Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, October 8, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30430 [30390] rated (+40), 282 [280] unrated (+2).

Everything below is jazz. Most of it is new stuff I wasn't serviced on (unless someone sent me a download link which I didn't open; i.e., it was streamed, either from Napster or Bandcamp). Only a couple of CDs I did receive, mostly because I took so long making up my mind about the Jonathan Finlayson record (A-, but just barely). Most of my tips came from Phil Freeman's monthly Ugly Beauty column at Stereogum. Biggest find there was the trove of Japanese jazz from the 1970s (for once, the sampler is the place to start). The only old music was a Penguin Guide 4-star I had missed, by a saxophonist who showed up on at least three of this week's new discs (to best effect with Matt Penman).

I've walked Freeman's columns back to March, which gets increasingly into things I've already heard. One thing I didn't know was that Buell Neidlinger died back on March 16. He was the bassist in Cecil Taylor's 1956-61 groups -- in at least one case the album was initially under his name (New York City R&B). My database credits him with four A- records from the 1980s: Swingrass '83, Across the Tracks, Rear View Mirror, and Locomotive (all recorded 1979-87, but most got delayed releases -- Swingrass '83 was the first I noticed, and fell in love with.

The great baritone saxophonist Haimet Bluiett also died last week. I need to take some time and dive into his dicography -- I see, for instance, that Napster has Birthright, a PG 4-star from 1977. Some A- records I have heard: Live at Carlos I: Last Night; Young Warrior, Old Warrior; Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio; The Calling. Bluiett also batted clean up in the World Saxophone Quartet, and he was particularly prominent on their best-ever Political Blues.

I did a little work on my project of collecting the last bits from my on-line notebook into book form. I'm up to February 2015 with a volume of miscellaneous music notes (1343 pp) and another of non-jazz capsule reviews (1515 pp). I doubt the former (which largely consists of introductions like this one) will be of any real interest, but think it would be handy to get it into searchable form. It turns out that 2011-13 were big years for misc. notes, mostly because that was when Robert Christgau's Expert Witness at MSN encouraged comments, and that resulted in a lot of community commentary. I jotted down pretty much everything I contributed -- often answering questions on recommended CDs, or extemporaneously venting on subjects like Charlie Parker.

I always figured my non-jazz capsule reviews were too spotty for any sort of reference book/website, but it turns out that there are enough of them to provide a decent starting point if other people got interested in adding to them.

I interrupted work on this to post another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. At some point I'd like to adapt that framework to offer a similar service here. I've struggled for many years to crank out pieces I think might be of public interest. It might be a relief to let other people direct me for a while.

I noticed this week that Tom Smucker has finally published a whole book on what's long been one of his favorite topics: Why the Beach Boys Matter. I have a copy on order. Ironically, my own original foray into rock criticism came from arguing with Don Malcolm over the Beach Boys. I'm surprised he never got around to writing his own book. Also noticed and ordered a copy of a new edition of Vince Alletti's The Disco Files 1973-78. I actually knew both Vince and Tom during my few years in New York, so I consider them old friends.

Posting of this got delayed as I was trying to figure out when I was done with Weekend Roundup. I had started intending to write something different on Brett Kavanaugh, but never really got past the preface. I have some sympathy for the argument that something that happened over 35 years ago shouldn't permanently tar a person. I think that many interactions between the sexes are confusing, and best forgotten. I think we should be more tolerant and forgiving of what are often just human foibles. On the other hand, I'm not sure that of my general sensitivities actually offer Kavanaugh much benefit. I could see why a normal person might not recall details or motives of the charges, but such a person would at least recognize the horror and pain behind the charges, and sympathized with the victim. Kavanaugh didn't do that. His blanket denial effectively repeated the original attacks. And his insistence that the charges were purely political, a "hit job" ordered by the Democrats, pure "borking," effectively said that he thought he should be exempt from his actions and consequences purely because of his politics.

As it turned out, Kavanaugh's final testimony was one of the most disgusting performances I have ever seen -- something that should have disqualified him all by itself. Before you can forgive sins, you first must recognize them and make amends. Kavanaugh didn't come close to doing that. Indeed, his entire career, and the broader agenda of the political movement he furthers, offers little more than repeated examples of the strong trampling the weak and the rich abusing the poor.

New records rated this week:

  • Joey Baron/Robyn Schulkowsky: Now You Hear Me (2016 [2018], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jakob Bro: Bay of Rainbows (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mike Clark & Delbert Bump: Retro Report (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Drums & Tuba: Triumph! (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: A-
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (2018, Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Nick Finzer's Hear & Now: Live in New York City (2018, Outside In): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Vinny Golia Sextet: Trajectory (2017 [2018], Orenda/Nine Winds, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (2016 [2018], Rataplan): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (2017 [2018], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • José James: Lean on Me (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Kavuma: Kavuma (2017 [2018], Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shai Maestro: The Dream Thief (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave McMurray: Music Is Life (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ryan Meagher: Lost Days (2017 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ryan Meagher: Evil Twin (2018, PJCE): [r]: B
  • Allison Miller/Carmen Staaf: Science Fair (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe Morris/Ben Hall/Andria Nicodemou: Raven (2016 [2017], Glacial Erratic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Moskus: Mirakler (2016-17 [2018], Hubro): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where the River Goes (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Penman: Good Question (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Madeleine Peyroux: Anthem (2018, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mikkel Ploug/Mark Turner: Faroe (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • R+R=Now: Collagically Speaking (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Window (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (2017-18 [2018], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christian Sands: Facing Dragons (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim Black: Visitors (2018, Skirl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elliott Sharp Carbon: Transmigration at the Solar Max (2018, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chad Taylor: Myths and Morals (2018, Ears & Eyes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson: Temporary Kings (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Turre: The Very Thought of You (2018, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts: Travel Band: Detained in Amsterdam (2017 [2018], Dark Key): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: European Quartet (2017 [2018], Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chip Wickham: Shamal Wind (2017 [2018], Lovemonk): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Tohru Aizawa Quartet: Tachibana Vol. 1 (1975 [2018], BBE): [bc]: A-
  • Takeo Moriyama: East Plants (1983 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Calm Waters Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler (2004-17 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B
  • J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 (1969-84 [2018], BBE): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Thomas: Eastern Standard Time (1980 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mark Turner: In This World (1998, Warner Brothers): [r]: A-

Grade (or other) changes:

  • The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Claus Højensgård/Emanuele Mariscalco/Nelide Bendello: Høbama (Gotta Let It Out)
  • Jacobson/Friis/Maniscalco + Karlis Auzixs: Split: Body/Solo (Getta Let It Out): advance
  • Kyle Nasser: Persistent Fancy (Ropeadope)
  • Nikita Rafaelov: Spirit of Gaia (Gotta Let It Out)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Story of the week: It's official: Brett Kavanaugh just became the least popular Supreme Court justice in modern history. The Senate vote was 50-48, almost a straight party vote. The Republican advantage in the Senate is 51-49 (counting Angus King and Bernie Sanders as Democrats). Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by 54-45, with all Republicans and three Democrats (Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly). Opposition was clearly political: Republicans had made it so by their refusal to even hold so much as a hearing on Merrick Garland, Obama's moderate nominee for the seat, turning it into a spoil for the 2016 election winner. But other than being cut from the same political cloth, Gorsuch had no personal baggage that made his nomination controversial.

Republicans have dreamed and schemed of reversing the Court's "liberal bent" -- really just an honest belief that the Constitution protects individual and minority civil rights -- ever since Nixon's "southern strategy" nominated Clement Haynsworth and, failing that, G. Harrold Carswell in 1969. The Republican campaign took an even more extremist turn when Reagan nominated the blatantly ideological Robert Bork in 1987 (after having slipped Antonin Scalia by in 1986). But only with GW Bush did Republicans consistently apply a rigorous ideological litmus test to their nominees. (Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers was quashed by hard-liners who didn't trust her to be conservative enough. They were still livid that his father's appointment didn't turn out to be as reliably reactionary as Scalia and Clarence Thomas.)

Kavanaugh turned out to be a very different story (from Gorsuch), yet the result was nearly the same. Only one Democrat (Manchin) voted for Kavanaugh, while one Republican opposed the nomination (Murkowski, who wound up not voting in an offset deal with an absent Republican senator). The first problem Kavanaugh faced was that he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who's run up a dreadful record in recent years but was still regarded as a moderate swing vote between the two polarized four-member camps. Kavanaugh would tilt that balance 5-4, allowing conservatives to rule almost arbitrarily for their political sponsors. Second, he was a person whose entire career was spent as a political operative: most notably as part of the Ken Starr prosecution of Bill Clinton, and later in the Bush White House where he argued for ever greater presidential power (at least for Republicans). A big part of the early debate over his nomination concerned discover of the paper trail of his partisan activities against Clinton and for Bush. His supporters in the White House and Congress made sure that those documents were never made available, and as such the extent of his partisan corruption was never properly aired.

His record as a DC Circuit Court judge was also largely unexamined, although his ruling, since overturned, against a detained immigrant girl who wanted to obtain an abortion, is a pretty clear signal that his views on abortion show no respect for "settled law." This case also shows his contempt for immigrants and refugees, his willingness to apply the law differently for different classes of people, and his reticence to restrain abuses of government power (at least against some people). I've long believed that the proper role for the Supreme Court is to build on the best aspirations of the Constitution to make government serve all the people, to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from the all-too-common abuses of power. Through much of my life, the Court at least leaned in that direction -- often not as hard as I would like, but their rulings against segregation, to defend a free press, to establish a nationwide right to abortion and most recently to marriage, have been major accomplishments, consistent with the understanding of America I grew up with, as a free, just, and egalitarian nation (ideals we haven't always achieved, but that we most often aspired to).

So, when I'm faced with the question of whether a given person should be given the responsibility of serving on the Supreme Court, the only question that matters to me is whether that person will understand and shape the rule of law in ways that promote greater freedom, equality, and justice, or not. After a fair investigation, I see nothing whatsoever that suggests to me that Brett Kavanaugh is a person who should be entrusted with that responsibility. In fact, what evidence I've seen suggests that he would actually be worse than any of the four partisan conservative judges currently on the court. To my mind, that should have been enough to settle the matter -- although between the fact that Republicans tend to vote as an arbitrary pack, and the tendency of many "moderate" Democrats to defer to Republican leadership, that wouldn't have been enough to defeat Kavanaugh.

However, Kavanaugh's confirmation didn't solely hinge on whether he'd be a good or bad Justice. It wound up turning on whether he was guilty of sexual assault, and whether he lied under oath about that charge (and ultimately about many other things). With these charges, Kavanaugh's confirmation wound up recapitulating that of Clarence Thomas back in 1991. The charges are slightly different. Thomas was accused of making grossly inappropriate office comments, which was especially grievous given that he ran (or mis-managed) the Reagan administration office responsible for regulating such matters. The initial charge against Kavanaugh was that as a high school student he had committed a drunken assault on a girl, which stopped barely short of rape. (Others subsequently came forward to charge Kavanaugh with other acts of drunken, sexually charged loutishness, but none of those women were allowed to testify or further investigated.)

You can read or spin these charges in various ways. On the one hand, sexual assault (Kavanaugh) is a graver charge than sexual harassment (Thomas); on the other, Kavanaugh was younger at the time and the event took place at a party when he was drunk, whereas Thomas was at work, presumably sober, and effectively the boss of the person he harassed. It is unclear whether this was an isolated incident for Kavanaugh, or part of a longer-term pattern (which is at least suggested by subsequent, uninvestigated charges, plus lots of testimony as to his drinking). Still, the one thing that was practically identical in both cases is that both nominees responded with the same playbook: blanket denials, while their supporters orchestrated a smear campaign against the women who reluctantly aired the complaints, while trying to portay the nominees as the real victims. Thomas called the charges against him a "lynching." Kavanaugh's preferred term was "hit job." Neither conceded that as Supreme Court nominees they should be held to a higher standard than criminal defendants. In the end, in both cases, marginal Senators wound up defending their vote as "reasonable doubt" against the charges. There was, after all, nothing admirable about being charged or defending themselves in such a disingenuous way. Both cases have wound up only adding to the cynicism many of us view the Courts with.

I'll tack on a bunch of links at the end which will round up the details as we know them, as well as other aspects of the process, not least the political rationalizations and consequences. But one thing that I think has been much less discussed than it should be is that neither Thomas nor Kavanaugh promoted or defended themselves on their own. I don't know who was the first Supreme Court nominee to hire lawyers and publicists to coach in the confirmation process, but the practice goes back before Thomas. I was reminded of this when John Kyl was appointed to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat. At the time Kyl was working for a DC law form representing Kavanaugh for his confirmation, so Kyl instantly became Kavanaugh's most secure vote. That nominees need help managing their egos and loose tongues was certainly proved by Bork, who managed to alienate and offend 58 Senators (almost all of whom had previously voted for Scalia, not exactly known for his tact). Mostly this handling means to make sure that the nominee doesn't say anything substantive about the law that may raise the hackles of uncommitted Senators, so the handlers only get noticed in the breech of an inadvertent gaffe. However, when something does go wrong, the first decision is whether to fight or flee -- since Nixon fought for Haynsworth (and lost), over a dozen nominees have simply withdrawn, often when faced with far less embarrassing charges than Thomas or Kavanaugh. As we saw with Myers, a nominee with no natural Democratic support can be brought down by a handful of vigilant Republicans, allowing the fringe of the party to insist on a harder candidate.

With a 51-49 majority, it wouldn't have taken much more than two Republicans to force Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh, but in the end only Murkowski opposed, and she was offset by Manchin (not that Pence wouldn't have been thrilled to cast a 50-50 tiebreaker). A couple of Republicans waffled a bit, but Collins and Flake have a long history of feigning decency then folding, and most simply don't care how bad a candidate looks (e.g., they voted for Betsy DeVos). They're quite happy to win with a bare minimum of votes, even when the polls are against them (e.g., their corporate income tax giveaway), figuring they can always con the voters again come election day. The problem with replacing Kavanaugh with a less embarrassing candidate came down to timing: restarting the process would have pushed it past the election into lame-duck territory, and possibly into the next Congress, which will likely have fewer Republicans (although not necessarily in the Senate). Never let it be said that the Republicans have missed an opportunity to gain an advantage -- and there are few prize they covet more than control of the Supreme Court.

Further links on the Cavanaugh Nomination:

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30390 [30365] rated (+25), 280 [273] unrated (+7).

Week got wiped out several different ways. Helped a friend fix a huge Russian dinner on Friday. Shopped for that on Wednesday, having to hit up nine (or was it eleven?) stores along the way, then spent from Thursday afternoon to something like 4AM doing prep for another 6-7 hours of cooking on Friday. Wound up with way too much food, but much of it was magnificent. Only the dessert disappointed, an attempt at Prague cake which I now understand doesn't resemble the real thing at all.

Then Saturday I developed a fever with no other symptoms, and I basically shut down over the weekend -- so no Weekend Roundup, even following one of the more outrageous weeks of the Trump era. (Not like there won't be plenty more as bad or worse.) I started reading Jill Lepore's massive (or schematic, depending on your point of view) These Truths: A History of the United States. She starts by quoting the preamble to the US Constitution, and I realized it to offer not a practical description of the federal government but a vision statement of what that government should aspire to. The same, of course, could be said of the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, which Lepore also mentions.

What I then realized is that the standard for all three "separate and equal" branches of government should be their efforts to achieve these founding aspirations. We were fortunate, at least for the first half of my life, to have a Supreme Court that took those aspirations seriously, especially in its assertion of civil rights even while the other branches dragged their heels. Since Nixon, the right-wing has made a determined effort to overturn those rulings and to strip us of our rights, not least by stacking the courts with people who oppose the aspirations the nation was founded on. With the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, we got a good view of just what kind of person would gladly do such things. Regardless of whether Kavanaugh has committed sexual assault and/or perjury, he's made it abundantly clear that he's unfit for the Supreme Court, or for that matter for the judgeship he currently holds.

Maybe I'll write more on that later in the week. My most immediate task is to get September's Streamnotes organized and posted. Thinking about the dinner, then not thinking at all, I totally missed the end of the month. I can backdate what I have, making it look like I did it on time and before doing this. The latter, at least, is mostly true.

I'm not sure what comes next. I can always return to compiling my last two books from the notebooks (non-review music notes, non-jazz reviews; I'm currently stalled in May, 2013). I could take a look at Pitchfork's The 2000 Best Albums of the 1980s -- the music decade I paid the least attention to at the time. Another possible source of unheard records is Will Friedland's latest book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I picked up the book at the library, and while there is zero chance that I'll read it through, the actual album list isn't prohibitively long (probably 40-50 albums, half already heard). On the other hand, the new jazz queue has grown a bit (26 albums at the moment), so I should pay some attention to that.

New records rated this week:

  • Dmitry Baevsky/Jeb Patton: We Two (2018, Jazz & People): [r]: A-
  • Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay (2018, Verve/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (2018, HighNote): [r]: B
  • Geof Bradfield: Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (2018, Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonathan Butler: Close to You (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: C+
  • Noname: Room 25 (2018, self-released): [bc]: A-
  • Eddie Palmieri: Full Circle (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (2018, PJCE): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ned Rothenberg/Hamid Drake: Full Circle: Live in Lodz (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (2018, Flatcar/Fontana North): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (2018, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK: Wet Robots (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gene Ammons: The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (1961-62 [1992], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug Volume 2 (1960-71 [1995], Prestige): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back! (1969 [1993], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: Jazz Giant (1949 [1957], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (1955 [1959], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Time Waits (1958 [1999], Blue Note): [r]: A-
  • Bud Powell: Strictly Confidential (1964 [1994], Black Lion): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Salt Peanuts (1964 [1988], Black Lion): [r]: B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Intakt)
  • David Dominique: Mask (Orenda): November 9
  • Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (Intakt)
  • Aaron Goldberg: At the Edge of the World (Sunnyside): November 16
  • Aaron Parks: Little Big (Ropeadope): October 19
  • Subtone: Moose Blues (Laika): October 26
  • Harry Vetro: Northern Ranger (T.Sound): October 19

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Streamnotes (September 2018)

Blanked out and wasn't conscious when the calendar turned, so this has been a rush job to close, and back date. Aside from the lost last week, a healthy count -- helped by quite a bit of old music. Some (especially the singletons) were picked by Nate Chinen for his "129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century" (only one I might have picked was Trio 3, but with four other A- records eligible, I'm not sure that's the one I'd pick).

Two musicians in the Old Music section died recently. For Big Jay McNeely, I picked out a compilation with dates in the title, since it's hard to sort out his discography otherwise, and the early 1950s were the heyday for sax honkers. I took a deeper dive into Randy Weston, but didn't come up with anything to match his previous A-list records: Blue Moses (1972), Carnival (1974), The Spirits of Our Ancestors (1991), Khepara (1998), and The African Nubian Suite (2012). (In writing this sentence, the one I was tempted to revisit was the Destry Rides Again/Little Niles twofer on Fresh Sound, but it seems to have vanished on Napster.)

I don't have time to compile the lists, but other Old Music artists have multiple A/A- albums, including Gene Ammons, Roland Kirk, Bud Powell, Irène Schweizer, and Zoot Sims. Bikini Kill is the odd artist in Old Music, but their records only recently showed up on Napster, and Robert Christgau gave them four A- grades (I have the two 1993-96 albums at B/B+, graded at the time).

Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on August 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (11817 records).

Recent Releases

Dmitry Baevsky/Jeb Patton: We Two (2018, Jazz & People): Alto saxophonist, from St. Petersburg, Russia; half-dozen albums since 2004, earliest recorded in US, so probably was based in NY then (this one was recorded in France, but pianist Patton is American). Mainstream player, does an especially lovely job on the standards. Piano less impressive on solos, but fine accompaniment. A-

Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (2018, Twin, EP): Atlanta rapper, 20, "grew up listening to Lana Del Rey, memorizing all the songs on the Rock Band video game." Looks like she has a couple of mixtapes and a bunch of singles since 2016, with this meant as a commercial ploy. Sketchy, but pretty hooky, with eight tracks adding up to 26:39. A-

Dave Ballou & BeepHonk: The Windup (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Trumpet player, discography starts in 1998 on mainstream SteepleChase label but has lately moved more avant. Quartet, with guitar (Anthony Pirog), bass (Adam Hopkins), and drums (Mike Kuhl) -- the notes claim that the latter three came together in 2011 to form BeepHonk. (I'm not finding any previous records by them, although Pirog has a 2014 album, and a trio with a 2018 eponymous album, The Messthetics.) B+(**)

Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay (2018, Verve/Columbia): He's still sounding pretty good at 92, at least as long as he stays within his limits. She doesn't sound as excited about this mega-merger as Lady Gaga did, but she's a pro, and that makes all the difference. Her piano is perfect support, and her unaffected voice lets his limited eccentricities shine. B+(**)

Carlos Bica & Azul: Azul in Ljubljana (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, based in Berlin, released his first Azul album in 1996, a trio with Frank Möbus on guitar and Jim Black on drums -- same here. B+(*)

Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (2018, HighNote): Hard bop consolidation, can't quite call it a supergroup although Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) have never lacked for chops, James Burton offers solid trombone, and the rhythm section is filled with names you probably know: Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer, Johnathan Blake. Second album, short on ideas, not such great chops either. B

Geof Bradfield: Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (2018, Delmark): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano and bass clarinet), originally from Houston, based in Chicago, a postbop player with a lot of range and a mixed inside/out nonet to stretch him out. B+(**)

Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist With UMO Jazz Orchestra: Together (2018, Summit): Finnish big band, founded in 1975 by Heikki Sarmanto and Esko Linnavalli, a national treasure and a prime destination for composers all around the world. Holmquist is the arranger/conductor here, also composer of five tracks -- three others are by Chick Corea, the other is "Never Let Me Go." Trumpet player Brecker is the guest star, something he's much better at than writing his own albums. I found this pretty irritating when I played it last week, but approached in a better mood it verges on magnificent. B+(***) [cd]

Jonathan Butler: Close to You (2018, Mack Avenue): From South Africa, played in the jazz-rock group Pacific Express there, moved to England in early 1980s, wound up in California, has released twenty-some albums since 1985 with a cross-cultural mélange that is perhaps longest on gospel. I noticed this one when it showed up on various jazz lists -- mostly because that's where the label markets. Mostly David-Bacharach songs given a jazzy gloss, which sometimes makes them less icky, sometimes more. C+

Daniel Carter/Hilliard Greene/David Haney: Live Constructions (2017 [2018], Slam): Carter plays trumpet and tenor sax (not his usual alto sax), in kind of an avant-chamber group with double bass and piano. The five "constructions," short at 31:04, never build into much. B

Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (2018, High Note): Mainstream pianist, quickly became a star when he signed on Atlantic in 1994. Trio here, Eric Wheeler (bass) and Chris Beck (drums), with eight (of 13) pieces written by claslsical composers (Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Satie) -- none as impressive as "Turkish Rondo," or even "Smoke on the Water." B

George Colligan: Nation Divided (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): Solo piano, all original material. Impressed with the density, just not enough to penetrate it. B+(*)

Mia Dyberg Trio: Ticket! (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, from Denmark, based in Berlin, first album as leader, free jazz with Asger Thomsen on double bass and Dag Magnus Narvesen on drums. She has an imposing sound, more like a tenor. Some improv pieces stall, but overall quite impressive. B+(***)

Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver (2018, L&H Production, 2CD): Pianist, from Russia. wrote music for a number of Biblical Psalms, presenting them on two discs, one vocal, the other just instrumental. I really dislike the vocal disc, which draws on classical European church singing, losing whatever musicality the words might ever have had by wrapping them awkwardly around the arbitrarily crafted melodies. So I was surprised to find that I like the instrumental versions a lot. Those melodies that easily thwart the words and singers suit Ralph Alessi's trumpet just fine. B+(**) [cd]

Eminem: Kamikaze (2018, Aftermath/Shady/Interscope): Touchy, revolving as it is around the critical trashing of his 2017 album, Revival. I actually thought Revival was pretty great. This is pretty good to, at least until he subcontracts a pair of tracks to Jesie Reyez. B+(**)

The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw (2018, Edgetone): Colorado quartet, songs by bassist Markus Hurst (one by non-member Bill Noertker), with two saxophonists -- Glenn Ritta and Paul Riola -- plus Jay Ellis on bass. Postbop leans free. B+(***) [cd]

Fred Frith Trio: Closer to the Ground (2018, Intakt): British guitarist, his 1974 Guitar Solos could be traced as one of the founding ventures in what came to be called "experimental rock." Close to a hundred albums later, he most often shows up on jazz labels, enough so that's probably where he should be slotted. Trio here, with on bass (electric and double) and Jordon Glenn on drums, a stutter-step percussion run serves as a hook, his searching runs layered on top. A- [cd]

Billy F Gibbons: The Big Bad Blues (2018, Concord): Longtime singer-guitarist for Texas rock megalith ZZ Top, a group that was always best served when they kept their blues straight and basic. Second solo album, still fiddling with his name credit, but has the blues down pat, if a little loud. B+(*)

Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Ejdeha (2018, Songlines): Vancouver guitarist, has played oud all along and exclusively here for a Middle Eastern vibe, with Hank Roberts (cello), Mark Helias (bass), and Hamin Honari (tombak, daf, frame drum). Irresistible when the rhythms heats up, abstract chamber-ish when it doesn't. B+(***)

Gordon Grdina/François Houle/Kenton Loewen: Live at the China Cloud (2017, Big in Japan): Guitar/clarinet/drums. Same group plus Benoît Delbecq has a 2017 Songlines album, Ghost Lights, which I haven't found. Guitar hard-edged, leaving the others free to shade and accent. B+(*)

Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (2018, ECM): Norwegian pianist, has recorded for ECM since 2001, mostly trios, always seems to be on solid ground. Another fine one here, with Sigurd Hole (double bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums). More than half originals. Fave cover composer: J.S. Bach, followed by Trad. B+(**)

Scott Hamilton: Moon Mist (2018, Blau): Mainstream tenor sax great, in a standards-heavy set with Dena DeRose (piano), Ignasi Gonzalez (bass), and Jo Krause (drums) -- quartet first played together in a theatre in Spain in 2015, but no info on when or where this was recorded. Lovely work, but unexceptional by his standards. B+(**)

Scott Hamilton: The Shadow of Your Smile (2017, Blau): Same group, same lack of recording info but DeRose gets second-tier type and sings a verse to finish "How Deep Is the Ocean" -- an unexpected pleasure on top of many more. A-

Scott Hamilton: Meets the Piano Players (2016 [2017], Organic): Recorded in Munich, with Rudi Engel on bass and Michael Kaul on drums, auditioning local pianists who get two cuts each: Thilo Wagner, Claud Raible, Tizian Jost, Bernard Pichl, and Joe Kienemann -- only name I recognized there was Raible's (co-led a good quartet album with Brad Leali), but Pichl has the longest discography by far, including previous records with Red Holloway, Charlie Mariano, and Hamilton with/without Dusko Goykovich. Easy, common standards, and the saxophonist makes all the pianists sound good. B+(***)

Scott Hamilton/Paolo Birro/Aldo Zunino/Alfred Kramer: Ballads for Audiophiles (2016 [2017], Fonè Jazz): Antique tenor sax playing venerable ballds backed by piano-bass-drums -- looks like Hamilton can pick up a credible rhythm section anywhere he goes. I'll have to take the audiophile recording on faith, but even streamed through average computer speakers this easily predicted album is pretty damn gorgeous. B+(***)

Shay Hazan: Good Morning Universe (2017 [2018], NoBusiness, EP): Israeli bassist, plays in the group Bones (which has a couple albums on Leo), also has a Quintet album. This is a sextet with two saxophonists (Albert Beger and Eyal Netzer), cello, two drummers. Vinyl-only, four cuts, 28:15, unhurried but fundamentally sound. B+(*) [cdr]

Bjørn Marius Hegge Trio: Assosiasjoner (2018, Particular): Norwegian bassist-composer, leads a trio with Oscar Grönberg (piano) and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums). One of the better piano trios I've heard lately, but haven't given it enough time to really sink in. A- [sc]

Hegge: Vi Är Ledsna Men Du Får Inte Längre Vara Barn (2017, Particular): Norwegian bassist's group, the rhythm section -- Vijleik Storass on piano and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums -- fronted by two exuberantly jousting saxophonists: Jonas Kulhammar and Martin Myhre Olsen. B+(***) [sp]

Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (2018, Moog Recordings Library): Jamal Moss, electronica producer based in Chicago, prolific since 2008 (Discogs lists 44 albums). This is a fairly minor exercise, eight pieces called 'Sequence 01" through "08," mostly Moog synth with occasional mixins. B+(*)

Hinds: I Don't Run (2018, Mom + Pop): Indie pop band from Madrid, Spain, originally named Deers, opted for the female noun after a legal threat. Second album, in English, Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote play guitar and sing, the lead a distinctive voice with a lot of harmony. B+(***)

Art Hirahara: Sunward Bound (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): Pianist, based in New York after studying in Ohio and Caifornia, fourth album, starts as a trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), then blossoms as Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) enters, doing what he was always meant to do. A-

William Hooker Trio: Remembering (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): Drummer-led trio, with Ava Mendoza (guitar) and Damon Smith (bass). Hooker has led free jazz groups since 1977, Smith has 50+ side credits since 1999. Mendoza first surfaced in 2008, making a strong impression here. B+(***) [bc]

Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra: Down a Rabbit Hole (2015-17 [2018], Summit): Composer/arranger, based in Boston, studied at New England Conservatory, teaches at Berklee, fourth album with her big band, although I first ran across her name when another group, Colours Jazz Orchestra, recorded a collection of her music. Guests here are John Fedchock (trombone), George Garzone (tenor sax), and Sean Jones (trumpet). Ends memorably with the one cover, "I'll Be There." B+(***) [cd]

Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through florida (2018, Summit): Directed by Mike Vax, this ghost band does a nice job of honoring Kenton's legacy, keeping the arrangements light and just a bit frothy, toning down his pretentiousness and pomposity, while playing up the nostalgia. The Puccini, for instance, is pure pop, as is the Hamlisch. Peaks in the center with a mix of "How High the Moon" and "Ornithology," followed by "Young at Heart." And they break out the maraccas for the closer. B+(**) [cd]

John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (2018, Ars Spoletium): Singer-songwriter, main instrument mandolin, which gets him filed under folk but he's studied in India, married a woman from Croatia, and recorded this one with a group in Spoletto, Italy. I'm ambivalent about the early songs -- maybe just can't pigeonhole them -- but this gets a big lift from "Checkers with My Cat," and while I haven't fully parsed it yet, "The Old Communist" is a marvelous piece of songcraft. A-

Pablo Ledesma/Pepa Angelillo/Mono Hurtado/Carlo Brandán: Gato Barbieri Revisitado (2017 [2018], Discos ICM): Buenos Aires quartet -- alto/soprano sax, piano, bass, drums -- half pieces by their late hometown hero, the other half split between Ledesma and Angelillo. The saxophonist doesn't have Barbieri's power or swagger, and not just because he's toting a lighter horn. Nor does the rhythm section play up their Latino roots. Yet little by little they slip under the skin and slide it in new directions. B+(**) [bc]

Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (2018, Mobile Home): Tom Shimura, Bay Area rapper, tenth album, quite possibly the biggest big beat anywhere, explodes on the first cut, delivers an even bigger band on the second. Not sure I approve of the glosses on James Brown and the Rolling Stones, but they sure are glossy. Nor do I care to wallow in the cancer story, but they all sort of work out in the end. A-

Yves Marcotte: Always Know Monk (2017, self-released): Bassist, first album, officially credited to eponymous group but Marcotte is the arranger of these seven tracks (13 Monk songs). With Shems Bendahl (trumpet/flugelhorn), Zacharie Canut (tenor/alto sax), and Nathan Vandenbulcke (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (2018, Capitol): Not someone I've followed at all regularly for a long time now -- database shows three albums 1970-73, one in 1979, one in 1999, a C+ in 2005, a C- in 2007, one more in 2012. I was tipped off to this one when the label sent me a download link (can't recall that ever happening for a comparable artist). Still can't say as I searched this out. Rather, I picked it from Napster's featured pop albums list, in preference to a new one from Paul Simon (very likely the better album, but an artist I've never actually liked). Starts out fairly upbeat, then slows down for one cut I can relate to, and find utterly charming ("Happy With You"). Deteriorates after that. "People Want Peace" is true, but not as McCartney formulates it so unconvincingly. B-

Ernest McCarty Jr./Theresa Davis: I Remember Love (2018, Blujazz): Second album for McCarty, very different from the where he paid tribute to Erroll Garner as his former bassist. Here he plays piano and guitar, and composes love songs sung by Theresa Davis, formerly in the Emotions (in 1977, at least, on their best selling album, Rejoice). B+(*) [cd]

Joey Morant: Forever Sanctified (2018, Blujazz): Trumpet player, flugelhorn (of course), sings some, credited on most songs with "horns" (no idea what else that means). Wrote most of these pieces, drawing on blues and swing. B+(*) [cd]

Mike Moreno: 3 for 3 (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): Guitarist, half-dozen previous albums since 2007, trio here with Doug Weiss on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. B+(*)

Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (2018, Chronograph): Subtitled (back cover) "The Art of the Bass Trumpet." Canadian, from Regina, born 1935, only stepped out front as a leader in 2014, winning a Juno in 2016. A bop-to-swing quintet, with Kelly Jefferson on tenor sax, Reg Schwager on guitar; two originals, familiar covers, nicely done. B+(**) [cd]

Myriad 3: Vera (2018, ALMA): Canadian piano trio: Chris Donnelly (piano, keyboards), Dan Fortin (bass), Ernesto Cervini (drums). Accessible, with a popular appeal not unlike EST. B+(*) [cd]

