November 2011 Notebook


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Boeing Uber Alles

Tony Capaccio: Overrun Forecast in Boeing Tanker Work: Well, that didn't take long. The overrun is $500 million over the first $4.8 billion chunk of $7.1 billion in "development funds" -- the first actual aircraft, based on Boeing's now-obsolete 767 airframe, aren't scheduled for delivery until 2015. Moreover, the widely touted $35 billion program is now described as "planned as a 179-aircraft, $51.7 billion program that includes research, production, and aircraft support." Unlike the golden age of cost-plus-10% Air Force contracts, Boeing's on the hook for the overruns -- which is good news, unless you work there, in which case it just becomes more fuel for Boeing's psychotic efforts to squeeze its workforce, and to scam all of the political jurisdictions that think Boeing is doing them a favor by exploiting their labor. We've already seen the first of that with Boeing's threat to close its Wichita facility -- i.e., the one plant Boeing has that has almost all of the company's experience maintaining the Air Force's KC-135 tanker fleet. Still, despite all its attention to cost, delays and overruns have plagued Boeing's management for decades now. They've become so adept as scamming the system they've forgotten what got them into the game in the first place: the skills to build airplanes.

In another sense, the cost overruns are Boeing's fault: it was widely felt that they deliberately underbid the tanker contract to counter EADS. They had lost the previous competitive bid in large part because their numbers were way out of line, and only got the contract rebid through their lobbying clout. I wouldn't be surprised to find they found the right numbers through their revolving door contacts: they've had one VP go to jail for trying to fix the deal, and it would be surprising if the graft ended with her.

I keep returning to the Boeing tanker story because it seems so central to what is sick with America today. The tankers themselves are the platform upon which the American military empire is built: you can't project power to the far corners of the globe unless you can find a gas station when you get there. Any time some fool calls for a "no flight" zone, they're not only calling for the fighters and bombers to shoot down contraband flights, they're calling for the tankers to keep those fighters and bombers in the air over their targets. Making a $51.7 billion investment in new tankers shows us that the imperial command has no plans to back down from America's commitment to bully the world. On the other hand, if you do accept the need for the US to roll back its armed forces, the first place to cut funding is this $51.7 billion -- plus the untold billions it will cost to maintain and fly those planes if and when they ever get built.

On the other hand, stopping the new tanker program leaves the old one in place, and that KC-135 fleet has gotten the US to where it is today. Indeed, there's no reason why those planes can't stay in service for many more decades. They've been repeatedly rebuilt, periodically refitted with new wings and/or engines. They fly in spaces where they don't need to worry about being shot down. The main people who have emerged as opponents of Boeing's tanker scam have either been anti-graft imperialists like Sen. John McCain, or pro-graft ones like Sen. Richard Shelby who want more of the booty for themselves. So while opposing new tankers is one step, opposing the old ones is another. The main reason to shut down the old ones is to make it harder for the US to get involved in foreign wars -- most obviously the air-focused ones like Kosovo and Libya, although the ability to maintain the "no fly" zones in Iraq was what kept war with Iraq on the burner, making the 2003-11 war virtually inevitable.

But then there are a whole other set of reasons for opposing the new tanker program: those rooted in the management culture of Boeing, their vast political lobbying network, their revolving doors in and out of the Pentagon. For a while Boeing could market itself as a national treasure as America's number one manufacturing exporter. They may still be, but they've turned into a national disgrace. They've become poster boys for the collapse of business ethics that plagues the entire country. It used to make sense for the public to support corporations that in turn made useful things that built up the public's standard of living. That they made a profit in the process was tolerated, in large part because it was taxed -- another way corporations gave back to the society, and to the nationhood, that supported them. Now, however, they've become rackets, predators, out to suck as much profit as possible any way they can get away with it. Nor are they merely part of a bad trend: Boeing is an innovator here, a model for other companies to follow. This isn't so much because anyone at Boeing was all that clever. It's more because ever since WWII Boeing has been nursed by the Defense Department, a training that they wound up taking as their entitlement. Moreover, they built their commercial business the same way, through one crooked, cross-financed deal after another. Most notoriously, to sell planes in China, they agreed to build some of them there, and they went further and lent out their lobbying subsidiary to promote China's "most favored nation" trading status. (If you factor in the subsequent trade loss to China, Boeing no longer looks like much of an exporter.)

Some of this may be inevitable in the airframe business. Europe wound up nationalizing its various aircraft companies, consolidating them into Airbus. Airbus has two advantages over Boeing. One is that they can draw on public funds for development expenses -- actually, not that big of an advantage given how Boeing has been able to scam the US military and so many states and cities across the country for just that purpose. The other is that while Airbus has to break even to stay in business, it does so for the sake of the industry, its workers, and the nations that own it. It isn't compelled to strip and scavenge the way Boeing does. Those actually seem like good reasons to nationalize Boeing: run it as a unionized non-profit, allow it to borrow cheap through the Fed (even to finance sales, given sane regulation), cap the executive salaries and get rid of the crooks.

If I had much more time and patience than I do, I'd start a website dedicated to squashing the tanker program and smashing Boeing; maybe It would be one way to start a reevaluation of what companies are good for in America, and a realization of what they are no good for. And armed forces, too. The tanker deal is a "teachable moment" -- and Boeing is an object lesson.

Expert Comments

Picks this time are Tom Waits: Bad as Me, and Pusha T: Fear of God II. Robert Christgau:

I review very few soundtrack recordings; basically I disapprove of the form, that is, separating the music from the film. As I said in one Waits essay I wrote, I think separating sequences of theater songs from the piece whose structure they're supposed to serve can also be chancy. Casting about for something to link with Waits -- if Wilco had come home the tag would have been a pre-Wussy "What Has Five Letters and Begins With W?," which I was so sorry I didn't get to use -- I thought about going back to One From the Heart, which wasn't sent to me back in the day so I only learned about it when I was writing yet another Waits essay a few years ago. It has a line about defrosting a refrigerator with a ballpoint pen that I love. But it just wasn't an A.

Finding pairings can be a real pain in the fundament. Expect truly outrageous and/or abjectly defeated headers in the future.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 19061 [19049] rated (+12), 840 [836] unrated (+4). One of those weeks where not much happened. Spent three afternoons with relatively decent weather working in back yard, cutting out and assembling a CD case for over the dresser, trying to figure out the best way to put a ramp onto the side of my shed, cleaning up the yard a bit. Spent a couple more days listening to old, in many cases classic, jazz, trying to psych myself up for the presentation to the Group. Spent many hours on a jigsaw puzzle. Didn't get much mail. Didn't rate much in my backlog. Still don't know what I'm doing viz. Jazz Consumer Guide.

No Jazz Prospecting

Not enough Jazz Prospecting to bother with this week -- only four records in the scratch file. Still waiting for the music editor at the Village Voice to do something/anything. Makes me wonder whether they'll get it up to even attempt a Pazz & Jop poll this year. I'm betting that Zach Baron proves irreplaceable. I do know that their annual jazz critics poll has been scratched, and that Francis Davis has arranged for it to continue and to be published at Rhapsody, where former Voice music editor Rob Harvilla landed. Invites are out on that, and that'll give me something to focus on this coming week: next Jazz Prospecting will skim the top of the deck instead of trying to fish off the bottom.

Good chance I will go ahead and post the ignored, long-delayed, presumably rejected 27th Jazz Consumer Guide column sometime this week. I haven't decided whether doing so marks a definitive break from the Village Voice or not. (I suspect it will.) I haven't found any other publishers interested in such a column. Admittedly, I haven't looked hard, and I'm also inclined to favor someone not exclusively focused on jazz, since I'd like to think the music still has some breakout/crossover potential. One of the lessons I drew from last night's confab was that the world would be a better place if more people listened to jazz. I'd like to think that's one way I've helped.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jazzing the Group

Alice Powell organized a "jazz and politics" event at the Larkspur Restaurant tonight, for a group of "left-leaning" but RINO-friendly women who call themselves The Group. Following dinner we had a series of three presentations. Up first was jazz singer Ruth Olay, an old friend of Alice's who cut a half-dozen or so albums from 1958-67. She played two cuts from way back when, and talked a bit about them. I was scheduled second. Third was WSU jazz professor and Wichita Jazz Festival president Craig Owens, who talked about WJF, dried to drum up some money, and performed two pieces with Kansas City saxophonist Bill Caldwell. Alice kicked things off by reading a quote from Gilad Atzmon that focused on jazz and the US civil rights movement -- then ended expressing solidarity with the Palestinians.

For my part, I wrote some notes here, then proceeded to ad lib from them, reorganizing the "why am I here?" intro to start from my writing of the Jazz Consumer Guide. Then I dove into the history section, sometimes reading, sometimes extrapolating. About three-fourths of the way through that Alice signalled me that my time was up -- felt more like she rescued me -- so I never got to the third part about the current state of the art. Then I faced a little Q&A: an odd mix of things I scarcely remember, however one asked for the website URL so I figured it would help if I posted something self-identifying. People seemed appreciative for what little they got. Didn't notice anyone tweeting "you suck," so I figure I'm still running ahead of a certain Kansas governor.

On the hunch that some people will land here looking for more of my jazz material, some helpful links:

  • Music Links: most of the important music links on the website.
  • Ratings Database: intro to over 19,000 graded records.
  • Jazz Consumer Guide: archive and scratch directory; the Jazz Prospecting notes are collected in the files labelled Prospects; the index of everything I've reviewed is here and also, alphabetized by artist, here.
  • Blog Music Category: this will get you to weekly Jazz Prospecting posts, but will also pick up a lot of non-jazz music posts (Recycled Goods, Rhapsody Streamnotes, Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary, odds and ends like my Jazz 1960's Core List).
  • Calling Card: intended for publicists, but includes links to off-site pieces, mostly Village Voice -- also indexed here.
  • Book Page for Allen Lowe: That Devilin' Tune: quotes and reviews, on early jazz history.

Probably forgetting something. I need to get better organized.

Old Saint Boeing

Crowson's editorial cartoon in the Wichita Eagle today, on Boeing's tanker scam bait-and-switch. In their big PR push to dislodge EADS's winning bid and rejigger the $35 billion contract in their favor, the PR flacks at Boeing had upped their usual 1,000 job promise to 7,500 -- counting all sorts of multiplier effects, something Republicans never believe in unless they hear it from a defense contractor. Now that the deal is done Boeing's decided maybe they don't need Wichita after all -- although there's always the suspicion that they may just be angling for yet another bribe, something they've repeatedly done in the past.

Molly McMillin has another article on Boeing in the paper today: Analysts: Loss of Boeing Would Hurt City, Region. Not much new there. One thing the analysts didn't factor in was the extent to which Boeing's presence corrupts local politics, but that was the subject of an anonymous Opinion Line comment:

If Boeing leaves, I hope it will take our bought-and-paid-for congressional delegation with it, along with "aviation consultant" Todd Tiahrt.

Probably no Weekend Roundup today, but I do hope to get something else up this evening. One Kansas-themed story likely to lose out in the shuffle is Brownback Complaint About Student Tweet Lands Kansas Teenager in Principal's Office. As someone who's been there for doing something like that -- admittedly, long before Twitter made it easy to do and easy to get caught -- I can only applaud Emma Sullivan. Also, quote another Opinion Line commenter:

How many people does our "less-government" governor have employed to check through social media networks to see who is saying what about him? And how much does he pay them? And will he report these naughty people to Santa Claus?

By the way, driving around Wichita a couple nights ago, I came upon several small roadside signs proclaiming "Christmas Doesn't Suck!" If Brownback's concerned about language, well, that horse has left the barn.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


On average, my book roundups come out every 4-6 weeks, but my one on November 16 came after a longer-than-usual period, and left me with enough stuff to suggest doing another the next day. I didn't get that done so fast, owing more to the day than to any shortfall in data. So here's a second November set (limited to 40 books, otherwise this could get ridiculous):

Theodor Adorno/Max Horkheimer: Towards a New Manifesto (2011, Verso): A 1956 dialogue -- maybe a sketch, maybe just an argument -- from the long-dead founders of the Frankfurt School, on what a contemporary revision of The Communist Manifesto should say. I doubt that they got very far: both much more skilled at tearing down bad propositions than forming good ones.

Richard Alley: Earth: The Operator's Manual (2011, WW Norton): PBS television series companion book, focuses on climate change and future energy issues, which he is moderate and optimistic about.

Robert B Archibald/David H Feldman: Why Does College Cost So Much? (2010, Oxford University Press): Interesting question, but this sounds like a piece of economic rationalization in service of the status quo. I have several rough theories, but not enough facts to judge them against.

Gilad Atzmon: The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics (paperback, 2011, O Books): Israeli-born, UK-based saxophonist writes a polemic about Jewish identity and the reflexive identification of so many Jews with Israel.

Thomas Barfield: Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (2010, Princeton University Press): Anthropologist and "old Afghanistan hand" (isn't that a CIA term?) goes way back, emphasizes geography, "the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups," how it became "a graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, "and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate." Get out?

Kim Barker: The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2011, Knopf): Five years reporting, starting in 2003 "when the war there was lazy and insignificant"; reported to be funny (at least P.J. O'Rourke thinks so), which is one way of coming to grips with stupid and indifferent -- terms I'm more inclined to find applicable.

Daniel Byman: A High Price: The Triumphs & Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism (2011, Oxford University Press): Right after 9/11, I recall both John Major and Shimon Peres pointing out that they could teach us some pointers on handling terrorism. At the time I thought the only thing they actually knew much about was spurring terror attacks along. I take it that this book is a brief intended to support Peres' assertion, although he would have been more circumspect about those failures.

W Joseph Campbell: Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism (paperback, 2010, University of California Press): One way to explore how journalism likes to indulge in its own mythmaking, from William Randolph Hearst and the Spanish-American War to Jessica Lynch.

Bill Clinton: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy (2011, Knopf): To the limited extent to which presidents can claim responsibility for the economy's ups and downs, Clinton is the only living president who has anything positive he can point to. That doesn't make him a genius, or even allow him to escape the most inane clichés -- e.g., "We've got to get America back in the future business" could have been lifted from Thomas Friedman (and probably was).

Council on Foreign Relations/Foreign Affairs, ed: The New Arab Revolt: What Happened, What It Means, and What Comes Next (paperback, 2011, Council on Foreign Relations/Foreign Affairs): Collects sixty "seminal pieces" including op-eds, interviews, and congressional testimony from our leading officially sanctioned area experts -- you know, geniuses like Fouad Ajami, Bernard Lewis, Richard Haass, Martin Indyk, Elliott Abrams, Aluf Benn, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Gideon Rose, Max Boot, Michael O'Hanlon (fave title: "Winning Ugly in Libya: What the United States Should Learn From Its War in Kosovo"), and some documents featuring people who's primary association of "seminal" is with a certain red dress.

Tom Engelhardt: The United States of Fear (paperback, 2011, Haymarket Books): Probably another collection of his TomDispatch posts, rather quick on the heels of The American Way of War: How the Empire Brought Itself to Ruin, although it is a theme he knows as well as anyone and should be able to greatly expand upon.

Ezra F Fogel: Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (2011, Harvard University Press): Big (928 pp) bio, covers a big chunk of Chinese history up to Deng's death in 1997, especially after 1978 when he became China's "paramount leader." Applauded for his economic reforms, condemned for suppressing the pro-democratic demonstrations at Tianamen Square in 1989. Vogel is a longtime region expert, and this is most likely a major book in what's still a sparsely documented history. (Not that there aren't a lot of superficial books on China's challenge to the West and who will dominate the 21st century and all that nonsense.

David Graebner: Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011, Melville House): Anthropologist, argues that credit (therefore debt) goes back a long ways, predating even money. His is one of those ideas that threatens to turn around much about how we think real economies have functioned throughout history. Has a bunch of books, including Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire (paperback, 2007, AK Press), and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (paperback, 2004, Prickly Paradigm Press).

Jennifer M Granholm/Dan Mulhern: A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future (2011, Public Affairs): Democratic Governor of Michigan during some especially tough times, while America's business elites were doing everything they could to break labor, especially by closing plants and moving production overseas. So she has something to talk about.

Glenn Greenwald: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful (2011, Metropolitan Books): Title suggests he's moved beyond his initial concerns over civil liberties into seeing how a legal system that money buys inequal access to -- starting with Congress and every other legislative body in the land, moving on to every executive authority, and even to the courts (where, to put it bluntly, representation costs money and is therefore more affordable to them that's got).

John Michael Greer: The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered (paperback, 2011, New Society): Bounces his title off Adam Smith and E.F. Schumacher ("economics as if people mattered"); should provide a primer on externalities and how to properly cost them out, but author isn't really an economist -- styles himself as an archdruid, is into organic farming and autarky, that most uneconomist of concepts.

Tim Groseclose: Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind (2011, St Martin's Press): Ph.D. invented some math that he calls PQ (for Political Quotient) to measure left and right political bias; discovers that the "maintream media" is way biased to the left, much more so than right-leaning media like Fox. I bet I could come up with a formula that would show the New York Times on the far right. For instance, they'd score points for lying in the Iraq War buildup. I could even factor in support for Israeli militarism. I don't doubt that there is bias in media, but how does that bias affect "the American mind"?

Richard Heinberg: The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality (paperback, 2011, New Society): Peak oil crank, got there early and has been one of the deepest analysts of what's happening and what it means. I think Heinberg is righ in the not-all-that-long-term, but I wouldn't say that growth is over at the moment, if only for the reason that most current constraints are politically driven. The key characteristic of growth has long been a rising standard of living. In the US that's been halted by the right's dominance of political discourse. On the other hand, one possible explanation why the right's political agenda has moved beyond enriching themselves to impoverishing everyone else may be the sense that it's all coming to an end, and they merely want to get theirs while the getting's still good.

Will Hermes: Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever (2011, Faber & Faber): 1973-77, basically the New York Dolls to Talking Heads, although there was also disco and funk and salsa and some jazz regrouping in downtown lofts -- not sure the author has the latter covered. I moved to NYC to hit the tail end of all that. I don't recall Hermes being around then, but he must have worked his way back there many times.

Owen Jones: Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (paperback, 2011, Verso Books): Mostly on England, where "chavs" has become an epithet for ridiculing the working class, but the subtitle resonates here as well, especially when you look at the efforts of the Republican Party to defund not just labor unions but the workers as well.

Andrew Kolin: State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W Bush (2010, Palgrave Macmillan): How America became a police state, mostly under Bush, of course, but precedents go back to the Alien and Sedition Acts, more generally the distrust elites have always had about democracy.

Chris Lehmann: Rich People Things: Real-Life Secrets of the Predator Class (paperback, 2011, Haymarket): Looking at the TOC: Meritocracy, Populism, The Free Market, The Stock Market, "Class Warfare," David Brooks, Malcolm Gladwell, The New York Times. Each chapter is six pages long, suggesting a recycled stack of columns (or blog posts).

Giulio Meotti: A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism (2010, Encounter Books): Chronicles the long, sad story of Palestinian violence against Israelis -- attacks that have claimed 1700 lives and injured 10,000 people. Don't know whether it also notes that during the same period Israel has killed more than ten times as many Palestinians, injured many more, incarcerated many thousands, tortured many of them, driven nearly a million into exile, and enforced a regime where even nominal citizens of Israel are severely discriminated against. I'm sure those 1700 deaths have stories worth remembering, but it's a huge stretch to liken them to the six million victims of the Nazi Judeocide.

Immanuel Ness/Dario Azzellini: Ours to Master and to Own: Workers' Control From the Commune to the Present (paperback, 2011, Haymarket): A historical brief for worker-owned businesses, which I think is the way to go: the one scheme that ensures that workers and management will have the same interests, and align their interests for maximum productivity.

Martha C Nussbaum: Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (2011, Harvard University Press): Political philosopher, draws on work by Amartrya Sen that emphasizes creating capabilities as as the primary path for human development. Much of this seems to boil down to common sense human rights, something a lot of people here in the US have trouble grasping.

William Parry: Against the Wall (paperback, 2011, Lawrence Hill Books): An art book, drawing attention to Israel's gargantuan wall project by drawing on the wall. Also see: Zia Krohn/Joyce Lagerweij: Concrete Messages: Street Art on the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Barrier (2010, Dokument Press); and Mia Gröndahl: Gaza Graffiti: Messages of Love and Politics (paperback, 2009, American University in Cairo Press).

Ilan Peleg/Dov Waxman: Israel's Palestinians: The Conflict Within (paperback, 2011, Cambridge University Press): Same subject as Ilan Pappé The Forgotten Palestinians, but more concerned with maintaining Israel's "Jewish identity" while at least ameliorating some of the more blatant discrimination.

Paul R Pillar: Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (2011, Columbia University Press): Career CIA spook, retired army reserve officer, had second thoughts about invading Iraq and became a prominent critic of Bush's Global War on Terror boondoggle.

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011, Viking): I think the general thesis -- that today we are far more likely to reject and abjure violence than at any time in the past -- is correct, but worry that pontificating on the subject for 832 pp is likely to weigh it down in too much complexity, especially the kind that gets confused with human nature.

Frances Fox Piven: Who's Afraid of Frances Fox Piven?: The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate (paperback, 2011, New Press): I first noticed Piven when she cowrote the eye-opening Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare in 1971, which has a second edition revised in 1993. Other books with Cloward: Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (1977, Pantheon); New Class War: Reagan's Attack on the Welfare State and Its Consequences (1982, Pantheon); Why Americans Don't Vote (1988, Pantheon); The Breaking of the American Social Compact (1997, New Press); Why Americans Still Don't Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way (2000, Beacon); also several books on her own (since Cloward died in 2001), including The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush's Militarism (2004, New Press); and Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (2006, Rowman & Littlefield). Someone everyone should take seriously.

Alex Prudhomme: The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century (2011, Scribner): Supply is relatively fixed, or actually declining as we deplete aquifers, and would get worse wherever global warming caused droughts. Demand is growing and not very elastic, which leads us to, well, what? Other water crisis books have been gathering since Fred Pearce's When the Rivers Run Dry: Water -- The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century (2007): Robert Glennon: Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It (2009; paperback, 2010, Island Press); Cynthia Barnett: Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis (2001, Beacon); Peter Rogers/Susan Leal: Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Previous Resource (2010, Palgrave Macmillan); Susan J Marks: Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America (2009; paperback, 2011, Bloomberg Press); and Tony Allen: Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet's Most Precious Resource (paperback, 2011, IB Tauris).

Michael Ratner/Margaret Ratner Kunstler: Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in Twenty-First-Century America (paperback, 2011, New Press): From the Center for Constitutional Rights, basic info on what your rights are when the government tries to shut down your right to dissent.

Jeremy Sarkin: Germany's Genocide of the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers (2011, James Currey): Germany's late entry into the colonial partition of Africa left them with scraps, including South West Africa (now Namibia), where Germany instituted the first genocide of the 20th century in their effort to exterminate the Herero people. I actually first read about this in Thomas Pynchon's novel V, where it fills a key chapter. Sarkin also wrote Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims Under International Law by the Herero Against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904-1908 -- in contrast to Germany's deal with Israel, Germany has refused to pay reparations on this relatively obscure but truly brutal event. See also: David Olusoga/Casper W Erichsen: The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism (2010, Faber & Faber), which goes on to explore how the Nazis remembered Germany's prior experience with genocide.

Robert Skidelsky: Keynes: A Very Short Introduction (paperback, 2010, Oxford University Press): Short pocket-sized intro (144 pp, but rather densely packed), by the guy who wrote the premier biography on Keynes as well as a tightly argued brief on his continued relevance: Keynes: The Return of the Master (2009, Public Affairs).

Paul Starr: Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle Over Health Care Reform (2011, Yale University Press): Historical overview of the various attempts to reform health care in America. In 1983 Starr won a Pulitzer Prize for his The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Progression and the Making of a Vast Industry, which established him as the expert in the field. In 1993-94 Starr was on the inside of Clinton's reform team, which may (or may not) be good for some insight.

Mark Steyn: After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (2011, Regnery): "A modern day Jeremiah" says Mark Levin. Ripostes Ann Coulter: "Only Mark Steyn can write about the decline of America and leave you laughing." Sample Steyn wit: "When in Rome, do as the Visigoths do."

Clayton E Swisher: The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road? (paperback, 2011, Hesperus Press): Based on 1600 pages of papers leaked to Al-Jazeera in January 2011, detailing diplomatic moves that stalled any attempt at peace talks. Swisher previously wrote: The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process (paperback, 2004, Nation Books).

Joseph A Tainter/Tadeusz W Patzek: Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma (paperback, 2011, Springer): Starts with the Deepwater Horizon disaster and attempts to explain why it was all but inevitable. Also see: John Konrad/Tom Shroder: Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster (2011, Harper); Stanley Reed/Allison Fitzgerald: In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race That Took It Down (2011, Bloomberg); Joel Achenbach: A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher (2011, Simon & Schuster); Bob Cavnar: Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout (paperback, 2010, Chelsea Green); Loren C Steffy: Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (2010, McGraw-Hill); Peter Lehner/Bob Deans: In Deep Water: The Anatomy of a Disaster, and the Fate of the Gulf, and Ending Our Oil Addiction (paperback, 2010, The Experiment); William R Freudenburg/Robert Gramling: Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America (2010, MIT Press); Carl Safina: A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout (2011, Crown); Antonia Juhasz: Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill (2011, Wiley); Mike Magner: Poisoned Legacy: The Human Cost of BP's Rise to Power (paperback, 2011, St Martin's Press); and, of course, The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling's "report to the president": Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling (paperback, 2011, self-published).

Peter Van Buren: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (2011, Metropolitan Books): State Department insider, spent a year in Baghdad -- not sure which one, they were all so promising, so memorable, but more likely the recent year of the surge than the year of Paul Bremer. To quote: "pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world's largest embassy, who fail to realize that you can't rebuild a country without first picking up the trash." After all, who wants to pick up trash?

Elizabeth Warren/Amelia Warren Tyagi: The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke (paperback, 2004, Basic Books): Written before the recent/current recession, this now looks like one of the definitive political tomes of the last decade (although others, like Tamara Draut and Juliet B. Schor, have written similar analyses). Another book along these lines: Kevin T Leicht/Scott T Fitzgerald: Postindustrial Peasants: The Illusion of Middle-Class Prosperity (paperback, 2006, Worth).

Erik Olin Wright: Envisioning Real Utopias (paperback, 2010, Verso): John Quiggin: "The general idea of the book was in line with my thinking that technocratic rationality, of the kind offered by, say Obama or Blair, is not a sufficient answer to the irrationalist tribalism of the right -- the left needs a transformative vision to offer hope of a better life, both for the increasing proportion of the population in rich countries who are losing ground as a result of growing inequality and for the great majority of the world's population who are still poor by OECD standards. So, Utopia matters."

No time to do a paperback section right now -- wouldn't be much on top of two weeks ago, unless I dug further, which is what I don't have time for. But given that I have nearly 30 books left over, plus another 15 that I have open tabs on, the next report shouldn't be too distant in the future.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Shoot

An atypical Thanksgiving day for me: first since I moved back to Wichita in 1999 with no family dinner, no guests, not even a movie. Spent most of the afternoon working in the backyard: assembled a new CD case I managed to cut out the day before, and took another stab at figuring out how to build a ramp for my new shed. Doesn't seem like much, and wasn't. Microwaved a chicken pie for dinner. Watched some TV. Worked a bit on a jigsaw puzzle. Fretted over a talk I'm supposed to give this weekend on jazz. When I agreed to do it I still thought of myself as the guy who writes the Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, but now I'm just the owner of a large record collection: a "patron of the arts," as Ted Bayne described me before I started writing jazz reviews.

Finally, it occurs to me that I could get a bit of the spirit back by throwing together a Turkey Shoot. This was no sudden insight: I had it first when Michael Tatum did his November column, then thought of it again when I saw Jim DeRogatis' star-studded Biggest Turkeys of 2011, but in both those cases I decided not to bother, not having time to re-listen to old crap let alone seek out even more. But as a last-minute venture, I realized I could just recycle old writing -- mostly Rhapsody Streamnotes. Reminds me of a maxim I uttered many times back in my software development days: a project not worth doing is not worth doing well.

Arctic Monkeys: Suck It and See (2011, Domino): British group, fourth album since their 2006 breakout combined punk freshness with British Invasion inevitability, a formula they aged out of awfully soon. Now they aspire to "dogshit rock and roll" but they're way too tame and structured, not to mention mired in the "humbug" they named their third album for. B-

Beyoncé: 4 (2011, Columbia): Big star, launched in 1990s girl group Destiny's Child, sustained as much through her acting as by her music. I've heard two of the group albums, one of the solos, have seen her in two (of seven) movies, and don't recall ever seeing any of her numerous videos, so I guess I haven't done due dilligence. Still, I doubt that anything she's done would have prepared me for the overkill production of the latter half, especially the punk rigidity of "Run the World (Girls)" -- the lead single, I see, not that girls are ever going to run the world sounding like the Sweet. Easier to dissect is the ballad-heavy first half: every soul diva of her generation has dreamed of singing like Aretha Franklin, but only Beyoncé has had the ego to think she's done it. C

James Blake: James Blake (2011, Atlas): Electronica producer from London, UK, dropped three EPs in 2010 that collectively got a lot of attention -- The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke -- setting up big hype for this full length debut. It would be easy to just dump all over this: morosely slow, tearful, pathos unseemly for anyone who's just, uh, 21, maybe 22. His bleak backgrounds have some tortured beauty to them; his vocals, though, are probably culpable for the torture. B

Chris Brown: F.A.M.E. (2011, Jive): Says he can "do it all night," but what? Sounds like "feel the bullshit," but that can't be right -- I'm pretty sure he's faking that. Starts with a pretty nasty break-up song. Acronymic title stands for "Forgiving All My Enemies." Good idea, especially for a dude who comes by them so readily. B-

Glen Campbell: Ghost on the Canvas (2011, Surfdog): A pop-country star in the 1960s with a reputation as a dependable studio guitarist and more TV exposure than I care to remember, he cranked out massive amounts of product -- close to 70 albums -- up to 1999, then took it easy until his atrocious 2008 Meet Glen Campbell. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he figured he's good for one more. He might have bid a respectable adieu had he picked more songs like Jakob Dylan's "Nothing but the Whole Wide World," but producer Julian Raymond buried the Paul Westerberg title song in strings so blustery they'd make Chet Atkins swoon. Looks like he wanted to pick songs that affirm his desire to stand up to his fate. Too bad nearly all were slaughtered by the producer. C+

Cold Cave: Cherish the Light Years (2010 [2011], Matador): Hard synthpop band, emphatic beat, thick electronics, I've seen their lead-off song ("The Great Pan Is Dead") compared to early Eno, and recognize power-packed New Order down the stretch, things that should impress me more, but I found myself dialing the volume down to weather the storm. B-

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (2010 [2011], Sub Pop): Seattle group, second album, lot of fans in the indie rock press, broke #4 on US charts, #2 in UK. I've seen this tagged as Baroque Folk-Pop. About all the sense I can make of that is that sometimes this sounds like the Papas without the Mamas: it has a down home air of the familiar although when I consider it I doubt I really want to hang out there. B-

Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact (2011, 4AD): New York group, lots of synths, lots of bounce, singer Lizzi Bougatsos. Some things to like here, but it mostly strikes me as garish, tarted up, bombastic, with nothing that quite qualifies as "redeeming social content" (a legal term I take to include porn). B

The Horrors: Skying (2011, XL): British group (not to be confused with a now defunct eponymous group from Iowa), third album. AMG classifies them as shoegaze and punk revival, which is to say they're pretty muddled, the former trait slowing and sludging the latter which no longer signifies anything but loud. I probably overrated their 2009 Primary Colours -- a soft spot for muted and melodic metal, perhaps, which this occasionally suggests but more often proves annoying. B-

Justice: Audio, Video, Disco (2011, Elektra): Duo from Paris, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay. Previous, probably eponymous album was universally identified as Cross since that was all there was on the cover. The wordless cover this time features a bigger and bulkier cross, but sources agree that this one has a title. This ups the pop ambitions, ups the bubbly synths, ups the vocals, drives me up the wall. C+

Low: C'mon (2011, Sub Pop): Duluth, MN slowcore band, husband/wife team plus bassist, 14th album since 1994 (not counting a 3CD decade of b-sides). Seemed like a promising idea, but most of their songs are little more than repetitions of some stock phrase, like "oh nightingale" or "nothing but heart"; that's bad enough, but wait until they unpack a lyric like, "just because you don't hear their voices/don't mean they won't kill you in your sleep" -- in a song dreary enough to be a lullaby. C+

Mastodon: The Hunter (2011, Reprise): Metal band, one of the few that gets much respect outside of the genre's self-imposed ghetto. I don't really have a theoretical reason why I don't care for metal -- I was, in fact, a fan back when Blue Oyster Cult recorded their perfect first side to Tyranny and Mutation -- so sometimes I think I should at least sample something much hyped. Then I do, and wonder why. This isn't awful, especially when the singer shuts up, but also isn't smart or funny or engaging or exciting or interesting -- a lot of negatives for such maximalism. B-

John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (2011, Ribbon): Dark-toned synth pop, remind me of something like OMD but not as good, partly because the artist is a "rage against the dying of the light" guy. I might be more sympathetic if I followed better. For instance, one especially annoying song is called "Cop Killer," which may (or may not) have a subtext I didn't catch but sounds like a mantra, one I could damn well do without. B-

Owl City: All Things Bright and Beautiful (2011, Universal Republic): Synthpop group from Minnesota, mostly Adam Young. The pumped up synths are sort of fun at first, and "The Real World" is surreally catchy, but second cut in "Deer in the Headlights" suggests that no cliché is going to prove too ripe for Young, and before long he's so wild-eyed he probably believes that space travel lets you "touch the face of God." Recommended to your local FFA: "Plant Life." C+

Panda Bear: Tomboy (2011, Paw Tracks): Noah Lennox's side project from Animal Collective, up to four albums since 1998. Densely overlayered, vocally reminds me of classical choral music smudged up so you can't make out a word, tracked to an exaggerated beat. I don't really see the point. B

SebastiAn: Total (2011, Big Beat/Atlantic/Ed Banger/Because): French DJ, Sebastian Akchoté, from Boulogne, has a pile of EPs and remixes since 2005, but this looks like his first big deal. Squelchy house, loud and nasty sounding: I feel a victim of a practical joke who has to admit that, yeah, you really got me there, all the while plotting to never let that happen again. The exception is "C.T.F.O." featuring M.I.A., where the noise is regular enough you can build with it, as opposed to just splattering it all over the joint. B-

Ashton Shepherd: Where Country Grows (2011, MCA Nashville): "Look It Up" is a break-up song, slightly tougher and meaner than "Jesus May Forgive You (But I Won't)." She didn't write that one, nor the hopeful "I'm Good," but has a co-credit on the jingoish title song and the moanful "While It Ain't Rainin'," and sole claim to "I'm Just a Woman," which sounds like Helen Reddy after a prefrontal lobotomy. She's got the tools, except brains, which you'd think would be a necessary survival skill in her neck of the woods. B-

The Strokes: Angles (2011, RCA): Critics rave in 2001, sort of a grove-centric new new wave band, dropped a couple more records in 2003 and 2006, now return after five years which saw a dreadful Julian Casablancas album bomb. Hard to recall from this why anyone ever liked them: sufficiently upbeat, but the core sound is so soapy it's painful to listen to. Or maybe just damn annoying. C-

Tech N9ne: All 6's and 7's (2011, Strange Music): Aaron Yates, b. 1971 in Kansas City, has a dozen albums since 1999. I first noticed him at Best Buy, where the stocked a ton of this album, but I now see that they have their own exclusive edition (as does iTunes, FYE, and Wal-Mart). Muscled up on the cover, more machine than man in the grooves, this repeatedly bangs its head against irrelevance and annoyance until it arrives at "Promiseland" -- as usual, the last place one wants to be. B-

Thompson Square: Thompson Square (2011, Stoney Creek): Country music duo, husband Kiefer Thompson from Oklahoma and wife Shawna Thompson from Tennessee. Loud, overproduced, trivially anthemic ("One of Those Days," "As Bad as It Gets"), occasionally stupid ("would you drive my getaway car?"). Give them a few hits and they might make Lady Antebellum look like hippies. C-

Thought I'd include the new Drake album, but bagged my limit (20) without it, so that one will chill until December. Other B- and below albums (ignoring some truly ignorable jazz):

  • Active Child: You Are All I See (Vagrant)
  • Adele: 21 (XL)
  • Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding (Dangerbird)
  • James Blake: Enough Thunder (Atlas, EP)
  • Björk: Biophilia (One Little Indian)
  • Richard Buckner: Our Blood (Merge)
  • James Carter: Caribbean Rhapsody (Decca)
  • Crystal Stilts: In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland)
  • Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl)
  • Electric Six: Heartbeats and Brainwaves! (Metropolis)
  • Kurt Elling: The Gate (Concord)
  • Ford & Lopatin: Channel Pressure (Mexican Summer)
  • Gay for Johnny Depp: What Doesn't Kill You, Eventually Kills You (Shinebox)
  • Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain't Over (Nonesuch) **
  • Lloyd: King of Hearts (Interscope)
  • Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
  • Matt Nathanson: Modern Love (Vanguard)
  • Okkervil River: I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar)
  • Rave On: Buddy Holly (Hear Music)
  • Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: Teenage and Torture (Knitting Factory Works)
  • Radiohead: The King of Limbs (TBD)
  • The Summer Set: Everything's Fine (Razor & Tie)
  • Zebrahead: Get Nice (Rude)

Of course, I wasn't hunting turkeys when I ran into these -- although I certainly had no reason to doubt that Owl City would be one. If I had tried, I would have started by devising a methodology for searching out the worst. Maybe low Metacritic scores, like Richard Ashcroft's 37 or Limp Bizkit's 38. (Owl City's is 47; the Lou Reed-Metallica mashup is at 37.) And factor in artists with proven track records, like Lady Antebellum. Then I could concoct a list of a priori turkeys, saving us all some time. It's not really below my principles, but I don't have a method yet. Not sure it would even be worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chipping In to Help Boeing

Lead article in the Wichita Eagle today: Molly McMillin: Boeing Studying Future of Wichita Site. Lloyd Stearman founded Stearman Aircraft Corporation in Wichita in 1927. He later sold it to United Aircraft, which spun it off as a division of Boeing in 1934. During WWII the federal government built a huge expansion to Boeing's Wichita plant, where Boeing produced its legendary series of heavy bombers: B-17, B-29, B-47, B-52. From WWII up to 2005, Boeing was the largest employer in Wichita, and for most of that period Wichita was Boeing's largest plant outside of the Seattle area. In 2005, Boeing spun off most of its Wichita operations using the private equity firm Onex: the resulting company is called Spirit Aerosystems, and it continues to manufacture for Boeing. At the same time, Boeing retained its military division in Wichita, which is conveniently adjacent to McConnell Air Force Base. McConnell is the home base for the air force's KC-135 tanker fleet. Boeing has lobbied feverishly to replace the tanker fleet with new planes based on Boeing's now-obsolete 767 airframe, and we've been blanketed with promises of how many jobs the new tankers would bring to Kansas. As the article explains:

When Boeing was competing for an Air Force contract for up to 179 air refueling tankers, it told state leaders that winning the contract would mean 7,500 jobs for Kansas, including several hundred at Boeing Wichita, which would become a tanker finishing center. The contract would mean $388 million in economic impact to the state a year, the company said.

However, now that Boeing has prevailed over EADS in the tanker bid war, Boeing is having second thoughts. Much as 19th century railroads were more in the business of accumuliating government real estate subsidies, Boeing's manufacture of aircraft is just bait for their real mission, which is to auction off jobs for bribes. While there is no doubt that one big reason Boeing recently tried to move its 787 airframe production from Seattle to South Carolina was fervor for deunionizing its work force, the clincher was South Carolina coughing up a billion dollars for the favor of having its citizens underpaid by Boeing.

I've despised Boeing's tanker scam ever since its inception -- in its first incarnation it was presented as a lease program, as if the federal government couldn't finance its own purchases. The entire campaign has been as prime an example of crony capitalist corruption in Washington as you can imagine, but should be opposed for the simple reason that the last thing we should spend money on is a capability that would make it easier to get involved in wars around the globe. Needless to say, Kansas politicians signed up to the corruption immediately, and unconditionally. And, typical to form, their arguments highlighted all the promised jobs.

I've been saying all along that the jobs argument was bogus. In particular, nobody factors in the fact that the new tankers will eliminate all the jobs keeping the old tankers flying. Those old jobs are concentrated in Wichita -- some at Boeing, most at McConnell -- and it would be uneconomical to ever try to move those jobs. However, the jobs supporting the new tankers could be moved anywhere. As we've seen with the 787, Boeing feels no obligation to go with the workers who've built their planes in the past. (In fact, Boeing moved their headquarters from Seattle to Chicago so executives wouldn't feel any compunctions about laying off local workers and tanking their local economy.)

So this "study" is just the other shoe dropping. This comes less than a week after Bombardier started to shake down the city, county, and state governments to pay for a plant expansion in Wichita, or face the consequences of the (Canadian) company moving its work elsewhere. This portends yet another shakedown:

Boeing often performs feasibility studies on its sites, said former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who worked at Boeing before running for Congress [where he worked so tirelessly for Boeing that Bush nicknamed him "Tanker Todd," and once again works for Boeing as a consultant and lobbyist]. One of those studies led to Boeing's decision to sell its Wichita commercial business in 2005, which became Spirit AeroSystems, the state's largest private employer.

"I think they have to have a good understanding of where they are," Tiahrt said of Boeing.

One of Boeing Wichita's challenges is its limited customer base, Tiahrt said, and how to get more work into the Wichita area. At the same time, work on Air Force One will slow or go away next year, an election year, as the planes will be used for campaigning.

The Wichita facility also faces uncertainty next year as labor negotiations with its Machinists union open. Rates at the Wichita site are high when compared to other places, such as Boeing's modification center in San Antonio, Tiahrt said. The area is successfully working to attract aerospace business.

"Kansas has some real challenges in hanging onto the facility," Tiahrt said. "I think there is a path forward, but everybody is going to have to chip in."

Back in Reagan's "greed is good" 1980s we somehow bought into the logic that companies have no reason for being other than to suck up as much profit as possible for their investors. Now we see that the logical end of this concept is that a plant in Kansas which exists exclusively to service the military, not exactly a pinch-penny buyer, will be shut down because workers in Kansas are too unionized and make too much money -- unless, of course, the local taxpayers cough up more cash than any other area that covets the ever-shrinking jobs. But we've been "chipping in" for Boeing for decades now. The only thing one can reasonably conclude is that they're insatiable: that no matter what sweetheart deal you cut them, they'll always come back for more.

The only way to put an end to this practice would be to pass a nationwide law that would tax all the gain out of local government deals, so companies would have no incentive to play off one locale against another. (Plus it would help to make unions the norm rather than the exception.) If Kansas politicians wanted to stop looking like fools they'd take the lead on this. On the other hand, asking Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran, Todd Tiahrt, Mike Pompeo, et al. to stop acting like fools feels like a dream.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 19049 [19021] rated (+28), 836 [844] unrated (-8). Another week. Damned miserable one, if you ask me.

  • Jay-Z: The Hits Collection, Volume 1 (1998-2009 [2010], Def Jam/Roc Nation): Third or fourth such compilation, all promising more volumes, no second volumes yet. I count five top-10s here, including features for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Kanye West and Rihanna, so only two of his own leads -- "Izzo (HOVA)" and "Show Me What You Got" -- but he's an album guy: three cuts each from The Black Album and The Blueprint 3; none from his striking debut. Some stuff I'd pick, some I'd skip, leans harder than I'd like on the noise -- someone must think those are party anthems. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 15)

Still weary blues from waiting. Shivering cold, too. My big plans this week to engineer a ramp for the shed turned into failure, then the weather went north and I had to give up. Had every intent of punting here, but ultimately decided that fifteen Jazz Prospecting notes are too much to hold back.

Fabian Almazan Trio: Personalities (2010-11 [2011], Biophilia): Pianist, from Cuba, based in New York, first record. Ben Ratliff recently wrote him up as one of four young pianists doing innovative things, along with Kris Davis (whom I like a lot) and two others I hadn't heard of. The trio cuts, with Linda Oh on bass and Henry Cole on drums, offer an ambitious mix of postbop moves. Two more cuts add a string trio led by violinist Meg Okura, and they rub me the wrong way, especially the one written by someone named Shostakovich. B+(*)

Marc Copland/John Abercrombie: Speak to Me (2011, Pirouet): Piano-guitar duets, both long-time masters with a history of playing together -- I quickly found their Contact album in my HMs, but that was fleshed out with Dave Liebman, bass, and drums. In my note I talked about "each working their discreet charms." Here, without the rhythmic propulsion and the commanding voice of a harm, a better word would be "discrete." B+(*)

Phil Dwyer Orchestra: Changing Seasons (2011, ALMA): Composer, big band leader, plays saxophone and piano (only briefly here), b. 1965 in Canada; has at least three albums. This one adds a "Featuring Mark Fewer" byline -- Fewer plays the violin leads, and arranged the strings that supplement (and usually overshadow) the big band. Closer to classical than to jazz -- all swish and no swing -- with four movements, each named for a season. C+

The Jeff Gauthier Goatette: Open Source (2011, Cryptogramophone): Violinist, was involved in Vinny Golia's Nine Winds label back in the 1990s and launched Cryptogramophone around 2000, which has taken Golia's avant-garde tendencies and turned them into something more commercial -- Nels Cline is the label's star. Gauthier himself has five albums on the label (seven total). In this one four (of six) musicians are credited with effects -- Gauthier, John Fumo (trumpet), Nels Cline (guitar), and David Witham (keyboards, accordion) -- leaving only bass (Joel Hamilton) and drums (Alex Cline) with no extra tricks. The result is a semi-fusion, often impressive especially when everyone works in sync. B+(**)

The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble: Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff (2008 [2011], ECM): Gurdjieff was born c. 1866, father Greek, mother Armenian, in Armenia, then part of the Russian Empire, and died 1949, best known as some kind of spiritual teacher -- he described what he was doing as "esoteric Christianity" or "the fourth way." Along the way he wrote some music, often working with Thomas de Hartmann, drawing on Central Asian folk and religious music, Russian Orthodox liturgical music, and other sources. This is some of that, played on traditional instruments (oud, blul, kanon, santur, tar, saz, duduk, etc.) by a group in Yerevan, Armenia, under the direction of Levon Eskenian. This has a preserved-in-amber air: minimal, elegant, delicate, enchanting. B+(**)

Tim Hagans: The Moon Is Waiting (2011, Palmetto): Trumpet player, b. 1954 in Ohio, has had a rather scattered career with 11 albums since 1983 -- jazztronica fusion, tributes to Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, seems like mostly big band work lately. This is straightforward postbop, a quartet with Vic Juris on guitar, Rufus Reid on bass, Jukkis Uotila on drums (and piano). Juris is as distinctive as ever, which throws everything off just enough to give Hagans his edge. B+(**)

Kevin Hays: Variations (2011, Pirouet): Pianist, 13th album since 1994, not counting his recent duo with Brad Mehldau on Patrick Zimmerli's Modern Music, which this seems to be a study for. Twenty-four short cuts divided into three sets, most of the pieces appearing in variations in each. B+(**)

Maria Jameau and Blue Brazil: Gema (2010 [2011], Challenge): Singer, b. in Boston, middle name Billings, "has played piano for 30 years, with guitar, flute, and percussion as secondary instruments" (none evident here), has taught at New England Conservatory, based in Sebastopol, California, has one previous record. This is Brazil-themed, with pieces from Ben, Jobim, others less famous, and occasional hints of Africa. Local band includes guitar, "electric 8-string hybrid bass & guitar," percussion, and flute. Nicely done. B+(*)

Le Boeuf Brothers: In Praise of Shadows (2009-11 [2011], 19/8): Twins Remy Le Boeuf (alto sax, bass clarinet, tenor sax) and Pascal Le Boeuf (piano), lead a New York group with Mike Ruby (tenor sax), Linda Oh (bass), Henry Cole (drums), slipping in Nir Felder's guitar for one song, with Adria Le Boeuf doing "ambient vocals" on another, Pascal singing one, and a string quartet somewhere. Attempts to draw together various strands into "a rich brand of modern jazz"; has its moments, but sometimes when you try to be cleverly eclectic you wind up with a mish mash. B

Will Martina: The Dam Levels (2011, self-released): Cellist, born and raised in Canberra, Australia; based in New York. Has a few side credits, including with Burnt Sugar. First album, trio with Jason Lindner on piano and Richie Barshay on drums -- both adding significantly which keeps this very balanced. B+(**)

Bill McHenry: Ghosts of the Sun (2006 [2011], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, leading a quartet with Ben Monder (guitar), Reid Anderson (bass), and Paul Motian (drums). Postbop, a bit off center, probably because that's all the foundation the drummer provides. B+(*)

Pilc Moutin Hoenig: Threedom (2011, Motema): Piano trio: Jean-Michel Pilc (piano), François Moutin (bass), Ari Hoenig (drums). Pilc, b. 1960 in Paris, France, seemed to explode on the scene in 2000 with a rapid fire series of fast and fierce albums. I don't get the same sense here: not just that he's slowed down but that he's working inside the pieces -- needless to say, his sensitivity, touch, and wit are clearest on the half he didn't write. B+(*)

Jake Saslow: Crosby Street (2011, 14th Street): Tenor saxophonist, debut album, inventive postbop with a soft edge. With Mike Moreno (guitar) and/or Fabian Alamzan (piano), plus bass (Joe Martin) and drums (Marcus Gilmore). B+(**)

Joan Stiles: Three Musicians (2011, Oo-Bla-Dee): The other two, their names flanking Stiles' somewhat less boldly, are saxophonist Joel Frahm (tenor, one cut on soprano) and drummer Matt Wilson. Stiles is a pianist, moved from classical to jazz in 1986 at Manhattan School of Music, and contiues to teach there and at the New School. Third album, the group here stripped down from the sextet she used on the remarkable Hurly Burly. Two originals, not counting "In the Sunshine of My Funny Valentine's Love" which is credited to Rodgers/Clapton/Bach. One from Mary Lou Williams, who is more than a research interest, followed by two Monks, which set up the remarkable interpolation of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?/Can't Buy Me Love." Frahm is superb, of course, in etching out the themes Stiles elaborates. B+(***)

The Tierney Sutton Band: American Road (2011, BFM Jazz): Sutton is a standards singer, ninth album since 1998; I don't know them all, but wasn't much impressed until she got happy with On the Other Side in 2006. After a good record idiosyncrasies start to look like character traits, although the confluence of the two would be pretty clear here in any case. She's in the band as a matter of principle, but singer's bands are meant to be invisible -- Betty Carter's excepted, of course, but we're not talking her here -- and this one is pretty anonymous. Her standards this time are well worn, and she piles the weight on, more than "On Broadway" can handle, enough to make "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" creak. And I'm dumfounded by an "Amazing Grace" that isn't anywhere near graceful but remarkable nonetheless, and an "America the Beautiful" that isn't, that I'd just as soon not be bothered with. She's finally convinced me that she's kind of weird. But she's still not Betty Carter. B+(**)

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:

  • Michael Campagna: Moments (Challenge)
  • Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi: Think Thoughts (self-released)
  • Tony Jones: Pitch, Rhythm, and Consciousness (New Artists): CDR of LP-only release
  • Nicolas Masson: Departures (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Carol Ann Muller & Sathima Bea Benjamin: Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Duke University Press): paperback book
  • Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá: Viola Tango Rock Concerto (Navona, DVD)
  • The Oscuro Quintet: Music for Tango Ensemble (Big Round)
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM)

Expert Comments

Christgau wrote a piece at BN Review on anthologies of rock crit by Ellen Willis and Paul Nelson. Joe Yanosik came up with a list of anthologies by other 1970s rock critics: Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Jon Landau, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Richard Meltzer, Robert Palmer, and Nick Tosches, and asked if he had missed anyone/anything. My comment:

Joe: When I've talked about early rock critics who have influenced me, I've always listed Paul Williams as well as Bangs and Christgau. The essential book is Outlaw Blues. Of course, there were other important writers that don't have anthologies attached to their names, like Geoff Stokes and Ed Ward -- their Rock of Ages is still hard to improve upon -- and John Morthland -- ditto for his country music guide. And I'll also drop in Georgia Christgau's name -- I learned as much from her as from anyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Steve Benen: House Easily Rejects Balanced Budget Amendment: Well, only because a 2/3 supermajority was required: the actual vote was 261 for, 165 against, which is scary close for something so flat-out stupid. All but 4 Republicans lined up behind proof that conservatism still amounts to little more than irritable gestures. But also note that 25 Democrats made the same gesture. For what it's worth, a balanced budget requirement would prevent the federal government from doing some fundamentally awful things, like waging war -- indeed, Alexander Hamilton's advocacy of a national debt can largely be attributed to his bloodthirsty desire to mix it up with the great powers of Europe. However, it would also make it impossible to engage in countercyclical spending, which would preclude government from doing anything near adequate to reduce the destruction of business cycle downturns. Virtually everyone would be hurt by such a constraint, which makes it all the more scandalous that a majority of Congress could desire such a thing. (By the way, Paul Ryan, whose budget includes tax cuts that would immediately result in huge deficits, voted against.)

  • Henry Farrell/Cosma Shalizi: Nudge and Democracy: On the Richard Thaler/Cass Sunstein theory they perversely like to call "libertarian paternalism" -- descriptive enough but why would one want to admit to that? As quoted by Henry at Crooked Timber:

    This points to the key problem with "nudge" style paternalism: presuming that technocrats understand what ordinary people want better than the people themselves. There is no reason to think technocrats know better, especially since Thaler and Sunstein offer no means for ordinary people to comment on, let alone correct, the technocrats' prescriptions. This leaves the technocrats with no systematic way of detecting their own errors, correcting them, or learning from them. And technocracy is bound to blunder, especially when it is not democratically accountable.

    Sunstein is a prominent Obama adviser, and Obama has frequently shown an inordinate fondness for nudge-type policies, often at personal cost. For instance, his tax cut policies, including the "payroll tax holiday," were untouted to make them look like found money, so no one gives him credit for putting that money in their pockets.

  • Peter Frase: Labor's Share in Cross-National Perspective: The key thing to take away here is this chart (not that there isn't much more):

    What this shows is that until about 1975 increases in productivity were reflected in middle class -- which mostly means union-organized working class -- incomes. After that they diverged as business became able to deny labor virtually any fraction of the gains. Several blips occur during recessions -- in 1979-83, 1989-92, and from 2000 on with a double-blip in 2007 -- because the labor divisor drops faster than production in a recession. On the other hand, if business is able to reap all of the profits of productivity gains, they have some built-in insurance against economic downturns. Unemployment also weakens labor, another reason businesses don't seem to worry much these days about a prolonged recession.

  • Andrew Leonard: Bill Clinton's Alternate, Unbelievable Reality: On Clinton's new book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy:

    Back to Work includes a cogent analysis of where the U.S. has gone astray, is full of sensible ideas to encourage job creation and economic growth, and makes a robust defense of the notion that strong government is a good thing. But so what? The people who will buy and read this book not only already agree with just about everything that's in it, but they also already know it all. There's almost nothing here that hasn't been proposed by the Obama administration, or that isn't already a stock part of the mainstream Democratic agenda. Which makes it all completely meaningless in the context of current political gridlock. Clinton wants us to get back to a government based on doing things that work -- but as has become abundantly evident in the past few years, congressional Republicans are content with a system that doesn't work. And neither Obama nor Clinton has any leverage to change that reality, unless Democrats enjoy a surprising victory in the 2012 election.

