Monday, November 20. 2017
Music: Current count 28909  rated (+35), 394  unrated (+3).
The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):
Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).
The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.
With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.
Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.
Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.
One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 13. 2017
Music: Current count 28874  rated (+32), 391  unrated (-5).
Tis the season when most critics (and especially their publishers) start thinking about year-end lists. I expect that before the month is out I'll take my first pass at constructing this year's version of last year's Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. To that end, I started taking a belated look at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 list, and picked out a few things to check out (most successfully, St. Vincent's 8th-rated Masseduction). I sought out several albums from Robert Christgau's recent Expert Witness albums (Pere Ubu's 20 Years in a Montant Missile Silo the only thing I've really liked there recently). I also made a point of looking up everything I had missed on Alfred Soto's Best albums of 2017 -- third quarter edition. Rather surprised I didn't find more there.
The present Year 2017 file lists 834 albums (28 of those pending grades). That's down from 1075 for 2016 by freeze time (January 28, 2017). Figuring I have 11 weeks left, and I've averaged 18.1 new releases per week over the first 46 weeks, that extrapolates to 1033 records: down a bit from last year, but not much. Down more from previous years, of course, but I won't bother dredging those numbers up.
I finally got a bit of work done on compiling the Jazz Guide(s): 21st Century up to 1267 pages (64% through the Jazz '00s database file, up to Ferenc Nemeth); 20th Century edged up to 750 pages as I found a couple stragglers. 21st Century should wind up 1450-1500 pages, hopefully by the end of the year. (So much for my earlier August-September estimates!) Thinking a bit about what should happen next. The drafts are collected using LibreOffice. Obviously, I can export them as PDF, and distribute them as I did the JCG-only version. I don't know the first thing about exporting to ebook formats, but I see there is a Writer2ePub extension, and also a "cross-platform free and open-source e-book reader and word processor" called Calibre. Both of those look promising.
It occurs to me that the collected writing would be more useful reorganized as a website. LibreOffice can export as HTML, but I'd need some way to explode the file into many webpages. It's possible that there is an extension somewhere to support that, but thus far is looks like a job for custom programming. That's something I'll need to look into and think about -- not that I haven't thought about pouring my database and reviews into a website for a long time now. It's just that I've always had trouble coming up with an album-based database schema to hang everything on. In recent years I've been gravitating more toward an artist-based schema, even though it doesn't normalize as nicely. That's probably the level I'd try to explode an HTML export of the Jazz Guides. One idea is to dispense with the database and just use Mediawiki, organizing the reviews by artist. In that case one could simply cut and paste from the book to the website. That would still be a lot of work.
More troubling for me is the amount of editing that the reviews require. The relatively easy part is stripping out the redundancy that occurs when discrete reviews are stacked up under an artist name. I expect to move dates, instruments, band associations, and other such attributes to a brief artist intro, cutting them out of the album reviews. In many cases that leaves virtually nothing but the credits and grade. It would be nice to flesh them out a bit, but that now appears to be a job for another lifetime, or for someone else. At this point, I'd be happy to let my framework stand as a starting point for someone else to build on, or maybe a whole community. Unclear whether anyone is interested.
One thing I neglected to mention last week was Downbeat's 82nd Annual Readers Poll (October 2017 issue). Biggest surprise for me was the late Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017) finishing second on the HOF ballot. I had him filed under rock (1970s) and hadn't rated (or heard) any of his albums. Wikipedia says he "was cited as an influence by a host of rock, metal and jazz guitarists" but the following list of twelve only includes one name I recognize as jazz (Kurt Rosenwinkel). I suppose I should do some research, possibly starting with Gordon Beck's Sunbird (1979; Beck's 1967 Experiments With Pops, with 3rd place finisher John McLaughlin, is a favorite) and two Tony Williams albums not yet in my database.
McLaughlin would have been a perfectly respectable choice. I've heard at least two dozen of his albums, with Extrapolation (1969) and Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) early masterpieces. Fourth- and fifth-place finishers Les Paul and George Benson would have been disgraceful picks, although I can point to at least one superb record each is on.
The HOF winner, Wynton Marsalis, is a ho-hum choice: a solid hard bop trumpeter, probably better than Kenny Dorham or maybe even Woody Shaw but less exciting than Lee Morgan and not as versatile as Freddie Hubbard. He also became a huge celebrity, built an empire at Lincoln Center, and wrote some of the most ponderous compositions of the era. I've always liked him best when he was least serious. I credit him with three A- records: his soundtrack Tune In Tomorrow (1990); his Jelly Roll Morton tribute, Mr. Jelly Lord (1999); and his Play the Blues meetup with Eric Clapton (2011). Dorham and Shaw, by the way, have two A- records each, in shorter careers.
Elsewhere, the winners were on the stodgy side of mainstream -- the relatively hip picks were Chris Potter (tenor sax), Anat Cohen (clarinet), and I can never fault Jack DeJohnette (drums). Two flat out bad picks: Snarky Puppy (group), and Trombone Shorty (trombone). (Well, Gregory Porter too, but consider his competition.) I don't have time to go deeper down the lists, but for example, Marsalis won trumpet, and I'd have to drop to 13th to find someone I would have voted for ahead of him (in fact did: Wadada Leo Smith; Dave Douglas came in 15th; 4th-place Terence Blanchard gave me pause).
Only other down-ballot pick I'll mention is Geri Allen, who came in 3rd at piano. Would have been a pleasant surprise, but she died to get there, and still got beat by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, who haven't produced exceptional albums since the early 1970s (OK, I did rather like Corea's 2014 Trilogy).
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks (sorry I forgot to post last week):
Monday, November 6. 2017
Music: Current count 28842  rated (+29), 396  unrated (-9).
After many short weeks, back to semi-normal last week, a swing that would have been even more pronounced had I not gotten distracted over the weekend: cooked a fairly large dinner on Saturday, had guests and a birthday party to attend on Sunday. Monday, too, has largely been chewed up by technical problems, so I'm getting a late start on this post, and not including Monday's unpacking.
The short and scattered nature of yesterday's Weekend Roundup was one consequence of my weekend distractions. One thing I did there was to cite Donna Brazile's controversial Inside Hillary Clinton's Secret Takeover of the DNC, as well as a rejoinder by Josh Marshall, before moving on to my own concerns. Shortly after I posted, I noticed Charles Pierce's own anti-Brazile rant: The Democratic Party Is Finding a Way to F*ck This Up, which starts off with this hideous preface:
I mean, sure, it was more depressing than 2008, when Hillary Clinton was denied the Democratic Party nomination and therefore was unable to blow the general election. But even though I was delighted with Obama's primary successes in 2008, Bernie Sanders' campaign was unprecedented, and his near-success even more thrilling. The Republican primaries had more faces, and some stylistic variation, but there ultimately wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the candidates. But there were real, significant differences between Sanders and Clinton, and they were things that mattered -- so how could one not get swept up in the opportunity?
I don't know, but I have a hypothesis, based on a few people I know who I think of as having more/less lefty (but pro-Hillary) politics and extrapolating to more establishment-oriented liberals. It involves two factors: one is a cynical belief that substantial progressive change is not possible; the other is blind faith in liberal meritocracy, which has anointed the long line of Democratic Party leaders from aristocrats like the Roosevelts and Kennedys to accommodating strivers like the Clintons and Obama. That cynicism lets such people dismiss Bernie with whatever epithet they fancy (for Pierce, "smug, self-righteous") even though there is no evidence for their assertions, while always giving Hillary the benefit of any doubts, even though her own track record is full of compromises and betrayals. Such people are very hurt, probably more by Hillary's loss than by Trump's victory, because the former calls into question their belief in American exceptionalism, whereas the latter mostly hurts other people.
Russia is their perfect villain, a way of blaming their failure not on other Americans but on some external evil. Still, I recently read David Daley's Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, and I don't recall a single Russian operative in the entire book. The "ratfuckers" -- the people conspiring to engineer districts and electorates to their partisan advantage -- are Republicans, and they've been very effective at it. I don't doubt that Russia helped them out here and there, but the game plan was hatched in Republican circles, and they were the ones who mostly carried it out. Blaming Russia may make some Democrats feel better about themselves, but it mostly means they're continuing to turn a blind eye to their real enemies. And in their failure to recognize real enemies, they've not only been ineffective at defending against them -- they've lost credibility among the very people who suffer Republican rule the worst.
Pierce goes on to attack "SPW" ("Senator Professor Warren"), and to set up scapegoating the left if the Democrat Ralph Northam loses the Virginia gubernatorial race. He's right that the Democrats have various problems achieving unity, even in the face of the most obviously horrid Republicans in history, but it beats me how he thinks he's contributing to solidarity by trashing Bernie.
Since I posted, I've run across two more pieces on the Brazile Affair: Glenn Greenwald: Four Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in the Last Week Alone That Are False -- three attacking Brazile, two of those repeated by Pierce -- and Matt Taibbi: Why Donna Brazile's Story Matters -- But Not for the Reason You Might Think. The lesson Taibbi draws from the story is how the Clinton camp distrusted democracy -- they sought to rig the primaries not because they couldn't win otherwise, but because they didn't think they should have to submit to the voters.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Tuesday, October 31. 2017
Shortest monthly roll-up of Streamnotes this year, by quite a large margin (75 vs. 111 in May; high was 156 in January). Probably the shortest in several years. I've made my excuses in past Music Week posts, so won't rehash them here.
I will note that the jazz share of the following is relatively high, even by my standards. Until the EOY lists start appearing, I'm don't seem to be noticing much non-jazz. However, the lists should start appearing in late November. Over the last few years, I've threatened to stop compiling them, but at the moment I'm actually looking forward to the diversion. Also to sorting out my own Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists -- I'll probably make my first stab at that shortly after the first lists appear.
Meanwhile, the year-in-progress list is here. Current grade breakdown (new releases): 107 A- (64 jazz, 43 non-jazz), 121 B+(***), 186 B+(**), 180 B+(*), 78 B, 23 B-, 5 C+, 2 C; (reissues/compilations): 1 A, 8 A- (2 jazz, 7 non-jazz), 12 B+(***), 14 B+(**), 6 B+(*), 3 B, 1 B-, 1 C+. The A-list usually winds up being pretty evenly split between jazz and non-jazz, but always starts with jazz way ahead (about the current ratio). That adds up to 627 records rated in 10 months, so that projects to 815 over 13 months (January is usually devoted to late-breaking (or merely late-noticed) albums from the previous year. Adding a month for January also makes it easy to compare progress this year to last year, as I can compare a straightforward projection to the actual frozen 2016 list as of January 28, 2016. That file listed 1074 records, so by this first crude approximation I'm down about 24% compared to 2016. I'm not surprised that my rate has slowed in 2017, but this is the first time I've tried making a projection, and the drop is a bit more than I expected.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (10248 records).
Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe (2016 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Pakistan, group expands on a group saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa organized (with Abbasi and percussionist Dan Weiss, the Indo-Pak Coalition -- adding Vijay Iyer on piano, plus cello and bass. Main difference is that Abbasi wrote the pieces here, and his postbop stumbles awkwardly in spots. On the other hand, Mahanthappa is terrific throughout. B+(**) [cd]
Tony Allen: The Source (2017, Blue Note): Nigerian drummer, met Fela Kuti in 1964 and anchored his band for the next 15 years. Has recorded a couple dozen albums since going on his own in 1979, but this is the first (following an EP) for a jazz label, and this is very straightforward jazz album, a nonet plus a couple spot guests, occasionally working in a bit of African rhythm but not very often. B+(*)
Banda Magda: Tigre (2017, GroundUP Music): New York-based band built around Greek singer-songwriter Magda Giannikou (also plays accordion and piano). Third group album. Hard to peg, with its Balkan beats and occasional orchestral swirl. B+(*)
Peter Bernstein: Signs LIVE! (2015 , Smoke Sessions, 2CD): Guitarist, strikes me as one of the better examples of the long-dominant Wes Montgomery school, stretches out at great length in this quartet -- although equally featured is pianist Brad Mehldau. Two Monk pieces, the rest originals. With Christian McBride (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). B+(**)
Blue Note All-Stars: Our Point of View (2017, Blue Note, 2CD): Third time Blue Note has tried this, with its 1996 Blue Note All Stars (no hyphen), 2009 Blue Note 7, and now this one: note, first of all, that none of the three albums share any musicians or producers. Lineup this time: Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Lionel Loueke, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, plus two legends return for a shot at "Masqualero" (Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock). Aside from a Loueke showcase not far removed from the hard bop the label was built on, so plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose. B+(**)
Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Asteroidea (2015 , Intakt): Bass-piano-drums trio, the bassist getting a solo intro to kick things off, elsewhere the pianist playing soft rhythmic figures behind the bass. Fascinating there, even more so when Davis jumps out front, bringing the drums into play. A- [cd]
Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Magic Triangle (2016 , NoBusiness): Cornet-tenor sax quartet, Ken Filiano on bass and Royal Hartigan on drums, each contributing a song (or two for Bradford). Loose and free, but doesn't have the spark of Bradford's legendary quartet with John Carter. B+(**) [cdr]
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Memphis . . . Yes, I'm Ready (2017, Okeh): Started as an r&b singer, not making much of a mark with her early Atlantic and Elektra albums (1976-80), well before she moved into jazz (first Verve album in 1993). So this is a throwback to her r&b days, except with better songs -- Memphis-associated, including a couple of Elvis hits. The horn arrangements are stock, the vocal tone a bit darker, so it actually helps when he turns the gospel afterburner on, on "Precious Lord" (of course), even more so on "Try a Little Tenderness." B+(*)
Kyle Bruckmann's Degradient: Dear Everyone (2017, Not Two, 2CD): Plays oboe, English horn, electronics, with a dozen-plus albums since 2001. First with this group, backed by Aram Shelton (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), electric bass and percussion, with a text by Matt Shears rendered by 99 readers. The spoken word is scattered about, accenting rather than breaking up the dense music. B+(**)
Cortex: Avant-Garde Party Music (2017, Clean Feed): Norwegian two-horn quartet -- Thomas Johanson (trumpet), Kristoffer Alberts (saxes), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- first studio album after two terrific live ones. One figures they haven't outgrown their taste for high-energy rock even though their chops and instruments have opened up avant-jazz options. B+(***)
Cowboys and Frenchmen: Bluer Than You Think (2017, Outside In Music): Co-led by alto saxophonists Owen Broder and Ethan Helm, who split writing chores 3-4 -- one additional track by Chris Misch-Bloxdorf, who is not in the quintet (piano, bass, drums), and produced by Ryan Truesdell, who prefers delirious unity to conflict. B+(*) [cd]
Corey Dennison Band: Night After Night (2017, Delmark): Bluesman, plays guitar and sings, born white in Chattanooga, "immediately felt a strong connection to Soul music," moved to Chicago and fit right in. First half is perfectly respectable Chicago blues, second nudges its way into respectful soul, losing a step but relishing it. B+(***) [cd]
Mark Dresser: Modicana (2016-17 , NoBusiness): Bassist, major avant-garde figure including a long stretch in Anthony Braxton's legendary quartet, 35+ records as leader (or 40+ if you could Arcado String Trio), many more side credits. Goes solo here, always a tough sell, but keeps it interesting. B+(**) [cdr]
Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017, Mello Music Group): Underground rapper, real name Mike Eagle, one half of Run the Jewels but has kept a solo career going steady since 2010. B+(**)
Harris Eisenstadt/Mivos Quartet: Whatever Will Happen That Will Also Be (2015 , NoBusiness): Actually, just the Canadian percussionist's composition -- four movements of the title piece -- performed by a conventional string quartet: two violins (Josh Modney and Olivia De Prato), viola (Victor Lowrie), and cello (Mariel Roberts). Interesting music, but I'm not much of a fan of the form/sound. B+(*) [cdr]
Ellery Eskelin: Trio Willisau Live (2015 , Hatology): Tenor saxophonist, with Gary Versace (organ) and Gerry Hemingway (drums). Some remarkable sax and cliché-free organ. A-
Bob Ferrel: Bob Ferrel's Jazztopian Dream (2016 , Bob Ferrel Music): Trombonist, side credits include Southside Johnny & the Jukes (1983-86) and Michael Treni Big Band (2011-13), has the run of a fairly large band here, featuring vocalist Dwight West on four tracks, including a "Yardbird Suite" I find inadvertently funny, and one from Ferrell Sanders that notes "whales out in the sea need freedom." More swing than bop, and lots of trombone. B+(*) [cd]
Four Tet: New Energy (2017, Text): Kieran Hebden has done most of his laptronica work under this alias since 1999, more than a dozen albums, most quite enjoyable. Seems like there's more guitar than usual here, but otherwise little stands out. B+(**)
Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies Vol II (2012-17 , Accurate): Trumpet player Brian Carpenter's Brooklyn-based large band, fourth album, two modern arrangements of hot 1920s jazz, the Rhapsodies sets featuring chamber jazz from the 1930s. This one takes an odd turn by adding two choirs, one of adults, one of children. Looks like the latter was dubbed over older recordings, and I can't say as I approve (although the music is lovely). B+(*) [cd]
Yedo Gibson/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Trilla: Chain (2016 , NoBusiness): Baritone/soprano saxophonist from Brazil, first album as leader, recorded in Lisbon where he picked up the bassist (best known for RED Trio) and drummer (actually Spanish -- has appeared on ten or so avant albums since 2015). Free jazz tension and strife, spending a fair amount of time grumbling in the basement. B+(**) [cd]
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (2017, Songlines): Guitarist, also plays oud, based in Vancouver, has put together an impressive string of records since 2006. No bassist here, so he tends to melt into that role here, especially as his stars -- Oscar Noriega (alto sax/clarinets) and Russ Lossing (piano/Rhodes) -- bull their way to the front. With Satoshi Takeishi on drums. B+(***) [cd]
Ross Hammond + Jon Bafus: Masonic Lawn (2016 , Prescott): Guitar-drums duo, Hammond also credited with resonator, 12-string resonator, and lap steel. Draws inspiration from Americana, but I hear more Chuck Berry than Bill Frisell. B+(***)
Hans Hassler: Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her (2015 , Intakt): Swiss accordion player, in his 70s, third album since 2008 for the label. Starts routine, but picks up speed and interest. B+(*) [cd]
Dylan Hicks: Ad Out (2017, Soft Launch): Singer-songwriter, based in Minneapolis, albums go back to 1996, also has a novel. Christgau praised this but described him as "logocentric" -- presumably why I didn't readily warm to him, although second time around I did notice occasional turns of phrase. B+(**)
Steve Hobbs: Tribute to Bobby (2016 , Challenge): Plays marimba and vibraphone, has a record from 1993, couple more since. Speaks here of his quartet with Bill McConnell, Peter Washington (also on the 1993 record), and John Riley, but there's also a saxophonist in play, a good one, Adam Kolker. "Bobby" is presumably Hutcherson, though the only non-originals are by Dylan and Rodgers & Hart. Three guest vocals almost spoil the groove. B+(*) [cd]
Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (2017, Creative Nation Music): Drummer, has a previous duo album with bassist Tony Leva, expanding that here by adding Tod Brunel on clarinets/soprano sax and Eric Hofbauer on guitar -- the part I noticed first. All originals by Jack, stretched out nicely with increasingly strong clarinet. B+(***) [cd]
Ahmad Jamal: Marseille (2016 , Jazz Village): Pianist, first albums came out in early 1950s, still has his fine touch at 86. Quartet with James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), and Manolo Badrena (percussion), with three takes of the title song, one instrumental, the others with vocals (Abd Al Malik and Mina Agossi). B+(**)
Danny Janklow: Elevation (2015 , Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays alto flute, first album, has some side credits with John Beasley and José James. Personnel split here at piano and bass, with Jonathan Pinson on drums and Nick Mancini on vibes for 6/10 cuts. Bright, upbeat postbop, ending in a Michael Mayo vocal. B [cd]
Piere Kwenders: Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time (2017, Bonsound): Alias for José Louis Modabi, born in Kinshasa, based in Canada. Has a sort of hybridized sound that strays far from the Congo without landing anywhere obvious -- perhaps some future lullaby chant. B+(*)
Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum (2016 , NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist from North Carolina, free and rough, has a fairly short discography back at least to 1995, including a duo with percussionist Smith as The Dogon Duo. Gotesmanas is a second percussionist, not that either make much of an impression here -- Lamb strikes me as rather subdued as well. B+(*) [cdr]
Lost Bayou Ramblers: Kalenda (2017, Rice Pump): Cajun group, formed in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1999 by brothers Louis and Andre Michot, with ten albums. Starts out with a stomp, the percussion noisier than expected, the accordion louder, the vocals shriller, all of which stands out in a genre where things tend to blend together. A-
Rob Luft: Riser (2017, Edition): Guitarist, from London, 23, first album, quintet with Joe Wright on tenor sax, Joe Webb on organ/piano/harmonium, plus bass and drums -- the Hammond a little cheesy, but sometimes the sax rises up. B
Roberto Magris Sextet: Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery (2016 , JMood): Italian pianist, has gone out of his way to send me records so I've heard more than Discogs lists. Vigorous postbop with plenty of Latin tinge, as much in the horns -- Brian Lynch on trumpet and Jonathan Gomez on tenor sax -- as in Murph Aucamp's congas. B+(***) [cd]
Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima (2017, self-released): The alto saxophonist represents India (he was actually born in Italy, but his parents had previously become US citizens, so his Indian heritage is something he's picked up over the years). Guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan, but has been an American nearly as long. The third member is drummer Dan Weiss, from Tenafly, NJ, who also plays tabla, offering the most authentic Indo-Pak spicing, although the aromas whiff in and out, and Mahanthappa's sax is as fluid as ever. A- [cdr]
Alma Micic: That Old Feeling (2017, Whaling City Sound): Serbian-born vocalist, sang with the Radio Belgrade Big Band before moving to New York. Fourth album, six delectable standards plus one original ("Ne Zaboravi Me") and a Russian/Romany folk song. Backed by guitarist Rale Micic plus bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (2017, Pi): Pianist, also plays "Prophet 6" (a 6-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer) and electronics. Has a couple previous albums, and has distinguished himself with side credits. Runs the gamut here from solo electronics pieces to a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Tyshawn Sorey. B+(**) [cd]
Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives (2016-17 , Black Earth Music): Flute player, still calls her band Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, but that name gives way on cover and spine for spoken word artist Madhubuti, whose poetry spans the gamut of black American experience. Deep, and the band keeps it percolating, with Pharez Whitted on trumpet, a violin-violin-cello-bass string section, drums plus percussion. A- [cd]
Liudas Mockunas: Hydro (2015-16 , NoBusiness): Lithuanian saxophonist, solo here, credited with "clarinet, percussion, water prepared soprano, soprano and tenor saxophone," on a series of short pieces, eleven titled "Hydration Suite," one "Dehydration." B+(**) [cdr]
Paul Moran: Smokin' B3 Vol. 2: Still Smokin' (2017, Prudential): Organ player, based in London, two groups but no session dates. Four originals, covers start with "Come Together" and "One Note Samba" and wind up wondering "Where or When." B- [cd]
Van Morrison: Roll With the Punches (2017, Caroline): Original song count down to five, counting the title song he got help on, none keepers, vs. eleven covers, mostly electric blues -- double hitting on T-Bone Walker and Bo Diddley. All get his standard generic treatment, which means remarkable voice and exquisite timing but with twenty-one artist credits that doesn't necessarily salvage the picks. B
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (2017, Hot Cup): Bassist Moppa Elliott's group vehicle, named after his first (and only non-solo) album, made their mark as a pianoless quartet of "bebop terrorists," blowing up themes and styles from the '50s and '60s, but they lost trumpet player Peter Evans in 2013, replacing him with pianist Ron Stabowsky, and now saxophonist Jon Irabagon has dropped out, transforming them into a piano trio. Stabowsky plays heroically here, and Elliott's tunes are as vital as ever, that's a big change (actually I mean loss) to process. B+(***) [cd]
Ian O'Beirne's Slowbern Big Band: Dreams of Daedelus (2016 , self-released): Saxophonist, credited here with "reeds" but website pictures him on alto and baritone, and he plays the latter in the Glenn Miller ghost band. Based near Philadelphia (this was recorded in Conshohocken, PA). Big band, has some nice moments. B [cd]
Johnny O'Neal: In the Moment (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist, also sings some, originally from Detroit, moved to Birmingham in 1974, which got him into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame but kept him out of the national spotlight. Has a handful of albums since 1982, the first with Art Blakey. Mainstream quintet with Roy Hargrove (trumpet), Grant Stewart (tenor sax), bass and drums. B+(*)
Teri Parker: In the Past (2016 , self-released): Pianist, also electric, based in Toronto. Quartet includes Allison Au on alto sax, which helps elevate her deft rhythmic touch. B+(**) [cd]
Wojciech Pulcyn: Tribute to Charlie Haden (2016 , ForTune): Polish bassist, has a couple dozen side credits since 1996 but this seems to be the first album under his name. Starts with two Ornette Coleman pieces (the first a bass solo), followed by six from Haden and the trad. "Oh, Shenandoah." with a vocal on an Abby Lincoln lyric. B+(**) [bc]
Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (2017, Intakt): Drummer, leads a conventionally shaped all-star quintet: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Ingrid Laubrock (sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Drew Gress (bass). Six standards, one joint credit. Aptly titled: seems to be all about flow, gently even-tempered even working against gravity, remarkable when it succeeds. A- [cd]
Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Achille Succi: Planets of Kei: Free Sessions Vol. 1 (2016 , Not Two): Acoustic guitar, viola, bass clarinet/alto sax, the acoustic adding a prickly edge to the free string mix, contrasting to the hollow sound of the reeds. B+(***) [cd]
Marta Sánchez Quintet: Danza Imposible (2017, Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, born and raised in Madrid (as was the same-named Spanish pop singer, a different person), based in New York, second album, all originals. Quintet features two saxophonists: Roman Filiu (alto) and Jerome Sabbagh (tenor), plus bass and drums. Complex postbop with Spanish flair. B+(**) [cd]
Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (2015 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, one of the greats, in a duo with a notable American drummer -- half-dozen albums as a leader, well over 100 side-credits (John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, John Abercrombie, Enrico Pieranunzi, Laurie Anderson, many more). She has a whole series of piano-drum duos, and most are extraordinary (especially those with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre). So I kept expecting this to take off, but it never quite does. B+(***) [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (2014-15 , TUM): Trumpet player, hard to think of a better one over the last decade, so it's hard to say that anything he does is a bad idea. Still, solo trumpet is tough, even when he works with familiar Monk tunes -- not that the five here are easy to peg, especially when mixed in with three of his own. B+(**) [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (2014 , TUM): Group effort, Henry Kaiser making me think of Yo! Miles!, but he's only one of four guitarists, and Smith is looking to take their electric post-funk into places Miles Davis never imagined: all Smith originals, all but the title "love song" namechecking legends: Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. With Bill Laswell on electric bass (and mixing), Pheroan akLaff on drums, and Adam Rudolph on percussion. A- [cd]
Mike Stern: Trip (2017, Heads Up): Guitarist, played with Miles Davis late in the game and has gone on to make quite a few fusion-oriented albums, none (as far as I know) especially great. This was evidently cut after a fall that broke both of his arms, leading him to write new tunes like "Screws" and "Scotch Tape and Glue." Guest horns (Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney on trumpet, Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans on tenor sax) steer some of this toward hot bop, and he's working harder than ever on his guitar. B+(*)
Yosvany Terry/Baptiste Trotignon: Ancestral Memories (2017, Okeh): Quartet, featuring the Cuban-born alto/soprano saxophonist and the French pianist, backed by bassist Yunior Terry (brother) and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Terry is well versed in Afro-Cuban jazz -- a long list of side credits indicates that he's the "go to" saxophonist for such -- but such impulses are muted here, leaving a light postbop impression. B+(*)
Charles Thomas: The Colors of a Dream (2017, Sea Tea): Bassist, singing one track (the one standard, "My Foolish Heart"). Looks like this was recorded in three sessions with different bands, but I don't see any dates. At least one of the saxophonists is impressive, but I don't recognize any of them (Marcia Widget, Leon Williams, Joe Cohn). B+(*) [cd]
Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan (2017, World Circuit): The trio from Mali features singer Hawa Diabaté (daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté) plus two traditional instruments: balafon and bass n'goni lute. Kronos is a standard string quartet that stradles classical and much else, with 43 records since 1979 -- 1992's Pieces of Africa was, I think, their first with an African group, and one of their best. Much of this strikes me as rather stately (or do I mean starchy?), although there are spots where it starts to click. B+(*)
James Blood Ulmer With the Thing: Baby Talk: Live at the Molde International Jazz Festival 2015 (2015 , Trost): Norwegian power trio -- Mats Gustafsson (baritone/tenor sax), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) -- meets up with the blues/harmolodic guitarist (no vocals this time). Several previous albums matched the Thing with various guitarists, usually resulting in noisy jousts, but Ulmer just does his thing here, and the extra gravel the group hauls just deepens it. Short (4 cuts, 33:26). B+(***)
Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference (2017, Young Turks): Tenor saxophonist, I had noticed him with Gerald Wilson, Phil Ranelin, and in Throttle Elevator Music before his 3-CD The Epic became a crossover sensation in 2015. More relevant to his breakthrough was his studio work with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus -- the latter produced The Epic. This one barely tops EP-length: six tracks, 31:54. Mid-to-large groups -- octets on the first half, 21 musicians (not counting the choir) on the 13:30 "Truth" closer. I've never cared for his added voices, but does blow some mean sax. B+(*)
Wooden Wand: Clipper Ship (2017, Three Lobed): Singer-songwriter James Jackson Toth, has a lot of recordings since 2004, many released as cassettes or CDRs. Fairly pleasant guitar and voice, nothing really got my attention. B
Lizz Wright: Grace (2017, Concord): Jazz singer from Georgia, started out in church, went solo with 2003's Salt. Looks toward Americana here, with Joe Henry producing and suggesting songs, which she handles with steadfast charm. B+(***)
Tal Yahalom/Almog Sharvit/Ben Silashi: Kadawa (2017, self-released): Guitar-bass-drums trio, first album, seems like a bit more with guests on 5 (of 12) tracks, Adam O'Farrill's trumpet on three of those. Everyone writes, but mostly Yahalom, whose guitar has a nice ring. B+(**) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Mose Allison: I'm Not Talkin': The Soul Stylings of Mose Allison 1957-1971 (1957-71 , BGP): Piano-playing jazz singer from Mississippi, draws on blues but never lived them, his light voice flippant and bemused, a carefree hipster from the 1950s who never fit into anyone's mainstream. There should be a compilation that sums up his uniqueness. B+(***)
American Epic: The Collection (1916-36 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 5CD): The flagship, a box set tied to a documentary exploring a wide range of pre-WWII American music, country-folk and blues and Latino and Hawaiian and Native American but eschewing pop and jazz -- you get Ma Rainey but no Bessie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers with a cornet not Louis Armstrong. Although the dates spread out a bit, more than 90% fall within 1926-31 -- the two earlier cuts are solo fiddle pieces, the late ones blues so classic they seem older (Leadbelly, Robert Johnson). Closer, that is, to Harry Smith's purist Anthology of American Folk Music than it is to Allen Lowe's broader and deeper 9-CD American Pop. Eleven duplicates from Smith, but I recognize more songs than that as classic, and more still I didn't know at all. Comes in a hardcover book with song-by-song annotation. A [cd]
American Epic: The Best of Blues (1927-36 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy): Seventeen (or thirteen on vinyl) cuts from the box, only one post-1931 (Robert Johnson). That works out to a little less than half of the blues on the box -- depends on whether you count the box's religious cuts, skipped here. Can't say they're the better half either -- I wouldn't have picked more than half, not that the others aren't worthy of the box. Nor do they work particularly well as an old-time folk blues sampler either (not sure what I'd suggest instead, but short of the Smithsonian's The Blues 4-CD box set, maybe Yazoo's more focused Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson). B+(***)
American Epic: The Best of Country (1927-34 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy): Same deal, sixteen cuts, only one later than 1930. Given the series' folk focus, these early cuts stay clear of the Smithsonian's canonical Classic Country Music -- only three artists in common, two (Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers) represented here with their first 1928 Bristol sessions. (The third is Uncle Dave Bacon, although comparing the lists I have to wonder how Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett missed here, and Clarence Ashley and Charlie Poole missed there.) So I find this more useful than The Best of Blues, although the integration forced on the box is better still. A-
Chévere (2017, Parma): Cuban classical music, as near as I can figure, names of seven composers on the cover -- I thought I recognized Arthur Gottschalk, only to find I had him confused with Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869). Instrumentation is dominated by strings, and most come with vocals (Kat Parra is the one I recognize) -- neither of those are particularly endearing to me. "Chévere" is a Cuban slang term I've seen variously translated as cool, hot dog, and/or fantastic. B [cd]
Roscoe Mitchell: Duets With Anthony Braxton (1976 , Sackville/Delmark): Exactly as advertised, two pioneering AACM saxophonists playing various unqualified reeds and flutes, often more polite than their usual mid-'70s rut. B+(**) [cd]
Professor Rhythm: Bafana Bafana (1995 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Thami Mdluli, from South Africa, started making instrumental albums (mostly synths) around 1985, a sort of township jive meets house music which may or may not be related to kwaito (introduced to the US in Earthworks' Kwaito: South African Hip Hop (2000). Actually sound more like disco to me, or perhaps I should say what "African disco" should sound like? Seroiusly upbeat, ecstatic even. A-
Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal (2016 , Rune Grammofon): The various artists include nine guitarists, the most famous (Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, David Torn, Jim O'Rourke) only appearing once, Raoul Björkenheim twice, Henry Kaiser four times, Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen five (of nine cuts), matched only by ubiquitous bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Gard Nilssen. Some keyboards too, all fitting Norwegian guitarist Rypdal more firmly than ever into the fusion lexicon -- mostly by cranking the volume up. B+(*) [cd]
Ton-Klami [Midori Takada/Kang Tae Hwan/Masahiko Satoh]: Prophecy of Nue (1995 , NoBusiness): Marimba/percussion, alto sax, and piano. Group formed 1991, had two albums 1993-95. Satoh has a substantial discography (73 items in Discogs; Hwan 11, Takada 4). Rolling percussion with drone is the theme, but the variations only start there. B+(***) [cd]
Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (2013 , ECM): Names below the title: Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Larry Gray (bass, cello), Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino/soprano/alto sax, flute, recorder), and Henry Threadgill (alto sax, bass flute), all associated with AACM. Not as consistent as I'd like, but a stellar turn on piano, with the horns shooting every which way. A- [dl]
Fats Domino: Alive and Kickin' (2000 , Tipitina's): New Orleans rock and roll legend, scored 18 top-20 hits from "Ain't That a Shame" in 1955 through "Let the Four Winds Blow" in 1961, enough for a near-perfect single-CD compilation (e.g., The Fats Domino Jukebox) but his non-hits rarely distinguished themselves (so don't expect many surprises on his four-CD box). But he hasn't been a factor since then, and hadn't released anything since 1980 until these live shots washed up following Hurricane Katrina, when he was briefly reported as missing. Not sure just when these were recorded ("all were recorded by 2000"), and there are no revelations let alone classics, but he wasn't just an oldies artist -- his one remake ages gracefully, and his obscurities remind you what made him so likable. A-
Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter: New Rules for Noise (2007, Spool): Canadian guitarist, second album with this quartet: François Houle (especially strong on clarinet), Karlis Silins (bass), Kenton Loewen (drums). The guitarist brings a little noise, more groove, and keeps it interesting. B+(***)
New Lost City Ramblers: Volume II: Out Standing in Their Field (1963-73 , Smithsonian/Folkways): Founded in 1958 by Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, they played old time folk music on banjo-fiddle-guitar, introducing much of it to a new generation. For that, see The Early Years: 1958-1962, an essential album for any American folk collection. In 1963 Paley was replaced by Tracy Schwartz, offerng a convenient dividing line, with this sampler from seven albums sounding very nearly as classic. A-
Trevor Watts/Peter Knight: Reunion: Live in London (1999 , Hi 4 Head): Alto/soprano saxophonist, an important figure in the British avant-garde although he's gotten much less credit than Evan Parker or John Surman (both 5 years younger) as he's appeared much less often as a leader. Knight plays violin. He's best known as a member of English folk group Steeleye Span, but he played in Watts' Moire Music Sextet in 1987 and in Watts' Original Drum Orchestra in 1989. One 56-minute improv piece, the violin a deeply resonant duo partner. B+(**) [bc]
Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston: Dialogues in Two Places (2011 , Hi 4 Head, 2CD): Two musicians with a long working relationship, sax-piano duets, one disc from Guelph Jazz Festival in Ontario, the other from a slightly earlier set in Toledo, Ohio. Free improvs. Soprano starts shrill, but the alto balances nicely, and the interaction is vigorous. B+(**) [bc]
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, October 30. 2017
Music: Current count 28813  rated (+14), 405  unrated (+7).
Rated count is the lowest of any week this year -- you probably have to go back to a travel week to find one lower, although this month has been consistently low: 18 last week, 15 the week before, 17 the week before that. Three major reasons/excuses for this week: I took a day off cooking dinner on my birthday (old family favorites, keeping it relatively simple this year); I spent three days playing pretty much nothing but a 5-CD box, American Epic: The Collection; and I hurt myself rather badly, probably strains from moving some heavy (for me, these days) equipment. I'm still feeling pretty crippled, which is why yesterday's Weekend Roundup was so late and short, and this too will be brief. Also brief will be tomorrow's October-ending Streamnotes -- brief because of the light rated weeks all month long, but I doubt I'll write much introduction either.
The equipment story: I finally replaced an old Yamaha receiver with a new Harmon-Kardon unit. The Yamaha had developed an annoying buzz, which I've suffered through for many months now. A friend came over and conclusively proved that it was the Yamaha's fault, and recommended the new unit. I'm very happy with it, but swapping it in wasn't easy. The whole setup is in a large piece of furniture I built back when I lived in New York, so close to forty years ago. It's taller than I am, much wider, deeper too, and weighted down with all of my residual LP collection (about 400 albums). It originally had three equipment shelves: one for the turntable, one for one of those wedge-shaped Nakamichi tape decks, and one on top for an integrated amplifier and tuner. The gear it was built for has expired and been replaced, with one shelf returned to albums, an old turntable resting on top of a CD changer, and now the new receiver filling half of the top.
