An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, December 4, 2023
Music: Current count 41321  rated (+59), 6  unrated (+4).
Running late, so let's make this quick.
Massive Speaking of Which yesterday (7422 words, 173 links), mostly on the genocide Israel is committing, and not just in Gaza, but the death of Henry Kissinger occasioned many glances back into the many atrocities he helped along.
There is also a Q&A related to Hamas, to which I've added a postscript, where everyone doubles down. There's a music review question there, too.
The Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll is coming along nicely, with 48 ballots submitted and counted so far. Deadline is December 15, so a bit less than two weeks away. I meant to send out a reminder to the voters today, but got distracted by other work. Maybe tonight, for sure by tomorrow.
One piece of work is that I wrote up a script to list out the albums that have received votes so far. As the guy counting the ballots, I've been in the enviable position of seeing all this prospecting work, so I thought I should share it. Albums are sorted alphabetically by artist, so you can't tell standings from the lists, but you are certain to discover things you weren't aware of. (At least, I certainly have. All four of this week's A-list jazz albums were unknown to me before the Poll started -- although two of them were recent promos sent to me, that haven't yet received any votes. Two non-jazz albums first came to my attention on Phil Overeem's latest list, which I still have a lot of catching up on.)
I did create my EOY aggregate list file(s), to which I've added 35 lists so far. I usually wind up with more than 300 lists (last year 565), but there is no guarantee I'm going to go that crazy this year.
My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz continue to grow (currently 69 and 47 new A/A- albums, respectively). I meant to firm up my Jazz ballot for today's post, but didn't make it on time. Still, the top dozen-plus have been pretty stable recently, with additions landing well down.
I'm probably missing some stuff, especially on indexing. I know I meant to do more maintenance work on the Poll website, yet I've done very little.
Almost done with Viet Tranh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies, and I'm getting tired of it. I've long understood how memories of war are orchestrated to promote more wars, not least because I grew up with a counterexample: my father had no fond memories of his "service" in WWII, and while he had no quarrel with the mission, he was quite certain that his role in it was utterly superfluous (unlike the years before and after when he helped build the B-29s, B-47s, and B-52). Next up is the final chapter on "forgetting," which is long overdue.
Not sure what's next to read, but I'm checking Norman Finkelstein's Gaza for reference. I've read a vast amount of material on every aspect of the conflict, so lots of things are instantly clear to me that seem to hopelessly befuddle others. One thing I will say is that the recent books I've read on 1848 impressed on me that we're not very far removed from an age where revolutionary change was only possible through violence -- in large part because it was always resisted with violence. The latter is often still the case today, which is a big problem for the world.
New records reviewed this week:
Aesop Rock: Integrated Tech Solutions (2023, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Rapper Ian Bavitz, Wikipedia counts 10 albums since 2000, but collaborations come close to doubling that. Usually quick with the words, but slows down a bit here. B+(**) [sp]
André 3000: New Blue Sun (2023, Epic): First solo album by the OutKast partner, has gotten a lot of news as his flute album, but barely registers as such, having settled into pleasantly aimless ambiance. B [sp]
Artchipel Orchestra With Jonathan Coe: Suspended Moment: The Music of Jonathan Coe (2021 , British Progressive Jazz): Coe is a well-known British novelist, with a long interest in music, but I'm not sure how much he has actually recorded -- minimally a 2014 solo album called Unnecessary Music. The Italian group takes five of Coe's pieces here for a live concert, with Coe playing keyboards. The first is most impressive as jazz, after which they get more theatrical. B+(**) [bc]
Assiko Golden Band de Grand Yoff: Magg Tekki (2023, Mississippi): Large (17 members) collective from Dakar, Senegal, mostly drums and vocals. B+(*) [sp]
Richard Baratta: Off the Charts (2023, Savant): Drummer, has a couple recent Jazz in Film discs. Quintet here with Jerry Bergonzi (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Paul Rossman (congas). B+(**) [sp]
Michael Bates: Metamorphoses: Variations on Lutoslawski (2022 , Anaklasis): Canadian bassist, several album since 2003. Hard to parse the cover here, as credit could be for Michael Bates' Acrobat -- quintet with Marty Ehrlich (clarinet), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Fung Chern Hwei (violin), and Michael Sarin (drums) -- and Lutoslawski Quartet (a string quartet), with vocals (one track) by Anna Lobelian. B+(**) [sp]
Antonio Borghini: Banquet of Consequences (2023, We Insist!): Italian bassist, albums since 2002, leads a Berlin-based sextet of Tobias Delius, Anil Eraslan, Rieko Okuda, Steve Heather, and Pierre Borel. Playfully juxtaposes multiple styles and elements. B+(***) [r]
Bounaly: Dimanche ŕ Bamako (2023, Sahel Sounds): Guitarist Ali Traore, from Niafounke in north Mali, recorded live at a wedding bash in Mali's capitol city, a haven for many refugees from the jihad in the north. With vocals, drums, and calabash, the recording a little crude but powerful. A- [sp]
Danny Brown: Quaranta (2023, Warp): Rapper, actual last name Sewell, sixth album since 2010 -- not counting his recent JPEGMafia duo, which continues to confound me. This rolls on so easily I gave it three plays before I decided all I had to do was tack on a grade. A- [sp]
VV Brown: Am I British Yet? (2023, YOY): British pop singer-songwriter, mother Jamaican, father Puerto Rican, 2009 debut was one of my favorite records that year, this only her 3rd since, and by far the most race-focused. There's probably a story there, quite possibly a grim one, that I feel bad for not taking the time to dig out. But I did catch: "the revolution will not be digitised." And: "this melanin is magical." B+(***) [sp]
Buck 65/Doseone/Jel: North American Adonis (2023, Handsmade): Mixtape with raps by the first two, production by the later. Starts off as nimbly as the former, but loses a bit when the latter aims for more punching power, but winds up just heavy. B+(***) [sp]
Butcher Brown: Solar Music (2023, Concord Jazz): Jazz-funk fusion group from Richmond, Virginia; ninth album since 2013. Many guests this time out. B [sp]
Chicago Edge Ensemble: The Individualists (2023, Lizard Breath): Chicago group, third album, guitarist Dan Phillips is the composer (except for one joint piece, called "Mutualism in Action"). Joined by Josh Berman (cornet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Krzysztof Pabian (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [bc]
Michael Dease: Swing Low (2023, Posi-Tone): Mainstream trombonist, has played tenor sax in the past, tries his hand at baritone sax here, with three originals and a bunch of covers, standards and jazz tunes, including a couple by fellow trombonists (Melba Liston, Julian Priester). With Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, trombone (Altin Sencalar 3 tracks), piano (Art Hirahara),' bass (Boris Kozlov), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(**) [sp]
Hannah Diamond: Perfect Picture (2023, PC Music): British pop singer-songwriter, second album. B+(*) [sp]
Aaron Diehl & the Knights: Zodiac Suite (2023, Mack Avenue): Pianist, several albums since 2013, tackles Mary Lou Williams' 1945 cycle of twelve pieces inspired by the stars. She was one of the major swing pianists of the era, but her bid for high-art respect always struck me as a bit forced. Here, however, Diehl pushes it over the top, with what is billed as "the first fully-fledged professional recording of this incredible arrangement." Even ends with a ridiculous high soprano aria. B- [sp]
Marcelo Dos Reis & Luís Vicente: (Un)prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (2022 , Cipsela): Guitar and trumpet, electric guitar but feels densely acoustic. Seems marginal, but I find it captivating. A- [cd]
Marcelo Dos Reis: Flora (2023, JACC): Guitarist, trio with Miguel Falcăo (bass) and Luis Filipe Silva (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Shuteen Erdenebaatar Quartet: Rising Sun (2021 , Motéma Music): Pianist, from Mongolia, first album, has won a bunch of prizes since she landed in Munich. Quartet with Anton Mangold (alto/soprano sax, flute), bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]
Diego Figueiredo: My World (2023, Arbors): Brazilian guitarist, couple dozen albums since 1999, with several recent ones on this swing-oriented label: the connection appears to be through Ken Peplowski, who co-headlined an album in 2019, and who plays clarinet and sax here, along with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Helio Alves (piano), Nilson Matta (bass), and Duduka Da Fonseca (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: Accidentals (2023, Resonant Music): No hype sheet, can't even find mention of this on the web. Cover just has the title, so it's probably also meant as the group name, but I substituted the artists' names: a duo, the former playing electric fretless bass and guitar, the latter saxophones with effects. Haas has a longer discography, starting in a new wave rock group I liked in 1980, Martha & the Muffins. They do have one previous duo album, and several more as two-thirds of Radio I-Ching (Discogs lists one album, but I've listened to four, with 2009's No Wave Au Go Go the pick). The other third was Jay Dee Daugherty, aka Dee Pop, and I found a memorial for him (1956-2021). This wanders a bit, which can happens when you loose your drummer. But this is odd and interesting enough, and it delights me. Now if only I can find a cover scan. A- [cd]
Five-Way Split: All the Way (2023, Ubuntu Music): UK jazz quintet, with original material by Quentin Collins (trumpet), Vasillis Xenopoulos (tenor sax), and Rob Barron (piano), plus bass (Matyas Hofecker) and drums (Matt Home). B+(*) [sp]
Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: As Things Do (2022 , Intakt): Bassist, emerged as a strong leader in the 1990s, second album with this powerhouse group: Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Ches Smith (drums). Strong out of the gate, aims for a soft landing. B+(***) [dl]
Sullivan Fortner: Solo Game (2023, Artwork, 2CD): Pianist, from New Orleans, played in Roy Hargrove's group 2010-17, has led a couple albums on Impulse! This is solo, 20 songs, 79 minutes, mixed up a bit with electric keyboards, percussion, and some vocalizing. B+(*) [sp]
Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet: Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog (2023, Cantaloupe): Moondog was an alias for Louis Hardin (1916-99), a composer, performer, poet, and inventor of musical instruments, largely self-taught, although he drew on Native American music from his childhood in Wyoming, augmented by everything else he ran across, including Latin, jazz, classical, and the minimalists he worked with in New York. I should look deeper into his work, especially given how enticing this improbable collaboration is. Brian Carpenter's 13-piece orchestra is bottom-heavy (bass clarinet, baritone and bass saxophone, bassoon, trombone, and tuba), which keeps the string orchestra centered. And the guest vocalists are mostly from the rock world (or wherever you would slot Petra Haden and Karen Mantler), so they never fall into the usual jazz-classical traps. Dedicated to Hal Willner, who would really dig this. A- [sp]
Hamell on Trial: Bring the Kids (2023, Saustex): Ed Hamell, antifolk singer-songwriter from upstate New York, albums since 1989, some weird and many funny. This one seems exceptionally scattered, with some of the music sounding like he's found new toys, and some I simply don't quite get, but 37 seconds of Ruth Theodore on Tucker Carlson brought a chuckle, and there's probably more (including four more bits with her). B+(**) [sp]
Lafayette Harris, Jr.: Swingin' Up in Harlem (2023, Savant): Pianist, been around a while (at least since 1992), but has no Wikipedia page, and it's hard to construct a discography from Discogs. But he does have friends: Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), with Houston Person producing (but not playing). B+(*) [sp]
Benjamin Herman: Nostalgia Blitz (2023, Dox): Dutch alto saxophonist, debut 1993, cites James Chance and John Lurie as early inspirations, as well as Parker, Hodges, and -- the one he both played with and covered brilliantly -- Misha Mengelberg. This is just freaky enough to cover all those bases. A- [sp]
Nitai Hershkovits: Call on the Old Wise (2022 , ECM): Israeli pianist, first album was a 2012 duo with bassist Avishai Cohen; fifth album, solo, quietly contemplative. B+(*) [sp]
Anthony Hervey: Words From My Horn (2023, Outside In Music): Trumpet player, has appeared in Christian McBride's big band, this is his first album, produced by Ulysses Owens Jr., with alto sax (Sarah Hanahan), piano (Isaiah J. Thompson and Sean Mason), bass (Philip Norris, and drums (Miguel Russell). Impressive chops, mainstream ideas, so-so vocal. B+(**) [sp]
Jungle: Volcano (2023, Caiola/AWAL): British electropop project, led by producers John Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, fourth album since 2014, lead vocalist Lydia Kitto. B+(*) [sp]
Sean Mason: The Southern Suite (2023, Blue Engine): Pianist, from North Carolina, based in New York, first album, with trumpet (Tony Glausi), tenor sax (Chris Lewis), bass (Felix Moseholm), and drums (Domo Branch). B+(*) [sp]
MIKE: Burning Desire (2023, 10K): Rapper Michael Bonema, alias choice made him hard to look up when he started c. 2017, but he's piled up six studio albums, five mixtapes, a dozen EPs. B+(*) [sp]
Lisa O'Neill: All of This Is Chance (2023, Rough Trade): Irish singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2009. Folkish, darkly. B+(**) [sp]
OMD [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark]: Bauhaus Staircase (2023, 100%): One of the new wave bands of the early 1980s to find a synth-fueled dance groove, originally a duo of Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals), had a nice run until Humphreys split in 1989. McCluskey carried on until 1996, then reunited with Humphreys in 2006, finally releasing an album in 2010. Third album since, initials on the cover, what these days could be called "classic modernism." With music to match. B+(**) [sp]
Ryoko Ono/Satoko Fujii: Hakuro (2023, self-released): Japanese saxophone and piano duo. Ono has a number of albums since 2012, and Fujii has well over one hundred. B+(***) [bc]
PinkPantheress: Heaven Knows (2023, 300 Entertainment): British dance-pop singer Victoria Walker, first studio album after a breakout mini-mixtape and a well-regarded EP. Small voice, comfy in the soft beats. B+(***) [sp]
Tineke Postma: Aria (2022 , Edition): Dutch saxophonist (alto/soprano), eighth album since 2005, with Ben Monder (guitar), Robert Landfermann (bass), and Tristan Renfrow (drums), playing original pieces. B+(**) [sp]
Mette Rasmussen/Paul Flaherty/Zach Rowden/Chris Corsano: Crying in Space (2019 , Relative Pitch): Two saxophonists (both alto, but Flaherty also plays tenor), plus bass and drums, for a live set at Firehouse 12. B+(***) [sp]
Ernesto Rodrigues/Dirk Serries/Joăo Madeira/José Oliveira: Dripping (2023, Creative Sources): Viola, archtop guitar, double bass, percussion. B+(*) [bc]
Aksel Rřed's Other Aspects: Do You Dream in Colours? (2023, Is It Jazz?): Norwegian octet, the leader one of three saxophonists, with trumpet (another Rřed, Lyder Řvreás), trombone, piano (Isach Skeidsvoll), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Alex Sipiagin Quintet: Mel's Vision (2022 , Criss Cross): Russian trumpet player, moved to US in 1990, has a substantial discography since 1998, a post-bop player with real chops. Quintet with Chris Potter (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Guido Spannocchi: Live at Porgy & Bess Vienna (2022 , Audioguido): Italian alto saxophonist, several albums since 2017, this with Danny Keane (piano), Ruth Goller (bass), and Pete Adam Hill (drums). Very strong showing. B+(***) [sp]
Haralabos [Harry] Stafylakis: Calibrating Friction (2023, New Amsterdam): Canadian composer, based in New York, bills this as "a muscular, pyrotechnic blend of progressive metal and symphonic classical music." Somehow not quite that bad. B+(*) [sp]
Chris Stapleton: Higher (2023, Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, fifth album since 2015. Strong voice, deep roots, simple ideas. B+(*) [sp]
Earl Sweatshirt & the Alchemist: Voir Dire (2023, ALC/Tan Cressida): LA rapper, Theba Kgositsile, one of the more successful to come out of the Odd Future collective. First with Alan Maman producing, a short one: 11 tracks, 26:37. B+(*) [sp]
Isaiah J. Thompson: The Power of the Spirit (2023, Blue Engine): Pianist, from New Jersey, second album, leads a quartet with tenor sax (Julian Lee), bass (Philip Norris), and drums (Damo Branch or TJ Reddick). B+(***) [sp]
Tyvek: Overground (2023, Ginkgo): "Garage lo-fi punk band" from Detroit, self-released debut 2006, eponymous album on a small but real label 2009, somewhere along the timeline added a saxophone (Emily Roll), adding some overtones to the guitar thrash. Kevin Boyer sings. Reminds me of the early Buzzcocks. A- [sp]
VHS Head: Phocus (2023, Skam): Blackpool electronica artist Ade Blacow, third album. Glitchy, but that's only a first approximation. B+(*) [sp]
J.D. Walter: The Last Muse (2023, Arkadia): Jazz singer, eight or so albums since 2000, second this year (but the one I landed on by accident). Mostly standards, title song and two other originals, unclear on credits (but reportedly "stellar"). Like many male jazz singers, he has considerable technical skills, but sounds tortured. B- [sp]
Jeppe Zeeberg: Occasionally, Good Things Do Happen (2023, self-released): Danish pianist, half-dozen albums since 2014. This is circus-y and/or cartoon-ish, or maybe just a stab at phantasmagorical, not that I care after a while. Near the end, a piano solo that finally puts weird to good use. B- [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Geri Allen/Kurt Rosenwinkel: A Lovesome Thing (2012 , Motéma Music): Piano and guitar duo, a live set from the Philharmonie de Paris. B+(**) [sp]
Axolotl: Abrasive (1981 , Souffle Continu): French avant-jazz trio, recorded one more album after this debut, the group consisting of Etienne Brunet (alto sax/bass clarinet), Jacques Oger (tenor/baritone sax), and Marc Dulourd (guitar). B+(*) [bc]
Graham Collier Music: Smoke-Blackened Walls & Curlews (1970 , British Progressive Jazz): British bassist, his sextet an important group of the era. Previously unissued tape, the music a bit on the brooding side, meant to frame John Carberry's narration, which is not without interest, just not a lot. B+(*) [bc]
Don Ellis: How Time Passes (1960 , Candid): Trumpet player (1934-78), first recording as leader, a quartet with Jaki Byard (piano/alto sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Charlie Persip (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Jean-Marc Foussat: Abattage (1973-81 , Fou): Deluxe reissue of the French sound artist's early work, where he plays guitar, piano, "voix, objets, radio," etc., etc., fascinated with whatever he conjures up. B+(***) [cd]
Ibrahim Hesnawi: The Father of Libyan Reggae (, Habibi Funk): I don't see any recording dates, but reports are that Hesnawi (b. 1954) recorded more than 15 albums from the 1980s to 2000s, yielding nine tracks here, the riddims build up with electric keyboards, and vocals in English and Arabic. B+(*) [sp]
Wynton Marsalis: Wynton Marsalis Plays Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens (2006 , Blue Engine): This promises "technically flawless performances . . . transposing the timeless music of the 1920s to the 21st century." Hard to know where to begin here, or whether to bother. No one will mistake Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, or Jon Batiste for the originals, and the late-breaking vocals hardly try. B [sp]
Mike Osborne: Starting Fires: Live at the 100 Club 1970 (1970 , British Progressive Jazz): British alto saxophonist, one of the first important ones on the avant-garde, paired here with tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore, backed by Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Pet Shop Boys: Smash: The Singles 1985-2020 (1985-2020 , Parlophone, 3CD): Fifty-five songs, most from worthy albums -- even such recent ones as Super (2016) and Hotspot (2020) -- the first two discs largely recapitulating the 2003 2-CD compilation, PopArt: The Hits, plus an extra 68:37 from the later period. A- [r]
Todd Snider: Crank It, We're Doomed (2007 , Aimless): Long-shelved album, recorded after The Devil You Know (perhaps his best studio album ever), "paradoxically [he] felt the album was both too much and too little, needing more but already too much." Some songs were salvaged for Peace Queer and The Excitement Plan, and several were re-recorded later, so much of this is semi-familiar. Perhaps reassuring to recall the doom we (mostly) survived, as opposed to the doom still to come. A- [sp]
Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: American Nocturne (2018, Resonant Music): Radio I-Ching minus the drummer, saxophonist Andy Haas making do with a drum machine and electronics, while Don Fiorino plays guitar, glissentar, and lap steel guitar. B+(***) [bc]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Speaking of Which
I spent some time today crafting a Q&A on "two fundamental flaws in your thinking" about Hamas, Palestine, and Israel. It draws on my comment to the De Luca/Cavazuti piece on Hamas, below. There is, of course, zero chance that Biden's going to tell Netanyahu: hey, maybe Hamas has a point after all, so let's talk about it a bit, before we get too carried away with this war thing.
