Thursday, May 29. 2014
At 71 records, my shortest Rhapsody Streamnotes column of the year so far, but not much off the usual pace -- two previous columns ended at 76, others at 83 and 84. Lost a chunk of time in New York, and this week will wind up being very distracted, notably with a guest to attend to but also a very active woodworking project. Still, a lot of good records this time. Aside from the jazz (which still mostly comes in the mail) nearly everything here attempts to follow up on some hint or other -- not that I can recall who turned me on to Natural Child, but most of the records I can associate with a name, or like Chromeo and Amy LaVere were by artists I like to keep tabs on. (Brigitte DeMeyer is one only I seem to know about.) Of course, down in the "old music" section, I keep plugging away at the Penguin Guide project -- just not especially hard this time.
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 May 3. Past reviews and more information are available here (4866 records).
New Releases (More or Less)
Lily Allen: Sheezus (2014, Warner Brothers/Regal): If this is a tribute to/parody of Yezus, it's a reply on the same level as Born in the USA to Thriller, saying both "I can do that" and "I can do that my way, which is better." Not sure what else she could do: the slice-of-life details that made It's Not Me, It's You so perfect are harder to find when you're a star, but her flippant attitude is intact and indomitable. [Deluxe Edition adds a 5-song disc you can safely ignore.] A [cd]
Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans: The Freedom Principle (2013 , NoBusiness): The Portuguese tenor saxophonist has been on a roll with his main trio recently -- Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums -- and MOPDTK trumpet player Evans promises some sparks, but the three long improvs are rougher than usual, the conflicts confined to close quarters. B+(**) [cd]
Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans: Live in Lisbon (2013 , NoBusiness): Recorded live two days ahead of the studio album above (also recorded in Lisbon). Different titles, two LP-sides, roughly comparable but the trumpet gets a bit more out front here. B+(**) [cdr]
Atmosphere: Southsiders (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Slug still doesn't understand women, least of all the one speaking French ("like birds in her mouth"), but he remains uncommonly clear, even when he admits to being confused. First line I jotted down: "break the rules, but first break the rulers." Atypical because he's not out to break anyone. Second: "I was in hell when you told me to go there." B+(***)
BadBadNotGood: III (2014, Innovative Leisure): Toronto group, basically an electric piano-bass-drums trio, their "crossover jazz" more rock than pop but still focused on textures. B+(**)
Mike Baggetta Quartet: Thieves and Secrets (2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, quartet adds Jason Rigby on sax, Eivind Opsvik on bass, and George Schuller on drums, for a round of mild-mannered postbop. B+(*)
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Landmarks (2010 , Blue Note): Drummer-composer's long-running quintet -- Melvin Butler and Myron Walden on saxes, Jon Cowherd on piano, Chris Thomas on bass -- doesn't strike me as a drummer's album with its moderate tempos and neatly tailored harmonies. B+(*)
Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack: . . . Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire (2013 , Singlespeed): Plays oboe and English horn, has ten or more albums since 2000, his group-defining Wrack in 2003. Septet, with Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), viola, bass, and drums. Three long pieces are inspired by early Thomas Pynchon novels. Can't tell you how or why, but the effect is suite-like, which means occasionally inspired but inconsistent. B+(**) [cd]
Chromeo: Fancy Footwork (2007, Vice): Electropop duo out of Montreal, Dave One and Pee Thug, upbeat and danceable, lyrics in English and occasionally worth noting, although the album cover, with its gaudy logo and the two guys pictured behind keybs mounted on dismembered but distinctly female legs, is kinda creepy. I liked their next album, Business Casual, but had missed this one, which Christgau preferred, probably because (unlike me) he got to it first. B+(***)
Chromeo: White Women (2014, Big Beat): Similar to their previous electropop albums, but they've learned how to change pace without losing their step, and the singer is willing to show a bit of falsetto. B+(***)
Brigitte DeMeyer: Savannah Road (2014, BDM Music): Alt-country singer-songwriter. I noticed her superb second album, Nothing Comes Free, but they demonstrate her thoughtful take on American folklore, even if this one comes up a bit short of zing. B+(**)
Matthieu Donarier & Albert van Veenendaal's Planetarium: The Visible Ones (2010-12 , Clean Feed): Duets, soprano and tenor sax for Donarier, piano (sometimes prepared) for van Veenendaal. Donarier, b. 1976 in France, has four albums since 2005. Van Veenendaal is older and his prepared piano work has been very impressive, but he never gets the upper hand here. B+(**) [cd]
Mark Egan: About Now (2014, Wavetone): Bass guitarist, played with Pat Metheny and Gil Evans, led fusion band Elements. Trio here with Mitchell Forman on keybs and Danny Gottlieb on drums, holds the groove but doesn't do much with it. B- [cd]
Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band: Mother's Touch (2011 , Posi-Tone): Pianist-led big band, the group name dating back to Evans' 1988 album title (a septet at the time). Goes for brash volume and flash here, and that's what he delivers. B+(**)
Fennesz: Bécs (2013 , Editions Mego): Guitarist from Austria, generates a lot of feedback which he shapes through various electronics, often leaving nothing but the shroud around the melody -- "Paroles" is something of an exception. B+(*)
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Shiki (2013 , Libra): One of four conventional-sized big bands in Fujii's arsenal, the one with nearly every name on the roster a well known star. Three pieces, rarely hits the peaks of intensity and creativity the band is capable of, and ends in a confusing squabble. B+(**)
Fujiya & Miyagi: Artificial Sweeteners (2014, Yep Roc): British trio (guitar-synth-bass), clear enough from David Best's understated vocals, promising little beyond the dance beats, but the group's ambitions are similarly limited -- cf. the title, itself little more than a chant of the title. B+(*)
Gato Libre: DuDu (2013 , Libra): Sixth album for trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's quartet, which has always had a Eurofolk feel thanks to Satoko Fujii's accordion, with a bit of chamber jazz given the lack of drums. The change this time replaces the bass with trombone -- should at least pump up the volume, but with no one keeping time the result is more sedate than ever. B [cd]
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata (2011-13 , Madlib Invazion): Rapper from Gary, Indiana, cuts his beatmaker in for a piece of the credit -- good idea. B+(***)
Luther Gray/Jim Hobbs/Kaethe Hostetter/Winston Braman: Lawnmower II (2012 , Clean Feed): Not clear whether they intend the group to be called Lawnmower or Lawnmower II, but with the member names on the cover, we'll parse it that way. Drummer Gray and alto saxophonist Hobbs, who've played together in a trio with Joe Morris, were also in the original 2010 Lawnmower, along with two guitarists, replaced here by Hostetter on 5-string violin and Braman on electric bass. Hobbs usually runs away with any group he's in, but focuses on shading here behind the violinist. B+(***) [cd]
Grieves: Winter & the Wolves (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Seattle rapper, underground beats, articulate rhymes, finding himself in the world, his growth rippling throughout the music. A-
Max Johnson Trio: The Invisible Trio (2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist, working with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Ziv Ravitz (drums), basically an avant-trumpet trio with extra focus on the bass. [Bandcamp only has 2 (of 8) cuts; can't grade this any higher on such a limited sample.] B+(**) [bc]
Max Johnson: The Prisoner (2012 , NoBusiness): Bassist-led avant-chamber group -- at least that's the air you get from Mat Maneri's viola, plus Ingrid Laubrock's tenor sax is more likely to color in than honk or blare. With Tomas Fujiwara on drums, this tends to sneak up on you. B+(***) [cd]
Franklin Kiermyer: Further (2014, self-released): Drummer, originally from Quebec but spent the 1990s in New York and now seems to be in Oslo. Always a big Coltrane fan, his quartet fits the model, with Benito Gonzalez's fluid Tyner effects, and saxophonist Azar Lawrence always aiming at some higher plane. B+(**)
Lee Konitz/Dan Tepfer/Michael Janisch/Jeff Williams: First Meeting: Live in London Volume 1 (2010 , Whirlwind): The bassist (Janisch) led the date and produced the album, but all deferred to the master: "Under Mr. Konitz's instruction, anyone on the bandstand could simply start playing a melody, and the rest of the band could follow. Or not." Still, it's Konitz you listen to, often sounding sublime, unmistakeable too. B+(***) [cd]
Lee Konitz: Standards Live: At the Village Vanguard (2009 , Enja): Another live quartet, this one with Florian Weber (piano), Jeff Denson (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums), stretching six standards to a nine-minute average. Compared to the London set above, this one features a finer pianist, but offers a bit less showcase for the leader. B+(**)
Amy LaVere: Runaway's Diary (2014, Archer): Her little girl voice doesn't especially fit her deeply felt songs, so the latter take a while to sneak up on you. A-
Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (2014, Pi): Remarkably light for such a large group. Unlike the most comparable octet, David Murray's Ming, none of the five horn players here are especially imposing soloists, but they play roles exquisitely, and the rhythm section -- Drew Gress (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and Chris Dingman (vibes) -- is outstanding. A [cd]
Lost in the Trees: Past Life (2013 , Anti): Arty little pop group from North Carolina, lead singer Ari Picker's voice goes high and the accompaniment is relentlessly pretty over a nice steady pace -- something I'm surprised to find myself rather enjoying. B+(***)
