Monday, July 17. 2017
Music: Current count 28428  rated (+38), 364  unrated (+3).
Sad to note that Joe Fields, still active at 88, died last week. Since the 1960s, when he started out with Prestige Records, he has been responsible for an extraordinary number of great mainstream jazz records. He founded a series of labels -- Cobblestone, Muse, Onyx, High Note, and Savant, running the latter two with his son Barney since 1996. Along the way he cultivated many artist careers -- perhaps most notably, Houston Person started with him at Prestige and followed him through Muse and High Note. If Fields had a signature, it was picking up artists discarded from major labels and giving them second (or third) careers.
Pending queue only has six albums in it, including the four that arrived last week. I only reviewed three records from CD last week (two came up A- after I played them a dozen or more times -- the other A- got three spins on Napster). Still, a pretty high rated count, so not much else got that kind of attention -- and the six EPs went especially fast.
As promised, I got into the download queue last week: 10 albums, mostly from ECM, none as good as Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts last week. I probably have another dozen saved up, and could dig up more if I went through my mail (although some may have expired). A few of the items below came from mid-year lists by Phil Overeem and Matt Rice (linked to last week). Others came from thumbing through the August DownBeat.
The latter has their 65th Annual Critics Poll results, which I voted in and annotated my ballot back in April. Especially pleased to see Don Cherry and Herbie Nichols added to their Hall of Fame (along with George Gershwin and Eubie Blake -- no complaints there either; the latter three came from their Veterans Committee). The category winners -- minus a few I care less about; RS = Rising Star; in parens: first number is my 1-2-3 pick (if winner on my ballot), otherwise my pick and finish (if on list); ergo: (1) means my pick won:
Looking back, several of my picks were just whims. I probably should have voted for Bloom over Newsome, and I can't fault De Johnette (cf. this week's record -- drumming is amazing there, something I can't imagine anyone else matching) or Revis, or begrudging any recognition of Barron. Rempis started on alto, but I think his tenor sax is his main instrument now -- still, I don't think of him on baritone at all, so that came as a surprise. Two of my picks were write-ins (Schweizer and Salamon -- both serious ballot omissions), so of course they didn't finish. Smith and Halvorson also won other categories, so they were featured in articles.
Preminger was well down my list at tenor sax (a long list), but he's put together a fine series of relatively mainstream albums (two A-, one ***, two **), so I shouldn't be surprised that he's getting some recognition. I also credit Mahanthappa with six A- (or in one case A) albums, so he's a pretty reasonable pick (albeit in a real competitive category: Carrier has 10 A- records, Anthony Braxton 19, Steve Lehman 5 + 3 in Fieldwork + 1 with Mahanthappa [the A], not that I counted before voting).
Continuing to make progress on compiling my jazz reviews into two guides: a haphazard retro-survey of the 20th century, and a somewhat more systematic guide to post-2000 (21st century) jazz. I started by collecting the reviews from their various column sources into a huge text file. Since then I've been scanning through my database files, adding dates and instruments where I had them, pulling out whatever reviews I had, and adding any other rated but unreviewed records. It took many weeks to work through Jazz '80s-'90s (1516 artists). Since then, I picked up three much shorter files: Latin Jazz (147), Pop Jazz (249), and Avant-Garde (156).
The pop jazz list was rather depressing, as it is far from comprehensive: in fact, mostly concentrated in the early Jazz CG days (2004-06) after which it became clear that I wasn't likely to review those records favorably. It would probably be easier to cut them out than it would be to cover them anywhere near as comprehensively as I cover mainstream and avant jazz. One saving grace was that it lowered the grade curve, although probably not significantly.
The "avant-garde" list was more interesting, but again is far from comprehensive. The definition I tended to follow was AMG's genre classification, which itself stradled minimalism, experimental rock, and modern (or, a term I prefer, post-classical) composition, but only rarely avant-jazz. I tried to take an interest in such music back in the 1970s, so one thing I noticed was that several dozen LPs I vaguely recall never got into the database (e.g., I probably had five or so albums by Karlheinz Stockhausen, but none were listed). On the other hand, the "shopping list" included quite a few albums from Kyle Gann's 1998-99 Consumer Guides -- most by people I hadn't heard of otherwise.
The compilation files are now up to 746 pages (20th century, 288k words) and 827 pages (21st century, 403k words). There are a few odds and ends that I've been including but were tucked away in odd database files (e.g., Astor Piazzolla in "latin," John Fahey in "folk"), but basically the 20th century compilation is about as large as it's going to get. Page sizes are different, but that probably makes it about 25% of the size of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings -- a human impossibility to match. On the other hand, the 21st century book will continue to grow, perhaps considerably. The Jazz (2000-) file will add 2248 artists, and Vocals (2000-) has another 484 artists.
Back in April I estimated that I might have the compilation done sometime from August to October. Looks like the most I can do in a day is about 150 artists, so I'm looking at another 20 days actual work time -- for various reasons I've had trouble spending more than 4 days/week on this, so let's figure another 5 weeks. Labor Day? Maybe. Not sure what happens then, but I'll try to convert it to some distributable format. Still needs a massive amount of editing to be publishable. Don't know when/if that will ever happen.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, July 10. 2017
Music: Current count 28390  rated (+31), 361  unrated (-5).
Not much to say here. The Pending list is down to five albums, including this week's three arrivals. The new Free Radicals album spent several days in the CD changer, finally replaced by some golden oldies -- Swamp Dogg's "We Need a Revolution" emerged as the perfect soundtrack for reading Bernie Sanders Our Revolution. I was delighted enough by the new Free Radicals album I went back and checked out their five previous albums. Houston band with many hangers-on, similar to Boston's Club D'Elf though less into world music and more into hip-hop.
Aside from Free Radicals, only three more records were reviewed from CD (or CDR), including Chris Pasin's Xmas album, release date October 6. So I spent most of the week scrounging around on Napster, checking out various pop albums including Amber Coffman and Bleachers -- recommended last Friday in Robert Christgau's Expert Witness. Having given Lorde's Melodrama an A-, and Dirty Projectors a C (fairly generous I thought), I've rarely found an EW more out of sync with my ears. Nor did other well-regarded recent albums turn out to be very appealing. I even slogged through The Bob's Burgers Music Album, recommended high in Matt Rice's Mid-Year Top 30 (five more albums I haven't heard on that list, though I'm not in a big hurry to get to At the Drive-In).
One thing I looked for was William Parker's Quartets album (reviewed here by Tim Niland). I didn't find it, but did notice several Parker albums I hadn't heard, especially on the Italian Splasc(H) label, which led me to the albums by Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake, Daniel Carter, Albert Beger, and Willem Breuker. I gave up on the latter when two Penguin Guide ***(*) records didn't pan out.
Finally, I broke down and started playing some of the downloads I had picked up over the year, including very well regarded albums by Craig Taborn and Harriet Tubman (number two on Chris Monsen's 2017 Favorites list, and number three for Phil Overeem). I still have a couple dozen on the computer, and probably more untapped in my mail files, so I should keep plugging away at this. Playing the new Tomasz Stanko as I write this. Should also see what else (aside from the Mat Maneri) Clean Feed didn't send me.
I'll also note my surprise that both Overeem and Rice are big fans of Zeal & Ardor's Devil Is Fine (number 1 and 2, respectively). Christgau liked the album back in April, and even I gave the record a B+(***) in May, noting: "fuses black field hollers (or chain gang chants) with black metal (and a little xylophone) -- a fairly amusing rather than overbearing combination." Also, I should issue a correction: Overeem lists (at 12) Dalava: The Book of Transfigurations, which last month I incorrectly identified as "self-released." The label is Songlines.
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, July 3. 2017
Music: Current count 28359  rated (+35), 366  unrated (-2).
Most of the week's new finds made it into the June Streamnotes post which came out on Friday -- the best new one is yet another good one from François Carrier. The Streamnotes post included a 30-album wild-ass guess at what a mid-year critics poll list might look like, with my grades for the 27 albums I had checked out. I've since added the 3 I had missed, so the top-30 grade curve looks like this:
That's still pretty left-shifted from normal, but note I decided to include Jens Lekman and Magnetic Fields (both Christgau picks) instead of artists with more supporting data such as Ryan Adams, Julie Byrne, Alex G, and/or Harry Styles. I'll also concede that I can imagine other people liking most of the bottom half of the list more than I do (well, Perfume Genius and Dirty Projectors seem pretty hard to like).
I got a couple of reprieves from my computer problems. The website ISP found a bit of free disk space, but at 95% used it could go away fast, and the company has become impossible to communicate with. I got around my local browser problem by switching to Chromium, which has held up fairly well, although I haven't put anyway near the load on it I used to do with Firefox. I still need to save everything off, do a fresh operating system load, and put it all back together again, but it's tempting to keep muddling by for a while until I face up to all that. It would be good, for instance, to update the Christgau website before I break my local copy. It would be even better if I could migrate the website to HTML5 and UTF-8 when it comes back. Presumably there are tools that help with that sort of thing, but I haven't searched them out yet. We've also talked a bit about making it more phone-friendly or even converting it to some kind of phone ap, but that's another learning curve. Anyone who has advice or suggestions about this, please get in touch through normal channels.
Tried turning on the old Dell laptop today, but it came up with an ominous message about the "disk drive failing" that suggests it's soon to be a goner. It's running Ubuntu 10.04, so it's even further behind than my main machine. For most practical purposes I replaced it with a Chromebook a few years ago, but I never got into the habit of using cloud storage, so I really just use it for web surfing. I suppose a new real laptop is in order.
Meanwhile, about the only thing I've actually been enjoying has been cooking. The hardest thing has been lining up guests so I get an excuse to stretch a little -- I still haven't done the big Korean bash I planned out 3-4 months ago. I did cook Indian for my sister's birthday, but that's about all. On the other hand, I've been picking up small packages of meat and scattered vegetables that I can cook for the two of us. Today I turned a pound of hamburger into picadillo -- sort of a Cuban sloppy joe mix -- served with pan-fried potatoes and fried egg (a "caballo").
Lately I've found myself going back to Chinese recipes, some I haven't made in years. On Sunday I made a version of sweet & sour pork and some fried rice. I made lettuce wraps with a chicken and pine nut filling and fried cellophane noodles. I found some frozen pork chops and turned them into pork & pickle soup (the "pickle" is Szechuan preserved vegetable -- mustard stem), adding some dried mushrooms. Another time I made braised pork ribs with fermented black beans. Then there was the "hoisin-exploded" chicken. I have a pretty good pantry of Chinese odds and ends, so I can usually turn a package of meat or fish and whatever vegetables are handy into a remarkably tasty meal. The hard part is keeping fresh scallions and ginger on hand.
My mother was the master of always having a pantry (and two freezers) stocked with anything she might need should, say, a relative show up in need of a full meal and maybe a pie or cake. After she died, I made three typical cakes, knowing that all the ingredients would be on hand. We grew up on stories of Aunt Hester receiving guests at 3AM with full meals prepared on her wood-fired stove. I don't think Mom ever had to do that, but she was prepared.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Friday, June 30. 2017
Ran up against the end of the month again, although this month has more records than any since February, when I finally started running out of interest in 2016 EOY lists. This month's resurgence is probably related to having looked through a couple dozen mid-year lists -- they've become almost as automatic in the music press as EOY lists. Lot of records below I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. On the other hand, those lists are no guarantee of merit. Back on June 12, I published my wild-ass guess how the top-20 of list aggregate might look. Here's a slightly revised top-30 with some recent releases and a few longer-shots (my grades in brackets):
I'll probably get to the three unrated albums shortly. Lorde has only made five MY lists (vs. 13 for The XX and 15 for Drake) but she's currently number two at Album of the Year, with a 92/27 just behind Kendrick Lamar's 92/28. Took me a long time to get to A- but I finally did (much longer than it took me with Lamar). Drake has more/better lists than XX but I think we have a hip-hop selection bias (unlike the norm for EOY lists) -- plus I've heard the album and can't quite see what people like so much about it. Vince Staples is currently number 4 at AOTY (88/18), and SZA is at 11 (85/10) -- SZA has done better on lists so far, but had a two-week head start.
Of course, most of the good records I found don't show up on those MY lists. For country, I got some tips from Saving Country Music (Jason Eady, John Moreland, Colter Wall -- not that I wasn't already on Moreland). Christgau has reviewed Chuck Berry, Steve Earle, Oumou Sangaré, and Starlito (and written about without reviewing Omar Souleyman), but not my other two rap picks (Joey Bada$$ and Oddisee) or the electropop (Sylvan Esso, Charli XCX). Three of five jazz albums came from my queue, but I had to go to Napster for Jimmy Greene and to Bandcamp for Joshua Abrams. I was so delighted with the latter I played all of his Eremites on Bandcamp (but didn't find any more Ari Brown sax).
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 based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on May 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (9774 records).
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: Simultonality (2014-15 , Eremite): Chicago bassist, appeared in avant-garde circles around 2002 but at this time highly patterned, repetetively rhythmic music, close in spirit to minimalism but subtly more complex. Abrams himself is also credited with guimbri, small harp, and bells, and is joined by Lisa Alvarado (harmonium, Leslie, percussion), Ben Boye (chromatic electric autoharp, piano, Wurlitzer), Emmett Kelly (electric guitar), and two percussionists (Michael Avery and Frank Rosaly) -- plus a real nice closing track tenor sax spot (Ari Brown). A- [bc]
Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (2017, Blue Note, 2CD): Trumpet player, born and raised in Oakland, now 35 -- as one reviewer noted, the same age as Coltrane when he recorded his own Live at the Village Vanguard in 1961. Highly regarded: he topped DownBeat's Critics Poll for Best Trumpet last year, following his third studio album, which placed 3rd in 2014's Jazz Critics Poll. (Say, didn't Coltrane have a couple dozen albums by 1961?) Quartet, with Sam Harris (piano), Harish Raghavan (bass), and Justin Brown (drums). (Coltrane's Quartet members weren't any more famous at the time, and extra Eric Dolphy had only cut his first albums the year before.) I've never been much impressed, at least until I heard "Trumpet Sketch (milky pete)," the intense trumpet-drum parlay that closes the first disc. Still, took a long time to warm up to that point, and the second disc only comes close to reprising it on the last track. This leaves me with two thoughts: first, this could have benefited from a lot of editing, and second, this group isn't able to sustain their few moments of excitement over a set or a side. B+(*)
Tony Allen: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (2017, Blue Note, EP): Drummer from Nigeria, best known for his work with Fela Kuti. Can't recall him ever playing on a jazz record before, but also can't imagine any reason he wouldn't admire the principal inventor of hard bop, especially as Blakey himself developed a fascination with African drumming. Four tracks, 24:34, including Blakey's own "The Drum Thunder Suite." Septet based in Paris, the horns a bit light and flighty, the rhythm more skittish than hard. B+(**)
Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017, Pro Era/Cinematic): Brooklyn rapper Jo-Vaughn Scott, second studio album after three mixtapes. Despite his fondness for dollar signs, this finds him thinking hard about injustice in the nation, and while the "three K's" isn't deep, I don't mind him dropping a little kitsch into the dialectic. Nor an occasional obscenity, like "fuck Trump." A-
Ignacio Berroa Trio: Straight Ahead From Havana (2017, Codes Drum Music): Drummer, from Cuba, left in 1980, joined Dizzy Gillespie in 1981 until his death. First album, Codes (2006) was superb, but I haven't heard anything since. This is a piano trio featuring Martin Bejerano with Josh Allen on bass, playing Cuban tunes recalled from Berroa's childhood in a very straightforward bop style, a little extra percussion on a couple tracks, and a Ruben Blades vocal on one. B+(**) [cd]
Chuck Berry: Chuck (1991-2014 , Dualtone): Legend, content to rest on his laurels since Rock It in 1979, then announced this album on his 90th birthday, but didn't live long enough to see its release. Eight originals, two fair approximations. Of the originals, two are obvious glosses on classics ("Lady B. Goode," "Jamaica Moon") but "Wonderful Woman" veers just far enough from "Back in the USA" to seem like a new hit. A couple others offer off-handed surprises, and nowhere does he struggle to top himself like on his '70s albums. A-
Steve Bilodeau: The Sun Through the Rain (2017, self-released): Guitarist, from Boston, has a half-dozen previous albums (all on Bandcamp). This is a trio, with Richard Garcia on sax and Dor Herskovitz on drums. Neither free nor fusion, a more complex form of ambience, dense and rather dark. B+(*) [cd]
Scott H. Biram: The Bad Testament (2017, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Texas, country drawl with a harder edge, started out in 1998 as The Dirty Old One Man Band, fourth album got picked up by Bloodshot in 2005, and this is his fifth since (ninth overall). Seems incapable of putting together an album without rough patches or gratuitous offense, but sometimes just that works best -- as on the gospel singalong or the closing blues instrumental. B+(**)
Mary J Blige: Strength of a Woman (2017, Capitol): I've never had a good ear or much patience for this r&b star, but she hit it big in 1992, and while she hasn't gone platinum since 2007 that's more the industry's fault: she projects great strength and perseverance, even when wielding the "survivor" cliché, and she hasn't let up one iota here. Of course, I'm tempted to say she oversings and overpowers everything, but that's just how she rolls. B+(***)
Blondie: Pollinator (2017, BMG): A New York group I loved in the 1970s, up to and including their oft-maligned 1980 album Autoamerican. Their big hiatus was between 1982-99, but I didn't notice their last two albums (2011, 2014). This one makes a strong, distinctive pop impression, but leaves me wondering what they really have to say. B
Erik Bogaerts/Hendrik Lasure/Pit Dahm: Bogaerts & Lasure + Dahm (2016, self-released): Sax, piano, and drums, although the latter is so quiet I've already forgotten it, leaving a rather chamber-ish piano-sax dialogue. Bogaerts is from Antwerp, Belgium. B- [bc]
The Brother Brothers: Tugboats E.P. (2017, self-released, EP): Country/folk group from Brooklyn, brothers are Adam and David Moss. Six tracks, 18:43, harmonies can be Everly, main instruments are fiddle and cello, the one cut where they drop them for something accordion-like is a must to avoid. B-
Burial: Subtemple/Beachfires (2017, Hyperdub, EP): William Bevan, British dubstep producer, released two albums 2006-07, the latter to much acclaim, but since then has only dribbled out EPs or singles -- this one skimpier than most, the two songs total 17:13. Rather glum and obscure, makes one wonder why we should bother. B
Burning Ghosts: Reclamation (2017, Tzadik): LA-based jazz-metal fusion quartet, second album: Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet), Jake Vossler (guitar), Richard Giddens (bass), Aaron McLendon (drums). Trumpet player is terrific -- he's building a very interesting career, mostly behind group aliases but his Astral Transference and Seven Dreams is worth searching for. The metal offers some solid crunch but not a lot of flash. B+(***) [cdr]
Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness (2017, Ba Da Bing): Singer-songwriter from Buffalo, second album, rather short (9 songs, 32:37). Plays guitar and sings, so a folkie by default, dressed up with an aura of strings. Doesn't seems like much, especially given a first instinct to compare her to Joni Mitchell, but grows on you. B+(**)
Gerald Cannon: Combinations (2017, Woodneck): Mainstream bassist, one previous album in 2003, numerous side credits back to 1995, has trouble working all his friends in so they're rotated with a few cuts each: alto saxophonists Gary Bartz, Sherman Irby, and Steve Slagle; trumpeters Duane Eubanks and Jeremy Pelt; pianists Rick Germanson and Kenny Barron. Willie Jones III gets most of the drum work, but Will Calhoun gets one cut, and guitarist Rick Malone gets three. Five originals, six covers. B+(**) [cd]
