April 2018 Notebook
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29570 [29549] rated (+21), 365 [371] unrated (-6).

Looks like rated count tanked, but four of the albums listed below are 2-CD, one 3-CD, and one is 4-CD. Granted, I didn't give the multiple sets (aside from Ivo Perelman) extra spins. My two new A- records got at least four plays. The only question I had about the other -- a 2-CD reissue of the first half of Anthony Braxton's 4-CD Willisau (Quartet) 1991 -- was whether it would rise to a full A, but I noted a couple of off spots, and figured my original A- grade would hold (albeit a high one). On the other hand, I carved out three separate grades for original albums collected in Louis Armstrong's Pops Is Tops: The Complete Verve Studio Albums and More. Finally an Armstrong box you don't need, although to the extend you can isolate the leader's vocals and occasional trumpet from Russ Garcia's orchestra, you might beg to differ. The album with Oscar Peterson isn't so great either. If you want to hear Satch singing show tunes, try challenging him, as Ella Fitzgerald did: see Ella and Louis and, even better, Ella and Louis Again.

The Arild Andersen album took a while because it never quite hit me as strong as Live at Belleville, his first album with tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith. The John Prine album was even more marginal. Touted as his first album of original songs since 2005's Fair and Square, one might have hoped that Trump raised up his political hackles like Bush did, but he chose to sing about something less depressing: death -- or at least it's less depressing given his spin on the afterlife. He looks bad, and sounds worse, but bears a message of forgiveness for damn near everyone. Feels a lot like You Want It Darker, which is about as much a decline from I'm Your Man as this is from The Missing Years. Folks get old and decrepit, and maybe you should appreciate them a little before they die.

Two near misses. After seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp last year, I was feeling a little fatigue in facing three more duo CDs. I played the third disc enough to be impressed, but was glad I didn't have to sort them all separately. I was even more impressed by George Coleman on the Brian Charette disc. He's showing remarkable vigor for an 82-year-old, but was somewhat better served on 2016's A Master Speaks. The other B+(***) this week is a bass duo recovered from 1994 -- a rather self-limiting format, but really doesn't sound like a bass duo at all. More like an interesting but oblique soundtrack.

Unpacking was very skimpy last week, but I folded Monday's mail in so it looks closer to normal below. Still, didn't factor those into the unrated count, so we're a bit out of sync. I have quite a bit of backlog.


One significant addition to the website is that I've resurrected a set of pages on my late sister's Sacred Space project, from 2002. I had these pages tucked into a corner of my website before they got trashed by my ISP. I was able to salvage the text files, but had to scrounge through my stuff to locate a CD-ROM with the images. At this point I've done little more than update the HTML. I still need to annotate the images (I'll need help for that; even more help would be to find better images, as many of these are awful fuzzy), add image links to the portal pages, and add links from the Checklist to the portal pages. I probably need to transpose most of the images, and make thumbnails so they can be presented more sensibly (instead of just by name).

I could also use some more historical details. The project was originally displayed at Wichita State University, and has had at least one other presentation, but has mostly been in storage. It was officially directed by Diane Thomas Lincoln (who died in 2012), but I recall Kathy talking about the portal concept much earlier, and I've always regarded her as the driving force behind the project. WSU had agreed to re-present the project this summer -- something Kathy was very much looking forward to.


New records rated this week:

  • Arild Andersen: In-House Science (2016 [2018], ECM): [dl]: A-
  • Jakob Bro: Returnings (2016 [2018], ECM): [r]: B
  • Brian Charette/George Coleman: Groovin' With Big G (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ninety-Nine Years (2017 [2018], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Gerry Hemingway/Samuel Blaser: Oostum (2015 [2017], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • The Doug MacDonald Quintet/The Roger Neumann Quintet: Two Quintets: Live Upstairs at Vitello's (2017 [2018], Blujazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Erin McDougald: Outside the Soirée (2018, Miles High): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Michael Morreale: MilesSong: The Music of Miles Davis (2016 [2018], Summit, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Meg Okura/Sam Newsome/Jean-Michel Pilc: NPO Trio Live at the Stone (2016 [2018], Chant): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Meg Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Ima Ima (2018, Chant): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (2017 [2018], Leo, 3CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (2018, Oh Boy): [r]: A-
  • Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt: Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (2017 [2018], Savant): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Spin Cycle [Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen]: Assorted Colors (2017 [2018], Sound Footing): [cd]: B+(**)

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

  • Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops: The Complete Verve Studio Albums and More (1957 [2018], Verve, 4CD): [r]: B
  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Willisau) 1991 Studio (1991 [2018], Hatology, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: After the Fall (1998 [2018], ECM, 2CD): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Kirk Lightsey/Harold Danko, Shorter by Two: The Music of Wayne Shorter Played on Two Pianos (1983 [2017], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (1994 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Louis Armstrong: Louis Under the Stars (1957 [1958], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Louis Armstrong: I've Got the World on a String (1957 [1960], Verve): [r]: B
  • Louis Armstrong/Oscar Peterson: Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (1957, Verve): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Yelena Eckemoff: Desert (L&H Production): May 4
  • Dave Gisler Trio: Rabbits on the Run (Intakt): May 20
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (Palmetto): May 11
  • Angelika Niescier Trio: The Berlin Concert (Intakt): May 20
  • Henry Threadgill: Double Up Plays Double Up Plus (Pi): May 18
  • Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More Dirt (Pi): May 18
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Best of the Jazz Heritage Series Volume 1 (self-released)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Weekend Roundup

John Bolton started work as Trump's new National Security Adviser on Monday. On Friday, Trump ordered a massive missile attack on Syria. Those who warned about Bolton, like Fred Kaplan, have been vindicated very quickly. Presumably, what took Trump and Bolton so long was lining up British and French contributions to the fusillade, to make this look less like the act of a single madman and more like the continuation of a millennium of Crusader and Imperialist attacks on Syria. For a news report on the strike, long on rhetoric and short on damage assessment, see Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neft, Ben Hubbard: U.S., Britain and France Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack. Two significant points here: (1) the targets were narrowly selected to represent Syria's alleged chemical weapons capability (which raises the question of why, if the US knew of these facilities before, it didn't insist on inspections under Syria's Russia-brokered agreement to give up its chemical weapons -- more rigorous inspections could have kept the alleged chemical attacks from ever happening, as well as saving Syria from "retaliatory" strikes); (2) the US and its cronies consider this round of strikes to be complete (Trump even used the phrase "Mission Accomplished" to describe them).

I suppose the good news here is that while Russia is unhappy about the strikes, Trump and Bolton (and "Mad Dog") have limited themselves to a level of aggression unlikely to trigger World War III. On the other hand, what Trump did was embrace one of the hoariest clichés of American politics: the notion that US presidents prove their mettle by unleashing punitive bombing strikes on nations incapable of defense or response. The first example I can recall was Reagan's bombing of Libya in 1986, although there were previous examples of White House tantrums, like Wilson sending Pershing's army into Mexico to chase down Pancho Villa in 1916-17. After Reagan, GHW Bush launched grudge wars against Panama and Iraq, but the art (and hubris) of bombing on a whim was more fully developed and exploited by Bill Clinton, especially in Iraq. Clinton got so much political mileage out of it that GW Bush bombed Iraq his first week in office, just to show that he could.

Still, what makes it a cliché is not just that other presidents have done it. People who play presidents on TV and in the movies do it also, if anything even more often and reflexively. I first noticed this in The West Wing -- I didn't watch much TV during its 1999-2006 run, but it seems like nearly every episode I did catch saw its otherwise reasonable President Bartlett ordering the bombing of someone or other. Just last week President Kirkman of Designated Survivor unleashed a rashly emotional attack on a fictional country based on even shoddier intelligence than Trump's. A couple weeks ago in Homeland the US bombed Syria against President Elizabeth Keane's orders, simply because her Chief of Staff thought it would provide some useful PR spin. When all of pop culture calls out for blood, not to mention advisers like Bolton, it's impossible to imagine someone like Donald Trump might get in their way.

The usual problem with clichés is that they're lazy, requiring little or no thought or ingenuity. Politicians are even more prone to clichés than writers, because they rarely run any risk saying whatever they're most expected to. Some people thought that Trump, with his brusque disregard for "political correctness," might be different, but they sadly overestimated his capacity for any form of critical thought. On the other hand, Washington is chock full of foreign policy mandarins trapped in the same web of clichés, even as it's long been evident that their plots and prescriptions don't come close to working. And nowhere have knee-jerk reactions been more obvious than with Syria, where America's effort to fight some and promote other anti-Assad forces is effectively nihilist. Rational people recoil from situations where there is no solution. Trump, on the other hand, takes charge.

Some more links on the fire this time in Syria:


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that drove politics this week: House Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring from Congress; Mr. Zuckerberg went to Washington; The FBI raised Michael Cohen's office (doesn't he mean "raided"?); James Comey started promoting his book. The latter point mentions what I would have picked as a key story: the pardon for Scooter Libby -- one of the dozen or so most obnoxious things Trump has personally done so far. Perhaps even bigger is the latest Trump assault on Syria. While the missile launch occurred after Yglesias was done for the week, the PR pitch lurked over the entire week. Other Yglesias posts this week:

  • Tara Golshan: Trump is calling backsies on exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: Significantly, he's being lobbied by Republicans, especially from agricultural states.

  • Umair Irfan: Scott Pruitt's actions at the EPA have triggered a half-dozen investigations. Also note that Pruitt's penchant for corruption preceded his move to Washington. See: Sharon Lerner: Why Did the EPA's Scott Pruitt Suppress a Report on Corruption in Oklahoma?

  • Mark Kalin: List-Making as Resistance: Chronicling a Year of Damage Under Trump: Interview with Amy Siskind, author of The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year. Where most journalists have tried to make their living off Trump's Twitter feed, Siskind prefers to chronicle what's actually been happening. Doubt she's got it all -- the book is a mere 528 pages -- but it should be a good start. For an excerpt, see Amy Siskind: Yes, We Are Like Frogs in Boiling Water With Trump as President.

  • Carolyn Kormann: Ryan Zinke's Great American Fire Sale.

  • Paul Krugman: What's the Matter With Trumpland? Mostly true as far as he goes, but the key point isn't the liberal platitude that the most successful areas are those with the most educational opportunities and cultural attraction for educated workers (including immigrants). It's that declining areas have been making political choices that make their prospects even worse.

    That new Austin et al. paper makes the case for a national policy of aiding lagging regions. But we already have programs that would aid these regions -- but which they won't accept. Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill -- and would create jobs in the process -- are also among America's poorest.

    Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma -- both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind -- have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they're digging it deeper.

    And when it comes to national politics, let's face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.

    I doubt it's disproportionate. After all, wealthier "blue states" have much more to lose, but it's certainly the case that nothing Trump and the Republicans will actually do will help to even out regional economic differences. Actually, we've been through this debate before. In the 1930s southern Democrats saw the New Deal as a way out of their impoverishment, but from about 1938 on most of the leading southern Democrats broke with Roosevelt, fearing that too much equality would upset their racial order, even if (perhaps even because) it raised living standards. Of course, they didn't reject all federal spending in their districts. They became the most ardent of cold warriors. (On the New Deal, see Ira Katznelson: Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. As for the cold warriors and their money train, James Byrne, John Stennis, and Carl Vinson were major figures.)

