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Monday, February 26, 2024

Music Week

February archive (finished).

Music: Current count 41900 [41864] rated (+36), 22 [20] unrated (+2).

Running late this week, but managed to get most things done that had to be done. Still, I'm a frazzled, nervous wreck as I try to wrap up this introduction, so don't expect much.

I didn't get done with Speaking of Which by bedtime Sunday, so (once again) posted what I had, with the promise of a Monday update. But I've made very little progress on that today, so I don't know where that leaves us. I still expect to post this by bedtime Monday evening, even if it's in a similar state of disarray. There is some chance of further updates on Tuesday, but right now I'm growing sick of all of it.

[PS: Updated Tuesday.]

I did wrap up the February Streamnotes file (except for the last Music Week, which I may still manage to add, and the indexing, which I certainly won't get done in time). At least the empty March Streamnotes file is opened.

I also managed to save off my frozen year 2023 list. Subsequent additions to the active one will be flagged in It looks like I added 91 such post-freeze records to the year 2022 file.

I added a few more lists to the EOY aggregate, most notably the long Aquarium Drunkard list, which pointed me to a few items and suggested many more. I had trouble focusing on things last week, so rated count was down, but A-list exploded from 2 last week to 9 this week (plus two upgrades from revisits -- I've been meaning to return to Bryan and Crowell; also, but not yet, Brandy Clark and Tyler Childers. That helped the Non-Jazz A-list catch up with the Jazz, now 84-83.

New records reviewed this week:

Acceleration Due to Gravity: Jonesville: Music by and for Sam Jones (2023 [2024], Hot Cup, EP): Nonet led by bassist Moppa Elliott, best known for his "bebop terrorist" group Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Similar swagger here, ripping through seven pieces (22:01) by or for the esteemed bebop bassist (1924-81). B+(***) [cd]

Advancing on a Wild Pitch: Disasters, Vol. 2 (2023 [2024], Hot Cup): Bassist Moppa Elliott again, the highly recommended 2022 release of Disasters, Vol. 1 credited to his old band, Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Back to a quintet here, with Sam Kulik (trombone), Charles Evans (baritone sax), Danny Fox (piano), and Christian Coleman (drums). Title reflects on his heritage, with seven songs (36:01) each "named after towns in Pennsylvania that experienced historical disasters." Sounds like unfinished bebop from the 1950s, riffing over barely-controlled swing. [PS: Not clear why I got the PR sheet but no CD, as I did with Jonesville. Release so far seems limited to digital and LP.] A- [bc]

Tanner Adell: Buckle Bunny (2023, Columbia, EP): Debut mixtape, eight songs, 23:59, slotted country but hip-hop to the core, or maybe that should be vice versa? B+(***) [sp]

Eric Alexander: A New Beginning: Alto Saxophone With Strings (2021 [2023], HighNote): Mainstream saxophonist, always played tenor (as far as I recall), usually in conventional quartets (although he's done a lot of work on the side, including the larger One for All group), but tried his hand with strings in 2019, arranged this time by Bill Dobbins. Still, this seems much like his typical quartet outing, with his usual group: David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Aunty Rayzor: Viral Wreckage (2023, Hakuna Kulala): Bisola Olungbenga, from Nigeria, first album, working with producers Titi Bakorta (from Congo), Ill Gee (Uganda), Scotch Rolex (Japan), DJ Chris Fontedofunk (Brazil), Debmaster (France), Slimcase (Nigeria), and Kabeaushe (Kenya), rapping in Yoruba (and some English) over razor-sharp electrobeats. Last cut (feat. Bakorta) adds a delightful bit of soukous guitar to the mix. B+(***) [sp]

Annie Chen: Guardians (2022-23 [2024], JZ Music): Jazz singer-songwriter, originally from Beijing, based in New York since 2013, third album since 2014, eight pieces, the latter four fashioned as "Guardians Suite." Backed by a sextet, including alto sax/flute/bass clarinet, guitar, drums, violin/viola, bass/meh, and accordion/piano. Way too operatic for me. B [cd]

Daggerboard: Escapement (2022 [2024], Wide Hive): Group led by Gregory Howe (percussion) and Erik Jekabson (trumpet), third album, previous group Throttle Elevator Music, Howe was the label founder in 1996. Cover also notes as "featuring" --Henry Franklin (bass), Matt Clark (piano), and Mike Clark (drums) -- but eleven more musicians are pictured, including three violins, cello, and perhaps the most famous, Babatunde Lea (congos). B+(**) [cd] [03-08]

DJ Finale: Mille Morceau (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): From Kinshasa, Congo, solo debut from a member of Afrofuturist collective Fulu Miziki (Lingala for "music from garbage"), like them on Uganda's premier electroclash label, overruns you with beats that bang on metal, and are even more surprising when they don't. A- [sp]

Drain: Living Proof (2023, Epitaph): Hardcore punk band, second album, ten songs, 25:07. Short, but still a bit longer than the joke lasts. B+(*) [sp]

Emmeluth's Amoeba: Nonsense (2021 [2024], Moserobie): Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, third group album, with guitar (Karl Bjorå), drums (Ole Mofjell), and piano (Christian Balvig). Free jazz with a lot of sharp edges and resonant ripples. A- [cd]

Christian Fabian Trio: Hip to the Skip (2022-23 [2024], Spicerack): Funk/fusion grooves, led by electric bassist with Matt King (keys) and Jason Marsalis (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Friends & Neighbors: Circles (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Scandinavian freebop quintet, sixth album, with André Roligheten (tenor sax), Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Oscar Grönberg (piano), Jon Rune Strøm (bass), and Tollef Østvang (drums), each writing at least one song. B+(***) [sp]

Romulo Fróes and Tiago Rosas: Na Goela (2023, YB Music): Brazilian singer-songwriters, latter also plays guitar, former has ten albums since 2004. B+(**) [sp]

Glass Beach: Plastic Death (2024, Run for Cover): Indie rock band from Seattle, second album. Very complex, in ways I respect the craft for without taking any pleasure in the music, or whatever else they're trying to accomplish. B- [sp]

Gordon Grdina/Christian Lillinger: Duo Work (2023 [2024], Attaboygirl): Duo, guitar/midi-guitar and drums, both on top of their game, with some intriguing dissonance early. B+(***) [cd]

Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: With Fathieh Honari (2023 [2024], Attaboygirl): Grdina plays oud here, along with Mark Helias (bass), Hank Roberts (cello), and Hamin Honari (percussion), son of the Canada-based Persian singer. B+(***) [cd]

Enrique Heredia Trio: Plays Herbie Nichols (2019-22 [2024], Fresh Sound): Spanish drummer, has several previous records, including a 2016 Plays the Music of Bob Zieff, and a previous (but different) trio. This with Pere Soto (guitar) and Xavi Castillo (bass), playing nine pieces by the short-lived Nichols (1919-63, with most of his recordings 1955-57). B+(***) [sp]

Kabeaushé: The Coming of Gaze (2023, Hakuna Kulala): Singer-rapper from Kenya, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Kabeaushé: Hold on to Deer Life, There's a Blcak Boy Behind You! (2023, Monkeytown): Second album, goes psychedelic. B [sp]

Noah Kahan: Stick Season (2022, Mercury/Republic): Singer-songwriter, originally from Vermont, folkie with some pop appeal, third album -- the first of three iterations to date, as newer releases, cashing in on chart success and a Grammy nomination, pile on way beyond these original thirteen songs. I'm impressed, a little, anyways. B+(***) [sp]

Kaze: Unwritten (2023 [2024], Circum/Libra): Quartet of Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Christian Pruvost (trumpet), and Peter Orins (drums), seventh group album since 2011, first one billed as "completely improvised," which may excuse some temporary regrouping as they explore. B+(***) [cd]

Anni Kiviniemi Trio: Eir (2023 [2024], We Jazz): Finnish pianist, reportedly US-based but recorded this debut album in Oslo with Eero Tikkanen (bass) and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums), all her compositions. B+(***) [sp]

Doug MacDonald: Sextet Session (2023 [2024], DMAC Music): Guitarist, goes back a ways but has been especially prolific since 2014. Mainstream, with a bit of swing, sextet includes trumpet (Aaron Janik), tenor sax (Doub Webb), piano (Josh Nelson, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd] [03-01]

Eliza McLamb: Going Through It (2024, Royal Mountain): Singer-songwriter, described as "LA-based pop culture icon," which seems to mean she's had a song ("Porn Star Tits") that went viral on TikTok. Intimate songs have some depth. "16" goes: "We pretend that you're trying/ 'I Don't know what to do with you'/ You say it often/ Almost sounds like a good excuse/ For doing nothing." B+(***) [sp]

Chase Rice: I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell (2023, Broken Bow): Country singer-songwriter from Florida, sixth album since 2010, the one on Columbia (2014) a platinum hit, but three later albums on Broken Bow didn't come close. Title from two songs, both against the grain, as is most of the filler, where the down home is spiced with stratospheric guitar. A- [sp]

RVG: Brain Worms (2023, Ivy League/Fire): Initials for Romy Vager Group, for the singer-songwriter-lead guitarist, from Melbourne, Australia. B+(**) [sp]

Sunny Five [Tim Berne/David Torn/Ches Smith/Devin Hoff/Marc Ducret]: Candid (2022 [2024], Intakt): Alto sax, two guitars (Torn and Ducret), drums/electronics and electric bass. This lineup might once have suggested fusion, but I have no clear idea of with what? Maybe Berne et al. just see the hardcore/metal instrumentation as something loud to improv with. B+(***) [sp]

Kali Uchis: Orquídeas (2024, Geffen): Dance-pop singer-songwriter Karly Marina Loaiza, from the Virginia side of DC, father Colombian, returned there while she was in high school, fourth album, second mostly in Spanish. Ends with a piece ("Dame Beso/Muévete") that would jump out even on a Kenyan guitar paradise album. Multiple plays show it's not alone. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Herb Geller: Fire in the West (1957 [2023], Jazz Workshop): Alto saxophonist (1928-2013), inspired by Benny Carter, played in big bands in the early 1950s, led his first session in 1954, released this classic sextet session on Jubilee in 1957, establishing himself as a superb arranger, with Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor sax), Lou Levy (piano), Ray Brown (bass), and Lawrence Marable (drums), turning the fire up on "West coast cool jazz." Original title and artwork for an album I know from the 2003 CD That Geller Feller. A- [sp]

Ghetto Brothers: Power-Fuerza (1972 [2024], Vampisoul): South Bronx Puerto Rican group, only album, reissue billed as "one of the best Latin funk albums ever recorded," eventually moves in that direction, but only after a number of efforts at Beatles-like harmonies don't quite hit the mark. B+(*) [sp]

If You Want to Make a Lover: Palm Wine, Akan Blues & Early Guitar Highlife, Pt. 1 (1920s-50s [2023], Death Is Not the End): Twenty-six oldies, dates lack precision but specify "late" both for 20s and 50s, from southern Ghana and environs, influence extending east to Nigeria and west to Liberia. B+(*) [sp]

If You Want to Make a Lover: Palm Wine, Akan Blues & Early Guitar Highlife, Pt. 2 (1920s-50s [2023], Death Is Not the End): Twenty-six more oldies, again nothing but a broad range of dates. B+(**) [sp]

Melba Liston: Melba Liston and Her 'Bones (1958 [2023], Jazz Workshop): Trombonist (1926-99), from Kansas City, started playing in all-female big bands during the war, then broke in with Gerald Wilson, then moved on to Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, where she became most valued as an arranger. This is the only album she led -- well, aside from her Randy Weston co-credit, Volcano Blues (1993), still the first item showing up when you search her. This combines two sessions, one with Ray Bryant (piano), the other with Kenny Burrell (guitar), bass, drums, and three more trombonists each (Benny Green, Al Grey, and Benny Powell with Burrell; Jimmy Cleveland, Slide Hampton, and Frank Rehak with Bryant). A real delight. A- [yt]

Los Mohanes: La Tumbia (2017 [2023], Moli Del Tro): Colombian duo, Faunes Efe (bass/guitar) and Joseph Muñoz (field recording/sampler), first album, originally self-released, picked up on a Belgian label. Engaging electronica, falls down at the end. B+(*) [sp]

Don Menza & Sam Noto: Steppin': Quartet Live (1980 [2023], Fresh Sound): Tenor saxophonist, from Buffalo (b. 1936), played in big bands with Maynard Ferguson and Louie Bellson, with more than a dozen albums as leader, joined here by the trumpet player, also from Buffalo (b. 1930), who played with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and others, headlining a handful of albums. A blistering live gig here from a club in Toronto, with Dave Young (bass) and Terry Clarke (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Abyssinia Infinite Featuring Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw: Zion Roots (2003, Network): A one-shot album I only just noticed, looks like a vehicle for the featured Ethiopian singer (she wrote six songs, the other four trad.), engineered by Bill Laswell. Not rasta, but ethio-soul, subtle and beguiling. A- [yt]

Afrorack: The Afrorack (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Electronic music from Uganda, someone named Bamanya, who built "Africa's first DIY modular synthesizer, a huge wall of home-made modules and FX units. Recapitulates many of the sounds of the pioneers of electronic music, then finds layers of rhythm they never dreamed of. A- [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

Zach Bryan: Zach Bryan (2023, Warner): Country singer-songwriter, though this second label album (after two self-releaseds) topped the rock charts as well as country and folk. Solid, unassuming, workman-like -- attributes that only deeepen with multiple replays. [Was: B+(***)] A- [sp]

Rodney Crowell: The Chicago Sessions (2023, New West): Country singer, emerged as a thoughtful songwriter with his 1978 debut, seems like his albums have only gotten easier over the years. This was recorded in Jeff Tweedy's Chicago studio, and came so easy they didn't even bother thinking up a title for it. Made it easy to underappreciate, too. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Albare: Beyond Belief (AM) [02-12]
  • Ian Carey & Wood Metal Plastic: Strange Arts (Slow & Steady) [03-22]
  • Stephan Crump: Slow Water (Papillon Sounds) [05-03]
  • Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Heartland Radio (SoundSpore) [03-16]
  • David Leon: Bird's Eye (Pyroclastic) [03-08]
  • Queen Esther: Things Are Looking Up (EL) [04-09]
  • Ron Rieder: Latin Jazz Sessions (self-released) [03-04]
  • Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Discordia (Earshift Music) [03-01]
  • Jacob Shulman: High Firmament/Ferment Below (Endectomorph Music, 2CD) [03-01]
  • Julia Vari Feat. Negroni's Trio: Somos (Alternative Representa) [02-16]
  • Fay Victor/Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (Tao Forms, 2CD) [04-05]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, I failed to finish my rounds by end-of-Sunday, so I'm posting what I have, with the expectation that I'll add more on Monday (look for red right-border stripes). One thing I didn't get to but seems likely to be worthwhile adding is No More Mister Nice Blog. That's where I first ran into the Katie Glueck article, and I see relevant posts on many of this week's politics articles. Charles P Pierce also has worthwhile takes on most of this.

This appeared after my cutoff, but is a good overview of everything else that follows: Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable, where she starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Initial count: 154 links, 7,499 words. Updated count: 178 links, 8,813 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide continues.

Reported casualty figures, as of 2/23, show 1,147 Israelis killed on October 7, plus 576 Israelis killed since. Palestinian deaths -- certainly undercounted -- are 29,514 in Gaza + 380 elsewhere in Israel. Since Oct. 7, Israelis are killing more than 51 Palestinians in Gaza for every soldier lost. No breakdown between soldiers lost in invading Gaza vs. elsewhere, but the latter numbers are probably very small. The kill ratio increases to 65-to-1 using the 38,000 estimate "when accounting for those presumed dead."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Ben Armbruster: [02-22] US intel has 'low confidence' in Israel's UNRWA claims.

  • Michael Arria: [02-22] The Shift: US vetoes UN ceasefire resolution again: "Joe Biden has stepped up public criticisms of Israel to save his faltering electoral prospects in Michigan, but there remains an incredible disconnect between these words and his administration's ongoing support for Israel's genocidal attack on Gaza."

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: [02-17] As Biden ignores death in Gaza, the 'Dark Brandon' meme is unfunny and too real.

  • Miguel A Cruz-Díaz: [02-23] On the shame of living through times of genocide. The article, about "suicidal ideation," is not exactly what I imagined from the title, but I'm not wired to take other people's tragedies personally. (I was tempted to say "for empathy," but I can imagine even if I only rarely feel.) But the title is evocative. I don't advise you feeling shame for what other people -- and not just the perpetrators, but also those making excuses, or just shrugging their shoulders -- are doing, but they definitely should feel ashamed (and if not, should learn).

  • Emily Davies/Peter Hermann/Dan Lamothe: [02-27] Airman who set self on fire grew up on religious compound, had anarchist past: Aaron Bushnell, whose protest echoed that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War.

  • Yves Engler: [02-21] The reasons for Canada's 'unwavering' support for Israel: "Canada's remarkable fidelity to an apartheid state committing genocide is driven by imperial geopolitics, settler solidarity, Christian Zionism and the Israel lobby in Canada, and the weaponization of antisemitism."

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Jonathan Freedland: [02-23] Hamas and Netanyahu are a curse on their peoples. Yet amid the horror, there is a sliver of hope: The "sliver" seems to be [02-23] Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris, but this ignores the core fact of this "war," which is that you don't need to negotiate a ceasefire when only one side is shooting. Just do it. Israel can even declare that if Palestinians do keep shooting rockets at Israel, there will be reprisals (short in time, but severe). That would be understandable. But negotiations just does something Israel claims it doesn't want to do, which is to elevate Hamas as the representative of the people of Gaza.

    The headline suggests that both Netanyahu and Hamas are unfortunate political choices, but Netanyahu was a choice, at least of the limited electorate within Israel, and there's plenty of reason to believe he's doing exactly what those who voted for him want. Hamas was never elected, because Palestinians have never been free to choose their own leaders. The West Bank is, well, complicated, but Gaza should be simple: all Israel has to do is stop attacking and step away. They've more than punished Hamas. They've destroyed most of the region's infrastructure. For at least the next 20 years, the only way people will be able to live in Gaza is through foreign aid, which they will basically have to beg for. If Israel takes itself out of the picture, and lets the UN organize a proper democratic government there, Hamas will release the hostages, and quietly disappear. (Sure, Hamas may still survive in the West Bank, and among exiles, but that shouldn't be Gaza's fault. Hamas has no life except as resistance to Israeli power.)

    The idea that some people who got to power purely through the use of terror -- and that's every bit as true of Netanyahu as of Hamas (and only slightly less for the Saudis and Americans and other parties invovled) -- can settle something in Paris that will bring peace to Gaza is absurd. Freedland writes: "To grasp it, the Palestinians need to be free of Hamas and Israelis free of Netanyahu." Swap those and you start to enter the realm of the possible: Palestinians need to be free of Netanyahu, which for Gaza at least is easy to do. And that would also make Israelis free of Hamas (except, of course, in the areas where they're still determined to rule rough over Palestinians, because such rule always begets resistance -- if not by Hamas, then by the next bunch that bands together to stand up for freedom and against injustice).

  • Thomas L Friedman: [02-27] Israel is losing its greatest asset: acceptance: This is one of those "if even Thomas Friedman sees a problem . . ." pieces. Israelis have a handicap here: they're so conditioned to expecting that the whole world hates them, they can't imagine how much worse it can get, or how that might impact them. They figure as long as the US stays in line, no problem. And they figure the US is way too big to worry about its own diminishing acceptance.

  • Mehdi Hasan: [02-21] Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here's how.

  • Robert Inkalesh: [02-23] Why the US must enage Hamas politically: I don't agree with this now, but I do believe that I do believe that America's refusal to accept the results of the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections -- I believe Israel, which had always preferred Hamas to the secular-socialist PLO, was only following the American lead -- was largely responsible for pushing Hamas back into violent rebellion, including the desperate attacks of Oct. 7. There is, of course, much room for debate as to how to apportion blame for the continued repression and resistance. Israel's behavior is fully consistent as a white settler colony overseeing a rigidly racist system of control -- call it "Apartheid" if you like, but it differs in some from the disgraced South African system, and often for the worse. It reflects a demented and ultimately self-destructive worldview, but they are pretty clear on what they're doing, and why. As for Americans, they're much harder to explain. Having developed two (or maybe three) such rigidly racist systems, then dismantled them without ever owning up to their crimes, they're amazingly ingenious at lying to themselves and others -- hypocrisy is much too superficial a word -- for the way they so easily rationalize and romanticize Israeli brutality as high moral dudgeon.

  • Jake Johnson: [02-22] "I think we should kill 'em all," GOP Rep. Andy Ogles says of Palestinians in Gaza. Makes him exhbit A (but not the only one) in:

  • Robert Lipsyte: [02-22] I'm heartbroken by the war in Israel.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [02-23] Biden won't let Israel's rejection of a Palestinian state interfere with his delusions.

  • Philip Weiss: [02-21] The context for October 7 is apartheid, not the Holocaust: "The Israel lobby is attempting to indoctrinate Americans that the context for the October 7 attack is the Holocaust. This is a misrepresentation. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust."

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans: Well, South Carolina is done and dusted -- see [02-24] Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina primary, 60.1% to 39.2% (at the point with 92% counted). Also, if you care, How different groups voted in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polls. Nothing terribly surprising there, except perhaps that Trump had his best age split in 17-29 (66% vs. 63% for 65+). [PS: The final delegate split was 47 Trump, 3 Haley.]

CPAC: The erstwhile conservative (more like fascist) organization held their annual conference last week, headlined by Donald Trump, so we'll offer this as a Republicans overflow section. Before we get serious, probably the best introduction here is: [02-23] Jimmy Kimmel on CPAC: 'A who's who of who won't accept the results of the election'.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [02-26] Criticizing a president is always okay -- even one running against Trump: If you care about issues, you should say so, even when it's politically inexpedient. Otherwise, you lose your credibility, and any hope for eventual success. You reduce politics to a game, signifying nothing. If that's your view of it, you may already be a Republican -- although they've adopted some truly obnoxious issue stands, they're really just saying whatever they think gives them a slight advantage, because all they're really intererested in is power: seizing it, keeping it, cashing in on it.

  • Aaron Boxerman/Jonathan Weisman: [02-24] Biden caught in a political bind over Israel policy: "His steadfast support of the Gaza war effort is angering young people and Arab Americans in an election year. But any change risks alienating Jewish voters." Not really: recent polling has Jewish Americans favoring a ceasefire 50-34%. That's not as high as support for a ceasefire from Americans in general, but not enough to justify the NYT's antisemitic trope of painting "the Jews" as responsible for Biden's colossal blunder.

  • Jackie Calmes: [02-14] Biden's polls aren't great. How much is the media's fault?

  • Ben Davis: [02-21] Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn't bode well.

  • William Hartung: [01-31] Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales: "Washington's sanitized view of unleashing $80.9 billion in weapons on the world, especially now, is a bit curious."

  • Eric Levitz: [02-23] Biden is weak -- and unstoppable: "It will be hard to convince the president that he isn't the best of his party's bad options."

  • Norman Solomon: [02-25] Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win. I'm not going to not vote for Biden in November even though I regard him as not just naive and/or negligent but materially complicit in the most crime against humanity in recent decades, but only because I fully realize that Trump would even be worse (as, indeed, his four years as president amply demonstrated). Still, by all means, tank Biden's polls and trash his prospects, at least until he starts to reverse course. And also note that lots of people are not fully apprised of how awful Trump has been on Israel in particular and on world war in general -- indeed, he is campaigning, Wilson-like, on having "kept us out of war" and steering us away from the path to "world war" that Biden is heading (even though, sure one might even repeat Wilson-like, he's done more than anyone to pave that path). If Biden fails to get his war under control, enough people are likely to fall for Trump's line to tip the election. Also linked to by Solomon:

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] Biden's tough love deficit: Two years after Ukraine, and 20 weeks after Gaza, turned into massive wars:

    There are lots of differences between those two events and between the wars they've brought, but there's one important commonality: how President Biden has reacted. In both cases he has come to the aid of a friend in need and done so in a way that wasn't ultimately good for the friend. Biden is good at showing love and catastrophically bad at showing tough love.

    With both Ukraine and Israel, the US has massive leverage -- by virtue of being a critical weapons supplier and also in other ways. And in both cases Biden has refused to use the leverage to try to end wars that are now, at best, pointless exercises in carnage creation.

    I'll add that both of these wars were advertised long before they broke out, coming out of long-standing conflicts, and only surprising to the those in Washington who pretended that peace can be secured simply by buying American arms and covering them with clichés about deterrence and sanctions. Most of the fault belongs to presidents before Biden: to Bush and Trump for indulging Israel's most right-wing fantasies (and Obama for not resisting them, reinforcing the idea that American reservations are not things Israelis need to take seriously); to Obama's pivot toward a renascent Cold War (after Clinton and Bush expanded NATO to Russia's doorstep); and to Trump for his half-assed mishandling of Ukraine, Russia, China, and everything else. On the other hand, every president inherits the mistakes of his predecessors. Thanks to Trump, Biden wound up with more than usual, but it was his job to fix them. In some cases he tried, and has even had some success. In others, he failed, sometimes not even trying. But here, he's made bad situations worse, and seems incapable of even understanding why.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Eric Levitz: [02-21] Why you probably shouldn't blow up a pipeline. Reaction to Andreas Malm's book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and the subsequent movie. My rejection of such notions is so deep-seated -- I'm still anti-Luddite, even after having developed some appreciation for the intractable problems they faced -- I've never had to wrestle with the issues, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I won't be surprised to see a rising tide of sabotage -- they've already coined the term "ecoterrorism" for this eventuality -- as climate distress worsens, especially if major powers are unwilling to reform and continue to set the standard for dealing with problems through repression and violence. [PS: Note, however, that in Kim Stanley Robinson, in his novel, The Ministry for the Future, expects to see a lot of "ecoterrorism," and sees it as promoting necessary changes.]

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: [02-21] The sham "The economy is awful" story: Per Baker's tweet: "Too bad they [New York Times] weren't allowed to run these when Donald Trump was in the White House." Next in my Twitter queue was Kevin Erdmann: "It's really crazy how interest rate casual stories get canonized without the slightest interest or curiosity in facts. EVERY story about housing will stipulate that the Fed's rate hikes slowed down sales." The chart shows that sales spiked after the worst of the pandemic in 2020, while interest rates were still low, and declined as interest rates increased, but since 2022 they're basically back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with higher interest rates.

  • Farrah Hassen: [02-23] The rent's still too high! "A new Harvard study found that half of U.S. renter households now spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. And rent increases continue to outpace their income gains. . . . Last year, homelessness hit an all-time national high of 653,100 people."

Ukraine War:

  • Responsible Statecraft: [02-22] The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [02-22] US officials see Ukraine as an active and bountiful military research opportunity.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: [02-25] After two grueling years of bloodshed, it's time for peace in Ukraine.

  • Aaron Blake: [02-27] Zelensky's increasingly blunt comments about Trump: This isn't a good sign, but Trump has always wanted Zelensky to wade into the American political fray -- on his side, of course, but it's not like he can't play opposition just as well. Zelensky is careful to portay his interests as America's own, but Trump is unflappable in that regard.

  • Joe Buccino: [02-22] Ukraine can no longer win. This piece appeared in the Wichita Eagle right after the Doran piece, below. Added here after I wrote the Doran comment, but let's list it first.

  • Peter Doran: [02-24] Ukraine can win -- here's how: Author works for Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one of our leading war tanks, out here to buck up the troops by, well, quoting Winston Churchill and Henry V. He's wrong on many levels, starting with the notion that anyone can win at war these days. Even when he has a point (that Russia's "manpower pool" isn't inexhaustible) he misses it (that it's still much deeper than Ukraine's). He points to the unpopularity of the war in Russia, the suggestion being that Putin will buckle if the West only shows we're firmly resolved to win, but hasn't Putin proven much more effective at stifling dissent than the democratic West has? Aside from greater resolve, he insists the keys to winning are faster deliveries of even more sophisticated weapons systems, and even tighter sanctions. How did the war planners miss that? He insists on "a clear and compelling definition of victory in Ukraine that advances our national interests." Note nothing here about the well-being of the Ukrainian people, who bear the primary costs of continued war. His definition? "The requirements of this victory include the Russian military ceasing to kill Ukrainians, departing Ukrainian territory and not threatening the existence of the country in the future." It should be obvious by now that the only way to achieve any way of this is through a negotiated settlement that leads not just to a ceasefire but to an enduring stable relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. That may require lesser steps -- a ceasefire would be a good start -- but also means giving up impossible definitions of victory.

  • Steven Erlanger/David E Sanger: [02-24] Hard lessons make for hard choices 2 years into the war in Ukraine: "Western sanctions haven't worked. Weapons from allies are running low. Pressure may build on Kyiv to seek a settlement, even from a weakened position."

  • Ben Freeman: [02-22] The Ukraine lobby two years into war.

  • Joshua Keating: [02-22] Are Ukraine's defenses starting to crumble? "What Ukraine's biggest setback in months tells us about the future of the war."

  • Serhiy Morgunov/David L Stern: [02-25] Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since invasion. His first public disclosure since Dec. 2022 ("up to 13,000"). He's also claiming 180,000 Russian troops have been killed. When the New York Times reported this story (31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in two years of war, Zelensky says, they also noted that Zelensky's number "differs sharply from that given by U.S. officials, who have said the number is closer to 70,000."

    A leaked Pentagon document had estimated deaths at 15,500-17,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and 35,000-42,500 Russian soldiers. That doesn't count at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians killed. For more figures, some exaggerated, some minimized, see Wikipedia's Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  • Marc Santora: [02-24] Ukraine's deepening fog of war: "Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian leaders are seeking a path forward in teh face of ferocious assaults and daunting unknowns."

  • Paul Street: [02-22] 500,000 dead and maimed in Ukraine, enough already: It's been a long time since I've seen any figures for war in Ukraine, so this one caught me off guard.

  • Marc A Thiessen: [02-22] If Republicans want to help Trump, they should pass Ukraine aid now. I never cite him, mostly because he's pure evil (he got his start as Cheney's torture apologist), but my local paper loves his columns, so I run into him constantly, and occasionally read enough to reconfirm my judgment. But this one is especially twisted, so I offer it as an example of the mind games regular Republicans play to manipulate the deranged Trumpian psyches -- in effect, to keep them reliably evil. The pitch is that Republicans should keep the war going so Trump can fulfill his "I'll have that done in 24 hours" campaign promise once he's elected. Of course, if Trump does win, Thiessen will do his most to sabotage any peace moves, but in the meantime the war goes on and Biden gets the blame.

  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel/James Carden: [02-23] 10 years later: Maidan's missing history.

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-24] First 2 years of US proxy war against Russia finds both US and Ukraine in downward spiral.


  • The Observer: [02-17] The Observer view on Alexei Navalny's murder: Putin must be shown he can't kill with impunity: "Russia has been exposed as a rogue state that is a menace to the rest of the world." Isn't the Guardian supposed to be the flagship of Britain's left-leaning press? But I cringe any time I see an "Observer view" editorial, perhaps because so many of them are so full of spite yet so futile, combinations of hypocrisy and bluster. After fulminating for twelve paragraphs, they finally explode: "It's time to get real with Russia." So, like, no more patty-cakes? Like 74 years of "cold war" that actually started with US and UK troops fighting the revolution on Russian soil? That went on to using Afghan proxies to snipe at Russians in the 1980s? That after a brief respite when Yeltsin tried to adopt America's prescription of "shock treatment" nearly self-destructed Russia? That was followed by the relentless expansion of NATO combined with economic warfare including crippling sanctions?

    When they wail, "After Navalny, it's time to drop any lingering illusion that Putin's Russia is a normal country, that it may be reasoned with." If Russia is not "a normal country," and I'll grant that it isn't, perhaps that's because no one in the US/UK has tried to reason with it in dacades? Navalny is part of the price of this hostile rivalry, and unless he was some sort of spy, he wasn't even a price the US/UK paid. He was just collateral damage, like thousands of Ukrainians and Russians maimed and killed in Ukraine, the millions displaced, the many more who are denied food and fuel due to sanctions, and the millions of Russian subjects who are denied free political rights because they are living under a state whose security is constantly being attacked by the West.

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-19] Tears for Navalny. Assange? Not so much.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-20] Where does the fight for a free Russia go now? "Yulia Navalnaya picks up her husband's battle against Putin."

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] Even if you hate Julian Assange, the US attempt to extradite him should worry you.

  • Margaret Sullivan: [02-20] The US justice department must drop spy charges against Julian Assange: 'You don't have to like him or WikiLeaks to recognize the damage these charges create."

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-22] Julian Assange is Biden's Navalny.

Other stories:

Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it." This is a pretty seriously wrong-headed article, its appeal to the liberal publisher based on the MAGA movement, prominent Republicans, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson for making America weak, the effect simply to "advance Putin's agenda." The key to American influence around he world was always based on nothing more than the perception that we would treat the world fairly and generously -- unlike the old colonial empires of Europe, or the new militarism of the Axis, or the growing Soviet-aligned bloc. Sure, the US was never all that innocent, nor all that charitable, but in the late 1940s seemed to compare favorably to the others. The US squandered its moral standing and good will pretty rapidly, and as the article notes, is losing the last of it with Biden's wholehearted support for Israeli genocide.

Nick Estes: [02-19] America's origin story is a myth: Daniel Denvir interviews Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

David French: [02-25] What is Christian nationalism exactly? NY Times opinion columnist, self-described Never-Trump Conservative, professes as evangelical Christian, claiming the authority to explain his wayward brethren -- the flock Chris Hedges wrote about in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America -- or at least to make fine distinctions between his kind and the others, who he's more inclined to dub "Christian supremacists." That works almost as well as Hedges' "Fascists" to identify the dictatorial and vindictive powers they aspire to, without implicating Christians who practice tolerance and charity, and allowing new nationalists to express their love for American diversity (as opposed to the old ones, wallowing in xenophobia and racism).

By the way, one term I haven't seen, but seems more to the point, is Republican Christianists (or, I guess, Christianist Republicans): those who enbrace the Republicans' cynical pursuit of coercive power at all costs, while justifying their lust and avarice as a divine mission. This piece led me to some older ones:

Katie Glueck: [02-19] Anti-Trump burnout: The resistance says it's exhausted: "Bracing for yet another election against Donald Trump, America's liberals are feeling the fatigue. "We're kind of, like, crises-ed out," one Democrat said." Well, if one Democrat said it, that's exactly the sort of thing you can count on the New York Times to blow up into a page one issue. Genocide in Palestine? Not so much. Reading their own paper, they don't seem to understand that Trump is out of power, and has been for 3.5 years now. Sure, he still talks a lot, but that's all he is. Trying to shut him up, even if we wanted to, not only isn't worth the effort, but would make things even worse. For most of us, there's nothing much we can do except wait until November, then vote against him.

Sarah Jones: [02-22] The right to a private life is under attack: Starts with the Alabama ruling on IVF (see Cohen, Millhiser, and others, above), but of course the Trump-supporting Christian Nationalists want much more than that: they want to run nearly every aspect of your life:

Our private freedoms are linked to public notions of equal citizenship. Conservatives attack the former in order to undermine the latter. It's an unpopular strategy, but as the scholar Matthew Taylor told Politico, "These folks aren't as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare." This is total war, and not just on women. Anyone who fails to conform is at risk.

More, especially on the IVF backlash:

Taylor Lorenz: [02-24] How Libs of TikTok became a powerful presence in Oklahoma schools: "The owner [Chaya Raichik] of the far-right social media account, who sits on a state advisory panel, has drawn attention since the death of a nonbinary student near Tulsa." I could have filed this under Republicans (above), as that's her mob, but didn't want to bury it under the usual graft and bullshit. Related here:

Garrison Lovely: [01-22] Can humanity survive AI? Long piece I haven't spent much time with as yet, although the subhed "Capitalism makes it worse" is certainly true. I don't know how good and/or bad AI will be, but it's generating a lot more press than I can follow, including:

Kelly McClure: [02-23] Ex-NRA chief funneled millions of dollars into his own pockets, according to a NYC jury: "Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were found liable for financial misconduct."

Anna North: [02-23] Mascuzynity: How a nicotine pouch explains the new ethos of young conservative men: "Stimulants, hustle culture, and bodybuilding are shaping young men's drift to the right." Not obvious to me why this has become "a gateway to right-wing politics." Unless, that is, you're broadening the definition of right-wing from servants of hierarchy/oligarchy to plain old, all-around assholes.

Rick Perlstein: [02-21] The neglected history of the state of Israel: "The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions." This is, of course, directly relevant to what's happening in the Israel section above. The relationship is not just temperamental and ideological: Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary and confidant.

Alissa Quart: [02-21] US media is collapsing. Here's how to save it. She's director of something called Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Aja Romano: [02-18] An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country's bonkers season finale: Noted in the breach, as a remarkably bad review of a season and series where I'm hard pressed to find any points to agree with, either in praise (mostly of seasons one and three, where the flaws are most obvious) or in panning (seasons two and four, where the messes swamp out the positives). But I will say that the "bonkers season finale" was much more satisfying than any I imagined to that point. I at least took the political point, which is that the power of the rich, and the hopelessness of the people they carelessly grind down and toss aside, are never as complete as they imagine.

At the same time, I was also watching A Murder at the End of the World, which was, if anything, even messier (though just a close second for bone-chilling cold), and again mostly acquitted itself with a politically-charged "bonkers finale": the murders were orchestrated by AI, but the context was corporate megalomania, as represented by a billionaire obsessed with control and life-extension. Speaking of which:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-23] Roaming Charges: Somewhat immature: Title is Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, describing the "rules of engagement for orbital warfare," which is to say nobody agrees on any rules, or even knows what they are or should be. But who's that going to stop?

Ben Wray: [02-24] It's time to dismantle the US sanctions-industrial complex: "The US has built up an elaborate machinery for waging economic warfare on its rivals with little or no public debate. This sanctions-industrial complex is a disguised form of imperialism and a dangerous source of global instability."

Li Zhou: [02-23] America's first moon landing in 50 years, explained.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41864 [41828] rated (+36), 20 [23] unrated (-3).

I posted a long Speaking of Which just before bedtime late Sunday night. I didn't quite get through my usual rounds, so added some more stuff today, which in turn pushed this out late, again. Still unclear how far I'll get Monday night.

Fortunately, I don't have much to say about music this week. The rated count is down, but I hit up several boxes, including the big Mingus one I saw little point in but enjoyed anyway, and yet another iteration of the Massey Hall Quintet/Trio. Also, another big r&b oldies box, again not ideal but quite thoroughly enjoyed.

Very little progress to report on EOY lists, websites, book projects, or anything else. The links, of course, are in the usual place.

New records reviewed this week:

Joe Alterman: Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe: (2023, Joe Alterman Music): Pianist, from Georgia, half-dozen albums since 2009, leads a trio with Kevin Smith (bass) and Justin Chesarek (drums), playing eleven Les McCann compositions, including one written with Alterman in 2021. This came out a few months before McCann (88) died in December. B+(**) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: Body of Work (2023, self-released): Singer-songwriter, originally from Virginia, based in New Jersey, seven albums 2005-21, decided to "undress" 15 songs catalog songs here, releasing them one-per-month digitally, finally compile them on vinyl. So, I gather, it's a bit like the Taylor's Version remakes, but on a much lower budget. B+(**) [sp]

Stix Bones/Bob Beamon: Olimpik Soul (2023 [2024], BONE Entertainment): Billed as a "jazz meets hip-hop EP," the leaders' credits are drums and percussion, respectively (the former aka Franklin Brown), the band adding trumpet, sax, guitar, keybs, bass, and vocalists Abiodun Oyewole and Khadejia Bass. Eight songs, 31:??, some fancy funk, but the mix could be sharper. B+(*) [cd]

Peter Bruun/Søren Kjærgaard/Josas Westergaard: Thēsaurós (2022, ILK): Danish drums-piano-bass trio, playing "an ambitious work" composed by Bruun, in seven parts (83:07). B+(*) [bc]

Mina Cho's Grace Beat Quartet: "Beat Mirage" (2023 [2024], International Gugak Jazz Institute): Korean pianist, based in Boston, fifth album, quartet with Max Ridley (bass), Yeongjin Kim (drums), and Insoo Kim (Korean traditional percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Commodore Trio: Communal - EP (2023 [2024], self-released, EP): Hype sheet credits Joel Tucker (guitar) first but neither cover nor spine mentions him. Joined here by Brandan Keller (tuberg bass) and Justin Clark (drums), for five tracks (20:24) of what they call "improvised art rock." B+(*) [cd]

Dogo Du Togo: Dogo Du Togo (2022, self-released): Massama Dogo, from Lome, in Togo, but now based in DC area. B+(*) [sp]

Jose Gobbo Trio: Current (2023 [2024], self-released): Brazilian guitarist-singer, lyrics here by Deuler Andrade, moved to Iowa in 2011 and on to Illinois, where he teaches. Appears to have some previous albums, but I can't find them in Discogs. With bass (Max Beckman) and drums (Jay Ferguson). Voice barely registers over the rhythm, which is all important. B+(**) [cd]

Mary Halvorson: Cloudward (2023 [2024], Nonesuch): Guitarist, Braxton student at Wesleyan, started with a trio album in 2008, and expanded in various directions, eventually winning a MacArthur genius grant, and topping the 2022 Francis Davis poll with a pair of albums (Amaryllis was the actual winner, but many voters wanted to include the more string-focused Belladonna). This one is a sextet, with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), trombone (Jacob Garchik), bass (Nick Dunston), drums (Tomas Fujiwara), and vibes (Patricia Brennan), with no vocals and only a bit of violin (guest spot for Laurie Anderson). The state-of-the-art compositions are fashionably tricky, the horns add some weight, the vibes a bit of levity. Many critics seem to be impression, but still seems rather nebulous to me. B+(**) [sp]

Jon Irabagon: Survivalism (2024, Irabbagast): Saxophonist, based in Chicago, best known for "bebop terrorist" group MOPDTK but has a substantial, widely scattered discography on his own. Visited a "munitions bunker in South Dakota" to get the isolated ambiance for this album of solo soprillo sax -- at 33cm (13in), the smallest of all saxophones, pitched a fifth higher than sopranino, a full octave above soprano. Nonetheless, Irabagon spends a fair amount of time here finding more guttural sounds in lower registers, contrast to the high notes, which are never what you'd call flighty. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Irabagon's Outright!: Recharge the Blade (2021 [2024], Irabbagast): Group name refers back to a 2008 album of that name, followed by another (Unhinged) in 2012 -- neither especially successful, as I recall, so I don't really get the thinking behind giving this totally different group an old group name. Leader plays soprano sax here, with Ray Anderson (trombone), Matt Mitchell (piano/keyboards), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums), plus a couple guest spots. B+(***) [bc]

Steven Kamperman: Maison Moderne (2023, Trytone): Dutch clarinetist, half-dozen album since 1999, describes this as "music inspired by the house, life, and passions of Theo van Doesburg," the artist and architect (1883-1931) who in 1917 founded the magazine De Stijl, which advanced abstract art and modernist style, effectively qualifying as a "school." The pieces are supported by piano (Albert van Veenendaal), electric guitar (Paul Jarret), and viola (Oene van Geel). Mostly chamber jazz befitting a museum, but this really sharpens up when Jarret takes the lead and Kamperman introduces some much-needed percussion. A- [cd]

Liquid Mike: Paul Bunyan's Slingshot (2024, self-released): Indie band from Marquette, Michigan, several albums since 2021. They run through 13 crisp songs in 25:31. B+(**) [sp]

Richard Nelson/Makrokosmos Orchestra: Dissolve (2023 [2024], Adhyâropa): Guitarist, member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, released his own Large Ensemble project in 2011, returns here with a 15-piece group. Three complex and lush pieces, 39:22. B+(**) [cd]

Nondi_: Flood City Trax (2023, Planet Mu): Electronics producer Tatiana Triplin, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, looks to have two previous EPs, another self-released digital album, and some kind of mixtape/remix related to this. B+(*) [sp]

Angel Olsen: Forever Means (2023, Jagjaguwar, EP): American singer-songwriter, six generally well-regarded albums since 2012, released this four song, 16:02 EP. B [sp]

Public Image Ltd.: End of World (2023, PIL Official): Original Sex Pistol John Lydon, 67 when this came out, eleventh group album, eight years after previous. He's managed to keep a consistent sound since 1978, and occasionally to channel some rage against "liars, fakes, cheats and frauds." B+(*) [sp]

Zoe Rahman: Colour of Sound (2023, Manushi): British pianist, father Bengali, eighth album since 2001, brother Idris Rahman plays sax, with several other horn players, bass, and drums. Richly detailed, sometimes to excess. B+(*) [sp]

Andrew Rathbun: The Speed of Time (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, more than a dozen albums since 1999, quartet with Gary Versace (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums), all original pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Monika Roscher Bigband: Witchy Activities and the Maple Death (2023, Zenna): German guitarist, fourth Bigband album since 2011. Discogs lists genres as: dark jazz, jazz-rock, psychedelic rock. I was thinking prog rock as light opera -- Roscher sings throughout, in English (not that I followed much of it) -- although the big band was built to play jazz, which does a nice job of shading the straightforward beat. B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana (2023, Jazzheads): Bronx-born drummer, graduated from Berklee, joined Mongo Santamaria in 1983, headlined a 1993 album with Tito Puente and Paquito D'Rivera, has led Latin jazz big bands at least since 2007, naming a 2012 album Multiverse. Runs through a lengthy songbook, starting with "Caravan," hitting "Let the Good Times Roll" and "I Love You Porgy," and perhaps most successfully, Steely Dan's "Do It Again." B+(***) [sp]

Adam Schroeder/Mark Masters: CT! Adam Schroeder & Mark Masters Celebrate Clark Terry (2023 [2024], Capri): Big band arrangements of thirteen Terry tunes, Schroeder playing baritone sax, Masters not in the band but with a long career as an arranger. You may recall that Terry played trumpet both for Duke Ellington and Count Basie before leading his own bands, offering plenty of hints for how this works -- largely splitting the difference. B+(***) [cd]

Matthew Shipp/Steve Swell: Space Cube Jazz (2021 [2024], RogueArt): Piano and trombone duets, improvised, first time recording together. A bit sparse, though both have plenty to say. B+(***) [cdr]

Rajna Swaminathan: Apertures (2021 [2023], Ropeadope): Indian percussionist, plays mrudangam, also sings (as does co-producer Ganavya), second album, with Utsav Lal (piano) and a raft of famous jazz musicians: Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Anna Webber (tenor sax), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Stephan Crump (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Tucker Brothers: Live at Chatterbox (2023 [2024], Midwest Crush Music): Brothers Joe (guitar) and Nick (bass), with sax (Sean Imboden) and drums (Carrington Clinton) at a club in Indianapolis. No song credits, but I always recognize "Caravan." Groove band, nice set. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

George Cartwright's GloryLand PonyCat: Black Ants Crawling ([2024], Mahakala Music): Alto/tenor saxophonist, best known for the group Curlew (1980-2003?), based in Minneapolis these days, no recording date given, but it's a live trio date from Clown Lounge, with Adam Linz (bass) and Alden Ikeda (drums) and is released (as have several previous Cartwright albums) in the label's "Reissue Series." B+(**) [bc]

Late Night Count Basie (2023, Primary Wave, EP): The "Count" is in small print, and tends to get overlooked. The songs mostly originate with Basie (well, not "St. Thomas"), and three are credited to his ghost band (Scotty Barnhart, director, with various featured guests), the others to others, as is obvious when Talib Kweli starts rapping over "Didn't You." And "One O'Clock Jump" gets an encore. All in 23:32, but it definitely swings, and jumps. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings (1973-78 [2023], Rhino, 7CD): I didn't feel much need for this -- and, needless to say, Rhino didn't gift me a copy, so no obligation there -- but looking for something to play while trying to get something else written, this seemed like a pretty nice way to spend 5 hours, 49 minutes. One pass [broken up, with a bit of rechecking, as it turned out], although I've heard most of this before. Starts off with a revitalizing young quartet -- featuring George Adams and Don Pullen, who continued on their own, including a fabulous 1986 album called Breakthrough -- but his health deteriorated fast, and he died of ALS at 56 in 1979. Mostly straight reissues, the breakdown:

  • Mingus Moves (1973, Atlantic; [1993], Rhino): Introduces great 1970s quartet with George Adams, Don Pullen, and Dannie Richmond, plus trumpet (Ronald Hampton), marred by a very unfortunate vocal track. [was: B-] B+(**)
  • Changes One (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Quintet session (with Jack Walrath on trumpet), produced masterpieces: "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," "Sue's Changes," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love"; even one vocal, George Adams' gravel "Devil Blues." A
  • Changes Two (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Most pointed title: "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.'; includes a piece by Walrath, a reprise of "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" with a Jackie Paris vocal; and another tribute, "For Harry Carney." A-
  • Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977, Atlantic): Five older pieces, starting with "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," with a raft of guest soloists. B+(*)
  • Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (1976-77 [1978]): Two side-long Latin extravaganzas with typical moves and layers. [was: B-] B+(*)
  • Me Myself an Eye (1978, Atlantic): At this point he no longer played, so this was done with a long list of studio musicians: the 30:20 "Three Worlds of Drums," and three older pieces, offering a taste of future legacy bands. B+(***)
  • Something Like a Bird (1978 [1980], Atlantic): Leftovers from the big band session, the sprawling, near-classic 31:24 title piece, and an elegiac "Farewell Farewell," issued posthumously. A-

Vinyl box has an 8th LP of outtakes, which are included inline in the CD and digital editions. B+(***) [sp]

Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie/Bud Powell/Charles Mingus/Max Roach: Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings (1953 [2023], Craft, 3CD): Mingus and Roach started their own label, Debut Records, in 1952, so they grabbed these tapes, redubbed the bass parts, and released them on three 10-inch records, two credited to "The Quintet" (with the saxophonist identified as Charlie Chan), the other a hornless Bud Powell Trio set, already hyped as "the greatest jazz concert ever." The Quintet eventually came out on an CD (OJC-44), with the trio as Jazz at Massey Hall, Volume Two (OJC-111), with sound, like most Parker bootlegs, pretty dicey. I've never been much impressed, even after a 2012 remaster answered most of the sound issue. The overdubs, too, were controversial, so when Jazz Factory released their 1-CD Complete Jazz at Massey Hall in 2003, they went back to the original tapes. This edition tries to have it both ways, again combining the original Quintet and Trio sets on one CD, but also providing the overdubs on a 2nd CD. (Vinyl splits the first CD into 2-LP, with the overdubs on a 3rd.) Sound is pretty decent here, but it's still more typical than exemplary. B+(***) [sp]

Sonny Rollins: Go West! The Contemporary Records Albums (1957-58 [2023], Craft, 3CD): The label exists primarily to produce luxury vinyl reissues of famous jazz albums, but they also release their remastered wares on CD and digital, so it's possible to stream them, and they get a lot of notice. This collects albums recorded for' Contemporary: Way Out West (1957) and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. The former, a trio with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne leading off with "I'm an Old Cowhand," is one of his best-known records, and has already been given the Craft treatment. The latter, adding extras (piano, guitar, vibes on one track), is less focused, except when Rollins plays, who continues to show uncanny skill for building on standards. The third disc collects the alternate takes, which were initially added to the OJC CDs. It may be the best of the bunch. A- [sp]

Pharoah Sanders: Festival de Jazz de Nice, Nice, France, July 18, 1971 (1971 [2024], Kipepeo Publishing): British label, banner says "A fundraising project to help Kenyans in need," Bandcamp page offers 46 bootlegs from various venues/dates. This is a quintet with the tenor saxophonist, piano (Lonnie Liston Smith), bass (Cecil McBee), drums (Jimmy Hopp), and percussion (Lawrence Killian). I picked this one out from the list, figuring it would be really nice to hear some vintage Sanders. It hit that spot from the start with a no-vocal 21:30 "The Creator Has a Master Plan." B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Sings Louis Jordan [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1973 [2019], Black & Blue): Blues singer-guitarist from Louisiana (1924-2005), played drums after WWII, and started recording singles for Peacock in the late 1940s. Album discography doesn't start until just before this one, a Paris session with jazz musicians, including Milt Buckner (organ), Jay McShann (piano), and Arnett Cobb (tenor sax). No new insights into either Brown or Jordan as blues, but the songs are hits, and Cobb is a real plus. B+(**) [sp]

Millie Jackson: On the Soul Country Side (1977-81 [2014], Kent): Hard-belting soul singer, debut 1972, found her concept with 1974's Caught Up, with a focus on cheating songs that suggested country music -- partly acknowledged on her 1981 album Just a Lil' Bit Country. This repeats six songs from that album (omitting four). The other songs include a couple duets with Isaac Hayes. Some songs are country enough for novelties, but most keep a respectful distance. Puzzling, as respect really isn't her thing. B+(***) [sp]

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): Another decade's worth of hits, most justly famous, some as blues but more in the early development of rock and roll, with some novelties and other oddities in the mix. The syrupy strings of "Mona Lisa" is the first song that feels out of place (the first of only two Nat King Cole songs). Another surprise was Elvis Presley showing up, although "Hound Dog" sounds great after "Let the Good Times Roll." That kicked off a period where white artists, and we're not just talking ones who famously sounded black but others like the Everly Brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, Paul Anka, and David Seville --a sudden wave of integration that mirrored my own experience. It wouldn't be hard to edit this down to a solid-A set (probably 4-CD). And it would still be rewarding to stream through the rest. A- [cd]

Grade (or other) changes:

Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders: Barney Kessel/Hampton Hawes/Leroy Vinnegar/Shelly Manne (1958, Contemporary): I thought I should recheck this. [was: B+] B+(***) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Anderson: Live! (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (Challenge) [03-01]
  • The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59, Acrobat, 6CD) [2013]
  • Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (Aerophonic/Drift) [04-23]
  • Håkon Skogstad: 8 Concepts of Tango (Øra Fonogram) [03-15]
  • Jack Wood: The Gal That Got Away: The Best of Jack Wood, Featuring Guest Niehaud Fitzgibbon (Jazz Hang) [03-29]

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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Another week, dallying on work I should be doing, eventually finding a diversion in the world's calamities, reported below.

Note, however, that I didn't manage to finish my usual rounds by end-of-Sunday, so posted prematurely, and will try to follow up on Monday, the new pieces flagged like this one.

Initial counts: 151 links, 7,009 words. Updated: 171 links, 7,780 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [02-17] Too old? Biden World thinks pundits just don't get Joe: "The president's friends and aides play media critic amid a political mess." They're probably right, but it's hard for outsiders to see, because Biden has never been a very good communicator, and that's never sunk in deep enough to save his latest gaffes from being attributed to obvious age. David Ogilvy advised: "develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga." But if they hadn't paid attention, that's what they'll think anyway, since that's the easiest answer. But people who have paid attention often come to a different appreciation of Biden. I was surprised when, as Biden was just sewing up the 2020 nomination, to see the "Pod Save America" guys appear on Colbert and profess not just support for Biden -- as any practical Democrat would -- but love. I take that to be the point of Franklin Foer's The Last Politician (on my nightstand but still unread as, well, I'm pretty upset with him since he sloppily endorsed Israeli genocide).

  • Elie Honig: [02-16] The real Biden documents scandal (it's not the old-man stuff).

  • Paul Krugman: [02-13] Why Biden should talk up economic success: I'm pretty skeptical here. Two big problems: one is that people experience the economy differently, so it's hard for most people to see how the big stats affect them personally, and the latter requires more personalized messaging; the other is that lots of people think the economy does wonderfully on its own, and that politicians can only muck it up. They're wrong, but telling people they're stupid or naive is a rather tough sell. What Biden should be doing is talk about case examples. He should identify problems, like high prices (drugs is a good one; gasoline is less good, but still affects people), low wages (minimums, unions, etc.), rent, debt, pollution, corruption, fraud, etc. -- the list is practically endless -- and talk about what he has done, and what he is still trying to do, to help with these problems. And also point out what businesses, often through corrupt Republicans, are doing to make these problems even worse. Every one of these stories should have a point, which is that the Democrats are trying hard but need more support to help Americans help themselves, and to keep Republicans from hurting us further. But just throwing a bunch of numbers up in the air doesn't make that point, at least in ways most people can understand, even if you're inclinled to believe Biden, which most people don't. And isn't that the rub? There are lots of good stories to be told, but Biden is such an inept communicator that he's never going to convince people.

  • Miles Mogulescu: [02-10] Biden's unqualified aid to Israel could hand Trump the presidency: I think this is true, even though anyone who knows anything knows that it was Trump who gave Israelis the idea that Washington would blindly support any crazy thing right-wing Israelis could dream up, and that was what increasingly pushed Hamas into the corner they tried to break out of on Oct. 7. However, Biden didn't so much as hint at any scruples over Israel, even after raging vengeance turned into full genocide. At this point, the war in Ukraine is slightly less of an embarrassment, but also shows the Biden administration's inability to think their way out of war. As I said last week, if Biden can't get his wars under control, he's toast.

  • John Nichols: [02-16] Michigan just became the first state in 6 decades to scrap an infamous anti-union law.

  • Ari Paul: [02-16] The media is cheering Dems' rightward turn on immigration.

  • Christian Paz: [02-12] Yes, Democrats, it's Biden or bust: "Even if voters or the establishment wanted to, there really isn't a viable process to replace Biden as the nominee." More "replacement theory":

  • Paul Rosenberg: This also led me to a couple of older articles also on tactics.

  • Dylan Saba: [02-15] Democrats are helping make the US border look more and more like Gaza.

  • Robert J Shapiro: [02-12] Based on incomes, Americans are a lot better off under Biden than under Trump.

  • Norman Solomon: [02-16] Dodging Biden's moral collapse is no way to defeat Trump.

  • Paul Starr: [02-15] It's the working class, stupid: Review of John Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Story of the Party in the Age of Extremes. I've been thinking about the same problem, so picked up a copy of the book, but haven't rushed to get into it. After all, these guys aren't exactly known as geniuses. Their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, tried to flip Kevin Phillips' 1969 book on how demographic trends favored Republicans, and didn't fare so well -- it's easier to be optimistic than to be self-critical. Starr lets them off easy, noting that he wrote a similar essay five years earlier (An Emerging Democratic Majority), so it's nice to have that reference.

  • Matt Stieb: [02-15] Biden picks up key Putin endorsement: Eliciting suspicion by Democrats that he's playing some kind of devious reverse psychology game, although his explanation ("[Biden] is a more experienced, predictable person") sounds eminently reasonable. Of course, it would have been more sensible to just dodge the questions, maybe even to admit that covert support for Trump in 2016 was a blunder. In their rush to demonize him -- which Navalny's death once again sends into overdrive -- people forget that he is the kind of guy, secure in his own power, that one can do business with, at least if you approach him with a measure of respect. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lost art in Washington, supplanted by a cult of power projection with no concern for doing right.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Valerie Hopkins/Andrew E Kramer: [02-16] Aleksei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison at 47. I don't have any real opinions on Navalny, other than that his arrest and death reflects badly on Russia's political and justice systems, and therefore on their leader, Vladimir Putin. Like most people with any degree of knowledge about Russia, I don't have much respect let alone admiration for Putin. I could easily imagine that, if I were Russian, I would support whatever opposition seems most promising against Putin, and that may very well mean Navalny, but not being Russian, I also realize that it's none of my business, and I take a certain amount of alarm at how other Americans have come to fawn over him. I don't think that any nation should interfere in the internal political affairs of another, and I find it especially troubling when Americans in official positions do so -- not least because they tend to be repeat offenders, using America's eminence as a platform for running the world.

On the other hand, I don't believe that nations should have the right to torture their own people over political differences. There should be an international treaty providing a "right to exile" as an escape valve for individuals who can no longer live freely under their own government. Whether Navalny would have taken advantage of such a right isn't obvious: he did return to Russia after being treated for poisoning in Germany, and he was arrested immediately on return, so perhaps he expected to be martyred. That doesn't excuse Russia. If anything, that the story had such a predictable outcome furthers the indictment.

More on Navalny:

Speaking of prominent political prisoners, there's been a flurry of articles recently on Julian Assange:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Keith Bradsher: [02-12] How China built BYD, its Tesla killer.

Tim Fernholz: [02-15] How the US is preparing to fight -- and win -- a war in space: "Meet the startup trying to maintain American military dominance in space." Author previously wrote Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race (2018). Few ideas are more misguided than the notion that anyone can militarily dominate space. Chalmers Johnson illustrated that much 20 years ago by imagining the result of some hostile actor launching "a dumptruck full of gravel" into orbit: it would indiscriminately destroy everyone's satellites, and everything dependent on them (including a big chunk of our communications infrastructure, and such common uses as GPS, as well as the ability to target missiles and drones).

Lydialyle Gibson: [02-12] We have treatments for opioid addiction that work. So why is the problem getting worse?

Umair Irfan: [02-14] Carmakers pumped the brakes on hybrid cars too soon.

Ben Jacobs: [02-13] The race to replace George Santos, explained: Written before Tuesday's vote, which gave the seat to Democrat Tom Suozzi, who was favored in polls by 3-4 points, and won by 8 (54-46).

Sarah Jones: [02-14] The anti-feminist backlash at the heart of the election.

Eric Levitz: [02-18] How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants: "(In this house, we believe that high rents fuel nativist backlashes."

Charisma Madarang: [02-13] Jon Stewart skewers Biden and Trump in scathing 'Daily Show' return: I watched the opening monologue segment, and must say I didn't laugh once. It was about how much older Stewart is now than when he retired from the show 20 years ago, which was when Biden was the same age Stewart is now. And, yes, Trump's pretty old too. The most annoying bit was when Stewart, repeatedly, referred to being president as "the hardest job in the world." That it most certainly is not. As far as I can tell, it looks like a pretty cushy job, with lots (probably too many) people constantly at your beck and call, keeping track of everything and everyone, and preparing for every eventuality. It may be overscheduled, but Trump showed that doesn't have to be the case, and Biden doesn't seem to spend a lot of time in public, either. It may be dauntingly hard to fully comprehend, and the responsibility that comes with the power may be overwhelming, but Trump, and for that matter Biden, don't seem to be all that bothered. Maybe we should have presidents who know and care more, but history doesn't suggest that it makes much difference. Once they get their staffs in place, the bus pretty much drives itself. (Or, in Trump's case, wrecks itself, repeatedly.)

Later on, Stewart brought in his "team of reporters," tending to all-decisive diners in Michigan -- the sort of comedians who developed careers out of the old Daily Show, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver -- and sure, they were pretty funny, albeit in stereotypical ways (naïve/inept Democrats; vile/evil Republicans). More on Jon Stewart:

  • Jeet Heer: [02-16] Jon Stewart is not the enemy: "You don't defeat Trump by rejecting comedy." I agree with the subhed, but I'm still waiting for the comedy. For what it's worth, I think Messrs. Colbert, Myers, and Kimmel have done great public service over the last eight years in reminding us how vile, pompous, and utterly ridiculous Trump has always been, and I thank their audiences for robustly cheering them on. (It's nice to know you're not alone in thinking that.) Myers even does a pretty good job of reminding us that all Republicans are basically interchangeable with Trump, which is a message more people need to realize.

Ciara Moloney: [01-29] What peace in Northern Ireland teaches us about 'endless' conflicts: "If the international community can underwrite war, it can also underwrite peace and justice." Nathan J Robinson linked to this in a tweet, pace a quote from Isaac Herzog: "You cannot accept a peace process with neighbors who engage in terrorism."

Kevin Munger: [02-16] Nobody likes the present situation very much. Unclear where this is going, but it's something to think about:

I think that the pace of technological change is intolerable, that it denies humans the dignity of continuity, states the competence to govern, and social scientists a society about which to accumulate knowledge.

Dennis Overbye: [02-12] The Doomsday clock keeps ticking: The threat of nuclear weapons is real, but the metaphor is bullshit. The clock isn't ticking. It's just a visual prop, meant to worry people, to convey a sense of panic, but panic attenuates over time. So if 7 minutes haven't elapsed since the clock was set 77 years ago, why should we worry now? We clearly need a different system for risk assessment than the one behind the doomsday clock. We also need some much better method for communicating that risk, which is especially difficult, because there are actually dozens of different risks that have to be represented, each with their own distinct strategies for risk reduction. I'm not willing to enter that rabbit hole here, other than to offer a very rough swag that the odds of any kind of nuclear incident in the next 12 months are in the 1-2% range (which, by the way, I regard as alarmingly high, given the stakes, but far from likely; my greatest uncertainty has to do with Ukraine, where there are several serious possible scenarios, but the avoidance of them in 2023 and the likelihood of continued stalemate suggests they can continue to be avoided; by the way, I would count Chernobyl as an above-threshold incident, as it caused more damage, and more fallout, than a single isolated bomb; it should be understood that there is a lot more danger in nuclear power than just the doomsday scenario).

Jared Marcel Pollen: [02-14] Why billionaires are obsessed with the apocalypse: Review of Douglas Rushkoff's book, Surival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

Aja Romano: [02-15] Those evangelical Christian Super Bowl ads -- and the backlash to them -- explained. Also:

Brian Rosenwald: [02-14] The key to understanding the modern GOP? Its hatred of taxes. Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America. The reviewer, by the way, had his own equally plausible idea, in his book: Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.

Becca Rothfeld: [02-15] The Alternative is just the book economists should read -- and won't: "Journalist Nick Romeo lays out eight examples of what we gain when we think about morality alongside money." The book's subtitle: How to Build a Just Economy.

Matt Stieb: [02-13] The millionaire LimeWire founder behind RFK Jr.: "Mark Gorton has done his own research on JFK, LBJ, vaccines, and the 2024 election."

Li Zhou:

The New Yorker: [02-17] Our favorite bookstores in New York City: From the days after I turned 16, got a driver's license, and dropped out of high school, up until perhaps as late as 2011 (i.e., when Borders show down), I spent large parts of my life carousing around bookstores -- at least two, often more like four times a week. (Since then, I mostly just do this.) I fell out of the habit here in Wichita (which still has Watermark Books, and a Barnes & Noble), but what really got me was find most of the bookstores I regularly sought out when visiting New York City had been turned into banks (Colisseum Books was especially saddening). So I'm pleased to see this article, and also to note that the only store listed I've actually been in was the Barnes & Noble. Not that I'm actually likely to get back there any time soon -- most of the people I knew there have departed, and I haven't traveled since the pandemic hit -- but at least one can again entertain the thought.

Also, some notes found on ex-Twitter (many forwarded by @tillkan, so please do yourself a favor and follow her; my comments in brackets):

  • John Cassidy: When 2 headlines are worth 10,000 word[s]. [Image of Wall Street Journal page. Headlines: "Biden Presses Netanyahu to Accept Plan"; "U.S. Is Preparing to Send Bombs, Other Arms to Israel"]

  • Tony Karon: Judge Biden by what he does, not by what he says. Israel can't sustain its genocidal war without the US munitions Biden keeps sending, while offering the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers" for the Palestinian civilians they'll kill [link to: US to send weapons to Israel amid invasion threat in Gaza's Rafah]

  • Nathan J Robinson: The worst serial killer in history killed nearly 200 children. A true monster. Unfathomable evil.

    So far Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have killed over 10,000 children. Their evil reaches a whole other level of depravity.

    [Commenters belittle the comparison by pointing to the usual list of political monsters -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- without realizing that they're only adding to the list (which should, by the way, also include Churchill, Nixon, and GW Bush). Where Netanyahu ranks on that list is open to debate, but that he is morally equivalent isn't. As for Biden, he's certainly complicit, a facilitator, but things he's directly responsible for are relatively minor even if undeniably real (e.g., strikes against Yemen, Iraq, Syria; general poisoning of relations with Iran and Russia). I'm less certain that Stalin and Mao belong, at least the mass starvation their policies caused: that result was probably not intended, although both did little to correct their errors once they became obvious. Churchill's relationship to starvation is more mixed: the Bengal famine was mostly incompetence and lack of care, much like Stalin and Mao, but his efforts to starve Germans were coldly considered and rigorous.]

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41828 [41777] rated (+51), 23 [21] unrated (+2).

I did the weekly changeover at more or less the usual time -- late Sunday evening, or maybe early Monday, the last thing usually being unpacking, which I've been avoiding lately. I've gotten real tired of the bookkeeping that keeps me on top of what's coming and going, and never more so than at the present moment. I figured Monday should be a relatively open day for once, and remembered that I had skipped the indexing for January Streamnotes, so I thought I'd knock that out of the way and catch up. Problem was: I hadn't done December and November either. At the end of Monday, I was still stuck in December, having written nothing.

Hence the delay to Tuesday. When I got up, I felt up to trying to finish, but didn't get January done until 9PM, at which point I still had to write this introduction. The indexing consists of monthly lists organized by year: 2023 is complete now, and 2024 is a new file, with just January. Worse is the Artist Index, which lists all 23,272 records that I've written about in Streamnotes, since that fateful day in 2007 when Rhapsody gave me a subscription and I decided to be generous and write down notes on whatever I listened to. In 2014, I swept my other reviews (Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods) into a single Streamnotes archive, as the promos and purchases thinned out, and I filled my empty time with streaming.

It's never been clearer to me that my indexing scheme is too laborious and error-prone. What isn't clear is whether I'm up to the fairly substantial programming project that is clearly called for, especially given the probability that I won't be able to do this much longer. Given that I've reviewed and rated what I'm fairly certain is an all-time personal record of 1,711 albums released or discovered in 2023, I'm tempted to just bow out on top. And note that I just had to fix 4 errors in the source for that number, my 2023 tracking file. It's a never-ending struggle around here.

Actually, I did manage a small bit of writing on the side yesterday and today -- just not here. Monday I wrote a postscript to the weekend's Speaking of Which, where I point out that reputedly smart people (Matthew Yglesias was named but is far from alone) simply don't understand the Trump campaign. This postscript adds to what I previously identified as my "pull quote":

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

My political writing scarcely gets noticed in my own house, so I'm under no illusions about my ability to influence the world. But I do insist, to anyone willing to listen, that our great fear isn't what might happen in November, but what's actually happening day-by-day here and now. My post starts each week with links to Mondoweiss's daily reports, which given the time gap are up each day before I am. That's as good a place to start as any, although you can also track Middle East Monitor, +972, Middle East Eye, AlJazeera,, Tikun Olam, Popular Resistance, and no doubt there are many others. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times is also pretty damning, even if their opinion writers remain under Israel's spell. The enormity of the atrocities Israel is committing is staggering, something that will redound to the long-term embarrassment of everyone not opposing not opposing it now. (Note: only three Democrats voted against the $95B military military aid bill; 19 Republicans opposed, with most objecting to the larger Ukraine component. Van Hollen gave a good speech declaring Israelis to be "war criminals," but voted for the aid anyway.)

I did manage to get my political book file reopened last week, but haven't managed to do any work on it. I've promised myself one solid month of focus on it, which hasn't started yet, but is still the plan. Meanwhile, I have another essay I need to wrap up this week. And, well, there are always distractions. I spent a good chunk of time today writing an obscure notebook entry -- something even I don't consider important enough to blog about, but wanted to keep as a thought experiment. It has to do with my Old Music review of the Paranoid Style, below, and a fracas over on Facebook that made me question what I had written. If you know what I'm talking about, and care, you can probably look it up. Most likely I will eventually turn it into a Q&A answer, since that's where it started.

Too late to try to say anything about the EOY Aggregate, but I'm essentially done with it. I factored in all of the albums that I had give grades to but hadn't previously picked up. I added in Christgau's Dean's List. I did a search for country music lists I had missed, and found quite a few. (A bunch of this week's records come from that work, including the Stephen Wilson Jr. pick. Diminishing returns from that work, as the other two albums pictured actually came from my demo queue. The Maison Moderne review came after the cutoff, but I figured I had the image space.) The legend is up to 612 lists now. Maybe I'll check to see what's missing, and find a few gaps, but it's pretty much all there.

Usual freeze date is end of February, so I'm not feeling much pressure to wind it up. Just the opposite: fatigue. As bookkeeping tasks go, it's at most an hour's work.

I'm very impressed with Greg Grandin's The End of the Myth, and should write some about it.

New records reviewed this week:

Colby Acuff: Western White Pines (2023, Sony Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from Idaho, second album, claims he's "too Idaho for Texas, too Texas for Nashville." Good songs, and sings them hard. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Alfredson: Family Business (2021 [2023], Posi-Tone): Organ player, has a previous album from 2009, gets the red carpet treatment from his new mainstream label here, with headliners Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Michael Dease (trombone), Will Bernard (guitar), and EJ Strickland (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Bill Anschell: Improbable Solutions (2020-23 [2024], Origin): Pianist, based in Seattle, debut 1995, adds electronics to the mix here, with guitarist Brian Monroney joining the trio on five (of nine) tracks, extra percussion on three, moving into fusion the the finale. B+(*) [cd]

Alex Anwandter: El Diablo En El Cuerpo (2023, 5 AM): Singer-songwriter from Chile, started as vocalist for Teleradio Donoso, based in Los Angeles, sixth album. Big beats carry the day. B+(**) [sp]

Atmosphere: Talk Talk EP (2023, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Hip-hop duo from Minneapolis, started out in 1997, still underground, despite the "EP" in the title this runs 10 songs, 40:20. Two guest spots for Bat Flower; one more shared by Buck 65 and Kool Keith. B+(**) [sp]

Bad Bunny: Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Manana (2023, Rimas Entertainment): Puerto Rican, major reggaeton star, fifth album, first album in 2018 rose to 11 on US pop chart (1 Latin), second album hit 2, this makes 3 straight number ones. I've played them all, and never really connected -- seems to be a case where my lack of Spanish hurts (or it could just be the record's lack of beats). I took my sweet time getting to this one, because, well, it doesn't seem to have generated much buzz (EOY lists: 7 Complex, 17 Billboard, 32 Rolling Stone, 53 Uproxx Critics Poll, very little else), and because it's really long (22 tracks, 81:18). Gave me time enough to wax and wane, with stretches making me think this could really work, only to be followed by doubts it will ever work for me. B+(**) [sp]

Barbie: The Album (2023, Atlantic): Original songs keyed to the Greta Gerwig-directed movie, produced by Mark Ronson, Kevin Weaver, and Brandon Weaver, with six singles (out of 17 songs), starting with Dua Lipa's "Dance the Night." The dance pop could be tuned up a bit, but some of the novelty songs (including the Billie Eilish, "Pink," and "I'm Just Ken") hit their mark. B+(***) [sp]

Berlioz: Jazz Is for Ordinary People (2023, self-released, EP): All Discogs has to say is "Bassist." But the album credits list two composers: Robin Edward Phillips (piano, keyboards) and Jasper Edward Attle (producer), along with Sam Miles (saxophone) and Jihad Darwish (sitar/bass). Five songs, 15:15, jazzy instrumentation but some other postmodernist feel. B+(*) [sp]

Jaap Blonk/Damon Smith/Ra Kalam Bob Moses: Rune Kitchen (2022 [2023], Balance Point Acoustics): Dutch "sound poet," voice and electronics here, backed with bass and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Brothers Osborne: Brothers Osborne (2023, EMI Nashville): Country duo, T.J (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and John (lead guitar, background vocals), from Maryland, fourth studio album since 2016, debut went gold, commercially it's been downhill since there. Not to be confused with the Osborne Brothers, a bluegrass group that ran from 1953-2005, with Bobby dying last year, and Sonny in 2021. These youngsters are more country-rock, with a little something. B+(*) [sp]

Burial: Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above (2024, XL, EP): British electronica producer William Bevan, has a couple albums from 2006-07, since then has mostly released two-sided singles, like this one (12:53 + 13:23). Seems more energetic than recent efforts. Also weirder. B+(*) [sp]

Tré Burt: Traffic Fiction (2023, Oh Boy): Singer-songwriter, from Sacramento, third album, slotted folk because he landed on John Prine's label, but not much resemblance, with tags on Bandcamp all over the map. B+(*) [sp]

Willi Carlisle: Critterland (2024, Signature Sounds): Folkie singer-songwriter, previous album (Peculiar, Missouri) seemed like a breakthrough, but struggles here, ending with a spoken word bit of Ozark folklore. B+(**) [sp]

Jordan Davis: Bluebird Days (2023, MCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, second album. B+(*) [sp]

John Dierker/Jeff Arnal: Astral Chronology (2022-23 [2023], Mahakala Music, EP): Bass clarinet/tenor sax with percussion, electronics, and field recordings. Both have spotty discographies, including a previous album together in 2002. This one is short (4 tracks, 21:48, but engaging and intense. B+(**) [bc]

Drake: For All the Dogs (2023, OVO Sound): Canadian rapper, middle name for Aubrey Graham, debut EP 2009, breakthrough album 2010, eighth studio album, all number ones, which he's parlayed into a substantial business empire, while losing virtually all of his critical cachet. I can't begin to explain either why he's so popular, or so disliked by critics: AOTY gives him a career rating of 68 over 311 reviews, with this album scoring 50 for 13. Other than pointing to the extreme length -- 23 songs (84:50), expanded in the Scary Hours Edition to 29 (108:46) -- during which very little stands out (a rare exception is a feature for Sexyy Red and SZA that goes: "shake that ass for Drake/ now shake that ass for me"; that segues into Lil Yachty chanting, "just another late night for my bitch"). Not awful, but not by much. B [sp]

Ana Frango Elétrico: Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua (2023, Mr Bongo): Brazilian singer-songwriter, Ana Fainguelernt, third album. Some snappy dance moves. B+(**) [sp]

Andy Emler MegaOctet: No Rush! (2021 [2023], La Buissonne): French pianist, albums since 1982, initial Mega Octet in 1990, ten musicians credited here, including trumpet, tuba, three saxes, guitar (Nguyen Lê), bass, drums, percussion (including marimba, tabla). B+(**) [bc]

Ilhan Ersahin/Dave Harrington/Kenny Wollesen: Your Head You Know (2023, Nublu, EP): Saxophonist, Turkish roots but born in Sweden, based in New York, albums since 1996; Harrington plays guitar, bass, keyboards, and electronics, with Wollesen on drums. Three tracks (18:47). B+(*) [bc]

Peter Erskine and the Jam Music Lab All-Stars: Bernstein in Vienna (2021 [2024], Origin): Drummer, best known for Weather Report, but his best work is clearest in piano trios, and he's long had a thing for big bands. Pianist Danny Grissett is musical director here, leading a septet of sax, guitar, harmonica, violin, and bass through Leonard Bernstein's most popular show tunes. B+(**) [cd]

Greg Foat & Eero Koivistoinen: Feathers (2023, Jazzaggression): British pianist, all electric here (Rhodes, Roland, Prophet, Moogs), with the Finnish tenor saxophonist, and rhythm (bass, drums, extra percussion). Nice groove album, the sax a plus but not as dominant as you'd expect (or hope for). B+(*) [sp]

Hardy: The Mockingbird & the Crow (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter Michael Hardy, from Mississippi, based in Nashville, second album after several EPs and mixtapes (dubbed Hixtape). Has a rep as a hard rocker, which isn't especially in evidence here until the crow comes out. I prefer the "poor boy from Mississppi," but don't mind a little noise (although I am wary of the redneck chauvinism). I don't really approve of the effort to muscle up country music into arena rock, but this makes a case. [Docked a notch for the finale.] B+(**) [sp]

Ayumi Ishito: Ayumi Ishito & the Spacemen Vol. 2 (2020 [2023], 577): Japanese tenor saxophonist, graduated from Berklee, Vol. 1 came out in 2021, group includes synthesizer, theremin, guitar/bass, and drums, with voice scattered about, haunting (or mocking?) the spaciness. B+(*) [os]

Maria João & Carlos Bica Quartet: Close to You (2019-21 [2023], JACC): Portuguese singer, counted in the quartet with bassist Bica, keyboards (João Farinha), and guitar (Gonçalo Neto or André Santos). Leads with four covers, disconcertingly weaving Paul Simon into Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," scatting around "Norwegian Wood," followed by the Bacharach-David title song, and Lennon/Ono's "Oh My Love," then three originals (one with a Yeats text), and "What a Wonderful World." I was tempted to write the openers off as merely eccentric, but the title song is especially striking, and the originals find a nice musical balance, which lets the finale end as it should. A- [bc]

Cody Johnson: Leather (2023, Warner Music Nashville): Country singer from Texas, ninth album since 2006, third on a major label. A voice and band as credible as most of his lot, but didn't write any of these twelve songs -- most conventional, "Jesus Loves You" should make you more than a little nervous. B [sp]

Ruston Kelly: The Weakness (2023, Rounder): Singer-songwriter, originally from South Carolina, briefly married to Kacey Musgraves, third album since 2018, slotted country but I don't particularly hear that. I do hear some songs. B+(*) [sp]

Knower: Knower Forever (2023, self-released): Duo of Genevieve Artadi (vocals) and Louis Cole (drums), albums since 2010 (at first under the artists' names), many more credits here, mostly electropop, when it peeks out from under the strings. B [sp]

Tony Kofi & Alina Bzhezhinska: Altera Vita (For Pharoah Sanders) (2023, BBE, EP): Tenor sax and harp duet, she also goes as AlinaHipHarp, actually just a 5:34 single, so I shouldn't have bothered, but it showed up in an album list, and is quite nice, as far as it goes. B [sp]

Ella Langley: Excuse the Mess (2023, Sawgod): Country singer-songwriter, from Alabama, follows up several singles with a solid eight-song, 25:09 album. B+(*) [sp]

Metric: Formentera II (2023, Metric Music International): Electropop band from Toronto, ninth studio album since 2001, sequel to their 2022 album; Emily Haines is the vocalist, who co-wrote the songs with guitarist James Shaw. Songs are catchy and engaging. B+(***) [sp]

Mokoomba: Tusona: Tracings in the Sand (2023, Out Here): Tonga group from Zimbabwe, third album (per Discogs) since 2012. Not far removed from the chimurenga popularized in the 1980s, but only picks up real groove power toward the end. B+(**) [sp]

Nickel Creek: Celebrants (2023, Thirty Tigers): Progressive bluegrass trio, released five albums 1993-2005, disbanded, regrouped for a 2014 album, then this one. I heard nothing notable here until "Where the Long Line Leads." Fades back into oblivion, and stays there a long time. Every now and then my ears prick up, suggesting something of interest, most soon souring. Maybe that's what they mean by "progressive"? B- [sp]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Jubilee (2023, ATO): Nashville-based country string band, eighth studio album since 2004. Some gospel flourishes this time. B [sp]

Dave Pietro: The Talisman (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, half-dozen albums 1994-2008, only a couple since. Mainstream lineup with Scott Wendholt (trumpet), Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Dougie Poole: The Rainbow Wheel of Death (2023, Wharf Cat): Country-ish singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, third album, some good songs, ends on a soft note. B+(*) [sp]

Noah Preminger/Kim Cass: The Dank (2023, Dry Bridge, EP): Duets, sax/clarinet/flute/synth and bass/guitar. Eight short pieces, 20:06. B+(**) [bc]

Nicky Schrire: Nowhere Girl (2023, Anzic): Jazz singer-songwriter, born in London, grew up in Cape Town, studied in New York, wound up in Toronto, debut album 2012. I'm not seeing song credits, but the only one I recognize is "Heart Like a Wheel," which focuses the remainder for McGarrigles fans. B+(*) [sp]

Laura Schuler Quartett: Sueños Paralelos (2021 [2023], Antidrò): Swiss violinist, debut 2018, with Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Hanspeler Pfammatter (synthesizer), and Lionel Friedli (drums), leaning free (last title is "Baby It's Freejazz"). B+(**) [sp]

Sparks Quartet [Eri Yamamoto/Chad Fowler/William Parker/Steve Hirsh]: Live at Vision Festival XXVI (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Piano, sax/flute, bass, drums; quartet released an album as Sparks in 2022, so are following it up with a live set here. B+(**) [bc]

Peter Stampfel/Eli Smith/Walker Shepard: Wildernauts (2024, Don Giovanni): Folk "supergroup" releases their eponymous debut, but I had to look the others up: Discogs shows side-credits for both, mostly playing banjo, including Have Moicy 2. The leader's voice remains instantly recognizable, even as tattered as it is, even as backup ("Picking Dandelions"). Some covers, like the opener "Crazy Arms," and "There Stands the Glass," register right away. Others will take more dedication. B+(**) [sp]

Tani Tabbal Quartet: Intentional (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Drummer, only a couple albums as leader but has side credits starting in 1981 with Roscoe Mitchell, later with David Murray, then was in James Carter's quartet during its prime period. Here with Joe McPhee (tenor sax/poetry), Adam Siegel (alto sax), and Michael Bisio (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Truth Cult: Walk the Wheel (2023, Pop Wig): Emo/hardcore band from Baltimore, second album after a 2018 EP, eleven songs, 27:22. Heavy enough I set the "metal" flag, but sharp enough I let them have their say. B+(*) [bc]

Turnpike Troubadours: A Cat in the Rain (2023, Bossier City): Country band from Oklahoma, sixth album since 2007, steady, pleasant performers, fiddle helps with the old timey feel, don't have much to say, but at least what they have to say isn't bad. B [sp]

Morgan Wallen: One Thing at a Time (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter, from Sneedville, Tennessee, third studio album since 2018, seems like much more, sprawling from 14-songs (45:11) to 30-songs (96:53) to 36-songs (111:36). Huge bestseller, Billboard's number one album for 2023. I've avoid this due to anticipated fatigue and poor reputation, but a very cursory stream does little credit to either excuse. He writes (with help) ordinary songs, gives them fashionably tradish arrangements, and has an agreeable voice. No one will ever mistake him for Merle Haggard (or, for that matter, Don Williams), but you can drink, or I can write, with him in the background, and never give him a serious thought, even if you happen to pay some attention. B+(*) [sp]

Stephen Wilson Jr.: Søn of Dad (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter, from Indiana, first album, about his father, got a little carried away (21 songs, 90 minutes). Still, the first three songs set the stage, showing an interest in social realism and demonstrating sonic tricks (including that "strong Southern drawl" but also booming guitar with a bit of fiddle) to sustain the effort. As for his daddy complex, I have my doubts -- what kind of father teaches his age-5 son to box? not mine, but but I can't say much more in his favor. I keep wondering whether I should revisit Zack Bryan, a good album, but one where the length ultimately wore me down. But even if it earns its reputation, I'd be very surprised if will hold up this well. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tubby Hayes: No Blues: The Complete Hopbine '65 (1965 [2023], Jazz in Britain): British tenor saxophonist, one of the few real bebop masters, lived fast and died young (1935-73). With Kenny Powell (piano), Ron Mathewson (bass), and Dick Brennan (drums), with Hopbine host and fellow tenor saxophonist Tommy Whittle joining for a couple of jousts. Burns intense and long (7 tracks, 95:39), though sometimes the mic seems to wander off. B+(***) [sp]

Jeffrey Lewis: Asides & B-Sides (2014-2018) (2014-18 [2023], self-released): Antifolk singer-songwriter, got started with a self-released cassette in 1998, has a couple albums suggesting career development, then reverts to DIY obscurity, like his recent series from 2019 Tapes through 2022 Tapes -- on Bandcamp but not enough to review. In 2022, he scraped together a 7-track EP called When That Really Old Cat Dies, which has since all but disappeared, even from Google, evidently supplanted by this miscellany, extending the EP to 10 songs, 31:12, finally showing up on Spotify (after I failed to find it just a week ago). Doesn't add much, but did get "The Guest List" a couple more spins. B+(***) [sp]

Lou Reed: Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007 [2024], Light in the Attic): An hour-plus of ambient electronica, as far off his beaten path as Metal Machine Music, and certainly more age-appropriate for what appears to have been his last album. And good enough that he could have had a decent career had he started in this vein decades earlier -- not that you or I would have heard of him. B+(**) [sp]

Taylor Swift: 1989 (Taylor's Version) (2023, Republic): Her fifth album in 2014, now the fourth to get the "Taylor's Version" treatment, which doesn't seem to be anything more than a scam to make more money off back catalogue while giving less of it to Big Machine. I'm not making judgments on that, although I'm also not arguing with anyone who wants to argue against on ethical and/or artistic grounds. I streamed the original, liked it enough for a B+(***), but don't remember a single song, and have no desire compare versions. It's as if I'm hearing a new album for the first time, although it seems unfair to the rest of the world not to list it among reissues. Original grade seems about right. B+(***) [sp]

Barbara Thompson: First Light (1971-72 [2023], Jazz in Britain): British saxophonist (1944-2022), had played with Howard Riley, Michael Gibbs, and Neil Ardley before this, also the rock band Colosseum (she married their drummer, Jon Hiseman), but became better known after 1978 with her Paraphernalia groups. This starts with two Group E pieces, with her on soprano sax and alto flute, and Peip Lemer singing (21:10). That's followed by a big band piece (26:38), then five tracks with her Jubiaba group (29:39; the group finally released an album in 1978). The vocals add to the mess of the first two sets. Jubiaba is also messy, but explodes in rhythm often enough to raise your hopes. B [bc]

Old music:

The Paranoid Style: The Power of Our Proven System (2013, Misra, EP): A reader sent me this YouTube playlist so I could "check it off my list," like this one (updated but not regularly maintained). This was evidently the first of three EPs later combined in unhelpful ways (like a 2013 Misra cassette), a five-song (21:59) digital release, each with its own video (which I've played through several times, but never managed to watch through). Straitlaced indie rock with copious smarts, a formula Elizabeth Nelson and Timothy Bracy have stuck doggedly with, even through full albums like 2016's Rolling Disclosure and the new one, The Interrogator -- both recommended. B+(***) [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alon Farber Hagiga With Dave Douglas: The Magician: Live in Jerusalem (Origin) [02-24]
  • David Friesen: This Light Has No Darkness (Origin) [02-24]
  • Roberto Magris: Love Is Passing Thru: Solo/Duo/Trio/Quartet (2004, JMood) [03-01]
  • Zach Rich: Solidarity (OA2) [02-23]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Speaking of Which

It's pretty exhausting trying to wrap this up on Sunday evening, early enough so I can relax with a bit of TV, a few minutes on the jigsaw puzzle, a few pages in my current book, and maybe a bit of computer Mahjong before I run make to get a jump on Monday's Music Week. After a night's sleep, chances are good that I'll think of some introductory text, and stumble across a couple stories I initially missed. If I do, I'll add them and mark them accordingly, with that red right-margin border.

But if you want a pull quote right now, it's probably this:

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

Initial counts: 145 links, 5,485 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Lots of people have unsolicited advice for the Biden campaign, which frankly seems to need one, but New Republic came up with a bundle of them this week -- enough to break out from the news items above, so let's collect them here.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Al Jazeera: [02-02] Ex-CIA software engineer who leaked to WikiLeaks sentenced to 40 years: "Joshua Schulte had been found guilty of handing over classified materials in so-called Vault 7 leak.

Nicholson Baker: [01-31] No, aliens haven't visited the earth: "Why are so many smart people insisting otherwise?"

Harry Brighouse: [02-05] What's wrong with free public college? Some reasonable points, but I'm not much bothered that a right to free higher education would benefit the middle class more than poorer students. Lots of worthwhile programs do the same, but we shouldn't, for example, give up on airline safety just because the beneficiaries skew up.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [02-10] How a liberal billionaire became America's leading anti-DEI crusader: Profile of Bill Ackman. Another rich guy with money to burn, but how does having donated to Clinton and Obama make him any kind of liberal?

Nicholas Fandos: [02-10] What to know about the race to replace George Santos: "The special House election in New York pits Mazi Pilip, a Republican county legislator, against Tom Suozzi, a former Democratic congressman." In other words, the Democrats nominated the most anodyne white guy possible, while the Republicans calculated that the best way to advance their racist, sexist, nativist agenda was by nominating a black female Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia.

Abdallah Fayyad/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop: [02-09] 7 questions about migration and the US-Mexico border, answered. More border:

Rebecca Gordon: [02-11] Banning what matters: "Public libraries under MAGA threat."

Joshua Keating: [02-06] Welcome to the "neomedieval era": "Nations like the US have more firepower than ever before -- but they also appear weaker than ever. The upshot is a world that feels out of control."

Carlos Lozada: [02-16] : I was expecting, perhaps even hoping for, a Consumer Guide-style compendium of notes on political books, but instead got an introductory essay adapted from his forthcoming The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians. Of course, unless you're a writer with a specific assignment, it's very unlikely you'd actually have to read any book written by (or for) a Washington politician, nor would you do so voluntarily. But I find that such surveys, such as I attempt in my book roundups, can be useful for sampling the state of public discourse. By the way, I did finally pick up a copy of Lozada's What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Clare Malone: [02-10] Is the media prepared for an extinction-level event? "Ads are scarce, search and social traffic is dying, and readers are burned out. The future will require fundamentally rethinking the press's relationship to its audience."

AW Ohlheiser: [02-08] What we've learned from 20 years of Facebook.

Nathan J Robinson:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-09] Roaming Charges: Comfortably dumb. Harsh on Biden. Quote:

  • Sen. Chris Murphy on the failed Border/Ukraine/Israel deal: "They are a disaster right now. How can you trust any Republicans right now? They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter. And then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hrs." ["They"? You got nothing but embarrassed.]

  • It's instructive that MAGA has threatened to "destroy" James Lankford, the rightwing Senator from Oklahoma who wrote a border closure bill that gave them 99% of what they wanted and Democrats are lining up behind Biden for endorsing a bill that betrayed everything he'd ever promised on immigration.

Bryan Walsh: [02-10] Taylor Swift, the NFL, and two routes to cultural dominance: My minor acknowledgment of the week's overweening culture story, not that I have anything to say about it. Cultural dominance isn't what it used to be LVIII years ago, when the Chiefs I remember fondly -- Len Dawson, Otis Taylor, Ed Budde, E.J. Holub, Buck Buchanan -- got butchered by the Green Bay Packers (IV was much more satisfying), while the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and James Brown were regularly outdoing themselves. These days, even the largest stars seem much smaller than they did when I was fifteen, because we now recognize that the world is so much larger. I haven't watched football since the 1980s (or baseball since the 1990s), and while I still listen to quite a bit of popular music, I doubt that any new artist has occupied as much as 1% of my time since 2000. I've listened to, and clearly like, Taylor Swift, but I hardly recognize her song titles, and certainly couldn't rank them (as Rob Sheffield did, 243 of them). I suppose you could chalk that up to age, but I'm feeling the least bit nostalgic. I reviewed more than 1,600 records last year. In 1966, I doubt I heard more than 10 -- supplemented, of course, by KLEO and TV shows like Shindig! and Hullabaloo, but the universe I was conscious of extended to at most a couple hundred artists. Back then, I thought I could master it all. Now I know I never stood a chance.

I know I promised, but what the hell:

Li Zhou: [02-06] The Grammys' Beyoncé snubs speak to a deeper problem: Beyoncé was snubbed? "They're emblematic of how the awards have failed Black artists." As someone who has never had any expectation of Grammy ever doing anything right, I find the very notion that anyone could be so certainly deserving of a win as to be snubbed baffling.

Sorry for doing this to you, but I'm going to quote a Donald Trump tweet (quoted by Matthew Yglesias, reposted by Dean Baker, my emphasis added):

2024 is our Final Battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State, we will expel the warmongers from our government, we will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, we will throw off the sick political class that hates our Country, we will rout the Fake News Media, we will Drain the Swamp, and we will liberate our country from these tyrants and villains once and for all!

Yglesias responded: "This stuff is demented but it also serves to deflect attention from the boring reality that what he's going to do is cut rich people's taxes, raise prescription drug prices, let companies dump more shit in the water, etc etc etc." There's a lot of hyperbole in this pitch, but who can doubts that there are warmongers in the cururent government, that they are pushing us into more perilous foreign entanglements, and that Biden isn't likely to restrain much less break from them. There's good reason to doubt that Trump can fix this, but if he wants to campaign on the promise, many people will find slim chance preferable to none. Moreover, the rest of his pitch is coherent and forceful, and is likely to resonate with the propaganda pitch much of the media -- and not just the shills at Fox -- have been pushing over the last decade.

Countering that Trump won't really do this just feeds into the paranoia over the Deep State -- which, to be sure, thwarted him in 2017, but this time he knows much better what he's up against. Worse still is arguing that his actual government will be boring, with a side of petty corruption, just shows you're not listening, and also suggests that you don't much care what happens. If Trump did nothing more than check off Yglesias's list, he'd still be a disaster for most Americans. But at the very minimum, he's going to do much more than that: he's going to talk, and he's going to talk a lot, and he's going to bring more people into government and media who are going to add ever more vicious details to the mass of hate and pomposity he spews. And even though lots of us are going to recoil in horror, we'll still have to stuggle to survive being inundated by it all, all the while suffering the glee of our tormenters.

Of course, the "Final Battle" and "once and for all" is as over the top as the Book of Revelation he's taken to heart. But that it can't happen won't make them any less determined, or dangerous, or dreadful.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41777 [41743] rated (+34), 21 [16] unrated (+5).

Very late start here, but I don't have much to say, so let's just get it out of the way.

I published another Speaking of Which Sunday evening. Came out with more links than usual (141), but fewer words (4726), so I didn't do much commenting. Today I added another 1000 words of introduction, but only 5 more links. Look for the red stripe in the right margin. The new words try to explain why some of the things people say to frame what Israel and the US are doing in ways that further genocide and poison any prospect for peace.

I'm about 100 pages into Greg Grandin's The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. I thought about quoting several sections that seem particularly relevant to the present, especially about how the notion of an expandable frontier, driven by new settlement, leads to racism at home, war abroad, and genocide for whoever gets caught in the middle. In America this is the dynamic of Jefferson's "Empire of Liberty," of Jackson's "Indian Removal," and of Polk's "Mexican War." Many people understand Israel (like America, South Africa, and Algeria) as an example of attempted Settler Colonialism, but few people have noted the significance of Ben Gurion's refusal in 1948 to declare or, even after defining armistices in 1950-51, define Israel's borders -- even though Ben Gurion had lobbied hard to get the UN to approve a partition plan with defined borders.

I'm struggling to revise an old blog post I wrote about "reading obituaries" for possible inclusion in a book some friends are intent on publishing, and I'm tearing my hair out over my inability to focus on that task, or indeed on much of anything. That in turn has left everything else on hold.

I figured I'd wrap up the EOY aggregate once I counted Robert Christgau's Dean's List: 2023. It's out now, and I've split it up into essay and list, but I haven't counted it yet. I also haven't updated the Consumer Guide database and added the links from the list file to the database. Later this week.

I did add a few things to the EOY aggregate, like the Free Jazz Collective Album of the Year and individual critic lists for their writers who didn't vote in the Francis Davis JCP -- I've taken names, 11 of them, compared to the 7 who did vote.

I'd also like to point out that Mark Lomanno is doing a very nice Month in Review series. It's perhaps a bit more mainstream than the monthly columns Phil Freeman writes for Stereogum and Dave Sumner for Bandcamp Daily, but is a very welcome development. I've been neglecting my 2024 music tracking file, but with both labels and release dates, it makes updating too easy to ignore.

Also note that Paul Medrano is making an effort to track all 2024 New Jazz Music Releases, also in very usable format. I hope some readers here will find a way to help him out.

I also want to recommend one of the very best EOY reports I've seen this year, Tris McCall's Pop Music Abstract 2023, which is basically a whole year's worth of well-written reviews. I added all of the albums cited to my EOY Aggregate (code: tmr:+), even after I realized that not all of them were positive reviews; e.g.:

Sigur Ros -- Atta Oh god no.

Which was even more to the point than even my own B− review. But also take a look at his Lemon Twigs review, which does a marvelous job of putting into words what I was thinking when I simply jotted down C+.

Rated count is significantly down this week, to which I can only say, "whew!" Two 4-CD boxes, though, that I actually bought, and possibly cut them some slack (certainly gave them more time) as a result.

Still lots of technical glitches around the office and home, but I did get my main computer's speakers working, so I'm able to start playing downloads and Soundcloud and YouTube links again.

One thing I didn't do last week was pay any attention to my demo queue, for for that matter to 2024 releases (although five snuck in anyway, including one A−).

New records reviewed this week:

Ben Allison/Steve Cardenas/Ted Nash: Tell the Birds I Said Hello: The Music of Herbie Nichols (2022 [2024], Sonic Camera): Bass, guitar, and tenor sax, fourth album as a trio, also effectively a successor to Allison's Herbie Nichols Project, which recorded three albums 1996-2001, and returns here with arrangements of eight previously unperformed compositions by Nichols (1919-63). B+(***) [sp]

Chuquimamani-Condori: DJ E (2023, self-released): Evidently the work of the California-born electronica producer who has mostly released albums as Elysia Crampton (her name give or take a Chuquimia), although credits here include Elly, Joshua Chuquimia Crampton, and PK Crampton. A back story almost as glitchy as the music, which somehow grows on you if you can resist the temptation to exit immediately. B+(*) [bc]

City Girls: Raw (2023, Quality Control/Motown): Miami hip-hop duo, Yung Miami and JT, third studio album since 2018. B+(**) [sp]

Isaiah Collier: Parallel Universe (2023, Night Dreamer): Chicago-based saxophonist (also flute, keys, vocals), has a couple albums, mostly talks his way through expansive r&b-based grooves, really breaks out when the sax finally breaks free. B+(***) [sp]

Craven Faults: Standers (2023, The Leaf Label): British electronica artist, described as "enigmatic," favors analogue synthesizers, EPs since 2017 and albums since 2020. Nice and steady. B+(***) [sp]

Charley Crockett: Live From the Ryman Auditorium (2022 [2023], Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter, has been releasing trad-themed records at a furious pace since 2015, building up a songbook that he crafts into a fine best-of here. A- [sp]

DJ Danifox: Ansiedade (2023, Principe): Daniel Veiga, based in Lisbon, draws on Afro-Portuguese styles like batida, talking over light, lilting beats, with bits of guitar amidst the percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Evelyn Davis/Fred Frith/Phillip Greenlief: Lantskap Logic: Hidden Danger Lets Me In (2022 [2023], Clean Feed): Pipe organ, electric guitar, clarinet/alto sax; second group album, after Lantskap Logic in 2013, at which point they referred to themselves as Drone Trio. More ambient here, but set in a very old church. B+(*) [bc]

DJ K: Panico No Submundo (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Brazilian funk producer, (19) of his name at Discogs. Broken beats, heavy chants, metallic clunk and grind. B+(*) [sp]

Chad Fowler/George Cartwright/Kelley Hurt/Christopher Parker/Luke Stewart/Steve Hirsh/Zoh Amba: Miserere (2023, Mahakala Music): Free jazz bash, recorded in Little Rock, with visitors from Memphis and points beyond -- Cartwright (alto/tenor sax, guitar) is the senior citizen and mentor to this bunch, with two more saxophonists (Fowler and Amba), piano (Parker), bass (Stewart), drums (Hirsh), and voice (Hurt). B+(**) [bc]

Chad Fowler/Shanyse Strickland/Sana Nagano/Melanie Dyer/Ken Filiano/Anders Griffen: Birdsong (2022 [2024], 'Mahakala Music): Leader plays strich and bass flute; Strickland French horn and flute, with a vocal bit; the others violin, viola, bass, and drums, quite impressive (except for the vocal). B+(**) [sp]

Jayda G: Guy (2023, Ninja Tune): Canadian DJ and producer, actual name Jayda Guy, moved from Grand Forks to Vancouver, then to Berlin, finally to London. Second studio album, also has a DJ-Kicks. B+(***) [sp]

Tim Hecker: No Highs (2023, Kranky): Canadian electronica producer, ambient division, dozen-plus albums since 2001, wound up writing a PhD thesis on urban noise. Describes this as "a beacon of unease against the deluge of false positive corporate ambient currently in vogue" -- a fair description of much of his own recent work, and much more interesting for the effort. B+(***) [sp]

Abdullah Ibrahim: 3 (2023 [2024], Gearbox): South African pianist, has had a remarkable career since his 1963 debut Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio. Trio here with Cleave Guyton Jr. (flute/piccolo) and Noah Jackson (bass/cello). This offers two sets, the second live before a very appreciative audience. Nice stuff when you pay attention, but much of it slips by easily if you don't stay on top of it. B+(*) [sp]

Jonas Brothers: The Album (2023, Republic): Successful boy band, formed 2006 by brothers Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas, sold 17 million copies through 2013, by which time they were pursuing solo projects. Regrouped for a 2019 album, and one more here. It seems to have sold well, but didn't show up in the first 500 lists I collected for my EOY aggregate. Attractive album, although I tired of the overblown finale. B+(*) [sp]

Lia Kohl: The Ceiling Reposes (2021-22 [2023], American Dreams): "Sound artist," based in Chicago, plays cello, synths, kazoo, concertina, wind machine, piano, drums, bells, and live radio. B+(**) [sp]

Jamie Leonhart: The Illusion of Blue (Side A) (2022, self-released, EP): Jazz singer-songwriter, has a previous album from 2008, very little info on this one, except that it seems to be released as two EPs, this one six songs, 22:34. B- [sp]

Jamie Leonhart: The Illusion of Blue (Side B) (2022, self-released, EP): Kicks this one -- five songs, 24:25 -- off with a cover ("What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?"), followed by another covers ("Willow Weep for Me") and other less substantial songs I'd have to look up. B- [sp]

Bonnie Montgomery: River (2023, Gar Hole): Country singer-songwriter from Arkansas, eponymous debut in 2014, fourth album. Claims a "big voice," but there's something a bit off, and big production does the opposite of helping. The more trad backdrops help a bit, but ultimately one just acquiesces, and accepts her as a pretty decent songwriter. B+(*) [sp]

Ulysses Owens Jr. and Generation Y: A New Beat (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Drummer, debut 2012, leads a large group here through hard bop that may be new to the young musicians, who at least keep it fresh. B+(**) [sp]

The Paranoid Style: The Interrogator (2024, Bar/None): Singer-songwriter (and culture critic) Elizabeth Nelson's front group, several EPs and albums since 2013. The music is almost perfectly straightforward -- aside from flashes of superior guitar, that is -- so one gets the feeling that lyrics are decisive, but I'm too slow on their uptake to note more than their intelligence and erudition. Not sure if I can ask for more than that. A- [sp]

Luciana Souza & Trio Corrente: Cometa (2023, Sunnyside): Brazilian jazz singer, studied in Boston, taught in New York, based in Los Angeles, more than a dozen albums since 1998, trio here with Fabio Torres (piano), Paulo Paulelli (bass), and Edu Ribeiro (drums). B+(**) [sp]

David Tamura + Toadal Package: Final Entrance (2023, JPN): New York-based saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also keyboards), "plays noise rock and free jazz," also in a group called The JazzFakers. Backed here with guitar (Cosmo Gallaro), bass (Brenna Rey), and drums (James Paul Nadien). A bit too noisy for me, but that's probably the point. B+(**) [bc]

Azu Tiwaline: The Fifth Dream (2023, IOT): Electronica producer, from Tunisia, second album. Deep, dark, dreamy too, but with a hard industrial frame, not as advertised "guiding us warmly towards trance-inducing hyper states of dance & delight," but strangely comforting anyway. A- [sp]

Mark Turner Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 [2023], Giant Step Arts): Tenor saxophonist, one of the top ones to emerge in the 1990s, with major label releases on Warners, and much more recently on ECM. So I was surprised that this, unlike other albums on this new label, never showed up in my queue. Live set with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Joe Martin (bass), and Jonathan Pinson (drums). Lots of skill here, but not so much spark. B+(**) [sc]

Wiki & Tony Seltzer: 14K Figaro (2023, Wikset Enterprise): Rapper Patrick Morales, prolific since 2015, with producer Antonio Hernandez. B+(***) [sp]

Eri Yamamoto: Colors of the Night Trio (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Japanese pianist, moved to US in 1995, played on several William Parker projects, plus her own (mostly trio) records since 2001. This is another trio, with Parker on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Borga Revolution! Volume 1: Ghanaian Dance Music in the Digital Age, 1983-1992 (1983-92 [2022], Kalita): I've long understood that highlife was the superpowered pop music that evolved in Ghana in the 1970s, whence it spread to Nigeria and mutated into juju and other forms, and of course there was a connection to London, but I didn't realize there was a German one, or that it would be called "burger highlife." That's the focus here, featuring George Darko, Wilson Boateng, and Uncle Joe's Afri-Beat, shifting slightly toward electro-dance music. B+(***) [sp]

Borga Revolution! Volume 2: Ghanaian Dance Music in the Digital Age, 1983-1996 (1983-96 (2023), Kalita): Further explorations in the Ghanaian diaspora, including a couple names likely to be recognized elsewhere (A.B. Crentsil, Pat Thomas). Advantage over Volume 1 is in the more sustained dance grooves. A- [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Live From the Northwest, 1959 (1959 [2023], Brubeck Editions): Four cuts from the Multnomah Hotel in Portland, plus three more from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, both in April, before Take Five came out, mixed with four standards up front (starting with a rather frothy "When the Saints Go Marching In"), two originals, then "The Lonesome Road." Fine piano, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), and Joe Morello (drums). This is, of course, quite nice, but not much more. B+(***) [r]

Duke Ellington: All the Hits and More 1927-54 (1927-54 [2023], Acrobat, 4CD): This seemed like a useful idea, chronicling the period when jazz was popular music through the longest-running, most consistent, and most often brilliant of the era's big bands, even if strictly following the charts has never been surefire. Also because the standard RCA compilations, up to and including the 24-CD Centennial Edition box, skip over the 1932-40 period, when Ellington recorded mostly for Brunswick -- sides that have only been collected on the French Classics label and, finally in 2010, a pricey 11-CD Mosaic box. This is evenly balanced among all of Ellington's labels, confirming the common judgment that the RCA sides from 1927-28 and 1940-46 were peak periods (along with much of his later work, including Newport in 1956 and many of the suites and tributes and small groups from then through the end of the 1960s), but also reminding us that the maligned 1930s and the Hodges-less early 1950s still produced copious brilliance. About the only complaint one might make is that the chart-focus favors singers, which Ellington had -- how to put this? -- rather idiosyncratic taste in. Comes with a substantial booklet with full credits. A [cd]

Kantata: It's High Time Now (1986 [2023], BBE): Burger highlife band from Ghana, Lee Duodu the lead singer and Ogone Kologbo the guitarist, with sax, keyboards, bass, drums, and more percussion. Takes a bit of time to find the right gear, but finally gets there. B+(***) [sp]

The R&B No. 1s of the '40s (1942-50 [2023], Acrobat, 4CD): As with the Ellington box, the booklet provides detailed credits and useful history. But the strict chart focus produces some anomalies, especially early on, when Paul Whiteman, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Ella Mae Morse, and Bing Crosby topped the r&b charts (the latter with, of all things we don't need another copy of, "White Christmas"). Indeed, up to 1945, the r&b charts seem to have been dominated with novelties ("Cow Cow Boogie" was one of the better ones, by Ella Fitzgerald with the Ink Spots). The transition comes awkwardly with two takes of "I Wonder," Cecil Gant's original and a cover by Roosevelt Sykes, taken from a badly worn 78. After that, the first thing you realize is how Louis Jordan dominated the decade (18 songs, compared to 5 each for Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and the Ink Spots; Fitzgerald shares 2 songs with the Ink Spots and one with Jordan; no one else has more than 2). Later years advance significantly toward rock and roll, without taking explicit aim -- for that, you'd be better served by the first disc of The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll 1946-1954 (3-CD, on Hip-O) or The First Rock and Roll Record (another 3-CD, Famous Flames) or the first disc of The R&B Box (6-CD, on Rhino, 1944-74, canon-defining), or Rhino's Blues Masters on jump blues (Volume 5: Jumb Blues Classics, and Volume 14: More Jump Blues). And, of course, if you went that direction, you'd need more Louis Jordan: MCA's original CDs The Best of Louis Jordan and Five Guys Named Moe: Vol. 2 are essential. How much more is hard to judge, but the 4-CD Properbox (Jivin' With Jordan) doesn't flag, and there's a similar 4-CD JSP box -- although I've heard that the 9-CD Bear Family box is de trop. A- [cd]

Papa Yankson: Party Time (Odo Ye Wu) (1989 [2023], Kalita): Ghanaian highlife singer-songwriter (1944-2017), various spellings which may or may not include Kofi. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

  • None.

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duke Ellington: All the Hits and More 1927-54 (Acrobat, 4CD)
  • Christian Fabian Trio: Hip to the Skip (Spicerack) [02-01]
  • Gordon Grdina/Christian Lillinger: Duo Work (Attaboygirl) [02-16]
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: With Fathieh Honari (Attaboygirl) [02-16]
  • Doug MacDonald: Sextet Session (DMAC Music) [03-01]
  • The R&B No. 1s of the '40s (1942-50, Acrobat, 4CD)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Speaking of Which

No introduction for now. I really need to be working on other things. This is driving me crazy. Right now, all I really want is to move it out of the way.

Initial count: 141 links, 4726 words. Revised: 146 links, 5723 words.

After posting, I ran into a couple items that merit additional comments, mostly because they exemplify the kind of shoddy thinking that promotes war (or vice versa).

Harlan Ullman: [01-31] We don't need a Tonkin Gulf Resolution for the Red Sea. Headline is ok, but the hawks don't need one because Biden is escalating the war on his own authority -- as presidents have tended to do ever since the "blank check" war authorization Johnson secured in 1964. But nearly everything else here is wrong-headed or at least seriously muddled. The bit that got to me was "Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, diabolically designed to elicit an Israeli overreaction." He seems to be saying that Israel had no agency in the matter. And now the Houthis, having "plagiarized Hamas' Oct. 7 attack," have tricked the US into bombing Yemen, risking escalation into a broader regional war -- for which, no doubt about this, Ullman will find sinister designs in Tehran.

Of course, there is a perverse kernel of truth to this: Israel and the U.S. are such dedicated believers in security through deterrence that they feel obliged to meet any challenges with overwhelming force, with scarcely a thought given to collateral victims, let alone to how the resulting atrocities damage their credibility and their own psyches. But given their massive investments in intelligence gathering, in war gaming, and in propagandizing, it's hard to accept that their warmaking is merely a conditioned reflex, something that a marginal ideologue with a martyr complex could simply trigger. (As Laura Tillem put it: "Bin Laden was a hypnotist who said look into my eyes, you will now pour all your resources down the drain.")

Rather, they must somehow believe that terror suffices to suppress the aspirations of the disempowered people who inconveniently occupy parts of the world they feel entitled to rule. Still, they feel the need to paint themselves as innocent victims -- a claim that is only plausible in the wake of a sudden outburst, which is why Netanyahu on 10/7, like Bush on 9/11, seized the opportunity to take the offensive and do horrible things long dreamed of but rarely disclosed.

By the way, Ullman lays claim to have been the guy who thought up the "shock and awe" strategy that promised to instantly win the war against Saddam Hussein. It didn't, perhaps because only the dead were truly shocked and awed. The rest simply learned that they could survive, and resolved to fight on. But imagine, instead, the kind of people who got excited by the Powerpoint presentation. Those were the people, from Bush to the Pentagon to their affiliated "think tanks," who, intent on proving their own superiority, brought death and havoc to 20 countries over 20 years. Most were genuinely envious of Israel, which they saw as the one government truly free to impose its superior power on its region and their unfortunate peoples. So now that Israel has finally moved from systematic discrimination reinforced withsporadic terrorism to actual genocide, they're giddy with excitement. Ullman advises them to "act boldly to cripple Houthi and Islamic militant capabilities," but he's also advising a measure of stealth, unlike the "real men go to Tehran" crowd.

The second piece I wanted to mention came from Democracy Today: [02-05] U.S. & Israel vs. Axis of Resistance: Biden Strikes New Targets in Middle East as Gaza War Continues. The transcript includes an interview with Narges Bajoghli, an "expert" who likes to throw about the term "Axis of Resistance." Evidently, this is enough of a thing that it has its own Wikipedia page (as does Iran-Israel proxy conflict, linked to under "Purposes for the Axis"). The term "Axis of Resistance" is internally incoherent and externally malicious. "Axis" implies organization and coordination of a power bloc, which hardly exists, and even where possible is informal. "Resistance" is something that arises locally, wherever power is imposed. Palestinians resist Israeli power, wherever it is felt, sometimes violently, mostly non-violently, but in Israeli-controlled territories to little or no effect. When Israel occupied Lebanon, resistance was generated there as well, most significantly coalescing into Hezbollah. Resisters may come to feel solidarity with others, and may even help each other out, but resistance itself is a limiting function of power. "Axis of Resistance" was nothing more than a rhetorical twist on Bush's "Axis of Evil." What makes the term dangerous is that it's being used to organize a coherent picture of an enemy that Israel can goad America into waging war against. (Israelis have no wish to be the "real men" invading Iran, but would be happy to cheer Americans on, especially as a hopeless war there would deflect qualms about genocide.)

Bajoghli isn't as fully aligned with the hawks as Ullman is, but inadvertently helps them by buying this significant propaganda line. A realistic analysis would see that there are obvious opportunities to breaking up this "axis": Iran wants to end its isolation, and be able to trade with Europe and America (as, it was starting to do before Trump broke the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions); Assad would do virtually anything except surrender power for stability; Yemen and Lebanon have been wracked by civil wars for decades, mostly because local power is fragmented while foreign powers have been free to intervene. These and many other problems could be solved diplomatically, but what has to happen first is to turn the heat down, by demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and beyond, along with discipline against the pogroms in the West Bank. Israel needs to see that their dreams of a "final solution" to the Palestinians are futile: there is no alternative to living together, in peace, with some tangible sense of justice. Not everyone on every side is going to like that, but a democracy of all should be able to come to that conclusion.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats: I meant to note this, but wasn't sure which piece to link to. But, for the record: [02-04] Biden nets landslide victory in South Carolina Democratic primary, over 95% of votes. That compares to about 55% in New Hampshire, where his opponents actually campaigned, but he needed an unofficial write-in campaign.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Emily Bazelon: [02-01] The road to 1948: A panel of six historians -- Nadim Bawaisa, Leena Dallasheh, Abigail Jacobson, Derek Penslar, Itamar Rabinovitch, and Salim Tamari -- offer insights into the 1920-48 period, when Palestine was a League of Nations mandate trusted to Britain, which had occupied it during WWI, displacing the Ottoman Empire. I'm most familiar with this period from Tom Segev's One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate (2001), although I've read numerous other books on the period. There are things I'd quibble with here, but it's generally useful information.

Jules Boykoff/Dave Zirin: [01-29] Israel and Russia have no place in the 2024 Paris Olympics: I'm tempted to say the US should have no place either, but I'm not totally sure whether that should be due to US support for genocide in Gaza, for US agitation for war elsewhere, and/or simply for commercial crassness and nationalistic yahoo-ism. But note that South Africa was banned from 1968 until the end of the apartheid regime, and Israel has long crossed that line.

Mike Catalini: [01-31] Man accused of beheading his father in suburban Philadelphia home and posting gruesome video online: The father is Michael F. Mohn, a civil servant working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The son is Justin Mohn:

Mohn embraced violent anti-government rhetoric in writings he published online going back several years. In August 2020, Mohn published an online "pamphlet" in which he tried to make the case that people born in or after 1991 -- his birth year -- should carry out what he termed a "bloody revolution." He also complained at length about a lawsuit that he lost and encouraged assassinations of family members and public officials.

In the video posted after the killing, he described his father as a 20-year federal employee. He also espoused a variety of conspiracy theories and rants about the Biden administration, immigration and the border, fiscal policy, urban crime and the war in Ukraine.

Aside from the murder, sounds like a pretty solid Republican. The lawsuit he lost, by the way:

In 2018, Mohn sued Progressive Insurance, alleging he was discriminated against and later fired from a job at an agency in Colorado Springs because he was a man who was intelligent, overqualified and overeducated. A federal judge said Mohn provided no evidence to indicate he was discriminated against because he was a man -- in the length of his training or in being denied promotions to jobs. Progressive said it fired him because he kicked open a door. An appeals court upheld the finding that Mohn did not suffer employment discrimination.

Maybe we should start a regular feature on right-wing crime, and how Republicans have encouraged and/or rationalized it:

Fabiola Cineas: [02-01] Conservatives have long been at war with colleges: "A brief history of the right's long-running battle against higher education." Interview with Lauren Lassabe Shepherd, author of Resistance From the Right: Conservatives and the Campus Wars in Modern America.

David Dayen: [01-29] America is not a democracy: "The movement to save democracy from threats is too quick to overlook the problems that have been present since the founding." On the other hand, focusing on structural faults that were build into the Constitution directs attention to issues that have no practicable solution, while ignoring what is by far the most pervasive affront to democracy, which is the influence of money, how the system caters to the rich while confusing issues for everyone else. The simplest test of whether government is democratic is whether it is reflective of and responsive to the needs of the vast majority of its citizens. America's is not.

Rebecca Jennings: [02-01] Everyone's a sellout now: "Everybody has to self-promote now. Nobody wants to." One result: "You're getting worse at [your art], but you're becoming a great marketer for a product which is less and less good."

Whizy Kim: [01-31] How Boeing put profits over planes: "The fall of Boeing has been decades in the making."

Dylan Matthews: [02-01] How Congress is planning to lift 400,000 kids out of poverty. The House passed a bill 357-70 which revives the child tax credit, which has the headline effect, but the bill also includes tax breaks for businesses, which is what it took to become "bipartisan."

China Miéville: [01-31] China Miéville on The Communist Manifesto's enduring power. Interview with the author of A Spectre Haunting: On the Communist Manifesto. I read the book recently, right after Christopher Clark's massive Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World: 1848-1849. It didn't add a lot of detail on the role of the proletariat in the 1848's revolutionary struggles, but it did remind me of the synthesis of clear thinking and human decency that informed the founding of the socialist movement.

Kevin Munger: [01-29] "The Algorithm" is the only critique of "The Algorithm" that "The Algorithm" can produce: A bookmark link, as this seems possibly interesting but requiring more attention than I can muster at the moment. It ties to Kyle Chayka's book Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture. Chayka has a previous book (2020), The Longing for Less, where the subtitle has changed from Living With Minimalism to What's Missing From Minimalism in the recent paperback edition. Shorter is Munger's "The Algorithm" does not exist.

Brian Murphy: [01-31] Anthony Cordesman, security analyst who saw flaws in U.S. policy, dies at 84: "Dr. Cordesman saw the seeds of defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan planted by U.S. policymakers." Of course, I prefer critics who were more prescient earlier, but insiders -- "he described himself as a tepid supporter of the Iraq invasion" -- who are willing to harbor doubts are better than those with no doubts at all.

Timothy Noah: That judge is right. Elon Musk isn't worth what Tesla pays him. For more (and the actual numbers are jaw-dropping) on this:

Christian Paz: [02-02] What we're getting wrong about 2024's "moderate" voters: "The voters who could decide 2024 are a complicated bunch." Paz tries to salvage the term "moderate" by splitting the domain -- by which, less prejudically, he means people with no fixed party affiliation -- into three groups: the "true moderates," the "disengaged," and the "weird." The prejudice is that any time you say "moderate," you're automatically contrasting against some hypothetical extreme that you can thereby reject. But while the people who use the term -- almost never the "moderates" themselves, who prefer to think of themselves as sober, sensible, respectful of all viewpoints, and desiring pragmatic, mutually satisfactory compromises -- like to think they complimenting the "moderates," they're implying that they don't truly believe in what they profess (otherwise, why are they so willing to compromise?).

Rick Perlstein: [01-31] A hole in the culture: "Why is there so little art depicting the moment we're in?"

Brian Resnick: [01-31] The sun's poles are about to flip. It's awesome -- and slightly terrifying.

Ingrid Robenys: A professor of political philosophy at Utrecht University, has a new book: Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, leading to:

Nathan J Robinson: Including interviews at Current Affairs:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Music Week

January archive (final).

Music: Current count 41743 [41697] rated (+46), 16 [19] unrated (-3).

Over the weekend, I cobbled together another substantial Speaking of Which (130 links, 7048 words). Feels pretty hopeless, but did give me a couple days respite from a week of flopping haplessly, accomplishing nothing.

Speaking of nothing, here's this week's catch. Five of six A- releases are jazz; four of six are 2024 releases. The best of the batch is the exception to both generalizations, which seems about right. They all seem rather marginal, but so do most things these days. Still, they're all interesting, very accomplished records, as are the next tier down. By the way, there's more "burger highlife" coming from the "mysterious bin-bags" that brought forth the Jewel Ackah record.

No telling how far behind I am with various bookkeeping tasks. One thing I did manage to do was to add results from Brad Luen's The 13th Annual Expert Witness Poll to the EOY aggregate, all the way down to the singletons. Several things there I still haven't heard.

New records reviewed this week:

Deena Abdelwahed: Jbal Rrsas (2023, Infiné): Tunisian DJ/producer, moved to Paris at 26, although this, her second album (plus a handful of EPs), was recorded in Tunisia, and bears an Arabic title. B+(***) [sp]

Acid Arab: Trois (2023, Crammed Discs): Paris-based electronic group, founded 2012 by Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, "a distinctive mix of deep club-based beats with arabic instruments and vocals." Third album, title is Arabic for such. B+(**) [sp]

Don Braden: Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2 (2023, self-released): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, followed a fairly classic arc from Criss Cross in 1991 to major labels to HighNote 2001-08 and winding up with a self-released covers project (first volume in 2018). Still an imposing saxophonist, but no one I can think of has managed to claim these songs for jazz. B [sp]

Helena Deland: Goodnight Summerland (2023, Chivi Chivi): Canadian singer-songwriter, second album, title from her hometown in British Columbia, now based in Montreal, has a light touch. B+(*) [sp]

Disclosure: Alchemy (2023, Apollo/AWAL): British synthpop duo, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, fourth studio album since 2013. B [sp]

DJ Girl: Hellworld (2023, Planet Mu): Detroit techno producer Terri Shaska, second album. Some bits (especially vocal riffs) don't do much, but gets much better as the beats pick up (e.g., "When U Touch Me," featuring Lighght, but "Groover" works as well). B+(**) [sp]

DJ Ws Da Ingejinha: Caça Fantasma Vol. 1 (2023, Delama): Funk brasilero artist, Wilson da Silva, from Belo Horizonte, can't find him on Discogs, and not making much sense out of this oddly disjointed mess. But stick with it and it may develop its own logic. B [sp]

Dragonchild: Dragonchild (2023, FPE): Ethiopian saxophonist DA Mekonnen, a founder and leader of the Boston-based Debo Band, offers up a solo album. B+(**) [sp]

Baxter Dury: I Thought I Was Better Than You (2023, Heavenly): Second-generation singer-songwriter, eighth album since 2002. Sounds rather like his father, except there's no mistaking him for genius. B [sp]

Enji: Ulaan (2023, Squama): Mongolian singer Enkhjargal Erkhembayar, based in Germany, third album, draws on folk music with jazz musicians. B [sp]

FACS: Still Life in Decay (2023, Trouble in Mind): Chicago group, several albums since 2017, related to Disappears, which had a nice run of albums, 2010-16. Similar industrial vibe here, a bit on the lumbering side. B+(**) [sp]

Amanda Gardier: Auteur (Music Inspired by the Films of Wes Anderson) (2022 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, based in Baltimore, third album, quartet with Charlie Ballantine (guitar, a major factor here), Jesse Wittman (bass), and Dave King (drums). I don't have any idea what the tie-in to the films might be, but something inspired her. A- [cd]

Samuel Goff/Camila Nebbia/Patrick Shiroishi: Diminished Borders (2023, Cacophonous Revival): Drummer plus two saxophonists, free jazz with Nebbia adding some commentary. The lineup reminds me of Cosmosamatics, which worked to the same impressive effect, although this one tails off toward the end. B+(***) [bc]

Vinny Golia/Max Johnson/Weasel Walter: No Refunds (2014 [2023], Unbroken Sounds): A live sax-bass-drums set from Seaside Lounge a while back, the bassist doing the mix and release. Golia plays clarinet, saxello, soprano and baritone sax. B+(**) [sp]

Hands & Tongues: 3 Meta-Dialogues (2023, 4DaRecord): Three pairings of voice and instrument: Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg with 10-string microtonal guitar (Pascal Marzan); Bill Young with clarinet (Noel Taylor); Rodrigo Brandão with bass (João Madeira). Unable to decipher the words, there's very little to relate to here. B- [cd]

Anders Jormin/Lena Willemark: Pasado En Claro (2021 [2023], ECM): Swedish bassist, debut 1984, on ECM since 2001, second album with the Swedish singer/violinist, who has a similar presume, including an ECM debut in 1996. With, below the title, Karin Nakagawa (25-string koto) and Jon Fält (drums). B+(**) [sp]

La Sécurité: Stay Safe (2023, Mothland): Montreal "art punk" group, first album: "equal parts: jumpy beats, off-kilter arrangements, and minimalistic melodic hooks," also a nice balance between English and French. They remind me of vintage new wave, perhaps Martha & the Muffins spiked with Devo? A- [sp]

Alex Lahey: The Answer Is Always Yes (2023, Liberation): Australian singer-songwriter, turns out layered, hooky pop, with a "wall of sound" effect. Third album. B+(**) [sp]

Maurice Louca Elephantine Band: Moonshine (2023, Sub Rosa/Northern Spy): Egyptian composer, plays guitar, lap steel guitar, and synthesizer, in a group with saxophones, clarinet, tuba, vibes, bass, and drums. (Elephantine was the title of his 2019 album, and plays more prominently on the cover here; artist credit here from Sub Rosa sticker.) B+(***) [sp]

Salvoandrea Lucifora Quartet: Drifters (2022 [2023], Trytone): Trombonist, from Sicily, based in Amsterdam, should count as his first album (although I've heard him before). Quartet with piano (Marta Warelis), bass (Omer Govreen), and drums (Marcos Baggiani). Two lp-side-long pieces, very sharp. A- [sp]

Lyia Meta: Always You (2023, self-released): Malaysian singer-songwriter, based in Kuala Lumpur, identifies as jazz and sings in English as an impressive contralto voice. First full album, after an EP. Quite some accomplishment, yet nothing I much care for. B [sp]

Stephan Micus: Thunder (2020-22 [2023], ECM): German singer-songwriter, on ECM since 1977, sings some and plays everything here, mostly exotic instruments like lute, sarangi, calabash, nyckelharpa, shakuhachi, bass zither, frame drums and various bells. Very ambient, other than the distant rumbling of brass, which helps. B [sp]

Camila Nebbia: Una Ofrenda a la Ausencia (2023, Relative Pitch): Tenor saxophonist from Argentina, debut 2015, has been especially busy of late, here with a solo album, a format with pretty severe limitations. Still impressive, building up over time. B+(**) [sp]

Lothar Ohlmeier/Tobias Klein: Left Side Right (2023 [2024], Trytone): Bass clarinet duo, with a little sax (tenor and alto, respectively) on the side. B+(**) [cd] [02-16]

Omnigone: Against the Rest (2023, Bad Time): California ska-punk band led by Adam Davis, second album, the punk aesthetic pumped up with keyb and horns. B+(*) [sp]

Pardoner: Peace Loving People (2023, Bar/None): Seattle post-punk (or some might say "not really punk") outfit, third album since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Reggie Quinerly: The Thousandth Scholar (2023 [2024], Redefinition): Drummer, has several albums, wrote all the pieces but one here, that by pianist Manuel Valera. Also with Matt Brewer (bass) and Samuel Torres (percussion), skewing Afro-Latin. B+(**) [cd]

Naoko Sakata: Infinity (2023, Pomperipossa): Japanese pianist, based in Sweden, has several albums, not sure if this is meant as jazz, but is solo piano, boldly imagined, nicely turned out. B+(*) [sp]

Samo Salamon/Vasil Hadzimanov/Ra-Kalam Bob Moses: Dances of Freedom (2021 [2024], Samo): Slovenian guitarist, has many fine albums since 2003, also plays some banjo here, with piano/keyboards and drums/percussion, both outstanding. A- [cd]

Sigur Rós: Átta (2023, Krunk/BMG): Post-rock band from Iceland, eighth studio album, which you already know if you know Icelandic. B- [sp]

Ches Smith: Laugh Ash (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic): Drummer, many side-credits since 2000, his own records fairly scattered (or, I suppose, "eclectic"). He composed this, with electronics and percussion, with a string section, and spots for voice (Shara Lunon), flute (Anna Webber), clarinet (Oscar Noriega), tenor sax (James Brandon Lewis), and trumpet (Nate Wooley), with Shahzad Ismaily (bass and keyboards). Some of this are as impressive as you'd hope for, but only scattered bits, nothing I feel compelled to pursue. So I won't be surprised when this shows up on EOY lists. B+(*) [cd] [02-02]

Jimi "Primetime" Smith & Bob Corritore: The World in a Jug (2023, Vizztone/SWMAF): Blues guitarist-singer from Chicago, based in Minneapolis, third album (21 years after a second called Back on Track), mostly originals credited to Minford James Smith, with Corritore on harmonica. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Snidero: For All We Know (2023 [2024], Savant): Alto saxophonist, many albums since 1989, straightforward trio here with Peter Washington (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums), playing eight standards. Splendidly, of course. A- [cd] [02-16]

Jonathan Suazo: Ricano (2023, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist from Puerto Rico, based in Boston, has a couple previous albums, aims for the whole "Afro-Caribbean experience" here, with lots of guests (he moves to tenor on the Miguel Zenón spot), including vocals. Too massive for my taste, but the sax is most impressive, and the rest is plenty authentic. B+(***) [sp]

Surgeon: Crash Recoil (2023, Tresor): English electronica producer Anthony Child, was most active 1997-2000, with several long gaps since then. Fairly simple patterns run through at a relentless pace, reminds me of some game music themes, but exceptionally compelling. B+(***) [sp]

Rob Sussman: Top Secret Lab (2023, Sus4music): New York-based trombonist, also plays keyboards, released an eponymous album in 2002, since then has mostly appeared in groups like Swingadelic and Funk Shui NYC. Ends with a pretty energetic "When a Man Loves a Woman." B+(*) [cd]

Tomu DJ: Crazy Trip (2023, No Bias, EP): From California, has a couple previous releases, this a short album (7 tracks, 27:06), enticing beats scattered about a swishy ambient space. B+(***) [sp]

Rian Treanor & Ocen James: Saccades (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): British electronica producer, working here with a Ugandan, who mixes traditional acoustic instruments with electronics. B+(**) [sp]

Katie Von Schleicher: A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night (2023, Sipsman): Brooklyn singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2012. B+(*) [sp]

Bobby West: Big Trippin' (2023, Soulville Sound): Los Angeles-based pianist, possibly the same one Discogs credits with session work for James Taylor and Buffy Sainte Marie in the 1970s, and for R. Kelly in the 1990s. Second album, after a debut in 2021. Trio, nice touch on the occasional ballad, but likes them fast, with lots of frills. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Jewel Ackah: Electric Hi-Life (1986 [2023], BBE): Highlife singer from Ghana (1945-2018), his name long imprinted on my mind thanks to a single Christgau review of his elusive 1989 album My Dear. Discogs credits him with 27 albums, and a birth date that doesn't jive with other sources. B+(***) [sp]

Eddie Lockjaw Davis Quartet: All of Me (1983 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, debut 1951, had a very productive decade with Prestige from 1958, was scrapping for dates after that, this from a stop in Copenhagen with locals (counting expat pianist Kenny Drew, backed here by Jesper Lundgaard and Svend-Erik Nørregaard on bass and drums). [Digital includes an extra track added to the 1994 CD, but the 2023 vinyl does not.] B+(***) [sp]

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan Volume 4: The Nippon Columbia Label 1968-1981 (1968-81 [2023], BBE): It's hard in America to get any sense of jazz in Japan, but this series seems to be having little trouble picking up superb examples, nearly all from musicians I never heard of. (The Lithuanian label NoBusiness has also been fruitfully exploring Japanese jazz, focusing on the avant-garde there.) Nippon Columbia was founded as Nipponophone in 1910, licensing Columbia trademarks as early as 1931, and changing the company name in 1946, but has always remained independent. Not clear how important jazz was to Nippon Columbia (or vice versa), but this ranges widely and impressively, through hard bop combos, big bands, and a lot of Miles Davis influences. B+(***) [sp]

WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. I: Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1968-1984: The Nippon Columbia Masters (1968-84 [2022], Universounds): Label is a Tokyo record store, owned by Yosuk Ogawa, who selected this material (and is credited by Discogs). B+(**) [sp]

WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol II: Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz From Japan 1962-1985: The King Records Masters (1962-85 [2023], Universounds): A second volume, but only seems to be available as 2-LP, with Bandcamp limited to annoyingly short excerpts (with fades), accenting the eclecticism. B [bc]

Mal Waldron/Terumasa Hino: Reminscent Suite (1973 [2024], BBE): Pianist, started in the mid-1950s supporting singer Billie Holiday, and may still be best known for that, but he produced major works for Prestige 1956-62, and moved decisively into avant-jazz later on, especially with Enja, ECM, and Soul Note. He cut this quintet set in Japan with the well-known trumpet player, each writing a side-long piece. A- [sp]

Old music:

Camila Nebbia/Patrick Shiroishi: The Human Being as a Fragile Article (2021, Trouble in Mind): Sax duo, alto and baritone for Shiroishi, tenor for Nebbia, latter speaks, samples and fx for both. B+(**) [sp]

Tomu DJ: Feminista (2021, self-released): First album, eight songs running 41:49. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Acceleration Due to Gravity: Jonesville: Music by and for Sam Jones (Hot Cup) [02-16]
  • Annie Chen: Guardians (JZ Music) [02-23]
  • Daggerboard: Escapement (Wide Hive) [03-08]
  • Emmeluth's Amoeba: Nonsense (Moserobie) [02-09]
  • Kaze: Unwritten (Circum/Libra) [02-09]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Speaking of Which

Front page headline in Wichita Eagle today: Domestic violence killings at all-time high in Wichita. Deeper in the paper, see Dion Lefler: [01-27] Guns are dangerous. The Kansas Legislature's even more so, where he points out that since the KS legislature passed its "constitutional carry" law in 2014, the number of Kansans who have been killed by guns increased 53% (from 329 in 2014 to 503 in 2021).

