April 2019 Notebook
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Daily Log

Replied to a twitter thread. It seems to have started with Dave Weigel, who wrote:

To understand Bidenmentum, you've got to have some of the conversations I had yesterday: Middle-aged women explaining that 2016 showed that voters won't elect a female president, so they've got to be strategic.

Kathleen Geier wrote:

This is so depressing. Countries like Argentina, Chile, Liberia, and Taiwan have elected women presidents. Are those countries less sexist than the US? Just because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate who ran a lousy campaign doesn't mean another woman can't win.

I responded:

Only reason I can think of why significant numbers of voters reject any woman candidate is that the US has been on a constant war footing since 1948, and that's seeped deep into our pores; ironically, overcompensating hawks like H Clinton scare more voters than they win over.


Wrote this up as a proposal for Mike and Ram:

Been kicking around various ideas, and thought this one might be worth sharing. I've spent a lot of time thinking about a political book, built around the idea that US history breaks neatly into four eras: 1800-1860, 1860-1932, 1932-1980, and 1980-2020. Each begins with a legendary president (Jefferson, Lincoln, FD Roosevelt, Reagan) and ends with a tragically inept one-termer (Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, and Trump). (In this regard, one could also cite 1788-1800, Washington-to-Adams, but that doesn't seem quite long enough to count. Each era was dominated by a single political party, although each had two minor breaks for presidents from the other party -- in three cases two for two terms each (Cleveland and Wilson, Eisenhower and Nixon, Clinton and Obama); in the 1800-1860 period the Whig party managed to win two elections with former generals (Harrison and Taylor), but they both died in office and were succeeded by exceptionally unpopular VPs (Tyler and Fillmore). Within each era, not only was one party dominant, but the other party tended to mimic the dominant party: most obviously, how Eisenhower and Nixon supported and extended New Deal reforms, while Clinton and Obama willingly gave ground to the pro-market, small-government Republican agenda. (The earlier eras are more mixed, partly because the dominant party was itself evolving. Cleveland, for instance, was more conservative than the most pro-business Republican of his day, while Wilson was relatively progressive, admittedly with certain blinders, most notoriously race.)

The Reagan-to-Trump era differs from the others in several respects. The first three eras started with major shifts to the left: the spread of democracy under Jefferson and Jackson; the end of slavery with Lincoln; Roosevelt's New Deal. Reagan led a backlash, aimed at making Americans less equal, at reducing democracy, and at limiting the rights of most Americans. Although Republicans captured the levers of power and dominated the public agenda, their program was never very popular, their winning margins (aside from Reagan's two elections) slim (twice, at least by actual votes, negative). The eras subdivide, this one breaking down into three waves as presidential power (Reagan, Bush, Trump) did their damage, separated by breaks which allowed the economy to recover (from the first Bush recession of 1992 and the much larger Bush recession of 2008), and the Republicans to recharge (taking control of Congress in 1994 and 2010, kneecapping the Democrats from making changes).

My original idea was to start with this framework, then expand on how Democrats should view 2020 as an epochal, era-ending election, an opportunity not just to reverse the Reagan-to-Trump tide but to build a new paradigm for decades to come. A lot of good things fall out of that perspective. I'm thinking now that I should dial back the ambition from book to essay length, crank out the essay, try to get it published somewhere respectable, and see if there's any further demand. But along the way, I thought of how either of you might help, then came up with something slightly different. That is to look at the Reagan-to-Trump era reactionary movement in the broader context of fascist movements around the world. Also, to lessen my load, and give this a better chance of actually happening, I propose that you two do it as a graphic book (Mike writing, Ram illustrating). Maybe I can contribute some rough ideas, a website, some online notes, like that.

The immediate trigger for the thought was reading Benjamin Carter Hett's "The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic." Some descriptions of Hitler can easily be recast for Trump. Some cannot, but the essential point is that both are public faces of crazed mass movements which were handed power by arch-conservative power brokers (the Kochs and Mercers as much as Hindenburg and his business backers), in both cases understanding that their privileges can only be sustained if they can hide behind a political movement preoccupied with hating others. It's taken some countries much longer to mount a successful fascist movement than others. Germany in the 1920s could look back on its humiliating defeat in the Great War and rail against both internal traitors and the insults of reparations, while imagining that the extraordinary will of someone like Hitler could triumph, restoring Germany's greatness among nations. Fascists could build on lesser grounds, as Mussolini did in Italy. Even in England and France, small groups felt cheated and spawned lesser fascist movements.

It was even harder to get a fascist movement started in the US, but in the 1930s there was a clique of conservatives who harbored the fantasy, and they started to build as the Cold War lent their anti-union politics an air of respectability. As Robert Paxton argues in "The Anatomy of Fascism," fascists start out as the public face of oligarchic powers frustrated by having to deal with democracy. That turns out to be a pretty apt description of Trump. And it's worth noting that GW Bush made his own fortune working as the front man for the oil magnates who owned the Texas Rangers. Also that as Reagan's acting career washed up, he made his living as a shill for General Electric (see Kim Phillips-Fein's "Invisible Hands" for more on GE's hardcore opposition to FDR's New Deal). The difference between Hitler and America's leading fascists is that Hitler moved beyond being a front, seizing power and pursuing his own delusions, driving Germany to utter ruin, whereas the damage wrought by the American troika have yet to rebound against their masters.

Thinking along these lines, I was reminded of Marx's quip about Napoleon III in 1848: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce." That seems about right for contrasting Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, although one might not want to tempt fate given that the full bill for electing Trump has yet to be paid. Also one doesn't want to make light of the many terrible things that Trump as already done. Still, I see no reason why we can't present him as a buffoon as well as vile. Indeed, that's likely to be where the graphic form is most effective. Nor should we refrain from treating Hitler and Mussolini as farcical characters. Maybe if people had realized then how ridiculous they were, they might have been stopped before they could devastate so much of the world. Stopping Trump is still an option.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive.

Music: current count 31440 [31400] rated (+40), 255 [256] unrated (-1).

Last Monday of the month, so time to unveil April Streamnotes, including this week's subset below. Five Mondays this month, so the totals are up handsomely from the two previous four-Monday months. Weekly rated count is up a bit, but that's partly because I found five records I failed to record grades for recently. Some of those bookkeeping errors probably caused me to log 29-album weeks (four so far this year) instead of 30, long my standard for a productive week.

Worth noting that all three of this week's new non-jazz A-list albums here also placed high on Phil Overeem's latest list (numbers 4, 6, and 20). For what little it's worth, I wrote those before seeing Overeem's list, but not before Dan Weiss praised them on Facebook (although I think I first heard of Billie Eilish from Christgau).

Those tips help make up for the frustration of declining awareness I've been feeling. Although I still keep a music tracking file, I've stopped making any systematic effort to find and list prospects, leaving me with little concept of what to search out next. As a result, I veer off on arbitrary tangents, as when I found a piece called A Guide to Drexciya's Futuristic Electro. I really liked Drexciya's Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller, Vol. I back in 2012, so that seemed worth pursuing. But it certainly fell far short of a plan.

Finally, a link that makes more sense to list here than in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: Rachel Syme: Vince Aletti's Obsessive Collection of Seminal Fashion Magazinse. Vince was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York City in 1977, so it's good to see him again, even older, as we all are.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (2019, Question Everything/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (2016 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anderson .Paak: Ventura (2019, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (2015-16 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Seamus Blake: Guardians of the Heart Machine (2017 [2019], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Club D'Elf: Night Sparkles (Live) (2011 [2019], Face Pelt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019, Get Better): [r]: A-
  • Cooper Moore/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ronnie Cuber: Straight Street (2010 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019, Darkroom/Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Anat Fort Trio: Colour (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (2018 [2019], Jazz Hang): [cd]: B
  • Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (2016 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephen Gauci/Sandy Ewan/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea: Live at the Bushwick Series (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (2019, Nice Life/Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (2018 [2019], Uncle Marvin Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Rathbun: Character Study (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Reed: Everybody Gets the Blues (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Scott: In Search of Hipness (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Swindle: No More Normal (2019, Brownswood): [r]: B-
  • Trapper Keaper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (2019, Ears & Eyes/Caligola): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cory Weeds Quintet: Live at Frankie's Jazz Club (2019, Cellar Live): [r]: B+(*)
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (2019, Orenda): [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume One (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume Two (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elecktrokids: Elektroworld (1995 [2019], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (2003 [2019], Capri, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2003, Torii): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: A-
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller IV (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cubs): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Neptune's Lair (1999, Tresor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Grava 4 (2002, Clone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billie Eilish: Don't Smile at Me (2017, Darkroom/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (Whaling City Sound)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (Origin)
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (Summit): June 7
  • Satoko Fujii: Stone (Libra): June 7
  • The Invisible Party: Shumankind (Chant -18)
  • Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (ILK)
  • Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (self-released): May 1
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (Edgetone)
  • The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (RichHeart Music): May 11
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (Patois): June 7
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (Orenda): May 3

Purchases:

  • Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018 [2019], Atlantic) [A-]
  • Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless) [A-]

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners, unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in 1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy -- that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same obliviousness to consequences.

I should note somewhere that former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the past.

Also noted that historian David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's a more useful (and generous) obituary.


Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Daily Log

Fixed dinner for four last night. Wasn't planned, except iasmuch as I bought a pound of hamburger thinking I'd make meatloaf, then postponed it after my wife stuck the meat in the freezer. I already had a pound of ground lamb there, and keep everything else I would need as staples. So when I announced I'd fix it Friday, my wife invited a couple of friends over. I don't normally make any extra dishes for just the two of us -- the meatloaf baked with some root vegetables, so makes a nice comforty meal-for-two, with leftovers for sandwiches. But with two more guests, I figured I should add a little something. I decided to limit myself to things I could fix without shopping. Came up with this:

  • Meatloaf (beef + lamb, with onion, green bell pepper, garlic, a can of tomatoes, two eggs, parmesan cheese, some spices) with coarsely chopped root vegetables (yukon potatoes, parsnip, a sweet potato).
  • Baked beans topped with bacon (two cans of Van Camps, flavored with mustard, catsup, worcestshire, brown sugar, maple syrup, also threw in a bit of Chinese bean sauce).
  • Cut green beans (a frozen bag), microwaved and added to a skillet with butter, shallots (two chopped), ham (two slices, diced fine), roasted garlic, a chopped scallion, sliced almonds, and a splash of sesame oil. (Thought about adding parmesan, but don't think I did.)
  • Roaster butternut squash soup.
  • Chocolate mousse for dessert.

I made the soup several days before. I thought it was pretty tasty, but I mostly make soups for Laura, and she didn't seem much interested in it. The other choices were mostly dictated by trying to get rid of things from the freezer and the pantry. I first tried another bag of cut green beans, but after I screwed up and boiled the pot dry, I decided they weren't worth saving, and grabbed another bag. The canned beans were old too: we threw out several ancient cans last week, so that got me thinking I should use what I had left. The bacon was OK, but running out of time. I meant to include carrots, but had to throw the few I had out (as well as most of the rest of the produce drawer).

The first two were old family recipes (the beans from my first wife) that I had fiddled with over the years. The green beans was pure improv. Earlier I had the idea of making creamed corn, but gave that up when I only found small packages of corn in the freezer. (The recipe, of course, frowned on using frozen corn, but I think I've used it before.) The cream got me to thinking about chocolate mousse, as one of the few really good desserts I could whip up in just a few minutes.

The chocolate mousse was a last-minute idea, started just before the guests arrived. I had several opened packages of chocolate in the fridge, and found 4 oz. of 70% bittersweet there. I had a guest whisk the melted chocolate/butter and egg yolks, and they wound up lumpy. I didn't pay enough attention to whipping either the egg yolks or the cream, and both came out less airy than ideal. The result was kind of lumpy and soupy, although the taste was there. It's just that you had to chew it to break the lumps open, but that turned out to be surprisingly satisfying.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31400 [31371] rated (+29), 256 [252] unrated (+4).

Seems like pretty much everything is a struggle these days. My most common complaint is that I'm getting sick and tired of not being able to do things right. A typical example was trying to repair a screen door lock. A nylon washer disappeared, and has proven impossible to replace. I bought some things I thought I might be able to use, then lost them. Bought some more, and turned out they were too thick, and hole was too small. I tried drilling out the hole, and destroyed the washer. Finally reassembled the door handle without the washer. The set screw is hard to get a grip on. It will no doubt fall apart again in a matter of days, at best a couple weeks. I have a bunch of other things that are falling apart, many because I didn't do a good enough job building them in the first place.

On the other hand, I have gotten a few things done. The new pantry shelf unit is painted and bolted in place, although we haven't really put it to use yet. That's waiting a second pantry improvement. I built a rather neat storage unit, then screwed up hanging the door so it never closed correctly (or at least easily). It finally dawned on me that if I could shave a quarter inch off the bottom surface, it should close without having to change the hinges. All that's left to do there is to rehang the door, and see whether the theory worked. Tomorrow.

At least I finally got my computers moved, making my workspace much more comfortable. Still haven't done the next step, which is to set up virtual web servers on the secondary machine, so I can start redesigning the Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell websites. I should at least know what I'm doing there.

Meanwhile, another routine week of music discoveries. Hard part for me is deciding what to search out. This seems like a typical week with two weeks of Christgau picks, further search down Phil Overeem's list, and the first Michael Tatum Downloader's Diary in quite a while. Unfortunately, I found myself coming up short with their well-considered picks. Instead, I went with the new Chemical Brothers album (I think someone on the Expert Witness Facebook group raved about it, but don't recall who), and a 1979 jazz album reissue that probably showed up in a Bandcamp Daily list (which I started using a couple weeks back when I couldn't play Napster).

Also, two rare regrades to from B+(***) to A-, originally reviewed by streaming but given a few more changes after CDs arrived. People shouldn't get the idea that all they have to do to get higher grades is to send me CDs, but they do help in cases where I've held a grade back due to some minor reservations.

April Streamnotes should be released with next Music Week, on April 29. Currently have 113 records in the draft file, so I'll probably wind up with 140-150.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (2018 [2019], Pi, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Chemical Brothers: No Geography (2019, Virgin EMI): [r]: A-
  • Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal (2019, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Salif Keita: Un Autre Blanc (2018 [2019], Naive): [r]: B+(***)
  • Khalid: Suncity (2018, RCA, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Khalid: Free Spirit (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (2019, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Joachim Kühn: Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B+(*)
  • Russ Lossing: Changes (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Russ Lossing: Motian Music (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Reba McEntire: Stronger Than the Truth (2019, Big Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (2018 [2019], Skirl): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hama Sankare: Ballébé: Calling All Africans (2018, Clermont Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hama Sankare: Niafunke (2019, Clermont Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Silk Road Assassins: State of Ruin (2019, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (2019, Green Egg): [cd]: B
  • Solange: When I Get Home (2019, Saint/Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Spellling: Mazy Fly (2019, Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sunflower Bean: King of the Dudes (2019, Mom + Pop, EP): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear (1979 [2019], Jazzman): [r]: A-
  • Live at Raul's (1979 [2019], Steady Boy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were (1984-94) (1984-94 [2018], Soundway): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Weaponize Your Sound (2019, Optimo Music): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Salif Keita: The Mansa of Mali: A Retrospective (1978-94 [1994], Mango): [r]: B+(***)
  • Russ Lossing: Dreamer (2000, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Russ Lossing/Ed Schuller/Paul Motian: As It Grows (2002 [2004], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Russ Lossing: All Things Arise (2005 [2006], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Timosaurus: I Love You More Than Yesterday (2011, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Hiljaisuus: Kuzu (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits/Aerophonic): [cd]: was: B+(***) A-
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): [cd]: was B+(***) A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (OverPop Music)
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed): May 10
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (Jazz Hang)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (self-released): May 3
  • Trapper Keeper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (Ears & Eyes)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (Capri): May 17
  • The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Let's start off with a range of reactions to the release (with extensive redactions) of the final report of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller:

I originally figured I'd try to write up my take on this, but at this point I'm too exhausted (not to mention disgusted).


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 15, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31371 [31344] rated (+27), 252 [251] unrated (+1).

May just be seasonal allergies, but feeling too lousy to even take a stab at writing an introduction. I still have XgauSez to edit and post before I go to bed tonight, so need to get onto that while I can.

A couple of notes, though. I've been talking about moving computers around for a month or more. I finally got that done this week. Best thing so far is that I have two relatively uncluttered desks to work on, instead of one hopelessly messy one. Also I moved the speakers above the desk, where they sound better and I can access the controls. (Also, now both computers have speakers. Subwoofers are still under the desk, where they should be, and that space is less cluttered than before. No website work yet, but I should get to that soon.

Delighted to see Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (49) finally posted. I checked out a couple of his recommendations below (also found a new live Pet Shop Boys he didn't mention). Also continuing to pick albums off from Phil Overeem's 25% through the briar patch list.

Finally, I finally did manage to cast a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot, a day past the deadline, but seems likely to be counted (not that I could ever tell from the results). I didn't do a very good job of collecting notes this time, but here is what I have.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Charlotte Adigery: Zandoli (2019, Deewee, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Etienne Charles: Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 (2019, Culture Shock Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks [This Is Bate Bola OST] (2018 [2019], International Anthem): [r]: B
  • Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (2019, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (2018 [2019], FPE): [r]: B+(*)
  • Amber Mark: Conexão (2018, Virgin EMI, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (2019, Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (2019, Make): [cd]: A-
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (2016 [2019], TUM): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nicki Parrott: From New York to Paris (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Jeremy Pelt the Artist (2018 [2019], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Agenda (2019, X2, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (2018 [2019], X2): [r]: A-
  • Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (2018 [2019], Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ruby Rushton: Ironside (2018 [2019], 22a): [r]: B
  • Jim Snidero: Waves of Calm (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (2019, Strikezone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • James Suggs: You're Gonna Hear From Me (2018, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Warren Vaché: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Louis Armstrong: Sparks, Nevada 1964! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: A-
  • Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time: African Visionary Music (1972 [2018], Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: In Coventry, 1966 (1966 [2018], Storyville): [r]: B
  • Ben Lamar Gay: 500 Chains (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Grapes (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ben Lamar Gay/Edinho Gerber: Benjamin E Edinho (2011-13 [2018], International Anthem, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joanne Grauer: Introducing Lorraine Feather (1978 [2018], MPS): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environental and New Age Music 1980-1990 (1980-90 [2019], Light in the Attic): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (Summit)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (Summit)
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (Uncle Marvin Music): May 17
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (Skirl)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (Green Egg): May 3

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I don't feel up to writing much about Julian Assange, but following his arrest in London, I anticipate that I'll find a bunch of links this week and should collect them together. Assange is an Australian, a computer programmer who came up with Wikileaks, a system to collect and publish anonymously submitted documents. That's always seemed like a noble endeavor, an aid in exposing how the rich and powerful conspire in private to manipulate and profit, and for a while he seemed to be doing just that. He quickly ran afoul of those powers, most notably the US government, which set out to charge him with various crimes, and quite possibly orchestrated a broader smear campaign against him. Assange, in turn, sought asylum from criminal charges, and since 2012 has been sheltered by the Ecuadorean embassy in London. I don't know how much Assange has had to do with Wikileaks since 2012 (or how much freedom he has had to do anything), but his brand name wound up playing a role in Trump's 2016 campaign when it framed the release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. One effect of the DNC dump was to expand the Democratic side of bipartisan outrage against Assange, especially as Clinton's drones tried to paint him as a Putin accomplice.

I don't have strong opinions about Assange one way or the other, but I did welcome his release of leaked documents on the Iraq War and the US State Department. (See my September 2, 2010 entry, Troops, on the "Collateral Murder" video, anti-war vet Ethan McCord, and a related speech by Barak Obama -- what I said then is still pretty relevant today.) Releasing the DNC emails didn't particularly bother me either, although the timing was suspicious (immediately after the release of Trump's Access Hollywood tape, allowing the media to spin scandal on top of scandal), as was the lack of any RNC/Trump campaign emails to balance the picture.

Anyhow, the Assange links:

Let's also break out multiple links on Israel's elections:


Scattered links on other topics this week:

Monday, April 08, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31344 [31312] rated (+32), 251 [249] unrated (+2).

Back in business. I figured all it would take to get Napster working again was a reboot -- it broke following a software update that didn't require one but involved a new Flash module, so I suspected that threw things out of sync. Still, I didn't want to do that for other reaasons, but was forced to when the computer freaked out and gave me a swizzle patterned screen. That suggested something far worse, but the reboot fixed that too.

Working Napster gave me a chance to catch up with the last couple weeks of Robert Christgau picks -- Stella Donnelly/Sharon Van Etten and Pedro the Lion/Jason Ringenberg -- where only the B+ record didn't disappoint. (Actually, I couldn't find Ringenberg's Stand Tall on Napster, but was able to fish a Soundcloud link from my email trash, so thanks to the publicist.) Guess I'm still missing the Ariana Grande/Amber Mark week -- I had the former's Sweetener way down at B, a grade split matching Mitski's Be the Cowboy, but haven't heard the more recent one.

Took a dive into George Strait after panning his new one, mostly because I noticed an unheard Christgau A- in the database (Something Special), and it panned out. I had his first Greatest Hits (1985) at A-, so it made sense to check out its source albums (just three of them). I'm not sure that grade holds up, but didn't recheck it. Still, after dismissing most of his songs as unmemorable, I've wound up with "You Look So Good in Love" stuck in my mind all week.

Other records suggested by various sources, most prolifically Phil Overeem. The tip on Angel-Ho came from breathless hype in The Nation ("Angel-Ho is the future of pop music"). I dug up Petra Van Nuis after she wrote to me (so sometimes that works). Strait and Mandy Barnett just showed up in Napster's featured lists.

Making fair progress on most projects, although not enough on moving the computer. (Will do that after I post this, I promise.) Biggest one is a new piece of badly-needed pantry shelving, which needs one more coat of paint before I drag it in and bolt it to the wall. I have a couple more projects in that space, ready to roll as soon as the first one is operational. Still, more projects seem to present themselves all the time. Dug up a couple plastic drawers full of CDs today, and my wife argued that I should get rid of them (something about the hoarding being psychotic). I had a plan a couple years back to start donating CDs to a local library, but never followed through on it -- partly because I was working on the Jazz Guide, maybe because they kept naming various buldings after the Kochs. The reason for having a substantial library is to look things up, but I'm fast losing my ability to do so, not to mention my prospects of ever writing anything worthwhile on the subject.

Still, the project I feel more pressing need for is to come up with a system so I can quickly identify where all my tools (and hardware) are. I'm forever thrashing, trying to find things I know I have somewhere, sometimes even having to buy more tools to replace those I've lost (most recently, a set of hole saws). In fact, thrashing seems to be the word for the week, maybe even the season.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her (2019, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (2019, T N' T Music): [cd]: A-
  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (2019, XM): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (2019, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (2019, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Earle & the Dukes: Guy (2019, New West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (2018 [2019], Pure Imagination): [cd]: B+(**)
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (2018 [2019], Blujazz/Southport): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (2019, Resonance): [cd]: B
  • Girls on Grass: Dirty Power (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Lanouguere Quintet: Eclectico (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jenny Lewis: On the Line (2019, Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile (2019, RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (2018 [2019], Storyville): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (2019, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jason Ringenberg: Stand Tall (2019, Courageous Chicken): [sc]: A-
  • Royal Trux: White Stuff (2019, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Babygirl: Crush on Me (2019, Father/Daughter, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Honky Tonk Time Machine (2019, MCA Nashville): [r]: B
  • Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Petra Van Nuis & Dennis Luxion: Because We're Night People (2018, String Damper): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (2018 [2019], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Two (2001-17 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Mandy Barnett: I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson (2013, Rounder): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Channel the Spirits (2016, The Leaf Label): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Strait Country (1981, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Strait From the Heart (1982, MCA): [r]: B
  • George Strait: Right or Wrong (1983, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Something Special (1985, MCA): [r]: A-
  • George Strait: The Best of George Strait [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1983-93 [2002], MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: 50 Number Ones (1982-2004 [2004], MCA Nashville, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD): April 26
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (T N' T Music): May 3
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (Blujazz/Southport)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (Blue Engine): April 19
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (Origin): April 19
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (Make)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (Storyville): April 19
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (TUM): May 17
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (Strikezone): May 3
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (OA2): April 19
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (Origin): April 19

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

One of my principles here is not to bother with politician horserace links, especially presidential candidates. One thing I've long held is that a president is only as good as his (or someday her) party, so the big question to ask any presidential candidate is: what are you going to do to get your party elected and make it an effective force? Still, every now and then I have opinions on specific people. When Greg Magarian griped about Tim Ryan and Michael Bennet getting a burst of press attention, as have recent stories about Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg raising great gobs of money, I commented:

Worth noting that O'Rourke and Buttigieg are principled neoliberals, and are raising money as such. They can do that because their youth and inexperience hasn't saddled them with the sort of baggage the Clinton establishment bears. That's bad news for Biden, who would be the obvious next-in-line for Clinton's donors if they didn't suspect that the brand is ruined. They may also be thinking that running someone young and outside might help crack Sanders' lead among young voters -- something Biden has no prayer of doing.

The one candidate I've been hearing the most (and most negative) about is Joe Biden. He hasn't announced yet, but evidently the decision has been made, the timing around Easter. Biden has led recent polls, but that can be attributed to his much greater name resolution. I've always figured the decision would turn on whether he's willing to risk his legacy on a very likely loss, but I suppose the decision will turn mostly on whether he can line up sufficient funding. (I had some doubts that Bernie Sanders would run, but when I saw his early funding reports, I immediately realized I was being silly.) Clearly, he didn't run in 2016 because Hillary Clinton had locked up most of his possible funding. That's less obvious this year, but a lot of competitive candidates have jumped in ahead of him.

Biden isn't awful, but he has a lot of baggage, including a lot of things that wound up hurting Clinton in 2016 (like that Iraq War vote). Some of those things could hurt him in the primaries, especially his rather dodgy record on race and crime, and with women. Other things, like his plagiarism scandal, will hurt him more in the general election. But the big problem there is that he was a Washington insider and party leader for so long that he makes it easy for Republicans to spin this election into a referendum on forty years of Democratic Party failures. Obama was largely able to avoid that in 2008, but Clinton couldn't in 2016.

Also, there is the nagging suspicion that he isn't really a very good day-to-day candidate. Last time he ran for president he was an also-ran, unable to get more than 1-2% of the vote anywhere. He got the VP nod from Obama after Clinton decided she'd rather be Secretary of State, and one suspects that the Clintons pushed for Biden as VP because they didn't regard him as a serious rival in 2016 (when a sitting VP would normally have the inside track to the nomination). And he's exceptionally prone to gaffes. He managed to avoid any really bad ones running with Obama, but running on his own he'll get a lot more scrutiny and pressure. Nobody thinks he's stupid or evil -- unlike Trump, whose base seems to regard those attributes as virtues -- but nobody is much of a fan either (well, except for the fictional Leslie Knope, which kind of proves the point).

For more, if you care, see Michelle Goldberg: The wrong time for Joe Biden:

Beyond gender, on issue after issue, if Biden runs for president he will have to run away from his own record. He -- and by extension, we -- will have to relive the debate over the Iraq war, which he voted to authorize. He'll have to explain his vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which, by lifting regulations on banking, helped create the conditions for the 2008 financial meltdown. (Biden has called that vote one of the biggest regrets of his career.) In 2016, Hillary Clinton was slammed for her previous support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which contributed to mass incarceration. Biden helped write the law, which he called, in 2015, the "1994 Biden crime bill." . . . No one should judge the whole span of Biden's career by the standards of 2019, but if he's going to run for president, it's fair to ask whether he's the right leader for this moment. He is a product of his time, but that time is up.

Other political news last week included the death of Ernest Hollings, the long-time South Carolina senator, at 97. I was, well, shocked to see him referred to in an obituary as a populist -- a thought that had never crossed my mind. I would grant that he was not as bad as the Republicans who served in the Senate alongside him (Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham), or his Republican successor (Jim DeMent). Still, those are pretty low standards.

By the way, a couple of non-political links below: subjects I used to follow closely in more carefree times. See if you can pick them out.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 01, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31312 [31297] rated (+15), 249 [253] unrated (-4).

Rated count way down, about half of what I consider a solid week. When I dropped to 29 last week, I described that as a "lazy week." Could say that again, but the real reason for the drop off is that the Flash plugin on my computer is fucked up, making it impossible to use Napster (or, for that matter, Spotify). That left me with playing CDs (9) and using Bandcamp (6), and I didn't really have much to choose from or look for on either. Unplayed CD queue is currently only 7 deep, and I don't just randomly play unknowns on Bandcamp. On the other hand, the Bandcamps generally got two spins, and the CDs more than that (I'd guess Larry Fuller got 7-8 plays -- not that I needed more than 2, but it made for pretty pleasant background music). All that lead to a couple anomalies. Only one A- is the lowest weekly total in quite some time, and I'm actually not real solid on it -- I've never been much of a Betty Carter fan, and should probably go back and check some of her earlier releases (and re-check The Audience With Betty Carter, which I have at B- even though it wears a Penguin Guide crown). It could be that I promoted it at the last minute because I came up with nothing else.

The other anomaly is the high percentage of B+(***) grades (8/15). Certainly the multiple replays helped out. At this point, I'm pretty sure the jazz records (especially the CDs) have plateaued, but three of the Bandcamps might merit further investigation: Mekons, Quelle Chris, and Mdou Moctar. I think I have those three pegged right, but they're close, and it's worth noting that I have the immediately previous albums by all three at A- (It Is Twice Blessed, Everything's Fine, and Blue Stage Sessions).

Priorities for the coming week will be to reconstruct my crashed tax file, finish (paint) a new pantry shelf, and finally get my computers rearranged and reconnected (hopefully fixing the Napster problem, and allowing me to get onto some website work). Also have my DownBeat Critics Poll invite, so that will be another (pretty much wasted) chunk of time. One website task I did manage to get done last week was to build a book page for Robert Christgau's new essay collection, Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading, due out from Duke University Press on April 12. Info and various links on that page. Still to be done is the nasty task of embargoing most of the pieces that appear in the book, so this is your last change (for several years) to squirrel away free copies of most of the book.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (2018 [2019], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Blu & Oh No: A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (2019, Native Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (2016 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ross Hammond & Sameer Gupta: Mystery Well (2018, Prescott): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mekons: Deserted (2019, Bloodshot): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Ilana: The Creator (2019, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Quelle Chris: Guns (2019, Mello Music Group): [bc]: B+(***)
  • SOL Development: The SOL of Black Folk (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992 [2019], Blue Engine): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (XM): April 12
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (self-released): June 7
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (Resonance): April 19
  • Pablo Langouguere Quintet: Eclectico (self-released): May 31


Mar 2019 May 2019