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Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24560 [24527] rated (+33), 493 [501] unrated (-8).

Wichita got hit by two snowstorms last week. Cumulative damage is about an inch on the grass, less on the concrete. I figure that if I don't pay it any attention it'll vanish by tomorrow afternoon. Cold today, though. The weather did keep me inside, and I bagged the usual bounty of records. Three of this week's four A- records came from very late-breaking, currently unpublished EOY lists: Lucas Fagen came up with a half-dozen albums I had yet to hear of -- mostly K-Pop and Middle Eastern pop or classical, with Nancy Ajram the one that clicked hardest. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Wormburner appeared on Robert Christgau's Dean's List (or should appear when it's published at BN Review, most likely this week). Those bring my 2014 A-list to 155 records (plus 24 compilations). I think that qualifies as the longest EOY list this year -- John Mulvey stopped at 154 albums, Jason Gubbels at 150, Under the Radar at 140) -- oops, metal-friendly (but not exclusively so) Louder Than War went all the way to 200 albums, but figure that as a staff (not an individual) list. The secret to a long list is listening to a lot of records (in my case, 1206 last year) and having broad taste and a relatively open mind. I couldn't have come remotely close to that much coverage had it not been for streaming services like Rhapsody, freely streamable albums such as one finds on Bandcamp, and more or less legit downloadables (although frankly I've taken very little advantage of the latter). Still, there were hundreds of albums I searched for but couldn't find, and who knows how many worthwhile items I never knew about. As long as recorded music is treated as private monopoly instead of as a public resource we're cheating ourselves out of a higher standard of living and cultural understanding.


Robert Christgau's memoir, Going Into the City: A Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (Dey Street Books) will be released tomorrow (Tuesday, February 24). I read an early draft of the book, so know that it starts with his childhood, goes through adolescence, college, his discovery that "a rock and roll critic is something to be" (my phrase with a hat tip to the Byrds -- I used it in my contribution to his Festschrift), his tenure editing the music section at The Village Voice, up to 1985 when he became a father. I've known him since 1975, when he invited me to write for Voice music section (and befriended me), so I know some of this firsthand, some more secondhand, and learned much more. I'll write more once I've seen the published book, but can recommend it heartily to anyone even remotely interested in thinking about popular culture in the pivotal decade of the 1970s.

Meanwhile, those of you in New York should consider two book launch events this week:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 24, 7-8pm with Jody Rosen at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn [link]
  • Wednesday, Feb. 25, 7-8pm with Rob Sheffield at Strand Books in Manhattan [link]

Also, several excerpts from the book have been posted:

Not much on his website yet about the book, but I'm working on that.


Clark Terry died last week, age 94. My favorite tweet:

Christian McBride @mcbridesworld
Every musician in the world who ever met Clark Terry is a better musician & person because of it. He now belongs to the ages. RIP, sir.

According to Tom Lord, Terry recorded 902 sessions from February 1947 to July 2008 (114 as leader and 788 as sideman; PDF here).

Some Clark Terry records I recommend (mostly side credits although hardly ever marginal; he raised everyone's game, but the records he led were only rarely exceptional):

  • Count Basie: America's #1 Band: The Columbia Years (1935-50 [2003], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): Terry played with Basie 1948-51, so only caught the end of this.
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Ellington Uptown (1947-52 [2004], Columbia/Legacy)
  • Dinah Washington: Dinah Jams (1954 [1997], Verve)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Such Sweet Thunder (1955-56 [1999], Columbia/Legacy)
  • Duke Ellington: Ellington at Newport 1956 (Complete) (1956 [1999], Columbia/Legacy)
  • Thelonious Monk: Brilliant Corners (1956 [2008], Riverside)
  • Clark Terry Quintet: Serenade to a Bus Seat (1957 [1992], Riverside/OJC)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook (1956-57 [1999], Verve, 3CD)
  • Clark Terry Quartet with Thelonious Monk: In Orbit (1958 [1987], Riverside OJC)
  • Duke Ellington: Blues in Orbit (1958-59 [2004], Columbia/Legacy)
  • Duke Ellington: Jazz Party (1959 [1991], Columbia/Legacy)
  • Duke Ellington: Anatomy of a Murder (1959 [1991], Rykodisc)
  • Jimmy Heath's Big Band: Really Big! (1960 [2007], Riverside)
  • Budd Johnson: Budd Johnson and the Four Brass Giants (1960 [1999], Riverside OJC): with Nat Adderley, Harry Edison, and Ray Nance
  • Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra: Gillespiana/Carnegie Hall Concert (1960-61 [1993], Verve)
  • Tubby Hayes/Clark Terry: New York Sessions (1961 [1990], Columbia)
  • Coleman Hawkins/Clark Terry: Back in Bean's Bag (1962 [2014], Essential Jazz Classics)
  • Oscar Peterson: Trio + One: Clark Terry (1964 [1984], Emarcy)
  • Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life (1964-65 [2000], Red Baron)
  • Earl Hines: Once Upon a Time (1966 [2003], Impulse)
  • Jimmy Rushing: Every Day I Have the Blues (1967 [1999], Impulse)
  • Duke Ellington: . . . And His Mother Called Him Bill (1967 [1987], RCA)
  • Swing Fever: Grand Masters of Jazz (1998-2001 [2013], Open Art): with Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Jackie Ryan
  • Clark Terry/Max Roach: Friendship (2002 [2003], Eighty-Eights/Columbia)
  • Jon Faddis: Teranga (2005 [2006], Koch)
  • Louie Bellson/Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (2007 [2008], Percussion Power)

Probably a lot more where those came from. Some other musicians who show up with albums in Terry's discography (I'm just looking at leaders; Lord has counted 2504 musicians Terry played with): Cannonball Adderley, Henry "Red" Allen, Gene Ammons, Louis Armstrong (Terry picked up the horn when Armstrong couldn't play on "What a Wonderful World"), Charlie Barnet, Art Blakey, Bob Brookmeyer, Ray Brown, Ruth Brown, Ray Bryant, Kenny Burrell, Benny Carter, Ray Charles, Al Cohn, Chris Connor, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Arne Domnerus, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Roy Eldridge, Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Bud Freeman, Stan Getz, Paul Gonsalves, Benny Goodman, Wendell Gray, Johnny Griffin, Bengt Hallberg, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, John Hicks, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Hank Jones, Elvin Jones, Quincy Jones, Lee Konitz, Yusef Lateef, Abbey Lincoln, Herbie Mann, Marian McPartland, Jay McShann, Charles Mingus, Blue Mitchell, Modern Jazz Quartet, Wes Montgomery, James Moody, Gerry Mulligan (Concert Jazz Band), Oliver Nelson, Babatunde Olatunji, Flip Phillips, Bud Powell, Dianne Reeves, Sonny Rollins, Pee Wee Russell, Lalo Schifrin, Shirley Scott, Tony Scott, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Martial Solal, Sonny Stitt, Buddy Tate, Billy Taylor, Cecil Taylor, Cal Tjader, Big Joe Turner, Stanley Turrentine, McCoy Tyner, UMO Jazz Orchestra, Sarah Vaughan, Ben Webster, Randy Weston, Ernie Wilkins, Joe Williams, Gerald Wilson, Teddy Wilson. (Incomplete, of course.)


It's too late for me to even bother trying to knock out tweet-views of this week's newly rated albums. We'll start next week with a clean slate -- and there will be reviews of all these albums in the next Rhapsody Streamnotes column, most likely in early March.


New records rated this week:

  • Nancy Ajram: Nancy 8 (2014, In2musica): [r]: A-
  • Béatrice Alunni/Marc Peillon: Dance With Me (2014 [2015], ITI): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andy Brown: Soloist (2014 [2015], Delmark): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Harley Card: Hedgerow (2012 [2015], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Ernesto Cervini: Turboprop (2014 [2015], Anzic): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dena DeRose: Travelin' Light: Live in Antwerp, Belgium (2010 [2012], MaxJazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Laura Dickinson: One for My Baby: To Frank Sinatra With Love (2013 [2014], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Justin Townes Earle: Absent Fathers (2015, Vagrant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Silke Eberhard/Dave Burrell: Darlingtonia (2010 [2012], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Silke Eberhard/Ulrich Gumpert: Peanuts & Vanities (2011 [2012], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gramatik: The Age of Reason (2014, Lowtemp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott Hesse Trio: The Stillness of Motion (2014 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Ted Howe Jazz Orchestra: Pinnacle (2013 [2015], Hot Stove): [cd]: B
  • Ibeyi: Ibeyi (2015, XL): [r]: B
  • Kitten: Kitten (2014, Elektra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Always With Us (2010-12 [2014], self-released): [r]: A-
  • Nilson Matta: East Side Rio Drive (2014 [2015], World Blue): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Chris McNulty: Eternal (2013 [2015], Palmetto): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John O'Gallagher Trio: The Honeycomb (2014 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): [cdr]: A-
  • Ahmet Özhan: Gülmira (2014, Esen Musik): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lisa Parrott: Round Tripper (2014 [2015], Serious Niceness): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Renaud Penant Trio: Want to Be Happy (2014 [2015], ITI Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • John Petrucelli Quintet: The Way (2014 [2015], self-released, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lucas Pino: No Net Nonet (2013 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Potsa Lotsa Plus: Plays Love Suite by Eric Dolphy (2014 [2015], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty (2012 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Gebhard Ullmann/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Gebhard Gschlößl: Gulf of Berlin (2012 [2014], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wormburner: Pleasant Living in Planned Communities (2014, Dive): [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Moppa Elliott: Moppa Elliott's Mostly Other People Do the Killing (2004 [2005], Hot Cup): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tangerine Dream: Phaedra (1974, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ab Baars Trio: Slate Blue (Wig)
  • Ab Baars Trio & NY Guests: Invisible Blow (Wig)
  • Lainie Cooke: The Music Is the Magic (Onyx Music): March 17
  • I Never Meta Guitar Three (Clean Feed)
  • The Susan Krebs Chamber Band: Simple Gifts (GreenGig Music): March 3
  • Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Epicenter (Clean Feed)
  • Open Field + Burton Greene: Flower Stalk (Cipsela)
  • Reggie Quinerly: Invictus (Redefinition Music): March 17
  • Carlos "Zingaro": Live at Mosteiro de Santa Clara a Velha (Cipsela)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekend Roundup

I've been very lazy when it comes to politics the last few weeks. Much of what's wrong is so wrong on so many levels it boggles the mind. You can try to organize it, boxing various articles up into bins like "Republicans acting dumb," "Democrats acting dumb," "The bipartisan Washington foreign policy mandarins fumbling one stupid war after another," and so on -- the common thread is a chronic inability to think clearly about anything. There was a piece in the Eagle today about a "post-mortem" report some Democratic Party bigwigs cobbled together (can't find the Eagle link, but here's a similar one at CNN). The "report" includes lines like this:

It is strongly believed that the Democratic Party is loosely understood as a long list of policy statements and not as people with a common set of core values (fairness, equality, opportunity). This lack of cohesive narrative impedes the party's ability to develop and maintain a lifelong dialogue and partnership with voters.

