Sinatra, 99


It’s his centenary next year. (And I’m eagerly awaiting arrival of the new set of London recordings.) In the meantime, here’s one of my favourite tracks from “Songs For Swingin’ Lovers”. Compare and contrast with this version of the same number, made  with Tommy Dorsey just a dozen years earlier.  A different age, a different man.

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Correcting Wikipedia

Is that noble experiment in “controlled anarchy” in danger of losing its way? David Auerbach recalls his own encounter with people who seem to spend as much time feuding as editing:

Because Wikipedia is so unprecedented, I cut it a lot of slack, but precisely for that reason, it faces unanticipated dangers and no easy solution…  I saw a number of inhumanly patient, idealistic, and cautiously circumspect editors during my short time there… but their voices were too often drowned out by the far less civil voices. We can learn a lot from Wikipedia about Internet governance and collective knowledge-building. It’s ultimately up to the site’s editors to choose to learn to temper their fortress mentality, get more outside eyes and ears, listen to the most moderate and reflective among them, and perhaps even entertain the idea that they might sometimes be wrong.

[Via Arts & letters Daily]

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“Bob Dylan’s career-long exploration of regional American music has finally reached Las Vegas.” The snarky way of announcing  the singer’s Sinatra project.

How a country haemorrhages people: Portugal’s emigration crisis.

Beyond parody. A story for our times. “If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out.”

Posted in Class, Economics, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Morning ritual, Calcutta

Calcutta morning ritual swpa

Nick Ng’s shot of ablutions at the Hooghly river, a branch of the Ganges. From a selection of entries to the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards.

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Remembering Tom Jobim

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of his sudden death, aged just 67.  I always regret not seizing the chance to meet him when I was in New York earlier in 1994, covering Verve’s 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall. Jobim was one of the musicians rounded up for a press conference one afternoon. It would have been easy to arrange an interview, but I stupidly thought another opportunity would come around soon enough. And at the time, to be honest, I tended to assume that bossa nova was something that belonged to the distant past. I didn’t realize then just how rich and multi-faceted Jobim’s music really was. It was the release of “Antonio Brasileiro”, his valedictory album, which made me  think again. And since then his reputation has grown and grown. The gorgeous, intimate recordings of his songs by the Sakamoto-Morelenbaum group are particular favourites of mine.  (I’ve already posted the video of their version of  “O Grande Amor”, but here it is again.)  Maria Bethânia’s treatment of “A Felicidade” is another gem, Vinicius de Moraes’s lyrics ascending to the level of poetry.

Strangely enough, though, the first Jobim song I ever heard wasn’t “The Girl From Ipanema” or any of the other classics. Back in the early Seventies, when I was about 15, I bought a copy of Santana’s “Caravanserai”, more on the strength of that stunning sleeve design than any prior knowledge of the band’s work. “Stone Flower” was one of the tracks that made the biggest impression on me. Michael Shrieve added the lyrics (while on LSD, apparently.)  Jobim’s name didn’t ring any bells at the time. More fool me.


Posted in Brazil, Music | Tagged , , , ,

Ferguson: what they saw, and what they didn’t see

The Washington Post assembles detailed, eye-witness accounts of the shooting of Michael Brown.  In the end, they’re a reminder of how fallible and contradictory memory can be:

A family in a minivan — mother and father up front, two adult daughters and a granddaughter in the back — had just pulled into the Canfield Green apartment complex, on the way to visit a friend. Everyone in the van had the same vantage point through the front windshield, yet the accounts they gave the grand jury suggested different realities, starting with what Brown was wearing: “blue jeans, white T-shirt, tennis shoes,” the father said. No, the mother said: shorts, “socks with flip-flops and a big shirt.”

The father saw Brown face the officer and point something toward him. “I thought I saw a glint,” he testified. “I believe it was a gun.” One daughter at first told investigators that she thought Brown had been shot in the leg or hip before he ran from Wilson. But she told the grand jury that it was just Brown’s body movements that suggested he’d been shot.

The four family members who testified each had different impressions of Brown’s final movements. The mother said she wasn’t sure whether Brown “was trying to charge the officer or run past him,” but she wondered whether he was “crazy” because he kept moving toward Wilson.

The daughter sitting behind the mother said Brown “took a couple steps and he might have been stumbling or I’m not sure exactly what he was doing.”  The other daughter, sitting in the same middle row of the van, was adamant that Brown charged. “He was charging this officer and that’s how I feel it was, like he was running towards him,” she said. “If he had got close enough, I feel like he would have tackled him up against the car.”

The father described Brown taking three to four steps toward the officer. But “it wasn’t fast enough to be a charge,” he said.

The prosecutor asked one daughter whether the family had discussed what they saw from the minivan.

“Yes, we did,” answered the daughter who sat behind her mother in the van.

“And in doing that, did you realize that you all kind of saw different things?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes, we did,” the daughter answered.

Posted in Race, US politics | Tagged , , ,

World music albums of the year

Just for a change, a home-grown recording tops my world music choices in the Sunday Times 100 Best Records of the Year [£].

1  VARIOUS  The Elizabethan Session (Quercus)

2  MELINGO Linyera (World Village)

3  AURELIO Landini (Real World)

4  MAYRA ANDRADE, Lovely Difficult (Sterns Music)

5  MORENO VELOSO, Coisa Boa (Luaka Bop)

6 VARIOUS, Haiti Direct! (Strut)

7  NAMVULA, Shiwezwa (NMR Records)

8  VARIOUS Look Again to the Wind – Johnny Cash Revisited (Sony)

9  IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE, Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway)

10  PINK MARTINI & THE VON TRAPPS, Dream A Little Dream (Wrasse)

Posted in Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,


H.P. Lovecraft “had a deep-seated abhorrence of blacks, Jews, southern Italians, Portuguese, Poles, Mexicans, French Canadians, and virtually every other race that was not ‘light-skinned Nordic’.”  Portrait of a writer in the New York Review of Books.

Whatever happened to knowledge for knowledge’s sake? How higher education has become “an anxiety machine”.

Jan Morris talks about her reading habits. I’m relieved to discover I’m not the only one who’s never been able to get to the end of “The Good Soldier”.

Posted in Education, Literature | Tagged , , , ,

Jazz albums of the year


My round-up of the best jazz releases of 2014.  Full details in today’s Sunday Times 100 Best Records of the Year [£].


2 DYLAN HOWE  Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin (Motorik)

3 HELEN SUNG, Anthem For A New Day (Concord)

4 CYRILLE AIMEE It’s A Good Day (Mack Avenue)

5 ZARA McFARLANE, If You Knew Her (Brownswood)

6 BILL FRISELL, Guitar in the Space Age! (Okeh)

7 DJANGO A LA CREOLE, Live! (Lejazzetal)

8 JAMIE CULLUM, Interlude (Island)

9 CHRIS INGHAM QUARTET, Hoagy (Downhome)

10 VARIOUS, Round Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone (Decca)

Posted in Uncategorized

The cure for the Monday morning blues

Always works for me. And almost certainly the only pop song with cameos from Nietzsche, Goya, Cleopatra and Demosthenes.

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