Saturday Night Tunes: ‘Round About Midnight

Since I mentioned Miles Davis’s two “Great Quintets” last week, I thought we could spend the next couple of weeks on them. This week we’re listening to an album from the First Great Quintet and next week we’ll listen to something from the Second Great Quintet. Nice, right?

‘Round About Midnight is my choice for this week, mostly because that’s the first thing that caught my eye when I was looking at my CD rack. You can’t go wrong with any of the First Great Quintet’s music, like the series they recorded on Prestige (Miles, Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’) and this and Milestones on Columbia. This group, with Davis leading and on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums, has unbelievable chemistry, driven by maybe the greatest rhythm section in jazz history (at least considering longevity and familiarity with one another). The comfort that these five musicians had playing with each other comes through on every tune. This album was recorded in two sessions, in 1955 and 1956, but couldn’t be released until 1957 after Davis’s Prestige contract had run its course.

The following year the group became a sextet with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones left and were replaced by Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb, respectively, and we all know what happened after that.

On to the music, none of which, interestingly, was written by Davis:

“‘Round Midnight” is the Thelonious Monk classic given beautiful treatment by Davis with his usual Harmon mute:

“Ah-Leu-Cha” was written by Charlie Parker and Davis presumably knew it well considering that he was Parker’s sideman the first time it was recorded back in 1948. Compare and contrast, if you like:

The Cole Porter-written standard “All of You” is up next. I suppose it’s not quite Ella Fitzgerald:

but it’s still pretty damn good:

Another standard is next, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” written in 1926 by Ray Henderson (lyrics by Mort Dixon):

“Tadd’s Delight” was written by the prolific bebop composer-arranger Tadd Dameron:

Bringing up the rear is “Dear Old Stockholm,” a Swedish folk song originally arranged for jazz by saxophonist Stan Getz in the early 1950s:

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Probably not the best career move

Oh boy. I guess some GOP Capitol Hill press flack really stepped in it. Sounds like it’s something that’s going to maybe even cost them their job. Better check it out:


OK, now hold on (ha ha) just a second here. First of all, you know, people have needs or whatever, right? I thought this was America? Where does it say in the Constitution that you’re not allowed to crank one out on a crowded airplane? NOWHERE, EXACTLY, GAME OVER STATISTS. Second, nowhere in that article does it mention anything about the passenger being a Republican communications person, so I don’t even know where that’s coming fr-

Wait, what? Wrong story? Then what’s everybody talking abo



Oh my, that’s much worse than disrupting an airplane via public masturbation. Assuming that U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) isn’t a complete cretin (which, hey, 50/50 I guess?), best wishes to Ms. Lauten in her forthcoming job search.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Got a turkey in the smoker, a beer in my hand, and way too many sides ready for the oven, so we’re all set here. I’m on Alhurra again tomorrow so this may be the last you hear from me for a couple of days.

Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday, and as always, thanks for reading!

What if Petro Poroshenko CAN’T cut a deal with Donbas separatists?

I suppose I’ve been a little hard on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko around here, and I want to acknowledge that maybe I’m being unfair. I suppose I have a natural disinclination toward ultra-wealthy oligarchs in elective office, but that’s my own bias. Anyway, my view has been that Poroshenko spoiled an opportunity to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine at a time when Kiev was in the stronger position, and that his desire to militarily crush the rebels (no matter how many civilians get killed and displaced in the process) has been partly to blame for what’s been happening there over the past couple of months.

That’s not to let Vladimir Putin off the hook (he no doubt hopes to repeat this scenario in a few years, but with Donbas in place of Abkhazia), but to a certain extent I would argue that Kiev is now reaping what it sowed in failing to reach out to the rebels in August, that its zeal to win the war decisively can be blamed for the fact that, right now, it’s losing it. Kiev has gone from having its armies (and its totally well-meaning and not at all neo-Nazi militias) on the outskirts of Donetsk and Luhansk to a situation where it simply has to cut some kind of power-sharing deal with the rebels, on Russian terms in order to appease Putin, lest it really start to suffer from an extended conflict.

This is where you might say something like “What’s taking Poroshenko so long to do something like this? Why won’t the West lean on him to put an end to the fighting?” But my question is, what if Poroshenko can’t cut a deal, because Kiev’s Western backers won’t let him? Poroshenko has been under some Western pressure of late, specifically pressure to appoint a new government coming out of last month’s parliamentary election. Speculation is that the delay has a lot to do with a dispute between Poroshenko and his Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, about how to go about handling the Donbas situation:

Poroshenko, elected in May after “Euromaidan” street protests overthrew Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich, did not volunteer any explanation for the delay in forming a government which may now emerge early next week.

But commentators say Poroshenko wants his candidate in the sensitive post of interior minister – though filling this post falls within the prerogative of the Prime Minister rather than that of the President.

With the country at war, this would give Poroshenko, rather than Yatseniuk, control over a post which directs the National Guard and volunteer battalions fighting alongside government forces against the separatists.

Yatseniuk, however, is said to be insisting that he keep the right to appoint the post, and keep his man Arsen Avakov in situ.

Yatseniuk has steadily taken on the role of a hawk in Poroshenko’s administration with strongly-worded attacks on Russia and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

This contrasts with the smoother, more pragmatic style of Poroshenko who is insisting that there can be no military solution to the conflict and stresses the validity of the Sept. 5 peace deal even though both sides accuse the other of violating it.

Yatseniuk, affectionately called “Yats” by American diplomats like the neoconservative (or at least neocon-ish) Victoria Nuland (wife of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan), who for whatever reason has had steady high-level employment in Barack Obama’s State Department since she was appointed its spokesperson in 2011, and has been its Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs since last September. Back when Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt were holding regular phone calls on how the U.S. could capitalize on the Euromaidan, they made it very clear that “Yats” was to be Our Man in Kiev once the dust had settled. He’s still Our Man in Kiev, presumably far more than Poroshenko. If he’s pushing the hawk line in Kiev then you can be fairly sure that he’s doing it with American (and probably European) support, which means that for Poroshenko to overrule him would risk incurring the wrath of countries he needs if Ukraine, now fully bereft of any Russian support, is going to eventually piece itself back together.

If this is what’s really happening, then shame on the U.S. and E.U. They’d be leveraging Ukraine into a conflict with Russia that Ukraine can’t win and in which the U.S. and E.U. have no intention of really involving themselves to help Kiev out, all presumably to bait Putin into justifying sanctions against Moscow. Meanwhile, you know, lots of people are dying and suffering for nothing.


Dueling narratives on Vienna

On the one hand, Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen is reporting that significant progress was made in this last round of talks in Vienna, so much so that the Iranian negotiators may actually have felt that a deal was within reach if the P5+1 principals had stayed there another week. She writes that the P5+1 negotiators are less effusive in their description of the progress that was made, but they do claim that there was progress:

Notably, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius — long viewed as skeptical of whether an acceptable Iran nuclear deal could be reached — on Nov. 25 said he found the latest round of talks “pretty positive,” and said there had been progress in one of the most vexing issues of the negotiations, on the subject of enrichment capacity.

“On limiting Iran’s capacity to enrich, I found that there had been a certain movement,” Fabius told France’s Inter radio Nov. 25, Reuters reported.

“The devil is in the detail, but there is a will to find an agreement that I hadn’t felt in previous talks,” Fabius said.

“Positions are much more realistic than in the past,” Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Nov. 25. “Now I think both sides can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

So maybe having the outline of a deal in place by March 1 isn’t so unrealistic after all. Call this the optimistic view.

On the other hand, Scott Lucas at EA Worldview sounds a lot like me in that he’s having a hard time seeing where the talks can possibly go from here: Continue reading

Finally, somebody is willing to take on Big Pooh

Bravo to the Polish town of Tuszyn for taking a stand on something we’ve all long wondered about and, yes, feared:

According to an Australian newspaper, one council member is heard saying: “Anyone who knows Winnie-the-Pooh knows he has no sex [genitalia],” which would normally be considered a good thing in a children’s cartoon character, but in this case, was viewed as a symptom of deeper moral issues with the “immodest” bear.

On the tape, the council members complain that Pooh Bear is immodestly dressed, lacks a clear gender and one went so far as to call the bear a “hermaphrodite.” A council member also made some remarkable claims about the origins of Pooh and his creator, A.A. Milne, involving “Pooh’s testicles” and “a rusty razor blade.” Milne modeled the well-loved characters after his son and his favorite stuffed toys.

I’ve always been partial to Eeyore. When I was a kid I felt sorry for him, and it was only later that we came to share a certain general worldview. But my mom has a stuffed Eeyore doll whose tail is attached by Velcro, and suddenly I’m terrified of what kind of message that doll might be sending my impressionable daughter. I need to really think about this.

Anyway, bravo again to the brave leaders of Tuszyn for fighting back against the corrupting influence of pants-less cartoon bears with missing genitals. A grateful humanity thanks you, and please don’t be discouraged by the remarks of your less-enlightened citizenry:

The town members of Tuszyn are unimpressed with their leaders. In an interview with Polish news program TTV, one local resident compared Pooh’s admitted “low intellect” to that of the town councillors, saying: “Winnie the Pooh was a bear with low intellect, and unfortunately, this is also evident in those who are concerned with this topic”.



Not even worth a trial?

My daughter loves the police. When we lived in Chicago she saw them all the time, including at least one occasion when a couple of them came to give a talk to her preschool. She’s learned, partly (and probably unfortunately, I now realize) from her mother and me that the police are “the good guys,” and she’s learned it from the way she sees police portrayed on the television, in cartoons and movies. When she was littler, if we happened to go to a restaurant for lunch and there were uniformed cops there eating or waiting for food, she would walk right up to them and say hi, and because she’s far more charming than either of her parents the cops would be happy to engage with her and it would just make her day.

Someday, maybe someday soon, I’m going to have to explain to her that the only reason her mother and I never freaked out during one of those situations and jumped in between her and the police is because she’s white. I’m going to have to explain to her that for black people, even black people who aren’t much older than she is, very often the police are not “the good guys.” I’m going to have to explain to her that if she were black she’d be 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer as a teenager than she will be as a white person (and yes, I realize that gender plays a role here as well). And I’m going to have to explain to her that, if she were black and she were shot by a cop, it’s very likely that our criminal justice system wouldn’t even bother to put that cop on trial for it.

I probably won’t have much more to say on the decision to spare Darren Wilson the inconvenience of a trial over his decision to take the life of an 18 year old kid, and frankly I’m not even sure I should have written this, because I freely admit that I don’t have nearly as much of value to say about it as people with other expertise and different lived experiences. I wasn’t there and I don’t live in St. Louis, so I haven’t been a witness to the crime or its aftermath. I’m not a lawyer or a legal reporter, so I can’t walk you through the mechanics of the grand jury or whether D.A. Bob McCulloch engineered those mechanics to produce exactly this outcome. Most importantly, I’m not black, so I don’t have to live the day to day experience of knowing that the institutions of this country value my life less than the lives of many of the people around me, and I don’t have to live in mortal terror that my kid will someday be gunned down in the street by one of the people who are supposed to be protecting her.