Monday, May 30, 2011
Music: Current count 18255  rated (+31), 853  unrated (-4).
- The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love
(1962-63 , Phil Spector/Legacy): Leads off with her two great
Crystals singles -- "He's a Rebel" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love" --
and tacks on two of her more retro Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans
leads, splitting the difference on her own marquee songs like "Today
I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "A Fine, Fine Boy"; ends with a
post-Philles single Spector somehow controls.
Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:
- Phil Spector's Greatest Hits (1958-67 ,
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #27, Part 7)
Post delayed today by a power outage. We do depend on electricity
these days, and everything grinds to a stop when it fails. Not what
you'd call storms today, but what the government calls a Wind Advisory:
steady winds from the south 35-40 mph, with gusts over 50. We expect
some storms tonight when a cold front passes through and reverses the
wind, but I gather it won't actually get any cooler.
So-so week: I'm surprised I didn't bag more records, and can't
recall why I didn't. Was thinking a bit ahead to posting Recycled
Goods and Rhapsody Streamnotes this coming week -- Downloader's
Diary too, don't know yet whether it will run before or after RG.
Also don't have any thoughts on Jazz CG cycle. Incoming mail has
been light the last two weeks.
Avery Sharpe: Running Man (2010 , JKNM):
Bassist, plays electric 6-string as well as acoustic, had a long
association with Yusef Lateef and McCoy Tyner, has 10 records
on his own since 1988, picking up the pace around 2005. Pianist
Onaje Allan Gumbs is a credible Tyner clone. Craig Handy plays
a lot of soprano sax and some tenor sax, does a nice job with
the former. Maya Sharpe sings a couple songs. Gumbs, Handy, and
drummer Yoron Israel write one each, leaving Sharpe eight.
Mathias Eick: Skala (2009-10 , ECM): Trumpeter,
also plays guitar, vibes, bass; b. 1979 in Norway; second album; about
30 side credits since 2002, including groups Jaga Jazzist (relatively
good acid jazz) and Motorpsycho (some kind of metal?). This breaks
through the Nordic chill which ECM more often intensifies. Trumpet
is warm and bright, Andreas Ulvo's piano moving shiftly through the
undergrowth. Band varies from cut to cut, often doubling up on drums
(Torstein Lofthus and Gard Nilssen), with tenor sax on one cut, harp
on another, here then gone.
Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (2010 ,
Rhombus Publishing): Leake is a percussionist, collects instruments and
techniques from all around the world, records them, writes books about
them, teaches them -- Indian, Persian, Latin American, all over Africa.
Record company has "publishing" in the title because his books outnumber
his records (currently 7 to 6). First record I heard by him, The
Turning (2006), played like an encyclopedia, which I thought a neat
idea at the time. But so did his last, Cubist, which I backed a
bit down on, only to receive a letter from him chiding me for failing
to recognize his "masterpiece." Well, this isn't a masterpiece either,
but the nine long songs (total 76:41) fit and flow. Thanks to guitarist
Roos -- promoted from producer last time to a byline -- he's got a band
here. The flute-phobic should be warned, but actually this picks up a
head of steam when the flute comes out, and gets even better when Stan
Strickland reverts to sax. Better still when the extra drummers (Ben
Paulding and Marty Wirt, plus Lisa Leake on percussion and Mike Doud
on tabla) quicken the pace. Back cover says "file under world &
rock" but the mix makes most sense as jazz.
Eldar Djangirov: Three Stories (2009 , Masterworks
Jazz): Pianist, b. 1987 in Kyrgyzstan, then still part of the Evil Empire.
A proverbial child prodigy, "discovered" at age 9 playing in a festival
somewhere in Siberia, moved to Kansas City (supposedly to soak up its jazz
legacy, although I assure you no one will ever detect a trace of Bennie
Moten or Pete Johnson here), cut his first record in his teens, going by
first name only. First record using his last name, a welcome sign of
maturity. Solo piano. He's never tried to shake his good classical
education, featuring pieces by Bach and Scriabin alongside standards
like "Darn That Dream" and "Embraceable You" and three originals --
only "In Walked Bud" and "Donna Lee" offer the slight whiff of jazz.
Debbie Poryes/Bruce Williamson: Two & Fro (2010
, OA2): Piano-sax duets. Poryes, based in San Francisco area,
cut an album in 1982, only a couple since. Williamson plays alto sax,
soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute. Also infrequently
recorded, his debut in 1992, one more since, plus a couple dozen side
credits. Wrote one song each, plus do seven covers, jazz (Shorter,
Coltrane, Davis), standards, Beatles, closing with a long, slow "Ol'
Man River" that is particularly nice.
Scott Amendola Trio: Lift (2010, Sazi): Drummer, best
known in the Nels Cline Singers; fourth album since 1999, a trio with
Jeff Parker on guitar and John Shifflett on bass. Mostly hews to rock
grooves, but much more to it. Especially good showcase for Parker.
Terrence McManus/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: Transcendental
Numbers (2009 , NoBusiness): Guitar/bass/drums trio.
McManus and Hemingway have a slightly earlier duo called Below
the Surface Of that I have rated a tad above this, probably
because the jagged metal guitar was more striking, although I should
double check because it's unlikely the bassist doesn't add something
valuable. He is interesting in his own right, and the drummer is
Vesa-Matti Loiri: 4+20 (1971 , Porter):
Finnish flautist, vocalist, actor; b. 1945. AMG lists 33 records,
starting in 1968, but this is the only one they've evidently heard.
It's a weird one, mostly flute and percussion, a guitar, sometimes
adding piccolo and/or soprano sax (no less than Eero Koivistoinen).
Six songs in "Mummon Kaappikello" is a change of pace, with tenor
sax and cartoonish vocals. Title cut is from Stephen Stills, not
that he'd recognize it.
Matthew Shipp: Art of the Improviser (2010 ,
Thirsty Ear, 2CD): Pianist, one of the few I've spent enough time
with to be able to follow. A decade-plus ago he was talking like
he'd played everything he wanted to play and intended to stop, then
he got a job with an avant-rock label and started a remarkable series
of mash-ups and mergers between DJs and avant-jazzists -- his own
Nu Bop and Equilibrium and Harmony and Abyss
were highlights there. At his peak, Rolling Stone asked me
to write up a survey of his work for their CD guide -- one of the
very few jazz pianists to make a cut that excluded Ellington, Tatum,
Monk, Powell, Pullen, and loads more. Even though he's hardly ever
touched an electronic keyb, he started polling higher on electric
than on acoustic. Since then it's as if he's backed down, seeking
to regain his self-respect: he's mostly limited himself to trios
and solo outings, strictly acoustic, not as avant as in his early
days (although even then he was more indebted to Bud Powell than
to Cecil Taylor). This time, with a title befitting Brad Mehldau,
he gives you two live sets, one of each. The trio with Michael
Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums flows swiftly, the bass
and drums heightening his own rhythmic conception, with a cover
of "Take the A Train" to help secure your bearings. The solo
takes more effort to chew, but plenty of food for thought there,
Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Beans/Hprizm: Knives From Heaven
(2011, Thirsty Ear): Basically, an Antipop Consortium joint, with Beans
(Robert Stewart) rapping over High Priest (Kyle Austin, here dba Hprizm)
electronics, with Shipp's piano and Parker's bass keeping it real. (Also
seem to have cornered the publishing.) Would go further with better rhymes,
although most of the parts without lyrics are intriguing synth fragments,
the piano a plus, the bass hard to sort out.
William Hooker: Crossing Points (1992 , NoBusiness):
Drummer, b. 1946, has a couple dozen albums since 1982; seems like a lot
of them are ad hoc improv duos and trios, but he usually winds up with his
name on top or first -- not many side credits, although AMG lists a couple
with Lee Ranaldo. This is a duo with alto saxophonist Thomas Chapin --
Hooker's name is out front of the title, with "featuring Thomas Chapin"
following -- cut just as Chapin was hitting his stride (cf. Insomnia)
before his early death in 1998. First piece starts out tentative and ugly,
but soon enough rights itself, in large part because the drummer gets out
front and dares the saxophonist to keep up.
David S. Ware/Cooper-Moore/William Parker/Muhammad Ali:
Planetary Unknown (2010 , AUM Fidelity): The new quartet,
but it doesn't quite seem settled yet. The change at piano is intriguing,
but Cooper-Moore has far less impact than Matthew Shipp did, especially in
the old quartet's maturity. As for the new drummer, Rashied Ali's younger
brother can hang with this crowd, but he's the senior citizen here. What's
harder to gauge is Ware: his first three cuts on tenor strike me as routine
(not a word that often occurs to me with Ware), the next three on soprano
more intriguing, as is the finale on stritch. It's gotten to where I expect
Ware to blow me away every time -- well, maybe not solo -- so I'm confused
here, or maybe just slow.
The Ambush Party (2008 , De Platenbakkerij):
Eponymous first album, group a quartet: Natalio Sued (tenor sax),
Oscar Jan Hoogland (piano), Harald Austbø (cello), Marcos Baggiani
(drums). Recorded in Amsterdam, no background on any of them. Free
improv, what they call instant composition. Rugged not rough, with
a little of that circus undertow the Dutch are so fond of.
Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at
Birdland (2009 , ECM): New York Times advance, quoted
in hype sheet, promises "soft anarchy, a gig without preparation or
rehearsal," and that's pretty much it. Six standards, counting Miles
Davis and Sonny Rollins, given 10-15 minutes each. Mehldau is the
best prepared, but Konitz is the person of interest, and he's a bit
out of it, though it's hard to say why, or to dismiss what he plays,
when he plays.
Walt Weiskopf Quartet: Recorded Live April 8, 2008 Koger
Hall University of South Carolina (2008 , Capri):
Presented as a memoir of late drummer Tony Reedus, who died Nov.
16, 2008; the most upfront and personable outing I've heard by
the mainstream tenor saxophonist, plus a strong assist from
pianist Renee Rosnes -- haven't heard much from her since her
Blue Note contract lapsed nearly a decade ago. Paul Gill plays
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Amina Alaoui: Arco Iris (ECM): advance, June 28
- Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran: Cuban Rhapsody (ALMA)
- Claire Daly Quintet: Mary Joyce Project: Nothing to Lose (Daly Bread)
- Falkner Evans: The Point of the Moon (CAP)
- Erik Friedlander: Bonebridge (Skipstone)
- Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at Birdland (ECM)
- Les Doigts de l'Homme: 1910 (ALMA)
- Nanette Natal: Sweet Summer Blue (Benyo Music)
- Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (Sunnyside): June 14
- Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel (ECM)
- Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster (Streamline/Konlive, 2CD)
- Lady Gaga: Born This Way (Streamline/Konlive)
Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain:
I don't have a lot more to add beyond my Sketches of Spain
review that sharpsm quoted. The Legacy Edition came out in 2009 as
part of a push to spruce up three 1959 Jazz Classics on their 50th
anniversary. The others were Dave Brubeck's superb Time Out,
and Charles Mingus's monumental Mingus Ah Um. A better fit
would have been the previous year's Kind of Blue, which got
the same treatment and then some, but Sketches is a rather
pretty but annoying thing. It is not much of an example of Gil Evans'
arranging genius -- for that seek out Out of the Blue, where
Evans uses the orchestra to do more than to flatter the star. And
Davis has had plenty of better outings. But what Davis craved and
Evans critics who gushed praises upon the 6-CD Davis/Evans box --
and I'll put Gary Giddins at the head of this list -- never failed
to fall for a third stream gesture.
I don't wish to make too big a deal out of this. The late 1950s
were still a time when people seriously asserted the superiority of
high over pop culture -- a conceit that was falling when Christgau
pointedly sided with the barbarians in his first book, and which had
been reduced to ridicule no later than the 1980s. But back then the
idea that jazz was America's Classical Music was novel propaganda
aimed at respectability: Ellington writing suites, Bird with strings,
MJQ in their tuxes, Brubeck playing 5/4 and 9/8, and Davis/Evans
fits that mold. I don't wish to denigrate any of that -- everything
I've listed deserves respect, but jazz earned more respect on its
own terms, as did rock, as did lots of things, and not just because
Classical Music turned out to be one of history's paper tigers.
The other thing to understand about Davis is that he's been wrapped
up in a myth which makes him look ten feet tall, whereas he was really
only about 7-foot-8. That he started with Parker was good luck but
otherwise meaningless. That his first album was sold as The Birth
of the Cool implies that he invented cool jazz, whereas he didn't;
it wasn't cool jazz, and he wasn't that important -- Lee Konitz, Gerry
Mulligan, and Gil Evans were key -- nor was the album that good. His
first "great quintet" was remembered as greater than it was because
Coltrane got much better after he left. His intersection with Bill
Evans was pure luck. The modal jazz idea owes more to George Russell.
The stuff with Gil Evans you know about. There are lots of odd things
about the fusion albums, and they slack off toward the end.
On the other hand, the first quintet's
throwaway albums cut to break his Prestige contract are about as good
as hard bop got. Kind of Blue is a self-contained masterpiece.
It's hard to overpraise the 1966-69 quintet, even though everyone
writing on the subject has had a crack at it -- his Plugged Nickel
box will last you through many desert islands. His chops early on were
nothing special, but he got a lot better over time. And he consistently
overcomes the chaos of the fusion albums, holding them together unlike
everyone else who tried to follow in his footsteps. And in the culture
wars he wound up winning on both sides: he was acclaimed a genius and
got popular too.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Peter B Bach/Robert Kocher: Why Medical School Should Be Free:
I'm always struck by how limited the political imagination is when it
comes to controlling health care costs: it rarely goes beyond squabbling
over current payment schedules -- always irritating to providers who
think they should be able to charge anything they want for anything they
can think of -- with the anti-patient threat of denial of service looming
in the background. Or there are risk-shifting schemes which seek to pay
per patient or per illness and let the providers figure out how to manage
their expenses. Both approaches seek to control costs by limiting services,
which is one reason they make patients nervous. But as the steady growth
of costs shows, charges suppressed in one area tend to return in another.
Insurers, including the government, have managed to significantly reduce
hospital stays over the last 30 years. At the same time, per-day hospital
charges have exploded, so there is no net savings.
Bach and Kocher are thinking outside of this box: they note that one
of the main sources of cost growth in US health care is the prevalence of
specialists over GPs. Not only do specialists make more ($325k vs. $190k
are the median figures) they order more expenses. One reason doctors make
so much money relative to everyone else is that their education expenses
are exceptionally high. They propose free education for GPs, and charging
for extra specialist training. The result would be more GPs, most likely
willing and able to start working for less (simple labor economics here).
I doubt that this would result in many fewer (or much cheaper) specialists
given the current pay discrepancies -- a $135k/year advantage would still
pay back the extra training costs pretty quickly, but with more doctors
educated for free there would be more candidates competing to move into
Of course, more doctors and nothing else wouldn't solve the problem,
but it offers a big step forward: more doctors (at less cost per doctor)
means more personal care, and very likely better care. The great fear
working against health care reform is a drop in care quality, possibly
even denial of service, at a time when most of us still think that there
is room and need for better care. Indeed, there are lots of opportunities
to contain costs through better care, and this is one.
Probably not the big one, though. That would be to squeeze the costs
of new medical technology by restricting (or eliminating) patents. This
would cut down on private investment in r&d, but that could easily
be made up by increasing public investment, which because it would be
scaled to desired outcomes rather than future profits and because the
process would be more transparent and shared internationally would be
much more efficient and effective. Another big one is the profit-seeking
insurance companies, which scrape off about 30% of current health care
costs while providing hardly any value. And there are others, but more
GPs is a good step forward.
David Bromwich: Obama's Middle East: Rhetoric and Reality:
This seems like a reasonably accurate parsing of Obama's pronouncements:
Yet Obama has always preferred the symbolic authority of the grand utterance
to the actual authority of a directed policy -- a policy fought for in
particulars, carefully sustained, and traceable to his own intentions.
The command to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and the attempt to assassinate
Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike, which closely followed the bin Laden
success, are the exceptions that prove the rule: actions of a moment,
decided and triggered by the president alone. His new Middle East speech,
at the State Department on May 19, was in this sense a return to a favorite
Before an international audience, Obama tends to speak as if he were the
United States addressing the world; and he treats the United States as the
most grown-up country in the world. This posture carries a risk of parental
finger-wagging, which our president -- still young as a parent and young as
a leader -- doesn't sufficiently guard against. A misjudged tone was audible,
for example, in his speech to the joint session of the Indian Parliament on
November 8, 2010, where he boasted of his support for India's nomination to
the Security Council, but warned: "Let me suggest that with increased power
comes increased responsibility." So too, at the state department on Thursday,
he chided Arab countries for acting immaturely and blaming the West as "the
source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism."
In many of his public comments on the Arab Spring, during February, March,
and April, Obama wielded a peculiar grammar of imperative commandment whose
precise authority was unclear. He worked himself into a corner -- and
appeared to render inevitable a military intervention -- when he said
several times that "Qaddafi must go." Of course, he had said something
akin to that, more gently and vaguely, when he spoke about the "transition"
Hosni Mubarak was expected to lead in Egypt, which "must be peaceful" and
"must begin now." He may have believed that the simplicity of his command
was a cause of Mubarak's eventual abdication.
A similar grammatical mood was summoned in his speech of May 19, in
reference to Bashar al-Assad and the imperative of beginning a transition
from despotism in Syria: "President Assad now has a choice. He can lead
that transition, or get out of the way." In short: either Assad must go,
or his understanding of his office must go. Anyway President Assad was
named with the respectful formality common in the discourse of leader to
leader -- unlike the truncated "Qaddafi" and "Saddam" by which successive
presidents have now indicated their contempt for former allies whom they
intend to strip of dignity and power. The language Obama reserved for Ali
Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen -- an ally in the "war on terror" --
was more accommodating, in a way.
[ . . . ]
Obama's strategy seems to have been heavily influenced by the advice
of Israel-connected centrists such as Thomas Friedman. The occupation is
bad, such informal advisers say, but it is a problem for Israelis and
Palestinians to solve. Don't push, don't dictate, don't "impose terms."
Friedman likes to add that the Israelis and Palestinians have to "want
peace" more than Americans do. The apparent analogy is with two boys
fighting on a playground, or two clans that must grow tired of fighting
in order to make up. This analogy fails, however, where the fighters are
radically unequal in size, strength, and equipment. It also loses its
pertinence in a case where the umpire has already suffered serious injury
from side-effects of the fight. And, according to authorities as diverse
as Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus, the unresolved conflict of Israel
and Palestine is the largest "root cause" of terrorism directed against
the United States. [ . . . ]
The extreme hostility of Netanyahu's reaction on a single point may
have obscured how much he got substantively from Obama. For an unmistakable
message was sent by omission in Obama's speech at the state department --
namely, that the administration has no present plan to broker talks between
Israel and the Palestinian unity government. There was not a word about
Gaza and only a spectator's advice about the West Bank. Practically speaking,
therefore, one more American president has been turned away from active
engagement with the challenge of the occupation. No further pressure for
an independent Palestine is likely to be initiated by the US before the
2012 presidential election. From the evidence of a growing mass movement
on both sides of Israel's borders, Obama, for his part, seems to have
calculated that Israelis in the next few years will come to treat his
words of May 19 as a kindly prophecy.
I suppose you could inscribe these words on Obama's gravestone: "always
calculating, never computing."
Digby: Nothing Left to Do:
Interesting theory on the Republican Party today:
I wish I knew why the GOP has suddenly gone kamikaze on this Ryan plan,
but I guess I don't care. They've been so close to the edge of insanity
for so long now that it's a good thing for the country if they self-immolate
before they are able to somehow seize total power again.
But it really can't be overstated just how self-destructive this attack
on Medicare really is, on so many levels. It's bad on the politics and on
the merits, of course. But ask yourself why a political party would spend
many, many millions of dollars to spread a message that a very popular
program among their most valuable constituency is in danger from their
opponents as the Republicans did last November -- and then allow their
opponents to piggyback on it immediately and turn it back on them?
[ . . . ]
I think we're seeing the decadence and delusion of the end stages
of a successful political movement. They pretty much fulfilled the
corporate wish list. The only things they haven't accomplished are
the looney wingnut agenda items, which until now they've managed to
keep at arms length, only giving little bits when necessary to keep
the rubes on board. Maybe they just have nothing left to do.
One could argue that the Democrats went through this before: that
sometime in the 1970s the New Deal/Great Society had won all of their
key battles -- glossing over health care, which was still expected to
be employer-provided, the main exceptions covered by Medicare and
Medicaid -- exhausting the movement, leaving corrupt officials on
the one hand and fringe weirdos on the other. I don't buy this: what
actually happened was that labor unions had lost strength ever since
Taft-Hartley, and the civil rights and antiwar movements lost focus
after major wins, same for feminists and environmentalists, without
establishing adequate institutional frameworks to preserve those
gains. Those political weaknesses opened the door for an abundantly
financed and well organized conservative movement, which for a brief
period was even able to present itself as the leading source of new
ideas. Most of those ideas seem laughable now, but they did their
job, providing cover for the conservative takeover.
Paul Krugman: The Ryan Mistake:
First, I suspect that there's a legend in the making -- one that will come
to dominate the conventional wisdom if the GOP does badly next year --
which goes like this: Republicans were too noble. They committed
themselves to a serious, well-crafted policy plan, but were oblivious to
the political realities.
What I hope regular readers of this blog understand by now is that the
Ryan plan is, in fact, a self-serving piece of junk. It doesn't add up --
in fact, it would probably make the deficit bigger not smaller. And far
from representing some kind of sacrifice of political interests in the
service of the greater good, it's a right-wing wish-list on steroids:
sharp tax cuts for corporations and the rich, savage cuts in aid to the
poor, and a gratuitous privatization of Medicare. And again, it's
technically incompetent along the way.
So nobility and seriousness had nothing to do with it.
But what about that political misjudgment? How could they have thought
this piece of junk would fly?
What I think Politico misses is that while the ideas in the Ryan plan
poll terribly with the general public, there was very good reason to expect
them to poll well with the punditocracy. For a year before the plan was
unveiled, Ryan was the absolute darling of Beltway insiders; any suggestion
that he was in fact a flim-flam man was greeted with anger. And let's
remember that for about two days after the plan was unveiled, it was
greeted rapturously, even by some alleged liberals.
Paul Krugman: Where Have All the Mensches Gone?:
I asked this question five years ago, with regard to members of the Bush
administration, who seemed pathologically incapable of taking responsibility
for their actions. But it's as relevant as ever. Newt Gingrich declaring
that anyone who quoted him accurately was lying; and now Tim Pawlenty, who,
aside from saying a whole lot of false things while declaring himself a
truthteller, pulled a Gingrich when Rush Limabaugh correctly pointed out
that he wasn't a true Tea Partier a few years ago.
It's possible to believe that someone is completely wrong on policy
while respecting his or her character. But policy aside, these are just
Andrew Leonard: How the GOP Is Budgeting for Disaster:
Surveying the wreckage in Joplin, Mo., it seems flat-out nuts to think
that cutting financial corners on weather satellites would be a smart
move for Congress. But all year long, House Republicans have been doing
precisely that, slashing away at the funding requested by the National
Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to replace satellites that are
rapidly approaching the end of their working lifespan.
The existing satellite program has been a huge success, providing
unprecedentedly accurate warnings on severe weather events, as well as
data useful for tracking climate change, which may offer us at least
one clue why the program is on the GOP chopping block. But success --
or the necessity of preventing future disasters -- rarely seems to enter
the GOP budget calculus.
Further examples include proposed cuts to the Special Supplemental
Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) -- "every $1
spent on WIC results in a savings of $1.77 to $3.13 in health care
costs" -- and a 15% cut of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
(CFTC) now that they are responsible for regulating derivatives
Andrew C Revkin: Tornado Losses in 2011 Already Match Deadliest Year:
Having grown up in Wichita, KS, and moving back here a decade ago so I
can say I've live here more than half of my sixty years, I have a highly
conditioned understanding of tornados. The great tornado of my childhood
was the one in 1955 that demolished the small town of
Udall, KS, killing 87 (one out of every five people who lived there).
We used to drive through Udall four or five times each year on our way
to visit relatives in Oklahoma. A few years later a cousin in Oklahoma
had his nice, new brick house completely demolished by a tornado while
his wife and two daughters huddled in a hall, miraculously unscathed
but terrified. Back then I used to look at maps of tornado frequencies
and they all showed a big dark oval stretching from south of Oklahoma
City to north of Wichita: we were in the middle of Tornado Alley. But
the legacy of Udall was that the federal, state, and local governments
got their act together and put together forecasting and warning systems
that have worked very well. I've experienced many hundreds of tornado
watches, probably 50-75 tornado warnings. Local TV and radio stations
are amazingly tuned in to severe weather, and the technology tracking
storms has become extraordinarily good -- fascinating, even. But that
doesn't seem to be the case elsewhere: not that the resources and the
technology isn't applied elsewhere, but people aren't so tuned in, or
so knowledgeable. For a long time, Kansas and Oklahoma would still get
most of the tornados, but most of the people killed by tornados would
be in Mississippi: I could only imagine why, but with Mississippi it
doesn't take much imagination: shabby housing, poor communications,
the utter contempt that the government has for the black population.
But Revkin's map doesn't look like the old tornado frequency maps.
Sure, there are two spots in KS, three in OK, one in MO that could have
appeared much bigger, five in AR, but most of them are well to the east.
(Even in MS, the tornados are shifted east; the Delta in northwest MS
is historically the prime target. Ever since I moved back to KS, I've
noticed three things: the tornado belt seems to have shifted east, it's
become much less distinct, and the seasonal pattern (which used to have
virtually all tornados from April to August) has pretty much vanished.
I haven't seen any stats to this effect, but the impression is strong.
And deaths are up, probably because people who didn't grow up expecting
tornados are slow to figure out what to do about them. But I also suspect
we're seeing a Greater Mississippi effect, as the deaths are concentrated
in a broad belt of badly governed, badly educated, low wage, anti-union
states, of which Mississippi is merely exemplary. (I don't doubt that
there is also a seasonal distortion here: we will certainly see tornados
from Illinois to Ohio later this summer, but fewer people will die in
Keep in mind that tornados are one reason we need effective, responsive
government: both to predict and warn, and to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Joplin, MO is about as Republican as any town its size in the country --
the pattern goes all the way back to the Civil War -- but you're not going
to hear anyone with a stake there explaining that if only we can keep the
government uninvolved the free market will fix everything up.
I haven't seen anything useful linking this shifting geographic trend
to global warming -- indeed, thus far all I've seen are people on both
sides reiterating what they believed beforehand -- although it does make
intuitive sense to me.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Ass-Backwards in the Middle East
Ira Chernus: Ass-Backwards in the Middle East:
Obama gave a speech the other day where he cautiously made mention of
the fact that if there is to be peace based on two independent states
in Israel and Palestine, the starting point for delimiting them is the
pre-1967 borders, with any adjustments subject to mutual agreement.
This is actually less strict than the UN resolutions following the
1967 and 1973 wars called for, standard US policy at least until 2000
when Clinton, actively engaged in peace talks between Barak and Arafat,
introduced the exact same wiggle room Obama conceded. In between, on
the infrequent occasions when Bush expressed some interest in peace,
he assumed the same basis for borders. Yet the casual news observer
might think that Obama had invented inconceivable policy from whole
cloth, given the way Congress, Netanyahu, and AIPAC slapped him down.
The reasons for such outrage were simple: to show Obama that even as
president he has no leeway to formulate an Israel-Palestine policy
that is not to the liking of Netanyahu -- a prime minister who was
elected expressly to prevent any form of peace settlement.
Tuches aufn tish: Buttocks on the table. That's the colorful
way my Yiddish-speaking ancestors said, "Let's cut the BS and talk about
honest truth." It seems like a particularly apt expression after a week
watching the shadow-boxing between President Obama and Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that brought no tangible progress toward
an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The truth, like the table, is usually hard and uncomfortable. President
Obama's carefully hedged public call for a two-state solution along Israel's
1967 borders may indeed represent a new step. Maybe it will even prove part
of some long-range game plan that will eventually pay off. But here's the
problem: as of now, Obama shows no inclination to back his words with the
power the U.S. government could wield. Until he does, those words won't
provoke any change in Israel's domination of the Palestinians.
[ .w . . ]
Tuches aufn tish. Let's be honest. The Israeli story doesn't
merely distort the truth, it turns the truth ass-backwards. Eerily enough,
its basic claims about the Palestinians more accurately describe the
The Israelis might as well be looking in the mirror and talking about
themselves when they say things like "They are the aggressors; we're the
victims just defending ourselves." That's part of an Israeli-generated
myth of insecurity whose premise is that Israel bears all the risk in
the conflict with the Palestinians. Obama fed into that myth in his
recent "Arab Spring" speech when he called, in effect, for an even swap:
the Palestinians would get a state and the Israelis would get security,
as if the massively stronger Israelis are the main ones suffering from
In the process, he repeated a familiar mantra, "Our commitment to
Israel's security is unshakeable," and offered a vague warning that
"technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself." Perhaps
that was a coded way of hinting that someday some other Mideast nation
might have a handful of nuclear weapons -- as if any of them could
threaten Israel, which already has as many as 200 nukes and can surely
build more. [ . . . ]
Yet the Palestinians are far more insecure than the Israelis. Like
any victims of colonial military occupation, they're constantly subject
to the threat of death and destruction without notice, at the whim of
the Israeli military, and increasingly from Israeli settlers as well.
Over the last quarter-century, the conflict has killed roughly eleven
Palestinians for every Israeli who died. And yet you'll never find this
line in the speech of an American politician: "Our commitment to Palestine's
security is unshakeable."
Obama did declare that "every state has the right to self-defense."
In the next breath, however, he demanded that a new Palestinian state
must have no army. Would any sovereign nation accept such a demand,
especially if its closest neighbor had dominated and pummeled its people
for years and possessed by far the most powerful military in the region?
Yet the idea of a "demilitarized" Palestinian state is a given in the
U.S. and Israel, as if the only conceivable future threat could come
from those occupied, not from the former occupier.
The staggering power imbalance between occupier and occupied points
to another looking-glass-style distortion that dominates America's
conversation about the issue: the absurd idea that the two parties
could negotiate as equals[. . . . ]
There's one last point that Obama and American public discourse get
absolutely backwards: the idea that being a friend of Israel's means
endorsing its popular narrative, which offers no more truth than Alice's
looking-glass. Real friends don't enable their friends to engage in
self-destructive behavior. Real friends wouldn't let them get so drunk
on a delusional story that they have no compunctions about driving what
might otherwise be a peace process off a cliff.
The U.S. has the power to push the Israelis away from that cliff and
head them in a new direction. There's real truth in the common Israeli
joke that the U.S. is "the eight-ton elephant that can sit down anywhere
Yes, Obama can put his tuches anywhere he wants. If he ever feels
politically safe enough, he just might put it on the table. Then, Israel
might have to leave the looking-glass world and agree to start genuine
Chernus also has some useful paragraphs on why most Israelis prefer
to keep the conflict unresolved -- the common enemy unites the Jewish
people, and patriotic unity (militaristic and racist as it is) is the
sole grounds for keeping a right-wing government in power, although
the nominal left in Israel is every bit as desperate to cling to that
sense of unity. What Chernus doesn't say is how much depends on the
conflict and its resolution.
The core fact is that Israel is the last unresolved white settler
colony. In all previous cases, white settler colonies succeeded or
failed based on demographics. Basically, where the white settlers
had the numbers they won (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, many
parts of Latin America from Argentina and Chile to Cuba although
some parts were eased with integration, where the natives submitted
to the colonizer's religion). Where they didn't, they lost (South
Africa and Algeria were the closest and hardest fought). Israel is
smack in the middle on that scale, a point Israel's founders were
all too conscious of. From the early days of British sponsorship,
they grasped that success or failure depended on how many Jews they
could convince to immigrate, and how many Palestinians they could
get to leave. After WWII nearly everyone came to think that seizing
land by force, transplanting your settlers to secure that land, and
building an occupier/occupied caste system were crimes of a bygone
age, but that's what Israelis did -- most emphatically but by no
means exclusively in 1947-49 -- and their entire history has been
spent in securing those gains, in making them irreversible even as
more and more people see them as unjust and unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the lessons we learned from WWII weren't learned
as quickly or as completely as we tend to remember them. The Nazis
fatally discredited racism and anti-Semitism, but the US Jim Crow
system remained intact another twenty years, South African Apartheid
much longer, and in 1946 there were anti-Jewish pogroms in Poland.
The rules against moving settlers into occupied territory came in
reaction to Germany moving its nationals into eastern Europe, but
the Soviet Union both moved borders and whole peoples after the
war, sliding Poland well to the west, and ejecting both the new
Germans and ones that had lived in the east for many centuries.
WWII fatally disrupted the colonial system, but France and Great
Britain clung to parts of their prewar empires for another twenty
years, fighting especially hard to support their white minorities
in Algeria and Kenya. Britain callously split its India colony
into two camps, instigating genocidal slaughter that killed over
a million and sent many more millions fleeing across new borders --
less than a year before Britain callously abanoned Palestine to
civil war. And of course the founders of Israel were shocked and
reacting to the Nazi genocide of six million Jews, an event that
they viewed as proof of the necessity of the Zionist project --
proof that anti-Semitism was eternal, proof that they had no home
in Europe they could return to, a prism which inflated the Arab
resistence they faced locally to existential peril.
So it's easy to understand how this came about, and why so many
Israelis cling to deep-seated myths of diminishing utility. For
sixty years they've kept up the fight, motivating themselves with
lessons from their victimhood and a neverending litany of wrongs
against them. The Palestinians were a bit slow on the uptake at
first, although even in the 1930s many could see the same fateful
struggle over demography: a fear that proved more than justified,
although it came at the most unfortunate of times, just as Hitler
was organizing his genocide. The Palestinians went through every
stage of resistance, from thinking they could take back their land
to thinking they could throw off their occupiers to negotiation to
abjectly pleading to the world for the basic dignity of human and
civil rights. They are, in short, a beaten people, yet even that
doesn't quiet the Israelis, for by their very success they've
impaled themselves on the horns of a dilemma: they still want all
of the land, and they still want none of the people on that land,
and nothing less will satisfy their sense of themselves as the
victors, or fully justify their long and bloody struggle.
For anyone with a modicum of rationality, there are two easy
solutions at this point: Israel can keep the land and adopt the
people, giving them citizenship and diluting the Jewish majority,
threatening their sense of owning a Jewish State; or Israel can
divide the land, giving up control over the parts that are mostly
non-Jewish so that Palestinians can enjoy citizenship and rights
in a state that is not Israel. One problem with the latter is
that Israel has deliberately created a gulag of settlements in
the West Bank that are virtually impossible to disentangle.
Another is that Israeli have overwhelmed East Jerusalem, which
Palestinians insist should be the capitol of their free nation.
Another is what to do about millions of Palestinian refugees,
especially those born and raised in countries like Lebanon that
do not recognize their citizenship. And there are lots of smaller
problems, some real like the vast number of Palestinians held in
Israeli jails, most rather silly (like the security concerns of
Israelis who insist that a Palestinian state have no rights to
its own air space or coastal waters). But all of those things
could be negotiated if both sides were to show mutual respect
and a desire to give up the struggle and live in each other's
It wasn't always like this, but more and more it's just the
Israelis who are obstructing peace. The Palestinians, as I've
said, have been utterly defeated, but whereas in earlier times
that may have meant they would slaughtered, sold into slavery,
and/or forced into exile, today they can still insist on the
right to be treated like anyone else. More and more, Israel's
failure to recognize this is turning them into an international
pariah, much like happened to South Africa during the last days
of Apartheid. But this far Israel has escaped the practical
consequences of their obtuseness because they've been able to
bully and cajole the US into providing them with moral cover
(and billions of dollars). The US has gone along for lots of
not very good reasons, from the fact that we used to be a white
settler colony ourselves to the various interest groups, like
the military-industrial complex, that benefit from friendship
with Israel, to AIPAC, to Israel's bizarre cultivation of born
again Christians (especially those pining for the apocalypse).
On the other hand, that support has its downsides, not least the
utter moral confusion of having to exempt Israel (and therefore
the Palestinians) from everything we say about the rest of the
So watching Obama flounder here is doubly unfortunate. On the
one hand, he is isn't saying what needs to be said: something that
finally shakes Israel out of its stupor. On the other hand, what
he is saying isn't taken seriously, because he doesn't have the
authority and political clout to back it up. I've long understood
how intransigent Israel's politicians are on this issue, in large
part because I appreciate how central it is to their identity,
but I've also long suspected that Israeli public opinion is more
flexible. The one time an American president actually showed his
displeasure with Israeli intransigence the Israelis voted Shamir
out and Rabin in, leading to the Oslo Accords. So what I've been
waiting for ever since Obama took office was the sort of signals
that would undermine Netanyahu's extremely fragile coalition.
Just as Netanyahu successfully sabotaged Oslo, there has never
been any doubt that he would keep any new peace initiatives from
taking effect -- as indeed he has. But his command of Israel has
always been very tentative; nudge him out of office and the
climate could change markedly. But as long as Netanyahu can
push Obama around, this is certainly the lesson of last week,
why should Israelis doubt him? They are relatively comfortable
with the persistence of a conflict which costs them very little
and makes them feel like God's Chosen People. And as long as
the US kowtows to them, they pretty much are, despite the fact
that what they are doing is offensive to everyone else -- most
of all to people who realize that we'd be much better off with
more mutual respect and a lot less violence.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Music: Current count 18224  rated (+27), 857  unrated (-10).
Seems like the normal flow of the week got interrupted Thursday-Friday,
then wiped out Saturday-Sunday, so a strong early ratings push petered
out. This week looks dicey.
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #27, Part 6)
Mid-cycle, picking things from all the queue boxes trying to cut
down the overall backlog. Was fairly productive until the weekend,
which got wiped out. Probably a couple more weeks like this before
I switch to closing out the column/cycle. Also the month turns over
so I might get distracted by Recycled Goods. I have notes on about
30 records for Rhapsody Streamnotes, so that's healthy sized.
John Vanore & Abstract Truth: Contagious Words
(2010 , Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, composer, arranger,
leader of the big band he calls Abstract Truth. About the only bio I
have on Vanore is that he played for Woody Herman in the 1970s, and put
the first edition of his band together in 1981. Last year he reissued
a 1991 album called Curiosity. This one is new, cut in June and
December of 2010. Not very well defined in the early going, but sneaks
up on your and closes very strong, getting a lot out the guitar and
slipping a French horn into the brass.
Eddie Mendenhall: Cosine Meets Tangent (2010 ,
Miles High): Pianist, bio mangled, but "directs the jazz department"
at Monterey Peninsula College, seems to be from those parts, studied
at Berklee, spent seven years in Japan. First album. Wrote 8 of 10
pieces, with one from vibraphonist Mark Sherman, one from Rodgers
and Hart. Quartet with John Schifflett on bass, Akira Tana on drums.
The vibes dominate early on in one of Sherman's finest performances.
By coincidence I was writing something about MJQ while listening to
this. These guys are much faster, not that that was necessarily the
Bill Anschell: Figments (2010 , Origin):
Seattle pianist, AMG counts seven albums since 1997. Solo piano
this time, all covers, majority folk/rock from the 1960s (two
Lennon/McCartneys, "Alice's Restaurant," "Spinning Wheel") into
the early 1970s ("Big Yellow Taxi," "Desperado"). Nice as far
as it goes.
Storms/Nocturnes [Geoffrey Keezer/Joe Locke/Tim Garland]:
Via (2010 , Origin): Second album for the trio --
previous one recorded in 2002, released with Garland's name first
and Keezer's last (UK label then, US label now). Respectively:
piano, vibes, saxophones/bass clarinet. Garland, as I said, is
British, b. 1966, has about ten albums, plays a lot of soprano
as well as tenor, was prominent enough he got "featuring" credits
while he was with Bill Bruford. Keezer, b. 1970, was Art Blakey's
last pianist. Has a dozen-plus albums since 1989 including major
labels Blue Note and Columbia. Locke you know. Aside from the
previous group album they've played around with each other. Still,
I'm surprised at how little chemistry there is. The pieces don't
mesh, and Garland and Locke are pretty unassertive.
Noah Haidu: Slipstream (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, from Charlottesville, VA. First record, although he's in
a group called Native Soul which has two records, one unplayed in
my queue somewhere. Post-hardbop quintet, has a front line that
should be able to generate some heat: Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Jon
Irabagon on alto sax. They do break out on occasion, but not so
often, with the piano thickly entangled.
Native Soul: Soul Step (2008 , Talking Drum):
Filed this under pop jazz, a mistake I blame on the packaging --
they sure try to look like another variant of Four Play. Actually,
a mainstream postbop sax-piano-bass-drums quartet; even when they
try to go with electric bass and keyb they stay firmly rooted on
the jazz side. All four members contribute 2-3 songs -- bassist
Marcus McLaurine is the overachiever. Two covers: one from Jimi
Hendrix, the other "End of a Love Affair."
Clint Ashlock Big Band: New Jazz Order (2008 ,
self-released): Trumpet player, from Kansas City, leading a standard
big band (although so many musicians come and go I didn't check to
see if all the sections always add up). Bobby Watson joins on two
cuts, which scarcely matters except for the imprimatur he lends to
musicians I've never heard of. The guitar keeps things going, the
section work is snappy, they have a great time -- much like the
territory bands of yore.
The Rossano Sportiello Trio: Lucky to Be Me [Arbors Piano
Series, Volume 22] (2010, Arbors): Pianist, b. 1974 in
Vigevano, Italy. Plays old fashioned stride with a light touch.
Joined Dan Barrett at a festival in Switzerland in 2002, and has
increasingly worked himself into the Arbors swing network: second
album on his own, two more charming duos with bassist-singer Nicki
Parrott, side credits especially with Harry Allen. This is a trio
with Frank Tate (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums), old standards
which increasingly includes the 1950s (Thad Jones, J.J. Johnson,
Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan), light and mostly delightful. Closes
with something by Bach, no doubt part of his education, just not
something I ever learned to care for.
Lajos Dudas: 50 Years of Jazz Clarinet: The Best of Lajos
Dudas (1976-2007 , Jazz Sick, 2CD): Clarinet player,
also some alto sax, b. 1941 in Budapest, Hungary; not sure when he
moved to Germany, evidently by 1973 when he started teaching in Neuss,
North Rhine-Westphalia. Reportedly has "over 50 Singles/LPs/CDs";
liner notes cite 17 here, plus seven cuts identified as radio shots.
Fifty years goes back to his first performances, back when he was
studying at the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Franz Liszt Academy
of Music. His recording career is shorter, starting around 1976 with
his first Reflections on Bach -- a subject he returns to
several times later. Still, this is very much jazz, even though
he hardly fits into the trad, bop, or avant niches. Discs aren't
strictly chronolgical, but the first one leans early (1978-94)
with its Bach, Liszt, and HR Big Band (also a cut with guitarist
Atilla Zoller). Second leads off with a vigorous "Summertime,"
then more Bach before he moves into a 1995-2007 stretch and it
gets more interesting.
Jacqui Sutton: Dolly & Billie (2010, Toy Blue
Typewriter): Singer, from Orlando, FL; fifty-something, first album.
The Dolly Parton-Billie Holiday concept is only explicit on the
first ("God Bless the Child") and last ("Endless Stream of Tears")
songs. In between there's a piece from Porgy and Bess, two
from BeTwixt, BeTween, & BeTwain, some more show tunes
I don't quite get. Band is called the Frontier Jazz Orchestra, led
by pianist-trombonist Henry Darragh, with Paul Chester on bango,
Max Dyer on cello, Aralee Dorough on flute, Alan Hoff on accordion,
some others. It's meant to be a little corny, and Sutton's voice
careens recklessly through the maze, scattering hay bales hither
Jochen Rueckert: Somewhere Meeting Somebody (2010
, Pirouet): Drummer, b. 1975 near Köln, Germany; moved to New
York in 1995. Second album, the first dating from 1998; AMG lists
30 side credits. Wrote 9 of 11 pieces here, adding one each from
Herbie Hancock and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). Group looks superb
on paper -- Mark Turner (tenor sax), Brad Shepik (guitar), Matt
Penman (bass) -- but the guitar doesn't pop out, and the sax just
glides along, making few waves.
Alex Pinto Quartet: Inner State (2010 ,
self-released): Guitarist, b. 1985 in Silver Spring, MD (near DC);
father from Mangalore, Karnataka, India, worked for World Bank
which moved the family around, including a stint in Russia; mother
from Wisconsin. Studied at McGill (in Montreal), wound up in San
Francisco. First album. Quartet includes Jon Armstrong (tenor sax),
Dave Tranchina (bass), Jaz Sawyer (drums). Pinto wrote all the
pieces, working in some Indian tunings and breaking out on his
solos, although Armstrong comes off even more muscular.
Gordon Lee: This Path (2010, OA2): Pianist, b.
1953 in New York City; studied at Syracuse and Indiana; moved to
Portland, OR in 1977, worked 1980-85 in New York, then returned
to Portland. Seventh album since 1982. Works with two trios here,
plus a couple of solo cuts, one with Miguel Bernal on cajon.
T.K. Blue: Latin Bird (2010 , Motéma): Also
known as Talib Kibwe; plays alto sax and flute; b. in New York, mother
from Trinidad, father from Jamaica; studied at NYU and Columbia; joined
Abdullah Ibrahim 1977-80, moved to Paris for early 1980s, hooked up
with Randy Weston for a long stretch. Released three albums as Talib
Kibwe 1986-96; five now as T.K. Blue, starting in 1999. This one is
simple enough: Charlie Parker songs with Latin percussion -- Roland
Guerrero on congas, Willie Martinez on traps -- with Theo Hill on
piano and Essiet Okon Essiet on bass, plus a couple guests: Lewis
Nash takes over the drums on two cuts, and Steve Turre plays shells
and 'bone on three. Not the overpowering player Bird was, but that's
fine by me. The two originals are OK, but the one non-Parker cover
is a dead spot: "Round Midnight," which subtracts rather than adds
to the theme.
Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard (2010 ,
Palmetto): Pianist, of course, has close to 30 album since 1984,
cultivated his Bill Evans comparisons with 1990's Evanessence.
I thought last year's Whirl was a triumph -- best thing he's
ever done, although I'm not much of an expert. Guess that's all it
took to get him to do another solo album -- don't know how many he
has, but must be a handful (still way short of Jarrett). You know
better than I whether you're up for this. Personally, I don't buy
all of Art Tatum's solo piano albums, and he's a helluva lot sexier
than this. But there's nothing lame or disingenous here, and I'm
as happy as anyone that's he's still kicking.
Liam Sillery: Priorité (2009 , OA2): Trumpet
player, from New Jersey, studied at Manhattan School of Music. Fifth
album since 2004, mostly quintets with sax-piano-bass-drums (one with
organ-guitar instead of piano-bass). With Matt Blostein (alto sax)
and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), who have their own band, plus Jesse
Stacken (piano) and Thomas Morgan (bass). Postbop sophistication,
everyone fitting in nicely, doing the things well schooled groups
do these days.
Julia Hülsmann Trio: Imprint (2010 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1968 in Bonn, Germany; sixth album since 2003, three
on ACT, two on ECM. AMG reports that she also sings, but not here.
Piano trio, very typical of Manfred Eicher's productions: clean,
poised, articulate, not too fast or too free but not predictable
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (1969-70 ,
Columbia/Legacy): Something of a misnomer, combining three previously
unreleased cuts from a pre-Bitches Brew July 1969 performance
at Newport with six from an Isle of Wight set the following August.
Neither group matches the album band -- Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin,
and Joe Zawinul are among the missing -- nor do the songs line up.
The former group was stripped down with Chick Corea, Dave Holland,
and Jack DeJohnette; the latter was buffed up, adding Gary Bartz,
Keith Jarrett (on organ), and Airto Moreira. So this is basically
yet another live set from the period when Davis made his transition
from hard bop to fusion, and from dingy jazz clubs to stadia. Pretty
hot one, too; all the more confusing since I mostly recall Bitches
Brew as our favorite chill-out album of the early 1970s.
Colin Vallon Trio: Rruga (2010 , ECM): Pianist,
b. 1980 in Lausanne, Switzerland; based and teaches in Bern; third album
since 2004. Piano trio with Patrice Moret on bass and Samuel Rohrer on
drums, both contributing songs. Played it three times. Not much snap,
mostly quiet majesty.
Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (2011, Prime Source):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959 in Wichita, KS; grew up in Baltimore; mother
played organ, and this record, an organ trio, is dedicated to her; moved
to New York in 1983 and has twenty-some albums since 1988, mostly on
the Swiss Hat label(s). With Gary Versace on organ, Gerald Cleaver on
drums. Five songs, played loose -- only one I initially IDed was "How
Deep Is the Ocean." No grease to the organ: Versace patiently fills in
rather than reiterate the usual grind, leaving Eskelin free to plot out
his own path.
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Bill Carrothers Trio: A Night at the Village Vanguard (Pirouet, 2CD)
- Claire Dickson: Scattin' Doll (NDR)
- Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein: Bienestan (Sunnyside): June 14
- Larry Goldings: In My Room (BFM Jazz)
- Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (Jazz From Rant)
- Red Hot + Rio 2 (Entertainment One, 2CD): advance, June 28
- Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform, 2CD)
- David Weiss & Point of Departure: Snuck Out (Sunnyside): June 28
- Denny Zeitlin: Labyrinth (Sunnyside): June 28
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Simon Johnson: A Limit to Their Insanity:
Subtitle, "Why Republicans will eventually vote to raise the debt
If Republican threats were credible, any news that increased the likelihood
of a problem with the debt ceiling would send Treasury bond prices down and
yields up. This is not happening, because bond traders cannot imagine that
the Republicans would be able -- or even willing -- to follow through.
After all, the consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling would
be catastrophic. The entire credit system in the United States -- and in
much of the rest of the world -- is based on the notion that there is such
a thing as a "risk-free asset," and that these assets are U.S. government
securities. There is no provision in the Constitution to guarantee that
the United States will always pay its debts, but the American Republic has
proved itself for 200-plus years to be about as good a credit risk as has
ever existed. [ . . . ]
Countries never default because they can't pay their debts; there are
always ways to decrease expenditures or raise taxes. Countries default
because their political systems bring them to the point where the people
in power decide, for whatever reason, not to pay the government's debts.
It is not difficult to identify who would bear what costs if the United
States did not pay -- or if it disrupted markets by not increasing its
debt ceiling. Everyone who borrows or interacts with the credit system
in any way would suffer a shock that would make the crisis of 2008 look
Among others, the U.S. corporate sector -- big and small business --
would be livid. [ . . . ] Simply put, America will
not score what is known in soccer as an "own goal" over the debt ceiling --
and Boehner must know it. Symbolic gestures are to be expected, as with
the threatened government shutdown earlier this year, which merely created
fodder for political advertising by both parties. But any manufactured
debt crisis now would deeply antagonize the corporate sector -- and most
of the electorate. In the wake of economic disaster, the party held
responsible could be exiled from power for a generation.
Andrew Leonard: Why the Debt Ceiling Absolutely, Positively, Will Be
Raised: video with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist
who otherwise I have little respect for, but even he gets it.
Andrew Leonard: Debt Ceiling Panic Attack:
Think of this as John Boehner reprising Richard Nixon's madman stratagem:
Let's think through this for a second. Who benefits from a rising sense
of debt ceiling panic? Republicans. Extortion only works if you
really think that the blackmailer will go through his threats -- a dynamic
that we saw played out to perfection in the struggle over the continuing
resolution to fund the U.S. government. Every spike upward on the
fear-and-trembling-meter gives John Boehner more leverage, empowering
him to go right up to the brink of disaster and extract the biggest
possible concession from Democrats. So it serves the GOP just fine that
the punditocracy regards it as irresponsible.
I won't deny that there's a possiblity that all hell could break
loose, but I'm standing by my original position. I don't think there
is any chance that the debt ceiling won't be raised, not least because
I'm pretty sure President Obama will decide that maintaining the good
credit of the United States is of paramount importance. He will cut a
deal, if forced to, because he takes the good of the nation seriously.
But the spectacle of everyone freaking out at the possibility of default
actually weakens his hand, and raises the likelihood that the terms of
that eventual deal will impose unnecessary and economically damaging
short-term spending cuts or overly harsh entitlement reductions.
So let's not be scared, let's just be clear: risking the good credit
of the United States is a profoundly stupid thing to do. If Republicans
provoke a bond market revolt that seriously raises the cost of government
borrowing, they'll do severe longterm damage to the U.S. economy. It's
hard to see how the GOP would be rewarded for such behavior in 2012.
Ezra Klein: Osama bin Laden Didn't Win, but He Was 'Enormously
Bin Laden, according to [Daveed] Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that
we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to
defend against. What he really wanted to do -- and, more to the point,
what he thought he could do -- was bankrupt the United States of America.
After all, he'd done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before. And though
it didn't quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of
us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit.
[ . . . ]
"He has compared the United States to the Soviet Union on numerous
occasions -- and these comparisons have been explicitly economic,"
Gartenstein-Ross argued in a Foreign Policy article. "For example, in
October 2004 bin Laden said that just as the Arab fighters and Afghan
mujaheddin had destroyed Russia economically, al Qaeda was now doing
the same to the United States, 'continuing this policy in bleeding
America to the point of bankruptcy.'"
For bin Laden, in other words, success was not to be measured in
body counts. It was to be measured in deficits, in borrowing costs,
in investments we weren't able to make in our country's continued
economic strength. And by those measures, bin Laden landed a lot of
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the price tag on the
Iraq War alone will surpass $3 trillion. Afghanistan likely amounts
to another trillion or two. Add in the build-up in homeland security
spending since 9/11 and you're looking at another trillion. And don't
forget the indirect costs of all this turmoil: The Federal Reserve,
worried about a fear-induced recession, slashed interest rates after
the attack on the World Trade Center, and then kept them low to combat
skyrocketing oil prices, a byproduct of the war in Iraq. That decade
of loose monetary policy may well have contributed to the credit bubble
that crashed the economy in 2007 and 2008.
Then there's the post-9/11 slowdown in the economy, the time wasted
in airports, the foregone returns on investments we didn't make, the
rise in oil prices as a result of the Iraq War, the cost of rebuilding
Ground Zero, health care for the first responders and much, much more.
Moreover, those trillions aren't over. Almost everything on that
list remains as a continuing expenditure, something we'll spend again
and again until we figure out a better way. But the more important
thing to realize is that bin Laden didn't force us to spend all that
treasure -- all he can be directly charged with was the dead on 9/11,
caring for the wounded, and repairing a few buildings. All the rest
resulted from a war we chose to fight: a war we let ourselves be
suckered into. That was above all else a political decision, one
made by one person, president G.W. Bush, no matter how easy it was
given how many people around him, and all across the nation, felt
the itch for war. I could imagine a very different president avoiding
bin Laden's trap, and prevailing in the court of public opinion. It
would have taken foresight and courage, the ability to see complex
issues from many sides, to think ahead, and to appeal to our better
natures. Such people were, and are, scarce in our government and in
the political class: something that bin Laden recognized, and took
tragic advantage of.
Jane Mayer: The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?
Drake is a former NSA employee who leaked documents to a Baltimore Sun
reporter exposing "financial waste, bureaucratic dysfunction, and dubious
practices in NSA counterterrorism programs." He is charged with violating
the 1917 Espionage Act, subject to a prison term of 35 years.
Top officials at the Justice Department describe such leak prosecutions
as almost obligatory. Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General who
supervises the department's criminal division, told me, "You don't get
to break the law and disclose classified information just because you
want to." He added, "Politics should play no role in it whatsoever."
When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the
cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers,
whom he described as "often the best source of information about waste,
fraud, and abuse in government." But the Obama Administration has pursued
leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake
case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in
five alleged instances of national-security leaks -- more such prosecutions
than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case
is one of two that Obama's Justice Department has carried over from the
Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson
Institute, who, in his book Necessary Secrets (2010), argues for
more stringent protection of classified information, says, "Ironically,
Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our
history -- even more so than Nixon."
Much more about the case, and the NSA's illegal surveillance programs.
Ends with a discussion of similar cases, starting with the failed prosecution
of Daniel Ellsberg. Ends with this:
Mark Klein, the former A.T. & T. employee who exposed the telecom-company
wiretaps, is also dismayed by the Drake case. "I think it's outrageous," he
says. "The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies got immunity.
The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers."
Alex Pareene: North Carolina Anti-Municipal Broadband Bill May Become
The Republicans who control state legislatures across the nation aren't
just sending immigrants to private prisons and forbidding children from
learning of the existence of gay people -- they are also working closely
with major telecommunications lobbyists to hobble municipal broadband
services. North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue is now deciding whether to
sign or veto a bill severely restricting local communities from creating
broadband networks. [ . . . ]
The basic argument for the bill -- made most convincingly by North
Carolina telecom lobby counsel Marcus Trathen here -- is that it's
"unfair competition" for local governments to offer better service at
lower prices than the private sector, which is also a compelling argument
for banning governments from setting up "public" schools that educate
children for "free."
These people would've also opposed rural electrification. We must
preserve the private sector's right to overcharge citizens for subpar
David Weigel: Air Rage:
It used to be said that railroads stagnated because they didn't have
enough imagination to realize that their real business was transportation,
not just railroads. This is laughable, because every railroad from the
1850s on realized exactly what business they were in: they auctioned
their routes for government-paid bribes, mostly in the form of free
land, which they spent more time managing than they did their routes.
Some people still think that Boeing is in the aircraft business, but
for a long time now Boeing's prime focus has been in sucking favors
from governments. For instance, when Boeing announces a new airplane,
their first concern isn't how to design and build it. No, their first
concern is to count up how many jobs they might create, then they go
around the world seeing who will bid the most for which jobs. Back
when they initially announced the 787, they were disappointed in that
no state or country bid enough so they were stuck having to use a
plant in Washington they had already built, and worse they'd have to
use the unionized workers on their payroll in that plant. However, in
divvying up all that work, it turned out that Boeing couldn't get to
the point of assembling those airplanes. That gave them more time,
and finally South Carolina came up with $900 million and the promise
to get rid of that pesky union. Only problem was that Boeing bragged
so much about how the move would screw the union that the NLRB found
the anti-union move to be illegal. Needless to say, Boeing's execs,
lobbyists, and political cronies are apoplectic. I mean, Boeing is
used to their executives getting slammed in jail for illegal bribes,
but for union busting? What kind of country is this?
Here's the legal argument made by the union and the NLRB. The Wagner
Act prohibits companies from moving operations to avoid unions. On
Feb. 28, the Seattle Times published an interview with Boeing's
CEO, Jim Albaugh, in which he seemed to say, yes, Boeing was basically
doing that. "The overriding factor was not the business climate,"
explained Albaugh, "and it was not the wages we are paying today.
It was that we can't afford to have a work stoppage every three years.
And we can't afford to continue the rate of escalation of wages."
That, say the unions, is all the proof you need. But Gould and other
critics say that while the board may look kindly upon the complaint,
its position won't stand up in the courts.
The NLRB, for its part, denies that it's a political fight at all
(although it launched Fact Check page on its website, which -- possibly
a first for the Obama administration -- rebuts a claim made on RedState.com).
"It wouldn't have mattered if the complaint was about moving from a union
state to another union state," said the NLRB's public affairs director
Nancy Cleeland, a former labor reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
"It has nothing to do with right-to-work states. These are the issues we
deal with every day."
For Republicans, that's the main issue: the very existence of the NLRB.
The board has a Democratic majority only because President Obama
recess-appointed Craig Becker, a former AFL-CIO and SEIU counsel. In
February, 176 House Republicans voted for an amendment to the budget
bill that would have completely defunded the board.
Pretty surprising to see Boeing caught up like this, but I bet Al
Capone was pretty surprised when that tax thing came down. It should
always be remembered that Boeing moved their corporate headquarters
from Seattle to Chicago so their execs would be less likely to run
into the people they laid off.
Philip Weiss: Report: Mitchell Resigned Because Dennis Ross Was Biased
and Working Against US Interests: Uh, Ross isn't biased. He's a
foreign agent, even when his salary is picked up by US taxpayers.
Abu Shareef said senior American officials informed him that Mitchell
viewed the appointment of Ross a step to obstruct the peace process. He
added that Mitchell believed Ross was working against US interests.
Sure worked, didn't it? To be sure, the US has a weak and fuzzy sense
of its own interest in the Middle East, even when it is fanatical about
asserting them. But generally speaking, a peaceful resolution of the
Israel/Palestine conflict would greatly improve US standing in the
region. It is certainly easy to see Ross as someone working against
US interests. The old-fashioned word for such a person is "traitor."
Friday, May 20, 2011
Henry Farrell: Count Me In With the Unsophisticated Six Year Olds:
Starts by quoting a Kindred Winecoff attack on Krugman, arguing that
things like the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare D program, and the housing
bubble were actually cases of popular will at work in a democracy, not
(as Krugman argues) the results of intense lobbying by self-interested
elites. Farrell writes:
However, actual work on how policy gets made suggests that this
doesn't work. On many important policy issues, the public has no
preferences whatsoever. On others, it has preferences that largely
maps onto partisan identifications rather than actual interests, and
that reflect claims made by political elites (e.g. global warming).
On others yet, the public has a set of contradictory preferences
that politicians can pick and choose from. In some broad sense,
public opinion does provide a brake on elite policy making --
but the boundaries are both relatively loose and weakly defined.
Policy elites can get away with a hell of a lot if they want to.
The Medicare D example is worth exploring a bit. Adding some sort of
drug perscription coverage to Medicare was a very popular proposition.
Most health insurance plans provide some sort of coverage. Originally
it was a relatively cheap benefit, but under its cover pharmaceutical
companies were able to push prices way up, which made the omission all
the more glaring in Medicare. It was one issue that Democrats seemed
to have some traction with, which is basically why Karl Rove felt the
need to sweep the issue away. Once Rove and the Republicans decided to
do something, the actual legislation was pure giveaway to the industry.
So popular demand wanted the benefit, but not the law as written. In
particular, the prohibition against the government negotiating drug
prices had no popular benefit -- it greatly increased costs, some of
which were passed to seniors in forms like the "donut hole" and the
rest fobbed onto taxpayers. The law was clearly an inside deal, but
it is true that if the benefit hadn't had such broad popular support
it wouldn't have been pushed or passed. So in that sense Medicare D
wasn't purely the work of ensconsed elites. On the other hand, the
Iraq War was.
No one denies that popular opinion limits what elites can do, nor
that it can provide a wedge for one set of elites to campaign against
another. However, the latter happens very infrequently, in large part
because there are rarely serious splits between elite opinion. One
finds, for instance, that both parties hire Treasury officials from
the same sets of Citibank and Goldman-Sachs executives. The defense
and foreign policy establishments are nearly as integrated. For some
30 years now the US relationship with Israel has been hamstrung by
the Dennis Ross-Elliot Abrams tag team, who are nothing more than
foreign agents, yet they've managed to pin down what we like to think
of as a popular democracy.
When popular opinion demands health care reform, Obama consults with
the usual industry lobbyists and comes up with a right-wing think tank
plan. The Democrats response to global warming, which quite a few people
are seriously worried about, is yet another right-wing think tank scheme.
The right then abandons both plans to move the debate even further right,
even further away from the issues people actually care about. Working
through these charades you wind up with a disaffected populace that
doesn't even bother to vote -- it's not like there are any candidates
: Later on I see Henry quoting Krugman on this:
In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent
memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a
small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the
plan was needlessly expensive, not because that's the way the public
wanted it -- it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional
Medicare -- but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government
Emphasis added. The other budget-busters were sold to the public,
and you can cite some polls showing that the selling was successful,
but not ones that show that the people who were sold to understood
what they were buying.
Winecoff later argues that most Americans don't want a healthcare
system run by the government, then tries to broaden "anti-government
ideologues" to include those masses. In fact, very few Americans have
any major problems with the healthcare systems that are actually run
by the US government -- Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Adminstration.
It's only imaginary ones they object to, which makes you wonder if they
really know what they are opining about.
This, in turn, is followed by 262 comments. Some are worth quoting.
Is this an example of "an extremely weak understanding" or is it an
example of lying? I cannot imagine how honest person could say that the
tax cuts and the Iraq war took place because they were "supported by
majorities." The Bush administration was the passive conduit for the
will of the people, is that the idea? [ . . . ]
Sometimes people say things that reveal that they are genuinely not
worth debating. They are simply lying sacks of shit and they need to be
opposed, not reasoned with.
An examination of the character of Karl Rove is all that is required
to support Krugman's thesis of irresponsible and incompetent elites.
This "Mayberry Machiavelli" could in no way be described as a public
servant. He was a cynical manipulator of public opinion relentlessly
pursuing the the political agendas of his patron(s). To suppose that
a creature like Rove was simply responding to the wishes of the public
"If there is a housing bubble, maybe it's because public
policy was skewed in ways that home ownership attractive, because that's
what people want." [Kindred Winecoff]
It's amazing to me that alleged scholars will say unbelievably stupid
shit like this. You can knock Krugman for being rude if you like, but what
are you supposed to say about this? I promise you that very few people
actually supported -- or even understood -- the predatory lending,
unregulated derivatives, etc. that caused the housing bubble.
"There is not even any doubt that neither the tax
cuts, nor the Iraq war, would have happened if they weren't pushed
by political, business, and media elites."
Exactly right. All of these policies were pushed relentlessly by
the media at every opportunity. It also should be noted that both
the tax cuts and the Iraq war were pushed with lies. The Bush
administration repeatedly claimed that the majority of the tax
cuts were aimed at the middle class and the poor, which we all
know was false, and they also claimed that Iraq had WMDs, which
we now also know was false.
Kindred Winecoff :
Hitting too hard, Henry. I was protesting Krugman's moralism, and
suggesting that even the most simplistic view of politics suggests an
interest-based explanation works better. I disagree with little that
you wrote (I'd go further on some points), but I have no idea why
you're sticking up for Krugman here.
I pretty much gave up on Winecoff's frequent comments after here.
At one point he argues that elite opinion is divided then gives Krugman
as an example of an elite who disagrees with various Bush policies.
In fact, I wound up stopping near the point where Winecoff wrote,
"The consensus here seems to be that I should shut up."
Oh no Kindred, that won't fly. You persistently read Krugman in
the most uncharitable way possible and now ask for a charitable
reading of your own posts?
Let me summarize:
- Brooks: It's the stupid electorate that's gotten us into this mess,
we really need smart elites to get us out.
- Krugman: Are you kidding me? Those policies were elite driven and
not due to some stupid electorate.
- Winecoff: But public opinion favored those policies! It was the
public after all!
- Farrell: Dude, that's not how policy is made.
- Winecoff: Yeah, I agree, but that doesn't matter and I hate Krugman.
- Readers: ????
The rich got their tax cuts in America because they paid for them
with political donations and retainers to lying thugs like Karl Rove.
There are "malefactors of great wealth" and Krugman is right to
denounce their cynical political flunkies on moral grounds.
Kindred makes three fundamental theoretical mistakes: One, he mistakes
the result of an opinion poll for the complex reality that is the opinion
of the masses; two, he mistakes correlation for causality; and three, he
ignores completely the way ruling class ideology as transmitted by media,
entertainment, the organization of daily life, impacts on and shapes
public opinion. Maybe this is a feature of IPE rather than Winecoff, but
I always find it fascinating when liberal social scientists write as if
150 years of Marxist thought did not exist; although of course in the
case of the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq war one doesn't have to be a Marxist
to recognize that whatever public support they may have had was obviously
the product of massive propaganda unleashed by elites intent on forming
the very public support needed as an excuse to implement these policies.
What about the invasion of Grenada? Did that happen because the
people wanted it? 'Cause polls taken after it'd begun showed a lot
of public support.
The public opinion poll is, for Winecoff, like the provocative dress
that implicitly sanctions the violators designs.
Area Man :
"If there is a housing bubble, maybe it's because
public policy was skewed in ways that home ownership attractive, because
that's what people want." [Kindred Winecoff]
You can't be serious.
Having public policy skewed in favor of home ownership cannot cause
a housing bubble. The whole idea of a bubble is that constantly rising
valuations are unsustainable; in other words, buying becomes irrational,
but it keeps paying as long as other people keep buying. If public policy
makes home ownership more attractive, this by itself will not cause an
irrational buying spree, it will at most cause a one-time increase in
home values, after which they level off. This is assuming you believe
there were massive changes in public policy starting in the late 90s
that encouraged people to buy houses that weren't in place before, which
as far as I can tell, there weren't.
Another way to think about this is to ask precisely how public policy
changed in 2007-2009 to make home ownership massively less attractive,
since this is why you seem to think that people overbought homes to begin
with. I am not aware of any such changes, and many to the contrary.
Martin Bento :
Occasionally, you can have a policy that is popularly-driven.
Legalization of medical marijuana is probably the best recent example.
Most states that have passed it have done so by ballot initiative,
usually over the opposition of most of the elected representatives.
There was little elite agitation for it beforehand. There was some --
from libertarians, including people like Milton Friedman -- but it was
scattered and limited to the occasional Op Ed. Milty like to talk this
way to seem consistent, but he didn't actually do much to push for it.
There was also support on the Left, but not from people credibly
regarded as part of the political elite. The Iraq War and tax cuts
were nothing at all like this.
I don't see what is so difficult about this. Why on earth would
donors pour millions and millions of dollars into candidates' war
chests if all they were going to do once elected was reflect public
opinion (whatever that means)?
You are giving Winecoff too much credit. I've read his original post
and his responses here and all I've gotten from his writing is that he
is a disingenuous, dissembling mouthpiece for the anti-Krugman portion
of the political elite.
He is doing exactly what a modern day trench soldier for the conservative
movement does; he puts out a poorly researched political hit job and when
challenged on facts, he dissembles, when taken to task with his own words,
he builds strawmen. He is not naive, he didn't read Krugman incorrectly,
he is just playing by the modern conservative playbook.
Conservative Playbook -- 7 easy steps
- support crappy policy (e.g. Paul Ryan's budget plan)
- when challenged -- dissemble (we're not killing Medicaid)
- scream liberal media (standard)
- when challenged again -- build strawman (budget mess was created
by housing and medical aid for poor people)
- scream liberal media (standard)
- when challenged again -- lie (the public wanted tax cuts for the
rich and the Iraq war/the public wants us to cut medical care for the
poor and elderly)
- scream liberal media (standard)
Mr. Winecoff seems intent on diffusing responsibility for bad policy
outcomes by laying down a smokescreen of generalities regarding explicit
and implicit voter "approval" of bad policy. But there are sharp distinctions
of motives and methods between powerful individuals energetically pursuing
an agenda and a vast aggregation of poorly informed voters tolerating faits
accompli. This asymmetry does not seem to interest him, because he wants
to spread blame so evenly that nobody can be blamed.
Brooks is possibly the worst of the VSP pundits because of his
indefatigable chutzpah abetted by junk sociology. Every few days he
emits an unsubstantiated "insight" that consistently supports
aggrandizement of the rich and the pauperization of everyone else.
Ever since Brooks saw that the Buckleys ate off silver plates, he
has been a loyal servant of the fortunate, and there is no slimy
sophistry that he will not stoop to to please his patrons.
That Brooks, a shameless sophist, occupies equal column space
across the page from a rigorously honest Nobel Prize winning economist
is a sad commentary on the swamp of "balanced" commentary that the
NYT has become under the dysfunctional Bill Keller.
Jim Harrison :
Winecoff is perfectly correct that our system has some democratic
features, which is the reason that our conservative elites have to
lie so much. [ . . . ]
Much shorter version: Of course Krugman is accusing elites of
immorality. "Why do I call you a pig fucker? Because, first of all,
you fuck pigs."
If Krugman is saying, as plainly as plainly can be, that Medicare
Part D was driven by public demand, then why do you [Winecoff]
keep on reiterating that he is saying quite the opposite of what he
does in fact say? Let me repeat that again. He says -- as unequivocally,
plainly and simply as someone could possibly say it -- that the initial
impetus for Medicare Part D was driven by popular demand. This presents
broad problems for your general claim that Krugman has a one dimensional
account of politics in which the public plays no role whatsoever.
For several decades, I've noticed that the elites that the 10 or 20
companies owing the U.S. media put on regularly spout lies and bullshit.
Has it become so bad that they now believe their nonsense and are now,
like Winecoff, at best, extremely stupid? [ . . . ]
I'm not sure if I'd like to think that for a society to continue, its
ruling class must have some idea of how things work.
Regarding the presence of evil in political leadership, there is a simple
test. Knowingly making false representations to achieve goals that are
harmful to the general electorate, but beneficial to one's patrons, is
evil. People who regularly do this to advance their political careers are
evil. [ . . . ]
Many Republicans (and Tea Party partisans) are bluntly claiming that
further concentration of wealth in America is good for the nation, despite
abundant evidence that this is false. If they do not know that this is a
false proposition, then they are simply stupid. If they do know it, they
are evil. To the degree that Democratic politicians exhibit the same
behavior, the same conclusions must be drawn.
There is a valid criticism of Krugman to be made in particular as regards
the financial crash -- while it was of course made possible by deregulation,
that deregulation was a necessary component of the financialisation of modern
capitalism that in turn is a response to the problems of the tendency of the
rate of profit to fall and the surplus absorption problem. Seen this way, it
IS indeed simplistic to blame the actions of elites, as in, individual
members of the elite, for it.
This is one that could use some unpacking, but even if you regard
financialization as an inexorable law of capitalism -- David Harvey
wrote a Marxist take on this, and Kevin Phillips wrote a non-Marxist
one -- it still comes down to actual, well-moneyed elites to grease
the wheels and make it happen. If it was just surplus absorption,
one could find plenty of poor workers to distribute that to -- but
the bankers had other ideas.
Maybe the influence of elites has grown [Kindred
Have you heard of the Citizens United decision? Are you aware of the
demise of the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting? Do you understand that
five corporations dominate news media in the USA? Have you heard of the
Koch brothers? Do you know that 44% of US congressional representatives
"Krugman concedes the point on Part D." [Kindred
This is through the looking glass. The entire point of this thread
is that Krugman didn't make the argument you ascribed to him in the
first place. You can't belatedly recognise that fact and then score
it in favour of your position.
There are two substantive points here. One is that Krugman quite
demonstrably never said -- and there are no good reasons to read him
as implying -- that public opinion has no influence over policies
such as health care reform, Iraq, tax cuts usw. (You could start by
conceding that one, it would clear the air.) The other is that, for a
whole host of reasons, some of which go back to the Founding Fathers
(try talking to them about 'democracy'), anyone who talks about
public opinion in the US as an independent force which drives government
policy is going to have to do an awful lot of work to make this view
stand up. Either that or engage in a lot of bait-and-switchery with
words like 'approve'.
You know, that's enough for today. Only got to the 193rd comment,
one from Henry, which sent me off on a tangent. This comment was mostly
a quote from Banjamin Wallace-Wells' New York profile
What's Left of the Left: Paul Krugman's Lonely Crusade. We
can close on this quote, which says something about Krugman's
contention that his politics is driven by his understanding of
A few years ago, Krugman, having decided that he was going to be
writing about politics and so he should know more about it, did a
very Krugman thing. He didn't talk to people who worked in Washington.
Instead, he started to read the political-science literature. Krugman
had never understood the press coverage of politics, which seemed to
emphasize its most irrelevant aspects. Why dwell on a presidential
candidate's psychology when the trends in unemployment would tell you
who would win an election? But viewed through the prism of political
science, politics began to seem much more familiar to him. There was
a mathematics to it -- you could assemble data, draw correlations,
understand what was essential and what was noise. The underlying
shape of politics came sweeping into view: If you arranged members
of Congress from left to right based on how they voted on welfare-state
issues -- Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance -- it
turned out that this left-to-right axis could predict every other
vote: On Iraq expenditures, on abortion, whatever. "When you realize
the fundamental divide in U.S. politics is just this one-dimensional
thing, and that is how you feel about the welfare state," Krugman
says, "that changes things."
You could see something else in the data, too. From 1979 to 2004,
the income of the richest one percent of Americans grew by 176 percent,
that of the richest one fifth of the country by 69 percent, and that
of everyone else by less than 25 percent. Working through the numbers,
Krugman came to believe that "only a fraction" of the change was
compelled by global forces, which had been the standard explanation.
The rest, he concluded, was political.
It was Krugman's Princeton colleague Larry Bartels who made the
critical connection, in research Krugman devoured and still cites.
Perhaps the most important influence on income inequality, Bartels
argued, was something economists had not emphasized: whether a
Democrat or a Republican was in the White House. Since World War II,
Bartels found, wealthy families in the 95th percentile in income
had seen identical income growth under both parties. But for families
in the 20th percentile, the difference was astonishing: Under
Democratic presidents, their income grew at six times the rate it
did under Republican ones. There was, for Krugman, a kind of
radicalization implied in this.
A lot of things fall out of this observation. One, for instance,
is why Krugman regards Ron Paul as an ultra-rightist instead of as
someone who has some very favorable traits, especially his steadfast
opposition to using American military force abroad. It also shows
why Krugman is always able to find a rationale to favor a Democrat
over a Republican, even if he can say nothing else nice about the
Democrat. Also helps explain why he consistently views Clinton as
better than Obama -- there's even a bizarre section where he imagines
the Democratic Party revolting to nominate Clinton in 2012 (he gives
that the same odds as Michele Bachmann winning the election).
Not as good a profile as one might hope for. Still worth quoting
the best line, in a back-and-forth section on Larry Summers:
Krugman's sense of humor is built upon self-deprecation, and
sometimes Summers's sense of humor is built upon deprecating
One more, an insightful lesson from Argentina that many others
[Domingo] Cavallo liberalized the [Argentine] economy and drew overseas
capital to Buenos Aires -- "lionized by the financial press, the maestro of
the Argentine miracle," as Krugman recalls. But when the Argentine economy
slowed, international investors withdrew, unemployment grew to 25 percent,
and by 2003 an estimated 30,000 people in Greater Buenos Aires were surviving
by scrounging for cardboard to sell to recycling plants.
[ . . . ] If Domingo Cavallo, one of the elect, could
preside over this collapse, then perhaps there but for the grace of God
went Alan Greenspan. What Krugman took from Argentina -- and what he thinks
even liberals in Washington missed -- was "a certain level of understanding,"
he says, "that important people have no idea what they're doing."
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Somehow I got way behind on Paul Krugman's twice-weekly New York
Times columns. Rather than clutter up the Weekend Roundup with them,
I thought I'd kick out the salient points here. Actually, although the
columns are always well thought out and tightly crafted, most of my many
Krugman quotes come from his blog, where he strays wider from his basic
themes and strikes things at more interesting angles. In the columns he
tends more to harp on the same points, not that they don't deserve some
The Intimidated Fed [April 28]:
Given this dismal picture, you might have expected unemployment, and
what to do about it, to have been a major focus of Wednesday's press
conference with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. And
it should have been. But it wasn't.
After the conference, Reuters put together a "word cloud" of Mr.
Bernanke's remarks, a visual representation of the frequency with which
he used various words. The cloud is dominated by the word "inflation."
"Unemployment," in much smaller type, is tucked in the background.
Really, no surprise. When Bush nominated Bernanke, the only thing
anyone had to say about him was to praise how vigilant he would be on
fighting inflation. The Fed has a legal responsibility to further full
employment, but in practice it's in thrall to the bankers. Obama could
have done something about this when Bernanke's term expired, but Mr.
Change-You-Can-Believe-In renominated Bernanke, giving him three more
years to sacrifice employment on the holy grail of inflation-fighting.
The fact is that no president since Carter nominated his own guy for
Fed Chairman during his first term. (Carter nominated Paul Volcker,
the all-time champ of the inflation fighters, who raised interest
rates to all-time highs to induce a recession and get Carter thrown
out of office.) Krugman is kind of soft on Bernanke (who chaired
Krugman's economics department at Princeton), and Bernanke is less
awful than Greenspan, but the actions he was praised for during the
crisis were things that ran against his grain. It wouldn't have taken
much effort on Obama's part to come up with who at least could have
conceived of employment mattering. Hell, Larry Summers would have
been a better choice.
Lately the inflationistas have seized on rising oil prices as
evidence in their favor, even though -- as Mr. Bernanke himself
pointed out -- these prices have nothing to do with Fed policy. The
way oil prices are coloring the discussion led the economist Tim Duy
to suggest, sarcastically, that basic Fed policy is now to do nothing
about unemployment "because some people in the Middle East are seeking
But I'd put it differently. I'd say that the Fed's policy is to do
nothing about unemployment because Ron Paul is now the chairman of the
House subcommittee on monetary policy.
So much for the Fed's independence. And so much for the future of
America's increasingly desperate jobless.
I'm not sure that the snipe at Ron Paul is necessary or helpful.
The Fed has always favored bankers over workers. Bankers have always
hated inflation, and ever since economists came up with a formula to
link inflation to wage gains they've had one more reason to undercut
Springtime for Bankers [May 1]:
Usually when deregulation turns sour politicians of all stripes feel
obliged to crack down on the miscreants who took advantage of the
deregulator's good faith. As I recall, back during the S&L crisis
Congress passed a law that defrauding a thrift a capital crime. This
time the one one the Republicans could find to blame was the government
for bailing the bankers out, and even there they were hardly serious --
it was, after all, a Republican administration that did most of the
bailing. And they fought back on everything that implied that the
bankers owed something to the public: against nationalizing banks
(which is how the S&L crisis was fixed), against any sort of limit
on executive bonuses, and especially against any reform or regulation
(not that the Democrats were pushing for much either).
What does it take to limit future bailouts? Declaring that we'll never
do it again is no answer: when financial turmoil strikes, standing aside
while banks fall like dominoes isn't an option. After all, that's what
policy makers did in 1931, and the resulting banking crisis turned a mere
recession into the Great Depression.
And let's not forget that markets went into free fall when the Bush
administration let Lehman Brothers go into liquidation. Only quick action --
including passage of the much-hated bailout -- prevented a full replay of
So what's the solution? The answer is regulation that limits the
frequency and size of financial crises, combined with rules that let
the government strike a good deal when bailouts become necessary.
Remember, from the 1930s until the 1980s the United States managed
to avoid large bailouts of financial institutions. The modern era of
bailouts only began in the Reagan years, when politicians started
dismantling 1930s-vintage regulation. [ . . . ]
To see what's really going on, follow the money. Wall Street used
to favor Democrats, perhaps because financiers tend to be liberal on
social issues. But greed trumps gay rights, and financial industry
contributions swung sharply toward the Republicans in the 2010 elections.
Apparently Wall Street, unlike the voters, had no trouble divining the
party's real intentions.
And one more thing: by standing in the way of regulations that would
limit future financial crises, Republicans are giving further evidence
that they don't really care about budget deficits.
By the way, the real reform that nobody talks about is getting the
money out of politics. The Democrats, who had a piece in every one of
these disastrous banking deregulation laws, have been desperately
chasing the Republicans for business donors, grasping for whatever
they could find, which increasingly included Wall Street. Indeed,
one can argue that Clinton made Wall Street more money than Reagan
and all the Bushes, even after taxes. The thing that bothered me
more about Obama than Larry Summers was how he crowed about what
smart and savvy businessmen Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are,
and how tight he was with both personally.
Fears and Failure [May 5]:
Nothing here that Krugman hasn't said dozens of times before, or
won't say dozens of times in the near future. That we're stuck on
these themes just shows that political interests have shoved us
into a dark age of idiocy.
It's not as if our political class is feeling complacent. On the
contrary, D.C. economic discourse is saturated with fear: fear of a
debt crisis, of runaway inflation, of a disastrous plunge in the dollar.
Scare stories are very much on politicians' minds.
Yet none of these scare stories reflect anything that is actually
happening, or is likely to happen. And while the threats are imaginary,
fear of these imaginary threats has real consequences: an absence of
any action to deal with the real crisis, the suffering now being
experienced by millions of jobless Americans and their families.
What does Washington currently fear? Topping the list is fear that
budget deficits will cause a fiscal crisis any day now. In fact, a
number of people -- like Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen
of President Obama's debt commission -- have settled on a specific time
frame: terrible things will happen within two years unless we make drastic
spending cuts. [ . . . ]
Which brings me back to the destructive effect of focusing on invisible
monsters. For the clear and present danger to the American economy isn't
what some people imagine might happen one of these days, it's what is
actually happening now.
Unemployment isn't just blighting the lives of millions, it's undermining
America's future. The longer this goes on, the more workers will find it
impossible ever to return to employment, the more young people will find
their prospects destroyed because they can't find a decent starting job.
It may not create excited chatter on cable TV, but the unemployment crisis
is real, and it's eating away at our society.
Yet any action to help the unemployed is vetoed by the fear-mongers.
Should we spend modest sums on job creation? No way, say the deficit hawks,
who threaten us with the purely hypothetical wrath of financial markets,
and, in fact, demand that we slash spending now now now -- which might well
send us back into recession. Should the Federal Reserve do more to promote
expansion? No, say the inflation and dollar hawks, who have been wrong
again and again but insist that this time their dire warnings about runaway
prices and a plunging dollar really will be vindicated.
So we're paying a heavy price for Washington's obsession with phantom
menaces. By looking for trouble in all the wrong places, our political
class is preventing us from dealing with the real crisis: the millions
of American men and women who can't find work.
One more thing that could be said: in a growing economy, it's possible
for everyone to come out better, but in a stagnant or shrinking economy,
the only way anyone gets better is at the expense of others. The measure
of wealth isn't how rich the richest are, but how much productive work
is done, and the simplest way to get more done is to employ more people.
Moreover, high employment not only increases overall wealth, it helps to
distribute it more evenly, resulting in a more equitable society where
more people participate and fewer feel like victims.
The Unwisdom of Elites [May 8]:
The previous column all over again.
The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies.
The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time
since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe's single currency is coming apart
at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?
Well, what I've been hearing with growing frequency from members of
the policy elite -- self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in
good standing -- is the claim that it's mostly the public's fault. The
idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for
nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate's
So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public
view isn't just self-serving, it's dead wrong.
The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down
disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren't responses
to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed
by small groups of influential people -- in many cases, the same people
now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying
to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some
much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.
[ . . . ]
President George W. Bush cut taxes in the service of his party's
ideology, not in response to a groundswell of popular demand -- and
the bulk of the cuts went to a small, affluent minority.
Similarly, Mr. Bush chose to invade Iraq because that was something
he and his advisers wanted to do, not because Americans were clamoring
for war against a regime that had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, it
took a highly deceptive sales campaign to get Americans to support the
invasion, and even so, voters were never as solidly behind the war as
America's political and pundit elite.
Finally, the Great Recession was brought on by a runaway financial
sector, empowered by reckless deregulation. And who was responsible for
that deregulation? Powerful people in Washington with close ties to the
financial industry, that's who. Let me give a particular shout-out to
Alan Greenspan, who played a crucial role both in financial deregulation
and in the passage of the Bush tax cuts -- and who is now, of course,
among those hectoring us about the deficit.
[ . . . ]
Why should we be concerned about the effort to shift the blame for
bad policies onto the general public?
One answer is simple accountability. People who advocated budget-busting
policies during the Bush years shouldn't be allowed to pass themselves off
as deficit hawks; people who praised Ireland as a role model shouldn't be
giving lectures on responsible government.
But the larger answer, I'd argue, is that by making up stories about
our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there,
we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the
blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they'll
do even more damage in the years ahead.
Inflation and Economic Hooliganism [May 11]:
This one ran in the Sunday Magazine, so it's a little more expansive
(but not much).
Emerging economies never had the luxury of complacency. The decades
before the storm were a time of relative economic calm in America and
Europe, but it was an era of repeated crises in the developing world:
the Mexican crisis of 1994-95, the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the Argentine
crisis of 2001-2 and more. And this history of crisis fed a mood of
caution, both on the part of governments -- which paid down their debts
and accumulated huge reserves -- and on the part of the private sector,
where debt-equity ratios and other measures of financial fragility fell
sharply from 1998 onward.
As a result, by the time the big crisis in wealthy nations struck,
emerging economies were far less vulnerable to disruption than they
were in the 1990s -- and, as it turns out, far less vulnerable than
many advanced economies. In the panicky months after the fall of Lehman,
past prudence wasn't enough to insulate countries from the global
recession. But once the free fall ended, the emerging world staged
a strong recovery, even as advanced economies struggled.
In fact, once the acute phase of the crisis was over, the difficulties
of advanced economies actually had the effect of promoting growth in the
emerging world, as investors -- finding few good opportunities in
debt-burdened wealthy nations -- began funneling money into up-and-coming
economies, turning those economies' recoveries into runaway booms.
These booms are, in turn, causing inflation to rise in the emerging
world. China and India grew more than 10 percent last year, Brazil more
than 7 percent. These economies are overheating, and inflation is the
By contrast, in the United States and Europe, the only serious
inflation is taking place in prices of raw materials. And what's
pushing up raw material prices? Mainly, it's rapidly growing demand
from the emerging world, with its voracious appetite for steel,
copper, cotton and, above all, oil. [ . . . ]
For while some countries have a problem with homegrown inflation,
we don't. Our problem is unemployment. And to deal with our job shortage,
we need low interest rates and, yes, continuing budget deficits to keep
our economy growing.
What about complaints from other countries that they're suffering
inflation because we're printing too much money? (Vladimir Putin has
gone so far as to accuse America of "hooliganism.") The flip answer is,
Not our problem, fellas. The more serious answer is that Russia, Brazil
and China don't have to have inflation if they don't want it, since they
always have the option of letting their currencies rise against the
dollar. True, that would hurt their export interests -- but economics
is about hard choices, and America is under no obligation to strangle
its own fragile recovery to help other nations avoid making such
Seniors, Guns and Money [May 12]:
This is the sort of thing that makes people like me think the Republicans
aren't just stupid and greedy but flat out evil: they not only have no
interest in helping people get quality medical care; more than anything
else they seek to protect the opportunities for health care businesses
to rip us off. One way they do this is to divide the population into two
camps, one of which foolishly thinks it's protected from the predators
because they're not like the other camp who never get a chance. Ryan's
scheme to divide medicare eligibility into two groups -- one that can
keep their coverage while the companies rip off the government and the
other that has nothing to look forward to but empty promises -- is just
Nor is demography the whole story. Over the long term, health care
spending has consistently grown faster than the economy, raising the
costs of Medicare and Medicaid as a share of G.D.P. Cost-control measures --
the very kind of measures Republicans demonized last year, with their
cries of death panels -- can help slow the rise, but few experts believe
that we can avoid some "excess cost growth" over the next decade.
Between an aging population and rising health costs, then, preserving
anything like the programs for seniors we now have will require a
significant increase in spending on these programs as a percentage of
G.D.P. And unless we offset that rise with drastic cuts in defense
spending -- which Republicans, needless to say, oppose -- this means
a substantial rise in overall spending, which we can afford only if
So when people like Mr. Boehner reject out of hand any increase in
taxes, they are, in effect, declaring that they won't preserve programs
benefiting older Americans in anything like their current form. It's
just a matter of arithmetic.
America Held Hostage [May 16]:
Every time since the founding of the republic that the government has
found itself approaching the statutory debt limit, Congress has passed
a new and higher limit. The need to do so was already established by
the budget that Congress passed, the costs of doing so are zero, and
the risks of not doing so are catastrophic. So why are the Republicans
who control the House dragging their feet and threatening doom? Mostly
because they get a kick out of extorting favors from spineless Democrats,
especially the one in the White House.
Six months ago President Obama faced a hostage situation. Republicans
threatened to block an extension of middle-class tax cuts unless Mr. Obama
gave in and extended tax cuts for the rich too. And the president essentially
folded, giving the G.O.P. everything it wanted.
Now, predictably, the hostage-takers are back: blackmail worked well
last December, so why not try it again? This time House Republicans say
they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling -- a step that could inflict
major economic damage -- unless Mr. Obama agrees to large spending cuts,
even as they rule out any tax increase whatsoever. And the question
becomes what, if anything, will get the president to say no.
[ . . . ]
What has changed? The answer is the radicalization of the Republican
Party. Normally, a party controlling neither the White House nor the
Senate would acknowledge that it isn't in a position to impose its agenda
on the nation. But the modern G.O.P. doesn't believe in following normal
rules. [ . . . ]
So hitting the debt ceiling would be a very bad thing. Unfortunately,
it may be unavoidable.
Why? Because this is a hostage situation. If the president and his
allies operate on the principle that failure to raise the debt ceiling
is an unthinkable outcome, to be avoided at all cost, then they have
ceded all power to those willing to bring that outcome about. In effect,
they will have ripped up the Constitution and given control over America's
government to a party that only controls one house of Congress, but claims
to be willing to bring down the economy unless it gets what it wants.
The piece has more details on what would happen if there is no
agreement, except the critical question of who the voters will wind
People read this stuff and get the silly idea that Krugman is some
kind of radical, but he's nothing of the sort. He qualifies as being
on the left because he thinks that a more equitable society is a good
thing; that people should be able to feel more secure, and that we
are all better off when people have more opportunities and freedom,
but he's no utopian: he's pretty happy within the bounds not just of
most modern social democracies but within the exceptionally modest
one we enjoyed from the New Deal through the Great Society. He's
really moved very little since he worked for Reagan 30 years ago.
What's scary is how far the right has slid past him, how dogmatic
and intractable they've become. Even so basic an idea as that the
government should provide deficit-financed countercyclical spending
to lessen the damage caused by recessions is now fought tooth and
nail by a party whose own presidents (as late as G.W. Bush) were
first in line to open the tap.
Thought I might do a
post about Krugman as a bonus, but it's taking me too long to
sift through the comments (which are worth sifting), so maybe
Facebook intro (cut down from too long):
Quotes and comments about Paul Krugman columns -- remedial
education, stuff you should already know. You do know that deficits
don't matter as long as bond prices are low, don't you? You do know
that when/if they do matter all the US has to do is raise its
currently puny taxes on the rich, don't you? You do know that the
Republicans have crossed the line from greedy and stupid to evil,
From Robert Christgau, on Ray Davies, after quoting a Kinks
song (second sentence is something I imagine plugging into the
quotes section of my music website):
That quote is precisely the sort of anti-Semitism I thought Davies
capable of. Ressentiment would be his middle name if he knew how to
spell it. It does not in the slightest change my reading of the song.
It does reinforce my suspicions as to why he had the bad judgment
that permitted him to begin and then complete it.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Music: Current count 18197  rated (+46), 867  unrated (+12).
- Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah [Soundtrack From the Documentary
Film] (1975-89 , Lost Art): Michael David Fuller, better
known as Blaze Foley, better still as Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel,"
lived from 1949-89, finally giving it up not to alcohol but to a bullet
in the chest, the killer acquitted by reason of self-defense. Don't have
any doc on this, but it claims to "span Blaze's musical life," leading
off with a single released in 1979 ("Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac")
but also appeared near the top of The Dawg Years dating 1975-78
and on another posthumous compilation dated "mid-1970s" (Sittin' by
the Road, on Lost Art). Fact is, with Foley it's pretty much all
posthumous: five records now on Lost Art, one on Waddell Hollow, Dawg
Years on Fat Possum, all scraped up from practically nothing. A few
good songs loosely done, most neither deep nor weird enough to care for
unless knew and cared for him, which some folks did, otherwise he'd be
as forgotten as he is dead.
- Paul Gonsalves/Earl Hines: Paul Gonsalves Meets Earl Hines
(1970-72 , Black Lion): LP originally listed Hines first, picturing
him on the cover under the title It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got
That Swing!, so it's curious that the CD reissue elevated Ellington's
postwar tenor saxophonist -- possibly because Gonsalves had so little in
print under his own name; the sax sounds thin, and the pianist tends to
hold back, emerging delectably on "Blue Sands," his only original here,
and his long intro to "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good."
- Johnny Griffin: You Leave Me Breathless (1967 ,
Black Lion): A set recorded live at Montmartre Jazzhuis in Copenhagen
with American expats Kenny Drew and Albert Heath plus every traveler's
favorite Danish bassist, Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen; starts sloppy
with Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning," but the tenor saxophonist regains his
tone and poise on the ballads, he can always run the fast ones, and
he ends with a masterful solo stretch.
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #27, Part 5)
First week after publication, but actually mid-round. Trying to cover
as much stuff as I can as fast as I can handle it, so expect some short
circuits. Did find a couple real good records, and I've heard a couple
more but didn't manage to write them up. Will try to do this for a couple
more weeks, then see how we stand on closing a column. Ironically, I've
been mostly missing the high priority queue because it's slid into a
poorly illuminated corner of the office mess. Also it's stuffed with
reissues which will take a few days to dig through, and I'm still not
sure where Recycled Goods is going.
Mail's been fairly skimpy the last few weeks, but I got inundated on
Saturday, and again today, so once again I'm losing ground.
Diego Barber: The Choice (2010 , Sunnyside):
Guitarist, b. 1978 in Lanzarote, Canary Islands; studied in Lanzarote,
Madrid, and Salzburg, before moving to New York in 2007. Second album.
Cover has small print: Featuring: Seamus Blake, Larry Grenadier, Ari
Hoenig, Mark Turner, Johannes Weidenmueller. No per track credits,
but their contribution is small too, and vanishes completely for the
final three-track "Sonata Banc D'Arguin."
Mark Weinstein: Jazz Brasil (2010 , Jazzheads):
Flautist, plays an alto flute on the cover pic, credits also specify
concert and bass flutes. Has about 15 records going back to 1996,
mostly Latin-themed although one early title is Shifra Tanzt,
and a more recent one leaned on Monk for Straight No Chaser.
The Brazilian twist here comes from the rhythm section -- Nilson
Matta on bass and Marceito Pellitteri on percussion -- and they
come alive on the few Brazilian tunes, especially Ary Barrosa's
"Brazil." Their treatment is more cautious on two Monks, "Nefertiti,"
pieces by Herbie Mann and Joe Henderson. Kenny Barron plays piano.
Shane Endsley and the Music Band: Then the Other
(2010 , Low Electrical): Trumpet player, from Denver, studied
at Eastman, based in Brooklyn, second album, looks like 30-40 side
credits since 1998 (with Steve Coleman). Quartet with Craig Taborn
(piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Ted Poor (drums). Good group, was
feeling kind of ambivalent about the trumpet until the sharp finale,
Ken Peplowski: In Search of . . . (2007-10 ,
Capri): Plays clarinet and tenor sax; b. 1959, AMG lists 33 albums
since 1987, plus numerous side credits, a very steady, unspectacular
retro swing player. This pads a quartet session -- Shelly Berg on
piano, Tom Kennedy on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums -- with three
cuts from 2007 with Greg Cohen (bass) and/or Joe Ascione (drums)
and Chuck Redd (vibes) on one cut. Best when it gets lively, as in
"Peps"; otherwise this shades into prettiness, which isn't so bad
Bobby Sanabria: Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!
(2008 , Jazzheads): Drummer, b. in New York, grew up in South
Bronx, studied at Berklee. Sixth album since 1993, the last few big
band affairs: the band here is billed as Manhattan School of Music
Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Sanabria. This program of
Tito Puente standards blows out all the gaskets, which is to say
it sounds an awful lot like a vintage Puente disc. Looks like one
too: I imagine some customers will be fooled, not that they'll mind
Michael Feinberg: With Many Hands (2010 ,
self-released): Bassist, b. 1987 in Atlanta, "raised on hip hop,
international grooves, resurgent singer/songwriters and indie rock";
based in New York. Bio says this is his second album (looks like
first was Evil Genius in 2009). Lists a sextet's worth of
musicians on cover but no instrument credits: as best I can figure,
Godwin Louis (alto sax), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Alex Wintz
(guitar), Julian Shore (piano), Daniel Platzman (drums). Postbop
verging on freebop: jumps around a lot, shifting times, the sax(es)
up front pushing limits.
Femi Kuti: Africa for Africa (2010 , Knitting
Factory): Fela's eldest son, also plays alto sax, grew up in his
father's band and continues the Afrobeat groove, with 15 albums now
since 1989. This is close to formula: the beats, the sax, the chant
vocals, the politics (but the pidgin English remains far short of
eloquent). Fourteen moderate-length songs adds up to a long album
(total 62:56), but nothing stretches out like the old Fela albums
Michel Reis: Point of No Return (2009 ,
Armored): Pianist, b. 1982 in Luxembourg, studied at Berklee and
New England Conservatory -- about the two-thousandth musician I've
seen to mention George Garzone on his resume. Based in New York.
Third album, with flugelhorn (Vivek Patel) and soprano sax (Aaron
Kruziki) adorning what's at heart a piano trio album. (The horns
appear on 3 of 9 cuts, together on the first, just flugelhorn on
the other two.)
Nick Stefanacci Band: 26 Years (2010, NS): Saxophonist
(alto, tenor, soprano), also plays flute and keybs; based in New York;
first album, not much of a bio but he could be doing one of those Adele
things with his title. What throws you at first are the vocals: Kenny
Simmons, reminds me of Blood Sweat & Tears, which I don't regard as
damning although you might. (Still, what they mostly remind me of is a
relative who confided in me that she didn't like them at first until
she saw them on TV and realized they were white). Stefanacci sings some
too. I find it all rather corny, and a bit sweet, but don't expect
anyone else to.
Matt Panayides: Tapestries of Song (2010 , Pacific
Coast Jazz): Guitarist, b. in Cincinnati, raised in Indianapolis; been
in New York "for more than 10 years." First album, all originals; in a
quartet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Steve LaSpina (bass), and Dan Weiss
(drums). Liquid tone with a slight metallic sheen, remains clear even
with the sax running over it.
Max Wild: Tamba (2008 , ObliqSound): Alto
saxophonist, from Zimbabwe; second album. "Tamba" means dance in
Shona, probably the language of most of the lyrics here -- sung
by various people, primarily Sam Mtukudzi. Has a joyous township
vibe to it.
B+(**) [advance: 2010]
Danny Frankel: The Interplanetary Note/Beat Conference
(2010, self-released): Drummer, has a couple records under his own
name, quite a few side credits since 1980 (very few jazz). Trio with
Nels Cline on guitar, Larry Goldings on organ. Guitar is distinctive,
especially for an organ trio, and the rhythm is relatively slinky,
which reduces the organ to filler.
Jared Gold: All Wrapped Up (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Organ player, fourth album since 2008, coming out fast. I was most
impressed by him on Oliver Lake's Organ Quartet album Plan.
This, like the Lake record, is a quartet with sax, trumpet, and drums,
but mainstreamers Ralph Bowen and Jim Rotondi can't cut the grease
like Lake and Freddie Hendrix. Leaves a lot of slick spots.
Jim Snidero: Interface (2010 , Savant): Alto
saxophonist, b. 1958, eighteen records since 1987. I missed his early
stuff on Criss Cross, RED, and Double-Time; finally caught up with
Savant -- thought Crossfire was exceptional. Quartet with
bass, drums, and Paul Bollenback on guitar (always a nice touch).
Often sounds terrific, but this seems a bit cryptic.
Papa John DeFrancesco: A Philadelphia Story (2010
, Savant): Organ player, Joey's father, seventh album since
1992, which is to say he didn't really get his career going until
after Joey started recording. Mostly trio, with John DeFrancesco Jr.
on guitar and Glenn Ferracone on cover. Despite the cheesesteaks on
the front cover and the girth on the back, Papa John has a light
touch on the Hammond, and this skips along pleasantly. Three cuts
add horns: Joe Fortunato's tenor sax on "Blues in the Closet," plus
two tracks with Joey playing trumpet: doesn't stretch much but he's
actually pretty good.
The NYFA Collection: 25 Years of New York New Music
(1988-2010 , Innova, 5CD): I've been avoiding this, if for no
more reason than sheer length. NYFA is the New York Foundation for
the Arts, set up in 1983. Since then they've provided fellowships
for over 200 new music composers, and they're showing off 52 of them
in this set. They run the gamut, but have been programmed to flow
somewhat: the third disc is the most jazz-centric, with Iconoclast,
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Fred Ho, John Lindberg (sometimes d/b/a BLOB),
Newman Taylor Baker. The fourth and fifth shade more classical. The
first is more avant, mostly primitivist rhythm pieces. Packaged in
a double-width jewel case with a loose booklet for each disc packed
with lots of information in small type, and priced like a sampler.
The Sway Machinery: The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol. 1
(2010 , JDub): Brooklyn collective centered around Balkan Beat Box
guitarist-vocalist Jeremiah Lockwood, "inspired by ancient Jewish Cantorial
music, blues, afro-beat and rock," goes to Mali's Festival in the Desert
and comes back with featured singer Khaira Arby and such guests as Djilmady
Tounkara and Vieux Farka Touré, mixing it up with horns from Antibalas.
Sounds interesting, and is, but the parts clash more than mesh, and much
of the interest comes from the wreckage.
Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue
Supermarket (2008-09 , Pine Eagle): Raphael is a poet,
b. 1951 in Pittsburgh, changed his name from Daniel Raymond Dlugonski
(says his driver's license reads Dan Raphael Dlugonski); influenced
by the beats, studied at Cornell; moved to Portland, OR in 1977. Has
six books. I've never read him -- haven't read poetry since the late
1960s, when I read everyone he was reading, Yevtushenko included. Not
sure if he's ever been recorded before, but he's terrific here: the
phrases just shoot out, nearly every one hitting an unexpected target
somewhere beyond you. Too fast for me to scribble down -- the two I
got near the end were "because night is when we get to talk back" and
the last line, "my brain is the largest city in the world." Wish I
had a lyric sheet. Behind him is Rich Halley, a gray-haired tenor
saxophonist who spent most of his adult life as a field biologist,
and a drummer with the same last name, presumably his son. Striking
as the poetry might be on its own, the sax shadowing it heightens
every line. He has a distinctive sound and style, comparable (not
to say similar) to Von Freeman. He can't stretch out much here,
but is terrific nonetheless. My only quibble is the line equating
Kansas and Iowa: not the same at all (except in the middle of a corn
field, of course). Suggest he read Richard Manning: Grassland
and do some exploring. Not that he's wrong about Malta's low level
of coronary heart disease.
Other Dimensions in Music featuring Fay Victor: Kaiso
Stories (2010 , Silkheart): Group was originally
formed in 1989 with Roy Campbell (trumpet), Daniel Carter (alto
sax), William Parker (bass), and Rashid Bakr (drums). They cut
a group improv album for Silkhear then, then reappeared in 1997
with two albums for AUM Fidelity, one with Matthew Shipp added.
This is their fourth, with Charles Downs taking over the drums
for Bakr, but the more important change is adding vocalist Fay
Victor. As Lars-Olof Gustavsson explains in the liner notes, he
was looking to do a vocal album, found Victor, then matched the
band. Victor is a very strong, distinctive vocalist -- when I
reviewed her Cartwheels Through the Cosmos all I could
do was compare her to Betty Carter -- and she takes yet another
twist here, exploiting her Trinidadian roots with eight lyrics
from classic calypso tunes (Roaring Lion, Lord Executor, Lord
Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow) and 1939 field recordings. The free
jazz improv doesn't make this easy, introducing a tension as
Victor is torn between tying the rhymes down and surrendering
to the chaotic rhythm.
Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (2009 ,
Bju'ecords): Bassist, from Spain, based on Brooklyn; fourth album
since 2001. Brooklyn nonet, Marc Miralta's cajon and percussion
adding to the Spanish flavor, as do a trio of "special guests" on
four tracks -- not explained on the album but the website credits
them with "Flamenco Handclaps and 'Jaleos'." The rest of the group
are names I recognize: Perico Sambeat (alto/soprano sax, flute),
Loren Stillman (alto/tenor sax), Avishai Cohen (trumpet/flugelhorn),
Alan Ferber (trombone), Brad Shepik (guitar), Dan Tepfer (piano),
and Mark Ferber (drums). Groups that size often get cluttered or
break into pieces but this one is cohesive throughout, the horns
weaving and bobbing, the flow inexorable. Don't have a recording
date, just that the piece debuted in October 2009.
Nordic Connect: Spirals (2008 , ArtistShare):
Trumpet player Ingrid Jensen, b. 1967 in Vancouver, BC, Canada;
studied at Berklee; AMG counts six albums since 1994, coutning her
previous Nordic Connect album but not this one. Group includes
sister Christine Jensen (alto/soprano sax), Maggi Olin (piano,
often Fender Rhodes), Mattias Walin (bass), and Jon Wikan (drums) --
Olin and Welin are Swedish, Wikan from Alaska with Norwegian roots
(married to the trumpeter). Olin wrote 5 of 9 pieces, and her
electric piano is the center point of the action, vs. just one
piece for Ingrid Jensen (two for Christine, one for Wikan), so
AMG may be justified in treating this as a group effort. Still,
the trumpet is what shines brightest here.
Pitom: Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes (2010
, Tzadik): Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter's group, adopting the
name of their possibly eponymous first album, as seems to happen
over and over and again. With Jeremy Brown (violin, viola), Shanir
Ezra Blumenkranz (bass), Kevin Zubek (drums). Evidently has to do
with Yom Kippur, attonement, and "punkassjewjazz." Heavy guitar
riffs with dense metallic filler over Jewish riddims. No vocals,
so they neither make nor break it.
B+(**) [advance: Feb: 22]
Marc Copland: Crosstalk (2010 , Pirouet):
Real good postbop pianist, has a couple dozen record since 1988,
paired in a quartet with real good alto saxophonist Greg Osby.
Wonder why it didn't work. (Thumbing through my database, I see
they've done it before, only slightly more successfully, on
Night Call in 2003.
Iro Haarla Quintet: Vespers (2010 , ECM):
Plays piano and harp, b. 1956 in Finland, 5th album since 2001,
two on the Finiish label TUM, two on ECM. Quintet gives her two
horns -- Mathias Eick (trumpet), Trygve Seim (tenor/soprano sax) --
bass (Ulf Krokfors) and drums (Jon Christensen). Seems soft at
first, then chilly, then you finally notice the hidden strength
of the horns -- not surprising given that Eick and Seim regularly
produce strong albums under their own names.
Chris Donnelly: Solo (2008 , ALMA): This
has been sitting around awhile: package says 2008, artist's website
says released in September 2008; AMG says 2009 and also says 2010;
my records say 2010; can't find the hype sheet. Pianist, from
somewhere in Canada, studied and currently teaches in Toronto.
Debut record -- looks like there is a later one but I didn't get
it. Solo, like the title says. Donnelly wrote 7 of 11 tracks;
the others are Bill Evans, Bud Powell, a set of variations on
Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," and a "Cinderella Medley." Pretty
decent as these things go, the originals well-conceived exercises,
the covers have their intrigues. Bet he'd sound even better with
bass and drums, even at the expense of some clarity.
Taeko: Voice (2009-10 , Flat Nine): Singer,
full name Taeko Fukao, born and raised near Kyoto, Japan; based in
New York, not sure how long. Second album. Wrote one song, picks
two more from Japanese sources, picks others from Ellington to Monk
to Hancock and Shorter to Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone. Scats quite a
bit early on.
Mon David: Coming True (2009, Free Ham): Singer,
from somewhere in the Philippines, based somewhere in US. Second
album. Mostly standards, some (like "Footprints") jazz pieces run
through the vocalese mill. Technically impressive, and in some
ways rather likable, but I have little taste for his mannerisms --
comparisons to Mark Murphy are lavishly earned -- so in the end
I find this more annoying than not. Includes a duet with Charmaine
Clamor, another talented Filipino.
Jessica Williams Trio: Freedom Trane (2007 ,
Origin): Pianist, b. 1948, has close to 40 records since 1976, a
lot of solos, many more trios. Four Coltrane songs here, plus four
originals. Impeccable, as usual.
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Ralph Alessi and This Against That: Wiry Strong (Clean Feed)
- Scott Amendola Trio: Lift (Sazi)
- AsGuests: Universal Mind (Origin)
- BassDrumBone: The Other Parade (Clean Feed)
- Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Les Nuages en France (Mode/Avant)
- Frank Carlberg: Uncivilized Ruminations (Red Piano): June 14
- James Carter: Caribbean Rhapsody (Decca)
- Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne: Old and Unwise (Clean Feed)
- Michael Dessen Trio: Forget the Pixel (Clean Feed)
- Jeff Fairbanks' Project Hansori: Mulberry Street (Bju'ecords): June 7
- Laszlo Gardony: Signature Time (Sunnyside): May 31
- David Gibson: End of the Tunnel (Posi-Tone)
- Gutbucket: Flock (Cuneiform)
- Magos Herrera: México Azul (Sunnyside): May 31
- Art Hirahara: Noble Path (Posi-Tone)
- William Hooker: Crossing Points (1992, NoBusiness)
- Anne Mette Iversen Quartet: Milo Songs (Bju'ecords): May 24
- Daniel Jamieson's Danjam Orchestra: Sudden Appearance (OA2)
- Lisa Kirchner: Something to Sing About (Albany): July 1
- Daniel Levin: Inner Landscape (Clean Feed)
- Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra verus Fanfare Ciocárlia: Balkan Brass Battle (Asphalt Tango)
- Terrence McManus: Transcendental Numbers (NoBusiness)
- Pat Metheny: What's It All About (Nonesuch): advance, June 14
- Sei Miguel/Pedro Gomes: Turbina Anthem (NoBusiness)
- Silvano Monasterios: Unconditional (Savant)
- Ocote Soul Sounds: Taurus (ESL Music)
- Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Beans/Hprizm: Knives From Heaven (Thirsty Ear)
- John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Shot Through With Beauty (Origin)
- Travis Sullivan: New Directions (Posi-Tone)
- Helen Sung: (Re)Conception (SteepleChase)
- Tunnel Six: Lake Superior (OA2)
- Dave Valentin: Pure Imagination (High Note)
- Anthony Wilson: Campo Belo (Goat Hill -10)
- Tim Berne's Bloodcount: Poisoned Minds: The Paris Concert (1994, JMT)
- Tim Berne's Bloodcount: Memory Select: The Paris Concert (1994, JMT)
- Tim Berne & Enten Eller: Melquiades (1999, Splasc(h))
- Jim Black: Alasnoaxis (2000, Winter & Winter)
- Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)
- Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin' (Columbia)
Tom Hull has done a pretty deep dive on Brubeck recordings over at his
web site. Brubeck recorded an album with Jimmy Rushing? How did that
happen?? I always thought Brubeck was more "nerdy" than "pretentious".
SpaceCoast has previously writen:
Any Brubeck or Kenton fans? Like them ok, but neither are personal
faves. Borrowing comments made previously in this thread, I find them
a tad too classical/pretentious/white in comparison to my jazz favorites.
I combined comments on them:
Brubeck is a mensch. Anyone who knocks him for being too educated or
too successful or too white just doesn't know the guy. Those are things
he overcame. He did the record with Rushing because he was a fan; same
for the Jazz Ambassadors with Armstrong. I've never seen him
happier than in a video clip where Willie "The Lion" Smith introduces
him as his son. He doesn't have a pretentious bone in his body. The
fancy time signature may have started out as an academic exercise, then
turned into a parlor trick, but by the time he did Time Out they were
so tightly integrated you didn't notice them. Jazz Goes to College
wasn't his ambition to make jazz intellectually respectable; it was just
a fact that turned into a fashion. His quartet would have seemed much
more avant-garde but for Paul Desmond, who made it all so sensible, and
so sensuous, no one could object.
None of those things can be said about Kenton. I haven't delved very
deeply into him, so I can't say for sure whether he was as pompous and
grotesque as his reputation -- something about a jazz musician who keeps
getting likened to Richard Wagner steers one away. What little I have
heard -- I have three records in my database, a tiny sliver of what he
produced -- doesn't support the Wagner charge: he wields a lot of power
and flash, but he often gets delicate effects, never bombast. A lot of
very good musicians came up in his band, and there's every reason to
think he made them better -- indeed, that he had a huge effect on the
whole West Coast Cool Jazz scene. (One could joke that he was what they
were chilling out from.) Also, as far as I know, all of them were white.
Had some good singers too. Penguin Guide has a lot on Kenton.
My first jazz album was Brubeck's Jazz Goes to College and I've
always retained a fondness for it. Time Out too, though not as much.
As Tom says, definitely a good guy. But that civil rights suite thing
Giddins praised a (whole) while back is pretty much unlistenable
I don't have a lot to say about MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet). Pianist
John Lewis was the main guy, and everyone else just worked around him.
They dressed sharp, acted cool, tried to invent what nowadays we'd call
chamber jazz, but then they were looking for the sort of respectability
classical string quartets held: no strings, of course, but also no horns,
just the vibes adding to the harmonics of the piano. I always preferred
horns, but I've managed to hear 7 MJQ records, plus Lewis's The Modern
Jazz Society Presents a Concert of Contemporary Music (which got a
Penguin Jazz Guide crown), various Lewis (5) and Milt Jackson (8)
solo albums, and Percy Heath's lovely debut/swansong. Those are pretty
low counts, but enough to get the idea. Dedicated to Connie is
widely regarded as MJQ's best, and it's a good one. What they tried to
do was honorable and ambitious and I'm probably not doing them justice.
Giddins is off the charts as a Lewis fan. (When Giddins did his big
concert production, Lewis was his musical director.)
Jackson is often terrific on his own. He was one of the first to figure
out how to play with Monk, and his eponymous Blue Note album has some of
Monk's best early performances. Also ends with three vocal tracks which
I swear are the worst ever recorded in the 1950s. His two Savoy records
from 1956 are exceptional (The Jazz Skyline and Jackson's-ville).
It's been said that he couldn't help but swing, and there's much to bear
Heath cut A Love Song in 2002 and it came out just before he died.
Only record under his name, although he probably has close to 300 side
credits. One of my first Jazz CG finds.
Original drummer was Kenny Clarke, who was the first drummer to figure
out bebop. He quit early, moved to France, cut a couple of good records
there. Was replaced by Connie Kay.
On a question about my database:
How to find my lists (and other things) at tomhull.com:
- Look under Local Links for Music, and click that.
- For the ratings database, look for Introduction to Ratings Database,
and click that. The rest of the file has more or less self-explanatory
links to all sorts of music-related things.
- On the gray page, the ratings are organized by genre and (sometimes)
period. The period is when someone got started: Duke Ellington is Jazz
'20s, Thelonious Monk Jazz '40s, Rolling Stones Rock '60s, etc. I used
10-year chunks for rock and 20-year chunks for jazz because at the time
I came up with this I had more rock than jazz -- no longer true.
Under each genre/period there are two links, with the second one
labelled DB. You probably want the second one, because it has both what
I rated and a bunch of unrated records. The latter are records that show
up as recommended in various guides (far from complete, but there are
quite a few of them): for instance, anything I noticed that AMG gives
4.5 stars to, Penguin Guide 3.5 stars, etc. I add things when I see them,
but most of that research was done 7-10 years ago. In the DB files the
ratio of blue to black print gives a rough indication of how well I know
an artist. The A/A+ lists are self-explanatory subsets.
There are also several thousand reviews and crypto-reviews and pidgin
notes scattered elsewhere, but I've never figured out how to stuff them
into a real database like I did for Christgau's CG reviews.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Tariq Ali: Killing the Golden Goose:
A little paranoid conspiracy fodder, from someone who can't quite be
dismissed as someone who couldn't have such a source:
This is slightly bizarre, given that Bin Laden had apparently been in
a safe house near the Pakistan military academy for six years. Nobody
believes this could have happened without the knowledge of senior
intelligence officials. A meeting with one such person in 2006, which
I recounted in my last book on Pakistan, confirmed that Bin Laden was
in the country and being kept safe. The person concerned told me the
Americans only wanted Bin Laden dead, but that it was in Pakistan's
interest to keep him alive. In his words: "Why kill the goose that
lays the golden eggs?" -- a reference to the billions in aid and
weaponry being supplied to the army. At the time I wasn't sure whether
my informant was fantasising to amuse or misinform me; he was obviously
telling the truth.
Pakistan is in the grip of a fierce debate, its politico-military
establishment damned whatever the case. If they admit they were in
the know, they stand condemned within their own ranks. There is a
great deal of dissension among junior officers and soldiers unhappy
about border missions in which they are forced to target their own
people. If it turns out that the US didn't even bother to inform the
Pakistanis that helicopters were on the way to clip Bin Laden, they
stand exposed as leaders who permit the country's sovereignty to be
violated at will. [ . . . ]
In Afghanistan, the Taliban leaders will be relieved that they
can no longer be tarred with the Bin Laden brush, but his killing
does not change the situation there one bit. The insurgents might
not be in a position to take Kabul, (they never could even during
the Russian occupation) but elsewhere they control a great deal.
The US cannot win this war. The sooner it gets out, the better.
Until it does, it will remain dependent on Pakistan, the ally
Americans love to hate.
Juan Cole: The Koch Brothers and the End of State Universities:
Positions at state universities ought to be decided upon by the students,
faculty, and deans in consultation. They shouldn't be decided just because
a wealthy crank wants us to study X. Along with Koch-funded positions in
'unregulated capitalism' of the sort that brought us the 2008 meltdown,
we no doubt could have a raft of positions in Atlantis Studies and Post-War
Ufology. Rich people are good at making money. They aren't necessarily good
at academic skills. In fact, many are downright hostile to academic knowledge
that brings into question their shibboleths. The tenure system was created
for academics precisely because one got fired, at the University of
Pennsylvania, in the early 20th century, for objecting to child labor.
Some of the regents made their money that way and took offense.
For more on this, see
Alex Pareene: Right-Wing Billionaires Purchasing Own Professors:
If you're going to spend a lot of money endowing a professorship, it's
only rational to ensure that the professor whose salary you're paying
advances your interests, right? After all, when the Kochs invested
millions in George Mason University, they got the incredibly influential
anti-environmental regulation nonprofit Mercatus Center out of the deal.
The least FSU can do for its cash is teach "Atlas Shrugged" in a business
ethics class. (Which is something that Randian-run bank BB&T has made
happen, also at Florida State University.) (Yes, BB&T received
billions of dollars of TARP money.)
Today's rich libertarian knows the real ticket to winning the future
is filling schools with people who agree with you. (This hasn't worked
for the left, but that may be because they spent all their time in control
of academia rigorously critiquing texts instead of just inventing
pseudo-scientific justifications for gutting the welfare state and
eliminating the tax burden of very rich people.)
But is buying an academic a good investment? Sure! Just ask the DeVos
family, who -- when they're not pushing "education reform" -- are keeping
Austrian economics afloat at their weird fake Michigan university. As
Andrew Leonard reported yesterday, DeVos-funded ideas have made it all
the way to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee!
[ . . . ]
(Though, to be fair, libertarian ideas that don't benefit people like
Koch don't get a fair hearing in this system, either. Because cutting
back on military spending and ending the drug war are not exactly
Andrew Leonard's piece is called
A New Powerhouse for Ridiculous GOP Economics. It's about Northwood
University and Rep. David Camp. Aside from the theoretical muddle, the
conclusion is especially worth quoting:
But the correctness of Austrian theory is beside the point. Because
if it was ever applied in practice by actual politicians, the voting
public would become more than just annoyed. If the response of the Bush and
Obama administrations to the financial crisis of 2007-08 had been to allow
every beleaguered financial institution to go bankrupt while simultaneously
endeavoring to balance the budget while government revenues tanked and
social welfare obligations spiked, the economic devastation would have
been well nigh unthinkable. There simply would be no political future for
politicians who simply abandoned the general public to the viciousness of
the free market.
Economic crises and bank panics predated the creation of the central
bank in the United States; indeed, to many observers, they seem to be
endemic to capitalism and unregulated markets. And when markets run
completely amok, the public expects its leaders to do something. Dave
Camp is well aware of that. He voted for the Bush stimulus in early 2008,
for TARP and the bailout of GM and Chrysler. And he'd do it again, if he
had to. We expect our government to govern, and if it doesn't, we'll get
another one that does.
Despite all the bad theorizing conveniently cited by the right, the
bottom line seems to be that the Republicans are still Keynesians when
they're in power -- witness the passion for deficit spending by Nixon,
Reagan, and the Bushes -- so their opposition to countercyclical spending
when they're out of power has nothing to do with doubts about whether it
works: it's that they don't want the Democrats to get credit for recovery.
Having a bunch of Hayek-Mises freaks around is handy obfuscation, but
when it suits their interests the Republicans will believe whatever they
Paul Krugman: Clarity Has a Well-Known Liberal Bias:
Seems the Washington Post is trying to make Republicans look serious
Because it is, you know, a plan to dismantle Medicare. When you transform
a program that pays seniors' medical bills into a program that gives them
a voucher that almost certainly isn't enough to buy adequate insurance,
you can call the new scheme Medicare, but it isn't the same program.
[ . . . ]
Here's an analogy: think of Medicare as a footbridge that is deteriorating
and will eventually become unsafe. You could propose structural repairs to
fix its faults; Ryan doesn't do that. Instead, he proposes knocking the
bridge down and replacing it with trampolines, in the hope that pedestrians
can bounce across the stream. And the Post declares that he deserves credit
for pointing out that the bridge is falling down, and proposing a solution.
Um, we knew that the bridge was in bad shape -- and his solution is a fraud.
Paul Krugman: Hitting the Ceiling:
When you look at the US fiscal position in terms of what we're capable of
as a nation, it's not a big problem. Never mind those big numbers you hear
about implicit liabilities; we have a big economy, too. So modest tax
increases and reasonable efforts to limit health care costs could bring
our long-run finances into line.
But all this depends on our having the political will and cohesion to
do what's necessary. What if it turns out that we're a banana republic,
with crazy extremists having so much blocking power that we can't get our
house in order?
And failing to raise the debt limit could be widely read as a signal
that we are, in fact, a banana republic.
In that case, however, what should Obama do? My answer is that despite
all that, he must not let himself be blackmailed.
Partly that's because once he gives in the first time, the blackmail
will never stop. Once the crazies know that they can get whatever they
want by threatening to blow up the economy, they'll just keep demanding
more and more. Obama just can't let that dynamic get started without
setting up an even worse crash down the road.
Plus, the hard right may claim that it's worried about deficits, but
it's actually deeply fiscally irresponsible. Realistically, the Ryan plan
would sharply increase the deficit -- because its spending cuts are in
many cases impossible, and its supposed revenue neutrality is a sham. So
giving in to the right would be just as much a signal of banana-republic-hood
as a temporary default.
Good advice to Obama not to give in now, but it was even better before
he gave in on extending the Bush tax cuts: this is, like, act three in
the continuing series of Republican extortion crises.
Paul Krugman: Algorithms:
What Chait doesn't quite say, however, is that there are also reverse Al
Gore problems, in which the press corps in effect decides that someone is
a genuine, honest, good fellow, and ignores all evidence to the contrary.
George W. Bush is the most obvious example; anyone remember Chris Matthews
saying -- in 2005, no less -- that the man who misled us into war and made
dishonesty about policy standard operating procedure -- "glimmers" with
"sunny nobility"? Oh, and this was after Katrina.
And as for McCain -- not only weren't his mannerisms taken as evidence
of character flaws, he retained his label as a straight-talking maverick
long after he had established through his actions that he was anything but.
Actually, the McCain enabling continues to this day: he's a perennial Sunday
talk guest, even though he has no significant political power and has been
wrong about everything for years.
Paul Krugman: Send in the Cranks:
Another example of the say-anything, do-nothing ethic:
I have to admit that the triumph of the hard-money/goldbug view among
Republicans has surprised even me. After all, Milton Friedman -- who
castigated the Fed for not printing enough money during the Great
Depression -- used to be the patron saint of conservative economics.
And let's also note that we've had a strong test of monetary doctrines
these past three years, and the inflation worriers have been proved
overwhelmingly wrong. Yes, they've seized on the rise in commodity prices
since last summer; but they have yet to find any signs of domestic
inflation, as opposed to movements in prices determined on world markets
and strongly driven by China and other emerging markets.
Look, very early on I tried to explain that "printing money" -- what
people who say that really mean is increases in the monetary base, which
includes bank reserves as well as currency -- doesn't cause inflation, or
even a rise in broader definitions of the money supply, when you're in
a liquidity trap.
Matthew Yglesias: The Public Supports a Path to Citizenship for Employed
Higher percentage than I would have guessed, given how easy it is to
demagogue this issue, but the bottom line is 72% in favor, 24% opposed,
with majorities in seven of eight ideological subgroups, the exception
a 49-49 tie among Staunch Conservatives. Framing matters a lot here.
Christgau on Ellington:
Book? I don't know shitlist about any Ellington emotionally except
the early stuff plus This One's for Blanton and maybe the Newport
date with that Paul Gonsalves solo. Right, danced to Mercer's version
of the band covering the Carter nomination for the VV and had a lovely
time. And if I live to 90 and get bored, maybe I'll finally delve into
his "great" period, which I take to be, what, 1936-41? Not even sure
exactly. Too arranged for me, that's all. Like it if you want. Many
people I love do. Just not to my taste, and since I'm not in the end
a jazz critic, not my responsibility either.
Chris Monsen added:
Why not try Tom Hull's Music Database pages? Of the records I have,
or at least have heard, I pretty much agree with all of his assessments
on Ellington: Bubber Miley Era, The Early Ellington-records,
The Fargo-set, Blanton-Webster Band or the slightly better
Never No Lament (same band, same period), Ellington Uptown
and Ellington at Newport are all great. The Flaming Youth
record, now long out of print, has slightly different and often better
versions of some of Ellington's early great tunes (among them, "East St.
Louis Toodle-Oo"), and is fantastic. I personally also have a weak spot
for some of Ellington's later records that are not as valued by Hull,
notably Such Sweet Thunder ('56, TH A-), and Afro-Eurasian
Eclipse ('71, TH B), while I'd nudge Far East Suite ('66)
down from an A+ to an A.
I don't know when Bob turned so cranky on Ellington, but after he did
those book reviews on Armstrong and Monk I wrote him suggesting that
Ellington should be next he snapped at me. Wasn't always so. Ten or so
years ago I suggested he give a listen to MCA's single disc best-ofs
from their 3-CD sets of early Ellington and Basie and he did grade
A CG reviews of both. Many years earlier he turned me onto
Ellington's early Bluebirds (what you refer to as Flaming Youth,
later on CD as Early Ellington and now -- as I've said many
times, criminally -- out of print); also Duke Ellington Meets
Coleman Hawkins, which even more importantly introduced me to
Hawkins (as the Gramophone Guide put it, "the fount of all worthwhile
saxophone playing"). I knew that what little he's written on Ellington
has been on the fringes, and I probably suspected that he's none too
fond of big bands (an instinct I happen to share; anyway, he overcame
that with Sinatra), but I'm far from alone in regarding Ellington as
one of the main figures not just in jazz but in 20th century American
popular music. I guess my thinking was that for any critic interested
in the historical breadth of popular music that Bob has taken on
Ellington is just part of the job, as much as Armstrong, Holiday,
Sinatra, Crosby, and proto-rockers like Cab Calloway and Nat Cole
(to sneak in two important artists Bob has never written about).
I'm not insisting that I'm right here: indeed, just as I typed out
that list, Ellington is the odd man out not just because he wasn't
a vocalist, he had flat out awful taste in singers (unless you score
extra points for T&A, but even that doesn't explain Herb Jeffries).
Ok, so Bob doesn't know much about Ellington: the "great period,"
by the way, was 1940-42 ("the Blanton-Webster band"), just before the
recording strike and Jimmy Blanton's death, although like many things
that's a categorization myth. There's great Ellington all over the
timeline, even in the weirder late 1940s (when he was grappling with
bebop and Stravinsky, not to mention press clips about America's
greatest living composer), the early 1950s (when Johnny Hodges went
AWOL), and the mid-1930s (which Columbia insists on keeping out of
print). And while most of the recordings are arranged for big band --
he called it an orchestra, but aside from occasional fiddle solos by
Ray Nance he never used strings -- most of them are set up for his
soloists, mostly players like Hodges, Webster, Gonsalves, and an
amazing series of great trumpet players. Plus there is an awful lot
of small group Ellington -- two Columbia sets from 1934-39, the RCAs
in the early 1940s (some of the best under Hodges' name), and all
sorts of chance encounters from 1958 on. As Monsen mentioned, I've
sorted through a lot of these -- I probably have more by Ellington
than anyone else, but I'm still missing things (including, sad to
say, This One's for Blanton). He's a lot of work to master,
and I certainly haven't done it -- so I can see why Bob might rather
not. I just don't get the crankiness. Dive in anywhere (well, not
the gospel music at the end). How can you not love Ellington?
PS: For Joe, the original 1-CD Ellington at Newport is as
dramatic, as thrilling as recorded jazz ever got: Gonsalves gigantic
solo, the trombones jumping in, Cat Anderson's high notes. The 2-CD
Complete undercuts this drama but adds a lot of very good
music and gives you a clearer take on what Gonsalves actually played --
part of the excitement of the original is that with its weaker sound
you hear more of the crowd and the stage rocking. Take your pick
(and beware of the 1958 Newport, not nearly as good).
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Someone mentioned Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw:
On Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw: I thought the writing in the
first chapters was atrocious, but either it picked up later or I got used
to it. You can get a taste at my book page:
As I recall, he singled out Olive Garden among his named evils,
although I don't find that in my notes.
When I was real young all we had was a record player that would only
play 45s. We had a stack of records less than six inches tall: main ones
I remember were "Sixteen Tons" (Ernie Ford), "Honey Comb" (Jimmie Rodgers --
not the country singer), "Puff the Magic Dragon" (Peter Paul & Mary), and
"Monster Mash." I don't recall having much input into those (well, maybe
In 7th or 8th grade I saved up $40 and bought a machine that would
play LPs. First ones I bought were Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney,
Kinks-Size, and Having a Rave-Up With the Yardbirds.
