Sunday, July 27, 2003
Music: Initial count 8390 rated (+13), 942 unrated (+3).
- James Brown: In the Jungle Groove (1969-72 ,
Polydor). This reissues a 1986 compilation of Brown's circa 1970 peak,
long on long groove tracks. Thought I should at least check to see how
much overlap there is with the essential Star Time: six songs,
none in the same version ("Funky Drummer" twice, both different), which
leaves three songs not in the big box. Other comparisons: Foundations
of Funk has two of these songs (different versions); Funk Power
has two songs ("Get Up, Get Into It and Get Involved" is about the same
length); Make It Funky has one song (different version). A+
- James Brown: Motherlode (1967-76 , Polydor).
Another reissue of another set of leftovers -- some live, some remixes,
some just got lost in the glut. The two bonus cuts are among the hardest.
- Burning Spear: Social Living (1978-80 , Island).
The first US release of Spear's fourth studio album from their (his?)
1975-78 Jack Ruby-produced, Island-distributed period. Research indicates
that the original title was Marcus' Children, and that it was
released in Jamaica in 1978, followed by an Island UK release in 1980
(the only one cited in the notes). But it remained obscure until Blood
& Fire revived it in 1994, a relase I've long treasured. This one
adds two extended mixes, with the reprise of the title track especially
- Burning Spear: Man in the Hills/Dry & Heavy (1976-77
, Island/Chronicles). Two more vintage albums, solid groove, less
pointed message-wise. B+
- Slim Gaillard: Laughing in Rhythm (1937-52 ,
Proper, 4CD). Anyone who wondered what more there might be to Gaillard
beyond Verve's 1994 Laughing in Rhythm comp will welcome this,
which sustains his schtick over four relaxed hours without ever wearing
out its welcome. Turns out that there is quite a bit more -- even if
it is somewhat more of the same. A-
- Globalista: Import-Export (, Trikont).
Songs: Magic System, "Poisson d'Avril" (from Ivory Coast, jumpy disco
number, shades of EW&F); Mohammed, "Selou Rab Bi" (Senegalese
ragga, loose beat, sounds like Arabic hip-hop); Leningrad, "Kogda Net
Deneg" (Russian horns, shades of Gasolin); Panico, "El Combo Corazon"
(garish latino pop, from Chile of all places); Sahraoui, "Je Suis
Naif" (Fadela's Cheb, first-rate rai); Panjabi MC, "Sassi"
(anglo-indian hip-hop, mixed over Bhangra folk); Nil, "Erkekler
Yüzünden" (from Turkey, starts with a classical-sounding
synth/harpsichord thing, shifts time a couple of times, with
interesting vocal tics; very arty, quite remarkable); Adama Yalomba,
"M'Bora" (from Mali, trad intro on kora [Issa Bagayogo?], but breaks
out with more pop, salted with more kora strings); Trebunie Tutki
& Kinior Future Sound, "Nie Patrzcie Przez Lupy" (from Poland,
talky vocal over snazzed up syndrums and fake strings); Anthony B.,
"Not Guilty" (Jamaican dancehall stylee); Java, "Pépètes" (French
hip-hop, which I guess means the samples come from accordions); Cui
Jian, "Caged Bird" (Chinese underground rock -- what other kind is
there?; like Leningrad, this projects aggressively, but with only a
slight hint of Chinese flavor); Dania, "El Hilwa Di (Coucou)"
(Lebanese singer, roughly similar to others with pop backing); La
Rouge, "No Tang Sidong" (Dutch-Surinamese, sort of a speeded-up
conjunto sound, multiple vocal threads, unusual percussion); Los De
Abajo, "El Indio (Macaco Remix)" (Mexican punk band, but this sounds
rather subdued); Macaco, "Pirata De Agua Salada" (Barcelona, again
hip-hop influenced). A-
- Hillbilly Boogie (1939-51 , Proper, 4CD). 100
songs with "boogie" in the title, the light, bright, fun-loving face
opposite to the grim honky tonk revolution that took over country music
in the late '40s. A
- Reverend Charlie Jackson: God's Got It: The Legendary Booker and
Jackson Singles (1970-78 , CaseQuarter). Most of these songs
have a disarming simplicity to them, but Jackson's electric guitar has a
metallic ring, a wee bit of distortion, and the rare fast one like "Morning
Train" sounds like rockabilly. "The Goodness of God" is more sermon than
- Joe Morris Trio: Symbolic Gesture (1993 , Soul
Note). With Nate McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums). This is relatively
minimal support for Morris -- I almost suspect he would be clearer solo,
since the bass in particular tends to disappear, leaving big holes. Turn
it up and it gets a bit better, and Morris cuts loose with some interesting
- Funked Up: The Very Best of Parliament (1974-80 ,
Mercury/Chronicles). By my count, this is the 5th 1-or-2 CD Parliament
comp that Casablanca/Mercury has released. Six cuts longer than the
canonical 10-cut Greatest Hits (originally on LP), the additions
are: "All Your Goodies Are Gone," "Ride On," "Dr. Funkenstein," "Let's
Take It to the Stage" (a Funkadelic song from their live album), "Fantasy
Is Reality," "Agony of Defeet." I score two of those as plusses. 1995's
14-cut The Best of Parliament added "Ride On," "Agony of Defeet,"
"Dr. Funkenstein," and "Let's Play House" to the standard 10. (Although
judging from time, it may have included some longer remixes, which is
what The 12" Collection was intended to cover.) The 2CD Tear
the Roof Off  has 25 cuts, including all 16 here, plus "Testify,"
"Mr. Wiggles," "Party People," "Prelude," "Funkentelechy," "The Big Bang
Theory," "Children of Production," "Rumpofsteelskin," "Funkin' for Fun."
The 11-cut Millennium Edition is the only one that drops anything
from Greatest Hits ("Do That Stuff," "The Black Hole Theme" --
replaced with "Dr. Funkenstein," "Testify," and "Agony of Defeet").
You definitely don't need more than one of the five, and of the three
still in print, this is the least cost-effective. A-
- Parliament: The 12" Collection and More (1974-80 ,
Casablanca). Two alternate versions from Up for the Down Stroke
(title cut and "Testify"), one Parlet ("Ridin' High"), the rest from
their post-Funkenstein albums. Actually, I've never been all that big
a fan of the post-Funkentelechy albums, which always struck me
as funk groove on autopilot. This has the same four songs that always
show up on Parliament comps yet again, but, like, who cares? B
- 6 Degrees of P-Funk: The Best of George Clinton and His Funk
Family (1979-96 , Epic/Legacy). As they point out, at his
late '70s peak, Clinton had deals with all sorts of record companies,
but that doesn't mean that just anyone can pull together a good comp.
Especially a company that he didn't have a deal with, although Sony is
big enough to pretend otherwise. They have a 1996 Clinton album called
T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M., Bootsy's 1988 What's Bootsy Doin?,
and 1983's Urban Dancefloor Guerillas attributed to the P-Funk
All-Stars: three albums, none top rank. But this set is filled out
with other more dubious acts: Junie Morrison, Phillipe Wayne, Mutiny,
the Sweat Band, and Mico Wave, but only Jerome Brailey's Mutiny isn't
fakin'; in fact, he's calling Clinton out. Too bad they didn't put
Mutiny on the Mamaship back in print, but they didn't even get
the title right in the notes. B-
- Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: Sportin' Life Blues
(1940-52 , Proper, 2CD). This digs early into their careers,
starting with several tracks Terry recorded with Blind Boy Fuller
instead of McGhee -- Terry also appears on many Fuller recordings
of the period, but these are the first in Terry's name. The early
recordings are very messy, ill-shapen things, smears of harmonica
without much going for them. The first disc as whole fails to show
much evidence of what their later work was like, and while the second
disc is much more characteristic, it doesn't go all the way either.
- Toots & the Maytals: Funky Kingston/In the Dark
(1972-73 , Island). The US version of Funky Kingston was
cobbled together from two Jamaican LPs, plus "Pressure Drop" -- can't
forget that one. This restores the originals LPs in original order,
with "Pressure Drop" added on (dated 1976, but it's more likely the
same as on The Harder They Come, which dates from 1972). The
US album was all hits; this one is hits + filler, not as intensely
great, but more realistic. A-
- The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years (1976-77
, Columbia/Legacy). Just two years, two albums, in a post-Wailers
career that passed like a daze, perhaps because he couldn't decide
whether to be a saint like Bunny ("Equal Rights") or a badass ("Steppin'
- Scrolls of the Prophet: The Best of Peter Tosh
(1964-81 , Columbia/Legacy): aside from one early Wailers cut,
and three slightly later cuts (1978, 1981) this isn't any broader than
The Columbia Years, but the context helps a bit, "Bush Doctor"
improves on "Legalize It," and "Don't Look Back" takes Motown to the
- Ultimate Reggae: 20 Classic Reggae Riddims (1972-2001
, UTV). "54-46 Was My Number," "The Harder They Come," "I Can See
Clearly Now," "Marcus Garvey" -- hard to quarrel with that as a start
(even if Desmond Dekker is the first name that pops into my mind), but
Third World? Half Pint? Beenie Man? And given that you own Tuff Gong's
catalog, how come the Marley here is Damian? Actually, the Half Pint
song is a great one, and what seems to be a disproportionate interest
in ragga keeps this from sounding overly familiar (at least to me).
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Music: Initial count 8377 rated (+11), 939 unrated (+7).
- Dave Brubeck: Ken Burns Jazz (1953-91 ,
Columbia/Legacy). Like most of this series, this hits the major
newsworthy points in Brubeck's career, extending slightly beyond
Brubeck's central Columbia recordings to include an early Jazz
at Oberlin cut and a late one (the only post-1974) from Once
When I Was Young. The set is longer on range than on consistency,
which seems appropriate for the purpose. "Take Five," of course, is
an extraordinary piece of music. The piece with Leonard Bernstein
struggles with the whole weight of the New York Philharmonic, but
comes out with only a few bruises. One piece you don't hear all
that much is "The Real Ambassador," which starts sounding like
tacky vocalese (courtesy of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross), until
its anti-segregation message becomes clear (courtesy of Louis
- Charles Gayle With Sunny Murray & William Parker: Kingdom
Come (1994, Knitting Factory). Gayle's piano solos reveal him
to be a Cecil Taylor wannabe. Gayle returns to tenor sax for "Lord Lord,"
an all-time ugly, at least up to the long drum solo. More piano. More
sax. It's all tough sledding. B-
- Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70's Ghana
(1966-77 , Soundway). Not so much the roots of Fela's Afrobeat as
the broader context for the specific LA-to-Lagos connection that Fela
made, bringing funk back to the motherland to float his idiosyncratic
political program. Except that without Fela there's nothing ideological
here -- "Because of Money" is as deep as it gets, and "Psychedelic Woman"
is closer to the average. Still, this is bright, sunny music. And the
booklet is terrific, for once.
- Joseph Jarman/Famoudou Don Moye: Egwu-Anwu (Sun Song)
(1978 , Indian Navigation, 2CD). Moye's percussion, sounding
distinctly African, provides much of the interest here; Jarman's melodic
themes, in an African mode as well, seem additive. Much of this is nice,
and little if any is jarring; the African themes of some interest, but
over the course of 83 minutes not an awful lot actually happens. B
- Bob Marley & the Wailers: Live at the Roxy (1976
, Tuff Gong/Island/Chronicles, 2CD). A "complete" 1976 concert,
laid out on two unbalanced discs -- the first filled with the concert
proper, while the encore runs 28:54 on the second. The songs are classics,
although I've never been especially fond of "I Shot the Sheriff." Like
so many live albums this sounds a bit thin and stretched. B+
- William Parker: Lifting the Sanctions (1997 ,
No More). Solo albums in jazz are rare -- excluding piano, very rare.
Solo bass albums are among the rarest: I doubt that there are more
than a couple dozen anywhere. This is Parker's second, lighter and
more varied than 1994's Testimony, which is more intense.
Useful for students, especially given the liner notes. Parker prefers
the bow for his solo work, but I find his plucked "Macchu Picchu" to
be the most gratifying piece here. B+
- Trojan Box Set: Bob Marley & Friends (,
Sanctuary/Trojan, 3CD). One of those 50-cut 3-CD budget boxes, this
stretches three Bob Marley cuts out with a lot of "friends": Aston
"Family Man" Barrett (6), Judy Mowatt (6), Lee "Scratch" Perry (6),
Glen Adams (5), Rita Marley (5), Marcia Griffiths (4), Joe Higgs (4),
Carl Dawkins (3), Earl Lindo (3), Peter Tosh (3), Dave Barker (2).
Not much here really stands out; the most noticeable things are the
famous pop covers, which have a tendency to sound formulaic ("Let It
Be"), although there are exceptions ("Son of a Preacher Man").
- Trojan Box Set: Dub (, Sanctuary/Trojan, 3CD).
Even given occasional tracks by Lee Perry and King Tubby, this doesn't
seem like first-rate dub, but it catches the basic atmosphere, with the
stretched out reggae rhythms, the echoes and warbles and sound effects,
and the occasional toast. Tommy McCook sneaks in -- instrumentals are
almost like dub, but he's more properly thought of as the King Curtis
of Kingston. B+
- Trojan Box Set: Jamaican Hits (1960-73 ,
Sanctuary/Trojan, 3CD). The series itself feels like a bunch of
stocking stuffers -- the loose themes of the box titles (and Hits
is about as loose as you can get), and the even looser song
selection offer a semi-random sort of programming. A-
- Trojan Box Set: Rocksteady (, Sanctuary/Trojan,
3CD). The dates are probably in a fairly tight band from 1966-68, which
was rocksteady's glory days. The steady beat tamed the exuberance of
polyphonic ska, without quite skanking into the more limber, muscular
reggae that finally broke worldwide. But Trojan's Let's Do Rocksteady
comes close to canonizing the genre; this set sticks with obscurities that
slip on by without calling much attention to themselves. B
- Trojan Box Set: Upsetter (1968-2001 ,
Sanctuary/Trojan, 3CD). Mostly Upsetters, although other Lee Perry
thangs pop up as well, just like on Arkology (which is shares no
cuts with). Dave Parker's "Prisoner of Love" is an early standout.
- Trojan Box Set: X-Rated (1966-75 , Sanctuary/Trojan,
3CD). The anonymity of the singers and the sameyness of the rhythms make
it all the harder to focus on the dirt here -- it all just skips by without
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Music: Initial count 8366 rated (+19), 932 unrated (-4).
- Albert Ayler: Goin' Home (1964, Black Lion). This is
a quartet with Call Cobbs Jr (piano, never heard of him), Henry Grimes,
and Sunny Murray. All covers, most attributed "trad. arr. Ayler," most
gospel standards like "Down By the Riverside," "Deep River," "Swing
Low, Sweet Chariot," "When the Saints Go Marching In." Several of these
have multiple takes. The arrangements are relatively straightforward,
and Ayler plays soprano as well as tenor sax, so this is pretty much
free of his typical honks and slurs. Whether this represents a less
developed stage (it was Feb. 1964, and the real Ayler was very much
in evidence later in the year, so if so he moved quickly thereafter),
or is just an accommodation to the material, isn't clear. An analogue
for the latter might be Coltrane's Ballads, which appeared well
after the 1961 Vanguard sessions, but before he went off the deep end.
Still, the band is capable of moving much further out, and Sunny Murray
seems already to be there. Offhand, this doesn't strike me as very
important, and its relative listenability isn't exactly what one looks
to Ayler for. B
- Albert Ayler and Don Cherry: Vibrations (1964 ,
Freedom/Black Lion). This seems to be a quartet, with Gary Peacock and
Sunny Murray, recorded on a European tour and not released until 1973
on Freedom (later Arista/Freedom, then picked up by Black Lion). The
songbook is Ayler's, with two versions of "Ghosts" -- the second starts
out like a bebop anthem, breaking up into an improvisation that is so
Ayler it's almost a caricature, pivoting on honks out of register,
with Murray sounding like nobody else. Then Cherry gets his crack at
it, sounding more bebop in dodgy sound, then Peacock gets a solo which
is mostly subliminal. The restoration of the theme is more chaotic.
- Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control (1964 ,
ESP Disk). Ayler's music seems to have evolved rather quickly, with its
biggest jump from Feb. 1964, when Goin' Home and Witches and
Devils were recorded, and July 1964, with Spiritual Unity
(generally regarded as his masterpiece) and this set. Although Ayler
himself tended toward primitivism (his later recordings even more so),
this is a very impressive group: Don Cherry (trumpet, cornet), John
Tchicai (alto sax), Roswell Rudd (trombone), Gary Peacock (bass), and
Sunny Murray (drums). Still, the music is more fragmentary than not,
with little of interest -- some slurs, some fragmentary Rudd, Murray's
- Joey Baron: RAIsedpleasuredot (1994, New World). Very
interesting: the front line pairs avant-jazzists Ellery Eskelin (tenor
sax) and Steve Swell (trombone), producing an interesting mix of sounds,
which both push aggressively. The only other musician is drummer Baron.
Closes with a brief rundown of "The Girl From Ipanema," a fair indication
of their stuff. B+
- Roy Campbell Pyramid Trio: Ancestral Homeland (1998,
No More). The drummer here is Zen Matsuura, who deft touch on exotic
rhythms recalls Kahil El'Zabar. With Parker on bass, this is a rhythm
section that can steal the show, but they tend to vanish on cuts like
"The Positive Path," which Campbell takes deliberately. But the pace
picks up with two Parker compositions, and the final cuts really come
together. Campbell can play bop and can play free, but "Brother Yusef"
reminds you that he cut his teeth under Lateef's wings.
- Zusaan Kali Fasteau: Prophecy (1990-92 , Flying
Note). First, some research on the exotic instruments.
Sheng: a Chinese mouth organ.
Ney: a Persian wind instrument (end-blown hollow tube with finger holes).
Kaval: a Balkan (Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey) end-blown flute.
Shakuhachi: a Japanese bamboo flute
Mizmar: an African wind instrument.
Moursin: no idea what this is.
Sanza: a South African thumb piano (mbira, kalimba).
Balafon: percussion instrument from Africa (Ghana?), consists of wood slats
(keys) of a range of lengths (like a xylophone) mounted on gourds for
Berimbau: from Brazil (?), a bow-shaped instrument with a single steel
string, a gourd at the bottom for resonance; the string may be hit or
Tabla: from India, a pair of hand drums with different shape, size, pitch.
Also in evidence are soprano saxophone, violin, cello, bass, piano, drums,
tympani, gong, synthesizer, and voice.
Haven't sorted this out well, but I noticed "Curved Space" (three cellos)
and "Cosmopolis" (soprano sax, violin, bass, drums, sounds almost like
regular jazz). The early strings are arch, and much of it seems unfocused,
but it's not without novelty value.
- Zusaan Kali Fasteau: Sensual Hearing (1995 , Flying
Note). The fourth piece here, "Ebb and Flow," is basically a duet for bass
(William Parker) and violin (Somalia Richards), lovely. One called "Lament
to Wake the World" features Fasteau singing, or perhaps vocalizing is more
accurate -- a deep-throated warble followed by some high notes. While most
of these influences are Asian, "Kumba Mela" sounds African, with drums
and chants, djembe and flutes, in barely contained chaos, and the audience
participation only adds to the effect. B+
- Kali Fasteau: Vivid (1998-99 , Flying Note). A
promising group, with Parker (bass), Hamid Drake (drums), Ron McBee
(djembe & African percussion), Sabir Mateen (alto/tenor sax), Joe
McPhee (soprano sax, pocket trumpet), and Fasteau (soprano sax, voice,
and the usual kitchen sink). This is emerging as the most straightforward
blowing date of the Fasteau records I have, although with Fasteau and
McPhee both favoring the soprano sax, and switching off to even higher
pitched instruments, the front line tends to sound high, thin, and a
bit lonesome. Parker and Drake, of course, are superb.
- Joe Houston: Blows Crazy! (1951-63 , Ace).
Jump blues, nothing fancy, just a lot of blowing. Not that Houston
didn't try to follow the trends -- later on he specializes in twist
songs, and closes on a limbo. Kind of redundant if you already have
the Specialty set. B+
Monday, July 07, 2003
Looking at a James Bennet article from The New York Times, Friday,
July 4, 2003, called "Israelis Sense They've Won: A Guarded Optimism From
the Catbird Seat." The article quotes Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen.
Moshe Yaalon as saying "It is certainly a victory." We need to follow
this up by asking two fundamental questions:
- What kind of victory is this?
- Is this the kind of victory Israel was working towards?
A third question might be: were Israel's tactics, at least since Sharon's
election over Barak, an efficient means toward implementing this victory?
But the third question sort of assumes that this is in fact a victory, as
opposed to just spin on something else.
The real problem with using the word victory at this time is that it implies
some sort of completion: the task is done, and the result is favorable (at
least for the victorious side). A second problem is that declaring victory
is also an assertion that the other side was defeated; there's an element
of gloating to it, an element of taunting, and a risk that the assertion
will rebound. But we have bigger issues to hash out than etiquette, so
let's set that one aside.
What kind of victory is this? Well, at the moment it represents temporary
relief from anti-Israeli terrorism. It also puts the Palestinian Authority
(PA) back to work as Israeli agents against terrorism, where based on past
history they are likely to be much more effective than the Israelis ever
could be. But it also restores a good deal of autonomy and legitimacy to
the PA, and while the PA may find it useful to do Israel's bidding, it
does ultimately have its own agenda. And it does, under the Roadmap,
ultimately owe more allegiance to the Roadmap Quartet powers than it
does to Israel. And if the Roadmap and the powers behind it mean what
they say, Israel's victory will ultimately come with a price tag that
none of the post-Rabin governments (or for that matter pre-Rabin, and
we're not so sure about Rabin either) have been willing to pay.
But more likely the thinking behind this "victory" is that Israel won't
have to pay the bill this time either: what they have won is that they
have effectively reset the clock on Oslo. Oslo, after all, started a
similar process with the eventual promise of Palestinian independence.
Since Oslo, two things happened: 1) the PA tried to make it work, even
to the extent of accepting severe compromises, balking only at the
final Barak deal, while 2) the Israelis, especially the
Netanyahu-Barak-Sharon tag team, did everything in their power to
erode the land, resources, and independence promised to and expected
by the Palestinians. In resetting the clock, Israel gets to do it all
However, the current Roadmap scenario is fundamentally different from
Oslo: it has a timetable, which was sorely lacking from Oslo, and it
has the backing of the Quartet powers, whereas Oslo was a terribly
one-sided private deal between Israel and the PLO. This means two
things: 1) that progress (or lack thereof) will be more measurable,
and 2) that the PA will have the option of negotiating with the
Quartet powers instead of Israel, and indeed that Israel will have
to negotiate with the Quartet powers in order to amend the Roadmap
in its favor.
So this may in a limited sense be a victory for Israel (Sharon), but
to spin it that way you have to concede that: 1) the main thing Israel
was fighting for was peace and security from terrorism; 2) that given
peace and security from terrorism Israel is willing to give up the
land it seized in the 1967 war. But is this what Israel, and Sharon
in particular, have really been trying to do? We can, of course,
argue this until blue in the face, but I think there's one simple,
clear guide to the answer: the Jewish settlements in the occupied
territories. In the absence of a peace process, it might be possible
to argue that Israel's building of settlements would help persuade
the Palestinians to enter into negotiations because as long as they
failed to do so they would be losing "facts on the ground." But why
continue to build settlements once the Palestinians are cooperating
in a peace process, as initiated at Oslo? There's really only one
reason for doing so: to redeem the land, by making it too painful
for present and future Israeli governments to give it up. And here
it is worth remembering that Israel's process of buliding settlements
in the occupied territories was accelerated by Rabin after Oslo went
into effect, and consistently maintained by every Israeli government
afterwards (especially by the reputedly pro-peace Barak).
Now, given the two alternatives -- peace and land, so clearly in
opposition for so long that they've become cliches -- which one
has Sharon really been fighting for? Pretty obvious, isn't it?
It may be wrong to aver that Sharon hates peace, but if anything
is clear it's that he doesn't fear war; if anything, war for him
is opportunity, and he's built his whole career, his whole life,
on war's opportunities. And when it comes to war, he's credible:
he called his autobiography Warrior, and nobody smirked at
that title. (Not that War Criminal wouldn't have been more
appropriate.) He's not a guy who's just full of bluster, like John
"Make My Day" McCain or George "Bring It On" Bush; he's indictable.
But it's also important to realize that Sharon has spent many years
in Israeli cabinets as Minister of Housing, which may seem odd to
us -- after all, can you imagine Colin Powell turning down State
to run HUD? -- but for Sharon housing has always been just another
venue for war: settlers need houses, and settled houses redeem the
land. This is because for true Zionists it doesn't suffice to beat
the opposition army, victory only occurs when you take possession
of the land. Which is what the settlers do, and both the Israelis
and the Palestinians understand that completely. (Otherwise they'd
fight over something less exclusionary, like civil rights. It is
possible to imagine that both Israelis and Palestinians could have
the same civil rights in the same territorial space, but it's not
possible that they can occupy the same land.)
Of course, thus far Israel hasn't actually given up any land -- at
least land that Israelis live on, which is the measure that matters
to them. And Israel has many more cards to play before they do,
including using all of their political sway to steer the U.S. into
not enforcing its own understanding of what the Roadmap requires.
But even if Sharon wins a few hands, he's boxing himself into a
corner. And if peace becomes a realistic scenario, he's going to
find himself the most useless person in Israel. (Much like England
turned to Winston Churchill to fight WWII, then once that was done,
got rid of him before he could start WWIII.)
As for the Palestinians, their "defeat" gets them out from under the
yoke of the Intifada, a strategy little better than a mutual suicide
pact, and puts them (perhaps for the first time) into a position
where they can work world sympathy in their favor. Despite Israel's
terrible power, Israel is still sorely dependent on the good will
of the world, most of all the U.S. (which is in no small amount of
trouble too). Their "defeat" also gets them out from under the yoke
of Oslo, where they conceded too much in a vain attempt to woo Israel's
good will. Israel may gloat for now, but the odds favor patience in
the long run. For in the long run victory is a poor substitute for
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Music: Initial count 8347 rated (+13), 936 unrated (+5).
- The Blue Series Continuum: The Good and Evil Sessions
(2003, Thirsty Ear). This is an advance, so I'm a little unclear on the
titling and how these tracks came together. The musicians are: Roy
Campbell (trumpet), Alex Lodico (trombone), William Parker (bass),
Josh Roseman (trombone), and Matthew Shipp (piano), with "all other
sounds played and made, sliced and diced, fixed and mixed by GoodandEvil
and Miso," so I'll have to do some research to figure out just what that
means (cf. goodandevil.net --
looks like two guys, Chris Kelly and Danny Blume (and maybe Ricky Quinones),
who have a studio in Brooklyn and an interesting list of clients and
project -- at least if you're the sort who's impressed by Sex Mob,
Le Tigre, Northern State, and Josh Roseman.
- "Brainwash" (dance beats for brass improv);
- "Then Again" ();
- "The Stakeout" ();
- "Close Call" (this cut stops and starts, with blares and dribbling,
the inconsistency a bit annoying);
- "The Hideout" ();
- "On the Run" ();
- "Roll It Back" (this turns into a very attractive track, the mix
contemplating the little horn riffs, which are firmly rooted in jazz);
- "Change of Plans" ();
- "Sweetbitter" ().
- Nels Cline/Gregg Bendian: Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music
of John Coltrane (1998, Atavistic). The Coltrane in question is
the late, weird one, most specifically the duets with Rashid Ali. Here
Cline plays the Coltrane role on guitar, while Bendian makes like Ali.
It is noisy, natch, although the tail stretch of "Saturn" shows some
sensitivity. Bendian is especially impressive, and Cline's at least got
some neat tricks. B+
- Chick Corea: Early Circle (1970, Blue Note). Studious
avant-jazz, with Anthony Braxton sounding a little thin, Dave Holland
sounding plenty phat, and Barry Altschul mostly out of the way. Same
for Corea, which makes this far less bracing or enticing than the later
Paris-Concert or Holland's formidable Conference of the Birds.
- Drums of Defiance: Jamaican Maroon Music From the Earliest Free
Black Communities of Jamaica (1977-91 , Smithsonian/Folkways).
Modern Jamaican music starts around 1960, when US r&b and soul started
to get the ska treatment, evolving in turn to rocksteady, reggae, roots,
dub, dancehall, ragga, and so forth. Pre-ska Jamaicans tended to work in
foreign styles: most notably calypso, most famously Harry Belafonte. Yet
deep back in the prehistory of Jamaican music there were the Maroons,
descendents of runaway slaves who carved out an existence in the hills
of Jamaica. These are field recordings, made as part of an ethnographic
study well after the fact -- mostly in 1977-78, with some additional
material recorded in 1991. Like so many field recordings, they emphasize
the primitive, with a lot of drums, some flutes and chanting. Hard to
follow, and to my mind at least not all that interesting. B
- Blind Uncle Gaspard, Delma Lachney, John Bertrand: Early
American Cajun Music (1920s , Yazoo). Early recordings
from the 1920s, programmed just so when you think that the sound
isn't bad it starts to get washy. The songs themselves are mostly
ballads, and they come across with a smooth consistency that is
relatively unusual in cajun music. Gaspard (1880-1937) played guitar,
and evidently Lachney (1896-1949), who played fiddle, played on the
same recordings (the attributions are 4 songs for Gaspard, 10 for
Lachney, 10 for Bertrand). Bertrand (1891-1942) played accordion,
and certainly fits in stylistically. Although the booklet is helpful,
it lacks discographical information (sad considering the spiel they
make about the importance of preserving such rare historic music),
and the only recording date given is 1929. Perhaps a little too
subtle, or perhaps I'm not giving it enough time. B
- Jubilation! Great Gospel Performances, Vol. 3: More Black
Gospel (1937-82 , Rhino). Vol. 3 is a superb set of
white (country) gospel; maybe a bit obvious, given that they have
the whole vast river to fish in. Two volumes of black gospel aren't
any more likely to overfish. Starts with a Soul Stirrers (Sam Cooke)
cut, then a rousing Mahalia Jackson. There's a very recognizable bit
in the Caravans' "Walk Around Heaven All Day" -- Moby sampled that.
Then there's "Uncloudy Day," a song I know better from Willie Nelson
than from the Staple Singers, who are certainly up to the task. "My
Rock" is done by the Swan Silvertones, perhaps the most dependable
of all gospel groups. And "Rough Side of the Mountain," by Rev. F.C.
Barnes & Rev. Janice Brown, gets my attention every time through.
This is all rather impressive fare, covering a wide swatch of major
gospel acts. Still, I'm not quite convinced -- not just about Jesus,
who I can do just fine without, thank you, but about the music and
the mix, its power and uplift, things that do matter. Maybe
I need to find Vol. 1 first? B+
- Jemeel Moondoc Trio: Live at Glenn Miller Café Vol. 1
(2002, Ayler). Less exciting than the blowing session with Anders Gahnold
recorded earlier the same day, and a bit cluttered with the informality
of live performance, but Moondoc has a lot going for him. A-
- Willie Nelson: The Masters: Sings the Country Hits
(1964-84 , Eagle). One of dozens of slapdash Nelson comps issued
on fly-by-night labels, but I do appreciate the minimal documentation,
especially dates and label sources for these 19 cuts. Most of the cuts
here come from RCA, with a couple of later cuts from EMI. Nelson's RCA
material included some of his best singing, and some of his worst
production, and there's a bit of both here. Most of this material is
familiar -- "Fraulein," "Waltz Across Texas," "Me and Paul," "I Gotta
Get Drunk," his RCA remakes of "Hello Walls" and "Funny How Time Slips
Away." Not bad, as these things go. B+
- Willie Nelson & Bobbie Nelson: How Great Thou Art
(1996, Finer Arts). Nine standard gospel songs, done simply and with
Nelson's usual patient pacing, with Bobbie on piano and Jon Blondell
on bass. Nice work. "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" is a highlight.
- William Parker: Song Cycle (1991 , Boxholder).
Six tracks are duets with Parker and vocalist Ellen Christi. The other
nine tracks have Parker, Yuko Fujiyama on piano, and vocalist Lisa
Sokolov. As far as I know, this is the only vocal-centered album that
Parker did before Raining on the Moon, with which it shares
several songs. "A Thought for Silence" is an odd (and IMHO rather
annoying) bass-voice duet, where Parker bows and Christi just moves
her voice around exaggerating Parker's melody. B-
- Chris Potter: Traveling Mercies (2002, Verve). This
is basically a quartet album: Potter (saxophones, bass clarinet, alto
flute, sampler, reed organ, and a vocal), Kevin Hays (piano, keyboards),
Scott Colley (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). Plus the occasional guest,
such as John Scofield (guitar) on three tracks. But perhaps the most
effective guitar here is by Adam Rogers on "Washed Ashore" -- a sparkling
- Sorten Muld: Mark II (1999, NorthSide). Considered
a Nordic folk group (they come from Denmark), their songs may be based
on folk structures, but their music is mostly built up from electronic
beats -- relaxed and agreeable ones. With the beats and all, this
basically works as a pop album, but the Nordic ballads, the bagpipes
and strings, etc., help steer them away from Abba-land (which is hinted
at in one song). B+
- Dial-a-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants
(1986-2002 , Rhino/Elektra, 2CD). In the booklet they make a
claim "Installing and servicing melodies since 1982," but the earliest
songs here come from 1986's fabulous They Might Be Giants album.
Since then I've found them to be clever and inconsistent and sometimes
annoying, which is about all I have to say about this career-spanning
comp. On the annoying side, the middle of the second disc ranks high,
with the Peter Stampfel cut-up "Fingertips" and the live "She's Actual
Size." Good booklet. Has some reference value. B
- The Trammps: Trammps (1975 , Epic/Legacy). Next
time out they sold their soul for disco, which was good for both sides.
Here they're just a first rate Philly soul group. They work up a sweat
on "Love Epidemic," and they keep the fast ones rolling, especially
- VisionFest VisionLive (2002 , Thirsty Ear).
- Muntu, "Truth Is Marching": Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Roy Campbell
(trumpet), William Parker (bass), Rashid Bakr (drums).
- Dave Burrell and Tyrone Brown, "Existence": Burrell's piano is
sharply executed, feels cubist with its high notes striking at odd
angles; Brown's long bass solo, however, is subsonic, a dead spot
unless you play it real loud.
- Billy Bang Trio, "Bangart 100": With Jin Hi Kim (komungo, a Korean
"fretted board zither") and Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone); each
player takes a solo in turn; Bang starts with a tour de force, the
komungo adds a tough, percussive string sound, and Bluiett closes out
in aggressive free form, although the interplay is most interesting,
the instruments standing in stark contrast rather than just blending
- Douglas Ewart Quintet, "Crepuscle IV in Powderhorn Park": With
Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), Joseph Jarman (reeds), Parker, and Hamid
- Matthew Shipp String Trio, "Speech of Form": With Mat Maneri and
- Karen Borca Quartet, "45 Hours": With Rob Brown (alto sax), Reggie
Workman (bass), Newman Taylor-Baker (drums); Borca plays bassoon.
- Ellen Christi Quartet, "Synchronicity": With Rolf Strum (guitar),
Parker, and Drake.
- Kidd Jordan/Fred Anderson Quartet, "Spirits Came In": Both on alto
sax, with Parker and Drake; another Ayler piece? The twin saxes play
this well, and Drake's drumming is awesome.
- Peter Kowald, "Improvisation": 10:35 of solo bass, from the master,
three months before his death.
- Wade in the Water, Volume II: African American Congregational
Singing: Nineteenth-Century Roots (1989-92 ,
Smithsonian/Folkways). Old fashioned church singing, recorded in
old fashioned churches, which means lots of voices with little (if
any, other than handclaps) accompaniment. Also means loosely recorded,
so there's no focus on specific voices -- it's all group. This gives
it a long dullness that is hard to shake; a minor exception being
"Come and Go to That Land," where the simplicity and elegance of the
melody comes through. But even if this is evocative of 19th century
roots, it is recently recorded, an attempt to reconstruct history by
capturing a bit of the supposedly naive oral tradition. B
- Wade in the Water, Volume III: African American Gospel: The
Pioneering Composers (1992 , Smithsonian/Folkways). The
composers are: Charles Tindley, Lucie Campbell, Thomas Dorsey, William
Brewster, Kenneth Morris, Roberta Martin. A few names I recognize
there, and they form the backbone of this collection, giving it a
real structure based on solid songwriting. The performers are more
obscure (excepting Sweet Honey in the Rock), although they are more
professional than the other congregation-based titles in this series.
Toshi Reagon does an especially solid job on "We'll Understand It
Better By and By." B+
- Wade in the Water, Volume IV: African American Community
Gospel A little more piano than Volume II, and a little more
professional, but much the same, and not all that impressive for
- Kim Wilson: Lookin' for Trouble (2003, M.C.). The
vocalist from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, a group which helped establish
the notion that all a band of white boys had to do to sound pretty good
was to play ordinary blues as if their lives depended on it. Or was that
George Thorogood? Or Barrence Whitfield? (Who as I recall had the extra
gimmick of being black, which helped with his Little Richard impression.
Or was that Rufus Thomas?) This seems pretty ordinary until it gets to
the title cut, which comes #12, and fine as it is it reminds me of a
George Jones song, "Wrong's What I Do Best." Then he reels off two more
good'uns, the second a boogie. Then they end with an instrumental. Odd
way to sequence an album. Or maybe I'm just starting to get into it?
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Cooked dinner for visiting friends, mostly dishes from Iran and Turkey:
grilled cornish game hens, grilled chicken wings, catfish in a garlic
and orange sauce, megadara (lentils, rice, onions), mast va khiar (my
usual yogurt, cucumber, scallions, mint, raisins, walnuts), another
yogurt dip with onions and spinach, a roasted eggplant dip, taramasalata,
a chopped salad, spice cake.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Movie: Spellbound. This is a documentary, which picks eight
12-14 year old finalists in the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee and tracks
them and their families through the contest. Much of the interest comes
from the diversity of the candidates: even though it seems likely that
they were selected to make that point, one wonders what a broader set
of statistics might look like. But one thing that reinforces the sense
of diversity is the arbitrariness of the competition. While most (although
not all) of the selected competitors were near-fanatical in their studies
(a couple way over the fanaticism line), it is telling that most of
the words that were used to winnow down the competition were way beyond
any generalist's vocabulary. Just using myself as a standard -- a good
speller with a rather extensive vocabulary and a very rudimentary study
of three foreign languages -- I don't think I've ever heard of any of
the words that were used to eliminate seven of the eight contestants,
and I found myself misspelling all seven of them. (One thing about the
movie is that you find yourself inevitably taking part in the competition,
much like TV game shows. But unlike the guy sitting next to me, I think I
managed not to vocalize my spelling.) On the other hand, I did know, and
could spell, the winning word. So when the process is to randomly pick
arbitrarily difficult, mostly unknown, generally tricky words, given a
set of contestants who are all talented beyond any practical need, it
seems likely that the ultimate winner will be arbitrary.