Regina Carter: Ella: Accentuate the Positive (2017, Okeh/Masterworks): Violinist, ten albums since 1995, won a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2006. This coincides with the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald's birth, but it's hard to see an organic connection to Carter's work -- I suspect it was the label's idea (like when they directed her cousin to Billie Holiday), and with its ready-made songbook seemed easy. Two vocals (Miche Braden and Carla Cook, spread wide), the rest instrumentals featuring the leader backed with guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(*)
Playboi Carti: Playboi Carti (2017, AWGE/Interscope): Atlanta rapper Jordan Terrell Carter, previously dba $ir Cartier, first mixtape. Rhythmically resembles Young Thug, but hasn't really found message or meaning yet. B+(*)
Chastity Belt: I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone (2017, Hardly Art): Indie band, four women from Walla Walla, Washington, so post-punk they're almost lackadaisical, which is not because they're boring, let alone happy. B+(*)
Chicano Batman: Freedom Is Free (2017, ATO): Los Angeles band, third album, mostly in Spanish, started out sounding erratically dissonant, or maybe just out of tune, then started to cohere somewhat -- even got interesting on one song I could follow ("The Taker City"). B-
Gerald Clayton: Tributary Tales (2017, Motéma): Pianist, son of bassist John Clayton, fourth album. Group includes three saxes (Logan Richardson, Ben Wendel, Dayna Stephens), bass, and drums. The saxes provide some attractive big band harmonics, but this doesn't generate much lift or propulsion. B
Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (2016 , Pi): Alto saxophonist, thirty-some albums since 1985, has broken new ground several times and this is probably another -- I've played it many times, never really making up my mind as it keeps shifting in unexpected directions. Large group with a chamber jazz air -- only has percussion on 5/9 tracks, never significant, although there are many sources of rhythm -- three reeds, trumpet, violin, piano, bass, with Jen Shyu's voice shadowing. A- [cd]
Bill Cunliffe: BACHanalia (2013-16 , Metre): Pianist, has a dozen or so records since 1993 (e.g., Bill Plays Bud, Bill in Brazil, A Paul Simon Songbook), has worked in big bands, and has written five books. This was recorded over three sessions, some with big band. Two (of eight) titles credit JS Bach, one more CPE Bach, but nothing here triggers my Bach reflex -- nor does the Prokofiev, but I only recognized the Cole Porter when the singer took over, so none of this strikes me as very clear (or inspiring). Featuring credits for singer Denise Donatelli and trumpeter Terell Stafford, who also gets a shout-out from the leader. B- [cd]
Dálava: The Book of Transfigurations (2016 , Songlines): New York guitarist Aram Bajakian, of Armenian heritage but I'm not finding much biography, nor credits here. He has a previous Dálava album (2014): Moravian folk songs, sung by his wife Julia Ulehla, transcribed by her great-grandfather over a century ago. Figure this for more: while the vocals harken back to an age that aspired to opera, the guitar is decidedly new. B+(*) [bc]
Roger Davidson Trio With Hendrik Meurkens: Oração Para Amanhã/Prayer for Tomorrow (2016 , Soundbrush): Pianist, based in New York but fell hard for Brazilian music long ago, something he has in common with the German vibraphonist/harmonica player. With Eduardo Bello on bass, Antonio Santos on drums, for fast sambas with boppish touches. B+(**) [cd]
Rick Davies: Thugtet (2015 , Emlyn): Trombonist, originally from Albuquerque, played Latin jazz for many years in New York, recorded this three weeks before his death in December 2015. Billed as "an energetic meld of danceable Latin with jazz and a good taste of funk," features Alex Stewart (tenor sax) and Ray Vega (trumpet) as guests, doubling up on the congas. B+(**) [cd]
Joey DeFrancesco and the People: Project Freedom (2017, Mack Avenue): Names his band but the publicist doesn't bother to list credits. Some sleuthing suggests the leader plays his usual organ plus some trumpet, along with Troy Roberts (tenor/soprano sax), Jason Brown (drums), and Dan Wilson (probably guitar). Starts with a whiff of "Imagine," and includes titles like "Lift Every Voice and Sing," "A Change Is Gonna Come," and "Stand Up" -- probably some originals too. B+(*)
The Deslondes: Hurry Home (2017, New West): New Orleans group, generically Americana, draws on country rock with Cajun flavors including a guy who doubles on fiddle/pedal steel. B
Dalton Domino: Corners (2017, Lightning Rod): Singer-songwriter, alt-country division, has some grit in his voice and in his songs. Last few songs do tend to blur together. B+(**)
Drake: More Life: A Playlist by October Firm (2017, Young Money/Cash Money): Canadian rapper, destined to be a big deal in 2010 but he's never really delivered, even though he's been rather prolific. Probably his most critically acclaimed album since Thank Me Later, but it's packaged as a throwaway and that's pretty much what he delivers. I'm sure there are other rappers who are as regularly upstaged by guests and samples, but I can't recall their names. B+(*)
Jason Eady: Jason Eady (2017, Old Guitar): Country singer-songwriter, born in Mississippi but seems to be associated with Texas, with a half-dozen albums since 2005 on obscure labels. Picks his way through unassuming songs, easy and graceful, most with stories to tell. A-
Justin Townes Earle: Kids in the Street (2017, New West): Singer-songwriter, drawl much weaker than his father's which shades him away from country toward folk, and personality seems less commanding as well. Nice record, though. B+(**)
Steve Earle & the Dukes: So You Wannabe an Outlaw (2017, Warner Brothers): There's nothing glamorous about those outlaw songs, but the roots grow thick, not least with the fiddle. A-
Silke Eberhard Trio: The Being Inn (2016 , Intakt): Plays alto sax and bass clarinet (here), based in Berlin, has done tributes to Dolphy, Coleman, and Mingus; credited with writing everything here, although I hear echoes of Ornette. Trio with Jan Roder (bass) and Kay Lubke (drums). A- [cd]
Eliane Elias: Dance of Time (2017, Concord): Brazilian pianist, early albums from 1985 on were instrumental but at some point she started to sing -- most winningly on 1998's Eliane Elias Sings Jobim -- and lately it's turned into her shtick, light and charming. B+(*)
The Four Bags: Waltz (2017, NCM East): With no drums, I suppose you could characterize this as chamber jazz, just not very formal or polite. Trombone (Brian Drye), accordion (Jacob Garchik), clarinet (Mike McGinnis), and guitar (Sean Moran) -- all leaders on their own (Garchik primarily on trombone), each contributing pieces here (plus three takes of "Valse des As" by G. Jacques). B+(*) [cd]
Art Fristoe Trio: Double Down (2017, Merry Lane, 2CD): Piano trio, seems to be pianist Fristoe's debut, a double, with Tim Ruiz on bass and Richard Cholakian or Daleton Lee on drums. Six originals, mostly on the second disc, plus eleven covers, opening with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and closing with "Speak Low." For some reason he decides to sing "Blackbird," and it's not pretty. B [cd]
Future: Future (2017, Epic/A1/Freebandz): Rapper Nayvadius Cash, fifth studio album since 2012 (he also has a dozen mixtapes and 62 singles). Stretches himself thin over 17 tracks, 62:47, and still wasn't done. B+(**)
Future: Hndrxx (Epic/A1/Freebandz): And, dropping a week after Future, his Sixth studio album. Most critics, including Christgau, regard this as the better half. It does start stronger, but once he settles into his slack groove it's hard for me to discern any difference. B+(**)
Gabriel Garzón-Montano: Jardin (2017, Stones Throw): Brooklyn-born, father French, mother Colombian. Album has a soul vibe but can slow down to just airy. B
Gato Libre: Neko (2016 , Libra): Trio, seventh album since 2004, led by trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, with Yasuko Kaneko on trombone and Satoko Fujii on accordion -- sort of a miniature/avant brass band, the accordion adding a folkish flair. Some lovely passages, especially toward the end, but it rarely jumps out at you. B+(**) [cd]
Kate Gentile: Mannequins (2016 , Skirl): Drummer, also plays vibes, from Buffalo, based in New York since 2011. First album, quartet with Jeremy Viner (clarinet/tenor sax), Matt Mitchell (piano/electronics), and Adam Hopkins (bass). All original material by Gentile, interesting mix of rhythmic vamps and free jazz, both good for the pianist. Runs long: 72 minutes. B+(***) [cd]
Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Vibraphonist, born 1924, cut his first record in 1949 (or 1951), led an outfit he called the Dream Band circa 1959 (his son, drummer Gerry Gibbs, present here, has his own Dream Band). First record since 2006, cut in his living room with John Campbell on piano and Mike Gurrola on bass, mostly swing and early bop standards, and indeed they are delightful. B+(***) [cd]
The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big (2016 , Goldfox): Big band, 18 pieces when the guitar's present, Gold composed and arranged but doesn't play, more than half of the New York musicians are recognizable from their own careers. Certainly has some exciting passages, especially when the trombones come out. B+(*) [cd]
Alex Goodman: Second Act (2017, Lyte): Guitarist, from Canada, first album nominated for a JUNO as "Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year" -- probably doesn't mean pop jazz -- at least this isn't -- but fancy, intricate, thoughtful postbop, impressive but not especially interesting. Band here includes sas/EWI (Matt Marantz), keyboards, bass, drums, vocal credits I never quite noticed in two plays, fluffed out to 75 minutes. B [cd]
The Great Harry Hillman: Tilt (2017, Cuneiform): Swiss group, from Luzern: Nils Fischer (reeds), David Koch (guitar/efx), Samuel Huwyler (bass), Dominik Mahnig (drums). Namesake was a sprinter who won three gold medals in the 1904 Olympics. Hard to pigeonhole this -- hype sheet compares them to postrock bands like Radian and Tortoise, throwing in a little Mary Halvorson, which may be the idea, but the actuality is less settled, or predictable. B+(**) [cdr]
Jimmy Greene: Flowers: Beautiful Life, Volume 2 (2017, Mack Avenue): Tenor saxophonist, based in Sandy Hook, CT, where his 6-year-old daughter was among those murdered in the infamous school shooting there. He bounced back with his 2014 album Beautiful Life and won a Grammy, but I prefer this edgier album, full of probing, searching saxophone. Two piano trios split the backing (Renee Rosnes/John Patitucci/Jeff "Tain" Watts vs. Kevin Hays/Ben Williams/Otis Brown III), and two songs get guest vocals. A-
Halsey: Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017, Astralwerks): Young pop singer from New Jersey, Ashley Frangipane, second album after her debut, Badlands, went platinum (and made my A-list). This isn't as immediately appealing, perhaps because the fated lovers saga seems contrived, borrowed, or just too much trouble. Still has a knack, though. B+(**)
Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace (2017, Blue Note): Drummer, was still in his teens in 1956 when he joined the Horace Silver Quintet -- for the next decade one of the greatest of all hard bop groups. Hayes moved on to Cannonball Adderley in 1959, and Oscar Peterson in 1965-67 and 1971, and led his own groups from 1972 on, sometimes sharing billing with Junior Cook or Woody Shaw. David Bryant plays piano, Josh Evans trumpet, Abraham Burton tenor sax, Steven Nelson vibes, Dezron Douglas bass. Silver's tunes still sound terrific, especially when Burton takes charge (he even salvages the Gregory Porter vocal), with the vibes accenting the swing. B+(***)
Wade Hayes: Old Country Song (2017, Conabor): Country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, first two records (1995-96) went gold, next two charted, fifth was self-released nine years later, and since then he's had a close call to cancer. Neotrad, not especially inspired, but I rather like "I Don't Understand" ("all I know about love"). Also "Going Where the Lonely Go." B
The Heliocentrics: A World of Masks (2017, Soundway): London jazz-funk group "based around" drummer/producer Malcolm Catto, name derived from Sun Ra, have done especially notable work in their surprising collaborations (Mulatu Astatke, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius, Melvin Van Peebles). Dense world fusion, front-loaded with vocals (Barbora Patkova, from Slovakia). B+(***)
Joseph Huber: The Suffering Stage (2017, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Milwaukee, played banjo in .357 String Band, considered folk or country but rocks pretty hard for the former. Bandcamp has two bonus tracks. B+(***)
Innocent When You Dream: Dirt in the Ground (2017, self-released): Canadian group, evidently led by Aaron Shragge, credited with "dragon mouth trumpet/shakuhachi," joined by tenor sax (Jonathan Lindhorst), guitar (Ryan Butler), bass (Dan Fortin), drums (Nico Dann), and on most tracks pedal steel (Joe Grass). Not quite pop, but they maintain a groove and soar a little. B+(*) [cd]
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound (2017, Southeastern): Alabama boy, one of the songwriters in the Drive-By Truckers, left ten years ago for a solo career still yoked to a band name. Christgau likes his last four albums more (sometimes a lot more) than I do, which probably means I should pay more heed to the lyrics and worry less about the unexceptional music -- here nothing I would chalk up as "Nashville sound" even given that as Nashville pursues the arenas they've been rocking harder than ever. But Isbell doesn't rock hard, nor does he play up his roots, and while a couple songs are clear and poignant, others pass right by. B+(**)
Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life (2017, Anti-): Canadian garage punk duo/group, third record, five years after their second. Brash and loud, works for them. B+(**)
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Damage and Joy (2017, ADA/Warner): Scottish noise-pop band, principally brothers Jim and William Reid, a big deal in 1985-94, broke up after their 1998 album flopped, reunited for lack of anything better to do in 2007 but didn't rush into the studio: this is their first album in 19 years. Easily a return to form, one I thoroughly enjoyed without being much impressed (well, until "Get On Home" came on). B+(**)
J.I.D: The Never Story (2017, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta rapper Destin Route, signed to J Cole's label, first album after an EP, trips lightly through ten producers, who don't treat him quite as well. B+(***)
Kano: Made in the Manor (2016, Parlophone): British rapper, file under grime, fifth album since 2005, snagged a Mercury nomination and made some UK EOY lists last year, tied for 211 in my EOY aggregate so I noticed it but failed to check it out (note that I graded 9/17 records at that level, 5 of them A-). B+(***)
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light (2017, Greenleaf Music): Trombonist, fifth album with this group -- Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Jorge Roeder (bass), Eric Doob (drums) -- with former guest singer Camila Meza (also plays guitar) moving into center stage. Beatles ("Fool on the Hill") and Dylan ("The Times They Are A-Changin'") covers are surprisingly striking, the original material more mixed. B+(**) [cd]
Zara Larsson: So Good (2017, Epic/TEN): Swedish pop singer, still a teenager first album a hit in Scandinavia, this second an international breakout. In English, primed for the world market, danceable but not as hot, say, as Robyn. Not unthoughtful either. Still, how come the lyric I noticed was "you can be the next female president"? Then the refrain went "make that money girl" -- as if that's the ticket. B+(**)
Llop: J.Imp (2017, El Negocito): Quartet, Belgian (I think): Erik Bogaerts (sax), Benjamin Sauzereau (guitar), Jens Bouttery (drums, electronics), Brice Soniano (bass). Mostly improv, surprisingly ambient, pleasant even. B+(*) [cd]
Lord Echo: Harmonies (2017, Soundway): From New Zealand, aliases Mike August and Mike Fabulous, bills himself as "underground super-producer." Sounds more soul than anything but not as retro as Mayer Hawthorne, but you might triangulate that with disco and nu and rocksteady and find something fresh. A-
Lorde: Melodrama (2017, Lava/Republic): Pop star from New Zealand, cut her first album in her teens, released this second album to much acclaim at 20. Co-writes most of her songs with Jack Antonoff, avoids the big producer-centric glitz most pop artists aim for, even has a way of talking her way into them that recalls Lily Allen. Not as fucking brilliant, but already pretty damn sharp. A-
Low Cut Connie: "Dirty Pictures" (Part 1) (2017, Contender): Philadelphia alt/indie band named for a memorable waitress, fourth album, led by Adam Weiner, who has lately shifted focus from guitar to piano, gaining a raucous honky-tonk sound. The piano is more central than ever here, but that only helps when they keep it upbeat, not when maturity turns to flab. B
Alex Maguire/Nikolas Skordas Duo: Ships and Shepherds (2016 , Slam, 2CD): Pianist Maguire has been around, playing in Hatfield and the North, Elton Dean's Newsense, Pip Pyle's Bash, Sean Bergin and M.O.B., a couple albums with Michael Moore. This seems to be the debut for Skordas, who plays tenor/soprano sax, gaida (bagpipe), tarogato, flutes, bells, and whistles. He doesn't exactly put his best foot forward by starting with the bagpipe, a harshness that recurs as part of their volatile chemistry. B [cd]
Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (2016 , Truth Revolution): Alto/soprano saxophonist, second album. Nonet arrays trumpet, trombone, four saxes, and piano-bass-drums for rich and varied textures, occasionally dipping into Civil War-vintage tunes -- the title draws on Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. B+(***) [cd]
John McLean/Clark Sommers Band: Parts Unknown (2017, Origin): Guitar and bass, both have other albums as leaders. Front cover also mentions Joe Locke (vibes) and Xavier Breaker (drums). By turns, slick, slinky, and frothy. B- [cd]
Tift Merritt: Stitch of the World (2017, Yep Roc): Singer-songwriter, usually taken for country but that doesn't seem necessary here. B+(*)
Molly Miller Trio: The Shabby Road Recordings (2017, self-released): Guitar-bass-drums trio, young enough to consider Jackson Browne and Tom Waits tunes standards, plus some more trad fare (even beyond Smokey Robinson). Ten songs, 29:22. B [cd]
Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (2017, Motéma): Bassist, more than a dozen albums since 1987, many side credits (only 7 listed on his Wikipedia page but AMG's credits table runs 290 lines). Group here includes Pharoah Sanders (tenor sax), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Stanley Jordan (guitar), and rotates between three drummers (Jeff "Tain" Watts, Mike Clark, Victor Lewis). The big three do what you'd expect, with Sanders all sharp edges, Jordan polished grooves, and Chestnut richly florid vamps. Could have used more Sanders, but he sounds great when he gets the chance. B+(***)
Thurston Moore: Rock N Roll Consciousness (2017, Caroline): Sonic Youth guitarist, side projects date back to circa 1995 but were usually experimental and minor until the band broke up. This seems in between, only five songs, two over 10 minutes (total 42:51), the words coming late and reluctantly. B+(*)
John Moreland: Big Bad Luv (2017, 4AD): Country singer-songwriter, born in Texas, moved around a lot including a spell in Kentucky but counts Tulsa as his home. Title was a throw-away line in the upbeat closer but his non-Nashville label must have dug it. Fine collection of songs, some fast, some slow, he does it all. A-
Gurf Morlix: The Soul & the Heal (2017, Rootball): Singer-songwriter, played with and produced Lucinda Williams, cut his first album in 2000 and is up to ten here. Pretty good songs rooted in Austin's view of the country. B+(**)
Kyle Motl: Solo Contrabass (2016 , self-released): Bassist, top two associations are with Abbey Rader and Peter Kuhn, so avant and not so famous; also has a duo album with Adam Tinkle and two group albums led by Drew Ceccato. Solo bass albums tend to be more about drawing sounds out of their instrument than music, but this does both. B+(**) [cd]
The Mountain Goats: Goths (2017, Merge): John Darneille's group front, in business since 1991, sixteenth album. Name drops various groups he grew up listening to, while remaining truthful to his own unique songcraft. B+(***)
MUNA: About U (2017, RCA): Los Angeles guitar band, three women, genre said to be "dark pop," got a rave review in The Nation but two plays slipped by me without leaving a lasting impression, other than certainly, not bad. B+(*)
Amina Claudine Myers: Sama Rou: Songs From My Soul (2016, Amina C): Pianist-organ player-vocalist, originally from Arkansas, steeped in church music, moved to Chicago and joined AACM, then on to New York. First two albums focused in Marion Brown and Bessie Smith, a range she's stradled ever since -- at least up to 2000, when the discography fizzles out. This is solo and seems to be new, released after she turned 74. Most striking on the back half's spirituals. B+(*)
Quinsin Nachoff/Mark Helias/Dan Weiss: Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (2016 , Whirlwind): Tenor saxophonist, several albums since 2006, this sax-bass-drums trio by far his best. Original pieces, mostly mid-tempo, nothing fancy or frantic, but it holds together superbly. A- [cd]
The Necks: Unfold (2017, Ideologic Organ): Exceptionally long-running Australian piano trio -- Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums), Lloyd Swanton (bass) -- with 22 albums going back to 1989. This was designed for 2-LP with four side-long pieces 15:35-21:47. Less jazz than shimmering, resplendent ambient, nicely pitched for a label handled by Editions Mego. B+(***)
Vadim Neselovskyi Trio: Get Up and Go (2017, Blujazz): Ukrainian pianist, based in New York but teaches at Berklee in Boston. Third album, a tightly melodic piano trio with some vocal shadowing I neither like nor mind. B+(**) [cd]
Ed Neumeister & His NeuHat Ensemble: Wake Up Call (2014 , MeisteroMusic): Trombonist, a veteran of many big bands from the 1980s, with several albums as leader. This is a big band thing, with Dick Oatts and Rich Perry in the reeds, Steve Cardenas on guitar, John Hollenbeck on percussion -- more than half of the players are names I recognize. B+(*) [cd]
The New Vision Sax Ensemble: Musical Journey Through Time (2017, Zak Publishing): Saxophone quartet: Diron Holloway (soprano/alto plus clarinet), James Lockhart (alto), Jason Hainsworth (tenor), Melton Mustafa (baritone). Their journey proceeds back through time, starting with a Bobby Watson piece, then "Night in Tunisia" and "'Round Midnight" through a Gershwin medley and "These Foolish Things" and on to Scott Joplin and "Amazing Grace" -- crowd pleasers that let them show off their clever layering. B+(*) [cd]
Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli: Living Tribute (2016 , Essential Messenger): Guitarist, got a PhD from University of Florida in 1998, CV and "musical influences" mostly rock but he comes off more as a soul/swing guy here, or maybe that's just his new mentor Pizzarelli. Quartet includes Eric Olsen on piano. Starts with standards, then moves into originals, which continue the vibe. Two nice vocals toward the end, by Leigh Jonaitis. B+(*) [cd]
North Mississippi Allstars: Prayer for Peace (2017, Legacy): Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, sons of Memphis producer Jim Dickinson, formed this band in 1996 although Luther also plays for Black Crowes. Southern rock with more nostalgia for Martin Luther King than for Dixie, dipping more than a few times into old blues -- I actually had "Stealin'" in my head before I heard this delightful version. B+(***)
Oddisee: The Iceberg (2017, Mello Music Group): Amir Mohamed el Khalife, rapper born in Maryland, based in DC, father from Sudan, prolific since 2005 (Wikipedia counts 11 studio albums, 10 mixtapes). Beats acoustic, band rocks, even swings a little, the raps fast and impressively level-headed. A-
Zephaniah OHora & the 18 Wheelers: This Highway (2017, MRI): Country singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, uses a lot of old-fashioned pedal steel but lacks that old-time twang in his voice, which gives his oft-effortless crooning a peculiar air. And when he goes for a cover, he comes up with "Something Stupid." B+(**)
Aruán Ortiz: Cubanism: Piano Solo (2016 , Intakt): Pianist, b. 1973 in Cuba, based in Brooklyn, half-dozen albums since 2005. Last year's trio Hidden Voices was especially well regarded, and this solo effort is every bit as thoughtful. Original pieces, oblique references to Afro-Cuban, nothing too obvious. B+(**) [cd]
Jeff Parker: Slight Freedom (2013-14 , Eremite): Jazz guitarist from Chicago, plays in avant groups but also in post-rock Tortoise. Solo guitar with effects and sampler -- the latter adds some beat, which makes this attractive without a lot of virtuosity. B+(**)
Perfume Genius: No Shape (2017, Matador): Stage name for Mike Hadreas, has several albums that strike me as fey and arty -- this one even more so. B-
Errol Rackipov Group: Distant Dreams (2015 , OA2): Plays vibraphone and marimba, studied at Berklee and Miami, second album -- had a song on a Jazziz sampler in 1997 but only source I've found on the album gives its date as 2015. Group has two saxophones, piano, bass, and drums -- very energetic with the mallets. B+(*) [cd]
Rag'n'Bone Man: Human (2017, Columbia): British singer-songwriter Rory Charles Graham, first album, title single works the cliché that the definition of being human is fucking up. He has an impressive voice that I can't peg in any genre -- it belies any possible claim to blues or gospel, reminding me more than anything of a Marine Corps drill sergeant, an effect only enhanced by the backup singers. It's the sort of record that sounds impressive first, but you grow tired of quickly. B-
Mason Razavi: Quartet Plus, Volume 2 (2016 , OA2): Guitarist, based in San Francisco area, has a couple previous albums. Quartet adds piano/keyboards, acoustic/electric bass, and drums, the "plus" expanding into a smallish big band (three reeds, one each trumpet/trombone) for the second half, most obvious (if not best) on the sole cover, "Caravan." B [cd]
Mike Reed: Flesh & Bone (2016 , 482 Music): Chicago drummer, has done a heroic job of absorbing and furthering the avant-jazz tradition of his city, usually attributing his work to two groups rather than appearing on the masthead alone. Of course, he's not alone: the credits are structured as a two-sax quartet (Greg Ward and Tim Haldenam), with Jason Roebke on bass, but two more horns spread out the sound: Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Ben Lamar Gay on cornet. Reed refers to this as "my dream-like reflections" and that's the weak spot, when it gets too dreamy. But things wake up with Marvin Tate's spoken word rants and ravings -- I sneered at first, then found them interesting, and ultimately decided they were an intrinsic part of the album's musicality. B+(***) [cd]
Jeremy Rose: Within & Without (2016 , Earshift Music): From Australia, plays alto sax and bass clarinet, has at least three albums. Plays off here against Kurt Rosenwinkel's guitar, backed by piano-bass-drums. B+(*) [cd]
Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite (2016 , Clean Feed): Guitarist from Slovenia, has consistently produced interesting records. Wrote eight pieces named for colors, and brought this sextet for Jazz Festival Ljubljana, with "two of my favorite drummers" (Roberto Dani and Christian Lillinger), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Achille Succi (bass clarinet), and Julian Arguelles (tenor and soprano sax). The horns contrast well, the sharper sax piercing the airier bass clarinet, most impressively when they crank it up. A- [cd]
Oumou Sangaré: Mogoya (2017, No Format): Wassoulou singer from Bamako, the capitol of Mali. She's recorded super albums since 1991's Moussolou. While Christgau detects a loss of "engagement" here, I find myself enjoying it just fine. A-
Scenes: Destinations (2016-17 , Origin): Guitar-bass-drums trio -- John Stowell, Jeff Johnson, John Bishop -- have a number of albums together. Stowell is an intricate stylist, and gets helpful but unimposing support. B+(*) [cd]
Shinyribs: I Got Your Medicine (2016 , Mustard Lid): Country-soul, swamp-funk band from Austin, originally just Kevin Russell (vocals, guitar, ukulele, mandolin) but nowadays they got horns and backing singers which lets them swing a little. Sample verse: "he once was a verb, now just a noun." On the other hand, great cover of "A Certain Girl." Also recommended: "I Don't Give a Sh*t." B+(*)
Sleaford Mods: English Tapas (2017, Rough Trade): British duo -- rapper Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearn -- with their postpunk beats and working class screeds. Been around long enough they're starting to get automatic, and been successful enough you start to wonder if they're losing their edge. They are, somewhat, but still can catch a riff and/or a rant often enough to remind you how unique they are. B+(***)
Slowdive: Slowdive (2017, Dead Oceans): British shoegaze/dream pop group led by singers Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, released three albums 1991-95, broke up, regrouped and after 22 years came up with their fourth album -- like Jesus and Mary Chain, except not so famous (or good). Short on fuzz, but enough shimmer to drown in. B+(*)
Smino: Blkswn (2017, Zero Fatigue/Downtown): Rapper from St. Louis, Christopher Smith, debut album after a couple EPs. Small voice, small beats, likes to sing, which occasionally threatens to get catchy but more often is just oddly appealing. B+(**)
Jay Som: Everybody Works (2017, Polyvinyl): Alias for Melina Duterte, born in Oakland, parents Filipino. Sort of a DIY pop thing, a novel, interesting voice. B+(*)
Omar Souleyman: To Syria, With Love (2017, Mad Decent): Syrian wedding singer, a style known as dabke, currently based in Turkey, was introduced to the United States in 2006 via the first of four Sublime Frequencies comps, and has since become an international star. Hard to choose between his last three albums, but this is the hottest, heaviest, most frenetic albums I've heard this year, so it stands out clearly from everything else. A-
Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1 (2017, Mercury Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, maybe "alt" but he's so died-in-wool I wouldn't dare quibble. Solid bunch of songs, mostly down-and-out, but that's realism these days. B+(***)
Starlito & Don Trip: Step Brothers Three (2017, Grind Hard): Two rappers from Tennessee, Nashville and Memphis, released their first Step Brothers in 2011. Midtempo beats, rhymes unroll methodically, everything so loose you're surprised to find it holding together. Christgau tweeted "best hip-hop album of a year that should damn well be generating better ones." Took me three plays and I'm still not convinced, but desperate times are upon us. A-
John Stein/Dave Zinno: Wood and Strings (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Guitar and bass duets, mostly standards (4 Stein pieces, 1 Zinno, 9 others, with Sam Rivers the outlier). Very intimate, the bass resonant, the guitar light as a feather. B+(***) [cd]
Dayna Stephens: Gratitude (2017, Contagious Music): Tenor saxophonist. Eighth album as leader, although it seems like I run into him more often in others' side credits. Quintet is likely better known: Brad Mehldau (piano), Julian Lage (guitar), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). Marvelous tone, on the upbeat pieces anyway -- when they slow down the guitar tends to get in the way. B+(**)
Becca Stevens: Regina (2017, GroundUp): Singer-songwriter, fourth album, has some jazz cred but I'm not particularly hearing that here, and "Mercury" is flat-out pop. Guest spots for Laura Mvula, Jacob Collier, and David Crosby. Two covers, one from Stevie Wonder (botched). B-
Matthew Stevens: Preverbal (2017, Ropeadope): Guitarist, from Toronto, studied at Berklee, based in New York, second album, a trio backed with bass (Vicente Archer) and drums (Eric Doob). Too uncertain for fusion. Last track goes verbal, feat. Esperanza Spalding. B
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Way Out West (2017, Superlatone): A long-time bluegrass stalwart, leans here toward the Western end of C&W, which sounds fine at first but somehow gets lost in the tumbleweeds. B
Sylvan Esso: What Now (2017, Loma Vista): Electropop duo from North Carolina, singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. Second album. Terrific. A-
SZA: Ctrl (2017, Top Dawg/RCA): Neo soul singer Solana Rowe, first album after two mixtapes and an EP, an instant hit although not so obvious to me -- certainly likable, with guests like Travis Scott and Lamar Kendrick checking in to mix it up. B+(**)
Tamikrest: Kidal (2017, Glitterbeat): Tuareg band from in/around Kidal in northeast Mali, on their fifth album here. A remarkably calming record, in stark contrast to the rhythmically similar (but fancier) Omar Souleyman or even other Saharan groups (e.g., Mariem Hassan's). I count that as a plus, but a limited one. B+(**)
Dylan Taylor: One in Mind (2015-16 , Blujazz): Plays bass and cello, second album, wrote 3/10 songs here, fewer than his more famous sideman, the late guitarist Larry Coryell (5), who provides the sweet tooth here. Also with drummer Mike Clark. B+(*) [cd]
Thundercat: Drunk (2017, Brainfeeder): Stephen Bruner, mostly plays bass guitar, started more as a producer, has dozens of side-credits including Flying Lotus and Kendric Lamar, but three albums in has evolved into some kind of soul man, just very hard one to pin down. Runs through 23 tracks in 51:24. B+(*)
Thurst: Cut to the Chafe (2017, self-released): Los Angeles post-punk band, two siblings, Kory and Jessie Seal -- he does most of the vocals and she drums -- plus a bass player. Rough, but I suppose that's the point. B+(**) [bc]
Trombone Shorty: Parking Lot Symphony (2017, Blue Note): New Orleans trombonist, albums date from 2002 but he took off when Verve picked him up in 2010. Also credited here with vocals and another dozen instruments, backed by another dozen musicians and a choir. Basically soft soul, with delusions of grandeur. I moved him into my pop jazz file a while back, but he's not even that anymore. B-
Urbanity: Urban Soul (2017, Alfi): Australian duo, Phil Turcio (keyboards) and Albert Dadon (guitars, aka Albare). Genial, pleasant groove music. B [cd]
The Vampires: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (2016 , Earshift Music): Hard for me to see Loueke as making for an especially momentous meeting, although he does what he usually does here, adding some sinewy, sweet guitar and (eventually) vocals. The group is a two-horn quartet, Jeremy Rose (alto/tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Nick Garrett (trumpet), plus bass and either of two drummers. The strike me as typical rock fans who moved on to jazz because it's more demanding, and don't want to hear about fusion. B+(*) [cd]
Carlos Vega: Bird's Up (2016 , Origin): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Miami, teaches in Tallahassee, recorded this in Chicago. Second album, both with "Bird" in the title. Impressive on a straight charge, although I find the various change ups (including a guest vocal) a bit muddled. B+(*) [cd]
Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker: Toxic: This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (2015 , ESP-Disk): Polish alto saxophonist (also bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, flute), with piano and bass legends; Walerian's third album for the label, each with a group name that I've slid into the title (not that it makes much sense this time). Five long pieces, 79:11. Leader strikes me as more tentative here than on the previous albums, but Shipp and Parker think of lots of ways to amuse themselves. B+(**)
Colter Wall: Colter Wall (2017, Young Mary's): Young (21) singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan, first album, has a deep voice which sounds much older, especially on slow ones (i.e., most of the time). Has some DJ patter in the middle, something about flipping the record over, which makes him out to be a much bigger deal than he is. Then the second half makes me think maybe he should be. A-
Charlie Watts/The Danish Radio Big Band: Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band (2010 , Impulse): Drummer for the Rolling Stones, has released eleven albums on his own since 1986, mostly jazz. Gerald Presencer arranged the pieces, opening with "Elvin Suite" and including two Stones pieces ("You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Paint It Black") -- both highlights, especially for Per Gade's guitar. B+(**)
Shea Welsh: Arrival (2017, Blujazz): Guitarist. based in Los Angeles. Seems to be his first album. Groups vary, including two vocalists, and dropping down to solo guitar on "Both Sides Now" and "Moonlight in Vermont." B- [cd]
Wire: Silver/Lead (2017, Pink Flag): England's first postpunk group, timed this album release for the 40th anniversary of their "first proper Wire gig" -- their label-defining debut Pink Flag came out later in 1977. Trademark sound, but they don't push it very hard. B+(*)
Jaime Wyatt: Felony Blues (2017, Forty Below, EP): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. I see more comparisons of her to Linda Ronstadt than to country singers, but more still buy into her outlaw thing. Probably the big voice and big production. Seven cuts, but only one less than 4:00 so they add up to 29:57. B+(*)
Charli XCX: Number 1 Angel (2017, Asylum): British pop singer Charlotte Aitchison considers this a mixtape though why is unclear to me. Same for the characterization as "avant-pop" -- possibly looking for something that conveys how beyond ordinary it is. A-
Young Thug: Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017, 300/Atlantic): Rapper Jeffrey Williams, first studio album after scads of mixtapes, so he's settling into the more modest release pace of a major label star -- gets him more guests, but not necessarily better songs. Takes a while to get going, but his comic voice and rapid fire vocal rhythm finally wins out. Still hard for me to tell if there's anything special here. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
American Epic: The Soundtrack (, Columbia/Third Man/Legacy): Tied into a three-part PBS program on the early recording history of American music, which the labels plan on expanding to a whole cottage industry, this being the most select, most succinct product: 15 songs [14 on Napster, dropping "Jole Blon"], all stone cold classics, skewed toward an oft-overlooked diversity (not just blues and country but Latin, Cajun, Hawaiian, and Native American -- but no jazz), expertly remastered. Too short, especially compared to the voluminous treasure troves Harry Smith and Allen Lowe have compiled, and I don't yet have an opinion on the series' 5-CD box set. But extraordinary. Maybe America was indeed once great. A-
Alice Coltrane: The Ecstatic Music of Turiyasangitananda [World Spirituality Classics 1] (1982-95 , Luaka Bop): Title can be parsed variously, often with her name (larger print) in the middle, and I've seen the label's series moniker placed first, but I've generally preferred to bracket it last. She was pianist Alice McLeod, from Detroit, before she married John Coltrane, recorded a dozen or so jazz albums on her own, dove into Indian religion and adopted the Sanskrit Turiyasangitananda (sometimes just Turiya Alice Coltrane). These tracks come from a series of recording she made for Avatar Book Institute, originally produced in small quantities for members of her ashram. She plays organ, synthesizer, and harp, backed with strings, percussion, and many singers. Oddly, I'd say surprisingly, uplifting. B+(**)
Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane (2007 , Resonance): Two major tenor saxophonists, Liebman also playing soprano, Lovano working in alto clarinet and Scottish flute, backed by Phil Markowitz (piano), Ron McClure (bass), and Billy Hart (drums). Liebman has released a number of Coltrane tributes over the years, including a blast through Ascension, so this seems to be his thing. B+(***) [cd]
Hayes McMullan: Everyday Seem Like Murder Here (1967-68 , Light in the Attic): Delta bluesman, born and lived in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Played with Charley Patton in the 1920s but never recorded until these sessions, which in turn weren't released until now. Just guitar and voice, a fair amount of talking, nothing here that really distinguishes McMullan from better-known contemporaries like Skip James (also born in 1902) or Furry Lewis (b. 1893), but nice to hear something new this old. B+(***)
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls: Live in Texas '78 (1978 , Eagle Rock): DVD released in 2011, packaged with a CD which only recently became available on its own. You may recall 1978 was the year when they got past their aging anxieties and released Some Girls, their best album since 1972's Exile on Main Street (still true). The key there was Keith inserting some country twang, but live they turn the new songs into long vamps -- best is "Miss You" but they can wear thin, and "Far Away Eyes" just gets cornier -- and they push out the old songs, though not two Chuck Berry covers. B+(**)
The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped: Paris (1995 , Eagle Rock): Their 1995 Stripped album was based on studio sessions in Tokyo and Lisbon plus live "small venue" performances in Amsterdam, Paris, and London. This year they've rounded up all of that for a variety of product configurations -- Discogs lists 14 and that doesn't include this one, which seems to be a carve-out of the Paris concert. The 1995 album sounded remarkable, but the completeness here adds both weakness and redundancy. No doubt they do, however, put on one helluva show. B+(**)
The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues (1920s-30s , World Music Network): As with the Jug Band Blues compilation below, this strong compilation of white country blues includes a handful of fairly well known pieces and a lot of background context, perfect for beginners, sufficient for most (although certainly not the last you need to hear from Jimmie Rodgers or Charlie Poole). A-
The Rough Guide to Jug Band Blues (1920s-30s , World Music Network): I should track down these dates -- always a problem with this label, but at least it's possible with old blues, unlike much world music -- but this does a nice job of rounding up a coherent style, highlighted by outfits like the Memphis Sheiks, Cannon's Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band, and various bigger names backed by Jug Bands (Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, Jimmie Rodgers). A-
Umoja: 707 (2017, Awesome Tapes From Africa, EP): Group is South African, led by Alec Khaoli, but adopted a Swahili (East African) word for its name, signifying "unity." They cut a half-dozen records from 1982-91, including this little post-disco EP, four cuts, 18:01 (dropping two remixes from the original LP). Pick hit: "Money Money (Bananas)." B+(**)
Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Thunder of the Gods (1966-71 , Modern Harmonic): Previously unreleased, three cuts, dates uncertain but the tapes were found among others that establish this range (1966's Strange Strings, 1971's Universe in Blue). Big band, but most of the time they're switching off to strings or percussion, so horns are minimal and swing is non-existent. B-
Joshua Abrams: Natural Information (2010-12 , Eremite): Bassist, made his initial impact on the Chicago avant scene but sometime around here moves off in another direction that emphasizes repetitive rhythms and exotic instruments -- his other credits here include bells, dulcimer, guimbri, kora, harmonium, sampler, synthesizer, and that catchall percussion. Others on the original six-track 2010 LP play drums and sometimes guitar. Two later tracks with a larger group added to CD reissue. Rougher and more intense than his latest album, which moves this album name into the credit slot. A- [bc]
Joshua Abrams: Represencing (2011 , Eremite): Follow-up to Natural Information, although the later extra tracks there mess up my sort order. This, too, originally came out on vinyl (2012 vs. 2011), and the later CD adds a 24:46 live bonus. Recorded at home, with widely varying lineups for scattered effects -- the usual crew, plus several Chicago notables show up for a track each: Nicole Mitchell, Jeff Parker, Tomeka Reid, Jason Stein, Chad Taylor, Michael Zerang. B+(**) [bc]
Joshua Abrams: Magnetoception (2013 , Eremite): Alternates between beat pieces, which remain fascinating, and ambient ones, less so even if that's the idea. Abrams plays bass, celeste, clarinet, guimbri, small harp, and bells, and gets major help from Hamid Drake on tabla and various drums; also Emmett Kelly and Jeff Parker on guitar, Ben Boye on autoharp, and Lisa Alvarado on harmonium. B+(***)
Amina Claudine Myers: Salutes Bessie Smith (1980, Leo): Pianist, originally from Arkansas, moved to Chicago and joined AACM, then on to New York. Second album after a set based on Marion Brown's piano music. Also plays organ and sings here, backed with bass (Cecil McBee) and drums (Jimmy Lovelace), starting with four Bessie Smith songs, t
Monday, June 26. 2017
Music: Current count 28324  rated (+31), 368  unrated (-5).
This situation got markedly worse a week or two ago -- possibly coinciding with a redesign of Twitter, although banishing Twitter didn't fix the problem, nor did radically reducing the number of tabs I keep open (normally 40-50, down to 5-10). Firefox crashed 3-5 times a day, or sometimes just hung until I would kill it. The obvious solution was to upgrade the Ubuntu release, but getting from 12 to 16 probably couldn't be done incrementally. Rather, I would have to do a fresh install, which meant backing everything up, cleaning the system out, loading the new release, reconfiguring, and restoring my data. No real reason why I can't do that, but it would be a major disruption in my work and life, so I've been putting it off.
I did find an interim fix, which is to switch from Firefox to Chromium. The good news there is that Chromium actually runs much faster than Firefox ever did -- probably because the program is multithreaded, so it's making much more efficient use of my 8-core CPU. Downsides were that I had to reconfigure lots of things, and I haven't found a satisfactory ad blocker yet -- AdBlockPlus doesn't work, so I tried Ad Remove (which seems to require me to identify all of the offending ads) then Fair Adblocker (which blocks pop-ups but otherwise doesn't seem to block anything at all). Trying one called Ads Killer now, but too soon to tell. Meanwhile, I've been shocked (and disgusted) at the extent to which advertising has taken over the web. Reminds me that I need to write that essay on why advertising is the root of all our problems. Also, Chromium crashed twice while I was writing this, but both times involved the same path, so it's an easily characterized bug.
With these browser problems, I skipped Weekend Roundup this past week, but I may not bother restarting even when I get the browser problems fixed. But that's another story. Meanwhile I had a fair week listening to music. The second main computer I have is running Ubuntu 16.04, so it's reasonably up to date. I run AdBlockPlus on it, but not NoScript, but I rarely have two windows or more than a dozen tabs, so it's not getting a heavy workout. I stream music from Napster and Bandcamp there, occasionally download things to play through VLC, and keep a tab open for Facebook. So I had plenty of music available, even though the CD queue seems to be drying up with the summer heat. (The Pending list is currently down to 9 records. Only one of this week's A- records came to me as a CD, and that thanks to the musician, not the label.)
Two A- records this week from Christgau's Expert Witness -- the Chuck Berry a late arrival on Napster. (Could be I didn't give Kano enough time, but I could also say that for Young Thug; neither got the three plays it took to nudge Starlito & Don Trip over the line.) Most of the alt-country albums came from Saving Country Music's mid-year list -- Jason Eady and Colter Wall were the finds there. I went after the Joshua Abrams backlog giving an A- to this year's Simultonality, which I can now assure you is his best-to-date. I decided to try the Rolling Stones' live shots when I was most depressed last week, and they did help to cheer me up, even if ultimately they didn't seem essential. Both were audio derivatives from DVD products.
Sylvan Esso was one of those records I picked out from my Music Tracking list -- one of those things someone likes somewhere, but I'm rarely this impressed by what I find there. I looked up Steve Pistorius while working on the Jazz Guides (currently 696 + 647 pages, still in Jazz '80s-'90s, up to Norbert Stein). Still working on it, not least because it's a fair low energy project -- much easier than trying to write something new. Still got a long ways to go, and it's not going to look very pretty once this pass is done. Most obvious problem is that I repeat myself a lot from record to record, useful in separate columns but redundant when all of an artist's records are stacked up.
I had a crisis with the website a week ago, when I couldn't update files due to no free disk space. I resolved at that point to move my website, which is probably still the right idea, but the hosting company opened a bit of space up so I can hold off a bit. I have made some progress on a few other problems, most importantly getting a lot of CD filing done. Also managed (last night) to copy a bunch of downloaded music from an old machine to the one with speakers, so I should start to check that out fairly soon.
Expect a Streamnotes by the end of the month. Currently 131 records in the draft file, so I'm already up a bit from recent months (111, 115, 114; February had 153, January 156).
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, June 19. 2017
Music: Current count 28293  rated (+39), 373  unrated (-12).
Covered a lot of records last week, came up with a nice mix with more than usual highly recommended. Once again, streaming played a large roll: only one of three A-list jazz albums came in the mail (Steve Coleman, the most marginal, the one that took the most work, but regardless of my reservations I predict a top-five poll finish). Christgau's latest featured "a flood of new country" -- especially Jason Isbell, who I've never gotten and still don't, and Steve Earle, for the week's easiest pick. But I've been working on another country list, thanks to Saving Country Music, which brought me to Jason Eady, Zephaniah OHora, Marty Stuart, Jaime Wyat, and some others we'll get to soon -- Joseph Huber, Colter Wall, Dalton Domino, the Brother Brothers, Shinyribs, and possibly more in the fine print. (I'd already checked out Sunny Sweeney, John Moreland, Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell, Whitney Rose, Chris Stapleton, Angaleena Presley).
The latest Downbeat steered me to Jimmy Greene, Gerald Clayton, Ambrose Akinmusire, Regina Carter, and Louis Hayes. I've seen some raves about Akinmusire, but only one or two cuts come close to justifying them. His last album came in 3rd in Jazz Critics Poll (I gave it a B-), so this one might too. At least I feel like I can hear what Coleman's doing, even if I'm not wild about it. Greene's previous album was also hugely admired, but I didn't like it nearly as much as I do this one. The featured reviews also includes a new one by Tomasz Stanko, which I've snarfed a download of but haven't bothered with yet. (Actually, I've yet to play a single ECM download this year, although I have most of them somewhere -- I think mostly on the wrong computer.)
Speaking of computers, I'm running into big problems with the ISP that hosts tomhull.com. I struggled getting yesterday's posts up because the server ran out of disk space. I'm using 398MB on a virtual server disk partition with 67GB, so my slice is a mere 0.59% of the partition, and the server has another 141GB partition that's only 56% used (but inaccessible to me). I've filed a problem report but they haven't responded let alone done anything. The company is Addr.com. I've been there a long time, and they've become increasingly dysfunctional, so I should move -- in fact, should have moved years ago, but didn't because it's not actually possible to get a clean dump of the blog database. I do have all the flat files elsewhere, but it would be a huge job to rebuild the blog database (probably not even worth doing since almost all of the writing is in the Notebook and there never have been many comments).
I've known I've had to upgrade for some time, but have held back due to the general mess in the office. I finally made a small amount of progress last week on getting the mountains of CDs organized and filed, and hope to continue working on that this week. In the meantime, there's some possibility that the website will temporarily go away.
I did make some progress early last week on the Jazz Guides, but that got stalled mid-week. Current page counts: 682 + 599. Still in the Jazz '80s file, up to Adam Pieronczyk. I took a dive into Amina Claudine Myers' back catalogue while working on this: mostly AACM-meets-Bessie Smith. The Leo album was a Penguin 4-star, and really takes off on the backstretch.
Incoming mail took a nosedive last week, although I got two new releases from Intakt today. There's usually a seasonal dip later in the summer, but as the trawl through Downbeat demonstrated, I'm no longer getting a lot of new jazz (9/35 records individually reviewed this month). Looks like I'm no longer getting records from Clean Feed, which I've regarded as a reason to carry on. Maybe I'll find some on Napster.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, June 12. 2017
Music: Current count 28254  rated (+29), 385  unrated (+2).
Barely less than the thirty that for me marks a productive week, but close enough, especially given that my cutoff for the week's report was relatively early, and since then I'm already as I write this up to seven records for next week. I've continued to add items to the Music Tracking file, especially from early "so far" lists (although I ran out of patience when I tried to scoop up the 2017 jazz review list from All About Jazz). I've been picking promising (well, in some cases just much touted) records from the list, and getting the usual hit-and-miss results. I found two A- records there: a rapper who surprised me, and a pop star who still sounded convincing after four plays. The hardest call was the Mountain Goats' Goths, which probably got six plays without clearly making the grade -- still, a damn nice album. Two records I didn't spend much time on but you might turn out to be more to your taste: MUNA and Jay Som.
The other A- is American Epic: The Soundtrack, which is the tip of an iceberg that includes much more I haven't found time to deal with, notably a 5-CD box and a bunch of individual artist compilations for genres (Blues, Country) and artists I already have serviceable anthologies by (Carter Family, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, Leadbelly, Memphis Jug Band). Chances are any of those would do you well. But the box is a lot to focus on coming off the computer, and I wouldn't be able to review the doc -- always important with reissues -- without actually getting my hands on the product. As for the original music, I haven't seen the PBS shows, and don't know where to begin. The whole thing is much like the Ken Burns jazz and Martin Scorsese blues campaigns, except I'm much less engaged.
As for the mid-year lists (and obviously we're still close to a month shy), so I'm working from a short and arbitrary sample. Without resorting to math, I'll give you my subjective impression of how this list would shape up if we had more data. Also, I've included my grades, where known, in brackets:
The top slot is a slam dunk. The next three could go any way, with XX a clear leader in UK, Misty in US, and Sampha broader (but not so deep) everywhere. I think RTJ3 is underrepresented, probably because its release straddled the New Year. The sample is skewed toward hip-hop, so I tended to slide those records back a bit (especially Drake, which showed up on the third most lists). Also I pushed Christgau favorites Lekman and Magnetic Fields up (onto) the list (the latter quite a bit, but also note that its Metacritic score is very high).
Some other, somewhat less likely, possibilities: Ryan Adams: The Prisoner; Arca [B]; Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ [A-]; Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound [**]; Future: Hndrxx; (Sandy) Alex G: Rocket; Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life [**]; Kehlani: SweetSexySavage [*]; The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions [***]; Paramore: After Laughter [***]; Priests: Nothing Feels Natural [**]. Also on my "first pass" list: Mary J. Blige: Strength of a Woman [***]; Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness; Charly Bliss: Guppy; Feist: Pleasure [B]; Future Islands: The Far Field; Girlpool: Powerplant [B]; Gorillaz: Humanz; Jlin: Black Origami [**]; Aimee Mann: Mental Illness; Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me; Sorority Noise: You're Not as ___ as Your Think; Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer [*].
More 2017 best of (so far) lists:
I should also note that Robert Christgau has a review of several books by Terry Eagleton: With a God on His Side.
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Monday, June 5. 2017
Music: Current count 28225  rated (+38), 383  unrated (-4).
Published April's Streamnotes last Wednesday. I usually try to make a push at the end of the month to find a few more A-list albums, but gave up after nothing but the Paul Rutherford archival tape clicked. I stopped adding records late Tuesday and posted mid-day Wednesday, but as it turned out Wednesday netted seven good records: 1 A- (Lord Echo), 3 B+(***) (Heliocentrics, Sleaford Mods, Chris Stapleton), and 3 B+(**) (Gato Libre, Ryan Keberle, Umoja). A good start for a better June column.
Still, I decided I needed to do some better research for the future. For some years now, I've kept a file I call Music Tracking: basically a long list of the year-to-date's releases. Records I have physical copies of are shown in blue (220 so far this year) -- I add them to the list during unpacking -- and other records I've sampled off the internet and written about are in green (110). For most of this year that's all I've done with the file (although previous year's files have been much more extensive). But the idea is to sort the unheard records into four priorities (0, 1, 2, 3), where: 3 = things I must hear; 2 = things I want to hear, or things lots of other people think I should hear; 1 = things some people think are worth hearing, but I'm not in much of a rush; and 0 = things I've noticed but have no real interest in. The 0 priority albums don't show up in the default presentation, but when I search the source file I'll find them (and think, no bother looking into that further).
This year I haven't been using 0 or 3, but I do find myself searching for priority 2 records for something to listen to. So last week I added a bunch of albums to the file. I got these first by going through AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 list, jotting down everything in the top 200 and a few things I recognized as interesting below that. I then used the "Source" option to select specific publications, and picked up the top 25 for most of them (I skipped Alternative Press but have since gone back and picked up their 90+ ratings). Also, in a few cases that review a lot of varied records, I went deeper (Pitchfork, PopMatters, Guardian -- those three had 100+ records rated 80+). I probably need to go back and probe a few other sites deeper, and maybe check Metacritic's album releases by score list, and look at a few mid-year best-of lists: thus far I've checked Billboard, DJBooth, Entertainment Weekly, Mass Appeal, NME, Observer [Hip-Hop], Observer [Jazz], Thrillist; I also see new lists from: The Free Weekly, The Musical Hype, Spin, The Telegraph, and Uproxx. (Note that I've opted not to pursue several lists of minor interest and/or unfriendly to my browser: FACT, HotNewHipHop, Loudwire, Metal Storm, PopCrush, Sputnik, Time.) I also notice there are a few things on Phil Overeem's First Quarter Report I haven't heard. including his top rated Harriet Tubman album (also number 2 for Chris Monsen).
The file currently lists 105 priority 2 albums and 503 priority 1, so there should be enough there to keep me busy in weeks ahead.
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Wednesday, May 31. 2017
With 111 titles (90 new) my shortest Streamnotes column this year. Fewer A- records too (6 + 1 new, 3 old). Old music mostly came from trad jazz revivalists (mostly on the reclusive Stomp Off label).
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 based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on April 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (9625 records).
Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (2015 , NoBusiness): Tenor sax trio from Portugal, avant, all joint improv but bassist got his name listed first -- alphabetical, I presume, but he opens with an arco solo and makes himself heard throughout. Amado, of course, is terrific. He's had quite a run since 2010's Searching for Adam. A- [cd]
Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eldh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (2016 , Intakt): In my unpacking, I missed the title (going with the group name), and misspelled bassist Eldh's name. Same quartet has a 2015 album named Amok Amor, so this is one of those groups. All four members contribute songs (3-2-1-3, although it was 3-4.5-2.5-0 last time; I filed under drummer Lillinger, but Discogs lists Eldh first on the previous album). Slavin plays sax, Evans trumpet -- strongest showing I've heard by him since he left MOPDTK. A- [cd]
Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (2013 , NoBusiness): Piccolo trumpet, tenor/soprano sax, piano-bass-drums, two improv split into two parts. Some dead spots, or maybe just ambient noise, but Butcher has strong moments, and when things pick up it's usually the French pianist at the center. B+(***) [cdr]
David Binney: The Time Verses (2016 , Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, twenty-some albums since 1990, leads a postbop quartet with Jacob Sacks (piano), Eivind Opsvik (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums) through fourteen of the leader's pieces. Most impressive when he cuts loose. One vocal by Jen Shyu, not a plus. B+(**)
Body Count: Bloodlust (2017, Century Media): Rapper Ice-T's metal band, sixth album since 1992 when "Cop Killer" became a national political scandal. I hadn't noticed any of their albums since the first, but word is that Trump got them energized again, and they sure are. A spoken intro cites Slayer for their precision, and that's sure here. Razor sharp barbs, brutal volume. I'm duly impressed without feeling like giving it a second spin. B+(***)
Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field (2017, Biophilia): Packaging is called BiopholioTM, "a two-sided, 20-panel origami-inspired medium," but does not include a CD -- you get a download code instead, so while they eschew "the harmful effects of plastic in the environment" you'll have to get your own. I've never had a problem with Rubik's Cube, but folding this packaging back together tight enough to slip the little paper band around it is a tall order. I won't comment on the downloading process because the publicist was good enough to mail me a CDR (ok, after I complained). For grading purposes let's forget about the packaging and just deal with the music. Group is led by bassist Bryan Copeland, with Fabian Alamzan (piano), Chris Dingham (vibes), and Joe Nero (drums), plus Dayna Stephens plays EWI and Camila Meza sings some. Frothy fusion with a mind toward the wonders of deep space. B- [cdr]
Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (2016 , Cadence Jazz): Cover suggests title is PausaLive, but spine says otherwise. Local Buffalo musicians, only a couple familiar to me -- chiefly pianist Michael McNeill -- but they form a remarkable large free jazz ensemble, with standout solos on sax, trumpet, and drums, and brisk and energetic group improv that never breaks down. A- [cd]
Peter Campbell: Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn (2016 , self-released): Vocalist, second album, voice eerily similar to the sepia tones of the famous line of female jazz singers from Sarah Vaughan to Cassandra Wilson, so he's right at home wading through Horn's ballads. Mark Kieswetter plays piano and directs, and Kevin Turcotte adds some tasteful trumpet. B+(**) [cd]
Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound (2017, Carperk): Indie rock band from Cleveland, fourth album, good for a swirling storm of guitar-bass-drums, intermittently catchy, so I was surprised when they cranked up the intensity for the closer ("Realize My Fate"). B+(**)
Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang (2015, Infinity Cat, EP): Three-piece "grunge pop" band from Nashville -- Jenna Moynihan (guitar/vocals), Jenna Mitchell (bass), Emily Maxwell (drums) -- with an eight-cut, 27:12 cassette. Sometimes they work through their issues with punk rage, sometimes just refrain them to death ("Creepy Girl," "Shitty World"). B+(***)
Daddy Issues: Deep Dream (2017, Infinity Cat): A bit longer -- 10 songs, shortest 3:10, longest 4:13 -- guitar deeper, more resonant, lyrics deeper too, more mature, the one about "boring girls" self-inclusive, though they rise above all that. A-
Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp: Vessel in Orbit (2017, AUM Fidelity): Drums, viola, piano, listed alphabetically with all compositions jointly credited, but the viola is the most obvious lead, with the others adding impressive density. B+(***)
Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (2017, Frenchkiss): Pop-punk duo from New Paltz, NY: Alex Luciano (guitar, vocals) and Noah Bowman (drums). She has a small voice and a couple songs just hang out waiting for a melody, but it usually comes. B+(***)
Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Transdans (2016 , Wig): Violinist Ig Henneman has been playing with saxophonist Ab Baars at least since 2006, often as a duo, sometimes with others. Their interaction strikes me as rather sparse and reticent here. Perhaps the pianist has them spooked, but he hardly imposes himself, mostly laying back and looking for cues. B [cd]
Andrew Durkin: Breath of Fire (2012-16 , PJCE): Pianist, released four albums 2001-06 as Industrial Jazz Group, plus a book called Decomposition: A Music Manifesto (2014). Label acronym stands for Portland Jazz Composers' Ensemble, and they're showing more than two dozen albums (by nearly as many artists) on Bandcamp. Group here adds two saxes, guitar, bass, and drums. Postbop, fits nicely together without seeming obvious. B+(***)
Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country (2015-16 , Sunnyside): Voice and piano duo, something the pianist has done numerous times, including with Eade on the 2011 album Whirlpool. This seems slight, although familiar tunes like "Moon River" and "Moonlight in Vermont" resonate. B+(*) [cd]
Brian Eno: Reflection (2017, Warp): Solo electronics, although Peter Chilvers is also credited with "mutation software." One 54:00 piece, what you'd call quietly reflective, fully within his ambient range. B+(**)
Feist: Pleasure (2017, Interscope): Singer-songwriter from Nova Scotia. Title song is not just a good idea, it even delivers a bit. But it's also a reminder of what the rest of the album has too little of. B
Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange (2017, Multiphonics Music): Trombonist, has mostly recorded trios including a tribute to Albert Mangelsdorff but went for something funkier with his band Big Sackbutt, and continues that here: a quintet with Jeff Lederer's tenor/soprano sax for contrast, and terrific support from guitarist Pete McCann. B+(***)
Craig Fraedrich With Trilogy and Friends: All Through the Night (2017, Summit): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, Trilogy is presumably the Tony Nalker-led piano trio who backs him, and Friends, as far as I can tell, is singular: singer Christal Rheams, who does a nice job working through old standards, including six credited to Traditional (also two Fraedrich originals). B+(*) [cd]
Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (2016 , Intakt): Guitarist, also credited with "various small objects," in a duo where Koch plays "bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, spit." Interesting when they mesh or just clash, separated by awkwardly indeterminate slots. B+(**) [cd]
Gas: Narkopop (2017, Kompakt): Wolfgang Voigt, German electronica producer, co-founded Kompakt, has used many aliases over the years, releasing four albums as Gas 1996-2000, and now he's dusted that old alias off one more time. Probably because the ambient electronics are so thin and dispersed. B
Freddie Gibbs: You Only Live 2wice (2017, ESGN/Empire): Rapper from Gary, IN, originally Fredrick Tipton. Third album, along with a joint with Madlib and a pile of mixtapes. Cover a Rennaissance painting of the rapper resurrected and ascending to heaven, an idea that may have occurred to him after being acquitted of rape charges in Austria. But the short (31:49) album is more quotidian, dense and impenetrable, though the closer ("Homesick") does hint at the cover. B+(**)
David Gilmore: Transitions (2016 , Criss Cross): Guitarist, not to be confused with the Pink Floyd guy (Gilmour) despite Google's insistence. Fifth album since 2000, had a lot to do with Steve Coleman's funk-fusion in the 1990s. Quartet with Mark Shim (tenor sax), Victor Gould (piano), Carlo DeRosa (bass), E.J. Strickland (drums), plus a couple guest spots. Various postbop looks, although the one funk-fusion throwback ("Kid Logic") is the most engaging. B+(*)
Girlpool: Powerplant (2017, Anti-): Two girl guitar-bass group based in Los Angeles (Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad) plus a session drummer, variously described as folk punk and dream pop. They play twelve songs in 28:30 without ever seeming rushed. B
GoldLink: At What Cost (2017, Squaaash Club/RCA): Rapper D'Anthony Carlos, from DC, grew up on go-go, which explains why this has more than the usual funk quotient. First album after two mixtapes. Starts a bit tentative but grows on you, then slips up a bit. B+(***)
Grandaddy: Last Place (2017, 30th Century/Columbia): Alt/indie band from Modesto, California, principally Jason Lytle; emerged in the late 1990s, hung it up in 2006, regrouped in 2012 with this their/his first post-hiatus album. Alt/indie, but dreamier than most "dream pop." B+(**)
Pasquale Grasso/Renaud Penant/Ari Roland: In the Mood for a Classic (2014 , ITI Music): Guitar-drums-bass, Grasso born in Italy, moved to New York in 2012, playing in bop bands for Chris Byars and Roland. Classics as advertised, with the bassist rescuing "These Foolish Things." B+(**) [cd]
Chris Greene Quartet: Boundary Issues (2016 , Single Malt): Saxophonist from Illinois, based in Chicago, favors tenor over soprano (7 tracks to 2), quartet includes keyboards, bass, and drums -- some electric, some not. Cover suggests a mad rush, but album itself is fairly even tempered. B [cd]
Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Madness (2017, Moserobie): Swedish drummer, parents from Finland, now based in Berlin. Was lead guitarist for the Bear Quartet (15 albums), also a member of "pop combo" Heikki. Second Trio album, cover just says JH3, with bass guitar (Daniel Bingert) and sax (Per Texas Johansson) that recalls r&b honkers more than prog fusion. Twelve cuts, but short (27:11). B+(**) [cd]
Larry Ham/Woody Witt: Presence (2016 , Blujazz): Piano and tenor sax, in a quartet with bass and drums. Neither has much discography, Ham mostly recording in retro-swing groups, this one more postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Rebecca Hennessy's Fog Brass Band: Two Calls (2017, self-released): Trumpet player from Canada, the extra brass coming from trombone and tuba but none of the horns make a huge impression (though the tuba keeps things moving). Sextet also includes piano, guitar, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Mats Holmquist: Big Band Minimalism (2015 , Summit): Swedish big band leader, discography goes back to 1986 including tributes to Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter. This time out he borrows the Latvian Radio Big Band and adds guest stars Dick Oatts (alto sax) and Randy Brecker (trumpet). No idea what a successful implementation of his concept might sound like, but this doesn't sound like much of anything coherent. C+ [cd]
Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner: Hook, Line and Sinker (2016 , De Platenbakakkerij, DVD): Cello, bass, tenor sax/clarinet, trumpet, with Honsinger also singing something vaguely folkish in a sea of free jazz. Recorded live at Spinhuis Amsterdam, pressed up as a DVD -- just musicians at work, the camera wandering, only rarely capturing the full stage, not that I watched much of it. B+(*) [dvd]
Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator (2017, ATO): Alyndra Segarra, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, a folkie attracted to New Orleans, although her label deal affords her a lusher band -- hard to hear this as Americana, though of course it's as wholeheartedly American as can be. B+(*)
Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (2015 , Euonymous): Violinist, born in Waukegan, IL but developed an interest in Chinese classical music, and has played that off against avant jazz. Quintet, with Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Forbes (piano), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums), a group so stellar he has trouble getting out in front -- the trombonist is especially impressive. B+(***) [cd]
Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai (2017, Merge): Leader Eno Williams, born in London but raised in Lagos, sings in Ibibio (from southeast Nigeria) while drawing on musican sources from all over the map (as Pitchfork put it: "Nigerian highlife as much as new wave, South African jazz as much as techno, Cameroonian makossa as much as disco"). B+(**)
José James: Love in a Time of Madness (2017, Blue Note): Jazz singer, from Minneapolis, based in New York, seven albums since 2007. Has split credits on most songs, with synth player/programmer Antario Holmes his main partner. Soft and slinky, more appealing than usual. B+(*)
B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (2016 , Ronin Jazz): Baritone saxophonist, born in Cincinnati, based in New York, has a couple previous records. A big mainstream sound, powered by a mostly famous sextet: Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Delfeayo Marsalis (trombone), Zaccai Curtis (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), Ralph Peterson (drums). B+(*) [cd]
Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (2009 , Fleur de Son): Guitarist Chris Jentsch, based in Brooklyn, first two releases were styled as suites, and this fits that mold. Two programs, separated by a dead spot with muffled cricket sounds. Group includes Matt Renzi (tenor sax, clarinet, alto flute), bass and drums. Package includes a DVD. B+(*) [cd]
Jlin: Black Origami (2017, Planet Mu): Jerrilynn Patton, from Gary, IN, second album (plus two EPs), associated with Chicago footwork, probably all electronics (aside from scattered voices), but especially strong on percussion, dense and varied, with a quasi-industrial air. B+(**)
Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (2015 , Summit): Trumpet player, website has a section called "Woody Shaw Research," big band recorded in Dallas. Karns wrote five (of seven) pieces, covering "Like Someone in Love" and "Without a Song." Tenor saxophonist Rich Perry gets a featuring credit. C+ [cd]
Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (2017, Atlantic): Surname Parrish, from Oakland, 21 when this came out, first album after a couple mixtapes but her career started at age 14 in group PopLyfe -- they had a run on America's Got Talent, but after they broke up she couldn't work and spent some time homeless. This one's got some good songs, some bounce and sass, some oversinging. B+(*)
Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet (2017, Verve): Standards singer, also plays piano, became a big star in the 1990s and still has remarkable phrasing. She recorded this with three small and mostly interchangeable guitar-bass-drums groups (Marc Ribot-Tony Garnier-Kariem Riggins the most interesting on paper but I can't say I noticed much difference, even from Anthony Wilson-John Clayton-Jeff Hamilton). Plus hints of strings and a bit of vibes. All very agreeable, typically remarkable. B+(***)
Oliver Lake Featuring Flux Quartet: Right Up On (2016 , Passin' Thru): The leader is credited with alto sax, although in two plays I didn't notice any -- and he's not normally one to hide in the shadows. Rather, you get an avant string quartet playing rather abstractly modernist compositions, by Lake, some dating back to 1998. B [cd]
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (2017, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, at least one previous album. Quartet with piano (Steve Feifke), bass and drums, plus guest trumpet (Randy Brecker) on two cuts. Five originals, four covers ("Isn't She Lovely," "Giant Steps," "The Nearness of You," "All of You"). Impressive sax runs, conventional rhythm, makes for a solid mainstream album. B+(**) [cd]
Les Amazones d'Afrique: République Amazone (2017, RealWorld): New group, all women, mostly names I recognize from solo careers -- Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Nneka, Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou &) -- none from Les Amazones de Guinée, last heard from on their brilliant 2008 Wamato. This is more limited to beats and chants, but they grow on you. A-
Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk: The Breathe Suite (2017, self-released): Organ player, released Organ Monk in 2010 followed by a couple more sets of Monk tunes, but here he's moved into something else -- song titles like "Chronicles of Michael Brown," "Trayvon," and "Eric Garner" will give you an idea. Mostly quintet with trumpet (Riley Mullins), tenor sax (Reggie Woods), and relative stars on guitar (Marc Ribot) and drums (Nasheet Waits). Fast, furious, a bit heavy. B+(*) [cd]
Jesse Lewis/Ike Sturm: Endless Field (2017, Biophilia): Guitar and bass, as a duo they fashion intricate, pleasant pastorales -- the sort of thing "new age" promised but rarely delivered. However, they also entertain guests (Donny McCaslin, Ingrid Jensen, Fabian Almazan, Chris Dingman, Nadje Noordhuis "& More"), some a plus, some not. [PS: Packaging comes with download code, probably no CD -- mine came with CDR.] B [cdr]
Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (2017, self-released): Saxophonist, plays everything from soprano to baritone plus piccolo to alto flute, clarinet, and EWI. From Miami, likes Latin percussion and smooth guitar. B [cd]
Mas Que Nada: Sea Journey (2017, Blujazz): Brazilian and Afro-Cuban jazz group directed by Tom Knific at Western Michigan, eight pieces plus two singers, mostly doing standard fare -- "If I Fell in Love" (John Lennon) the furthest reach. B [cd]
Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin, Volume 1 (2017, Accurate): Trumpet player-vocalist, fourth album, all songs by pianist Bushkin (1916-2004), bracketed by stories about Bushkin from Frank Sinatra and Red Buttons, plus a snippet of Bushkin's own piano, all very nicely done -- mostly smooth crooning, but outliers include "Hot Time in the Town of Berlin," "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate," and "Man Here Plays Fine Piano." B+(***) [cd]
Migos: Culture (2017, QC/YRN/300): Atlanta hip-hop crew, three rappers (Quavo, Takeoff, Offset) related and raised by the same mother. Second album, a dozen mix tapes. The polyrhythmic voices can turn catchy, but no guarantee of that. B+(***)
Jason Miles: Kind of New 2: Blue Is Paris (2017, Lightyear): Keyboard player, claims credits on 130 albums, tends toward pop jazz grooves but occasionally throws something more, as when he brought Ingrid Jensen in for his previous Kind of New album. This isn't a repeat, although he's thrown four trumpet players into the void: Russell Gunn, Theo Croker, Patches Stewart, and Jukka Eskola. Says this was "written in reaction to the 2015 Paris terror attacks." The groove pieces are actually rather catchy, and the title vocal (reprised at the end) works just well enough. B+(*) [cdr]
Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (2016 , Ocean Blue Tear Music): Pianist, born in Kobe, Japan, studied at Berklee, has six albums. This a trio with Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding on drums. Four originals, covers of Marc Johnson (2), Joni Mitchell, and "Dear Prudence." Runs 72 minutes but is delightful all the way through. A- [cd]
Michael Morreale: Love and Influence (2013-16 , Blujazz, 2CD): Trumpet player, also some flugelhorn and piano, based in New York. I don't know of any previous albums, but hype sheet says he's been active thirty-some years, and I've seen a number of side credits, especially with Joe Jackson. Mainstream, with Jon Gordon on alto sax, lots of piano. First disc is brighter and sharper; second includes a vocal. B+(*) [cd]
Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (2017, PW Elverum & Sun): Singer-songwriter Phil Elverum, formerly of the Microphones, whose last album (2003) was titled Mount Eerie. As I write this, the first- (Metacritic) or second-best (AOTY) reviewed album of 2017, a remarkable consensus for a guy with almost no pulse much less dynamism. Still, a not unpleasant waste of time. B+(*)
Mumpbeak: Tooth (2017, Rare Noise): Roy Powell, based in Oslo, plays piano but credited here with "Horner clavinet, Moog Little Phatty, Hammond organ, tubular bells"; backed by Lorenzo Felicati on bass and Torstein Lofthus on drums, so basically midway between an organ trio and keyboard fusion. B [cdr]
Willie Nelson: God's Problem Child (2017, Legacy): Working title: "Still Not Dead" -- one of seven new songs by Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon, but they wound up going with the title song from Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, with what sounds like Johnson doing the bulk of the singing (the bulky parts, anyway). Seems like a perfectly respectable, perfectly average album, which given recent fads may indeed prove he's not dead yet. B+(**)
Noertker's Moxie: Druidh Penumbrae (2011-15 , Edgetone): Bassist Bill Noertker's main group (he also has one called the Melancholics), pieced together from live recordings over the band's run. Annelise Zamula (alto/tenor sax, flute) is the only other constant, with a series of three drummers, two pianists (4/11 cuts), and more horns (ranging from cornet to oboe). B+(*) [cd]
Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (2016 , Biophilia): Bassist, born in Malaysia, raised in Australia, previously recorded three good albums as Linda Oh plus side credits with Dave Douglas and others. Group features Ben Wendel on sax, plus Matthew Stevens on guitar and Justin Brown on drums, joined by Fabian Almazan (piano on 3 cuts) and Minji Park (janggu & kkwaenggwari on 1). Another solid record, especially when I focus on the bassist. New label, has come up with a packaging gimmick that unfolds into a large many-faceted surface, roughly the equivalent of a 16-page booklet turned into crumpled chaos -- really awful. But the music: [PS: $20 product just comes with empty packaging and a download code.] B+(***) [cdr]
Paramore: After Laughter (2017, Fueled by Ramen): Pop/rock band originally from Tennessee, fifth studio album, only constant member since 2004 is singer-keyboardist Hayley Williams. Starts strong, an interesting voice over the pop hooks, somewhat less so the slow one. B+(***)
William Parker & Stefano Scondanibbio Duo: Bass Duo (2008 , Centering): Two bassists, one famous, the other not (at least not that I'm aware of; he died at 55 in 2012), performing improv duets at a jazz festival in Udine, Italy. Probably not your cup of tea, but I'm fascinated, and don't even mind it for background ambience. B+(**)
Sarah Partridge: Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian (2016 , Origin): Singer from New Jersey, favors standards, half-dozen albums, devoted this one to the songs of Janis Ian, a folkish singer-songwriter who first emerged in 1967 (and who joins for one song here). Somewhat (but not very) surprised I don't have any Ian albums graded in my database, so no surprise that the songs here don't stick with me either. Some nice Scott Robinson saxophone. B [cd]
Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (2016 , self-released): Pianist, originally from Italy, moved to New York in 2004. First album, quartet with Dayna Stephens (tenor/soprano sax), Joe Martin (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), plus guest shots (one track each) by vocalist Sara Serpa and trumpeter/producer Jeremy Pelt. B+(*) [cd]
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (2017, Legacy): Band dates back to 1963, with bassist/tuba player Ben Jaffe taking over from his father in 1987, and evidently another turn following a tour of Cuba in 2015. For one thing, this is all original material, related to New Orleans trad (and for that matter Afro-Cuban) only in that it's upbeat, celebratory social music. And being geared for hot jazz, they can do that. B+(**)
Chuck Prophet: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (2017, Yep Roc): Retro rocker from California, was in the pretty good late-1980s group Green on Red, fourteenth album under his own name -- I liked the only one I've heard, The Hurting Business (2000). Title song is slight, and not as amusing as "Jesus Was a Social Drinker" or "If I Was Connie Britton." On the other hand, "Alex Nieto" does matter, and they crank the guitars up to drive the point home. B+(*)
Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud: En Corps: Generation (2016 , Dark Tree): French piano trio, second album as they carry on their debut title, recorded live in Austria. Two pieces ("Des Corps" and "Des Âmes"), slow to develop from repeated rhythmic patterns, impressive when they do. B+(**) [cd]
Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]: The New National Anthem (2015 , Greenleaf Music): Pianoless quartet, the brothers playing clarinet/sax and drums, Swallow electric bass, the leader trumpet. The title and two other tunes come from Carla Bley -- the album's most striking pieces -- plus one each by Swallow and Chet Doxas, the title tune bracketed by the leader's "Americano." Full of remarkable passages, but after many plays I'm still finding it a bit too solemn. B+(***) [cd]
Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (2015 , Origin): Guitarist, second album although his side credits go back to 1976. Three originals, covers mostly from jazz sources ranging from Ornette Coleman to Vincent Herring, so not so surprising I don't start recognizing them until he gets to "Living for the City" and "Moon River." With piano-bass-drums plus six horns I scarcely noticed. B [cd]
Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness Road (2017, Rare Noise): Saft plays piano here, turning this into a classy little cocktail trio, though nothing really familiar as the tunes are all originals. The surprise is his guest crooner, instantly recognizable as Iggy Pop, who pops up 4, then 9, then 12 songs in, personifying the title. B+(**) [cdr]
Shakira: El Dorado (2017, Sony Latin Music): Superstar from Colombia, eleventh album, mostly (but not all) in Spanish, mostly has a good pop beat with a little extra. B+(***)
Elliott Sharp With Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar (2016 , Intakt): Three guitarists, nothing else, more stutter than flow or harmony, which I take to be Sharp's dominance (he had a hand in 10/12 songs, 5 co-credits with Halvorson, 2 with Ribot, 1 with both). B+(**) [cd]
Jared Sims: Change of Address (2017, Ropeadope): Baritone saxophonist, leads a quintet balanced on Nina Ott's organ, with guitar, bass, and drums -- a funky soul jazz update with distinguished by the deep breathing of the big horn. B+(***) [cd]
Günter Baby Sommer: Le Piccole Cose: Live at Theater Gütersloh (2016 , Intuition): Swiss avant drummer, past 70, leads a pianoless quartet, names likely to be known in his environs -- Gianluigi Trovesi (alto sax/alto clarinet), Manfred Schoof (trumpet/flugelhorn), Antonio Borghini (bass), with all but the bassist contributing pieces. Most work up an interesting sound. Concludes with an 11:06 interview, in Deutsch. B+(*) [cd]
Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer (2017, Merky): English rapper, genre's called grime, first album after singles, an EP, and a mixtape. B+(*)
Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (2017, Conrad Sound/Pica Disk): Sult is a Norwegian trio -- Håvard Skaset (guitar), Jacob Felix Heule (percussion), Guro Skumsnes Moe (contrabass) -- with three previous albums. They built the source for this jazz-noise fusion, and Marhaug (probably best known in these parts for his work with Ken Vandermark) "constructed and produced" the result -- i.e., made it somewhat noisier. B+(*) [cdr]
Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (2017, Tanner Time, 2CD): From Chicago, plays trumpet, wrote nineteen songs here in the "Great American Songbook" vein, had pianist Dan Murphy arrange horns and strings, and brought in "twelve of Chicago's finest vocalists" to sing. The women outnumber the men, and are pretty interchangeable so the album has a consistent flow. No instant classics, but time will tell. B+(**) [cd]
Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (2009-16 , Creative Perspective Music): Bass and tenor sax/flute, the earliest tracks duos, most with drums (Gene Jackson or Matt Wilson). One original each, one from Wilson, the rest well-worn standards -- the duo on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" an especially good match. B+(**) [cd]
Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (2016 , NoBusiness): Piano and drums, released as limited edition vinyl. The pianist, from Germany, has several previous albums, going back at least to 1986. The drummer, American, has led several "Po" bands and appeared on dozens more. Pretty sharp all around. B+(***) [cdr]
Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (2016 , Challenge): Piano trio, from Australia, fourth album, principally Sean Foran (piano) and John Parker (drums) plus new bassist Samuel Vincent, all also credited with electronics, helping their bounce and shuffle. B+(***) [cd]
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (2016 , OA2): Conventionally-sized big band led by trumpet and baritone sax, respectively -- until now the collective has always been smaller, down to a quintet last time. Writing duties split between the leaders, Craig Marshall charged with conducting. Recorded in equally inconvenient Dallas, the least impressive of their five convocations, not that there are no sweet spots. B [cd]