The problem was moving it all away from the wall to get access to the wires in the back. I also had to add a power strip, since the new receiver doesn't have secondary outlets. And, of course, it all needed cleaning. I still don't have it all put back together. Meanwhile, we have another equipment crisis: local wi-fi has been increasingly flaky. I've planned on replacing it for quite some time, buying a new wi-fi router appliance but never installing it. Looks like I need to do that soon. Unfortunately, it involves getting down on the floor and moving cables. It also means reconfiguring the firewall/router, and ultimately decommissioning a very old Linux box (one I built in NJ before moving to Kansas in 1999). So, some point next week everything breaks, then we scramble to put it back together again.
I thought I might get away for a brief road trip this week, but the way things are going I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever go anywhere again. Might not be so bad if I could report progress on book projects, but all I can claim for last week are new ideas I haven't done anything about. For instance, I thought a bit about writing an essay in the form of "A Letter to the Democrats" -- partly reaction to reading Mark Lilla's short and unconvincing The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, and partly revulsion with much of what I hear from the all-too-loyal opposition party spokespeople in Washington. (Although, not that anyone cares, the Casey Yingling story here in Kansas could offer a rich lode of material.)
Meanwhile, I've made no progress even on the most pedestrian of all of my projects, the Jazz Guides. Still only 53% through the last of the monster database files.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 23. 2017
Music: Current count 28799  rated (+18), 398  unrated (-4).
As predicted (feared), another short week with many distractions. Next week looks pretty similar, which means October's Streamnotes will very likely be the year's shortest -- lowest monthly count so far is 111 in May (114 in March, 115 in April, 119 in August; top count was 156 in January, followed by 153 in February, 149 in June, 144 in September). Current draft has 59 records, so that extrapolates to about 83. I'd need a week (plus a day) with 52 reviews to match my previous lowest monthly total this year.
Only three non-jazz albums below: Corey Dennison's blues album actually came in the mail; Wooden Wand was suggested by a tweet (actually an earlier album, not on Napster, so I tried the new one); Twitter also led me to the latest release by Awesome Tapes From Africa -- possibly the only label I actually follow there.
I haven't made a serious attempt to survey new non-jazz released in a couple months, so I have very little idea what to look for. Still, quite a few jazz albums in the queue, and many more I'm not serviced on. Unfortunately, I'm finding fewer than 50% of the new jazz I look for. I expect this will add up to my poorest coverage level since I started Jazz Consumer Guide in 2004.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 16. 2017
Music: Current count 28781  rated (+15), 402  unrated (+1).
Second short-count week in a row, following a +17 last week. No surprise for me, as we played host for a visiting friend from Boston. I spent one day cooking a nice dinner -- Moroccan, main dish was cod marinated in chermoula and baked over potatoes and tomatoes; sides were a roasted eggplant salad, roasted red bell peppers with goat cheese, a carrot salad, an olive-orange-onion salad, and a sweet potato-olive salad; dessert was a mixed fruit salad with honey and orange blossom water. Next day we drove out to Quivira NWR, Cheyenne Bottoms, and back through Lindsborg. Ate at Country Crossing in Yoder on the way out, and Swedish Crown in Lindsborg on the way back. Third day we drove around Wichita, dining at Molino's (Mexican). Anyhow, knocked about half of my week out, and I never really got back into it.
I did manage a small bit of progress on the Jazz Guides. I'm up to 51% in the Jazz 2000's file, which puts me at Julian Lage, and gives me 1197 pages. One metric I've been using suggests that I have 157 pages to go (1354 total), but that doesn't account for group entries that I've set aside -- probably another 50-75 pages. The 20th Century Guide is still stuck at 749 pages, so I'm 54 short of 2000 combined. That'll probably be a milestone to mark with a tweet, hopefully later this week.
One minor note on the list below. I was reminded of the Mose Allison compilation, which Christgau had given an A- to, by its conspicuous (albeit alphabetical) slotting on Phil Overeem's latest list. The record isn't available on Napster, but I was able to line up 23/24 songs, and figured that's close enough. Not quite as good as I'd like, although I could imagine the booklet and a few more plays pushing it over the line. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I could assemble an A- compilation, although I've yet to find any available record that quite makes the grade.
I expect I'll get closer to 30 records next week, although I'm likely to run into a few distractions. Also having trouble figuring out what to listen to on Napster, although my own new jazz queue is pretty deep right now, so there's that.
I should also note that some space has opened up on the server, so for a while I should be back to normal there. Still think I should move it all, but the immediate need is less urgent.
Laura Tillem had a nit to pick with my outrage at Trump and Tillerson for withdrawing the US from UNESCO yesterday. She blamed Obama. I'm not sure of the exact chronology or responsibility, but in 2011 the US stopped paying dues to UNESCO because they admitted Palestine as a full member. This was evidently mandated by a law passed by Congress -- I don't know whether it was signed by Obama, but wouldn't be surprised if it was. In 2012, Obama asked Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, and was turned down. In 2015 UNESCO passed a resolution that Israel took offense to -- something having to do with Jerusalem -- and at some point UNESCO designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a World Historical site, and made the faux pas of designating it as part of Palestine. But disagreements happen with international organizations. What I was more concerned with was the American refusal to participate and engage, which is consistent and largely dictated by neocon (imperialist) doctrine. Indeed, it should be pointed out that Israel didn't announce that it's leaving UNESCO until after the US did, supposedly on its behalf. I might also note that the US-Israeli decision casts further doubt that either nation has any real commitment to "the two-state solution," which has been official policy, at least in the US, at least since the early 1990s. If the US actually supported its own policy, you'd expect it to help establish international recognition of a Palestinian state even before Israel formalized the deal. Instead, since GW Bush the US has routinely subordinated its own policies and interests to Israel -- a blank check surrender which Obama and Trump have continued.
There is, I think, an interesting book to be written about how the critique of internationalism and, especially, the UN, has grown from a fringe cult like the 1950s John Birch Society into a hegemonic idea that dictates American foreign policy, affecting both parties.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 9. 2017
Music: Current count 28766  rated (+17), 401  unrated (-3).
Light week all around. I spent several days working on a fairly extravagant dinner. I had checked out a copy of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods from the local library, thinking I'd try a few dishes before I had to check the book back in. I made fourteen of them, counting some basic ones that got folded into other recipes (like the Apple-Pear Sauce, which went into Grandma Fay's Applesauce Cake, and the Everything Bagel Butter, perfect for spreading on the Seeded Honey Rye Pull-Apart Rolls). The cookbook has recipes for basic DIY ingredients: the one recipe I botched was the Sauerkraut, needed for Wine-Braised Sauerkraut and Mushrooms, itself a component to the Braised Sauerkraut and Potato Gratin. So I wound up buying Bubbies Sauerkraut for the Gratin, but my Sauerruben came out perfect, so I think the Sauerkraut would have worked if I had been more careful to keep the cabbage submerged.
While cooking, I went back to the travel cases, so I listened to a lot of great music, even if I have little to report. In fact, the two A- records below were things I wrote a bit about last week, so it was all downhill from last Monday. After cooking, I wrote up recipes and notes on the meal, but they're in the notebook. I haven't been able to update the website, so you probably won't be able to find them. (But note: I see a bit of disk space opened up, so maybe I can wrap this up and get it up there before it closes again. If you see album covers, that's a good sign I managed an update.)
Next week is likely to be short as well. We have a guest midweek, so will be spending time with her -- showing off the town, and maybe some of the countryside, and cooking a bit (Moroccan tomorrow night).
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Monday, October 2. 2017
Music: Current count 28749  rated (+30), 404  unrated (+6).
I wrapped up September's Streamnotes on Saturday. I couldn't update the website, so the only workable link at present is here. Inability to update means that eight cover pics of A- records won't be found. Same for the seven A- records in the list below (only one not in Streamnotes). Still no idea when I'll manage to straighten this mess out. There are so many things to do I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around it all.
The one new record was recommended by Phil Overeem, as he expanded his 2017 My Fav-O-Rite New and Old Records of 2017 list to 85. I'm not much of a Cajun fan, but the latest Lost Bayou Ramblers album hits the spot.
I tried closing the week on Sunday, but found a couple more incoming records on my messy desk, so I figured I should at least add them, and wound up updating the rated totals as well. One thing I notices was that I hadn't recorded the grade (A-) for Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite, so most likely that didn't get registered in its appropriate Music Week post. Things slowed down after posting on Saturday. I've been playing new jazz in FIFO order, but decided to let the September Intakt releases jump the line. Both -- an Irène Schweizer duo with Joey Baron and a second record by Tom Rainey's Obbligato quintet -- are somewhat less than I hoped for (well, expected), but still close enough I wound up sinking a lot of time in them. Schweizer has a lot of drummer duos on record, and the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre are nothing short of astonishing. I've long admired Baron, but he doesn't bring out the same spark in the pianist. Rainey's record is tougher to decide -- I'm not really much good with subtle, and there's a lot of that here.
I tried to catch up with Robert Christgau's recent picks, and was most impressed by L'Orange. The 2015 album with Jeremiah Jae had the special mix of sound and words that Christgau recognized, but I was every bit as taken by the 2016 collaboration with Mr. Lif, in part because its Orwellian dystopia seems amusingly quaint next to the actual hell we're (mostly) living through. I woke up this morning to news of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas, with TPM offering as its lead story: White House: 'Premature' to Talk Gun Control in Wake of Las Vegas Shooting. "Too late" would have been more like it, but with an average of one mass shooting per day (273 times in the first 273 days of this year, counting 4+ people shot as a "mass shooting"), timing doesn't really seem to be the question. (For a level-headed summary of the facts: German Lopez: Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts.)
I come from a family chock full of hunters, and I grew up with guns in my home and in the homes of most of my relatives. My father took a course on how to do taxidermy, so I also grew up surrounded by stuffed dead animals -- they were my specialty at school show-and-tells (the rattlesnakes were the biggest hits, but the badger and owl were the stars). The Idaho relatives are more likely to have stuffed bear and moose. One of them not only hunts; he makes his own antique rifles to get back closer to the pioneer spirit. My father and most of his generation served as soldiers, and that's still pretty common among the Arkansas-Oklahoma relatives. So I'm not someone who gets riled up easily over guns. Nor do I think it's government's job to protect us from every possible harm -- especially self-harm (one of those charts shows that guns kill many more people through suicide than murder -- I'd like to see the same chart include accidents and "justified" self-defense, which is surely the smallest slice of the pie). Still, I do have a problem with stupid, and there's way too much of that -- on both sides, but it's far from distributed evenly.
It's also important to realize that when people understand a problem, they can if not fix at least ameliorate it. In this regard, I noticed two tweets today. One pointed out that "The Onion has run this story verbatim five times since 2014, switching out only city, photo, and body count" (link). The story title: "No Way to Prevent This," Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." The other was The Onion's own tweet: "Americans Hopeful This Will Be Last Mass Shooting Before They Stop On Their Own For No Reason." Probably the single most obvious point one can draw from the Las Vegas shooting is that it would have been much less destructive had a federal law banning assault weapons not been allowed to expire back when Bush was president. (The latest count I've seen is 59 dead, 525 injured. That takes a lot of bullets over a mere 15 minutes.) Sure, it's not like Congress authorized the massacre, but that Congress could have prevented it (and some lesser cases) had they maintained existing law. You can blame them not doing so on NRA lobbying ($3,781,803 donations to current members of Congress), but I think it has more to do with continuous war since 2001, habituating us to the notion that all we need to solve problems is more firepower.
I bring up the lapse of law because Congress has just allowed several other important laws to expire, replacing them with nothing but anarchy and cowardice. As Rep. Joe Kennedy III listed them:
This story is unlikely to make the network news, especially on a day with so much bloodshed, but over time they will affect many more lives than the shooter in Las Vegas, and some of those effects will be dire. Again, these are not new things that we cannot do. They are things that we have been doing -- things that we actually should be doing better -- but are stopping because we've elected a Congress that can't be bothered even maintaining a semblance of civilization. (Isn't there a quote somewhere, to the effect that taxes are what we pay for civilization? One reason these laws are lapsing is that Congress is preoccupied with slashing taxes -- no doubt figuring that if they focus on helping the wealthy civilization will take care of itself.)
Speaking of dead people, Tom Paley and Tom Petty passed in the last few days. [The Petty report may have been premature.] The former was a founder of the legendary folk group New Lost City Ramblers. Their early work, before Paley left in 1962, was their best. The latter is a well known rocker, although the first image that pops into my mind is the girl in Silence of the Lambs singing along to "American Girl" in the car on her way to being kidnapped.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, September 30. 2017
No free disk space on my server, so it's impossible to update the website. Hence: no "faux blog" post, no new images (several late-breaking A- records, plus notice that I'm currently reading the Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes horror story, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign).The Serendipity blog appears to still be working, so I should be able to post my text there. I'm tempted to cross-post elsewhere, but don't have any good ideas at the minute.
After procrastinating some, I finally started to work on moving the website last night. My first idea was to install a Serendipity blog locally -- I vaguely recalled that it has some import tools, so hoped I might be able to import directly from the old blog, but after I got it working the import tools doesn't seem likely to work. (One big problem with my ISP is that I haven't been able to do a full database dump for several years now, and not having any disk space means I wouldn't have any place to temporarily hold the dump.)
My second idea was to use HTTrack to clone the blog-portion of the website, but simple operation would pick up too many redundant pages. I suspect there are options to limit this -- there seem to be about a hundred option switches -- so it can probably be done, but thus far I haven't figured out how. Still, I made a little progress last night: I wrote a shell script to collect all 171 pages of entries (2558 total) in the blog roll and save them in a directory. Today I realized this doesn't include the "further reading" parts of long blog posts, so I will have to identify them and go back a second time. Indeed, it might be best to use the pages I extracted to get the individual page URLs and grab them all again, so they'd wind up in separate files. In any case, it will take another program to extract usable data from the captured HTML files. The easiest thing then would be to convert it into my "faux blog" format, although it might be more useful to hack it into something I can stuff into a database (e.g., another blog, not necessarily Serendipity).
Good news, I suppose, is that when I get what I want from the site, I can end my dependency on the ISP (ADDR.COM -- highly unrecommended) and install at least my static files on a new server. No idea when that will be possible -- probably a week or two, although I could get snagged up in something or other.
Normally I'd try to write some notes out on the music below, but given the circumstances, I'll let it speak for itself. A review of last month's Music Week posts might help.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on August 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (10173 records).
Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (2017, Saponegro): Trumpet player from Peru, sextet includes Laura Andrea Leguia (tenor/soprano sax), Yuri Juarez (guitar), Freddy Lobatón (cajon), Hugo Alcazar (drums), and normally a bassist (John Benitez or Mario Cuba, but I don't see either in the credits, just a couple guest spots for keyboardist Russell Ferrante and one for guitarist Jocho Velásquez). Comes out hard on the beat, then sashays through several parts of "The Brooklyn Suite," with various interludes including a marvelous snatch of "Summertime." A- [cd]
Alfjors: Demons 1 (2015 , Shhpuma, EP): Portuguese avant-rock trio -- Mestre André (tenor sax, electronics, percussion, mbira, voice), Bernardo Alvares (bass, voice), Raphael Soares (drums) -- claim influences from African forests and Mongolian steppes, from Can and Lemmy and Hawkwind and "Saint John Coltrane," pounded into dense, ecstatic rhythms. Two fairly long cuts plus an interlude, 3 tracks, 28:39. B+(**)
Chino Amobi: Paradiso (2017, Non): Born in Alabama, based in Richmond, VA. Discogs lists style as "Experimental, Bas Music, Grime, Industrial" -- I've seen this described as a "dystopian soundtrack." It's certainly harrowing enough, but it's not as if we're not living through dystopia enough in the real world. B
Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (2016 , Odin): Swedish/Norwegian supergroup, fourteenth album since 2001, the six pieces split between Fredrik Ljungkvist (sax/clarinet) and Håvard Wiik (piano), the others: Magnus Broo (trumpet), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums; until recently the drummer was Paal Nilssen-Love). The pianist often takes charge here, the horns rarely breaking as free as you'd expect. Title also seems to be available in an expanded 3-CD package, adding a couple live sets. B+(**)
Michaël Attias Quartet: Nerve Dance (2016 , Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, born in Israel, grew up in Paris and Minneapolis, based in New York since 1994. Quartet with a fine rhythm section, most notably pianist Aruán Ortiz but also John Hébert (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums). B+(***)
João Barradas: Directions (2017, Inner Circle Music): Accordion player, from Portugal, young, appears to be his first album. Guest spots for Greg Osby (alto sax), Gil Goldstein (accordion), and Sara Serpa (voice). Backed with guitar, piano, bass, drums. Shows some range, lots of energy. B+(**)
Django Bates: Saluting Sgt. Pepper (2016 , Edition): British jazz pianist, mixed a Jimi Hendrix tribute in with more avant experiments back in the 1990s but hasn't recorded much since 2009. Goes for a straight 50th anniversary remake of the Beatles classic here, backed by Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with a Danish trio called Eggs Laid by Tigers handling the vocals, bass, and drums. Still a great record, but an unnecessary version. B
Richard X Bennett: Experiments With Truth (2017, Ropeadope): Pianist, based in New York, has two new records out, old ones back to 2010. This is a fusion-groove set with two saxophonists -- Matt Parker (mostly tenor) and Lisa Parrott (mostly baritone). B+(**) [cd]
Richard X Bennett: What Is Now (2017, Ropeadope): Piano trio, with Adam Armstrong (bass) and Alex Wyatt (drums). All originals except for "Over the Rainbow." Stress again on rhythm, but nothing hinting of fusion. B+(**) [cd]
Black Lips: Satan's Graffiti or God's Art? (2017, Vice): Garage rock band, formed in Dunwoody, Georgia, based in Atlanta, eighth studio album since 2003. B+(*)
Lena Bloch & Feathery: Heart Knows (2017, Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, born in Moscow, emigrated to Israel in 1990, studied in Germany, currently teaches in Brooklyn. She released Feathery in 2014, and has kept the name for her quartet: Russ Lossing (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), and Billy Mintz (drums). Bloch and Lossing wrote four cuts each. They flow easily, nothing really standing out. B+(*) [cd]
Bomba Estéreo: Ayo (2017, Sony Music Latin): Colombian group, cumbia with electro glitz, the beat hard, the vocals a bit in your face. B+(**)
Jean-François Bonnel and His Swinging Jazz Cats: With Thanks to Benny Carter (2017, Arbors): French alto saxophonist, plays clarinet on two cuts here; seems to have had several albums, although a list isn't easy to come by. At any rate, mostly plays with trad jazz musicians like Ken Colyer and Keith Nichols. Carter tunes and other standards, with Chris Dawson (piano), François Laudet (drums), and singer Charmin Michelle (6/9 cuts). B+(**)
Action Bronson: Blue Chips 7000 (2017, Vice/Atlantic): Rapper Arian Asllani, from Flushing, father Albanian Muslim, mother American Jewish, worked under various names before settling on this one -- most notably, Mr. Baklava. Fourth studio album (not counting four mixtapes), second on a major label. Underground beats, stoned sneer, lots of chopped salad. B+(**)
Don Bryant: Don't Give Up on Love (2017, Fat Possum): Memphis soul singer-songwriter, b. 1942, cut an album for Hi in 1969, wrote several famous song with/for wife Ann Peebles, tried his hand at gospel in the late 1980s and 2000, recycled some old songs and a few new ones here. B+(*)
Chamber 4: City of Light (2016 , Clean Feed): Franco-Portuguese group: Luis Vicente (trumpet), Théo Ceccaldi (violin), Valentin Ceccaldi (cello), Marcelo dos Reis (acoustic and prepared guitar), the latter three also credited with voice. All improv, notes say they never even discussed what they might do. Ambles some, but guitar can surprise you. B+(**)
Brian Charette Circuit Bent Organ Trio: Kürrent (2017, Dim Mak): Organ player, with Ben Monder (guitar) and Jordan Young (drums). "Circuit Bending is a technique where electronic instruments are manipulated so that they misfire (!!!) creating far out sonic landscapes." Charette does a good job of steering clear of the genre's clichés, but this isn't bent enough to be especially interesting. B+(*)
Zack Clarke: Random Acts of Order (2017, Clean Feed): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Henry Fraser on bass and Dre Hocevar on percussion. B+(*)
Collective Order: Vol. 2 (2017, self-released): Toronto collective, not really a group album, more like "various artists" -- a dozen or so leader/composers, sharing a pool of 19 musicians (3 vocalists). Some pieces catch my ear, like Connor Newton's Latin-flavored "Mahsong"; most kind of elide together. B+(*) [cd]
Stanley Cowell: No Illusions (2015 , SteepleChase): Pianist, first impressed me with his 1969 Blues for the Viet Cong, now 75 with a large discography -- mostly trios, but this one brightens up with Bruce Williams' alto sax and flute. Also with Jay Anderson (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(**)
Damaged Bug: Bunker Funk (2017, Castle Face): Electronica side project by John Dwyer, best known (though not very well by me) for Thee Oh Sees. B
DEK Trio: Construct 1: Stone (2016 , Audiographic): Group named for first initials: Didi Kern (drums), Elisabeth Harnik (piano), Ken Vandermark (reeds). Two cuts, 43:48, recorded live at the Stone in NYC. Vandermark works his way through his instrument rack, especially masterful on tenor and baritone, and piercing on what I assume to be his clarinet. The Austrians support him with a range of overlapping and suitably discordant rhythms. A- [bc]
DEK Trio: Construct 2: Artfacts (2017, Audiographic): Third album, back in Austria, with pianist Harnik coming out more while Vandermark screeches on clarinet. Best stretch comes in "Paper Tongue": a strong platform rhythm under some of Vandermark's finest tenor sax honk. B+(***) [bc]
DEK Trio: Construct 3: Ovadlo 29 (2017, Audiographic): Moving on, nine days later in the Czech Republic. Three more pieces, two 21-minute bashes and a 4:10 variation. Best clarinet bit yet, a very strong tenor sax stretch. B+(***) [bc]
Dave Douglas With the Westerlies and Anwar Marshall: Little Giant Still Life (2016 , Greenleaf Music): The Westerlies, who have a previous album with Wayne Horvitz, add two trumpets and two trombones to the leader's trumpet, with Marshall on drums. Similar to Douglas' other brass band experiments, but less bottom, more postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Mike Downes: Root Structure (2016 , Addo): Bassist, from Canada, sixth album since 1997, won a Juno Award for Ripple Effect in 2014. Quartet with guitar (Ted Quinlan), piano/keys (Robi Botos), and drums. Original material (aside from odd bits by Botos and Chopin). Pleasantly engaging. B+(*) [cd]
Chet Doxas: Rich in Symbols (2017, Ropeadope): Artist's name, credited with "woodwinds and synths," not on cover or spine -- in fact, nothing on cover. Quartet with guitar (Matthew Stevens), bass and drums, loosely fits as fusion elaborating riffs into grooves. Guests Dave Douglas and John Escreet appear on one track each, Dave Nugent on three, producer Liam O'Neil all over the place. B+(*) [cd]
Kaja Draksler Octet: Gledalec (2016 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Pianist from Slovenia, also in European Movement Jazz Orchestra, fourth and most ambitious album, although note that two singers occupy slots in the Octet, leaving six instrumentalists: two saxophonists (Ada Rave and Ab Baars), violin (George Dumitriu), bass, and drums. The vocals are arch and/or arty, the sax much preferred, although both struggle on the rough footing. B
Bob Dylan: Fallen Angels (2016, Columbia): Spacing for Dylan albums since 1993's World Gone Wrong: 4 years, 4, 5, 3, 3 (Tempest, in 2012, the most forgettable of the run). So, you might expect a new one around 2015, but the muse evidently failing him, Dylan decided to cover Ye Great American Songbook for his godawful Shadows in the Night. That proved easy enough he's come up with this sequel just one year later (and even more in 2017). But where the previous album's renditions were grating, he's softened these up to the point of insignificance. C+
Bob Dylan: Triplicate (2017, Columbia, 3CD): More songbook, spread out over three discs but they're short ones: 31:48, 32:07, 31:47, 10 songs each. Notes: Jimmy Van Heusen seems to be Dylan's favorite songwriter (7 songs, 4 with Johnny Burke, 2 with Sammy Cahn); only one Irving Berlin (one each Arlen, Rodgers, Kern, Carmichael), nothing by Cole Porter or the Gershwins; horns on the opener, but strings are more prevalent later. I probably hear more than fifty vocal standards records each year, and I can't think of any aspect Dylan isn't below average in. Not his worst -- the horns do perk things up -- but still. C+
Harris Eisenstadt Canada Day Quartet: On Parade in Parede (2016 , Clean Feed): Drummer, group dates back to 2009 Canada Day album, with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Matt Bauder (tenor sax), and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). Strongest when the two horns spin free. B+(**)
John Escreet: The Unknown: Live in Concert (2016, Sunnyside): Pianist, seventh album since 2008, started on mainstream labels but this quartet represents an avant move: John Hébert (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums, vibes), and most importantly (and unmistakably) Evan Parker (tenor sax), with the pianist distinguishing himself with his oblique cross rhythms. Two parts, from two consecutive days in the Netherlands, totalling 74:47. A-
Adam Fairhall: Friendly Ghosts (2017, Efpi): British pianist, has a couple previous album and sidework with Nat Birchall. Takes this one solo. I'm not seeing a credits list, but several songs have words like "rag," "stomp," and "boogie" in the title, and the music reminds me of Dave Burrell's more antique explorations. B+(***) [bc]
Erica Falls: Home Grown (2017, self-released): Soul singer from New Orleans, second album, can't find much bio and was thrown by description of "her sophomore project titled Vintage Soul" -- must be this one. Doesn't strike me as vintage but if she wants to claim Irma Thomas -- not actually on her list of claimed influences, but the best model I can come up with -- she has a strong start. B+(**)
Fat Tony: MacGregor Park (2017, First One Up, EP): Houston rapper, born in Nigeria as Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu, shortened to Anthony Jude Obi. Fourth studio album, a bit short at eight cuts, 28:35, but with an infectiously easy flow, not that life comes so easy. A- [bc]
George Freeman: 90 Going on Amazing (2005 , Blujazz): Guitarist from Chicago, brother of saxophonist Von Freeman, cut his first record in 1969, side credits go back to a 1961 record with Richard "Groove" Holmes and Ben Webster, 90 and still performing now but a mere 78 when this was recorded. Mostly easy-going funk, a quartet with Vince Willis prominent on piano. B+(*) [cd]
Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (2017, Firehouse 12): Looks more like a double trio, with Ralph Alessi and Tyler Ho Bynum on trumpet/cornet, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook on guitar, Gerald Cleaver and Fujiwara on drums. I haven't quite figured out the parts where the leader talks about music direction, but I'm quite taken by how they all bounce off one another. A- [cd]
Gato Preto: Tempo (2017, Unique): Dance groove duo, producer Lee Bass (from Ghana) and singer-rapper Gata Misteriosa (from Mozambique) -- based somewhere in Europe, but that's about all I've been able to find, although I count 25 releases (including EPs and Remixes) on their Bandcamp page. Which makes them a subject for further research, although for now I'd rather not muddy up the clear uniqueness of their electro rush. A-
Philipp Gerschlauer/David Fiuczynski: Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik (2016 , Rare Noise): German alto saxophonist, American guitarist, the latter 22 years older, basically a fusion player (early album title: Jazz Punk). Gerschlauer, best known for his group Besaxung, developed a microtonal technique that splits an octave into 128 pitch steps. Band includes Jack De Johnette (drums), Matt Garrison (bass), and Giorgi Mikadze (microtonal keyboards). Doesn't sound all that exotic, but flows nicely. B+(*) [cdr]
Mats Gustafsson & Craig Taborn: Ljubljana (2015 , Clean Feed): Duo, slide and baritone saxes vs. piano, two improv pieces totalling 38:04 so they decided to release it on vinyl. The saxophonist backs off his usual squall, deferring to the pianist, who provides most of the interest. B
João Hasselberg & Pedro Branco: From Order to Chaos (2017, Clean Feed): Portuguese bass and guitar duo, based in Copenhagen, backed discreetly by drummer João Lencastre, with an occasional guest or two on half the tracks -- saxophonist Albert Cirera changes the chemistry to something much more combustible. B+(*)
Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (2016 , Origin): German pianist, based in Canada (off the beaten path in St. John's, Newfoundland), half-dozen records, this one solo, improvising against the steady roll of his rhythmic figures. B+(**) [cd]
Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (2016 , Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, Discogs only lists four albums since 1998 but I've heard many more than that, most quite interesting. This one is solo, deftly picked: four originals, two from kindred spirit, the late Garrison Fewell, five more from the tradition (Oliver, Monk, Dolphy) and beyond. B+(***) [cd]
Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in Tempo (2017, Creative Nation Music): Previous volumes have picked on modern classical music (Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ives), so why not Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, widely cited as the great composer of "America's classical music"? Quintet: guitar, trumpet, clarinet, cello, drums. Ellington's piece, a tribute to his mother from 1935, was originally spread out over four 10-inch sides, but still only came to 12 minutes. Hofbauer picks it apart, extending his deconstruction to 24:50, but the theme comes through as elegant as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Honest John: International Breakthrough (2015-16 , Clean Feed): Norwegian-Swedish quintet, musician order seems significant here: Ole-Henrik Moe (violin), Kim Johannesen (guitar/banjo), Ola Høyer (double bass), Erik Nylander (drums/drum machine), Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (alto sax/clarinet). Actually, Holm becomes more prominent toward the end, but the early string focus is most distinctive. B+(**)
Humcrush: Enter Humcrush (2014-15 , Shhpuma): Norwegian jazztronica duo, Ståle Storløkken (keyboards) and Thomas Strønen (drums), fifth album together, mostly a rush complex enough to keep it interesting, but tails off a bit. B+(**)
Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem (2017, Luna Park): Singer-songwriter, has played off his biracial roots for most of his career, a status he indulges when he can't shake it, which is most of the time. Biggest surprise: a pair of covers, songs by Lou Reed and Lennon-McCartney, the latter with Reed in the band. B+(*)
Kesha: Rainbow (2017, Kemosabe/RCA): Kesha Sebert, returns with her third album five years after number two, starting with a timely song that goes "don't let the bastards get you down," and bending several genres around her pop pinky. B+(*)
Lauren Kinhan: A Sleepin' Bee (2017, Dotted i): Singer, best known as a member of New York Voices since 1992, fourth solo project since 1999, "the inspiration of this project sprung from nancy wilson's iconic collaboration with cannonball adderley." Still, she took to Wilson more than to Cannonball, not bothering to hire a saxophonist (although Ingrid Jensen makes a fair sub for Nat). B [cd]
Kirk Knuffke: Cherryco (2016 , SteepleChase): Cornet player, from Colorado, Discogs credits him with 19 albums since 2009. This is a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums) playing songs by Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry -- the focus is on the latter, both because he played various trumpets and because he was an essential part of Coleman's pathbreaking quartet, so in a sense what we're hearing here is Coleman without the saxophone. A-
Kokotob: Flying Heart (2016 , Clean Feed): Trio, with Taiko Saito (marimba/vibraphone), Niko Meinhold (piano), and Tobias Schirmer (clarinets) -- name assembled from first name fragments (hint: Saito and Meinhold had a 2006 duo album named Koko). None of the trio have extensive discographies, but I should note that Discogs lists two different Schirmers -- the other a drummer. An attractive beatwise, if not very jazzy, piece of chamber music. B+(**)
LCD Soundsystem: American Dream (2017, DFA/Columbia): Fourth album, moving ever closer to what we used to call new wave, at one point reminding me of Talking Heads, but less interesting, of course. B+(**)
David Lopato: Gendhing for a Spirit Rising (2017, Global Coolant, 2CD): Pianist, from Brooklyn, fifth album since 1981, also plays some other instruments here including "Embertone Friedlander virtual violin" and percussion (mostly with mallets). He also makes occasional use of reeds (Marty Ehrlich, Lucas Pino), strings (Erik Friedlander, Mark Feldman), vibes (Bill Ware), drums (Tom Rainey, Michael Sarin), and more exotic instruments. Sometimes seems closer to baroque than jazz, but not always. B+(*) [cd]
Luis Lopes: Love Song (2015 , Shhpuma): Portuguese guitarist, I've found him to be especially impressive in his Lisbon Berlin Trio and Humanization 4Tet. This is solo, electric but so muted it hardly matters. B
L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: The Night Took Us in Like Family (2015, Mello Music Group): Don't know anything about L'Orange, but he seems to be the beat guy, with Jae rapping (also guest spots for Gift of Gab and Homeboy Sandman). Skits can break the groove, which is pretty compelling. A- [bc]
L'Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing! (2015, Mello Music Group): Beats still interesting -- in fact, starts with an instrumental and could build on that. The once-and-future Dr. Octagon goes spacey here, probably for the best. B+(**) [bc]
L'Orange & Mr. Lif: The Life & Death of Scenery (2016, Mello Music Group): Conceived as an Orwellian dystopia, where art and music are banned and people are herded into worshipping the sun, the moon, and, of course, their fearless leader. Released about a month before we entered our own brave new world, where art and music survive because the new leaders are too clueless to suspect they're subversive. That may be why I found this much funnier than was no doubt intended, but that's how we deal with dystopia these days. A- [bc]
Tony Malaby/Mat Maneri/Daniel Levin: New Artifacts (2015 , Clean Feed): An avant variation on sax-with-strings, with the viola and cello alternately seeking to harmonize the sax and pull it in unexpected directions. An improvised live set, the lack of drums placing it uneasily in the realm of chamber jazz. B+(**)
Luís José Martins: Tentos -- Invenções E Encantamentos (2017, Shhpuma): Portuguese guitarist, in a band called Powertrio, credited with classical and prepared guitars here, also electronics and percussion, the former setting the sound. All originals, even with his "remote evocation of that rudimentary and warm Iberian musical form of the 17th century." B+(*)
Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith: A Reunion Tribute to Erroll Garner (2017, Blujazz): Bassist and drummer in pianist Garner's 1970-77 quartet -- the fourth player was congalero José Mangual, replaced here by Noel Quintana. The songbook includes Garner's "Misty" and "Gemini" but mostly features standards, opening with "Caravan." The record is pure delight, but you have to dig deep into the book to discover the all-important pianist: Geri Allen. Her recent death makes this even more poignant. A- [cd]
Meridian Trio: Triangulum (2016 , Clean Feed): Alto sax trio based in Chicago: Nick Mazzarella, Matt Ulery, and Jeremy Cunningham. Avant or postbop, shades of both, part of their triangulation. Runs long, could benefit from what we call editing. B+(*)
Emi Meyer: Monochrome (2009-16 , Origin): Singer, wrote five (of nine) songs here, born in Japan but grew up in Seattle, studied in Los Angeles, splits her time between Seattle and Tokyo bases. Plays piano, but mostly defers here to Dawn Clement. Nice closer: "What a Wonderful World." B+(*) [cd]
Mind Games [Angelika Niescier/Denman Maroney/James Ilgenfritz/Andrew Drury]: Ephemera Obscura (2013 , Clean Feed): Alto sax, piano, bass, percussion -- Maroney's machine doesn't sound all that "hyper" this time out. Nice sax tone, nimble, moves all around. B+(***)
MIR 8: Perihelion (2017, Shhpuma): Quartet: Andrea Belfi (drums), Werner Dafeldecker (function generators, bass), Hilary Jeffery (trombone), Tim Wright (computer/electronics). Website dubs these "four cinematic tracks . . . through panoramic landscapes . . . with multi-layered hybrid structures" and that's about right, as far as one cares. Vinyl length: 32:22. B+(*)
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: The Punishment of Luxury (2017, White Noise): English electropop duo, a pioneer if not inventor of wry, danceable pop as far back as 1980. Half the songs sparkle much like their prime period, especially the first two, not that they don't stall out here and there. B+(***)
Chris Parker: Moving Forward Now (2017, self-released): Drummer, also plays tenor sax, "debut" album (evidently not the drummer who played with the Brecker Bros., nor the pianist who's recorded on OA2), tries to do a little bit of everything on his first album, with thirteen other musicians listed on the cover. Starts off with "Battle Hymn of the Republic," segues into Rachmaninoff. None of it is especially notable, least of all Rachel Caswell's vocal turn on "Don't Think Twice It's Alright." It isn't. B- [cd]
Jonah Parzen-Johnson: I Try to Remember Where I Come From (2017, Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, grew up in Chicago, based in New York. This is solo, "recorded live to two track without loops or overdubs," yet Parzen-Johnson also manages to play analog synthesizer almost continuously, adding rhythm and harmony to the horn's fluttering vibrato. B+(**)
Mario Pavone: Vertical (2016 , Clean Feed): Bassist, an important composer with a substantial discography since 1979, working with a sextet here: Dave Ballou (trumpet), Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Oscar Noriega (clarinet/bass clarinet), Peter McEachern (trombone), Mike Sarin (drums). Noriega is especially striking here -- a favored voice the others revolve around. B+(***)
Debbie Poryes Trio: Loving Hank (2017, OA2): Pianist, third album since 2007, a trio plus Erik Jakobson's flugelhorn on one cut. Half originals, the first dedicated to Hank Jones sets the tone. B+(**) [cd]
Franciszek Pospieszalski Sextet: 1st Level (2016 , ForTune): Polish bassist, probably his first album (Discogs lists two others he has played on). Group includes tenor sax, alto sax, piano, two drummers (one also credited with electronics and vibraphone), plus a guest trumpet on one cut -- only two names I've run across before, neither I particularly remembered. Sound has a bit of circus air, slinking by through sleight-of-hand. B [bc]
Public Enemy: Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (2017, Enemy): Old school, dense with a lot of guitar as well as ever-so-hard beats. Could be that more plays would put this over -- can't say as I picked up on any lyrics, but they certainly have points to make. Was available for free download for a few days up to July 4, but I missed that window. B+(***) [yt]
Dave Rempis: Lattice (2017, Aerophonic): Saxophonist from Chicago tries a solo album, playing alto, tenor, and baritone. Cherry-picked together from four spots, with two covers among the six cuts (Billy Strayhorn, Eric Dolphy), keeps it tight and thoughtful, minimizing the usual solo sax pitfalls. B+(***) [cd]
The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cochonnerie (2015 , Aerophonic): So-named for two drummers, Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly, joined by Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and leader Dave Rempis on alto/tenor/baritone sax, who started stealing scenes in the Vandermark 5. Sixth group album, all impressive, this one all the more together. A- [cd]
Rolling Blackouts C.F.: Talk Tight (2015 , Sub Pop, EP): Australian group, first of two EPs -- this one 7 songs, 28:59, released in Australia in 2015 with "C.F." spelled out as Coastal Fever. Picked up along with the follow-up by an American alt-indie label. They sustain their 4-minute average with ringing altish guitars, then for a change of pace do a nifty Go-Betweens impression. A-
Rolling Blackouts C.F.: The French Press (2017, Sub Pop, EP): Cover abbreviates last half of group name, although I've seen this credited both ways. A bit shorter at 6 cuts, 25:09. Maintains their trademark guitar sound, but not sure what else. B+(**)
ROVA Saxophone Quartet/Kyle Bruckmann/Henry Kaiser: Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited (2015 , Clean Feed): Lacy's 1975 album is much more obscure than Ascension, John Coltrane's original sax orgy, which ROVA has twice re-recorded -- I've never heard it, although it was noted in my database -- but it is an immediate forebear of the saxophone quartet (WSQ and ROVA first recorded in 1977). Lacy's album also featured four saxophonists (Lacy on soprano, Steve Potts and Trevor Watts on alto, Evan Parker on tenor), guitar (Derek Bailey), and synthesizer (Michel Waisvisz), so this offers essentially the same lineup (occasionally switching to baritone and/or sopranino). In some ways quite remarkable, but too harsh for me to enjoy. B+(*)
Vitor Rua and the Metaphysical Angels: Do Androids Dream of Electrid Guitars? (2017, Clean Feed, 2CD): Portuguese guitarist, discography back to 1990, first disc is solo, second with his group (bass, drums, piano, trumpet, clarinets). The solo relies heavily on synth effects for its distinctness. The group develops slowly, before turning into more of the same. B+(*)
Rune Your Day: Rune Your Day (2016 , Clean Feed): Scandinavian avant-jazz group (recorded in Oslo, anyway): Jørgen Mathisen (tenor/soprano sax, clarinet), André Roligheten (tenor/baritone sax), Rune Nergaard (bass), Axel Skalstad (drums). Plods along, heavy and awkward, but there's something to be said for brute power. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Home Counties (2017, Heavenly): British pop group featuring singer Sarah Cracknell, first album in 1991. I've never gotten into their pleasant melodiousness, but this is as pleasing, beguiling even, as anything I've heard from them. B+(***)
San Francisco String Trio: May I Introduce to You (2016 , Ridgeway): Fairly well-known musicians: Mads Tolling (violin), Mimi Fox (guitars), Jeff Denson (bass and vocals on three tracks). Conceived as a 50th anniversary salute to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the arrangements often sly, the vocals unnecessary (although I found "A Day in the Life" rather charming). B+(*) [cd]
The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float the Edge (2016 , Clean Feed): Pianist, born in Phoenix, half-dozen albums as leader since 2003, this a trio with Michael Formanek (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) underpinning the rhythmic abstractions. B+(**)
The Selva: The Selva (2016 , Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: Ricardo Jacinto (cello), Gonçalo Almeida (bass), Nuno Morão (drums). First album, all improv, the bass resonates most deeply. B+(*)
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star (2017, Sub Pop): Experimental hip-hop duo from Seattle, with Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro, formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets) and Tendai "Baba" Maraire ("son of mbira master Dumisani Maraire"). Two previous albums, plus some EPs, plus another album released the same day as this one, the common concept Quazarz, whatever that may mean. I've always found them to be inscrutable and indecipherable, but I hear they get better if you play them loud and/or dig in for the long haul. Fair chance that's true here as well. B+(***) [bc]
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs the Jealous Machines (2017, Sub Pop): "Quazarz came to the Earth from somewhere else, a musical ambassador from his place to ours." If that sounds a little vague, try figuring out the album. "Coming from a simpler, more essential, innocent place, the hero could not make heads nor tails of most advancements." B+(**) [bc]
Matthew Shipp Quartet: Not Bound (2016 , ForTune): Avant pianist, third album this year, making it hard to take seriously his periodic retirements. Quartet adds Daniel Carter (flute, trumpet, tenor/soprano sax) to his usual Trio with Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. Reminds me how effective Shipp can be working behind and around a saxophonist -- e.g., his decade-plus with David S. Ware -- but also a good outing for Carter. A- [bc]
Tommy Smith: Embodying the Light: A Dedication to John Coltrane (2017, Spartacus): Scots tenor saxophonist, born on the same day Coltrane died -- which might explain some things if you believe in reincarnation like the Dalai Lama -- assembled a batch of Coltrane songs for their 50th. Done in classic Quartet style with Peter Johnstone (piano), Calum Gourlary (bass), and Sebastian de Krom (drums) holding their own. Still, it's the saxophonist's extraordinary chops that make the album undeniable. A-
Wadada Leo Smith/Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ikue Mori: Aspiration (2016 , Libra): Two trumpet players, piano, and electronics, with Fujii writing four (of six) pieces, one each for the trumpet players. Surprisingly sedate given the company, the trumpets often retiring, the electronics hard to locate, but the piano offering a thoughtful framework. B+(**) [cd]
David Stackenäs: Bricks (2013 , Clean Feed): Swedish guitarist, Discogs lists a dozen albums since 2000, but most (including the two I've heard) would be filed under other names. This is solo acoustic, somewhat given to plucky noodling circling around deeper thrusts. B+(*)
Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two (2017, A.T. Music): Standards singer. Pianists Mike Garson, Tamir Handelman, and Christian Jacob get cover credit, but the ever so tasteful backup musicians deserve more credit, and when you dig into the fine print you find folks like Chuck Berghofer (bass), Luis Conte (percussion), Hendrik Meurkens (harmonica), Carol Robbins (harp), and most notably Ricky Woodard (tenor sax). They aim for a midnight smolder, and the singer meets them there. B+(***) [cd]
Stik Figa: Central Standard Time (2017, Mello Music Group): Rapper John Westbrook Jr., from Topeka, Kansas. Nice bounce to it. Nine cuts, 31:38, so a bit more than an EP. B+(***)
Rain Sultanov: Inspired by Nature (2017, Ozella): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor) from Azerbaijan, second album. Backed by piano, cello, oud, bass, drums, and percussion, the take on nature is vibrant and often quite lovely. B+(**)
Summit Quartet: Live in Sant' Arresi (2016 , Audiographic): Two avant saxophonists, Ken Vandermark (tenor and baritone) and Mats Gustafsson (just baritone), backed by Luc Ex (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums). The saxophonists have always had a knack for bringing out the ugly in each other, but usually avoid such excess here. B+(**)
Swet Shop Boys: Sufi La (2017, Customs, EP): Anglo-American hip-hop duo -- or Indian-Pakistani if you trace them back a generation -- Heems (Himanshu Suri, ex-Das Racist) and Riz MC (Riz Ahmed, had a breakout acting role in The Night Of). Dropped a terrific album last year, Cashmere, following it up with this six track, 15:22 EP. A-
Fred Thomas: Changer (2017, Polyvinyl): Singer-songwriter, formerly of His Name Is Alive and Saturday Looks Good to Me, Discogs lists ten albums since 2002, starting with Everything Is Pretty Much Entirely Fucked. Not so bummed out here, the music scattered but most with some edge. B+(***)
Nestor Torres: Jazz Flute Traditions (2017, Alfi): Puerto Rican flautist, fifteen or so albums since 1981, covers pretty much all of the bases here with pieces by Mann, Lateef, and Kirk, standards, and Latin jazz favorites, opening with Moe Kaufmann ("Swinging Shepherd's Blues") and closing with Irving Fields ("Miami Beach Rhumba"). B+(*) [cd]
Trespass Trio: The Spirit of Pitesti (2015 , Clean Feed): One of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen's groups, with Per Zanussi (bass) and Raymond Strid (drums), fourth group album (odd fact: Küchen, with 23 albums listed by Discogs, is the only one without a Wikipedia page). Pitesti is a town in Romania that was the site of a notorious prison brainwashing experiment. Seems to have bummed everyone out here. B+(*)
Umphrey's McGee: Zonkey (2016, Nothing Too Fancy): Group dates back to 1997 in South Bend, Indiana, alternately described as a jam band and as a prog rock group. Discography is large, with 9 studio albums, 10 live albums, 4 videos, 2 EPs, and probably scads of live bootlegs. These are mashups, evidently covered as they keep a consistent guitar-heavy sound -- typical is a piece that bounces back and forth between "Electric Avenue" (Eddy Grant) and "Highway to Hell" (AC/DC). Sort of fun, but has its limits. B+(**)
Unhinged Sextet: Don't Blink (2016 , OA2): Recorded in Arizona, but band members teach all over the country. Eight pieces by five members: Vern Sielert (trumpet), Will Campbell (alto sax), Matt Olson (tenor sax), Michael Kocour (piano), Jon Hamar (bass), Dom Moio (drums -- the only non-writer). Postbop, no reason I can think of for the group name. B [cd]
Vector Families: For Those About to Jazz/Rock We Salute You (2017, Sunnyside): Minneapolis group, drummer Dave King the best known (Bad Plus, Happy People), with Anthony Cox (bass), Dean Granros (guitar), and Brandon Wozniak (sax). The rock allusions are far from obvious, even when King explains their sound as "Ornette Coleman's Prime Time meets Bad Brains with a bit of Pere Ubu" -- for one thing, time is completely free, even when covering Ellington's "Satin Doll" (the piano sounds are something Granros whipped up using "a Guitar Band video game controller"). They also cover Ornette. A-
Martti Vesala Soundpost Quintet: Helsinki Soundpost (2016, Ozella): Finnish trumpet player, debut album (maybe just by group), a quintet with tenor sax/flutes, piano, bass, and drums -- a classic hard bop lineup, but softer and more ornate, not a mix I especially care for. But some fine trumpet leads. B
Ken Wiley: Jazz Horn Redux (2014 , Krug Park Music): French horn player, fourth album, groups shifts around a lot from cut to cut, Bob Sheppard (tenor sax on three cuts) makes me think Los Angeles. Lightweight, but still swings hard. B+(*) [cd]
Carl Winther & Jerry Bergonzi: Inner Journey (2016 , SteepleChase LookOut): Danish pianist, son of the late trumpet player Jens Winther (not to be confused with label head Nils Winther), has a couple albums, wrote 6 (of 9) pieces pieces here, for a vigorous, robust quartet. The star, of course, is the tenor saxophonist. B+(***)
Nate Wooley: Knknighgh (Minimal Poetry for Aram Saroyan) (2016 , Clean Feed): Avant trumpet player, records a lot, here with a pianoless quartet: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Brandon Lopez (bass), Dre Hocevar (drums). I've forgotten whatever I once knew of Saroyan's poetry, and none is actually used here -- at least in verbal form, but I gather it was fragmented and abstract, something like the jazz here. A-
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Vincent Ahehehinnou: Best Woman (1978 , Analog Africa): Name reversed on cover, as it is on most (but not all) of his records, most co-credited with his band, L'Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Four-track vinyl reissue, runs 36:38, a satisfying length for such amiable groove pieces. B+(**)
James Luther Dickinson: I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone (Lazarus Edition) (2006 , Memphis International): Born in Arkansas, spent most of his life (1941-2009) in Memphis, best known as a record producer but cut a dozen albums, including his groups Mudboy and the Neutrons and Raisins in the Sun. His only album before 1986, Dixie Fried, wasn't as good as the title promised, but as he aged he turned into an amusing old weirdo. This was culled from a late live date, introducing two sons in the band (aka, as the cover but not the band intro notes, North Mississippi All-Stars). Reissued this year bundled with a hardcover book -- Phil Overeem insists "READ THE BOOK." B+(***)
Dick Hyman: Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals 1983-1988 (1983-88 , Arbors): Pianist, a master of every piano style from ragtime to swing, the most recognizable tunes here from Fats Waller. B+(***)
Joe King Kologbo & the High Grace: Sugar Daddy (1980 , Strut): Touted as "a lost Nigerian disco funk classic," the first of a promised series of "Original Masters" curated by Duncan Brooker. I know essentially nothing about Kologbo or anyone else on the album. Title cut runs 15:38, two more add up to 14:35. A bit chintzy, but the grooves keep powering on. B+(***)
Mono No Aware (2017, Pan): Sixteen previously unreleased pieces of ambient electronica by as many artists, none I'm familiar with. Mostly synth curtains with occasional muted chatter, not exactly fading into the background, but probably better for that. B+(*)
Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 1 (1969 , Cosmic Myth): Remastered and expanded from a single 1970 album, this marks the point where the pianist-leader discovered the Moog, and gets a little blip-crazy. B+(**)
Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 2 (1969-70 , Cosmic Myth): Based on a 1971 album, again remastered and expanded, with Sun Ra playing farfisa on half, minimoog on the rest -- the former more playful, with an amusing stretch of vocal. B+(**)
Shina Williams & His African Percussionists: Agboju Logun (1984, Strut, EP): Nigerian disco, just a 11:43 single extended with an 11:39 "LP version" of the same. B+(*)
Neil Young: Hitchhiker (1976 , Reprise): Part of his archives series, effectively a demo session with Young trying out various songs with just his guitar (or sometimes piano). Eight (of ten) songs eventually appeared elsewhere: one edited for 1977's Decade compilation, three on 1979's classic Rust Never Sleeps, the title cut finally appearing on 2010's Le Noise. "Give Me Strength" is the better of the unknowns (the rhymes are strained on "Hawaii"). I'm most taken with his laconic take on "The Old Country Waltz." B+(***)
Zaïre 74: The African Artists (1974 , Wrasse, 2CD): Live recordings from a big concert in Kinshasa, part of the entertainment program but the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman. The roster is worthy -- Rochereau, Franco, Orchestre Stukas, Abeti, and Miriam Makeba (opens with "Mobuto Praise Song" -- thankfully not in English) -- and the characteristic soar of soukous guitar paradise prevails. B+(**)
Bee Gees: Bee Gees' 1st (1967, Atco): The three Gibb brothers, born in Isle of Man, grew up in Manchester then moved to Australia in 1958, cut their first singles in 1963 and had two obscure albums before being re-introduced as a pop group here (the first to receive a US release). One great single ("To Love Somebody"), two more pretty decent ones, the filler straining against the icky strings, often succumbing. B
Bee Gees: Horizontal (1968, Atco): Second US album, same basic string-driven formula but they left out the hits -- only "Massachusetts" was released as a single in the US, and while it has a minor hook, nothing else -- especially the UK single "World" -- comes close. C
Bee Gees: Idea (1968, Atco): The brightest idea here was that someone learned to play guitar, evidently by listening to Hollies records. Still, the strings return, as does the pomposity of the vocals. C+
Bee Gees: Odessa (1969, Atco): Originally a double LP, a rite of passage for ambitious '60s (and '70s) groups, although few lived up to the hype. This one certainly doesn't. Tentative but finally rejected titles include An American Opera and Masterpeace. Songs include "Seven Seas Symphony" and "The British Opera," and their longing for glory days of the British Empire is palpable. C
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Warsaw) 2012 (2012 , ForTune): One piece, "Composition 363b+," runs 70:05, with James Fei on alto sax, the leader on alto and tenor, Tyler Ho Bynum on cornet, and Erica Dicker on violin. Despite its abstraction, this is a remarkable piece of music. A- [bc]
James Brown: Cold Sweat (1967, King): One new single, a great one, in two parts, plus ten covers -- upbeat ones on the front side power by His Famous Flames, ballads on the back side that he redeems through extraordinary vocal athleticism. A-
Tim Buckley: Goodbye and Hello (1967, Asylum): Singer-songwriter, started folkie on his debut but edging toward baroque (or psychedelic) on his second album -- there are moments I can imagine swapping in Grace Slick's voice. Elsewhere he mixes in some intense exotic percussion and other surprises, although it grows heavy and weary in the end. B+(*)
Bulbul: Hirn Fein Hacken (2014, Exile on Mainstream): Rock group from Austria, guitar-bass-drums, discography goes back to 1997, caught my attention because drummer is Didi Kern, who also plays in DEK Trio with pianist Elisabeth Harnik and avant-saxophonist Ken Vandermark. Dense postpunk with a minor hint of jazz, lyrics mostly in English, terse too. B+(**)
DEK Trio: Burning Below Zero (2014 , Trost): Ken Vandermark trio, recorded in Austria with two locals: Elisabeth Harnik (piano) and Didi Kern (drums, listed as ddkern). Vandermark has only rarely played with piano backup -- mostly Håvard Wiik in their Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group -- but Harnik suits him, probably because her fills add to the rhythm rather than harmonics. B+(***)
Donovan: Sunshine Superman (1966, Epic): Scottish folk-pop singer-songwriter Donovan Leitch, third album, the first to get much attention in the US with its chart-topping title single. First side filler is a bit weak, but second side picks up, leading with "Season of the Witch." B+(**)
Donovan: Mellow Yellow (1967, Epic): Title song a second huge hit single, the "electric banana" a vibrator although I recall investigating a rumor about smoking banana skins at the time. Reverts to more folkie fair after that, although "Sunny South Kensington" is pretty cheerful. B+(**)
Kaleidoscope: Side Trips (1967, Epic): Byrds-flavored psychedelic folk band, cut four albums 1967-70, best known member was David Lindley (who in the 1980s cut a couple of retro-rock records I liked, especially El Rayo-X) although Chris Darrow (who soon moved on to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) had a slight edge as a songwriter. No real hits, but plenty of old-timey filler, like "Hesitation Blues," "Oh Death," "Come On In," and "Minnie the Moocher." B+(***)
B.B. King: Blues Is King (1967, Bluesway): Live from the International Club in Chicago, where he's introduced as "the world's greatest bluesman." Raw, no shortage of intensity, but that doesn't help the flow, or let songs stand out, like, say, the slightly earlier Live at the Regal. B+(**)
L'Orange & Stik Figa: The City Under the City (2013, Mello Music Group): The former does beats, the latter raps. Played it twice while thinking about something else, enjoyed it, and have nothing more to say. B+(*)
Mario Pavone: Sharpeville (1985 , Playscape): The bassist's third album, originally released in 1988: with Marty Ehrlich (alto/soprano sax, clarinet, flute/alto flute), Thomas Chapin (alto sax, flute/bass flute), and Pheeroan Ak Laff (drums) named on the cover, but also, on the title track, Mark Whitecage (alto sax), Peter McEachern (trombone), and John Betsch (drums). Has its moments, not least the bass solos, but they come and go. B+(*)
Mario Pavone Nu Trio: Remembering Thomas (1999, Knitting Factory Works): Thomas is presumably Chapin, the alto saxophonist who died tragically at 41 the year before: Chapin and Pavone were very closely linked, playing on virtually all of each other's records for a decade. Still, these pieces were all composed by Pavone and arranged for piano trio, with Peter Madsen and Matt Wilson, marking Chapin's absence as much as his inspiration. B+(***)
Mario Pavone/Michael Musillami: Op.Ed (2001, Playscape): Leaders play bass and guitar, and split the writing, but these aren't duets: they're joined by Peter Madsen (piano) and Michael Sarin (drums). Still, an especially good showcase for the guitarist. B+(**)
Mario Pavone Nu Trio/Quintet: Orange (2003, Playscape): The Nu Trio, of course, features Pavone and Peter Madsen, with Gerald Cleaver taking over the drums. The trio cuts are first rate, but the horns are more noticeable: Steven Bernstein (trumpet) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax), with Bernstein arranging three pieces. B+(***)
Saint Etienne: Good Humor (1998, Sub Pop): Fourth album, a little sharper and shriller than their usual soft alt-dance pop shtick. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Sound of Water (2000, Sub Pop): Fifth album, surprised to find it on Chris Monsen's 2017 list as it is quite old. Still, soft and smart, mostly interchangeable with the others I've heard. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Finisterre (2002, Mantra): Starts stronger, ends wimpier, otherwise about par. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Travel Edition 1990-2005 (1991-2004 , Sub Pop): Best-of, rounded up to fifteen years in a shorter package than the 2-CD London Conversations that appeared about the same time. [16/18 cuts.] B+(***)
The Serpent Power: The Serpent Power (1967, Vanguard): San Francisco group, David Meltzer and Clark Coolidge originally poets, Tina Meltzer singer, several others. Basically folkie, leaning toward psychedelia, has trouble getting there. B
Fred Thomas: Everything Is Pretty Much Entirely Fucked (2002, Little Hands): First solo album, a side project while Thomas was in the band Saturday Looks Good to Me. Mostly solo, a bit of harmonica to go with the guitar, strained and bummed out, though he picks up a trashy noise band toward the end ("When You Fuck Things Up With Your Baby"). Two covers: one from Warn DeFever (His Name Is Alive, another band Thomas played in), the other a remarkably pained Brian Wilson's "Don't Worry." B+(*)
Fred Thomas: All Are Saved (2015, Polyvinyl): Skipping past titles like Turn It Down, Sink Like a Symphony, and No Other Wonder (Seemingly Random Unreleased Songs 1997-2012), this seems to have been the singer-songwriter's breakthrough album (to the extent he's ever had one). One advance is that he's using a lot more band power, adding to the sonic edge while still keeping it personal. B+(**)
Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Ray Rosen]: On Tour . . . Toronto/Rochester (2001, Cadence): McPhee's long-running avant trio with bass and drums, first recorded in 1999, continuing at least through 2012 (Duval died in 2016). Four long cuts, including "Try a Little Tenderness" and "My Funny Valentine," from Toronto, but only 8:59 from the night before in Rochester. Opens on pocket trumpet, switches to tenor sax, burning and smoldering, the bass and drums only to serve, yet they have some of the best moments. B+(***) [bc]
Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: Journey (2003, CIMP): McPhee plays alto and tenor here, backed by bass and drums. After all the storm and clang, ends with a lovely "Amazing Grace." B+(**)
David S. Ware: Live in the Netherlands (1997 , Splasc(H)): Tenor saxophonist, playing solo back during the heyday of his quartet. Four pieces, runs 39:07, inevitably limited in color and rhythm, but a powerful, protean force. B+(**)
Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston: At Ad Libitum (2013 , ForTune): Improv duets, recorded live in Poland, soprano/tenor sax and piano. Watts I recognize as one of the founding figures in the English avant-garde. Weston came along later, in the late 1980s, and has several duo albums with Watts, Eddie Prévost, and Lol Coxhill -- mostly on Emanem, which kept them off my radar. The soprano can be a little screechy, but remarkable overall, especially impressed by the pianist. B+(***) [bc]
The Youngbloods: The Youngbloods (1967, RCA Victor): Another band on a folk-to-psychedelic rock tangent, not to mention New York-to-San Francisco, originally Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, they sounded like a synthesis of everyone else -- indeed, their biggest hit ("Get Together") had previously been done by Jefferson Airplane, and only hit on a reissue after being picked up as an advertising jingle. B+(*)
The Youngbloods: Earth Music (1967, RCA Victor): Second album, draws a little more on blues riffs for their own songs, picks up three covers that stake out their outer limits: Tim Hardin, Chuck Berry, Robin Remailly (you know, Unholy Modal Rounders). B+(**)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, September 25. 2017
Music: Current count 28719  rated (+29), 398  unrated (+6).
As I'm writing this, there is no free disk space available to my server account, so I won't be able to update the website. That was the situation last night as well when I went to add my Weekend Roundup post, but just in time a sliver opened up and I was able to make the update -- my first in over a week (I was able to sneak my post on Bill Phillips up by deleting a huge file and pushing the single file up). If you're reading this (at least in the "faux blog" I lucked out again. I dread having to move the website, but unless something changes soon I'll have to. The problem isn't the static files, which I have on my work machine. The big problem is the blog, which will surely be lost. Due (I assume) to disk quotas (or possibly some other bottleneck) I haven't been able to dump the blog database for several years now. And the ISP, ADDR.COM, has for all intents and purposes stopped providing any form of support -- at this point it's rather surprising that they've even kept the machines running. Oddly enough, I have been able to store new blog posts lately, so that may still work.
As for this week's music, I'm surprised the rated count is as high as it is. I got off to a very slow start last week. Surprisingly, the two A- records this week were the first two I rated, and they got 5-6 plays each. I picked up some speed as I got into less interesting albums, but what salvaged the week was a side effect of reading the latest Rolling Stone paean to their birth year, 1967: 50 Essential Albums of 1967. This was written by David Fricke and Robert Christgau, expanded a bit from their 2007 survey of the same year, The 40 Essential Albums of 1967. Christgau had actually written a Consumer Guide to 1967 back in 1977, the only such retrospective Consumer Guide he ever wrote -- I added those entries to his Consumer Guide database, leaving a never-filled hole for 1968 and into 1969, when he started writing his monthly columns.
I made a list and decided to check out the records I didn't have ratings for, and picked up a few extras along the way. The closest thing to a find was David Lindley's early band Kaleidoscope's Side Trips, although the only songs that stuck in my head afterwards were Donovan's two title singles and the Youngbloods' "Get Together." Still, a surprising number of albums weren't on Napster: Bobby "Blue" Bland's Touch of the Blues, The Four Tops' Reach Out, B.B. King's The Jungle, Moby Grape, The Best of Wilson Pickett, Procol Harum, Diana Ross and the Supremes' Greatest Hits, Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits/Part One -- just found James Brown's Cold Sweat under "various artists," so next week for that.
No jazz on their list. I figured I could rectify that, but a quick search through my database suggests that 1967 was a sub-par year for jazz -- maybe the poorest of the decade. Major jazz labels went into sudden decline after 1965, although there was a partial rebound in 1969 with the emergence of fusion and an avant-garde rebound, both aided by new artists and labels in Europe. But for 1967 (and I could be off slightly, as I'm more likely to have recording than release dates in the database) I only count 2 A records and 15 A- (partial checking revealed 2 more A- recorded in 1967 were released later). Sorted approximately:
No progress to report on Jazz Guides. The Streamnotes draft file for September has 122 reviews. I should post it this week, no later than the end of month (Saturday), if I can get the website working. Quite a bit of new jazz in the queue right now -- partly because I managed to account for today's mail from Lithuania. I'd hate to see the unrated count top 400 again, so I should focus more there. One reason I slacked off last month was that most of the new records had much later release dates. Of course, with September waning, we're nearly there.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 18. 2017
Music: Current count 28690  rated (+40), 392  unrated (+16).
Did almost nothing last week but listen, all jazz except for a couple items Phil Overeem recommended in tweets, only three albums coming from my recently expanding CD queue. The majority (22+5/40) of the records were Clean Feed/Shhpuma releases I never got in the mail -- I just brought up their 2017 releases pages and found it all on Napster, so easy enough. Nothing bad or especially good there: high was two B+(***), low three B. I rather expected more given that I had previously logged six A- records on Clean Feed (three on CD, three streamed). I don't believe this includes their September releases (I have some email on such, but lately they've gotten into making life difficult).
I did manage a push forward on compiling the Jazz Guide(s) last week. Up to John Hébert in the Jazz Post-2000 file (39%), which brings the post-2000 guide to 1140 pages. I was at 29% a week ago, so if I keep up the slog I still have six weeks to go (plus the groups I've shunted to the side). I'm still estimating it will hit 1500 pages, although the estimating formula I've been using shows it a bit shorter (1375, down from 1425, but that doesn't account for group entries).
By the way, some very bad political news since yesterday's already grim Roundup: John McCain announced he will "regrettably" vote for the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal (see Arizona Governor Backs O'care Repeal, Likely Securing McCain's and Flake's Votes). The Graham-Cassidy bill is in many ways even worse than the previous Repeal/Replace bills, reminding us that as with the House bills, the key to getting more Republican support is to make the legislation even more vicious.
Perhaps even more disturbing is this report: U.S. warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with North Korea. I think the last time that precise headline was used was 1914: "Austria-Hungary warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with Serbia." By the way, it was Rex Tillerson delivering the threat. Isn't he supposed to be the adult in the Trump playpen? Slightly less ominous but still way past the cusp of sanity, there's a picture of Trump and Netanyahu shaking hands under the title Trump on Withdrawing From Iran Nuclear Deal: 'You Will See Very Soon'.
Of course, we've seen plenty of hints already of these things, but it's part of human nature to discount worst-case scenarios.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 11. 2017
Music: Current count 28650  rated (+23), 376  unrated (+7).
Light count, mostly because I missed three days from the middle of the week -- would have been much lower had I not hit Rhapsody hard on the weekend. On Wednesday, I took a long day trip to see my extraordinary cousins in Independence, KS. Left around noon, and got back after midnight. Actually, night before I made a chocolate cake for the occasion (much to the disappointment of those hoping for a my mother's legendary coconut cake, but I had so little time I went with simple and surefire). Friday I cooked a Turkish dinner for seven (if you're interested, I did a brain dump in the notebook). Thursday I had a doctor's appointment, then went shopping, and finally started cooking. Worn out after that, and aggravated by a couple stupid kitchen mishaps (plus a couple pieces of technology that completely discredit my reputation as a smart shopper).
Many of the records below came from Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list: only things I haven't heard there now are the two AUM Fidelity jazz releases (William Parker and David S. Ware), Obnox: Niggative Approach (only 4/12 cuts on Bandcamp), and the Nots' single (or so I assume). Public Enemy was available as a free download for a week or so, but that's dried up and the only copy I found was on YouTube. Could be that more plays might raise it a notch -- ditto for Shabazz Palaces -- but I'd say odds are equal that they wouldn't. The worst, no surprise, were Dylan's songbook albums: the 2016 one was on Overeem's 2016 list but I hadn't noticed it on Napster until now.
My grade breakdown from Overeem's list: 20 A-, 14 ***, 17 **, 11 *, 3 B, 1 C+, 4 unheard. This week's only A- record comes from his list, a case where Ghana and Mozambique meet somewhere in Europe. I don't have a breakdown for how many I actually have CDs for -- probably not many (ok, 5, all but one jazz).
Haven't done anything on the jazz guides in 2-3 weeks, so my hopes of wrapping them up -- first draft, just raw collection -- by the end of the month are pretty slim. I've been stuck 29% of the way through Post-2000 Jazz, which leaves me with 1638 more artists in the file (plus 173 deferred groups), plus some relatively minor (but hard to estimate) mop up. No idea how long that will take, but the obvious answer is forever if I don't get started again.
I thought I had posted the first two links below, where various former writers and other workers at the Village Voice write about the past on the occasion of the Voice terminating its print edition, but they were still stuck in my scratch file. The others continue the thread.
I was reminded of the anniversary of 9/11/2001 today by a small article in the Eagle and a couple of items on the comics page. Theme was "never forget." So why the fuck is that? What exactly have sixteen years of obsessing over the outrage, picking at the scab, and flailing at our supposed enemies gotten us? We would have been better off to have treated it like a bad hurricane: grieved, consoled, rebuilt, moved on. And it's not as if Americans never forget. They had already forgotten why the people who hijacked and crashed those planes did so, leaving them with no better understanding of what happened than "hate our freedoms" and "axis of evil." Indeed, most Americans have forgotten lots of big things, like slavery and genocide against Indians, so why not this? The only real reason is that some people have agendas that exploit memory. Bush and company saw 9/11 as their ticket to launch a vast and endless war to reassert neocon supremacy. Most Democrats had compatible agendas, based largely on their supposed superiority at winning wars (e.g., Peter Beinart's book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror).
This fetish of victimhood on 9/11 mocks our annual remembrance of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: both supposedly signify how an innocent and peace-loving people got dragged into war by a dastardly attack on a "day of infamy," but Americans in 2001 could hardly be described as innocent or peace-loving -- certainly not by anyone aware of the US Defense budget. The other WWII event we still celebrate isn't the end of the war: it's D-Day, when US troops landed in France -- not nearly the turning point of the war that the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was, but the best we can lay claim to. The agenda of Pearl Harbor + D-Day is to make us feel good about war, and pass those Defense budgets. (Peace people also remember Hiroshima, and again there is an agenda: to remind us that nuclear holocaust is still a real possibility.)
For once, I'm not alone in voicing these views. See: Paul Krugman: The Day Nothing Changed.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 4. 2017
Music: Current count 28627  rated (+37), 369  unrated (-5).
Some of this came out in the August Streamnotes, posted on Wednesday as I decided that waiting for the end of the month wouldn't net much more of major interest. Chalk that up as one of those "watched pot never boils" stories: after closing, I came up with the five A-list jazz albums to the right, plus a Swet Shop Boys EP I didn't know existed (see Christgau's Expert Witness -- by the way, third week in a row where he featured a record I had previously A-listed: Waxahatchee's Out in the Storm, Hamell on Trial's Tackle Box, and Swet Shop Boys' Cashmere; on the other hand, I panned Algiers' The Underside of Power with a B-).
Tips on the jazz albums came from all over, notably from Francis Davis returning to the Village Voice to write about Kirk Knuffke. The John Escreet album was one I was vaguely aware of (it came out in 2016 and got some Critics Poll votes) but didn't bother looking up until I saw it on Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list. Similarly, Nate Wooley is on Chris Monsen's 2017 list; and DEK Trio (like Barry Altschul last week) has been recently reviewed by Tim Niland (to do list: Matt Lavelle, Matthew Shipp, Mette Rasmussen). On the other hand, Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith's Erroll Garner tribute came from my queue -- secret weapon there is the late pianist Geri Allen channeling the master so expertly you'll wonder if it was recorded posthumously in heaven.
Those records led me off on several tangents, which you can easily map out from the following list.
Also regarding the Village Voice, I added a bunch of recent Voice articles to Carol Cooper's website today. Interesting stuff, including a couple of tips I should follow up on.
Tweeted on Nikki Haley Says North Korea 'Begging for War':
It's getting hard to explain the Trump Administration without resorting to psychological concepts, because their disconnection from reality goes so far beyond quirks and ordinary neuroses. I stumbled across a guy the other day talking about an unprecedentedly deranged leader and it sure sounded like he was talking about Trump. Only context eventually pointed to Kim Jong-un, a person you can be virtually certain he knows absolutely nothing about. I wrote some more about Haley in the notebook today. Maybe I'll fold that into Weekend Roundup, if we get that far.
A secondary point: I entered the URL into the tweet like I usually do, but Twitter picked up a picture, the title, and a lead and put them into a box like I often see, but that never happens with my own posts. There must be some trick to that -- something websites do to tell Twitter what to use in a link. Wish I knew whatever that is.
[PS: Just after posting, I noticed this Max Blumenthal tweet:
Tweet included a link to Jim Lobe: Nikki Haley: Neocon Heartthrob. Blumenthal's "vacant space" snark may be offensive, but Lobe notes that Haley's "most influential adviser" is Graham's former chief counsel, and that Adelson contributed $250k to Haley's "A Great Day" slushfund, five times as much as number two-ranked Koch Industries.]
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, August 30. 2017
I suppose I should make a big deal out of the fact that the rated count since I started writing this Streamnotes column in late 2007 has now topped 10,000 records. But that's only a thousand per year, 85 or so per month, less than 3 per day. The metric measures time more than anything else. And even if the records were all new at the time, my sample of what's been added to the world's pile of recorded music during this time is well under 2%, probably under 1% -- so I've lost way more ground than I've gained.
Back in 2007, I did a little work for Rhapsody, and one of the perks was a free subscription. I figured I should take notes on what I heard there, hence the column. Well, it didn't even become a column until sometime later -- the notes originally appeared in my Notebook, until I realized I was checking out enough stuff to post something regularly. At the time I was doing Jazz Consumer Guide, Jazz Prospecting, and Recycled Goods, but RG was erratic after I stopped posting at Static Multimedia, and JCG ended after 2009 -- although I continued to get jazz promos, the rate has gradually declined (currently a bit less than half the 2009 level). In January 2014 I decided to consolidate everything under the Streamnotes umbrella -- even actual CDs (about half of the jazz below (25/51 of new jazz, but adding in the old jazz changes the share to 26/87, or 29.8%). The share of non-jazz that is streamed is, like most months, 100%.
So it's fair to say that streaming has not only changed my life as a reviewer, it's the main reason I've been able to hang on. I dropped "Rhapsody" from the title when they rebranded as Napster -- an early digital music purveyor that I never used and never felt any nostalgia for -- but they remain my main source, followed by Bandcamp (not bothering with records that only have a few cuts available), then by download links provided by publicists. I've never mastered the more arcane methods of downloading, so when I run into a wall I tend to back out. And it's been a long time since I bothered to pitch or beg a release -- only one I recall in the last couple years was a letter to the since-departed Joe Fields that got me two top-rated 2016 releases: Houston Person's Chemistry and JD Allen's Americana. (If Steven Joerg is reading, the new William Parker Quartets is at the very top of my wish list -- it's also at the top of Chris Monsen's favorites list, which also notes a new JD Allen release, Radio Flyer).
So, in a sense, this column is running on fumes. This month's 119 records is down from 136 in July and 149 in June, although it's slightly above the previous three-month lull: 111-115-114. And it is August -- never a pleasant month here in Wichita, although pace global warming we've gone all month without a single 100F day, and we've had enough rain to keep the grass green (most years it's brown). Still, always glad when August is over.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on July 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (10029 records).
Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage (2017, Eclectus): Standards singer (not the actress), one original here, from Dallas, third album since 2012. Nice voice and phrasing, stays away from overly familiar songs, nice sax touches. B+(**) [cd]
Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (2017, Cahara): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, seven albums since 2005, bills herself as smooth jazz but I recognize this as art-disco, the dance beat on the soft side and occasionally nodding toward MPB. Pleasant surprise. B+(**) [cd]
Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (2016 , Not Two): American drummer, a free jazz legend since his early 1970s records with Dave Holland, later with Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet, dropped from sight in the 1990s until 2010 when he appeared on saxophonist Jon Irabagon's Foxy, the first of a bunch of collaborations under one name or another (third as 3Dom Factor, with Joe Fonda on bass). Mostly notable for Irabagon's no holds barred sax, although the bass-and-drums duets are super too. A-
Arcade Fire: Everything Now (2017, Columbia): Alt/indie group from Montreal, fifth album since 2004, hugely popular and critically esteemed -- third album, The Suburbs, seemed to be a lock on album of the year polls until Kanye West spoiled their party. I'm not a huge fan but haven't found much cause to fault their albums. I might quibble about this being too ornate, but after five or six plays nearly every song has clicked. Still, probably won't play it again until EOY, but I have little doubt I'll enjoy it then. A-
Gerald Beckett: Oblivion (2017, Summit): Flutist, from Beaumont, TX, studied at UNT, moved on to San Francisco. Sixth album, long personnel list but typical groups have 5-6 musicians, the standout alto saxophonist Ruben Salcido. Nine covers, several (Piazzolla, Pascoal, Tjader) bringing the Latin tinge, others mainstream jazz (Davis, Mulligan, Ellis Marsalis), with a long "Out of This World" to close. B+(*) [cd]
Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Incidentals (2014 , ECM): Alto saxophonist, influenced by Julius Hemphill, which shows up strongest here in his harmonics with Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet). Group name comes from their 2012 Snakeoil, with Ryan Ferreira (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano/electronics), and Ches Smith (drums, vibes, percussion). Dense and turbulent, has some marvelous moments as well as puzzling ones. B+(***) [dl]
Big Bold Back Bone: In Search of the Emerging Species (2015 , Shhpuma): Swiss-Portuguese quartet: Marco von Orelli (trumpet), Sheldon Suter (prepared drums), Luis Lopes (guitar), and Travassos (electronics). One 43:02 piece, plumbs sonic depth but rarely rises to demand your attention. B
Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (2017, Outline, 2CD): Soprano saxophonist. Group: Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums), plus Deborah Rush reading Dickinson poetry on the second disc only. I'm inclined to favor the music-only disc, but while I rarely register the words, somehow the music on the second disc seems even more vibrant. B+(***) [cd]
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity (2016-17 , Avant Groidd): Group assembled by noted rock critic Greg Tate back in 2001, more of a jazz group then but with more lyrics their 13th album is exceptionally jazzy funk. Steven Bernstein (trumpet) and Avram Fefer (alto sax) are probably the best known musicians, but the core is guitars (4), bass, keys, violin, and drums -- not counting Tate, creditd with guitar, bass, and "beats & loops." B+(***)
Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro: Rosa Dos Ventos (2017, Anzic): The clarinetist joins a Brazilian choro group -- Dudu Maia (bandolim), Douglas Lora (7-string guitar), Alexandre Lora (pandeiro, hand pan, percussion). Clarinet tends to blend in with the strings. B
Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves: Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos (2017, Anzic): More Brazilian, a duo with Cohen on clarinet and Gonçalves playing 7-string guitar, on a set of "things" from Brazilian saxophonist Santos. The clarinet is somewhat delicate here, but still stands out framed against spare guitar. B+(**)
Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life (2017, Interscope): Fifth album since 2010, started as a young pop ingenue but shifted last time into a winning slowcore groove which works even better here, especially when she plaintively demands "the fucking truth" -- helps that she doesn't evince any of the genre's depressiveness, and employs the occasional rapper. Tails off a bit at the end, but only after a trio of songs that I take to be patriotic in the best sense -- about caring for each other. A-
Beth Ditto: Fake Sugar (2017, Virgin): Mary Beth Patterson, "fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas," singer in the so-so indie band Gossip, went solo with an EP I liked in 2011. This is her first full-length solo effort, produced by Jennifer Decliveo as exceptionally straight and clear, perhaps even a bit simplistic, major league pop. B+(***)
Miles Donahue: The Bug (2015 , Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, b. 1944, didn't record until around 1992, also plays trumpet and flugelhorn here, keyboards elsewhere. Even when he switches off you get strong saxophone from Jerry Bergonzi, guitar by Mike Stern on three tracks, piano (Tim Ray), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (2017, Sub Pop): Radical punk band from Providence, formed by a tuba player and singer Victoria Ruiz. Third album, pounding beat, loud scream and indecipherable screed, probably smart but I like it best when topped with a little saxophone. B+(**)
The Fall: New Facts Emerge (2017, Cherry Red): Mark E. Smith's pioneering post-punk group, dating back to 1979, still featuring their trademark crunch and growl. While I'm a fan of the growl, the signature-sounding closing instrumental piece is this album's saving grace. B+(*)
Filthy Friends: Invitation (2017, Kill Rock Stars): Portland supergroup, only ones I'm familiar with are singer Corrin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (REM), and bassist Krist Novolselic (Nirvana). First album, after group appeared on the politically themed Battle Hymns benefit album. Seems like a better-than-average hard rock group here, nothing more. B+(*)
Floating Points: Reflections - Mojave Desert (2017, Luaka Bop): British, someone with the memorable but not very original name Sam Shepherd, has a previous album and beaucoup short pieces, plays keyboards but works with larger groups. The dominant sound for much of this is guitar, reminding me of Pink Floyd spaced out under a vast nightsky. B+(*)
Billy Flynn: Lonesome Highway (2017, Delmark): Chicago blues guitarist-singer, originally from Wisconsin, seventh album since 1992, whips up impressive groove but somehow it all feels rote. B
Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet: The Pythiad (2016 , Origin Classical): Soprano saxophonist, with a string quartet plus bass and singer Cheryl Wilson -- a combination I don't care for on many levels, one where the classical underpinnings make it hard to hear any jazz. B- [cd]
Hal Galper and the Youngbloods: Live at the Cota Jazz Festival (2016 , Origin): Pianist, started in the mid-1970s and has had a long and remarkable career, joined here by three young musicians I've never heard of -- Nathan Bellott (alto sax), Dean Torrey (bass), and David Frazier (drums) -- on four pieces ranging from 11:08 to 17:40. I'm especially struck by Bellott and, of course, the pianist. B+(**) [cd]
Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy (2017, self-released): Percussionist, teaches ethnomusicology in Vermont, credits here include tanbou bèlè, congas, tupan; seems to be his first album although I've found a side-credit on a 1992 album by Kotoja -- a California-based Nigerian-American group. Sextet adds clarinet, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, plus a singer shows up on one track that sounds rather Brazilian. B+(*) [cd]
Gogol Bordello: Seekers and Finders (2017, Cooking Vinyl): Gypsy punk band from New York with roots back in Ukraine, first emerged in 1998 and has some very notable records. This one scores high marks for energy and sometimes adds insight and humor. B+(**)
Laurel Halo: Dust (2017, Hyperdub): Born in Ann Arbor, based in Berlin, third album, disjointed electronica with (presumably her own) vocals. B+(*)
Hamell on Trial: Tackle Box (2017, New West): Singer-songwriter Ed Hamell has been cranking out DIY folk tunes with punk intensity since 1989, includes a song here mostly about Trump ("The More You Know"), one about the fear even white folk have about getting shot by cops, and best of all an Australian "Mouthy B"'s critique of America (some choice lines: "I don't think your government cares about its people," "what's with all the flags? I've never seen such insecurity in all my life," "along with freedom 'heroes' is the most overused word in your national vocabulary"), as well as four "Froggy" songs. Cover shows a burning city behind a blasphemous Lady Liberty. Title song is about life coming with many hooks. A-
Hamell on Trial: Big Mouth Strikes Again: Hamell Live (2017, New West): Seems to be download only, with a code provided with the new studio album, but streams separately. Some redundancy (including another "Mouthy B"), some songs from earlier albums (like "The Happiest Man in the World"), some patter including a story about three grandmas coming up to him and asking whether he has any edgier material. He tries to satisfy them, even to the point of explaining "that's how you wave a towell." A-
Hard Working Americans: We're All in This Together (2017, Melvin): Todd Snider's hard working alt-rock band, with a few other guys I don't recognize from bands I've barely heard of (Widespread Panic, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Great American Taxi). Title cut actually works as a live band intro after their hardest guitar rave, followed by a souped up "Is This Thing Working?" and ending with a Chuck Berry anthem -- a fine encore. B+(***)
H. Hawkline: I Romanticize (2017, Heavenly): Welsh singer-songwriter Huw Gwynfryn Evans. Fourth album, has a high voice and a light, jangly feel that gradually grows on you. B
Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: Crooked Calypso (2017, Virgin EMI): Main singer-songwriter behind the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, probably my favorite bands in the waning days of the 20th century. Third album with Abbott, their most problematical one, with flashes that bring back fond memories but he's packed it with way too much pomp. Deluxe edition adds four long songs (25:26), changing little B+(*)
Fred Hersch: Open Book (2016-17 , Palmetto): Solo piano. Three originals plus pieces from Monk, Jobim, Benny Golson, and Billy Joel. He reached a new plateau with 2014's Floating, and continues at that level, thoughtful, serene, touch as deft as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Ray Wylie Hubbard: Tell the Devil I'm Gettin' There as Fast as I Can (2017, Bordello/Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called the band on his first (1976) record the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't strike me as very important until his 2010 album A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), but has topped that good one three times since. A-
Jon Irabagon/John Hegre/Nils Are Drønen: Axis (2013 , Rune Grammofon): Saxophone-guitar-drums trio, the latter two Norwegian. Two pieces, 17:43 and 18:56, focus on stress, eventually breaking free. B+(*)
Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over (2017, ECM): Pianist, very highly regarded, used to lead a group called Fieldwork with Steve Lehman on alto sax and Tyshawn Sorey on drums -- they had three superb albums 2002-08 -- and essentially doubles that group here, adding Mark Shim (tenor sax), Graham Haynes (cornet/flugelhorn/electronics), and Stephan Crump (bass). I'm not sure the extra weight helps, but Lehman remains especially striking, as is the dense piano scaffolding. B+(***) [dl]
Max Johnson: In the West (2014 , Clean Feed): Young bassist, b. 1990, fifth album, with Susan Alcorn (peddle steel), Kris Davis (piano), and Mike Pride (drums) -- the pianist making by far the biggest impression. B+(*)
Paul Jones: Clean (2017, Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, has at least one previous album. Postbop, all original pieces, core group a quintet with Alex LeRe on alto sax and Glenn Zaleski on piano, plus various extras including the SNAP Saxophone Quartet (5/14 tracks), the Righteous Girls (flute/piano, same 5), guest clarinet/oboe (same 5), cello (4 others), and bassoon (9). B [cd]
Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (2011 , Hatology): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous records. MVP here is guitarist Joe Morris, invariably the one you wind up focusing on. With Giacomo Merega (electric bass) and Jason Nazary (drums & electronics). A- [cd]
LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst: Metamorphosis (2016 , Clean Feed): Mostly Portuguese avant trio with Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Gonçalo Almeida (bass/keys), and Greg Smith (drums), the latter two dabbling in electronics. Their guest, who also appeared on their 2015 album, plays clarinet and bass clarinet -- Chris Speed was their guest back in 2013. Wound tight, makes me think it's the bassist's album, but the horns get the best breaks. B+(*)
Steve Langone Trio: Breathe (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Drummer-led piano trio, with Kevin Harris on piano and Dave Zinno on bass. Zinno wrote two songs, one each for the others, plus pieces from Chick Corea, Richard Rodgers, and "unknown" -- "Down By the Riverside" is a highlight. B+(**) [cd]
Lean Left: I Forgot to Breathe (2015 , Trost): Fifth album, the first subtitled The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo -- the former being Terrie Hessels (aka Terrie Ex) and Andy Moor, with Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Ken Vandermark on reeds. B+(**)
The Liberation Music Collective: Rebel Portraiture (2017, Ad Astrum): Nearly a big band -- 13 pieces, plus an extra guitar on a couple cuts, and singers, based in Chicago, founded by bassist Hannah Fidler and trumpeter Matt Riggen, citing the "activist tradition of such jazz composers as Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Charlie Haden." Not quite, of course, and the lyrics never grab me. B+(*) [cd]
Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin' Thru (2016 , Blue Note): Not exactly new -- this Quartet lineup dates back to Rabo De Nube, recorded in 2007: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums). His tenor sax is as lucid as ever, and Moran is an impressive accompanist. Flute feature has Indian airs and what sounds like guitar -- presumably bass. B+(***)
Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile to the Surface (2017, Loma Vista): Indie rock group from Atlanta, fifth album since 2006, all serious and a bit heavy-handed. B
Rob Mazurek: Chants and Borders (2016 , Clean Feed): Trumpet player from Chicago, credited here with cornet, modular synth, sampler, and piano, with a group in Brazil that expands beyond Mazurek's São Paulo Underground group: Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizer, sampler, electronics), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flute, soprano sax, electronics), Philip Somervell (piano, prepared piano), Mauricio Takara (drums). B+(**)
Rob Mazurek: Rome (2014 , Clean Feed): Solo, credits read: cornet, piano, prepared piano, electronics. Recorded in Rome, which inspires some titles but probably has little to do with the music. Tends toward atmospheric but doesn't intend to stay there. B+(*)
Vic Mensa: The Autobiography (2017, Roc Nation): Chicago rapper, name shortened from Mensah, first studio album after a couple of well-regarded EPs/mixtapes. This rubbed me wrong from the start -- a boast about striking it rich while keeping one's integrity -- but the teenage sex yarns aren't so bad, not that I don't get he's some kind of cad. Still no interest in the drugs or suicide. B-
Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature (2015 , ECM): Composer, has worked in music, dance, theatre and film since the 1960s, with a dozen records for ECM since 1981's Dolmen Music, mostly in their postclassical New Series. She sings here, often with others, against a fairly minimalist backdrop. B+(*) [dl]
Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (2017, Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, from Massachusetts, has at least one previous record. Quartet with piano, electric bass, and drums (Steve Langone). Wrote three originals (of 12 songs), covers ranging from Horace Silver to Michael Jackson. Fairly mainstream, but rich tone and easy swing. B+(***) [cd]
Randy Newman: Dark Matter (2017, Nonesuch): First album of new songs since 2008's Harps and Angels, not that he hasn't been busy during the Obama era: Discogs shows him with two Songbook volumes, two live albums, and five soundtracks -- by now, not just his meal ticket but his toolchest. The first three songs, with their historical-philosophical concerns, are so detailed it takes little effort to imagine the videos. The rest of the album, aside from the story of Sonny Boy the First, is unsentimental filler, and probably better for that. Christgau proclamed this an "album of the year contender" -- something I don't hear at all, but I massively underestimated Harps and Angels, doubting it for much the same offhandedness. A-
Pale Horse: Badlands (2015 , 5049): Clarinet player Jeremiah Cymerman, group name taken from the previous album by this "apocalyptic chamber ensemble" with Christopher Hoffman on cello and Brian Chase on drums. Two LP-length tracks, total 34:02. Cites as inspiration "the work of composers Scelsi & Ligeti, the novels of Cormac McCarthy, the films of Wim Wenders and the hypnotic beauty of Swans." More modest than any of those, but more pleasing than his early raw noise. B+(*) [bc]
Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (2015 , Creative Sources): German pianist, real name seems to be Oliver Schwerdt -- has a previous trio album with Axel Dörner and Christian Lillinger and a couple albums as Schwerdt. This is solo, short (31:46), named for two of the three pieces (the other is the 2:21 "Farewell"). Impressive, more for the rumble he generates than for the runs. B+(***) [cd]
Richard Pinhas/Barry Cleveland: Mu (2016, Cuneiform): Pinhas is a French guitarist, formed the "electronic rock" band Heldon in the 1970s, has also recorded as Schizo and Schizotrope, and has twenty-some records under his own name, three with Merzbow. Cleveland is another guitarist ("new age and experimental ambient"), and Michael Manring (bass, elbow bass) and Celso Alberti (drums, electronic drums, percussion) are also "featuring" on the cover, if not the spine. B+(**) [dl]
John Pizzarelli: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (2017, Concord): Marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 encounter between the crooner and Brazil's most famous songwriter (who played piano and guitar and contributed some backing vocals) -- not a very good album for either, with Claus Ogerman's arrangements part of the problem. Pizzarelli's catalog includes titles like Dear Mr. Sinatra and Bossa Nova, so I don't doubt his dedication. He takes some liberties with the arrangements, turning two pairs of songs into medleys and interposing bits of other songs. Daniel Jobim adds his voice, Helvio Alves and Duduka Da Fonseca manage the rhythm, and someone they don't mention plays some nice sax. B-
Platform: Flux Reflux (2017, Clean Feed): French clarinet player Xavier Charles, discography goes back to 1996, second album under this name, with Katrine Schiøtt (cello), Jan Martin Gismervik (drums), and Jonas Cambien (keyboards). All improvised, the focus more on deep sound than on flow. B
Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (2017, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist Scarff has been a member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, and leads the group Natraj, which plays Indian classical music. Pianist Porter has played with AJO on several occasions, and has shown up on a couple Allen Lowe projects, but is probably better known as an author and educator. With John Funkhouse (bass) and Bertram Lehmann (drums). Can't say I hear the "east-meets-west jazz, where Indian raga merges with western classical" -- reminds me more of someone like Charlie Mariano, with a real sharp rhythm section. B+(***)
Dave Potter: You Already Know (2017, Summit): Drummer, first album, has a few side credits with Jason Marsalis (vibes), Miguel Alvarado (saxes), and Will Goble (bass), all present here. Mostly originals, one tune each by Marsalis and Alvarado, five covers, mostly jazz sources (Monk, Shorter, Golson, Watson). Cut in several sessions, using three bassists, three pianists, two trumpeters, but never more than quintets. Swings, bops, swings some more. B+(**) [cd]
Eric Revis: Sing Me Some Cry (2016 , Clean Feed): Bassist, played for Betty Carter and Branford Marsalis but has tended to be more avant on his own albums. Quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax/clarinet), Kris Davis (piano), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- an explosive combination, most often moderated by the bassist but extraordinary when he cranks them up. A-
Roots Magic: Last Kind Words (2016 , Clean Feed): Italian group, second album: Alberto Popolla (clarinet, bass clarinet), Errico De Fabritiis (alto/baritone sax), Gianfranco Tedeschi (double bass), Fabrizio Spera (drums), plus guests on organ/piano (4 tracks), cello (2), and dub effects (1). Plumbs a deep blues base drawing on Charlie Patton and similarly influenced jazz musicians like Julius Hemphill and Marion Brown, tuned up to a fine fury. A-
Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma: Songs for the Hangman's Daughter (2017, Rubinchik): Folk singer-songwriter, plays a range of instruments, born in Stillwater, OK, but "Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans" -- clearly not one to shy away from audience prejudices. He sings about being bipolar ("it's a wonder I've yet to land in prison"), shows his regional colors when he decries "the war of northern aggression," claims to have mastered barbecue with kosher beef, covers "a fun old Bad Livers tune" (a band he was in). B+(**) [bc]
Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (2015 , Euphorium, 2CD): German pianist, also records as Elan Pauer, goes long here with two substantial servings of solo piano, dense and crunchy, much like the Pauer record above. B+(***) [cd]