Willie Nelson: My Way (2018, Legacy): Eleven standards, all associated with Frank Sinatra, dispatched efficiently in 35:25, one a duet with Norah Jones. Haven't seen anything on the arrangements, which are pretty generic -- some strings, some horns, some guitar leads -- and anonymous (so far, anyway). I've heard these songs done by dozens of singers. No surpise that Nelson is credible, distinctive, and over any awe he may once have felt for Sinatra. Indeed, when they appeared together in Las Vegas, Sinatra was the opening act. B+(**)

Noname: Room 25 (2018, self-released): Chicago rapper Fatima Warner, "debut album" following her "debut mixtape" Telefone, which sure sounded like an album to me -- both are self-released downloads, but Telefone was the one that also came out on vinyl. This didn't make much of an impression at first, but developed notably on second spin, then trailed off a bit when the guests showed up. Barely (hopefully): A- [bc]

Uwe Oberg/Heinz Sauer: Sweet Reason (2017 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): German piano/tenor sax duo, Oberg in his mid-50s, Sauer up around 85, taking their sweet time. B+(*)

Eddie Palmieri: Full Circle (2018, Ropeadope): Salsa pianist/big band leader, from the Bronx, still active at 82, band has 26 members, at least half names I recognize from elsewhere (e.g., the baritone saxophonists are Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan; the trombones include Conrad Herwig, Doug Beavers, and Joe Fiedler), with Herman Olivera the lead vocal. B+(***)

Ivo Perelman/Jason Stein: Spiritual Prayers (2018, Leo): Tenor sax/bass clarinet duets, instruments which harmonize easily yet don't add up to much -- a problem generic to all larger sax/clarinet ensembles. B+(*) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall: Kindred Spirits (2018, Leo, 2CD): More tenor sax/bass clarinet duets, much more, the generic mix problem still evident but seems less debilitating, no doubt a credit to Mahall -- surprised I don't have anything under his name in my database, as I've run across him at least a dozen times, always on superb records. Also surprised he's only ten years older than Stein, five years younger than Perelman. B+(***) [cd]

Chris Pitsiokos CP Unit: Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, released a 2017 album as CP Unit but spells his leadership out here, not least because the band has almost completely turned over (bassist Tim Dahl held on for 4/10 tracks, giving way to Henry Fraser). Sam Lisabeth takes over on guitar, and drums are split between Jason Nazary (on Dahl's tracks) and Connor Baker. Last record struck me as "post-rock, post-industrial fusion," but while this is similar, it's jazzier -- at least until it falls off the deep end.. B+(**)

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (2018, PJCE): Music by Ezra Weiss, lyrics by S. Renee Mitchell, sung by Marilyn Keller. The two towns of the title were created as worker housing, the former by a lumber company in 1923, the latter by the US government in 1942. Both were largely occupied by blacks, and shut down after they had served their purposes -- Vanport was literally wiped out by a flood in 1948. PJCE is a 12-piece orchestra directed by Ryan Meagher and Douglas Detrick, and also a label with 30+ albums, most under individual names although the group as a whole has another called Oregon Stories. I didn't care for the vocals until I started paying attention, and learned something. B+(**) [cd]

Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (2018, Dafnison): Cuban drummer, moved to US at 25 in 1999 and immediately wowed everyone with his technique. First big band album, standard grouping minus guitar plus congas (Roberto Quintero). Actually quite impressive, with towering horns piled on top of more rhythm than you can shake a stick at. B+(***) [sp]

Kristjan Randalu: Absence (2017 [2018], ECM): Pianist, from Estonia, has a couple of previous albums, including a duo on FSNT with guitarist Ben Monder, expanded to a trio here with drummer Markku Ounaskari. B+(**)

Ratatet: Heroes, Saints and Clowns (2017 [2018], Ridgeway): Sextet, led by drummer-composer Alex Hall. Bassist Jeff Denson is also credited as producer. Paul Hanson lists bassoon ahead of tenor sax, with the others on trombone, vibes, and keyboards, plus nearly a dozen guests -- most famous Paul McCandless on English horn and oboe. B

Dave Rempis/Matt Piet/Tim Daisy: Throw Tomatoes (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): Chicago avant-garde, sax-piano-drums, two improv pieces, 28:26 + 27:22, both powerhouses. Pianists normally comp behind sax leads, but in free jazz the piano makes more sense as percussive counterpoint, and Piet's become a master at that. A- [bc]

Logan Richardson: Blues People (2018, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist from Kansas City. I thought his 2007 debut was terrific, but this is only his third album since, and this is very different: two electric guitars, electric bass, drums, the sax blending into the thick layering, which sinks like a rock. B-

Ned Rothenberg/Hamid Drake: Full Circle: Live in Lodz (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): Duets: Rothenberg playing clarinet, alto sax, and shakuhachi; Drake: drums, frame drum, vocals (more of a chant). The sax feels much more substantial. Closes with a striking "Amazing Grace." B+(*)

Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (2018, Summit): Pianist, teaches at Ball State in Indiana, fifth album since 2000, a trio with Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius Goens III on drums. All original material, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]

Schnell: Live at Sowieso (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): Avant-sax trio, based in Berlin, with Pierre Borel (alto sax), Antonio Borghini (bass), and Christian Lillinger (drums). After the fact, I'm tempted to take Schnell as the title: the surnames are also on the cover, "Schnell" is title of three parts, totalling all but 6:31, most of the rest a non-obvious Billy Strayhorn cover. And they are fast, burning rubber throughout. A-

Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (2018, ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), on ECM since 2000, quartet with Kristjan Randalu (piano), Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). All pieces by Seim, unclear what the Finnish connection is (aside from the drummer). Atmospherics are lovely, and sometimes they build on that. B+(***)

Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (2018, Pyroclastic): Pianist, also autoharp and electronics, has several albums since 2011, leans avant but this is hard to peg, with Daniel Lippel on detuned acoustic guitar and electronics and vocalist Sofia Jernberg -- arty, abstract, irritating. B- [cd]

Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (2018, Joyful Noise): Jerry Williams, one-time Atlantic soul producer, moved to the fringe c. 1970 and has stayed there ever since, pulling off some neat tricks, and sometimes falling flat. His use of auto-tune here is odd, meant to alienate, and, I suppose, succeeds at that. B

Szun Waves: New Hymn to Freedom (2018, The Leaf Label): British trio (London, I think), second album, can be taken as jazz or electronica but strikes me as prog-ish instrumental rock. Luke Abbott (synth) appears to be the leader, with Jack Wyllie (sax) and Laurence Pike (drums). B+(*)

Steven Taetz: Drink You In (2018, Flatcar/Fontana North): Jazz singer-songwriter from Toronto (assuming the six tracks credited to "Tetz" are his), first album, five covers, nor really standards (Sondheim barely counts). Varied studio help, likable voice, only strong reaction I had was to Leonard Cohen's "Everyboy Knows," which is has no business going anywhere near. B [cd]

The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (2018, self-released, 3CD): Three shows, each starting with the same boilerplate about how the US Air Force exemplifies "precision" (mentioning music but not wedding parties), introducing all the musicians by their rank, and playing competent but utterly ordinary jazz. Each show has a special guest -- singer Nnenna Freelon, drummer Peter Erskine, and trombonist Marshall Gilkes -- and they get interviewed as well as introducing a couple songs. Erskine isn't uninteresting. C

University of Toronto 12Tet: When Day Slips Into Night (2018, UofT Jazz): University program, large group because students are plentiful and big band charts are fun. Some nice stuff, everything passes, nothing much sticks. B+(*) [cd]

Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (2017 [2018], Chromatic Audio): Pianist, based in Montréal, fourth album plus side credits since 2005. Ten Monk tunes, recorded in two sessions with as many bassists and drummers, but most important, guitarist Peter Bernstein, shaping and shading. B+(**) [cd]

Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK: Wet Robots (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): Avant vocalist, most similar to Betty Carter (not that anyone really is, and vice versa), with a dozen or so albums since 1998. As noted on cover, with Joe Morris (guitar), Sam Newsome (soprano sax), and Reggie Nicholson (drums). Waxes hot and cold, with some remarkable passages. Like the spoken word much more than the screechy scat. B+(**)

Jay T. Vonada: United (2017 [2018], Summit): Trombone player, backed by piano trio, mostly originals but two covers -- "Summertime," "Darn That Dream" -- anchor it firmly in the mainstream, where it sounds splendid. B+(***) [cd]

VWCR [Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey]: Noise of Our Time (2017 [2018], Intakt): Reeds, trumpet, piano, drums, all but Rainey bringing songs. The pianist is central here, setting the pace, fracturing time, shooting off flairs, a bit of abstract comping when Vandermark finally gets his monster solo, then wraps it up with a dazzling flourish. A- [cd]

Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Live (2016 [2018], ECM): Polish piano trio, together since 2005, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz (bass) and Michal Miskiewicz (drums), recorded in Antwerp. Six pieces, including one each by Sting ("Message in a Bottle") and Herbie Hancock. B+(***)

Doug Webb: Fast Friends (2018, Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, moved to Los Angeles at age 3, did a lot of studio work before moving mainstream with this label in 2010. Quintet with trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Mitchel Forman), bass, and drums. Went all the way back to bebop this time, including covers of "Ah-Leu-Cha" and "A Night in Tunisia," fast indeed. B+(**)

Bugge Wesseltoft/Prins Thomas: Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (2018, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian duo, keyboards and beats, the former long established in jazz, the latter with five numbered electronica albums. More on the latter's turf, with a nice, seductive flow. Drummer Jon Christensen guests on four (of five) cuts. B+(**)

Mike Westbrook: Starcross Bridge (2017 [2018], Hatology): English pianist, a big Penguin Guide favorite with fifty or so records since 1967. I've only heard two, and wasn't especially taken by them, so he is a fairly major SFFR (also his wife, vocalist Kate Westbrook). I doubt this bit of solo piano is a good place to start, but it's current, measured, thoughtful. B+(*)

Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra: Turkish Delight (2018, Blujazz): Big band, directed by Dr. Scott Cowan, more trumpets than usual. Aside from Cowan's title piece, standard big band repertory, from Ellington and Basie to Gillespie and D'Rivera. Some fine moments. B+(*) [cd]

Tom Zé: Sem Você Não A (2017, Circus): Antônio José Santana Martins, b. 1938 in Bahia in Northeast Brazil, infleuential in the Tropicália movement from 1968 on, continuing to evolve in ever more eccentric ways, even into his 80s. B+(***)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Kaoru Abe/Sabu Toyozumi: Mannyoka (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): Japanese alto saxophonist (also sopranino and soprano here), self-taught, one of the first notable free jazz players in Japan, died quite young (29, in 1978), most of his records issued posthumously. Duo with drums, two sets (73:58 total), can get rough but is often inspired. B+(***) [cd]

Choi Sun Bae Quartet: Arirang Fantasy (1995 [2018[, NoBusiness): Trumpet player, I know very little about him, probably Korean but this was recorded in Tokyo, with Junji Hirose (tenor/soprano sax), Motoharu Yoshizawa (upright 5-string electric bass), and Kim Dae Hwan (percussion). B+(***) [cd]

Stella Chiweshe: Kasahwa: Early Singles (1974-83 [2018], Glitterbeat): Singer from Zimbabwe, plays mbira, indeed her first singles were mostly instrumental, with a narrow, primitivist feel. B+(**)

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 (1965-69 [2018], Free Dirt): Partially fills the gap between their classic 1965 sessions (reissued as Pioneering Women of Bluegrass) and their even better 1973 sessions (reissued as Hazel and Alice), mostly picking out old country tunes. The opening "Bye Bye Love" seems like a misstep, and they never quite manage to do something special, although "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" is right up their alley. B+(**)

Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson: The Haunt (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): Vibraharp player, played in Jazz Composers Orchestra and Anthony Braxton's Creative music Orchestra, recorded a handful of albums from 1969-79, plus several since 2002. Doesn't provide a lot of structure for the trumpet and clarinet. B+(*) [cd]

Prince: Piano and a Microphone 1983 (1983 [2018], NPG/Warner Bros.): First vault release since Prince Rogers Nelson's death in 2016, with dozens more likely to follow as his heirs have no reason not to suck every ounce of profit from his estate. Plain descriptive title, a demo tape from shortly before Purple Rain, should be a fertile period, maybe "a glimpse of a notoriously private artist doing his mysterious work," but not a very revealing one -- even less fun. B

Old Music

Gene Ammons: The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (1961-62 [1992], Prestige): Two fairly ordinary albums by the tenor saxophonist, each backed by a different piano-bass-drums trio: Nice an' Cool (1961) and The Soulful Mood of Gene Ammons (1962). Mostly ballads, not his best work but sound unmistakably his own. B+(**)

Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug Volume 2 (1960-71 [1995], Prestige): A more proper ballad compilation, picking twelve songs from ten albums. B+(***)

Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back! (1969 [1993], Prestige): Another 2LP-on-1CD reissue, the title album (with Junior Mance, Buster Williams, and Frankie Jones) and Brother Jug!, also recorded in 1969 but released in 1970. B+(**)

Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now (1991 [2015], Bikini Kill): Pioneering grrrl punk band from Olympia, WA, led by Kathleen Hanna. This started as demo, initially released as an 8-cut cassette, and forgotten when Kill Rock Stars reissued the group's two 1992-93 EPS as The C.D. Version of the First Two Records (1994). This adds three extra tracks for a solid 31:12. B+(***)

Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill (1992, Kill Rock Stars, EP): Official debut, a six-track, 16:06 EP, repeating five tracks from the demo tape, mostly shorter versions, adds a live new one "Thurston Hearts the Who" -- not quite ready. B+(**)

Bikini Kill: Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): Seven tracks, 14:15, originally released as half of an album filled out by Huggy Bear (Our Troubled Youth). B+(**)

Bikini Kill: The Singles (1993-95 [1998], Kill Rock Stars, EP): Nine tracks, 17:24, the first three with Joan Jett in the background, all striking in their intensity. B+(***)

David Binney: South (2000 [2001], ACT): Alto/soprano saxophonist, seventh album since 1989, mostly quartet with Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), plus extras on three tracks -- "Von Joshua" is one that breaks out of the postbop rut. B+(**)

Brian Blade Fellowship: Perceptual (2000, Blue Note): Drummer from Louisiana, named his first album Fellowship and kept that as his group name. Second album retains Myron Walden (alto sax/bass clarinet), Melvin butler (tenor/soprano sax), Jon Cowherd (piano/keyboards), and Christopher Thomas (bass), with new guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Sly postbop, sneaks up on you. B+(**)

Terence Blanchard: Bounce (2003, Blue Note): Trumpet player from New Orleans, just a year younger than Wynton Marsalis but seemed to come up in his wake -- indeed, after starting with Lionel Hampton, Blanchard followed Marsalis in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. After a dozen albums with Sony/Columbia, moved to Blue Note here with an upbeat hard bop album. B+(**)

Chicago Underground Quartet: Chicago Underground Quartet (2000 [2001], Thrill Jockey): Originally a duo (7 albums 1998-2014) of Chad Taylor (drums) and Rob Mazurek (trumpet/electronics), added bassist Noel Kupersmith in 1999 to make Trio (4 albums through 2007), and Jeff Parker (guitar) for this single Quartet album. B+(**)

The Cookers: Warriors (2011, Jazz Legacy): Hard bop supergroup, second album (after Cast the First Stone in 2010): two trumpets (Eddie Henderson, David Weiss), two saxes (Billy Harper, Craig Handy), backed by George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart. McBee composed 3 tunes, Cables and Harper 2 each, but they open with a Freddie Hubbard piece. A little cluttered, but at least one really monster sax solo here (Harper, I presume). B+(***)

Tord Gustavsen Trio: Changing Places (2001-02 [2003], ECM): First album after a few side credits, with Harald Johnsen (bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums), all originals. First impression is that this is overly quiet, nothing really amiss but too subtle to engage. B+(**)

Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer: Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (2008 [2009], Intakt): Two pieces, the 15:25 "Schaffhausen Concert" is solo piano, some of her finset, then the 30:01 "Radio Rondo" is played by bassist Guy's long-running avant-big band, LJCO, with Schweizer again on piano. B+(***)

Huggy Bear: Our Troubled Youth (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): British riot grrrl group, joined to Bikini Kill when the label decided to package both group's EPs together. Seven cuts, 16:30. Rant tends to fall apart. B

Ahmad Jamal: In Search of Momentum (2003, Birdology/Dreyfus): Pianist, born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, changed his name when he converted to Islam, started recording in 1951, continuing at least through 2016. Trio with James Cammack (bass) and Idris Muhammad (drums), slightly more originals than standards. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo (2001 [2002], ECM, 2CD): His usual piano trio, pushing eight songs to 135+ minutes. Took a while before starting to catch my ear. Even when it does, it doesn't impress me as much as the Live at Montreux 2-CD from the same year, but they released this one in 2002 and held the other back until 2007. B+(**)

Roland Kirk: Introducing Roland Kirk (1960, Argo): Saxophonist, later added Rahsaan to his name, actually his second album here, pictured on the cover playing three horns simultaneously -- tenor sax, manzello, and stritch -- a gimmick he soon became notorious for. Also on the cover is a featuring credit for Ira Sullivan (trumpet and tenor sax), only five years older, and probably the last moment when he was more famous. Backed by William Burton on piano and organ, Donald Garrett on bass, and Sonny Brown on drums. A little swing, a bit more swagger. B+(*)

Roland Kirk: Domino (1962, Mercury): Adds flute, nose flute, and a siren to his usual trio of sax options. Two quartets, with bassist Vernon Martin in both: first half has Andrew Hill on piano and Henry Duncan on drums, second Wynton Kelly and Roy Haynes. B+(*)

Roland Kirk: Reeds & Deeds (1963, Mercury): Two sessions from February 1963, the first with Virgil Jones on trumpet, Harold Mabern on piano, plus trombone, bass, and drums. Some personnel changes for the second, plus Benny Golson takes over arrangements, so it goes a bit more smoothly (not necessarily better). B+(**)

Roland Kirk: Kirk in Copenhagen (1963 [1964], Mercury): Looks like he showed up with bass and drums, then found out that there's some kind of law or union rule requiring Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen to play bass, so they doubled up. Even more fortunate was the local they sat at the piano: Tete Montoliu, terrific throughout. Kirk is in high spirits, although he cautiously selects "Mood Indigo" to show off the multi-horn thing. And someone credited as Big Skol wanders on stage with harmonica -- his mama knew him as Rice Miller (aka Sonny Boy Williamson). A-

Roland Kirk: I Talk With the Spirits (1964 [1965], Limelight): Just flute here: not his strong suit, but he has some fun with his distinctive sound. Big help from Horace Parlan on piano. B+(*)

Roland Kirk: Left & Right (1969, Atlantic): Kirk moved to Atlantic in 1965, staying there through 1976 (a year before he died), with a very mixed bag of albums. This was his third, with brilliant bits mixed into pretty mundane Gil Fuller orchestrations. The centerpiece is the medley of "Expansions, with seven extra guests including Alice Coltrane on harp. Closes with five covers from Mingus to Strayhorn -- "Hot Cha" is the pick hit. B+(*)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk & the Vibration Society: Rahsaan Rahsaan (1970, Atlantic): Here is where he added "Rahsaan" to his name, having heard it in a dream, and was so excited he doubled down on the title. First half is a 17:18 medley from "Black Classical Rap" to "New Orleans," with a guest list that includes Howard Johnson (tuba) and Leroy Jenkins (violin). Rest is a Village Vanguard live set with piano-bass-drums-percussion. His intro and vocal to "Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree" is a lark, but also a delight. B+(***)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (1971, Atlantic): Aside from some piano on the only cover ("Day Dream"), just Kirk (on an extended array of reeds and percussion) backed by drums and even more percussion. B+(**)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Blacknuss (1972, Atlantic): Mostly black music covers, ranging from "Old Rugged Cross" to Bill Withers including a generous sampling of Motown, mostly played to session musicians who straddle those worlds, and quite a few vocals -- this avoids pop mostly because Kirk is such a gruff blues shouter, and because his horns dart off in all sorts of directions. Strong cuts include "One Nation" and "Make It With You." B+(***)

Joëlle Léandre/Yves Robert/Irène Schweizer/Daunik Lazro: Paris Quartet (1985-87 [1989], Intakt): Bass, trombone, piano, alto sax, Léandre also credited with voice and compositions. Of course, we could do without the bad opera voice. But the bass leads suffice to kick off the horns, and the pianist doubles as a percussionist. B+(**)

Lionel Loueke: Virgin Forest (2006 [2007], ObliqSound): Guitarist-singer, from Benin, made his way to Paris, got a scholarship to Berklee, then to Los Angeles. Some sort of folk-jazz hybrid, hard to place as indeed the musicians stradle four continents and are never wholly contained in their own. B+(*)

Rudi Mahall: Quartett (2006 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): German bass clarinetist, rarely leads his own groups but gets top billing here, with all four sharing writing credits: Johannes Bauer (trombone), Aki Takase (piano), and Tony Buck (drums). [3/5 cuts] B+(*)

Big Jay McNeely: The Best Of (1948-1956) (1948-56 [2010], Master Classics): Tenor saxophonist, an r&b honker who excited fans with his ecstatic displays, sometimes writing on the stage floor while wailing. This was his prime period, before guitar replaced the saxophone as the featured instrument in rock and roll, but his discography is so checkered -- with early 78s and 10-inch LPs -- it's hard to figure out just what came from where. This offers 32 cuts, mostly Federal 45s, some with vocals -- most notably Ted Shirley on "Road House Boogie." That's about where the energy level really kicks up. B+(***)

Maggie Nicols/Irène Schweizer/Joëlle Léandre: Les Diaboliques (1993 [1994], Intakt): Voice-piano-bass trio, kept the album name for two more group albums (to 2000), also intersecting for a bunch of other albums. Nicols is from Scotland, original name Margaret Nicholson, her mother French-Berber, was part of Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Keith Tippetts' Centipede. She tends to produce an opera reflex in me, but that isn't really sustained here -- just feels scattered, a bit arch. B

Uwe Oberg: Work (2008 [2015], Hatology): German pianist, solo here, six tracks but three of them pair up two songs -- in two cases originals which segue in Coltrane in one case, Robert Wyatt's "Muddy Mouse" in the other. The other pairing mashed Mingus and Coleman together, while two of the three standalone pieces were Monk tunes. B+(**)

Danilo Pérez: Danilo Pérez (1992 [1993], Jive/Novus): Pianist, from Panama, won a Fulbright USA scholarship to study in US, studied at Berklee, joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra. First album, starts out with an all-star band -- Joe Lovano and David Sanchez on tenor/soprano sax, Santi Debriano on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums -- with Panamanian hero Ruben Blades taking a few vocals. B+(*)

Danilo Pérez: PanaMonk (1996, Impulse!): Third album, piano trio with Avishai Cohen (bass) and either Jeff Watts or Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), playing seven Monk compositions and four originals. A much flashier piano player than Monk ever was, which lets him glide over the glitches that made Monk so bedeviling. B+(**)

Danilo Pérez: Motherland (2000, Verve): Fifth album since 1993. Tricky rhythm with lots of extra percussion, Regina Carter the focal player on violin, although Chris Potter (sax) and Diego Urcola (trumpet) have their moments. I took an instant dislike to the vocals (Luciana Souze and Claudia Acuna), got to where I could tolerate the scat shading, then they mutated into everything from spoken word to torch songs to hot salsa. I'm not unimpressed; just not very pleased. B+(*)

Bud Powell: Jazz Giant (1949 [1957], Verve): The bebop piano virtuoso's recordings start in 1944 with Cootie Williams, resume in 1946 with Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, and others. In 1947 he recorded with Charlie Parker and cut his own trio for Roost. This collects his next trio sessions, with Max Roach on drums and either Ray Brown or Curly Russell on bass. I've never been blown away by Powell's sessions for Norman Granz (unlike some of his Blue Notes), but these are quite nice. B+(***)

Bud Powell: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (1955 [1959], Verve): Trio with George Duvivier (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). Standards. B+(**)

Bud Powell: The Ultimate Bud Powell (1949-56 [1998], Verve): The Complete Bud Powell on Verve box runs five CDs, which this reduces to sixteen cuts, all trios, starting with five cuts from Jazz Giant. A good selection, but still can't touch the Blue Notes from the same period, especially the first two volumes of The Amazing Bud Powell. B+(***)

Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Time Waits (1958 [1999], Blue Note): Another piano trio, this one with Sam Jones (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Drummers often make the difference with Powell, but so does starting off with something upbeat and irresistibly catchy like "Buster Rides Again." A-

Bud Powell: Strictly Confidential (1964 [1994], Black Lion): Solo piano, one of many informal recordings Francis Paudras made after Powell moved to Paris, at some point released as At Home, in Paris. B+(***)

Bud Powell: Salt Peanuts (1964 [1988], Black Lion): Recorded in Edenville, France by Paudras, opens with four piano trio cuts, with Guy Hayat (bass) and Jacques Gervais (drums), then adds Johnny Griffin (tenor sax) for three longer cuts (30:46). The sound leaves much to be desired, and the crowd noise is distracting. The music deserved better. B

Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas (1976 [1977], FMP): First solo piano album, following two group albums with saxophonist Rüdiger Carl. Two side-long pieces (34:07 total), recorded live in Berlin. Doesn't show off the flashy technique she later developed, which makes the logic and integrity all the more remarkable. B+(***)

Irène Schweizer: Hexensabbat (1977 [1978], FMP): Solo again, starting with some novel sounds she teased out of the piano, expanding them in the first side, then running through six relatively short sketches on the second. B+(***)

Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas/Hexensabbat (1976-77 [2002], Intakt, 2CD): Reissue combines her two early solo albums. B+(***)

Irène Schweizer: Live at Taktlos (1984 [1986], Intakt): Swiss pianist, early albums -- including Early Tapes from 1967 -- on FMP, with only unreviewable fragments on Bandcamp -- found a long-term home label here, numbered "001." Three cuts (not counting the 0:55 Lindsay Cooper-Maggie Nicols duo): with George Lewis (trombone), with Nicols (voice) and Günter Sommer (percussion), with Joëlle Léandre (bass, voice) and Paul Lovens (percussion). Terrific piano, a strong spot for Lewis, but the singers can be grating. B+(**)

Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 1 (1990 [1992], Intakt): From Switzerland, a tremendous free jazz pianist, her best work duos with drummers, which adds an edge that solo work cannot quite achieve, even for one so focused on rhythmic complexity. B+(***)

Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 2 (1990 [1992], Intakt): More solo piano, a live set after the two days in the studio that produced Vol. 1. Seven originals plus covers of Berlin and Monk. Penguin Guide prefers Vol. 1 to Vol. 2, but I think I'd give this one a (very) slight edge. B+(***)

Irène Schweizer: Many and One Direction (1996, Intakt): Yet another piano solo. Hard for me to sort out these many titles -- I doubt I could even if I did manage to invest the time to compare, but while most of this is as good as all the rest, the last two pieces lift it a notch above: "Bleu Foncé" sounds a bit like Monk might if he had Pete Johnson's left hand (and maybe James P. Johnson's right), while "Chordially" is a short ballad piece where everything is perfect. A-

Irène Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau & Taktlos (1998-2004 [2007], Intakt): Two sets in Switzerland, with the pianist hosting Chicago's legendary avant-saxophonist and his brilliant nephew-percussionist. Basically, the meeting you'd imagine. A-

John Scofield: Works for Me (2000 [2001], Verve): Guitarist, started around 1978 and was a pretty big deal by this point, a master of groove and flow, with an all-star band which makes it all look easy: Kenny Garrett (alto sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Billy Higgins (drums). B+(**)

John Scofield: Blue Matter (1986 [1987], Gramavision): Guitarist, his groove choppier in the '80s than a decade later. With Mitchell Forman (keyboards), bass, drums, extra percussion (Don Alias), sometimes extra rhythm guitar. B+(*)

John Scofield: Hand Jive (1993 [1994], Blue Note): Rather straightforward groove album, but with Larry Goldings on organ and piano, and Eddie Harris on tenor sax, this picks up extra soul jazz cred. B+(***)

Trygve Seim: Different Rivers (1998-99 [2000], ECM): Norwegian tenor saxophonist, previously recorded as The Source, and played in Oslo 13, but first album under own name. Groups range from two to ten pieces, the duets with trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Nice spoken word piece with Sidsel Endresen. B+(*)

Zoot Sims: Hawthorne Nights (1977 [1994], Pablo/OJC): Bill Holman arranged and conducted this near-big band outing, playing two of his own pieces, two Ellingtons, one Jobim, "More Than You Know," "Only a Rose," only one piece he leader had a hand in. Sims is flanked by three more reed players (Richie Kamuca, Jerome Richardson, Bill Hood), three brass (Oscar Brashear, Snooky Young, Frank Rosolino), with Ross Tompkins on piano. B+(*)

Zoot Sims: Suddenly It's Spring (1983 [1992], Pablo/OJC): He died in 1985 (at 59), making this quartet with Jimmy Rowles (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Akira Tana (drums) one of his last. Mostly ballads, lovely tone (as always), still feels a bit too much like going through the motions. B+(**)

Loren Stillman + Bad Touch: Going Public (2012 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, first album (as a teenager) 1997. Backed here by Nate Radley (guitar/pedal steel), Gary Versace (organ), and Ted Poor (drums), who also contribute two songs each (of nine). B+(***)

Co Streiff/Irène Schweizer: Twin Lines (1999-2000 [2002], Intakt): Swiss alto saxophonist, has a short discography which includes a group co-led by Russ Johnson. Duo with piano here, from two radio shots, thoughtful, probing, nice balance. B+(***)

Trio 3: Encounter (1999 [2001], Passin' Thru): Alto sax trio, although supergroup is more like it: Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums). First studio album after a Live in Willisau (1997), to be followed by nine more through 2017, including a series with pianists (Irène Schweizer, Geri Allen, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer). Seven pieces, one by each and four by fellow travelers (Bobby Braddock, Ade Steve Colson, John Carter, Andrew Hill). A-

Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer: Berne Concert (2007 [2009], Intakt): Live at Taktlos, in Switzerland, the Oliver Lake/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille alto sax trio with the great Swiss pianist. The first of (to date) five albums with guest pianists. Probably the most imposing of those (actually four) pianists, but not quite optimally meshed. B+(***)

Trio 3 + Geri Allen: At This Time (2008 [2009], Intakt): First song -- one of the pianist's -- indicates that she might mean to slow them down, but after that they rebound, faster and more furious than ever. She not only keeps up; she pushes them along. A-

Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz (1995-96 [1997], Jazzland): Norwegian pianist, father a jazz guitarist, played punk as a teenager, moving on to various jazz and pop projects. This was his first album, and first of five under this rubric: a scattered mix of pop/dance moves, including a couple vocals (most notably, Michy), with exotic flares from around the world, jazz included. B+(***)

Bugge Wesseltoft: It's Snowing on My Piano (1997, ACT): Solo piano, very quiet, solemn even, with several songs recognizable to make this some kind of Christmas special. B+(*)

Randy Weston: Solo, Duo & Trio (1954-56 [2000], Milestone): Cover goes further: "featuring Art Blakey/Sam Gill." Some of the pianist's first recordings, collected from three 10-inch EPs. Starts with the 1955 trio, then 1956 solo cuts, then winds up with his first record of piano-bass duets, Cole Porter in a Modern Mood. B+(*)

Randy Weston: Get Happy With the Randy Weston Trio (1955 [1995], Riverside/OJC): First 12-inch LP, a piano trio with Sam Gill (bass) and Wilbert Hogan (drums). The title song is upbeat as you'd expect, Gill's "A Ballad" delicate, Ellington's "C-Jam Blues" right in his wheelhouse. B+(**)

Randy Weston Trio + Cecil Payne: With These Hands . . . (1956 [1996], Riverside/OJC): Cut in Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack studio, with Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Wilbert Hogan on drums, with the baritone saxophonist on 6/8 cuts. Nice spots for Payne, especially on "The Man I Love." B+(***)

Randy Weston Trio/Cecil Payne: Jazz A La Bohemia (1956 [1990], Riverside/OJC): Recorded live at Café Bohemia in Greenwich Village, released in 1957 then reissued in 1960 as Greenwich Village Jazz before eventually reverting to its original title. Trio includes Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass) and Al Dreares (drums), with Payne on baritone sax on 6/8 cuts. B+(**)

Randy Weston: Little Niles (1958 [1959], United Artists): This is the first album in a long partnership with Melba Liston, who plays trombone and arranged seven Weston originals for septet -- Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Ray Copeland/Idrees Sulieman (trumpets), George Joyner (bass), and Charlie Persip (drums). [Short album at 31:01] B+(***)

Randy Weston Trio + 4 Trombones: Destry Rides Again (1959, United Artists): Music from Harold Rome's 1939 musical comedy, arranged by trombonist Melba Liston, with extra percussionist Willie Rodriguez not accounted for in the credit. B+(***)

Randy Weston: Destry Rides Again/Little Niles (1958-59 [2012], Fresh Sound): Two albums on one CD. B+(***)

Randy Weston: African Cookbook (1964 [1972], Atlantic): Originally released as Randy! (Bap!! Beep Boo-Bee Bap Beep-M-Boo Bee Bap!) in 1966, although the cover could be parsed differently, but as Weston's fascination with Africa developed this repackaging seemed like a better idea -- 3/7 songs clearly refer to various parts of Africa. With Ray Copeland (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Bill Wood (bass), Lenny McBrowne (drums), and extra percussion by Big Black and Sir Harold Murray (with Big Black vocal on "Congolese Children's Song"). B+(***)

Randy Weston: Portraits of Thelonious Monk: Well You Needn't (1989 [1990], Verve): Six (or seven) Monk tunes, "Functional" stretched out to 15:30, "Misterioso" to 10:56, none less than 5:23, by which point they've started to lose their Monk-ness. With bass, drums, and extra percussion. B+(**)

Randy Weston: Portraits of Duke Ellington: Caravan (1989 [1990], Verve): Same trio + percussion as the Monk session, recorded one day later. Again, six pieces, stretched out, to what point I'm not really sure. B+(*)

Randy Weston: Self Portraits: The Last Day (1989 [1990], Verve): A third straight day of trio + percussion, this time playing Weston's own tunes. B+(*)

Randy Weston: Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (1992 [1994], Verve): Recorded in the ballroom of the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, but just solo piano. Perhaps the setting suggested that he was overdue for a Dizzy Gillespie portrait -- a medley starting with "A Night in Tunisia" -- and I'm glad to hear a little Fats Waller: anything to spark up all this cocktail cool. B+(*)

Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995 [1997], Verve): Piano trio, with Christian McBride and Billy Higgins, plus strings, arranged by Melba Liston and played by the Montreal String Orchestra. B+(*)

Cassandra Wilson: Blue Skies (1988, JMT): Jazz singer, from Mississippi, original name Fowlkes, moved to Ne York and briefly married Anthony Wilson, worked with M-Base Collective, her own discography starting in 1986. Deep voice linked her to Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter. Third album, standards, backed by Mulgrew Miller (piano), Lonnie Plaxico (bass), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums). B+(**)

Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (2002, Blue Note): After seven albums (1986-92) on JMT and one on DIW/Columbia, signed to Blue Note and became more famous (and more mainstream). Wrote or co-wrote four (of 13) songs here, buried in a mix of blues, Jobim, Dylan/Band, and others (James Taylor and Jimmy Webb the best known). B+(*)

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Live (2000-02 [2003], Jazzland): Seven tracks averaging 10+ minutes, recorded with various groups, at least four separate occasions and/or locales, but the electronic drum effects keep them all flowing -- a rhythm I find irresistible. No horns, only one cut with guitar (the longest, "Live at Blå," with John Scofield), but the keyboardist can go there whenever he wants. A-


Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at
  • [sc] available at
  • [sp] available at

Monday, September 24, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30365 [30328] rated (+37), 273 [277] unrated (-4).

Seemed likely to me that the rated count would fall this week, but I kept plugging at it, mostly picking records from Napster's Featured list, and they added up, even offering a couple surprises. Actually, early on I wrapped up the last of the Nate Chinen picks I could find, winding up with only 5 (of 129) records unrated (Ben Allison, Tim Berne, Wynton Marsalis, Hedvig Mollestad, Mike Moreno). I also checked out one of the late Big Jay McNeely's compilations -- picked the one with dates in the title, although I checked them against his singles discography to be sure. Don't recall why I didn't go further, but it wasn't easy figuring out when various things were recorded.

The Featured list did get me to new vault tapes from Stella Chiweshe, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard, and Prince -- none extraordinary. I also noticed a Bikini Kill album -- one that I had already heard, but I took another look for two that I had missed that Christgau had A-listed, and found them (after having missed them previously). I actually wound up liking their early demo tape (Revolution Girl Style Now) even more. Also new on Napster is Posi-Tone, a mainstream jazz label run by Marc Free. I got their records for a while, but largely stopped paying them any heed when service went to download-only. Streaming is enough easier to get me interested again, and the Art Hirahara album is a big step forward -- I would say a big surprise, but I never doubted Donny McCaslin could play this well. (I've just never heard it on any of his own records.)

Best of the B+(***) records is probably Dafnis Prieto's album. I'm feeling a little guilty about not giving it another spin, but just not that up for Latin big band. (Could say the same thing for Eddie Palmieri's Full Circle, which could be one of his best.) Didn't pay much attention to the new jazz queue this past week -- partly due to a clutter/misfiling lapse, and partly because I've been playing Ben Webster's Soulville nearly every morning. Guess it's time to nudge that grade up to A+.

Rough week for me, both physically and mentally. Had to work on the old car to get it to start, and decided I also needed to wash it. Also wound up washing the not-quite-so-old car -- jobs that were easy a decade ago but grueling these days. Another task I finally tackled last week was installing new insulation on the coolant pipes on a mini-split air conditioner. Back in July when the main AC went out, we noticed that the insulation on the mini had worn out and split, causing it to ice up and reducing its effectiveness. Back then a friend helped me tear out the old and install new, but I couldn't find the right size material, and made a mess out of it, with the oversized material not fitting into the raceway.

I had to go shopping for new insulation tubes and possibly a new raceway. I eventually found some 3/8-inch split tubes with tape closure, so bought them. I tore the old mess out, installed the new insulation, and eventually was able to tuck it all inside the old raceway (with a few extra cuts). Took 4-5 hours, plus another trip to the hardware store, but finally got it done. Another day I was worn out at the end of. Also doesn't totally fix the cooling problem, but does make it a bit better. By the time I got it done, the heat spell had broken, so I may be able to put off getting it serviced until next year.

Mental stress is harder to explain. Did a couple of things on the server, but still way short of the necessary tasks. Did a minor update, including a new XgauSez, on the Robert Christgau website, but still haven't straightened out the links and filled in the missing stubs for Carola Dibbell. One of the XgauSez questions was about jazz albums of the 1950s/1960s, and Christgau referred to my website for suggestions. Best link I could offer him was this one, but it really doesn't answer the question. So after fretting several days, I started working on a better answer page, but that's turned out to be a lot more work than I've been able to do. I did a preliminary sort for the 1950s and 1960s, but only based on the one database file linked above. Took a lot of time to get next to nothing.

Also spent some time collecting music notes and non-jazz album reviews from the Notebook. Picked up about a year over the course of a week, bringing me up to February 2013. Close to 1000 pages in each volume (actually, 1015 + 1308). At least those projects are straightforward, things I can keep plodding at, and in fairly short order get done.

What bothers me more are the things I can't get started. I still have people I want to call about my sister's death back in March, and others I called them but haven't since. I've been hoping to visit family in Oklahoma and Arkansas since, well, it's been more than two years since I've gotten out of town. I've been meaning to reorganize my cookbooks, and clean out and update my spice racks -- bought new bottles for that more than a year ago. I'm bothered that I haven't even looked at the stack of library books I have due Wednesday (including Chris Hedges' America: The Farewell Tour and David Cay Johnston's It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America; probably nothing in those I don't already know, but I'm certainly could learn something from Ajax Hacks: Tips & Tools for Creating Responsive Web Sites -- well, pub date was 2006, so may be kind of obsolete.) Probably going to wind up sending them all back, only one (mostly) read.

Nor do I anticipate this week becoming suddenly productive. Actually, just the opposite. A Russian friend wanted me to help do some down-home cooking, so I'll be whipping up an assortment of zakuski, side dishes, and a dessert for Friday night dinner. Will probably do something horrible to my back, but otherwise should be fun . . . at last.

New records rated this week:

  • Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist: Together (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Eminem: Kamikaze (2018, Aftermath/Shady/Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy F Gibbons: The Big Bad Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art Hirahara: Sunward Bound (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: A-
  • Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (2018, Mobile Home): [r]: A-
  • Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (2018, Capitol): [r]: B-
  • Mike Moreno: 3 for 3 (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
  • Willie Nelson: My Way (2018, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (2018, Dafnison): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kristjan Randalu: Absence (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ratatet: Heroes, Saints and Clowns (2017 [2018], Ridgeway): [cd]: B
  • Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B
  • Szun Waves: New Hymn to Freedom (2016-17 [2018], The Leaf Label): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Live (2016 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Webb: Fast Friends (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft/Prins Thomas: Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (2018, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mike Westbrook: Starcross Bridge (2017 [2018], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Stella Chiweshe: Kasahwa: Early Singles (1974-83 [2018], Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 (1965-69 [2018], Free Dirt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Prince: Piano and a Microphone 1983 (1983 [2018], NPG/Warner Bros.): [r]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now (1991 [2015], Bikini Kill): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill (1992, Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bikini Kill: Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bikini Kill: The Singles (1993-95 [1998], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Terence Blanchard: Bounce (2003, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Cookers: Warriors (2011, Jazz Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Huggy Bear: Our Troubled Youth (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B
  • Ahmad Jamal: In Search of Momentum (2003, Birdology/Dreyfus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lionel Loueke: Virgin Forest (2006 [2007], ObliqSound): [r]: B+(*)
  • Big Jay McNeely: The Best Of (1948-1956) (1946-58 [2010], Master Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trygve Seim: Different Rivers (1998-99 [2000], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Loren Stillman + Bad Touch: Going Public (2012 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz (1995-96 [1997], Jazzland): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: It's Snowing on My Piano (1997, ACT): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Live (2000-02 [2003], Jazzland): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Abundance (Anzic): October 5
  • Colin Edwin & Lorenzo Feliciati: Twinscapes Vol. 2: A Modern Approach to the Dancefloor (RareNoise): advance, October 26
  • Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12): November 2
  • John Moulder: Decade: Memoirs (Origin)
  • Anne Sajdera: New Year (Bijuri): November 2
  • Tyshaw Sorey: Pillars (Firehouse 12, 3CD): October 12
  • Mike Steinel Quintet: Song and Dance (OA2)
  • Brad Whiteley: Presence (Destiny): October 5

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Got a late start this week, figuring I'd just go through the motions, but got overwhelmed, as usual.

Was reminded on twitter that Liz Fink died three years ago. Also pointed to this video biography. I couldn't tell whether the dog snoring sounds were in the video, given that the same dog was camped out under my desk (not the poodle pictured in the video, the legendary Sheldon).

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: Kavanaugh and Trump are part of a larger crisis of elite accountability in America: Two pretty good quotes here. The first gives you most of the background you need to judge Kavanaugh:

    An honest look at his career shows that it's extraordinarily undistinguished.

    Born into a privileged family that was well-connected in Republican Party politics, Kavanaugh coasted from Georgetown Prep, where he was apparently a hard partier, into Yale, where he joined the notoriously hard-partying secret society Truth & Courage, and then on to Yale Law School.

    Soon after graduating, he got a gig working for independent counsel Ken Starr -- a plum position for a Republican lawyer on the make because the Starr inquiry was supposed to take down the Clinton administration. Instead, it ended up an ignominious, embarrassing failure, generating an impeachment process that was so spectacularly misguided and unpopular that Democrats pulled off the nearly impossible feat of gaining seats during a midterm election when they controlled the White House.

    Kavanaugh clerked for Alex Kozinski, an appeals court judge who was well known to the lay public for his witty opinions and well known to the legal community as a sexual harasser. When the sexual harassment became a matter of public embarrassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Kavanaugh professed to have simply not noticed anything amiss -- including somehow not remembering Kozinski's dirty jokes email distribution list.

    Despite this inattention to detail, Kavanaugh ended up in the George W. Bush White House, playing a critical behind-the-scenes role as staff secretary to an administration that suffered the worst terrorist attack in American history, let the perpetrator get away, invaded Iraq to halt the country's nonexistent nuclear weapons program, and destroyed the global economy.

    Kavanaugh then landed a seat on the DC Circuit Court, though to do so, he had to offer testimony that we now know to have been misleading regarding his role in both William Pryor's nomination for a different federal judgeship and the handling of some emails stolen from Democratic Party committee staff. On the DC Circuit, he issued some normal GOP party-line rulings befitting his career as a Republican Party foot soldier.

    Now he may end up as a Supreme Court justice despite never in his life having been involved in anything that was actually successful. He has never meaningfully taken responsibility for the substantive failures of the Starr inquiry or the Bush White House, where his tenure as a senior staffer coincided with both Hurricane Katrina and failed Social Security privatization plan as well as the email shenanigans he misled Congress about, or for his personal failure as a bystander to Kozinski's abuses.

    He's been a man on the make ever since his teen years, and has consistently acted with the breezy confidence of privilege.

    The second quote wraps Trump up neatly. Every now and then you need to be reminded that however much you loathe Trump personally, his actual track record is even more nefarious than you recall:

    The most striking thing about Trump's record, in my view, is how frequently he has been caught doing illegal things only to get away without paying much of a price. His career is a story of a crime here, a civil settlement there, but never a criminal trial or anything that would deprive him of his business empire or social clout.

    Back in 1990, he needed an illegal loan from his father to keep his casinos afloat. So he asked for an illegal loan from his father, received an illegal loan from his father, and was caught by the New Jersey gaming authorities receiving said illegal loan from his father. But nothing really happened to him as a result. He paid a $65,000 fine and moved on.

    This happened to Trump again and again before he began his political career. From his empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos to racial discrimination in his apartments to Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases to Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed.

    When he was caught engaging in illegal racial discrimination to please a mob boss, he paid a fine. There was no sense that this was a repeated pattern of violating racial discrimination law, and certainly no desire to take a closer look at his various personal and professional connections to the Mafia.

    If Trump had been a carjacker or a heroin dealer, this rap sheet would have had him labeled a career criminal and treated quite harshly by the legal system. But operating under the rules of rich-guy impunity, Trump remained a member of New York high society in good standing -- hosting a television show, having Bill and Hillary Clinton attend his third wedding as guests, etc. -- before finally leaning into his lifelong dalliances with racial demagoguery to become president.

    Over the course of that campaign, he wasn't only credibly accused of several instances of sexual assault -- he was caught on tape confessing -- but he won the election anyway, and Congress has shown no interest in looking into the matter.

    Other Yglesias pieces:

    More Kavanaugh links:

  • Michelle Alexander: We Are Not the Resistance: New NY Times opinion columnist, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), the book that brought its subject into mainstream political discourse. Here she bravely tries to turn the table, arguing "Donald Trump is the one who is pushing back against the new nation that's struggling to be born."

    Resistance is a reactive state of mind. While it can be necessary for survival and to prevent catastrophic harm, it can also tempt us to set our sights too low and to restrict our field of vision to the next election cycle, leading us to forget our ultimate purpose and place in history.

    The disorienting nature of Trump's presidency has already managed to obscure what should be an obvious fact: Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not.

    Those of us who are committed to the radical evolution of American democracy are not merely resisting an unwanted reality. To the contrary, the struggle for human freedom and dignity extends back centuries and is likely to continue for generations to come. . . .

    Donald Trump's election represents a surge of resistance to this rapidly swelling river, an effort to build not just a wall but a dam. A new nation is struggling to be born, a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.

  • Daniel Bessner: What Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Think About the South China Sea? Sub hed is more to the point: "the rising left needs more foreign policy. Here's how it can start." Basic point:

    Left-wing politics is, at its heart, about giving power to ordinary people. Foreign policy, especially recently, has been about the opposite. Since the 1940s, unelected officials ensconced in bodies like the National Security Council have been the primary makers of foreign policy. This trend has worsened since the Sept. 11 attacks, as Congress has relinquished its oversight role and granted officials in the executive branch and the military carte blanche. Foreign policy elites have been anything but wise and have promoted several of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history, including the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

    The left should aim to bring democracy into foreign policy. This means taking some of the power away from the executive and, especially, White House institutions like the National Security Council and returning it to the hands of Congress. In particular, socialist politicians should push to reassert Congress's long-abdicated role in declaring war, encourage more active oversight of the military and create bodies that make national security information available to the public so that Americans know exactly what their country is doing abroad.

    Bessner goes on to outline four areas: Accountability, Anti-militarism, Threat deflation, and Internationalism. That's a good start, an outline for a book which I'd like to see but could probably write myself. One thing that isn't developed enough is why this matters. US foreign policy has always been dominated by business interests -- the Barbars Wars, the War of 1812, and the "Open Door" skirmishes in East Asia were all about supporting US traders, the Mexican and Spanish Wars were more nakedly imperialist; even after WWII, CIA coups in Guatemala and Iran had clear corporate sponsors. Such ventures had little domestic effect -- a few special interests benefited, but unless they escalated into world wars few ordinary Americans were affected. That changed after WWII, when the anti-communist effort was broadly directed against labor movements, and wound up undermining worker representation here, concentrating corporate power and dragging domestic politics to the right, subverting democracy and increasing inequality. Finance and trade policies were even more obviously captured by corporate interests. Corporations went global, exporting capital to more lucrative markets abroad. US trade deficits were tolerated because the profits could be returned to the investment banks and hedge funds that dominated the elite 1%. Meanwhile, nearly constant war coarsened and brutalized American society, making us meaner and more contemptuous, both of other and of ourselves. Harry Truman started the Cold War and wound up destroying our own middle class. GW Bush started the Global War on Terror, and all we have to show for it is Donald Trump -- a seething bundle of contradictions, blindly lashing out at the foreign policy he inherited and totally in thrall to it. So sure, the Rising Left needs a new foreign policy, and not just because the world should be treated better but because we should treat ourselves better too.

  • Sean Illing: Americans have a longstanding love of magical thinking: One more in a long series of superficial interviews with authors of recent books. This one is with Kurt Andersen, whose Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire intrigued me as possibly insightful in the Trump era -- still, when I thumbed through the book, it struck me as possibly just glib and superficial, or maybe just too obvious. It's long been clear to me that in 1980 America voted for a deranged fantasy (Reagan) over sober reality (Carter), and since then it's been impossible to turn back -- not least because the Clinton-Obama Democrats have chosen to fight conservative myths with neoliberal ones. Andersen quote:

    I've been familiar with Trump for a long time, and I was one of the first people to write about him back in the '80s. I started paying attention to him before a lot of other people did. There's nothing there. He's a showman, a performance artist. But he's a hustler like P.T. Barnum.

    As I was writing this book in 2014 and 2015, I saw that Trump was running for president and I realized, about halfway through the book, that I had to reckon with this stupid -- but deadly serious -- candidacy.

    Watching it was strange, though. I was finishing the book and getting to the part about modern politics, and here's Trump about to win the nomination. It was as though I had summoned some golem into existence by writing this history, of which he, as you say, is the apotheosis.

  • Umair Irfan: Ryan Zinke to the oil and gas industry: "Our government should work for you": And Zinke's department, to say the least, already does.

    Irfan has also been following Hurricane Florence. See: Hurricane Florence's "1,000-year" rainfall, explained; and Hog manure is spilling out of lagoons because of Hurricane Florence's floods. Coal ash is another concern: Steven Murfson/Brady Dennis/Darryl Fears: More headaches as Florence's waters overtake toxic pits and hog lagoons; and, following up, Dam breach sends toxic coal ash flowing into a major North Carolina river; also: Kelsey Piper: How 3.4 million chickens drowned in Hurricane Florence.

  • Naomi Klein: There's Nothing Natural About Puerto Rico's Disaster. In many ways you can say the same thing about North Carolina's disaster, although Puerto Rico had to face a much more powerful storm with a lot less government aid.

  • German Lopez: There have been 263 days in 2018 -- and 262 mass shootings in America.

  • Dana Milbank: America's Jews are watching Israel in horror. Not a columnist I regularly read, least of all on Israel, but take this as a signpost that in Israel "the rise of ultranationalism tied to religious extremism, the upsurge in settler violence, the overriding of Supreme Court rulings upholding democracy and human rights, a crackdown on dissent, harassment of critics and nonprofits, confiscation of Arab villages and alliances with regimes -- in Poland, Hungary and the Philippines -- that foment anti-Semitism" is beginning to worry some previously staunch supporters.

    A poll for the American Jewish Committee in June found that while 77 percent of Israeli Jews approve of Trump's handling of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, only 34 percent of American Jews approve. Although Trump is popular in Israel, only 26 percent of American Jews approve of him. Most Jews feel less secure in the United States than they did a year ago. (No wonder, given the sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents and high-level winks at anti-Semitism, from Charlottesville to Eric Trump's recent claim that Trump critics are trying to "make three extra shekels.") The AJC poll was done a month before Israel passed a law to give Jews more rights than other citizens, betraying the country's 70-year democratic tradition.

    On the other hand:

    Netanyahu is betting Israel's future on people such as Pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, featured at the ceremony for Trump's opening of the Jerusalem embassy. Hagee once said "Hitler was a hunter" sent by God to drive Jews to Israel. Pro-Israel apocalypse-minded Christians see Israel as a precursor to the second coming, when Jews must convert or go to hell.

    On the other hand, for the one Jewish-American who counts the most (to Trump, anyway): Jeremy W Peters: Sheldon Adelson Sees a Lot to Like in Trump's Washington.

  • Trita Parsi: The Ahvaz terror attack in Iran may drag the US into a larger war: On the same day that Trump Lawyer Giuliani Says Iran's Government Will Be Overthrown, gunmen attacked a parade in Ahvaz (southwestern Iran, a corner with a large Arabic population), killing 29. Iran's Rouhani blames US-backed Gulf states for military parade attack, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE -- the prime movers of the US-backed intervention in Yemen. This follows the September 7 fire-bombing of the Iranian consulate in Basra, Iraq, which in turn follows months of bellicose talk directed by the Trump administration (e.g., Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and Giuliani) at Iran, following constant lobbying by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel to get the US to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

  • Dick Polman: Donald Trump Might Be the 'Client From Hell': That's almost a commonplace by now, this article repeating all of the usual charges except the one that Trump doesn't pay his bills. Early on I doubted the investigation would ever get anywhere near Trump, but Sessions had to recuse himself after getting caught in a lie about not meeting any Russians, then Trump tried to intercede for Flynn and wound up throwing himself into the fray by firing Comey. Even so, Trump could have sat tight and let a few of his underlings get sacrificed. However, it's never just been a legal issue for Trump. It's also a political one, and he seems to intuitively grasp that he can spin the investigation as a "witch hunt" and rally his base with that. To some extent he's succeeded doing just that, and in so doing he's galvanized his base against an ever-expanding array of scandals. But his base, even having captured nearly all of the Republican Party faithful, is still a minority position. And to pretty much everyone else, he's managed to look guilty as hell. By looking and acting guilty, he's inviting further investigation. A lawyer who's any good would worry about the legal exposure, and keep it as far as possible away from the spotlight. On the other hand, Trump's main lawyer right now is Rudy Giuliani, a flack who like Trump is primarily interested in political gain.

  • Andrew Prokop: The Times's big new Rod Rosenstein story has major implications for Mueller's probe: Seems overblown as a story. Even if it's true, which I wouldn't bet on, it's a big jump from wondering whether the president is competent to using his office to unfairly plot against Trump. On the other hand, the firing of Andrew McCabe shows that there are powerful people in the Trump administration who are willing to use innuendo and gossip to punish DOJ employees they consider hostile to Trump.

  • Alex Ward: Trump's China strategy is the most radical in decades -- and it's failing. Also related: Dean Baker: Trump's Tariffs on Chinese Imports Are Actually a Tax on the US Middle Class. I think both of these pieces are overstated, but more important miss the main point. China has an industrial policy, while the US doesn't (well, except for arms and, barely, agribusiness). To boost exports, you need two things: supply, and an open market. The Chinese government works both sides of that equation, as indeed does the government of nation with a successful export-led growth program. So when China gains access to a market, China has made sure that it has companies producing products for that market. US trade treaties try to open markets for American exporters, but they do little to develop suppliers -- they expect capitalism to magically fill the supply gap, which could happens but most often won't. Nor is the problem there simply that the US doesn't have an industrial policy to make sure we're building products we can successfully export. It's also that US corporations are free to invest their capital elsewhere -- basically wherever they expect the highest return. And there is no real pressure on them to reinvest their profits in American workers -- either from the government or labor unions. So, Trump is right when he complains that China has been ripping us off for many years. However, he doesn't have the right tools for turning this around, and with his carte blanche for corporate power he refuses to even consider doing what needs to be done. But that doesn't mean that someone who cared about American workers couldn't do much better.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30328 [30295] rated (+33), 277 [271] unrated (+6).

Had a rough week, including a moment when all of the stress I had been accumulating seemed to implode, then emanate outward in a scream and a shudder. One thing that did break was my progress through the new jazz queue. I ran into an album that under the circumstances was unbearable. I imagine I'll go back to it later this week and give it a fair shake, but that wasn't going to happen last week. Instead, I slipped two CDs into the changes, choice encounters between saxophonist and pianist -- Lester Young and Oscar Peterson for starters, then Ben Webster with Art Tatum -- and that's remained my wake-up ritual ever since: long enough for breakfast, reading what's left of the local newspaper, and a little work on the jigsaw puzzle. Later in the day I'd pull up some jazz on Napster, or if I needed to get away from the computer, some r&b from the travel cases. Somehow managed to fix a nice dinner for the people who were kind enough to tear down and pack my late sister's big art project -- currently in a truck on the road to Vancouver, WA. Greek shrimp, green beans, salad, rice, and an applesauce cake, as I recall.

Wound up with mostly old jazz this week, in most cases starting with albums Nate Chinen picked as the "129 Essential [Jazz] Albums of the Twenty-First Century." I copied them down, checked my database, and figured out I hadn't heard nearly a sixth of them (21, so 16.2%). I've since knocked that down to five that don't seem to be on Napster. In some cases my curiosity led me to related albums, picking up two extra albums by Danilo Pérez and John Scofield, one by Cassandra Wilson, but none of those cases filled in all of the holes in my listening. The one exception was Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) -- not coincidentally the only of the 16 records to get an A- -- and they got me to take another look at the great Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. I've made a couple of previous dives through her catalog, especially the piano-drum duos (I especially recommend the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre), so much of what was left was solo -- something I rarely follow well let alone get into, but she's really special. Also gave me an excuse to dig deeper into her label, Intakt -- something I've long wanted to do.

One thing I did manage to do (in an unsatisfying, hacked up way) last week was set up WordPress for Notes on Everyday Life. I had previously built websites for this domain in 2004 based on Drupal and in 2014 based on WordPress, but both were eventually wiped out in server catastrophes. Neither was a major loss, in that the writing also existed in my notebook. So I was pleased that I found the "Intro" I wrote in 2014, but I got confused by the default widget setup so it's still not usable. I have a half-assed idea to fill it up with fragments from old notebooks, hoping that the category and tag system will bind those bits into more coherent wholes. Given that I've already gone through and collected the political writings, it should be relatively straightforward to start picking things out.

I have two more WordPress blogs to set up, including one for music writings. Would like some advice and direction on the latter, and ultimately some help. I've continued to collect music writings and non-jazz reviews into book form. I'm up to 2012 now, with close to 2000 pages in two books, so there's quite a bit of content that could be used as a starting point.

New records rated this week:

  • Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through Florida (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (2018, Ars Spoletium): [r]: A-
  • Joey Morant: Forever Sanctified (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (2018, Chronograph): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Logan Richardson: Blues People (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B-
  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (2018, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B-
  • Jay T. Vonada: United (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • VWCR [Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey]: Noise of Our Time (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • David Binney: South (2000 [2001], ACT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Blade Fellowship: Perceptual (2000, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chicago Underground Quartet: Chicago Underground Quartet (2000 [2001], Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer: Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo (2001 [2002], ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joëlle Léandre/Yves Robert/Irène Schweizer/Daunik Lazro: Paris Quartet (1985-87 [1989], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maggie Nicols/Irène Schweizer/Joëlle Léandre: Les Diaboliques (1993 [1994], Intakt): [r]: B
  • Danilo Pérez: Danilo Pérez (1992 [1993], Jive/Novus): [r]: B+(*)
  • Danilo Pérez: PanaMonk (1996, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Danilo Pérez: Motherland (2000, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas (1976 [1977], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Hexensabbat (1977 [1978], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas/Hexensabbat (1976-77 [2002], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Live at Taktlos (1984 [1906], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 1 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 2 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Many and One Direction (1996, Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Irène Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau & Taktlos (1998-2004 [2007], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • John Scofield: Blue Matter (1986 [1987], Gramavision): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Scofield: Hand Jive (1993 [1994], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Scofield: Works for Me (2000 [2001], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Co Streiff/Irène Schweizer: Twin Lines (1999-2000 [2002], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3: Encounter (1999 [2001], Passin' Thru): [r]: A-
  • Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer: Berne Concert (2007 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3 + Geri Allen: At This Time (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Cassandra Wilson: Blue Skies (1988. JMT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (2002, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alchemy Sound Project: Adventures in Time and Space (ARC)
  • Danny Bacher: Still Happy (Whaling City Sound)
  • Jake Ehrenreich: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs (self-released)
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (Pi): October 5
  • The Marie Goudy 12tet featuring Jocelyn Barth: The Bitter Suite (self-released): October 12
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan): September 21
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (Creative Nation Music): November 9
  • Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (Ropeadope): October 12
  • Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (Alister Spence Music)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Once again, way too much to report to cover in the limited time I left myself this weekend. Especially given that I had to take a few hours out to attend a talk by Lawrence Wittner on How Peace Activists Saved the World from Nuclear War. As Wittner, author of at least three books on anti-nuke protests, pointed out, the main factor inhibiting nuclear powers from using their expensive weapons was fear of public reproach, something that was made most visible by the concerted efforts of anti-war and anti-nuke activists. Needless to say, he pointed out that this struggle is far from over, and arguably may have lost some ground with Trump in power. Trump, indeed, seems to be triply dangerous on this score: fascinated with the awesome power of nuclear weapons, convinced of his instincts for holding public opinion, and indifferent to whatever harm he might cause.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Scattered pieces by Matthew Yglesias:

    • Who's overrated and who's underrated as a 2020 Democratic presidential prospect? The one piece I care least about, partly because I think that it's far more important for Democrats to elect federal and state legislators, and for that matter state and local administrators, than the president. Most issues can be ranked on two axes: importance and urgency. The presidential election isn't until 2020, even including the seemingly interminable primary season, whereas there are important elections happening real soon. But also, and one can point to at least 25 years of experience here, I'd much rather have a solid Democratic Congress than a crippled Democratic president (which is a charitable description of the last two, maybe three). But if you are curious, the current betting lines (and that's really all they are) rank: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, Opray Winrey, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy. Nothing but minor nits in the article: Yglesias argues for Klobuchar vs. Gillibrand; Dylan Matthews for Michael Avenati vs. Winfrey; Ezra Klein advises "buy [LA mayor Eric] Garcetti, sell [CA governor Jerry] Brown." Previous editions of this article -- it promises to stick with us like a bad cough -- aimed higher, arguing that Harris is overrated vs. Sanders, that Biden and Kaine should be more evenly matched, and that Cuomo has pretty clearly blown his shot (he's since pretty definitively announced he's not running).

    • Andrew Cuomo has won himself another term, but his presidential aspirations are dead: "Somewhat ironically, it was actually Cuomo's presidential aspirations that, in retrospect, have ended up dooming his presidential aspirations. . . Cuomo zigged [right] when the national party zagged [left]." The good news for him was that he enjoyed a 20-to-1 fundraising advantage over challenger Cynthia Nixon, as well as solid support from what remains of the Democratic Party machine in New York. In short, he won his primary the same way Clinton defeated Sanders in New York in 2016. Also see: Matt Taibbi: Cuomo's Win: It's All About the Money.

    • George W. Bush is not a resistance leader -- he's part of the problem:

      The best way to think about Bush-style pseudo-resistance is that it's a hedge against the risk that the Trumpian political project collapses disastrously.

      In that case, Republicans are going to do what they've done so many times before and keep all their main policy commitments the same but come up with some hazy new branding.

      After the Gingrich-era GOP was rejected at the polls in 1998 as too mean-spirited, Bush came into office as a warm and fuzzy "compassionate conservative." When he left office completely discredited, a new generation of GOP leaders came to the fore inspired by the hard-edged libertarianism of the Tea Party and its critique of "crony capitalism." That then gave way to Donald Trump, a "populist" and "nationalist," who coincidentally believes in all the same things about taxes and regulation as a Tea Party Republican or a compassionate conservative or a Gingrich revolutionary.

      For better or worse (well, okay, for worse) the elite ranks of the American conservative movement are inspired by a fanatical belief that low taxes on rich people constitute both cosmic justice and a surefire way to spark economic growth. This assumption is wrong and also makes it impossible for them to coherently govern in a way that serves the concrete material interests of the majority of the population, leading inevitably to a politics that emphasizes immaterial culture-war considerations with the exact nature of the culture war changing to fit the spirit of the times.

      The disagreement over whether Trump is a jerk and the more nice-guy approach of Bush is better is a genuine disagreement, but it's fundamentally a tactical one. When the chips are on the table, Bush wants Trump to succeed. He just wants the world to know that if Trump does fail, there's another path forward for Republicans that doesn't involve rethinking any of their main ideas.

    • The controversy over Bernie Sanders's proposed Stop BEZOS Act, explained: "You need to take him seriously, not literally." The proposed act is just a way of showing (and with Amazon personalizing) the fact that one reason many companies can get away with paying workers less than a living wage is that many of those workers can compensate for low wages with the public-funded "safety net" -- food stamps, medicaid, etc. Such benefits not only help impoverished workers; they also effectively subsidize their employers. Of course, there are better ways to solve this problem, and indeed Sanders is in the forefront of pushing those ways. (Also see: James Bloodworth: I worked in an Amazon warehouse. Bernie Sanders is right to target them.)

  • Jon Lee Anderson: What Donald Trump Fails to Recognize About Hurricanes -- and Leadership: Before the storm hit, Trump tried to do the right thing and use his media prominence to make sure people were aware of the threat Hurricane Florence posed: as he most memorably put it, the storm "is very big and very wet." But aside from that one public service bit, everything else he made about himself, bragging about his "A+" damage control efforts in Texas and Florida last year, and blaming the disaster in Puerto Rico on Democrats and "fake news." I doubt that FEMA has ever done that great of a job, especially in an era where public spending is shrinking in addition to being eaten up by corruption (while at the same time disasters are becoming ever more expensive), but having the program run by people as insensitive and deceitful as Trump only makes matters worse.

    By the way, this has been a rather weird hurricane season, with more activity in the Pacific (including two major hurricanes impacting Hawaii, and, currently Typhoon Mangkhut ravages Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern China), while most Atlantic storms have been taking unusual routes (which partly explains why they've been relatively mild). It's not unusual for storms to follow the East Coast from Florida up through the Carolinas, but I can't recall any previous storm hitting North Carolina from straight east, then moving southwest and stalling before eventually curving north and back out to sea, as Florence is doing. (Wikipedia says Hurricane Isabel, in 2003, "took a similar path," but actually it came in from further south, with more impact in Virginia.) While Florence has caused a lot of damage to the Carolinas so far, one thing you should keep in mind is that winds there have generally been 70-80 mph less than what hit Puerto Rico a year ago. More rain and flooding, perhaps, but much less wind.

    More links on hurricanes, past and present:

  • Dean Baker: The bank bailout of 2008 was unnecessary. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke scared Congress into it. I think Baker's basically right, although at the time I didn't have a big problem with the $700 billion bank bailout bill -- nor, later, using some of the bailout funds to prop up the auto industry. I think it's appropriate for government to step in and prevent the sort of panics and collapse that big business is prone to, but I think it's even more appropriate to provide a strong safety net and a firm universal foundation for all the people who work and live in that economy. The problem is that propping up the banks kept the people who ran them into the ground in power, and once they were rescued, they actively worked against helping anyone else. Obama did manage to get a stimulus spending bill passed, but it was by most estimates less than half of what was actually needed to make up for the recession. (Coincidentally, it was capped at $700 billion, the same figure as the bank bailout bill. The banks, by the way, got way more than $700 billion thanks to Fed policies that basically gave them unlimited cash infusions, possibly as much as $3 trillion.) The recovery was further hampered by a Republican austerity campaign, whipped up by debt hysteria, partly on the hunch that keeping the economy depressed would make Obama, as Mitch McConnell put it, "a one-term president," and partly due to their ardor in shrinking government everywhere (except the military, police, and jails).

    Ten years after the collapse of Lehman, some more links:

    Matthew Yglesias' third Weeds newsletter made the following claim:

    President Obama's No. 1 job was to rescue the ruined economy he inherited, and he didn't do it.

    Yglesias, following an article by Jason Furman, argues that Obama failed because he didn't get Congress to pass an adequate stimulus bill. Congress did pass a $700 billion bill, but much of that was in the form of tax breaks, which turned out to have little effect. The size of the package was almost identical to the bank bailout bill passed under Bush, as if that was some sort of ceiling as to how much the government could spend on any given thing. (It's also very similar in size to the Defense budget, not counting supplemental funding for war operations.) I think it's more accurate to say that Obama did a perfectly adequate job of rescuing the banking industry, but once that was done it was impossible to get sufficient political support to rescue anyone else. Moreover, any hope that the banks, once restored to profitability, would somehow lift the rest of the economy out of the abyss, have been disproven. We might have known that much before, given the extent to which financial profits, even before the recession, were driven by predatory scams. There's no better example of the influence of money on politics, as well as its "I've got mine, so screw yours" ethics.

  • Zack Beauchamp: It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary. In 2010, Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party won a sufficient landslide to not only control Hungary's parliament but to rewrite its constitution, which they proceeded to do in such a way as to rig future elections in their favor, and make it nearly impossible for future governments to undo their policies. When I first read about this, I immediately realized that this would be the model for the Republicans should they ever achieve comparable power in the US. These days, Hungary looks like the model for a whole wave of illiberal despots, with Putin and Trump merely the most prominent.

  • James Fallows: The Passionless Presidency: Fairly long critique of Jimmy Carter's management style by a journalist who spent a couple years as one of Carter's speechwriters: mostly a catalog of idiosyncrasies he never felt the need to reconsider let alone learn from. Carter was one of the smartest and most personally decent people ever elected president, but few people regard him as a particularly good president, either based on results or popularity. It's long been recognized that he voluntarily sacrificed popularity with, for example, his recession-inducing battle against inflation, his appeal for conserving energy, and his Panama Canal treaty (to pick three backlashes Reagan's campaign jumped on. And lately we've had reason to question some of his goals and intentions, like his deregulation efforts, his undermining of trade unions, and his escalation of American "security interests" in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Fallows dances around these issues, partly by never really concerning himself with the substance of Carter's presidency, or for that matter its historical context. One thing that struck me at the time was that Carter started out wanting to find a moral center for US foreign policy, but somehow that quickly decayed into a more intensely moralistic gloss on the policy he inherited (mostly Kissinger's realpolitik with some high-sounding Kennedy-esque catch phrases). The immediate result was a revival of the Cold War in ever more uncompromising terms.

  • Sean Illing: The biggest lie we still teach in American history class: Interview with James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, which came out in 1995 and has sold some two million copies. He says: "The idea that we're always getting better keeps us from seeing those times when we're getting worse." Also:

    For example, if we want to make our society less racist, there are certain things we'll have to do, like we did between 1954 and 1974. During this time, you could actually see our society become less racist both in attitudes and in terms of our social structures.

    If we want to make society more racist, then we can do some of the things we did between 1890 and 1940, because we can actually see our society becoming more racist both in practices and in attitudes. So by not teaching causation, we disempower people from doing anything.

    By teaching that things are pretty much good and getting better automatically, we remove any reason for citizens to be citizens, to exercise the powers of citizenship. But that's not how progress happens.

    Nothing good happens without the collective efforts of dedicated people. History, the way it's commonly taught, has a way of obscuring this fact.

    Also, when asked about "the age of Trump":

    I actually think our situation is far worse than it was in the past. For example, our federal government, under Nixon and Johnson, lied to us about the Vietnam War, but they never made the case that facts don't matter or that my facts are as good as your facts.

    They assumed something had to be seen as true in order to matter, so they lied in order to further their agenda.

    Trump has basically introduced the idea that there is no such thing as facts, no such thing as truth -- and that is fundamentally different. He is attacking the very idea of truth and thereby giving his opponents no ground to stand on at all. That's a very dangerous road to go down, but that's where we are.

    Illing also has a good interview with David Graeber: Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one.

  • Anna North: The striking parallels between Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas: People tend to forget that the main reason Thomas' offenses were so shocking at the time was that he was actually in charge of the government department that was responsible for policing sexual harassment in the workplace. He should, in short, have been uniquely positioned to know the law, and personally bound to follow it. Of course, as a partisan Republican hack, he could care less about such things, but the example gave us a fair glimpse not just into his personal character but into his future legacy as a jurist. Kavanaugh's"#MeToo" problem (see Bonan Farrow/Jane Mayer: A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress) doesn't strike me as of quite the same order, but there is a real parallel between how Thomas and Kavanaugh were groomed as political cadres infiltrating the Supreme Court. And confirming Kavanaugh will give him the opportunity to do something vastly more destructive to American women than he could ever have done in person. My main caveat is: don't think that all these guys care about is sexual domination; they're also really into money.

  • Nomi Prins: Cooking the Books in the Trump Universe. Or, as The Nation retitled this piece, "Is Donald Trump's Downfall Hidden in His Tax Returns?"

  • Jim Tankersley/Keith Bradsher: Trump Hits China With Tariffs on $200 Billion in Goods, Escalating Trade War.

  • Sandy Tolan: Was Oslo Doomed From the Start? I would like to think it could have worked, and maybe in Rabin hadn't been killed, and had Clinton taken seriously his role as honest broker, and had the UN (with US consent) weighed in on the illegality of the settler movement, but in retrospect it's clear that Oslo was a weak footing that faced very formidable opposition -- virtually all on the Israeli side (not that the deal lacked for Arab critics). The reason Oslo happened was Israel desperately needed a break and a breather from the Intifada. Rabin's vow to "break the bones" of the Palestinians had turned into a public relations disaster, at the same time as the Bush-Baker administration was exceptionally concerned with building up its Arab alliances. But also, Rabin recognized that Arafat was very weak -- partly because the Intifada had gotten along well without him, partly because his siding with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War undercut his support from other Arab leaders -- and was desperate to cut any kind of deal that would bring him back from exile. Rabin realized that bringing Arafat back was the sort of ploy that would look like a lot while giving up next to nothing. In particular, Rabin could still placate the Israeli right by accelerating the settlement project. Meanwhile, the security services, the settlers, and the right-wing political parties plotted how to kill the deal, and any future prospect for peaceful coexistence. As Nolan notes:

    For me, each successive trip has revealed a political situation grimmer and less hopeful than the time before.

    What's made the situation so grim isn't the demise of "the two-state solution," which only made sense as a way as a stop-gap way to extract most Palestinians from the occupation without demanding any change from Israeli nationalism. What's grim is that more and more Israelis have become convinced that they can maintain a vastly inequal and unjust two-caste hierarchy indefinitely. They have no qualms about violence, which they rationalize with increasingly blatant racism, and for now at least they have few worries about world public opinion -- least of all about the US since Donald Trump, who's been totally submissive to Netanyahu, took office.

    Also see:

  • Max Ajl: Trump's decision to close the PLO Embassy says more about the future of the US than the future of Palestine.

  • Avi Shlaim: Palestinians still live under apartheid in Israel, 25 years after the Oslo accord.

  • Edward Wong: US Is Ending Final Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians.

  • Jon Schwarz/Alice Speri: No One Will Be Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords.

  • James Vincent: EU approves controversial Copyright Directive, including internet 'link tax' and 'upload filter': "Those in favor say they're fighting for content creators, but critics say the new laws will be 'catastrophic.'" For more of the latter position, see Sarah Jeong: New EU copyright filtering law threatens the internet as we knew it. This sounds just extraordinarily awful. In a nutshell, the idea is to force all content on the internet to be monetized, with a clear accounting mechanism so that every actor pays an appropriate amount for every bit of content. In theory this should provide financial incentives for creative people to produce content, confident their efforts will be rewarded. In practice, this will fail on virtually every conceivable level. The most obvious one is that only large media companies will be able to manage the process, and even they will find it difficult and fraught with risk. Conversely, content creators will find it next to impossible to enforce their rights, so in most cases they will sell them cheap to a whole new layer of parasitic copyright trolls. The metadata required to manage this whole process will rival actual content data in mass, and lend itself to all sorts of hacking and fraud. And most likely, all the headaches will drive people away from generating content -- even ones formerly willing to do so gratis -- so the overall universe of content will shrink. It would be much simpler to do away with copyright and try to come up with incentives for creators that don't depend on taxing distribution. That could be combined with funding of alternatives to the current rash of media monopolies, reducing the ability of companies to convert private information into cash.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30295 [30261] rated (+34), 271 [278] unrated (-7).

Pretty average week, maybe skewed a bit more than usual toward jazz, as I continued adding jazz albums to my Music Tracking file (up to 2062 records now, 913 of them jazz). As the week started, I was still playing catch up with the late Randy Weston. After that, new adds to the tracking file steered me to various jazz artists -- Gordon Grdina, Tord Gustavsen, Scott Hamilton, Uwe Oberg. Also made a dent in my incoming queue. Only three non-jazz albums this week -- two from Christgau (who also noted Kali Uchis' Isolation as an HM, but I have it at A-).

I'm not expecting to get much work done this coming week. My late sister's big art project will be dismantled toward the end of the week, and either packed up and hauled somewhere (still, as far as I know, undetermined) or tossed into the trash. Some relatives are likely to show up for this, but I don't have any details. (I'm feeling really out of the loop here.) This summer has been an awful slog for me. Don't know whether I'll be relieved or shattered when the week is over.

Meanwhile, I've dropped the ball on my server project, and for that matter on long-delayed maintenance work on Robert Christgau's website. Probably won't make much progress there until this week's dust settles, but I've started to think about the tasks again, after blanking out a week ago.

Still reading books on Russia, although nothing new is quite as enlightening at David Satter's 2003 book, Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State. Satter's more recent The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep reprises his sensational charge that the FSB was responsible for the 1999 terror bombings of apartments in Moscow (pictured) and elsewhere, providing the perfect provocation for Putin to demolish Chechen independence and consolidate his grip on Russian political power. Of course, this sounds much like so many 9/11 conspiracy theories, especially with its cui bono rationales, but it's hard to imagine how else an unknown insider like Putin could have overcome the morass Boris Yeltsin's presidency had left Russia in. I'm midway through the book, just reading about the massacres in the Moscow theater and the Beslan school. Satter suggests these terrorist attacks may also have been guided by the FSB as provocations -- by this point support for the Chechen War was again flagging, so they laid the ground for another round of Russian escalation -- but thee's less evidence and rationale behind those charges. Later chapters should move on to the Ukraine crisis in 2014, but they are bound to be brief.

Masha Gessen, in The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, follows several (mostly) elite families from Glasnost on -- some semi-famous, most liberal dissenters but also neo-fascist ideologist Alexander Dugin (you might think of him as Putin's Steve Bannon). I think the key thing here is that while she doesn't excuse Yeltsin and Putin, she sees the return to totalitarianism as a mass preference rather than as something the leaders inflicted on the people. Reading the book, it occurred to me that the main reason for this was that 70 years of Communist rule had left people so cynical about the left critique of capitalism that it's since been impossible to form a significant democratic socialist opposition to the self-dealing oligarchy that took over with Yeltsin.

The least satisfactory book is Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, although I did find useful how he tracked Gessen's history from a slightly broader perspective. Snyder is a historian who has specialized in the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to control Eastern Europe (his big book is Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin), but he's never rasped the difference between fascism and communism, so he readily falls for the Cold War ploy of treating both as totalitarianism, making it easy to see Putin as the unification of both evils. He even finds a forgotten philosopher, Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) as the key ideologist behind Putinism. (Gessen, on the other hand, starts with psychological studies of Homo sovieticus, ties them to the "authoritarian personality" studies of Adorno and Arendt, and charts how those traits have persisted under Putin.) Snyder likes to call the Ilyin-Putin idea "the politics of eternity" -- sounds a bit like thousand-year Reich extrapolated to infinity, but smells more like bullshit.

Gessen, by the way, has a piece I should have mentioned yesterday, The Undoing of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin's Friendship, and How It Changed Both of Their Countries. Clinton's decision to bomb what was left of Yugoslavia over Kosovo offended Yeltsin, both by harming an important relationship for Russia and by making Russia look weak and helpless when faced with American hostility. It also re-established NATO as a counter-Russian threat, and set a precedent for the US to unilaterally start wars elsewhere (e.g., Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003). It also changed Russia:

What was seen as a unilateral American decision to start bombing a longtime Russian ally emboldened the nationalist opposition and tapped into a deep inferiority complex. Sensitive to these sentiments, Yeltsin responded that May by celebrating Victory Day with a military parade in Red Square, the first in eight years. In fact, military parades took place all over the country that year, and have been repeated every year since. What was even more frightening were a series of nongovernmental Victory Day parades by ultranationalists. That these public displays, some of which featured the swastika, were tolerated, and in such close proximity to celebrations of the country's most hallowed holiday, suggested that xenophobia had acquired new power in Russia. Later that year, Yeltsin anointed Vladimir Putin his successor and signed off on a renewed war in Chechnya. This offensive, designed to shore up support for the country's hand-picked new leader, was both inspired and enabled by Kosovo. It was a dare to the United States, an assertion that Russia will do what it wants in its own Muslim autonomy.

One thing that should be clear by now is that Clinton and other independent western actors like George Soros actively intervened in Russian politics in the 1990s, in support of Yeltsin, they never cared the least for the welfare of Russia, or even for making their supposed friendly politicians look good. Clinton just assumed that Russia would never be a problem again, no matter how much popular enmity he caused. Bush and Obama took much the same tack with Putin, who actually did a pretty decent job of humoring them as long as that proved possible, but in the end, sure, he pushed back. My evolving view of Putin is that he is a smart, canny politician, careful to maintain his popularity as well as his hand on the levers of power in Russia. But, unlike Snyder, I don't see him as a person of strong ideological conviction. It's true that he embraces various conservative/nationalist positions, but most likely because that's where his natural political base is. He exercises a discomforting degree of control over the media and all forms of political discourse, and he has done some unsavory things with his power, but he also seems to have some sense of limits, unlike many dictators we can recall. In short, he seems like someone the US can work with, and that would be better for all concerned than the recent spiral of escalating offenses.

Still, one should be clear about the ways of power, in Russia, in the United States, everywhere. Change what you can, and don't get suckered into projects that can only make matters worse (e.g., ones involving real or even just mock war).

Recommended music links:

  • The Last of the Live Jazz Reviewers: An Interview With Nate Chinen. Book includes a list of "The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far)." I should dig this list up and see how it jives with my own lists. But for now, note that Chinen has written about some of them here, and is promising more. [PS: Made a stab at this, but can't find the list for 2014-2017, so I only have 100 albums in list: 17 I haven't heard, grade breakdown for rest: A: 2, A-: 23, B+: 44 (16-10-10), B: 7, B-: 5. That's not far from my usual intersection with jazz critics polls, but given that he's only picking 5-7 records per year, and I regularly find over 50 A/A- jazz albums per year, I'm surprised the spread didn't skew a bit higher. ]

New records rated this week:

  • Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (2018, TWIN, EP): [r]: A-
  • Dave Ballou & BeepHonk: The Windup (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Carter/Hilliard Greene/David Haney: Live Constructions (2017 [2018], Slam): [r]: B
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (2018, HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Colligan: Nation Divided (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver (2018, L&H Production, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Fred Frith Trio: Closer to the Ground (2018, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Gordon Grdina/François Houle/Kenton Loewen: Live at the China Cloud (2017, Big in Japan): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Ejdeha (2018, Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott Hamilton: Meets the Piano Players (2016 [2017], Organic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton: The Shadow of Your Smile (2017, Blau): [r]: A-
  • Scott Hamilton: Moon Mist (2018, Blau): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (2018, Moog Recordings Library) **
  • Hinds: I Don't Run (2018, Mom + Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra: Down a Rabbit Hole (2015-17 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Yves Marcotte: Always Know Monk (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ernest McCarty Jr./Theresa Davis: I Remember Love (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Myriad 3: Vera (2018, ALMA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg/Heinz Sauer: Sweet Reason (2017 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Jason Stein: Spiritual Prayers (2018, Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall: Kindred Spirits (2018, Leo, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • University of Toronto 12Tet: When Day Slips Into Night (2018, UofT Jazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (2017 [2018], Chromatic Audio): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra: Turkish Delight (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Changing Places (2001-02 [2003], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rudi Mahall: Quartett (2006 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg: Work (2008 [2015], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Thelonious Monk: Well You Needn't (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Duke Ellington: Caravan (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Self Portraits: The Last Day (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (1992 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995 [1997], Verve): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (Pyroclastic)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (Flatcar/Fontana North)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Weekend Roundup

This is how last week started, with a few choice tidbits from Bob Woodward's new book, Fear: Trump in the White House: Philip Rucker/Robert Costa: Bob Woodward's new book reveals a 'nervous breakdown' of Trump's presidency As Aaron Blake (in The Most damning portrait of Trump's presidency yet -- by far):

Bob Woodward's book confirms just about everything President Trump's critics and those who closely study the White House already thought to be the case inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's also completely stunning.

The book doesn't go public until 9/11 -- wouldn't you like to have been a "fly on the wall" for the marketing sessions that picked that date? -- but not much that's been reported so far is surprising. I've long suspected that Trump ordered a plan to pre-emptively attack North Korea, and that the military brass refused to give him one, but that story didn't strike Blake as important enough to even mention. (He does cite Trump's tantrum over Syria: "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them.") Still, the main effect of the book leaks was simply to get the mainstream press to return to such quickly forgotten stories, and to provoke more reactions to feed the 24-hour cable news cycle.

One such reaction was the now infamous New York Times anonymous op-ed piece, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, reportedly by "a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure." Again, this has mostly been reported as a dis of Trump, but it is actually a very scary document, revealing that even as deranged as Trump is, he's not the most despicable and dangerous person in his administration. When the author claims "like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," they're not doing it out of any sense of higher loyalty to law and the constitution. They're doing it to advance their own undemocratic, rigidly conservative political agenda. And if these people are really "the adults in the room," as competent as they think, they'll probably wind up doing more real harm to the people than Trump could ever do on his own.

Of course, the op-ed launched a huge guessing game as to the author. Trump played along, tweeting something about "TREASON" and urging Atty. General Jeff Sessions to investigate (although on further reflection I doubt he'd really welcome another DOJ investigation of his staff). And, of course, everyone who is anyone in the administration has denied responsibility -- hardly a surprise given that a willingness to stand up for truth and take responsibility for one's actions were disqualifying marks for any Trump administration job. Besides, as John Judis notes, "I'd look for whoever in the administration most vociferously denounces the author of the op-ed."

For an overview, see Andrew Prokop: Who is the senior Trump official who wrote the New York Times op-ed? -- although you'd have to go to the links to come up with possible names and reasons. Jimmy Kimmel noticed the unusual word "lodestar" and came up with a reel of Mike Pence using the word in a half-dozen different speeches. (Colbert ran the same revelation a day later.) Actually, that suggests Pence's speechwriter, whoever that is. Indeed, there are dozens of anonymous little folk you've never heard of scurrying around the West Wing offices, where they could stealthily carry on the "good fight" of enforcing rightist orthodoxy. It's not like anyone had ever heard of Rob Porter before he got fired, but his precise job was to shuffle papers for Trump's signature.

The other thing to remember about Pence is that he was the main person responsible for staffing the Administration after Trump got elected, so he's likely the main reason why all these totally orthodox conservatives have been empowered and turned loose to wreak havoc on the administrative state -- indeed, on the very notion that the government is meant to serve the people and promote the general welfare of the nation.

Additional links on Woodward and/or the Anonymous op-ed:

  • Masha Gessen: The Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed and the Trumpian Corruption of Language and the Media:

    The Op-Ed section is separate from the news operation, but, in protecting the identity of the person who wrote the Op-Ed, the paper forfeits the job of holding power to account. . . . By publishing the anonymous Op-Ed, the Times became complicit in its own corruption.

    The way in which the news media are being corrupted -- even an outlet like the Times, which continues to publish remarkable investigative work throughout this era -- is one of the most insidious, pronounced, and likely long-lasting effects of the Trump Administration. The media are being corrupted every time they engage with a nonsensical, false, or hateful Trump tweet (although not engaging with these tweets is not an option). They are being corrupted every time journalists act polite while the President, his press secretary, or other Administration officials lie to them. They are being corrupted every time a Trumpian lie is referred to as a "falsehood," a "factually incorrect statement," or as anything other than a lie. They are being corrupted every time journalists allow the Administration to frame an issue, like when they engage in a discussion about whether the separation of children from their parents at the border is an effective deterrent against illegal immigration. They are being corrupted every time they use the phrase "illegal immigration."

  • David A Graham: We're Watching an Antidemocratic Coup Unfold: Graham basically agrees with David Frum (see This Is a Constitutional Crisis, a piece I read then decided wasn't important enough to cite) that acts by White House staff to subvert Trump's presidential directives constitute some kind of attack on American democracy, even though they both agree that Trump is crazy, demented, stupid and cruel. I think they're way overreacting. On the one hand, it's simply not reasonable that any president -- even one elected with a much less ambiguous mandate than Trump was -- should have the power to dictate the acts of everyone who works under the executive branch. The fact is that everyone who works for government has to satisfy multiple directives, starting with the constitution and the legal code, and in many cases other professional codes, labor contracts, and job descriptions. On the other hand, every organization involves a good deal of delegation and specialization, and virtually all managers expect subordinates to push back against ill considered directives. Most of the concrete cases Woodward cites are occasions where rejecting Trump's directives is fully appropriate. The author of the "we are the resistance" op-ed is a different case because he (or, unlikely, she) is claiming a higher political right to go rogue, but in the absence of specific cases that isn't even clearly the case. What we probably do agree on is that Trump himself thinks he should have more direct power over his administration than he does in fact have, and this is more painfully obvious than is normally the case because he tends to make exceptionally dreadful decisions, because in turn he's uninformed, impetuous, unwilling to listen to expertise, and unable to reason effectively. Given the kind of person Trump is, occasional staff resistance is inevitable, and should be recognized as the normal functioning of the bureaucracy. (Graham actually cites a previous example of this: "Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, worried by Richard Nixon's heavy drinking, instructed generals not to launch any strikes without his say-so -- effectively granting himself veto power over the president.")

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's paranoid rage is getting worse. But the White House 'resistance' is a sham.<

  • David Von Drehle: The only solid bet is on Trump's panic (but the op-ed was probably Jared): I'm mostly linking to this because my wife's been offering opinions on who did it all week, and her latest pick is Kushner. I don't buy this for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the op-ed reads like the work of an ideological purist -- something I seriously doubt of Kushner. (I also doubt Kushner could write it without a lot of help -- whatever else you may think, it is very well crafted.) On the other hand, the bottom third about the Mueller investigation makes perfect sense, and gives you a lot to think about. The public hasn't seen Trump's tax returns, but "Mueller almost certainly possesses" them. Also financial transaction records from Deutsche Bank, "which also coughed up $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle charges of participating in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme."

Concurrently, the Senate Judiciary Hearing has been holding hearings on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh. Some links:

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: No summary of the week, but he wrote some important pieces this week:

    • John McCain's memorial service was not a resistance event: Cites Susan Glasser's New Yorker article for its ridiculous resistance meme -- something I wrote about last week. As noted, McCain's occasional dissent from Trump rarely had anything to do with policy, and when it did it was usually because Trump has never been as steadfastly pro-war as McCain. (Arguably Trump is so impetuous and erratic he's ultimately more dangerous, but I don't believe that.) Sure, one might imagine a principled conservative opposition to Trump, but Republicans gave up any hint of such principles ages ago (e.g., when Arthur Vanderberg welcomed the military-industrial complex, when Barry Goldwater sided with segregation, when Richard Nixon decided winning mattered more than following the law, when all Reagan and Bush decided to sacrifice abortion rights for political expediency, when right-wing jurists ruled that free speech rights are proportional to money, and that anything that tips an election in your favor is fair play). But it's real hard to find any actual Republican politicians who adhere to such conservative principles. On the other hand, there is a real resistance, not just to Trump but to the whole conservative political movement.

      Also on McCain: Eric Lovitz: John McCain's Service in Vietnam Was a Tragedy.

    • Trump's White House says wages are rising more than liberals think: This gets pretty deep in the weeds, trying to make "the best case for Trump: surging consumer confidence," but concluding "wage growth isn't zero, but it's still pretty low." My hunch is that it feels even worse, because Trump's anti-union and other deregulation efforts are aimed at increasing corporate power both over workers and consumers, while those and other policies shift risk onto individuals.

    • Republicans are preparing to disavow Trump if he fails -- then come back and try the same policies: You've heard this one before: every time conservatives get political power, they screw things up -- Reagan ended in various scandals from HUD to S&Ls to Iran-Contra, Bush I in a rash of short wars and recession, Bush II with his endless wars and even huger recession, and now Trump with his ticking cacophony of time bombs -- but bounce back by claiming that their ideas never got a fair chance. As the subhed puts it, 'Conservatism can never fail, only be failed." Indeed, Trump's catastrophic failure now seems so ordained that some Republicans are already heading for the exits and shelters, preparing themselves for the next wave of resurgent conservatism. Paul Ryan is the most obvious example.

    • Republicans are arguing that Medicare-for-all will undermine Medicare: Same old strategy they've always used, sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to rally the uninformed and easily confused against any proposed change. Still, seems a little far fetched, especially coming from the party that tried to stop Medicare from passing in the first place, the same one that periodically comes up with new schemes to weaken it.

    • Obama wants Democrats to quit their addiction to the status quo. Alternate title, the one actually on the page: "Obama just gave the speech the left's wanted since he left office." Actually, the left wanted him to step up 9-10 years ago, back when he was in a position to do more than just talk. And while he embraces the "new idea" of Medicare for All, ten years ago that was actually better understood program than the one the Democrats passed and Obama got tarred and feathered with. Yglesias wonders how effective Obama speaking out might be. To my mind, the key thing that he's signaling is that mainstream Democrats shouldn't fear the party moving to the left. Rather, they need to keep up with their voters. For more on Obama's speech, see Dylan Scott: The 7 most important moments in Obama's blistering critique of Trump and the GOP: Starts with "It did not start with Donald Trump."

  • Tara Golshan/Ella Nilsen: Trump says a shutdown would be a "great political issue" 2 months from the midterms: On the surface this seems like a monumentally stupid thing to say. I think we've had enough experience lately with playing chicken over budget shutdowns that it's pretty clear that whoever initiates the shutdown loses. If Trump doesn't get this by now, that can only suggest he's, well, some kind of, you know, moron.

  • Dara Lind: Trump's new plan to detain immigrant families indefinitely, explained: Some highlights:

    • Tighten the standards for releasing migrant children from detention
    • Detain families in facilities that haven't been formally approved for licenses
    • Give facilities broad "emergency" loopholes for not meeting standards of care
    • Make it easier for the government to revoke the legal protections for "unaccompanied" children
  • Ernesto Londono/Nicholas Casey: Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers: Takeaway quote: "Maduro has long justified his grip on Venezuela by claiming that Washington imperialists are actively trying to depose him, and the secret talks could provide him with ammunition to chip away at the region's nearly united stance against him." Trump has also talked up staging an outright US military invasion.

  • German Lopez: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's disastrous handling of a police shooting tanked his reelection bid: Emanuel announced he won't run for third term, even though he had already raised $10 million for the campaign.

  • Rick Perlstein/Livia Gershon: Stolen Elections, Voting Dogs and Other Fantastic Fables From the GOP Voter Fraud Mythology: A long history, going back to Operation Eagle Eye, launched by Republicans convinced that the 1960 presidential election was stolen from Richard Nixon.

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's latest rally rant is much more alarming and dangerous than usual:

  • Dylan Scott: The 4 House GOP scandals that could tip the 2018 midterms, explained: Scott Taylor, Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, Rod Blum. "Democrats' 2018 message is that Republicans are corrupt."

  • Felicia Sonmez: Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal: Tempted to file this under Kavanaugh above, given that the key tweet was in response to protesters at the Senate hearings (most of whom were in fact arrested), but the first example in the article refers to him lashing out at "NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, and further examples include the "Giant Trump Baby" in London. Also related: John Wagner: Trump suggests libel laws should be changed after uproar over Woodward book. Actually, changing libel laws to allow him to sue anyone he thinks defamed him was something he campaigned on in 2016 -- something at the time I didn't think stood a chance of passing, but still revealed much about his worldview. Treating dissent and even criticism as criminal is a common trait of the class of political figures we commonly describe as dictators. Trump has long shown great sympathy for such figures, which only adds to the notion that he aspires to be a dictator as well.

  • Kay Steiger: 4 winners and 3 losers from Brett Kavanaugh's many-hour, multi-day confirmation hearings: Simpler version: "Winner: Trump. Loser: women and people of color." Another loser: "civil libertarians," although I'd read that more broadly.

  • Alex Ward: A North Korea nuclear deal looks more likely to happen now. Here's why. The sticking points seem to be matters of who does what first. Advisers like Bolton seem to have convinced Trump that the only way to get Kim to do what he says he wants to do is to keep applying maximum pressure, even though that mostly suggests that the US is the one who can't be trusted to deliver unforced promises. Take the issue of formally ending "the state of war" between the US and North Korea. What possible reason is there for Trump not to do this (and for that matter not to do it unilaterally and unconditionally)? Ward doesn't really provide reasons for optimism on that account, but that North and South are continuing to meet and negotiate in good faith does give one reason for hope. On some level, if both Koreas agree the US should have little say in the outcome.

    Also nominally on Korea, but more directly connected to matters of resistance/insubordination by Administration staff opposed to Trump's "worst inclinations," see: Fred Kaplan: Is Mattis Next Out the Door? Woodward reported that Mattis defused Trump's "Let's kill the fucking lot of them" directive on Syria by directing his staff "we're not going to do any of that." That's not the only case where Mattis has acted to restrain Trump, but this is a case where Mattis is trying to overrule Trump's directive to suspend provocative war exercises in Korea. Evidently Trump got wind of this one and publicly redressed Mattis. That's often the prelude to a purge (although Mattis, like Sessions, could be relatively hard to get rid of).

Not really news, but other links of interest:

  • Mary Hershberger: Investigating John McCain's Tragedy at Sea: Originally published in 2008, so not an obit. Before McCain got shot down over Hanoi, another confusing incident in the navy pilot's accident-prone career. Side note I didn't know:

    [McCain's] first effort at shaping that narrative received a remarkable boost when the May 14, 1973, edition of U.S. News & World Report gave him space for what is perhaps the longest article the magazine had ever run, a 12,000-word piece composed entirely of his unedited and often rambling account of his prisoner-of-war experience. Ever since, McCain has added compelling details at key points in his political career. When his stories are placed beside documented evidence from other sources, significant contradictions often emerge.

    That initial piece was written well before McCain ran for office (1982, AZ-1 House seat; in 1986 he ran for the Senate, succeeding Barry Goldwater). Every politician has a back story, but few have made that story so central to their political ambitions as McCain has.

  • Nathaniel Rich: The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet: A review of William T. Vollmann's magnum opus on global climate change, Carbon Ideologies, a single work published in two volumes, No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative. "Honest" because he regards the fate of life on earth as intractably locked in.

    Most of the extensive interviews that dominate Carbon Ideologies are thus conducted with men who work in caves or pits to produce the energy we waste. If "nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action" (Goethe), these encounters are a waking nightmare. Oil-refinery workers in Mexico, coal miners in Bangladesh, and fracking commissioners in Colorado are united in their shaky apprehension of the environmental damage they do, not to mention the basic facts of climate change and its ramifications. "Mostly their replies came out calm and bland," Vollmann reports, though this doesn't prevent him from recording them at length, nearly verbatim. On occasion his questions do elicit a gem of accidental lyricism, as when an Indian steelworker at a UAE oil company, asked for his views on climate change, replies, "Now a little bit okay, but in future it's very danger." It's hard to improve on that.

    By the way, in What Will Donald Trump Be Remember For? Tom Engelhardt argues that the thing Trump will be longest remembered for is his contribution to the global roasting of the planet. He comes to that conclusion after a long list of the relatively stupid but trivial things Trump gets into the news cycle every day with. Trump's love affair with fossil fuels (especially "beautiful clean coal") will certainly rank as one of those "Nero fiddling while Rome burns" cases, but Engelhardt is also skipping over a harrowing number of less likely but still catastrophic breakdowns, including a major economic depression, several wars (worst case nuclear), some kind of civil war, a military coup, the end of democracy and freedom as we once knew it.

  • Maj. Danny Sjursen: The Fraudulent Mexican-American War (1846-48): A brief history of America's most nakedly imperialist war.

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