Monday, September 8. 2008
Another weird week for me. I fumbled for a couple of days getting nowhere, then started pulling long-sitting probable junk from the shelves (some, but by no means all, below), then spent a few days playing Rhapsody, and finally settled into some serious jazz. The Rhapsody stuff will show up in a later post -- I've never been a fan, but the Conor Oberst album is pretty good, and Jeffrey Lewis's 12 Crass Songs is a weird, left-wing find. No more info on when Jazz CG (#17) runs, although it shouldn't be too long now.
One thing I'll note here is that I'm going to be cutting back on writing, especially about music, over the next 6-8 weeks. I'm not discontinuing anything, but everything will be sparser and slower. I have another trip to Detroit lined up, and I have a bunch of construction projects, both here and there, on my plate. This is the best time to get them done, and I'm finally taking that plunge. All year long -- in fact for several years now -- I've been tethered to the computer, listening to as much stuff as I could handle, writing as much as I can, letting pretty much everything else slip into entropy's clutches.
I will be listening to stuff, and I'll write notes when I can. They'll probably be more slapdash then usual, with more records put back for later listening. If I have 6+ I'll put up a Jazz Prospecting post. I have a little over 1000 words written for Jazz CG (#18), and that will get a boost when the cuts for (#17) come in. So it shouldn't be hard to finish this off in a timely fashion. September Recycled Goods is already thick enough to run. No reason to stop sending me new stuff. This period will pass, then (most likely) we'll be back to normal.
The non-music parts of the blog/website will continue in a similar mode. I have some book stuff more/less ready to go. The cutback means I'll put less work into finishing them off, but the posts will continue. Don't know about the politics. I'm somewhat inclined to pull my head down and let whatever happens in the next two months -- Matt Taibbi's memorable term for the 2004 election was "The Stupid Season," and that seems likely to be the case once again. But I doubt that I won't be tempted to write something, no matter how distracted I am. We'll see.
Renaud Garcia-Fons Trio: Arcoluz (2005 , Enja/Justin Time, CD+DVD): French bassist, b. 1962, uses an unusual 5-string double bass, has a technique of tapping strings with the bow. The fifth string gives him something like cello range. Trio includes Kiko Ruiz on "flamenco guitar" and Negrito Transante on drums/percussion. Music draws on flamenco, and reminded me more than a bit of tango. Garcia-Fons has six albums on Enja, at least two picked up by Justin Time. DVD adds visuals to the same concert. I played it but didn't watch much. B+(**)
Randy Sandke: Unconventional Wisdom (2008, Arbors): Trumpeter, mostly plays old-fashioned mainstream, or what you might call swing-bop, but sometimes will surprise you. This quartet, with Howard Alden (guitar), Nicki Parrott (bass), and John Riley (drums), should steer to the retro side, but doesn't. I'm not really sure what they're doing, other than framing a lot of gorgeous trumpet balladry. Parrott also sings four songs. She has a plain, slightly hesitant voice, which I think works very well. [B+(**)]
The Pineapple Thief: Tightly Unwound (2008, K Scope): English ("Somerset-based") rock group, led by guitarist Bruce Soord, has half a dozen albums since 1999. Sounds a little like Jesus and Mary Chain minus the fuzz -- didn't catch any lyrics, so I can't speak to the gloom. Better than average for what they do, but no real business being here. B+(*)
Tuner: Totem (2005 , Unsung): Another rock record slipped into the stack. Quasi-industrial, chompy hard beats, fuzz guitar, more instrumental than not, with long stairstepped segues and some chant-like but ignorable vocals. "Dexter Ward," with its long instrumental outro, is a good example. B+(**)
Tuner: Pole (2005-06 , Unsung): Not background; just an earlier record I shelved and didn't bother with. Group is duo with Markus Reuter on guitars (mostly) and Pat Mastelotto on drums (mostly), with nine guests listed. Like the quasi-industrial instrumentals; don't like the cult doom-and-gloom vocals -- the talkie ones aren't so bad, but the whispery ones are just creepy. B
Judith Owen: Mopping Up Karma (2008, Couragette): British (or should I say Welsh?) singer-songwriter, with eight (or more) records since 1996. I don't hear her as a jazz singer, and don't find her very interesting as a rock or cabaret singer. At least this has fewer annoying vocal tics than the previous album I've heard (Happy This Way), and the strings and such are fairly inocuous. B-
Anne Phillips: Ballet Time (2008, Conawago): Singer, definitely jazz, all the way down to writing vocalese lyrics -- her take on Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas" goes so far as to explain how she wound up writing a lyric to "Fried Bananas." Reportedly got her start "as a member of the Ray Charles Singers on the Perry Como Show." Cut an album in 1959 called "Born to Be Blue," then followed it up with a second album in 2001. This looks to be her third, not counting her choir arrangements for the Anne Phillips Singers. This one calls in a lot of chits, arranging 15 songs as duos with 15 musicians -- mostly pianists (notably Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Roger Kellaway), two guitarists (John Hart, Paul Meyers), two saxes (Scott Robinson on baritone, Bob Kindred on tenor), and Joe Locke on vibes. Two pianists sing duets: Bob Dorough and Matt Perri. Five songs have music or lyric (not both) by Phillips. The others lean on her guests, or the Gershwins. The minimal pairings and juxtapositions make for a very mixed bag -- tricks and oddities that never get a chance to jell into something genuinely idiosyncratic. B
Kopacoustic: Music From the KopaFestival 2006, Volume 1 (2006 , Kopasetic): The first of two samplers from a Swedish jazz festival, held Sept. 21-22, 2006, in Malmö, sorted not strictly by acoustic vs. electric so much as by guitar volume -- all six groups have guitarists, a sure sign of the times. First up here is Krister Jonsson Trio (Jonsson, guitar; Nils Davidsen, electric bass, Peter Danemo, drums) + Svante Henryson (cello): 4 cuts, 29:08. Then Footloose (Mats Holtne, guitar; Mattias Hjorth, bass, Peter Nilsson, drums) + Lotte Anker (alto sax) & Andreas Andersson (soprano/baritone sax): 1 cut, 18:05. Finally, Cennet Jönsson Quartet (Jönsson, soprano/tenor sax; Krister Jonsson; Mattias Hjorth; Peter Nilsson) + David Liebman (soprano sax, flute). Loose, attractive free jazz, guitar-driven, with cello or light sax to soothe things out. B+(**)
Kopalectric: Music From the KopaFestival 2006, Volume 2 (2006 , Kopasetic): More guitar-driven free jazz, cranked up a notch for Lim + Marc Ducret (3 cuts, 31:01) and Elektra Hyde (1 cut, 10:36), and a couple more for Anders Nilsson's Aorta (1 cut, 20:59, called "Riding the Maelström"). B+(**)
Dave Pietro: The Chakra Suite (2007 , Challenge): Saxophonist, alto is probably his main instrument, although he lists it third here, ahead of C-melody but after soprano and F-mezzo. Born in Massachusetts, studied at UNT, played 1994-2003 in Toshiko Akiyoshi's big band, and many of his other credits are in big bands -- Mike Holober, Pete McGuinness, Jim Widner, Gotham Wind Symphony. Sixth album since 1996, including some Brazilian experiments and a Stevie Wonder tribute. This one is based on Indian themes, but also includes Brazilian elements. Todd Isler taps both sources for percussion. Rez Abbasi plays sitar as well as guitar. Gary Versace plays accordion and piano. The light sax floats and dances over intriguing rhythms and subtle mood pieces. B+(***)
Michael Bates: Clockwise (2008, Greenleaf Music): Bassist, composer, grew up in Canada, played in hardcore and punk bands before settling into jazz. Has three albums, some attributed to Michael Bates' Outside Sources, although Bates is the only one on all three albums. (Actually, my copy, with no mention of Outside Sources, has a different cover from the one shown on the band's website and Myspace page. The label's website shows my cover.) Pianoless quartet this time, with Russ Johnson on trumpet, Quinsin Nachoff on sax or clarinet, and Jeff Davis on drums. It's worth the trouble trying to focus on bass/drums, which provide the foundation for all the free-flying sparks. B+(***) [Sept. 8]
Rabih Abou-Khalil: Em Português (2007 , Enja): It looks like the German label Enja finally has a US distributor (Allegro), so we may start seeing their records in a more timely and complete fashion. (For the last several years they've had a deal where Justin Time selectively reissued their records.) Enja has been home to Lebanese oud player Abou-Khalil since 1988, with at least 10 records. They've all had very distinctive packaging: cardboard foldout cases with metallic ink. This one, with its purple background and jeweled fishes, is a beauty. Abou-Khalil started with his native Arabic music, which flows readily into jazz due to their joint emphasis on improvisation, but over the years he's moved fluidly through the realms of European folk musics -- Morton's Foot (2004) is an especially good example. Here he goes whole hog into Portugal, setting out an album totally dominated by Ricardo Ribeiro's vocals. I would have preferred more instrumental space, maybe a horn beyond Michel Godard's occasional tuba. The best thing here is the way the oud weaves through the whole tapestry. B+(**)
Ralph Lalama Quartet: Energy Fields (2008, Mighty Quinn): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, b. 1951, cut five albums for Criss Cross 1990-99. This is his first album in the new millennium, a quartet, with John Hart's guitar a significant complement for the sax. Mostly covers (1 original), standards and bop tunes from Parker, Shorter, and Shaw. I'm not familiar with his early work. This is beautifully done, but seems like something he could fall back on any day he wanted. B+(**) [Oct. 1]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes, look here.