Matthew Shipp: Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zürich (2016 , Hatology): Solo piano, recorded live at the Swiss festival, all originals except for "Tenderly." His usual impressive range from deep rumble through long lines to delicate touch. B+(***)
Skyzoo: Peddler Themes (2017, First Generation Rich/Empire, EP): Rapper Gregory Taylor, from Brooklyn, seven LPs, scads of mixtapes, third EP, eight solid tracks (30:36). B+(**)
Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (2016 , Pi): Drummer, sometime pianist -- he played a big chunk of his 2007 2CD album That/Not -- I've even seen him lately on trombone, but here just drums. I mention this because this strikes me as very much a piano album (Corey Smythe), the percussion and bass (Chris Tordini) often all but vanishing. Sometimes the piano, too. I'd prefer something more in-your-face, and there's some of that here too. A- [cd]
Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (2016 , Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, has a fairly short list of albums under his own name since 1997, but has a pretty long list of side credits. This format, with Chris Tordini on bass and Dave King on drums, pushes him out front, and he doesn't bother with the clarinet, so you get a consistent sound which grows in authority and panache. A- [cd]
Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (2017, Delmark): From Chicago, plays bass clarinet, quartet adds Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums) -- terrific group, with Jackson complementing the leader's airy sound. Three originals, covers from Bird and Monk, two from Lennie Tristano and another from Warne Marsh, plus one called "Roused About" that I assume honors Charlie. A- [cd]
Vieux Farka Touré: Samba (2017, Six Degrees): Guitarist-singer from Mali, father was Ali Farka Touré, pioneer of Saharan/desert blues, a tradition he carries on and extends, mostly by rocking harder. B+(***)
Triocity [Charles Pillow/Jeff Campbell/Rich Thompson]: I Believe in You (2016 , Origin): Reeds-bass-drums trio, Pillow credited with alto sax, alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet -- last is certainly not least. He only has a couple previous albums, but appears in quite a few notable big bands (John Fedchock, Alan Ferber, David Liebman, Pete McGuinness, Bob Mintzer, Ted Nash, Maria Schneider, and others). Songbook and jazz standards (Monk, Parker, Davis), closing with "Cherokee" -- always a thrill. B+(**) [cd]
Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy (2017, Odd Future/Columbia): Los Angeles rapper Tyler Okonma, started out in Odd Future collective, never seemed like he was quite ready but gets a major label deal here. Has managed to smooth off the rough edges, but that doesn't leave him with much. B
Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Escalator (2016 , Not Two): Tenor sax/clarinet trio, drums and bass respectively, recorded live at Alchemia in Krakow. I'm afraid I find the clarinet annoyingly squeaky, but Vandermark is a tower of power in this context, and remarkably adept. B+(***) [bc]
Raphael Vanoli: Bibrax (2017, Shhpuma): Guitarist, based in Amsterdam, first record, solo. Metallic tones, patiently experimental. B+(*)
John Vanore: Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (2016 , Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, leads a big band (16 pieces, only 2 saxes and 2 trombones, but 5 trumpets and 2 French horns) through a splashy set of Nelson pieces, with sharp solos and a certain postbop swing. B+(**) [cd]
Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Honey and Salt (2016 , Palmetto): Subtitle: "Music inspired by the poetry of Carl Sandburg." Snatches of Sandburg poetry as well, read by various members of the band and extras, as well as vocals (and guitar) by Dawn Thompson. With Ron Miles (cornet), Jeff Lederer (reeds), Martin Wind (bass), and Wilson on drums. Too many words for my taste, but sometimes remarkable music. B+(*) [cd]
Reggie Young: Forever Young (2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, first album but not so young, born in 1936, started out playing rockabilly in Memphis, part of the Bill Black Combo (led by Elvis Presley's first bass player, opened for the Beatles on their 1964 US tour). Best known for session work, including "Down in the Boondocks" (Billy Joe Royal), "The Letter" (Box Tops), Dusty in Memphis (Springfield), "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis), and "I Can Help" (Billy Swan). Nice relaxed groove album with keyboards, bass, drums, and sometimes a little cello. B+(*) [cd]
Bobby Zankel & the Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker @ 65 (2017, Not Two): Alto saxophonist, a couple years older than the famous bassist -- on board here, an event in Philadelphia, along with Steve Swell (trombone), Diane Monroe (violin), Dave Burrell (piano), and Muhammad Ali (drums). Old-fashioned avant joust, something the bassist has presided over many times. B+(**)
Omri Ziegele: Where's Africa: Going South (2016 , Intakt): Credit could be parsed several ways, including mention of Yves Theiler (keyboards, reed organ, melodica, vocals) and Dario Sisera (percussion, drums). Where's Africa is the name of a 2005 album -- a duo with pianist Irène Schweizer -- and was also used in the credit of a 2010 trio (with Schweizer and Makaya Ntshoko). Ziegele is Swiss, plays alto sax, Uzbek flute, and is credited with vocals. Not sure who sings (weirdly) and who raps (impressively), affectations which annoyed me at first as they interfered with the wonderful Township Jive-inflected groove. A- [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Albert Ayler Quartet: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 (1964 , Hatology): Two sessions from the tenor saxophonist's banner year, a quartet -- Don Cherry (cornet), Gary Peacock (bass), Sunny Murray (drums) -- that toured Europe in the latter months of the year. Six tracks from Hilversum, three more from Copenhagen -- The Hilversum Sessions first appeared in 1980, The Copenhagen Tapes (also including a Club Montmartre date) in 2002. Strikes me as a bit hit-and-miss, which isn't quite the same as saying his avant-garde's become old hat. B+(**)
Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964 (1964 , Hatology): This is the Club Montmartre set previously released on The Copenhagen Tapes, minus the three radio shots moved into European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 -- these releases are evidently part of an Ayler Estate effort to bring some order to the various long-circulating Ayler bootlegs. Same quartet. Same chaos. B+(**)
Albert Ayler: Stockholm, Berlin 1966 (1966 , Hatology): Two dates, a week apart, same group: Donald Ayler (trumpet), Michel Sampson (violin), William Folwell (bass), Beaver Harris (drums). Tightly layered, especially with the violin, around a skeleton of gospel and circus music. B+(***)
Paul McCandless With the Paul Winter Consort: Morning Sun: Adventures With Oboe (1970-2010 , Living Music): Playing oboe mostly, some English horn (soprano sax and bass clarinet elsewhere, notably with Oregon from 1980 on), McCandless joined soprano saxophonist Winter's group for three 1969-72 albums, with several reunions from 1986 to 2010. Together they sound like medievalists trying to pass for new age, and the occasional vocals hardly qualify as either. C+ [cd]
John Prine: September 78 (1978 , Oh Boy): Recorded Sept. 23, 1978 in Chicago, after his four justly famous Atlantics and first of three mostly forgotten Asylums (Bruised Orange). Originally released on numbered orange vinyl for Record Store Day 2015, now available for the masses. I first saw him a decade later when he was reduced by playing solo, which he carried off easily on wit, but this band, with organ and flashy guitar, hems him in, although they rock impressively on his lesser known songs (one appeared later on 1980's Storm Windows, two only show up here, including one tantalizingly close to Chuck Berry). B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Not April in Paris: Live From Banlieus Bleues (2004, Trugroid): Cover reads Live 01 at Banlieus Bleues but website gives this title. This closes out the group's most intensive period, following six releases (7-CD) in three years. Personnel list omits credits, but aside from leader Greg Tate the names I don't need to look up are Vijay Iyer (keybs), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Matana Roberts (alto sax), and Mazz Swift (violin) -- figure most of the 16 for guitar and vocals, plus bass and drums. Slippery groove, not a lot of vocals but they can swing either atmospheric or funky. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2004 , Trugroid, 2CD): Another live set, from performances in Spain, France, and New York. Unable to find a credits list, but the first concerts immediately follow Not April in Paris. "A Night in Tunisia" gives you something you can calibrate from, or try, as the multipart pieces run on and on. No idea what "blisluth" means. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006, Trugroid, 2CD): Personnel list runs to 37 names: 4 guitarists, 5 drummers, and 10 vocalists (counting "rhymes" and "recitation/oratory"), the goal "23rd century R&B," the grooves stretched and pliable. Like most of their records, especially the long ones, there are patches of brilliance and long stretches of enjoyable groove. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Chopped and Screwed: Volume 2 (2007, Trugroid): Remixes, the title referring to a technique DJ Screw developed in Houston in the 1990s based on slowing the beat down -- something I don't know enough about to judge how it was applied here. No evidence of a Volume 1. Personnel listed as Greg Tate, Jarid Michael Nickerson, and Mazz Wright, although horns are audible, as is some spoken word (rap?). B
Jeremiah Cymerman: Purification/Dissolution (2011-12 , 5049): Clarinetist, fifth album since 2007, solo but also credited with amplifiers, synths, and electronics, which push this into the domain of avant-noise. Bit harsh for me. B [bc]
Jeremiah Cymerman/Christopher Hoffman/Brian Chase: Pale Horse (2013 , 5049): Clarinet/cello/drums, two cuts at 21:45 and 16:26. Less of a noise album, but dense and mysterious, not anything you'd take for chamber jazz. B+(*) [bc]
Jeremiah Cymerman/Evan Parker/Nate Wooley: World of Objects (2013 , 5049): The clarinetist returns to noise world through his "digital post-production." Saxophonist Parker is still unmistakable, especially on soprano, while trumpet player Wooley remains a journeyman. Not uninteresting, but my tolerance for this sort of thing is limited. B- [bc]
Bill Frisell: Ghost Town (1999 , Nonesuch): Solo guitar, sometimes banjo, mostly originals but five covers offer framework -- two old country songs, two showbiz standards, a piece from John McLaughlin. Nothing exciting, but picks carefully. B+(*)
George Garzone: Moodiology (1998 , NYC): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Boston, a legendary educator and mentor to many dozens of famous saxophonists, has most often recorded as the Fringe, a sax trio as ragged as its name. With Fringe rhythm section here -- John Lockwood on bass and Bob Gullotti on drums -- plus Douglas Yates (alto sax/bass clarinet), Claire Daly (baritone sax), Kenny Werner (piano), and Mike Mainieri (vibes). Exceptional chops, but the other horns sometimes add a sour note, and some of his cover ideas don't work out so well. B+(**)
George Garzone: The Fringe in New York (2000, NYC): The Fringe albums date back to 1978, and this is the only one with the star saxophonist's name on the cover, hence the credit. Mike Mainieri joins on vibes, which can tilt the group into something merely pretty -- especially when Garzone gives up his fierce tenor for pretty soprano. B+(**)
George Garzone: Among Friends (2009, Stunt): Especially pianist Steve Kuhn, who often takes over the album, also Anders Christensen (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). The leader's tenor sax is especially eloquent on the ballads. B+(***)
Jon Irabagon/Andrew Neff/Danny Fox/Scott Ritchie/Alex Wyatt: Here Be Dragons (2009 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor sax/alto sax/piano/bass/drums, with Chris Cash (programming) a guest on one cut. Opens with the saxes neatly in sync, but the leader is hard to contain. B+(*)
Noah Kaplan Quartet: Descendants (2008 , Hatology): Same group as on the new album. Guitarist Joe Morris is the main draw, with the leader playing more soprano sax, and taking the tenor slower. B+(**)
Joe Morris Trio: Antennae (1997, AUM Fidelity): Avant guitarist, discography starts around 1990. With Nate McBride on bass and Jerome Deupree on drums, loose yet jagged. B+(**)
Joe Morris/Mat Maneri: Soul Search (2000, AUM Fidelity): Guitar and viola duets, both electric, neither overpowering, closer in effect to Maneri's bent avant-classicism than to the guitarist's usual idiosyncrasies. B+(*)
Joe Morris: Singularity (2000 , AUM Fidelity): As the title suggests, a solo album, with Morris playing steel string acoustic guitar instead of his usual electric -- adds more texture while better exhibiting his speed and dexterity. B+(**)
Joe Morris Bass Quartet: High Definition (2007 , Hatology): No fear, just one bassist -- Morris, better known at guitar but has many recordings on double bass. Two horns: Alan Chase (alto, soprano, and baritone sax) and Tyler Ho Bynum on cornet, with Luther Gray on drums. Tails off a wee bit at the end, but most of the way the horns spin gloriously, while the leader's longtime drummer keeps the rhythm surprising. A-
Joe Morris: Mess Hall (2011 , Hatology): Guitarist, emphasis on electric here, backed by Jerome Deupree on drums and (less obviously) Steve Lantner on keyboards. Five pieces from 9:01 to 11:52, dense and gnarly. B+(**)
Randy Newman: Live (1971, Reprise): Recorded at the Bitter End in New York, just singer-songwriter and his piano, after only two studio albums -- notably his likely best-ever 12 Songs (4 songs from there, 5 from his debut, 2 destined for Sail Away, 1 eventually reworked for 1977's Little Criminals, 2 more). B
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003, Nonesuch): Reconstructed demos, just the songwriter pounding on his piano and barking out his lyrics -- except to songs you already know -- well, songs I know. Strikes me as long on history and "Political Science" (a title as well as a theme). "Rednecks" catches ever deeper in my craw, perhaps because he sings it with such gusto. He does "God's Song" the same way, and that's fine by me. B+(*)
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 3 (2016, Nonesuch): Released five years after Vol. 2, itself eight years following Vol. 1, he's obviously in no hurry. He opens with two of his most famous/notorious songs, "Short People" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come," although he winds up picking a couple songs I don't recall (one with a surprisingly generous refrain: "it's just amazing how fair people can be"). Also one song I've been thinking about a lot as Trump and Pruitt lay waste to the environment: "Burn On," about the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire. Just piano and vocal, scaling "I Love L.A." back to human size, especially touching on "Guilty." B+(***)
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook (2003-16 , Nonesuch, 3CD): This box rolls up the three Songbook volumes, plus four extra songs at the end, including the caustic Bush-era "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" and the presumably satiric Obama-era "I'm Dreaming" ("of a white president") with lines like: "he won't be the brightest/but he'll be the whitest/and I'll vote for that." B+(**)
Flip Phillips: Swing Is the Thing (1999 , Verve): Tenor saxophonist, original name Joseph Edward Flipelli, born 1915 in Brooklyn, came up in big bands including the Benny Goodman and Woody Herman outfits and was a Jazz at the Philharmonic regular. Died in 2001, so this was his last album: with Benny Green (piano), Howard Alden (guitar), Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Washington (drums), and guest spots for Joe Lovano and James Carter -- they bump up the energy level, but the leader's light tone swings everything else. B+(**)
Flip Phillips: Celebrates His 80th Birthday at the March of Jazz 1995 (1995 , Arbors): Big party, as befits an eminent swing-to-bop saxophonist, surrounded here by near contemporaries and younger retro players -- eighteen names in the "combined personnel," including fellow saxophonists Scott Hamilton, Phil Woods, and Bob Wilber, plus Buddy DeFranco on clarinet, Randy Sandke on trumpet; three each pianists, guitarists, and bassists; two drummers. Gives the party a JATP flavor, especially closing with "Perdido." B+(***)
John Pizzarelli: Let There Be Love (2000, Telarc): Guitarist, working on becoming a standards crooner, with band going soft to keep from overwhelming his voice -- Ray Kennedy on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco's credit is "brushes on book." Some guests (including father Bucky Pizzarelli) show up late but don't make much of an impression. B
John Prine: Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine (1971-75 , Atlantic): Twelve songs from four albums worth owning on their own, released as soon as Prine left (was cut?) for Asylum. Christgau panned this: "Not as rewarding cut for cut as John Prine or Sweet Revenge, not as interesting conceptually as Diamonds in the Rough or Common Sense. Good songs, useless album." I wouldn't have bothered but I owned the album way back when -- probably bought it after I got my first taste on personal favorite Common Sense but before I wised up and grabbed the others. Superseded by the first disc of Rhino's Great Days, but somehow this is the one that stayed in print. So if you don't know any better: A-
John Prine: Pink Cadillac (1979, Asylum): Sixth album, second for Asylum, recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio by sons Knox and Jerry Phillips, with only five Prine originals -- Billy Lee Riley joins to duet on his song, and others include Floyd Tillman's "This Cold War With You," "Baby Let's Play House," and "Ubangi Stomp." I'm not sure that any of the rockabilly moves work -- for one thing the sound leaves much to be desired -- but the Tillman cover shows that he can always fall back on country tradition, and "Down by the Side of the Road" is top-shelf. B
John Prine: Storm Windows (1980, Asylum): Midway in a series of five albums between the four Atlantics and his two brilliant 1991-95 albums (The Missing Years and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings), a solid album I might have taken for more had I been paying attention at the time. Only two covers, and his originals are much more appealing -- a couple I know from elsewhere (probably Great Days), others that couldn't be by anyone else. A-
John Prine: John Prine Live (1988, Oh Boy): Double LP, later a single CD, with 19 songs, recorded at five spots but the only dates provided are song copyrights -- all but two 1971-79 (1981, 1986). Mostly solo, acoustic guitar and vocals, which fits my memory of the period -- I didn't pick up a lot of the patter but did recognize "the happy enchilada song" bit. Steve Goodman joins in for one song, and Bonnie Raitt takes the lead on "Angel From Montgomery." B+(*)
Schweizer Holz Trio [Hans Koch/Urs Leimgruber/Omri Ziegele]: Love Letters to the President (2008, Intakt): Swiss wood, as in woodwinds: bass clarinet/soprano sax, soprano/tenor sax, alto sax/voice. With no rhythm to move them along, the horns are erratic, prickly, and sometimes a bit warbly. B+(*)
Matthew Shipp: Duos With Mat Maneri and Joe Morris (1997-98 , Hatology): Alternates tracks from two of Shipp's Duo albums, Thesis with guitarist Morris (6/13 tracks), and Gravitational Systems with violinist Maneri (5/10). Neither were personal favorites, but the mix helps focus on the remarkable pianist. B+(*)
Chris Speed: Yeah No (1997, Songlines): The tenor saxophonist's first album, a title he later recycled as a group name. He also plays some clarinet, with Cuong Vu on trumpet, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, and Jim Black on drums. The two-horn freeplay starts in high gear, downshifts later. B+(**)
Chris Speed: Deviantics (1998, Songlines): Same group, with trumpeter Vu doing much of the slicing and dicing. B+(**)
Chris Speed: Emit (2000, Songlines): Same quartet, the leader playing some clarinet as well as tenor sax, drummer Jim Black also credited with melodica. Trumpet player Cuong Vu continues to claim the high ground. B+(***)
Chris Speed/Chris Cheek/Stéphane Furic Leibovici: Jugendstil (2006 , ESP Disk): I've been known to confuse the two Chrises: they were born a year apart, both mostly play tenor sax, have less than a dozen headline albums (starting in 1997-98) but play on many more. Cheek plays tenor and soprano here, Speed clarinet, Leibovici bass. Very minimal, soft harmonies with a little fuzz, no beat. A second disc, Jugendstil II, was released in 2010 with Lee Konitz replacing Speed. B
Chris Speed/Zeno De Rossi: Ruins (2011-13 , Skirl): Duets. De Rossi is an Italian drummer -- not much under his name but he's recorded in a couple dozen groups, especially with Franco D'Andrea but the groups also include Full Metal Klezmer and Meshuge Klezmer Band. Speed plays some of his most powerful tenor sax in this stripped down framework. A-
Chris Speed: Really OK (2013 , Skirl): Tenor saxophone trio with Chris Tordini (bass) and Dave King (drums), same as his later Platinum on Tap, pushing him to the forefront to show off his chops. Seven originals, plus pieces from Coltrane and Coleman and "All of Me." B+(***)
Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: The Silence Behind Each Cry: Suite for Urs Voerkel (2001 , Intakt): Alto saxophonist, born in Israel, studied in Boston and London, settled in Zürich. Group here is a nonet, named for a "workplace" (Google translates as "cheap farmer") in Zürich. Voerkel was a Swiss pianist (1949-99), honored but evidently uninvolved in this project, a four-part suite built around poems by Robert Creeley (sung operatically, presumably by Ziegele). B+(*)
Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: Edges & Friends (2004 , Intakt): Octet, just two horns (Ziegele on alto and Jürg Wickihalder on soprano sax), with piano, cello, two each bass and drums. Eight pieces, again structured around poetry -- Robert Creeley, Dylan Thomas, Ziegele himself. The band can impress -- especially pianist Gabriela Friedli -- but I could do without the poetry. B
Omri Ziegele's Where's Africa Trio: Can Walk on Sand (2009 , Intakt): Expands the Swiss alto saxophonist's duo with pianist Irène Schweizer from their 2005 Where's Africa, adding South African drummer Makaya Ntshoko, with Jürg Wickihalder adding his soprano sax to three cuts. Abdullah Ibrahim is a shared passion. B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: