Saturday Night Tunes: Free for All

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It’s been a while since we covered a Jazz Messengers album around here, which is amazing considering how prolific they were. Free for All was recorded in 1964, with a lineup of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Cedar Walton on piano, and Reggie Workman on bass, plus leader Art Blakey of course. That is a heavyweight sextet, and while nothing here is necessarily breaking any new ground in jazz, it’s all pretty damn good.

The title track, written by Shorter, is really a wonderful tune, one of the quintessential Jazz Messengers-style tracks. As the title suggests, it starts to feel like free jazz, or at least as close to free jazz as the ultra-hard bop Messengers were going to get. The highlight is Hubbard’s trumpet solo leading into Blakey’s drum solo:

The soulful “Hammer Head,” also written by Shorter, is the Jazz Messengers in their wheelhouse. Fuller’s solo stands out to me, although I am a huge fan of jazz trombone and it’s actually rarer to encounter than you’d think, so maybe that’s why I appreciate it here so much.

Freddie Hubbard wrote “The Core” as a dedication to the Chicago-based Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the country’s largest civil rights organization. But the title works on two levels–as Hubbard says in the liner notes, “I think we got at some of the core of jazz–the basic feelings and rhythms that are at the foundation of the music.” It’s a toss up whether this or “Free for All” is the best tune on the album:

“Pensativa” is the album’s one cover. Originally written by bossa nova pianist and composer Clare Fischer in 1962, it was arranged for this group by Hubbard after he’d heard it performed live. It ends this otherwise pretty intense album on a light note:

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What a President Sanders might mean for the Middle East

Over at LobeLog I’ve got a new piece that looks at what I could find of Bernie Sanders’s statements and record with respect to several core Middle East issues–Israel-Palestine, ISIS, Iran, etc. Sanders doesn’t have much of a foreign policy record, so apart from Israel-Palestine I was going mostly on things he’s said so far in this campaign. I actually find his unfamiliarity with foreign policy to be one of the more problematic things about his candidacy:

For Sanders, the issue is more straightforward. Foreign policy simply isn’t an area in which he’s particularly comfortable. Nor has he paid much attention to the matter until his candidacy really began to gain at the polls. When he comments on foreign policy at all, Sanders often steers the discussion to topics like inequality, which he frequently discusses in a domestic context, or to questions of judgment rather than specific policies. He has, for example, cited Clinton’s 2002 Senate vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq (Sanders, then in the House, voted against the authorization) as an example of her poor judgment (the same issue that played such a large role in Clinton’s 2008 primary loss to Barack Obama). He has even gone so far as to compare her to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Clinton’s usual response to this attack—that then-President-elect Obama obviously trusted her judgment enough to ask her to become his secretary of state—is somewhat blunted by an examination of her record in that office, which includes a disastrous intervention in Libya, a failed surge in Afghanistan, the now-defunct “reset” with Russia, and a muddled (at best) response to the Arab Spring.

The issue of judgment is entirely fair and may even be the key foreign policy factor for voters to weigh, given that a president will inevitably be expected to react to events that were unforeseen during his or her campaign. But it is troubling that so little attention has been paid to the issue of foreign policy, and that so little is known about what both of these candidates plan to do should they become president. This is particularly so for Sanders, whose limited foreign policy record doesn’t even give us much from which to extrapolate. Foreign policy is important, obviously, but it’s also one of the few areas where a Democratic president will be able to actually accomplish anything, in the face of a Congress that will likely be at least partly controlled by a resistant Republican Party.

My overall conclusion, I think, is that Sanders’s inclinations on Israel-Palestine and Iran probably make him the least bad candidate on both issues, but there are still problems there (particularly on I-P, where he’s only slightly more sympathetic to the Palestinians than most high-profile politicians). On ISIS and Syria, he really departs very little from the Democratic mainstream (he’s actually, in my view, closer to that mainstream than Clinton, who is easily more hawkish than the average Democrat). But, again, his unfamiliarity with the terrain is troubling to me.

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Egypt may have a suspect in the Metrojet bombing

Despite their insistence that terrorism did not cause the crash of Metrojet 9268 last October, an insistence with which pretty much nobody else agrees, it appears that Egypt may now have a suspect in the, um, terrorist bombing of Metrojet 9268:

An EgyptAir mechanic whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria is suspected of planting a bomb on a Russian passenger plane that was blown out of Egypt’s skies in late October, according to sources familiar with the matter.

So far Egypt has publicly said it has found no evidence that the MetroJet flight, which crashed in the Sinai Peninsula after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, killing all 224 people on board, was brought down by terrorism.

A senior security official at the airline denied that any of its employees had been arrested or were under suspicion, and an Interior Ministry official also said there had been no arrests.

But the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, said the mechanic had been detained, along with two airport policemen and a baggage handler suspected of helping him put the bomb on board.

This raises a couple of questions, assuming the story checks out, particularly about what Egyptian authorities were doing when they said that they’d checked the family connections of everyone working at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport for terrorist links and found none. At least they nabbed the guys (again, assuming they really did it) before they were able to bring down another plane.

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A change of heart, sort of

The Syrian rebel High Negotiations Council has decided to send representatives to Geneva after all. Kind of:

A senior HNC delegate said the group would send “30, 35 people” to Geneva, the AFP news agency reports.

Earlier, Fuad Aliko, a source close to the group, said the delegation would not be acting “as negotiators”.

Farrah el-Atassi, another activist close to the HNC, told Reuters the team would talk to Mr de Mistura but also said it would not negotiate directly with the Syrian government.

This seems like a big 180 from where things were yesterday, but I have no idea what that part in bold means. These are indirect talks, meaning that the rebels and the Assad delegation won’t be sitting in the same room with each other, but they’ll each be talking to the UN and the UN will relay messages back and forth. So in a sense, nobody is going to be doing any negotiations since the two warring sides aren’t going to be talking to one another. But in another sense, if the HNC delegates aren’t there to “act as negotiators,” what are they planning to talk with the UN team about? The weather?

Talking is better than not talking–or, in this case, being in the same city where people are talking is better than not being there, I guess? But any major breakthrough still seems unlikely. On the plus side, if nobody walks out these talks are supposed to run for the next six months, and a lot can happen in that amount of time.

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Today’s great deed in conservation

I’m not one of those “Al Gore is a big fat hypocrite for talking about global warming because he flies on airplanes” clowns. But I think there may be a teeny problem with the way we’re describing Paul Allen in the first line of this story:

A yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder and marine conservationist Paul Allen has ploughed into a sensitive reef in the Cayman Islands, destroying the majority of coral on the protected ecosystem.

The MV Tatoosh, a 300ft yacht owned by the billionaire Allen, ripped up 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the West Bay replenishment zone, according to local officials. About 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain. It is thought that Allen was not on board at the time.

Yeah, I don’t think you can still be a “marine conservationist” after something like this. They should revoke your membership, or at least put you in a timeout, something.

I especially like this bit of PR-speak:

According to a statement from Allen’s investment firm Vulcan, the incident occurred on 14 January. “When [the MV Tatoosh] crew was alerted by a diver that her anchor chain may have impacted coral in the area, the crew promptly, and on their own accord, relocated their position to ensure the reef was protected,” it said, adding that the crew was aiding investigations into the damage.

“Your honor, when my client was alerted by a passerby that the car he was driving may have run over a pedestrian, then backed over the same pedestrian in reverse, and then run over the pedestrian a third time, he promptly, and on his own accord, relocated his position to ensure the pedestrian was protected. I know the word ‘hero’ is overused these days, but if you ask me…”

Oh, and in case you were wondering, not only is Allen a “marine conservationist,” he specifically gives money toward researching coral reefs:

The incident comes just five months after Allen announced support for research to “stabilize and restore coral reefs,” one of several philanthropic projects he has aided through Vulcan.

Well, oops. Maybe he could fund a study on how to strengthen coral reefs so they can survive a collision with a yacht.

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Paul Allen’s coral eliminator yacht, the Tatoosh (Wikimedia | Oxam Hartog)

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Totally unforeseen

I hope you’re sitting down, because this is a real stunner:

The Syrian opposition said it will not attend peace talks due to begin in Geneva on Friday, derailing the first attempt in two years to hold negotiations aimed at ending the five-year-long war.

An opposition council convening in Riyadh said its delegation would “certainly” not be in Geneva on Friday, saying it had not received convincing answers to its demands for goodwill steps including an end to air strikes and blockades.

The failure to get talks off the ground on time reflects the challenges facing peace-making as the conflict rages unabated on the ground.

Challenges, really? You don’t say.

The rebels’ High Negotiations Committee is looking for an end to Bashar al-Assad’s sieges of places like Madaya, an end to Assad/Russian strikes on civilian population centers, and a release of rebels being held by Assad. Meanwhile, Assad is back to (slowly, and sporadically) regaining territory, so he really has no incentive to accommodate any of these demands.

The bottom line is this: there will not be any substantive talks on ending the Syrian civil war so long as the only parties that actually want to see the war end are Syrian civilians, the United States, and the EU. The forces that are actually doing the fighting need to want to end the war before they will, you know, end the war. We’re clearly not at that point yet.

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Free political advice

Any candidates or would-be candidates out there who might happen upon this, let me offer you some advice.

cruz-fiorina

Yes, like the two of you. Listen up.

I am not a veteran of the war room or the trenches or whatever dumb war metaphor you people like to use to describe taking money from very rich people to pay for the advice of other very rich people, but I’ve learned a few things in my years on this planet. One of the things I’ve learned is this: don’t publicly offer to donate money to charity only if somebody else does something for you. There’s a word to describe people who do stuff like that: asshole. And while the people of this country have elected more than their share of assholes over the past 238-plus years, we generally like our candidates to pretend that they’re not assholes until after we’ve elected them.

Don’t come out of the asshole gate too quickly, is what I’m saying. You’ll have plenty of time to be an asshole once you’re in office.

I hope this advice helps. Don’t worry about crediting me for it, I’m just doing what I can.

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