Tuesday, January 29. 2013
No 2013 releases below: I'm still mopping up from 2012, and indeed still have a lot more to go -- at least if I had access to the records I've heard about and would like to have heard. I've been scouring year-end lists for prospects, and while I've mostly wound up kissing frogs, one always suspects that there are still gems out there in the hills somewhere, especially among the year's "missing from Rhapsody" list. The following names jump out at me, but they're only a sample:
They mostly come from the finally finished -- or should I say belatedly abandoned? -- metacritic file. I have no idea how many records were released last year -- a few years back 35,000 was a commonly cited number, but as self-releases get ever easier (and cheaper) and downloadables even more so, 50,000 seems not only more likely the case but if anything on the low side. The metacritic file found 6,278 of them on at least one year-end list or prominent review (not counting the 927 reissues/compilations here).
I suppose one reason why I'm clinging to 2012 is the suspicion that I have no future as a critic. I've been pretty wiped out by the events of the last few weeks, but the writing's long been on the wall. I do still want to collect what I have written and stuff it into a database somewhere. I want to write some software, and I want to write a thing or two about politics. That may not be evident given that every blog post in the last month has been about music, but much of that is on a self-fulfilling schedule -- just enough motivation to keep it happening even when I'm running on empty. One indication may be that there are only 5 new A-list records this month, out of 60 new records, most cherrypicked for their potential, and one of those is effectively a regrade -- the two Burial EPs finally added up to something.
I wanted to revisit a bunch of records I had previously dismissed -- mostly things that Tatum and Christgau endorsed, although my conceptual grudge against Americana was unmovable, and others like Beach House, Death Grips, Azealia Banks, and Skrillex seemed hardly worth the effort. One I replayed and liked even less was Miguel's smash, Kaleidoscope Dream. It wound up 22nd in the metacritic file, but finished 5th in Pazz & Jop. After Obama's re-election may have been the perfect time for a Latino soul man, or at least the idea of one, but like the election it was more form over substance.
Of course, that is in so many ways what music in 2012 added up to. The top two critical acclaims were good records but not that good, and were largely pre-sold on the tails of the previous year's free downloads -- if Time wants a "man of the year," maybe they should seek out Chris Anderson. Go down the list and you'll find much more -- too late for me to try to spell it out, but down c. 40 are two prime examples of form propping up no content whatsoever: Swedish folkie outfit First Aid Kit, the lamest overrated band of the year, and Pogues-never-will-be the Walkmen, easily the worst bar band of the decade. Makes me sad that anyone bothers to listen to them -- one more measure, no doubt, of my failure as a critic.
On the other hand, could it be possible that I'm running out of newly discovered gems because I've already found them all? At some point I'll dig up what I wrote about each and fill in the blanks, but for now let me note that I've been playing Morrison and Knight a lot lately, and finding a lot more pleasure there than in anything here. This one's for the insatiable.
These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on December 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (3105 records).
Oren Ambarchi: Sagittarian Domain (2012, Editions Mego): One cut, 33:35, built on a 4-note guitar-drums figure repeated ad infinitum, with some amplifier noise zooming in and out; could have gone on longer, but with a few minutes left dissolved into some synth ambiance, nice too, especially after the volume peaked. B+(***)
Oren Ambarchi/Robin Fox: Connected (2012, Kranky): Another of at least eight 2012 albums for the Australian guitarist. Fox is another Australian, playing keybs (or electronics), fleshing out the drones and whirls that envelop the guitar and here overwhelm anything that might pass for a beat. B+(*)
Bobby Bare: Darker Than Light (2012, E1/Plowboy): Country singer, past 75 now, had some minor hits after "Detroit City" in 1963 through "Marie Laveau" in 1974 and was pretty much done by 1983, not that he hasn't floated a few comebacks. Covers here, some as trad as "Banks of the Ohio" and "Shenandoah," some as rehacked as Dennis Linde and Alejandro Escovedo, but finds a calling with "Dark as a Dungeon" and pledges allegiance to Woody Guthrie. B+(*)
Han Bennink Trio: Bennink & Co. (2012, ILK): Legendary Dutch percussionist, age 70, credited with drums here but has been known to hit almost anything, here with Simon Toldam on piano and Joachim Badenhorst on various saxes and clarinet. Free jazz which somehow manages to swing and evoke a carnival air, an effect that the clarinet especially brings out. A-
Black Prairie: A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart (2012, Sugar Hill): Portland folkie group, started when Decemberists wanted to play dobro and accordion, with Jenny Conlee singing. Pretty lush for folk, especially when they go off on gypsy-ish instrumental larks, although Conlee's voice is always welcome. B+(**)
Burial: Street Halo/Kindred (2011-12 , Hyperdub): Two EPs, previously noted. I tend to give EPs short shrift, so maybe they just ended before I could take them in, or maybe I needed extra plays. The music is sometimes underwater, sometimes just submerged, lots of scratchy noise, the vocals fragmented samples but for once I find them piecing together to form something coherent. Combined they add up to 51:32, substantial enough to settle in with. A-
John Butcher: Bell Trove Spools (2010-11 , Northern Spy): British avant saxophonist, prolific but obscure since 1984, goes solo, with five tracks on tenor and five on soprano. B
Carter Tutti Void: Transverse (2012, Mute): Joint venture by Chris Carter (Throbbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti) and Nik Void (Factory Flood), 10-minute groove pieces with industrial klang. Rhapsody only has three (of four or five, sources vary), so a hedge is in order, but this is my idea of ear candy. B+(***)
Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind (2012, Epitaph): Boston metalcore group, eighth studio album since 1994, metacritic file shows it edging out Baroness as the top-rated metal album of the year -- although for all such genre items that could just mean that it's the most palatable to the unfaithful. Still, this feels like it's earned its cult status: reckless fast, rarely enough time to build a riff much less a melody, vocals menacingly growled but garbled. Title cut, unusually long at 4:07, almost convinced me, but in the end this, like virtually everything in its universe, is something I never want to hear again. B
Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Affinities (2009-10 , Intakt): Piano-drums duets, half of Anthony Braxton's legendary 1980s quartet, spent a decade together there and never moved far apart. Intense piano runs, then a more delicate stretch with Hemingway on vibes. B+(***)
The dB's: Falling Off the Sky (2012, Bar/None): New wave group from the 1980s, cut two good albums (1981's Stands for Decibels and 1984's Like This and a couple not-so-good ones; now back after twenty years off, sounding off -- not so much that they can't write catchy pap any more as that they can't convince you it matters. B+(*)
Lana Del Rey: Paradise (2012, Interscope): Eight songs, 33:03, one cover (a creepy "Blue Velvet"), somewhere in the gap between EPs and LPs these days, what they called a "mini-album"; never got her shtick, assuming she had one, but there's not a shred of eccentricity in the layered electronica, even though "Body Electric" is more listenable than Weather Report. B
Mac DeMarco: 2 (2012, Captured Tracks): Singer-songwriter from Canada, 22, debuted with two albums this year following a 2009-11 group, Makeout Videotape. Plays a cheap guitar with effects pedals "no serious musician would ever use" -- gives him a guitar sound no serious musician has. Cover pics went glam/goth on his first, folkie here -- I've read that he's more "mature" here, but that's just another of his jokes. B+(*)
Die Enttäuschung: Vier Halbe (2012, Intakt): German pianoless quartet, fronted by Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet, baritone sax) and Axel Dörner (trumpet), backed by Jan Roder (bass) and Uli Jennessen (drums), cut their first album together in 1996 but their most notable one came in 2005 when they picked up pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and recorded everything Monk ever wrote, spread out on the 3-CD Monk's Casino. No Monk tunes here, but the spirit is very much present, with slippery moves and accents popping up in the oddest places. B+(***)
DIIV: Oshin (2012, Captured Tracks): Brooklyn band, formerly known and still pronounced as Dive, related to Beach Fossils with a drummer from Smith Westerns; guitar rings nicely, undulating for a bit of surf feel. B+(**)
Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (2012, 4AD): Steven Ellison, laptop producer from Los Angeles, has a hip-hop reputation I can't confirm in this dreamy series of blips and voices, mostly pleasant enough but a couple trigger my classical gag reflex. B+(**) [cd]
Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: All There, Ever Out (2012, Babel): English pianist, plays some organ, group includes cello, marimba, guitar, bass, drums. Disjointed in various interesting ways, especially when it's just piano, but less clear where it's going when the group joins in. B+(**) [bc]
Angel Haze: Reservation (2012, self-released): Raykeea Wilson, from Detroit, barely 21 with four EPs including this alleged one -- at 14 cuts, 55:59, this is substantial enough for me B+(***) [dl]
Holly Herndon: Movement (2012, RVNG Intl.): Discogs calls her a "sound artist currently based in San Francisco." Record has an experimental air, slowing down, stretching out, shrouding the beats with voices. B
Caroline Herring: Camilla (2012, Signature Sounds): Singer-songwriter, girl-with-guitar folkie division, from Mississippi, based in Atlanta, plain-spoken, wryly observant, works lines from "This Land Is Your Land" and "Auld Lang Syne" into songs. B+(*)
Holy Other: Held (2012, Tri Angle): Manchester, UK, DJ, builds a thick atmosphere with slow beats and gloomy backdrops, using choral voices for uplift that doesn't really work. B
How to Dress Well: Total Loss (2012, Acéphale): Second album for Tom Krell under his alias. The synths get this classified as electropop, and his vocals have a bit of soul appeal, but it's all pretty dense and murky -- a Pitchfork reviewer called it "a work of poignant and devastating art," as if that's praise. B
