Monday, December 30. 2013
Music: Current count 22655  rated (+49), 572  unrated (-12).
Again, paying more attention to catching up on Rhapsody with what I didn't get than minding my own incoming queue -- for 2013, anyhow, now down to 5 records (compared to 9 I still haven't reviewed from 2012, or 21 I never got around to from 2006). I feel like I've worked pretty hard this year. The year-end list, which I'll make a frozen copy of sometime in the next week or two, currently shows ratings for 1109 releases this year. That's up from 976 records by freeze time in 2012 -- the current 2012 file, which I'll stop adding to tomorrow, has 1181 grades, but 205 of them were added since last year's freeze, so are really part of this year's workload -- and is probably more than in any year since I've been keeping track. I've also done some substantial Recycled Goods columns (see the 2013 index), so the actual rated count since Dec. 31, 2012 has increased by 1783 records (22655 - 20874). That's probably too much, and there are certainly cases where I didn't spend enough time or wasn't paying sufficient attention -- even a few (but really, very rarely) when I didn't finish a record.
But this has also been the first year (since 2002) when my writing income has dropped to $0, as has my website income (not that I couldn't shake some money out of some people, but I haven't been serving them very well either). And this has also been a year when my progress on my various book-like projects has come to a complete standstill, and one where my software development efforts have all the more atrophied. I also find myself totally inundated in clutter (despite the fact that I'm getting a third less CDs than I was three years ago -- they've simply run out of places to go). And all this makes me cranky, and is probably damaging my health -- certainly isn't doing my sanity any good, which always used to be the saving grace of listening to music. Even my reading has suffered -- seems like the last two books have taken about three months to slog through, whereas over the last decade (even as a slow reader) I've averaged a book every other week.
So it's time to make some changes. Starting in 2014 (which is to say Wednesday) I'm suspending Jazz Prospecting. I need to write a letter to the various publicists and musicians who have been sending me material, and who will no doubt soon join the many others who no longer do. I may wind up posting a column or two in January -- I already have a cache of reviews of 2014 releases, and there are a few more in the queue I feel obliged to acknowledge. I say "suspend" because I still would consider resurrecting Jazz Consumer Guide if I had a paying venue of some repute, or if I had an equity stake in a music website that was primarily run by someone else. (One of the things I haven't found time to do was to write a prospectus for just such a website, so that stands a slightly better chance of happening by suspending Jazz Prospecting.)
I'm also suspending Recycled Goods. (I see that I currently have three reviews in the January 2014 draft file. Not sure what to do with them -- maybe nothing, or maybe that's the final column.) Again, I would reconsider if I had a reputable paying venue interested in such a column. Back when it was a going concern (2003-07, and you might also look at the Seattle Weekly spinoff) this was my favorite column, although I'm not sure that it would be easy to reconstitute (or even much fund) given recent trends in the music recycling business (cut-rate samplers and anniversary extravaganzas in the majors, ever quainter obscurities in the minors, and lots of copyright evasion in Europe).
The column I'm most likely to continue, albeit on a reduced scale, is Rhapsody Streamnotes. It is, after all, mostly note-taking, and I may decide just to jot a grade down without an explanation -- some of yesterday's posts are already pretty much nothing. I will also continue to construct my annual file -- 2014 is already started -- and I will file "Music Week" notices in my notebook (if not necessarily on the blog). I will continue to vote in critics polls as long as I'm invited and feel I have something to contribute. I may from time to time post a little something on what I like, but I won't feel any obligation to do so.
Also, no metacritic file next year. I know I said that last year too, but reversed when I found that I wasn't collecting enough information to know what's going on. I wound up creating a file that is significantly better than previous years: it has much more detailed data about reviews and lists (not all of which is visible in the presented file). It currently has 6939 new releases and 1014 compilations, reissues, and vault raids. It tracks 90 publications and independent reviewers, and I've added over 200 year-end lists. I'll keep playing with this for another week or so, but I'm basically done with 2013 -- the end of these things usually occurs when the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll appears and I tote up the 1500 or so records that finish with any votes.