Like I said, zero chance. Which leads me to ask an even deeper question: what's the use of having all this wealth and power if it just locks you into doing senseless things that are stupid and cruel? I can see where Hamas might use their power to do something so self-destructive, because they don't have enough power to get noticed otherwise. But Israel and the United States have so much wealth and power, they could actually put it to some good, and people would love it. Instead, they just blow things up and kill and starve people. And maybe they wonder a bit why so many people despise them, but not so much really, because no one else has the power (or the death wish) to stop them.
Top story threads:
Israel: The "pause" for exchanging prisoners (aka hostages) ended on Friday, with Israel immediately resuming its bombardment of Gaza. The number of Palestinians confirmed killed and the number of displaced passed the total levels of the 1948-50 war (aka Nakba) -- although the displaced are still locked in besieged Gaza, instead of scattered in the exile Israel is working so hard to promote. The euphemism "ethnic cleansing" has become a common term for the forced expulsion of people from their homes (in Gaza, many of which were already refugee encampments, set up as temporary during the 1948-50 war). But the more formal legal term is "genocide," which is still the most accurate description of the war Israel is waging, and of the professed intentions behind this war. The whole world should find this alarming, especially those in the democracies that have long given Israel their support, even in its project to turn a haven for oppressed Jews into a fortress of ethnic supremacy.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Around the world:
Henry Kissinger: He died, a nice round 100 years old, elites sucking up to him to the very end. Which raises the question: who is the new worst person in the world? (Here's a reddit thread, which still needs some work -- although I'd keep Murdoch and Netanyahu for the short list, maybe Putin too. More fun is who Kissinger succeeded? If not his partner-in-crime, Nixon, I'd nominate Winston Churchill, who exceeded Kissinger not only in the amount of damage he caused, but also in the amount of praise -- if not necessarily money -- he collected along the way. One difference was that people kept forgetting Churchill's disasters, allowing him more chances, whereas Kissinger's crimes were studiously documented (as will be evident below), even though people in power never seemed to care.
Tim Alberta: [12-01] The bogus historians who teach evangelicals they live in a theocracy: "A new book on the Christian right reveals how a series of unscrupulous leaders turned politics in to a powerful and lucrative gospel." That would be Alberta's own book: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.
Jeremy Barr: [11-30] MSNBC draws backlash for canceling Mehdi Hasan show. Also:
Chas Danner/Nia Prater: [12-01] George Santos has been expelled from Congress: Live updates. The House vote was 311-114: Democrats voted 206-2 (2 present) to expel; Republicans 112-105 to not expel. The measure required a two-thirds supermajority (282 votes). Five Republicans (including Kevin McCarthy) and three Democrats (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) did not vote.
Silvia Foster-Frau/N Kirkpatrick/Arelia R Hernández: [11-16] Terror on Repeat: "A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15 shootings."
Penelope Green: [11-30] Larry Fink, whose photographs were 'political, not polemical,' dies at 82. I noted Larry's death last week, and complained that the New York Times didn't have an obituary up. (When his sister, Elizabeth Fink, died a few years back, her obituary appeared, at least briefly, above that of Yogi Berra.) Here it is, complete with a nice selection of his photographs ("the chilly anomie of Manhattan's haute monde, the strangeness of Hollywood royalty and the lively warmth of rural America").
Jeet Heer: [11-26] Garry Wills and the real Kennedy curse: Unfortunately, this is a 1:43:30 podcast with no transcript, so I can't imagine myself slogging through it, but I want to at least note that my interest was piqued by "our shared love for Garry Wills's The Kennedy Imprisonment, a revelatory book about not just the Kennedy family but also the nature of 'great man politics.'" I've read a number of Wills's books, starting (long ago) with Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man, which at the time I saw as a brilliant dissection.
Anita Jain: [12-01] How Franklin Roosevelt tamed Wall Street: Review of Diana B Henriques: Taming the Street: The Old Guard, the New Deal, and FDR's Fight to Regulate American Capitalism. Over the course of American history, there have been few cases where presidential leadership actually meant something, but the most brilliant of all was Roosevelt's handling of the banking panic in the first weeks of his administration. He ordered a "banking holiday" to stop the withdrawals, and addressed the nation via radio, where he explained in authoritative detail how banking worked, why it was vulnerable to panics, and how they can be avoided with a little patience. When he reopened the banks, the panic had subsided, but he still moved quickly to pass a new law to make sure such panics wouldn't happen again (as they had regularly throughout American history). This law was the Carter-Glass Act, which worked brilliantly -- especially federal deposit insurance -- for 65 years, until Citibank got the Republican Congress and Clinton to repeal it, a mere ten years before the biggest banking crisis since 1933. This was the cornerstone of Roosevelt's famous "100 days," which remains the "gold standard" for what Democratic government can do with a large majority in Congress and business back on their heels. (And yes, one of the most important things they did was get rid of the gold standard, which had become a dead weight on the world economy.)
A good book to read on this is Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America. As someone who was born in 1950, I grew up with little sense of what Roosevelt accomplished, even though it was all around me. Democrats were way too modest. This contrasts starkly with the Republicans' systematic efforts to memorialize Lincoln and Reagan.
Sarah Jones: [11-29] The infidel turned Christian: "When Ayaan Hirsi Ali renounced Islam for atheism, her conversion made her a global star." Now, she's reinventing herself.
Ezra Klein: [12-03] The books that explain where we are in 2023. A noble undertaking, but a hard one for anyone to read enough to undertake. None here that I've read, but half or so I've reported on. Still, isn't it a bit strange that when he looks for a book on Israel, all he comes up with is Ari Shavit's 10-year-old My Promised Land? I did read a substantial extract from that book, where he describes in considerable detail the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramle -- we'd call that "ethnic cleansing" these days -- and rationalizes it as essential to the founding and glory of his beloved Israel.
I could complain that much more has been written on Israel/Palestine since then, but the book I still most recommend came out in 2004: Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions. The most enduring of those questions is why Israel keeps pushing the parameters of a peace settlement beyond what Palestinians are willing to accept. But he also has some insights as to why Palestinian leaders have proven so inept at negotiating with Israel.
More book lists/reviews:
Keren Landman: [11-29] US life expectancy no longer catastrophic, now merely bad.
Clay Risen: [11-30] Pablo Guzmán, Puerto Rican activist turned TV newsman, dies at 73: A name I recognize from back in the 1970s, involved with a group called the Young Lords.
Nathan J Robinson: [11-28] Why you should primarily focus on your own country's crimes: "Why don't U.S. activists focus on the crimes of the Chinese government? Because we're responsible for what is done in our name, and what we can most affect." Well, also because echoing a moral critique by Americans in power is taken to ratify and promote hostile foreign policies that often only make the problems worse, and in any case are beyond what the US should be doing abroad. And also because, regardless of how pure your intentions are, you're not likely to be heard beyond the din of American saber-rattling. As for other countries that are allied with America (like Israel and Saudi Arabia), you have no business interfering with them, but you can certainly question why the US helps them oppress their own people.
Aja Romano: [11-17] The Crown increasingly becomes a fantastical apologetic for the royal family.
Jeffrey St Clair: [12-01] Roaming Charges: The Dr. Caligari of American Empire: Title refers to Kissinger, the opening subject here, with much more to follow.
Washington Monthly: [11-28] Remembering Charlie Peters: A useful compendium of articles and other tributes occasioned by the death of Washington Monthly's founder and long-time editor. I cited James Fallows: Why Charlile Peters matters last week. No need to list them all here, since that's what this article is for, but let me point out:
Clinton Williamson: [11-23] You have "the right to be lazy": "Paul Lafargue's anti-work manifesto is newly relevant in a time when the very idea of labor is changing." Lafargue (1842-1911) published his book in 1883.
Monday, November 27, 2023
Music: Current count 41262  rated (+52), 2  unrated (-7).
I posted another substantial Speaking of Which last night (5716 words, 106 links). The writing went late, and I had to cut it off with a lot of unfinished business. In particular, I was taken aback by opposition to my plan to end the war by splitting Gaza off from Israel. My intro starts to sketch out the distinction between left as teleology and as practical politics -- one that should be easy enough to keep clear, but again and again we see practical proposals that would actually do some good torpedoed by people who quite rightly want something better. I might get a better response pitching my plan as the only achievable "two-state solution" to the mainstream crowd who still entertains the possibility. (It is the only version that Israel could be persuaded to agree to, and as we should know by now, nothing is possible without Israel's consent.) But no one in that crowd reads me or cares what I think, so I find myself in this dark spiral, ever more convinced of the necessity of moving left, and of the impossibility of actual left politics.
That's already more than what I meant to say here. Other than to note that if I was serious about political writing, I'd be shopping around an essay right now on "Why I've Never Called Myself Pro-Palestinian, and Why It Doesn't Bother Me if You Do." The first part of that I've been considering for a while. The second part is a reaction to a recent conversation with a friend complaining about "the pro-Palestinian left." My core point is that the left is not your problem. Good people having occasional bad thoughts is not your problem. Your problem is quite simply on the right.
Meanwhile, we have quite a bit of business to deal with below.
I'm continuously updating my year-end lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz. Currently there are 65+1 A-list entries in jazz, 44+3 in Non-Jazz. The + numbers are albums in previous years' tracking files that I only got to this year. Other 2022 releases appear in the main lists if they weren't even in the tracking files (or were released on or after Dec. 1, 2022).
The split has increased in recent weeks, as I've focused on new jazz, and had little time to do any non-jazz prospecting.
I've made two promotions this week from A- to A (Irreversible Entanglements and Steve Lehman). These were not surprises, nor would the current number 4: James Brandon Johnson's For Mahalia, With Love.
One thing to note is that my entire 2022 demo queue has been reviewed. No new mail this past week, but I have two unopened packages today: one from Portugal, the other from France, so they are probably 2022 releases. I am sitting on a couple of 2024 releases, but I'm in no hurry for them (well, maybe for Ballister).
It's almost two weeks since the first batch of ballot invites for the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll went out. I have 24 ballots counted, naming 264 albums. (Maximum is 16 per ballot: 10 new, 3 old, 1 each vocal, debut, latin.) As new records receive votes, I add them to my tracking file and to the unheard section of my 2024 jazz list. (Note to self: I should write a program to pull up all of the albums with jazz poll votes, sorted by artist so I don't give away the standings.)
Hopefully the ballots will start rolling in soon. Deadline is December 15. I still have a bunch of notes on possible voters. I'm not done sending out invites, but I haven't had much time to vet them yet. But this is probably your last chance to make a case, for you or someone else, to vote. My approximate guidelines are that you should have listed to more than 200 new jazz records in the last year, and that you should have written about ten or more. As for "broadcast journalists," I have no idea what the criteria should be. Francis Davis invited several dozen, and a few others nominated themselves or others. They've generally been a credit to the Poll, but as someone who literally never listens to jazz radio, I'm in no position to judge.
It's impossible to tell whether we'll wind up with more than last year's 151 voters, but it is very likely that we'll see an increase in ballots from outside the US.
One thing I haven't done yet is set up an EOY aggregator, like I've did for 2022, 2021, etc. It's easy enough to do, and it's probably the only way I'll ever get a handle on non-jazz prospects. But my first glance at the AOTY Aggregate is pretty dismal (top 20, w/my grades): Lankum [**], Sufjan Stevens [*], Young Fathers [***], Julie Byrne [**], Boygenius [B], Wednesday [*], Blur [*], Lana Del Rey [**], PJ Harvey [*], Grian Chatten [**], Caroline Polachek [*], Mitski [*], Paul Simon [B], Yo La Tengo [A-], Anohni [**], Nation of Language [?], JPEGMafia & Danny Brown [*], Kelela [*], Yussef Dayes [A- this week], Overmono [*]. A/A- down in the next 25: Billy Woods & Kenny Segal (28), Robert Forster (32), Joanna Sternberg (43), Olivia Rodrigo (45). That's only 6 of 44 non-jazz A/A- records I've already found this year.
Of course, the real value of the EOY lists isn't who gets the most mentions, but what are the interesting records deep down in isolated lists. I will note that so far 7 of the top 10 new releases in our Jazz Critics Poll are A/A- in my book. That's a freakishly high share, but evens out with just 2 in the second 10, and just 1 of the second 20. Also, after 27 you get into the single-vote albums, most of which won't get more than a couple more votes, if that.
New records reviewed this week:
Ambrose Akinmusire: Beauty Is Enough (2023, Origami Harvest): Trumpet player, from Oakland, became a star when Blue Note picked up his second album in 2010, and remained near the top of the polls with five albums through 2020. However, this self-released solo album appeared with little fanfare, and will remain an item of minor interest. B+(*) [sp]
Balimaya Project: When the Dust Settles (2023, New Soil): West African (Mandé) group, based in London, led by djembe player Yahael Camara Onono, second album. Vocals suggest afropop, but they're playing for a jazz crowd. B+(***) [sp]
Jerry Bergonzi: Extra Extra (2023, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, steady stream of albums since 1984, With Sheryl Bailey (guitar), Harvie S (bass), Luther Gray (drums), plus Phil Grenadier (trumpet) on 3 tracks. B+(*) [sp]
John Butcher/Pat Thomas/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Fathom (2021 , 577): English avant-saxophonist, records started appearing around 1985, more frequently after 1998. Live set from Cafe Oto, with regulars on piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [dl]
Gunhild Carling: Good Evening Cats (2022, Jazz Art): Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist (trombone seems to be her first choice, but double bass, banjo, flute, bagpipes, and harp are barely half of the list), started out at 10 in her family's Hot Five band. Old-fashioned swing with a touch of cabaret, not all in English but that just adds to the charm. B+(***) [sp]
Daniel Carter/Leo Genovese/William Parker/Francisco Mela: Shine Hear Vol. 1 (2021 , 577): Sax, piano, bass, drums, with Carter and Parker (who also plays gralla and shakuhachi) going way back. B+(**) [dl]
Joan Chamorro & Friends: Jazz House Sessions With Scott Hamilton (2023, Associació Sant Andreu Jazz Band): Spanish bassist, sometime saxophonist, has led several bands, principally the swing-oriented Sant Andreu Jazz Band (others worth noting include Barcelona Hot Seven and the Fu Manchu Jazz Servants). He has a dozen or so albums where he "presents" guests, starting with Scott Robinson in 2011. This one collects pieces from four sessions, going back to 2013 (but no specific credits). Hamilton sounds terrific with a hard-swinging band. I'm less taken by the vocals, which sound Brazilian. B+(**) [sp]
Yussef Dayes: Black Classical Music (2023, Brownswood/Nonesuch): British drummer, first solo album although he had a group called United Vibrations, and duos with Kamaal Williams and Tom Misch. Big album (19 songs, 73:54), a dozen guest spots, I wouldn't say it's jazz, much less classical, but crosses over into a rarefied atmosphere of groove and light, an ambience you can dance in. A- [sp]
Paul Dunmall Ensemble: It's a Matter of Fact (2022 , Discus Music): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano here), very polific since 1986, ensemble here with Julie Tippetts (voice), Martin Archer (alto/baritone sax), trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Paul Dunmall: Bright Light a Joyous Celebration (2022 , Discus Music): The saxophonist leads a sextet here, with two more saxophonists (Soweto Kinch and Xhosa Cole), vibes (Corey Mwamba), bass (Dave Kane), and drums (Hamid Drake). The drummer goes without saying, but I'm really impressed by the vibes here, and the saxophones live up to the title. A- [bc]
Paul Dunmall New Quartet: World Without (2021 , 577): Tenor/alto sax, backed by guitar (Steven Saunders), bass (Dave Kane), and drums (Mike Levin). Intense, for better or worse. B+(**) [dl]
Peter Evans [Being & Becoming]: Ars Memoria (2022-23 , More Is More): Trumpet player, formerly of Mostly Other People Do the Killing, group name derived from a 2020 album, also with Joel Ross (vibes) and Nick Jozwlak (bass), but with a different drummer: this time it's Michael Shekwoaga Ode. B+(***) [bc]
Kate Gentile: Find Letter X (2021-23 , Pi, 3CD): Drummer, based in New York, several albums since 2015, including a 6-CD 2021 box with pianist Matt Mitchell that was too much for me to handle. Mitchell returns here, with electronics as well, Kim Cass (acoustic and electric bass), and Jeremy Viner (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Might be remarkable, but that there's so much of it makes it hard to tell (or care). B+(***) [dl]
Terry Gibbs Legacy Band: The Terry Gibbs Songbook (2022 , Whaling City Sound): Vibraphonist, birth name Julius Gubenko, recorded for Savoy in 1951, kicking off a very long career, leading his Dream Band, up to a fine 2017 record called 92 Years Young. At 98, he's even credited with a bit of "2-fingered piano" here (also the amuising "vocals on track 4"). The sextet features singer Danny Bacher and tenor saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, with son Gerry Gibbs on drums. B+(***) [sp]
Frode Gjerstad With Matthew Shipp: We Speak (2022 , Relative Pitch): Norwegian alto saxophonist, started in the early 1980s with Detail, then Circulasione Totale Orchestra. Also plays clarinet here, in duets with piano. Hard to think of anyone better in that role than Shipp. B+(**) [sp]
Rich Halley Quartet: Fire Within (2023, Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, Oregon, has turned his retirement project into a remarkable career. (Checking myself, I find that he had a few albums as far back as 1986 before I first noticed him in 2005 with Mountains and Plains, and that he was only 58 then, but the model stuck in my head, partly because I have other examples, like Fred Anderson and Mort Weiss.) I can't say that he's getting better, but he's been remarkably inspired for two decades, aided here by his best rhythm section ever: Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and Newman Taylor Baker (drums). A- [cd] [12-01]
Matthew Halsall: An Ever Changing View (2023, Gondwana): British trumpet player, 11th album since 2008, also plays keyboards and many percussion instruments, and is credited with several field recordings. He likens this to landscape painting, which gives you the idea. B+(**) [sp]
Scott Hamilton Quartet: At PizzaExpress Live: In London (2022 , PX): Tenor saxophonist, has been "a good wind" blowing retro-swing since 1978, here with his long-running quartet of John Pearce (piano), Dave Green (bass), and Steve Brown (drums), playing standards with consummate ease and grace. B+(***) [sp]
Eirik Hegdal/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Řyvind Skarbř: Superless (2022 , Řyvind Jazzforum): Norwegian saxophonist (here: C melody, sopranino, bass clarinet, synth), probably best known for his Team Hegdal, although he's played in the larger Angles configurations, in Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and else where. With guitar, bass, and drums, in an eponymous group album where he wrote five (of 8) compositions. B+(***) [sp]
Henry Hey: Trio: Ri-Metos (2023, self-released): Pianist, has another Trio album from 2003, but many side credits since 1994, including Rod Stewart and David Bowie, also the fusion band Forq. Drummer Jochen Rüeckert returns from his previous trio, with Joe Martin on bass. All contribute songs, plus a standard and two from Vince Mendoza. B+(***) [dl]
Homeboy Sandman: I Can't Sell These Either (2023, self-released): New York rapper Angelo del Villar II, has dropped short albums/long EPs several times a year since 2007, the best in recent years a compilation of stray tracks called I Can't Sell These, hence the title of this 20-track, 59:07 monster. I suspect the commercial lapses have more to do with uncleared samples than any weakness in the material, which certainly isn't obvious. A- [bc]
Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars: Live at the Ear Inn (2023, Arbors): Trad jazz trumpet player, from Detroit, based in New York, where he's led this band on Sunday nights since 2007. This draws on two dates, so there are some personnel shifts, but most tracks feature Scott Robinson (sax), John Allred (trombone), Matt Munisteri (guitar), and Neal Miner (bass). Catherine Russell sings the closer, "Back O' Town Blues." B+(***) [sp]
Snorre Kirk: Top Dog (2021 , Stunt): Drummer, from Denmark, fifth album since 2012, playing original pieces that aim to swing like Ellington and Basie. Quintet, the saxophone divided between Stephen Riley and Michael Blicher, backed by piano, guitar, and bass. Very nice. B+(***) [sp]
Location Location Location [Michael Formanek/Anthony Pirog/Mike Pride]: Damaged Goods (2023, Cuneiform): Bass, guitar, drums, jointly credited, but still mostly the guitarist's record, which is to say fractured fusion. Group name derives from recording this piecemeal, from different places, then splicing it together. B+(*) [dl]
Harold López-Nussa: Timba a la Americana (2023, Blue Note): Cuban pianist, ten or so albums since 2007. Several albums since 2007, this one a quintet with Gregoire Maret plus lots of rhythm. B+(**) [sp]
John Paul McGee: A Gospejazzical Christmas (2023, Jazz Urbano): Pianist, from Baltimore, teaches at Berklee, coined "gospejazzical" in his dissertation on "A Sound for Distressed Souls" -- the "ical" is the tail end of "classical." Probably weighs out to a third of each, stealthily sneaking up on Xmas standards (with one original). B [cd]
Thandi Ntuli With Carlos Nińo: Rainbow Revisited (2019 , International Anthem): Pianist, from South Africa, also sings, title refers back to a song from her 2019 album. Duo with the percussionist, recorded on his turf in Los Angeles. B+(**) [sp]
Řyvindland Med Eirik Hegdal & Erik Johannessen: Nonett (2021 , Řra Fonogram): Leader, and composer, here is Norwegian trumpet player Řyvind Frřberg Mathisen, who has one previous album under his own name. Featured guests play C melody sax/bass clarinet and trombone, and they're counted in the nonet, along with Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (clarinet/tenor sax), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Engin Ozsahin: Conversations in Chaos (2023, self-released): Turkish pianist, studied at New England Conservatory but returned to Istanbul. Second album, sextet, not a lot of details, but sounds like very fancy postbop. B+(**) [sp]
Robert Prester & Adriana Samargia: Quenara (2023 , Commonwealth Ave. Productions): Piano and voice, normally the singer would get top billing. He has, uh, a previous album from 2013, on this same label. She doesn't, but has a very distinctive voice and delivery on standards as well worn as "You Go to My Head," "Lover Man," "Body and Soul," and "Sophisticated Lady." Not one I especially like, but one she deserves credit for. He wrote the title song, which I've already forgotten. B+(*) [cd] [01-19]
Quartet San Francisco/Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band/Take Six: Raymond Scott Reimagined (2023, ViolinJazz): String quartet led by violinist Jeremy Cohen, trained in classical but prefers "non-traditional and eclectic," a definition that could have been coined for Scott. This is clearly their project, with the other well-established artists, a big band and a vocal group, brought in for scale and depth. With interview snippets from Scott. B+(***) [sp]
Red Hot + Ra: Solar [Sun Ra in Brasil] (2023, Red Hot Org): New York-based 50(c)(3) non-profit, raises money for "organizations on the front lines of global health epidemics, epidemics, and health crises," notably by organizing star-studded benefit albums, starting with Red Hot + Blue in 1990, taking aim at AIDS. Twenty-some albums later, this is neither their first venture into Brazil nor their first to focus on Sun Ra. Eight tracks by as many groups, with Brazilian rhythms where you might expect swing, and some rap mixed in the vocals. B+(***) [sp]
Red Hot + Ra: Nuclear War: A Tribute to Sun Ra: Volume 1 (2023, Red Hot Org): Only four artists here, all very specifically in tune with Sun Ra: Georgia Anne Muldrow (3:39), Angel Bat David (30:25), Malcolm Jiyane Tree-o (12:09), and Irreversible Entanglements (18:22). B+(**) [sp]
Ernesto Rodrigues/Joăo Madeira/Hernâni Faustino: No Strings Attached (2023, Creative Sources): Portuguese avant-string trio, Rodrigues plays violin, the other two double bass, at least for the 8-part "Expecting String Expression" (30:56). This is followed by a 32:00 live set, with Rodrigues on viola. B+(**) [bc]
Sam Ross: Live at the Mira Room, Vol. II (2023, self-released): Pianist, also plays rhodes here (mostly), in a trio with Simba Distis (upright and electric bass) and Dr. Mimi Murid (drums), following up on a similar 2021 album. Also credit the crowd, which is boisterous enough to deserve a credit, and maybe even steal the show. Short: 5 tracks, 29:51. B+(**) [cd]
Andreas Rřysum Ensemble: Mysterier (2022 , Motvind): Norwegian clarinetist, third group album, twelve-piece group of considerable power, plus vocals that don't help much. B+(**) [sp]
John Scofield: Uncle John's Band (2022 , ECM, 2CD): Guitarist, trio with Vicente Archer (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums). Fourteen songs (86:41), half originals, closes with the Grateful Dead song, opens with "Mr. Tambourine Man." B+(**) [sp]
Elijah Shiffer: Star Jelly (2021 , self-released): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, describes this as a "sax-heavy version of a Nwe Orleans-style 'brass' band" -- three or four saxes (the extra is bass sax on 5 of 8 tracks), trumpet, trombone, a revolving cast of stringed instruments, and drums. The trad jazz angle is a sweet spot for me, but the arrangements are very slippery, leaving me with wonder whether what seems exceedingly clever at first will hold up for the long haul. A- [bc]
Elijah Shiffer: City of Birds: Volume 1 (2023, self-released): Ten songs, each named for a bird sighted in New York City. Third album, alto sax, plus Kevin Sun on tenor sax, Dmitry Ishenko (bass), and Colin Hinton (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Apostolos Sideris: Past-Presented (2023, Parallel): Bassist, from Greece, seems to be in Paris now, after Istanbul and New York, with a previous album on a Spanish label. Sextet, with piano (Leo Genovese), ney, violin, bass, drums, extra percussion, with some background vocals. B+(*) [bc]
Speakers Corner Quartet: Further Out Than the Edge (2023, OTIH): Originally the house band for "the infamous hip-hop/spoken-word open-mic night Speakers' Corner in Brixton, London." Slotted as jazz, but sounds more like trip-hop, with different guests for each song, names (but not voices) I mostly recognize. B+(**) [sp]
Jason Stein/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Hum (2022 , Irritable Mystic): Bass clarinetist, has a number of albums since 2007, some quite impressive; backed here by bass and drums, for two 21-minute improv pieces. B+(**) [bc]
Elias Stemeseder/Christian Lillinger: Penumbra (2021 , Plaist): Austrian pianist, German drummer, both with sides in synthesizers and other electronics. Agreeably choppy. B+(**) [sp]
Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Jazz Is Dead 17: Lonnie Liston Smith (2023, Jazz Is Dead): Funk-fusion keyboard player, led the Cosmic Echoes 1973-85, first new record since 1998. B+(*) [sp]
Dhafer Youssef: Street of Minarets (2023, Back Beat Edition): Tunisian singer-songwriter, plays oud, has lived in Europe since 1990, mostly playing with jazz musicians: here including Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (keybs), Nguyęn Lę (guitar), Dave Holland or Marcus Miller (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri), and Adriano Dos Santos (percussion). B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Chantal Acda & Bill Frisell: Live at Jazz Middelheim (2017 , self-released): Dutch/Belgian singer-songwriter, has records going back to 1999, backed here by the famed guitarist. Originally released by Glitterhouse in 2018. B+(*) [sp]
Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1964 , Gearbox): Tenor saxophonist, an unabashed be-bopper, first records 1956, including a particularly notable appearance with Thelonious Monk. Quartet here, with a local band: Stan Tracey (piano), Malcolm Cecil (bass), and Jackie Dougan (drums), on three side-long pieces (53:54). Not to be confused with a 2008 same-title (In+Out). B+(***) [sp]
Alon Nechushtan: For Those Who Cross the Seas (2006 , ESP-Disk, 2CD): Israeli pianist, based in New York, has a half-dozen albums, mostly 2011-14. Two live sets here, the first disc called "Astral Voyages," the second "Cosmic Canticles." Band names also appear on front cover, offset just enough to spare me listing them all on the slugline, but worth mentioning here: Roy Campbell (flute/trumpet), Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen (saxophones/clarinet), William Parker (bass), and Federico Ughi (drums). A- [cd]
Peter Evans/Joel Ross/Nick Jozwlak/Savannah Harris: Being & Becoming (2019 , More Is More): Billed as a new group, but since the names are on the cover, handy to just credit them: trumpet, vibes, bass, drums. Ross has gotten a lot of praise for his Blue Notes, but this is much trickier, and he's really superb. [was: U++] A- [bc]
Elijah Shiffer and the Robber Crabs: Unhinged (2017 , self-released): Alto saxophonist, first album, group with Andrew Shillito (guitars and banjo), electric bass, and drums, with Jay Rattman on two cuts (bass saxophone and slide whistle). He has a unique sound, drawing on trad jazz but with impossibly funky rhythms. A- [bc]
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.
Kate Gentile/International Contemporary Ensemble: B i o m e i.i (2022 , Obliquity): + [yt]
Grade (or other) changes:
Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (2023, Impulse!): [was: A-] A
Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (2023, Pi): [was: A-] A
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started collecting this on Tuesday, mostly because I didn't want to let the Stevenson piece go without comment. The Mishra, which could still use some work, was also found in the Wichita Eagle that day. I had much more to write about the Ryu Spaeth piece, only some of which got tacked onto the footer section. Two points would have fit only awkwardly, but let me take a brief stab at them here:
I don't think that we, in neurotic but still fundamentally liberal America, can with certainty assert that people barely surviving in Gaza have any real, viable options. Sure, one may still hope that nonviolent means, like BDS, might persuade Israel to lessen its stifling grip over its Palestinian subjects, but it may be that all the nonviolent protest has achieved -- and it has been tried at least as often as violence -- has been to reaffirm the faith of right-wing Israelis that overwhelming force will always prevail. Even before the rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, but accelerating at an alarming rate after they joined the Netanyahu government, West Bank settlers had moved beyond their initial goal of staking claim to land to terrorizing Palestinians, hoping to drive them into exile. Israel's support for Azerbaijan's "ethnic cleansing" of Nagorno-Karabakh sure looked like a dress rehearsal for Israel driving Palestinians out of the West Bank.
While I personally believed that the revolt of Oct. 7 was ill-considered, politically reckless, and morally hazardous, their political and moral struggle was not mine to dictate or to judge. So I saw no point in condemning what appeared to be an act of desperation. Certainly not to make myself feel more righteous in comparison. Even less so as it would lend comfort to those who would take this act of violence and use as excuse to strike back even harder. And that part took no imagination on my part, as by the time I had heard the news, many Israelis were already clamoring for massive revenge -- as could have been expected, given that Israel's whole system of governing is based on their capacity for inflicting overwhelming violence.
Similarly, I can hardly condemn Israelis for defending themselves once the revolt broke out of Gaza. I would only point out that the defense was complete, and should have ended, once the attackers were rebuffed, and the border secured -- which happened within 24 hours of the initial attacks. The war since then, including some 40,000 tons of bombs Israel has dropped on Gaza, cannot be considered self-defense. This bombardment is no less than an act of systematic destruction and slaughter, an act that can only be summed up in the word "genocide."
Israelis have disputed that word, but with independence in 1948 they established a formal caste system with distinct legal status for Jews and Arabs, driving some 700,000 of the latter into exile, expropriating their property, and forbidding their return. They've also, building on the British model, regularly practiced collective punishment, including indiscriminate killing. Those are two of the three essential constituents of genocide. The third is the loss of inhibition against killing, which has been happening continuously since the 2000 Intifada and the 2006 loss of Gaza to Hamas, such that the Oct. 7 revolt merely tipped the impulse into action, with public statements to match. It is still possible that Israel's leaders will come to second thoughts and rein their killing in, but until they do, shying away from the term only encourages them to proceed.
Much more I could write on this, but time to post on schedule is running out.
Top story threads:
Israel: If you are at all unclear on how we got to the revolt on Oct. 7 and the subsequent intensification of the Israeli war against Gaza, start with this timeline: Countdown to genocide: the year before October 7.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Tweet from Daniel Denvir on points above:
Also from Nathan J Robinson:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Around the world:
Eileen Crist/Judith Lipton/David Barash: [11-24] End the insanity: For nuclear disarmament and global demilitarization.
Tom Engelhardt: [11-26] A slow-motion Gaza: But isn't it a little soon to turn "Gaza" into a metaphor for the "hell on Earth" that global warming is inching towards?
James Fallows: [11-23] Why Charlie Peters matters: The founder and editor-in-chief of Washington Monthly for 30 years (1969-2000) has died, at 96. I subscribed to the journal for several years early on, possibly from its inception, and found it to be seriously informative and generally sensible about policy workings in Washington. I was rather dismayed later on to find that Peters had coined the "neoliberal" term, though there may be an argument that what Peters had in mind differed significantly from the disparaging use of the term lately -- see Paul Glastris: [01-08] Need a new economic vision? Gotcha covered. Last thing I recall reading by Peters was a sad lament about his home state of West Virginia flipping Republican.
Eric Levitz: [11-22] OpenAI was never going to save us from the robot apocalypse.
Robert Lipsyte: [11-21] Farewell to the New York Times sports department: "Or should it be good riddance?"
Pankaj Mishra: [11-18] The west never had a chance at winning over the world: Talks about the phrase "the global south," and how it's come to the fore since Russia's invasion of Ukraine tightened the bond between the US and Europe, while estranging both from the rest of the world (now known as, the Global South). It surely can't be a surprise that the renewed and militant union of Europe and the US (aka, the West) would be viewed suspiciously by the Global South? Mishra notes that "the Biden administration failed to enlist any major country of the Global South in its cause," i.e., economic war against Russia, ostensibly to defend Ukraine. He adds: "Even worse, the conflict in Gaza may now have mortally damaged Western power and credibility in the Global South."
Olivia Nuzzi: [11-22] The mind-bending politics of RFK Jr.'s spoiler campaign. He's having a moment as a free agent presidential candidate, partly because he might appeal to scattered, disaffected groups that otherwise are stuck in the two-party straitjacket; possibly also on the 60th anniversary of the assassination that turned his family into a cult memory project. Most of his appeal will probably blow over, because the one group he has no appeal for is moderate-tempered centrists. That leaves extremists who hate both parties, and who don't care who wins. How many of them are there really?
However, note that a recent a recent Harvard/Harris Poll, which shows Trump over Biden by 6% in a two-way matchup, gives Kennedy 21% of the vote in a three-way, increasing Biden's deficit to 8%. In a five-way with West (3%) and Stein (2%), Trump loses 1%, Biden loses 2%, Kennedy 3%. St Clair (link above) comments: "If your Lesser Evil countenances the bombing of hospitals and the slaughter of nearly 6000 children in a few weeks, don't you know that you can count me out."
Andrew O'Hehir: [11-26] My mother, the debutante Communist: An American family story of love, loss and J. Edgar Hoover.
Nathan J Robinson: [11-21] Can the left reclaim "security"? A review of Astra Taylor's new book, The Age of Insecurity.
Douglas Rushkoff: [11-25] 'We will coup whoever we want!': The unbearable hubris of Musk and the billionaire tech bros. Reviews some books, starting with Walter Isaacson's Musk.
Anya Schiffrin: [10-13] Fixing disinformation online: "What will it take to regulate the abuses of Big Tech without undermining free speech?"
Katharine Q Seelye: [11-19] Rosalyn Carter, first lady and a political partner, dies at 96: I don't really have anything to say about her, good or bad, but thought I should note her passing in the plainest way possible. While trawling through the NY Times obituaries, I also noticed:
Ryu Spaeth: [11-20] Israel, Gaza, and the fracturing of the intellectual left. Title makes this seem like a big deal, but it's really just comes down to a couple pieces in Dissent between Joshua Leifer and Gabriel Winant, with side glances to a couple more journals (n+1, Jewish Currents). This sort of thing happens every now and then, usually when someone who has long identified with the left freaks out and turns on his former comrades. Back in 1967, I used to read a journal called The Minority of One, which was very strongly opposed to the American war in Vietnam . . . until June 1967, when the editor flipped to support Israel in its Six-Day War, and forgot about everything else. Something similar happened with Paul Berman after 9/11. There have been other cases of leftists turning hard right, but these two (presumably Leifer, too) insisted that they were being consistent, and others in the left had gone haywire. They created some noise, but had little if any impact on the left, which always recovered with a principled examination of the facts.
This article quotes Arielle Angel (Jewish Currents): "What we are watching is a full reactionary moment among many Jews, even some left-wing Jews, because they feel there was no space on the left for their grief." That doesn't seem like too much to ask. The left is fueled by indignity over injustice, and injustice is often first experienced as grief. But few on the left would grant anyone, even Jews (whose suffering has left an indelible mark on most Euroamerican leftists), an exclusive right to grieve, let alone a license to channel that grief into a force that strikes out at and inflicts grief on others.
Most of us realized immediately that's exactly what Israel's leaders had in mind. They saw the Oct. 7 revolt not as a tragic human loss but as an affront to their power, and they immediately moved to reassert their power, with scarcely any regard for more human losses (even on their own side). Over six weeks later, as threats of genocide were turned into practice, we need hardly debate that point.
Glenn Thrush/Serge F Kovaleski: [11-25] Stabbing of Derek Chauvin raises questions about inmate safety. Weren't there already questions? If not, why do police interrogators brag about how treacherous life in prison will be?
Jen Wieczner: [11-22] Behold the utter destruction of crypto's biggest names.
Here are a series of tweets from Corey Robin (I'm copying them down because the original format is so annoying; the chart matches the Leatherby piece above, so that is probably the uncited source here):
The comments range from stupid to facetious ("It is morally appalling that Hamas decided to start a war with a country that can mount such a powerful air assault, . . . All those tunnels & not one bomb shelter").
Corey also offered a tweet on the Ryu Spaeth article I wrote too much (but not enough) about above:
One more point I might as well make here, as I didn't consider it appropriate above, is that this article is only of interest to those on the left who are in close proximity to people with a deep psychic identity connection to the very old Zionist left (the romance of the kibbutzim) and/or the trauma of the Holocaust. The Oct. 7 attack hit these people so hard that they suspended their critical facilities, losing track of the context, and therefore unable to foresee the consequences.
Most of us immediately recognized the context that led to the revolt, and understood that the response of Israel's leaders would be genocidal. Hence, no matter how much we may or may not have grieved for the immediate victims of the revolt, we understood that their deaths would soon be dwarfed by Israel's vindictive reassertion of their overwhelming power.
It's worth noting that while such reactions are unusual on the American left, they are very common in Israel. The best example is the long-running Peace Now bloc, which formed after the 1982 war on Lebanon went sour. Ever since then, they have never failed to support initial Israeli military outbursts (e.g., 2006 in Gaza and Lebanon, and the many subsequent Operations in Gaza), although they've almost always come to regret those wars. Israelis, even ones with liberal and/or socialist temperaments, are conditioned to rally under crisis to support the state's warriors, and the national security state pulls their triggers whenever they want to strike out. It's practically an involuntary reflex, even among people who must know better.
It's great credit to Jewish Voice for Peace that they didn't fall for this triggering.
Regarding Larry Fink, I posted the following comment on Facebook:
Monday, November 20, 2023
Music: Current count 41210  rated (+50), 9  unrated (-13).
Another Speaking of Which last night. I didn't have much time to work to search out stories, even less to annotate them, but did manage a couple hours for yet another iteration of my appropriately, I would say, simple-minded solution to the Israel's war on Gaza. It's just that simple: stop it. If you don't, you'll ultimately wind up inflicting so much self-damage you won't care how much hurt you inflicted on others.
Little chance of this being recognized by the people in power, who are so smitten by the notion that all their problems can be solved by force. They're wrong. But they are capable of doing immense harm in their flailing and thrashing.
On Wednesday, I sent out an initial round of 205 invitations to cast ballots in the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll. I've sent 15-20 more invitations out since then, and will send out a few more over the next week or two. Deadline is December 15. I'm pleased with the results so far, including 14 ballots submitted, and another 60 commitments to vote.
One of the perks of running the Poll is that I get tips on lots of new albums I hadn't heard (or in many cases even heard of). I add these to my tracking file (currently 1046 jazz albums, 1255 non-jazz). You can see a number of them already below, and I suspect that new ones will be most of what I listen to in the coming month. So far 182 records have received votes. I've added the ones I haven't heard (59 music albums + 10 old, so 38% of total) to my EOY Jazz List (scroll down to the 2% note).
Of course, there's also an EOY Non-Jazz List. I've done virtually no recent prospecting for non-jazz records, as I'm trying hard to finish off my 2023 promo queue, as well as keep up with jazz ballot picks. Consequently, it's lagged more than usual (especially more than last year). That will probably change if/when I start collecting EOY lists. At the moment, that seems like a really insane thing to contemplate, but I've described it as "my favorite waste of time," so if some time opens up, I'm more likely to waste it than I am to write some magnum opus on why US foreign policy is totally bankrupt. Let alone one on 2024 elections, as I've fallen into the 20% of Democrats who no longer smile on Biden. (If you doubt why, you obviously haven't been reading lately. Go back to yesterday's link to Biden's op-ed, which most likely his aides told him is today's match for JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.)
Two new books under the "Recent Reading" widget. I enjoyed Christopher Clark's Revolutionary Spring so much I decided to read a bit more about 1848, something a bit more about the revolutions that didn't happen, hence China Miéville's book on The Communist Manifesto. It turned out to be more on the text, and less on the history, than I wanted, but still left me with warm and fuzzy feelings for my own flirtation with the red side. It also reminded me that not so long ago, no one could conceive of radical change -- something a great many saw urgent need for -- coming about without violence.
After Viet Thanh Nguyen got banned from the 92nd St. Y for signing a petition calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, I saw an interview with him, and got interested in his new memoir. Then I noticed Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, and figured I should read that one first. Just started it, and I'm already finding things I'd like to share. I've written quite a bit about his subject -- not specifically on Vietnam, but you need only check my birth certificate to see that as the pivotal event in my life.
I ordered two more books. One, mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, is Norman Finkelstein's Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, which seems almost quaint now, given how much more devastating Israel's war against Gaza is now than the periodic assaults since 2006. However, as Nguyen should be among the first to point out, the extreme severity of the current genocide depends for its justification on forgetting everything that Israel did previously, lest the Oct. 7 revolt be viewed as anything other than unprovoked murderous frenzy.
The other book is the paperback reprint of Carlos Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era: a book of book reports, that looks like it might be a useful reference.
New records reviewed this week:
Jason Adasiewicz: Roscoe Village: The Music of Roscoe Mitchell (2023, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Vibraphonist, Chicago's go-to guy for the instrument since the early 2000s. He notes that "tuned metal percussion figures prominently in the sound universe of Roscoe Mitchell," so decided to give it a try with a solo album. Nice, but I don't quite get it. Nice piece of art on the album cover, too. B+(**) [bc]
Susan Alcorn/Septeto Del Sur: Canto (2023, Relative Pitch): Pedal steel guitarist, from Baltimore, debut 2000, Discogs credits her with 30 albums. She's joined here by a Chilean folk group, playing and improvising on her compositions, and singing a Victor Jara song to close. B+(**) [cd]
Maria Baptist Quintet: Essays on Jazz (2023, self-released, 2CD): German pianist, several albums since 2002, quintet with two saxophonists (Jan Von Klewitz and Richard Maegraith), bass, and drums, a rather rousing postbop group. Long: 108 minutes. B+(***) [sp]
John Bishop: Antwerp (2023, Origin): Drummer, from Seattle, runs this mainstream label, which did much to put Seattle in the jazz map, and has since branched out, especially to Chicago, Denver, and wherever UNT alumni gather, and here to Belgium, for a trio with Bram Weiters (piano) and Piet Verbist (bass) -- familiar names, especially if you've been on the label's mailing list. B+(**) [cd]
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Kings Highway (2023, Stoner Hill): Drummer, called his 1998 Blue Note debut album Fellowship, which could be taken as the band name, one he's stuck with ever since. With original members Jon Cowherd (keyboards), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor/soprano sax), and Christopher Thomas (bass), the only change Kurt Rosenwinkel taking over guitar (from Jeff Parker). B+(*) [sp]
BlankFor.Ms/Jason Moran/Marcus Gilmore: Refract (2022 , Red Hook): Electronica producer Tyler Gilmore, has a couple previous albums, joined here by two well known jazz musicians, on piano and drums. The electronics help out, and the pianist is formidable, though it all slows down on the backstretch. B+(***) [sp]
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: Playing With Fire (2023, True North/Linus Entertainment): Canadian soprano saxophonist, formed a bond with Cuban music early in her career (1992, Spirits of Havana), fourth album with this Cuban-Canadian group. I don't doubt the authenticity of the percussion, but I have trouble hearing the vocals as even jazz-adjacent. B+(*) [sp]
Emmet Cohen: Master Legacy Series Volume 5: Featuring Houston Person (2023, Bandstand): Pianist, has a few volumes from 2011 on featuring his own estimable work, along side this series, which started with Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, and Tootie Heath before moving on to the saxophonists, adding Benny Golson to the Heath volume, followed by George Coleman, and now Person -- who, by the way, sounds fabulous right out of the gate. With Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums). A- [sp]
Sylvie Courvoisier: Chimaera (2022 , Intakt, 2CD): Swiss pianist, many albums since 1997, leads a sextet through a series of extended compositions, inspired by painter Odilon Redon ("a universe of symbolism, dreams and fantasy"). Group includes two trumpets (Wadada Leo Smith and Nate Wooley), Christian Fennesz (guitar/electronics), Drew Gress (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums/vibes). This would sit nicely in one of Smith's recent boxes. A- [sp]
Dry Thrust: The Less You Sleep (2020 , Trost): Trio of Georg Graewe (organ), Martin Siewert (guitar, electronics), and Didi Kern (drums). Graewe is well known as an avant-pianist. The other have been kicking around the fringe since the late 1990s, with Kern's background mostly in noise-rock (but lately he's popped up with Gustafsson and Vandermark). Interesting but scattered: your basic organ trio improvising not on soul-groove but on no-wave noise. B+(*) [sp]
Antoine Drye With Strings: Retreat to Beauty (Oblation Vol. 3: Providence!) (2021 , Cellar Music): Trumpet player, 2003 debut titled Oblation, so this has been slow coming. Strings just add some sweetener, setting up the voice at the end. B+(*) [sp]
George Freeman: The Good Life (2022 , HighNote): Guitarist from Chicago, at 96 still the younger brother of saxophonist Von Freeman. Two sessions here, one with organ (Joey DeFrancesco, a couple months before he died) and drums (Lewis Nash), the other with bass (Christian McBride) and drums (Carl Allen). B+(**) [sp]
Eric Friedlander: She Sees (2023, Skipstone): Cellist, reconvenes his 2020 Sentinel band -- hard-edged guitarist Ava Mendoza and percussionist Diego Espinosa -- and adds electric bassist Stomu Takeishi. B+(*) [sp]
George Gee Swing Orchestra: Winter Wonderland (2023, self-released): Bandleader, formed his swing band in 1980, and a later 10-piece group called Jump, Jive & Wailers (after the Louis Prima song), but I'm not finding albums for either. (I have a 2007 release in my database.) Xmas music always brings out the bah humbug in me, and this did at first, but the brass section softened me up, then I loved their take on the merely Xmas-adjacent "Baby It's Cold Outside" (criss-crossing vocals by Hilary Gardner and John Dokes, not quite Armstrong and Fitzgerald but really great). I even found myself enjoying "The Christmas Song" after that (if not "O Tannenbaum" and "Jingle Bells"). B+(**) [cd]
Grupo Frontera: El Comienzo (2023, VHR Music): Mexican-American group from Edinburg, in the southern tip of Texas. First album. B+(**) [sp]
Gabriel Guerrero & Quantum: Equilibrio (2019 , Origin): Pianist, born in Colombia, based in New York, website shows this as third album as leader vs. one side credit, Discogs has the split 0-5. Group here is mostly quartet, with sax (Seth Trachy), bass, and drums, with strings on one track and percussion on another, playing complex originals. B+(**) [cd]
David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio Melody (2023, Prescott): Pianist, can't find him on Discogs but AAJ shows four previous albums: three Vintage Christmas titles, plus one for Valentine's Day. Trio with bass and drums. Best I can say for it is that mid-way I forgot that I was listening to Xmas music, but looking at the song list doesn't suggest why. B [cd]
I.P.A.: Grimsta (2022 , Cuneiform): Norwegian group, fifth album since 2009: Atle Nymo (tenor sax/contrabass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mattias Stĺhl (vibes/soprano sax), Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (bass), and Hĺkon Mjäset Johansen (drums). B+(**) [dl]
Val Jeanty/Candice Hoyes/Mimi Jones: Nite Bjuti (2021 , Whirlwind): Most often title is given as group name, but the individuals (drums/electronics, vocals, bass) also appear on the cover. Jeanty is Haitian, mostly shows up adding electronic mojo to jazz artists (Kris Davis, Wallace Roney, Terri Lyne Carrington). Nice balance against the bass. Vocals could show up on trip-hop. B+(**) [sp]
Hannah Marks: Outsider, Outlier (2022 , Out of Your Head): Bassist (electric & double), from Brooklyn, out on a jazz label but initially sounds more punk (Sarah Rossy singing), then arty, then Nathan Reising inserts a nice alto sax solo, then, well, I don't know. B+(*) [cd]
Sarah McKenzie: Without You (2023, Normandy Lane Music): Australian jazz singer, pianist, sixth album since 2011, wrote four songs here, the rest Brazilian standards, mostly Jobim. Done expertly, notably because the guitarist is Romero Lubambo. B+(*) [cd]
Hedvig Mollestad Weejuns: Weejuns (2022 , Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitarist, double live-album debut with new trio: Stĺle Storlřken (organ) and Ole Mofjell (drums). B+(***) [r]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych I (2022, SMP): Tenor sax and piano duo, relationship goes back at least to 1996, amounts to well over a dozen duo albums, and another dozen-plus trios. First of three more, all released on the same day. B+(***) [bc]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych II (2022, SMP): Original idea here was to put these duets together in a single "CD-LP-Cassette-Box-Set [which] was specifically recorded for three types of formats." My guess is that the 12-track, 55:42 Tryptych I was the CD, and that this 2-track 36:27 is the LP. Impossible for me to tell whether the music is the same or different, but it's easily equivalent. B+(**) [bc]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Tryptych III (2022, SMP): Reading the fine print more closely, I find that this ("Side A" and "Side B," 30:58) is the cassette version, "a contemplative set with a dramatic ambience." B+(***) [bc]
Jason Roebke: Four Spheres (2022 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Bassist, has played in many Chicago avant groups since 2000. Quartet here with Edward Wilkerson Jr. (tenor sax, alto clarinet), Mabel Kwan (piano), and Marcus Evans (drums), all (curiously enough) also credited with metronomes. B+(**) [bc]
Dave Sewelson/Stephen Moses/Jochem van Dijk/Steve Holtje: Orca Uprising (2023, MechaBenzaiten): Baritone saxophonist, long-time member of Microscopic Septet, with drums, electric bass, and keyboard. B [bc]
Russ Spiegel: Caribbean Blue (2023, Ruzztone Music): Guitarist, albums go back to 1985, has an organ-drums trio here, plus picks up some guests, including Brian Lynch (trumpet 4 of 10 tracks), Tim Armacost (tenor sax on 6, flute on 1), and Hendrik Meurkens (chromatic harmonica on 3). B+(**) [cd]
Trio Grande: Urban Myth (2023, Whirlwind): Will Vinson (alto sax, wurlitzer, synths), Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Nate Wood (drums, bass) -- the first two writing three and four pieces, with two covers (Roy Hargrove, Nik Kershaw). First cut points to some funk-fusion, but they're way too multi-faceted to stay there, especially when Vinson returns to his first calling. B+(**) [cd]
Trio San: Hibiki (2022 , Jazzdor): Trio of Satoko Fujii (piano), Taiko Saito (vibes), and Yuko Oshima (drums), first for the trio, a live set from a festival in Berlin. Takes a bit to get going, and moves uneasily when it does, but impressive slow and somber, more so vibrant. B+(***) [cd]
Anna Webber/Matt Mitchell: Capacious Aeration (2023, Tzadik): Duo, tenor sax/flute and piano. High level, but sketchy. B+(**) [sp]
Mars Williams/Vasco Trilla: Critical Mass (2021 , Not Two): Duo, reeds and toy instruments for Williams -- a Hal Russell disciple, Vandermark Five founder, acid jazz renegade, and author of several An Ayler Xmas volumes -- drums and percussion for Trilla. Some noise, some drone, some inspired jazz. B+(***) [sp]
Joe Wittman: Trio Works (2023, self-released): Guitarist, from New York, has a previous album, this one a trio with Daniel Duke (bass) and Keith Balla (drums), playing six originals and two covers ("Sweet Lorraine" and "Born to Be Blue"). Mainstream guitar groove, nicely done. B+(**) [cd]
Joe Wittman/Vito Dieterle/Jesse Breheney/Josh Davis: Night Out (2022 , self-released): Guitarist's first album, out a few months before Trio Works, with tenor sax, bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]
Miguel Zenón/Dan Tepfer: Internal Melodies (2023, Main Door Music): Alto sax and piano duo, the pianist from France, with an astrophysics degree, has a Goldberg Variations and a Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys, but is best known for his duos with Lee Konitz. No Latin Jazz for Zenón here. He's just very adroitly tuned into what the pianist is doing. B+(***) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Fred Anderson: The Milwaukee Tapes, Vol. 2 (1980 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Tenor saxophonist, born in Louisiana, moved to Chicago, helped found AACM, recorded a bit in the 1970s but mostly got by as the owner of a club, restarting his career when he turned 65 in 1994, most often working with his nephew, drummer Hamid Drake. John Corbett released the first volume of these tapes in 2000 as part of Atavistic's Unheard Music Series (virtually everything there is worth checking out), only now coming out with a second set. Quartet with Billie Brimfield (trumpet), Larry Hayrod (bass), and Drake (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Graham Collier: Down Another Road @ Stockholm Jazz Days '69 (1969 , My Only Desire): Bassist (1937-2011), one of the major figures in British jazz to emerge in the late 1960s, leading a sextet here: Hary Beckett (trumpet/flugelhorn), Nick Evans (trombone), Stan Sulzmann (tenor/alto sax), Karl Jenkins (oboe/piano), and John Marshall (drums). This live set expands on five (of six) songs from his third album, Down Another Road. Remarkable compositions and performances. Clearly someone I need to research further. A- [sp]
Eric Ghost: Secret Sauce (1975 , Jazz Room): Jazz flutist Eric Barth Sanders, released two albums 1974-75, had his career interupted by a jail sentence for manufacturing LSD, so his claim to "psychedelic" has some credence. With piano, bass, and free-ranging percussion. B+(***) [sp]
Milford Graves With Arthur Doyle & Hugh Glover: Children of the Forest (1976 , Black Editions Archive): Previously unissued tapes from the percussionist's archive: a trio date with Doyle (tenor sax, flute) and Glover ("klaxon, percussion, vaccine"), a duo with Glover (tenor sax), and a bit of solo (3:13) to close. Graves is fascinating to focus on throughout. Whether you can largely depends on your tolerance for noise: Doyle has always been a screecher, and often little more, although he brings exceptional energy to his part here. Glover has similar intent, but is much less imposing. B+(***) [sp]
Roy Hargrove: The Love Suite: In Mahogany (1993 , Blue Engine): Trumpet player (1969-2018), 1990 debut album was called Diamond in the Rough, led to him winning DownBeat's "rising star" 1991-93, and eventually (2021) entering their hall of fame. Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned him to do this major piece in 1993, then sat on the tape 30 years? With Jesse Davis (alto sax), Ron Blake (tenor sax), Andre Hayward (trombone), Marc Cary (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). Live, sounds great, even with the unconventional climax of scat vocal, long drum solo, and outro credits. Only explanation I can imagine why this was held back so long is that the boss man was jealous. A [sp]
Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (1966-68 , Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): A third 2-CD set for the late pianist and his trio, with Jamil Nasser on bass and Frank Grant on drums. Dependably superb, as you'd expect. B+(***) [cd] [11-24]
Paul Lytton/Erhard Hirt: Borne on a Whim: Duets, 1981 (1981 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duets, drums and live electronics for the famed British drummer, electric guitars and dobro for the German guitarist -- not someone I recalled, but Discogs credits him with 20 albums, and I recognize a couple. B+(**) [bc]
Les McCann: Never a Dull Moment! Live From Coast to Coast 1966-1967 (1963-67 , Resonance, 3CD): Pianist, from Kentucky, never seemed to get much respect for his distinctive mix of soul jazz and boogie-woogie, but did get an actual hit record in 1969, with Eddie Harris on Swiss Movement (2.5 stars in Penguin Guide, but in my 1K list). This collects five live dates from Seattle (Penthouse) and one from New York (Village Vanguard), where he does his thing, and keeps doing it until he gets really good at it. (Looks like one cut from 1963 belies the subtitle.) A- [cd] [12-01]
Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio: Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings (1965 , Resonance, 2CD): For many years, it seemed like every American jazz guitarist took Wes Montgomery as their model -- a spell even more total than Charlie Parker and (later) John Coltrane held for saxophonists. I've long been skeptical (really for all three), but when Pat Metheny called Smokin' at the Half Note "the greatest jazz guitar album ever made," I had to check it out. I found it, "complete," in a 2-CD compilation, Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides (probably where I got the Metheny quote), and have since collected CD reissues, the older one giving Wynton Kelly Trio top billing, a later one headlining Montgomery. Metheny's not right, but he's not far off base either: there is some truly remarkable guitar there -- Kelly and the rhythm section (Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb) are pretty great, too. What's offered here aren't outtakes from the same session, but snippets from other live shots from the same year and venue, with spoken intros and a revolving cast of bassists (Chambers, Ron Carter, Larry Ridley, Herman Wright, and Ridley again). There are, for sure, short stretches where Montgomery is on top of his game, and those are sublime. And there's a nice booklet, with a Bill Milkowski essays, and some appreciations from other musicians. This fits into Montgomery's discography rather like the Royal Roost broadcasts do for Parker. How indispensable they are is up to you. B+(***) [cd] [12-01]
Michel Petrucciani: The Montreux Years (1990-98 , BMG/Montreux): The big jazz festival in Switzerland has been an annual affair since 1967. Dozens of artists have released tapes of their performances there, so it's unsurprising that the Foundation itself would want to get into the act. This draws on four performances by the diminuitive French pianist -- who died in 1999, at 37, of a congenital ailment that is impossible to detect in his masterful playing. Selections include duos with bassist Miroslav Vitous, a quartet with synthesizer, a quintet with Steve Grossman on sax, and a sextet with Stefano Di Battista. This winds up being an excellent sampler. A- [sp]
Cal Tjader: Catch the Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-1967 (1963-67 , Jazz Detective/Elemental, 2CD): Vibraphonist (1925-82), parents were "Swedish American vaudevillians," moved to Bay Area when he was two, learned to play piano and drums, and tap dance, started out in Dixieland bands, was playing drums in Dave Brubeck's group when he got interested in vibes. There are many testimonials in the booklet here, including one by Terry Gibbs on this story, and how Gibbs "showed him some things," although his knack for "Latin kick" came elsewhere. Tjader's groups from 1953 on were widely recorded. At one point, I tried figuring out who had the most jazz albums among artists I had none from, and Tjader was the easy winner. I picked up a record with Stan Getz after that, but Tjader remains a gaping hole in my expertise. So unlike most recent live archival trawls, I have little to compare this with, giving it an air of fresh discovery. This collects six sets, all quintets with piano, bass, drums, and Latin percussion (especially congas), and it's quite delightful. A- [cd]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Bouncin' With Dex (1975 , SteepleChase): One of many albums the tenor saxophonist recorded during his years in Copenhagen. First side starts with "Billie's Bounce" and ends with a Gordon original called "Benji's Bounce," with "Easy Living" in between, another Gordon piece and "Four" on the other side. Quartet is the cream of Copenhagen: Tele Montoliu (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). A- [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Stable Mabel (1975, SteepleChase): With Horace Parlan (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), six standards, ranging from "In a Sentimental Mood" to "Red Cross," most stretched out to 8-9 minutes. B+(***) [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Cheese Cake (1964 , SteepleChase): A live radio shot from his early days in Copenhagen, with Tele Montoliu (piano), NHŘP (bass), and Alex Riel (drums). Short and sweet. B+(**) [r]
Dexter Gordon Quartet: I Want More (1964 , SteepleChase): Another live radio shot from Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, again with Montoliu and NHŘP, this time with Rune Carlsson on drums. This was a prime period for him, and nearly everything sounds great. B+(***) [r]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, November 19, 2023
Speaking of Which
I'm mostly working on the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll this week, and probably every week until the first of January, so this weekly exercise is being demoted to a part-time, background project, making it even more cryptic and scattered than usual.
Still, let me say a few words up top -- or reiterate, as I've said pretty much the same thing in recent weeks. The main story is, again, Israel's war, which is no longer just against Gaza, but has extended to the West Bank and the border with Lebanon. Israel's leaders have always understood themselves to be at war with the Palestinian people and the broader Arab neighborhood, the purpose of which is to utterly dominate the region, reducing Palestinians to an "utterly defeated people," out of sight and out of mind, effectively dead. You can date their war back to 1948, or earlier. You can find seeds in Herzl's 1896 The Jewish State, which started growing in 1920 when Britain set up its "Jewish homeland," playing its typical divide-and-conquer game. But the idea is older still: at least since 1492, Europeans have moved to new lands and immediately started plotting to subjugate, or better still eliminate, the people they found there. So this first point, that the war did not start on October 7, should be too obvious to have to dwell on. Still, we may treat it as a new phase or level, as the shock of the Oct. 7 revolt gave Israel an excuse to implement the genocide that Zionism always implied.
The second point is that the Oct. 7 revolt, and the subsequent retaliation and escalation by Israel, was not necessary, and could easily have been prevented, at least by Israel's current and recent leaders. (Most obviously Netanyahu, but it's hard to discern any fundamental differences going back to, well, Ben-Gurion, with only Sharett and Rabin offering vague and conflicted gestures that might have pointed toward some form of peaceful co-existence.)
Israel -- by which I mean its political leaders, a group that could have fit within a meeting room and/or a conference call, and not the whole nation -- could simply have decided to contain the damage of Oct. 7, and not to compound the damage by retaliating. They didn't do so because they've locked themselves into a logic that tries to solve all problems by asserting their power. They may argue that their policies have worked well enough so far, so will work well enough in the future, but they are wrong: they've only appeared to have worked because they've never seriously assayed the costs.
The revolt itself could have been prevented in either of two ways. The specific people who organized and led the revolt -- for lack of more precise names, we might as well follow everyone else and call them Hamas, but we're talking about a small and isolated subset of people affiliated with Hamas, and quite probably others not in any way part of Hamas -- presumably had enough free will (but do we really know this?) to have decided not to act. That they did revolt suggests not malice so much as desperation, and mere luck in the outcome.
The other way to prevent revolt is to create conditions where Palestinians would have no compelling reason to revolt. There are lots of things that can be done in this regard (and Israel has even, on rare occasions, tried some, which worked as well as they could, as long as they were in place). Almost all internal conflicts end, or simply fade into oblivion, with some kind of accommodation. Israel is peculiarly, but not inevitably, resistant to the idea, but it's the only real path out of their quandry.
Given these percepts, I've laid out a fairly simple way to end the war in Gaza, which gives Israel a free hand to implement when they are ready, which is favorable enough to Israeli interests they should be happy to accept, and which accords Palestinians in Gaza a fair hope for respect and recovery. It does not attempt to solve any issues beyond the Gaza front, so does not require Israel to address its abuses of Palestinians within Israel and its other occupied territories, or its border issues with other countries. Very briefly, the steps are:
Note that nothing here requires Israel to dismantle its apartheid regime elsewhere, nor does it protect Israel from war crime and human rights charges (except for Gaza up to the hand off). Nothing here keeps world from showing its reservations over Israel, especially through BDS programs. Israel will remain, for the time anyway, racist and militarist. It just won't have Gaza to kick around any more. Given how much kicking they've done, especially since 2006, that in itself should reduce the conflict, and make other aspects of it easier to deal with, but that ultimately depends on Israelis growing up and becoming responsible citizens of the world, as opposed to their current preference as tyrants over one small patch of it.
I'm pretty certain that, given the chance, a democratic Gaza will not tolerate any attacks on Israel. Some Gazans may still decide to join ISIS or other extremist groups, but they will have to go into exile to do so, and will no longer be Gaza's responsibility. Plus, there will be far fewer of them once Israel stops "mowing the grass."
Other topics could be added to this, but why complicate things? I believe that there should be a right to exile, which would allow Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to leave the country. That would be a better solution than simply trading hostages/prisoners.
My guiding rule for negotiations is to try to get to the right answer, one that works for all sides, with a minimum of impacts, and measure to increase trust and transparency. That may not always be possible, in which case you should look for other ways to compensate for perceived losses. (Gaza, in particular, is going to need a lot of aid.)
Let's put this part in bold:
Top story threads:
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Ukraine War and American Geopolitics: While the Ukraine quagmire only deepens, other stories pop up that fit into the broader domain of America's arms racket and imperial ambitions.
Around the world:
Liza Featherstone: [11-17] Rich people in the US have been allowed to get way too rich.
Paul Rosenberg: [11-19] When a liberal president goes to war: Lessons of the LBJ era are relevant today.
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-17] Roaming Charges: Politics of the lesser exterminators.
Legacy: [11-19] Gerald "Jerry" Paske: Obituary. I'm saddened to note the death of my first philosophy professor, at 90. He taught the 101 intro course at Wichita State University, a big lecture class, and immediately turned us to reading Charles Sanders Peirce, the most interesting of the American pragmatists, and a perhaps unknowing gateway into the Marburg Neokantians. He always seemed like a decent, sensible guy, but the event that most impressed me was when, immediately after the Attica massacre, he put aside his prepared text and talked extemporaneously about the contempt for humanity that stoked the slaughter. After we returned to Wichita, he had retired, but every now and then he would write letters to the Eagle, always insightful, reliably decent. I found out then that he had written a short book, Why the Fundamentalist Right Is So Fundamentally Wrong. I tried to get in touch with him after my nephew Mike Hull finished his movie, Betrayal at Attica, but I never heard back.
[PS: In looking Paske up, I also found out that another of my WSU philosophy professors, Anthony Genova, died in 2010. I took his course on logic, which was mostly symbolic, but the opening section on informal fallacies was eye-opening. There are dozens of examples in the pieces I cite every week.]
I also see that Jonathan David Mott, the author of the blog Zandar Versus the Stupid, has passed away, at 48. I can't say as I've ever read him, but got the tip from No More Mister Nice Blog, who wrote: "He was always one of the most perceptive bloggers out there, and I will miss hearing from him as the world goes to hell."
I'm reminded that Norman G. Finkelstein published a book in 2018 called Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, which seems a bit premature at the moment, but no more so than it would have been to write a book on how alarming you found Nazi anti-semitism after Kristallnacht in 1938 (or after the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, when the die was cast, but still cloaked under the guise of law). Still, the book goes into great detail on Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report, the Mavi Marmara, and Operation Protective Edge. The preface opens:
It's unfortunate that we keep resorting to Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, the Slave Power in the United States, to provide some historical context for what Israel has done to Gaza, but those are by far the most relevant examples we are mostly aware of. But that's pretty much Israel's peer group. And I suppose those examples do offer one small bit of hope: they offer a range of possible endings to the still unfinished story of Israel and Gaza. In South Africa, reason and decency dismantled Apartheid. The other two regimes were destroyed in war, but not before the Nazis killed 6 million Jews, and lost 12 million of their own. The slave states lost their war as badly, but recovered to create a new system of oppression, which took another 100 years to dismantle (and could still use some work).
Monday, November 13, 2023
Music: Current count 41160  rated (+52), 22  unrated (-6).
Spent way too much time the last few days knocking together another Speaking of Which. To little or no avail, I suspect, but that's what we do around here.
What I should have been doing was getting the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll rolling. I've been saying all along that I'd get the ballots sent out by November 15, which this week is known as Wednesday. I do have the website set up, but have a lot more writing I want to get done -- both to explain the nitty gritty details to users, voters, and myself. The voting itself will be exactly as it was last year, and many years before that. The big problem is deciding who gets to vote, contacting them, and making sure they're on board. We dropped from 156 to 151 voters last year, and I fear that was mostly due to email failures. My fears in that regard got much worse early this year when I discovered that lots of mail from my server wasn't getting delivered. Fixing that was never clear nor simple, so I'm starting from an expectation that this is going to be a tough slog.
It would be nice if all my voters read this blog, or some blog I could communicate via, or at least followed me on X, but that's certainly not the case. What I do have to communicate with are two mailing lists. One is kept in my mailer, which I can then run through a "mail merge" extension to generate individualized messages. I have a shortened invite file, which I intend to run through that grinder later this week. Those I consider the official invites. (For late invites, I'll just use that as boilerplate for private messages.) The other is a GNU Mailman list on my server, which more or less has the same addresses (but maintained separately, ugh!). I'm going to send them a "heads up" message before I send out the invites. Then I'll use that list for subsequent updates: probably 2-3 reminders to vote, a deadline notice, an updates or two on publication dates, including a done. Neither of these work as well as I'd like, but they make it possible to keep most people fairly well informed along the way.
I thought I'd get started on expanding the voter list more than a month ago, and indeed I did (barely) get started, but once again I'm up against a crunch deadline. I have a few new names ready to add now, and a system set up to find more, but I'm still looking for helpful suggestions. One thing I have discovered so far is that the talent pool isn't lacking. I sent out 200 invites last year, to get 151 ballots back. I'm hoping for maybe 250 invites this year. I doubt it will make much difference to the standings, but 50 more voters will probably add 150 more albums to the overall list, and that, I think, would be a big plus. One thing I do with my tracking file is include any year-old album (2022) that I've only noticed in 2023 (i.e., that wasn't in the 2022 tracking file -- one that included everything that got a vote last year) and I have about 75 such records so far this year. By the way, in this year's file the current jazz count is 952 (603 heard by me).
I managed to make a first pass on my EOY files for Jazz and Non-Jazz, currently with 60 and 42 A-list new releases, respectively. We still have a fair ways to go, but that's well below 2022's 75 jazz and way below 2022's 83 non-jazz. For B+(***) albums, new jazz has 145 (vs. 195 in 2022), new non-jazz has 77 (vs. 122 in 2022)
The overall rated number is 1085 in 2023 (604 jazz), vs. 1669 in 2022 (898 jazz), so I'm down 34.9% in rated records this year, down 32.7% in jazz, more in non-jazz. HM/A-list jazz is down 26.2%, while non-jazz is down much more, 44.3%. In some sense, I'm not surprised: The 2022 totals were ridiculously high, so I knew I was going to slip, and through the health scares and what not I figured that to be a good thing. I can't keep racking up those numbers, and having passed 41,000, I don't really want to anymore.
Those numbers will even out a bit over the next couple months, but the drop from 83 to 42 is pretty extreme. One odd thing is that the last two Christgau Consumer Guides have failed to land a single A- on my list (after 4 in September). I didn't think much of that in October, which still has several albums I haven't found, but only Hemlocke Springs in November inspired so much as a second play. But thus far only 14 of my 42 A-list non-jazz albums got an A/A- from Christgau (2 of which I bumped on re-listens after his reviews). Probably says more about me than him, but I know not what.
Lots of records, hastily considered, below. Dave Bayles was actually a post-break listen today (so not in the 52 count), but I figured I might as well report it now. Ortiz, by the way, was a previous Monday listen, so a long stretch where very little blew me away.
Naked Lunch, by the way, was in response to a question, but I haven't gotten around to writing it up in answer form yet.
One more note: I added some code to the RSS generator to split the feed to just provide Music Week or Speaking of Which files: see the left nav menu, under Networking. I never got much feedback on how the RSS stuff is working (and rarely look at it myself, although my mailer dutifully collects the entries). But I regularly look at No More Mister Nice Blog, and I'd like to get back on his blog roll, so it seemed like a good idea. I also found that the Christgau RSS feed has been broken for months, which nobody pointed out. All that took was a "&" instead of "&" in the content, and kerblooey!
New records reviewed this week:
Lina Allemano/Axel Dörner: Aphelia (2019 , Relative Pitch): Two trumpet duets, oscillating between ambient and drone with occasional farts. B+(*) [sp]
JD Allen: This (2023, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, introduced himself in 1998, mostly works in trios, but this is the first to employ electronics (Alex Bonney) in place of bass, with Gwilym Jones on drums. The electronics works well enough, but it still comes down to the man with the horn. B+(***) [sp]
Atlantic Road Trip: One (2023, Calligram): Quintet, recorded in Chicago, so it was probably Scottish alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow tripping, meeting up with trumpet player Chad McCullough, backed with vibes, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (2023, Calligram): Drummer, based in Milwaukee, first album, joined by bassist Clay Schaub (who wrote 5 of 9 songs), and trumpet player Russ Johnson (who wrote 3, and arranged the Monk cover). Very nice showcase for Johnson, who has long impressed. A- [cd]
Bombino: Sahel (2023, Partisan): Tuareg guitarist and songwriter from Agadez, Niger, Omara Moctar, fifth studio album since 2011, all pretty much equal. B+(***) [sp]
Boygenius: The Rest (2023, Interscope, EP): Four songs, 12:06, could easily have fit on The Record, but sucker-priced at $12 for CD, $20 for vinyl. No reason to trust me on them, but I do keep trying, and it's not much of a burden. B [sp]
Zach Bryan: Summertime Blues (2022, Warner, EP): Country singer-songwriter, has produced a lot since his 2019 debut, releasing this 9-song, 28:07 "EP" less than two months after his double album American Heartbreak (34 songs, 121:21). B+(**) [sp]
Zach Bryan: Boys of Faith (2023, Warner, EP): Five songs, 15:59, title track shared with Bon Iver, another with Noah Kahan. B+(**) [sp]
Calcanhar: Jump (2023, Clean Feed): Portuguese duo, Joăo Mortágua (alto/soprano sax) and Carlos Azevedo (piano), both have previous albums, but not many. B+(*) [bc]
Chief Adjuah: Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning (2023, Ropeadope): Or Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, anything but Christian Scott, who's not only lost his name but his trumpet too, here playing n'goni, other African-inspired instruments, and singing, although the latter often draws on the chiefs of New Orleans Indians. B+(***) [sp]
CMAT: Crazymad, for Me (2023, AWAL): Irish singer-songwriter, initials for Ciara Mary Alice Thompson, second album, impressive range with some pop hooks, has some serious props, but doesn't quite sit right with me. B+(***) [sp]
Mike DiRubbo: Inner Light (2023, Truth Revolution): Alto saxophonist, tenth release as leader, backed by a organ (Brian Charette), guitar (Andrew Renfroe), drums (Jongkuk Kim) trio, soul jazz but in the church of Coltrane. B+(***) [cd] [11-17]
Mia Dyberg Trio: Timestretch (2022 , Clean Feed): Danish alto saxophonist, several albums since 2016, free jazz trio with bass (Asger Thomsen) and drums (Simon Forchhammer). B+(*) [sp]
Nataniel Edelman Trio: Un Ruido De Agua (2022 , Clean Feed): Pianist, from Argentina, second album, a trio with featured names on the cover: Michael Formanek (bass), and Michaël Attias (alto sax). Quite nice. B+(***) [bc]
Phillip Greenlief/Scott Amendola: Stay With It (2017 , Clean Feed): Saxophonist (alto/tenor, also clarinet), new to me but he released a duo with Amendola (drums) way back in 1995, and has racked up another 54 credits (per Discogs) since then, some of which I've certainly heard. Starts impressively free, loses a bit on the change of pace. B+(***) [sp]
Fritz Hauser & Pedro Carneiro: Pas De Deux (2022 , Clean Feed): Swiss drummer, his Solodrumming from 1985 is highly regarded. Joined here by Carneiro, on marimba. Pretty minimal. B [bc]
Scott Hesse Trio: Intention (2023, Calligram): Guitarist, has a self-released album from 1998, a previous trio on Origin from 2015. Based in Chicago, backed by bass (Clark Sommers) and drums (Dana Hall), plays three originals, covers of Coltrane, Shorter, Coleman, and Kern. B+(**) [cd]
The Hives: The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons (2023, Disques Hives): Swedish rock band, released four albums 1997-2007, one in 2012, now this sixth one. I'm unclear on the back story, but some of the sharpest garage rock I've heard in a long time. B+(***) [sp]
Horse Lords: Live in Leipzig (2022 , RVNG Intl., EP): Post-rock group from Baltimore, debut 2012, instrumental (sax, bass, guitar, drums, incorporating electronics. Four songs, 21:46. B+(*) [sp]
Mikko Innanen/Stefan Pasborg/Cedric Piromalli: Can You Hear It? (2022 , Clean Feed): Sax (sopranino/alto/baritone, oboe), drums, organ, with Lori Freedman voice (two tracks). B+(**) [bc]
Guillermo Klein Quinteto: Telmo's Tune (2023, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Argentina, studied at Berklee, based in New York, albums since 1998, most with larger groups. Quintet here with Chris Cheek (tenor/soprano sax), Leo Genovese (piano), Matt Pavolka (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**) [sp]
L'Rain: I Killed Your Dog (2023, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter Taja Cheek, although her songs are more likely to be instrumental vamps with vocals for shading. B+(**) [sp]
Liquid Mike: S/T [Self-Titled] (2023, Kitschy Spirit, EP): Indie group from Marquette, Michigan, with guitar (Mike Maple), synth (Monica Nelson), bass, and drums, the first two singing (but mainly him). Fourth album, everyone uses S/T as the title but cover reads self-titled (twice; format suggests they just unwrapped the cassette artwork). Eleven songs clocking in at 18:06 without feeling rushed. Sound immediately reminded me of Dead Milkmen, but not that funny, and much more into layering. B+(***) [sp]
Liquid Mike: Stuntman (2021, Lost Dog): First album, 14 songs, 30:39. They sort of got their sound together. Now, content maybe? B [sp]
Liquid Mike: You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (2021, Sweet Chin Music, EP): Seven songs, 17:22. B [sp]
Liquid Mike: A Beer Can and a Bouquet (2022, self-released, EP): Having found three different labels for their three other releases, I had to punt here. They're all on the same Bandcamp, along with a couple of singles, and no branding to be found there. Nine songs, 22:36, enough to pass for an album these days. B+(**) [sp]
Nellie McKay: Hey Guys, Watch This (2023, Hungry Mouse): Started out as a singer-songwriter in 2004, with show biz roots and ambitions, developed as an interpretive singer with her 2009 Doris Day tribute. This is billed as her first album of original material in 13 years. It was recorded in West Virginia with a group called the Carpenter Ants. I'm finding this very confusing, perhaps because it starts off bland and demure, then gets wilder and wierder (including, if I'm following this correctly, plaudits for Hiroshima and Jeremy Dahmer). Highly subject to revision, if I ever have a reason to play this again. B+(**) [sp]
Mercury [Nicolas Caloia & Lori Freedman]: Skin (2023, Clean Feed): Montreal duo, double bass and clarinets. A little sketchy, especially with so much focus on the bass. B+(**) [bc]
Allison Miller: Rivers in Our Veins (2023, Royal Potato Family): Drummer, debut 2004, original pieces, makes impressive use of a very talented group: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Jason Palmer (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet/contra-alto clarinet), Carmen Staaf (piano/rhodes/accordion), and Todd Sickafoose (bass), plus some tap dancers. I'm finding it a bit slick and scattered, but perhaps just can't get to the big picture. B+(***) [sp]
Steve Million: Perfectly Spaced (2023, Calligram): Pianist, based in Chicago, albums since 1995, quartet here with Mark Feldman (violin), Eric Hochberg (bass), and Bob Rummage (drums). B+(**) [cd]
Simon Nabatov 3+2: Verbs (2022 , Clean Feed): Russian pianist, long-based in Germany, the "3" his trio with Stefan Schönegg (bass) and Dominik Mahnig (drums), the "2" adding Leonhard Huhn (alto sax/clarinet) and Philip Zoubek (synthesizers). B+(**) [bc]
Simon Nabatov: Extensions (2022 , Unbroken Sounds): Pianist-led sextet, with Sebastian Gille (saxophones) and Shannon Barnett (trombone), plus two bassists and a drummer. B+(***) [sp]
Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (2022 , Clean Feed): Cuban pianist, based in Brooklyn, has a large and varied body of work. Three more names on the cover: Don Byron (clarinet), Lester St. Louis (cello), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), but Yves Dhar takes over cello on two tracks, and Mtume Gant offers spoken word on three, drawing on phrases from Martin Luther King. A- [cd]
Ethan Philion Quartet: Gnosis (2023, Sunnyside): Bassist, based in Chicago, debut album in 2022 Meditations on Mingus, offers more meditations with a smaller group: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Greg Ward (alto sax), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(***) [sp]
R. Ring: War Poems, We Rested (2023, Don Giovanni): Kelley Deal (Breeders) and Mike Montgomery. B+(*) [sp]
Ned Rothenberg: Crossings Four (2022 , Clean Feed): Reeds player (bass clarinet, alto sax, clarinet), debut 1981, finds himself in stealthy company here with Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). B+(***) [bc]
Jerome Sabbagh: Vintage (2020 , Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, from France, based in Brooklyn, has a steady stream of mainstream releases since 2004. This one employs Kenny Barron (piano), perhaps looking to renew his lease on Stan Getz. B+(**) [sp]
A. Savage: Several Songs About Fire (2023, Rough Trade): Parquet Quarts co-frontman, second solo album, with band work between the first (2017) and now. Music and words evince skill and thought, but only so much one can do with his voice, especially at this tempo. B+(**) [sp]
Troye Sivan: Something to Give Each Other (2023, Capitol): Australian pop singer-songwriter, third album. B+(**) [sp]
Hemlocke Springs: Going . . . Going . . . Gone! (2023, Good Luck Have Fun, EP): Isimeme "Naomi" Udu, b. 1998 in North Carolina, of Nigerian immigrant parents, expands two freak electropop singles into a 7-track, 21:24 EP. Two great songs, two close enough, three more than ok. B+(***) [sp]
Yuhan Su: Liberated Gesture (2023, Sunnyside): Vibraphonist, from Taiwan, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fourth album. With Caroline Davis (alto sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Marty Kenney (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Kevin Sun: The Depths of Memory (2021-22 , Endectomorph Music, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, I've been very impressed by everything he's done since his 2018 debut, but his effort here to create extended works is less striking. Three pieces here, totalling 82:28, intricately arranged with basic piano-bass-drums, adding trumpet (Adam O'Farrill) on the last two. B+(***) [cd]
Grzegorz Tarwid Trio: Flowers (2022 , Clean Feed): Polish pianist, has one previous album and several side-credits. Trio here with bass (Max Mucha) and drums (Albert Karch). The rhythm-heavy opening got my attention. B+(***) [bc]
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: I Love You (2023, Domestic La La): Australian girl band, lead singer Anna Ryan, slotted punk but I'm thinking more like Go-Go's, first album after an EP. B+(**) [sp]
Trespass Trio Feat. Susana Santos Silva: Live in Oslo (2018 , Clean Feed): One of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen's groups -- he plays baritone and sopranino here, with Per Zanussi on bass and Raymond Strid on drums -- with four 2009-17 albums, joined here by the Portuguese trumpet player. B+(**) [bc]
Daniel Villarreal: Lados B (2020 , International Anthem): Drummer, from Panama, based in Chicago, second album, a trio with Jeff Parker (guitar) and Anna Butterss (double & electric bass). Seductive groove music. A- [sp]
Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Grit & Grace (2023, Sunnyside): Bass trombonist, leads a section here with John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, and Alan Ferber, backed by piano, bass, drums, and percussion. Third group album. Fedchock produced. Ends on an up note, with a vocal about Louisiana hot sauce. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Jouk Minor/Josef Traindl/Jean Querlier/Christian Lété/Dominique Regef: Enfin La Mer (1978 , NoBusiness): Free jazz group, with two pieces dubbed suites (33:50 + 16:43), playing baritone sax/contrabass clarinet, trombone, alto sax, drums, and hurdy gurdy -- most with spotty discographies (Regef has the most side-credits, but nothing as leader). Still, often impressive. B+(***) [cd]
The Hives: Barely Legal (1997, Burning Heart): First album for the Swedish punk band, five years before their Veni Vidi Vicious breakthrough. As coarse as it ought to be. Fourteen songs in 27:21. B+(*) [sp]
The Hives: The Black and White Album (2007, A&M/Octone): Fourth album, fourteen songs again, but 47:57. B+(*) [sp]
Howard Shore/Ornette Coleman/London Philharmonic Orchestra: Naked Lunch [The Complete Original Soundtrack Remastered] (1991 , Howe): Soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film of the William S. Burroughs novel, mostly (and most forgettably) composed by Shore, who has some eighty soundtracks 1979-2022, including lots of big budget deals (Lord of the Rings seems to be the one he's most famous for). Coleman composed five tracks (plus two in the six-track bonus section), although he plays (and it really couldn't be anyone else) on the Shore-credited "Interzone Suite," and possibly elsewhere, interesting but not enough to sustain the album. I saw the film, but don't remember much of it, nor do I recall much of the book, which I poked around with in my late teens, treating it more as concrete poetry than as any sort of story. B+(*) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, November 12, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started this mid-week, way too early for what I rarely intend as anything more than casual note-taking, but with elections on Tuesday and the "kiddie-table debate" on Wednesday (credit the quote to SNL's Trump personifier), the stories piled up fast. Most of the early ones just got links, but some inevitably provoked one-liners, and soon enough longer disquisitions ensued. But some of the most important pieces are barely noted, like the Savage and Shafer pieces on Trump's second-term ambitions. (Sure, they're not exactly new news, but the new articles are more detailed and comprehensive.)
Still, mostly Israel this week, mostly rehashing points that were obvious from the start of October 7. The story there is, as it's always been, about power and resistance. As noted last week, Gabriel Winant described Israel as "a machine for the conversion of grief into power." That grief brings with it a great deal of anger and righteousness, which goes a long ways to explaining why Israeli power has been remarkably successful for so long. But the problem is that power never quite works the way you want it to. Every effort to exercise power, to impose your will on other people, meets the resistance of what we might as well call the human spirit. And that resistance takes a toll, both physical and psychic, as despite the hubris of the powerful, they too have human spirits.
So while the "Israel-Hamas War" since October 7, starting with one spectacular day of rebellion followed by a month-and-counting of relentless, methodical slaughter, has been an object lesson in the massive superiority of Israeli military power, it doesn't feel like a victory, least of all to the Israelis. For one thing, the revolt punctured Israel's long-held belief that power makes them invulnerable. For another, they're slowly coming to realize that they can't kill and destroy enough to stamp out resistance, which will return and flourish in their ruins. And finally, they're beginning to suspect that any victory they can claim will prove hollow. In this understanding, the world is moving way ahead of its leaders, perhaps because the human spirit is concentrated among the powerless, among those whose minds aren't corrupted by their pursuit and cultivation of power.
Given this, calling for an immediate cease-fire should be the easiest political decision ever. Even if your sympathies and/or identity is fully with Israel, an immediate halt is the only way to stop adding to the cumulative damage, not just to Palestinian lives but to Israel's tarnished humanity. Because, and we should be absolutely clear on this, what Israel has been doing for more than a month now isn't self-defense, isn't deterrence, isn't even retaliation: it is genocide. That is the intent, and that is the effect of their tools and tactics. Genocide is a practice that the whole world should, and eventually will, condemn. And while the roots of the impulse run deep in Israel's political history, down to the very core tenets of Zionism, we should understand that the actions were conscious decisions of specific political leaders, aided by key people who followed their orders, abetted by political parties that bought into their mindset. While it is very unlikely that even those leaders will ever be adequately punished -- as if such a thing is even possible -- unwinding their support will start to make amends.
It feels like I should keep going with this argument, but I'm dead tired, and rather sick of the whole thing, so will leave it at that.
I tossed this tweet out on Thursday:
Top story threads:
Israel: The ground war, ostensibly against Hamas, as well as the air war, really against all of Gaza, continues as it has since the Oct. 7 prison break. This section quickly gets filled up with opinion pieces, largely due to our vantage point far from the action, partly due to our intimate involvement with the long-running conflict, and the dire need to insist on a cease fire to put a stop to the mounting destruction, and allow for some measure of recovery to begin. So the actual day-to-day details tend to escape my interest. To obtain some sense of that, I thought I'd just list the headlines in the New York Times "updates" file(s):
Some more news articles, mostly from the New York Times:
If you want something that reads less like Israeli Pravda, Mondoweiss has a daily summary:
Here are this week's batch of articles:
Tuesday's elections: Democrats came away with some bragging rights, but none of these results were resounding wins:
We had two signs up in front of our house. Our mayoral favorite lost to the Koch money machine, but our school board pick won.
The "third Republican presidential debate": We might as well split this out from the general morass of Republicanism, even though it did little more than exemplify it. I didn't watch, but my wife did, so I overheard a segment on foreign policy that was several orders of magnitude beyond bonkers.
I generally hate it when people try to make a case by pointing out how a person looks, but I've been having a lot of trouble in following clips of Ramaswamy, not just because he's so nonsensical but because he doesn't seem to have a face behind the mouth that spouts such nonsense. Perhaps this is just something that happens with age, but it's not a problem I see with the other candidates (DeSantis has a face, although it's turned into a self-caricature, a different problem), or most other people. I'm looking at Salon as I write this, and even Ivanka (7 pictures) has some kind of face-in-progress. Her father (8 pictures) has a face, even if it's mostly buried in bronzer. Even Brian Kilmeade, staring as blankly as his brain, has a face. But Ramaswamy doesn't.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Around the world:
Charles Hirschkind: [11-08] Exterminate the brutes: "Beneath the veneer of a celebrated concern for human rights, the racism that defined 19th century colonialism continues to provide the dominant lens through which the West exercises the subordination of non-Western populations." Another piece about Israel, but I thought I should give it a little distance.
Matthew Hoh: [11-10] Armistice Day and the empire: A name change and the catastrophe that followed. It's now Veterans Day, November 11, signifying not the arrival of peace (after WWI) but the endless waste of war.
Yarden Katz: [11-09] Are Israelis Jews? Returning to Jewish minority life: Argues that "Israel has erased the Jewish people and destroyed the possibilities for Jews to live in Palestine as non-colonizers. 'Israeli' is a colonial identity we should renounce, because it harms both Palestinians and Jews." Interesting attempt to drive a wedge between identities Jewish and Israeli, then flip them over. Nothing is quite that simple.
Jeremy Kuzmarov: [11-10] How Bill Clinton set the groundwork for today's foreign policy disasters. Co-author, with John Marciano, of a book I should have noted when it appeared in 2018: The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce; also Obama's Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (2019); and forthcoming: Warmonger: How Clinton's Malign Foreign Policy Launched the US Trajectory From Bush II to Biden.
Keren Landman: [11-09] It's getting increasingly dangerous to be a newborn in the US. A big part of this seems to be: Alice Miranda Ollstein: [11-07] Congenital syphilis jumped tenfold over the last decade.[
Michaelangelo Matos: [11-05] Documentary review: 'The War on Disco': I accidentally saw a bit of this show, but didn't stick around long enough to evaluate Matos on the subject (although I know him to be one of the best dance-oriented critics around). I always thought the anti-disco rants in the 1970s were more stupid than racist (although what finally shut them up were disco hits by Blondie and New Order, so go figure).
Nathan J Robinson: [09-19] Is Thomas Sowell a legendary "maverick" intellectual or a pseudo-scholarly propagandist? Asking the question practically answers itself. One more in a long series of profiles in right-wing mind-rot.
Aja Romano: [11-10] What the Hasan Minhaj controversy says about the trouble with storytelling.
Robert Sherrill: [1988-06-11] William F. Buckley lived off evil as mold lives off garbage: An archive piece, by one of my favorite journalists fifty years ago, a review of John B Judis: William F Buckley, Jr: Patron Saint of the Conservatives. Sherrill's title bears structural resemblance to his book, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music.
Alissa Wilkinson: [11-09] The long, long Hollywood strikes have ended.
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Music: Current count 41108  rated (+30), 28  unrated (-4).
I had a bunch of things I wanted to get done before this update, and I have damn little to show for it. A bunch of things happened, or didn't happen, last week, but if I try to go into that, it'll be days more before I post anything. Maybe next week I can explain.
Meanwhile. I did write another long Speaking of Which, which didn't come out until Monday, pushing Music Week back a day. Rather than wrote more on that here, let me recommend a book about a different time and world that strikes me as especially relevant here: Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, a chronicle of the prehistory of WWII told through contemporary newspaper clippings: written by the last people who had to figure out the Nazis without having the benefit of knowing how the story ends.
One of my distractions last week was figuring out a sequel for my Oct. 27 birthday dinner. I had shopped for a lot of tapas dishes that I didn't have time to make, so we had a second setting a week later (so Nov. 3). I promised last week to write up my notes on the birthday dinner. I finally did this in the notebook. I also looked up some previous Spanish-themed dinners, and came up with a couple of old pics.
I also finished the indexing on October Streamnotes.
One thing I made very little progress on was setting up the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll. I hoped to be able to say more about that here, but that will have to wait until next week. It is still a go, and I hope to send ballot invites out by Nov. 15 (hopefully not much later). Big issue right now is trying to figure out who to invite. I'm surprised as how frazzled I already feel.
Another thing I didn't get done was setting up my EOY files, broken out between jazz and non-jazz (as in previous years -- oops, already have links there to my useless stubs).
The distractions took time away from listening, but the extra day got the rating count up to 30, including five A-list items from my demo queue (a lot more than usual). Would have had six had I gotten to Aruán Ortiz in time.
New records reviewed this week:
Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (2022 , Trost): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, easily one of the top half-dozen in the world since 2000, which should suffice here, but pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is a special treat here, and the interaction is so masterful Gerry Hemingway and Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten got in on the action. Beware: it does get a little rowdy. A [cd]
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension (2023, Nonesuch): Canadian big band composer/arranger, studied under Bob Brookmeyer, fourth album since 2009, an extra large one (111 minutes). Not something I'm inclined to get excited about, but fine soloists, some very nice segments, works as background but gets better when you tune in. B+(***) [sp]
Bruce Barth Trio: Dedication (2021 , Origin): Pianist, from Pasadena, first records (c. 1985) were with George Russell, then Orange Then Blue. Trio with bass (Vicente Archer) and drums (Montez Coleman). B+(**) [sp]
Rob Brown: Oceanic (2021 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist, records since 1989, I associate him mostly with William Parker's groups. Solo here. B+(***) [cdr]
Rob Brown Quartet: Oblongata (2022 , RogueArt): Alto saxophonist (also plays some flute), joined by Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Lightcap (bass, and Chad Taylor (drums), in a superb free set. A- [cdr]
Buck 65: Punk Rock B-Boy (2023, self-released): Venerable rapper from Nova Scotia, dropped this 19-track limited edition cassette (all ten unique copies sold out) by surprise, with a line about the Texas Rangers suggesting he cut that track the day before this dropped. After a layoff, he popped back last year with the superb King of Drums -- so superb I was happy enough when this year's Super Dope sounded just like it. But this one is better still, with the words popping at a pace that justifies his "autodidactic polymath" boast. The beats too, until a change of pace called "Terminal Illiness" seals the deal. A [bc]
DJ Shadow: Action Adventure (2023, Mass Appeal): Electronics producer Josh Davis, early records Endtroducing (1996) and, especially, The Private Press (2002), are favorites, with nothing else -- only four studio albums before this one -- close. Synth beats recognizable, but he's lost the ability to hook a vocal sample, like "what you gonna do now?" B+(*) [sp]
Kurt Elling: SuperBlue: The London Sessions (2022, Edition, EP): Live rehash of his "Grammy-nominated" 2021 SuperBlue, five tracks (28:12), with Charlie Hunter (hybrid guitar) bringing the funk. He cuts the shit, revealing what could pass for soul (e.g., "Lonely Avenue"). B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter/Neal Smith: SuperBlue: Guilty Pleasures (2022 , Edition, EP): Vocals, hybrid guitar, drums: Bandcamp page parses this differently (Smith is a "feat."; "Superblue" vanishes), but title and all three names on the cover, as well as a "3" I don't know what to do with. Pretty flash rhythm work recasts the singer as funk, despite the scat. Six songs, 22:08. B+(*) [bc]
Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter: SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree (2023, Edition): A skilled jazz singer, started out around 1998, highly regarded by most critics but one I can only rarely stand. The partnership with Hunter gives him an agreeable groove to work from, and reins in his worst effects. So more tolerable. Big deal. B [sp]
Robert Finley: Black Bayou (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Bluesman from Louisiana, got a late start with a debut at 1962, called it Age Don't Mean a Thing, but in his genre age brings gravitas, which is what it's all about. Seven years later, turns out that even he sees age means something after all. B+(**) [sp]
Sue Foley: Live in Austin Vol. 1 (2023, Stony Plain): Blues singer-songwriter from Ottawa, moved to Vancouver and then to Austin, releasing Young Girl Blues in 1992. I always liked her, and much of this is familiar, most likely drawing on her better albums. B+(**) [sp]
Lafayette Gilchrist: Undaunted (2022 , Morphius): Pianist, started out in David Murray's quartet, a dozen-plus albums since 1999. Sextet here, with Brian Settles (tenor sax), Christian Hizon (trombone), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(**) [sp]
Hermanos Gutiérrez: El Bueno Y El Malo (2022, Easy Eye Sound): Duo based in Switzerland, brothers Estevan and Alejandro, father Swiss, mother from Ecuador, fifth album, produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach. Very tasteful instrumental music, mostly guitar, not in any niche. A- [sp]
William Hooker: Flesh and Bones (2023, Org Music): Avant-drummer, has a long career of going his own way. Drives a sextet here with Ras Moshe (tenor sax/flute), Charles Burnham (violin), On Davis (guitar), and two bassists (Hilliard Greene and Luke Stewart). B+(**) [sp]
Russell Kranes/Alex Levine/Sam Weber/Jay Sawyer: Anchor Points (2022 , OA2): Piano, guitar, bass, and drums; half trio (reference to the Nat King Cole Trio), and half with drums. The trio emphasizes the guitar, while the drums gets the pianist going. First album for Kranes, possibly the rest. B+(**) [cd]
Lil Wayne: Tha Fix Before Tha VI (2023, Young Money): Mixtape, a distinction I've never understood, but number 29 for those who keep track of such things. Sounded sharp at first, but kept hitting the same point again and again, until it no longer even resembled a point. B [sp]
Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: Hear the Light Singing (2022 , RogueArt): Pianist, a major figure since 1990, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Lesley Mok (drums). Second group album, a rhythmic tour de force. A- [cd]
Joshua Moshe: Inner Search (2023, La Sape): Saxophonist (soprano/alto/tenor, bass clarinet, synth, piano) from Australia, formerly Joshua Kelly, led the "nu jazz" JK Group), so not a debut. Chasing spirits, often over jazztronica beats. Interesting enough until the ululating. B+(**) [sp]
David Murray/Questlove/Ray Angry: Plumb (2022 , JMI/Outside In Music): Tenor sax/bass clarinet giant, jamming with the drummer and keyboard player from the Roots. Product status is iffy: runs 14 songs, 136 minutes, which can be streamed now, with a 4-LP box is promised for sometime 2024 ($150, "ships in about six months," which sounds more like a reverse twist on loansharking). The Roots guys aren't much more than fit for purpose here, but Murray is once again a tower of strength. A- [sp]
Remembrance Quintet: Do You Remember? (2023, Sonboy): DC-based quintet I filed under bassist Luke Stewart's name, with two reedists (Daniel Carter and Jamal Moore), trumpet (Chris Williams), and drums (Tcheser Holmes), opens their "dig deep into humanity's ancestral stream" with spoken word, asking the title question, answering with unsettled horns and rhythm. B+(***) [sp]
Sampha: Lahai (2023, Young): British singer-songwriter, parents from Sierra Leone, last name Sisay, plays keyboards, second album, falsetto adds to the r&b effect. B+(*) [sp]
Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Orchestra: Playland at the Beach (2023, Little Village): Bay Area saxophone/clarinet player, originally from New York, leads a nonet with a couple previous albums, traces his interest in cartoon jazz to Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling (who else?). B+(**) [sp]
Jeremy Udden: Wishing Flower (2023, Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist, debut 2006, played with Either/Orchestra before that, also plays Lyricron wind synthesizer here, with Ben Monder (guitar), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums). B+(*) [sp]
Miki Yamanaka: Shades of Rainbow (2023, Cellar Music): Japanese pianist, based in New York since 2012, fifth album, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tyrone Allen (bass), and Jimmy McBride (drums). Turner feels exceptionally relaxed here. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Barry Altschul/David Izenson/Perry Robinson: Stop Time: Live at Prince Street, 1978 (1978  NoBusiness): Drums, bass, clarinet, joint improv, listed alphabetically, although the drummer is probably the best known these days. Not the greatest sound, but remarkable music. A- [cd]
Peter Brötzmann/Sabu Toyozumi: Triangle: Live at Ohm, 1987 (1987 , NoBusiness): Live set from Tokyo, with the German avant-saxophonist in fine form, and a local drummer who's up to the task. B+(***) [cd]
Roy Campbell/William Parker/Zen Matsuura: Visitation of Spirits: The Pyramid Trio Live, 1985 (1985 , NoBusiness): Trumpet player (1952-2014), played in various William Parker projects, including Other Dimensions in Music, and later had the Nu Band, with Mark Whitecage. This was an early version of his trio, which did three 1994-2001 studio albums. A bit spotty at first, but terrific when they get going. A- [cd]
Kim Dae Hwan/Choi Sun Bae: Korean Fantasy (1999 , NoBusiness): Korean duo, drummer (1933-2003), very much in the center here, with trumpet floating around. B+(***) [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 6, 2023
Speaking of Which
Again, I swore off working on this during the week, which turned out to pose more than a few problems. Finally opened the file up on Saturday evening. I figured I'd just collect links, and not bother with any serious writing. The supply of inputs seemed endless, and it got late Sunday before I considered tidying up and posting. But I couldn't, due to a computer problem which took several hours to diagnose and about a minute to fix once I recognized it (DHCP tripped me up). By then it was too late, so my posts are shifted back a day once more.
Starting up today, I didn't go back to website I had previously visited, but I did have a few more to look up. I also remembered the Gabriel Winant piece at the bottom, so I dug it up, and wasted a couple hours thinking about those quotes, before I scrapped what little I had written.
Top story threads:
Israel: With more patience, these could have been grouped into a half-dozen (maybe 8-10) subcategories, of which genocide (both actual and imagined) looms large, with significant growth in cease-fire advocacy and repression of anyone favoring cease-fire. The short category is actual military news: Israel has conducted ground operations in northern Gaza for a week, but what they've achieved (or for that matter attempted) isn't at all clear, while Palestinian casualties are continuing to increase, but I haven't made much sense out of the numbers.
It does appear that I underestimated the ability of Hamas to continue fighting after their initial suicidal attack was beaten back. Not by a lot, mind you, but they've continued to shoot occasional rockets (nothing you could describe as a "flood," and Israel regularly boasts of shooting 80-90% of them down, so the effect is likely near-zero), and they're offering some degree of ground resistance. Still, a unilateral Israeli cease-fire would almost certainly halt the war, the killing, the destruction. Given that continued punishment just generates future violence, Israel's unwillingness to call a halt to this genocide -- and that's still the operative term, even if Netanyahu hasn't convened his Wannsee Conference yet -- signals only the intent to fight to some kind of Endlösung ("final solution"). I might be tempted to ditch the Nazi references, but they are ones that Israelis understand clearly -- and, one hopes, uncomfortably.
Some of the more purely partisan digs wound up in the sections on Republicans and Democrats. Given that the entire American political establishment is totally in thrall to Israel and their right-wing donor cabal, there's little (if any) substance in these pieces, just a lot of chattering nonsense.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Legal matters and other crimes:
David Dayen: [10-18] The NIH's 'how to become a billionaire' program: "An obscure company affiliated with a former NIH employee is offered an exclusive license for a government-funded cancer drug."
Ethan Iverson: [10-30] Louis Armstrong's last word.
Paul Krugman: [10-31] The military-industrial-complex: He has a chart arguing that as a share of GDP, military spending is down since Eisenhower's speech, a long-term trend with bumps for Vietnam, Reagan, and Iraq, as well as blips when spending held steady while the economy crashed (2008, 2020). For a counterpoint, see William Hartung: [11-03] What Paul Krugman gets wrong about the military industrial complex. It seems to me that Eisenhower's concern wasn't the money per se, but the evolution of arms industries from mere suppliers to a political force that would make wars more (not less) likely.
Damon Linker: [11-04] Get to know the influential conservative intellectuals who help explain GOP extremism: Well, you don't really want to know them, but let's drop a few names you can try to avoid: Costin Alamariu ("Bronze Age Pervert"), Michael Anton (The Flight 93 Election; The Stakes), Patrick Deneen (Why Liberalism Failed; Regime Change), Rod Dreher (Crunchy Cons; Live Not by Lies), John Eastman (indicted Trump lawyer), Stephen Wolfe (The Case for Christian Nationalism), Curtis Yarvin ("Dark Enlightenment"). Also mentioned in passing: Tyler Cowen, Richard Hanania, Sean Hannity, Thomas Klingenstein (Claremont funder), Matthew Peterson, Christopher Rufo, Tucker Carlson.
Patrick Ruffini: [11-04] The emerging working-class Republican majority: "The coalition that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was no one-off." No point filing this in the top section on Republicans because no real Republicans were involved in the spinning of this fantasy -- adapted from the author's new book, Party of the People: Inside the Multiracial Populist Coalition Remaking the GOP. Interesting that he takes Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? as a pivot, arguing that twenty years later "the villain of the story has switched sides." But his evidence is thin, and doesn't remotely approach policy: what's changed since Kansas is that the gullible GOP base are demanding more blood in their red meat -- the diet of bigotry and fear-mongering the Party tempts them with -- but on a practical level, Republicans are still every bit as dedicated to serving oligarchy by rendering government incompetent and corrupt. It's worth noting that in his later books, Frank turned on Democratic supplicants to the rich -- especially in 2016's Listen, Liberal!, which was harsh on the Clintons (but also Obama, Cuomo, Deval Patrick, etc.) -- but many (most?) Democrats shifted their policy priorities to actually help and expand the middle class. Sure, Trump railed against the corrosive jobs effect of trade deals, but Biden came up with policies to build jobs, and to give workers the leverage to get better pay. Trump talked infrastructure, but Biden is building it. There is still much more to be done, not least because Republicans -- no matter how populist they claim to be -- are obstacles wherever they have any leverage. The Republicans' only response is to ramp up the demagoguery and bullshit.
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-03] Roaming Charges: Shrinkwrapped, how sham psychology fueled the Texas death machine.
Hadas Thier: [11-04] Sam Bankman-Fried was guilty, and not even Michael Lewis could save him. As someone who regards all of crypto as criminal conspiracy, I was a bit surprised at how quickly and definitively this trial turned, but here it is. Also:
Sean Wilentz: [10-23] The revolution within the American Revolution: "Supported and largely led by slaveholders, the American Revolution was also, paradoxically, a profound antislavery event."
Gabriel Winant: [10-13] On mourning and statehood: A response to Joshua Leifer: "How to grieve, what meaning to give those tears, is cruelly a political question whether we like it or not." Leifer's original piece was Toward a humane left, and he later wrote A reply to Gabriel Winant. I'm not here to argue with Leifer (nor with Eric Levitz, whose similar position elicited much more of my thinking in recent weeks), other than to note again that morality is a luxury most enjoyed from a distance, and can easily be used as a cudgel against people who circumstance has deprived of such options. But sure, no complaints here about making the left even more humane (and not just the left, needless to say). But I do want to quote some things Winant said, because I've had similar thoughts but haven't quite found the words:
No time for me to start unpacking this, let alone building on it, but much more could be said.