Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Selection of Jazz From 2009

While I admit having heard only a limited number of the Jazz CD's that were released in 2009, my selections for the best releases appear below.

Eberhard Weber's reissue is particularly important because it brings together those recordings when Weber was involved with the group named Colours. This reissue contains three titles, Yellow Fields (1975), Silent Feet(1977), and Little Movements (1980). If you didn't purchase these albums when they were first released or weren't alive when they were released, I recommend getting them now. These albums are all essential recordings. Prior to this reissue, Yellow Fields was particularly hard to find on CD in this country. I ended up having to order my copy a few years ago directly from Europe.

Like the bassist Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, who plays tenor and soprano saxophone, is another jazz artist who is considered a virtuoso of his instrument and a major contributor to jazz during the past thirty-five years or so; some of his albums are considered essential recordings for anyone who wishes to assemble a jazz library. A previous post of mine goes into more depth about Jan Garbarek.

Vassilis Tsabropoulos is a Greek pianist who trained to play classical music and who has made the crossover to jazz. The Promise is his solo recording.

Anouar Brahem is considered a master of the oud. I have mentioned his album Le Pas du Chat Noir in a previous post. The Astounding Eyes of Rita is less contemplative and less melancholy than that album.

Lars Danielsson, the Swedist bassist, has been gaining more critical attention since the release of Pasodoble in 2007. A thorough sampling of his work can be found at YouTube.

Diego Barber is a young guitarist who has only recorded this one CD as a leader. This CD also features the members of Fly, that is, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, and Jeff Ballard. Both Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard make up the new Brad Mehldau trio.

One way to test the validity of my selections is to compare them with the other best of lists that will be appearing at other websites like Jazz Breakfast , AllAboutJazz , and JazzAfterHours .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review of Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America

Susan J. Marks’ Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America certainly addresses an important topic, one that has been receiving attention in the Great Plains for at least the past fifteen to twenty years and one that has recently been receiving attention nationwide. The book itself presents the information about this dwindling resource but largely seems to be a compendium of what can be found on the Internet about the topic. One thing the book lacks is a strong narrative. It isn’t necessary to include anecdotes from the author’s experience, but as a reader I would like to see the author relating her impressions and observations as she travels to those various locations that are representative of the water crisis in this country. The inclusion of bulleted information quickly becomes tiring and frustrating. In including quotations from various authorities, Marks gives the impression of having interviewed people like “Bill Waldrop, a Tennessee-based hydrologist who has been studying water and environmental quality issues since the early 1970’s” or “Hugh Hurlow, senior geologist for the Utah Geological Survey.” The Chapter Notes, however, don’t reference these interviews and are simply a list of Internet sites, which causes one to believe that Marks has pulled these quotes from those links without having picked up the phone or having made a trip away from her computer. I have to wonder, too, what audience Marks is addressing. Early in the book, she defines words like aquifer as “underground water supplies,” peninsula, “meaning that it is surrounded on three sides by water,” and brackish, “salty,” but doesn’t define a word like desalination, which I suspect needs to be defined if the intended audience isn’t familiar with a word as common as peninsula. Perhaps Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America is meant only for libraries so that someone needing the research can pull information from one or two chapters to satisfy a school assignment.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Is insomnia unique to each person? For me, when suffering from insomnia, I cannot relax enough to fall asleep in my bed. Just the thought of going to bed makes me anxious. Having the weight of the blankets on my feet or experiencing labored breathing from my asthma causes me to climb out of bed as I have to stand up and move my limbs. Once I calm down, I am able to sit on the edge of the bed but cannot actually lie back and relax. Sometimes when sitting on the edge of the bed, I am able to fall asleep while practicing creative visualization. One morning I woke up and found myself stretched out in the bed. That was a great feeling. More often, I end up getting a few hours of sleep sitting up in front of the television or in my office chair. My office is that place of last resort because once I shut the door and recline in my chair, I am usually able to sleep for a couple of hours. I have thought of getting the equivalent of a hospital bed so that I can sleep while sitting up, but finding the money for such a purchase isn’t easy.

I had thought that I recently overcame the bout of insomnia described in my previous post. My insomnia has returned for some reason, and I don’t know why. It’s not like that I have any serious worries. I have a job and, with my wife’s income, we are able to survive from one month to another. Some people are far worse off than we are. Everyone in my family is relatively healthy. Some students of mine from last semester were dissatisfied with their grades because of problems that they created for themselves. Other students expressed how much they enjoyed my class and how much they learned over the course of the semester. I can’t say that worrying about my students is keeping me awake. There isn’t anything that I can do about those unhappy students because of winter break.

Although I usually don’t drink, I have tried drinking wine to get sleepy. I have also tried taking a melatonin. Even these things don’t work. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things—like sleeping—that create the most problems.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Exhausted but Awake

I have been absent from this blog because of the grading that characterizes the end of every semester of college teaching. Many things are pushed aside as the emphasis is placed on reading essays and compiling grades. The final two days of the semester I was awake until almost noon before I finally collapsed into bed and got about five or six hours of sleep. Now my sleeping schedule is terribly out of whack because of the changes to my internal clock. I don't know when I'll be able to get to bed earlier in the morning, say, before 2:00 a.m. Anymore, I am most comfortable sleeping when the sun is up because of the pattern that was established during the semester. There were a few weeks when I had the schedule of a normal person, that is, getting up at 6:30 a.m. and remaining awake during the day. That routine didn't usually allow me to get much work done. It was too easy to take a walk or to run errands when I should have been reading through my students' essays or typing up comments. Once the essays started to back up, I began staying awake through the night so that I would concentrate on the grading. After my kid got up at 6:30 a.m., I got his breakfast and took him to school before I went to bed for about six hours. This pattern changed on weekends. Even so, the pattern has become so engrained that it may take another week before my sleeping schedule changes radically.