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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42668 [42624] rated (+44), 15 [20] unrated (-5).

I put out the call for a Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll back on June 30, offering a July 14 deadline for ballots, which would give me a few days to wrap things up before ArtsFuse returns from vacation on July 17. Sure, I expected a light turnout: mid-year lists, while increasingly common as click-bait, don't have the same gravitas as year-end wrap-ups, so fewer voters would be prepared let alone interested; there are vacations and other distractions; the voting period was much shorter than for the year-end poll; and I didn't want to work as hard at rounding up voters. (Last year's 159 voters took a lot of hustle on my part, but in taking the poll over from Francis Davis, I really wanted to prove that I could do it, and it was very wearing.) I didn't do any prospecting for new voters, and hoped that sending a single message to my Jazzpoll mailing list would do the trick.

It didn't: by last Wednesday, I had only about two dozen ballots counted, with another dozen promises to vote later, and a half-dozen polite declines, out of approx. 200 invitees. I had figured that 50% (let's say 80) ballots would still be a good showing, and would generate a lot of information. But 25% struck me as way too low. I had reason to suspect that a big part of the problem was that many messages from my server were being flagged and sequestered as "spam," especially by the gmail servers. So I rebooted, and sent a second round of invitations out to a subset of the list -- the ones I hadn't heard from, skipping a few who hadn't voted in recent years -- in MailMerge-customized letters from my regular email account (which has been dicey enough of late). That took many hours I had wanted to avoid, but got an almost immediate response. I streamlined the invitation a bit, and extended the deadline to July 17 (tonight, or effectively tomorrow morning). As of last night, I had 78 ballots counted, and as I'm writing this I have 2 more in my inbox, so I'm happy with my 50%. [PS: By posting time, the count increased to 86.]

I'll need to move on from this to write an essay (intro, overview, whatever), as well as footnotes on various oddities and discrepancies in the voting. I've struggled with the essay the last couple years, so fear I may again. On the other hand, the data is really extraordinary, so just dive into that. And every time I do this, I come away even more impressed with the extraordinary knowledge and exemplary judgment of the fine people who participate in this Poll. There's nothing we need more in this increasingly complex and scatter-brained world than smart people who develop and share their expertise so that we all may benefit. I'm proud to do my bit, and to help them do theirs.

I might as well start here and disclose my own ballot:


  1. Fay Victor, Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (Tao Forms)
  2. Emmeluth's Amoeba, Nonsense (Moserobie)
  3. Luke Stewart Silt Trio, Unknown Rivers (Pi)
  4. Ballister, Smash and Grab (Aerophonic)
  5. Dave Douglas, Gifts (Greenleaf Music)
  6. The Core, Roots (Moserobie)
  7. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Transfiguration (Intakt)
  8. Romy Glod-Christian Ramond-Klaus Kugel, No Toxic (Nemu)
  9. Ivo Perelman Quartet, Water Music (RogueArt)
  10. Mike Monford, The Cloth I'm Cut From (self-released)


  1. Sonny Rollins, Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings (Resonance)
  2. Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (1995, Elemental Music)
  3. Alice Coltrane, The Carnegie Hall Concert (1971, Impulse!)
  4. Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet, Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (NoBusiness)
  5. Mars Williams & Hamid Drake, I Know You Are but What Am I (1996, Corbett vs. Dempsey)

As lists go, this feels pretty haphazard and tentative. I keep an ongoing ranked list, but don't put much effort into maintaining it. What usually happens is that once I decide an album is A-, I scan the list from the top or bottom (depending on whether it's a real solid A- or a somewhat iffy one), find something that is roughly comparable, and insert the new record above or below that reference point. I fiddled with these a bit, but didn't do much rechecking. Fact is, I never do much rechecking.

This week's batch of reviews are mostly albums that popped up on ballots. I wasn't previously aware that the Kenny Barron, Ivanna Cuesta, Welf Dorr, and [Ahmed] albums existed. Tomeka Reid was one of those download links I've been sitting on -- I probably have nearly 100 stashed away, but I'm loathe to do the extra work when it's so easy to play a promo or stream something -- but it did well enough I felt obligated to listen to it. (Same for Braxton, with all 8 hours + 10:36, available on Bandcamp.) Beger, Borca, and Brötzmann were promo CDs, but they too can be found complete on Bandcamp. I learned about the Armstrong from hype mail the day it became available to stream.

I started to prepare a file with all of my 2024 jazz reviews, similar to my 2023 best jazz, but it isn't ready to be presented yet. I'll clean it up if I decide I want to mention it in my poll essay, or just discard it until end-of-year. (Once I've started it, it's just another thing to try to keep updated.) One thing I can note here is that when I divvied the 2024 file up into jazz and non-jazz sections, the split among new A/A- records was 52-to-25, with old music 12-to-5. That seems like a lot, given that I wound up with only 84 for all of 2023 (and 75 for 2022, 77 for 2021, 86 for 2020, 77 for 2019, 67 for 2018, 84 for 2017, 75 for 2016, 81 for 2015, 69 for 2014, 87 for 2014 -- that's as far as the file series goes back, and the record as far as I can easily tell. Makes me wonder if I'm going soft in my old age, but other explanations are possible, including that the Mid-Year Poll has made me aware of 237 albums I didn't previously have in my tracking file. Most I haven't played yet, but the dozens I have gotten to contributed to this skew.

Given all the extra work on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll, I didn't get around to Speaking of Which until Saturday, when I started with a long section on why Biden should withdraw from the Democratic presidential nomination. This all seems so obvious that it's hard to fathom the negligence and nonsense of whoever's conspiring to keep Biden in the race. On the other hand, much else that popped up in the week's news is hard to fathom. I certainly haven't had the time to figure it out.

The Trump shooting remains a story I know very little about, and have very little interest in pursuing, unless it turns out that my suspicion, as yet purely based on cynicism, that it was a staged PR ploy, turns out to be valid. (By the way, we've been watching the old Jane Marple mysteries. In one of them, the killer creates a blackout, kills someone else, then shoots herself, nicking the ear, so that when the lights come back on, she appears to have been the target (and very lucky). The ear was chosen because it bleeds readily but not seriously. It also emphasizes the luck involved, because it's generally very hard to shoot someone's ear without hitting their head. Of course, there are other ways to fake it, at little risk to Trump. The whole thing would take skill and timing, which seems beyond Trump and his cronies, the chances of such a scheme getting exposed are high, and it's hard to imagine that even Trump could lie his way out of it. On the other hand, how gullible is just about everyone involved so far? So it can't possibly be true, but they're playing it just like it was scripted. And everyone else seems to be falling for it.

Hardly any adds to Speaking of Which today: fixed a couple broken links, some typos. I'll open a file for next week after Music Week goes up. It'll be lower priority than the Poll, but good for the occasional break from thrashing on the Poll essay. I haven't been following the RNC, but I'm sure the people who have will be able to explain in its all its true horror.

There's also this story: Inae Oh: [07-16] The DNC's plan to force Biden's nomination is everything people hate about the DNC. If they go through with this, it won't have been the first time they gamed the rules to help Biden escape normal Democratic procedures: derailing the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, where Biden had performed poorly in 2016, while making South Carolina the first primary, eliminated the most likely path for someone more credible than Dean Phillips to challenge Biden, so no one risked it. This would be shabby in any case, but is especially galling from the people who sell themselves as the guardians of democracy.

The marvelous Swiss avant-jazz pianist Irčne Schweizer has died at 83:

Here's my Grade List. I first got acquainted with her work when I reviewed a 2-CD compilation of her work in 2006:

IRČNE SCHWEIZER: Portrait [1984-2004] (Intakt) Nothing in this year's bumper crop of solo piano is anywhere near as robust as the three solo cuts on this sampler from 14 albums. Eight duos, mostly with drummers, impress even more. The Swiss free jazz pioneer's straight rhythmic undertow rivals Jarrett's, and her pianistics challenge Cecil Taylor's. But as Schweizer demonstrates on the longest piece ("First Meeting," with trombonist George Lewis), her real talent is her spontaneous response to the challenges of such minuscule aggregations. One of the few compilations ever that makes me want to hear every single one of the source albums. A

Her duos with drummers were extraordinary, especially the ones with Han Bennink (1995 and 2015). The latter was my number one jazz record of 2015:

Irčne Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (2015, Intakt): Piano-drum duo, both should be household names by now, and indeed the Dutch percussionist is one of the very few Europeans to make Downbeat Hall of Fame ballot. On the other hand, I've had to write in the name of the Swiss pianist the last few years -- this year ahead of Myra Melford and Marilyn Crispell, who are similar players only in the sense that anyone can be described as similar to Cecil Taylor; Schweizer comes as close as anyone to matching Taylor, but she can also work in some boogie woogie or pennywhistle jive, and closes here with a bit of Monk that evokes "Lullaby of Birdland." In the late 1980s Schweizer started a series of duos with top avant drummers (Louis Moholo was the first, followed by Gunter Sommer and Andrew Cyrille). The best was her 1995 meeting with Bennink (although I also have the 1990 Pierre Favre at A). This return engagement belongs alongside. A [cd]

New records reviewed this week:

أحمد [Ahmed]: Wood Blues (2022 [2024], Astral Spirits): British quartet of Pat Thomas (piano), Joel Grip (bass), Antonin Gerbal (drums), and Seymour Wright (alto sax), originally formed as a tribute to bass/oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-93), fourth album since 2017, unless the 4-CD Giant Beauty box came out ahead of it (looks like it did, by 4 days). I've had people tell me this is the best live band on the planet. They probably thought the same of Cecil Taylor in the 1970s. A- [sp]

Kenny Barron: Beyond This Place (2024, Artwork): Pianist, I first really noticed him as a duet partner for Stan Getz (People Time, 1991), but he started in the early 1970s (cf. Peruvian Blue, 1974), is a DownBeat hall-of-famer, one of the most storied jazz educators in history, and still pretty sharp entering 80s. Helped out here by Steve Nelson (vibes), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums), and especially Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax). A- [sp]

BassDrumBone: Afternoon (2023 [2024], Auricle): Mark Helias, Gerry Hemingway, and Ray Anderson: I've been filing their records under the trombonist since 1986. This one seems a bit muted, but that just brings out the craft in the BassDrum. B+(***) [cd]

Jamie Baum Septet+: What Times Are These (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Flute player, debut 1996, Septet -- including Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Sam Sadigursky (reeds), Brad Shepik (guitar), and Luis Perdomo (piano) -- has four albums 2004-18, expands to nine credits here plus four more vocalists picking their spots. Choice cut is "Sorrow Song," even beyond Kokayi's words. Other vocalists don't fare so well. B+(*) [sp]

Albert Beger/Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Hamid Drake: Cosmic Waves (2023 [2024], No Business): Tenor saxophonist, born in Istanbul, grew up in Israel, studied at Berklee, has a 1995 album, came to my attention with a pair of 2005 albums with William Parker under Hamid Drake's name. The others play bass clarinet and bass, for a dicey free jazz jam, with the drummer as impressive as ever. A- [cd]

Anthony Braxton: 10 Comp (Lorraine) 2022 (2022 [2024], New Braxton House, 10CD): Alto sax legend, credited with "saxophones, electronics" here, with each composition (numbered 423-428, 432-435) running from 41:31 to 60:09. The first six are trio with Adam Matlock (accordion/voice) and Susana Santos Silva (trumpet); the last four are quartet, with a second saxophonist (James Fei) and two bassists (Zach Rowden, Carl Testa). Way too long for anything other than a glancing view, but the first trio has limited appeal: sure, the accordion isn't as grating as Braxton's bagpipe albums, but that's the direction, and the operatic vocals have no more appeal when sung over abstractions than they do over schmaltz. The quartet is similar musically but with fewer annoyances, which doesn't necessarily make it more interesting, or even listenable (though sometimes it is). Length: 490:36. B+(*) [bc]

George Cartwright & Bruce Golden: Dilate (2024, self-released): Saxophonist and drummer, played together in the final iteration of Cartwright's group Curlew (founded 1979, but I think we're talking 2002-03 here). Sounds mostly like electronics and percussion, but all the credits have to say is: "george licked sounds; bruce nailed sounds." Some bits I really like, but others wear me down and out. B+(*) [bc]

Ivanna Cuesta: A Letter to the Earth (2023 [2024], Orenda): Drummer, from Dominican Republic, studied there and at Berklee, based in Boston, first album, composed by, also credited with electronics, with Ben Solomon (sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Max Ridley (bass) -- all terrific here. Bit of guest vocal at the end (Pauli Camou). A- [sp]

Jeremiah Cymerman: Body of Light (2022-23 [2024], 5049): Clarinet player, fifteen-plus albums since 2007, first two pieces here appear to be solo, credits including synths, percussion, sequences, bass. The other two (longer) tracks add drums (Mike Pride) and either guitar-cello or violin. Either way this mostly comes off as ambient. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr/Elias Meister/Dmitry Ishenko/Kenny Wollesen: So Far So Good (2022 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, born in Germany, based in New York, first album appears to be a Flowers for Albert thinking of Einstein not Ayler, unless it was the group called Funk Monk. Backed by guitar, accordion/electric bass, and drums, has traces of soul jazz and funk fusion, but mostly as a vehicle for distinguished saxophone. A- [bc]

Edition Redux: Better a Rook Than a Pawn (2023, Audiographic): I lost track of Ken Vandermark's projects when he pulled most of his work behind the paywall, so I jumped on this new group as soon as I noticed it: Erez Dessel (piano/synth), Lily Finnegan (drums), Beth McDonald (tuba/electronics), and Vandermark (reeds, notably baritone sax). Piano tends to lead, but the real power remains the saxophonist. B+(***) [bc]

Bill Frisell: Orchestras (2021-22 [2024], Blue Note): Guitarist, long-established, leads a trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), featured here surrounded by symphony orchestras (Brussels Philharmonic, Umbria Jazz Orchestra), his (and some other) compositions scaled up by Michael Gibbs. Quick take is that the full strings on the first disc are a turn off. Dispensing with them, the second disc is rather enaging. B+(**) [sp]

Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Play (2021 [2023], Delmark): Chicago pianist, first trio album in 2012, second with this trio of Joshua Abrams and Mikel Patrick Avery. B+(*) [sp]

Erik Griswold/Chloe Kim/Helen Svoboda: Anatomical Heart (2023 [2024], Earshift Music): Pianist, based in Brisbane, Australia, a dozen-plus albums since 2002, has a fondness for prepared piano. Trio with drums and bass. The bit of jerkiness keeps it interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Sarah Hanahan: Among Giants (2024, Blue Engine): Alto saxophonist, first album, quartet with Marc Cary (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), with extra percussion on 4 (of 8) tracks. Mainstream, with considerable power, and more than a little finesse. B+(***) [sp]

Simon Hanes: Tsons of Tsunami (2024, Tzadik): California-born, based in New York, plays baritone guitar here, has mostly worked under group names (Tredici Bacci, Trigger, Shimmer, Guerilla Toss; Tsons of Tsunami was the group name for a 2013 album called Fearless Riders of the Holy Curl. He describes these compositions as "surf-based," backed with trombone, horn, waterphone, vibraphone, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Roger Kellaway: Live at Mezzrow (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Pianist, first album 1963, first new one since 2019, with bass (Jay Leonhart) and drums (Dennis Mackrel) plus guest Roni Ben-Hur (guitar). He's always been a bop era pianist with a little stride in his style. B+(*) [sp]

Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (2023 [2024], Palmetto): Baritone saxophonist, also plays similar instruments, plus some piccolo and flutes, backed quite capably by Dave Stryker (guitar), Jay Anderson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing fourteen songs you can't go wrong with. B+(***) [cd]

Nduduzo Makhathini: Unomkhubulwane (2024, Blue Note): South African pianist, started leading albums in 2014, got a big profile boost when Blue Note picked him up in 2020. Third album there, sings some (not fancy or dramatic, but quite agreeably), backed by Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Fabiano do Nascimento & Sam Gendel: The Room (2024, Real World): Brazilian guitarist, several albums since 2011 -- I particularly liked 2015's Dança Dos Tempos -- here in a very nice duo with soprano sax. B+(**) [sp]

Madeleine Peyroux: Let's Walk (2024, Just One Recording/Thirty Tigers): Jazz singer-songwriter, born in Georgia but grew up in France, ten or so albums since 1996, aimed early for Billie Holiday phrasing, returns after a six-year pause with a new batch of songs that defy expectations. I could see this one being taken for Americana, if you pardon the bit of French (in my book, that's a plus). B+(***) [sp]

Tomeka Reid Quartet: 3+3 (2023 [2024], Cuneiform): Cellist, based in Chicago, helped revitalize the post-2000 AACM, and has an impressive list of albums since her 2015 Quartet, finally a MacArthur "Genius" Fellow in 2022. Same group here, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Three longish pieces: sags a bit in the middle but closes real strong. A- [dl]

Michael Shrieve: Drums of Compassion (2024, 7D Media): Drummer, played in Santana 1969-74, formed Go in 1976 with Stomu Yamashita and Steve Winwood, with later groups like Spellbinder. I recognized the name, and found him in my database, but in the New Age section, with two unheard albums (1984, 1989). Not much jazz there, but some of his many collaborators here count, starting with percussionists Jack DeJohnette, Zakir Hussain, Airto Moriera, and Babatunde Olatunji. Not just drums, but keyboards, sax (Skerik), and electronics (Amon Tobin). B+(*) [sp]

Harry Skoler: Red Brick Hill (2022 [2024], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, three albums 1995-99, this is only his third since, following a Mingus study in 2022. Strong support here on vibes (Joel Ross), bass (Dezron Douglas), and drums (Johnathan Blake), with one-track guest spots from Marquis Hill (trumpet), Christian Sands (piano), and Grégoire Maret (harmonica). B+(**) [sp]

Something Else! [Featuring Vincent Herring]: Soul Jazz (2024, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream "supergroup," alto saxophonist gets featured spotlight but Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) steals as much spotlight. Also with Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Paul Bollenback (guitar), David Kikoski (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass), and Otis Brown III (drums). They swing a little, swagger too. B+(*) [sp]

Gregory Tardy: In His Timing (2023, WJ3): One of many mainstream tenor saxophonist to emerge in the 1990s, starting out on Impulse!, but mostly recording on SteepleChase since then. But he plays clarinet here, paired with violin (Regina Carter), backed by piano-bass-drums. Sometimes the mix pays dividends, sometimes not so much. B+(*) [bc]

Alan Walker: A Little Too Late (2024, Aunt Mimi's): Singer-songwriter, started in a group I've never heard of, the Brilliant Mistakes (three albums 1998-2008), second solo album. Plays piano, some pop craft, some strings. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Louis Armstrong: Louis in London (1968 [2024], Verve): A previously unreleased BBC radio shot from July 2, 1968, billed as his "last great performance," three years before his death in 1971. He had been in decline for several years, often unable to play trumpet, but his vocals remained endearing, with a couple songs turning into big pop hits. He's credited with trumpet here, which seems good enough, his voice even better, as he runs through thirteen songs, most signature hits, a proper career summary. A- [sp]

Derek Bailey/Sabu Toyozumi: Breath Awareness (1987 [2024], NoBusiness): British guitarist (1932-2005), a major figure in the avant-garde (albeit one that I've only lightly sampled, and never really gotten the hang of), in an improv duo with the Japanese drummer. Scratchy, abstract, requires close listening, sometimes rewards it. B+(***) [cd]

Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet: Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (1998-2005 [2024], No Business): One of the few bassoon players in any branch of jazz, especially in free jazz, she led groups so rarely that this is her first collection as leader, but Discogs credits her with 30 albums, many with her husband, Jimmy Lyons, also Cecil Taylor, William Parker, Joel Futterman, Alan Silva, Bill Dixon. The early set here has Parker and Rob Brown (alto sax). Brown returns for the late set, with Reggie Workman, and is stellar throughout. A- [cd]

Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Sabu Toyozumi: Complete Link (2016 [2024], NoBusiness): Tenor sax/tarogato, trumpet/electronics, drums. Within our ten-year window for "new releases," with both of the principals recently departed, this feels more like an archival find. They had a fairly long run together in the quartet, with William Parker and Hamid Drake, named for their first album, Die Like a Dog. I always found their records a bit too abrasive, but here I'm not only not bothered, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. A- [cd]

Nat King Cole: Live at the Blue Note Chicago (1953 [2024], Iconic): Pianist and singer (1917-65), had his first r&b hits in 1942, cracked the pop top ten in 1944 with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," hit number one in 1946 with "For Sentimental Reasons," followed by "Nature Boy," "Mona Lisa," and "Too Young" -- all in these live sets, a quartet with guitar (John Collins), bass (Charlie Harris), and drums (Lee Young). B+(**) [sp]

The Jazzanians: We Have Waited Too Long (1988 [2024], Ubuntu Music): In 1984, Dave Brubeck's son Darius organized a jazz program at the University of Natal, in South Africa. A few years later, he organized this "first multiracial student jazz ensemble from South Africa," and took them on tour, and into the studio. Best known player now is probably Zim Ngqawana (alto sax/flute). They kick off with a very infectious township jive groove. They're not all that delightful. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Incarnations (1960 [2024], Candid): The bassist recorded two sessions for Nat Hentoff's label, which immediately led to the albums Presents Charles Mingus and Mingus. In 1985, Mosaic collected those albums and outtakes for The Complete Candid Recordings of Charles Mingus, In 1990, Candid took some of those for Mysterious Blues. This albums grabs five more takes (one previously unissued). B+(**) [sp]

Louis Moholo-Moholo: Louis Moholo-Moholo's Viva-La-Black (1988 [2024], Ogun): South African drummer, moved to Europe in 1964, emerged as a prominent free jazz drummer in the 1970s. Leads a sextet here, with Sean Bergin (tenor/alto sax), Steve Williamson (tenor/soprano sax), Claude Deppa (trumpet/flugelhorn), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Thebe Lipere (percussion). B+(**) [bc]

Septet Matchi-Oul: Terremoto (1971 [2024], Souffle Continu): Label dedicated to "Treasures of the French Underground," this one-shot group led by Chilean-French pianist Manuel Villarroel qualifies nicely. No other names I immediately recognize, but some further research may be in order. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Pink Elephants on Parade (1985-90 [2024], Modern Harmonic): A "small sample" of songs from Walt Disney movies, eight from two dates in 1988-89, 5 more from 5 different venues, the first 9 tracks previously unreleased. Vocals on most tracks, none slick or particularly funny, but amused? Sure. B+(***) [sp]

John Wright Trio: South Side Soul (1960 [2024], Craft): Pianist (1934-2017), born in Kentucky but moved to Chicago when he was two. First album, with bass (Wendell Roberts) and drums (Walter McCants). [sp]

Old music:

Albert Beger: The Primitive (1995, NMC): Israeli tenor saxophonist, plays some flute, first album, quartet with piano (John Bostock), bass guitar (Gabi Maier), and drums (Asaf Sirkis). B+(**) [sp]

Albert Beger Quartet: The Art of the Moment (2000, Third Ear Music): Curious lack of information on this, label name appears on some streaming sites (NMC seems more likely), quartet with guitar, bass, and drums (no idea who). Impressive saxophonist, rhythm section has some spunk, flute I could do without. Need to work on that discography. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr: Funk Monk 2002 (2002 [2020], self-released): Alto saxophonist, from Germany, based in New York, led the band Funk Monk from 1996-2009, various lineups, released a Live at the Knitting Factory in 1999 but that seems to be all. Dorr salvaged this tape from Izzy Bar in July 2002, and claims all compositions, so no Monk tribute here: more horns (Antonio Dangerfield on trumpet, Melvin Smith on tenor sax, trombone on two tracks), backed by a bubbling array of keys, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Welf Dorr: Flowers for Albert (2005 [202], self-released): The saxophone/flute player/composer has laid claim to this tape, although his name appears last on the cover, after Kenny Wolleson (drums), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Hock Temesgen (bass), and Shoko Nagai (piano). Title comes from David Murray's tribute to Ayler, but Dorr's preferred Albert is Einstein, seeing this as the centennial of his three breakthrough papers on physics. B+(**) [sp]

Welf Dorr Unit: Blood (2014 [2018], Creative Sources): Brooklyn group, leader plays alto sax and bass clarinet, backed by guitar (Dave Ross), bass (Dmitry Ishenko), and drums (Joe Hertenstein). Guitar runs a bit heavy. B+(*) [bc]

Welf Dorr/Dmitry Ishenko/Joe Hertenstein: Pandemic House Sessions (2020 [2021], self-released): Previous Unit reduced to a trio, recorded at the drummer's apartment. Losing the guitar gives the saxophonist a lot more breathing room. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Copeland: Empire State (Franklin & Highland, EP) [09-06]
  • Ize Trio: The Global Suites (self-released) [08-02]
  • Frank Paul Schubert/Michel Pilz/Stefan Scheib/Klaus Kugel: Live at FreeJazz Saar 2019 (Nemu) [05-01]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Speaking of Which

I'm starting this introduction on Tuesday, already two days late, ignoring for now the new news pouring in, especially from the RNC. Due to my Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll project, I wasn't able to start until Saturday, at which point I started with the long introduction to the Biden section. After that, I scrounged up a few quick links to seemingly important stories. The alleged Trump shooting -- I'm not denying it, but I'm not fully buying it either -- had just happened, so I had to spin off a section on that. Monday the Cannon ruling on the Trump documents case came down, so I had to note that. If I find out that Hamas and Netanyahu agreed to a cease fire deal -- I've heard that, but as I'm writing this I haven't seen any confirmation -- I'll note that too. (But thus far I've been smart to ignore past rumors of impending agreement.)

A couple days ago, still with Biden very much on my mind, I thought I'd begin this introduction with a spur-of-the-moment tweet I posted:

Unsolicited advice to the ruling class: can someone point out to Biden that being president and running are two different full-time jobs. He should pick one, like the one we need someone to focus on and do well, right now. He could set a model we should add to the Constitution.

Looking it up now, I see that it only has 97 views, with 0 replies, forwards, or likes. It seems like views have been steadily declining, although the number of followers (640) is about double from a long plateau about a year ago.

One thing that stimulated my thought was when I saw several folks pushing a constitutional amendment to impose a maximum age limit on presidents. (Search doesn't reveal a lot of examples, but here's one.) I have no time to argue this here, but I've often worried about the accumulation of arbitrary power in the presidency -- especially war-making power, but there are other issues here -- and with in the development of a political personality cult (Reagan is the obvious example, with Trump even more so, but they at least remained aligned with their party, while Clinton and Obama used their office to direct their party to their own personal fortunes, a shift that worked to the detriment of other Democrats).

Banning self-succession (second consecutive terms) wouldn't fix all of the problems with the presidency, but it would help, especially in terms of democracy. I won't go into details here, but there should also be limits on nepotism (spouses, children, possibly more), and major campaign finance reforms. Whether you keep the two-term total limit is optional -- eliminating it may get rid of the often stupid "lame duck" argument. But I also suspect that people will have little appetite for returning a non-incumbent ex-president.

One more point: if presidents can't run again, maybe they'll actually put their political instincts aside and settle into actually doing their jobs. Trump is the obvious worst-case example: the first thing he did after inauguration in 2017 was to file as a candidate for 2020, and he returned to holding campaign rallies a month or two later. Given how temperamental his judgment was, we are probably lucky that he turned out to be so oblivious to actually doing the job, but that's hardly something we can count on saving us again. Even more competent presidents were repeatedly distracted by political duties -- ones they were, as a requirement for selection, more interested in, if not necessarily better at.

