My recent Nation columns are as follows:
"Obama and the Cult of 'Credibility" with the subhead "As his tenure draws to a close, the president is finally ready to challenge the foreign-policy establishment,"
"President Obama Wants Reporters to 'Dig Deeper'", subhead, "Snippy reactions to his sharp critique of the mainstream media only amplified his point."
So I wrote this op-ed for the Times about the "The B.D.S. Movement and Anti-Semitism on Campus" which you can find here.
It was, predictably, unpopular in many quarters. Glenn Greenwald, who is apparently as ridiculous an ideologue as he is a great reporter, complained that I was a "fervent Israel supporter," which I am, in the same sense that Glenn Greenwald is a "fervent Hamas/ISIS supporter."
Paul Ellie, writing in The New Yorker, observes that "Bonnie Raitt has dodged the crush of fame that did in the Eagles; she has beaten the devils that snared Warren Zevon, found the third act that eluded Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, tended to her vocal cords better than Joni Mitchell, escaped the undertow of the sixties that holds Crosby, Stills & Nash, and kept clear of the Rushmore-y eminence now granted Neil Young." He goes on to rave about her recent performance at the Beacon and I could not agree more. I fell in love with Bonnie back in high school, following the release of her first three albums. (I've never heard another song so wonderfully and profoundly transformed as gutsy, bluesy version of Del Shannon's whiney wimpy "Runaway.") So I was ever so slightly miffed that she leaned so heavily on her new album, "Dig In Deep," which I actually like a great deal, though you can't love something at 56 the way you do at 16.
The two-hour set included lots of Slipstream, which won a Grammy for Best Americana Album, and was performed by a devoted audience filled with musicians/inheritors like Joan Osborne and Rachel Price, both of whom contain lots of Bonnie in their own work. In addition to her amazing voice--which miraculously--sounds just as warm and powerful as it did forty years ago and her tasteful, unflashy slide guitar, Bonnie is a remarkably sexy, and to judge by her stage patter, lusty 66-year-old. At the same time she's a pretty dedicated, albeit, sappy lefty and her show, backed by her impressively airtight band -- Hutch Hutchinson (bass), Ricky Fataar and George Marinelli on drums, and Mike Finnigan his Hammond B-3 and piano -- gave her the opportunity to showcase every aspect of her musical, personal and political personalities.
Highlights of the show naturally depend on taste, but for this old fart, I was moved all the way to tear by her near a capella rendering of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery." On the rock n' roll side, she had the crowd um, shaking on her cover of Los Lobos' "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" standing out.
"Love You Like a Man," by Chris Smither, Sippie Wallace's"Mighty Tight Woman," and most insistently, her second-to-last encore, "Burning Down the House." "Pretend it's The Ritz around 1986," she said. I actually saw the Talking Heads at the Ritz more than once in those days, but I didn't need to pretend. Bonnie Raitt, circa, 2016, is more than enough.
She talks about "Dig In Deep" to the New York Times here.
Steve Miller made some news over the weekend complaining about the shoddy treatment he was given upon being inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, which, fortunately, did not appear to intrude on his mood at the wonderful show he did Saturday night at Jazz@Lincoln Center's Appel Room with Jimmie Vaughan and a first-rate band put together for the occasion. Entitled "Out of This World" with a subhead "Ma Rainey Meets Miles Davis," Miller began with the story of his first band, formed in Texas at age 12 -- he had a 10:00 curfew -- that featured a 12-year-old Boz Scaggs on the other guitar. (Miller's godfather, somehow, was Les Paul.)
Musically directed and arranged by pianist Shelly Berg -- dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and joined on a few songs by Brianna Thomas -- the band played a set that straddled the blues, jazz, rockabilly and early rock & roll Venn diagram, often simultaneously. It featured "Sweet and Low," by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, with Miller only on vocals but when Vaughan came out and brought the B-3 virtuoso Mike Flanigan with him, the band cooked on Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies," Rosco Gordon's "Just a Little Bit," Jimmy Reed's "Caress Me Baby" and Roy Milton's "R.M. Blues." Miller's own "Take the Money and Run" was reborn as if from a faux-old Woody Allen movie, albeit with awesome guitar work. Another highlight was Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Gangster of Love" which Miller and Scaggs played at 12, and finally, "Ma Rainey Meets Miles Davis" promise was fulfilled by a combination of Miles' "All Blues," "C.C. Rider," which was originally recorded by Ma Rainey in 1924, (and later massacred, in a good way, by Bruce every night for years.)
Overall it was a remarkable evening and many kudos not only to the musicians for the chances they took, and to Jazz@Lincoln Center for booking three nights outside of its wheelhouse but now, happily, inside an expanding (and neverending) canon of great American music.
Finally, I want to mention a couple of CDs I've been listening to lately. Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set is the first release in Verve's 60th-anniversary campaign. It's also marks the first time that the complete set of U.S. JATP performances are being released together with 22 remastered tracks. They were recorded live between 1949 and 1954 at Carnegie Hall and Bushnell Memorial Hall in Hartford, and the musicians include Ray Brown, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. How can anyone not like that?
Also, Margo Price is getting a lot of attention for her first album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, as a smart, sometimes sad and always savvy country singer and songwriter, and while I'm late to the party, I'm totally on board. Here's a video.
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