up something I take to be Indonesian. Janis Siegel sings one song, breaking the flow and adding nothing. B-

George Colligan: The Endless Mysteries (2012 [2013], Origin): Pianist, has put together an impressive discography since 1996. Front cover also names, in slightly smaller type, Larry Grenadier and Jack DeJohnette -- a rhythm section you'd want to brag about too. B+(**)

Foreign Motion: In Flight (2013, self-released): Sort of a fusion band, with Cory Wong (guitar), Kevin Gastonguay (keyboards), Yohannes Tona (bass), and Petar Janjic (drums) -- based in Minnesota, I think, although Yona was born in Ethiopia and Janjic in Serbia (the others were born in the US). Wong has a previous album and seems to be the leader but all four contribute songs, and the grooves offer some pleasant surprises. B+(**)

Brian Gephart: Standing on Two Feet (2012 [2013], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, has a handful of records with Bob Long as Gephart Long Quartet going back to 1992, and at least one Brian Gephart Quartet album. Sextet here, with trombone, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Upbeat, hard boppish stuff, nothing grabbed me but it's certainly listenable. B

Aaron Germain: Chance (2013, Origin): Bassist, electric and acoustic, leaning electric on his second album, with Nguyen Le on guitar, Frank Martin (piano and, mostly, keyboards), and drums, plus one-track guests on flute and dan t'rung. B-

Harold López-Nussa: New Day (2013, Jazz Village): Pianist, from Cuba, still lives in Havana, has at least three previous albums. Mostly trio, favoring intense rhythm as opposed to the usual Afro-Cuban start-stop time shifts. Some cuts add Mayquel González on trumpet, dropping the piano back to a comping role. B+(***)

Sue Maskaleris: Bring Nothing but Your Heart (2013, Jazilian): Singer-songwriter, has at least one previous album; wrote everything here but "Lush Life," with a couple songs in Portuguese. Also plays piano/keyboards, violin, guitar, bass, and percussion, and gets help from a long list of musicians. B

Mumpbeak: Mumpbeak (2013, Rare Noise): Hype sheet says "takes prog-rock to a new place," but bass-heavy groove music with free frissons has been around a long time, not least in producer Bill Laswell's archives. Group includes Roy Powell (Hohner clavinet, FX pedals), Pat Mastelotto (acoustic and electronic drums, percussion), and various electric bassists -- Laswell and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz double up on most cuts, adding Tony Levin on one, replacing them with Lorenzo Feliciati on another. B+(*) [November 28]

Quartet San Francisco: Pacific Premieres: New Works by California Composers (2013, Violin Jazz): Conventional string quartet: Jeremy Cohen (violin), Matthew Szemele (violin), Chad Kaitinger (viola), Kelley Maulbetsch (cello). Group has at least six previous records since 2002 -- two playing works by Dave Brubeck. The California composers here are Gordon Goodwin, Vince Mendoza, Patrick Williams, and Cohen himself -- the first two are well-known big band composer-arrangers. B+(*)

John Stowell & Dave Liebman: Blue Rose (2012 [2013], Origin): Duets. Stowell plays guitar, has about two dozen albums since 1977, should be better known than he is -- AMG, for instance, doesn't have a biography page on him, although they list twice as many albums as his Wikipedia page. Liebman plays soprano and tenor sax, a little piano and a bit of wooden flute. They've recorded together before, but Liebman's recorded with damn near everyone (I'm not up to counting, but it's conceivable he has more album credits than any other active saxophonist, although he's spotted Braxton and Brötzmann a decade and they're contenders). This can be a bit skimpy, but Liebman's as engabed and enjoyable here as he's been in years, probably because the guitarist is always in the right place. B+(**)

Craig Yaremko Organ Trio: CYO3 (2013, Origin): Saxophonist -- credits here are soprano, alto, tenor, flute, alto flute -- third album, with Matt King on organ, Jonathon Peretz on drums, and adding Vic Juris' guitar on two tracks. Starts off marvelously with "Jitterbug Waltz," and is generally most fun when they give you something familiar, like "Bye-Ya" or "Isfahan"; less fun when the leader shows off his flutes. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets (Outline): January 7
  • Barry Danielian: Metaphorically Speaking (Tariqah): December 10
  • Annette Genovese: Dream With Me (self-released): November 26
  • Brad Hoyt: Far Away From Everyday (Harp Guitar Music): December 3
  • Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Live From New York (CAP): December 10
  • Earl McIntyre: Brass Carnival & Tribute (self-released): December 10
  • The Ocular Concern: Sister Cities (PJCE): January 15
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra: Aphelion (Aerophonic): January 21
  • The Rempis/Daisy Duo: Second Spring (Aerophonic): January 21
  • Pete Robbins: Pyramid (Hate Laugh Music): January 28
  • Brandon Ross/Stomu Takeishi: For Living Lovers: Revealing Essence (Sunnyside): January 21
  • Anton Schwartz: Flash Mob (Anton Jazz): January 14
  • Sarah Silverman: Sarah (self-released): November 26
  • Edward Simon: Venezuelan Suite (Sunnyside): January 21
  • E. Doctor Smith: Quantum (Edgetone)
  • Soar Trio: Emergency Management Heist (Edgetone)
  • Steve Treseler Group: Center Song (Creative Music Adventures): February 5
  • Volcán (5Pasion): December 17


Miscellaneous notes:

  • Ryan Maffei: Country Town (2013, Jamrag): B+(***) [download]
  • The Pozniaks: Pozniak Street (2013, Jamrag): A- [download]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weekend Roundup

The big news this week is the deal Iran signed with the world's "5+1" superpowers -- you know, the ones who actually have nuclear weapons programs capable of destroying most life on earth, or in the case of Germany, one that has mastered all of the so-called "peaceful" technologies of nuclear power that Iran says it aspires to without wasting extra effort into packaging that power in bomb form. (Curious that Japan didn't make the cut, especially as they have some painful experience with the blessings of nuclear power -- what Iran so much wants to experience itself.) If one goes by history, an Iranian bomb might actually stabilize the Middle East inasmuch as it would deter Israel and Saudi Arabia from starting another war with Iran, but Iranian nuclear power plants could turn into a real environmental hazard. Still, the agreement is good news, especially in that it represents a step away from war.

War in Context has a good series of links on the agreement:

Some scattered links this week:


  • Tom Engelhardt: Boo!: On our national psyche:

    On August 1, 1966, a former Marine sniper took to the 28th floor of a tower on the campus of the University of Texas with an M-1 carbine and an automatic shotgun, killing 17, while wounding 32. It was an act that staggered the American imagination, shook the media, led to a commission being formed, and put those SWAT teams in our future. But no one then could have guessed how, from Columbine high school (13 dead, 24 wounded) and Virginia Tech university (32 dead, 17 wounded) to Sandy Hook Elementary School (26 dead, 20 of them children), the unhinged of our heavily armed nation would make slaughters, as well as random killings even by children, all-too-common in schools, workplaces, movie theaters, supermarket parking lots, airports, houses of worship, navy yards, and so on.

    And don't even get me started on imprisonment, a category in which we qualify as the world's leader with 2.2 million people behind bars, a 500% increase over the last three decades, or the rise of the punitive spirit in this country. That would include the handcuffing of remarkably young children at their schools for minor infractions and a fierce government war on whistleblowers -- those, that is, who want to tell us something about what's going on inside the increasingly secret state that runs our American world and that, in 2011, considered 92 million of the documents it generated so potentially dangerous to outside eyes that it classified them.

  • Steve M: Sam Tanenhaus Doesn't Print the Legend, but Why Is That the Legend? Cites Peggy Noonan claiming, "We all talk about JFK's death because for the 18 years leading up to that point -- between the end of the war, as we used to say, and 1963 -- America knew placidity": Kennedy's assassination brought that to an end, revealing a bitterly (and violently) divided nation. Tanenhaus has a variation on that theme. M. writes:

    I was four years old when JFK was shot, so this isn't my nostalgia; I have trouble looking back and understanding how people saw the era as placid.

    The fissures that became obvious in the post-assassination era were evident in the very first presidential election after World War II, when Henry Wallace ran to the left and Strom Thurmond ran to the racist right. Beyond that, I could run through the whole "We Didn't Start the Fire" litany: McCarthyism, China going communist, Cuba going communist, integration of the military and baseball and Little Rock and Ole Miss (and the backlashes), the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, the fear of "juvenile delinquents" and comic books and rock and roll, the Pill, Bircherism. . . . I wasn't there, but did Joe and Jane America really feel that the era was placid?

    Maybe compared with the Depression and the war it was. Maybe a fairly broad-based prosperity made it all go down easy -- maybe that's all it takes.

    Let me add a couple points here: First, before the civil rights movement challenged Jim Crow and exposed the violence that it had always been based on -- a violence which if anything was much more ominous when it didn't have to appear. The civil rights movement didn't divide America and didn't lead to more violence. Pre-civil rights Jim Crow was already as divided and as violent as it could get.

    Second, isn't the word "placidity" a bit quaint? What Noonan means was that most people accepted their place in the social and class hierarchy, and that they seemed to conform to a set of common beliefs about what it meant to be an American. This was at least partly because coming out of the New Deal and the reinforced unity of the World War those beliefs were overwhelmingly liberal. And it had at least something to do with the sense that class differences would melt into a common middle class -- the result of the leveling measures of the New Deal (more union membership, higher taxes on the rich) and the postwar boom. But that consensus was also based on hypocrisy -- on ignoring the exceptions which became obvious as young people in the 1960s discovered poverty and prejudice, and how cold war ideology advanced the right-wing against workers here and around the world. Only conservative shmoozes like Noonan look back on those naïve years as a golden age of placidity.

    Steven M. has another quoteworthy paragraph in Republican Obstructionism: But Aren't Republicans the Real Victims?:

    Actually, that's not true. Republicans are not "eager to show they have not been stripped of all power." Republicans are never "eager to show they have not been stripped of all power." Republicans are almost always eager to convey the impression that they have no power, that power is something they've been viciously cheated out of, but that they are nonetheless plucky, determined underdogs who have God and the Constitution on their side, which helps them fight for freedom despite the tyranny of the Liberal Monolith. Even when Ronald Reagan could bend Democratic Blue Dogs to his will, or George W. Bush and a Republican Congress ran the country with impunity, the message was that they were under the bootheel of Sam Donaldson or Dan Rather, or persecuted by left-wing college professors, or by Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks, who had all the real power.

    After all, if you thought the Republicans had power, you might think the Republicans were responsible for the consequences of their actions -- which is kind of what happened in the 2006 and 2008 elections, before Iraq and Afghanistan and the Great Recession and dozens of other disasters suddenly became Obama's fault.

    Steven refines this further here: The GOP Is Not in the Business of Governing -- It's a Propaganda Operation That Also Runs Candidates for Government Offices.


Also, a few links for further study:

Daily Log

Afternoon was chewed up with new refrigerator install. The squeeze into the kitchen was tighter than the 1/4-inch the specs said we had, and the deliverers were ready to give up for a minute. Got a few smudges on both sides, but got it through. Loaded the new one up with contents from the old refrigerator. Main complaint now (aside from that it will take some time to get some fresh ice through) is that I'm not sure I like the shelf arrangements.

I had to take a piece of baseboard off and it split in two, so I'll have to repair that. Also took the edging off the refrigerator box. The box itself is slightly skewed -- turns out that the left wall I built it off of wasn't plumb. Need to see if there's some way I can jigger the trim to make it look less skewed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Daily Log


Looking through old JP/RS columns for reviews reusable for JP/BFS. The following look like candidates:

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee: Heels Over Head (2012 [2013], Amulet) Drummer, best known as the middleman in Medeski, Martin & Wood; has released a large pile of specialist albums, but nothing like this before. Here he's lined up a small brass band -- Steven Bernstein (trumpet, slide trumpet), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) -- and gone back to New Orleans, at least for King Oliver's "Sugarfoot Stomp" although they jump off with a Frank London piece called "Chumba Zumba," and never settle into anything obvious or derivative. Bernstein does most of the arranging, and Rojas takes most of the leads. And lest you think that I think every vocal incursion is a waste, check out Shelley Hirsch's song about hobbling through an Occupy Wall Street march as one of the "99%." A

Barbara Morrison: A Sunday Kind of Love (2010-12 [2013], Savant) Singer, b. 1952 in Michigan, got her start opposite Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson in 1974, toiled a couple decades in the Johnny Otis Show, has a dozen records since 1995. I haven't heard any of them, but would be real surprised if any hold a candle to this one. The secret isn't a fine-but-who-are-they pianio trio -- Stuart Elster? Richard Simon? Lee Spath? -- so it must be Houston Person, who is more than just featured here. But it's the singer who hits one softball after another out of the park: "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," "The Green Door," "A Sunday Kind of Love," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Let's Stay Together" -- only "I Cover the Waterfront" is out of her zone. Exquisite: the medley of "Smile/Make Someone Happy." I dare anyone not to. A

Lucian Ban: Elevation/Mystery (2010 [2013], Sunnyside) Pianist, b. 1969 in Romania, based in New York. Seventh or so album since 2002, most with baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, and second one this year, following Transylvanian Concert with Mat Maneri on ECM. That stretched out his folkloric/classical side, but this one -- a quartet with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Hébert (bass), and Eric McPherson (drums) -- recorded live at Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC sets him in an avant context, especially when the saxophonist works up a full head of steam. Nor is a quiet spot with just the bassist any less interesting. By the way, the "Mystery" part of the title is obscured -- how clever some graphic designers are! I missed it on unpacking, and most likely others will too. A-

As I was looking at RS, I noticed this list of 2012 releases that I complained about being unable to find on Rhapsody:

  • Khaira Arby: Tchini Tchini (Clermont Music)
  • Cooly G: Playin' Me (Hyperdub)
  • Brian Eno: Lux (Warp)
  • Four Tet: Pink (Text)
  • Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Play Some Fucking Stooges (Quasi Pop/Dumpster Diving Lab)
  • The Human Hearts: Another (Shrimper)
  • Darius Jones Quartet: Book of Mae'bul (Another Kind of Surprise) (AUM Fidelity)
  • Peter Karp/Sue Foley: Beyond the Crossroads (Blind Pig)
  • LV: Sebenza (Hyperdub)
  • Getatchew Merkuria & the Ex & Friends: Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (Terp)
  • Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (AUM Fidelity)
  • William Parker Orchestra: Essence of Ellington (AUM Fidelity)
  • Royal Band de Thiés: Kadior Demb (Teranga Beat)
  • Shackleton: Music for the Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs (Woe to the Septic Heart)
  • Andy Stott: Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
  • Trio M: The Guest House (Enja/Yellow Bird)
  • Voices From the Lake: Voices From the Lake (Prologue)
  • David S Ware/Planetary Unknown: Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (AUM Fidelity)
  • Wreckless Eric/Amy Rigby: A Working Museum (Southern Domestic)

Albums I now see on Rhapsody:

  • Don't Talk to the Cops: Let's Quit (Greedhead)
  • Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12)
  • Rihanna: Unapologetic (Def Jam)

Albums I managed to hear in 2013:

  • Actress: RIP (Honest Jon's) [***] **
  • Allo Darlin': Europe (Slumberland) [A-] **
  • M. Geddes Gengras/Sun Araw/The Congos: FRKWYS, Vol. 9: Icon Give Thank/Icon Eye (RVNG Intl.) [*] **
  • Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Sister Pili+2 (Sterns) [A-] **
  • Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything (Enemy) [A-]
  • Public Enemy: Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (Enemy) [A-]
  • Taylor Swift: Red (Big Machine) [***] **

Friday, November 22, 2013

Daily Log

Had to go out for yogurt today. Weather has been sub-freezing all day, threatening to snow or break into some kind of ice storm, but wound up just being gray and gloomy all day. Laura needed the newer car, so I tried the '93 Nissan, but it wouldn't turn over. Need to recharge the battery, but didn't feel like bothering with it today.


Jessica Linker nagged me about the new Thing album today, so I wrote the following back:

I don't recall whether I downloaded this or not. I find it maddening to try to keep track of what I have downloaded and whether I've listened to it, and find my marginal interest is approaching the music's marginal value (i.e., zero). ECM and Cuneiform have recently switched me over to download-only status, and it's proving difficult to deal with them. Since that looks like the wave of the future, the future looks like it will be one without me writing about jazz.

I did, however, find Boot! on Rhapsody, and wrote up a little thing on it for my November Streamnotes column -- I'll run it on Nov. 30, holding it back until after the Turkey Shoot/Black Friday Special Thanksgiving posts (lest someone think I'm trading on inside info, not that it applies here).

Not bad but less interesting than the average Thing record, I'd say, maybe because Flaten isn't as good on electric bass as on acoustic, and because roughhousing Coltrane doesn't have the novelty value of covering the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. You probably know this, but a year or so ago I noticed that Flaten had collected virtually every record he had played on and made them availale through his bandcamp site, so I wrote about everything I hadn't heard previously. Since then, the new Atomic came out but he only put two cuts up -- so that's their first release I haven't written anything about. Wrote a lot about jazz on the Polish label Not Two recently, but couldn't find any of Gustafsson's Swedish Azz releases, so that's another gap in my coverage.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Daily Log

Got up late. Took Laura to acupuncture -- first time in months. Went to Bagatelle for lunch but the cupboard was bare, so went to N&J's. Went to Lowe's after that, and ordered a new refrigerator: a Samsung 28.5-cu ft 3 French Door unit with dual icemaker (Model RFG298HDRS). We were wanting to get the larger Samsung, 31.5 cu ft, but couldn't figure out a way to maneuver it into the kitchen: it's at least an inch deeper, and we only have about 1/4 inch clearance on the smaller model. Delivery is Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Downloader's Diary (34): November 2013

Insert text from here.


This is the 34th installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010, totalling 830 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter. Comments are open (subject to moderation).

Daily Log

Fixed Sofrito for dinner, using Ottolenghi's Jerusalem recipe. Chicken came out nice and moist, although as roast chicken goes I prefer a little crispness around the edges. As it was, it was slightly browned to start, then seasoned and steamed. The potatoes, down in the fat and moisture, came out pretty well blackened, very tasty but a bit hard to scrape off the bottom of the pan.

Updated some metacritic scores and I see an album by Ryan Hemsworth called Guilt Trips, released 10-22 on Last Gang. Surprised to find the album in my file only titled Quilt Tripe. More likely my bad eyes than deterioration of my typing skills.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22396 [22346] rated (+53), 559 [563] unrated (-4).

Ratings glut is partly slop over from last Recycled Goods -- I ended the previous week early because the rated count was already ridiculous -- and partly looking at new releases for Rhapsody Streamnotes. Jazz Prospecting continues to lag, although both the review count and the incoming mail are up a bit from last week. Very little in the queue by familiar names right now, and one might note that the best records this week came from the best known musicians -- I'll even add that Jon Hamar and Doug Webb, down in the mid-B+ range, are names I know and look forward to.

I go back a long ways with Roswell Rudd, to two records of his I picked up in the mid-1970s: Numatik Swing Band, recorded for JCOA and impossible to find nowadays, and Flexible Flyer originally on Freedom, picked up by Arista, and wound up in the Black Lion catalog which has been kicked around several times but is easy enough to find online these days. Those two albums introduced me to Sheila Jordan, my favorite female vocalist ever since, but Rudd's combination of playing avant and retro made a huge impression. Trombone for Lovers may be his best record since then -- or maybe Regeneration in 1982 with Steve Lacy. I got my copy at least a month ago, played it immediately, and gave it a lot of time since then. It took a while to sink in -- I was thrown at first by the Bob Dorough vocal, and then by the extended Joe Hill opus, but worked through them. In theory, if I spent comparable time with other records they might grow on me in the same way, but Rudd is really a unique character.

That reminds me that I still haven't cracked open Call It Art, a fancy wood box with five vinyl LPs in it collecting a previously unavailable sessions by the New York Art Quartet. I complain about all the things I haven't gotten, yet I've been sitting on this (and several other vinyl-only releases) for months (and in other cases for years). (Also recall that Rudd's partner in that venture, the late John Tchicai, led another vinyl-only outing this year, Tribal Ghost, which I graded A- on the basis of a CD-R.)

Seems like I was offered a download of the New York Art Quartet box, but lost track of that. I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out how to handle downloads: in particular, I have at least half a dozen items on my computer that I can't figure out how to play more than a single track of -- some programs don't with with .wav files, most can't handle .zip archives (which in the Windows file manager look like they've been exploded even when they haven't). I sent out a letter to a couple dozen friends and associates last week begging them for info on how they cope with this mess. Got a few answers back, but nothing especially helpful. I would also like to move as much music as possible onto Linux if I can get that to work, but haven't had much luck there either. If you have any advice, please mail me.