Lykke Li: I Never Learn (2014, Atlantic): Swedish singer-songwriter, writes dirges which pass for pop because they're mostly synths; maintains her Nordic chill, something I find less annoying this time around, maybe because "Never Gonna Love Again" seems like a constructive resolution. B+(**)
Jeremy Manasia: Pixel Queen (2013 , Blujazz): Pianist from Staten Island, fourth album, a trio with Barak Mori and Charles Ruggiero, bright and percussive, its initial appeal deepening over seven 6-8-minute cuts. B+(***) [cd]
Dom Minasi & Hans Tammen: Alluvium (2013 , Straw2gold Pictures): Avant guitar duets, not a lot of difference between the two, both with a rather sticky, choppy sound, not much resonance. B+(*)
Moodymann: Moodymann (2014, Mahogani): Kenny Dixon Jr., involved in Detroit techno since the mid-1990s, has a half-dozen albums with this eponymous one seeming particularly slapdash, aside from worry about Detroit's murder rate. B+(*)
Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (2014, Savant): Not the revelation A Sunday Kind of Love was -- the songs are less surefire, but saxophonist Houston Person is as dependable as ever, the perfect accompanist for any singer with even a hint of blues in her voice. And there's something to be said for venturing further afield, especially when you end up with "Blow Top Blues." A- [cd]
Moskus: Mestertyven (2014, Hubro): Third album by Norwegian piano trio -- Anja Lauvdal, Fredrik Luhn Dietrichson, Hans Hulbaekmo -- arrive at an interesting and attractive mix of rumbling rhythm and free, often by letting the bass/drums run ahead of the piano. A-
Mozes & the Firstborn: Mozes & the Firstborn (2013 , Burger): Dutch garage rockers, have a vintage guitar sound, a singer-songwriter with some authority, and a fairly limited bandwidth. B+(**)
Natural Child: 1971 (2011, Infinity Cat): Nashville rock band's debut LP, the date on the title reflecting their ambitions -- initially to sound like the Stooges on that date, then they try to mix a little Big Star in as well as reverting to slightly earlier garage rock. B+(***)
Natural Child: Dancin' With Wolves (2014, Burger): Jumping forward to their fourth album, it's clear that hanging out in Nashville has relaxed their tempos and deepened their drawls and befuddled their vintage rock concepts, unless they're aiming for Poco, but I think they're too smart for that. B+(**)
Old 97's: Most Messed Up (2014, ATO): Guitar band with pop hooks, the latter mostly due to Rhett Miller. I've usually dragged my feet on them, admiring rather than liking their best albums, but this one flows so organically it's hard to complain. And the title song, which expands to "I'm the most messed up motherfucker in this town," is both tougher and funnier than Miller ever gets on his own albums. A-
Ought: More Than Any Other Day (2014, Constellation): Montreal postpunk group, or maybe post-newwave since they're more likely to recycle Talking Heads and the Feelies, with singer Tim Beeler reserving his best David Byrne impression or when the music merits it. Angrier, bleeker, tougher, all traits demanded by history, not to mention art. A-
Marc Ribot Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2012 , Pi): A guitarist with many fronts, this live trio with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor returns to the roots of one of his best albums, 2005's Spiritual Unity, with two more Ayler covers, two late Coltranes, and two standards beat and bent into shape. B+(***) [cd]
Sonny Rollins: Road Shows: Volume 3 (2001-12 , Okeh): Like with his first volume, Rollins continues to jump around to piece these live concert bits together, picking six cuts here from five concerts scattered over a decade, yet thanks to the leader they sound sufficiently of a piece. Highlight here is a long solo stretch, but really any time the sax takes the lead is a highlight. No patter, but lots of applause. A-
The Roots: . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (2014, Def Jam): At 33:22, more a short story than an EP, and you know the band is playing because they got nothing worth stealing: they're really pretty conventional, but the raps still get your attention even when the songs fade away. [Rhapsody only offers 8 (of 11) cuts.] B+(**)
Felipe Salles: Ugandan Suite (2013 , Tapestry): Tenor saxophonist, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; teaches at U Mass Amherst. Sixth album. Group includes David Liebman on wooden flute and his usual saxes, Nando Michelin on piano, plus bass, drums, and two extra percussionists on a long list of things I've never heard of. Suite flows through five movements, often exquisite. B+(***)
JC Sanford Orchestra: Views From the Inside (2013 , Whirlwind): Trombonist, don't find anything under his own name but was in a trio called Triocracy and has side credits in large groups under John Hollenbeck, Meg Okura, Joel Harrison, and others. Has a lot of recognized names in this big band but few of them stand out on record. B [cd]
Shit Robot: We Got a Love (2014, DFA): Marcus Lambkin, from Ireland, second album, ends with a very strong piece called "Tempest," B+(***)
Brenda Earle Stokes: Right About Now (2014, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Ontario, plays piano, has two previous albums as Brenda Earle. Covers four standards here, writes lyrics for two other melodies, resulting in a mixed bag. Steve Cardenas on guitar and Joel Frahm on sax are pluses. B [cdr]
Nelda Swiggett Stringtet: Blue-Eyed Painted Lady (2013 , Origin): Pianist-singer -- at first she remind me of Keith Jarrett singing, but later on words are intelligible -- backed with viola, cello, bass, and drums, deep with strings but not confined to chamber music. B+(*) [cd]
Tigran: Shadow Theater (2012 , Sunnyside): Pianist Tigran Hamasyan, b. 1987 in Armenia, moved to Los Angeles in 2003, fifth album (plus an EP) since 2006, second to appear on Verve in Europe, sans surname and avec vocals. The vocals are so thick here they overwhelm even the hammy melodrama of the keyboards. C+ [cdr]
Tune-Yards: Nikki Nack (2014, 4AD): Merrill Garbus' third album, follows huge critical success -- the previous two graded A by Christgau, the second won Pazz & Jop -- most likely with more of the same. Again, I vacillate between being perversely charged (cf. "Left Behind") and annoyed ("Rocking Chair"). She clearly has a lot of fun with her sampled percussion, and I don't mind free time in jazz, so the more I play this the more I suspect her voice (not that I like the similarly erratic Dirty Projectors even as much). Oh, and speaking of annoyances, can we at least agree to dispense with the juvenile tyopgraphy -- no longer present on the album cover, unless you really think she needs all those center-dots? B+(**) [cd]
Manuel Valera: Self Portrait (2013 , Mavo): Solo, a rite of passage for every aspiring pianist. B. 1980 in Cuba, based in New York, has a handful of records since 2004 and side credits with Cubans like Dafnis Prieto and Yosvanny Terry as well as fellow travelers like Brian Lynch. Back cover says "Recorded on November 13 and 19, 2014" -- at the moment I doubt that, but seems like a typo destined to go down in history. B+(**) [cd]
Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (2014, Big Legal Mess): A Mississippi blues singer, not just old-fashioned but at 82 justifiably ancient, coming off as a Fred McDowell throwback locked in a studio with a lot of noisemakers. A-
Western Jazz Quartet: Free Fall (2014, Blujazz): Principally saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and pianist Jeremy Siskind, postboppers who've established themselves in the past decade, although bassist Tom Knific wrote one tune, and Keith Hall plays drums. Exemplary without striking my interest. B+(*) [cd]
Mars Williams/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tim Daisy: Moments Form (2012 , Idyllic Noise): Cover only lists last names (suggesting the bassist should be sorted under 'H' instead of 'F'), and the bandcamp page doesn't spell out the credits but part of the publishing goes to "Music From Mars." The saxophonist has virtually nothing under his own name, but played in NRG Ensemble, Vandermark 5, and the acid jazz group Liquid Soul. Drummer Daisy joined V5 after Williams left. Joint improv from a festival in Austria. Only 1 (of 3) cuts available. B+(*) [bc]
Nate Wooley/Hugo Antunes/Chris Corsano: Malus (2012 , NoBusiness): Trumpet-bass-drums trio, all three also credited with amplifier. Starts with an impressive trumpet run, then settles into a staccato give-and-take, something that happens when improvisers run out of ideas but not chops. B+(**) [cdr]
Wussy: Attica! (2014, Shake It): Cincinnati group led by Lisa Walker and former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver, so obscure that AMG hasn't constructed a biography page for them, even though they list eight of their five (or six) albums, but so legendary that many of Robert Christgau's Witnesses have already proclaimed this the record of the year. As usual, I'm late to the cult, and not that enthused, but this starts with a clever rip on "Baba O'Riley" and follows with one solid song after another, the two voices and viewpoints offering contrasts even where the music grows loud and samey. A- [bc]
Basak Yavuz: Things (2012 , Z Music): Turkish singer-songwriter, previously worked as an architect, probably her first album, recorded in New York with David Liebman and Peter Eldridge listed as "featuring" (two cuts each, although Eldridge plays piano on three more). Three covers, including a probing "How Deep Is the Ocean." B+(*) [cd]
The Young Mothers: A Mother's Work Is Never Done (2013 , Tektite): Norway's premier avant bassist, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, has lately been dividing his time between Oslo and Austin, and from the latter base rounded up some Houston horn players -- Jason Jackson on sax, Jawwaad Taylor on trumpet (who also raps), along with Austin guitarist Jonathan Horne and Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly and put together Texas' answer to the Thing, and then some. A- [cdr, bc]
Brigitte Zarie: L'amour (2013 , NJ Music): Jazz singer, from Toronto, parents from Casablanca, second album; has picked up some of Billie Holiday's phrasing (or is it Madeleine Peyroux?), writes most of her own songs (with help on the music from Neil Jason), the two covers "I Walk the Line" and "Corcovado," the title cut in both French and English versions. B [cd]
Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Tektite Records Presents: The Young Mothers Sampler 1 (2012-14 , Tektite, EP): I figured this 7-cut, 31:10 sampler for promo only but see now it's available for $5 on Bandcamp, although I'm still not clear on all of it: the few names I do recognize are Frank Rosaly (a drum piece as Millwork), Stefan Gonzalez (as Orgullo Primitivo), and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (who brought in a blistering 7:59 Thing track and evidently leads the Young Mothers). Samples a wormhome at the end of the universe where avant-noise rock and free jazz don't meet so much as bump heads. B+(**) [cdr, bc]
Al Haig Trio: Al Haig Trio [Period Recordings] (1954 , Fresh Sound): One of the best early bebop pianists -- in the late 1940s played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz. Cut two trio records in 1954 with Bill Crow and Lee Abrams: this one for Vogue (although it says Period on the cover) and the other for Esoteric, both reissued by Fresh Sound. Esoteric got the crown, probably because there's more of it. B+(***)
Al Haig Trio: Invitation (1974, Spotlite): Haig caught a second wind in the mid-1970s up to his death in 1982, not that there is much to show for the period. This is a trio with Gilbert Rovere on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. B+(**)
The Tubby Hayes Quintet: Down in the Village (1962 , Fontana): British tenor saxophonist (1935-73), was a powerful swing-to-bop player in his heyday. Quintet includes Jimmy Deuchar on trumpet and Gordon Beck on piano, and the splash of vibraphone you get later on is from Hayes. B+(**)
Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh: Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh (1955 , Atlantic/Rhino): Devotees of Lennie Tristano's cool twisted bebop, as was pianist Sal Mosca, the two saxes weave into a singular flow, the sweet tones accented by Billy Bauer's guitar. With Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. A-
Lee Konitz: Satori (1974 , Milestone/OJC): One of four albums cut for Milestone 1969-74, a period when the alto sax great was mostly working in Europe, displaying his characteristically cool take on avant-garde. Quartet, with Martial Solal, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette, plus Dick Katz on the title track. B+(***)
Lee Konitz Featuring Harold Danko: Wild as Springtime (1984 , Candid): Duets, with excellent mainstream pianist Danko backing the alto saxophonist, about half originals, plus covers from George Russell, Chick Corea, and Frederic Chopin. A-
Lee Konitz/Franco D'Andrea: 12 Gershwin in 12 Keys (1988 , Philology): Duets with pianist D'Andrea, transposing 12 classic Gershwin tunes into different keys -- the significance of that technical feat eludes me, but most come off as recognizable as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Junior Mance Trio: Junior's Blues (1962 , Riverside/OJC): Pianist, b. 1928 near Chicago, started playing in his teens with Gene Ammons before getting drafted, has 50+ albums under his own name, hundreds of side credits. While he's rarely thought of at a top tier pianist, with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Mickey Roker on drums, he strides masterfully through this blues program. A
Ron Miles Quartet: Laughing Barrel (2002 , Sterling Circle): Trumpet-guitar quartet with Brandon Ross on the latter, Anthony Cox on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. Straightforward and rather sensitive postbop. B+(**)
Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock: Bezique (2002, Spartacus): Scottish musicians, the tenor saxophonist is one of the most flamboyant players of his generation, impressive even in basic piano duets such as this "live in Edinburgh" set of standards. Better still is their 2005 follow up, Symbiosis. A-
Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall: The Dessert (2002 , Leo): Piano-clarinet duets, Mahall playing bass and contrabass clarinets. Seventeen joint improvs, most 2-3 minute range but three top five minutes, the longest 7:35. Abstract pluck and scratch, pretty much as you'd expect. B+(***)
Wednesday, May 28. 2014
It's often noted these days that Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since George McGill in 1932, serving until 1939. (For the record, John Martin was elected to a short term 1893-95, and William H. Thompson served a full term 1913-19. The only other non-Republicans were populists William A. Peffer, 1891-97, and William A. Harris, 1897-1903.) But people forget that the closest a Democrat has come since 1932 was 1974, when Bill Roy came within a few thousand votes of defeating incumbent Bob Dole.
It was one of the most memorable, and fateful, political campaigns in my memory. Many people nowadays regard Dole as a relatively moderate senior statesman, as one of the few Republicans who could work constructively with Democrats, but that ultimately says more about later generations of Republicans than it does about Dole -- whose last significant act in Congress was to force a government shutdown attempting to cower Bill Clinton. I'll return to Dole before I'm through here, but back in 1974 no one was thinking of Dole as anything other than as a far-right dogmatist (or a money-grubbing hack). Dole won his first Senate term in 1968 after what was then one of the dirtiest campaigns in memory, defeating popular Republican governor Bill Avery. And his reelection campaign in 1974 was even shadier, not least because it was the first time that abortion was used as a political issue in Kansas.
William R. Roy died on Monday, aged 88. He was a two-term Democratic congressman from Topeka, and ran twice for the Senate, losing by narrow margins to two Republicans who easily topped 60% running against anyone else. He was uncommonly qualified -- a medical doctor (OBGYN) from 1949-70, when he picked up a law degree and ran for congress. He was one of the smartest people to run for office in my lifetime, and one of the most fundamentally decent too -- a rare counterexample to the rule that American politics has descended from the "founding fathers" (many of the most broadly talented individuals in the nation) to the sort of "empty suit" hacks that populate Washington today.
Since leaving politics, Roy wrote regular columns for The Topeka Capital-Journal, some of which were picked up by The Wichita Eagle -- by far the best pieces to have appeared in the paper since I moved back to Kansas. (Oddly, the Eagle didn't run a piece on his death -- only a brief quote from their blog.) Kansas was lucky to have had him, even if ultimately we didn't deserve him.
A couple postscripts on Dole. Roy's Wikipedia page quotes him on running against Dole: "I was far from an admirer of Bob Dole, I'll tell you that. He'd been around and he had been pretty much a hatchet man, both in Kansas, and as far as President Nixon was concerned. And so I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to take him out of politics, which I thought was very important at that time." A lot of people fell for Dole's act later on, mostly I suspect out of a misguided sense of nostalgia, so I think it's important to remind us of what a miserable being Dole was in his prime. (The worst example I can think of in trying to present Dole as a folksy small-town lawyer appears in Tom Carson's otherwise brilliant novel Gilligan's Wake, drawn heavily on some journalism Carson wrote about visiting Russell, Kansas, and interviewing Dole's hometown folk.)
Nonetheless, there are significant differences between Dole and his Republican heirs. (Both Kansas Senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, came out of Dole's "big first" congressional district, now represented by Tea Party fanatic Tim Huelskamp, so you can chalk them up as literal heirs, but also consider today's hyperpartisan Republican congressional leadership, which have only become more dysfunctional since Dole and Newt Gingrich tried to shut down the government.) For one thing, Dole was old enough that even during his 1996 presidential campaign he quipped about the Democrats being the "war party" -- a commonplace among Republican isolationists (blaming Wilson and Roosevelt for US entry into the two world wars, and sometimes associating Truman and Johnson with Korea and Vietnam) -- a stake no modern Republican would concede. For another, when Dole wanted to establish his legacy stamp on American politics, he did so by pushing the Disabilities act, an expansion (and in fact a rather expensive one) of individual rights in the tradition of the New Deal and Great Society -- a horrifying thought for any Republican these days (although Bush's corrupt drug insurance expansion was another nod in that direction). In these two respects, Dole implicitly recognized two key principles deeply set in American history: the need to avoid foreign entanglements and wars, and the fact that the general welfare is marked by the progressive expansion of personal rights.
Of course, most likely Dole was being cynical on both counts. He never saw a foreign war he couldn't support, and he did everything he could to make this country more corrupt and inequal. And cynicism was often at the root of his famed sense of humor. (Although I'll always treasure one quip: seeing a picture of presidents Carter, Ford, and Nixon together, he said: "see-no-evil, hear-no evil, and evil.") Still, the world would have been a better place had Bill Roy driven Dole from politics in 1974. And we would be much better off if this was a state and nation where outstanding human beings like Bill Roy could be elected to high office.
Monday, May 26. 2014
Music: Current count 23334  rated (+28), 555  unrated (-3).
This covers two weeks, eight days of which were spent in New York City or flying there and back. I didn't shlep the computer, packed no music (even on my iPod Nano, which was hosted on a currently dead computer, and may very well have met the same fate), bought no music, and for that matter saw no music, so for present purposes those days were a wipeout. (Otherwise I had a fine time.) As for the other six days, they're about par for the course -- although I'm late posting today, and have only one new record to show for the day, because I spent quite a few hours on a woodworking project (which has a few more days to run).
Under "old music" I'm jumping around a bit on the Penguin Guide 4-stars, with occasional side-trips -- the old Konitz/Marsh record was only 3.5 stars, but designated "core collection," something I had wanted to check out. Could have spent much more time on Konitz 3.5 stars, but limited myself to the 12 Gershwin set since it was in my unrated queue. Under "new music" I pushed up the unreleased Steve Lehman after I saw an enthusiastic tweet from Chris Monsen, and wound up playing the record about eight times. A couple new records below were rated on the basis of partial plays (Roots, Max Johnson Trio), as online sources caught my attention then turned out to have gaps. Arguably I shouldn't bother with incomplete albums, but I wound up hedging them down a bit. I keep notes on that, and may revisit them when I get the chance.
Rhapsody Streamnotes will come out before the end of May. I have quite enough material already, but may sneak a couple more records in depending on how the timing works out. The super-brief summaries below previously appeared on my twitter feed -- good idea to follow me there as you'll get these notices in real time as well as other timely comments and links.
Recommended music links:
For what it's worth, grades on Tatum's records (first his, then mine):
Remarkably close, I'd say, the major exception being Todd Terje.
New records rated last two weeks:
Old records rated last two weeks:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
Sunday, May 25. 2014
Once again, my links are more scattered than usual, most picked up at the last minute scrounging through the usual suspects.
Also, a few links for further study:
I should also note that Richard Kieffer Feeley died this past week, way too young at age 34. He was the son of friends from my years in Boston, so I first met him when he was in his teens, looking forward to a life of much promise and interest. I never knew him well, but I do know that chronic illness dimmed those prospects. Such things happen, more frequently than most people realize. Indeed, it is only a deranged mind that thinks each person fully responsible for his or her fate, or indeed that ascribes fate at all.
Monday, May 19. 2014
In New York today, or more precisely Brooklyn, and traveling without computer so I don't have (and haven't been changing) my copy of the website. So no changes in rated stats. In fact, other than the forthcoming Miranda Lambert album (thanks to Robert Christgau) I've hardly heard any music since we left for the airport last Wednesday. Nor am I likely to hear much before we return to Wichita this coming Wednesday. Can't even say I'm missing it much. I doubt that I'll drop it from my life like I did baseball, if only because when I am home I have an exceptionally broad and deep collection of recorded music. But what has changed is my desire to add to it -- aka, the clutter. I've yet to buy a single CD this trip, nor did I buy any on my Florida trip. Aside from one trip to Detroit where we were preoccupied cleaning out my late sister-in-law's house, I don't think that's ever happened before.
Lots of changes since I was last here (2004), and especially since the last time I spent more than a week here (2001). The parking meter system has been replaced. Lots more pedestrian traffic is on wheels of some sort, and there's a bike rental system. I got a 7-day subway pass: don't think I'll get my money's worth this week, but seemed like a bargain at the time. Most important for me is that it seems like most of the city's book and record stores have vanished. I've only found two old familiar record stores, and was disappointed both times. J&R just shut down. St. Marks Bookstore is moving, and had most of their shelves empty. Even large Barnes & Nobles have disappeared. (I hear the original store is among the casualties.) I did manage to buy two books, in part because the one I was reading on the plane turned out not to be very good. Christgau gave me a lecture on the "great Satan" (Amazon), but I can hardly wait to get back to it. There is a connection, obviously, between discounting on the Internet and the loss of local businesses, but it's also true that those local businesses have terribly tiny inventories.
On the other hand, those empty storefronts have mostly been replaced with food and banks. The latter hold no real interest for me, and the restaurants have become much more expensive than I remembered, but the food stores are pretty amazing. It certainly would be a lot of fun to cook here, if only my body could handle the physical toil of getting around and doing all that shopping, and I had some elbow room and tools. Alas, this week has proved to be quite an ordeal -- one I won't be looking forward to repeating any time soon.
Still, despite all the hassles some good things have happened -- mostly seeing people I haven't seen in way too long. (Also haven't scrimped on the food.)
Monday, May 12. 2014
Music: Current count 23306  rated (+37), 558  unrated (+9).
Big, busy week, with a lot of exceptionally good records. Three of this week's records were picked by Dan Weiss as the best releases of January-April, although they actually only came out in May. One is the best record so far this year (Lily Allen), one edged onto my A-list (Wussy), and the other (Tune-Yards) I gave five plays to before filing it in the middling B+ third -- about where the two previous Tune-Yards albums landed. Those older albums only got two Rhapsody plays each -- well, Whokill got a third play when it was climbing up year-end lists, and that resulted in a downgrading. Those records struck me as alternately imaginative, invigorating, and annoying, and so I wondered if there was some misunderstanding that further listening might resolve. But more plays of Nikki Nack just produced the same chagrin. (Weiss, by the way, wrote a long review here.)
Two more A- records came off Chris Monsen's still short 2014 list. The piano trio strikes me as much more marginal, but that's partly because there's nothing in American jazz that remotely resembles EST's knack for combining pop with complex, whereas in Europe that's practically a genre. The blues ia also a niche item, but hits much harder from the git go.
The Sonny Rollins album is no surprise -- just what he does. The other two A- records were surprises. Ought I have some doubts about -- reminds me a bit of the first Jane's Addiction record, when its derivativeness was practically a badge of honor. Groups like that rarely hold up over the long run. On the other hand the main caveat on Young Mothers is the inconsistency between the CDR I got in the main and what's on the Bandcamp site.
As I noted last week, the one-liners below were first posted on my twitter feed -- sign up to get them more or less on the fly. Some, however, are, well, missing. I ran into trouble yesterday, falling behind while I fixed a rather elaborate dinner -- salmon teriyaki, pad thai, and about six small side dishes, with a pineapple upside down cake for dessert -- and fell behind. Normally, I'd make the effort to catch up, but today I'm packing for my trip to New York tomorrow, and I'll be mostly "off the grid" for the next week (aside for a "smart phone" that hasn't impressed me much yet). So maybe it's best right now to just let the empty slots stand, and start afresh when I get back.
Don't have time to post Rhapsody Streamnotes before I leave, so it, too, will have to wait.
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old records rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, May 11. 2014
Some scattered links this week, somewhat shortened because I've been distracted with other things today:
Also, a few links for further study:
This week's Piketty pieces:
Friday, May 9. 2014
Last week I wrote a letter to the Wichita Eagle, in response to Dominic Gates: Boeing plans layoffs, transfer of research jobs. The Eagle ran that letter (with minor edits) today:
The Eagle limits reader letters to 200 words, and there are a lot of points to try to squeeze in here. Someone could (and should, just not me) write a whole book about how Boeing's management operates, in what ways it's typical of large American companies and in what ways it's far out on the cutting edge of figuring out ways to screw its workers, its customers, the governments it corrupts, the public, and ultimately itself. For example, one point neither the article nor my letter bothers with is that Boeing's west coast engineers -- as well as Boeing's former engineers in Wichita, an operation they've already shut down -- are unionized. That, of course, has a lot to do with Boeing's desire to move jobs to anti-union states like South Carolina (as does the eagerness of state legislatures to pay Boeing millions of dollars to exploit their workers), but you really should stop and think about this state a bit. It really is very hard to unionize engineers, so try to imagine how badly Boeing must have treated its engineers for how long before they sought the protection of a union. (In Wichita, "right to work" Kansas, even the front office workers wound up joining the union, leading Boeing to shut down the whole plant.) The article does mention how demoralized Boeing's Seattle engineers are, but it's not just this latest move that's got them down. The whole 787 program, for instance, has been plagued by Boeing's decisions -- driven by cost-crunching and rent-seeking -- to sell off ever larger chunks of the design and manufacturing process.
I wrote some more about this piece for Weekend Roundup, but might as well post what I wrote here now:
Lots more can be said about this. But rather than slide down any number of rat holes, I'd like to point your attention to today's Wichita Eagle article on Boeing: Alwyn Scott: Boeing still working to increase production rates:
My emphasis: with all of Boeing's chronic problems, it says much that their prime management focus is propping up the share price. Those chronic problems are hinted at in following paragraphs:
So the only way Boeing can make up for the cheaper workers they hire in South Carolina is to hire more expensive contractors to do their work, or return that work to the higher wage workers back in Washington that they've been trying to get away from. Like I said above, as bad as these problems are already for assembly workers, they'll get orders of magnitude worse with engineers. One of the principles drilled into every engineer is the importance of getting it right the first time. That's evidently not a trait that Boeing expects in its management.
Monday, May 5. 2014
Music: Current count 23279  rated (+36), 549  unrated (-5).
Safe to predict that these elevated rated counts will start to go down. I did some cramming for Recycled Goods last week, but this week's projects involve working around the house, and next week I'll travel: flying to New York on the 13th; returning the 21st. I don't have any plans other than a dozen or so people I definitely want to see, and working around Laura's plans -- she's more into museums and such, but having seen all of them at one time or another I'm more into pedestrian pleasures. If you'll be in town and want to propose something, let me know. By the time I leave, I should at least compile a list of possible music, but that won't be a major focus.
You'll note that the brief generic tags I've previously used for newly rated records have given way to something wordier. Since I set up my Twitter account, I've been announcing new grades on the fly, and to make those tweets more review-like I've started to take advantage of the 140 character limit. And having gone to that trouble, it made sense to copy them into the scratch file for use here. They're a bit longer here: I omit labels from the tweets -- it occurs to me I probably should drop 2014 for new records, too -- and sometimes have to squeeze something that would make more sense expanded a bit. Current stats: 63 tweets, 26 followers. My own "following" is still pretty limited, but has already proved helpful in constructing things like yesterday's Weekend Roundup and in adding to the music links below.
Lots of good records below: had a couple days where I was shaking my head after running through three A- records in a roll. Playing another one at the moment, but save that for next week (or twitter).
Recommended music links:
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old records rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, May 4. 2014
Some scattered links this week. First, Crowson today, on Governor Sam Brownback, following the news that his Arthur Laffer-approved tax cuts have resulted in a massive shortfall in state tax revenues, while the state economy has lagged behind virtually every other state:
Phillip Brownlee comments in WE Blog:
Other notable links this week, more than usual from my hometown paper:
Also, a few links for further study:
Cut this short to wallow in my poverty and watch some TV. There's just way too much wretchedness to follow, especially when the answers are so straightforward.
Saturday, May 3. 2014
Last Streamnotes column came out April 15, so I figured I'd play it safe and set up the next draft file for May. That was all the hint I needed to wait until the calendar turned, even though this one had grown exceptionally large (102 records, second only to March 19's 109). Until recently, the mix was tilted heavily toward old music, so I've spent the last week trying to narrow the difference. Also hit a lode of exceptional records at the end -- added Biskin, Strypes, and Supreme Cuts as I was trying to wrap this up, with the two African collections (from Jason Gubbels this week) and Deena added just last night.
The "Old Music" section continues my search for Penguin Guide 4-star albums, something I've written about quite enough already. My current estimate is that I'll find another 200 such records on Rhapsody. Looks like about one-third of those will wind up with A- (or better) grades, very few of the rest falling below mid-B+. Penguin Guide has never been a perfect guide, but it remarkable both for its breadth and depth of survey.
As my old music searches have tended to be thematic lately, I thought it would look neater to break out new reissues, compilations, and vault music. I don't normally come across a lot there, but maybe this will spur me on.
A bit less than half of the new music is jazz reviewed from my dwindling queue of promo CDs. It's fairly arbitrary now what comes in and what doesn't, but something I've resolved not to worry about. Still haven't transitioned meaningfully away from writing about music to other things, but the floor has started to tilt that way.
If you are following me on Twitter you will already have seen most of the grades here with necessarily briefer notes.
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 April 15. Past reviews and more information are available here (4795 records).
New Releases (More or Less)
Kris Adams: Longing (2012-13 , Jazzbird): Jazz singer, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory, currently teaches at Berklee. Third album. Three originals, one preferring pulled pork to pasta bolognese (in Italy no less), not-quite-standard covers -- a Cole Porter, a Joni Mitchell, one from Brazil (but not Jobim), two from Norma Winstone, one Abbey Lincoln. Nice sax breaks. Too much scat. B [cd]
Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet (2011 , Clean Feed): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, has always leaned free but seems more prickly than usual here, all the better to match up with guitarist Manuel Mota. Three long joint improvs, backed on bass and drums by Hernani Faustino and Gabriel Ferrandini -- perhaps you recognize them as two-thirds of RED Quartet? A- [cd]
Marsha Ambrosius: Fvck & Love (2014, self-released, EP): Brit neo-soul singer, has a 2011 LP that wasn't very good but turned some heads with this six-track EP, about 25 minutes, though I'm not hearing much more than the slow grind and soft moans of simulated sex. B+(*) [dl]
Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me (2012 , Whirlwind): Pianist, AMG lists two albums but I've heard three, reportedly draws on experiences in Haiti for the struggle here but it's hard to hear that. Also unclear what guitarist Ben Monder brings to the party, but Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, well, this is his best performance in years, especially with the pianist providing the dense undergrowth for his jungle bop. A- [cd]
Drake Bell: Ready Steady Go! (2014, Surfdog): B. 1986, and he really knows how to make you feel old: e.g., "produced by Bell's childhood idol, Stray Cats founder Brian Setzer," which means this copycat rock and roll is at least four generations removed, enough that covering Billy Joel and Freddie Mercury seems no further off the mark than Ray Davies and Roy Wood. B-
Andy Biskin Ibid: Act Necessary (2012 , Strudelmedia): Clarinet player, says his original idea for this group was a chamber jazz thing with three horns and bass, but when he replaced the bassist with a drummer the music opened up. Sure did. Helps that the drummer is Jeff Davis, and the brass contrast is provided by Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Brian Drye (trombone), but no one made more of the freedom than the leader. A- [cd]
Mark Buselli: Untold Stories (2013 , OA2): Trumpet player, also has a big band working out of Indianapolis (Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra). This is a quintet, mainstream leaning toward swing, Danny Walsh on sax, Steve Allee on piano (Allee wrote 4 pieces, Buselli 2, Ellington 1). B+(**)
Brian Charette: Square One (2014, Posi-Tone): Organ trio with Yotam Silberstein on guitar and Mark Ferber on drums. Some of this sounds conventional, most notably the opening groove, while some is something else, but when the organ backs off there's not much left. B+(**)
Ty Citerman: Bop Kabbalah (2013 , Tzadik): Guitarist, first album after a decade with the group Gutbucket. Quartet, two horns -- Ben Holmes on trumpet and Ken Thomson on bass clarinet, a nice combination -- plus drums, picks up pieces of klezmer then improvises them away. B+(***) [cdr]
The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope (2013 , Mack Avenue): Guitarist Cline is credited with "voice," but that's just something fed into one of his effects gadgets -- no singing here. With Trevor Dunn on bass, Scott Amendola on drums, everyone on effects, and scattered guests including Zeena Parkins' electric harp, fusion with a lot of shine and shimmer, but they always seem to come up lame at the end when they should be doubling down. B+(***) [cd]
Rodney Crowell: Tarpaper Sky (2014, New West): After albums where he played second fiddle to Mary Karr and Emmylou Harris, Crowell returns with his best collection of original songs in years. Especially the last two, one dedicated to Guy Clark with just that craft, the other to John Denver a soporific too pretty to bemoan. A-
Deena: Rock River (2014, Verbena Music): Cucumbers girl Deena Shoshkes keeps hanging in there, releasing records every couple years with a few songs that remind you of the great album she and Jon Fried released in 1987, but never this many before. The first song I noticed here was the one with her riff on Superman the slob, but after several plays it's slipped behind the pack, mostly put over by her giant smile of a voice. A- [cd]
Jeff Denson & Claudio Puntin: Two (2008-10 , Pfmentum): Denson plays double bass, while Puntin's credits read "clarinet, bass clarinet, analog preparations, tarcas, but Denson has the upper hand, generating a wide range of sound from his instrument while Puntin fills in the cracks and pretties up the noise. Except when Denson uses his voice -- kind of hard to clean that up. B+(**) [cd]
Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I'll Fly Away (2013 , Pfmentum): Bass and piano, respectively. Three takes of the title tune fairly leap out of the grooves, at least the heads, while the various improvs on them wander amusingly. Other standards -- "Down at the Cross," "Amazing Grace," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Crying in the Chapel" -- get the same clever treatment but the earthly melodies are what stick with you. B+(***) [cd]
Thom Douvan: Brother Brother (2013 , self-released): West Coat guitarist, grew up in Ann Arbor, played with the Funk Brothers 1985-92 and styles this as a tribute to them: mostly Motown classics, group includes sax (Tony Malfatti), organ (mostly Duncan McMillan), and drums (five guys). Easy groove music plus a bit of nostalgia. B [cd]
Fear of Men: Loom (2014, Kanine): British trio, singer-lyricist named Jessica Weiss, has bits of shoegaze and trip hop and possibly "the broken optimism and beleaguered pop genius of the Smiths" -- hooks anyway, I'm really lousy at deciphering lyrics, even (perhaps especially) "jarringly direct lyrics of existential angst and emotional bankruptcy" (quotes from Fred Thomas at AMG). All I know is that they've got an interesting sound, and if there's any real depth to them they could be worth digging into. B+(***)
Lisa Ferraro: Serenading the Moon (2013 , Pranavasonic Universal): Standards singer, previously known as Lisa Yvonne Ferraro, is based in San Francisco, has a handful of albums since 2002, sometimes appears in a duo with guitarist Erika Luckett. Not exceptional but she gives fine readings of timeless songs, and was smart and/or fortunate enough to come up with an all-star band: she gives Houston Person "featuring" credit on the front cover, as she should, but John DiMartino, James Chirillo, Ray Drummond, and (especially) Lewis Nash are also names worth bandying about. B+(***) [cd]
Future: Honest (2014, Epic): Atlanta rapper, Nayvadius Wilburn, second studio album, credits list runs 75 deep and co-writers include Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and André Benjamin. Has a nice ring to it, cluttered but contained. B+(**)
Paulinho Garcia: Beautiful Love (2013 , Shrinktunes): Brazilian guitarist-vocalist, from Belo Horizonte, moved to Chicago in 1979, has a handful of albums. Mostly American standards, one Jobim, one original. Has a slight, scratchy voice that ultimately proves charming. B+(**) [cd]
Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks (2013 , Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, has been on a furious run since he retired from his day job, mostly with this quartet, which deserves another hearing in no small part because trombonist Michael Vlatkovich has never pushed the leader harder. A- [cd]
Elias Haslanger: Live at the Gallery (2013 , Cherrywood): Tenor saxophonist based in Austin, TX -- I guess that nominates him for membership in the long line of Texas tenors -- with a handful of albums since 1994. Backed here by organ, guitar, bass and drums, all good for a groove-oriented blowing session. B+(*) [cd]
Homeboy Sandman: White Sands (2014, Stones Throw, EP): New York rapper, prefers to release records in vinyl-length doses, this one typical at seven cuts, 26:32, and in most other respects too. B+(***)
Kelis: Food (2014, Ninja Tune): Previous best record (by far) was called Tasty. This isn't. B-
Live From Festival Au Desert Timbuktu (2013, Clermont Music): Eighteen cuts by as many acts, some known beyond their Saharan range, some not. Most I find rather harsh, and while some manage to come together powerfully, thus far they are in the minority. Christgau told me this is the one record from 2013 that really grew on him. My two spins may not give it justice, but at least they gave it a shot. B+(***) [dl]
Dominic J. Marshall Trio: Spirit Speech (2013 , Origin): Pianist, b. 1989 in Scotland, raised in Salisbury, now based in Amsterdam. Third album, a trio with Tobias Nijboer on bass and Jamie Peet on drums. Postbop, often striking. B+(*) [cd]
Mike Marshall/Turtle Island Quartet: Mike Marshall & the Turtle Island Quartet (2013 , Adventure Music): Mandolinist, started in bluegrass then discovered mandolins have a role in chorro and plunged deep into Brazilian music. Not much evidence of that here, but well-traveled new age string quartet benefits from the mandolin's pluck. B [cd]
The Menzingers: Rented World (2014, Epitaph): A punkish band of some repute if little distinction, probably a good personal resolution not wanting "to be an asshole anymore," maybe not the sharpest move artistically. B
Sei Miguel: Salvation Modes (2005-12 , Clean Feed): Trumpeter, b. 1961 in Paris, based in Portugal since the 1980s, dusts off some old compositions, three pieces with different groups but a similar hushed underground murkiness. B+(*) [cd]
Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce: Complicated Day (2013 , Enja/Yellow Bird): Alto saxophonist, co-leader of the Jazz Passengers (with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, who appears here), has an admirable knack for combining avant and pop in ways that are true to both, but not everything he does works, especially his indulgences in vocals. This is his third Sotto Voce project, rotating vocals democratically throughout the band, none terribly good but occasionally charming, especially on a song like "Slow Boat to China." B+(**)
The Ocular Concern: Sister Cities (2013 , PJCE): Portland quintet, principally Dan Duval (electric guitar) and Andrew Oliver (electric piano), with clarinet, drums, and vibraphone, plus bandoneon and three-fourths of a string quartet on their "Sister Cities Suite." Chamber jazz, I guess, eclectically quasi-classical. B+(*)
Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri: Two Men Walking (2013 , Leo): Tenor sax and viola duet, the two following the same general path but separately, sometimes acknowledging the other but not tracking too closely. Avant purists may give this the edge over Perelman's more conventional trio and quartet records -- two just released -- because this one is freer, but that also makes it more difficult, more work and less fun. B+(***)
Ivo Perelman: Book of Sound (2013 , Leo): Sax trio with William Parker on bass but no drummer -- pianist Matthew Shipp has to suffice, but he plays as though there is no such thing as the drummer's job. Terrific pianist, of course -- no one has more experience comping behind avant-sax greats (e.g., David S. Ware). Not sure Perelman is one, but he's very good, and has developed a technique with short curved lines, kind of like Van Gogh's maddest strokes. B+(***)
Ivo Perelman: The Other Edge (2014, Leo): Recorded in January, first I've noticed this year. Conventional sax quartet with Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and Whit Dickey (drums), which is to say Shipp's most common piano trio. A regular beat pumps up the energy level, and when the beat strays Perelman just works harder. The best of this batch, and one of his best ever. A-
Xavi Reija: Resolution (2013 , Moonjune): Spanish (or Catallan) drummer, leads an "electric trio" with Daisan Jevtovic on guitar and Bernat Hernandez on bass. Sharp beats, not that they're all that regular but they keep it moving, and the guitarist is someone to remember. B+(***) [cd]
Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center (2013 , Delmark): Chicago bassist, has played with everyone in town, has a couple previous albums (including a solo) but this is his big move so he rounded up the stars: Greg Ward (alto sax), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Josh Berman (cornet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), and Mike Reed (drums) -- doesn't seem to be a piano town. My first reaction was to note how bassist-composers tend to follow Mingus, but the liner notes suggest that he's aiming for Ellington. Hits the mark here and there, too, e.g. in "Dirt Cheap." B+(***) [cd]
Mehmet Ali Sanlikol: Whatsnext? (2014, Dunya): Turkish composer and ethnomusicologist, studied classical piano in Boston, worked his way through the musical crossroads of Instanbul, wound up here "full circle" in big band jazz -- which seems to mean Third Stream with the occasional ney. B+(*)
Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (2013 , Masterworks): Probably the best jazz violinist around, I was rather taken aback in 2008 when she released a vocal album as some sort of country chanteuse. I much preferred the jazz album she released at the same time, and had forgotten about her as a singer in 2012 when she released Mischief & Mayhem, even better. Now she's back singing again, her voice flavored with a whiff of high and lonesome, and her songwriting has matured so much that every song offers real human interest. Takes the occasional fiddle break, too. A- [cdr]
Sara Serpa & André Matos: Primavera (2013 , Circle Music): Singer, has a handful of albums including one with Ran Blake, teams up here with a Portuguese guitarist with a similar set of minor works. She plays keyboards on a few cuts, Leo Genovese guests on a couple tunes, and Greg Osby and Pete Rende show up once each. Has an approximate Brazilian vibe but is really too awkward for that. C+ [cd]
Bruce Springsteen: American Beauty (2014, Columbia, EP): Four songs, 14:44, outtakes from High Hopes released on vinyl for Record Store Day and dumped on digital. Two ballads are minor. Two ravers are weirdly distorted. C+
Peter Stampfel and the Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron: Better Than Expected (2014, Don Giovanni): No idea who the banjoists are but none sound like anyone I'd recognize. Most of the 16 "songs" have titles like "G Tuning #3" or "Vocal Exercise" or "Group Improvisation." That leaves the "Sukiyaki" cover, "Castor and Pollux," "Eat That Roadkill," "Theme for the Exodus from Bushwick to Ridgewood," and the hitbound "NSA Man" -- no doubts about who the singer is. B+(**)
The Strypes: Snapshot (2013 , Virgin): I suppose it's inevitable that youngsters will approach vintage rock and roll through intermediaries, but better Rockpile than the Stray Cats -- not just better models but closer to the source. This Irish group covers Nick Lowe and wrote one new song that's a near clone, but they also cover Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, and "Rollin' & Tumblin'" -- their debut album is styled as a snapshot of their live act -- while the originals reflect and refract the Yardbirds' guitars. I can't complain about imitation: this makes me feel exactly like Having a Rave-Up did fifty years ago. A
Supreme Cuts: Divine Ecstasy (2014, Dovecote): Chicago laptop duo (Mike Perry, Austin Keultjes), second album, mix up all sorts of things but never lose track of the dance beat. A-
Yosvany Terry: New Throned King (2013 , 5Pasion): Cuban saxophonist, moved to New York in 1999, looks back here not just to Cuba but through it back to Africa via the Arará culture, one of several African religions to survive slavery. Heavy on percussion and vocals, including Ishmael Reed reading a poem. Could use more sax. B+(***) [cd]
Tweens: Tweens (2014, Frenchkiss): Bridget Battle's riot grrrl band, likes to reach for the pop hook then bury it in distortion, which hardly qualifies as a pop hook, and I'm not so sure about the rest. B
Colin Vallon: Le Vent (2013 , ECM): Swiss pianist, leads a trio with Patrice Moret on bass and Julian Sartorius on drums. Precise, thoughtful, hits that moderate pace so favored of ECM pianists. B+(**) [dl]
Jerry Vivino: Back East (2013 , Blujazz): Tenor saxophonist, plays in Conan O'Brien's house band, has a couple albums, backed here by Brian Charette on organ, Bob DeVos on guitar, and Andy Sanesi on drums, mostly standards and vamp pieces as he goes for a soft soul jazz album. Starts with a bit of spoken word. Ends with his vocal on "Squeeze Me." B+(**) [cd]
Ken Watters/Ingrid Felts: Watters/Felts Project (2013 , Summit): Trumpet player and singer, respectively, backed by piano, bass, drums, and percussion. First cut, "Fine & Mellow," is terrific, as is the mostly vocalless closer. B+(***) [cd]
David White Jazz Orchestra: The Chase (2013 , Mister Shepherd): Trombonist-led conventional big band, second album, six cuts, runs 34:12. B+(*)
Jessica Williams: With Love (2013-14 , Origin): Solo piano, something she's done a lot of, all but one standards here (including "Summertime" and "Somewhere"), done rather slow without dwelling on the obvious. B+(**) [cd]
Norma Winstone: Dance Without Answer (2012 , ECM): British jazz singer, has a long career on the periphery of the avant-garde, backed here by Glauco Venier (piano) and Klaus Gesing (soprano sax, bass clarinet), all of which nicely frame her voice. A mix of originals, trad pieces with new lyrics, covers (Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Madonna, Fred Neil), "It Might Be You." B+(**) [dl]
Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (2014, self-released): The former is Jeffrey Williams, an Atlanta rapper with a well-regarded mixtape last year plus ties to Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame. Know nothing about his partner, who presumably has something to do with the snarky beats and turgid mix. B- [dl]
ZZ Quartet: Beyond the Lines (2012 , In + Out): The Z's are Ratko Zjaca (guitar) and Simone Zanchini (accordion, live electronics), backed by bass and drums (Adam Nussbaum). Second album together, first as ZZ Quartet. The accordion gives it a European folk jazz feel, eliciting some swing. B+(**) [cd]
Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Balani Show Super Hits: Electronic Street Parties From Mali (, Sahelsounds): From Mali, starting with DJ Balani and DJ Bamanan and picking up another half-dozen artists I've never heard of. Don't know when these were recorded, but the drum-heavy style started in the late 1990s and "continues to evolve." A- [bc]
The Beatles: A Jazz Tribute (2002-05 , High Note): The standard jazz songbook hasn't changed much since the 1950s, but here and there somone tries to squeeze in a pop tune from the '60s or '70s -- rarely much later (Bad Plus on Nirvana and the Thing on Yeah Yeah Yeahs are exceptions that come to mind and basically prove the rule). None have been tried more often than the Beatles, and more often than not to awful effect. This isn't so bad, but due to label limits draws three George songs from Joel's Harrison on Harrison and leans picks up a couple vocals, including a short bit of Sheila Jordan. B [cd]
Joe Beck: Get Me (2006 , Whaling City Sound): Late guitarist (1945-2008), had close to thirty records starting in the late 1960s, perhaps the best known working with singer Esther Phillips. This is a live date at Annie's Jazz Island in Berkeley [CA], mostly ballads backed with bass and drums, a fair amount of patter including a story about partying with Jobim, introducing "Corcovado." Very personable, works nicely as memorabilia. B+(***) [cd]
Decaler Balani (2011, Masalacism, EP): The French notes here suggest the Malian electronic music known as Balani (see Balani Show Super Hits) was invented in 2006. Don't know whether these remixes date back from the release year, but they flesh out the drums-first tracks a bit without much change. B+(***) [bc]
The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (1965 , Elemental, 2CD): Archive dig uncovers two live sets: the first a trio with Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums); the second a quartet with Don Friedman (piano), Barre Phillips (bass), and Chambers. Giuffre plays clarinet and tenor sax, the pieces (originals except for Ornette Coleman's "Crossroads") moving well into free territory. B+(***) [cd]
Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One: Vol. 2: More Pili (1981-83 , Sterns Africa): Kenyan band, led by Moreno Batamba (d. 1993), not sure exactly when these were cut but the West African soukous is as upbeat and inspired as the previous volume, the vocals a bit harsh but the guitar sheer paradise. A-
Guy Barker: Soundtrack (2001 , Provocateur): British trumpet player b. 1957, has ten albums since 1991. No idea why the unappetizing title -- most reviewers suggest a tribute to the 1940s (or 1950s), the supple textures of the septet little shy of sumptuous. The band notably includes pianist Bernardo Sassetti, who's done remarkable soundtrack work himself. B+(***)
Gordon Beck Trio: Gyroscope (1968 , Art of Life): British pianist (1936-2011), relatively early trio with Jeff Clyne on bass and Tony Oxley on drums, following his marvelous Experiments With Pops (an early side credit for John McLaughlin). Oxley tries to draw out Beck's inner Cecil Taylor, but doesn't quite succeed. B+(**)
Gordon Beck: One for the Road (1995, JMS): Solo piano, with bits of organ, Fender Rhodes, and Korg M1 synth slipped in -- minor shifts in color and tone. Follows his superb Bill Evans tribute (For Evans' Sake). B+(*)
Gunnar Bergsten & Peter Nordahl: Play Lars Gullin (2000 , Proprius): Bergsten (1945-2011) was a Swedish baritone saxophonist, as was their subject here, the great Lars Gullin (1928-76). Nordahl plays piano, and these are straightforward duets on Gullin's compositions. Fairly minor, but lovely. B+(***)
Peter Bernstein + 3: Heart's Content (2002 , Criss Cross): Guitarist, fifteen albums since 1992 -- including a tribute to Tal Farlow, one reference point, although in many ways he's right in the middle of everyone from Montgomery to Metheny -- plus lots of side credits. This particular album is distinguished by the "+3" -- Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums) -- but both sides of the equation make rather nice. B+(***)
Paul Bley/Gary Peacock: Mindset (1992 , Soul Note): Piano-bass duo, caught with the pianist in a particularly reflective mood, so not much action or volume, not that there needs to be. The bassist is attentive as usual. B+(**)
Jane Ira Bloom: The Red Quartets (1997-99 , Arabesque): Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specializing in the instrument. Two sessions but only one quartet here, with Fred Hersch on piano (rich and intricate), Mark Dresser on bass (firm but tricky), and Bobby Previte on drums (dependable). A-
Don Braden Septet: After Dark (1993 , Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream guy with a large, warm tone that should be a nice fit for a little quiet storm romance, but the extra horns -- Scott Wendholt (trumpet), Steve Wilson (alto sax), and Noah Bless (trombone) -- crowd out the intimacy, even while the rhythm section (notably Darrell Grant on piano) warms it up. B+(**)
Ruby Braff: Braff Plays Wimbledon: First Set (1996, Zephyr): Cornet player, a swing throwback in the bebop '50s and still following his own muse as he nears 70. A live set with Brian Lemon on piano and Howard Alden on guitar, with Warren Vaché (flugelhorn) and Roy Williams (trombone) joining in for a couple cuts. B+(***)
Ruby Braff: Braff Plays Wimbledon: Second Set (1996, Zephyr): Another hour-plus, pretty much interchangeable with the first, no songs repeated. B+(***)
Anthony Braxton: News From the '70s (1971-76 , Felmay): Six pieces from five scattered sessions, three with different quartets, one duet with bassist Dave Holland, two relatively short solo pieces; the only non-Braxton composition is a quartet piece by Holland. Nothing super-compelling, but a good sampling of Braxton's more intimate work from the period. B+(***)
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (1985 , Leo, 2CD): Two sets with Braxton's great quartet of the decade -- Marilyn Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- averaging 41 minutes, each opening a disc that concludes with a 30-minute interview with Braxton. The interviews are interesting but not something you'll want to return to with any frequency. B+(*)
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Birmingham) 1985 (1985 , Leo, 2CD): Two 45-minute sets plus a brief encore, each set made up of four Braxton compositions, not separated into tracks because each of the four musicians pick them up at different spots. Wouldn't make much of a difference anyway: from a distance they're interchangeable, but up close you notice remarkable passages from everyone. B+(***)
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (London) 1985 (1985 , Leo, 2CD): Looks like the bigger the city, the longer they play -- the two sets are 56:10 and 65:30 this time. Similar to the Birmingham and Coventry dates, a marvelous quartet cycling through various pieces that give them maximum opportunity to improvise. A-
Anthony Braxton: Eugene (1989) (1989, Black Saint): Eight compositions recorded at the University of Oregon with Braxton conducting a local 16-piece band, the Northwest Creative Orchestra as well as taking his usual spectacular solos. The band is loud and ugly, impressive and annoying by turns. B+(*)
Willem Breuker Kollektief & Loes Luca: Deze Kant Op, Dames!/This Way, Ladies (1992 , BV Haast): Theatre music, text by Ischa Meijer, featured vocalist the operatic Loes Luca though she's hardly the only singer. I can't follow the book (presumably in Dutch), but I do appreciate the influence of Kurt Weill on the music, plus a bit of Ellington. B+(*)
Willem Breuker Kollektief: The Parrot (1980-95 , BV Haast): Thirteen tracks from seven sessions over fifteen years, the personnel change is massive aside from the leader and pianist Henk de Jonge, but every combination is loud and rowdy and more or less amusing, depending on how the marches and polkas and boogie woogie and art-song and whatever strike you. Some of this is wonderful, like "Wolkbreuk III" -- at least until the circus break. B+(**)
Willem Breuker Kollektief/Loes Luca: Kurt Weill (1983-97 , BV Haast): Sixteen Kurt Weill tunes from eight sessions, always a touchstone for Breuker, and treated more respectably than usual, giving the album more consistency than its scattered sources suggest. Luca sings on six tracks. B+(***)
Willem Breuker: Psalm 122 (1998, BV Haast): Bible text, recorded in Posthoorn Church, Amsterdam, with a huge choir, the Trytten Strings, and the usual suspects. Choral music is a big turnoff for me, nor does this improve much once the band takes over. B-
Baikida Carroll: Shadows and Reflections (1982, Soul Note): Trumpet player from St. Louis, only has a handful of records under his own name (and Rhapsody files this one under drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff -- they systematically screw up Black Saint/Soul Note artists, so best to search by title). Strong date with Julius Hemphill (alto sax), Anthony Davis (piano), Dave Holland (bass), and Ak Laff. B+(**)
Dick Cary's Tuesday Night Friends: Got Swing? (2000 , Arbors): Cary (1916-94) played piano and trumpet, wrote vast numbers of tunes, and cut Dick Cary & His Tuesday Night Friends a year before he died. That last band returns here -- actually their second album -- with Dick Hamilton moving from trombone to trumpet and leading. Cary arrangements for 8-10 musicians, half originals, half covering names like Armstrong, Ellington, and Henderson. B+(**)
John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes (1961 , Impulse): Following the 1997 release of the 4-CD The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings, this adds two tracks (28:32) to the 1962 LP's original three (36:11). Coltrane's quartet is nearly doubled here -- McCoy Tyner remains the sole pianist, but add Reggie Workman on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and most importantly Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and alto sax. Coltrane has rarely played with more passion (and that's saying something), but extraordinary as this is, the box never tails off either. A
Jon Corbett/Steve Done: Another Fine Mess (1994 , Slam): Trumpet-guitar duo, both British free jazz players. The trumpet has a relatively hollow feel, the guitar even more sketchy, but the combination remains interesting. B+(**)
Andrew Cyrille/Jeanne Lee/Jimmy Lyons: Nuba (1979, Black Saint): Alto saxophonist Lyons is terrific here, and the drummer does his usual impeccable job. Only caveat is Lee, who is an arresting singer (here and elsewhere) but voice-as-instrument is almost never a welcome addition, even with a voice as remarkable as hers. B+(***)
Andrew Cyrille: Good to Go, With a Tribute to Bu (1995 , Soul Note): Rhapsody files this one under bassist Lisle Atkinson, and it's hard to find by title because the silly search does an OR instead of an AND. Begins and ends with takes of "A Tribute to Bu" -- that would be Art Blakey, but you'd know that if you heard it. A trio with flautist James Newton -- I dare say never better. A-
Satoko Fujii/Mark Dresser/Jim Black: Toward, "To West" (1998 , Enja): Avant piano trio, AMG's review says, "the dynamism of Cecil Taylor and the serenity of Abdullah Ibrahim" -- pretty close, but bassist and drumer want to push her toward, and past, Taylor, and they have their way. A-
Satoko Fujii Orchestra: Jo (1998 , Buzz): Big band, 15 pieces, looks to be mostly from New York and Boston. Rowdy group, even break out in song at one point; complex and rarely chaotic, but nothing grabs me either on energy or finnesse. Title translates as Beginning. B+(**)
Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer: Recorded Fall 1961 (1961 , Verve): The trombonist wrote three (of six) tunes -- the others are standards -- and generally takes the lead, which is not generally how I would produce it, but then I'll never be mistaken for Creed Taylor. Steve Kuhn is a bright spot at piano. B+(**)
The Stan Getz Quartet: Pure Getz (1982, Concord Jazz): Quartet with Jim McNeely on piano, Marc Johnson on bass, and either Billy Hart or Lewis Nash on drums. All covers (one from McNeely), ending with a rousing "Tempus Fugit." B+(***)
Terry Gibbs: Dream Band, Vol. 6: One More Time (1959 , Contemporary): Vibraphonist, came up through big bands (Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman). He put his LA-based Dream Band together 1959-62 and belatedly released five volumes of their work 1986-92, then discovered this sixth on the shelf a decade later. Live shots from two shows in Hollywood, the band includes some names I recognize (like Conte Candoli and Mel Lewis), but they are loud and rowdy, everyone kicking up a ruckus, except when the lady sings -- Irene Kral for three tracks before they end with 10:32 of "Jumpin' at the Woodside." A-
Jimmy Giuffre: The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet (1956 , Collectables): Giuffre started out in Woody Herman's sax section -- the famous Four Brothers, named for his song -- but soon after switched to clarinet, shedding virtually every trace of bop or swing in favor of what he called "blues-based folk jazz" -- really a particularly austere form of free jazz. This is early, a set of rough sketches with various lineups including a solo opener. B+(***)
Benny Goodman: Plays Eddie Sauter (1939-46 , Hep): One of several compilations Hep put together to focus on Goodman's arrangers -- Plays Jimmy Mundy and Plays Fletcher Henderson are the others. These pieces are later, about half with vocals. Would help to have a good booklet to put the arranger into better context, but you'd have to check the actual CD to see whether that's the case. B+(**)
Jon Gordon: Along the Way (1997, Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, more than a dozen albums since 1989; this one backed by Kevin Hays (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums), with Mark Turner joining in on tenor sax. B+(***)
Wycliffe Gordon: What You Dealin' With (2001, Criss Cross): Trombone player, early album, a sextet with Ryan Kisor on trumpet and two saxes (Victor Goines and Herb Harris) but no piano. Features four Ellington tunes, one from Dizzy Gillespie, "Cherokee," and the title funk thang -- wouldn't say he was trad but definitely steeped deep in the tradition yet he breaks with it in interesting ways. B+(***)
Simon Goubert: Haïti (1991, Seventh): French drummer, first album (Discogs lists 14 to 2011), first side includes a long Coltrane-ish "Take Five" and a shorter "Naïma"; second Goubert's 21:39 title cut. The rhythm section unleashes the saxophonists -- Jean-Michel Couchet on alto, Steve Grossman on tenor and soprano -- and the drum solo is pretty intense too. A-
Dusko Goykovich: Portrait: A 70th Birthday Celebration (1949-99 , Enja): Yugoslavian trumpet player, b. 1931 in Bosnia but ethnically Serbian (if you care) -- in any case, spent most of his career in Germany, finally emerging with a series of fine albums in the 1990s (e.g., Bebop City). Got the dates from Penguin Guide, but otherwise don't know the providence of this Festschrift, but no matter how scattered the pieces, they flow together just fine. A-
Jerry Granelli UFB: Broken Circle (1996, Intuition): Drummer, tends toward fusion but not that simple -- he likes to work with guitar, and this group (second of two UFB albums) gives him two (Kai Bruckner, Christial Kogel) as well as bass (Andreas Walter). Most compelling upbeat, but "Crazy Horse's Dream" calls for deeper space. B+(***)
Jerry Granelli: Music Has Its Way With Me (1999, Perimeter): Last-name only on the front cover, but the only band member not listed under "featuring" is the drummer: his bassist son J. Anthony Granelli is listed along with Christian Kögel (guitar), Jamie Saft (keybs), and DJ Stinkin' Rich (vocals, turntable), nowadays better known as Buck 65. DJ's beats are central here, the jazzmen stretching them out in offhanded ways. B+(***)
Stéphane Grappelli/Joe Pass/Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark (1979 , Pablo/OJC): Violin, guitar, and bass, respectively, playing old standards: "It's Only a Paper Moon," "How Deep Is the Ocean," "I Get a Kick Out of You" -- the odd one out is "Crazy Rhythm," which I associate with Grappelli's old Hot Club de Paris partner, Django Reinhardt. B+(**)
Green Room: Live Trajectories (1996, Leo Lab): Scottish avant trio: David Baird (chapman stick), Chick Lyall (piano), David Garrett (percussion), each with asides that make for a wide range of experimental, often random sound. B+(**)
Frank Lowe: The Flam (1975 , Black Saint): Three horns in front of bass and drums, with Leo Smith (trumpet) and Joseph Bowie (trombone) vying with the tenor saxophonist on perhaps the most inspired free dash of his career. Rhapsody, by the way, files this under bassist Alex Blake, who makes a big impression indeed. A-
The Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet: Never Let It End (1970 , MPS): German trombonist (1928-2005), a key figure in the European avant-garde -- don't know about his albums back to 1962 but this one with Heinz Sauer (tenor and alto sax), Günter Lenz (bass), and Ralf Hübner (drums) is pretty far out there. The key, though, isn't in the occasional erruption but how menacing the tension is because that's when you hear the growl of the trombone. A-
Albert Mangelsdorff: A Jazz Tune I Hope (1978 , MPS): Another quartet, with Wolfgang Dauner (piano), Eddie Gomez (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums), so trombone is the only horn. That limits the noise level, and Dauner and the Americans are happy to leave this in the mainstream, even swing a little. B+(**)
Louis Sclavis: Clarinettes (1984-85 , IDA): Early in the French clarinetist's career, mostly solo clarinet and bass clarinet (two tracks add a bit of percussion), originals plus covers of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, trying to explore the limits of the instruments. B+(***)