Monday, November 20, 2017

ECM, now streaming...

Back in the 70s and 80s I was a pretty avid ECM Records listener and vinyl purchaser. Even then, it was obvious that some of the recordings were pretentious, and precious. But a lot of it sounded fresh, aurally adventurous, and always meticulously produced. ECM has finally come around and released its catalogue for streaming. I took a listen to a few old faves on Spotify.

Terje Rypdal, Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away: Sibelius meets John McLaughlin. Neither seems to have enjoyed the encounter, and you may not either.

John Abercrombie, Timeless: Dated.

Keith Jarrett, Belonging: It is not quite as good as I remember, but the clever compositions hold up, as does Jan Garbarek's piercing, steely tenor sax. Give it a spin.

Gary Burton Quintet, Dreams So Real: An undeniably lovely album of Carla Bley compositions, reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage in its understated, virtuosic perfection.

Now at the de Young Museum, Part 2

The quilters of Gee's Bend, AL, created some of the greatest works of art in U.S. history. To see these jaunty, audacious, thoroughly modern creations up close and personal is a revelation, and a privilege.

Willie "Ma Willie" Abrams, "'Roman Stripes' Variation", c. 1975:

And my personal favorite, Annie Mae Young, "'Bars' Work-Clothes Quilt," c. 1970:

Now at the de Young Museum

Art and artifacts from Teotihuacan. Over the first five centuries CE, they created one of the world's most remarkable and advanced material civilizations. C. 550 they seem to have collapsed. Nearly every object is extraordinary.

Olive picking time

A couple small bottles of oil from every bucket...

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Build Baby Build!

I'm mostly on-board with this well-argued op-ed by Enrico Moretti, calling upon progressives in the Bay Area to get our act together on housing supply.
Thanks to aggressive lobbying by an odd coalition of Nimby homeowners and progressives — radical county supervisors, tenants’ unions, environmental groups — in places like San Francisco and Oakland, it takes years (and sometimes even decades), harsh political battles and arduous appeals to get a market-rate housing project approved.
This is no doubt true, but I also have the impression that perverse incentives arising from our tax codes are a serious obstacle, at least in places like San Jose, where inviting commercial development pays off for city coffers in a way that residential development (especially given the costs of provision of public services) does not.

Moretti does a good job laying out the adverse environmental implications of suppressing high-density housing development within the urban centers: Housing and population are pushed out into the suburbs, displacing agricultural uses and open space, expanding into fire-prone natural environments, and increasing the externalities associated with commuting.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Muhal Richard Abrams, RIP

Unique, irreplaceable. In this cut you get some nifty whistling from Joel Brandon, and the usual topnotch cast of characters playing with Abrams.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


A jazz venue worth Czech-ing out...

Last night we paid our first visit to Cafe Pink House, a cozy and comfortable jazz club on the main drag of sleepy, upscale Saratoga, CA. In the house was a quintet led by pianist Anne Sajdera, with Jan Fečo (alto sax) and Miroslav Hloucal (trumpet and flugelhorn) visiting from Prague, and local talents Dan Feiszli (bass) and Jason Lewis (drums). The compositions were mostly by Fečo and Hloucal, and according to Sajdera featured some Romani melodies from the home country. Roma meets Blue Note, perhaps. I'm not sure I could pick out the folk melodies, but the choruses, chord changes, and rhythms were all clearly challenging, and the band, with minimal rehearsal time, more than rose to the occasion.

Hloucal was fine throughout, with clean lines and clear tone. Fečo took a while to warm up, but by the second set he was flying... definitely took the best solo of the night. Lewis more than kept up, adding plenty of color and punctuations to tricky compositions he could not have played more than once or twice before.

Altogether, about as good as jazz gets, and in an intimate setting where every seat is spitting distance from the musicians. For $20. In the live music desert of the South Bay, I don't expect this place to last, but I wish them well. Do give them some business.