A Downloader's Diary will run tomorrow. Turkey Shoot looks to be in good shape, although I'm a little disappointed we didn't get more proposals for the Black Friday Special -- not that we won't have some surprises there. I'll run November's Rhapsody Streamnotes after the Thanksgiving specials -- I think there's one more day left in the month. I have close to 35 records in the draft file already, and expect to have quite a few more -- especially if I can figure out how to play those damn downloads.


Tarun Balani Collective: Sacred World (2012 [2013], self-released): Drummer, from India, based in New Delhi; first album, all original pieces by Balani, backed with piano, guitar, bass, and sarangi (a bowed string instrument said to resemble a human voice, although its player, Suhail Yusuf Khan, is also credited with vocals). B+(*)

Laurent Coq: Dialogue (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): French pianist, eighth album since 1998, also shared the headline on Miguel Zenón's recent Rayuela. The dialogues are pretty straightforward here, mostly with Ralph Lavital on guitar, and on 5 (of 11) tracks Nicolas Pelage sings. B+(*)

Phill Fest: Projeto B.F.C. (2013, self-released): Guitarist, b. in Minneapolis, based in Florida; father was Brazilian keyboardist Manfredo Fest (1936-99), who recorded a number of albums for Concord back in their heyday. Second album, previous one called Smooth Edges. Front cover makes a point of "Introducing Robert Prester" -- keyboard player, I gather (credits are hard to find as most of the type is illegible, but I did notice a pic of harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens. B+(*)

Ricardo Grilli: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (2012 [2013], Dark House): Guitarist, b. in São Paulo, Brazil; studied at Berklee, now at NYU. First album, with sax (Gustavo D'Amico), piano (Christian Li), bass (Jared Henderson), drums (Lee Fish). B+(**)

Jon Hamar: Idyl Wild (2012 [2013], Origin): Bassist, based in Seattle, fourth album since 2005, quartet with two saxes (Rich Perry on tenor and Todd DelGiudice, who wrote two pieces, on alto) and drums. The saxophonists are aggressive enough to generate an interesting postbop clash. B+(**)

Clarence Johnson III: Watch Him Work (2013, Like Father Like Son Music): Tenor saxophonist (soprano too), fourth album, not smooth enough for smooth jazz, more like a throwback to the honking r&b saxophonists of the 1950s but with all the modern keyboard "sound design" doesn't quite reach there either. Fun, at least, until he lays it on too thick -- definitely in the closer. B

Ray Marchica: A Different View (2013, Sons of Sound): Drummer, second album, a group effort with Tim Ries (tenor/soprano sax), Ted Kooshian (piano), and Rodney Jones (guitar) contributing ten songs to the leader's one. Group adds a second sax (Morris Goldberg), bass, and percussion. Mainstream leaning a bit toward swing, jaunty even. B+(*) [November 19]

Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside): With the "Joe Hill" suite at the end, this could have been called Trombone for the Masses: I don't mind the rapper there but the NYC Labor Choir takes some getting used to even though I feel like saluting the political point. Everything else is just superb: the opening "Ghost Riders in the Sky" with Steven Bernstein's slide trumpet, Bob Dorough on "Here, There & Everywhere," Fay Victor on "Trouble in Mind," Michael Doucet's violin on "Autumn Leaves" and "Tennessee Waltz," familiar songs that seem perfect when they pop up: "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Green Onions," "Unchained Melody," "September Song." As for "Joe Hill," well, organize. A [November 19]

Tim Warfield: Inspire Me! (2013, HHM): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, has mostly recorded for Criss Cross -- I thought his early records there were terrific (e.g., A Cool Blue and Gentle Warrior) -- but the label tends to underwhelm, and Warfield's releases have tailed off over the years. (Some Criss Cross artists also show up on labels like Sharp Nine and Posi-Tone that consistently get sharper, more vibrant sound.) Warfield returns here with a warm and comforting sound, with Antoine Drye's trumpet on five cuts, Kevin Hays on piano, plus bass and drums. Herb Harris produced, and sings two pieces -- offhand and odd at first, now just part of the flow. B+(***)

Doug Webb: Another Scene (2013, Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, based in Los Angeles, did a lot of studio work early on and only recently established himself as a lead artist. Quartet, with Peter Zak (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). I figured him to be a mainstream guy but this is mostly fast stuff, postbop with the emphasis on the bop. B+(**)

Randy Weston/Billy Harper: The Roots of the Blues (2013, Sunnyside): Piano and tenor sax duets, with each taking one solo turn. Pianist is 85, one of the few still working who started in the 1950s. Mostly his songs (10-to-1 over Harper -- the covers touchstones like "Body and Soul," "How High the Moon," "Take the A Train"), and most with allusions to Africa, at least in the title -- no American pianist has searched deeper or longer into the mother continent, going back as far as Weston's 1955 album African Sunrise. Harper is pushing 70 himself, still possessing that rich, gospel-infused tone. B+(***) [November 19]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • George Colligan: The Endless Mysteries (Origin): November 19
  • Brian Gephart: Standing on Two Feet (Origin): November 19
  • Archie Shepp: Attica Blues Orchestra Live: I Hear the Sound (Archieball): January 14
  • Suzanna Smith: Halfway Between Heaven and Love (Ink Pen): Novemer 19
  • John Stowell & Dave Liebman: Blue Rose (Origin): November 19
  • Craig Yaremko Organ Trio: CYO3 (Origin): November 19

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Front page story in the Wichita Eagle today is titled "Obama struggles to save his health law." Anyone able to recall back more than a week -- a group that evidently excludes most of the political media -- knows that a month or so ago the Republicans in Congress forced a government shutdown to try to extort the president into surrendering his signature health care insurance reform. He didn't buckle then, so why should he "struggle" now. All he has to do is to sit tight while his minions fix some buggy software and let the crisis pass. As it is, he tripped himself up a bit on his "promise" that people who like their current insurance policies can keep them. In theory, the only insurance policies that are being canceled now are ones that don't meet the new law's minimum standard. He might have been better advised to simply point out that no one should be happy with an insurance policy that doesn't protect you from financial ruin, noting that a very large percentage of people who go bankrupt due to medical bills do so despite having active, but deficient, health insurance policies. His equivocations have in turn unnerved some Democrats, but he can stop any damaging changes to the law, and hardly needs to "struggle" with whether to do so.

The story, by the way, is here, and doesn't support the headline hysteria, nor for that matter the cheekiness of its longer web title ("Obama struggles to save his cherished health law").

Some scattered links this week:


  • Dean Baker: No, Obama Didn't Lie to You About Your Health Care Plans: This goes through the various cases of insurance plans that are being cancelled -- in all cases because they are not up to ACA standards. This even includes some plans that had been grandfathered until the insurance companies jacked up the rates and/or deductibles beyond what the law allows. Also, note this:

    Finally, there will be many plans that insurers will stop offering in large part because of the changed market conditions created by the ACA. For example, last week the Washington Post highlighted a plan for the "hardest to insure" that was being cancelled by Pathmark Blue Cross of Pennsylvania.

    This plan is likely being cancelled because it is unable to compete with the insurance being offered through the exchanges. The exchanges charge everyone the same rate regardless of their pre-existing health conditions. A plan that is especially designed for people who have serious health conditions would almost certainly charge a far higher rate. If these high-priced plans no longer exist because they cannot compete with the exchanges would this mean that President Obama had broken his pledge?

    I'll also note that many individual "high risk" plans were developed without any chance of competition driving the prices down. A major effect of the exchanges is to allow comparative shopping, and as such to create a competitive market where none existed before.

  • Steven M: No, Because We Don't Lie to Ourselves: Responds to a piece by "concern troll" Conor Friedersdorf titled Will the Left Turn on President Obama Like the Tea Party Did on President Bush. Makes several points, starting with the fact that the Tea Party activists were never that unhappy with Bush, especially nowhere near unhappy enough to defect to someone like Obama:

    Teabaggers feel no authentic "chagrin at the ways he [Bush] had transgressed against their values." The only "chagrin" they feel is at the fact that he was their dreamboat and everything they cheered him for doing failed, the result being humiliation for them and and a national rejection of their holy conservative Cause. They can't bear to hate themselves for this, or question the way they mooned over Bush's codpiece for eight years (or at least six, until Democrats won the '06 midterms), so they lie to themselves now and say they never liked all those deficits and expenditures they didn't give a goddamn about when Bush was riding high. They tell themselves that fiscal prudence has always been their core principle, when in fact their core principle is now what it has always been: liberalism and the Democratic Party must be destroyed so that we can rule forever. Wearing tricorn hats and putting the word "constitutional" into every sentence they utter is just their latest scheme to achieve that end.

  • Ted Snider: Their Hardliners Are Right; Our Hardliners Are Wrong: On the Iran negotiations:

    That the American hardliners' ideology has infiltrated the Western P5+1 negotiating team is suggested by reports coming out right after this past weekend's disintegration of the promised preliminary agreement that, at least publicly, the diplomats from the other five countries were not angry with France for breaking ranks on the potential deal, but for breaking protocol and announcing the failure prior to the final press conference. It appears that the six countries may have been in agreement about questioning Iran's "right" to enrich and about questioning the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Though originally presented as France's breaking ranks with the other five countries, no one but Iran has publicly criticized France, and John Kerry has said "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it" and that "We're grateful to the French for the work we did together." [ . . . ]

    But while American hardliners are wrong about their claims, the Iranian hardliners are historically justified in their claims that the Americans will sabotage the talks and will never make a fair deal with Iran. While talks progress more positively than they have in a decade and a deal seems possible for the first time, American hardliners continue to press for sanctions on Iran and continue to raise the bar of what would constitute an acceptable deal.

    Gareth Porter has more on the Iran talks: Why Iran Nuclear Talks Failed and Why They Will Get Tougher.

  • Stephem M Walt: Why Do We Keep Insisting That Use of Force Be 'On the Table'?

    The more I think about it, however, the dumber that expression sounds. Why? Because for the United States, the option of using military force is always on the table, especially when we're dealing with weak states like Iran. After all, since the end of the Cold War the United States has used force over and over: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Bosnia, Serbia, and a host of other places too. We've fired cruise missiles, Hellfires, and other sophisticated chunks of ordnance at a wide variety of targets, and you could add Special Forces operations and computer viruses (e.g., Stuxnet) to the list.

    Of course, people do not use this admonition to keep force "on the table" in a serious or sophisticated fashion; it's just an easy way for politicians and pundits to show they're tough-minded and not averse to using the pointed end of the stick. In other words, it's a way to maintain your inside-the-Beltway street cred. But it's really a meaningless phrase, because countries like Iran (and others) are well aware that the option of using force is right there and could be used if U.S. leaders ever decided it would accomplish a genuine positive purpose.