At this point, the essential skill sets of campaigners and administrators have diverged so radically that it's almost inconceivable that you could find one person for both jobs. I could imagine a constitutional change where whoever wins the presidency has to appoint someone else (or maybe a troika) to run the executive government, while being personally limited to symbolic public service, like the King of England, or the President of Israel. But the amendment I proposed above should be a much easier sell, especially given the mess we're in now.

Fortunately, we don't actually need the amendment this year. All we need is for Biden to drop out. As I explain below, there are lots of good reasons for him to do so. This is one more, and if he grasped it, would be a principled one.

About 10 PM Tuesday, time to call it quits for this week. I may pick up a few adds while I'm working on the similarly delayed Music Week, but I expect to be extremely busy on deadline day for the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll (up to 78 ballots as I write this). No doubt I'll have to do a lot of cross-checking next week to keep from repeating stories. But the big ones, rest assured, will return, pretty much as they are here, so what's below should give you a leg up on everyone else.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America):

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: [07-12] We must understand Israel as a settler-colonial state: I'd go a bit deeper and say we can only understand Israel if we start from acknowledging that it is primarily a settler-colonial state. I'm not saying this because I think "settler-colonial state" means we should automatically condemn Israel, and especially not to argue that the only solution is expulsion ("go back where you came from" just won't do here). But identifying it as such puts Israel into a conceptual framework that really helps explain the options and choices that Israeli political leaders made -- many of which do indeed deserve approbation -- as well as providing a framework to see some way of ending the conflict on terms that most people can find agreeable. I would add that among settler-colonial states, Israel is exceptionally frustrated, which is why it has turned into such a cauldron of interminable violence.

  • Marcy Newman: [07-13] The reluctant memoirist exposes the academy: "At a time when Palestine activism and free expression at U.S. universities are under attack, Steven Salaita's new memoir disabuses us of the notion that these universities are anything other than hedge funds with a campus."

  • James North: [07-10] Israel's leading paper says its own army deliberately killed Israelis on October 7. But in the US media: silence: "Israel ordered the 'Hannibal Directive' on October 7 by ordering the killing of captive Israeli soldiers and civilians. But the U.S. media continues to hide the truth."

  • Alice Rothchild: [07-14] The destruction of healthcare in Gaza and the scientific assessment of settler colonial violence: "The Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council held a distinguished panel of experts that addressed the settler colonial determinants of health in light of the Gaza genocide." Following up on these documents:

  • Philip Weiss: [07-14] Weekly Briefing: The 'NYT' justifies Israeli slaughter of civilians as necessary tactic: "The New York Times says Israel has been 'forced' to massacre Palestinian civilians because Hamas militants hide in bedrooms. The U.S. used such justifications for massacres in Vietnam."


Well, this happened:

  • [Vox]: [07-14] Who shot Trump? What we know about the assassination attempt. [PS: This piece has been updated after I wrote the following, as more information was released, such as the identities of the people shot, including the alleged shooter.] "This is what happened at the Butler rally, as we understand it right now." As I understand it, shots were fired during a Trump rally. Trump dropped to the ground. When he appeared again, there was blood on his face. Secret Service surrounded him, and moved him off the platform. The people around him jerked when he did, but afterwards mostly looked confused. He tweeted later that he had been shot, nicked in the ear. (From his head angle at the time of the shot, it must have come from the far side -- not from the crowd, or from the gallery behind him.) Reports are that two people wound up dead -- one the alleged shooter, and another person, still unidentified, and two more people were injured. It's not clear where those people, including the shooter, were, or what the timing of were. One report says the shots came from an "AR-type" gun.

    I'll link to more pieces as I collect them. But knowing only what is in here (and having watched the video provided), my first reaction is that a real assassination attempt like this would be very hard to pull off, but would be very easy to fake (assuming you could imagine that anyone involved would be willing to do so, which with this particular crew isn't inconceivable; still, the risk of faking it and then getting exposed seems like it should be pretty extreme). No need to jump to that conclusion, but I'm pretty sure the "grassy knoll" squad is going to jump all over this story. More Vox pieces are collected in: Donald Trump targeted in assassination attempt.

  • Zack Beauchamp:

  • Constance Grady: [07-15] The pure media savvy of Trump's first pump photo, explained by an expert: "It's his brand now." The interview goes into the making of other iconic photos, as well as Trump's history of seizing on moments like this.

  • Jeet Heer:

  • Murtza Hussain: Will this make Trump more popular? "Assassination attempts targeting populist leaders have had a track record of boosting their popularity."

  • Sarah Jones: [07-15] God's strongman.

  • Ed Kilgore: [07-15] Trump assassination attempt makes 2024 election more bonkers than ever: "But will it cinch a victory for him?" Evidently, "many Republicans are already saying the bullets that nearly killed Donald Trump have clinched his return to the White House."

  • Natasha Lennard: The only kind of "political violence" all U.S. politicians oppose.

  • Eric Levitz:

  • Stephen Prager: [07-16] 'Political violence' is all around us: "Condemning 'political violence' rings hollow coming from politicians who are highly selective in the violence they deplore. We should oppose it consistently."

  • Aja Romano: [07-15] The Trump assassination attempt was a window into America's fractured reality. I'm not sure whether the subhed is a conclusion or just a premise: "The shooting wasn't staged, but conspiratorial thinking has become widespread in our paranoid age." You know, the latter truism doesn't prove "the shooting wasn't staged." It just suggests that we shouldn't jump to that conclusion.

  • Helen Santoro/Lucy Dean Stockton/David Sirota/Joel Warner: Pennsylvania GOP fought a ban on the gun used in Trump shooting.

  • Timothy Messer-Kruse: [07-15] The myth of the magic bullet: He doesn't weigh in on the Trump shooting, but takes on the more general idea, that a single bullet can change history for the better. I rather doubt his assertion that "there would still be a MAGA movement" without Trump, because no matter how much fuel of "white resentment" had accumulated, it still took a spark to set it off, and it's hard to find a leader with Trump's particular mix of ego and ignorance. But he is right when he says, "Trump is not a threat to democracy as much as he is a symbol of its deepening absence."

On Monday, Trump announced his pick for vice president: JD Vance:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [07-15] What J.D. Vance really believes: "The dark worldview of Trump's choice for vice president, explained."

    Vance has said that, had he been vice president in 2020, he would have carried out Trump's scheme for the vice president to overturn the election results. He has fundraised for January 6 rioters. He once called on the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into a Washington Post columnist who penned a critical piece about Trump. After last week's assassination attempt on Trump, he attempted to whitewash his radicalism by blaming the shooting on Democrats' rhetoric about democracy without an iota of evidence.

    This worldview translates into a very aggressive agenda for a second Trump presidency. In a podcast interview, Vance said that Trump should "fire every single mid-level bureaucrat" in the US government and "replace them with our people." If the courts attempt to stop this, Vance says, Trump should simply ignore the law.

    "You stand before the country, like Andrew Jackson did, and say the chief justice has made his ruling, now let him enforce it," he declares.

  • Aaron Blake: [07-15] The risk of J.D. Vance: "Trump went with the MAGA pick. But the 2022 election suggests that might not be the right electoral one."

  • Jonathan Chait: [07-15] J.D. Vance joins ticket with man he once called 'America's Hitler': "Apparently he meant it as a compliment."

  • Ben Jacobs: [07-15] J.D. Vance on his MAGA conversion: "Trump's man in Ohio once called him 'America's Hitler,' but there's an explanation."

  • Sarah Jones: [07-15] Hillbilly shapeshifter: "Re-reading J.D. Vance's memoir." This came out earlier this year, but gets an update for the moment.

  • Ed Kilgore: [07-15] J.D. Vance as VP means Trump picks MAGA over 'unity'. What does "unity" even mean? Trump has complete control. He doesn't need to compromise with anyone. One might ask why he would pick a double-crossing weasel, but Trump probably figure he's on top of that game. Maybe Kilgore is just trying to plug the Intelligencer liveblog: So much for 'national unity': RNC live updates. Republicans don't need "unity": they believe they're the only ones who count, so they already are "unity" -- now if they can just get rid of everyone else, they'll be set (and America will be great again, like it was when the other people didn't count).

  • Daniel Larison: [07-15] What will Vance do for Trump's foreign policy? "The Ohio senator's ideology is hard to nail down as he has vacillated between restraint and interventionism."

  • Steve M: [07-15] J.D. Vance probably hates you more than Trump does: "It is clear that Vance is an angry, nasty person whose contempt for the people he doesn't like is bone deep." Also:

    Now that Trump has chosen Vance, I expect Democrats to focus on the mean tweets Vance posted about Trump before he became a Trump fan. I don't see the point -- politicians (and non-politicians) change their minds about people all the time. Kamala Harris said harsh things about Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign. George H.W. Bush attacked Ronald Reagan's economic ideas in the 1980 campaign. I think it's more important for voters to know how much contempt Vance has for everyone who disagrees with him or does things he doesn't like. I have kids, so he hates me. Maybe he hates you too.

  • Veronica Riccobene/Helen Santoro/Joel Warner: J.D. Vance wants police to track people who have abortions.

  • Ross Rosenfeld: The scary message Trump sent by choosing J.D. Vance: "The Ohio senator is a sycophant who will never challenge or question his boss -- not even to defend American democracy."

Of course, the Trump news doesn't end there.

  • Sasha Abramsky: [07-14] A brief history of Trump and violence: "But that can't be allowed to erase the long, ugly history of Trump's dalliance with violence."

  • David Atkins: [07-08] Pay attention to Trump's every cruel and crazy syllable: "All eyes are on President Biden's words, but Trump is getting meaner and increasingly bonkers each day."

    Let's look at just a few recent examples.

    1. Trump wants to make poor migrants fight each other for sport.
    2. Trump wants to ban electric cars because someone in an electric boat might get eaten by a shark.
    3. Donald Trump wants to ban all vaccine mandates in schools, which would include polio, measlesl, etc.
    4. Trump wants to end meaningful elections in the United States.
    5. Trump thinks the end of Roe v Wade was "amazing" and brags that he was "able to kill Roe v. Wade.
  • Elizabeth Austin: [07-13] Trump's Democrats-support-infanticide trope is an infuriating lie: "Republicans like the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee are mocking every woman who got that horrible call from the obstetrician and made the tragic decision to end a hopeless pregnancy."

  • Christopher Fettweis: [05-15] Trump's big idea: Deploy assassination teams to Mexico: "His plan to kill drug kingpins to solve the American opioid crisis will backfire dramatically."

  • Chris Lehman: [07 -11] Donald Trump's new strategy: act normal: "With the opposition in disarray, Trump and his campaign have begun exhibiting unusual restraint in hopes of expanding his support."

  • Clarence Lusane: [07-12] Who thinks Donald Trump is racist? "Other racists, that's who!"

  • Nicole Narea: [07-15] A right-wing judge just threw out a case against Trump in a brazen abuse of power: "The classified documents case against Trump hits another major setback before the 2024 election." Why?

    In her ruling, Cannon argued that because Smith had not been appointed a special counsel by the president and confirmed by the Senate, his appointment violated the Constitution's Appointments Clause. . . .

    Cannon's ruling, which relies on a stringent reading of the Constitution and represents a brazen break with precedent, has come under heavy criticism from legal scholars. Under her ruling, the appointment of prior special counsels would have also come into question, from Archibald Cox, who investigated the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, to Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    I'm sure there will be more on this next week. Well, for now, this one is worth quoting at length:

    • Steve M.: [07-15] The death of America is steady rot:

      We think we'll lose democracy and the rule of law suddenly if Donald Trump becomes president again. We think the edifice will be destroyed like the Twin Towers on 9/11: the planes hit the buildings, and without hours they collapsed in on themselves.

      But our system is like a house that's rotting room by room. The foundation has cracks. There are termites. The roof leaks. One room after another has become uninhabitable.

      We've lost the federal courts. The would-be murderers of America already have the federal bench they need to sustain the horrible America they want. A second Trump presidency won't really worsen the federal bench -- it will only fix it in place in its current form for several more decades. I'm 65, and I'll never live to see a federal bench that isn't an extremist Republican legislature in robes.

      Through gerrymandering, we lost democracy in many state legislatures years ago. In states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, liberals and moderates add up to more than 45% of the electorate and have exactly none of the legislative power, because of gerrymandering. This happened long before Trump and there were no "Death of Democracy" front-page headlines.

      If Trump wins in November, he and the thugs of Project 2025 might take a wrecking ball to what's left of the house. But already several rooms are closed off. It's unsafe to live in them. And even if Trump loses, or wins and doesn't follow through with the worst ideas his backers have proposed, many rooms in the house will continue to rot.

      A lot of this rot can be traced back to Reagan in the 1980s, when a brief majority of Americans put sentiment and emotion over reason and practicality, and ceded power to the people Kurt Anderson called Evil Geniuses (subtitle: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History), and for that matter to the conspiracies -- to use a word we've systematically been trained to abjure -- of the 1970s that many others have written about (off the top of my head: Rick Perlstein, Jane Mayer, Max Blumenthal, Kim Phillips-Fein, Laura Kalman, Nancy McLean, Jeff Madrick). For sure, part of the blame lies with Democrats, like Carter and Clinton, who thought they could beat the Republicans at their own game, and some to with Democrats like Obama and Biden, who chose to play along rather than rouse the people to defend their rights against relentless Republican assault.

      M's point is absolutely right. Bad choices often take years, sometimes decades, to manifest themselves. To cite two examples where the elapsed time was too short to cloud causality, the distance from Reagan's deregulation of the S&L industry to its collapse was 6-8 years. The distance from Clinton's repeal of Carter-Glass and the deregulation of derivatives -- changes mostly championed by Republicans like Phil Gramm, but Clinton signed off on them -- was 8-10 years. Longer, more insidious time frames are even more common. I recall George Brockway tracing the financial madness circa 2000 back to an obscure banking law Republicans passed after their fluke congressional win in 1946 -- the same one that gave us Taft-Hartley, which had little effect on unionized auto, aircraft, steel, etc., workers through the 1960s but led to their collapse from the 1980s on. Similarly, there are blunders from the early Cold War that still haunt us (like the overthrow of Iran in 1953).

      We've been systematically starved of democracy for decades now: ever since campaigns became media circuses, increasingly in thrall to the sponsor class. Maybe now that the strangulation has become so obvious -- the only choice we've been allowed is between the two least popular, and quite arguably the two least competent, politicians in America -- we'll finally realize our need to struggle to breathe free. Or maybe we'll just fucking die. After all, we're about 90% buried already.

. . . And other Republicans:

  • Sasha Abramsky: [07-02] Will Arizona be MAGA's last stand? "Trump needs the state's votes to win. But after its highest court revived an 1864 law that bans abortions, all bets are off."

  • Hassan Ali Kanu: [07-11] No, Trump and GOP have not 'softened' on abortion, women's rights: "The language change in their platforms is nakedly dishonest bait and switch."

  • Sarah Jones: [07-14] The authoritarian plot: "At the National Conservatism conference, Republicans mix with racists ranting about 'post-white America.'"

  • Steve M: I have a couple more of his posts elsewhere, but let's go to town here:

    • [07-13] First thoughts on the shooting (updated): Starts with his own prediction tweet: "Every rank-and-file Republican voter believes this was an assassination attempt ordered by President Biden. Trump will soon start pouring gasoline on the flames by stating this as if it's fact." Update shows it's happening even ahead of Trump's provocation. He does have them well trained.

    • [07-13] Project 2025: the gaslighting is well underway.

    • [07-13] Fear the all-powerful left! "The fever dreams of the propaganda-addled crazies at the Heritage Foundation are hilarious."

    • [07-12] Are Biden's poll numbers impervious to bad news, like Trump's? I think the upshot here is that while people may not know what (or whom) to believe, they've become so wary of being lied to that they reject any news, probably from any source, leaving them impervious to change. If you're a journalist/pundit, you may think it's your job to adjust to new facts, but if you're not, it's just fucking noise, almost all of which can be discounted.

    • [07-11] New York Times editorial: Trump is bad -- but the Republican Party is awesome! That editorial was titled Trump is not fit to lead.

      Not a single Democrat is cited in this editorial. I understand that that's the point -- the ed board members, if you asked them about this, would say, "We're making the point that even Trump's fellow Republicans know he's unfit" (though no Republican in good standing dares to say that). But this is also a sign that the Times ed board agrees with the Republican Party's decades-long campaign to "other" Democrats. Our political culture accepts the GOP's assertion that Democrats aren't really Americans.

    • [07-10] Dear Democrats: You know people can hear you, right? (updated):

      It's been thirteen days since the June 27 debate. On each of those thirteen days, the top news story in America -- not just in the monomaniacal New York Times, but everywhere -- has been "Christ, That Joe Biden Is Really, Really Old. He Can't Possibly Win. He Has to Step Aside. Has He Done It Yet?" Other stories, including stories that could have been very damaging to Donald Trump, were fully or partly buried. And still Democrats can't muscle Biden out, persuade him to leave the race, or stop talking about it and get behind him. . . .

      I think Democrats believe it's okay for this to play out in public for two weeks -- two weeks of bad headlines for the man who now seems certain to be the nominee -- because of a fundamental misunderstanding of politics that hurts them in other areas as well. They think this is fine because they think voters pay attention to politics only in the last couple of months before an election. That's the reason most Democrats don't bother with messaging unless it's election season, while Republicans engage in messaging every day of every year.

      I'm not personally super bothered by the protracted process, but clearly this has given Trump and the Republicans a whole month of big PR wins, from the June 27 debate all the way through the end of the RNC, especially as, in response to the shooting incident, Democrats have wisely decided to pull their ads, and keep their powder dry. But if the election was next week, this would have been a total disaster for the Democracy. (Maybe not for the small-d concept, but that's what they called the Party back in Jackson's day, and that's what Will Rogers meant when he said he wasn't a member of an organized political party: he was a democrat.) But at some point soon-ish, they really have to get the act together and turn this mess around. I don't see how they can do that without first jettisoning Biden, who is the indelible personification of a much greater crisis in democratic faith.

    • [07-09] The press doesn't have a "bias toward coherence" -- it has a bias toward Republicans.

  • Shawn Musgrave: Trump's camp says it has nothing to do with Project 2025 manifesto -- aside from writing it.

  • Timothy Noah: The GOP platform perfectly reflects the lunacy of Trump's party: "I read it so you don't have to: It's an unconditional surrender to the cult of Trump, and its plan to reduce inflation is laughable."

  • Rick Perlstein: [07-10] Project 2025 . . . and 1921, and 1973, and 1981: "Terrifying blueprints for the next Republican presidency are a quadrennial tradition." Perlstein points out that aside from all the truly evil stuff you've possibly read about elsewhere, there is also a lot of confusion and in-fighting going on. For example:

    The section about Russia in the State Department chapter -- the author is an old hand of the High Reaganite wing of the Republican foreign-policy guild; a "globalist," if you will -- emphasizes that the Russia-Ukraine conflict "starkly divides conservatives," with one faction arguing for the "presence of NATO and U.S. troops if necessary," while the other "denies that U.S. Ukrainian support is in the national security interest of America at all."

    This misunderstanding is important. The silence, so far, on those parts, indicts us. These are great, big, blinking red "LOOK AT ME" advertisements of vulnerabilities within the conservative coalition. Wedge issues. Opportunities to split Republicans at their most vulnerable joints, much as when Richard Nixon cynically expanded affirmative action requirements for federal building projects, in order to seed resentment between blue-collar building trades Democrats and Black Democrats.

    And yes, there is plenty of blunt insanity, too. But, bottom line, this is a complicated document. "Conservatives in Disarray" is precisely the opposite message from that conveyed by all the coverage of Project 2025. But it is an important component of this complexity, and why this text should be picked apart, not panicked over, and studied both for the catastrophes it portends and the potential it provides.

  • Andrew Prokop: [07-13] Project 2025: The myths and the facts: "The sweeping conservative plan for Trump's second term is very real. Here's what it actually says."

  • Prem Thakker: GOP platform doesn't mention the word "climate" once -- even after hottest year on record.


Evidently Biden's age was already an issue in 2008, when Barack Obama picked him for Vice President. The thinking was that his age would balance off Obama's youth, that the position would cap off an already long and distinguished political career, and that he'd be too old to mount a serious run in 2016, leaving the field open for Hillary Clinton.

But when Clinton lost to Donald Trump -- let that sink in for a moment, folks -- Biden convinced himself that he could have done better, and set out to prove it in 2020. And he was a flop, his age dulling the charisma he never really had in the first place, but with Bernie Sanders a year older age wasn't so much an issue, and with Sanders winning, Biden became the only credible option to stop him, and the donor wing of the Democratic Party were desperate to do that.

After derailing Sanders, defeating Trump should have been the easy part, but somehow Biden managed to make even that look hard fraught. He won, but not decisively enough to lead Congress, or to squelch Trump's big lie about a rigged/stolen election. Trump has, if anything, loomed larger in American politics than Biden, even as president, could do. While that is testimony to several alarming tendencies in public opinion -- and media that both panders to and cashes in on controversy -- one cannot help but suspect that Biden's age is part of the problem.

At any rate, it's the part that people focus on once they realize that there is a problem that it could plausibly explain. They do that because it's tangible, something they have lots of experience with or at least observing. It's also something you can base expectations on, because it's inevitably progressive: if age seems to be a problem now, you can only expect it to get worse. Many Democrats, especially one who have closely bound their careers to Biden, have worked hard to hide evidence and deflect discussion of Biden's age -- even from Biden himself. But once you see it, as most people did in his June 27 debate with Trump, it's hard to revert to denialism. It's like the zit you never noticed, then found you can't avert your eyes from. Pretty soon you wind up with the Emperor's New Clothes.

As the following links will show, Democrats are divided: Biden and his closest allies still think that if they hold firm, he can ride the story cycle out, and by November refocus the campaign on beating back the immense threat of a Trump win; many others are skeptical and/or worried sick; a few actually see that replacing Biden with a younger, more dynamic, and hopefully much sharper candidate -- Harris seems to fill that bill, and is well-placed to step in, but there could be dozens of good options -- opens up an opportunity to not just eke out a win in November but deliver a crushing blow to Trump and his crony fascists.

As I've probably made clear over the last couple weeks, I'm skeptical, but also in the latter camp. I'm not really capable of the sort of despair that sees Biden, even as decrepit as he obviously is, losing to Trump -- despair in the future tense, as anticipation of a horrible turn of events, something very different from the sickening feeling when such events happen (as I remember all too well from November 2016). That part is just faith, still intact even if waiting to be shattered.

But my skepticism takes many forms. The one I'm most certain of is that if Biden remains in the race, he will commit a fair number of age-related gaffes and blunders, maybe including what wouldn't be his first fall, and that every time he does, his age will return as the paramount media obsession, shifting attention from the real and present threat of Trump. I don't know how many votes that will cost Biden, but it is a risk, and also a major opportunity cost. We need Democrats to win not just to stop Trump and shore up the somewhat liberal wing of the militarist oligarchy that Biden aligns with, but to actually address real problems, helping an overwhelming majority of Americans through very troubling times.

Another form of skepticism is suggested by my rather sour turn of phrase in that last line. I gravitated toward the new left in the late 1960s, and since then I've been as acutely critical of the Democratic Party as I've been of the Republicans, even as I've most often voted for Democrats, figuring them to be not just lesser evils but occasionally good for modest reforms. Either is reason enough to vote Democratic. (It's not like your vote is good for much else.) But if you're on the left (or anywhere else excluded from access to power), you might also consider voting a tactical choice: you're going to spend the next four years in opposition anyway, but which issues would you rather protest against? Biden, or any other Democrat with a chance, will leave you plenty to argue against.

One thing I can say about age is that it mellows you out. My critical analysis is as radical (in the sense I originally got from a 1966 book titled The New Radicals) as ever, but my appetite for conflict has really dimmed, and I'm willing to appreciate almost any tad of ameliorative reform. I chalk much of my personal change up to aging, and I suspect similar things happen to most people, including politicians like Biden. As I've noticed, Biden is the only president in my lifetime who turned out better than I expected (well, until Gaza, which is hard to excuse). Part of that is that he came in with really low expectations. Part of it may be that he's old enough to remember the pre-Carter, pre-Reagan, pre-Clinton Democrats -- even though he seemed totally simpatico with them, you know how old people lose recent memories before they lose formative ones? There's no one else like him in the Democratic Party these days. (Sanders is old enough, but never was that kind of Democrat. He was much better, which is why he remains so much sharper.) I do worry that whoever replaces Biden will be just another neoliberal shill. But even where Biden's heart is in the right place -- and, let's face it, it isn't always -- he's lost his ability to persuade, to lead, and to listen.

So my considered view is that we need to move him out, and start working on viable future. Even if Biden sticks and wins -- and I'll vote for him, despite thinking he really belongs in a Hague Court -- he's only going to get older, more decrepit, less credible, more embarrassing, and less effective as he struggles to hang on past his 86th birthday. And if he dies, resigns, or has to be removed, his replacement will enter with a much reduced mandate. Dump him now, elect his replacement, elect a Congress that's willing to do things, and the next four years will start looking up.

I guess that's more of an editorial than an introduction. I wrote it before collecting the following links:

  • Intelligencer: [07-09] Biden resistance appears to be waning in Congress: For a brief period, this publication seemed convinced that Biden is persevering in his fight to stay atop the Democratic Party ticket.

  • Sasha Abramsky: [07-10] An open letter to the president of the United States: "There are worse things in life than a comfortable retirement."

  • Michael Arria: [07-09] Biden was already a vulnerable candidate because of the genocide: "Biden was already plummeting in the polls before his disastrous presidential debate with Trump. The reason was his ongoing complicity in the Gaza genocide and the Uncommitted movement."

  • David Atkins: [07-11] I'm a DNC member and a public opinion professional. It's highly unlikely Biden can win: "Only one person can build on the administration's accomplishments, have unfettered access to funds and ballot lines, and do so without wasting precious time. Her name is Kamala Harris." Another long-time, major Biden apologist breaks ranks.

  • Rachel Bade/Eugene Daniels/Ryan Lizza: [07-11] Playbook: What Obama and Pelosi are doing about Biden. Report here is that George Clooney showed his op-ed to Obama before he ran it, and did not receive any objection. "Obama's team declined to comment." Pelosi seems to be maneuvering behind the scenes, but "out of respect for Biden and national security writ large" thought he should hang on through the NATO summit. Now (my thinking here), with the shooting, it would make sense to wait until after the RNC shuts down.

  • Joseph Contreras: [07-06] What Joe Biden could learn from Nelson Mandela about knowing when to quit: "Unlike the beleaguered U.S. president, the South African leader did not want to be an 81-year-old head of state and served only one term."

  • Keren Landman: [07-11] The controversy over Biden and Parkin's disease, explained.

  • Eric Levitz:

  • Andrew Prokop:

    • [07-09] Is it undemocratic to replace Biden on the ticket? "Biden says the primary voters picked him. Is there more to democracy than that?" What kind of democracy was that? Practically nobody ran against Biden in 2024 because the campaign finance system lets donors pick who can run, and they didn't dare cross Biden -- especially after Democrats canceled Iowa and New Hampshire, which historically have been wide open and have a history of upsets, and which Biden lost badly in 2020, in favor of running South Carolina first, the sourc of Biden's breakthrough win in 2020.

    • [07-11] What Biden's news conference did, and didn't, clear up: "The presser went fine. But the Democratic defections continued."

    • [07-14] Will Trump's shooting change everything? Or surprisingly little? "Two theories on the political impact of the Trump assassination attempt." The Trump campaign will try to spin this in to a big deal, blaming it all on the left and championing Trump as a life-risking fighter for true Americans, who want nothing more than to make their beleaguered nation great again. But it doesn't change the issues, or stakes, one iota.

    • [07-15] Did Trump's shooting save Biden's nomination? "Democratic defections have slowed, but Biden isn't out of the woods yet." Perhaps I should re-read this more carefully, but on first scan, absolutely nothing in this piece makes any sense to me.

  • Kaleigh Rogers: [07-12] Americans were worried about Biden's age long before the debate. Background from the poll-watchers at 538, who also produced:

  • Luke Savage: [07-12] The Biden problem has been years in the making: "As concerns mount over Biden, the Democratic Party reminds us this isn't a democracy."

  • Bill Scher:

    • [07-05] I've defended Biden for years. Now, I'm asking him to withdraw: "After waiting too long to reassure the public of his mental fitness, the president is sinking in the polls with little hope for recovery. But he can resign with grace and make history." Scher has long struck me as the most diehard Biden apologist in the Washington punditocracy, and indeed he was one of the few to have reserved hope after the debate (see: A wasted opportunity for Biden (but still time for redemption)). So this appears as a significant retreat. And he's followed with:

    • [07-09] How Kamala can win (without mini-primary madness).

    • [07-12] Wilson didn't resign. The world suffered. Biden need not repeat that mistake: "Wilson hid an incapacitating stroke from the public and fatally compromised his mission to establish a functional League of Nations. Once again, global peace and democracy precariously rely on a president reluctant to face a personal health crisis." Well, that's another whole can of worms, and while it's always fun to argue about Wilson, his case is really not relevant here. I will say that Wilson was a very complex but tragically flawed character, often invoked in arguments that reduce him to caricature. My own argument is that his failure to sell Americans on the League of Nations -- which was evident before his stroke took him out of action -- had no real bearing on the coming of WWII, but his failures at Versailles did (as Britain and France cast aside his anti-imperialism and insisted on punitive reparations over his better sense).

  • Jeffrey St. Clair:

    • [07-12] Running on empty: Very good coverage on Hurricane Beryl here, but this is mostly on Biden, starting with a Chris Hayes quote: "Biden is a decent man who has done nothing wrong. He has not got caught in a scandal -- he's just aging." To which St. Clair responds: "The real scandal is that liberals don't see arming a genocide as a scandal." I'm inclined to compartmentalize and see opposing Netanyahu's genocide in Gaza and opposing Trump in America as both critically important but separable matters, and I'm even willing to cut Biden some slack, as he is a potential solution to both -- although in the latter he's mostly proven hapless, in the former, which is something he could do something about on his own, he's drifted into criminal negligence. But clearly Hayes misspoke, and he, at least, should have known better. We've seen many attempts to use flattery to tempt Biden to quit (e.g., George Clooney, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, David Remnick, Matthew Yglesias), but it hasn't worked, and it's hard to see why it would. This seems more like the time for brutal honesty. If you must, sugar-coat it as tough love, but save the huzzahs for after he does "the right thing."

    • [07-15] Big Boy Biden in his own words: He starts by quoting some of the praised heaped on Biden for his press conference performance, like Andrew Bates: "To answer the question on everyone's minds: No, Joe Biden does not have a doctorate in foreign affairs. He's just that fucking good." That leaves St. Clair wondering:

      After hearing these encomia, I had to check myself. This is Joe Biden they're talking about, right? The same Joe Biden who voted for the Iraq War, the most disastrous foreign policy debacle in US history? The same Joe Biden who backed the overthrow of Qaddafi, turning Libya into an anarchic war zone dominated by slave trading gangs? The same Joe Biden who provoked and now refuses to seek an end to a bloody, stalemated war in Ukraine? The same Joe Biden who has continued Trump's Cuban embargo and tariffs on China? The same Biden who has spent the last 3.5 years pandering to the bone-sawing Saudi regime he called a "pariah" state during his 2020 campaign? The same Biden who refused to renegotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran? The same Biden who has armed a genocide in Gaza that may end up claiming over 200,000 Palestinian lives? The same Biden who could barely string together two complete sentences a couple of weeks ago?

      Adding, "An unlikely transformation, IMHO." So then he reads the White House transcript, and quotes it liberally, although his best line is in his introduction: "Biden's answers reminded me of some of Samuel Beckett's later works exploring the thought patterns of a decaying mind."

  • Alexander Stille: We learned everything we needed to know about Biden in 1988: "His stubborn refusal to heed wise advice, and bottomless belief in his own greatness, were on display in his first campaign for president."

  • Michael Tomasky: [07-12] Democrats: "He was better than the debate" is not remotely good enough: "In Trump world, they're thinking landslide. Democrats need to act and talk Biden into stepping aside, and soon."

  • p>Cenk Uygur: [07-11] Biden will not be the nominee: "The Young Turks host has long predicted Biden's campaign would implode. He explains why it wasn't obvious to everyone, and predicts what will happen next." Nathan J Robinson interviews him.

And other Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:

Other stories:

Zack Beauchamp: [07-10] What the world can learn from Indian liberalism: "The intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta explains how liberalism grew out of 3,000 years of Indian history."

Roger Kerson: [07-09] You think this year's presidential conventions will be crazy? 1924's fights over the Ku Klux Klan were wilder.

Katie Miles: [07-08] "She usually won." Remembering Jane McAlevey, 1964-2024. Also:

Initial count: 146 links, 9355 words. Updated count [07-16]: 193 links, 9436 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Biden.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42624 [42580] rated (+42), 20 [29] unrated (-9).

Some updates, although at this point [07-12] I might as well start working on next week's posts. I added a fair amount to extras I already added to the latest Speaking of Which: most tweets on Biden's probable withdrawal, plus a couple similar pieces including the George Clooney op-ed. I also added links to the Michael Tatum and Robert Christgau Consumer Guides, which are probably of more interest here:

I have a bit more information on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll, but that probably deserves a separate post, which I'm not up to at the moment. The most pressing matter is that response has been light, and I suspect that a bit part of that is due to email problems. As frequent readers may recall, I've been plagued by them for months and possibly years. I tried coming up with workaround strategies, one of which has been completely ineffective: which was to ask people to forward invites, and suggest a willingness to accept unsolicited invites. The only thing I got there was an offer by a long-time virtual friend, who is not really a credentialed critic but whose opinion I value highly, to submit a list.

In a moment of weakness (or possible insanity), I offered to publish his list, and more like it if anyone bothers to submit them. So if you can imagine drawing up a credible list of up to 10 2024 jazz albums and up to 5 2024 archival jazz albums, take a look at the Non-Critic Ballot Invitation, and follow instructions. Those ballots won't figure into official totals, and counting them isn't a priority for me, but I will eventually publish all I receive, and I wouldn't be surprised if, as lists go, your batch winds up being as credible as the ones submitted by the pros. I will be surprised if they wind up being representative of jazz fandom, because I'm doing virtually nothing to promote this, and if you can only read about it here, you're in a very small minority (and I'll be lucky to get ten ballots).

The links below to the Poll Website are still valid, and now point to somewhat more substantial information. On last update, I had 25 ballots. I'm resending the invitations -- a slow and painstaking process -- hoping to avoid spam traps and get some more responses. I will say that the data I have, though sparse, is really terrific stuff. It's a cliché in compiling these lists to say "this is a really great year," but when all is said and done, you'll see for yourself.

Delayed until Tuesday again, because Speaking of Which took all of Monday, itself being pushed out by the seemingly futile notion that I could add a few Afterthoughts to the previous week's massive Speaking of Which.

Seems like I could wind up delaying this post a second day, as it's already late as I'm writing this. Most of Tuesday got chewed up writing two long comments relating to the Biden nomination: one on a Matthew Yglesias post, the other an expansion of my Afterthoughts comment. None of this even mentions the seemingly important (if true) Ben Jacobs: [07-09] How the Democratic movement to dump Biden went bust. Or Nia Prater: [07-09] Why is the Squad backing Biden so forcefully? As Yglesias explained in his piece, the calculation for Democratic politicians is different than the one for journalists and pundits. New York Magazine, which published a number of pieces extremely critical of Biden (probably all op. cit. through my links above) has gotten so into circling the wagons, they've gone into live blog mode: Biden resistance appears to be waning in Congress. On the other hand, Eric Levitz: [07-09] is back with another piece: The arguments for Biden 2024 keep getting worse.

Definitely no Afterthoughts this week, and I'm going to be hard pressed to do a Speaking of Which by Sunday or Monday. Most pressing thing after getting this up will be to follow up on the Mid-Year Jazz Critics Poll. Deadline remains Sunday, July 14. I've received 18 ballots so far, referencing a total of 177 albums. About 50% of those albums were not previously in my tracking file, so I've been using them for prospecting (three of the five A- albums this week came from ballots; the other two are promos I received, with no votes so far).

Probably the most important thing I need to do is to compare the Jazzpoll mailing list, which is where I sent the invites, to the more authoritative list I made last year of people I actually sent invites to, especially the ones I voted. At some point I stopped automatically adding names to the Jazzpoll list, so chances are that a couple dozen people who should have been invited weren't. I'm also worried about invites being diverted into spam folders -- I know of at least two such cases, both with gmail. If I had the time and energy, I would follow up, but it's a lot of work. I also need to go back and review some couple emails I received after last year's poll -- a couple offers of help, at least one person who asked to be invited (and should be).

To make up for these shortcomings in the invitation process, I asked people to inform and possibly invite their colleagues. Thus far I haven't received any takers, or for that matter inquiries. The only evidence I have is that some spam has started getting caught there. Not a lot, and none of it's getting through, but it's one more thing to deal with.

At this moment, the website is a bit behind my local copy, but I will refresh it a couple times this week. I need to edit several documentation files, and change the methodology notes in the totals files. The main things of possible public interest are the invitation, the list of critics who have voted, and the list of new releases and rara avis that have received votes. The actual results won't be public until ArtsFuse publishes them.

I've had very little time for updating my metacritic file, but I have added the mid-year lists I've been noting in the Speaking of Which music section, so there's been a bit of movement. File still needs a lot of work. I did, by the way, start counting all of the metal magazines at AOTY (but I've yet to go back and fill in the ones I skipped earlier). I wish their coverage of jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and country was as deep as their interest in metal, but it isn't. I haven't gotten around to sources like All About Jazz, Saving Country Music, and Hip Hop Golden Age, which would help remedy those deficits. No time, and not much energy these days. Also, I can barely see, so if I don't post this right away, it won't make it tonight.

PS: Facebook blocked me, so I may give that a rest.

New records reviewed this week:

BbyMutha: Sleep Paralysis (2024, True Panther): Rapper Brittnee Moore, from Chattanooga, second album, Bandcamp page attributes it to "BIGMUTHA," but every other source goes as I have it, sometimes no-caps. B+(**) [sp]

Beings: There Is a Garden (2024, No Quarter): New York-based quartet of Zoh Amba (tenor sax, mostly), Steve Gunn (guitar), Shahzad Ismaily (bass, synth), and Jim White (drums). I never thought of Gunn as a jazz musician, and he doesn't have to be one when filling in behind Amba's sax or piano (even more indebted to Charles Gayle than her sax), but when she sings, he presents a Velvet Underground vibe so she can be Moe Tucker. No attempt at fusion here. Just multiplicities. A- [sp]

Chris Byars: Boptics (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, what you might call a retro-bebopper, probably the most talented musician to first appear on Luke Kaven's early 2000s Smalls label, which also produced exceptional records by two more musicians in this sextet: Zaid Nasser (alto sax) and Ari Roland (bass). They're joined here by Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinet), John Mosca (trombone), and Keith Balla (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Kim Cass: Levs (2023 [2024], Pi): Bassist, second album, composed everything here, mostly for pianist Matt Mitchell, who he's supported in the past, and is striking (as usual) here. Also with Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and (except for 3-4 tracks) flute (Laura Cocks) and euphonium (Adam Dotson). B+(***) [cd]

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: A Canadian Songbook (2022 [2024], Three Pines): Canadian drummer, based in Toronto, half-dozen albums since his 2015 Turboprop introduced his group name. Sextet with two saxophonists (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn), piano (Adrean Farrugia), and bass (Dan Loomis). Songs are sentimental favorites in his neck of the woods, but they travel well. B+(***) [bc]

Coco Chatru Quartet: Future (2024, Trygger Music): Swedish group, named for "a legendary Swedish adventurer," label for bassist Hĺkan Trygger, who wrote four (of eight) pieces, with two each by Daniel Kĺse (drums) and Linus Kĺse (alto sax), zero by Charlie Malmberg (baritone sax). Slippery postbop, somewhat understated. B+(***) [lp]

Alfredo Colón: Blood Burden (2023 [2024], Out of Your Head): Alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, first album, quartet with Lex Korten (piano/keybs), Steve Williams (bass), and Connor Parks (drums), original pieces plus a Son House blues. This develops impressively, in the "spiritual jazz" vein pioneered by Coltrane, Sanders, and Ayler, alongside more recent efforts by saxophonists like Nat Birchall. A- [cd]

GloRilla: Ehhthang Ehhthang (2024, Cocaine Muzik Group/Interscope): Rapper Gloria Hallelujah Woods, from Memphis, two albums, this one's considered her second mixtape, crunk (I've read). Lot of b&n here (as in "ain't no b in me, n"). If you can roll with that, this should rock you. B+(***) [sp]

Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of McCoy Tyner (2024, Savant): Trombonist, born in Oklahoma, studied at UNT, joined Clark Terry's 1980s band, played with Joe Henderson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joe Lovano, Mingus Big Band; first leader album in 1987, joined Eddie Palmieri in 1994, and recorded his initial The Latin Side of John Coltrane in 1996, since followed by Shorter, Hancock, Henderson, Silver, Mingus, and now Tyner. This one has Alex Norris (trumpet), Craig Handy (tenor/baritone sax), Bill O'Connell (piano), with the usual percussion excitement, and a special guest slot for Palmieri. B+(**) [sp]

Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (2024, Cuneiform): Janel Leppin (cello) and Anthony Pirog (guitar), self-released an album together in 2006, another for Cuneiform in 2012. They've since gone on to establish separate careers, but reunite here for what is effectively two albums: the first a ten-track suite of darkly engaging duet instrumentals, the second a singer-songwriter set with Leppin doing most of the singing -- jazz-influenced, no doubt, but not something one would note in a blindfold test. I find the songs a tad more appealing, but probably for the music, as I can't say much about the lyrics. B+(**) [cdr]

Mathias Hřjgaard Jensen: Is as Is (2022 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Danish bassist, lives in Brooklyn, probably his first album as leader (Discogs has three side credits since 2019, his website has 13), all his pieces, quartet with David Mirarchi (alto sax), Jacob Sacks (piano), and Steven Crammer (drums). This is very nice: subtle and intricate postbop that sneaks up on you. A- [cd]

Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O: True Story (2020-21 [2024], New Soil/Mushroom Hour): South African trombonist, second group album. B+(**) [sp]

Alex Kautz: Where We Begin (2024, Sunnyside): Brazilian drummer, based in New York, married to Mexican singer Magos Herrera (featured on two songs here), with John Ellis (tenor sax/clarinet), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), and Joe Martin (bass). B+(*) [cd]

Cassie Kinoshi's SEED.: Gratitude (2023 [2024], International Anthem): British alto saxophonist, plays in the Afrobeat group Kokoroko, leads the large SEED Ensemble (first album in 2019, nominated for Mercury Prize, was upper case then but lower case now), which is a skeletal big band plus string quartet, flute, tuba, and turntables. Title piece runs 21:56, is packaged with a slightly smaller group on a 5:42 piece (so 27:38 total). B+(*) [sp]

Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club: A Second Life (2022 [2024], Mandorla Music): Saxophonist (alto, tenor, baritone), based in Boston, Discogs credits him on 48 albums since 1985 (many with Either/Orchestra) but Wikipedia hasn't noticed yet, third group album, an octet with tenor sax (Seth Meicht), trumpet (Dan Rosenthal), trombone (Jeb Bishop), tuba (Josiah Reibstein), guitar (Eric Hofbauer), bass, and drums. Originals plus covers from Elmo Hope, Ornette Coleman, John Tchicai, and Roswell Rudd. The bottom horns provide a lot of lift. A- [sp]

Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (2023 [2024], Cuneiform): Cellist, released the album Ensemble Volcanic Ash in 2022, same basic group and concept here but I'm annoyed by the typography, so this is my solution. The music can also annoy, but also can turn remarkable, even living up to this hype: "progressive chamber jazz with the steely avant-garde that descends from Julius Hemphill's 1972 LP Dogon A.D." Hemphill's secret was cellist Abdul Wadud, whose name appears in the opening "Ode." Sextet with Brian Settles (tenor sax), Sarah Hughes (alto sax), Anthony Pirog (guitar), Luke Stewart (bass), and Larry Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [cdr]

Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (2023 [2024], ESP-Disk): Trumpet player, has extensive experience in klezmer music (Klezmatics, Hasidic New Wave, Klezmer Brass Allstars, Klezmer Conservatory Band) as well as straight jazz -- here often evoking Ellington and Mingus, with tributes to Lester Bowie and Ron Miles. B+(***) [cd]

Megan Thee Stallion: Megan (2024, Hot Girl): Rapper Megan Pete, fourth album (plus several EPs) since 2019, I usually like her raunch and roll, but runs long here, for mixed results. B+(***) [sp]

Che Noir: The Color Chocolate, Volume 1 (2024, Poetic Movement, EP): Rapper Marche Lashawn, from Buffalo, Discogs lists as Che'Noir, cover looks more like Chč Noir. EP is four songs, 10:58, but Discogs has more cuts, and Wikipedia has nothing, which is odd given that Discogs lists seven songs and six singles/EPs. Even at this length, this feels pretty substantial. B+(**) [sp]

Clarence Penn: Behind the Voice (2024, Origin): Drummer, has several albums, one original here plus a batch of soul & rock standards from the 1970s-80s, roughly Stevie Wonder to Prince, with sides of Peter Gabriel and Don Henley, employing five guest singers, with Kurt Elling the one you've heard of (but may not want to hear). B+(*) [cd]

Ken Peplowski: Unheard Bird (2024, Arbors): Supposedly another chapter of "Bird with Strings": a first recording of arrangements commissioned for Charlie Parker. The leader, playing clarinet and tenor sax, is not a very obvious choice for this project, but if the idea is simply to make Bird cornier, who is? Peplowski leads a very capable quintet with Terell Stafford (trumpet), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Peter Washington ( bass), and Willie Jones III (drums), while Loren Schoenberg conducts an orchestra of strings, harp, and oboe. B- [sp]

Ken Peplowski: Live at Mezzrow [Smalls Live Living Masters Series] (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): This is more like what he's done so consistently since 1989: tenor sax and clarinet, playing swing standards with the occasional bop reference (Monk, Hank Jones), leading a rhythm section that's been doing just that for decades: Ted Rosenthal (piano), Martin Wind (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Carla Santana/José Lencastre/Maria do Mar/Gonçalo Almeida: Defiant Ilussion (2023 [2024], A New Wave of Jazz): Electronics, alto/tenor sax, violin, bass quartet, recorded in Portugal. B+(***) [bc]

Dirk Serries/Rodrigo Amado/Andrew Lisle: The Invisible (2021 [2024], Klanggalerie): Belgian guitarist, Portuguese tenor saxophonist, English drummer, recorded in Belgium, three pieces (56:44). Amado is superb when he gets out front. B+(***) [bc]

Matthew Shipp: The Data (2021 [2024], RogueArt, 2CD): Pianist, brilliant, many albums since the late 1980s, probably has a dozen solos by now, with this one of the better ones, if you're at all so inclined. B+(***) [cdr]

TV Smith: Handwriting (2024, JKP/Easy Action): T for Timothy, was singer-songwriter in British punk band the Adverts, released two 1977-78 albums, best remembered for the single "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," but the song I always think of is "One Chord Wonders." He formed another band, then went solo in 1983, and has recorded pretty regularly since 1992 -- way off my radar. Older now, which means slower, and anger ripened into bitterness, and therefore gravitas. B+(***) [sp]

Anthony Stanco: Stanco's Time (2023 [2024], OA2): Trumpet player, second album, side credits back to 2011, half originals, half jazz standards from Ellington and early boppers (Parker, Monk, Dameron, Davis), half with "Time" in the title. With Randy Napoleon (guitar), Xavier Davis (piano), bass, drums, and on three cuts, Walter Blanding (tenor sax). B+(**) [cd]

TiaCorine: Almost There (2024, South Scope/Interscope, EP): Rapper from North Carolina, merged her first two names together, omitting Thompson Shultz, mother is Shoshone, father has roots in Japan and Africa. She released an EP in 2020, an album in 2022, back here with eight songs, 16:38. Title is about right. B+(**) [sp]

Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (2022-23 [2024], ArtistShare, 3CD): Composer/arranger/conductor, started as Maria Schneider's assistant, made his name with "Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans," has conducted "The Music of Bob Brookmeyer." Here he's composed a bit and arranged or at least currated a lot of new compositions for string quartet, with a few strategic guest spots. B+(**) [cdr]

Steve Turre: Sanyas (2023 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Trombonist, also plays conch shells, couple dozen albums since 1987, quite a bit of side work (Discogs lists 224 albums he played trombone on). Live sextet here with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Ron Blake (tenor sax), Isaiah Thompson (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Lenny White (drums). Starts with title track, which Turre wrote for Woody Shaw's The Moontrane (1974), evoking the classic trombone-augmented hard bop sextets of the 1960s. Ends with a very nice "These Foolish Things." B+(***) [sp]

Lisa Ullén: Heirloom (2023 [2024], Fönstret): Swedish pianist, born in Seoul, South Korea, over a dozen albums under her own name since 2006, more side-credits. First solo album, each side with a variation on the same three-part suite. B+(**) [bc]

Jack Walrath: Live at Smalls (2023 [2024], Cellar Music): Trumpet player, started out with Mingus in the mid-1970s, debut album 1979, had an impressive run in the 1990s, has five albums on SteepleChase since 2008 -- quite a bit of work I should catch up on. Quintet here with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), George Burton (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass), and Donald Edwards (drums), revisiting his songbook and adding to the legacy ("A Bite of Tunisia," "Mood for Muhal," etc.). B+(***) [sp]

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Fu##in' Up (2023 [2024], Reprise): Live album, from Tivoli in Toronto, reprising their 1990 album Ragged Glory, a pretty solid A- at the time, dropping one song ("Mother Earth"), renaming most of the rest (title song becomes "Heart of Steel"), length up 1:50. Hard to see this as necessary, but sounds good and gets better. B+(***) [r]

Denny Zeitlin: Panoply (2012-23 [2024], Sunnyside): Pianist, 86 now, has recorded since 1964, while pursuing a parallel career in psychiatry. This offers a good survey of his range, from solo pieces (2012) to a trio (2019) with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson, plus home recordings in a duo with George Marsh (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Christer Bothén Featuring Bolon Bata: Trancedance [40th Anniversary Edition] (1984 [2024], Black Truffle): Swedish tenor sax/bass clarinet player, first albums were with Don Cherry, this was the first he led, Bolon Bata the band name, went on to a second album in 1988. Before this he lived and studied in Mali and Morocco, also playing doson n'goni and guimbri here, the large groups featuring other African instruments, and various vocals. A- [bc]

Johnny Griffin Quartet: Live in Valencia 92 [The Jordi Suńol Archives 3] (1992 [2024], Storyville): Tenor saxophonist (1928-2008), distinguished himself with Thelonious Monk in the 1950s, had a major career in the 1960s, recorded consistently during the 1970s and 1980s (on widely scattered labels), enjoyed something of a comeback in the 1990s. Live set from Spain -- part of a series of archives that started with albums by Phil Woods and Mulgrew Miller -- with Hervé Sellin (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Doug Sides (drums). Opens fast, closes gently. B+(***) [sp]

Shelly Manne & His Men: Jazz From the Pacific Northwest (1958-66 [2024], Reel to Real): Drummer (1920-84), started in swing bands, quickly adapted to bebop and majored in cool jazz; played with Stan Kenton, André Previn, and Ornette Coleman; led small groups, his 1959 Black Hawk sets with Richie Kamuca and Victor Feldman are especially esteemed. Two LPs here, the first from Monterey in 1958 with Stu Williamson (trumpet), Herb Geller (alto sax), Russ Freeman (piano), and Monty Budwig (bass); the second from Seattle in 1966 has Conte Candoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (flute/alto sax), Hampton Hawes (piano), Budwig, and Ruth Price (vocals). B+(**) [sp]

Brother Jack McDuff: Ain't No Sunshine: Live in Seattle (1972 [2024], Reel to Real): Organ player (1926-2001), recorded 20-plus albums for Prestige 1960-66, establishing himself as one of the main soul jazz talents of the period, recording much less prolifically thereafter (for Atlantic, Blue Note, Cadet, and after 1992 for Concord). This is previously unreleased, a couple of nice sets with sax (Leo Johnson or Dave Young) and sometimes trumpet (unknown), as well as guitar and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Shelly Manne & His Men: Jazz From the Pacific Northwest (1958-66 [2024], Reel to Real): Drummer (1920-84), started in swing bands, quickly adapted to bebop and majored in cool jazz; played with Stan Kenton, André Previn, and Ornette Coleman; led small groups, his 1959 Black Hawk sets with Richie Kamuca and Victor Feldman are especially esteemed. Two LPs here, the first from Monterey in 1958 with Stu Williamson (trumpet), Herb Geller (alto sax), Russ Freeman (piano), and Monty Budwig (bass); the second from Seattle in 1966 has Conte Candoli (trumpet), Frank Strozier (flute/alto sax), Hampton Hawes (piano), Budwig, and Ruth Price (vocals). B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Live From Studio Rivbea: July 12, 1975 [Rivbea Live! Series, Volume 1] (1975 [2024], No Business): Tenor saxophonist (1936-2013), born in Arkansas, grew up in Chicago (AACM, two albums on Delmark), and on to New York, where he played in the streets, subways, and lofts, first recording as Kalaparusha in 1970, with an uptick in activity around 1998. The label has done a terrific job of releasing archival tapes by Sam Rivers, who was the central figure in New York's "loft scene, so it's nice to see them building out. B+(***) [cd]

Sun Ra: Excelsior Mill (1984 [2024], Sundazed/Modern Harmonic): Solo organ performance, described here as "like a cross between a demonically riffing '50s horror movie villain and a futuristic congregation leader delivering the interplanetary gospel," and indeed this instrument often evokes church and/or horror movies. I'm not particularly fond of either. B [sp]

Old music:

Christer Bothén Trio: Triolos (2003-04 [2006], LJ): Leader plays bass clarinet, ngoni, guimbri; trio with David Stackenäs (guitar) and Peter Söderberg (theorbo, lute, guitar, low budget electronics). Rather abstract, more interesting than compelling. B+(**) [sp]

Ernesto Cervini: Joy (2021 [2022], Three Pines): Toronto-based drummer, composer, several albums, also a tireless publicist for his fellow Canadian musicians (many, including guest vocalists, featured here), credits this as "inspired by Louise Penny's Gamache series of books and the qualities of goodness, decency, courage, and love that permeate them." B+(**) [sp]

Maurice McIntyre: Humility in the Light of the Creator (1969, Delmark): Tenor saxophonist, first album, two suites ("Ensemble Love" and "Ensemble Fate"), the first dominated by George Hines' incantatory vocal, the latter picks up piano (Amina Claudine Myers) and more horns (Leo Smith on trumpet, John Stubblefield on soprano sax). B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Forces and Feelings (1970 [1972], Delmark): Second album, cover has "Kalaparusha" in large type on top line, title (smaller, because it's longer) on second line, then "Maurice McIntyre" (smaller still) as third line, while the back cover credits tenor sax, clarinet, flute, and bells to "Kalaparusha Ahra Difda." Backed by guitar (Sarnie Garrett), bass (Fred Hopkins), and drums (Wesley Tyus), with vocals by Rita Omolokun. B+(**) [sp]

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre Quartet: Peace and Blessings (1979, Black Saint): Italian label, became a major outlet for American "loft scene" veterans (especially David Murray). This was recorded in Milan, with Longineau Parsons on trumpet (both also playing related instruments), Leonard Jones (bass), and King L. Mock (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jack Walrath Quintet: In Europe (1982 [1983], SteepleChase): Trumpet player, played with Mingus in the 1970s (and later in various Mingus big bands), early in his career as a leader, with a relatively unknown group (Anthony Cox, on bass, is the only one I recognize), for a set in Copenhagen, playing four of his pieces. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Robby Ameen: Live at the Poster Museum (Origin) [07-26]
  • BassDrumBone: Afternoon (Auricle) [06-24]
  • Mai-Liis: Kaleidoscope (OA2) [07-26]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Speaking of Which

Posting this a day late, only partly because I tried slipping in the Afterthoughts post. Late Monday night, and I'm dead tired, pretty sure I didn't complete my rounds, but at this point if I fail to post I'll just waste another day. Expect Music Week on Tuesday, plus some late additions here (and maybe on the Sunday-dated but Monday-posted Afterthoughts as well). On the other hand, my mid-year jazz critics poll needs some work too, and should probably be considered a more urgent priority.