    Any imaginary history that plucks Bill Clinton out of 1992 and time-travels him into 2008 has to grapple with some mighty big historical transformations. For most of his two terms, Bill Clinton enjoyed a huge wind at his back -- a stunning period of economic growth that was in large part fueled by two things he can take zero credit for: the end of the Cold War and the massive tech boom. And even without the black hole of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression sucking at his presidency from the moment he moved into the White House, Clinton still managed to make a pretty big mess of things in his first two years. His efforts to push through the first priority on his political agenda -- healthcare reform -- failed miserably and contributed heavily to one of the worst midterm election defeats faced by a sitting Democratic president in a century. The Obama midterm debacle was even bigger, but in some ways less embarrassing. Until Clinton came along, Democrats had held a majority in the House of Representatives for 40 years.

    When Clinton was elected in 1992 the first thing he proposed was a stimulus package to help pull us out of the recession that sunk Bush, and (unlike Obama) he failed even to get that paltry package passed. The Republicans then were dead set opposed to using public funds to facilitate economic growth when a Democrat was president, and they're even more dead set against it now: one big reason why even if Clinton's wonkery is mostly solid it's not likely to do any good.

    It's cute for Clinton to pretend that any "militant antitax" folk would even purchase Back to Work, much less be reading it as far as Page 111 without their heads exploding. The sad truth -- and this is something that Clinton is surely aware of -- is that all the well-meaning and pragmatically effective job creation tools in the world are worth nothing when matched up against the scorched earth tactics and extreme calcified ideology of the current Republican Party. Clinton's great 1990s nemesis, Newt Gingrich, is a moderate when compared to the GOP's Tea Party backbone -- something Gingrich learned to his shock when he had the temerity to criticize Paul Ryan's budget as "right-wing social engineering."

  • Alex Pareene: Old People Getting Richer, Young People Getting Poorer: Saw this report in the Eagle earlier, which immediately tripped off several bullshit detectors. On its surface it does make sense, if for no other reason than how much debt for college has grown. This piece focuses more on medians than means, which helps but it's impossible to sort out so much distortion over in 1% land. Still:

    This growing disparity is the result of a lot of factors, but the most powerful force driving the net worth of young people ever downward is debt. Lots of young people are, as we have repeatedly noted, graduating college with mountains of student loan debt, and today's job market is not exactly robust. And many young people who listened to the conventional wisdom and purchased a home have found that to be a poor investment. Old people who already owned their homes weathered the housing bubble and its collapse largely intact. Homeowners 35 and under were and are simply screwed.

    To make up for the fact that advertisers and film industry marketers don't care for them, old people instead have the United States Congress, which is made up almost entirely of old people. For old people, America is practically a European socialist utopia, with single-payer healthcare and everything. It's laissez-faire for the rest of us suckers.

  • Arthur Rizer/Joseph Hartman: How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police:

    The extent of this weapon "inflation" does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles (mini-tanks) for use in domestic police work.

    To assist them in deploying this new weaponry, police departments have also sought and received extensive military training and tactical instruction. Originally, only the largest of America's big-city police departments maintained S.W.A.T. teams, and they were called upon only when no other peaceful option was available and a truly military-level response was necessary. Today, virtually every police department in the nation has one or more S.W.A.T. teams, the members of whom are often trained by and with United States special operations commandos. Furthermore, with the safety of their officers in mind, these departments now habitually deploy their S.W.A.T. teams for minor operations such as serving warrants. In short, "special" has quietly become "routine."

    The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the "men in blue" from "peace officer" to soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to "keep the peace." Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that -- suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the "bad guys." [ . . . ]

    Soldiers, by contrast, are trained to identify people they encounter as belonging to one of two groups -- the enemy and the non-enemy -- and they often reach this decision while surrounded by a population that considers the soldier an occupying force. Once this identification is made, a soldier's mission is stark and simple: kill the enemy, "try" not to kill the non-enemy. Indeed, the Soldier's Creed declares, "I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat." This is a far cry from the peace officer's creed that expects its adherents "to protect and serve."

  • Matt Taibbi: Mike Bloomberg's Marie Antoinette Moment: Actually, I was starting to think that NYC Mayor Bloomberg was auditioning for the role of Bull Connor. Bloomberg has some sort of reputation as a moderate, but that's on an imaginary political spectrum that doesn't include Wall Street at one end. Where Wall Street is involved, he's as stridently committed as Connor was to white supremacy or Antoinette was to L'etat, c'est moi.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prepping for Gallipoli

Saw this in the Eagle this morning, and it turned my stomach: Ben Feller: Countering China, Obama asserts US a Pacific power. AP article. Some quotes:

Signaling a determination to counter a rising China, President Barack Obama vowed Thursday to expand U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region and "project power and deter threats to peace" in that part of the world even as he reduces defense spending and winds down two wars.

"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay," he declared in a speech to the Australian Parliament, sending an unmistakable message to Beijing.

Obama's bullish speech came several hours after announcing he would send military aircraft and up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia for a training hub to help allies and protect American interests across Asia. He declared the U.S. is not afraid of China, by far the biggest and most powerful country in the region. [ . . . ]

Emphasizing that a U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region is a top priority of his administration, Obama stressed that any reductions in U.S. defense spending will not come at the expense of that goal.

"Let there be no doubt: in the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in," he said. [ . . . ]

Obama's visit marked the first time a sitting U.S. president has been to Darwin, where U.S. and Australian forces were killed in a Japanese attack during World War II. The president was to lay a wreath at a memorial for the USS Peary, a Navy destroyer that was sunk during that battle. [ . . . ]

With military bases and tens of thousands of troops in Japan and South Korea, the United States has maintained a significant military presence in Asia for decades. Australia lies about 5,500 miles south of China, and its northern shores would give the U.S. easier access to the South China Sea, a vital commercial route.

The plan outlined by Obama will allow the United States to keep a sustained force on Australian bases and position equipment and supplies there, giving the U.S. ability to train with allies in the region and respond more quickly to humanitarian or other crises. U.S. officials said the pact was not an attempt to create a permanent American military presence in Australia.

About 250 U.S. Marines will begin a rotation in northern Australia starting next year, with a full force of 2,500 military personnel staffing up over the next several years. The United States will bear the cost of the deployment and the troops will be shifted from other deployments around the world. [ . . . ]

Obama's visit is intended to show the tightness of that relationship and he hailed the long ties between the United States and Australia, two nations far away that have spilled blood together.

"From the trenches of the First World War to the mountains of Afghanistan -- Aussies and Americans have stood together, fought together and given their lives together in every single major conflict of the past hundred years. Every single one," he said.

There's a tendency to treat this as business as usual, but at a time when the US occupation of Iraq has nearly wound down and the operating assumption is that US troop levels in Afghanistan will start to decline, when there's nearly universal agreement on the need to reduce military spending, this is an unnecessary and provocative new venture, intended to, well, do what? Prove that the world's most genocidal Anglo-settler nations are still joined at the hip? Show that the US is planning on entering yet another generation of Asian land wars? Prove that Obama is still under the thumb of the Joint Chiefs?

Over the last few years, we've seen a virulent outbreak of books fretting over the looming threat that China, with its huge population and burgeoning economic growth, might challenge the US for dominant superpower status. Reading such books involves a lot of navel gazing, since the essential premise is that China in the future will wind up acting exactly like the US has in the past. Perhaps the most disturbing prospect from today's news is that Obama may actually be reading such rubbish. True, one might argue that the US has lost leverage recently in its ability to influence politics in the bottom tier of "developing countries" but this has nothing to do with lack of military resources, and everything to do with their uselessness.

Meanwhile, Obama has utterly failed to confront the real Chinese threat: the way its currency manipulation preserves a crippling US trade deficit. The core reasons here is that Chinese businesses think in terms of national (which is to say popular) interests, where US government policymakers have chosen to support the world capitalist class with little or no regard for Americans who merely work for a living. Such policies started in the Cold War when the US gladly built up the economies of former powers like Germany and Japan as as well as borderlands like Korea and Taiwan as bullwarks against Communism. At first the US could afford such largesse. Later, as we started sinking billions into foreign oil, the ascendant right was happy to repatriate our losses by swelling the financial sector and selling off assets for inflated prices: in effect, our trade deficits became a pipeline redistributing wealth from the working class to the very rich.

No one but the neocons really thinks China's going to be impressed by the US caching arms in Australia. That Obama's bought into their phallic fantasies -- the whole "real men go to Tehran" thing -- is just sad. That he would defend the country from military threats that exist only in the fevered imaginations of discredited neocons but has no interest or desire to stop companies -- after forty consecutive years of trade deficits as likely to be foreign owned as not, and certain to have massive foreign investments -- from shutting down US jobs and moving them overseas is cowardly and indifferent. That he would mourn the loss of soldiers abroad 70 years ago but won't stand up to banks throwing people out of their homes, to business owners shutting down factories, to schools closing, here in America today, is just plain perverted.

As for Australia, the people there need to ask themselves how many more Koreas and Vietnams and Iraqs and Afghanistans will they let the US drag them into, not to mention the possible Gallipolis our alliance promises them.

Jane Phillips

Just found out that Jane Phillips died on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011. She was married to my old friend Bill Phillips ever since, well, long before I met Bill -- probably 34 years ago, they had a teenage son at the time. Here's a service notice. Haven't been able to sift through Bill's many facebook posts to see if I can glean any more details, but one note from June 2011 had her in the hospital, and I gather that was not the first time.

Expert Comments

Patrick finally announced the results of his 1990 poll:

  1. Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet 429 (32) [2]
  2. LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out 392 (29) [4]
  3. The Chills: Submarine Bells 255 (23) [3]
  4. Tom Zé: Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé 240 (18) [3]
  5. Sonic Youth: Goo 218 (25) [6]
  6. Pixies: Bossanova 203 (18) [7]
  7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Ragged Glory 163 (16) [8]
  8. Red Hot + Blue 133 (14) [3]
  9. Rosanne Cash: Interiors 128 (14) [6]
  10. Dr. Sir Warrior & Oriental Brothers Inernational: Heavy on the Highlife! 109 (9) [4]
  11. Beats International: Let Them Eat Bingo 99 (10) [5]
  12. Sinead O'Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got 81 (8) [6]
  13. The Beautiful South: Welcome to the Beautiful South 73 (6) [6]
  14. Nick Lowe: Party of One 71 (8) [6]
  15. The Flatlanders: More a Legend Than a Band 61 (6) [3]
  16. Bob Dylan: Under the Red Sky 60 (5) [5]
  17. Pet Shop Boys: Behavior 53 (5) [6]
  18. L7: Smell the Magic 52 (7) [6]
  19. Fugazi: Repeater 49 (5) [5]
  20. Brand Nubian: One for All 49 (3) [3]
  21. A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm 45 (5) [2]
  22. Eric B. & Rakim: Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em 42 (4) [4]
  23. Superchunk: Superchunk 42 (3) [1]
  24. Lou Reed/John Cale: Songs for Drella 39 (5) [4]
  25. Pharoah Sanders: Welcome to Love 38 (4) [0]
  26. Paul Simon: The Rhythm of the Saints 35 (4) [0]
  27. The Clean: Vehicle 33 (3) [2]
  28. They Might Be Giants: Flood 32 (3) [2]
  29. The Breeders: Pod 30 (3) [1]
  30. Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Classic Tracks 25 (3) [0]
  31. Blake Babies: Sunburn 23 (3) [3]
  32. My Bloody Valentine: Glider 23 (3) [2]
  33. Traveling Wilburys: Vol. 3 23 (3) [1]
  34. Jali Musa Jawara: Yasimika 23 (3) [0]
  35. Freedy Johnston: The Trouble Tree 23 (2) [1]
  36. Lisa Stansfield: Affection 21 (2) [5]
  37. Eno/Cale: Wrong Way Up 20 (2) [4]
  38. Pylon: Chain 17 (2) [3]
  39. The Carl Stalling Project 16 (3) [1]
  40. George Arvanitas/David Murray: Tea for Two 16 (2) [0]
  41. The Civil War 16 (2) [0]

Other records mentioned by voters (Richard Cobeen, Scott Coleman, Joey Daniewicz, Jason Gubbels, Paul Hayden, Chris Hurst, Mike Imes, Tom Lane, Brad Luen, Joe Lunday, Jeff Melnick, Chris Monsen, Cam Patterson, Mark Rosen, John Smallwood, Stanley Whyte, Joe Yanosik; Anderson PM, Frapton, JeffC77, Mark926, RobT-2, rstay, same thing backwards, sharpsm):

  • Able Tasmans: Hey Spinner!
  • Thomas Anderson: "Alright It Was Frank -- And He's Risen From the Dead and Gone Off With His Truck [+]
  • Ass Ponys: Mr. Superlove
  • Aztec Camera: Stray
  • Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker [+]
  • Art Blakey/Dr. John/David "Fathead" Newman: Bluesiana Triangle
  • Eric Bogosian: Sex Drugs Rock & Roll
  • Boogie Down Productions: Edutainment
  • Garth Brooks: No Fences
  • Buffalo Tom: Birdbrain [+]
  • Carlene Carter: I Fell in Love
  • Comme a L'Ecole [+]
  • Cumbia Cumbia [+]
  • Dee-Lite: World Clique [+]
  • The Deighton Family: Mama Was Right
  • Digital Underground: Sex Packets
  • Bill Dixon: Son of Sisyphus [+]
  • Dry Branch Fire Squad: Fertile Ground [+]
  • Joe Ely: Live at Liberty Lunch
  • The Fall: Extricate
  • Guo Brothers and Shung Tian: Yuan
  • Charlie Haden & Liberation Music Orchestra: Dream Keeper [+]
  • Happy Mondays: Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches
  • Eddie Harris: There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem)
  • Hi-Jivin'
  • Shirley Horn: You Won't Forget Me
  • Ice Cube: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
  • Ice Cube: Kill at Will
  • The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Vol. 3: Freedom Fire
  • Pepe Kalle: L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Private Waters in the Great Divide
  • Kid Frost: Hispanic Causing Panic
  • Alison Krauss: I've Got That Old Feeling
  • Fela Anikulapo Kuti: ODOO
  • The La's: The La's
  • Living Colour: Time's Up
  • Los Lobos: The Neighborhood
  • Loketo: Soukous Trouble
  • Monie Love: Down to Earth
  • Evan Lurie: Selling Water by the Side of the River
  • Madonna: I'm Breathless
  • Samba Mapangala/Orchestra Virunga: Virunga Volcano
  • Mekons: F.U.N. '90
  • Ministry: In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (Live)
  • Van Morrison: Enlightenment
  • David Murray: Special Quartet [+]
  • Youssou N'Dour: Set
  • Pavement: Demolition Plot J-7
  • The Pooh Sticks: Formula One Generation
  • Poor Righteous Teachers: Holy Intellect
  • Pretenders: Packed!
  • Prince: Graffiti Bridge
  • Ride: Nowhere
  • Ride: Smile [+]
  • Salt-N-Pepa: Black's Magic
  • Ravi Shankar/Phillip Glass: Passages
  • Social Distortion: Social Distortion
  • Soul II Soul: Vol. II A New Decade
  • Straitjacket Fits: Melt
  • Uncle Tupelo: No Depression
  • Was (Not Was): Are You Okay?
  • The Waterboys: Room to Roam
  • Doc Watson: On Praying Ground [+]
  • Kelly Willis: Well Traveled Love
  • Yalla: Hitlist Egypt
  • Yo La Tengo: Fakebook
  • Dwight Yoakam: If There Was a Way
  • Zaiko Langa Langa Familia Dei: Songa Fiele [+]
  • Zimbabwe Frontline Vol. 2: Spirit of the Eagle
  • John Zorn: Naked City

Belatedly sent in my ballot:

My 1990 ballot, done quick at the last moment:

  1. The Beautiful South: Welcome to the Beautiful South (Go! Discs) 17
  2. Pet Shop Boys: Behavior (EMI America) 16
  3. Pharoah Sanders: Welcome to Love (Timeless) 13
  4. Carlene Carter: I Fell in Love (Reprise) 10
  5. L.L. Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out (Def Jam) 8
  6. The Chills: Submarine Bells (Slash) 8
  7. Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam) 8
  8. Beats International: Let Them Eat Bingo (Elektra) 8
  9. K.T. Oslin: Love in a Small Town (RCA) 6
  10. David Murray/George Arvanitas: Tea for Two (Fresh Sound) 6

Also sent in a long list of HMs (the balance of my A-list). Omitting the top 40 finishers (not that that loses much):

  • Marcia Ball/Angela Strehli/Lou Ann Barton: Dreams Come True (Antone's)
  • Salt-N-Pepa: Black's Magic (London)
  • Madonna: I'm Breathless (Sire)
  • David Murray: Ballads (DIW)
  • Eyuphuro: Mama Mosambiki (Real World)
  • Eddie Harris: There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem) (Enja)
  • Marian McPartland: Plays the Benny Carter Songbook (Concord)
  • Was (Not Was): Are You Okay? (Chrysalis)
  • Sonny Sharrock: Highlife (Enemy)
  • Betty Boo: Boomania (Warner Brothers)
  • Don Pullen: Random Thoughts (Blue Note)
  • David Murray: Spirituals (DIW)
  • Macka-B: Natural Suntan (RAS)
  • Loketo: Soukous Trouble (Shanachie)
  • Herb Geller: Birdland Stomp (Fresh Sound)
  • Macka-B: Looks Are Deceiving (RAS)
  • Marty Grosz/Keith Ingham: Unsaturated Fats (Stomp Off)
  • The Deighton Family: Mama Was Right (Philo)
  • Bud Shank: Lost in the Stars (Fresh Sound)
  • Samba Mapangala/Orchestra Virunga: Virunga Volcano (Earthworks)
  • Art Blakey/Dr. John/David "Fathead" Newman: Bluesiana Triangle (Windham Hill)
  • Soul II Soul: Vol. II A New Decade (Virgin)
  • Daniel Owino Misiani: Benga Blast! (Earthworks)
  • Michael Hashim: Lotus Blossom (Stash)
  • Michael Formanek: Wide Open Spaces (Enja)
  • Digital Underground: Sex Packets (Tommy Boy)
  • The La's: The La's (London)
  • Sheila Jordan: Lost and Found (Muse)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Tune In Tomorrow (Columbia)
  • Ali Farka Touré: The River (Mango)
  • Either/Orchestra: The Calculus of Pleasure (Accurate)
  • Jan Garbarek/Ustad Fateh Ali Khan: Ragas and Sagas (ECM)
  • C+C Music Factory: Gonna Make You Sweat (Columbia)
  • Digital Underground: This Is an E.P. Release (Tommy Boy)
  • Jackie McLean: Dynasty (Triloka)
  • Simon Shaheen: The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom)
  • Archie Shepp: I Didn't Know About You (Timeless)
  • Lester Bowie: My Way (DIW)
  • Cecil Taylor: Looking (Berlin Version) The Feel Trio (FMP)
  • Victoria Williams: Swing the Statue! (Rough Trade)
  • Dick Berk: Bouncin' With Berk (Nine Winds)
  • Going through the 1990 list I'm struck by a couple memories. One is that a lot of my top-rated records were ones that I first heard at Georgia Christgau's house in the Catskills. We met Bob and Carola there and he brought along his usual travel box, and for some reason an exceptional number of them clicked. The other is that a lot of the jazz came from Francis Davis' Jazz CG and Gary Giddins' year-end list, which got me started on my 1990s jazz immersion. I wasn't reviewing anything at the time, but in many ways this year got me going again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Roundup

Last one June 21. I figured I was overdue for one of these 2-3 weeks ago. Indeed, without trying very hard I see I have 56 books left in the queue after separting out the 40 below, so I could do one more tomorrow and still have plenty of seed corn. I generally try to find books of possible interest on the current political state, but let my mind wander into other areas that interest me. I'm not very consistent in covering the right's rantings: sometimes I'll come up with something to say, often not. For instance, looking back at my collected book notes, I see that I've only written up one Ann Coulter book -- I guess I was struck by the image of "pro-Obamacare fanatics" rioting in the streets.

Alaa Al Aswany: On the State of Egypt: What Made the Revolution Inevitable (paperback, 2011, Vintage Books): Short book on the revolution in Egypt by a well-known novelist. I expect we will soon be deluged with books on Egypt: recent examples range from Joel Beinin/Frederic Vairel, eds: Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (paperback, 2011, Stanford University Press); to Alex Nunns/Nadia Idle, eds: Tweets From Tahrir: Egypt's Revolution as It Unfolded, in the Words of the People Who Made it (paperback, 2011, OR Books).

James R Arnold: The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913 (2011, Bloomsbury Press): After the Spanish-American War (1898), after the long bloody fight to put down the Filipino independence movement (1898-1902), a group of Muslims fought on against the American colonizers. This is their story. Also available: Robert A Fulton: Moroland: The History of Uncle Sam and the Moros 1899-1920 (paperback, 2007, Tumalo Creek Press).

Stanley Aronowitz: The Jobless Future (second edition, paperback, 2010, University of Minnesota Press): Originally published in 1994, now "fully updated and with a new introduction": we all know that technology destroys more jobs than it creates, but rather than using it to eliminate workers from the economy we should take a look at the social conditions under which such relief from work would be a blessing.

Jay Bahadur: The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World (2011, Pantheon): Journalist, went to Somalia and worked his way into the pirate havens, met people, talked shop, managed to get out and write a book about it. Probably knows more about the subject than any of us ever will, although I've seen at least one more book that makes a similar claim: Peter Eichstaedt: Pirate State: Inside Somalia's Terrorism at Sea (2010, Lawrence Hill Books); and there are others that approach the subject from a safer distance, like Martin N Murphy: Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World (paperback, 2010, Columbia University Press).

Abhijit V Banerjee/Esther Duflo: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (2011, Public Affairs): What's radical is that it looks at how poor people live, rather than trying to deduce that from economic theory.

Jeremy Ben-Ami: A New voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation (2011, Palgrave Macmillan): Founder of J Street, a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby meant to challenge right-wing AIPAC. The problem with J Street isn't so much their slavish love for Israel (although that can get to be pretty annoying) as their self-delusion that Israel is in danger of destruction if peace isn't negotiated, whereas Israel has clearly proven that they can fight forever. Indeed, since their identity is so wrapped up in the conflict, one can just as well argue that the only way Israel can continue to be Israel is to keep the fight going: that peace would start some inexorable decay of the Jewish State.

Jimmy Breslin: Branch Rickey (2011, Penguin): Short profile (160 pp), probably focuses on Rickey's tenure with the Dodgers given that Breslin is very much a home-towner. That would leave so much uncovered one almost hopes the book is more about Breslin himself -- one could do worse.

Dick Cheney: In My Life: A Personal and Political Memoir (2011, Threshold Editions): Saw a pile of this in the bookstore recently. The person I was with pointed out it belonged in the true crime section.

Terry Eagleton: Why Marx Was Right (2011, Yale University Press): Longtime Marxist literary critic, from Ireland, kicks back agaisnt the assumption that Marx is irrelevant to the post-Soviet world. Strikes me as an academic argument, not that Marxists haven't had much of value in the critique of capitalism ever since Marx started sorting it out.

Peter Firstbrook: The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family (2011, Crown): Probably an interesting book in its own right; possibly the first such book to trace back the roots of an African family -- I imagine it being somewhat like Ian Frazier's Family, except most likely not as well documented. On the other hand, Barack Obama has always been so far removed from those roots that it's unlikely to shed any light on anything having to do with him or his administration. (Not that Dinesh D'Souza can't hallucinate.)

Thomas L Friedman/Michael Mandelbaum: That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back (2011, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Two of the stupidest people in America -- Friedman needs no introduction; Mandelbaum has written his share of nonsense too, like The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century and The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era.

John Geyman: Hijacked: The Road to Single Payer in the Aftermath of Stolen Health Care Reform (paperback, 2010, Common Courage Press): Doctor, prominent in PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program), has written a series of books on how the practice of medicine has been corrupted by corporate interests. Argues that Obama's reform act is just another instance of this.

John Geyman: Breaking Point: How the Primary Care Crisis Endangers the Lives of Americans (paperback, 2011, Copernicus Healthcare): Longtime critic of America's health care racket, a doctor and advocate for single-payer health insurance, turns his attention to the increasingly lost art of primary care.

André Gorz: Ecologica (2010, Seagull Books), and The Immaterial (2010, Seagull Books): Two final books of critical theory by Gorz, who died in 2007. More than any other Marxist critic, Gorz saw the need to transform increased productivity into a shorter working life. I more or less figured that out on the basis of something Paul Sweezy wrote in the 1950s, but Gorz pushed the argument further than anyone else. Also newly available is the second edition of Critique of Economic Reason (1989; 2nd ed, paperback, 2011, Verso).

Rod Hill/Anthony Myatt: The Economics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Microeconomics (paperback, 2010, Zed Books): Picks apart classical micro, most likely by comparing it to the messy reality the models try to abstract from.

J Hoberman: Army Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War (2011, New Press): Longtime Village Voice film critic, goes back to the 1946-56 period in search of demons -- a period of purges and black lists in the movie industry.

Eric Hobsbawm: How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism (2011, Little Brown UK): Intellectual history, with sections on Marx and his period and influence, the struggle against fascism, postwar Marxism, up to the recent. An historian who knows both the period and the lore well.

Russell Jacoby: Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence From Cain and Abel to the Present (2011, Free Press): Barbara Ehrenreich wrote convincingly on this in 1997 (Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War), but Jacoby seems to stress the fratricidal aspect, extrapolating on to Hutu/Tutsi, etc.

Michio Kaku: Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 (2011, Doubleday): Physics writer, cosmology mostly; as I recall he got into the game with superstring theory, which is about the point when I lost interest in it. But this looks to be mere futurology, a literary genre that has never managed to get anything right.

Michael Kazin: American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (2011, Knopf): Broad strokes history, but as Andrew Bacevich recently conceded, virtually every beneficial change in American history was advanced by the left and opposed by the right. Kazin's specialty is the populist period and William Jennings Bryan, but he also co-wrote with Maurice Isserman, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s.

David Kirkpatrick: The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World (2010, Simon & Schuster): Insider-ish history of the company and the thinking behind the social network tool.

Lawrence Lessig: Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress, and a Plan to Stop It (2011, Twelve): Nothing could be more true. Tries to posit his critique of the corrupting influence of money outside of the right-left axis, but the essential point of the right is their subversion of democracy, which generally puts them in league with the corrupters -- at the very least, they figure the process works more for them than against them, and they're so desperate for power they'll take those odds.

Bernard Lewis: The End of Modern History in the Middle East (2011, Hoover Institute Press): The guy who understands so little about the Middle East that he's frequently consulted by neocons seems to be running out of things to write about.

Michael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (2011, WW Norton): Travelogues relating to high finance, or mischief, or both. The "new third world" means old first world countries saddled with so much debt they're sinking fast: you know, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, the United States.

Anatol Lieven: Pakistan: A Hard Country (2011, Public Affairs): Financial Times journalist, covered the Chechen Wars. I thought his America Right of Wrong was an uncommonly smart book, but I'm less sure about his coverage of America's terrorism wars. Still, this could be one of the better books on Pakistan, a country that America's political and military leaders cavalierly fuck with but don't begin to understand. Other recent Pakistan books: MJ Akbar: Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan (2011, Harper Collins); Pamela Constable: Playing With Fire: Pakistan at War With Itself (2011, Random House); Imtiaz Gul: The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier (2010; paperback, 2011, Penguin Books); Steve Inskeep: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi (2011, Penguin Books); Maleeha Lodhi, ed: Pakistan: Beyond the "Crisis State" (2011, Cambridge University Press); Iftikhar Malik: Pakistan: Democracy, Terrorism, and the Building of a Nation (paperback, 2010, Olive Tree Press); Bruce Riedel: Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad (2011, Brookings Institution Press); John R Schmidt: The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad (2011, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Dale Maharidge: Someplace Like America: Tales From the New Great Depression (2011, University of California Press): Photographs by Michael S Williamson. Starts back in the 1980s -- when GM had 618,000 employees and WalMart 23,000 -- and details the deliberate destruction of the middle class in America. Author previously wrote And Their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: James Agee, Walker Evans, and the Rise and Fall of Cotton in the South; Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass; Denison, Iowa: Searching for the Soul of America Through the Secrets of a Midwest Town; and Heartland.

Charles C Mann: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (2011, Knopf): Previously wrote 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which surveyed what little is known about American Indian history before 1492. This focuses on the exchanges between old and new worlds once regular contact was established, such as Europe's discovery of potatoes and tomatoes, and the introduction to the "new world" of smallpox, gunpowder, and slavery: truly an intercourse that profoundly changed both worlds.

Arno Mayer: The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War (1981; paperback, 2010, Verso): Part of a series reprinting prominent Marxist historical works. Mayer's classic works on the post-WWI settlement date from 1959 (Political Origins of the New Diplomacy) and 1967 (Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking), so this works backward, fleshing out his sketchy Dynamics of Counter-Revolution in Europe, 1870-1956. I've read most of the above plus Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? and Plowshares Into Swords but had missed this one.

Joe McGinniss: The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin (2011, Crown): Veteran journalist, wrote a book about Nixon's 1968 campaign, and later wrote a book about Alaska, so why not? Famously got on his subject's nerves by moving next door to her. Presumably dug up some dirt on her, rather than going for her more obvious political problems.

Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010; paperback, 2011, Scribner): Big (608 pp.) book, won a Pulitzer, by an oncologist who brings his patients in for a view as well as recalling the history -- mostly medical research and treatment since that's what we know the most about.

Sylvia Nasar: Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius (2011, Simon & Schuster): A survey of major economic thinkers. Not sure how many could be called geniuses, although some can. She previously wrote A Beautiful Mind about John Nash, a tighter focus that was converted into a successful movie. Maybe Ken Burns can find some old photos of Marx and Engels and Mayhew and Dickens and make something of this.

Ilan Pappé: The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of Palestinians in Israel (2011, Yale University Press): The Palestinians who didn't flee from Israeli armed forces during the 1947-49 war -- a story Pappé covered in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine -- were given citizenship in Israel at the same time those who left were barred from ever returning. Supposedly the "Palestinian citizens of Israel" were integrated into the enlightened liberal democracy, but from 1948-67 they lived apart under military rule. In 1967 military administration shifted to the occupied territorites, but separation and discrimination against Palestinians within Israel has hardly stopped, and in some ways is worse now than it was, especially before the Intifada.

Christian Parenti: Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011, Nation Books): An effort to recast current and future conflicts as resource wars, the rate of which will increase as climate change stresses the peoples of the planet. There is possibly some truth to that, but there's also a wide room for error. Author previously wrote The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America From Slavery to the War on Terror.

Corey Robin: The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011, Oxford University Press): "Tracing conservatism back to its roots in the reaction against the French Revolution, Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market, others oppose it. Some criticize the state, others celebrate it. Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality." That's about right.

Jack Ross: Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism (2011, Potomac Books): Berger was a reform rabbi, head of American Council for Judaism, a forceful critic of Israel from before its founding up through the 1967 war.

Shlomo Sand: The Words and the Land: Israeli Intellectuals and the Nationalist Myth (paperback, 2011, Semiotext(e)): Focuses on the charged meaning of words in constructing the Zionist world view -- exile, return, Aliyah (which adds an exalted flavor to immigration. It's remarkable both how successful these semantics have been, and how effectively they imprison thought. Another book could be written on the Palestinian side, exile for exile, return for return, Nakba for Shoah.

Ron Suskind: Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011, Harper): Great reporter, able to worm his way into inside info, which he plied into a couple eye-opening books on the Bush administration. Here takes on Obama and his crew, most evidently leaving their hearts and wallets back on Wall Street.

Peter Tomsen: The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers (2011, BBS): Former US Special Envoy to Afghanistan 1989-92, Ambassador to Armenia 1995-98, which may (or may not) give him some insight into the failures of the Muhajadeen warlord regime that gave rise to the Taliban. Huge (912 pp.) book, probably starts with Alexander but focuses on US difficulties with its nominal Pakistani and Saudi allies. Thinks "it is still possible to achieve an acceptable outcome, but only if our policies respect Afghan history and culture and we heed the lessons of past foreign interventions."

Robin Wright: Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (2011, Simon & Schuster): Journalist, has written several books about the rising tide of Islamism in Iran and the Middle East, now turns around and discovers the Arab Spring movements.

Fareed Zakaria: The Post-American World: Release 2.0 (2011, WW Norton): Looks like the answer book to the new Thomas Friedman/Michael Mandelbaum fiasco: whereas the other boys are stuck in their adolescent fantasy that the world can't work if America doesn't run it, Zakaria sees that it's too late for that, and to rub his point in he didn't even write a new book -- he just polished up one that his fellow pundits should have already read as a matter of due dilligence. The links are so obvious that Amazon has an "author one-on-one" between Friedman and Zakaria.

Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:

David Harvey: The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (2010; paperback, 2011, Oxford University Press): English Marxist critic of neoliberalism, has a longer term and deeper view of the 2008 meltdown than your average analyst. Also writes a bit dryer, which makes this somewhat of a slog, but it's one of the most worthwhile books I've read on the subject. Paperback adds on a new afterword. [link]

Naomi Oreskes/Erik M Conway: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (2010; paperback, 2011, Bloomsbury Press): Not just a range of issues that PR firms hired scientist-hacks to obfuscate: we keep seeing the same scientists going from one con to the next.

Matt Taibbi: Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History (2010; paperback, 2011, Spiegel & Grau): New subtitle -- old one was Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America. Some extra material too: the greed of the banking industry is a story that never ends. [link]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 19021 [19002] rated (+19), 844 [852] unrated (-8). Worked on jigsaw puzzles. Tried to buy lumber. Did some yard work. Had visitors over the weekend. Listened a little, and wrote a bit, but can't say as I had much encouragement.

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 14)

Don't know nothing. Don't have anything to report. Was tempted to punt this week, or to post the unpublished column, or I don't know what. Will be even more tempted along those lines next week. At this point, I don't see that it would hurt to complain to the Village Voice -- Maura Johnston is the editor avoiding me -- about their lack of jazz coverage -- not that I think it will do much good.

Meanwhile, this is what I got:

Emmet Cohen: In the Element (2010 [2011], BadaBeep): Young pianist -- 20 on the cover and 21 on his website -- won third prize in this year's Monk competition. Debut album, mostly trio, with Greg Gisbert joining on trumpet for four cuts. Postbop, pretty much what talented young pianists do these days. B

Kali. Z. Fasteau/William Parker/Cindy Blackman: An Alternate Universe (1991-92 [2011], Flying Note): New release, comes out same time as the reissue of Prophecy, a more scattered 1993 album documenting this same period -- guess you can call these outtakes. Fasteau has worked through several permutations of her name -- no idea why the period in "Kali." appeared, but "Z." once appeared as Zusann. She was b. 1947, childhood split between New York and Paris, lived in sixteen countries, picked up instruments from most of them. She married Donald Rafael Grant, a bassist who also played clarinet with Coltrane in his latter avant-garde phase; fifteen years her senior, he died in 1989, which is about the point when Fasteau started her solo career. (A compilation of her 1975-77 work with Garrett, Memoirs of a Dream, is fascinating.) She plays a dozen-plus instruments, none especially well although she is a fearless risktaker and sometimes makes it pay off. Here she rotates between cello, soprano sax, and electric piano, with bassist Parker on all tracks, drummer Blackman on 5 (of 8). The cello seems to grow out of Parker's bass, full of razor edges. The soprano is rough and warbly. The electric piano is played more for toy percussion, held back to let the bass and drums wander. B+(**)

Rob Garcia 4: The Drop and the Ocean (2011, Bju'ecords): Drummer, grew up in the Bronx (Pelham), studied at NYU and SUNY Purchase. Has at least two previous records (since 2005), short list of side credits. Quartet: Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Dan Tepfer (piano), John Hebert (bass). The first two are young guys who have gotten a lot of notice for their own albums; Hebert is one of those bassists who makes everything better. B+(**)

Otzir Godot: Kas Kas (2009, Epatto): Drummer, from Finland. First record, a few years old now, got it along with a new one. All improvised. Five cuts are duos with saxophonist Ikka Kahri, two more are duos with Robin DeWan on didgeridoo, the other four are brief solos. The sax-drums duos are smartly balanced, engaging. The deep hums less interesting but a nice backdrop for the percussion, which never pushes too hard. B+(**)

Otzir Godot: Drum Poems (2011, Epatto): Drummer, from Finland, second album, plays solo using a wide, world encircling range of percussion instruments. Thirteen pieces, mostly conceptual, have some interest but also have their limits. B+(*)

Mac Gollehon: Odyssey of Nostalgia (2011, American Showplace Music): Trumpet player. Website is a helpless piece of Flash, so I'm short on bio. AMG lists six albums since 1996: two with "smokin'" in the title, one "straight ahead," one In the Spirit of Fats Navarro. This one digs around various old blues bags, including "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," but also "Two Sleepy People" and "Dirtynogooder Blues" and "Over the Rainbow." Band includes Ronnie Cuber (baritone sax, flute), Bill Easley (clarinet, alto sax), Amina Claudine Myers (organ), Ron McClure (bass), Warren Smith (drums), Junior Vega (congas), and features Olga Merediz's vocals on about half of the tracks. Some work, some not so much. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett: Rio (2011, ECM, 2CD): Solo piano, recorded live in Rio de Janeiro on April 9, 2011, divided up into Parts I-XV spread across two discs. Sounds not unlike the dozens of other solo albums he's released since The Köln Concert sold five million copies, except that his general trajectory, like life itself, has been to slow down and smell the roses -- so one thing I can note is that he provides little (if any) of his own vocal accompaniment here. I've slowed down enough myself to find this more than moderately pleasant, although every time rapturous applause erupts I wonder what I missed. B+(*)

Paul Kikuchi: Portable Sanctuary Vol. 1 (2009-10 [2011], Present Sounds): Percussionist, based in Seattle, has several recent records. He is rejoined here by trombonist Stuart Dempster, whose concept of "deep listening" -- mostly long, low drones -- is hegemonic here. With some guitar and electronics, and two extra percussionists. Intriguing, but sometimes hard to hear what little is going on. B+(*)

The Landrus Kaleidoscope: Capsule (2010 [2011], Blueland): Brian Landrus, b. 1978, plays baritone sax, bass clarinet, bass flute, has a couple previous records: the first on Cadence planted him in free jazz territory, but two on Blueland have backed off. This one is effectively a quiet storm outing, lots of soft low sounds with swooning guitar (Nir Felder), backed with keyb (Michael Cain), acoustic bass (Matthew Parish), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(***)

Brad Mehldau/Kevin Hays: Modern Music (2011, Nonesuch): Piano duo, actually just the front men appearing above the title for Patrick Zimmerli, below the title and "composed and arranged by" but in larger type. Zimmerli is a saxophonist, b. 1968, has five albums from 1998 (six if you count this one). He been working the boundaries between jazz and classical, and has a number of compositions commissioned for classical groups. Here he wrote 4 of 9 pieces, arranged an original each by Mehldau and Hays, plus ones by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Ornette Coleman. B+(***)

Miles Español (2011, Entertainment One, 2CD): Only got an advance so I'm not sure how this is packaged. I filed it under Bob Belden ("conceived and produced by"), in large part because it seems like his kind of thing, although his only other credit is percussion/marimba on one track. I cribbed the credit list (36 musicians) from the hype sheet, which misspelled names, often omitted instruments, and was inconsistent between specifying percussion instruments and grouping them together. Most players only show up for 1-3 tracks (out of 16), with percussionist Alex Acuña way out front (10 tracks), followed by Sammy Figueroa (6). This remakes 4 of 5 titles from Sketches of Spain (omits "Will o' the Wisp," and smashes "Saeta" and "Pan Piper" into one track); adds two loosely related Miles Davis pieces ("Flamenco Sketches," "Teo/Neo"); and picks up extra pieces, mostly from its guest stars (Rabih Abou-Khalil, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Niño Joseles, Jorge Pardo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Scofield). Four of the pieces go orchestral (flutes and bassoon and such, Abou-Khalil's oud and Edmar Castañeda's harp the only strings); the others stick with small groups, leaning a bit too much on piano, but otherwise the whole thing hangs together and flows. A step toward "jazz repertory," if that interests you. B+(**) [advance]

Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon (2011, Thirsty Ear): Trumpet player, from Norway, started out in Masqualero with Arild Andersen, emerged under his own name on a couple albums on ECM with drum machines: the first flush of what came to be called jazztronica, which led to a merger with Matthew Shipp's jazz-DJ synthesis label. Erland Dahlen handles the percussion this time, favoring log drums and steel drums over electronics, with Stian Westerhus plugging his guitars, keybs, pedals, and toys in -- all fitting background for Molvaer's trumpet, but it mostly leans atmospheric. Exception is "Recoil," which cranks up the volume for a rush of intensity. B+(***) [advance]

Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Anticipation (2011, Capri): Front cover and spine mention surnames only. Piano trio, drummer's name first, probably because he has three previous albums with the label, whereas pianist Zaleski's only other credit is second billed behind Mark Zaleski, and bassist Rosato only has one other side credit. Six originals (Zaleski 3, Rosato 2, Stranahan 1), three covers ("All the Things You Are," "Boplicity," "I Should Care"). Solid work, a bit on the quiet side. B+(*)

Freddy V: Easier Than It Looks (2008 [2011], Watersign): Saxophonist (tenor, alto), Fred Vigdor, basically an r&b guy, first album as such, with a band he calls Mo Pleasure. Background starts with playing sax and arranging horns for Average White Band, the most plainly soulful of the post-Allman white rock bands to emerge from the South in the 1970s -- a credit, I'd say, to the horns. A couple of soul vocals, a lot of tasty sax licks and easy going rhythmic raunch, which means it will be slotted with smooth jazz even though it's a cut above. AMG lists this as 2008, but the publicist swears the street date is Sept. 13, 2011. They do that. B

Giancarlo Vulcano: Unfinished Spaces (2011, Distant Second): Guitarist, from Manhattan, also plays synthesizers here. Second album I know of, both soundtracks. This one has something to do with the Cuban National Art Schools, Cuban culture and history. Twenty short pieces, small vignettes that avoid silence, filling in atmosphere, mood, occasionally a bit of movement. Strings, sax (Jim Bruening), trumpet (Laurie Krein), percussion (Dafnis Prieto!). B+(**)

Greg Ward's Phonic Juggernaut (2011, Thirsty Ear): Alto saxophonist, b. 1982, based in Chicago, has a previous record by Greg Ward's Fitted Shards. This is a sax trio with Joe Sanders on bass and Damion Reid on drums. Wrote all but one cover from Andrew Bird. Freebop, nicely constructed, not many surprises. B+(*) [advance]

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:

  • Bryan and the Haggards: Still Alive and Kickin' Down the Walls (Hot Cup)
  • William Carn's Run Stop Run (Mythology): November 22
  • Tito Carrillo: Opening Statement (Origin)
  • Hal Gapler Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic (Origin)
  • Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center (Reprise, CD+DVD)
  • Leszek Mozdzer: Komeda (ACT)
  • Dred Scott: Prepared Piano (Ropeadope)
  • Dred Scott Trio: Going Nowhere (Ropeadope)
  • TriBeCaStan: New Deli (Evergreene Music)

Expert Comments

Downer Facebook announcement following Jazz Prospecting:

Jazz Prospecting. Not much here. Could it be the last one ever?

Added this over on EW:

Jazz Prospecting chez moi late tonight. Not much to plug anything, although I like the Mehldau/Hays/Zimmerli Modern Music much more than the similarly graded Molvaer Baboon Moon -- an EW disagreement I can't chalk up to me not playing enough -- or for that matter the very pleasant one by Brian Landrus. Rather, I feel like I'm at the end of my rope with the Voice's new regime, and don't see any other way to keep doing what I've been doing. (I may indeed be past it: one of the few bits of feedback I've gotten recently expressed surprise that I had lasted as long under New Times as I had -- Rob Harvilla probably deserves all the credit there.)

BTW, just noticed that I had failed to tie in Kevin Hays' solo disc, Variations. Playing it now and I expect it will prove to be of more limited value, but I'm pleasantly surprised so far.

Quickie ballot for the 1990 poll:

  1. The Beautiful South: Welcome to the Beautiful South (Go! Discs) 17
  2. Pet Shop Boys: Behavior (EMI America) 16
  3. Pharoah Sanders: Welcome to Love (Timeless) 13
  4. Carlene Carter: I Fell in Love (Reprise) 10
  5. L.L. Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out (Def Jam) 8
  6. The Chills: Submarine Bells (Slash) 8
  7. Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam) 8
  8. Beats International: Let Them Eat Bingo (Elektra) 8
  9. K.T. Oslin: Love in a Small Town (RCA) 6
  10. David Murray/George Arvanitas: Tea for Two (Fresh Sound) 6

Honorable Mention:

  1. Dr. Sir Warrior and the Oriental Brothers International: Heavy on the Highlife! (Original Music)
  2. Marcia Ball/Angela Strehli/Lou Ann Barton: Dreams Come True (Antone's)
  3. Salt-N-Pepa: Black's Magic (London)
  4. Madonna: I'm Breathless (Sire)
  5. David Murray: Ballads (DIW)
  6. Eyuphuro: Mama Mosambiki (Real World)
  7. Eddie Harris: There Was a Time (Echo of Harlem) (Enja)
  8. Rosanne Cash: Interiors (Columbia)
  9. Marian McPartland: Plays the Benny Carter Songbook (Concord)
  10. Was (Not Was): Are You Okay? (Chrysalis)
  11. Sonny Sharrock: Highlife (Enemy)
  12. Neil Young: Ragged Glory (Reprise)
  13. Betty Boo: Boomania (Warner Brothers)
  14. Don Pullen: Random Thoughts (Blue Note)
  15. Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter (Chrysalis)
  16. Brian Eno/John Cale: Wrong Way Up (Opal)
  17. David Murray: Spirituals (DIW)
  18. Macka-B: Natural Suntan (RAS)
  19. Brand Nubian: One for All (Elektra)
  20. Loketo: Soukous Trouble (Shanachie)
  21. Herb Geller: Birdland Stomp (Fresh Sound)
  22. Macka-B: Looks Are Deceiving (RAS)
  23. Marty Grosz/Keith Ingham: Unsaturated Fats (Stomp Off)
  24. The Deighton Family: Mama Was Right (Philo)
  25. Bud Shank: Lost in the Stars (Fresh Sound)
  26. Samba Mapangala/Orchestra Virunga: Virunga Volcano (Earthworks)
  27. Art Blakey/Dr. John/David "Fathead" Newman: Bluesiana Triangle (Windham Hill)
  28. Sonic Youth: Goo (DGC)
  29. Soul II Soul: Vol. II A New Decade (Virgin)
  30. Daniel Owino Misiani: Benga Blast! (Earthworks)
  31. Michael Hashim: Lotus Blossom (Stash)
  32. Michael Formanek: Wide Open Spaces (Enja)
  33. Digital Underground: Sex Packets (Tommy Boy)
  34. Lisa Stansfield: Affection (Arista)
  35. The La's: The La's (London)
  36. Sheila Jordan: Lost and Found (Muse)
  37. Wynton Marsalis: Tune In Tomorrow (Columbia)
  38. Ali Farka Touré: The River (Mango)
  39. Either/Orchestra: The Calculus of Pleasure (Accurate)
  40. Nick Lowe: Party of One (Reprise)
  41. Jan Garbarek/Ustad Fateh Ali Khan: Ragas and Sagas (ECM)
  42. C+C Music Factory: Gonna Make You Sweat (Columbia)
  43. Digital Underground: This Is an E.P. Release (Tommy Boy)
  44. Jackie McLean: Dynasty (Triloka)
  45. Simon Shaheen: The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom)
  46. Archie Shepp: I Didn't Know About You (Timeless)
  47. Lester Bowie: My Way (DIW)
  48. Cecil Taylor: Looking (Berlin Version) The Feel Trio (FMP)
  49. Victoria Williams: Swing the Statue! (Rough Trade)
  50. Blake Babies: Sunburn (Mammoth)
  51. Dick Berk: Bouncin' With Berk (Nine Winds)

Included three African comps here that in my official file I have listed under reissues/compilations: Dr. Sir Warrior, Samba Mapangala, and Daniel Owino Misiani. Certainly all would have been near impossible to find in previous releases.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Paul Krugman: Boom for Whom:

    Let me start with a puzzle: why did faith in the wonders of financial deregulation persist so long?

    After all, if you step back from the record, deregulation began producing disasters from early on. Early deregulatory moves helped bring on the Latin American debt crisis of the early 1980s; Garn-St. Germain produced the savings and loan debacle; freed-up capital flows produced the Asian crisis and LTCM; and now we have the great bust. So why were Very Serious People so convinced that it was a good thing?

    [ . . . quotes from Peter Wallison and Eugene Fama . . . ]

    The point is that these are pure fantasies on the part of the right. The true age of spectacular growth in the United States and other advanced economies was the generation after World War II, with post-Reagan growth nowhere near comparable. So why do these people imagine otherwise?

    And the answer, once you think about it, is obvious: growth for whom? There's only one way in which the post-deregulation boom was exceptional, and that's in terms of the growth in incomes at the top of the scale.

    Here's a comparison of the postwar boom with the deregulation alleged boom, using real average family income from the Census and real average income for the top 1 percent from Piketty and Saez:

    If you're looking at the average, the last generation is a poor shadow of the postwar boom. But if you're talking about the 1 percent, wonderful things have happened.

    No wonder then, that Very Serious People -- who, after all, get to be considered Very Serious because the elite likes them -- have retained faith in deregulation despite repeated disasters.

  • Jim Lobe: "Israel's Advocate" to Leave White House for Pro-Israel Think Tank: That would be Dennis Ross, who's spent the last three years working to make sure Israel's been able to deflect any chance of peace breaking out, returning to his home base at WINEP, where he will continue to act in Israel's behalf, and will be free to publicly oppose anything Obama comes up with (not that any such thing is likely, especially with an election pending).

    Similarly, Abraham Foxman, the long-time head of the strongly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League, once referred to Ross as "the closest thing you'll find to a melitz yosher, as far as Israel is concerned." Melitz yosher is the ancient Hebrew word for "advocate." [ . . . ]

    Ross also strongly and successfully opposed suggestions by Mitchell and others that the U.S. put forward its own proposals on a final settlement of the conflict.

    While Ross has long been critical of Israeli settlement expansion, he reportedly argued, as he did under Clinton, that exerting serious pressure on Israeli leaders would prove counterproductive.

    According to various reports, he was privately critical of Obama's demand in 2009 that Israel halt all settlement activity in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem as a precondition for re-launching negotiations with the Palestinians.

    Despite those differences, Ross's early endorsement of Obama as president -- as well as his role during the 2008 campaign as a liaison to AIPAC and other Israel Lobby groups -- earned him entrée into the incoming administration's top foreign policy ranks.

    Ross stance on Iran was also considerably more hawkish than Obama's public position of "engagement" with the Islamic Republic, at least during the campaign and at the outset of the administration.

    Early in the Obama administration Ross was tasked with Iran, ostensibly not Israel, but his role there wasn't merely to be hawkish: it was to get in the way of any initiatives between Iran and the US to resolve differences independently if Israel. Netanyahu's initial response to Obama talking about halting the spread of Israel's illegal settlements was to play up the Iran threat, even threatening a pre-emptive strike. It's not clear whether Ross was resourceful or merely lucky -- Ahminejad's election fiasco and the subsequent repression of his opponents was all the break Ross needed to keep the US and Iran at loggerheads.

    One is tempted to say that Ross won't be missed, but the sad fact is that he won't vanish. He'll return as the guy the media turns to for an expert view on the Middle East, secure in the knowledge that Foxman and the Israel lobby will never object to anything he says.

  • Ward Sutton: That Used to Be Us: Graphic book review of Thomas Friedman/Michael Mandelbaum: That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. More generous than I would have been. (In an unpublished book note, I wrote: "Two of the stupidest people in America -- Friedman needs no introduction; Mandelbaum has written his share of nonsense too, like The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century and The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era." Still, Sutton gets the essence of two guys who can never be bothered with thinking with a cliché will do:

    Many people have pointed out that the moderate-centrist president they crave is in fact the one they reject: Barack Obama. In fact, I'm reminded of an old Mort Sahl joke: Charlton Hesston says his most fervent hope is that someday his children will be able to live in a fascist dictatorship. Sahl then observes that if Hesston were more perceptive he'd be a happy man today. Same for Friedman and Mandelbaum, but, alas, such bliss is impossible. Without a crisis to combat and a cause to champion, what excuse would them have for writing such intellecutally lazy books?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Class Differences

Striking letter to the editor in the Wichita Eagle this morning, from Debbie Jabara. Don't know anything about her personally, but the Jabara family name is eminent enough that it adorns an airport. She was either born into money, or married into it. Either way she seems to have gotten the knack of being rich and privileged and ungrateful:

Just musing on the differences between the Occupy Wall Street and tea party protesters.

The tea partiers were conservatively dressed, stayed in RVs or hotels, did not urinate on anything or anyone, and did not riot or steal. They also bathed and picked up their own trash. Occupy protesters damaged private property, camped out on public property and generally left filfth in their wake.

Tea partiers know their math. They represent the 50 percent of Americans who are suppliesr of government services. Do the Occupy protesters realize that they actually represent the 50 percent of Americans (if all are American) who are takers?

The tea parties want less government and less spending on their hard-earned money by the government. Occupiers want more government and more spending of taxpayers' money -- on them.

Sadly, as the 50 percent who are takers likely will increase in the coming years, what hope do we have of remaining the nation envisioned by the Founding Fathers? I worry -- not for myself, but for my children and grandchildren, who will be burdened by heavy taxation to take care of these freeloaders.

It wasn't too long ago when it was commonly understood that it was the rich who were the freeloaders, collecting rents through their control of property and exploiting workers -- the people who actually made things and provided services -- for their profits. Moreover, that understanding is certain to return as the ill effects of ever-more-concentrated wealth become too obvious to rationalize away -- as will the notion that the idle rich have become decadent and delirious and depraved.

The tea party movement will be remembered as a lot of hoo-ha bankrolled by right-wing billionaires and ballyhooed by the usual crowd of Fox demagogues to advance their political agenda, then abandoned when it became embarrassing. The government they railed about is one that flows both ways depending on who has the most political clout: it could be used to better serve the interests of those OWS recognizes as the 99% -- and indeed in a democracy that is how it should work -- or it can be used, as it increasingly has been over the last thirty years, to help the rich plunder the rest. Aristocrats, like the Jabaras, have always feared that democracy might permit the masses to help themselves. But they have never been able to choose the nature or manners of the mobs that rise up to counter them -- except to make them worse by violent repression.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Rhapsody Streamnotes (November 2011)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Downloader's Diary (16): November 2011

Insert text from here.

This is the 16th installment, monthly since August 2010, totalling 404 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Earth Moves

Felt an earthquake last night. I suppose I've gone through similar events in the past but never noticed before. But there I was, looking squarely at the monitor screen while the house rumbled in the background. I looked around for confirmation: soon found a page that the USGS -- you know, the much loathed, ever wasteful federal government, although for anyone who's read as many John McPhee books as I have they may be your favorite corner of the behemoth -- listing every M1.0+ earthquake in the US (plus a few, it turns out, in Mexico, and probably Canada too) that's occurred in the last seven days. My event wasn't there at first, but a few minutes later it popped up: Magnitude 4.7, depth 5 km, distance 9 km from Prague, OK (44 miles due east of Oklahoma City), 08:46:57 PM local time. The map showed 28 earthquake events in that area over the last 7 days: the largest a M5.6 on Sunday which I hadn't noticed but other people had -- probably why I was conscious of the possibility. California hands will scoff, of course -- judging from the 7-day report Alaskans even more so. Wichita wasn't listed in the distances table, but we're about 180 miles away. At that distance the rumbling lasted about 10 seconds and didn't manage to relocate even one CD. Indeed, the house shook less than it did when the USAF -- a part of the aforementioned federal behemoth that I'm much less fond of than the USGS, in part for this very reason -- buzzed the neighborhood with a low-altitude B-2 flyover (accompanied with a tornado-like roar).

Rained all day yesterday -- officially 1.75 inches, leaving us still officially droughtstruck, 9.5 inches down for the year -- with high winds stripping yellow leaves from the trees and occasional raptures of thunder. Same system produced a tornado in Oklahoma -- something rare (but not unheard of) for this time of year. This at least felt familiar, like a Boston nor'easter except coming from the southwest. Rain has continued into today, turning to snow in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. I hoped to build a ramp for the new shed this week, and start painting it. Maybe toward the end of the week, assuming I can find some way to get the lumber home. (My usual help isn't; seems like everyone has troubles right now.) Did manage to caulk a bit before the storm -- felt good both to get that much done and to get away from everything else.

Got up this morning to face a pile of mail giving me more tasks to do on top of things I'm already way behind on -- some already irate over my non-responsiveness. (Probably not as irate as I am over cases where I'm waiting for some direction.) Also happens to be a day when I have unfinished library books due, another reminder of my inability to keep up. And, not atypicaly, I'm playing a record have no real interest in hearing much less writing about. I feel like I've descended into some weird reality where the earth moves faster than people. Maybe even more purposefully.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 19002 [18972] rated (+30), 852 [852] unrated (-0). Another dull, ordinary week. I suppose cracking 19000 rated records is a milestone of some sort.

  • Marilyn Crispell: Pianosolo -- A Concert in Berlin (1983, FMP): Avant-pianist, early in her career, attacks the piano boldly, with thick, resonant chords and choppy melodic runs. B+(**) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Bill Dixon: Berlin Abbozzi (1999 [2000], FMP): Ten years after the Berlin Wall fell, the avant-trumpeter pokes his way through the fog created by two bassists (Matthias Bauer and Klaus Koch) and drummer Tony Oxley; three long pieces -- the middle "Open Quiet/The Orange Bell" running 40:14 -- exhibit no great hurry; rather, an atmospheric tension ominous enough to rivet your attention but pregnant with sensual wonder. A- [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Enten Eller & Tim Berne: "Melquiades" (1999 [2000], Splasc(h)): Italian group with six albums 1989-2003; no one I've heard of, but here at least a quaret with trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums. Alto saxophonist Berne adds some squeak to what is otherwise a free moving base. B+(**)
  • Georg Gräwe Quintet: Pink Pong (1977 [1978], FMP): An early, little noted album by the German pianist as he was finding his way to rhythmic freedom, punctuated by scattered trumpet and soprano/tenor sax (Horst Grabosch and Harald Dau, two names I don't recall running into elsewhere). B+(*) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Gumpert Sommer Duo Plus Manfred Herring: The Old Song (1973 [1974], FMP): Pianist Ulrich Gumpert and drummer Günter Sommer, who continued to work as a duo throughout the decade, add Herring's alto sax to the mayhem here; Herring's in high screech mode, while the principals do a rousing job of smashing things up; could have degenerated into noise, but builds something out of every lurch and crash. B+(***) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Ulrich Gumpert & Günter 'Baby' Sommer: . . . Jetzt Geht's Kloß (1978 [1979], FMP): The Gumpert Sommer (piano-drums) Duo on their own doing what comes naturally: the pianist pulling all sorts of striking melodic fragments out of the aether, fast and hard-edged, with the drums accenting their inherent percusiveness; two long improvs, only thinning out a bit well into the second. B+(***) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Sommer: Versäuminisse (1979 [1980], FMP): Piano-drums duo, something the label liked to crank up and smash together, in this case drawing on a pair with nearly a decade's experience of doing just that. B+(**) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Peter Kowald Quintet (1972 [1973], FMP): German avant-bassist in one of his first albums, deploys an alto sax (Peter van de Locht) for some screech and two trombones (Günter Christmann and Paul Rutherford) to keep it dirty. They create a Godawful racket at first, then tone it down without sacrificing the tension. B+(*) [bandcamp:destination-out]
  • Hans Reichel/Achim Knipsel: Erdmännchen (1977, FMP): Two meerkats on the cover, translating the title; two electric guitarists, playing without pedals or effects or overdubs or whatever, a point made because they're making sounds you don't expect, their interaction a see-saw rhythm the individual sounds bounce off from. A- [bandcamp:destination-out]

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 13)

No news. No way to pretend that's good news, although it may not be bad either -- just annoying for a former project manager used to pushing milestones through bureaucracies that often made difficult things they were meant to facilitate. Meanwhile, still going through the motions. Just running out of space to keep stuff I'll want to get back to when/if we get Jazz CG going again.

Two A- records this week. One is a 2010 release I've been trying to get hold of since it came out. Others is on a label I've long admired but had been denied me untila recent publicist switch. So I feel extra good about those, but wouldn't if the records didn't make the grade.

A Downloader's Diary is slightly delayed: this week, for sure, with Rhapsody Streamnotes following shortly. Trivia milestone: total rated records count topped 19,000. Not sure whether that's an accomplishment, an obsession, or a sign that I'm losing my marbles.

Anthony Branker & Word Play: Dialogic (2011, Origin): Composer/music director, originally a trumpet player, b. 1958, graduated from and teaches at Princeton. Third album using this role/methodology -- has an earlier record as Tony Branker. All interesting postbop directions, but this one is the most straightforward: basically an old-fashioned sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, with Ralph Bowen, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, and Adam Cruz. Can't fathom how the dialectics of Mikhail Bakhtin inspired this, or why the all-instrumental group is called Word Play, but that's largely because the music is so satisfying we're left with few questions. B+(***)

Greg Burk Trio: The Path Here (2009 [2011], 482 Music): Pianist, originally from Michigan, moved to Slovakia after graduation, based in Rome now. Has a dozen albums since 2000. This one is a piano trio, with Jonathan Robinson on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums, with a couple curves -- Burk plays washint (a wooden flute from Ethiopia) on one piece, Robinson some thumb piano. Both are variations I could enjoy more of, but the piano-bass-drums is typically bright, sharp, reflective. B+(**) [Nov. 15]

Fattigfolket: Park (2010 [2011], Ozella Music): Scandinavian quartet -- recorded this in Norway, at least one previous album in Denmark; not sure where all the musicians come from: Gunnar Halle (trumpet), Halvard Godal (sax, clarinet), Putte Johander (bass), Ole Morten Sommer (drums). Eleven songs named for parks or parklike locales (like "Grunewald"). Free but not very fleet, hemmed in by their folk jazz hypothesis. B+(*)

Fred Fried and Core: EnCore (2011, Ballet Tree): Guitarist, b. 1948 in Brooklyn, influenced by George Van Eps who led him to the 7-string guitar on most of his 10 records -- here he moves on to an 8-string. Trio with bass (Michael Lavoie) and drums (Miki Matsuki). Take a middle road and works out intricacies from there. B+(*)

Gilad Hekselman: Hearts Wide Open (2010 [2011], Le Chant du Monde): Guitarist, b. 1983 in Israel, in New York since 2004, graduating from New School and sticking around. Third album: 6 (of 10) cuts trio with Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums). The other four add saxophonist Mark Turner. Intricate, poised, nice tone to the guitar. Sax doesn't really add much. B+(*)

Ideal Bread: Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy (2009 [2010], Cuneiform): Quartet: Josh Sinton (baritone sax), Kirk Knuffke (trumpet), Reuben Radding (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Sinton is the only one I don't run into often, but he's not a total stranger, and seems to be the leader here. Second group album. Transposing Lacy's soprano lines to baritone gives them a new feel, but nothing with Lacy is ever overly familiar, so this feels fresh all over. A-

Jeff Lederer: Sunwatcher (2010 [2011], Jazzheads): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, clarinet), name I recognize (looks like mostly from Matt Wilson records, although I see a couple others in his credits list), first album. Quartet with Jamie Saft (piano, organ), Buster Williams (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Wrote 5 of 8, covering Duke Pearson, Paul Bley, and trad. ("Break Bread Together"). Charges hard from the box and bowls you over in that mode, hard to resist. Less so the softer horns and slower stuff, but the band is so good they keep him together even there. B+(***)

Nanette Natal: Sweet Summer Blue (2011, Benyo Music): Singer, plays some acoustic guitar, b. 1945 in Brooklyn, eighth album since 1971. Not much band here -- a lead guitarist, bass, drums, and violin, but mostly they stay quiet. She tones her technique down quite a bit too: could pass for a folksinger here, earnest and credible, such a strong, distinctive singer she no longer needs to flaunt it. B+(***)

Oz Noy: Twisted Blues Volume 1 (2010 [2011], Abstract Logix): Guitarist, originally from Israel, now based in New York, fifth album since 2005. Fusion guy, likes his lines long and loud, knows a few blues licks, but still needs to work on that twisty stuff. B

Harold O'Neal: Marvelous Fantasy (2011, Smalls): Pianist, second album, had a fine mainstream trio last time, shoots for a solo this time. Wrote all the pieces. Trends soft and melodic, probably his idea of marvelous, maybe even of fantasy. B+(**)

Michael Pedicin: Ballads . . . Searching for Peace (2011, Jazz Hut): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947, from Philadelphia, father played sax on some early rock and roll records in the 1950s. Tenth album, cites Coltrane for his ballad style, comes out strong and clear and preternaturally calm. With John Valentino on guitar, alternating pianists (Barry Miles and Andy Lalasis), bass and drums. B+(***)

Scott Ramminger: Crawstickers (2011, Arbor Lane Music): Singer, plays tenor and other saxes, from DC area, wrote his songs on his debut album: is basically an r&b guy, upbeat, appreciates the finer things in life, which include gumbo, cheap beer, and that rumba beat. B+(*)

Enrico Rava Quintet: Tribe (2010 [2011], ECM): Trumpet player, b. 1943 in Italy, built a reputation on the avant-garde in the 1970s but his ECM records have lately slowed down, trying to make up in intensity. Quintet includes Gianluca Petrella, the young trombonist who got a lot of attention when he was briefly on Blue Note, as well as Giovanni Guidi on piano, bass and drums, and guest guitar on four cuts. B+(*)

Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (2010 [2011], Playscape): Pianist, b. 1959, one of those names I recognize from Concord's Maybeck Recital Hall Series but never bothered to investigate further. Fourteenth album since 1989, a trio with Noriko Ueda on bass and Quincy Davis on drums, all standards, all ones I should know instantly but are reworked so thoroughly I only catch occasional glimpses. Jumps right at you from the git go; even when they slow down you're never quite sure what they're up to. In short, the sort of invention you rarely find in a piano trio, where everything old is new again. A-

Kenny Shanker: Steppin' Up (2009 [2011], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from New York, first album, with Art Hirahara on piano and Lage Lund on guitar. Wrote 9 (of 10) pieces, ending with "Somewhere." Typical postbop moves, a bit on the shiny side, always a risk with his instrument. B

Ira Sullivan & Stu Katz: A Family Affair: Live at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase (2010 [2011], Origin): Couple of old guys with big grins on the cover. Sullivan's a Chicago fixture: b. 1931, cut a couple albums in the late 1950s, shows up every now and then, mostly playing tenor sax, sometimes alto, soprano, trumpet, flugelhorn, flute -- cut an album in 1981 called Ira Sullivan Does It All. Left the flute home here (thanks for that). Katz plays vibes. AMG gives him one side credit back in 1970. Group straddles swing and bop, starting with two new Sullivan pieces, then "Pennies From Heaven," then "Scrapple From the Apple." They bring up a singer for "Yesterdays" -- Lucia Newell, forget how she was introduced but she slings the scat liberally. B+(**)

3 Cohens: Family (2011, Anzic): Siblings Anat Cohen (tenor sax, clarinet), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), and Yuval Cohen (soprano sax) -- the former the best known, but the writing chores fell to the boys (Avishai 3, Yuval 2). The other five are presumably songs they vamped on around the old kibbutz campfire: "The Mooch," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Tiger Rag," and "Roll 'Em Pete." Rhythm section they picked up in New York -- Aaron Goldberg (piano), Matt Penman (bass), Gregory Hutchinson (drums) -- along with two-song singer Jon Hendricks, whose mannerisms have gotten creaky enough to be endearing. B+(**)

Mark Winkler: Sweet Spot (2011, Cafe Pacific): Vocalist, 11th (or 10th) album since 1985; writes (or co-writes) about half of his material, including a self-deprecating piece about a lounge pianist dreaming of Rio (reprised here so there are both east and west coast versions). B+(*)

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:

  • Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Roms: Spacer (Delmark)
  • Axel's Axiom: Uncommon Sense (Armored)
  • Matt Baker: Underground (self-released): November 22
  • The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Last Time Out: December 26, 1967 (1967, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD)
  • David Budway: A New Kiss (MaxJazz)
  • Ry Cooder: Pull Up Some dust and Sit Down (Nonesuch)
  • Ryan Davidson Trio (Debris Field)
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Flying Steps (Yelena Music): Novemer 15
  • Neil Leonard: Marcel's Window (Gasp)
  • Alex Lopez: We Can Take This Boat (Lopez Music): November 22
  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Tell My Sister (1977-78, Nonesuch, 3CD)
  • Nordeson Shelton: Incline (Singlespeed Music)
  • Ponykiller: The Wilderness (Housecore): November 22
  • Enrico Rava Quintet: Tribe (ECM)
  • Enoch Smith Jr.: Misfits (self-released)
  • Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (Delmark)
  • Mark Weinstein: El Cumbanchero (Jazzheads)


  • Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (Vanguard)
  • Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do (Universal Republic)
  • Miranda Lambert: Four the Record (RCA Nashville)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Paul Krugman: More Thoughts on Weaponized Keysianism: Even (or perhaps especially) the Republicans acknowledge that cutting on useless weapons systems costs the economy jobs.

    And the evidence clearly shows that weaponized Keynesianism works -- which means that Keynesianism in general works.

    So why do politicians and their hired economic propagandists say differently? On reflection, I think it's a bit more complicated than I suggested in my previous post on this topic, because there's a strong element of cynicism as well as genuine intellectual confusion.

    What kind of cynicism am I talking about? First, there's the general fear on the part of conservatives that if you admit that the government can do anything useful other than fighting wars, you open the door to do-gooding in general; that explains why conservatives have always seen Keynesianism as a dangerous leftist doctrine even though that makes no sense in terms of the theory's actual content. On top of that there's the Kalecki point that admitting that the government can create jobs undermines demands that policies be framed to cater to all-important business confidence.

    That said, there's also the Keynes/coalmines point: there's a strong tendency to take any spending that looks like a business proposition -- building bridges or tunnels, supporting solar energy or mass transit -- and demanding that it appear to be a sound investment in terms of its financial return. This makes most such spending look bad, since almost by definition a depressed economy is one in which businesses aren't seeing good reasons to invest. Defense gets exempted because nobody expects bombs to be a good business proposition.

    The moral here should be that spending to promote employment in a depressed economy should not be viewed as something that has to generate a good financial return; in effect, most of the resources being used are in reality free.

  • Paul Krugman: Graduates Versus Oligarchs: On the argument many apologists for the status quo make that the key to getting ahead is getting an education: "that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don't have these skills." Krugman whips out a chart that shows that the income share of the 80-99 percentile group has remained level since 1979 -- actually, bulges a bit in the middle but by 2007 has returned to 1979 levels. On the other hand, the share of the top 1% has increased dramatically:

    The big gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent.

    So income inequality in America really is about oligarchs versus everyone else. When the Occupy Wall Street people talk about the 99 percent, they're actually aiming too low.

    One last point: I see that David Brooks is arguing that the oligarchy issue, if it matters at all, is a coastal phenomenon, not the issue in the heartland. Let me point out, then, that we have one country, with a tightly integrated economy. High finance is concentrated in New York, but it makes money from the United States as a whole. And even when oligarchs clearly get their income from heartland, red-state sources, where do they live? OK, one of the Koch brothers still lives in Wichita; but the other lives in New York.

    Put it this way: having much of the wealth your state creates go to people who are in effect absentee landlords, whose income therefore shows up in another state's statistics, doesn't mean that you have an equal distribution of income. Out of state shouldn't mean out of mind.

    Also see Krugman's I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means, Hypocrisy Edition: E.g.:

    Apparently you can only be authentic if your politics reflect pure personal self-interest -- Mitt Romney is Mr. Natural.

    One more: Inequality Trends in One Picture: OK, straight to the picture:

  • Andrew Leonard: America's Corporate Tax Obscenity:

    In 2010, Verizon reported an annual profit of nearly $12 billion. The statutory federal corporate income tax rate is 35 percent, so theoretically, Verizon should have owed the IRS around $4.2 billlion. Instead, according to figures compiled by the Center for Tax Justice, the company actually boasted a negative tax liability of $703 million. Verizon ended up making even more money after it calculated its taxes.

    Verizon is hardly alone, and isn't even close to being the worst offender. Perhaps most famously, General Electric raked in $10.5 billion in profit in 2010, yet ended up reporting $4.7 billion worth of negative taxes. The worst offender in 2010, as measured by its overall negative tax rate, was Pepco, the electricity utility that serves Washington, D.C. Pepco reported profits of $882 million in 2010, and negative taxes of $508 million -- a negative tax rate of 57.6 percent.

    Altogether, according to "Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10," a blockbuster new report put together by the Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that will have you reaching for your hypertension medicine before you finish reading the third page, 37 of the United States' biggest corporations paid zero taxes in 2010. The list is a blue-chip roll-call.

    As the authors acidly note, "Most Americans can rightfully complain, 'I pay more federal income taxes than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put together.' That's an unacceptable situation."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Quotes du Jour

From John Kenneth Galbraith, turned into a poster at The People's Boycott (h/t Bill Phillips):

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

From Dan Snierson's Entertainment Weekly "Hot List":

Guinness names Samuel L. Jackson highest-grossing actor ever; films earned $7.4 billion Told of news, he shook his head and said, "Man! That's some real fucked up shit."

Expert Comments

Tigster326 presented Gary Giddins' 1990 year-end list:

Still sorting out old Voice articles I clipped. Found Giddins' 1990 best of (which I don't think was ever reprinted in any of his books) entitled "Not a Bad Year for Jazz." So for those who may want to consider any jazz as part of the current poll here are his list of his top 26 albums (first 13 no ranking, was in alpha order):

  • The Heringa Suite (Abrams)
  • What Because (Ray Anderson)
  • Chipping' In (Blakey)
  • My Man Benny/My Man Phil (Benny Carter)
  • Anniversary (Getz)
  • New Al Grey Quintet
  • Dream Keeper (Haden)
  • American Experience (Vincent Herring)
  • The Hot Spot
  • The World is Falling Down (Lincoln)
  • Live at Maybeck Vol. 2 (Dave McKenna)
  • Dynasty (McLean)
  • Impromptus (Mengleberg)

Giddins 1990 best of (second 13):

  • Epitaph (Schuller)
  • Furthermore (Ralph Moore)
  • Lonesome Street (Mulligan)
  • Spirituals (Murray)
  • Random Thoughts (Pullen)
  • Living on the Edge (Redman)
  • Max & Diz Paris 1989
  • Falling in Love with Jazz (Rollins)
  • Africa (Sanders)
  • In a Different Light (Harvie Swartz)
  • Looking Berlin Version (Taylor)
  • Things Ain't What They Used To Be (Tyner)
  • Among Friends (Walton)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Expert Comments

EW revised P&J poll year 1990:

1990? Found this list already constructed on my website:

File date is 2000: hasn't been touched since then. Similar files exist 1991-2001. All except for the last were created in 2000 looking back. Seem to be all A-list, since they cite much larger sample sizes. Most striking thing about the 1990 list is the reissues section. Unhappy with gangsta with uninspired by grunge, I spent the early 1990s listening to jazz and oldies. With the conversion to CD, that was an especially propitious time to look back.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Recycled Goods (91): November 2011

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3198.

Expert Comments

Made this comment in response to various points, including Greg Teta's complain about Dave Brubeck not getting any votes in the 1960s jazz poll:

Catching up on the jazz threads:

I didn't include any Brubeck in my top 100 1960's core list, so I'm not surprised that he didn't get any votes. I credit him with three A- sets from the decade (actually, 1960-63; after that he trails off, although I haven't heard everything): Brubeck and Rushing, Countdown: Time in Outer Space, and Time Further Out. I had about 300 A- or better records from the decade, so lots of good records got cut. I went with a different Rushing record (had three to choose from -- if you want to complain about someone not registering in the poll, start with Mr. 5-by-5), and the other two immediately referred back to Time Out, excluded only by date. (As I mentioned before, I had nine Andrew Hill records at A-, and only wound up picking one for the core list -- something I feel much worse about than omitting Brubeck.)

Several Toms around here, so I'm not sure if I'm the one expected to litigate Paul Desmond's "whiteness" but that seems like a fruitless task given Christgau's other qualification ("that I can actively enjoy"). My guess is that eliminates Kenton and plenty more I'd just as soon not wrack my brain trying to think of. I will say that while Brubeck had some "white negro" tendencies (but nothing like Mezz Mezzrow), I'm not aware of Desmond having anything more than a profound admiration for Johnny Hodges. I'll also note that nearly all of Desmond's post-1965 albums were simply awful. (Although his Two of a Mind with Gerry Mulligan is as gorgeous as good jazz gets.)

I agree that Pithecanthropus Erectus is one of the great Mingus albums. I also recommend Presents Charles Mingus. Also Changes I (and less so II), which came late but introduced the George Adams-Don Pullen group.

I was totally unaware of The Popular Ellington, although I know all of the songs many times over, and love that edition of the orchestra. As for the 1953-55 Capitol period, those were "troubled" years for Ellington -- most obviously because that's when Hodges went AWOL (or on strike, depending on your viewpoint), but also because Ellington was grappling with bebop (whereas Armstrong just ridiculed it) and was trying to live up to his newfound reputation as America's greatest composer -- the whole jazz-is-America's-classical-music thing. I've heard Mosaic's 5-CD The Complete Capitol Recordings of Duke Ellington and have it at B+; some interesting stuff there but little of it prime. After 1956 Hodges returned, Ellington reverted to being the Duke, and nearly everything he touched for 15 years turned out fabulous -- that is, until he started preparing to meet his maker.

I too much prefer small groups to large ones, starting back in the late 1930s when big bands predominated and many of the best small groups were spinoffs, all the way through today. But I haven't let that rule prevent me from enjoying the exceptions, which number well into the hundreds. Indeed, if you let such rules of thumb preclude you from the experience, you'll miss out on all the surprises.

After posting Recycled Goods:

Recycled Goods up chez moi. Mostly jazz, with one section on major label (RCA, Columbia) mainstream (well, shading into pop fusion), another on FMP free jazz. One reason I mention it is that I'm curious whether anyone here decides to pop for either of the 25-CD box sets. (JazzLoft has them for $55 each; I've seen them a bit cheaper and a lot more expensive.) Whether they're a good deal depends on how redundant they are for you, how much extra crap you're willing to tolerate if it's cheap enough, and maybe for shelf-space compression (a factor I don't wholly discount).

The FMPs have been a major find for me. Presumably they make their money selling higher quality downloads, but for my purposes access to a full-length stream is what I need to fill in the blanks. So if you are curious, know that you can hear it all before you buy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Expert Comments

Where to start with Mingus (for a "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" fan)?

Start with Mingus Ah Um -- most days my all-time jazz album pick, and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"'s original home. After that there's a dozen more, with Blues and Roots closest in spirit, and Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the furthest out. Live at Antibes gives you a sense of how much energy he can put into a live band, and the late Mingus at Carnegie Hall, with five saxophonists ganging up on two 30-minute Ellington jams, is a personal favorite.

My initial reaction to the best-of was to look for an Atlantic, mostly to get "Haitian Fight Song" away from its original album, but looking at my notes, I see I have the Ken Burns Jazz thing at A, so it must be pretty decent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Expert Comments

Results from Bradley Sroka's EW Jazz Poll: Best Jazz Record of the 1960s (28 ballots; scraped from the blog but more officially here; Sroka added ubik333's ballot after the fact, which the following doesn't account for):

  1. Miles Davis: In a Silent Way (1969, Columbia) 238 (19)
  2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse) 208 (16) [1]
  3. Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady 116 (8)
  4. Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity 80 (7)
  5. Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965, Columbia, 7CD) 77 (6)
  6. Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (1964, Blue Note) 74 (7)
  7. Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins 61 (6)
  8. John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard (1961, Impulse) 60 (5) [2]
  9. Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1962, Blue Note) 58 (6)
  10. John Coltrane: My Favorite Things (1960, Atlantic) 57 (6)
  11. Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (1964, Impulse) 40 (4)
  12. Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard 40 (3)
  13. Thelonious Monk: Criss-Cross (1962, Columbia) 39 (3)
  14. Oliver Nelson: Blues and the Abstract Truth 38 (5)
  15. Duke Ellington: Far East Suite 38 (4)
  16. Ornette Coleman: Ornette! (1961, Atlantic) 35 (3)
  17. Roland Kirk: Rip, Rig and Panic 35 (3)
  18. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (1960, Atlantic) 35 (3)
  19. Gene Ammons: Boss Tenor (1960, Prestige) 34 (3)
  20. Miles Davis: Nefertiti (1967, Columbia) 33 (4)
  21. Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (1962, Blue Note) 31 (4)
  22. Thelonious Monk: Monk's Dream (1962, Columbia) 30 (4)
  23. Pharoah Sanders: Karma (1969, Impulse) 30 (2)
  24. Dexter Gordon: Our Man in Paris (1963, Blue Note) 29 (3)
  25. Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1964, Blue Note) 28 (3)
  26. Thelonious Monk: Monk (1964, Columbia) 28 (3)
  27. Sam Rivers: Fuchsia Swing Song 28 (3)
  28. Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book (1963, Blue Note) 27 (3)
  29. Cecil Taylor: Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come (1962, Freedom) 27 (3)
  30. John Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (1961, Impulse, 4CD) 26 (3) [3]
  31. Horace Silver: Song for My Father 26 (3)
  32. Duke Ellington: . . . And His Mother Called Him Bill (1967, RCA) 25 (3)
  33. Dexter Gordon: Go! (1962, Blue Note) 24 (2)
  34. Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind 23 (2)
  35. Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder 23 (2)
  36. Sonny Rollins: The Bridge (1962, RCA) 22 (3)
  37. Amalgam: Prayer for Peace 21 (2)
  38. Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz (1960, Atlantic) 20 (3)
  39. Jaki Byard: The Jaki Byard Experience 20 (2)
  40. Benny Carter: Further Definitions 20 (2)
  41. Ornette Coleman: At the Golden Circle, Vol. 1 (1965, Blue Note) 20 (2)
  42. Sonny Rollins: Our Man in Jazz 20 (2)
  43. Andrew Hill: Point of Departure (1964, Blue Note) 19 (3)
  44. Duke Ellington: The Popular Duke Ellington 19 (2)
  45. Charles Mingus: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus 19 (2)
  46. Thelonious Monk: Live at the It Club (1964, Columbia) 19 (2)
  47. Wayne Shorter: Juju (1964, Blue Note) 18 (2)
  48. Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1967 (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1) 17 (2)
  49. Horace Silver: The Jody Grind 16 (2)
  50. Sonny Clark: Leapin' and Lopin' 15 (2)
  51. Gil Evans: Out of the Cool 15 (2)
  52. Sonny Rollins: There Will Never Be Another You 15 (2)
  53. Miles Davis: Filles de Kilimanjaro 14 (2)
  54. Peter Brötzmann: Machine Gun 10 (2)
  55. John Coltrane: Crescent 10 (2)
  • [1] includes votes for A Love Supreme (Deluxe Edition)
  • [2] includes votes for Live at the Village Vanguard--The Master Takes; votes for The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings counted separately.
  • [3] votes for Live at the Village Vanguard counted separately.

Other mentions from individual ballots (won't bother with points here; Sroka reports that 128 different albums got votes; I add a few HMs [*] here):

  • Louis Armstrong/Duke Ellington: The Great Summit (1961, Roulette)
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Spiritual (1969, Freedom)
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: People in Sorrow (1969, Nessa)
  • Albert Ayler/Don Cherry: Vibrations (1964, Freedom)
  • Albert Ayler: Spirits Rejoice (1965, ESP-Disk)
  • Albert Ayler: Lörrach, Paris 1966 (1966, Hatology)
  • Art Blakey: Roots and Herbs (1961, Blue Note) *
  • Art Blakey: The Witch Doctor (1961, Blue Note)
  • Paul Bley: Closer (1965, ESP-Disk) *
  • Anthony Braxton: For Alto (1968, Delmark) *
  • Jaki Byard: The Last From Lennie's (1965, Prestige)
  • Don Cherry: "Mu" First Part/"Mu" Second Part (1969, Fuel 2000)
  • Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland: Volcano (1969, Polydor)
  • Ornette Coleman: This Is Our Music (1960, Atlantic)
  • Ornette Coleman: Ornette on Tenor (1961, Atlantic)
  • Ornette Coleman: Crisis (1969, Impulse)
  • Johnny Coles: Little Johnny C (1963, Blue Note) *
  • John Coltrane: Coltrane Plays the Blues (1960, Atlantic)
  • John Coltrane: Olé Coltrane (1961, Atlantic)
  • John Coltrane: Impressions (1961-63, Impulse)
  • John Coltrane: John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963, Impulse)
  • John Coltrane: Ascension (1965, Impulse)
  • John Coltrane: Meditations (1965, Impulse)
  • John Coltrane: Interstellar Space (1967, Impulse)
  • Sonny Criss: Up, Up and Away (1967, Prestige)
  • Sonny Criss: Sonny's Dream (1968, Prestige)
  • Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain (1959-60, Columbia)
  • Miles Davis: 04/09/1960 Kurhaus, Scheveningen, Holland (1960, bootleg)
  • Miles Davis: Live at the Blackhawk (1961, Columbia)
  • Miles Davis: E.S.P. (1965, Columbia)
  • Miles Davis: Miles Smiles (1966, Columbia)
  • Miles Davis: Sorcerer (1967, Columbia)
  • Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (1969, Columbia, 2CD)
  • Bill Dixon: Intents and Purposes (1962-66, International Phonograph)
  • Eric Dolphy: Outward Bound (1960, New Jazz)
  • Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (1963, Westwind) *
  • Eric Dolphy: Last Date (1964, Emarcy)
  • Duke Ellington: Featuring Paul Gonsalves (1962, OJC)
  • Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (1962, Impulse)
  • Bill Evans: The Complete Live at the Village Vanguard 1961 (1961, Riverside)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie (1961, Verve)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Twelve Nights in Hollywood (1961-62, Hip-O Select/Verve, 4CD)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella and Duke at the Côte D'Azur (1966, Verve, 2CD)
  • Eddie Gale: Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music (1968, Water)
  • Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto (1964, Verve)
  • Dexter Gordon: A Swingin' Affair (1962, Blue Note) *
  • Grant Green: Feelin' the Spirit (1962, Blue Note)
  • Grant Green: Idle Moments (1963, Blue Note)
  • Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles (1964, Blue Note)
  • Joe Henderson: Page One (1963, Blue Note)
  • Andrew Hill: Black Fire (1963, Blue Note)
  • Earl Hines: Live at the Village Vanguard (1965, Columbia)
  • Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (1965, Blue Note) *
  • Jazz Composers Orchestra: Jazz Composers Orchestra (1968, JCOA)
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Inflated Tear (1968, Atlantic)
  • Krzysztof Komeda: Astigmatic (1965, Power Bros) *
  • Lee Konitz: Motion (1961, Verve)
  • Steve Lacy/Don Cherry: Evidence (1961, New Jazz) *
  • Jimmy Lyons: Other Afternoons (1969, BYG Actuel)
  • Jackie McLean: Bluesnik (1961, Blue Note) *
  • Jackie McLean: Destination . . . Out! (1963, Blue Note) *
  • Charles Mingus: Oh Yeah (1961, Atlantic)
  • Hank Mobley: Soul Station (1960, Blue Note)
  • Thelonious Monk: It's Monk's Time (1964, Columbia) *
  • Thelonious Monk: Monk Alone: The Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings 1962-1968 (1962-68, Columbia/Legacy, 2CD)
  • Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly: Smokin' at the Half Note (1965, Verve) *
  • Lee Morgan: Cornbread (1965, Blue Note)
  • Oliver Nelson/Eric Colphy: Straight Ahead (1961, New Jazz)
  • Oscar Peterson: Night Train (1962, Verve)
  • Sun Ra: Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy (1961, Evidence)
  • Sun Ra: When Angels Speak of Love (1963, Evidence)
  • Sun Ra: The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1 (1965, ESP-Disk) *
  • Sun Ra: Atlantis (1967-69, Evidence)
  • Max Roach: We Insist! Freedom Now Suite (1960, Candid) *
  • Sonny Rollins: On Impulse! (1965, Impulse) *
  • Sonny Rollins: There Will Never Be Another You (1965, Impulse)
  • Archie Shepp: Fire Music (1965, Impulse)
  • Archie Shepp: The Way Ahead (1968, Impulse)
  • Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (1964, Blue Note)
  • Wayne Shorter: Super Nova (1969, Blue Note)
  • Frank Siantra/Count Basie: Sinatra-Basie (1962, Reprise)
  • Jimmy Smith: Back at the Chicken Shack (1960, Blue Note)
  • Jimmy Smith/Stanley Turrentine: Prayer Meetin' (1960-63, Blue Note)
  • Cecil Taylor: The World of Cecil Taylor (1960, Candid)
  • Cecil Taylor: Unit Structures (1966, Blue Note)
  • Cecil Taylor: Conquistador! (1966, Blue Note)
  • Cecil Taylor: The Great Concert of Cecil Taylor (1969, Prestige)
  • Lennie Tristano: The New Lennie Tristano
  • Tony Williams: Emergency! (1969, Polydor)
  • Larry Young: Unity (1965, Blue Note)

Ballots by (HMs counted for *): Anderson PM, Bradley Sroka, bradluen*, Cam Patterson, Chris Hurst, Chris Monsen*, Dan W, Dave C90, Greg Morton, Jason Gubbels*, Joe Lunday, Joe Yanosik, John S, Mark926*, RobT-2, Ryan Maffei, scott coleman, ShadyShack, Tigster326, ubik333, Tom Walker, Ziggy Schouws

I posted my ballot and a note:

My ballot:

  1. Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite (1966, RCA) [18]
  2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse) [16]
  3. Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962, Impulse) [12]
  4. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (1960, Atlantic) [10]
  5. Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (1964, Impulse) [10]
  6. Sam Rivers: Fuschia Swing Song (1964, Blue Note) [8]
  7. Paul Desmond/Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind (1962, RCA) [8]
  8. Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (1964, ESP-Disk) [6]
  9. Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (1969, FMR) [6]
  10. Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (1962, Blue Note) [6]

Tried to balance off my swing and avant-garde (antibop?) interests, which worked against the era's greatest hardbop efforts, like Art Blakey's Roots and Herbs, Hank Mobley's Soul Station, Horace Silver's The Jody Grind, Tina Brooks' True Blue, and Lee Morgan's Search for a New Land.

For honorable mentions, start with my Core List:

I would probably go deeper than that. In particular, a lot of very good Andrew Hill and Jackie McLean discs got cut there. One artist I should have done some research on was Ornette Coleman: his Atlantics straddle 1959-60 and I'm rusty on the later discs.

The one that's raised the most eyebrows is Amalgam: a Trevor Watts quartet, the first real masterpiece of the burgeoning English avant-garde scene.

One I especially wish I had worked into the ballot somehow was Budd Johnson's Let's Swing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that somone had voted for one of the Earl Hines quartets that featured Johnson: Live at the Village Vanguard. Hines' long out-of-print Up to Date is every bit as good.

One record I'm surprised didn't fare better is the Wynton Kelly/Wes Montgomery Smokin' at the Half Note; another is John McLaughlin's Extrapolation. Figured we had more guitar fans here. Also, for that matter, Bitches Brew: first jazz record I really listened to, mostly because roommates likes to play it as late night chill out music.

Mark926 wrote: "now . . that Marsalis guy . . . there is a polarizing figure in jazz." I responded:

He appeared around 1980 as the Wunderkind who would bring jazz back to life, or so figured a mainstream press that hadn't paid any attention to jazz since the Mt. Rushmore figures passed c. 1970. They knew he had the gift because he played classical music as well as jazz, and because he played for Art Blakey. He got a major record contract, and added to Sony's PR machine a handful of favored critics like Albert Murray and Stanley Crouch who wrote about him like the Gospels wrote about Jesus, at the same time deprecating anyone outside of his narrow Jazz = Blues + Swing formula. He then parlayed his reputation into a commanding position at Lincoln Center, which gave him a stranglehold over what's probably the largest source of jazz funding in NYC -- funds he went on to use for conspicuously political and ideological purposes. That in turn led to things like Ken Burns Jazz, which made him effectively the nation's Jazz Czar. The people who benefit from his largess like him fine. Those who don't benefit, well, like him not so much.

His records tend to break into three groups: the small group hardbop sets, which are proficient but never satisfy me like his models do; his various retro nods, which are technically superb and generously educational (good example: Mr. Jelly Lord); and his efforts at composing major works, especially those meant to position him as the successor of Ellington and Mingus -- these are almost without exception dreadful (well, there's a spectacular section in Citi Movement, but we're talking 5 minutes out of two hours). There can be little doubt as to his skills or his mastery of those parts of history he deigns to recognize, but it's too easy for non-experts to overcredit him. (As fine a trumpeter as he is, for instance, Dave Douglas can play rings around him.)

Oct 2011