An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 16, 2023
Music: Current count 41003  rated (+20), 27  unrated (+1).
I worked up a monster Speaking of Which this week (9497 words, 125 links). It was a maddening process, as I kept tripping into rabbit holes and digging in even further, before punting, and repeating. A big part of the problem is that years of repetition has locked people into language and conceptual ruts that were designed to perpetuate conflict, to dehumanize opponents, and to justify abuse of power. I found myself having to define "war" -- as opposed to other degrees and durations of directed violence. I found myself trying to write some kind of disquisition on morality. I got stuck in questions of sequence and causality. And I could always reach back into an encyclopedia of historic facts to illustrate any point I wanted to make. But all the articles I was collecting were just spinning around, some damn near nonsensically.
Still, one point was instantly clear to me from the first reports: Israelis -- not all, but probably most, or at least most of the ones who have any actual political power -- want to empty the entire land of Israel/Palestine of Palestinians, and there are few if any limits to what they're willing to do to accomplish that goal. In other words, they are aiming for genocide, and they are looking for excuses to do it; perhaps I should say, for opportunities to get away with it?
This isn't a new sentiment. It was baked into Zionism from the beginning, but only surfaced as something one could say in 1936, when the Peel Commission proposed partition and forced "transfer" -- the first of many such euphemisms. The plan was put into practice in 1948, as the Deir Yassin massacre was staged to terrorize Palestinians into fleeing -- as more than 700,000 did during Israel's War of Independence. But in the 1967 war, Israel's plans for further mass expulsions had to be toned down to keep from offending the US and its allies (only about 200,000, of a growing population, fled). But as Israel's government has lurched ever more to the right, and as the US has become ever more subservient to Israel's right, the talk and action, especially led by the settlers, has only picked up, reaching a crescendo in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack.
The only way to stop this genocide is to make Israel ashamed for even thinking such thoughts. Railing against Hamas won't help. If anything, it only emboldens Israel.
While I was working on this, I found it very hard to prospect for new music, and even harder to write about it. I got off on an odd r&b sax tangent early in the week. I was lucky to come up with three good new saxophone albums (Nachoff fell just shy of the mark with an excess of strings).
But what really made this week so difficult was the death of Donald Barnes (81), known to all of us as Tookie. He came into our lives when he married my dear cousin Jan in 1960. They grew up in Kinsley, KS, and married right out of high school. His father was a welder, and he learned that trade very young. They followed his father to a shop in Wyoming for a couple years, before coming back to Kansas. He got a job at Cessna, and they lived in Wichita for about a year when I was in 9th grade. Their love and friendship was about all that got me through that year. They adopted a daughter that year, Heidi, and I've never seen anyone as happy as he was when he signed the papers. Not long after that, they had a son, Patrick.
But Jan hated the big city, so they left, first to Hugoton in western Kansas, where he built feedlots, and then to Idaho to work on a pipeline. They wound up settling in Soda Springs, where he worked at Monsanto's phosphate plant, becoming an electrician as well as a welder. There was nothing mechanical he couldn't master. Someone once complimented me as the "most competent person" she had ever met. For me, that person was Tookie.
Jan refused to go to college, and wound up working low-paid jobs which she was totally overmatched for. But they loved the outdoors, camping, and hunting. Tookie was an artist, hunting elk with bow and arrow, tying his own flies, crafting antique guns (including a blunderbuss). But the moose head that dominates their living room was Jan's doing. He was quiet and fastidious, with a sly and mischievous sense of humor. She was a force of nature, energizing all around her. She was (well, is) one of the most formidable cooks in the family, continuing to make industrial quantities of bread and rolls for her local farmers market each week. They've always struck me as one of the world's most perfectly suited couples.
I could dredge up dozens, maybe hundreds, of stories, missing only a stretch in the middle of our lives when distance kept us apart. First time Laura and I took a trip together, we went to Yellowstone, then to Soda Springs to see Jan and Tookie. Heidi had been to college, but was there and proclaimed us "perfect for each other," which pretty much sealed the deal. We won't talk about politics here, except to note that no matter we might have disagreed on those things, it never got in the way of our love for each other.
New records reviewed this week:
Tyler Childers: Rustin' in the Rain (2023, Hickman Holler/RCA): Country singer-songwriter, sixth studio album -- a 2011 debut worth searching out, and fifth since his 2017 breakthrough (Purgatory, also recommended, as is 2019's Country Squire). Cuts this one short (7 songs, 28:01), leans on guests (including one, S.G. Goodman, who brought her own song), covers Kristofferson, the Bible too. B+(***) [sp]
Caroline Davis' Alula: Captivity (2021 , Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist, "mobile since her birth in Singapore," debut 2011 but mostly since 2017, different group from that of her 2019 album Alula, the synths replaced with Val Jeanty's turntables/electronics, the new drummer Tyshawn Sorey, with Chris Tordini on bass, and a couple guest spots, and scattered spoken word samples. The rhythm is the star here, wildly unsettled, keeping everything else in the air. A- [cd]
Quinsin Nachoff: Stars and Constellations (2022 , Adyhâropa): Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, ten or so albums since 2006, this one reconvening his Ethereal Trio of Mark Helias (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), supplemented by string quartet: Bergamont Quartet, conducted by Matthew Holman, doubling up with a second string quartet, The Rhythm Method, on the middle piece. B+(***) [cd]
Angelika Niescier/Tomeka Reid/Savannah Harris: Beyond Dragons (2023, Intakt): Alto saxophonist, born in Poland, 16th album since 2000, recorded in Chicago with cello and drums. A constantly mutating free jazz extravaganza. A- [sp]
Bailey Zimmerman: Religiously: The Album (2023, Warner Nashville/Elektra): Country singer-songwriter, from a small town in southern Illinois, first album after an EP and a couple singles, the title song here big enough to explain the subtitle distinction. Chock full of colloquial clichés, production pumped by producer Austin Shawn, who also claims a big chunk of writing co-credits. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Little Willie Jackson & the Original Honeydrippers Jazz Me Blues [The Legendary Modern Recordings] (1947-48 , Ace): Tenor saxophonist (1912-2001), also played clarinet and sang, not to be confused with Willis Jackson. Played in Joe Liggins' band from the mid-1930s, including on their big 1945 hit, "The Honeydripper," which became the name of the band. Recorded this material with the band -- unclear who else was on board, or how much actually got released. All vocal pieces, but well on the jazzy side of jump blues. A- [r]
Willis Jackson: The Remaining Willis Jackson 1951-1959 (1951-59 , Blue Moon): Tenor saxophonist (1928-87), from Miami, nickname Gator, which shows up often in his titles, like his 1952 hit single "Gator's Groove." Played in Cootie Williams' big band, married singer Ruth Brown, recorded the scattered honking sax singles collected here (mostly for Atlantic). B+(*) [r]
Willis Jackson/Pat Martino: Willis . . . With Pat (1964 , 32 Jazz): Discography here is annoying. Digital on Savoy Jazz (now owned by Fantasy, but why use it here?) goes by the title Willis Jackson With Pat Martino, but so does a 2007 Prestige (Jackson's original label) twofer with a different set of songs -- evidently from the same date, originally released as Jackson's Action and Live! Action. The eight songs (51:09) here didn't appear on any of the eight 1963-64 LPs I've tracked down with these two (tenor sax and guitar). 32 Jazz did (often renamed) reissues mostly from the Muse catalog, making me think this came from another LP that escaped Discogs cataloguing, but that question remains. At least going with the 32 Jazz title gets around the title confusion. Nice soul jazz, with bits of standout sax. Organ player is probably Carl Wilson. B+(**) [sp]
Willis Jackson/Richard "Groove" Holmes: Live on Stage (1980 , Black & Blue): Tenor sax and organ quartet, with Steve Giordano (guitar) and Roger Humphries (drums), in a live set that was originally released as In Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1980, then reissued in 1984 by Muse as Ya Understand Me?. B+(***) [sp]
Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 1: 1945-1948 (1945-48 , Blue Moon): Tenor saxophonist (1918-83), from Houston. His earliest recordings as leader, including a spell at Savoy that included titles like "We're Gonna Rock" and "Rock and Roll." Various lineups, cover featuring: Paul Williams, Milt Buckner, T.J. Fowler, and Shifty Henry. B+(**) [r]
Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 2: 1948-1955 (1945-48 , Blue Moon): More singles, more honkin', more r&b vocals. Lineups vary, but featured musicians on the cover: Jonah Jones (trumpet), Paul Quinichette (tenor sax), Milt Buckner (piano), Emmitt Slay (guitar). B+(***) [r]
Wild Bill Moore: Bottom Groove (1961 , Milestone): Collects two 1961 Quintet LPs: Wild Bill's Heat, with Junior Mance (piano), and Bottom Groove, with Johnny "Hammond" Smith (organ), both with Joe Benjamin (bass), Ben Riley (drums), and Ray Barretto (congas). Solid soul jazz sets, with Mance adding extra flair. B+(**) [r]
Sam Price and the Rock Band: Rib Joint: Roots of Rock and Roll (1956-59 , Savoy): Piano player from Texas (1980-92), played jazz (notably in the Mezzrow-Bechet groups), boogie woogie, and jump blues as it morphed into rock. Four sessions, with King Curtis (tenor sax) and Mickey Baker (guitar) for the 1956 ones, Haywood Henry (baritone sax) and Kenny Burrell (guitar) in 1957, and Panama Francis (drums) among others in 1959. Not sure I'd count it as rock, but sure swings hard. B+(***) [sp]
The Roots of Rock'n Roll (1948-57 , Savoy): One of a series of cream-colored compilations that Arista released when they picked up right to the Savoy collection. I picked up several at the time, starting with a Charlie Parker set I didn't quite see eye-to-eye with. I missed this r&b set: 32 songs, 28 I playlisted on Napster and 4 more I found on YouTube, most of which I had run across elsewhere (most famously three cuts each from the Ravens and Big Maybelle, and "Cupid's Boogie" among nine Johnny Otis tracks). B+ [r] [yt]
Zoot Sims: For Lady Day (1978 , Pablo): Tenor saxophonist, does a songbook album, all songs from Billie Holiday's songbook, with Jimmy Rowles on piano, George Mraz (bass), and Jackie Williams (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Zoot Sims: The Swinger (1979-80 , Pablo): A studio session from Hollywood with his brother Ray Sims (trombone, also sings one), Jimmy Rowles (piano), John Heard (bass), and Shelly Manne (drums), plus a spare track from New York with different bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: