January 2022 Notebook
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Speaking of Which

[not yet ready]


Ian Millhiser: The Supreme Court can't get its story straight on vaccines: "The Court is barely even pretending to be engaged in legal reasoning." The Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration's OSHA rule requiring vaccination or testing for workers in covered businesses, but allowed another rule on health care workers. As a subhed put it: "The Court is fabricating legal doctrines that appear in neither statute nor Constitution." In other words, they're making this shit up as they go along, responding to a political agenda that that is rooted in nothing but their own presumed powers. When Trump packed the court, I thought it was premature to talk about rebalancing schemes. In order to be politically possible, people first have to be convinced that the current Court is out of control. That's what these rulings provide evidence of.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, January archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 49 albums, 8 A-list, perhaps country music can be saved, but you have to look awful hard to find it; still, that's true of most musics: obscurity doesn't buy you anything, but lots of things leave you obscure.

Music: Current count 37117 [37068] rated (+49), 137 [133] unrated (+4).

First thing I should note here is the passing of Elsie Lee Pyeatt. At 88, she was my oldest living cousin -- a status she was fifth to hold, so perhaps one should stop keeping track -- the second child of Ted Brown (1902-81), who was in turn the second child (eldest son) of my mother's parents (Ben Brown, 1868-1936, and Mary Lou Lakey, 1877-1946, who both died before I was born; Elsie Lee was the last person with any direct memory of Ben Brown). My mother's family grew up on a farm near the long-defunct town of Vidette, Arkansas (east of Henderson, east of Mountain Home). After Ben died, Ted bought out his siblings and took over the family farm. The rest of the family scattered, some to Oklahoma and Kansas, some as far as Washington and California. Ted's other children left for Washington, with Max coming back to Kansas in 1956, but Elsie Lee stayed close to home.

When I was young, we visited Ted (and Hester) and Elsie Lee (and Pete Pyeatt) about once a year. Ted lived on a farm, in a stone house he had built, with a wood stove that Hester cooked masterfully on. Elsie Lee and Pete lived on a farm about 4 miles west (although the backroads route my father invariably took made it seem much farther), in a log cabin which had been encased in concrete -- the original interior walls were about 2 feet thick -- with extra rooms slapped on most sides. We would usually spend a week, split between the two houses. Elsie Lee and Pete were married in 1956, so I always remember them together in that house, with three little girls, and eventually a son. They were the people I felt closest to there.

I spent several decades running away from my family, then gradually started reacquainting myself. After moving back to Kansas in 1999, I started visiting Arkansas regularly, usually once a year. Pete had died, and Elsie Lee was living alone back in her old farmhouse -- she had spent much of the intervening years living in Mountain Home, close to her work, but kept her farm, and Ted's until its upkeep became too much. The farm remains in the family, but she left it over a decade ago: she lived with daughter Brenda in the Fayetteville area for a while, then moved back to Mountain Home, and spent her last years in a small house next to Rhonda, another daughter, with her other children also in or near Mountain Home. Last time I saw her was a stop off on a drive back from the East Coast, 3-4 years ago. I haven't been anywhere since. Elsie Lee has been in poor health for some time, and suffered from a bit of dimentia, so talking to her became increasingly difficult. But the family did a good job of keeping touch, and I greatly appreciate their efforts.

Since getting the news, I've been in some kind of depressed daze -- not unlike after Devoe Brown's death 18 months ago. At least I got a chance to talk to Devoe regularly in his waning days, when he worked harder to cheer me up than I did for him. More to this I don't want to talk about. Unless something changes for the better (and the other direction seems much more likely), I can see myself pulling back and fading away.

One special source of aggravation this week is Hewlett-Packard. Sometimes I think I should put a boycott page up to identify companies that I consider to be especially egregious. I bought a HP 9015 OfficeJet printer a few months back, largely based on the widespread view that the HP had particularly good Linux support. It doesn't. I'm unable to scan using Xsane (which recognizes the scanner and does test scans, but craps out during data transfer; SimpleScan works, barely). Then there's the proprietary ink problem. Their whole engineering operation seems to be built around locking you into their proprietary ink scam. I signed up for their subscription program (6 months free), and they sent me replacement ink, then also bumped the monthly price up 33%, while limiting the carryover allowance to 3 months. However, I ran out of initial cyan and magenta ink (despite printing approx. zero pages in color), and that locked the machine (despite having quite a bit of black left). For the last two weeks, I've been too upset to figure out how to change the cartridges (no obvious hints either on the machine or the cartridges). I bought my first HP printer c. 1981. I'll never buy anything else from them. (Myriad minor annoyances not noted above. Some of this is probably due to me not being hip to the new ap-based wireless world, but when I can't figure something techy out, I doubt it's all my fault.)

Meanwhile, I did manage to slog through a fair number of records this week. I got some tips from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. (I previously had Carly Pearce at A-; Kasai Allstars, Morgan Wade, Baiana System, McKinley Dixon, and Ka at ***.) I also spent a lot of time going through Saving Country Music's 2021 Essential Albums list, which yielded most of this week's A- records. By the way, previously reviewed A- records listed there: James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds; Hayes Carll: You Get It All; Carly Pearce: 29: Written in Stone; Sierra Ferrell: A Long Time Coming; John R. Miller: Depreciated; Margo Cilker: Pohorylle; Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough.

Added some EOY lists. I added a bunch of individual ballots from Jazz Critics Poll, which increased the pro-jazz skew of my EOY Aggregate: Floating Points bumped Little Simz from the number one spot; James Brandon Lewis rose to number nine; Sons of Kemet (15), Vijay Iyer (23), Henry Threadgill (34), Ches Smith (36), Charles Lloyd (38), William Parker's Mayan Space Station (44), and Wadada Leo Smith's Chicago Symphonies (47) cracked the top 50 (with Anna Webber next at 51). I expect most of those to settle down a bit if/as I keep adding non-jazz lists, but Floating Points seems to be pulling away. I'm not a big fan, but it seems to have hit a chord for the times, and I don't disapprove. (I do disapprove of Low's Hey What, in 6th place with grade C.) Also note that a jazz record is currently the highest ranked among those I haven't heard yet: William Parker's 10-CD box, Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World. (I got a sampler but wasn't blown away by it, not that I don't love almost everything Parker does; by the way, see Britt Robson's A Guide to William Parker, also my own dated but still useful William Parker, Matthew Shipp & Friends: A Consumer Guide.) Alternatively, I've tended to ignore metal-only lists this year (even more than usual), so suspect an anti-metal skew. (The only other unheard albums down to 160 are: Every Time I Die; Gojira; Deafheaven; Mastodon; Converge. After that you get into perennial disappointments like James Blake and the Killers.) Among other lists, the long one at Aquarium Drunkard sent me off on some interesting searches.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Aeon Station: Observatory (2021, Sub Pop): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Alfa Mist: Bring Backs (2021, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
  • Riddy Arman: Riddy Arman (2021, La Honda): [r]: B+(***)
  • Blackberry Smoke: You Hear Georgia (2021, 3 Legged): [r]: B+(*)
  • Garrett T. Capps: I Love San Antone (2021, Vinyl Ranch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Melissa Carper: Daddy's Country Gold (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Anansy Cissé: Anoura (2021, Riverboat): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kiely Connell: Camulet Queen (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jesse Daniel: Beyond These Walls (2021, Die True): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Dove: Hopeless Romantic (2021, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Hope Dunbar: Sweetheartland (2021, self-released): [r]:B+(***)
  • Hope Dunbar: You Let the Light In (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vincent Neil Emerson: Vincent Neil Emerson (2021, La Honda): [r]: A-
  • John Escreet/Pera Krstajic/Anthony Fung: Cresta (2022, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Flatland Cavalry: Welcome to Countryland (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Béla Fleck: My Bluegrass Heart (2021, Renew, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Linda Fredriksson: Juniper (2021, We Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Wesley Godwin: How the Mighty Fall (self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Hébert: Sounds of Love (2013 [2022], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tom Jones: Surrounded by Time (2021, S-Curve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Koreless: Agor (2021, Young): [r]: B
  • Mac Leaphart: Music City Joke (2021, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Rob Leines: Blood, Sweat, and Beers (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • John McLaughlin: Liberation Time (2021, Abstract Logix): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mike and the Moonpies: One to Grow On (2021, Prairie Rose): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nation of Language: A Way Forward (2021, PIAS): [r]: B+(**)
  • NTsKI: Orca (2021, Orange Milk/EM): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Poppy: Flux (2021, Sumerian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Connie Smith: The Cry of the Heart (2021, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Steel Woods: All of Your Stones (2021, Thirty Tigers): [r]:B
  • Billy Strings: Renewal (2021, Rounder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aaron Lee Tasjan: Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! (2021, New West): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • The Beaters: Harari (1975 [2021], Matsuli Music): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Berry: Live From Blueberry Hill (2005-06 [2021], Dualtone): [sp]: A-
  • Chuck Berry: Toronto Rock 'N' Roll Revival 1969 (1969 [2021], Sunset Blvd.): [r]: B+(***)
  • Essiebons Special 1973-1984: Ghana Music Power House (1973-84 [2021], Analog Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Harari: Rufaro/Happiness (1976 [2021], Matsuli Music): [bc]: B+(**)
  • I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico (2011, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Khan Jamal: Infinity (1982 [2021], Jazz Room): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Leo Nocentelli: Another Side (1971 [2021], Light in the Attic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tom Prehn Kvartet: Centrifuga (1964, Centrifuga): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ritmo Fantasía: Balearic Spanish Synth-Pop, Boogie & House (1982-1992) (1982-92 [2021], Soundway): [r]: B+(**)
  • Star Lovers: Boafo Ne Nyame (1987 [2021], Hot Casa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Velvet Underground: A Documentary Film by Todd Haynes (1954-70 [2021], Polydor, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Precious Bryant: Feel Me Good (2002, Terminus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Precious Bryant: The Truth (2004, Terminus): [r]: A-
  • Precious Bryant: My Name Is Precious (2005, Music Maker Relief Foundation): [r]: B+(***)
  • Anansy Cissé: Mali Overdrive (2014, Riverboat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hope Dunbar: Three Black Crows (2017, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vincent Neil Emerson: Fried Chicken & Evil Women (2019, La Honda): [r]: A-
  • Booker Ervin: Structurally Sound (1966 [2001], Blue Note): [r]: A-
  • Booker Ervin: The In Between (1968, Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)


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

  • The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: Both Ways (self-released): [bc]: ++


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Scott Burns/John Wojciechowski/Geof Bradfield: Tenor Time (Afar Music) [01-21]
  • Eugenie Jones: Players (Open Mic) [03-11]
  • Oz Noy/Ugonna Okegwo/Ray Marchica: Riverside (Outside In Music) [01-22]
  • Mathis Picard: Live at the Museum (Outside In Music) [01-28]

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Daily Log

My Facebook post on Elsie Lee Pyeatt:

I'm deeply saddened to report that my dear cousin, Elsie Lee Pyeatt, passed away yesterday morning, at 88. My mother was one of eight children born to Ben and Mary Brown, who had a farm near Mountain Home in Arkansas, between 1900 and 1913. All but Ted moved away by 1940, as did two of his three children. Elsie Lee was the one that stayed, remaining the solid link to our ancestral past, not least the great warmth and generosity that the Browns all over America. When I was growing up, my parents made regular pilgrimages to Arkansas to visit my mother's many loved ones, most memorably Ted and Elsie Lee. I've tried to follow suit over the last 20 years, but fell down the last couple. I will miss her dearly, but am thankful that she's left several generations of family that continue her guardianship of our legacy. Here's an obituary.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Daily Log

Allen Lowe posted this to Facebook:

I have a question for those of you out there who are much more alert than I. I've been generally perusing some jazz top ten lists at the end of the year, and truthfully most of them read like the top 10 free jazz/Progressive Jazz/out there Jazz. Now this is all well and good as far as it goes, because many of these lists include the work of the group I am in. But something is troubling in its absence. Where is the main stream? Where are the bebop bands? Where are the revivalists? Where are the old time players? Something is out of whack, out of balance, out of something. Are these bands covered? Are these musicians part of a different cult of personality? If what I am seeing is accurate I don't like it one bit, even if in some ways I benefit from it. Are all jazz journalists that isolated? It's a big old world out there.

I posted this comment:

Couple points: Free jazz is still very marginal. Very few people listen to it, so there's very little money in it, therefore little motivation to write about it, or to promote it. However, it's been around 50-60 years now, so it's lost its shock value, and been incorporated into the language. But musicians gravitate toward it, for ideas that sound fresh and unexpected, and critics are likely to pick up on the old/new dynamics. Assuming, of course, that they get to hear it -- which in some ways is what polls actually measure. The last few years have seen something of a critical sweet spot developing around a cluster of adequately-promoted, free-influenced musicians (some legends like Smith and Threadgill, some younger like Iyer, Lehman, and Lewis) whose work is both adventurous and accessible. You might argue that this represents a divergence between critics and the public (at least the small part that is interested in jazz at all). I prefer to think that there is a lot of good music that would be more popular if more people could hear it.

I also posted this:

I have less of an answer to the other part of your question. I'm a fan of early and retro jazz (I had Jazz CG pick hits from Warren Vache and Randy Sandke, A-listed a couple albums on Stomp Off, and more on Arbors; I listen to everything I can find by Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton), but don't run across a lot of it these days, and -- as is the case with all long-established genres -- it's rare to find something that stands out enough to stick it into a short list (a top ten is about .013 of what I've listened to this year). It might help to find more specialists for the Jazz Critics Poll. This year we only had one critic who mostly picked New Orleans trad albums. I listened to a couple, and wasn't blown away, but that's just one data point.

Another comment I wrote on Facebook:

My mother's oldest sister, Aunt Lola, was born in 1900, the first of eight ending with my mother in 1913, so I've always had their lives for perspective. Their parents died before I was born (in 1950, another historical baseline of note), but my father's father was born in 1895, early enough to get drafted and shipped to Europe for the Great War. He made it back to western Kansas to raise a family in the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. He died in 1965, and Lola died in 1968. I remember them, and their farms, very well, which made me all the more conscious of what changed over the first half of the 20th century. On the other hand, all that perspective didn't prepare me well for the Vietnam War, which went against everything I had been led to believe was right. Yes, most of us survived such calamities, but rarely without being affected by them, and not necessarily for the better.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, January archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 36 albums, 4 A-list, still sorting through the rest of 2021, but starting to move on to 2022, and back to other unfinished business.

Music: Current count 37068 [37032] rated (+36), 133 [128] unrated (+5).

I published a batch of questions and answers on Sunday: on keeping track of grades, on playing vinyl, and political tactics. The latter is something I've been thinking about, but have less and less confidence of convincing anyone. Nonetheless, I've started to think about a Speaking of Which later in the week. I'd also like to do a Book Roundup post before long. I still have a long ways to go with The Dawn of Everything, but quite a bit of new stuff has come out since my latest (April 18, 2021).

Over the weekend, I tweeted a link to a Dessa single I found about Janet Yellen. Probably the best song about a major economist since Loudon Wainwright's Paul Krugman.

I continue to be perplexed as to why all this searching through EOY lists isn't generating more 2021 A- records. Thus far I've found one, vs. 14 new 2020 A- records in January 2021. This week's only new A- is the first 2022 release. Late in the week, I was having so much trouble deciding on which recent release to listen to next I reverted to my old idea of listening to unheard Christgau A-list records. I knew of a couple that I hadn't been able to find on Napster but were on Spotify -- that number is small, but it was one reason for signing up. The other main reason is that Spotify has an application that runs on Linux, whereas I've had to use Napster's web interface. The latter is both a terrible resource hog and is prone to hangs -- problems I haven't encountered on Spotify.

On the other hand, I'm finding it harder to browse for things on Spotify, and I haven't tried to put any playlists together. I assembled the Platters compilation playlist rather easily on Napster. I have a couple of other (shorter and earlier) Platters compilations I'm quite happy with -- The Very Best of the Platters (1955-60 [1991], Mercury), and The Best of the Platters [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1955-61 [1999], Mercury) -- but this particular one was the one that Christgau eventually settled on. The remaining question is whether the 2-CD The Magic Touch: An Anthology might be the better pick.

I considered doing the same thing with ChangesOneBowie, but didn't take it on until I saw a bunch of tributes on Bowie's birthday. I eventually found the extra single, then noticed that Spotify had the whole album (albeit with later remasters). So I gave it a whirl, knew everything, and appreciated the context. As I noted in the review, I had all the original vinyl LPs (but no longer), and bought the extended CD ChangesBowie early when it came out. It seems a little odd to go to the trouble of reviewing obsolete configurations, but in this case, with resurgent interest in vinyl, the original best-of got reissued (in 2016).

The Charles Brackeen record was suggested by Chris Monsen on news of the saxophonist's death. I'm not a big fan of his other Silkheart albums -- the one time he got a real chance as a leader, although he's been more impressive as a sideman.

El Intruso published their 14th Annual International Critics Poll results. I was one of 71 critics who voted in the poll. My ballot, which was pretty much off the top of my head (with occasional glances at my 2021 list), is second down here. A little less than half of the voters also participated in our Jazz Critics Poll. The El Intruso poll skews more avant than JCP, which is obvious with the results (especially for the instrument slots). More interesting to me is that it draws a lot more on non-American critics.

Still dragging my feet on indexing recent Streamnotes monthlies -- I think I'm down two at present. It's been hard keeping up.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Gregg Belisle-Chi: Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne (2020 [2021], Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris Brokaw: Puritan (2021, 12XU): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Sharel Cassity/Rajiv Halim/Greg Ward: Altoizm (2021, Afar Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Coral: Coral Island (2021, Run On, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Dessa: Ides (2021, Doomtree, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dltzk: Frailty (2021, Deadair): [r]: B
  • Derrick Gardner and the Big Dig! Band: Still I Rise (2020, Impact Jazz): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Myriam Gendron: Ma Délire: Songs of Love, Lost & Found (2021, Feeding Tube): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pasquale Grasso: Pasquale Plays Duke (2021, Sony Masterworks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fred Hersch: Breath by Breath (2021 [2022], Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Sven-Åke Johansson/Niklas Fite/Joel Grip: Swinging at Topsi's (2020 [2021], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Christof Kurzmann/Sofia Jernberg/Joe Williamson/Mats Brandlmayr: Disquiet (2018 [2021], Trost): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joëlle Léandre/Pauline Oliveros/George Lewis: Play as You Go (2014 [2021], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • João Lencastre's Communion: Unlimited Dreams (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • L.U.M.E. [Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble]: Las Californias (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Tony Malaby's Sabino: The Cave of Winds (2021 [2022], Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Michael Mayo: Bones (2021, Artistry Music/Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charnett Moffett: New Love (2019 [2021], Motéma): [r]: B
  • Perila: How Much Time It Is Between You and Me? (2021, Smalltown Soupersound): [r]: B
  • John Pizzarelli: Better Days Ahead: Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny (2021, Ghostlight): [r]: B
  • Mike Pride: I Hate Work (2021, RareNoise): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Uncommon Weather (2021, Slumberland): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex Riel/Bo Stief/Carsten Dahl: Our Songs (2021, Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rite of Trio: Free Development of Delirium (2021, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ritual Habitual: Pagan Chant (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Diego Rivera: Indigenous (2019 [2021], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Rumback: Seven Bridges (2021, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dave Stryker: As We Are (2021 [2022], Strikezone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Tiptons Sax Quartet & Drums: Wabi Sabi (2021, Sowie Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carlos "Zingaro"/Pedro Carneiro: Elogio Das Sombras (2012 [2021], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Berlin 1959 (1959 [2021], Storyville, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • The Allman Brothers Band: One Way Out: Live at the Beacon Theatre (2003 [2004], Sanctuary/Peach, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
  • David Bowie: ChangesOneBowie (1969-76 [1976], RCA): [sp]: A
  • David Bowie: ChangesNowBowie (1996 [2020], Parlophone): [sp]: B
  • Charles Brackeen Quartet: Attainment (1987 [1988], Silkheart): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chicago Farmer: Quarter Past Tonight (2018, Chicago Farmer, 2CD): [sp]: A-
  • The Platters: Enchanted: The Best of the Planters (1956-67 [1998], Rhino): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Black Lives: From Generation to Generation (Jammin' Colors, 2CD) [03-25]
  • Nathan Borton: Each Step (OA2) [01-21]
  • Andrew Boudreau: Neon (Fresh Sound New Talent) [02-28]
  • Julieta Eugenio: Jump (Greenleaf Music) [03-04]
  • Stephen Martin: High Plains (OA2) [01-21]
  • Matt Olson: Open Spaces (OA2) [01-21]
  • Doug Scarborough: The Color of Angels (Origin) [01-21]
  • Ben Thomas Tango Project: Eternal Aporia (Origin) [01-21]
  • Piet Verbist: Secret Exit to Another Dimension (Origin) [01-21]

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Daily Log

Writing fragment dropped from Q&A:

It helps to remind oneself of basic principles: right and left are defined by opposite stances on hierarchical power and order. The right believes that certain people deserving -- whether by birth, wealth, or some other "merit" -- of privileges over others, and that accepts and defends order based on hierarchy -- either current or some romanticized past they hope to restore. The left opposes the abuses that inevitably result from concentrations of wealth and power, and proposes equality as an alternative. That makes sense, as most people will accept a system of equal rights, but hardly anyone will long submit to the domination of others. That doesn't bother the right, because they're willing to use force to subdue others, especially their critics on the left. On the other hand, the left aims to lessen conflict, by curtailing states and acts widely seen to be unjust. Sure, on occasion you can provoke a leftist into some sort of unseemly, uncharacteristic response. Real people often fail to live up to their ideals. But tactics that come natural to the right, including violence and deceit, are not normal, and are not respected or condoned, on the left.

After I got your letter, I wrote to friends in Seattle and Portland to see if they could collaborate your stories, and they could (or would) not. Another friend in Berkeley did come with an instance of trying to get someone fired for some breach of political etiquette, but that was the only other example I found, and it seemed to be some kind of turf dispute between left-aligned interest groups; i.e., not a dispute over left-right principles. Two-party politics in America cannot generally be reduced to ideological differences, but as business interests have gotten more aggressive since the 1970s, and managed to shift an enormous portion of the nation's wealth to the very rich, the Republican Party has become their champion, pushing many of those who lost out into the not-very-welcoming arms of the Democrats. (One big reason the rich made out so well from 1980-2020 is that many Democrats preferred to compete with Republicans in their service to the rich. In many ways they did so more effectively, but Republicans won with their right-wing world-view, which celebrated the rich while lining up supporters whose prejudices and fears seem to give them a stake in the hierarchy.

Their political position should be untenable in a democracy, yet Republicans have been remarkably successful since 1980, especially in their ability to win elections even while losing their popular vote. Their manipulation of news and public opinion has been relentless, even as their grasp on reality has diminished. One specialty has been to paint a vast left-wing conspiracy secretly conniving to strip and enslave real Americans of their freedom and/or way of life. They offer bold assertions, but little proof. To take one big example, how would universal free health care hurt rank-and-file (or for that matter very rich) Republicans? Free college education? Better public transportation? Cleaner water and air? Sure, the left would increase taxes on the rich, but they wouldn't deny services to them or anyone else, because their aim isn't domination but equality.

Yet in their desperation to discredit the left, Republicans have seized upon a number of trumped-up threats to the fragile egos of their followers. A few years back the main focus was on "politically correct speech," where some people were disparaged for using language some felt to be offensive and hurtful. Such complaints of victimhood mostly served to increase the volume of hateful speech on the right. This has since escalated into cries bemoaning "cancel culture," without the slightest bit of concern when the right's the one doing the canceling -- as has been the case in the war against "critical race theory" (basically, anything that makes whites feel uncomfortable about their own racism). I've seen so little substance to these charges that I'm inclined to discount them like all the other right-wing myths and lies.

This doesn't mean that I can dismiss every possible charge of wrong doing or inappropriate behavior on the left. Two scenarios strike me as possible:

  1. In places where leftists gain appreciable political power, it is always possible some may abuse that power. The old saw is that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Still, the remedy for that isn't returning power to the right. It's holding leftists accountable to their ideals and their constituents.
  2. In places where leftists have no power and no legitimate chance of improving their standing, it is possible that they will turn to desperate measures, including violence (given that their situation will largely be dictated by real and/or threatened violence by the right). The remedy for that is to keep political activities legitimate and free, raising the hope that persuasion might eventually succeed.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, January archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 21 albums, 1 A-list, just a half week where hardly anything seemed to click.

Music: Current count 37032 [37011] rated (+21), 128 [126] unrated (+2).

I kept last week's Music Week open until Friday, December 31, so today's report covers a mere three days. The rated count for the two weeks combined is a prodigious 89 -- nothing to sniff at. However, I am surprised that two weeks at this stage would result in only three A- new music releases (well, also three A- new releases of old music, all 1960s British jazz from last week. I've been doing some mop up: I've chopped an initial list of records that I hadn't heard from the upper ranks of Jazz Critics Poll in half (leaving 16 of the top 187 unheard, mostly items I've looked for but haven't found complete copies of); I've also knocked a few of the higher-rated previously-unheards from my EOY aggregate (I've heard the top 91, balking at Deafheaven, Every Time I Die, Gojira, and Mastodon -- smells like metal); I checked out a bunch of EPs from Dan Weiss' list (on Facebook); I checked out a couple late adds to Phil Overeem's latest list. Perhaps I've been in a bad mood, or just exhausted, but the only new A-list record of this week was one I hadn't heard of until I spotted it on Dave Everall's PJPRP top-ten. I've added a bunch of PJPRP lists, following my custom of only counting names I recognize for whatever reason.

The EOY Aggregate has been pretty stable this year, with: Little Simz, Floating Points, Olivia Rodrigo, Tyler the Creator, Dry Cleaning, Japanese Breakfast, Billie Eilish, Low, Turnstile, Arlo Parks, Lucy Dacus, Jazmine Sullivan, Weather Station, Mdou Moctar, Adele, Sons of Kemet, Wolf Alice, Lil Nas X, Nick Cave, Snail Mail (down to 20). The top jazz record is James Brandon Lewis at 22: at least that's the one that gives you a barometer of the jazz bias in my lists (he has a few crossover votes, probably more than usual, but he's still very strongly identified as jazz; on the other hand, Floating Points and Sons of Kemet are about equally likely to show up on jazz and non-jazz lists). I'm not done fiddling with the EOY Aggregate, but I suspect I've already learned most of what I will.

The Old Music Aggregate has been taken over by jazz reissues, with this year's John Coltrane opening up a 2-to-1 margin over Hasaan Ibn Ali's Lost Atlantic Album. Structurally, there is little chance of anything else happening, although the effect seems greater this year, probably because I haven't been looking for reissue/compilation/archival lists.

Various other things I was tempted to write about but don't have in me at the moment:

  • One nice thing about the Jazz Critics Poll was that I got a small surge of new followers, edging just above 500.
  • I should note that I've gone back and replayed a few records lately, ones others like a lot and I liked enough to wonder if I should have given them more of a chance. I've raised the grades of a couple earlier this year, but Little Simz, Mach-Hommy, Maria Grand (and probably others I've already forgotten) didn't budge last week.
  • I got a question about RSS feeds. I have one, but don't know how well it works, mostly because I've never seen a RSS reader that does what I expect it to do. I was able to set up Thunderbird to read my feed (also the one for Robert Christgau).
  • I've seen a lot of folk complain about the movie Don't Look Up, and most of them are wildly off base. Still, the worst is the Wikipedia line: "The comet is an allegory for climate change and the film is a satire of government and media indifference to the climate crisis." The comet is a real thing, very unlikely, but one did hit Earth 65 million years ago, which did cause most species at the time to die, so it's something people have thought about, and crunched some numbers on, and the science and math are very clear. Climate change is different in lots of significant details: it moves slower and less dramatically, but it's locked in as a certainty; economic interests promoting it are more mundane, yet are harder to imagine changing; technical solutions are far more complex and probably harder (not that deflecting a comet is as easy as they'd have you think). But I doubt the point here is the crisis: it's the corrupt politics that fucks everything up. Back in 1979 there was a movie called Meteor with the same set up, but one big difference: even in the peak of the Cold War it was conceivable that the US and USSR could team up against a common threat, because both had a fundamental commitment to reason and to humanity. Nothing like that is possible in the world of Don't Look Up, so we're doomed.
  • I've been sitting on an article by Michael Hiltzik, Farewell to 2021, the stupidest year in American history. Needless to say he's wrong a lot, and not just about "Britain in 1938 under Neville Chamberlain." The year before Roosevelt became president in 1933 was monumentally stupid, as were all the preludes to era-defining political changes: to Lincoln in 1861, to Jefferson in 1801, even to Reagan in 1981, and how can any observer already forget Trump's last year? If 2021 seems stupid beyond that league, it's only because the media are stuck propagating Trumpist-Republican lies and bullshit.
  • I have a couple questions to answer. One is tricky because it starts from a major misperception from which it draws an even worse conclusion. Kind of like the Hiltik article.

Still, I woke up today in more pain than in weeks, and struggled all through this. I'm spent. Sorry I don't have more good new music to share, but perhaps you should look back here and here. Lots of good new music in 2021. Despite the last week or two, I'm sure I haven't run out.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Charlie Ballantine: Reflections/Introspection: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2021, Green Mind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bitchin Bajas: Switched On Ra (2021, Drag City): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lindsey Buckingham: Lindsey Buckingham (2021, Buckingham): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Eris Drew: Quivering in Time (2021, T4T LUV NRG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ducks Ltd.: Modern Fiction (2021, Carpark, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kurt Elling: SuperBlue (2021, Edition): [r]: B
  • Ezra Furman: Sex Education: Songs From Season 3 (2021, Bella Union, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ezra Furman: Sex Education Original Soundtrack (2020, Bella Union): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Slava Ganelin/Alexey Kruglov/Oleg Yudanov: Access Point (2017 [2021], Losen): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Glacier: Shiloh: Lost for Words (2021, PLZ Make It Ruins): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlotte Greve: Sediments We Move (2021, New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kaytranada: Intimidated (2021, RCA, EP): [sp}: B+(*)
  • Lily Konigsberg: Lily We Need to Talk Now (2021, Wharf Cat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kate McGarry + Keith Ganz Ensemble: What to Wear in the Dark (2021, Resilience): [r]: B+(**)
  • Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Étoile De Dakar: Mbalax (2021, Universal Music Africa): [sp]: A-
  • Helado Negro: Far In (2021, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Orquestra Afro-Brasileira: 80 Anos (2021, Day Dreamer): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Rainbow Girls: Rolling Dumpster Fire (2021, self-released, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Isaiah Rashad: The House Is Burning (2021, Top Dawg Entertainment/Warner): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine: A Beginner's Mind (2021, Asthmatic Kitty): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Black Unity Trio: Al-Fatihah (1968 [2021], Salaam/Gotta Groove): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lily Konigsberg: The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now (2017-21 [2021], Wharf Cat): [bc]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Andrew Cyrille/William Parker/Enrico Rava: 2 Blues for Cecil (TUM) [01-22]
  • The OGJB Quartet: Ode to O (TUM) [01-22]


Dec 2021