April 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for jabs at Sean Hannity (Jackie Wattles, April 8, 2018, CNN)

Kimmel took to Twitter Sunday to apologize to those he may have offended with his brash jabs at the conservative commentator during a week of verbal and social media sparring.

"While I admit I did have fun with our back and forth, after some thought, I realize that the level of vitriol from all sides (mine and me included) does nothing good for anyone and, in fact, is harmful to our country," Kimmel tweeted. [...]

Kimmel also made sexually suggestive comments about Hannity's devotion to President Donald Trump.

Sean must have invoked his safety word.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:38 AM


Maynard Ferguson - Chameleon (1974)

A week or so ago, OJ posted an article about how Miles Davis led Herbie Hancock to the Fender Rhodes (electric) piano, which was a big step in the electrification of jazz that took place in the 1960's and 70's.  In commenting on the post, I noted that I don't have an objection, per se, to the sound of the Fender, it's just that any time I hear it now (whether in a jazz performance or a Billy Joel tune), it immediately dates the recording in my mind to the 70's or 80's, regardless of its actual vintage.  Within 10 minutes after I posted that comment, Maynard Ferguson's recording of La Fiesta, with its opening Fender Rhodes vamp, began playing on my car radio, and I was immediately transported back to my sophomore year in high school...and I had the subject of my next ATJ. 

Maynard Ferguson was a Canadian-born jazz trumpet player, who came to the fore in the early 1950's with the Stan Kenton band.  A player of first-rate technique (he later performed as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic), he became particularly known - and popular (he won the top trumpet award in the Down Beat Reader's Poll in 1951, 1952 and 1953) - for his astounding ability to play high notes.  After a couple of decades doing studio work and playing in other big bands, Ferguson formed his own big band in 1971. 

Let's be clear, Maynard's big bands of the 1970's are not high art; rather, they are a guilty pleasure...and one that is probably only really enjoyed by those who were in their teens or early 20's during that time.  This wasn't the timeless blues-drenched elegance of Ellington or propulsive swing of Basie.  Maynard's band was loud, electrified (in addition to the Fender Rhodes, the guitar player relied heavily on a wah-wah pedal and reverb, and the bass was electric), and fronted by a guy seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of subtlety.  The band played more tunes with a rock beat or a quasi-Latin rhythm than with straight-ahead 4/4 swing.  And rather than relying on the Great American Songbook as the backbone of its repertoire, the band played mostly current pop and rock tunes (Stevie Wonder's Livin' for the City and Paul McCartney's Jet), movie and TV themes (The Way We Were, Flying High Now (from Rocky), Star Trek) and popular songs from the world of what was then called "jazz fusion" (Hancock's Chameleon, Chick Corea's La Fiesta, Wayne Shorter's Birdland).   The only standard on this album is I Can't Get Started, which features Maynard on trumpet and vocal (a la 1930's bandleader Bunny Berrigan, who had a huge hit in 1937 with this tune...although I don't think Bunny sang Maynard's lyric "I've been invited to tea by the Queen/Linda Lovelace thinks I'm obscene").

As a high school sophomore, I loved this album, Maynard's Live at Jimmy's and a handful of his others. The funky beats, the jet-engine decibels and the high notes...especially the high notes.  Hearing Maynard live reach for a high C was like watching an Olympic pole vaulter trying for a new record: sometimes he made it, sometimes he didn't, but it was always dramatic.  We played a lot of Ferguson arrangements in my high school jazz band (indeed, in the 70's, most suburban high schools didn't have "jazz bands" or "big bands", they had "jazz/rock ensembles")...so he was part of my introduction to the music.  In those same years, I was also getting my first tastes of the big bands of Basie, Ellington and Woody Herman, and trumpeters such as Miles, Dizzy, Clark Terry and Clifford Brown.  Over time, I drifted away from the guy in the jump suit and scarf, who played fast and loud, and then faster and louder.  But the arrangements are tight, the musicians execute it all with skill (Bruce Johnstone's bari sax solos never disappoint), and the music is fun (if locked in its era).  

After a long time away from these posts, I'm back with 2 in rapid succession, and, by coincidence, in both I'm quoting another writer whose experience with the subject is amazingly similar to mine (I started sketching out this post before a friend sent me this link...but note that it also discusses Ferguson from the perspective of a high school boy in the 1970's and finds a sports analogy to be apt).  In an appreciation of Ferguson that ran in the Washington Post after his death in August 2006, David von Drehle wrote: 

I was a high school boy at the time. This fact is not incidental. In the blogs and tribute pages devoted to memories of Maynard Ferguson yesterday, the two near-constants were adolescence and masculinity. Ferguson lit up thousands of young horn players, most of them boys, with pride and excitement. In a world often divided between jocks and band nerds, Ferguson crossed over, because he approached his music almost as an athletic event. On stage, he strained, sweated, heaved and roared. He nailed the upper registers like Shaq nailing a dunk or Lawrence Taylor nailing a running back -- and the audience reaction was exactly the same: the guttural shout, the leap to their feet, the fists in the air. We cheered Maynard as a gladiator, a combat soldier, a prize fighter, a circus strongman -- choose your masculine archetype.

...That's why he was the hero of the horn sections. When Ferguson reached the peak of his fame in the mid-1970s -- thanks to a hit recording of the theme from "Rocky" -- the world was full of manly guys whanging electric guitars and thrashing drums. But jazz? Our friends the Purists had just about drained the last drop of juice from the great American art form. In place of the old jump, stomp and jive, the Purists seemed to offer little but heroin chic, prissy intellectualism and monkish devotion to old 78s.

Maynard Ferguson did his best to blow some hormones back into the band room. Along the way, he turned a fair number of us on to the more subtle achievements of more refined musicians. For that, we forgive all the reverb and rayon, all the electronics, even the lamentable disco phase.

Post script: For those interested to hear what kind of player Maynard in his purer days, check out this recording of him going toe-to-toe-to-toe with 2 of the greatest straight-ahead jazz trumpeters, Clifford Brown and Clark Terry:

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:32 AM


Cecil Taylor (1929-2018)

As this website's jazz observer, I wish I had something wise to say about Cecil Taylor, the revolutionary pianist who died the other day at the age of 89.  Something that would help those of you who have never listened to him gain entry to his dense, percussive and raucous music; or, perhaps provide some new insight or perspective to someone who has.  But I've got nothing.  So many critics and musicians who I admire have sung Taylor's praises that I tried for years to listen to his recordings (large bands, small groups and solo) in the hope that I, too, would become enlightened. It never happened.  I could never understand (or even enjoy) his recordings, something I chalked up to my own failures as a listener, specifically, my own need for familiar "handles" to grab on to as his torrents of sound washed over me...a recognizable melody, a fixed beat, a home key, anything.  Of course, I'm guessing if it had any of those things, then it wouldn't have been Cecil's music.

In any event, about 20 years ago, Taylor was playing in my city, and more out of duty than enthusiasm, I bought a ticket to go hear him.  (By myself...I didn't want to subject any of my friends to what I was sure would be an hour or so of incomprehensible sound.)  Well, what happened that night astounded me.  In his tribute to Taylor this week, The New Yorker critic Richard Brody, describes his own night at a concert in the mid-80's that almost perfectly captures my experience...except that (1) Brody was already a fan; and (2) I've seen Sonny Rollins present some "musical exertions" that were equally mighty and generous:      

There was a piano onstage; at the scheduled time, some monosyllabic incantations could be heard from the wings, some shuffling of feet. The pianist poked himself out onto the hardwood stage, doing a sort of halting, tentative chant and dance, approaching the piano mysteriously, a Martian pondering a monolith. He tapped and rapped and knocked the instrument's solid wooden body; he probed it from all angles; then he found the keyboard, struck a note, and then another, and another; his theatrical probing gave way to radiant musical illumination.

Taylor had to have noticed, as he circumnavigated the instrument, the sparse audience; he pretended that it didn't matter. For the twenty lovers in attendance, Taylor approached the piano bench, sat down, struck a chord, crystallized a motif, and worked it out in thunder. For an hour, all by himself onstage and nearly by himself in the hall, he performed a colossal, exhausting, self-sacrificing concert of pianistic fury, filling the room with a torrential, polyrhythmic, rumbling, crashing, shattering whirlwind. It resembled the music that I had loved on records since I was a teen-ager a decade earlier, but now erupted, in my presence, with an improvisational explosion and a spontaneous compositional complexity that put it both at the forefront of modern jazz, of modern music as such. It was the mightiest and most generous musical exertion I had seen. To this day, I've only seen Taylor himself surpass it.

When Taylor finished, I was somehow emotionally elated and drained at the same time, physically energized and exhausted, burning to hear more yet feeling that I'd never again experience music as powerful and meaningful. After the concert, I went back to Taylor's recordings...and nothing,...the same inability to connect that I had always had.  After a few weeks of trying, I gave up for good and hadn't listened to Cecil Taylor again until I started writing this entry.

So, as I said at the top, I wish I had something wise or helpful to say about the great Cecil Taylor...but I don't (except that I still think it's my fault, not his).

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Washington's Farewell By John Avlon  (Reviewed by James A. Percoco, April 8, 2018, Washington Independent Book Review)

Both sides loved the United States but had different agendas for its future. The squabbles over how to interpret the Constitution, which nations to support abroad, and whose interests to address spilled over into Washington's cabinet, in which Jefferson, as head of the Republicans, served as secretary of state, and Hamilton, as head of the Federalists, served as secretary of the treasury.

Washington was caught in the middle of the sibling rivalry, and it did not sit well with him. Ironically, his tenure as president would outlast that of both Jefferson and Hamilton in their respective positions. As early as 1792, as the national rupture was becoming more apparent, Washington looked to retire, but Jefferson argued, "There will be a nation to hang on to if that nation can hang on you."