Vagabon: Infinite Worlds (2017, Father/Daughter): Laetitia Tamko, born in Youundé, Cameroon, moved to New York at 13, first (short: 8 songs, 28:18) album after an EP. B+(*)
Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs) (2017, Rare Noise): Trumpet player, born in Saigon during the war, now based in New York, with a dozen albums since 1996. No idea of his relationship to Gibbs, who toiled in obscurity since 1970 but came up with two good 2015 albums on Cuneiform with the NDR Bigband. One of those Gibbs albums was Play a Bill Frisell Set List, and the guitarist is a major addition here -- along with Luke Bergman on bass and Ted Poor on drums. B+(***) [cdr]
Torben Waldorff: Holiday on Fire (2016 , ArtistShare): Danish guitarist, has a handful of records since 1999. Tends to weave his guitar into the mesh, but big help here from Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Maggi Olin on keyboards. B+(**) [cd]
Bobby Watson: Made in America (2017, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, one of the greats although he hasn't recorded much lately. Quartet with Stephen Scott (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums). Nine pieces dedicated to more/less obscure black American cultural figures. B+(**)
Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte (2016 , Audiophile): Classic crooner stylist, also plays piano, which must be cost-effective, although he uses a bassist here, alternates two drummers, and benefits from Lou Caputo's tenor sax (if not his flute). B [cd]
Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (2016 , Intakt): Sax-bass-drums trio, the leader playing soprano, alto and tenor, and writing 7 (of 9) pieces (bassist Guy one, plus one by Michael Griener). B+(***) [cd]
Alex Wintz: Life Cycle (2016 , Culture Shock Music): Guitarist, born in California, raised in New Jersey, studied at Berklee and Juilliard, first album, adds tenor sax (Lucas Pino) on 4/9 cuts, piano on 4 (3 both), nice postbop vibe, and the sax helps. B+(**) [cd]
Zeal & Ardor: Devil Is Fine (2016 , MKVA): Swiss-born New Yorker Manuel Gagneux fuses black field hollers (or chain gang chants) with black metal (and a little xylophone) -- a fairly amusing rather than overbearing combination. Short, but long enough: 9 tracks, 25:00. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (1976 , Delmark/Sackville): Trombonist, younger brother of Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie, doesn't have much under his own name -- only record I see was Trombone Riffs for DJ's (1993), although he made it to the headline a half dozen times. Duet with the alto saxophonist, who also plays some flute. B+(**) [cd]
Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen (1996 , NoBusiness): Two trumpets (Oki also plays bamboo flute), bracketing bassist Ino. Contrast interesting, but doesn't generate much momentum. B+(**) [cd]
Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1978-1992 (1978-92 , Music From Memory): An exotic travelogue, probably more interesting if you have a booklet to follow, but as background it keeps changing without finding its center. B+(*)
Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999 , NoBusiness): Trombone and drums duo. Rutherford (1940-2007) was one of the most important avant-trombonists in Europe, a pioneer in the rare art of solo trombone. This is as fine a showcase for him as I've heard, but it's the drummer -- previously unknown to me -- who put this archive tape over the top. A- [cd]
Gregg Allman: One More Try: An Anthology (1973-88 , Capricorn/Chronicles, 2CD): A founding father of Southern Rock, formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969 with brother Duane, who died in a 1971 motorcycle crash. The band carried on, released their biggest album in 1973, and broke up and regrouped several times. Meanwhile, from 1973 Gregg had a lackluster solo career, releasing four studio albums 1973-88, one in 1997, another in in 2011, plus live albums in 1974 and 2015, before dying on May 29. A fan recommended this compilation, combining 6 album cuts and 28 previously unreleased demos, live shots, and so forth, and indeed it does a nice job of showcasing the man's voice and keyboards, a charming remembrance. It does, however, get a bit worn when he veers toward gospel. B+(**) [dl]
Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Midnight Stomp (1991, Stomp Off): Trad jazz band from Ohio, led by the pianist. Info remarkably scarce, but First album, I think, with: Leon Oakley (cornet), Jim Snyder (trombone), Larry Wright (clarinet, alto/tenor sax, occarina), John Otto (clarinet, alto sax), Frank Powers (clarinet, alto sax), Mike Bezin (tuba), Jack Meilhan (banjo), Hal Smith (washboard, drums), with vocals by Des Plantes and Otto. B+(***)
Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Shim-Sham-Shimmy Dance (1997 , Stomp Off): Third album on Stomp Off (plus a couple more elsewhere); Oakley, Otto, Wright, and Smith remain essential, plus a new tuba player and John Gill takes over the banjo and gives them another vocalist (though I have no idea who sings what). Still pulling obscurities out of the '20s, but more assured, less frantic. A-
John Gill's San Francisco Jazz Band: Turk Murphy Style (1989 , GHB): Napster's cover doesn't have this title, but other images do, as do most of the web pages matching this songlist. Moreover, the trombonist on the cover looks like Murphy (1915-1987). Banjoist Gill, pictured on the back cover, started in Murphy's trad jazz band, which carried on the Dixieland flame from Lu Watters. The band: Bob Schulz (cornet), Lynn Zimmer (clarinet, soprano sax), Charlie Bornemann (trombone), Pete Clute (piano), Bill Carroll (tuba), with Gill on banjo and vocals, plus Pat Yankee on two Bessie Smith songs. A-
John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" (1991, Stomp Off): Can't find any info on this other than the front cover art. Presumably the musicians were similar to those listed below, except that this doesn't show up in Dan Levinson's discography. The title song dates back to a 1931 cartoon short, recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra, and that's the sort of mirth they're aiming for. B+(***)
John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: Headin' for Better Times (1992 , Stomp Off): All I know about this is from Gerard Bielderman's Swinging Americans discography posted by Dan Levinson (tenor sax and clarinet). The lineup: Charles Fardella (trumpet), David Sager (trombone), Tom Fischer (clarinet, soprano/alto sax), Levinson, Debbie Markow/Elliot Markow (violin), Tom Roberts (piano), Gill (banjo), Tom Saunders (tuba), Hal Smith (drums), with vocals (12/15 songs they list, album has 22) by Sager, Gill, Saunders, and Chris Tyle. B+(***)
John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: "Listen to That Dixie Band!!" (1997 , Stomp Off): Banjo player, a major figure in San Francisco's trad jazz scene starting with bands led by Turk Murphy and Duke Heitger, and on to the Bay City Stompers and his main outfit since 2001, Yerba Buena Stompers, but there is little on him online, and much confusion with London-born/Australian ragtime pianist John Gill (1954-2011). This was the last of his three Dixie Serenaders albums, "featuring" blues singer Lavay Smith (on less than half of the tracks), with Heitger on trumpet, Chris Tyle on cornet, Frank Powers on clarinet, Vince Giordano on tuba, Steve Pistorius on piano -- a fine Dixieland band that doesn't quite take off. B+(**)
John Gill's Jazz Kings: "I Must Have It!" (2004, Stomp Off): Only info I can find is the cover scan, which shows a stage empty except for "Joe Oliver's cornet" and "Johnny St. Cyr's banjo." Back cover offers the date and musician list -- Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet), Orange Kellin (clarinet), Brad Shigeta (trombone), Hank Ross (piano), John Gill (banjo, vocals), and Joe Hanchrow (tuba) -- plus a list of 22 songs (no credits, but "total time: 79:26"). Odd song out is "That's All Right," but where else can you hear it with a tuba break? B+(***)
John Gill: Learn to Croon: John Gill & His Sentimental Serenaders Remember Bing Crosby (2009 , Stomp Off): Very little info online, but I've seen a hint that the old-fashioned crooner here is Gill. The band itself is thick with strings -- couldn't be more retro if Gill had discovered ancient outtakes. Sentimental is an understatement, but oddly enough the soppier it gets, the more I like it ("Pennies From Heaven," "Blue Hawaii"). B+(**)
Duke Heitger and His Swing Band: Rhythm Is Our Business (1998-99 , Fantasy): Trad jazz trumpet player, also sings, from Ohio, moved to New Orleans, eight albums as leader plus side credits (the only one Google seems to care about is with the Squirrel Nut Zippers). This is a mid-sized swing outfit -- trombone, two saxes (with some clarinet), piano, guitar-bass-drums (no banjo-tuba), and Rebecca Kilgore splitting vocals with Heitger. Good showcase for the leader's trumpet, and Chris Tyle's drums really help. A-
Duke Heitger's Big Four: Prince of Wails (2001, Stomp Off): Quartet is compact by trad jazz standards, but stellar: Evan Christopher (clarinet/alto sax), John Gill (banjo), Tom Saunders (tuba/string bass). Gill and Saunders generate plenty of rhythm, and Christopher has an especially strong showing. B+(***)
Duke Heitger With Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Band: Celebrating Satchmo (2010, Lake): The trumpeter pledged allegiance to Louis Armstrong when he moved to New Orleans, and drummer Mathieson's Scottish trad jazz band has spent lifetimes learning this music. Still doesn't come close enough to leave you wanting the originals, nor so deficient you wonder why they bother -- actually, rather delightful. B+(**)
Independence Hall Jazz Band: Louis: The Oliver Years (2002, Stomp Off): Yet another New Orleans-based repertory band, best known names trumpet players Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger. Second album, tunes Armstrong played with King Oliver, done picture-perfect if not all that exceptionally. B+(**)
Sergey Kuryokhin: The Ways of Freedom (1981 , Leo Golden Years of New Jazz): Russian pianist (1954-1996), his first album (of 40+ over 15 years), evidently unauthorized, the reissue adding three cuts. Solo, has no real sense of swing or bop but gets a rhythm going that turns fascinating. Only thing I've heard -- few titles are available, with only the second disc of his 4-CD posthumous Divine Madness online. B+(***)
Joëlle Léandre & William Parker: Live at Dunois (2009, Leo): Avant bass duets, both masters with plenty of tricks up their sleeves, but they open politely, teasing their instruments to sing. Of course, later on Léandre does literally sing -- or something approximate. B+(**)
Keith Nichols & the Cotton Club Orchestra: Harlem's Arabian Nights (1996 , Stomp Off): British pianist, started as a ragtime specialist but expanded to stride and swing. Smallish big band akin to Henderson and early Ellington: three reeds, two each trumpets/trombones, the guitar-bass-drums players doubling on banjo-tuba-washboard. Nichols sings some, as does Janice Day. B+(***)
Chris Tyle's New Orleans Rover Boys: A Tribute to Benny Strickler (1991, Stomp Off): Grew up in Portland where his father, Axel Tyle, was drummer in the Castle Jazz Band. He formed a swing band called Wholly Cats, played some with Turk Murphy, and moved to New Orleans in 1989. His main instrument is cornet and he sings some, but elsewhere I've seen him credited with drums. Strickler played trumpet in the wartime Yerba Buena Jazz Band, but he also shows up in Bob Wills' discography, and died quite young. Clarinet player Bob Helm, whose name is singled out on the cover, was close to Strickler. This group includes Orange Kellin (clarinet), David Sager (trombone), Steve Pistorius (piano), John Gill (banjo/2 vocals), Bill Carroll (tuba), and Hal Smith (drums, 1 vocal). One highlight is what the horns add to the Wills tune ("It Makes No Difference Now"), but there are many more in a typically (for the label) long program. B+(***)
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, May 29. 2017
Music: Current count 28187  rated (+21), 387  unrated (-10).
As this weekly post falls on Memorial Day, I'd like to dedicate it our fallen heroes: not those who lost their lives in the many pointless wars this nation has waged since shortly before I was born, but to those who spoke, wrote, and often demonstrated against those wars, especially those who recognized how tightly war was bound up with social and economic injustice, who saw the struggle against both as equally necessary.
Foremost in my mind today are Alice Powell and Mary Harren, who late in their lives became good friends as well as comrades, and Elizabeth Fink, one of the finest, most steadfast, and most principled legal minds of our generation. I could, of course, come up with a few dozen more names of people I've known, and many more who inspired me from a distance -- David Dellinger is one of the latter I often find myself returning to. And, thankfully, there are many more still living, still struggling to turn minds and souls against America's fascination with empire and its attendant inequality and injustice.
Among the living one I should mention is Gail Pellett, who I knew briefly in St. Louis in the early 1970s. She was a graduate student in the sociology department at Washington University, and I was in several classes with her and ran into her socially and politically. She graduated and left for Boston, then a couple years later moved to New York, working in public radio and teaching journalism. In 1980 she got a job as a "foreign language expert" for Radio Beijing in China, and spent a year there trying to fit in and ultimately getting rejected (or at least dejected). A couple years ago she wrote a memoir of her time in China, Forbidden Fruit, which I recently read. Terrific book, taught me a lot about the post-Mao transition in China -- the scars of the Cultural Revolution and the fitful reforms of Deng Xiaoping's zig and zag toward economic reform and prosperity minus democracy. But it also filled in some earlier and later history of Gail I never knew, and reminded me how much I adored her when our paths crossed. Also note all the music she mentions. Those years were the ones that got me interested in music and its social context, so she probably had something to do with all that.
Relatively light week of record processing: partly because I was distracted with all the Trump nonsense, partly because I took some time off to paint the fence and cook, partly because I'm having a lot of trouble making up my mind about good-but-not-great albums. Two of those inched into the A- column this week, with a couple more falling arbitrarily short (Cuong Vu was probably the most tempting, followed by Diet Cig and Klaus Treuheit, with Shakira most volatile (only 2 plays, could go either way), and I still haven't made up my mind on Riverside after 6-7 plays).
Feeling a big nostalgic, so I made fried chicken, biscuits & gravy, and green beans tonight -- the chicken and gravy like my mother taught me (and they came out near-perfect), but I cheated a bit on the rest (much to the meal's detriment: I used a microwave bag of green beans and some really old Bisquick that didn't rise). Just for us, so I wasn't too embarrassed, but I can do better.
Looks like I need to post Streamnotes tomorrow or Wednesday. Draft file currently has 106 albums, so the post will be lighter than usual, not that I've slacked off too badly this month. Still don't have many good non-jazz leads to chase down.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Music: Current count 28166  rated (+25), 397  unrated (+3).
I spent pretty much all of Sunday and Monday cooking birthday dinner for my sister, Kathy, after spending a good chunk of Saturday shopping. During that time I mostly played oldies, especially 50 Coastin' Classics, which never sounded better. She requested a couple Indian curries "and all the fixin's" so I did what I could. I wound up making (mostly from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking):
Half of the dishes were made on Sunday then reheated, again taking hints from Sahni. I had hoped to make kadhi (chickpea dumplings in yogurt sauce), but got cold feet, then added several relishes/salads that seemed easier. Too many dishes, but not many complaints: the lamb and fish were luxurious, the four vegetables dishes superb, the rice a little bland but sumptuous, the yogurt/okra lovely, the chutneys/pickles intense. I meant to fry up some frozen, store-bought paratha but it slipped my mind in the rush to serve everything (which, by the way, was on scheduled time).
For dessert we had spiced tea, flourless chocolate cake, and store-bought vanilla ice cream.
We had eight people for dinner. Fairly extravagant, but I've made at least three larger Indian dinners -- a birthday dinner in NJ consumed 22 onions, whereas this one only took 10. Aside from the chutneys, the tomato-cucumber-onion (the least impressive dish), and the rice, not a lot of leftovers. Seems like a lot of work, but I don't get many chances to do something nice for others, nor to feel like I'm actually being productive -- e.g., as opposed to just reacting to the worldwide train wreck. (Expect a belated Weekend Roundup mid-week, and a Streamnotes by end-of-month.)
The jazz guides are up to 661 + 527 pages, still less than midway in the Jazz '80s-'90s database file. I never expected the 20th century to reach 700 pages, but that now seems likely. Still, I think, only has 1/4 to 1/3 as many records as The Penguin Guide, which has long been my bible. The 21st century file should still more than double in length, and it's not inconceivable that the pair will top 2000 pages.
One side effect of that work is that every now and then I check Napster for missing jazz records, as I did with banjoist John Gill's early work. I was pleased to find many recordings on Stomp Off, long one of the best trad jazz labels. As you're probably aware, most of my higher picks are avant-garde, but I've always had a soft spot for trad jazz, and even more so for small group swing (which I swear was the cradle of rock and roll). So I went on a bender here, checking out Gill, his trumpet buddies Duke Heitger and Chris Tyle, and records I had missed by two pianists I liked, Ted Des Plantes and Keith Nichols. Biggest problem here is that they're hard to sort out on just one or two plays -- they nearly all sound good, but differentiating isn't as easy. Second biggest problem is that Stomp Off is probably the most media-adverse label in the world -- they don't have a website, and almost none of their records are listed by Discogs -- so it's been very hard to get any info on them (the most reliable source is The Penguin Guide, plus occasionally I've found back cover scans which at least give credits, release dates, and song lists. Probably quite a few more to check out in weeks to come.
In contrast, new jazz seems to sit in my changes for 3-4 plays regardless of whether it's much good or not, so I'm making slow progress through the queue. (The unpacking below is longer than usual because I forgot to post last week's intake.) And the only non-jazz records I checked out last week were two from Robert Christgau's Expert Witness (couldn't find the newer, and longer, Daddy Issues last week, but it's there now, so next week). I'm just not aware of much I want to seek out there, at least for now.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
Monday, May 15. 2017
Music: Current count 28141  rated (+22), 397  unrated (-2).
A bit surprised that the rated count isn't any higher. I couldn't think of much to stream on Napster, so decided to focus on the jazz queue, and most of those records were instantly forgettable. However, the two I did like took a lot of time -- Amado was pretty automatic, but still got many plays before I finally wrote something, while Miwa had to overcome my normal "that's nice" reaction to piano trio. The other new A- record was reviewed by Robert Christgau here. (Christgau also published a piece in the Voice last week: Songs of Love and War: Syria's Omar Souleyman.)
I keep expecting a new Downloader's Diary from Michael Tatum any day now, so thought I should check before posting this, and found instead something he posted back on February 20: Orts from the 2016 Table -- just three reviews: American Honey (A+), Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (A), and De La Soul and the Anonymous Nobody (B). I should add them to his Archive -- but later this week, I think, or maybe when the first 2017 column appears.
I didn't do anything for Mother's Day other than write my long Weekend Roundup, but the day before I tried making one of the few non-traditional dishes from my childhood: Spanish rice with pork chops. I made it the way Mom might have made it: using Zatarain's boxed rice kit (add water, a can of diced tomatoes, butter). As best I recall, she browned the pork chops, then baked them with the rice, but I did it all on the stove top, starting the rice in one pot while I browned the chops in a deep skillet. I then dumped the partly cooked rice on top of the chops, covered, and turned the heat low to finish. The mix had long-grain rice, dried onions, and spices. It wouldn't be hard to come up with a scratch recipe -- Google has many suggestions. Mom almost never made rice -- this was the only real dish I can recall, but I vaguely remember her making Minute Rice as a side some time. Much later I taught her how to make Chinese fried rice to go with 1-2-3-4-5 Spare Ribs, but she most often just made the latter -- especially after she got my sister to pre-mix the ingredients, so she just ad to measure out 1/2 cup.
I hope to write up some sort of cookbook/food memoir built around her cooking (but with a few of my things slipped in). I have her recipe cards, but they're mostly disappointing and unrepresentative: too many things that she collected from friends and family to be polite -- way too many casseroles and jello salads -- but never made again. The main things that are well covered are cakes, cookies, and candy. Virtually absent are meats (she fried, or sometimes roasted, them), gravy, and vegetables (mostly boiled to death). I don't recall her ever consulting a cookbook (though she may have had one, possibly Betty Crocker) but she did crib recipes off cans and boxes, which is where she got the idea for baking fried steak in mushroom soup. I've tried recreating some of her dishes, and had generally good results, so that will eventually go into the book.
Other big project last week was to repaint the steel fence on the south side of the back yard. Got everything scraped earlier last week, then painted primer on 2 (of 7) penels on Saturday. Slow going, will probably take most of this week to finish (or longer, allowing for periodic storms).
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Monday, May 8. 2017
Music: Current count 28119  rated (+23), 399  unrated (+3).
Something I missed for yesterday's Weekend Roundup, but two TPM stories gave me pause: White House Blames Obama for Trump Hiring Flynn, and Obama Warned Trump Not to Hire Flynn as National Security Adviser. Seems typical that Trump would do the opposite of what Obama recommended then blame Obama when he turned out to be right. This illustrates the extraordinary extent to which Trump has based his own agenda on the desire to reflexively undo everything Obama has done over the past eight years -- to effectively erase the Obama administration from American history. Moreover, this contrasts sharply with Obama's own considered efforts to maintain continuity when he replaced GW Bush, despite the latter's dreadful legacy of failure.
I've long felt that Obama's emphasis on continuity was terrible political strategy -- he gave up the option of continuing to blame the lingering problems he inherited (like the Great Recession and the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) on the person/party responsible for them, he made it possible for Americans to forget and forgive. The astonishing result was that two years later the Republicans could surge back as the party of resentment against America's corrupt elites. I've long felt that Obama cut not just his own but his party's throat because he bought so deeply into the myths of American Exceptionalism, and that compelled him to rationalize and defend his country even when it had gone wrong. Trump, clearly, has no such scruples or ideals, so it's hardly surprising that his reflexive contempt of Obama so often strikes against Obama's idealized America. One might expect his blind contempt to backfire more often than it has, but unfortunately the Democrats are still more inclined to defend their cherished myths -- e.g., Hillary's "America's always been great" -- than to recognize real problems, identify their causes, and propose real solutions.
I'd also like to add that in thinking about the French elections I posted a tweet, which I'll expand a bit here to get past the 140 character cramp:
My point is that an honest recollection of what Republicans have done and tried to do since Reagan would have shown them to be as dastardly and disreputable as the Vichy-rooted National Front. But the media insists on treating Republicans -- even ones as vile as Trump, Cruz, and Ryan -- as respectable Americans, even though that requires massive amnesia. I'm reminded once again of Tom Carson's metaphor of America (embodied in the quintessentially all-American Mary Ann) as a perpetual virgin, regrowing her hymen after every act of intercourse. Unfortunately, the only people still suckered by this myth of American purity are elite Democrats, and their disconnection from reality is killing their party and sacrificing their voters.
Not much to say about music this week. Rated count is down, probably just because I've been slow, though I can point to repairing a fence as a distraction, and I took a couple breaks to make nice dinners-for-two (since our social entertaining seems to have withered to nothing). I did find a good record from Buffalo (one of my favorite towns) -- or perhaps I should say it found me. Among the high B+ list (all jazz) the pecking order is probably: Fiedler, Oh, Dickey, Durkin. Three of those came from Napster, as did four jazz records from the next tier down (Preservation Hall, Watson, the two Parker duos). Still have a couple dozen CDs in the mail queue, but lately they haven't been amounting to much. Still, this week's unpacking looks relatively promising.
Christgau's Expert Witness last week featured several rap records: Kendrick Lamar's Damn (an A- here last week), two each by Migos and Future (haven't heard yet). He also publisher two pieces last week: Who the Fuck Knows: Covering Music in Drumpfjahr II (something he did for the EMP Conference), and Rob Sheffield Explores How the Beatles Live on Inside Our Heads. There's also an interview Tom Slater did with him at Sp!ked Review.
Modest progress collecting the Jazz Guide reviews: currently at 635 + 436 pages, through Eliane Elias in the Jazz '80s file (27%).
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, May 1. 2017
Music: Current count 28096  rated (+32), 396  unrated (-1).
Most of what's listed below appeared in Saturday's Streamnotes, so old news there. I made a last minute stab at checking out some 2017 non-jazz releases, and continued that after the column posted. No additional A-list albums after the column, but Body Count's Bloodlust came close -- actually a remarkable album, just one I didn't want to give the extra spins that probably would have moved it over the A- cusp. Ardor & Zeal is a bit less in every respect, including a bit less irritating to a metal-phobe like myself. For Christgau on those two records, look here.
Christgau also praised the new Brad Paisley record, the biggest flop of four (I think) overrated full-A records he's found this year (Jens Lekman, New Pornographers, Khalid -- OK, I gave the latter an A-, the others high B+). I like Paisley in small doses, but he never seems to approach album-length without wearing out his welcome, either because his Nashville rock gets boring or because he says something stupid (often both, like here). After grading, I read a bunch of Facebook comments on Bob's review, and it seemed like quite a few were closer to my position.
On the other hand, I don't have any non-jazz this year remotely close to full-A: the non-jazz set of the 2017 list-in-progress are (with Christgau grades where known): Orchestra Baobab (A-), Run the Jewels (A-), XX, Jesca Hoop, Kendrick Lamar, Tinariwen (**), Craig Finn (B+), Conor Oberst (A-), Syd (A-), Arto Lindsay, Matt North (A-), Angaleena Presley (A-), Colin Stetson, Khalid (A-). (I normally count Stetson as jazz -- he's a saxophonist -- but he crossed over into post-rock and that's where pretty much all of his critic/fan bases are.) That's 14 records, vs. 22 jazz records (38.9% non-jazz), actually not far from what I had before the EOY lists started rolling in last year. But before last week's 5-0 the split was 9-to-22 (29.0% non-jazz), so I was right to shift focus. I'd do a better job of keeping up if more people I trusted wrote more often. Maybe we'll see some 4-month lists soon.
As you may have noticed, I bumped up the grade on Stanley Cowell's Departure #2. I was on the fence at the time, but hedged low until I remembered how much better it was than the 4-5 good Cowell records I played after it. Really pleased that so many SteepleChase albums have appeared on Napster. Lots to catch up on 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:
Saturday, April 29. 2017
About the same count this time: 115 vs. 114 in March, which compares to 153 in February and 156 in January, back when I was paying more heed to EOY lists. I made a last-minute effort to listen to well-regarded new non-jazz albums, which helped -- new releases are up to 78 from 52, with old music down roughly that much. The old music came from artists I ran into while collating the jazz guides. In a couple cases I checked out musicians I didn't have any rated albums from before (Pete La Roca, Charles Tyler). In some cases (Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard) I pretty much limited myself to their early Blue Note releases. For Horace Tapscott I found a record that I had written a bit about before but hadn't graded.
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 based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on March 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (9514 records).
Kevin Abstract: American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (2016, Brockhampton): Rapper-crooner Ian Simpson, barely out of his teens, plying beats too suave and fills too orchestral. B+(*)
Actress: AZD (2017, Ninja Tune): British electronica guy, Darren Cunningham, ambient with occasional interruptions, both glitches and more violent eruptions. Last track, "Visa," broke the mold. B+(*)
Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (2016 , AAM): Brazilian pianist, based in US (Florida, I think), has several dozen albums since 1969. Eight Wayne Shorter compositions plus Adolfo's closer, all given a nice samba treatment. B [cd]
Arca: Arca (2017, XL): Alejandro Ghersi, originally from Venezuela, studied in New York, now based in London. The music is surreal and eerie, something that one could find oddly attractive, were it not for the arch and arcane vocals. B
Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (2017, Fire): Rock band from Philadelphia, together and fairly prolific since the early 1990s -- Discogs counts 35 albums plus many EPs, Wikipedia only lists 11 studio albums but mentions 11 side projects. Thick trippy guitars with drone feedback and ethereal moans, they pass for psychedelic these days, but I can't latch onto much beyond their dense ambiance. B
Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (2016 , Rare Noise): Guitar duets -- Saft is normally a keyboard player but is credited with dobro and lap steel here, so he adds some resonance to the relatively placid lead guitar. B+(*) [cdr]
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (2016 , Cuneiform): Since 1998 Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics) and Chad Taylor (drums) have led various Chicago Underground duos, trios, and quartets, with Mazurek later taking his Underground concept to Sao Paulo. Here the Chicago duo visits London, meeting up with Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass) -- both are very active, bringing a lot of heat and dynamism to the cooler orientation of the Chicagoans. A- [cdr]
Jacob Collier: In My Room (2016, Membran): British jazz singer, first album, title from the Beach Boys song. Belongs to the school that thinks tricking thing up makes them jazzier, but also betrays his background singing Bach chorales. C+
Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (2016 , OA2): Big band, produced by alto saxophonist Art Bouton, with baritone saxophonist Wil Swindler doing most of the arranging (and writing the only original piece). Standards from the songbook and major jazz sources like Ellington and Mulligan, done up smartly. B+(**) [cd]
Larry Coryell: Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016, Purple Pyramid): Probably the late fusion guitarist's last album, the title referring back to his 1971 album Barefoot Boy like a pair of bookends. And he goes out much like he came in, with a groove. B+(*)
Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): His geography is bracketed by an opener about Houston and a closer on Nashville. He writes substantial, earthy songs, and sings them with a polite drawl, supplemented by duet features for Rosanne Cash and Sheryl Crow. B+(***)
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (2016 , Malcom): Group's first (2016) album seemed to be credited to Live the Spirit Residency, also on the cover here followed by "Presents # 2" but this is a more sensible credit (of course, I could have followed he cover and added "featuring Vijay Iyer"). Has a rough patch I don't much care for, but coheres more often than not. B+(***)
Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (2016 , OA2): Guitar and bass, respectively, with several albums together, always interesting postbop. Joel Frahm is very solid at tenor sax, with Eliot Zigmund on drums. B+(**) [cd]
David Feldman: Horizonte (2016 , self-released): Pianist, born in Rio de Janeiro (where he recorded this), has a couple albums, wrote most of the songs here, most with bossa touches -- hard not to with a band that includes Toninho Horta on nylon guitar. B+(*) [cd]
Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things (2017, Partisan): One of the most distinctive and touching voices in recent rock history (mostly with Hold Steady), a writer with a fine ear for speech and lots of compassion for other people, both down and out and temporarily up -- which seems to be the gamut these days. A-
Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (2016 , Whaling City Sound, 2CD): After several albums with what drummer ("Trasher") Gibbs called his Dream Trio (Kenny Barron and Ron Carter), evidently Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Alex Collins (keyboards) are just people. First disc is "The Music of Weather Report"; second is "The Music of Gerry Gibbs." Upbeat enthusiasm, even some thrashing, but much ado about damn little. [My copy only came with the first disc; I listened to the second on Napster.] B
Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway (2017, Nonesuch): Lead singer for old-timey revival group Carolina Chocolate Drops, also plays banjo, second album on her own. Sounds primal, even when the producer throw in the kitchen sink. B+(**)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (2017, Mack Avenue): Pianist, first album, got a boost as the piano player on saxophonist Kamasi Washington's crossover hit, The Epic. Washington returns the favor here, along with Philip Dizack (trumpet) and Ryan Porter (trombone). Graves pounds the piano hard enough to rock the house, but it all feels stiff and forced to me, except when Dizack tries to light the sky. B-
Iro Haarla: Ante Lucem (2012 , ECM): Second line, same size and darker than the title: "for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet." From Finland, plays piano and harp, has a handful of albums since 2001. Problem, for me anyhow, is the orchestra (Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester, conducted by Jukka Iisakkila), although the quintet -- with Hayden Powell (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (soprano/tenor sax) -- is far removed from swing or bop. Still, this achieves much of the beauty and grandeur it aspires to. Just not sure that's a good thing. B+(**)
Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental) (2017, Nubenegra): Sahrawi pop singer, born in what was then called Spanish Sahara and has lately been occupied by Morocco, died at 57 in a refugee camp, but after building a formidable international recording career, and leaving this compilation from her last four years as some kind of testament. Christgau lauds her as "postcolonial Africa's most striking female singer." Maybe, but there's not a lot more to the music, even by Saharan standards. B+(***)
Mariem Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila (2015, Nubenegra): Dance music, so the rhythms pick up, along with what for lack of a better informed context I'll call war whoops. Hanevi makes his mark early on by talking through the dances. While he doesn't have Hassan's legendary voice, the energy he brings makes the difference. A-
Heads of State: Four in One (2017, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream quartet on their second album, with founders Gary Bartz (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), and Al Foster (drums) -- the bass slot originally filled by Buster Williams goes to David Williams (nickname "Happy") here. Bartz has matured into a lovely ballad player, and of course they swing. B+(**)
Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz (2016 , Origin): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, with sax/flute and "special guest" trumpet (Gilbert Castellanos), bass, congas and drums. All original pieces, pretty much as advertised. B+(**) [cd]
Derrick Hodge: The Second (2016, Blue Note): Bass guitarist, has won a couple Grammys for producing hip-hop/r&b albums, jazz credits include Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper, this his second album as leader. Mostly multitracked solo, amiable groove, plus a drummer on three tracks, horns on a couple more (not a plus). B
Idles: Brutalism (2017, Bailey): British post-punk group, from Bristol, first album, a little heavy but clear and catchy, one that could grow on you. B+(***)
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John Lewis (2013 , Blue Engine): Lewis was the pianist and main composer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was an important figure in the decade's brief (but really still evolving) "third stream" movement. Around 2000, when Gary Giddins started pushing for classical-like jazz repertory orchestras, the first person he turned to for leadership was Lewis. So a trawl through the major compositions of Lewis is just the sort of thing the culture empire uptown would sign up for. Executive producer Wynton Marsalis gets his usual "featuring" credit, along with guest pianist Jon Baptiste. B+(*) [cd]
Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts): Drummer, don't know anything about him. Concept here is a set of duos, some "east coast," some "west coast," less than half with musicians I've heard of (John Vanore, Gary Meek, Mick Rossi, etc.), about half horns, two pianos, one each vibes and vocals. Versatile, I suppose, or scattered. B [cd]
Khalid: American Teen (2017, Right Hand/RCA): Last name Robinson, b. 1998, grew up on Army bases including six years in Germany, sung in the US Army Band. Doesn't strike me as much of a voice, but his songs are offhandedly catchy and they grow on you. A-
Kneebody: Anti-Hero (2017, Motéma): Brooklyn quintet -- Shane Endsley (trumpet), Ben Wendel (sax), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Nate Wood (drums) -- seventh album since 2005. They took a turn toward IDM last time out with Daedelus, but this year's more conventional fusion is also less interesting. B
Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles (2016, Mack Avenue, EP): Guitarist from California, several records since 2009 but still under 30. This is billed as an EP, but its five cuts run 35:06. Trio with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). B
Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): Metacritic score 96 on 29 reviews -- if not a lock to top 2017 EOY lists a very strong favorite. As has always been the case, I'm slow getting him -- can't much relate to the slice of life, and the soft beats and sliding melodies take time to sink in. Still, his chronicle of fear really got to me, and there seems to be much more floating in the ozone. Still, doubt I'll really get there: I grew up thinking that the telos of music is pleasure, not (for lack of a better word) art. A-
Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 , SteepleChase): Jazz singer, describes herself as "sultry," graduated from New England Conservatory, has one previous album. Nice combo here with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor sax), Carmen Staaf (piano), Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Mostly original pieces, or words she added to label legends Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan. B+(***) [cd]
Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy): Part of New York's post-punk "No Wave" movement (his band was DNA), although his experience growing up in Brazil has always tugged him towards Tropicália -- his many albums leaning one way or the other, or in this case both. A-
Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2016 , CAP): Piano trio, with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Pianist goes back to the early 1970s, most recently crafting a tribute to Oscar Peterson. Couple originals here, mostly smart covers, including a couple Monks. B+(**) [cd]
The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (2017, Nonesuch, 5CD): Fifty-year-old Stephin Merritt's autobiographical concept album, one song for each year of his life, one half-hour CD per decade -- actually a more modest, if less tiresome, project than his famous 69 Love Songs, which actually did fill three hour-long CDs. Perhaps unfair to judge given that Napster only offers 16 songs, but they look to be a fairly random sample, and I'm not sure more would overcome my annoyance. B-
Laura Marling: Semper Femina (2017, More Alarming): British singer-songwriter, sort of a latter-day Joni Mitchell, which works better some times than others. B+(*)
Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (2016 , Psalms 149 Music): Has a previous album, wrote one song here, covers include Monk and Mancini and two Bill Withers. Band includes horns, piano, guitar, bass, drums. You know he's a jazz singer because he evinces all the usual stereotypical tics. C+ [cd]
MEM3: Circles (2011 , self-released): Canadian piano trio, pianist is Michael Cabe, and Mark Lau gets a bass solo I never fail to notice, but the only familiar name is drummer Ernesto Cervini. He provides enough rhythmic regularity to push this into EST territory, but while I started thinking they were pushing something with a pop angle, after several plays I gave that notion up. B+(**) [cd]
The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (2016 , Cuneiform): Group led by Philip Johnston (soprano sax) and Joel Forrester (piano), dates back to 1981 with a break in the 1990s, the addition of tenor saxophonist Michael Hashim the key move to the reunion. Closes with a Joe Liggins song (Dave Sewelson sings), the other dozen tracks split even among the leaders (although Forrester quotes more than the title from "Silent Night" -- nearly a deal breaker for me, until it isn't). Blues, maybe, but the key thing here is swing, which they do not for nostalgia but because it feels right. A- [cdr]
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions (2017, Collected Works/Concord): I lost interest in this Canadian semi-super group shortly after their 2000 debut, while sampling most (but not all) of their later albums just in case I missed something. I have little doubt that this is their best ever -- it's the brightest and catchiest by miles -- but after two plays I'm losing interest again, and wouldn't want to bump it higher just because I'm impressed or surprised. B+(***)
Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released): Nashville session drummer writes and (I assume) sings a batch of big beat rock and roll songs, with clear lyrics more than a little sharp. A-
Conor Oberst: Ruminations (2016, Nonesuch): His acoustic album, guitar or piano and harmonica, basically demos of songs written over an Omaha winter, "staying up late every night playing piano and watching the snow pile up outside the window." B+(**)
Conor Oberst: Salutations (2017, Nonesuch): Here he refashions his Ruminations songs (plus a few more) for full band. With his harmonica, I was struck by how accomplished his Dylanisms had become on the demos, but he's got an even better sense of electric Dylan's tricks of the trade. Songs maturing too. A-
One for All: The Third Decade (2015 , Smoke Sessions): Mainstream jazz group, Discogs shows them recording five albums 2001-05 and not much since, but I heard a missing 2006 album, and the labels claims they've recorded 16 albums in 20+ years, making this the start of their third decade. All names you should know: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)
Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (2016 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a handful of albums since 2002, teaches at KU. The Ensemble are three guitarists (sometimes oud, cavaquinho, tres, acoustic bass guitar), supplemented by keyboards, bass/cello, and steel guitar -- no drums, so you get that chamber jazz feel, with everything -- especially the sax -- on the pretty side. B+(**) [cd]
Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville): Nashville superstar, eleventh studio album since 1999, last eight topped the country charts, has an arena-ready sound which rocks hard but is still recognizably country. Even seems like a nice guy, and not a dumb one. But I've never warmed to any of his albums -- even the three (counting this one) Christgau A-listed. Probably has most to do with that big sound -- I stopped caring for Eric Church, too, when he muscled up -- but there's always a lyric (or two or three) to trip over. First one I caught this time: "let's go to bed early, and stay up all night" -- that's not the worst (certainly not next to "just another day in heaven," or his elegy for vets: "they ship you out to die for us/forget about you when you don't" -- fact is they forget about every one once they can no longer be used). B
The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II (2016 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist way back when, cut his first album in 1982, has led his big band since 1987, recording three or four (maybe more) albums of Frank Zappa music. Here he examines not so much the British Invasion as the prog strain that followed, starting and ending with bits of Sgt. Pepper, navigating through Move, Cream, Procul Harum, Nice, King Crimson, Blodwyn Pig, ELP, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown, plus Radiohead. Vocals by Bruce McDaniel help pin the songs down, and his patter adds an air of nostalgia. "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" followed by "Fire" got to me, too. B+(*) [cdr]
Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 , Groundblue): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream player, should be a natural for a ballads program, but I find his tone a bit thin. Or it may just be that instead of picking surefire songbook classics he had guitarist Johnny Valentino do most of the writing (8/10 songs). I wouldn't call the Paul Simon cover a plus either, and "Crescent" only reminds me of how truly gorgeous Pharoah Sanders' ballads were. B+(*) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (2016 , Leo): The first of a trove of seven separately issued discs pairing the Brazilian avant saxophonist with the American pianist -- frequent collaborators since 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz -- with various rhythm sections. Seems like the ideal might be to listen to all of them then start to make whatever marginal distinctions I can find, but for practical purposes all I can do is take them one-by-one and hope I don't get too lost. This one is a trio with William Parker, who in Perelman's 2016 The Art of the Improv Trio lifted Volume 4. He gets this series off to a strong start, too. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (2016 , Leo): Third member here is veteran drummer Bobby Kapp, who belatedly came to my attention as Shipp's partner on their 2016 duo album, Cactus. The drummer kicks up the energy level here, and the saxophonist responds accordingly. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (2016 , Leo): Quartet here, with William Parker on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, a piano trio that backed David S. Ware back in the early 1990s. This isn't as exciting: Perelman would rather work his way around the edges than channel the Holy Ghost, so the group doesn't push him. Still fascinating to follow. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (2016 , Leo): Trio, with Michael Bisio -- another frequent Shipp collaborator -- on bass. I was thrown a bit early on by the high notes -- Perelman may play more in the top end of the tenor sax than anyone else -- but they settle down, and midway take a remarkable run. Not sure this counts as a slip, but it doesn't add much. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (2016 , Leo): Quartet with Shipp's usual trio mates Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. As with the other sessions, the pieces are simply numbered, and it's "Part 6" that puts this over the top with its exhilarating tornado of sound -- everything you could hope for in free jazz. A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (2016 , Leo): Just a duo, the only such volume in the series. Gives the pianist the chance for a few solos, something he's done little of so far, but still the focus is on the tenor sax, aiming this time more to woo than to overpower. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (2016 , Leo): Trio with Andrew Cyrille on drums, a stellar choice although as always it's the saxophonist who calls the shots and sets the pace. Could be fatigue setting in -- no idea if these were released in the order recorded, as all are listed as October 2016. Or could just be that the reviewer is tiring (although the moment I wrote that the record entered a particularly interesting passage). B+(***) [cd]
Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers): Pistol Annies member, cut an excellent debut album in 2014 (American Middle Class), returns for her second. This one takes longer to click, but it ends on a succession of high points, including songs written with rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson and the late Guy Clark and a short meditation on a "Motel Bible." A-
Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon): DC-based post-punk group, first album (after a couple EPs). Guitar-bass-drums plus singer Katie Alice Greer, who centers them while making them seem special. B+(**) [yt]
Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014, Don Giovanni, EP): Seven cuts, 17:24, enough to make an impression. B+(*)
Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (2017, Cats Paw): Bassoonist, has been playing jazz (at least) since the 1990s, not many of those, so there's a temptation just to let the unusual tone do the work of differentiating this from every other mainstream artist. That's most obvious on the covers, but he also wrote half of the pieces here, and he does a creditable job of taking a heavy and awkward instrument and keeping it breezy. B+(*) [cd]
Rashad: #LevelUp (2017, Self Made): Rapper, can't find anything about him -- not DJ Rashad, Isaiah Rashad, probably not Rashad Stark or Tony Rashad or @RashadtheGod though they all pop up inconclusively. Sixteen cuts, most catchy or punchy or something. B+(**)
Jason Rigby: One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio (2016 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, long based in New York though I'm guessing he ultimately hails from Cleveland, as his trio mates -- Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums -- are Detroit natives. He's always struck me as a fancy post-bop guy, but this is very down-to-basics. B+(***) [cd]
Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017, Summit): Pianist-composer, teaches at Ball State (Muncie, IN), has three previous albums going back to 2000. With Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius Goins III on drums. Original postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Trygve Seim: Rumi Songs (2015 , ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor/soprano), sixth album since 2000 (all on ECM), recasts the poetry of Rumi (1207-1273, from Persia) in English translation as songs, sung by classical mezzo-soprano Tora Augestad. The music builds on accordion (Frode Haitli) and cello (Svante Henryson), with Seim's sax acting as a chorus in response to the singer. I rather prefer the sax, which verges on gorgeous. B [dl]
The Shins: Heartworms (2017, Columbia): James Mercer's former band, carrying on as a "shell corporation" for his/their fifth studio album. High-pitched pop, tempted to call it catchy but can't say as it caught me. I was, however, intrigued by the jangle-free change-of-pace "Mildenhall." B+(*)
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015 , Bloodshot): Band from Chapel Hill, NC, lead singer-guitarist previously fronted Sarah Shook & the Devil. Dates confusion suggests the debut was self-released first then picked up by Chicago's premier outlaw country label. She drinks hard, plays hard, doesn't have a lot of range but does have an impact. B+(***)
Bria Skonberg: Bria (2016, Okeh/Masterworks): From British Columbia, plays trumpet, sings, mostly standards but five (of fourteen) originals. Evan Amtzen's clarinet and tenor sax offer a nice complement flirting with trad jazz, but the rhythm section (Aaron Diehl, Reginald Veal, Ali Jackson) are more tuned to swing, and Stefon Harris accents on vibes. The opener, "Don't Be That Way," is choice. B+(***)
Sleater-Kinney: Live in Paris (2015 , Sub Pop): I've dutifully listened to all of the albums, but never became enough of a fan to be able to place any of the songs in this reunion tour set (other than "No Cities to Love" -- the title of their reunion album). B+(*)
Nate Smith: Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere (2017, Ropeadope): Drummer, side credits with Chris Potter and Dave Holland, both with a guest spots on this debut (Potter's on a piece called "Bounce"). Easily the best thing on this broad spread -- Lionel Loueke funk, three singers (Gretchen Parlato the best known), Adam Rogers guitar, scads of strings. B
Spoon: Hot Thoughts (2017, Matador): Alt-indie group, based in Austin, goes back to the 1990s with several notable albums. This one holds up at least half way through, an appealing rough chunkiness, then someone's mind wanders -- maybe my own. B+(***)
Colin Stetson: Sorrow (A Reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd Symphony) (2016, 52Hz): Stetson is a saxophonist who's picked up a substantial rock following (ties to Bon Iver and Bell Orchestre), but moves toward classical here, performing a piece by Polish compuser Henry Gorecki (1933-2010). Group includes saxophonists Dan Bennett and Matt Bauder, violinist Sarah Neufeld, two cellos, two guitars, keyboards, drums, with vocals by Megan Stetson. B-
Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz): Saxophonist, plays alto and tenor but specializes in the heavy stuff -- bass sax and contrabass clarinet. Born in Ann Arbor, based in Montreal. Only thing that links him to jazz is his instrument -- otherwise he's basically a post-rock experimentalist (only jazz name I see on his "performed and recorded with dozens of artists" list is Anthony Braxton, but maybe that's the only one comparably famous to Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, or closer to his home Godspeed! You Black Emperor). This is industrial/minimalist fusion, recycling rhythms with the extra resonance of wind instruments and some vocal shadowing. Seems fairly simple, but remains unique. A-
Trio 3: Visiting Texture (2016 , Intakt): Andrew Cyrille (drums), Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (alto saxophone). Thirteenth album together since 1997, recently adding various guests but this is back to basics, nothing fancy but remarkable craft within the free jazz trade. A-
Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (2016 , Intakt): Swiss group, no one named Heinz or Herbert -- two brothers, Dominic and Ramon Landolt, on guitar and keyboards, both cranked up with "effects," and drummer Mario Hänni. Quieter stretches resemble piano trio, but more often their electronics move them into new and surprising sonic terrains -- though nothing I would call fusion. I wound up spending a lot of time on this, torn between the suspicion that what they're doing is marginal and the certainty that it's unique. A- [cd]
Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord): Last name Hockett, from Memphis, father promoted gospel and soul singers. Her music is commonly described as "a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass" -- i.e., she's a singer-songwriter who has yet to distinguish her voice, although she definitely has one. B+(**)
David Virelles: Antenna (2016, ECM, EP): Hot young pianist with three previous albums, credited here with piano, organ, various keyboards, prepared piano, computer and sampler. Released as 10-inch EP, six cuts, 21:43. Joined here by a variety of people on one or two tracks each, including two rap-influenced vocalists and Henry Threadgill (alto sax) -- the only other consistent presence (electronics, sampler, cello) is producer Alexander Overington. Breaks noisy in many directions, hard to pin down. B+(**) [dl]
Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django Reinhardt (2016 , Rectify): Violinist, so you might think he'd be more focused on the unmentioned Stéphane Grappelli, especially with the guitar slot rotating among five players -- three with the surname Reinhardt. With bass and accordion on a couple tracks -- the ones you most notice. B+(**) [cd]
Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987 , Corner Store Jazz): Guitarist, trio includes Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums), released to accompany a new recording of the same trio 30 years later -- Yanda's first released record appeared in 2013. Nice straight line guitar, sounds fresh but stays within the usual limits. B+(*) [cd]
Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (2016 , Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): This one is new, same trio as 30 years ago, haven't evolved much but have aged gracefully. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973 , Delmark/Sackville): South African pianist, a major figure in jazz since the mid-1960s, working until 1977 under the name Dollar Brand -- the name this solo album was originally released under in 1974. Two medleys plus a couple other pieces, some with vocals (liner notes says "spoken word"), the last (previously unreleased) piece played on bamboo flute. His rhythmic rumble was (and remains) unique, but clearer elsewhere. B+(**) [cd]
Jerry Bergonzi: Inside Out (1989 , Red): Tenor saxophonist from Boston, one of the most consistent mainstream figures since he signed with Savant around 2006, but early on he recorded with this Italian label, here a quartet with Salvatore Bonafede on piano, Bruce Gertz on bass, and Salvatore Tranchini on drums. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969 , Arista/Freedom): Pianist, first album, a trio with Steve Novosel on bass and Jimmy Hopps on drums, some quirky electric piano as well as acoustic ranging from free to boogie -- "You Took Advantage of Me" always perks my attention. I knew this record from its 1977 Arista reprint -- I picked up most of Arista's Freedom reprints around then -- but when Black Lion reissued this on CD, they had second thoughts about the title, picking Travellin' Man instead. A-
Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): After a frantic decade jumping around labels from avant Strata-East to retro Concord, Cowell found a home with this Danish label, releasing Sienna in 1989 and this follow up. With Bob Cranshaw on bass and Keith Copeland on drums, alternating bright originals with covers ranging from Ellington to Porter to Parker, thoughtful and often flashy. A-
Stanley Cowell Trio: Live at Copenhagen Jazz House (1993 , SteepleChase): With Cheyney Thomas on bass and Wardell Thomas on drums -- not a dazzling rhythm section, so this rises and falls on the piano, catchiest when he picks up Ellington or Monk. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Mandara Blossoms (1995 , SteepleChase): Cover says "featuring Ralph Peterson [drums] & Bill Pierce [tenor saxophone]" and "introducing Karen Francis [vocals] & Jeff Halsey [bass]." B+(*)
Stanley Cowell Quartet: Hear Me One (1996, SteepleChase): With Bruce Williams (alto sax), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Keith Copeland (drums). Five Cowell originals, one by Williams, covers of Monk and Parker. Both sax and piano have specular moments, but sometimes make me wonder. B+(**)
Stanley Cowell: Are You Real? (2014, SteepleChase): Piano trio with Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Cowell seems to have stopped recording after 1997, only to pick it up again with 2010's Prayer for Peace. Two originals, six masterful covers, ending with a sparkling Monk. B+(***)
Herbie Hancock: Inventions & Dimensions (1963 , Blue Note): The pianist's third studio album (after Takin' Off and My Point of View), the first recorded after he joined the most legendary edition of the Miles Davis Quintet. Trio, with Paul Chambers on bass and Willie Bobo doing his Cuban percussion thing. B+(*)
Herbie Hancock: Cantaloupe Island (1962-65 , Blue Note): Effectively a "greatest hits" from the pianist's most prime period, with two cuts from his debut with Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon, two from his second album with Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley, one each from his peak fourth and fifth albums with Hubbard, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and George Coleman on the latter. So a bit redundant, especially given that the Byrd cuts you may not have aren't nearly as impressive as the Hubbards you probably do. B+(***)
Herbie Hancock: Speak Like a Child (1968 , Blue Note): Sixth album, following his stellar Maiden Voyage, but aside from the pianist, in nice form, the only carryover is bassist Ron Carter, and the unconventional horn section -- Thad Jones on flugelhorn, plus alto flute and bass trombone -- never grabs you. RVG Edition adds three alternate takes. B+(*)
Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (1969 , Blue Note): The pianist's last album for Blue Note, produced by Duke Pearson, with numerous musicians dropping in for a track or two, including three flute (counting tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson). Beyond Henderson, regulars are Johnny Coles (flugelhorn), Garnett Brown (trombone), Buster Williams (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums). Sophisticated postbop composition, overly tricked up production. RVG Edition adds two alternate takes. B+(**)
Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002, Nubenegra): Her first album, backed by the Sahrawi group Leyoad. She emerges as a very strong singer backed by a powerful group -- I almost find it too heavy, especially returning after listening to her last albums. B+(***)
Freddie Hubbard: Goin' Up (1960 , Blue Note): Trumpet player, seems like he was suddenly everywhere in 1960, second album under his own name, a classic hard bop quintet with Hank Mobley (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Feels a bit rushed for me -- maybe the rhythm section wanted to see how hard they could push the kid. He keeps up, and turns in a nice ballad. B+(***)
Freddie Hubbard: Hub Cap (1961, Blue Note): Continuing to make the rounds, this time with Jimmy Heath (tenor sax), Julian Priester (trombone), Cedar Walton (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). They tend to switch up too much, but he powers through and blows over them, and the trombone is notably interesting. B+(**)
Freddie Hubbard: The Hub of Hubbard (1969 , MPS): Recorded in Germany, not sure of the conditions but the band is American, probably touring with Hubbard at the time: Eddie Daniels (tenor sax), Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Louis Hayes (drums). Starts with a blistering "Without a Song," and tears through Porter and Styne plus one original. B+(*)
Abdullah Ibrahim: Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio (1963 , Reprise Archives): The South African pianist changed his name from Dollar Brand to Abdullah Ibrahim around 1977, and later reissues have tended to indulge him -- I'll follow that convention here, although the reissue title remains unchanged. Ibrahim moved to Europe in 1962, and got noticed in Zürich by Ellington, who arranged the trio session for Reprise. Impressive debut, but he was more out to show his command of jazz repertoire than to make his own mark. B+(**)
Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Orchestra: African Space Program (1973 , Enja): Big band program, two side-length pieces, the group numbering 12 with 5 saxes and 3 trumpets. Much rougher than necessary. B
Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani: Echoes From Africa (1979 , Enja): Piano and bass, both from South Africa, both long in exile, the four songs pointed back home -- even the one dedicated to McCoy Tyner. Both sing, not the calling of either. B+(**)
Abdullah Ibrahim: African Dawn (1982 , Enja): Solo piano, runs through several of his better known pieces, two by Monk, one by Strayhorn, dedications to Coltrane and Monk. B+(**)
Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: African River (1989, Enja): Group named for his 1986 album, one of his best, with four horns -- John Stubblefield (tenor sax, flute), Horace Alexander Young (alto/soprano sax, piccolo), Robin Eubanks (trombone), and Howard Johnson (tuba, trumpet, baritone sax). Pennywhistle jive beats, looping horns, his favorite formula. B+(***)
Pete La Roca: Basra (1965 , Blue Note): Born Peter Sims, first noticed playing drums for Sonny Rollins (1957-59). This was his first album, the only one he led until 1997's Swing Time. He wrote three (of six) pieces for this young but stellar quartet -- all born between 1937-40, so 25-28 at the time: Steve Swallow (bass), Steve Kuhn (piano), both impressive but Joe Henderson (tenor sax) even more so. A-
Pete La Roca: Turkish Women at the Bath (1967 , Fresh Sound): The drummer's second album, released on a small label I don't recall ever running into but rescued from oblivion by Jordi Pujol's Spanish label. Again, the key is distinctive tenor sax, this time by John Gilmore, but also a pianist who was just starting to get noticed: Chick Corea. (The album was later reissued under Corea's name as Bliss; Sims sued and the album was withdrawn.) A-
Pete (LaRoca) Sims: SwingTime (1997, Blue Note): Partly reverting to his original name, the drummer's third (and last) album. Evidently no table of credits, but Jimmy Owens, Ricky Ford, Dave Liebman, Lance Bryant, George Cables, and Santi Debriano are mentioned in the booklet. More bop than swing, and less hard than playful, making a mess out of "Body and Soul" but still can't salvage "The Candy Man." B
Red Records All Stars [Jerry Bergonzi/Bobby Watson/Victor Lewis/Kenny Barron/Curtis Lundy/David Finck]: Together Again for the First Time (1996 , Red): The saxophonists are not just the front line. They're the stars, and as in most all-star games, they please most when they show off. And the two bass rhythm section keeps pace. B+(***)
Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Giant Is Awakened (1969, Flying Dutchman): Pianist from Los Angeles, first album, as it was for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe -- the only horn, as the quintet included two bassists plus a drummer, but he does a fine job of wailing over the rumbling rhythm. A-
Gust William Tsilis & Alithea With Arthur Blythe: Pale Fire (1988, Enja): Vibraphonist, from Chicago, moved to LA in 2002 where he mostly does TV/movie music. Presumably Alithea is a band name: Allen Farnham (keyboards), Anthony Cox (bass), Horacee Arnold (drums), Arto Tuncboyaci (percussion). Spotty, although the alto saxophonist can warm things up fast when he gets a chance. [5/6 cuts, missing the 15:35 title piece] B
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Black Mysticism (1966, ESP-Disk): Most sources list this debut's title as Charles Tyler Ensemble. Tyler plays alto sax, backed with "orchestra vibes" (Charles Moffett), cello (Joel Freedman), bass (Henry Grimes), and drums (Ronald [Shannon] Jackson). Avant scratch with some tinkle, but the raw sax keeps gaining stature. B+(***)
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Eastern Man Alone (1967, ESP-Disk): Second album, the group reduced to David Baker on cello and two bassists. The leader's alto sax remains raw and inspired, but Baker's cello plays a much larger role, and its borderline squelch keeps the album on edge. B+(**)
James Blood Ulmer: Revealing (1977 , In+Out): Guitarist, made his initial mark with Ornette Coleman's fusion group, Prime Time. His first album, although it didn't appear until 1990, with George Adams (tenor sax), Cecil McBee (bass), and Doug Hammond (drums). Adams makes the strongest initial impression, but every time he threatens to run off with it the guitar fills in something interesting. A-
James Blood Ulmer: Part Time (1983 , Celluloid): Ulmer peaked with his 1983 album Odyssey, recorded with Charles Burnham (violin) and Warren Benbow (drums) -- a trio which later regrouped several times as Odyssey the Band. This is that same group, recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival. Repeats half the album (four songs), more frenetic, harder to follow. B+(**)
The James Blood Ulmer Blues Experience: Blues Allnight (1989 , In+Out): Entering full blues crooner mode here, still an idiosyncratic guitarist but the bass-drums-more guitar band would rather be catchy than creative. B+(*)
Blood & Burger: Guitar Music (2002 , Dernière Bande): The principals are James Blood Ulmer and Rodolphe Burger, both guitar and vocals, the latter also keyboards. Burger Burger is French, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, some as Kat Onoma. We get songs from each, notably a rather bent "Are You Glad to Be in America?" plus a slow, gritty cover of the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire" -- and, of course, a lot of guitar. B+(**)
Bobby Watson: Live in Europe: Perpetual Groove (1983 , Red): Alto saxophonist from Kansas, helped revitalize Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1970s, cut a few albums for American labels but did his most important work in Italy with this group -- Piero Bassini (piano), Attilio Zanchi (bass), and Giampiero Prina (drums). Mostly standards, fast ones like "Mr. PC," "Cherokee," and "Oleo" served up hot and hearty. B+(***)
Bobby Watson: Appointment in Milano (1985, Red): Same quartet even tighter, Bassini and Zanchi contributing songs, with the alto saxophonist easily soaring over their breakneck rhythm. A-
Bobby Watson & Tailor Made With Tokyo Leaders Big Band: Live at Someday in Tokyo (2000 , Red): Tailor Made was a big band album Watson made in 1993 but only Watson repeats here, backed this time by a crack (if sometimes heavy-handed) Japanese outfit. The alto sax stands out, no surprise. B+(*)
Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite (2010, Lafiya Music): Big band project, a recurrent theme in Watson's oeuvre, this one built around the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra, where his day job of late has been director of jazz studies. Sharp and powerful, but as one title has it, "Heavy on the Sauce." B+(**)
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: