Blog Entries [0 - 9]

Monday, February 6, 2023


Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39555 [39534] rated (+21), 48 [39] unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).

Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)

Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.

Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).

The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.

We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.

Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.

I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.

I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.


New records reviewed this week:

Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): Rapper-singer from Ghana, first album, musical flow. B+(**) [sp]

Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 [2023], Barking Coda Music): Guitarist, has a previous group album. This is a quartet with Anthony Powell (keyboards), Harvie S (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). All original pieces, pleasant enough. B [cd]

The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 [2023], Strikezone): Guitarist, trio with Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Creatures of habit, starting off each year with a new album of tasty groove. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

None.

Old music:

Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 [2004], ACT): Drums, guitar, bass, alto sax. Everyone brought songs, plus they cover one by Joni Mitchell ("Ethiopia," which Carrington sings). B+(***) [sp]

Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): Jazz singer (1929-98), started in ill-fitting big bands -- Lionel Hampton reportedly fired her seven times -- kicked around various labels before she finally took charge of her own (Bet-Car), which after 1976 was distributed by Verve, giving her the autonomy she demanded and the exposure she craved. She won a Grammy for this one, although it strikes me as a bit of a muddle -- despite an interesting "The Man I Love," highlighted by Don Braden's sax. B+(*) [sp]

Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 [1985], Concord): Bass and guitar duo, did a previous album (Alone Together) in 1973, as well as Alive at Village West in 1982. This one was also recorded live. B+(*) [sp]

Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 [1994], Timeless): Dutch jazz singer, early album, backed by trio or larger groups up to octet led by pianist Cees Slinger. Various lyricists, mostly Citroen (5/8 tracks). B+(**) [sp]

Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): Smaller but still significant credits on the cover for Louis van Dijk (piano) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass), then "special guest" Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn on three tracks). Standards, most common, some special. B+(**) [sp]

The Johnny Coles Quartet: New Morning (1982 [1983], Criss Cross): Trumpet player (1926-97), mostly remembered for his one album on Blue Note (Little Johnny C, from 1963), only led a few more dates, plus several dozen side credits (notably with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus). Quartet with Horace Parlan (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing three originals, three covers (Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Charles Davis). B+(***) [sp]

George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 [2001], SteepleChase): Pianist, debut 1999 (title: The Newcomer), trio with Doug Weiss (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums). Two originals, various jazz tunes and standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]

Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 [1995], Timeless): Swing guitarist (1905-73), played banjo on these 22 early tracks, starting with two from Miff Mole's Molers, followed by eight for Condon-led groups (a quartet with Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa, two sextets called the Footwarmers and Eddie's Hot Shots, both with Mezz Mezzrow and Jack Teagarden, with Condon sometimes singing), and the rest with the Mound City Blue Blowers (led by vocalist Red McKenzie, with various lineups at times including Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and/or Muggsy Spanier). Condon's networking skills, which crossed racial lines, defined his later career: numerous jam sessions, including the 1944-45 Town Hall Concerts (radio shots which Jazzology eventually released in eleven multi-CD volumes), and many more recordings from his New York City jazz club. B+(**) [r]

Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): The first half (two of four concerts) excerpted from Volume Two of the Jazzology series. Concert Five was a tribute to Fats Waller, who had died six months earlier, with James P. Johnson on piano and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The sixth concert is joined by Willie "The Lion" Smith" and Hot Lips Page. Some spectacular music, but also lots of talk, not least about war bonds. B+(***) [sp]

Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): Four tracks, 23:16, although most editions in Discogs add on another six tracks (24:12) by Rampart Street Paraders (a totally different band, with George Van Eps instead of Condon on guitar). The All-Stars include Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Gene Schroeder (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Cliff Leeman (drums), plus Dick Cary (trumpet and piano) on two tracks. Opens with "Beale Street Blues," ends with the 10:40 "Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss." B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): Full subhed: "in which Eddie Condon and his All-Stars jam on a few of Bix Beiderbecke's favorites." With Pete Pesci or Wild Bull Davison (as he's credited here) on trumpet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, and other lesser stars, spiffing up that old-time sound. A- [r]

Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): Cover notes: "Eleven musical portraits of Eddie's friends in the jazz world." Another batch of what Louis Armstrong (who wrote one song here) used to call the "good ol' good 'uns." Names dropped: Fats Waller, Lee Wiley, Turk Murphy, Duke Ellington, Armstrong, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Benny Goodman, The Chicago Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 [2003], Collectables): Nice twofer rated **** in Penguin Guide, digitally reverts to its constituent albums, no doubt a bargain if you can find it. I'm only hedging because I haven't. B+(***) [r]

Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 [2002], Chiaroscuro): Trad jazz guitarist takes his act on the road, introducing his stars through featured songs: Dick Cary (piano/alto horn), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), and eventually Jimmy Rushing sings a few. The 1977 LP picked 11 songs, which the CD reissue expands to 15. B+(***) [sp]

Johnny Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 [1991], Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-96), original name Costanza, recorded a couple albums in the mid-1950s, more in the 1990s, but spent most of his career as music director for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This is solo, 18 standards, distinguished for his speed, dexterity, and (when he slows it down) touch. Ends with an interesting memoir. B+(***) [sp]

Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 [2017], Sunnyside): Piano and voice duo, standards, the singer very precise, with considerable nuance; the pianist equally precise, doesn't overstep his role. Reissue prominently marked as "remastered." B+(**) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (Origin) [02-17]
  • Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler) [02-09]
  • Brad Goode: The Unknown (Origin) [02-17]
  • Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (Soul Song) [03-03]
  • Manzanita Quintet: Osmosis (Origin) [02-17]
  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (Troubadour Jass) [02-03]
  • Mason Razavi: Six-String Standards (OA2) [02-17]
  • Triogram: Triogram (Circle Theory Media) [04-07]
  • Dan Trudell: Fishin' Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (OA2) [02-17]
  • Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (Ears & Eyes) [02-24]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


Speaking of Which

One of the big stories this week was the saga of a Chinese weather balloon that at 60,000 feet got caught up in the jet stream and drifted across Alaska and western Canada, dipping into Montana and cutting a path through North Carolina and into the Atlantic. There, having completed its spy mission (if that's what it was), Biden ordered it blown up -- an act of pure spite and bloody-mindedness. Reports say he didn't act earlier because he was worried about debris landing on Americans, but odds of that happening in eastern Montana were pretty slim. Rather, he gave Republicans and the press three days to play up their China loathing -- fueled in part by Blinken canceling a visit to Peking in protest -- then jumped to the head of the line.

As you may recall, this incident comes about a week after Air Force General Mike Minihan predicted war with China in 2025, a prospect he (and therefore the United States) is currently planning for -- a plan that House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul heartily endorses. With so much sabre-rattling in the background, you'd think that Biden would work harder at smoothing over the tensions, but having been taunted into action, he scarcely had the resolve to resist.

Some further reading:


Top story threads:

Sometimes it's hard to find the right lead-in piece for what you know will be a cluster of links.

Debt Limit: Stealing a page from 2011, Kevin McCarthy (or whoever's pulling his strings) is willing to crash and burn the economy just to watch Biden squirm. So far, Biden's not falling for it:

  • Paul Krugman: [02-02] Republicans and Debt: Blackmailers Without a Cause.

  • Eric Levitz: [02-02] The GOP Can't Remember Why It Took the Debt Ceiling Hostage.

  • Li Zhou: [02-01] The lessons of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, explained by the negotiators who were there: "Democrats and Republicans took different, sometimes contradictory, lessons from the last standoff." Democrats realized that Republicans couldn't be trusted, and didn't care how much damage they'd do, confident that the media would blame Obama. Republicans thought they had won a victory, not so much in imposing their will as in turning the discussion in their favor, by making debt and spending seem like bigger problems than the sluggish economy they were helping to stall. Pretty much the same calculation this time, except that in the meantime Trump's tax cuts blew a hole in the budget, and Biden is less inclined to give debt reduction the oxygen it needs to derail every other issue he has campaigned for.

    As it happens, right after linking to this piece, I read this from Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That?, where he minces fewer words on the 2011 doomsday negotiations:

    All told, this gruesome incident was a world-historical episode of moronic policy incompetence. It's as if your house were on fire, and the mayor and the fire department were arguing furiously about which grade of gasoline should be sprayed on the blaze.

    Cooper's book is very good, but I don't care for his coinage of the term "propertarianism" as a substitute for terms commonly used on the new left ("neoliberalism") and old left ("capitalism"). All of these terms refer to the notion of putting property rights ahead of human needs, but the problem is not so much property itself as a particular form of property: capital (as opposed to personal property, which means something you have exclusive use of, but not necessarily that produces income or rent). Neoliberalism is slightly different: an ideology aligned with capital, but couched in the idea of individual freedom, with contempt for notions of labor and society. Also note that neoliberalism was another neologism, designed at cross purposes: its advocates wanted to lay claim to tenets of classical liberalism, yet dispose of elements like New Deal support for unions (same tactic used by New Democrats and New Labour).

Trump: I'm sorry to inform you that as the only declared candidate so far for president in 2024, he's back in the news, and already stimulating horserace coverage for primaries that supposedly face him off with this year's favorite media goon, Ron DeSantis.

Other Toxic Republicans:

Ukraine War (Continued):

  • Blaise Malley: [02-03] Diplomacy Watch: Second thoughts on Ukraine retaking Crimea? Very little to report here. Elsewhere, there is a story that Biden Offered Putin 20% of Ukraine to End War, but all sides deny that (no one wants to look reasonable).

  • Helene Cooper/Eric Schmitt/Thomas Gibbons-Neff: [02-02] Soaring Death Toll Gives Grim Insight Into Russian Tactics. "The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is approaching 200,000, a stark symbol of just how badly President Vladimir V. Putin's invasion has gone, according to American and other Western officials." These figures are clearly wild guesses, exaggerated for propaganda purposes. I referred back to these number after reading much smaller figures cited by Jeffrey St Clair below. The difference is that to St Clair, the numbers (which focused more on civilians) demanded a ceasefire and negotiated settlement; here they're just another excuse for further punishing Russia, even when suggesting that Ukrainian losses are comparable.

  • Bruno Marcetic: [02-03] Diplomatic Cables Prove Top US Officials Knew They Were Crossing Russia's Red Lines on NATO Expansion. Of course, one could argue that the "red lines" were stupid. One could also argue that the US was daring Russia to do something stupid. The one thing that's inarguable is what Putin finally did was profoundly stupid.

Israel: As the Palestinian Authority, despite its legendary corruption, has found it impossible to do business with the new fascist government, Biden sent Secretary of State Blinken to kiss the ring, to reassure Netanyahu that nothing he can do will shake American fealty to the Zionist regime. Meanwhile, efforts in the US and UK are heating up to police any discussion of Israel's crimes. One of the few sources still reporting on Israel is Mondoweiss.


Other Stories:

Kate Aronoff: [02-03] The Biden Administration Has Been Very Good for Big Oil: "Despite climate legislation passed by Democrats last year, oil companies are securing loads of drilling deals and posting huge profits."

Rachel DuBose: [01-31] What can the world learn from China's "zero-Covid" lockdown?

Constance Grady: [02-03] The mounting, undeniable Me Too backlash: This has less to do with the ebbing of the "Me Too" moment a few years back than with the long reaction against the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, which has scored some recent purely political wins recently, like overturning Roe v. Wade. Hence, re-reading Susan Faludi's 1991 book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. I will note that while this reaction is inflicting real damage, it is not especially popular. So perhaps instead of relitigating points that have sense become common sense and embedded in popular culture, we should look at the political anomaly that has given such power to, well, Republicans -- one can add adjectives to reinforce one's sense of disgust, but doing so suggests that there are other, more decent Republicans, and there's little to no practical evidence of that.

Ezra Klein: [02-05] The Story Construction Tells About America's Economy Is Disturbing: Declining productivity, ever since the 1970s.

Paul Krugman: [01-30] Will Americans Even Notice an Improving Economy? That's a good question. Part of the problem is statistics: few people are aware of them, and fewer still have any idea how they relate to their own lives. (Statistics are the only way to make sense of massive amounts of data, but we'd prefer anecdotes we can relate to. But also there is the problem of gauging the significance of variations that are smaller than we normally perceive. This is a big problem with climate change: each degree warmer is a really big deal, but every day we experience temperature swings 10-20 times as great.) Part of the problem is the political bubbles we all live in: as far as I'm concerned, the Bush and Trump economies were disasters, even if the nature varied from time to time; Republicans, with far greater experience at denying reality, thought those times were peachy keen, only to be devastated by Obama and Biden (despite much higher top line statistics). But one other source of confusion is that under both parties, fortune favors the already rich. This is especially true with the Fed, which supposedly tries to manage employment and inflation, but actually implements its policy decisions to giving rich people (via bankers) more or less money at any given point. So it's quite possible that the economy is going gangbusters, but none of it is trickling down to you. Conversely, the vacuuming up, whether through inflation or taxes, is something everyone feels personally, which makes it relatively easy to exploit politically.

Eric Levitz: [02-03] The Fed Can Stop Choking the Economy Now: But they keep missing Powell's target figures for unemployment (er, reducing inflation).

Megan McArdle: [01-29] The $400K conundrum: Why America's urban rich don't feel that way: Refers back to the Todd Henderson case, the guy who in 2010 claimed that it's hard to get by on a meager $450,000 per year. I wrote a bit about this back then. The thing that struck me about Henderson's budget was that most of the money went for things that a decent modern social democracy would provide for most people: health insurance, schooling, retirement. Of course, for his extra money, he's also getting exclusivity: private instead of public schools. And maybe his children need the extra leg up his high income provides. McArdle refers to such people as "broke 2-percenter" -- so close to the 1-percent, yet they keep coming up just short.

Louis Menand: [01-30] When Americans Lost Faith in the News. "The press wasn't silenced in the Trump years. The press was discredited, at least among Trump supporters, and that worked just as well. It was censorship by other means." Menand tries to sketch out the origins of public distrust in the press. Those origins weren't in the 1950s, when journalists were all too happy to shill for the CIA, but the more "bad news" -- riots and anti-war protests -- they reported, the more suspect they became. Nixon may not have coined the phrase "fake news," but as so often in arts Trump perfected, Nixon was the originator, his practice of shooting the messenger only ending when the messengers shot back. Menand wades through various books, finally Margaret Sullivan's "memoir slash manifesto" Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life.

Ian Millhiser:

Eve Ottenberg: [02-03] Egalitarian Paradise Lost: David Graeber and the Pirates of Madagascar. Review of the late anarchist anthropologist's second posthumous book, Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia.

Eric Reinhart: [02-05] Doctors Aren't Burned Out From Overwork. We're Demoralized by Our Health System. It's a big slide from the heyday of the AMA, when doctors organized as a business racket, to today, when doctors are talking about the need for unions.

Dylan Scott:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-03] Roaming Charges: See No Evil: "There have been at least 52 people killed by police in the US since the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols on January 7th. In 2021, there were 1055 people killed by police in the US. In the same year, 31 people were killed by police in all of Europe. . . . Most of the people killed by police in 2022 were killed by officers responding to mental health calls, traffic violations, disturbances, other *non-violent* issues and situations where no crime was alleged." Examples follow. Behind a paywall, St Clair also wrote: [01-29] The Murder of Tyre Nichols and the Death of Police Reform.

Zeynep Tufecki: [02-03] An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here: Actually, H5N1 avian flu is already here. It just hasn't broken out as a pandemic in humans yet. In 2005, Mike Davis took the threat seriously enough to write a book: The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. We should have learned from our Covid-19 experience how better to face such threats, but a powerful bloc of nihilists (aka Republicans) drew the opposite lessons, and are working hard to make sure public health officials never again have the tools to protect public health. Note that David Quammen, who has followed these threats for decades and recently wrote Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus, wrote a piece about this back on [2022-10-31]: A Dolphin, a Porpoise and Two Men Got Bird Flu. That's a Warning to the Rest of Us.

David Wallace-Wells:

  • [02-02] Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now? Covid, but that only explains about half of "excess deaths" since April 2022. The author, by the way, has written extensively about the pandemic: e.g., [01-04] 9 Pandemic Narratives We're Getting Wrong (although it's not always clear what he's debunking, let alone whether he's right -- my takeaway from the Operation Warp Speed narrative is that the economic incentives that motivated Pfizer and Moderna aren't very trustworthy, and probably aren't the best approach in the long run), and [2022-12-01] China Has an Extraordinary Covid-19 Dilemma (China is often viewed through strange political blinders; I'm not sure this piece is immune, but it's far from the worst).

  • [01-25] Britain's Cautionary Tale of Self-Destruction: Starts off talking about the death toll from Covid-19, then noting how the entire post-Brexit economy and political system are ailing. For instance, economists were asked whether the slowdown in productivity was unprecedented. They did manage to find a worse case, but that was 250 years ago. Then there's: "Liz Truss failed to survive longer as head of government than the shelf life of a head of lettuce." Part of this problem was touched on by Eshe Nelson [01-09]: Britain's Economic Health Is Withering With Sick Workers on the Sidelines. Also: Ellen Ioanes: [02-04] The labor strikes in Britain are years in the making: "Austerity, Brexit, wage stagnation and a cost of living crisis have pushed British workers to the brink."


Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Music Week

January archive (finished).

Music: Current count 39534 [39462] rated (+72), 39 [42] unrated (-3: 11 new, 28 old).

I gave myself an extra day this week, figuring that it would be nice to end the month on the end of the month, especially given that January is the effective end of the previous year, the obvious point to declare 2022 wrapped up, and to look ahead to 2023. I figured it would make a good cut-off point for my 2022 Music Tracking File, EOY Aggregate (with its poor cousin for Reissues/Historical). It would also provide a freeze point for my Music 2022 list (saving a snapshot for the moment while I continue to add late finds, up to the end of 2023). As it turns out, I've fallen far short of what I hoped to get done. But I've been desperate to make some sort of break, so this is it.

Needing some time to write this brief intro, I did my cutoff make at 6PM. I may sneak some more material in by the time I post this, but these stats are accurate at cutoff time: new releases reviewed 1652 (all 2022, including reissues/historical, plus 12/2021 releases, plus earlier 2021 not in previous tracking files); limited sampling: 4 (a possibly useful idea that I didn't pursue very hard). That may be an all-time record but I don't feel like spending the time to be sure. (A quick count of list item lines shows 1638 this year; previous high for frozen files was 1624 in 2020, followed by 1440 in 2021, 1334 in 2011, 1236 in 2010, 1222 in 2019, 1173 in 2014, 1147 in 2017, 1135 in 2007. Some caveats with these numbers I don't want to go into here.) Tracking file lists 5392 albums total. EOY Aggregate file lists 4520 new albums + 508 reissues/historical.

My EOY file for Jazz shows 74 new A/A- albums (+1 carried over), and 25 old music A/A- albums. For Non-Jazz, the numbers are 96 new (+ 6 carried over), 11 reissues/historical (+ 1 carried over). That's certainly the longest non-jazz A-list ever. You may recall that the non-jazz list was longer when I first compiled the file -- usually, jazz is longer to start, because I follow it more closely -- but the lists evened up while I was compiling Francis Davis Jazz Poll ballots. This week, all the new A- records are non-jazz (mostly African and/or hip-hop), but that's only about a third of the margin.

The EOY Aggregate is now up to 565 lists (this file includes links to most of them, although for some you need to pass through intermediaries), including lots of individual top-tens (everyone from the Francis Davis Jazz Poll, a fair number of ballots from PJRP (Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll) and EW (Expert Witness) polls, other jazz critics I could find, occasional lists like most of the Rolling Stone staff lists. I've included all but metal-exclusivists from the Album of the Year lists, most of the extra lists compiled by Metacritic, and a bunch of lists from Acclaimed Music Forums (incomplete, as I ran out of time midway through rechecking them).

The following are some EOY lists that have influenced my recent listening:

I voted in the PJRP and EW polls. Statistics professor Brad Luen published some centricity/eccentricity data, which rated me the 3rd most eccentric of EW's 43 voters. I probably would have been spared notice (he only listed the top 5) had I not kicked Big Thief off my ballot in favor of William Parker's Universal Tonality -- my top historical release of the year, for which there was no separate category in this poll. The reason I dropped Big Thief is that, while I liked it a lot when I reviewed it, I didn't buy it, and never heard it again since. That's true of a lot of records (including Beyoncé's, which I did buy but still haven't replayed), but I felt that for one certain to finish that high, I should be more sure of myself.

A stray comment in the thread complained that "like half the people didn't even put [Beyoncé] on their ballot." Luen replied: "It did great among FB voters but was soft among non-FB voters (who trend old/grumpy/hetero)." (Luen collected ballots from Facebook and Substack comments as well as direct email.) Having published several ballots already, I took the easy route and emailed my ballot in, thus adding to the demographic Luen identified.

For the record, my albums ballot was (the bracket figure is how many other people voted for the album, and their points):

  1. The Regrettes: Further Joy (Warner) 16 [23/2]
  2. Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) 15 [8/1]
  3. William Parker: Universal Tonality (2002, Centering/AUM Fidelity) 13 [-]
  4. Gonora Sounds: Hard Times Never Kill (The Vital Record) 11 [10/1*]
  5. Dave Rempis/Avreeayl Ra Duo: Bennu (Aerophonic) 10 [-]
  6. Omri Ziegele Where's Africa: That Hat (Intakt) 8 [-]
  7. Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (Beewee/Because Music) 7 [15/2]
  8. Saba: Few Good Things (Saba Pivot) 7 [7/1]
  9. Bob Vylan: Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life (Ghost Theatre) 7 [21/3]
  10. Nilufer Yanya: Painless (ATO) 6 [55/5]

*Totals for Gonora Sounds not given, so I'm making the most reasonable guess.

Only one of my four jazz albums got another vote (8/1), but all six of my non-jazz picks got other votes (123/13). I'm not sure how the eccentricity figure is calculated, but this doesn't strike me as extremely eccentric. (By the two more eccentric scores were by voters who each voted for nine albums no one else voted for, and voted for the same tenth album, which no one else voted for.) What is odd, in this crowd at least, is that none of my ten albums appeared on Christgau's Dean's List (his top 86 albums for the year, although close to a quarter of them came out in 2021 or earlier). On the other hand, 42 + 4 (carry overs) of his albums appeared on my A-list, so the split at the top is hard to explain.

There is much more running through my head that I could write, not least thoughts triggered by Christgau's year-end essay, and by especially the first of two pieces he reprinted on Tom Verlaine, who died at 73 over the weekend. One part of the reason I moved to New York City in 1977 was Christgau's sense of excitement over the new, still-unrecorded bands centered around CBGB's. I never saw Television, but I was witness to Christgau's first spin of Marquee Moon, which knowing the band as he did, he instantly thrilled to while I was trying to puzzle out not just the music but his reaction. I hadn't given any thought to how I might write a memoir of those years -- I've been focusing more on much earlier periods -- but there's a fair amount to delve into there.

In rushing to get this out, I'm leaving the usual bookkeeping unsettled. I'll have to catch up with that later. (Looks like I never did December, either.) It's also possible I won't declare 2022 over quite yet, but I'm definitely taking a break, especially from deadlines.


My mother was born 110 years ago today, in 2013, the youngest of ten children, the eldest born in 1900. Her parents had died before I was born, but my father's parents were born in 1894/1895, and I knew them fairly well before my grandfather died in 1964. Through them I can reach quite a ways back into history. They've made me sensitive to how much change the last few generations have lived through, and thereby how poorly the ideas and ideals they grew up with fare in today's world. (I may seem old and grump to Luen, but believe me, I know much older and grumpier.)

My mother died in 2000, three months after my father (who was ten years younger, but went first). I made Chinese food for my mother's last birthday. Since then I've often made a special dinner to commemorate her birthday: either Chinese, or the old fare of Arkansas (where fried chicken was the dish you served guests). I couldn't do that this year given the crunch of closing out this post. But that's my next project: Thursday, a belated dinner party, and a much needed break from several months of hacking my way through the year's recorded music. I don't see myself as ever approaching this year's stats again. Regardless of whether I set a personal record this year, what I am most certain of is that there's never been a year before 2022 where I've not heard more music. And that's only going to increase -- at least as long as the electricity stays on.


New records reviewed this week:

Ab-Soul: Herbert (2022, Top Dawg): Rapper Herbert Stevens IV, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2011. Started out smart and sensitive, but has added a lot of bombast and bullshit. B [sp]

Archers of Loaf: Reason in Decline (2022, Merge): Important alt-rock band in the 1990s, broke up in 2000, main guy Eric Bachmann moving on to record albums under his own name and under the group/alias Crooked Fingers. Band regrouped in 2011, but didn't record a new album until this one. B+(*) [sp]

Authentically Plastic: Raw Space (2022, Hakuna Kulala): A DJ/producer based in Kampala, Uganda, name unknown ("dubbed 'Demon of the Nile' by conservative Ugandan media & politicians," so maybe for good reason), first album. Tracks lead with drums, which may lead to slight tweaks but hold pretty steady. B+(**) [sp]

Avantdale Bowling Club: Trees (2022, Years Gone By): New Zealand-based rapper Tom Scott, second album, sees this as a jazz project. Band may lean that way (including horns, sitar, and tabla), but this is driven by words, and insight ("rat race is nothing but a race to the grave"). B+(***) [sp]

Backxwash: His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering (2022, Ugly Hag): Zambian rapper, based in Canada, fourth album. She likes heavy beats and harsh sounds, which smack of metal, without falling into doldrums. B+(**) [sp]

Batida: Neon Colonialismo (2022, Crammed Discs): DJ/producer Pedro Coquenão, born in Angola, raised in Lisbon, eighth album since 2009, working name synonymous with a style of electronic dance music in Lisbon, also a Brazilian cocktail. B+(**) [sp]

Ecko Bazz: Mmaso (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Uganda rapper, based in Kampala (which is becoming an important recording center), first album, with help from an international array of beat masters (Debmaster, Slikback, DJ Die Soon). B+(**) [sp]

Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos (2022, Far Out): Brazilian singer-songwriter, first album. Like more than a little fringe music, it stradles too easy and too weird. B+(**) [sp]

Blackpink: Born Pink (2022, YG Entertainment): K-pop girl group, second album, albeit a short one (8 songs, 24:34), a mix of electropop, hip-hop, plus the occasional change of pace. I'm not wild about the latter, though these aren't bad. Still hard to relate to K-pop, at least removed form the dance videos, which are slick and catchy. B+(***) [sp]

The Bobby Lees: Bellevue (2022, Ipecac): Rock group founded in Woodstock in 2018, Sam Quartin is singer-guitarist, third or fourth album. Harder than most rock I like, but tighter, and while I can't vouch for the lyrics, this has enough edge and snarl to make me think there must be more to it. A- [sp]

Bodysync: Radio Active (2022, self-released): Collaboration between Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth and Charlie Yin (Giraffage). B [sp]

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene: Cost of Living (2022, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Vincent Stephens, several dozen albums since 2007, many featuring guest rappers, like Greene here (two previous albums, his 2018 debut titled Chicago: A Third World City). More hard times, grit, and perseverance, sliding over beats that don't work too hard. A- [sp]

Buruklyn Boyz: East Mpaka London (2022, self-released): Kenyan drill group, basically a clipped form of hip-hop, even more so than the accents suggesting grime. This spareness is their attraction, but also their limit. B+(**) [sp]

Sarah Mary Chadwick: Flipped It (2022, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Singer-songwriter from New Zealand, seems to be based in Australia, album Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby was a Christgau pick I've never quite fathomed. Five songs (18:37). If you didn't get her before, this primitivist set won't help. B [sp]

Che Noir: The Last Remnants (2022, TCF Music Group, EP): Buffalo rapper, sixth album since 2019, second album this year, a short one (9 songs, 24:08). Beats steady, six feat. guests. B+(**) [sp]

Alaide Costa: O Que Meus Calos Dizem Sobre Mim (2022, Tres Selos): Brazilian singer, debut 1959, 83 when this came out. Not in any great hurry. B+(***) [sp]

DJ Lag: Meeting With the King (2022, Ice Drop): South African DJ/producer Lwazi Asanda Gwala, hailed as a Gqom pioneer since his "2016 breakout" (although amapiano, Afrotech, and Afrhouse are also mentioned). First full-length album, if anything too long (79:00). B+(***) [sp]

Focalistic: Ghetto Gospel (2022, 18 Area Holdings): South African rapper, listed as amapiano, soft edge, easy flow, could be deep or shallow, but pleasing enough not knowing. B+(***) [sp]

Mabe Fratti: Se Ve Desde Aquí (2022, Unheard Of Hope): Cellist, also sings, from Guatemala, based in Mexico City, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Moktar Gania & Gwana Soul: Gwana Soul (2022, MusjoMusic/Nuits d'Afrique): Gnawa singer from Morocco, member of a famous family of Gnawa musicians (although the shifting names are disorienting: presumably this is the same Maâlem Mokhtar Gania who recorded with Bill Laswell in 2016 and with Peter Brötzmann and Hamid Drake in 2020. B+(***) [sp]

George: Letters to George (2022 [2023], Out of Your Head): Filed under drummer John Hollenbeck, who wrote all the songs except for two covers (a folk song from Cyril Tawney and an eerie -- or perhaps I mean creepy? -- "Bang Bang"), probably voiced by alto/soprano saxophonist Aurora Nealand. With Anna Webber on tenor sax, and Chiquita Magic on keyboards (Isis Giraldo, also credited with voice). Music is agreeably slippery. B+(***) [cd] [01-27]

Hallelujah the Hills: The Music of the Beatles as Channeled in 1958 by the Echo Lake Home for the Potentially Clairvoyant (2022, Hallelujah the Hills): Beatles songs, mostly done as old-timey ballads, an effect meant to signify time travel. Supposedly the liner notes help. B+(*) [bc]

Marina Herlop: Pripyat (2022, Pan): Spanish (or Catallan) composer, third album, sings and plays keyboards and other instruments, with occasional guest spots. B+(*) [sp]

Honey Dijon: Black Girl Magic (2022, Classic): Transgender DJ, originally from Chicago, now based in New York and Berlin, second album (first was The Best of Both Worlds). Dance beats, all tracks have guest features, presumably singers. The house feels a bit like a cage at first, then grows into a world. B+(***) [sp]

Horse Lords: Comradely Objects (2022, RVNG Intl): Postrock band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2012. Gets a lot more interesting on the third track, where they lose the beat and find a saxophone. Nothing else quite at that level, but lots of interesting patterns and variations. B+(***) [sp]

Ryoji Ikeda: Ultratronics (2022, Noton): Japanese visual and sound artist, based in Paris, twenty or so albums since 1995, "focuses on the minutiae of ultrasonics, frequencies and the characteristics of sound in relation with human perception and the mathematical dianoia applied to music, time and space." That sells his beats short. B+(*) [sp]

Gisle Røen Johansen: Kveldsragg (2018 [2022], Jazzaggression): Norwegian saxophonist, also credited with keyboards, first album, backed by guitar, pedal steel (2/3 tracks), electric bass, acoustic bass (Ingebrigt Håker Flaten), and drums (Gard Nilssen), with minor vocals on the second side. Leans spiritual at first, but toward the end the guitar gets heated up, and the sax comes out to play. B+(***) [sp]

KMRU & Aho Ssan: Limen (2022, Subtext): Kenyan sound artist Joseph Kamaru, based in Berlin, ten albums since 2020. First mention I've seen of this collaborator. Three longish pieces, ambient but a bit harsh. B+(*) [sp]

Knucks: Alpha Place (2022, Nodaysoff): British rapper, Ashley Afamefuna Nwachukwu, born in London, first album after a couple EPs and a mixtape. B+(**) [sp]

Pierre Kwenders: José Louis and the Paradox of Love (2022, Arts & Crafts): Congolese singer-rapper, based in Canada, third album. B+(*) [sp]

Anysia Kym: Soliloquy (2022, self-released, EP): Electronica producer with a minor in hip-hop, based in New York, Bandcamp page has several releases. Seven songs, 14:37, guest spots for Semiratruth and MIKE. B+(*) [bc]

Mike LeDonne/Eric Alexander/Jeremy Pelt/Vincent Herring/Kenny Washington/Peter Washington: The Heavy Hitters (2022 [2023], Cellar): Only surprise here is that LeDonne plays piano instead of organ. Mainstream stars (plus guitarist Rale Micic on one track), sound great at first, but not forever. B+(**) [cd]

Leroy [c0ncernn]: Dariacore 3 . . . At Least I Think That's What It's Called? (2022, self-released): This seems to be the work of a Jane Remover, although that could just be another alias, like Dltzk and High Zoey. Bandcamp and Discogs credit this (and its predecessors) to Leroy, but Spotify and others prefer C0ncernn. The cartoon cover is relatively normal, at least compared to the frantic, glitchy mashup of hard beats and stray sounds. I'm rather surprised that I can stand this, perhaps because it maintains an inherent musicality despite the randomness. B+(***) [sp]

Leroy: Dariacore (2021, self-released): Rewind one year (plus one day), so this is the formula, a little less splashy. B+(**) [sp]

Leroy: Dariacore 2: Enter Here, Hell to the Left (2021, self-released): Same shtick, only more of it. B+(**) [sp]

Zack Lober: No Fill3r (2022 [2023], Zennez): Canadian bassist, originally from Montreal, bow based in the Netherlands, fair number of side credits since 2003, this seems to be his first album as leader. With Suzan Veneman (trumpet) and Sun-Mi Hong (drums). B+(*) [cd] [02-24]

Logic: Vinyl Days (2022, Def Jam): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, seventh studio album since 2014, all substantial hits (but this one slipped a bit, chart 12 vs. 1-4 for the rest), but this one got scant notice. Maybe the boasts were in vain -- "when you got this much heat, it's hard to chill" -- or maybe it just runs on too long. Seems pretty solid to me, but what does it mean that my favorite track is the one where he reads the phone book? B+(**) [sp]

Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (2022 [2023], DMAC Music): Guitarist, been around, has fun with a conventional big band, most prominent name Kim Richmond (alto sax). B [cd] [01-30]

Madalitso Band: Musakayike (2022, Bongo Joe): Duo from Malawi, made their own instruments: a four-string guitar, a kick drum, a one-string slide bass with a bench to sit on. They generate a propulsive groove and engaging vocals, a bit removed from the South African model but on the fringe of that paradigm. A- [sp]

Kali Malone: Living Torch (2022, Portraits GRM): Stockholm-based electronica composer, originally from Denver, has several albums, this a 33:33 piece split for LP. She plays various synthesizers and software instruments, thickly ambient deepened with trombone (Mats Åleklint). B [sp]

Marlowe: Marlowe 3 (2022, Mello Music): Hip-hop duo, rapper Solemn Brigham and producer Austin Hart (L'Orange). Third album since 2018. Speed raps, hard to imaging improving on the flex beats. A- [sp]

Martha: Please Don't Take Me Back (2022, Dirtnap): English alt-rock band from Durham, fourth album, I was quite taken by their second (Blisters in the Pit of My Heart), but this has fewer hooks and more bluster. B+(*) [sp]

The Master Musicians of Jajouka Led by Bachir Attir: Dancing Under the Moon (2022, Glitterbeat, 2CD): Moroccan group of Jbala Sufi trance musicians, split off in 1992 from an earlier group going back to the 1950s. B+(*) [sp]

MC Bin Laden: Invasão Dos Fluxos (2022, Kondzilla): Brazilian rapper, Jefferson Cristian dos Santos de Lima, moniker got my attention, but he identifies as an evangelical Christian. Genre listed as funk mandelão or funk ostenação or maybe baile funk (to pick one I've actually heard of). Spare metallic beats, grows on you. B+(***) [sp]

Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (2020-22 [2023], Origin): Featuring singer Paul Marinaro, but driving force seems to be producer Jim Gailloreto (tenor sax/soprano sax/flute), who assembled this group, to play and sing David Bowie songs. Sometimes the songs transcend the arrangements and even the voice. Sometimes not. B [cd]

Moonchild Sanelly: Phases (2022, Transgressive): South African (Xhosa) singer-songwriter, Sanelisiwe Twisha, started as a kwaito dancer, calls her music "future ghetto punk," second album, draws on amapiano, dancehall, and hip-hop, but it winds up sounding like like an exceptionally tight slab of ultra-funky pop. A thick slab, too, running 66 minutes, but the physical is broken up into two CDs (or LPs). A- [sp]

Nerves Baddington: Micro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Hip-hop trio from Birmingham, Alabama, debut album 2017 (Dopamine Decoder Ring), released this and Macro on same day. MC Ryan Howell (InkLine), with John McNaughton on bass and Cam Johnson on drums. Dense beats with a metallic zing. B+(***) [sp]

Nerves Baddington: Macro (2022, Apt. B Productions): Released same day, another 45 minutes of dense soundscape. Marginal distinctions would take more time than I can spend, but either album (or both) could rate higher. B+(***) [sp]

Noori & His Dorpa Band: Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass From Sudan's Red Sea Coast (2022, Ostinato): Band from Port Sudan, "a truly ancient community," introducing its own distinct style: beja. However ancient it may be, the string grooves aren't all that far removed from guitar music across the whole breadth of the Sahara. Very nice. Perhaps a bit too nice? B+(***) [sp]

Nord1kone/DJ Mrok: Tower of Babylon (2022, SplitSLAM): Rapper and DJ (credited here with "scratches"), don't know much about either, but note that Chuck D shares executive producer credit, and leads a long list of featured guests, including Gift of Gab. Voice doesn't match Chuck D for gravitas, but no reason not to want another Public Enemy knock-off. A- [sp]

Obongjayar: Some Nights I Dream of Doors (2022, September): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Steven Umoh, based in London, first album after several EPs. B+(**) [sp]

Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (2022, Epic): Former Black Sabbath leader, 13th album since he went solo in 1980, first one I've bothered to listen to -- and probably the last, although it's no worse than their 1970s albums: a sign of artistic stasis, maybe even mellowing with age (74). B- [sp]

Oùat: Elastic Bricks (2021 [2022], Umlaut): Trio, based in Berlin, of Simon Sieger (piano), Joel Grip (bass), and Michael Griener (drums); first album, original pieces, mostly by Grip with a couple by Sieger. B+(**) [sp]

Rema: Rave & Roses (2022, Marvin/Jonzing World): Nigerian singer-songwriter, Divine Ikubor, first album after a breakout EP. B+(***) [sp]

Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn: Pigments (2022, Merge): R&B singer from New Orleans, released a 2005 album as Dawn Angeliqué, appeared in the group Danity Kane, went solo in 2013. She tends to recede into Zahn's electronica here. B [sp]

Rizomagic: Voltaje Raizal (2021, Disasters by Choice): Colombian electronica duo, Diego Manrique and Edgar Marún, seems to be their first album. Rhythm vamps, fast and fractured. Short: 7 cuts, 28:43. B+(**) [bc]

Séketxe: Funjada (Kandendue Kaluanda) (2022, Chasing Dreams): Angolan hip-hop crew, related to drill, I don't understand a word, but dig their intensity and fractured beats. Only album I'm aware of, sometimes touted as an EP (8 songs, 30:43). B+(**) [sp]

ShrapKnel: Metal Lung (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): Hip-hop duo, Curly Castro and PremRock (Mark Debuque), started out in Wrecking Crew, second album. Sharp edges turn in on themselves. B+(*) [sp]

Somadina: Heart of the Heavenly Undeniable (2022, self-released): Nigerian, born there but grew up in the Netherlands, first album, billed as an EP (11 songs, 27:33). I've scanned through a dozen articles, and can't identify a label, but I've seen various references to her "shapeshifting identity." Comes out of the gate with a big pop production, then gets more idiosyncratic, opening up space for a slow vamp and a ballad. No connection I can discern to Afrobeat, but there may be one. A- [sp]

Styroform Winos: Styrofoam Winos Play Their Favorite M. Hurley Songs (2022, Sophomore Lounge): Nashville group -- Lou Turner, Trevor Nikgrant, Joe Kenkel, each with a solo album or more -- with a self-titled debut and a second At Home album. Pandemic project, as they picked favorite songs from the whimsical folksinger, and passed them around. I've heard, and enjoyed, almost all of Hurley's albums. Still, the only songs I recognize are from Have Moicy! B+(*)

They Hate Change: Finally, New (2022, Jagjaguwar): Hip-hop duo from Tampa, Vonne Parks and Andre Gainey, who count themselves as anglophiles, so are more into Goldie and Dizzee Rascal than most American rappers. B+(*) [sp]

Pat Thomas: Pat Thomas Plays the Duke (2021 [2022], New Jazz and Improvised Music): British pianist, many albums since 1993, recently noticed tearing into Cecil Taylor, plays his solo arrangements of ten Ellington compositions, from "Prelude to a Kiss" to "C Jam Blues." Few are recognizable, reminding me of the dictum, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." None do (although the closer hops, maybe even pogoes). B+(*) [bc]

Wau Wau Collectif: Mariage (2022, Sahel Sounds): Senegalese-Swedish group, second album, mostly recorded in Senegal and mixed, with overdubs, in Sweden, by producer Karl Jonas Windqvist. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Smokin the Dummy (1980 [2022], Paradise of Bachelors): Born in Wichita, he grew up in Lubbock, Texas; he trained as an architect, got a BFA, distinguished himself as a sculptor and painter, released an album in 1975, and a better one in 1979, Lubbock (On Everything). This sequel disappointed, but decades later you have to admire his energy and form, even if it doesn't stick with you. B+(**) [sp]

Terry Allen & the Panhandle Mystery Band: Bloodlines (1983 [2022], Paradise of Bachelors): Fourth album, worked harder on his songwriting, built more firmly on gospel, but faith gets tested, not least when Jesus carjacks him. B+(***) [sp]

Broadcast: The Maida Vale Sessions (1996-2003 [2022], Warp): English indietronica band, recorded four albums 2000-09, one more after singer Trish Keenan died in 2011. This came from three John Peel and one Evening Session," the album named for the BBC studio. Ends strong. B+(*) [bc]

Disco Reggae Rockers (1973-86 [2022], Soul Jazz): Mostly reggae-ified covers of American disco tunes, mostly avoiding big hits (although "Move On Up" is an ideal starter), and featuring sub-stellar talent (among the more famous: Derrick Harriott, Devon Russell, Pete Campfell, Hortense Ellis). Pretty hit and miss. B [sp]

Iftin Band: Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (1982-87 [2022], Ostinato): Somali band, shortly before Osama Bin Laden baited the US to intervene and destroy the country. B+(***) [sp]

Rise Jamaica! Jamaican Independence Special (1962 [2022], Trojan, 2CD): Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, one disc is devoted to "Jamaican Radio Hits of '62," the other to "The Duke's Dubplates '62" (from the archives of Duke Reid). Reggae's golden years were still in the future, although there are hits you'll recognize: "Miss Jamaica", "Forward March," "Midnight Track," "Housewife's Choice," maybe Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." The others, perhaps even more so the not-yet-dub side, feel right for the time. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Mon Laferte: Mon Laferte Vol. 1 (2015, Intolerancia): Singer-songwriter from Chile, recorded an album in 2003 as Monserrat Bustamente, moved to Mexico. B+(*) [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Leap Day Trio: Live at the Cafe Bohemia (Giant Step Arts) [02-24]
  • Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (One Trick Dog) [02-10]
  • Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (Savant) [02-03]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Speaking of Which

I thought I'd spend this last week of January wrapping up my music review of 2022, and indeed I'm giving myself an extra day, so don't expect Music Week until Tuesday, probably late. But I had a few tabs open, and made the usual rounds, and this is what I came up with.


Maggie Astor: [01-25] G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push a Growing Wave of Anti-Transgender Bills: Subhed describes this as "part of a long-term plan," but I don't see much planning. Rather, it feels like a combination of latching onto any sort of bigotry that still seems credible, and using that to hype up fears that have no basis in reality. I also suspect they've gotten a boost by overly aggressive transgender supporters -- clever of them to latch onto the much more popular LGB bandwagon -- where both sides get blown out of proportion. True, I am surprised at how often I run into trans or non-binary performers in music, but I've never even heard of an actual case the "save women's sports" might apply to.

Jelani Cobb: [01-29] Ron DeSantis Battles the African-American A.P. Course -- and History: "The state's intent seems to be to provide white Floridians, from a young age, with a version of history that they can be comfortable with, regardless of whether it's true." More DeSantis:

Dave DeCamp: [01-29] Air Force General Predicts the US Will Be at War With China in 2025. This is pretty chilling. I don't see it happening, but this sort of planning can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also on China:

Connor Echols: [01-27] Diplomacy Watch: Switzerland weighs break with policy of neutrality. Germany and US agreed to send tanks to Ukraine. Switzerland agreed to allow re-export of Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine. Estonia and Latvia withdrew their Moscow ambassadors. None of these moves offer hope of a ceasefire and negotiated peace. Echols also wrote: [01-26] US weapons makers report 'all-time record orders' since Russian invasion: Just in case you've wondered, cui bono? More on the ongoing war:

  • Hrair Balian: [01-28] Will the war in Ukraine inevitably freeze? "With the conflict more likely than not headed for stalemate, how long can the US maintain support in the absence of negotiations?" Proposes four scenarios that could push the US into suing for peace, but I don't see any of them as more than remotely likely (Russian battlefield gains; nuclear war becomes imminent; China moves against Taiwan; Republicans defund the war to spite Biden). No one around Putin will admit it, but Russia is much more likely to find the war insupportable, if not this year than somewhere down the road. What the US needs to realize is not that the war isn't affordable but that it is hopeless and unnecessary. Still, that realization needs to sit in on both sides before much progress can be made. Meanwhile, both sides desperately try to impress the other with their stubborn determination.

  • Dave DeCamp: [11-25] Lockheed Says It's Ready With F-16s If US and Allies Choose to Send Them to Ukraine. And now that Ukraine is getting US and German tanks, Zelensky has already moved on to requesting F-16s. Cheering him on: [01-28] At the Pentagon, push to send F-16s to Ukraine picks up steam.

  • Charles W Dunne: [01-29] Arab, Israeli positions on Ukraine continue to frustrate US: Turns out America's "closest ally" isn't much help here. Similarly, America's closest Arab allies have business interests more closely aligned with Russia. I wouldn't say that support on Ukraine should be a litmus test of alliance, but non-support should tone down the hyperbole.

  • Jen Kirby:

  • Anatol Lieven:

  • Blaise Malley: [01-27] New senator JD Vance leads GOP effort to put Ukraine aid under a microscope: Given the amount of money the US is putting into Ukraine, and given that the organizations involved have never been very good at accounting, I doubt they'll need much of a microscope' to find evidence of waste and corruption. Of course, had they paid attention to Afghanistan and Iraq, they would have found plenty, but those wars didn't break along partisan lines, and the waste and corruption was easily written off as cost of doing business. That's harder to do once it gets mentioned, which is the point of this notice.

  • Branko Marcetic: [01-29] Ukraine's Postwar Reconstruction Has Big Business Licking Its Lips: Good. Maybe we've finally found a business lobby that can compete with the arms merchants, to at least make the idea of negotiating an end to the war more palatable. After all, if we've learned one thing from Iraq and Afghanistan, it's that it's impossible to rebuild a country while it's still wracked by war.

Eric Foner: [01-23] The Constitution Has a 155-Year-Old Answer to the Debt Ceiling. The 14th Amendment specifies that: "The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned." Republican efforts to force the government to default on its debt are, therefore, illegal under the Constitution. By the way, there is more in the 14th Amendment that Republicans should study up on. Also:

Lawrence B Glickman: [01-21] The Real Origins of the "Democrat Party" Troll. It first sounds like a verbal tic, but you hear it so often, it finally registers as an easy way to identify that the speaker is under the spell of the Republican Party. "Perhaps the answer lies in the face that many critics of the New Deal were also critics of democracy." And perhaps that's why the slur has become ever more common: Republicans have given up on even giving lip service to democracy.

Jonathan Guyer: [01-27] Why violence in Israel and Palestine has spiked in the last 48 hours. Only thing surprising here is that it's not just Israelis on the warpath. More on Israel:

Robert Hunziker: [01-27] Doomsday Clock Jitters and "How to Fix a Broken Planet": The latest update of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' "doomsday clock" was played for laughs on late night shows. There are fundamental problems with it, which you'd expect atomic scientists, of all people, to figure out. The first is that "doomsday" is not very well defined. Even in its original context -- nuclear war -- does it mean total annihation, or would more localized outbreaks suffice? If the latter, did Chernobyl or Fukushima cross that threshold? If not, why not? They are comparable to nuclear bombs: in some ways less destructive, in others worse, but on the same qualitative scale. They do have the advantage of looking like accidents, so are unlikely to cascade like the actual use of nuclear weapons could, or like war between nuclear-armed powers with conventional weapons might. The main reason they advanced the clock to its most alarming level ever is that we're experiencing such a war between NATO and Russia -- albeit, for now, with Ukraine as a buffer. Still, the closer you get to "midnight," the more dubious the scale seems. The unveilers as much as admitted this point by pausing in silence for more than the 90 seconds they allowed us to survive -- looking ridiculous when we were still here. All this proved was that the clock mataphor, with its linear gradations, wasn't the right model for the risk they wanted to represent.

I'd be more inclined to come up with some kind of wave function or probability matrix, which you could then reduce to a single number only at the expense of missing the point. Wouldn't it be nice to come up with some way of calculating how the likelihood of various bad events happening varies as you alter input today? There's no standard method, but we've been doing something like that with climate change models for quite some time now: what's lacking is the ability to get people in policy positions to understand how they work and what they mean. The doomsday clock folks thought they might help by trying to factor climate change into their calculation, but that turned out not to help: the scales and probabilities are fundamentally different, and the disaster-point is very ill-defined (and worse, many definitions would throw the clock on the wrong side of midnight).

By the way, Hunziker's piece is actually a review of a book by Julian Cribb, How to Fix a Broken Planet. It outlines all the usual threats not to the planet itself but to human life and culture on the planet, so it's probably good as far as it goes, until it starts scolding individuals for the failures of states and organization that claim to be acting in our best interests.

Ben Jacobs: [01-28] Trump struggled with identity at his first public campaign stop: "Trump tried to cast himself as both a great Republican leader and the ultimate outsider." He may think he can play it both ways, but to be a serious contender, he has to win back the outsider rail, because his opponents are so vulnerable to that kind of attack. Still, it will demand a lot of credulity from his voters, although he can blame many failures of his administration on Pence and the people Pence installed. More Trump trivia:

Mike Konczal: [01-27] Do We Need a Recession Because Wages Are Too High? 5 Responses Answering No.

Dylan Matthews: [01-26] FairTax, the GOP plan for a 30 percent national sales tax, explained. Not noted here, but worth pondering, is the extent to which Sam Brownback's budget-busting tax "reforms" incorporated FairTax principles: he raised sales taxes, while exempting business income from income taxation. True, nobody got a rebate to soften the blow. And while Kansas sales tax became one of the nation's highest, Kansas income tax was never more than a small fraction of federal, so the biggest beneficiaries still complained a lot.

Ian Millhiser: [01-25] Trump's worst judge is now a dangerous threat to press freedom: "An unhinged case brought by anti-vaxxers will be heard by one of the biggest reactionaries in the federal judiciary."

Sara Morrison: [01-24] Google's bad year is getting worse.

Nicole Narea: [01-27] The brutal, politically motivated attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband, explained.

Nicole Narea/Sean Collins/Ellen Ioanes: [01-28] The fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, explained: "Five Memphis police officers are facing murder charges over Nichols's death." Related:

Tori Otten: [01-27] Marjorie Taylor Greene Says Biden "Abused His Power" by Lowering Gas Prices: "Do Republicans even want lower gas prices or not?" Nothing in their administrative history suggests that they do, which shouldn't be much of a surprise given how skewed donations from oil companies are in their favor. Nor is this just Greene saying something stupid. See: [01-27] House GOP passes bill to curb Biden's use of oil reserve. After ranting nonstop about gas prices, they're upset that Biden released oil from the US Strategic Reserve to reduce prices (and undercut their campaign messaging). A normal person, concerned first and foremost about solving the problem, would have applauded Biden's move. But there's nothing normal about Republicans any more. Even worse are Republican efforts to make sure public health officers can't order lockdowns or mask requirements when the next pandemic hits.

Kim Phillips-Fein: [01-24] The Change We Want: "What does it take to build a political majority?" Review of Timothy Shenk's Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle to Rule American Democracy. The book appears to be a sweeping history of American politics told through a dozen or so individuals regarded as uniquely influential (Madison and Hamilton lead off; I'm more suspicious of Barack Obama at the end, but not every example need be successful to make a point).

Christopher Reeves: [01-21] Voters told them no, but Kansas Republicans are advancing wild new anti-abortion legislation anyway. Normal people would think that the referendum, where nearly 60% of Kansans voted to protect abortion rights, would have settled the issue, but Republicans aren't normal. They stick to their demented principles and pursue their obsessions with no concern about public opinion, using whatever power than can usurp.

Rebecca Robbins: [01-28] How a Drug Company Made $114 Billion by Gaming the U.S. Patent System.

Nathan Robinson: [01-23] Rush Limbaugh's Toxic Legacy: A review of the late right-wing icon's "new book" -- actually, as the title (Radio's Greatest of All Time) makes way too obvious, a tribute assembled by family of his most outrageous rants (a 500-page "timeless collection of Rush's brilliant words" and "authoritative body of Rush's best work"), larded with photos of Limbaugh hobnobbing with his politician fans, who provide their own tributes. Nor do the paeans end there: "Many of the transcripts printed in the book are from callers who claim that Limbaugh changed their lives in one way or another."

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-27] Roaming Charges: The Ugliest Thing in America. "Mass shootings are an unimpeachable proof of American exceptionalism."

Joseph Stiglitz: [01-10] Milton Friedman Set Us Up for a 21st Century Version of Fascism: "In 2023, market fundamentalism is fostering authoritarianism -- in the United States and abroad."

Michael Stavola: [01-25] Authorities name Wichita man killed in hunting accident when dog stepped on gun.

Asawin Suebsaeng/Patrick Reis: [01-27] Trump's Killing Spree: The Inside Story of His Race to Execute Every Prisoner He Could: "Before 2020, there had been three federal executions in 60 years. Then Trump put 13 people to death in six months."

Gary Younge: [01-23] Heavy Is the Head: "The British Royals in the age of streaming." A review of The Crown, which is an interesting and entertaining, albeit somewhat peculiar, chronicle of the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, starting with her wedding in 1947, before her coronation in 1952. The recently concluded 5th Season covers 1991-97, ending just after Tony Blair succeeded John Major as Prime Minister, and just before the recently divorced and deposed Princess Diana perished in a Paris car wreck. Showrunner Peter Morgan clearly wants to refocus England's history around a public-service monarchy he sees as deeply interwoven into the fabric of national life (its imperial conceits conveniently ignored after the first two episodes), yet their self-centeredness and irrelevance can help but rise to the surface. By season five they've become such a disgrace that the series is largely given over to Prince Charles' Trust and his vain blatherings about how as King he would make the monarchy relevant again. You can say that he's trying to humanize the monarchy, except that the monarchy doesn't make for very good humans. As Younge notes, "History has already delivered its verdict on those who inherit power and remain unaccountable; The Crown merely illustrates the degree to which the institution doesn't even work for the people who run it."

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 23, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39462 [39414] rated (+48), 42 [36] unrated (+6: 14 new, 28 old).

Very little to add about this week's music. I was struggling to think of things to look up early in the week, so I wound up searching down the EOY aggregate file for highest-rated unheard records, sometimes singling out genres (country probably got the most attention). The highest-ranked records I still haven't heard yet:

  1. Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 (Epic) {22}
  2. Alexisonfire: Otherness (Dine Alone) {20}
  3. They Hate Change: Finally, New (Jagjaguwar) {20}
  4. Rolo Tomassi: Where Myth Becomes Memory (MNRK) {19}
  5. Sorry: Anywhere but Here (Domino) {19}
  6. Bonny Light Horseman: Rolling Golden Holy (37d03d) {18}
  7. Cass McCombs: |Heartmind (Anti-) {18}
  8. Osees: A Foul Form (Castle Face) {18}

The frequency of unheard items picks up significantly after 300: The Callous Daoboys (303); Knucks (309); Obongjayar (315); Rammstein (317); Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn (318); Undeath (320); Afghan Whigs (324); The Big Moon (327); Naima Bock (328); Demi Lovato (332); Paolo Nutini (335); Static Dress (340); Big Joanie (344); Porcupine Tree (357); Warmduscher (364); Willow (365); Utada Hikaru (380); Horse Lords (381); The Orielles (389); Slipknot (396); Tedeschi Trucks Band (398); Wild Pink (400); Anxious (403); Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler (404); Goat (409); Ho99o9 (410); King Hannah (412); King Stingray (413); Natalia Lafourcade (414); Kali Malone (415); Rob Mazurek (417); Meshuggah (419); Muse (422); Caitlin Rose (426); Bruce Springsteen (430); And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (434); Blackpink (436); Built to Spill (439); Coheed and Cambria (441); Grace Cummings (442); Brian Ennels & Infinity Knives (447); Aoife Nessa Frances (448); Marina Herlop (450); Ithaca (453); The Lounge Society (458); Angeline Morrison (460); Pillow Queens (462); Pixies (463); The Soft Pink Truth (467); Witch Fever (471); Wizkid (472); Backxwash (476); The Black Angels (481); Black Star (482); Broken Bells (484); Alex Cameron (485); Christine and the Queens (489); Jake Xerxes Fussell (492); Future (493); Robyn Hitchcock (496).

I'll probably knock a few more of those off next week (so far: They Hate Change, Knucks). I expect to freeze the 2022 file after next week -- I may as well plan now on closing the week/month on January 31 instead of 30. After that, I'll cut back on the 2022 tracking files, although I'll continue to add late entries to the year 2022 lists, including the jazz and non-jazz best-of lists. Looking forward, I haven't started 2023 tracking and metacritic files. Hoping to focus more on other projects going forward, but I'm reluctant to make promises or resolutions.

I posted a pretty substantial Speaking of Which yesterday. The deeper I get into the Ryan Cooper book, the more impressed I am. Before getting into it, I read most of Denise Low's slim Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays in a Time of Pestilence. We've been doing jigsaw puzzles much earlier than the pandemic. Laura usually wanted to do a puzzle when she had a few days off. I had a pair of Springbok puzzle caddies, so was well-prepared to indulge her. One special memory was from 1991: we were working on one while watching coverage of the Soviet coup against Gorbachev, while a hurricane was blowing outside (we were in Boston). Since she retired, we've had a puzzle going continuously. Low, by the way, was once poet laureate of Kansas, although she's since moved to northern California.


New records reviewed this week:

Courtney Marie Andrews: Loose Future (2022, Fat Possum): Country singer-songwriter from Phoenix, ninth album since 2013, has a light touch. B+(**) [sp]

Kelsea Ballerini: Subject to Change (2022, Black River): Pop singer-songwriter, working out of Nashville, but almost all of her songs have multiple co-writers and kitchen sink production -- nothing distinctively country about that, even when you get a title like "Love Is a Cowboy" or "You're Drunk, Go Home." B+(*) [sp]

Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (2022 [2023], Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, from New York, fourth album since 2012, this one co-produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, who aims for crossover not by compromise but by turning up the heat. Opens and closes with sirens and Angela Davis. Guest vocals from Dianne Reeves and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and spoken word by Sonia Sanchez and Wayne Shorter, but the sax speaks loudest and clearest. A- [cd] [01-27]

The Cactus Blossoms: One Day (2022, Walkie Talkie): Country band from Minnesota, fifth album since 2011. Principally singer-songwriters Jack Torey and Page Burkum. B [sp]

Bill Callahan: YTILAER (2022, Drag City): Singer-songwriter from Maryland, recorded as Smog 1990-2007, tenth album under his own name, seems to be regarded as a big deal but I've never warmed to his deadpan vocals and minimal guitar. Title this time is a mirror image of REALITY -- I won't try to reproduce that affectation here, but much of the press has indulged him. First third of the album drags as usual, but he almost gets interesting after that. B+(*) [sp]

Loyle Carner: Hugo (2022, EMI); British rapper, stage name a play on his last name (Coyle-Larner), third album. B+(**) [sp]

Paul Cauthen: Country Coming Down (2022, Thirty Tigers/Velvet Rose): Country singer-songwriter from East Texas, started in group Sons of Fathers, third album (counting his debut My Gospel). Has a voice you'll be able to recognize again, with more grit and humor than his résumé suggests. B+(*) [sp]

Chat Pile: God's Country (2022, The Flenser): Noise rock/sludge metal band from Oklahoma, named after the toxic waste left around lead-zinc mines. First album. Rates for chops and attitude, and is all the more amusing at the low volume that makes it tolerable to me. And yeah, in case you're wondering, God's country is indeed a toxic dump. B+(*) [sp]

Brent Cobb: And Now, Let's Turn to Page . . . (2022, Ol' Buddy): Country singer, fifth album since 2006, turns to the hymn book here, opening with an easy-going "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and continuing to pick out old chestnuts that remind me of the comforts of church without the histrionic crap that drove me away. B+(**) [sp]

Luke Combs: Growin' Up (2022, Columbia Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, third album, all number ones, includes a duet with Miranda Lambert. B+(*) [sp]

Rosalie Cunningham: Two Piece Puzzle (2022, Machine Elf): British singer-songwriter, second album after previous group Purson. B [sp]

Lucrecia Dalt: ¡Ay! (2022, RVNG Intl): Colombian singer-songwriter, studied as a civil engineer, based in Berlin, albums since 2005 (initially as Lucrecia), previously unfamiliar to me, and hard to pigeonhole: the beats Latin but subtler, the electronics layered acoustically, the vocals foreign, the pacing and tension unique. A- [sp]

Sarah Davachi: Two Sisters (2022, Late Music): Canadian electroacoustic musician, based in Los Angeles, couple dozen albums since 2013. Plays organ, synthesizer, bells here, with extra strings, voices, and (one cut near the end) trombone, mostly to ambient effect. B+(*) [sp]

Richard Dawson: The Ruby Chord (2022, Domino): British singer-songwriter, from Newcastle Upon Tyne, albums since 2005, draws on (or deconstructs) folk music. Voice reminds me a bit of Robert Wyatt, and music is comparably off-kilter, but that's as far as the similarity goes. B- [sp]

Drake: Honestly, Nevermind (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, seventh album since 2011, all seven have topped both rap and pop charts, despite that aside from his debut, he albums get very little critical respect. Still, this one slides by painlessly enough. B+(*) [sp]

Drake & 21 Savage: Her Loss (2022, OVO Sound/Republic): Duo with Atlanta rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph. B [sp]

Brent Faiyaz: Wasteland (2022, Lost Kids): R&B singer Christopher Wood, from Maryland, second album. B+(*) [sp]

First Aid Kit: Palomino (2022, Columbia): Swedish folk-pop duo, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, fifth album since 2010. More pop these days. B+(*) [sp]

Gabriels: Angels & Queens Part 1 (2022, Atlas Artists/Parlophone): Soul group from California, featuring vocalist Jacob Lusk with producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian, first album (or first half of one, Part 1 (7 songs) coming in at 27:29, with a Part 2 promised for March, 2023. B+(**) [sp]

Ghost: Impera (2022, Loma Vista): Swedish rock band, fifth album since 2010, close enough to attract a metal following but I don't particularly feel it -- so this is relatively listenable, but loses interest midway (e.g., "Watcher in the Sky"). B- [sp]

Gilla Band: Most Normal (2022, Rough Trade): Irish band, changed name from Girl Band for this third album. Scattered stabs at punk, hardcore, noise. B [sp]

Keiji Haino: My Lord Music, I Most Humbly Beg Your Indulgence in the Hope That You Will Do Me the Honour of Permitting This Seed Called Keiji Haino to Be Planted Within You (2019 [2022], Purple Tap/Black Editions): Japanese experimental musician, b. 1952, has close to 100 albums, mostly plays guitar and sings, but choice of instrument here is hurdy gurdy, with a lot of drone resonance. B+(*) [sp]

Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding: Alive at the Village Vanguard (2022 [2023], Palmetto): Piano and vocal duo, the latter perversely insisting on lower case, and not bothering with the bass she first made her name with. She scats a lot, but finds her voice on "Girl Talk." B+(***) [cd]

Hot Chip: Freakout/Release (2022, Domino): British synthpop band, eighth album since 2004. B+(*) [sp]

Jeremy Ivey: Invisible Pictures (2022, Anti-): Nashville singer-songwriter, plays guitar, started in Buffalo Clover, married the singer (Margo Price), third solo album (counting one co-credited to the Extraterrestrials). B [sp]

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Sun (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): Houston psych rock band, mostly instrumental, got a gig opening for retro-soul singer Bridges in 2018, leading to this EP (and another in 2022), which really should be filed under the singer's name. Four songs, 20:58. B+(**) [sp]

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Moon (2022, Dead Oceans, EP): A second EP, five songs (22:37). Focus shifts slightly to the band, who are chill. B+(*) [sp]

Lambchop: The Bible (2022, Merge/City Slang): Nashville indie band, albums since 1990, Kurt Wagner sings. Slow and ponderous, as usual. B [sp]

Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver (2022, New West): Not taking any chances here: the twelve songs are famous, iconic even, and the various artists are not just stars but well practiced in tributes, with Willie Nelson getting a second helping ("Fast Train to Georgia") after sharing the title song with Lucinda Williams. One I didn't recall but I'm glad I heard it here: "Ain't No God in Mexico." Steve Earle picked that one. A- [sp]

The Mars Volta: The Mars Volta (2022, Clouds Hill): Prog rock band from El Paso, seventh album since 2003, seems fairly normal. B [sp]

Carson McHone: Still Life (2022, Merge): Austin-based singer-songwriter, third album, close to country but enough? B+(*) [sp]

Tyler Mitchell Octet: Sun Ra's Journey (2021 [2022], Cellar): Young bassist, his credentials assured by giving a featuring spot to Marshall Allen. B+(***) [cd]

Nas: King's Disease III (2022, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, dropped Illmatic 28 years ago and never let up, although he's return to his 2020 title for a third time. B+(***) [sp]

Kim Petras: Slut Pop (2022, Republic, EP): German pop singer-songwriter, based in Los Angeles, trans, has a lot of singles, as far back as 2008 but especially since 2017, with a couple picked up before this super-trashy, super-smutty 7-track, 15:51 EDM teaser. I, too, "want to see how big it gets." A- [sp]

Aaron Raitiere: Single Wide Dreamer (2022, Dinner Time): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, first album, has written songs for a dozen name singers -- Anderson East, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby, and Ashley Monroe return the favor with cameo and production credits here. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Snidero: Far Far Away (2022 [2023], Savant): Alto saxophonist, from DC area, studied at UNT, moved to New York in 1981, more than two dozen albums since 1984 (more side credits). Very solid outing, with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel getting a "featuring" credit on the cover, and an impeccable rhythm section of Orrin Evans (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(***) [cd] [02-03]

Stormzy: This Is What I Mean (2022, Def Jam): British rapper Michael Omari, third album, not much beat. B [sp]

Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin: Ali (2022, Dead Oceans): Guitarist-singer-songwriter from Mali, following his famous father's footsteps, tenth (or 12th) album since 2007, joined here by a Houston psych rock trio that has been diversifying of late (e.g., two EPs with Leon Bridges). They are near invisible here, probably for the better. B+(***) [sp]

Phil Venable: Bassworks, Vol. 1 (2022, Soul City Sounds): Solo bass, three pieces (38:35), captivating within those limits. B+(*) [bc]

The Wonder Years: The Hum Goes On Forever (2022, Hopeless): Emo band from Pennsylvania, Dan Campbell the singer, seventh album since 2007. Probably has some merit, but I lose interest when they get pumped up. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Miles Davis: Miles Davis With Tadd Dameron Revisited: Live 1949 at the Royal Roost NYC & in Paris at Festival Internationale De Jazz (1949 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): Six tracks from a tentet led by pianist Dameron at the Royal Roost, plus nine tracks by a co-led quintet a Paris festival, with James Moody (tenor sax), Barney Spieler (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums). Sound reminds me of Bird's Royal Roost dates, although this group is less focused and more slippery. Davis gets some good runs in Paris, especially on "Rifftide." B+(***) [bc]

Miles Davis Quintet: 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (1956 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): When Davis signed with Columbia, he still owed Prestige four albums, which the Quintet -- John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) -- knocked out in two sessions, one on May 11, the other on October 26, 1956. The albums were slowly released, up to mid-1961, to capitalize on Columbia's publicity. This singles out the latter session, most of which was released on the first two albums (Cookin' and Relaxin'), plus one track from the other two (Workin' and Steamin'), plus a take of "'Round Midnight" (the title of their Columbia debut). A- [bc]

Old music:

Dave Bartholomew: The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew: 20 of His Milestone Productions 1949-1960 (1949-60 (2002), Capitol): Eight of them credited to Bartholomew, three more to Smiley Lewis, the others oddly misdirected. B+(**) [sp]

Doc Cheatham: Hey Doc! [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1975 [1997], Black and Blue): Trumpet player, born in Nashville but remembered for New Orleans. I first noticed him on a 1993 album called The Eighty-Seven Years of Doc Cheatham, which is to say shamefully late, although so he still had another career highlight left: 1997's Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. He spent most of his career tucked away in big bands (Wilbur De Paris, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway, Claude Hopkins, Perez Prado, and Benny Goodman). He started headlining around 1973, shortly before this session with Sammy Price (piano), alto sax, trombone, bass, and drums (J.C. Heard). No credit on vocals. B+(**) [sp]

Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric Pepperbird (1970 [1971], ECM): Norwegian saxophonist, mostly tenor but also credited bass sax, clarinet, flute, and percussion. Not quite his first album, but this begins his long association with ECM. Quartet names on cover: Terje Rypdal (guitar, bugle), Arild Andersen (bass, thumb piano, xylophone), and Jon Christensen (percussion). The sax is rougher on these early recordings, especially here. That's not a complaint. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson/Terje Rypdal/Arild Andersen/Jon Christensen: Sart (1971, ECM): Norwegian group, all students of George Russell, near the start of major careers. Garbarek plays tenor sax, bass sax, and flute, and wrote four (of six) pieces. The others play piano, guitar, bass, and drums, with Andersen and Rypdal writing one piece each. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek/Arild Andersen/Edward Vesala: Triptykon (1972 [1973], ECM): Soprano/tenor/bass saxophone-bass-drums trio. Still on edge. B+(***) [sp]

Jan Garbarek: Places (1977 [1978], ECM): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano/alto), quartet with John Taylor (piano/organ), Bill Connors (guitar), and Jack DeJohnettte (drums). Four long-ish pieces, ranges from atmospheric to towering, a master of tone, the guitar filling in eloquently. A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Don Aliquo: Growth (Ear Up) [02-17]
  • Skip Grasso: Becoming (Barking Coda Music) [02-01]
  • Jo Lawry: Acrobats (Whirlwind) [02-10]
  • Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (Cellar Music) [02-03]
  • Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza (DMAC Music) [01-30]
  • Markus Rutz: Storybook (Jmarq) [02-17]
  • The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (Strikezone) [02-03]
  • Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (Queen of Bohemia) [03-01]
  • Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (Outside In Music) [02-13]
  • Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (Sugah Hoof) [02-10]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Speaking of Which

Plenty below. No need to pad it out with an introduction. I do want to note that so far I'm very impressed with Ryan Cooper's book, How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Questions in Politics.


House Republicans: Expect this to be the main story for the next year or two, as Republicans use their five-seat margin in the House to repeatedly remind us why they should never again be trusted with any power whatsoever in Washington. This week's stories:

  • Robert Kuttner: [01-17] Turning the Debt Ceiling Crisis Against McCarthy's Republicans: "Biden needs to play serious hardball, or he will get rolled." I could cite a dozen pieces on this issue, but it really comes down to a political test of will: a question of whether the Republican faction which McCarthy surrendered to can intimidate Biden and the Democrats into agreeing to the first tranche of insatiable demands. Control of the House gives Republicans a lot of leverage if they really want to cut the budget going forward, but that's not what they're demanding here: they want to undo already passed budgets, and they want to force Biden to do their dirty work for them. Do they have the power to do this? Not really, given that there are workaround solutions (e.g., the platinum coin, "a silly solution to a silly problem"). More importantly, will this brinkmanship help or hurt them politically? Past experience says it will hurt them. So why are they doing it? Mostly because they don't care. They believe they'll never be held responsible for the mischief they wreak.

  • Eric Alterman: [01-20] Deal-Making Republican 'Pragmatists'? Like, Who? The eternal search for the "adult" Republicans who are willing to break from the crazies when nothing sort of disaster looms. (One of the hopeful scenarios in Kuttner, above.)

  • David Dayen: [01-20] McCarthy's 21 Republican Defectors Didn't Get Much: "That's because the party already agreed with them."

  • Pablo Manriquez: [01-10] Here's the First Salvo in House Republicans' War on Transgender People: "They're reversing a rule Democrats passed in 2021 calling for gender-neutral pronouns."

  • Timothy Noah: [01-20] Go Ahead, Republicans, Pass a National Sales Tax. How many people really want to pay a 30% sales tax just so rich people can escape being taxed on income, dividends, capital gains, and estates? True that many people are poor judges of self-interest, but this one will be hard to swallow.

  • Areeba Shan: [01-18] GOP rages at McCarthy over committee as MAGA extremists score key assignments.

  • Peter M Shane: [01-20] Jim Jordan's Reckless New Committee: He's actually calling it the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It is, of course, the weaponization of congressional investigative authority for purely political ends. "It will start with overheated demands for information. . . . The Biden administration will comply with some requests while resisting others. Republicans will denounce recalcitrance as a coverup. Fox News, for its part, will condemn any lack of transparency as Democratic hypocrisy." Yes, you can write it all up now, not least because we've seen it all before (remember Benghazi!?).

  • Alex Shephard: [01-20] Actually, George Santos Has Been Pretty Good for the Republican Party: "It may not last forever, but the scandal-plagued congressman is helpfully distracting attention from the House's bona fide extremists and their weird ideas."

  • Abby Zimet: [01-21] Mogadishu Redux: Bring in the Malignant Clowns.

And beyond the House, Republicans don't get any brighter (or saner, let alone more civil):

William Astore: [01-15] Imperial Dominance Disguised as Democratic Deterrence: Reading the Pentagon's latest NDS (National Defense Strategy) paper, which identifies five threats, prioritized: 1. China; 2. Russia; 3. the War on Terror; 4. North Korea and Iran; 5. climate change -- and proposes that the only way to deal with these problems is to spend more money on arms and bases straddling the world. Astore goes on to list seven things "you'll never see mentioned in this NDS":

  1. Any suggestion that the Pentagon budget might be reduced. Ever.
  2. Any suggestion that the U.S. military's mission or "footprint" should be downsized in any way at all.
  3. Any acknowledgement that the U.S. and its allies spend far more on their militaries than "pacing challengers" like China or "acute threats" like Russia.
  4. Any acknowledgment that the Pentagon's budget is based not on deterrence but on dominance.
  5. Any acknowledgement that the U.S. military has been far less than dominant despite endless decades of massive military spending that produced lost or stalemated wars from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Any suggestion that skilled diplomacy and common security could lead to greater cooperation or decreased tensions.
  7. Any serious talk of peace.

For more, see:

Dean Baker: [01-21] Biden has earned a solid 'A' halfway through his term. A bit of boosterism from an economist who's normally quite critical, but compared to whom? Baker argues that Biden managed to wring more positive legislation out of Congress than any president since LBJ, with a razor-thin margin in Congress (unlike Clinton or Obama in their first two years, which brought us NAFTA and ACA/Dodd-Frank). He doesn't dwell much on the executive orders, which reversed much (though by no means all) of the damage Trump wrought. He also doesn't have anything to say about Biden's foreign policy, which allows many newspapers to pair his piece with Meaghan Mobbs: Joe Biden deserves a 'D' for his administration's foreign policy. I don't know her political affiliation, but she's a West Point grad, former Army captain, and well established in the pro-military think tank racket. She blames Biden for getting out of Afghanistan (that alone should bump the grade to 'B'), and more generally for not being militant enough everywhere: "President Joe Biden and his administration speak harshly against our adversaries while failing to follow through with the necessary hard actions." I'm critical too, but for opposite reasons. Biden has pretty much everywhere focused on rebuilding military alliances -- which he saw Trump as undermining -- while failing to mitigate tensions and pursue diplomatic breakthroughs, including some that were obviously there for the taking. I'm uncertain how much to grade him down for those shortcomings -- and sure, there have been some of those on the domestic side as well, but the foreign policy ones are more glaring because he supposedly has more autonomy there -- but on a curve that goes back at least to Reagan, he looks pretty good.

Baker also wrote:

Irin Carmon: [01-20] What the Supreme Court Left Out of Its Dobbs-Leak Report: After Roberts' huffing and puffing when the leak occurred, the report didn't find the culprit, suggesting that the real answer was one that Roberts didn't want to hear.

Chas Danner: [01-22] 10 Dead in Lunar New Year Shooting in California: What We Know. Third mass shooting in California so far this year, 33rd nationwide (that's about 1.5 per day).

Lawrence B Glickman: [01-21] The Real Origins of the "Democrat Party" Troll.

Jonathan Guyer: [01-20] Israel's new right-wing government is even more extreme than protests would have you think: "It's also not a huge departure from previous ones."

Margaret Hartmann: [01-20] Did a $1 Million Fine Teach Trump a Lesson About 'Frivolous' Lawsuits? Remember the one he filed in March "accusing Hillary Clinton, former FBI director James Comey, the Democratic National Committee, and many others of orchestrating 'a malicious conspiracy'"? Well, it's not only been thrown out. Trump and his attorneys have been sanctioned for filing it. And one day later, Trump prudently dropped another "similarly dubious lawsuit": see Samaa Khullar: [01-20] Trump rushes to withdraw frivolous lawsuit against NY AG after a stark warning from judge. Speaking of frivolous lawsuits by thin-skinned billionaires meant to stifle criticism, see Jordan Uhl: [01-20] A Texas Billionaire Is Suing to Stop Free Speech Against Billionaires.

More Trump trivia:

Jeet Heer: [01-17] Why Biden and Trump Are Both Trapped in Secret-Document Scandals: "The real problem is the national security state's love of classification." Also:

  • Jason Linkins: [01-21] Biden's Document Screwup Is an Ethical Opportunity: "Rather than follow the Beltway's cynical damage-control playbook, the president should put on a master class in how to take responsibility for a mistake." Not that doing so will get noticed with the Republicans and their media idiots demanding blood.

Heather Souvaine Horn: [01-19] Davos Still Sucks: "How can the World Economic Forum earnestly pretend to address global crises while being funded by the corporations that fuel these crises?" I skipped over a bunch of articles on Davos, as none seemed to convey the true story. This one merely sums it up briefly. Also includes a picture which shows their logo, which reads "Committed to improving the state of the world." One article I skipped was about a high-five between attendees (of course they are) Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. They proved their commitment by repeatedly torpedoing Democratic bills over the last two years. But most likely what they're actually doing in Davos is prospecting for their post-Senate payouts.

Jill Lepore: [01-09] What the January 6th Report Is Missing: "The investigative committee singles out Trump for his role in the Capitol attack. As prosecution, the report is thorough. But as historical explanation it's a mess." Point taken, but the report's antecedents are hardly better. Part of the blame may be that to get the cooperation of Cheney and Kinzinger the Committee spared any Republican who wasn't directly tied to Trump. Beyond that, one thing the Committee didn't want to do was to offer any sort of mitigating circumstances, which is what a history of Republican voting schemes would have provided. Sure, Trump was not the only one, but he went farther than anyone else ever, so it's not such a surprise that he got singled out.

Blaise Malley: [01-20] Diplomacy Watch: White House signals that retaking Crimea is in the cards: "Officials say it has been US policy all along." One thing that all sides have managed to do is to hold fast to their maximalist demands without suggesting that they might be willing to settle for anything less. That makes some sense as a public stand, but it makes negotiation, and therefore any chance of ending the war, hopeless. I suppose it's possible that somewhere there's a secret channel where some kind of compromise can be negotiated, but the harder the public proclamations, the less credible that is. Key quote here is: "the Biden administration does not think that Ukraine can take Crimea militarily . . . but, officials said, their assessment now is that Russia needs to believe that Crimea is at risk." The fuller quote suggests that the US is angling toward eventual negotiations, which is to say they recognize that no military solution is possible, but in trying to psych out Russia, aren't they also building up false hopes for Zelensky? The recent rush to give Ukraine tanks seems to promise a spring offensive to drive Russia back toward the pre-2014 borders. But Russia's big tank advantage back in March soon turned into a liability. Is there any reason to think Ukraine can better defend their tanks?

More on Ukraine:

  • Chas Danner: [01-20] Ukraine's Latest Arms Haul: Thanks but No Tanks. Germany is balking at sending tanks, at least unless the US agrees to send some, which hasn't happened yet.

  • Fred Kaplan: [01-21] The Clash Over Whether to Send German Tanks to Ukraine Is a Pretty Big Deal. One point here is that US reluctance to send its M1 Abrams tanks partly technical, as the M1 is a "maintenance nightmare; it runs on jet fuel and sucks up three gallons per mile (not the other way around); a separate, massive supply line would have to be set up, manned, and defended, just for these tanks."

  • Anatol Lieven: [01-19] Six questions Western defense chief never seem to raise but should today. Lieven followed this up with: [01-20] Germans remain adamantly opposed to sending any Leopard tanks to Ukraine. [PS: Later: [01-22] Germany won't object if Poland sends tanks to Ukraine, foreign minister says.]

  • Suzanne Loftus: [01-21] No one will win a protracted war in Ukraine.

  • Trita Parsi: [01-20] No, Weakening Russia Is Not "Costing Peanuts" for the U.S. "Some analysts argue that America is getting a great deal for its money. But there are a lot of strategic costs that don't show up on the balance sheet." The Pentagon is notoriously incompetent at accounting for the money it spends directly, and everyone involved is extremely myopic (often plain blind) to the indirect costs occurred by others. (Economists have since estimated that the total costs of the Iraq War exceed $3 trillion. You may recall that when it was launched, some sales pitches estimated that it would pay for itself.) But I would start by questioning the premise: that degrading Russia's military forces, and embarrassing its political leaders, thus destabilizing the state, is a positive outcome. I'm not talking about who deserves what: that Putin should fail in his invasion is proper and just, but once the war ends, so should the further hostilities with Russia. (The failure of the elder Bush to accept the end of the Gulf War, leaving Saddam Hussein in power, almost guaranteed that the younger Bush would return to "finish the job," and make the situation even worse.) Anyone who doubts that this war is a massive tragedy for all sides has no business anywhere near power.

  • Jordan Michael Smith: [10-17] The Neocons Are Losing. Why Aren't We Happy? This chronicles a factional shift in the Republican Party that unlike the neocons who dominated the GW Bush administration, are less inclined to threaten the world with devastation, and who tend to see American interests as focused within the nation's borders. Still, there is considerable variation among the people profiled here -- few are antiwar where the enemy threatens American business class interests, and some (not least Donald Trump) are so full of bluster they could stumble into a war backwards. To group them together as Jacksonian seems wrong -- although I suppose it allows for the bluster and bigotry, but it strays a bit from the Quincy Institute watchwords of realism and restraint.

Ian Millhiser: [01-22] The coming legal showdown over abortion pills.

Madeleine Ngo: [01-19] The US just hit the debt limit. What happens now?

Kelsey Piper: [01-18] Operation Warp Speed was a huge success. So why is the US turning away from it? Rather than simply proclaiming Operation Warp Speed as "one of the biggest accomplishments of the Trump administration," perhaps a little critical distance is in order. It was Congress that put up the money, and the federal bureaucracy that implemented the program -- both subject to the usual corruption and political wiles, which were hardly unmitigated blessings. At best, Trump -- and, let's face it, he was rarely at best -- was a cheerleader. In the end, he was ambivalent about taking credit, because the anti-vax culture war cut deep into his base, leaving its leaders to catch up (something Ron DeSantis has done far more energetically than Trump). The problem isn't that "Democrats are loath to admit Trump did anything right" -- they just don't see any mileage when Trump himself is reluctant to take credit.

There are legitimate questions one could ask: Did this need to cost so much (e.g., elevating drug company moguls to billionaires). Why wasn't it more effective? Why wasn't it better distributed beyond the US? How can you speed up the process even more? Unfortunately, the Republican political thrust isn't how to do a better job, but how to avoid even being this effective ever again?

Luke Savage: [01-21] If America Had Fair Laws, 60 Million Workers Would Join a Union Tomorrow.

Dylan Scott: [01-20] When hospitals merge, patients suffer. Study is in the UK, but the profit motive amplifies the effect in the US.

More on health care:

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-20] Roaming Charges: The Specter of Equity and Other Evils.

George Tyler: [01-20] Ron DeSantis symbolizes that it's Richard Nixon's Republican Party now. Although, in a sign of the times, he admits that "in contrast to Nixon, DeSantis' cruel streak is already evident to voters." It took a while to realize that Nixon's malice wasn't just opportunism -- and many people continue to be shocked at Republican cruelty, even as evidenced by someone as sociopathic as Trump. I'm old enough to still regard Nixon as the most loathsome creature in American political history. In his calculated efforts to out-Trump Trump, DeSantis is aiming for Nixonian notoriety.

More DeSantis:

Dan Zak: [01-11] The boring journey of Matt Yglesias: "The Washington ur-blogger's slightly contrarian, mildly annoying, somewhat influential, very lucrative path toward the political center." During his time at Vox, Yglesias was the first person I checked every week, and most often provided the structure for my own blog posts. I had followed him as he maneuvered the blogosphere, but his paywall at Substack was one step too many. Still, by then I was beginning to have doubts. He got entered in, and won, a poll for "neoliberal shill of the year," and took unseemly pride in the fact. He never was as bad as most of the people friends on the left castigate as neoliberals, but he did seem to get up on a few ideas I found obnoxious, like "congestion pricing." (Even if you wanted to, how would that work? And what does it say about our values?) Then he wrote a big book called One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, which looked and smelled like a bid for the Thomas Friedman market. Nowadays, the only time I read him is when one of his Bloomberg columns gets syndicated in my local paper. Few are memorable, but he has enough command of his subject he's not useless. And while he seems politically more centrist than ever, the bigger problem may be that he's just not very deep. Consider this:

Perhaps it's instructive to think about two topics that bookend his public life. At age 21, Yglesias was laying out the logician's case for the invasion of Iraq, because how could the most powerful, informed men on Earth be so stupid? In May of this year, Yglesias declared that Bankman-Fried "is for real," because why else would wealthy people risk their money? . . .

This is Matt Yglesias coddling the powerful, his critics would say, and exposing a gullible dilettantism. And yet plenty of people view him as an early, sensible and stalwart voice for incremental progress on key issues of the 21st century, such as marijuana reform and same-sex marriage.

I wouldn't call those "key issues of the 21st century" -- they fall far short of war, inequality, labor rights, a very distorted system of justice, climate, sustainability, etc. Even his strong pro-immigration stance is based on his romanticism around growth.


Memorable tweets:

Connie Schultz:

Word of warning for parents supporting these book bans: As a child, I found a way to read every book someone told me I could not read. You see how I turned out. Think this through.

Context is notice that "Virginia's Madison County School Board approved banning 21 books from its high school library." The list includes four books by Toni Morrison, three by Stephen King (including 11/22/63), and The Handmaid's Tale.

I could offer myself as another example: I instinctively hated (and in some cases refused to read) required literature, and sought out pretty much everything that was banned or condemned. And yes, see how I turned out. My brother followed suit, and got kicked out of school for turning in a poetry notebook which opened with "Howl." Both of us were sent to see a shrink (who, by the way, thought the whole affair was hilarious).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 16, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39414 [39353] rated (+61), 36 [42] unrated (-6: 8 new, 28 old).

Still decompressing from the pressures of releasing the Francis Davis Jazz Poll as well as numerous other stresses I've probably complained about too much already, so I don't have much to say this week. One way of destressing has been to do rote work: the biggest chunk of which was adding all of the jazz critics ballots into my EOY aggregate file (including ones we didn't receive from other sources like Free Jazz Collective). One result of this is that jazz albums have risen to an unnatural prominence in my overall standings (top 30, numbered by overall rank, points in braces, my grade in brackets):

  1. Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (Nonesuch) {146} [***]
  2. Cecile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song (Nonesuch) {97} [**]
  3. Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note) {90} [A-]
  4. Makaya McCraven: In These Times (International Anthem) {81} [**]
  5. Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Mesmerism (Yeros7 Music) {73} [***]
  6. Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) {64} [***]
  7. Tyshawn Sorey + 1 [With Greg Osby]: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi) {64} [A]
  8. Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic) {54} [**]
  9. JD Allen: Americana Vol. 2 (Savant) [**]
  10. Terri Lyne Carrington: New Standards Vol. 1 (Candid) {52} [**]
  11. Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM) {52} [A-]
  12. Mary Halvorson: Belladonna (Nonesuch) {50} [*]
  13. Andrew Cyrille/William Parker/Enrico Rava: 2 Blues for Cecil (TUM) {46} [A-]
  14. Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (ESP-Disk) {45} [***]
  15. Charles Lloyd: Trios: Chapel (Blue Note) {44} [B]
  16. Sun Ra Arkestra Directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky (Omni Sound) {43} [A-]
  17. Moor Mother: Jazz Codes (Anti-) {42} [A-]
  18. Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note) {41} [*]
  19. Melissa Aldana: 12 Stars (Blue Note) {39} [***]
  20. David Murray/Brad Jones/Hamid Drake Brave New World Trio: Seriana Promethea (Intakt) {38} [A-]
  21. Patricia Brennan: More Touch (Pyroclastic) {35} [***]
  22. The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!) {35} [**]
  23. Jeff Parker: Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (Eremite) {35} [A-]
  24. Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Long Gone (Nonesuch) {35} [***]
  25. Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind) {35} [A-]
  26. Binker & Moses: Feeding the Machine (Gearbox) {34} [**]
  27. Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (Verve) {34} [**]
  28. Miguel Zenón: Música De Las Americas (Miel Music) {34} [A-]
  29. David Virelles: Nuna (Pi) {33} [**]
  30. Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double: March (Firehouse 12) {30} [A-]

These rankings will probably sink back if/when I add more non-jazz lists (if memory serves, the top jazz album usually winds up somewhere 20-35), but the value of spending much more time on this is receding. I've always maintained that the purpose of the list is to scout out records of possible interest to me, hence there have always been genres that I have sought out (I have 1161 jazz albums listed, of 4062 total) and others that I have avoided -- nonetheless, I counted 219 metal albums, but I've only heard 4; the country and hip-hop lists are actually shorter, but I've heard much more (64 of 138 country, 97 of 212 hip-hop).

Reviewing the ballots, I discovered three errors I had made in compiling, so I was glad to get them compiled. I've also heard from several critics who didn't get invited and (rightly) thought they should have: apologies to Karl Ackermann and Bill Milkowski. If/when we do this again -- and I'm pleased to report that Francis sounds more optimistic than I am -- we should make a serious effort to review and expand the voter rolls well in advance of the November crunch.

One thing I belatedly realized from this chart is that I never received physical CDs of Halvorson's Nonesuch albums nor of Sorey's Mesmerism. I reviewed them from streams as soon as they dropped, but was perplexed at not being able to find them when I racked up all of my 2022 A/A-/B+(***) jazz CDs. I rechecked several top jazz albums during the Poll, but only Wilkins got a grade bump. Although I've heard all 30 albums above, only 12 came as CDs.

One person I want to single out from the Jazz Poll's In Memoriam list is John Swenson. I remember him from when he was reviewing records for Rolling Stone in the mid-1970s. He went on to edit Stone's jazz and blues record guides, and moved on to New Orleans, where he wrote New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans (post-Katrina). I bumped into him once, and was surprised and flattered that he seemed to be as pleased to meet me as I was to find him. As I recall, we were both pub rock fans at the time, so our later independent paths into jazz may have common roots. He joins John Morthland and Ed Ward in my personal pantheon of recently departed colleagues.

More old music this week, mostly from the Penguin Guide 4-star unheard list. Most get a single play and snap judgment, so I wouldn't be surprised if my grades wind up being low (even for Brubeck's Jazz Impressions of Japan). New records come from various sources, including Jazz Poll ballots, last week's Christgau Consumer Guide, and Jason Gross's Ye Wei Blog list. Plus I finally dipped into my 2023 promo queue.

I finished Fred Kaplan's 1959: The Year Everything Changed. The chapter on Margaret Sanger and the birth control pill is worth the price of the book, but so are another half-dozen chapters, not least those on three revolutions in jazz that hit that year: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (with due credit for George Russell), Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come. (Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor get mentioned in passing, but not the former's fabulous Mingus Ah Um.) I turned nine that year, and scarcely noticed anything highlighted (mostly political events, including the space race), but Kaplan shows how the 1960s were locked and loaded, ready to burst forth, as they did for me -- many established so quickly that they looked to me like the natural world yet were still so new and divergent they shocked my parents and their generation's cultural guardians. Some overlap with Louis Menand's The Free World, which is more careful in laying out early post-WWII changes than looking for a specific pivot point.

Last, I wrote yet another Speaking of Which last night, and made a brief pass at touching it up today. The biggest change was that I looked up links for most of the statements I made in the introduction. I probably should do that sort of thing more often, but it's hard to keep up that much focus on something that gets forgotten so quickly.


New records reviewed this week:

Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (2020 [2023], RogueArt, 2CD): Quintet formed in 1966, the best known group to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), from their inception dedicated to transcending jazz and performing "great black music." The original group stuck together more than 30 years, until the deaths of Lester Bowie (1999), Malachi Favors (2004), and Joseph Jarman (2019). That left Roscoe Mitchell (sax) and Famoudou Don Moye (percussion), who keep the faith with a long list of guests: I count 18 here, where the vocalists (Moor Mother, Roco Córdova, Erina Newkirk) are most prominent, and the percussionists most numerous. I don't love all the vocals, but there's much to celebrate here. A- [cd] [01-20]

Asake: Mr. Money With the Vibe (2022, 'YBNL Nation/Empire): Nigerian singer-songwriter Ahmed Ololade, first album (after an EP). Draws on hip-hop more than Afrobeat, but gets a nice flow either way. B+(***) [sp]

John Bailey: Time Bandits (2022 [2023], Freedom Road): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, only has a couple albums but has been around a long time. Mainstream quartet here with George Cables (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). B+(**) [01-23]

Lucian Ban: Ways of Disappearing (2021 [2022], Sunnyside): Romanian pianist, moved to New York in 1999, dozen-plus albums since 2002, this one solo. Originals plus one piece each by Annette Peacock and Carla Bley. B+(**) [sp]

Barcelona Art Orchestra: Ragtime Stories (2021 [2022], UnderPool): Large (17-piece) group, conducted by pianists Néstor Giménez and Llis Vidal, with Lluc Casares (clarinet/tenor sax) and Joan Vidal (drums) also composing and arranging. May have some swing or earlier references, but is slick and fully postmodern. B+(***) [sp]

Bliss Quintet: Dramaqueen (2022, Jazzland): Norwegian quintet, first album, no credits on Bandcamp page, and I don't recognize any names on the cover, but figure trumpet, sax, piano, bass, drums. B+(*) [sp]

Madison Cunningham: Revealer (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from California, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Czarface: Czarmageddon (2022, Silver Age): Hip-hop group, with Inspectah Deck (of Wu-Tang) joining the duo 7L & Esoteric. Twelfth album since 2013. Trademark cartoon cover, lots of turntable squeaks, beats sometimes leaning toward punk. B+(***) [sp]

Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (2022 [2023], CAP): Pianist, originally from Tulsa, moved to New York in 1985, seventh album since 2001, his second solo outing. Measured and thoughtful. B+(**) [cd] [01-20]

Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (2022 [2023], Origin): Guitarist, albums as far back as 1987, trio here with Brian Ho (organ) and Lorca Hart (drums). She comes from a generation of American guitarists who were almost all under Wes Montgomery's spell, so the dedication isn't a surprise, but the music -- no Montgomery tunes, six originals (only dedication there is the probable typo, "For Django, Avec Amor"), covers of Bobby Timmons and Lennon-McCartney -- points elsewhere. B+(*) [cd] [01-20]

Fred Frith/Susana Santos Silva: Laying Demons to Rest (2021 [2023], RogueArt): Guitar and trumpet duo, one 41:57 piece, seems abstract at first but grows on you. B+(***) [cd] [01-20]

Hard Rubber Orchestra: Iguana (2022, Redshift): Large Canadian group, founded in 1990 and directed by John Korsrud, based in Vancouver, only a handful of albums. This one credits 21 musicians (including five drummers plus a percussionist), includes' three Korsrud compositions but he's not among the credits. B+(*) [sp]

Sly Johnson: 55.4 (2022, BBE): French singer, first name Sylvère, fourth album, "blends soul and hip-hop" (I'd say funk). Includes a slow, evocative "What's Going On." B+(**) [sp]

Linqua Franqa: Bellringer (2022, Ernest Jennings): From Athens, Georgia, "linguist by day, lunatic lady rapper by night." A little unsteady, but gets political toward the end, asking the labor solidarity "which side are you on?." B+(**) [bc]

Lyrics Born: Vision Board (2022, Mobile Home): Rapper Tom Shimura, boasts he's "The Best Rapper in the World," and while that song doesn't make the case, I can't think of anyone who can pump up a beat like him, then match the clever string of words he flows in and around. He secures guests for six (of nine) songs, yet they all join together. Short (29:34). A- [sp]

Joanna Mattrey/Gabby Fluke-Mogul: Oracle (2022, Relative Pitch): Violin duo (Mattrey's credit: viola, stroh violin), a sound I find intrinsically treacherous. Still, if you can get past that reaction, you get a lot of tricky interaction, including a bit of joust, which is actually a bit less jarring than a free sax squawk. B+(**) [sp]

Fergus McCreadie: Forest Floor (2022, Edition): Scottish pianist, second album, trio with bass (David Bowden) and drums (Stephen Henderson). Impressive speed, retains his touch when he slows down. B+(**) [sp]

Joe McPhee & Tomeka Reid: Let Our Rejoicing Rise (2021 [2022], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Opens with a McPhee speech on Juneteenth and "Nation Time," leading into a tenor sax and cello duo, a bit on the solemn side. B+(**) [bc]

Montparnasse Musique: Archeology (2022, Real World): Duo, Algerian-French producer Nadjib Ben Bella, and South African DJ Aero Manyelo, the latter's hip-hop (or kwaito or gqom) with a dash of mbube wrapped up in electronic glitz. A- [sp]

Simon Moullier: Isla (2022 [2023], self-released): Vibraphone player, second album, quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass, and drums. Nice easy flow. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]

Native Sound System: Nativeworld (2022, Native): Not a group, evidently a British radio show (DJs Sholzstilltippin and Addy Edgal), tied to a Nigerian magazine, so this might be more of a various artists compilation. B+(*) [sp]

Youssou N'Dour Et Le Super Etoile De Dakar: Special Fin D'Année 2022 (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 20:41. Not essential, but the last track would fit nicely in one of his typically brilliant albums. B+(**) [sp]

Maggie Nicols: Are You Ready? (2021 [2022], Otoroku): Scottish free jazz singer, plays piano, original name Margaret Nicolson, first albums 1982. This one is divided into two sets: "Songs" (39:46) and "Whatever Arises" (39:25). [r]

Oort Smog: Smeared Pulse Transfers (2017 [2019], Sweatband, EP): Los Angeles duo, Patrick Shiroishi (sax) and Mark Kimbrell (drums). Billed as prog rock, or experimental, or brutal prog -- anything but jazz, but even they admit Coltrane-Ali is the source of the duo format. I'd venture no wave, but they're probably too young to have even heard of it. Ten punk-length pieces (19:46), not that they feel abbreviated, or distinct. B+(*) [sp]

Oort Smog: Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother (2022, AKP): Slightly longer at 28:59, but only one song, so you can call it anything from a single to an album. Long form means they can take a while warming up before breaking out. B+(**) [sp]

PinkPantheress: Take Me Home (2022, Warner Music, EP): Gemma Walker, British pop singer, got a lot of attention for her To Hell With It mini-album. Three more songs, 7:40, starting off with the previously released single "Boy's a Liar." Pretty good, but very slight. Not sure if she'll ever produce a real album -- her 10-track debut only ran 18:36 -- but it's hard to focus on these micro-doses. B+(*) [sp]

Pongo: Sakidila (2022, Virgin): Angolan singer, Engrácia Domingues, based in Lisbon, first album after a single and an EP. The typical Portuguese lilt lurks in the background, but the beats are so insistent you barely notice it. A- [sp]

Simona Premazzi: Wave in Gravity: Solo Piano (2021 [2023], PRE): Italian pianist, based in New York, fourth album since 2006. Solo, as advertised. Half originals, half standards, including a Monk. All engaging. B+(**) [cd] [02-17]

Scrunchies: Feral Coast (2022, Dirtnap): Punk duo from Minneapois, Laura Larson (guitar) and Danielle Cusack (drums), second album after several previous group alignments (including Buzzcunts, a Buzzcocks cover band). B+(***) [bc]

Elliott Sharp/Eric Mingus: Songs From a Rogue State (2022, Zoar): Guitarist, many albums since 1978, many straying from jazz. Mingus sings, plays some bass. Leans toward blues, or Beefheart, but both harsher and wilder. B+(*) [sp]

Kalia Vandever: Regrowth (2022, New Amsterdam): Trombone player, based in Brooklyn, second album, original pieces, some guest alto sax (Immanuel Wilkins), but mostly built around piano and/or guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Skip Walker: Tina's Contemplation: A Reflection on the Genius of Tina Brooks (2022, Skip Walker Music): Brooks was a short-lived tenor saxophonist (1932-74) who recorded four mostly brilliant albums for Blue Note 1958-61. Walker is a drummer, tackling and contemplating Brooks' songbook with piano (Travis Shook) and bass (Essiet Okon Essiet). Very nice record, but I'm missing the saxophone. B+(***) [sp]

Yelawolf/Shooter Jennings: Sometimes Y (2022, Slumerican): Michael Atha, started out as a white rapper from Alabama, teams up with the son of Waylon Jennings to make a fairly slick but hard-hitting rock album. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Ashbury Stabbins Duo: Fire Without Bricks (1976 [2021], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duo, Larry Stabbins (tenor/soprano sax) and Roy Ashbury (drums), originally released in 1977. Struggles to be heard, interesting when it is. B+(*) [bc]

Pedro Lima: Recordar É Viver: Antologia Vol. 1 (1981-87 [2022], Bongo Joe): Singer from São Tome, an island off the west coast of Equatorial Africa, controlled by Portugal until 1975. Lima (1944-2019) recorded regularly in the 1980s-1990s, the source of this compilation (which includes unreleased tracks). Strong influence here of Congolese rhumba and soukous, especially in the guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Mainstream Funk: Funk, Soul, Spiritual Jazz 1971-75 (1971-75 [2022], WeWantSounds): A sampler from Bob Shad's 1964-76 label Mainstream Records, which started as a mostly jazz label -- their first releases were reissues from the Commodore and Time labels. Many of the musicians here were better known for jazz (Sarah Vaughan, who opens with a cover of "Inner City Blues"; Blue Mitchell, Johnny Coles, Buddy Terry), and most of the other cuts are longer on vamps than on vocals. B+(**) [bc]

Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda: Freddy Roland Y Su Orquesta De Moda (1968 [2022], Vampisoul): Saxophonist, Ángel Pablo Bagni Stella, from Argentina (1932-2004), played with Pérez Prado, wound up in Peru (home of his wife, a cumbia singer known as Veronikha). Bandcamp page has no credits or dates, but this matches a 1968 LP, which Discogs has as Vol. II. No doubt someone could assemble a quality retrospective (perhaps even one of those 4-CD Proper Boxes), but this slice of time is pretty wonderful. A- [bc]

Old music:

Abash [Tommy Skotte/Anders Ekholm/Nils Danell]: Abash (1993, Dragon): Swedish trio, first of three albums through 2000, my inclination in parsing the cover is to credit the names and leave Abash as the title, but later albums follow the group name, and that's how I initially filed them. Besides, Ekholm (tenor sax) is the central figure, having written six songs, vs. one each' for bassist Skotte and drummer Danell). B+(***) [r]

Albert Ayler: Nuits De La Fondation Maeght 1970 (1970 [2002], Water): Tenor saxophonist, the defining force of the 1960s avant-garde, his death in November 1970 slamming the door on an era (especially coming after Coltrane's death in 1967). His last albums on Impulse were poorly regarded, but these final live sets have been widely bootlegged, and given the 4-CD box set treatment by Elemental Music in 2022 (Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, which finished 3rd in the Jazz Critics Poll, but only fragments are available to stream). This edition is a good sampler, superseding the two Shandar LPs with a single 73:55 CD. Quartet, with Call Cobbs (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass), and Allen Blairman (drums), with a Mary Maria vocal at the end. A- [sp]

Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra: Kyanos (2001 [2002], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991, group a septet from his 1994 album Further, with trumpets (Per Jørgensen and Arve Henriksen), sax (Morten Halle), cello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Tony Bevan/Paul Rogers/Steve Noble: Bigshots (1991 [1992], Incus): British saxophonist (tenor/soprano), second album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Tony Bevan/Alexander Frangenheim/Steve Noble: Twisters (1995 [1996], Scatter): A second trio, Bevan playing soprano and bass saxophone, with bass and percussion. B+(*) [bc]

Michiel Borstlap: The Sextet Live! (1995, Challenge, 2CD): Dutch pianist, first album, has a fairly stellar front line with trumpet (Eric Vloeimans), alto/c-melody sax (Benjamin Herman), and tenor/soprano sax (Yuri Honing), plus bass and drums. Plenty of energy, especially on trumpet. B+(**) [r]

Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition (1974 [1989], Steeplechase): Often identified as Volume 1 these days, but I don't see any edition in Discogs, starting with the original five-track LP release in 1974, that makes that explicit. One of the lowest-rated albums in all of the Penguin Guide, but one can only speculate over the pique. Maybe the stinky sound of the contrabass clarinet, which all but buries "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," but on "Ornithology" it merely slows Braxton down to human speed. The Copenhagen rhythm section is pretty great, with pianist Tete Montoliu getting a lot of solo space, backed by NHØP (bass) and Tootie Heath (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition: Volume 2 (1974 [1987], Steeplechase): A second set of tunes from the same session, this first appeared in 1976, and picked up a seventh piece for CD reissue. Similar mix of tunes, including more Marsh and Parker, plus a long "Body and Soul." B+(**) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986 (1986, Black Saint): Numbers 88, 101, 122, 124, and 131, recorded in Milan with David Rosenboom (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Anthony Braxton: Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 1 (1997 [2002], Leo, 2CD): Two compositions, 207 and 208, one 73:09, the other 74:00, performed by a group with six saxophonists plus guitar (Kevin O'Neil), bass (Joe Fonda), and percussion (Kevin Norton). B+(***) [r]

Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: New Works/Celebration (1997 [1999], Challenge): Valve trombonist (1929-2011), started playing piano in big bands, first album (1954) was a quartet, but he was always well-regarded as an arranger, and formed this big band here (eventually recording six albums through 2011). B+(**) [sp]

Reuben Brown Trio: Ice Scape (1994 [1997], SteepleChase): Pianist, very little about him online, aside from a couple appearances in the 1970s, and two albums on SteepleChase. This one gets help from Rufus Reid (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Reuben Brown: Blue and Brown (1994 [1998], SteepleChase): A second album, this one solo. B+(**) [sp]

Dave Brubeck: Octet (1948-49 [1991], Fantasy/OJC): Some of the pianist's earliest recordings, first appearing in 1950 as Old Sounds From San Francisco (two EPs, then a 10-inch LP, and finally as Octet on a 12-inch LP in 1956). Group included Dick Collins (trumpet), Bob Collins (trombone), David Van Kriedt (tenor sax), Paul Desmond (alto sax), William O. Smith (clarinet & baritone sax), Jack Weeks (bass), and Cal Tjader (drums). Some slick moves, not that all of them work. B+(**) [r]

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953 [1987], Fantasy/OJC): Early quartet featuring Paul Desmond (alto sax), with Ron Crotty (bass) and Joe Dodge (drums), shortly after the highly recommended Jazz at Oberlin, and shortly before the more famous Jazz Goes to College. B+(***) [r]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Brubeck Time (1954 [1955], Columbia): Two originals plus six standards, from "Jeepers Creepers" to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" The first of many Brubeck albums with "time" in the title, but this one doesn't seem to have anything to do with the unorthodox time signatures he made much of from 1959 (Time Out) forward. B+(***) [r]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956-57 [1957], Columbia): The first of several Jazz Impressions albums, must have seemed like an easy take for a group that made its bread and butter touring college campuses. The cover is a map with the song titles, like "Ode to a Cowboy," along the borders and coasts. B+(***) [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958, Columbia): On one of those State Department "good will" tours, they crossed Northern Europe to Poland, then down to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and on to India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Afghanistan ("one of the most fascinating countries we visited," where they were "awakened by the weirdest sound I ever heard"). A bit more exotic, but hasn't found the handle yet. B+(**) [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964, Columbia): The pianist studied with Darius Milhaud, who advised him to travel the world and keep his ears open. Brubeck did, even if the Japanese affects here are somewhat stock (gongs and such). Upbeat songs like "Toki's Theme" really jump out, and Paul Desmond is even more sublime than usual. A- [sp]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of New York (1964 [1965], Columbia): Four songs with "Broadway" in the title, others with "Washington Square" and "Central Park," but also a "Bossa Nova" and a "Rumba." B+(***) [sp]

Gary Burton/Keith Jarrett: Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (1969-70 [1971], Atlantic): The vibraphonist was two years older than Jarrett, but got a quick jump with New Vibe Man in Town at 18 in 1961, and had something of a fusion rep, although that was not his only spin. The pianist released his first two albums in 1968, after playing with Art Blakey and Charles Lloyd, and added a short stint with Miles Davis before this album came out. Jarrett plays electric piano and soprano sax here, the group filled out with guitar (Sam Brown), bass (Steve Swallow), and drums. B [sp]

Stoney Edwards: Mississippi You're on My Mind (1975, Capitol): Black country singer, recorded six albums for Capitol 1971-76, newly reissued (at least digital) -- I've looked for this for ages, but until now only found the 20-track Razor & Tie The Best of Stoney Edwards: Poor Folks Stick Together, still the better deal. One song name-checks Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell. He draws more on the latter. A- [sp]

Jackie McLean & Tina Brooks: Street Singer (1960 [1980], Blue Note): Brooks is a tenor saxophonist, had a hot streak recording four albums 1959-61 for Blue Note, dropped from sight, and died at 42 in 1974. This session, recorded with McLean on alto sax, and a rhythm section of Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Art Taylor, was shelved until it came out in Japan in 1980, and finally in the US in 2000. No idea why they sat on this, other than that McLean was in the midst of his own hot streak, from New Soil to Let Freedom Ring to One Step Beyond and Destination: Out -- maybe a classic joust didn't seem far out enough? Also note that only Brooks' True Blue was released at the time. A- [sp]

Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (2008, Lost Highway): Only album in my database I hadn't heard, so I figured why not? Voice going but not yet gone. Songs substantial by any standards but maybe not hers. Identifies rock and roll, and has the guitars to prove it. B+(***) [sp]


Grade (or other) changes:

PinkPantheress: To Hell With It (2021, Parlophone, EP): British pop singer, barely 20, first short mixtape (10 songs, 18:36), vocals feathery light, enough so that this got tagged as "atmospheric drum & bass," but pay close attention and get to the point. Hint for me was a turn of phrase I hadn't heard since Lily Allen. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • George: Letters to George (Out of Your Head) [01-27]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


Speaking of Which

Still feeling indifferent about continuing this column, but hadn't gotten into anything else at the moment, so had some time to fiddle. Then, of course, it got late, and I had to cut it short.

Lots missing below, including the six-year-old child who shot his school teacher, and another story here in Wichita where a toddler shot a mother. A wee bit, but not much, on the Biden classified documents snipe hunt, which reads like a comedy of errors, and is mostly significant for allowing Republicans to run around screaming bloody murder -- a thought that never occurred to them when Trump was hoarding top secrets, in part because they were so busy painting him as a victim of the politically woke FBI. Meanwhile, Democrats are scrambling to point out how different the cases are (although at least one writer has observed that the Biden case is is "really like Hillary's"). Few people have stressed the obvious: that way too many government documents are classified, which both makes them easy to lose and encourages their users to get sloppy.

As much as I'd enjoy Trump being sent to prison, it's hard to get excited about the legal jeopardy he seems to be in. Classified documents are basically bullshit. I wouldn't put whistleblowers like Reality Winner and Edward Snowden in jail, nor do I care much about people who sold secrets to Russia or China or Israel (many of whom, unlike whistleblowers, eventually get repatriated anyway). I don't see how Trump can complain about the Mar-a-Lago raid, given how much the FBI found, but he's probably right that if they prosecute him, it's mostly political. And, let's face it, the Feds have prosecuted lots of people for politics, most much more worthy of sympathy than Trump is.

The Georgia phone call is another mostly bullshit case. At what point does imploring someone to commit a crime become criminal? It depends a lot on who you are, and who you're talking to, which is why such cases do occasionally do get prosecuted when some Muslim is entrapped by an undercover FBI operative. I also don't care about the defamation suit brought by a woman who alleges Trump raped her. Defamation suits are almost all bullshit moves brought by people with too much money and too many lawyers -- the sort of move that Trump actually specializes in. (James Zirin has a 2019 book on this: Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits.)

Trump already dodged one bullet this year in avoiding getting indicted for the massive fraud at The Trump Organization, letting his CFO take the fall. It'll cost him some money, but the fine strikes me as pretty light, something he can easily afford. Maybe Trump's tax returns will catch up with him, but again that will probably just be a big fine (and not enough to satisfy Eddie Murphy's proposition in Trading Places: "the best way to hurt rich people is to turn them into poor people").

As for seditious conspiracy, that's most often another bullshit charge, usually directed against powerless people who never were real threats. (The first time I ran across the charge was in 1989, when Robert Mueller prosecuted members of the Ohio 7, most still serving long jail terms. My friend Elizabeth Fink was a defense lawyer, and got Patricia Levasseur acquitted.) I'm willing to consider that Trump is the rare case where there's actually some substance that should be redressed -- if what he did wasn't technically illegal, it's only because Congress couldn't imagine how far he would go -- but I don't expect it to happen. Justice in America may be some kind of ideal, but it's rarely practiced, no matter how people like to sound sanctimonious about it.

Of course, if Trump does somehow manage to get prosecuted and convicted and jailed, I won't mind. He seems to have a unique knack for screwing up and letting crises get out of hand. He also seems to have insanely poor choice in lawyers (although he has yet to embrace the cliché of representing himself).


House Republicans: Now that a Speaker is elected, and rules have been passed, House Republicans can get down to implementing their warped agenda. That leads to stories like these:

  • Jake Johnson: [01-14] House GOP Says Pentagon Budget Is Safe -- but Social Security and Medicare Aren't.

  • Ed Kilgore: [01-12] McCarthy Is Open to Expunging Trump's Impeachments.

  • Paul Krugman: [01-12] Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare. Curious lines here: "Advocating a welfare state for white people might well be politically effective. But in America, it's a road not taken." Perhaps Krugman should read Ira Katznelson's When Affirmative Action Was White. Admittedly, Republicans mostly opposed those programs, even with their racial discrimination, but the more such programs benefitted non-whites, the more racist innuendo they have worked into their denunciations. A better piece here is Jamelle Bouie: [01-10] The Less Talked About Part of Kevin McCarthy's Deal With Republican Radicals.

    But left untouched by a democratically accountable state, the free market is just another arena for the domination of the many by the few, of the subordination of labor to the dictates of capital.

    Social insurance and the welfare state are more than a ballast against the winds of capitalism; they are part of the foundation of self-government and the cornerstone of democratic citizenship as we now understand it, where individuals are as free as possible from the arbitrary domination and authority of others.

    Extreme opposition to social insurance and the safety net is, in that case, a natural fit for an authoritarian movement that tried to overturn the constitutional order and now wants to use the power it has to clean up as much of the scene of the crime as it can manage.

    It is, for that matter, a natural fit for the entire Republican Party. Even after you exclude the MAGA radicals, you find a political party whose hostility to a broader, more equitable democracy is deep-seated and profound.

  • Amanda Marcotte: [01-13] House Republicans want to make smoking great again: "Masculinity gets toxic -- literally!"

  • Norman Solomon/Jeff Cohen: [01-13] The dangerous myth of the "moderate Republican" keeps pushing the media rightward.

  • Kenny Stancil: [01-12] 11 New GOP Picks for House Financial Oversight Panel Took Over $6.1 Million From Wall Street.

  • Kenny Stancil: [01-14] As Debt Ceiling Alarm Sounded, GOP Accused of Plotting 'Terrorist Attack on the Economy': Headline could be sharper. What Republicans are threatening is morally equivalent to terrorism, but its ramifications are far greater, affecting many more people (and businesses, and through them even more people). Dean Baker's quote is: "They have the tiniest majority of one house and they are prepared to use it to get concessions they know are incredibly unpopular." Left unsaid, but key, is how Republicans are convinced that if they do their damage while a Democrat is president, they'll be able to deflect blame for their acts. Where common terrorist attacks betray a desperate, even pathetic limit of power -- "if we can't do anything else, at least we can make you hurt" -- Republicans are deliberately hoping to leverage their power to cause much greater economic harm. Nor is this new with the nihilist rump of the Party: Republicans have repeatedly tried to tank the economy every time the president was a Democrat (at least with Clinton, Obama, and now Biden).

  • Marcus Stanley: [01-11] House creates controversial new select committee on China: One thing that argues against Republicans flipping on war and defense spending is their deep-seated hatred for China. There is a huge body of literature on current and coming civilizational clashes between the US and China, claiming that China aspires to dominate the globe like the US and the UK have before, which includes not just the usual militarist flunkees like Lindsey Graham but extends deep into MAGA ranks (thanks largely to Peter Navarro).

  • Peter Wade: [01-15] GOP House Oversight Chair Can't Explain Why He's Investigating Biden Classified Docs But Not Trump's. Wade also wrote this, not about the House, but they say state legislatures are the "laboratories of democracy": [01-15] Wyoming GOP Considers Declaring War on Electric Vehicles to Protect Fossil Fuels.

Ezra Klein: [01-15] Three Reasons the Republican Party Keeps Coming Apart at the Seams:

  1. Republicans are caught between money and media.
  2. Same party, different voters.
  3. Republicans need an enemy.

The Republican Party has long consisted of two factions in an uneasy equilibrium: plutocrats, who may think of themselves as libertarian but are only concerned with freedom for the rich to increase their power and wealth; and culture warriors, who see America at great risk of moral collapse unless they can impose their values on everyone else. As long as the latter let the former slide, which may entail embracing wealth as a virtue, the two sides can work together, defined primarily by their shared enemy (the secular left).

Two more pieces on Republicans beyond the House:

Andrew Koppelman: [01-12] Forced Labor: Why the Thirteenth Amendment Protects Abortion Rights: "Roe v. Wade was built on a less-than-compelling Constitutional argument. But the right to choose is solidly grounded in the amendment that abolished slavery."

Rebecca Leber: [01-11] The gas stove regulation uproar, explained. I grew up with a gas stove, and have been a partisan all my life. I've rented places with electric stoves, and hated them. When I rebuilt our kitchen, the first thing on my shopping list was a big, fancy gas stove. (I bought a 36-inch Capital with six full-power burners, and a very expensive range hood which was a bear to vent outside. At the time, I saw a bunch of arguments that electric was better for baking, so I bought an electric wall oven as well, which I use more often than the gas oven, but each has its advantages, and it's nice to have both.) I didn't panic when this news came out, but was curious about the evidence -- not really answered here (but I guess I'm running my exhaust fan more regularly). Also:

  • Margaret Hartmann: [01-13] The Gas-Stove Ban Freak-out Is the Story We Need Right Now: "It's stupid and low-stakes." One thing I didn't know here is that gas stoves are much more common in Blue States (CA, NY, NJ, IL, NV), and are generally more preferred (well, at least owned) by Democrats than by Republicans. Also some stuff on induction ranges. I had heard about them when I bought my gas range, but was under the (possibly mistaken) impression I'd have to buy new cookware.

  • Alex Shepherd: [01-13] How Right-Wing Gasbags Cooked Up a Fantastically Dumb Culture War: "The incredible story of how conservatives took a consumer product warning about stoves and fried their brains to a crisp."

Matt McManus: [01-11] Why Conservatism Can Never Be "Populist". Review, based on Paul Elliott Johnson's I the People: The Rhetoric of Conservative Populism in the United States. As Johnson points out, it is "important to stop waxing nostalgic about conservatism's reasonable past."

Blaise Malley: [01-13] Diplomacy Watch: Are European countries diverging on Ukraine aid? "As Poland preps to send tanks, Italy delays its latest package of weapons and financial assistance to Kyiv." Once again, little here. For more:

  • George Beebe: [01-13] Laying the foundations for a settlement in Ukraine.

  • Ed Kilgore: [01-13] Republican Opposition to Ukraine Is Reaching Tipping Point. Democrats have been notably united behind arms aid for Ukraine. Republicans are more conflicted, but opponents are scattered, with varied rationales ranging from ranging from culture war sympathies for Putin (a key member of the fraternal order of fascists Steve Bannon has been courting) to anti-spending hawks to neo-isolationists to pure snark (e.g., Donald Trump Jr.'s dismissal of Zelensky as an "ungrateful international welfare queen"), but the numbers have been small -- the only rationale anywhere near a "tipping point" is the reflex to oppose anything that Biden endorses. Still, Ukraine is a bonanza for the arms merchants, and while they've always been expert at lining up bipartisan majorities, most Republicans have always bent over backwards to please them. But I worry that Republicans could flip and take a stronger anti-war position than Democrats -- especially with Biden so wedded to the security wonks (and to the arms industry). Trump flirted with this, but couldn't do anything as long as he preferred to project machismo and/or prostrated himself to the military class.

Ian Millhiser: [01-10] The legal loophole that could arm mass shooters with makeshift automatic rifles.

Nicole Narea: [01-12] Why a special counsel is looking into Biden's classified documents: "Any time classified materials go to a place they're not supposed to go, there is almost always an inquiry into how they got to that place." And what never happens is any investigation of why we have so much classified shit in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised to find that 80% of it all is pure bullshit: not stuff the government is trying to hide from the public, but the habitual use of secrecy markers and clearance levels to establish rank and privilege in the security bureaucracy (where the main privilege is excluding others from questioning your authority). The sheer ubiquity of classified markings ensures that documents will get lost or stolen, resulting in periodic hysteria and vendettas. That someone as sloppy as Trump seems inevitable. As for the special counsel, Garland probably just wanted to duck the inevitable questions about equivalency, even if it should be obvious that President Biden needs a level of access that ex-President Trump doesn't.

Alan Rappeport/Jim Tankersley/Jeanna Smialek: [01-13] The U.S. May Finally Breach the Debt Ceiling. Here's Why That Would Be Very Bad. I'm not sure how bad it really would be, but I am sure it would be stupid and totally unnecessary, a crisis contrived by a Republican Party that has no concern for anything other than their own political power.

Nathan J Robinson: [01-12] There Are No Good Royals: "If a member of Britain's degenerate ruling family doesn't like attention, he should go away and do something useful with his life." But where's the evidence that he could even imagine doing "something useful." He can't even grasp the concept of going away. I have no interest in doing so, so I can't fault Robinson for saving us the dirty work of reading Prince Harry's book, but I'd be inclined to dissect it somewhat differently. For instance, instead of dwelling on Harry's boast of long-distance murder in Afghanistan, I'd wonder what made him want to be a soldier in the first place. It's not a common choice for rich folk who have lots of other options -- especially in a third-rate power whose foreign policy consists of nothing but supplication to American power (perhaps his marriage to an American is another dimension of servility?). It takes a degree of priggishness that is hard to imagine outside of the British royal cocoon.

Robinson makes clear that the book is a considered, ghostwritten PR ploy, and notes how briskly it has sold, but what does that tell us? Clearly, the context is the "vicious coverage [of the royal family] in the British tabloid press," but are they looking for sympathy, or just playing the role of fools who regularly justify our instinct to bring them down with ridicule?

Bill Scher: [01-11] Democrats Need an Immigration Strategy Before They Turn on Each Other: Title seems obvious enough, and the problem is true enough: there is a vocal faction which supports everyone's right to immigrate any time they see fit, which makes it hard to settle on any approach that limits immigration, especially for refugees. Republicans have their own divide on immigration: the larger faction is nativist and exclusionary, but there's also a business-oriented faction that likes the idea of importing cheap foreign labor, kept powerless by special work permits. My own take has long been that the top priority should be in clearing up the backlog of undocumented immigrants (especially from the 1990s, when NAFTA dislocated Mexican workers and farmers, and the process was largely tolerated). To do that, I'd be willing to accept lower numbers of legal immigrants (as well as more enforcement against new illegals, although we've already spent tons of money on that). (I'm not personally bothered by higher numbers, but it looks to me like promoting more immigration is a losing political issue, and distracts from the more important one of providing better public service for the people who are here now.) But, as I said, it's hard to get any sort of consensus among Democrats, and Republicans would rather just campaign on being hard and mean and, in most cases, cruel. Still, one thing I was struck by in this article is this:

As Bier explained, before 2021, we had almost no southern border crossings originating from countries outside Mexico and Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In 2000, only 6,271 people from outside those four countries were arrested for crossing illegally. By 2020, that number ticked up to 43,715. But in 2022, just through October, the number exploded to 947,054, with the bulk coming from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

The obvious point here is that Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are problems caused largely by US foreign policy, and which could be fixed by changing policy to help those economies rather than hinder them. It always seem ironic that people should seek to immigrate to the very countries that are responsible for their local plights, yet there is a certain logic to it. Perhaps those who get so upset when refugees arive should think a bit more about how to prevent such calamities from happening, instead of simply thinking they can beat every problem to death.

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-13] Roaming Charges: Woke Me When It's Over.

Brett Wilkins: [01-11] New study blows up myth that Russian bots swayed 2016 election for Trump. "Blows up" is a bit strong: the study is limited to Twitter, which was probably less significant than Facebook (not that a study there wouldn't correlate, but there are differences in how the two platforms are used); and it basically quantifies the limits of how much influence Russian bots could have had (not much, as they were mostly viewed by small numbers of pro-Trump Republicans). In any case, the bots were only one small part of the broader "Russiagate" story, which always had a political charge behind it, but one may say the same about many detractors. I always minimized the claims that Russia sabotaged Hillary Clinton, for three reasons: from the start, the story was floated to shift blame from Clinton for losing to Trump, when there were many other reasons to be critical of her campaign; given the massive investment of the Republican propaganda machine (including Fox and their ilk), it's hard to imagine how Russia could further tip the scales; and the whole campaign was clearly intended to inflame anti-Russian sentiment by playing up Cold War themes, and this played into militarist plans to challenge Russia's borders and temperament (the Ukraine War being a self-fulfilling prophecy of such hawks, a cult that counted Clinton as a charter member). On the other hand, anyone (like Matt Taibbi) who has claimed that Russiagate is the biggest journalistic fraud of recent history has either a very selective memory or a strange political agenda. Such people see this report as vindication on everything, because to them it's all one vast conspiracy.

Also see:

  • Luke Savage: [01-13] It Turns Out Hillary Clinton, Not Russian Bots, Lost the 2016 Election. Sure, the "Russian bots" story has been greatly exaggerated by Clinton supporters -- people my wife likes to calll Hillbots -- it's also been strangely fixated on by people who want to drive home the point that Clinton, saddled as she was with neoliberal entanglements, was a uniquely bad candidate. I basically agree as far as Clinton goes, but I don't think that "Russian interference" has anything major to do with her loss. I suspect her vulnerabilities lie elsewhere (and not really in being a woman, although being the wife of a widely reviled former president complicates that question). The key fact of 2016 was that she lost to Donald Trump, which is unforgivable but also unnecessary. Lots of people had many good reasons for opposing Trump, but the one that she chose came off as smug and priggish, reinforcing the public's view of her as an elite political insider, bound to all the corruption and dysfunction of such elites. Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" was always bullshit, but she didn't expose him for that. She seemed to be saying that Trump wasn't good enough for the swamp, and that just reinforced what Trump was saying. Of course, her failure was embarrassing, which led to all manner of blame shifting -- Russiagate was just part but flourished because it was easy to play off Cold War tropes.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, January 9, 2023


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39353 [39330] rated (+23), 42 [39] unrated (+3: 14 new, 28 old).

In early November, Francis Davis decided that he couldn't afford the time needed to run a 17th annual edition of his Jazz Critics Poll. He asked me to take over, as I had done most of the grunt work last year, and had helped out for many years before that. I agreed, figuring I'd spent a lot of time this year tracking music, even aggregating ratings, plus I had been procrastinating on other projects, so why not finish out the year doing a good turn? I organized a mailing list, and sent ballots out around November 13, with a December 12 deadline. I wound up collecting and compiling 151 ballots: down a bit from 2021's 156, but still a good showing. I worked out a deal with Arts Fuse to publish the results, and started to prepare them for publication.

Then I got Covid. While I was never very sick, it created a lot of stress as we tried to keep my wife from getting infected. Also producing a lot of stress was the terminal spiral of our dog Sadie, nearly 15, inherited 8 years ago with Liz Fink died (and as such, sort of a sacred trust). I totally missed our original delivery date, and didn't make any serious progress until New Year's. I finally pulled most of it together on Wednesday, and sent the pieces in Thursday. They were published Friday afternoon, about the same time we had a vet visit to put the dog down.

The archive index page is: The 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll: 2022. This includes links for the articles published at Arts Fuse:

The two pieces by me were originally conceived of as four, but Bill Marx wanted to combine the tables with the essays. Francis's essay came in after I had handed all of my pieces in. He had seen all of my stuff by then.

The archive page also includes links for complete results (the Arts Fuse list stops at 50 new releases, and 20 reissues/historical), and for all of the individual voter ballots:

I suppose I'll have more to say about the Poll, its results, and the process behind it, but at this point the combination of exhaustion and frustration probably makes that unwise. As I point out in one (or both) of the essays, the most important point for the poll is the data it generates, so please dig into that. You're bound to learn some things.

My listening of late has been very skewed. One thing that has frustrated me immensely, and is wholly my own fault, is that my system for filing CDs has completely broken down, to where I can't find anything. I should have spent the last several weeks rechecking the year's highest rated albums, but have failed in that almost completely. I wound up streaming the top three finishers, leaving Mary Halvorson's Amaryllis and Cécile McLorin Salvant's Ghost Song at my original B+(***) -- although Salvant's Kurt Weil cover is pretty great -- but I did bump up the grade for Immanuel Wilkins's The 7th Hand considerably. Below that, I could neither stream nor find my copy of Tyshawn Sorey's Mesmerism, another B+(***) first time around. I only had two of the top ten finishers made my A-list, and only three of the next ten (ok, four more from 21-30, three from 31-40, and two from 41-50).

Still, I emerged from this experience with more respect than ever for my fellow voters. I suspect that Francis was a bit reluctant to hand his baby over, because he regarded me as some kind of fringe critic. I found myself caring very little about the standings, as long as the ballots showed considerable thought, which they did.

So, instead of catching up with new jazz (as I did a lot of in November and especially December), I played old records, especially a lot of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. Then last week, I pulled up a list of unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums, and thought I'd knock off a few. Hence, the reviews below are almost all modern but not recent jazz. No idea why I first landed on an Italian clarinetist, but I worked back from him, then returned to the top of the list.


I should mention that despite being so out of it, I did manage a Speaking of Which news revue yesterday. I also added three books to the Recent Reading roll, after several weeks of neglect.

Matt Taibbi did some brilliant work early in his career -- like his designation of presidential campaign coverage as "the stupid season," and his Wimblehack rankings of America's worst political journalists (note that Karen Tumulty has defended her title numerous times, not that I'm sure she's still the worst). But his Twitter feed has become little short of obnoxious, so I was thinking of dropping him -- but I figured the book looked like it had a sound premise, so maybe I should give him that chance. It is, indeed, a pretty good book, even if a little too both-sidesy. And sure, he goes a bit off the deep end on Russiagate, but that's more in his conclusions than in the reporting. And although Rachel Maddow (who I find seriously annoying) splits the cover, in the book she's relegated to an appendix.

Lepore's The Name of War is more about how Prince Philip's War (1675-76) has been remembered than what actually happened, which borders on genocide. Kaplan's 1959 makes a case for that year as one of pivotal change in America. So far, it's pretty convincing. A big concern of my memoir is how much America has changed, especially in the first twenty years of my life (the 1950s and 1960s). By the way, Kaplan is a Jazz Critics Poll voter, and he has a very detailed chapter on Kind of Blue in the book.


New records reviewed this week:

75 Dollar Bill: Social Music at Troost Vol. 3: (Other) People's Music (2015-17 [2022], self-released): Guitar and drums duo, Che Chen and Rick Brown, debut 2014, have added others especially to the live albums they've been releasing on Bandcamp since the lockdown, including sax, vocals, and bass to some of these pieces, as well as "bar patrons, friends, neighbors." This is a set of covers, ranging from Harry Partch and Pauline Oliveros to Yoko Ono to Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton. Phil Overeem's record of the year. A- [dl]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker Trio: Live in Paris: The Radio France Recordings 1983-1984 (1983-84 [2022], Elemental Music, 2CD): Collects two sets of radio shots, with Baker playing trumpet and singing, backed by piano (Michel Graillier) and bass (Dominique Lemerle or Riccardo Del Fra). B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Arcana: The Last Wave (1995 [1996], DIW): Avant-fusion trio, recorded two albums, this first one with Derek Bailey (guitar), Bill Laswell (bass), and Tony Williams (drums), with Laswell producing. B+(***) [sp]

Derek Bailey: Drop Me Off at 96th (1986-87 [1994], Scatter): British avant-guitarist, revered by the Penguin Guide but barely sampled by me, solo from two live sessions. My favorite bit is one where Bailey talks about his record company catalog, as his scattered guitar licks take a back seat. B+(**) [bc]

Chet Baker: The Best Thing for You (1977 [1989], A&M): Don Sebesky produced this session, which doesn't look to have been released until shortly after Baker's death in 1988. The first side is standards, with Paul Desmond (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums). Second side is a 17:03 Sebesky piece with a bunch of extras. Both sides impress, even Sebesky's kitchen sink treatment. A- [sp]

Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Phil Markowitz: Live at Nick's (1978 [1989], Criss Cross): Trumpet and vocal (including some scat), from a live set in London, with Markowitz on piano, Scott Lee on bass, and Jeff Brillinger on drums. Reissue adds two pieces, expanding from 44:53 to 68:37. B+(***) [r]

Chet Baker Quintet Featuring Warne Marsh: Blues for a Reason (1984 [1985], Criss Cross): No vocals, just trumpet and tenor sax, backed with piano (Hod O'Brien), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Eddie Gladden). Marsh makes a huge difference here, cutting corners and slashing around curves, but Baker, too, gets the idea. A- [r]

Chet Baker Trio Featuring Philip Catherine: Chet's Choice (1985 [1989], Criss Cross): Trumpet/vocal with guitar and bass (mostly Jean-Louis Rassinfosse), the CD adding three tracks. Catherine provides a bit of groove, keeping it all running smoothly. A- [r]

Bernt Rosengren: Notes From Underground (1973 [1992], EMI Svenska): Swedish tenor saxophonist, also plays flute and piano, played early on with George Russell, Krzysztof Komeda, and Don Cherry. The occasional vocal tracks have a Middle Eastern sound, and Okay Temiz helps the the percussion (and Bengt Berger plays tabla). The horns can get intense. B+(***) [sp]

Bernt Rosengren: Stockholm Dues (1965 [1989], Columbia): The Swedish tenor saxophonist's first album, at least as a leader, reissued in a "Swedish Jazz Masters" series with three extra tracks. With trumpet (Lalle Svensson), piano, bass, and drums, plus vocals on a couple tracks. B+(**) [sp]

Jimmy Rowles and George Mraz: Music's the Only Thing That's on My Mind (1976 [1981], Progressive): Piano and bass duets, with Rowles singing three songs. B+(**) [sp]

Jimmy Rowles: Shade and Light [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1978 [2001], Black & Blue): Piano trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums), recorded in Paris. B+(***) [sp]

Terje Rypdal: Lux Aeterna (2000 [2002], ECM): Norwegian guitarist, early on was one of many Norwegians influenced by George Russell, recorded with ECM since 1971. This is a large-scale suite in five movements, featuring Bergen Chamber Ensemble conducted by Kjell Seim, with organ and many strings, way too thick, also a vocal section. Only Palle Mikkelborg's trumpet stands out. B- [sp]

Terje Rypdal: After the Rain (1976, ECM): Essentially a solo album, with the guitarist dubbing in keyboards, soprano sax, flute, and bells. Guitar tone cries and shimmers. B [sp]

Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Rediscovered Louis and Bix (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player (also cornet here), not exclusively a trad jazz guy but is such a Beiderbecke fan that he named his son Bix, and Armstrong is hardly an afterthought. One side for each, drawing on obscure compositions. George Avakian produced ("presents"), and the Allstars are aptly named (as well as a nod to Armstrong: featured on the cover are Kenny Davern, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Hyman, and Ken Peplowski, with many more in the fine print. A- [sp]

Louis Sclavis/Dominique Pifarély/Marc Ducret/Bruno Chevillon: Acoustic Quartet (1993 [1994], ECM): French clarinetist, many albums since 1981, Discogs co-credits with with the violinist, and indeed only their names are above the title, and Pifarély wrote three tracks to Sclavis' four, but the other names (on guitar and bass) are in the same oversized type as the leaders. B+(***) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (1995-96 [1996], ECM): Play soprano sax as well as his usual clarinets, in a group with trombone (Yves Robert), violin (Dominique Pifarély), keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Sextet: Ellington on the Air (1991-92 [2016], Ouch!): An earlier Sextet album, originally issued on IDA, with the same group as above. This one is built around Ellington pieces (including Bubber Miley and Juan Tizol). B+(***) [sp]

Louis Sclavis Quintet: L'Affrontement Des Prétendants (2000 [2001], ECM): Clarinet and soprano sax, joined up front by Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet, backed by cello (Vincent Curtois), bass (Bruno Chevillon), and drums (François Merville). B+(***) [sp]

Bud Shank: The Doctor Is In (1991 [1992], Candid): Alto saxophonist, originally from Ohio, studied in North Carolina, moved to California and played with Short Rogers, Charlie Barnet, and Stan Kenton. A cool jazz icon in the 1950s, recorded regularly but seems like he caught a second wind in the early 1990s. Quartet with Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and Sherman Ferguson (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Tommy Smith: Spartacus (2000 [2001], Spartacus): Scottish tenor saxophonist, had a run of flashy records on Blue Note (1989-94) and Linn (1995-2000) before settling into his own label here. Quartet, featuring credit for pianist Kenny Barron, with James Genus (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Leans toward ballads. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi: Around Small Fairy Tales (1998, Soul Note): Italian clarinet and alto saxophone player, albums since 1978, throw in the kitchen sink here, in the form of Orchestra Da Camera Di Nembro Enea Salmeggia, with oboe, harp, vibes, and at least a dozen string instruments. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: In Cerca Di Cibo (1999 [2000], ECM): Clarinet (piccolo/alto/bass) and accordion duets. B+(**) [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi: Dedalo (2001 [2002], Enja): Leads off with alto sax here, later switching to his clarinets, backed by the WDR Big Band, in an exceptionally festive mood. Also named on the cover: Markus Stockhausen (trumpet), Fulvio Maras (percussion, and Tom Rainey (drums). The opener "Hercab" is funky enough they reprise it live at the end. A- [sp]

Gianluigi Trovesi Ottetto: Fugace (2002 [2003], ECM): The leader, composer of all but two fragments (from trad. and W.C. Handy), plays alto sax and clarinet, the octet rounded out with trumpet, trombone, cello, two bassists, drums, and percussion (Fluvio Maras), with several of those also credited with electronics. B+(***) [sp]


Grade (or other) changes:

Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (2022, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, major debut in 2020, second album, quartet with Micah Thomas (piano), Daryl Johns (bass), and Kweku Sumbry (drums), plus guest spots. Even more ambitious: "hour-long suite comprised of seven movements that strive to bring the quartet closer to complete vesselhood." Impressive chops, but also structure and flow. Once again I underrated him. [was: B+(*)] A- [sp]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bailey: Time Bandits (Freedom Road) [01-23]
  • Falkner Evans: Through the Lines (CAP) [01-20]
  • Mimi Fox Organ Trio: One for Wes (Origin) [01-20]
  • Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project (Origin) [01-20]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, January 8, 2023


Speaking of Which

After hustling to get the 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll posted on Friday, including my essay at Arts Fuse, I was pretty uncertain as to what to do next. Making matters worse was that same day the dog we inherited from the late Elizabeth Fink breathed her last. I was, at the time, figuring it'd be at least a week before I'd bother with a Music Week, much less a Speaking of Which, column. But lacking any other inspiration, I sat down and started collecting this. I had very little news exposure over the last month, first coming down with a fairly mild but disconcerting case of Covid, then finding our internet connection increasingly flaky. The latter was finally cured by a new cable modem, so as I started collecting this, I was pleased to find the system as solid and even faster than ever.

Of course, even without my usual news sources, I was aware of the comedy/horror show in the US House, mostly through the late night shows, which emphasized the comedy side. Still, I didn't see any lasting value in citing articles while the votes were going on. Now, of course, we can not only look back on the debacle, we can look forward to the dysfunctional future.


Eric Alterman: [01-06] George Santos a Liar? Small-Time When Compared to His Fellow Republicans.

Bernard Avishai: [01-07] Netanyahu's government takes a turn toward theocracy. Religious parties have often been part of ruling coalitions, but they've never been so prominent before, or as demanding. One obvious flashpoint is Itamar Ben Gvir, who's often run afoul of Israeli law, yet now is in charge of (selectively) enforcing it. More on Israel:

Jonathan Chait: [01-04] 'Reactionary Centrism,' the Left's Hot New Insult for Liberals: "New jargon just dropped." I'm not much for jargon, let alone insults, but the definition offered here is a recognizable type: "someone who says they're politically neutral, but who usually punches left while sympathizing with the right." The first clause is pretty exactly how self-proclaimed centrists describe themselves. But centrism seems to extend to people who are not politically neutral -- who align with a major political party, which since the GOP purge mostly means Democrats these days -- but who recognize and try to balance multiple interests. If such people are honest, they should be arguing equally with both sides in favor of the other. In practice, though, a lot of them seem to relish fighting with the left, while letting all but the extreme right-wingers off the hook.

Hence there is a need to qualify centrist with some adjective other than fair or honest: reactionary might do the trick, but one should beware that it has two meanings. The root meaning is someone who reacts adversely (perhaps even violently) to change. That may apply to many centrists, especially those who worry that any change or challenge might rock the boat, leading to an even more vicious right-wing backlash. The other meaning, which is why the word is problematic, refers to that backlash itself.

Reactionaries are generally distinguished from conservatives because where the latter merely want to preserve their system and privileges, reactionaries want to radically change the system to restore their own expected privileges. On the left, we often refer to reactionaries as fascists, since that's the more vivid example. Chait is concerned, because he feels vulnerable as a centrist (albeit a Democratic one). I'd be inclined to cut him some slack, but the whole article seems like an excuse to kick the left for impolitic terminology, rather slight grounds that kind of make the point he's arguing against.

It seems to me that we would be better off trying to figure out real, viable solutions to problems, than simply mapping out who is left or right of whom. Not every left solution is ideal, but there are many to choose from, which isn't something you can say about a right that has drifted so far into its fantasies that centrists need to wake up and recognize that they're actually well left of center, and need to treat their comrades with more respect.

Neel Dhanesha: [01-06] California's deadly floods won't break the megadrought: "Atmospheric rivers are dumping rain on California. That's not a good thing." I'm pretty sure that the first time I ever heard "atmospheric river" was in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future, which was "science fiction" two years ago. For more:

Connor Echols: [01-06] Diplomacy Watch: Russia takes aim at Western resolve: Aside from Russia announcing a 3-day ceasefire around the Orthodox Christmas -- a ploy that Ukraines were quick to dismiss -- very little to report here, devolving into the propaganda trope about "Western resolve." Little reason to fear there: American foreign policy seems largely under the thumb of the weapons cartel, who are having the time of their lives, feeding a voracious war without American casualties. While Ukraine still has dreams of regaining ground, Russia's war has largely become one of attrition, which despite inflicting real damage only intensifies Ukrainian resolve. (The German Battle of Britain is an example, although the hardship here may well be a bit worse.) More:

  • Connor Echols: [01-05] How Western tanks could change Ukraine's war effort. Recent arms promises to Ukraine have shifted toward tanks, both from France and the US. The thinking, at least on paper, is that tanks could lead a breakthrough in regaining occupied land. But a big tank advantage didn't help Russia much early in the war, and tanks have rarely been effective without sufficient air coverage, which Ukraine still lacks, so this may mostly be for show.

  • Jen Kirby: [06-06] Putin's so-called Christmas ceasefire, explained, or rationalized away, since Ukraine is unhappy to play along.

  • Paul Krugman: [01-06] What Ukraine Teaches Us About Power: I'm not sure I agree with his argument that there were no decisive battles in WWII -- what about Stalingrad? El Alamein? Midway? -- but he is quite right that in the end, it was economic power that prevailed. The key chart here is the one that compares GDP: while Russia towers over Ukraine, the Russian economy is but spare change compared to Europe and the US, which is what allows NATO to fund Ukraine without breaking a sweat.

  • Anatol Lieven: [01-06] Where the war in Ukraine could be headed in 2023.

  • Condoleezza Rice/Robert M Gates: [01-07] Time is not on Ukraine's side: Talk about people I have no interest in weighing in on anything! Title suggests a note of caution, that it would be good to negotiate sooner rather than later, but they're really urging escalation now to counter Putin: e.g., "For Putin, defeat is not an option. . . . Count on Putin to be patient to achieve his destiny." Perhaps they worry because they understand that Americans aren't very patient people. After all, they spent much of their public disservice prolonging wars most people had realized had gone sideways. What's missing is even the rudiments of a theory suggesting that their push for more weapons will do any good. Rather, they cite 1914, 1941, and 2001 as lessons that "unprovoked aggression and attacks on the rule of law and the international order cannot be ignored." And finally they resort to quoting Zelensky channeling Churchill: "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job." Surely they know that Churchill needed a lot more than tools (Lend-Lease) to defeat Nazi Germany. You'd also expect them to know that taking direct aim at a country with the "strategic depth" and nuclear arms of Russia is a fool's errand. But these two didn't get to the pinnacle of the US war machine by virtue of their grasp of reality (or history).

    And just to nitpick, why 1914 but not 1939, or 1941 but not 1917? And why 2001 instead of 2003? The latter was the war they wanted in 2001, but had to postpone until they could snow us. And while Iraq fits their "unprovoked aggression" line to a tee, note that no other nation raised the alarm and came to Iraq's defense, and the aggressors failed anyway.

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [12-14] Ukraine's resilience sets a global standard. Not that I'm unimpressed, but I thought the global standard was set by Vietnam from before 1954 to 1975. I can give you other examples, including Finland and Afghanistan against Russia (as well as Afghanistan against the UK and the US). I'd also like to note that Ukraine's resistance against invasion was most impressive in the early days, before the US offered any significant weaponry, back when the US wanted to offer Zelensky "a ride," so he could become a propaganda tool, like Juan Guaidó.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [01-06] What foreign policy elites really think about you: "If public opinion doesn't match up with the Washington program then it must be wrong, misunderstood, or worse, irrelevant." US foreign policy has always been tightly controlled by special interests, and usually ignored by parties struggling over the domestic economy. That didn't change with WWII, but before it was mostly trading companies, with resource (especially oil) companies gaining ground after 1900. What did change with WWII was the creation of the military-industrial complex, which shifted focus away from peace and stability to war and chaos. Since 2001, hardly any of the self-organized elites bothers to pretend otherwise. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ridiculed or worse. One of the clearest measures of this is US support for Israel, which has significantly lessened among the public, but if anything has hardened and become more reflexive among the elites. For more on their thinking, see:

  • Gregory Foster: [01-02] The zombification of US national security: "Time to drive a stake through the heart of these establishmentarian ideas, which are super dysfunctional but never seem to die." Sub-heds: The Fetishization of .mil-ism; The Enduring Gluttony of Defense Spending; The Canonization of Military Essence; The Delusion of Military Autarky; "The Capabilities-Commitments Conundrum; The Great Power Competition Subterfuge.

Thomas Geoghegan: [01-06] The Constitutional Case for Disarming the Debt Ceiling: "The Framers would have never tolerated debt-limit brinksmanship. It's time to put this terrible idea on trial. Related:

Luke Goldstein: [01-06] FTC Ban on Noncompetes Sets Up Huge Legal Fight. Having had my own bitter experience with a noncompete dictate, I'm very happy to see this rule. In my case it was a rare requirement only demanded of top management, and we were presumably compensated for our loss of freedom (though I'd argue I wasn't). It still left a great deal of bitterness, which probably capped any possibility I had of further advancement. Still, that's not what this is about. Rather, companies have since started demanding noncompete restrictions on even bottom-rung employees. Had that been in effect in my day, most of my job changes would have been prohibited. No surprise that groups like the Chamber of Commerce are up in arms over this rule. Employers are still nostalgic for the days when they had complete power over their workers.

Melissa Gira Grant: [01-03] Welcome to Ron DeSantis's 2024 Campaign Against "Wokes": One of the most important planks of Trump's 2016 campaign was the revolt he led against "political correctness." It worked because pretty much no one likes having their speech corrected, especially the object isn't a notorious slur and the substitute is awkward and tortured ("differently abled" is one I've been hit with). (Bill Maher, who may be a jerk but isn't a right-winger, made political incorrectness his calling card.) However, I'm not sure that attacking "wokes" (or even the more abstract "wokeness") is going to be such a winning strategy. The difference is that it's one thing to say that you have the right to be a bigot and to hold opinions many of us deem ignorant, and another to say that if you're not a bigot, and take offense at bigots, you're evil, and need to be throttled -- which is basically DeSantis's position. DeSantis doesn't stop at hitting liberal columnists for their "wokeness"; he's gone after big corporations that simply don't see the profit in racism.

Margaret Hartmann:

Ellen Ioanes: [01-07] North Korea's nuclear escalation, explained: The author seems more puzzled, but the right-wing turn in South Korea -- after the attempted thaw was largely sabotaged by Trump lieutenants like Bolton -- and also by the Biden administration's indifference to the issue. Despite occasional bouts of panic, North Korea's nuclear arsenal has never been, and will never be, a serious threat to the US (not that it couldn't annihilate South Korea and cause a lot of damage to Japan). From a military standpoint, nuclear weapons have never been worth a hill of beans, as the US has repeatedly found out in the series of military blunders that actually started in Korea. What is dangerous is trying to keep North Korea bottled up, when its leader have been trying so frantically for decades now to signal that they just want to be respected and treated decently.

Ben Jacobs: [01-07] How Kevin McCarthy (finally) became speaker of the House: "McCarthy was able to sway several far-right members of his party by agreeing to extraordinary concessions that will rewrite the politics of the House." Of course, there was never a chance that he wouldn't cave in to the far right, because he's not fundamentally opposed to them. While it was fun watching Republicans make fools of themselves, McCarthy's own demeanor during the ordeal suggests he was in on the scheme, which allowed him to shift effective power to the nihilists -- at this point, even "far right" doesn't do them justice, and "MAGA" isn't quite fair to Trump (not that he deserves any better) -- and also blame, when it all blows up. Jacobs has been covering this story in real time, so his older pieces are already dated: e.g., [01-03] Kevin McCarthy's once-in-a-century House speakership failure.

David Cay Johnston: [12-31] Trump's Taxes Are the Best Case Yet for Putting Him in Prison. Author also wrote [12-27] Trump's Brazen Tax Cheating Revealed.

Whizy Kim: [01-04] The ultrarich are getting cozy in America's tax havens at everyone else's expense. One serious problem that hardly anyone talks about is how having multiple state and local tax jurisdictions creates intense competition to carve out tax loopholes, which are now so widespread and so lucrative that they drive many business decisions. Every carve-out is ultimately compensated by taxpayers with less leverage, either in higher taxes or in reduced services. I don't know how you could go about doing this, but a single national taxation system, when they distributes money down to state and local governments (which, if they have nothing better to spend it on, could ultimately rebate it to citizens), would wring the incentive for this out of the system, and in doing so would end much of the system's inherent corruption. As I recall, Nixon made a start back around 1970 with his "revenue sharing" program. It's strange that no one talks about this, even though a lot of federal money is routinely transferred to states and on down the line.

Ezra Klein: [01-08] The Dystopia We Fear Is Keeping Us From the Utopia We Deserve. Features a book of "reactionary futurism" by J Storrs Hall, Where Is My Flying Car?. The argument is that we got sidetracked in trying to conserve energy (or at least utilize it more efficiently), when we should have been figuring out how to create much more, enough to enable the wonders of a set of formerly futurist inventions like the flying car.

Robert Kuttner: [01-03] Who Will Talk Jay Powell off the Ledge? "He has committed the Fed to an interest rate course that will create a needless recession, and he refuses to admit that inflation is subsiding on its own." Again, Biden made a bad mistake appointing this Republican to a second term (much as Obama did with Bernanke, and Clinton with Greenspan). For what it's worth, I'm not terribly upset that he raised interest rates up off the floor: that's helped cool down house prices, and perhaps most important, it's slowed down speculative gambling on futures, which now seems to have been the main thing driving oil prices up. When several left-of-center economists were lobbying for Powell to get that second term, they pointed to his changed views. I can't tell you now what they thought he was thinking, but he seems to have clung to the hoariest of old views: that the only proof that inflation is declining is that unemployment is rising.

Ian Millhiser:

Charles P Pierce: [01-04] Given the Choice Between Free Money or Sicker Residents, Republicans Chose Sickness: "Their refusal to expand Medicaid is making it impossible for rural hospitals to stay in business." His examples are elsewhere, but this is particularly a problem here in Kansas -- where a significant majority want Medicaid expansion, but the Republicans they foolishly elect think it's smart politics to discredit Obamacare by turning away people who would benefit from it. Pierce, by the way, kicks out 2-3 useful posts every day.

Andrew Prokop: [11-02] Will 2023 be the year Donald Trump is indicted? I suspect, the less it matters, the more likely it becomes. Also on Trump:

Nathan J Robinson: [12-06] Let ChatGPT Convert You to Socialism. I got interested in AI back in the 1980s, but haven't followed it since. One idea I had back then was to write a program that could crank out weekly letters to my mother. I would feed it a couple bullet points if I had any actual news, and it would mix them in with semi-random swatches of boilerplate. I was quite certain that she would be delighted, and none the wiser. That sort of thing is probably much closer to reality today, but will more likely be used by spammers trying to defraud you. On the other hand, I can imagine smarter programs that read your mail for you, sort out the dangerous and the merely crappy. Still, any arms race is likely to ultimately blow up. The best solution is to refashion the world to make predatory behavior less likely.

I haven't rekindled my interest in AI, so I know very little about where it's gone and how it's being used (other than my impression of badly). My nephew is pretty seriously into AI image generation: he's a graphic artist, and wants to see if he can use it to generate his style of art more efficiently. Robinson has done some of that too, but has focused more on ChatGPT, which he reports on here.

Jeffrey St Clair: [01-06] Roaming Charges: No Speaker, No Cry. "There are 100 members of the 'Progressive Caucus,' who capitulated within seconds to nearly every demand Pelosi made, and 40 members of the Freedom Caucus who don't mind waterboarding their own leader in public to get their way & ditching him if they don't." Also: "The problem is McCarthy himself is endorsed by Trump and the neo-fascist Marjorie Taylor-Greene, along with Freedom Caucus hardliners Jim Jordan and Louis Gohmert. In the face of a MAGA raid on the Capitol, McCarthy still voted to overturn the 2020 elections and boasted: 'I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it.'"

Eric Topol: [01-08] The coronavirus is speaking. It's saying it's not done with us.

New York Times: [01-08] Live Updates: Brazilian Authorities Clear Government Offices of Rioters, Official Says: Right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro lost his re-election bid a couple months ago, so now as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has taken office, Bolsonaro's mob has decided to throw their own January 6 riot. For more, see Ellen Ioanes: [01-08] Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil's seat of power.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

-- next