I've been reading Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War, a painstaking examination of the steps the major European powers took to kick off what they soon called the Great War. It's a long book, and at page 500 the shooting still hasn't started (but will soon, as mobilization has begun). There are some striking similarities to the present: notably the belief that affronts to power have to be answered with violence (whence Austria-Hungary's compulsion to rush to war against Serbia). Also the notion of land as a currency to acknowledge power, which has arguably declined since the days of Europe's imperial carve up of the world, but still persists, especially in Israel's obsession with retaining the land of a depopulated Gaza, and in Russia's grasp of southeastern Ukraine from Luhansk to Crimea. France's eagerness to fight Germany in 1914 stemmed from losing Alsace-Lorraine in 1871.

On the other hand, what we thankfully lack today is the sort of balanced alliances that allowed war to spread almost instantly from Serbia to Flanders. Even though the US imagines it has enemies all around -- and Israel is doing its best to provoke them -- the conflicts are all marginal, mostly with opponents who have little or no appetite for directly attacking the US. It is deeply disturbing to see a nation with so much appetite for destruction floundering about with so little sense of its own needs, and so little concern over its trespasses.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocidal war on Gaza continues, expanding on all fronts.

The genocide charge vs. Israel

Beyond Israel, wounded, frustrated empires spread war, leading only to more war, suffering, and disturbance:

Trump, and other Republicans: Trump, as predicted, won the New Hampshire primary, 54.3% to 43.2% over Nikki Haley, with lapsed candidates Ron DeSantis (0.7%) and Chris Christie (0.5%) far behind.

Biden and/or the Democrats: The New Hampshire primary, denied recognition by the DNC, was held on Tuesday, with Biden getting 63.9% of the votes as a write-in, to 19.6% for Dean Phillips and 4.0% for Marianne Williamson (who actually has much to commend, especially on peace, especially compared to Biden's recent record).

  • David Firestone: [01-25] Biden needs to lose it with Netanyahu: "His aides say he is close to losing his patience, but that isn't enough. He needs to actually lose it."

  • Kayla Guo: [01-28] Pelosi wants FBI to investigate pro-Palestinian protesters: "The former House speaker suggested without offering evidence that some protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza had financial ties to Russia and Vladimir V Putin." This story pretty neatly sums up the mental and moral rot at the top of the Democratic Party.

  • Ed Kilgore: [01-28] 4 reasons Biden's 2024 odds may be better than you think: I'll give you one: in November, folks on the fence are going to have to decide whether not whether they're happy or not, but whether they want change so desperately they'll risk electing a maniacal moron who's vowed to upend everything, or stick with the same boring status quo they've grown accustomed to. Vote for Trump, and you're going to hear about him every day for the next four years, framed by the seething hate he generates among friend and foe alike. Vote for Biden and you'll hardly ever have to hear about him. You don't have to like him, or understand him. You don't have to pretend he's smart, or some kind of great leader. All Democrats need to do is to pass him off as the generic Democrat who, unlike the actual Biden, still wins every poll against Trump. He actually fits that bill pretty well.

  • Paul Krugman: [01-25] Bidencare is a really big deal. True that Biden has managed some minor improvements over the health insurance reform popularly known as Obamacare, but hard to see how it helps his political pitch. Most of the value provided by the ACA was in arresting some horrifying trends at the time -- like the spread of denials for pre-existing conditions, which was fast making insurance unaffordable and/or worthless -- and slowing down cost increases that were already the worst in the world, but those are fears easily forgotten, leaving little in the way of tangible benefits. Meanwhile, Democrats paid a severe price politically for their troubles, while kicking real reform much further down the road. It's interesting that Biden's campaign seems to be embracing slurs like Bidenomics, but it's far from certain that doing so will help. "Bidencare" just sounds like not much to brag about.

  • Dean Baker: In honor of Bidenomics (and Bidencare), we'll slot these pieces here, giving Biden the wee bit of credit he deserves:

  • Eric Levitz: [01-25] A booming economy might not save the Biden campaign.

  • PE Moskowitz: [01-18] Marianne's people: "To her detractors, presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is a political joke. But for her most fervent supporters, it is, as one of them put it, 'Marianne or death.'" That's dumb way of putting it, at least without naming the death alternative as Joe Biden. Her fringe basis is largely based on her pre-political career, which with all its holistic healing, "New Age self-help speak," and A Return to Love vibes, suggests warm heart but soft head. On the other hand, if you limit yourself to what she says about politics, she actually comes off as pretty sensible.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [01-26] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine nears a breaking point: "The window for peace talks is closing as Western support dries up." Most significant point here:

    Russia President Vladimir Putin "may be willing to consider dropping an insistence on neutral status for Ukraine and even ultimately abandon opposition to eventual NATO membership" in exchange for keeping the Ukrainian territory Russia currently occupies, according to anonymous people close to the Kremlin who spoke with Bloomberg. The report says the proposal is part of Moscow's quiet signaling to Washington that it is open to talks to end the war, though U.S. officials deny any backchannel communications.

    Details need to be worked out, but that sounds like a fairly decent deal to me. It's not worth further war to try to regain the lands that Russia has currently secured, especially as most ethnic Ukrainians have departed, leaving mostly ethnic Russians who seem to support Putin. I would like to see a deal which arranges for internationally supervised referenda in 3-5 years to determine permanent boundaries. Assuming Russia does a decent job of reconstruction, they should be able to win those votes, and if they don't, they should at least recognize they were given a fair chance. Future elections would incentivize good behavior on both sides, especially in reconstruction. While I don't see NATO membership as offering much to Ukraine, Russian submission on the point would signal that they have no further territorial ambitions in Ukraine, which should reduce the threat perception all along the Russian front. Ideally, that could lead to more general agreement on demilitarization.

    Note that I haven't changed my mind that Russia was totally in the wrong when they invaded in March 2022. But I've always insisted that conflicts have to be brought swiftly to negotiated ends, and that the only real way to do that is to try to do the best you can for everyone involved. Consequently, the best possible solution has shifted over time, as the underlying reality has shifted and hardened.

  • Fred Kaplan: [01-26] The truth about Ukraine's decision to give up its nukes in the '90s.

  • Constant Méheut/Thomas Gibbons-Neff: [01-28] After two years of bloody fighting, Ukraine wrestles with conscription: "A proposed bill on mobilization has become the focus of a debate as more men dodge the draft and calls rise to demobilize exhausted soldiers." One of the few lessons the US did learn in Vietnam was that no army can fight modern war with conscripts.

  • Joe Gould/Connor O'Brien/Nahal Toosi: [01-26] Lawmakers greenlight F-16s for Turkey after Erdogan approved Sweden's NATO bid.

Around the world:

Other stories:

Freddy Brewster: [01-24] Airlines filed 1,800 reports warning about Boeing's 747 Max: "Since 2020."

Sasha Frere-Jones: [01-23] The Blue Masc: "The brilliant discontents of Lou Reed." A review of Will Hermes' book, Lou Reed: The King of New York.

Amitav Ghosh: [01-23] The blue-blood families that made fortunes in the opium trade: "Long before the Sacklers appeared on the scene, families like the Astors, the Peabodys, and the Delanos cemented their upper-crust status through the global trade in opium." Original title: "Merchants of Addiction," which appeared as a Nation cover story. Covers the historical literature, especially of the Opium War, which the author knows well enough to have written a trilogy of novels on.

Andy Greene: [01-22] The 50 worst decisions in the past 50 years of American politics: "These are the historic blunders, scandals, machinations, and lies that have defined our times." Silly article you can nitpick and re-sort and add your favorites to. But what the hell, let's list them (and I'll spare you the reverse order suspense, although you'll still be expecting things that never materialize*):

  1. Richard Nixon maintains detailed recordings of his White House criminal conspiracies (1971-73)
  2. Obama roasts Trump at the White House correspondents dinner (2011)
  3. Mitch McConnell makes no effort to bar Trump from office after January 6 (2021)
  4. Swing-state liberals vote for Ralph Nader over Al Gore, inadvertently electing George W. Bush (2000)
  5. Hillary Clinton decides not to campaign in Wisconsin in 2016
  6. Mitt Romney unloads on 47% of the country: 'my job is not to worry about those people' (2012)
  7. Gary Hart dares reporters to look into his personal life (1987)
  8. Trump tells America to fight Covid-19 by drinking bleach (2020)
  9. Congressional Republicans overreach by impeaching Bill Clinton, boosting his popularity (1998)
  10. Bill Clinton declares "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" (1998)
  11. John McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate (2008)
  12. W. declares "mission accomplished" (2003)
  13. Dukakis poses in a tank (1988)
  14. Ruth Bader Ginsburg refuses to retire while Obama is president (2009-17)
  15. George W. Bush flies over Katrina, tells his FEMA director he's doing a "heckuva job" (2005)
  16. James Comey reopens the Hillary Clinton email investigation eleven days before the 2016 election
  17. Anthony Weiner reveals himself to be a monser by sexting with 15-year-old girl (2015
  18. Ronald Reagan says his "heart and best intentions" tell him Iran Contra didn't happen (1987)
  19. Michael Bloomberg burns a billion dollars on his 2020 primary run and only wins in American Samoa
  20. Trent Lott says America would be better off is segregationist Strom Thurmond won in 1948 (2002)
  21. Ford pardons Richard Nixon (1974)
  22. Trump refuses to lay off John McCain, costing him Obamacare repeal (2017)
  23. Elliot Spitzer brings a sex worker across state lines (2008)
  24. The butterfly ballot is created in Florida in 2000
  25. Donald Trump tells supporters not to vote by mail (2020)
  26. Rudy Giuliani shreds every remaining tiny bit of credibility he has by going all in on Trump (2021, or earlier?)
  27. Senator Bob Packwood keeps a diary logging sexual assaults, political bribes (1992)
  28. Jeb Bush thinks 2016 is his year to shine
  29. Rick Perry doesn't do his homework before a debate (2012)
  30. Biden totally mucks up the Anita Hill hearings (1988)
  31. Al Gore doesn't let Bill Clinton campaign for him (2000)
  32. Barack Obama says that Midwesterners "cling to guns or religion" (2008)
  33. George H.W. Bush pledges 'read my lips: no new taxes' (1988)
  34. Jimmy Carter follows up his infamous 'malaise' speech by inexplicably firing his cabinet (1979)
  35. Gerald Ford fails to brush up on basic geography before presidential debate (1976)
  36. Joe Biden launches 2008 presidential campaign by calling Barack Obama "clean" and "articulate"
  37. Chris Christie decides against running in 2012
  38. Todd Akin has some thoughts about "legitimate rape" (2012)
  39. Herschel Walker runs for the U.S. Senate (2022)
  40. Dan Quayle sets up Lloyd Bentsen for the mother of all zingers (1988)
  41. Ted Kennedy has no answer when asked why he's running for president in 1980
  42. Dr. Oz films a trip to the grocery store (2022)
  43. Clint Eastwood is given the stage at the 2012 RNC
  44. Mark Sanford "hikes the Appalachian Trail" (2009)
  45. Michael Dukakis calmly reacts to hypothetical question about his wife being raped (1988)
  46. John Edwards has an affair with a campaign staffer while his wife is dying of cancer (2008)
  47. The New York Republican Party makes no effort to vet George Santos before 2022 nomination
  48. Ted Cruz goes on vacation to Cancun during a state of emergency in Texas (2022)
  49. Rod Blagojevich can't keep his stupid mouth shut (2008)
  50. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley rip each other apart but won't attack Trump in bizarre race for second in the 2024 GOP primary

*Top of my list here is Colin Powell's WMD speech at the UN (2003), or a dozen other signal blunders leading up to the Iraq war, ahead of the "mission accomplished" fiasco cited. Worse still, at least in my mind, was Bush's 2001 bullhorn speech at the World Trade Center, which kicked off the whole Global War on Terrorism. [PS: See the Jonathan Schell quote at the bottom of this post.]

Items 1-5 and 14 strike me as blown way out of proportion, and mostly contingent on other events that were impossible to predict at the time. Nixon's tapes only started to matter once he had been exposed for lots of other things. Had Ginsberg resigned in the last year of Obama's presidency, McConnell wouldn't have allowed a vote on a successor. Obama only had a Senate majority in his first two years, and Ginsberg outlived them by ten. And had Hillary Clinton won in 2016, as everyone expected, she (not Trump) would have chosen Ginsberg's replacement.

Many of the others testify to the trivia so much of the media prefers to dwell on. Still, I don't get picking on Obama's "guns or religion" gaffe at 32 while ignoring Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables."

Sarah Jones: [01-25] When a rapist's logic is the law. I should have filed this under Republicans, since they're the ones responsible for this sort of thinking (or at least for it becoming ensconced in law), but I felt this piece should stand out, rather than get buried in the rest of their muck.

Joshua Keating: [01-25] It's not your imagination. There has been more war lately. "Why the 'long peace' may be ending." What "long peace"? Looks like he's referring to arguments by Steven Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) and Joshua Goldstein (Winning the War on War) that never had much empirical support, but -- and I'm generally sympathetic on this point -- reflect changing attitudes towards war, at least in wealthier nations where the potential costs are much greater than ever, and benefits are pretty much inconceivable. It's hard to say why this widespread public sentiment hasn't been reflected in policy. Partly it's because War has been hiding as Defense ever since the Department changed its name. Partly it's the corruption built up around the arms industries and other geopolitical interests (oil is a big one). Partly it has to do with the cult belief in power, despite its repeated failures.

The chart here of "estimated fatalities in conflicts involving at least one state military around the world" is farcical, as it seems to exclude wars states fight against their own people, but it also seems to be doing a lot of undercounting: how could you count 2001-11 as the least deadly stretch of time since WWII when the US was constantly fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as killing people with drones in another dozen countries?

Shawn McCreesh: [01-26] The media apocalypse: "Condé Nast and other publishers stare into the abyss." This looks to me like one of many areas where the private sector can no longer be counted on to provide public goods. When that happens, one needs to find other ways. Bailing them out -- hint: banks are another -- may suffice in the short term, but isn't a real solution. Unfortunately, this area is one that's so poisoned by partisanship that it's going to be especially hard to do anything sensible.

Doug Muir:

  • [01-22] The Kosovo War: 25 years later: An so to war: Fourth part of this series, where "earlier installments can be found here" (cited by me in previous posts). Also, note several long comments by Muir. I suspect there is much more to be covered here, especially as the conflict there seems to be recurring. I didn't think much about Kosovo at the time, although I was struck by the collateral damage (e.g., the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade), and alarmed by the notion that the US could intervene militarily at essentially no risk to American personnel. (The "no fly zone" in Iraq operated on the same principle.) I did pick up one or the other (or maybe both) of the following books, but never read much in them:

    • Noam Chomsky: A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor, and the "Responsibility to Protect" Today (2011, Routledge)
    • Alexander Cockburn/Jeffrey St Clair: Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia (2004, Verso): for a taste, see: Kosovo: Where NATO bombing only made the killing worse.
  • [01-24] Why you should watch American football: I haven't watched for decades, and fast forward through the relevant virtual newspaper pages (in their appalling plenitude), but followed it close enough in my youth to recognize the points (also the counterpoints in the comments), and still find it appealing on the rare moments I happen to catch a play. One thing that really helped me was learning to focus on the line play, something Alex Karras brought to the early days of Monday Night Football.

Rick Perlstein: [01-24] American Fascism: "Author and scholar John Ganz on how Europe's interwar period informs the present." Ganz has a new book coming out in June, When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s.

Kim Phillips-Fein: [01-24] We have no princes: "Heather Cox Richardson and the battle over American history." A review of her book, Democracy Awakening, which is based on newsletter posts since 2019, contemporary politics viewed by someone with extensive knowledge of history and a general commitment to democratic principles. I've read enough of her work to make me initially want to jump right onto this, like I did with Jill Lepore's These Truths: A History of These United States -- at least until I found a post on Biden's foreign policy that was insanely misconceived. Phillips-Fein, who's written several good books about the rise of the new right, helps explain where and why Richardson turns clueless.

Stephen Prager: [01-24] Conservatives are finally admitting they hate MLK.

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [01-13] How to spot red flags: Picture is of John Fetterman, who has of late been a disappointment to left-leaning fans.

  • [01-23] Can Trump be stopped? He was thinking of Lewis Mumford's Myth of the Machine critique of "how society itself can become like a giant machine, integrated with its technologies and directed from above," and noticed:

    The interesting typo is this: at one point in my edition, instead of "megamachine," it happens to say "magamachine." Which strikes me as an interesting description of the kind of giant, brainless, unstoppable engine that Donald Trump is trying to build. He plans to fire all the federal bureaucrats who disagree with him, to give himself complete immunity from the laws and to put the whole state in his service. Donald Trump likes having minions. He is building a giant personality cult that defers to him absolutely, and is incapable of self-criticism.

    Robinson contrasts this with what he calls "the great exhaustion," combined with "Joe Biden's total incapacity to inspire anyone."

  • [01-25] Would it be better if we all turned color-blind? Review of the Coleman Hughes book, The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America.

  • [01-26] Why you should be a Luddite: Interview with Brian Merchant, whose book on the early 19th-century movement is Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech.

Raja Shehadeh: [01-25] In the midst of disaster: A review of "Isabella Hammad's novel of art and exile in Palestine," Enter Ghost.

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-26] Roaming Charges: The impotent empire.

The Nation did us a favor and linked to this old piece by Jonathan Schell: {2011-09-19] The New American Jujitsu. Consider this:

The United States, as if picking up Osama bin Laden's cue, keyed its response to the apocalyptic symbolism, not the genuine but limited reality of the threat from Al Qaeda. It accepted bin Laden's brilliantly stage-managed inflation of his own importance. Soon, the foreign policy as well as the domestic politics of the United States were revolving like a pinwheel around Al Qaeda and the global threat it allegedly posed. Al Qaeda was absurdly likened to the Soviet Union in the cold war and Hitler in World War II, and treated accordingly. "Threat inflation" has a long history in US policy, from the "missile gap" of the 1950s to the Vietnam War, but never has it been so extensively indulged.

Now real, immense forces were in play, for the power of the United States was real and immense, and what it did was truly global in reach and consequence. In his address to Congress nine days after the attack, George W. Bush expanded the "war on terror" to states, declaring, "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." The policy of "regime change" was born, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were launched in its name. There was more. In a speech a few months later, Bush announced, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." In other words, he claimed nothing less than an American monopoly on the effective use of force in the world. The famous White House policy paper of September 2002, the "National Security Strategy of the United States of America," touted the American ideals of "freedom, democracy, and free enterprise" as the "single sustainable model for national success." Politicians and pundits explicitly embraced a global imperial vocation for the United States.

This strategy, and the whole posture it represented, was doomed from the start, for reasons elucidated in Schell's 2003 book: The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People. Yet the lessons remain unrecognized and unlearned in Washington, in Tel Aviv, in Moscow, wherever national leaders instinctively lash out at challenges to their precious power.

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