October 2011 Notebook


Monday, October 31, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 18972 [18927] rated (+45), 852 [848] unrated (+4). Fairly high rated week, almost all due to Rhapsody. December's Streamnotes was looking a little short, so now that's been fixed. Recycled Goods is in far worse shape, but my ACN on Sony's 25-CD boxes helps out. No Jazz Prospecting this week: on hold while I sort out whatever with the Village Voice. Laura is on the mend, but it's been a slow and painful week.

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 12)

Didn't plan on doing a Jazz Prospecting this week, but wound up with ten records anyway, then figured why not? Still in limbo right now. As I noted last week, the Village Voice declined to publish my 27th Jazz Consumer Guide column. The editor had been sitting on it for more than three months, so at this point any sign of movement is welcome. I don't have any other suitors -- at least that I know of, but would be interested in hearing from anyone with a good idea. I can, of course, post it here. Or I can resurrect the presently moribund Terminal Zone and publish it there. But at present the most likely resolution would be to move over to a blog-only slot at the Voice. Details on how (and when) that might happen are up in the air. Until I know how that works I'll keep doing what I have been doing, but maybe not as much of it. And we're both slowly recovering, another reason to take it easy right now.

Meanwhile, Recycled Goods will appear here sometime this week. Michael Tatum tells me he's shooting for Friday for A Downloader's Diary. I have a pile of Streamnotes saved up for sometime shortly after that -- that's actually most of what I did last week.

Again, I would appreciate hearing any future publishing ideas you may have in mind. (Also, as an experiment I'll allow moderated comments for now.)

Pablo Aslan Quintet: Piazzolla in Brooklyn and the Rebirth of Jazz Tango (2011, Soundbrush): The official birth of jazz tango was announced in 1959 by new tango composer Astor Piazzolla, living at the time in New York and recording a record called Take Me Dancing with a jazz quintet. Piazzolla himself considered the record "dreadful" but Aslan, an Argentine bassist based in Brooklyn who over the last decade has produced the best jazz tango albums ever, decided to give it another shot. Aslan added an extra Piazzolla tune to the seven plus two covers from the album ("Laura," "Lullaby of Birdland"). For the group, he went back to Buenos Aires -- Gustavo Bergalli (trumpet), Nicolas Enrich (bandoneon), Abel Rogantini (piano), and Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla (drums, Astor's grandson). I don't have the original album to compare to, but I don't doubt that Aslan has managed to pep it up. Still, feels a bit compressed. B+(**)

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: MTO Plays Sly (2011, Royal Potato Family): A small big band based on pre-Basie models with a postmodern twist -- trumpet (Bernstein), trombone (Curtis Fowlkes), three reeds (Doug Weiselman, Peter Apfelbaum, Erik Lawrence), guitar/banjo (Matt Munisteri), violin (Charles Burnham), bass (Ben Allison), drums (Ben Perowsky) -- has gigged regularly for over a decade but this is just their third album. Eleven Sly Stone songs (counting "Que Sera Sera") with guest vocals, two "Sly Notions" instrumentals, a "Bernie Worrell Interlude": the covers offer more horns but don't stray far from the originals, mostly adding weight (which tends to be the case 40 years down the road). Worrell, Vernon Reid, and Bill Laswell help out; of the singers Dean Bowman is the most Sly-like, and Shilpa Ray the slyest. Fun, of course, but I don't hear it either stepping back or moving forward. B+(**) [advance]

Kenny Burrell: Tenderly: Solo Guitar Concert (2009 [2011], High Note): Eighty-year-old guitarist (must have been 78 at the time), recapitulates a career that took off in the late 1950s, sticking close to his craft and not complicating it by having to work/compete with other musicians. Centerpiece is his "Ellingtonia Montage," much like how Ellington Is Forever sits on the pinnacle of his discography. No surprise that it runs slow or that two-thirds through he announces his intent to play "quieter," but by then he's probably hooked you. B+(**)

Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani: Orvieto (2010 [2011], ECM): Two pianists, nothing else, recorded live at Umbria Jazz Winter 2010. Mostly standards, including two Jobims and "Jitterbug Waltz," plus two stabs at the title improv. I have even more trouble with piano duos than solos -- at least it's clear who's doing what in them -- and there's not enough clash here to convince me when both are playing. B

The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Volume Two (2008 [2011], Origin): Volume One is an HM in my ill-fated last Jazz CG column, and this is the same thing only with more faux pas -- DeMerle's Louis Armstrong impression, for one. The setup is that DeMerle plays drums and sings in an amusedly offhanded way, while wife/vocalist Bonnie Eisele takes the straight leads. The band is your basic Hot Club -- violin (Willie Wainwright), guitar (Tom Conway and Phil Benoit), and bass (Marcus Johnson) -- and a couple guests drop in. Think Louis Prima and Keely Smith, but DeMerle isn't as funny, and Eisele isn't as stuck up. B+(**)

Pat Martino: Undeniable: Live at Blues Alley (2009 [2011], High Note): Guitarist, b. Pat Azzara in Philadelphia 1944; cut mostly soul jazz albums 1966-76; suffered a brain aneurysm which caused amnesia, but was able to cut an album again in 1987 and has worked steadily since 1994. I've rarely been impressed by his return -- great story, of course, wish him well and all -- but this one seems to be his calling: an organ quartet, with Tony Monaco on the Hammond, Eric Alexander on tenor sax, and Jeff Watts on drums. Monaco could be a little less soupy, and Alexander could be more boisterous, but the guitarist is always at the top of his game. B+(***)

Carol Morgan Quartet: Blue Glass Music (2011, Blue Bamboo Music): Blue-tinted cover photo too. Trumpet player, from Texas, studied at Juilliard, teaches in New York. Fourth album: quartet with Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Martin Wind (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Five covers ranging from Cole Porter to Ornette Coleman, plus a song each from Frahm and Wind. Straight-ahead postbop, nice mix from the horns, strong leads, loses a bit when the tempos slow. B+(**)

Heikki Sarmanto Big Band: Everything Is It (1972 [2011], Porter): Pianist, b. 1939 in Finland, influenced by George Russell, ran an interesting avant-fusion band in the early 1970s, later became artistic director of UMO Jazz Orchestra. His big band is long on reeds (including Eero Koivistoinen and Juhani Aaltonen, names you should know by now), short on brass (three trumpets, two trombones), doubled up on drums. Noisy as these things go, which is fine with me, but the main distinction here is Taru Valjakka's soprano-diva vocals on the "Marat" suite, which I could have done without. B+(*)

Susan SurfTone: Shore (2011, Acme Brothers): Guitarist, signs her songs Susan L. Yasinski. Group includes organ, bass, and drums, by Avory, Lynn, and Stephi SurfTone, respectively. Basically, instrumental rock, like Dick Dale, or Duane Eddy without a signature trick. Her originals all have agreeably brief one-word titles. Ends with a cover of "Riders on the Storm." Nothing wrong with this, but it's pretty far down on the list of things I find interesting. B-

Tarana: After the Disquiet (EP) (2011, self-released, EP): Indian drummer Ravish Momin, from Hyderabad, studied north Indian classical music, then went to Carnegie Mellon for an engineering degree. Has two albums on Clean Feed with different editions of his Trio Tarana, typically violin and oud. (The first, with Jason Kao Hwang and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, is excellent.) Here his group is down to two, a duo with Trina Basu on violin, recorded live at Bop Shop in Rochester. Four tracks, 34:06, available digitally at Bandcamp for $3. Something of a retreat, but he still gets most of the trio effect here, adding some electronics for diversity. B+(**)

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:

  • Chris Bauer: In a Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays (self-released)
  • Liz Childs Quartet: Take Flight (self-released)
  • Tony R Clef: Tuesday Afternoon (Big Round)
  • Dead Cat Dance: Chance Episodes (Cuneiform)
  • Dave Douglas: Rare Metals [Greenleaf Portable Series Volume 1] (Greenleaf Music)
  • Dave Douglas: Orange Afternoons [Greenleaf Portable Series Volume 2] (Greenleaf Music)
  • Dave Douglas/So Percussion: Bad Mango [Greenleaf Portable Series Volume 3] (Greenleaf Music)
  • Ideal Bread: Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy (Cuneiform)
  • Jackson Garrett: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (self-released)
  • Keith Jarrett: Rio (ECM, 2CD)
  • Kate Reid: The Love I'm In (self-released)
  • Joan Stiles: Three Musicians (Oo-Bla-Dee)
  • John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Workshop - April '69 (1969, Cuneiform, 2CD)
  • Anthony Wilson: Seasons: Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Goat Hill)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous few days:

  • Ari Berman: How the Austerity Class Rules Washington:

    Groups like the CRFB and the Concord Coalition, founded by former Congress members in the 1980s and '90s, have long presented themselves as nonpartisan, penny-pinching critics of wasteful government spending, when really they are anti-government, pro-corporate ideologues whose boards are filled with K Street lobbyists and financial executives. The goal of much of the austerity class is to see government funds redirected to the private sector. (Their ideology, which accepts the accumulation of private debt but opposes government debt, explains why the austerity class ignored the massive housing and credit bubble, which more than any single factor contributed to an explosion of debt worldwide.)

    The austerity class's reach has expanded in the Obama era, boosted by leaders of both parties and an influx of new funding. After consistently approving massive deficit spending under the Bush administration, Republicans suddenly found true religion under Obama (ironically, at a time when precisely the opposite of austerity was most needed). And within the Democratic Party, what Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz calls "deficit fetishism" is viewed as the gold standard for responsible economics. Democrats revered Bill Clinton's balancing of the budget as good policy and good politics, not to mention a shrewd way to tap Wall Street's endless fundraising stream.

    Obama and his main economic advisers (Tim Geithner, Orszag, Larry Summers) were devotees of former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs/Citigroup alum Rubin, who co-founded the pro-Wall Street Hamilton Project think tank at the Brookings Institution in 2006. The Hamiltonians had warned of "the adverse consequences of sustained large budget deficits" during the Bush administration and advocated "painful adjustments," namely cuts to social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare in exchange for more liberal policies like tax increases and healthcare reform. Obama entered office with the Hamilton plan in his back pocket.

  • John Cassidy: Where Is the New Keynes? Short piece, asks what new economic insights have been gleaned from the Great Recession; answers not much, but it has led to rediscovering some things economists used to know, mostly rooted in Keynes. In particular, lists six areas:

    1. Finance matters: cf. Hyman Minsky and Wynne Godley
    2. Credit busts are different from ordinary recessions: cf. Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff
    3. Positive feedback and multiple equilibria have to be taken seriously: yes, markets can screw up; cf. Markus Brunnermeier, Paul De Grauwe, Paul Krugman
    4. Espeically in financial markets, self-regarding rational behavior isn't necessarily socially optimal: cf. Cassidy's own book, How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities; I would add Yves Smith's Econned and John Quiggin's Zombie Economics
    5. Monetary policy doesn't always work very well: e.g., Japan's "lost decade"; cf. Paul Krugman, whose The Return of Depression Economics beat this one by a decade, precisely because it was based on Japan
    6. Fiscal stimulus programs don't provide a panacea for deep recessions, but the alternatives -- do-nothing policies or austerity -- are much worse: compare Obama's inadequate stimulus (or more effective ones in Germany and China) with Britain's austerity mania.
  • Peter Daou: Vindicated by New Polls, Progressive Bloggers and Activists Will Determine President Obama's Political Fate: Interesting thesis, hard to believe given how completely mainstream media ignores us on matters we actually care about:

    The defining conflict of the Obama presidency is not between the White House and Republicans. It's not between the White House and the Tea Party. It's between President Obama and the left, specifically between Obama and progressive opinion-makers and online activists.

    It's no coincidence that the angriest barbs from this White House have been directed at the netroots. And it's no surprise that the media and political establishment -- along with a vitriolic cadre of Obama supporters -- are mortified by the principled left, simultaneously dismissing them as bit players and accusing them of being ingrates who are damaging Obama's reelection prospects (hint: you can't be both).

    I've repeated a version of this thesis for years: a handful of influential progressive opinion-makers are canaries in the coal mine, propounding and presaging views and arguments later adopted by rank and file Democrats. [ . . . ]

    Recent polls (including Gallup, which shows a double-digit decline among liberals) indicate significant erosion of support for Obama among groups who propelled him to victory in 2008, reinforcing the idea that reality is catching up with netroots criticism. This crumbling of support is typically attributed by pundits to the poor economy, but the problem is more complicated: it's the poor economy coupled with the sense (fair or unfair) that Barack Obama has no convictions, no moral center, nothing for which he will take an unwavering stand.

    That perception of a lack of convictions can't be attributed solely to attacks from the right, since they can be discounted as partisan. It's when the left makes that argument that conventional wisdom congeals.

    I think the explanation here goes something like this: most Americans hate politics, and distrust politicians. Because they hate politics they don't consider political arguments carefully, so they ignore what the left blogosphere has to offer: a serious discussion of issues and policies that concern the welfare of most Americans. Instead, they wind up voting based on a sense of identity -- which candidate, which party, makes them feel best about themselves. (This is why the right focuses on identity issues rather than policies; that and the fact that most of their favored policies are so injurious to most people they want to keep them under wraps, disguised with all sorts of misleading rhetoric.) Obama won in 2008 because he got votes both from the left and from a lot of people who naively identified with him, in large part because he seemed to rise above the usual political squalor. However, with the left blogosphere -- for no reason other than they care about issues -- impugns Obama's principles and/or skills, a lot of that lustre rubs off, revealing Obama as just another two-faced, corrupt politician. In 2010 the dynamic was that the Republicans gained almost exclusively because so many of Obama's 2008 voters didn't show up: they had lost faith, they hadn't seen (or understood) results, and Obama did a piss poor job of reminding them how important their support was. I'm doubtful that the bloggers had much to do with the Democrats' debacle, but Occupy Wall Street amplifies the effect by getting the rejection of Obama on the nightly news even when the issues are scrambled or flat out ignored.

    Related to this, see Peter Frase: The Partisan and the Political. He's arguing not only that the two are different things, but that it's possible to simultaneously have partisanship become more polarized while real political differences have been reduced, even to the point of identity. Moreover, he's arguing that now is such a time. This may come as a surprise to people who take what the Republicans say seriously, but not to those who are dismayed at the lack of change Obama has affected from Bush's policies -- not just on things like foreign policy which seem to be controlled by some mystery cabal but on things like taxes (which Obama has cut) and undocumented workers (which Obama has more effectively prosecuted). Frase has several points, the most important being how fretting over partisanship is used to cover up real policy debates. But it also starts to make the argument that the 2012 presidential election doesn't matter because the candidates will wind up supporting the same status quo. I'm not endorsing this, but I expect we'll be hearing more of it.

  • Paul Woodward: Inequality in America Is Even Worse Than You Thought: Cites Justin Elliot, but the chart is bigger and easier to read here. The US Social Justice rank among the top 31 economies is 27th, slightly better than Greece, Chile, Mexico, and Turkey. The greater the level of, and tolerance for, inequality in a country, the worse the powers (both public and private) treat its people.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jazz 1960-69: The Core List

My original idea here was to pull out 50 albums from my 1960s Jazz list, but my first pass snapping up the A/A+ records exceeded 50, and that didn't include anything by such important players as Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, or Wayne Shorter. So, I figured I might as well go for 100. Still no Shorter (Night Dreamer would have been my pick), but the 100 gives you a better sense of the decade, and still only works out to 10 per year.

I avoided compilations and multi-disc boxes -- three 2CD sets below, only one of those (the Fitzgerald/Ellington) assembled well after the fact (and much shorter than the 8CD box version. In two cases I actually prefer longer versions: Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard is available in a 4CD set, and Davis's Plugged Nickel sets total 7CD. Both are defining instances of "more is more" -- rare cases where reiteration adds depth. I don't know about the 2CD Armstrong/Ellington option, but imagine it would hold up fine. A few twofers appear below: I'm not trying to cram (otherwise I'd list some more), but they happen to be the configurations I know. I've generally tried not to dwell too long on individual artists: Coltrane gets 7 mentions, Ellington 6 (including Armstrong and Fitzgerald), Davis and Mingus 3, several others 2 (Coleman, Hines, Hodges, Kirk, Montgomery, Peterson, Roach, Rollins, Smith, and Taylor). Some others held to a single record could have been expanded greatly, especially Blakey (6 A- records), Getz (+5), Hill (+8), McLean (7), and Monk (7).

The year breakdown is strongly skewed toward 1960-65 (15, 14, 12, 11, 13, 15) and against 1966-69 (5, 6, 3, 6). While I'm not unfriendly to the avant-garde recordings of the late 1960s, what I like even better are the last magnificent efforts of the pre-bop generation -- a group that faded as the decade progressed. But also the early 1960s were a golden age for Blue Note and Impulse, and a strong period for Verve and Prestige, all of which declined over the course of the decade -- as did nearly every prominent label.

The 1960s were an era when black musicians still dominated jazz, at least at the top ranks: I count 82/100 black artists below, with 5/16 of the whites from Europe (Amalgam, Beck, Komeda, McLaughlin, Riley), 1 from Canada (Bley). US count was 92/100 (one black, Harriott, was from Jamaica). (Some guesswork lies behind these numbers, including arbitrarily splitting up groups.) I wouldn't know how to begin dividing them by genre or style.

The core list, sorted alphabetically by artist, follows. Sorry I don't have time to annotate: much of it I could do off the top of my head, but doing it all adequately would turn into a huge time sink.

  1. Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (1969, FMR)
  2. Gene Ammons: Boss Tenor (1960, Prestige)
  3. Louis Armstrong: The Complete Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington Sessions (1961, Roulette)
  4. Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (1964, ESP-Disk)
  5. Gordon Beck: Experiments With Pops (1967, Art of Life)
  6. Art Blakey: Roots and Herbs (1961, Blue Note)
  7. Paul Bley: Closer (1965, ESP-Disk)
  8. Tina Brooks: True Blue (1960, Blue Note)
  9. Marion Brown: Why Not? (1966, ESP-Disk)
  10. Oscar Brown Jr.: Sin and Soul . . . And Then Some (1960, Columbia)
  11. Dave Burrell: High Won -- High Two (1968, Black Lion)
  12. Benny Carter: Further Definitions (1961, Impulse)
  13. Don Cherry: Complete Communion (1965, Blue Note)
  14. Sonny Clark: Leapin' and Lopin' (1961, Blue Note)
  15. Buck Clayton/Buddy Tate: Buck and Buddy Blow the Blues (1961, Prestige)
  16. Ornette Coleman: This Is Our Music (1960, Atlantic)
  17. Ornette Coleman: At the Golden Circle, Stockholm: Volume 1 (1965, Blue Note)
  18. John Coltrane: My Favorite Things (1960, Atlantic)
  19. John Coltrane: Olé Coltrane (1961, Atlantic)
  20. John Coltrane: Ballads (1962, Impulse)
  21. John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard (1961, Impulse)
  22. John Coltrane: Live at Birdland (1963, Impulse)
  23. John Coltrane: Crescent (1964, Impulse)
  24. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse)
  25. Miles Davis: Cookin' at the Plugged Nickel (1965, Columbia)
  26. Miles Davis: In a Silent Way (1969, Columbia)
  27. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (1969, Columbia, 2CD)
  28. Paul Desmond/Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind (1962, RCA)
  29. Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch! (1964, Blue Note)
  30. Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach: Money Jungle (1962, Blue Note)
  31. Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962, Impulse)
  32. Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite (1966, RCA)
  33. Duke Ellington: His Mother Called Him Bill (1967, RCA)
  34. Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book (1963, Prestige)
  35. Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961, Riverside)
  36. Ella Fitzgerald/Duke Ellington: Ella and Duke at the Côte D'Azur (1966, Verve, 2CD)
  37. Eddie Gale: Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music (1968, Blue Note)
  38. Stan Getz: Focus (1965, Verve)
  39. Dexter Gordon: Our Man in Paris (1963, Blue Note)
  40. Grant Green: Idle Moments (1963, Blue Note)
  41. Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1964, Blue Note)
  42. Joe Harriott: Free Form (1960, Redial)
  43. Coleman Hawkins: Today and Now (1963, Impulse)
  44. Roy Haynes: Out of the Afternoon (1962, Impulse)
  45. Joe Henderson: Inner Urge (1964, Blue Note)
  46. Woody Herman: Woody's Winners (1965, Columbia');
  47. Andrew Hill: Black Fire (1963, Blue Note)
  48. Earl Hines: Up to Date (1964, RCA)
  49. Earl Hines: Live at the Village Vanguard (1965, Columbia)
  50. Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (1964, Impulse)
  51. Johnny Hodges: Triple Play (1967, RCA)
  52. Freddie Hubbard: Ready for Freddie (1961, Blue Note)
  53. Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (1965, Blue Note)
  54. Budd Johnson: Let's Swing (1960, Prestige)
  55. Sheila Jordan: Portrait of Sheila (1962, Blue Note)
  56. Rahsaan Roland Kirk: We Free Kings (1961, Mercury)
  57. Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Rip, Rig and Panic/Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith (1965-67, Emarcy)
  58. Krzysztof Komeda: Astigmatic (1965, Power Bros)
  59. Lee Konitz: Motion (1961, Verve)
  60. Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: School Days (1963, Hat Art)
  61. Charles Lloyd: Of Course, Of Course (1964-65, Columbia)
  62. John McLaughlin: Extrapolation (1969, Polydor)
  63. Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (1962, Blue Note)
  64. Joe McPhee: Underground Railroad/Live at Holy Cross (1968-69, Atavistic)
  65. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (1960, Atlantic)
  66. Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963, Impulse)
  67. Hank Mobley: Soul Station (1960, Blue Note)
  68. Modern Jazz Quartet: Dedicated to Connie (1960, Atlantic, 2CD)
  69. Thelonious Monk: It's Monk's Time (1964, Columbia)
  70. Wes Montgomery: Incredible Jazz Guitar (1960, Riverside)
  71. Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly: Smokin' at the Half Note (1965, Verve)
  72. Lee Morgan: Search for the New Land (1964, Blue Note)
  73. Gerry Mulligan: Jeru (1962, Columbia)
  74. Oliver Nelson: Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961, Impulse)
  75. Art Pepper: Smack Up (1960, Contemporary)
  76. Oscar Peterson: Night Train (1962, Verve)
  77. Oscar Peterson: Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry (1964, Emarcy)
  78. Howard Riley: Angle (1968, Columbia)
  79. Sam Rivers: Fuschia Swing Song (1964, Blue Note)
  80. Max Roach: We Insist! Freedom Now Suite (1960, Candid)
  81. Perry Robinson: Funk Dumpling (1962, Savoy)
  82. Sonny Rollins: On Impulse! (1965, Impulse)
  83. Sonny Rollins: Alfie (1966, Impulse)
  84. Jimmy Rushing: Every Day I Have the Blues (1967, Impulse)
  85. George Russell: Ezz-Thetics (1961, Riverside)
  86. Sonny Sharrock: Black Woman (1969, Vortex)
  87. Archie Shepp: Fire Music (1965, Impulse)
  88. Horace Silver: The Jody Grind (1966, Blue Note)
  89. Jimmy Smith: Back at the Chicken Shack (1960, Blue Note)
  90. Jimmy Smith/Stanley Turrentine: Prayer Meetin' (1960-63, Blue Note)
  91. Sonny Stitt/Paul Gonsalves: Salt and Pepper (1963, Impulse)
  92. Sun Ra: Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy/Art Forms for Dimensions Tomorrow (1961-63, Evidence)
  93. Cecil Taylor: The World of Cecil Taylor (1960, Candid)
  94. Cecil Taylor: Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come (1962, Revenant)
  95. Lucky Thompson: Lucky Strikes (1965, Prestige)
  96. McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy (1967, Blue Note)
  97. Kid Thomas-George Lewis Ragtime Stompers (1961, GHB)
  98. Ben Webster/Harry Eddison: Ben and Sweets (1962, Columbia)
  99. Tony Williams: Life Time (1964, Blue Note)
  100. Larry Young: Unity (1965, Blue Note)

Let me also include a short list of historically important albums that I don't like well enough to include in the above:

  1. AMM: AMMusic 1966 (1966, Matchless)
  2. Anthony Braxton: For Alto (1968, Delmark)
  3. Peter Brötzmann: Machine Gun (1968, FMP)
  4. John Coltrane: Ascension (1965, Impulse)
  5. Jimmy Giuffre: Free Fall (1962, Columbia)
  6. Charlie Haden: Liberation Music Orchestra (1969, Impulse)
  7. Grachan Moncur III: Evolution (1963, Blue Note)
  8. Sonny Rollins: East Broadway Run Down (1966, Impulse)
  9. Horace Tapscott: West Coast Hot (1969, Jive/Novus)
  10. Cecil Taylor: Unit Structures (1966, Blue Note)

Other artists with A- records during the 1960-69 decade: Nat Adderley, Curtis Amy/Dupree Bolton, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Kenny Burrell, Jaki Byard, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson, Teddy Edwards/Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, Don Ellis, Gil Evans, Frank Foster, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Burton Greene, Edmond Hall, Tubby Hayes, Jimmy Heath, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Helen Humes, Illinois Jacquet, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Duke Jordan, Shelly Manne, Les McCann/Eddie Harris, Blue Mitchell, New York Art Quartet, Horace Parlan, Big John Patton, Bud Powell, Ike Quebec, Freddie Redd, Dizzy Reece, Pee Wee Russell, Shirley Scott, Tony Scott, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Simmons, Frank Sinatra, John Surman, Ralph Sutton, René Thomas, Bobby Timmons, Charles Tolliver.

Jazz 1960s Ballot

Top ten:

  1. Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite (1966, RCA) [18]
  2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse) [16]
  3. Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962, Impulse) [12]
  4. Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (1960, Atlantic) [10]
  5. Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (1964, Impulse) [10]
  6. Sam Rivers: Fuschia Swing Song (1964, Blue Note) [8]
  7. Paul Desmond/Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind (1962, RCA) [8]
  8. Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (1964, ESP-Disk) [6]
  9. Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (1969, FMR) [6]
  10. Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (1962, Blue Note) [6]

Expert Comments

Christgau's column today consisted of eight HMs along a country-rock continuum. Earlier I pointed out that Ruth Gerson's label was Wrong (instead of the loathsome practice of mentioning her domain name). Also have a correction for Rod Picot (listed as "no label"):

Looks like Picot's label is Welding Rod. It's self-released, but he's used that label name for most (maybe all) of his records. I've been picking at a lot of country-ish stuff lately for my Streamnotes column, but had only hit on two of these (LaVere and Shelton). Played what I could find on Rhapsody today -- everything but Golightly, and there I played another new one called Nobody Will Be There -- and liked Picot the best (by far). Still, good as his sheetrock song is, he can't muster the attitude (or the wit) of Todd Snyder's sheetrock song.

Milo Miles:

My standard line on Guru Guru is to do their first three albums in reverse order --

Start with Känguru (1972), go on to Hinten (1971) and if you want more, check out the getting-their-shirt-together debut, UFO (1970).

Tigster326, combining two posts:

When I sent my jazz ballot to Brad I mentioned that much of my early listening was influenced by reading Jazz & Pop mag which also ran the original J&P poll. Ballots followed the Pazz & Jop formula but let the critics vote for 10 albums each for jazz and rock (100 total points, 30 to 5). I said I would try to see if I saved any back issues and came across the '67 and '69 poll result issues. A little late for Brad's but I thought it might be of interest to list some of the results.

Top '67 Jazz in order:

  1. Expression
  2. Far East Suite
  3. Unit Structures
  4. Miles Smiles
  5. Live at the VV Again
  6. Mama Too Tight
  7. That's My Kick (Errol Garner)
  8. Big Swing Face (Buddy Rich)
  9. Forest Flower (Charles Lloyd)
  10. Duster (Gary Burton)

Jazz & Pop '69 jazz results:

  1. Karma
  2. In a Silent Way
  3. Filles de Kilimanjaro
  4. Standing Ovation (Count Basie)
  5. Now He Sings Now He Sobs
  6. Emergency
  7. Duets (Lee Konitz)
  8. This Is Our Bag (Bobby Hackett)
  9. Congliptious (Roscoe Mitchell)
  10. Mr. Joy (Paul Bley)

To my knowledge there were 7 polls published before the mag folded. I think Xgau voted in the '68 and '69 polls which I don't believe have ever been reprinted anywhere else. His '69 ballot was as follows (no jazz submitted):

  1. Tommy (30)
  2. Gilded Palace (15)
  3. Beggars Banquet (10)
  4. The Band (9)
  5. Electric Ladyland (6)
  6. VU3 (6)
  7. Hey Jude (Wilson Pickett) (6)
  8. Original Delaney & Bonnie (6)
  9. Nashville Skyline (6)
  10. Beatles (6)

Still looking to see if I have the '68 issue.

Christgau explaining his Odds and Ends gambit:

So here's the deal with Odds and Ends, a title I changed from Honorable Mention to quash expectations and break with the past. Basically, I don't want to write these things. They're a distraction from uses of my writing, reading, and living time that are more profitable for me--not financially, for the most part, but as a person well aware of how much time he has.

However. Looking for records worthy of full EW reviews sometimes requires dedicated listening that comes down on the wrong side of the quality divide. Usually I know the answer by track seven or eight, say, sometimes not till the very end. And sometimes as I listen phrases just pop into my head, or an analysis makes itself clear. And fairly often I know what tracks have me listening. So if I figure I'm 15 minutes or less from an HM-style squib, I invest that time. And sometimes I'll do it even if the time remaining is half an hour, especially if it's a big record I really want to get my mind around.

Watching a ballgame with my friend Christian Hoard, the reviews editor at RS, we started talking about a band I happened to have covered in one of these reviews--nothing above. He was astonished to learn that I had any HM style review in the can at all, and told me I should publish them. So I did. This batch has the virtue of flagging some rather obscure records--or in the case of the Gerson, which has been slightly overpraised in that "interesting record" way that gets so many striking concepts some ink, saying yeah it's good but it also has its limitations.

Anyway, there'll be more eventually. But I want to diminish expectations right here. No Turkeys unless I really get on a hobbyhorse about something--they're no fun at all. Unifying concepts not guaranteed. Probably won't happen often 'cause there ain't that many. Comments about layout welcome. Oughta be three pics, but maybe they should all be on top. I like the implied order, though--which you will note is different from quality-proper order, though as is appropriate only a little.

I commented on the Jazz & Pop poll results, and snuck in a plug for my own list post.

Main thing I'm struck by in the Jazz & Pop 67/69 results is how many of those records are either sitting in my database graded B or weren't in there at all. One thing I noticed when I posted my 1960-69 Core List earlier today was how heavily the list was weighted to 1960-65: 80 of 100 records, or 13.3/year, vs. 20 of 100, or 5.0/year, for 1966-69. I expected some sort of trend like that, but nothing so steep: basically, mainstream jazz drove off a cliff in 1966. (And my list, by the way, was overwhelmingly mainstream: as long as Hawkins and Hodges and Hines and Budd Johnson were around they were my first choice, no matter how much I liked Ayler and Shepp and Cecil Taylor.)

By the way, I've never felt that it takes any special effort to listen to and enjoy jazz. Before I got deep into it jazz was always functional music: something I'd play for background, especially when I'm reading because it usually doesn't have words to interfere with whatever I'm doing. Moreover, I always figured jazz for popular music, even when it wasn't. That's one reason I think a lot of avant-noise stuff (Vandermark is a prime example) has more rock appeal than jazz appeal, even though it's technically very astute jazz. (Writing about it is a different matter altogether, because it's much easier to write about words -- in many cases they write your review for you.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

John and Hildegard Kreutzer

Found this death notice for John Francis Kreutzer ("survived by his wife Hildegard"). B. Nov. 10, 1915, died July 9, 2007. Attended grade school in Liebenthal, KS, and high school in Schoenschen, KS. Was a WWII Navy veteran. He was 91. Johnny and Hildegard were very close friends of my parents. They had no children, and were for all intents and purposes our Godparents. They lived in a ranch house on what was then the far outskirts of west Wichita, on Soccorra Drive, pretty much the end of the block going north from Maple. They had a large yard, a farm building in the back. They bred Spitz puppies, and raised rabbits. They gave us rabbits to keep for a while, and our dog Frisky. (Also gave us rabbits to eat.) Johnny was an amateur barber. We would visit them every week or so. Me and my brother would get haircuts, then they would play pinochle. I saw Johnny at my brother's wedding. I had very long hair at the time, and joked that I was almost ready for one of his haircuts. Last saw him at my mother's funeral. Frequently thought about trying to track him down. Hildegard was in worse health back then, so I'm a bit surprised that she survived him. Mother had become estranged from Hildegard, so she didn't come to the funeral.

Indeed, Hildegard Kreutzer has also passed away. She was born March 21, 1917 in Spearville, KS (also my father's home town). She married John F. Kreutzer on Sept. 6, 1948 (a year before my parents were married; I'm pretty sure we have a photo of them at my parents' wedding). She died on March 21, 2008, age 91. Maiden name Schaffer. Obit says she taught school for many years, but I have no recollection of that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Midweek Roundup

Enough links here I figured I might as well kick them out now. Make room for more come the weekend.

  • Steve Benen: Scandal in the Age of Obama:

    In the post-Watergate era, most presidents have offered these reporters plenty to chew on, but President Obama has left them starving.

    Reagan had Iran-Contra and the S&L debacle. Clinton had the Lewinsky affair. Bush/Cheney had so many scandals, it was tough to keep up with them all: lying a nation into a war, illegal wiretaps, Abu Ghraib, the U.S. Attorneys purge, outing a CIA operative and then lying about it, Hatch Act violations, MMS corruption, paying pundits to toe the administration's line, the suppression of scientific data the White House found politically inconvenient, the misuse of "faith-based" grants to help Republican congressional candidates, inviting a male prostitute to ask friendly questions during press conferences, etc.

    Reporters love White House scandals, but with Obama, there just haven't been any.

    Must be that "no drama" thing, but also the media is falling into the trap of thinking that when Obama continues a Bush policy that somehow legitimates it (as opposed to discrediting Obama, the view I'm more inclined to take). The cozy interplay between power and money has continued, perhaps not as tawdry. Still, some of those things do drop up as scandals: BP, Solyndra. Probably more should.

  • Steve Benen: Can the Rich Wage Class Warfare Against Themselves?: Interesting: Spectrem Group did a poll of millionaires and found that 68% favored raising taxes on those with $1 million or more annual income (admittedly, a smaller group). What prevents that from happening isn't the rich so much as their self-appointed saviors, the Republicans. One thing this reminds me of is how Obama carefully rounded up all of the big interested parties -- the AMA (the doctors), AHA (the hospitals), AHIP (the insurance companies), PHARMa (the drug pushers), the device companies, everyone -- to back his conservative health care reform agenda, only to have the Tea Party Republicans go beserk on him. The right is clearly bankrolled by a subset of the ultra-rich, but they're also freewheeling, power hungry, seething with violent fury, and so uncompromising they'll run roughshod over even the rich if they get out of line. Such behavior isn't unprecedented. This was, after all, how the Fascists and Nazis promised to save the discredited aristocracy, only to destroy their nations in war.

  • Brian Beutler: Charts of the Day: Where'd All the Income Growth Go? To the 1 Percent!: New CBO charts run from 1979 to 2007, from just before the Volcker recession to just before the Greenspan (or should I say Bush?). The data is consistent no matter how you slice it. Even the 80-99% near-quintile barely held even, with all of the losses of the bottom 80% going to the top 1%. We've seen statistics like these for years, and people who follow such things have long fretted about how increasing inequality poisons the social fabric. The numbers haven't had much traction to date, even though there are literally millions of real people who can testify to how such inequality has burdened their lives. The only thing different now is that Occupy Wall Street has tried to draw the line between us and them at 99%.

  • Paul Krugman: The Amnesiac Economy: More I-told-you-so, since people keep missing the point:

    Mark Thoma sends us to John Cassidy on the absence of really new ideas in this crisis -- largely because we didn't need new ideas, all we needed for the most part was to remember things that we somehow forgot.

    This is a theme dear to my heart. The crisis we're in is not something unprecedented. It's a close cousin to the Great Depression -- milder, but recognizably the same sort of thing. And we understand -- or used to understand -- how the Depression happened, and what to do in such a situation. Most of what's required are fairly straightforward translations of existing concepts. For example, we have a pretty good understanding of bank runs; extending that framework to shadow banking requires little more than the understanding that repo and other kinds of short-maturity obligations are, from an economic point of view, more or less equivalent to deposits. [ . . . ]

    The result of all this is that the supposedly sober, serious people are actually radicals insisting that we can make the economy work in ways that it has never worked in the past -- hence the embrace of magical thinking on expansionary austerity and the power of structural reform. Meanwhile, the irresponsible bearded professors are actually the custodians of traditional wisdom.

    And those who are determined to forget the past run a high risk of reliving it -- which is why we're in the state we're in.

    Actually, I'm not sure that the worst case scenario is reliving history, but it's always tougher to envision things that have never happened yet than ones that have. And there are plenty of bad things in the past one can point to -- Japan's "lost decade" is one of the milder for instances. For more I-told-you-so, see Krugman: Praise Is Always Welcome:

    Anyway, my personal qualities aside, I'm glad to see some people noticing that those of us who have taken the basic theory of the liquidity trap seriously have done very well at calling the economy these past three years. This was big stuff: predicting that a tripling of the monetary base would not be inflationary, that deficits exceeding a trillion dollars a year wouldn't drive up interest rates. In a rational world, the way things have panned out would add a lot of credibility.

    In the real world, of course, you're only considered serious if you propound doctrines that have been wrong at every step.

    Of course, it's not just a matter of right and wrong. It's more a matter of right versus wrong interests. Or, as Krugman quotes Keynes further down: "Worldly wisdom teaches us that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally."

  • Paul Krugman: Say Anything:

    Over the last couple of days, I've been getting mail accusing me of consorting with Nazis. My immediate reaction was, what the heck? Then it clicked: the right wing is mounting a full-court press to portray Occupy Wall Street as an anti-Semitic movement, based, as far as I can tell, on one guy with a sign. [ . . . ]

    My first thought was that OWS must have the right really rattled. And there's probably something to that. But actually, this is the way the right goes after everyone who stands in their way: accuse them of everything, no matter how implausible or contradictory the accusations are. Progressives are atheistic socialists who want to impose Sharia law. Class warfare is evil; also, John Kerry is too rich. And so on.

    The key to understanding this, I'd suggest, is that movement conservatism has become a closed, inward-looking universe in which you get points not by sounding reasonable to uncommitted outsiders -- although there are a few designated pundits who play that role professionally -- but by outdoing your fellow movement members in zeal.

    It's sort of reminiscent of Stalinists going after Trotskyites in the old days: the Trotskyites were left deviationists, and also saboteurs working for the Nazis. Didn't propagandists feel silly saying all that? Not at all: in their universe, extremism in defense of the larger truth was no vice, and you literally couldn't go too far.

  • Andrew Leonard: Free Trade's Multinational Corporate Bonanza: I'm probably more pro-free trade than not, but as this post makes clear what commonly gets wrapped up in so-called free trade negotiations is mostly a bunch of specific corporate interests based on who's got the most lobbying swag with little or no concern for anything else.

    But that's not to say we can't declare a winner. If you want to know who benefits most from free trade, all you have to do is look at the list of co-chairs steering the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Council -- the gold-plated blue chip clearinghouse for corporate support of the biggest of the three trade deals, the South Korea FTA. They include:

    • Ted Austell, Vice President, Trade Policy, The Boeing Company
    • Lisa Barry, Vice President and General Manager, Chevron
    • Joseph Damond, Vice President, International Trade Policy, Pfizer, Inc.
    • Matt Niemeyer, Vice President, Office of Government Affairs, Goldman Sachs
    • Laura Lane, Managing Director and Head of International Government Affairs, Citigroup, Inc

    That is some multinational, deep-pocketed, globe-spanning power! The second largest U.S. oil company, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, two of the most powerful U.S. financial institutions, and one aircraft maker that has long enjoyed a premier position in the U.S. military-industrial complex.

    What Boeing stands to gain from the FTA is the easiest to discern. Boeing already sells around $2.4 billion worth of aircraft-related goods and services to South Korea, but faces tariffs ranging from 3 to 8 percent on many of its products. Lower tariffs mean higher profits for Boeing.

    Pfizer's case is a bit different. The influence of multinational pharmaceutical companies on the fine print of free trade agreements has always offered one of the most telling demonstrations of why there is nothing "free" about them. Among the provisions of the South Korea FTA are limitations on South Korea's ability to authorize generic versions of foreign drugs, get access to safety data about those drugs, and, perhaps mody insidiously, determine which drugs South Korean healthcare plans will provide reimbursement for.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Expert Comments

Joe Lunday asked whether it was kosher to vote for box sets in the 1960s' best-of poll:

Joe's question reminds me that I meant to post a sample 1960s jazz ballot, what I call the greedhead's ballot since it crams as many discs as possible into ten slots. (Considered calling it the Giddins ballot, since when he ran a Sonny Rollins poll that forced his fellow critics to decide between a dozen or so serious contenders, he voted for a 7CD box: The Complete Prestige Recordings.)

  1. Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (Columbia, 7CD)
  2. Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk (Mercury, 10CD)
  3. John Coltrane: The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings (Impulse, 8CD)
  4. Eric Dolphy: Complete Prestige Recordings (Prestige, 9CD)
  5. Miles Davis: The Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Columbia/Legacy, 6CD)
  6. Dexter Gordon: The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions (Blue Note, 6CD)
  7. Sonny Rollins: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (RCA, 6CD)
  8. Art Ensemble of Chicago: Art Ensemble 1967-68 (Nessa, 5CD)
  9. Herbie Hancock: The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions (Blue Note, 6CD)
  10. Paul Desmond: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (RCA, 5CD)

Only other one on my list at 5+ CDs is the Miles Davis Seven Steps box (7CD), but there are a bunch of 4CD sets, like Coltrane's The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings.

Chris mentioned that Music Club's Coltrane In a Soulful Mood is really a repackage of Coltrane's 1957 Bethlehem recordings but neglected to add that they're utter crap.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 18927 [18908] rated (+19), 848 [844] unrated (+4). Laura went into hospital for surgery Monday very early. She did well and was released Thursday morning, but backslid after that and returned to the hospital Saturday afternoon. Doing better, but still in -- no idea for how long. I spent pretty much all day and night at hospital for the first stretch. Taking more time away from hospital for the second stay -- less worry in this case. In the meantime, got my shed built on Friday, so I spent most of that afternoon watching the workers. So this week is a bit light, a few things here and there worked into the cracks.

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 11)

Update: I've been informed that the Village Voice will not run Jazz CG #27 in its original form. As I understand it, the music section has shrunk to 2.5 pages, and my column no longer fits. We are, however, in further discussions about me continuing to review jazz for the Voice online, which might settle my two major complaints about the old system: too little space, and too much time between appearances.

Also, a reader has pointed out that I don't quite understand the ins and outs of the health care billing/payment/coverage mess. In particular, the surgeon is unlikely to have any incentive to release a patient early. As for the hospital, that depends on a bunch of variables. My view is that what happened in this case had more to do with excessive optimism and lack of cautionary data by both doctor and patient. When I understand this better I'll try to write more.

Jazz Consumer Guide is still in limbo. Normally 11-12 weeks into a cycle I'd be wrapping it up, but given that the previous column hasn't been printed yet I'm at a loss as to what to do. If I were in New York I'd take a break from Occupy Wall Street and camp out in the Voice office until I got a commitment, a kill fee check, or pepper sprayed. We've had some vague talks about possibly moving this into the more comfortable (and less expensive) world of the blogosphere, which would be better than nothing -- as an exile from New York that's how I experience the Voice anyway, although I will note that I was living in Wichita in 1969 when I first subscribed to the Voice (also, by the way, to The New York Free Press). But that was another era, another set of owners. The Voice has been coasting on its reputation for many years now, as one by one the links to its past distinctions have been broken.

Will publish an update when I know more.

I skipped posting Jazz Prospecting last week, so this one collects two weeks of work (and mail). Last Monday was tough. My wife entered the hospital at 5AM for surgery. It went as planned, and she was released on Thursday, but had further complications and she returned to the hospital Saturday noon. She's doing better now, but I don't know when she'll be able to come home without risking another backslide. (I suppose I should update last week's "In the Hospital" post: while the service was stellar, the decision to send her home turned out to be premature, more a case of everyone believing in the standard schedule than observing and understanding what was actually happening. Unsurprisingly, this also has a financial angle: as I understand it Medicare reimburses a fixed amount for a given procedure, so as long as the schedule holds the hospital makes money, but if complications ensue the hospital could lose money. However, having to return to the hospital later is most likely a separate billable matter. I doubt that anyone thought of it that way -- we were all hoping for a normal recovery -- but the flow of money certainly helped ease the way.)

Antonio Adolfo: Chora Baião (2011, AAM): Brazilian pianist, hard to say how important he is down there, but has recorded since 1969. I belatedly caught up with his 2010 Lá e Cá with daughter Carol Saboya and put it on my HM list. Saboya sings one song here, too, but these are mostly instrumentals, mostly choro or baião, uniformly nice and tasteful, nearly as ingratiating. B+(**)

Afro Bop Alliance: Una Más (2010 [2011], OA2): Big band with extra Latin percussion: Roberto Quintero (congas) and Dave Samuels (vibes, marimba), otherwise pretty much the Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big band. Hot in spots, merely tepid in others; saved, I think, by Quintero. B+(*)

Rahsaan Barber: Everyday Magic (2010 [2011], Jazz Music City): Saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano, also flute), teaches at Belmont U. in Nashville; second album. Calls his group Everyday Magic -- Adam Agati (guitar), Jody Nardone (piano), Jerry Navarro (bass), and Nioshi Jackson (drums) -- and adds a couple guests. His tenor is strong and full-toned, and he gets some funk out of the guitar-piano combo without compromising his postbop cred. The other horns slack off a bit. B+(*)

John Basile: Amplitudes (2011, StringTime Jazz): Guitarist, b. 1955 in Boston, ninth album since 1986. Solo, plugged his guitar into an iPhone, some kind of "app," and ProTools with "no amps and some digital plug in effects." One original, mostly standards (including one Jobim), covers of tracks by John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner. B+(*)

Zach Brock: The Magic Number (2010 [2011], Secret Fort): Violinist, b. 1974 in Lexington, KY. Third album since 2005, not counting a couple EPs. Quartet with bass, drums, and extra percussion, with some vocal exuberance toward the end. Poised with some swagger, pushes the violin up front and makes it sing. B+(**)

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (2011, Firehouse 12): Cornet player, has been popping up all over the place recently, but claims this as his "primary working ensemble." There's a lot to like about the group -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- not least its extreme range and diversity (almost to the point of divisiveness). Yet even though the pieces fit together uncomfortably, neither of the most exposive players (Hobbs, Halvorson) break out -- most likely the gravity exuded by Filiano and (especially) Lowe keeps them in orbit. B+(***)

Ernesto Cervini Quartet: There (2010 [2011], Anzic): Drummer, b. 1982, grew up in Toronto, studied there and at Manhattan School of Music, based in New York. Second album -- first was titled Here. Quartet: Joel Frahm (saxophones), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Dan Loomis (bass). Mainstream group, swings, most impressive when Frahm takes charge -- especially on tenor, but he's earned the right to play soprano as well -- and the group, notably the pianist, keeps up. Recorded live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club, so everyone gets their solo space. B+(**)

Cecilia Coleman Big Band: Oh Boy! (2010 [2011], PandaKat): Pianist, b. 1962 in Long Beach, CA; based in New York, although she teaches part-time at Cal State Long Beach. Seventh album since 1992; first with a big band (six reeds, standard brass, piano, bass, and drums) -- a few names I recognize, but not many. Wrote all the pieces. Contemporary postbop, well orchestrated but doesn't stand out either in the solos or the crispness of the section work. B+(*)

Patrick Cornelius: Maybe Steps (2010 [2011], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, studied at Berklee, based in New York. Fourth (or fifth) album since 2001. Quintet with piano (Gerald Clayton), guitar (Miles Okazaki), bass (Peter Slavov), and drums (Kendrick Scott). Wrote 9 of 11 songs (covers Kurt Weill and George Shearing). Those are all strong players, but little things nag at me, like the alto tone at high speed. B+(*)

Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères (2005 [2011], TUM): Drummer, b. 1939 in Brooklyn, parents (mother at least) from Haiti; has a couple dozen records since 1971 as leader, well over 100 side credits (The Hawk Relaxes seems to have been his first, but more typical was his work in Cecil Taylor's late-1960s groups). The Haitian connection here includes guitarist Alix Pascal and percussionist Frisner Agustin. The others are Lisle Atkinson on bass and Hamiett Bluiett on baritone sax: the latter's gruff but muffled sound is crucial, with everyone else just adding to the seduction. A-

Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble: Inana (2011, Pi): Trumpet player, b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical music at DePaul before wandering into jazz. Third album since 2003. Like several other prominent second generation hyphenated-Americans, he looks back to his ancestral land for a unique angle on jazz -- the two rivers, of course, the Tigris and Euphrates. Sextet mixes Arab classicists with avant-jazzbos -- Ole Mathisen (tenor/soprano sax), Zafer Tawil (oud, perussion), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), Carlo DeRosa (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) -- for a dense, somber sound. B+(***)

Joel Forrester/Phillip Johnston: Live at the Hillside Club (2010 [2011], Asynchronous): The two principals of the Microscopic Septet, which has been making interesting music since 1981 -- most recently, see Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk. Here they play as a duo, Forrester on piano, Johnston on soprano sax, which gives you a bare framework of their act and repertoire. Four Monk songs, one from Johnston, the rest Forrester. Tempting to say this would be great if they'd just flesh it out a little: bass and drums, some extra horns with a little more weight like a baritone sax, maybe the marvelous Michael Hashim. B+(**)

Fourthought: Fourthought (2010 [2011], Nambulo Music): New York quartet's eponymous debut album, with two principals writing all but one cover ("Green Dolphin Street") -- Nicholas Biello (alto sax, soprano sax) and Manuel Weyand (drums) -- plus Kerong Chok (piano, Fender Rhodes) and Cameron Kayne (bass). Weyand (b. Germany) and Biello met at Manhattan School of Music; Kayne hails from Buffalo, Chok from Singapore. Smart postbop, some bite to the alto. B+(*)

Roy Haynes: Roy-Alty (2011, Dreyfus): Drummer, not of the first generation of bebop drummers but came hot on their heels with a Zelig-like knack for being everywhere you'd want to be: with Lester Young at the Royal Roost in 1948, with Charlie Parker at St. Nick's in 1951, with Bud Powell and Stan Getz and Wardell Gray and Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins -- all by 1955; with Sarah Vaughan at Mister Kelly's in 1957, with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot in 1958, on Introducing Nat Adderley. Eventually he went on to cut 30-some albums under his own name, winning Downbeat polls in categories like Jazz Artist of the Year. He'd be considered a grey eminence now, except he keeps his pate shaved and no one in history ever has looked more fit at 86. Roy Hargrove and Chick Corea get a "featuring" sticker. The booklet also spotlights what he calls the Fountain of Youth Band: Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Martin Bejerano (piano), and David Wong (bass). Not sure if Corea plays beyond his two featured spots. Hargrove is featured on 6 of 10 tracks, Shaw is impressive throughout, and the closer (McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance") adds Marcus Strickland for a blow out. Presumably it's Haynes talking the intro to "Tin Tin Deo" (with Roberto Quintero's extra percussion) -- who else can plausibly claim to have discovered Chano Pozo? Big, bright, a celebration. B+(***)

Magos Herrera: México Azul (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Singer, from Mexico, seventh album since 1997. This one was cut in New Jersey with a stellar jazz group -- Tim Hagans (trumpet), Adam Rogers (guitar), Luis Perdomo (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Alex Kautz (drums), Rogerio Boccato (percussion) -- although I don't find she gets much out of them. Songs are all in Spanish, evidently mostly movie themes. Dark voice, dramatic, but one of those hard to judge singers for those of us who don't understand the language. B

Mace Hibbard: Time Gone By (2010 [2011], MHM): Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Waco, TX; studied at U. Texas in Austin, based in Atlanta. Second album, hard-bop-style quintet with trumpet, piano, bass and drums. Nice tone, soulful and a bit lush. B+(**)

Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio: Clustrophy (2009 [2011], TUM): Saxophonist (alto, baritone, soprano), b. 1978 in Lapinjärvi, Finland. I count six albums with his name up front since 2006, plus group albums with Gourmet, Delirium, and Triot (Sudden Happiness was a Jazz CG pick in 2004). Three reed players here -- Innanen, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Daniel Erdmann, playing various saxes, clarinets, and toy versions thereof. At center is Seppo Kantonen on synth, much splashier than electric piano or organ, plus there's Joonas Riippa on drums and, going along with the toy fascination, pocket trumpet. The splattershot noise gives you a quick jolt, especially right out of the box. Doesn't all live up to that, but breaks out in entertaining ways. B+(***)

Jazzvox Presents: In Your Own Backyard (2009-10 [2011], OA2): Seventeen songs (only two originals) by nine singers -- three by Jo Lawry; two each by Kathleen Grace, Kelley Johnson, Kristin Korb, John Proulx, Stephanie Nakasian, Hanna Richardson; one each by Nich Anderson and Cathy Segal-Garcia -- backed minimally (most with just one of piano, bass, or guitar; no one with more than two, and no drums, but one accordion). Mixed bag, but many cuts are striking, including Anderson's "Time After Time" -- he produced, but seems to be the only one without a record out, and is the only one whose name is missing from the cover. I guess Jazzvox is his baby, and that's enough. B+(*)

Helge Lien Trio: Natsukashii (2010 [2011], Ozella): Pianist, from Norway; fourteen albums since 2000, including some as Tri O Trang (a piano-sax-tuba trio) and HERO (piano-sax duo), but mostly trio records with this same group since 2001: Frode Berg on bass, Knut Aalefjaer on drums. My copy has a sticker with a quote from Jazzwise: "Lien creates music of unexpected depth and slow burn intensity." That is precisely correct -- I would add something about the rumbling of the undercarriage, and point out that he's closer to Jarrett than to most of ECM's northern tier pianists. B+(**)

Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (2010 [2011], ECM, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938, built both a popular and critical rep in the late 1960s with a group that introduced Keith Jarrett. Nothing in my database for him from 1969-89 when ECM picked him up -- AMG lists 9 records 1970-83, two with four stars, most with two, and has an empty gap from 1983-89. Since joining ECM he's been on a roll, especially lately with this quartet: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums). Farantouri is a Greek vocalist, b. 1947, has 30 or more albums, and a political record that sent her into exile during the military coup years -- I've seen reference to her as the "Joan Baez of Greece" but caution against taking that seriously. Live concert, spread over two discs. Took me a while to acclimate to her voice, which is deep and striking (the Greek Abbey Lincoln?). A couple instrumentals let the band shine on the first disc, but by the second it all meshes. A-

Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (2011, Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Portugal, has a couple records under his own name, more as Afterfall and Humanization 4tet, and he's shown up on the side of other very solid records. Everything he does is worthwhile, but he's mostly complemented saxophonists (like Rodrigo Amado) -- his 2009 trio What Is When seemed like a bit less, but this trio with Robert Landferman on bass and Christian Lilinger on drums settles it. His use of feedback gives this an extra charge. Also, Lilinger does exactly what you want in a free drummer. A-

Olavi Trio & Friends: Triologia (2008 [2011], TUM): No idea how common a name Olavi is in Finland, but drummer Olavi Luohivouri rounded up two more for this project: Teppo Olavi Hauta-aho (bass), and Jari Olavi Hongisto (trombone). All, in the great Sun Ra tradition, also play percussion, with bird whistles, wood blocks, musical boxes, and toy instruments prominently featured. The "friends" show up on two tracks each: Verneri Pohjola (trumpet, also played with Louhivouri in Ilmilekki Quartet), Juhani Aaltonen (tenor sax, has been active since 1970 and should be a household name by now), and Kalle Kalima (electric guitar, had a recent album on TUM). Combination tends toward the murky side, although every now and then you'll hear something interesting. B+(*)

Dino Saluzzi: Navidad de los Andes (2010 [2011], ECM): Argentine bandoneon player, b. 1935, twelfth album for ECM since 1982. Or maybe more: AMG has lately developed a bad habit of misfiling records under second or third artists, so they attribute this one to cellist Anja Lechner. Third artist here is Felix Saluzzi (tenor sax, clarinet): he makes very little impact here, but is a plus when he does. "Christmas in the Andes": not insuferably Xmas-y; in fact, all Saluzzi originals with a couple of co-credits. Slow, lush sounds in spare arrangements. B

Sounds and Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher (1980-2008 [2011], ECM): Soundtrack for a film by Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedner, a documentary on ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher. Leans toward the classical end of ECM's spectrum -- one Puccini cut, two Arvo Pärt, plus affinity exotica from Gurdjieff, Anouar Brahem, Dino Saluzzi, Eleni Karaindrou -- and away from conventional jazz. Enjoyed a bit of Marilyn Mazur percussion. One could easily construct a better sampler. B-

The Spokes: Not So Fast (2009 [2011], Strudelmedia): Title is descriptive enough: hard to get much momentum without bass and drums, especially if all you have to work with are horns, plus you get that sax quartet feel with nothing but neatly puffed discrete notes. Trio: Andy Biskin (clarinet), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone), Phillip Johnston (soprano sax). All three write: Biskin 6 of 12, Johnston 4, Hasselbring 2. B+(**)

John Stein: Hi Fly (2011, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, studied and teaches at Berklee; ten albums since 1995. Quartet with Jake Sherman on piano and organ, John Lockwood on bass, and Ze Eduardo Nazario on drums. Wrote 5 of 10 songs, the others trending standard except for Randy Weston's title tune, the originals leaning toward John Scofield-style funk. The organ fits that mode but isn't a major factor. B+(*)

Chandler Travis: Philharmonic Blows! (2009 [2010], Sonic Trout): Gray-beared guitarist-singer, back cover says he's 82, but I haven't found anywhere else that confirms that. AMG lists eight albums since 1993. Before that he was in a rock group called the Incredible Casuals: memorialized here in "The Day the Casuals Went to Sweden," easily the lousiest song here. What that song lacks is the squeaky, shrieking brass the albums opens and closes with, more than fulfilling the party graphics on the cover. B+(**)

Wellstone Conspiracy: Humble Origins (2010 [2011], Origin): Second album under this group name, although there was one previous listing out the four artists: Brent Jensen (soprano sax), Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums). The first three write pieces: 5 for Anschell, 2 for Johnson, 1 for Jensen; the other is a Lennon-McCartney piece, "Fixing a Hole." Mainstream group, with Jensen continuing to impress on soprano, and everyone contributing to the seductive flow. B+(***)

Jeff Williams: Another Time (2010 [2011], Whirlwind): Drummer, b. 1950 in Ohio, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson; joined Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach in 1973, has done steady work as a sideman, with a handful of albums under his own name. He wrote 5 of 8 pieces here, the other three one each from his two-horn quartet mates: Duane Eubanks (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto sax), John Hébert (bass). Postbop tone, draws on the avant-garde without really going there. B+(*)

Woody Witt: Pots and Kettles (2010 [2011], Blue Bamboo Music): Tenor saxophonist (also plays some soprano), born in Omaha, studied at University of Houston and UNT, based in Houston, teaching at Houston Community College. Second album, quartet with pianist Gary Norian (who co-produced and wrote 5 of 10 songs, to Witt's 3, with two Eddie Harris covers), bass and drums, plus "special guest" Chris Cortez (guitar) on three tracks. Postbop, nice tone, elegant, graceful. B+(*)

No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.

For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes to date for this round, look here.

Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last two weeks:

  • Mario Adnet: More Jobim Jazz (Adventure Music)
  • Fabian Almazan Trio: Personalities (Biophilo)
  • Michael Bates: Acrobat: Music for, and by, Dmitri Shostakovich (Sunnyside): November 22
  • Stefano Battaglia Trio: The River of Anyder (ECM)
  • George Benson: Guitar Man (Concord)
  • Dan Blake: The Aquarian State (Bju'ecords)
  • Ran Blake/Dominique Eade: Whirlpool (Jazz Project)
  • Marc Copland/John Abercrombie: Speak to Me (Pirouet)
  • Emperor X: Western Teleport (Bar/None)
  • The Jeff Gauthier Goatette: Open Source (Cryptogramophone)
  • The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble: Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff (ECM)
  • Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone: Departure of Reason (Thirsty Ear): advance, November 15
  • Werner Hasler/Karl Berger/Gilbert Paeffgen: Hasler/Paeffgen/Berger (NoBusiness)
  • Kevin Hays: Variations (Pirouet)
  • Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald: Live at Kassiopeia (1987, NoBusiness)
  • Kenny & Leah: All About Love (K&L)
  • The Landrus Kaleidoscope: Capsule (BlueLand)
  • Sinikka Langeland Group: The Land That Is Not (ECM): advance, November 1
  • Le Boeuf Brothers: In Praise of Shadows (19/8)
  • Jeff Lederer: Sunwatcher (Jazzheads)
  • Elisabeth Lohninger Band: Christmas in July (JazzSick): November 15
  • Ellis Marsalis: A New Orleans Christmas Carol (ELM)
  • Will Martina: The Dam Levels (self-released)
  • Marilyn Mazur: Celestial Circle (ECM)
  • Bill McHenry: Ghosts of the Sun (Sunnyside): November 22
  • Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Song) (NoBusines)
  • Josh Nelson: Discoveries (Steel Bil'd)
  • Denman Maroney: Double Zero (Porter)
  • Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: MSMW Live: In Case the World Changes Its Mind (Indirecto, 2CD)
  • Martin Moretto: Martin Moretto Quintet (self-released)
  • Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto: Current (Adventure Music)
  • The New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News (Big and Phat)
  • Enrico Rava Quintet: Tribe (ECM): advance, November 1
  • Sultans of String: Move (Independent)
  • Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Frère Jacques: Round About Offenbach (ECM): advance, December 6
  • Jim Van Slyke: The Sedaka Sessions (LML Music)
  • Andrea Wolper: Parallel Lives (Jazzed Media)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Grabbed a few scattered links this past week -- not much because I'm still preoccupied with more personal matters:

  • Ezra Klein: Could This Time Have Been Different?: Long piece on how the Obama administration fumbled the recovery. For starters, they underestimated the recession:

    The Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency charged with measuring the size and growth of the U.S. economy, initially projected that the economy shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the last quarter of 2008. Months later, the bureau almost doubled that estimate, saying the number was 6.2 percent. Then it was revised to 6.3 percent. But it wasn't until this year that the actual number was revealed: 8.9 percent. That makes it one of the worst quarters in American history. Bernstein and Romer knew in 2008 that the economy had sustained a tough blow; they didn't know that it had been run over by a truck. [ . . . ]

    But the Cassandras who look, in retrospect, the most prophetic are Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. In 2008, the two economists were about to publish This Time Is Different, their fantastically well-timed study of nine centuries of financial crises. In their view, the administration wasn't being just a bit optimistic. It was being wildly, tragically optimistic. [ . . . ]

    In March 2009, Reinhart and Rogoff took to Newsweek to critique the "chirpy forecasts coming from policymakers around the globe." The historical record, they said, showed that "the recessions that follow in the wake of big financial crises tend to last far longer than normal downturns, and to cause considerably more damage. If the United States follows the norm of recent crises, as it has until now, output may take four years to return to its pre-crisis level. Unemployment will continue to rise for three more years, reaching 11 to 12 percent in 2011."

    Then there was the stimulus bill:

    Critics and defenders on the left make the same point: The stimulus was too small. The administration underestimated the size of the recession, so it follows that any policy to combat it would be too small. On top of that, it had to get that policy through Congress. So it went with $800 billion -- what Romer thought the economy could get away with -- rather than $1.2 trillion -- what she thought it needed. Then the Senate watered the policy down to about $700 billion. Compare that with the $2.5 trillion hole we now know we needed to fill. [ . . . ]

    The theory was that success would beget success. Passing the stimulus would stabilize the economy, prove the White House's political mettle and deliver immediate relief to millions of Americans. That would help the administration build the political capital to pass more stimulus, if necessary. But when the economy failed to respond as predicted, the political theory fell apart, too. [ . . . ]

    The stimulus was a bet that we could get out of this recession through the one path everyone can agree on: growth. The bet was pretty much all-in, and it failed. Reinhart and Rogoff are not particularly surprised. It's hard to get through a debt-driven crisis without doing anything about, well, debt.

    In our crisis, the "debt" in question is housing debt. Home prices have fallen almost 33 percent since the beginning of the crisis. All together, the nation's housing stock is worth $8 trillion less than it was in 2006. And we're not done. Morgan Stanley estimates there are more than 2.2 million homes sitting vacant, and 7.5 million more facing foreclosure. It is housing debt that has weakened the banks, and mortgage debt that is keeping consumers from spending.

    McCain's economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakins proposed a massive scheme to restructure home mortgage finance, but nobody liked it (Holtz-Eakins: "the politics on housing are hideous"), and Obama's much more modest program went nowhere, leaving the debt overhang to continue to depress the economy.

    Its efforts to heal the troubled market at the core of the financial crisis are widely considered weak and ineffective. The Home Affordable Modification Program, which proposed to pay mortgage servicers to renegotiate with financially stressed homeowners, couldn't persuade the servicers to play ball and so has left most of its $75 billion unspent. The Home Affordable Refinance Program was projected to help 5 million underwater homeowners. It has reached fewer than 1 million.

    Even so, the administration rejects the more radical solutions that are occasionally floated. The problem, it says, is that the choices are mostly between timid and unworkable. [ . . . ]

    On first blush, there are few groups more sympathetic than underwater homeowners or foreclosed families. They remain so until about two seconds after their neighbors are asked to pay their mortgages. Recall that Rick Santelli's famous CNBC rant wasn't about big government or high taxes or creeping socialism. It was about a modest program the White House was proposing to help certain homeowners restructure their mortgages. It had Santelli screaming bloody murder.

    Another option that was bandied about, more by prominent economists like Ken Rogoff and Paul Krugman (often citing work by former economist Ben Bernanke) was to use the Fed to set inflation targets high enough to wither away much of the debt overhang. The failed nomination of Peter Diamond to the Fed Board might have helped such a move, but the inflation hawks (and Republicans) rallied to prevent any such policy.

    One thing that hasn't been tested or even proposed is anything to strengthen the labor market -- unlike the New Deal, which fought hard to keep wages (and prices) from collapsing, not least by promoting organization of labor unions. Klein cites Germany's work-sharing programs as an example: during the recession unemployment actually dropped from 7.9 to 7.0 percent. Then there were public sector jobs, which had been expanding by 160,000 per year, but have since been slashed by 500,000 -- more than wiping out at the state and local level the federal-level increase provided by the stimulus bill.

    Still, the ultimate failures here were political -- the data and the economic understanding were there if one bothered to look at them. The Bush and Obama administrations moved aggressively to save the banks and to preserve them on the same high perch they entered the crisis on -- the only thing different now from then for them is that the industry is even more consolidated. And Obama's crew proceded at best with extreme caution in addressing the rest of the economy, while allowing the Republicans to make every effort to sabotage both them and the economy.

  • Paul Krugman: Levels and Changes: On a recent Investor's Business Daily piece "that totally misinforms readers about how to think about the effects of stimulus and austerity":

    This is, of course, dead simple stuff. The economy's growth -- the rate of change in GDP -- depends on the rate of change in spending, not its level -- and the rate of change has been falling. What's more, lots of people tried to explain this a long time ago. Here was my take back in 2009.

    Now, in my experience IBD is a consistent source of misinformation. What's sad is that people pay money for this, believing that reading the thing will make them smarter, when in fact it actively makes them stupider.

    Update: A commenter reminds me that IBD, to attack health reform, published an editorial claiming that Stephen Hawking would never have survived under Britain's National Health Service.

    Flagging more misinformation, see Krugman's Legends of the Rentiers:

    I feel Dean Baker's pain. Dean is exercised over an NPR report which says that Argentina is suffering from its 2001 default -- a claim that is totally at odds with the evidence. Argentina actually did very well by thumbing its nose at creditors.

    This isn't the only case where news organizations consistently report as truth something that didn't happen, while failing to report what did. Another one that comes to mind is the California electricity crisis of 2001-2002. As some readers may recall, that crisis was caused by market manipulation -- and that's not a hypothesis, Enron traders were caught on tape telling plants to shut down to create artificial shortages. Yet "news analyses" published after the whole thing was revealed would often tell readers that excessive environmental regulation and Nimbyism caused the crisis, with nary a mention of the deliberate creation of shortages.

    And as you'll notice, in both cases the imaginary history just happened to be one more comfortable to status quo interests.

    Also, be sure to look up Kvetchigarchy.

  • Andrew Leonard: Why What's Good for GE Isn't Good for America:

    Obama's decision to appoint GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt as chairman of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness was attacked by critics from the left before the president finished making the announcement. GE makes 60 percent of its profits overseas, and in the 10 years since Immelt took over as CEO, the company has trimmed its payrolls in the United States by 34,000 while adding 25,000 abroad. In July, six months after being appointed chairman of the jobs council, Immelt moved the headquarters of GEs 115-year old X-Ray division from Waukesha, Wis., to Beijing.

    If Obama was looking for an expert in how to take advantage of globalization to boost corporate profits, Immelt would be a perfect choice. But domestic job creation? That's a tougher call. [ . . . ]

    The so-called jobs czar has made some inadvertently revealing comments. At a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker Event, reported the New York Times on Monday he declared that the council "was treating the effort to spur domestic growth and reduce unemployment 'like a turnaround at a company.'"

    But what do turnaround specialists usually do when they swoop into a struggling company? They slash payroll, cut expenses, outsource business units to anywhere a given job can be accomplished more cheaply. That's not a strategy that will work on a national level.

    Immelt's pet ideas? "A clearer regulatory structure," like speeding up the approval process for untested, possibly unsafe drugs, as well as sweeping away those pesky environmental impact statements.

Expert Comments

Actually, cribbed this from facebook, from Cam Patterson:

I did some first thought/best thought tonight from a list a friend sent. Enjoy:

I like my jazz. . . ecstatic.
I like my country music. . . drunken and sad.
I like my rap. . . conscious.
I like my rock and roll. . . passionate and abandoned.
I like my punk. . . blasphemous and unkempt.
I like my R&B. . . sexyforya.
I like my folk singers. . . funny and honest.
I like my blues. . . gutbucket.
I like my divas. . . Arethas.
I like my indie rock. . . skinny and with glasses.
I like my funk. . . fuzzy and proud.
I like my guitar heroes. . . twisted like a pretzel.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Expert Comments

Joe Yanosik came up with a list of jazz albums Christgau has recommended in passing.

By the way, I've copied Joe's jazz list off, thinking about sticking it somewhere on the Christgau website (maybe lists). I will sort it, probably add some more date/label info. What would be nice would be links to the actual references (give that they are probably on the website), but that would be a daunting task.

I see Tigster has added a couple more (which strike me as right). Will add more as reported.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Expert Comments

jimmyCook decided he can't vote in the jazz poll as he's "too ignorant." I quote him and respond:

Couldn't resist responding to this:

I listen to jazz as often as the Dean recommends it, which is on average once in a blue moon. When he does mention something I invariably pick it up. When he wrote about Eric Dolphy, I rushed to find that gem (The Berlin Concerts). Love it. But on the whole I've never heard Benny Golson, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan, Oscar Peterson, Archie Shepp, George Russell, Larry Young and many others. FWIW, I do love my Monk, Bird, Rollins, Davis, Coltrane, and Coleman LP's . . . but I suspect there is a strong rock 'n roll connection with these artists.

Davis and Coleman both did major work with electric guitar, and Davis actually enjoyed some rock-star-level fame, but it's a stretch to claim any rock affinities for the others (Monk, Parker, Rollins, Coltrane), even by attitude, and it's worth noting Coleman's famous definition of the difference between jazz and rock (in the former the drummer plays with the band; in the latter the band plays with the drummer). If you like Monk, Parker, etc. (let alone Dolphy), you'll like most of the guys on the list of unknowns (maybe not Hutcherson, or Russell's post-1963 work; Peterson is the other odd man out here, but nobody dislikes OP). McLean is the obvious guy to check out next there -- New Soil or Let Freedom Ring or The Connection (under Freddie Redd's name) or for something more retro Swing Swang Swingin' or maybe Old and New Religion (where Ornette Coleman switched to trumpet because McLean blew rings around him on alto).

On the other hand, there were jazz artists who were rock before rock: Louis Jordan and Louis Prima and Cab Calloway and Stuff Smith and Big Joe Turner are obvious examples, but why not Jimmy Rushing or Roy Eldridge or Gene Krupa or Jimmie Lunceford (search out one called For Dancers Only) or Lionel Hampton or Louis Armstrong or (if you're interested in prog rock's true forerunner) Duke Ellington? Those guys immediately appealed to me for the same reasons rock and roll did: they made pathbreaking but immediately accessible popular music -- unlike Parker and Monk and their followers who made jazz obscure and anti-popular. (Took me a long while to forgive the beboppers for that, although I instantly found more avant players like Coleman and Anthony Braxton interesting.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In the Hospital

I spent the last four days observing the notorious US health care system in action. My wife underwent surgery, and I mostly hung out, observing. I had been reading more than my share of nightmare stories, but it all went about as well as it could. The case was complicated, but the surgeon and her team seemed to understand it and appreciate the intricacies. The surgery itself went quicker and smoother than anticipated, and the projected three day hospital stay was cared for with patient confidence. There were a few problems that cropped up -- too-frequent oxygen saturation warnings, nausea coming out of the anesthesia -- but they were recognized and sorted out. The nursing staff was far more attentive than I recalled from ten years ago when my parents had extended hospital stays, or my wife's previous surgery when she was booted out of the hospital with unseemly (and as it turned out unfortunate) haste. The room was private, and I was invited to stay as long as I wanted -- 24 hours a day. I even found the nurses asking if there was anything they could do to help me. I managed to be present pretty much every time a doctor came by, and every step was intelligibly explained. It helped that my wife was fully cognizant of the whole process, and always knew what she needed to work on when to make progress. In short, it was pretty close to ideal: the way a hospital should work. No doubt the bill was damn expensive, but I didn't get the sense of wasted effort or overtreatment.

It no doubt helped that the surgery was a well understood procedure, and that the treatment was very closely aligned with it. My wife had no significant illness going into the surgery. That is, for instance, a very different situation from the one where my father entered the hospital with MDS, being treated by a staff of cardiologists who had no idea what they were up against, who made one mistake after another before they finally dumped him off on a doctor who had a clue. Or I could dredge up other cases from my own limited personal experience. (E.g., when my father spent four days in surgical ICU due to a lung infection that defied their treatment until it was fully cultured and identified. Or when my father-in-law was prescribed a drug for an eye problem but given a drug that crashed his blood sugar level, which then resulted in several days of unpleasant tests investigating his presumed hypoglycemia.)

Still, it isn't hard to imagine lots of things that could have gone wrong here that didn't. For one thing, the hospital had instituted a software system that tracked drug doses and interactions -- probably the samd system the VA hospitals are famous for: it slowed the nurses down repeatedly scanning patient and drug barcodes, but it eliminates errors that elsewhere are astonishingly frequent (I recently read as much as one per patient per day). The ratio of nurses to patients was higher than I had ever seen outside of an ICU. We never had to wait more than 1-2 minutes after calling a nurse, and they were never in an excessive rush to go elsewhere. Occasionally I would step out into the hall and see one at a computer . . . looking at what appeared to be continuing ed materials.

I suspect that this was a rare case where business competitiveness served to improve the care level: well-insured patients could choose to come to this hospital vs. the other competitor, and for the types of surgeries this particular ward handled there was enough profit to be made to reinvest some in quality service. So to some extent you can chalk this experience up as a victory for the American system (although as my wife is on Medicare I don't give any credit to the private profit-seeking insurance companies). Still, this doesn't argue that health care reform is not necessary. Rather, this reminds us that a reformed system has to maintain this sort of quality level, and to extend it more evenly and equitably. And it reminds me that it can be done, for even if this particular case represents a shrewd business decision on how to run a wing as a profit center, one key reason it succeeded is that the people working there were free to serve without having to constantly recalibrate their actions in favor of padding the business' bottom line.

Personal note: we're back home today. My wife still has a ways to go to get back to normal, but that seems certain to happen in due course. And I need some sleep, but that too will happen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 18908 [18880] rated (+28), 844 [844] unrated (-0). Cut this off Sunday night, but at least got the incoming catalogued. Much fretting this week over the future of Jazz CG, but even that has taken a back seat to Laura's surgery Monday morning, just a few hours away. Have already posted a No Jazz Prospecting announcement, rolled into my No Weekend Roundup post.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No Weekend Roundup/No Jazz Prospecting

Just looked at my scratch file, and the spot for squirreling away those interesting links was bare. Part of this can be blamed on Salon, which killed Andrew Leonard's How the World Works column, and reduced The War Room to, well, let's see: fully half of the recent articles have been on Herman Cain. Those have long been places I'd go to and easily find worthwhile links. But that's only a small part of it. I have several tabs open to things I meant to write about, and I'm sure I'd find more if I made the effort. This is just a bad day for effort. My wife goes into the hospital for surgery tomorrow morning -- so early in fact I might as well say late tonight. I have stuff to do between now and then. And while I expect everything to go according to plan, with an orderly and complete recovery, the next few days, and for that matter the next few weeks, are going to be rough going.

So no Weekly Roundup this week. For that matter, figure on no Jazz Prospecting on Monday either. I do have a reasonable set of notes written up for that, but don't have the time to wrap them up, write an intro, catalog the unpacking (slow week but big day Friday). Also in no position to explain what is or isn't going on at the Village Voice. So all that will have to wait until later -- probably the following Monday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Expert Comments

Ziggy Schouws suggests two omissions from my 1960s jazz list:

Ziggy Schouws: Erroll Garner's Concert by the Sea was recorded in 1955, released in 1956. Good record; arguably a great one. I haven't heard any of the Clarke-Boland Big Band records, but the 8th ed. of The Penguin Guide recommends several from the 1960s -- but no mention of Volcano (1969, Polydor). My database contains everything ***(*) or better from the Penguin Guide 5th-7th editions, but I never managed to finish the full comparison charts for the 8th (or 9th) eds. that I did for earlier editions. I'll add some Clarke-Boland, and some other things I've been noticing.

Clarke moved to France in the 1950s, but in the 1940s he was the first real bebop drummer, and shows up on many of those Parker records you all love. The second bebop drummer was Art Blakey (or maybe third, as Max Roach started about the same time). Blakey was originally a pianist, but switched to drums to make way for Erroll Garner. It was a smaller world then.

More, nitpicking the reviews -- an old Charlie Parker comp, and James Carter's Organ Trio:

First question I have on the Parker is what exactly does Roy Carr have to do with Penguin Guide? The authors are Richard Cook & Brian Morton -- Cook died before the 9th ed. appeared, and that now looks like the end of the series, superseded by a tombstone called The Penguin Jazz Guide: The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. Cook & Morton don't have the usual acknowledgments page, so I don't know who their editors, agents, and barbers are, but Carr would seem out of place. He has edited NME, cranked out books on the Beatles and the Stones, and compiled dozens or hundreds of CD samplers -- mostly not jazz, but Parker isn't hard to pick through.

In the Carter reivew, "sometime guitarist Bruce Edwards . . . substitute sometime guitarist Brandon Ross"? First time I read this I wondered what else Ross played. The facts here are that Edwards plays on three tracks, Ross on three others. Working back from knowing that I can parse "sometime" here, but I didn't get it at first. I don't have anything to say about Edwards -- not Ulmer and not Hall isn't much either -- but Ross is a terrific guitarist, not well known because he doesn't have his name on any album covers, but he's sent me looking for the credits many times. Wadada Leo Smith's Spiritual Dimensions and Heart's Reflections are good examples, as is the recent Harriet Tubman album.

Hall, by the way, takes a whole song solo on the latest Sonny Rollins Road Shows, which strikes me as odd. Back in the '60s he played with Rollins.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Down and Out at the DMV

Went to the DMV today, which remains most people's prime case example of how inefficient and rude government can be. Simple task: needed to get my driver's license renewed. When I got there I was pointed toward a queue the length of one wall then wrapped around another: twenty-some people ahead of me. Wasn't too bad: I could lean against the wall, and I had a book, although I ran out of book in the hour or so it took me to get to the head of the line. The guy a couple slots ahead of me was talkative. A guy with a gray ponytail limped up behind me, and the two started comparing army records. The guy behind me offered to save him a slot if he wanted to sit down, and he did. The two kept yakking for much of the stretch -- mostly touching on politics. The guy ahead of me declared himself to be "a big Ron Paul supporter." The ponytail guy was psyched by Occupy Wall Street. The Ron Paul guy declared them to be "commies" but cut some slack for the crippled vet. Both agreed that politicians are crooks, that money has changed everything, but the Ron Paul guy was fixated on taxes whereas ponytail thought the government should work better.

Occasionally a woman behind me talked about the economy. She pointed out that when she was young she couldn't wait to get her driver license and get a job and get out of her parents' house, but her grown son isn't interested in any of that. On the other hand, she lives in a small town and there are no jobs -- nothing positive to draw her son out into the world. All these people could have understood their problems better, but there was no mistaking that those problems are real, and little sense that any of them are likely to be solved anytime soon. There once was a time when people would think twice before talking politics with total strangers -- same for religion and various other uncomfortable topics. Not now. Politics is everywhere, and everything is politicized -- much like the 1960s, at least for my generation back then.

Watched Charlie Rose tonight and he had on one person pulled from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and three left-leaning academic sympathizers -- I guess Rose figured he was wet blanket enough to dampen the enthusiasm. It reminded me again of the 1960s: the movement rep was an ordinary guy who couldn't really articulate the issues, but deep down knew someone has to make a stand, otherwise we're going to keep getting rolled over. On the other hand, Paul Krugman, Marshall Ganz, and Jared Bernstein had plenty of understanding of what's wrong. But they still had problems explaining it all: the problem they faced is that problems are so vast and interconnected that it's hard to know where to start. Money in politics is obviously a big part of the problem, but it's not just that. The problem with money is that it's allowed the rich to tilt the levers of government (and privately owned institutions the public depends on, like the media) to make them richer even at the expense of everyone else.

This actually is a problem that many of us recognized long ago. We have even understood that such increasing inequality is unstable and unviable: that the longer it goes on and the worse it gets, the more damage will be done not just to individuals at the bottom but to the entire social fabric. Yet it's been virtually impossible to get people's attention over such an "abstract" concept. But there really is nothing abstract about it: just start picking people at random from the 99% and you'll see real effects. And now it turns out that many of those people would do something about their plight if they only knew they could. That's the door that the demonstrations have opened, and down at the DMV I could feel the pent-up energy searching for some way to express itself.

One reason I see this resembling the 1960s is that when you think about it you'll realize that the new left won the culture wars back then: civil rights, getting out of Vietnam, abolishing the draft, women's liberation (everything from abortion to equal pay), clean air and water, consumer protection. The problem was that we didn't build the institutional framework to consolidate power to protect (and extend) those gains -- but one key reason that didn't happen was that we distrusted and never grew comfortable with power. So we left the rich too rich and the military-security state too well dug in -- the bases for the right's counterrevolution -- and we lost focus and, at least for a while, just lapsed and enjoyed the better world we had made.

But there's at least one important difference between the movement now and in the 1960s. Back then the US was a relatively affluent, relatively equitable, and much more idealistic society, so much of the movement generously fought for other people's rights. (That at least was the stereotype, although I for one always had personal reasons for my politics.) But things have gotten so much worse that now we all have "skin in the game," and that raises the political stakes -- the need, the resolve, the demand that change be real and secure.

Update: Let me add that the reason the new left issues won out was because they were intellectually persuasive, in large part because they tapped into basic ideas about equality, freedom, justice, and sustainability. The right has worked hard to erode those values, to cheapen and deprecate them, substituting greed and self-interest, order, and faith that if you just follow your betters all will be well. Those are shabby arguments, for as we clearly see now, they do not bode well.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 18880 [18845] rated (+35), 844 [849] unrated (-5). Posted Recycled Goods and Rhapsody Streamnotes last week. Still no news on Jazz CG; my guess is that's bad news. Haven't gotten away from the computer as much as I would have liked, so the rated count continues to soar.

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Alec R. Costadinos & the Syncophonic Orchestra: Romeo & Juliet (1977, Casablanca): B+
  • Pere Ubu: Datapanik in the Year Zero (1978, Radar, EP): Five cuts, early singles, probably 1975-76. Didn't bother listing this at first because the material was recycled in Terminal Tower and later in same-named the 5-CD box. A-

Changed previous grades:

  • X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescents (1978, Blue Plate): [was: A] A+

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 10)

Another week, no news, just plugging away. Next 3-4 weeks are going to be pretty stressful, so the future (if any) of Jazz CG is one thing I shouldn't bother to worry about.

Mike Baggetta Quartet: Source Material (2010 [2011], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in New York. Third album with his name first, plus three duos with Kris Tiner -- one with Tiner's name first, two as Tin/Bag. Quartet includes Jason Rigby on "saxophones" (pictured on soprano, also plays tenor), Eivind Opsvik on bass, and George Schuller on drums. B+(**)

Yaala Ballin: On the Road (2010 [2011], Gallery): Standards singer, born in Israel, has a New York band and a previous album on Smalls, as do most of her band: Zaid Nasser (alto sax), Chris Byars (tenor sax), and Ari Roland (bass); the others are Vahagn Hayrapetyan (piano) and Keith Balla (drums). Leans heavily on blues -- two medleys, "Evil Gal Blues/Salty Papa Blues" and "Long Gone Blues/Wise Woman Blues" tower like the pylons in a suspension bridge, and you never doubt her right to sing those blues. "I Cried for You" can't help but remind me of Jimmy Rushing, a thought that brings me nothing but pleasure. The saxophonists stay within their roles, but are superb, as expected. A-

James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (2011, Emarcy): With Gerald Gibbs on organ and Leonard King, Jr. on drums, plus others as the opportunity arrises: trumpeter Keyon Harrold (3 tracks), guitarists Bruce Edwards or Brandon Ross (3 tracks each), vocalist Miche Braden (2 cuts; King sings a third). Carter plays soprano sax (1 cut), baritone (3), alto (4), and tenor (7 cuts, 2 of those also on baritone). Gibbs and King wrote one piece each; otherwise all covers, only Ellington's "Come Sunday" (leading into trad's "Tis the Old Ship of Zion" for a little sacred mystique) done much; and while Jack McDuff's "Walking the Dog" is the real spiritual center here, Carter also takes his blues refracted through Julius Hemphill and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Braden's boisterous vocal on "The Walking Blues" comes as a surprise four cuts in, then no more vocals until the gospel sideline at 10-11. Nothing wrong with the vocals -- more wouldn't have been unwelcome -- but what you really want to hear is the saxman busting loose, which doesn't happen often enough but is mighty wondrous when it does. A-

François Couturier: Tarkovsky Quartet (2009 [2011], ECM): Pianist, b. 1950 near Orléans, France; background in classical music. AMG lists five albums since 2002. Has lately been drawing on the filmmaker Andreï Tarkovsky (1932-86) for inspiration. Quartet includes Jean-Marc Larché (soprano sax), Anja Lechner (cello), and Jean-Louis Matinier (accordion). B+(*)

Mike DiRubbo & Larry Willis: Four Hands, One Heart (2010 [2011], Ksanti): Alto sax-piano duo. DiRubbo is b. 1970, has six previous albums since 1999, mostly mainstream labels, consistently makes a strong impression. Willis is 30 years older (b. 1940), has played a bit of everything; rarely got his name up front before 1990, but has a couple dozen albums since; is a thoughtful accompanist, doing a nice job of setting up and fleshing out the sax. One original each, six covers mostly bop era; "Star Eyes" always gets my attention. B+(**)

Scott Fields & Multiple Joyce Orchestra: Moersbow/OZZO (2009 [2011], Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Chicago, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, about as close as anyone to being an American analog to Derek Bailey. Doesn't play here; instead conducts MJO through a 13:54 piece dedicated to Merzbow and the much-longer 4-part "OZZO." MJO was founded in 2008 by Frank Gratkowski (alto sax), Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba), and Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), with 24 members credited here -- a little bit of everything (except guitar), including computer and analog electronics. Has that scratchy, abstract feel, but is rarely without interest, and more pleasing than anyone would expect. B+(**)

Bill Frisell: All We Are Saying . . . (2011, Savoy Jazz): Framed as an album of John Lennon songs, although 7 of 16 are of a vintage where they also credit Paul McCartney. Doesn't seem to have been intended as a deep conviction tribute; rather, something that Frisell got roped into trying on a tour and like the sound of. From his liner notes: "This wasn't my idea. I didn't ask to do it. Ever since I've entered into the world of music, I've never really had to figure out what to do. The music always tells you what to do, where to go. There's always something new waiting right there in front of you." That something is the guitarist's logic in picking around a melody, so striking early on when he attacked artists as diverse as Ives and Madonna, honed over 40+ albums into an ingenious reflexive style. His intuitive approach fares about as well as any with the Beatles' songs -- a common temptation to people who grew up with them (Frisell was b. 1951) hoping to modernize the standards songbook, one that has almost never succeeded. With Greg Leisz on steel guitar and Jenny Scheinman on violin, plus Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the string sound is pure and saccharine sweet -- something one tires of, although it's unlikely that the opener, "Across the Universe," will ever sound more sumptously gorgeous. B+(**)

Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Crossroads Unseen (2010 [2011], Euonymous): Violinist, group named after a previous album; quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums). I find the title cut drags melodramatically -- it's not obvious whether this is tied into Hwang's expertise in Chinese classical music, but I get the sense that there should be actors on stage when this plays. The rest of the pieces are more sprightly, as much affinity to Billy Bang as we're likely to find. Don't hear much from Bynum, but you can't go wrong with Filiano. B+(**)

Jason Kao Hwang/Spontaneous River: Symphony of Souls (2010 [2011], Mulatta): Guess I complained too soon about Hwang's classical inclinations. This is a full-fledged symphony, eleven movements, played with 15 violins, 5 violas, 5 cellos, 6 basses, and 7 guitars -- some names I recognize in the small print, but not even the composer stands out in the dank mix. Not without its interest, and might gain something if you cranked the volume up. B+(*)

Tony Malaby: Tony Malaby's Novella (2011, Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, credited first with soprano here. Has a dozen albums since 1993, but I mostly run into him on side credits where he always helps out and often steals the show. One such venue is pianist Kris Davis's Quartet. Davis returns the favor here, not just playing but arranging six pieces from previous Malaby albums for a nonet: four reeds, three brass, her piano, and John Hollenbeck's drums -- no bass but Dan Peck's tuba, Ben Gerstein's trombone, Andrew Badro's bari sax, and Joachim Badenhorst's bass clarinet offer plenty of bottom support. The front-line horns are Ralph Alessi's trumpet, Michael Attias's alto sax, and Malaby's soprano/tenor, but they rarely stand out. I haven't managed to take it all in yet, but it sure is heavy. [B+(***)]

Mambo Legends Orchestra: ¡Ten Cuidao! Watch Out! (2011, Zoho, 2CD): Mostly long-time veterans of Tito Puente's big band -- John Rodriguez, Jose Madera, Mitch Frohman, Frankie Vazquez, Cita Rodriguez, Marco Bermudez are singled out on the back cover. Lots of punch in the horns, rhythm up the wazoo, Vazquez's vocals. It's a bit much by the end, but quite a thrill along the way. B+(***)

Oscar Peñas: From Now On (2009 [2011], Bju'ecords): Guitarist, b. 1972 in Barcelona, Spain; attended Berklee, based in New York. Has two previous Fresh Sound New Talent albums. This is a quartet with Dan Blake on tenor and soprano sax, Moto Fukushima on electric bass, and Richie Barshay on drums, with a couple guests here and there. His guitar builds on all that classical heritage, and the soprano in particular is a close harmonic mate. B+(**)

Houston Person: So Nice (2011, High Note): Hard to think of any tenor saxophonists who have aged so gracefully. Age 76 when this was cut. Interesting that he's added a couple Arbors artists to sit in on a few tracks: Warren Vaché (4 cuts, including first three) and Howard Alden (5 cuts, including first two). They help, and I'd love to hear Person and Vaché cover a full album, but the really nice stuff is when they drop down to a quartet -- John Di Martino (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Lewis Nash (drums). B+(***)

Enrico Pieranunzi Latin Jazz Quintet: Live at Birdland (2008 [2011], CAM Jazz): Pianist, b. 1949 in Rome, Italy, has 30+ records since 1975 -- one of the major jazz pianists of his generation. For this Latin Jazz project, he wrote 6 of 7 pieces (two with "Danza" in the title, one "Choro"), and added two horns to his trio with John Patitucci and Antonio Sanchez: Diego Urcola (trumpet) and Yosvany Terry (alto & soprano sax, plus a percussion credit). B+(**)

Daniel Rosenthal: Lines (2010 [2011], American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, studied with Steve Lacy at New England Conservatory, has played in Either/Orchestra since 2006 (which got him in on their Ethiopian kick). First album. Mostly a two-horn quartet, with Rick Stone's alto sax slipping and sliding around him, cutting a clean harmonic path. Four tracks add Wes Corbett on banjo -- the closer, "Standing," is mostly just the two of them, and especially striking. B+(***)

John Scofield: A Moment's Peace (2011, Emarcy): Guitarist, was a key figure in the 1980s and up through Groove Elation and Quiet in 1994-96 with his fluid style and fascination with funk grooves, but hasn't done much of interest since. This is a back-to-basics quartet, with Larry Goldings on piano and organ, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. Temper changes depending on Goldings' keyboard choice, but that highlights both sides of Scofield's style. His best album since his heyday: had it come out in 1998 we might complain that he's slowing down, but now it feels like a welcome second breath. B+(***)

JC Stylles: Exhilaration and Other States (2009 [2011], Motéma Music): No periods to be seen anywhere near "JC" -- may stand for his given name, Jason Campbell. Ampersand on spine title but not on cover. AMG misfiled this under Pat Bianchi's name. Stylles is a guitarist, New York-based, first album. Bianchi plays organ, and Lawrence Leathers drums, so this is a soul jazz retro. Nicely done, as these things go. "Love for Sale" is a romp; "Don't Explain" is plaintive and delicate. B+(*)

Tin/Bag: Bridges (2010 [2011], MabNotesMusic): Duo: Kris Tiner (trumpet) and Mike Baggetta (guitar). Third album together, the first under their names, the second a quartet as Tin/Bag. (Artwork uses a vertical bar here, which causes software problems for me so I'm sticking with the slash.) Six Tiner pieces, two by Baggetta, closes with "Just Like a Woman" by Bob Dylan. It all plays very tentative -- slow, indeterminate. Interesting how they tiptoe around Dylan's melody. Harder to appreciate that on their own less known material. B+(*)

Kenny Werner with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Institute of Higher Learning (2010 [2011], Half Note): Pianist, b. 1951, has a wide range of records since 1979. This one is a big band using his compositions (plus trad favorite "House of the Rising Sun") and his arrangements. I haven't run into BJO before: AMG lists 4 albums, their website offers 13 since 1999 for sale. Directed by saxophonist Frank Vaganée, a standard-sized big band with guitar but no piano -- guitarist Peter Hertmans gets the first solo, a dandy. Dedicated to Bob Brookmeyer. Liner notes by Maria Schneider. B+(**)

Andréa Wood: Dhyana (2010 [2011], Wood): Title is a Buddhist term (can't do the macron accent over the first 'a' using my chosen codeset); has something to do with reflection/serenity. Singer, first album; wrote 1 of 11 songs, added lyrics to a Wayne Shorter melody for another, arranged the rest. From Washington, DC, one of those "musical families" where she started piano at five (although others play here). Spent three years of her childhood in Prague. Studied at Michigan State and Manhattan School of Music. Nice voice on a straight standard -- "I Only Have Eyes for You" is seductive, for a while. Don't care for the two Brazilian arrangements (yes, one's a Jobim). B

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:

  • Fabian Almazan Trio: Personalities (Biophilo)
  • Pablo Aslan Quintet: Piazzolla in Brooklyn (Soundbrush): November 8
  • Tony Bennett: The Classic Christmas Album (1968-2008, Columbia/Legacy)
  • Michael Cain: Solo (Native Drum Music)
  • Erik Charlston: Jazz Brasil: Essentially Hermeto (Sunnyside): November 8
  • Cinque: Catch a Corner (ALMA)
  • Emmet Cohen: In the Element (BadaBeep)
  • Steve Cropper: Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales (429)
  • Phil Dwyer Orchestra: Changing Seasons (ALMA)
  • Rob Garcia 4: The Drop and the Ocean (Bju'ecords)
  • Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz, 2CD): November 15
  • Gilad Hekselman: Hearts Wide Open (Le Chant du Monde)
  • Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie (429)
  • Oscar Peterson: Unmistakable [Zenph Re-Performance] (Sony Masterworks)
  • Jake Saslow: Crosby Street (14th Street)
  • 3 Cohens: Family (Anzic)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Got up this morning and found I hadn't squirreled away any links during the week: all I had was a bunch of open tabs with promising bits and pieces. So this was rather quickly thrown together, but a couple pieces are exceptionally deep.

Nothing yet on the Occupy Wall Street movement (which, by the way, has a presence here in Wichita). Needless to say, I not only approve of the protests, I think they are necessary. For one thing, they provide a forum for public education on issues that had been quietly swept under the rug after the election in 2008 of Obama and a Democratic Congress. From early 2009 it's become clear that Obama was not going to make the case for change in the economic system, but aside from the occasional carping blogger we've sat idly and impotently on the sidelines, while the right bankrolled the sham Tea Party movement. But the protests don't just provide more balanced information. They provide the sort of emotional heft needed to get that information taken seriously. One may be skeptical about whether it will work, but the American political system is pressure sensitive. Until now, that pressure has only come from the right and its interest groups, and that has swept all good intentions before it. Moreover, the economic issue is one that has tremendous built-up energy behind it. This is not something that's going to evaporate soon because this is something that has so many unconscious and subconscious victims waiting for something to come into focus.

  • Thomas Geoghegan: What Would Keynes Do? John Cassidy has a generally useful piece on Keynes in the Oct. 10, 2001 New Yorker (not readily available online; also see Cassidy's blog) where he stresses the importance of aggregate demand in recovering from a recession, and goes to great lengths to illustrate that Keynes' concern was to salvage capitalism, not to bury it. But Geoghegan takes a different tack: he argues that the real problem with the US economy is the longstanding and ever-burgeoning trade deficit, and finds plenty of support for that in Keynes:

    For Keynes, the problem would be not just getting people into stores, or even getting employers to hire but getting our plutocracy to invest. It's not just our jobless rate but our huge trade deficit that would appall him. He'd be aghast to see the United States bogged down in so much debt to the rest of the world. [ . . . ]

    In 1936, when Keynes wrote his classic -- The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money -- he was emphatic on this point: no country, ever, should run up any kind of trade deficit, much less the trade deficit on steroids we are running. Of course, in 1936 and for years after, the United States was the biggest creditor country in the history of the world. So Keynes never worried about our being a debtor country -- rather, he spent much of his last days begging the United States to get other countries out of debt. If he came back and saw the colossal external debt we run now, he would be pushing for a serious plan to bring it down just as hard as he'd be pushing a stimulus for full employment. [ . . . ]

    Keynes believed that practical leaders would always see the supreme importance of keeping the country out of external debt -- indeed, he seemed to see this as the first duty of the state. For Keynes, in his later years, it was the economic analogue to defending one's country. Avoiding an external debt was an act of patriotism and national self-preservation in a sense that even reducing unemployment was not. It's "fighting for freedom," in Skidelsky's phrase. Keynes would not believe how Obama, the Tea Party, the Democrats, the Republicans -- our leaders -- pay so little attention to our whopping trade deficit, as if it had nothing at all to do with our slump.

    The right, the Tea Party, the Concord Coalition, Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson, Peter Peterson -- they want to bring down the federal deficit. The left, our side, generally wants to go deeper into debt and get to full employment. Then we'll bring down the federal deficit. Then we'll have full employment and all will be well.

    But until we bring down the trade deficit and fix our balance of payments, there is no way out of debt.

    OK, Geoghegan still has Germany on his mind: the prime example of a high-tech nation which runs a positive trade balance (even, it seems, at the expense of the rest of Europe, which it's managed to trap in its Eurozone). But the main effect of the US trade deficit isn't just to make the nation as a whole poorer. It's to increase inequality within the nation, and the effect of that is increased misery for most Americans. The way it works is simple: we send our dollars abroad, where they are collected by the elites -- foreign businessmen, multinational corporations, the politicos they all have to bribe. If we had balanced trade, those dollars would come back to the US and many of them would trickle down to workers, but since we don't produce that much others want to buy, the dollars have to be redeemed elsewhere: buying US bonds is relatively benign, but mostly they go to run up the price of US assets, one of the main ways the rich get richer. And as the rich get richer, they become more powerful and more able to make the rest of our lives miserable -- perhaps you noticed that by now. The big problem with inequality isn't statistical: it's that you make life at the bottom cheaper, therefore more disposable. And since those at the bottom don't like such shabby treatment, the increased hierarchy depends ever more on brutality.

    Part of the reason the United States isn't doing better is that, thanks to the trade deficit, Keynesianism has lost its punch. On the evidence of The General Theory Keynes would argue that a stimulus has to be bigger, or work harder, as long as we have this external debt. Consider a twist on Keynes's famous Aesop-like fable about the Bank of England. Let's drop the Bank of England and make it all about the Federal Reserve. As Keynes would put it, rather than do nothing in a slump, it would be better for the Fed to bury bank notes in bottles and pay Americans to dig them up. Not only do we goose employment but there is a multiplier effect.

    But Keynes did not say we should put bank notes in bottles and bury them in China and have Chinese workers dig them up. Why not? Well, it doesn't do us any good. It does not employ any US workers. And of course, there would be no "multiplier." The beauty of the stimulus is the "multiplier" effect. OK, I will oversimplify: if we hire Americans to dig up the bottles with bank notes, they have cash to spend. In 1936 they might go to spend it at the corner bar. The bar hires more wait staff. They go out and buy more groceries. Someone buys an extra truck and truck driver to bring the fructose syrup in from Iowa for our Froot Loops, and . . . should I stop?

    It just goes on and on . . . jobs, jobs, jobs, multiplying to the Pythagorean heights.

    But it's not 1936. It's 2011. Now after digging up the bottles, Americans will go to Target and Walmart and spend on bags of kitty litter made by child labor in China. And what's going to happen to the multiplier when the Obama bucks we spend end up over there? In Chapter 10 of The General Theory Keynes writes, "In an open system with foreign trade relations some part of the multiplier . . . will accrue to the benefit of employment in foreign countries." Or, as he said, there will be a bit of "leakage." But that's OK if they buy back from us. If there is a balance of trade, it's OK. But they aren't buying back from us. They are buying more from Japan and Germany, so our stimulus goes out of China and over to those countries.


    There are other reasons Keynesianism has lost its punch.

    First, by making their own cutbacks, our state governments can nullify the federal stimulus. In 1936 the states were just toy governments. The New Dealers hated them. But now they are far bigger public sector employers than Washington. By virtue of state constitutions requiring balanced budgets, they have to cut when Keynesian theory would have them spend. If the stimulus did not stimulate, we can partly blame our fifty Tea Party constitutions, which require a foolish "austerity" in the states. In our system of federalism, a Keynesian-type stimulus is half unconstitutional.

    Second, the rich are so much richer now than they were in our Keynesian golden age (let's say 1940 to 1975). If Obama gets GDP growth up by 1 percent, most of that goes to the superrich. It's beyond their capacity to consume it -- i.e., to unleash a multiplier effect. The Financial Times has a regular supplement called "How to Spend It," but it's beyond their human strength. There's too much to spend.

    A stimulus can wake up an egalitarian country's economy, since everyone is spending. But a stimulus cannot wake up the economy of a super-plutocracy: the people at the very top just roll over in bed.

    The third part of the article has a number of recommendations about what to do (especially "what Keynes would do"). All are worth quoting, but I'll refrain. The key insight is that the rise of the financial industry coincided with the increase in trade deficits, and that it made matters worse by luring the rich into speculation instead of making long-term investments in making things that could be exported. (It also piqued their taste for the easy gains of usury and larceny.) So anything that would rein in the banks would be a plus: usury laws, strict regulation, a transaction tax, eliminating the tax breaks that allow the Mitt Romneys of the world to buy up companies and pay for them by sticking them with crippling debt. Then there's this:

    The one standard way of being competitive abroad is to cut wages here -- to improve the terms of trade. Keynes hated the idea of cutting wages. It was the standard remedy of classical theory, and he loved to point out that cutting demand at home might only prolong a slump. But suppose the government could dramatically cut nonwage labor costs by assuming the cost of health insurance? If our government could deliver just one Keynesian "shock" to make us more competitive, it would be single payer national healthcare. At least right now, we should expand Medicare coverage (lower the eligibility age) and adopt a public option, so that the government can have more bargaining leverage to beat down by decree the stupefying prices we pay to get well in an ever more concentrated healthcare sector.

    It is horrifying to see even the "tough" new President Obama proposing to shrink Medicare -- aside from leaving people uncovered, shrinking coverage means shrinking the government's power to dictate the price and leaves employers and the rest of us exposed to higher healthcare costs. If the president wanted to increase the trade deficit, the best thing he could do would be to cut Medicare coverage and give the government even less power to hold down the healthcare costs that make us even less competitive abroad than we are now.

    Finally, I think Keynes would hold up on the small stuff -- i.e., the cuts in the payroll tax or the proffer of one more investment tax credit -- for none of that will matter (if it ever matters) until we get people out of loans. In one way or another, in keeping with the ancient wisdom of the Bourbons and the Habsburgs divined by Keynes, we have to take down the scaffolding of this creditor-debtor economy in which our country is imprisoned.

  • Andy Kroll: Flat-Lining the Middle Class: Numbers, numbers, numbers. Here's the executive summary:

    In recent months, a blizzard of new data, the hardest of hard numbers, has laid bare the dilapidated condition of the American economy, and particularly of the once-mighty American middle class. Each report sparks a flurry of news stories and pundit chatter, but never much reflection on what it all means now that we have just enough distance to look back on the first decade of the twenty-first century and see how Americans fared in that turbulent period.

    And yet the verdict couldn't be more clear-cut. For the American middle class, long the pride of this country and the envy of the world, the past 10 years were a bust. A washout. A decade from hell.

    Paychecks shrank. Household wealth melted away like so many sandcastles swept off by the incoming tide. Poverty spiked, swallowing an ever-greater share of the population, young and old. "This is truly a lost decade," Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz said of these last years. "We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we're looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s." [ . . . ]

    In the meantime, the middle class has flat-lined. Life support is nowhere close to arriving. One lost decade may have ended, but the next one has likely only begun.

    The statistics are all too familiar, but they seem to have little impact, perhaps because the definition of middle class is so fluid and its mystique is so tendentious. I wonder if it's possible to credibly spell out what a middle class standard of living is, what occupations fit into that definition (at least 50 years ago, when it was generally agreed that this was a middle class nation), and how those alignments have changed. For instance, in 1960 my parents were middle-aged (father was 35, worked in a factory; mother older, was a homemaker); they owned a house; had net savings; they had health insurance, a defined-benefits pension; they would be able to afford to send their three children through college (not that we all made it; I wound up going about $2000 in debt after transfering to a fancy private college). One can argue that they were middle class. If so, how many 35-year-old blue-collar workers with a single-income and a wife and three kids can say the same today? Certainly, some occupation group have held pace and can still be considered middle class, but not blue-collar workers, and probably not huge swathes of white-collar workers (like teachers). Moreover, others have hung on by adding a second income and/or accumulating a lot of debt, but that's not really the same thing. It's an exaggeration to say that the middle class "has flat-lined" but it's certainly shrunk a lot and slipped up the income distribution scale to where it's become an increasingly elusive status. On the other hand, median wage (or salary) earners are finding less and less separating them from the poor -- often nothing more than a lost job or underinsured illness, things that can happen almost as suddenly and unexpectedly as being picked off by the DC Sniper.

    By the way, John Cassidy has a blog post, Poverty and Income in America: The Four Lost Decades, on this:

    If you do the comparison with 1973 it is even worse. The figure for median earnings of full-time male workers in that year (when O. J. rushed two thousand yards and Tony Orlando had a chart-topper with "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree") was $49,065. Between now and then, Archie Bunker and Willie Loman have suffered a pay cut of more than twenty-five dollars a week.

    Is it any wonder Americans are not as optimistic as they used to be?

    Cassidy points out this that this has been pointed out before, citing an article he wrote in 1995 ("Who Killed the Middle Class?" -- again, abstract only online).

  • Jane Mayer: State for Sale: On the bankrolling of the Republican resurgence in North Carolina, thanks largely to a conservative moneybags named Arthur Pope, with a hat tip to the Supreme Court for letting money enjoy free speech.

    Yet Pope's triumph in 2010 was sweeping. According to an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, of the twenty-two legislative races targeted by him, his family, and their organizations, the Republicans won eighteen, placing both chambers of the General Assembly firmly under Republican majorities for the first time since 1870. North Carolina's Democrats in Congress hung on to power, but those in the state legislature, where Pope had focussed his spending, were routed.

    The institute also found that three-quarters of the spending by independent groups in North Carolina's 2010 state races came from accounts linked to Pope. The total amount that Pope, his family, and groups backed by him spent on the twenty-two races was $2.2 million -- not that much, by national standards, but enough to exert crucial influence within the confines of one state. For example, as Gillespie had hoped, the REDMAP strategy worked: the Republicans in North Carolina's General Assembly have redrafted congressional-district boundaries with an eye toward partisan advantage.

    Experts predict that, next fall, the Republicans will likely take over at least four seats currently held by Democrats in the House of Representatives, helping the Party expand its majority in Congress. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly is raising issues that are sure to galvanize the conservative vote in the 2012 Presidential race, such as a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

    Republican state legislators have also been devising new rules that, according to critics, are intended to suppress Democratic turnout in the state, such as limiting early voting and requiring voters to display government-issued photo I.D.s.

    The vote suppression movement has been going on in Republican state legislatures all over the nation, including here in Kansas where you'd think it would hardly be necessary. But low voter turnout is essential to Republican success: when 117 million voted in 2008 the Democrats won the House by 13 million votes; in in 2010, only 78 million voted and the Republicans took the House back. (For these numbers, and more, look here.) Of course, unlimited money had something to do with it, too, and there are other factors. But knowing their platform is not in the best interests of the overwhelming majority, the Republicans play every angle they can.

  • Corey Robin: Revolutionaries of the Right: Subtitled "The Deep Roots of Conservative Radicalism." Robin has a new book out: The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011, Oxford University Press) -- I grabbed a copy of it, but haven't had time to dig in yet. His main point is that conservatives today are little different than conservatives any time in the past, at least as far back as when Burke was railing against the French Revolution -- this he contrasts with the efforts of conservative discontents (and their liberal admirers) who are tempted to argue that today's conservatives are somehow different from their ancestors. Robin mostly focuses on Burke, who only matters if you think he matters, but was as bloody-minded about France as Hayek about the Soviet Union, or the worst contemporary you can imagine against Obama.

    A commenter points to an essay written in 2004: Philip E Agre: What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong With It?. The intro is spot on:

    Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

    Q: What is conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

    Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

    These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

    Further down, Agre talks about the conservative claim for freedom:

    Conservatism constantly changes, always adapting itself to provide the minimum amount of freedom that is required to hold together a dominant coalition in the society. In Burke's day, for example, this meant an alliance between traditional social authorities and the rising business class. Although the business class has always defined its agenda in terms of something it calls "freedom," in reality conservatism from the 18th century onward has simply implied a shift from one kind of government intervention in the economy to another, quite different kind, together with a continuation of medieval models of cultural domination.

    This is a central conservative argument: freedom is impossible unless the common people internalize aristocratic domination. Indeed, many conservative theorists to the present day have argued that freedom is not possible at all. Without the internalized domination of conservatism, it is argued, social order would require the external domination of state terror. In a sense this argument is correct: historically conservatives have routinely resorted to terror when internalized domination has not worked. What is unthinkable by design here is the possibility that people might organize their lives in a democratic fashion.

    Much more worthwhile here. I can't even disagree with his claim that "Snoop Dogg's music really is garbage," but caution against generalizing from one data point.

  • Jonathan Schell: Cruel America: Starts with the audience applause for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's record of 235 executions, a phenomenon that Jim Geraghty dubbed "voting to kill": a big part of the Bush-Cheney election strategy, a platform that Obama is increasingly well pitched to run on.

    At the GOP debate on the 12th, there was another public expression of enthusiasm for loss of life in Texas. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who favors repeal of President Obama's health plan, what medical response he would recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma.

    Paul answered, "That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks." He seemed to be saying that if the young man died, that was his problem.

    There were cheers from the crowd.

    Blitzer pressed on: "But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" Someone in the audience shouted, "Yeah!" And the crowd roared in approval.

    A characteristic that these exchanges have in common is cruelty. [ . . . ] There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It's hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad. Enthusiasm for killing is an unmistakable symptom of cruelty. It also appeared after the killing of Osama bin Laden, which touched off raucous celebrations around the country. It is one thing to believe in the unfortunate necessity of killing someone, another to revel in it. This is especially disturbing when it is not only government officials but ordinary people who engage in the effusions.

    I want to add that cruelty goes hand in hand with brutalization. The more we engage in war, the more cruel we become, and not just to the enemy but to ourselves. And this gets reflected in economic and social policies at home. The essential point of the education "reform" dubbed "no child left behind" was stigmatize and penalize failure. Our justice system spares few expenses when it comes to punishing miscreants, but offers little to help people in need. We've long been told that we need to end welfare programs so that people don't become dependent on them. Now we have to shut off unemployment insurance too. "Tough love," it's called, but being mostly tough it's easily transformed to hate.

  • Peter Van Buren: Freedom Isn't Free at the State Department, and How the American Taxpayer Got Plucked in Iraq: Former State Department functionary, wrote a recent book on what he learned from his service in Iraq: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (2011, Metropolitan Books).

Friday, October 07, 2011

Expert Comments

Some stuff -- evidently the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in the ALCS playoffs last night:

Catching up: I lost interest in baseball before whatever happened with Arizona in 2001 happened, but still vividly recall 1960, when the Yankees dominated like their 1927 team (and indeed were their 1961 team) except when Vern Law pitched, then lost on a series of cosmic flukes. But the Tigers were always my second favorite AL team, and we would have been more conscious of this had my father-in-law lived to enjoy it.

After Jobs died, I was on the phone with a friend who misheard the news and told me Bill Gates had just died. Bad day for the oligarchy, I thought. I bought an Apple II in 1979, plus a bunch of add-ons including a serial port card. I paid $99 for the latter, and later priced out the components which came out to less than $2. Read an interview with Wozniak later where he was bragging about how cheap he built that board. I'd been reading a lot of MBA-oriented business lit at the time stressing how prices should be set independent of costs. I never forgave Apple for that serial card. Ever since they've symbolized for me the shift to predatory rentier capitalism that is the root of most of our problems. So I've been conscious from nearly day one how systematically they convert awe and adulation into exorbitant profits. Lots of companies treat the help bad, but Apple is in a class of one in its ability to snooker people into paying for image.

I haven't intellectually, much less physically, engaged with the Occupy Wall Street demos, but will note that a related event in Wichita drew over 100 people.

On Brad Sroka's 1960s jazz poll:

Regarding the '60s jazz poll, let me once again offer up the P&J long ballot rule I used back in the 2002-03 poll: albums 1-10 scored per P&J, 11-20 given 1 vote 3 points, 21-30 given 1 vote 2 points, 31+ (until your arm falls off, or your brain drains) 1 vote 1 point. Doesn't tend to change the top results much, but lets you accumulate a much longer list of candidate albums, and allows for some consensus building rather than the middle-bottom of the list just representing arbitrary choices. Downside is more paperwork, but it's not a huge polling population anyway. Depends on what you want to do with the poll: anoint the winner, or search for prospects?

When I did it, nearly everyone extended their list to 20, but few people went beyond 30 (without checking, I'd say there's a real good chance that the only ones were Michaelangelo Matos, Jason Gross, and me). Could be more trying to do a whole decade of jazz at a time: while you have much less to choose from than in doing a rock poll, it's not that much less -- 1 record per year seems awfully constricted.

Another something on Bradley's jazz poll:

I did a quick grep on my database to pluck out the 1960s jazz albums, and I've started to format a master list at /ocston/nm/notes/jazz-1960s.php (http://goo.gl/rk7gN). Alpha by artist, just barely started, but I figured better to announce it prematurely and get feedback while it's easy to fix than wait until it's cast in cement. It did occur to me to break out the vocal artists. Could break out more genres if I knew what ones made sense (Red Allen is trad, Herb Alpert is pop, most others so far are mainstream unless you want to cleave off hard bop and cool and whatever, which becomes increasingly difficult and confusing).

Original file, by the way, barely topped 2000 lines. I expect it will shrink a bit from that, and I'll consider additional nominees if someone will collect them and mail them to me. Also wonder if it's appropriate for me to include my grades -- is that, uh, prejudicial?

Would be nice to have a sticky link to this, the rules, etc. Maybe something that could be added to the blog roll?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Critical Uncertainty

About a year ago I added a section to my "scratch" file to collect links to music pieces, analogous to my "Weekend Roundup" political links. Problem is: I never accumulated enough to bother posting. But all of a sudden I have a few to share.

Francis Davis: Tenor Uncertainty: Still no resolution on my status at the Voice, but at least there's still some quality jazz crit there. First part of a longer survey of recent releases by tenor saxophonists, starting with what we might call the major leagues: Joe Lovano, David Murray, David S. Ware, two by James Carter. I've weighed in on a couple of these, have Carter's Organ Trio in my queue, and need to figure out how to get hold of Murray's Cuban Nat King Cole album. I didn't pass on Carter's Caribbean Rhapsody because of my "categorical aversion to jazz-and-classical hyphenates," but that's probably why I didn't like it. Carter is prodigious even in this company, and his solo pieces aren't filler: they keep the album hinged. Still, neither of his two Emarcy albums are as much fun as his moonlighting with the Dutch group De Nazaten, where he's not even the most important saxophonist but convinced me that his baritone rep is deserved.

Looking forward to: "Next time: up-and-comers, long shots, and a few out-of-towners." Some overlap here with my pending Jazz CG, but I have some even longer shots from even further out of town -- Rodrigo Amado, for one. Davis is more comfortable than I am with what used to be called Third Stream, with set deals like Lovano playing Parker, and with the supremacy of Sonny Rollins over all other mortals, but he has great ears, and I've found more unknowns through him than through any other jazz critic. If the Voice only keeps one of us, it'd be more useful for me to read him.

On the other hand, they're not running him often enough. This is only the third Davis piece in the Voice this year: the others are on Bill Dixon and Steve Lugerner and Matana Roberts.

Jason Gubbels has started what promises to be a six-part series, Notable Jazz Recordings, 1980-1989: Re-evaluating a Decade -- out so far: Part 1, and Part 2. Consistently interesting selections thus far:

  • Ran Blake: Short Life of Barbara Monk (1986, Soul Note)
  • Paul Bley: BeBopBeBopBeBopBeBopBeBop (1989, Steeplechase)
  • Joe Bonner: Suite for Chocolate (1986, Steeplechase)
  • Charles Brackeen: Worshippers Come Nigh (1987, Silkheart)
  • Anthony Braxton: Six Monk's Compositions (1987, Black Saint)
  • Marilyn Crispell: For Coltrane (1987, Leo)
  • Lee Konitz: Wild as Springtime (1984, Candid)
  • Frank Lowe: Exotic Heartbreak (1981, Soul Note)
  • David Murray: The Hill (1987, Black Saint)
  • John Scofield: Time on My Hands (1989, Blue Note)

First thing that strikes me here is that while all ten artists are Americans, only two of the records are on US labels (Candid and Blue Note). In particular, Giacomo Pelliciotti's Black Saint and Soul Note labels should be credited with rescuing jazz in the 1980s.

Second thing I'll note is that while these are all good records -- OK, I haven't heard the Konitz, but it's a Penguin Guide 4-star and Konitz's other 4-stars are superb -- none of them come off the top of my 1980s list, which is considerably more mainstream, something like this (I thought about concocting a new one, then found this one I had assembled in 2007):

  1. Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man (1986, Milestone)
  2. Don Pullen/George Adams: Breakthrough (1986, Blue Note)
  3. Art Pepper: Winter Moon (1980, Galaxy)
  4. Ornette Coleman: In All Languages (1985, Caravan of Dreams)
  5. David Murray: Deep River (1988, DIW)
  6. Ornette Coleman: Of Human Feelings (1982, Antilles)
  7. Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree: 1 (1989, Hat Art)
  8. James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey (1983, Columbia)
  9. Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman: Song X (1985, Nonesuch)
  10. David Murray: Ballads (1988, DIW)
  11. Steve Lacy: Morning Joy: Live at Sunset Paris (1986, Hat Art)
  12. Abdullah Ibrahim: Ekaya (1983, Ekapa)
  13. Don Pullen: New Beginnings (1988, Blue Note)
  14. Bobby Watson: Love Remains (1986, Red)
  15. David Murray: Ming (1980, Black Saint)
  16. Art Pepper: With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 (1981, Galaxy, 2CD)
  17. Bob Wilber: Dancing on a Rainbow (1989, Circle)
  18. Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz (1989, Milestone)
  19. Vienna Art Orchestra: From No Time to Rag Time (1982, Hat Art)
  20. Mal Waldron/Jackie McLean: Left Alone '86 (1986, Evidence)
  21. Barney Wilen: Wild Dogs of the Ruwenzori (1988, Ida)
  22. Roswell Rudd: Regeneration (1982, Soul Note)

By the way, Gubbels' recent reviews of Miles Davis and Mekons aced mine -- partly because I keep dragging my feet on the Davis bootleg set, where other notable critics (like Hank Shteamer and Nate Chinen) have gotten with the program. It's not that I'm engaging in anti-hype (although I've been known to do that), nor that I'm wondering why one should spend so much time focusing on such a well known figure while there are so many others one barely knows (although, now that I think of it, I do). It's just highly professional, technically superb jazz in a vein I know all too well -- and it's hard to say that in a snazzy, insightful way.

While I'm at it, let me also point out (as well as clean out my saved music links):

Went through Stef Gijssels' Free Jazz blog tonight, added all the missing records to my metacritic file, and bumped the counts. Rather depressing: I haven't seen 90% of the records he likes, including some by players like William Parker and Ken Vandermark that I've written about a lot, as well as scads of people I've never heard of. I could probably chase most of those down were I to get real aggressive about it, but that doesn't seem worthwhile given my current uncertainty. Also noted that I don't think the other 10% are all that good. Somewhere in the middle of the task I saw a post where he congratulated himself on crossing the one million unique visitor milestone. I recommend his site, but it does seem a little incongruous with narrowly adhering to a niche where a record that sells 500 copies is a blockbuster. I don't watch my own stats enough to have any idea whether I'm within a country mile of that, but I doubt it -- even after 12 years "on the web."

Expert Comments

Stan Youle wrote a very kind fan letter, which I'll save here for lack of anyplace better:

Tom: I've been reading your wonderful blog for a few years now and, without intending to insult the fine stuff emerging here at all, I always thought the absence of a Comments section was a great move. (I say this not knowing if you tried and discarded one, or have always dreamed of one.) Anyway, something about the purity of not having one, I really like. What was and is striking is the way your work carries the sense of an audience without you appearing to check in with that audience or even check it's there - although visitor stats might have bolstered your resolve from time to time?? But even then, you don't seem like a page-view stats kind of blogger. More an appetite-for-the-world sorta guy.

One of the wonders of THIS forum is that I can take such an opportunity to thank you for all the reading, the recommendations, the long-running gag with the uncommunicative Voice, the list-making, the politics, the recipes, and even the updates on your home renovations (which in some Pepys-like fashion I find addictive!). And of course heading into a jazz poll, I feel we're going to need you more than ever . . .

Cheers to you, Mr Hull.

PS: the only thing I've never understood is your 'Quicksearch' button, which seems to be a joke one. Even a search on 'Tom Hull' gives the message: 1 results: no entries to print. Quirky.

Should deal with various other comments as well:

Thanks to Stan Youle for the kind words. I use a software package called Serendipity (aka s9y) and I'm currently stuck with a pretty old version of it, so that has something to do with the "features" and "bugs" of the blog. Quicksearch is something they provided, but it never worked very well and looks to be flat broken now. I hadn't noticed because I have other methods for searching the thing, but now that you mention it, I got rid of it. This particular version does a real lousy job of handling comments, so they've always been more hassle than they're worth (no anti-robot or anti-spam filtering, no moderation scheme; just post-facto blacklists). Still, I think a comment thread would be helpful and interesting, if only it were less trouble.

Some other things: Social Living is one of those records with a really checkered release history. My favorite version is Island's 2003 release, which includes some later material. Had I noticed it in my database instead of 1994's Blood & Fire it might have cracked my top 10. Not sure when the first US release was: Discogs says 2003, but Christgau has a 1980 release they missed. I think Discogs is more accurate than AMG, but it's still missing a lot of stuff, and has a few things wrong, too.

Germ Free Adolescents poses another problem, in that the original LP didn't include their first single, "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" Every CD reissue has included it, and that's a good thing. This sort of expansion is everywhere and impossible to ignore: Sun Ra's Disco 3000, expanded to 2CD to include the whole concert, is a prime example; Billy Bang's New York Collage, newly reissued on 2CD with an earlier album, is one that has grown more powerful with time. (I can't comment on the massive Springsteen expansion, except that I rated the original at 195 of 201.)

As for Merle Haggard, anyone notice him namechecking Connie Smith? Her new album is classic enough to deserve it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rhapsody Streamnotes (October 2011)

Pick up text here.

Expert Comments

STB's 1978 poll results:

  1. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food 439 (40) [6]
  2. Elvis Costello and the Attractions: This Year's Model 423 (36) [5]
  3. Wire: Pink Flag 423 (35) [4]
  4. Nick Lowe: Pure Pop for Now People/Jesus of Cool 367 (35) [5]
  5. Blondie: Parallel Lines 294 (29) [6]
  6. The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope 259 (24) [11]
  7. Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove 252 (25) [8]
  8. X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescents 233 (19) [2]
  9. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town 215 (19) [7]
  10. Rolling Stones: Some Girls 212 (21) [12]
  11. Neil Young: Comes a Time 181 (23) [7]
  12. Big Star: 3rd 173 (13) [7]
  13. Willie Nelson: Stardust 171 (13) [7]
  14. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance 123 (13) [10]
  15. Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians 109 (7) [4]
  16. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) 108 (13) [6]
  17. The Ramones: Road to Ruin 103 (13) [11]
  18. Television: Adventure 79 (8) [7]
  19. Ian Dury and the Blockheads: New Boots and Panties!! 70 (9) [2]
  20. Wire: Chairs Missing 69 (8) [2]
  21. Joe Ely: Honky Tonk Masquerade 69 (7) [10]
  22. Warren Zevon: Excitable Boy 58 (7) [9]
  23. The Vibrators: Pure Mania 50 (7) [10]
  24. Pere Ubu: Datapanik in the Year Zero EP 46 (3) [2]
  25. The Cars: The Cars 44 (4) [7]
  26. Patti Smith: Easter 40 (5) [11]
  27. Tom Robinson Band: Power in the Darkness 38 (6) [0]
  28. Lou Reed: Street Hassle 36 (5) [2]
  29. Parliament: Motorbooty Affair 35 (5) [8]
  30. David Johansen: David Johansen 34 (4) [4]
  31. Plastic People of the Universe: Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned 33 (5) [0]
  32. Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear 30 (5) [5]
  33. Johnny Thunders: So Alone 29 (5) [3]
  34. The Adverts: Crossing the Red Sea With the Adverts 26 (4) [3]
  35. Van Morrison: Wavelength 21 (2) [1]
  36. Devo: Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo 18 (2) [6]
  37. Lee Dorsey: Night People 18 (2) [6]
  38. Kate Bush: The Kick Inside 17 (2) [1]
  39. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes: Hearts of Stone 17 (2) [1]
  40. Bob Dylan: Street Legal 15 (3) [1]

Votes + runner-up mentions:

  • Brian Eno: Before and After Science 13 (2) [7]
  • Bob Marley: Kaya 10 (2) [3]
  • Shoes: Black Vinyl Shoes 15 (2) [2]
  • The Saints: Eternally Yours 11 (2) [0]
  • Bob Seger: Stranger in Town 5 (1) [1]
  • Dave Edmunds: Tracks on Wax 4 5 (1) [3]
  • Culture: Africa Stand Alone 10 (1) [1]
  • Sun Ra: Lanquidity 10 (1) [2]
  • Al Green: Truth N' Time 10 (1) [1]
  • Carla Bley: Live European Tour 1977 10 (1) [1]
  • Sonny Rollins: There Will Never Be Another You 9 (1) [1]
  • Chic: C'est Chic 5 (1) [1]
  • Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer: The Bramble and the Rose 6 (1) [1]
  • The Police: Outlandos D'Amour 8 (1) [1]
  • Ashford and Simpson: Is It Still Good to Ya 5 (1) [2]
  • Michael Mantler: Movies 7 (1) [1]

Multiple runner-up mentions, no points:

  • Richard Pryor: Wanted [2]
  • The Band: The Last Waltz [2]
  • Kraftwerk: The Man-Machine [4]
  • Bryan Ferry: The Bride Stripped Bare [4]
  • Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight [5]
  • The Buzzcocks: Another Music in a Different Kitchen [4]
  • Poet and the Roots: Dread Beat an Blood [2]
  • No New York [3]
  • The Jam: All Mod Cons [4]
  • Van Halen: Van Halen [2]
  • Generation X: Generation X [2]
  • Boston: Don't Look Back [3]
  • Robert Ashley: Private Parts [2]

I see from Christgau's website that my actual 1978 back-in-the-day Pazz & Jop ballot was:

  1. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire) 15
  2. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance (Blank) 15
  3. Ramones: Road to Ruin (Sire) 14
  4. Nick Lowe: Pure Pop for Now People (Columbia) 12
  5. Blondie: Parallel Lines (Chrysalis) 12
  6. The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope (Epic) 9
  7. Brian Eno: Before and After Science (Island) 8
  8. Dave Edmunds: Tracks on Wax 4 (Swan Song) 5
  9. Silver Convention: Love in a Sleeper (Midsong International) 5
  10. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Warner Bros.) 5

So aside from the shuffling, I dropped the Ramones, the Clash, Brian Eno, Dave Edmunds, and Captain Beefheart in favor of X-Ray Spex, Joe Ely, Johnny Thunders, Neil Young, and Willis Jackson. Two of those were imports ineligible at the time. I've played Ely and Young more since then than almost any of the others. Jackson was a rather silly token choice -- wanted to slip in a jazz album.

My post:

My ballot:

  1. X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescents 18
  2. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance 16
  3. Nick Lowe: Pure Pop for Now People 12
  4. Joe Ely: Honky Tonk Masquerade 12
  5. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food 10
  6. Blondie: Parallel Lines 8
  7. Johnny Thunders: So Alone 7
  8. Neil Young: Comes a Time 7
  9. Willis Jackson: Bar Wars 5
  10. Silver Convention: Love in a Sleeper 5

Longer list at: http://goo.gl/Y1zYt. I suggested counting down to the end of the A- list (Lee Dorsey) as HMs, but don't know whether they were. Next ten (adding Wire and Vibrators back in) were: Captain Beefheart, Rolling Stones, Brian Eno, Ramones, Wire, Willie Nelson, Vibrators, Tom Robinson, Burning Spear (Social Living), and Warren Zevon.

I had plum forgotten that my original Pazz & Jop ballot is available at the end of Christgau's year-end essay, although I did recall putting Talking Heads' even-numbered albums at the top of three year end lists (their 2nd, 4th, and 6th albums), so I was surprised that my original sort put it in 5th. Two then-ineligible imports crashed my list, plus Joe Ely and Neil Young -- just went through my last trip's travel case, and those were the only 1978 records I found I had packed. Then there was Willis Jackson: I wanted a token jazz album (also picked up a token black artist). I came up with a dozen jazz albums in my top sixty, but Bar Wars was the only full A, and the others were clustered near the bottom of the list. Next opportunity was Zoot Sims, and next one after that was . . . another Zoot Sims. It turned out to be a formative year for the avant-garde -- especially for David Murray -- but was not yet a very compelling one.

I'm not sure whether including Jackson was a good idea, but it was the one record I replayed before sending in the list, and it sounded real good at the time -- it's in the running for the best soul jazz record ever. The other unique choice on my list is the German disco group Silver Convention, which got better and better through five albums, peaking here. I don't recall anyone paying the record any heed, but it was on my Pazz & Jop ballot as well. In retrospect, as much as anything else, 1978 was pivotal as the year disco went new wave -- the Eurodisco producers were part of that, as was Blondie, as was (inadvertently) Wire.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Recycled Goods (90): October 2011

Pick up text here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Music Week

Music: Current count 18845 [18808] rated (+37), 849 [852] unrated (-3).

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Elizabeth Barraclough: Elizabeth Barraclough (1978, Bearsville): B
  • Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band: Meets King Penett (1978, RCA): B
  • Robert Palmer: Double Fun (1978, Island): B-
  • Graham Parker: The Parkerilla (1978, Mercury, 2LP): Live throwaway, contract breaker, fourth side just a re-recorded single. Most memorable thing from the period was his label-dissing single, "Mercury Poisoning," which isn't listed here. B-
  • Status Quo: Rockin' All Over the World (1977, Capitol): B
  • The Vibrators: V2 (1978, Epic): Big letdown from their debut. UK only, so you have to figure the label agreed. B

Changed previous grades:

  • X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescents (1978, Blue Plate): [was: A] A+

Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 9)

I should be talking about closing out the current jazz prospecting cycle, wrapping up and buttoning down another Jazz Consumer Guide column. However, nine weeks after I submitted the last one it hasn't run, and I'm hearing very little about it. (Left phone messages last week; shot off yet another letter to the editor today.) So we're stalled, treading water, whatever.

Better than average bunch of records below, partly because the Bang and Vandermark discs jumped ahead of the their queue slots, partly because I pushed to get the Miles Davis bootleg ready for Recycled Goods. (Same review will run both places, so consider this a sneak preview. Fits both places for bookkeeping purposes, and technically it's all new music -- except for the DVD. Often I write separate pieces, but sometimes I get lazy.) The Carney record also jumped the queue: I played it a lot, like the first one a bit better, and nothing has lingered this week like his "Linger Awhile." Couldn't easily find cover scans for the three new A- records, and felt like Davis would be too redundant, so I grabbed his. The world needs more serious jass, really.

Should have a Recycled Goods tomorrow with a lot of jazz reissues, then a Rhapsody Streamnotes shortly after that.

Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (2011, self-released): Drummer-led quartet, b. 1982 -- I read his bio as saying in Jamaica, but somehow he wound up in Miami. First album, with Tevin Pennicott on tenor sax, Jim Gasior on piano, and Kurt Hengstebeck on electric bass. Atkinson, Pennicott, and Gasior wrote one song each, plus one split between Atkinson and Pennicott; plus four covers -- a Jobim, "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and two from Miles Davis (forgetting about Victor Feldman on "Seven Steps to Heaven"). Group is fast, upbeat, a lot of fun. Pennicott's from Georgia. I noticed him before when he lifted Kenny Burrell's Be Yourself to HM status, and he's even better here, in a real sax blowout. A-

Wolfert Brederode Quartet: Post Scriptum (2010 [2011], ECM): Pianist, b. 1974 in the Netherlands. AMG lists four albums, most likely too few; his website shows 20, many under other names (especially vocalist Susanne Abbuehl). Quartet includes Claudio Puntin (clarinets), Mats Eilertsen (double bass), and Samuel Rohrer (drums). Originals, including one each from Rohrer and Puntin, three from Eilertsen. Very pretty, not quite lush. B+(**)

Frank Carlberg: Uncivilized Ruminations (2011, Red Piano): Pianist, from Finland, AMG lists nine albums since 1992 but that's probably short. Album packaging is sort of a slate gray with white (and light orange) type on it, which my eyes are nowhere near up to deciphering. The music is kind of like that too: I've heard enough to want to move on, but there is a lot of subtle contrasts in the mix: two superb saxophonists in John O'Gallagher and Chris Cheek, the invaluable John Hébert on bass, Michael Sarin on drums, and Christine Correa on vocals. I often can't stand Correa's opera voice, but this time it seems to fit naturally into the overall jumble. B+(**)

Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously (2011, Smog Veil): San Francisco group, led by the sax/clarinet player from Akron who started up in rock group Tin Huey, has long worked with Tom Waits, and occasionally thrown off odd projects on the side. Second group album. First was a dandy, and this comes close to hitting the same sweet spot. Leads off with one from Buddy Tate, then Coleman Hawkins, then two (of three) Ellington tunes. Quartet with keyboard, bass, and drums, plus a guest guitarist on a couple cuts, vocalist Karina Denike on two, a couple more vocals by guys in the band. B+(***)

Ron Carter: Ron Carter's Great Big Band (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): At one point, Morton & Cook (The Penguin Guide) went through their big book counting names and concluded that the guy who had appeared on the most albums was bassist Ray Brown, with just over 300. I did a pretty comprehensive discography of William Parker a while back and saw that he was closing in on 300 -- he's probably topped it now, although not all of those albums would appear in any given edition of The Penguin Guide. I've never tried that with Ron Carter, but I've read claims that he's played on over 1000 albums. That's hard to grasp but it's not inconceivable (figure 25 per year for 40 years). He's certainly played on a lot -- I don't think I saw a single one of the recent CTI reissues that he didn't play on. He even has a lot more under his own name than I expected: AMG lists 53, but I've only picked up five. I've always found him tough to figure, sometimes tempted to view him as someone just fortunate to be in the right places -- above all Miles Davis's late-1960s quintet -- at the right time, but every now and then I hear something from him that makes me wonder if he really isn't one of the foremost bassists of his generation. This record doesn't settle anything. I think he means us to parse the title as "(great) (big band)" rather than "(great big) (band)" -- he's only an English horn over a standard weight, and doesn't have a guitar. But most of the musicians are names you'll recognize. He wrote 2 of 13 pieces, picked most of the rest from the bebop generation (Gillespie, Stitt, Mulligan, Lewis, Nat Adderley, Shorter, with nods to Ellington, Handy, and Sy Oliver. Lays out plenty of solos for his stars. It's all very neat, just not quite enough to bow you over. B+(**)

Come Sunday: Crosscurrents (2011, self-released): Vocal group -- Bill Brickey, Lindsay Weinberg, Alton Smith, Sue Demel -- backed by guitar, bass, and drums, assuming the name of the Duke Ellington song -- they also cite Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson as inspirations. Thirteen gospel pieces, eight by trad. Best news here is that Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" has entered the canon, but I'd much rather hear Wonder do it. B-

Kris Davis: Aeriol Piano (2009 [2011], Clean Feed): Pianist, originally from Canada, based in New York. Has several excellent records, but they've mostly featured top saxophonists like Tony Malaby. This one is solo piano, inevitably a little thin but interesting nonetheless, especially for her rhythmic workings. Note that the inside photos show her leaning over the box, not operating the keys. B+(**)

Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1 (1967 [2011], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): Something like this was inevitable -- especially since the DVD was slipped into the 70-CD Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection (now no longer complete) -- and the Vol. 1 promises more are in the works. (For comparison, Legacy's Dylan Bootleg series is up to Vol. 9.) The sets were recorded Oct. 11-Nov. 7, 1967, which slots this between Nefertiti and Miles in the Sky in the Davis discography, midway in an empty stretch as far as live recordings go. The group is the Quintet you know so well: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams. The set lists recycle, with "Agitation" leading off the first two CDs and both sets on the DVD -- it has a strong trumpet lead to set the stage. Sophisticated music but not so exciting: on the DVD the group is focused, cool and workmanlike, no excess motion or emotion. Not a major find, but a remarkable group. A-

FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (2005 [2011], TUM): Name comes from a fortunate combination of initials: Joe Fonda (bass), Barry Altschul (drums), and Billy Bang (violin), whose death last year makes this all the more precious. Group did a previous album together, in 2003, Transforming the Space (CIMP) -- a record I like at least as much as this one. A-

Marquis Hill: New Gospel (2011, self-released): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, first album, a mainstream thing with soulful integrity, the front line shared with two saxophones, the rhythm section filled out with both piano and guitar. Modestly runs 36:36 -- in a more commercial genre this would be counted as an EP. B+(*)

Francisco Mela & Cuban Safari: Tree of Life (2010 [2011], Half Note): Drummer, b. 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba. Third album since 2005. The first two were very impressive, but I've played this four times now and already lost my thread of thought. Could do without the vocals (Esperanza Spalding), for one thing. B+(*)

Sean Nowell: Stockholm Swingin' (2010 [2011], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973, third album, cut live at the Glenn Miller Café in Stockholm with what appears to be a local crew: Fredrik Olsson (guitar), Leo Lindberg (piano), Lars Ekman (bass), and Joe Abba (drums), with three tunes credited to the band members, one to Nowell, one Swedish trad, plus Ellington, Strayhorn, and Tyner. Nowell is a mainstream guy who flexes a lot of muscle, turning this into a high speed, high volume romp. B+(***)

Oscar Perez Nuevo Comienzo: Afropean Affair (2011, Chandra): Pianist, born in New York, father left Cuba in 1966. Studied at University of North Florida and Queens College. Second album, the first his subsequent group name. With Greg Glassman (trumpet), Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano sax), Charenee Wade (vocals), bass, drums, percussion. Ends with the three part "The Afropean Suite" but all the pieces are flowing suite-like things, the voice adding an unsettling aura. B [October 11]

Side A: A New Margin (2010 [2011], Clean Feed): Free jazz trio: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Håvard Wiik (piano), Chad Taylor (drums). First group album, although Wiik is in Vandermark's Jimmy Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group and they have five or so albums together, and Taylor has been bouncing around Chicago's underground long enough he must have bumped into Vandermark somewhere. Writing credits are evenly distributed. Given recording date omits year, but the most likely October is last year. Vandermark takes a clarinet feature with remarkable grace and poise, but he mostly races through fast changes, loud and rough yet they seem remarkably complete and coherent. A-

Geoff Vidal: She Likes That (2009 [2011], Arts and Music Factory): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1980, from New Orleans, based in New York since 2006. First album, a postbop quintet with trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums. Veers into fusion toward the end, with guitarist Joe Hundertmark taking charge. B

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:

  • Tony Bennett: The Classic Christmas Album (1968-2008, Columbia/Legacy): advance, October 11
  • Greg Burk Trio: The Path Here (482 Music)
  • Taylor Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12)
  • Lajos Dudas/Hubert Bergmann: What's Up Neighbor? (Jazz Sick)
  • Fattigfolket: Park (Ozella Music)
  • Keith Jarrett: Rio (ECM, 2CD): advance, November 8
  • Paul Kikuchi: Portable Sanctuary Vol. 1 (Present Sounds)
  • Harold O'Neal: Marvelous Fantasy (Smalls)
  • Lola Regenthal: With You (Origin)
  • Dino Saluzzi: Navidad de los Andes (ECM)
  • Sounds and Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher (1980-2008, ECM)
  • Tarana: After the Disquiet (EP) (self-released, EP)
  • Wellstone Conspiracy: Humble Origins (Origin)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A Downloader's Diary (15): October 2011

Insert text from here.

This is the 15th installment, monthly since August 2010, totalling 382 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Weekend Roundup

This week's scattered links and commentary (a day early so I can get on to the big week of music coming up, starting with A Downloader's Diary on Sunday):

  • Paul Hockenos: Heart of Dunkelheit: A review of two recent books on the Germany's first taste of genocide in 1904-08 when as colonial masters of South West Africa (now Namibia) they attempted to exterminate the Herero and Nama. The books are Jeremy Sarkin: Germany's Genocide of the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers (2011, James Currey), and David Olusoga/Casper W Erichsen: The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism (2010, Faber and Faber). Curiously enough, I've long been familiar with this history as it forms a key chapter in Thomas Pynchon's novel V. For the more general view, also see Sven Lindqvist: "Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide (1992; paperback, 1996, The New Press).

  • Paul Krugman: Does Economics Still Progress?: Expresses discomfort with describing economics as a science, then:

    Still, when I was younger I firmly believed that economics was a field that progressed over time, that every generation knew more than the generation before.

    The question now is whether that's still true. In 1971 it was clear that economists knew a lot that they hadn't known in 1931. Is that clear when we compare 2011 with 1971? I think you can actually make the case that in important ways the profession knew more in 1971 than it does now.

    I've written a lot about the Dark Age of macroeconomics, of the way economists are recapitulating 80-year-old fallacies in the belief that they're profound insights, because they're ignorant of the hard-won insights of the past.

    What I'd add to that is that at this point it seems to me that many economists aren't even trying to get at the truth. When I look at a lot of what prominent economists have been writing in response to the ongoing economic crisis, I see no sign of intellectual discomfort, no sense that a disaster their models made no allowance for is troubling them; I see only blithe invention of stories to rationalize the disaster in a way that supports their side of the partisan divide. And no, it's not symmetric: liberal economists by and large do seem to be genuinely wrestling with what has happened, but conservative economists don't.

    Krugman is right that there is an asymmetry between liberal and conservative (or more generally left and right), but I think it's more deeply rooted. The imposition of political ideology on social and economic data is nothing new -- it's so inevitable that it's pretty much something you have to factor in as part of the cost of doing business (something the left is better at because they're more conscious of how it works). But the deeper difference is that conservative economic theories are fair weather theories: they start with the assumption that capitalism works just peachy keen, an assertion they can buttress empirically when it does and which they have to obfuscate theoretically when it doesn't. On the other hand, left and liberal economic theories (Marx and Keynes) were developed in response to crises within capitalism -- Keynes aimed at repair while Marx aimed at revolution, but both started with empirical failures and built theories to explain them.

    So now that we are again in a deep economic crisis, it is all but inevitable that conservative theories will disconnect from reality, and that left/liberal economists will find their entire worldview confirmed in actual data -- indeed, I have to say that Keynes has never looked so good. One result of this is that most of the "progress" that conservative economists had claimed during their post-1970 ascendancy -- which, by the way, was fueled more by the political gains of the right than by their own genius -- has turned out to be empirically useless: that such "zombie ideas" (cf. John Quiggin's book) persist at all has everything to do with the tenacious political hold of the right. (In economics this is partly explained by the fact that right-wingers like the Kochs bankroll their own economics departments.)

    Krugman concludes: "And all this makes me wonder what kind of an enterprise I've devoted my life to." One, I would submit, eager to peddle the ideas of the class that supports them.

  • Barry C Lynn/Phillip Longman: Who Broke America's Jobs Machine?: This is an important piece for understanding why job markets continue to contract even with the current economy growing (such as it is).

    If any single number captures the state of the American economy over the last decade, it is zero. That was the net gain in jobs between 1999 and 2009 -- nada, nil, zip. By painful contrast, from the 1940s through the 1990s, recessions came and went, but no decade ended without at least a 20 percent increase in the number of jobs.

    Many people blame the great real estate bubble of recent years. The idea here is that once a bubble pops it can destroy more real-world business activity -- and jobs -- than it creates as it expands. There is some truth to this. But it doesn't explain why, even when the real estate bubble was at its most inflated, so few jobs were created compared to the tech-stock bubble of the late '90s. Between 2000 and 2007 American businesses created only seven million jobs, before the great recession destroyed more than that. In the '90s prior to the dot-com bust, they created more than twenty-two million jobs. [ . . . ]

    The problem of weak job creation certainly can't be due to increased business taxes and regulation, since both were slashed during the Bush years. Nor can the explanation be insufficient consumer demand; throughout most of the last decade, consumers and the federal government engaged in a consumption binge of world-historical proportions. [ . . . ]

    But while the mystery of what killed the great American jobs machine has yielded no shortage of debatable answers, one of the more compelling potential explanations has been conspicuously absent from the national conversation: monopolization. [ . . . ] Less well established is what role concentration plays in suppressing new business formation and the expansion of existing businesses, along with the jobs and innovation that go with such growth. Evidence is growing, however, that the radical, wide-ranging consolidation of recent years has reduced job creation at both big and small firms simultaneously. At one extreme, ever more dominant Goliaths increasingly lack any real incentive to create new jobs; after all, many can increase their earnings merely by using their power to charge customers more or pay suppliers less. At the other extreme, the people who run our small enterprises enjoy fewer opportunities than in the past to grow their businesses. The Goliaths of today are so big and so adept at protecting their turf that they leave few niches open to exploit.

    The balance of the article provides many examples of consolidation and monopolization -- some obvious, some surprising. Then the authors return to what has been done in the past to limit monopolies and to stimulate competition:

    Populists have often been charged with being naive romantics who pine for a lost agrarian utopia. Yet in practice, most New Deal-era populists were perfectly at ease with concentration of power; they simply wanted the government to create at least some competition wherever possible and to regulate monopoly in those cases -- like the provision of water or natural gas -- where competition truly seemed wasteful. Indeed, many of the populists were strong proponents of industrial efficiency; they just didn't believe that unregulated industrial monopoly ever was more efficient than competition among at least a few industrial firms. Under the direction of Thurmond Arnold, the antitrust division of the Department of Justice set out to engineer rivalries within large industries wherever possible. In the late 1930s, for example, the government brought an antitrust suit against Alcoa, which had commanded a monopoly over aluminum production. As the suit dragged on through the '40s, the government sped up the process by selling aluminum plants built with public money during World War II to Alcoa's would-be competitors, Kaiser and Reynolds.

    The result of the second New Deal was an economy in which competition was regulated in three basic ways. "Natural" monopolies like water or gas service were left in place, and regulated or controlled directly by government. Heavy industry was allowed to concentrate operations to a large degree, but individual firms were made subject to antitrust law and forced to compete with one another. And in sectors of the economy where efficiencies of concentration were far harder to prove -- retail, restaurants, services, farming -- the government protected open markets.

    One result was a remarkably democratic distribution of political economic power out to citizens and communities across America. Another was an astounding burst of innovation. As the industrial historian David Hounshell has documented, the new competition among large corporations led companies like DuPont and General Electric to ramp up their R&D activities and fashion the resulting technologies into marketable products. Smaller firms, meanwhile, were carefully protected from Goliaths, enabling entrepreneurs to develop not merely ideas but often entire companies to bring the ideas to market.

    Antitrust enforcers weren't content simply to prevent giant firms from closing off markets. In dozens of cases between 1945 and 1981, antitrust officials forced large companies like AT&T, RCA, IBM, GE, and Xerox to make available, for free, the technologies they had developed in-house or gathered through acquisition. Over the thirty-seven years this policy was in place, American entrepreneurs gained access to tens of thousands of ideas -- some patented, some not -- including the technologies at the heart of the semiconductor. The effect was transformative. In Inventing the Electronic Century, the industrial historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr. argued that the explosive growth of Silicon Valley in subsequent decades was largely set in motion by these policies and the "middle-level bureaucrats" in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division who enforced them in the field.

    I've always been a big antitrust advocate -- even before I started identifying as a leftist, when I saw antitrust legislation as the most fundamental tool the public has to ensure the fairness of free markets -- but hadn't thought specifically about how consolidation kills jobs: even though that's the first concern of anyone who's been through a merger, even though I lost my last job as a result of a merger (which, by the way, was just a stepping stone on the way to dissolving both now-defunct companies).

    By the way, I started reading Lynn's Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction (2010, Wiley) a few months back, and I need to get back to it. (Had it from the library, ran out of time, then bought a copy but haven't returned to it yet.) Lynn's previous book on globalization, End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation (2005, Doubleday) is also very smart.

  • Alex Pareene: JPMorgan's CEO Embraces Mitt Romney: That would be Jamie Dimon, who's also embodies the concept of regulatory capture by sitting on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York -- i.e., the place JPMorgan Chase goes for handouts and bailouts. Obama once called Dimon a very savvy businessman, but Dimon got thin-skinned when Obama made a passing remark about fat-cat bankers, so that romance is over.

    Dimon supporting a Republican is only natural. Billionaire financial executives have obvious reasons to support a Republican presidential candidate. The Republican party line is that rich people should keep more of their money and the financial sector should be lightly or not-at-all regulated. But when the "longtime Democrats" who also happen to be bank executives make the switch to the Republican party, they for some reason feel the need to come up with justifications beyond material self-interest. Thus, flailing attempts at sustaining the Democratic party's disappearing middle-class base by lightly soaking the rich are seen as horrific personal attacks on innocent bankers. This makes these billionaires seem like hypersensitive children, but that is apparently preferable to being seen as attempting to maximize their profit by directing political support to the people most likely to allow them to continue vacuuming up and hoarding the world's wealth.

    The Democratic party has been extraordinarily friendly to the interests of the financial sector since the Clinton era, but they are learning now what should've been obvious all along: It is impossible to be more billionaire-friendly than the Republican Party, because the Republican Party's entire political philosophy is that government should exist solely to serve the interests of the wealthy.

  • Rory Stewart: My Uphill Battle Against the Afghanistan Intervention: By which he means military "surge" operations, not sticking your nose in. After the fall of the Taliban, he wrote a book about walking across Afghanistan, then he signed on for the British recolonization of Iraq (subject of another book), then ran an NGO in Kabul, so he's been sticking his nose in plenty. It's just that he doesn't think that sending thousands of troops to overrun someplace like Helmand is a very good idea.

    Nevertheless, I was confident that I was right. I tried to explain that this was not based on any special insights about Afghanistan, but instead on a sense of ourselves: the international community. I felt I had learned in the Balkans and particularly in Iraq that we -- the foreign government organizations and their partners -- know much less and can do much less than we pretend. I knew the international community underestimated the reality of Afghan rural life: they did not grasp just how poor, fragile, and traumatized Afghanistan was; just how conservative and resistant to foreigners, villages could be. Our institutions were too inherently optimistic, too ad hoc, too isolated from the concerns and realities of Afghan life, too caught up in metaphysical abstractions of "governance" and "the rule of law" ever to succeed -- or to notice that we were not succeeding.

    But I don't think I ever convinced a single international in Kabul that "counterinsurgency" or "state-building" was doomed to failure. I began, from my base in Kabul, to travel to the bewildering international policy conferences to try to make the same arguments, but I had no more success. In 2007, for example, I spoke in Tartu, Estonia, at a government conference on Afghanistan. There were German generals, Italian diplomats, and representatives from European think tanks. The three Afghans present were almost the only native English speakers in the room, having been brought up in California and Virginia. The participants were reminded that there was "no military solution"; lectured on the need for a "comprehensive approach," including economic development and good government; and taught the intricacies of Pashtun tribal structures. I argued for my belief that there should not be troop increases but a "light long-term footprint." The conference concluded that more resources and a new strategy were needed. [ . . . ]

    At the end of 2008, I moved back to the United States to teach and to run a center at the Harvard Kennedy School. This was, I felt, the best chance I would ever get of convincing the international community to stop increasing the number of troops and adopt a "plan B." [ . . . ] And my real advantage was that I was not alone. The center I was in at Harvard included six fellows who between them had spent over a century in the region, and who were, therefore, unlike me, real experts on Afghanistan. They covered every subject, from agriculture to tribes and counterinsurgency; they spoke Afghan languages fluently and were continually deep in the field. They were now also arguing, with their own hectic travel schedules, and through every conceivable channel and medium, against the current strategy of further troop increases, and in favor of a lighter, more moderate approach. Between us we briefed almost all of the major international policy-makers, diplomats, generals, and foreign ministers. But in March 2009, seventeen thousand more troops were sent. We redoubled our efforts to ensure that those were the last, and that the administration would now adopt a different strategy. Then, in October 2009 -- four years after I had begun a path where I did almost nothing other than argue against troop increases -- Obama sent another thirty-four thousand troops.

Expert Comments

Ballot for STB's 1978 enhanced P&J contest:

  1. X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescents (Blue Plate) 18
  2. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance (Blank) 16
  3. Nick Lowe: Pure Pop for Now People (Columbia) 12
  4. Joe Ely: Honky Tonk Masquerade (MCA) 12
  5. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire) 10
  6. Blondie: Parallel Lines (Chrysalis) 8
  7. Johnny Thunders: So Alone (Real) 7
  8. Neil Young: Comes a Time (Reprise) 7
  9. Willis Jackson: Bar Wars (Muse) 5
  10. Silver Convention: Love in a Sleeper (MCA) 5

Picked the last two to be perverse -- good chance no one else will pick them -- bumping Captain Beefheart and the Rolling Stones, Brian Eno, Willie Nelson, Tom Robinson, and the Ramones: 4 A+, 12 A records. A- records go down to number 62 on the master list. I finally decided that the Vibrators: Pure Mania and Wire: Pink Flag were 1977 releases (the latter out in December). I have both as A records, but neither would have made the top ten list had I considered them 1978 -- but they wouldn't have missed by much.

Before I elevated Jackson I had no black artists and no jazz records in the top ten (although the half-Somali singer in X-Ray Spex might beg to differ). I was surprised by the lack of competitive jazz records -- the next ones down the list were by Zoot Sims, Art Pepper, and Zoot Sims, followed by some Sonny Rollins vault material and Ornette Coleman, then Enrico Rava, Don Pullen, and Dave Burrell. (Not counting two items that were recorded in 1978 but probably unreleased until much later, one by Bill Evans, the other by Dexter Gordon.)

Four albums missed the CG. Two were UK imports, not released in the US for many years. The others were Jackson -- soul jazz, something Christgau has repeatedly claimed to detest -- and Silver Convention, a disco novelty band that got better after Christgau lost interest (and which, as far as I know, has never been reissued on CD).

Significantly more records on the 1978 list than on the one I worked up for 1983: mostly the result of paying more attention at the time. Discogs has about 35,000 entries for 1983 vs. 25,000 for 1978, so even sampling of raw numbers would lead one to expect the opposite. In both cases the numbers are way below what I've been tallying recently -- the combination of jazz publicity and Rhapsody has pushed me up toward 1,000 records per year, whereas my graded list here ends with Meat Loaf at 201.

Copied the above and mailed it in as my ballot. Also posted the following:

For what it's worth, I did a master 1978 list: http://goo.gl/Y1zYt.

It has about a third more rated records than my 1983 list did: 201 rated vs. 147, 61 A- or better vs. 51, both had 16 A (or better). I was living in New York in 1978, still writing occasionally for the Voice, and paying much more attention to what was coming out than I did in 1983. I always regarded 1978 as some sort of peak year, which it may have been in my personal life, so I'm struck by numerous slumps -- it wasn't just that new wave triumphed, but nearly everything else tanked. The funk and disco bandwagons that dominated my mid-1970s lists ground to a halt. The singer-songwriters that dominated the whole decade fared poorly. It was a rather weak year for jazz -- I wound up with 18 (of 61) A- records, but they were clustered near the bottom of the list, and I probably cheated to include two of them (at least I doubt that they were released at the time). I wound up slipping one jazz album into my top ten (which also resulted in there being one black artist).

Trying to figure out a methodology for these retrospective lists -- what should be included and when, but don't have any set rules I'm comfortable with. For instance, Two Sevens Clash was released in various places in 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1986 (finally in the US). I'm leaning toward 1977 there, although no one outside of Jamaica would have known so at the time. I went with 1977 for Pink Flag based mostly on Wikipedia's insistence that it came out in December 1977 and no evidence (other than Christgau) to the contrary -- I was struck by the precision, although I know full well how misleading precision can be. Release dates are really hard to pin down retrospectively, and clearly lots of sources get them wrong. I came up with a dozen cases where the Christgau database appears to be wrong (cf. my master list), but it's quite possible I'm wrong about some of them too.

More, partly in response to others:


In my 1978 list (and more generally) the rated records are in rank order, best first, then descending. The grade brackets are spaced out. (Sometimes I think I should reformat to make grades more explicit, but that gets messy.) I didn't try to split up B+ into brackets -- most of these ratings were done way back before I started doing that. The "candidates" are alphabetical by artist name.

From Discogs I see that Two Sevens Clash was released on Joe Gibbs Music in Jamaica in 1977, on Front Line in UK in 1978, on Shanachie in US in 1987 (not 1986, the date I pulled off the top of my head without looking it up), with various other releases elsewhere -- they also claim a 1980 US release on Joe Gibbs Music. Doesn't help that there are two separate entries, so it looks more 1978 than it is. Sometimes critics jump the release dates: my guess is that some who wrote for NME in 1977 kept on eye out for Jamaican imports, much as I did for UK imports then. (I even tracked down a Jamaican import shop in the Bronx back then, but it was so inconvenient and I was so ignorant it didn't do me much good.)

My copy of the first Buzzcocks album was a 1977 import. I listed it in 1978 to line up with the US reissue. Such time gaps were the rule, not the exception. My guess is that Pink Flag was released in the UK in December 1977, but didn't show up in the US even as an import until 1978. I just didn't find any documentation to support that, and since it would have wound up in the 12-14 range on my list I let it go. I figure on using my lists for future projects, so I'm not really out to argue with whatever rulings apply here.

Sep 2011