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Monday, February 24, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32823 [32778] rated (+45), 245 [242] unrated (+3).

Moving into 2020, starting with my most mechanical tasks. The usual ones are the Year 2020 file, with rated records plus my physical CD queues, and Music Tracking 2020, with additional records I've heard of. The latter is longer than in previous years at this time, because I've created a Metacritic Aggregate file. The latter will eventually morph into an EOY Aggregate, much like 2019.

Last year I started adding in points for 80+ reviews as collated by AOTY. I've made a couple of adjustments this year: the grades are marked by '*' (instead of '+'), and I've added A:i/j to most lines, where i = the average critic score, and j = the number of reviews. While this information is useful in itself, it also helps me locate new reviews/grade changes. AOTY tracks 50+ publications, although several don't have any entries thus far this year. I've included all except for several metal magazines (Metal Hammer, Metal Injection, Metal Sucks), basically because the odds of finding anything of interest to me there are approximately nil. (Nonetheless, 18 metal albums have crept into the list, as many other publications cover at least some metal. I haven't ventured beyond AOTY yet, other than to add my grades and those of Robert Christgau (counted as before: A = 5, A- = 4, down to * = 1).

I had done something like this several years ago, but stopped as it got to be too much work, but resumed last year. Using AOTY helped simplify the work, compared to looking at each publication myself. But given that AOTY has a fairly narrow rock bias, I also factored in a few other sources, especially for jazz (Downbeat, All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective). I expect I'll get around to doing that sooner or later. Even as it stands, I have a fairly coherent view of what's new in 2020. A few of those records appear in the list below, and I'll check out more in coming weeks. I'm not fully committed to keeping this up, but mechanical tasks like this have been my default fallback lately.

Still, the two best new releases this week didn't clearly emerge from AOTY lists. Rather, they appeared in Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide (subscriber only). By the way, I have all of the free content from And It Don't Stop ready to post on Christgau's website, but have been hung up by indecision about whether we should force people to go to the subscription newsletter to find the pieces. We've decided that the Consumer Guides will be impounded for eight months, and that's demotivated me from adding the reviews to the CG database. I'd like to come up with some kind of scheme where subscribers get a cookie which would allow them to see embargoed entries in the database, but that will require some new code, and I don't have a scheme yet to validate the subscriber list.

Maybe I'll do some work on this and other website projects this week. Finally opening some time up.

This is the last Monday of February, so time to wrap up the Streamnotes: February 2020 archive. Review count is short compared to most months (106), because I extended January, and last Monday falls relatively early this month. More significant statistic is that I only got to 31 new releases (27 of new music), only 2 of which hit A-. That could be one of the lowest totals ever. On the other hand, a lot of old jazz this month, especially from Duke Ellington. I spread out from there, starting with artists who covered Ellington (and Billy Strayhorn) songs, band alumni (like Cat Anderson and Paul Gonsalves), and followed related links (like Fresh Sound reissues). Now that my rush to hear as many 2019 releases as possible is over, it's nice to spread out a bit.


Following up from yesterday's Weekend Roudup, 100% reporting (see Vox's tallies) hasn't changed much. Amy Klobuchar clung onto her 5th place in both raw votes totals, but slipped to 6th in the top-line County Convention Delegates totals. Next stop is the South Carolina primary this Saturday (February 29). Biden has led all year -- 46.4% to 12.0% for Sanders back on May 29 -- but the race tightened a couple weeks ago (25.0% to 18.4%), with the most recent polls showing Biden winning by 1%, 4%, or 15%. The bigger contest will be on March 3 ("Super Tuesday") in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Bloomberg will be on the ballot then, and has been heavily advertising in those states.

Here's an article that argues back against the electability assertions of "moderate" Democrats: Ibram X Kendi: When will moderates learn their lesson?


New records reviewed this week:

  • Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Life Goes On (2019 [2020], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Moses Boyd: Dark Matter (2020, Exodus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Frank Colón: Latin Lounge (2019 [2020], Technoprimal Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling (2020, ATO): [r]: A-
  • John Ellis and Andy Bragen: The Ice Siren (2016 [2020], Parade Light): [cd]: B [03-20]
  • Eminem: Music to Be Murdered By (2020, Shady/Aftermath/Interscope/Goliath): [r]: A-
  • Georgia: Seeking Thrills (2020, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gilfema: Three (2019 [2020], Sounderscore): [cd]: B+(*) [04-03]
  • Holy Fuck: Deleter (2020, Last Gang): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kesha: High Road (2020, Kemosabe): [r]: B+(*)
  • Les Amazones D'Afrique: Amazones Power (2020, RealWorld): [r]: B+(**)
  • Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Live! Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial (2019 [2020], Summit): [cd]: B
  • RJ & the Assignment: Hybrid Harmony (2019 [2020], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Gil Scott-Heron: We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven (2010-19 [2020], XL): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark Segger Sextet: Lift Off (2019 [2020], 18th Note): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Sergi Sirvent Octopussy Cats: Flax-Golden Tales (2017 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Soldier: Zajal (2019 [2020], Mulatta): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (2020, Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Westerlies: Wherein Lies the Good (2018 [2020], Westerlies): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Rashied Ali Quintet: First Time Out: Live at Slugs 1967 (1967 [2020], Survival): [r]: B+(*)
  • Duke Ellington: The Washingtonians (1924-26 [2019], Squatty Roo): [r]: B
  • Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1974 (1974 [2020], BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Vanore: Primary Colors (1984-85 [2020], Acoustical Concepts): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Cat Anderson and His Orchestra: Cat's in the Alley (1958-59 [2011], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cat Anderson: Cat Speaks [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1977 [2003], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cat Anderson: Plays WC Handy [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 [1997], Black & Blue): [r]: A-
  • Benny Bailey: In Sweden: 1957-1959 Sessions (1957-59 [2011], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Benny Bailey: Grand Slam (1978 [1998], Storyville): [r]: B+(***)
  • Josephine Baker: Breezin' Along [Art Deco Series] (1926-27 [1995], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chris Barber's Jazz & Blues Band: Echoes of Ellington (1976 [2008], Timeless, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arne Domnérus: Dompan! (2000 [2001], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: Historically Speaking: The Duke (1956, Bethlehem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington Presents . . . (1956, Bethlehem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music (1965 [1966], RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1950 (1950 [2001], Classics): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paul Gonsalves/Harry Carney/Mitchell "Booty" Wood: Stanley Dance Presents the Music of the Great Ellingtonians (1960-61 [2008], Fresh Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Al Haig/Jamil Nasser Combo: Expressly Ellington (1978 [1979], Spotlite): [r]: B+(***)
  • Coleman Hawkins and His All-Stars: The Complete Jazztone Recordings 1954 (1954 [2010], Fresh Sound): [r]: A-
  • Earl Hines/Jonah Jones/Buddy Tate/Cozy Cole: Back on the Street (1972, Chiaroscuro): [r]: A-
  • Jonah Jones: 1936-1945 (1936-45 [1997], Classics): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonah Jones: Confessin' [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 [1999], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Redman and His Orchestra Featuring Coleman Hawkins: At the Swing Cats Ball (1957 [2005], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(*)
  • The World's Greatest Jazz Band of Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart: Plays Duke Ellington (1973 [1999], Jazzology): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John DiMartino: Passion Flower: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (Sunnyside) [04-10]
  • Liberty Ellman: Last Desert (Pi) [03-27]
  • Vincent Glanzmann/Gerry Hemingway: Composition O (Fundacja Sluchaj)
  • Georg Graewe/Ernst Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Concertgebouw Brugge 2014 (Fundacja Sluchaj)
  • Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: Known/Unknown (Fundacja Sluchaj)
  • Denise Mangiardi: Brown Book (Alice's Loft Music)
  • Nutria: Meeting in Progress (Ears & Eyes)
  • Keith Oxman: Two Cigarettes in the Dark (Capri) [03-20]
  • Suzanna Ross: Is Bewitched* . . . *Not Bothered, Not Bewildered (self-released) [03-20]
  • Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble: The New Immigrant Experience: Music Inspired by Conversations With Dreamers (Tapestry) [03-20]
  • Schapiro 17: New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60 (Summit, 2CD) [04-03]
  • Sestetto Internazionale: Live in Munich 2019 (Fundacja Sluchaj)
  • Curt Sydnor: Deep End Shallow (Out of Your Head) [03-20]

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Mike Bloomberg had his coming out party at the Nevada Democratic debate, and the response was harsh -- e.g. (including a few extra Bloomberg links):

The Nevada caucuses were held on Saturday. Results came in much faster than in Iowa, but 24 hours later we still only have 87.47% reporting (see Nevada Democratic caucuses: Live results. As with Iowa, there are three sets of results. The first-round votes are: Sanders 34.27%, Biden 17.86%, Buttigieg 15.18%, Warren 12.76%, Klobuchar 9.25%, Steyer 9.12%. Bloomberg wasn't on the ballot, and no write-in votes have been reported, so he's currently 123 votes behind Michael Bennet, and 12 behind John K Delaney. As in Iowa, there's also a "realigned vote", as most "unviable" candidates lose votes to "viable" ones (Bennet drops to 12 votes, but somehow Delaney got a boost to 16): The top six held place, but Sanders gained the most, to 40.73%, vs. Biden 19.69% and Buttigieg 17.14%. But the most commonly reported results were "County Convention Delegates: Sanders 47.08%, Biden 20.94%, Buttigieg 13.63%, Warren 9.71%, Steyer 4.65%, Klobuchar 3.89%. (This week's best humor article: Klobuchar congratulates herself for 'exceeding expectations' as early Nevada results show her in distant 5th.)

Unlike Iowa, it was clear early on who the winner was. Dylan Scott came up with 3 winners and 2 losers from the Nevada caucuses, but the only candidate on the list was Sanders (winner), and two of the other items were clearly Sanders wins (winner: Medicare-for-all; loser: Culinary Union Local 226). Sanders' win was so complete that Vox republished Matthew Yglesias: Mainstream Democrats shouldn't fear Bernie Sanders. Also on Nevada (and Sanders):

The last few days have produced an avalanche of Sanders articles -- hysterical attacks on him, defenses (including some meant to reassure mainstream Democrats, like Yglesias above, and Paul Krugman here -- although not without lamenting that Sanders may have no use for "center-left" wonks like Krugman), promotions, and good old fashioned horse race handicapping, but little I cared to get into.


Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32778 [32759] rated (+19), 242 [241] unrated (+1).

Late again, but short as weeks go, given that last week's Music Week didn't appear until Thursday, February 13. My excuse then was that I was in the middle of a series on Duke Ellington's Chronological Classics (up to 1940, anyway). I decided not to bother with the 1940-1953 releases, figuring they're redundant to in-print albums on RCA and Columbia (and maybe Capitol?), but I've continued to trawl through Napster's offerings, using "ellington" as my titles search. That netted a few albums by other doing Ellington songs -- including titles by Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Zoot Sims, and Sarah Vaughan, below. I haven't hit the end of that list yet, so I'll keep plugging, and see what else catched my fancy. I briefly considered doing more individual albums from The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books, which I bought long ago and gave an A- to without subdividing, but I haven't followed up on that. (If I recall correctly, the best volume is the Harold Arlen, possibly followed by Irving Berlin or Cole Porter; the weakest may well be the Ellington, which is surprising given how much I like the later Ella and Duke at the Côte D'Azur -- a 2-CD sampler from a larger box I haven't heard, but which I believe is on Napster.)

All this old music digging has kept me off from new music, with only a few of my queue offerings this week. Robert Christgau sent his Consumer Guide out to subscribers last week, and included two new 2020 releases among his picks (Eminem and Drive-By Truckers) among his late-breaking 2019 picks (catching up with his Dean's List). Normally I'd jump on them, but this hasn't been a normal week.

Christgau followed that up with another list, Ten Movies I Love. I can't argue, not least because I've only seen four of those movies, and don't even recall hearing of most of the rest. [PS: Make that five: I've seen, but forgot the title of, Make Way for Tomorrow] I doubt I could even construct such a list, but I'd hate to leave out:

  • Babette's Feast -- Gabriel Axel (1988)
  • Before Sunrise -- Richard Linklater (1995)
  • Hairspray -- John Waters (1988)
  • High Hopes -- Mike Leigh (1989)
  • Johnny Dangerously -- Amy Heckerling (1984)
  • Made in Heaven -- Alan Rudolph (1987)
  • Moonstruck -- Norman Jewison (1987)
  • The Mosquito Coast -- Peter Weir (1986)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- Ethan & Joel Cohen (2000)
  • Ordinary People -- Robert Redford (1980)
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo -- Woody Allen (1985)
  • The Remains of the Day -- James Ivory (1993)
  • Stars and Bars -- Pat O'Connor (1988)
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown -- Pedro Almodovar (1988)

First of all, I'm surprised to find these so concentrated in time: 1985-1995 accounts for all but two, one from 1980, the other 2000. The obvious explanation is that I watched a lot more movies then than any time before or since. I hardly ever watched movies before, aside from minor binges, but started renting tapes after my first wife died, and watched even more when I dated and moved in with Laura. My movie watching has tailed off in recent years, but not as dramatically as the omission of post-2000 movies in the list above suggests. Perhaps I was just more impressionable in that first decade. I did a quick search through the notebook, and found a lot of good movies, but the only ones that tempted me to add to the list were: Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000); The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003); De-Lovely (Irwin Winkler, 2004); Letters From Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006); The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007); The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009, in Swedish); and Boyhood (2014).

A second point is that these are mostly small movies. (Three were nominated for Oscars, and one won.) A glance through the Oscar list and other lists at { IMDB, TimeOut, MSN } suggest some better-known epics that I like (in many cases a lot), in chronological order (while generally avoiding repeating directors from above):

Modern Times (1936); Grand Illusion (1937); His Girl Friday (1940); Sullivan's Travels (1941); Casablanca (1942); The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957); Dr. Strangelove (1964); Blazing Saddles (1964); Ship of Fools (1965); Once Upon a Time in the West (1968); Z (1969); The Godfather (1972); Cries and Whispers (1973); The Godfather II (1974); Chinatown (1974); Nashville (1975); Atlantic City (1981); The Last Emperor (1987); Do the Right Thing (1989); Unforgiven (1992); Pulp Fiction (1994); The Shawshank Redemption (1994); L.A. Confidential (1997); Shakespeare in Love (1998); Moulin Rouge! (2001); Brokeback Mountain (2005); Slumdog Millionaire (2008), La La Land (2016). Most frequently listed movies that I haven't seen (or don't recall) date from before 1960, including a fair number of "foreign" films. Too bad I didn't maintain a list, like I did for albums.


Contributing to this week's delay, I cooked a rather fancy dinner Monday night. I made a couple stabs at Hungarian cuisine last fall, and had a few more recipes I wanted to try. My cookbook was Silvena Johan Lauta's The Food & Cooking of Hungary, but it didn't offer any promising vegetable side dishes, so I slipped a Greek fave into the menu:

  • Rabbit Goulash Stew
  • Venison Meatballs
  • Hungarian Dumplings
  • Green Bean Ragout
  • Transylvanian Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Somloi Trifle

Not sure I got the first three quite right. The meatballs were quite delicious, but could have used more sauce. I had a lot of trouble cutting up the rabbit, which made everything come out late. The one piece I had was a little tough and dry, but others disagreed. The mushrooms (stuffed with ricotta, bacon, and herbs) perhaps should have been cooked longer. Still, all came out pretty tasty.

The dessert wasn't in the cookbook, but showed up repeatedly when I was attempting to survey Hungarian recipes online -- along with a fancy multi-layer cake called a dobos torte. I wound up consulting several web recipes, mostly following this one, but taking a few liberties along the way (e.g., after my caramelized syrup burned, I went with a much safer non-caramel recipe; I missed the liquor store, so substituted amaretto for rum; I substuted apricot for strawberry jam, as all other recipes specified [PS: what I actually used was Bonne Maman Mango-Peach Preserves, made in France; picked up accidentally when I was reaching for the apricot]). The dessert is a pretty complicated affair: first make three sponge cakes (one plain, one with walnuts, a third with cocoa); make a light syrup with liquor (in my case, amaretto), and brush it over the cakes; make a "gruel" out of milk, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla (more like a pudding -- other recipes use a pastry cream); build a stack of the three cakes, each one topped with a shmear of jam, raisins (soaked in syrup), walnuts, and "gruel"; sprinkle cocoa on top and chill for 12 hours. Make a chocolate sauce, with liquor (amaretto again). Whip cream. To serve, scoop out chunks of cake, top with chocolate, then with whipped cream. Before I was done, I doubted I'd ever do it again, but it turned out to be remarkably delicious.


A few links I had meant to include in Sunday's Weekend Roundup, but somehow didn't get to:

  • Kos: Sanders wins New Hampshire by being the least-weak of a suddenly weak field. This was a "hot take" after New Hampshire, but since then I'm less persuaded of Bernie Sanders' "weakness." Sanders now seems to be ahead in Nevada, possibly ahead in South Carolina, indeed close to leading pretty much everywhere (FiveThirtyEight still likes Biden in Alabama). I've also seen polls that show his favorability ratings are high enough to give him a reasonable expectation of gaining vote share as other candidates drop out (much as Trump did in 2016, though Bernie's are higher than Trump's were, at least up to the 2016 convention, maybe even the election). Also, this article makes some really dumb points, such as:

    No white male has ever gotten 63 million votes in a presidential election. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both hit 65 million. When our nominees look like our base, we perform better.

    That doesn't prove anything, least of all its "looks like" conclusion. (Sure, it would disprove the opposite assertion, that you have to run a white male in order to win, but that's not the point here.) I remember when Clinton promised a cabinet that "looks like America," but all they looked like to me was a bunch of well-heeled lawyers. He throws out other meaningless facts, like Bloomberg was "major of a city that is larger than 38 states" [each of; the 9 least populous states + DC have more people combined than NYC], and he invents a ridiculous euphemism for dollars, as in "he spent another 3.5 million electability units on advertising in black newspapers."

  • Joel Kotkin: You think Trump's a danger to democracy? Get a load of Bloomberg. Side note more relevant to the Kos article above: to win his third term as mayor of New York, Bloomberg spent $174 per vote; to match that running for president, he'll have to pony up $12 billion.

  • Alexander Rubinstein/Max Blumenthal: Woke wonk Elizabeth Warren's foreign policy team is stacked with pro-war swamp creatures.

I should also note that a Guardian article I linked to about Bill Gates buying a £500 million superyacht has been pulled, due to "a fundamental error in facts reported." Evidently, Gates hasn't bought any such boat.


New records reviewed this week:

  • The Coachella Valley Trio: Mid Century Modern (2019 [2020], DMAC): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams (2019 [2020], Firm Roots Music): [cd]: B+(***) [03-06]
  • Kuzu [Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon]: Purple Dark Opal (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Purna Loka Ensemble: Metaraga (2018-19 [2020], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Duke Ellington: The Best of Early Ellington (1926-31 [1996], Decca): [r]: A+
  • Duke Ellington: The Centennial Collection (1927-41 [2004], Bluebird): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Great Paris Concert (1963 [1973], Atlantic, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington's My People (1963 [1964], Contact): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington/Ella Fitzgerald/Oscar Peterson: The Greatest Jazz Concert in the World (1967 [1990], Pablo, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: In Sweden 1973 (1973 [1999], Caprice): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook (1956-57 [1991], Verve, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: The Very Best of the Duke Ellington Song Book (1956-57 [2007], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Duke's Place (1965 [1966], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nina Simone: Nina Simone Sings Duke Ellington (1961 [1962], Colpix): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zoot Sims: Passion Flower: Zoot Sims Plays Duke Ellington (1979-80 [1997], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sarah Vaughan: How Long Has This Been Going On? (1978, Pablo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sarah Vaughan: Duke Ellington: Song Book One (1979 [1980], Pablo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sarah Vaughan: Duke Ellington: Song Book Two (1979 [1980], Pablo): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Joyce Grant: Surrounded by Blue (Craftedair/Blujazz)
  • JC Hopkins Biggish Band: New York Moment (Twee-Jazz) [04-05]
  • Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band: Hold On (Blujazz/PAO)
  • Paul Shaw Quintet: Moment of Clarity (Summit) [03-27]

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Weekend Roundup

New Hampshire finally voted last week. Bernie Sanders won, although not by the margin I had hoped for -- 25.58% to 24.27% for Pete Buttigieg, 19.69% for Klobuchar, with significant drops for Elizabeth Warren (9.19%) and Joe Biden (8.34%). Sanders did, however, get more young voters than everyone else combined. As I note in the German Lopez note below, the Buttigieg/Klobuchar bubble seems to have less to do with anything attractive about their platforms than with the irrational fears of many Democrats (including some older ones who are philosophically aligned left, but grew up in a world where red-baiting was always effective) that Sanders would wind up losing to Trump. How they figure Buttigieg or Klobuchar might fare better is something I don't care to speculate on. Neither has the familiarity or national organization they'll need in coming weeks, and their repeated (misinformed and disingenuous) attacks on Medicare for All in recent months, while effective for raising donations and establishing themselves as niche candidates, makes them improbable (as well as damn unsatisfactory) party unifiers.

Biden is still better positioned to recover in later primaries, but did himself much harm in Iowa and New Hampshire. In particular, he lost favor with the "anybody but Trump (except Sanders)" party faction, and his support among Afro-Americans was never any deeper than a cautious wager. Biden has slipped behind Sanders in national polls, lost his big lead in Nevada, and may even lose his "firewall" state of South Carolina (see FiveThirtyEight, which also forecasts Sanders to lead in most "Super Tuesday" contests, including: California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Colorado, and Tennessee -- in fact, the only state Biden is still favored in is Alabama). FiveThirtyEight still projects Biden to finish second, but they already have Michael Bloomberg in a close third, with Buttigieg a distant fourth, Warren with vanishingly slim chances in fifth, and Klobuchar even further behind. That assumes they all keep running, which almost certainly won't happen.

[PS: Closing this now to get it up and out of the way. I've been running into frustrating dead ends seems like everywhere.]


Some scattered links this week:

Friday, February 14, 2020

Daily Log

Erin McCandlis wrote this on Facebook about her late grandmother:

Oh Grandma, I'm gonna miss you every day! Thank you for being such an incredible role model for all of us. Thank you for loving me, showing me how to care for others, shocking me with revelations when I thought I was going to shock you, all the delicious food (especially the biscuits and chocolate sauce breakfasts), all the laughs, all the long talks, for letting me vent when I needed to and for always being there for anyone in the family. You were our rock and we will be lost without you. Love you always!
Chloe Faye McCandlis
12/6/25-2/12/20

I chipped in this comment:

Very sad, not least because it closes so many opportunities to discover things about our shared past. Loved the "shocked me" line, as I've been there too. Well, not exactly shocked, because I've long known her as the sharpest lady ever to escape the back woods of Arkansas.

In other Facebook trivia, Bradley Sroka was trawling for "your favorite music moments in movies?" I replied:

Not sure this is my favorite, but given what I've been listening to, it popped into mind. There's a very surreal sequence in "Anatomy of a Murder" where Jimmy Stewart is driving a top-down convertible in a warm and sunny Michigan UP, then gets out and walks into a bar, where he finds Duke Ellington & Orchestra in full swing.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32759 [32712] rated (+47), 241 [230] unrated (+11).

Shortly after closing my last Music Week, I looked at the featured jazz records on Napster and noticed two volumes from Duke Ellington's Private Collection series. These appeared on Saja in 10 CDs from 1987-89, and I had picked up a few when I found them used. I figured I should play the ones I had missed, and that got me looking at Napster's Ellingtons. I had probably heard more records by Ellington than any other artist, but that still left a fair number unheard -- especially among the 44 Chronological Classics volumes. As most of the latter were available, I started working my way through the list, especially the stretch from 1931-39, which Ellington's American labels have failed to keep in print. That took me past my usual Monday deadline. I decided then to hold back until I hit 1940, because I planned on writing a general introduction to the series followed by notes and grades on each individual volume (as I had with Private Collection.

Chronlogical Classics goes on to 1953, but I figured they were less critical. That's not a judgment on the music, but because nearly all of them were in print and graded elsewhere: see, especially, the magnificent Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band, which covers 1940-42, The Indispensible Duke Ellington and the Small Groups (1940-46), and the slightly lesser Black, Brown and Beige (1944-1946). I picked up a few more titles along the way, plus a couple of records by others which showed up in the Ellington title search.

There are more I haven't gotten to. The big live chunks left are the Carnegie Hall Concerts from 1943-48 and The Treasury Shows from 1945-46 (25 volumes). There is also a fair amount of live Ellington floating around, especially from the 1960s -- Pablo picked up some of those, but we're still seeing occasional concerts pop up on European labels. I won't venture to say how much of this anyone actually needs, but aside from some redundancy, the A and A+ records listed above are really choice records. Nothing (other than the Armstrong-Ellington Summit, which matches a previous A graded package) in this week's many finds matches them, although the 1928-30 Chronological Classics overlap with some of my previous picks (especially the 3-CD Early Ellington on Decca), 1938 Vol. 3 has some of the small group recording from The Great Ellington Units, and Up in Duke's Workshop sounds like a first draft of Latin American Suite. On the other hand, I ran through the Chronological Classics very fast (almost always just one play), and aside from the usual caveats about surface noise and sequencing they all sounded pretty great to me.

Quite a bit of unpacking this week-plus, which came as a surprise to me after a few lean weeks. I've let the 2020 releases pile up while working on 2019, and barely touched them this week. But the Ellington orgy did break me out of the rut of searching around for 2019 stragglers. Also went the whole week without touching the 2019 EOY Aggregate. So I guess I'm moving on. Still expect to pick up a few more Ellington titles next week (playing The Great Paris Concert right now, and it's sounding pretty great, indeed). My new year resolution is to take 2020 easier. So far that's mostly involved starting each day off with a piece of classic old jazz. I had, in fact, been playing Early Ellington in the week before this kicked off, along with Ben Webster's Cottontail, an ASV best-of named for his 1935 hit with Ellington.


A final personal note: I just heard today that my cousin Chloe McCandlis died, at 94. She and her husband Paul moved from Arkansas to Snohomish, WA before I was born, so I probably only saw her a half-dozen times over the years. I don't remember the family's first trip to Washington, but we returned for the Seattle World's Fair in 1962, which was the high point of my life well past that point. I visited again, on my own, in 1984, and it totally changed my view of my family -- for one thing, despite the distance, she probably knew my mother better than any of my closer relatives (or maybe she was just more open about it). I saw her a couple years ago. Despite numerous physical ailments, she was in a very expansive mood, with lots of stories about long ago. She no doubt knew many more, and I could kick myself for not making more of an effort to keep close. That memory is lost now. The inspiration remains.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Carol Albert: Stronger Now (2019 [2020], Cahara): [cd]: B-
  • Lila Ammons: Genealogy (2019 [2020], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ellen Edwards: A New York Session (Stonefire Music, EP): [cd]: B- [02-22]
  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Party (Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Ronnie Lane: Just for a Moment: The Best of Ronnie Lane (1973-97 [2019], UMC): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington: The Great Summit: The Master Takes (1961 [2000], Roulette): [r]: A
  • Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn: Great Times! Piano Duets (1950 [1989], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: A Drum Is a Woman (1956 [1957], Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Duke Ellington: At the Alhambra: Recorded in Paris, 1958 (1958 [2002], Pablo): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Featuring Paul Gonsalves (1962 [1991], Fantasy/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: The Duke: The Essential Collection 1927-1962 (1927-62 [2000], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: In the Uncommon Market (1963 [1986], Pablo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: Soul Call (1966 [1999], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington/Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler: The Duke at Tanglewood (1966, RCA Victor Red Seal): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Popular Duke Ellington (1966 [1967], RCA Victor): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: Solos, Duets and Trios (1932-67 [1990], RCA Bluebird): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Berlin '65/Paris '67 (1965-67 [1997], Pablo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: 1969 All-Star White House Tribute to Duke Ellington (1969 [2002], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington's 70th Birthday Concert (1969 [1995], Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Up in Duke's Workshop (1969-72 [1990], Pablo/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: The Duke's Big 4 (1973 [1974], Pablo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington: The Private Collection, Volume Two: Dance Concerts, California, 1958 (1958 [1987], Saja): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington: The Private Collection, Volume Six: Dance Dates, California, 1958 (1958 [1989], Saja): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: The Private Collection, Volume Seven: Studio Sessions 1957 & 1962 (1956-72 [1990], Saja): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: The Private Collection, Volume Eight: Studio Sessions 1957, 1965, 1966, 1967, San Francisco/Chicago/New York (1957-67 [1990], SAJA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1927-1928 (1927-1928 [1990], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1928 (1928 [1990], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1928-1929 (1928-29 [1990], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1929 (1929 [1991], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1929-1930 (1929-30 [1991], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1930 (1930 [1991], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1930, Volume 2 (1930 [1991], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1930-1931 (1930-31 [1991], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1931-1932 (1931-32 [1991], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1932-1933 (1932-33 1992], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1933 (1933 [1992], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1933-35 (1933-35 [1992], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1936-37 (1936-37 [1992], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1938 (1938 [1993], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1938 Vol. 2 (1938 [1993], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1938 Vol. 3 (1938 [1993], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1939 (1939 [1994], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: 1939-1940 (1938 [1994], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vienna Art Orchestra: Duke Ellington's Sound of Love, Vol. 2: Live at Porgy & Bess, Vienna (2003, EmArcy): [r]: A-
  • Ben Webster: Plays Duke Ellington (1967-71 [2002], Storyville): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio Featuring Johnathan Blake: Without Deception (Dare2) [03-06]
  • Gerald Beckett: Mood (Summit)
  • Benjamin Boone With the Ghana Jazz Collective: Joy (Origin) [03-20]
  • Calle Loiza Jazz Project: There Will Never Be Another You (self-released)
  • The Coachella Valley Trio: Mid Century Modern (DMAC)
  • Sarah Elgeti Quartet With Friends: Dawn Comes Quietly (Gateway Music) [02-21]
  • Nick Finzer: Cast of Characters (Outside In Music) [02-28]
  • Al Gold: Al Gold's Paradise (self-released) [03-06]
  • Christopher Icasiano: Provinces (Origin) [02-21]
  • Brent Jensen: The Sound of a Dry Martini: Remembering Paul Desmond (2002, Origin) [02-21]
  • Mike McGinniss/Elias Bailey/Vinnie Sperrazza: Time Is Thicker (Open Stream Music)
  • New Stories: Speakin' Out (2019 [2020], Origin) [02-21]
  • Gloria Reuben & Marty Ashby: For All We Know (MCG Jazz) [02-14]
  • Reverso [Frank Woeste/Vincent Courtois/Ryan Keberle]: The Melodic Line (Out Note) [02-14]
  • RJ & the Assignment: Hybrid Harmony (self-released)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Air Power! (self-released)
  • Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Fragan: Are You Happy (Moserobie)

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Skipped a week because I was working on music stuff, so this week's links go back further than usual, but much of the previous week was absorbed in speculation about Iowa and Trump's impeachment trial, which became obsolete the moment the votes were counted (or are finally counted; see Riley Beggin: Final Iowa caucuses results expected just before New Hampshire begins voting). Trump was, of course, not convicted, the vote 48-52, with Mitt Romney the only Senator to break party ranks. This, and his own holier-than-thou explanation, occasioned pieces heaping undeserved praise or wrath on Romney, none of which mentioned the most obvious point: Trump's following among Republicans is significantly weaker in Utah than in any other state, probably because Utah is uniquely insulated from the fears he preys upon.

The Iowa caucuses were a huge embarrassment for the Democratic Party's professional elites, who came up with novel ways to avoid reporting unpleasant news (that Sanders won the popular vote), and reminded us that Republicans aren't the only party willing to use tricks (in this case "State Delegate Equivalents") to steal an election (allowing Buttigieg to claim a Trumpian victory, although even there, with still incomplete results, the margin is a razor thin 564-562; Sanders led the first-found popular vote 24.75% to 21.29%, followed by Warren 18.44%, Biden 14.95%, Klobuchar 12.73%, Yang 5.00%, Steyer 1.75%, Gabbard 0.19%, Bloomberg 0.12%, Bennet 0.09%, Patrick 0.03%, Delaney 0.01% [10 votes]). Lots of articles this week dredging up old standy complaints about Iowa's premier spot in presidential campaigns, including generic complaints about caucuses, and even more about Iowa.

New Hampshire will vote on Tuesday. Recent polling: Anya van Wagtendonk: Sanders leads in New Hampshire, but half of voters remain uncommitted -- subhed amends that to 30%. Buttigieg seems to be in 2nd place now (21%, behind 28% for Sanders), followed by Biden (11%), Warren (9%), Gabbard (6%), Klobuchar (5%), Yang and Steyer (3%), with Bloomberg (not on ballot) at 2%. The Democrats had another debate last week, resulting in the usual winners-and-losers pieces, none of which caught my eye below. (If you really want one, try Vox, which had Klobuchar a winner and Biden a loser.)

Meanwhile, Trump gave his State of the Union address, on the even of his "acquittal." It read (link below) more like his campaign stump speech, at least the one he'd give if he didn't wander off script, and Republicans in the audience tried to turn the event into a campaign rally, even at one point chanting "four more years" (but at least I haven't seen any reports of "lock her up"), and the fact that half of the audience were Democrats kept the chemistry down (and added a few boos and a couple of walkouts). Of course, the content got lost in the dramatics, especially Trump's refusal to shake Nancy Pelosi's hand on entering, and her ripping up his speech afterwards. It all led pundits and partisans to offer sermons on civility, but Trump had been absolutely vicious toward Pelosi ever since she got behind impeachment. But what the exchange reminded me most of was a story about Casey Stengel, where he artfully dodged an interview after a loss by making obscene gestures the media couldn't broadcast. By ripping up Trump's speech, Pelosi signaled there was nothing but lies and contempt there, more succinctly than any of the official party responders could possibly do.

Some Republican flaks claim that last week was one of Trump's best ever, and they can point to a trivial uptick in Trump's approval rating (43.8% at 538). It's clear now that the Senate's non-trial didn't move anyone, but while it was tedious and overwrought as it happened, it will be remembered differently. Democrats will remember it as a valiant attempt to do something about a president has repeatedly abused his office and violated his oath to support the Constitution and the laws of the land, which was thwarted not by facts or reason but by cynical partisan solidarity, making clear that the Republican members of Congress are fully complicit in Trump's crimes. That's something they can campaign on this fall.

Trump celebrated his "acquittal" with a series of extremely boorish public appearances (some noted below). I've gotten to where it's hard for Trump to shock me, but his is the most disgusting performance I've ever seen by a public figure. I've long maintained that Trump himself isn't nearly as dangerous or despicable as the orthodox Republicans he surrounds himself with, but I may have to revise my view. I've long believed that the swing vote in the 2020 election will turn on those Americans who don't particularly object to Trump's policies but decide that his personal behavior is too embarrassing to tolerate further. This week has provided plenty for them to think about.

The only issue below I tried to group links under was the Kushner "deal of the century," partly because they separate out easily enough. Trump issues, Democrat issues, they're all over the place.


Some scattered links this week:


PS: I've never been much impressed by Amanda Marcotte, but her visceral rejection of Trump seems to be leading her to deeper truths. She has a recent book, Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set on Ratf*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself, which is about as pointed a title as the subject deserves. From the blurb:

Trump was the inevitable result of American conservatism's degradation into an ideology of blind resentment. For years now, the purpose of right wing media, particularly Fox News, has not been to argue for traditional conservative ideals, such as small government or even family values, so much as to stoke bitterness and paranoia in its audience. . . . Conservative pundits, politicians, and activists have abandoned any hope of winning the argument through reasoned discourse, and instead have adopted a series of bad faith claims, conspiracy theories, and culture war hysterics. Decades of these antics created a conservative voting base that was ready to elect a mindless bully like Donald Trump.

I also want to quote an Amazon comment on the book by a Joseph Caferro, which gives us a peek into the Trump troll mindset:

Why [really] do Trump and his followers troll? And the answer is not hatred.

It's a tactic to destabilize the tenuous parasitic leftist coalitions that are built on a dizzying array of incompatible grievances against imagined enemy institutions. These enemies of leftists include most of the most stable, successful institutions that make civilization possible: religion, capitalism, meritocratic education and commerce, strong national defense, controlled borders, and solvent government spending. The incessant attacks on these institutions by the left are largely encouraged by the DC establishment and most state and local governments, and the result has been failure of safety, solvency, competence, and sanity. Leftism causes parasitic failure across the board. To defend leftist policies on merit is impossible, so the left decided the primary tactic for persuasion should be defamation, intimidation, and even criminal extortion, persecution, and assault. So the right has had enough, and has decided, symbolized by and led by Trump, to assail the leftist establishment with criticism, skepticism, insults, and challenges to their authority and power at all levels. Like in any street fight, you can't win if you aren't willing to use the tactics your enemy is willing to use. So the right trolls, because the left smears. As long as the left smears and commits crimes to further their agenda, the right will troll and be willing to stop those crimes with equal or greater force. That is why the right trolls. Not because of your imagined telepathic detection of deep seated Nazi hatred, but because your leadership are a bunch of parasitic communist thugs who aspire to totalitarian tyrannical rule, and deserve trolling.

I quote this because it's a lot more coherent than what you usually get from this quarter, but still, there's a lot wrong here, starting with a gross misapprehension of what the left is concerned with, and more fundamentally with failure to understand that the bedrock of "stable, successful institutions" is a widely shared sense of justice. It's true that our notions of justice used to be rooted in religion, but that splintered long ago. Some of us gave up the religion we were born into precisely because it no longer seemed to satisfy our sense of justice, and because we found it manipulated by charlatans for special interests. Caferro's list of "successful institutions" turns out to be less coherent than he imagines. Meritocracy sounds good, but more often than not is just a ruse for rationalizing inequality. The last three are arbitrarily grafted into the others: the rationale behind a strong police state is to protect its rulers from the effects of its misrule. "Leftism causes parasitic failure across the board" is a crude way of restating Hayek's Road to Serfdom thesis, which could be used to explain the economic failures of the Soviet Union, but Hayek and his followers have always expected the same doom to befall western social democracy, which has never happened. Where Caferro's argument goes off the rails is his bit about how "the left are largely encouraged by the DC establishment and most state and local governments" and his later reference to "the leftist establishment" -- there is no such thing, as should be clear from the shit fit old guard Democrats are having over the prospect of Sanders winning the Democratic Party nomination.

Then there's the question of tactics. Caferro argues that Trump supporters have to troll because that's the way leftists fight them, but that's neither supported by fact nor by logic. The left offers much more substantial arguments than the name-calling Caferro hates, but it's worth noting that the name-calling would hurt less if it didn't smack of truth. Trump is a racist, a sexist, a liar, a crook, and an all-around asshole. One can document those assertions with hundreds or possibly thousands of pages of examples, but sometimes the shorthand is all you need. Whether he's also a fascist depends on some extra historical knowledge that may not be widely agreed on, but most leftists define fascists as people who want to kill them, so that's a relevant (if not universal) framework.

But just because your opponent fights one way doesn't mean you have to fight the same. Strong occupying armies are most often countered not by equivalent armies but by guerrilla warfare. One might argue that they are morally equivalent, in that both seek to kill the other, and that is often the downfall of the guerrillas. So the other major example is non-violent resistance, such as the movements led by Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the US. I'd submit that Trump trolls have chosen their tactics not because the left has but because they're more suited to taste, needs, and morals (which approve of lies and distortions to sway people, and violence to suppress them, all in support of an authoritarian social and economic order which benefits people they identify with).

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Daily Log

Greg Magarian asked:

This is a question for my fellow left-wing Democratic voters -- supporters of Sanders or Warren (or, like me, just either of them over the field). If you had to back one of the surviving centrist candidates -- Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar (I'm not sure whether she actually survived Iowa) -- whom would you choose and why? I'm not certain at all, so I'm very interested in what others think.

I commented:

Biden is probably the most progressive both by policy choices and empathy, but has a sad (and sometimes tragic) history of compromise, and is totally plugged in to the Clinton/Obama nomenklatura. Trump will attack him as corrupt, and he's not adept enough to disarm that charge. On the other hand, Buttigieg is an outsider, and is likely to be more flexible. He's running as a neoliberal, because he saw a niche there where he could raise money, and his policies reflect his donors -- for now. I don't expect much from him, but he's young and smart and, considering where he started, has run a remarkable campaign so far. He must know he has to broaden his base to get the nomination, and probably knows that most real answers to real problems come from the left. so I'd expect him to keep an open mind. No reason to think that anything good might come from the others: Klobuchar is rigid and cliched in her anti-progressive stance, although she might be a viable (albeit mediocre) candidate; Bloomberg would be a disaster, on every level, in every respect.


Jan 2020 Mar 2020