December 2017 Notebook
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28995 [28950] rated (+45), 388 [390] unrated (-2).

First time I calculated the rated count I came up with 31, which looked way low. A closer look kicked it up to 37, and then I went back and rechecked everything in the rated list and found a bunch of records missing grades. I also recalled that I had played two Yaeji EPs, so fixed that. Final rated total winds up pretty close to the upper bounds of a good, solid week. Contributing were two things: one was that I was recuperating from the previous week's cooking madness, taking it easy with hardly any distractions; the other was that I used a good deal of my chill time aggregating EOY lists, which suggested a lot of records to check out. Can't say as they've generated a lot of finds thus far, although one list pointed me to the legendary Kenyan band, and their label's Bandcamp page led me to the Andina compilation. My tip for the '90s pop compilation came from Robert Christgau (at the time I couldn't find the other one he liked, Now That's What I Call Tailgate Anthems, but I've found it now, so next week).

I finally got the Jazz Critics Poll ballot data last night, so I'm swamped with work to do to check and format that data. Still not sure when NPR is going to run -- probably this week, quite possibly before I get my part done. Otherwise I'd write something about how the EOY list aggregate is shaping up, but I suppose you can see for yourself. As I initially suspected, Kendrick Lamar's Damn is well ahead, with the next four slots very close (83-78 by my count, compared to 114 for Lamar and 55 for 6th place Vince Staples: Lorde, LCD Soundsystem, SZA, and St. Vincent. I've compiled far fewer lists than I have in recent years, but I'll note that AOTY's 2017 Music Year End List Aggregate currently shows the same top six albums in the same order (although they have Lorde opening up a clear gap over a virtual tie between LCD Soundsystem and SZA). Their top ten rounds out with War on Drugs, Father John Misty, Sampha, and National, with Slowdive 11th. My top 11 has the same records, order slightly shuffled.

After that we disagree more, with Mount Eerie dropping from 12th on their list to 28th on mine; Tyler the Creator from 13th to 19th; the XX from 21st to 38th, Taylor Swift from 36th to 68th. There are fewer dramatic improvements on my list, although the early UK bias certainly helps Jane Weaver (from 40th to 16th). I'll know more, and be able to say more, next week. One thing I will note is that my list has picked up on so few jazz lists that it's completely useless for predicting the Jazz Critics Poll.

One final note: after reviewing it, I discovered that Octopus is actually scheduled for Jan. 28, 2018 release, so it doesn't appear in my 2017 Jazz List. I did find the FCT album after I cast my Jazz Critics Poll ballot, so as usual it took me just a few days to find an A- album I had missed.


New records rated this week:

  • Bargou 08: Targ (2017, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice (2017, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pan Daijing: Lack (2017, Pan): [r]: B-
  • Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (2016 [2018], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • Angelo Divino: Love A to Z (2017, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Fabiano Do Nascimento: Tempo dos Mestres (2017, Now-Again): [r]: B+(**)
  • FCT = Francesco Cusa Trio Meets Carlo Atti: From Sun Ra to Donald Trump (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Nick Fraser: Is Life Long? (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Friesen: Structures (2017, Origin, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Aldous Harding: Party (2017, 4AD): [r]: B
  • Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste: Reverso: Suite Pavel (2017 [2018], Phonoart): [cd]: B+(**)
  • King Krule: The OOZ (2017, True Panther Sounds): [r]: B
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B-
  • Joao Lencastre's Communion 3: Movements in Freedom (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Van Morrison: Versatile (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Order: NOMC15 (Pledge Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gard Nilssen's Complete Unity: Live in Europe (2016 [2017], Clean Feed, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orchestre Les Mangelepa: Last Band Standing (2017, Strut): [r]: A-
  • Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens (2017, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (2017, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Princess Nokia: 1992 Deluxe (2017, Rough Trade): [r]: B
  • Nadia Reid: Preservation (2017, Basin Rock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Riddlore: Afro Mutations (2015 [2016], Nyege Nyege Tapes): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rina Sawayama: Rina (2017, The Vinyl Factory, EP): [r]: B-
  • Sirius: Acoustic Main Suite Plus the Inner One (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: The Kid (2017, Western Vinyl): [r]: B
  • Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 2 (2017, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Swift: Reputation (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tune Recreation Committee: Voices of Our Vision (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding (2017, Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology (2017, Fire): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wolf Alice: Visions of a Life (2017, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yaeji: Yaeji (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yaeji: EP 2 (2017, Godmode, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet: Vol. 2 (2017, Modica Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Visitor (2017, Reprise): [r]: B
  • Waclaw Zimpel/Jakub Ziolek: Zimpel/Ziolek (2017, Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Andina: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 (1968-78 [2017], Tiger's Milk/Strut): [r]: A-
  • Bro. Valentino: Stay Up Zimbabwe (1979-80 [2017], Analog Africa, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Oté Maloya: The Birth of Electric Maloya on Réunion Island 1975-1986 (1975-86 [2017], Strut): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Now That's What I Call 90s Pop (1990s [2017], UMG/Sony): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Taylor Swift: 1989 (2014, Big Machine): [r]: B+(***)
  • Waclaw Zimpel: Lines (2015 [2016], Instant Classic): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp: Heptagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Jeff Cosgrove: Live in Baltimore (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (Leo, 2CD)
  • Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley/Brandon Lopez/Gerald Cleaver: Octagon (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Nate Wooley: Philosopher's Stone (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Joe Hertenstein: Scalene (Leo)
  • Takaaki: New Kid in Town (Troy)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekend Roundup

The Democrats in Congress, especially the leadership, have had a really bad week, and I fear they've inflicted grave wounds on themselves. John Conyers and Al Franken have resigned after enormous pressure from the party leadership, leaving the party with fewer votes, summarily ending two notable careers. I especially blame Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer. Back in 2016 Hillary Clinton like to posit a "Commander-in-Chief Test," figuring she'd compare favorably to Donald Trump by emphasizing her own fondness for military adventures -- I think her hawkishness was a big part of why she lost, but my point isn't to rehash her delusions. Rather, what we saw last week was a "Shop Steward" test, which Pelosi and Shumer utterly failed. They let a little media pressure blow them over. More importantly, they failed to insist on due process, on the most basic principles of traditional American justice, and in doing so they sacrificed political standing and insulted and demeaned the voters who had elected Conyers and Franken.

Supposedly, one thing the Democrats hope to achieve in sacking Conyers and Franken is "the moral high ground" -- demonstrating their superior sensitivity to and concern for victims of sexual misconduct (pretty broadly defined). In theory, this will pay off in defeating Roy Moore in next week's Alabama Senate race and/or in putting pressure on Donald Trump to resign. In fact, Trump was elected president after 19 women accused him of various shades of assault, and after he bragged about as much. While Moore is facing a closer election than Alabama Republicans are used to, he remains the favorite to win Tuesday. And while some Democrats imagine that if Moore wins the Senate will refuse to seat him, I can't imagine the Republicans sacrificing power like that. Nor, quite frankly, should they. (The only duly elected member I can recall either branch of Congress refusing to seat was Adam Clayton Powell, in a shameful travesty -- although, come to think of it, they did take months before allowing Al Franken to enter.)


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that mattered in politics this week: The tax reform hit some snags ("Senate Republicans appear to have written a corporate AMT provision that they intended to raise a little bit of revenue in a sloppy way that actually raises a ton of revenue and alienates the businesses who were supposed to benefit from a big tax cut"); President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Al Franken announced he'll resign; The government will stay open for a couple of weeks. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • We have a trial date: March 19, "the beginning of the trial at which the Justice Department will seek to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner." There is no shortage of good reasons for blocking this merger, and indeed for untangling all of the past mergers between data transit and content companies, although it's surprising to see Trump's DOJ lifting a finger to prevent the further concentration of predatory corporate power.

    • Apple could get a staggering $47 billion windfall from the tax bill:

      What's particularly striking about this windfall is that though Apple has been a fierce advocate for corporate tax reform -- $47 billion is a lot of money after all -- Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained over and over again that shoveling billions into his corporate treasury won't boost his investment spending.

      He already has plenty of cash, but beyond that, when Cook wants Apple to invest more, he borrows the money.

    • Tomorrow's financial crisis today: Points out that less than ten years after the worst recession since the 1930s Trump's administration is working to undermine the Treasury's Office of Financial Research and "let banks take on more risky debt:

      The nature of a banking crisis is you probably won't have one in any given year, regardless of how shoddy your regulatory framework is. As long as asset prices are trending upward, it just doesn't matter. In fact, as long as asset prices are trending upward, a poorly regulated banking sector will be more profitable than a well-regulated one.

      It's all good. Unless things blow up. But if your bad policymaking takes us from a one-in-500 chance of a blow-up in any given year to a one-in-20 chance, you're still in a world where things will probably be fine across even an entire eight-year span in office. Probably.

      Trump has taken a lot of risky bets in his life. And though he's often lost, he's usually been insulated by his inherited wealth and by his very real skill at structuring deals so other people end up holding a lot of the downside. Any presidency inherently has that kind of structure with or without skill. Presidents suffer when they make mistakes, but other people suffer more.

      ?he key phrase here is "as long as asset prices are trending upward." The surest way to keep asset prices rising is to let rich people make and keep more money, which is what happened from the Bush tax cuts forward to 2007-08. What broke then turned out to be pretty simple: a big chunk of those assets were built on subprime mortgages, and the people who signed up for the mortgages weren't able to grow their incomes enough to cover their debts, so they defaulted; meanwhile, the banks had leveraged themselves so much they couldn't cover their losses, so they started to fail in a cascade that threatened to make the "domino theory" look like small potatoes. But the government, especially the Fed, stepped in and pumped several trillions of dollars into the banks to prop them up so they could unwind their losses more gracefully, while the government did very little to help the little people who suffered the brunt of the recession. (I was going to say "virtually nothing," but things like extended unemployment benefits did help keep the recession from matching the desolation caused by the Great Depression.) We're already seeing asset bubbles in things like the stock market. The whole point of Trump's tax cuts and deregulation is to feed this bubble, even though there is no clear way to sustain the trend or to appease the financier's appetite for ever greater profits. Coupled with a massive collapse of business ethics -- this has been growing since the "greed is good" Reagan era, but Trump is an even more shocking role model -- it's only a matter of time before the whole edifice collapses.

    • We need a healthier conversation about partisanship and sexual assault.

    • The tax bill is a tax cut, not a culture war: Pushes back against the idea that Republicans chose targets to "reform" by how much they would hurt "blue states" (the SALT deduction being the obvious example). Shows that the overriding reasoning behind the cuts/reforms is to favor the rich over the poor, regardless of where they may live or do business. Of course, the real cost to poor and working Americans won't appear in scoring the bill -- it will come later in the form of service cuts and the ever-widening chasm between "haves and have-nots."

    • Republicans need Roy Moore to pass their tax bill.

    • Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from.

    • Democrats need to get a grip about the budget deficit: "The tax bill is bad, the debt is fine." ARgues that "Bush's deficits were fine and Trump's will be too" and that "Obama's deficits were way too small."

    • Don't worry about the debt.

  • Matthew Cole/Jeremy Scahill: Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter "Deep State" Enemies: Evidently one of Erik Prince's schemes, notably backed by Oliver North. One suspicious point is that the scheme would still report to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, figuring him more loyal to Trump than to the "Deep State" he nominally manages a big chunk of. Also see Aram Roston: Private War: Erik Prince Has H is Eye on Afghanistan's Rare Metals. Evidently the mercenary leader is trying to turn his private army into some sort of modern British East India Company colossus.

  • Juliet Eilperin: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument: Helps explain why Trump and Zinke radically shrunk the borders of the National Monument (see maps). The land still belongs to the federal government, but will now be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For info on what that means, see Adam Federman: This Is How the Trump Administration Gives Big Oil the Keys to Public Lands.

  • Tara Golsham: Rep. Trent Franks, who is resigning immediately, offered staffer $5 million to be his baby surrogate: One of the more bizarre stories of recent weeks: Arizona Republican, "a deeply conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the most pro-life members of Congress. Evidently he has that kind of money, and assumes it entitles him to run roughshod over others.

  • Jim Kirby: Hillary Clinton's emails got as much front-page coverage in 6 days as policy did in 69: An analysis of New York Times -- your newspaper or preferred media source may vary (with some never matching that 6-day email window), but for a supposedly sober and serious news source, that's pretty disgusting. One might argue that Hillary's email controversy speaks to her character, but no more so than hundreds or thousands of Donald Trump anecdotes. Even so, you'd think it sensible that news coverage of an election would focus more on likely policies and future scenarios than on past personal quirks. The only excuse I can think of is that today's campaigns are often as shallow as the media covering them -- or at least try to be.

  • Rashid Khalidi: After Jerusalem, the US Can No Longer Pretend to Be an Honest Broker of Peace: Actually, that was clear even before Trump ordered the US embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Khalidi knows damn well -- he's even written a whole book about it: Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. What I've yet to see anyone comment on is why the US didn't move the embassy earlier. The basic reason is respect for international law, which as this week's announcement shows has sunken to new lows in Washington. The 1947 UN resolution proposing partition of the British Mandate in Palestine -- a resolution that David Ben-Gurion lobbied fervently for -- called for dividing the Mandate into two states, but keeping Jerusalem separate as an international area. Immediately on declaring independence in 1948, Israel launched a military offensive aimed at expanding on the borders the UN prescribed. The main target of that offensive was Jerusalem, which wound up divided between Israeli and Jordanian forces. In 1967 Israel launched another war and drove Jordan from East Jerusalem and the West Bank -- territories that the UN ordered Israel to return, despite Israel's almost immediate annexation of Jerusalem and environs. Israel's de facto control of Jerusalem has never been squared away with the rulings of international law, so no country with respect for international law has conceded Israel's claim. "Until now," you might say, but the US has increasingly shown contempt for international law, and this is just one more example.

    By the way, a headline in the Wichita Eagle today: "After US decision on Jerusalem, Gaza protests turn deadly." First line of article explains how: "Two Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday after rocket fire from the enclave hit an Israeli town, as the death toll in violence linked to President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital rose to four." No damage was reported from the Gazan rockets. For info about the other two deaths, see: Peter Beaumont/Patrick Wintour: Two Palestinians shot dead and one critical in riots after Trump speech. Also: Raja Shehadeh: I have witnessed two intifadas. Trump's stance on Israel may ignite a third.

  • Sarah Kliff: Obamacare sign-ups defy Trump's sabotage campaign.

  • German Lopez: Roy Moore: America "was great at the time when families were united -- even though he had slavery." Anyone who thinks that the problem with Moore is his fondness for underaged girls clearly hasn't paid any attention to his politics or to his political legacy. More worrying is Moore's unwavering contempt for the law -- after all, Moore has been stripped of his position on the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to submit to federal law, specifically the First Amendment. When Donald Trump tries to tout Moore as the "law and order candidate" he does little more than expose his own flimsy and dicey relationship to the law. (Meanwhile, Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, has a distinguished record as a federal prosecutor, credentials that only someone as reality-challenged as Trump can readily dismiss.) I wish I could say that Moore's casual endorsement of slavery is even more shocking, but we've always known him to be a racist. After all, Alabama's given us George Wallace and Jeff Sessions, so how much worse can Moore be? Well, this statement is a pretty good example: "I think it [America] was great at the time when families were united -- even though we had slavery. They cared for one another. People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction." The most obvious problem is that slavery was a system which denied family life and bonds, one that allowed slaveowners to prevent or break families by selling members. He could hardly be clearer that he doesn't regard blacks as people -- as Lopez notes, only one of many blind bigotries Moore espouses. Still, I detect another curious note in the quote: it's like he's trying to channel ideologues like George Fitzhugh who tried to defend slavery as anti-capitalist -- an alternative to the coarse materialism that Bible-thumpers like Moore so despise.

    More on Moore:

  • Andrew Prokop: Michael Flynn's involvement in a plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East is looking even shadier: More "Russia" scandal this past week, but one should recall that Russian schemes under Putin have nothing to do with fomenting world revolution or curtailing US imperial ambitions: they're founded on pure oligarchic greed, which isn't at all unlike the Trump approach to business. E.g., this piece summarizes a "whistleblower" report about a deal Flynn was working on:

    According to the whistleblower, [Alex] Copson flat-out said the following things:

    • That he "just got" a text message from Flynn saying the nuclear plant project was "good to go," and that his business colleagues should "put things in place"
    • That Flynn was making sure sanctions on Russia would be "ripped up," which would let the project go forward
    • That this was the "best day" of his life, and that the project would "make a lot of very wealthy people"
    • That the project would also provide a pretext for expanding a US military presence in the Middle East (the pretext of defending the nuclear plants)
    • That citizens of Middle Eastern countries would be better off "when we recolonize the Middle East"
  • David Roberts: A moment of truth arrives for Rick Perry's widely hated coal bailout: Long article, really should be a much bigger scandal than anything having to do with "sexual misconduct" -- with billions of dollars of benefits going to five coal companies, paid for by rate hikes from millions of consumers, and championed by a moron like Rick Perry, it wouldn't even take much of a stretch from the media to blow this up, but evidently they're too lazy to care.

  • Aja Romano: MSNBC won't cut ties to Sam Seder after all: succumbing to alt-right outrage was a "mistake": Another cautionary tale, showing you can't trust anything reported on right-wing media, and that the kneejerk "zero tolerance" reactions of "liberal" media combines are set up perfectly to be scammed. More: Ryan Grim: MSNBC Reverses Decision to Fire Contributor Sam Seder.

  • Mark Joseph Stern: The Trump Administration Just Declared War on Public Sector Unions.

  • Corey Williams/David Eggert: Conyers' Congressional Seat Won't Be Filled for Nearly a Year: So, Nancy Pelosi browbeat Conyers into resigning his seat, certain that a Democrat would replace him -- the current gerrymander of Michigan concedes that -- but evidently the Republican governor of Michigan can simply hold the seat open for a whole year?

Monday, December 04, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28950 [28931] rated (+19), 390 [391] unrated (-1).

I spent most of last week planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking a massive dinner for the Wichita Peace Center's 25th Annual Dinner, with major (indispensable) help from Janice Bradley, Max Stewart, and Russ Pataki, with a few others pitching in on dinner days, notably including people I didn't know who hung around to help clean up. I fixed a range of Indian dishes: lamb and potatoes in a cream sauce (rogani gosht), tandoori chicken in a tomato-butter sauce (makhni), fish tikka, patiala pilaf (minus the fried onions), a sweet potato/chickpea curry, mattar paneer (peas with cheese), bharta (smoked eggplant), cabbage, kali dal, cucumber raita. We served appetizers at the tables, including a minted aloo chat (potato salad), coconut relish, pineapple sambal, a hot tomato chutney, paratha (flatbread), tapioca chips, a couple of store-bought chutneys (brinjal, lime pickle). Had spice cake and a Moroccan fruit salad for dessert. Best compliment I had was when one friend came up to me and cooed in my ear, "the food is divine." I had my quibbles with the fish and rice -- partly frustration as they were the last things done and both ran into unexpected problems.

Mark McCormick was the featured speaker (buy his new book here). He gave a nice speech, and was even better fielding questions, stressing how we've become disconnected and desensitized to the problems around us. Partial proof of that was evident in the disappointing turnout: a little over 40 people this year, compared to 60 last year. (Not getting an accurate RSVP count until too late, I prepared food for 60, so we had a lot left over.) I was pretty much a wreck by the time it was done. Doubt I'll be able to do it again, but afterwards Max was trying to figure out ways to spread the work out -- I've never been very good at delegating -- and I was wondering whether paella might scale up better. Don't need to decide for nearly a year.

I published the November roll-up of Streamnotes last week. on Tuesday. With everything else going on, I didn't expect I'd be able to find anything new to add to what I had noted last Music Week. But I found four of this week's five A- records in the day between Music Week and Streamnotes: the David S. Ware archival set (from 2010, so still new enough) wasn't unexpected, and the two Chicago tenor saxophonists (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, dba Made to Break and Boneshaker, respectively) were right up my alley. But Re-TROS, a tip from Chris Monsen's 2017-in-progress list, was totally unexpected: a Chinese alt-rock group, at times (but not all the time) sounding like a cross between Pulnoc and Konono No. 1 (on Bandcamp, by the way).

December 3 was the deadline for ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll. I resorted my top jazz picks and submitted the following:

New records:

  1. William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (AUM Fidelity, 2CD)
  2. Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra)
  3. Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
  4. Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (Intakt)
  5. Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
  6. Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain)
  7. Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz)
  8. François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (FMR)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup)
  10. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (Not Two)

Reissues or historical:

  1. American Epic: The Collection (1916-36, Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 5CD)
  2. Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999, NoBusiness)
  3. The Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance)

Vocal album: Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)

Debut album: Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz) -- I allowed that if groups aren't eligible (leader Michael McNeill has several albums under his own name) the best individual pick is probably Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl).

Latin Jazz album: Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro) -- I noted that Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music) was actually higher on my list, but I thought Alegria's album was more Latin Jazzy.

My ranking is highly proximate. Parker is the only download, and I probably haven't played it enough, but the two contrasting quartets reminds me of Ornette Coleman's marvelous In All Languages, where he split a double-LP among two groups (more distinctive ones than Parker's). Each half is potentially great, but I still haven't moved it above the A- bin. I replayed maybe half of the top ten last week, but there's still not a lot of distance from top to bottom, or even throughout the A-list.

I was going to make a comment based on something Robert Christgau said in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, but I can't look up the quote due to an "ad blocker" snit fit I don't feel like indulging. As best I recall, he said something about most critics viewing EOY lists as personal branding exercises. My list can be viewed that way. To the extent that I have a brand, or a public persona, it's that of someone who listens far and wide, doesn't follow fashion, and doesn't want to get pigeonholed. On the other hand, this year's list is more avant than usual, and leans toward people I've repeatedly favored in the past -- something I've noticed a lot this past year (while suspecting as some kind of a rut, but not caring enough to break out of).

My Best Non-Jazz of 2017 list is even more problematical, not least because I've cared for it less. I haven't, for instance, played 2nd-ranked Run the Jewels or 3rd-ranked Sylvan Esso since I initially graded them, so early in the year that they were necessarily slotted high on the list. I don't have a Pazz & Jop invitation yet. When I do, I expect I'll do a lot of shuffling, if only to "fit my brand" as it's becoming increasingly impossible to believe that I'm sorting out anything objective.

But if I had to draw a single conclusion out of these lists, it's that nothing this year matters nearly as much to me as the records I've regularly put on top-ten lists in past years -- especially a decade or more back; e.g., in 2007:

  1. Manu Chao: La Radiolina (Nacional/Because)
  2. John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)
  3. Powerhouse Sound: Oslo/Chicago Breaks (Atavistic, 2CD)
  4. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)
  5. Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)
  6. David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
  7. Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-)
  8. Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch)
  9. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (Hot Cup)
  10. ROVA: The Juke Box Suite (Not Two)

Or 1997, when the sample size was only 155 records:

  1. Cornershop: When I Was Born for the Seventh Time (Warner Bros.)
  2. Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (Verve)
  3. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (DIW)
  4. Ani DiFranco: Living in Clip (Righteous Babe, 2CD)
  5. Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone (Hence the Reason) (Enja)
  6. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind (Columbia)
  7. Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (Mapleshade)
  8. Latryx: The Album (SoleSides)
  9. Nils Petter Molvaer: Khmer (ECM, 2CD)
  10. Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador)

I don't have earlier lists I can readily tap into, but 1987 and 1977 would be even more memorable to me -- especially the latter, as it came right after I moved to New York City, during my first stretch writing rock crit for the Village Voice, a time when I really cared about my favorite records, and managed to put a lot of time into them. That doesn't happen any more, and while I suspect the variable is me, I can't totally eliminate the music. I mean, doesn't postmodernism start with ironic detachment? Then why shouldn't it end simply with indifference?

I'm not saying that music in 2017 sucks. This year is more/less as good as last year and the year before and so on -- the only long term trends worth noting are that there's more to listen to every year and less time to devote to it. But what is indubitable is that the world in 2017 sucks, so it's getting harder for music to overcome all that drudgery. And, sure, that's probably worse for someone my age, because pretty much everything gets worse as you get old.

By the way, I have started to aggregate EOY lists, using the same formats and methodology as last year. Thus far I have something like four early lists (Mojo and three British record shops, so all UK) plus three individual JJA top-tens, plus I'm counting my grades as I go along, so take this with several distinct grains of salt. The only thing I'm fairly sure of thus far is that LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is the only record with a decent chance of challenging the obvious favorite, Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Moreover, the three jazz lists I've thus far tallied don't offer a single clue how the Jazz Critics Poll is going to sort out (not a single record appears on more than one ballot so far (nor on mine). If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Vijay Iyer's Far From Over wins, but it doesn't have a vote so far.


New records rated this week:

  • Espen Aalberg/Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Susana Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol. 4 (The Bali Tapes) (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 [2017], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (2017, Delmark): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): [bc]: A-
  • Joe McPhee/Pascal Niggenkemper/Ståle Liavik Solberg: Imaginary Numbers (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kjetil Møster/Jeff Parker/Joshua Abrams/John Herndon: Ran Do (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeb Loy Nichols: Country Hustle (2017, Inkind): [r]: B-
  • Penguin Cafe: The Imperfect Sea (2017, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(**)
  • Margo Price: All American Made (2017, Third Man): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ada Rave Trio: The Sea, the Storm and the Full Moon (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 [2017], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 [2017], New Atlantis): [bc]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York, 2010 (2010 [2017], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [dl]: A-

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

  • Hamad Kalkaba: Hamad Kalkaba and the Golden Sounds 1974-1975 (1974-75 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Los Cameroes: Resurrection Los Vol. 1 (1976 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984 (1976-84 [2017], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Bonecrusher (2012, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (U of T Jazz): December 15
  • New York Electric Piano: State of the Art (Fervor)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Weekend Roundup

I spent literally most of last week trying to cook for 60 at the Wichita Peace Center Annual Dinner on Friday, and I've been sore and tired ever since. Thought compiling this post might feel like a return to normalcy, but nothing's normal any more.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories of the week, explained: Senate Republicans are on track to pass their tax cut (as, indeed, they did); We found our about more sexual harassers (especially Matt Lauer); After Rexit (Rex Tillerson, rumored gone but hanging on); North Korea launched a long-range ICBM (one that could theoretically hit anywhere in the continental United States). Other Yglesias posts:

    • Republicans may regret this tax bill: This seems intuitively right. The biggest political issue in America today is increasing inequality and its various effects, including the binding of political power and personal security to private wealth. Moreover, this is an issue with a strict partisan divide: Republicans are doing everything they can to concentrate wealth and power in the donor class, and Democrats are more or less opposed to this and more or less in favor of a more equitable society (at least like the ones of the New Deal/Great Society era, but with less racism). To the extent people understand the tax bill, it is wildly unpopular, so it's something Democrats can and will run on. It also goes a long ways toward absolving the Democrats' own culpability for increasing inequality: that the Republicans would, strictly through a party-line vote, do something this brazen when inequality is already so severe (and so unpopular) -- and Trump's deregulation program and blatant surrender of the people's government to business interests -- should expose them for all to see. Yglesias cites Josh Barro: The Republican tax plan creates big long-term opportunities for Democrats. By the way, one thing Barro argues that I don't for a moment believe is: "a corporate tax cut should tend to cause wages to rise a little bit, because a lower corporate tax rate makes the US a more attractive location to employ people."

    • We're all in Kansas now: A reference to Gov. Sam Brownback's notorious tax cuts, the enormous fiscal damage they caused, the slower degradation of infrastructure and services, and their near-zero boost to the economy (possibly sub-zero compared to nationwide economic growth during the same period). The only real difference between what Brownback passed and what the Senate just passed is that the US government is able to float much more debt, and thereby soften the degradation. By the way, Brownback, anticipating confirmation as Trump's Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty, recently gave a "farewell address," not to the public but to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, where the only advice he could offer to his successor is pray.

    • Trump's Treasury Department is lying about its own analysis of the tax bill

    • The tax bill's original sin: The idea that the corporate tax rate must be reduced from 35% all the way to 20%, a much steeper cut than anyone was even agitating for a few years ago (e.g., the Business Roundtable was proposing 25% as recently as 2015). One thing I don't understand is why no one is pushing a progressive tax on business profits: maybe 10% for the first $1M, 15% for $1-10M, 20% for $10-50M, 25% for $50-250M, 30% for $250M-$1B, 35% for $1-5B, 40% above $5B. Probably those rates should be a bit higher, and various loopholes should be filled -- I'd like to see the overall reform on corporate tax rates produce more (not less) revenue. But something like this would benefit most companies while only penalizing companies that use their sheer size and/or monopoly positions to reap huge profits. And slowing them down would be good for everyone.

    • Matt Lauer totally blew it on Trump's blatant lying about Iraq and Libya

    • The rules of "how Congress works" have changed: Points out that the Senate tax bill faced concerted opposition from many special interest lobby groups ("the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Homebuilders, the AARP, police unions, hospital associations and the AMA, and the higher education lobby"), as well as polling poorly among the public, yet Republicans stuck to their partisan ideology and passed it anyway. That's not how interest group politics has generally worked in Washington. Yglesias doesn't say this, but it more generally fits the model of class warfare. He does note that the Democrats could have crafted a more viable ACA had they not catered to special interest groups, in the vain hope that selling out to lobbyists would rally Republican support for a bipartisan bill.

      Had Democrats gone down a different path and pushed a bill with a strong public option with payment rates linked to Medicare, we would have seen a very different health policy trajectory over the past few years.

      Premiums would have been lower, which would have meant federal subsidy outlays would have been lower, which would have made it affordable for Congress to make the subsidies more generous. Enrollment in ACA exchanges would have been higher; there would have been no issue with "bare counties"; and, because of lower premiums, the "just pay the fine" option would have been less attractive, leading to more stable risk pools.

    • A deficit trigger can't fix the GOP tax plan

    • Crisis at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also on this, see Matt Taibbi: Trump's Consumer Victory Officially Makes a Joke of Financial Reform.

    • New dynamic score shows the Senate tax bill raises debt by more than advertised

    • The theory behind Trump's tax cuts is exactly what gave us the failed Bush economy: "An influx of foreign hot money isn't what we need." A lot of meat here, but one could dig deeper. Foreign money will drive up asset prices, which will be a windfall for business owners, but once they sell out those businesses will no longer be rooted in the owners' communities. Foreign ownership of American companies has been a mixed blessing: some have gone easier on depressing labor costs, but most wind up operating as American companies do -- as, indeed, whatever they can get away with here -- and they're ultimately as likely to export or automate jobs away as any other capitalists. As Yglesias notes, much of the influx will eventually be converted into bidding up real estate prices (he calls this "housing boom 2.0" but I'm more skeptical that the subprime boom is repeatable, and unless average Americans start making more money -- inconceivable under Republican rule -- we're all stuck in the subprime market). His other point is that the expected influx will strengthen the dollar, hurting exports and manufacturing jobs, so while the rich get richer, the workers get stiffed.

    • If the GOP tax plan is so good, why do they lie so much about it? Partly, I suspect, it's just force of habit, but they really don't have anything potentially popular to offer -- they're just scamming for the donor class, and they'll make the suckers pay for it.

  • New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist:

    With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders' primary goal is to enrich the country's elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

    The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

    Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

    Other links on the tax bill:

  • Gordon G Chang: Is Donald Trump Getting Ready to Attack North Korea? One theory floated here is that the US could disable North Korea by bombing the pipeline that delivers oil from China and/or their one oil refinery. Or, better still, the US could intimidate China into shutting down the pipeline. I don't see how North Korea's leadership does not take the former as an opening salvo in a war, one that forces them to retaliate. As for China, they probably understand that keeping their oil lifeline open is necessary to keeping the peace. And there are real limits to how much the US can push China around without hurting American investments in China (or much worse). At some point Trump's people need to decide whether North Korea having a deterrent against an American attack that no one in the US military wants to launch is really such a big problem. At present it mostly seems to be an affront to the egos of those who still believe the neocon sole-superpower promise of world domination. Sadly, most of the writers in this "War in Asia?" issue of The National Interest seem to buy into such delusions.

  • Thomas B Edsall: The Self-Destruction of American Democracy: After raising the question of whether Putin backed Trump out of pure malice for the American people, and quoting Henry Aaron (Brookings senior fellow, presumably not the Hall of Famer) that "Trump is a political weapon of mass self-destruction for American democracy -- for its norms, for its morality, for sheer human decency," he has to admit that "we Americans created this mess." Then he starts worrying about America's declining influence and esteem in the world, offering a chart showing only two (of 37) other countries with higher approval numbers for Trump than for Obama: Israel (up to 56 from 49) and Russia (way up to 53 from 11). I think the biggest drop was in Sweden (93 to 10), followed by Germany (86 to 11), Netherlands (92 to 17, South Korea (88 to 17), and France (84 to 14). Britain and Canada dropped down to 23, from 79 and 83 respectively. Still, loss of approval hasn't yet done much damage to the empire (although Egypt's decision to allow Russian air bases is perhaps a harbinger). But this is more to the point:

    Add to Trump's list of lies his race baiting, his attacks on a free press, his charges of "fake news," his efforts to instigate new levels of voter suppression, his undermining of the legitimacy of the electoral process, his disregard for the independence of the judiciary, the hypocrisy of his personal posture on sexual harassment, the patent lack of concern for delivering results to voters who supported him, his contempt for and manipulation of his own loyalists, his "failure of character" -- and you have a lethal corruption of democratic leadership. . . .

    At the moment, Trump's co-partisans, House and Senate Republicans, have shown little willingness to confront him. The longer Trump stays in office, the greater the danger that he will inflict permanent damage on the institutions that must be essential tools in any serious attempt to confront him.

    Edsall's error is that he doesn't recognize that those Congressional Republicans are every bit as contemptuous of democracy as Trump. Indeed, he gives Trump too much credit, and Charles Koch and Paul Ryan not nearly enough.

  • Jill Filipovic: The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election: I'm not so sure about the headline, but is there something more than coincidence going on here?

    Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official "commander-in-chief forum" for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer's with Mrs. Clinton -- talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton's 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

    A pervasive theme of all of these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn't that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status. . . .

    It's hard to look at these men's coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place. When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That's exactly how some commentary and news coverage treated Mrs. Clinton.

    Of course, it's possible that an individual's hostility to Hillary has more to do with her being a Clinton than a woman. There's no doubt that many in the media treated her unfairly. Still, I'm more struck by how gingerly they treated dozens of more damning scandals, especially Trump's own sexual abuse history. Filipovic also wrote: Matt Lauer is gone. He's left heartbreak in his wake.

  • Susan Hennessey et al: The Flynn Plea: A Quick and Dirty Analysis. One recalls that from early on Flynn was offering testimony for immunity. One thing the guilty plea suggests is he does indeed have something to further Mueller's investigation as it closes in on Trump's inner circle. Also note that while investigations into foreign interference in American elections has always focused on Russia, the incident Flynn pleaded guilty to involved lobbying Russia for Israel: see Philip Weiss: Flynn's plea on Russia influence reveals . . . Israel's influence!; also Richard Silverstein: Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israeli Settlements. Trump's reaction, of course, was to turn up the crazy: Dana Milbank: Get ready for Trump's fireworks:

    I tried to ignore the Trump shenanigans this week, instead writing about the drug industry executive Trump tapped to oversee drug pricing and about the administration lawyer who orchestrated Trump's takeover of the CFPB after serving as lawyer for a payday lender cited by the CFPB for abuses. But such pieces generate only a fraction of the clicks of pieces I and others write about Trump's pyrotechnics.

    Those pyrotechnics are going to increase now that Mueller has turned Flynn. Trump's distractions will be impossible to ignore. But we -- lawmakers, the media and the public -- need to keep our focus on the real damage Trump is doing.

  • Shira A Scheindlin: Trump's new team of judges will radically change American society:

  • Paul Woodward: Have we been lied to about the Kate Steinle case? Steinle was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant, Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted of murder charges last week. Zarate had been deported five times, which "made him a very effective villain for Trump's border security campaign messages." The shooting was clearly an accident, and it's pretty unlikely the case would ever have been prosecuted had Zarate been a card-carrying NRA member. But Trump (aka "the xenophobic, racist, bigot, defiling the Oval Office") went ballistic over the verdict.


Nov 2017