The metacritic file is something that should be a community project: its usefulness is hard to understate, but the amount of work involved is impossible for a single person to do, and it could be made even more useful if more people would pick it up. (There are, of course, various commercial entities doing bits of this, but none are doing a very good job.) Something like this will probably be worked into the website proposal.
I'll continue publishing Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary, at least until we find a better home. I'll post his December column tomorrow (maybe even late tonight). Beyond that he's looking at January and February to catch up with 2013 releases, and beyond that 2014.
I'll send some email out within a week, and finally revise my dated "send me music" file (no link because it's totally misleading at the moment). I'd be happy to get feedback on this, either through comments (which have been about 90% spam to date) or email (see the "Contact" link). I will miss some of the music I won't be getting -- especially Clean Feed, NoBusiness, and Toondist, who've gone so far out of their way to support me, and the many fine independent publicists who stuck with me after the Voice didn't. May even have to buy some, not that I expect my income to change (and frankly, I'm looking to enjoy some of what I already have -- something that has been nearly impossible the last few years).
Meanwhile, I've got a mess to clean up, some computers to get working, some code to figure out, some wood to work, and some books to write.
Autumn in Augusta: Songs My Mama Would Like (2013, self-released, EP): Lucy Smith sings five old songs over piano-bass-drums, one a melody from someone named Beethoven, two others from lesser known artists who sign their work as "Traditional." Just runs 18:42 but feels heartfelt, substantial. B+(***)
David Bach: Otherworld (2013, Integrity Music): Keyboard player -- Rhodes, synths, organ, even a Steinway Grand -- fifth album since 1995, backed by a large but often shuffled group, creating a sort of grand pastorale, all evanescent effects aorund the leader's melody, or more rarely a synth beat. B
Alan Blackman: The Coastal Suite (2011 , self-released): Pianist, based in Baltimore, has a couple previous albums since 2000. This extended piece was commissioned by Chamber Music America's 2011 New Jazz Works, but it's scaled down to a small jazz combo with Rogerio Boccato providing extra percussion and Donny McCaslin on tenor and soprano sax. Eloquent material, especially with McCaslin up front. B+(**)
Barry Danielian: Metaphorically Speaking (2013, Tariqah): "Our enemies are resourceful. They never stop thinking of new ways to harm the American people . . . and neither do we." Quoted here as spoken by George W. Bush, who did more damage, both here and abroad, than Osama bin Laden ever imagined, and as the quote suggests did it as much by accident as by intent. Glad to see someone hasn't forgotten that. Trumpet-led synth funk, not far removed from disco, which I don't consider a dis but does remind me that we've been there, done that. B+(*)
Jörg Fischer: Spring Spleen and Twelve Other Pieces (2012, Gligg): Drummer, from Germany, plays in Lurk Lab and has a couple other albums, including a duo with Peter Brötzmann. This one is solo percussion, the first couple pieces thoroughly enjoyable, varies less after that. B+(**)
Jörg Fischer/Matthias Schubert/Uli Böttcher: Lurk Lab (2012, Gligg): Avant sax trio, listed in front cover order: drums, tenor sax, live electronics. All joint credits, so figure improv. Böttcher seems more like a second drummer than a surrogate bassist, but that's probably an oversimplification -- he also throws in some whistles and whizzes, and at full fury the flurry can be pretty amazing. A-
Annette Genovese: Dream With Me (2013, self-released): Singer, wrote (or co-wrote) 3 of 8 songs; Discogs lists a 12-inch under her name from 1982; hype sheet says she "has performed and recorded in the New York Tri-State area for over 25 years and done 3 tours in the Middle East." She does a fine job here, with a strong opening version of "Señor Blues," and she gets some nice guitar from Rob Reich. B+(*)
Lurk Lab: Live at Shelter Sounds (2012 , JazzHausMusik): Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), Uli Böttcher (live electronics), Jörg Fischer (drums). Three live improv pieces, two topping 20 minutes. Similar to what they came up with in the lab, but the sound is a bit more distant, and the electronics can come unplugged. B+(***)
Earl McIntyre: Brass Carnival & Tribute (2010 , self-released): Trombonist, often bass trombone, sometimes tuba: first album under his name but he's been around for ages, playing in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, George Gruntz Concert Band, Howard Johnson's Gravity, Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy. Lots of brass here, bottom-heavy with both Johnson and Bob Stewart on tuba, sometimes McIntyre too, but no reeds, and the rhythm section is just Vinnie Johnson on drums and Warren Smith on vibes and tambourine. Two Renée Manning vocals aren't high points, but I doubt they were aiming for high. B+(*)
William Parker Orchestra: Essence of Ellington: Live in Milano (2012, AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Big band, only two deep at trumpet and trombone but six saxes including Kidd Jordan, fêted as "special guest" although half the orchestra are more famous (or should be), especially the rhythm section: Dave Burrell, Parker, and Hamid Drake. This mixes Ellington standards with originals where Parker seeks what he calls "essences" -- a license to quote and maul and occasionally find some sort of synthesis. When the band eventually converges on a melody, Ernie Odoom sings familiar lyrics or, in "The Essence of Ellington," totally new ones. Messy, but also chock full of wonderful passages. Surely Duke would agree: beyond category. A-
Mary Ann Redmond/Paul Langosch/Jay Cooley: Compared to What (2013, self-released): Singer, from Virginia, based in DC area; fifth album since 1997, first with cover credits for producer-bassist Langosch and arranger-keyboardist Cooley, but the band is deeper, with Don Mattacks (drums), Dan Hovey (guitar), and Bruce Swaim (tenor sax). Two originals, ten standards counting rock-era singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Lennon-McCartney. As usual, the songs make the singer, and songs like "I Got It Bad" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" are standards for good reason. B+(*)
The Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band: Game Changer (2013, Capri): Nineteen flute players counting the "guest soloists" (Holly Hofmann, Hubert Laws, and Nestor Torres), the only other names I recognize belong to Ryerson and Jamie Baum, backed by piano-bass-drums (Mark Levine, Rufus Reid, Akira Tana), running through ten famous jazz standards -- none of which I recognized while listening to this, and not because the interpretations were radical. If anything, so featureless I'm not sure I would have noticed they were playing flutes had I not been already aware. B-
Sarah Silverman: Sarah (2013, self-released): Cover just says Sarah (and in small print "featuring Bruce Barth"), downplaying her last name to avoid confusion/competition with the comedian. She plays piano on one song, otherwise deferring to Barth. She wrote two (on one adding lyrics to a Grieg melody), but mostly does standards, medleying "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "I Get Along Without You Very Well." B
Suzanna Smith: Halfway Between Heaven and Love (2012 , Ink Pen): Singer, based in Oakland, first record, most songs originals co-written with pianist Michael Coleman and backed by a fairly deep band. B+(*)
Spinifex: Hipsters Gone Ballistic (2013, Trytone): Dutch group, named for some kind of beach grass; seems like fusion at first, built around Jasper Stadhouders' guitar, but the horn players -- Gijs Levelt on trumpet, Tobias Klein on alto sax -- have their own minds, and the rhythm section doesn't guarantee regular time, or any other. Doesn't work often enough, but good for some cheap thrills. B+(*)
Corrie Van Binsbergen: Self Portrait in Pale Blue (2013, Brokken): Dutch guitarist, b. 1957. I've only heard a couple of his records, and suspect this meditative solo effort is an outlier. The pieces are numbered, probably improv but cautiously picked out, the sort of thing new age might be without the sedatives. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
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I hope you change your mind about Jazz Prospecting, but I certainly cannot blame you considering the amount of work you put into it. Best wishes for the new year.
Tom, I certainly will miss your prospecting and RG columns. I look forward to reading them and it is (was)one of the few reliable ways to try and keep up with the volume of new music - especially jazz for which I have found no useful alternative to your blog. That said I want to commend and thank you for your dedication and valuable insights despite the lack of any meaningful compensation. I sincerely hope you find alternative venues that provide you income and will be interested in learning of any future developments your writings may take. In the interim, your decision to suspend and the demise of EW has made the start of the new year a dispiriting one indeed. Wishing you a more uplifting and successful 2014. John
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