What these party bigwigs fail to recognize is for the party to win it has to go beyond touting common values and articulate a set of viable self-interests that will motivate popular support. A classic example of this was the 1860 Republican platform, which instead of decrying slavery or declaring the sanctity of the union crassly declared: "vote yourself a farm -- vote yourself a tariff." Even today, Republican appeals are scarcely less crass: vote yourself a tax cut, vote for guns everywhere, vote to outlaw abortion. If the Democrats wanted to compete, they should consider a slogan like "vote yourself a government that works for you" -- and if they wanted to scare the bejesus out of the Republicans, they could add: "vote yourself a union."

Instead, there was a story this week about the head of the Democratic Party in Kansas testifying in favor of a Republican state bill that would double the limits for political contributions. That may make his particular job a bit easier, but it would move the party away from the people it needs votes from, and it would reinforce the notion that elections are up for sale.

The report lays out brutal losses since Obama swept into office in 2008: Democrats have shed 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, 910 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and 11 governor's offices.

Obama deserves a substantial amount of blame for those offices -- not so much for his policies, mediocre and unfocused as they've been, as for his messaging, and for undermining the party for his personal benefit. By messaging, I mean his failure to clearly break from the Bush administration's manifest disasters as well as to keep the public focused on the partisan responsibility for those disasters, But he also wrecked the Democratic Party organization that won elections in 2006-08. Just because he personally could raise money to beat McCain and Romney doesn't mean that he was right to ignore the problem of money in politics. He has, after all, done nothing to counter the Kochs' threat to raise $900 million to buy 2016. If anything, he's made their corruption all the more inevitable.

So while it's possible to make fun of the Republicans in Kansas, as Crowson does here:

Still, it's not that funny. Most of the Kansas legislature's bills have been predictable, but this one breaks new ground in terms of being wrong on so many levels: Kansas bill would reward foster parents who are married, faithful, alcohol-free. Among other things, the bill treats foster care as a business, offering incentive pay for behaviors which the drafter believes to be morally superior, and hidden within it is "state education aid to either home school or send their foster kids to private school" -- yet another ploy to undermine public schools and the idea that everyone has an equal right to a quality education. As for church going, my recollection is that some of the worst scandals in the history of foster care involve churches.

Nor is Kansas the only state where absolute Republican power has corrupted absolutely. See Kansas not only state trying to prevent LGBT protections. Brownback recently revoked a Kansas executive order extending various protections to LGBT workers. Arkansas wants to go one step further and prevent any local governments from offering anti-discriminatory protections to its workers.


A few more scattered links this week:


  • Justin Gillis/John Schwartz: Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher: You always hear from right-wingers about how the scientific research on anthropogenic climate change ("global warming") is conflicted. One major source of that conflict is Wei-Hock Soon, "who claims that variations in the sun's energy can largely explain recent global warming."

    But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon's work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

    He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

    The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as "deliverables" that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

  • Ali Khedery: Iran's Shiite Militias Are Running Amok in Iraq: I think Khedery puts more emphasis on Iran's relationship to the Shiite militias than is warranted. The US was actively organizing those same militias to fight Saddam Hussein before and during the 2003 invasion, and they've alternately been turned loose or reined in at various times during the American occupation: I doubt they are wholly tools either of the US or Iran so much as autonomous agents only loosely aligned with Iraqi shiite political parties, but what should be clear by now is that they cannot be trusted to implement a disciplined military campaign -- such as the much-touted plan to retake Mosul.

    Countless memories haunt me after a decade of service in Iraq. Gripping the hands of an assassin-felled member of the provisional government as the life slipped out of her body in 2003; watching al Qaeda's beheadings of American hostages in 2004; seeing photos of young Sunni prisoners raped and tortured by Iran-backed Shiite militias serving within the Iraqi police in 2005; and sitting helplessly at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as news came in of al Qaeda's 2006 bombing of al-Askari Mosque, one of the holiest sites for Shiite Islam, ushering in the civil war. [ . . . ]

    The Iraqi government is hopelessly sectarian, corrupt, and generally unfit to govern what could be one of the world's most prosperous nations. Washington's response to the Islamic State's (IS) advance, however, has been disgraceful: The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet. These are "allies" that are actually beholden to our strategic foe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and which often resort to the same vile tactics as the Islamic State itself. [ . . . ]

    There is no reason to believe that the militias will disarm and disband after IS's defeat. Indeed, with the central government weaker than ever, trillions of dollars of Iraqi oil wealth up for grabs, and the U.S. military no longer deployed in large numbers to constrain them, the militias have more incentive than ever to stay in business. And let's not forget that it is in Iran's strategic interest to use these militias to consolidate its gains over Iraq and the Levant, and to advance its ambitions for regional hegemony, which Iranian commanders are now publicly flaunting.

    Iran's "ambitions for regional hegemony" is one of those things that could (and should) be covered in bilateral talks between the US and Iran -- indications are that Iran would see more value in normalizing relations with the US than in vying for "hegemony" over wastelands like Iraq and Syria.

  • Paul Krugman: Rip Van Skillsgap:

    What strikes me about this paper -- and in general what one still hears from many people inside the Beltway -- is the continuing urge to make this mainly a story about the skills gap, of not enough workers having higher education or maybe the right kind of education. [ . . . ]

    But if my math is right, the 90s ended 15 years ago -- and since then wages of the highly educated have stagnated. Why on earth are we still hearing the same rhetoric about education as the solution to inequality and unemployment?

    The answer, I'm sorry to say, is surely that it sounds serious. But, you know, it isn't.

    I'm not even sure how serious it is: it's just that the right doesn't have many options for addressing increasing inequality that don't impact the gains of the rich. Prescribing more education is a way of punting, knowing that it might help a few individuals -- at least compared to peer individuals, as opposed to the effect it had several decades ago -- and for everyone else it will take time to fail. But as a general rule, it is already clear that more education isn't an answer: given stagnant wages, the rising cost of education (and it has risen a lot) mean the return on investment in more education has been negative, and growing more so. And if there really is a "skills gap" that loss has depressed the economy.

    Of course, if the "skills gap" was seriously regarded as a real problem, the people conscious of it would be proposing real programs to solve it: they would be hard at work increasing wages for workers with the needed skills, and they would be urging the government to shoulder more of the costs of education to get those needed workers trained. You don't exactly see that happening. In fact, you see right-wingers working to undercut education all the way from pre-school to college, and to make what education is still available more class-stratified -- something the rich can still provide for their own children through private channels while everyone else rots or struggles.

  • Chris Stephen: Libya's Arab spring: the revolution that ate its children: It's worth considering Iraq and Libya as two models of what can go wrong in establishing post-intervention states. In Iraq the US dug in and tried to micromanage every aspect of nation building following the 2003 invasion -- an approach that failed not just because the Bush administration was clueless and had its own peculiar interests but because the US military became a symbol and target of occupation. On the other hand, NATO's intervention in Libya left no troops on the ground as competing militias turned on each other resulting in chaos. The latest development in Libya has been the emergence of ISIS -- I suspect more as an idea than an outgrowth of the rump Islamic State in war-torn Syria and neighboring Iraq -- which in turn has provoked further military intervention by Egypt. (ISIS has proven a potent brand both of rebellion and for deadly foreign intervention.) I have no real idea how to fix this -- even less so than Syria where much of the problem is tied to foreign interests. The gist of the article is that many of the people who initially supported the revolt against Gaddafi have come to regret their stands. On the other hand, I doubt that many of the better-dead-than-red types in the NSC or CIA have had second thoughts. After all, they never risked their own lives on the outcome, and they enjoy the luxury of putting their ideals above the lives of real people.

  • Talking Points Memo's sense of politics remains skin deep at most, but today's headlines are even shallower than usual -- gotcha news like Giuliani: Obama Influenced by Communism At Young Age, Giuliani Says He Received Death Threats After Comments On Obama, Scott Walker Says He Doesn't Know If Obama Is Christian, and Issa: 'We Should Thank' Giuliani For Comment On Obama's Patriotism. (No More Mister Nice Blog has an amusing story about how while Obama's grandfather served during WWII, Giuliani's father did not -- because he was a convicted felon.) Only slightly deeper is Is Obama Failing the YAARRRR! Test?, which compares Obama's anti-ISIS war rhetoric unfavorably to Mel Gibson in Braveheart.


Also, a few links for further study:

  • James Carden: Here's Why Arming Ukraine Would Be a Disaster: Well, some of the reasons, anyway. It's not clear to me to what extent Russia is actually arming or otherwise supporting separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, but it certainly is true that if Obama chose to add more fuel to the fire, Putin could more than reciprocate in kind. (Carden quotes Putin as saying, "if I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks." Russia didn't go that far in Georgia when the latter tried to quash separatist provinces in 2008, but could easily have.) Also see Barry R. Posen: Just Say No: America Should Avoid These Wars -- Ukraine leads the list, but the list doesn't stop there.

  • Dylan Scott: Meet the Man at the Center of the Unprecedented US-Israeli Rift: A report on Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the US since 2013, and evidently the person who worked out the deal for Netanyahu to speak before the US Congress "just days before elections in Israel" -- evidently to do what he can to torpedo any deal Obama works out to limit (or eliminate) Iran's alleged "nuclear program." Dermer was well placed, having been born in the US and having worked for Newt Gingrich before emigrating to Israel.

  • Imraan Sidiqi: Hate in the aftermath of Chapel Hill: On February 10 three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC were murdered. Sidiqi notes other recent examples of violence directed at American Muslims. That isn't the only possible context -- Michael A. Cohen argues that the killer was a gun nut and that the crime fits the pattern of a long list of gun-enabled crime. No doubt that has something to do with "how" but as so much gun crime is "senseless" it doesn't explain "why" -- for that we have to look at the continuing series of wars where the US has sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to abroad to kill (and be killed by) Muslims. The US has never engaged in a war abroad where Americans didn't also project the hatred of war onto those fellow Americans most similar to foreign enemies. So it isn't surprising that it is happening again now, or that it is worst among the racist, militarist bigots of the far right. Nor that it is one of the things that makes war so poisonous, here as well as there.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Daily Log

Jan Barnes wrote to me: "I think America is in such a mess and what ISI is doing is just the worst I've ever heard of in my life, such evil people, can't even image thinking about things they are doing." I wrote her back:

Two points to keep in mind whenever you hear something bad about ISIS (or any other "terrorist" group in the Middle East): (1) is that there are various propaganda organizations (including one that's part of the US State Department -- CSCC, stands for Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications) that are constantly working to sway public opinion against those groups, in large part because they want to promote US military intervention in the region; and (2) ISIS would probably not exist (and would certainly not be a threat) except for repeated US efforts to destabilize Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) and Syria (under the Assad family). Also keep in mind that the so-called ISIS movements in Libya and Yemen and anywhere else outside of Syria-Iraq are wholly separate groups, not a greater conspiracy.

I'm not saying this to excuse ISIS. Like the Taliban, they were created in war, and have become habituated to it -- have managed to work the atrocities that occur on all sides in war into their moral framework, which is buttressed by a very primitive, intolerant reading of their religion. It's worth recalling that minority religious groups like the Yazidis and Alawis have coexisted with the majority Sunni Islam for over 1300 years. But Egypt and north Africa were conquered by European colonial powers (Morocco-Algeria-Tunisia by France, Libya by Italy, Egypt by England) in the late 19th century; after the first World War France grabbed Syria and Lebanon, England took Palestine, Iraq, the Persian Gulf "states" and Yemen, while the Saudis seized control of the central Arabian peninsula (with first British then American support). In 1948 Israel was created and went to war to expand its borders, driving over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands. British oil companies grabbed large claims on Arab and Iranian oil, and after 1945 US oil companies became dominant. After 1970, the British withdrew, handing their bases over to the US, and Britain's client monarchs became US wards. The US alliance with Israel drove Egypt, Syria, and Iraq to seek arms from the Soviet Union, and the US expanded the "cold war" in the Middle East by getting the Saudis to spend billions of dollars proselytizing their very reactionary brand of Islam (Wahabism, an offshoot of Salafism, which was founded in the 13th century in reaction to catastrophic war losses Arabs suffered when attacked by Mongols and Turks). The "jihadist" ideology behind Al Qaeda and ISIS is nothing more than Saudi state religion stripped of the economic need to be nice to US/UK oil companies and bankers, and rededicated to fighting against foreign influence and control. This ideology is very bad stuff, but it's important to realize that it's really just a reaction against the influence and control of the US, its allies, and cronies -- something which became far more malevolent when US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. (There was, for instance, no "Al Qaeda in Iraq" before Bush invaded, and there was no "ISIS" in Syria before the US started to arm "moderate rebels" in Syria -- those guns almost all winding up in the hands of religious fanatics.)

The lesson in all of this is that no matter how offended one is by ISIS, the worst possible way to reduce its influence is for American troops to go in and try to kill all its followers. There needs to be a diplomatic agreement where the Syrian government reforms but in an orderly way, without creating the sort of vacuum that has been so destructive in Libya. There needs to be a diplomatic agreement in Iraq which gives Sunni and Kurdish areas more autonomy and security. There needs to be a diplomatic agreement that reduces the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and between Iran and Israel, and there needs to be something which finally ends Israel's conflict with the Palestinians and with its neighbors (including Syria). And none of this can happen as long as the US insists on pitting faction against faction, picking and arming sides, and backing its (often momentary) favorites with air power.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Daily Log

Shortly after I complained (last week's Weekend Roundup) about the fits of ideological madness working their way through the Kansas Legislature than this article comes along: Kansas bill would reward foster parents who are married, faithful, alcohol-free.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24527 [24491] rated (+36), 501 [500] unrated (+1).

I shot most of my wad on Friday's Rhapsody Streamnotes, but since then I was pleasantly surprised by three straight jazz vocal albums: Denia Ridley's became an old friend over three plays; the late Maureen Budway caught my attention with a warm "White Cliffs of Dover," annoyed me with a song about fireworks and freedom, then redeemed real American music with a marvelous Gershwin medley; and young Katie Thiroux came up with a novel approach to singing standards while playing bass, helped by superb spots for guitar and sax. Never heard of any of these women before (although pianist David Budway does sound familiar -- let's see, I had his 2011 A New Kiss as a mid-B+, and he played behind Chris McNulty on a forgettable 2005 album). Was also pleasantly surprised by H2 Big Band's vocals, although a check of the credits reveals the name of René Marie, who's often on that level. Those are four albums I wouldn't have bothered searching out to stream, but I listened to them because publicists took the trouble to mail hard copies to me. More often, big bands and singers are the bane of my existence, so this just goes to show you never can tell.

Still, two of those four albums will most likely be packed away to the basement, never to be played again. I have five of those cheap six-row 120-CD cases on top of a desk blocking a window, which were filled with Jazz CG albums several years ago. I've been going through them, packing everything B+(**) and below into baskets to carry to the basement -- effectively that opens up about half of those shelves, soon to be filled with higher-rated CDs currently in piles on the floor. The half that remained are all exceptionally good, often great albums, virtually none of which have been played since I reviewed them. I've always liked the idea of maintaining a library, but despair of ever finding time to use it. Same problem exists, to a greater or lesser extent (I'm not sure), with print. I probably have enough surplus to endow a small library. Wonder how one goes about doing that.

By the way, while I only added a half dozen or so lists to the EOY Aggregate last week, but they managed to make two changes in the top ten: Caribou had run in 5th place ever since the near-beginning but slipped to 6th behind Flying Lotus a week ago; since then it shot back to 5th, even opening up more space (6 points) than Flying Lotus enjoys over 7th place Aphex Twin (3 points). The other big change is that Angel Olsen moved into 10th place, 3 points ahead of Beck (now tied for 11th with Spoon). Also worth noting that Taylor Swift has continued to climb, now in 15th place, as has D'Angelo, now in 20th. Can't say there will be no changes in the future -- actually waiting on one promised email, and I'll add Christgau's list if he ever parts with it (or I'll just pick it up in dribs and drabs, like Tune-Yards and TV on the Radio from last week's Expert Witness).

By the way, Christgau's memoir, Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man, will be released on February 24 (preorder links from Amazon and Barnes & Noble; and here's an excerpt just posted at Rolling Stone). I haven't heard anything about promoting it on the website yet, but I imagine I'll have to get busy on that. Carola Dibbell's novel The Only Ones comes out on March 10, and we've already done a lot more work on promoting it.


New records rated this week:

  • Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet [RAAQ]: Intents and Purposes (2014 [2015], Enja): guitar-vibes-bass-drums quartet, has a nice intricacy but short on juice [r]: B+(*)
  • Tony Allen: Film of Life (2014, Jazz Village): Afrobeat drummer works the electronics to add shimmer and chime; too bad the vocal slumps [r]: B+(**)
  • Andrew Barker/Paul Dunmall/Tim Dahl: Luddite (2012 [2014], New Atlantis): avant sax trio, drummer earns top billing, saxophonist sometimes at his peak [r]: B+(**)
  • Big Lazy: Don't Cross Myrtle (2014, Tasankee): guitar-bass-drums trio, prefer tight and tidy rockish tunes, especially surf guitar, to improv [r]: B+(***)
  • Blu: Good to Be Home (2014, Nature Sounds, 2CD): long mixtape, beats merely functional but raps get stronger as he goes on (and on) [r]: B+(***)
  • Wade Bowen: Wade Bowen (2014, Amp): Texas variant of the standard hard touring Nashville country hound, ambivalent about success and still arrogant [r]: B+(*)
  • Maureen Budway: Sweet Candor (2014 [2015], MCG Jazz): late jazz singer's belated debut album showcases a fine voice; Gershwin medley tops Americana [cd]: B+(**)
  • Cornershop: Hold On It's Easy (2015, Ample Play): 20th anniversary memento, recasts first album with lots of Elastic Big Band brass [r]: B
  • The Cunninlynguists: Strange Journey, Volume Three (2014, Bad Taste): underground rap mixtape, exceptional flow when they hit their stride [r]: B+(***)
  • Disappears: Irreal (2015, Kranky): postpunk band, started with short sharp songs but have now moved over to repeated Wire-like figures [r]: B+(***)
  • Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night (2015, Columbia): makes his long-feared crooner move, minus the voice and arrangements, even the songs, he needs [r]: C
  • Emika: Klavirni (2015, Emika): electronica artist shows off her classical piano chops on meditative miniatures, cheating once in a while [r]: B+(*)
  • George Ezra: Wanted on Voyage (2014, Columbia): heard that a "big voice" is something good to have, tried it and became overbearing [r]: B-
  • Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: Awakening of a Capital (2014 [2015], RareNoise): Scottish trio, fuzzy electric bass riffs smeared with snarling sax, a formula [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Chantale Gagné: The Left Side of the Moon (2014 [2015], self-relased): pianist from Quebec, picked up her perfect band: S Wilson/P Washington/L Nash [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rhiannon Giddens: Tomorrow Is My Turn (2014, Nonesuch): roots songster employs T-Bone Burnett for coming out, casts wide net, catches some [r]: B+(**)
  • Ja, Panik: Libertatia (2014, Staatsakt): I figure they're Germany's answer to TV on the Radio, maybe crossed a bit with Flaming Lips [r]: B+(*)
  • Oliver Lake/William Parker: To Roy (2014 [2015], Intakt): dedicated to late trumpeter Roy Campbell, alto sax-bass duet, somber but stirring [cd]: A-
  • Lupe Fiasco: Tetsuo & Youth (2015, Atlantic): I thought the woefully misunderstood "Lasers" was marvelous, but have no clue about this [r]: B+(*)
  • J.D. McPherson: Let the Good Times Roll (2015, New Rounder): Okie singer-songwriter, dresses his country impulses up as rockabilly [r]: B+(**)
  • Gurf Morlix: Eatin' at Me (2015, Rootball): folksy singer-songwriter, songs pretty easy going -- this time, anyhow [r]: B+(**)
  • Mr Twin Sister: Mr Twin Sister (2014, Twin Group/Infinite Best): electropop group, added "Mr" to name, presumably to suggest they've grown up -- less bubbly, more angst [r]: B-
  • Pitbull: Globalization (2014, Polo Grounds/RCA): highly commercial party rap, no critical visibility, sales tanked too, crass but I get a charge off it [r]: B+(**)
  • Denia Ridley & the Marc Devine Trio: Afterglow (2014 [2015], ITI Music): standards singer, front-loaded with Gershwin/Porter, ends on a blues note [cd]: B+(***)
  • Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love (2015, Sub Pop): strategic comeback, 90+ metacritic scores; strikes me as their blandest, not most irritating [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Snidero: Main Street (2014 [2015], Savant): mainstream alto sax guy, but with a glorious tone and a rhythm section that mixes things up [cd]: A-
  • Jazmine Sullivan: Reality Show (2015, RCA): grappling with success, or putting on a front, running the gamut from "Dumb" to "Stupid Girl" [r]: B+(***)
  • Jamie T: Carry On the Grudge (2014, Virgin): transposes pop hooks with Clash power, not that I detect corresponding principles [r]: B+(**)
  • Aki Takase/Ayumi Paul: Hotel Zauberberg (2014 [2015], Intakt): builds a magic mountain of piano-violin minimalism, then sneaks in Bach/Mozart [r]: B+(***)
  • Katie Thiroux: Introducing Katie Thiroux (2014 [2015], BassKat): bassist-singer, superb standards, guitar and sax help out but bass ties it together [cd]: A-
  • Paul Thorn: Too Blessed to Be Stressed (2014, Perpetual Obscurity): country singer-songwriter bemoans mediocrity, resigns himself to stray dogs and Jesus [r]: B+(**)
  • Joanna Wallfisch with Dan Tepfer: The Origin of Adjustable Things (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): Brit singer-songwriter backed by piano only for intimate feel [cd]: B+(*)

Old records rated this week:

  • Cornershop: Hold On It Hurts (1993, Merge): missed that first album, pop barely emerging from a punk cocoon, weird then, almost prophetic now [r]: B+(***)


Grade changes:

  • Cornershop: Woman's Gotta Have It (1995, Warner Brothers): rechedked this, nearly as gnarly as the first and just a bit more of a missing link [r]: [was: B+] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Daniel Bennett Group: The Mystery at Crown Castle (Manhattan Daylight)
  • Laura Dickinson: One for My Baby: To Frank Sinatra With Love (Blujazz)
  • Paul Elwood: Nice Folks (Innova)
  • Otzir Godot: In- (Epatto)
  • Ross Hammond: Flight (Prescott): advance, April 14
  • Tony Malaby/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: The Signal Maker (Intakt): advance, March
  • Nilson Matta: East Side Rio Drive (World Blue)
  • Chris McNulty: Eternal (Palmetto): March 24
  • John Raymond: Foreign Territory (Fresh Sound New Talent): advance, April 28
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Features (Intakt): advance, March
  • Bjørn Solli: Aglow: The Lyngør Project Vol. 1 (Lyngør): May 4
  • Songsmith Collective (Blujazz)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rhapsody Streamnotes (February 2015)

Pick up text here.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24491 [24455] rated (+36), 500 [503] unrated (-3).

Four of five A- records this week were 2004 releases -- three identified from the still unfinished year-end list aggregation, the fourth the last 2014 CD I had ungraded (got it after year-end from one of the musicians in Italy; worth noting that there is a lot of new jazz each year released in Italy and I normally get virtually none of it). Eleven of this week's new records are 2015 releases, but so far I've only found one new record (Charles McPherson's The Journey) and one vault job (Red Garland Trio's Swingin' on the Korner) satisfy the A- threshold. That works out to 5.5% (2/36), a mere 37% of my 2014 A-list ratio (176/1189). Too early to suggest the new year sucks, but partly small sample size and partly working mostly from my mail queue instead of seeking out well regarded albums. For instance I haven't heard any of the top 25 records rated so far by Album of the Year. (Well, I did start to stream Sleater-Kinney's top-rated No Cities to Love, but it crapped out before I heard enough to bother with. Still, not much on that list strikes me as promising -- maybe Lupe Fiasco, Belle & Sebastian, Disappears, but the critic scores are 77-73-72, so part of the problem may be a slow start.)

I'm going through last year's checklist file and seeking out a few missing year-end lists -- recent adds include Earmilk, The Finest Kiss, I Listen So You Don't Have To, Music That Isn't Bad, My Kind of Country, The Needle Drop, and a bunch of Jazz Journalists Association lists (25). Only change toward the top of the list is that Caribou finally surrendered 5th place to Flying Lotus. Taylor Swift is now tied for 14th (with Mac DeMarco), Sturgill Simpson is up to 19th, and D'Angelo to 22nd -- those three records have been gaining all along.

Jazz albums got a boost on the main list but I don't see any clear trends inside the genre, and they're still pretty far back: Wadada Leo Smith (100th), Steve Lehman (119th), Ambrose Akinmusire (137th), Mark Turner (148th -- tied with Lily Allen), Marc Ribot and Sonny Rollins (160th), and Bad Plus (168th). (Smith is only up from 106th, Lehman from 133rd, Akinmusire from 168th, Turner from 164th.) The total jazz list now includes 976 albums. The overall new albums list counts 4947 albums with one or more list mention. The actual data file has 5616 entries, plus 703 for reissues/compilations/etc.

Good chance I'll post a Rhapsody Streamnotes by the end of the week. Draft file currently has 95 reviews.


Recommended music link:

  • "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz record albums of the 1970s?": Found this by chance. I approve of everyone who didn't mention Weather Report (e.g., Gary Giddins). I wasn't asked, but my first pass at such a list: Miles Davis: A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970), Jimmy Rushing: The You and Me That Used to Be (1971); Dave Holland: Conference of the Birds (1972); Charles Mingus: Changes One; Roswell Rudd: Flexible Flyer (1974), Ornette Coleman: Dancing in Your Head (1975); Arthur Blythe: Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1978); Air: Lore (1979); Art Pepper: Straight Life. Down to three: probably Rushing, Rudd, and Coleman (although Rushing was more a figure of the '50s or '30s).


New records rated this week:

  • Cyrille Aimée: Collective Consciousness (2014, Mack Avenue): standards singer from France but in English, backed with Django-ish guitar, a bit cutesy [r]: B+(*)
  • Nat Birchall Quintet: Live in Larissa (2013 [2014], Sound Soul and Spirit): saxophonist channels Coltrane down to the echoes-of-big-band ambient background [r]: A-
  • Clark: Clark (2014, Warp): Brit techno-phile goes eponymous for his seventh album -- short of ideas? still feels busy, cluttered, desperate [r]: B
  • Jamie Cullum: Interlude (2014 [2015], Blue Note): Brit jazz singer reins in his idiosyncrasies, almost becomes likeable, but Gregory Porter cameos [r]: B
  • Echoes of Swing [Colin T. Dawson/Chris Hopkins/Bernd Lhotzky/Oliver Mewes]: Blue Pepper (2013, ACT): trumpet-altosax-piano-drums quartet, occasional vocals dry, rooted in swing but not stuck there [r]: B+(*)
  • Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion: Three Rivers (2014 [2015], Richman): electric bassist from Pittsburgh, feints funk-fusion but slows down for singers [cd]: B
  • Mary Halvorson: Reverse Blue (2013 [2014], Relative Pitch): jazz guitarist has dope radical moves, but Chris Speed tends to blunt her edge [r]: B+(***)
  • Alexander Hawkins: Song Singular (2012 [2014], Babel): Brit jazz pianist going places, equally adept at avant and organ grinds, files a solo brief [r]: B+(*)
  • The Hot Sardines: The Hot Sardines (2014, Decca): French singer known as Miz Liz loves Fats Waller, plays washboard, hooked a Brooklyn band for such pleasures [r]: A-
  • Diana Krall: Wallflower (2014 [2015], Verve): my favorite jazz chanteuse picks the worst songs of the '70s, buries them in strings and wanker duets [r]: B-
  • Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord: Jeremiah (2014 [2015], Hot Cup): guitarist chasing two hot saxes (Jon Irabagon, Bryan Murray), catches the guest flute [cd]: B+(***)
  • Machinedrum: Vapor City Archives (2014, Ninja Tune): left-field electronica, this a sequel to or leftovers from "Vapor City" -- actually better [r]: B+(***)
  • Eugene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble: Mosaica (2014, MEII Enterprises): reiminagining popular Hebraic melodies, with special guest cantor but lost the clave [r]: B+(**)
  • John Mills: Invisible Designs (2014 [2015], Fable): saxophonist with singer Carmen Bradford, lit-based texts, between art-rock and jazz-operetta [cd]: B-
  • Kassem Mosse: Workshop 19 (2014, Workshop): German electronica, house but beat doesn't overwhelm, just sets up sly and clever asides [r]: A-
  • Mario Pavone: Street Songs (2013 [2014], Playscape): bassist, leads sextet with accordion for Euro-folk feel, piano for jazz, cornet to fire things up [r]: B+(**)
  • Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee (2014 [2015], Constellation): alto saxophonist's history lesson overwhelmed by voices/noise [r]: B-
  • Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Little River (2014 [2015], Sazas): guitarist from Slovenia, with Paul McCandless on reeds, plus drums, free or ambient [cd]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer/Jürg Wickihalder: Spring (2014, Intakt): avant duo, piano vs soprano sax, doesn't mesh well, nor does the piano explode [r]: B+(*)
  • Marc Seales: American Songs Volume 3: Place & Time (2012 [2015], Origin): piano-guitar quartet, four originals, four covers, two from Curtis Mayfield [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ed Sheeran: X (2014, Atlantic): bestselling album in UK last year, reminds me of Paul Simon and not in the worst ways, but doesn't hit often enough [r]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Root of Things (2014, Relative Pitch): avant piano trio with Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey, something they do often [r]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It (2014, SDEG): what? release a batch of throwaways on his own label? long live the Coasters! [r]: B+(*)
  • Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (2014, Constellation): with titles like that who needs tunes? [r]: B
  • Meghan Trainor: Title (2015, Epic): all about the hits, four or five catchy enough, not that she couldn't use (or doesn't need) more [r]: B+(***)
  • Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Hat and Shoes (2013 [2015], Between the Lines): bass clarinet, baritone sax, trombone, love those deep bottom tones [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mark Wade Trio: Event Horizon (2014 [2015], self-released): bassist-led piano trio, Tim Harrison on the keys, but nice to get the bass up in the mix [cd]: B+(**)
  • XY Quartet: XY (2013 [2014], Nusica): percussion (drums + vibes) keeps group on edge, and Nicola Fazzini's alto sax dances magnificently up there [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Bud Powell: Birdland 1953 (1953 [2014], ESP-Disk, 3CD): third or fourth time these live tapes have been expanded to bait the hardcore fans, up to 3CD now [r]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Ed Sheeran: + (2011, Atlantic): mild-mannered Brit singer-songwriter, soft-edged, easy on ears, nothing I mind or remember [r]: B
  • Swamp Dogg: ??? Greatest Hits ??? (1976, Stone Dogg): not having had any hits, Jerry Williams was free to write new ones, some of which should be [r]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: The Best of Swamp Dogg: 13 Prime Weiners, Everything on It (1970-76 [1982], War Bride): aka "The Best of Swamp Dogg," leans hard on his two best albums, so yeah! [r]: A-
  • Swamp Dogg: I'm Not Selling Out/I'm Buying In (1981, Takoma): songs go easy with little sticking out, except maybe the apocalypse in California [r]: B+(*)
  • Swamp Dogg: I Called for a Rope and They Threw Me a Rock (1989, SDEG): looks up heartbreak in his thesaurus and finds myocardial infarction [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ernesto Cervini: Turboprop (Anzic)
  • Scott Hesse Trio: The Stillness of Motion (Origin): February 17
  • The Ted Howe Jazz Orchestra: Pinnacle (Hot Stove): March 3
  • The H2 Big Band: It Could Happen (Origin): February 17
  • Lucas Pino: No Net Nonet (Origin): February 17
  • Jim Snidero: Main Street (Savant)
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty (Origin): February 17

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Weekend Roundup

If I was much younger and had ambitions in journalism, I'd go up to Topeka and hang out with Republican legislators, trying to draw them out on the logic behind a plethora of bills being bandied about. In some ways, it seems inconceivable that in an age of ubiquitous information technology we could ever forgo and forget knowledge and understanding on the level of the Dark Ages of medieval Europe, yet that's what is on display strive to build their utopian society upon near-absolute power at the state level. The big headlines, of course, still belong to the governor and his disastrously failed experiment in Lafferism -- see David Atkins: More Kansas Fallout: Brownback Doubles Down on His Failed Policies, or just take a look at Richard Crowson's editorial cartoon in the Eagle today:

Brownback, you may recall, created a huge deficit hole by pushing a major state income tax reduction (including complete exemption from income taxes for "small businessmen" like Charles Koch), at a time when the state was losing a lawsuit for unconstitutionally underfunding public schools. (Ironically, when the state legislature increased state funding before the 2014 elections, Brownback's ads touted that as proof of his support for education.) This year, Brownback's fix for the fiscal hole has been to propose increasing taxes on cigarettes, slashing school funding, and a variety of schemes to raid a long list of dedicated funds (like highway maintenance and pensions -- even some federal money related to Obamacare). In other words, the idea is to cover up a big hole with lots of little holes, each hoping to kick the problem a bit further into the future: cheat workers out of their pensions and they may not realize the effect for many years, until they retire; stop maintaining roads and it may be years before they're eaten up with potholes; cheap out on educating children and it may be decades before it fully dawns on employers how few people are prepared for work. And so on, as these decisions add up, as political interests forget that they could ever be solved, the future grows ever dimmer: dark ages ahead.

Brownback's folly is the straightforward result of a right-wing propaganda coup that you can trace back to the 1970s, when a few disgruntled businessmen decided to wage a war of attrition against the very idea of government. What they objected to was the idea that a democratic government might work for the benefit of the vast majority of the people, as opposed to merely protecting the property and prerogatives of the rich. (Right-wingers never had a problem with authoritarian states they controlled; the state only became a problem when it might be used to reduce the influence and control of the rich.) Of course, they had good reason to fear that, because it had in fact been working that way for forty years, from the New Deal through the Great Society.

The key point here is how successful they've been at characterizing government as a vicious cycle of "tax and spend" -- with the corrolary that tax money would have been spent more wisely by those who originally earned it than by the government bureaucrats who merely took it. A good example of this mindset appeared in a letter to the Eagle today (Delores Jennison: Let rich invest):

"Robbing the rich to feed the idle" does not work very well. It does not produce any food. Better let the rich invest with those who do produce things we want, so we can all share.

Most propaganda is dressed up more plausibly than this. By "robbing" she probably means taxing, since most real robbers don't feed anyone but themselves, and by "the idle" she most likely means "the disadvantaged" -- most of whom work harder at underpaid jobs than many rentiers (I'm much more familiar with the phrase "the idle rich" than any alternative). To figure out what "works" you need some criteria. For "feeding" you might think something like "reduce the number of people who are malnourished," in which case you can collect and test data. Food stamps is one government program that comes to mind, and by that standard it works very well. Even the sort of rationing that the US practiced during WWII "worked" by most conceivable criteria.

Jennison's last sentence is even more problematical. Even if the rich invest wisely, absent taxation how is it that "we can all share" in their returns? The notion that we somehow all benefit by basking in the light reflected by the rich hard to imagine, let alone quantify. Even if some might draw inspiration and enjoy enough good fortune to become rich themselves, the numbers must surely be very limited. And how does one become rich? Very few such people do so by investing in the production of food or anything else broadly usable. It's not inconceivable that some entrepreneur might found a business and produce something that makes our lives better, but it's certainly not the rule.

What's so odd about this mindset isn't that disgruntled businessmen -- the Kochs being prime examples both in the 1970s (my first encounter with them was typesetting Murray Rothbard books in the mid-1970s) and now -- would underwrite this sort of propaganda. After all, they've used it to make and sheltered billions of dollars, and capitalism is nothing if not a cult of self-interest. But it's pure hubris to insist that their greed is a blessing for everyone else -- a propaganda line that is the greatest con of the era.

In the past, Republicans were more cynical about their shit. For instance, it's well established that increased government spending stimulates the economy -- and that the American economy depends on such stimulation. Republicans are dependable deficit scolds whenever a Democrat is president, but Reagan and the Bushes were happy to run huge deficits -- they just preferred to build them from tax cuts and war spending. However, it was only a matter of time before the rank and file started believing the GOP party line, and thanks largely to Thomas Frank, Kansas learned that lesson harder than most. Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? made a big point about how the single-issue fringe groups Republicans depended on for votes rarely got any satisfaction: Republicans may campaign against abortion and for guns but in office all they seemed to do was to further line the pockets of the already rich.

Of course, Brownback's income tax cuts (and, by the way, sales tax increases) and budget hole is mostly a sop to the rich, but the Kansas legislature has been dilligent about passing new anti-abortion and pro-gun legislation every year. There's a bill pending this year to allowed "concealed carry" without a permit or any training -- among other things that makes it much more difficult to apprehend gun-toting felons. That's just one example of this year's legislative fever. One proposal is to move non-partisan municipal elections and make them partisan -- the sponsor is worried that school teacher unions might take advantage of low turnout to dominate school boards, and there's always the risk that a closet Democrat might slip through a nonpartisan election. Another bill seeks to give police special rights to avoid prosecution for misdeeds. Another will let teachers be prosecuted for providing any "harmful information" to students (evidently, accurate information about sex counts). I've lost the links to these things, and the Eagle website isn't much help. Like I said, this would make a good journalism project. On the other hand, there's this -- Texas Republican wants fetuses to have lawyers and "a voice in court" -- so Kansas isn't the only place to observe this insanity.


Also, some scattered links this week (briefly, because I'm running so late):


  • Nick Hanauer: Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy:

    As economic power has shifted from workers to owners over the past 40 years, corporate profit's take of the U.S. economy has doubled -- from an average of 6 percent of GDP during America's post-war economic heyday to more than 12 percent today. Yet despite this extra $1 trillion a year in corporate profits, job growth remains anemic, wages are flat, and our nation can no longer seem to afford even its most basic needs. A $3.6 trillion budget shortfall has left many roads, bridges, dams, and other public infrastructure in disrepair. Federal spending on economically crucial research and development has plummeted 40 percent, from 1.25 percent of GDP in 1977 to only 0.75 percent today. Adjusted for inflation, public university tuition -- once mostly covered by the states -- has more than doubled over the past 30 years, burying recent graduates under $1.2 trillion in student debt. Many public schools and our police and fire departments are dangerously underfunded.

    Where did all this money go?

    The answer is as simple as it is surprising: Much of it went to stock buybacks -- more than $6.9 trillion of them since 2004, according to data compiled by Mustafa Erdem Sakinc of The Academic-Industry Research Network. Over the past decade, the companies that make up the S&P 500 have spent an astounding 54 percent of profits on stock buybacks. [ . . . ]

    In the past, this money flowed through the broader economy in the form of higher wages or increased investments in plants and equipment. But today, these buybacks drain trillions of dollars of windfall profits out of the real economy and into a paper-asset bubble, inflating share prices while producing nothing of tangible value.

    Hanauer cites a paper, James Montier: The World's Dumbest Idea, critiquing the dogma of "shareholder value maximuzation" -- the main rationalization (when greed won't quite cut it) behind stock buybacks. Sample quote:

    From a theoretical perspective, SVM may well have its roots in the work of Arrow-Debreu (in the late 1950s/early 1960s). These authors demonstrated that in the presence of ubiquitous perfect competition and fully complete markets (neither of which assumption bears any resemblance to the real world, of course) a Pareto optimal outcome will result from situations where producers and all other economic actors pursue their own interests. Adam Smith's invisible hand in mathematically obtuse fashion.

    However, more often the SVM movement is traced to an editorial by Milton Friedman in 1970. Given Friedman's loathing of all things Keynesian, there is a certain delicious irony that the corporate world is so perfectly illustrating Keynes' warning of being a slave of a defunct economist! In the article Friedman argues that "There is one and only one social responsibility of business -- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits . . ."

    Friedman argues that corporates are not "persons," but the law would disagree: firms may not be people but they are "persons" in as much as they have a separate legal status (a point made forcefully by Lynn Stout in her book, The Shareholder Value Myth). He also assumes that shareholders want to maximize profits, and considers any act of corporate social responsibility an act of taxation without representation -- these assumptions may or may not be true, but Friedman simply asserts them, and comes dangerously close to making his argument tautological.

  • Paul Krugman: The Fraud Years: As with my Kansas intro, sometimes it's hard to stop writing, to merely suggest the whole horror of the subject:

    As the Bush II administration fades in the rear view mirror, there's a tendency -- indeed, an avid desire on the part of many people in the media -- to blur the reality of what happened, to make it seem as if were just an ordinary time when a Republican happened to be president.

    But it wasn't. We were lied into war; torture became routine; raw dishonesty about everything from national security to the distributional effects of tax cuts became the norm.

    And then there were the people. I had almost forgotten, but Bush nominated Bernie Kerik to run Homeland Security. Let me repeat that: he nominated Bernie Kerik to head Homeland Security.

    One can, and probably should, go on (and on and on) -- the list of bad things the Bush II presidency did to us is very long and very dirty (much like Brownback in Kansas but more slippery, in part because Bush's deficit hole was easily papered over with debt while the conservative debt scolds held their tongue -- or in Cheney's case, muttered "deficits don't matter"). Being less familiar with Kerik (not that I don't get the point), I might have ended off with Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" -- a program to increase logging on public lands, not that they could very well market that.

    By the way, also see Krugman's Greece: The Tie That Doesn't Bind, both for its sanity and the suggestion that Syriza's leaders won't be as easily bought off as, say, "center-leftists" like Tony Blair.

  • David Lightman: 2016 election campaign will debate U.S. troops to stop Islamic State: When the Eagle repeated this McClatchy piece, the title changed to "2016 election likely to focus on terrorism, use of troops" -- rather misleading because nobody on either side (evidently not even Rand Paul) seems likely to question "the war on [Islamic] terrorism" -- i.e., the implicit assumption that the US is entitled to fly drones over the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa and kill anyone we suspect of disrespecting us. As for "ground troops" that discussion will be hedged, as indeed it is in the test quotes here, with hawks merely wanting to suggest they're tougher than Obama, and no one standing up for sanity. The death of a Jordanian pilot seems to have unleashed another pro-war propaganda flurry, with the Eagle running the latest missives by Charles Krauthammer and Trudy Rubin, but nothing counter.

  • Israel links:

    • Kate: Druze IDF soldier attacked by Israeli Jews for speaking Arabic: and dozens of other stories.
    • Richard Silverstein: Israeli Journalist, Ben Caspit: "Kill IDF Refusers": I'm not sure how far back Israel's policy of "targeted assassination" goes -- the 1947 murder of UN Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte was an outlier in that the victim wasn't Palestinian and that Israel had yet to declare independence, but suggests that the notion that the way to beat your enemies is to kill them off one-by-one was baked in from the very beginning. At any rate, in recent years state-sponsored murder has been so routine that it's hardly surprising that some Israelis would want to do the same to other Israelis. But there was a day when Israelis celebrated their own integrity and diversity of opinion. That's passed.
    • Adam Horowitz: Finkelstein on Joan Peters' legacy (and Dershowitz's legal troubles): the author of From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict over Palestine died in January. Interview with Norman Finkelstein, whose book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict did much to expose Peters' fraudulent claims.
    • Philip Weiss: Gideon Levy's argument for Netanyahu: Quotes from Levy's Haaretz column, A Labor win will only entrench the occupation. I've never been a fan of the argument that you shouldn't differentiate between lesser evils, and I've long been soft on the soft left -- I was pleased to see François Hollande elected in France though I can't think of anything good he's done since, and I even sort of miss Tony Blair, but Israel's last Labor PM (Ehud Barak) certainly left a bitter taste. What gives Levy credence is that for much of the last 40 years Labor has been more efficient and effective at cementing "the facts on the ground" than Likud (although the latter is more responsible for the poisonous culture of racism and violence). I didn't read Levy's article as a brief for Netanyahu so much as an argument that the uglier the face of Zionism is the sooner the world will turn against it. (I've seen Richard Silverstein make the same argument, but would have to search for the link.) Still, it wasn't the ugliest Afrikaner who broke with Apartheid, nor the ugliest Stalinist who broke up the Soviet Union. The agents of change there were insider-reformers, and that rules out Netanyahu. There's no reason to trust Tzipi Livni, but when it happens it will be someone like her. (On the other hand, Labor leader Isaac Herzog launched his campaign by accusing Netanyahu of being soft on Hamas.)
    • Richard Silverstein: IDF Chief Warns of International Intervention if Israel Doesn't Solve Palestine Conflict: "Unlike any other Israeli politician, general or spy chief before him, Gantz offered a warning that if Israel didn't make progress on negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians, it should not expect the world to remain uninvolved [ . . . ] Whether or not Israel wanted, the world sees Israel-Palestine as bound up in other dangerous regional conflicts. These are so critical to the interests of foreign powers that there's no chance Israel will be allowed to pursue its own interests unhindered." I doubt he means "intervene" in the sense Lindsey Graham is fond of, but it does imply pressure -- possibly a lot of pressure. Article also includes quotes from Mossad chief Tamir Pardo undercutting Netanyahu's Iran position. Gantz and Pardo are among the unelected people who really run Israel, and it's auspicious that they're getting nervous.
    • Jason Ditz: Netanyahu Vows to Sabotage Iran Nuclear Deal: A deal would not only eliminate Iran as a potential nuclear threat, it would preclude a preemptory Israeli war against Iran, would align Iran with US interests in Iraq, and could possibly lead to some progress in settling the civil war in Syria (if Obama wanted to go that far), so sure, you can see why Netanyahu is so up in arms.
    • Richard Silverstein: Ukrainian Oligarch Fugitives Wanted by Interpol, Pay Bribes for Israeli Citizenship: Someone named Yuri Borisov, "suspected of looting $40-million in U.S. foreign aid meant for Ukraine." Scroll through Silverstein's blog and you'll find several scandals like this, ranging from Haaretz Removes Report that Netanyahu Pressured Japanese Regulators to Approve Adelson Casino Bid to Bayit Yehudi MK, Settlement Leader Questioned in Bribery-Kickback Scandal.


Also, a few links for further study:

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Daily Log

Some final mop-up EOY lists I had missed: Avant Music News, The Bluegrass Situation, Ear to the Ground (4 critics * 10), Earmilk (50), The Finest Kiss (40), Free Williamsburg (25), Hip Hop Is Read (25), I Listen So You Don't Have To (40), Jazz Journalists Association (many linsts), Joy of Speed (21), Music.Mic (21), Music That Isn't Bad (50), My Kind of Country (2*10), The Needle Drop (50), New York Music Daily (50), QRO (30), Raging Against the Dying Light (40), Rap Genius (20), Shrem (20), Side One Track One (25), Swan Fungus (100), The Wild Honey Pie (25).


Started a possible "letter to the editor," based on David Lightman's McClatchy article, 2016 election campaign will debate U.S. troops to stop Islamic State (Eagle headline different, see below).

Your front-page headline "2016 election likely to focus on terrorism, use of troops" raises the false hope that there might actually be debate on US military intervention in and beyond the Middle East, the article shows that no likely candidate is even open to rethinking the policies and mindset installed by Bush and his "Vulcans" in 2001.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 24455 [24422] rated (+33), 503 [497] unrated (+6).

The year-in-progress file for 2014 is now frozen, as of January 31. As of the same date, I've stopped adding things to the Best Jazz and Best Non-Jazz files. I'll continue to the 2014 file until December 31, 2015, with the late additions in green. (I've added four such records so far.)