    Krugman also wrote Unicorns of the Intellectual Right, to remind us about the "intellectual decadence" and "moral decline" of right-leaning economists:

    In macroeconomics, what began in the 60s and 70s as a usefully challenging critique of Keynesian views went all wrong in the 80s, because the anti-Keynesians refused to reconsider their views when their own models failed the reality test while Keynesian models, with some modification, performed pretty well. By the time the Great Recession struck, the right-leaning side of the profession had entered a Dark Age, having retrogressed to the point where famous economists trotted out 30s-era fallacies as deep insights.

    But even among conservative economists who didn't go down that rabbit hole, there has been a moral collapse -- a willingness to put political loyalty over professional standards. We saw that most recently in the way leading conservative economists raced to endorse ludicrous claims for the efficacy of the Trump tax cuts, then tried to climb down without admitting what they had done. We saw it in the false claims that Obama had presided over a massive expansion of government programs and refusal to admit that he hadn't, the warnings that Fed policy would cause huge inflation followed by refusal to admit having been wrong, and on and on.

  • German Lopez: Trump is already trying to call off his attorney general's war on marijuana.

  • Alex Ward: Mike Pompeo, your likely new -- and Trump-friendly -- secretary of state: When Pompeo first ran for Congress, I had him pegged as a straight Koch plant with a quasi-libertarian economic focus, which I actually found preferable to his predecessor (Christian Fascist and Boeing flack Todd Tiahrt). However, his resume included a West Point education, and he soon emerged as a hardline neocon militarist. What brought him to Trump's attention was his demagogic flogging of Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi!!! pseudo-scandal. I can't imagine Trump nominating anyone who isn't "Trump-friendly," so I wouldn't get too agitated about that. Right now the problem with Pompeo isn't that he's simpatico with Trump; it's that his nomination shows that Trump is buying into Pompeo's neocon worldview -- although I'd also worry that Pompeo's tenure at CIA has made him even more contemptuous of law and diplomacy than he was before. Also see: Ryan Grim: Mike Pompeo Could Go Down if Senate Democrats Decide to Fight.

  • Jennifer Williams: Trump just pardoned Scooter Libby: If you recall the case (way back in 2007), you'll recall that Libby was the only one convicted by a special prosecutor investigation into the politically motivated unmasking of a CIA agent -- an act that Libby doesn't seem to have been involved in, but Libby's perjury and obstruction prevented those actually guilty from ever being charged. At the time, GW Bush commuted Libby's three-year prison sentence, evidently afraid that if he didn't, Libby would switch sides and rat out other Bush operatives. Libby wound up paying a fine and spending two years on probation, but that's well in the past right now, so the pardon at this point barely affects Libby's life. So it's hard to read this as anything other than a blanket promise to his underlings that even if they do get caught up in his scandals and convicted, as long as they don't implicate Trump the president will protect them. It is, in other words, a very deliberate and public way of undermining the Mueller investigation. I'm not sure if it violates US law on obstruction of justice, but UK law has a term that surely applies: perverting the course of justice. For more, see: Dylan Scott: Democrats are kind of freaking out about Trump's Scooter Libby pardon and what it means.

    By the way, I'm not sure that the two are linked, but Libby was Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, and Cheney never had the same sort of influence over the Bush Administration after Libby left. Of course, the other explanation is that Cheney's dominance early on had backfired, especially after the 2006 election debacle. Cheney also lost a key ally when Donald Rumsfeld got sacked, and was further embarrassed as his approval ratings sank under 20%.

  • Gary Younge: Trump and Brexit Are Symptoms of the Same Failure to Reckon With Racism: Having lived both in UK and US, Younge seems the failure to deal with racism as leading not just to dysfunction but to dementia, with Brexit and Trump just two flagrant examples.

    The argument about which country is, at present, the most dysfunctional is of course futile, since the answer would render neither any less dysfunctional. Britain set itself an unnecessary question, only then to deliver the wrong answer. Those who led us out of the European Union had no more plans for what leaving would mean than a dog chasing a car has to drive it. Not only do we not know what we want; we have no idea how to get it, even if we did.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29549 [29517] rated (+32), 371 [367] unrated (+4).

Fairly normal week in terms of overall rated count, but above average in A-list records. That's basically because I finally got a chance to pay some attention to some leads (e.g., Phil Overeem convinced me to listen to the Sonny Rollins reissue, and reminded me to take another look for No Age). Note that the Nik Bärtsch Ronin album doesn't drop until May 6. When I was trying to close March Streamnotes I was rather desperate to find a couple more A-list albums, and the Bärtsch download seemed like a prospect -- but I couldn't find time to dig it up. A few years ago I tried holding back reviews of albums I got to ahead of release date, but found that nobody much cared, so I gave up on the extra complication.

Miles Davis/John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sons of Kemet, and a few lesser items appeared on the album ballots for Downbeat's Critics Poll. I cast a ballot last week, while collecting usual notes. As it happens, I was feeling pretty miserable at the time, so after I got through the new/old album questions, I pretty much coasted, in most cases voting for whoever I voted for the previous year. Even more so, the sections in the notes where I list "first pass" picks from their offered ballot went unchecked and unchanged. On the other hand, it doesn't look like whoever at Downbeat put this year's ballot together put a lot of work into revision either.

I'm not a big fan of trying to rank musicians, so I'm not bothered by my reduced diligence this year. (I have less objection to sorting them out into broad tiers, like the ones I've noted for their Hall of Fame nominees.) The one category I did give some serious thought to was Hall of Fame, where I voted for: Roswell Rudd (5), George Russell (3), and Anthony Braxton (2). I've voted for Russell every year since I started receiving invitations, and if you don't know why, take that as your homework assignment. I've voted for Braxton off-and-on, and would say that he's the most deserving living musician who hasn't been voted in yet (now that Lee Konitz finally got the nod). This year is the 50th anniversary of his first albums, Three Compositions of New Jazz and For Alto, and while those aren't personal favorites, I have him down for 20 A/A- albums, and that's just the tip of a very massive iceberg.

As for Rudd, he died last year, and one thing I've noticed in past critics polls is how they tend to flock to whoever was the most famous musician who died in the past year. (Indeed, I think Konitz finished 2nd or 3rd to just-dead guys a half dozen times or more.) Rudd's long been a personal favorite -- I count 10 A+/A/A- records under his name, and he's played on close to ten more filed under other names -- so I figured I should join in on this expected wave. Problem is, Downbeat didn't list his name on their ballot, and winning on write-ins is probably impossible.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the Baseball Hall of Fame back in the 1990s, and much of what I learned applies here too. The key questions you have to ask is how large a set of candidates from the past you wish to honor, and how many comparable newcomers appear each year. The Rock and Roll HOF grows at a rate of 5-or-6 per year (down from 10/year when founded in 1986), which is probably too much -- aside from the question of whether they're picking the best ones, which judging from the 11 2017-18 inductees I'd say they aren't (the most credible picks are Tupac Shakur and Nina Simone, not that I would have picked either. On the other hand, Downbeat's HOF grows at a rate of 2/year: one picked by the Critics Poll, the other by their Readers Poll. While the DBHOF started earlier (1952) and has recently added a few extras through a Veterans Committee, the current total is still just 150. That strikes me as both too few and falling well behind the rate at which new jazz musicians of that calibre are appearing. I explain this more in the notes file.

Of course, one problem is that few of the DB critics are into avant-jazz. (Just one bit of proof there: Christian McBride regularly wins as best bassist, while William Parker regularly languishes down in the 7-10 spots.) Still, once in a blue moon someone on the cutting edge manages to get recognized there. One of the first died last week: pianist Cecil Taylor, 89. I'm afraid I'm not a huge fan, but he has done some amazing work. I saw him once, and left early, figuring he'd keep recycling stuff I've already heart for the rest of his second set. Still, I wasn't upset or disappointed. And I've heard a bunch of albums by him that I seriously recommend. From my database, all A- or above:

  • Jazz Advance (1956 [1991], Blue Note)
  • Love for Sale (1959, Blue Note)
  • The World of Cecil Taylor (1960, Candid) [A]
  • Air (1960, Candid)
  • Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come (1962 [1997], Revenant 2CD)
  • Silent Tongues (1974, Arista/Freedom)
  • One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye (1978 [1980], Hat Art 2CD)
  • The Eighth (1981 [2006], Hatology)
  • Olu Iwa (1986, Soul Note)
  • The Feel Trio: Looking (Berlin Version) (1989 [1990], FMP)
  • The Feel Trio: Celebrated Blazons (1990 [1993], FMP)
  • The Willisau Concert (2000 [2002], Intakt)

That a dozen records, out of forty I've heard, out of two or three times that many he released. I'm not sure you really need that many, but then I'm "not a big fan" -- those who are never seem to be able to get enough. The Penguin Guide, for instance, credits Taylor with more 4-star albums than any other jazz artist (including Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and the even more prolific Anthony Braxton). Unlikely he'll ever be matched -- though it wouldn't hurt to look into some of his successors, especially Irène Schweizer and Satoko Fujii.


New records rated this week:

  • Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase (2017 [2018], ECM): [dl]: A-
  • Nat Birchall: Cosmic Language (2018, Jazzman): [r]: B+(***)
  • Martin Blume/Tobias Delius/Achim Kaufmann/Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains (2016 [2018], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (2012-14 [2018], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Anat Cohen/Fred Hersch: Live in Healdsburg (2016 [2018], Anzic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lucy Dacus: Historian (2018, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Victor Gould: Earthlings (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (2016 [2018], Firehouse 12, 2CD): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Modern Mal: The Misanthrope Family Album (2017, Mal): [r]: B+(*)
  • Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice (2017 [2018], Centering): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Danielle Nicole: Cry No More (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • No Age: Snares Like a Haircut (2018, Drag City): [r]: A-
  • Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Roberta Piket: West Coast Trio (2017 [2018], 13th Note): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Chris Platt Trio: Sky Glow (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Marvin Pontiac: The Asylum Tapes (2017, Strange and Beautiful): [r]: A-
  • Noah Preminger: Genuinity (2017 [2018], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Without a Trace (2015-17 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Jay Rodriguez: Your Sound: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alex Sipiagin: Moments Captured (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): [r]: B
  • Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (2018, Impulse!): [r]: A-
  • Superorganism: Superorganism (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Surman: Invisible Threads (2017 [2018], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (2018, Passin' Thru): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (2018, Southern Domestic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Pablo Ziegler Trio: Jazz Tango (2017, Zoho): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker (2000 [2018], Confront, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour [The Bootleg Series Vol. 6] (1960 [2018], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): [r]: A-
  • Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07 [2018], Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sonny Rollins: Way Out West [Deluxe Edition] (1957 [2018], Craft): [r]: A
  • We Out Here (2018, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:

  • Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (AUM Fidelity): May 18
  • Detroit Bop Quintet: Two Birds (TQM): April 20
  • Robert Diack: Lost Villages (self-released): April 13
  • District Five: Decoy (Intakt): April 27
  • Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (Firehouse 12, 2CD)
  • Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (Dare2): advance, May 11
  • Kira Kira: Bright Force (Libra): April 27
  • Lello Molinari: Lello's Italian Job Volume 2 (Fata Morgana Music): May 1
  • Reggie Quinerly: Words to Love (Redefinition Music): April 20
  • Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (Clean Feed)
  • Rob Schwimmer: Heart of Hearing (Sunken Heights Music): June 1
  • Edward Simon: Sorrows & Triumphs (Sunnyside): April 20
  • Hans Teuber & Jeff Johnson: Deuce (Origin): April 20
  • Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (Intakt): April 20
  • Woodwired: In the Loop (Uta)
  • WorldService Project: Serve (Rare Noise): advance, April 27

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Meant to write an intro, but ran out of time. So let's cut to the chase.


Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 02, 2018

No Music Week

No real point doing a "Music Week" post this week. I spent pretty much all of the week playing old favorites from the travel cases, so the rated count for the week was a mere +2. I also haven't catalogued the week's incoming mail -- not that there's much to report. So I'll roll those into next week's post, which should be back to normal.

I was preoccupied last week with my sister Kathy's memorial, on Saturday afternoon, and a family-and-friends get-together on Sunday. I tried to do what I could to help out, which mostly meant cooking a lot of food. For the reception following the service, I baked six cakes (sweet potato bundt with a glaze; oatmeal stout with a broiled topping; applesauce with raisins and walnuts in a loaf pan; and three 9x13 sheet cakes: fall spice, carrot, and chocolate) plus two pans of brownies.

For a savory snack alternative, I fixed Barbara Tropp's Chinese Crudités. I filled up three half-sheet baking pans with piles of vegetables cut into bite-sized chunks, some steamed (cauliflower, brussels sprouts), most blanched (asparagus, baby corn, broccoli, carrots, green beans, snap peas, zucchini) or raw (green/red/yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber). I bought a bag of brussels sprouts, way more than I needed, so I roasted half of them and added them to the tray. The vegetables could be dipped in four Chinese sauces: a rather spicy sesame, a very garlicky peanut, dijon mustard, and sweet and sour.

We also made a Moroccan fruit salad (apples, nectarines, pears, pineapple, banana, mejdol dates, macerated in orange juice and honey), a similar berry salad (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), and vanilla cream.

For the Sunday get-together, I ordered barbecue meats from Hog Wild and made four large side dishes: baked beans topped with bacon; a Russian potato salad with smoked salmon, olives, capers, and dill; a sweet and sour cole slaw (nothing creamy), and mast va khiar (a Persian cucumber-yogurt with scallions, golden raising, black walnuts, and mint). I figured there'd be enough leftover dessert, and there was (barely). Several people helped with the cooking, especially Josi Hull on Friday and Mike, Morgan and Kirsten Saturday night.

Even before the cooking, much of the week was spent shopping and reconnoitering. I bought some very large bowls and baking sheets, and more cake pans than I actually used. Also things like tongs for serving and various containers for moving food around. I dumped a lot of tasks onto Josi, like picking up plates and plasticware and ice. The church people helped as well, especially with coffee and tea.

Ram planned out the memorial service ("celebration of life), and wrote and printed up the notes. He also set up a website with a selection of Kathy's writings, a (very partial) gallery of artwork, and a form for submitting "memories and reflections," promising to compile the latter into book form. (I started to collect some notes on my website as well.) The service was, well, unlike any I had ever attended.

Kathy joined the UU Church shortly after she moved back to Wichita, following a few months when she stayed with me in New Jersey. As children, we attended Disciples of Christ churches -- they were evangelical but not fundamentalist, preferring the New Testament (especially the Gospels) to the Old. As a young teen, I got very involved in the church, but a few years later I turned against it and the rest of the family lost interest, if not in religion at least in church-going. I flipped over into an extreme rationalism, but to the extent I ever bothered to try to understand it, Kathy flopped the other direction. Like me, she went through a period of examining all of the world's religions, but where I wound up rejecting them all, she found ways to synthesize them.

The one religion she felt the closest affinity to was Wicca, and she discovered that there was a sizable faction of Wiccans at the First UU Church in Wichita (sometimes, I gather, at odds with the other main faction, Humanists). Kathy joined First UU in 1991 (actually after she had started leading moon dances) and was very active off and on. I knew a little bit about Unitarians because I went through a phase where I looked into the history of early Protestant sects, especially Puritans, and I've read some modern feminist essays on medieval witchcraft, but I've never spent any time on Wicca, even having an expert in the family. So the rituals, chants, and song about the Goddess that opened and closed the service were lost on me. One of the songs, I think, was from a book Kathy wrote/compiled.

In between were a couple dozen tributes/memoirs by various people Kathy had touched. My brother Steve recalled the first time he saw Kathy, through a hospital window. My nephew Mike remembered Kathy as the first person to reveal that unorthodox opinions and unconventional lifestyles were even possible. (Kathy had an unofficial gay marriage ceremony when Mike was a teen, but the relationship didn't last long. She had a shorter still heterosexual marriage much earlier, but the father of her son was a casual acquaintance I never met, who played no role in Ram's life.) My cousin Ken Brown recounted how close our families were.

When Kathy got pregnant, she came to stay with us in New Jersey. After a few months, I got a job in Massachusetts, and we decided Kathy should return to Wichita. When she got here, she moved in with two other pregnant women, Cassandra and Lydia, and the three had baby boys within days of each other, the six (and eventually a few more) forming an extended family even long after they moved apart. Cassandra, Lydia, and a third woman I didn't know spoke about this unique relationship, and the third woman sang a Lakota funeral song -- a remarkable moment.

Many more people spoke about Kathy's full moon dances and other spiritual/community efforts. One colleague from the WSU art department spoke, as did several former students. One student Kathy effectively adopted was Matt Walston, who's become a notable artist in his own right. Kathy and Matt had talked about death, and one wish Kathy had was that Matt make a "death mask" from her face. (Matt had some experience at making masks, like this one.) Matt made molds and distributed several papier maché masks, while his wife, Carrie Armstrong, gave emotional testimony. Laura talked about how much she was amazed by Kathy's art. Only one speaker wandered off subject, ending the session on a bit of an off note.

There was some discussion of the "Sacred Spaces" project, which Kathy had been a driving force behind c. 2002. It's long been in storage, but WSU had agreed to exhibit it this summer, and Kathy had been talking to Mike about shooting a film around it. Several people vowed to make sure that still happens. I used to have a gallery of photos from the exhibit up on my site, but they got wiped out in a spat with the ISP. I just found the original CDR, so I'll make an effort to get them restored soon.

One thing we screwed up was not making any sort of announcements at the end of the service. Matt had set up a room with some of Kathy's art and a plaster death mask people could paint on, but most people weren't aware of that. It also took a while to set up my food, so many people took off before they got a chance to enjoy -- and I missed a number of people I wanted to talk to. Nonetheless, about 85-90% of the food was eaten. My estimate is that we had about 160 people present (the chapel holds 125, so the others had to sit on folding chairs in the foyer, and it looked like 30-40 people there).

The Sunday get-together was anticlimactic. Some people didn't know about it and had travel plans to get away. I figured it would drag on well past the advertised 1 PM start, so we didn't make much of an effort to get there early, and it turned out that most of the people who came had left by the time we got there. (I had sent the food ahead, so nobody missed us that bad.) We got there at 3:30, and stayed until 6 or so. I got back in time to cobble together a Weekend Roundup last night. But not early enough to do a Music Week today. Next time. Also, sometime this week I'll try to fill out a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot (assuming it's not too late yet -- I didn't even consider working on it when I got the ballot request).

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I was prepared to skip this weekly exercise completely: I spent most of the last week preparing for my sister's funeral (or "celebration of life" as the official title went) and related social gatherings. But with the last such event ended this afternoon, and with various guests taking their leave, I found myself wanting to do something "normal." Not that much of what follows can be considered "normal" in any other regard. I recently read Allen Frances' Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, which fell rather short of its titular ambition. Although there are occasional references to commonplace psychology, he mostly focuses on ubiquity and persistence of "delusional thinking" -- mostly defined as failure to recognize a long list of liberal political creeds. I don't have much quarrel with his platform planks, but I'm more suspicious of economic/class factors than psychological ones. Where I think insight into psychology might be helpful is in trying to model human behavior given the complexity of the world and our various limits in apprehending it. It's certainly credible that psychological traits that were advantageous in primitive societies malfunction in our changing world, but how does that work? And what sort of adjustments would work better?


Some scattered links this week:


Mar 2018