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Monday, April 15, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42126 [42104] rated (+22), 30 [37] unrated (-7).

We have some friends my late sister virtually adopted -- we consider them virtual family -- who live on a farm in the Arkansas Ozarks, and they made a big push to get all of their closest family and friends to congregate there for the eclipse. We didn't give it much consideration, but my brother and his son and their families drove there from Washington and back, stopping here in Wichita both ways. (My brother's daughter and her family also made the trip, but flew in and out of Tulsa, bypassing us.) The rapid-fire visits took up a big chunk of my time the last two weeks. We did more cooking on the first leg, but on return I schemed to get help on a bunch of housework tasks. Both activities cut my normal output way back, as is evident here.

They finally left on Saturday afternoon. After that, I cobbled together a bit of Speaking of Which, which I posted late last night. I should go back and do some reviewing and editing and such, but I started feeling ill that night, and that's carried over today, so even this bit of shovelware has become a chore. Probably nothing serious, but at my age, one does fret a lot more than in the past.

But also I've lost a good ten hours since Thursday trying to get Cox to solve an AUP#XSNDR error in SMTP that totally keeps me from sending email. As best I can figure this out -- which, by the way, is probably better than anyone at Cox has yet managed -- is that when I send a piece of email (using Thunderbird connecting to, the SPF or DKIM list of legit IP sender addresses doesn't include the one Cox my one (assigned to me via DHCP, or substituted in transit?), and some forwarding server notices the discrepancy and kicks it back (which takes about 20 seconds, so there may be multiple stops for multiple lists before it fails).

I only have a couple things to say about the records below. The brief dive into Ken Colyer came about because someone sent me a typo correction to a Penguin Jazz Guide file I put together ages ago. When I was glancing through it I noticed a Colyer album I hadn't heard, so tried to track it down. I've always liked trad jazz, and that shared fondness was one of the things that I loved about Penguin Guide.

The Rail Band album is pictured but not reviewed below. Read about it next week. It comes from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: April 2024. I've reviewed most of those albums already, including an A grade for Heems/Lapgan; A- for Cucumbers, Dan Ex Machina, and Kim Gordon; similar HMs for Four Tet and Messthetics/James Brandon Lewis; and lesser grades for Buck 65, Adrianne Lenker, Vampire Weekend, and Waxahatchee. I've played Buck 65 four more times since the CG came out, and I always react the same: sounds really great for 10-15 minutes, then my mind wanders until it returns with a "what the fuck?" ending. Still a B+(***). The other three are probable EOY list frontrunners that I can't sustain any serious interest in (despite having noted multiple A-list albums from each). Still, I'm rather impressed that Bob can still put on his "rock critic establishment" robes and lobby for critical consensus like he advocated for fifty years ago.

Hope I'll be able to knock out a Book Roundup this week. Still, feeling pretty lousy at the moment, pushing this out with no Speaking of Which updates.

New records reviewed this week:

Cyrille Aimée: Ŕ Fleur De Peau (2018-23 [2024], Whirlwind): French jazz singer, based in New York, more than a dozen albums since 2006. Album recorded "at Jake Sherman's Apartment and Keyboard Haven in Brooklyn," with the singer credited with acoustic guitar and baritone ukelele, Sherman with "various," Abe Rounds "drums & percussion," various others for a song or two. B+(**) [sp]

Florian Arbenz: Conversation #10 & #11: ON! (2023 [2024], Hammer): Swiss drummer, started this series working remotely, but this appears to be a studio meet, extended over two days (11 tracks, 69 minutes), with more musicians: Yumi Ito (voice), Percy Pursglove (trumpet/flugelhorn), Ivo Neame (fender rhodes/synths), Szymon Mika (guitar), and Jim Hart (vibes, marimba, glockenspiel, percussion). B+(**) [sp]

Cďtric Dümmies: Zen and the Arcade of Beating Your Ass (2023, Feel It): Hardcore-punk band from Minneapolis, fourth album since 2017, cover art designed to evoke Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade. B+(*) [sp]

Hilary Gardner: On the Trial With the Lonesome Pines (2024, Anzic): Standards singer, from Alaska, based in Brooklyn, one-third of the vocal trio Duchess, has a couple solo albums. looks to the "trail songs" of "singing cowboys" here, which means Gene Autry but also Bing Crosby. B+(*) [sp]

Arve Henriksen/Harmen Fraanje: Touch of Time (2023 [2024], ECM): Norwegian trumpet player, dozens of albums since 2000, duo here with a Dutch pianist who also debuted in 2000. B+(*) [sp]

Jazz Ensemble of Memphis: Playing in the Yard (2023 [2024], Memphis International): Memphis group, assembled by the label owner as a showcase for young talent, remembering other jazz musicians from Memphis over the years: the eldest here is saxophonist Charles Pender II (26), the youngest drummer Kurtis Gray (17), with with Martin Carodine Jr (17, trumpet), Liam O'Dell (21, bass), and DeAnte Payne (25, keyboards, vibes, congas, percussion). B+(*) [cd]

Benji Kaplan: Untold Stories (2023 [2024], self-released): Guitarist, born in New York but plays Brazilian influences, including nylon strings. Solo, nine tracks, 28:42. B+(*) [cd] [05-01]

Amirtha Kidambi's Elder Ones: New Monuments (2024, We Jazz): Brooklyn-based vocalist, third group album, also has duos (Lea Bertucci, Luke Stewart) and has appeared with Darius Jones, Mary Halvorson, William Parker, and Robert Ashley. Group here with Matthew Nelson (soprano sax), Leter St. Louis (cello), Eva Lawitts (bass), and Jason Nazary (drums/synthesizer). B+(**) [sp]

Joăo Madeira/Margarida Mestre: Voz Debaixo (2022 [2024], 4DaRecord): From Portugal, bass and voice duo, the former does its job of setting up and framing the latter, which offers limited interest. B+(**) [cd]

Old 97's: American Primitive (2024, ATO): Indie band founded 1992 in Dallas, thirteenth studio album, alongside eight solo efforts (2002-22) from leader Rhett Miller -- perhaps a tad more pop, where the band leans harder on the guitar. I ran out of patience with this one pretty fast, not that objectively it's all that bad. B+(*) [sp]

Jonah Parzen-Johnson: You're Never Really Alone (2024, We Jazz): Baritone saxophonist, also plays flute, from Chicago, solo here (as are most of his albums), but with some electronics mixed in. Eight tracks, 39:39. B+(**) [sp]

Ernesto Rodrigues/Bruno Parinha/Joăo Madeira: Into the Wood (2023 [2024], Creative Sources): Portuguese trio: viola, bass clarinet, bass. Live improv set, the bassist does an exceptional job of binding the sounds together into an engine of endless fascination. A- [cd]

Dave Schumacher & Cubeye: Smoke in the Sky (2024, Cellar): Baritone saxophonist, leads a very credible Latin jazz outfit with trumpet, often a second sax, and a rhythm section with Manuel Valera (piano), Alex "Apolo" Ayala (bass), and two drummer-percussionists (Mauricio Herrera and Joel Mateo). B+(***) [cd] [04-19]

Shakira: Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran (2024, Sony Latin): Colombian superstar, twelfth studio album, mostly Spanish. B+(***) [sp]

Curtis Taylor: Taylor Made (2022 [2024], Curtis Taylor Music): Trumpet player, bio hints at Cleveland, southern California, University of Iowa ("currently inspiring students"), seems to have two previous albums, side credits in big bands. Mainstream group here, backed by piano-bass-drums, with tenor sax (Marcus Elliot) on four (of 7) tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Vampire Weekend: Only God Was Above Us (2024, Columbia): Major group, first three albums (2006-13) were poll contenders, not so much for their fourth album (2019), where singer-songwriter Ezra Koenig carried on after the departure of Rostam Batmanglij. Seems this one is being recognized as a return to form, but my reaction is very indifferent, even as I admire their occasional dazzle. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sonny Rollins: Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (1959 [2024], Resonance, 3CD): Starts with a set I've heard before as St. Thomas in Stockholm 1959, which I've long recommended as one of his best live sets, and rarely drops below that level as he moves on across Europe, trios with Henry Grimes on bass and various drummers (Pete La Roca, Kenny Clarke, Joe Harris). A- [cd] [04-20]

Old music:

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: Club Session With Colyer (1956 [2000], Lake): English trumpet/cornet player (1928-88), played trad jazz and skiffle, sang some. Penguin Guide picked this particular album (originally in Decca in 1957) as part of their "core collection," and it certainly is a primo example of the genre, a sextet of Ian Wheeler (clarinet), Mac Duncan (trombone), John Bastable (banjo), Ron Ward (bass), and Colin Bowden (drums), playing "good ol' good 'uns." A- [r]

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: Up Jumped the Devil (1957-58 [2001], G.H.B.): Eleven songs, originally on Upbeat in 1958, rags to open and close, Jelly Roll Morton conspicuous in between, septet here, adding pianist Ray Foxley to the usual suspects. B+(**) [r]

Ken Colyer and His Jazzband: Colyer's Pleasure (1963, Society): Sextet plays more classics, John Bastable (banjo) and Ron Ward (bass) are carryovers from the 1956 band, Sammy Remington (clarinet) getting a "featuring" credit on the 1993 CD reissue (Lake, with extra cuts I haven't heard). B+(***) [r]

Joan Díaz Trio: We Sing Bill Evans (2008, Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish piano trio, with Giulia Valle (bass) and Ramón Angel (drums), "introducing" singer Silvia Perez [Cruz], who had a previous album or two, with a half-dozen more since. Songs composed by Evans, with lyrics mostly from others (only one by Perez). B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sam V.H. Reese, ed.: The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins (New York Review Books): paperback book.

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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Speaking of Which

My company left Saturday afternoon, so I didn't really get started on this until then. Sunday I started feeling sick, and ran out of energy. No idea whether Monday will be better or worse, so I figured I might as well post this while I can. Maybe I'll circle back later. Big news stories are pretty much the same as they've been of late, so you pretty much know where I stand on them.

Not a lot of music this week, but if I'm up to it, I'll try to post what I have sometime Monday. Another pending problem is that I'm unable to send email, and Cox doesn't seem to have anyone competent to work on the problem until Monday.

Notable tweets:

  • Yousef Munayyer [04-03]: Joe Biden knows backing Israel's genocide in Gaza could cost him the election he says American democracy depends on.
    Joe Biden doesn't care.
    Imagine hating Palestinians so much as a US president that you'd throw away American democracy for it.

  • Steve Hoffman [04-10]: [meme]: Christians warn us about the anti-Christ for 2,000 years, and when he finally shows up, they buy a bible from him.

  • Rick Perlstein [04-10]: I mean, protecting criminal presidents from accountability actually is perfectly on-brand for an organization devoted to the legacy of Gerald Ford. [link: Famed photographer quits Ford over Liz Cheney snub]

Initial count: 188 links, 6,611 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Iran:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Robert F Kennedy Jr: And suddenly we have a cluster of stories on the third-party candidate:

Trump, and other Republicans: But first, let's open up some space to talk about abortion politics:

We can also group several stories on Trump's court date on Monday in New York:

That hardly exhausts their capacity for senseless cruelty, starting with their Fearless Führer:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • David Dayen: [04-10] TSMC chips deal promotes the logic of Biden's industrial policy.

  • John Nichols: [04-05] More than half a million Democratic voters have told Biden: Save Gaza! "The campaign to use 'uncommitted' primary votes to send a message to Biden has won two dozen delegates, and it keeps growing." I'm sorry, but these are not impressive numbers. And it is telling that you don't actually have a candidate -- one more credible than the underappreciated Marianne Williamson, that is -- leading the challenge (as Eugene McCarthy did in 1968). The obvious difference is that Americans were more directly impacted by war in Vietnam than they are now in Gaza: even though many of us are immensely alarmed by Israel's genocide, its impact on our everyday life is very marginal. Also, Biden is widely seen by Democrats (if rarely by anyone else) as the safe option to defend against Trump, who most Democrats do regard as a clear and present danger. The main reason there is that the all-important donor class seems to be satisfied with Biden, but would surely throw a fit (as Bloomberg did in 2020) if anyone like Sanders or Warren made a serious run for the nomination. Also, perhaps, that back in 1968, few people really understood how bad throwing the election to a Republican would turn out to be.

  • Evan Osnos: [04-06] Joe Biden and US policy toward Israel.

  • Matt Stieb: [04-11] Biden's leverage campaign against Bibi isn't producing dramatic results.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [04-12] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine risks losing the war -- and the peace: "It's now unclear if the US Congress will ever manage to send more aid to Kyiv."

  • Dave DeCamp:

  • John Mueller: [04-09] Ukraine war ceasefire may require accepting a partition: "Kyiv wound likely see significant economic and political benefits -- and move closer to the West -- from a cessation of hostilities." This has become obvious a year ago, but after Ukraine recovered territory along the northeast and southwest fronts in late 2022, they held out big hopes for their much-hyped "spring offensive" of 2023. Nine months later, the "gains" were slightly negative. Since then, most of the action has been away from the unmovable front: notably drone attacks on Russian oil refineries and on Ukrainian power plants. Which is to say, punitive terror attacks, reminders of the ongoing cost of war that have no bearing on its conclusion. Before the war, there were two basic options: one was the Minsk agreements, which would have unified Ukraine but given Russian minority rights that could have kept western Ukraine from moving toward economic integration with Europe; the other was to allow secession following fair referendums, which would almost certainly have validated the secessionists in Crimea and Donbas (but probably not elsewhere). In a divided Ukraine, the west could more easily align with Europe, while the east could keep its Russian ties. Either of these would have been much preferable to the war that maximalists on both sides insisted on.

  • John Quiggin: [04-03] Navies are obsolete, but no one will admit it: Examples here start with Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which seems to have provided little beyond Ukrainian drone target practice, and the US Navy in the Red Sea, which hasn't been able to thwart Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping (Suez Canal traffic is down 70%).

Around the world:


OJ Simpson: Famous football player, broadcaster, convicted criminal (but famously acquitted on murder charges), dead at 76. I'm not inclined to care about any of this, but he did elicit another round of articles:

Other stories:

William J Astore: [04-11] There is only one spaceship earth: "Freeing the world from the deadly shadow of genocide and ecocide."

Charlotte Barnett: [04-10] Declutter, haul, restock, repeat: "The content creators making a living by cleaning one purs tower, acrylic plastic box, and egg organizer at a time."

Emmeline Clein: [04-12] How capitalism disordered our eating: "From Weight Watchers to Ozempic, big business profits off eating disorders and their treatments."

Russell Arben Fox: [04-10] Thinking about Wendell Berry's leftist lament (and more). The Berry book is The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. Also segues into a discussion of Ian Angus: The War Against the Commons: Dispossession and Resistance in the Making of Capitalism. The destruction of the commons is a major theme in Astra Taylor's The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart, including a critique of the famous "tragedy of the commons" theory that I was unaware of but long needed. Scrolling down in Fox's blog, I see a couple pieces I had read in the Wichita Eagle. (He teaches here in Wichita, and I believe we have mutual friends, but as far as I know he's not aware of me.)

Robert Kuttner: [04-09] The political economy of exile: Searching for safe havens from Trumpism, or escaping from "shithole countries" if you're rich enough.

Michael Ledger-Lomas: [04-14] The outsize influence of small wars: Review of Laurie Benton's book, They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence. These "small wars" were mostly directed by European powers against their would-be colonies, most fought with a huge technological edge which complemented their legal scheming, distinguishing them from the large wars Europeans fought against each other. That's pretty much the same definition Max Boot used in his book, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.

Walter G Moss: [04-14] 2024 US anxieties and Hitler 1933: "Here is a friendly reminder that all it would take for Trump to be elected is a series of mistakes by the electorate -- many of them not especially earthshaking." I figured this was a bit far-fetched to include in the section on Trump, the Republicans, and their more mundane crime interests, but Hitler-Trump comparisons are a parlor game of some interest for those who know more than a little about both. Speaking of parlor games for history buffs, Moss previously wrote:

Yasmin Nair: [03-27] What really happened at Current Affairs? This looks to be way too long, pained, deep, and trivial to actually read, but maybe some day. And having thrown a tantrum or two of my own way back in the days when I slaved for someone else's parochially leftist journal, it may even hit close to home. From my vantage point, Nathan J Robinson is a smart, sensible, and prodigious critic, and Current Affairs is one of my more reliably insightful sources as I go about my weekly chores. That such qualities can go hand-in-hand with less admirable traits is, well, not something I feel secure enough to cast stones over.

John Quiggin: [03-29] Daniel Kahneman has died.

Ingrid Robeyns: [04-13] Limitarianism update: Author of the recent book, Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, with links to reviews, interviews, etc. Comments suggest that the concept is better than the title.

Luke Savage: [04-13] The rich: On top of the world and very anxious about it: "The small handful of ultrawealthy winners are firmly ensconced in their positions of privilege in power. Yet so many of them seem haunted by the possibility that maybe they don't deserve it."

Robert Wright: [04-12] Marc Andreessen's mindless techno-optimism.

Li Zhou: [04-10] The Vatican's new statement on trans rights undercuts its attempts at inclusion.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42101 [42079] rated (+22), 37 [39] unrated (-2).

Last week was severely disrupted, with several days not spent anywhere near the computer -- mostly Washington family passing through town on their way to Arkansas for the eclipse -- so I figured there was no point playing new music I'd need to take notes on. So what little I have below was mostly picked up after they cleared out Saturday, leaving me to cobble together what turned out to be an exceptionally long Speaking of Which (217 links, 12552 words). Several links to music pieces there, including a bunch on Beyoncé.

We did two manage two family major dinners during the week. The first (plate pictured here) featured three Ottolenghi recipes (roast chicken with fennel, mandarins, and ouzo; sweet potatoes with scallions and dates; and a pearl barley salad) plus old standby recipes for caponata (Sicilian eggplant and zucchini), horiatiki (Greek chopped salad), and mast va khiar (Iranian yogurt with cucumbers, scallions, sultanas, walnuts, and mint), with pineapple upside-down cake for dessert.

Leftovers went into a second dinner which my nephew Mike took charge of, adding kofta/chicken/swordfish kebabs, pitas, hummus, asparagus, quick pickles, eggplant slices topped with spiced yogurt, a spinach salad with dates and almonds, and a mixed bean salad. Another friend made a carrot cake and white-chocolate cookies. Much more chaos than I can handle on my own anymore, but I can take some credit for having the kitchen and pantry organized.

The eclipse was rated at 88% here, so we got the idea, but it wasn't much compared to what we saw on TV. The dimming was less than we often get from passing cumulonimbus clouds.

I only heard about the passing of Clarence "Frogman" Henry after my cutoff, but decided I might as well squeeze his compilation in here. Albert "Tootie" Heath also died last week, and my exploration of his first albums also got promoted.

As noted, I finished Tricia Romano's brilliantly titled book on the Village Voice, The Freaks Came Out to Write. My own involvement with the Voice dates back to 1968-69, when as a high school dropout in Wichita, KS, still in my teens, I started subscribing, not so much for the politics -- for that I had I.F. Stone's Weekly, The Minority of One, and Ramparts -- as for the bohemian culture. I followed them for most of my life, which in the late 1970s included a few years living in New York, and thanks to Bob Christgau, they even published me, both in the 1970s and much later (most notably Jazz Consumer Guide. So, while I was never mentioned in the book, there was a strong sense that it tracked much of my life: lots of stories I knew, at least partly (often indirectly), some I didn't, and a few more I could have added to.

Moving on, I finally got around to Cory Doctorow's The Internet Con, which I had identified as "in my queue, waiting for my limited attention" back in my latest Book Roundup, dated Sept. 23, 2023 -- and way overdue for a sequel. I see now that I failed to index that post, so more drudge work to do.

The other still-pending book from that list is Franklin Foer's The Last Politician, which the death of the political book project has made unnecessary, especially on top of my mounting disappointment with "Genocide Joe." At least when we talk about "lesser evils" in 2024, there won't be any serious debate over the evil term.

Next week will also be disrupted, as our guests head home from Arkansas, hopefully passing through here again. Hopefully they will be a bit less rushed heading back. Where that leaves my weekly posts I neither know nor much care. They merely mark time while I age rather gracelessly.

