The Lost Album
By Fred Wesley & the J.B.’s
Review by John Zavesky
Way back in the early 1970s, before disco nearly destroyed soul music, James Brown offered his bandleader, trombonist Fred Wesley, the opportunity to record an album of his own. Nearly 40 years later that album has finally seen the light of day. The J.B.’s & Fred Wesley: The Lost Album clearly ranks as a high point in Wesley’s long musical career.
The title of the album is somewhat of a misnomer. It was never really “lost,” merely unreleased. The genesis of The Lost Album was political. When Fred Wesley began playing with James Brown, he introduced a robust style to the band that ranged from a fat honking horn to smooth as silk, punctuating a band moving from soul to beat-heavy funk. Now arguably the world’s foremost funk trombonist, Wesley still remains a jazzman at heart. The bone player was embarrassed playing funk back then. “I hoped they’d [fellow jazz players] never hear this stuff,” Wesley said. “It made my career, but I didn’t really understand the meaning of James Brown’s music yet. Back then I thought it was the silliest shit I ever heard.” James Brown became aware of that fact when Wesley quit the band in the 1960s to work as a session player. Still preferring jazz over funk, Wesley returned to the J.B.’s in 1970 for a steady paycheck.
Timing is everything. Premiere sax-man and J.B.’s frontman, Maceo Parker, had recently departed the band. As a “reward” for taking on the duties of musical director for the band Brown “rewarded” Wesley with a jazz album of his own. Brown compiled a list of songs and had his longtime arranger, David Mathews, write the charts. Then they cut most of the album not with the J.B.’s, but instead with
The Lost Album is a jazz album at its core with a layer of funk. “Watermelon Man” was a minor hit for its composer Herbie Hancock when released in 1962. A year later Cuban Mongo Santamaria had a top 10 hit with the song. Wesley’s version was one of the few cuts released as a single from those
Covers of popular songs were customary back then. The Lost Album includes fine jazz arrangements of Carol King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” Bill Wither’s “Use Me,” Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool” and Gilbert O’ Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally).” Until hearing this disc, it is impossible to believe that anything by O’Sullivan could exude soul, but Wesley and crew put a lot of soul in their version. “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Everybody Plays the Fool” have arrangements featuring a full-bodied sound that was synonymous with the big jazz bands like Stan Kenton’s and Doc Serverson’s performing in the 1960s and 1970s. The album also features James Brown standards “Shout” and “Get on the Good Foot,” both cuts surprisingly jazzier than Brown’s versions. The disc’s real scorchers are the vamp blues, “Seulb” and “Trans- mographication” which features an extended solo by Wesley. With a nod to Philly soul, Wesley and crew also turn in the funkiest version of “Back Stabbers” ever put to tape.
Shortly after the album’s completion Brown notified his production manager and engineer to put the album on hold. The following year Maceo Parker returned to the J.B.’s and was welcomed back with open arms and an album of his own. Wesley’s admiration for the sax player would not allow him to envy Parker, but he was frustrated with Brown’s decision to shelve his record. “Mr. Brown knew I wanted to play jazz,” Wesley said. “I think he wanted to have that album in the can to hold over me in case I got restless with the gig.”
While The Lost Album may not meet the strict definition of a “lost,” record, it clearly demonstrates that back in 1972, Fred Wesley was already a giant funk trombonist who could play jazz with the best of them. It may have taken nearly 40 years for this disc of the complete sessions to be released, but the music contained within was well worth the wait.
John Zavesky has worked in the media field for over 30 years. His screenplays have been produced for
Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work
By Belen Fernandez
Review by Jim Miles
Thomas Friedman is a writer whom I have avoided reading over the past several years, mainly due to my distinct disdain for his writing and his thinking. It was, therefore, good to be able to read Imperial Messenger and be brought up to date on some of his current punditry. I should have stayed with him because in his own way he does reveal the true nature of the
It is true that the
The Arab/Muslim World
Personally, the writing took on more importance when Fernandez began discussing the Arab/Muslim world, not that
Fernandez’s largest criticism is “Friedman’s intermittent reliance on infant terminology to analyze parts of the Arab/Muslim world…one manifestation of a tradition of unabashed Orientalism that discredits Arabs and Muslims as agents capable of managing their own destinies.” She divides his Orientalism into pre- and post-9/11 with the pre-9/11 described as “a subtle tendency toward ethnic stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims.” Although I would disagree—here and from her own examples, it is rather blatant stereotyping.
Along with the language factor, Friedman “anchor[s] Oriental subjects in antiquity, where they remain in perpetual need of civilization by the West and its militaries.” Accompanying this “mission civilatrice” is Friedman’s interpretations of women and their role in both Arab/Muslim societies and their rescue by the
Other factors come into play, more general than the specifics of the Arab/Muslim world. She describes Friedman’s “failure to keep abreast of his own views on certain issues,” and his “institutionalized habit of self-contradiction.”
All that is truly criticized for the Arab/Muslim world remains true and even more seriously highlighted for
Other factors affect Friedman’s writing on Israel/Palestine. He operates with full double standards when it comes to Israel, his “predilection for double standards favoring Israel is visible time and again, as is his predilection for calling attention to double standards not favoring Israel.” His ability to change his arguments to suit his story is an example of “historical revisions” that also serve “to excise from the record his own previous reports.” While discussing Friedman’s unquestioning support of
Finally, she offers, “Friedman’s warmongering apologetics on behalf of empire and capital…attest to this representative role in Western mainstream media…largely composed of journalists who ‘perpetuate the dominant ideology’ and act as ‘the functional tools for a bourgeois ruling class’.”
But I much prefer Friedman’s own probably unrealized ironic statement on that issue: “When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact checking, we have a problem.”
I have not delved into the many examples that support Fernandez’s arguments on the above statements. The work is readily accessible for any reader, whether familiar with criticism of empire or not. The many contradictions, bad metaphors, revisions, and other examples are so rapidly presented and intertwined that the worst danger is becoming dizzy with the confusion of ideas drawn from many different sources. For all that, Friedman is worth reading about from an informed viewpoint, as he truly does represent the empire at its best in terms of apologetics, contradictions, arrogance, and misrepresentations of facts. However, Fernandez’s work, Imperial Messenger, should be the companion volume to any and all reading of Friedman.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The
Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World
By Maria Armoudian
Review by Gabriel San Roman
Throughout the pages of syndicated Pacifica Radio host Maria Armoudian’s first book, Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World, is good news and bad news. Armoudian gives readers the bad news first. Starting out with a retelling of the murderous rampage in
The media, as Armoudian’s scholarship illustrates, played a pivotal role in some of history’s worst catastrophes—the Nazi Holocaust, genocide in
Now for the good news. In situations where genocide could embark on its frenzied state, radio, newspapers, and television can play an important part in averting disaster. For this, Armoudian cites the historical case of
Kill the Messenger takes from the Burundian example and examines the ways in which media has asserted itself in other countries struggling to free themselves from dictatorship, apartheid, and other egregious violations of human rights. One of the more instructive chapters focuses on the military coup that ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. Prior to the Socialist leader’s ascension to power following election in 1970, Doonie Edwards, publisher of El Mercurio, implored the Nixon administration to disallow an Allende regime to take hold. Indeed, the election could hardly be seen as anything resembling free and fair as the
After the brutal regime of Pinochet rode a wave of continuing headlines that contributed to destabilizing Chilean society, the General went about seeking to legitimize its actions and banned outlets that could counter it. With scores of Chileans exiled abroad, Armoudian highlights how they shaped international media, which then began to put pressure on the dictatorship from abroad. Within
Hovering above it all is the specter of global warming. As the subtitle suggests, Kill the Messenger addresses how the manipulation of the media has created a false debate over global warming at the precise moment when the people of the earth need to take action in order to address the ecosystem as Armoudian charts how the oil industry’s media strategy planted the seed of doubt within people’s minds as to the urgency of addressing the issue. Public opinion polls chart the decline as the pillars of corporate media—its penchant for scandal, false balance “objectivity,” and questionable sourcing—played all too easily into the trap.
It is in that critique of those structures that Armoudian looks to alternatives. As opposed to corporate for-profit systems, she cites numerous models of delivering information to the public including trust-owned, non-profit, open source, and cooperative institutions. The diversity would lend to counterbalancing the formation of a dangerous hegemonic narrative, to which increasing corporate consolidation poses a perennial threat. Rich in its historical background, concise with its analysis, and diverse in its suggestions for a better media to shape a better world, Kill the Messenger is an important contribution in its field and holds the very “candle to the darkness” that it asks journalism to do.
Gabriel San Roman is a freelance journalist and contributing writer to the
José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology
Edited and translated by Harry E. Vanden
& Marc Becker
Monthly Review, 2011, 480 pp.
Review by Seth Sandronsky
I first heard the term “Indo-American” in a forum on
He was an unabashed Marxist in theory and practice. A socio-historical approach clarified the concrete realities of his place and time: post-World War I and the Russian Revolution amid poverty and inequality. In hindsight, we know this systemic social problem birthed a financial panic and global Great Depression.
Editors and translators Harry E. Vanden and Marc Becker divide Mariátegui’s writing into nine sections, including one at the end that has his writing on women, feminism and politics. He links their emancipation to human liberation in no uncertain terms.
Mariátegui analyzes the history of “primitive accumulation” of land and labor in Latin America and other regions of the so-called
As Mariátegui explains without cant,
“Despite the lack of credit afforded the materialist conception of history, it is not possible to ignore the fact that economic relations are the main agent of communication and articulation among peoples,” Mariátegui writes. Then and now, capitalist globalization revolutionizes how people live and work, establishing a common culture. He contextualizes that tendency a century ago.
Crucially, Mariátegui highlights the central conflict of the Peruvian people: the land-less versus the land-rich. Accordingly, those closest to the soil, the indigenous populace, are at the center of his revolutionary analysis. Their culture of communalism is a vital ingredient in a transition from capitalism to socialism. Throughout the book, a vision of liberation animates Mariátegui. For him, Marxism is the tool to free human beings from oppression under a social system that privileges the accumulation of capital over every human need.
When you look at Latin American nations shaking off their colonial shackles, from
Lenin is a major influence on Mariátegui. The Russian revolutionary’s take on finance capitalism, amid its current rampage to conquer the national governments of the world, teems with relevancy in Mariátegui’s day and ours. His aesthetics come into play as well. For instance, Mariátegui points out the strengths and weaknesses of realism and surrealism. In his view, art and revolution dovetail. An essay on the originality of Charlie Chaplin’s comedy sparkles with insight.
Section eight illuminates
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in