Convinced, Washington served a second term that proved to be more fractious than the first. During his second term, he was viciously assaulted in the Republican press by writers hired by Jefferson, and came to learn of a letter written by Jefferson to his friend Philip Mazzei in which Jefferson, without mentioning Washington by name, wrote, "Men who were once Sampsons in the field and Solomons in the councils have had their heads shorn by the harlot of England." Martha Washington never forgave Jefferson for his transgression.

Much of the rupture came to a head as the United States tried to steer a course of neutrality between England and France and their constant state of war. The Jeffersonians argued the U.S. was bound by its 1778 treaty with the French, who helped secure American independence, even though the French Revolution had devolved into the "reign of terror." The Hamiltonians, meanwhile, supported England, the nation's most important trading partner.

Washington, to the delight of the Federalists, supported a Neutrality Act, earning him the wrath of Republicans. Known for his temper, Washington exploded during a cabinet meeting when the secretary of war, Henry Knox, brought in a newspaper with a cartoon depicting Washington as a victim of the guillotine.

By 1796, he'd had enough, but before departing the public stage, Washington wanted to remind Americans of what was most important: unity among "citizens by birth or choice"; religious pluralism in all spheres of life; an educated citizenry; and a foreign policy rooted in independence.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Trump Tower fire is second 2018 blaze in sprinkler-free residential tower (Caroline Linton, 4/08/18, CBS News)

The fire on the 50th floor New York City's Trump Tower that left 67-year-old Todd Brassner dead and six firefighters injured was the second fire in the building in 2018 -- President Trump's centerpiece Manhattan skyscraper built that opened in 1984, but which does not have sprinklers on its residential floors. FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro noted on Saturday that the upper, residential floors of Trump Tower do not have sprinklers -- a measure required in new buildings since 1999, but which President Trump, then a private citizen and property developer, lobbied to try and prevent. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Hamas official signals that Israeli boosting of Gaza economy could curb protests (AVI ISSACHAROFF, 6 April 2018, Times of Israel)

A senior official in the Hamas terrorist group on Sunday demanded that Israel ease some of its economic restrictions on the Gaza Strip and suggested that steps that "immediately improve the economic situation" in the Palestinian enclave would curtail a wave of violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border.

The official said the weekly demonstrations near the border will continue and lead to an escalation of hostilities, but that the atmosphere can "change" if Israel takes immediate action to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

"Israel can take many such steps," the senior Hamas member told The Times of Israel.

But the point of Israel's war on Palestine is the opposite--it is to make democracy intolerable

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Israel defence minister says 'no innocent people' in Gaza (Middle East Online, 4/08/18)

"There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip," Lieberman told Israel's public radio.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


There's no good reason to stop felons from voting (George F. Will, April 6, 2018, Washington Post)

Intelligent and informed people of good will can strenuously disagree about the wisdom of policies that have produced mass incarceration. What is, however, indisputable is that this phenomenon creates an enormous problem of facilitating the reentry into society of released prisoners who were not improved by the experience of incarceration and who face discouraging impediments to employment and other facets of social normality. In 14 states and the District , released felons automatically recover their civil rights.

Recidivism among Florida's released felons has been approximately 30 percent for the five years 2011-2015. Of the 1,952 people whose civil rights were restored, five committed new offenses, an average recidivism rate of 0.4 percent. This sample is skewed by self-selection -- overrepresentation of those who had the financial resources and tenacity to navigate the complex restoration process that each year serves a few hundred of the 1.6 million. Still, the recidivism numbers are suggestive.

What compelling government interest is served by felon disenfranchisement? Enhanced public safety? How? Is it to fine-tune the quality of the electorate? This is not a legitimate government objective for elected officials to pursue. A felony conviction is an indelible stain: What intelligent purpose is served by reminding felons -- who really do not require reminding -- of their past, and by advertising it to their community? The rule of law requires punishments, but it is not served by punishments that never end and that perpetuate a social stigma and a sense of never fully reentering the community.

Meade, like one-third of the 4.7 million current citizens nationwide who have reentered society from prison but cannot vote, is an African American. More than 1 in 13 African Americans nationally are similarly disenfranchised, as are 1 in 5 of Florida's African American adults. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


New Filing Indicates Robert Mueller May Have New Collusion Evidence (JEREMY STAHL, APRIL 06, 2018, Slate)

In a new court filing on Thursday, the special counsel's office revealed additional details of the probe that indicate he has recently expanded his investigation of Paul Manafort. The further implication of this filing is that Mueller is actively building a collusion case against the former Trump campaign chairman or other Trump campaign officials, and potentially basing it on the testimony of former Manafort deputy Rick Gates.

The new details show that Mueller's team acquired search warrants on five telephone numbers last month, just two weeks after Gates began to officially cooperate in Mueller's probe.

The filing was a response to a motion from Manafort's attorneys to see additional details of search warrants related to Manafort. For the most part, Mueller's team has turned over these details. But as it pertained to a warrant obtained on March 9 for the phone numbers, the special counsel's office insisted that the warrant be redacted because they are "relating to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort."

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM