October 2018 Notebook
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30473 [30430] rated (+43), 286 [282] unrated (+4).

Another week with much more old music than new. One chunk of old music was an attempt to fill in a few holes after baritone sax great Hamiet Bluiett's death. Other A- Bluiett records my database:

  • Hamiet Bluiett: Live at Carlos 1: Last Night (1986 [1998], Just a Memory)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Young Warrior, Old Warrior (1995, Mapleshade)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (1997, Mapleshade)
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Selim Sevad: A Tribute to Miles Davis (1998, Justin Time)
  • Hamiet Bluiett/D.D. Jackson/Kahil El'Zabar: The Calling (2001, Justin Time)
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Political Blues (2006, Justin Time)

I didn't follow up with World Saxophone Quartet albums I may have missed. I didn't care for their early work -- thought they needed something extra beyond the four-sax harmonics, as the few records I wound up liking proved. Still, Napster filed a couple under Bluiett's name, reminding me that I was missing some.

I was pointed to the rest of the "old music" by Will Friedland's new book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I made a list of the 57 albums reviewed at great depth there, found that I had only heard a third of them (19/57), and vowed to improve myself. Usually I went straight to the selected album, but sometimes I dug a little deeper -- e.g., wound up playing all of Blossom Dearie's Verve albums, a couple of extras from Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, and a second Matt Dennis album (that got compiled into a single CD with the pick). On the other hand, I figured Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald would have turned into vast time sinks (plus I already have 15 Cole and 36 Fitzgerald albums graded; Ella at Zardi's was a vault music album from last year, and too good to skip). I felt more need to check out Billy Eckstine (4 records), but I've never been that much of a fan. As for Robert Goulet, his is a name I remembered from my youth but hadn't heard in as many years -- a mistake I'm not likely to repeat soon.

I'll try to knock off some more this week: Judy Garland, Eydie Gormé, Dick Haymes, Peggy Lee, Marilyn Maye, Carmen McRae, Anita O'Day, Della Reese, a dozen more. Friedland's list is skewed pretty strongly to the string-drenched pop of the first few years of the LP era -- basically the pre-rock and anti-rock I grew up rebelling against, so it's not very promising ground for me. Also not finding everything, so I'll probably stop close to 80% (missing so far: Lena Horne, Barb Jungr, Bobby Troup).

I did manage a milestone on one months-long project. I've spent a couple years now collecting bits of text from my on-line notebook. My first pass picked up all the capsule reviews of jazz albums, which I sorted into two book files: one on records from 2000 forward, the other on records recorded earlier (20th century). Those volumes added up to 765 pp (pre-2000) and 1650 pp (post-2000). I then went back through the notebooks and started pulling out all of the political notes (four volumes: 1590 pp 2001-08, 1768 pp for 2009-12, 1666 pp for 2013-16, and 858 pp since 2017), plus another file for various personal notes (memoir, health crises, dinners, deaths, plus some movies and tv: another 780 pp).

When I finished those, I realized that there were still a couple of major chunks of writing unarchived from the notebook: non-jazz capsule reviews (1863 pp) and miscellaneous music writings (e.g., intros to my CG posts, year-end notes, obits: 1735 pp). I finished my initial pass on Sunday, so the total for the nine volumes is 12,685 pages, which works out to about 5.4 million words.

While most of what I've written since 2001 is either in the notebook or accessibly linked from it, I still need to look at other files on the website and fold them in where appropriate. Biggest chunk here is probably the longer music reviews, but I also have fragments of book drafts and project plans, and other things. Would be nice if I can recover my email files -- lost in my early-summer server crash, but perhaps not hopelessly. Other things I need to do:

  • Make a pass comparing the misc. music notes to the political files, eliminating redundancies (e.g., political paragraphs stuck in the middle of Music Week posts).
  • Make a pass comparing the non-jazz capsule reviews with the jazz guides to eliminate redundancies.
  • I need to bring the earlier book files up to date, picking up more recent notebooks and Streamnotes posts.
  • The non-jazz capsule reviews are currently organized by date posted. They should be reorganized by genre and artist name.
  • The books currently exist as LibreWriter files, with at least some versions available on my website. I need to straighten that out, decide what I want to make available, and write up some sort of introduction to all that.
  • I also need to look into alternate formats. PDF files are one possibility, but they are much larger than the LW files. Perhaps more useful would be some sort of Ebook format. I'm aware of some free tools for conversion, but haven't used them yet.

Ultimately, I see these files as resources for constructing various other books and/or websites. Laura has read through the first of the political files (2001-08), but we haven't yet had any substantial discussions on where she thinks it should go. I have various scattershot ideas on these things, but won't try to develop them here and now. I understand that essentially no one will want to sit down and read any of these "books" straight through, I find that a fair amount of the writing has held up over time (some still useful, some even amusing). One good thing for me about this process is that it's given me something tangible (and relatively non-taxing) to do over the past two year. But now it's starting to come to a point where I need to move on: pick a project (or two or three) and focus on that. End of the year might be a good deadline for wrapping this up and figuring that out.


A couple more notes:

Allen Lowe (on Facebook) recommended a 20-CD box from Sony (Canada) called The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection. This looks like a series of CDs Sony/Legacy issued in the early 1990s. If so, I've heard (and own) nearly all of them, and I agree that they've been a really superb series. Even at Amazon's own price ($93.99) it's a bargain, but they have dealers in the UK offering it for much less.

When I looked it up, I noticed another tempting 20-CD box, Jazz From America on Disques Vogue -- jazz recorded by American artists in Paris late 1940s/early 1950s. RCA released a series of these in the early 1990s. I have a dozen or more, most quite good.

I've never bought any of Sony's massive boxes, so I can't speak as to packaging and documentation, but I did write a bit about The Perfect Jazz Collection back in November 2011. For me, and possibly for you, the problem's always been owning so many of the packaged albums the big boxes, even when quite cheap, are still not cost-effective. Still, one can imagine others these sets would be perfect for. Sony also has massive collections of Miles Davis and Johnny Cash, as you can well imagine.

I also want to point out two books that came out last week, that my wife, Laura Tillem, edited:

Both authors live here in Wichita, and are good friends of ours.


New records rated this week:

  • David Ake: Humanities (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12)
  • Kjetil Møster/John Edwards/Dag Erik Knedal Andersen: Different Shapes/Immersion (2014 [2018], Va Fongool): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Parks: Little Big (2018, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (2018, Epitaph): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Anne Sajdera: New Year (2018, Bijuri): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (2018, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (2017 [2018], Alister Spence Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Steinel Quintet: Song and Dance (2017 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Patrick Zimmerli Quartet: Clockworks (2017 [2018], Songlines): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi's (1956 [2017], Verve): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Fred Astaire: The Astaire Story (1952 [2017], Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fred Astaire: Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings (1952 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tony Bennett and Bill Evans: Together Again (1976 [2003], Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Birthright: A Solo Blues Concert (1977, India Navigation): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Resolution (1977 [1978], Black Saint): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: "Dangerously Suite" (1981, Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Ebu (1984, Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett & Concept: Live at Carlos 1 (1986 [1997], Just a Memory): [r]: A-
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Sankofa/Rear Garde (1992 [1993], Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues (1994 [1997], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: With Eyes Wide Open (2000, Justin Time): [r]: A-
  • Rosemary Clooney/Duke Ellington: Blue Rose (1956 [2008], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rosemary Clooney: Rosie Solves the Swingin' Riddle! (1961 [2004], RCA/Bluebird): [r]: A-
  • Rosemary Clooney: Everything's Coming Up Rosie (1977, Concord): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rosemary Clooney: Sings the Lyrics of Johnny Mercer (1987, Concord): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nat 'King' Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958, Capitol): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doris Day and Harry James: Young Man With a Horn (1950 [1954], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Doris Day: Day by Day (1956, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Doris Day: Day by Night (1957, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Doris Day: 16 Most Requested Songs (1945-58 [1992], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doris Day/Robert Goulet: Annie Get Your Gun (1963, Columbia Masterworks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Blossom Dearie: Give Him the Ooh-La-La (1957 [1958], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blossom Dearie: Once Upon a Summertime (1958, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Blossom Dearie: My Gentleman Friend (1959, Verve): [r]: A-
  • Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green (1959, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blossom Dearie: Soubrette: Blossom Dearie Sings Broadway Hit Songs (1960, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis (1954, Trend): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Dennis, Anyone? (1955, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis: Live in Hollywood (1954-55 [2011], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Eckstine: Billy's Best (1957-58 [1995], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Lullabies of Birdland (1947-54 [1955], Decca): [r]: A-
  • Benny Goodman/Rosemary Clooney: Date With the King (1956, Columbia, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Robert Goulet: 16 Most Requested Songs (1960-69 [1989], Columbia): [r]: C
  • Beaver Harris 360 Degree Music Experience: Beautiful Africa (1979, Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie (1956 [1957], Verve): [r]: [was: B+]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amu: Weave (Libra)
  • Ethan Ardelli: The Island of Form (self-released): November 2
  • Bobby Broom & the Organi-sation: Soul Fingers (MRi)
  • Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Impakt)
  • Richie Cole: Cannonball (RCP): October 26
  • Randy Halberstadt: Open Heart (Origin): October 19
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. 10: Toronto (1977, Widow's Taste, 3CD): November 2
  • Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet: That's a Computer (Outside In Music): October 19
  • Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett (OA2): October 19

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Weekend Roundup

The big story of the week seems to be the evident murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He had moved from Saudi Arabia to Virginia, but entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to "finalize some paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée." He never emerged from the consulate. The Turkish government has much evidence of foul play, and there are reports that "US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to 'capture' Khashoggi" -- something they made no attempt to warn Khashoggi about.

Some links (quotes above are from Hill, below):

The week started with Nikki Haley's resignation as US ambassador to the UN, but a week later it's hard to find any mention of it. Then the Florida panhandle got demolished by Hurricane Michael. Then there was some sort of White House summit between Trump and Kanye West. Meanwhile, elections are coming.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: Superior ruthlessness isn't why Republicans control the Supreme Court: "They had some good luck -- and, most importantly, they had the votes." After their losses in 2016, all the Democrats could do to derail the Kavanaugh nomination was to convince the public that he was a really terrible pick, and opinion polls show that they did in fact make that case. However, as we've seen many times before, Republicans are fine with ignoring public opinion (at least as long as they keep their base and donors happy), so they're eager to exploit any power leverage they can grab, no matter how tenuous. Democrats (in fact, most people) regard that as unscrupulous, which Republicans find oddly flattering -- backhanded proof that they hold convictions so firm they're willing to fight (dirty) to advance them. Some Democrats have come to the conclusion that they need to become just as determined to win as the Republicans -- e.g., David Faris's recent book: It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. Several problems with this: one is that there are still Americans that believe in things like fair play and due process, and those votes should be easy pickings for Democrats given how Republicans have been playing the game; another is that past efforts by Democrats to act more like Republicans haven't fared well -- they're never enough to appease the right, while they sure turn off the left. But what Democrats clearly do have to do is to show us that they take these contests seriously. I didn't especially like turning the Kavanaugh nomination into a #MeToo issue, but that did make the issue personal and impactful in a way that no debate over Federalist Society jurisprudence ever could.

    Other Yglesias pieces:

    • Trump's 60 Minutes interview once again reveals gross ignorance and wild dishonesty.

    • People don't like "PC culture" -- not that many of them can tell you what "PC culture" means (only that it consists of self-appointed language police waiting to pounce on you for trivial offenses mostly resident in their own minds). Refers to Yascha Mounk: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture, which doesn't much help to define it either. To me, "PC culture" is exemplified by the God-and-country, American exceptionalist pieties spouted by Democratic politicians like Obama and the Clintons -- a compulsion to say perfectly unobjectionable things because they know they'll be attacked viciously by the right (or for that matter by center/leftists wanting to show off for the right) for any hint of critical thought. On the other hand, on some issues Republicans are policed as diligently -- racism is the one they find most bothersome, mostly because catering to the insecurities of white folk is such a big part of their trade. Of course, if we had the ability to take seriously what people mean, we might be able to get beyond the "gotcha" game over what they say.

    • Trump's dangerous game with the Fed, explained.

    • Trump's USA Today op-ed on health care is an absurd tissue of lies.

    • The case for a carbon tax: A carbon tax has always made sense to me, mostly because it helps to counter a currently unregulated externality: that of dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Two key ideas here: one is to implement it by joint international agreement (Yglesias suggests the US, Europe, and Japan, initially, but why wait for the US?), then grow it by charging tariffs against non-members; the other is to start low (to minimize short-term impact) and make the taxes escalate over time. Yglesias contrasts a carbon tax to David Roberts: It's time to think seriously about cutting off the supply of fossil fuels. This reminds me that major oil players have every now and then "advocated" a carbon tax, specifically when threatened with proposals like Roberts'. Unfortunately, it looks like the only way to get a carbon tax passed is to threaten the oil companies with something much more drastic. No one has much faith in reason anymore.

    • Immigrants can make post-industrial America great.

    • Trump's successful neutering of the FBI's Kavanaugh investigation has scary implications: Trump evidently got the rubber stamp, ruffle no feathers investigation of Brett Kavanaugh he wanted, showing that Comey replacement Christopher Wray can be trusted to protect his party.

      The White House got away with stamping on an FBI investigation. Think of it as a dry run for a coming shutdown of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

      It's easy to forget, but the existence of a Russia inquiry isn't a natural fact of American life. Barack Obama was president when it began, and then in the critical winter of 2016 to 2017, many Republicans, particularly foreign policy hawks, were uneasy with Trump and saw an investigation as a useful way to force him into policy orthodoxy. When Comey was fired, enough of that unease was still in place that many Republicans pushed for a special counsel to carry things forward.

      Trump, however, has clearly signaled his desire to clean house and fire Mueller after the midterms. And the Kavanaugh fight has shown us (and, more importantly, shown Trump) that congressional Republicans are coming around to the idea that independence of federal law enforcement is overrated. His White House, meanwhile, though hardly a well-oiled machine, has demonstrated its ability to work the levers of power and get things done.

      If the GOP is able to hold its majority or (as looks more likely, given current polling) pick up a seat or two, a firm Trumpist majority will be in place ready to govern with the principle that what's good for Trump is good for the Republican Party, and subverting the rule of law is definitely good for Trump.

  • Stavros Agorakis: 18 people are dead from Hurricane Michael. That number will only rise. Category 4, making landfall with winds of 155 mph, the third-most intense hurricane to hit the continental US since they started keeping count (after an unnamed Labor Day storm in 1935 and Camille in 1969) -- i.e., about as strong as the hurricane that the Trump administration couldn't cope with in Puerto Rico.

  • Ryan Bort: The Georgia Voter Suppression Story Is Not Going Away.

  • Juan Cole: 15 Years after US Occupied Iraq, it is too Unsafe for Trump Admin to Keep a Consulate There.

  • Joe Klein: Michael Lewis Wonders Who's Really Running the Government: Book review of Lewis's The Fifth Risk, which looks at what Trump's minions are doing to three government bureaucracies: the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce. Mostly they are shredding data, and purging the departments of the workers with the expertise to collect and analyze that data. Lewis explains why that matters -- a welcome relief from those journalists who are satisfied with reporting the easy stories about stupid Trump tweets and hi-jinks.

  • Paul Krugman: Goodbye, Political Spin, Hello Blatant Lies: I try my best to avoid political ads, but got stuck watching a jaw dropper for Wichita's Republican Congressman Ron Estes, who spent most of his 30 seconds talking about how hard he's been working to save Medicare. Wasn't clear from what, since the only imminent threat is from his fellow Republicans, and his key votes to repeal ACA and cut corporate taxes and saddle us with massive deficits sure don't count. Estes isn't what you'd call a political innovator -- the main theme of his ads last time was that a vote for him would thwart Nancy Pelosi's nefarious designs on the Republic -- so most likely his ads this time are being repeated all across the nation. Also by Krugman: The Paranoid Style in GOP Politics.

  • Dara Lind: The Trump administration reportedly wants to try family separation again.

  • Anna North: Why Melania's response to Trump's alleged affairs was so weird:

    In some ways, it's a relief that the first lady is rarely called upon to perform the thankless task of trying to convince the country that her husband respects women. But it's also a sign of something darker: Plenty of Americans know the president doesn't respect women, and a lot of them don't care. They may even like it.

  • Sandy Tolan: Gaza's Dying of Thirst, and Its Water Crisis Will Become a Threat to Israel.

Daily Log

Been compiling my last two "books" from the notebook, and finally caught up to the present moment. Miscellaneous Music Writings comes to 1735 pages (718k words). Non-Jazz Capsule Reviews is 1863 pages (806k words). I need to make a second pass through the book files, and weed out bits from the music writings that really belong in either the political or personal books. Also cut out any jazz reviews from the capsule book. (I was pretty sloppy about that in the beginning, when the review posts were more scattershot). That will probably knock a hundred pages off each. I also need to take another look at the lists and such I dropped from the Misc. book, and be more consistent about what I include and what I don't. That'll probably add some material back.

Next step beyond that would be to go back to the non-notebook writings that should be considered. I figure I'll add the pre-2000 stuff in the appendix.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30430 [30390] rated (+40), 282 [280] unrated (+2).

Everything below is jazz. Most of it is new stuff I wasn't serviced on (unless someone sent me a download link which I didn't open; i.e., it was streamed, either from Napster or Bandcamp). Only a couple of CDs I did receive, mostly because I took so long making up my mind about the Jonathan Finlayson record (A-, but just barely). Most of my tips came from Phil Freeman's monthly Ugly Beauty column at Stereogum. Biggest find there was the trove of Japanese jazz from the 1970s (for once, the sampler is the place to start). The only old music was a Penguin Guide 4-star I had missed, by a saxophonist who showed up on at least three of this week's new discs (to best effect with Matt Penman).

I've walked Freeman's columns back to March, which gets increasingly into things I've already heard. One thing I didn't know was that Buell Neidlinger died back on March 16. He was the bassist in Cecil Taylor's 1956-61 groups -- in at least one case the album was initially under his name (New York City R&B). My database credits him with four A- records from the 1980s: Swingrass '83, Across the Tracks, Rear View Mirror, and Locomotive (all recorded 1979-87, but most got delayed releases -- Swingrass '83 was the first I noticed, and fell in love with.

The great baritone saxophonist Haimet Bluiett also died last week. I need to take some time and dive into his dicography -- I see, for instance, that Napster has Birthright, a PG 4-star from 1977. Some A- records I have heard: Live at Carlos I: Last Night; Young Warrior, Old Warrior; Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio; The Calling. Bluiett also batted clean up in the World Saxophone Quartet, and he was particularly prominent on their best-ever Political Blues.

I did a little work on my project of collecting the last bits from my on-line notebook into book form. I'm up to February 2015 with a volume of miscellaneous music notes (1343 pp) and another of non-jazz capsule reviews (1515 pp). I doubt the former (which largely consists of introductions like this one) will be of any real interest, but think it would be handy to get it into searchable form. It turns out that 2011-13 were big years for misc. notes, mostly because that was when Robert Christgau's Expert Witness at MSN encouraged comments, and that resulted in a lot of community commentary. I jotted down pretty much everything I contributed -- often answering questions on recommended CDs, or extemporaneously venting on subjects like Charlie Parker.

I always figured my non-jazz capsule reviews were too spotty for any sort of reference book/website, but it turns out that there are enough of them to provide a decent starting point if other people got interested in adding to them.

I interrupted work on this to post another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. At some point I'd like to adapt that framework to offer a similar service here. I've struggled for many years to crank out pieces I think might be of public interest. It might be a relief to let other people direct me for a while.

I noticed this week that Tom Smucker has finally published a whole book on what's long been one of his favorite topics: Why the Beach Boys Matter. I have a copy on order. Ironically, my own original foray into rock criticism came from arguing with Don Malcolm over the Beach Boys. I'm surprised he never got around to writing his own book. Also noticed and ordered a copy of a new edition of Vince Alletti's The Disco Files 1973-78. I actually knew both Vince and Tom during my few years in New York, so I consider them old friends.

Posting of this got delayed as I was trying to figure out when I was done with Weekend Roundup. I had started intending to write something different on Brett Kavanaugh, but never really got past the preface. I have some sympathy for the argument that something that happened over 35 years ago shouldn't permanently tar a person. I think that many interactions between the sexes are confusing, and best forgotten. I think we should be more tolerant and forgiving of what are often just human foibles. On the other hand, I'm not sure that of my general sensitivities actually offer Kavanaugh much benefit. I could see why a normal person might not recall details or motives of the charges, but such a person would at least recognize the horror and pain behind the charges, and sympathized with the victim. Kavanaugh didn't do that. His blanket denial effectively repeated the original attacks. And his insistence that the charges were purely political, a "hit job" ordered by the Democrats, pure "borking," effectively said that he thought he should be exempt from his actions and consequences purely because of his politics.

As it turned out, Kavanaugh's final testimony was one of the most disgusting performances I have ever seen -- something that should have disqualified him all by itself. Before you can forgive sins, you first must recognize them and make amends. Kavanaugh didn't come close to doing that. Indeed, his entire career, and the broader agenda of the political movement he furthers, offers little more than repeated examples of the strong trampling the weak and the rich abusing the poor.


New records rated this week:

  • Joey Baron/Robyn Schulkowsky: Now You Hear Me (2016 [2018], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jakob Bro: Bay of Rainbows (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mike Clark & Delbert Bump: Retro Report (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Drums & Tuba: Triumph! (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: A-
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (2018, Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Nick Finzer's Hear & Now: Live in New York City (2018, Outside In): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Vinny Golia Sextet: Trajectory (2017 [2018], Orenda/Nine Winds, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (2016 [2018], Rataplan): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (2017 [2018], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • José James: Lean on Me (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Kavuma: Kavuma (2017 [2018], Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shai Maestro: The Dream Thief (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave McMurray: Music Is Life (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ryan Meagher: Lost Days (2017 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ryan Meagher: Evil Twin (2018, PJCE): [r]: B
  • Allison Miller/Carmen Staaf: Science Fair (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe Morris/Ben Hall/Andria Nicodemou: Raven (2016 [2017], Glacial Erratic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Moskus: Mirakler (2016-17 [2018], Hubro): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where the River Goes (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Penman: Good Question (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Madeleine Peyroux: Anthem (2018, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mikkel Ploug/Mark Turner: Faroe (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • R+R=Now: Collagically Speaking (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Window (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (2017-18 [2018], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christian Sands: Facing Dragons (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim Black: Visitors (2018, Skirl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elliott Sharp Carbon: Transmigration at the Solar Max (2018, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chad Taylor: Myths and Morals (2018, Ears & Eyes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson: Temporary Kings (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Turre: The Very Thought of You (2018, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts: Travel Band: Detained in Amsterdam (2017 [2018], Dark Key): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: European Quartet (2017 [2018], Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chip Wickham: Shamal Wind (2017 [2018], Lovemonk): [r]: B

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

  • Tohru Aizawa Quartet: Tachibana Vol. 1 (1975 [2018], BBE): [bc]: A-
  • Takeo Moriyama: East Plants (1983 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Calm Waters Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler (2004-17 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B
  • J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 (1969-84 [2018], BBE): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Thomas: Eastern Standard Time (1980 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mark Turner: In This World (1998, Warner Brothers): [r]: A-


Grade (or other) changes:

  • The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Claus Højensgård/Emanuele Mariscalco/Nelide Bendello: Høbama (Gotta Let It Out)
  • Jacobson/Friis/Maniscalco + Karlis Auzixs: Split: Body/Solo (Getta Let It Out): advance
  • Kyle Nasser: Persistent Fancy (Ropeadope)
  • Nikita Rafaelov: Spirit of Gaia (Gotta Let It Out)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Story of the week: It's official: Brett Kavanaugh just became the least popular Supreme Court justice in modern history. The Senate vote was 50-48, almost a straight party vote. The Republican advantage in the Senate is 51-49 (counting Angus King and Bernie Sanders as Democrats). Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by 54-45, with all Republicans and three Democrats (Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly). Opposition was clearly political: Republicans had made it so by their refusal to even hold so much as a hearing on Merrick Garland, Obama's moderate nominee for the seat, turning it into a spoil for the 2016 election winner. But other than being cut from the same political cloth, Gorsuch had no personal baggage that made his nomination controversial.

Republicans have dreamed and schemed of reversing the Court's "liberal bent" -- really just an honest belief that the Constitution protects individual and minority civil rights -- ever since Nixon's "southern strategy" nominated Clement Haynsworth and, failing that, G. Harrold Carswell in 1969. The Republican campaign took an even more extremist turn when Reagan nominated the blatantly ideological Robert Bork in 1987 (after having slipped Antonin Scalia by in 1986). But only with GW Bush did Republicans consistently apply a rigorous ideological litmus test to their nominees. (Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers was quashed by hard-liners who didn't trust her to be conservative enough. They were still livid that his father's appointment didn't turn out to be as reliably reactionary as Scalia and Clarence Thomas.)

Kavanaugh turned out to be a very different story (from Gorsuch), yet the result was nearly the same. Only one Democrat (Manchin) voted for Kavanaugh, while one Republican opposed the nomination (Murkowski, who wound up not voting in an offset deal with an absent Republican senator). The first problem Kavanaugh faced was that he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who's run up a dreadful record in recent years but was still regarded as a moderate swing vote between the two polarized four-member camps. Kavanaugh would tilt that balance 5-4, allowing conservatives to rule almost arbitrarily for their political sponsors. Second, he was a person whose entire career was spent as a political operative: most notably as part of the Ken Starr prosecution of Bill Clinton, and later in the Bush White House where he argued for ever greater presidential power (at least for Republicans). A big part of the early debate over his nomination concerned discover of the paper trail of his partisan activities against Clinton and for Bush. His supporters in the White House and Congress made sure that those documents were never made available, and as such the extent of his partisan corruption was never properly aired.

His record as a DC Circuit Court judge was also largely unexamined, although his ruling, since overturned, against a detained immigrant girl who wanted to obtain an abortion, is a pretty clear signal that his views on abortion show no respect for "settled law." This case also shows his contempt for immigrants and refugees, his willingness to apply the law differently for different classes of people, and his reticence to restrain abuses of government power (at least against some people). I've long believed that the proper role for the Supreme Court is to build on the best aspirations of the Constitution to make government serve all the people, to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from the all-too-common abuses of power. Through much of my life, the Court at least leaned in that direction -- often not as hard as I would like, but their rulings against segregation, to defend a free press, to establish a nationwide right to abortion and most recently to marriage, have been major accomplishments, consistent with the understanding of America I grew up with, as a free, just, and egalitarian nation (ideals we haven't always achieved, but that we most often aspired to).

So, when I'm faced with the question of whether a given person should be given the responsibility of serving on the Supreme Court, the only question that matters to me is whether that person will understand and shape the rule of law in ways that promote greater freedom, equality, and justice, or not. After a fair investigation, I see nothing whatsoever that suggests to me that Brett Kavanaugh is a person who should be entrusted with that responsibility. In fact, what evidence I've seen suggests that he would actually be worse than any of the four partisan conservative judges currently on the court. To my mind, that should have been enough to settle the matter -- although between the fact that Republicans tend to vote as an arbitrary pack, and the tendency of many "moderate" Democrats to defer to Republican leadership, that wouldn't have been enough to defeat Kavanaugh.

However, Kavanaugh's confirmation didn't solely hinge on whether he'd be a good or bad Justice. It wound up turning on whether he was guilty of sexual assault, and whether he lied under oath about that charge (and ultimately about many other things). With these charges, Kavanaugh's confirmation wound up recapitulating that of Clarence Thomas back in 1991. The charges are slightly different. Thomas was accused of making grossly inappropriate office comments, which was especially grievous given that he ran (or mis-managed) the Reagan administration office responsible for regulating such matters. The initial charge against Kavanaugh was that as a high school student he had committed a drunken assault on a girl, which stopped barely short of rape. (Others subsequently came forward to charge Kavanaugh with other acts of drunken, sexually charged loutishness, but none of those women were allowed to testify or further investigated.)

You can read or spin these charges in various ways. On the one hand, sexual assault (Kavanaugh) is a graver charge than sexual harassment (Thomas); on the other, Kavanaugh was younger at the time and the event took place at a party when he was drunk, whereas Thomas was at work, presumably sober, and effectively the boss of the person he harassed. It is unclear whether this was an isolated incident for Kavanaugh, or part of a longer-term pattern (which is at least suggested by subsequent, uninvestigated charges, plus lots of testimony as to his drinking). Still, the one thing that was practically identical in both cases is that both nominees responded with the same playbook: blanket denials, while their supporters orchestrated a smear campaign against the women who reluctantly aired the complaints, while trying to portay the nominees as the real victims. Thomas called the charges against him a "lynching." Kavanaugh's preferred term was "hit job." Neither conceded that as Supreme Court nominees they should be held to a higher standard than criminal defendants. In the end, in both cases, marginal Senators wound up defending their vote as "reasonable doubt" against the charges. There was, after all, nothing admirable about being charged or defending themselves in such a disingenuous way. Both cases have wound up only adding to the cynicism many of us view the Courts with.

I'll tack on a bunch of links at the end which will round up the details as we know them, as well as other aspects of the process, not least the political rationalizations and consequences. But one thing that I think has been much less discussed than it should be is that neither Thomas nor Kavanaugh promoted or defended themselves on their own. I don't know who was the first Supreme Court nominee to hire lawyers and publicists to coach in the confirmation process, but the practice goes back before Thomas. I was reminded of this when John Kyl was appointed to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat. At the time Kyl was working for a DC law form representing Kavanaugh for his confirmation, so Kyl instantly became Kavanaugh's most secure vote. That nominees need help managing their egos and loose tongues was certainly proved by Bork, who managed to alienate and offend 58 Senators (almost all of whom had previously voted for Scalia, not exactly known for his tact). Mostly this handling means to make sure that the nominee doesn't say anything substantive about the law that may raise the hackles of uncommitted Senators, so the handlers only get noticed in the breech of an inadvertent gaffe. However, when something does go wrong, the first decision is whether to fight or flee -- since Nixon fought for Haynsworth (and lost), over a dozen nominees have simply withdrawn, often when faced with far less embarrassing charges than Thomas or Kavanaugh. As we saw with Myers, a nominee with no natural Democratic support can be brought down by a handful of vigilant Republicans, allowing the fringe of the party to insist on a harder candidate.

With a 51-49 majority, it wouldn't have taken much more than two Republicans to force Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh, but in the end only Murkowski opposed, and she was offset by Manchin (not that Pence wouldn't have been thrilled to cast a 50-50 tiebreaker). A couple of Republicans waffled a bit, but Collins and Flake have a long history of feigning decency then folding, and most simply don't care how bad a candidate looks (e.g., they voted for Betsy DeVos). They're quite happy to win with a bare minimum of votes, even when the polls are against them (e.g., their corporate income tax giveaway), figuring they can always con the voters again come election day. The problem with replacing Kavanaugh with a less embarrassing candidate came down to timing: restarting the process would have pushed it past the election into lame-duck territory, and possibly into the next Congress, which will likely have fewer Republicans (although not necessarily in the Senate). Never let it be said that the Republicans have missed an opportunity to gain an advantage -- and there are few prize they covet more than control of the Supreme Court.


Further links on the Cavanaugh Nomination:


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, October 01, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30390 [30365] rated (+25), 280 [273] unrated (+7).

Week got wiped out several different ways. Helped a friend fix a huge Russian dinner on Friday. Shopped for that on Wednesday, having to hit up nine (or was it eleven?) stores along the way, then spent from Thursday afternoon to something like 4AM doing prep for another 6-7 hours of cooking on Friday. Wound up with way too much food, but much of it was magnificent. Only the dessert disappointed, an attempt at Prague cake which I now understand doesn't resemble the real thing at all.

Then Saturday I developed a fever with no other symptoms, and I basically shut down over the weekend -- so no Weekend Roundup, even following one of the more outrageous weeks of the Trump era. (Not like there won't be plenty more as bad or worse.) I started reading Jill Lepore's massive (or schematic, depending on your point of view) These Truths: A History of the United States. She starts by quoting the preamble to the US Constitution, and I realized it to offer not a practical description of the federal government but a vision statement of what that government should aspire to. The same, of course, could be said of the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, which Lepore also mentions.

What I then realized is that the standard for all three "separate and equal" branches of government should be their efforts to achieve these founding aspirations. We were fortunate, at least for the first half of my life, to have a Supreme Court that took those aspirations seriously, especially in its assertion of civil rights even while the other branches dragged their heels. Since Nixon, the right-wing has made a determined effort to overturn those rulings and to strip us of our rights, not least by stacking the courts with people who oppose the aspirations the nation was founded on. With the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, we got a good view of just what kind of person would gladly do such things. Regardless of whether Kavanaugh has committed sexual assault and/or perjury, he's made it abundantly clear that he's unfit for the Supreme Court, or for that matter for the judgeship he currently holds.

Maybe I'll write more on that later in the week. My most immediate task is to get September's Streamnotes organized and posted. Thinking about the dinner, then not thinking at all, I totally missed the end of the month. I can backdate what I have, making it look like I did it on time and before doing this. The latter, at least, is mostly true.

I'm not sure what comes next. I can always return to compiling my last two books from the notebooks (non-review music notes, non-jazz reviews; I'm currently stalled in May, 2013). I could take a look at Pitchfork's The 2000 Best Albums of the 1980s -- the music decade I paid the least attention to at the time. Another possible source of unheard records is Will Friedland's latest book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I picked up the book at the library, and while there is zero chance that I'll read it through, the actual album list isn't prohibitively long (probably 40-50 albums, half already heard). On the other hand, the new jazz queue has grown a bit (26 albums at the moment), so I should pay some attention to that.


New records rated this week:

  • Dmitry Baevsky/Jeb Patton: We Two (2018, Jazz & People): [r]: A-
  • Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay (2018, Verve/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (2018, HighNote): [r]: B
  • Geof Bradfield: Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (2018, Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonathan Butler: Close to You (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: C+
  • Noname: Room 25 (2018, self-released): [bc]: A-
  • Eddie Palmieri: Full Circle (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (2018, PJCE): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ned Rothenberg/Hamid Drake: Full Circle: Live in Lodz (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (2018, Flatcar/Fontana North): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (2018, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK: Wet Robots (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gene Ammons: The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (1961-62 [1992], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug Volume 2 (1960-71 [1995], Prestige): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back! (1969 [1993], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: Jazz Giant (1949 [1957], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (1955 [1959], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Time Waits (1958 [1999], Blue Note): [r]: A-
  • Bud Powell: Strictly Confidential (1964 [1994], Black Lion): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Salt Peanuts (1964 [1988], Black Lion): [r]: B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Intakt)
  • David Dominique: Mask (Orenda): November 9
  • Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (Intakt)
  • Aaron Goldberg: At the Edge of the World (Sunnyside): November 16
  • Aaron Parks: Little Big (Ropeadope): October 19
  • Subtone: Moose Blues (Laika): October 26
  • Harry Vetro: Northern Ranger (T.Sound): October 19


Sep 2018