The latter had a song called "Respectable" on it that changed my life
(Isley Brothers cover). First Rolling Stones album was Between the
Buttons, but I had all the singles from "Satisfaction"; mostly
Beatles singles too, one Dylan ("Rainy Day Women"), one James Brown
(you know it). Seems like I got a slightly better stereo before I went
to college, but I don't recall when. Music wasn't a big interest until
then: in college I discovered music as a form of social and intellectual
currency: early 1970s now, lots of prog rock, some Miles Davis. After
Wash U, back in Wichita, got a job and bought a fancy component system --
Yamaha, B&O, cost more than my car ($900 v. $600), lasted me a long
time. When I was shopping my test record was "Brontosaurus" by the Move.
My God, it sounded great.
Growing up I never knew anyone who had a record collection or knew
anything about music, so I figured out what I figured out the hard way.
Read Christgau in the Voice in 1969, but it didn't sink in until
I moved back home and found the old copies in the attic. Next generation
was different: my nephew grew up on Ornette Coleman and Public Enemy.
More Bourdain, more food:
With food still on my mind, thought I'd mention that the nephew I
turned on to Ornette Coleman and Public Enemy has a cooking blog:
I had some influence there too, although I wasn't the only one. He's
probably ahead of me by now -- moved to New York after his eyes were
opened, and has held out a lot longer than I did. Still, good as those
green beans look, I'd stand the dry-fried ones I made last week up
against them: you can only put sauce on a boiled bean, but once you
deep fry it the sauce goes in.
Bourdain's line on Olive Garden was that Italian is so easy it's a
crime not to do it well. I mostly do Italian when I'm pressed for time,
like when I get roped into a midday meal. Never fails, even with all
sorts of short cuts, and lots of things I can't get.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Several people posted on their first CD:
The first CD I bought was Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon, so
that would have been 1985. it only came on CD, so that finally broke
my resistance. I probably had everything Eno had done to that point so
I was kind of boxed in. It was another 2-3 years before I switched
over and stopped buying LPs. I hated the higher prices, and only
bought CDs when I there was an extra reason. Christgau used to
complain a lot about the length of CDs, but I found I preferred the
longer playing time; also the ease of use. The most surprising gain
for me was Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert, which was painful (and
stupid) to manage on 3 LP sides but just got better and better on one
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Just got a piece of email from Craig Aaron at
freepress.net. I get a lot of mail like this but this is the first time
I've just copied it verbatim:
FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving the FCC to become a
lobbyist for Comcast -- just four months after she voted to approve the
This is just the latest -- but perhaps most blatant -- example of
so-called "public servants" cashing in on companies they are supposed
to be regulating. But Baker's jump to Comcast is particularly egregious.
As recently as March, the commissioner was giving speeches complaining
that the Comcast-NBC deal "took too long."
Baker's new position is actually Senior Vice President of Government
Affairs, working directly for Comcast. Baker was appointed to the FCC
by Obama, assuming office July 31, 2009, and has been an opponent of
"net neutrality" ever since she landed. She's listed as a Republican,
married to the son of Reagan-Bush consigliere James Baker. I have no
idea how she got appointed, but this is a question that anyone who
thought that Obama might actually change anything important needs to
Whether this is the most blatant corruption ever is something we
can debate. When Boeing paid Pentagon procurer Darleen Druyun off
with a Vice President job, she (but not the Boeing execs who hired
her) wound up in jail. When Billy Tauzin pushed the Medicare D bill
through the House -- the one that prohibited the government from
negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies -- he didn't even
bother to finish his term before cashing in as President and CEO
of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobbying conglomerate. Those
are two of the more blatant cases I can think of, but there are
many more. On Obama's watch, the biggest one thus far has been
Peter Orszag, who served as CBO Director before landing the job
as Citigroup's Vice Chairman of Global Banking: you can say that
was less blatant, but Orszag was an important peripheral figure
in the bank bailouts and the new job is worth millions.
I'm sure we'll be hearing much more about this over the next few
weeks, including numerous campaign quotes from Obama about how he
was going to clean up the stench of corruption that smells just like
Don't have any new links, but the NLRB ruling against Boeing for
building a new aircraft assembly plant in South Carolina is heating
up. Boeing is acting dumbfounded, as well you might expect given
how little flack they've gotten for their anti-union activities in
the recent past. (Among other things, when the office workers in
Wichita unionized, Boeing sold off the plant in a private equity
deal, then managed to decertify the union from the tiny rump group
they kept for military work.) What I find even more disturbing than
the anti-union aspects of the South Carolina move is that they got
the state to fork over $900 million in bribes to build the plant.
Even there, only the size of the booty is surprising: for quite a
while now Boeing has made a practice of selling jobs to state and
local politicians, both in the US and abroad. Their whole business
swims in an ocean of corruption: that they can't deliver new aircraft
like the 787 and that they aircraft they do sell like the 737 have
been turning up to be defective is a side effect. Like all good US
corporations, their real business is making money for investors (and
upper management), and their products hardly matter.
Someone mentioned that Jim Determan had a file "translating" John
Morthland's The Best of Country Music into the CD era:
avatar I looked for the Morthland-on-CD page a while back and the
available links were all dead. Tried again tonight using the Wayback
Machine and tracked it down. Looks like it's been broken since 2007,
but perhaps more importantly that the file hasn't been updated since
December 2002. I made a copy of it and a similar one Jim Determan did
on Len Lyons, The 101 Best Jazz Albums: A History of Jazz on
Records. Not sure what to do with them, but it's tempting to clean
them up and post them -- looks like a fair amount of work. A much
bigger task/question would be bringing them up to date.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Jazz Consumer Guide (26): Pure Joy and Hard Work
New Jazz Consumer Guide on the Village Voice website today, out on
the streets tomorrow:
Pure Joy and Hard Work. This is the 26th column
going back to July 2004, now up to 963 records (see
artist index). Previous one
was published December 22, so this has taken a good deal longer than the
usual three months: mostly my fault as I slogged through a miserable
winter, but the change of the guard at The Village Voice added
to the delay. (Mostly before, rather than after, Maura Johnston took
over. Once she got hold of the lost draft she turned it around in little
more than a week.)
Space got cut back a bit: my word count is 1488 where we've been
running close to 1600 lately. Still running late: I think the only
2011 release here is Vijay Iyer's Tirtha, and I'm not sure
there aren't any 2009 (or earlier) albums. Four records got cut from
the draft I sent in, and I had left out a lot more -- enough for the
next column (and then some). And I still have about 250 records in
my prospecting queue, so this all takes time.
One format change this time: I didn't bother turning in any Duds,
and the new editor didn't seem to miss them. When Robert Christgau
restructured his Consumer Guide in 1991 he wanted to eliminate the
Duds and just look for good records. The editor at the time (I forget
who) talked him out of it, so he carried on with a Dud of the Month
and an alphabetized, ungraded list of Extra Duds -- plus he was still
expected to spend a couple miserable months each November shooting
turkeys. Finally with his Expert Witness blog he's gotten past all
that nonsense. I started off doing a featured dud per column, then
cut back to an annotated dud list. I could have done one this time,
but didn't want to spend the space. They're relatively easy to write,
and I do the painful part -- the listening -- anyway, so it really
comes down to space and interest. And while some readers may get off
on me whacking some unfortunately misconceived unlistenable crap, I
don't. The other reason I've heard for doing Duds is to prove that
I don't fall for everything. But the fact is that I keep notes on
everything, it's all in the Prospecting files and in the year-end
lists. You can look through either of them and find all the Duds
you can stand.
The Jazz Prospecting that went into this column is archived
here: 227 records, plus
96 carryovers from the previous round. That's about typical for a
column -- over the last few years I've ranged from 207 to 293.
Most of those records get dismissed after prospecting: the record
of that is kept in the surplus file
here. The more I fall
behind, the harder I try to catch up by cutting out records that
are marginal for one reason or another. In most cases I refer
you to the Jazz Prospecting notes, but some of the cuts deserve
further explanation. The rest of this post are near misses from
the surplus file. Some of the best are Ivo Perelman records that
I mentioned in the review and expand upon here. Cutting them
out helped to work other things in, but he really had a great
run this past year.
Pick up reviews from surplus file
The Village Voice has published my 26th Jazz Consumer Guide column
The previous one came out December 21. Longer than the usual 3-month
interval, but next one should come out sooner.
Index by label:
ACT: Vijay Iyer
Arbors: Warren Vache/John Allred
Bju'ecords: David Smith
Clean Feed: Lisa Mezzacappa, Billy Fox, Stephan Crump/James Carney,
Cuneiform: The Microscopic Septet
Dox: Benjamin Herman
ECM: Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg, Anat Fort
Fenomedia: Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles
High Note: Ernestine Anderson, Kenny Burrell
ICP: ICP Orchestra
In+Out: Sun Ra Arkestra
Jazzwerkstatt: World Saxophone Quartet, Chris Dahlgren
Kabell: Wadada Leo Smith/Ed Blackwell
Leo: Ivo Perelman, Anthony Braxton
NYC: Mike Mainieri
Pine Eagle: Rich Halley
Porter: Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali, Profound Sound Trio
RogueArt: Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris
Smalls: Harold O'Neal
Smalltown Superjazz: Lean Left
Songlines: James Carney
Sunnyside: Stephan Crump, Paquito D'Rivera, John McNeil/Bill McHenry
Tzadik: Rafi Malkiel
Valid: Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki
Water Baby: Anthony Brown
Zoho: Pablo Aslan
self-released: Ben Syversen
Jazz Prospecting for this round covered 227 new albums, with
96 older albums carried over for consideration here. The Jazz
Prospecting notes are collected here:
The index for all Jazz Consumer Guide columns:
Another index, this time by artist name:
Some more comments on my blog announcement. Every Monday I post
the week's Jazz Prospecting. I won't claim that these constitute
real reviews, but they provide a general indication of what I'm
listening to, some background notes explaining what it is, and
my initial take on the record. For most records that's as far as
I can go, but the best records (and a few of the worst) will get
move on to the Jazz Consumer Guide column.
Appreciate your support and patience as these reviews work their
way to print.
Notes for the records covered in Jazz CG (25):
- Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Night Logic
(2009 , RogueArt):
In the label's minimalist design style, the
artists are listed with first initials, but I figured I should go
ahead and spell them out. Allen is well into his 80s now; b. 1924,
he joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1956 and still directs it in its
ghost band phase. He has a few albums since the late 1990s with his
name on the marquee, like this one alongside other notables. He
plays alto sax and flute, and is gritty enough on the sax that he
draws out Shipp's David S. Ware Quartet mode, which itself is worth
the price of admission. Morris is best known for his guitar, but
plays bass here.
- Ernestine Anderson: Nightlife (2008-09 , High Note):
Veteran r&b singer, came up with Johnny Otis 1947-49, moved on to Lionel
Hampton, and has been moving ever since. Cut some records 1956-60, then
dropped out of sight until Concord revived her in 1976 with 12 albums
through 1993, and now has 3 since 2003 on High Note, this one sampling
two Dizzy's Club Coca Cola sets straddling her 80th birthday. Voice is
a bit gruff; songbook is mostly blues. Should be ordinary but actually
she gives a remarkable performance, with a big boost from the label's
resident saxophone genius, Houston Person.
- Hugo Antunes: Roll Call (2009 , Clean Feed):
Guessing on the recording date, given only as "September 3" -- seems
inconceivably tight to be 2010, but if it was more than a year old
you'd think they'd think of noting the year. Portuguese bassist;
based in Brussels, Belgium. First album, as far as I can tell,
fronted by two tenor saxophonists -- Daniele Martini and Toine
Thys (who also plays soprano and bass clarinet), backed by two
drummers (João Lobo and Mark Patrman). Lots of deep rumble and
fleeting reeds, remarkable when it works, which is more often than
- Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho):
born in Argentina, based in New York, has several records based
on tango themes -- 2007's Buenos Aires Tango Standards is
one I particularly recommend. New one is more of the same -- an
assortment of old tango tunes given a jolt of jazz improv, with
piano and trumpet kicking in as well as the usual bandoneon and
- Anthony Braxton: 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003
(2003 , Leo, 4CD):
This is actually the third 4-CD box
from Braxton's 2003 standards tour, so it should be surplus,
but like its predecessors it's just marvelous. Braxton haters
won't have a clue in a blindfold test, and fans may have some
trouble too -- aside from one improv where he's on home ground,
he reminds me of Sonny Stitt more than anyone else, with more
range and even faster, or Bird without the dank sound, or
McLean without the weird bite, but where all those guys had
to sweat to put out, Braxton has never seemed more relaxed
or laid back. (And no one else would pick up a sopranino sax
and kick out an utterly distinctive "The Girl From Ipanema.")
With guitarist Kevin O'Neil getting a lot of room to stretch,
and Andy Eulau on bass and Kevin Norton on percussion. Main
thing that holds me back from grading it higher is that I
haven't spent as much time with it as A records usually take.
But you can dive in anywhere and find something wonderful.
- Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra: India & Africa:
A Tribute to John Coltrane (2009 , Water Baby):
mother Japanese, father African-American with a bit of Choctaw, came
up on the idea of organizing a big band of Asian-American musicians --
an early fruit was Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, inspired by
Japanese-American bands who played in WWII concentration camps. His
records incorporate various bits of Asian music, but they're also
masterful exercises in big band arranging -- as was proven, for
instance, in Brown's previous Monk's Moods. This one is
organized in two sets, mostly using Coltrane's compositions, in
particular "India" and "Africa." The India set picks up more Indian
music than Coltrane ever knew, including a duet between Steve Oda's
sarod and Dana Pandey's tabla. The Africa set is less exotic, and
ends with a slice of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" -- a piece
Coltrane used to play. (Afro Blue Impressions is one of
Coltrane's better live albums.) The percussion is notable, and
the horn solos and section work are muscular and daring.
- Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (2008 , High Note):
Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola -- looks like I'm supposed to use the
fancy logo for the last two words. Born 1931, cut his first record in
1956 and has rarely missed a year since, one of the few survivors of
the bumper crop of bop-oriented guitarists that emerged in the 1950s.
(Jim Hall is the only other one I can think of who's still active.)
Has a couple of exceptional records -- Guitar Forms (1964-65),
Ellington Is Forever (1975, Vol. 1 much better than Vol. 2) --
and a lot of pretty nice ones. I flagged his 75th Birthday Bash
Live! (2006) as a dud, but this one is a delight, with Tivon
Pennicott blowing some warm sax, Benny Green on the ivories, the
great Peter Washington humming along on bass, and Clayton Cameron
on drums. In this company, Burrell doesn't have to offer much more
than tasty, which is just his thing.
- James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 , Songlines):
Pianist, from Syracuse, NY, based in Los Angeles and/or
Brooklyn (sources differ), fifth album since 1993. Group is a septet:
Peter Epstein (soprano/alto sax), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tony Malaby
(tenor sax), Josh Roseman (trombone), Christ Lightcap (bass), Mark
Ferber (drums). Seems like a lot of horn power, but the horns are
folded in tightly, layered for color, the individual personalities
appearing here and there -- Epstein has an especially delectable
lead spot. Carney plays some electric piano and analog synth, only
gradually emerging as a leader with intricate ideas and taste.
- Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983
(1980-83 , No Business, 2CD):
Bassist William Parker was
less than 30 when he formed this group, with one self-released
album (released 1981; reissued as Through Acceptance of the
Mystery Peace by Eremite in 1998), side credits with Frank
Lowe and Billy Bang, with Cecil Taylor still in his future.
Violinist Jason Kao Hwang was less than 25. The senior member
was Will Connell, Jr., b. 1938. He turned to music after an
accident in the Air Force nearly blinded him. In Los Angeles
in the 1960s he fell into Horace Tapscott's circle, then moved
back to New York "because I wanted to be a hermit." He plays
flute, alto sax, bass clarinet, wood flutes here. I haven't
found any other credits for him, unless he's the "Will Connell"
playing bass clarinet on a a 2007 Bill Dixon album -- would have
been close to 70, still 13 years younger than Dixon. Fourth
member is drummer Zen Matsuura, who went on to play with Billy
Bang and Roy Campbell -- not a long credit list, but he's on
Campbell's 2007 Akhenaten Suite, deserving of another
plug. Parker recorded a piece called "Commitment" in the late
1970s, but the piece doesn't appear here. What we get is the
1981 Commitment Ensemble album (recorded October 13-14, 1980;
36 minutes on the first disc) and a long live set from Germany
in 1983 (38 minutes on the first disc and 48 more on the second).
One of those records that would have sounded interesting but
unfocused at the time, but sounds prophetic now. Hwang, who
was born in Waukegan, IL, had yet to develop his mastery of
Chinese classical music, so he sounds more like Leroy Jenkins
here -- a pretty good deal. Connell is plug ugly on alto, but
his flutes hit the right notes in contrast to the violin.
Parker and Matsuura keep it all moving at breakneck speed.
- Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My Silent
House (2008 , ECM):
I got confused early on
here, first confusing David Rothenberg with Ned Rothenberg and
possibly others my brain has incoherently muddled together, but
also thinking that Crispell should be the main focus. She plays
piano on about half of the cuts, soundboard and percussion on
the rest -- for all intents and purposes, her piano is one of
many percussion options, all revolving around Rothenberg's bass
clarinet and clarinet. Rothenberg has ten albums since 1992,
something to research further some time. He describes himself
as a "philosopher-naturalist" and writes about Why Birds
Sing. This is spare but deep, mostly slow and careful but
never mushy. Crispell, as I said, takes on the percussionist
role, which is not to denigrate her near-perfect piano.
- Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation
(2009 , Sunnyside):
Bassist, from Memphis, mother "an
amateur pianist from Paris," father "an architect and jazz
drummer"; studied at Amherst, based in New York, plays in
Vijay Iyer's piano trio. Fourth album since 1997; third was
called Rosetta with same lineup here, the bass flanked
by guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox. Seems slight at
first, the guitars tuned down to adorn the bass, a balance
that lets you enter the framework. Didn't get much out of
the previous record, but this one draws me in every time.
- Stephan Crump/James Carney: Echo Run Pry
(2008 , Clean Feed):
A while back I got a package of 6-7 Clean
Feed releases from Portugal; opened them up and when I noticed
this one, I stopped, thought about what a remarkable job Pedro
Costa does with his label. In particular, I recalled Costa's
comment back when I wrote that mega-article on jazz labels: that
he doesn't have any special tastes, but just releases whatever
strikes his fancy. That's mostly included various circles of
well-connected avant-gardists, plus a wider range of Portuguese
artists. I've never really thought of Crump (bass) or Carney
(piano) as avant-garde, although they've been doing interesting
and rather daring postbop, scoring HMs or better, so I was
surprised to see them pop up together, and here. The record
has the same basic flaw of all duos: limited pallette with no
one extra to smooth the flow. But Carney holds back enough to
work with the bass instead of running roughshod over it, and
Crump's leads are always interesting.
- Chris Dahlgren: Mystic Maze & Lexicon (2008 ,
Bassist, b. 1961 in New York, studied under
La Monte Young. Half-dozen records as a leader, plus a couple dozen
side credits including Anthony Braxton and Gebhard Ullmann. With
Antonis Anissegos (keyboards), Ullman (tenor & soprano sax,
bass clarinet), Christian Weidner (alto sax), and Eric Schaefer
(drums). Music is very slippery, sliding from spot to spot, never
getting in the way of the narration, which includes stories about
Béla Bartok and painless dentistry.
- Paquito D'Rivera: Tango Jazz: Live at Lincoln Center
Cuban clarinet/also sax player,
b. 1948, studied at Havana Conservatory of Music, co-founded
Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna, and later Irakere, before
skipping over the the US in 1980, where has since built up a
substantial discography. Opens the liner notes with a rant about
"Che Guevara and his henchmen" which even if it's true -- and
I don't know one way or the other -- reminds me how convenient
America is for right-wing Cubans and how much political damage
they've done since being welcomed here so generously (unlike
refugees from far more murderous right-wing regimes like El
Salvador in the 1980s, or Haiti any time). Still, the gist of
D'Rivera's notes is that he loves the tango music that Guevara
evidently forsook, and he at least proves his enthusiasm in
the grooves. The critical ingredient, not surprisingly, is
the Pablo Aslan Ensemble, with Michael Zisman (and on one
track Raul Jaurena) on bandoneón, Aslan on bass, and Daniel
Piazzolla on drums. Aslan's own tango records have tended to
be elegant updates -- Avantango kicked off the series,
and Buenos Aires Tango Standards is even better -- but
the band gets hot and rowdy here, especially when Gustavo
Bergalli cuts loose on trumpet.
- Anat Fort Trio: And If (2009 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1970 near Tel Aviv in Israel, moved to US in early
1990s, based in New York. Third album, second on ECM. Trio
with Gary Wang (bass) and Roland Schneider (drums). Quiet but
remarkably assured. Opens and closes with meditative pieces
dedicated to Paul Motian; one exception is "Nu" which jumps
around a bit.
- Billy Fox's Blackbirds & Bullets: Dulces
(2009 , Clean Feed):
Percussionist, credited only with maracas here, has two
previous albums, The Kaidan Suite and Uncle Wiggly Suite,
and a couple of side credits -- e.g., worked with Bobby Sanabria. So
how does a maracas player sustain interest? He recruits players I've
barely (or never) heard of, spread out among two saxes, trumpet, keybs,
a one-track violin guest, and gives them each a few minutes to stand up
and out. Also does a superb job of working out horn charts for transition.
- Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (2009
Grimes' story should be fairly well known by now.
B. 1935, he was a popular bassist from 1957-67, breaking in with
Gerry Mulligan but from 1964-67 mostly playing with avant-gardists,
including Albert Ayler, Frank Wright, Charles Tyler, Cecil Taylor,
Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and Don Cherry -- for that matter,
1962-63 was transitional, credits there including Sonny Rollins,
McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, and two exceptional avant albums: Perry
Robinson's Funk Dumpling and Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd's
School Days (the name inspiration for the Ken Vandermark
group). Grimes dropped out in 1967, and wasn't heard from again
until 2002 when someone tracked him down, and William Parker gave
him a new bass -- at the time he reportedly hadn't realized that
Ayler had died. He's been a semi-celebrity since 2002, working
steadily, but I generally suspected that the world was cutting
him a fair amount of slack. He had, for instance, one album under
his own name back in 1965; he picked up a second album in 2005,
Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival, but the Henry Grimes
Trio there was supported by two much more famous players: Hamid
Drake and David Murray. Still, this record forces me at least
to make some adjustments. This is a duo and Ali -- who didn't
disappear after Coltrane died but never got much recognition
either -- was clearly secondary. Mostly bass-drums duets, but
Grimes plays some violin as well, not very slick but the higher
pitch projects him impressively. Begins and ends with short
poems, the live set full of sharp edges as Grimes works his
way around his tools, with drum interludes and comments -- less
commanding but no less sharp. This is actually the second duo
album with Grimes and Ali, so I need to check the first out too.
- Rich Halley Quartet: Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival
(2008 , Pine Eagle):
Featuring Bobby Bradford, whose cornet adds
a second free-wheeling horn to tenor saxophonist Halley's trio. Halley
is from Portland, OR; trained as a field biologist, plays free jazz
with a feel for Aylerian primitivism (what Ayler thought of as spirit).
Has a dozen or so albums since 1984. Bradford adds something, but I
still slightly prefer his trio Mountains and Plains, and
someday hope to dig up deeper background.
- Benjamin Herman: Hypochristmastreefuzz [Special Edition]
(2008-09 , Dox, 2CD):
Title broken up onto three lines on front
cover, but one word on spine, and one word as a song title. I probably
put this off thinking Xmas music, a big mistake that should have been
flagged by the subtitle: More Mengelberg. The Dutch pianist doesn't play,
but did write all but two compositions, and emerges for a short interview
fragment at the end of the first disc -- in Dutch, natch. Herman is a
Dutch alto saxophonist, b. 1968, has a healthy list of albums since 1999,
including Plays Misha Mengelberg in 2000 and Plays Jaki Byard
in 2003. Looks like Hypochristmastreefuzz originally came out as
a single in 2009, then was reissued in 2010 with a second disc, "Live
at the North Sea Jazz Festival." I recognize Mengelberg (b. 1935) as one
of the giants of the European avant-garde, but I've actually listened to
very little by him (or his longstanding ICP [Instant Composers Pool]
Orchestra), so the big surprise for me here is how this all jumps. Mostly
sax-bass-drums, a little guitar, one track with mellotron, one with a
Ruben Hein vocal, another with a bit of choir. Manages to be edgy and
catchy at the same time. Several songs reappear on the live disc, looser
and rougher, as you'd expect.
[Was: A-] A
- ICP Orchestra: ICP 049 (2009 , ICP):
the musician names, alternating black and gray; under that ICP Orchestra
in red; at bottom ICP 049 in black and gray. Spine reads: ICP (049)
Orchestra. Pretty sure this is the ICP Orchestra record Francis
Davis picked as last year's best. The group -- ICP stands for Instant
Composers Pool -- dates back to 1967, founded by Misha Mengelberg, Han
Bennink, and the late Willem Breuker. Current lineup is named on the
cover: Mengelberg (piano), Bennink (drums), Tristan Honsiger (cello),
Ab Baars (reeds), Ernst Glerum (bass), Michael Moore (reeds), Thomas
Heberer (trumpet, Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Tobias Delius (tenor
sax) -- at least four expats settled in Amsterdam (Moore, Oliver, and
Honsiger from US; Delius from UK; not sure about Heberer, from Germany,
does play with a lot of Dutch musicians). Have a lot of catching up to
do, especially on Mengelberg, but this sums up the usual virtues of
the Dutch avant-garde: continental culture, with a delirious twist.
- Vijay Iyer with Prasanna & Nitin Mitta: Tirtha
(2008 , ACT):
Piano-guitar-tabla. Prasanna's guitar propels
the flow, the most distinguishing feature here, very attractive at
times with the soft tap of the tabla. Iyer elaborates but rarely
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo,
Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz):
artist name and title should be switched. "Ex Guitars" are Andy
Moor and Terrie Ex of the Dutch mostly-rock group The Ex, which
started much like the Mekons but instead of going country-folk
hung out with African noise bands and avant-jazzers. Drummer
Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, Bb clarinet)
have five or six albums as a duo, many more in larger configs,
and in fact many Vandermark albums have been multi-band mash-ups
along such lines. Cut live at Bimhuis. Liner suggests that
Vandermark couldn't hear himself over the guitars although he
was aware of blowing his lungs out; no problem, the sax is loud
and clear here (especially loud). The guitars are less obvious,
cutting in and out with harmonic strings and blasts of distortion.
While the rockers are ripping up the sonic landscape, the jazz
vanguardists rock out, with Vandermark riffing heavy and the
drummer tying it all together. Three short pieces and one long
at 27:26 for an intense bit over 41 minutes.
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo,
Volume 2 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz):
A second set
at the Bimhuis, not as loud as the first, and not just because
Vandermark lays out on the 12:26 opening "Knuckle Cracking Party":
an exercise where Andy Moor and Terrie Ex tease abstractions out
of their guitars. The main act is the 30:16 "Chunk of Lung," so
named because Vandermark thought he lost one somewhere. Same piece
appeared on Volume 1, not that you can tell. This is less
loud, has some breaks, lets the guitars articulate more. Probably
a development, but gives up a bit of Volume 1's rush.
- Rafi Malkiel: Water (2009 , Tzadik):
Trombonist, b. 1972 in Israel, based in New York, second album,
following the delightful My Island in 2007. Also plays
euphonium, which he has tricked up to make something he calls
aguaphonium here. Styles himself as a Latin jazz specialist,
surrounding himself with various Latino percussionists as well
as fellow travelers like Anat and Avishai Cohen. Jumps to a
fast start, wavers a bit when they slip and slow down. Depends
more on the horn layers than on the rhythm, but needs both to
work: "Eden Rain" is a good mix, "River Blue" another.
- Mike Mainieri: Crescent (2005 , NYC, 2CD):
Vibraphonist, b. 1938, discography starts in 1962 but AMG only
lists 17 albums over 48 years and he's never registered much on
my radar -- just enough to keep him separate from the Maneri
clan. Been sitting on this for a while, noticing how far behind
I was when another new 2CD set came in. Can't say I was looking
forward to it, but that's only because I missed the fine print.
Actually, front cover says "featuring Charlie Mariano" then adds
another name in smaller print, Dieter Ilg -- the bassist here.
Mariano died in 2009, an alto saxophonist whose vast discography
goes back to the early 1950s. Don't know him all that well either,
but he's blown me away on occasion, especially on the two It's
Standard Time volumes he cut with Tete Montoliu (1989, Fresh
Sound). Don't have the recording date here, but liner notes refer
to a 2005 session with Mariano winded from an illness and Mainieri
affect by a hand injury. Title and more than half of the songs
are from Coltrane -- the other half must fall in the songbook
somewhere. Mariano sounds more poignant than I expected, suits a
posthumous album. The vibes and bass keep a respectful distance.
- John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny
(2009 , Sunnyside):
Trumpeter McNeil is a generation older
and probably a good deal more idiosyncratic than the others, which
means not only he revives lost bop gems he embues them with their
own idiosyncratic spin, including some of that Latin tinge. I'm
rather surprised not to see this pop up on any year-end lists so
far. Not exactly my thing, but I could imagine more bop-oriented
fans falling hard for it -- unless they can't loosen up.
- Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known
(2009 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, based in San Francisco, first
album, has a handful of side credits going back to 1996, no one I
recognize except (barely/obviously) Pyeng Threadgill. Quartet, with
Aaron Bennett (tenor sax), John Finkbeiner (guitar), and Vijay
Anderson (drums). Anderson I recognize because he has a new record
on Not Two I just added to my wish list. Needed to jog my memory
on Bennett and Finkbeiner, but they are indispensible cogs in Adam
Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra -- which has a past pick hit and a
new record I don't have yet but Stef Gijssels has raved about --
and Finkbeiner is part of Nice Guy Trio. Finkbeiner has an uncanny
knack for adding harmonics to Bennett's sax, making this play more
like a two-horn group than sax-guitar. The bassist composed eight
of ten pieces, covering one from Air -- Pyeng's father's group,
although Steve McCall is the author -- and one from Don Van Vliet
called "Lick My Decals Off, Baby." She also works in a lot of bass
solos/leads, fine by me.
[PS: Did finally get the new Adam Lane record, and neither Bennett
nor Finkbeiner are on it, so maybe not so indispensible; will see
when I get to it.]
- The Microscopic Septet: Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros
Play Monk (2010, Cuneiform):
Sax quartet (Phillip Johnston
on soprano, Don Davis on alto, Mike Hashim on tenor, Dave Sewelson
on baritone) plus piano-bass-drums (Joel Forrester, David Hofstra,
Richard Dworkin). Been around since the early 1980s, skipping a
couple decades between 1988 and 2008. Monk mostly wrote for a
sax-piano quartet, so the extra horns scale up cleanly. That the
group's leader, Johnston, plays soprano sax makes it likely that
he's refracting Monk through Steve Lacy. Also helps that the tenor
guy (Hashim) is one of the most irrepressible swingers in the
business. In any case, it all works like a charm.
- Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Duo (2008, Fenomedia):
Twin brothers, b. 1973 in Sosnowiec, Poland. Marcin
plays bass; Bartlomiej drums. They've recorded quite a bit since
a 1999 group called Custom Trio, sometimes as Oles Brothers,
often named separately with Marcin listed first. Some are the
result of international jazz stars tramping through Poland --
David Murray and Ken Vandermark appear to have been the first,
and there's a more recent record with Herb Robertson. Some are
fronted by Polish saxophonists -- Adam Pieronczyk is one I like,
Andrzej Przybielski is one I haven't run across yet. Aside from
a drum solo album, they almost always play as a team, so you'd
expect tight communication and balance, but it's still surprising
how well this duo works out. The bass provides all the melodic
structure and harmony you need -- this never feels empty, unlike
80% of the duo records I've heard. (Not sure how many bass-drums
duos there have even been -- Parker-Drake, of course, some good
records there.) Helps that this mostly keeps a regular groove.
- Harold O'Neal: Whirling Mantis (2008 , Smalls):
Pianist, b. 1981 in Tanzania, raised in Kansas City -- father and uncle
were leaders in Black Panther Party in KC; uncle remains "in exile" in
Tanzania. Studied at Berklee and Manhattan School of Music. First album,
quartet, with Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Joe Sanders on bass, Rodney Green
on drums. Postbop, Shaw roughs it up a bit, piano whirls around making
a nice impression.
- Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Wilson: Mind Games
(2008 , Leo):
Conventional tenor sax trio, with Duval on bass
and Wilson on drums. I saw Duval play once, with Cecil Taylor, who
ran him ragged for about 20 minutes, then after Duval was worn out
Taylor started to play a little himself. Wilson is a drummer. Can't
find out much about him, but he's certainly not the ex-Beach Boys
singer-guitarist who shows up in his stead for the first million or
so Google searches. Pretty good drummer, too. As for the tenor
saxophonist, this is billed marking the 20th anniversary of his
recording career, and he's in his prime, sticking to what he knows
best. Before this string, I had only heard 4-5 of his recordings,
the delta there an unrated duo with Borah Bergman, and only had
one at A-: 1996's Sad Life. It, too, was a sax trio, with
William Parker and Hamid Drake. I wonder whether, had I played
the records in some other order, I might have nitpicked one or
the other down a notch. After three plays I'm not totally blown
away here either, but have no nits to pick. I need to go back the
review the others, and figure out what to do with this cluster --
probably a lead and two high HMs. (Also wonder why they didn't
send me the Perelman/Wilson duo The Stream of Life --
hard to think of any label I don't get that I'd be more excited
to hook into than Leo.)
- Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (2008 , Porter):
Andrew Cyrille on drums, Paul Dunmall on tenor sax and
bagpipes, Henry Grimes on bass. Live set, all group improvs, raw
both in sound and substance. Grimes sounds especially primitive
here, Ayleresque even. Dunmall has always been hit-and-miss, but
he's pretty much always on here. He even squeezes out a couple
of minutes of rather sublime music on his bagpipes, elsewhere
more often than not an implement of torture. Cyrille may get
first billing alphabetically, but he does a remarkable job of
holding it all together, and gets to end the set on a rapturous
crash. They didn't try to tone down the applause, and for once
- Sun Ra Arkestra [under the direction of Marshall Allen]:
Live at the Paradox (2008 , In+Out):
Sun Ra died in 1993.
Alto saxophonist Allen joined Ra's Arkestra in 1958, was a mainstay
until the end, and at 86 is the ghost band's undisputed leader. I
don't know how active the Arkestra has been since 1993: Allen's
website shows three albums including this one, another live album
from 2003 and an earlier album dating from 1999. I only count four
band members here who also played on 1990's Live at the Hackney
Empire, the last of Ra's full Arkestra albums I have listings
for: Allen, Noel Scott (as), Charles Davis (ts), and Elson Nascimento
(surdo). The nine songs are split 4-4 between Allen and Ra, with
Fletcher Henderson's "Hocus Pocus" the odd tune out -- Ra learned
his craft arranging for Henderson; don't know if any of Allen's
pieces are new. This covers all the bases, most of the planets and
quite a few moons, cranking up the space synths, cracking up into
cacophony, breaking down with corny vocals, and swinging like hell.
You've heard it all before, yet still can't predict it: this is one
ghost band that never gets trapped in its past because its past is
still so far in the future we can't anticipate it.
- David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 ,
AMG lists 50 Dave or David Smiths, none obviously the
right one, which makes no sense. Trumpet player, from Canada, based
in Brooklyn, second album -- first was a quintet with Seamus Blake
on Fresh Sound New Talent, Circumstance, which I should
have flagged as an HM but somehow escaped -- plus thirty-some side
credits. Kenji Omae replaces Blake on saxophone, and new bass and
drums, but guitarist Nate Radley is a significant carryover.
Crackling postbop, especially the trumpet. Tough name to make
one with, but if I were running AMG I'd flag him in bold.
- Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun
Drummer (1986 , Kabell):
Trumpet/drums duets, from
the vaults. Not sure what it is about Blackwell that holds this so
together. But Smith is exceptionally sharp, not that it hurts much
when he wanders, as when he plays flute or mibira, or sings.
- Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (2010, Ben Syversen):
Trumpet player, b. 1983, based in Brooklyn; first album, a trio
with Xander Naylor on guitar and Jeremy Gustin on drums. Syversen
cites Tim Berne, Ellery Eskelin, and Jim Black for ideas, as well
as "seminal punk bands such as Black Flag, twisted takes on Americana,
and sly, just beneath the surface references to Eastern European folk
music." There seem to be a lot of young guys like that coming up,
with the MOPDTK gang on the more scholarly end of the spectrum,
with this on the more punkish end. The jumbled riddims and guitar
noise are exhilarating, but even the one where they slow it down
gives you pause for thought.
- The Warren Vaché/John Allred Quintet: Top Shelf
(2009 , Arbors):
Cornet and trombone for the leaders, piano
(Tardo Hammer), bass (Nicki Parrott), drums (Leroy Williams).
Vaché followed Ruby Braff in keeping the swing revival going,
reverting from trumpet to cornet, with dozens of albums since
1976. Allred is a decade younger, the son of a similar-minded
trombonist, Bill Allred. Vaché, of course, isn't the first
cornet player to appreciate the value of keeping a trombonist
on tap -- Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without one.
Only thing unusual here is that while nearly half of the songs
are Tin Pan Alley standards, the rest come from the bop-era --
Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Benny Golson,
Cannonball Adderley, the title track from Blue Mitchell. But
in these hands the once radical break from swing to bop has
blurred to nothing. Booklet credits Vaché with the vocal on
"East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" but sounds like
Parrott to me.
- Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio
(2005 , Valid):
Can't find any bio for Wagner -- empty page on
his website, empty section on MySpace -- but he plays clarinet,
tenor and soprano sax, is based in New Orleans, has four trio
records since 2001, only this one with Drake and Ozaki. Needless
to say, Drake is a huge pickup, his frame drums providing a soft
rumble that blends especially well with Wagner's clarinet. The
sax stretches, and the drum kit, are louder, less exceptional,
but still invigorating free jazz.
- World Saxophone Quartet: Yes We Can (2009 ,
Live in Berlin, about two months after Obama took
office as president of the United States. WSQ dates back to 1977,
their initial album (Point of No Return) also released on a
German label (Moers). Back then the foursome were Hamiet Bluiett
(baritone), David Murray (tenor), Oliver Lake (alto), and Julius
Hemphill (alto): four major players each in his own right, but
Hemphill was arguably the leader, the one most focused on the
harmonic possibilities of four saxophones and nothing else. With
Hemphill's death in 1995, the survivors diversified, sneaking in
drums, auditioning a wide range of fourth horns, even juking up
a terrific collection of Political Blues. This one goes
back to their roots, four saxes, nothing else. Not sure why Lake
sat it out; his alto is replaced by Kidd Jordan. The other slot
goes to James Carter, playing tenor and soprano; not only a great
player in his own right, but early in his career he was played on
Hemphill's sax-only Five Chord Stud, and briefly ran his
own sax choir, recorded as Saxemble. As much as I admire
the individuals in WSQ, I've always found the sax-only palette
to be a bit narrow, and that's a limit here, which they work
Notes for records not covered (flushed) during the Jazz CG cycle:
- Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms (2009 , Delmark):
Vibraphonist, the guy everyone in Chicago goes to when they want one.
Third album since 2008; pushing three dozen side credits. This one's
a trio with Nate McBride on bass and Mike Reed on drums. McBride is
Ken Vandermark's Boston bassist, and it's especially good to see him
getting around -- terrific player, really lifts this up, just the
setup the leader needs.
- Dan Adler/Joey DeFrancesco/Byron Landham: Back to the Bridge
(2010, Emdan Music):
Organ trio, obviously. The guy you don't know gets
top billing, slightly larger type (but fewer letters), is pictured on a
bridge with a guitar -- what more do you need to know? Web bio includes
everything I want to know except year born -- probably mid-late 1960s,
in Israel. Trained as a semiconductor engineer/computer scientist, has
an impressive resume there including notable open source software work.
Moved to New York in 1986. Picked up guitar in 4th grade. Studied with
Gil Dor, and cites a lot of other musical influences -- Roni Ben-Hur
stands out, but also DeFrancesco's usual sidekick Paul Bollenback.
First album. Nothing ambitious or pretentious, just does a nice job
of laying in the groove.
- Aeroplane Trio: Naranja Ha (2010, Drip Audio, CD+DVD):
Trumpet-bass-drums trio out of Vancouver: JP Carter, Russell
Sholberg, and Skye Brooks respectively. Carter's the only name registered
in my memory: no albums under his own name, but was in the Inhabitants
and I could swear more places than the 7 credits AMG lists. He can play
free, make an impression solo, or toot along when bass-drums work up a
groove. Some tentative spots hold me back, plus I haven't seen the DVD
yet (and in most cases never do).
- Afrocubism (2010, World Circuit/Nonesuch):
the only new world post where slaveholders didn't try hard to strip
the roots of their chattels, so the island developed as a microcosm
of the mother continent, with well-defined religious and musical
tribes mapping straight to Senegal, Nigeria, and Congo, permitting
hybridized African music to flow back into Africa itself. But Africa
is a big and diverse continent, and Mali was isolated, much of its
land parched, its music simpler and more ethereal, which oddly enough
has lately turned Mali's musicians -- especially kora master Toumani
Diabaté into the continent's most prolific musical diplomats. This
is their record, aided by a few Cubans like Eliades Ochoa, primed
with Benny Moré and Nico Saquito songs, with a sweet but slight
"Guantanamera" to ice the cake.
- Howard Alden: I Remember Django (2010 , Arbors):
Of course, being b. 1958 Alden has no direct connection to Django
Reinhardt -- the title comes from a song, mixed in with "Nuages"
and "For Django" and other things less obvious. Swing-oriented
guitarist, lots of records since 1986, coached Sean Penn for
Woody Allen's Django-inspired Sweet and Lowdown. Seems
a bit off the mark here, with Matt Munisteri's second guitar
and Jon Burr's bass but no Grappelli. On the other hand, we are
treated to five cuts with Anat Cohen on clarinet, plus four with
Warren Vaché on cornet.
- Rahim AlHaj: Little Earth (2010, Ur, 2CD):
oudist, got some notice in the wake of Bush's Iraq misadventure with his
modestly straightforward Iraqi Music in a Time of War. A half
dozen albums later comes this double, each of 15 tracks pairing AlHaj
with a name guest (and sometimes an unnamed extra, like Bill Frisell
brings along violist Eyvind Kang). Still, the guests are relatively
transparent, partly because the instrumentation is designed to mesh
readily with the oud -- strings including guitar, kora, sitar, bass,
pipa; flutes, ney, didjeridu, accordion, percussion.
- Geri Allen & Timeline: Live (2009 , Motéma
Pianist, b. 1957, several dozen albums and scads more credits
since 1984 -- a major jazz pianist by any reckoning. Two Jazz CG
appearances: an A- for her superb trio The Life of a Song, and
a dud for the sprawling Timeless Portraits and Dreams. Haven't
gotten anything from her since, including two well-regarded albums this
year. Flying Toward the Sun got nearly all of the poll attention,
finishing ninth at Village Voice, but it takes something really
exceptional in a solo piano record to hold my interest. This has more
rhythmic push -- a trio with Kenny Davis on bass and Kassa Overall on
drums, plus something extra in tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. The piano
remains impressive when it breaks out, the rhythm helps sustain things,
and the taps are hard to figure.
- Vijay Anderson: Hardboiled Wonder Land (2008 , Not Two):
Drummer, based in Oakland. Works with Lisa Mezzacappa's
Bait & Switch (real good album on Clean Feed) and Aaron Bennett's
Go-Go Fightmaster (haven't heard their record, but I've bumped into
Bennett on Mezzacappa's record and an even better one by Adam Lane).
First album under his own name. Two guitars (Ava Mendoza and John
Finkbeiner), two reeds (Sheldon Brown on alto/tenor/soprano sax, Ben
Goldberg on clarinet), and vibes (Smith Dobson V). Starts with slick
textures, and the horns always remain rather soft, rarely standing
out. Nice feature with the vibes.
- Laurie Antonioli: American Dreams (2009 ,
Singer, b. 1958 in California, based in Oakland;
third album since 2005, including a duo with Richie Beirach. Wrote
most of the songs -- co-credited with five others, so I figure her
for the lyricist. Covers include "Moonlight in Vermont," "Oh, What
a Beautiful Morning," and a dreadful "America the Beautiful."
Arty high voice. Good band, usually picks up when she lets go.
Especially notable is soprano/tenor saxophonist Sheldon Brown.
- Artvark Saxophone Quartet: Truffles (2010,
Dutch sax quartet: Rolf Delfos (alto), Bart Wirtz (alto), Mete Erker
(tenor), Peter Broekhuizen (baritone). Delfos appears to be the oldest,
with about 20 years experience vs. 10 (9-12) for the others. Covers
include one by Corea and two by Ibrahim, plus one trad; originals
include one called "Ornat 'King' Coleman." The altos tend to lead,
and the others keep the bounce clean and stress-free.
- Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble: The Tide Has
Changed (2010, World Village):
Saxophonist, alto is his
mainstay but I hear a lot of soprano here, some clarinet. From
Israel, b. 1963, based in London. Writes a lot of political screeds
about Israel, which I mostly agree with but he has a chip on his
shoulders I don't share. Names his band after the headquarters of
the PLO in East Jerusalem. Combines traditional Jewish and Arab
music, a dash of Weimar cabaret, some Coltrane-ish sax, accordion,
some exceptionally lovely piano.
- Patti Austin: Sound Advice (2010 , Shanachie):
Soul singer, church-style although she actually got her first break
with song-and-dance-man Sammy Davis. Checkered career, her RCA contract
at age 5 doesn't seem to have left anything in her discography, then
there were patches from 1976 with CTI, Qwest in the 1980s, and GRP in
the early 1990s. She probably has more records than any soul singer
who never appeared in Christgau's Consumer Guide. Probably one of the
most famous singers I've never heard before this album. This one wasn't
easy either: in some sort of "wardrobe malfunction" the disc I received,
with her name and number clearly printed on it -- final product, not an
advance -- has someone else's music on it: no idea who, but the lead
instrument is some kind of electronic keyboard backed by chintzy Latin
percussion and virtually no vocals (not that I bothered listening to
much of it). Finally resorted to Rhapsody (although I won't flag it as
such, since I do have the packaging, just didn't get the music). Mixed
bag of things, including a sturdy "Lean on Me," but I found the cleanup
slots (4-5-6 if you're not into baseball) to be rather disorienting:
the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," McCartney's
"Let 'Em In," and Dylan's morosely Manichaean "Gotta Server Somebody" --
annoying in any context, but certainly Christianist here. I've rarely
hated a song more, although the grade doesn't really reflect that.
- Dmitry Baevsky: Down With It (2010, Sharp Nine):
saxophonist, b. 1976 in Russia; moved to New York in 1996, studying at
New School. Second album. Half quartet, with Jeb Patton (piano), David
Wong (bass), and Jason Brown (drums); four cuts add Jeremy Pelt for a
classic bebop quintet. Indeed, this is classic bebop, with a couple of
songbook standards, Ellington's "Mount Harissa," and everything else
from 1950s boppers (Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Thelonious
Monk, Sonny Rollins). Not sure he's doing anything Gryce didn't do, or
for that matter Parker -- whom he reminds me more of, at least when
Pelt is goosing him along, but his ballad tone is lighter and cleaner.
Has one of the worst Flash websites I've ever seen; bet it cost him a
- Chase Baird: Crosscurrent (2010, Junebeat):
saxophonist, b. 1988 in Seattle, grew up in Salt Lake City then San
Francisco, studied in Los Angeles. First album. Cites Gato Barbieri
and Michael Brecker as influences/models -- bold, straightforward
players, and Baird makes a strong impression in their wake. Group
includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion -- possibly a
bit much as the record loses momentum when the sax lays out. Could
be a guy worth watching.
- The Lynn Baker Quartet: Azure Intention (2010, OA2):
Saxophonist, opens with soprano but also plays tenor, b. 1955, grew up
in Oregon, teaches in Denver at Lamont School of Music. First album,
sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, lively postbop, gets a lot of mileage
out of pianist Reggie Berg and gives bassist Bijoux Barbosa some
- Billy Bang/Bill Cole: Billy Bang/Bill Cole
(2009 , Shadrack):
The violinist you must know by now. He had my jazz
record of the year last year, and that wasn't the first time he did
that. Cole you should know: I credit him with two A- records, 2002's
Seasoning the Greens and 2008's Proverbs for Sam, both
group albums. His duo albums, like this one and previous work with
Bang and William Parker and others, are a bit sketchier. He was b.
1937 in Pittsburgh; wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Coltrane; teaches
at Syracuse; mostly plays non-Western wind instruments. He faces off
Bang's violin here with digeridoo, nagaswarm, sona, flute, and shenai,
ranging from deep throated background to even squeakier than Bang's
violin. Takes off slow, wanders a lot; while Cole eventually comes
up with some interesting flurries, Bang pays close attention but
never really takes charge.
- BANN [Seamus Blake/Jay Anderson/Oz Noy/Adam Nussbaum]:
As You Like (2009 , Jazz Eyes):
group, quartet: Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Jay Anderson (bass), Oz Noy
(guitar), and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Anderson leads on points: he's
credited with "recorded, mixed and mastered"; also wrote 3 of 5 new
songs -- one each for Noy and Nussbaum, four covers (Jerome Kern,
Thelonious Monk, David Crosby, and Joe Henderson). Anderson is a
bassist from Canada: a couple of albums in the 1990s, a long list
of side credits starting with Woody Herman in 1978. He keeps the
rhythm loose and limber here. Nussbaum is the only American, same
type of drummer. Blake is a saxophonist from England, a mainstreamer
with a big, bold tone, always a welcome presence. Noy is an Israeli,
probably a good deal younger, does some of his best work here.
- Patricia Barber: Monday Night: Live at the Green Mill Vol. 2
(2010 , Fast Atmosphere):
Appears to be download-only, same for
the first volume which dates back several years. Barber sings and plays
piano, with guitar-bass-drums. Seems under the weather at first, hard to
sort out, but fares better with songs I recognize, closing with her own
"Post Modern Blues" followed by "Smile," "The Beat Goes On," and
- Matt Bauder: Day in Pictures (2010, Clean Feed):
Plays tenor sax and clarinet. Fourth album since 2003, not counting
a duo with Anthony Braxton and I'm not sure what else. Passed through
Ann Arbor and Chicago; now in Brooklyn. Quintet with Nate Wooley
(trumpet), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Tomas
Fujiwara (drums). Wooley and Sanchez have good spots on their own,
but aren't a lot of help overall, except in some fluttery free spots
where it all evens out. What's more striking is when Bauder's tenor
sax goes solo or with minimal bass/drums. Turns out he could carry
a mainstream sax ballad album, although he's still a little restless
to settle into that.
- Bedrock: Plastic Temptation (2009 , Winter &
Uri Caine's electric keyboard group, the main reason he polls
so high on an instrument that's actually a small part of his toolkit.
WIth Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and guitar, and Zach Danzinger on
drums, probably others popping in here and there -- vocalist Barbara
Walker with a big-time gospel sample is one. Two previous Bedrock albums
broke my A-list, so I was keenly interested in this one. But Rhapsody
cut short nearly all of the 18 cuts, turning this into an annoying
hodge podge. Not fair, for sure, but I'll note this with a placeholder
grade -- it's probably better but it's not inconceivable that it's
- Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 , Motema):
Guitarist, from Israel, moved to US in 1985, on sixth album
since 1995. With Ronnie Matthews on piano, Rufus Reid on bass,
Lewis Nash on drums, and Steven Kroon adding a little extra
percussion. Light, elegant lines, the best Wes Montgomery
impression I can think of in quite some time, with backup
that feels the grooves. Matthews has a couple of complementary
solos. Reid's been popping up a lot this week. It must be a
pleasure playing with Nash.
- Han Bennink Trio: Parken (2009, ILK): With Simon
Toldman on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet/bass clarinet:
their names and instruments are on the cover, following Bennink's,
but most sources attribute as above. The New Dutch Swing idea is
reinforced with three Ellington pieces, passages running wistfully
sweet as well as cacophonous, and some fancy unorthodox drumming.
Ends with the title song with a vocal by Qarin Wikström -- has a
bit of Robert Wyatt flare to it.
- Natalia Bernal/Mike Eckroth/Jason Ennis: La Voz de Tres
(2010, Jota Sete):
Album cover just lists the three last names, one per
line; spine and elsewhere sticks with last names separated by slashes.
All this underscores the tight group dynamic, but Bernal comes first
not just alphatetically. A singer from Chile, based in New York, she
wrote three songs and most likely picked the rest, some from her native
Andes, most from Brazil -- most striking for me is the one US cover,
"Tenderly." Eckroth plays piano/keyboards; Ennis 7-string guitar.
- Tyler Blanton: Botanic (2010, Ottimo):
first album, wrote all the songs. Joel Frahm gets a "featuring" cover
credit, playing tenor sax on two cuts and soprano on five of the other
six -- typically superb, the best thing on the album, but the vibes
do make a nice contrast, and AMG's crediting the album to Frahm was
- Matt Blostein/Vinnie Sperrazza: Paraphrase (2010 ,
Alto saxophonist and drummer, respectively,
split writing credits 4-4, have a couple previous albums together.
Quartet with Geoff Kraly on electric bass and Jacob Garchik on
trombone -- Garchik seems to be the key player, slowing things
down and adding depth.
- Blue Cranes: Observatories (2009 , Blue Cranes):
Portland, OR group; second album since 2007. Two saxophones (Reid Wallsmith
on alto, Sly Pig on tenor), keyboards (Rebecca Sanborn), bass and drums.
The horns are mostly yoked together, slowed down and muscled up with a
harmonic fuzz I don't much care for -- reminds me of rock opera more than
anything else. Three cuts add strings, four guitar, the closer adds a
"family percussion section" that concludes with a shout-out.
- Ralph Bowen: Power Play (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, can't find any record of when born but 1965 is a
fair guess; 7 or 8 albums since 1992, more going back to 1985 if you
count his group Out of the Blue. Mainstream player, imposing on tenor,
plays a little soprano or alto (not specified which) here, not his
strong suit. Quartet with pianist Orrin Evans, who does what the role
requires but doesn't make his usual strong impression. "My One and
Only Love" is a highlight.
- Anthony Branker & Ascent: Dance Music (2010, Origin):
Composer-arranger, b. 1958, evidently started off playing trumpet but
just runs things here. Second album, mostly a sextet plus vocalist Kadri
Voorand, who wrote lyrics to four Branker pieces. Not so danceable, but
bold compositions, strong sax breaks, especially tenor Ralph Bowen.
- Amy Briggs: Tangos for Piano (2010, Ravello):
Pianist, exclusively classical as far as I can tell, although this is
only her first album under her own name. Solo piano. The 22 tangos
include one by Piazzolla, but are mostly by composers not normally
associated with tango -- some I more/less recognize are Stravinsky,
Nancarrow, Rzewski, Harrison, but most are too obscure for me. Drama
and panache, of course, and in some ways it's refreshing not to carry
along the standard instrumental baggage.
- Dave Brubeck: Legacy of a Legend (1955-70 ,
The key to parsing the awkward title is the
relatively narrow timespan covered, limited to Brubeck's Columbia
recordings, now managed by Sony's Legacy division. That cuts off
the important early recordings and interesting later ones swept
up in the excellent The Essential Dave Brubeck, released
in 2003 and a better place to start if you want an overview before
delving into his many worthwhile individual albums. Some solos,
but mostly delectable quartet with Paul Desmond, three vocal spots
that should have been better (Jimmy Rushing, Carmen McRae, Louis
Armstrong), and winding up with two cuts featuring Gerry Mulligan.
- Henry Brun and the Latin Playerz: 20th Anniversary
(1992-2010 , Richport):
Drummer, congalero, "Mr. Ritmo" to his
friends, formed his Latin Playerz group in 1989, but I'm not finding
much discography for them -- AMG only lists one record, Spiritual
Awakenings (2005, Mambo Maniacs), but doesn't, for instance, list
this one. Two songs date from 1992, one 1993, one 2000, one 2004,
three 2006, most newer. The booklet doesn't list the Playerz, but
does spotlight Judi Deleon, presumably the singer. She takes some
overworked standards like "Lullaby of Birdland," "Lover Man," and
"Bye Bye Blackbird," and turns them all into high points.
- John Bunch: Do Not Disturb (2009 , Arbors):
b. 1921 in Indiana; plane was shot down in WWII and he finished the
war in a German POW camp. Played with Eddie Condon, Woody Herman,
Maynard Ferguson; from 1966-72 was Tony Bennett's music director.
Cut his first record in 1975; in the 1990s mostly recorded as New
York Swing Trio with Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart. Returns to
that same piano-guitar-bass format here with Frank Vignola and John
Webber, reprising the title song of his first album ("John's Bunch")
and a bunch of standards, the most modern from Brubeck and Parker.
Turns out to have been his final studio album, a long but relaxed
- David Caceres (2010 , Sunnyside):
Vocalist-alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in San Antonio, TX; family includes
several musicians, including Ernie Caceres, who played sax for Benny
Goodman and Woody Herman. Studied at Berklee; teaches at University of
Houston. Second album, with Gil Goodstein arranging and playing keybs
on most of the pieces; Aaron Parks playing piano on others. Voice
strikes me as a broad, sly smile, and his sax is even warmer. Margret
Grebowicz duets on one piece.
- Roger Cairns and Gary Fukushima: The Dream of Olwen
Vocalist and pianist, respectively. Cairns was b. 1946
in Scotland; is based in Los Angeles; has two previous albums, his
2006 debut titled A Scot in L.A. All standards, Alec Wilder
and Marilyn and Alan Bergman getting multiple calls. Very minimal,
like Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, not quite that special.
- Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas
Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1951, has more than a dozen
albums since 1983, a name I've often run across but never before managed
to check out. Plays guitar and percussion, sings all the songs, light and
lyrical, naturally. Frisell, of course, also plays guitar. He presumably
adds something, but for once it's hard to pick out.
- Andrea Centazzo/Perry Robinson/Nobu Stowe: The Soul in the
Mist (2006 , Konnex/Ictus):
Part of my Nobu Stowe backlog,
but the pianist plays a relatively minor role here. Centazzo wrote the
pieces, plays percussion, also credited for "Mallet Kat Keyb., Sampling";
record feels like the work of a percussionist, jumpy abstractions with
everything else reduced to color, especially Robinson's clarinet.
- Mina Cho: Originality (2010, Blink Music):
b. 1981 in Seoul, South Korea, started playing gospel in church, moved
on to Berklee, and now has her first album. Piano itself is rich and
flowing, with Andrew Halchak's soprano sax or Shu Odamura's guitar
adding to the lushness. Bonus track is the only non-original, with
a David Thorne Scott vocal in the usual hipster style.
- Fay Claassen: Sing! (2009 , Challenge):
Standards singer, b. 1969 in the Netherlands, 7th album since 2000.
Backed by WDR Big Band Cologne, who do their best to remain anonymous,
and fortified on four cuts by WDR Rundfunkorchester, who hardly bothered
me at all. Wide range of material -- fellow vocalist heroes Betty Carter
and Abbey Lincoln; fellow feminists Miriam Makeba, Joni Mitchell, and
Björk; a bit of Louis Jordan sass; the obligatory Jobim ("A Felicidade"
no less); a tortuous "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"; still, I was most
struck by the two most pre-feminist cuts, a very antiquarian "Tea for
Two" -- I hadn't really noticed the line about not disclosing that they
had a telephone before -- and the submissive "A Good Man Is Hard to
Find." No idea if there's a hidden message here, or it's just stuff
they thought might be fun to try.
- Mike Clark: Carnival of Soul (2010, Owl Studios):
Drummer, b. 1946, got a fusion rep playing in Herbie Hancock's
Headhunters. Here he reaches back deeper, mostly to the organ-fueled
soul jazz circa 1960, rotating three organ players, with honking sax
from Rob Dixon, and a "Cry Me a River" vocal by Delbert McClinton.
Seems like basic stuff, but "T's Boogaloo" is irresistible. And for
his finale, he namechecks a drummer great from further back. Calls
that piece "Catlett Outa the Bag."
- Clayton Brothers: The New Song and Dance (2010, ArtistShare):
Bassist John Clayton and reedist Jeff Clayton (alto sax
and alto flute this time) are the brothers. They got their start in
the Basie Orchestra, then formed the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
with drummer Jeff Hamilton -- the group Diana Krall tapped when she
wanted a big band like Sinatra used to use. The quintet includes a
third Clayton, John's son Gerald on piano, plus Obed Calvaire on drums
and Terrell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn. Despite the small group
size, they know how to make a splash. It's usually Stafford up front,
of course, but the band swings at unit force, and the sax is much more
than a foil for the trumpet.
- Todd Clouser: A Love Electric (2010 , Ropeadope):
Guitarist, b. 1981 in Minneapolis, studied at Berklee, based in Baja,
Mexico -- wanted a slower paced life in which to develop his own voice.
Second album, fusion that grows out of the 1970s but isn't contained
by it. No credits breakdown I can see: Bryan Nichols on Rhodes, Julio
de la Cruz on piano, and Jason Craft on B3 would seem to be either-or;
same for the two bassists (Gordy Johnson and Adam Linz) and the two
trumpeters (Steven Bernstein and Kelly Rossum). One cover, Harry
Nilsson's "One" -- smartly reinforcing the period thing. One uncredited
vocal, on "Mo City Kid" -- unpro but sly.
- Avishai Cohen: Introducing Triveni (2009 ,
Anat Cohen's trumpet-playing, third-world loving brother -- not the bassist
of the same name, although it's worth knowing that Rhapsody has this under
the wrong guy -- leading a trio with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits
on drums. Wrote four originals. Covers Don Cherry, Duke Ellington, John
Coltrane, Cole Porter. Puts his chops on fine display.
- Richard Cole: Inner Mission (2007 , Origin):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1957, based in Seattle, name inevitably recalls
alto saxophonist Richie Cole (nine years older, presumably unrelated,
recorded extensively 1976-88 and not much since). Fourth album since
1994, all on Origin. Front cover says "featuring Randy Brecker" --
the trumpet player on 5 of 9 cuts, with Thomas Marriott on trumpet
on two others. Bill Anschell plays piano on 6 cuts; John Hansen on
two others, and bassist and drummers come and go. Cole takes Henry
Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" on soprano. I don't get much out of the
postbop arrangements here, but the sax is often impressive.
- David Cook: Pathway (2010, Bju'ecords):
based in Brooklyn, looks like he has one self-released album back
in 2002, otherwise this piano trio is it. One cover, Ellington's
"Come Sunday"; eight originals, crisp, thoughtful postbop.
- Patrick Cornelius: Fierce (2009 , Whirlwind):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1978, AMG credits him with two records but his
website claims four going back to 2001. Trio plus two extra horns --
Nick Vayenas on valve trombone and Mark Small on tenor sax -- what
he calls his Chordless Jazz Ensemble. Solid postbop effort, bold
even, fierce too.
- Roxy Coss (2009 , self-released):
Tenor sax, soprano sax, flute. From Seattle, based in New York,
first album. Money quote from someone at AAJ: "just like Coltrane,
Coss achieves a perfect balance of lyricism and intensity in her
improvisations through a superb sense of timing, rhythmic and
harmonic structure." Not "just like Coltrane"; not remotely near.
Much of the album is wiped out by a pop jazz rhythm section, and
the flute adds no significant weight. When the drummer drops down
to brushes she finally gets a chance, shows some poise and taste.
Just not like Coltrane.
- Jacques Coursil: Trails of Tears (2010 , Sunnyside):
Trumpet player, b. 1938 in Paris, parents from Martinique, cut a couple of
well-regarded avant albums in 1969 and pretty much vanished until 2005.
Title comes from the 1830s expulsion of the Cherokee from the Carolinas
and Tennessee to the future Oklahoma. Packaging includes a couple of maps
tracing the route. I first learned about this in 8th grade -- the only
person I recall learning much from was my 8th grade American history
teacher -- but I never quite visualized the routes before: one by river
seems convoluted but obvious, descending the Tennessee to the Ohio to
the Mississippi, then upriver on the Arkansas to Fort Smith and into
Oklahoma; the other a land route further north, across Kentucky and
Missouri where I would have expected a more direct southerly route. The
music is muted, somber, brief, with relatively minor contributions from
Mark Whitecage, Perry Robinson, Bobby Few, Sunny Murray, and others who
normally don't blend into the vintage woodwork.
- Sylvie Courvoisier & Mark Feldman: Oblivia
(2009 , Tzadik):
I've seen the artist-order presented both ways here. Feldman's
name is to the left on front cover, but the print only runs from top to
bottom, not from left to right, and other sources credit Courvoisier
first. (The spine is usually more definitive, but rarely scanned.)
Piano-violin duets, sharp and prickly.
- Neil Cowley Trio: Radio Silence (2009 , Naim Jazz):
English piano trio, third album. I figure Cowley has been most
influenced by Esbjörn Svensson (aka EST), a much more prominent force
in European jazz than over here. I got an advance of their first album,
Dis-Placed, and wrote it up in an early Jazz CG, but they never
bothered to send me anything more. Like the other albums, this one is
sharply played, beat-wise, catchy, and just tough enough no one will
mistake it for pop. Could aspire to popular, though.
- Patty Cronheim: Days Like These (2009 , Say So):
Singer-songwriter, b. 1960, probably based on New York, first
album. Wrote 7 of 10 songs, covering "Summertime," "Superstition"
(lists Stevie Wonder's Talking Book as a desert island disc),
and "Bye Bye Blackbird." Has a slight scratch to her voice, which
works well in a jazz context. Covers aren't especially notable,
although her "Bye Bye Blackbird" is the best of three I've heard
in the last week -- she lets it romp free instead of using it to
end the Beatles' "Blackbird" on an up note. Originals are pretty
solid, with "Don't Work Anymore" outstanding. And she gets terrific
sax breaks from Dan Wall.
- Tom Culver: I Remember You: Tom Culver Sings Johnny Mercer
Singer, based in Los Angeles, second album, does a nice job on 18
Johnny Mercer songs, with enough grit and resonance to salvage
even things like "Moon River."
- Dadi: Bem Aqui (2009 , Sunnyside):
singer-songwriter, full name Eduardo Magalhães de Carvalho, b. 1952
in Rio de Janeiro. Hard to find much info: has at least one previous
album (Dadi, from 2005, released on a Japanese label) and
some (maybe a lot) of session work -- was on a Mick Jagger record,
and several by Marisa Monte. He plays guitar, keyboards, percussion,
and sings. This one has been sitting patiently in my queue for over
a year now. Got zero metafile mentions. All in Portuguese, one cover
(Chico Buarque), only one solo credit among the remaining eleven
songs, several shared with Marisa Monte or Arnaldo Antunes -- makes
me wonder if he isn't some sort of Billy Joe Shaver-type songwriter
recycling his hits-for-others. Reinforcing that is that everything
here is catchy, the quirks engaging, the flow irresistible.
- David's Angels: Substar (2009 , Kopasetic):
David is presumably Swedish bassist David Carlsson, although the key
person in the group is Sofie Norling, who sings and wrote all but two
of the tracks. Other angel candidates are keyboardist Maggi Olin and
drummer Michala Østergaard-Nilsen. They are also joined here by well
known trumpet player Ingrid Jensen. Pieces are slow and moody, some
sort of churchly (or classical) chamber effect, which I've yet to
- Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions):
trio: Pakistani percussionist Qassim Naqvi, Indian contrabassist
Aakaash Israni, and Moroccan pianist Amino Belyamani. Based in
New York and/or Paris. First album. Evenly balanced group, the
piano more rhythm than melody, especially setting out various
minimalist lines, while the bass covers the whole gamut. Got
stuck playing this too many times today, which makes me want
to force the grade and move on. Agreeable as background, but
really appreciates your full attention.
- Colin Dean: Shiwasu (2010, Roots and Grooves):
Bassist, b. and raised in Long Island, studied at New School,
first album, composed all the pieces. Quartet with Sean Nowell
on tenor and soprano sax, Rachel Z on piano, and Colin Stranahan
on drums. Nowell and Nicolazzo make typically strong impressions,
the pieces are thoughtfully constructed and flow effortlessly.
- Joey DeFrancesco/Robi Botos/Vito Rezza/Phil Dwyer: One Take:
Volume Four (2010, Alma):
Something the label and producer Peter
Cardinali do: round up a set of musicians, bust them loose on standard
songs with no rehearsals, everything done in one take. Lineup varies a
little. Volume One had DeFrancesco, Guido Basso, Lorne Lofsky,
and Rezza; Volume Two had Dwyer, Botos, Marc Rogers, and Terri
Lyne Carrington; Volume Three went with Don Thompson and Reg
Schwager. Volume Four returns with four repeaters from previous
lineups. DeFrancesco does his usual organ shtick, although with out
his usual guitarist he stands out a bit more, even with the Botos'
contrasting keyboards. But Dwyer is key -- one of those broad-toned
tenor saxophonists born to play soul jazz.
- Mike DiRubbo: Chronos (2010 , Posi-Tone):
saxophonist, b. 1970 New Haven, CT, studied under Jackie McLean, six
albums since 1999, starting with mainstream mainstays Sharp Nine and
Criss Cross. Sharp player, runs very fast postbop races, lovely tone
and soulful touch on ballads. This one's a trio, with Brian Charette
on organ and Rudy Royston. Six DiRubbo originals, three by Charette.
I don't find the organ all that interesting, but DiRubbo's one to keep
an eye on.
- The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen
Channels (2009 , Tapestry):
Two groups, a septet (plus a guest on one
cut) and a nonet, each good for seven cuts, no more than two in a
row. The groups come from Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts
(CCJA), directed by Paul Romaine. Never heard of anyone listed, or
for that matter of CCJA. Much of the growth in jazz over the last
10-20 years, at least in the US, has been fueled by jazz programs
in music schools, where the most likely result is classical-trained
postbop with an emphasis on intricate arrangements and complex but
annoying harmonies. I've long been suspicious of this, and will
continue to be, but these sets are surprising on many levels. The
groups provide the range of big bands with chamber intimacy, so
there are plenty of solo options but little section bombast and
relatively simple harmonic ranges. The two groups fit nicely
together, and there are no dominant players or auteurs: each of
the 14 pieces is credited to a different composer, and the solos
are scattered widely. The sum lacks the raging individualism I
think I prefer, but there's nothing here I don't enjoy -- even
the flute solos.
- Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963
Hardbop trumpeter, had a strong run 1955-64, sliding
off to a premature death in 1972. Live set, picked up from a broadcast
tape with three stretches of MC Alan Grant talking between six songs --
two Gershwins, two Dorham originals, "Autumn Leaves," and one from
pianist Ronnie Mathews. Dorham is in fine form; tenor saxophonist Joe
Henderson lays back a bit at first, but earns his "featuring" cover
- Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark of Being: Expand
(2010, Greenleaf Music):
The new record, or three, or you can buy
them all in a box, or download, etc., in some sort of subscription --
the business plan behind this product is more complicated than the
music. Expand is the second disc if, e.g., you buy the box,
and it's the only one on Rhapsody. The first is Spark of Being:
Soundtrack, the edited soundtrack to a Bill Morrison "multimedia
collaboration." Expand is made up of seven long-ish pieces
before they got hacked up for the soundtrack. The third is Spark
of Being: Burst, which are ten more pieces written for the film
but not used. Group includes Douglas on trumpet and laptop, Marcus
Strickland on tenor sax, Adam Benjamin on Fedner Rhodes, Brad Jones
on Ampeg baby bass, Gene Lake on drums, and DJ Olive on turntables
and laptop. The keyb and electronics are as tightly integrated and
integral as ever, maybe more so. The horns are far less bracing, but
that goes with soundtrack mode. I'm reluctant to rate this higher
without being able to see the rest of the puzzle. But Douglas is in
a prolonged creative stretch, albeit sometimes a puzzling one.
- Brian Drye: Bizingas (2008 , NCM East):
Quartet, led by
Brian Drye (trombone, piano, synth). Also includes Kirk Knuffke (cornet),
Jonathan Goldberger (guitar, baritone guitar), and Ches Smith (drums,
glockenspiel). Drye: b. 1975 in Rhode Island, father musician, studied
at University of Miami in Florida, based in Brooklyn, has a couple dozen
side credits since 2001, some rock (Clem Snide), some world-ish (Slavic
Soul Party; Brooklyn Qawwali Party but no record yet). Trombone/cornet
harmonics yield a signature sound, the guitar carrying the group through
its circus curlicues. Interesting mix.
- The Dymaxion Quartet: Sympathetic Vibrations
Drummer Gabriel Gloege, student of Bob Brookmeyer and
fan of Buckminster Fuller, wrote all nine pieces here, arranged as three
sets of three labelled Hong Kong, Paris, and Manhattan. Dymaxion is
Fuller's term, fused together from dynamic, maximum, and tension and
used for all sorts of wild and wooly ideas. This one is a pianoless
quartet: Michael Shobe's trumpet and Mark Small's tenor sax are the
free horns, with Dan Fabricatore on bass. Seems more composed-through
than maximally dynamic, a neat effect but maybe too neat.
- Yelena Eckemoff: Cold Sun (2009 , Yelena Music):
Pianist, from Russia, in New York since 1991. Most of her reputation
is based on classical music, but this is jazz, a low-key but smart
and sharp piano trio, with Mads Vinding on bass and Peter Erskine on
- Taylor Eigsti: Daylight at Midnight (2010, Concord):
Pianist, b. 1984, got one of those prodigy hypes cutting his first
album in 2001; Concord picked him up in 2006, releasing his third
album, one annoying enough I singled it out as a dud. Haven't heard
much from Concord since then, although Eigsti's only one of many
possible explanations. It's not that he can't play, but he doesn't
have very interesting ideas: here, some trio, occasional electric
keybs, some Julian Lage guitar, five songs handed over to vocalist
Becca Stevens -- a wet blanket on an otherwise ordinary set.
- Shauli Einav: Opus One (2010 , Plus Loin Music):
Saxophonist, b. 1982 in Israel, based in New York, second album. Has
a silky, slinky postbop sound; helps when it's offset by Andy Hunter's
- Kurt Elling: The Gate (2010 , Concord):
vocalist, automatic pick for Downbeat's polls. Between his
hipsterism and penchant for slipping in unnecessary notes I've never
cared for his records. This is less idiosyncratic than most, less
defined, quieter. Not the worst "Norwegian Wood" I've heard. Not
much else either.
- Erika: Obsession (2009 , Erika):
AMG finds 10
entries for "erika"; no idea which one this one is. Booklet makes a
point of always printing "ERIKA" all caps. Actual name: Erika Matsuo.
Very striking on the right song -- opener "Night and Day" and the
sure-fire "Moondance"; otherwise she leans heavily on Brazilian music:
Jobim, of course, but also Nascimento, Djavan, Caymmi, Lins, nicely
done -- the band includes Paulo Levi and Yosvany Terry on saxes,
Romero Lubambo on guitar, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Nanny Assis on
- Kellylee Evans: Nina (2010, Plus Loin Music):
second album, songs more or less associated with Nina Simone. Doesn't
have Simone's voice, which leaves the most familiar of these songs a
- Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes (2010, Delmark):
Rob Mazurek group, fourteen players but they play relatively
minor roles filling out details in Mazurek's electronic plateaux --
long on atmospherics, reminds me of '70s prog-jazz only chilled out,
reconceived after trip-hop. Mazurek's cornet occasionally shoots
across the horizon, while Jeb Bishop's trombone lurks ominously.
- Andy Farber and His Orchestra: This Could Be the Start of
Something Big (2009 , Black Warrior):
band, just the way Count Basie intended -- four trumpets, four trombones,
five reeds (plus the leader, so make that six), piano, guitar, bass,
drums; one-cut guest slots for Mark Sherman on vibes and Jerry Dodgion
on alto sax, plus two vocal tracks with Jon Hendricks.
- Lorraine Feather: Ages (2008-09 , Jazzed Media):
Daughter of jazz encylopedist Leonard Feather, b. 1948, full name Billie
Jane Lee Lorraine Feather, the first for a godmother named Holiday --
not the first comparison a fledgling jazz singer wants to bring to mind.
Cut an album in 1979, not regarded as much, then restarted her career
in 1997, this her eighth album. She wrote the lyrics, picking up music
from her band and guests -- guitarist Eddie Arkin; pianists Shelly Berg,
Russell Ferrante and Dick Hyman; banjoist Béla Fleck. Several striking
songs, like "The Girl With the Lazy Eye," "Two Desperate Women in Their
Late 30s," and "I Forgot to Have Children."
- Cynthia Felton: Come Sunday: The Music of Duke Ellington
(2010, Felton Entertainment):
Vocalist, based in Los Angeles, goes by
the honorific Dr. on her business card as Artistic Director of The
Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage, whatever that is. First
album covered Oscar Brown Jr. This aims for bigger game, although
Ellington doesn't necessarily give a singer much to work with, and
those who have been most memorable have broken rules that Felton
wouldn't dare monkey with.
- Agustí Fernández Quartet: Lonely Woman (2004 ,
Spanish pianist, b. 1954, hangs in avant-garde circles; AMG
credits him with 7 albums since 2000, which is way short -- doesn't
include this one, or two recent ones I was looking for, or, well, his
website lists 32 solo, duo, trio, and leader albums since 1987, plus
9 collaborations. Rhapsody gave this one a 2010 date, fooling me into
putting it on, and it was good enough I let it spin. Quartet with sax
(Liba Villavecchia), bass and drums; don't have song credits but some
(most? all?) come from Ornette Coleman -- "Lonely Woman" and "Virgin
Beauty" I recognize, and "Latin Genetics" is irresistible.
- Scott Fields/Matthias Schubert: Minaret Minuets
(2010 , Clean Feed):
Guitar/tenor sax duo. Guitarist Fields
has a couple dozen albums back to 1993. Schubert has four albums
since 1992, including the well-regarded Blue and Grey Suite
from 1994. They previously played together on Fields' 2006 album
Beckett. They're careful here to match up their tones, so
you get close listening and interaction, even balance. Does run
on rather long.
- Anna Figarova: Sketches (2010, Munich):
1966 in Baku, currently Azerbaijan; studied in Baku, Rotterdam, and
at Berklee; based in Rotterdam; 8th album since 1998. The piano leads
are very striking, but most cuts add horns -- Ernie Hammes on trumpet,
Marc Mommaas on tenor sax, Bart Platteau on flute -- which seem less
- Dave Frank: Portrait of New York (2009 , Jazzheads):
Pianist, based in New York, fourth record since 1997, most or possibly
all of them solo. Does the one thing that most helps carry a solo piano
recording: keeps his own rhythm churning.
- Paolo Fresu: Mistico Mediterraneo (2010 , ECM):
Italian trumpet player, b. 1961 in Sardinia, has 30-some albums since
1985, mostly on small Italian labels; second release on ECM, or third
if you count Carla Bley's The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu.
The idea here seems to be to come up with a sunnier version of Jan
Garbarek's Officium collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble.
The vocal ensemble here is A Filetta Corsican Voices -- seven voices,
lead by Jean-Claude Acquaviva, who wrote 5 of 13 pieces. Also playing
is Daniele di Bonaventura on bandoneon. The other pieces, from Bruno
Coulais, Di Bonaventura, and Jean-Michel Giannelli (using texts by
Corsican poet Petru Santucci) appear to be contemporary. Lovely, of
- Erik Friedlander: Fifty: Miniatures for Improvising Quintet
(2008 , Skipstone):
Reading the cover I get 50 Miniatures for
Improvising Quintet, but Friedlander's own sources spell out Fifty,
so I compromised above. Each miniature is a 14-note figure having something
to do with a Hebrew letter, but they've been glommed together for seven
pieces ranging from 3:53 to 6:26. Quintet is Friedlander on cello, Jennifer
Choi on violin, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass, and
Michael Sarin on drums. String sounds dominate, but they have a cutting
edge, and while the miniatures can break abstractly they can also flow
- Ricardo Gallo's Tierra de Nadie: The Great Fine Line
(2009 , Clean Feed):
Pianist, b. 1978 in Colombia; studied in
Bogota, later at UNT. Has divided time between Bogota and New York.
Fifth album since 2005. Tierra de Nadie is a New York group, with Ray
Anderson on trombone, Mark Helias on bass, either Satoshi Takeishi or
Pheeroan Aklaff on drums, often with Dan Blake on soprano (6 cuts) or
tenor (2 cuts) sax. Lucid, flowing freebop, very impressive when it
- Maxfield Gast Trio: Side by Side (2010, Militia Hill):
Saxophonist, credits list soprano, alto and tenor here. First album he
tried doing a hip-hop beat thing with EWI and it didn't work out so well.
This time he's running a straight sax trio with Brian Howell on bass and
Mike Pietrusko on drums, and turns in a very solid performance.
- Eddie Gomez/Cesarius Alvim: Forever (2010, Plus Loin Music):
Gomez is a bassist, b. 1944 in Puerto Rico, AMG credits him
with 17 albums since 1976, plus more than a hundred credits, with
Bill Evans looming large on the first page, also Chick Corea. Don't
know much about Alvim: I've seen him described as "Brazilian-French";
AMG lists one more album (from 2000) and a few side credits, starting
in 1982 playing bass with Martial Solal. (Discogs has three 1976-79
credits with Alvin playing bass with pianist Jean-Pierre Mas.) Plays
piano here, not very splashy. Low key, intimate, rather lovely duet.
- Charlie Haden Quartet West: Sophisticated Ladies (2011,
Just a quick impression here -- I'm rather surprised not to have
been serviced on this, something that no doubt can be remedied easily
enough. New drummer in Quartet West, Rodney Green, doesn't have much to
do. Ernie Watts' tenor sax is as delicious as ever, but 6 of 12 tracks
are given over to pianist Alan Broadbent's string orch, and 6 of 12
(the same save one) have guest vocalists, spread out with instrumentals.
The ladies: Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Cameron,
Renee Fleming, Diana Krall. The one I did a double take on and had to
look up: Fleming. Which isn't to say that I didn't prefer Jones and
Krall. Ends with the quartet alone playing "Wahoo" -- something I could
have used a lot more of. Not sure how many Quartet West albums this
makes -- at least a half-dozen, plus a best-of, since 1986. At best a
terrific group, given to gimmicks, like patching vocals by Billie
Holiday and Jo Stafford into Haunted Heart. Haden's a soft touch,
and he's never been mushier than with this group. I could see loving
this, as I do Haunted Heart, or not.
- Jim Hall & Joey Baron: Conversations (2010, ArtistShare):
Guitar-drums duo, of course. Hall just turned 80 on Dec. 4. His discography
starts in 1957 with the straightforwardly titled Jazz Guitar -- about
the same time as Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Mundell Lowe, Herb Ellis, Kenny
Burrell, Jimmy Raney, Charlie Byrd, a bit after Barney Kessel, the generation
that established postbop/pre-fusion jazz guitar. I missed most of his early
work -- except, of course, the ones with Evans, Rollins, or Desmond -- but
he has a distinctive style and sound. This is fairly minor, pretty much by
intent, but a nice taste. Baron is a fine drummer, of course, and has the
added virtue of even less hair on top than his senior partner.
- Scott Hamilton/Rossano Sportiello: Midnight at NOLA's
Penthouse (2010 , Arbors):
Duets, tenor sax and piano
respectively. Sportiello is a swing pianist, b. 1974, modeled on
Ralph Sutton and many others from Earl Hines to Bill Evans; has
some solo albums, a couple of duos with bassist-vocalist Nicki
Parrott, but has never been so completely at ease as here. Same
for Hamilton, a very relaxed, easy swinging set.
- Joel Harrison: String Choir: The Music of Paul Motian
(2010 , Sunnyside):
Guitarist, has a lot of half-baked ideas like
Harrison on Harrison, where he plays George Harrison songs. This
one is, well, different. Paul Motian's songs are much more difficult
and much more intriguing. Arranging them for string quartet draws out
the abstractness and sharpens the edges. No doubt it helps that his
string section is made up of jazz musicians: Christian Howes and Sam
Bardfield on violin, Mat Maneri or Peter Ugrin on viola, and Dana
Leong on cello. He also plays guitar, as does Liberty Ellman. Two
non-Motian compositions: "Misterioso" (Thelonious Monk) and "Jade
Visions" (Scott LaFaro), both completely appropriate.
- Laura Harrison: Now . . . . Here (2010, 59 Steps):
Vocalist, from Canada, studied at University of British Columbia,
got a DMA from University of Southern California. First page of
booklet mostly talks about crooked lawyers and how much pain and
expense it took to get a Green Card. First album. Classically
precise voice, although she starts out with credible scat on
"Shulie A Bop" (misspelling Sarah Vaughan on the credit). Three
originals, nine covers ranging from Bizet to Ellington to Sting.
- David Hazeltine: Inversions (2010, Criss Cross):
Pianist, wrote a song here "For Cedar" (Walton) which helps establish
his niche, although there have been days when I'd take him for a bit
less florid Oscar Peterson. Runs a quintet here which provides too
many distractions to focus on his piano, but Eric Alexander is back
in typical form at tenor sax, and Steve Nelson has a particularly
bright and sunny day on vibes. With John Webber on bass and Joe
Farnsworth on drums, natch.
- Yaron Herman Trio: Follow the White Rabbit (2010 , ACT):
Pianist, b. 1981 in Israel, studied at Berklee, fifth album since
2003. Trio with Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, recorded
in Leipzig, Germany. Four covers plus ten originals (one group-credited);
covers include one from Nirvana and one from Radiohead.
- Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica: Presents . . . The Unforgettable Sounds
of Esquivel (2010, Tiki):
That would be Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002), from Mexico,
who led a big band c. 1956-62, hawking his tricked-up standards as exotica,
space age pop, lounge, and latin-esque. In the intensely homogeneous 1950s
it didn't take much to qualify as exotic. Mr. Ho is percussionist Brian
O'Neill, and his 23-piece Orchestrotica from spare parts in greater Boston.
O'Neill is also involved in the similarly inspired Waitiki. Band has some
punch to it -- Russ Gershon is the most recognizable name -- and most of
the songs are proven standards. Not sure what's so exotic or supersonic
about them, but then I never paid much attention to Esquivel.
- John L. Holmes y Los Amigos: The Holmes Stretch
(2010, John L Holmes):
Guitarist, b. 1950 in Walla Walla, WA. Can't
find much on him, can't read the microscopic type in the booklet,
don't recognize anyone he's playing with. Could be that he's still
based in Walla Walla. Did see a review that tried to sandwich him
between George Benson and John McLaughlin; he's more interesting
- Robert Hurst: Unrehurst Volume 2 (2007 , Bebob):
Bassist-led piano trio, with Robert Glasper on piano and Chris Dave on
drums. The previous Unrehurst Volume 1 was recorded way back in
2000 and released in 2002, also with Glasper -- must have been quite
young then but I can't find any reference that gives a firm birthdate
(one source says "1979?"). Two Hurst tunes, one by Glasper, one Monk,
one Cole Porter. Skillful but fairly ordinary neobop, nice to mix the
bass up a bit.
- Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head (2010 , Bebob):
Bassist, b. 1964, side credits kick off around 1986 with Woody Shaw,
Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Donald Brown, and Vincent Herring;
released two records on DIW 1992-93, one on his Bebob label in 2002,
two more this year. A lot of scattered ideas here, mostly tied to
upbeat grooves, the flaring horns of "Alice and John" most impressive;
a couple of cuts feature girlie choruses, not far removed from disco,
but different, of course; "Unintellectual Property" features sound
bites from noted standup comic G.W. Bush; ends with a bass solo.
- Raúl Jaurena & His Tango Orchestra: Fuerza Milongnera
(2008 , Soundbrush):
Bandoneon player, from Uruguay, based in New
York but recorded this in Montevideo. Group features four bandoneons,
two violins, viola, cello, piano, guitar, bass, and Marga Mitchell sings
a couple of tunes. Pablo Aslan produced but doesn't play. Deep, rich,
sounds very old-fashioned, downright classical.
- Jazz Folk: Jazz in the Stone Age (2008 , 1 Hr Music):
Piano trio, with Peter Scherr on bass, Simon Barker on drums,
and Matt McMahon on piano, listed in that order. Hype sheet treats
this as Scherr's record, with minimal bio on him -- lives in Hong
Kong -- and nothing on the others. The eight songs are all covers,
with "stone age" mostly meaning rock: three from Beck, two Velvet
Undergrounds ("Pale Blue Eyes" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"), one
each from Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, and the Grateful Dead. Of course,
I was most moved by "Pale Blue Eyes," and baffled by the Beck pieces.
- Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Vitoria
Suite (2009 , Decca, 2CD):
adds: Featuring Paco de Lucia. That would be the famous flamenco
guitarist, a sop to the home crowd as Marsalis takes LCJO on the
road to Spain, and tries his hand at writing his own "Sketches
of Spain." It sprawls over two discs, slipping into occasional
dull stretches but mostly feeding clever arrangement details to
what's become a very imposing big band -- the all-star trumpet
section is if anything topped by the reed section (Sherman Irby,
Ted Nash, Walter Blanding Jr., Victor Goines, Joe Temperley).
- Norman Johnson: If Time Stood Still (2010,
Pacific Coast Jazz):
Guitarist, b. in Kingston, Jamaica; studied at Hartford Conservatory,
was dean there for nine years. First album under own name, has scattered
credits, mostly backing vocalists. Credits George Benson for inspiration,
and Earl Klugh as an influence; sole cover is from Pat Metheny. Plays some
nylon-string as well as electric and acoustic. Mostly stays in comfortable
grooves with piano-bass-drums-percussion, dressed up with string on one
cut, brass (Josh Bruneau and Steve Davis) on three, with Chris Herbert's
sax on more, flute on one.
- Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder
(2010 , AUM Fidelity):
Avant alto sax/piano duo. Jones emerged with a most
impressive album in 2009, Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing),
then followed it up last year with Throat, attributed to Little
Women, which crossed my threshold for how much ugly bleating I can stand,
but turns out to have been admired elsewhere -- the record got six votes
in the Pazz & Jop poll, third best among jazz albums (behind Jason
Moran and Mary Halvorson). I'm caught in between here, finding Jones a
bit awkward, doing nothing naturally and getting by forcing it. Shipp
too, although what he does fits in as comping, even if it's exceptionally
- Matt Jorgensen: Tatooed by Passion: Music Inspired by the
Paintings of Dale Chisman (2009 , Origin):
b. 1972, based in Seattle, sixth album since 2001. Not familiar
with Chisman, although his abstracts in the package and booklet
are interesting and attractive. Music is conventional postbop
quintet, with Corey Christiansen's guitar in lieu of piano, and
Thomas Marriott and Mark Taylor the horns, trumpet and sax. Three
cuts add some strings, and one Richard Cole's clarinet.
- Theo Jörgensmann/Marcin Oles/Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Live in
Poznan 2006 (2006 , Fenomedia):
Could have parsed
the titles differently here, as all the front cover and spine have
is Fenomedia Live Series, the back cover adding Volume 1
(or Volume 2 for the Oles Brothers/Rob Brown Live at SJC
set). Both have thin kraft brown wallets, some info in one slot, the
CD in the other. I went with the top two lines of the back cover,
which are formatted similarly. Jörgensmann seems to be the Oles
brothers' preferred (or default) trio partner. He is older, b. 1948
in Bottrop, Germany, plays clarinet (here "bassett clarinet" --
more commonly spelled "basset"; a bit longer with more low notes
than a standard clarinet), evidently has a couple dozen records
since the early 1970s. He's often terrific here, fast, something
the bass-and-drum style facilitates. First time I've heard him;
someone I'd like to hear more from.
- Stacey Kent: Raconte-Moi . . . (2010, Blue Note):
Singer, b. 1966 in South Orange, NJ; lives in England, and (this time
at least) sings in French. Thirteenth album since 1997. Light touch,
an elegant stylist. Starts with a particularly charming translation
- Majid Khaliq: The Basilisk (2010 , self-released):
Recording date presumed -- got this so early it couldn't have been
recorded this year, but it could have been recorded earlier. (Website
says he "will release" this record in late 2010, but publicist gives
2/15/2011 as the release date.) Violinist. Grew up in New York, cites
Ray Nance as an inspiration, but mostly cites Wynton Marsalis. First
album, with trumpet (Charles Porter), piano, bass and drums. Wrote
5 of 8, with "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" plus one each by McCoy Tyner
and Charlie Parker. Flows along nicely.
- Jin Hi Kim/Gerry Hemingway: Pulses (2009 , Auricle):
Kim -- I'm assuming that that's the surname and that the
Korean name has been reversed for western tastes (Wikipedia lists
her as Kim Jin-Hi) -- plays komungo (Korean fourth century fretted
board zither), and "co-designed the world's only electric komungo."
Born in Seoul in 1957, moved to US in 1980. Appears to be a significant
figure in Korean traditional music although her discography includes
a number of duos/small groups with jazz musicians: Elliott Sharp,
Henry Kaiser, Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne, Evan Parker, Sainkho
Namchylak, Fredy Studer, Peter Kowald, Thomas Buckner, Robert Dick,
and a previous album with Hemingway called Komungo Ecstasy.
The komungo strikes me as like a bass with guitar harmonics. It fills
the grooves with sound and carries a strong rhythm. Hemingway has
much less to do here than on the other two records, or at least does
much less. Makes it a bit less interesting as a duo but fascinating
in its own right.
- Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation (2010, Kinch):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1978 in London, parents from Barbados and Jamaica.
Has an Ornette-ish twist to his alto, something he could build on, but
he's got this idea of doubling up as a rapper and spinning complex story
lines about life in his 'hood -- interesting idea, but hard to follow,
tripping up both on accents and beats.
- The Kora Band: Cascades (2010, Origin):
seems to mostly be the project of pianist Andrew Oliver, but Kane Mathis
is the indispensible kora player. More than half of the 13 tunes are
African, mostly trad. from Gamaia, Mali, and Guinea but also from Les
Tetes Brulees and Ntesa Dalienst; four originals, three from Oliver, one
from Mathis. Group includes Chad McCullough on trumpet/flugelhorn, Brady
Millard-Kish on bass, and Mark DiFlorio on drums. More synthesis than
ersatz, the brass a nice touch.
- Boris Kozlov: Double Standard (2007 , self-released):
Bassist, b. 1967 in Moscow, moved to New York in the 1990s, joined the
Mingus Big Band in 1998, has had a lot of side-credits since 2000 or so.
First album, solo bass, two and a half originals -- the fraction mixed
in with a Mingus piece. A little narrow and subdued to focus on, which
tends to be the nature of the beast.
- Irene Kral: Second Chance (1975 ,
Singer, b. 1932 in Chicago, younger sister of Roy Kral
(pianist-vocalist, mostly of Jackie & Roy fame); bounced
through several big bands, getting her name first on a 1958 album
with Herb Pomeroy (The Band and I). Most of her recordings
cluster around 1974-77, just before she died in 1978 of breast
cancer. This is the second 1975 live session the label has come
up with (after 2004's Just for Now). Accompanied by pianist
Alan Broadbent, superb in this context. Some standards, some pop
songs of more recent vintage, mostly ballads which she nails,
but ends on a very upbeat "Nobody Else but Me" and nails it too.
Never heard her before -- just a name I recognized but couldn't
- Kristy: My Romance (2010, Alma):
full name Kristy Cardinali, from Montreal; first album, but popped
up on Mario Romano's Valentina album recently. Cover throws
a "featuring" credit to pianist Robi Botos. Nice voice, picks great
songs, makes them feel comfy -- "You Don't Know Me" is an inspired
choice. Second album I've seen lately to pair "Blackbird" with "Bye
Bye Blackbird," but here as separate songs rather than mashed into a
medley. Cut idea, but the Beatles' songs remain obdurately jazzphobic.
I would have preferred more comfort food along the lines of "It Could
Happen to You" and "Teach Me Tonight."
- The Brian Landrus Quartet: Traverse (2010 , Blueland):
Plays baritone sax and bass clarinet, b. 1978, grew up
in Reno, NV; studied in Boston, based in Brooklyn. Has a couple
previous albums on Cadence, but doesn't seem that far out -- at
least he not with this group: Michael Cain (piano), Lonnie Plaxico
(bass), Billy Hart (drums).
- Erik Lawrence's & Hipmotism (2007, CDBaby):
describes this as acid jazz, but while most of the songs offer (or can
be adapted to) funk grooves, and the bassist (Rene Hart) and drummer
(Allison Miller) try to go that way for the first half-plus of the album.
The horns have more leeway: the notes cite Lawrence on baritone sax and
Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet; can't swear they stick to them. The
two Lawrence originals break out into relatively free jazz, and their
take on Fats Domino's "Going to the River" is as stretched out as their
Pink Floyd ("Shine On You Crazy Diamond") is compressed. Toward the
end you can feel the future Honey Ear Trio trying to break out.
- Daniel Levin Quartet: Organic Modernism
(2010 , Clean Feed):
Cellist, b. 1974 in Burlington, VT; seventh album since
2002, plus such notable side credits as Soulstorm with Ivo
Perelman. Quartet with Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Moran on vibes,
and Peter Bitenc on bass. This feels very compressed, with Wooley
in particular working inside the cello lines.
- Pete Levin: Jump! (2008-10 , Pete Levin Music):
B. 1942, started out playing French horn in Gil Evans' orchestras,
then around 1980 switched to keyboards, eventually settling on the
organ. Straight, upbeat soul jazz session, with Dave Stryker adding
quite a bit on guitar, plus Lenny White on drums and Manolo Badrena
on percussion. Closer was a 2008 "Honeysuckle Rose" with the late
Joe Beck on guitar, rescued from the archives and spruced up a bit.
- Dave Liebman Big Band: As Always (2005-07 , MAMA):
Liebman plays soprano sax and wooden flute, in front of a
big band led by saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad: five reeds, four
trumpets, four trombones, piano (Jim Ridl), guitar (Liebman's
long-time collaborator Vic Juris), bass (Tony Marino), and drums
(Marko Marcinko). Liebman's tunes, arranged by various others.
Dense, complex, not much stands out.
- The Dave Liebman Group: Turnaround: The Music of Ornette
Coleman (2009 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Quartet, with Vic Juris
on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. Liebman's
done a lot more Coltrane over the years than he's done Coleman, but
does a fine job on nine covers and one original -- his soprano seems
better suited than usual, and he also plays some wood flute. Juris
is more key than ever.
- Charles Lloyd Quartet: Mirror (2009 , ECM):
saxophonist, b. 1938, joined Chico Hamilton's band (replacing Eric
Dolphy as music director) in 1960, broke out on his own in 1965
and was remarkably successful, both popularly and critically, in
turn launching the careers of Keith Jarrett and Jack De Johnette.
Had the usual rough spot in the mid-'70s and '80s, landing at
ECM in 1989 and working steady ever since. Last year's record,
Rabo de Nube, placed very high in year-end jazz polls.
This is the same group -- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers
on bass, Eric Harland on drums -- doing pretty much the same
thing; just fewer originals, but Monk and trad. make up for that.
- Elisabeth Lohninger: Songs of Love and Destruction
(2009 , Lofish Music):
Singer, b. 1970 in Austria, based in
New York since 1994. Third album since 2004. Was immediately struck
by how strikingly her voice reminded me of Joni Mitchell, but stupid
me, it was just a Joni Mitchell song, "River" no less. Followed that
with K.D. Lang, same trick, but my interest was waning. Then came
one in Spanish, and a Beatles tune, but the album recovered some
after that. Bruce Barth is a superb pianist for this sort of thing,
and two guest spots each for Ingrid Jensen and Donny McCaslin shine
things up. Choice cut is "No Moon at All," with Christian Howes
- Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs (2010 , Blue Note):
Second album by Lovano's two-drummer quintet, with Otis Brown III and
Francesco Mela the drummers, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and James
Weidman on piano. Charlie Parker compositions, except for "Lover Man"
and the Lovano original "Birdyard" -- wonder if anyone thought of that
before. (AMG sez no.) None of the sonic crudeness that always turned
me away from Parker's records, nor any of the daring crunchiness that
made Bird such a legend. Don't know why Lovano decided to play this so
sweet, other than that the band isn't really up to it.
- Russell Malone: Triple Play (2010, MaxJazz):
Guitarist, tenth album since 1992. Strikes me as about midway
between Wes Montgomery's fluidity and Bill Frisell's poise on
standard American fare, which is a pretty neat trick when no
one gets in the way, or when he lets things get too complicated.
No problems on either count with this guitar-bass-drums trio.
- Karen Marguth (2009, Wayfae Music):
Standards singer, raised in Livermore, CA; based in Fresno, CA. Fourth
album since 2005. No background given, but most likely well into
middle age. Six cuts are voice-bass duets, which she carries ably,
and "Everything Happens to Me" is just mandolin -- gives it a Tiny
Tim-like feel although her voice is no joke. The other nine cuts
add guitar, electric piano, and drums, turned out nicely.
- Marhaug: All Music at Once (2007-08 ,
Lasse Marhaug, b. 1974 in Norway, has ten or so albums since
2001, does electronics -- at least that's the credit on 3 of 6 cuts here;
others are piano on 2, scrap-metal on 2, and noise on the title track,
not that I notice much difference between electronics, scrap-metal, and
noise, or recognize much in the way of piano. More evident are the guitars
of Jon Wesseltoft (4 cuts) and Stian Westerhus (the other 2), although
they're more electronics than strings, and can pass for noise as well.
Interesting stuff, but I'm not very acclimated to it.
- Delfeayo Marsalis: Sweet Thunder (2008 ,
Subtitled "Duke & Shak" -- Shakespeare, which
Ellington flirted with a bit on his album Such Sweet Thunder.
Long section in the fold-out booklet sheet "On the Music" -- have
to admit I didn't read it (fit of bad eyesight) so I don't know how
much of this is Ellington as opposed to Marsalis playing Ellington
or what any of it has to do with the Bard. A lot of work went into
the packaging -- unwraps to four panels, lots of details, plus the
booklet, all lavishly produced. Musicians vary, but run between 5
and 8 per song, more often 8, with piano-bass-drums, Tiger Okoshi
on trumpet, Marsalis on trombone, and three reeds -- Mark Gross,
Mark Shim, Victor Goines, Jason Marshall, Branford Marsalis (just
soprano on 4 cuts). Does a nice job of getting the Ellington look
- Mike Marshall: An Adventure 1999-2009 (1996-2009 ,
Mandolinist, started out in bluegrass with
a 1987 album called Gator Strut, but eventually took a liking
to Brazilian choro and set up shop, releasing a few dozen records by
a wide range of Brazilian artists; this samples his own grooveful
string-driven oeuvre, working back to his first Brazil Duets.
- Mason Brothers: Two Sides One Story (2010, Archival):
AMG lists two albums, but they're by different pairs of Mason Brothers:
the other one has James Mason and Christian Mason playing guitar,
presumably something country-rock. This one has Brad Mason on trumpet
and flugelhorn, Elliot Mason on trombone and bass trumpet, playing
mainstream postbop. From England, b. 1973 (Brad) and 1977 (Elliot),
both studied at Berklee; Brad has more session work going back to
2004; Elliot holds down a chair in JLCO. Wynton Marsalis wrote the
liner notes. The band shows how well connected they are: Chris Potter
(sax), Joe Locke (vibes), David Kikoski (piano), Tim Miller (guitar),
Scott Colley (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums). Don't have (or can't
read) track breakdowns, but you'd think that if Potter, to say the
least, had played through I'd have noticed him. Did hear a lot of
trombone, tight, snug between the lines.
- Lisa Maxwell: Return to Jazz Standards (2010, CDBaby):
Singer, b. Nov. 29 sometime in the 20th century; second
album, standards as advertised -- Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers &
Hart, Loesser, the obligatory Jobim -- produced and arranged by
pianist George Newall, replete with goopy, anonymous strings.
Nice voice, all smiles.
- Chad McCullough/Michal Vanoucek: The Sky Cries
(2009 , Origin):
McCullough plays trumpet/flugelhorn, is
based in Seattle, has a previous record plus a later one in my
queue -- I've been negligent getting to this one. Vanoucek is
a pianist, b. 1977 in Slovakia; studied in Bratislava and The
Hague. No idea how he hooked up with McCullough, but together
they've "toured major venues in Washington, Oregon and Idaho."
They split ten compositions, with a post-hard-bop quintet, Mark
Taylor on alto sax, Dave Captein on bass, Matt Jorgensen on
drums. Lively compositions with fluid piano leads.
- Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion (2010 ,
Tenor saxophonist, you know, an awesome player
when he builds up a full head of steam. Most tracks have Fender
Rhodes (Adam Benjamin, sometimes on piano; two tracks add Uri
Caine on piano, and one subs Caine on Fender Rhodes), electric
bass (Tim Lefebvre), and drums (Antonio Sanchez or Mark Guiliana).
Dave Binney produced, dabbles in electronics, and plays alto sax
on one track. The Fender Rhodes/bass grooves go on way too long
and rarely rise above the pedestrian. The sax is something else,
but you know that.
- Barton McLean: Soundworlds (2010, Innova):
composer, b. 1936, student of Henry Cowell. The five pieces date
from 1984-2009; don't know if those are composition or recording
dates, since no separate recording dates are given, and the groups
vary although most was worked out by McLean on his computer and/or
tape recorder. Opener is a concerto with piano solo with Petersburgh
Electrophilharmonia. Closer picks up some Amazonian and Australian
- Terrence McManus: Brooklyn EP (2009 , self-released):
Solo guitar, five tracks, only 16:52, just a few bites, albeit tasty ones.
Better is his duo with Gerry Hemingway, Below the Surface Of, and
not just because drums make life better.
- Misha Mengelberg Quartet: Four in One (2000 ,
Homework, as I try to get some deeper sense of the Dutch
pianist and ICP Orchestra leader. Not much of his several dozen albums
available through Rhapsody, but this item popped up: a quartet with
Dave Douglas on trumpet, Brad Jones on bass, and Han Bennink hitting
things (credit says: percussion). Three Monk pieces in the middle of
a lot of originals, many recycled (Monk-like) from earlier efforts.
The trumpet seems a little thin, but the piano is cagey, darting in
and out unexpectedly.
- Misha Mengelberg: Senne Sing Song (2005, Tzadik):
Piano trio, produced by John Zorn with Zorn's house rhythm section,
Greg Cohen on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums. Without the strings
and horns of ICP Orchestra to compound his mischief, the pianist
has to step up and carry the tunes, which he does. I don't often
find a review worth quoting, but Dan Warburton at AMG has this one
figured out: "Mengelberg's music remains a quintessential example
of how recognizable idioms -- from Baroque counterpoint to the
Duke-ish left-hand thunks and Monk-ish whole-tone runs -- can be
extended (and subverted) into something both musically profound
and profoundly musical."
- Stephen Micus: Bold as Light (2007-10 , ECM):
German composer, b. 1953, plays various zithers, flute-like things,
and percussion instruments from all around the world. Has a couple
dozen albums since 1976, most on ECM. Did this solo, including three
cuts where he multitracked his own voice. Too exotic to fall into
the New Age genre AMG assigned him to; too minimalist for AMG's
Ethnic Fusion style. An interesting set of upset expectations.
- Soren Moller: Christian X Variations (2009 , Audial):
Christian X was king of Denmark from 1912-47. He was credited
with resisting the Nazis and protecting Danish Jews ("The king declared
that all Danes would wear the Star of David in the event that the Nazis
forced Denmark's Jewish population to do so.") Moller plays piano in
a quartet with Dick Oatts on sax, Josh Ginsburg on bass, and Henry Cole
on drums. The "variations" are organized for quartet or nonet -- the
latter is accomplished by adding the Kirin Winds, a group of classical
wind instrumentalists (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon) which
adds some fancy overtones.
- Joe Morris: Camera (2010, ESP-Disk):
Much like the
guitar-drums duo with Luther Gray, except that here the group is
expanded to four, with Katt Hernandez on violin and Junko Fujiwara
Simons on cello. The strings blend well enough with guitar, but
have a sharper sound, and Morris tends to slip into the background.
Thoughtful avant noodling, interesting as long as you can focus on
- Joe Morris/Luther Gray: Creatures (2010, Not Two):
Guitar-drums duo, both based in Boston where they frequently play
together, especially in an explosive trio with Jim Hobbs; Morris
quite prolific since 1990. Starts out so slow that it takes Gray
a while to come up with something to do, but this come together,
intimate, interactive, interesting.
- Ted Nash: Portrait in Seven Shades (2010, Jazz at
Saxophonist, b. 1959, played mostly alto early on
but (I think) mostly tenor now. Uncle was a well known saxophonist,
also named Ted Nash; father played trombone. Broke in with Quincy
Jones at age 17, played in big bandsa (Louie Bellson, Toshiko
Akiyoshi, Don Ellis, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, most recently the
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, while knocking out ten or so
albums under his own name, some quite good. It's real hard to
judge this one by streaming it: the sound isn't coming through
loud or clear enough to catch the details, so I'm tend to give
Nash credit for things I can't quite follow, but perhaps not as
much as he deserves. Pretty impressive sax player when he bothers
to get out front. Also, I'm a little confused about those shades,
since the seven pieces are named for actual painters: Monet, Dali,
Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Pollock.
- Negroni's Trio: Just Three (2010, Mojito):
fourth album since 2003. The pianist is José Negroni, from Puerto Rico;
his son, Nomar Negroni, plays drums, and Marco Panascia plays bass.
Fast, percussive, not much more.
- Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis: Here We Go Again: Celebrating
the Music of Ray Charles (2009 , Blue Note):
simple, the Marsalis quintet (Walter Blanding on tenor sax, Dan Nimmer
on piano) play twelve obvious songs from the Charles songbook for a
live audience with Nelson and Norah Jones trading vocals -- sometimes
Jones has a bit of trouble getting on track, but Nelson is always
right in the groove. Nothing wrong with the horns, either. Still, a
pretty unnecessary album.
- Jovino Santos Neto: Veja O Som/See the Sound
(2009-10 , Adventure Music, 2CD):
Pianist, b. 1954 in Rio de
Janeiro, played with Hermeto Pascoal 1977-92, Sergio Mendes, Airto
Moreira, Flora Purim. Seven albums since 1997. Twenty duets with as
many guests, some well known (Moreira, David Sanchez, Bill Frisell,
Joe Locke, Anat Cohen, Paquito D'Rivera), others obscure (to me,
anyway); five vocals, five horns (plus a harmonica), an accordion,
a couple guitars and a couple more mandolins, one piano duo, some
percussion. Varied as it is, it still flows nicely, avoiding the
thinness that often mars duets.
- Margaret Noble: Frakture (2010, Amnesty International):
Sound artist, former DJ, some press suggests she started in Chicago,
is now in San Diego, plays turntables and analog synths. Website lists
three albums, but this is the first one cited by places like AMG. This
is presented as George Orwell's 1984 "remixed into sound art
album." The music is intriguingly electronic, with lots of spoken word
samples. I'm not making a lot of sense out of the Orwell thing -- a
book I've largely managed to avoid -- but the electronic collage is
interesting. Proceeds go to Amnesty International.
- Mike Olson: Incidental (2009 , Henceforth):
Composer, from Minneapolis, plays keyboards but looking at his web
site there is little there other than his compositional theories and
focus. Six numbered pieces here. Haven't found any other albums by
him. Large cast of musicians, including strings, flutes, bassoon,
guitars, and the usual jazz horns. Fairly dense and gloomy; makes
for an interesting framework.
- Markku Ounaskari/Samuli Mikkonen/Per Jørgensen: Kuára
(2009 , ECM):
Subtitle "Psalms and Folk Songs"; Jørgensen appears
after the title on the front cover line, on the second line of the hype
sheet preceded by "with" but the spine merely lists him last (although
AMG parsed this backwards and credits the album to "Jorgenson"). Drums,
piano, and trumpet/voice respectively. Ounaskari (b. 1967) and Mikkonen
(b. 1973) are Finnish, and don't appear to have much prior discography;
Jørgensen (b. 1952) is Norwegian, has a couple of albums, and appears
on at least ten more (Pierre Dørge, Jon Balke, Anders Jormin, Marilyn
Mazur, Michael Mantler, etc.). The psalms are Russian; the folk songs
Finno-Ugric: Vespian, Karelian, Udmurtian. Ounaskari and Mikkonen wrote
three originals. Much of this is very captivating, but once again I get
thrown off by the occasional vocal.
- Chris Parrello + Things I Wonder (2010 , Popopomo Music):
Probably should attribute whole title to group name
and consider album eponymous but I didn't want to write both twice
(the style I've been leaning to lately) or italicize it all (a style
I've long used). Parrello plays guitar, composed the songs; Karlie
Bruce wrote and sings the lyrics. Other people I've never heard of
play trumpet, sax, cello, bass, drums, and pedal steel. (Hype sheet
just mentions five names: Parrello, Bruce, Ian Young [tenor/soprano
sax], Rubin Kodheli [cello], and Kevin Thomas [bass]. Website shows
one photo, a lineup of five.) They're probably easier to take as a
rock band than as a jazz group: Bruce sings wordlessly on several
occasions, but she's better when she has something to say; while
the sax and cello avoid rock usages, the guitar and bass don't,
and they seem to be happier playing a groove and riffs.
- Ivo Perelman/Brian Willson: The Stream of Life
(2008 , Leo):
The fifth of this year's batch of new albums
from the Brazilian tenor saxophonist, a duo with drummer Willson
(name spelled correctly this time), cut about the same time as
the trio Mind Games with bassist Dominic Duval. I'll have
to do a final sort on four of the five albums when I wrap up JCG,
but for now this is a bare notch below the other three. Without
the bass, this should open up a bit, and there are some superb
stretches when that happens, but a bass would take a bit of the
raw edge off the sax, which can grate here. Willson's drumming
doesn't explode, although he does help out.
- Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark
Hemingway is a drummer with a notable discography under
his own name, as well as renown as a sideman, perhaps most importantly
in Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet. Perelman is the tenor saxophonist
from Brazil. I have in my notes that he's also played cello (in
Strings, a duo with guitarist Joe Morris), but hadn't noticed
him playing piano before (the only instance I can find is a 1999
album, Brazilian Watercolor). In these duos, he plays piano
about half of the time -- didn't manage to count the cuts -- and
tenor sax the other half. He's more assured, and more relaxed, on
his main instrument, but I'm even more struck by the piano. James
Hall's liner notes described it as "a kaleidoscopic jumber of Erroll
Garner and Monk" but I was thinking more of Cecil Taylor, and not
just because he makes a lot of noise but because he turns it into
- Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm
(2009 , Clean Feed, 2CD):
Recording date just given as "April
18" -- presumably before the March 2010-dated liner notes. Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1961 in Brazil, based in New York, has at least 35
albums since 1989, including a few more in the queue that I haven't
gotten to yet. Levin plays cello (as has Perelman on occasion), and
Zetterberg bass, so they sort of flow together into a backdrop for
Perelman's musings, some rough and tumble but most sensitive and
- Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt (2010 , High Note):
Trumpet player. I first bumped noticed him as a Downbeat
poll rising star, and when I finally heard him I thought he was worthy,
brilliant even. Now this is his eighth album since 2002, and I've yet
to see much from his undoubted talent. This is livelier than most, as
it should be with tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen sharing the front line,
Danny Grissett on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on
drums, but he's yet to break loose over a full album.
- Danilo Pérez: Providencia (2010, Mack Avenue):
Pianist, b. 1966 in Panama; father was a bandleader; studied and
now teaches at Berklee. Not someone I've followed closely, but has
a solid reputation, with ten or so albums since 1992, including
one dedicated to Monk. Mixed bag: impressive enough solo or trio,
especially memorable when Rudresh Mahanthappa joins in on alto
sax, but some cuts add classical orch instruments (flute, oboe,
French horn, bassoon) and/or Sara Serpa vocalizing. The one with
flute and Serpa would be unlistenable except for Pérez fighting
back with his most bracing piano.
- Jay Phelps: Jay Walkin' (2010, Specific Jazz):
Canadian trumpet player, been in UK since he was 17; first album
at 28, which I guess would make him b. 1982. Kind of a hard bop
throwback, with piano-bass-drums and Shabaka Hutchings on tenor
sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. A couple of hipster vocals by
Michael Mwenso, and occasional guests, all reinforcing the band
- The Pickpocket Ensemble: Memory (2010, Pickpocket Ensemble):
San Francisco group, fourth album since 2003, plays "café music" -- "the
inversion of folk," as leader Rick Corrigan (accordion, piano) puts it.
Band includes violin (Marguerite Ostro), guitar/banjo (Yates Brown),
bass (Kurt Ribak), and percussion (Michaelle Goerlitz), with Myra Joy
on cello but evidently not in group. Hype sheet talks about them picking
up elements from all over the globe, but nothing very clear emerges from
the cosmopolitan mishmash.
- Chico Pinheiro: There's a Storm Inside (2010, Sunnyside):
Guitarist-vocalist, from Brazil, 5th album since 2003.
Mostly originals, a couple co-written with Paulo César Pinheiro; two
English lyrics: Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and Stevie
Wonder's "As" -- the latter a guest spot for Diana Reeves. The other
name guest is saxophonist Bob Mintzer. Pinheiro's a talented guitarist
and a tossaway vocalist, backed by large bands of evanescent texture --
on three cuts fortified with a large string section. Oddly brilliant,
but I can't say I enjoyed it.
- Leslie Pintchik: We're Here to Listen (2010, Pintch Hard):
Pianist, based in New York, third album since 2003 although she
dates her trio and collaboration with bassist-guitarist Scott Hardy
back to 1992. This adds Mark Dodge on drums and Satoshi Takeishi on
percussion. Thoughtful, deliberate. I also have a DVD of here around
here somewhere, but you know how it is with DVDs.
- Suzanne Pittson: Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie
Hubbard (2008 , Vineland):
Singer, don't know how old, teaches at City College
in New York, has two previous albums, one from 1992, the other from 1999;
both appear to be substantial projects to pull new vocal music out of
relatively untapped sources: Blues and the Abstract Truth (the
Oliver Nelson classic), and Resolution: A Remembrance of John Coltrane.
She, and/or husband-pianist Jeff Pittson and/or son Evan Pittson wrote
new lyrics for six Hubbard pieces; they picked up other lyrics for two
more, and included three covers ("You're My Everything," "Moment to
Moment," and "Betcha by Golly, Wow!"). Half the tracks add Jeremy Pelt,
who does a pretty good Hubbard impersonation, and Steve Wilson, who at
least at first threatenes to run away with the record. The hornless cuts
are less exhilarating, although Pittson is a technically impressive
singer and scatter, and the project is ambitiously conceived and
- Plunge: Tin Fish Tango (2010 , Immersion):
New Orleans trio, "chamber-jazz group" as they call themselves,
led by trombonist Mark McGrain, with Tim Green on sax, James
Singleton on bass, and others as works out -- Tom Fitzpatrick
and Kirk Joseph also play sax on this record. Been around a
while -- AMG lists seven records since 1996. Dominant sound is
the trombone growl, contained in their chamber framework, with
the sax a bit lighter and sweeter.
- Noah Preminger: Before the Rain (2010 , Palmetto):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1986 (not in current "long bio"
but in my previous notes), based in Brooklyn, second album (AMG
only has one, but I have two, and recall that his first won the
Voice Critics' Poll's debut section). Quartet, with Frank Kimbrough
on piano, John Hébert on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Wrote 4 of 9
songs, picking up 2 from Kimbrough, 1 from Coleman (pretty sure
that's Ornette), two standards ("Where or When," "Until the Real
Thing Comes Along"). Preminger has a lot of potential, but the
more I play it the more I suspect he's awed by his band, who
try to be supportive but tend to stand out.
- Gene Pritsker: Varieties of Religious Experience Suite
Following spine here; cover has two blocks of type: on
top, "Varieties of Religious Experience Suite Gene Pritsker's Sound
Liberation"; below and larger, "VRE Suite." Pritsker is a guitarist
and -- sometimes but not here -- rapper. Can't find much discography,
but website claims Pritsker "has written over three hundred ninety
compositions, including chamber operas, orchestral and chamber works,
electro-acoustic music, songs for hip-hop and rock ensembles, etc."
This group is string-driven, with two guitars, cello, bass and drums.
Title comes from William James, who is namechecked in 3 of 8 titles;
Tolstoy gets one more.
- Don Pullen: Plays Monk (1984 , Why Not?):
The last pianist to work for Charles Mingus is an odd choice to
play Monk, and I suspect he gave little thought to the project;
he keeps wanting to work in his trademark flourishes, dazzling
of course, but excess baggage especially when playing songs that
hide their odd note choices in a cloak of primitivism.
- Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk (2009 , Savant):
Mainstream pianist, recording steadily since the early 1990s, in a
trio with Ben Wolfe on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums, plays ten
Monk songs, with a little more dexterity and a lot less mystery than
Monk himself. Interesting that music that was so idiosyncratic as to
be unplayable in the 1950s now seems so routine.
- Tom Rizzo: Imaginary Numbers (2009 , Origin):
Guitarist, based in Los Angeles, plays in the Tonight Show Band,
before that with Maynard Ferguson. First album, looks like it was
originally released in 2009 then picked up by Origin. Runs a bigger
group than necessary -- five horn credits including Bob Sheppard
on soprano and tenor sax and four brass including French horn and
tuba -- but the guitar is the most memorable.
- Mario Romano Quartet: Valentina (2010, Alma):
from or at least based in Toronto, Canada. First album, but he's been
around since the early 1970s. Quartet with Pat LaBarbera on tenor sax,
Roberto Occhipinti on bass, and Mark Kelso on drums, with someone
identified only as Kristy singing one song (Romano's "Those Damn I Love
Yous" -- only song he wrote here, although Occhipinti wrote one for him,
"Via Romano"). LaBarbera is drummer Joe LaBarbera's older brother; b.
1944, joined Buddy Rich in 1968, has a scattered career after that, with
a half-dozen records on his own. He's an impressive mainstream player,
a fine counterpart to the pianist. Mostly covers from 1950s and 1960s,
many I associate with Miles Davis ("Nardis," "On Green Dolphin Street,"
"Someday My Prince Will Come"); one Beatles song ("Norwegian Wood"),
which hardly spois the day.
[PS: Kristy is Kristy Cardinali; turns out I have her debut album,
My Romance, in my queue.]
- Kurt Rosenwinkel and OJM: Our Secret World (2010,
Word of Mouth Music):
Guitarist, b. 1970 in Philadelphia,
based in Berlin, Germany; tenth album since 1996 -- a prominent
figure, but one I haven't followed closely. OJM is Orchestra de
Jazz de Matosinhos, a Brazilian big band conducted by Carlos
Azevado and Pedro Guedes, with Ohad Talmor also arranging. Most
impressive when the guitar is cruising away from the band.
- Alison Ruble: Ashland (2009 , Origin):
second album, mix of traditional standards -- "S' Wonderful," "Let's
Fall in Love," "Night and Day" -- and rock-era pieces, if only up to
the early 1970s -- "Route 66," Dylan, King Crimson, Bonnie Raitt,
Emmylou Harris. Arrangements by guitarist John McLean, flute and
sax by Jim Gailloreto, Hammond B3, cello, bass, and drums. Pieces
are handsomely framed and elegantly sung.
- Salo: Sundial Lotus (2009 , Innova):
Ben Gallina wrote all of this (except for an extract from Hindemith),
and it's very much a composer's album -- the three reeds, guitar,
piano, bass and drums deployed precisely, working out an impressive
series of postbop progressions.
- Angelica Sanchez: A Little House (2010 , Clean Feed):
Pianist, b. 1972, moved to New York 1994, third album since
2003; has a list of 13 groups she is "a regular member of" -- nearly
everyone mention is someone I want to hear everything by, and while
I've never heard of Kevin Tkacz, "Kevin Tkacz's Lethal Objection w/
Paul Motion & Ralph Alessi" has got to be a winner. This one is
solo piano. Doesn't amount to much as background, except for the bit
on toy piano, but when I sat down at the computer to dismiss it I
started hearing things that intrigued me. Takes focus.
- Antonio Sanchez: Live in New York at Jazz Standard
(2008 , CAM Jazz, 2CD):
Drummer, from Mexico, b. 1971, studied
at Berklee and New England Conservatory; second album under his own
name, but has scads of side credits. All-star two sax quartet, Miguel
Zenon on alto and David Sanchez on tenor, with Scott Colley on bass.
Often turns into a thrilling sax chase, not that far removed from
Gordon and Gray, or Stitt and Ammons.
- Heikki Sarmanto: Moonflower (2007, Porter):
pianist, b. 1939, discography at Wikipedia lista 38 albums since 1969
but misses this one (AMG has 7 including this); his website claims 30
and shows 21 (but not this). I ran across him on a fusion album by
Eero Koivistoinen, but that seems to have just been a 1970s phase.
Porter, which reissued Koivistoinen's 3rd Version, has several
albums by Sarmanto, so I was expecting more of the same, but this
appears to be a new recording. Quartet, with Juhani Aaltonen on tenor
sax, brother Pekka Sarmanto on bass, and Craig Herndon on drums --
just plays acoustic piano here, nicely setting up Aaltonen, who makes
his usual big impression.
- Heikki Sarmanto/The Serious Music Ensemble: A Boston Date
(1970 , Porter):
Parsing the cover: "The Serious" is in much smaller
print than "Music Ensemble" so maybe I shouldn't take that so seriously;
the title is also followed by "1970" which is useful but far enough off I
omitted it from the title. Other references vary. Quintet, led by Juhani
Aaltonen's tenor sax, really superb free bop. Cover appears to show Sarmanto
on an electric, but his piano sounds more acoustic, with sharp accents and
smart bridges. Guitarist Lance Gunderson also helps connect the dots. Not
sure where in Boston this was recorded, but starts with a piece called
"Top of the Prude" -- I'm guessing that means the Prudential Center.
- Heikki Sarmanto Quintet: Counterbalance (1971 ,
Nearly the same group as on A Boston Date -- Pekka Sarmanto
plays bass replacing George Mraz (who was probably a one-shot replacement
in Boston; he was a student attending Berklee at the time) -- but the
sound and gestalt is markedly different, with the leader playing tinkly
Fender Rhodes and Juhani Aaltonen forsaking his saxophone for flute. I
should have cited his flute on my Downbeat ballot -- by any fair
measure he's one of the best jazz flute players ever -- but I'd rather
he give the instrument up.
- Dolores Scozzesi: A Special Taste (2010, Rhombus):
Singer, b. in New York, don't really grasp her comings and goings
but wound up from 2005 on producing cabaret programs, the first
called "Stuck in the 60s." Covers not quite standards -- Bob Dylan
gets two calls. Voice takes some getting used to but has authority.
Mark Winkler produced.
- Elliott Sharp: Binibon (2010 , Henceforth):
B. 1951, plays guitar, synths, a little clarinet and sax; has seventy
or so records since 1977, mostly outside the jazz, rock, or classical
categories. Composed and plays everything here, which is pleasing but
relatively inconsequential. The main point is the spoken word libretto
written by Jack Womack and performed by five characters. Has something
to do with an artsy "cafe and 24-hour hangout at 2nd Avenue and 5th
Street in the East Village . . . during 1979-81" -- too
specific not to be real, too mythic to be remembered precisely. Might
like it more if I followed it better, or might follow it better if I
liked it more.
- Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Soul of the Movement
(2010 , Porto Franco):
Bassist, b. 1966, seventh album since 1997,
delving into black history last time for Harriet Tubman, and
again here. Heavy with gospel, from "There Is a Balm in Gilead" to
"Go Tell It on the Mountain" to "Take My Hand Precious Lord" with
the iconic "We Shall Overcome" in the middle; four new Shelby pieces
on key moments in the civil rights struggle, and a few more things
that seemed like they'd fit -- can't go wrong with "Fables of Faubus,"
can you? Big band: five trumpets, four trombones, five reeds plus
Howard Wiley toward the end, lots of vocals. Very nice packaging,
things everyone should know and appreciate. I find it overwhelming,
and itch to move on, before I start to get annoyed.
- Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five
(1963 , Delmark):
One of two contemporaneous John Tchicai groups that
took New York for their name -- the other was New York Art Quartet
with trombonist Roswell Rudd -- yet recorded mostly in the alto
saxophonist's native Denmark. This one sported Don Cherry (cornet)
and Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on the front line, Don Moore (bass)
and J.C. Moses (drums). They recorded a studio album in New York
for Fontana in August 1963, then two live sets at Jazzhus Montmartre
in Copenhagen for Sonet in November. The latter, minus two cuts,
were consolidated by Storyville into a single CD. This reissue
goes back to Sonet's Vol. 1 -- perhaps the other shoe will
fall later, although there is no indication of it here. They went
on to cut one more album for Savoy in 1964, with different bass
and drums, Ted Curson replacing Cherry on two cuts, and Shepp's
name (for the first time, I think) out front. Starts with the
three horns brawling before the rhythm section enters to sort
things out. Rough, primeval avant-garde, of the moment, with
1967-vintage liner notes that fall into the period.
- Jeremy Siskind: Simple Songs: For When the World Seems
Strange (2010, Bju'ecords):
Pianist, b. 1986 in California, based in New York;
second album. Mostly piano trio, with Chris Lightcap on bass and Ted Poor
on drums. Some songs add Jo Lawry singing. Piano often impressive, don't
mind the vocals, but overall I'm not getting much traction, finding myself
with little to say.
- Suresh Singaratnam: Lost in New York (2009 ,
Trumpet player, born in Zambia, moved to UK then Toronto
then New York, studying at Manhattan School of Music. Has some
classical music on his resume. First jazz album, fairly dense and
fancy postbop with Jake Saslow on tenor sax, Jesse Lewis on guitar,
piano, bass, drums, plus a guest vocal I could do without. Lewis
has the key support role; trumpet is bright and bold.
- Harrison Smith Quartet: Telling Tales (2007 ,
Tenor saxophonist, with soprano sax and bass clarinet
for change-ups. From England, b. 1946. AMG lists one previous album,
from 1998, but played in District Six for much of the 1980s with
South African pianist Chris McGregor, and also shows up with the
London Improvisers Orchestra. Quartet, with piano (Liam Noble), bass
(Dave Whitford), and drums (Winston Clifford).
- The Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Exploration
A Scottish big band, organized by Smith after
he returned to his homeland in 2002. Don't know how young the
players are -- no one I recognize other than the guests, notably
vibraphonist Joe Locke, who gets a "featuring" credit on the cover.
Smith conducts and arranges but doesn't play. The best known cuts
are the best by far: a rollicking "A Night in Tunisia" and a spiffy
"Cottontail," with Locke in particularly good form on the former.
- Tommy Smith/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Torah
Five pieces, each named for a book of the Torah
or Bible, performed by a conventional big band (four trumpet, four
trombones, five reeds, piano, bass, drums) led and dominated by
Smith's exceptional tenor sax. One stretch where he plays solo is
mesmerizing, rising to magnificent when the band joins in. But
mostly the band camouflages the leader, making this one of his
less distinctive albums.
- Joan Soriano: El Duque de la Bachata (2010, IASO, CD+DVD):
Supposedly the rougher, cruder country version of merengue, fit
for small-time royalty, the 7th of 15 children with scant education, just
a fine sense of how to keep a guitar rhythm rolling, with a seductive
voice. DVD gives you more personal sense, less music.
- Nobu Stowe: Confusion Bleue (2007 , Soul Note):
Pianist, from Japan, based in Baltimore. He sent me about six albums
dating back to 2006, and I've been remiss in getting to them. This is
the most recent, the one I figured I should focus on, and it's been
tough to get a handle on. Quartet with two looks, depending on whether
Ros Bonadonna plays guitar or alto sax. The former steers this in a
fusion direction, a configuration of unruly grooves, while the latter
lets the piano undercut the sax pressure. With Tyler Goodwin on bass
and Ray Sage on drums. Intriguing record. Should return to it when I
get around to the others.
- Colin Stranahan: Life Condition (2009 ,
Drummer, from Colorado, third album since 2004, basically a sax trio
with Ben Van Gelder on alto and Chris Smith on bass, with Jake Saslow
joining on tenor sax on 2 of 8 cuts. Snakey freebop, the beat lagging
behind not so much to steer the sax as to steer our ears.
- Milton Suggs: Things to Come (2009 , Skiptone Music):
Vocalist, b. 1983 in Chicago, grew up in Atlanta but is back
in Chicago, having studied at Columbia College and DePaul; second
album. Has an old-fashioned crooner style with a hint of vocalese,
feels much older than he looks. I didn't like his style at first,
and found the nostalgic "Not Forgotten" almost morose, and I'm not
sure I'll ever acquire the taste, but he does some remarkable things
with it. Tasteful horns, everything neatly in place.
- Will Swindler's Elevenet: Universe B (2010, OA2):
Saxophonist, alto then soprano, studied at UNT, teaches at Colorado
State. First album. Eleven-piece ensemble, shuffling some of the 14
credited musicians in and out, but basically breaks down to 3 reeds,
flute, 2 trumpets, trombone or euphonium, French horn, piano, bass,
drums. Five originals, covers from Miles Davis (arr. Gil Evans -- a
key influence), Billy Strayhorn, and George Harrison. Took me a
while to get used to the harmonics, but the arrangements have a
silky flow -- not much solo and not much mass.
- Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside):
Piano trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. I have
nothing but admiration for the carefully crafted record -- especially
the solo "Body and Soul" at the end -- but also nothing much to say.
Seems unfair, but after 5-6 plays I don't know what else to do.
- Toots Thielemans: European Quartet Live
(2006-08 , Challenge):
B. 1922 in Brussels, Belgium, played some guitar early on
but distinguished himself on harmonica to the point that he has dominated
Billboard's miscellaneous instrument category for ages now. His
records start in 1955 and continue with few gaps -- only four in the last
decade but mostly toward the end. Quartet with piano (Karel Boehlee),
bass (Hein Van de Geyn), and drums (Hans van Oosterhout, so he carries
almost every moment selected here from various unspecified concerts.
Mostly venerable standards, ending with two originals he did much to
turn into standards. His tone is as striking as ever, but that's about
- Toca Loca: Shed (2010 , Henceforth):
Two pianos --
Simon Docking, from Australia, and Gregory Oh, from Toronto, although
he's also studied in Michigan and worked in San Diego (Toronto seems to
be where the action is, but the record label has a San Diego address) --
plus percussionist Aiyun Huang, born in Taiwan but also based in Toronto
(teaches at McGill) and also passed through San Diego (UCSD). Oh seems
to be top dog, as he's also credited as conductor. Album doesn't have a
jazz feel, and I've shuttled it over to my vaguely defined "avant-garde"
file (mostly following AMG, which pretty much ensures vague defs). Four
11-22 minute cuts, composed by others -- Frederic Rzewski is the only
one I recognize but further research would probably put them all into
the post-classical avant-garde. One cut has some guests on clarinet,
cello, french horn and flute; another has extra percussion, but mostly
I'm hearing piano abstractions varied with the extra percussion. Mostly
interesting stuff, but nothing to sweep you away.
[PS: Digging a bit deeper, Toca Loca has one previous album, P*P.
Oh also scored a "doll opera" called "XXX Live Nude Girls!" which the
poster warns: "contains crude language. adult sexual content. doll
nudity. not suitable for children." See the website for samples of the
- Gabriele Tranchina: A Song of Love's Color
(2008 , Jazzheads):
Singer, b. in Germany, based in New York, second
album, the first self-released in 2003. Most songs are credited to
pianist Joe Vincent Tranchina; one based on Hindu trad, another a
trad Spanish lullaby. Multilingual: English, French, German, Spanish,
Portuguese, the latter leaning heavily on Jobim. Band mostly piano
and Latin percussion: Bobby Sanabria, Renato Thoms, Santi Debriano
- Tribecastan: 5 Star Cave (2009 , Evergreene Music):
New York group -- that much shouldn't be hard to figure out --
with pretensions to exotica rooted in the real world today, very much
including Afghanistan but not limited by it, as opposed to Esquivel-ish
fantasies of Polynesian fleshpots. Principals are John Kurth and Jeff
Greene, each with a dozen or more obscure instruments, most with strings,
some flute-like or percussive. Group is rounded out with Todd Isler on
more percussion and Mike Duclos because music always sounds better with
a bassist on hand, and sprinkled with a dozen "special guests" -- the
sort of people easy to find in New York (some names I recognize: Steve
Turre, Charlie Burnham, Al Kooper, Badal Roy). Samantha Parton sings one
song, a cool breeze with words by A.P. Carter. Everything is very mild
and painless; I guess not like the real Afghanistan.
- Trichotomy: Variations (2007 , Naim Jazz):
Piano trio, from Australia: Sean Foran on piano, Pat Marchisella
on bass, John Parker on drums. First album, or third if you count
two released in Australia under the name Misinterprotato. One track
adds violin-viola-alto sax; another adds trumpet-electronics. Foran
composed 5 pieces, Parker 4, and one was a joint improv. They have
a brash, beatwise, populist feel, not unlike EST or Neil Cowley,
and it suits them well.
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective:
Chapter Two (2010, OA2):
Trumpet/baritone sax respectively,
met at North Texas State, nowhere near any coast. Quintet, with Scott
Sorkin's guitar central and essential.
- Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messangers: Chucho's Steps
(2009 , Four Quarters):
Cuban pianist, b. 1941, son of famed pianist Bebo Valdés, now in his 90s
and at least recently active; led Irakere from 1972, and has released a
steady stream of records under his own name since 1986 including several
on Blue Note. He is still a spectacular pianist, the kind that reminds
one of Art Tatum although Tatum never tackled such tricky rhythms. With
trumpet and tenor sax that don't often add much, lots of percussion, a
chorus for one song. Swept the Voice poll's Latin Jazz category --
an obvious choice although it strikes me as a bit out of sorts.
- Roland Vazquez Band: The Visitor (2010, RVD):
B. 1951 in California, drummer, AMG credits him with 7 albums since
1979's Urban Ensemble. His band is a big one -- four trumpets,
four trombones, five reeds, piano, guitar, electric bass, drums,
congas, vibes. Vazquez composed and conducts but doesn't play. A
lot of star power in the band, but it rarely stands out.
- Melvin Vines: Harlem Jazz Machine (2010 , Movi):
Trumpet/flugelhorn player, b. 1952 in Toledo, OH; "mis-educated in the
Ohio public school system for 12 years"; taught himself trumpet, inspired
by Hugh Masekela. First album, as far as I can tell. Harlem Jazz Machine,
a large unit with 8-10 players, has been touring since 2005, especially
in Japan, home of Vines' wife, vocalist Kay Mori. Record starts with two
Vines originals, one by pianist Chip Crawford, a Mori vocal on "My Heart
Belongs to Daddy, then winds up with four covers from trumpet players --
Masekela (vocal by Makane Kouyate), Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan (twice).
Impressive sax work by Yosuke Sato and/or Tivon Pennicot; snazzy Latin
percussion by Roland Guerrero; Masekela's township jive is a highlight.
- Vlada: All About You (2003-08 , Glad Vlad):
Singer, family Serbian, given name Vladimir Tajsic, raised in Switzerland,
majored in English and economics at University of Zurich, wound up in
Nashville. First album, assembled from band sessions in Switzerland in
2003, 2006-07 sessions in Nashville, and some final touches back in
Switzerland. Tajsic wrote all the tracks, with some lyrical input from
Sonya Hollan. Don't recall why I had filed this under gospel, but there
is a lot of that. Band includes some pop-jazz notables, like Paul Jackson
Jr. and, featured on three cuts, Kirk Whalum. Singer has his idiomatic
English down smooth: my first reaction was that he's listened to a lot
of Smokey Robinson. Backing vocals from part or all of Take 6.
- Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: To Hear From There
(2010 , Patois):
Trombonist, from San Francisco, b. 1952, has
eight albums since 2000; side credits go back to the 1970s: r&b,
Latin jazz, Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra. Trombone with
piano-bass-drums-percussion; a couple guest vocalists. Originals for
the most part, neatly labelled as jazz-timba or jazz-bolero or Cuban
son-jazz or cha-cha-cha or whatever, with four covers ranging from
Tito Puente to Juan Tizol's "Perdido."
- Doug Webb: Renovations (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, plays 'em all but is pictured with a tenor, and that's
mostly what I hear. Lives in LA, where he's done a ton of studio
work. Second album on mainstream-focused Posi-Tone -- has also
recorded for avant-oriented Cadence/CIMP in a group with Mat
Marucci. Quartet, with bass (Stanley Clarke), drums (Gerry Gibbs),
and a changing cast of pianists. All covers, like "Satin Doll" and
"They Can't Take That Away From Me." Big, bold sound, perfect for
- Walt Weiskopf: See the Pyramid (2010, Criss Cross):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, grew up in Syracuse, has taught at Eastman
School of Music and Temple University, co-wrote a book on Coltrane;
14th album since 1989, most on Criss Cross. Quartet with piano (Peter
Zak), bass (Doug Weiss), drums (Quincy Davis). Wrote 5 of 10 tracks,
including the first four, but the record only takes off with "Call
Me," the first cover, which dispenses with postbop ideas and peels
back the delicious theme like old-fashioned bebop.
- Bob Wilber: Bob Wilber Is Here! (2010, Arbors):
jazz player, plays clarinet, soprano sax, and alto sax; b. 1928 in New
York, played in a high school band with pianist Dick Wellstood, studied
with Lennie Tristano, but broke in playing with Eddie Condon and Buddy
Hackett, was a protégé of Sidney Bechet's who he has long honored in
his Soprano Summit group with Kenny Davern. Clarinetists Antti Sarpila
and Nik Payton are introduced here as Wilber's protégés, and I can't
begin to sort out who's playing what when here. The rhythm section
supplies the necessary swing: Jeff Barnhart on piano, Nicki Parrott
on bass, and Ed Metz on drums. Mostly delightful, although it seems
a bit diluted.
- Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O (2010,
Read the end of the title as a pun on Trio, which is what
Wilson assembled here: Paul Sikivie on bass; Jeff Lederer on various
saxes, clarinets, piccolo, and toy piano; the leader on drums. Songs
are mostly trad, but Wilson (like myself) is just the right age to
include Dr. Seuss and "The Chipmunk Song" among the classics, and
for good measure he works in a solemn "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."
Not so solemn are the classics, with "Angels We Have Heard on High"
warming to a free sax freakout, and "Hallelujah Chorus" full of
squawk and tympani. Can't recall hearing this at the mall this year;
for one thing, it would have lifted my spirits.
- Samir Zarif: Starting Point (2010 , Mythology):
Saxophonist (tenor on 6 cuts, soprano on 3), b. 1980 in Houston, first
album under his own name -- was in a group called The Paislies which
released an album in 2007 (not a very good one). His saxophone work is
consistently impressive here. He also dables in electronics (2 tracks)
and vocals (4 tracks, twice joined by Maria Neckam). The vocals add a
spacey otherness to the record, something I'm rather ambivalent about.
- John Zorn: What Thou Wilt (2009 , Tzadik):
Composition only, no Zorn playing. Main group consists of piano,
three celli, and viola, but there's also the Tanglewood Orchestra
on the 13:37 opener, "Contes de Fées," with more violins than I
can count, another phalanx of celli, and the occasional oboe,
bassoon, or flute. Demands a high tolerance for abstract string
sounds, especially on the first piece. The remaining two pieces
bounce the piano off the strings, which is more entertaining to
say the least.
- John Zorn: Interzone (2010, Tzadik):
Lost track of
whether Zorn succeeded in his quest to release one record for each
month of 2010, but this is Miss November. It's also the one that sounds
most like a standard-issue John Zorn record: screechy sax, open spaces,
lots of scattershot percussion. John Medeski's "keyboards" sound like
they include a piano; Marc Ribot plays guitar-like instruments; Trevor
Dunn basses; Cyro Baptista, Ikue Mori, and Kenny Wollesen are responsible
for the bumps and blips. Theme has something to do with William Burroughs
and Brion Gysin, which in Zorn's hands means comic book punk jazz with
surreal or absurdist interludes -- the sort of thing he used to do c.
Spillane and Spy vs. Spy before he got all Jewish on us
and/or discovered he discovered he could throw a bunch of index cards
at other musicians and get them to record 3-4 times as many records
under his name as he could do himself. So this feels a bit like a con,
but Ribot is terrific, there are some utterly sublime oases amidst the
chaos and cartoon violence, and, well, unless Medeski somehow snuck a
Cecil Taylor sample into his synth I for one have never heard him play
piano like this. Very tentative grade:
No politics yet, but Mostly Other People Do the Killing came up, so
On MOPDTK, the advantage that Shamokin! has is that it takes
off from classic bebop, more familiar stuff so it's easier to follow
what they're doing. The later albums make more reference to Ornette
Coleman and Roland Kirk (respectively). All three are real good (up in
my top-ten range), and you don't have to get the jokes to enjoy them.
I didn't spend much time with Live in Coimbra -- have it as an
HM in tomorrow's Jazz CG. Two discs, good sampler of what they do, but
I didn't find that much new or interesting in it. (Monsen likes it more;
has it way up on his 2011 list -- a list worth checking regularly.)
The two horn players have independent careers of note. Evans is more
avant-garde on his own. Irabagon is all over the place, but his Rollins
take-off Foxy Foxy will appeal to anyone into MOPDTK. Shea's
spinoffs are pretty awful but they're amusing to write about (e.g., a
Velvet Underground tribute called Puttin' on the Ritz). Elliott's
label has released some more mischief, like Bryan and the Haggards --
basically, bebop riffs on Merle Haggard tunes.
Monday, May 09, 2011
Music: Current count 18151  rated (+35), 855  unrated (-14).
Another week: big music posting week, happens first of each month.
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #27, Part 4)
I complained last week about no acknowledgment from the Village Voice
over my pending Jazz Consumer Guide column. That's all been straightened
out now. They have the piece. It's been edited. It's slated to run this
Wednesday. Looks like it's too long for the space, so things will get
cut. I've offered a list, all painful, and will probably find out when
you do (although you'll be less conscious of it). I still have a lot of
stuff I've written up and didn't include with the draft. Maybe we can
get the next one expedited, too.
Quite a bit of Jazz Prospecting this week, and I'm finding better
records, although I'm also pulling stuff almost at random, including
some from the lower priority queues.
Ben Kono: Crossing (2010 , 19/8): B. 1967, grew
up in Vermont, studied at Eastman and UNT, did a stretch with the Army's
Jazz Ambassadors, settled in New York in 1998. Plays reeds; credited here
with: oboe, english horn, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet,
tenor saxophone, shakuhachi. Has mostly appeared in big bands: John
Hollenbeck, Chris Jentsch, Ed Palermo, Jamie Begian. First album, with
Hollenbeck (drums), John Hébert (bass), Pete McCann (guitar), Henry Hey
(keybs), and Heather Laws (voice and french horn). One thing this shows
is that not all horns are created equal: the sax sections are terrific,
the flutes and oboe superfluous (all the more so when Laws weighs in).
Q.E.D. [Ben Thomas/Chris Stover/Alex Chadsey]: Yet What Is
Any Ocean . . . (2010 , Origin): Seattle trio; all three
write songs (Thomas 4, Chadsey 3, Stover 2). Thomas plays vibes, cajon,
bandoneon, percussion; has three previous albums. Stover plays trombone;
Chadsey piano. Makes for a nice combination of sounds, especially when
they work up a groove.
La Cherga: Revolve (2011, Asphalt Tango): Not jazz,
more like trans-Yugoslav dubstep, with its Balkan brass run through
a Jamaican sound system. Their previous, even better album (Fake
No More) featured a striking vocalist, replaced here with Adisa
Zvekic (from Bosnia) and occasional guest MCs; evolution turned
around -- maybe that's how they translate it.
Rich Pellegrin Quintet: Three-Part Odyssey (2010
, OA2): Pianist, first album, wrote three of eight pieces,
drawing on band members R. Scott Morning (trumpet, flugelhorn),
Neil Welch (tenor sax), and Evan Flory Barnes (bass) for all but
one of the rest -- the odd piece out is "Piano Phase" by Steven
Reich. The other quintet member is drummer Chris Icasiano -- odd
enough, the one name I'm most familiar with. The eight pieces are
organized into three parts, hence the title. Postbop, but the
horns can get pretty aggressive, and the piano blocks well.
Rather like the Reich intermission too.
Darren Johnston/Aram Shelton/Lisa Mezzacappa/Kjell Nordeson:
Cylinder (2011, Clean Feed): No recording date given --
unusual for this label -- but songs are all copyright 2011, so this
may be the first recorded-in-2011 album I've gotten to. Familiar
names: trumpet, alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet, bass, drums. Each
writes two songs, or three for Shelton. Free jazz, struggles a bit
here and there but has lots of fine moments, especially the trumpet.
Chad McCullough & Bram Weijters: Imaginary Sketches
(2010 , Origin): Trumpet and piano, respectively, leading a
quartet with Chuck Deardorf on bass and John Bishop on drums. Third
album for McCullough, not counting his work in the Kora Band; based
in Seattle. The pianist was b. 1980 in Belgium; looks like he has one
previous trio album, several group efforts. Pairing does a nice job
of bringing out the rich lustre of the instruments.
Giancarlo Vulcano: My Funny Detective (2008 ,
Distant Second): Guitarist, grew up and is based in New York, second
album, the soundtrack for a movie that doesn't exist (a film noir,
no less). Credits include working as music director for the TV show
30 Rock. This has some of the usual traits of soundtracks:
short vignettes (6 of 12 finish in less than two minutes), fill up
space, don't leave much aftertaste. Most distinctive thing is the
use of two trombones (Brian Drye and Ryan Keberle) as the only horns.
The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (2010
, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, plays some soprano as way
too many do, but actually started on alto; AMG hasn't bothered to
provide a biography yet, but for those who have paid attention he
is one of the major arrivals of the past decade (e.g., his Photos
in Black, White and Gray was one of my pick hits). What you might
call a hard-core bebopper (not same as hard bopper). Focused on Gigi
Gryce last time out, moved back a bit back to Lucky Thompson this
time, who hit the cusp between swing and bebop almost perfectly --
aside from his own superb records he played in the septet on some
of Charlie Parker's most famous singles, and for my money he was
the star. Byars gets a lot of help here, adding Zaid Nasser's alto,
Mark Lopeman's baritone, Scott Wondholt's trumpet and John Mosca's
trombone, which saves him from a more direct comparison. Eloquent
arrangements, rich and flowing, with a touch of swing.
[PS: First thing I did when I got this was to ask the publicist to
fill in the gap left by two recent Byars albums on SteepleChase I
didn't get. Still waiting.]
Landon Knoblock/Jason Furman: Gasoline Rainbow (2008
, Fractamodi): Piano-drums duo, based in New York but originally
got together in Miami. Second album together. Knoblock, b. 1982, has
two other albums since 2007. Strong performance, a lot of rumble in
Cuong Vu 4-tet: Leaps of Faith (2010 , Origin):
Trumpet player, b. 1969 in what was then called Saigon, in Vietnam.
Came to US in 1975, grew up in Bellevue, WA; studied at New England
Conservatory; spent some time in New York, then moved back to Seattle,
teaching at UW and having a pretty significant impact on the area. He's
long had a fusion focus, and I haven't been much impressed by what he's
come up with, but this is an advance: adding a second electric bassist
(Luke Bergman) to his trio (Stomu Takeishi on electric bass and Ted Poor
on drums) adds a lot to what I reckon you can call the grunge factor --
all the more amusing when burying standards like "Body and Soul" and
"My Funny Valentine" but it neatly sets off the trumpet.
François Carrier/Alexey Lapin/Michel Lambert: Inner Spire
(2010 , Leo): Alto saxophonist, from Canada (Quebec actually),
b. 1961, has been on a tear since 1998. I've recommended a bunch of
his albums. Trio, with his longstanding drummer Michel Lambert, plus
pianist Alexey Lapin -- picked him up when they cut this in Moscow.
He works his usual free jazz charms; piano doesn't quite come out,
but has promising moments.
Fredrik Carlquist: Playing Cool (2010 ,
FCJazz): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1969 in Jönköping, Sweden; based
in Barcelona; fourth album since 1999. Two originals, ten covers
intended to explore "his influences from players llike Paul Desmond,
Stan Getz and Lars Gullin." Helping with the latter is "special
guest" baritone saxophonist Joan Chamorro on three tracks; rest
is sax-guitar-bass-drums quartet. That adds up to a pretty mild
mannered sax album. One song is even called "Sweet and Lovely,"
but really they all are.
Benjamin Drazen: Inner Lights (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, alto and soprano, from Roslyn, NY, b. 1972; studied at New
England Conservatory with George Garzone (who else?); moved back to NYC
in 1995. Debut album, quartet with piano (Jon Davis), bass (Carlo de
Rosa), and drums (Eric McPherson); seven originals plus "This Is New"
and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." Fat pitch right down the middle.
Orrin Evans: Captain Black Big Band (2010 ,
Posi-Tone): Judging from the credits, seems to be a very big band,
with 10 trumpets, 5 trombones, 14 saxes and a bass clarinet, 3
pianos, but I also note that it was recorded in three chunks, the
first day and track in Philadelphia, two more days (4 and 2 tracks
respectively) later in New York, so I wonder if everyone was really
everywhere all the time. (Some of the bass and drums players are
linked to specific tracks.) Pianist Evans wrote 4 of 7 pieces,
the last four. The band is crackling hot, but I'm not getting
much out of it, just a lot of drive and energy.
Christian Weidner: The Inward Song (2010, Pirouet):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Kassel, Germany; studied in Hamburg,
Stockholm, and Berlin, where he is currently based. Second album.
Quartet with Colin Vallon on piano (Vallon has a new ECM album in
my queue), Henning Sieverts on bass, and Samuel Rohrer on drums.
All originals. Light, delicate sound, almost lurks behind the
piano, giving it all an ECM-lite feel.
Fernandez & Wright: Unsung (2009 , New
Market Music): Singer Vanessa Fernandez, guitarist Steve Wright,
home base Melbourne, Australia. First album, backed with piano,
organ, bass, drums, percussion. Wrote their own material. Has a
dark, dank sound, a resonant voice with occasional jazz fillips.
Jenny Davis: Inside You (2009 , self-released):
Singer, from Seattle, third album. Wrote one of ten songs, the others
scattered standards with Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and Lennon
& McCartney's "Blackbird" on the far edges. Barely backed by Chuck
Easton (guitar, flute) and Ted Enderle (bass), with Louis Aissen's
tenor sax on one cut. The boppish stuff has a touch of Sheila Jordan,
not pushed so far, but she doesn't need a lot of support. Ambivalent
about "Blackbird" -- almost invariably a disaster -- not to mention
the obligatory Jobim.
Annie Kozuch: Here With You(2009 , self-released):
Standards singer, raised in Mexico City, got a Dramatic Arts degree
from Mills College in Oakland, CA; based in New York. First album.
Leads off with Jobim, but rather than getting him out of the way she
returns three songs later with one of the nicest strolls through
"Corcovado" I've heard, and later on returns with a third Brazilian
piece, this one by Pixinguinha. Spanish songs from Pedro Junco and
Armando Manzanera are less successful, but she nails English-language
songs (what she calls "jazz tracks") like "I Love Being Here With You"
and "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me."
Jonathan Kreisberg: Shadowless (2010 , New
for Now Music): Guitarist, b. NYC, grew up in Florida, came back
in 1997. AMG lists eight records since 1997. Probably too simple
to take this as a fusion play, but that's easy to do with guitarists.
With Will Vinson on sax, Henry Hey on piano, Matt Penman on bass,
Mark Ferber on drums. Sax and piano don't add much.
Nicholas Urie: My Garden (2010 , Red Piano):
Composer, b. 1985, listed as conductor here. Second album. Music for
poems by Charles Bukowski, the lyrics sung by Christine Correa, who
always strikes me as a tad operatic. Attractive packaging, but the
light blue type on off white is too subtle, downright unreadable.
The music itself has numerous interesting passages, the group only
slightly below big band weight (4 reeds, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones,
piano-bass-drums), mostly names I recognize including John Hébert,
who usually lifts everything he touches. Problem here is a common
one: the curse of trying to wrap music around words meant to stand
on their own.
Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quintet: In Good Company (2009
, Capri): Fryer is a young British alto saxophonist with a trad
bent, which nowadays is as likely to embrace 1950s mainstreamers --
Shank, of course, also Phil Woods -- as the pre-boppers. Shank died
shortly after this: a West Coast alto saxophonist, b. 1926, came up
in progressive big bands and recorded some sweet cool jazz records in
the 1950s, although by my reckoning his best records came out in the
early 1990s (cf. Lost in the Stars and I Told You So!).
I haven't managed to untangle the two saxes here, which makes it
possible to view the whole thing as a sharp revival for Shank, and
a fine memento. With Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass), and
Joe La Barbera (drums). Fryer wrote 6 of 9 pieces -- titles like
"Bopping With Bud," "Tip Top and Tickety Boo," "Breaking Loose,"
and "In Good Company."
Big Neighborhood: 11:11 (2006, Origin, 2CD):
Group: Chris Fagan (alto sax), David White (guitar, guitar synth),
Doug Miller (bass), Phil Parisot (drums). Second album. Been on
my shelf a long time. Partly I've avoided it because I rarely feel
up to tackling multi-disc sets by unknowns, although it turns out
that all this could have been squeezed onto a single CD. White and
Miller split most of the writing, with one piece by Parisot. Flows
along nicely on the guitar, the sax mostly window dressing.
Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big Band: Bright Future
(2009 , OA2): Norman plays various saxophones, tenor probably
his first choice; his father, Ray Norman, played in the big bands
of Claude Thornhill and Charlie Barnet, and he played in the Army's
Jazz Ambassadors. McCarthy, a drummer, played in the Navy's Jazz
Ensemble. Second album together, both big bands, the only thing
unconventional is that they rely on guitarist Gary Malvaso for
more than rhythm.
Rondi Charleston: Who Knows Where The Time Goes
(2009 , Motéma Music): Singer, from Chicago, father taught
English and played jazz piano, mother taught voice; studied at
Juilliard. Third album since 2004; starts mostly covers (Sandy
Denny, Stevie Wonder, Jobim of course), but winds down with four
songs co-written with pianist Lynne Arriale and the annoying
"Freedom Is a Voice" ("freedom is a man"; no lyric sheet but
that's what it sounds like). Best thing here is "Please Send Me
Someone to Love" -- but even there she'd rather come on strong.
Cheryl Bentyne: The Gershwin Songbook (2010, ArtistShare):
Singer, b. 1954, best known as part of Manhattan Transfer since 1979,
but has ten solo albums, most since 2002. This one is a lock, mostly
top drawer songs, given light, delectable treatments with piano (Corey
Allen or Ted Howe), Peter Gordon's flutes, and Ken Peplowski's bubbly
clarinet. Mark Winkler joins for "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Only disappointment is "Summertime," which has yielded so many great
versions I've long wanted to dump them all into a mixtape. Here she
goes falsetto, with a lot of warble to the backup, which just seems
Tania Gill: Bolger Station (2009 , Barnyard):
Pianist, lives in Toronto; first album, also credited with organ and
voice. Group includes Lina Allemano (trumpet), Clinton Ryder (bass),
and Jean Martin (drums). I don't get a strong sense of direction
here; interesting little piano bits, some trumpet twists, two Gill
vocals, so plain that's probably her limit, but not without charm.
Trio Richochet: February 2006 (2006, self-released):
Nobu Stowe (piano), Tyler Goodman (bass), Alan Munshower (drums). First
of a bunch of background music Stowe sent me. Aims at "post-fusion,"
where "post" is something new and "fusion" is a bit of everything. One
cover ("Nardis"), the rest Stowe originals. Bright, upbeat, dynamic;
some ballad-type things to mix it up.
Blaise Siwula/Nobu Stowe/Ray Sage: Brooklyn Moments
(2005, Konnex): More background. Siwula plays alto and tenor sax, bass
clarinet, bamboo flute; Stowe piano; Sage drums. Siwula was b. 1950 in
Detroit; has a couple dozen albums (AMG's discography starts in 1994,
which strikes me as late). All improv, rough to start although they
mix it up, and the bass clarinet part softens the blows. First record
by Siwula I've heard, so I'm way behind here.
Blaise Siwula/Dom Minasi/Nobu Stowe/Ray Sage: New York
Moments (2006, Konnex): Siwula plays soprano, alto, and
tenor sax here -- no bass clarinet; Minasi guitar; Stowe piano;
Sage drums. More spontaneous composition, group improvs, twice
dropping down to trio strength. At times it all works, but often
it feels a bit crowded, or cramped.
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Omer Avital: Free Forever (Smalls)
- Sarah Bernstein: Unearthish (Page Frame Music)
- Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Sara Schoenbeck: Next (Porter): June 21
- Mark Dagley: Mystery of the Guitar (Abaton Book)
- Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica: Presents . . . Third River Rangoon (Tiki)
- Iron Dog: Field Recordings 1 (Iron Dog Music)
- Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at Birdland (ECM)
- Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (Music Now!)
- Alphonse Mouzon: Angel Face (Tenacious)
- Wolfgang Muthspiel: Drumfree (Material)
- Richard Nelson Large Ensemble: Pursuit (Heliotrope): June 7
- NY Jazz Initiative: Mad About Thad (Jazzheads)
- Beata Pater: Blue (B&B): June 1
- Ursa Minor: Showface (self-released)
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Bin Laden Weekend Roundup
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week,
plus a belated comment at the end on Bin Laden:
Paul Krugman: Hume Day:
I read Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding in college,
probably in my sophomore year, and it changed my life. I was at the age
when impressionable young people can all too easily get pulled into a
rigid belief system -- say, by getting hooked on Ayn Rand. Hume, by
contrast, was wonderfully liberating: his amiable skepticism, his
insistence that what we think we know comes from experience, and that
knowledge is always provisional, opened up my whole outlook.
I owned a copy but never read Hume's big book, but I did pick up much
of what he had to say secondhand -- not least as refracted in Immanuel
Kant's A Critique of Pure Reason. While I mostly read Marxists
from age 18-25, I often bounced that off against empiricists (Hume),
rationalists (Kant), and pragmatists (Pierce), which among other things
meant that I never took Hegel as much more than a mythologizer.
Paul Krugman: Shadow of the Torturers: This is very true:
After reading John Yoo's attack on the president for not taking Osama
alive and bringing him to Gitmo, I thought I might take a minute to
explain something I sometimes say. Once in a while I mention, in passing,
that the Bush administration saw torturing people as a plus, not a cost.
And whenever I do, some readers clutch their breasts and reach for the
smelling salts: how dare I say such a thing?
But it's true -- not because they're sadists, but because it suited
From day one of the War on Terror (TM), it was clear that the Bush
people reveled in the notion that they were tough guys, willing to Do
What Needs to be Done. They were all wannabe Kiefer Sutherlands. Far
from showing qualms about suspending the rule of law and using torture
to extract information, they obviously enjoyed the idea that they were
willing to go all the way, unlike those wimpy liberals.
I've long maintained that torture has always been much more about
asserting power, in the most intimate and personal manner possible,
than anything else. What bothered Bush and company about the 9/11
attacks more than the loss of life or the disturbance to our sense
of security in everyday life was the symbolic challenge to their
overweening sense of superpower: the only response they considered
was a Global War on Terror because only through reasserting their
total world dominance could they overcome Al-Qaida's affront. On a
global level that meant war, but when it came down to individuals,
of course it meant torture. Those who lament that Bin Laden was
killed rather than captured should consider the real alternative:
if captured Bin Laden would have been driven through the whole
Guantanamo gauntlet of torture and endlessly procrastinated sham
show trials. Rather than the justice system showing the world his
crimes, the US would have wound up exposing how dysfunctional and
unjust our justice system actually is.
Michael Lind: Why This Won't End World War IV:
As I recall, Lind was the first person to really explain the critical
role of the neoconservatives in shaping the shocked reaction to 9/11
terrorism into a full-fledged War on Terror (as well as such shoddy
rebranding efforts as World War IV and The Long War). Turns out that
Lind knew because Lind was one of them. But where he was satisfied
with the collapse of the Soviet Union, other neoconservatives were
just getting warmed up, identifying war abroad as valuable mostly to
advance their war against liberalism at home. Lind quotes from a
1993 essay by Irving Kristol,
My Cold War:
There is no "after the Cold War" for me. So far from having ended, my
cold war has increased in intensity, as sector after sector of American
life has been ruthlessly corrupted by the liberal ethos. It is an ethos
that aims simultaneously at political and social collectivism on the one
hand, and moral anarchy on the other. It cannot win, but it can make us
all losers. We have, I do believe, reached a critical turning point in
the history of the American democracy. Now that the other "Cold War" is
over, the real cold war has begun. We are far less prepared for this
cold war, far more vulnerable to our enemy, than was the case with our
victorious war against a global communist threat. We are, I sometimes
feel, starting from ground zero, and it is a conflict I shall be passing
on to my children and grandchildren. But it is a far more interesting
cold war -- intellectually interesting, spiritually interesting -- than
the war we have so recently won, and I rather envy those young enough
for the opportunities they will have to participate in it.
Kristol's admission ("that he had never really been interested in
defeating the Soviet Union. The real enemy had been American liberalism,
all along") matters less for its cynicism and scheming than because it
reveals what should have been obvious to liberals all along: that the
build-up and use of the military-security state is itself corrosive of
every instinct and principle liberals and leftists believe in. Among
other things, this is why Republicans treat Obama (and treated Clinton)
so gingerly when he engages in war abroad, even while they go crazy in
attacking him over domestic matters. (On the other hand, Bush helped his
cause by launching wars: they were distractions from domestic issues,
they built up his patronage machine, they crowded out other interests,
they let him question the patriotism of his opponents and split them
into rival camps, a significant slice accustomed to selling out their
true interests.) Lind doesn't quite get this, but what he writes is
9/11 fortuitously provided the American right with the external enemy
that allowed it to go back into business demonizing the internal enemy,
liberalism. And the idea of World War IV enabled the right once again
to smear American liberals as defeatists or appeasers, if not traitors,
in a struggle on the scale of the world wars and the Cold War.
Central to the rhetoric of American rightists, be they literate
neocons or populist wingnuts like Glenn Beck, is the accusation that
America is on the verge of destruction by powerful enemies without
and traitorous or defeatist progressives within. In this political
psychodrama, the identity of the foreign threat is secondary. If
terrorists identifying themselves with Peru's Sendero Luminoso had
massacred Americans on 9/11, conservatives might well have declared
war on "Latinofascism," called for the invasion of Cuba, Venezuela
and other leftist Latin American regimes, and denounced cultural
relativism and multiculturalism and the welfare state for weakening
the will of Americans to resist the imminent overthrow of Western
civilization by Latin American Maoism.
World War IV was never really about bin Laden or al-Qaida. It was
always about American domestic politics. Whether or not al-Qaida fades
away after the death of bin Laden, the right will continue to wage its
American civil war, using World War IV as an excuse. Or maybe World
War V or World War VI. Whatever.
Alex Pareene: A Patriot's Guide to Still Hating Obama for Killing Osama:
Quotes from the right pundits, trying to paint Obama out of the picture,
trying to paint Bush in, arguing that we couldn't have done it without
waterboarding, etc. Pareene followed up with
When George W. Bush Killed Bin Laden: An Alternate History.
Killing Bin Laden
I held back from making any rash comments about the killing of
Osama Bin Laden, and don't have much to say now. I never believed
that the US should have taken military action against Afghanistan
in 2001, either to pursue Bin Laden or to overthrow the Taliban
(Bush's either-you-with-us-or-against-us theory). I never had a
problem with the assertion that Bin Laden was a criminal or with
conventional (non-military, non-CIA) efforts to bring him to
justice. His culpability for the 9/11 attacks and for previous
crimes like the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
is well established including by his own unforced (and boastful)
admissions. Moreover, he has provided ideological cover for any
number of similar criminal acts. And while he's not the only one
responsible for the US -- one hesitates to blame this solely on
Bush although he was, as he liked to proclaim, "the decider" --
response to his provocations, he claims to have acted aware of
and actually hoping for the US to strike back at Afghanistan,
launching a horrific war. Given all this, plus the failure of
pre-2001 efforts to apprehend him, I could even see a case for
taking extraordinary actions to capture or kill him. But I do
draw the line well short of sending an army and air force to
occupy another people's country, which is what the US did and
for ten years continues to do.
For one thing, no system of justice is perfect, and ours
breaks down especially when it comes to the most staggering
crimes: politicians who commit acts of war, violently depriving
people of human rights. The fact is that most such people have
never had to face justice. As unfortunate as it was the Bin Laden
to have escaped after 9/11, worse things have happened: one of
which is that the US lost all sense of what justice means. Today
we instinctively equate might with right, since the only sense
in which we have been right over the last ten years is in our
ability to get away with it. We have come to admire and emulate
gangsters -- people who think that all they have to do to solve
their problems is to kill those in the way.
It bothers me not at all that Bin Laden is dead. My position
on capital punishment was never that the person doesn't deserve
to die; it's that the government has no right to kill. Does the
US have the right to send commandos into a foreign country to
kill someone there? No. On the other hand, that Bin Laden was
executed by a team of Navy SEALS does have a certain justice to
it: it was, after all, his scheme to get the US to invade his
adopted homeland and wage war against him and the people who
adopted him. You can't say he didn't have it coming, and you
can't say he hadn't asked for it.
I could also try to look at this pragmatically. Killing Bin Laden
doesn't justify the US mission in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), but
does it help end that mission? Killing Bin Laden was one of the main
rationales for getting into Afghanistan in the first place. Now that
he is dead, why not just say "mission accomplished" and get out? If
indeed that happens the killing will be a blessing. There are lots
of things I don't like about this, but anything that extricates us
from occupying Afghanistan and meddling in Pakistan would be good
One aspect of this that is rather disturbing has been Obama's own
elation over the killing -- not least his "victory lap" going to NYC
and sucking up to the troops. Some of it is that he took a rather
cynical political position when he reframed his opposition to the
Iraq war as mistaken priorities -- he didn't want to be seen as an
anti-war candidate, so he pushed Afghanistan as the right war, and
Bin Laden as the true object of that war, so he gains on two counts
by killing Bin Laden: he vindicates his policy vs. Bush, and he gets
a tangible milestone which allows him to get out from under the
millstone of an endless, fruitless war. But what's truly disturbing
is how much he's getting into his role as killer-in-chief. He got
his first taste of directly ordering death in a Somali piracy event
shortly after he took office. However, this week he's really hitting
his stride: killing one of Gaddafi's sons in Libya, missing his
target in Yemen (but killing a couple people anyway), and the big
kill of Bin Laden. Moreover, there's very little to stop him from
doing this: the military and CIA are geared up to keep doing this
(indeed, moving Petraeus from one to the other looks like a policy
decision to shift targeted assassination programs into ever more
secretive and informal frameworks), the Republicans and the media
will just cheer him on, and the ICC can't touch him; that just
leaves his conscience, such as it is.
I thought about ending this with several trivial observations,
but will leave you with just one. I noticed several pieces trying
to parse Obama's speech: specifically the phrase "captured and
killed," reading the two verbs as serial. My theory is that the
person on scene said something like "we have Bin Laden and he is
dead." Being a much better writer than the average Navy SEAL,
Obama's instinct was to punch up the line, eliminating passive
voice and using action verbs. Still, as a lawyer, you'd think
he would have thought better. But I guess he's been in politics
too long for that.
Carlos Catalan says things like: "I see Bush as an ignorant but
well-intentioned man, surrounded by corrupt men. In my view, Obama
is the one who is being let off the hook." And: "The naivety of so
many concerning Obama is scary." And: "There are worse villains than
George Bush in America and in our world." And: "I'm not sure that's
fair. Suggesting he has no ordinary concern for the well-being of
other human beings?"
Not sure where all this Bush matter is coming from, but I have
to caution anyone against crediting intentions over actions, most
of all to excuse those actions. Everyone intends good; otherwise,
how could they face themselves? Long ago I read Eugene Genovese's
The World the Slaveholders Made, which amply demonstrated
the intellectual and moral coherency of the masters of the slave
South. The only thing unusual about them is how little sympathy
we now hold for their world-view. But the idea that the unfettered
pursuit of self-interest is somehow a social good is widely shared
today, especially among people whose self-interests are predatory
on social goods -- e.g., people like George W. Bush.
It's sort of interesting to pick apart the Bush administration
and try to figure out who was responsible for what -- e.g., would
Bush have been so inept on Israel/Palestine had Elliott Abrams
disappeared into a well somewhere? -- but the bottom line was that
his administration was probably the most ideologically coherent in
American history. Of all the things he did, the worst was how he
institutionalized corruption in the government. He didn't just
deregulate: he gave lobbyists the controls to the entire regulatory
apparatus, purged the civil service, and privatized the grunt work,
turning it into political patronage. The big BP offshore oil spill
was one fruit of Bush's reorganization -- one of many offices Obama
hadn't touched since becoming president. And that sort of thing was
perfectly consistent with Bush's intentions (as was the dismantling
of FEMA pre-Katrina).
I must have read 20 books on Bush and they keep adding up the
same way. Some of the best: Kevin Phillips: American Dynasty;
Michael Lind: Made in Texas; Ira Chernus: Monsters to
Destroy; Jacob Weisberg: The Bush Tragedy. You can get
some personality quirks, but where it counts Bush is very consistent
with, and obedient to, the political movement that sponsored him.
Meanwhile, Christgau wrote:
I'm not going to go into this any further, because these arguments
are generally a waste of time. But the reason I believe GWB was both
the worst and the most evil US president in history is only marginally
about his hideous and wasteful war. That's a symptom. Bush entered the
White House determined to bring into full flower the conscious aim of
the Republican Party since Reagan -- that is, the shrinkage of government
in all its public-welfare functions and the further transfer of wealth
to the already wealthy. Everything proceeds from that, including a war
that enabled billions of deficit-creating tax dollars to be pocketed
without public outcry by the energy and defense industries, which was
always its chief, conscious economic goal.
Carlos Catalan responded (can he possibly be serious?):
In my opinion, Republicanism is not a threat anymore, and it could
even be in its last throes. Paper tigers like Sarah Palin and Donald
Trump and the Tea Party movement are the current face of the party.
The real villains are Democrats and Republicans. It sounds like a
cliche, but things aren't black-and-white anymore. Partisanship is
naive and outdated. The bad guys are out there. And the one's that
wear liberal clothes are just as bad as the ones that wear conservative
More from me:
Given the asynch nature of this, I didn't see Christgau's post until
I posted mine. Many ways to carve this pig, but he has it exactly right.
Lots of folks still like to pick on poor James Buchanan, but Bush was
worse in more ways than I can count.
In my opinion, Republicanism is not a threat anymore, and it could
even be in its last throes. Paper tigers like Sarah Palin and Donald
Trump and the Tea Party movement are the current face of the party.
Obviously you don't live in Kansas, where the faces of the Republican
Party are Gov. Sam Brownback (anti-abortion jihadist), Sen. Jerry Moran
(C Street-bred agribusiness tool), and Rep. Mike Pompeo (Koch puppet).
All were elected with landslides in 2010. Most likely, to say such a
think you don't even live in the US, where the Republican-controlled
House can kill any bill to raise the deficit limit, thereby provoking
a financial crisis in the midst of a recession. Palin and Trump are
jokes, and the Tea Party Movement is full of them. But the right-wing
heirs still have their foundations and think tanks, corporate funding
has never been stronger, and the media just laps it all up.
Sangfreud is right that the Democrats have been complacent and
often complicit in the rise of the ultra-right. I wrote a post on
my website today that was as down as I've ever been on Obama. At
this point I don't care if you want to argue that the Democrats
are hopeless. But it's plain wrong to claim that the Republicans
are harmless, or that there's no difference between the parties.
Much more flack hits the fan. Again, I write:
I'm sorry this outrages some of you, but I believe that there are
bigger evils in our world than... Republicans!
Maybe Peterike164 is right that "nobody ever convinces anybody of
anything by political discussions on chat boards" but it should be
possible to share some information. I would like to know what Carlos
thinks those evils are. He's made several vague assertions like that,
but I'd like to see some details.
The one example so far hasn't been very convincing. Abortion rights
may be secure in some states, but here in Kansas the last doctor in
Wichita (pop. 400,000) who offered those services was murdered. And
when another doctor wanted to set up a clinic recently, she couldn't
find space for fear of boycotts and vandalism. Since then the state
has passed more laws to allow legal authorities to harrass clinics.
It's only a matter of time before Kansas joins Mississippi as a state
where one has the right to seek an abortion, but no one is able and
willing to perform the service.
Much later, solidstatendc wrote:
Carlos, don't be discouraged because you were taken to task by
encouraging folks to think outside their respective boxes (which
actually look a lot like the same box, but that's part of the point;
the left celebrates diversity in everything except thought). Take
the caliber of the replies -- e.g., Obamacare is "free health care,"
left vs. right as "sanity vs. pure evil," and the apparently sincere
belief that the right's social-issues claque is more of a threat to
the country's health than, oh, I don't know, the fact that the
national debt is increasing by over four billion dollars a day --
as sufficient evidence that your efforts never stood a chance.
Besides, there's some really good music commentary here.
No idea where the Obamacare quote came from. The "sanity vs. pure
evil" quote was misframed: Alex Wilson wasn't describing "left vs.
right"; he was describing Democrats vs. Republicans. Going back to
look for something else, but while I'm on it, here's what Alex said:
I'm gonna write this message quick, cos I got 3 minutes to get to
work (I live right next door)! I said this before, but Xgau is right.
There is no real 'left' in America. In England there is nothing like
republicans, we have conservatives (who, stereotypically, save money,
and are rich), labour (who, stereotypically, spend money, and are
working-class) and lib-dems (who are hippies, and never get in power).
All of that stereotyping is ****, I suppose a lot of politicians are
very similar in nature. But, at least, here we have a much more narrow
left-right. Out right is still, basically, left. In the U.S. it's like
sanity vs. pure evil. I'm not over-exaggerating! Anyway, have fun
ya'll, I'll read the comments when I get back! x
Still working back, Christgau wrote:
One of the assumptions of my criticism is that art and politics always
interact. Another is that most politicos have a lot to learn from pop
music, especially about what people really believe and need. I agree that
political discussions quickly get out of hand in these forums, and always
hesitate before putting my two cents in for that reason. But I am a
political person, so occasionally I will. Like for instance to note that
the notion that anyone here is "hard Left" -- myself definitely included --
is yet another sad reflection of how constrained and distorted American
politics are. There isn't another developed country in the world where
such an assertion would fly, because all other developed countries have
real Lefts that make themselve felt. I doubt I'd be part of any "hard
Left" myself, though I'd probably dabble the way I did in the '60s just
to enjoy the brainpower. But I wish there was one to keep everybody else
on their toes.
Beyond that there's a lot of nonsense about "checks and balances" --
Carlos seems to think that elections every four years are part of that.
Still looking for the Carlos quote that solidstatendc refers to about
thinking outside the box. MarkE6 has something along those lines:
I don't respect anyone who's not willing to criticize someone in their
own group. Liberals not criticizing other liberals and conservatives not
willing to criticize other conservatives. If we're going to have political
discussions here, I wish there was more balance in that area.
This idea that left and right are equivalent and symmetrical is one
of the worst myths, derived from nothing more tangible than geometry.
While I'm collecting, Cam Patterson wrote (probably chastizing yours
truly, since one of my posts appeared after Carlos' last post, and since
I wrote about abortion):
Folks-- Carlos bailed on his argument long ago. I realize there was
a lot of dialog, but can we give the guy a break at this point? He's
clear that he's moved on, so referencing him in your posts has more to
do with what you have to say than with getting Carlos to reply or change
his mind. If this exchange wasn't so personal, I'd be in the middle of
it-- I lived around the corner from the Brookline clinic that John Salvi
attacked and knew Shannon Lowney by sight-- but I'm going to hope that
we get a reset Tuesday AM. Any chance for an early post, Xgau?
Greater evil than Republicans? I would say The Joker, Lex Luther,
and Magneto for starters.
The Joker, definitely. Lex Luthor is a republican. Magneto
is a blue dog dem -- when push comes to absolute shove, he'll throw
down on the side of righteousness.
Following the solidstatendc "Carlos" quote, Chris Drumm replied
by quoting "the left celebrates diversity in everything except thought"
. . . and they get their coordinated daily talking/attack points
It doesn't work quite that baldly. How much time would you say you
spend in (let's say) a month reading/watching/listening to political,
social and/or economic views not necessatily in agreement with your
(OK, that's the quote I remembered and was looking for.) Chris
I read Reason magazine, and The Economist. To name just two, Andrew
Sullivan and David Brooks seem like agreeable people. As are no doubt
many conservatives. You are the one who said the left celebrates diversity
in everything except thought. It just seems to me that, if anything, the
right is where such thought-control occurs. I've seen Tom Hull take
Christgau apart (over the wikileaks controversy). And Tom Hull just
got through taking Krugman to task for his calling some wars "good wars".
And I don't think Xgau, or Krugman, get all huffy about it. They would
listen and weigh Tom's views, maybe learn something. There's a ton more
diversity of opinion among liberal and yes, open-minded people, than the
narrow-thinking "party of no" adherents, constantly scrambling for ways
to skewer and tear down the president, no matter how far-fetched they
have to reach. Fact is, he came into office after a great deal of damage
had been done to the country. To say he's not doing his best, with a
truculent congress and a Supreme Court giving corporations the right
to buy elections, to say there is something "scary" about him, well,
I'm sorry if I haven't subjected myself to enough opposing opinion to
go along with that.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Rhapsody Streamnotes (May 2011)
Pick up text here.
Friday, May 06, 2011
On the Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th Edition):
The stuff I wrote for the 2004 Rolling Stone guide is at http://tomhull.com/ocston/arch/rs/
including my notes. Doesn't include any edits they did because they
never told me about any. I got in late. Was given a big list of
artists they hadn't assigned and picked some from that, plus suggested
a few more. The only jazz I did was James Carter and Matthew
Shipp. They had very little jazz to choose from, and weren't
interested when I suggested Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Coleman
Hawkins, like that. I was signed up for John McLaughlin, but they
killed that when I asked to buy some of his early stuff. They did
agree to some suggestions not on their list, like Ani DiFranco. At one
point they got cold feet on assigning me Pink Floyd: my impression was
that they were afraid I was going to dis Dark Side of the Moon
-- a silly fear, probably my most played album of the 1970s.
I thought there was going to be an updated re-release of the 4th
edition. They actually paid me decent money to revise my Willie Nelson
piece since there were about ten new albums to work in, but they
didn't mention anything else -- my impression was that they were going
to just hack away however they saw fit. Book hasn't come out yet, and
Milo may know more than I do. Huge amount of work for practically
nothing. I hoped they would throw me a bone and ask me to do a
magazine review, but that never happened. When I pressed them hardest
to do a little jazz spinoff box they had Fricke do it.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
The Two Great Moral Wars of Our History
Paul Krugman: How Should We Think of the Civil War?:
Not often I disagree with Krugman these days, but he's out of his
Via Brad DeLong, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that the Civil War wasn't tragic
in the way it's so often portrayed. The human losses were terrible -- but
the war marked the end of the far greater horror of slavery.
I agree; the Civil War and World War II are the two great moral wars
of our history, and they should be remembered with pride.
I don't have much beef with Coates here, even not understanding however
it is that the Civil War's "so often portrayed": the real issue is what
actually happened in those wars, and what happened is often far removed
from anything we might be inclined to take pride in. But before you go
around glorifying wars, I think you have to ask some hard questions:
Did the war achieve the intentions you are attributing to it? Did the
people who fought the war, especially at the command level, understand
and act on those intentions? Did the prosecution of the war undermine
them? Did the aftermath of the war implement them? Did the war cause
unintended consequences that complicated or compromise or deprecated
its intentions? Ask those questions and I think you'll find that both
wars are highly problematical.
The Civil War ended the institution of chattel slavery in the US
and influenced its elimination elsewhere (in Brazil at the time and
in Cuba twenty-some years later). Had the Confederate States been
able to secede and form a modern state based on the institution of
slavery, the system would have continued for at least a generation,
no telling how much longer. It is not impossible that slavery could
have continued well over a century, into our lifetimes and possibly
into the present, even though we cannot now conceive of such a world
persisting. The Union's suppression of the secession changed history
so profoundly that we might as well embrace it because we can't make
sense out of the alternative. Nor is it just descendents of slaves
who were affected and therefore owe their lives to the war.
However, while the Confederate States seceded to protect the
legal institution of slavery and the economic system built upon it,
the Union had other reasons for suppressing the rebellion: above
all, it did so to preserve the integrity and power of the nation
state, to protect and promote its economy, and to position the
United States as a more significant imperial power. The secession
profoundly tipped the balance of power, resulting in a tariff to
protect industrial development and a Homestead Act to accelerate
the absorption and integration of frontier territories. With the
Union victory, the economic gains from the power shift continued,
while the ideals of ending slavery atrophied: slaves were freed
nominally but soon subjected to economic and political controls,
including a reign of terror, that left them as destitute (if not
as hopeless) as before. Moreover, in the decades following the
Civil War "free labor" throughout the Union was more often than
not reduced to conditions of near-slavery (what came to be called
"wage slavery," most blatantly in company towns).
One has to wonder to what extent the extreme brutality of the
Civil War -- it was at the time the deadliest war in human history --
contributed to undermining the anti-slavery ideals. It certainly
became a point of honor in the South both to reduce and roll back
the initial gains of the Freedmen and to restore the antebellum
social and political order. The South was willing to suffer great
poverty and economic backwardness for over a century to make a
point of revenge -- something the North permitted because those
in power in the North were little troubled by gross inequality or
even by the use of terror (indeed, Northern plant owners were as
likely to hire goons to bust strikes).
Whereas the Union was pretty clearly the aggressor in the Civil
War -- and set an example for many other nations to suppress their
breakaway regions, Congo-Katanga, Nigeria-Biafra, Russia-Chechnya,
and Serbia-Bosnia are among the bloodiest recent examples; that
each was a choice based on dubious principles is clearly shown by
the exception, Czech-Slovakia -- one can make a good case that war
was thrust upon the US (and many other countries) by the Axis. I
can quibble with that. The war was fundamentally about how the
world should be carved up into colonial empires, each a broad
swath of the world dominated by a relatively small and autocratic
home base convinced of its racial superiority over its dominions.
As early as the 17th century, the model for such empires was set
by England and France (outflanking earlier efforts by Portugal,
Spain, and Holland). Only in the latter half of the 19th century
did Germany and Italy (previously not unified states), the United
States (revolutionized by the Union's Civil War victory), and Japan
forcibly "opened" by the US) decide that they needed to enter the
game and play catch up -- indeed, each of these nations often saw
their own aggressions as necessarily defensive. (Two other empires
come into play here, Russia and China, but they were constructed
on more ancient lines, by subjugating their neighbors, much as the
Romans and Ottomans had done. Whereas Italy and the US primarily
intended to build their empires along Anglo-French lines, Germany
and Japan combined both models.)
The progressive idea attributed to the Civil War was abolition
of slavery and establishment of civil rights: the latter failed, in
large part because so much of the Union was unwilling to work to
make it happen, indeed because so much of the Union didn't believe
in it. (One result was that the Civil War was refought in the 1960s,
much less violently even if it seemed pretty nasty at the time.)
The progressive idea attributed to WWII was the abandonment of the
colonial empire system and the establishment of universal human
rights. The problem here was that both sides were committed to
their respective empires, and indeed the US-UK-France had been
more successful at it than the Axis powers ever could be. Indeed,
the western Allies entered into the war not because they had been
directly threatened but because their dominions and international
interests were at risk. When Chamberlain sacrificed a sliver of
Czechoslovakia, he made a calculated cost-benefit analysis; when
asked to do the same over half of Poland, the results changed
(but even then he didn't begrudge Stalin for scooping up the
leftovers, because the Soviet Union was not deemed anywhere near
as serious a challenge to British interests as Germany was).
While Roosevelt was admirably principled about not firing the
first shot, he was far from neutral, arming and financing China
and Britain while embargoing Japan and Germany, all but daring
them to sink US ships (Wilson's entrée to WWI) or, as happened,
to bomb US bases in the Pacific. The US had become the world's
largest economy well before WWI, the largest trading country,
a net exporter (safe behind high tariff walls), and as such a
net invester and lender, so the people who thought about such
things realized that the world couldn't be trusted to handle
anything so important as a World War on its own: the US had to
take part, because US interests were already involved. The big
problem was selling this war to the people who didn't have any
real money at stake, and that's where progressive ideas --
anti-imperialism and human rights, also fear of Fascism --
came in handy. It helped that New Deal progressives were in
power, and it helped that the Soviet Union was already in the
war. But progressive ideas had always served to sell war --
at least ever since selling became necessary, at least since
the American and French Revolutions. (It may seem laughable
now, but "white man's burden" passed for progressivism in its
time; even more cynically, King Leopold vowed to rid the Congo
of slavery.) About the only thing those trying to nudge the US
into WWII didn't use as a reason was the need to prevent the
Nazi extermination of Jews from all over Europe.
There's no doubt that WWII resulted in some progressive things:
it conclusively ended German and Japanese imperialism and militarism;
it wiped out all of the Fascist and/or ultraconservative states in
Eastern Europe (replacing them with Soviet-dominated satellites,
which you may not like but was still an improvement in most cases);
it led to a communist revolution in China (which again you may not
like, but it put an end to foreign depredations like Britain's Opium
War and eventually led to the fastest growing economy of the last 20
years); it significantly weakened the victorious western imperial
powers, speeding up the liquidation of their colonial states (Spain
and Portugal, their Fascist regimes having skipped the war, held out
the longest, except for the US which gave up the Philippines but
still holds onto scattered outposts); it led to an international
declaration of human rights and to the United Nations and other
international organizations (which ultimately proved inadequate to
fulfill their promises but on balance have been more progressive
than not); it resulted in a recognition of the horrible injustice
of genocide; perhaps most important to an economist like Krugman,
the war solved the chronic demand shortage of the Great Depression
and laid the basis for several decades of widespread affluence.
Needless to say, only the first item was on Roosevelt's progressive
agenda when he led the US into war, and even that wasn't conceived
of progressively: US Treasury Secretary Morgenthau wanted to reduce
Germany to nothing more than a 17th century agricultural economy.
The rest was made up on the fly, or happened on its own, but so did
On the other hand, much else happened during and after the war.
Some seventy million people were killed, including some ten million
people in German concentration camps -- mostly Jews in the Nazi's
deliberate program to eradicate "the race," but also huge numbers
of communists and other political opponents and Russian prisoners
of war. Some 22-25 million of the dead could be considered combattants,
including 410,000 Americans -- a number that is small only compared
to 2 million Japanese, 3-4 million Chinese, 5.5 million Germans, and
8-10 million Soviets. But the overwhelming majority of those killed
were non-combattants. One number I can't find is how many perished
by the main new technology of the war: aerial bombardment. When the
war started, the US was very high-minded about limiting bombing to
strictly military targets, but the war ended with the US wiping out
entire cities with nuclear weapons.
Beyond those dead were many more wounded, millions dislocated,
many forced into slave labor. In the German-Russian borderlands
from Latvia to Ukraine prewar populations were reduced by 15-25%.
The war changed people, and while many (especially in Europe and
Japan) resolved to live in peace, some developed a taste for war.
The Chinese communists continued to fight the Kuomintang army.
The Vietnamese fought against the return of the French. Indonesia,
the Philippines, and India would have erupted but were quickly
granted independence (the Indians turning on themselves when the
British decided to partition the country, resulting in more than
a million deaths). Both sides of divided Korea plotted to unify
the country, resulting in a horrendous war from 1950-53, sucking
in the US and China. The Zionist settlement in Palestine revolted
against Britain and seized three-quarters of the land, fighting
off several Arab armies and driving 700,000 Palestinians into an
exile that has still not been resolved. Israel was initially
backed by the US, the USSR, and France, partly out of sympathy
for the Holocaust, possibly out of a desire to settle displaced
Jews elsewhere, with an almost absent-minded disdain for the
Palestinians signifying that the colonial mentality had not yet
been broken. The result was the creation of the most belligerent
nation of the postwar period, one which still denies basic human
rights to several million people -- one of many not-so-progressive
things that emerged from WWII.
Then there was the US, the nation which gained the most and
suffered relatively little, with virtually no civilian casualties,
the homeland never seriously threatened. The war rescued the US
economy; fear of slipping back into recession made the idea of
maintaining a permanent war economy attractive. Moreover, the war
swelled the American ego to a humongous degree: we had, after all,
saved the world from extraordinary evils; we led the world, were
good enough to rebuild Europe; our ideals were the world's. Except,
that is, for the communists, who soon turned out to be more useful
as enemies. They gave us reason to keep the military economy in
gear, and they gave the right an opportunity to purge the left --
which they proceeded to do with generous but suicidal support from
the liberal establishment.
Nearly everything bad that has happened to America since 1945
can be traced back to the unsatisfied sense of winning WWII and
the craving for more. Tom Carson was right when he said that the
worst thing that ever happened to the US was winning WWII. That
isn't to say that losing would have better, or that we shouldn't
have entered at all. But it should be understood that war isn't
something one wins; it's always a loss, the real dilemma being
how you handle that loss. It should also be understood that war
itself is never progressive. The whole idea behind progressivism
is to deliberately arrange society and economy in ways that work
more productively and more equitably for all. Going to war doesn't
do that, not least because in going to war you throw your fate to
the winds. Maybe you'll learn something from the experience and
use that insight to do something progressive: for instance, racism
became much less popular after watching what the Nazis did with
it, and that lesson helped revive the US civil rights movement,
and indeed helped fuel anticolonial movements around the world.
But real progressives didn't need, let alone want, that example.
Had progressives been more successful before WWII they'd be less
likely to think WWII a progressive war because they would have
had less ground to make up, and less to learn from really awful
events. Indeed, had they been more successful there might not
have been a WWII.
Pacifism is a philosophy to live by; not one to judge history
by. The prevalence of wars throughout history shows two things:
that war is a plague upon human society, and that through so much
history we haven't had the good sense to prevent it. One might
cold-heartedly look back on history and say some war made for a
turning point after which we decided to become more progressive.
Maybe Krugman's favored wars qualify, but taking pride in them
strikes me as not just excessive and selective but foolish. For
every progressive impulse or moment, we should recognize two
things: that it could and should have been done less violently,
and that the process of going through war damaged us in too many
ways to fully comprehend. For example, what abolitionist who
supported the Union in the Civil War could imagine the residual
power of George Wallace and Jesse Helms more than a century later?
What liberal democrat (or communist) who understood the urgency
to defeat Hitler could imagine the bloodthirst of Dick Cheney
and Ariel Sharon sixty years later?
The lesson is that war begets iniquity and further war, and
that is nothing ever to take pride in.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
A Downloader's Diary (10): May 2011
Insert text from here.
This is the tenth installment, monthly since August 2010, totalling
231 albums. All columns are indexed and archived
here. You can follow A Downloader's
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Pick up text here.
Monday, May 02, 2011
Music: Current count 18116  rated (+36), 869  unrated (-13).
More Jazz Prospecting this week. Picked up a few things for Recycled Goods
as well, and the Rhapsody file is overflowing. Laura spent last week in
Detroit. I usually go out more, shop more, get less done, but for some
reason was stuck at home. Did do some yardwork -- very unusual for me.
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #27, Part 3)
Haven't heard a peep from the Village Voice about the Jazz CG I sent
in several weeks ago. Don't know what that means, other than not yet. I
should probably start nagging. Just been out of sorts, not up to much
of anything. But I did manage to cover more Jazz Prospecting this week
than either of the last two. Also found better records -- in fact, I
played a few more A-list prospects but didn't write them up, wondering
if I'm getting soft for some reason. (Certainly can't be that I was in
a good mood.)
One thing to note below is the return of the brackets. A grade in
brackets means I'm not sure and I'm not done, but it's a good guess
for now. For practical purposes, a [A-] is a record that might
not hold up over time, while a [B+(***)] is a record that might
get better. I used to hold such records back as ungraded, but now I've
decided to treat those grades as real for everything -- the year-end
list, the database -- except Jazz CG. When I go to wrap up a Jazz CG,
I'll revisit those records and reconsider. (Actually, at that time I
sometimes change a grade anyway, no matter how firm I initially think
it to be.) Conceivably I could bracket any grade. When I do so, most
likely you should read that as meaning that the record has upside
potential: I really doubt that I'd ever grade anything [B-]
thinking it could drop into the C-range. I'm not masochistic
enough to bother finding out.
Don't know what the future holds, at least beyond the next week
(or two). This week we should have a lot of music posts: first a
new Downloader's Diary, then a decent-sized Recycled Goods, then
a pretty hefty Rhapsody Streamnotes. No news on my Recycled Goods
proposal either -- something else that's probably dead.
Alekos Galas: Mediterranean Breeze (2010, Ehos):
Bouzouki player. No biography, but was recorded in Laguna Beach, CA;
also in Glendale, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Debut record. Most (or all)
originals. Backed by band: usually guitar, keyb, bass, drums, some
extra percussion. Uses the word "fusion" a lot, also "smooth jazz"
and "pop"; does manage to keep it breezy.
Sanda: Gypsy in a Tree (2010 , Barbes):
Vocalist, Sanda Weigl, evidently her first album. Don't know how old
she is, but she's been around: born in Romania, fled for political
asylum in East Germany, then after 1968 decided that wasn't so great
either. Wound up in New York, singing traditional gypsy songs in
front of a band of Japanese expat jazz musicians: Shoko Nagai (piano,
accordion, farfisa), Stomu Takeishi (electric bass), and Satoshi
Takeishi (percussion). Also picked up some help from Doug Weiselman
(guitar, clarinet) and Ben Stapp (tuba). Picked up some Brecht-Weill
influence, but that only seems to have made the album even darker.
Peter Erskine/Bob Mintzer/Darek Oles/Alan Pasqua: Standards
2: Movie Music (2009 , Fuzzy Music): Prerogatives of
alphabetical order, although the label seems to be Erskine's property,
and he's probably the most famous among near-equals -- you know, the
drummer back in Weather Report. At least I assume that ranks him above
Mintzer's long run with the Yellowjackets -- a group I've never been
fond of, but the tenor saxophonist was always the best thing they had
going. Pasqua and Oles are established pros with no tainted baggage.
They make a nice, mild-mannered group here, easing their way through
juicy themes like "Cinema Paradiso" and "Rosemary's Baby" and snagging
a couple of Cole Porter songs that have far outlived their movies.
Tom Luer: Project Popular (2009 , Origin):
Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), originally from Wisconsin, studied
and taught at UNT, based in Los Angeles. First album, quintet with
piano (mostly Fender Rhodes), guitar, bass, drums. The "popular" in
the project is to mix five 1980s-vintage rock covers in with three
originals, drawing on Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Soundgarden, Audioslave,
and Prince. Only one that really registered with me was "Black Hole
Sun" -- nice to hear, holds up well.
Tommy Smith: Karma (2010 , Spartacus): Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1967 in Scotland, studied at Berklee, had a run on
Blue Note that is long out of print, more records on Linn where his
amazing facility often outran his ideas -- for me his breakthrough
was Blue Smith in 2000, where he finally slowed down and let
his rich tones develop. Returned to Scotland after that, releasing
little publicized records on his own label, cultivating local talent,
directing a group called Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. One of
the few records I managed to get hold of was a duo with pianist
Brian Kellock, Symbiosis (2005) -- an early Jazz CG Pick
Hit, one of the best records of the decade. So I was surprised to
get this one, replete with a full color promo booklet no less: a
quartet with three of his young Scottish protégés -- Steve Hamilton
on piano, Kevin Glasgow on electric bass, Alyn Cosker on drums.
Fine group, but it all turns on the saxophonist, who seems a bit
subdued at first, until he realizes he's got to finish the job
himself, and closes with a dazzling finish.
Tobias Preisig: Flowing Mood (2009 , ObliqSound):
Violinist, b. 1981 in Zurich, Switzerland; studied in Paris and at the
New School in NYC. Looks like his second album; also has a couple with
pianist George Gruntz and a few group records. Quartet with piano, bass,
and drums. Title is appropriate, especially the sense of flow. Especially
striking when the violin is clear and sharp.
B+(**) [advance: 2010-06-01]
Al Di Meola: Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody (2010 ,
Telarc): Guitarist, b. 1954, studied at Berklee, joined Chick Corea's
Return to Forever 1974-76 as they slipped into the 1970s fusion muddle;
has 30-some albums since 1976, of which I've heard two (one with John
McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia) so I'm way behind the curve here -- never
quite convinced it's one worth learning. Pretty fancy here, with a wide
range of Latin effects from flamenco to tango to salsa, accordion and
slinky percussion (including Mino Cinelu on four cuts), bits of Gonzalo
Rubalcaba piano, three songs with dripping string arrangements, two
covers ("Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Over the Rainbow") with
Charlie Haden on bass. Like I said, fancy.
B+(*) [advance: 2011-03-15]
Marika Hughes: Afterlife Music Radio: 11 New Pieces for Solo
Cello (2010 , DD): Cellist, debuts with two records, has
a couple dozen side credits since 1997, including Tin Hat, Ani DiFranco,
and various Tzadik projects. Solo cello. Eleven pieces written by other
musicians, evidently just for this project. Names I recognize (mostly
string players): Charlie Burnham, Nasheet Waits, Trevor Dunn, Jenny
Scheinman, Carla Kihlstedt, Abraham Burton, Todd Sickafoose, Eyvind
Kang. Well, you know the problem with solo anything, and this can run
thin or ragged, but she loves the sound -- story goes that she switched
from violin instantly first time she plucked the low C string. Tiny
bit of vocal on the mysterious twelfth track.
Marika Hughes: The Simplest Thing (2010 , DD):
Plays cello, wrote most of the songs (sometimes with band help), and
sings them. Not jazz, although she draws on some jazz musicians, and
vocal jazz isn't a very useful genre these days. CDBaby is even less
helpful: they list genre as "Pop: Chamber Pop" and recommend "if you
like: Eva Cassidy, Roberta Flack." I suppose there are people who
like Cassidy and/or Flack, but that's shooting pretty low. On many
superficial points, the obvious comparison would be to Grammy-winning
bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding, but Hughes is a stronger writer,
a much better arranger, has good taste in friends (cf. "Back Home,"
with Jenny Scheinman's violin and Charles Burnham's gravelly duet
vocal), and has a lot more voice.
Kathleen Kolman: Dream On (2010 , Walkin' Foot
Productions): Singer, from Montana, based in New England somewhere;
second album, after one in 1999 called The Dreamer. Band mates
come and go, although saxophonist Rick DiMuzio is gone after a promising
opener. Title song is from Aerosmith; one original, three from Brazil
(two Jobims, one Lins). She sings with poise and depth.
Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue (2010 ,
Sunnyside): South African pianist, b. 1934, cut his first record in
1963, titled Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio;
throughout his long career his trick card has always been to slip in
South African melodies, especially bits of township jive -- there are
many fine examples of this, like the 1983 album Ekaya that he
later took for his band name. Spent much of his career in exile, but
since the Apartheid regime fell he's been a national hero. This new
album lacks any trademark South African touches even though South
Africa creeps into his song titles. But it's about as Ellingtonian
as anythng he's done: with three saxes plus trombone, the horns lead,
the piano connects multilayered movements, with searching patches
and gorgeous sweeps.
Matija Dedic Trio: MD in NYC (2009 , Origin):
Pianist, b. 1973 in Zagreb, Croatia; studied in Austria, is based in
Zagreb, but recorded this in New York, with Vicente Archer on bass
and Kendrick Scott on drums. Second album, both trios. Rather quiet,
inside stuff. Don't have much more to say.
Terrell Stafford: This Side of Strayhorn (2010 ,
MaxJazz): Nine Billy Strayhorn songs, a couple co-credited to Duke
Ellington. Saxophonist Tim Warfield also plays (soprano listed ahead
of tenor), but Stafford's trumpet and flugelhorn are nearly always up
front, well oiled and brightly polished. Bruce Barth plays piano,
Peter Washington bass, Dana Hall drums. Stafford's seventh album
since 1995. First I've heard, although I must have bumped into him
ten times on others' records. Could go higher on this.
Joshua Redman/Aaron Parks/Matt Penman/Eric Harland: James
Farm (2010 , Nonesuch): Can't call this a supergroup --
only saxophonist Redman comes close, although drummer Harland's the
sort of guy who gets into such groups. But it's not Redman's backup
group either. Both Parks (piano) and Penman (bass) are on the rise,
and each writes three songs here (same as Redman, leaving one for
Harland). Parks has one previous album, a good one, on Blue Note
(which had a good run of breaking piano stars, notably Jason Moran
and Bill Charlap). Penman has two, on Fresh Sound New Talent, which
I've missed (tough to get them these days; something I miss, perhaps
a casualty of the weak dollar). Solid work all around, tuneful and
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: The Sesjun Radio Shows
(1978-83 , T2 Entertainment, 2CD): The second in a series of radio
shots from Tros Sesjun in the Netherlands -- Chet Baker came out first,
last year. Blakey was in the midst of a comeback in the late 1970s: his
most famous lineup introduced Wynton and Branford Marsalis, but they're
not in any of the three sets here. Instead, Bobby Watson and Donald
Harrison play alto; David Schnitter, Billy Pierce, and Jean Toussaint
tenor; Valery Ponomarev and Terence Blanchard trumpet. The May 1980
group bops hardest (Pierce, Watson, and Ponomarev, with James Williams
on piano and Charles Fambrough on bass), their set split across the
two discs. Blakey responds as usual, playing even harder.
Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (2009-10 , Pi,
2CD): Chicago pianist, b. 1930, AACM founder and eminence grise,
gets more respect in polls than I'd expect although arguably should
get more. Looking back over my database, I find I'm all over the place
with him -- admiring early albums like Things to Come From Those
Now Gone (1972) and the recently reissued Afrisong (1975),
being a bit overwhelmed by his big orchestras like The Hearinga
Suite (1989), winding up pretty cautious on his recent works for
Pi. I could hedge here on these two disc-long improv duos -- they're
not compelling and I find myself phasing in and out -- but something
tells me this is the time to show some respect. The Fred Anderson set
is the easy one: he mellowed noticeably over his post-retirement
decade-plus, and has rarely sounded sweeter than here -- I'm not
the sort of person who gets all weepy over losing someone, but this
could do the trick. The set with George Lewis is more demanding,
more intellectual, as one would expect. But I do love his trombone,
and the piano goes beyond abstraction to teasing him along. Bought
a copy of Lewis's massive AACM history a while back, and hope to
find time to read it some day. Maybe then this will come clear;
until we'll just let the mystery be.
Inzinzac: Inzinzac (2010 , High Two): Every
now and then when I get to a record I find that I had mistyped it
when I listed it in "unpacking" and stuffed it into the appropriate
nooks and crannies of my filing system. Happened here, then I made
yet another mistake trying to fix it, and floundered fruther until
I got the hang of it -- was reminded of Ike Quebec trying to play
Monk. Philadelphia trio: guitarist Alban Bailly writes the songs
(took several tries to get his name typed right, too); Dan Scofield
plays soprano and tenor sax (I know him from Sonic Liberation Front);
Eli Litwin drums. Scofield's line on the group: "an improvising jazz
trio playing rock music in odd time signatures." By "rock" he means
loud and harsh, and fast; by "odd" he means odd. I get quite some
charge from the thrash. Just not sure how long it will hold up. By
the way, group name comes from a town in France (Inzinzac-Lochrist),
where Bailly is from.
Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn]:
Out of This World's Distortions (2010 , AUM Fidelity):
Yet another instance of a group's previous album, entered into by a set
of individuals, has assumed group stature, as if the previous album was
especially notable (which, by the way, this one wasn't). Still, the
individual names ride the masthead, as they indeed still have marketing
value. Group is reportedly "a fully-improvising unit, a complete musical
collective." Cleaver plays drums, Parker bass, Taborn piano; Parker's
done numerous piano trios -- with Matthew Shipp, of course, even more
with Cecil Taylor. Taborn actually manages some Taylor moments here --
far more exciting than the slow start or the melodic end.
Brad Mehldau: Live in Marciac (2006 , 2CD+DVD):
Trifold package, with a plastic tray in the middle for the DVD, the two
CDs just slipped into the outer panels. Indeed, they plug this as DVD+2CD
rather than the other way around, so I suppose I'm remiss in not watching
the DVD, but I hardly ever bother with the things. Solo piano. My first
thought was that he's aiming for his Köln Concert, and I doubt
that he's ever rollicked more like Jarrett than on the first disc here.
But whereas Jarrett worked one long improv, this is a program -- mostly
originals on the first disc, all covers on the second (Nick Drake, Kurt
Cobain, James Alan Shelton, Lennon/McCartney, Rodgers/Hammerstein, Bobby
Timmons). Impressive, as usual.
Thomas Marriott: Constraints & Liberations (2009
, Origin): Trumpet player, from Seattle, b. 1975, fifth album
since 2005 (with a sixth one out since then). Quintet with Hans Teuber
on tenor sax, Gary Versace on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass, and John
Bishop on drums. Six originals, plus one piece by Johnson. Postbop,
probably his strongest record to date, both for the clarity of his
trumpet and an impressive performance by Versace.
Thomas Marriott: Human Spirit (2009 , Origin):
Plays trumpet/flugelhorn. Sixth album since 2005. A variation on the
organ trio, with Gary Versace on the B-3 and Matt Jorgensen on drums.
Marriott shares the front line with alto saxophonist Mark Taylor --
by far the most aggressive player in this group, where the organ seems
an afterthought and the trumpet dressing.
Steven Lugerner: These Are the Words/Narratives (2010
, self-released, 2CD): Reed player -- alto and soprano sax, clarinet
and bass clarinet, flute, oboe, English horn -- from California, based in
New York. First album, actually two in symmetrical packaging joined at
the spine. These Are the Words is an edgy near-all-star quartet
with Darren Johnston on trumpet, Myra Melford on piano, and Matt Wilson
on drums. Needless to say, the sharpest edge there is the pianist, who
slices and dices a set of pieces with Hebraic titles. Narratives
is something else, a septet with no one I'm familiar with (produced by
flautist Jamie Baum, who doesn't play), with neatly layered horns over
effortlessly flowing guitar and piano. Quite a lot to sort through, and
I'm not sure I am there yet.
Francis Coletta/Jonas Tauber: Port Saïd Street
(2010 , Origin): Coletta plays "Godin electroacoustic guitar";
b. 1957 in Marseilles, France, also the source of the title where it
seems to have a Beale Street resonance; has at least three previous
records, not counting countless collaborations. Tauber plays cello
here, bass elsewhere; is from Switzerland, has a couple previous
albums. Intimate, chamberish, flows gently, nothing fancy.
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming
records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype,
often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra
rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with
a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go
into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception
for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the
John Zorn: Nova Express (2010 , Tzadik): Ten
Zorn compositions, played by a piano-bass-vibes-drums quartet: John
Medeski, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen, Joey Baron. Takes a book title
from William S. Burroughs -- song titles include "Dead Fingers Talk"
and "The Ticket That Exploded." Nothing MJQ-ish. The vibes add an
electric ring to the piano, but compete in the same space, and both
can clash fiercely. Does tail off into a nice groove-laden thing at
Banquet of the Spirits: Caym: The Book of Angels Volume 17
(2010 , Tzadik): More John Zorn compositions, or maybe the same
old ones cut up, tossed up, and redressed with a different bunch of
musicians. Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista seems to be leader
here -- everything is given remarkable rhythmic twists, something that
drummer Tim Keiper helps with. The others flesh out those twists: Brian
Marsella (piano, harpsichord, pump organ) and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz
(oud, bass, gimbri). All four add vocals. Not necessarily a good idea,
but infectious here.
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Nels Cline/Tim Berne/Jim Black: The Veil (Cryptogramophone)
- Coyote Poets of the Universe: Pandora's Box (Square Shaped)
- Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (Prime Source)
- Melvin Jones: Pivot (Turnaround)
- Nguyen Lê: Songs of Freedom (ACT)
- Jessie Marquez: All I See Is Sky (Carena): May 31
- Joshua Redman/Aaron Parks/Matt Penman/Eric Harland: James Farm (Nonesuch)
- Jim Snidero: Interface (Savant)
- Jeremy Udden's Plainville: If the Past Seems So Bright (Sunnyside): May 31
- Colin Vallon Trio: Rruga (ECM)
Robert Christgau, on the late Osama bin Laden:
Personally, I am very glad Osama is dead -- that is, happy,
positive -- and think the world is a better place for his having
left it and the U.S. having dispatched him.
Most commenters agreed, more or less.
All I meant to imply was that I, personally, don't see fit to react
to the news as if we'd won the Ryder Cup or an Olympic gold medal in
ice hockey. Should others want to display their satisfaction and
patriotism by gloating, dancing, cursing or rejoicing in whatever
law-abiding manner they so desire, I shall not take offense as we are
all entitled to our own emotions. Without being too dispassionate, I
am thankful that the bastard can do no further harm and fervently hope
his followers have no retaliatory strike in the works. Notwithstanding
all the honorable feelings of "justice" and "morality" expressed so
eloquently here, I'm just as happy we won't be spending millions on
his upkeep and a show trial.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Steve Benen: So Much for Mr. Serious:
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN), sometime GOP presidential candidate, in
the news now for signing a bill to "defund" Planned Parenthood in
the state of Indiana: basically, to deny PP any Medicaid payments
for any services (not just abortion, which is already banned but
only 3% of PP's services). Like many such "issues" this seems to
have started as a crackpot think tank idea and morphed into a test
of political wills, completely blind to the actual issues. It used
to be that conservatives were big on personal responsibility, and
few personal decisions weighed more than whether and when to bear
children. Planned Parenthood not only embodied that sense, it gave
women the tools to make responsible decisions. Whatever it is that
Republicans believe in -- and I could run this same riff on the
right to privacy from an oveweening government, or I could do the
same thing on welfare costs and/or crime -- has been lost in their
crass efforts to seek political gain by hyping up abortion issues.
We got a glimpse of how far conservatives had sunk at the 2008 GOP
convention, where Sarah Palin was celebrated for her unwed teenage
daughter's pregnancy -- a real role model for America.
Kevin Drum: Rich Man, Poor Man:
Chart here plots out perception of income decile vs. actual ranking.
It's not surprising that those with under-average incomes think they
fare better than they do, not that those with over-average incomes
think they are more average. More surprising that those on both ends
think they're so close to the middle. One thing this reminds me of
is that if you have any experience in working for non-union companies
you'll recall how secretive management is about who gets paid what.
They may explain something about limiting petty jealousies, and there
is something to that, but they really depend on widespread ignorance.
On the other hand, labor unions usually seek more transparency. When
everyone knows what everyone else makes, our instincts tend to make
that distribution more fair, and more just.
Paul Krugman: Bernanke at Bat:
I have to say, even I thought that we wouldn't make the same mistakes we made
in 1931; I thought we'd make different mistakes. But somehow conventional
wisdom has gelled into the view that the course of wisdom is to forget
everything we've learned over the past 80 years.
Andrew Leonard: Boeing Flies Into South Carolina Labor Turbulence:
Looks like Boeing's bragging over how they're screwing their workers by
moving jobs to non-union states is liable to cause them some discomfort.
Boeing's obsession with squeezing out labor costs and with demolishing
labor morale has never made any practical sense. Boeing grew to become
the world's largest airframe manufacturer when they had most of their
workforce in pro-labor Washington state, plus a significant slice in
Wichita (in anti-labor Kansas, but a fully unionized plant, until the
last two decades treated the same). As Boeing has moved more and more
jobs around, trading for political favors, their quality and morale
have plumeted, and their ability to coordinate complex projects like
the 787 Dreamliner has gone to pot. Leonard didn't mention this, but
the recent Southwest Airlines disaster where fuselage panels on 737s
have ripped off in flight has been tracked down to quality problems
with their Wichita plant, where Boeing first tried to break the union
then spun the plant off in a private equity deal. Boeing's only real
competition is Airbus, which pays more for labor than Boeing does,
and in any case the weakening of the dollar has given Boeing far
more pricing advantage than they could ever squeeze out of their
workers. They do this stuff because they're stuck in an ideological
cellar where their brains have rotted so bad they'd rather shoot
themselves in the foot than give their workers a break.
Andrew Leonard: How Swipe Fee Politics Have Crippled Washington:
Intro to a long piece by Zach Carter and Ryan Grim:
Swiped: Banks, Merchants and Why Washington Doesn't Work for You.
This is an epic battle between two business interest groups, so unlike
most disputes between a business interest and the public this is one
that could go either way. Still, it provides a good example of how a
Congress dedicated to the pursuit of lobbyist money turns out to be
good for nothing else. That's a lot of what's wrong with US politics
For what it's worth, I favor the retailers here: swipe fees are
way too high, almost pure profit for the banks, and the legality of
their contracts that require retailers to charge the same for cash
or credit (which, by the way, keeps the retailers from marking up
the swipe fees even more) suggests to me that the fees should be
regulated close to their transaction costs. Still, if the retailers
win I don't expect to get a dime back out of the deal: we'd just
be shifting pure profit from the banks to the retailers (which is,
of course, why they're all fighting this issue so hard. Here's a
Credit and debit swipe fees cost Sheetz $5 million a month, second
only to labor costs among the company's top executives, he says.
"I am a die-hard capitalist pig," Sheetz tells HuffPost. "That's
why Visa and MasterCard piss me off. . . . .
They treat us like shit. The arrogance is unbelievable."
Actually, the arrogance is universal, but you get the idea.
Matthew Yglesias: The People Behind the Interest Group:
Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) takes a populist job-saving stand in favor of
oil and gas subsidies, proving that even Democrats are useful (to
the CEOs) for something:
This is something that I think a lot of intra-left discourse tends to
miss about why policy reform is so difficult. Any time you want to
disrupt a coalition of entrenched incumbent rent-seekers, be they in
the oil industry or the health care industry or the financial services
industry or what have you, you're going up against a strong team. And
it's not strong simply because the CEOs have access (though they do)
or because the firms can give money (though they can) it's strong
because big companies have employees. And those employees have spouses
and kids and siblings and they pay taxes that support local government
and shop at nearby stores. And this entire trail of dependents fears
change, and deems itself entitled to whatever economic privileges the
industry in question currently receives.
That doesn't make change impossible, but it does make it hard, and
it all but ensures that on any major issue you like there'll be hometown
legislators standing in your way.
I wrote the following fragment at least six months ago, and
have been carrying it forward expecting to turn it into something
postable. Well, I'm giving up on that. Book thinking has actually
moved on to yet another idea, which I should write up before long.
Meanwhile, this is dead weight, but not without interest.
For several years now I've been toying with the idea of writing
one big book on everything, something I've kicked around since the
late 1990s -- back then tentatively titled Life After Capitalism --
but as the Bush wreckage piled up I came to see the fat middle part
of the book as a critique of the conservative (or neo-fascist) right.
This was to be preceded by a schematic introductory section where I
would lay out how real world problems have developed and how to think
about them -- my working title there comes from Andrew Leonard's blog,
"How the World Works." The end piece of the book would in turn start
to plot out novel approaches to dealing with real problems -- that
would be "The Way Things Ought to Be," a title previously wasted by
Rush Limbaugh. Both the first and last parts could well turn into
big book projects of their own, so my emphasis there has always been
to make them schematic and suggestive for now, then pursue them later.
However, it now occurs to me that maybe the middle section should be
spun off and self-contained.
One title that occurs to me is The Death March of the Conservative
Dream. Maybe we can even work a little Hobbes into it, which might
be more striking up front rather than in the subtitle: Nasty, Brutish,
and Short: The Death March of the Conservative Dream. I've always
conceived this as one section on theory -- how conservatives spin such
seductive arguments -- and one on practice -- how much social (and for
that matter economic) damage they do when they're given the chance.
Hobbes, of course, was merely, contentedly describing his contemporary
world, taking it as eternally given (as conservatives are wont to do),
their assurances that it is unchangeable nervously laced with threats
of violence if anyone dare tries. If we've learned little else since
then, we should at least have realized that "nasty, brutish, and short"
were historical contingencies that have been overcome by various means,
none conservative. In fact, it's unlikely that most conservatives could
imagine such a world, even though their principles took shape in such
conditions, and even though their policies aim at restoring just such
Probably best to split these book ideas up, although doing so is
bound to lead to problems focusing and ordering. I've always wanted
to start the book off with some autobiographical background, but I
recently separated that out into its own project space where I can
beat to death a subject of little interest to anyone else. I can't
make any claims that my own history is of any general interest, but
it's what I know best, and it touches on everything else. (It is,
for instance, a space where I can write about book ideas without
getting bogged down in having to write the actual books.)
Another book idea that caught my fancy lately is The Last War,
where the main point is that war has lost so much of its past attraction
that it is becoming more and more obsolescent. This may mean that the
US War on Terrorism is literally the last war, although this also plays
on the tendency to refight last wars, and indeed to seek justification
for new wars in old wars. The latter occurs largely because it is well
nigh impossible to find current or future benefits in waging war. Many
nations have simply given up on war as a sensible interest, including
such formerly martial nations as Germany and Japan. The US signalled a
change in renaming its War Department the Department of Defense. Even
though the US has fought many wars, none in defense against real threats,
many quite nakedly aggressive, the Orwellian double-speak persists
[ . . . ]
My latest idea is to structure something around the motto Share
the Wealth. This was last popularized by Huey Long in 1935, who
organized hundreds of Share Our Wealth clubs on the way toward running
for president in 1936. Long himself is probably excess baggage here --
I read T. Harry Williams' sympathetic biography when it came out in
1969, and I never read Robert Penn Warren's scathing novel based on
Long, All the King's Men or saw the subsequent movies, so I
may be more pleased with Long than I should be. (In The Big Rich:
The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Bryan
Burroughs explains that some Texas ultraconservatives like John Henry
Kirby backed Long as a way to get rid of Roosevelt.) Also, I'm not as
focused on income redistribution or the establishment of what the
right likes to call entitlements as Long's program proposed -- not
that those aren't ideas to take seriously and write about. I'm more
into cooperative efforts to create as well as to share wealth. But
one thing I do like about the Share the Wealth movement was that it
was organized, so it provides a basis for community involvement and
action. Also seems like the right counterpoint to the Tea Party --
ultimately a mob of individuals whining to be left to survive by
their own wits.