February 2017 Notebook
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Streamnotes (February 2017)

Pick up text here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27834 [27814] rated (+20), 391 [386] unrated (+5).

Rated count slipped severely last week, and would have been much worse had I not dove down a hole trying to find a better Brian Lynch album than I was already aware of -- I have his 2006 collaboration with Eddie Palmieri, Simpático, at A-, and Unsung Heroes (2011) as well as last year's Madera Latino at B+(***). I found lots of pretty good records, but nothing better than those.

Excuses, excuses: I took Tuesday off to cook birthday dinner for my wife: a half-dozen Japanese dishes including salmon teriyaki and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Lost Monday evening shopping, and queued up three "good ol' good 'uns" while I was cooking -- Ronnie Lane's One for the Road, The Very Best of the Drifters, and Louis Jordan's Five Guys Named Moe: Vol. 2 -- and enjoyed them so much I repeated them, twice. Even now, I have Jordan songs rattling around my head. Also took some time on Sunday for an encore dinner: leftovers (mostly extra produce as opposed to reheating, but I turned the excess dashi into miso soup) plus chicken wings coated in a sticky teriyaki glaze. Alas, no new dessert.

Other things that slowed me down: my two new A- jazz records got a lot of exposure -- the Satoko Fujii double got three plays, and MOPDTK probably got six, maybe more. Not so hard to make up my mind, but I kept putting off the writing. Two non-jazz records also got three spins each: the Jens Lekman that got a Christgau A (and is currently rated 11th at Metacritic, down from 2nd when I first noticed it) and the Jesca Hoop record I actually prefer (currently 5th at Metacritic -- note that the current 2 [Tinariwen] and 3 [XX] albums are already on my fledgling 2017 A-list, although I'm not much impressed by top-rated Sampha, nor by the 6 [Loyle Carner] and 7 [William Basinski] records I checked out this week). Mark Masters and Billy Mintz also got more plays than should have been necessary.

As that rundown suggests, I spent more time looking at 2017 than 2016 releases last week, for the first time this year. As it is, I've heard 91 of the top 100 new records in my 2016 EOY Aggregate -- up from 71 as recently as 2014 (at least that's what a post I found said; I probably listened to a few more after that). I didn't add any new lists to the Aggregate last week, although I plugged in a couple new grades (from Christgau and myself).

I did spend quite a bit of time last week collecting reviews from my Streamnotes columns. I'm currently up to October 2015, so I still have about 17 months to sort through (this month's column should be up later this week, probably about the time I catch up). Reviews for 20th century albums go straight into the draft file, which is currently at 415 pages (225k words). Later reviews go into a sorted text file which I'll later use to fill up the 21st century book (currently Jazz CG only: 145 pages, 52k words; the text file has 1064k words, of which perhaps as much as one-third are redundant entries, so maybe 750k words, which in the current format would mean about 1300 pages).

I think the next step after Streamnotes will be to go through the database files and add stubs for all of the rated but unreviewed albums. That should push the 20th century guide up a bit over 500 pages, but will add very little to the 21st century. I don't think I have enough material for a valid 20th century guide, but I do have more than I expected when I started gathering this writing. I've also skipped over a shitload of non-jazz reviews (I mean thousands), which could be used to seed other projects: my database ratings for country, blues, and pre-1980 rock are pretty encyclopedic, but I doubt if I have reviews for more than 20% of any of them.


Another time sink last week was watching the Oscars and several nominated films on demand (and La La Land in the theater). I've started a book file where I'm collecting political blog posts (I'm still back in 2002, so this has just started). I've been running across a lot of movie reviews from back then, and have squirreled them away in an appendix. Reminds me how much more I saw then than now. Still, I thought I'd look back at the 2016 film list and at least jot down some grades as best I remember them.

  • Hail, Caesar!: B
  • Finding Dory: Animation. B
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Animation. B+
  • Hell or High Water: B+
  • Snowden: A-
  • Moonlight: B+
  • Loving: A-
  • Arrival: B+
  • Manchester by the Sea: B+
  • La La Land: A-

Not much here, and seems even less given that I saw fewer than half in the local monopoly's theaters. Probably the fewest movies I've seen in any year since the mid-1980s. Aside from the snub to Snowden, I don't begrudge the Oscar picks -- Moonlight seems better in memory than it did at the time; Manchester too. Still, far from a banner year.

Oh, we also saw a mockumentary Jason Bailey produced -- not on the Wikipedia list, and not really released yet so I can't look up the title, but I enjoyed it more than anything listed above.

More movies I kinda wished we had seen (well, had some small interest in, sometimes very small): Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater), Elvis & Nixon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Café Society (Woody Allen), Me Before You, Our Kind of Traitor, Captain Fantastic, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Jason Bourne, Equity, Sully, The Magnificent Seven, Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair), Deepwater Horizon, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton), The Girl on the Train, The Birth of a Nation, Hacksaw Ridge, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Lion, Jackie, Fences, Hidden Figures. Laura saw Zootopia and hated it.


New records rated this week:

  • William Basinski: A Shadow in Time (2017, Temporary Residence): [r]: B
  • Loyle Carner: Yesterday's Gone (2017, AMF): [r]: B
  • Allison Crutchfield: Tourist in This Town (2017, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hand (2016 [2017], Cortez Sound, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jesca Hoop: Memories Are Now (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: A-
  • Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (2017, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brian Lynch: Madera Latino (2012 [2016], Hollistic MusicWorks, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Blue Skylight (2015-16 [2017], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Billy Mintz: Ugly Beautiful (2015 [2017], Thirteenth Note, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (2016 [2017], Hot Cup): [cd]: A-
  • The Sadies: Northern Passages (2017, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Jens Lekman: When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (2004, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Lynch Sextet: Peer Pressure (1986 [1987], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch Quintet: Back Room Blues (1989 [1990], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch: Spheres of Influence (1997, Sharp Nine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Lynch Latin Jazz Sextet: ConClave (2004 [2005], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes Vol. 2 (2008-09 [2013], Hollistic MusicWorks): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: ConClave Vol. 2 (2010 [2011], Criss Cross): B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (Rare Noise): advance: March 31
  • David Feldman: Horizonte (self-released): March 10
  • Jü: Summa (Rare Noise): advance, March 31
  • Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (Psalms 149 Music)
  • Bill O'Connell: Monk's Cha Cha: Live at the Carnegie-Farian Room (Savant)
  • Miles Okazaki: Trickster (Pi): March 24
  • Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain): March 3
  • University of Toronto 12Tet: Trillium Falls (UofT Jazz): March 10
  • University of Toronto Jazz Orcherstra: Sweet Ruby Suite (UofT Jazz): March 10
  • Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987, Corner Store Jazz)
  • Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (Corner Store Jazz, 2CD)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Another week, so here we go again.


Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:


Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

  • Andrew Bacevich: At the Altar of American Greatness: There's a line deep into this piece about how "it's the politics that's gotten smaller," and indeed this piece is a good deal smaller than at first advertised -- see the subtitle: "David Brooks on Making America Great Again." Brooks is normally an easy target, but Bacevich stumbles, declaring "among contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann, the closest thing we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual." Lippmann retired in 1967, so for me was a famous name that signified little -- even today most of what I know about him I had gleaned from Walter Karp's The Politics of War, which featured him as a prominent hawk behind the so-called Great War, but while he often catered to political power, the main thing he's remembered for was his cynicism about the ignorance and gullibility of the American people. Brooks, on the other hand, is little more than a partisan hack with a bit of cosmopolitan make up to pass muster with New York/Washington elites. Still, it's interesting that Bacevich digs up a Brooks column from 1997 prefiguring Donald Trump (cue Marx's joke about tragedy/farce), titled "A Return to National Greatness" -- a title Brooks reiterated in 2017. Especially precious is the line: "The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind." He should pinch himself to recall that he's talking about a country which positively worships the ideal of individuals pursuing their self-interest -- as witnessed by the fact that we just elected as president a guy who has done nothing but for more than fifty years.

    Under the circumstances, it's easy to forget that, back in 2003, he and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly supported the invasion of Iraq. They welcomed war. They urged it. They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil -- although he was evil enough -- but because they saw in such a war the means for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission. Toppling Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming and renewing America's "national greatness."

    Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as craven or cowardly. Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged those opposing the war as mere "marchers." They were effete, pretentious, ineffective, and absurd. [ . . . ]

    In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone. Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.

    Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church's neoconservative branch. But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. So, too, are putative conservatives like Senators John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, all of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever. [ . . . ]

    That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the "successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome." In fact, this conception of America's purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.

  • Srecko Horvat: Tom Hardy's Taboo goes to the heart of our new imperialist darkness: Not sure the series is that coherent, but the asides like how "colonialism doesn't cause misery only in poorer countries, it boomerangs back to rich countries with their rising inequality" are spot on. Also he notes how today private companies, much like the "honourable" British East India Company two centuries ago, have become far-from-benign forces all around the world (and he didn't even cite Exxon Mobil as an example).

  • Robin McKie: Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end of century: Not really a new story: I read a lot about mass extinction back in the 1990s and maybe earlier, when the Alvarez theory of the K-T extinction event became popular and Carl Sagan came up with the notion of "nuclear winter." So, no surprise that it's gotten worse. Still, I'm struck by how the threat has receded in our consciousness as our politicians keep coming up with more urgent short-term crises. Thinking about the end of the century has started to look like a luxury.

  • John Nichols: Tom Perez Narrowly Defeats Keith Ellison for DNC Chair: Margin over Keith Ellison was 35 votes. It's tempting to regard Perez as a corporate stooge, but Esme Cribb has him saying some useful things, like: "I heard from rural America that the Democratic Party hasn't been there for us recently"; "We also have to redefine our mission"; and "Our unity is our greatest strength, and frankly our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare." Underscoring that unity, he named Ellison "deputy chair" (see Trump Claims DNC Chair Race Was 'Totally Rigged,' Offers No Evidence.


POSTSCRIPT:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Daily Log

Fixed birthday dinner for Laura yesterday. She originally didn't want anything but I pitched a couple favorites (salmon teriyaki and flourless chocolate cake) and she eventually conceded. Had three guests (Janice Bradley, Mike Poage, Gretchen Eick). I make those keystone dishes somewhat regularly, but I've never put the teriyaki into the context of Japanese cuisine -- I usually just do it with some potatoes or fried rice and stir-fried lima beans (a Chinese recipe from Irene Kuo that I use with all sorts of main courses, mostly because I keep the freezer stocked and don't regularly have a lot of vegetable options). In fact, I haven't done a whole Japanese meal in decades, although the very first dinner I fixed for Laura was Japanese (mostly sushi), so it seemed appropriate for this occasion.

I shopped on Monday for everything but the salmon, which I figured I'd pick up fresh on the day at Seafood Shop, which usually has exceptionally nice salmon: I wound up buying the tail end of a slab of Shetland Island Salmon after the customer ahead of me bought two strips cut out from the thickest part; came to about 2.5 pounds, and was still sloped up to more than an inch thick. I didn't plan out a menu before shopping, but jotted down some likely ingredients and options. I did decide on a noodle dish, yakisoba, and had found a web recipe that looked promising, and had a few other ideas mostly garnered from Lesley Downer/Minoru Yoneda's Step-by-Step Japanese Cooking. I went to Wichita's top Vietnamese grocer, Thai Binh, then on to Dillons (eventually two) plus a couple other shops. One stop was to look for a julienne tool, since I was anticipating a lot of carrots and daikon. (I have a couple of expensive mandolines, but they've never worked well for me. Indeed, nothing but a chef's knife seems to work right.)

One thing that kept driving me to all those shops was that I couldn't find the right noodles for the yakisoba. Maybe if I had looked closer at Thai Binh, but I was getting frustrated by the time I got to the noodle aisle(s), and it really wasn't proving to be a good place for Japanese. (I never found "aonori" seaweed, nor "chuno sauce" -- both called for in the yakisoba recipe, although I picked up some wakame and oyster sauce.) From various stores I picked up a wide variety of possible substitute noodles: soba, both dried and pre-cooked udon, Chinese egg noodles; I even considered buccatini and gluten-free spaghetti. I wound up going with two packages of pre-cooked udon.

Tuesday's shopping turned out to be more of an ordeal than I expected. I had forgotten to buy ginger (of all things) and mirin, so I stopped at Sprout's before going to Seafood Shop for the salmon. I picked up some more noodle candidates, but then I lost a set of keys -- not discovering that until I got home, so I had to retrace my steps, eventually finding them at Sprout's. So it was close to 3pm when I got back and started cooking, with dinner guests due at 6:30. I did what I could in that brief time, and didn't put the fish in to broil until everyone arrived. Indeed, final cooking on several other dishes didn't start until then, and that segment got very crazy (and messy), but at least my prep was good.

Monday night I made dashi and the cake. The flourless cake recipe is from Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Cookbook. It calls for melting 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate in two sticks of butter, adding six eggs and 1.5 cups sugar, then whisking in one cup of cocoa. Pour it into a springform pan and bake 35-40 minutes at 350F. Very straightforward, but I ran into a problem right away: I figured the pantry was well stocked with chocolate, but couldn't find any bittersweet. I had lots of unsweetened and semi-sweet, so looked up substitutes and went with the semi-sweet (add 1/4 tsp cocoa per ounce, which struck me as preferable to adding sugar to unsweetened). Also worth noting that I used Hersey's special dark cocoa. Came out pretty damn close to perfect. I served it with Edy's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, which is lighter than premiums like Haagen-Dasz but still richly vanilla.

As for the stock, the recipes called for making Dashi I and Dashi II, in sequence: the former is made by bringing water with a piece of kombu (dried kelp) to a boil, reserve the kelp, then add katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and let it steep. The latter starts with the leftover kelp and bonito from Dashi I, and boils them in more water (7.5 cups vs. 4.5 for Dashi I) for 20 minutes, to get a stronger, more reduced stock. You then add more bonito and let it steep, then strain. Dashi II is used for miso soup, but more importantly is needed for pretty much every sauce the Japanese use. So I wound up Monday night with two pots of dashi, for good measure letting II sit overnight before straining. That was all the prep I needed to do the night before.

On Tuesday, I got up around noon, went out and did my shopping, and chased down those keys. By then I had my eye on a set of relatively easy side dishes:

  • Yakisoba: stir-fried noodles (I decided to use the pre-cooked udon, so they were round but thicker than called for), with some vegetables, sauce, and garnishes.
  • Agedashi: deep-fried tofu with dashi-based sauce and garnish.
  • Cucumber salad with wakame (seaweed)
  • French-cut green beans with peanut sauce
  • Eggplant simmered in miso
  • Eggdrop soup with slivered snow peas (this used up my Dashi I).
  • With the salmon teriyaki as the main dish.

Here's roughly what I did to cook all of this (in, as I said, less than four hours). I took a half-dozen dried black mushrooms and covered them with hot water to soak. Also soaked a couple tablespoons of dried wakame (it expands to much more than I needed). Mixed up the teriyaki marinade (1/2 cup each: sugar, sake, soy sauce). Cut the fish, put it and the marinade in a freezer bag, and put it into the refrigerator, turning it over several times during the afternoon. (I think the recipe calls for 30 minutes, but since there's no vinegar it didn't hurt to marinate longer -- in my case about three hours.)

The green bean recipe called for "French cut"; in the past I've used frozen, but wasn't able to find any, so bought some fresh green beans and tried to cut them into inch-long pieces on a diagonal (although they didn't come out as shredded as normal "French cut"). I boiled them in salted water for 12 minutes (actually, a bit too long). I cut the snow peas on a diagonal slant and blanched them for about 90 seconds. I cut the vegetables for the noodles: about 1/2 cup julienned carrot; 1/2 onion sliced; four or five baby bok choy (about half of the package): I trimmed the root end, then sliced across until I got up to the leaves, and discarded the rest; four or five scallions, cut into two-inch lengths. The recipe called for "two cabbage leaves" but I thought the bok choy would substitute nicely, and I'd say that worked.

I cut another half-dozen scallions into thin rounds for garnishes, and grated sizable chunks of ginger and daikon. Nearly every dish would have some sort of garnish, mostly from these three piles and/or the bag of katsuobushi.

I had three small Japanese cucumbers. I peeled them, cut in half, scooped out the seeds, and cut into thin half-rounds. Salted them and let them sit for a while, then rinsed them off. I mixed up the dressing: 3T rice wine vinegar, 2T Dashi II, 2T soy sauce, 1T sugar, 1/4t salt, 2T mirin. Put the cucumbers and a handful of wakame into a bowl, poured the dressing over, and refrigerated. Before serving I garnished with ginger. First dish (almost) done.

For the green beans, I ground (actually chopped finely) 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, added 1.5T sugar, 2T soy sauce, and 1T Dashi II. I realized I hadn't ground the peanuts up sufficiently, so I added a tablespoon (or two) of peanut butter, which did the trick (although the sauce was a good deal thicken than the picture). Second dish ready -- to be garnished with katsuobushi before serving.

For the agedashi, I started with a pound of medium firm tofu. I cut this into three slices (not as evenly as I would have liked), and cut each slice into nine pieces. I pressed these for a while to drive out excess liquid (recipe calls for soft tofu, which would have made this stage more important). I took a medium saucepan, poured into it about one-inch of peanut oil, and heated it up. I took the tofu squares, dredged them in potato starch, and fried them, draining on paper towels as they started to brown, and lined them up in a large quiche pan. I mixed up the sauce: 1 cup Dashi II, 3T soy sauce, 3T mirin. I garnished the tofu with daikon and scallion, and spooned about half of the sauce over them, offering the rest of the sauce on the side. (I wound up dumping some leftover ginger into it.)

For the eggplant, I took two long Japanese eggplants (about one pound) and sliced them diagonally into rounds, about 3/8-inch thick. I mixed up the sauce: 1/2 cup Dashi II, 3T red miso, 3T sugar. I fried the eggplant in leftover oil from the tofu, and when it was partly browned I added the sauce. I covered it, let it simmer for five minutes, uncovered it and let it bubble and thicken. Looking back at the recipe, I see I didn't follow it very well: the recipe calls for simmering in the dashi, then adding the miso and sugar, so two separate stages, and includes adding a scallion, which I forgot -- although I garnished with scallion later. Also, I went back and forth between covering and uncovering, and never cut the heat back to simmering level. And I should have gotten the oil hotter before adding the eggplant, as it got soaked up fast so I had to add more. I should also note that the recipe seems to be calling for western eggplant, not Japanese (although it would be sad notd using Japanese for this recipe). Despite all these screw-ups, this turned into the outstanding dish of the meal -- the overcooked green beans came damn close, those two being the only dishes had had no leftovers.

The yakisoba recipe called for "chuno sauce," which I couldn't find anywhere, but I did find a "make your own" recipe on the net, so did: 1/2 cup ketchup plus 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I only needed 3T, so cut that in half. I wound up using pretty much all of it, plus 1/2T oyster sauce. I started cooking the noodle dish about the same time as the eggplant. Heated some oil (again, from the tofu pot), and started with the carrots. After a minute or so, added the onions, then a couple minutes later the bok choy and scallions, then the pre-cooked udon noodles (two bags, four packets -- I should have separated them first since they were pretty badly clumped together. I added the "chuno sauce" and oyster sauce, and covered for a while. I had a guest slice up the black mushrooms and added them (not in the recipe, but I figured they'd come in handy somewhere, and this wound up being the place). I scooped the noodles out into a serving bowl, garnished with katsuobushi, wakame (recipe calls for aonori, but still seaweed), and beni shoga (a bright form of picked ginger cut into matchsticks -- worked very well for this purpose).

By this time I had put the salmon under the broiler. I pulled it out midway, noted that one piece in the back was exceptionally brown so I rotated the pan, and gave everything a fresh brush of marinade. A few minutes later, I checked again and found everything well browned on top, but the thickest filets were nicely done, so I turned the oven off and moved the fish to a serving tray. Last thing was to finish the soup. I had been heating up the Dashi I, so added the pea pods, let them cook for a minute or two, then dropped the heat low and whisked in two beaten eggs. I ladled the soup out into bowls and served it. I should have checked the soup seasoning. It turned out to be the only dish I was disappointed in, although the texture was good, the eggs nice and wispy: a little salt (or soy sauce) and pepper (maybe Szechuan), and maybe some scallion, maybe even a whiff of sesame oil, would have helped a lot.

I thought the mix and range and contrast of the dishes was exemplary. I had bought a bunch of extra ingredients -- mostly vegetables including broccoli, brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, that I could have used. One additional dish I would have made had time permitted was a salad of raw carrot and daikon ("red and white"), both cut into matchsticks with the usual dashi-based dressing (plus some kombu and citrus). I also cut back in some quantities -- e.g., only cooked about half of my green beans, only used about half of my baby bok choy. Still, plenty of food for five -- would have had enough for a couple more, but we didn't wind up with a ridiculous amount of leftovers.

As I said, I hadn't cooked a full Japanese meal in decades -- during which time I've cooked dozens each of Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, and Moroccan, and smaller numbers of other cuisines -- so I had pretty much lost my sense of how Japanese meals work together. (When we do go to Japanese restaurants, we invariably order sushi, so that further limits what I know -- Laura does like to order agedashi, so that was an exception, albeit one she usually orders in a favorite Thai restaurant).

Heated up the leftover noodles last night. Have enough Dashi II left to make a couple cups of miso soup, enough green beans for a replay, and various other odds and ends: made an omelet today with leftover mushrooms and scallions. Also have five or six packages of noodles, which I need to experiment with. Guess I can add Japanese to my cuisine repertoire. Also seems to be possible to get "sushi-quality fish" in a couple of stores here, and Thai Binh has the barbecued eel, so those are options. I've made tempura in the past, and fried dishes like tonkatsu. I haven't tried the fancier noodle soups like sukiyaki or yosenabe -- things I used to order before I got into sushi. Also, thumbing through the book, the steak teriyaki looks especially promising. So many things one can try.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27814 [27779] rated (+35), 386 [393] unrated (-7).

Still mostly 2016 releases below, including a couple A-list finds (the current A-lists are 74 jazz and 67 non-jazz), but the share is dropping as I dip more often into my 2017 new jazz queue. Also checked out the new Tinariwen, which even with its American guests is very similar to old Tinariwen, still enough for my second 2017 non-jazz A- (after Run the Jewels 3).

Still added a few more 2017 lists to the EOY Aggregate file (a couple are mentioned in "recommended links" below). The new lists resulted in several changes to the top-twenty rank order, mostly in line with longer term trends: A Tribe Called Quest climbed into 5th, ahead of Solange; Chance the Rapper is up to 7th, barely edging Kanye West and dropping Nick Cave to 9th; Anderson .Paak took 11th from Bon Iver; Leonard Cohen took 13th from Car Seat Headrest; Mitski took 18th from Kaytranada. I'd say most of these cases favor the better record (aside from the last pair).

Not sure I'm done, but the rate of additions slowed down quite a bit midweek, as the weather warmed up enough to do some yardwork (well, actually we've been breaking records), and I finally resumed collecting reviews for the Jazz Guide(s). The latter got to be much more fun after I finished the 2001-09 notebooks (I'm assuming anything after that is redundant with the column files) and moved into Rhapsody Streamnotes, and the latter got to be more fun once I hit 2014, when I consolidated Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods into Streamnotes (finally, everything I run into is new for the books). Currently up to May 2014, and the 20th Century compilation is up to 374 pages. Good chance I'll finish Streamnotes this coming week.

The first two entries under "old music" were picked up while looking for newer albums. I was pleased to find Bandcamp sites for Anzic Records (looking for Daniel Freedman) and for ROVA, but both turned out to be less than ideal: Anzic had a couple albums complete, but others didn't have enough tracks to review (Anat Cohen was one important artist I wasn't able to fill in).

The reason I looked up Bob Wilber was a Facebook post by Chris Drumm inquiring about worthwhile Arbors Records releases. I've long been a fan of Wilber's and was pleased to find one album I've heard a lot about (Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman, a PG 4-star and a Gary Giddins favorite). The Henderson record lived up to its billing, but nothing else I had missed turned out to be essential. And still, my own Wilber favorite is 1989's Dancing on a Rainbow (Circle).

I should probably remind readers that I occasionally write little 140-character nuggets as @tomhull747. My "follower" count recently hit 250. Mostly notices of new blog posts, but sometimes something else. Total tweets to date 1714, average rate down since I stopped trying to review records on the fly, so I'm not going to swamp your feed -- just occasionally remind you of something interesting.


Recommended music links:


New records rated this week:

  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Tim Daisy: October Music Vol. 2: 7 Compositions for Duet (2016, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bill Evans/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Beauty & the Beast (2011 [2016], Spartacus): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Factory Floor: 25 25 (2016, DFA): [r]: A-
  • Daniel Freedman: Imagine That (2016, Anzic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (2016 [2017], Shhpuma): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Josh Green & the Cyborg Orchestra: Telepathy & Bop (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (2015 [2017], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Kayo Dot: Plastic House on Base of Sky (2016, The Flenser): [r]: B
  • Amirtha Kidambi/Elder Ones: Holy Science (2016, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave King Trucking Company: Surrounded by the Night (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Firehouse 12 (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Martha: Blisters in the Pit of My Heart (2016, Dirtnap): [r]: A-
  • Donny Most: Mostly Swinging (2016 [2017], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (2016 [2017], JMood): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Tisziji Muñoz: Tathagata Guitar: Whisperings of Peace (2016, Anami Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tisziji Muñoz: Heart Ground (2016, Anami Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook (2016 [2017], GotMusic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Oui' 3: Occupy Your Mind (2016 [2017], ITI): [cd]: B
  • Jason Palmer: Beauty 'N' Numbers: The Sudoku Suite (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luke Sellick: Alchemist (2016 [2017], Cellar Live): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Effervescence (2016 [2017], Spartacus): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Snakehips: Forever (Pt. II) EP (2015, Sony Music, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Snakehips: All My Friends EP (2016, Sony Music, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tinariwen: Elwan (2017, Anti-): [r]: A-

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

  • Anna Homler and Steve Moshier: Breadwoman & Other Tales (1985-93 [2016], RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sky Girl (1961-91 [2016], Efficient Space): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark Nights (2014, Anzic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rova: Long on Logic: Compositions by Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Rova (1989 [1990], Sound Aspects): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber: Horn's-a-Plenty (1994, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Bob Wilber/Dany Doriz Quintet: Memories of You: Lionel and Benny (1995 [1996], Black and Blue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber: Nostalgia (1996, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber/Dick Hayman: A Perfect Match: In Tribute to Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis (1997 [1998], Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Wilber and the International March of Jazz All Stars: Everywhere You Go There's Jazz (1998 [1999], Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman (2000, Arbors): [r]: A-
  • Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Rampage! (2011, Arbors): [r]: B


Grade changes:

  • American Honey [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1974-2015 [2016], UME): [cdr]: [was B+(***)]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (Blue Canoe)
  • Doug MacDonald: Jazz Marathon 2 (BluJazz, 2CD)
  • The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville! (BluJazz)
  • Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies): March 10


Daily Log

Miscellaneous notes:

  • American Honey [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1974-2015 [2016], UME): A-
  • Sky Girl (1961-91 [2016], Efficient Space): B+(*)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Trump's crazy, disjointed press conference had me thinking: I doubt that Donald Trump has ever read David Ogilvy, but he's done a bang-up job of following Ogilvy's main piece of advice on living one's life:

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.

Trump's biography is chock full of such peculiarities, and indeed that's given him a certain protection against anything he does now -- a way of making excuses, rationalizing his tirades and outrages.

Still, I think the most important lesson from last week is the extent to which Trump has chosen to vilify the media. Admittedly, that's a tactic that has served him well in the past, but there is a fundamental difference between attacking the system from outside and defending the system he's gained control of. The media has always been eager to kowtow to power, but that's partly because they expect some stroking in return. Trump's characterization of everything they say as "fake news" is an affront (and a challenge) to their self-image.

On the other hand, Trump's emergence as crazy-in-chief has thus far worked out nicely for the Republican party regulars, both in Congress and increasingly in the administration (and eventually in the courts). As any con artist knows, the key is to get the marks to pay attention elsewhere while they pull off their manipulations unseen, and Trump is a marvelous distraction. Isn't it interesting that Trump's own staunchest campaign supporters have failed to get job offers in the new regime: Rudy Giulliani, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich? Even Kris Kobach, the only Republican in Kansas to endorse Trump before the caucuses here, was passed over despite a couple of high-profile photo ops with Trump. The only exception I can think of is former Senator, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has managed to keep a couple pet advisers like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in non-policy positions, but that's about it. He's well on his way to becoming the loneliest and most expendable man in his administration. I can't say as I'm surprised.


Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Along the way, I wandered across a lot of liberal links critical of Trump but obsessed with Russia, including posts by John Cassidy, Paul Krugman, George Packer, and David Remnick. In particular, Packer complains about "the heads of key House and Senate committees who are doing as little as possible to expose corruption and possible treason in the White House." The word that sticks in my craw there is "treason." I can't overstate how sick and tired I am of that word -- not least because it implies that we're obligated to be loyal to some hidden, unknowable, and unquestionable power. Packer goes on to describe "an authoritarian and erratic leader" -- I mean, which is it? Doesn't the latter subvert the former? He also names John McCain and Lindsey Graham as among "the few critical Republican voices" -- the only thing they've been critical of is that Trump hasn't started any new wars yet (and the word for that isn't "critical" -- it's "impatient").

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Daily Log

Don't know whether Donald Trump ever read David Ogilvy, but he's lived out Ogilvy's prime advice on living your life:

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.

Of course, that assumes you retain some memory of those cultavted eccentricities. If not, if you're just encountering 70-year-old Trump for the first time, you'll probably think he's moved well beyond gaga to batshit crazy. His press conference today certainly bears that out.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27779 [27740] rated (+39), 393 [383] unrated (+10).

Having a hard time letting go of 2016, possibly because I get the feeling I have so little to look forward to in 2017.

Queue continues to grow as I pick up 2016 list items -- seems like a lot of these came from Jason Gubbels, although Élage Diouf came from an Afropop list I found on ILXOR, and the Meridian Brothers reissue first appeared in the fine print under metal-crazed Uncle Fester's Lucky 13 (or is it psyched-out -- whatever the fuck psych is). Most interesting HMs are by Autolux, Fantastic Negrito, and Dele Sosimi (2015 releases keep sneaking in). Best jazz this week is the new Throttle Elevator Jazz Retrorespective.

Martha sounds good for next week, but needs another spin. Sampha strikes me as super-overrated (Metacritic score 86 on 24 reviews, which will most likely make it a top-20 album a year from now, somewhere between Kaytranada and Anderson Paak this year -- Tinariwen's Elwan and Jens Lekman's Life Will See You Now have 87 scores but only 8-10 reviews, so their scores are less significant).

Started reading Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, which is proving uncomfortable and more than a little annoying. Thus far (120 pages in) the main subject is the notion that liberal democracy was looking doomed in the early 1930s with fascism and bolshevism ascendant -- e.g., he cites Walter Lippman arguing for a beneficient dictatorship. Then as now the driving force behind fascism was fear, but as I read this I keep thinking, hey, don't we know better this time? Granted, the news is full of proof way too many of us don't know shit, and sensible minds are in short supply.


New records rated this week:

  • Africans With Mainframes: K.M.T. (2016, Soul Jazz): [r]: A-
  • A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper (2016, Polo Grounds/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Autolux: Pussy's Dead (2016, 30th Century/Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Heather Bambrick: You'll Never Know (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bentcousin: Bentcousin (2016, Team Love): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dierks Bentley: Black (2016, Capitol Nashville): [r]: B
  • Laura Cannell: Simultaneous Flight Movement (2016, Brawl): [r]: B+(*)
  • City Yelps: Half Hour (2016, Odd Box): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chook Race: Around the House (2016, Trouble in Mind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kweku Collins: Nat Love (2016, Closed Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (2014 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Élage Diouf: Melokáane (2016, Pump Up the World): [r]: A-
  • DJ Diamond: Footwork or Die (2016, Duck N' Cover): [r]: B-
  • Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force: Yermande (2016, Ndagga): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (2016, Blackball Universe): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Finzer: Hear & Now (2016 [2017], Outside In Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Injury Reserve: Live From the Dentist Office (2015, Las Fuegas): [sc]: B+(**)
  • Leyla McCalla: A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey (2016, Jazz Village): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cass McCombs: Mangy Love (2016, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Merso: Red World (2016, Good to Die): [r]: B+(**)
  • Moksha: The Beauty of an Arbitrary Moment (2016, Jazzland): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hannah Peel: Awake but Always Dreaming (2016, My Own Pleasure): [r]: B
  • Florian Pellissier Quintet: Cap De Bonne Esperance (2016, Heavenly Sweetness): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luis Perdomo: Spirits and Warriors (2016, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Renegades of Jazz: Moyo Wangu (2016, Agogo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carrie Rodriguez: Lola (2016, Luz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sampha: Process (2017, Young Turks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Scarcity of Tanks: Ringleader Lies (2016, Total Life Society): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sneaks: It's a Myth (2016, Merge, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dele Sosimi: You No Fit Touch Am (2015, Wah Wah 45s): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dele Sosimi Meets Prince Fatty & Nostalgia 77: You No Fit Touch Am in Dub (2016, Wah Wah 45s): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: IV (2014-16 [2016], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: Retrorespective (2016 [2017], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trouble Kaze: June (2016 [2017], Circum-Disc): [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • J Dilla: The Diary (2001-02 [2016], Mass Appeal/Pay Jay): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doing It in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980's Nigeria (1979-84 [2016], Soundway, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Arthur Lipner: Two Hands One Heart: Best of Arthur Lipner (1990-2014 [2017], Malletworks Media, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Meridian Brothers V: El Advenimiento del Castillo Mujer (2005 [2016], Discrepant): [r]: A-
  • Joe Newman Sextet: The Happy Cats (1956 [2016], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (Whaling City Sound): February 24
  • Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (Inner Circle Music): March 10
  • Ballrogg: Abaft the Beam (Clean Feed)
  • Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (Clean Feed)
  • Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (Akua's Music)
  • Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (Whaling City Sound): February 24, should be 2CD but only one arrived
  • Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (Clean Feed)
  • Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination (UpHill Productions)
  • Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (Addo): February 24
  • Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton (OA2): February 17
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (Clean Feed)
  • Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE): May 5
  • Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (Clean Feed)
  • Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (Origin): February 17

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Running the image again. I doubt I'll really keep that up for four years, but for now it inspires me to dig up this shit.

Still need to write up something about Matt Taibbi's Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus -- recently read, although it recycles a lot that I had previously read, including a sizable chunk of Taibbi's 2009 book The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire -- an excavation so profound that Maureen Dowd snarfed up a keyword for her own regurgitation of campaign columns, The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics (a title which makes me wonder how she would have faired in Taibbi's 2004 Wimblehack -- see Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches From the Dumb Season).

Still, I suspect that the weakness of both Taibbi and Dowd books is their focus on the more obvious story: how ridiculous the Republicans were (a subject that served Taibbi best in 2008 when he compiled his brief Smells Like Dead Elephants before taking the time to craft The Great Deformation). In retrospect, the real story wasn't how Trump won, but how Hillary Clinton lost. Looking ahead, books by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, out April 18) and/or Doug Wead (Game of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's Winning Strategy, February 28) promise some insight (or at least insider dope). Still, I doubt anyone is going to write something that satisfactorily explains the whole election for some time.

One thing that keeps eating at me about the election is that while Trump's polls oscillated repeatedly, falling whenever voters got a chance to compare him side-by-side (as in the debates, or even more strongly comparing the two conventions), then bouncing back on the rare weeks when he didn't say something scandalous, Clinton's polls never came close to topping 50%. She was, in short, always vulnerable, and all Trump needed to get close was a couple weeks where he seemed relatively sane (on top of all that Koch money organizing down ballot, especially in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and the Midwest). I doubt if any other Republican could have beat Clinton: Trump's ace in the hole was his antithesis to Washington insider-dom, which gave him credibility she couldn't buy (despite massive evidence that he was the crooked one). But just as importantly, Trump suckered her into campaigning on high-minded centrism (including support from nearly everyone in the permanent defense/foreign affairs eatablishment), which weakened her support among traditional Democrats. Any other Republican would have forced her to run as a Democrat, and she would have been better off for that.

Again, it's not that working people rationally thought they'd be better off with Trump. It's just that too many didn't feel any affinity for or solidarity with her. Of course, those who discovered their own reasons for voting against the Republicans -- which includes the left, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, single women, and others the Democrats bank on but don't invest in -- voted for her anyway. But others needed to be reminded of the differences between the parties, and Clinton didn't do a good job at that (nor did Obama give her much to build on, as he almost never blamed Republicans for undermining his efforts).

Meanwhile, Trump's net favorability polling is down to -15.


Some links on the Trump world this week:


Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political insanity:

  • At TomDispatch this week: Tom Engelhardt: Crimes of the Trump Era (a Preview); Rajan Menon: Is President Trump Headed for a War with China?. Menon, by the way, has a book called The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention (2016). Regarding China, I'm reminded of a scenario sketched out by the late Chalmers Johnson: suppose a country launched a dumptruck-load of gravel into earth orbit (something well within China's capability); it would in short order destroy every satellite (including China's, but most are American or owned by corporations). Without killing any people, the economic effects would be devastating, and it would cripple America's ability to spy on friend and foe, or indeed to direct foreign wars. I'd argue that this capability all by itself makes China too big to attack (Russia, of course, could do the same, at more cost to itself; moreover, the technology isn't far out for emerging rocket builders, notably Iran and North Korea). Given these realities, the US would be well advised to work on cooperation instead of intimidation. Still, that's not Trump's style, nor is it China's: "Xi Jinping, like Trump, presents himself as a tough guy, sure to trounce his enemies at home and abroad. Retaining that image requirse that he not bend when it comes to defending China's land and honor." Neocon Robert Kagan has his own alarming scenario: Backint Into World War III. But then he's arguing to march forward into conflict, rather than back into it -- which, by the way, he sees Trump doing in his "further accommodation of Russia" (as opposed to his "tough" stance against China).

  • Stan Finger: Police seek answers, reversal as aggravated assaults surge: Could a 50% increase in aggravated assault cases since the 2013 passage of Kansas' "open carry" gun law have anything to do with that law? Minds boggle, especially as the delayed opening up of open gun carry on college campuses is looming. One complaint is new gun toters haven't been "properly trained," but wasn't a big part of the 2013 law the elimination of training requirements?

    Also in the Eagle today: Dion Lefler/Stan Finger: Race to replace Pompeo in Congress is down to three candidates: Republicans nominated Brownback crony Ron Estes, while the Democrats are backing civil rights attorney James Thompson, who will hopefully turn the election to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo into a referendum on the Trump and Brownback administrations. (Salon has a piece by Rosana Hegeman on Thompson.) Also: Dion Lefler: 1,500 Sanders tickets sold so far, leading to move to a bigger venue, who will be speaking in Topeka on February 25.

  • Sayed Kashua: Preparing My Kids for the New America: One thing I've long noted is how much the right-wing, traditionally the last bastion of anti-semitism, has grown to admire Israel. So as they consolidate their power, it shouldn't be surprising that they're starting to make America look more like Israel, or that the first to notice would be Palestinians who lived in (and fled from) Israel.

  • John McQuaid: Coastal cities in danger: Florida has seen bad effects from Trump-like climate gag orders: North Carolina, too. Also, John Upton: Coastal Cities Could Flood Three Times a Week by 2045.

  • Daniel Oppenheimer: Not Yet Falling Apart: "Two thinkers on the left offer a guide to navigating the stormy seas of modernity." Quasi-review of Mark Lilla's The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction, trying to contrast it with Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (due for a new edition, with Trump eclipsing Palin, as indeed it does get worse, not to mention dumber). Oppenheimer make much of Lilla reviewing (and panning) Robin's book, then not including the review in his short collection (like Robin, the book stakes out the terrain of a broad, systematic study but falls short by recycling old book reviews -- in this case "thinkers" such as Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, Eric Vogelin, and Michel Houllebecq).

Monday, February 06, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27740 [27708] rated (+32), 383 [363] unrated (+20).

Failed to get this posted on Monday (or Tuesday before I finally went to bed) for the first time since I can't remember. The immediate cause on Monday was that I got distracted researching possible fixes for a faulty ice maker. Yesterday I wound up ordering a part which may not be the total fix but is at least necessary. I agree with the proposition of a movie called The Mosquito Coast that "ice is civilization," so this is a matter of some import. (That movie, by the way, was the first place I really noticed Helen Mirren.)

Then I wound up wasting much of Tuesday adding Metacritic's Top Ten Lists to my EOY Aggregate. Thought I was done with that, and indeed I had moved on to resume work on my Jazz Guides (finally getting through the 2001-09 notebooks and into Rhapsody Streamnotes). But I kept thinking it would be nice to hit the bottom before posting, and it didn't happen until early Wednesday evening. Then I found ILXOR's thread, so I've started scanning through it. I don't expect these additions to change positions much -- although there are some close ones: Solange leads Tribe for 5th by 5 (437-432), Chance passed Nick Cave for 7th (395-378), Bon Iver's hold on 11th has been slipping to Anderson Paak (318-314), Car Seat Headrest has grabbed 14th from Anohni (276-264), Rihanna edged into 16th ahead of Danny Brown (230-225), Kaytranada barely holds 18th over Mitski (202-201).

Below you'll find a typical long list of records: a little bit of 2017 jazz and a lot of interesting-looking 2016 EOY list items, few of which panned out. I had a lot of trouble with the XX album too -- Michael Tatum likes it, and hopefully will write about it soon. Took me a lot of plays, but I found my favorite song from the album rattling around in my head several days later. You might note that two albums (Injury Reserve, The Hamilton Mixtape) from last week's Expert Witness fell just short (after 2-3 plays), while I previously graded two of Bob's HMs at A- (Atmosphere, Ka; I had Noname and J Cole at **). I've since caught up with two other albums (Kool A.D. and the older Injury Reserve, having to go to Bandcamp and Soundcloud respectively), but I couldn't find the politically timely Battle Hymns.

One thing you'll note below is seven SteepleChase releases. The Danish label, notorious for never sending out promos, has recently appeared on Napster, so after noticing that I've been looking through their recent release lists. Chris Byars is an artist I've wanted to catch up on -- his Photos in Black, White and Gray was a JCG Pick Hit in 2007, and after he moved to SteepleChase the one record I did get a chance to hear, 2011's Lucky Strikes Again, is a terrific Lucky Thompson tribute. Still most of his catalog isn't on Napster. Hopefully they'll eventually get the whole back catalog up: Nils Winther founded the label in 1972, starting out with expat Americans like Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan, and wound up being a refuge for dozens of important mainstream jazz players (like Byars). I count 17 A/A- records in my database, but there are surely dozens more I haven't heard.

Lot of incoming mail last week, much of it promising. I got another package from Clean Feed today (not listed below). Despite my tardiness, this week's list was cut off Sunday night. Been listening to more of the same the last couple days.


