August 2019 Notebook
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Daily Log

Starting to do some badly needed housecleaning, both in my physical and virtual worlds. As I do things, I'll add notes to this list.

Website(s):

  • I thought it would be nice to have a permanent link to the latest Streamnotes column, so wrote arch/rhap/latest.php. Code reads my list file, picks out the latest monthly column, then writes a header "Location" directive to redirect to that column. First time I've written code like that, although I've needed it in the past, and will much more in the future.
  • Made minor changes to /arch/rhap menu. Renamed rhwish.php "Search List," and added it and "Latest," while dropping "Missing."
  • Looked at sitemap.php and found it's really out of date (file date Sept. 8, 2006). I need to go through this and make a number of changes, and also update the link menus to better reflect reality.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (complete).

Music: current count 31984 [31944] rated (+40), 236 [243] unrated (-7).

Spent most of last week listening to old records from my "unrated" list. Most, I think, are used CDs I bought between 1999, when we moved back to Wichita, and 2003-04, when I started getting a lot of promos for Recycled Goods and Jazz Consumer Guide. During that period I used to make regular trips to Oklahoma City (sometimes Tulsa, once even to Kansas City) where I'd pile up 30-50 CDs at a time. Also made a few cross-country trips in those years, where I would spend whole days traipsing around cities like Denver and Phoenix, scrounging around. In several cases I cleaned up on store closeouts. Actually, I did that for a few more years, but stopped buying locally after Yesterdays and Wherehouse went out of business, and that did much to break the pattern. (Wichita still has a number of CD Tradepost stores, but I've never liked them. Google also lists a Spektrum Muzik, which I should probably look into -- although at this point I'd be more tempted to sell than to buy.) Of course, the other thing that broke my shopping habit was Rhapsody. I started doing Streamnotes in late 2007, and my purchases plummeted after that.

Some unrated records are older LPs. Not sure when I started keeping a ratings list. I've had personal computers since about 1980 (an Ithaca Intersystems DPS-1 with a Z-80, 64K RAM, S-100 bus, two 8-inch floppy discs, ran CP/M, ran me close to $5,000, not counting the Heathkit terminal I soldered together; I actually had an Apple II before that, but decided it was crap and never bought from Apple again), so I could have started any time after that, but I certainly had one by the mid-1990s. That list didn't always have grades -- I assigned them mostly from memory, which had already begun to fail on many older/less played LPs. I sold off most of my LPs in 1999 before moving to Wichita, so may no longer have some items logged as unrated. (On the other hand, I recall dozens of early albums not on the records list, so it was never perfectly accurate.)

I started counting up unrated records in March 2003, when my rated count was 8,067 and the unrateds totalled 821. The unrated count jumped to 899 the next week after a bout of shopping. It went down for a few weeks, then shot up again, finally peaking at 1,157 in July 2004. I've gradually whittled it down since then, dropping under 1,000 in December 2004, under 800 in July 2007 (although it climbed back to 888 in April 2011), under 600 in December 2012, under 400 in April 2015, and under 300 in September 2018, and 243 last week. I thought I'd try to knock it down further this week. I gathered up a bunch of CDs from the list, and streamed a few I didn't bother hunting down. That explains both why I have so much "old music" this week, and why it seems so abritrarily selected. Still, my efforts were undone by a sudden burst of incoming mail (bringing the recent queue up to 26 albums, although most of their release dates are well into Fall).

Working off my unrated list results in some curious choices below. For instance, the Lenny Breau/Brad Terry album is only about a third of the one you'd probably buy these days, 2003's The Complete Living Room Tapes, but I cut that down to match the one I owned (didn't find it, but I remember the cover). Similarly, you'd buy the Michael Mantler twofer, where I only had the Silence half (probably on vinyl, but in this case I did bother to stream the other half. I listened to extra albums where they struck my fancy: by Arrow, Hackberry Ramblers, Jasper Van't Hof, Papa Wemba, and Jack DeJohnette (and threw in an average grade for the latter's box, since I've heard all the pieces and that's how they're available on Napster). But I didn't bother with the first Songhai album, or the earlier and later volumes by the Bluegrass Album Band, to mention a couple of obvious series. I imagine I'll keep nibbling away at the unrated list, but already I'm seeing diminishing returns.


Expect a new edition of XgauSez by the time you read this. I should also have an update to the Consumer Guide database real soon now. I've added the last batch of Expert Witness reviews to my local copy so I should be able to do an update any time. I'll send mail to the tech email list when I do, and go into more detail about redesign plans.

I reckon I can pass on a link that Joe Yanosik sent me: a piece by Geoff Edgers called The summer of 1969, when Elvis made his true comeback, which includes some bits of interview with Christgau.

Tried to get my new Synology backup server running last week, and ultimately failed. I'll take another shot at it this week. The machine also has potential as a media server -- something I have a clear need for, but never put enough time into to really figure out. Also made another Friday dinner for Max Stewart. Thought I'd do something easy/lazy this time, so made pastisio, a green bean ragout, and horiatiki salad: basic Greek country cooking. I felt good enough about it I might try something a bit more challenging next time.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Clairo: Immunity (2019, Fader): [r]: B+(***)
  • CP Unit: Riding Photon Time (2019, Eleatic): [r]: A-
  • G-Eazy: The Beautiful & Damned (2017, BPG/RVG/RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (2018-19 [2019], Pi): [cd]: A
  • Nils Lofgren: Blue With Lou (2019, Castle Track Road): [r]: B+(*)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Screen Off (2008-18 [2019], PNL): [bc]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Cannonball Adderley: Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1967 (1966-67 [2019], Real to Reel): [r]: B+(***)
  • Big Stick: Some of the Best of Big Stick (1985-91 [2019], Drag Racing Underground, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marvin Gaye: You're the Man (1972 [2019], Motown): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Arrow: Soca Savage (1984, Arrow): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arrow: Knock Dem Dead (1987 [1988], Mango: [r]: B+(**)
  • The Bluegrass Album Band: The Bluegrass Album, Vol. 3: California Connection (1983, Rounder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lenny Breau & Brad Terry: The Living Room Tapes (1978 [1995], Dos): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack DeJohnette: Sorcery (1974, Prestige): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition: Tin Can Alley (1980 [1981], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition: Inflation Blues (1982 [1983], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack DeJohnette: Parallel Realities (1990, MCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack DeJohnette: Special Edition (1979-84 [2012], ECM, 4CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Manu Dibango: Wakafrika (1994, Giant): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luderin Darbone's Hackberry Ramblers: Early Recordings: 1935-1950 (1935-50 [2003], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luderin Darbone's Hackberry Ramblers: Jole Blonde (1963-65 [1993], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Hackberry Ramblers: Cajun Boogie (1992, Flying Fish): [cd]: A-
  • The Johnson Mountain Boys: At the Old Schoolhouse (1988 [1989], Rounder): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ketama/Toumani Diabate/José Soto: Songhai 2 (1994, Hannibal): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shoukichi Kina: Peppermint Tea House: The Best of Shoukichi Kina (1980-91 [1994], Luaka Bop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tony Lakatos/Rick Margitza/Gábor Bolla: Gypsy Tenors (2017, Skip): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yo-Yo Ma: The Soul of the Tango: The Music of Astor Piazzolla (1998, Sony Classical): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Mantler: No Answer (1973 [1974], Watt): [r]: B-
  • Michael Mantler: Silence (1976 [1977], Watt): [r]: B
  • Michael Mantler: No Answer/Silence (1973-76 [2000], Watt, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Oujda-Casablanca Introspections, Vol. 1 (1988-93 [1994], Barbarity): [cd]: A-
  • Romeo Must Die: The Album (2000, Virgin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wallace Roney: The Wallace Roney Quintet (1995 [1996], Warner Bros.): [cd]: B
  • Archie Shepp/Jasper Van't Hof: Live in Concert: Mama Rose (1982, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Third World Cop [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1999 [2000], Palm Pictures): [cd]: A-
  • McCoy Tyner Big Band: Journey (1993, Birdology): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jasper Van't Hof/Ernie Watts/Bo Stieff Face to Face: Canossa (1998, Intuition): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Viva La Musica & Papa Wemba: Pôle Position (1995, Sonodisc): [r]: A-
  • Papa Wemba: Papa Wemba [Destin Ya Moto] (1988, Disques Espérance): [r]: B+(**)
  • Papa Wemba: Papa Wemba [M'Fono Yami] (1988 [1989], Stern's Africa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Papa Wemba: M'zée Fula-Ngenge (1999, Sonodisco): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Williamson: A Waltz for Grace (1990, Verve): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Yosuke Yamashita/Bill Laswell/Ryuichi Sakamoto: Asian Games (1988 [1993], Verve Forecast): [cd]: B


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Viva La Musica/Papa Wemba: Nouvelle Écriture: Dans L' (1998, Sonodisc): [cd]: [was: B] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ray Blue: Work (Jazzheads): October 12
  • Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds (Ridgeway): October 25
  • DSC [Leon Lee Dorsey/Greg Skaff/Mike Clark]: Monktime (Jazz Avenue 1): September 13
  • Avram Fefer Quartet: Testament (Clean Feed): November 8
  • Haruna Fukazawa: Departure (Summit)
  • Olli Hirvonen: Displace (Ropeadope): August 30
  • Florian Hoefner Trio: First Spring (ALMA): September 27
  • Todd Marcus: Trio+ (Stricker Street): November 15
  • Derel Monteith: Connemara: Solo Piano Improvisations (self-released): October 18
  • Derel Monteith Trio: Quantity of Life (self-released): October 18
  • Vaughn Nark: Back in the Day (Summit)
  • Dana Saul: Ceiling (Endectomorph): September 13
  • Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (Outside In Music): October 25
  • Emi Takada: Why Did I Choose You? (self-released): September 1

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekend Roundup

There are more than a few "Trump's gone nuts" moments below. Not the first time this has happened, but the count is definitely rising (and continuing as the G-7 articles arrive). The Fallows links below offer an extended opportunity to plot Trump's decline. Also see Steve M: Even if Trump is impaired, he won't go quietly. He cites Charles Pierce recalling the 1984 Reagan-Mondale debate as the occasion when he realized that Reagan exhibited clear signs of Alzheimer's. I recall watching that debate, and thinking I've never seen a more one-sided drubbing, yet Reagan went on to a landslide victory that November. On the other hand, I also came away very annoyed with Mondale, who scored many of his points by being more resolutely (recklessly even) anti-communist than Reagan -- whose own Cold War ardor was undoubted but, at least in person, tempered by his genial incoherence.

Trump's incoherence is less benign, partly because he projects a degree of menace (resentment and vitriol) Reagan never projected. But also Reagan was never his own man. He was the front guy, hired as the face and mouth, reading from prepared scripts, happy to be playing a role, while his evil "kitchen cabinet" called the shots. Trump has always been a one-man show, with few (if any) competent advisers, but with great faith in his ability to wing it. Early on, all presidents are dazed and overwhelmed at first, allowing their staffs to hold sway over the administration. However, deference and ego eventually favor the president, who eventually take charge of what matters most. It took GW Bush well into his second term to get out from under Cheney's thumb. Obama and Clinton evolved faster because they knew more, but in both of those cases early staff decisions did a lot of damage. Trump got saddled with a lot of hardcore GOP regulars early on, but most of them have been purged, allowing Trump to replace them with flunkies distinguished mostly by their sycophancy. The result is that when Trump wigs out, we no longer have the comfort of "adults in the room" to contain the damage.

I imagine you could plot two curves here. One shows the increased fragility of the administration (and really the whole country) as competent people are replaced with ones who are less so (and/or are too crooked to know better). The other would is the increasing likelihood that Trump himself will break down and blow something up. (Too early to call his performance at G-7, but it should be enough to give you a fright.)


The Democratic presidential campaign thinned out a bit, with Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, and John Hickenlooper ending their campaigns. Meanwhile, Joe Walsh will offer Trump some token ultra-conservative opposition.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, August 19, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31944 [31902] rated (+42), 243 [259] unrated (-16).

Rated count needs some explanation. There are only 28 records listed below, so everything else comes from finding bookkeeping errors from previous weeks (or possibly longer). I refer to my "ratings database," but it's nowhere close to normalized. When I rate a record, I usually have to note that fact in 4-5 different places, which makes it pretty easy to miss one (or two). On the other hand, that gives me something better than my memory for checking errors. The process is tedious, so I don't do it often, but once I noticed a couple of errors, I made a pretty thorough effort this time.

The actual week count should be even lower. By the time I finished my bookkeeping exercise, I had added 4-5 more records since my usual Sunday evening cutoff. Normally, I would have saved those grades for next week, but under the circumstances, I figured I might as well get all the anomalies out at once. Two things cut into last week's count: I spent a day cooking and playing oldies; and I spent the better part of four days streaming through a single title: Mark Lomax's 400. The latter is actually 12 albums rolled into one. Parts of it are on Napster, so I started there, but after thrashing over how to grade the various parts, I decided to just stream the whole thing, broken up over 5-6 sessions over 4 days. The cumulative experience was so overpowering I wound up giving it an A, an exception to my usual rule of giving that grade only after repeated play over time. (Five plays is usually minimal; I've only played all of 400 once, although some parts did get two or three listens; on the other hand, my cumulative time is 12-15 hours, so I wouldn't call this grade casual.)

Afterwards, I went back and streamed several of Lomax's earlier albums, but had trouble grading them: even his earliest work is close in power and depth to his latest, but I tended to hedge the grades down rather than turn myself into a rubber stamp. I should note that I've heard two of his albums before: The State of Black America was a Jazz CG pick hit at the time (2010, grade: A), and Isis and Osiris was an A- in 2014. I hadn't noticed anything else he did until I stumbled across the new one (it showed up when I added all of this year's 4.5+ star All About Jazz reviews into my in-progress EOY Aggregate). There's more I haven't explored yet on his website.

Aside from Lomax, more old music this week. I checked out several old SABA/MPS albums after I found Cosmic Forest on Napster. Finally, when I was doing my bookkeeping it occurred to me that this might be a good time to cut down on my "unrated" count by streaming records I own(ed) but never graded. That list was once up in the 700-range (from back when I was buying used CDs by the ton), but it's been bouncing around 250 for quite a while now. I started with the Milton Babbitt record last night, and I built a checklist today, so I'm likely to do more of that in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I'll note that this week's unpacking are all October/November releases, and indeed most of what I have in the physical queue doesn't drop until the Fall. So I'm not feeling a lot of urgency there.

I mentioned that dinner, so might as well file a note on it here. I didn't have time to plan much, but thought salmon teriyaki would be easy. I make it fairly often, but usually just serve it with a couple of Chinese sides, as I've only rarely dabbled in Japanese cuisine. I thought I would try some things this time, but had only the vaguest plan, bought groceries as options, and wound up swapping in Chinese and Korean recipes when they seemed likely to be tastier. Final menu was something like this:

  • Salmon teriyaki
  • Udon noodles and matchstick vegetables with peanut-lime sauce (China Moon)
  • Grilled Japanese eggplant with garlicky peanut sauce (China Moon)
  • Carrot and daikon salad
  • Braised mushrooms (fresh shiitakes and baby portabellos) (a Korean recipe)
  • Shrimp gyoza, with dipping sauce
  • Miso soup
  • Strawberry shortcake

I originally planned on stir-frying the cooked noodles with cabbage and other vegetables, but I overcooked them and figured the best way to salvage them would be to sauce them quickly, and recalled the Tropp recipe. It called for the carrot and daikon I was planning on using anyway, plus cucumber (so I scratched my planned cucumber salad; I had enough carrot and daikon to use them in the noodles and separately as a salad). I had a Japanese recipe for the mushrooms, but decided the similar Korean version would be tastier (adds onion and garlic to the braising liquid, which uses dark instead of regular soy, and maple syrup instead of sugar). Max Stewart was a big help in pulling this off.

Various technical projects up in the air at present. I got stuck in trying to update the Christgau database, so will have to get back to that. He does have a new piece on Jimi Hendrix, and I've added a lecture on music and politics he gave shortly after Trump took over. I've also bought a new Synology box for backups, but don't have it configured yet. Everything's a struggle these days.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Don Aliquo/Michael Jefry Stevens: Live at Hinton Hall: The Innocence of Spring (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Arashi [Akira Sakata/Johan Berthling/Paal Nilssen-Love]: Jikan (2017 [2019], PNL): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mark Doyle: Watching the Detectives: Guitar Noir III (2019, Free Will): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Moy Eng/Wayne Wallace: The Blue Hour (2018 [2019], Patois): [cd]: B
  • Binker Golding & Elliot Galvin: Ex Nihilo (2018 [2019], Byrd Out): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joel Harrison: Angel Band: Free Country Vol. 3 (2018, HighNote): [r]: B
  • David Kikoski: Phoenix Rising (2019, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dr. Mark Lomax, II: 400: An Afrikan Epic (2019, CFG Multimedia -12CD): [dl]: A
  • New York Voices: Reminiscing in Tempo (2017-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Paal Nilssen-Love: New Brazilian Funk (2018 [2019], PNL): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love: New Japanese Noise (2018 [2019], PNL): [r]: B+(*)
  • Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So (2018 [2019], HighNote): [cd]: A-
  • Pom Poko: Birthday (2019, Bella Union): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: Red's Blues (2017 [2018], ARC): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Anders Svanoe: 747 Queen of the Skies: State of the Baritone Volume 3 (2018, Irabbagast): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ezra Weiss Big Band: We Limit Not the Truth of God (2019, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Saul Williams: Encrypted & Vulnerable (2019, Pirates Blend): [r[: B+(*)
  • Gabriel Zucker: Weighting (2016 [2018], ESP-Disk): [bc]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Nicola Conte Presents Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS (1965-75 [2018], MPS): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • George Gruntz: Noon in Tunisia (1967, SABA): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Gruntz: St. Peter Power (1968, MPS): [r]: B-
  • The Mark Lomax Sektet: Tales of the Black Experience (1999 [2001], Blacklisted Musik): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Mark Lomax Trio: Lift Every Voice! (2004, Blacklisted Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Mark Lomax Quartet: We Shall Overcome: Spirituals & the Blues Vol. 2 (2013 [2014], CFG Multimedia): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Mark Lomax Quartet: Requiem for a FallenKing: A Tribute to Elvin Jones (2013 [2016], CFG Multimedia): [os]: B+(***)
  • Jas. Mathus and His Knock-Down Society: Play Songs for Rosetta (1997, Mammoth): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dewan Motihar Trio/Irene Schweizer Trio/Manfred Schoof/Barney Wilen: Jazz Meets India (1967, SABA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Robert Taub: Milton Babbitt: Piano Works (1985 [1986], Harmonia Mundi): [r]: B+(***)
  • Waiting to Exhale [Original Soundtrack Album] (1995, Arista): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Roberto Magris Sextet: Sun Stone (JMood): November 1
  • John Yao's Triceratops: How We Do (See Tao): October 16
  • Jason Yeager: New Songs of Resistance (Outside In Music): October 4


Initial reviews I wound up pulling in favor of a single long Lomax review:

Mark Lomax II: The First Ankhcestor [400: An Afrikan Epic Pt. 1] (2019, CFG Multimedia): Drummer, produced two very impressive mainstream jazz records in 2010 and 2014, but otherwise has managed to stay off my radar. This is the first installment in the 12-part 400: An Afrikan Epic, commemorating 400 years since the start of the Transatlantic slave trade. In the beginning, there was the drum, so it's just drums here. Cover refers to "ngoma lugundu". Looks like it may be a credit, but translates as "the drum that thunders." B+(***)

The Mark Lomax Quartet: The Coming (Alkebulun: The Beginning of Us) [400: An Afrikan Epic Pt. 4] (2019, CFG Multimedia): A "musical depiction of crossing the Atlantic." Rather short (3 tracks, 31:31), starts with narration before the group takes charge: Edwin Bayard (tenor/soprano sax), Dr. William Menefield (piano), Dean Hullett (bass), the leader on drums. They're an impressive bunch, even without the message. B+(***)

The Mark Lomax Quartet: Dance of the Orishas (Alkebulan: The Beginning of Us) [400: An Afrikan Epic Pt. 3] (2019, CFG Multimedia): A-

Further notes on Lomax: 400:

 *  Alkebulan: The Beginning of Us
 1. Alkebulan: 01-{1-6}: The First Ankhcestor: celebration of the drums
    importance to Afrika -- all drums, "Ngoma Lungundu" [tr?] building to
    "Talking Drums"
 2. Alkebulan: 02-{1-5}: Song of the Dogon: portrait of a mystical ethnic
    group in West Afrika -- piano and bass enter, soon adding Edwin Bayard's
    magnificent sax
 3. Alkebulan: 03-{}: Dance of the Orishas: music inspired by the Yoruban
    spiritual tradition -- quartet
 4. Alkebulan: 04-{}: The Coming: musical depiction of crossing the
    Atlantic
 *  Ma'afa: Great Tragedy
 5. Ma'afa: 05-{}: Ma'afa: remembering to forget and forgetting to
    remember. Some strings.
 6. Ma'afa: 06-{1-2}: Up South: portrait of racism in America -- one of
    the best riff pieces here ("First Conversation")
 7. Ma'afa: 07-{}: Four Women: tribute to important black women -- heavier
    strings, all strings?
 8. Ma'afa: 08-{}: Blues in August: tribute to black men
 *  Afro-Futurism: The Return to Uhuru
 9. Afro-Futurism: 09-{}: Tales of the Black Experience: Sankofan view of
    Afrikan history
10. Afro-Futurism: 10-{}: Ankh & the Tree of Life: culturally relevant
    spiritual belief systems
11. Afro-Futurism: 11={}: Spirits of the Egungun: spiritual, cultural,
    political return to self
12. Afro-Futurism: 12={}: Afrika United: becoming . . . again

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Too late to write an introduction now. Maybe I'll add a postscript later.


Some scattered links this week:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Daily Log

Finished reading Reed Hundt's A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions. Thought I'd save a couple of summary paragraphs toward the end. First, from p. 332:

Going forward, all the problems that needed solving in 2008-2009 are for the most part still begging for good governmental policies. Little that Trump has done or promises to do will give Americans better ways to go to work, cleaner water to drink, or less sewage in rivers. His administration will make climate change more severe and the urgency of battling rising waters even greater. His policies will leave healthcare less improved for most people than Obama's good bill had intended to do. His judiciary will deny most people redress for most social injuries.

I would edit this a bit much more harshly, like:

Going forward, nearly all the problems that needed solving in 2008-2009 are part still begging for good governmental policies. Nothing that Trump has done or threatens to do will give Americans better ways to go to work, cleaner water to drink, or less sewage in rivers. His administration is making climate change more severe and the urgency of battling rising waters even greater. His policies have left healthcare less improved for most people than Obama's mediocre bill had intended to do. His judiciary will deny most people redress for most social injuries, and will be a blight on our commitment to justice for decades to come.

Further drafts will no doubt get nastier and more resentful.

Then, on p. 333, his last paragraph, more aspirational, fares better:

Under terrible pressure, with limited knowledge, and boxed in by doctrines unsuited for this crisis, Barack Obama thoughtfully made more critical decisions prior to his inauguration than any president in American history, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln. He acted with courage, conviction, and compassion. Presidents for years to come will have difficulty measuring up to his rare combination of grace and acumen. His experience, however, should teach again the wisdom Abraham Lincoln shared with Congress on December 1, 1862: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31902 [31860] rated (+42), 259 [259] unrated (+0).

Running late again, mostly because I've been fiddling with the 2019 Metacritic file, adding extra points for high grades (not just midyear list picks) for most of the publications tracked by Album of the Year. The specific lists are noted here: in most cases one point for grades scored 80+, although for some relatively generous publications I've used 90+ (e.g., for AllMusic Guide, I'm counting 4.5 star records, but not 4.0 star ones). My latest project there has been to add points for All About Jazz grades of 4.5+ stars (4 stars is probably their median grade; at any rate it's very common). I've worked my way back to March 26, and the work has slowed down as I've had to check more release dates to separate 2019 releases out from the earlier ones (mostly late 2018's, but sometimes they review older releases). AOTY doesn't track AAJ (or any other jazz sources), so this has started to generate some jazz coverage. I should probably do Downbeat next.

Many of this week's picks are things I stumbled onto from various lists, and they're a pretty patchy group. I've finally started adding the final/latest Christgau EW reviews to his database, so a couple records (like the Diana Gordon EP) were suggested there -- which, by the way, led me to find Taana Gardner's disco classic (one of very few Christgau-rated A records I missed). Phil Overeem's latest list (link last week) led me to several things, including the George Jones United Artists Rarities, which sent me on a minor dive with a side of Little Jimmy Dickens.

The bigger dive this week was into the works of Jon Lundbom and Bryan Murray. This started with Balto Beats and swept up pretty much everything I had missed. (I had heard their often excellent records on Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup label, but missed almost everything else.)

The other smaller dive was into country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. I initially graded his new one B+(***), but wondered if I shouldn't revisit 2017's Purgatory -- graded B+(**) by me at the time, but later a Christgau A-. Both of my initial reviews admitted that more spins may be called for, and it didn't take many. Also found two relatively crude earlier releases, which really brought his songwriting into focus. A couple more spins of the live EPs will raise could that grade as well, but the best songs are repeats from the debut -- probably still the best place to hear them.

One minor note: I've taken the time lock off the August Streamnotes draft file, which is where the monthly archive winds up. I won't do any indexing of the file until the end of the month, nor am I likely to be citing the URL in my weekly posts (although it's appeared in the notebook since I went weekly). But the naming convention is likely to be consistent moving forward, and you might spy something for the next Music Week there (e.g., the records I'm listening to as I'm writing this).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Leila Bordreuil/Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads (2016, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tyler Childers: Country Squire (2019, Hickman Holler/RCA): [r]: A-
  • The Cinematic Orchestra: To Believe (2019, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage II (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Elephant9: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elephant9 With Reine Fiske: Psychedelic Backfire II (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Diana Gordon: Pure (2018, self-released, EP): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Harbinger: Extended (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (2017 [2019], Zoho, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Anne Mette Iversen's Ternion Quartet: Invincible Nimbus (2018 [2019], BJU): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Kavuma: The Banger Factory (2019, Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • LSD: Labrinth/Sia/Diplo Present . . . LSD (2019, Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Lage Lund: Terrible Animals (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Lundbom/Bryan Murray: Beats by Balto! Vol. 1 (2018 [2019], Chant): [r]: A-
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (2019, Laborie Jazz): [cd]: B-
  • Simon Nabatov Quintet: Last Minute Theory (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ola Onabulé: Point Less (2019, Rugged Ram): [cd]: B
  • Mario Pavone Dialect Trio: Philosophy (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alberto Pibiri & the Al Peppers: The Nacho Blues (2019, Alberto Pibiri Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The John Pizzarelli Trio: For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole (2019, Ghostlight): [r]: B+(**)
  • Noah Preminger: After Life (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jenny Scheinman/Allison Miller: Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller's Parlour Game (2019, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet: Gettin' It There (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Silbergleit: January (2018 [2019], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (2019, PAO/Blujazz): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Tyler Childers: Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (2013-14 [2018], Hickman Holler, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Jones: United Artists Rarities (1962-64 [2019], EMI Nashville): [r]: B+(***)
  • Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April Is the Cruellest Month (1975 [2019], Black Forms Editions): [r]: B-

Old music:

  • Balto Exclamationpoint/Plaidworthy: If the Big Hurt (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Balto!: Balto! (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Balto!: Two Cans of Soup (2017, self-released, EP): [bc]: B-
  • Balto!: Taco Cat Poops (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Baltbom!: ¡!Baltbom!¡ (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Baltsticks!!: Play You, Play Me (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Bryan and the Haggards/Eugene Chadbourne: Merles Just Want to Have Fun (2012 [2013], Northern Spy): [bc]: A-
  • Tyler Childers: Bottles and Bibles (2011, Hickman Holler): [r]: A-
  • Little Jimmy Dickens: 16 Biggest Hits (1949-65 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Taana Gardner: Heartbeat (1981, West End, EP): [r]: A-
  • George Jones: George Jones Sings the Hits of His Country Cousins (1962, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Jones: My Favorites of Hank Williams (1962, United Artists): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Jones: George Jones Sings Like the Dickens! (1964, United Artists): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Lundbom: Big Five Chord (2003 [2004], self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: All the Pretty Ponies (A Live Recording) (2004 [2005], self-released): [r]: B
  • Bryan Murray: What You Don't Forget (2007, Jazz Excursion): [bc]: B+(***)
  • John Pizzarelli: P.S. Mr. Cole (1996-97 [1999], RCA): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Tyler Childers: Purgatory (2017, Hickman Holler): [r]: [was B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi): August 30
  • Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (Summit): October 4
  • Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (Savant)
  • Mike Pachelli: High Standards (Fullblast): September 1
  • Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So (HighNote)
  • Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (A.T. Music)
  • Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (self-released): October 3

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Again, spent a little over two days collecting what seems to be a bottomless series of links that show various aspects of the same basic fact: that Donald Trump is like all other conservatives in the sense that he believes some people (like himself) are innately superior to other people, and that the political system should be rigged to favor superior people over inferior ones, but even among conservatives, as an individual he is exceptionally ignorant, abusive, vain, and corrupt. Most weeks I take pains to remind you that what's wrong with him is just a reflection of his political beliefs, and we need to focus on the broader right-wing and not just on him. Still, this week he was such a flaming asshole that it's hard to get beyond the horror and disgust he reeks of.


Some scattered links this week:


Not news, but let me note in passing a few more historical links on intellectuals who had some influence on me:

Monday, August 05, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31860 [31831] rated (+29), 259 [257] unrated (+2).

I continue to be surprised at the pro-gun memes showing up in my Facebook feed. Consider this screed (from kin in Arkansas, if that matters):

"When I was in high school we had gun racks in trucks, and they had guns in them, and they were loaded. We even had fist fights! But never once did someone get pissed and go get a gun to shoot someone. We don't have a gun problem people, we have a people problem, a sin problem, a lack of heart and soul problem, a lack of respect for human life problem ,or even a mental health problem. . . . but we DO NOT have a gun problem! I think it's easier for some people to blame an inanimate object instead of taking responsibility."

This starts off with an anecdote which may have been true in the author's personal experience but is far from the general rule. Then it offers up a list of suspect people, blaming them and exculpating the guns they use to commit crimes. We watch a lot of crime stories on TV, and they invariably come down to motive and opportunity. Lots of people have motives that some people have killed for, but they don't do so because they never had the opportunity (or they had some scruples that inhibited them from striking out). Guns may do nothing on their own (there's a Steve Earle song called "The Devil's Right Hand" that argues otherwise), but when someone picks one up, they offer the opportunity of killing someone else, even at a distance. The basic idea behind gun control is to keep guns out of the hands of people who might use them criminally. One might argue that the government isn't smart or fair enough to make those decisions, but reasonable people could surely agree in minimal lists of guns that no one should have and people who should not have guns.

The problem there is finding reasonable people, especially among those on the right who have been propagating these stupid gun memes. Admittedly, there are people who would like to outlaw all guns, but they aren't numerous, and aren't in any position to reject reasonable compromises. My own position is that I dislike guns, and don't see any good reason for the vast majority of Americans (including myself) to own any, but I'm pretty resistant to the idea of outlawing things just because lots of people dislike them -- alcohol, drugs, and sex are cases we should have learned better than. On the other hand, I can occasionally see a case for prohibiting or strictly regulating some things that are especially dangerous, and I could understand wanting to include guns in that category.

Of course, there are some things that government is even more inept at dealing with than guns, and oddly enough they show up on the list of things pro-gun people like to blame gun violence on. Foremost is mental illness, which heads up Trump's list of scapegoats (along with ubiquitous things like violent video games). The fact is we don't do a very good job of treating (or even identifying) mental illness in this country, partly because we don't try (and conservatives are even more lax in this regard), but also because nobody's really very good at it. A rigorous system that tried to quarantine crazy people to keep them away from guns would be orders of magnitude more expensive and more hurtful than one that prohibited guns from all but the certifiably sane. Yeterday's meme blaming gun violence on drugs diagnosis without a solution.

I didn't mean to go down this rathole, but it just opened up -- as is so often the case. What I did want to do is quote a Barbara Ehrenreich tweet:

The mental illness we really have to fear is narcissism. It makes dumb, loathsome people feel virtuous and smart. Gun ownership is another form of narcissism. It makes little men feel big.

I'll also add this one from Adam Serwer, on Trump's Monday morning backpedal:

Trump sounds like a robot when condemning white supremacy and like himself when he's attacking religious and ethnic minorities because one is him pretending and one is him being himself.


Moving on, we have a week's worth of new music for you below. I added some grade data to my mid-year list aggregate, checking sites that hadn't produced lists and (usually) according one point for each record rated 80+ (based on AOTY lists. This had the surprise effect of boosting Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow to first place, 48-47 over Billie Eilish (gain from last week was 10-4). The only other notable shift was Weyes Blood, up from 15 to 10. Biggest drop was probably James Blake, 10-14.

Much of what I listened to last week came from looking at these lists. My other major source was Phil Overeem's July honor roll -- most impressively the MexStep record that came out mid-December, with no one noticing it in 2018 lists.

New batch of q&a from Robert Christgau up tonight: XgauSez.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Iggy Azalea: In My Defense (2019, Bad Dreams/Empire): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (2017 [2019], Jazz Dimensions): [cd]: B+(***)
  • J. Balvin & Bad Bunny: Oasis (2019, Universal Music Latino): [r]: B+(**)
  • B.J. the Chicago Kid: 1123 (2019, Motown): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chance the Rapper: The Big Day (2019, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Chuck Cleaver: Send Aid (2019, Shake It): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Chick Corea/The Spanish Heart Band: Antidote (2019, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Default Genders: Main Pop Girl 2019 (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Embon: Reminiscent Mood (2018-19 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Empath: Active Listening: Night on Earth (2019, Get Better): [r]: B+(*)
  • Filthy Friends: Emerald Valley (2019, Kill Rock Stars): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Frith: All Is Always Now: Live at the Stone (2007-16 [2019], Intakt, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (2017 [2019], Aerophonic, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rhiannon Giddens: There Is No Other (2019, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charles Wesley Godwin: Seneca (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Maxo Kream: Brandon Banks (2019, Big Persona/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • MexStep: Resistir (2018, Third Root): [r]: A-
  • The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (2019, Bar/None): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pink: Hurts 2B Human (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism (2017 [2019], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sasami: Sasami (2019, Domino): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Who: Betty (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband: Tor & Vale (2018 [2019], Moonjune): [cd]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • The Tubby Hayes Quartet: Grits, Beans and Greens: The Lost Fontana Studio Session 1969 (1969 [2019], Decca): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Bob Moses: When Elephants Dream of Music (1982 [1983], Gramavision): [r]: B
  • Pink: Funhouse (2008, LaFace): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pink: Greatest Hits . . . So Far!!! (2000-10 [2010], LaFace/Jive): [r]: A-
  • Olaf Polziehn Trio Featuring Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 2 (2003, Satin Doll): [r]: B+(**)
  • Olaf Polziehn/Ingmar Heller/Troy Davis/Harry Allen: American Songbook Vol. 3 (2006, Satin Doll): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Corey Christiansen: La Proxima (Origin): August 12
  • Harbinger: Extended (OA2): August 12
  • New York Voices: Reminiscing in Tempo (Origin)
  • Alberto Pibiri & the AI Peppers: The Nacho Blues (Alberto Pibiri Music)
  • Paul Silbergleit: January (Blujazz)
  • Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (PAO/Blujazz)
  • Miguel Zenón: Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (Miel Music); August 30

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Starting this early (Friday), hoping to avoid the last-minute crunch. Not really news, but CNN's Democratic presidential debates got a lot of attention from the punditocracy this week. As usual, I didn't watch in real time (although my wife did, so I overheard some), but caught the "highlights" later (among the comics, Colbert was most informative). Let's group the links here, rather than clutter up the main section:


Lots of non-campaign news this week, but Donald Trump's flagrant racism caught the most attention, climaxing with two mass shootings which, despite pro forma denials, appear as the proof in the pudding.

Checked my Facebook feed shortly before filing this, and was rather surprised to find as many/maybe more pro-gun memes than anti, not that the former make any sense. One, for instance, links to a piece titled "Every Mass Shooting Shares 1 Thing in Common, NOT Guns": I didn't follow, but the picture shows a pile of pills. I doubt that, but even if lots of mass shooters popped pills, by definition every single one used a gun. All of those were forwarded by acknowledged friends. (Of course, I do also have anti-gun friends. They may even be in the majority, but lose out in this comparison because they tend to post their own thoughts instead of just propagating someone else's propaganda.)

Some links on this and other stories:


Jul 2019 Sep 2019