    In fact, this constant insistence that force must be "on the table" also reveals a pervasive blindness about how the United States looks to others. People repeat this phrase because they seem to think that other countries see the United States as a feckless wimp that will never do anything to harm them and that our politicians need to rattle sabers and bluster just to get other countries' attention. News flash: That's not how the rest of the world sees Uncle Sam these days. In reality, everybody knows the United States is still very powerful -- the sequester notwithstanding -- and other countries are well aware of the frequency with which we've been blowing things up in different places for the past 20 years. Our politicians may be trying to remind U.S. voters that they are willing to use force, but the rest of the world hardly needs to be told at this point.

    This great fondness for threatening force, and the propensity to use it, strikes me as the institutionalization of Nixon's "madman strategy." Back when Nixon was president and trying to figure out some way to get the Russians to pressure Vietnam into capitulating to the US in negotiations, he tried scramgling SAC bombers and pointing them at Moscow in hopes of convincing the Russians that he was crazy enough to start World War III. It never really worked, mostly because the Russians didn't have that kind of control over their Vietnamese allies. (But it did lead to the Russians to great paranoia over Ronald Reagan, who unlike Nixon was certifiably loony even if he was less personally inclined to incinerate the world.)

    Washington is awash with clichés, and this is just one of them. The bigger question is why anyone still thinks that such acts of force actually work. After all, we have performed many experiments over the years, bombing places and finding that no desired outcome ensues. The bluster of Obama's planned punitive attacks on Syria for using chemical weapons are a case in point. Maybe you can argue that the threat of force was what caused Assad to surrender his weapons, but you can be sure that it wouldn't have happened had the US actually acted on its threats. Moreover, it is only through agreement and inspection that the US could ever be assured that Assad had indeed given up those arms. (Iraq, where the US refused to allow inspectors to do their work, is the obvious comparative.)

    Teddy Roosevelt's motto was "speak softly, but carry a big stick." But now that US presidents do little but speak, they feel the need to shout, then they get taunted to use the stick anyway lest their rants no longer be taken seriously. Nixon's "madman" terminology is really too kind.

    Walt also has a useful post How Not to Think About the Israel Lobby, especially given Israel's prominence among those who want to scuttle any sort of diplomatic deal between the US and Iran:

    Finally, if you're not wearing blinders, it is impossible to miss the fact that AIPAC, WINEP, JINSA, the RJC, the ADL, and a host of other hardline groups in the lobby are now the principal opponents to a diplomatic deal with Iran. Just look at this article from The Forward, or this one from Ha'aretz, which make it clear that these are the principal groups holding Obama's feet to the fire on this issue. And of course it is many of these same groups or individuals who have been insisting for years that the U.S. keep all options "on the table" and use force against Iran if necessary. Absent pressure from these groups, it would be much, much easier for the United States to come to terms with Tehran.


Also, a few links for further study:

  • Ira Chernus: If Only Right-Wing Christians Knew Where Their Ideas Came From: Looks back at 19th century evangelicals, who tended to be progressive more than conservative, and find a resurgence in that same radicalism today, positing it as an opportunity for the left. William Jennings Bryan is one of Chernus' cases-in-point, but I must point out that he's remembered today as much for his embarrassing role in the Scopes "monkey trial" as for his "Cross of Gold" speech. Curiously, Bryan's opposition to teaching about evolution was rooted at least as much in his sense of social justice as in Biblical literalism. And he's not remembered at all today for leaving the Wilson administration as it marched off to war. Sometimes this is tricky, but if you believe that the major political problems of our day are gaping inequality and war, it is certainly true that you can find allies among evangelicals. Reaching and keeping them is another problem.

    Chernus also has a post on the Obamacare nonsense: "End Times for Obama": A Dangerous Conservative Myth.

  • Jonathan Cook: Why Israel wanted Arafat dead: The recent autopsy of Arafat shows traces of Polonium-210, which is not something you run across in everyday life. You generally have to have a nuclear reactor to obtain significant quantities of the toxic, radioactive isotope, which makes Israel a candidate. You also have to be willing to engage in assassination, which also makes Israel a candidate. Cooks lists more reasons.

  • Ann Jones: War Wounds: An excerpt from Jones' new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story (Dispatch Books/Haymarket Books). Jones previously wrote two books coming out of her experiences in Afghanistan: Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan (2007), and War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War (2010).

  • David Kenner: Why Saudi Arabia Hates the Iran Deal: One thing that will seem strange to American observers is how intensely Saudi Arabia orients itself against Iran, so this at least helps a bit to illuminate it. It could, of course, go further. One of the first things that Ayatollah Kohmeini did on taking power in 1979 was to explicitly challenge Saudi Arabia for leadership in the Moslem world. Before that the Saudis had a long-time rivalry with Arab nationalists like Nasser, but that had cooled off after the Arabs' disastrous showing in the 1967 Israel war. However, after 1979 the Saudis started spending billions of dollars to promote abroad their own quaint and antiquated form of Islam -- Wahabism, which relates back to the older school of Salafism -- with its peculiar emphasis on jihad as a political tool. US officials, in the naïve belief that any conservative religion was preferable to Godless Communism, approved, especially as the Saudis invested billions in Afghanistan. And Saudi Arabia has continued its pro-Islamist interventionism to this very day: they berate Iran for supporting political factions in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, precisely because those factions are rivals to the factions Saudi Arabia supports. It is easy to say that Iran is wrong to intervene in foreign countries, but Saudi Arabia is every bit as guilty on that charge, and the results of its interventions have been at least as damaging. The US has long backed Saudi Arabia in its aggressive foreign policy but must be having second thoughts now -- especially given the ease with which Saudi-backed militants have gravitated toward Al Qaeda. (Saudi clerics are quick to condemn Al Qaeda, but not very effective at dissuading them.) At this point, the best thing for all concerned would be to mutually withdraw from interfering in other countries.

  • John Quiggin: Wall Street Isn't Worth It: Argues that "society as a whole would be better off if the financial sector were smaller, and received much smaller returns." I don't have any doubts about that.

  • Joseph Stiglitz: The Insanity of Our Food Policy: Much more on the Republican cuts to the food stamp program than on farm subsidies, although he points out that as originally implemented in the 1930s farm "subsidies were an anti-poverty program." They've largely become a subsidy to corporate agriculture since then, which still -- my opinion here, since Stiglitz doesn't really address it -- doesn't mean they're unnecessary (although could mean they're unjust as currently implemented). For the most part, US agriculture policy has been based on a grand bargain of rural and urban interests: subsidies ensure that the food supply will not be disrupted by the vagaries of the market, and those surpluses will be used to end hunger. The Republicans have broken that deal. What Stiglitz is describing is more immoral than insane, but if they manage to return agriculture to laissez faire markets that will indeed be insane.

Daily Log

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cal Thomas: Why Agree When We Can Go to War?

It isn't exactly surprising that Israel should want to sabotage the new round of talks between Iran, the U.S., and other major powers. Nor that they would employ their vast lobbying networks in the U.S., nor that this would bring out their most obsequious media flacks to the forefront. Still, it is downright shocking the extremes to which Cal Thomas went in his column Iran agreement shouldn't stab Israel in the back. He starts with a story about a 1994 promise North Korea made to ex-president Jimmy Carter to "close a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in exchange for food and humanitarian aid." He notes then that North Korea reopened the reactor, concluding that "Tyrants lie" -- without mentioning that the US failed to fulfill its end of the agreement, or that the US maintained a blockade and crippling sanctions, or that Bush dubbed North Korea a member of "the Axis of Evil."

Thomas goes on:

Unlike North Korea, an officially atheist state, Iranian mullahs have repeatedly said they have a religious duty to annihilate Israel, not to mention America. How do secular diplomats negotiate with people who, in their minds, would be violating "Allah's will" by making deals with the "great Satan"?

Thomas' argument here is not just a "big lie" -- it's based on a total fabrication. No such fatwa has ever existed, nor is any such "religious duty" consistent with any official Iranian position. Iran, like most nations -- judging from UN resolution votes virtually every nation except for the US and Micronesia -- disapproves of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or Israel's refusal to allow Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars to return to their homes, and Israel's frequent aggression against neighboring countries. But Iran has also taken the position that it is up to the Palestinians to decide how to deal with Israel. Iran has gone beyond other nations in that they provide substantial military aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but thus far at least Hezbollah has only used Iranian rockets in response to Israeli bombing of Lebanon. (Nor have those rockets been very effective.) That is a far cry from a plan to "annihilate" Israel.

The revolutionary Islamic government in Iran has had many reasons over the years to be critical of the US, starting with the CIA-directed coup against Iran's democracy in 1953, the US alliance with the Shah and US training of the Shah's secret police, the US harboring the Shah after he was deposed, the US freeze of Iranian assets, the US role in supporting Iraq in its 1981-88 war against Iran, as well as various acts of American terrorism against Iran, such as shooting down a civilian airliner and attacking an offshore oil platform. The Iranian government hasn't always acted honorably, but since the Iraq war ended and Ayatollah Khomeini, who came up with that "Great Satan" rhetoric, died, it's been the US that has repeatedly rebuffed efforts by Iran to put relations on a less confrontational level.

On the other hand, Israel has frequently threatened to attack Iran. Israel supports the anti-Iranian terrorist group MEK. Israeli agents have murdered Iranian scientists. Israel has used cyberwarfare against Iran (evidently with US help). Israeli security experts openly talk about their hopes for "regime change" in Iran. And since the early 1990s, Israel has lobbied the US heavily to isolate and undermine the Iranian regime. The interesting thing about that last sentence is that Israeli-Iranian enmity didn't start with the revolution in 1979, with the ascension to power of Ayatollah Khomeini and his "Great Satan" rhetoric. Throughout the 1980s, Israel maintained a close alliance with Iran, shipping it arms, and actually intervening in the Iraq-Iran war in 1982 when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor project site. Perhaps Israel's interest in Iran was cynical -- the hope that by supporting Iran they could weaken their closer enemy, Iraq.