Nice to see elections leaning left in UK, France, and Iran. That should probably be a bigger story.

A few more extras below, but the big one is the comment on Matthew Yglesias, reiterating the case that Democrats need to replace Biden. That's also the subject of a long addition to last week's Afterthoughts.

In Tuesday's Music Week, written after this post but before I'm adding this section, I mentioned a couple Biden-related pieces that appeared after closing this:

None of this even mentions the seemingly important (if true) Ben Jacobs: [07-09] How the Democratic movement to dump Biden went bust. Or Nia Prater: [07-09] Why is the Squad backing Biden so forcefully? As Yglesias explained in his piece, the calculation for Democratic politicians is different than the one for journalists and pundits. New York Magazine, which published a number of pieces extremely critical of Biden (probably all op. cit. through my links above) has gotten so into circling the wagons, they've gone into live blog mode: Biden resistance appears to be waning in Congress. On the other hand, Eric Levitz: [07-09] is back with another piece: The arguments for Biden 2024 keep getting worse.

I'll probably return to those next week, but they relate to recent chatter below.

Late adds from ex-twitter:

  • Zachary D Carter: [07-09] Ths issue is Biden's age, and he gets older every day. It's not a scandal you can wait out until another media cycle. It will be a dominant campaign issue every day of the week until November. [This was in response to:]

    • Clara Jeffery: [07-09] What happens when the next press conference or interview goes awry. Or the barrage of battering polls keeps growing? Or swing district Dems openly panic?

      There is no "put it behind us" moment that the Biden camp hopes for/hopes to persuade Dems there is.

  • Eric Levitz: [07-09] Running Biden at this point means taking on his liabilities AND Harris's without enjoying any of the benefits of putting her at the top of the ticket (e.g. having a nominee who is much younger and more eloquent than the GOP's). [This was in response to:]

    • Marc Caputo: Trump stepping up criticisms of Harris, saying Biden chose her as an "insurance policy" because she's such a bad replacement that Biden would never be forced to step down.

  • Aaron Rupar: [07-08] [Reply to a 4:19 clip of "Jon Stewart reacts to Joe Biden's defiance over calls to step aside" -- worth watching, less for the plan, which isn't how it's going to work, than but the jokes, which hit their targets, thus demonstrating that they are real.] Stewart ignores that:

    1. There was a whole ass Democratic primary election
    2. Kamala Harris is the VP and the only Biden alternative that makes sense
    3. A thunderdome convention would do anything but "unify" the party

    I'm glad he had a chance to vent though

    [The primary was a sham, where nobody but Biden had a chance, because no one else had the money to run. Replacement could be anyone the money people agree on, but Harris is the easy pick. And the Party will unify behind virtually anyone, as Biden has already proved. Stewart ends with a clip where Biden is asked if any other Democrats could beat Trump, and his reply is "about fifty of them."]

  • Ian Millhiser: [09-10] If you're concerned that the press is paying too much attention to Joe Biden's age, and not enough to Donald Trump's unfitness for the job of president, I know one very simple thing that Biden could do that would take his age off the table in the November election.

  • Zachary D Carter: [07-12] Every Biden appearance from now until November will be an evaluation of his acuity. Even if he does ok, he's trapped in a losing issue for the campaign, the same way talking about abortion hurts Trump regardless of where he positions himself. Hard to see how he flips the polls.

  • Rick Perlstein: [07-12] So many of his statements end with him trailing off, exasperated, with something like "never mind"--these placeholders he sticks in when his brain can't summon up further thought. I'm not even suggesting something clinical. I can only say it comes off SOUNDING incapacitated.

Nathan J Robinson tweeted: "Wild to me that people like Matt Yglesias and the Pod Save America guys are now more publicly critical of Biden than the Squad." Jacob Shell pointed out, as Yglesias did in his post: "It's professionally cheap for a pundit and professional expensive for a politician." But it's not just that: Biden's replacement is going to be hand-picked by a cabal of moneyed insiders, then forced on a convention of delegates pre-selected for their loyalty. That person, who may well be Harris, will re-energize the party, but also will consolidate centrist control, and by winning (especially if winning decisively) will make it harder for the left to compete in 2028. The Squad represent very safe Democratic seats. If Biden wins, he will owe them, and if he loses, they will survive and be better positioned to rescue the Party moving forward. I'm not saying they're putting cynical self-interest ahead of the Party any more than any other politician -- if you're in a swing district, dumping Biden may simply be a matter of survival. But not everyone's in the same boat, with the same options. And they do have one point that is absolutely correct: we need to fight Trump, not among ourselves. If I thought the Biden thing would blow over, I'd happily join them. But I really don't see it blowing over, so the only realistic option is for Biden to drop out, and let someone who's up to the task take over.

By the way, a lot of really dumb comments attached to Robinson's tweet, especially by people trying to factor Israel in (e.g., "The Squad can't risk Kamala becoming president because of her husband's ties to Israel"). Lots could be said about this, but I'll leave it at this shows a remarkable ability to compartmentalize issues and political choices, especially given how centrist Dems collaborated with AIPAC to exterminate the Squad.

Initial count: 139 links, 7096 words. Updated count [07-11]: 163 links, 9377 words. -->

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): on music.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America):

  • Nicholas Kristof: [07-03] How Biden has gotten in the way of fighting starvation in Gaza.

  • Blaise Malley: [07-03] By the numbers: US Gaza pier prject appears sunk.

  • Robert A Pape: [06-21] Hamas is winning: He's some kind of counterterrorism guru, with books like Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005), and Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It (2010), following earlier tomes like Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War, which was all the rage when it came out (1996). My wife wants me to listen to 11 minutes of his interview by Doug Henwood, but so far all I've found is this, with a link to an hour-long podcast that's supposed to be "wherever podcasts are" (like here?. I haven't read the article either, because it's paywalled behind a publication site that publishes crap like this:

    Pape's article title (and for that matter his book titles) suggest he has a very naive, very addled concept of winning. Granted, I'm starting from the default position that nobody can ever win at war, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves, most likely by failing to recognize most of the costs one will eventually have to pay. Pape may well agree with much of this -- he certainly understands that Israel's collective punishment of Gaza is raising more opposition, and more desperate opposition, than they're able to kill off. It's not just that the violence could -- and sooner or later probably will -- rebound against Israel. It's just peculiar to think of either Israel's immediate offensive gains or its likely eventual denouement as winning for everyone.

    And especially for Hamas, which I'm inclined to believe -- admittedly with little evidence to back me up -- is no longer a real force, just a spectre conjured up by Israel as an excuse to continue genocide. I'm not saying that when Israel sends troops into some enclave in Gaza, they're not going to get fire returned. Just not much, and not from a coherent military or political force. Admittedly, I don't have much data to go on, so Pape might be helpful in that regard. On the other hand, how can he know much more than what Israel tells him? And why should he or we believe any of that?

  • Brett Wilkins: [07-04] Senior Israeli lawmaker suggests nuclear attack on Iran: Avigdor Liberman, the guy who's not in Netanyahu's coalition because it isn't far-right enough for him. (Actually, it's probably just because he hates Netanyahu. While he has no other redeeming qualities, who can't sympathize with him on that?) Still, he's basically saying that the problem with Israel is that the government isn't stark-raving bonkers enough.

  • Sharon Zhang: [06-28] Biden releasing part of bombs shipment to Israel that was paused over Rafah raid: "The administration appears to have totally thrown away its 'red line' on Rafah, two months after the invasion."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Mohammad Jehad Ahmad: [07-07] Silenced at school: NYC public schools chancellor suppresses Palestinian voices: "New York City Public Schools has been suppressing Palestinian narratives and activism. NYC Educators for Palestine has attempted to meet with Chancellor David Banks for months, but he keeps dodging our meeting."

  • Akbar Shahid Ahmed: [07-02] 12 Biden administration reseignees blast 'intransigent' Gaza policy: "Joe Biden 'has prioritized politics over just and fair policymaking' on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, former government officials argued in their first joint statement since quitting."

  • Michael Arria: [07-04] The Shift: School's out, but attacks on student protesters continue.

  • Muhannad Ayyash: [07-06] A hollow Palestinian state: "Spain, Ireland, and Norway recently made headlines for recognizing the State of Palestine. But the only effective policy for any state recognizing Palestine is also the diplomatic and economic isolation of the Israeli state. There is no other way." I would phrase this somewhat differently. There is no legitimate and/or sovereign Palestinian state to recognize, so it's an empty gesture -- admittedly, one that disrespects Israel, and may be worth doing just for that, but is insufficient to effect any change in Israel, which after all is the only place change can meaningfully occur.

  • Helena Cobban:

  • Ayça Çubukçu: [05-01] Many speak for Palestine: "The solidarity movement doesn't hav e a single leader -- and doesn't need one."

  • Joseph Levine: [07-06] If you support Israel in the middle of a genocide, you're an awful person. I don't agree with this, but that's because I recognize that many basically good people subscribe to bad political opinions, mostly because they are misinformed and/or habitually focus on the wrong things (which makes them easily misled). I might even go so far as to say that there are no bad people: only people who believe bad things, often for bad reasons (like to dominate and demean other people). But it's almost always a mistake to reify bad politics into bad people -- only making sense when the politics totally consumes the person. This article led me to an older one worth noting:

    • Randa Abdel-Fattah: [2023-12-27] On Zionist feelings: "The feelings and fragility of Zionists are used as a rhetorical shield to deflect from the reality of Palestinian genocide. I refuse to provide reassurances to placate and soothe Zionist political anxieties." I'm more indulgent of Zionist feelings than most critics of Israel, and I have my reasons, but I also understand this viewpoint. Starts with a quote from Edward Said: "Since when does a militarily occupied people have the responsibility for a peace movement?" Since the more instinctive war movement has repeatedly failed against a massively more powerful oppressor? Fighting back, understandable and even inevitable, reduces you to their level, not that they don't respond by sinking even lower. A peace movement, on the other hand, gains moral high ground, and challenges them to do better. Admittedly, Israel has never taken that challenge. All they do is designed to provoke violence, because that's the level they want to fight on. And, to circle back around, those who want that don't just have bad politics but are fairly seen as bad people.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [07-05] Liberal Zionists answer the Gaza genocide by appealing for 'nuance': "Liberal Zionists are trying to rehabilitate Israel's image among young U.S. Jews after the Gaza genocide by appealing for 'nuance' and sending them to indoctrination camps. But these attempts ring more hollow than ever." Hard to scan for something as elusive as "nuance" in an article like this. As near as I can tell, the subjects here (Liberal Zionists in America) insist on being taken as fundamentally decent liberals, while excusing their distinctly illiberal views of anyone critical of Israel, mostly by treating "Arab nationalism" and "Islamic fundamentalism" every bit as rigidly as their opponents generalize about Zionism and Colonialism. Of course, they're right that their thought can be more nuanced than others appreciate, but the same is true for the others, who they reject with blanket generalizations -- like the syllogism that: Hamas is evil and can only be stopped with death; Hamas is an intrinsic tendency for Palestinians; therefore we will only be safe when all Palestinians are killed. That, in a nutshell, is current Israeli policy. Adding "nuance" may help obscure the issue, but won't change it.

    Plitnick, along with Marc Lamont Hill, is co-author of the book Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics (2022), which goes deep into why many good people on the left in America have a blind spot for Israel. I don't know whether this addresses the second group of people, those who started with left/liberal sympathies but snapped hard to the right, often triggered by some crisis over Israel. The neocons, who rose to power under Clinton and GW Bush, provide some prime examples, but there are many more.

  • Richard Rubenstein: [07-02] Israel in Gaza: The Jewish break with Zionism: or, "Zionism as ethnic chauvinism."

  • Barnett R Rubin: [01-04] False Messiahs: "How Zionism's dreams of liberation became entangled with colonialism."

  • Philip Weiss: [07-07] Weekly Briefing: Normalizing genocide. The article itself briefly cites lots of other articles I've already cited. "Genocide" is such a hard, definitive term, so the idea is to break it up into smaller, softer, more ambiguous acts, spread out over time to lessen the shock, an aid to denial for those so inclined. But making it all seem normal is going to be a tall order. This article elicited a comment worth noting:

    The psychology of denial is important to understand: Jews tend to identify with Israel the way people identify with their families, says Joseph Levine. Well, many, many people eventually come to the realization that their father was an abusive drunk, their mother was manic-depressive and their siblings bullied them but they stuck around because admitting to themselves the real situation is just too painful -- I think that's the situation we're dealing with re Israel.

  • Omar Zahzah: [07-07] Why Big Tech's control of social media cannot stop anti-colonial resistance.

Election notes:

Joe Biden (post-debate):

  • Sasha Abramsky: [07-03] Running Biden against Trump is just plain irresponsible: "If American democracy is on the line, as Democrats have rightly insisted, why nominate someone who has trouble keeping up with his opponent." Or how about this: why nominate someone who is living proof that democracy is already lost?

  • Zachary D Carter: [06-10] Inflation is not destroying Joe Biden; "But something is!" Pre-debate piece I've been meaning to mention, but re-read it given what you know now.

  • Jonathan Chait:

    • [07-06] Biden's norm-shattering response to the post-debate crisis: "The problems are ethical, not just political." Chait cites two examples that while "not illegal" he finds ethically troubling: bringing convicted felon son Hunter in as one of his close family advisers (a circling of the family wagons that reminds Chait of Trump), and Biden's unwillingness to submit to cognitive screening. The thing is, you not only have to consider the literal merits, but how they will be spun, in a political media environment that quite frankly is not inclined to favor Biden.

    • [07-08] The Democrats who care more about their careers than beating Trump: "Biden bets his party doesn't have the guts to confront him." As long as you're talking politicians, that's probably a good bet, at least at first. But the people who decide who runs and who cannot are the big donors, and they'll still have careers either way. Politicians may be waiting for their signal. When they do, expect all the tails to wag.

  • George Clooney: [07-10] I love Joe Biden. But we need a new nominee. This matters, both as personal observation from someone who has access very few of us can match, and as the author is not a "low cost" pundit but a high value donor -- one of the people I often claim are actually pulling the strings. Also see the letters, at least the first one (another close witness). The third (terrified Harris will lose) and the fourth (he's just an actor, so who cares?) not so much.

  • Nate Cohn: [07-03] The debate hurt Biden, but the real shift has been happening for years. There's also this interview with Cohn:

    • Isaac Chotiner: [07-04] Nate Cohn explains how bad the latest polling is for Joe Biden. This is in in a nutshell:

      Joe Biden is a badly wounded candidate whom voters dislike, and who voters think isn't capable of handling the Presidency. And while Donald Trump isn't a political juggernaut by any stretch, and is maybe every bit as weak as he was four years ago, at least at the moment, Joe Biden does not have the broad appeal necessary to take advantage of it.

  • Matthew Cooper: [07-05] If Biden quits the race, he should resign the presidency: "Being a lame duck for seven months would be far worse for him -- and us -- than leaving office and propelling Vice President Harris to the Oval Office." Sorry, but this is really stupid. Running for president and being president are two very different things, and really demand different skill sets (not that there's any way we can fix that). Running for president demands that be able to engage with public and press, being articulate and decisive in difficult circumstances, every day between now and November. You'll need to convince voters that you will serve them, and will be able to continue to serve, clearly and coherently, for another four years. Nobody believes that Biden can or even should do that. That's a tall order, maybe even an impossible one, for anyone. Even in his prime, Biden never had those skills. He only got elected thanks to a series of fluke circumstances: first as the least objectionable compromise to stop Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination, and then as the only alternative to Trump. And while it may have seemed plausible that he could repeat given similar circumstances -- above all, a rematch with Trump -- some critical elements have changed beyond repair (like Biden having to own his own record, battered as he's been by four years of relentless Republican villification, with his own skills clearly diminished in his 80s).

    On the other hand, what's so hard about finishing his term? As president, he needs to attend a few meetings, ask questions, sign orders he has staff to prepare, do the occasional meet and greet. He doesn't have to give speeches or press conferences. He doesn't have to fly overseas. If, as reported, his sweet spot is 10-to-4, why can't that be his work day? And if he ever does have to answer that 3AM call to start WWIII -- you may recall that as Hillary Clinton's "commander-in-chief test" -- just wake him up and brief him. That's a situation smarter people would never allow to happen, but if he did, how much worse could he be than Clinton or any of his predecessors?

    As for being called a "lame duck," that's something that stupid people (or opportunists trying to dupe stupid people) are going to do anyway. Ignore them. (Actually, the 22nd Amendment should have banned consecutive terms. They didn't think of that because there was a long tradition of major presidents serving two -- and until FDR only two -- terms, and because in 1947-51 presidential election campaigns only took up a couple months, as opposed to the billionaire-funded multi-year marathons of late. They also had no idea all the crap journalists would spread about "lame ducks.")

    Let's assume that Biden has to withdraw from the nomination. As far as the country is concerned, there should be no problem with him finishing out the term he was elected to. But if he did so, Kamala Harris would become president. As she is most likely his replacement as nominee, would becoming president help or hurt her candidacy? I don't see how it would help. It would give her a bigger plane to campaign from, and offer a few nice photo-ops (world leaders and such, look presidential). But it would put a lot of demands on time she needs to campaign. And it would saddle her more closely with Biden's legacy, which despite some real accomplishments remains pretty unpopular. I also suspect that a Biden resignation wouldn't spin well: it will be taken as a disgrace, affirming all the charges against Biden, and tainting his legacy -- a legacy that Harris will need to burnish in order to win.

  • Chas Danner:

  • Arthur Delaney: [07-05] Reps. Seth Moulton, Mike Quigley latest Democrats to call on Joe Biden to quit race: "The dam hasn't broken, but there's a steady drip of statements from Democrats skeptical of Biden being the Democratic nominee."

  • Ed Kilgore: [07-08] Was Biden's debate worse than Access Hollywood? I suppose what he's trying to say is that candidates can win despite embarrassing incidents along the way. I don't know or care which was worse, but I can think of several reasons why this will cause Biden more trouble: Access Hollywood may have impugned Trump's character, but he didn't have much to lose in the first place; also it's an old story, not present, so something Trump might have matured out of (as opposed to something that only gets worse with age); and while most of us might prefer to have a president who's not an asshole, some people actually regard that as a plus. On the other hand, debating is supposed to be a core competency for presidential aspirants, and is suggestive of how a person might handle an unexpected crisis, as is almost certain to happen. Also, the debate was an explicit opportunity for Biden to show that years of suppositions and innuendos about Biden's mental agility, tied to his age, were wrong. Biden's performance would seem to have confirmed them -- with his ever-increasing age by far the most obvious cause. Perhaps worse still, this implied that Biden's past denials were also false, casting considerable doubt on his reliability and truthfulness.

    Trump recovered because the the DNC mail dumps changed the fickle media's story line, then came Comey's announcement that he was re-opening the Clinton email investigation, which itself might have faded had the Stormy Daniels story not been bought off. But henceforth, every time Biden debates, he will be haunted by this performance, and every time he doesn't debate, that too works against him. Either way, Biden is trapped. If he doesn't drop out, this is going to be very painful to watch.

  • Ezra Klein: [06-30] This isn't all Joe Biden's fault.

  • Paul Krugman: [07-08] Please, Mr. President, do the right thing.

  • Chris Lehman:

  • Eric Levitz:

    • [07-05] In an ABC interview, Biden charts a course for Dems' worst-case scenario: "The president appeared too frail to defeat Trump and too delusional to drop out."

      No interview or stump speech can erase these revelations. The news media will not stop scrutinizing the copious evidence of Biden's senescence. The Trump campaign will not forget that it now possesses a treasure trove of humiliating clips of Biden's brain freezes and devastating quotes from the president's allies. Given this climate and the candidate's limitations, it is not plausible that Biden can surge in the polls between now and November. . . .

      The Biden who spoke with ABC News Friday night was enfeebled, ineloquent, egotistical, and intransigent. He was a man who appeared both ready and willing to lead his party into the wilderness. Asked how he would feel if he stayed in the race and Trump were elected, Biden replied, "I'll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that's what this is about."

      Wasn't that how Hillary Clinton felt after losing? I've never forgiven her for losing to Trump, and probably never will. Biden will be even worse, because doubts about him are so widely and deeply expressed, so far in advance of the actual vote.

    • [07-07] Biden is leading Democrats toward their worst-case scenario: Appears to be a slight edit of the previous article.

  • Daniel Marans: [07-06] Voters had issues with Biden's age long before the debate. That's why Democrats are worried.

  • Nicole Narea: [07-03] Forget four more years. Is Biden fit to serve now? Was he ever fit? What does that mean? Let's take care of the nomination first: that's the position that needs to be filled, with someone who can handle the immediate requirements and very probably continue to do so four years out. After that, if he can finish his term with dignity, shouldn't we show him that much respect? He'd certainly be under a lot less pressure and stress if he wasn't also running for a second term.

  • Olivia Nuzzi: [07-04] The conspiracy of silence to protect Joe Biden: "The president's mental decline was like a dark family secret for many elite supporters."

  • Evan Osnos: [07-06] Did Joe Biden's ABC interview stanch the bleeding or prolong it?

  • Tyler Pager: [06-30] Biden aides plotted debate strategy for months. Then it all collapsed. "The Biden team gambled on an early debate and prepared intensively at Camp David, but advisers could not prevent the candidate's stumbles onstage." Pager also reported on:

  • Nia Prater: [07-08] Read Biden's I'm-not-going-anywhere letter to House Democrats. Following up:

  • Andrew Prokop: [07-03] Leaks about Joe Biden are coming fast and furious: "The recent reports about the president's age and health, explained."

  • David Schultz: [07-03] Biden's abysmal debate.

  • Nate Silver:

  • Norman Solomon: [07-02] Who you gonna believe, Biden loyalists or your own eyes and ears?

  • Brian Stelter: [07-03] Did the media botch the Biden age story? "Asleep at the wheel? Complicit in a cover-up? The real story is far more complicated -- and more interesting." Or "Sorry, Ted Cruz, there are more than two options."

  • Michael Tomasky:

  • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [07-08] Joe Biden is fighting back -- but not against Trump, really: Then what the hell is he good for?

  • Joan Walsh: Biden did not save his presidency on ABC: "An uneven interview with George Stephanapoulos was too little, too late -- and maybe a bit too churlish."

  • Matthew Yglesias: [07-08] I was wrong about Biden: I followed Yglesias closely for many years, but after he won that "neoliberal shill of the year" contest (I think it was 2019), quit Vox, started buckraking at Substack, and wrote that opportunisticaly Friedmanesque book (One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger), about the only time I read him these days is when he gets one of his Bloomberg columns syndicated (and they're rarely much good). He's a smart guy who knows a lot, but he's also a calculating bastard who's especially adept at spotting trends and triangulating them with an eye toward profit. So it's no surprise that he (unlike his Vox-cofounder Ezra Klein, another smart triangulator) bought the Biden second term plan hook, line and sinker, or that Biden's debate performance, for once in his life he's eating crow. Or maybe twice: he started out as a big Iraq war booster.

    But enough with shooting the messanger. Let's try reading the message. It's long, methodologically sound, meticulously thought out, and damning. For instance, consider some facts:

    Biden isn't doing press conferences. He's using teleprompters at fundraisers. The joint appearances with Bill Clinton or Barack Obama look like efforts to keep attention off the candidate. It's not just that he's avoiding hostile interviews or refusing to sit with the New York Times, he isn't even doing friendly-but-substantive shows with journalists like Ezra Klein or Chris Hayes. It was a while ago now that I talked to him, and though it went well, I haven't heard recent rumors of many other off-the-record columnist chats. The seemingly inexplicable decision to skip the Super Bowl interview is perfectly explicable once you see the duck. In a re-election year, a president needs to do two different full-time jobs simultaneously, and Biden was really struggling with that. Apparently foreign governments were sitting on some anecdotes that have now leaked, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

    But the biggest data point that I blew off was a recent and totally unambiguous one.

    Five days before the debate, someone who'd seen Biden recently at a fundraiser told me that he looked and sounded dramatically worse than the previous times they'd seen him -- as recently as six months ago -- and that they were now convinced Biden wouldn't be able to make it through a second term. I blew that warning off and assumed things would be fine at the debate.

    That goes a bit beyond the facts I wanted to show, but you can see where he's going. The next paragraph begins: "Now that Biden apologists like me are discredited in the eyes of the public," then segues into a good point we needn't dwell on here. The next section is more important: "The media climate is going to get worse." He offers some details, but if you at all understand how the media works, you can imagine the rest, and then best double it for what you're too decent to even imagine the media doing. [Insert shark metaphor here.]

    Yglesias moves on to a "What comes next?" section, where he reminds us what a calculating bastard he is:

    Columnists calling on Biden to step down provide, in my view, are a small boost to Trump's election odds and a minuscule increase in the odds that Biden actually steps aside. I think we have to say it anyway, because this is journalism and we owe a duty of truth to our audience. But in narrow cost-benefit terms, the public criticism of Biden has negative expected value.

    Elected officials have a different set of responsibilities. I've seen some people express frustration that Barack Obama came out with such a strong statement of support for Biden. But Obama slagging Biden in public would have been a boon to Trump and accomplished nothing. Same for Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi and everyone else who matters. These are politicians, and they do not share journalists' obligations of candor.

    But what they do in private does matter, and I hope they do the right thing.