I've also stopped updating the Music Tracking 2014 file -- I actually stopped several weeks ago. It's job was to remind me of what's out there, and in that regard it's been supplanted by the 2014 EOY Aggregate. I'm not quite done with this file. Most of what I've done in the last week has been to add to the "comments" field. I've added all of Robert Christgau's grades (to date). I've added many ratings from Album of the Year (top 500) and Metacritic. I've found very few new lists to add in, but I did add a selection of P&J ballots, and I violated my neutrality principle there: I added in every ballot that included a vote for Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint. That nearly doubled Minaj's votes (18 to 37) and bumped her from 221 to 113. Her voters were almost all names I had never heard of (more than half female), and I was curious what else they might like (not that Azealia Banks, now in 25th, came as a big surprise). Also helped move D'Angelo up to 22nd. Also Run the Jewels 2 finally opened up some breathing room over War on Drugs at the top of the list.

One thing I still expect to do is to add my own A-list into the count. I'll add Christgau's Dean's List if/when it appears. If you have a list I don't have already (check here) let me know. But for all practical purposes the list is about done. I don't know whether it's been useful for anyone else, but I've found a lot of surprising new records through it.

I figured my new jazz mail would continue to decline in the new year, but it picked up this week, including two new records from Intakt in Switzerland. (They haven't serviced me in 4-5 years, but their records are on Rhapsody, so I wrote up nine of them last year, including A- for Tom Rainey: Obbligato and Michael Griener: Squakk: Willisau & Berlin, plus four high HM for Harry Sokal, Aki Takase [twice], and Trio 3.) Also got an advance of the new Free Nelson Mandoomjazz -- first CD to come my way from that publicist since last year's record, which I was virtually the only one to have noticed.


One fairly pointless exercise I did was to pick up all the Metacritic.com scores for every 2014 release they rated and add them into the comment section of the EOY Aggregate File. That came to 1241 titles, including 189 that had not yet appeared on a single EOY list (remarkably, more than half of the latter were already in my own M-file list, although chances are a good many originally came from Metacritic.com). The data would have been much more useful had the scores been accompanied by sample size. For instance, the top-rated records are:

  1. Machine Head: Bloodstone & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast) 96/5
  2. D'Angelo: Black Messiah (RCA) 95/30
  3. Every Time I Die: From Parts Unknown (Epitaph) 92/6
  4. Behemoth: The Satanist (Metal Blade) 92/10
  5. The Hotelier: Home, Like Noplace Is There (Tiny Engines) 91/8
  6. I Am the Avalanche: Wolverines (I Surrender) 90/4
  7. St. Vincent: St. Vincent (Universal) 89/40
  8. Run the Jewels: RTJ2 (Mass Appeal) 89/35
  9. Trophy Scars: Holy Vacants (Monotreme) 89/4
  10. Swans: To Be Kind (Young God) 88/35

As you can see, four of the top ten records were reviewed 30+ times, and those four finished 1-4-2-19 in Pazz & Jop (26-4-2-8 in my EOY aggregate; D'Angelo was hurt in the latter by late released date, Swans in the former because it's something of a cult item even though it managed to get widely reviewed). Of the other six, the highest in P&J was Hotelier in 116th place; Behemoth's P&J rank was 134th, but did a little better in the EOY aggregate (128th; Hotelier was 177th). Only one of the other four managed as much as a single P&J vote (Every Time I Die). Machine Head was tied for 253rd in the EOY Aggregate, and Every Time I Die for 341st. I Am the Avalanche didn't place on a single EOY list.

Three of the top four above are metal albums. As I've noted before, metal is a sizable enough niche that some mainstream rock publications will hire a metal specialist, but not so big that mainstream critics feel any need to ever listen to the stuff (unlike pop, which alt/indie critics often hate, or hip-hop, which they sometimes like). A small sample size is a recipe for outliers, and that's what Metacritic.com's methodology delivers. (In practice, the sample sizes for jazz, country, and blues are too small to even register much at Metacritic.com.) The other three marginally reviewed albums are somewhere on the hard (or punk) end of rock. I Am the Avalanche's four reviewers were Rock Sound, Alternative Press, Absolute Punk, and Kerrang! Three of those four also reviewed Every Time I Die (out of 6 total); two also reviewed Machine Head (out of 5 total).

I also looked at Album of the Year's Best Albums of 2014 list (well, just the first 500 albums so far). AOTY doesn't survey as many music review sources as Metacritic, but their list makes it easier to find out how many of their sources reviewed each album. (Their minimum is also higher at 5, vs. 4 for Metacritic.) For instance, the number of reviews for St. Vincent drops from 40 to 25; Run the Jewels 2 from 35 to 23, and Black Messiah from 30 to 20. I started to build up a chart that sorted records by how many AOTY reviews they got, and was surprised to find that the most reviewed album of 2014 was Warpaint's eponymous effort (with 27 reviews and an average score of 74, same as MC). Beyond it, the most reviews were 26 (FKA Twigs), 25 (Beck, St. Vincent), 24 (Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Stephen Malkmus, New Pornographers, Spoon, Swans, War on Drugs), and 23 (How to Dress Well, Liars, Perfume Genius, Run the Jewels). The top records beyond those 16 in my Aggregate are: 6. Caribou (21), 9. Sun Kil Moon (19), 10. Angel Olsen (13), Sharon Van Etten (21), 14. Mac DeMarco (18), 15. Taylor Swift (17), Todd Terje (19), 18. Future Islands (21), 19. Sturgill Simpson (7), and 20. Lana Del Rey (20).

Warpaint wound up 51st on my list (90th in Pazz & Jop). The highest rated (my list) albums with Mc:74 or less (with AOTY review count in parens): 20. Lana Del Rey (20), 39. Alt-J (21), 40. Temples (16), 51. Warpaint (27), 57. Black Keys (17), 59. Jungle (16), 62. Jessie Ware (20), 66. Metronomy (18), 95. Banks (15; by the way, the only album on this list to finish beyond AOTY's top 500, with a 67 critic score). Aside from Warpaint, I'd say that each of those albums has a niche advantage (pop, prog, and psych for the top three), but the general rule is that the more reviews the higher a record places.


New records rated this week:

  • Jovan Alexandre: Collective Consciousness (2014 [2015], Xippi): tenor saxophonist backed by guitar-piano quintet, fast, boppish, as ever [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lotte Anker/Fred Frith: Edge of the Light (2010 [2015], Intakt): avant tenor sax/guitar duo, both prickly, difficult, uncertain (I suspect) [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Bass: NYC Sessions (2012 [2015], Whaling City Sound): pianist, fits in nicely with his guests, including two singers, Phil Woods, a Latin rhythm section [cd]: B+(*)
  • Steven Bernstein/Paolo Fresu/Gianluca Petrella/Marcus Rojas: Brass Bang! (2014 [2015], Bonsaï Music): brass quartet, two trumpets but they double and differ [r]: B+(*)
  • Boozoo Bajou: 4 (2014, Apollo): German electronica duo, downtempo by rep but sound more ambient, though perhaps too sumptuous for that [r]: A-
  • Buzzcocks: The Way (2014, 1-2-3-4 Go): nice that they're still having fun; sad that their fan base is limited to self-described classic rock fans [r]: B
  • Joey Calderazzo: Going Home (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): pianist, the trio if anything livelier than the quartet, but Branford Marsalis doesn't hurt [cd]: B+(**)
  • Cherub: Year of the Caprese (2014, Columbia): electropop duo tries to overcome handicaps, like being based in Nashville [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Drury: The Drum (2014 [2015], Soup & Sound): "acoustic solo" sounds more like amplifier feedback, the drum itself only rarely breaking the nuissance [cd]: B-
  • Andrew Drury: Content Provider (2014 [2015], Soup & Sound): drummer, with two noisome saxes and Brandon Seabrook's avant-industrial strum und klang [cd]: B
  • Dom Flemons: Prospect Hill (2014, Fat Possum): ex-Carolina Chocolate Drops, old-timey songster with banjo, synthesized authoritatively [r]: B+(**)
  • Hypercolor: Hypercolor (2014 [2015], Tzadik): Eyal Maoz's jazz-rock trio, favors distorted rock guitar-bass tunings mixed with exotic rhythms [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Iceage: Plowing Into the Field of Love (2014, Matador): Danish rockers age fast, growing confused, weary, prone to tantrums [r]: B
  • Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey: Going Back Home (2014, Chess): facing death, WJ dusts off his better old songs, hires famous has-been to sing [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Jonas: Nick Jonas (2014, Island/Safehouse): ex-teen-pop star comes out, offering himself as some sort of sex icon with rubbery soul, but nothing stands out [r]: B
  • Ted Kooshian: Clowns Will Be Arriving (2014 [2015], Summit): pianist, raids TV themes for standards, writes paeans to comics; Jeff Lederer stars [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls (2014 [2015], ACT): a pilgrimage to the all-but-inevitable alto sax Mecca; speed no problem, but feels forced [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Pharoahe Monch: P.T.S.D.: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (2014, W.A.R. Media): ex-underground rapper, goes heavy with tales of shock, awe, horror [r]: B+(**)
  • Moody Good: Moody Good (2014, Owsla): Brit electronica producer goes solo, prefers rappers to chanteuses, blips that sound like video games, nowhere beats [r]: B
  • Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (2014, Nonesuch): Jonny Greenwood plays Reich, works out better than Reich rearranging Radiohead for avant-orchestra [r]: B+(***)
  • Derek Senn: The Technological Breakthrough (2014, self-released): singer-songwriter with guitar, a modest demeanor and a feel for the folk [r]: B+(**)
  • Sylvie Simmons: Sylvie (2014, Light in the Attic): rock writer of some note changes sides, plays ukulele, frail voice but songs have some appeal [r]: B+(*)
  • Harry Sokal Groove: Where Sparks Start to Fly (2013, Cracked Anegg): Austrian sax-organ-drums trio, uses the groove to lift off, soar, and honk [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Sokal/Heiri Känzig/Martin Valihora: Depart Refire (2013 [2014], Intakt): avant sax trio, less speed than his organ trio, more bass solos [r]: B+(***)
  • Chuck E. Weiss: Red Beans & Weiss (2014, Anti): tries his hand at roots rock, but I suspect he was a comic/prankster all along [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • The Falcons: The Definitive Falcons Collection: The Complete Recordings (1955-63 [2014], History of Soul, 4CD): many iterations of Detroit's (no, the world's) "first soul group" [cd]: A-
  • The Jazz Couriers [Tubby Hayes/Ronnie Scott]: England's Greatest Combo . . . The Message From Britain (1958-59 [2014], Fresh Sound): Tubby Hayes + Ronnie Scott -- bebop comes to the UK [r]: B+(**)