However, after the US-led coalition defeated Iraq in the 1990 Gulf War Israel began to cast about for a new "existential" enemy -- a role that could no longer be plausibly imagined for any Arab state. Iran fit the bill for several reasons: first, the US still harbored resentment against Iran for holding its embassy staff hostage from 1980-82, so it was relatively easy to push American hot buttons; second, Iran's government explicitly identified itself as Islamic, which also raised some hot buttons with America's Christian right, even when none of the latter had any clue about the differences between sunni and shiite; and third, Iran had been fascinated with nuclear power starting with the Shah before ther revolution, and thanks to self-isolation and sanctions, they could only pursue nuclear energy by developing their own capabilities so it was easy to characterize Iran's program as intending to develop nuclear weapons. And, of course, the prospect of a nuclear-armed nation hostile or even merely opposed to the Israel -- populated by the residual victims of genocide -- and/or the US excited all sorts of paranoid fears. And recall that for the post-9/11 Bush administration, those fears were very useful for advancing their ambitions against Iraq, which was supposedly all about "weapons of mass destruction" -- e.g., Condoleezza Rice's taunt that "the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud."

Problem was, in order to convince people that their fears were based on solid intelligence, Israel had to project a time frame for Iran's "nuclear programme" to come to fruition. In the mid-1990s, they cautiously projected that Iran was five years away from having the bomb. At various points after that, they even projected shorter time spans, but the fact is that 15 years after the Iranian bomb was due, it still hasn't been built. And when the CIA assessed its own intelligence, they concluded that Iran didn't have actual plans to build a bomb. Which, coincidentally, is what Iran's leaders have said all along.

Thomas' next ploy is to cite an anonymous item from "ynetnews.com" -- the website run by Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanot. If he had a non-Israeli source, don't you think he'd use it? Conservatives love to quote the Wall Street Journal or New York Times not because they revere those papers as because they realize their reports usually look less fishy than "Rush Limbaugh says . . ." or "according to an anonymous tip reported by Drudgenet . . ."

Thomas ends up with a dubious historical analogy, concluding, "Roosevelt and Churchill were wrong about Stalin, and the Obama administration is wrong about Iran." Given that Obama's "go to" guy on Iran for most of his time in office has been Dennis Ross, the Obama administration has usually been wrong about Iran. But even if they're wrong now, you have to ask yourself what are they trying to do, and how does that compare to all the alternatives. If the goal is to keep Iranian maniacs from using nuclear weapons against Israel and/or the United States (or any other enemy they have, something Saudi Arabia is especially keen on being), then first of all you have the time-tested standard approach: Israel and the US have enough nuclear weapons to deter any Iranian plot by making it suicidal. (That approach, after all, deterred the Soviet Union, who as Thomas no doubt said dozens of times were a bunch of godless fanatics convinced that capitalism must die and that history was on their side.) It also wouldn't hurt if the Iranian people were given a better stake in the future, which is a reason for relaxing sanctions, normalizing relations, increasing trade and investment, and so forth. It's worth noting that the only communist nations that didn't democratize were the ones the US fought hot wars against and have nurtured grudges against: China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. Ill will only begets ill tidings.

Realistically, that should be enough, but given how wholeheartedly Israeli and American officials have swallowed their own propaganda, the concerned countries should work to establish greater transparency and more open review of Iran's nuclear power efforts. Iran is a member of the NPT, which commits them not to build nuclear weapons and not to aid in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. (Israel, by the way, is not, so if you want to look at renegade states bearing weapons of mass destruction, start there.) Under the NPT, countries such as Iran are still entitled to develop nuclear power, and some countries have done just that without ever considering a weapons program -- most notably, Germany and Japan. Iran is unusual in this regard solely because they are so isolated -- especially due to UN-supported sanctions -- and that produces unique dangers. One thing that we should worry about is whether Iran has access to the latest methods and equipment needed to make sure that their nuclear power plants are safe -- and that won't happen if we keep Iran isolated and force it to be self-sufficient. Again, the way forward here is through more openness and less hostility -- exactly the opposite of what Thomas is arguing for.

It is, therefore, easy to see that the path opened up in this new round of negotiations with Iran can lead to allaying Israel's (and America's) fears, and indeed of defusing one of the world's most dangerous hostile fronts. On the other hand, you need to look at Israel's approach -- which aside from sanctions, espionage, and acts of terror within Iran, might add military strikes to destroy Iran's physical plant -- and what its prospects really are. Bombs may do some damage, but they're most likely to drive the nuclear project ever deeper underground, into deeper security. Moreover, they'll drive more Iranians into believing that nuclear weapons are necessary to defend Iran against outside aggressors. Espionage and terrorism will only make Iran's government more closed and more paranoid, and they will invite Iran to do the same in turn. And sanctions again will impoverish Iran, encourage autarky, and a stubborn resolve to fight back.

It should be understood that Israel has its own reasons for making and maintaining enemies: the idea of external threats helps politically unite the Jewish population and keeps the military-industrial complex humming along, and the security issue distracts from the fundamental problems caused by the occupation and treatment of Palestinians. On the other hand, as Americans we have to ask ourselves whether fondness for Israel is really a good reason for the United States to let Israel decide who our enemies are and how we should deal with them. Certain elements of the US right-wing like the idea of letting Israel lead us around by the nose because they wish us to have the same degree of militarism and war-lust Israel has, but most people think that our "enemies" selected us, not the other way around. And so when a nation like Iran comes to us seeking peace and understanding, why should we reject them?

If you believe everything Cal Thomas says here, and buy into all the bogus historical analogies and suppositions, all he's really saying is that we can't trust Iran, so we should go to war with them now instead of waiting until they, like Hitler and Stalin, inevitably go to war against us. (Ignoring the fact that Stalin and his successors never did start that inevitable war.) Fortunately for us, Thomas is as wrong on his facts as he is ghastly in terms of morality. An agreement with Iran wouldn't "stab Israel in the back"; it would save Israel from making the worst mistake a nation could make.

Daily Log

Oh the days come and go, too uneventful even to notice.


Jody Rosen generated a list of 60 Great Albums You Probably Haven't Heard. I've heard 15 (25%), noting my grades below (A+:1, A:1, A-:5, B+:6, B:2).

  1. Joni James, 100 Strings and Joni (1959)
  2. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gospel Train (1956)
  3. Sanford Clark, The Fool (1956)
  4. Lou Donaldson, Blues Walk (1958)
  5. Moondog, More Moondog (1956)
  6. Elizabeth Cotten, Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes (1958)
  7. Machito, Kenya (1957)
  8. Les Baxter featuring Bas Sheva, The Passions (1954)
  9. The Browns, Sweet Sounds by the Browns (1959)
  10. Mel Tormé, Mel Tormé Sings Fred Astaire (1956)
  11. Joe Tex, Buying a Book (1969)
  12. Brigitte Fontaine, Comme à la Radio (1969) [***]
  13. Lefty Frizzell, Mom and Dad's Waltz and Other Great Country Hits (1966)
  14. Tex Williams and His String Band, Smoke Smoke Smoke (1960)
  15. Connie Smith, I Love Charley Brown (1968)
  16. Bettye Swann, Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me? (1969)
  17. La Lupe, Es La Reina (1969)
  18. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Volunteered Slavery (1969) [B]
  19. The Velvet Illusions, Acid Head (1967)
  20. Cymande, Cymande (1972) [B+]
  21. Shirley Brown, Woman to Woman (1975) [X:A-]
  22. Jorge Ben, Africa Brasil (1976)
  23. Keith Cross & Peter Ross, Bored Civilians (1972)
  24. Jane Birkin, Di Doo Dah (1973)
  25. The Congos, Heart of the Congos (1977) [X:***] [B+]
  26. Melanie, Stoneground Words (1972)
  27. The Flatlanders, More a Legend Than a Band (1972) [A-]
  28. Novos Baianos, Acabou Chorare (1972)
  29. Jobriath, Jobriath (1973)
  30. The Nails, Mood Swing (1984)
  31. Marshall Crenshaw, Downtown (1985) [X:A-] [A]
  32. Ten City, Foundation (1989) [X:B+]
  33. Baltimora, Living in the Background (1985)
  34. Fishbone, Truth and Soul (1988) [X:B]
  35. Ta Mara and the Seen, Blueberry Gossip (1988)
  36. Keith Whitley, I Wonder Do You Think of Me (1989) [X:A-] [A-]
  37. King Sunny Adé & His African Beats, Juju Music (1982) [X:A-] [A-]
  38. Chill Rob G, Ride the Rhythm (1989)
  39. Holly & the Italians, The Right to Be Italian (1981)
  40. Ivy, Apartment Life (1997)
  41. O.C., Word . . . Life (1994)
  42. Ninjaman, Bounty Hunter (1991)
  43. Cornelius, Fantasma (1997)
  44. Youssou N'Dour, Set (1990) [B+]
  45. Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys (1994) [A-]
  46. Freedy Johnston, Can You Fly (1992) [A-]
  47. Iris DeMent, My Life (1993) [A+]
  48. DJ Quik, Quik Is the Name (1991)
  49. Andy Bey, Shades of Bey (1998) [B]
  50. Benji Hughes, A Love Extreme (2008)
  51. Akufen, My Way (2002)
  52. Julie Roberts, Men & Mascara (2006)
  53. Bobby Creekwater, Anthem to the Streets (2005)
  54. Hyphy Hitz (2007)
  55. The Pierces, Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge (2007) [***]
  56. Fanfare Ciocarlia, Iag Bari (2001)
  57. Calle 13, Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo (2008) [B+]
  58. Eric Church, Carolina (2009)
  59. Prinzhorn Dance School, Prinzhorn Dance School (2007)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Daily Log

Music today (RS): Saâda Bonaire, Arcade Fire.


Comment in response to Stephen:

Stephen is right on "Shotgun": Somehow I had it stuck in my mind that the Walker All Stars were Motown's MGs, then had to adjust when I heard vocals on everything else, but didn't recheck "Shotgun" -- sloppy of me, conditioned, perhaps, by the fact that I've been listening to an instrumental "Shotgun" on the new Roswell Rudd record. I've rewritten that review. No typo on the Velvets' Verves -- that was the label, and groups them much as one talks about Charlie Parker's Dials or Ornette Coleman's Atlantics. Nonetheless, rephrased that. Who's Richard Ashcroft?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Recycled Goods (114): November, 2013

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 4035 (3591 + 444).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Music Week/Not Much Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22346 [22292] rated (+54), 563 [566] unrated (-3).

Big rated count this week is due to working virtually non-stop on Recycled Goods, which you will see later this week (probably later rather than sooner).

Not much Jazz Prospecting below, but not much coming in either. The input queue is probably the shorter now than it's been since I started writing Jazz Consumer Guide, and very little of what's left in it looks promising (aside from the new Roswell Rudd, next week). Part of this problem is seasonal: most labels have shot their wad on 2013 but don't have their new year's releases ready yet -- this is, after all, still a season to sell in. On the other hand, the trend of less service is real and likely to continue. Sometimes this just means getting dropped. And sometimes I'm offered digital downloads where I used to get CDs -- after a long silence, it now looks like ECM's in that category. My rule has always been that downloads don't go into Jazz Prospecting: if I have to listen to something on the computer, it goes into Rhapsody Streamnotes. The long-term trend, then, is that Jazz Prospecting will continue to shrink, making it less worthwhile both for me and you readers. So unless something changes -- e.g., someone comes forward with a venue that is respectable enough to pay me something -- most likely I'll give it up come January.

Some weeks ago I promised a piece on "Searching for Music After Christgau" -- basically a rough spec for a cooperative webzine and reference database. I started on that, got stuck, got distracted, and am still floundering. I still expect to get to it sometime, and I still plan on throwing together some software for at least a limited subset of it. Francis Davis has arranged for a new sponsor for his Jazz Critics Poll this year, and we've talked a bit about building a permanent website for past and future ballots, so that's where it's likely to happen first, but the basic schema applies elsewhere.

Deadline has just passed for Turkey Shoot/Black Friday Special proposals, which doesn't mean it's too late for you to get involved, but it is pretty urgent that you do so. I haven't tallied it all up yet -- I've been feeling bad and not doing much for a week now -- but we should have a nice-sized Turkey Shoot column, but we're still somewhat short for the Black Friday Special.


Kevin Coelho: Turn It Up (2013, Chicken Coup/Summit): Organ player, second album, trio with guitar and drums. Covers Jimmy Smith, "Come Together," "The World Is a Ghetto," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Georgia on My Mind." Two originals, songs anyway. Tacks on two radio edits as bonus cuts. B

Eric DiVito: The Second Time Around (2013, Pioneer Jazz Collection): Guitarist, originally from Long Island, based in New York, second album: builds on a trio with bass (Corcoran Holt) and drums (Alyssa Falk Verheyn), most notably with the alto sax of Steve Wilson on three tracks -- a sweet counterpart to the leader's guitar. Also two songs with singer Mavis Swan Poole. B+(*) [November 12]

Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies (2012-13 [2013], Accurate): I think the leader here is trumpet player Brian Carpenter, whose previous album was also historically themed, Hothouse Stomp: The Music of 1920s Chicago and Harlem. This one explores the 1930s work of Alec Wilder, Raymond Scott, Reginald Forsythe, and John Kirby's Sextet (including Charlie Shavers). The music veers from jazz into classical, sometimes too much for my taste (nor do I care for the choir), but the band is chock full of interesting characters -- Andy Laster, Petr Cancura, Curtis Hasselbring, Tanya Kalmanovitch -- and makes use of violin and tuba. B+(**)

Outer Bridge Ensemble: Determined (2013, self-released): Quartet -- Mark DeJong (saxes), Steve Hudson (keyboards), Jerome Jennings (drums), David Freeman (conga, djembe, percussion) -- plus various friends, including James Zollar on trumpet. Website touts their "original sound based in jazz, afro-beat, afro-cuban rhythm, and funk," but almost all of what I hear is fairly inventive postbop. B+(**)

Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Limitless (2012 [2013], Capri): Drummer-led piano trio -- Zaleski is the pianist. Dedicates one song to Fred Hersch, and works mostly in that vein, a bit on the quiet side. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dewa Budjana: Joged Kanyangan (Moonjune)
  • Sonya Robinson: Whistle (FLV): November 19

Purchases:

  • Arcade Fire: Reflektor (Merge, 2CD)
  • Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Aftermath)
  • MIA: Matangi (Interscope)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Louis Armstrong: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Louis Armstrong (1949-67 [1999], MCA): A [rhapsody]
  • Joan Baez: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Joan Baez (1971-75 [1999], A&M): C+ [rhapsody]
  • Brook Benton: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Brook Benton (1959-70 [2000], Mercury): A- [rhapsody]
  • Bobby Bland: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bobby Bland (195?-?? [2000], MCA): A- [rhapsody]
  • Pat Boone: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Pat Boone (1955-62 [2000], MCA): B- [rhapsody]
  • The Carpenters: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Carpenters (1970-78 [2002], A&M): C+ [rhapsody]
  • Johnny Cash: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Johnny Cash Volume 2 (1985-90 [2007], Mercury): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • Cher: The Best of Cher (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1971-79 [2000], MCA): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • Cher: The Best of Cher Volume 2 (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1987-98 [2004], Hip-O): B- [rhapsody]
  • The Commodores: The Best of the Commodores (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1974-84 [1999], Motown): B [rhapsody]
  • Billy Ray Cyrus: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Billy Ray Cyrus (1992-98 [2003], Mercury Nashville): B [rhapsody]
  • Sammy Davis Jr.: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Sammy Davis Jr. (1972-74 (2001), Polydor): B- [rhapsody]
  • DeBarge: The Best of DeBarge (1982-86 [2000], Motown): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • The Del-Vikings: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Del Vikings (1956-58 [2004], Hip-O): B+(**) [rhapsody]
  • Freddy Fender: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Freddy Fender (1974-77 [2001], MCA Nashville): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Four Tops: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Four Tops (1964-73 [1999], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Four Tops: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Four Tops Volume 2 (1972-83 [2005], Hip-O): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • The Funk Brothers: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Funk Brothers (1960-72 [2004], Motown): B [rhapsody]
  • Marvin Gaye: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Marvin Gaye Volume 1: The '60s (1962-69 [1999], Motown): A [rhapsody]
  • Marvin Gaye: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Marvin Gaye Volume 2: The '70s (1971-77 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (1967-69 [2000], Motown): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Marvin Gaye: Compact Command Performances (1964-74 [1984], Motown): Not the best single disc compilation possible, but would do as an intro -- nothing before "How Sweet It Is," two duets with Tammi Terrell and one with Diana Ross, the essential early-'70s singles, and most important, the 11:54 album version of "Got to Give It Up." A-
  • Tom T. Hall: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Tom T. Hall (1969-84 [2000], MCA Nashville): B+(*) [R]
  • Michael Jackson: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Michael Jackson (1971-75 [2000], Motown): B- [rhapsody]
  • The Jackson 5: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Jackson 5 (1969-73 [1999], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Tom Jones: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Tom Jones (196?-?? [2000], Polydor): >B+(**) [rhapsody]
  • Eddie Kendricks: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Eddie Kendricks (1973-85 [2000], Motown): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Gladys Knight and the Pips (1967-73 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Patti Labelle: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Patti Labelle (1984-97 [1999], Geffen): B [rhapsody]
  • Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions (1961-72 [2000], Geffen/MCA): A [rhapsody]
  • Roger Miller: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Roger Miller (1964-66 [1999], MCA): A [rhapsody]
  • The Mills Brothers: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Mills Brothers (1941-67 [2000], MCA): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Patti Page: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Patti Page (1950-57 [2003], Mercury): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • The Platters: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Platters (1955-61 [1999], Mercury): A- [rhapsody]
  • Lloyd Price: 20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection: The Best of Lloyd Price (1956-60 [2002], MCA): A- [rhapsody]
  • Rare Earth: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rare Earth (1969-73 [2013], Motown): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Martha Reeves & the Vandellas: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas (1963-67 [1999], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Martha Reeves & the Vandellas: The Definitive Collection (1963-71 [2008], Motown): A-
  • Smokey Robinson: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Smokey Robinson (1973-87 [2000], Motown): B+(**) [rhapsody]
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (1960-87 [1999], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Diana Ross: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Diana Ross (1970-81 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Diana Ross & the Supremes: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Diana Ross & the Supremes (1964-69 [1999], Motown): A [rhapsody]
  • Diana Ross & the Supremes: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Diana Ross & the Supremes Volume 2 (1965-71 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • David Ruffin: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of David Ruffin (1969-85 [2000], Motown): A- [R]
  • The Shangri-Las: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Shangri-Las (1964-67 [2002], Mercury): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • Edwin Starr: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Edwin Starr (1965-78 [2001], Motown): B [rhapsody]
  • Barrett Strong: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Barrett Strong (1959-61 [2003], Motown): B+(*) [rhapsody]
  • The Temptations: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Temptations Volume 2: The 1970s, 80s, and 90s (1970-98 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Jr. Walker & the All Stars: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jr. Walker & the All Stars (1965-72 [2000], Motown): A- [rhapsody]
  • Dinah Washington: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Dinah Washington (1949-61 [2002], Hip-O): B+(**) [rhapsody]

Daily Log

Feeling real lousy. Back is killing me. Shows no sign of improvement. Very awkward. Few positions are relatively pain-free. Managed in several efforts to get Jazz Prospecting post together. Also wrote up two records for it today, increasing the column size from two to five. Pathetic. Hopeless.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Nothing this week.

Daily Log

None of these in quite a while. Mostly playing stuff for Recycled Goods. Still a lot of back pain, plus terrible allergies -- pretty miserable all over. Watched The Good Wife and The Mentalist.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Daily Log

Saw the movie Gravity today, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and literally no one else. Spectacular piece of filmmaking with its wide-angled space shots of earth and all the zero gravity work, marred only by the 3D treatment. The story line is a stretch, the obstacles so insurmountable you won't believe it when she does, but at least you will feel relief. Still, the closing scene of her crawling out of the lagoon and trying to find her legs in a world with gravity is finally credible, and powerful. B+

Watched NCIS and Revenge. The latter is beginning to fly off the rails.

Music today (JP): Outer Bridge Ensemble; (RG) The Supremes, Diana Ross/Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Jackson 5.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22292 [22254] rated (+38), 566 [569] unrated (-3).

A relatively short week: didn't have anything saved up, haven't been getting much, and had several days that didn't pan out. Even today, when I added two records, I spent most of my time working on Recycled Goods. November's column is no longer near-empty, but it's still way short of what I'd like to put out, so rather than rushing it out I'll hang on a bit.

We still need proposals and contributions to the 2013 Turkey Shoot and (especially) Black Friday Special. The rules are explained here. When I checked this last week I found that the file had been attacked by trackback spam. Since then I removed over 200 spam links and hacked a bit on my blog code to make it impossible to add more trackbacks. It wasn't much of a change, but felt good to dive in there and solve a problem that has been bothering me for years.

Unpacking continues to be very light, with about half of this week's loot lapping into 2014.


The George Bouchard Group: Listen to Your Dreams (2013, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, born and raised in Buffalo, NY; teaches at Nassau Community College. Has at least four albums, and a textbook called Intermediate Jazz Improvisation. Group, recorded "live at Mirelle's," includes a second tenor sax (Andrew Grossbard), trumpet (Dave South), piano, bass, and drums, playing a robustly upbeat postbop I couldn't get into. B

Fabric Trio: Murmurs (2010 [2013], NoBusiness): Sax trio, recorded in Berlin: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano/alto sax), Mike Majkowski (bass), Yorgos Dimitriadis (drums). First album, a limited edition (300 copy) vinyl LP, which seems to be a market niche. Free jazz, joint improv, as the title suggests they tend to keep their adventures toned down -- no screech, no bombast, but also no clichés, nothing pat. I find them refreshing, but not very distinct from dozens of other fine records. I'm also glad I have a CD-R and don't have to flip the thing over (although the second side runs on so quietly I might not bother). B+(**) [advance]

Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake: A Night in November: Live in New Orleans (2011 [2013], Valid): Louisiana boys, the saxophonist (alto and tenor) a lifelong resident of the Big Easy, the drummer a childhood emigré to Chicago where he was mentored by Fred Anderson, eventually recording several duo albums together. Jordan is a fair substitute, a little squeakier, and Drake is masterful, as always. B+(***)

Dana Lyn: Aqualude (2012 [2013], Ropeadope): Violinist, b. 1974 in California, studied at Oberlin, based in Brooklyn, has spent a good deal of time learning Irish folk fiddle; has a couple previous albums, more side-credits including the Walkmen and Louodon Wainwright. Quintet with Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), Clara Kennedy (cello), Mike McGinniss (clarinets), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). Soft instruments, chamber music (I guess): doesn't swing, can't bop, and sure ain't free. C+ [advance]

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery September 6, 1976 (1976 [2013], Widow's Taste): Pepper got out of jail in 1965 but played very little until 1975 when he kicked off his final comeback with the brilliant album Living Legend. Most of the previous seven Unreleased Art volumes focus on live gigs from his last years, 1980-82, working with regular touring bands. This catches him a few years earlier, at the Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga with a no-name pickup band from the Bay Area. They aren't bad -- pianist Smith Dobson acquits himself particularly well -- but Pepper plays with exceptional verve, right out of the gate with a fast "Caravan" up through the "Straight Life" encore. Most of these songs are staples on his numerous live albums from the era, but he rarely raced through this this fast and with this much vigor. A- [November 5]

John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell/Cecil McBee/Billy Hart: Tribal Ghost (2007 [2013], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1936 in Copenhagen, Denmark; mother Danish, father Congolese; d. 2012. This was recorded in 2007 at Birdland, Tchicai's trio with saxophonist Kohlhase and guitarist Fewell rounded out with bass and drums. Four cuts, one of those limited edition vinyl deals, no timings given but works out to about 35 minutes. Fewell wrote three of the pieces, his guitar tying them into neat little grooves, the saxes not clashing but embroidering. A- [advance]

Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth (2013, Greene Avenue Music): Vocalist, originally from Trinidad or Tobago, raised on Long Island, studied at Syracuse and Brooklyn Conservatory of Music; sixth album since 1999. Betty Carter is less an influence than one of her few peers in jazz history: someone who makes art more difficult and demanding than we're often comfortable with, a singer who commands a band as disciplined and prickly as the star. Victor's Ensemble includes Anders Nilsson, one of the most distinctive jazz guitarists working today, and Ken Filiano, one of those bassists who makes everyone sound better -- his presence is as reliable a stamp of quality as casting Harry Dean Stanton in a movie. B+(***) [November 5]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carolyn Lee Jones: The Performer (Cat'nround Sound): November 19
  • Mark Lettieri: Future Fun (Markus Justinius Music): November 12
  • Greg Lewis: Organ Monk: American Standard (self-released): January 7
  • Mumpbreak (Rare Noise): advance, November 28
  • Rich Rosenthal: Falling Up (Muse-Eek): January 7
  • Sly 5th Ave: Sly 5th Ave Presents Akuma (self-released): February 14
  • Lizzie Thomas: Easy to Love (self-released): November 19
  • Tim Warfield: Inspire Me! (HHM)

Daily Log

Went to dinner at Cafe Maurice, one place that had been nominated to cater the annual Peace Center dinner. Shared their meza platter, I had the kafta kabab (with lentil soup and grilled veggies), Laura the chicken au poivre. Generally favorable reactions, although Laura tought the cabbage roll underdone, I wouldn't bother with the meat or spinach pies again, and I'm not much of a hummus fan. Didn't care much for the soup, but the kafta and veggies were fine, and Laura's chicken seemed nicely done.

Music today (JP): Fay Victor, Fabric Trio; (RG): Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Four Tops.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:


  • Paul Krugman: Rentiers, Entitlement, and Monetary Policy: With unemployment still way high and the economy further depressed by political shenanigans, the rentiers keep pushing for tighter money "in an economy that seems to need the opposite":

    This kind of behavior -- ever-shifting rationales for an unchanging policy (see: Bush tax cuts, invasion of Iraq, etc.) -- is a "tell." It says that something else is really motivating the policy advocacy. So what is going on here? When I read Gross and others, what I think is lurking underneath is a belief that capitalists are entitled to good returns on their capital, even if it's just parked in safe assets. It's about defending the privileges of the rentiers, who are assumed to be central to everything; the specific stories are just attempts to rationalize the unchanging goal.

    The thing to realize here, then, is that nothing about our current situation says that rentiers are entitled to their rent. And it's a perversion of alleged free-market thinking to suggest otherwise.

    Bear in mind where we are, economically: we are still in a liquidity trap, and we are very much in a paradox of thrift world, where hoarding -- not spending -- is a positive social evil.

    What is the role of interest in this world? Interest, classically (and I do mean classically, as in Mr. Keynes and the), is the reward for waiting: there's supposedly a social function to interest because it rewards people for saving rather than spending. But right now we're awash in excess savings with nowhere to go, and the marginal social value of a dollar of savings is negative. So real interest rates should be negative too, if they're supposed to reflect social payoffs.

    This really isn't at all exotic -- but obviously it's a point wealth-owners don't want to hear. Hence the constant agitation for monetary tightening.

    I'll add that economists have routinely campaigned for savings (and policies that promote savings) for decades, or maybe forever, so it's a bit unsurprising that they'd be caught flat-footed by a glut. The glut, of course, turns out to have nothing to do with the supposed virtue of delayed gratification. It occurred simply because the rich were able to use their political clout to grab so much more than they could spend, while pushing everyone else down to where they're unable to spend enough to justify further investment. And note that artificially tightening the money supply would do nothing to fix this problem. If anything, it would make it worse.

    Also see Award-winning Paragraphs, where Krugman quotes John Taylor saying that the Congressional Budget Office has projected that federal debt "will rise to more than 250% without a change in policy." Krugman questions the time frame, and provides a chart showing that even 25 years out CBO is only projecting a debt/GDP ratio of 90% -- "a debt level well within historical experience for advanced nations." In response to Taylor's second paragraph, Krugman writes:

    But what I really found noteworthy is Taylor's declaration that we must not say that the GOP has been taken over by extremists, because it prevents a serious discussion. Suppose we just posit the possibility that the GOP really has been taken over by extremists; are supposed to pretend otherwise, for the sake of discussion? When does it become OK to acknowledge reality?

    And of course the GOP really has been taken over by extremists. Normal political parties don't shut down the government and threaten to push us into default in an attempt to derail legislation that has been duly enacted by Congress, and they lack the votes to repeal. Sorry, but that's just not something one can pretend not to notice.

  • Charles Simic: Bleak House:

    Just consider the effort of the Republicans in the House to overrule the Affordable Care Act, a legislation ratified by the majority of elected representative of the people and signed into law by the president. Bettering the lives of anyone but the wealthy, as we know, has ceased to be a concern of the Republican Party. But millions of Americans are on the brink of buying affordable health insurance and freeing themselves from a worry that makes their lives utter misery; the concerted effort backed by some of the richest men in this country to deprive them of that chance may be without precedent for sheer malice. Indifference to the plight and suffering of human beings of one class or another by some segment of the population is a universal phenomenon, but spending millions of dollars to deepen the misery of one's fellow citizens and enlisting members of one political party to help you do so is downright vile. It must be motivated as much by sadism as by the political calculation that if these uninsured were to get insurance, they would give the Democratic Party a governing majority simply out of gratitude for letting them see a doctor.

    Organized, by what The New York Times calls "a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III," the backers of the government shut-down are ensconced in organizations like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, Club for Growth, Generation Opportunity, and Young Americans for Liberty, their names as fake as those of Communist front organizations in the 1930s and 1940s and as venal as their forerunners. These groups spent more than $200 million last year to spread disinformation and delude the gullible among the populace about the supposedly catastrophic harm giving health care to the uninsured would do to the economy. Using them as a model, Americans should look out only for themselves. We have forgotten what this country once understood, that a society based on nothing but selfishness and greed is not a society at all, but a state of war of the strong against the weak.

  • Steve M: I Want to Belong to the Democratic Party That Exists Only in Rush Limbaugh's Delusional Brain: Early in 2009 after Obama became president, we hired a father-son team to come in and lay some tile. They not only insisted on arriving too early but they also brought their own radio in, and without any consideration of their customers they tuned in Rush Limbaugh. Surprisingly, he cheered me up: until then I had no idea that Obama was a socialist, or even that he had progressive plans. Of course, I was eventually disappointed to find no evidence of any such thing. And I couldn't exactly blame Limbaugh for being wrong, because he's always wrong about everything. But he's still at it, trying to cheer us up with his reverse psychology. Here's how Steve M. paraphrases him (follow the link if you don't believe me):

    So I guess Obamacare was deliberately built to fail because, as everyone knows, if it fails we're just instantly going to throw all the huge private insurers and all their expensive lobbyists under the bus and go socialist, because liberals rule, and we're Alinskying this just the same way we Alinskied our way to the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall and the restoration of Eisenhower-era 90+ percent top marginal tax rates, when we weren't getting all those Wall Street bankers arrested and getting Gitmo closed and stopping the drones and legalizing gay marriage all the way from Montana to Mississippi. Remember how we pulled all that off? Good times.

    Too bad I can't remember any of that. Just think: if I were as clueless as Limbaugh, I'd be a happy man.

    Speaking of delusion, all see M's Kathleen Sebelius, Gangsta Bitch, based on a Michelle Malkin rant:

    You can question how Sebelius is doing her job, but I think you have to be an insane wingnut with rage disorder to regard her as a combination of Torquemada and Whitey Bulger.


Also, a few links for further study:

  • Amy Goldstein/Juliet Eilperlin: HealthCare.gov: How political fear was pitted against technical needs: A fairly long article on how the implementation of the federal insurance exchange under ACA was hampered by a "poisonous" political atmosphere and some measure of bureaucratic inefficiency or incompetence -- hard for me to tell. One problem was that the law envisioned 50 state exchanges, but the more Republicans were able to block those, the more weight got piled onto the underfunded federal exchange. By the way, here's a profile of CGI Federal, the Canadian company most responsible for implementing the federal insurance exchange.

  • Paul Krugman: Gambling With Civilization: Review of economist William D. Nordhaus's book: The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World (Yale University Press):

    "Markets alone will not solve this problem," declares Nordhaus. "There is no genuine 'free-market solution' to global warming." This isn't a radical statement, it's just Econ 101. Nonetheless, it's anathema to free-market enthusiasts. If you like to imagine yourself as a character in an Ayn Rand novel, and someone tells you that the world isn't like that, that it requires government intervention -- no matter how d market-friendly -- your response may well be to reject the news and cling to your fantasies. And sad to say, a fair number of influential figures in American public life do believe they're acting out Atlas Shrugged.

    Finally, there's a strong streak in modern American conservatism that rejects not just climate science, but the scientific method in general. Polling suggests, for example, that a large majority of Republicans reject the theory of evolution. For people with this mind-set, laying out the extent of scientific consensus on an issue isn't persuasive -- gets their backs up, and feeds fantasies about vast egghead conspiracies.

    Nordhaus accepts the basic climate science findings, debunks advocacy and alarmism that he thinks goes too far, attempts a cost-benefit analysis of various possible solutions, calls for some sort of carbon pricing/tax scheme to limit emissions, and considers geoengineering a possible fallback to offset (but not solve) excess emissions. Seems like a reasonable book, if only we had reasonable political and business leaders.

  • Several more links having to do with Max Blumenthal's new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. (I have a copy and hope to read soon, but I've been stuck for a long time in a book on neoliberal economics and it's slow going.) Found most of these by following links from MJ Rosenberg, who is of two minds on the book (and for that matter seems to be of two minds on many things lately):

    Rosenberg also links to this Haaretz article: The Shoah explained to our five-year-olds. I agree with him that teaching the history of the Holocaust to kindergarten children, as Israel's Education Minister is proposing, is "child abuse." As I understand it, Israel also has a program where teenagers are sent to Auschwitz, and their military holds rituals at Masada. Has there ever been any nation that works harder to traumatize its own citizens? For a further illustration of this, see Tom Segev's book 1967, where Israel's generals were shown to be totally confident of swift victory, while the Israeli people were led to expect utter doom (and therefore felt remarkable exhilaration at the victory).

  • Yakov M Rabkin: Reform Judaism and the challenge of Zionism: Book review of Jack Ross: Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism (2011, Potomac Books). Berger was a notable exception to the common pro-Zionist stance of American jews. Rabkin also wrote what is most likely an interesting book: A Threat From Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.

  • Tom Simonite: The Decline of Wikipedia: Some interesting observations here, especially regarding a slight reduction in the number of active editors at Wikipedia -- I wouldn't go so far as to call that a decline, but it means that progress in filling out weak spots may slow down. Also notable are the growth of "personal, egocentric feeds" (Facebook and Twitter) and the increasing use of lightweight computers (phones, tablets) that aren't conducive to any actual work. Also makes sense to me that as Wikipedia matures people will move on -- where to is as yet unclear.

Also looks like there is a lot of news on Israel, and all bad as far as I can see. In fact, WarInContext has nothing but bad news everywhere it looks. (Right now the top article is on John Kerry.)

Daily Log

Music today (JP): Randy Weston/Billy Harper; (RG): Marvin Gaye, Barrett Strong, Edwin Starr.


Wrote this parenthetical as part of the Israeli child abuse paragraph above. Took it out because I thought it might overwhelm the point, but it is a true feeling, something I may elaborate on later:

(For that matter, I believe that teaching religion to young children is little better. Adults can believe whatever nonsense suits them, but young children are especially defenseless against such trauma. I know it took me many years to get free of my rearing, and I can recount the scars.)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Daily Log

Made maqluba -- a Palestinian rice pilaf with layers of tomato, eggplant, cauliflower, and chicken, cooked then flipped upside down -- and some yogurt for the Peace Center's pot luck dinner for Pamela Olson.

Music today (JP): Randy Weston; (RG): The Turtles.


Janice Bradley posted on facebook a link to Pamela Olson's Mondoweiss article on the Lydda 1948 expulsion (also see my post on the subject; both of us refer to Ari Savit's New Yorker piece). She got a response from Stuart Elliott, a local labor leader, DSA activist, and self-appointed commissioner for political correctness in all things Israel, and passed it along:

Strange (or perhaps not) no mention of the Jewish Nakba. There were two sets of refugees who emerged form the founding of Israel and the Arab rejection of partition. Nearly one million Jews were expelled or fled from the Arab world. More than half of the Israeli citizens are those refugees and their descendants. Jews were a persecuted minority in the Arab world. The[y] lived under a set of restrictive rules far closer to apartheid than the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Restrictions included residency in segregated quarters, obligation to wear distinctive clothing, public subservience to Muslims, prohibitions against proselytizing and against marrying Muslim women, and limited access to the legal system (the testimony of a Jew did not count if contradicted by that of a Muslim).

I wrote a letter in response to Elliott, and sent it to the PSG mail list. I think it's worth quoting here:

It is true that several hundred thousand Jews from predominantly muslim countries immigrated to Israel after independence in 1948. It is possible that some of them did so because they feared violence against them in their native countries, but that was generally not the case. No doubt many more considered the advantages of joining a Jewish majority in Israel versus their previous minority status. How bad that minority status was is subject to debate, which is unfortunately clouded by "scholarship" on both sides that rarely rises above the level of propaganda. Stuart's assertion, for instance, that Jews in Arab lands (under European colonial control, under the Ottomans, or under the older Arabic caliphates, which are three significantly different regimes) "lived under a set of restrictive rules far closer to apartheid than the Israeli treatment of Palestinians" is blatantly, staggeringly untrue -- although it's worth noting that the bar there is set very high. (The Israeli legal code is many times larger than even the most bureaucratic Ottomans could imagine, and the proportional coverage of Israeli soldiers enforcing that code, and therefore the willingness of the government to use force, is far greater than the Ottoman or British authorities were ever able to muster.)

Israeli "scholars" have written a lot about the "dhimmi" -- the old Islamic system for protecting (or managing, if you prefer) the minority rights of Christians and Jews ("people of the book"). Much of what Stuart refers to dates from that system, which is to say from the 700s. Any such system lends itself to abuses, but that it was tolerable is suggested by the continued presence of large and often prominent Jewish communities throughout the Muslim world. When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 -- an event that really does rise to the level of the Nakba -- most Spanish Jews moved to the Ottoman Empire (and, by the way, not to Jerusalem, which was a free option). As I understand it, the Ottomans evenually eliminated their version of the "dhimmi" system, and the system was not retained by the European colonial governments that replaced the Ottomans after WWI or the puppet regimes they installed. (The Saudis, exceptionally, excluded Jews altogether, so they fall apart from this discussion.)

Nonetheless, it may be that Jews in predominantly Muslim lands felt increasingly threatened. For one thing, there was a popular perception that Jews were favored by European colonial governments. (This was certainly the case in Algeria, and might have contributed to some of the violence in Iraq, where anti-British riots during WWII turned against Jews.) The Holocaust was certainly noted. And the embarrassing showing of Arab forces in the 1948-49 war with Israel would have stirred up resentments. In 1948 Israel started a concerted campaign to get as many Arab Jews as possible to immigrate to Israel. They organized the Mossad for just this purpose, and they sent their spies out to facilitate and orchestrate this process. They certainly cut deals with local Arab politicians to promote emigration -- Iraq and Yemen are the best-reported cases. It has been charged that they also orchestrated violence against Jews -- e.g., burning of synagogues -- to sow terror in the Jewish population. (I've looked for confirmation of this in the Mossad literature -- they are an unusually boastful group, after all -- and haven't found it, but Israel does have a history of "false flag" operations, most notoriously the Lavon Affair.) Some, of course, didn't need any persuasion: they were attracted to the Zionist idea. On the other hand, the near-total migration of the Yemeni Jewish community suggests the government did some prodding as well.

As I noted in the Lydda piece, there have been cases where expulsions only went one way -- such as ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia -- and others where there were two-way "population exchanges" (Greece and Turkey after their 1920 war, India-Pakistan after partition). Still, in most of these cases there was a country to which immigrants were welcomed (not that Germany was particularly consulted on the matter). Even if you buy the notion that Israel and its Arab neighbors had a "population exchange" -- Jews moving to Israel and non-Jews heading the other direction, and the ultimate numbers wound up in similar range -- there are many reasons why this was different: the Jews were welcomed into Israel with subsidies aiding their relocation, while the Palestinians were not welcomed (except by Jordan, which offered them citizenship, albeit under a military-backed monarch); the Palestinians moved under much more imminent threat of force, and the movement was confined to a period of war, whereas the Jewish emigration from Arab lands largely followed the 1947-49 war and is still a trickle today; the Palestinians were recognized by the UN as refugees and tended to accordingly, whereas that never happened with Arab Jews. The refugee problem has been made worse by the unwillingness of Arab states like Egypt and Lebanon to resettle and integrate Palestinian refugees, but they had various reasons and no responsibilities to do so.

Some peace proposals such as the one from Michael Lerner have included planks calling for reparations to Arab-Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees, but there is little historical or moral basis for doing so -- at least as long as Jews who went to Israel have the right to return to their ancestral countries. The proposals that I have presented have included a plank urging Arab nations (and all others) to permit, on an expedited basis, Jewish (as well as Palestinian) immigration -- partly to answer this sort of complaint, and partly to undercut the notion that Jews need a national homeland so they will always have a retreat should violent anti-semitism rise again.

Of course, rather than going into this detail, one could just laugh at Stuart's point.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Daily Log

Made two changes to the blog source code (server only), both in serendipity.functions.inc.php:

  1. Hacked add_trackback() to always fail.
  2. Hacked serendipity_printEntries() to change the HTML code around TRACKBACK_SPECIFIC to remove <a> tag and modify the message by prepending "[" and appending " suppressed]".

The first prevents any new trackbacks from being added to the database. The second suppresses the URI that is used to request new trackbacks, while minimizing the formatting change. Any extant trackbacks are still printed out, and are therefore still deletable. Not idea how much crud the database contains. I should probably figure out how to do it using SQL.

Music today (JP): Roswell Rudd; (RG): Art Pepper.


Oct 2013 Dec 2013