    The main thing I would add to this is that the election isn't until November (or, with early voting, mid-October?), so even if it takes until the Convention to replace Biden, there will still be plenty of time to unite behind the nominee and the ticket before anything real happens. Until then, it's just hot air (or maybe just tepid). The media cares, because they want you to think that every moment, every minute shift and sway, portends great importance, but that's just their business model. There are good reasons to replace Biden sooner rather than later -- it's painful to watch Biden and his cadres squirm, and we would be much happer spending the time exposing and deprecating Trump and the Republicans -- but it's a process, and that takes time. (I'm not even bothered by it not being a very democratic one, although it does mean that the elites who control this process will be held responsible should they fail.)

    Let me close here by quoting a reader comment:

    So long as Biden remains the nominee, we're going to keep getting hammered on age and mental decline.

    As soon as Harris is the nominee, we can hammer Trump on age and mental decline.

    I'd rather play the second game.

    Indeed, as long as Biden is the nominee, this is going to be one long, miserable election, where we're stuck playing defense, on grounds that aren't really defensible. Sure, we still might eek out a win, but best case is it's going to be close, which means that the administration will be hobbled for four more years, its leadership decrepit, while getting blamed for disasters that have been brewing for decades. On the other hand, replace Biden, and you reverse the tide, and go on the offense: throw the whole anti-Biden handbook (not just age and imbecility, but cronyism and corruption, egotism, vanity, the whole ball of wax) back at Trump, and go after all the Republican toadies fawning all over him. Wouldn't you rather kick some ass? We have time, but we won't have it forever.


  • Margaret Hartmann: [07-08] What the Jeffrey Epstein documents reveal about Donald Trump.

  • Jeet Heer: [07-05] Why aren't we talking about Trump's fascism? "Joe Biden has created a distraction from the existential question that should define this election." I don't see this as a problem. Some people understand what fascism means, especially historically. Most of them are fascinated enough to debate the fine points, but all of them already have weighed Trump out on the F-scale, so there's no real need to engage them on the issue. (Most are opposed, even ones who dismiss the charge on technical grounds, and none are likely to view Trump more negatively if you make them better understand the case that Trump is a fascist.) A second group of people only understand that aside from a couple of known and long gone historical examples, "fascist" is a slur, mostly used by people on the left to attack people not on the left. To convince people that Trump is a fascist and therefore bad, you first have to teach them what fascism is and why it is bad, which is a lot of excess work, and will probably wind up making them think that you are a Marxist (which if you actually know this stuff, you probably are). There are lots of more straightforward ways to argue that Trump is bad than that he specifically is a fascist, so for those people the effort ranges from inefficient to counterproductive. Then there are the people who will accept your analysis and embrace it, deciding that fascist Trump is even cooler than regular Trump.

    Heer's article is a good example of why we shouldn't bother talking about Trump and fascism. Heer is part of that first group, so he not only likes to talk about fascism, he sees fascism as the prism that illuminates Trump's myriad evils. However, once he introduces the terminology, we forget what the article was meant to about -- that Biden's incompetence has become a distraction from the real issue, which is the very real disaster if Trump is elected -- and fixate on the single word (which as I just said, is either understood but redundant, or misunderstood and therefore irrelevant, so in either case ineffective). So Heer's article doesn't expose Biden's distraction but merely adds to it.

  • Nicholas Liu: [07-08] Trump runs from Project 2025, claims not to know what it's about: "The former president is trying to distance himself from a plan drafted by his own former aides."

  • Shawn Musgrave: Trump camp says it has nothing to do with Project 2025 manifesto -- aside from writing it.

  • Marc A Thiessen: How Trump can make NATO great again. No time to read this, but the fusion of author (aka "Torture Boy"), concept, and title blew my mind.

And other Republicans:

And other Democrats:

  • Sarah Jones: [07-03] A socialist's case for Kamala Harris: I'd tread carefully here. The decision on the Democratic ticket is going to be made by people who fear and hate socialists even more than Trump, and you don't want them to turn on Harris just because she's one of the less bad compromises available. She as much as admits this with her last line: "But if I can't get what I want this year, I'd rather settle for Harris."

  • Osita Nwanevu: [07-08] Democrats don't just need a new candidate. They need a reckoning. "Democrats will be impotent messengers on democracy as long as they remain beholden to the feudal culture this crisis has exposed." Right, but it isn't going to happen, certainly not this year. The Democratic left didn't challenge Biden this year, basically for three reasons: it's nearly impossible to reject an incumbent president running for a second term; their relationships with Biden were engaging enough that they saw him as a path for limited but meaningful reform, which they valued more than just taking losing stands on principle; and they are more afraid of Trump and the Republicans than ever. Conversely, Biden is running not because he's uniquely qualified to beat Trump, but because he was uniquely positioned to prevent an open Democratic primary that could have nominated a Democrat who might be more committed to the voters than to the donors. But now that cast is set. Even if the convention is thrown open, the people voting there are almost all beholden to Biden. So while Biden will not survive as the nominee, he and his big donors will pick his successor, and when they do, every Democrat who doesn't want to risk Trump will line up, bow, and cheer. The reckoning will have to wait, probably until crisis forces it.

  • Prem Thakker: Every Democrat other than Joe Biden is unburdened by what has been: "As voters look for another option, alternative Democratic leaders poll similarly or even better than Biden -- even without name recognition."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:

Other stories:

Margot Roosevelt: [07-07] Jane F. McAlevey, who empowered workers across the globe, dies at 59: "An organizer and author, she believed that a union was only as strong as its members and trained thousands "to take over their unions and change them."


Jedediah Britton-Purdy: [07-02] The Creed: "How did Americans come to worship the Constitution?" Review of Aziz Rana, The Constitutional Bind: How Americans Came to Idolize a Document That Fails Them.

  • Aziz Rana: [05-30] Democracy was a decolonial project: "For generations of American radicals, the path to liberation required a new constitution, not forced removal." I ran across this essay slightly after finding the book review. While there is a common point, this goes in a different direction.

Leah Hunt-Hendrix/Astra Taylor: [07-02] For a solidarity state: "The state structures society. It can make us more prone to care for one another."

Sean Illing: [07-07] How the 1990s broke politics: "Inside the GOP's transition from the party of Reagan to the party of Trump." Interview with John Ganz, author of When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s.

Osita Nwanevu: [03-11] The divided president: "Who's in charge in the Biden White House?" This is a bit dated, a review of Franklin Foer, The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future. I bought the book at the time, figuring it might shed some light on some things (mostly involving foreign policy) that I didn't adequately understand), but never got around to it, and I'm in no hurry these days.

Marshall Steinbaum: X thread: "There's a little book I recommend to anyone who's trying to get a handle on what's going on in American politics this week." The book is Nancy McLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. The book is mostly about economist James Buchanan, and how his and similar careers have been sponsored by right-wing networks, especially that of the Kochs. I read the book when it came out, and thought it was pretty good. Buchanan's early ties to the anti-desegregation movement were especially striking -- how easily we forget how reflexively racist many people were in the 1950s -- and the Koch funding was something I was rather familiar with. (I even received some myself, back when I typeset reprints of a couple Koch-sponsored reprints of Murray Rothbard books.) I'm less clear on Buchanan's economic theories, which seemed rather trivial. Maybe "stealth plan" was a bit of an oversell: much of it was public, and some of it barely qualified as a plan -- throwing money at something could just as well be seen as another of those "irritable mental gestures" Lionel Trilling saw in most "conservative thought." Still, this kicked up a flurry of protest over McLean's book, including some from people I generally respect (e.g., Rick Perlstein), so I took some notes:

Music, etc.

Nick Paumgarten: [07-01] Alan Braufman's loft-jazz séance.

Michael Tatum: [07-09] A downloader's diary (53): Much more than capsule reviews, major takes on Beyoncé, Nia Archives, Zawose Queens, Carly Pearce, Fox Green, and much more. Pearce and Fox Green also appear here:

Midyear Lists:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Speaking of Which: Afterthoughts

Back during my careerist, apolitical middle ages, I read a number of business/management books (also, more often, popular science, and sometimes science fiction -- those were the good ol' days), and one point that stuck with me was the observation that in and coming out of meetings, there are two kinds of people: those who give you their reactions immediately, and those who need a day or two to process and come up with better reactions. I quickly recognized that I'm one of the latter.

I'm pretty sure the book was Robert Townsend's Further Up the Organization, which I probably got more from than I did from The Communist Manifesto and Minima Moralia combined, although from Walter Benjamin's Illuminations and John Berger's Ways of Seeing would be close. Some major things I got from Townsend are the value of employee ownership, and a deep loathing for nepotism -- points that have repeatedly been reinforced by real-world experience. There's also a quote about the Ottoman Empire that I'd have to look up to do justice, but the gist is that when you lose your reputation for justice, you lose everything. That quote comes as close as anything to explaining why I spend so much time harping on how important it is that Israel and America have so thoroughly disgraced themselves in Gaza (and, sure, not just in Gaza).

Anyhow, before my digression, I just wanted to introduce this concept, which may or may not become a regular feature -- depends on how much free time I have, which if this week is any example is likely to be not much. It's been taking me so much time to round up my weekly Speaking of Which compendiums, often of late requiring an extra day (or two?), that I wind up just throwing them out, with no more than a quick, minimal spell check. Then I have to pivot for Music Week, which is mostly a matter of collecting bits I had written more leisurely (or carelessly) during the week, and that usually breaks the mood until Friday or so when I get going on the next Speaking of Which. Lately, Music Week day has given me a chance to fix the typos my wife always finds, and add a few items that slipped my net, but I never have the time and perspective I need to refine, clarify, and polish what I wrote in such haste.

That led me to the idea of doing a midweek "Afterthoughts" post, where I look back through the previous week's roundup with somewhat refreshed eyes, pick out a few salient items that I think could use more (by which I think I mean deeper) commentary. I could then add anchors and links to go back and forth between Speaking of Which and Afterthoughts. As I reread, I'll probably catch and fix a few mistakes, perhaps editing some particularly awkward passages. While Afterthoughts will offer the occasional link, I imagine that I'll add new ones I to the old file, or save them for the following week. That will entail keeping multiple files open (and raises the question of whether I should make the work-in-progress file visible).

Another digression (maybe I should invent some markup for these?): I have on occasion done that, and I'm usually rather pleased with what I find there. That gets me to imagining that someone could pull out a book's worth of particularly notable nuggets, but the only people who have given them a look so far have thrown up their hands in dismay (my wife and her publisher friends). When I do it myself, I'm tempted to edit, rarely for points but the writing can always be sharpened up. I've collected most of my post-2000 writings into book files, but they are pretty massive (the four political volumes up to 2020 total 2.86 million words; not collected there yet, Speaking of Which, since June 2021, would add another 800 thousand words).

Anyhow, that's the concept. Unfortunately, I wasted 2-3 days after coming up with the idea without actually doing the work. But I left a placeholder for this post when I opened the next Speaking of Which draft file, so I feel obliged to post something here. (It works this way for technical and historical reasons I won't bore you with, possibly because doing so might expose my inept design.) But as this is being written on Sunday, all I can hope for is make a quick pass and post tonight, with everything else delayed a day (or, perhaps like last week, more).

Zack Beauchamp: Sometimes I think I should write up an annotated list of books on Israel, but the number that I have read quickly becomes mind-boggling -- especially when you start thinking about the various angles and tangents. But this one cuts to the heart of the matter: not so much as to what happened -- which tends to be a long list of indictments -- as to what was going through Israeli when they acted as they did.

One imagines there could be a similar reading list for how Palestinians think, but they've had so few viable options that it really wouldn't tell us much. As Americans, we've been brought up to think that we have a large degree of freedom within which we can deliberately live our lives. Even here, much of that is illusion (or delusion), but Palestinians have never had any meaningful degree of political freedom: not under the Ottomans, or the British, or the Egyptian/Jordanian occupations of Gaza and the West Bank from 1948-67, or under Israel (in or out of the Green Line, with or without the gang rule of Fatah/Hamas), or for exiles in Lebanon, Syria, the Gulf, etc.

I dug out Ben Cramer's book a few weeks ago. I wanted to find a story I remembered him using -- one about teaching a dog to speak -- but so far it's escaped me. On the other hand, I have reread many passages, and I'm always struck by how easily he gets to unobvious but essential points. One of those is that of all the world's many problems, this conflict should be one of the easiest to solve -- pace Christgau, who throws up his hands in despair after declaring it "the cruelest and most gruesome international conflict of my adulthood." I pick my around that line, but Ben Cramer simply offers an answer: just start by showing Palestinians some respect, and see how they adjust. I have little doubt that they will, but that's because I'm aware that there are many more strands of thought among Palestinians beyond the only ones Israelis recognize: those who fight (like Hamas), and those who surrender (like Fatah, not that even they have so little self-respect that they can satisfy Israel).

I've read quite a bit on Israel over the years: enough that I can pull up a historical reference for almost any situation, so quickly that I frequently circle back instead of offering immediate reactions to atrocities that no understanding of historical context can excuse. But mostly I'm writing on the basis of models I've formed and refined over many years, that give me insight into things people say and do, and how they are perceived and reacted to. I suppose this started fifty years ago, when I was first smitten with philosophy, and through it psychology and sociology (and economics?).

It's been a long time since I ever attempted to articulate it, but I have been thinking more about stories and models lately: most people understand things through stories -- or so we're told by political and advertising consultants, who one suspects prefer them because they see them as ways to manipulate, and as such to compensate their clients and earn their premium. And, if you're interested in practical politics, that's often a game you have to play. Models are harder to sell, because they simply give you insight into how things actually work, and most importantly, that many of the things selfish people would pay for -- like riches, power, status, glamor, fame, notoriety -- come with hidden costs that make them worth much less than you'd like to think.

But read on. The models will come to you.

About last Thursday's debate: I collected a huge number of links, as most center-to-left pundits took the matter seriously and had an opinion to air (and often not just an axe to grind). I didn't bother much with right pundits, as what could they possibly say worth taking seriously? So while I started the post with a general idea of what was going on, and how it might play out, I was fine with letting this play out. And it did, pretty definitively. Biden is toast. He's lost all credibility as a candidate, and if the Democrat clique around him somehow manage to keep him as their candidate, they will lose all credibility and, as soon as possible, control of the party. Even if he sticks and wins, which given his opposition isn't impossible, he and they will get no credit for the feat. All they will get is condemnation for the risk they're running by sticking with a candidate who has clearly lost the faith and trust of his own voters.

That it isn't official yet is probably because the insiders haven't yet agreed on a succession plan. There's been very little reporting on this so far, because it's not the sort of thing inside power brokers dare brag about. But it's pretty obvious if you understand how things work. And what's happened is pretty simple. . . .

PS: Insert my model of US political parties here, then explain how the powers in the Democratic Party have used Biden as a prophylactic against the left. An open political process stood a chance of tilting the nomination toward someone on the left -- probably not Sanders, due to age, but someone would have moved in that direction. On the other hand, it would be very difficult for anyone to challenge an incumbent president, so running Biden essentially shut down the primary process, Now, even if Biden sensibly withdraws, the convention will be controlled by Biden's backers, ensuring that they will come up with a candidate favorable to their business interests. I wrote a version of this for tomorrow's post: e.g., the comments on Cooper and Yglesias.

I've been thinking along these lines for quite some time now. To reiterate:

  1. Both parties basically do two things: raise money, and compete for votes. Aside from unions, which faded significantly after 1980, that meant they had to appeal to the rich, and then take those resources and somehow fashion promises that would appeal to enough other people to win elections. Donors mostly want the same thing, which is to make more money, so both parties have to be credibly pro-business, but parties can appeal to different voters, and try to differentiate themselves accordingly (without offending their donors).

  2. The main differentiation between the two parties is over the issue of whether can and should take an active role in helping people (which, for the donors, includes businesses) or shouldn't even try, but rather should restrict itself to protecting property and repressing people's baser instincts and subversive ideas. You already know which parties match up with which descriptions. They both have problems reconciling donors and voters, and those problems are most acutely felt by party insiders.

  3. Parties are not like firms, where owners have clear control direct from the top, through a board and hired management. Nor are they democratic, like a union (although they could be, and that's something Democrats should consider). They're more like co-ops, which in theory belong to everyone but in practice are dominated by a few people who worm their way into positions where they control access to resources and information. They're often referred to as elites, but cadres would be a more appropriate term (I could also go with professional political operatives, to put a somewhat finer point on it). Cadres may seem like elites, but that's mostly because they wind up being operatives of the real elites: the donors. But while they are usually aligned with elite donors, like the managerial class, they have bureaucratic interests of their own, like self-preservation.

  4. The cadres struggle to balance the conflicting demands of donors and voters, leading to different strategies. Republicans flagrantly appeal to rich, then try to line up voters who will defer to the rich and overlook their own economic interests, expecting little or nothing from government. Democrats take a different tack, trying to woo voters with promises of better services, but they also have to find and keep donors willing to go along with their programs. Both strategies are dysfunctional, but that could fill up a book.

  5. One problem of special relevance here is that in their relentless supplication to donors, Republicans are corrupt in principle, while Democrats are corrupt in practice. Somehow the latter seems to bother people more than the former. Probably because to Democratic voters, corruption seems like betrayal, leading them to distrust their leaders. Republicans also see Democratic corruption as betrayal, because it benefits others, but accept their own corruption as serving their party and its ideals.

  6. In the 1970s, unions were declining, and business started pumping huge amount of cash into politics. That led to the Reagan 1980s, which in turn led to a desperate realignment within the Democratic Party, where success was often linked to becoming even more pro-business than the Republicans. That shift was led by Clinton, backed by middling Democrats like Biden, and picked up by Obama. Not only were they pro-business, they turned the Party into a platform for their own personal agendas, with no regard for developing bottom-up party strength. (Both Clinton and Obama came in with legislative majorities, then suffered massive mid-term losses, rebounding to win unproductive second terms without Democratic Congresses. The sole exception was in 2006, when Howard Dean -- who coined the term "democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- built a party that won Congress, only to see Obama cashier him and lose everything.)

  7. Obama picked Biden as VP as a peace offering to Hillary Clinton, who was thus assured that she could run for president after Obama, without having to fight off his VP. She got her clear lane, raised massive money, and still lost, to one of the worst Republicans imaginable. She barely survived Bernie Sanders' challenge in the primaries, mostly by slim margins in states with strong Democratic machines. In 2020, after Sanders won the first two primaries, with Bloomberg so panicked by a possible Sanders win that he spent nearly a billion dollars on his own hapless candidacy, the Party cadres rallied all of their support behind Biden, and eeked out a win, mostly through terror of a second Trump term.

  8. Biden hadn't come remotely close in his previous presidential campaigns, was already considered too old to run in 2016, and was neither inspiring nor graceful in 2020, but managed a loudly disputed win in 2020. He had no business running for a second term, but Trump was running, and the rematch appealed to him. Moreover, as an incumbent, his renomination would be a lock, it would keep his donors happy, and for Party cadres, it would preclude another challenge from the left -- one that risked reorienting the Party from its donors to the people. Besides, the left wasn't all that unhappy with Biden (although Gaza risked becoming a sore point), so as long as he seemed capable, pretty much everyone was willing to go along. But mostly it was cadre fear of open primaries that drove his candidacy. The Democratic Party pledged to save democracy in 2024, but dared not indulge in it.

  9. I don't know who insisted on the debate, but it offered a sanity check as to Biden's competency. Most likely his donors wanted to see him in action, to reassure themselves he could do the job. In any case, he failed abysmally. The good news is that he could still be replaced. The bad news is that he's left the Party in control of cadres committed to him, because they have no other option. Hence the current stall, denial, misdirection, and dissembling, which assumes Democrats are even more gullible than Republicans (a tall order, given that they're still backing Trump). The worse news is that many Democrats are so terrified they're willing to stick with a plan that has repeatedly failed rather than risk change.

I don't mind advising patience, but the notion that Biden will still be the nominee in September, much less in November, is too horrible to contemplate. The measuer of this is not whether you would still vote for Biden over Trump in November. Of course you would, as would anyone who recognizes Trump for even a fraction of what he is. The question is how do you want to beat Trump? You want to beat him not just on how bad he is, but on how much better you are.

You need a candidate who can stand up to him, who can argue back, who can hit him so hard and so fast that he's the one who looks like a doddering, senescent idiot. And, let's face it, that candidate isn't Joe Biden. If we could get a fair vote on it, I'm pretty sure most Democrats would agree, and come up with someone better. But thanks to Biden and the cadres, only they get to decide this year. If they get it wrong, they will lose all credibility, and we'll have to rebuild the Democratic Party from scratch, as a union of voters. Meanwhile, we'll suffer for their hubris. And next time, we'll understand much better what we're fighting for.

Changes I made to the file:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: missing link.
  • Hoda Osman: botched link tag.
  • Moved Prem Thakker under Blaise Malley's "craziest 'pro-Israel' budget amendments."
  • Zack Beauchamp: bold-faced book authors.
  • Andrew Prokop: typo.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42580 [42549] rated (+31), 29 [22] unrated (+7).

Nominally a day late (ok, two days), but last Music Week was two days late, so this is still a short week. I started off most days with old r&b in the CD player -- especially Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story, which combined a few minor hits with some major studio work, leading me to tweet up two singles (Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin', and Bobby Long, The Pleasure Is All Mine). Beyond that, what I got to was pretty haphazard, with a fair amount of old music left over from the William Parker research.

My piece was published by ArtsFuse, here: Celebrating bassist William Parker's lifetime of achievement. You can also find my 2003 CG, with its updated discography, and my notes file, which includes my full set of reviews of albums Parker. The former could still use some cleanup, especially to separate out the albums that Parker didn't play on -- the CG was originally focused on Matthew Shipp and the Thirsty Ear Blue Series he curated, until I started noticing how many more albums Parker played on and how central they were to the whole circle. The latter needs even more work, as most of it was cut-and-pasted from my book files (which are now several years out of date), with others copied with HTML markup (where they still have bold credits and letter grades). If I didn't fear getting sucked into a huge time sink, I'd go fix those, but for now I can only offer excuses.

Besides, I have a much more urgent website project to work on. I've decided to use my Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll contacts to run a Mid-Year straw poll. I explain this on the website (which still needs a good deal of work) and in the invite letter (which went out to approx. 200 critics on June 30). I'm asking for lists of up to 10 new releases (which can include newly discovered 2023 releases) and/or up to 5 "rara avis" (old music, recorded 10+ years ago, or reissues). Deadline is July 14, and ArtsFuse will publish the results, probably later that week.

The Poll is a quickie experiment. I've simplified the rules to make it easier on voters (and hopefully on he who counts), and I've saved myself a lot of work by only sending out one batch of invites without trying to vet new voters. The problem with the "one batch" approach is that I'm using a server and software that has been known to run afoul of some spam traps. I especially fear that people with gmail addresses may have their invites diverted or discarded. But it's impossible to test and verify these things. I made an effort to research this problem before, to little avail, and I will make another one soon, but in the meantime, please read the following, and follow up if anything seems to apply to you:

  1. If you've ever voted before, or for that matter received an invite before, and haven't received an invite, please check your spam filter. If you find one, take steps to get your mail provider to recognize that the mail isn't spam. If you can't find one, assume you're eligible and use this one. Follow the instructions, and vote. Let me know if you want to be added to my list (jazzpoll [at] Not everyone who has voted is on the list (various reasons, including sloth on my part), but I can add you. The advantage of being on the list is that I'll send you updates and further requests.

  2. If you haven't received an invite, but think you should be qualified, look up the invite, follow instructions, and send me your lists. You need to have some real expertise in jazz (my first approximation would be listening to 200+ jazz records per year, but that's easy for me to say because I listen to 700+), have some verifiable credentials (you write about some of them, which can be on your own blog or mainstream or niche publications, and/or you broadcast about them, which obviously includes radio but I suppose could extend to podcasts), and construct lists that are focused on jazz (the occasional outlier or, as DownBeat likes to call them, "beyond"; by the way, "smooth jazz" is not jazz, at least for purposes of establishing credibility, although it may be acceptable as "beyond"). If this checks out, I will very likely accept your ballot, and you'll be on the inside track for future invites.

  3. Check with your friends: make sure they got their invites, and let people you think should be voting know that they can vote, and how. They can always hit me up with questions, but we don't have a lot of time, so it's best to move fast.

  4. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to publicize this wider, although bear in mind that I still see this as a forum of critics -- even though I recognize that there are lots of fans that have become pretty expert themselves, especially given how easy it's become to check out new music on streaming platforms.

Also, one key point to emphasize is that this isn't a big deal. I'm not asking you to exercise Solomonic (or Christgauvian) judgment over the jazz universe. Your list doesn't have to find the absolute best records (whatever that might mean). Nor does it have to be ranked. (Although blessed are the rankers, for they get slightly more points weighting for their efforts.) Nor does it even have to be a full list. Just jot down a few albums that you would like to recommend to other people. That's mostly how these lists will be used.

Given the late date, the short deadline, my various shortcuts, and the fact that we've never done this before, I'm not expecting much, but even if we just get 50 voters (as opposed to the 159 in 2023), I think the lists will be interesting and informative.

I started to track mid-year lists when they started appearing just before June 1 -- see my metacritic file, which is running behind at the moment, as the last couple weeks haven't allowed much opportunity to work on it -- and they both give me a broad sense of what's out there and a useful roster of prospects to check out. This also ties into my tracking file, which has a jazz selector (currently listing 400 jazz albums, of which I have 332; this list will expand as I receive your lists: from past experience, about 30% of the albums that show up in ballots are ones I hadn't previously tracked; there's also a no grade variant, for those who don't want to see my grades).

The website started off as a clone of last year's, with minor hacks. As I do more work to it this week, it should become a more useful source of information about the Poll and its progress. For instance, I need to revise things like the FAQ and the Admin Guide. I also hope to get some work done on the older parts of the website, especially to fill in information that predates my involvement (in administration; I've voted every year, from the founding).

I hope to make the website the best source for information about the Poll. But if you wish to follow, check my Music Week posts, and follow me on twitter (or "X" if you prefer; I haven't jumped ship yet, although at this point it's rare for one of my tweets to be viewed by as much as a third of my nominal followers, so the returns seem pretty slim).

Some other website work: I've done an update to Carola Dibbell's website, as her novel, The Only Ones is being reprinted, and she has an event later in July. I haven't done my database update to Robert Christgau's website yet, but have all of the CG reviews in my private copy. I still have to do some cross-referencing work, but should update the website in a couple days.

I have a question about Michael Brecker that I need to research a bit. Would be nice to have a couple more to gang it up with.

We've gone through more email tsuris, as Cox has dumped all of their email customers (or at least us) onto Yahoo. It appears to be stable now, but Yahoo has a pretty poor reputation, so we'll see.

I did post another food pic on Facebook, if you into that sort of thing: Indian chicken, potatoes, cabbage, eggplant, raita, and paratha.

I posted a massive Speaking of Which late Monday night (290 links is probably a record; 11720 words isn't, but is quite a lot). I've added a few more things today, and will probably add some more before I get this posted. I'm inclined to hold off on further complaints about the horrible Supreme Court, but would like to capture as much of the initial reaction to the Trump-Biden debate as may be useful. I'm grateful that I didn't bother with anything written in advance of the debate.

This particular post got delayed an extra day as I got stuck writing a long comment on Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez. And while I got that done by 5PM, the delay occasioned one last round of "addl" tags.

New records reviewed this week:

Arooj Aftab: Night Reign (2024, Verve): Pakistani singer-songwriter, born in Saudi Arabia, returned to Lahore when she was 10, on to US at 19, studied at Berklee, based in New York, fifth album, got some notice in 2023 whens he shared billing on Love in Exile with Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismally. B+(***) [sp]

Alan Braufman: Infinite Love Infinite Tears (2024, Valley of Search): Saxophonist, had a few years in New York in the mid-1970s working around the lofts with Cooper-Moore and William Parker, then did something else until retirement age, when he reissued his one album (actually quite good) and some archival tapes, and started working on a new one. This follows up on the promise of 2020's The Fire Still Burns, with James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Ken Filiano (bass), Chad Taylor (drums), and Michael Wimberly (percussion). B+(***) [r]

Ani DiFranco: Unprecedented Sh!t (2024, Righteous Babe): Folkie singer-songwriter, had a lot of edge when she emerged in 1990. This one doesn't particularly grab me, but probably deserves another listen. [PS: It does, as her critique is sharp as ever, but the music still doesn't grab me.] B+(*) [sp]

Dayramir González: V.I.D.A. [Verdad, Independencia, Diversidad Y Amor] (2024, self-released): Cuban pianist, based in New York, has a 2008 album with Habana Entrance, not sure what else. B [sp]

Morgan Guerin: Tales of the Facade (2024, Candid): Self-described "prolific multi-instrumentalist and visionary composer," born "right outside New Orleans," studied at New School and Berklee, based in New York, side-credits since 2019, appears to have three previous albums, plays sax and related, keyboards, electric bass, and drums, but I can't find any credits here, and I'm thrown by all the vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Goran Kajfeš Tropiques: Tell Us (2024, We Jazz): Swedish trumpet player, quite a few albums since his 2000 debut, quartet with Alex Zethson (keyboards), Johan Berthling (bass), and Johan Holmegard (drums), third group album. Has a wide, panoramic feel. B+(***) [sp]

Bill Laurance/The Untold Orchestra: Bloom (2022 [2024], ACT Music): British pianist, member of Snarky Puppy at least 2006-20, own albums since 2012, his keyboards leading an orchestra, conducted by Rory Storm, of 18 strings. Reflects his roots in classical music, and probably impressive as such, but quite enjoyable, too. B+(**) [sp]

Les Savy Fav: Oui, LSF (2024, Frenchkiss): Art punk band from Rhode Island, released five albums 1997-2010, return for another 14 years later. Still a potent combination of hooks and volume. Last song is triumphant: "We were there when the world got great/ We helped to make it that way." B+(**) [sp]

Grégoire Maret/Romain Collin: Ennio (2024, ACT Music): Swiss harmonica player, eponymous debut 2012, second album with the French pianist, backed by guitar-bass-drums, with flute (Alexandra Sopp) and heavyweight vocal guests Gregory Porter and Cassandra Wilson. B+(*) [sp]

Zara McFarlane: Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan (2024, Universal): British jazz/soul singer, fifth album, standards. I don't have a good feel for how representative they are, or even much of an idea how Vaughan sung them: I was so surprised by "Inner City Blues" I stopped the record to compare Vaughan's 1972 version. Vaughan's voice is unrivaled for stature and precision, but I rather like McFalane's softer, sweeter tone, and the loose swing of her arrangements. B+(**) [sp]

Ngwaka Son Systčme: Iboto Ngenge (2024, Eck Echo): Spinoff from Kinshasa (Congo) group Kokoko, emphasis on electrobeats. Six songs, 28:22. B+(**) [sp]

Normani: Dopamine (2024, RCA): R&B singer from Atlanta, last name Hamilton, formerly of the vocal group Fifth Harmony (3 albums, 2015-17), first solo album. B+(**) [r]

Carly Pearce: Hummingbird (2024, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, fourth album since 2017, found herself in her age-marking 29: Written in Stone. This sounds pretty good -- even the Levi's jingle. B+(***) [sp]

Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (2024, Aerophonic): Rempis plays his full range of saxophones (soprano/alto/tenor/baritone), with his usual fierce resolve, with Dorji pushing (and occasionally rivaling) on guitar. I'm impressed, as always, but doubt the harsh tone (or maybe the specific harmonics, or the lack of a drummer) will make this an album I return to. B+(***) [cd]

Sisso & Maiko: Singeli Ya Maajabu (2024, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Tanzanian DJ Mohamed Hamza Ally, "figurehead" of the Sisso Records label, with one of his producer/keyboardists, for a volume of high velocity, klang-and-squiggle-filled dance beats. B+(*) [sp]

Jason Stein/Marilyn Crispell/Damon Smith/Adam Shead: Spi-raling Horn (2023 [2024], Balance Point Acoustics): Bass clarinet player, has gotten steadily better since his 2007 debut, adds a stellar pianist to his recent bass-drums trio. A- [sp]

Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (2024, ESP-Disk): Pianist, goes by first name, last name is McDonas, nominally a solo album, but draws on samples from previous albums, so side credits for William Parker (bass), Michael Wimberly (drums), Pauline Oliveros (MIDI accordion), Terry Riley (vocals), Nels Cline (guitar, effects, Mega mouth). B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alan Braufman: Live in New York City: February 8, 1975 (1975 [2022], Valley of Search): Saxophonist, aka Alan Michael or Alan Michael Braufman, recorded a 1975 album, Valley of Search, that he reissued to much acclaim in 2018, followed up by a new album, The Fire Still Burns, and reissue of some early tapes, like this one, a WBAI airshot with Cooper-Moore (piano), William Parker (bass), John Clark (French horn), Jim Schapperowe (drums), and Ralph Williams (percussion). B+(***) [r]

DJ Notoya: Funk Tide: Tokyo Jazz-Funk From Electric Bird 1978-87 (1978-87 [2024], Wewantsounds/Electric Bird): Not sure how much credit the presenter deserves here. The music is closer to disco than to funk, and has minimal value as jazz. B- [sp]

Charles Gayle/Milford Graves/William Parker: WEBO (1991 [2024], Black Editions Archive): Tenor sax, drums, bass, a major new find in the late drummer's archives, running just over 2 hours (2-CD, 3-LP). Gayle (1939-2023) was like the truest heir of Albert Ayler, pushed to extremes I found very difficult to take when I first ran into him, so my grades are scattered, and likely in need of revision -- e.g., I still have Repent (1992) as a B, but at least get Touchin' on Trane at A-. This is in the same ballpark, but perhaps better mixed to bring out the truly amazing bass and percussion. A- [sp]

Ron Miles: Old Main Chapel (2011 [2024], Blue Note): Cornet player, from Denver, albums since 1987, signed with Blue Note for a 2020 album, shortly before he died at 58 in 2022. This is a live album, dating back to the trio he recorded Quiver with: Bill Frisell (guitar), and Brian Blade (drums). A decade later, this is a lovely memento. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Collective 4tet: Orca (1996 [1997], Leo Lab): Originally Heinz Geisser (drums), Mark Hennen (piano), William Parker (bass), and Michael Moss (reeds), for two albums 1992-93, before Moss was replaced by Jeff Hoyer (trombone), and they went on to record six more albums for Leo 1996-2009. Free jazz with chamber music intimacy. Several spots got me thinking this might be great, only to slip back into their framework. B+(***) [r]

Collective 4tet: Live at Crescent (1997 [1998], Leo Lab): Live in Belfast, no idea why. Loses a bit of edge, while retaining the complexity, which is not exactly how live albums are expected to excel. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: Moving Along (2002 [2005], Leo): Recorded the same day as Synopsis. Three long pieces, in their zone, with trombone highlights. B+(**) [r]

Collective 4tet: In Transition (2008 [2009], Leo): One more album, the trombonist departed, replaced by Arthur Brooks (trumpet/flugelhorn), who plays this close to the vest, as pianist Mark Hennen takes a more pominent role. B+(***) [sp]

Marco Eneidi Quintet: Final Disconnect Notice (1994, Botticelli): Alto sax, second horn is Karen Borca's bassoon, an excellent pairing, especially when they get dicey, backed by two bassists (Wilber Morris and William Parker, who also plays some cello) and drums (Jackson Krall). B+(***) [yt]

Marco Eneidi/Glenn Spearman: Creative Music Orchestra: American Jungle Suite (1995 [1997], Music & Arts): Discogs gives title as Creative Music Orchestra, which cover and spine confirm, while other sources cite the title of the 69:05 piece the 21-piece big-band-plus-violins plays. Led by the two saxophonists (alto/tenor), Eneidi does most of the composing, arranging one piece from Cecil Talor, while Spearman wrote the final movement (26:48). Some great potential here, but could use a conductor. B+(**) [sp]

Marco Eneidi/William Parker/Donald Robinson: Cherry Box (1998 [2000], Eremite): Alto saxophonist (1956-2016), born in Portland, as a child took lessons from Sonny Simmons, moved to New York in 1981 to study with Jimmy Lyons, played with William Parker, Bill Dixon, Cecil Taylor, and Glenn Spearman. Trio here with bass and drums. Fierce leads, holding back only to let the others show off their magic. A- [sp]

Marco Eneidi/Vijay Anderson: Remnant Light (2004 [2018], Minus Zero): Alto sax and drums duo, a home-recorded tape unearthed after the saxophonist's death in 2016. B+(**) [bc]

Marco Eneidi Streamin' 4: Panta Rei (2013 [2015], ForTune): Alto saxophonist, American, active in free jazz circles since the early 1980s, picks up a like-minded group in Poland, with Marek Pospieszalski (tenor sax), Ksawery Wojcinski (bass), and Michal Trela (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Heinz Geisser/Shiro Onuma: Duo: Live at Yokohama Little John (2007 [2008], Leo): Swiss percussionist, member of Collective 4tet, Discogs list 10 albums under his name (plus 37 side-credits), in a rare drums duo. B+(*) [sp]

The Ivo Perelman Quartet: Sound Hierarchy (1996 [1997], Muisic & Arts): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, debut 1989, had released four albums through 1995, three more in 1996, then nine in 1997, of which this one looks most impressive on paper: Marilyn Crispell (piano), William Parker (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums). Flexes some muscle, but not all that interesting. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Derek Bailey/Sabu Toyozumi: Breath Awareness (1987, NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Albert Beger/Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Hamid Drake: Cosmic Waves (No Business) [05-27]
  • Karen Borca Trio Quartet & Quintet: Good News Blues: Live at the Vision Festival 1998 & 2005 (No Business) [05-27]
  • Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Sabu Toyozumi: Complete Link (NoBusiness) [05-27]
  • Alfredo Colón: Blood Burden (Out of Your Head) [06-14]
  • Nick Dunston: Colla Voce (Out of Your Head) [04-26]
  • The Sofia Goodman Group: Receptive (Joyous) [07-26]
  • Monika Herzig's Sheroes: All in Good Time (Zoho) [07-22]
  • Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra: Things Will Pass (Pacific Coast Jazz) [08-23]
  • Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Live From Studio Rivbea: July 12, 1975 [Rivbea Live! Series, Volume 1] (No Business) [05-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Speaking of Which

After missing last week, I knew I had a lot to catch up on here. I also got interrupted several times. It took longer than expected to wrap up my piece on bassist William Parker (see: Celebrating bassist William Parker's lifetime of achievement). I had two other internet projects that required significant amounts of attention (one was an update to Carola Dibbell's website, announcing a new printing of her novel, The Only Ones; the other was setting up a framework for a Jazz Critics Mid-Year Poll, which still needs more work). We also had trips to the ER and various doctors (including a veterinarian). So no chance of getting done on Sunday night. I'm not really done on Monday, either, but I'm dead tired and more than a little disgusted, so this will have to do for now.

That will, in turn, push Music Week back until Tuesday, which is just as well.

Before I really got started, the debate happened -- I couldn't be bothered to watch, my wife got disgusted and switched to a Steve Martin movie -- and I haven't (yet, as of noon 06-28) read any reviews, but I wanted to grab these tweets before they vanish:

Rick Perlstein: The main argument on the left was that he was a bad president. That was incorrect.

Tim Price: The left is going to be in big trouble for being right too early again.

Another scrap picked up on the fly from fleeting social media:

Greg Magarian: [06-27] Democratic Party establishment, relentlessly, for eight months: "You stupid kids need to stop criticizing Biden! If we get four more years of Trump, it's all your fault!"

Democratic Party establishment, tomorrow morning, set your clock by it: "You stupid kids need to fix this! If we get four more years of Trump, it's all your fault!"

Because of course it's never their fault.

In a comment, Magarian added:

I don't know the best process for replacing Biden. There's no playbook for this. The biggest question is whether the party should essentially try to crown Harris, either by having Biden resign the presidency or by having him stay and endorse her. But this is kind of the point of my post: the onus here shouldn't be on Biden's critics. The party is supposed to exist to win elections. They're royally screwing this one up. I want to know what they're going to do.

Initial count: 290 links, 11720 words. Updated count [07-03]: 320 links, 16021 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): on music, Christgau.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America):

Israel vs. world opinion:

About last Thursday's debate:

When the Biden-Trump debates were announced, I jotted down the following:

Ed Kilgore: [05-24] Is Biden gambling everything on an early-debate bounce? My read is that the June debate is meant to show Democrats that he can still mount a credible campaign against Trump. If he can -- and a bounce would be nice but not necessary -- it will go a long way to quelling pressure to drop out and open the convention. If he can't, then sure, he'll have gambled and lost, and pressure will build. But at least it will give him a reference point that he has some actual control over -- unlike the polls, which still seem to have a lot of trouble taking him seriously.

I'm writing this before I go through the paces and collect whatever links I deem of interest, which will help me better understand the debate and its aftermath, but my first impression is that Biden failed to satisfy Democrats that he is really the candidate they need to fight off Trump in November. I'll also note that my expectation was to see a lot of confirmation bias in reactions. I'd expect people who dislike Biden and/or Trump, for any reason, to find faults that fortify their feelings, while people who are personally invested in their candidates will at least claim to be vindicated. Hence, the easy way to scan this section is to look for reactions that go against type.

Debate tweets:

  • Zachary D Carter: Donald Trump is delivering the second-worst presidential debate performance I've ever seen.

And more post-debate tweets:

  • Zachary D Carter: [06-30] If Biden refuses to step aside it will not be an act of high principal or strong character. He did not just have a bad night. He is not fit for the job and stayuing in the race would be the worst kind of vanity and betrayal.

  • Laura Tillem: [06-30] He did terrible in the debate because he gags when he has to pretend to support abortion rights or universal health care.

  • holly: [06-28] If you want to see Joe Biden in his prime, just go back and watch footage of him calling Anita Hill a liar and ensuring that we'd have to deal with Clarence Thomas forever.

  • Moshik Temkin: [06-28] Worth recalling that the only reason Biden is President now is because, after he finished 5th in NH Dem primary in 2020, Obama persuaded all the other candidates to drop out and endorse Biden in order to stop Bernie Sanders, who was in 1st place (and crushing Trump in the polls)

  • John Ganz: Dude they just gotta roll the dice with Harris.

Plus I scraped this from Facebook:

  • Allen Lowe [07-02]: Cold medicine my a##. On my worst day during chemo and radiation I made more sense than Biden did at that debate; coming out of the anaesthetic after a 12 hour surgery with half of my nose removed I could have debated Trump more coherently; after they pulled a tube out of of my arm at 4 in the morning after another (8 hour) surgery, causing me to scream in the worst pain of my life and curse like a sailor, I would have remembered more accurately what I last said and organized my thoughts more clearly. The night I was born and ripped from my mother's womb I was better prepared than Biden was (my first words were "Henry Wallace!").

    This guy must go. Go. Go.

    This whole thing has, honestly, made me lose all respect for Biden, as he continues to place his personal ego and "legacy" ahead of the country. As Carl Bernstein reports [on YouTube], aides have privately reported a Biden loss of coherence and noticeable cognitive slippage occurring "15 to 20 times" in the last year.

Election notes:


And other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jonathan Alter: [06-28] How the Democrats should replace Biden: This seems ok to me, aside from the snootiness of dismissing Sanders and Warren out of hand and seeking to ban "anyone from the Squad." That they've already limited the electorate to Biden's hand-picked supporters is rigged enough without having to rub it in.

  • Aaron Blake:

  • Abdallah Fayyad: [06-29] LBJ and Truman knew when to quit. Will Biden? "Some lessons from the two presidents who walked away."

  • Margaret Hartmann: [07-01] All the gossip on the Biden family's postdebate blame game.

  • David Klion: [06-19] The lifelong incoherence of Biden's Israel strategy: "The president's muddled policy course in the Middle East is angering voters across the political spectrum -- and it could usher Trump back into the White House."

  • Eric Levitz:

    • [06-19] Biden's ads haven't been working. Now, he's trying something new. Written before the debate: "President Joe Biden's odds of reelection may be worse than they look. And they don't look great."

    • [06-28] How Democrats got here: "Democrats really need to choose electable vice presidents." This might have gone deep into the sorry history of vice presidents and vice-presidential candidates, few of whom could be described as "electable" -- at least as Levitz defines it to exclude Biden and Harris, which is the point of his article.

      Unfortunately, the last two Democratic presidents did not prioritize political chops when selecting their veeps.

      Barack Obama didn't choose Joe Biden because he thought that the then-Delaware senator would make a great Democratic nominee in 2016. To the contrary, by most accounts, Obama thought that Biden would be a totally nonviable candidate by the time his own hypothetical presidency ended. And he reportedly selected Biden precisely for that reason. . . .

      Biden's choice of Kamala Harris in 2020 was even more misguided. When he made that choice in August 2020, there was little basis for believing that Harris was one of the most politically formidable Democrats in the country.

      There's a lot that could be said about this, most of which comes back to the poor conception of the office (both in the Constitution and when revised after the emergence of political parties led to the 1800 fiasco and the 12th Amendment). The VP has to do three things, which require three very different skill sets, especially since the presidency has grown into this ridiculous imperial perch: they have to add something to the campaign (e.g., "Tippecanoe and Tyler too"); once elected, they have to behave themselves innocuously, for which they are sometimes given busy work (LBJ's Space Race, Pence's Space Force, Gore's Reinventing Government) or sometimes just locked in a closet (remember John Nance Garner?); and if the president dies, they're thrust into a role they were rarely prepared for, with no real, personal political mandate (some, like Tyler and Andrew Johnson, were wretched; a few, like Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, thrived; but most were just mediocre, including the two others who went on to win full terms: Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman).

      I accept that Obama's pick of Biden was part of a deal to give the 2016 nomination to Hillary Clinton. The Clintons had turned the Democratic Party into a personality cult. Obama rode a popular backlash against that, but Obama was no revolutionary: he wanted to lead, but was willing to leave the Party to the Clintons. We now know that wasn't such a good idea, but after a very divisive primary, in the midst of economic and military disaster, it was at least understandable.

      The Harris nomination made at least as much sense in 2024. The "little basis" line is unfair and inaccurate. She won statewide elections in the most populous and most expensive state in the country. Her resume entering 2016 was similar to and every bit as strong as Obama's in 2008. She had enough financial backing to organize a top-tier presidential campaign. She floundered, because (unlike Obama) she was outflanked on the left (Sanders and Warren), while hemmed in on the right (Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bloomberg, and Biden). But she wasn't incompetent (like Biden already was), and her position and standing made her the logical choice to unite the party. And sure, her affirmative action points may have helped a bit with the left -- at least she wasn't another Tim Kaine, or Al Gore -- without the tokenism raising any hackles with the donors.

      Sure, Harris polls poorly now, but that's largely because Biden never put her to good use: she could have taken a more prominent role in cajoling Congress, which would have given her opportunities to show her mettle fighting Republicans, and she could have spelled Biden on some of those high-profile foreign trips (especially confabs like G7 and NATO); instead, they stuck her with the tarbaby border issue. Having wasted those opportunities, I can see wanting to go with some other candidate, one with a bit more distance from Biden. But I'm not convinced that she would be a weak, let alone losing, candidate. And while I give her zero credit for those affirmative action tick boxes, I can't see holding them against her, either. And as for the people who would, well, they were going to vote for Trump anyway, so why appease them?

  • Nicole Narea:

  • Evan Osnos: [06-29] Biden gets up after his debate meltdown: Good. But are people talking about that, or the meltdown? Even if they could flip the message back to "Biden's really ok," that would still be a huge deficit. We need people talking about how awful Trump is. Even if you can't impress on many people how bad his policies are, he gives you lots of other things you can fixate on.

  • Christian Paz:

    • [06-26] We rewatched the 2020 Trump-Biden debates. There's so much we didn't see coming. "The five most telling moments and what they foreshadow ahead of this week's rematch."

      1. Trump calls the 2020 election rigged and doesn't commit to accepting the results
      2. Roe v. Wade is nearly forgotten
      3. Trump gets defensive on immigration
      4. No one is worried about inflation
      5. Everyone is worried about Russia, Ukraine, or China, but for the wrong reasons
    • [06-26] What about Kamala? "The vice president has taken on an expanded role in the last few months. Now Biden needs her more than ever."

  • Rick Perlstein: [07-03] Say it ain't so, Joe: "With democracy itself on the ballot, a statesman with charactger would know when to let go of power."

  • Andrew Prokop: [06-28] Will Biden be the nominee? 3 scenarios for what's next.

  • Bryan Walsh: [07-01] Democrats say Trump is an existential threat. They're not acting like it. "If the stakes of the 2024 election are as great as the party says, there's no excuse for inaction."

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker:

    • [06-17] We can't have a new paradigm as long as people think the old one was free-market fundamentalism. He's on solid ground pointing out that most profits in our current economy are effectively rigged by monopolies (either government-minted, like patents, facilitated through favors, or just tolerated with lax enforcement), it's less clear to me what this is about:

      • Farah Stockman: [06-17] The queen bee of Bidenomics: On Jennifer Harris. Back when Trump started flirting with tariffs, I tried to make the point that tariffs only make sense if they are exercised in concert with a coherent economic development plan. Biden has, somewhat fitfully, moved in that direction, so that, for instance, tariffs and content rules can be seen as nurturing domestic production of EVs, helping the US develop them into world-class exports, as opposed to simply providing shelter for high prices (which was the net effect of Trump's corrupt favoritism). Whether this amounts to a paradigm shift is arguable, as government sponsorship of private industry has always been part of the neoliberal position (most obviously in arms and oil).

    • [06-20] NAFTA: The great success story: Compares Mexican-to-American GDP figures since 1980, showing that the gap has increased since NAFTA, putting Mexicans even more behind. What would be helpful here is another chart showing income inequality in both countries. It has certainly increased in the US since NAFTA, and probably in Mexico as well.

  • Kevin T Dugan: [06-18] Nvidia is worth as much as all real estate in NYC -- and 9 other wild comparisons.

  • Corey Robin: [06-29] Hayek, the accidental Freudian: "The economist was fixated on subconscious knowledge and dreamlike enchantment -- even if he denied their part in this relationships."

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:

Other stories:

Noam Chomsky: Briefly in the news after false reports that he had died at 95 -- see Brett Wilkins: [06-18] Manufacturing Obituaries: Media falsely reports Noam Chomsky's death -- which led to a quick burst of posts, including a couple of his own, still vibrant and still relevant:

William Hartung: [06-25] An AI Hell on Earth? Silicon Valley and the rush toward automated warfare.

Sean Illing: [06-23] What nuclear annihilation could look like: "The survivors would envy the dead." Interview with Annie Jacobsen, author of Nuclear War: A Scenario.

Joshua Keating: [06-16] The world is running out of soldiers: Good. Soldiering is a losing proposition, no matter what side you think you are on. I'm not sure that Keating is right that "wars are getting more common and militaries are building up." I'll grant that war business is booming, and that the costs -- both to wage and to suffer war -- are way up, but aren't costs supposed to be self-limiting? One cost, which is finding people dumb and/or desperate enough to enlist, certainly is, and that's a good thing. Somehow some related pieces popped up:

  • Jack Hunter: [06-18] Congress moves to make Selective Service automatic: "Raising the specter of the draft, this NDAA amendment seems ill-timed." Actually, no one's advocating to bring back the draft. All the amendment does is simplifying the paperwork by leaving it to the government to sign people up, giving people one less awful thing to do. Simpler still would be to eliminate registration, and the whole useless bureaucracy behind it.

  • Edward Hasbrouck: [06-29] A war draft today can't work. Let us count the ways.

Jacob Kushner: [06-23] The best plan to help refugees might also be the simplest: "More refugees live in cities. Could cash help them rebuild their lives?"

Dave Lindorff: [06-28] Assange is finally free as America, Britain, Sweden and Australia are shamed.

Also, some writing on music:

Robert Christgau: [06-26] Xgau Sez: June, 2024: Several things of possible interest here, but I wanted to comment on this interchange:

[Q] On October 18, you tweeted a defense of Israel citing a well written piece which postulated that the hospital bombing committed one week after 10/7 was actually not committed by Israel. You stated that prior to this evidence, you were "profoundly disturbed" that such a thing could happen. So now here we are, over half a year later, after tens of thousands of deaths and countless hospital bombings which have all undeniably been committed by Israel--and you haven't said a single word? It's one thing for you to have stayed quiet on the issue completely, but you only speak up when Israel can be protected? Bob, what is wrong with you? How are you not profoundly disturbed as the death toll of innocent civilians reaches nearly 40,000 with no clear end in sight? The last thing I ever expected from my decades of following your works was for you to be so spineless. I refuse to believe you only actively stand for something when the narrative suits your desires. -- Brandon Sparks, America

[A] Anyone but a genuine expert who writes about the appalling Gaza war risks being incomplete and probably wrong. I cited that hospital bombing story because that early there seemed some reason for hope that the war would resolve itself with a modicum of sanity. It wasn't yet clear just how appalling Netanyahu would prove to be--or, I will add with my hands shaking, Hamas either. The "lots" I know is too little and in public at least I intend to say as little as possible. I've long believed in a two-state solution and this war is easily the cruelest and most gruesome international conflict of my adulthood. But it hasn't yet turned me into a full-bore anti-Zionist, because as an American of German extraction with many dozens of Jewish friends, I've spent too much of my life taking anti-Semitism seriously to put it on any sort of back burner now.

Christgau has been a good friend for close to fifty years, and a friend of my wife's even longer (he introduced us), and we're generally pretty simpatico politically, drawing on similar class and cultural backgrounds and experiences -- although he's eight years older than I am, which is enough for him to look up to other people as mentors (especially Greil Marcus, whose view of Israel and Gaza I wrote about here, and probably the late Ellen Willis, who was left of Marcus but still a devoted Zionist) and to look down on me as a protégé (not that he doesn't respect what I have to say; he's often a very astute reader, but still doggedly fixed in his beliefs).

After what Marcus wrote, we gave him credit for publishing this letter, and not for simply shirking it off. But while his cautious and self-effacing tone evaded our worst expectations, nearly every line in his answer is wrong in some fundamental sense, just not in the manner of Marcus (ridiculous, hypocritical accusations cloaked in a storm of overwrought emotion and self-pity), but mostly by pleading ignorance and accepting it as bliss. To wit:

  1. "Anyone but a genuine expert . . . risks being incomplete and probably wrong." If you know any history at all, you must know that in 1948 Israel expelled 700,000 Palestinians, driving many of them into Gaza (more than the previous population of Gaza), leaving them under Egyptian rule until Israel invaded and occupied Gaza in and ever since 1967, and that under Israeli rule, they were denied human rights and subject to multiple waves of violent repression, a dire situation that only got worse when Israel left Gaza to the circumscribed gang rule of Hamas. Under such circumstances, and having repeatedly failed to appeal to Israel's and the world's sense of justice, it was only a matter of time before Hamas resorted to its own violence, since nothing less could move Israel.