Old records rated this week:

  • Natty Dominique: Natty Dominique's Creole Jazz Band (1953 [1994], American Music): another New Orleans trumpet player, played regularly with Johnny Dodds, takes charge here [r]: B+(**)
  • The George Lewis Band: With Elmer Talbert 1949/1950 (1949-50 [2007], American Music): the clarinetist took over Bunk Johnson's group, adding Talbert on trumpet [r]: B+(**)
  • Herb Morand: 1949 (1949 [1994], American Music): New Orleans trumpet player's only name group, although he was widely recorded with Harlem Hamfats [r]: B+(***)
  • Wooden Joe Nicholas: Wooden Joe Nicholas (1945-49 [1992], American Music): last recordings from a New Orleans trumpet player who predates King Oliver, let alone Louis Armstrong [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Ory: '44-'46 (1944-46 [1994], American Music): New Orleans' premier trombone player leads various groups, ending with two Leadbelly singalongs [r]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: Cuffed, Collared & Tagged (1972 [2013], Fat Possum): Jerry Williams' third album, covers feel weird, originals underdeveloped [r]: B+(*)
  • Swamp Dogg: Gag a Maggot (1973 [2008], SDEG): earns his "Midnight Hour" cover with his proud tale as a "Wife Sitter"; takes on the mighty dollar [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Béatrice Alunni/Marc Peillon: Dance With Me (ITI)
  • Anthony Braxton: Trio and Duet (1974, Delmark/Sackville)
  • Andy Brown: Soloist (Delmark)
  • Maureen Budway: Sweet Candor (MCG Jazz)
  • Mike Campbell: Close Enough for Love (ITI)
  • Harley Card: Hedgerow (self-released)
  • Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: Awakening of a Capital (RareNoise): advance, March 2
  • Chantale Gagné: The Left Side of the Moon (self-relased): March 3
  • Oliver Lake/William Parker: To Roy (Intakt)
  • Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord: Jeremiah (Hot Cup): February 10
  • John O'Gallagher Trio: The Honeycomb (Fresh Sound New Talent): advance, February 28
  • Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Little River (Sazas)
  • Spin Marvel: Infolding (RareNoise): advance, March 2
  • Aki Takase/Ayumi Paul: Hotel Zauberberg (Intakt)
  • XY Quartet: XY (Nusica)


Album of the Year does something similar but provides the review count.

  1. 27x74: Warpaint: Warpaint
  2. 26x86: FKA Twigs: LP1
  3. 25x85: St. Vincent: St. Vincent
  4. 25x78: Beck: Morning Phase
  5. 24x88: Aphex Twin: Syro; Swans: To Be Kind
  6. 24x87: The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream
  7. 24x84: Flying Lotus: You're Dead
  8. 24x79: Spoon: They Want My Soul
  9. 24x78: The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers
  10. 24x73: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Wig Out at Jagbags
  11. 23x87: Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
  12. 23x85: Perfume Genius: Too Bright
  13. 23x76: Liars: Mess
  14. 23x74: How to Dress Well: What Is This Heart?
  15. 23x67: Dum Dum Girls: Too True
  16. 22x80: Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else
  17. 22x75: Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots
  18. 22x73: Jack White: Lazaretto
  19. 21x86: Sharon Van Etten: Are We There
  20. 21x83: Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty
  21. 21x82: Tune-Yards: Nicki Nack
  22. 21x81: Neneh Cherry: Blank Project; Future Islands: Singles
  23. 21x80: Caribou: Our Love
  24. 21x75: Interpol: El Pintor
  25. 21x70: Weezer: Everything Will Be Alright in the End
  26. 21x68: Alt-J: This Is All Yours; Rustie: Green Language
  27. 21x66: Pharrell Williams: Girl
  28. 21x61: Coldplay: Ghost Stories
  29. 20x93: D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah
  30. 20x82: Scott Walker + Sun O))): Soused
  31. 20x81: Owen Pallett: In Conflict
  32. 20x80: The Antlers: Familiars; EMA: The Future's Void; Ty Segall: Manipulator
  33. 20x77: Death From Above 1979: The Physical World; First Aid Kit: Stay Gold; TV on the Radio: Seeds
  34. 20x76: Fucked Up: Glass Boys; Ariel Pink: Pom Pom
  35. 20x75: Real Estate: Atlas
  36. 20x74: Jenny Lewis: The Voyager
  37. 20x73: The Afghan Whigs: Do to the Beast; Mogwai: Rave Tapes; Jessie Ware: Tough Love
  38. 20x72: SBTRKT: Wonder Where We Land
  39. 20x71: Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence
  40. 20x70: Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks: Enter the Slasher House
  41. 20x63: Karen O: Crush Songs
  42. 20x62: Morrissey: World Peace Is None of Your Business
  43. 20x59: Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes
  44. 20x53: Pixies: Indie Cindy
  45. 19x86: Wild Beasts: Present Tense
  46. 19x84: Sun Kil Moon: Benji
  47. 19x82: Todd Terje: It's Album Time
  48. 19x80: Perfect Pussy: Say Yes to Love
  49. 19x79: Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
  50. 19x76: Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron
  51. 19x74: Lykke Li: I Never Learn
  52. 19x73: Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
  53. 19x71: Conor Oberst: Upside Down Mountain; Thurston Moore: The Best Day
  54. 18x82: Mac DeMarco: Salad Days
  55. 18x80: The Horrors: Luminous
  56. 18x77: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want
  57. 18x74: Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita; La Roux: Trouble in Paradise; The Men: Tomorrow's Hits
  58. 18x73: Katy B: Little Red; Kelis: Food
  59. 18x71: Thom Yorke: Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
  60. 18x70: Metronomy: Love Letters
  61. 18x65: Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways
  62. 18x64: Foxygen: . . . And Star Power
  63. 17x78: White Lung: Deep Fantasy
  64. 17x76: Taylor Swift: 1989
  65. 17x75: Actress: Ghettoville; Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear
  66. 17x71: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Days of Abandon
  67. 17x69: The Hold Steady: Teeth Dreams
  68. 17x68: The Black Keys: Turn Blue; Chromeo: White Women
  69. 17x59: Eno/Hyde: Someday World
  70. 17x56: The Gaslight Anthem: Get Hurt
  71. 16x81: Iceage: Plowing Into the Field of Love
  72. 16x79: Alvvays: Alvvays; Marissa Nadler: July
  73. 16x77: Tweedy: Sukierae
  74. 16x76: Damien Jurado: Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son; Wye Oak: Shriek
  75. 16x73: Elbow: The Take Off and Landing of Everything; Jungle: Jungle; James Vincent McMorrow: Post Tropical; Merchandise: After the End
  76. 16x72: Hamilton Leithauser: Black Hours; Temples: Sun Structures
  77. 16x71: Phantogram: Voices; White Fence: For The Recently Found Innocent
  78. 16x70: Nicki Minaj: The Pinkprint
  79. 16x69: The Smashing Pumpkins: Monuments to an Elegy; Zola Jesus: Taiga
  80. 16x66: Tokyo Police Club: Forcefield
  81. 16x53: Iggy Azalea: The New Classic
  82. 15x82: Grouper: Ruins
  83. 15x80: Against Me: Transgender Dysphoria; Pharmakon: Bestial Burden; A Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sea When Absent
  84. 15x79: Fear of Men: Loom
  85. 15x76: Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin; Woods: With Light and With Love
  86. 15x75: Eagulls: Eagulls
  87. 15x74: Bombay Bicycle Club: So Long, See You Tomorrow; Mastodon: Once More 'Round the Sun
  88. 15x71: Hospitality: Trouble; J Mascis: Tied to a Star; SOHN: Tremors
  89. 15x67: Banks: Goddess; Black Lips: Underneath the Rainbow
  90. 15x66: Xiu Xiu: Angel Guts
  91. 15x64: Christopher Owens: A New Testament
  92. 15x63: Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour
  93. 15x57: Foster the People: Supermodel; U2: Songs of Innocence
  94. 15x53: Lily Allen: Sheezus


I wrote this letter to a new publicist. Same thing applies to everyone else.

My "policy": you'll get a mention under "unpacking" the week after I get the CD; a tweet (@tomhull747) when I've processed it; the tweet again in the next Monday's "Music Week"; something slightly longer and more literate in the monthly (or sometimes more often) "Rhapsody Streamnotes" (noting if the review is based on a CD); a listing in my annual grading file and year-end list consideration. I do that for virtually everything I get physical copies of (there were a few exceptions years ago when I was getting more stuff I have little interest in -- soundtracks, gospel, pop jazz, alt bands I've never heard of, promos packaged so badly I couldn't tell what I was listening to; even so we're never talking more than about 2%). I'm unlikely to do much more -- I've written freelance in the past but it's hardly worth the trouble. You can tell what I like (and some of what I don't) by looking at the yearly lists; e.g.:

  • http://tomhull.com/ocston/nm/notes/eoyjazz-14.php

I assume that publicists can follow the twitter feed and the blog, so I don't send out any notices on those. Most incoming mass email is disposed of pretty quickly.


Jan 2015 Mar 2015