New records rated this week:

  • Oren Ambarchi: Hubris (2016, Editions Mego): [r]: A-
  • Ballister: Slag (2015 [2017], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joe Bourne: Upbeat and Sweet (2016 [2017], Summit): [cd]: C
  • Chris Byars: Two Fives (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chris Byars: The Music of Frank Strozier (2015 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond: Nobody Does It Better (2013 [2017], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Carla dal Forno: You Know What It's Like (2016, Blackest Ever Black): [r]: B+(*)
  • Death Grips: Bottomless Pit (2016, Third Worlds/Harvest): [r]: B+(*)
  • Olegario Diaz: Aleph in Chromatic (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dvsn: Sept. 5th (2016, OVO Sound/Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Flat Five: It's a World of Love and Hate (2016, Bloodshot): [r]: B-
  • Injury Reserve: Floss (2016, Las Fuegas): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kirk Knuffke/Jesse Stacken: Satie (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • Kool AD: Official (2016, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Michel Lambert: Alom Mola (2016 [2017], Jazz From Rant): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jihye Lee Orchestra: April (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Okkyung Lee & Christian Marclay: Amalgam (2014 [2016], Northern Spy): [r]: B
  • James Brandon Lewis Trio: No Filter (2016, BNS Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: The Twilight Fall (2016 [2017], Browntasaurus): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe: Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) (2016 [2017], Colloquy): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Awa Poulo: Poulo Warali (2016 [2017], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Primal Scream: Chaosmosis (2016, First International/Ignition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stephen Riley & Peter Zak: Haunted Heart (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stephen Riley/Peter Zak: Deuce (2014 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Roosevelt: Roosevelt (2016, City Slang): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sao Paulo Underground: Cantos Invisiveis (2016, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Skee Mask: Shred (2016, Ilian Tape): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baron Tymas: Montréal (2015 [2017], Tymasmusic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The XX: I See You (2017, Young Turks): [r]: A-
  • Peter Zak: Standards (2014 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • The Hamilton Mixtape (2016, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • New York Noise: Dance Music From the New York Underground 1977-1982 (1977-82 [2016], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Anthony Braxton: Quintet (London) 2004: Live at the Royal Festival Hall (2004 [2005], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Moscow) 2008 (2008, Leo): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (Skirl)
  • AMP Trio: Three (self-released)
  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed)
  • Gianni Bianchini: Type I (self-released): February 21
  • Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (self-released, 2CD): advance
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed)
  • Bill Evans/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Beauty & the Beast (Spartacus)
  • Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hound (Cortez Sound): February 10
  • Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (Clean Feed)
  • Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (Clean Feed)
  • Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
  • Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Firehouse 12 (Clean Feed)
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Blue Skylight (Capri): February 17
  • Billy Mintz: Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note): March 7
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup): February 24
  • The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (JMood)
  • Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (Loyal Label)
  • Keith Oxman: East of the Village (Capri)
  • Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (self-released)
  • The Reunion Project: Veranda (Tapestry)
  • Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Effervescence (Spartacus): February 24
  • Hiromi Suda: Nagi (BluJazz)
  • Trouble Kaze: June (Circum-Disc): March 3

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Picked up this image off Twitter. Looks like we've found our Weekend Roundup motto, for the next four years anyways. More links than usual because so much shit's been happening. Less commentary than in the old days because it's all so straightforwardly obvious.

I had meant to write about Matt Taibbi's book Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus, but should hold off and do that later. I will say that the big problems with the book are due to the concept: it mostly a compilation of previously published pieces, so tends to preserve the moment's misconceptions in amber rather than taking the time to rethink the story from its conclusion in a way that might make more sense of it all. On the other hand, it didn't make sense, and still doesn't make sense, and as the consequences of the election unfold becomes more and more surreal. In Taibbi's defense, he probably had a better grasp both of Trump's appeal and of Clinton's repulsion than any journalist I can think of. Also does a heroic job of not mincing words, and remains exceptionally conscious of how presidential campaigns warp the media space around them. Still, he can't quite believe how it turned out, and neither can I.


A short bit from a New York Times "By the Book" interview with Viet Tranh Nguyen (wrote a novel, The Sympathizer, which my wife read and loved):

I've been reading news and opinion pieces on Facebook and Twitter. They're utterly terrifying and depressing, since my social circle basically thinks that a Trump presidency spells the end of the world. To get out of the echo chamber, I read Donald Trump's Twitter feed. It's utterly terrifying and depressing, and I run back into the echo chamber.

I take comfort in the children's literature that I read to my 3-year-old son. He will tolerate the tales of Beatrix Potter, which I find soothing, but mostly he wants to hear about Batman, Superman, Ghostbusters and Star Wars. The moral clarity is comforting not just for a 3-year-old, but also for many adults. This is why they are relevant to our divided age, where most people identify with the rebels but so many in fact are complicit with the Empire.

The links below, of course, come from the left-liberal echo chamber (well, plus some anti-war paleo-conservatives). They're the ones paying attention (in some cases a welcome change after sleepwalking through the Obama years).


I picked this up off Twitter, but I also saw the video clip (OK, on Saturday Night Live, but it sure looked authentic. Comes from Bill O'Reilly interviewing Trump:

O'REILLY: But he's a killer though. Putin's a killer.

TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think -- our country's so innocent?

There are a lot of things one can say about this. For one thing it's true, which isn't often the case with Trump. But it's hardly a revelation. It's just something that no politician would say -- least of all someone like Obama or the Clintons who have personally signed off on execution orders then gone on to gloat about their killings in public. So you can chalk Trump's admission up to his anti-PC ethic: his willingness to call out truths in blunt language. But more specifically, he's denying O'Reilly resort to a PC cliché. He's saying you can't dismiss working with Putin out of hand because he's a killer. We're all killers here -- Trump joined the club last week in ordering a Seal Team 6 assault in Yemen -- so that hardly disqualifies Putin. The disturbing part is that being a killer is probably something Trump admires in Putin. Back during the campaign, Trump not only vowed to kill ostensible enemies like ISIS, he talked on several occasions about shooting random people on Fifth Avenue, like the ability to do that and not be held accountable would be the pinnacle of freedom. Being elected president doesn't quite afford him that latitude, but it does offer plenty of opportunities to indulge his blood lust. Worse still, Trump's championing of killers helps establish murder as a political and social norm. Sure, assassination has been sanctioned as expedient politics by US presidents at least as far back as Kennedy, but Trump threatens to make it a uniquely new bragging point.

As this and similar stories play out, all sorts of nonsense is likely to ensue. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at Adam Gopnik: Trump's Radical Anti-Americanism. The truth is that America has a long history of split-personality disorder, at once touting lofty progressive intentions while having committed a long series of inexcusable atrocities. So will the real America stand up? At least with the exceptionalist cant you knew they'd try to put on a kind and honorable face. But with Trump and his more bloodthirsty followers, you're liable to get something else: a celebration of the underside of American history, a legacy that celebrates brutal and ruthless conquest.


Some scattered links this week:

Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political insanity:


Jan 2017 Mar 2017