Saturday, February 11, 2006

If You're In St. Louis, Check This Out:

On Feb. 16 and 17, Washington University in St. Louis will host “Music and Musicians of the Black Artists’ Group in St. Louis,” a symposium, concerts and other events dedicated to the music of this influential yet little-remembered collective. Both Lake and Bluiett will participate in a panel discussion during the symposium and perform with the World Saxophone Quartet. Lake will also present a master class.

The event, sponsored by the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, comes amidst a dramatic resurgence of interest in BAG’s history and music. In addition to Looker’s monograph, a series of rare BAG recordings have recently been reissued on the Ikef, Quakebasket and Atavistic record labels, including “The Collected Poem for Blind Lemon Jefferson” (1971), “BAG in Paris — Aries 1973″ (1973) and “Funky Donkey” (1968).

Nerdified Link
I've been turned onto one of the groups that was part of the BAG scene, The Human Arts Ensemble. If you dig the work of Art Ensemble of Chicago, you'll dig their work as well.

Arthur Doyle Postscript

Looks like he also has a recently-released album out (No More Crazy Women):
The Wire-December 2005 issue 262: "Although saxophone player Arthur Doyle is usually associated with free jazz, his latest offering on QBICO shows yet another side to this extraordinary artist. The two tracks he recorded in 1989 included on this eccentrically packaged, one sided LP feature him blowing some supreme tenor sax and flute over the steady pulse playing of bass man Wilber Morris, and drummer Rashid Sinan. On Funk Breaks he sounds possessed, his rambling vocal breaking into strange rhythmic rappings that resemble the magical utterances of some tranced out shaman. This is jazz, of a sort, but broken down to its most primitive form. The rest of the record was recorded in 2004 with Coffee's Dave Cross and Tim Poland sampling and electronically altering Doyle's voice. The result is a remarkable and haunting experience, in which the duo seem to make contact with the vocalist's inner demons and create a gateway for them to spew back their wildest ectoplasmic incantations.

They have stripped the sound down to the bone to allow the full spiritual mania of Doyle's cracked vocals to become as one wth the electronics. No more crazy women is yet another oddity in Arthur Doyle's slim and curious discography, but one that showcases both sides of his creative personality -warts and all."

Edwin Pouncey

Nerdified Link

Arthur Doyle: A Recent Gig Review

Arthur Doyle Group
New York, NY
January 18, 2006

While the legendary Arthur Doyle appeared a bit lost amidst the microphones surrounding his seat on stage, the soul of the man rolled on through the young cadre of musicians who joined him on stage (Yes, Daniel Carter is still young) and the heart-felt excitement he spurred from the small group of devotees who came out to witness this rare performance. Peerless as he imparts ancient musical secrets through his otherworldly singing, Doyle is one of the last great mystery men of the free jazz African soul experiment. And through a late-career rediscovery, he has inspired a whole generation of young improvisers with his paradoxical style. Maybe it’s the simplicity of his tender repetitions or the stammering velocity of his lines, but there is something at once easy and unknowable in his voice. He sings and plays from somewhere beyond time and his tunes are unforgettable yet next to impossible to repeat.

Joined by Ed Wilcox (drums), Dave Cross (turntables), Vinnie Paternostro (synth), Daniel Carter (sax), and R. Nuuja sampling and manipulating Doyle, the set was short, fun and experimental. Full of smiles, Doyle gave Carter a few turns at the wheel while he relaxed back in his seat, absorbing the sound until he would burst forth with some more brilliant singing, reminiscent of his recent recordings like the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble Plays the African Love Call (Ecstatic YOD 2001) and the Egg Head 7” (Hell’s Half Halo 2003). Some say he’s mad, but I say he's magick, manifesting beauty out of dark chaos with a smile.

Review by Jay Dunbar
I've been a fan of Arthur Doyle for a bit now. Never have been in the right place to actually see this cat gig, but I've definitely enjoyed whatever recordings I've been able to come across.

I've written about Doyle before, as well as maintain a discography.

The myth of the "enemy combatants"

CSRT documents summarize the evidence that the Government used to determine that a prisoner was an enemy combatant. The study confirms that the threshold for EC status is incredibly low:

  • 55% did not commit any hostile act against the United States or its coalition allies
  • Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
  • Many of the detainees are being held simply because they were associated with terrorist organizations, not because they committing any hostile acts
  • Some are being detained for being associated with groups that aren't even on the DHS watchlist of terrorist organizations
  • "Association" covers a wide range of alleged involvements: “fighters for" (8%), “members of" (30%), by far the most common designation was "associated with" which could mean as little as having spoken to a member of Al Qaeda(60%)
  • 2% of the detainees weren't alleged to have any ties to any terrorist organization.

By and large, the Gitmo detainees aren't even alleged to have been high-level Taliban leaders or al Qaeda operatives. Far from being uniformly the worst of the worst, most of the detainees at Gitmo haven't even been shown to be enemies, let alone combatants.

Nerdified Link

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fear's for weaklings:

A message for Bu$hCo & the GOP:

Unlike you, I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of your fear.
I am not afraid of terrorism.
I am not afraid of Osama.
I am not afraid of Saddam.
I am not afraid of Islam.
I am not afraid of negotiation.
I am not afraid of thought.
I am not afraid of consideration.
I am not afraid of accountability.
I am not afraid of respect.
I am not afraid of kindness.
I am not afraid of equality.
I am not afraid of women.

I am not afraid of race.
I am not afraid of homosexuality.
I am not afraid of charity.
I am not afraid of laughter.
I am not afraid of pain.
I am not afraid of sacrifice.
I am not afraid of education.
I am not afraid of science.
I am not afraid of the truth.
I am not afraid of the Constitution.

and I am certainly not afraid of you.

From the mailbag:

Iraq: The Musical, brought to you by Freeway Blogger.

On that little matter of impending levee breeches in NOLA

Bu$hCo knew early on, but chose not to lift a finger.

A post-script on the asymetry of political discourse

Summed up quite aptly by Lenin's Tomb:
So, isn't the real political correctness (if I may call it that) as follows: you may dispense insults, racism, lies and innuendo against Muslims or Arabs, but the second you attempt to behave as if they are humans beings too, there is a strict prohibition in operation. Discourse does not take place in a neutral space, in which everyone's speech is equally efficient: torturers and victims are not equally empowered to speak, for instance (about which, more later). ... few people are actually consistent in how they weigh human suffering. What Derbyshire's comment reveals is the precise contours of the ideological screen separating privileged Westerners from the suffering Other. It is this which facilitates the blase dismissal of mortality figures from Iraq, for instance. It is this which allows one to tuck the mortality figures from Afghanistan which, one some estimates, were close to double those accrued on 9/11, safely away from one's purview. Zizek noted in Welcome to the Desert of the Real that Americans, having had their fantasy of immortality and reposeful seclusion ripped apart, would have to decide whether to take another step and identify with the rest of the world or to retreat back into the 'innocence' of identification with the status quo, nationalism and an aggressive reassertion of US power. Clearly, American reactions have polarised along these lines, with a large number of people sympathising with the suffering of Iraqis and, in increasing numbers, Palestinians, and another group of people preferring to revel in a religious and nationalistic reflux whose guiding principle is death-dealing aggression toward the Others whom 'we' had been simply too soft on in the past. However, what is noticeable is that even while American reactions have changed, at an official level the discourse remains exactly the same. When mainstream news organisations speak of war casualties, they are almost always referring to the number of US soldiers being returned in caskets or on stretchers. The Washington Post specifically accentuates its commitment to American nationalism in exactly this fashion.

And, of course, that screen is flexible, so that the suffering of New Orleans and the immense burden of the crimes committed there by the US government can be made sort of invisible. If you paid attention to the mainstream news organisations in America, you would have no idea that the residents of New Orleans have just had to fight a lengthy battle to force the state to comply with the law, to even enforce their property rights. And so it is unsurprising that when Ray Nagin instructs officers to kill looters and refuses to provide help for the city's poor despite foreknowledge of the likely effects, he is just seen as doing his job - but when he says New Orleans must be "chocolate brown" (which basically means allowing the city's residents to keep their homes and what is left of their property), suddenly he's an anti-white racist who must be roundly condemned. There again, a radical right-wing bigot who described New Orleans residents as "scumbags" is rewarded for his efforts with a CNN contract, while Bill Bennett remains in his job with the same network after remarking that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down", and is allowed the freedom to continue to defend those remarks. But Kanye West says George Bush doesn't care about black people, a fairly mild way to put it, and outraged gasps abound.

Free speech, then, is in material terms, in this climate, and at this conjuncture, the freedom to denigrate black people, Muslims, Arabs and just about anyone liable to come on the wrong end of Western power.
I'd say that pretty well nails it.

Race-baiting and Coretta Scott King's Funeral

Leave it to those clever Republican kool-aid drinkers to show their true colors:
Why is it that we have to accept the Pantheon of the Left and see their funerals televised -- from Wellstone to Mrs. King?

Why is it that those who participate in these funerals feel compelled to turn a solemn, religious event into a Def Comedy Jam spectacle of anti-Republican, anti-conservative boilerplate "known facts" and demands for handouts?

This is just further indication that the left is out of touch.

To borrow another contributor's phrase -- the media and the left treat the Jesse Jacksons of this country and the Jesse Jacksons of the Middle East with respect, compassion, and understanding. Those of us who work hard for a living to provide for our families, humbly go to church, and try to do unto others as we would have them do unto us see our values, our lifestyles, our beliefs, and our Lord ridiculed and bashed on television, the cover of Rolling Stone, and in the mainstream media.

I also think I have a clearer understanding of why the culture of so many black Americans in this country is below what it should be and is capable of being. The prominent black spiritual leaders, like Joseph Lowery, are more interested in subsidization from The ManTM than salvation from the Lord.

Good grief. Here we go again - chock full of ethnocentrism and out-and-out racism. Phrases like "Def Comedy Jam" and "demands for handouts" are code-words that the right-wingers use to vilify America's blacks (the crass effort to somehow link liberal blacks to what I presume are terrorists from the Middle East was also crass, and should not go unchallenged). I'm surprised the author didn't drop the "welfare queen" bomb while he was at it.

I also am once again absolutely impressed by the sheer audacity of the right-wingers in playing the victim card. Simply put, the most rigid members and enforcers of the dominant culture - the very people who wouldn't think twice about taking potshots at immigrants, gay-bashing, and acts of terrorism against family planning centers (and mosques, synagogues, and black churches) - cannot and should not be taken seriously when they claim to be victimized by minority members, let alone the mainstream of their own dominant culture. These people think they've been "bashed"? Hardly. Social and political discourse between the oppressors and the oppressed is by definition asymetrical.

Funny, I always thought of Ms. King as a national hero, and of the civil rights movement as one that was (and is) essentially national.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Quotable: Homer Simpson

Life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.
From the Random Homer Simpson Quote Generator. Yes, I really AM a pop culture junkie. Hat tip to Democratic Left Infoasis.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Abu Gonzales: Historical Revisionist

This is classic:
President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.

-- Alberto Gonzales at Monday's NSA hearing
Check out the video clip at Crooks and Liars! Let's not forget that Tom Paine could drop some phat rhymes over Ben Franklin's breakbeats. Wilson's blog sucked, and Lincoln should never have tried to podcast.

Quotable: Cindy Sheehan

I believe that whether one supports the wars of aggression of the malicious empire that is taking away our civil liberties as it is sending our young people off to kill and be killed, or whether one opposes preemptive murder, we should all be honoring our children who have given their lives nobly for such an ignoble cause.

Numbers frighten people. The number of crosses that the Veterans for Peace put up each Sunday on some California beaches scares the living daylights out of the people who support George and his murderous policies. These people claim that the VFP are making a political statement and want the numbers to go away and not disturb them. Being confronted with numbers, faces, and reality is too much for some people. As a former math teacher, I know that many people have an unreasonable fear of numbers. The number of our war dead in Iraq is very fear inducing. I know numbers are very alarming especially when there is no logical reason for them.

We know George Bush went AWOL from his dangerous 'Nam duty in the Alabama Air National Guard. I suppose he was fighting them in Alabama so they wouldn't have to fight them in Massachusetts. We know George Bush did not have the tiniest bit of the courage of our troops when he wouldn't meet me face to face on his adoptive turf of Crawford, Texas. Now the world knows that he doesn't even have the fortitude to face a t-shirt.

As humans, we all know that it is very hard to face one's mistakes, especially when undeserving people have paid a horrible toll for that foolishness. But what am I talking about? From failures in his business life to compound, harmful and inexcusable failures in his public life, George Bush has never even admitted a mistake, let alone faced one.

Well, it's time George faced this mistake and is somehow made to feel intense shame for the biggest mistake of his miserable mistake filled life.

I call on people that are for peace and justice to wear the number on their chests every day ... near their hearts. To honor our dead, but to also confront the ones who are waging this war, and supporting the wagers of death, but who won't risk their own flesh and blood for the crimes against humanity that are perpetrated on a daily basis. I implore everyone in the US to remember that each number in the grisly count represents a living, breathing, wonderful, loving and indispensable member of a family, community, and our nation. They are not just numbers. They were human beings before they were exploited for oil and greed.

Wear the number for our dead. Wear the number for their families. Wear the number for our wounded. Wear the number for our children still in harm's way whose confusion about the mission is growing and who only want to come home. Wear the number for people who will be in the way of the future wars of aggression that the war criminals in DC are already planning. Wear it for the people of Iraq who only want us to go away.

Wear the number for peace.

To find the number each day go to:
My emphasis added.

Nerdified Link.

Monday, February 6, 2006

"We have a 'gift' we'd like to return, please."

When asked about the on-going quagmire in Iraq, the new House Majority Leader (Boehner) had this to say:
'It may not benefit our generation, but for our kids and theirs, this maybe the greatest gift we give them.'

I think it's safe to say that our kids and grandkids could do without such "gifts" - especially "gifts" that promise only to saddle them with additional debt, poverty, turmoil. Video can be downloaded from Crooks and Liars.

Quotable: On Torture

"The U.S. government's use and defense of torture and inhumane treatment [of prisoners] played the largest role in undermining Washington's ability to promote human rights. . . . Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator but because it is the most influential. . . . The widely publicized abuse at Abu Ghraib paralleled similar if not worse abuse in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo, elsewhere in Iraq, and in the chain of secret detention facilities where the U.S. government holds its "high-value" detainees."

- Kenneth Roth, cited by Nat Hentoff

The Positive Force with Ade Olatunji

I love uncovering obscure gems by pure chance. While looking for some old out-of-print Strata East recordings on mp3, I found this cool album called Oracy (see image above) recorded in 1977 by a Detroit-area jazz combo. While digging on the tunes, I found out that it's also been reissued. Dusty Groove's synopsis:
One of the most righteous soul jazz albums of the 70s -- a unique session of poetry, percussion, and jazz -- put together by the ultra-hip Positive Force! Not to be confused with the soul group of the same name, this combo was a spiritual jazz ensemble -- featuring poet Ade Olatunji reciting some of his works, plus additional percussion, piano, bass, and keyboards. The tracks unfold with a simple, easy-going approach that's really beautiful -- redemptive, hopeful, and free-thinking -- with a great vision for the future, and a keen ear to challenge the status quo. Titles include "The Afrikan In Winter", "Beautiful Flower", "Praise Song", "Guerilla Warfare", and "Poem For My Lady".
If you like purely instrumental jazz, this album's not for you. But if you can hang with some poetry - sometimes backed with standard jazz instrumentation, sometimes percussion - it's worth checking out. Ade Olatunji is a cat whose poetry would fit in well with Gil-Scott Heron and The Last Poets from the 1970s, covering many of the same topics, as well as getting into the interpersonal politics of romantic partnerships. "Poem for my Lady" is a piece I wish I had written for my lady. "The Weight Don't Make Things No Lighter" tackles the problem of men abandoning the women they impregnate. "Brothers" (Olatunji this time accompanied with bass) takes on the problems of urban violence and drug abuse with a uniquely personal twist. "Afrika Needs You" is a call to solidarity. "Praise Song" begins with a freeform skronkfest before settling into a mid-tempo groove that blends vocals, poetry, and instrumentals as the song progresses. The lone instrumental piece "Guerilla Warfare" starts off with the sounds of a war zone (gunfire, the sounds of aircraft overhead) and then segues into a tight funky soul-jazz jam that tears the roof off the sucka.

As far as I know, this was the only session these cats ever recorded. I don't know if any of Ade Olatunji's poetry ever appeared in print or was ever recorded except for that gig. If your recorded legacy is going to be one album, these cats did good. It captures the spirit of a particular time and place, and yet its spirit transcends its context and musically and lyrically remains every bit as relevant today.

The website for the cd on Quadraphonic Records gives a brief description of the personnel.