May 15, 2010

Playlist Week of 5-10-10 through 5-15-10

* J.S. Bach: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr/ter Linden) (d.1) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: The Works for Lute (Kirchhoff) (d2.) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane: The Complete Riverside Recordings (Riverside 2CD)
* Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note CD)
* Dexter Gordon: Go (Blue Note LP)
* Sonny Clark: Cool Struttin’ (Blue Note/Classic LP)
* Hank Mobley: Soul Station (Blue Note LP)
* Hank Mobley: A Slice of the Top (Blue Note LP)
* John Coltrane Quartet: Ballads (Impulse! CD)
* Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Chiostro di Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Rome 6-28-09 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome 5-04-10 (FM 2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (d.4) (Firehouse 12 9CD+DVD)
* Matthew Shipp Trio: Saint’Anna Arresi, Cagliari, Italy 9-02-09 (FM CDR)
* John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM CD)
* Nicky Skopelitis: Ekstasis (Island/Axiom CD)
* The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Beatles for Sale (2009 stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Help! (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Mothers of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh (Bizarre/Reprise LP)
* The Band: Music from Big Pink (Capitol/MFSL SACD)
* Grateful Dead: Steppin’ Out With the Grateful Dead: England ’72 (d.4) (GD/Arista 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 5-01-81 (SBD 3CDR)
* Van Morrison: Beautiful Vision (Warner Bros. CD)
* Can: Future Days (Spoon SACD)
* Robert Pollard w/Doug Gillard: Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (FCS LP)
* Buckethead: Population Override (Ion CD)
* Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino CD)


Lizzy recently remarked on her blog that, of all the different kinds of music we listen to, she feels most at home when we’re listening to jazz -- “especially Coltrane, Mingus, Hutcherson, Hill, that warm beautiful music.” I guess I always knew she liked this stuff, but didn’t quite realize the deep emotional response she experienced. After the crazy flooding, our whirlwind travels, and the general angst of these past weeks, I made an effort to put on some “warm, beautiful” jazz in the evenings. Lord knows, I have a lot of it in the collection! It was fun to pull out some stuff I rarely listen to, like Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, and especially Thelonious Monk’s legendary recordings with John Coltrane. I used to be a snob about “straight-ahead” jazz, dismissing it as hopelessly old fashioned while ostentatiously announcing my elitist preference for the more difficult and abstract modernist avant garde that followed in its wake. But there is undeniably an embracing feeling of warmth and comfort that comes with snapping your fingers to an effortless swing groove and marveling at the endless melodic inventiveness of the great improvisers. Being a snob is so narrow-minded and unnecessarily limiting! My life is greatly improved by being open-minded and receptive to all things beautiful in this world. Of course, I do love the “weird” stuff as well -- but knowledge of jazz’s rich history can provide context and meaning to what might at first seem austere and forbidding music. For instance, the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet radio broadcast from last June in Rome features a long, complex composition that weaves written-out sections with free improvisation which will require further close listens to fully comprehend; but when they end the set with a joyful rendition of the brightly swinging “Along Came Jazz,” the whole thing intuitively makes sense as the one informs the other. This is a remarkable performance by true master musicians which deserves wide release. At the improbable age 69, Mitchell sounds better than ever on various saxophones and flute. I’m looking forward to pulling out some more great jazz records (old and new) in the coming weeks.


Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (Norton 2002, 2010)

I picked this up at the airport on the way out to Kansas City, intrigued by the title and its promise to make a dry-as-dust subject “witty and entertaining.” Amazingly enough, NPR commentator Charles Wheelan has succeeded in writing a very readable book (with nary a graph or mathematical equation in sight) while cogently explaining such esoteric topics as the Federal Reserve, the alchemy of monetary policy, the complexity of securitization, and (in this fully revised and updated edition) the root causes of the current, ongoing financial crisis. Refreshingly, Wheelan is not a doctrinaire “free market” ideologue, despite his University of Chicago pedigree. In fact, he goes to great lengths to demonstrate the absolute necessity of (uncorrupt) government, (competent) regulatory schemes, (broadly beneficial) public works, and sensible (if not steeply progressive) taxation. However, he does say some things that strike me as downright silly: For example, he repeatedly insists that high rates of taxation cause people to work fewer hours and, conversely, low taxation causes people to work more. In the abstract, this might make some sense regarding how people respond to economic incentives. But in the world I live in, people work as hard as they can (if they can find a job) simply because they have to in order to survive (and perhaps afford a few luxuries) -- regardless of any incremental changes in the tax code. Furthermore, he makes a disturbingly plausible argument that third-world sweat shops are ultimately a good thing for the workers who toil in them because increasing trade will (eventually) raise their standard of living. This may be the case, but there is a moral dimension that is profoundly troubling. The truth is that while economics is “a way of viewing the world,” it is impoverished as philosophy and unproven as science. It is a truism that money cannot buy happiness and the reasons why this is so cannot be answered by economics alone. Nevertheless, a basic understanding of economic principles is essential for an informed citizenry and, as an introductory text, Naked Economics is most highly recommended.


Sam said...

It's nice to read your thoughts on the beauties of mainstream jazz. Between that, and your cogent summary of the economics book, all I've got to offer is: cheese alert! For some rason I got on a (light, admittedly!) fart-rock kick and pulled out ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery" and Yes's "Relayer." Boy, those guys were busy. Especially after the ELP, I found myself clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth--but it was all in good fun.

Here's my list for last week:

Playlist 2010-05-17

*Charlie Christian: Selected Broadcasts and Jam Sessions, disc 2
*Dutch Jazz Orchestra: Portrait of a Silk Thread: Newly Discovered Works of Billy Strayhorn
*Pete La Roca Sims: Turkish Women at the Bath
*Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Ever Can Be (Trio)
*Cecil Taylor Unit: Dark to Themselves
*Cecil Taylor Unit: 1976-06-30 Hamburg (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor: Cecil Taylor Unit (New World)
*Cecil Taylor: 3 Phasis
*Beach Boys: Little Deuce Coupe/All Summer Long (two-fer)
*Beatles: Please Please Me (2009 mono remaster)
*Beatles: Beatles For Sale (2009 mono remaster)
*Bollywood compilation, from soundtracks at "Music From the Third Floor" discs 4, 6
*Breeders: Pod
*Breeders: Last Splash
*Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery
*Grateful Dead: 1973-12-08 Duke (CDR)
*High Llamas: Cold and Bouncy
*High Llamas: Snowbug
*Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Naturally
*My Fair Lady: Original Broadway Cast
*Pavement: Terror Twilight
*Pere Ubu: One Man Drives While the Other Man Screams
*Pixies/The Breeders: cdr compilation
*Sly & the Family Stone: The Essential Sly & the Family Stone
*Bettye Swann: Bettye Swann
*Dionne Warwick: The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits
*Various artists: C & W on a Budget (cdr compilation)
*Various artists: Ethiopiques 1 (1969-1973)
*Various artists: Wavelength Infinity: A Sun Ra Tribute, disc 1
*Various artists: WJON #4 (cdr compilation)
*White Stripes: White Blood Cells
*Yes: Relayer

Reading log 2010-05-17

*Peace, David. Nineteen Eighty-Three (started)
*Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side (in progress)
*Musil, Robert. Man Without Qualities (in progress)
*Palmer, Robert. Blues and Chaos (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

ELP and Yes, huh? As chessy as my tastes are, I never really got into either of them...they were too much for even me! That said, I do have a copy of Topographic Oceans and have sort of tried to keep my eye out for used LPs of th Yes Album and Fragile but they're usually totally beat up...So, I know what you mean about the good times that can be had despite the jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding. It is what it is.

You have some other kind of surprising items in your list. The Pixies? Breeders? High Llamas? Pavement? Rockin' into the summer, are you?

And isn't that Ethiopiques stuff great?

Sam said...

Well, I've been on a couple of road trips recently, and the rock music sometimes goes down well in a driving situation.

I love the Ethiopiques CDs! Especially Mahmoud Ahmed. "Ere Mela Mela" is a classic. Good solid dark funk.

Rodger Coleman said...

Wait 'til you see my playlist this week!