Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jazz Albums that Captured my Attention in 2017

Jazz albums that have captured my attention during 2017 and that deserve mentioning appear below.

The Roc, Daniel Herskedal (Edition Records). Daniel Herskedal has created an excellent successor to Slow Eastbound Train with his most recent album. The Roc, in its song titles, often refers to travel, and there are now specific places named along the journey, such as “Kurd, Bayat, Nahawand to Kurd,” “Hijaz Train Station,” and “The Kroderen Line.” Herskedal also explores myth in “The Roc” and “The Afrit.” Despite the presence of “The Kroderen Line,” which is a reference to a lake and a village in Norway, the album coheres in its exploration of Middle Eastern place names and myth. The Roc gets my recommendation for album of the year.

Green Moss Black Sand, Sigurdur Flosason & Lars Jansson Trio (Storyville Records). The alto saxophonist Sigurdur Flosason has created an album inspired by the landscape and weather of Iceland. The album as a whole emphasizes the role of the quartet. The saxophone carries the melody while the other instruments, particularly the piano and the bass, are highlighted in these songs. Created by musicians from Iceland and Denmark, this album gets its inspiration from nature in one specific place while reflecting the music that was created in places like Philadelphia and New York almost sixty years ago. This album, in its approach, recognizes the tradition and adapts that tradition to its own needs.

Renewal, Baldvin Snaer Hlynsson (Self Produced). This debut recording by Baldvin Snaer Hlynsson, on piano and Wurlitzer, opens with the hypnotic “Omar Gudnason,” where Einar Scheving moves between time keeping and explosions of sound. Hlynsson is joined by two more established musicians. Valdimar Kolbeinn Sigurjonsson plays double bass and has appeared on recordings by Sigurdur Flosason. Einar Scheving, who has also recorded with Sigurdur Flosason, plays drums and percussion and has gained international attention with his releases Cycles (2007) and Intervals (2015). It’s as if these more experienced musicians are welcoming Hlynsson. Ari Bragi Karason on flugelhorn and Bjarni Mar Ingolfsson on electric guitar deserve mention as well, both of whom figure prominently on “Sund milli strida,” for example.

Timi til kominn, Olafur Jonsson (Self Produced). Considered Olafur Jonsson’s debut recording, Jonsson previously appeared on the album Jonsson & More, which, with the exception of Eythor Gunnarsson, featured the same people on bass and drums, that is Thorgrimur Jonsson and Scott McLemore, respectively. The difference, presumably, is that Olafur Jonsson is now performing his own songs.  These songs of his are particularly strong and highlight both Olafur Jonsson’s work as a leader and the contributions of his rhythm section. Olafur Jonsson’s tenor saxophone on the ballads “Dreyminn” and “Minning,” for example, deserves attention.

Wolf Valley, Eyolf Dale (Edition Records). Wolf Valley is an album that I overlooked in 2016. I am including it in this list of 2017 recordings because it deserves mention and generates excitement for his upcoming release in 2018. Songs like “Furet, “Ban Joe,” and “The Creek” may draw in the listener initially. Eventually, the quieter songs like “Fernanda” and “Sideways” reveal their loveliness.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Calling for Changes

I often have to shake my head at how stupid our governmental officials are in this country. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t take intelligence to get elected as a member of Congress or as president. Drastic changes need to occur. I think that the following changes need to be made before this country will truly reflect a democracy, that is, a government in which each person has a voice and a government which is concerned with the welfare of the average citizen, regardless of national origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, or economic status. I am ultimately calling for larger government because one of the few ways to reduce the influence of the billionaires and corporations that rule this country is to create a strong government that can stand up to the billionaires and corporations for the betterment of each person. There needs to be an overriding belief held by each member of Congress, and by the president, that government exists to help the average citizen. I call for the following changes to be made. These changes would be a way to make this country a more progressive place, one which cares for its citizens, its environment, and the planet as a whole.

1. Reduce military spending.

2. Limit the military’s role outside of the US and stop its peacekeeping role throughout the world.

3. Reduce the number of military bases and lily pads overseas.

4. Reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons and eliminate weapons using depleted uranium.

5. Stop selling weapons overseas.

6. Move billions of dollars formally spent on the military and its 800 bases overseas to provide free college for every citizen, to upgrade the infrastructure, including high speed rail, and to promote Green energy.

7. Pay off the $1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt.

8. Limit the term of every senator and every member of the House of Representatives to 8 years and prohibit those former senators and representatives from seeking election in the future. Once one has served eight years, one has no other chance of ever serving again.

9. Provide an equitable tax system for every citizen, business, and corporation. Businesses and corporations are taxed, in part, according to how much damage they inflict on the nation’s water, soil, and air and how much they use the nation’s infrastructure—roads, bridges, etc. Corporations that primarily import their products are taxed as if their products were made in this country.

10. Provide free health care to every citizen.

11. Make abortion legal in every state. Provide free contraceptives.

12. Ensure that women’s wages are comparable to what men make in similar positions, aka equal pay for equal work.

13. Provide a basic universal income to every citizen over the age of 21.

14. Raise the minimum wage to $15.

15. Reduce the amount of dollars spent on foreign aid except when responding to natural disasters or shortages of food.

16. Eliminate the Electoral College. Let the popular vote decide who becomes president.

17. Reverse Citizens United so as to reduce corporate control of the election process.

18. Enact and enforce limited gun control.

19. Give the EPA more control over protecting the environment.

20. Rejoin the Paris Accord and make environmental protection a major concern of government.

21. Reduce corporate control of the FDA. Exhibit greater control over artificial food dyes, phthalates, formaldehyde, and bisphenol-A, for example.

22. Reverse the appointees, legislation, and executive orders made by Trump, and the GOP, since January, 2017.