Ben Howard: Every Kingdom (2012, Universal Republic): Brit singer-songwriter, folkie division so he sings and strums, low key in every way, although he develops this luminescent aura around his music -- one analog is under water, like the cover pic shows. Says he learned his craft in the Mecca of English surfer culture. B
Jam City: Classical Curves (2012, Night Slugs): Jack Latham, British producer, likes hard beats with a lot of splash, or at least splatter, more mock horror comix than dance. Similar to Skrillex, which amused me at first, then proved too irritating. B+(**)
Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell (2012, Vanguard): Karr has published four volumes of poetry and three memoirs -- the first, at least, a huge bestseller, so presumably she does the words and Crowell the strumming. Crowell also sings four of ten (one feat. Kristofferson), with Vince Gill and the ladies (Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris) picking up the rest. B+(**)
Lindstrøm: Six Cups of Rebel (2012, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian techno producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, has collaborated with Prins Thomas and more recently with singer Christabelle, here goes on his own, lots of upbeat synths with cartoon voices and other annoyances. B-
Lindstrøm: Smalhans (2012, Smalltown Supersound): This is more like it, chirpy synth dance beats and not much else, a little shift here and there, some bass beats, like that. B+(**)
Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe (2012, Fiesta Red): Started off in the British country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz, cut a couple extraordinarily amusing albums under his own name, married into the Carter Family with at least one of his songs picked up by paterfamilias Johnny Cash, got divorced, eventually became a dull caricature of himself; Lowe has plenty of songs, but maybe not enough for a country tribute, and in any case these aren't necessarily them, nor are the artists ideal -- exception proving the rule is Hayes Carll, who does hook one ("Living Again If It Kills Me"), while Griffin House rises to the song ("Cracking Up"). B
Lupe Fiasco: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 (2012, Atlantic): Fourth album, the title looking back to his initial success, more tacit evidence that not even the artist thought much of the two intervening albums -- which, by the way, I thought were just fine. I don't have a problem here either, just hedging because everyone else has -- and because the singing is a bit over the top. B+(**)
Mika: The Origin of Love (2012, Casablanca): Second greatest pop music icon to discard the given name of Penniman on his way to stardom, not that he's recognized as such in the US -- only major market his three albums have topped the charts in is France, and even there this hasn't gone platinum like Life in Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much -- the latter soared onto my top ten list. This won't: his occasional hints of maturity inhibit him from reaching for the falsetto (exception: "Stardust"), but despite some philosophizing he still claims, "all I wanna do is make you happy" -- and he succeeds more often than not. A-
Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale: Buddy and Jim (2012, New West): I saw Lauderdale open unaccompanied for Lucinda Williams once and the notion that he is hopelessly minor league has stuck. Miller is capable of much more, even (at least in one case) without his better half steering him right, but he is out of ideas here -- a rockabilly song, sure, but "Vampire Girl"? B-
Father John Misty: Fear Fun (2012, Sub Pop): Josh Tillman, drummer in Fleet Foxes, makes his solo move, at least a more oblique one than anything released under J. Tillman. Not much here, the Beach Boys as much a feint as anything else. B
Hudson Mohawke x Lunice: Tnght (2012, Warp, EP): AMG, Discogs, etc., attribute this 5-cut EP to "TNGHT" even though the principals (or at least their usual aliases) are the only other words on the front cover. Even more mysterious is why both (all?) sources transcribe the title "TNGHT" even though the fourth letter is a reversed but unmistakable "N" -- something graphic designers are tempted to do, especially with a palindrome title. B+(*)
Maria Muldaur, et al.: . . . First Came Memphis Minnie (2012, Stony Plain): Originally announced as her 40th album, this got refiled as "various artists" when Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, and Ruthie Foster butted in, and they picked up tracks from Koko Taylor and Phoebe Snow (hard to say no to "In My Girlish Days"), and besides, Muldaur had already done an album of Memphis Minnie songs -- Richland Woman Blues, her best ever, so why not spread the opportunity around? Still, Muldaur leads off most of these songs, even if she has to share some. But she owns them all. B+(***)
Mungolian Jet Set: Mungodelics (2012, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian house group led by Pål Nyhus, with roots going back to jazztronica and acid jazz sources like Bugge Wesseltoft; classic-sounding synths on big beats, a delight except when they try to slip in a singer; on the other hand, "The Dark Incal" makes me wonder if I'm selling them short. B+(***)
Meshell Ndegéocello: Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (2012, Naïve): Simone's daughter, so perhaps this tribute was inevitable. The familiar songs mostly show that she doesn't have her mother's pipes, but comparison is beside the point. Just not sure what the point is. B+(*)
Niyaz: Sumud (2012, Six Degrees): Iranian-exile group, led by Montreal-based singer Azam Ali with trad-oriented Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo slipping in the fashionable electronics. Grooveful up front, relaxed by the end. B+(*)
Ondatrópica: Ondatrópica (2012, Soundway): Colombian supergroup, "conceived" by Mario Galeano of Frente Cumbiero, pulls together cumbia traditionalists and modernists and salsaists and reggaetoners and hip-hoppers pulling every which way but never settling for something merely mundane. Also available in a 2CD Deluxe Edition, although I think the single lets you download the surplus. A-
Lindi Ortega: Cigarettes & Truckstops (2012, Last Gang): Canadian singer-songwriter, aims for a country slice of life, hits it sometimes; oddly enough, rockabilly doesn't help. B+(*)
Charlie Peacock: No Man's Land (2012, Twenty Ten): Singer-songwriter from northern California, Charles Ashworth adopted the last name of a jazz bassist, one of many genres he's skirted without falling into. Sweet voice, easy-going soft rock, a little too much aura, but that's his producer's ear, and no less winning. B+(*)
John Pizzarelli: Double Exposure (2012, Telarc): Guitarist-crooner, a bit surprised to see AMG lists 26 albums under his name, the first titled I'm Hip -- Please Don't Tell My Father (1983, his father the still-active swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli). His idea of hip never advanced much beyond Cole and Sinatra, even though the songbook here draws mostly from the 1970s -- Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Dicky Betts, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Seals & Crofts, Elvis Costello, although he also slips in the Beatles, Leiber-Stoller, and "Lush Life." Large enough band with a few twists -- a bit of Brazil, some vocalese, a duet with Jessica Molaskey. B
Plan B: Ill Manors (2012, Atlantic): British MC, grime beats, third album, second movie -- The Defamation of Strickland Banks was the first -- which means plot matters, which means you have to pay attention as opposed to just letting the beats/rhymes do their work, and means you occasionally have to suffer through bits that presumably make more sense in the video context. Still, the music delivers often enough to offset, if not overwhelm, my usual soundtrack disinterest. B+(*)
P.O.S: We Don't Even Live Here (2012, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minnesota rapper, Stefon Alexander, Doomtree founder, favors drums over sampled beats, giving this a bit of metal and a bit more punk to go with the anarchist rant. B+(*)
Tom Rainey Trio: Camino Cielo Echo (2011 , Intakt): Drummer, best known for his work with Tim Berne, here leading a trio with, as the cover points out, Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (saxes), their second together. B+(***)
Redd Kross: Researching the Blues (2012, Merge): Another 1980s band, their big albums 1987-90, regroup for their first since 1997. Somewhere between post-punk and pop-metal, the uninteresting metallic crunch occasionally giving way to sickly sweet pop hooks. C+
Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.: Area 52 (2012, ATO): Nuevo flamenco guitar duo, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, from Mexico City, have a handful of albums which I imagine are easier going; here they hook up with a 13-piece Cuban big band and run flat out, layering their guitars on montunos and descargas and blasting them with horns, even a bit of Palestinian oud. B+(***)
Roller Trio: Roller Trio (2012, F-ire): English "jazz-rock" group -- James Mainwaring (sax, electronics), Luke Wynter (guitar), Luke Reddin-Williams (drums) -- or so they say. First album, nominated for a Mercury Prize, appeals to the noise interest in rock while keeping the rhythm tight, a combination that could be the hard bop of our time, recognizably jazz but with a populist appeal. B+(***)
Chelle Rose: Ghost of Browder Holler (2012, Lil' Damsel): First album after moving to Nashville in 1996 where she sought out and lost Townes Van Zandt, aims for deep country, dark shadows even where the Lord's light is alleged to reign supreme. B+(**)
Matthew Ryan: In the Dusk of Everything (2012, self-released): Singer-songwriter, has a dozen albums since 1997; first I've heard, but I assume he rocked harder when he was young. This limps along, mostly just guitar with some harmonica between the verses, haunting enough he may be onto something. B+(**)
Irène Schweizer: To Whom It May Concern: Piano Solo Tonhalle Zürich (2011 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, has rivalled Cecil Taylor for brazen explosiveness since the mid-1970s, tones it down a bit here in what would be dense and intense for anyone else. B+(**)
Shovels & Rope: O' Be Joyful (2012, Dualtone): Married singer-songwriter duo from South Carolina, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. Just when I'm thinking too much keyb for folk, they pull out the banjos and do a blues as a hoedown, full of twang and sass. B+(*)
Gwilym Simcock/Tim Garland/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2012, ACT): Just last names on cover, the first two -- piano and saxes, respectively, plus a drummer -- much better known in the UK than over here. I've been impressed, technically at least, by all three in the past, but there's a point where speed turns to clutter, and they pass it too often. B
Chris Smither: Hundred Dollar Valentine (2012, Signature Sounds): Folkie singer-songwriter, has a long list of pretty good albums, fine workmanship, none really compelling, and this is another. One exceptional song, "Make Room for Me," which starts out about global warming and grows from there. B+(*)
Sotho Sounds: Junk Funk (2012, Riverboat): From Lesotho, a mountainous enclave completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, very poor, overwhelmingly populated by Sotho, speaking Sesotho. The band crafts their instruments from spare junk, their melodies and chants from old towship jive, the rough edges part of their charm. B+(**)
The Soul Rebels: Unlock Your Mind (2012, Rounder): New Orleans band, heavy on the brass, happy to jump a blues or a pop cover, even one out of their league, like "Living for the City" or "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." The rappers are fresher than the singers, and the brass is all section, no stars. B
Todd Terje: It's the Arps (2012, Smalltown Supersound, EP): Norwegian DJ, Terje Olsen, has a couple mix albums and a bunch of EPs and singles, this one 4 cuts, 20:57 (although Rhapsody repeats the last two cuts as one more); with no info, I assume the secret to the sound is old ARP synths -- bright, clean, bubbly, some bass too, good chance even I could dance to it. A-
This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark (2011, Icehouse, 2CD): With 30 songs/contributors, they didn't turn many away from the door nor did they leave many gems uncovered, but everyone has country-folk-Americana bona fides, and none are out to show up the songwriter, so easy-going professionalism is the rule. B+(***)
Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (2012, 4AD): Originally from Ohio, b. 1943, became some sort of legend in England in the late-1960s, hooking up with John Maus in the Walker Brothers -- his original name was Noel Scott Engel, but as the singer he kept the brand. Mounted a comeback from 1995 on with infrequent, bizarrely praised albums (1999, 2006, and now in 2012). Creepy operatic vocals over drums and synths. People like to quote the line about reeking gonads and shrunken faces, but he lost me at Persia and Thrace. Rare you hear a record and wonder how anyone could stand it. Makes you wonder what horrors the human psyche contains. C-
Matthew E. White: Big Inner (2012, Hometapes): Solo album from Virginia jazz band Fight the Big Bull leader -- not often you find a pop artist touting collaborations with Ken Vandermark and Steven Bernstein ahead of Megafaun and Sharon Van Etten. Still, this shows scant evidence of jazz: maybe a tendency to overarrange behind a voice that always feels underdressed. B
Dwight Yoakam: 3 Pears (2012, Warner Brothers): Country singer-songwriter out of the Bakersfield orbit, after a break of sorts moves on to a rock label and tunes up the drums accordingly, presumably for his arena breakthrough. B+(*)
Monday, January 28. 2013
Music: Current count 20985  rated (+9), 601  unrated (+8).
So no Jazz Prospecting this week -- only have one review/note stashed away -- and probably not next week either. A week ago yesterday, my wife, Laura, broke her hip, and had to be rushed to the hospital. Actually, it was a bit scarier than that, as she had suffered hip pain for several weeks which was, it's now clear, misdiagnosed. She was operated on Wednesday, and transferred from the hospital to a rehab hospital on Friday. She will probably be there the rest of this week, followed by recuperation at home, for who knows how long. I haven't been well either, so our problems have compounded in various ways.
When I do find bits of time to diddle and dawdle on the computer, I've been putting the final touches on the 2012 metacritic file: the greatest and last, at least in its present form. Also, the few records that I have managed to process this week go into Rhapsody Streamnotes, which I will try to post while there's still January. There's more than enough material in the draft file there, but not many late-breaking 2012 A- records, and I haven't bothered at all to look into 2013 releases (aside, that is, from last week's Jazz Prospecting bonanza, q.v.).
Won't bother with unpacking this week either. Not much there, either.
Monday, January 21. 2013
Music: Current count 20976  rated (+38), 593  unrated (+2). Mostly from Rhapsody, hence the high rated count.
I think this rolls up two weeks of Jazz Prospecting and unpacking. I'm still in 2012 wrap up mode, but did manage to work a few 2013 releases into the following -- in part because they looked much more promising than what I had left over from last year. Indeed, the new year is off to a blazing start.
Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Reggie Nicholson: Nasty & Sweet (1998-99 , NoBusiness, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist (credited with "reeds" here), b. 1955 in Germany; not much discography but he does have a 1999 CIMP album with this same trio (credited there as BMN Trio) and a 2003 bash with Brötzmann. This was released as limited (400 copy) vinyl only, and I'm working off CDRs. First disc lives up to the title, and the second starts with a piece from the same date. The 1998 session only slows down toward the end, for a long bass solo and a little sax dirge. A- [advance]
Louis Durra: Rocket Science (2012, Lot 50): Pianist, b. 1961, based in Los Angeles, at least five albums since 2003. Trio, with Ryan McGillicuddy or Larry Steen on bass, Jerry Kalaf on drums. One original, one trad, "One Love" (Bob Marley), one Wonder, three Beatles tunes, all done sensibly. B+(*)
Lua Hadar with Twist: Like a Bridge (2012, Bellalua): Singer, has two previous albums, this one recorded live in Berkeley, CA. She's credited with "multilingual vocals" and proves that with maudlin operatic vocals in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Malagasy. The band gets a break with an instrumental "Isfahan." C-
Jon Hamar: Hymn (2011 , Origin): Bassist, in Seattle, third album since 2003, a trio with Todd DelGiudice on alto sax and Geoffrey Keezer on piano. Mostly Hamar originals, plus one from DelGiudice; covers include "Isfahan," a "Giant Steps/It Could Happen to You" medley, and "Comes Love." No drummer, no rush. B+(*)
William Hooker Quintet: Channels of Consciousness (2010 , NoBusiness): Drummer, b. 1946 in Connecticut, has at least 25 albums since 1982, avant-garde, at least way out on the margins. Chris DiMeglio does a nice job of adding trumpet scratch, Dave Ross (guitar) and Adam Lane (bass) churn things up, and the drummer claims most of the focus, supplemented by Sanga's percussion. B+(***)
Christian Howes: Southern Exposure (2012, Resonance): Violinist, from Columbus, OH; fifth album since 1997. Special guest here -- important enough that he gets big play on the cover and could just as well have been co-credited -- is French accordion player Richard Galliano, and they also mention Josh Nelson, Scott Colley, and Lewis Nash on the cover. Musical focus is tango, give or take a choro or a "Cubano Chant." B+(**)
Steve Lipman: Ridin' the Beat (2012, Locomotion): Sinatra-wannabe, based in Connecticut, bills himself as "the singing dentist," has at least one previous album. Seems to have lost some of his voice, and picked up some extra percussion. There must be a hundred better versions of "That Old Black Magic" -- the one I best remember is by Jerry Lewis -- but even this one works for me. B-
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Gamak (2012 , ACT): Alto sax quartet, with electric guitar (David Fiuczynski), acoustic bass (François Moutin), and drums (Dan Weiss). This fits a trend of groups (often bass-less trios) where the guitar, rather than expanding the harmony, like piano has traditionally done -- both pushes the sax into a frenzy and can take a solo spot beside it, like a second horn. So not pathbreaking, but, of course, he does it better than almost anyone else. A-
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Slippery Rock! (2012 , Hot Cup): Peter Evans (trumpets), Jon Irabagon (saxes, including sopranino and a bit of flute), Moppa Elliott (bass), Kevin Shea (drums). Fourth album on Elliott's Hot Cup label -- also a live double on Clean Feed -- breaking a string of two classic album cover spoofs with what looks like a teen boy group splash, and less history in the songlist (unless "President Polk" counts -- "Dexter, Wayne and Mobley" sure does, then blows them up and scampers away). Too bad my eyes can't hack Leonard Featherweight's liner notes, always a source of high-minded obfuscation. That leaves me to draw my own far-fetched analogies: this is slippery in the sense that it follows no discernible time signature, rock in the sense that it is loud and frantic, and that attitude prevails. All these years of waiting for jazz-rock fusion, and what do we get? Fission! A
Nicholl and Farquharson: Della by Moonlight (2012, Big Empty Loo): Bassist Michael Farquharson and keyb player Matthew Nicholl. First track sounds like they're aiming at easy groove elevator music. Then they get pretentious, start writing suites, and bring on the flute, the oboe, the bassoon, and the French horn. C-
Cristina Pato: Migrations (2011 , Sunnyside): B. 1980 in Ourense, Galicia, Spain; plays piano, flute, sings a bit -- attractive, seductive voice -- but her main instrument is the gaita, or Gallician bagpipes -- smaller, more manageable, less irritating than the familiar Scottish variety. Band includes accordion, bass, and drums, and there is a parade of guests on harp (Edmar Castaneda), violin, tabla, bouzouki, cello, etc. B+(***)
Harvie S/Kenny Barron: Witchcraft (2012 , Savant): Bass-piano duets, the bass claiming enough space to even out the piano's natural volume edge. Plus Barron, as you no doubt recall from his early work with Stan Getz, is an attentive as well as remarkable accompanist. B+(***)
Claudio Scolari: Synthesis (2012, Principal): Drummer, b. 1962, studied in Parma, is a "conservatory teacher and member of the most prestigious symphonic orchestra of Italy" -- a name I'm not expert enough to fill in. He has a handful of albums, two with this trio -- Daniele Cavalca (melodica, drums, percussion, piano, synths, vibraphone, bass; Scolari doubles on most of these, so the vibes are distinctive) and Simone Scolari (trumpet). Has a nice beat, a steady roll that the melodica/synths fatten up and the drums/vibes accent. B+(**)
Szilárd Mezei Tubass Quintet: Canons: 2nd Hosting (2011 , NoBusiness): Four double basses, including the leader, backed by a tuba (Kornél Pápista), a limited sonic palette but don't discount the bass as a big, resonant drum. Recorded in Novi Sad, Serbia, presumably where the unfamiliar names come from. Limited edition LP (300 copies). B+(**) [advance]
Pamela York: Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals (2012, Jazzful Heart): Pianist, from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC; studied at Berklee, moved to San Diego, then to Houston. Two previous albums, which I believe she sings on; this is piano trio, plus trombone on two cuts. Hymns, some familiar, some with titles I find spooky if not downright terrifying, arranged for piano jazz, that much I can take comfort in. B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
Monday, January 14. 2013
Music: Current count 20938  rated (+29), 591  unrated (+5).
Only eight Jazz Prospecting notes in the scratch file, so I'll hold that back until next week. I do have my first 2013 A record, plus an A-. Neither will be big surprises, although both are steps up, and that's always a bit surprising. Also have my lowest-rated 2012 jazz album to date. I don't expect much else for next week, unless I break into the ECM advances. The incoming has been so uninspiring I'll hold it back for next week too.
Meanwhile, the following is a fragment that I wrote more than a week ago as I started to try to pull together a year-end comment, but didn't get very far. Part of that may be structural: do I keep going down my list? Or, do I try to pull something about of the metacritic data? I'll take another stab at it. Meanwhile, this:
A quick top-ten album list, good enough for the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop ballot (done December 27; numbers in bold are points awarded; numbers in brackets are counts from my metacritic file at that point):
After another week's listening, I'm tempted to say that Live, by The Group (1986, NoBusiness) has cracked my top ten, but I'll leave well enough alone: I don't really want to bump Person, who's nearing 80 and has fifty-some years of underappreciated major-level achievement, in favor of a December release from Lithuania of a 25-year-old session by a bunch of mostly dead guys (Ahmed Abdullah and Andrew Cyrille are the exceptions, and they could use the recognition).
The mean count in the metacritic file is 16.2, 3.0 of which is due to my own evaluation (1 point for B+ or better, 1 more for A-, 1 more for top ten, a formula I apply to about 50 prominent sources, so why not me?), so Knight and Person would have wound up at 0 otherwise -- this counting hundreds of year-end lists, some with 100 or more entries. [PS: Knight actually went on a run after this, so his current count is now 10.]
I've heard 80 of the top 100 records in the metacritic file. The 20 I haven't heard break down into two lists: those I looked for but didn't find (Flying Lotus, Chromatics, Actress, Andy Stott, Ty Segall, Field Music, Taylor Swift), and those I didn't get around to looking up, possibly for fear that I might find them (Father John Misty, DIIV, Ariel Pink, Converge, How to Dress Well, Passion Pit, Baroness, Scott Walker, Deftones, Poliça, Torche, Wild Nothing, Dinosaur Jr). [PS: Since I wrote this, I looked up three more: DIIV (**), How to Dress Well (B), and Walker (C-).]
The only A- records I find in my metacritic file top 100 are:
That's probably about par over the last decade, or at least that part where, thanks to Rhapsody, I've been able to hear close to 80% of the top-100 critically-rated albums. (Before that I heard much fewer than 80% -- more like 20% -- because I suspected most of them weren't worth buying.) I don't eschew popularity in music, nor do I think that most critics are full of shit. In fact, I'd assert that both popular and critical taste correlate positively with good music -- not by a huge amount, but by enough to be significant. For example, of the 80 top-100 records I heard and rated, aside from the 10 A- records above, another 42 got some form of B+. A quick rundown:
I sampled all of those on Rhapsody, so assume the usual caveats: some might improve with more play, and others might slip -- I'm especially suspicious of the five records that made it into our Turkey Shoot.
The next hundred slots in the metacritic file are comparably scattered -- the curve shifted a bit down -- but with twice as many records that I've missed (46 vs. 20):
Beyond that things continue to thin out -- although once you drop below 1000 you find more jazz, specifically jazz that I received, so the ratio of blue/green lines flips. From 201-300, I have another A (Steve Lehman) and 6 A- (Madonna, Homeboy Sandman, Air, Big KRIT [4Eva N a Day], Branford Marsalis, Nicki Minaj). From 301-400, no A but 7 A- (Carly Rae Jepsen, Disappears, Dave Douglas, Kid Koala, Serengeti, Cornershop, De La Soul). From 401-500, no A but 9 A- (Pet Shop Boys, Prinzhorn Dance School, Chiddy Bang, Janka Nabay, Jenny Scheinman, BBU, Ani DiFranco, Charles Gayle, Wadada Leo Smith [Ancestors]. From 901-1000, this thins out to just 2 A- (Fred Lonberg-Holm, TommyWomack), the main difference being that the number of rated records has dropped to 14. Still, I doubt that hearing the rest would make much difference: like I said, there is a small positive critical correlation, plus there is a small bias toward my own preferences (by counting my own grades, plus those of critics with similar tastes.
The metacritic file goes on for 5354 lines -- nearly half (2560) documenting a single reference, 895 with just two. At that level, we aren't sampling opinion; we're just gathering up loose ends.
As long as I'm farting around here, let me try one more table, this time taking the records on Robert Christgau's Dean's List (link below) and mapping them into my grades (* indicates based on something other than a physical copy):
So, I've listened to about 85% of the records in Christgau's list, and more/less agree on about half of those (41/86), with another fourth just marginally off the mark. Some of the others are records I really dislike (Americana, Death Grips, Beach House, Skrillex), and others I just didn't spend much time with (one spin of Ab-Soul and XX way before Christgau reviewed them; same for Mathambo -- I bought a copy later but have only managed one more play, and can't find it now. On the other hand, Jamey Johnson and Pink haven't gotten any better since I bought copies. Thus far the only 2012 release I've gone back to and graded up was Burial, which was helped by combining two EPs (Street Halo/Kindred).
Conversely, the following is a subset of my 2012 A-list after scratching out everything on the Dean's List plus most of the jazz (I kept Neneh Cherry as a critical crossover success and Byron because Christgau has reviewed him in the past; I also added in some compilations). The numbers just count the subset, which started with 115 albums plus 13 compilations. The 31 records here compare to 39 on the Dean's list (41 minus two 2011 releases), so one way to look at this is: Christgau finds about 56% of my non-jazz A-list.
Lots of interesting music there, and hard to really pigeonhole it all.
A (small) sampling of year-end lists I somehow remembered to keep links to:
Thursday, January 10. 2013
Results for the 7th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, founded by Francis Davis back when we were writing for the Village Voice -- back when the Village Voice still had some interest in jazz -- are up today, sponsored by Rhapsody. There are four pieces to this posted on Rhapsody:
Also want to show off the playlist attached to my article, which I owe to Chris Drumm and Greg Morton.
I'll write more about this later, but wanted to get the links up while they're fresh.
Monday, January 7. 2013
Music: Current count 20909  rated (+35), 586  unrated (0).
Skipped two weeks, so first Jazz Prospecting since December 17. Not sure how regular this will be in the near future, but when I do managed to collect eight or more entries I'll wrap them up and post them. In the year since the Village Voice stopped carrying my Jazz Consumer Guide column, my incoming mail has dropped by about 20%. I made a bit of that up using Rhapsody, but the net result is that I heard about 100 fewer new jazz records in 2012 than I did in 2011. I've also made less money writing in 2012 than in any year since 2003 -- not that that's why I've been doing this, but it does seem to be the sainted market's way of clearing out dead wood. I'll be thinking about this more in weeks to come, but chances are I'll plod along while trying out some different things.
One thing I have started is to collect last year's Jazz Prospecting pieces in a more permanent and accessible archive (the Jazz CG-era ones are already filed elsewhere). I also want to put some music ratings software together: a website where we can round up a few dozen critics and knowledgable consumers who can rate a thousand or more albums each.
One thing that I have decided is that I'll never again attempt to do a metacritic file the way I've been doing it: as a single person editing a flat file. I've been doing that since 2007, and this year's file is by far the most complete and exacting. It's also the biggest time sink in my life, and it doesn't appear to be terribly useful for others, so something there has to change. It also occurs to me that it's just another data set for the music ratings project.
Similarly, the backbone for a Christgau-like CG database is the same albums table that the ratings project requires. I've long wanted to hang my writings onto such a framework, so that's likely to be another application (or, indeed, built-in). (I've long been reluctant to reuse the Christgau framework due to some technical problems in the database schema, which I hack around for him but haven't resolved to my own satisfaction -- not that what I have on my own website isn't many times hackier.)
Only one 2013 release below, but many more are in the pipeline. The two A- records were discovered within a day or two after my Jazz Critics Poll deadline. Had I looked at the lineups and/or paid more attention to my mail I would have jumped on them sooner, but instead found them in other critics' lists. The A record is classic year-end problems: how can US critics deal with December releases in Lithuania? I think I got my copy on Xmas Eve, so this is one year I can't complain about Santa.
Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll should be coming out this week at Rhapsody. I'll have a year-end piece there, and I'll host the ballots as I've done the last few years. Will announce all that when it happens.
Carter Calvert: Carter Calvert and the Roger Cohen Trio (2011 , self-released): Standards singer, from Cincinnati but most likely based in New York, where she has some measure -- not that I know what it is -- of a Broadway career. First album. Cohen is a drummer, so I'm not sure how he managed to pull rank over pianist Jim West, but they provide suitable support. Not sure what I think about her voice: depends on the song, and they're all over the map. B+(*)
Gustavo Casenave: Tango Casenave (2012, Watch Craft Music): Pianist, b. 1971 in Uruguay, studied at Berklee. AMG lists one previous album, but that strikes me as an underestimate. Composed everything here, tangos with all the classical bombast, even though the group is just piano-violin-bandoneon-bass. Eddie Gomez is cited as a "special guest" on the cover, but only plays on one track. B+(*)
Ken Field: Sensorium: Music for Dance & Film (2012, Innova): I'm not even going to try to read the black-on-blue fine print here, a case of impatience leading to ignorance about who is involved here and what they're trying to do. I do know that Field is Boston-based, an alto saxophonist who also plays flute and other reeds, and has six albums under his own name since 1996, but is probably better known for his group memberships, including Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. Two commissioned series here: one (17:50) for a film by Karen Aqua, the other (37:04) for Bridgman/Packer Dance. Some interesting stretches, others I'm unsure of -- perhaps the normal side-effect of not seeing the big picture, or perhaps just perhaps. B+(**)
David Gilmore: Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard (2010 , Evolutionary Music): Guitarist, b. 1964 in Cambridge, MA; has a couple previous albums, quite a few side credits -- some rock (Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr), most jazz (Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Wayne Shorter, Rudresh Mahanthappa). Basically a fusion player, with McLaughlin the obvious model. Picked up an all-star band here: Miguel Zenón (alto sax), Luis Perdomo (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Mino Cinelu (percussion), Claudia Acuña (voice). Her contribution is almost too subtle to notice, but the sax takes the roiling rhythm and goes off on a magnificent romp. B+(***)
The Group: Live (1986 , NoBusiness): The name, even with its definite article, doesn't do them justice. They came out of the New York loft scene, gigged around for a couple years, and left nothing but this newly discovered masterpiece. The booklet shows two quintet posters: their May 3 (1986?) "world premier" with Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), Billy Bang (violin), Sirone (bass), and Andrew Cyrille; and another from Sept. 12-13, 1986, with Fred Hopkins on bass. This recording, from Sept. 13, uses both bassists. They play five pieces, with Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and Brown's "La Piacita" running 18 minutes each, and Miriam Makeba's "Amanpondo" at 25 minutes. Bang manages to swing in any or no time; the two horns mesh intuitively, completing each other's thoughts; the two bassists have different strong suits, and Cyrille has rarely had better days. A
Tianna Hall & the Mexico City Jazz Trio: Two for the Road (2012, Mighty Pretty): Standards singer, third album, calls her regular backup the Houston Jazz Band, hence the name given to pianist Miguel Villicaña's trio. Nice voice, especially comfortable on the most well worn tunes, and the trio is first rate. David Caceres helped out, including a duet on "They Can't Take That Away From Me." B+(*)
Chris Hopkins/Bernd Lhotzky: Partners in Crime (2012, Echoes of Swing): Piano duets. Lhotzky, b. 1970 in Bavaria. Hopkins, b. 1972 in Princeton, moved to Germany at age six. Both lean toward swing, with Lhotzky owning one of the Arbors Piano Series records. This is delightful, especially when they get into familiar territory, like "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'." B+(***)
I Never Meta Guitar Too (2011 , Clean Feed): Second volume of the label's Elliott Sharp-produced avant-guitar series, sixteen brief selections from as many artists, most (unlike last time) by people I've never heard of -- some that I am familiar with, like Joel Harrison and Steve Cardenas, not that far out. Also none stuck in any of the usual ruts. Thanks to rock and roll, there are a lot of guitarists out there, with more than ever turning to jazz, and thanks to electronics they're moving off into all sorts of directions. This series drives home that point, while still more often than not being something you can play at low volume for ambiance. B+(*)
Jeff Johnson: Suitcase (2011 , Origin): Seattle bassist, one of the label's mainstays, generally a mainstream player but here he not only moves into postbop, he gives us a practicum in how much of the avant-garde has been incorporated into the postbop paradigm. Hans Teuber plays bass clarinet, alto flute, and various saxes, with Steve Moore on piano and Eric Eagle on drums. B+(***)
Jerry Leake: Cubist: Prominence (2012 , Rhombus Publishing): Percussionist, specializes in African and Indian but I doubt there's any corner of the world he hasn't scoured for things to beat up on. He teaches, has written numerous books on the stuff, and has more than a handful of albums. Cubist was a 2010 title that he seems to be stuck on. Cubist Live (2011), co-credited to guitarist Randy Roos, turned his research into fun. This one, where eight vocalists run amok, is no fun. And while I pretty much agree with what I gather to be his political view on world peace, I don't want to be lectured about them, much less in opera. B-
Living by Lanterns: New Myth/Old Science (2011 , Cuneiform): Compositions and arrangements by Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and Mike Reed (drums), "based on unpublished compositions and improvisations by Sun Ra," and performed by a star-laden band that is plenty capable of projecting intergalactic imagination: Greg Ward (alto sax), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), with Nick Butcher adding electronics on two tracks. A-
Luce Trio: Pieces, Vol. 1 (2011 , Museum Clausum): Saxophonist Jon De Lucia, in what he calls his "inspired baroque group," with Ryan Ferreira on electric guitar and Chris Tordini on acoustic bass. Half original compositions, half credits to J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, and John Dowland. Slow and solemn, stately even. [Bandcamp] B+(*) [advance]
José-Luis Montón: Solo Guitarra (2011 , ECM): Guitarist, b. 1962 in Barcelona, Spain. Has at least two previous albums, the first explicitly flamenco. Solo guitar, perhaps chilled a bit under Manfred Eicher's production, very atmospheric, hard to fault. B+(**)
Old Time Musketry: Different Times (2011 , Steeplechase): Front cover also adds "LookOut" after "SteepleChase," suggesting a label variant I can find no other explanation of. Group is a quartet, based in New York: Adam Schneit (sax, clarinet), JP Schlegelmilch (piano, accordion, synth, glockenspiel), Phil Rowan (bass), Max Goldman (drums, melodica). Schneit and Schlegelmilch split the writing. They go for soft edges, letting the music just pick you up and sweep you away. A-
Matthew Silberman: Questionable Creatures (2012, DeSoto Sound Factory): Tenor saxophonist, from Santa Monica, CA; wound up in Brooklyn. Debut album, with two guitarists (Ryan Ferreira and Greg Ruggiero), bass (Christopher Tordini), and drums (Tommy Crane). The guitar work is grooveful and sharp, the sax articulate. One spot blows me away, and none of it disappoints. B+(***)
Sudo Quartet: Live at Banlieue Bleue (2011 , NoBusiness): Avant improvisers, in cover order: Joëlle Léandre (bass), Carlos Zingaro (violin), Sebi Tramontana (trombone), Paul Lovens (drums). The bassist is central, the violin ranging out of her harmonics, the trombone reinforcing them, the drums reacting every which way. B+(**)
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington: Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Three (2011 , OA2): Trumpet and baritone sax, respectively, the collective a sextet with Rhodes (Dan Murphy), guitar (Corey Christiansen), bass, and drums; third album together, recorded in "flyover" territory in Indiana. Smart postbop, nice attention to detail. B+(*)
Tim Warfield's Jazzy Christmas (2012, Undaunted Music): Mainstream tenor saxophonist (also soprano, which he plays on the cover), had a couple excellent albums in the late 1990s -- A Cool Blue, Gentle Warrior -- but his career has gone nowhere since then. With Terrence Stafford on trumpet, Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Stefon Harris for tinkle and glitter. Joanna Pascal sings three ("Let It Snow," "Caroling Caroling," "Silent Night"), and Jamie Davis takes "Oh Christmas Tree." Here and there some actual jazz breaks out, but the melodies seep back in. If you must play Xmas music, some of this will amuse you, and little will offend. Ends with a bonus track, "The Dreidel Song," lest anyone feel left out. B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Friday, January 4. 2013
Sort of pulled this one out of a hat. Ten days, maybe two weeks, ago all I had was a tiny little Mac Gollehon review, which as it turns out I've held back to February -- isn't that interesting, or important, and if I left it in with everything else here you'd wonder who? and why? But I've been thinking about writing something about Charlie Parker since Robert Christgau posted his Insufferable Idolatry piece, and it occurred to me that one way to do it would be to construct an analogue by reviewing the same pair of records. One minor bump was that neither I nor Rhapsody have Now's the Time, but that was easy enough to fake out: Christgau writes quite a bit about Parker's discography without mentioning that his out-of-print record has been wholly superseded by a newer edition of the same music (plus those ever-tempting bonus cuts) under a different title -- the sort of detail one would look to a critic to suss out.
Christgau's Quintet review had similar problems: he cited the 1991 OJC edition without mentioning the remastered one that came out just last year, nor did he mention the "complete" edition I review below. (There appears to be more than a handful of editions floating around, and it would be a thankless task to try to sort them all out. One that seems to be especially admired is from Pristine Audio.) But I'm more bothered by the subjective issues, and not so much whether it is the "numero uno" live Parker -- as opposed to what? no problem with the ones he mentions, but what about the Royal Roost? Rockland Palace? JATP? Swedish Schnapps? And if you want to talk about Parker and Gillespie together, nothing comes close to the latter's 1945 quintet, but the problem there is that they're under Gillespie's name: look up Shaw 'Nuff, on Musicraft. And then there's this line: "Gillespie is lyrical and incisive, Powell brings his A game, Roach thunders like no post-swing drummer working, and Mingus's bass is the most expressive in classic bebop." Not untrue, but this makes one wonder about Christgau's grasp of the historical context, one where he's repeatedly fawned over Parker and Monk but has scarcely ever noticed Gillespie, Powell, Roach, or Mingus in any other context. Mingus' bass was every bit as expressive when he was playing with Red Norvo or Kid Ory, and was even more so when he cut Pithecanthropus Erectus and opened up a whole path for the avant-garde. Roach could make some noise, but among early bebop drummers he was the finesse guy -- you shouldn't confuse him with Art Blakey. "Lyrical and incisive" sounds more like Sweets Edison; adjectives for Gillespie start with "titanic." And if Massey Hall was Powell's "A game" -- and you can measure that more precisely if you listen to his trios from the same date -- then how many plusses do you have to add to get to The Amazing Bud Powell? The problem here isn't that Jazz at Massey Hall isn't all that good. The sad fact is that none of the participants but Parker -- and I have my doubts there as well -- would consider it among their major works of the period.
I try below to explain why so many people think so, even if all I wind up with is little more than speculation. I also try to show that I'm not just spouting opinions here: I do know quite a bit about what I'm talking about. Adding the Parker grade list and discographical notes below helps quantify what I know -- I could do the same for Gillespie (28 records), Powell (21), Mingus (39), and Roach (7 + 4 with Clifford Brown's name first, and well over 100 that he played on). But enough about Parker. Once I had the top reviews, I scrounged through the year-end jazz lists for vault music and reissues: the two Bill Evans sets were prominent, the Armstrong, the Mobley, then when I tracked down the Davis-Griffin I noted that at least some of Fresh Sound's reissues were popping up, with the Felsted box too tempting to ignore. The year-end lists yielded some non-jazz too. My usual caveat goes double for the Can box as I crammed it through in one surprising play. Certainly the chances are better than average that I would sour on it over time. I admit that there's no real substitute for careful, methodical listening. But more often than not, my instincts have proven right. So now and then, I'll gamble on them.
The Group: Live (1986 , NoBusiness): The name, even with its definite article, doesn't do them justice. They came out of the New York loft scene, gigged around for a couple years, and left nothing but this newly discovered masterpiece. The booklet shows two quintet posters: their May 3 (1986?) "world premier" with Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), Billy Bang (violin), Sirone (bass), and Andrew Cyrille; and another from Sept. 12-13, 1986, with Fred Hopkins on bass. This recording, from Sept. 13, uses both bassists. They play five pieces, with Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and Brown's "La Piacita" running 18 minutes each, and Miriam Makeba's "Amanpondo" at 25 minutes. Bang manages to swing in any or no time; the two horns mesh intuitively, completing each other's thoughts; the two bassists have different strong suits, and Cyrille has rarely had a better day. A
Charlie Parker: Now's the Time (1952-53 , Verve): Dumped onto CD in 1990, with "the Quartet of Charlie Parker" sketched across the front cover bottom, these two quartet sessions -- one with Hank Jones and Teddy Kotick, the other with Al Haig and Percy Heath, both with Max Roach -- appeared first on LP (MGV 8005) as The Genius of Charlie Parker, #3: Now's the Time, probably c. 1956-57, with the same song order, including back-to-back alternate takes, usually annoying but here considered the tribute such genius demands: true fans will want to examine every precious note. The CD is out of print now, supplanted by Verve's 1998 "Master Edition" -- sometimes called Hi-Fi (the words do appear on the front cover) but more often just Charlie Parker -- expanded with even more alternate takes, shuffled to the end this time, and a couple extra septet tracks.
The cult of Parker started early and has persisted largely through sheer force of iteration. I don't doubt his charisma, which is attested to from many credible sources, but I've never managed to hear him as a revolutionary, perhaps because I came to him late -- well after I had heard Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton -- but also because his innovations became so ordinary in such short order. (Parker's title tune was seven years old when he covered it here, already sounding tired and out of place.) I've mellowed on him as a person, no longer blaming him for jazz's abandonment of pop music -- he wasn't that significant -- nor condemning him as a moral reprobate who led others to ruin. (For one thing, he was one of the first black men in America to live his life oblivious to, if not unaffected by, white racism.) Still, his cult annoys me to no end, mostly because they insist on things I cannot hear, and when doubted all they can do is parlent plus forte. I recently referred to this as "shameless idolatry" -- a phrase which Robert Christgau, long a prime example, proudly adopted for his review of this and another dusty Parker tome. We've disagreed on Parker ever since my first sampling -- Bird/The Savoy Recordings (Master Takes) and The Verve Years (1950-51) -- in 1976, and the more I've heard, the less common ground we've enjoyed. Christgau went on to write one of the best Parker lines ever: "No one else has ever articulated so many ear-boggling, mind-exploding, stomach-churning, rib-tickling musical ideas so easily -- so brilliantly -- so insouciantly -- so passionately -- so fast." Were it only true: the clue is "no one else" because Christgau has shown virtually no interest in any of Parker's contemporaries (aside from Thelonious Monk, who easily bests Parker on at least half of those counts -- it's worth recalling that Monk wrote music no one could play, whereas in rapid course everyone was aping Parker).
I thought I'd consider this record because Christgau gave it an A+ and I hadn't heard it. Turns out it's not in print and not on Rhapsody, but it was possible to reconstruct it from tracks on the 1998 edition. One big problem with Parker is that even before you sink into the live shots and bootlegs the sound quality of Parker's studio work was rarely good and often awful, but these relatively late sessions sound fine. The two pianists are superb, the bass is nicely balanced, and Max Roach was one of the few drummers who could make bebop work. Parker himself, his death less than three years ahead and his prime more than three years past, is relaxed and fit -- I wouldn't say passionate or fast, but for once his tone warms up the opening standard ("The Song Is You") and he negotiates the changes on his own pieces impeccably well. This is, in short, the mature Parker, the sort of record he might have kept making into old age. It's just that, at 32, he already was old -- about as old as he was ever going to get. A- [R]
Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker (1947-53 , Verve): Part of the Verve Master Edition series, this supplanted Verve's 1990 Now's the Time CD, a point made by placing the cover pic of the old CD on the back cover here. The remasters come from Verve's truly laborious 10-CD The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve, with the Quartets padded out to 25 cuts through the addition of vaguely related tracks -- one from 1947 is a dateline outlier, a Carnegie Hall quartet with Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne -- with all the scraps shuffled to the back of the bus. In pure musical value, not a lot to favor one over the other, but despite the detritus this is the cleanest sounding Parker disc ever, and people (like me) who squirm at the grunginess of nearly everything else he recorded will appreciate that. Much improved documentation, too. A-
The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall [Original Jazz Classics Remasters] (1953 , Debut/OJC): Invariably filed under alto saxophonist Charlie Parker's name, even though he was billed at the Toronto venue as Charlie Chan. For Parker followers, this is the most easily overrated album of all time, partly because the all-star cast -- Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Charles Mingus on bass, and Max Roach on drums -- suggests more than can possibly be delivered, and partly because this has long had pride of place as Parker's first live bootleg: an authorized boot, in fact, recorded by Mingus for the Debut label he and Roach founded, the only musician-owned label of the day. And it's been reissued promiscuously ever since, often with "the greatest jazz concert ever" slapped across the cover. It originally appeared on two 10-inch LPs, made it to 12-inch at least by 1962, and CD in 1989, and the sound was so lousy that Mingus re-recorded his bass parts. In 2003 the Spanish label Jazz Factory released Complete Jazz at Massey Hall under Parker's name, expanding the 46:07 album to 72:25. This year's OJC remaster reverts to the canonical 6-song format, with markedly improved sound and a lot of crowd ambiance. Starts with Ellington's "Perdido" vamp, runs through three Gillespie pieces, none of Parker's tunes, and he's not all that prominent. At the time, there was a Vol. 2 with just the rhythm section -- even here, Powell is the most consistent performer, and Mingus made damn well certain that you could hear the bass -- but that's largely fallen by the wayside. It seems history has followed the Dean Benedetti rule: turn the machine off whenever Parker sits out. B+(*) [R]
Charlie Parker: Complete Jazz at Massey Hall (1953 , Jazz Factory): Released in Spain the moment the 50-year-limit copyright clock ran out, a sane law especially considering that all the stars are long dead. The extra minutes (72 vs. 46) mostly come from the Trio, when the horns took a break and let Bud Powell steal the show -- material that Debut had released separately at the time. The sound is more natural and open -- evidently the bass overdubs were scrubbed -- and without the rush I found myself noticing Chan more (and Gillespie less): terrific solo on "All the Things You Are"; pretty good one on "Hot House." Clearly not such a slouch as I sometimes think, and not dead yet, either. B+(***) [R]
Laurie Spiegel: The Expanding Universe (1974-80 , Unseen Worlds, 2CD): Electronic music, invented at Bell Labs when they were riding high on their discoveries of the transistor, the laser, and the big band; first piece sounds like minimalism on a clavinet -- could have extended that alone indefinitely, but new concepts keep coming along, all through the first disc (matches the original 2LP) and well into the second before it settles into engagingly atmospheric. Should very likely be deemed one of the classics of its genre -- described by AMG as "Avant-Garde/Classical/Pop-Rock." A- [R]
The Paul Winter Sextet: Count Me In (1962-63 , Living Music, 2CD): I have saxophonist Winter -- initially alto, but later more likely soprano -- filed under New Age, that loose agglomeration of non-swinging, non-rocking, only sometimes remotely folk-ish or world-ish or maybe even classical-ite instrumental music reputedly able to calm nerves and engender a sense of inner bliss. I have no idea whether he's any good at it: it's a category of music I actively ignore, to the extent that I expect the few good records I have filed there are misclassified. Turns out, Winter started as a Stan Kenton fan. He did a year in the army, then went to Northwestern, played in their big band, won a prize, got invited to the White House, wound up on a State Deptartment tour of Latin America, where he got a jump on the jazz samba wave. Nice package, meticulously documented with a 32-page booklet, a cherished memory, no doubt, and a minor curiosity for the rest of us. B
The Complete Stanley Dance Felsted "Mainstream Jazz" Recordings 1958-1959 (1958-59, Fresh Sound, 9CD): An important jazz critic, Dance was born in England in 1910, moved to the US in 1937. In the late 1950s he coined the term "mainstream jazz" to describe swing musicians surviving in the post-bebop world. He dabbled on the production side, and in 1958-59 brought some of his favorites into the studio to record for the British label Felsted. This looks to be a box of nine LP-replicas, no extra takes or related trivia, but remastered sound plus a 44-page booklet including revised liner notes written by Dance in the 1970s. Dance's favorite ploy was to change the bands from one LP side to the next -- how much like a critic of the day to focus on the coherence of sides. Notes on the individual albums follow. B+(***) [R]
Rex Stewart: Rendezvous With Rex (1958, Felsted): Ellington's trumpet star 1931-45, left to tour with JATP and run his own big band but never had much success; mostly octet: lush reeds and tasty guitar to bounce his cornet off of, picking up a bit on the one he sings ("My Kind of Gal") and ending with the lovely "Blue Echo." B+(**) [R]
Earl Hines/Cozy Cole: Earl's Backroom and Cozy's Caravan (1958, Felsted): One side is a quartet led by the piano great with Curtis Lowe on tenor and baritone sax; the other is a septet led by drummer Cozy Cole with no one I've heard of on tenor sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, or bass; one way the leaders prove their stature is how your ears move from the piano to the drums on the transition, but Cole loses his edge when he sit back for a blues vocal, and no one picks up the slack. B+(*) [R]
Buster Bailey: All About Memphis (1958, Felsted): This is the only LP under his name, but Bailey was one of the most important clarinetists of early jazz, starting with W.C. Handy, going on to King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and John Kirby; his core quartet "Beale Street Blues" is a sheer delight, "Memphis Blues" sneaks up on you, and for his originals, they bring in Vic Dickenson for a tailgate party. B+(***) [R]
Buddy Tate: Swinging Like . . . Tate (1958, Felsted): One of the famed "Texas Tenors," Tate joined Count Basie's band from 1939-48; he held a long (1953-74) residency at the Celebrity Club in Harlam, and starting with this album recorded dozens of examples of his ability to swing a blues -- my favorite is a 1961 date with Buck Clayton, Buck and Buddy Swing the Blues; a little unsteady on the first side, but then Clayton, Dicky Wells, and Jo Jones reunite for the second, really perking up the saxophonist. B+(**) [R]
Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk (1958, Felsted): This one I've heard before, on a 1988 London CD, and it looks like it's later been reissued with extra tracks; with Buck Clayton, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, and Mickey Sheen, starts with one of Hawkins' best upbeat blues, remains superb even on the slowest ballads. A- [R]
Dicky Wells: Bones for the King (1958, Felsted): One of the swing era's top trombonists, a star with Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie; first side adds Vic Dickenson, Benny Morton, and George Matthews for a trombone quartet, with an amusing vocal on "Sweet Daddy Spo-Do-O"; second side is more trad, trading lines with Buck Clayton, Rudy Rutherford, and Buddy Tate, with Jo Jones keeping time. B+(**) [R]
Budd Johnson: Blues a la Mode (1958, Felsted): Tenor saxophonist, the missing link between Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, and on their level -- once you're aware of him, as few people are, you'll find him everywhere; Charlie Shavers adds some fine trumpet, and Vic Dickenson and Al Sears add to the rousing septet, but on his own Johnson plays some of the most romantic tenor sax you'll ever hear; also available with a later session as The Stanley Dance Sessions (1958-67 , Lone Hill Jazz). A- [R]
Billy Strayhorn: Cue for Saxophone (1959, Felsted): The saxophonist here, originally credited as Cue Porter, was Johnny Hodges, in one of the world's easiest blindfold tests; he's surrounded by regulars Shorty Baker, Quentin Jackson, and Russell Procope, with the leader on piano on one of the first of his few albums; Hodges is as sublime as ever. A- [R]
Dicky Wells: Trombone Four in Hand (1959, Felsted): More of his trombone quartet, with Skip Hall's organ (or piano) and Kenny Burrell or Everett Barksdale on guitar, sticks close to the blues base, with one vocal, where Wells and Vic Dickenson detail their tastes in women. B+(*) [R]
Louis Armstrong and the All Stars: Satchmo at Symphony Hall [65th Anniversary]: The Complete Performances (1947 , Hip-O Select, 2CD): Complete comes to 119:37, a full 49:36 more than the 1996 Decca CD, which shaved a few seconds off everything, and a lot more by discarding feature spots for the All Stars -- from Jack Teagarden down to Arvell Shaw's bass solo, but mostly Velma Middleton; restoring all that reduces the real star's prominence, but also makes this show less like every other show, and more of a special event. A- [R]
Can: The Lost Tapes (1968-77 , Mute, 3CD): As one only barely familiar with the Krautrock pioneer's 1972-74 peak, much of this unreleased, literally lost-and-found material defied my expectations -- not just the early blues grunge that sounds like they'd been listening to the Kinks and Them, or the quasi-Gong-meets-Beefheart nonsense, or some of the hardest rhythmic romps in instrumental rock, but even some of the synth sleeze they evolved; these things are usually for-fans-only, and I do wonder what fans think of it, but I find it unsettling -- I doubt you could whittle it down to a masterpiece, because what doesn't work is almost as interesting as what does. A- [R]
Don Cherry: Organic Music Society (1971-72 , Caprice): Searching for world consciousness, or just scratching it, from "North Brazilian Ceremonial Hymn" (Nana Vasconcelos), through "Relativity Suite," "The Creator Has a Master Plan," "Terry's Tune" (as in Riley), and "Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro" (Dollar Brand), with a Turkish drummer and way too much singing. B+(*) [R]
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & Johnny Griffin Quintet: Live at Minton's Playhouse in New York City: Complete Recordings (1961 , Fresh Sound, 2CD): Christgau credits Griffin for the first sax solo that he ever tuned into, and it's easy to back up from Griffin to Bird: he bought the whole package, especially the speed, an even meaner trick on tenor; Davis was another combative tenor saxophonist, eager to mix it up with anyone any time -- his Very Saxy, with Hawkins, Cobb, and Tate, may be the most exciting pure blowing session on record; Prestige mined these sets for four LPs, starting with The Tenor Scene, but as you see now, they never took a break. A- [R]
Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate (1968 , Resonance, 2CD): Previously unreleased, one set on each disc, three songs repeated (out of eight or nine), in what turned out to be a good year for the trio -- Eddie Gomez is fully engaged, Marty Morell stays as far out of the way as Paul Motian did, and the pianist just plays and plays. A- [R]
Bill Evans: Momentum (1972 , Limetree, 2CD): Another previously unreleased live trio set, a concert in Groningen, also with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell, stretches twelve songs to 92:42; stretches a bit thin in spots, but the piano is expressive, lush even. B+(**) [R]
Coleman Hawkins: Moodsville (1960 , Fresh Sound): Two 1960 albums on Crown with Thad Jones (trumpet) and Eddie Costa (piano/vibes), in 2010 remastered as The Hawk Swings: The Crown Sessions; the rhythm section swings nicely, but isn't especially engaged let alone commanding, at least by his standards; Jones closes strong, but he's never been a guy who fights for the spotlight, so it takes him a while to step up. B+(**) [R]
Little Richard: Here's Little Richard (1955-57 , Specialty): First LP, rolled up his first six singles from "Tutti Frutti" through "She's Got It," all top-ten r&b, with "Long Tall Sally" his first top-ten chart hit (of only two all-time), padded by filler that sounds like Fats Domino discards -- Dave Bartholomew ran both bands; reissue tacks on two demos and a nine-minute interview with Art Rupe, where he laments not making more money off of Richard. B+(**) [R]
Hank Mobley: Newark 1953 (1953 , Uptown, 2CD): Young tenor saxophonist, two years before he cut the first of his many fine Blue Notes, in a previously unreleased live set with Bennie Green on trombone and Walter Davis, Jr. on piano, working their best bop moves on the songs of the day, stretching out to 16 minutes on "Pennies From Heaven" -- the weakness in the sound just adds to the ambiance. B+(***) [R]
Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie: Diz 'n Bird at Carnegie Hall (1947 , Blue Note): Five quintet tracks closing with "Koko," then Gillespie brings his big band on for ten more tracks, replacing Parker with Howard Johnson and John Brown; sound is fair, enough to convey the excitement of the big band if not full detail. B [R]
Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker With Strings: The Master Takes (1949-50 , Verve): Like Bix Beiderbecke, Parker was an ill-fated hick who aspired to good taste, so he thought playing with a classical string section would be the heights of sophistication; it turned out to be a formula for dreck, but at least his ballad tone had matured, and was rarely better recorded. B- [R]
Charlie Parker: South of the Border (1948-52 , Verve): Early cuts with Machito's big band, small groups with bongos (José Mangual) and congas (Luis Miranda), Chico O'Farrill's overwrought 17-minute "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite" with Mario Bauza and Chino Pozo next to Sweets Edison and Buddy Rich, Parker plays "catch up" rather than "leap ahead" and it suits him. B+(***) [R]
Charlie Parker: Big Band (1950-53 , Verve): Joe Lipman arranged the first ten tracks, standards with section blare over drippy strings, the sort of thing that makes you wish for a magic button to record only the soloist -- Parker himself seems exceptionally fit; Gil Evans had a hand on the other three songs, but so did Dave Lambert, and the eleven extra takes wear out their welcome real fast. B- [R]
Charlie Parker: At Storyville (1953 , Blue Note): Two live broadcasts, one with Red Garland's trio, the other a quintet with Sir Charles Thompson and Herb Pomeroy on trumpet, Roy Haynes and Kenny Clarke the drummers; came out in 1985 and totals 40:21; half Parker pieces + "Groovin' High," typical runs with little else, nothing stretched past 5:05. B [R]
Bud Powell: Jazz at Massey Hall: Volume Two (1953 , Debut/OJC): Six piano trio cuts from the famous Quintet show with Mingus and Roach but no horns, padded out with another ten cuts (including outtakes) with George Duvivier and Art Taylor; "Jubilee" offers Bud at his bounciest, but much of this falls flat, such as his attempt to comp behind Mingus' "Bass-ically Speaking" solo. B [R]
Pete Seeger: The Complete Bowdoin College Concert 1960 (1960 , Smithsonian/Folkways, 2CD): A folksinger who bridged the Popular Front era and the 1960s (and is still around, if you care), he has rarely seemed to relaxed, engaged, and comfortable among the people of a country that was anything but comfortable with him. A-
Jack Teagarden: Texas Trombone (1958 , Black Lion Vault): Louis Armstrong never went anywhere without a great, or at least a gruff, trombonist at his beck and call, and when he put his All-Stars together, this Texas was his pick, incidentally integrating the band -- a sign of change in 1947; live at the Orpheum in Seattle, usual songbook, with Don Ewell on piano and lesser knowns, with Jerry Fuller's clarinet especially noteworthy. B+(*) [R]
Mal Waldron: Quiet Temple (1964 , Black Lion Vault): Trio, originally released as Les Nuits de la Negritude, helps fill a big gap between the pianist's prolific 1950s emergence -- with Mingus and McLean, accompanying Billie Holiday and other singers, in his own trios and solos -- and his post-1970 avant-garde fruition; most pieces are built from dense rhythmic blocks, but give him a break and he's as thoughtful as ever. A- [R]
Mal Waldron: The Search (1970s , Black Lion Vault): Previously unissued piano trio, two songs (one also on a 1972 Enja album), 33:24, no credits for bass-drums, may have been recorded at Montmartre Jazzhuis in Copenhagen; second piece, "Entracte," is especially strong with its piano-drums dialogue; docked a bit for lack of credits. B+(**) [R]
Ben Webster/Johnny Hodges Sextet: The Complete 1960 Jazz Cellar Session (1960 , Solar): With Lou Levy on piano and Herb Ellis on guitar, aside from five "bonus tracks" where Ray Nance and Lawrence Brown drop in, with Russ Freeman on piano and Emil Richards on vibes; the sort of light blues-based thing they could do by rote, but utterly charming, as always. A- [R]
Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody ([X] is some other identified stream source; otherwise assume a CD). The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered, and documentation is especially important for reissues. But also my exposure to streamed records is briefer and more limited, so I'm more prone to snap judgments -- although that's always a risk.
For this column and the previous 103, see the archive. Total records reviewed: 3564 (3128 + 436).
Additional Consumer News
I've spent much more time listening to Charlie Parker than to I have to anyone else I basically don't much like. The following grades come from my database. The first Parker I heard was on LPs (cited above) from the late 1970s. I doubt that I played anything else by him until the early 1990s, when I started exploring jazz much more systematically. It's possible that some of the earlier grades below were excessively harsh; also possible that some of the later grades were on the lenient side, or that I gave extra credit for his undoubtable historical significance.
Parker's studio recordings were for Savoy, Dial, and Verve, roughly that order although there are post-Dial recordings for Savoy, and Verve (originally Clef, now owned by Universal and thoroughly rebranded) has snatched a few earlier recordings up. Beyond that, there are an awful lot of bootleg live recordings, most with dreadful sound, gathered up in a desperate attempt to recapture every note Bird ever blew. The ultimate example is the 7-CD Mosaic set, The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings, where to save on recording media the machine was only turned on for Parker's solos. I haven't gone that far, nor have I sampled any of the 20 volumes of Bird Eyes on the Italian label Philology.
What I have heard follows, sometimes with brief notes (releases under Parker's name are just "--"):
Aside from The Dean Benedetti Recordings (above), the big ticket items I haven't sprung for are Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve (1946-54 , Verve, 10CD) and its little brother, The Complete Verve Master Takes (1947-54 , Verve, 3CD). The former is notorious for its studio padding. As for the latter, why bother when you can get just Charlie Parker and skip With Strings and Big Band.
The Savoys and Dials are rehashed periodically, with both older and later editions roughly equivalent to the ones listed, but I stopped caring after buying the complete box. Otherwise, the single Best of the Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings (1944-48 , Savoy) might suffice. Similarly, best of the Complete Live Performances on Savoy (1947-50 , Savoy) should give you an adequate taste of the Royal Roost airshots. And to confuse things further, Savoy has a newer single best-of, Now's the Time (1945-48 , Savoy) by "The Revolutionary Charlie Parker."
Christgau likes the compilation In a Soulful Mood (see update below). It looks to be about half Verve material, much more than the two A-rated compilations listed above -- not an auspicious move, but I recognize quite a few of the Verve tunes as ones I've noticed while preparing this. Another interesting looking set is Charlie Parker: The Rough Guide to Jazz Legends (, World Music Network), which combines a single CD of Parker (starting with the marvelous "Red Kross" and some Gillespie but not "Shaw 'Nuff") and tacks on a second disc by Parker's bebop contemporaries -- all classic material, things you should know before getting too wrapped up in Bird.
As for the boots, caveat emptor. One retailer notes, regarding Complete Onyx Recordings (, Definitive, 2CD): "Poor recordings. For rabid Parker fans only." That's so often the case.
Update: Joe Yanosik objected to my description of In a Soulful Mood as a 2-CD set. Turns out that Music Club released that title, with as far as I can tell the same artwork, three times:
Christgau's review gives the date as 1996, so he presumably means the US (50003) edition. I decided to mention the title when I noticed it in CDConnection's list of available Parker records, mistakenly assuming that what I had found was the same record Christgau reviewed about a year ago.
My general experience with Music Club is that their compilations are well programmed but poorly documented. I don't have any of these sets, and web info is rather limited. Christgau credits Roy Carr with programming his edition. Discogs credits Charles Waring with the liner notes to the 2007 edition. It should also be noted that Music Club has used In a Soulful Mood as a generic title for its jazz compilations: some others include Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, and Mel Tormé. I'll also note that the Mingus set is on Sue Mingus's list of unauthorized recordings. That's another can of worms, but all this should raise several red flags.