New records reviewed this week:

Neal Alger: Old Souls (2023 [2024], Calligram): Guitarist, based in Chicago, debut album from 2001, mostly side credits since, including five albums with Patricia Barber. Here with Chad McCullough (trumpet), Chris Madsen (tenor sax), Clark Sommers (bass), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Thomas Anderson: Hello, I'm From the Future (2024, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, debut 1989, the first of many finely wrought albums. A dozen new songs here. A- [sp]

Sam Anning: Earthen (2024, Earshift Music): Australian bassist, third album, composed nine pieces, leads a septet most prominently featuring Mat Jodrell (trumpet), with two saxophones, keyboards, guitar, and drums. Most pieces are somber-to-haunting, drawing inspiration from aboriginal land. B+(***) [cd] [04-05]

Alex Beltran: Rift (2022 [2024], Calligram): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, based in Chicago, looks like his first album, mostly an energetic mainstream quartet with Stu Mindeman (piano/wurlitzer), Sam Peters (bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums), with guests on two track each: Chad McCullough (trumpet), Lenard Simpson (alto sax). B+(***) [cd]

Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter (2024, Parkwood/Columbia): Mega pop star, "rose to fame" in Destiny's Child, last name then Knowles, now seems to be Knowles-Carter after the merger with the now relatively obscure rapper Jay-Z. Eighth solo album since 2003, first seven debuted at number one, awaiting confirmation on this one. She's parlayed her music into a business empire, where her Wikipedia page has as much about "wealth" and "philanthropy" as music. I thought her early work, both group and solo, was ok at best, more often not. She got better, but I never found any reason to think she was more than money talking. Even after I revised my grade upward and bought a copy, I never played Renaissance again. My inability to recall any of her songs might be chalked up to my aging -- I can't recall much Taylor Swift either -- or maybe just my increasingly broad-but-shallow streaming, where I'm most likely to pick up on my long-cultivated idiosyncrasies. Aware of this, I held off writing up my first play, and gave it a closer listen the morning after. I heard a lot more: nothing I love, but a wide range of credible bits, enough to suggest that with another 3-5 plays, I could edit this 78:21 sprawl down to a 45-minute high B+ (but probably not a 35-minute A-). The result would be even less cowboy than this is: I'm all for genre-fuck, but she gave up that game with the "Blackbird" cover in the two slot (even with four certified country guests, including Tanner Adell), then slipped the album's best song (six writers, but my guess is that Raphael Saadiq is key) in between "Texas Hold 'Em" and "Jolene." Aside from Saadiq, other notable contributors include Nile Edwards, Pharrell Williams, and Shawn Carter, as well as guests Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Miley Cyrus, and snips from Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson: all things you can do with money to make more. B+(**) [sp]

Martin Budde: Back Burner (2023 [2024], Origin): Guitarist, based in Seattle, seems to be first album but had a 2021 group album as Meridian Odyssey. Recorded in Alaska, eight originals plus a Joni Mitchell cover, backed by bass (Ben Feldman) and drums (Xavier Lecouturier). Nice enough. B+(*) [cd]

Mackenzie Carpenter: Mackenzie Carpenter (2023, Valory Music, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Georgia, one of the writers on the Megan Moroney single "I'm Not Pretty," debut 5-song EP (15:57). Annoying when it takes longer to look up a label and release date than it takes to listen to a record (and that doesn't even count the 17:27 "Introducing Mackenzie Carpenter" video on YouTube). Offhand, seems about as credible (and about as pretty) as Moroney. B+(***) [sp]

Chromeo: Adult Contemporary (2024, BMG): Canadian electropop duo, sixth album since 2004. Dance grooves, hard to resist. B+(**) [sp]

Hannah Frances: Keeper of the Shepherd (2024, Ruination): Singer-songwriter, based in Chicago, plays guitar, released a debut album in 2018. B+(*) [sp]

Gossip: Real Power (2024, Columbia): Indie band, formed in Olympia, WA by three Arkansas expats, fronted by plus-sized singer Beth Ditto, who went on to a solo career, wrote a book, did some acting, but is back here for their first album since 2012. B+(**) [sp]

Helado Negro: Phasor (2024, 4AD): Roberto Carlos Lange, born in Florida, parents from Ecuador, ninth album since 2009. First approximation is something similar to the slinky Brazilian music of Tom Zé. B+(**) [sp]

Last Word Quintet: Falling to Earth (2021-22 [2024], Origin): Group formed when performance poet Marc Kelly Smith hooked up with "four of Chicago's more active musicians and songwriters": Al Day (vocals/guitar), Bob Long (piano), Doug Lofstrom (bass/keyboards), and Brian Gephart (sax), with Sarah Allen (drums) listed on back cover but not in group pic. Day's vocals are rather talkie, rather like Mose Allison, so they blend in with the poetry as opposed to giving you two distinct voices. For that, you have the sax. B+(**) [cd]

Molly Lewis: On the Lips (2024, Jagjaguwar): Musician from Orange County, California, plays ukulele and other novelty instruments, and whistles, her early albums out for laughs, this one reminding me more of soft jazz pleasantries. B+(*) [sp]

Ms. Boogie: The Breakdown (2024, self-released): Brooklyn-based rapper, drill style, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Sam Outlaw: Terra Cotta (2024, Black Hills): Country singer-songwriter, based in Nashville, fourth album since 2015, original name Morgan but adopted his mother's maiden name -- kind of pulls a punch he really never throws. B+(*) [sp]

Jim Rotondi: Finesse (2021 [2024], Cellar Music): Trumpet player, originally from Montana, studied at UNT, played in New York, now based in Graz, Austria. Backed here by the Notes and Tones Jazz Orchestra, a big band, plus an unnamed Orchestra with strings and reeds (flute, oboe, bassoon, horn) on six (of 13) tracks. Jakob Helling arranged and conducted Rotondi's compositions, with featured soloists Steve Davis, Dick Oatts and Danny Grissett. B [sp]

Claudio Scolari Project: Intermission (2022 [2024], Principal): Italian drummer, discography goes back to 2004, seventh group album (although Discogs only lists two), quartet features a second drummer, Daniele Cavalca (also keyboards, with Scolari some "synth programming"), trumpet (Simone Scolari), and electric bass (Michele Cavalca). Occasionally hits an Miles Davis fusion vibe, which is excellent, but not really the point, so it tails off into something more ambient, which is also fine. A- [cd]

Tyla: Tyla (2024, Epic): Popiano (pop + amapiano) singer-songwriter from South Africa, last name Seethal, first album after a worldwide breakout single in 2023 ("Water"). B+(**) [sp]

Bob Vylan: Humble as the Sun (2024, Ghost Theatre): British grime/punk/hip-hop duo, singer/guitarist Bobby Vylan and drummer Bobbie Vylan, released a terrific EP in 2018 (We Live Here), later expanded to album length and followed up with a 2022 album (The Price of Life). Back here with 10 songs, 34:44. Title song suggests they're getting nice, but this picks up soon enough, and ends strong with the reminder, "I'm Still Here." A- [sp]

Dan Weiss: Even Odds (2023 [2024], Cygnus): Drummer, over 100 side-credits since 1998, a dozen-plus of his own compositions since 2005, the latter I rarely enjoyed but here he tries something different: a bare-bones trio with brilliant improvisers -- Miguel Zenón (alto sax) and Matt Mitchell (piano) -- making the most out of his broken free rhythms. A- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestkra Chamber: The Reconstru-Ducted Repatriation Road-Rage ReMiXeS (2020-21 [2024], Avantgroidd): Jazz/funk group, mostly under the direction of the critic Greg Tate from 2000 to his recent death. Marque Gilmore tha' Inna-Most remixes of their 2021 album Angels Over Oakanda. B+(**) [bc]

Pete Jolly: Seasons (1970 [2024], Future Days): Pianist (1932-2004), actual surname Ceragioli, born in Connecticut but considered a West Coast player; played with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, many others; 1955 debut title Jolly Jumps In; recorded this album for Herb Alpert at A&M, with guitar (John Pisano), bass (Chuck Berghofer), drums, and percussion. A fairly minor groove album. B+(*) [sp]

Mixmaster Morris/Jonah Sharp/Haruomi Hosono: Quiet Logic (1998 [2024], WRWTFWW): The former is Morris Gould. Discogs only credits him this one album, but also lists DJ Mixes and Compilations with titles like God Bless the Chilled, Abstract Funk Theory, and Calm Down My Selector (but not Give Peace a Dance?). Sharp is younger, from Scotland, also has a rep for UK chill rooms. Hosono's name wasn't on the original release, but this was crafted in his studio. Definitely chill, but a lot of fascinating detail rarely revealed in ambient. A- [bc]

Old music:

Kuumba-Toudie Heath: Kawaida (1970, O'Be): Artist per Discogs, but you know him as Albert "Tootie" Heath (1935-2024), who came out of Philadelphia with his brothers Percy (1923-2005) and Jimmy (1926-2000) to have major careers in jazz. He played on numerous classic albums from 1956 on, but this is the first listing him as leader -- although it was later reissued under the marquee names of Herbie Hancock and Don Cherry, with Heath relegated to a second tier of Jimmy Heath, Buster Williams, James Mtume, and Ed Blackwell, and most names were Africanized (Mtume was the only one that stuck, although you may recognize Mwandisi). Mtume (1946-2022, who was Jimmy Heath's son but grew up with a stepfather's name) wrote five pieces, the other one credited to "Kuumba." This was from a heady moment when Black Power, Pan-Africanism, and the Avant Garde joined forces to make revolution. A- [yt]

Albert Heath: Kwanza (The First) (1973 [2015], Elemental Music): Drummer, a rare album as leader, originally on Muse in 1974, reissued as Oops! on Xanadu in Japan in 1993 with an extraneous piano solo track from 1981. With Jimmy Heath (tenor/soprano sax, flute), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Barron (pianos), Ted Dunbar (guitar), and Percy Heath (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Clarence "Frogman" Henry: Ain't Got No Home: The Best of Clarence "Frogman" Henry (1956-64 [1994], MCA): New Orleans pianist and singer, just passed (1937-2024), title song was a hit (3 r&b, 20 pop), earned him that frog-in-the-voice nickname but that wasn't his only trick (cf. "I'm in Love"), had two more minor hits in 1961 -- "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and "(I Don't Know Why) But I Do" (better known from Bobby Charles, and later by Bobby Vinton) -- but settled into a comfortable groove, which is just fine for filling out an 18-song profile. A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Noah Haidu: Standards II (Sunnyside) [04-12]
  • Chuck Owen & Resurgence: Magic Light (Origin) [04-26]
  • Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Ngatibatanei [Let Us Unite!] (OA2) [04-26]
  • Geoff Stradling & the StradBand: Nimble Digits (Origin) [04-26]
  • Jordan Vanhemert: Deep in the Soil (Origin) [04-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Speaking of Which

I don't have much time to work with this week. Writing this on Friday, I expect that the links below will be spotty. I also doubt that I'll have many records in the next Music Week, although that can run if I have any at all.

My company left Saturday morning, headed to Arkansas for a better view of the eclipse on Monday, so I finally got a bit of time to work on this. I collected a few links to get going, then spent most of Sunday writing my "one point here" introduction, and adding a few more links. I got a little over half way through my usual source tabs before I had to call it a day. On Monday, I tried to pick up where I had left off -- not going back to the tabs I had hit on Sunday, but picking up the occasional Monday post as I went along. Wound up with a pretty full post, dated Monday. I marked this paragraph as an add, because it's a revision to my original intro.

This should go up before I go to bed Monday night. Music Week will follow later Tuesday. Very little in it from before Saturday, but I've found a few interesting records while working on this.

But I do want to make one point here, which is something I've been thinking about for a while now.

I've come to conclude that many of us made a fundamental error in the immediate aftermath of October 7 in blaming Hamas (or more generally, Palestinians) for the outbreak of violence. Even those of us who immediately feared that Israel would strike back with a massive escalation somehow felt like we had to credit Hamas with agency and moral responsibility -- if not for the retaliation, at least for their own acts. But what choice did they have? What else could they have done?

But there is an alternate view, which is that violent resistance is an inevitable consequence of systematic marginalization, where nonviolent remedies are excluded, and order is violently enforced. How can we expect anyone to suffer oppression without fighting back? So why don't we recognize blowback as intrinsic to the context, and therefore effectively the responsibility of the oppressor? I don't doubt that Israelis were terrified on October 7. They were, after all, looking at a mirror of their own violence.

It's pretty obvious why Israel's leaders wanted to genocide. The Zionist movement was born in a world that was racist, nationalist, and imperialist -- traits that Zionists embraced, hoping to forge them into a defensive shield, which worked just as well as a cudgel to impose their will on others. What distinguishes them from Nazis is that they're less driven to enslave or exterminate enemy races, but that mostly means they see no use for others. In theory, they'd be satisfied just to drive the others out -- as they did with the Nakba -- but in practice their horizons expand as the settlements grow.

The question isn't: why genocide? That's been baked in from the beginning. The question is why they didn't do it before, and why they think they can get away with it now. The "why not" is bound to be speculative, and I don't want to delve very deep here, but I can imagine trying to sort it out on two axes, one for the people, the other for the cutting-edge political leaders. For the people, the scale runs from respect for one's humanity, and dehumanizing others. Most Israelis used to take pride in their high morality, but war and militarism broke that down (with ultra-orthodoxy and capitalism also taking a toll). As for the leaders, the scale is based on power: the desire to push the envelope of possibility, balanced off by the need to maintain good will with allies.

Ben Gurion was a master at both: a guy who took as much as he could (even overreaching in 1956 and having to retreat), and was always plotting ahead to take even more (as his followers did in 1967, meeting less resistance from Johnson). Begin pushed even further, although he too had to retreat from Lebanon under Carter before he found a more compliant Reagan. Netanyahu is another one who constantly tested the limits of American allowance, only to find that Trump and Biden were pushovers, offering no resistance at all. Genocide only became possible as Palestinians came to be viewed by most Israelis as subhuman, while Netanyahu found his power to be unlimited by American sensitivity.

So, while Israel has always been at risk of turning genocidal, what's really changed is America, turning from the "good neighbor" FDR promised to Eisenhower's "leader of the free world" to Reagan's capitalist scam artists to Bush's "global war on terror" to the Trump-Biden cha-cha. I chalk this up to several things. The drift to the right made Americans meaner and politicians more cynical and corrupt. The neocons came to dominate foreign policy, with their cult for power that could be rapidly and arbitrarily deployed anywhere -- as Israel did in their small region, Bush would around the globe. The counter-intifada in Israel and the US wars on terror drove both countries further into the grip of dehumanizing militarism, opening up an opportunity for Netanyahu to forge a right-wing alliance with America, while AIPAC held Democrats like Obama and Biden in check. Trump automatically rubber-stamped anything Netanyahu wanted, and Biden had no will power to do anything but.

By the time October 7 came around, Americans couldn't so much as articulate a national interest in peace and social justice. But there was also one specific thing that kept Americans from seeing genocide as such: we had totally bought into the idea that Hamas, as exemplary terrorists, were intrinsically evil, could never be negotiated with, and therefore all you could do to stop them is to kill as many as you can. It wasn't a novel idea. America has a sordid history of assassination plots until the mid-1970s, when the Church Committee exposed that history and forced reforms. But Israel's own assassination programs expanded continuously from the 1980s on, and American neocons envied Israel's prowess. Under Bush, "high value targets" became currency, and Obama not only followed suit, he upped the game -- most notably bagging Osama Bin Laden.

There's a Todd Snider line: "In America, we like our bad guys dead." That's an understatement. Dead has become the only way we can imagine their stories ending. We long ago gave up on the notion that enemies can be rehabilitated. In large part, this reflects a loss of faith in justice, replaced by sheer power, the belief that we are right because we have the might to force them to tow the line. That was the attitude that Europe took to the South in the 19th century. That was the attitude Germany and Japan made World War with.

That attitude was discredited -- Germany and Japan were allowed to recover as free and peaceful nations; Africa and Asia decolonized; the capitalist world integrated, first with a stable divide from the communists, then by further engagement. There were problems. The US was magnanimous to defeated Germany and Japan, but in turning against the Soviet Union, and in assuming security responsibility for the former European colonies, and in maintaining capitalist hegemony over them, Americans lost their faith in democracy and justice, and embraced power for its own sake. And when that failed, they turned vindictive toward Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The Israelis were adept students of power. They learned directly from the British colonial system, with its divide-and-conquer politics, and its use of collective punishment. They worked with the British to defeat the Palestinian revolt of 1937-39, and against the British in 1947-48. They drew lessons from the Nazis. They learned to play games with the world powers, especially with the US. Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance, is a case study of how they played Iran off for leverage elsewhere, especially with the US. The neocons, with their Israel envy, were especially easy to play.

So when October 7 happened, all the necessary prejudices and reflexive operators were aligned. Hamas were the perfect villains: they had their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, which qualified them as Islamists, close enough to the Salafis and Deobandis who Americans had branded as terrorists even before 9/11; they had become rivals with the secular PLO within the Occupied Territories, especially after Israel facilitated Arafat's return under the Oslo Accords -- a rivalry which led them to become more militant against Israel, which Israel intensified by assassinating their leaders; when they finally did decide to run for elections, they won but the results were disallowed, leading to them seizing power in Gaza, which Israel then blockaded, "put on a diet," and "mowed the grass" in a series of punishing sieges and incursions; along the way, Hamas managed to get a small amount of aid from Iran, so found themselves branded as an Iranian proxy, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen -- Israel knew that any hint of Iranian influence would drive the Americans crazy.

Not only was Hamas the perfect enemy, Israel and the United States had come to believe that terrorists were irrational and fanatical, that they could never be negotiated with, and that the only way to deal with them was by systematically killing off their cadres and especially their leaders until they were reduced to utter insignificance. The phrase Israelis used was that their goal was to make Palestinians realize that they were "an utterly defeated people." When I first heard that phrase, a picture came to mind, of the last days of the American Indian campaigns, when the last Sioux and Apache surrendered to be kept as helpless dependents on wasteland reservations.

On its founding, Israel kept a British legal system that was designed to subjugate native populations, to surveil them, and to arbitrarily arrest and punish anyone they suspected of disloyalty. They discriminated legally against natives, limiting their economic prospects, curtailing their freedom, and punishing them harshly, including collective punishments -- a system which instilled fear of each against the other, where every disobedient act became an excuse for harsher and more sweeping mistreatment.

After Hamas took control of Gaza, those punishments were often delivered by aircraft, wielding 2,000-pound bombs that could flatten whole buildings. Hamas responded with small, imprecise rockets, of no military significance but symbolic of defiance, a way of saying we can still reach beyond your walls. Israel always responded with more shelling and bombing, a dynamic that repeatedly escalated until the horror started to turn world opinion against Israel. Having made their point, Israel could then ease off, until the next opportunity or provocation sent them on the warpath again.

The October 7 "attack" -- at the time, I characterized it, quite accurately I still think, as a jail break followed by a brief crime spree. In short order, Israel killed most of the "attackers," and resealed the border. The scale, in terms of the numbers of Israelis killed or captured was much larger than anything Palestinians had previously managed, and the speed was even more striking, but the overall effect was mostly symbolic, and the threat of more violence coming from Gaza dissipated almost immediately. Israel had no real need to counterattack. They could have easily negotiated a prisoner swap -- Israel had many times more Palestinians in jail than Hamas took as hostages, and had almost unlimited power to add to their numbers. But Israel's leaders didn't want peace. They wanted to reduce Palestinians to "an utterly defeated people." And since there was no way to do that other than to kill most of them and drive the rest into exile -- basically a rerun of the Nakba, only more intense, because having learned that lesson, Palestinians would cling even more tenaciously to their homeland.

That's why the immediate reaction of Israel's leaders was to declare their intent to commit genocide. The problem with that idea was that since the Holocaust, any degree of genocide had become universally abhorrent. To proceed, Israel had to keep the war going, and to keep it going, they had to keep their ideal enemy alive, long enough to do major devastation, making Gaza unlivable for anywhere near the 2.3 million people who managed to live through decades of hardships there, with starvation playing a major role in decimating the population.

In order to commit genocide, Israel had to supplement its killing machinery with a major propaganda offensive, because they remembered that what finally stopped their major wars of 1948-49, 1956, 1967, and 1973, and their periodic assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, was public opinion, especially in America. But Netanyahu knew how to push America's buttons. He declared that the only thing Israel could do to protect itself -- the one thing Israel had to do in order to keep this mini-Holocaust from ever happening again -- was to literally kill everyone in Hamas.

And Americans fell for that line, completely. They believed that Hamas were intractably evil terrorists, and they knew that terrorists cannot be appeased or even negotiated with. And they trusted that Israelis knew what they were doing and how best to do it, so all they really had to do was to provide support and diplomatic cover, giving Israel the time and tools to do the job as best they saw fit. And sure, there would be some collateral damage, because Hamas uses civilians as human shields -- it never really occurring to Americans that those super-smart, super-moral Israelis can't actually tell the difference between Hamas and civilians even if they wanted to, which most certainly they do not. And if anything does look bad, Israel can always come up with a cover story good enough for Americans to believe. After all, Americans have a lot of practice believing their own atrocity cover up stories.

The hostage situation turned out to be really useful for keeping the spectre of Hamas alive. There is no real way for Americans to evaluate how much armed defense Hamas is still capable of in Gaza -- their capability to attack beyond the walls was depleted instantly as they shot their wad on October 7 -- so the only reliable "proof of existence" of Hamas is when their allies show up for meetings in Qatar and Cairo. And there's no chance of agreement, as the only terms Israel is offering is give up all the hostages, surrender, and die. But by showing up, they affirm that Hamas still exists, and by refusing to surrender, they remind the Americans that the only way this can end is by killing them all.

And while that charade is going on, Israel continues to kill indiscriminately, to destroy everything, to starve, to render Gaza unlivable. And they will continue to do so, until enough of us recognize their real plan is genocide, and we shame them into stopping. We are making progress in that direction, as we can see as Biden starts to waver in his less and less enthusiastic support, but we still have a long ways to go.

The key to making more progress will be to break down several of the myths Israel has spun. In particular, we have to abandon the belief that we can solve all our problems by killing everyone who disagrees with us. Second, we need to understand that killing or otherwise harming people only causes further resentment and resistance. People drunk on power tend to ignore this, but it's really not a difficult or novel idea: as Rabbi Hillel put it, "That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor."

Moreover, we need to understand that negotiated agreement between responsible parties is much preferable to the diktat of a single party, no matter how powerful that party is. It's not clear to me that Israel needs to negotiate an agreement with Hamas, because it's not clear to me that Hamas is the real and trusted agent of the people of Palestine or Gaza, but some group needs to emerge as the responsible party, and the more solid their footing, the better partner they can be.

Israel, like the British before them, has always insisted on picking its favored Palestinian representatives, while making them look foolish, corrupt, and/or ineffective. Arafat may only have been the latter, but by not allowing him to accomplish anything, Israel opened up the void that Hamas tried to fill. But Hamas has only had the power it was able to seize by force, and even then was severely limited by what Israel would allow, in a perverse symbiotic relationship that we could spend a lot of time on -- Israel has often found Hamas to be very useful, so their current view that Hamas has to be exterminated seems more like a line to be fed to the Americans, who tend to take good vs. evil ever so literally.

Initial count: 217 links, 12,552 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: There were presidential primaries on April 2, all won as expected by Biden and Trump: Connecticut: Trump 77.9%, Biden 84.9%; New York: Trump 82.1%, Biden 91.5%; Rhode Island: Trump 84.5%, Biden 82.6%; Wisconsin: Trump 79.2%, Biden 88.6%; also Delaware has no vote totals, but gave all delegates to Trump and Biden. The next primary will be in Pennsylvania on April 23.

Trump, and other Republicans:

I've been reading Tricia Romano's oral history of The Village Voice, The Freaks Came Out to Write, and ran into a section on Wayne Barrett, who started reporting on Trump in the 1970s, and published the first serious book on Trump in 1992. The discussion there is worth quoting at some length (pp. 522-524):

TOM ROBBINS: Wayne appreciated the fact that Trump could be a serious player, given his willingness to play the race card, which was clear from his debut speech that he was gonna go after illegal immigrants and Mexicans. As long as you're going to outwardly play the race card in the Republican primary, you can actually command a lot. And Wayne understood that. He was surprised as the rest of us the way that Trump just mowed down the rest of the opposition and that nobody could stand up to him.

WILLIAM BASTONE: He knew that Trump was appealing to something that was going to have traction with people and that wasn't just a passing thing. I said, "Wayne, don't you think people see through this and they understand that he's really just a con man and a huckster and a racist?" The stuff goes back, at that point, almost thirty years with his father and avoiding renting apartments to Black families in Brooklyn.

And he was like, "No, that's gonna be a plus for him, for the people that he's going to end up attracting." I was like, "You're crazy, Wayne. You're crazy."

There was talk that he may have used racially charged or racist remarks when he was doing The Apprentice. And I said, "So Wayne, if it ever came out that Trump used those words or used the N-word?" And Wayne said, "That would be good for him." He was totally right. And then nine months later, he's talking about shooting people on Fifth Avenue. Trump understood that "there's really nothing I can do [wrong] because these people hate the people I hate, and we're all gonna be together."

TOM ROBBINS: When I was at the Observer, I had a column in there called Wise Guys. And at that point, Trump was talking about running for president. This was 1987, that was thirty years before he actually ran, almost. He was focused on this from the very beginning. And none of us took him seriously. . . .

As someone who worked with the tabloid press for a long time, the people who invented Trump were all those tabloid gossip reporters who dined out from all of his items over the years and who reported them right up until the time he ran for president. This is one of the great unrecognized crimes of the press. We in the tabloid press created Trump; it wasn't Wayne. Wayne was going after him.

JONATHAN Z. LARSEN: This is the media's Frankenstein's monster. Trump would call, using a fake name, saying, "I'm the PR guy for Donald Trump. I really shouldn't be telling you this, but he's about to get divorced, and he's got three women he's looking at. There's Marla Maples. There's so-and-so." Very often the people that he was speaking to recognized his voice. They loved it. It was free copy.

Barrett really did have some incredibly good information on Trump, how he built Trump Tower. The head of the concrete union was mobbed up. There was this crazy woman who bought the apartment just underneath Donald Trump's because she was sleeping with the concrete guy, and she wanted to install a pool. It's astonishing, the stuff he got. It's a national treasure now that we have Wayne Barrett's reporting. As soon as Trump became president, everybody was picking through all of Wayne's files.

The ellipsis covers a section on Barrett's Trump book, and stopped before a section on Barrett's horror watching the 2016 returns. By then Barrett was terminably ill, and he died just before Trump's inauguration. I remember reading about Trump in the Voice back in the 1970s, so I was aware of him as a major scumbag, but I took no special interest in him otherwise. Anything I did notice simply added to my initial impression.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Aaron Blake: [04-05] Gaza increasingly threatens Democrats' Trump-era unity.

  • Ben Burgis: [04-04] Democratic voters are furious about US support of Israel.

  • Rachel M Cohen: [04-01] You can't afford to buy a house. Biden knows that.

  • Page S Gardner/Stanley B Greenberg: [03-15] They don't want Trump OR Biden. Here's how they still can elect Biden. "Our new survey of these voters shows the president can still win their support."

  • Robert Kuttner: [04-04] Liberals need to be radicals: "The agenda for Biden's next term must go deeper to restore the American dream." The substance here is fine, but why resort to clichés? The "American dream" was never more than a dream. One can argue that we should dream again, and work to realize those dreams for everyone. Back in the 1960s, the first real political book I bought was an anthology called The New Radicals, edited by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau, and I immediately saw the appeal of the word "radical" for those who seek deep roots of social problems, but nowadays the word is mostly used as a synonym for "extremist." But perhaps more importantly, I've cooled on the desirability for deep solutions (revolutions) and come to appreciate more superficial reforms. I would refashioned the title to say that "liberals need to be leftists," because the liberal dream of freedom can only be universalized through solidarity with others, and is of little value if limited to self-isolating individuals.

  • Tim Miller: [04-05] Joe Biden is not a "genocidal maniac": "And it's not just wrong but reckless and irresponsible to say he is." I agree with the title, but I disagree with the subhed. Genocide wasn't his idea, nor is it something he craves maniacally. But he is complicit in genocide, and not just passively so. He has said things that have encouraged Israel, and he has done things that have materially supported genocide. He has shielded them in the UN, with "allies," and in the media. I've thought a lot about morality lately, and I've come to think that it (and therefore immorality) can only be considered among people who have the freedom to decide on their own what to say and do. Many people are severely limited in their autonomy, but as president of the United States, Biden does have a lot of leeway, and should be judged accordingly.

    I realize that one might argue that morality is subordinate to politics -- that sometimes actual political considerations convince one to do things that normally regard as immoral (like going to war against Nazi Germany, or nuking Hiroshima) -- but the fundamentals remain the same: is the politician free to choose? One might argue that Biden's initial blind support for Israel was purely reflexive -- lessons he had learned over fifty years in AIPAC-dominated Washington, a reflex shared by nearly every other politician so conditioned -- but even so, as president Biden had access to information and a lot of leeway to act, and therefore should be held responsible for his political, as well as moral, decisions.

    Miller goes on to upbraid people for saying "Genocide Joe." He makes fair points, but hey, given the conditions, that's going to happen. Most of us have very little power to influence someone like Biden -- compared to big-time donors, colleagues, and pundits, all of whom are still pretty limited -- so trying to shame him with a colorful nickname is one of the few things one can try. In a similar vein, we used to taunt: "Hey, hey, LBJ; how many kids did you kill today?" And sure, LBJ was more directly responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam than Biden is in Gaza, but both earned the blame. Biden, at least, still has a chance to change course. If he fails, he, and he alone, sealed his fate.

  • Elena Schneider/Jeff Coltin: [03-29] Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Biden's glitzy New York fundraiser: "The event padded Biden's cash advantage, but laid bare one of his biggest weaknesses." The Biden campaign's response seems to be to try to exclude potential protesters:

    • Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein/Katie Glueck: [04-07] How Gaza protesters are challenging Democratic leaders: "From President Biden to the mayors of small cities, Democrats have been trailed by demonstrators who are complicating the party's ability to campaign in an election year." By the way, better term here than in the Politico piece: you don't have to be "pro-Palestinian" to be appalled by genocide. You can even be consciously pro-Israel, someone who cares so much for Israel that your most fervent desire is to spare them the shame of the path Netanyahu et al. have set out on.

  • Washington Monthly: [04-07] Trump vs. Biden: Who got more done? The print edition has a series of "accomplishment index" articles comparing the records of the two presidents. You can probably guess the results, especially if you don't count corruption and vandalism, the main drivers of the Trump administration, as accomplishments:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

The bridge:

Beyoncé: Cowboy Carter: I played the album (twice), and will present my thoughts in the next Music Week. I figured I was pretty much done with it before I started collecting these, but thought it might be interesting to note them:

Other stories:

Hannah Goldfield: [04-08] In the kitchen with the grand dame of Jewish cooking: Gnoshing with Joan Nathan.

Luke Goldstein: [04-02] The in-flight magazine for corporate jets: "The Economist has channeled the concerns of elites for decades. It sees the Biden administration as a threat."

Stephen Holmes: [04-04] Radical mismatch: A review of Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

David Cay Johnston: [04-05] Antitax nation: Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America, explaining "how clever marketing duped America into shoveling more tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations."

Sarah Jones:

Natalie Korach/Ross A Lincoln: [04-05] Meta blocks Kansas Reflector and MSNBC columnist over op-ed criticizing Facebook: "The company says Friday afternoon that the blocks, which falsely labeled the links as spam, were due to 'a security error.'" A Wichita columnist also wrote on this:

Orlando Mayorquin/Amanda Holpuch: [04-07] Southwest plane makes emergency landing after Boeing engine cover falls off. And just when I thought I'd get through a week with no Boeing stories. Then I noticed I had two more waiting:

Rick Perlstein: [04-03] Joe Lieberman not only backed Bush's war; he also helped make Bush president: "A remembrance of this most feckless of Democrats."

Nathan J Robinson: And other recent pieces from his zine, Current Affairs:

Jeffrey St Clair: [04-04] The day John Sinclair died: "The poet, musician, writer, pot liberator, raconteur, Tigers fan, jazzbo, political radical, producer of MC5, founder of the White Panthers and occasional CounterPunch, John Sinclair died this week at 82."

Michael Stavola: [04-03] Wichitan involved in deadly swatting arrested after reportedly doing donuts in Old Town: This story, where Wichita Police murdered Andrew Finch, keeps getting sicker. The trigger man not only got off, he's since been promoted, even after the city agreed to pay $5 million to the victim's family, while they managed to pin blame on three other pranksters. There's plenty of blame to go around. Not even mentioned here is the gun lobby and their Republican stooges who did so much to create an atmosphere where dozens of trigger-happy cops are dispatched to deal with an anonymous complaint, totally convinced that everyone they encounter is at likely to be armed and shoot as they are.

Carl Wilson: [03-25] Sweeping up kernels from Pop Con 2024. Includes links to key presentations by Robert Christgau, Michaelangelo Matos, Glenn McDonald, De Angela L Duff, Alfred Soto, and Ned Raggett.

I scribbled this down from a Nathan J Robinson tweet: "very interesting discussion of how, during World War I, attrocities attributed to German soldiers were used to whip people into a frenzy and create an image of a monstrous, inhuman enemy -- atrocities that later turned out to be dubious/exaggerated, well after the fighting stopped." That was followed by a scan from an unidentified book:

. . . stated that the Germans had systematically murdered, outraged, and violated innocent men, women, and children in Belgium. "Murder, lust, and pillage," the report said, "prevailed over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilised nations during the last three centuries." The report gave titillating details of how German officers and men had publicly raped twenty Belgian girls in the market place at Ličge, how eight German soldiers had bayoneted a two-year-old child, and how another had sliced off a peasant girl's breasts in Malilnes. Bryce's signature added considerable weight to the report, and it was not until after the war that several unsatisfactory aspects of the Bryce committee's activities emerged. The committee had not personally interviewed a single witness. The report was based on 1,200 depositions, mostly from Belgian refugees, taken by twenty-two barristers in Britain. None of the witnesses were placed on oath, their names were omitted (to prevent reprisals against their relatives), and hearsay evidence was accepted at full value. Most disturbing of all was the fact that, although the depositions should have been filed at the Home Office, they had mysteriously disappeared, and no trace of them has been found to this day. Finally, a Belgian commission of enquiry in 1922, when passions had cooled, failed markedly to corroborate a single major allegation in the Bryce report. By then, of course, the report had served its purpose. Its success in arousing hatred and condemnation of Germany makes it one of the most successful propaganda pieces of the war.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42079 [42039] rated (+40), 39 [31] unrated (+8).

Speaking of Which published late Sunday night, with a few additions today. Lots of serious stuff there -- a claim I hardly feel like making for this post. However, I resolved quite some time ago to take notes on what I managed to listen to, and to share them for whoever cares.

I didn't realize until mid-week that last Music Week was the last of the month. I've updated the March Streamnotes file accordingly. When I went to index it, I found I hadn't goten to February either. Nasty, tedious job, but done now. It did solve one nagging issue of an album I thought I had reviewed but didn't record in the database.

I week-plus ago, I tweeted advance notice of an A-list album (Roby Glod's No ToXiC), figuring I might make a practice of doing that, at least for cases where the whole album can be sampled on Bandcamp. But I couldn't do much like that this week, aside from my preferred slice of the Pauline Anna Strom box, Plot Zero. I should recheck to be sure, but when I went to look, several of this week's picks aren't on Bandcamp, and most that are only have partial tracks available (in some cases, noted in the reviews, that haven't been released yet).

This post was ready to go Monday evening, but I wanted to go back and touch up Speaking of Which before posting them both. I didn't get that done, and was too exhausted by bed time. I never got started on Tuesday, either, so everything has to go up pretty much as it was. Unlikely I will get much of anything done later in the week, either, so next week's posts will be minimal, if they happen at all.

New records reviewed this week:

1010benja: Ten Total (2024, Three Six Zero): Rapper-singer Benjamin Lyman, based in Kansas City, first album after an EP, finds a groove and sensibility as original as the early mixtapes of Weeknd and Frank Ocean. A- [sp]

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Les Jardins Mystiques Vol. 1 (2023, Brainfeeder, 3CD): Los Angeles-based composer, violinist, has several previous albums (back to 2007), this one a monster (even without the promised future volume[s]), running 3.5 hours (also available on 4-LP), no recording dates given but "14 years in the making . . . with contributions from 50+ friends," including a fair number I recognize. Too big and possibly too luxe for me, but makes for consistently engaging background. The few critics who mention it at all rate it very highly. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Jakob Heinemann: Horizon Scanners (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Pianist, one of few operating in Chicago's vibrant avant-jazz scene, couple dozen albums since his 1997 debut, more side-credits, trio here with drums and bass, Baker also playing ARP-2600. B+(**) [sp]

Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Chicken Shit Bingo (2015 [2024], Trost): Posthumous archive dig but not too deep, a set from Zuiderpershuis in Antwerp, with Brötzmann opting for relatively soft horns (tarogato, bb clarinet, contra-alto clarinet), Nilssen-Love with a lot of experience in sax/drums duos. B+(*) [bc]

Christie Dashiell: Journey in Black (2023, self-released): Jazz singer-songwriter, first album, seven originals, two covers, with Marquis Hill (trumpet), Allyn Johnson (keyboards), Shedrick Mitchell (organ), Romeir Mendez (bass), and Carroll Vaughn Dashiel III (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Empress Of: For Your Consideration (2024, Major Arcana/Giant Music): Pop singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez, from Los Angeles, parents from Honduras, Berklee grad, fourth album since 2015. B+(**) [sp]

Julieta Eugenio: Stay (2023 [2024], Cristalyn): Tenor saxophonist, from Italy, based in New York, 2022 debut album was one of the year's best. Mostly trio with Matt Dwonszyk (bass) and Jonathan Barber (drums), adding Leo Genovese (Fender Rhodes) on two tracks. Doesn't try to blow you away here, but is steady, assured, and consistently engaging -- not a formula yet, not so easy to normalize. A- [cd]

Four Tet: Three (2024, Text): Longtime alias for English DJ Kieran Hebden, a dozen-plus albums since 1999, plus a few jazzier items under his own name (with the late drummer, Steve Reid). Beats up front, then relaxes a bit. As nice as anything he's done in at least a decade. B+(***) [sp]

Kim Gordon: The Collective (2024, Matador): Sonic Youth's better half, second post-divorce solo album. With beats supposed to be derived from trap (albeit plated with a surface of industrial klang), frayed vocals that could be called rap (but are probably too cryptic). Sonically, it's as distinct as anything her former group rolled out, perhaps more so. Youth? Not really. I have some doubts, but it does quite an impression. A- [sp]

Guillermo Gregorio: Two Trios (2018-20 [2023], ESP-Disk): Clarinet player from Argentina, where he first recorded in 1963, moved to Vienna, then to Chicago, where he resumed in the 1990s, and finally to New York. First trio here was recorded at Edgefest in Ann Arbor, with Carrie Biolo (vibes) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). Second was at Downtown Music Gallery in New York, with Iván Barenboim (contralto clarinet) and Nicholas Jozwiak (cello). B+(***) [cd]

Guillermo Gregorio/Damon Smith/Jerome Bryerton: The Cold Arrow (2022 [2023], Balance Point Acoustics): Clarinets, bass, and percussion ("Paiste Bronze Series gongs & selected metal & cymbals, no drums used"). B+(**) [sp]

Mercer Hassy Orchestra: Duke's Place (2022-23 [2024], Mercer Hassy): Japanese big band, leader "was born as Masahide Hashimoto in Sapporo, Japan," home base for this exceptionally racous and rather raunchy Ellington tribute band. He is credited as arranger, also for drum programming and guitar. Several vocals, lots of excitement. Group has two previous albums, one in this vein (Sir Duke), the other more varied (Don't Stop the Carnival). Hassy has a non-Orchestra album with strings and traditional Japanese instruments, but also Alan Pasqua and Peter Erskine. This one slops off here and there, but is too much fun not so share. A- [cd] [04-15)

Jlin: Akoma (2024, Planet Mu): Electronica producer Jerrilynn Patton, from Gary, Indiana, fourth (or third) album. Beats, which is all that matters. B+(***) [sp]

Julien Knowles: As Many, as One (2023 [2024], Biophilia): Trumpet player, based in Los Angeles, first album, a postbop quintet -- alto sax, piano, bass, drums, no one I recognize, plus strings on three tracks -- as ambitious as claimed but returns are marginal for 70:27. B+(*) [cd] [04-26]

Anysia Kym: Truest (2024, 10k, EP): Brooklyn-based "producer," third album, sings along with her hip-hop beats and shadings, some guest rap (MIKE), not much press. Nine songs, 22:48. B+(*) [sp]

Ellie Lee: Escape (2024, self-released): Korean pianist, original first name Seunghyung, studied at Berklee and in New Jersey, counts Joanne Brackeen and Bill Charlap among her tutors, first album, originals (one an arrangement of Benny Golson), shows remarkable poise, helped considerably by saxophonist Steven Wilson. With Steve LaSpina (bass) and Jongkuk Kim (drums). B+(***) [05-24]

Adrianne Lenker: Bright Future (2024, 4AD): Singer-songwriter, best known as leader of Big Thief, has several solo albums, two before Big Thief, three since. Very basic, guitar and voice, harmonies adding resonance, the songs standing on their own, and faring well. B+(***) [sp]

Kali Malone: All Life Long (2024, Ideologic Organ): American composer, from Denver, based in Stockholm, sixth album since 2017, started with electronics plays pipe organ here, with a choir (Macadem Ensemble) and brass quintet (Anima Brass). Very solemn. B+(*) [sp]

The Messthetics/James Brandon Lewis: The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis (2024, Impulse!): Bassist (Joe Lally) and drummer (Brandan Canty) from Fugazi, plus jazz guitarist Anthony Pirog, formed this post-rock power trio for two 2018-19 albums, return here with the reigning heavyweight tenor sax champ riffing over heavier-than-usual beats. He's supreme, as usual, but Pirog doesn't really rise to the occasion -- unlike, the Ex guitarists in Lean Left, to pick a somewhat comparable example. B+(***) [sp]

Travis Reuter: Quintet Music (2022 [2024], self-released): Guitarist, born in Seattle, has a previous album from 2012, a variety of side credits since, lists his quintet on the cover as you should recognize the names: Mark Shim (tenor sax), Peter Schlamb (vibraphone), Harish Raghavan (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Slippery, often fractured, rhythm is interesting. B+(***) [cd] [04-19]

Schoolboy Q: Blue Lips (2024, Interscope): Los Angeles rapper Matthew Hanley, sixth album since 2011, this after a five-year break. Sharp beats, ends on a catchy note, but I didn't get much more. B+(*) [sp]

Altin Sencalar: Discover the Present (2024, Posi-Tone): Trombonist, first album, nonet has most of the label's regulars on board, including Diego Rivera, Michael Dease, Art Hirahara, and Rudy Royston. B+(*) [sp]

Matthew Shipp Trio: New Concepts in Piano Trio Jazz (2023 [2024], ESP-Disk): Pianist, has been major since c. 1990, both on his own records and accompanying saxophonists, notably David S. Ware and Ivo Perelman. Went through an avant-jazztronica that I was so taken by I wound up writing a consumer guide to his work (plus a lot more by William Parker) and a Rolling Stone guide entry. Since then, he's refocused on trio and solo albums, exhaustively it can seem. This is his sixth trio album with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums), following many more with various others (starting with Parker and Whit Dickey, then Bisio and Dickey). I've heard pretty much all of them, and still I have no idea what the "new concepts" are here. This is, however, a superb sample of what he's been doing for many years now. A- [cd] [04-05]

Jacob Shulman: High Firmament (2024, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, also plays clarinets, based in Los Angeles, has a previous album from 2021, and an earlier opera (Role Playing Game), which at least exists on Bandcamp. Also a second new album, Ferment Below, which showed up with this one, an advance looking like a double album, but they are treated as separate digitally, and I don't see any evidence of them existing otherwise. Both albums have piano (Hayoung Lyou), bass (Walter Stinson), and drums (Kayvon Gordon). Fancy postbop, more interesting to read about ("thousands of years of conjecture and agony have led us to conclude that our world diverges from Euclidean geometry in unresolvable ways" -- you can't just observe that?) -- than to listen to. B [cdr]

Jacob Shulman: Ferment Below (2024, Endectomorph Music): Annoyed me even more than the first one, until it inexplicably got better. Maybe I relaxed once I ditched the Pythagoras and realized that the review, like the record, would eventually end. But then it turned back into opera. B [cdr]

Ronny Smith: Struttin' (2024, Pacific Coast Jazz): Guitarist, "melodic and soulful," writes funky originals, covers Wes Montgomery, also credited "keys, bass, programming," second song adds vocals to sound like a Chic outtake (but just that one), elsewhere there's a nice bit of sax. B+(*) [cd] [04-19]

Mary Timony: Untame the Tiger (2024, Merge): Singer-songwriter from DC, been through several indie bands (Helium, Wild Flag, Ex Hex, Hammered Hulls) as well as several solo albums (one called Ex Hex before the group). B [sp]

Erik Truffaz: Clap! (2023, Blue Note): Trumpet player, born in Switzerland, close to twenty albums since 1997. B+(*) [sp]

Julia Vari Feat. Negroni's Trio: Somos (2024, Alternative Representa): Mexican-American standards singer, couple previous albums (but none on Discogs), backed by Puerto Rican pianist José Negroni, who has at least four Trio albums with Josh Allen (bass) and Nomar Negroni (drums, José's son). Seven songs, 35:19, the sort of singer and trio I rarely give a second thought to, but everything here delights me -- the torchy opener in Spanish, seguing into "Nature Boy," "Song for My Father" with lyrics in Portuguese, and especially the bits of French in "C'est si bon," a language I know just well enough to feel the phrase without having to translate it. A- [cd]

Fay Victor: Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (2023 [2024], Tao Forms, 2CD): Jazz singer, born in Brooklyn but moved around a lot, with Trinidad and Zambia figuring in her childhood, Long Island for her teens, with Japan and Amsterdam major pivots in her career. She's probably sick of the Betty Carter comparisons, but after this album it's Carter who should be honored. I've been a huge fan of Nichols since I first heard his Blue Note trios in a 1975 2-LP (The Third World, but still have no idea how she managed to arrange those compositions into these pieces (adding her lyrics, or often just scat), except to note that Nichols' legacy has long inspired other geniuses (Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy, and Roswell Rudd leap to mind). (By the way, I'm only now noticing that the original LPs were in two volumes as The Prophetic Herbie Nichols, following on The Amazing Bud Powell, The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, etc.; for CDs, look for The Complete Blue Note Recordings, originally on Mosaic but reissued by Blue Note in 1997, and also look out for his Bethlehem album, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love. A good place to start for Nicols projects in Regeneration (1983), with all three names I dropped above, but they've each done more, as have many others.) Group here is superb, with Michaël Attias (alto/baritone sax), Anthony Coleman (piano), Ratzo Harris (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums). (Like Carter, she really knows how to work a band.) A [cd] [04-05]

Waxahatchee: Tigers Blood (2024, Anti-): Singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield, out of Alabama (Bandcamp puts her in Kansas City), formerly of P.S. Eliot, also of Plains, sixth Waxahatchee album since 2012, currently 4 on AOTY's "highest rated albums of 2024" (86/26, more reviews than anyone above; fewer than two other top-ten albums I don't particularly like). If I'm being evasive here, it's probably because while the songs sound good enough, I'm not connecting with them. Pehaps one to revisit later? B+(***) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sven-Ĺke Johansson und Alexander von Schlippenbach: Über Ursache und Wirkung der Meinungsverschiedenheiten Beim Turmbau zu Babel (1994 [2024], Trost): Swedish free jazz drummer, has played in duos with the German pianist at least since 1976, their relationship going back further in Globe Unity Orchestra. This was billed as a "Musikdrama in einem Akt," with Shelley Hirsch joining Johansson (who plays accordion) for vocals, and a small group that includes piano, drums (Paul Lovens), reeds (Dietmar Diesner and Wolfgang Fuchs), and cello (Tristan Honsinger). I can't speak to the libretto, but the music is a riot. B+(**) [bc]

Microstoria: Init Ding + _Snd (1995-96 [2024], Thrill Jockey, 2CD): Electronica duo of Markus Popp (Oval) and Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars), recorded six albums 1995-2002, the first two reissued here. Not exactly ambient, but not much to distinguish itself either. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Guillermo Gregorio: Faktura (1999-2000 [2002], Hat Now): Clarinet player from Argentina, then based in Chicago, fairly minimal pieces, some trio with Carrie Biolo (vibes/marimba) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), other guest spots including Jim Baker (piano), Jeff Parker (guitar), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Jeb Bishop (trombone), and François Houle (clarinet), with two "concrete sound" interludes crediting engineer Lou Mallozzi. B+(**) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Trans-Millenia Consort (1982, Ether Ship): Electronic music composer (1946-2020), synthesizers and taped sounds, first album (of seven through 1988, was a "Reiki master, spiritual counselor, and healer," so her music was part and parcel of all that. This and two more albums were boxed up for 2023's Echoes, Spaces, Lines, which is on Bandcamp but Spotify only has the albums broken out, so we'll take them one-by-one. Constructs a universe of peace and beauty, with few distractions. B+(***) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Plot Zero (1982-83 [1983], Trans-Millenia Consort): Further developing her sense of keyboard rhythm, also spacey flights, with one unseemly crescendo detracting from the soothing bliss. A- [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Spectre (1982-83 [1984], Trans-Millenia Consort): More of the same, seeming a bit less wondrous, as tends to happen. B+(**) [sp]

Pauline Anna Strom: Echoes, Spaces, Lines (1982-83 [2023], RVNG Intl, 4CD): This compiles her first three albums -- see above: Trans-Millenia Consort, Plot Zero, and Spectre -- and adds two cuts (6:30) at the end, the extra CD probably due to the reshuffling to also box the same music on 4-LP. I gave the second album a slight edge over the others, but it's possible that the variations add up to something more than the parts. (Also that the packaging helps, although I haven't seen it. Note that the individual album remasters are available separately, at least on Bandcamp.) B+(***) [sp/bc]

Julia Vari: Adoro (2015, Alternativa Representa): Mexican-American, not much on her but reportedly sings in eight languages and plays piano, even less on this album -- just the release date, a note that it's her second, and that there is a 4-song EP of the same name, but this has 10 songs, 45:09. Mostly Spanish (presumably, at least nothing I recognize), some excellent piano, a bit of nice sax. B+(**) [sp]

Julia Vari: Lumea: Canciones del Mundo en Jazz (2013, Alternativa Representa): This does seem to be her first album. Credits would be helpful, but I can't find any -- other than to note one standard in English, and at least one Jobim, but most must be in Spanish. More notes: "multilingual singer-songwriter and pianist"; "both albums soared to the top of the jazz-blues charts in Latin America"; "divides her time between Miami and Mexico City"; "BMI songwriter"; "performs as a Headliner on luxury cruise lines." B+(*) [sp]

Julia Vari: Bygone Nights (2018, Alternativa Representa, EP): Four songs, 12:37, title song an original in English, followed by two songs in Spanish I can trace back to others ("Achupé," "Te Veo"), and a Latin twist on old Yiddish, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen." B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album (1972, Jazz Detective) [04-20]
  • John Basile: Heatin' Up (StringTime Jazz) [04-01]
  • Nicola Caminiti: Vivid Tales of a Blurry Self-Portrait (self-released) [05-10]
  • The Core: Roots (Moserobie) [04-12]
  • Arnaud Dolmen/Leonardo Montana; LéNo (Quai Son) [03-29]
  • Dave Douglas: Gifts (Greenleaf Music) [04-12]
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Romance of the Moon (L&H Production) [05-10]
  • Eric Frazier: That Place (EFP Productions) [03-29]
  • Jazz at the Ballroom: Flying High: Big Band Canaries Who Soared (Jazz at the Ballroom) [05-03]
  • Maria Joăo & Carlos Bica Quartet: Close to You (JACC)
  • Yusef Lateef: Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert From Avignon (1972, Elemental Music, 2CD) [04-26]
  • Shawn Maxwell: J Town Suite (Cora Street) [05-01]
  • Modney: Ascending Primes (Pyroclastic) [05-18]
  • Mike Monford: The Cloth I'm Cut From (self-released) [05-04]
  • Mute: After You've Gone (Endectomorph Music) * [05-13]
  • The Michael O'Neill Sextet: Synergy: With Tony Lindsay (Jazzmo) [04-19]
  • Sun Ra: At the Showcase: Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (Jazz Detective, 2CD) [04-20]
  • Art Tatum: Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (Resonance, 3CD) [04-20]
  • Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors (1995, Elemental Music, 2CD): [04-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Speaking of Which

This is another week where I ran out of time before I ran out of things I needed to look up. Further updates are possible, although as I'm writing this, I'm pretty exhausted, so I'm tempted to call it done.

First thing to add on Monday is: Jonathan Swan: [04-01] Trump's call for Israel to 'finish up' war alarms some on the right: Assuming this isn't an April Fool, as Israeli journalist Ariel Kahana puts it, "Trump effectively bypassed Biden from the left, when he expressed willingness to stop this war and get back to being the great country you once were." As Trump put it, "You have to finish up your war. You have to get it done. We have to get to peace. We can't have this going on." Kahana continued:

"There's no way to beautify, minimize or cover up that problematic message."

Trump aides insisted this was a misinterpretation. A campaign spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, said that Mr. Trump "fully supports Israel's right to defend itself and eliminate the terrorist threat," but that Israel's interests would be "best served by completing this mission as quickly, decisively and humanely as possible so that the region can return to peace and stability."

Trump wants it both ways: he wants to be seen as tough as possible -- there is no indication that "finish it" couldn't include simply killing everyone, but he recognizes that free time to do whatever Israel wants is in limited supply. So is American patience, because it is finally sinking in that this genocide is bad for America's relationships with the world, not just for Israel.

The article includes a good deal about and from David M. Friedman, who was Trump's ambassador to Israel, but could just as well be viewed as Netanyahu's mole in the Trump administration.

Mr. Friedman has gone much further than Mr. Kushner, who seemed to be only musing. Mr. Friedman has developed a proposal for Israel to claim full sovereignty over the West Bank -- definitively ending the possibility of a two-state solution. West Bank Palestinians who have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967 would not be given Israeli citizenship under the plan, Mr. Friedman confirmed in the interview.

Of course, Trump wouldn't put it that way -- he'd never admit to going to the left of any "radical left Democrat," although he has occasionally scored points by avoiding extreme right Republican positions (like demolishing Social Security and Medicare). But peace isn't a position exclusive to the left. The trick for Trump, following Nixon in 1968, is to convince people that the tough guy is the best option for "peace with honor." It's hard to see how Trump can sustain that illusion, especially given that he has zero comprehension of the problem, and nothing but counterproductive reflexes. (Nixon didn't deliver either.)

Nathan Robinson tweeted on this piece, adding:

I have this wild notion that Trump might conceivably run to Biden's left on Israel-Palestine in the general election, like he did with Hillary and Iraq.

Elsewhere, Robinson noted:

Trump has always understood that the American people don't care for war. That was crucial to his successful campaign against Hillary in 2016. He's been unusually quiet for a Republican on Israel-Palestine, probably in the hopes it will be a big disaster for Biden.

I figured I'd add more to this post, but got bogged down with Music Week, then other things, so this will have to do. I doubt I'll get much done over the next two or three weeks, as we have various company coming and going. Not that there won't be lots to write about, as Tuesday's Mondoweiss daily title makes clear: [04-02] Israel kills 7 international aid workers in central Gaza, passes law banning Al Jazeera.

Initial count is actually pretty substantial: 183 links, 9,891 words. Updated count [04-02]: 196 links, 11,509 words.

Top story threads:


  • Mondoweiss:

  • AlJazeera: For quite some time I've been leading off with the daily logs published by Mondoweiss, but they didn't appear on Saturday and Sunday, so let these fill in. You can search for other possible daily updates, which Google suggests includes: Palestine Chronicle, Haaretz, IMEMC, Al Mayadeen, Palestine Chronicle, Times of Israel, Roya News, TASS, Jerusalem Post, Al-Manar TV Lebanon, UNRWA. Other news organizations that provide live updates include: AlJazeera, CNN, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, I24News, CNBC, Middle East Monitor.

    • [03-30] Day 176: List of key events: "Israeli attacks kill dozens of Palestinians including 15 people at a sport centre where war-displaced people were sheltering."

    • [03-31] Day 177: List of key events: "Gaza's Media Office says Israel has committed 'a new massacre' by bombing inside the walls of a hospital in Deir el-Balah."

  • Kaamil Ahmed/Damien Gayle/Aseel Mousa: [03-29] 'Ecocide in Gaza': does scale of environmental destruction amount to a war crime?: "Satellite analysis revealed to the Guardian shows farms devastated and nearly half of the territory's trees razed. Alongside mounting air and water pollution, experts say Israel's onslaught on Gaza's ecosystems has made the area unlivable." Let's say this loud: This is one of the most significant pieces of reporting yet on the war. War crime? Sure, but specifically this is compelling proof of intent, as well as fact, of genocide. The purpose of ecocide is to kill, perhaps less directly than bombs but more systematically, more completely. And driving people away? Sure, Israel will settle for that, especially as they're making it impossible for people who flee to return.

    Before this war, I must admit that I pictured Gaza as this chunk of desert totally covered by urban sprawl: you know, Manhattan's population in an area only slightly larger. Ever since the Nakba swept a couple hundred thousand Palestinians into refugee camps there, Gaza has had to import food. But any food they struggled to produce locally helped, especially as the population grew, and as Israel, as they liked to boast, "put Gaza on a diet." So small farms helped, and greenhouses even more. Israel has gone way out of their way to destroy food sources, much as they've destroyed utilities, hospitals, housing. While the news focuses on the top line deaths figure -- well over 30,000 but still, I'm sure, quite seriously undercounted -- Israel has shifted focus to long-term devastation.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [03-26] Israel's lethal charade hides its real goals in plain sight: "Forget Israel's stated goals about destroying Hamas. Its real, undeclared goal has always been to make Gaza uninhabitable and destroy as many traces of Palestinian life as possible."

  • Nada Almadhoun: [03-26] A volunteer doctor in Gaza faces her patients' traumas along with her own: "I am in my final year in medical school and have seen hundreds of critical cases as a volunteer doctor during Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza. The traumas I have seen in my patients are no different from those I have experienced myself."

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-29] The crisis that could bring down Benjamin Netantyahu, explained: "Netanyahu has till Sunday evening to present a fix to Israel's controversial conscription law. If he fails, his government likely fails with him." Genocide isn't controversial, but this [drafting yeshiva students] is? Actually, special status for ultra-orthodox Jews has been a fault line in Israeli politics ever since 1948 -- arguably Ben-Gurion's biggest mistake was bringing them into his government. But the stakes over conscription has grown over time, and are especially acute in times of high mobilization, like now.

  • Sheera Frenkel: [03-27] Israel deploys expansive facial recognition program in Gaza. They've been doing this in the West Bank for some time. Israel is also developing an export business for surveillance technology, handy for authoritarian regimes everywhere. Some earlier reports on this:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: [03-25] The story of Yazan Kafarneh, the boy who starved to death in Gaza.

  • Ghada Hania: [03-30] 'No, dear. I will never leave Gaza.'

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [03-25] Gaza's risk of famine is accelerating faster than anything we've seen in this century: "Everyone in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger. It's entirely preventable." In case you're wondering where he ever got such idea, Israel negotiated the exile of PLO members from Beirut, putting them on ships, most heading to Tunisia. Before that, British ships transferred large number of Palestinians from Jaffa to Beirut. So that's one thing the pier could be used for -- if the US can line up anywhere to deposit the refugees.

  • Chris Hedges: [03-18] Israel's Trojan Horse: "The 'temporary pier' being built on the Mediterranean coast of Gaza is not there to alleviate the famine, but to herd Palestinians onto ships and into permanent exile."

  • Ameer Makhoul: [03-25] While eyes are on Rafah, Israel is cementing control of northern Gaza: "Israel is building infrastructure to carve up Gaza, prevent the return of displaced Palestinians, and change the geographical and demographic facts on the ground."

  • Orly Noy: [03-23] Hebrew University's faculty of repressive science: "The suspension of Palestinian professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian empties all meaning from the university's proclaimed values of pluralism and equality."

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-26] Another Israeli soldier admits to implementing the 'Hannibal Directive' on October 7: "Captain Bar Zonshein recounts firing tank shells on vehicles carrying Israeli civilians on October 7. 'I decide that this is the right decision, that it's better to stop the abduction and that they not be taken,' he told Israeli media outlets."

  • Meron Rapoport: [03-29] Why do Israelis feel so threatened by a ceasefire? "Halting the Gaza war means recognizing that Israel's military goals were unrealistic -- and that it cannot escape a political process with the Palestinians."

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-28] How MAGA broke the media.

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-30] Republican billionaires no longer upset about insurrection: "The absurd rationalizations of Trump's oligarchs."

  • Chas Danner: [03-30] Trump is into kidnapped Biden shibari: Refers to "a truck tailgate meme about kidnapping President Joe Biden, tying him up with rope, and tossing him in the back of a pickup." Trump seems to approve.

  • Igor Derysh:

  • Tim Dickinson: [03-25] 'Bloodbath,' 'vermin,' 'dictator' for a day: A guide to Trump's fascist rhetoric.

  • Liza Featherstone: Donald Trump's crusade against electric vehicles is getting racist.

  • Francesca Fiorentini: [03-29] Handmaids of the patriarchy: "Republicans offer a lesson in how not to win women back to their party."

  • Shane Goldmacher/Maggie Haberman: [03-26] Trump isn't reaching out to Haley and her voters. Will it matter? Link to this article was more explicit, quoting Steve Bannon: "Screw Nikki Haley -- we don't need her endorsement." But as the article notes, many Republicans who once grumbled about Trump wound up "bending the knee."

  • Sarah Jones: [03-29] The time Trump wished everyone a 'Happy Good Friday': "Trump doesn't have to be pious. He doesn't have to understand what holy days mean to his supposed co-religionists. He just has to infuriate their enemies -- and he's good at that."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-27] The corrupt trifecta of Yass, Trump, and Netanyahu: "Yass's payoffs to Trump are part of his efforts to destroy democracy in the US and Israel, while helping China."

  • Adam Lashinsky: [03-25] Trump's new stock deal is just another pig in a poke:

    I don't give investment advice. But I assure you that a company with $3.4 million in revenue and $49 million in losses over the past nine months is not worth $5 billion. Buy into shares of any company with those numbers and you are certain to be taken for a sucker.

    That Donald Trump will be the one doing the bamboozling means that investors in his public media company might as well be making a political donation to his campaign or contributing to a Trump legal defense fund instead.

  • Julianne Malveaux: [03-31] Those ridiculous retiring Republicans: Four Republican Reps have resigned this year -- Kevin McCarthy (CA), Bill Johnson (OH), Ken Buck (CO), and Mike Gallagher (WS) -- unable to cope with a party that eats its own.

  • Andrew Marantz: [03-27] Why we can't stop arguing about whether Trump is a fascist: Review of a new book on the question, Did It Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America, edited by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins. Without having read the book, I can probably rattle off a dozen arguments for and against, but to matter, you not only have to have some historical background but also an interest in certain possible political dynamics and outcomes -- which makes it a question those on the left are both inclined to ask and answer affirmatively: from where we stand, knowing what we know, Trump and his movement are indeed very fascist, at least inasmuch as they hate us and wish to see us destroyed, as have all fascists before them. However, that's mostly useful just to us, to whom labeling someone a fascist suffices as a sophisticated and damning critique. Others' mileage may vary, depending on what other questions they are concerned with, and how Trump aligns or differs from his fascist forebears. One such question is does knowing whether Trump is a fascist help you to oppose him? It probably does within the left, but not so much with others.

  • Amanda Marcotte: [03-26] Trump loves to play the victim -- NY appeals court bailout shows he's the most coddled person alive: "There appears to be no end of breaks for a spoiled rich boy who has never done a decent thing in his 77 years."

  • Dana Milbank: [03-29] Trump can't remember much. He hopes you won't be able to, either. Too bad Trump's opponent doesn't seem to have the recall and articulation to remind people.

  • Ruth Murai: [03-30] Donald Trump stoops to lowest low yet with violent post of Biden: "Let's call it what it is: stochastic terrorism."

  • Timothy Noah: Trump's unbearable temptation to dump his Truth Social stock: "Would he really screw over MAGA investors to cover his gargantuan legal debts? Don't bet against it."

  • Rick Perlstein: [03-27] The Swamp; or, inside the mind of Donald Trump: "His orations about migrants are a pastiche of others' golden oldies. Exhibit A: the lie that migrants are sent from prisons and mental institutions."

  • Catherine Rampell:

    • [03-25] Two myths about Trump's civil fraud trial: So, after a judge cut down and postponed the full bond requirement that every other defendant has had to live with, Trump "shall live to grift another day." The myths?

      First, that Trump's white-collar cases are "victimless" and therefore not worth enforcement. And second, that every lawsuit and charge against him plays into his persecution narrative, thereby strengthening him as a presidential candidate.

      Both criticisms are off-base, at least in a society that values rule of law.

    • [03-29] The internet was supposed to make humanity smarter. It's failing. I wasn't sure where to file this, but a quick look at her examples of internet stupidity led me to the simplest conclusion, which is under her other article on Trump. But I'm tempted to argue that the problem is less the internet than who "we" are. I personally haven't the faintest sense that the internet has made me dumber. I use it to fact check myself dozens of times each week, which I couldn't have done before it. This very column is ample evidence of the internet's ability to make extraordinary amount of information widely available. I couldn't do what I do without it. Indeed, I couldn't know what I know. There are problems, of course. The internet is an accelerator of all kinds of information, right and wrong, good and bad, or just plain frivolous. It's also a great diffuser, scattering information so widely that few people have common references. (Unlike when I was growing up, and everyone knew Edward Murrow, and a few of us even knew I.F. Stone.) Of course, those properties sound more neutral than they are. The internet can be viewed as a market, which has been severely skewed to favor private interests over public ones. That's something we need to work on.

  • Eugene Robinson: [03-28] Trump's Bible grift is going to backfire: I think his reasoning -- "some of them might actually read it" is way off base. I mean, who actually reads the Bible? I never did. I'm not sure I knew anyone who did. I remember being shocked when I found out it was included in the list of the "Great Books" curriculum: the very idea that you could just sit down or curl up and read it through, like Plato's Republic and Dante's Inferno. All we ever did was hunt for quotes -- preferably short ones -- that we could use as an authority, because that's what everyone used the Bible for. And even if your quote-hunting goes long and deep, it's not like you're open to discovery; it's usually just confirmation bias. So no, I don't think there's any reason to think that people fool enough to buy a Bible from Trump are going to wise up. The best I'm hoping for is that they become embarrassed at having fallen for such an obvious con.

  • Jennifer Rubin:

    • [03-20] We ignore Trump's defects at our peril: An obvious point, but not just the defects -- the whole package is profoundly disturbing. I included this column for the title, but it's mostly a q&a, starting with one about the Schumer speech calling for new elections in Israel, which she answers with a real howler: "The United States and Israel generally avoid influencing each other's domestic politics, so this was quite a shock to some." Ever hear of Sheldon Adelson? Granted, it's mostly Israel interfering with America -- maybe AIPAC has American figureheads, but they always march to the orders of whoever's in power in Israel -- but I can think of examples, even if they're mostly more subtle than Schumer.

    • [03-24] Other than Trump, virtually no one was doing better four years ago. By the way, this is a bullshit metric. It was pushed hard by Reagan in 1984, knowing that America had been mired in a Fed-induced recession in 1980, but was then rebounding as interest rates dropped. Carter wasn't blameless for the recession -- he had, after all, appointed Volcker -- and Reagan did goose the recovery with his budget-busting tax cuts and military spending, but that's overly simplistic. Same today, although the depths of the 2020 recession were so severe that Biden couldn't help but look good in comparison. That, as Rubin notes, some people can't see that is a problem, potentially a big one if amnesia and delusion lead to a second Trump term. So yeah, Democrats need to remind us of Trump's massive failures, and real things accomplished under Biden (even though many of them, like infrastructure, haven't had much impact yet).

      But we should be aware of two flaws in the argument: one is that it takes a long time to fully understand the impact of a presidency; the other is that one's personal effect is often misleading. Personally, I did great during the Reagan years, but maybe being 30-38 had something to do with that? But we now know that the most significant political change was the uncoupling of wages and productivity increases -- something that was made possible by a major shift of leverage from labor to business -- which more than any other factor (including tax cuts and growing trade deficits) massively increased inequality. I didn't fully understand that at the time, but I did detect that something had gone terribly wrong, when I would quip that America's only growth industry was fraud. While I could point to a number of examples at the time, it took longer to realize that Bill Clinton was one of them -- a point that many Democrats still haven't wised up to. But even today, some people can't even see the fraud Trump peddles.

  • Margaret Sullivan:

  • Sophia Tesfaye: [03-31] Trump unloads on Republican "cowards and weaklings" in Easter Sunday meltdown.

  • Katrina vanden Heuvel: [02-27] If Trump wins, he'll be a vessel for the most regressive figures in US politics: "A Trump presidency would usher in dark consortium dedicated to stripping millions of Americans of our freedoms."

  • Amy B Wang/Marianne LeVine: [03-27] Trump has sold $60 bibles, $399 sneakers and more since leaving office.

  • George F Will: [03-29] These two GOP Senate candidates exemplify today's political squalor: Kari Lake (AZ) and Bernie Moreno (OH). This is a tough read, and I'm not sure it's all that rewarding -- e.g., he refers to Moreno's opponent, Sherrod Brown, as "a progressive reliably wrong -- and indistinguishable from Trump," as he tries to find the most extremely right-wing vantage point possible from which to attack Republicans like Trump who aren't pure enough. But at least from that perspective, Will doesn't imagine pro-business Democrats to be "radical communists."

    For what it's worth, I regard Will as the most despicable of all the Washington Post columnists -- a group that once included Charles Krauthammer and still gives space to Marc Thiessen -- his interest in baseball has always been genuine and occasionally thoughtful. I'm not up for this at the moment, but if you're so inclined: You can't get thrown out for thinking, so take a swing at George Will's baseball quiz. (I might have once, but question 2 offers as an option a player I've never heard of: Adam Dunn, who it turns out hit 462 home runs, but clearly isn't the answer. Despite that bit of ignorance, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten that question right. I suspect I could figure out most of the combinations, but most of the rest are too obscure even for me in my prime.)

  • Amanda Yen: [03-31] Trump just won't stop attacking hush-money judge's daughter: "It's the fourth time he's gone after Judge Juan Merchan's daughter in the past week."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: Sorry for the bits, here and elsewhere, where sentences tend to tumble down hills as each clause reveals a premise that you should know but probably don't, hence requiring another and another. I know that proper form is to start from the premises and build your way up, but that's a lot of work, often winding up with many more points than the one you wanted to make. I do that a lot, but two examples here are especially egregious: each could be turned into a substantial essay (but who wants to read, much less write, one of those?).

    • [03-26] Relitigating the pandemic: School closings and vaccine sharing. There's been a constant refrain about how school closings have irrevocably stunted the intellectual growth of children. Baker mostly checks their math, rather than taking on the bigger issue of whether the nose-to-the-grindstone cult that took over policy control under the guise of "No Child Left Behind" (which, sure, wasn't all that different from the "rote learning" that dominated the first century of mass education, and like all test-driven regimes was all about leaving children behind, at least once their basic indoctrination has been accomplished -- the whole point of mass education in the first point [see Michael B Katz: The Irony of Early School Reform]).

      At some point, I should write more about education, including how hard I find it to reconcile my political belief in universal free education with my grim view of what we might call our actually-existing system. For now, I'll just point out that Astra Taylor's brilliant section on curiosity in her book The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart. Fifty-some years ago, I tried to figure out why my own educational experience had been so disastrous, which led me through books like those by Katz (op. cit.), Paul Goodman (Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars), Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and Charles Weingarten and Neal Postman's Teaching as a Subversive Activity.

      Baker then goes on to talk about America's peculiar system for developing vaccines against Covid-19, which was to focus on the most expensive, most technically sophisticated, and (to a handful of private investors) most profitable system possible, making it unlikely that the world could share the benefits. It is some kind of irony that America ultimately suffered more from the pandemic than any other "developed" nation -- other aspects of our highly politicized profit-driven health care system saw to that, but it was by design that in every segment the poor would suffer worst, in health, and indeed in education.

    • [03-27] There ain't no libertarians, just politicians who want to give all the money to the rich. Responding to the Wallace-Wells column on Argentina's new president, Javier Milei -- you may recall that before he was elected, I predicted he'd quickly become the worst president anywhere in the world; let's just say he's still on that trajectory, although he's been slowed down a bit by the gravity of reality, so he's not yet as bad as he would be if he had more power (a phenomenon I trust you observed close enough with Donald Trump):

      Baker explains:

      The piece talked about how Milei calls himself as an anarchist, with the government just doing basic functions, like defending the country and running the criminal justice system. Otherwise, Milei would eliminate any role for government, if he had his choice.

      It is humorous to hear politicians make declarations like this. As a practical matter, almost all of these self-described anarchists would have a very large role for the government. What they want to do is to write the rules in ways that sends income upwards and then just pretend it is the natural order of things.

      The "natural order of things" is what conservatives are all about, as long as they're the ones on top of the totem pole. The more common word used for Milei is libertarian, which is how people on top like to think of themselves as being free (they turn conservative when they look down, and realize that their freedom depends on repressing, even enslaving, others). Michael Lind was onto something when he said that libertarianism had actually been tested historically; we tend to forget that, because the term at the time was feudalism. Charles Koch is the great American libertarian -- I know more about his fantasy world than most, because I used to typset books for him during his Murray Rothbard period -- and no one more exemplifies a feudal lord.

      Baker goes on to reiterate his usual shtick starting with patents, continuing on to a pitch for his book, Rigged (free online, and worth the time).

    • [03-28] Profits are still rising, why is the Fed worried about wage growth?

    • [03-29] Social Security retirement age has already been raised to 67.

    • [03-31] Do we need to have a Cold War with China?: Responds to a Paul Krugman column -- Bidenomics is making China angry. That's okay. -- that I didn't see much point of including on its own. Much more detail here worth reading, but here's the end:

      The basic point here is that we should care a lot about our relations with China. That doesn't mean we should structure our economy to make its leaders happy. We need to implement policies that support the prosperity and well-being of people in the United States. But we also need to try to find ways to cooperate with China in areas where it is mutually beneficial, and we certainly should not be looking for ways to put a finger in their eye.

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-07] Why were inflation hawks wrong? "Economists like Larry Summers predicted that bringing inflation down would require a large increase in unemployment. It didn't."

  • [03-24] Total US billionaire wealth is up 88 percent over four years.

  • David Moscrop: [03-29] Welcome to a brave new world of price gouging: "Sellers have always had access to more information than buyers, and 'dynamic pricing,' which harnesses the power of algorithms and big data, is supercharging this asymmetry."

  • Alex Moss/Timi Iwayemi: [03-29] Senators' latest attempt to enrich Big Pharma must not prevail: "Patents are meant to encourage actual innovation, not monster corporate profits." Given how little bearing patents have on actual innovation, you'd think that argument would have dropped by the wayside, but the profits are so big those who seek them will say anything.

  • Kenny Stancil: [03-27] Jerome Powell's fingerprints are on the next banking crisis: "Not only did Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's post-2016 regulatory rollbacks and supervisory blunders contribute significantly to the 2023 banking crisis, his current opposition to stronger capital requirements is setting the stage for the next crisis."

  • Yanis Varoufakis: [03-28] "Debt is to capitalism what Hell is to Christianity": Interview by David Broder with the Greek economist, who has a new film series where he explains "how elites used the financial crisis to terrorize Europe's populations into submission."

Ukraine War: Further details, blame, and other ruminations about the Moscow theatre terror attack have been moved to a following section. Worth noting here that if you're a war architect in Kyiv or Moscow (or Washington), the terror attack is bound to look like a second front, even if the two are unconnected. With the war hopelessly stalemated, both sides are looking for openings away from the front: Russia has increased drone attacks in Ukrainian cities far from the front (in one case, infringing on Polish air space); Ukraine has also sent drones over the Russian border, as well as picked off targets in Crimea and the Black Sea, and seems to have some capacity for clandestine operations within Russia. The result has been a dangerous bluring of respect for "red lines," which could quickly turn catastrophic (nuclear weapons and power plants are the obvious threats, but lesser-scale disasters are possible, and could quickly turn into chain reactions).

The only possible answer has always been to negotiate a truce which both sides can live with, preferably consistent with the wishes of the people most directly affected (which in the case of Crimea and most of Donbas means ethnic Russians who had long opposed Ukraine's drift to the West). Also, the Biden administration needs to discover where America's real interests lie, which is in peace and cooperation with all nations. The idea that the US benefits by degrading and isolating Russia is extremely short-sighted. (Ditto for China, Iran, and many others the self-appointed hyper-super-duper-power thinks it's entitled to bully.)

  • Connor Echols: [03-29] Diplomacy Watch: NATO, Russia inch closer to confrontation.

  • David Ignatius:

    • [03-29] Zelensky: 'We are trying to find some way not to retreat'. Even with the most sympathetic interviewer in the world, he's starting to sound pathetic. For another example of Ignatius trying to champion a loser, see:

    • [03-19] Liz Cheney still plays to make a difference in the election. Sorry for the disrespect -- I do have some, for Zelensky and Cheney (though maybe not for Ignatius), but I couldn't resist the line. Both have maneuvered themselves into positions that appear principled but are untenable, with their options limited on both ends. Zelensky's matters much more. When he was elected, he had to make a choice, either to try to lead a reduced but still substantial nation into Europe and peace, or fight to regain territories that had always opposed the European pivot. He chose the latter, and failed: the chances of him winning any substantial amount of territory back are very slim, while the costs of continuing the war are daunting (even if the US and Europe can continue to support him, which is becoming less certain). But if he's willing to cut his losses, the deal to end the war is distasteful but pretty straightforward. And so is the entry of the Ukraine that he still controls into Europe. Of course, doing so will disappoint the war party (especially Ignatius, and count Cheney in there, too). As for Cheney, I don't see any options. She has no popular support to maneuver, and no real moral authority either.

  • Robert Kagan: [03-28] Trump's anti-Ukraine view dates to the 1930s. America rejected it then. Will we now? The dean of neocon warmongers tries to pull a fast one on you. While there is some similarity between Trump's MAGA minions and Nazi sympathizers of the late 1930s -- still not as obvious as the direct line between Fred and Donald Trump -- the much derided "isolationists" of the pre-WWII period spanned the whole political spectrum, as they were rooted in the traditional American distrust of standing armies and foreign entanglements, along with hardly-isolationist ideas like the Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door Policy.

    Such views weren't rejected: even Roosevelt respected them until Japan and Germany declared war, forcing the US to join WWII. As the war turned, some highly-placed Americans saw the opportunity (or in some cases the necessity) of extending military and economic power around the globe, especially seeing as how Europe would no longer be able to dominate Africa and Asia, especially with communists, who had taken the lead in fighting the Axis powers, spearheading national liberation movements.

    The elites who promoted American hegemony had first to win the political argument at home. They did this by branding those who had rejected Wilson's League of Nations as "isolationists," the implication being that their opposition was responsible for World War's return, and by stirring up a "red scare," which played the partition of Europe, the revolution in China, and the Korean War into a colossal Cold War struggle, while also helping right-wingers at home demolish the labor movement, and turning American foreign policy into a perpetual warmaking machine. Kagan, like his father and his wife, is a major cog in that machine, as should be obvious here.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-28] Therer's a shadow fleet sneaking Russian oil around the world. It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen. "The world's next big maritime catastrophe could involve sanctions-dodging rustbuckets." Not something the Ukraine hawks will ever think to worry about, but sounds to me like another good reason to settle real soon now.

  • Blaise Malley: [03-25] Would House approve 'loaning' rather than giving Ukraine aid?: "There's a new plan afoot to do just that, even if Kyiv cannot repay it."

  • Jeffrey Sachs: [03-25] Crude rhetoric can lead us to war: "The US, Russia, and China must engage in serious diplomacy now. Name calling and personal insults do nothing for the peace effort. They only bring us closer to war."

Putin and Bush shared a common bond, and a temporary alliance, in the early 2000s, as both were struck by "terror attacks" from Islamic groups, blowback to their nations' long historical efforts to dominate and/or exploit Muslims (which for Russia goes back to wars against Turks and Mongols, extending to Russia's conquest of the Caucusus and Central Asia, their Great Game with the UK, later replaced by the US; for Americans it's mostly been driven by oil and Israel since WWII, although the legacy of the Crusades still pops up here and there). In recent years, Russia's "war on terror" has taken a back seat to its war in Ukraine, but the problem flared up again when gunmen killed 143 concert-goers at Moscow's Crocus City Hall.

We shouldn't be surprised that when a historically imperialist ruler takes a nationalist turn, as Putin did in going to war to reassert Russian hegemony over Ukraine, that its other minority subjects should get nervous, defensive, and as is so much the fashion these days, preëmptively strike out.

The attack was claimed by ISIS-K, and Russia has since arrested four Tajiks in connection with the crime. One should not forget that in the 1980s, the US was very keen not only on arming mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan against Russia but on extending the Islamist revolt deep into the Soviet Union (Tajikistan).

  • Francesca Ebel: [03-27] As death toll in Moscow attack rises to 143, migrants face fury and raids.

  • Richard Foltz: [03-26] Why Russia fears the emergence of Tajik terrorists.

  • Sarah Harmouch/Amira Jadoon: [03-25] How Moscow terror attack fits ISIL-K strategy to widen agenda against perceived enemies.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [03-28] ISIS-K, the group linked to Moscow's terror attack, explained.

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [03-27] Putin sees Kyiv in Moscow terrorist attack. But ISIS is its own story. I'm reminded here of something in the afterword to Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trial of Political Islam -- a book that appeared in English in 2003, but had been written and published in French, I think before 9/11 -- about how political Islam (including Al-Qaeda) was in serious decline after 2000, and 9/11 was initially a desperate ploy for attention and relevance (what American footballers call a "hail Mary pass").

    By the way, the first thing I did after 9/11 -- I was visiting friends in Brooklyn on that date, and one was actually killed in WTC, so it hit pretty close to home -- was to go to a bookstore and scrounge around for something relevant to read that would give me some historical context. The book that I found that came closest (but not very close) to satisfying my urge was Barbara Crossette's The Great Hill Stations of Asia, probably due to my intuition that the terror attacks were deeply rooted in the imperialist (and racist) past, but that specific story was too far in the past to be of much help. The book I really wanted to find was Kepel's, which told me everything I needed to know. So yeah, I find it plausible that ISIS-K wanted to kick Russia just to remind them that they have unfinished business. I don't doubt that Hamas wanted to kick Israel in the same way -- also reminding Saudi Arabia who they were about to get in bed with. Terrorists aren't very good at calibrating those kicks, so sometimes they get more reaction than they really wanted. But do they really care? Overreaction is often the worst possible thing an offended power can do, as 9/11 and 10/7 have so painfully demonstrated.

Around the world:

  • Caroline Houck: [03-29] A very bad year for press freedom: Playing up the year-and-counting detention of Evan Gershkovich in Russia, but there are other examples, including many journalists killed by Israel not just recently but "over the last two decades." On Gershkovich, see:

  • Vijay Prashad: [03-26] Europe sleepwalks through its own dilemmas: With the episodic rise of the right in America, where each fitful advance has tattered and in some cases shredded not just the social welfare state but our entire sense of democracy, solidarity, cohesion, and commonwealth, lots of Americans have come to admire Europe, where social democracy for the most part remains intact. On the other hand, what we see in European politics, at least for those of us who see anything at all, is often bewildering and unnerving. Don't these people realize how fortunate they have been? Yet in many areas, as Prashad notes here, they seem to be blind and dumb, just following whatever the direction is coming from Washington and Davos, despite repeated failures.

  • David Smilde: [03-22] Candidate registration is becoming a purge of Maduro's opposition.

The bridge:


Other stories:

Joshua Frank: [03-28] As the rich speed off in their Teslas: Of life and lithium.

Sam Levin: [03-27] Joe Lieberman, former US senator and vice-presidential nominee, dies at 82. More on Lieberman:

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: [03-25] You say you want a revolution. Do you know what you mean by that? Reviews two books: Fareed Zakaria: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present; and Nathan Perl-Rosenthal: The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It, which is more focused on the years 1760-1825.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-29] Roaming Charges: Nowhere men: Remembering Joe Lieberman, then onto the bridge and other disasters.

Mari Uyehara: [03-25] The many faces of Viet Thanh Nguyen: "The Vietnamese American writer's leap to the mainstream comes at a moment that demands his anti-colonialist perspective."

I've cited this article before, but my wife reminded me of it yesterday and went on to read me several chunks. The article is by Pankaj Mishra: The Shoah after Gaza. It's worth reading in whole, but for now let me just pull a couple paragraphs out from the middle:

One of the great dangers today is the hardening of the colour line into a new Maginot Line. For most people outside the West, whose primordial experience of European civilisation was to be brutally colonised by its representatives, the Shoah did not appear as an unprecedented atrocity. Recovering from the ravages of imperialism in their own countries, most non-Western people were in no position to appreciate the magnitude of the horror the radical twin of that imperialism inflicted on Jews in Europe. So when Israel's leaders compare Hamas to Nazis, and Israeli diplomats wear yellow stars at the UN, their audience is almost exclusively Western. Most of the world doesn't carry the burden of Christian European guilt over the Shoah, and does not regard the creation of Israel as a moral necessity to absolve the sins of 20th-century Europeans. For more than seven decades now, the argument among the 'darker peoples' has remained the same: why should Palestinians be dispossessed and punished for crimes in which only Europeans were complicit? And they can only recoil with disgust from the implicit claim that Israel has the right to slaughter 13,000 children not only as a matter of self-defence but because it is a state born out of the Shoah.

In 2006, Tony Judt was already warning that 'the Holocaust can no longer be instrumentalised to excuse Israel's behaviour' because a growing number of people 'simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behaviour in another time and place'. Israel's 'long-cultivated persecution mania -- "everyone's out to get us" -- no longer elicits sympathy', he warned, and prophecies of universal antisemitism risk 'becoming a self-fulfilling assertion': 'Israel's reckless behaviour and insistent identification of all criticism with antisemitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia.' Israel's most devout friends today are inflaming this situation. As the Israeli journalist and documentary maker Yuval Abraham put it, the 'appalling misuse' of the accusation of antisemitism by Germans empties it of meaning and 'thus endangers Jews all over the world'. Biden keeps making the treacherous argument that the safety of the Jewish population worldwide depends on Israel. As the New York Times columnist Ezra Klein put it recently, 'I'm a Jewish person. Do I feel safer? Do I feel like there's less antisemitism in the world right now because of what is happening there, or does it seem to me that there's a huge upsurge of antisemitism, and that even Jews in places that are not Israel are vulnerable to what happens in Israel?'

One thing I want to add here is that liberal- and left-democrats often take great pains to make clear that their criticism of Israeli government policy, and of the people who evidently support those policies, does not reflect or imply any criticism of Jews in America, who are not represented by the Israeli government, even if they are deeply sympathetic to Israel. We are also very quick to point out that many of those most critical of Israel, both in the US and in Israel itself, are Jewish, and often do so out of principles that they believe are deeply rooted in Judaism.

We do this because our fundamental position is that we support free and equal rights for all people, regardless of whose human rights are being asserted or denied. But we're particularly sensitive on this point, because we know that many of our number are Jewish, so we are extra aware of when their rights have been abused, and of their solidarity in defending the rights of others.

So we regard as scurrilous this whole propaganda line that accuses anyone who in any way disagrees with Israeli policy with antisemitism. We are precisely the least antisemitic people in America. Meanwhile, the propaganda line seems to be aimed at promoting antisemitism in several ways: it tells people who don't know better to blame all Jews for the human rights abuses of Israel; it also reassures people who really are antisemites that their sins are forgiven if they support Israel; and it reaffirms the classic Zionist argument that all Jews must flee the diaspora and resettle in Israel -- the only safe haven in a world full of antisemitism. (It is no coincidence that many of Zionism's biggest supporters have been, and in many cases still are, antisemites. Balfour and Lloyd George were notorious antisemites. Hitler himself approved the transfer of hundreds of thousands of German Jews to Palestine.)

While none of this is hard to understand, many people don't and won't, so it's very likely that some will take their fear and anger over genocide out on Jews. We will denounce any such acts, as we have always done. And as we have, and will continue to, heinous acts by Israel. But we should be aware that what's driving this seemingly inevitable uptick in "antisemitism" is this false propaganda line, perpetrated by Israel and its very well heeled support network -- including most mainstream media outlets, and virtually the entire American political elite. So when people insist you step up and denounce antisemitism, do so. But don't forget to include the real driving force behind antisemitism these days: the leaders of Israel.

While I was looking for a quote to wrap up this post, I ran across a Richard Silverstein tweet that fits nicely here:

Genocide is an unpardonable sin before God in Judaism, regardless of who are the victims or the perpetrators. Israel's crimes are not in my name as a Jew, nor in the name of Judaism as millions of my fellow Diaspora Jews know it.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42039 [42007] rated (+32), 31 [28] unrated (+3).

Speaking of Which ran over again. I posted what I had late Sunday night (227 links, 9825 words; the former possibly a record, the latter well above usual but less than 10883 for the week of March 3. (Updated tally: 259 links, 11559 words, so may very well be the biggest one ever.)

I got this started early Monday afternoon, but probably won't post until late, not so much because I expect this to take much as because I'd rather spend the time cleaning up Speaking of Which. I'm under no delusions that what I say here will make any difference to the world, but times like these need witnesses. And that is the one thing I can still offer.

Not a lot of albums this week -- played a lot of old stuff again -- but I'm fairly pleased with the finds this week, including some jazz artists not previously on my radar (Espen Berg, Roby Glod, Nicole McCabe) and a couple old-timers who returned to form with their best releases in years (Kahil El'Zabar, Charles Lloyd). I'll also note that results flipped expectations for two much-hyped reissues (Joe Henderson, Alice Coltrane).

Very little non-jazz this week, especially if you count Queen Esther as jazz (which you should for her better releases below, but not for the still-recommended Gild the Black Lily). Tierra Whack came from Robert Christgau's latest Consumer Guide. I should replay the records he liked better than I did -- Yard Act, Les Amazones d'Afrique, the Guy Davis I reviewed shortly after it came out in 2021. Most other records I have similar grades for (the three I mentioned I'm just one or two notches down on), leaving unheard the Queen compilation and a Thomas Anderson album that isn't streamable yet. By the way, Christgau skipped over Anderson's recent odds & sods set, The Debris Field (Lo-Fi Flotsam and Ragged Recriminations, 2000-2021), which I gave an A- to in my review.

Unpacking below does not include Monday's haul, which looks to be substantial. Most promising among the new releases is Dave Douglas with James Brandon Lewis, but note also a new album with Kevin Sun as Mute. Plus a lot of vault discoveries: Chet Baker/Jack Sheldon, Yusef Lateef, Sun Ra, Art Tatum, Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy, in addition to the Sonny Rollins already uwrapped.

New records reviewed this week:

Espen Berg: Water Fabric (2023, Odin): Norwegian pianist, dozen or so albums since 2007. Cover shows "featuring": Hayden Powell (trumpet), Harpreet Bansal (violin), Ellie Mäkelä (viola), Joakim Munker (cello), Per Oddvar Johansen (drums). I'm not often a big fan of strings, but here they take themes that start enchanting and raise them to something magnificent. A- [sp]

Espen Berg: The Hamar Concert (2022 [2023], NXN): Solo piano, recorded at Kulturhus in Hamar, Norway. B+(**) [sp]

Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Open Me, a Higher Consciousness of Sound and Spirit (2023 [2024], Spiritmuse): Chicago percussionist and vocalist (perhaps a bit too much), celebrates fifty years of mostly working within this ensemble, lately a trio with Corey Wilkes (trumpet) and Alex Harding (baritone sax), supplemented here by James Sanders (violin/viola) and Ishmael Ali (cello). A potent mix here, especially on the funk classic "Compared to What" -- vocal is perfect there. A- [sp]

Roby Glod/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: No ToXiC (2022 [2024], Nemu): German trio -- alto/soprano sax, bass, drums -- reportedly have been playing together twenty years but discography is thin; Glod and Kugel have an album together from 2013; Glod has side credits back to 1992. One Connie Crothers piece, the rest joint improv credits. The sort of free sax tour de force I always love. A- [cd]

Julian Lage: Speak to Me (2024, Blue Note): Guitarist, debut 2009 on EmArcy, after stints with Palmetto and Mack Avenue landed on another major in 2021. This one leans a bit more rock, produced by Joe Henry, with Levon Henry (sax), Patrick Warren (keyboards), Joege Roeder (bass), and Dave King (drums). Except when it doesn't, and I lose all interest. Then, well, there's some piano that sounds like Kris Davis, and I'm interested again. B+(*) [sp]

Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Heartland Radio (2023 [2024], SoundSpore): French alto saxophonist, also plays flute, several albums, this group a big band (third album, group named for the first) with vocals on two tracks. Some nice passages but generally too many classical moves for my taste, and I don't think the vocals help. B [cd]

David Leon: Bird's Eye (2022 [2024], Pyroclastic): Cuban-American alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, has a couple previous albums, also plays soprano sax, alto flute, and piccolo. Trio with DoYeon Kim (gayagum, voice) and Lesley Mok (percussion). Rather sparse and scattered, with some very interesting stretches, and some that don't do much (or worse, like the voice). B+(**) [sp]

Charles Lloyd: The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow (2024, Blue Note, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, released this album on his 86th birthday (any reason Blue Note can't give you recording dates?), was sort of a crossover star in the late 1960s, solidified his career when he moved to ECM in 1989, remaining pre-eminent within his move to Blue Note in 2013. Also plays some alto here, as well as bass and alto flute. Backed by Jason Moran (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), a sprawling 15 songs (90:25). Longer than I'd like as a straight-through stream, but the CD/LP versions would break that up into manageable chunks, and it would be hard to pick among them. He's in fine form throughout, and the band (especially Moran) are superb. A- [sp]

Nicole McCabe: Live at Jamboree (2023 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, from Los Angeles, Introducing debut from 2020, second album here. She recorded this in Barcelona, with Iannis Obiols (impressive on piano), Logan Kane (bass), and Ramon Prats (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Moor Mother: The Great Bailout (2024, Anti-): Camae Ayewa, from Philadelphia, poet first, then musician, spoken word under this alias initially suggested hip-hop, but several side projects moved into jazz, most notably the group Irreversible Entanglements, and she's always had an activist angle. Numerous guest features here, hard to follow (but seems very Anglo-themed), music murkily industrial. B+(*) [sp]

Willie Morris: Conversation Starter (2022 [2023], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, from St. Louis, Discogs page adds a III to his name. First album, quintet with Patrick Cornelius (alto sax/alto flute), Jon Davis (piano), Adi Meyerson (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums), playing eight originals, two covers, one of those from Joe Henderson. B+(**) [sp]

Willie Morris: Attentive Listening (2023 [2024], Posi-Tone): Second album, similar lineup, with Patrick Cornelius (alto sax/alto flute) and Jon Davis (piano) returning, plus label regulars Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Another solid mainstream record. B+(*) [sp]

Kjetil Mulelid: Agoja (2022 [2024], Odin): Norwegian pianist, several albums, also electric piano and synth, quartet with pedal steel plus bass and drums, but most tracks have a scatter of guests, including violin, vibes, and/or some famous horn players. Still stays within atmospheric bounds. B+(**) [sp]

Queen Esther: Things Are Looking Up (2024, EL): Bio is evasive beyond raised in Atlanta and "embedded" in Charleston, Discogs says "vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, producer, musician, actor, performance artist, TED Speaker and playwright," credits her with 7 albums (but not yet this one), also six groups (Hoosegow, JC Hopkins Biggish Band, The 52nd Street Blues Project, The Harlem Experiment, The Memp0his Blood Jugband Singers, Yallopin' Hounds). Last I heard was the banjo-fied roots album Gild the Black Lily (an A-), so I was surprised and taken aback by the jazz diva styling here, before the fine print revealed a Billie Holiday project, with the few original songs credited to Lenny Molotov. Replay required, and worth it. Promised later this year: "the alt-Americana album Blackbirding." A- [cd] [04-09]

Queen Esther: Rona (2023, EL): I missed this one, only a bit more than an EP (8 songs, 29:18), in her country mode, often with ukulele and/or strings. Mostly originals, but note that the first cover is "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- Queen, but just one voice, just a bit of guitar, but long at 6:39. B+(*) [sp]

Ron Rieder: Latin Jazz Sessions (2023 [2024], self-released): Composer, seems to be his first album, inside pic shows him at piano but album credits Alain Mallet (piano), one of nine musicians listed on cover, including impressive tenor sax from Mike Tucker, flute from Fernando Brandăo, and lots of rhythm. B+(***) [cd]

Viktoria Tolstoy: Stealing Moments (2023 [2024], ACT): Swedish jazz singer, great-great-granddaughter of the famous Russian writer, dozen-plus albums since 1994, sings in English, song credits to others but I don't recognize them as standards (mostly Ida Sand and Anna Alerstedt). B+(*) [sp]

A Tonic for the Troops: Realm of Opportunities (2022 [2023], Odin): Norwegian quartet led (at least all songs composed) by Ellen Brekken (bass), with Magnus Bakken (tenor sax), Espen Berg (piano), and Magnus Sefniassen Eide (drums), second group album, Brekken's side credits mostly with Hedvig Mollestad. B+(**) [sp]

Tierra Whack: World Wide Whack (2024, Interscope): Rapper from Philadelphia, her own name (after trying Dizzle Dizz), famous for her 13-songs-in-13-minutes mixtape Whack World (2018), followed by a trio of EPs in 2021, and now this debut studio album (15 tracks, 37:47). Same shtick here, short bits with a tasty hook but scant adornment, moving easily from set to set, like in her video. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alice Coltrane: The Carnegie Hall Concert (1971 [2024], Impulse!): Pianist and harpist, formerly Alice McLeod, of Detroit, her mother a choir singer, others in the family had musical careers, while she had a trio and played with others (Terry Pollard, Terry Gibbs; possibly her first husband, singer Kenny Hagood). She married John Coltrane in 1965, joined his quartet in 1966 (replacing McCoy Tyner), and had three children with him (most famous is Ravi Coltrane), but he died in 1967. In 1968, she released her own album, A Monastic Trio, and followed it with six more, also on Impulse!, through 1973, continuing on other labels through 1978, a few more later on. This live concert, part of which was previously released in 2018 as Live at Carnegie Hall, 1971, happened about the same time as what was perhaps her best known album, Journey in Satchidananda appeared. Title song leads off here (15:02), followed by three more pieces, centered on the 28:09 "Africa." She did much to develop the spiritual side of her husband's legacy, and if you follow the reviews, you may detect its center of gravity shifting from him to her: she was, after all, the one who lived the life. But compared to most recent reissues, this concert most securely links her back to his music, most obviously through bassists Jimmy Garrison and Cecil McBee, and saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. But her harp is developing (though it is her piano that brings "Africa" to its climax), and she adds harmonium (Kumar Kramer) and tamboura (Tulsi Reynolds), along with two drummers (Ed Blackwell and Clifford Jarvis). I've listened to most of her albums, but this is the first one that really moved me. A- [sp]

Joe Henderson: Power to the People (1969 [2024], Craft): Tenor saxophonist (1937-2001), his early records for Blue Note (1963-67) helped define that label's golden age, his move to Milestone (1968-77) much less storied (although Milestone Profiles found enough for an A-). Pitchfork calls this "an essential document of a transitional moment in which everything in jazz seemed up for grabs." It was a time of intense political ferment, whence the title, but for jazz musicians, it was more stress as labels dwindled and died. With names on the cover: Herbie Hancock (piano/electric), Jack De Johnette (drums), Ron Carter (bass/electric), Mike Lawrence (trumpet on two tracks). The band helps, but the only real point is the saxophone, which wakes you up with a few strong solos, including a monster to end. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Espen Berg Trio: Břlge (2017 [2018], Odin): Norwegian pianist, albums since 2007, this the second of four trio albums with Bárđur Reinert Poulsen (bass) and Simon Olderskog Albertsen (drums). Opens with a Sting cover, then on to nine Berg originals. Strong album, good rhythmic sense. B+(***) [sp]

Espen Berg Trio: Fjćre (2021 [2022], Odin): Same piano-bass-drums trio, but three more names in fine print on cover: Mathias Eick (trumpet, 2 tracks), Silje Nřrgard (vocal, 1 track, the Paul Simon song, "I'd Do It for Your Love"), Hanna Paulsberg (tenor sax, 1 track). B+(**) [sp]

The Herb Geller Quartet: I'll Be Back (1996 [1998], Hep): Plays alto and sopranino sax here, with Ed Harris (guitar), Thomas Biller (bass), and Heinrich Köbberling (drums), on four originals and six standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [r]

The Herb Geller Quartet: You're Looking at Me (1997 [1998], Fresh Sound): Alto and soprano sax, featuring Jan Lundgren (piano), with Dave Carpenter (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), on ten standards followed by four tracks Geller wrote for a musical about Josephine Baker. B+(***) [r]

Herb Geller and Brian Kellock: Hollywood Portraits (1999 [2000], Hep): Duets, alto/soprano sax and piano, Kellock is Scottish, did some very good duets with Tommy Smith shortly after this one. Geller composed twenty pieces here, each named for a famous actress, most 1930s through 1950s. B+(***) [r]

Herb Geller With Don Friedman: At the Movies (2007, Hep): Alto/soprano sax and piano, also with Martin Wind (bass), Hans Braber (drums), and Martien Oster (guitar on four tracks, of 13). Standards, back cover names some but not all of the movies. B+(**) [r]

Nicole McCabe: Introducing Nicole McCabe (2020, Minaret): Alto saxophonist, not much biography I can find, but studied in Portland and at USC, is based in Los Angeles, teaches there, released this debut with George Colligan (piano, terrific), Jon Lakey (bass), and Alan Jones (drums), plus Charlie Porter (trumpet, a plus on three tracks). Very strong performance, with a nice touch on the rare slow bits. A- [sp]

Nicole McCabe: Landscapes (2022, Fresh Sound New Talent): Second album, alto saxophonist continue to impress, this time with piano-bass-drums I've never heard of, an equally obscure vocalist adding scat I barely noticed to one track, forgotten by the next. B+(***) [sp]

Queen Esther: Talkin' Fishbowl Blues (2004, EL): First album, although a duo with guitarist Elliott Sharp as Hoosegow came out in 1996. Produced by Jack Spratt, tagged as "Black Americana," with a dark cover of "Stand By Your Man." B+(**) [sp]

Queen Esther: What Is Love? (2010, EL): Jazz ensemble this time, piano trio plus four horns (Patience Higgins on tenor sax, plus trumpet, trombone, and French horn), with JC Hopkins producing and writing most of the songs. The occasional standard makes it easier to appreciate the precise nuance the singer is capable of. B+(***) [sp]

Queen Esther: The Other Side (2014, EL): This one, with nine originals, two covers of Paul Pena (q.v.), one each from Charlie Rich and Bryan & Wilda Creswell, is filed under country rock. Band is mostly guitar, including pedal and lap steel, but note that the fiddle player (just two tracks) is Charles Burnham. B+(**) [sp]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Nicole McCabe: Improvisations (2022, Minaret, EP): Solo alto sax with pedals, for something of a bagpipe effect. Four tracks, 20:46. [1/4 tracks, 5:01/20:46] - [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. Two (Outside In Music) [04-12]
  • Benji Kaplan: Untold Stories (self-released) [05-01]
  • Joăo Madeira/Margarida Mestre: Voz Debaixo (4DaRecord) [02-17]
  • Ivo Perelman Quartet: Water Music (RogueArt) * [04-00]
  • PNY Quintet: Over the Wall (RogueArt) * [03-00)
  • Ernesto Rodrigues/Bruno Parinha/Joăo Madeira: Into the Wood (Creative Sources) [01-09]
  • Sonny Rollins: Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (Resonance, 3CD) [04-20]
  • Dave Schumacher & Cubeye: Smoke in the Sky (Cellar) [04-19]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Speaking of Which

I was struck by this meme: "If Israelis stop fighting there will be peace. If Palestinians stop fighting there will be no more Palestinians." The first line is certainly true. This latest war has been so devastating that it's hard to imagine any fight left -- at least of the sort that would strike out at Israelis beyond their wall. The other obvious point is that there's no risk in trying. If Hamas does attack again, Israel can always strike back, and that reaction will be better understood than the systematic, genocidal war Israel is waging.

The second is less obvious, depending on what you mean by "stop fighting." Hamas has never had the capability of fighting Israel like Israel fights Gaza. Hamas has no air force, no navy, no submarines, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no anti-aircraft or anti-missile defenses, no drones. Their rockets are small and unguided, and have never produced more than accidental damage. Aside from the Oct. 7 jailbreak, the only way an Israeli gets hurt is by entering Gaza, and even then the ratio of Palestinian-to-Israeli casualties is 50-to-1 or more. That's not much of a fight.

However, the second line could be rewritten in terms that both sides will agree with, if not agree on: "Palestinians will [only] stop fighting when there are no more Palestinians." An army may sensibly surrender to a more imposing power, but this will only happen if one has hope of surviving and eventually recovering from surrender. Germany and Japan surrendered to the US to end WWII, but only because they believed that they would be given a chance to return to running their own lives. (See John Dower's Embracing Defeat for more on how Japan dealt with this. Japan is a better example than Germany, because its government was still intact when it surrendered, whereas Germany's was in tatters after Hitler's suicide.) A number of American Indian tribes surrendered with similar hopes, even though the US had given them little reason for such hope.

But Israel's current demands for ceasefire terms, following the genocidal threats of Israel's leaders, and the genocidal methodology they've practiced in this war, offer little or no hope to any Palestinian that surrender is anything but suicide. Israelis demand absolute servility, but know that they'll never get everyone to submit, that there will always be resistance of some sort, and as such their security will always be at risk. This presents them with an existential dilemma, to which there are only three solutions: equal rights, separation, or annihilation.

They have long refused to consider equal rights. (Lots of reasons we needn't consider here, like racism and demography.) They've considered separation, at least within certain bounds, but it's naturally a formula for war, so they've insisted on being the dominant power, both by building up a huge military advantage and by preventing Palestinians from ever developing their own popular leadership. But the solution they've always craved was annihilation. The problem there has been finding a time when they could get away with it. Oct. 7 was the excuse they were waiting for, dramatic enough that few of their allies grasped immediately how they had goaded Hamas into action.

Even so, Israel has always had a numbers problem. America was able to reduce its native population to levels where they became politically and economically irrelevant, after which annihilation no longer mattered, and some reconciliation was possible. But for Israel, there were always too many Palestinians, too close by, too economically developed and culturally sophisticated. For just these reasons, colonizers eventually gave up on Algeria and South Africa, but only after extraordinary brutality. Israel is the last to believe they're strong enough to beat down any and all resistance. And that's really because they have few if any scruples against killing every last Palestinian.

And don't for a moment think that Palestinians don't understand this. They've lived through it for decades, and while often beaten down, often severely, they've survived to resist again. They'll survive this, too, and will continue to resist, as peacefully as Israel will allow, or as violently as they can muster.

Looking further down my twitter feed:

From Rami Jarrah: Picture of an adult Palestinian male seated on a couch, surrounded 14 children (a couple into their teens). Text: "Nobody in this photo is alive. Israel's right to self defence."

From Kayla Bennett: Chart image. Text: "One of the most horrifying graphics ever." I looked for an article including the chart, and came up with:

From Ryan Heuser: A link to the website for The New York War Crimes, reporting on propaganda published by The New York Times (motto: "All the Consent That's Fit to Manufacture"). I haven't figured out yet where the illustrations come from.

From Yousef Munayer retweeted Heuser, adding: "A new poll found that even though some 30,000 more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis since October, half of Americans didn't know which side has lost more lives. This has a lot to do with it."

From Etan Nechin retweeted Chris Olley: "[Pennsylvania]'s richest person Jeff Yass is buying Truth Social for $3 Billion so Trump can pay off his $450 Million judgment in return for Trump doing a 180 on his Tiktok and China stance to preserve Yass's $30 Billion-with-a-B stake in Tiktok. We call this oligarchy' when it's elsewhere." Nechin adds: "Notably, Jeff Yass was the main financier of Kohelet Forum, the shadowy organization behind Israel's attempted judicial coup that was championed by the settler far right. These oligarchs care little for democracy, only market interests." The Wikipedia page for Yass is here, which documents all this and more.

From Daniel Denvir: "Truth Social has roughly twice the monthly app users as my niche left-wing intellectual podcast has monthly downloads. The Dig's own healthy but rather modest financial situation suggests to me that this company is not worth nearly $6 billion."

From Paul Krugman: "So, did the ACA bend the cost curve? Call it coincidence, but excess cost growth -- health spending growing faster than GDP -- basically ended when it passed." See chart:

I'm reminded that Switzerland long had the world's second most expensive health care system, with costs increasing in tandem with US costs, until they adopted a universal non-profit insurance scheme. While this was still much more expensive than systems in UK, Germany, and France, it halted the increase, while US costs continue to rise. ACA hasn't worked as well as Switzerland's system -- by design, it isn't universal, and still allows (and sometimes encourages) profit-seeking -- but it was a step in the right direction.

Initial count: 227 links, 9,825 words. Not really finished when posted late Sunday night, so some Monday updates have been added. While sections are marked (like this), minor edits (like the last paragraph above) are not. (Seems like there should be a finer-grained way to do this, but I haven't figured one out yet.

Updated count [03-25]: 259 links, 11,559 words.

Several breaking stories on Monday [03-25] are not reported or reacted to below, but should be significant next week: Here's the "heads up":

  • Luisa Loveluck/Karen DeYoung/Missy Ryan/Michael Birnbaum: [03-25] Netanyahu cancels delegation after US does not block UN cease-fire call: The US, for the first time since Israel attacked Gaza after the Oct. 7 attacks, abstained from and didn't veto a cease-fire resolution, allowing it to pass 14-0. This is the first concrete step that the Biden administration is developing a conscience over Israel's genocide. A stronger signal would have been to vote for the resolution. Stronger still would be to withhold aid (especially munitions) until the cease-fire has been implemented (at which point Israel won't need the arms). So Biden still has a long ways to go, but at least he has found a new direction. Next step will be to show Netanyahu that his tantrum is for naught, and that his conceit that he actually runs Washington -- which, by the way, is a big part of his political capital in Israel -- is no longer true.

    PS: Yousef Munayyer tweeted after this: "The US abstention at the UNSC today as well as Netanyahu's reaction to it should be seen as each leader's attempt to manage domestic audiences. What matters is Biden signed off on $4billion more in weapons for Israel to further the genocide. Keep your eye on the ball."

  • Mark Berman/Jonathan O'Connell/Shayna Jacobs: [03-25] Trump wins partial stay of fraud judgment, allowed to post $175 million: This postpones foreclosure on Trump properties, for ten days at least (the time allowed to post the bond).

  • Shayna Jacobs/Devlin Barrett: [03-25] NY judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump's historic hush money case.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes: After Super Tuesday, this is turning into a category with not much happening, or at least not much people are bothering to write against. March 19 saw presidential primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio. Biden's been winning the Democratic side by a bit over 80%, which isn't great for an incumbent, but also isn't disastrous. Trump wins as easily, but rarely hits 80% -- also not great considering no one is actively running against him. (In Arizona, the figures were 89.3% Biden, 78.8% Trump; in Florida, 81.2% Trump; in Illinois, 91.5% Biden, 80.6% Trump; in Kansas 83.8% Biden, 75.5% Trump; in Ohio, 87.1% Biden, 79.2% Trump; in Louisiana, 86.1% Biden, 89.8% Trump. Missouri had a caucus, where Trump got 100% of 924 votes.

  • Paul Krugman: [03-21] What's the matter with Ohio?

  • Nia Prater: [03-22] The Republican Party is too embarrassing for George Santos: So he's going to run as an independent in Nick LaLota's (R-NY) House district. Most people run as independents because they think they are, but the big advantage for Santos is that he can keep his campaign finance scam going all the way to November, instead of getting wiped out in the primary. So pretty much the same reason Bob Menendez is running as an independent to keep his Senate seat in New Jersey.

Trump, and other Republicans: Salon picks up some substantial pieces, but they also do a lot of stuff that basically amounts to Trump trolling. I usually skip past them, but this week they especially spoke to me, so quite a few got crammed in here this week. I can also give you some author indexes, in case you want to dig deeper (just scanning the titles is often a hoot):

This week's links on all things Republican (the Trumpier the better, but the real evil lies in the billionaire-funded think tanks):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [03-19] Voters of color are shifting right. Are Democrats doomed?

  • Hannah Story Brown: [03-25] Tim Ryan's natural gas advocacy makes a mockery of public service: Ex-Representative (D-OH), ran for Senate and lost, now "leveraging his prior career for a group backed by fossil fuel and petrochemical players." Why do you suppose he couldn't convince voters he'd serve them better than a Republican?

  • Gail C Christopher: [03-22] Stop ageism: A call for action: "It's one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice, and it needs to come to an end in society and this presidential campaign." Really, you think this is going to work? Or even help? Believe me, I know it happens, often in cases where it is inappropriate, but unlike many prejudices, there is also something substantive at root here, and finding the right combination of respect and care and understanding in each distinct case is going to take some work, and not just a bumper sticker slogan.

  • Ryan Cooper: [03-11] Democrats need a party publication: "The New York Times is not going to get Biden's campaign message before voters." Pull quote: "There is a giant right-wing propaganda apparatus blasting Republican messaging into tens of millions of homes every day, which Democrats do not have." Also: "You could do quite a lot of journalism for a tiny, tiny fraction of what the Democrats are going to spend on the 2024 campaign." I figured the line about the New York Times was some kind of joke, but here's the unfunny part:

    A recent speech from New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger makes clear that he -- perhaps unsurprisingly for a scion of multigenerational inherited wealth -- is proud of his paper's ludicrously anti-Biden slant and virulent transphobia, and will keep doing it. If it's up to him, this campaign will center around Biden's age, while Trump's numerous extreme scandals and outright criminality -- as well as his own advanced age and dissolving brain -- will be carefully downplayed. If I were Biden and the Democrats, who implicitly elevate the Times as their counterpoint to Fox, I'd be looking to change that, and quick.

  • James Downie: [03-23] House Republicans just gave Biden the biggest possible gift: "When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans just can't help themselves." I could have filed this under Republicans, but didn't want this piece to get lost among this week's Trump scuzziness. Trump is a problem, but he's merely cosmetic compared to the deep Republican mindset, which remains set on destroying the institutions that at least minimally protect us from the most predatory practices of capitalism, supposedly in favor of an entrepreneurial utopia. I was pointed to this piece by an Astra Taylor tweet (link just vanished), possibly because the piece itself cites her The Age of Insecurity.

  • Robert Kuttner:

    • [03-18] Man of steel: "President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of US Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union."

    • [03-22] The promise of Biden's second term: "And the exemplary effects of his green jobs creation programs in his first term."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stephen Lezak: [03-22] Scientists just gave humanity an overdue reality check. The world will be better for it. This follows on [03-20] Geologists make it official: we're not in an 'anthropocene' epoch. For geologists, it's a fairly technical question, and given the ways geologists think about time, I'm not surprised that they don't see need for another division. The Holocene only starts with the retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Age -- the fifth major glacial advance of the Pleistocene, itself an arguably premature designation. (The factors that drove ice ages during the period have are presumably still in place -- certainly the continents haven't moved much, nor has the earth orbit changed, or solar output -- but the atmosphere has been altered enough to make renascent glaciation very unlikely.) Humans started leaving their mark on the Earth's surface as the Holocene started some 11,700 years ago, so the whole epoch could have been named the Anthropocene. Perhaps that seemed presumptuous when first named, and maybe even now, but using 1952 as an convenient dividing line is simply arbitrary.

  • Delaney Nolan: The EPA is backing down from environmental justice cases nationwide.

  • Cassady Rosenblum: [03-23] Blocking Burning Man and vandalizing Van Gogh: Climate activists are done playing nice: This is indicative of what happens with those in power deny, dissemble, and ultimately fail at problems that have become overwhelmingly obvious. Those in power should see protests -- orderly of course, but also disruptive and destructive -- as symptoms of underlying issues that require their attention.

    But most often, they think they can get away with suppressing protests, which by aggravating the protesters while ignoring the problems only makes future protests more desperate, and dangerous. As noted here, "something desperate and defiant is stirring in the climate movement." Signs of escalating tactics are as easily measured as the increasing ppm of greenhouse gases. The tipping points of catastrophic inflections are harder to guess, but their odds are approaching inevitable, as we have observed stressed humans do many times before, in many comparable situations.

  • David Wallace-Wells: [03-20] When we see the climate more clearly, what will we do? There is not a satellite designed to locate methane leeks.

Business/economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

  • Connor Echols: [03-20] US 'prepared to deploy troops to Haiti if necessary. If Biden goes along with this, I dare say it would be political suicide. For Trump, as for most US presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson, Haiti is the quintessential "shithole country." Right-thinking Americans would bristle at the idea of doing anything to help there. Realistic Americans would realize that the US military is not capable of helping, and that its entrance would make matters worse. The left should be pushing back against Biden's warmaking on all fronts. And nobody wants another costly quagmire.

  • Sam Knight: [03-25] What have fourteen years of Conservative rule done to Britain? "Living standards have fallen. The country is exhausted by constant drama. But the UK can't move on from the Tories without facing up tot he damage that has occurred."

  • Robert Kuttner: [03-13] WTO, RIP: "The annual World Trade Organization meeting came to an ignominious end last week with no 'progress' on major issues. That is a form of progress."

  • Emily Tamkin: Slovakia's presidential election is a warning to America: "What to see what the United States would look like under a reelected Trump?"

Other stories:

Laura Bult: [03-21] Why it's so hard for Americans to retire: "There's a reason so many of us don't have enough retirement savings." Video piece, but links to Teresa Ghilarducci's book, Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy. Probably good, but Astra Taylor covers the key point in her The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart.

Stephanie Burt: Lucy Sante and the solitude and solidarity of transitioning: "In her new memoir, I Heard Her Call My Name, Sante dissects her past in order to understand her future."

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy. Long piece from the print magazine. Seems like I should have noticed it before. Too much to get into just now.

Sarah Jones: The exvangelicals searching for political change. Self-evident neologism is from the book reviewed herein, The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church, by Sarah McCammon. Related here:

  • Carlene Bauer: [03-12] She trusted God and science. They both failed her. Review of Devout: A Memoir of Doubt, by Anna Gazmarian, "an author who grew up in the evangelical church recounts her struggle to find spiritual and psychological well-being after a mental health challenge."

Rich Juzwiak: [03-12] A biography of a feminist porn pioneer bares all: "In Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution, the historian Jane Kamensky presents a raw personal -- and cultural -- history." Another review:

Keren Landman: [03-20] Abortion influences everything: "By inhibiting drug development, economic growth, and military recruitment, as well as driving doctors away from the places they're needed most, bans almost certainly harm you -- yes, you."

Katie Moore: [03-17] When Kansas police kill people, the public often can't see bodycam footage. Here's why.

Marcus J Moore: [03-21] The visions of Alice Coltrane: "In the years after her husband John's death, the harpist discovered a sound all her own, a jazz rooted in acts of spirit and will." I'll say something about this in Music Week. Meanwhile:

Rick Perlstein: [03-20] 'Stay strapped or get clapped': "How the media misses the story of companies seeking profit by keeping traumatized veterans armed and enraged."

Andrew Prokop: [03-21] The political battle over Laken Riley's murder, explained: Riley was a 22-year-old student in Georgia who was murdered, allegedly by an "illegal immigrant," an event seized upon by right-wing agitators, like the guy who tweeted: "If only people went to the streets to demand change in the name of Laken Riley, like they did for George Floyd." Article provides more details. While the murders as isolated events were equivalent, the policy considerations are very different, starting with responsibility for enabling the killers, and regarding the more general context.

One not even mentioned here is the effect of the sanctions and isolation policy toward Venezuela -- mostly but not exclusively Trump's work -- and how that has driven many, including Riley's alleged killer, to migrate to the US. Prokop: "But reality is also more complicated than Trump's promises that he'll fix everything by getting tougher once he's president."

Brian Resnick: [03-22] The total solar eclipse is returning to the United States -- better than before: "This will be the last total solar eclipse over the contiguous United States for 21 years." I find myself with zero interest in looking up, much less traveling to do so, but family and friends in Arkansas are lobbying for visitors, and I know some people who are going. April 8 is the date.

Dylan Scott: [03-22] Kate Middleton's cancer diagnosis is part of a frightening global trend: "More and more young people are getting cancer." I have zero interest in her, or in any of "those ridiculous people" (John Oliver's apt turn of phrase), and so I've ignored dozens of pieces on them recently, but there's something more going on here. Every category of cancer they used is more common among ages 14-49 than it was in 1990. My wife swears it's environmental, and while I can think of statistical variations, I'm inclined to agree.

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-22] Roaming Charges: L'état sans merci. "Willie Pye is dead and Georgia is back in the execution business." This introduces a long section on what passes for justice in America. Much more, of course. For more on Pye, see:

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: [03-20] The problematic past, present, and future of inequality studies: Interview with Branko Milanovic, whose lates book is Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War.

Dodai Stewart: [03-16] You're not being gaslit, says a new book. (Or are you?) Review of Kate Abramson: On Gaslighting. Demands precision of a phenomenon that is deliberately imprecise ("all kinds of interactions -- lying, guilt-tripping, manipulation"; "a multi-dimensional horror show"). Cites Harry G Frankfurt's On Bullshit (2005) as a "spiritual forebear."

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-21] The one idea that could save American democracy: Tied to the authors' new book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Also:

By the way, I just found a link to audio for Astra Taylor: [2023-11-17] The Age of Insecurity: 2023 CBC Massey Lectures, with five hour-long lectures corresponding to the book I just read, and recommend as highly as possible -- I'd go so far as to say that she's the smartest person writing on the left these days. I was pointed to the lectures by a daanis tweet: "I finally listened to @astradisastra Massey Lectures on my way to Boston, just mainlined them one after another straight into my brain, and added her language about precarity and insecurity into my own remarks about surviving together by becoming kin."

Maureen Tkacik: [03-11] 'Return what you stole and be a man with dignity': "Doctors didn't think it was possible to loathe the world's biggest health care profiter any more. Then came the hack that set half their bookkeeping systems on fire." About the ransomware outage at Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHealth ("the nation's fifth-largest company").

Bryan Walsh: [03-22] Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has been caught up in a gambling controversy. He won't be the last. One of the biggest changes in my lifetime has been the changed attitude toward gambling, which in my mother's day was a degenerative sin indulged by lowlifes, much to the profit of mobsters. Today the mobsters have turned into Republican billionaires -- hard to say whether that's a step up or down ethically -- and their rackets have moved out into the open. For a long time, the shame of the Black Sox kept the lid on sports gambling, but that's been totally blown open in the recent years. I hate it, which doesn't mean I want to try to ban it, but those involved are no better than criminals, and should be reminded of it as often as possible.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42007 [41974] rated (+33), 28 [27] unrated (+1).

Just a day late, although it feels like longer, and feels like it should have been longer still. I did manage to wrap up a small essay that's been hanging over my head for weeks -- or at least I'm hoping, as a final sign off would be nice. This pushed Speaking of Which back a day, which I didn't mind.

While I've occasionally threatened to kill it, the process of scanning my news sources, plucking out what strikes me as important and/or interesting, and occasionally commenting -- sometimes taking off on a tangent of personal/philosophical interest, sometimes just to heckle -- has been giving me a strange sense of comfort in what are clearly discomforting times.

Besides, this week the writing project I most seriously considered killing was Music Week. As to why, you're free to dig into the notebook, but what you'll find there is rather sketchily one-sided, with very little of what I really think, let alone why. Nor is there more than a hint of how much pain and anger I've felt this week. In my experience, such emotions do no good, although for better or worse -- sure, mostly the latter -- they are a big part of who I am, and how I came to be this way.

You also can simply ignore most of that paragraph, and just accept what I have to say in this one. Music Week changed this week, and may be changed for good, although I rather doubt it. Midweek I stopped reviewing new music, so everything in this week's "New records" section was done by Wednesday last. I don't plan on resuming any time soon, although that's no guarantee I won't have a few next week, and the odds of at least some appearing increase over time. In particular, it's inevitable that at some point I'll return to my promo queue, and when I do play something, I'll probably write it up in my logs, because, well, that's what I do.

Indeed, I started on that this week. After several days of playing my kind of comfort food, I decided I wanted to hear some Art Pepper. But instead of pulling out an old favorite -- of which there are dozens, including any random disc in The Complete Galaxy Recordings -- I remembered a 7-CD box that came out last year, that I thought I could stream. I put it off, mostly due to the length, but I figured I had time now, and was looking to fill it up. Unfortunately, while the title is listed (The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings, what's actually available is a 4-CD release from 2017, which I couldn't find a label for. But I did find an Unreleased Art volume I hadn't heard, and that got me looking around. And as I did play them, I wound up doing what I always do.

I trust there are no surprises in the "Old music" section this week. Four A/A- records are ones I previously had graded that high in other forms. Getz's Nobody Else but Me is an old standby from one of the primo shelves, and I was surprised I only had it listed at B+, so an upgrade was clearly in order. The Jaki Byard is a bootleg that Allen Lowe raved about. I found it when I was trying to clear up some tabs, and decided I might as well play it, and write it up.

I moved from Getz to Geller by proximity. He's long fascinated me, so seemed worth the dive. Playing him now as I write, so next Music Week will at least have him. His late period seems to produce consistently fine but less than spectacular records.

Indexing February still delayed, as is damn near everything else in my life.

By the way, Kansas's first presidential primary in ages was today. We braved a line of absolutely no one to vote for Marianne Williamson in the Democratic primary. I gave up my Independent status in 2008 to caucus for Obama (against Clinton), and again in 2016 for Sanders (again, against Clinton), both of whom won big in Kansas. Williamson didn't win: current returns (91.9% in) give her 3.4% to Biden's 83.9%, with 10.2% "none of the names shown." Still, anyone who wants to create a Department of Peace gets my vote over Biden's war machine.

Trump is leading Haley 75.3% to 16.1%, with 5.2% for "none of the names shown." Trump had lost the 2016 caucus to Cruz.

PS: Oops! Was thinking about this most of the week, then slipped my mind when I initially posted. Meant to mention that the rated count ticked over another thousand mark this week, now over 42,000.

New records reviewed this week:

Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (2023 [2024], Challenge): Pianist, originally from Milwaukee, 17th album going back to 1994, mostly trios, this one with Alon Near (bass) and Lukasz Zyta (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Blue Moods: Swing & Soul (2023 [2024], Posi-Tone): Second album, "celebrating Duke Pearson," for label regulars Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), with Jon Davis taking over piano on two tracks. Very upbeat, joyous even. B+(***) [sp]

Gerald Cannon: Live at Dizzy's Club: The Music of Elvin & McCoy (2023 [2024], Woodneck): Bassist, mainstream, several albums under his name since 2000, more side-credits back to 1989, including 75th Birthday Celebration with Elvin Jones, a couple with McCoy Tyner, and most of the stars he lined up for this set of two Jones pieces, five Tyners, and one original: Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Sherman Irby (alto sax), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Steve Turre (trombone), Dave Kikoski (piano), Lenny White (drums). B+(***) [sp]

The Chick Corea Elektric Band: The Future Is Now (2016-18 [2023], Candid, 2CD): Fusion group, originally formed in 1986, active for a decade after that, with a similar Elektric Band II appearing for a 1993 album, and an outlier album in 2004. This was collected from five concerts, August 2016 to May 2018. Lineup: Corea (piano/keyboards), Frank Gambale (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Dave Weckl (drums), Erik Marienthal (sax) -- all in the band as of 1987. B+(*) [sp]

Patrick Cornelius: Book of Secrets (2022 [2023], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, based in New York, ten or so albums since 2006. Also plays soprano, alto flute, and clarinet here (on two tracks with Diego Rivera guesting on tenor sax). Backed by Art Hirahara (piano), Peter Slavov (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), and Behn Gillece (vibes). B+(**) [sp]

Stephan Crump: Slow Water (2023 [2024], Papillon Sounds): American bassist, debut 1997, many albums since, as well as sidework (especially with Vijay Iyer). [Major failing that he does not yet have a Wikipedia page.] Chamber jazz move, thick with slowly moving strings, occasional flashes of brass. Refers to a recent book by Erica Gies: Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge. B+(***) [cd] [05-03]

Art Hirahara: Echo Canyon (2023, Posi-Tone): Pianist, based in New York, side credits back to 1995, but emerged as a leader in 2011 and, especially with this trio of Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) has become his label's default rhythm section. B+(**) [sp]

Mannequin Pussy: I Got Heaven (2024, Epitaph): Post-punk band from Philadelphia, Missy Dabice the singer, fourth album since 2014, harder than I care for, but do mix it up a bit. B+(**) [sp]

Pissed Jeans: Half Divorced (2024, Sub Pop): Another post-punk band with some critical acclaim. Sixth album since 2005. B+(*) [sp]

Diego Rivera: With Just a Word (2022 [2024], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, Mexican-American family, born in Ann Arbor, director of jazz studies at Texas (Austin), sixth album as leader since 2013, plus side projects like Blue Moods. Latin-tinged mainstream quintet here with Pete Rodriguez (trumpet), Art Hirahara (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Discordia (2023 [2024], Earshift Music): Composer, plays soprano sax and bass clarinet, leading a conventional 17-piece big band and drummer Chloe Kim. Theme: "the paradoxes of our information era" and "the dangerous implications of misinformation," exacerbated by AI. B+(***) [cd]

Bill Ryder-Jones: Iechyd Da (2024, Domino): English singer-songwriter, co-founded the Coral, seventh album since going solo in 2011, first one I've checked out, mostly because it's currently [03-12] the top-rated 2024 album at AOTY (88/16 reviews, but mostly from UK sources). He's not much good as a singer, but is touchingly vulnerable, and gets help from lush orchestrations and a kiddie choir, which somehow turns in miracles. Nearest similar example I can think of someone I wound up liking despite hardly liking anything about him is Sufjan Stevens. Ryder-Jones seems even more improbable. A- [sp]

Nadine Shah: Filthy Underneath (2024, EMI North): British singer-songwriter, from Whitburn, lives in Newcastle, father Pakistani, fifth album since 2013. B+(*) [sp]

Sheer Mag: Playing Favorites (2024, Third Man): Postpunk band from Philadelphia, Tina Halladay the singer, third album, after EPs in 2015-16 and albums in 2017 and 2019. B+(**) [sp]

Rafael Toral: Spectral Evolution (2024, Moikai): Portuguese guitarist, mostly works in electronics, quite a few albums since 1994, some (like Space Quartet) more obviously connected to jazz. This is solo, starts with guitar which is soon heavily overlaid. B+(*) [sp]

Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (2022 [2024], Gotta Let It Out): Guitar-violin-drums trio from Sweden. A little sketchy. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Jaki Byard: Live in Chicago 1992 (1992, Jazzł+): Pianist (1922-99), started with Charlie Mariano in 1950, later with Maynard Ferguson and Charles Mingus, his own albums from 1960 on. This is solo, from Chicago Jazz Festival, 45:58, doesn't seem to have a proper release so is some kind of bootleg. At one point he manages to blow some sax while playing along. B+(**) [yt]

Herb Geller: European Rebirth: 1962 Paris Sessions (1962 [2022], Fresh Sound): Alto saxophonist (1928-2013), from Los Angeles, recorded some fine albums 1954-58, but after his wife Lorraine died of an asthma attack in 1958, he left the US, played bossa nova in Brazil, then on to Europe, only really getting back into recording around 1984. Fifteen tracks from various Paris sessions, plus two bonus tracks from festivals. B+(***) [sp]

Herb Geller: Plays the Al Cohn Songbook (1994 [1996], Hep): The alto saxophonist plays twelve songs Cohn wrote, plus one original and one standard. With Tom Ranier (piano, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), John Leitham (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums), plus a couple of vocals by Ruth Price. B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: To Benny & Johnny, With Love From Herb Geller (2001 [2002], Hep): Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges, two of the alto saxophonist's heroes and models as he started his own career -- Charlie Parker is often cited as a third, but at this late date, he seems to be more in the mood for easy swing. With Hod O'Brien (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Paul Kreibich (drums). B+(**) [r]

Herb Geller: Plays the Arthur Schwartz Songbook (2005, Hep): Fourteen songs plus a medley, all co-credits with lyricists irrelevant here (Howard Dietz, Frank Loesser, Leo Robin, E.Y. Harburg). Alto or soprano sax, backed with piano (John Pearce), bass (Len Skeat), and drums (Bobby Worth). B+(**) [r]

Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (1962, Verve): The first of a series of immensely popular albums that reflected and contributed to what was then called "the bossa nova craze." I know this music from a later 4-CD compilation: The Girl From Ipanema: The Bossa Nova Years (1989, following a 5-LP edition in 1984). Getz was well established, having started as a bebopper, deftly maneuvering through the "West Coast Cool Jazz" scene, and grasping other opportunities -- his 1961 album Focus was the first "sax with strings" album where the strings were every bit as interesting as the sax. He had developed as a fine ballad player -- and would continue to grow up to his final act, 1991's duos with Kenny Barron, People Time. Byrd takes the lead here in laying out the rhythms, which Getz rides so gracefully. Getz followed this with a big band album, a minor misstep, then recruited Luiz Bonfa for Encore, Laurinda Almeida, then Joăo Gilberto for the best album of the series, which made the latter's wife, singer Astrud Gilberto, a star. A- [sp]

Stan Getz With Al Haig: Preservation (1948-51 [1967], Prestige): A compilation of Getz's earliest 78s, all with Haig on piano, his name below the title but set off from the others: Kai Winding, Jimmy Raney, Tommy Potter, Gene Ramey, Roy Haynes, Stan Levey, Blossom Dearie and Jr. Parker. Title, from a song here, reflects the influence of Lester Young, especially the light tone. A dozen songs, three vocals of varying interest -- I'd rather hear more of Getz, but I'm not going to complain about Haig's solos. B+(**) [sp]

Art Pepper & Warne Marsh: Unreleased Art: Volume 9: At Donte's, April 26, 1974 (1974 [2016], Widow's Taste, 3CD): Alto saxophonist, spent most of the years 1954-65 in prison, produced some brilliant albums when he was briefly free, especially the run from Modern Art (1957) to Smack Up (1960), but he has little to show for the period from 1965 until 1975, when he recorded Living Legend, kicking off a staggering series of albums and live performances up to his death, at 56, in 1982. In 2007, his widow, Laurie Pepper, started releasing old tapes, with ten (often multi-CD) volumes through 2018. This is the only one I missed, unusual both in that it's from just before his big comeback, and also that it pairs him with another leader, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. They were backed by Mark Levine (piano), John Heard (bass), and Lew Malin (drums). Some terrific playing here, especially toward the end. Harder to get a real handle on Marsh here. Pepper makes the point that they hadn't seen, much less played with, each other in 17 years. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper: Surf Ride (1952-53 [1957], Savoy): Possibly his first LP, compiled from three dates, two with three tracks, the last with six. Different groups on each, with Russ Freeman, Hampton Hawes, and Claude Williamson the pianists, and Jack Montrose (tenor sax) added on the backstretch. Exceptionally lively, ten originals plus a Lester Young and "The Way You Look Tonight," with Montrose joining the race when he could. Not quite everything Pepper recorded for Savoy, so any compilation -- one I've long recommended is Straight Life: The Savoy Sessions (1984) -- is likely to be redundant. [NB: The 2-CD The Complete Surf Ride, which appeared in Japan in 1987, has four more songs and 25 extra takes, inline, so it's likely to be too redundant.] A- [sp]

Art Pepper Quintet: Live at Donte's 1968 (1968 [2004], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Digging around, I found this rare item from Pepper's missing decade (1965-75), recorded in North Hollywood, with Joe Romano (tenor sax), Frank Strazzeri (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Only six songs, but four of them top 19:37, and the others 13:35 and 10:07 ("incomplete"). Basically the formula he would use for the rest of his life, at least after losing the extra sax. B+(***) [r]

Art Pepper/Warne Marsh: Art Pepper With Warne Marsh (1956 [1986], Contemporary/OJC): This is where they met previously, both West Coast saxophonists, alto and tenor, Pepper a scrappy be-bopper out of the Stan Kenton band, Marsh a serious protégé of the more idiosyncratic Lennie Tristano (as was Lee Konitz, who often played with Marsh). With Ronnie Ball (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), and Gary Frommer (drums), the CD adding extra takes of three (of seven) pieces. Everyone here has a feather-light touch, so that even "Stompin' at the Savoy" seems to float. [NB: Some of this was released as The Way It Was! in 1972.] A- [r]

Art Pepper: No Limit (1977 [1978], Contemporary): Studio album, quartet with George Cables (piano), Tony Dumas (bass), and Carl Burnett (drums), covers "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," plus three originals: two for his wife, the last a mambo. The latter adds a second horn, a tenor sax, dubbed in by Pepper, and quite wonderful. A- [sp]

Art Pepper: Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): After being blown away with the Thursday and Friday Night sets, I sprang for the whole 9-CD The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions box, and never looked back. But three tracks here were released on vinyl in 1977, and a fourth added (52:00 total) for the 1992 CD. This was his all-star group, with George Cables (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). Two standards, two original I've heard many times and never tire of. A- [r]

Art Pepper: More for Les: At the Village Vanguard, Volume Four (1977 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): As the box proved, there was a lot more great music after extracting the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Night LPs, so they cobbled a fourth volume together in 1985, and expanded it some for the CD. In the intro, Pepper gushes that he's never before appeared with players of this caliber (George Cables, George Mraz, Elvin Jones), which is not quite true (see Meets the Rhythm Section), but he plays like it is, because they play like they are. Title song is an original. The standards are equally his: I've heard him play them many times, rarely (if ever) better than here. A [sp]

Sonny Redd/Art Pepper: Two Altos (1952-57 [1992], Savoy): Pepper you know. The other alto saxophonist here is Sylvester Kyner Jr. (1932-81), from Detroit, started with Barry Harris, mostly played in hard bop groups, got his debut (sort of) here, recorded five albums 1959-62 (dropping the extra d, so just Sonny Red), only one more after that. This was slapped together from four sessions, different personnel for each (drummer Larry Bunker is on two). No alto duets either: Pepper leads on four tracks, Redd on the other two. Nice enough. Front cover puts Pepper first, but spine has Redd, and he needs the credits more. This came out on LP in 1959 on Regent, as Redd's career was taking off, and Pepper was headed back to the slammer. B+(*) [sp]

Sonny Red: Out of the Blue (1959-60 [1996], Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, formerly Redd, first and only album for Blue Note, originally eight tracks with Wynton Kelly, six from 1959 with Sam Jones and Roy Brooks, plus two from 1960 with Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, the CD tacking on five more from the latter session. A very solid outing, not least for the bonus tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Stephan Crump/Steve Lehman: Kaleidoscope and Collage (2011, Intakt): Bass and alto sax duo, both with previous connections to Vijay Iyer, although none that I see with each other. [1/2 tracks, 16:40/39:02] - [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Stan Getz: Nobody Else but Me (1964 [1994], Verve): At the time, Getz's samba albums were selling so well they didn't bother releasing this quartet session, which aside from the infusion of Gary Burton's vibes sounds much in line with his early bebop efforts. Mostly standards, starting with a memorable "Summertime," but also including two Burton originals. With Gene Cherico (bass) and Joe Hunt (drums). [was: B+] A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Budde: Back Burner (Origin) [03-22]
  • Four + Six: Four + Six (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Romy Glod/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: No Toxic (Nemu) [01-02]
  • Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1964, Gearbox)
  • Jazz Ensemble of Memphis: Playing in the Yard (Memphis International) [04-05]
  • Last Day Quintet: Falling to Earth (Origin) [03-22]

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