    If you don't know the history, you might not have understood the Hamas revolt on Oct. 7, but you would have observed that the revolt was limited and unsustainable, because Hamas had nothing resembling a real army, few modern arms, no arms industry, no safe haven, no allies. It may have come as a shock, but it was no threat. Israel killed or repelled the attackers within a couple days. After that, virtually all of the violence was committed by Israel, not just against people who had desperately fought back but against everyone in Gaza, against their homes, their farms, their utilities, their hospitals. Since Hamas was powerless to stop Israel, even to make Israel pay a further price for their war, the only decent choice Americans had was to inhibit Israel, to back them down from the genocide their leaders openly avowed. There was nothing subtle or complex about this.

  2. "There seemed some reason for hope that the war would resolve itself with a modicum of sanity": Really? Israel, following the example of the British before them, has always punished Palestinian violence with disproportionate collective punishment. The Zionist leadership embraced what is now commonly called "ethnic cleansing" in 1937, as they embraced the Peel Commission plan to forcibly "transfer" Palestinians from lands that Britain would offer for Israel. From that point on, genocide was woven into the DNA of Zionism. The only question was whether they could afford to discredit themselves to the world (which, by 2023, really just meant the US). When Biden vowed unlimited, uncritical support, Israel was free to do whatever they wanted, sane or not, with no fear of reprisal, isolation, and sanctions.

  3. "It wasn't yet clear just how appalling Netanyahu would prove to be": Granted, few Americans have any real appreciation for Israeli politics, especially given the extent to which most Israeli politicians misrepresent themselves to Americans. Still, you have to be awful naďve not to understand where Netanyahu came from (he was born royalty on the fascist right: his father was Jabotinsky's secretary) and where he would go any time he got the chance (ever farther to the right). Sure, he was more circumspect than his partners Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, who were free to say what he actually wanted to do. Even before the Oct. 7 revolt, their coalition was curtailing Palestinian rights within Israel, and was encouraging and excusing a campaign of terror against Palestinians in the West Bank, while Gaza was being strangled, and the only relatively liberal courts were being neutered. Outrage over Oct. 7 was immediately turned into license to intensify operations that were already ongoing.

  4. "I've long believed in a two-state solution": "Two states" isn't a belief. It's just something people talk about to keep people separated into rival, hostile blocs. Give them equal power and they would be at each other's throats, but with unequal power you have one standing on the other's neck. "Two states" started out as a British idea, tried disastrously first in Ireland then in India. Israelis endorsed the idea in 1937 (Peel Commission) and in 1947 (UN Partition Plan), but when they had the chance to actually build a state, they went with one powerful state of their own, and prevented even a weak Palestinian state from emerging: Jordan and Egypt were given temporary control of chunks of Palestine, their population swelled with refugees from ethnic cleansing in Israel's captured territories, then even those chunks were regained in 1967, when Israel was finally strong enough to keep their people confined to impoverished stans.

    True, the "two state" idea recovered a bit in the 1990s, as bait to lure corrupt "nationalists" into policing their own people, but few Israelis took the idea seriously, and after Sharon in 2000, most stopped pretending -- only the Americans were gullible enough to keep up the charade. You can dice up territories arbitrary to provide multiple states with different ethnic mixes allowing multiple tyrannies, but that kind of injustice only leads to more conflict. The only decent solution is, as always, equal rights for everyone, however space is allocated. Imagining othewise only shows how little you know about human nature.

  5. "Easily the cruelest and most gruesome international conflict of my adulthood": The American wars in Indochina and Korea were worse by almost any metric. The oft-genocidal wars in and around India and the eastern Congo certainly killed more people. Even the CIA-backed "white terror" in Indonesia killed more people. Israel's wars are more protracted, because they feed into a self-perpetuating culture of militarism, but while the latest episode in Gaza is off the charts compared to any of these catastrophes, but averaged out over the century since British imperialism gave force to the Balfour Declaration, Israel's forever war has been fairly well regulated to minimize its inconvenience for Israelis. It persists only because Israelis like it that way, and could be ended easily if they had any desire to do so.

  6. "But it hasn't yet turned me into a full-bore anti-Zionist": You don't have to be an anti-Zionist to oppose genocide, or to oppose a caste system where given or denied rights because of their birth and parents. Admittedly, those behaviors are deeply embedded in the fabric of actually-existing Zionism, but there have been alternative concepts of Zionism that do not encourage them, and even actual Zionists have resisted the temptation to such barbarism more often than not. You can be Israeli, or you can love Israel and Israelis and wish nothing more than to keep them safe and respected and still oppose the racist and genocidal policies of the current regime. Indeed, if you are, you really must oppose those policies, because they do nothing but bring shame on the people you profess to love and cherish. And you can do this without ever describing yourself as pro-Palestinian, or in any way associating yourself with Palestinian nationalists -- who, quite frankly, have made a lot of missteps over the years, in the worst cases acting exactly like the Israelis they claim to oppose.

  7. "Because as an American of German extraction with many dozens of Jewish friends, I've spent too much of my life taking anti-Semitism seriously to put it on any sort of back burner now." Again, you can be Jewish, or you can love and respect Jews, and still oppose Israel's policies of racism and genocide. You can find ample reason within Judaism, or Christianity, or any other religion, or secular humanism, socialist solidarity, or simple human decency, to do so. And you can and should be clear that if the roles were reversed you would still oppose racism and genocide, and seek to protect and sustain victims of those policies.

    This is actually quite easy for people of the left to do, because the definition that identifies us on the left is that we believe that all people deserve equal political, economic, and human rights. It is harder for people on the right, who again by definition believe that some people are chosen to rule and that others are commanded to serve, or at least not annoy or inconvenience their betters by their presence. They are likely to be divided, depending on whether they identify with the people on top or on the bottom, and they are likely to be the worst offenders, because they also believe that the use of force is legitimate to promote their caste and to subdue all others.

    There is a form of gravity involved in this: if you're under or excluded from the dominant hierarchy, you tend to move left, because your self-interest is better served by universal rights and tolerance than by the slim odds that you can revolt and seize power. This is why almost all Jews in America lean left -- as do most members of most excluded and/or disparaged minorities, pretty much everywhere. Israel is different, because right-wing Jews did manage to seize power there, and as such have become a glaring example of why the right is wrong.

    Zionists have worked very hard to obscure the inevitable divide between rightist power in Israel and left leanings in the diaspora, and for a long time, especially in America, they've been remarkably successful. I'm not going to try to explain how and why, as the key point right now is that it's breaking down, as it is becoming obvious that Israel acts are contrary to the political and moral beliefs of most Jews in America -- that there is any significant support for Israel at all can only be attributed to denial, lies, and the rote repetition of carefully crafted talking points.

    One of those talking points is that opposition to Israel's wars and racism reflects and encourages anti-semitism, thus triggering deep-seated fears tied back to the very real history of racism and genocide targeting Jews -- fears that, while hard to totally dismiss, have been systematically cultivated to Israel's advantage by what Norman Finkelstein calls "the holocaust industry." Some people (and Marcus presents as an example) grew up so traumatized that they are completely unreachable (which is to say, disconnected from reality) on Israel. Others, like Christgau, are just enmeshed in sympathy and guilt -- although in his case, I don't see what other than his name binds him to German, much less Nazi, history and culture (for instance, the Christian church he often refers to was Presbyterian, not Lutheran, not that Lutheranism is all that Teutonic either; in music about all I can think of is that he likes Kraftwerk and Kurt Weill, but who among us doesn't?).

    That Zionists should be accusing leftists, including many Jews, of being anti-semitic is pretty ripe. Zionism was a minority response to the rising tide of anti-semitism in 19th century Europe, which insisted that anti-semitism was endemic and permanent -- something so ingrained in Euopean culture that could never be reformed by socialist political movements or tolerated by liberalism, a curse that could only be escaped from, by retreating to and fortifying an exclusively Jewish nation-state, isolated by an Iron Wall.

    But along the way, Zionists learned to play anti-semitism to their advantage. They pleaded with imperialists to give them land and to expel their unwanted Jews. They pointed Christians to the prophecy in Revelations that sees the return of Jews to the Holy Land as a prerequisite for the Second Coming. (David Lloyd George was one who bought that line. In America today, Postmillennial Dispensationalists are the staunchest supporters of Zionism, and every last one of them relishes the Final Solution that eluded Hitler.) They negotiated with Nazis. They lobbied to keep Jews from emigrating to America. They organized pogroms to stampede Arabic Jews to ascend to Israel. They stole the shameful legacy of the Holocaust and turned it into a propaganda industry, which plies guilt to obtain deferrence and support, even as Israel does unto others the same horrors that others had done to Jews.

    Opposition to anti-semitism is a core belief of liberals and the left in America. This is because such forms of prejudice and discrimination are inimical to our principles, but it's gained extra resonance because Jews tend to be active in liberal/left circles, so non-Jews (like Christgau and myself) know and treasure many of them. Nearly all of us are careful, sometimes to the point of tedium, to make clear that our criticisms of Israel are not to be generalized against Jews. In this, we are helped by the many Jews who share our criticisms, and often, like the group Jewish Voice for Peace, lead the way. But not everyone who criticizes Israel exercises such care, and not everyone does so from left principles, and those are the ones who are most likely to fall back on anti-semitic tropes and popularize them, increasing the chances of an anti-semitic resurgence. That would be bad, both politically and morally, but no form of opposition to tyranny justifies the tyranny. We need to understand that the offense is responsible for its opposition, and to seek its solution at the source: Israel's racist and genocidal behavior.

    So if you're really concerned that this war may make anti-semitism more common, the only solution is to stop the war: in practical terms, to demand a ceasefire, to halt arms deliveries to Israel, to insist that Israel give up its claims to Gaza (if anything is clear by now, it's that Israel is not competent to administer Gaza), to organize aid and relief, and to open a dialogue with Israel to come to some sort of agreeable solution where everyone can live in peace, security, and hopefully prosperity with full and equal rights. The main reason for doing this is that it's the right thing to do, for pretty much everyone, but if you're primarily concerned about anti-semitism, that is one more reason to sue for peace.

    In this age where kill ratios exceed 100-to-1, and the starvation ratio is infinite, I'm not going to pretend that the psychic trauma the war is causing for Israelis, for Jews, and for philo-semitic Americans somehow balances off against the pain and suffering that is being inflicted on Palestinians, but that traums is real, and needs to be addressed and relieved, and only peace can do that. And in this particular conflict, only Israel can grant peace. Until they choose to do so, all focus should be directed on those who are responsible for this war: for fighting it, for supporting it, for excusing it, and for letting them get away with it.

I guess that last point ran away from me a bit, while still leaving much more to be said. More succinctly: to whatever extent Israel is able to identify its war with Jews in general, and to equate opposition to its war with anti-semitism, the prevalence and threat of anti-semitism will grow. To stop this, stop the war. If anti-semitism is the issue you really care about, stopping the war is the only thing that will help you.

People on the left, by definition, are opposed to the war, and are opposed to anti-semitism, and see their opposition to both as part of the same fight. People on the right are often confused, crazy, and/or sick. You may or may not be able to help them, but know that they are much less dangerous in times of peace and good will than in times of war and turmoil, so again the imperative is to stop the war. And if you, like Christgau (and even Marcus) hate and fear Donald Trump (who's firmly on the right for all three reasons), same prescription: stop the war.

One last point: you don't have to specifically care about Jews on this matter. I'm addressing these points to people who do. While I think it would be more helpful to protest in ways that help gain support from people who are initially sympathetic to Israelis -- e.g., I think a lot of Palestinian flag waving isn't very helpful -- I understand that people can come to the right conclusion from all sorts of reasoning. What matters most is that we all demand a ceasefire, and an end to Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians.

David A Graham: Doug Emhoff, first jazz fan: "The second gentleman gets the beauty and meaning of the genre."

Chris Monsen:

  • [06-19] Midweek pick, June 19th, 2024: Okka Disk: A reminder of Bruno Johnson's Milwaukee-based avant-jazz label, noting that "perhaps a deep dive into their output would be in order at a later date." For what little it's worth, I started working on Ken Vandermark & Friends: A Consumer Guide back around 2004, as it seemed like a good follow up to my A Consumer Guide to William Parker, Matthew Shipp, et al., but I didn't get very far. My database does contain 66 albums released by Okka Disk, 55 with grades, of which the following rated A- or higher:

    • Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Brian Sandstrom/Mars Williams: Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2005 [2007])
    • Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Massimo Pupillo/Paal Nilssen-Love: Hairy Bones (2008 [2009])
    • Caffeine [Ken Vandermark]: Caffeine (1993 [1994])
    • FME [Vandermark]: Underground (2004)
    • FME: Cuts (2004 [2005])
    • Triage [Dave Rempis]: Twenty Minute Cliff (2003)
    • Triage: American Mythology (2004) [A]
    • School Days [Vandermark]: Crossing Division (2000)
    • School Days: In Our Times (2001 [2002])
    • Steelwool Trio [Vandermark]: International Front (1994 [1998])
    • Ken Vandermark/Kent Kessler/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Nate McBride/Wilbert De Joode: Collected Fiction (2008 [2009])
  • [06-26] Midweek pick, June 26th, 2024: Gayle, Graves and Parker's WEBO: What I'm listening to to calm my nerves while writing about Gaza and Biden.

Phil Overeem: June 2024: Halfway there + "old reggae albums I'd never heard before were my June salvation."

Robert Sullivan: [06-24] The Sun Ra Arkestra's maestro hits one hundred: "Marshall Allen, the musical collective's sax-playing leader, is celebrating with a deep-spacey video installation during the Venice Biennale."

Werner Trieschmann: [06-20] Fox Green score hat trick with excellent third album, Light Over Darkness.

Midyear Lists:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Music Week

June archive (final).

Music: Current count 42549 [42503] rated (+46), 22 [22] unrated (+0).

Updated: look for change bar below.

I perhaps foolishly agreed to write up an article on William Parker, this year's deserving recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature evening of performances, at the 2024 Vision Festival, in New York last week. I figured I could dust off the Parker/Shipp Consumer Guide I wrote up back in 2003, and add a few odds and ends about later albums. It turned out not to be not quite that simple.

For one thing, when I finally rounded up all the reviews I had written on albums he had played on, the count came to 249. I then had to go back and check for false positives (the 2003 CG also included albums with Shipp but no Parker, and a few extras by artists in their circle), and for omissions. In this, I was massively aided by being able to consult Rick Lopez's William Parker Sessionography, but I was also slowed by its completeness and accumulation of fascinating detail. Back in the notes for my 2003 CG, I collected a select but fairly extensive discogrpahy. As I needed something similar to keep track of what I was doing, I started to update it, and that wound up taking a lot of time.

By last Thursday, I had gotten so flustered and panicked that I decided I had to give up trying to multitask and just focus on the Parker essay. I had started to write some introductory comments for the week's Speaking of Which, so I stopped there, and vowed to do no more until the piece was done. (I'm belatedly posting that introduction today, but with no news links or comments. Second, I resolved to only play Parker albums until I finished. I later relaxed that to allow myself to play and review albums I hadn't heard before, which is where most of the albums below came from.

I finally sent the essay in yesterday. No word yet on when (or I suppose if) it will be published. I decided that the best way to proceed from here is to post the partial Speaking of Which intro (which already had a sequence number) along with the Music Week reviews, then start on new blog posts for the usual dates next week. Of course, it's never that simple. This also turns out to be the last Music Week in June, so I have to wrap up one month's Streamnotes archive, and open up another.

I also have a jammed up pile of other work I need to crack on with, more email problems, plus home tasks, health troubles, etc. More stuff in flux, but I've droned on enough for here and now.

PS: [06-27] My piece on William Parker has been posted on ArtsFuse now: Jazz Commentary: Celebrating Bassist William Parker's Lifetime of Achievement. I have some notes to go along with this, but they're not really ready for presentation yet, so I'll work on them and have more to say later. Note that I did add the two books I referred at the end to my Recent Reading sidebar and roll.

I changed the status of June Streamnotes to "final," added the Music Week text, and compiled the 2024 and Artists indexes.

Next on my plate is to do some work on the Carola Dibbell and Robert Christgau websites, or maybe something with email, or maybe just get dinner first -- things I need to square away before getting to the mid-year Jazz Critics Poll (which I should send out notices on by Monday, assuming email works by then). But I'm really itching to open up a Speaking of Which draft file, as even with my recent blackout it's pretty obvious that there's an insane amount of important news to note and (mostly) bemoan.

PPS: I was going to apologize for not being able to figure out how to move the right-margin change mark inside the album cover pics so it's clearly tied to the changed text, but then it dawned on me to allow an option to put the change bar on the left, which should be good enough for now.

If the change bar doesn't appear for you, that's because your browser is using a cached CSS file. CTRL-SHIFT-R fixes this in Firefox. I also had to fix a ton of mistakes in the aforelinked Parker-Shipp CG file. I knew it wasn't ready, but should at least have made sure it loaded. That much is fixed now.

New records reviewed this week:

Fox Green: Light Over Darkness (2024, self-released): Alt/indie band from Little Rock, third album since 2020, Wade Derden is the singer and co-writer with Cam Patterson, both on guitar (and mandolin), backed with keyboards, bass, and drums, the production detailed but not cluttered with bits of horns, strings, and backup singers. First take suggests a clear distillation of the Allmans, but that may just be for lack of comparable referents, for what they lack in guitar power they make up for ballad touch and song smarts -- the latter drawing on Jesus, the Devil, and Sleepy John Estes. A- [cd]

Joel Futterman/William Parker: Why (2020 [2024], Soul City Sounds): Piano and bass duo. Futterman started in Chicago, moved to Virginia Beach in 1972, and started recording in 1979, becoming increasingly prolific in the 1990s. He's a very distinctive pianist, and Parker is as robust as ever. B+(***) [sp]

Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes (2023 [2024], We Insist!): Italian bassist, second group album with Manuel Caliumi (alto sax) and Michele Bonifati (guitar), plus a drummer this time -- a really good one. B+(***) [sp]

Jared Hall: Influences (2022 [2024], Origin): Trumper player, based in Seattle, third album, quartet with piano (Tal Cohen), bass (Michael Glynn), and drums (John Bishop), playing originals plus one tune from Gigi Gryce. B+(***) [cd]

Jihee Heo: Flow (2023 [2024], OA2): South Korean pianist, studied in Amsterdam before landing in New York, second album, mostly trio (Alexander Claffy and Joe Farnsworth), nicely done, with a bonus: Vincent Herring (alto sax) joining for two tracks. B+(**) [cd]

Arushi Jain: Delight (2024, Leaving): Based in Brooklyn, plays synths and sings, having trained in India as a classical vocalist, is interested in "instrument design and sonic experimentation with a focus on linking western and eastern musicology." Result is you're engulfed in thick layers of sonic texture, searching for even the faintest hint of beat, which is faint indeed. B- [sp]

Kneecap: Fine Art (2024, Heavenly): Bilingual Irish hip-hop group from West Belfast (Mo Chara, Móglai Bap, DJ Próval), billed as their first album (aside from an 8-song, 31:03, self-released mixtape from 2021). Sounded more post-punk at first, but the cadences eventually signify, and the energy is compounded. Words? Hell if I know, but they have a rep as political. A- [sp]

Jim Kweskin: Never Too Late: Duets With Friends (2024, Storysound): Folksinger and guitarist, best known for his 1963-70 Jug Band, which introduced us to Geoff & Maria Muldaur -- she is the first of his featured friends here to appear here. Lots of friends, lots of songs. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford: Gubbins (2023, self-released): This seems to be an "odds & sods" compilation -- "songs that fell between the cracks" -- but without further documentation we might as well treat it as a new album. Eleven songs, 45:29, all interesting, valuable, not quite essential. B+(***) [sp]

Jon Langford & the Bright Shiners: Where It Really Starts (2024, Tiny Global Productions): Nominally an Austin band (or maybe found in northern California), led by the peripatetic Welshman, offhandedly countryish. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee With Ken Vandermark: Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words (2021 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Mostly as advertised, which is not something I often get into, but pretty interesting spoken word, with little bits of soprano sax by McPhee, or clarinet/bass clarinet by Vandermark, which are always welcome. B+(*) [bc]

Star Splitter [Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek]: Medea (2022 [2024], We Insist!): Trumpet players (alternatively cornet or pocket trumpet), also credited with electronics and voice, did an album together in 2019 called Star Splitter. Rather tough going. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tony Oxley Quintet: Angular Apron (1992 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): British avant-jazz drummer (1938-2023), his 1969 The Baptised Traveler is a Penguin Guide crown album, the piece here (64:42) dates from the early 1970s, this previously unreleased take from the Ruhr Jazz Festival, with Larry Stabbins (soprano/tenor sax), Manfred Schoof (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pat Thomas (piano/electronics), and Sirone (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Tomasz Stanko Quartet: September Night (2004 [2024], ECM): Polish trumpet player (1942-2018), well known even before the Iron Curtain fell, a spare live tape with what at the time was referred to as his "young Polish quartet," rather than stumbling over the names Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz. B+(***) [sp]

Mars Williams & Hamid Drake: I Know You Are but What Am I (1996 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): The late saxophonist (1955-2023, credited here with "reeds"), started with Hal Russell and continued his NRG Ensemble after Russell's death, bringing in Ken Vandermark for reinforcements, leading to his work in the first edition of the Vandermark 5. Williams' avant-gardism branched out into rock and acid jazz (Liquid Soul), as well as more esoteric ventures (like multiple volumes of An Ayler Xmas). This tape with exceptional drums is just what friends and fans most remember him for. A- [bc]

Mars Williams/Darin Gray/Chris Corsano: Elastic (2012 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Leader credited with "reeds, toys," joined by bass and drums for an improv set (43:51). Peaks points are intense and thrilling. The same year Williams founded a similar trio, Boneshaker, with Kent Kessler and Paal Nilssen-Love. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Peter Brötzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (2015 [2016], Otoroku): The bassist and drummer are inventive as ever, while the tenor saxophonist blasts away, even when he switches up on clarinet or tarogato. Nothing obviously sentimental about it. B+(***) [bc]

Rob Brown Trio: Breath Rhyme (1989, Silkheart): Alto saxophonist, first album as leader here (following a duo with Matthew Shipp), with William Parker (bass) and Denis Charles (drums). He has a distinctive tone and flow, which he would go on to use to great effect in Parker's quartets and other projects, in many other associated groups, and sometimes, as here, as a leader. B+(**) [r]

Rob Brown Quartet: The Big Picture (2003 [2004], Marge): Alto saxophonist, with Roy Campbell (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [r]

Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert With William Parker: New Normal (2015 [2016], Breakfast 4 Dinner): Drummer, doesn't have much except for duo and quartet work with the trombonist (who I know mostly from a group he co-led with Jeb Bishop), but evidently he got started playing with guitarist Bern Nix (who goes back to the 1970s Loft Scene, but is best known for his work with Ornette Coleman, and maybe James Chance). So Nix, who died in 2017, might have provided a connection to Parker, who adds bass and wood flute, elevating everyone's game. B+(***) [sp]

Kevin Coyne/Jon Langford/The Pine Valley Cosmonauts: One Day in Chicago (2002 [2005], Spinney): An oddball British singer-songwriter from the early 1970s, I'm surprised to only find one of his albums in my database (1974's Marjory Razor Blade, a B+, but a memorable one) as I'm sure I've heard more. He never made it big, but recorded pretty regularly up to his death in 2004, and surely rates a compilation, even if one would be hard-pressed to agree on a "best of." At this point I have no idea whether it would improve on this delightful live set, with a band of fans he found in Chicago. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lady Boom Boom (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): Saxophonist, played alto, tenor, clarinet, and more in three sessions that produced as many albums, released on a label that appreciates a good groove and is careless about who played what when in which order. But the personnel could do that and more: William Parker (not just bass), Anders Nilsson (guitar), and Timothy Keiper (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Help (2013 [2015], Ropeadope): More from the same sessions. B+(**) [sp]

Jeremy Danneman: Lost Signals (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): Same group, same sessions for a third album, with groove appeal informed by third world interests. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and Sophie Nzayisenga: Honey Wine (2015 [2017], Ropeadope): The saxophonist has an organization/project called "Parade of One," slogan "engaging the international community with street performance." He met Nzayisenga in Rwanda, where she plays inanga and sings, and arranged to bring her to New York to record. Visa problems delayed that until here, where they are joined by William Parker (bass) and Tim Keiper (drums). A groove delight. A- [sp]

Jeremy Danneman and the Down on Me: The Big Fruit Salad (2022, Ropeadope): One more album (so far), wrote and sung lyrics, which reduces the saxophone/clarinet. Also lost the bass and drums, so less groove to brag about, but Anders Nilsson returns on guitar, and Joe Exley's sousaphone saves with swing. For singer-songwriter comps, the first two that pop into mind are Thomas Anderson and Ed Hammel. He's not as good (or maybe I just mean as funny) as either, but he's interesting in similar ways. Choice cut: "Tomato." B+(*) [sp]

Die Like a Dog Quartet Featuring Roy Campbell: From Valley to Valley (1998 [1999], Eremite): Peter Brötzmann quartet, name derives from their 1993 album, originally with Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), but on this particular date -- recorded in Amherst, MA -- Campbell replaces Kondon on trumpet. B+(*) [sp]

Sophia Domancich/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Washed Away: Live at the Sunside (2008 [2009], Marge): French pianist, side credits start in 1983, with her first trio in 1991. Another trio here, as can happen when famous Americans wander about Europe. Set of three pieces: one joint credit, one from Mal Waldron, and no less than 36:37 of "Lonely Woman." B+(***) [sp]

Hamid Drake & Sabir Mateen: Brothers Together (2000 [2002], Eremite): Duo, Drake plays frame and trap drums, Mateen is credited with clarinets, flute, alto sax, tenor sax, vocals. Terrific. A- [sp]

Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn]: Love and Ghosts (2011 [2014], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Drums-bass-piano trio, group name from their 2009 album, third group album, all pieces joint credits so presumably improvised, this from two days in France, 133 minutes. Long, some major high stretches. B+(***) [sp]

Peter Kuhn: Ghost of a Trance (1979-80 [1981], Hat Hut): Clarinet/saxophone player, was consistently excellent in William Parker circles 1978-81, vanished after that until 2015, when he released another series of superb albums. This combines two sessions, one fairly abstract 19:00 clarinet piece with Phillip Wilson on percussion and Parker on tuba, the other a more typical free jazz outing with Dave Sewelson on alto/bari sax, plus guitar, piano, and vibes (but no drums). B+(**) [yt]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: The Legend of LL (2015, Country Mile): Mekons founder, moved from Leeds to Chicago in 1992 without severing his ties, but had already run through several side projects like the Three Johns and the Killer Shrews, adding the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts in Chicago. This group is described as "Newport-based" (but otherwise I don't know squat about them, but Newport seems to be Langford's original home town in Wales). This was their debut, and strikes me as not just fresher but wilder and woolier than their latest (which was first for me). A- [bc]

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: President of Wales (2019, Country Mile): If only the Waco Brothers had been Welsh. B+(***) [bc]

Jemeel Moondoc Quintet: Nostalgia in Times Square (1985 [1986], Soul Note): Alto saxophonist (1946-2021), his group Muntu made a splash in the late-1970s New York avant-garde, retains bassist William Parker here, joined by Rahn Burton (piano), Bern Nix (guitar), and Dennis Charles (drums). Title piece from Mingus. The others are credited to Moondoc, but "In Walked Monk" sounds kind of familiar (as in Monk's "In Walked Bud"), and "Dance of the Clowns" has at least a whiff of Mingus. B+(***) [r]

Jemeel Moondoc Vtet: Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys (2000, Eremite): Alto saxophonist-led quintet, with Nethan Breedlove (trumpet), Khan Jamal (vibes), John Voigt (bass), and Cody Moffett (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Jemeel Moondoc & the Jus Grew Orchestra: Spirit House (2000, Eremite): The alto saxophonist conducts a strong group of horns here: trumpets (Lewis Barnes, Roy Campbell Jr.), trombones (Steve Swell, Tyrone Hill), saxophones (plus Zane Massey on tenor, Michael Marcus on baritone), with a guitar-bass-drums rhythm section (Bern Nix, John Voigt, Codaryl Moffett). Not quite a big band, but they pack a lot of power, fly free, and even swing some. A- [sp]

Jameel Moondoc With Dennis Charles: We Don't (1981 [2003], Eremite): Alto sax, with the drummer (1933-98, from Virgin Islands, also played with Billy Bang and Cecil Taylor). Challenging free jazz. B+(***) [sp]

Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (2011 [2012], AUM Fidelity): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with Parker switching to sintir (a Moroccan bass lute), live improv recorded one night at the Stone in NYC, four tracks stretched out to 72:27. B+(**) [sp]

William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Mass for the Healing of the World (1998 [2003], Black Saint): The bassist's 15-piece big band, less brass and more sax, an explosive rhythm section (Cooper-Moore on piano, Susie Ibarra on drums, and Parker), plus vocalist Aleta Heyes for the mass-like bits (not many). A- [sp]

William Parker Quartet: Live in Wroclove (2012 [2013], ForTune): The bassist's "pianoless" quartet, which dates back at least to 2001's O'Neal's Porch, with two freewheeling horns -- Lewis Barnes' trumpet and Rob Brown's alto sax -- and great Hamid Drake on drums. So this is a great band, with some interesting music -- starting with a 47:33 set called "Kalaparusha Dancing on the Edge of the Horizon" -- but it's also a concert, where they pace themselves to set up the moments fans will recall. It's also kind of a big deal for a label that mostly documents the local scene -- in this case, better known as Wroclaw. But it's a tad less compelling than the group's studio albums. B+(***) [sp]

William Parker: For Those Who Are, Still (2000-13 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 3CD): By this time, Parker has become so prolific he's building boxes from scattered sets: this one is formally organized into three albums from five sessions: "For Fannie Hammer" from 2000; "Vermeer," with Leena Conquest, from 2011; "Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks," with Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, from 2012; a Charles Gayle trio, to open "Ceremonies for Those Who Are Still," with NFM Orchestra and Choir. A- [r]

William Parker/David Budbill: What I Saw This Morning 2014 [2016], AUM Fidelity): Budbill (1940-2016) was mostly a writer, posthumously named "the people's poet of Vermont," also wrote plays, two novels, a libretto, and recorded three albums of spoken word with William Parker providing the music, here mostly using his exotic instruments. Comparable to David Greenberger, but more intimate and personal. [Streamed 14/35 tracks.] B+(***) [bc]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Bologna (1987 [1988], Leo): Avant-pianist, group was his quintet (more or less, long defined by saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, who died in 1986, leaving a large gap for Carlos Ward to try to fill. Also with Leroy Jenkins (violin), William Parker (bass), and Thurman Baker (drums/marimba). Ward lurks until the rhythm drives him to deliver. A- [r]

The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Vienna (1987 [1988], Leo): Same group, recorded four days later, again one long piece, a bit longer at 71:21, but hacked up for the original 2-LP. While I understand that every performance is different, that doesn't make them all cost-effective, even at this level. B+(***) [r]

Cecil Taylor: Tzotzil Mummers Tzotzil (1987 [1988], Leo): The same group a week later in Paris, last stop on the tour, sandwiched between some poetry recorded a few days later in London. I find the poetry exceptionally hard to follow. B+(*) [sp]

David S. Ware Trio: Passage to Music (1988, Silkheart): Tenor saxophone great, started in the 1970s but didn't really take off until he organized this group, with William Parker (bass) and Marc Edwards (drums), soon to be a quartet with the addition of pianist Matthew Shipp. Already quite impressive. B+(***) [r]

David S. Ware Quartet: Cryptology (1994 [1995], Homestead): The one Quartet album that slipped past me, with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), and Whit Dickey (drums), as intense as any in a very remarkable series. This seems to have been where Steven Joerg entered the picture, before his AUM Fidelity label provided Ware and Parker a long-term home. A- [yt]

David S. Ware: Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) (2010 [2011], AUM Fidelity): Ware's kidneys started to fail in 1999, and he was near death ten years later when he was rescued by a kidney transplant. He died in 2012 of an infection fueled by immunosuppresant meds, but over his last couple years he recorded a wide variety of works, including two solo volumes -- Saturnian from late a late 2009 set, plus two sets here, each opening with a piece on sopranino sax, followed by one on tenor. Usual caveats apply, but interesting as these things go. B+(**) [r]

Grade (or other) changes:

Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): The Waco Brothers return as a Welsh bar band. Multiple plays prove this to be tuneful and thoughtful but most of all consistent, so it's hard to fault the notion that this is a great album, but if it really was, wouldn't I have noticed by now? [was: B+(**)] B+(***) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released)
  • Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (ESP-Disk)
  • Michael Pagán: Paganova (Capri) [07-19]
  • Jerome Sabbagh: Heart (Analog Tone Factory) [08-30]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Aloft (Libra) [07-12]
  • Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (ESP-Disk)

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Speaking of Which

I woke up Thursday morning with my usual swirl of thoughts, but the one I most felt like jotting down is that I prefer to take an optimistic view of the 2024 elections, contrary to the prospect of doom and gloom many rational people fear. I find it impossible to believe that most Americans, when they are finally faced with the cold moment of decision, will endorse the increasingly transparent psychopathology of Donald Trump. Sure, the American people have been seduced by right-wing fantasy before, but Reagan and the Bushes tried to disguise their aims by spinning sunny yarns of a kinder, gentler conservatism.

Even Nixon, who still outranks Trump as a vindictive, cynical bastard, claimed to be preserving some plausible, old-fashioned normality. All Trump promises is "taking back" the nation and "making America great again": empty rhetoric lent gravity (if not plausability) by his unbridled malice toward most Americans. Sure, he got away with it in 2016, partly because many people gave him the benefit of doubt but also because the Clinton spell wore off, leaving "crooked Hillary" exposed as a shill for the money-grubbing metro elites. But given Trump's media exposure, both as president and after, the 2024 election should mostly be a referendum on Trump. I still can't see most Americans voting for him.

That doesn't mean Trump cannot win, but in order to do so, two things have to happen: he has to make the election be all about Biden, and Biden has to come up seriously short. One can ponder a lot of possible issues that Biden might be faulted for, and come up with lots of reasons why they might but probably won't matter. (For example, the US may experience a record bad hurricane season, but will voters blame Biden for that and see Trump as better?) But we needn't speculate, because Biden already has his albatross issue: genocide in Gaza. I'm not going to relitigate his failures here, but in terms of my "optimistic view," I will simply state that if Biden loses -- and such an outcome should be viewed not as a Trump win but as a Biden loss -- it will be well deserved, as no president so involved in senseless war, let alone genocide, deserves another term.

So it looks like the net effect of my optimism is to turn what may look like a lose-lose presidential proposition into a win-win. We are currently faced with two perilous prospects: on the one hand, Biden's penchant for sinking into foreign wars, which he tries to compensate for by being occasionally helpful or often just less miserable on various domestic policies; on the other, Republicans so universally horrible we scarcely need to list out the comparisons. Given that choice, one might fervently hope for Biden to win, not because we owe him any blanket support, but because post-election opposition to Biden can be more focused on a few key issues, whereas with Trump we're back to square one on almost everything.

But if Biden loses, his loss will further discredit the centrist style that has dominated the Democratic Party at least since Carter. There are many problems with that style, most deriving from the need to serve donors in order to attract them, which lends them an air of corruption, destroying their credibility. Sure, Republicans are corrupt too, even more so, but their corruption is consistent with their values -- dog-eat-dog individualism, accepting gross inequality, using government to discipline rather than ameliorate the losers -- so it comes off as honest, maybe even courageous. But Democrats are supposed to believe in public service, government for the people, and that's hard to square with their individual pursuit of power in the service of wealth.

So, sure, a Trump win would be a disaster, but it would free the Democrats from having to defend their compromised, half-assed status quo, and it would give them a chance to pose a genuine alternative, and a really credible one at that. I'd like to think that Democrats could get their act together, and build that credible alternative on top of Biden's half-hearted accomplishments. It would be nice to not have to start with the sort of wreckage Trump left in 2021, or Bush left in 2009, or that other Bush left in 1993 (and one can only shudder at the thought of what Trump might leave us in 2029). But people rarely make major changes based on reasoned analysis. It usually takes a great shock to force that kind of change -- like what the Great Depression did to a nation previously in love with Herbert Hoover, or like utter defeat did to Germany and Japan in WWII.

If there was any chance that a Trump win in 2024 would result in a stable and prosperous America, even if only for the 51% or so it would take for Republicans to continue winning elections, we might have something to be truly fearful of. But nothing they want to do works. The only thing they know how to do is to worsen problems, which are largely driven by forces beyond their control -- business, culture, climate, war, migration -- and all their lying, cheating, and outright repression only rub salt into the wounds. When people see how bad Republican rule really is, their support will wither rapidly.

The question is what Democrats have to do to pick up the support of disaffected Trumpers. One theory is to embrace the bigotry they showed in embracing Trump. A better one would be promise the grit, integrity, independence, and vision that Trump promised by couldn't deliver on, partly because he's a crook and con man who never cared, but largely because he surrounded himself by Republicans who had their own corrupt and/or deranged agendas.

I had more thoughts I wanted to write up, mostly involving what I like to think of as dialectics, but which can be defined as how seemingly stable states can suddenly be transformed into quite different states. One example was how Germans went from being Nazis to fawning Israelphiles, while Israelis became the new Nazis. Alas, no time for that here, but the theme is bound to recur.

I didn't get around to gathering the usual links and adding my various comments this week. Better luck next time.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42503 [42460] rated (+43), 22 [31] unrated (-9).

Going through a very busy stretch, but not sure what I really have to talk about here. I do have a fairly hefty bunch of records to report on, partly aided by recent consumer guides by Robert Christgau, Christian Iszchak, Brad Luen, and Michael Tatum. Still, I'm not sure I've caught up with any of them. I barely got through the I Am Three records Chris Monsen recommended -- their first album I previously had at B+(***) but it, too, sounds terrific, as is often the case with freewheeling Mingus.

The Jasmine In Session comps were recommended by Clifford Ocheltree. I resisted the Eddie Taylor until this morning, when I woke up with songs from it in my head. The recommendation list goes deeper, but so far that's all I've sprung for.

I have a request to write something about William Parker, on the occasion of his Vision Fest Lifetime Achievement Award. Back in 2003 I wrote a fairly extensive consumer guide to the work of Parker and/or Matthew Shipp (who was more my initial interest), and I've tried to keep up since then, including his two new albums below. So I figured: write 3-4 paragraphs of glowing intro, then tack on a dozen (or two) capsule reviews. Whether it's as easily done as said remains to be seen. All I've done so far has been to collect the reviews from the work files: current count is 249, but at the moment I'm listening to a 2009 record I had missed, and I'll probably come up with a few more. (RogueArt sent out email highlighting their 15 Parker albums, of which I've only heard 3 -- thanks mostly to Steve Swell).

What research I've done so far has mostly been humbling. Parker has four volumes of Conversations that I can't begin to get to. I just ordered a copy of Cisco Bradley's Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker, but won't have time to get very deep into. I do have a copy of Rick Lopez's marvelous The William Parker Sessionography (to 2014; also online, but only up to 2020). But I could easily fritter away all of my scant remaining time just checking items off -- although the annotation is so distracting I might never finish.

Meanwhile, I've burned up a fair amount of time with my metacritic file, to which I've started to add mid-year best-of ("so far") lists. It's still pretty spotty at present, and skewed toward the Christgau-friendly Expert Witness critics -- which has paid off in elevating Waxahatchee over Smile, with Billie Eilish and Beyoncé gaining ground, followed by Vampire Weekend, Adrianne Lenker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Maggie Rogers. I only have three A-list albums in the top ten, but Christgau has five in the top six (even though I haven't factored his grades in yet).

The mid-year lists I have are noted in the legend. While the first ones started showing up around June 1, in past years they've peaked in late June, with a few stragglers in July. I haven't noticed any jazz lists yet, so I'm thinking about running my own. I have the mailing list and software from the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, and evidently have time to kill.

The biggest time-kill remains Speaking of Which, which again topped 10,000 words on Sunday, with minor additions today.

New records reviewed this week:

Actress: Statik (2024, Smalltown Supersound): British electronica producer Darren Cunningham, tenth album since 2008. B+(*) [sp]

Africatown, AL: Ancestor Sounds (2024, Free Dirt): Oral history from a neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama, which traces its ancestry back to a slave ship in 1807, conceived by producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project) and his wife, Italian-Rwandan filmmaker and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli. B+(**) [sp]

Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vă Revelaçăo (2024, Green Flash): Brazilian singer, wrote some lyrics to Finbury's pleasantly engaging compositions, played by a star-studded group of Vitor Gonçalves (piano/accordion), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Duduka Da Fonseca (drums), and Rogerio Boccato (percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (2024, Origin): Original pieces, so Mom must really like her boy. Plenty of reason to. Group has six name musicians (Donny McCaslin, Philip Dizack, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McGann) plus lightly used vocalist Aubrey Johnson. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (2018 [2024], Culture Shock): Trumpet player, albums since 2006 frequently refer to "creole," this a big band with lots of extras, including vocals, which I find rather hit-and-miss. B+(*) [cd]

Charli XCX: Brat (2024, Atlantic): British pop star, Charlotte Aitchison, sixth album since 2013, all hits but none huge, with this one getting extra hype and/or anticipation. That come with a big budget, which sometimes pays off, or offers a cushion to soften and blur out the weak spots, which my reticence suggests must be here somewhere, as I'm still on the fence after five plays. B+(***) [sp]

Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (2021 [2024], Kettle Hole): Free jazz trio, based in Chicago, of Bill Harris (drums), Gerrit Hatcher (tenor sax), and Eli Namay (bass). Two tracks (40:55). Hatcher has a couple of previous albums much like this one. B+(***) [sp]

DJ Anderson do Paraiso: Queridăo (2023 [2024], Nyege Nyege Tapes): DJ from Belo Horizonte, "downtempo and dark baile funk," seems like a fair description, although it doesn't quite convey how gloomy this sounds. B [sp]

Ducks Ltd.: Harm's Way (2024, Carpark): Indie rock duo from Toronto, Tom McGreevy (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Evan Lewis (lead guitar), originally from UK and Australia, second album after a 2019 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (2024, Endectomorph Music): Pianist, has a couple previous albums, quintet with guitar, cello, bass, and drums, leaving the piano very clearly in charge. Liner notes by Vijay Iyer. B+(**) [cd] [06-21]

Grandaddy: Blu Wav (2024, Dangerbird): Indie rock band from Modesto, California, principally Jason Lytle, eighth album since 1994, with a break 2006-17. Doesn't feel like there's much here. B [sp]

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Blutopia (2024, Sunnyside): Baritone saxophonist and pianist, they have several albums together going back to a quintet in 2002, and including one from 2005 where Blutopia was the group name. This is another quintet, with viola (Mat Maneri), tuba (Bob Stewart), and drums (Brandon Lewis). B+(**) [sp]

Hermanos Gutiérrez: Sonido Cósmico (2024, Easy Eye Sound): Brothers Alejandro (guitar/lap steel) and Estevan (guitar/percussion), names and much of their music deriving from an Ecuadorian mother, but their father is Swiss, and they at least grew up in and are based in Zurich. After four self-released albums, Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) signed them to his Nashville label, and released El Bueno y el Malo in 2022. More in this sequel, as calming as new age hoped for, with just enough Latin tinge and other cosmic exotica to keep it fascinating. A- [sp]

Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (2023 [2024], Palmetto, 2CD): Pianist, based in New York, mostly big bands, this perhaps his most grandiose project ever, certainly in terms of vocals. B [cd]

Homeboy Sandman: Rich II (2024, self-released): New York rapper Angel Del Villar II, lots since 2007, mostly short like this (11 tracks, 26:56) sequel to 2023's Rich. B+(**) [sp]

I Am Three: In Other Words (2022 [2024], Leo): Nikolaus Neuser (trumpet), Silke Eberhard (alto sax/percussion), and Christian Marlen (drums), song credits split 4-2-5. Group name comes from Mingus, the subject of their two previous albums: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) and Mingus' Sound of Love (2018, with Maggie Nichols). A- [sp]

Kaytranada: Timeless (2024, RCA): Haitian electropop producer, grew up in Montreal, sings, raps, fourth album since 2016 (including 2023's Aminé mashup, Kaytraminé). Grows on you. B+(***) [sp]

The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanada (2024, Casablanca/Republic): British rock group, seemed like they may be a big deal with their 2002 debut, folded after their 2004 follow up, returned for a 2015 comeback, and again for this fourth album, slowing down with age. B [sp]

Raul Midón: Lost & Found (2024, ReKondite ReKords): Guitarist, singer-songwriter, from New Mexico, father from Argentina, has done session work on Latin albums, dabbled in jazz, doesn't show much in either here. C+ [sp]

Andy Milne and Unison: Time Will Tell (2024, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Canada, based in New York, albums since 1997, previous group album from 2019 with John Hébert (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums), adding Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax) and/or Yoko Reikano Kimura (koto) on several tracks here. B+(**) [sp]

Ol' Burger Beats: 74: Out of Time (2024, Coalmine): Norwegian dj/producer Ole-Birger Neergĺrd, a dozen-plus albums since 2015, also released an instrumentals version, but this one features a dozen guest rappers, very underground (but mostly names I recognize, like Billy Woods, Tha God Fahim, Yungmorpheus, Quelle Chris, Fly Anakin, Pink Siifu), easy going over slacker beats. B+(**) [sp]

Alicia and Michael Olatuja: Olatuja (2022-24 [2024], Whirlwind): He plays bass and keyboards, composes, was born in London, raised in Lagos, is based in New York, married to her, the former Alicia Miles, from St. Louis, with a couple records each. B+(*) [sp]

One for All: Big George (2022 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Mainstream sextet, pretty much all stars: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). Discogs lists 19 albums since 1997, open with three tracks for the first LP side, then George Coleman joins for more on the back side, with three George-less bonus tracks added to the CD. Coleman doesn't make much of a splash here. B+(*) [sp]

William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (2021 [2024], AUM Fidelity): Longtime collaborators, three-fourths of a quartet called In Order to Survive, where they played bass, piano, and drums. Here they focus on percussion and exotica, with Parker on doson ngoni, shakuhachi, bass dudek, ney and Serbian flute, with Cooper-Moore on his ashimba and hoe-handle harp, and Drake on frame drum as well as his usual kit. For world-class virtuosi, it's a bit underwhelming, but that seems to be the point. A- [cd] [06-21]

William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (2024, AUM Fidelity): No recording dates given, but this feels like it was patiently assembled, starting with Parker's words, mostly spoken with some Christi vocals and whatever sound design she came up with, supplemented with Parker's bass and flutes, and a few other samples. B+(***) [cd] [06-21]

Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (2023 [2024], Calligram): Trumpet player, mostly big band records starting around 1991. Lists 19 musicians here, mostly in groups with two trumpets, three saxophones, and two trombones, plus various piano-bass-drums, but adds a third trumpet on 4 tracks, vocals on 2, with 7 arranger credits. Deft layering, less focus on solos, some Latin tinge. B+(*) [cd]

Porij: Teething (2024, Play It Again Sam): British electropop band, from Manchester, first album after a 2020 EP. B+(**) [sp]

Kenny Reichert: Switch (2023 [2024], Calligram): Guitarist, based in Chicago, has a couple previous albums, the first self-released in 2015, leads a quartet here with alto sax (Lenard Simpson), bass (Ethan Philion), and drums (Devin Drobka), plus a guest spot for Geof Bradfield (tenor sax) and voice (Alyssa Algood, 3 tracks, her lyrics, some spoken word). Has some very strong and/or appealing passages. B+(**) [cd]

Brandon Ross Phantom Station: Off the End (2024, Sunnyside): Guitarist, early side credits start in 1975 with Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, and Oliver Lake; group efforts as Harriet Tubman in 1998; and his own albums from 2004. Group here with Graham Haynes (cornet/electronics), David Virelles (keyboards), JT Lewis (drums), and Hardedge (sound design). B+(**) [sp]

Shaboozey: Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going (2024, Republic/Empire): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, parents from Nigeria, original name Collins Obinna Chibueze, third album, slotted alt-country (got him a guest spot with Beyoncé). Not so obvious, but is closer than hip-hop (despite a rap) or afrobeat. B+(*) [sp]

Flavio Silva: Eko (2024, Break Free): Brazilian guitarist, based in New York, several albums, title means "lesson" in Yoruba, nice little quartet with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Uncle Waffles: Solace (2023, Ko-Sign/Encore): Swazi-born DJ and amapiano producer Lungelihle Zwane, third EP, this one 7 songs, 42:52 (which makes it an album in my book). B+(**) [sp]

Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (2024, Circle 9 Music): Trad Cuban music, leader plays cuatro, guitar, bass, and percussion, second US album, backed by more percussion, with lead vocals split four ways, and many guest spots involving trumpet. B+(***) [cd]

Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (2023 [2024], Palmetto): Drummer, originally from Illinois, studied at Wichita State, moved to NYC in 1992, and quickly established himself as a sideman and leader. I recall a DownBeat blindfold test where he not only grasped everything they threw at him, but went to extraordinary lengths to recognize and appreciate the mindset of whoever's music it was. His records can be very eclectic, but the best ones have featured edgy tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, as this one does, along with longtime ally Ben Allison on bass, and novel ingredients Tia Fuller (alto sax) and Dawn Clement (piano and some vocals, including the jazziest John Denver cover ever). Title is from a John Lewis quote. Not yet the group name, but they'll be welcome any time. A- [cdr]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Broadcast: Spell Blanket: Collected Demos 2006-2009 (2006-09 [2024], Warp): British electropop group, more or less, principally Trish Keenan (vocals/keyboards/guitar) and James Cargill (bass), produced three albums 2000-05, plus these demos for an unreleased fourth album. B [sp]

Love Child: Never Meant to Be 1988-1993 (1988-93 [2024], 12XU): NYC-based punk/no-wave band, singers Will Baum and Rebecca Odes on guitar/drums and bass, with Alan Licht (drums/guitar), self-released an album in 1988, got more attention with their 1991 album Okay?, released one more after that, which this 26-cut 2-LP sums up. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Ducks Ltd.: Get Bleak (2019 [2021], Carpark, EP): Toronto indie rock duo, immigrants from Australia and UK-via-US, debut four-song EP, expanded to seven (21:48) to complement their 2021 debut. Open with jangly guitar, then a ballad, then more jangle. Go-Betweens comparisons aren't way off base, but not sufficient, either. B+(**) [sp]

Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (1951-55 [2019], Jasmine): Blues harmonica player and singer, born 1921 in Mississippi, grew up in Memphis, made his way to Chicago in the 1950s and died there in 1981. His discography is very scattered, with a 1964 LP, collabs and a Fleetwood Mac jam session in 1969, and more odds and ends in the 1970s. This picks up a couple early singles, fleshed out with side-credits with Johnny Shines, Tampa Red, Otis Rush, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, and others, the vocals varying but the unified by his exuberant, rowdy harmonica. A- [cd]

Floyd Jones/Eddie Taylor: Masters of Modern Blues (1966 [1994], Testament): Chicago blues guitarist-singers, the original LP "Volume 3" in the label's series, allocated one side each, with Taylor (guitar), Big Walter Horton (harmonica), Otis Spann (piano), and Fred Below (drums) on both sides, with Jones switching to bass on Taylor's side. CD expands from 11 to 16 tracks, offering alternates and mixing them up. B+(***) [sp]

Maggie Nicols/Silke Eberhard/Nikolaus Neuser/Christian Marten: I Am Three & Me: Mingus' Sounds of Love (2018 [2019], Leo): Multiple options for parsing this cover: the singer earns top billing, but the trio -- tenor sax, trumpet, drums -- has a previous Mingus tribute, Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015) under their Mingus-inspired group name, I Am Three. Nicols supplies one lyric, the rest attributed to the composer, including detailed instructions on toilet-training your cat. I always find vocals like this awkward -- arty and disjointed, which is what she does -- but the music is often amazing, and their take of "The Clown" is amazing and definitive. So while all Mingus always sounds great, this adds something new. A- [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: Chela Chela Vol. 1 (1993-95 [1995], RetroAfric): Tanzanian group, formed 1993, its members veterans of "dance bands of the '60s and '70s," including Kenyan star Fundi Konde, playing their standards. No dates given, and no singles discography I can find. B+(***) [sp]

Shikamoo Jazz: East African Legends Live (1995 [2022], RetroTan): Only date given is July 1995, but the eleven tracks are credited to four permutations (Shilamoo Jazz, Fundi Konde & SJ, Bi Kidude & SJ, SJ + Fan Fan), although they flow together just fine, with oodles of that shimmering groove Earthworks immortalized in their famous Guitar Paradise of East Africa compilation. A- [sp]

Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (1953-57 [2016], Jasmine): Blues guitarist and singer (1923-85), up from Mississippi to Chicago, recorded a few albums from 1967 on, before that was best known playing for Jimmy Reed (just 3 tracks here), but also John Brim (4), Sunnyland Slim (4), Floyd Jones (3), Little Willie Foster (2), and John Lee Hooker (3), leaving 10 tracks under his own name -- a couple memorable, the rest pretty good. This took me a while, but I woke up with Reed and Hooker songs in my head, plus one of Taylor's ("Big Town Playboy"). A- [cd]

Eddie Taylor: I Feel So Bad (1972, Advent): Solid Chicago blues album, recorded in Hollywood. B+(**) [sp]

Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (1954-62 [2018], Jasmine): Joseph Leon Williams (1935-2018), originally from Mobile, moved to Chicago, where his guitar ("marked by flamboyant string-bending, imaginative chord voicings and a distinctive tone") got him studio work with Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Rogers -- to pick out the most obvious hits on the front half here -- as well as the occasional single (some as Little Joe Lee). That first half is remarkable enough, but the obscurities on the second half -- especially his "Lucky Lou" instrumental -- are the real payoff here. A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kim Cass: Levs (Pi) [06-28]
  • Jon De Lucia: The Brubeck Octet Project (Musćum Clausum) [07-12]
  • Mathias Hřjgaard Jensen: Is as Is (Fresh Sound New Talent) [05-31]
  • Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (Palmetto) [07-12]
  • Miles Okazaki: Miniature America (Cygnus) [07-19]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Data (RogueArt) * [06-17]

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