Monday, February 20. 2017
Music: Current count 27814  rated (+35), 386  unrated (-7).
Still mostly 2016 releases below, including a couple A-list finds (the current A-lists are 74 jazz and 67 non-jazz), but the share is dropping as I dip more often into my 2017 new jazz queue. Also checked out the new Tinariwen, which even with its American guests is very similar to old Tinariwen, still enough for my second 2017 non-jazz A- (after Run the Jewels 3).
Still added a few more 2017 lists to the EOY Aggregate file (a couple are mentioned in "recommended links" below). The new lists resulted in several changes to the top-twenty rank order, mostly in line with longer term trends: A Tribe Called Quest climbed into 5th, ahead of Solange; Chance the Rapper is up to 7th, barely edging Kanye West and dropping Nick Cave to 9th; Anderson .Paak took 11th from Bon Iver; Leonard Cohen took 13th from Car Seat Headrest; Mitski took 18th from Kaytranada. I'd say most of these cases favor the better record (aside from the last pair).
Not sure I'm done, but the rate of additions slowed down quite a bit midweek, as the weather warmed up enough to do some yardwork (well, actually we've been breaking records), and I finally resumed collecting reviews for the Jazz Guide(s). The latter got to be much more fun after I finished the 2001-09 notebooks (I'm assuming anything after that is redundant with the column files) and moved into Rhapsody Streamnotes, and the latter got to be more fun once I hit 2014, when I consolidated Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods into Streamnotes (finally, everything I run into is new for the books). Currently up to May 2014, and the 20th Century compilation is up to 374 pages. Good chance I'll finish Streamnotes this coming week.
The first two entries under "old music" were picked up while looking for newer albums. I was pleased to find Bandcamp sites for Anzic Records (looking for Daniel Freedman) and for ROVA, but both turned out to be less than ideal: Anzic had a couple albums complete, but others didn't have enough tracks to review (Anat Cohen was one important artist I wasn't able to fill in).
The reason I looked up Bob Wilber was a Facebook post by Chris Drumm inquiring about worthwhile Arbors Records releases. I've long been a fan of Wilber's and was pleased to find one album I've heard a lot about (Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman, a PG 4-star and a Gary Giddins favorite). The Henderson record lived up to its billing, but nothing else I had missed turned out to be essential. And still, my own Wilber favorite is 1989's Dancing on a Rainbow (Circle).
I should probably remind readers that I occasionally write little 140-character nuggets as @tomhull747. My "follower" count recently hit 250. Mostly notices of new blog posts, but sometimes something else. Total tweets to date 1714, average rate down since I stopped trying to review records on the fly, so I'm not going to swamp your feed -- just occasionally remind you of something interesting.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, February 13. 2017
Music: Current count 27779  rated (+39), 393  unrated (+10).
Having a hard time letting go of 2016, possibly because I get the feeling I have so little to look forward to in 2017.
Queue continues to grow as I pick up 2016 list items -- seems like a lot of these came from Jason Gubbels, although Élage Diouf came from an Afropop list I found on ILXOR, and the Meridian Brothers reissue first appeared in the fine print under metal-crazed Uncle Fester's Lucky 13 (or is it psyched-out -- whatever the fuck psych is). Most interesting HMs are by Autolux, Fantastic Negrito, and Dele Sosimi (2015 releases keep sneaking in). Best jazz this week is the new Throttle Elevator Jazz Retrorespective.
Martha sounds good for next week, but needs another spin. Sampha strikes me as super-overrated (Metacritic score 86 on 24 reviews, which will most likely make it a top-20 album a year from now, somewhere between Kaytranada and Anderson Paak this year -- Tinariwen's Elwan and Jens Lekman's Life Will See You Now have 87 scores but only 8-10 reviews, so their scores are less significant).
Started reading Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, which is proving uncomfortable and more than a little annoying. Thus far (120 pages in) the main subject is the notion that liberal democracy was looking doomed in the early 1930s with fascism and bolshevism ascendant -- e.g., he cites Walter Lippman arguing for a beneficient dictatorship. Then as now the driving force behind fascism was fear, but as I read this I keep thinking, hey, don't we know better this time? Granted, the news is full of proof way too many of us don't know shit, and sensible minds are in short supply.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, February 8. 2017
Music: Current count 27740  rated (+32), 383  unrated (+20).
Failed to get this posted on Monday (or Tuesday before I finally went to bed) for the first time since I can't remember. The immediate cause on Monday was that I got distracted researching possible fixes for a faulty ice maker. Yesterday I wound up ordering a part which may not be the total fix but is at least necessary. I agree with the proposition of a movie called The Mosquito Coast that "ice is civilization," so this is a matter of some import. (That movie, by the way, was the first place I really noticed Helen Mirren.)
Then I wound up wasting much of Tuesday adding Metacritic's Top Ten Lists to my EOY Aggregate. Thought I was done with that, and indeed I had moved on to resume work on my Jazz Guides (finally getting through the 2001-09 notebooks and into Rhapsody Streamnotes). But I kept thinking it would be nice to hit the bottom before posting, and it didn't happen until early Wednesday evening. Then I found ILXOR's thread, so I've started scanning through it. I don't expect these additions to change positions much -- although there are some close ones: Solange leads Tribe for 5th by 5 (437-432), Chance passed Nick Cave for 7th (395-378), Bon Iver's hold on 11th has been slipping to Anderson Paak (318-314), Car Seat Headrest has grabbed 14th from Anohni (276-264), Rihanna edged into 16th ahead of Danny Brown (230-225), Kaytranada barely holds 18th over Mitski (202-201).
Below you'll find a typical long list of records: a little bit of 2017 jazz and a lot of interesting-looking 2016 EOY list items, few of which panned out. I had a lot of trouble with the XX album too -- Michael Tatum likes it, and hopefully will write about it soon. Took me a lot of plays, but I found my favorite song from the album rattling around in my head several days later. You might note that two albums (Injury Reserve, The Hamilton Mixtape) from last week's Expert Witness fell just short (after 2-3 plays), while I previously graded two of Bob's HMs at A- (Atmosphere, Ka; I had Noname and J Cole at **). I've since caught up with two other albums (Kool A.D. and the older Injury Reserve, having to go to Bandcamp and Soundcloud respectively), but I couldn't find the politically timely Battle Hymns.
One thing you'll note below is seven SteepleChase releases. The Danish label, notorious for never sending out promos, has recently appeared on Napster, so after noticing that I've been looking through their recent release lists. Chris Byars is an artist I've wanted to catch up on -- his Photos in Black, White and Gray was a JCG Pick Hit in 2007, and after he moved to SteepleChase the one record I did get a chance to hear, 2011's Lucky Strikes Again, is a terrific Lucky Thompson tribute. Still most of his catalog isn't on Napster. Hopefully they'll eventually get the whole back catalog up: Nils Winther founded the label in 1972, starting out with expat Americans like Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan, and wound up being a refuge for dozens of important mainstream jazz players (like Byars). I count 17 A/A- records in my database, but there are surely dozens more I haven't heard.
Lot of incoming mail last week, much of it promising. I got another package from Clean Feed today (not listed below). Despite my tardiness, this week's list was cut off Sunday night. Been listening to more of the same the last couple days.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, January 30. 2017
Music: Current count 27708  rated (+35), 366  unrated (+3).
Most of what I have to say both about new music and EOY lists has already appeared in last week's Streamnotes post. Since then I added the new David Weiss album to my nascent 2017 A-list. Still almost exclusively jazz because that's what I have physical copies of, but I'm working on the xx -- new album is as slow to catch as the old ones, but Tatum likes it a lot and I'm sorta getting there.
Updated EOY Aggregate file to include the Village Voice's Pazz + Jop results, as well as Robert Christgau's ean's List. I wrote some extra code for the latter to include the reviews in the CG database -- all but eight records appear (some appeared at Noisey after my last update, some have yet to appear).
Glenn McDonald's tabulation of Pazz + Jop results is here. I didn't see a link to this at from the Voice site, so I'm personally late in looking at it. Here's my own ballot analysis: my centricity score was 0.887 (451 of 542), less than my historic average, although I only voted for one record this time that no one else listed (Chemistry, by Houston Person & Ron Clarke, one of those marvelous mainstream sax albums I'm so partial to). Still, the hive think this year was such that I fell into the most obscurantist decile despite voting for three albums with 10+ other votes: Drive-By Truckers (55), Brandy Clark (20), Aesop Rock (10). The most similar ballots to mine were by Todd Kristel (3 common albums; he was the only other voter for Aly Keita's Kalo-Yele; 9 of his albums were on my A-list, the only exception a *** for Car Seat Headrest, and he was the only one to vote for Tom Zé's Cançőes Eróticas de Ninar) and Tim Riley (2 common albums, DBT and Clark, only 6 A-list, I wasn't among his 16 most similar ballots).
Among voters I've been similar to in the past, Jason Gubbels had my 6th most similar ballot (common votes for David Murray and Brandy Clark; 7 A-list, 3 ***), and Michael Tatum was 12th (common vote for DBT, 6 A-list, 2 ***, 2 lower). Tatum's most similar ballot belonged to Robert Christgau (not on my common list, but we both had DBT, and he had 9 of my A-list albums plus one ***), so if the ballots went deeper we would have been more similar. Looking at these lists, perhaps I should reconsider Car Seat Headrest and American Honey. I wouldn't be surprised if either rose a notch if I bothered to give them much more time. By the way, Gubbels' long, unranked EOY list is here.
I hope to resume work on the Jazz Guide(s), which got interrupted a couple months ago due to a computer crash.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, January 28. 2017
Lot of records below, as I've been trying to wrap up what I hadn't gotten to in 2016 -- especially items I wasn't aware of until they showed up on one or more of the 431 EOY lists I've been aggregating.
I've managed to listen to and grade 1074 records released in 2016 (see list, frozen as of today). This is down from 1110 in 2015, which itself was down from 1166 in 2014 -- a downward trend I expect to continue, mostly because I keep getting fewer records to review in the mail, but also because I'm getting older, blinder, crankier, more tired, and more easily bored. Perhaps a better measure of this is that my A-lists have gotten notably shorter this year: 74 Jazz and 62 Non-Jazz this year, vs. 81 and 83, respectively, in 2015. Moreover, in the week-to-date, I've reviewed 28 records without finding a single new release A- to add to the list (aside from one compilation of old music: Putumayo Presents: African Rumba), and only three B+(***) -- I usually pick up the pace as I close out a column, so this rather ominously suggests I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Of course, I don't really believe that. One reason for the A-list drops is that I added 14 records (about half the current deficit) to the 2015 files after last year's freeze date: Daveed Diggs, The Yawpers, Ursula 1000, Audio One, Charles Gayle, Eszter Balint, Beans on Toast, Radical Dads, Paul Dunmall, Tribu Baharú, Fred Hersch, Arca, Shopping, Drive-By Truckers; and post-cutoff, High Definition Quartet. Good chance the next few months will reveal close to a dozen A-list albums I've thus far missed. In fact, there are a handful of 2015 releases below, mostly ones I wasn't previously aware of.
Also a handful of 2017 releases, which thus far are grading out well above the norm, probably because I've been prioritizing old favorites -- François Carrier, Ellery Eskelin, Satoko Fujii, Matthew Shipp, David Murray, Randy Weston, Miguel Zenón. That ratio won't hold, but even if civilization collapses between now and the end of the year, the 2017 lists won't be empty.
Worth noting that the total number of records covered in this column since I decided to keep brief notes on what I streamed back in 2007 has now passed 9000. Not all are streamed, especially since I folded in Jazz Prospecting starting in 2014 -- see the bracketed notes at the end of reviews for sources -- but streaming services like Rhapsody/Napster have made it possible to broaden my coverage (as well as pretty much stop buying CDs at all).
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 December 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (9134 records).
21 Savage/Metro Boomin: Savage Mode (2016, self-released): Atlanta rapper (Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph) and producer (Leland Tyler Wayne), billed as an EP but at 9 cuts, 32:22 feels pretty substantial, especially as none of the tunes are in any hurry to end. Gangsta, at least formally, and form matters a lot here, all speak softly and carry a big dick -- not a line, by the way -- more like "I'm in savage mode" and "I'm a real nigga," but that's the vibe. A-
Amanar: Tumastin (2015 , Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitar band, originally from Kidal deep in northeast Mali, now in exile. Seems like a perfectly average Saharan blues album, its evenness a good deal of its charm. B+(*)
Bill Anschell: Rumbler (2016 , Origin): Postbop pianist from Seattle, has more than a handful of albums since 1998, mixes trio cuts here (actually the strongest ones) with guest guitar, percussion, sax (Jeff Coffin, Richard Cole, Hans Teuber) and flute. Covers Monk, Ellington, the Beatles, adding up to a bit of everything. B+(**) [cd]
Aphex Twin: Cheetah (2016, Warp, EP): Richard D. James, has been a leading electronica producer since 1991, this his best-known alias. Seven cuts, 33:49. Basic beats plus synth ripples, his basic shtick. B+(*)
Arca: Entrańas (2016, self-released, EP): Runs 25:02, 14 titles, an EP in comparison to 2015's hour-long Mutant. Title translates as "entrails" -- indeed, some nasty hacks here for electronic sausage maker, not without interest but not enough I feel like sorting out. B+(*) [sc]
Azealia Banks: Slay-Z (2016, self-released, EP): Mixtape, mixed up, much of it ok but nothing really appeals to me, least of all Soundcloud. Eight cuts, 26:19. B [sc]
BJ Barham: Rockingham (2016, self-released): Singer-songwriter from the title town in North Carolina, former singer in a band called American Aquarium. Debut album is short (eight cuts, 32:46), plain-spoken, sober, decent, can't help but like him. Voice recalls young John Prine, which is why I noticed he's not nearly as funny. Still: "And when I die I want to look God in the eye and ask him why he gave up on this place." A-
Luke Bell: Luke Bell (2016, Bill Hill): Country singer-songwriter from Wyoming, third album, second eponymous one (I guess because no one noticed the first, or maybe this is a relaunch). Goes for a classic honky-tonk sound ("with a wink and a yodel"), and mostly hits it. B+(***)
Jim Black/Óskar Gudjónsson/Elias Stemeseder/Chris Tordini: Mala Mute (2016 , Intakt): Drummer, a terrific one, has had some success with "plugged in" ensembles before (such as his AlasNoAxis group), tries another twist on the formula here. The others, otherwise unknown to me, play tenor sax, keyboards, and electric bass, respectively, generating texture and tone but not a lot of heat. B+(*) [cd]
Mykki Blanco: Mykki (2016, !K7): Michael Quattlebaum Jr., rapper from Orange County, California, "performance artist, poet and activist." "African-American Jewish," took his name from "a teenage girl character for a YouTube video" and "Lil' Kim's alter ego Kimmy Blanco," considers himself "transgender and multi-gendered," is "HIV positive." First LP after a couple EPs. Not much I'm following here. B+(*)
Bibi Bourelly: Free the Real (Pt. 1) (2016, Circa 13/Def Jam, EP): Born in Berlin, grew up in Maryland, of Moroccan and Haitian descent, father is jazz guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, wrote a couple songs that were picked up by Rihanna. Five cuts, 14:47, too hard for dance pop, if not life. B+(*)
Bibi Bourelly: Free the Real (Pt. 2) (2016, Circa 13/Def Jam, EP): Six cuts, 18:46. Continues to impress as talented and serious, but this is a hard slog for little reward. B
Jakob Bro: Streams (2015 , ECM): Danish guitarist, has a dozen albums since 2007, this his second on ECM. Trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and Joey Baron on drums, mild and unexceptional. B [dl]
Brookzill!: Throwback to the Future (2016, Tommy Boy): A quantum wormhole between Brooklyn and Brazil radiating fusion funk, the principals: Prince Paul, Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets), Rodrigo Brandăo (Gorila Urbano), Don Newkirk (Funk City). B+(*)
Peter Brötzmann & ICI Ensemble: Beautiful Lies (2014 , Neos Jazz): Munich-based large group (nonet: three reeds with Markus Heinze doubling on cornet, two more brass, piano, bass, drums, and Gunnar Geisse on laptop), fourth album including three with guest stars. Two long pieces (31:41 and 40:13). Not sure anyone would ID the guest here, but the band fits his calling. B+(*)
Apollo Brown & Skyzoo: The Easy Truth (2016, Mello Music): Detroit hip-hop producer Brown and Brooklyn rapper Gregory Skyler Taylor. The beats roll on with minimal glitz, the words pile up with shrewd detail. B+(***)
The Cactus Blossoms: You're Dreaming (2016, Red House): Minneapolis brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, harmonizing like the Everly Brothers over vintage guitars, upright bass and light drums, sob stories with a country air. B+(*)
The Uri Caine Trio: Calibrated Thickness (2015 , 816 Music): Front cover gives Clarence Penn (drums) and Mark Helias (bass) equal credit to the pianist, but back cover spells out the Trio and notes "special Guest Kirk Knuffke -- cornet." The guest, appearing on less than half the cuts, is anticlimactic, but the pianist dazzles on the trio cuts. B+(***)
Judy Carmichael/Harry Allen: Can You Love Once More? (2016, GAC): Singer (since 1980) and tenor saxophonist (a decade younger), credit line actually reads "Judy & Harry Play Carmichael & Allen" -- all original pieces, backed by Mike Renzi (piano), Mike Karn (bass), and Alvin Atkinson (drums). Their new standards are classically structured but with postmodern wit -- I look forward to hearing "Take Me Back to Macchu Picchu" elsewhere -- the ballads dragging a bit but mostly relative to the way Allen rips through the fast ones. He is really terrific here. She, by the way, has a reputation as a pianist -- even has published two books on stride. A-
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (2014 , FMR): Alto sax/Chinese oboe, drums, piano, recorded in St. Petersburg, a year after the same trio recorded two volumes of The Russian Concerts. Sketchy, finds its own beauty in chaos, and here and there erupts into something wonderful. A- [cd]
Frank Catalano/Jimmy Chamberlin: Bye Bye Blackbird (2016, Ropeadope): Tenor sax and drums, the cover typography also suggesting David Sanborn (alto sax, but he only appears on 2 of 6 cuts), and also relegates Nir Felder (guitar) and Demos Petropoulos (organ) to the lower right. Effectively soul jazz. Nice cover art (Tony Fitzpatrick). B+(*)
Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love! (2016, Glassnote): Hip-hop renaissance man Donald Glover, has been prolific since 2010 alongside his jobs writing for and acting on TV. Doesn't rap much here, and his soul moves remain oblique and inscrutable. B+(*)
Club D'Elf: Live at Club Helsinki (2012 , Face Pelt, 2CD): Boston jazz collective, Brahim Fribgane (oud, voice, percussion) gives them a North African air, Mike Rivard (bass, sintir, bass kalimba) makes them even more other-worldly, and ringer John Medeski (B3, various keyboards) joins in for this extended Hudson, NY bar date. B+(***) [cd]
Shirley Collins: Lodestar (2016, Domino): English folksinger, b. 1935 in East Sussex, recorded a dozen or more records from 1959 up to 1980, some with sister Dolly Collins, some with Ashley Hutchings and/or the Albion Band before taking a 35-year hiatus. Her voice has suffered, but I doubt genre fans will mind -- I find it lends the music depth and resonance. B+(***)
Shawn Colvin/Steve Earle: Colvin & Earle (2016, Fantasy): I first ran into her singing backup for Richard Thompson, so I suppose I've always considered her a secondary voice, although I must admit to having liked the one album of hers I've heard: 1996's A Few Small Repairs. She has ten previous albums, and Earle probably has twice as many, as well as the more distinctive voice, one that can cut through to the lead but he's too reserved here to do that. Nice balance, but I could think of better songs to cover. B+(*)
Gustavo Cortińas Snapshot: Esse (2016 , OA2): Drummer, from Mexico City, studied in New Orleans and Chicago, and has been based in the US for "close to a decade." Postbop group with trumpet (Justin Copeland), tenor sax (Roy McGrath or Artie Black), trombone, guitar, piano, and bass -- another band named for a previous album. B+(*) [cd]
Sandy Cressman: Entre Amigos (2016 , Cressman Music): Singer, born in New York, raised in San Jose, based somewhere in the Bay Area, somehow stumbled into a Brazilian groove and made herself at home -- nine (of ten) titles here in Portuguese. Not sure of the credits, but trombonist Jeff Cressman makes an appearance. B+(*) [cd]
Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Planktonic Finales (2015 , Intakt): Bassist, has put together an exceptional series of albums, mostly by highlighting his own playing but he has more trouble establishing himself here. Laubrock plays doggedly avant tenor and soprano sax, Smythe offer some piano flourishes. B+(*) [cd]
Alan Cumming: Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs: Live at the Cafe Carlyle (2016, Yellow Sound): Scottish actor, I've mostly seen him as Chicago political strategist Eli Gold on The Good Wife but first encountered him as the lead in a Broadway production of Cabaret (practically the only time I've ever attended such a thing). He has one previous album, and is a credible standards singer (if that's what these are). Way too much patter, but that's part of his charm. B+(*)
Tim Daisy/Marc Riordan: Joyride (2016, Relay): Drums/piano duo from Chicago, Daisy the drummer in various projects of Ken Vandermark and/or Dave Rempis, Riordan has an earlier quartet album (with Daisy on drums, although Riordan has also played drums in other groups). Impressive free piano, fast both on track and off the rails. B+(***) [bc]
Tim Daisy's Celebration Sextet: The Halfway There Suite (2016, Relay): Drummer-led sextet, mostly Chicago musicians: James Falzone (clarinet), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Dave Rempis (tenor sax), Steve Swell (trombone). Suite unfolds in four parts, 33:34, Rempis especially strong. B+(**) [bc]
Tim Daisy: Red Nation "1" (2016 , Relay): Avant drummer from Chicago, was first noticed when he joined the Vandermark 5, and has been busy ever since. This one is solo: "turntables, drums, radios, gongs and other found objects." B+(**) [cd]
The Brian Dickinson Quintet: The Rhythm Method (2015 , Addo): Toronto-based pianist, has a couple previous albums (one from 1990), uses two saxes here (Luis Deniz on alto and Kelly Jefferson on tenor), bass, and drums. Lushly evocative postbop, not something I particularly like although it's hard to deny the chops. B+(*) [cd]
Dr. Mint: Voices in the Void (2016 , Orenda): Fusion group, have several albums. I filed it under the first name listed -- trumpet player Daniel Rosenbloom rather than saxophonist Gavin Templeton -- but the horns matter less than the electric guitar (Alexander Noice) and bass (Sam Minaie) and their FX, let alone the drums (Caleb Dolister). B+(*) [cd]
Laura Dubin Trio: Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (2016 , self-released, 2CD): Pianist, backed by bass (Kieron Hanlon) and drums (Antonio H. Guerrero), at great length, mixing originals and standards, playing them all with emphatic panache. I'm impressed by her chops, less so by her vision. B+(*) [cd]
Echoes of Swing: Dancing (2016, ACT): German quartet -- Colin T. Dawson (trumpet & vocals), Chris Hopkins (alto sax), Bernd Lhotzky (piano & celeste), Oliver Mewes (drums) -- have been together a decade-plus, backward looking but not really a trad jazz group. They survey a long line of dance tune and dance-referred standards, ranging from a Bach gavotte, a Joplin rag, and a James P. Johnson Charleston through "Moonlight Serenade" and Hopkins' original "Hipsters Hop" -- never really kicking up much of a storm. Dawson's infrequent vocals are quickly forgotten. B+(*)
Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Sensations of Tone (2016 , Intakt): Tenor sax trio, recorded in Brooklyn but not Eskelin's usual New York Trio -- bassist Weber is Swiss, drummer Griener German. Also not the usual fare as they mix four old songs -- "Shreveport Stomp," "China Boy," "Moten Swing," and "Ain't Misbehavin'" -- in with four joint originals. The stomps and swings are done with sly understatement, distance and affection -- I especially love the latter, instantly recognizable yet brand new. A- [cd]
The Fall: Wise Ol' Man (2016, Cherry Red, EP): Mark E. Smith's long-running (since 1979) post-punk group, considered an EP but more due to the rehashed songs -- two new, the rest alternates and remixes from Sub-Lingual Tablet -- than length (7 tracks, 34:06). Relies more on sound than songcraft. B+(*)
Fanfare Ciocarlia: Onwards to Mars! (2016, Asphalt Tango): Romanian brass band, twenty-year veterans, jazz up the local folk and even take a quirky stab at "I Put a Spell on You." B+(***)
Flume: Skin (2016, Future Classic): Australian DJ Harley Edward Streton, second album. Wide range of entertaining but mostly forgettable styles, including a bit of rap. B
Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: The Organ Grinder (2016, RareNoise): Alto sax trio from Scotland, led by Rebecca Sneddon with Colin Stewart on electric bass and Paul Archibald on drums (percussion, piano, organ). Third album, with guests Patrick Danley on trombone (2 tracks) and Luc Klein on trumpet (4 tracks, one with both). The extra horns don't help much, and the organ later on is truly doomed. B+(*)
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (2014 , Libra): Japanese pianist, has at least four iterations of her big band named for cities she works in -- hitherto, the New York band, with its surfeit of individual stars, has been most impressive, but the ensemble work here is peerless, and the score is chock full of brilliant ideas. A- [cd]
Fumaça Preta: Impuros Fanáticos (2016, Soundway): Led by Portuguese/Venezuelan drummer Alex Figueira, based in the Netherlands, had an impressive 2014 eponymous album, this sophomore effort dives even deeper into the psychedelic creases between their mishmash of everything, which doesn't make it better, or anything clearer. B+(*)
Gaika: Security (2016, Mixpak): Brixton rapper, has a couple mixtapes, this the one getting the most attention. Bounces off grime and trip-hop without fitting in anywhere. B+(*)
Brent Gallaher: Moving Forward (2016 , V&B): Tenor saxophonist, leads a conventional hard bop quintet with Alex Pope Norris on trumpet and Dan Karlsberg on piano, not that in this postbop era they care to keep it hard. B [cd]
Gallant: Ology (2016, Mind of a Genius/Warner Brothers): R&B singer, first name Christopher, debut album after an EP and some remixes, can reach for a nice falsetto, and generally impresses except when lyrics like "what good is a sword next to a shotgun?" sandbag him. B+(*)
Slava Ganelin/Lenny Sendersky: Hotel Cinema (2016, Leo): The Russian-Israeli pianist, namesake of the legendary Ganelin Trio, is credited with "Korg MicroStation, computer Dell"; Sendersky plays "reeds," so this is a duo, although the synths are geared up to give the air of an orchestra. One 45:03 piece, symphonic in scope though more intimate in its recognizable solos, including some trademark piano. B+(**)
Vince Gill: Down to My Last Bad Habit (2016, MCA Nashville): Nashville country singer-songwriter, leans on the neotrad side of mainstream, smart enough to admit his mistakes and to profess his weaknesses, his "last bad habit," naturally enough, being you. B+(*)
Barry Guy/Ken Vandermark: Occasional Poems (2014 , Not Two, 2CD): Bass and sax/clarinet duets, recorded live at Alchemia Club in Krakow, runs 86:13. Remarkable on both ends. B+(***)
Noah Haidu: Infinite Distances (2015-16 , Cellar Live): Postbop pianist, born in Virginia, studied with Kenny Barron at Rutgers, now based in New York. Deploys his horns creatively -- Jeremy Pelt (trumpet & flugelhorn), Sharel Cassity (alto sax), Jon Irabagon (soprano & tenor sax), with the latter adding an extra jolt of power. B+(**) [cd]
Nancy Harms: Ellington at Night (2016, Gazelle): Standards singer, has a couple albums, works her way through a dozen Dukish pieces backed by Jeremy Siskind's piano trio and some strings. B+(**)
Steve Hauschildt: Strands (2016, Kranky): From Cleveland, produces ambient electronica, shimmering tableaux of vast spaces, plesantly contemplating the cosmos. B+(***)
Terrie Hessels & Ken Vandermark: Splinters (2014-15 , Audiograph): Duets, the once (and future) Terrie Ex playing guitar, Vandermark credited with reeds. Three short pieces from Vienna (2015), one long one from Eindhoven (35:35, 2014), the title apt in that this falls apart rather than comes together. B+(*) [bc]
High Definition Quartet: Bukoliki (2015, ForTune): Polish quartet -- Mateusz Sliwa (tenor sax), Piotr Orzechowski (piano), Alan Wykpisz (bass), and Dawid Fortuna (drums) -- playing music by Witold Lutoslawski (five pieces, simply numbered, themselves based on Kurpian folk tunes, title translates as "Bucolics") arranged by the pianist. Some remarkable work here, high definition indeed. A- [bc]
Cynthia Hilts: Lyric Fury (2014 , Blond Coyote): Pianist, sings some -- two lyrics printed on packaging, "Peace Now" will bug those who object to preachiness but I'd say the message is right on. Good to hear trumpeter Jack Walrath in the band, which includes two saxes, trombone, cello, bass and drums. Long. B+(*)
Lonnie Holley: Keeping a Record of It (2013, Dust-to-Digital): Best known for making sculptures out of junk, an aesthetic he carries over into his music -- as eccentric as Swamp Dogg, not nearly as skilled, but grows on you anyway. B+(**)
Horse Lords: Interventions (2016, Northern Spy): Instrumental group, guitar-bass-drums-sax with electronics mixed in somewhere, rockish rhythmically but they'd rather focus their improvisation on clang and drone, so has a post-fusion jazz air. B+(**)
I.P.A.: I Just Did Say Something (2016, Cuneiform): Norwegian avant-jazz group's first album, not quite all-stars but imposing lineup: Atle Nymo (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mattias Stĺhl (vibes), Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (bass), Hĺkon Mjĺset Johansen (drums). Broo especially strong here. B+(**) [dl]
Ethan Iverson: The Purity of the Turf (2016, Criss Cross): Pianist, first trio album under his own name since 1999's The Minor Passions, having devoted most of his energies to Bad Plus and occasionally ducking the spotlight in groups given to other leaders. Ron Carter and Nasheet Waits get him out of Bad mode, which would have been a step down a decade ago but is probably for the best today. B+(**)
Japanese Breakfast: Psychopomp (2016, Dead Oceans): Alt-rock band, mainly guitarist-singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner. The opener, "In Heaven," is heavenly, rooted in her mother's death. B+(*)
Cody Jinks: I'm Not the Devil (2016, Cody Jinks Music): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, started out in a thrash metal band called Unchecked Aggression. Has a half-dozen albums, this the first to come anyway near a chart. Great country voice, fairly good songs. B+(**)
Howard Johnson and Gravity: Testimony (2016 , Tuscarora): Tuba player, age 75, also plays baritone sax, long noted as a sideman -- his mid-1960s credits include Charles Mingus and Archie Shepp -- and had a long run with the George Gruntz Concert Band. He formed his tuba-heavy group Gravity in 1995, and they're back here: Velvet Brown, Dave Bergeron, Earl McIntyre, Joseph Daley, and (of course) Bob Stewart. Backed with piano trio, they swing plenty hard, but attempts to lighten the mood -- including Johnson's penny whistle -- are less successful. B+(**)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity (2016, ATO): Australian rock band, genrefied as garage, psychedelic, progressive, and/or experimental, none of which strike me as applicable: they're too clean for garage, too mainstream for anything else, but they crank up a lot of guitars (at least three) and synths and keep them humming along, pretty upbeat. B+(*)
The Klezmatics: Apikorsim/Heretics (2016, World Village): New York new wave klezmer band celebrates its 30th anniversary with its twelfth album, a celebration of heresy -- or so I gather (lyrics are, so far as I can tell, in Yiddish, and I lack any sort of lyric sheet). Not sure why I'm hedging over not understanding the words, as Lorin Sklamberg's vocals are as mesmerizing as ever. Maybe it's just that after thirty years their excellence has become their mean. B+(***)
Joachim Kühn New Trio: Beauty & Truth (2015 , ACT): German pianist, past 70, long discography goes back to 1969, with Chris Jennings (bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums). Title track is from Ornette Coleman, an old touchstone, and other covers include Gershwin, Komeda, Gil Evans, and two Doors songs. Bright, even there. B+(**)
Rolf Kühn: Spotlights (2016, Edel/MPS): This popped up in a reissues poll, but I can't find any evidence of it having been previously released, or indeed of being very old -- the clarinetist, elder brother of Joachim Kühn (pianist here), was 87 when this came out, and some of the other musicians are much younger (e.g., drummer Christian Lillinger, 32). B+(**)
Le Rex: Wild Man (2014 , Cuneiform): Swiss jazz band, third album, quintet with two saxes (Benedikt Reising on alto, Marc Stucki on tenor), trombone, tuba, and drums -- nothing chordal to bridge the gaps. Like the low brass swing. B+(*) [dl]
Led Bib: Umbrella Weather (2016 , RareNoise): British quasi-fusion jazz group, eighth album since 2005, features two alto saxes (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), keyboards, electric bass, and drums ("ringleader" Mark Holub). Loud, brash, impressive jazz chops but relentless, which may not be a virtue. B+(*) [cdr]
Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands: The Hazel and Alice Sessions (2016, Spruce and Maple): Dickens and Gerrard, who earned their debut title (Pioneering Women of Bluegrass, 1965) and topped it with 1973's Hazel and Alice -- obviously, if you don't know those classic albums go there first. Lewis, in her mid-sixties now, has carved out a respectable career in bluegrass, but her voice will never grab you like theirs. Still, this reminds me how great the songs are, especially "Working Girl Blues." B+(***)
Mark Lewis: New York Session (2015 , Audio Daddio): Alto saxophonist, hard to Google because his name is shared by many more famous Mark Lewises (although, oddly enough, the first one listed for me was WSU's assistant bowling coach). So I don't have any idea what his background or discography are, but he has a lovely tone on alto, and the New Yorker rhythm section he picked up is superb: George Cables, Victor Lewis, Essiet Essiet. Also plays flute. B+(**) [cd]
Lil Yachty: Summer Songs 2 (2016, Quality Control): Atlanta rapper Miles McCollum, second mixtape (first Lil Boat; 2015's Summer Songs was the first of four EPs). Plodding, with dub overtones. Could it be that some of the EOY votes I recorded for this were meant for Lil Boat? (Pretty likely. Best thing here are fan testimonials citing that mixtape.) B-
Lil Yachty: Lil Boat (2016, Quality Control): Earlier mixtape, came out in March vs. July for Summer Songs 2. Not much going on here either. Passable line (repeated dozens of times): "fuck you, you fucked me over." B
Little Simz: Stillness in Wonderland (2016, Age 101): British rapper, Simbi Ajikawo, second album after a bunch of EPs and mixtapes. Nothing jumps out here. B
Tove Lo: Lady Wood (2016, Island): Swedish electropop singer-songwriter, second album, catchy enough, explicit version earns its rating. B+(*)
Mannequin Pussy: Romantic (2016, Tiny Engines, EP): Philadelphia postpunk group, eleven songs, 17:07, mostly hard thrash but the title song, being a soft-hearted ballad, runs on for 2:39. B+(*)
Lasse Marhaug & Ken Vandermark: Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) (2016, Audiographic): Marhaug does avant-electronics, which is to say he's unconcerned with beats, or melody, or much of anything else that might be recognizable. Vandermark plays saxes and/or clarinets, and early on seems determined to play even uglier than his collaborator -- who's appeared in various recent Vandermark projects but it's rarely been clear what he contributes. This may help in that regard, if one cares. Kiarostami, by the way, is an Iranian filmmaker. B [bc]
Terrace Martin: Velvet Portraits (2016, Ropeadope): Better known as a producer, but has several albums ranging from hip-hop to jazz to funk, and plays some saxophone. As eclectic as one might expect. My choice cut is "Patiently Waiting" -- a classic soul ballad. B
Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Black Stabat Mater (2016, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion trio, led by guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, with Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjřrnstad on drums. Improvises a bit on '70s heavy metal licks, invoking a time when they were still interesting. B+(*)
Hedvig Mollestad Trio: EVIL in Oslo (2015 , Rune Grammofon): Released same day as the studio album Black Stabat Mater, no recording dates given so unclear which came first, but my guess is that Evil is just a play on Live. It's the longer record, more varied, takes a while to develop but climaxes strong. B+(*)
Kjetil Mřster/Hans Magnus Ryan/Stĺle Storlřkken/Thomas Strřnen: Reflections in Cosmo (2016 , RareNoise): Artist names not on album cover, but I'm working off a CDR so will take the liberty. Respectively: sax, guitar, keyboards, drums, playing up an avant-fusion storm -- Ryan, from Motorpsycho, most in character. B+(**) [cdr]
Wolfgang Muthspiel: Rising Grace (2016, ECM): German guitarist, influenced early on by Metheny and Scofield but has gone on to do remarkable work in his own right. Quintet here, a surfeit of riches with Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Brad Mehldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). B+(**) [dl]
Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser/Dominik Mahnig: Equal Poise (2014 , Leo): Piano trio, recorded live at LOFT in Cologne, same year as Nabatov and Dresser recorded a fine duo album (Projections). No problem adding a drummer, but the pianist commands your attention. B+(***)
Simon Nabatov Trio: Picking Order (2015 , Leo): Cologne-based piano trio, with Stefan Schönegg on bass and Dominik Mahnig on drums. Most persuasive at its most percussive. B+(**)
Ted Nash Big Band: Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom (2016, Motéma, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, has played in a few big bands in his day, evidently scored a big time commission here, hiring an all-star band and lining up celebrities to read bits from eight iconic speeches -- not that Joe Lieberman does justice to JFK, or that we've forgotten that Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan destroyed far more freedom than they ever created. The music is no less encrusted with cliché. B
Youssou N'Dour & Le Super Etoile: #Senegaal Rekk (2016, self-released, EP): Product status mysterious, but length looks to be 24 minutes -- I've found several copies more/less that length on YouTube, as well as shorter ones. Also looks like N'Dour has a longer album called Africa Rekk, out on some tentacle of Sony, but I'm not finding it either. Impressive music, but YouTube is a lousy way to listen to it. A- [yt]
Tami Neilson: Don't Be Afraid (2015, self-released): New Zealand's answer to Wanda Jackson. Best when she sticks with that, or deepens it a bit on blues like "Bury My Body" or "Holy Moses"; less so when she aims for Patsy Cline. B+(**)
Nu Guinea: The Tony Allen Experiments [Afrobeat Makers Vol. 3] (2016, Comet): Electronica duo from Naples -- Lucio Aquilina (keyboards) and Massimo Di Lena (reconstructed drums) -- based in Berlin, with Allen on drums and extra percussion. Doesn't strike me as all that close to Afrobeat, but beats are delightful, and the synth noodling a plus. Vinyl length: nine tracks, 33:36. A-
Oles Brothers & Antoni Gralak: Primitivo (2016, ForTune): Twin brothers Marcin and Bartlomiej Oles (bass and drums, respectively), long one of Poland's most sought-after rhythm sections, in a trio with trumpeter Gralak -- 18 years older but not nearly as well known (he's mostly worked in groups: Tie Break, Graal, Yeshe). They scoured early (primitive) recordings for ideas: old ones, as deep and universal as possible. Terrific all around, especially the bass. A- [bc]
Adam Pieronczyk: Monte Albán (2016, Regent): Polish saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also credited with keyboards, electronics, drum programming), leads a sax trio with electric bass (Robert Kubiszyn) and drums (Hernán Hecht) through tricky freebop mazes. A- [cd]
Preoccupations: Preoccupations (2016, Jagjaguwar): Canadian alt-rock band previously known as Viet Cong, probably renamed after some marketers fretted about the huge US market. So while they sound even more like those forgettable lefty Brit bands from the 1980s (i.e., not Gang of Four or Mekons or even Three Johns), they're betting against revolution. B+(*)
Prince Rama: X-Treme Now (2016, Carpark): Brooklyn psych-dance duo, sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson. Strong beat, thickly layered, a Jason Gross favorite I should like but find inexplicably annoying. B-
Isaiah Rashad: The Sun's Tirade (2016, Top Dawg Entertainment): Rapper, from Chattanooga, first official studio album after a well-regarded 49:29 EP (Cilvia Demo), has a nice, even flow, the kind of thing I enjoy but rarely catch much from. B+(**)
Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Wistfully (2013 , Aerophonic): Recorded in pianist Harnik's home town of Graz, Austria, at a club called WIST (hence the title, with Rempis on alto and tenor sax, and Zerang percussion. A bit scattered. B+(*) [bc]
Dave Rempis/Joe Morris/Tomeka Reid/Jim Baker: Nettles (2013 , Aerophonic): Guitarist Morris visits Chicago, records this at an impromptu session at Elastic Arts, the sax-cello-piano following his lead, which isn't much lead at all. What you get is a more elaborate version of the prickly noodling of his early records. Not without interest. B+(*) [bc]
Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs: Neutral Nation (2015 , Aerophonic): All horns, two saxes -- Rempis on alto and baritone, Ochs on sopranino and tenor -- plus trumpet. B [bc]
Dawn Richard: Redemption (2016, Our Dawn): Nu soul singer-songwriter, previously associated with Diddy (or whatever his name was), has two previous studio albums so this one is styled as the tail-end of a trilogy. Strikes me as the most engaging of the three. B+(**)
Richmond Fontaine: You Can't Go Back if There's Nothing to Go Back To (2016, Fluff & Gravy): Alt-country group from Portland, eleventh album since 1996, a vehicle for singer-songwriter Willy Vlautin, who's also written four novels. Solid record, graceful tunes for a guy who thinks long and hard about his words. B+(***)
Randy Rogers Band: Nothing Shines Like Neon (2016, Tommy Jackson): Texas band, starts with a paean to San Antone, heavy on the pedal steel. Not much western swing after that, just a good ol' bar band. Highlight is a slacker anthem, "Takin' It as It Comes," courtesy of Jerry Jeff Walker. B+(*)
Jimetta Rose: The Light Bearer (2016, Temporary Whatever): Hip-hop singer-rapper from Los Angeles, couple albums, produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow. Many layers, little excitement. B-
Jeff Rosenstock: Worry (2016, Side One Dummy): Rock and roller from Long Island, somewhere on the plane between rockabilly and punk but not very close to either (although note 17 songs in 37:42). Came up in bands like Arrogant Sons of Bitches (1998-2006) and Bomb the Music Industry! (2005-11). Sample lyrics: "if you scream and no one hears you/are you even making noise?"; "we don't want to live inside a hell hole/waste our energy on all these assholes." B+(*)
Xenia Rubinos: Black Terry Cat (2016, Anti-): R&B singer (probably -songwriter) from Brooklyn, Latin roots but pretty assimilated into the funk/dance underground, even if she's sometimes "an angry brown girl.' B+(*)
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (2016 , Run the Jewels): Producer El-P and rapper Killer Mike, second album scored high on 2014 EOY lists but this one appeared too late for notice in 2016 (digital release Dec. 24) but the CD release held back until Jan. 13, we'll treat it as a 2017 release. Much as before, the beats are forced hard, the rhymes dense, the one I caught about refusing to kill for the government makes sense to me, also the one about "mama said." A-
L.A. Salami: Dancing With Bad Grammar (2016, PIAS America): British singer-songwriter, Nigerian descent (L.A. short for Lookman Adekunle) but you'd never guess. I made him for a folkie, and for a while thought he sounded more like Dylan than anyone since the young Ian Hunter. Was ready to write him off, then "Aristotle Ponders the Sound" got interesting. B+(*)
Hillary Scott & the Scott Family: Love Remains (2016, Capitol Nashville): Nashville singer, the Lady-third of Lady Antebellum, a group I've never had any more fondness for than I hold for the "peculiar institution" their name evokes. Her first solo album, produced by Ricky Skaggs, who works some banjo in with the strings, disguised as a family affair and chock full of Jesus songs. B-
Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (2009-10 , Eden River): Booklet doesn't provide recording dates, but a query returned 2009-10, which would place the diminutive singer's "last album" 4-5 years before his death at 88 in 2014. This ties into a movie I haven't seen, and all the songs feature guests -- biggest surprise for me: two duets with Joe Pesci -- and various bands. Mostly classic standards, given his trademark quirks. He's always been an acquired taste, and I can't say as I've ever really gotten into him, but seems like a touching way to wind up a long and storied career. B+(**) [cd]
Richard Sears Sextet: Altadena (2015 , Ropeadope): Pianist, got a commission for this five-part suite "to recognize and honor the legendary drummer, Albert 'Tootie' Heath," who gets "feat." credit on the cover. With Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Steven Lugerner (alto sax/bass clarinet), Patrick Wolff (tenor sax), and Garret Lang (bass). Postbop, a bit fancy, strong horn leads. B+(**)
Aubrie Sellers: New City Blues (2016, Warner Nashville): Debut album, variously described as neotrad and/or alt-country, she calls it "garage country," so a little unruly. Not sure whether covering "In My Room" is a smart or lame choice. B+(*)
Noura Mint Seymali: Arbina (2016, Glitterbeat): Griot from Mauritania, second album, mother also one of the Saharan nation's most famous singers. Not sure what the fuss is about her voice, other than it seems a bit off. Band has plenty of groove. B+(***)
Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio: Live in Seattle (2015 , Arena Music Promotion): Piano-bass duets. Players have long history together, mostly in Shipp's trio, also with Ivo Perelman. B+(**)
Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (2016 , Thirsty Ear): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums), follows a remarkably prolific run where we've heard Shipp in many diverse contexts, and comes with (not his first) vow to give up recording. Still very much on top of his game here. A- [cd]
Amanda Shires: My Piece of Land (2016, BMG): Singer-songwriter from Lubbock, plays violin, but her first album in 2005 and never got too comfortable. B+(***)
Shura: Nothing's Real (2016, Polydor): British electropop singer-songwriter, first album (after an EP and several singles), production low-key, appealing. B+(**)
Sia: This Is Acting (2016, Inertia/Monkey Puzzle/RCA): Pop singer Sia Furler, from Australia, seventh album. Big voice, heavier than most, tends to overdramatize, but that's always been part of the craft. B+(*)
Dave Soldier: The Eighth Hour of Amduat (2016 , Mulatta): Day job is neuroscientist at Columbia University, but he has dabbled in highly experimental music since the late 1980s, such as his Soldier String Quartet, a bluesier group called The Kropotkins, and an ensemble of fourteen elephants (Thai Elephant Orchestra). This is an "opera for mezzosoprano, choir, improvising soloists, orchestra and electronics" based on Egyptian hieroglyphics -- the first credit listed is Rita Lucarelli, for "Egyptology and translation of hieroglyphs to Italian. Needless to say, I can't abide the diva (Sahoko Sato Timpone), but the other featured musician is Marshall Allen, and the score breaks into marvelous passages as often as it crashes and burns. Soldier's own credits are for water bowls and electronics. Remarkable, although I doubt I'll ever play it again. B+(*) [cd]
Kandace Springs: Soul Eyes (2016, Blue Note): Singer, on a jazz label but not very jazzy, based in Nashville but even less country or r&b either. B
Suede: Night Thoughts (2016, Suede): Britpop band, emerged in the 1990s as part of a wave that never really broke though in the US (where they were forced to do business as The London Suede). Broke up after five albums 1993-2002, regrouping for one in 2013 and now this one. Don't know whether they've always been so grandiose, but this is heavier than opera, even if the slurry of sludge is made from relatively lightweight metals. C+
Susso: Keira (2016, Soundway): Bassist Huw Bennett, built this from Mandinka field recordings made on a recent trip to Gambia, an old-fashioned approach that celebrates the primitive even as it passes. B+(*)
Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (2016 , Intakt): Piano/sax duets, Murray also playing bass clarinet. The pair recorded a previous album in 1991, Blue Monk, long a personal favorite, and they add another Monk piece here, along with seven originals (Takase 4, Murray 3) which makes this a bit harder to fall for, but the pianist is superb, and Murray is as awesome as ever. A- [cd]
Aaron Lee Tasjan: Silver Tears (2016, New West): Singer-songwriter from Ohio but based in Nashville, filed under Americana and he wears enough glitter for West Plains, but I have quibbles, some sonic, some thematic. Still, the one about bars and blues is amusing. B
T.I.: Us or Else (2016, Grand Hustle/Roc Nation, EP): Six cuts, 22:24, released Sept. 23, ahead of the 15-cut LP that came out in December. Hard, bleek, and knowing (i.e., political), with Killer Mike the key guest. B+(***)
T.I.: Us or Else: Letter to the System (2016, Grand Hustle/Roc Nation, EP): Expands the EP to 15 cuts, with the opening "I Believe" especially profound. All through 2016 hip-hop artists have been doubling down on Black Lives Matter, while the Trump backlash has pushed hip-hop to ever more political and cultural import. Indeed, it's not surprising that Trump is having trouble lining up "entertainment" for his inaugural, as his demographic's grasp of American culture has become so atrophied. A-
Jonah Tolchin: Thousand Mile Night (2016, Yep Roc): Blues-based singer-songwriter, third album, I thought the second (Clover Lane) was real good, this clearly the same guy but not his best songs. B+(**)
Trio Red Space: Fields of Flat (2015 , Relay): Chicago avant trio, drummer Tim Daisy the composer here, with Mars Williams (tenor/soprano sax) and Jeb Bishop (trombone) -- all former members of Vandermark 5 (but no more than two at a time). B+(**) [bc]
Ken Vandermark: Site Specific (2014-15 , Audiographic, 2CD): Solo, various saxes and clarinets, recorded in four different locations selected for their unusual acoustic properties -- "House," "Cavern," "Tracks" (a train trestle), and "Pipe." I'm not remotely sharp enough to discern those effects, but do find this to be one of Vandermark's more varied and engaging solo efforts. CD package comes with a book. B+(**) [bc]
Venetian Snares: Traditional Synthesizer Music (2016, Timesig): Aaron Funk, born and evidently stuck in Winnipeg, Canada -- a 2005 album is titled Winnipeg Is a Frozen Shithole -- has several dozen albums since 1998 (debut title: Eat Shit and Die). These are somewhat retro pieces for modular synth and, I suspect, drums -- if those are synth, I'm even more impressed. A-
The Wainwright Sisters: Songs in the Dark (2015, PIAS): Half-sisters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche, scions of a famous folkie clan, drawing on the family songbook, trad., and a few others, focusing on lullabies, not merely of interest to toddlers. B+(**)
Warehouse: Super Low (2016, Bayonet): Atlanta group, punkish, not all thrash, though they can do that. B+(**)
Watkins Family Hour: Watkins Family Hour (2015, Thirty Tigers): Bluegrass group, principally Sean and Sara Watkins, formerly of Nickel Creek. Fades off into alcohol songs, which isn't really their strong suit. B
Randy Weston/African Rhythms: The African Nubian Suite (2012 , African Rhythms, 2CD): Pianist, born in Brooklyn 86 years before this was recorded but his parents came from Jamaica and he soon developed a deep fascination with Africa and the spread of its culture all around the world. Influenced by Duke Ellington, he's gone on to write extended suites, but this is a live concert with various discrete guest spots -- including pipa and balafon as well as trombone and Texas tenor -- framed by Wayne Chandler's opening narration and Jayne Cortez's closing poetry slam. Still, what elevates this from variety show is the pianist's patter, not just introducing musicians but illuminating his life's work and worldview. A- [cd]
Weyes Blood: Front Row Seat to Earth (2016, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter Natalie Mering, third album. Don't care for her voice, and never really got past that. B-
Wolter Wierbos/Jasper Stadhouders/Tim Daisy: Sounds in a Garden (2016, Relay): Recorded in Chicago, home turf of drummer Daisy, with two Dutch visitors: a venerable trombonist (Wierbos) and a young guitarist (Stadhouders). Good showcase for the trombonist. B+(***) [bc]
David Wise: Till They Lay Me Down (2016 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist, debut album, backed by guitar-bass-drums. I do love a great mainstream tenor sax show, and this is more than half-way there. But the vocals turn me off, both Wise at tne end and especially Jason Joseph on the opener. B+(**) [cd]
Eri Yamamoto Trio: Firefly (2012 , AUM Fidelity): Pianist, born in Osaka, Japan, moving to New York in 1995, has a half-dozen albums since 2006, mostly trios like this one with David Ambrosio on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums. B+(*)
Eri Yamamoto Trio: Life (2016, AUM Fidelity): Another piano trio record, also with David Ambrosio (bass) and Ikuo Takeuchi (drums, also all originals (except one from the drummer). A little more vibrant, or maybe I just mean upbeat. B+(**)
C. Spencer Yeh & Ken Vandermark: Schlager (2015 , Audiographic): Another duet album, Vandermark on his usual reeds, Yeh credited with voice, violin, and electronics. The latter sets things up in interesting if oblique ways, which is really all the saxophonist needs. B+(**) [bc]
Dhafer Youssef: Diwan of Beauty and Odd (2016, Okeh): Tunisian singer-songwriter, plays oud, with pianist Aaron Parks providing the jazz footing (also on hand: Ben Williams, Mark Guilliana, and Ambrose Akinmusire). More beauty than odd, although I find his falsetto a bit creepy. B
Miguel Zenón: Típico (2016 , Miel Music): Alto saxophonist, from Puerto Rico, teaches at New England Conservatory, quickly established himself as one of his generation's top players. Tenth album since 2002, many referring back to his Latin roots, as title and cover do here -- but none of the instruments on the cover exist in the album. Rather, he plays within the jazz tradition, building on his long-running quartet -- Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawisching (bass), and Henry Cole (drums) -- and that frees him up for some of his most dynamic playing in years. A- [cd]
Zomba Prison Project: I Will Not Stop Singing (2016, Six Degrees): Field recordings from a prison in Malawi, a landlocked nation in southeastern Africa, second album from the project, could be viewed as a various artists compilation but the artists are so obscured I don't see the separate credits. I do hear many different voices, divers styles, common complaints. B+(**)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Mose Allison: American Legend: Live in California (2006 , Ibis): Live "best-of" from a four-day stand backed by bass and drums, nearly a decade on the shelf when it appeared about a year before his death (at 89) last November. I'm surprised by how many songs I recognize, struck by the vitality of his piano, and must note how little nuance his voice conveys. B+(*)
Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta (1970s , Numero Group, 3CD): Formerly a landlocked French colony wedged between Mali and Ghana, independent in 1958 nd renamed Burkina Faso in 1984, capital Ouagadougou, little noted for its music or much of anything, so this compilation is playing catch-up. First disc is by Volta Jazz; second by Coulibaly Tidani, L'Authentique Orchestre Dafra Star; third by several others. First is closer to highlife, a delight; second leans toward the Malian griots; the third oddly charming even when it's far from great. I haven't seen the book, allegedly substantial. B+(***)
Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984 (1980-84 , Cultures of Soul): Operative word here is "disco" -- very little marks this as distinctly South African. Eight cuts, three artists, Benjamin Ball the only one worth hearing ("Flash a Flashlight," "I Just Keep Dancing"). B-
Brother Ahh/Sound Awareness: Move Ever Onward (1975 , Manufactured): Bob Northern collected an impressive resume of side-credits from 1959-69, ranging from Monk's Orchestra at Town Hall to Coltrane's Africa/Brass Sessions to The Individualism of Gil Evans to The Jazz Composers Orchestra and Liberation Music Orchestra. He adopted the name Brother Ah as a DJ and used it for his 1974 debut, Sound Awareness, then this. He plays drums, flute, French horn, sitar, and "nature sounds," and is joined by a lot of exotic instruments (including five koto players). Makes for exotic groove pieces, but the vocals get in the way: Aiisha's are off-the-charts bad, the poems and Kwesi Gilbert Northern's croon not much better. B-
Brother Ah and the Sounds of Awareness: Key to Nowhere (1983 , Manufactured): Third (and evidently last) album for Bob Northern's globe-and-cosmic-spanning post-jazz group, both concept and percussion narrowed considerably, with the vocals moderated and the leader more focused both on flute and French horn -- although "Nature's Blues" is still pointedly "now age," and "Celebration" finds its groove. B+(*)
Joe Bushkin: Live at the Embers 1952 (1952 , Dot Time): Pianist (1916-2004), started in the late 1930s with Bunny Berigan and Eddie Condon, Discogs credits him with twenty-some albums 1950-89 although I hadn't previously noticed him. Trio cuts with Milt Hinton and Papa Jo Jones, plus several features for trumpeter Buck Clayton, still swinging in the bebop era. B+(***)
Fanfare Ciocarlia: 20 (1996-2016 , Asphalt Tango): Gypsy brass band from Romania, weddings a specialty, cut their first album (Radio Pascani) in 1996, and eight more over two decades, summed up in this double-LP retrospective (runs 90 minutes, evidently no CD). The early wedding pieces seem to be interchangeable, but their unique take makes occasional covers stand out, as does the Kottarashky rap at the end. A-
Gqom Oh! The Sound of Durban Vol. 1 (2016, Goom Oh!): Basically a label sampler, 12 cuts, 10 artists (dupes: Citizen Boy, Emo Kid) but basically the same (so maybe just a producer sampler -- label heads are Lerato Phiri from Durban and Nan Kolé from Rome) -- electronica with a mechanistic beat and little dressing. Still seems to work. B+(*) [bc]
Chris McGregor & the Castle Lager Big Band: Jazz/The African Sound (1963 , Jazzman): South African pianist, white, formed this mostly black big band a year before he took his smaller, more famous group (The Blue Notes) into exile. With two pieces each by McGregor, Kippie Moeketsi (clarinet), and Abdullah Ibrahim (not part of the band), this aims at American swing bands but you still can hear echoes of South African township jazz. B+(**)
Elvis Presley: Way Down in the Jungle Room (1976 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD): Collects two sessions from his last year, released at the time as From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee and Moody Blue, with one disc of masters and a second of outtakes including studio patter. At the time this must have sounded like utter crap the great man had been reduced to, but as a historical document his magnificence somehow creeps through. B+(*)
Putumayo Presents: African Rumba (1962-2015 , Putumayo World Music): Cuba's slave system was relatively unique in how it preserved regional differences among Afro-Cubans, and it also persisted longer than any other, so it's not surprising to find several distinct cross-cultural flows, notably Cuban-Congo rumba. I'm still unclear on exactly what flowed where, and can't say this helps, but I can't complain about another helping of Africa's most pleasurable groove. I should note that aside from one early track from L'African Fiesta (Rochereau and Dr. Nico) the oldest thing here dates from 2006, and that there are many alternatives, ranging from Crammed Disc's 1950's vintage Roots of Rumba Rock to Syllart's 1954-69 Rumba on the River to the Franco's 1956-87 The Very Best of the Rumba Giant of Zaire. A- [cd]
Chris Rogers: Voyage Home (2001 , Art of Life): Trumpet player, has some big band experience, Discogs credits him with a piece on a VA comp from 1997 but I haven't found anything else. This long-shelved item is recommended for its famous sidemen -- Michael Brecker, Ted Nash, Steve Khan, Xavier Davis, etc. I don't care much for the postbop harmony, but did find myself looking up a sax solo (it was Nash). B [cd]
Sheer Mag: Compilation (2014-16 , Wilsuns RC): Punkish Philadelphia group, Tina Halladay is the singer, released a 4-song EP called 7" in 2014, another in 2015 (II 7"), a third in 2016 (III 7"), with their label rolling up into a fair sized LP, a public service. B+(***) [bc]
Southern Family (2016, Elektra/Low Country Sound): Producer Dave Cobb set up this showcase for a dozen relatively young country singers to burnish their Christian/Family Values credentials. Mixed bag, with Jason Isbell's "God Is a Working Man" and Brandy Clark's 'I Cried" highlights and Morgane Stapleton's unsunny version of "You Are My Sunshine" an anomaly. B+(**)
Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed! (1977-85 , Analog Africa): A chain of volcanic islands 350 miles off the coast of Senegal, uninhabited until the 15th century when the Portuguese introduced sugar and slavery and used the colony as a jumping-off point for even greater exploitations, Cabo Verde remained a Portugese colony until 1975. Legend has it that the local pop music was built on a shipwrecked cargo of synthesizers, and that's what's featured here, along with guitar, horns, voices, etc. B+(**)
Cecil Taylor: Live in the Black Forest (1978 , MPS): Reissue of a 1979 album, a SWF-Radio concert recorded in Kirchzarten in West Germany with the pianist's explosive sextet: Raphe Malik (trumpet), Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), Ramsey Ameen (violin), Sirone (bass), and Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums). Two long pieces, flashes of brilliance but not as good as they got -- cf., say, One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, from the same year. B+(**)
The Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (1964-68 , Resonance): Gene Harris' piano trio, with Andrew Simpkins (bass) and Bill Dowdy (drums), originally formed as a quartet in 1956 but soon lost their saxophonist, and went on to record more than two dozen albums up to 1971. Cherry-picked from several sessions (including a couple substitute drummers), making sure that everything lives up to the title. A- [cd]
Simon Nabatov/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: Tough Customer (1992 , Enja): Pianist, born in Moscow in 1959, moved to Rome in 1979, then New York before settling in Cologne in 1989. The pianist often dazzles, flash that may blind even him to his avant potential. 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, January 23. 2017
Music: Current count 27673  rated (+34), 363  unrated (-7).
Still working on EOY Aggregate List: up to 416 lists, with many recent ones focused on jazz (the best index of jazz EOY lists is at St. Louis Jazz Notes -- I've probably hit about half of them so far). The jazz lists haven't had much effect overall -- little change there, with close contests currently favoring Nick Cave (342) over Kanye West (341) for 7th, and Bon Iver (287) over Angel Olsen (285) for 10th.
Since January 2, A Tribe Called Quest advanced from 7th to 6th (and is currently -11 from 5th place Solange), Chance the Rapper is up from 10th to 9th, Leonard Cohen from 14th to 12th, and Rihanna from 19th to 17th (Kaytranada also passing Mitski). The Village Voice Critics Poll comes out later this week. Knowing that poll as I do, I'd say that the winning odds are about even between David Bowie (clear winner of my EOY Aggregate List), Beyoncé (second here, her previous record a surprise 5th way ahead of my tracking file), and A Tribe Called Quest (the late arrival/late gainer this year, by far the most likely album to finish higher than on my list). If I had to wager on one of those, I'm thinking A Tribe Called Quest: despite the law of averages the Voice Poll has come up with a surprising number of upsets in recent years, especially late releases of hip-hop/r&b albums.
I also rather expect Chance the Rapper to improve (from 9th to about 5th), and I wouldn't be surprised to find Leonard Cohen and Car Seat Headrest sneaking into the top 10 (displacing Nick Cave, who may not finish in the top 20, and Bon Iver, who should drop to around 15th. I expect Radiohead (currently 4th) will drop some but probably not enough to fall from the top ten. The top twenty have been pretty consistently firewalled against lower records: Blood Orange is in 20th with 162, just below Mitski (171), Kaytranada (179), and Rihanna (184), while 21st is Kendrick Lamar (139, a 16.5% gap), followed by Sturgill Simpson (132), Jenny Hval (118), and Parquet Courts (115). I'd say the most likely records to climb up/in the top fifty are: Parquet Courts (24), Drive-By Truckers (31), Miranda Lambert (37), Young Thug (38), Wilco (47). More outside chances: Maren Morris (46), Brandy Clark (48), White Lung (58), Childish Gambino (71), NxWorries (79), Lori McKenna (92).
For what little it's worth, the highest rated record I haven't heard yet this year is Weyes Blood: Front Row Seat to Earth (57) -- a record that has been slowly gaining ground. The recent focus on jazz lists has raised the whole genre. One effect is that crossed-over BadBadNotGood (which, at least this time, I'm not included to view as jazz at all, and will note that they didn't get a single JCP vote) dropping from 1st to 3rd. The leaders right now are Mary Halvorson and Wadada Leo Smith, eclipsing JCP poll winner Henry Threadgill (4) and Jack DeJohnette (5). Aside from crossover entries (BBNG in 3rd, Esperanza Spalding in 9th), the one record that has really pulled ahead of JCP is Anna Högberg Attack -- probably shows that I have more avant and more European lists than JCP did. The top-rated jazz record I haven't heard yet is Battle Trance (35), followed by the 8-CD Joëlle Léandre box (93) and Jon Lundbom's EPs (94 -- I've heard them as they came out, but never got the finished compilation so haven't bothered grading them as a whole). It's actually unusual that I've managed to listen so far down the lists, but I suppose counting my own grades (up to five points) has skewed that respect.
I expect I'll add the complete Voice poll standings into the EOY Aggregate and then be done working on it. It's chewed up a lot of time this year even though I've counted less than half as many lists as last year, and kept me away from working on other projects -- like compiling the Jazz Guide(s). I also haven't made any effort to freeze my 2016 list, but should do that no later than January 31. As it is, three (of six) A- records this week have 2017 release dates (a fourth appeared in Poland on October 24 but only arrived here last week). Or I might freeze when I post January's Streamnotes -- likely to be some time this coming week, given that I already have 134 reviews in the draft file.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, January 16. 2017
Music: Current count 27639  rated (+53), 370  unrated (+3).
Fifty-one records in the list below, so at most I picked up two extras I had graded but not recorded in the past, or maybe there's a record or two I added to the database but somehow forgot to list below. Either way, I clearly kept my ears to the grindstone all last week, as I was working on updating the Robert Christgau website and adding lists to this year's EOY Aggregate file. I should update the former more often than every six months, but it's done for now -- only missing last week's EW on Run the Jewels and T.I. No idea how many more EOY lists I'll add, but that project is done enough I could walk away from it at any time.
While I'm thinking of it, let me make a pitch for an Indiegogo project my nephew is working on: Help Us Save the Elizabeth M. Fink Attica Archive. Liz was a radical lawyer who joined the Attica Brothers defense team shortly after Nelson Rockefeller ordered the massacre of dozens of prisoners and guards, and saw the case to its conclusion thirty-some years later. In the process, she collected a huge amount of evidence on what actually happened. My nephew, Mike Hull, is a filmmaker and Liz entrusted him with the video evidence before her death last year. He's already digitized the video evidence, and now needs some funding to properly organize the archive for posterity. Would appreciate it if you can help him out.
By the way, we went to a screening of a new film that Mike and Jason Bailey produced. It was very funny, a pseudo-documentary about an exploitation filmmaker in the 1970s and 1980s, cutting between "newly discovered" film trailers and critics talking about how bad they were. I think the title is Lost & Found, but it's not the 2017 film by that name at IMDB, and I'm not seeing anything on it either at the Films on Consignment or Fifth Column Filmworks websites, so I'll have to get more info later.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, January 9. 2017
Music: Current count 27586  rated (+38), 367  unrated (+1).
Ran through a lot of records last week, including finally dipping into the 2017 release queue, starting with a Randy Weston joint that garnered a couple votes in the 2016 Jazz Critics Poll, then following up with Intakt's January releases and Satoko Fujii's best Orchestra album ever. Along with Run the Jewels (a December 24 digital release but I'm figuring the January 13 CD release to be more official) I already have four A-list albums for 2017. But most of the albums listed below are 2016 releases recommended by various EOY lists, whatever I could find that tickled my fancy. Good hip-hop week. Of the HMs, the one that tempted me most was by the Klezmatics.
I should note that Nat Hentoff died last week, at 91. I met him once back in the 1970s, and at the time thought of him mostly as a political columnist rather obsessed with defending free speech. Since then I've gotten an inkling of his deep commitment to jazz. It says something that the two jazz musicians I most closely link to him are Ruby Braff and Cecil Taylor -- he was a huge critical fan of both. Here's an obit from Evan Haga. Probably much more out there.
I'm more or less caught up with the EOY Aggregate file, but will probably keep adding stragglers and late finds of personal interest. One surprise at this point is that margins for two pair of high slots are currently down to one vote: Beyonce 389-388 in 2nd over Frank Ocean, and A Tribe Called Quest 298-297 in 6th over Nick Cave. Highest tie at present is 89-89 between Avalanches and Iggy Pop for 28th place.
Link to share: Can't Slow Down: Michaelangelo Matos' "notes toward a history of the pop world of 1984."
New records rated this week:
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Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, January 2. 2017
Music: Current count 27548  rated (+36), 366  unrated (+4).
Most of the week's discoveries have already been unveiled in Saturday's Streamnotes post, although I did add one more A- record a day later, from Venetian Snares -- a synth programmer from Winnipeg with a jazz master's sense of rhythm. Also came close to adding the new Klezmatics album, but I stretched its consideration beyond my cutoff moment. Whereas alt-country provided most of my A- finds last week, this week's winners were mostly rap albums.
I temporarily caught up with my backlog of EOY lists, not that I won't keep adding data at least up through Pazz & Jop (as it used to be known). Top of the list is pretty consistent at this point, with only minor fluctuations and no trends I can discern. The top 50 reads as follows (with my grades in brackets):
Probably the first year ever where I've heard all top-50 albums (informed as I am that this year's Chaleur Humaine is just a British repackaging of last year's eponymous Christine and the Queens album -- the one I've heard -- which was itself a reissue of the 2014 French Chaleur Humaine). The top five have been stable for a while now, even though the 2-3 margin is just 11 (I don't think the lead has ever changed). I had originally expected Beyoncé to catch Bowie but the closest they've come was about 30 points, and Bowie has been steadily building his lead over the last 2-3 weeks. I suspect she's lost votes (at least positions) to sister Solange.
Note that 6-7-8 are still very close (6 points total). Nick Cave does exceptionally well in non-English-language pubs, and I've picked up quite a few of them. Tribe got a late start, but seems to have hit a plateau, at least here -- I figure they'll finish 4th in the Voice poll, behind Bowie-Beyoncé-Ocean. The 9-10 race is also close (1 point), but 11-16 is pretty well spread out, 17-20 close (5 points), then a big jump to 21 (27 points).
My grade breakdown is: 15 A-, 10 ***, 8 **, 10 *, 3 B, 3 B-, 1 C+. I'd be real surprised if any previous year broke that favorably. (Last year I had 9 A- [-6], 11 *** [-1], 12 * [+2], and 9 B/lower [+2], with 3 unrated.) Number of lists compiled is down from 720 to 231, so there are quite a few more I could add if the spirit moves me. Total records are down from 5285 to 2402.
At this point, all of the new jazz CDs in my queue are scheduled for release in 2017, so I've felt justified in ignoring them. (I also held a few that I have listened to back for January's Streamnotes.) I'll start digging into them over the next week or two, but for a while I plan on concentrating on 2016 releases I've missed. Maybe start thinking about what to do in this coming year.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, December 31. 2016
Again, backed up against the end of the month, and for that matter the year. No time to write a proper introduction, but this month's list is long enough you should have plenty to chew on. Many EOY lists fed into my effort to mop up this month, and that will continue for another month of two. Once again my New Year's Resolution is to cut back. Indeed, I did cut back a bit this year, with only 964 records in this year's rating file, vs. 1112 (1269) for 2015, 1167 (1248) for 2014, 1151 (1222) for 2013, 978 (1190) for 2012, and 1247 (1419, my all-time record, back when the Village Voice was publishing Jazz Consumer Guide) for 2011. (The numbers in parens include post-freeze grades, so it's premature to compare this year against them.)
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 November 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (8978 records).
Ab-Soul: Do What Thou Wilt (2016, Top Dawg): LA rapper, came out of the Black Hippy collective (along with Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q) but has stayed underground through four albums. This is a long one (76:57), clever words and social concerns twisted around minor beats, has some guests I've actually heard of but doesn't look to go mainstream. A-
Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: We Be All Africans (2016, Strut): Saxophonist, b. Bruce Baker in Chicago, c. 1950, studied and toured with Cecil Taylor, also an actor, tap dancer, founder/director of San Francisco performance company Cultural Odyssey, has a handful of album since 1997 ranging from avant jazz to Afrobeat, which is more/less what this is. Vocals are rather perfunctory, but the sax leads command attention. B+(***)
Adia Victoria: Beyond the Bloodhounds (2016, Canvasback/Atlantic): Last name Paul, singer-songwriter originally from South Carolina, now based in Nashville, but I don't hear any country influence, nor blues nor gospel -- more like a non-Anglo Kate Bush, posh poesy with lush melodies but none too comfortable. B+(*)
Aesop Rock & Homebody Sandman: Lice Two: Still Buggin' (2016, Stones Throw, EP): Sequel to 2015's EP, this one also five cuts (16:06), rushes by so fast it seems even shorter. B+(***) [bc]
Harry Allen's All Star New York Saxophone Band: The Candy Men (2016, Arbors): Three mainstream tenors -- Allen, Eric Alexander, and Grant Stewart -- plus Gary Smulyan on baritone, backed by Rossano Sportiello's piano trio. Lest you doubt the obvious, they kick off with "Four Brothers." You're left marveling not just at how much the tenors sound like their mentors, but also each other. B+(*)
Babyfather: BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow (2016, Hyperdub): Alias for Dean Blunt, who's also recorded under his own name and (with Inga Copeland) as Hype Williams. Electronica with something that sounds like harp, his mantra ("that's why I'm proud to be British") falls on unreceptive ears, and the white noise of "Flames" was so insufferable I turned the volume way down low. Has some redeeming value, but not enough. B-
BadBadNotGood: IV (2016, Innovative Leisure): Jazz quartet (sax-keys-bass-drums), tempted to say they're Canada's answer to the Yellowjackets but they're a couple generations removed, their fusion more informed by hip-hop, especially in the five (of eleven) songs with featured guests -- e.g., Kaytranada and Mick Jenkins, but Colin Stetson also appears. B-
John Beasley: Presents MONK'estra Vol. 1 (2016, Mack Avenue): Pianist, here just arranges and conducts, running Monk tunes through the mill of a big band plus the occasional guest soloist -- credits are hard to come by, but one source mentions "MONK'estras" like Gary Burton and Gregoir Maret. Has some flash and sizzle, but too often rubs me the wrong way. B-
William Bell: This Is Where I Live (2016, Stax): Memphis soul singer, had some minor r&b hits for Stax in the late 1960s, is 77 now with his first album in a decade. No problem evoking the classic sound, and that almost suffices, but the songs aren't up to snuff, and not just because they're dead ass dreary. B
Sarah Bernstein Quartet: Still/Free (2015 , Leo): Violinist, has several avant recordings as Iron Dog, backed by piano trio here -- Kris Davis (piano), Stuart Popejoy (electric bass), Ches Smith (drums) -- this is sometimes polite enough for chamber jazz, but often risks something more, especially when Davis kicks it up a notch. B+(***)
Beyoncé: Lemonade (2016, Parkwood/Columbia): Not on Rhapsody, so I waited before finally breaking down to buy a copy, and hesitated again when I found I'd have to pay for a DVD in the bargain. Haven't watched the latter yet, nor have I seen the videos from the "Platinum Edition" repackaging of her eponymous 2013 album, nor have I found any time to track down her internet videos (even the one that pre-sold this album). I might not even have bothered but given the way Beyoncé broke in Pazz & Jop after its late release, this looked like this year's odds-on favorite -- and as it turns out was the only EOY Aggregate top-forty album I hadn't heard. Lots of good records on that list this year, but none I especially love. This is more impressive than most, although I doubt I'll ever care that much for someone who aspires to be "the black Bill Gates." A- [cd]
Black Art Jazz Collective: Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club (2016, Sunnyside): Sextet, hard bop lineup although they don't mean to be a throwback. Front-line horns have serious chops -- Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax -- and pianist Xavier Davis impresses. Two songs "inspired by Barack Obama," one each for W.E.B. Dubois, Sojourner Truth, and Joe Henderson. B+(**)
Aziza Brahim: Abbar El Hamada (2016, Glitterbeat): Singer-songwriter, born 1976 in a Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria, at age 11 received a scholarship to study in Cuba, based in Spain since 2000. Fifth album. Don't know what the songs refer to, but I get their heartfelt depth, and the attractive, not especially exotic, beat. B+(**)
David Bromberg Band: The Blues, the Whole Blues, and Nothing but the Blues (2016, Red House): Cut four records 1971-74 for Columbia, mostly played blues but seemed so short of grit he got filed as a folksinger. Since then he's bounced down to lower rung labels -- Fantasy in 1978, Rounder in 1989, Appleseed in 2007, with sizable gaps in between, finally landing in alt-blues land. Christgau says this "smokes" the Rolling Stones' recent blues cover album, but surely that's not the right word. More like sneaks by on the sly. B+(***)
Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Copenhagen (2016, Not Two): The saxophonist backs a bit off his usual full fury, giving the trombone a fighting chance -- something Swell makes the most of. And the drummer is always masterful in this sort of company. A- [cd]
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque: Oddara (2016, Linus Entertainment): Soprano saxophonist, also plays flute, her interest in Cuban music going back at least to 1991's Spirits of Havana. Second album under the Maqueque banner, a group featuring several vocalists -- often the rub for me, especially on the overripe "Song for You." The flute just blows in the wind, but the sax solos impress. B
Burial: Young Death/Nightmarket (2016, Hyperdub, EP): Dubstep producer William Bevan, actually just a single, the two named tracks, 13:14 total. First cut doesn't do anything for me, but the latter hits the same sweet spot he's been mining for years, perhaps with a bit more clutter than usual. B+(*)
Taylor Ho Bynum: Enter the Plustet (2016, Firehouse 12): Cornet player, Braxton protégé, has built an impressive body of work since 1999, recently working with mid-size groups, this one much grander with fifteen names on the cover, only two I didn't immediately recognize. Unconventional big band, the six brass including French horn and tuba, only three reeds, violin (Jason Kao Hwang), cello (Tomeka Reid), bass (Ken Filiano), guitar (Mary Halvorson), drums and vibes. Three pieces, richly varied, neglecting neither group power nor individual finnesse. A-
Joăo Camőes/Jean-Marc Foussat: Ŕ La Face Du Ciel! (2014 , Shhpuma): Viola player, has a couple recent albums, this a duo where Foussat works his electronics in around the edges, just enough to keep the string sound from wearing thin. B+(***)
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of Being (2015 , NoBusiness): Alto sax trio, drummer Lambert is pretty much inseparable from the saxophonist, and is joined here by Mazur on acoustic bass guitar. Carrier is impressive as usual, but one hardly notices the others. B+(***) [cd]
Albert Cirera/Hernâni Faustino/Gabriel Ferrandini/Agustí Fernández: Before the Silence (2015 , NoBusiness): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, based in Lisbon, backed by the bassist (Faustino) and drummer (Ferrandini) from the RED Trio and avant-pianist Fernández. Three long pieces (average 18 minutes), plus a brief coda. Best here is the pianist -- I've mostly heard him in duos before, but he throws himself into this with abandon, certainly helped by the rhythm section, and the sax benefits as well. A- [cd]
J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only (2016, Dreamville/Roc Nation/Interscope): Rapper, sells well but tends to release albums in December, too late to build any EOY list momentum. Like many popular rap records of late, this slacks off and slithers underground, not so much because that's a viable strategy for business as for survival. Time and again he draws me in and pushes me away -- not that I have any business taking his shtick personal. B+(**)
Jeff Collins: The Keys to Christmas (2016, Crossroads): Pianist, arranger, producer, evidently works mostly in gospel with sides in Americana and Bluegrass, here marches a big band through eclectic medleys of some of the smarmiest melodies in the history of Christmas commercialism. Maybe I should be amused by how far over the top he goes, but I'm not. C- [cd]
Alexis Cuadrado: Poética (2016, Sunnyside): Bassist, studied in Barcelona and Paris before moving to Brooklyn. Crafts his engaging music -- with Miles Okazaki (guitar), Andy Milne (piano), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) -- around spoken word by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Melcion Mateu, the former close to rap, the latter in some other language, probably Catallan. B+(**)
CupcakKe: Cum Cake (2016, self-released): Rapper Elizabeth Eden Harris, from Chicago, turned some heads with her explicit raunch ("Vagina," "Deepthroat," "Tit for Tat," "Juicy Coochie" -- "don't need no drink to get naughty/ because I'm not Bill Cosby") but the strongest cut here is an acappella dis ("Reality, Pt. 2") -- not that I have any complaints against her beats. A-
Daniele D'Agaro/Giovanni Maier/Zlatko Kaucic: Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette (2015 , Not Two): Sax trio, D'Agaro playing alto, tenor, clarinet, and bass clarinet -- the ostensible group name actually a Coleman Hawkins song, but the label actually credits the musicians, and that's as plausible as anything given the cover. Sounds a bit thin for Ornette, but the alto captures the right tone. B+(**)
Deap Vally: Femejism (2016, Nevado): LA rock duo, Lindsey Troy (guitar) and Julie Edwards (drums), both sing, second album, a consistently hard thrash but two songs in the middle come clear and stand out -- one on feminism, one on critics and cynics. B+(***)
Dear Eloise: Uncontrollable, Ice Age Stories (2012 , Maybe Mars): Chinese husband-wife shoegaze duo, Yang Haisong and Sun Xia, several albums since their 2010 debut (The Words That Were Burnt. They produce indistinct vocals wrapped in a dense swarm of guitar noise punctuated by hard, regular beats. Not really my thing, but I'm impressed nonetheless. B+(*) [bc]
John Dikeman/Luis Vicente/Hugo Antunes/Gabriel Ferrandini: Salăo Brazil (2016, NoBusiness): Tenor sax, trumpet, bass, and drums, free improv recorded live in Coimbra -- "Salăo Brazil" is evidently a club there, and released on vinyl, which hopefully has more sound depth than my CDR (or maybe you're just supposed to play it louder). B+(*) [cdr]
The Dining Rooms: Do Hipsters Love Sun (Ra)? (2015, Schema): Electronic music duo from Milan, Italy, formed in 1998 by Stefano Ghittoni and Cesare Malfatti. Subtitle: "A soundtrack of cosmic funk, abstract jazz and cinematic avant-garde"; that mostly means ambient, with some overtalk exploring the title question, and more. B+(**)
The DKV Thing Trio: Collider (2014 , Not Two): Actually, a double sax trio, with Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson on various saxes and clarinet, Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten and Kent Kessler on bass, Paal Nilssen-Love and Hamid Drake on drums. Three joint improv pieces, 53:36, recorded in Krakow. Mucho squawk, but the last piece pounds the chaos into enough order to bring the noise home. B+(**)
Dog Leg Dilemma: Not This Time (2016 , self-released): Canadian (Toronto) jazz group, first album (after a live EP), Peter Bull (basses, whistling, woodblock, acoustic guitar, organ, electric whip) seems to be the leader, along with alto sax, guitar, drums, and violin on a couple tracks. Has a fusion flow but that's not really the feel. B+(*) [cd]
Pierre Dřrge & New Jungle Orchestra: Ubi Zaa (2016, SteepleChase): Guitarist, founded his Danish not-quite-big band in 1982, thinking Ellington while collaborating with South African bassist Johnny Dyani (d. 1986). Lots of dramatic build up for the guest star -- Kirk Knuffke on cornet -- but somehow their trademark swing got waylaid. B
Dave Douglas: Dark Territory (2014 , Greenleaf Music): Trumpet maestro, did some relatively early experiments with electronics but nothing very successful, takes another shot at it here with Shigeto (electronics), Jonathan Maron (electric/synth bass), and Mark Guilliana (acoustic/electric drums). B+(*)
Dave Douglas/Frank Woeste: Dada People (2015 , Greenleaf Music): Woeste is a pianist from Germany, split the writing chores five each with the trumpet star. Quartet adds Matt Brewer (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Only thing exceptional here is the trumpet, but you could have guessed that. B+(***)
Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (2016, Clean Feed): Bassist-led septet, the lead horns -- Nicole Mitchell's flutes and Marty Ehrlich's clarinets -- are so soft they merely add coloring, while Michael Dessen's trombone adds some ring to the bass. Joshua White plays piano and Jim Black drums, but they too lurk in the background, as David Morales Boroff's violin dominates the group sound -- for better or worse. B+(**) [cd]
D.D. Dumbo: Utopia Defeated (2016, 4AD): First LP after a couple EPs for Oliver Hugh Perry, from Australia but recorded in England. Singer-songwriter, framed in a little extra pop jangle glitz. B
El Guincho: Hiperasia (2016, Nacional): Spanish laptronica producer, Pablo Diaz-Reixa, draws on tropicalia and at his best recalls Tom Zé, but his cut-up techniques are awful choppy here, so much so that the miracles that Zé routinely pulls off elude him here. B
ELEW: And to the Republic (2016, Sunnyside): Pianist Eric Lewis, has a couple of previous volumes of what he calls Rockjazz, here with a piano trio with -- smaller print on the cover -- bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. This doesn't strike me as "jazzrock" although it rolls plenty hard. Title cut built around Mark Antony's famous speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I reckon to remind us how a previous republic descended into empire. B+(***)
EOLA: Dang (2016, Leaving, EP): Orlando FL-based group, principally Edwin Mathis White but probably other singers (and not much, if any, more) strikes me as bent gospel except when they're trying to make doo wop odder and more inaccessible -- I wasn't surprised to find an earlier album called The Lord's Jam. Nine cuts, 29:08. B-
Family Atlantica: Cosmic Unity (2016, Soundway): London-based group, second album, led by Jack Yglesias (Heliocentrics), featuring a Venezuelan diva (Luzmira Zerpa), a phalanx of west African percussionists, and various guests including saxophonists Marshall Allen and Orlando Julius. B+(*)
Fire!: She Sleeps/She Sleeps (2015 , Rune Grammofon): Norwegian group led by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (big horns: tenor, baritone, bass), with Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werliin (drums, lap steel guitar), plus guests on cello (2 of 4 tracks) and guitar (1 other cut). B+(**)
Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa: Eros (2016, Otá): Trumpet and piano, backed with strings, and, as front cover notes, featuring Natacha Atlas (vocals) & Jaques Morelenbaum (cello). Fresu and Sosa also credited with percussion, a nice little beat in places but not enough to drive the vocalist on the early tracks. More atmospheric to close, which suits them better. B+(*)
Jonny Fritz: Sweet Creep (2016, ATO): Started out as a "filthy and whimsical" Brooklyn cowboy, but gave up his original alias (Jonny Corndawg) for his more mature Dad Country and loses even more this time, turning into a rather sweet but straight songster. B+(*)
Future: EVOL (2016, Epic): Atlanta rapper, puts out quite a few mixtapes in addition to legit albums like this one. Beats are pretty compelling here, but none of the raps are sticking. B+(**)
GFOTY: Call Him a Doctor (2016, PC Music, EP): Brit pop singer, Polly-Louisa Salamon, uses an acronym for "girlfriend of the year," has a half-dozen singles/EPs since 2013 plus a handful of "mixes." Elements of electropop, but bent and often broken, or maybe just spoofed -- hard to tell when you don't quite care. Nine tracks, 20:22. B-
Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and Math (2016, ATO): Singer-songwriter, plays guitar and fiddle with authority, has an idiosyncratic voice I'm not much comfortable with, and writes song with some depth that more literary-minded listeners admire. I'm not there yet. B+(**)
Macy Gray: Stripped (2016, Chesky): Soul singer, pushing 50, signs to a jazz label and recycles her songbook as standards, backed tastefully by trumpet (Wallace Roney), guitar (Russell Malone), bass and drums. Low key, stripped down, her voice not much more than a whisper, which doesn't do much to remind me of her own songs but works nicely on Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." B+(**)
Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life (Song for the Wahles and Other Beings) (2011-15 , Impulse): The bassist died in 2014, after the live tracks that open and close, but before the middle three studio cuts where Steve Swallow fills in. Still, fairly seamless with Carla Bley arranging throughout and no other personnel changes. Richly textured, deeply resonant. Haden gets a bit sappy at the end, but that's the way he lived his life, and we should be grateful. A-
Wayne Hancock: Slingin' Rhythm (2016, Bloodshot): Has a great country voice, all drawl and bite, mellowed a bit here as is the music, which has settled ever more into a western swing groove. Covers "Divorce Me COD," at once a smart choice and an obvious one. I'd say he's coasting, but he may just be aging gracefully. B+(**)
Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat (2010 , Sunnyside): Young mainstream trumpeter, first album on his own although he has close to two dozen side credits, basically fields a hard bop quintet (plus a couple guest spots). His pairing with Abraham Burton (tenor sax) works well on the fast ones, and he's got a nice slow burn on the ballads. B+(**)
Heron Oblivion: Heron Oblivion (2016, Sub Pop): Psychedelic rock "supergroup" joining ex-members of Espers, Comets on Fire, Howlin' Rain, and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound -- I only vaguely recognize half of those band names, and only singer Meg Baird among the principals. Often I wonder what "psychedelic" means, but here I clearly hear echoes of those Jefferson Airplane guitars, so I figure that counts. B+(**)
Dre Hocevar: Transcendental Within the Sphere of Indivisible Remainder (2016, Clean Feed): Drummer, from Slovenia, leads a nine-piece group here, no one I recognize, where the first credit (Sam Pluta) is for live electronics and signal processing, and there is a synth player as well as a pianist (plus trumpet, two saxes, cello, and bass). The horns can get rough and rowdy, but the more discrete forms of chaos are hard to pin down. B+(*) [cd]
I Am Three: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015 , Leo): Filed this under German saxophonist Silke Eberhard, who's also the leader of Potsa Lotsa, a larger group with two albums surveying Eric Dolphy compositions. This trio -- name comes from the first line of Charles Mingus' autobiography -- with Nikolaus Neuser on trumpet and Christian Marien on drums plays classic Mingus tunes, but whereas the master took small groups and blew them up to sound like big bands, they pick at and chew over the bones, often to interesting effect. B+(***)
Ich Bin Nintendo: Lykke (2016, Shhpuma): Hardcore trio, I'd guess from Norway -- guitar/vocals Christian Skĺr Winther, bass Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard, drums Joakim Heibř Johansen -- play six songs averaging more than 5 minutes each (31:17). Hard, harsh, metallic, the rhythm with one foot dangling in free jazz. A thrill at first. B+(**)
Carly Rae Jepsen: E-MO-TION: Side B (2014-15 , School Boy/Interscope, EP): Leftovers from the sessions for her 2015 album E-MO-TION, eight previously unreleased songs, 27:36. Three or four of them are good enough they reminded me of Lily Allen (although not nearly so smart and/or cheeky), while the others would make for decent filler. B+(***)
Ka: Honor Killed the Samurai (2016, Iron Works): Kaseem Ryan, Brooklyn firefighter, his rap sideline dating back to 1993 but I'm unclear on details before his 2008 solo debut. This one weaves samurai lessons into a more domestic thread, offering a sense of hard-earned accomplishment and brutal fates. A-
Bobby Kapp/Matthew Shipp: Cactus (2016, Northern Spy): First album I see to list drummer Kapp's name first, but he dates back to the avant 1960s, and more recently played in the Fine Wine Trio. Duo with the younger but much more famous pianist -- who is terrific here, thinking percussion and building on that. A-
Brian Kastan: Roll the Dice on Life (2016 , Kastan, 2CD): Guitarist, fusion with a hard rock thrash, electric bass, drums, and vocals, with Miles Griffith singing, rapping, and mostly scatting, adding yet more thrash. I suppose I should credit the closing "Black Lives Matter" -- the only piece I recall any vocal detail from -- but by then I was plain impatient for the damn thing to end. C+ [cd]
Tyler Keith & the Apostles: Do It for Johnny (2016, self-released): From Mississippi, came up in a late-1990s punk band called the Neckbones which had at least one good record, went solo with a band called The Preacher's Kids. Rockabilly junkie Phil Overeem has this number three on his 2016 list, and I sorta hear it, just not as much. B+(**) [bc]
Irene Kepl: SololoS (2016, Fou): Solo violin, saws back and forth, up and down. Final 'S' in title is mirrored in print, probably meant to convey how everything is refracted within itself. B+(*) [cd]
Alicia Keys: Here (2016, RCA): Sixth album, sales steadily declining since her 2001 debut sold 12 million copies. Still, sounds to me like her best, with catchy beats, pop hooks, and often deep lyrics. Inspirational lyric: "you glow." A-
Kirk Knuffke: Little Cross (2014 , SteepleChase): Trumpet player, prolific since 2009, with five records on Nils Winther's relatively mainstream Danish label and double that on more avant labels. This is the first of the former group I've heard, a trio with Jamie Saft on organ/synth and Hamid Drake on drums. They start with a trad gospel, then get original. Trumpet impressive, but sometimes gets snagged on Saft's keyboards. B+(*)
Konx-Om-Pax: Caramel (2016, Planet Mu): Scottish "animator, graphic designer, DJ and producer" Tom Scholefield. Thick, shimmering layers piled on beats that barely support them. B+(*)
Kornél Kovács: The Bells (2016, Studio Barnhus): DJ/deep house producer from Sweden, first album after a half-dozen singles. Minor variations and other fluff on top of fast rocking beats, a nice trick. B+(**)
Krokofant: Krokofant II (2015, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion ("semi-improvising power") trio -- Tom Hasslan (guitars), Axel Skalstad (drums), Jřrgen Mathisen (sax) -- like to play it fast and hard, which can be their undoing. B+(*)
Martin Küchen/Mark Tokar/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (2016, NoBusiness): Sax trio, the Swedish saxophonist playing tenor, alto, and flute, the others bass and drums. Joint improv, takes a while to heat up, cooks when it does. B+(**) [cdr]
Lady Gaga: Joanne (2016, Streamline/Interscope): Album title is Stefani Germanotta's middle name, although it was reportedly named, like her, for her aunt Joanne Stefani Germanotta. A step toward maturity, perhaps, but pushing no buttons/boundaries gives us little more than impeccable professionalism to care for. Not sure whether I should credit that the first song I liked was in the "Deluxe version bonus tracks" ("Grigio Girls"). B
Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Sane (2016, Septic Tiger): Irish singer-songwriter, or talker, ranter, rapper, has two new records, six (or more) old ones, would probably have been a folksinger forty years ago but he's endured too much complication to settle for simple clarity. Crams 24 titles in here, though it's not clear there are that many different songs. B+(***)
Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Uplift Grief Magnets (2016, Septic Tiger): Recorded with two members of the Liverpool band Clinic, this promises to be more structured, with just twelve songs averaging close to three minutes (33:16). I don't doubt that he's an interesting guy, but at some point I gave up trying to follow this. B+(**)
Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1: Coming of Age (2016, self-released): The key here, of course, is tenor saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, executive director of Live the Spirit Residency, which runs after-hours jazz ed programs for Chicago youth. They put together a group called the Young Masters Ensemble -- Isaiah Collier (tenor sax), Jeremiah Collier (drums), Alex Lombre (piano), and James Wenzel (bass) -- and they're terrific even when the saxes lay out for a blues vamp. And while I suspect Dawkins plays most of the superb sax runs, they've all earned their group name. A- [cd]
The Pedrito Martinez Group: Habana Dreams (2016, Motéma): Conga player, also plays bata drums, born in Havana, based in New York since 1997, sings, which makes this strike me as more pop than jazz, even if the Afro-Cuban traditions run deep. B+(*)
Rob Mazurek & Emmett Kelly: Alien Flower Sutra (2016, International Anthem): Kelly wrote and sings the lyrics here, also strums some guitar, with most of the music coming from Mazurek's electronics (also a bit of cornet, and some guests). Very disjointed, the songs slapped onto the music (or vice versa), the discord palpable and more than a little hideous. C
Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues and Ballads (2012-14 , Nonesuch): Long-running trio, with Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums), cover seven songs, precisely, expertly, not even fumbling tunes by the Beatles and solo McCartney. B+(**)
Mekons: Existentialism (2015 , Bloodshot): I'm at a huge disadvantage here, in that this live album ("why should a record take more time to record than it does to listen to?") from last year's Mekonception at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn ("with the help of 75 mekonsters") is properly part of a 96-page book ($24.95), the 12 songs accompanied with "twelve chapters of writing and art from mekons and mekon friends" -- so I can't tell you who's who, let alone the back stories and concepts. What I can say is that the music is terrific, harsh as the working life it transcends, the words biting and/or poignant. A
Myra Melford + Ben Goldberg: Dialogue (2014 , BAG): Piano and clarinet duets, working through five Goldberg pieces, eight from the pianist. There are moments when Melford does something characteristically brilliant, but more often the clarinet lays over everything like a wet blanket. B
Parker Millsap: The Very Last Day (2016, Okrahoma): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, so defaults to country. Feels at home wailing gospel and blues, and gets some liberal credit for a song about the gay son of a preacher. B+(*)
Modus Factor: The Picasso Zone (2015 , Browntasaurus): Self-described as "a modern electric groove trio," from Canada, drummer Chris Lesson evidently first among equals, alongside Brownman Ali (electric trumpet) and Ian De Souza (bass, effects). Still, the trumpet does much more than groove. B+(**)
Moker: Ladder (2016, El Negocito): Dutch jazz quintet (although Google also digs up a "brutal death metal" band), fifth album -- trumpet, tenor sax/clarinet/bansuri, guitar/alto horn, bass and drums, most also into electronics with krautrock legacy, not that they strike me as all that fusionish. B+(*)
Moor Mother: Fetish Bones (2016, Don Giovanni): Chamae Ayewa, from Philadelphia, has released more than a dozen EPs since 2012, this one more experimental postrock noise than hip-hop (no hop to it). Has a time travel motif, and refuses to overlook more than a century of violence against black folk. No fun, but I suppose that's part of the point. B
Donny Most: Swinging Down the Chimney Tonight (2016, Summit): Best known as an actor -- only regular gig seems to have been playing Ralph Malph on Happy Days -- has a previous standards album as D Most. This is just four secular (mostly Santa-themed) songs plus a non-Xmas "bonus": "C'est Si Bon"), 14:18, with an uncredited big band and backup singer. Fine voice, not bad as these things go. B [cd]
Motif: My Head is Listening (2013-15 , Clean Feed): Norwegian jazz group, half dozen albums going back to 2005, leader-composer is bassist Ole Morten Vĺgan. Sextet with trumpet, tenor sax/bass clarinet, clarinet, piano (Hĺvard Wiik), and drums. Free jazz, in some sort of a fancy chamber setting. B+(**)
Nao: For all We Know (2016, Little Tokyo): British soul singer (Neo Jessica Joshua), first album, attempts to channel some Prince funk, impressive when she actually pulls it off (i.e., not always). B+(*)
Willie Nelson: For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price (2016, Legacy): Circa 1980 Nelson a series of duet albums with peers and slightly older country legends, including San Antonio Rose with Price, whose biggest hits spanned 1956-73. Price rejoined Nelson for two even better 2003-07 casual classics, so a tribute after Price's 2013 death seems like a sure shot. Still, the strings are a bit much, Nelson is occasionally mannered, and Price's songs tend to revert to their originators without his voice. B+(*)
Nice as Fuck: Nice as Fuck (2016, Loves Way, EP): All-female indie rock trio, best known Jenny Lewis but also Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone) and Tennessee Thomas (The Like). One of those short vinyl albums that comes up just short (9 songs, 25:51), and just shy of substantial. B+(*)
Noname: Telefone (2016, self-released): Chicago rapper Fatimah Warner, first album (err, mixtape), shuffles patiently through everyday life. B+(**) [bc]
Nots: Cosmetic (2016, Goner): Memphis punk band, second album, Alexandra Eastburn's keyboards add something to the guitar-bass-drums formula, and vocalist-guitarist Natalie Hoffmann is hard-pressed to sing over the noise, so it isn't immediately obvious that this is a grrrl band. What is obvious is that they're a damn catchy one. A-
The Nu Band: The Final Concert (2012 , NoBusiness): Avant supergroup, although the cover rightly features trumpet player Roy Campbell, whose 2014 death turned this date in Austria final. The quartet -- Mark Whitcage (alto sax), Joe Fonda (bass), Lou Grassi (drums) -- first recorded in 2001, cut a half-dozen albums over the next decade-plus, and has since recorded The Cosmological Constant with Thomas Heberer on cornet. Hesitates in spots, not the brightest recording, but a remarkable group. B+(**)
NxWorries: Yes Lawd! (2016, Stones Throw): Hip-hop duo, the rapper known as Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge. Nineteen cuts, none over 4:03, the sort of slippery beats and soft edges so much in vogue recently, talked-sung, relies a bit much on the lingo for my taste but comparable to a bunch of records I'm impressed by but can't quite get into (Chance the Rapper, for one). B+(***)
Uwe Oberg/Silke Eberhard: Turns (2015 , Leo): Two Germans, duets between piano and alto sax or clarinet, the pianist the senior player by more than a decade. Both provide originals, but they also work through covers from Jimmy Giuffre, Carla Bley, and Annette Peacock. B+(***)
Roberto Occhipinti: Stabilimento (2016, Modica Music): Canadian bassist, several albums, employs twenty-some musicians including a fairly hefty string section, although I can't see well enough to map the asterisks to the songs so I'm unsure who's playing what when. As for how, the postbop and third stream moves (including a Beethoven theme) never command much attention. B
Frank Ocean: Blonde (2016, Boys Don't Cry): Cover says blond but nearly everyone agrees that's a typo (or a "stylization"). Currently running 3rd in my EOY Aggregate, despite having a nebulous existence as product, and I'm afraid it's not much more substantial as music (with a couple exceptions). B+(**)
Phronesis: Parallax (2015 , Edition): Piano trio, based in London, half-dozen albums since 2007, leader seems to be bassist Jasper Hřiby, with Ivo Neame on piano and Anton Eger on drums, all three writing pieces (three each this time). Tight group, power moves to open and close, wide range in between. B+(**)
Populous: Night Safari (2014, Bad Panda): Italian electronica producer Andrea Mangia, looks south, across the Sahara, and dreams. B+(***) [bc]
Mark Pritchard: Under the Sun (2016, Warp): British electronica producer, has several albums, the gentle ambience of his wordless passages is pleasing, his guest vocalists/lyricists -- Stephen Wilkinson, Thom Yorke, Linda Perhacs, Beans -- are not unpleasant but don't add much either. B+(*)
Pussy Riot: XXX (2016, Nice Life, EP): Russian "feminist punk rock protest group" formed in 2011, variable cast of members, some having been arrested for "hooliganism," various previous recordings have been rumored but this three-cut, 11:37 single is the first I've managed to track down. Two of those are in English over funky beats, the third in gloomy Russian. B+(***)
Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (2016, Clean Feed): French pianist, has a half dozen previous albums, working frequently with prepared piano. This is something else: a ten-piece orchestra (two saxes, flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar and bass, drums), the pieces inspired by various rugged landscapes, a rhythm section itching to break free, the horns striving to heighten the tension, not to break free. A- [cd]
The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome (2016, Polydor): Still taking their cues from Chicago bluesmen, Jagger and company understand that the fount of youth for septagenarian rockers is the still the classic blues riff, and if they can't get it up to write their own, they can knock off an album of covers and make them sound great. B+(***)
Daniel Romano: Mosey (2016, New West): Canadian country singer, doesn't really have the voice for the job but impressed with his sincerity in the past. Still, this one sounds way off the mark, even when the mark seems to be Marty Robbins. B-
Ned Rothenberg/Mark Feldman/Sylvie Courvoisier: In Cahoots (2014 , Clean Feed): Leader plays various reeds (clarinet, alto sax, bass clarinet, shakuhachi), free jazz backed in chamber jazz fashion with violin and piano, respectively. B+(**) [cd]
Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (2016, Top Dawg/Interscope): LA rapper, actually born in Germany, like Ab-Soul came out of Black Hippy but has harder, more mainstream beats and rhymes that flirt with gangsta. B+(***)
Serengeti & Sicker Man: Doctor My Own Patience (2016, Graveface): Underground Chicago rapper David Cohn pairs off oddly Tobias Vethake from Germany for a pleasantly non-descript song cycle, with a vaguely Eno-ish vibe. Built for vinyl: 9 cuts, 31:25. B
Sleigh Bells: Jessica Rabbit (2016, Torn Clean): Noisy pop band, principally Alexis Krauss (vocals) and Derek Miller (everything else). Fourth album, still know how to bait a hook but I'm not catching much (other than desperation -- not that I didn't notice the one about tornadoes in Kansas). B
Todd Snider: Eastside Bulldog (2016, Aimless): So short (25:22) Napster considers this an EP, but it sports ten songs, only one over 2:48 but only one sub-2:00. That's because he plays fast and hard -- you could shelve this one under rockabilly. But he also writes fast and loose: only the title cut and "Come On Up" are really keepers. B+(***)
Elza Soares: The Woman at the End of the World (A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo) (2015 , Mais Um Discos): Brazilian samba singer, b. 1937, has fifty-some albums since 1960 but I can't say as I've ever taken notice of her before. But at least at this point in her career she's way coarser and weirder than anyone in MPB -- rhythmically she's gravitated toward Tom Zé. Wikipedia notes she's been dubbed "the Brazilian Tina Turner," but I'm thinking more Alberta Hunter. A-
Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life (2016, Sire): Singer-songwriter, born in Moscow, based in New York, has a handful of albums crossing over from Soviet Kitsch to American pop and what I suppose might be called more cultured forms -- mostly piano-based. Being an uncultured sort, I'm more impressed than enamoraed here. B+(**)
Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (2015 , RogueArt): Avant-trombonist, quintet adds Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), William Parker (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums), each adding something distinctive and remarkable to the mix. Still, I always enjoy a good trombone lead, of which there are many. Looks like this only came out on vinyl, so runs to a respectable length (4 cuts, 43:40). A- [cdr]
Steve Swell/Gebhard Ullmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang: The Chicago Plan (2015 , Clean Feed): Recorded in Chicago, home of Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics) and Zerang (drums), if not the front line (and composers) -- trombone and tenor sax/bass clarinet. The trombone leads are bracing, but the others on their own tend to melt together. B+(***) [cd]
Swet Shop Boys: Cashmere (2016, Customs): My kind of supergroup, two rappers with Indian/Pakistani heritage, although the Indian was born in Queens, New York (Heems, aka Himanshu Kumar Suri, formerly of Das Racist) and the Pakistani in London (MC Riz, aka Riz Ahmed, who had a standout acting role in HBO's The Night Of playing another Queens boy. As postmodern westerners, they see the potential of playing off their heritage, especially as they intuit it gets under the skin of less worldly westerners. A-
Tanya Tagaq: Retribution (2016, Six Shooter): Inuit throat singer, early on was just a weird blip on the world music continuum but has grown into a cosmopolitan rocker from the edges of a larger (and colder) world than you're used to. Includes a physics lesson/impending doom story remind you that "Gaia likes it cold." A-
Gregory Tardy: Chasing After the Wind (2015 , SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, got some attention 1998-2001 but fell off my radar after that -- turns out this is his ninth album since 2005 for SteepleChase. Sextet, Bruce Barth on piano, Alex Norris on trumpet, but instead of trombone the third horn is Sam Sadigursky's flute -- the weak link, I think, but also a bid to move beyond hard bop into something vaguely postbop. B
Tell Tale: Film in Music (2014 , Drip Audio): Vancouver BC group, septet, hype sheet cites cellist Peggy Lee as the leader but album lists drummer Dylan Van Der Schiff as co-producer, and the includes other well-known musicians -- indeed, they often play on one another's albums. Not sure if this is actual film music, but could be. B+(*) [cd]
A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (2016, Epic): Hip-hop group, recorded five albums 1990-98, finding success with a jazzy underground sound before Q-Tip went solo. The reunion is also billed as a fluke, promised to be their last album even though it's much better than anything Q-Tip produced on his own (certainly since 1999's Amplified). Christgau gave this an ultrarare A+, but I can't fathom why he (or anyone else) finds it compelling -- maybe just desperate for some good news? A-
A Tribe Called Red: We Are the Halluci Nation (2016, Radicalized): Trio of "First Nations" musicians based in Ottawa, Canada; Wikipedia described them as a "Canadian electronic music group" but a better approximation would be hip-hop crew -- indeed, their name makes that explicit. Results are mixed: I'm most struck by the more radical political rants and critiques, which usually get sharper beats, than with the more generic war whoops. B+(***)
William Tyler: Modern Country (2016, Merge): Guitarist, played in Lambchop and Silver Jews before going solo in 2010. Fourth album, no vocals, not solo but often feels like it -- albeit oddly lush. B+(*)
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Jazz Now! (Live at Theater Gütersloh) (2015 , Intuition): German avant-pianist, a major player since the late 1960s, in a quartet with Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, plus bass (Antonio Borghini) and drums (Heinrich Köbberling). They play one Monk tune, plus a mix of Herbie Nichols (3), Eric Dolphy (4), and Schlippenbach himself (5) -- longtime touchstones. B+(***)
Kelsey Waldon: I've Got a Way (2016, Monkey's Eyebrow): Singer-songwriter from an unincorporated town in Kentucky, moved to Nashville and released a debut album that deserves to be heard (The Goldmine). The first half here is at least that completely realized, and if the closing ballads slip a bit, the voice and pedal steel are sure purty. And at least one generalization has become more specific: "you can't place a crown on the head of a clown/and then hope it turns out to be a king." A-
Mat Walerian-Matthew Shipp Duo: The Uppercut: Live at Okuden (2012 , ESP-Disk): Polish alto saxophonist (also bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, flute), matched up with the pianist. They range widely here, going hard and soft, rough and not-so-rough. B+(***) [bc]
Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake: Jungle: Live at Okuden (2012 , ESP-Disk, 2CD): Same deal as The Uppercut, plus a drummer -- a real good one -- and a few months practice. Often superb free jazz, but does run long (99:41). B+(***) [bc]
Becky Warren: War Surplus (2016, self-released): Former singer for a group called the Great Unknowns, structures her album as a "he said/she said" song cycle, loosely based on an ex-husband who flew off to Iraq and came back with PTSD crutched with alcoholism -- pretty much a cliché these days, and frankly her domestic travails rank pretty low on the scale of horrors war has produced. But as a piece of navel-gazing Americana this is pretty acute, and as country it's rock solid. A-
The Weeknd: Starboy (2016, XO/Republic): The opening Daft Punk single is fabulous, but the fall off without that level of help is pretty steep, but then several cuts return -- well, if not there, at least somewhere. One spin isn't nearly enough to sort out the peaks and troughs, but I'm not the one who decided to release 18 scattered tracks when some editing would yield a consistently pleasurable 10-cut album. B+(*)
Wilco: Schmilco (2016, dBpm): Big-time alt-indie band, as melodic as ever, just a bit softer and slower. B+(*)
Andre Williams: I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City (2016, Bloodshot): Obscure "R&B legend," wrote "Shake a Tail Feather" way back when, eventually got picked up by this very-alt country label and released a pretty remarkable album in 2012 with help from the Sadies (Night and Day). Could use some more help here. B+(*)
Jamila Woods: HEAVN (2016, Closed Sessions): Chicago R&B singer, close to hip-hop, associated with Chance the Rapper, smart and savvy but a little forced. Doesn't help that my stream source is so hard to follow. B+(*) [sc]
Neil Young + Promise of the Real: Earth (2015 , Reprise, 2CD): Live double from his Rebel Content Tour with the band he organized for The Monsanto Years -- I'll backtrack to that under "old music" -- so he works in a few (superior) old songs along with his more recent rants. It may be an existential condition for old white men to turn into cranks, but that doesn't mean they have to fall for Trump. B+(*)
Neil Young: Peace Trail (2016, Reprise): Continues his political crankiness in a more acoustic vein, although he does return to his '80s electronic treatments when he wants to give voice for a robot -- doesn't he know modern voice synthesis is all based on samples? So softer and kinder this time out. My guess is that sonic outrage will return, pretty damn soon. B+(**)
Yussef Kamaal: Black Focus (2016, Brownswood): London jazzy electronica group -- can't peg them as "pop jazz" -- principals are Henry Wu (keyboards) and Yussef Dayes (drums), with some others credited for tenor sax (Shabaka Hutchings), trumpet, electric bass and guitar, and "words" (Gordon Wedderburn). B+(*)
Tom Zé: Cançőes Eróticas De Ninar (2016, Circus): Brazilian singer-songwriter, took tropicalia to idiosyncratic extremes back in the 1970s and has cultivated his eccentricity ever since, often winning me over. Released as he turned 80, other print on the cover reads Para Dançar O Sobe Ni Mim and Urgéncia Didatica. Not sure if this one is exceptional, but few records sustain this level of jaunty playfulness. A-
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart: The Crave (1994 , NoBusiness): Piano and tuba duets, the fine print reads "play the music of Jelly Roll Morton and Dave Burrell." Three of each, but Burrell was likely thinking of Morton when he wrote his. Indeed, this set follows Burrell's 1991 album The Jelly Roll Joys, and improves upon it, the not-so-secret ingredient Stewart's tuba. A- [cdr]
Bob Dylan: The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert! (1966 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Evidently the much-bootlegged "Royal Albert Hall" concert officially released in 1998 as Volume 4 of The Bootleg Series was actually recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, so what makes this "real" is geographical, but not much more. Both concerts were divided into solo-acoustic and band sets (the future Band billed as The Hawks), and the set lists are exactly the same. Times vary slightly, as do the catcalls, but all in all: pretty redundant. B
Dizzy Gillespie & Friends: Concert of the Century: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (1980 , Justin Time): Concert in Montreal, different venue but same city as 1953's legendary Parker-Gillespie-Powell-Mingus-Roach Jazz at Massey Hall. Group here is nearly as stellar -- Gillespie, James Moody, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Philly Joe Jones -- but much further into their respective careers. B+(*)
Betty Harris: The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul (1964-69 , Soul Jazz): Born 1941, she cut 15 singles during the 1960s, mostly for Allen Toussaint and backed by the Meters, only three scratching the charts, none remembered as classic, but professional enough for this solid, unremarkable compilation. B+(**)
Steve Lehman's Camouflage Trio: Interface (2004 , Clean Feed): I've been meaning to dig up the alto saxophonist's slightly earlier FSNT album (Artificial Light), the only one I've heard that I didn't much care for. This was cut a year later, an avant trio with Mark Dresser (bass) and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), and has now been remastered. His hard freebop style is fully formed, the spots given over to Dresser more iffy. B+(***)
Joe McPhee & Raymond Boni: Live From the Magic City (Birmingham, Alabama) (1985 , Trost): McPhee is credited with soprano sax, electronics and voice; Boni with electric guitar and electronics. Duet, titles like "Set 1" and "Set 2 Part A." Interesting how the electronics defocuses the lead instruments, but more exciting when they clash. B+(**) [bc]
Evan Parker/Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee: Seven Pieces: Live at Willisau 1995 (1995 , Clean Feed): Three saxophonists -- tenor/soprano, alto/baritone, and alto/soprano + alto clarinet and pocket trumpet -- although I wouldn't call them a sax choir: it's not like three free improvisers are concerned much with harmony. Still, it's rare when an all-sax record doesn't leave you wishing for something more, and this previously unreleased tape is that. B+(***) [cd]
Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016 (1976-2016 , NoBusiness, 5CD): British avant-pianist, a Penguin Guide favorite. I've heard very little aside from a couple of outstanding 1968-70 albums (Angle, The Day Will Come), but he's still active in his 70s -- indeed, three-fifths of this solo piano trove date from 2014 or later. That later material is interesting, but the early discs -- especially the first from 1976-80 -- is more like exciting. Includes a short booklet by Brian Morton. B+(***) [cd]
Pat Thomas: Coming Home: Original Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1967-1981 (1967-81 , Strut, 2CD): Still active at 65, this label picked up his new record last year, and finally decided to dig into his long-forgotten prime period, before he left Ghana for Germany. Not exceptionally great, nor at least consistently so, but there are few beats I enjoy more than classic highlife, and he was definitely part of that scene. A-
Urgent Jumping! East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics (1972-82 , Sterns Africa, 2CD): Benga, rhumba, Afrobeat, pop dance singles from Tanzania and Kenya, not as slick as the legendary Guitar Paradise of East Africa compilation or several other compilations I've heard (one called Muziki Wa Dansi actually covers the following decade), but I still find the uplift irresistible. A-
David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo: Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (2004 , AUM Fidelity): Half of Ware's fabulous Quartet, perhaps before the pianist became a star in his own right but he does much more than comp here on this posthumous tape (Ware died in 2012, and this is the second of what promises to be an archive series). B+(***)
Neil Young: Bluenote Café (1987-88 , Reprise, 2CD): In the late 1980s Young seemed to be desperately trying out new styles, producing an eclectic mix of poorly received albums. On one, This Note's for You, he fronted a lounge band with soul horns. This is from that band's live tour, part of an ongoing archives series. It works mostly as a blues set, the horns present but not so much as the guitar. B+(*)
Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings: Other Stories (2003-05 , 482 Music): Cornet player, first album to introduce his strings group (two violins, viola, two cellos, guitar) plus tuba, vibraphone, and drums. Three extended sequences, ambitious compositions, tricky and fragile. B+(*)
Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (2008, Hatology): At full strength (only for the three-part centerpiece, "WhYeXpliCitieS," although that's most of the album), the leader's cornet, Matt Bauder (bass clarinet/tenor sax), two guitars (Evan O'Reilly and Mary Halvorson), viola (Jessica Pavone), and drums (Tomas Fujiwara). Scattered results, although I do love the intro to "Part 3" -- reminds me of South Africa's pennywhistle jive. B+(**)
Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Monsanto Years (2015, Reprise): Band was borrowed from Lukas Nelson -- Willie'son, joined here by brother Micah -- after a Farm Aid concert, with Young providing a gaggle of anti-corporate protest songs, joining Monsanto to Walmart, Starbucks, Chevron, and others. Some I recognize from the live Earth, but I like them better here -- the guitars ring louder, and the backup singers stay in the background. B+(**)
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (2016, RCA Nashville, 2CD): Greg Morton convinced he to give this another spin, and he may still right that this is even better than I can presently acknowledge. [was: B+(***)] A-
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, December 26. 2016
Music: Current count 27512  rated (+47), 362  unrated (-21).
This week's rated count when I first ran make was +24, but when I counted the rated records this week, I came up with 28, so clearly I had missed at least four. I made a deeper search of unrated records and found them plus a bunch more (+19), hence this week's inflated count. Actually, I lost a couple days this week to cooking, but I also made up ground by leaning rather hard on Napster and Bandcamp, as I checked out interesting records from various EOY lists. Most helpful this week was Tom Lane's list (emailed personally), as it yielded about a dozen albums I hadn't previously tracked, including two of this week's A- finds (Kelsey Waldon and Becky Warren).
NPR published the 11th Annual Jazz Critics Poll this year. Francis Davis organized the poll of 137 jazz critics, and wrote two essays:
Once again, I compiled all of the critics' ballots into presentable form here, and tabulated them all to provide complete results down to the most obscure single votes. My own ballot is here, which includes, I believe, four singular votes (Keita, Person, Lucas, Rempis -- plus Lucas and Sonic Liberation 8 in the special categories; Amado got one other vote, and Rudd two; Damana got two other votes for Debut). I voted for records which finished 1st (Threadgill), 13th (Allen), 14th (Murray), and tied for 30th (Coleman), but I also graded eight other top-31 finishers A- (DeJohnette, Haden, Lehman, Bloom, Ward, Holland, Rollins, and Hersch), and ten more B+(***) (Smith, Halvorson, Formanek, Wilson, Sorey, Cyrille, Davis, Ortiz, Guy, Brown), plus five B+(**) (Iyer, Argue, Lloyd, Finlayson, Dresser). I didn't manage to hear two (Harrell, Moran). So all in all I find this a very respectable consensus -- in fact, probably fewer records here I disfavor than ever before.
Since the Jazz Critics Poll went up, I've mostly been trying to bring my EOY Aggregate up to date. Thus far I've mostly tried to pick up the (mostly foreign) polls listed at Acclaimed Music Forums. I'm currently up to 166 lists (as compared to about 750 lists last year, a total I'm not even remotely hoping for this year). (By the way, the list-of-the-week is from Dan Weiss. And while I haven't read/counted it yet, here's one from Jason Gross).
The current top-10: David Bowie, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Solange, Nick Cave, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, Bon Iver, and Chance the Rapper. Second 10: Angel Olsen, Anohni, Anderson .Paak, Car Seat Headrest, Leonard Cohen, Danny Brown, Kaytranada, Blood Orange, Rihanna, and Mitski. The recent infusion of non-Anglo lists has helped fuel bubbles for Nick Cave (up to 6 from 9 last week), Bon Iver (9 from 11), and Anohni (11 from 13). I suspect those three will settle down a bit as the list focus moves back to America. That should also help Beyoncé, but at this point it's pretty clear that Bowie will wind up in first place (current margin +83), and it's not inconceivable that Beyoncé will lose second place to Frank Ocean (her lead is currently 306-300, so very close). I still expect Beyoncé to win the Village Voice Critics Poll, but my own scheme doesn't allow enough weighting for high finishes to make such a lead reversible.
I was invited to vote in El Intruso's annual poll, so this is what I sent in. They asked for "no more than three choices in each category." Most of those are for musicians-by-instrument. I don't think it makes much sense to try to rank musicians, so please consider this just an exercise in name-dropping.
I also voted in the Village Voice Music Critics Poll 2016 (formerly Pazz & Jop, originally -- i.e., 1971 -- named for a similar poll published by Jazz & Pop magazine). The poll asks critics to vote for their 10 favorite albums, dividing up 100 votes among them (5 minimum, 30 maximum), and also for 10 songs (with no point system).
I haven't been tracking singles, so have no idea what to vote for there, and no time at the moment to figure out how to fake it. I only picked five records from my 2016 Jazz List and one (Lucas) was picked ahead of order because it's more pop/vocal, with five more from the 2016 Non-Jazz List. For a variety of reasons, my present integrated EOY list is rather heavily skewed toward jazz (for one thing, I have 71 A-list jazz records, vs. 51 A-list non-jazz). But the former hardly ever get any Pazz & Jop support, and I don't wish to be totally marginal there. For one thing, we've lost way too many elections already this year.
On the other hand, I'm not terribly excited by the records leading the EOY Aggregate count. Looking at my grades for the top 20 (and I still haven't heard Beyoncé), I come up with zero A records, 8 A- (Chance the Rapper , A Tribe Called Quest , Anderson .Paak , Leonard Cohen , Kaytranada , Rihanna , Danny Brown , Blood Orange ), 4 B+(***) (David Bowie, Kanye West, Angel Olsen, Car Seat Headrest), 2 B+(**) (Frank Ocean, Solange), 3 B+(*) (Bon Iver, Anohni, Mitski), 1 B (Radiohead), 1 B- (Nick Cave), nothing really worse than that. While I can't say as I understand the attraction of the bottom two, the average year has 3-4 times as many "deplorables," so it's hard to complain about this year's polls. In fact, it's never been clearer that the Trump demographic has never been more culturally impotent (or should I just say eclipsed?).
New records rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, December 19. 2016
Music: Current count 27465  rated (+32), 383  unrated (-2).
Spent most of last week building the website for the 11th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, which NPR will publish tomorrow, or maybe a bit later. I won't disclose anything here, other than that we received 139 ballots, down a bit from last year's record 147 (where's John Chacona? Steven Dollar? David Hajdu? Lyn Horton? Garrett Shelton?). When they do go up, my pages will look a lot like last year's. Francis Davis again deserves a big round of applause for making this happen.
Mostly picking things off lists opportunistically, as well as mopping up a few 2016 stragglers in my queue: down to 6 pending records. With all the JCP work, I've done very little on my own EOY Aggregate file: today belatedly adding only a few of the recent lists (Blare, Gigwise, Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork, Q, Tiny Mix Tapes). I'll add more when I get some time next week, although several things are going to slow me down. For one, I have dinners to cook on Tuesday and Saturday. For another, I have ballots due for the Village Voice (evidently not Pazz & Jop anymore) and El Intruso polls, though those at least I can safely wing.
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, December 12. 2016
Music: Current count 27433  rated (+30), 385  unrated (+16).
Two leftover thoughts from yesterday's Weekend Roundup:
One problem with doing these rush posts is that real points, themes even, get lost in the nest of links. Just wanted to reiterate those two points. And I'll add a possible third one: in order for the Democratic Party to provide effective resistance against Trump's oligarchs, they have to actively, consistently, as a matter of principle, oppose war and support and promote equality. Quite frankly, if they don't step up to that challenge -- the real threat that Trump and the Republicans pose -- they're helpless and worthless.
Thirty newly rated albums below. Last time that happened was Oct. 10, eight weeks ago. I still don't have the newly rebuilt computer all hooked up -- still have a printing problem -- and I still haven't restored my unplayed (not to mention played) downloads, but I've been able to listen to Napster and Bandcamp. I've also been plowing through EOY lists, so my searching has been more inspired and better targeted than usual. One result is no less than eleven A- records. In particular, I finally got a chance to catch up with Robert Christgau's last two months of Expert Witness picks. Given how far behind I was, I'm a bit surprised that I didn't concur with more. As it is, I more/less agreed with five (Alicia Keys, Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Quest, Pat Thomas, and Urgent Jumping), while six others didn't quite do it for me (Margaret Glaspy, Macy Gray, Pussy Riot, Regina Spektor, and Jinx Lennon twice).
I also added five A- records to my EOY Jazz List shortly after voting for the Jazz Critics Poll closed -- seems like it always works out that way. Four were late arrivals to my mailbox (Albert Cirera, Eve Risser, Steve Swell, and a vault treat from 1994 with Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart), and I picked up the fifth (Taylor Ho Bynum) on Napster. The eleventh was one by Tom Zé that I only found out about from Phil Overeem's list (also my source for Tyler Keith).
I've continued adding EOY lists to my . EOY Aggregate file. I currently have 97 lists compiled, which I assemble in two weight groups: one for longer lists which scores 5 points (1), 4 (2-5), 3 (6-10), 2 (11-20), and 1 (everything else); the other for shorter lists, scoring 3 (1), 2 (2-5), and 1 (everything else). Unranked lists are noted + (sometimes ++ or +++ if they are somehow tiered). I've also scored grades by Robert Christgau and myself (A/A+ 5, A- 4, B+/*** 3, ** 2, * 1), and will probably do that for Michael Tatum as well. These grades have a minor effect of biasing the results towards things I/we like, but then my point isn't to offer some kind of objective, impersonally scientific ranking. It's, as always, to help identify records worth searching out.
Speaking of which, I've tended to skip over lists dedicated to genres I have no real interest in, which mostly means metal. I'll also note that in addition to Overeem (who picked enough records this year to qualify as a major listmeister), I've picked up a couple lists from Facebook friends where I've noticed them (Thomas Walker and Joe Yanosik). I'll do more of that when I find them. I haven't picked up Chris Monsen's still-evolving favorites list, but at some arbitrary point will do so.
Current standings according to my way of counting (counts in opening brackets, my grades in closing):
Album of the Year's Aggregate has same top seven, but a closer race for the top spot (Bowie over Beyoncé 286-282), and Solange ahead of Radiohead (225-208), They actually have the same top-twenty records, with the big difference that they move Angel Olsen up from 12th (my list) to 8th. From 21-30 they add Jenny Hval (31-26), The Avalanches (33-28), and Savages (38-29), in place of Drive-By Truckers (24-31), Parquet Courts (26-36), and Young Thug (30-37) -- three records graded A- or better by both Christgau and myself, so there's my cheat for you. (I have Hval C+, Avalanches B, Savages ***.)
My next project will be tallying the Jazz Critics Poll ballots, which I finally have but haven't really cracked into yet.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, November 30. 2016
No time to write an introduction. Maybe I'll have something to say for next week's Music Week.
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 October 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (8835 records).
Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro: Marguerite D'Or Pâle (2016, Fou): Piano/sax duets, Lazro on tenor and baritone, although Agnel's concept of the piano ("a real living & breathing organism") had me wondering whether they had slipped a percussionist into the mix. B+(**) [cd]
Aguankó: Latin Jazz Christmas in Havana (2016, Aguankó): Percussionist Alberto Macif's group, inspired by Havana but based in Michigan, have a couple previous albums. This one's subtitled "Cool Sounds & Warm Wishes," and is that with an extra shot of clavé, but the songs keep shaking off their dressing. Still, you could be stuck in a department store with much worse. B [cd]
Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (2016, Not Two): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, always an imposing figure in free jazz settings, with his most dependable group -- Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. Three long improv pieces, terrific all around, drummer especially. A- [cd]
Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (2015 , Sazi): Duo of drummer Scott Amendola, probably best known for his work with Nels Cline although he has his name on five previous albums (doing back to 1999), and Hammond B3 impressario Wil Blades. No known hits between them, but take the title as intending some sort of semipop move -- pop in form if not in fact -- ane enjoy the groove and pomp. B+(**) [cd]
BassDrumBone: The Long Road (2013-16 , Auricle, 2CD): Long-running free jazz trio, first album together recorded nearly 30 years ago, lineup on this seventh album the same: Mark Helias (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums), Ray Anderson (trombone). Second disc is padded out with 31 minutes live. Studio cuts include three cuts each with Jason Moran (piano) and Joe Lovano (tenor sax), the latter making the bigger splash. Still great to hear Anderson's trombone leads, but could be further concentrated. B+(***) [cd]
Martin Bejerano: Trio Miami (2016, Figgland): Pianist, teaches at University of Miami, has a couple previous albums and side credits with Roy Haynes and Russell Malone. Leads a trio, bright and fast. B+(*)
Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings (2016, RareNoise): The former plays baritone and electric guitar, the latter lap steel guitar, but Bernocchi is also credited with electronics, which explains the percussion. The synthetic groove may be too regular for jazz, but sets up a seductive ambience with the layered guitar. B+(***) [cdr]
Nat Birchall: Creation (2016, Sound Soul & Spirit): British tenor saxophonist, probably sounds more like Coltrane than any saxophonist alive (including Ravi Coltrane), an effect added to by pianist Adam Fairhall and bassist Michael Bardon, although the group doubles up on drums. Unlike his last two albums, I never quite shook the sense of imitation here, though it's hard to go far wrong while hewing so close to genius. B+(***) [bc]
Karl Blau: Introducing Karl Blau (2016, Raven Marching Band): Singer-songwriter from Anacortes, Washington, with seven previous records before this seeming debut, mostly Nashville covers, done with disconcerting aloofness (no drawl, scant drama, anonymous backup singers). B
Boi Akih: Liquid Songs (2016, TryTone): Dutch group, formed in 1997, has a half-dozen previous albums. Guitarist Niels Brouwer writes the pieces, Monica Akihary sings, also with: Ryoko Imai (marimba, reyong & percussion) and Tobias Klein (bass & contrabass clarinet). Abstract, arty, hated it at first but wound up pleasantly surprised. B+(*) [cd]
Christiane Bopp/Jean-Luc Petit: L'Écorce et la Salive (2015 , Fou): Free jazz duets, Bopp playing trombone, Petit contrabass clarinet, tend to be sparse and abstract. B+(*) [cd]
Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Basically Baker Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (2016, Patois, 2CD): A fine big band based in Indianapolis, led by Brent Wallarab (credited here as conductor and musical director, but previously a trombonist) and Mark Buselli (trumpet), play compositions and arrangements by David N. Baker (1931-2016), a longtime jazz studies professor at Indiana University who back in the 1960s was affiliated with George Russell. Their original Baker tribute was recorded in 2004, this one about three months after the composer's death. An impressive big band, although the case for Baker's music is less clear. B+(*) [cd]
Oguz Buyukberber and Simon Nabatov: Wobbly Strata (2014 , TryTone): Free jazz duets, clarinet/bass clarinet and piano, respectively. The former was born in Turkey, studied in Amsterdam, probably still based there but this was recorded in Germany. Nabatov is twenty years older, born in Russia, studied in Rome and New York and wound up settling in Cologne. Brisk and challenging. B+(**)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (2016, Bad Seeds): One of the year's top-metarated records, no idea why unless the doom and gloom synth tones are somehow calming to the doomed and gloomy. When we were young we used to look for something cathartic to overcome a bad mood, not something that merely added to it. B-
John Chin: Fifth (2014 , Jinsy): Pianist, born in Korea, raised in LA and based in Brooklyn, has several albums. My advance copy has Chin's name scratched out, implying an eponymous group album. Chin's Bandcamp credits all five in alphabetical order: Chin, Stacy Dillard (soprano sax), Lawrence Leathers (bass), Spencer Murphy (drums), Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax). Indeed, all five have song credits, but mostly Chin (7) and Dillard (3), with one each for the others, and they go all sorts of ways, the free-ish postbop just one tendency. B+(**) [cdr]
Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (2015 , Mark Perna Music): Alto saxophonist, not quite 70, his discography goes back to 1976 but tails off after 1999 (several featured spots, one album in 2005). Quartet with Eric Susoeff on guitar, Mark Perna on bass and Vince Taglieri on drums -- surefire material, bright, lovely. B+(***) [cd]
Tom Collier: Impulsive Illuminations (2014-15 , Origin): Vibraphone/marimba player based in Seattle, discography starts with Northwest Jazz Sextet in 1979, and has a half-dozen albums since. Five 10-17 minute pieces here, with Richard Karpen on piano and one guest for each piece: Bill Frisell (guitar), Ted Poor (drums), Stuart Depmster (trombone/didjeridu), Bill Smith (clarinet), Cuong Vu (trumpet). Mostly reminds me of Dempster's "deep listening" pieces, so often too deep to keep me listening. B [cd]
Common: Black America Again (2016, Def Jam): Chicago rapper, can marshall guests ranging from BJ the Chicago Kid to Stevie Wonder, is as conscious as he should be of the uphill political struggle -- I can't fault him for being overly didactic, but the music doesn't always carry him. B+(**)
The Core Trio: Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (2014 , Evil Rabbit): Houston-based sax trio, with Seth Paynter on tenor, Thomas Helton on bass, and Joe Hertenstein on drums. They have two previous albums, each with a pianist added, the second an impressive match with Shipp, who returns here for two 31-34 minute sets in a Houston night club. A bit spotty, the sax never quite getting in gear, but the piano impressive (as you'd expect). B+(**) [cd]
The Delegation: Evergreen (Canceled World) (2014-15 , ESP-Disk, 2CD): Main person here is pianist-composer Gabriel Zucker, also credited with electronics and voice (along with a couple more singers). A sprawling art project, with long, complex forms and a story line that's way over my head. Group includes trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), three saxophones, violin-viola-cello, bass, drums, and additional electronics. Music has points of interest. B+(*) [cd]
Dim Lighting: Your Miniature Motion (2014 , Off): Guitar-bass-drums trio, based in Chicago, Andrew Trim, Kurt Schweitz, Deven Drobka. First album, guitar metallic, can crunch out a groove or spring free, or just bide time. B+(*) [cdr]
Andrew Downing: Otterville (2016, self-released, 2CD): Bassist, born in London, Ontario and based in Toronto, plays cello here, presenting a series of ornate landscape pieces, lovely in a rather uneventful way. Group includes alto sax, vibes, lap steel guitar, bass guitar, and drums, with occasional touches of trumpet and trombone. B [cd]
Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Trio With Friends: Happy Madness (2016, Summit): Standards singer trying to pass as good-time girl -- nothing really standard but hits the usual bases including Jobim and McCartney -- backed by piano trio and presumably more, although I have no idea who the "friends" are. B- [cd]
Earth Tongues: Ohio (2015 , Neither/Nor, 2CD): Filed this under trumpeter Joe Moffett, joined here by Dan Peck on tuba and Carlo Costa on percussion, the horn players also credited with "cassette player." Long-form industrial ambient, or (not quite) noise, the length undoes any sense of structure (or as they put it, "immersive pieces that explore dynamic and temporal extremes"). B [cd]
The Fat Babies: Solid Gassuh (2016, Delmark): Seven-piece trad jazz band, founded 2010 by bassist Beau Sample, based in Chicago, they play old stuff going back to "Maple Leaf Rag" and clearly are having fun. B+(**) [cd]
Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band: ˇIntenso! (2016, Clavo): Directed by son Brent Fischer, less a ghost band than a living memorial to the late pianist-arranger, whose clients ranged from Dizzy Gillespie to Prince. Six Clare Fischer originals (out of ten), mostly old arrangements, the band solid, a couple Roberta Gambarini vocals a plus. B+(**) [cd]
David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Triple Exposure (2015 , Origin): Bassist-led piano trio, the pianist Greg Goebel, drummer Charlie Doggett. Friesen has a long discography going back to 1976. He composed and arranged all the pieces here, gets bright leads and patiently works his bass into the cracks. B+(*) [cd]
Clay Giberson: Pastures (2015 , Origin): Pianist, based in Portland, has five previous records plus four by his group Upper Left Trio. Draws on a strong quartet here with Drew Gress (bass), Matt Wilson (drums), and most valuable player Donny McCaslin, whose tenor sax chops dominate everything. Less so his flute and soprano, or the string quartet added on four tracks. B+(***) [cd]
Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Machine (2016, Moserobie): Drummer-led sax trio, with Daniel Bingert on bass guitar, and Per 'Texas' Johansson on "the saxophone." Reminiscent of the Thing in their new wave fusion mode (though less squawky, and less free). Thirteen cuts, 28:29. B+(*) [cd]
Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (2015 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist from Houston, studied in New Orleans and Florida, teaches at Broward College. Probably his debut, a lively hard bop sextet with Josh Evans on trumpet, Michael Dease on trombone, and Glenn Zaleski on piano, makes it seem easy. B+(***) [cd]
Stu Harrison: Volume I (2016, One Nightstand): Pianist, Canadian, leads a trio with Neil Swainson (bass) and Terry Clarke (drums) through a batch of very familiar standards, teasing and tussling without losing the thread. B+(**) [cd]
Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (2016, Flat Langston's Arkeyes): Group abbreviated HAGL, led by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis (not the sole lyricist) with saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and various others, most songs with vocals in various voices ("dedicated to poets Etheridge Knight and Ntozake Shange with moments of James Baldwin and Michael S. Harper thematically-seasoned in"), pushing boundaries while the sinewy music slithers around, or sometimes just enjoys a funk groove. B+(**) [cd]
Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 3: Three Places in New England (2016, Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, quintet includes trumpet, clarinet, cello, and drums. Like the two previous volumes, this picks up a piece of modernist classical music and reframes it as jazz -- the previous volumes used Stravinsky and Messaien, this one goes after Charles Ives, who patterned his own music on brass bands obliquely heard. The indirection works nicely here. B+(***) [cd]
Roger Ingram: Sklyark (2015, One Too Tree): Trumpet player, finished second for trumpet in Downbeat's 2016 Readers Poll, a complete surprise to me -- only his second album (and short ones at that, this one seven cuts, 28:40) I can find, but he has many side credits going back to Woddy Herman in 1986. Not sure of credits here, but starts solo before a big band (Jim Stewart Orchestra) with singer (Christine Cooney) enter. The vocals swing agreeably, but the instrumentals are a little gaudy. B
Erik Jekabson: A Brand New Take (2015 , OA2): Trumpet player, based in Bay Area, has a handful of records dating back to 2002. Quintet here with alto sax (Kasey Knudsen) and piano (Matt Clark), plus a couple tracks with guests -- "Thriller" is a highlight, with John Gove (trombone) and Dave Ellis (tenor sax). B+(*) [cd]
Jerome Jennings: The Beast (2016, Iola): Drummer, wrote four (of nine) songs here, leading a hard bop sextet much like the groups his bassist (Christian McBride) has led -- most obviously with Christian Sands on piano, also Sean Jones on trumpet and Howard Wiley on tenor sax. Steady pulse of energy, as if they're afraid they might be taken for retro. B+(**) [cd]
The Matthew Kaminski Quartet: Live at Churchill Grounds (2015 , Chicken Coup): Organ player, from Chicago, earns his scratch playing for the Atlanta Braves. Quartet includes guitar and tenor sax (Will Scruggs), and Kimberley Gordon sings a couple tunes. All covers, done up like a gaudy burlesque, with "Sail On Sailor" a surprise lead. B+(*) [cd]
Walter Kemp 3oh!: Dark Continent (2016, Blujazz): Pianist, sometimes adds a III to his name but styles his piano trio thusly, picking up last initials from bassist RiShon Odel and drummer David Hulett. Densely chorded pieces have some power, slower ones thoughtful. B+(*) [cd]
Frank Kimbrough: Solstice (2016, Pirouet): Pianist, first appeared as part of a New York postbop circle that included Ben Allison, Ron Horton, and Matt Wilson, and always struck me as the least adventurous of that crowd. Trio, with Jay Anderson on bass and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. One original, one standard, the rest from postmodern jazz sources like Carla Bley, Paul Motian, Andrew Hill, Maria Schneider, and Annette Peacock (twice). B+(**) [cd]
Lambchop: FLOTUS (2016, Merge): Acronym more convoluted than expected: For Love Often Turns Us Still. Band, fronted by Kurt Wagner, has recorded a dozen albums since 1994. This one's slow with a light touch, delicate even, pleasant in passing but little registers. B
Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (2016, RCA Nashville, 2CD): Twenty-four songs, runs 94:01, the first disc titled "The Nerve" and the second "The Heart." Gossip columnists tell us it's about her breakup with Blake Shelton and her current relationship with Anderson East. Still, not much tumult here -- certainly no "Kerosene" -- everything on a level keel, making me wonder why the album had to be so damn long. Probably because she's got a lot to say. B+(***)
Ingrid Laubrock: Serpentines (2016, Intakt): German tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, has produced quite a few records since 1999. This one mixes in trumpet (Peter Evans), koto (Miya Masaoka), piano (Craig Taborn), electronics (Sam Pluta), tuba (Dan Peck), and drums (Tyshawn Sorey). Some bright spots, especially Taborn, but also seems rather scattered. B+(*) [cd]
Jerry Leake: Crafty Hands (2016, Rhombus Publishing): World-spanning percussionist, has a dozen or so albums as well as the books that helped name his label, but draws mostly on African and Indian here, plus a standard drum set, vibraphone, and he (and others) sing some. The others add to the "world-rock fusion" -- eclectic is their motto, making most of this enchanting, not that it all fits neatly together. B+(**) [cd]
Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (2016, Eyes & Ears): Tenor saxophonist from Chicago, seems to be his debut album, quartet with Nick Mazzarella on alto sax, Clark Sommers on bass, and Quin Kirchner on drums. The extra sax shadows the leads, adding depth and lustre, but beware of slowing down. B+(*) [cd]
Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (2015 , Paint Box): Soprano saxophonist, originally from New Zealand, based in Mexico after a few years in New York. second album, quintet with Josh Sinton (bass clarinet) and piano-bass-drums. B+(**) [cd]
Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn: At Ibeam (2015 , Constant Sorrow, 2CD): The fifth (of six so far) installment under this title, "a series of recordings based on American song forms," something hardly no one has researched deeper than alto-saxophonist Lowe. A disparate, sprawling set of works, with two mid-sized groups and a number of guest spots -- hard to see how they could all have fit into a single day of recording. Opens with a solo piano piece by Loren Schoenberg, then another by Kelly Green -- the first of several "Mary Lou Williams Variations." Then moves on to a group with Kirk Knuffke (trumpet) and Paul Austerlitz (clarinet), later to another with Lisa Parrott (baritone sax) and Larry Feldman (violin). Not easy to follow, but even when you don't something liable to jump out and grab you. B+(***) [cd]
Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an Ocean View (2016, Constant Sorrow): Opens with some of Lowe's best alto sax, but often gives way to let the twin guitarists (Nels Cline and Ray Suhy) shine. With Matthew Shipp (piano), Kevin Ray (bass), Larry Feldman (violin, mandolin), and Carolyn Castellano (drums). The song forms range from hymns to Hendrix, each with its own fascination. A- [cd]
Thierry Maillard Trio and Philharmonic Orchestra: Ethnic Sounds (2016, Blujazz): French pianist, has perhaps a dozen albums since 1998, explains in the liner notes that "My biggest musical dream has always been to hear one day my music written for a jazz trio and a symphonic Orchestra," so I guess he can scratch that off his bucket list. He went to Prague to get the orchestra, an outfit that has never shown much finnesse around jazz, and he brought in some ringers like guitarist Nguyen Lę. The music leans toward fusion, or maybe it's just energetically muddled. B- [cd]
Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal Existence (2015 , Origin): Alto saxophonist, from northern Belgium, backed by bass and drums, Verbist the main writer (5/10 compositions). Subtle, relaxed postbop, sometimes pushes not out but in. B+(***) [cd]
Tom Marko: Inner Light (2016, Summit): Drummer, director of jazz studies at Illinois State, first album, lineups vary but generally a standard quintet, sometimes with added guitar, sometimes percussion. Big name here is "special guest" Scott Wendholt (trumpet), who earns his billing. Postbop moves, has some hot spots. B [cd]
Melanie Marod: I'll Go Mad (2016, ITI): Standards singer, from Michigan, based in New York, probably her debut. Has a seductive voice, eclectic taste in Anglo standards ("Spanish Harlem," "Dance Me to the End of Love," "Candy," but "Everybody's Talkin'" is a let down; plus "Corcovado" and two equally obvious Latin tunes. Backed by guitar (Masami Ishikawa), keyboards (Art Hirahara), bass and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Bruno Mars: 24K Magic (2016, Atlantic): Loved his first album, shrugged off his second, and can't say that anything really grabs me in this big-time pop production, though I continue to be wowed by his voice. B
Delfeayo Marsalis presents the Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Make America Great Again! (2016, Troubadour Jass): Big band, led by the trombone-playing Marsalis brother, takes America to be a macro-extension of black New Orleans, with Wendell Pierce narrating a spiel that reminds me of "Chocolate City," egged on by a chorus reiterating the title with just a bit of sarcasm, reminding us that the greatest traitors to America were the "rebels" who fought the union for slavery. Frames the program with "Star Spangled Banner" and "Fanfare for the Common Man." Personally, I'd rather make America good than great, but that's the effect here, too. B+(**) [cd]
MAST: Love and War_ (2016, Alpha Pup): Album cover stylizes group name as all caps followed by an inverted-V and two backslashes, sort of a broken-M, although their Bandcamp page sticks with ASCII. Second group album, leader is Tim Conley, they didn't bother to table up the credits, but it would have been a long list, including the ten-piece Fresh Cut Orchestra. Structured as a three act play, with various spoken and sung characters, lush instrumental passages, the sort of high art concept I have trouble focusing on. I will say he's better at it than the Pretty Things, though maybe not better than Sufjan Stevens (or the Who). B+(*) [cdr]
Matt Mayhall: Tropes (2015 , Skirl): Drummer, based in Los Angeles, also credited with keyboards on this debut album, leads a trio with Jeff Parker on guitar and Paul Bryan on bass guitar, plus guests on a couple cuts each: Chris Speed (tenor sax) and Jeff Babko (organ, keyboards). Rather mellow showcase for Parker. B+(*) [cd]
Donny McCaslin: Beyond Now (2016, Motema): Tenor saxophonist, has outstanding chops which he frequently flexes to steal the spotlight on others' albums, although I've only rarely been a fan of his own albums (2008's Recommended Tools is an exception). David Bowie hired him to work on his final album, Blackstar, and McCaslin returns the compliment here, using Bowie's band (Jason Lindner, Mark Giulliana, Tim Lefebvre) on a couple of Bowie songs, others from Deadmau5 and Mutemath. Leans hard toward fusion, turning into its own kind of sax blowout. B+(*)
The Monkees: Good Times! (2016, Rhino): Someone thought some sort of 50th anniversary remembrance was in order, then discovered that three of the original four actors who were tabbed for a popular TV series about an American Beatles spoof were still living, so why not a reunion? They even hired three members of Fountains of Wayne to craft fake Monkees songs. It's not like they couldn't recapture the vibe, but somehow it sounds pathetic this time around. Indeed, the whole thing turned so depressing they let the original Monkees write some of their own songs. And they dug up an unreleased 1967 track to pretend Davy Jones lives. B-
Van Morrison: Keep Me Singing (2016, Caroline): Past 70 now, knighted, one of the all-time greats, so much so that mere echoes of his great albums can blow you away. This one is that and a bit more as he's found a new comfort not just in his skin but in the warmth of his Celtic-blues soul. A-
John Moulder: Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (2014-16 , Origin): Guitarist, based in Chicago, teaches at Benedictine and Northwestern, sixth album, cut in two sessions with different bass/drums and tablas on one, but Jim Trompeter (piano), Marquis Hill (trumpet), and Donny McCaslin (tenor sax) appeared on both. McCaslin flexes his chops, but this can get murky without him. B [cd]
Moutin Factory Quintet: Deep (2016, Blujazz): Twin brothers François (bass) and Louis Moutin (drums), leading a quintet with alto/sopranino sax (Christophe Monniot), guitar (Manu Codjia), and piano (Jean-Michel Pilc). One very nice Fats Waller medley, mostly just bass and drums, but the originals tend toward post-fusion (in the sense of what postbop made of bebop, I suspect Weather Report was their ur-text). B+(*) [cd]
Fredrik Nordström: Gentle Fire/Restless Dreams (2016, Moserobie, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist from Sweden, look him up and most likely you'll find a different person -- a heavy metal guitarist with the same name. This one has a half-dozen previous albums going back to 2000. Two albums here cut in the same two-day session, with the same quartet: Jonas Östhom (piano), Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums). Mixed with the gentle stuff on one disc, the restless on the other (or vice versa). Restless is better, of course, but I've played this enough I've also grown quite fond of the fire. A- [cd]
Phil Parisot: Lingo (2016, OA2): Seattle-based drummer, first album, has a couple of side-credits including the group Big Neighborhood. Sax quartet, Steve Treseler out front on tenor and soprano, Dan Kramlich on piano and Fender Rhodes, Michael Glynn on bass. Seven originals, three non-standard covers, pretty much what everyone else is doing, though lively for that. B+(*) [cd]
Felix Peikli & Joe Doubleday: It's Showtime! (2016, self-released): Clarinetist, from Norway, and vibraphonist, playing standards, backed by a swing-oriented rhythm section with Rossano Sportiello on piano. Bright, even a bit frothy. B+(*) [cdr]
Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1 (2016, Leo): Avant tenor saxophonist from Brazil, celebrated twenty years of recording back in 2009-10 with six releases, and has duplicated that feat nearly every year since. He released five records this spring (my top picks were Soul and Blue), and now for the fall he's come out with six volumes of Improv Trio -- one suspects too much and too similar, but we'll see. Berger here plays piano, a steady influence that mostly keeps the sax on track, even brings out a touch of elegance. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 2 (2016, Leo): Tenor sax, viola, drums. Maneri is the wild card here, his microtonal meanderings sometimes lose me, but in the end he provokes the saxophonist into upping his game. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 3 (2015 , Leo): Probably the most imposing of the trio lineups, but pianist Shipp -- a frequent Perelman mate going back to 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz -- never charges into the clear (as he sometimes managed in the David S. Ware Quartet). Still a fine showing for the saxophonist, but not exceptional. B+(**) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (2016, Leo): The bassist makes a difference here, setting up a groove (or at least momentum) that keeps the sax man on his toes, bobbing and weaving, never far from the edge. Moreover, he can go loud without knocking the leader out, so he has no need to hold back (as the pianists have done). A- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 5 (2016, Leo): Morris plays electric guitar, somewhat inconspicuously poking around the edges, adding bits of color and brightness. Another strong outing for the saxophonist. B+(***) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (2016, Leo): Recorded in July, probably the same time as Volume 5, the difference here is that Morris has switched from guitar to bass. As with Volume 4, this both loosens up the saxophonist and lets him be fiercer or more eloquent as the opportunity arises. A- [cd]
Pink Martini: Je Dis Oui (2016, Heinz): Portland group dating back to 1994, principally pianist Thomas Lauderdale and singer China Forbes, play an ecclectic mix of jazz, chanson, and kitsch drawing on pretty much everything. More of all of that, in some ways remarkable but less satisfying than, e.g., 2007's Hey, Eugene!. B+(*)
Bobby Previte: Mass (2016, RareNoise): Jazz drummer, often leans toward fusion but has more eclectic tastes -- esoteric, too. This starts with a baroque piece by Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474, Missa Sancti Jacobi), adds pipe organ "inspired by Olivier Messaien" (played by Marco Benevento), vocals (The Rose Ensemble), and some electric bass that could have been dubbed by Black Sabbath. I suppose if you cared about any of those things, this might seem interesting, or blasphemous, or something. C+ [cdr]
Carol Robbins: Taylor Street (2016 , Jazzcats): Plays harp, has a couple previous albums, backed here by Los Angeles musicians -- Bob Sheppard (tenor sax), Curtis Taylor (trumpet), Larry Koonse (guitar), Billy Childs (piano), Darek Oles (bass) -- generating an easy momentum without turning too smooth. B+(*) [cd]
Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (2016, Greenleaf Music): Drummer from Texas, only his second headline album but side credits go back to 1992, notably with saxophonists Fred Hess and J.D. Allen, and more recently with Jim Snidero, Doug Webb, and trumpet master Dave Douglas. This is another sax trio, with Jon Irabagon tugging him out of the mainstream, and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. B+(***) [cd]
Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (2014 , JCA): Big band composer-conductor, chairs the jazz department at New England Conservatory, has a half dozen albums since 1989, maybe more. Plays trumpet and keyboards here, just one cut each. Band is chock full of well-known names, including Ralph Alessi, Donny McCaslin, Chris Cheek, Uri Caine, Brad Shepik, and Matt Wilson -- much solo power, some impressive passages. B+(*) [cd]
Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (2016, Fresh Sound New Talent): Plays tenor sax and clarinet, has two previous appearances with Old Time Musketry (both A- records), leads his debut album with Sean Moran (guitar), Eivind Opsvik (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums). Nice mainstream sax album, the clarinet less so. B+(**) [cdr]
Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (2016 , Panorama): Mainstream alto saxophonist, most often heard with Dave Stryker (who usually gets top billing), but here takes center stage and is terrific though sevel cuts, mostly burners aside from a solo "Body & Soul." He switches to flute on the last two cuts and adds congas, nice but less impressive. Joe Lovano joins in on three cuts. B+(***) [cd]
Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at APC (2016, Misfitme Music): Pianist, born in Rochester, based in New Jersey, has several albums. Wears his religion on his sleeve -- first album was called Church Boy -- and dabbles in nursery rhymes, coming together here in two takes of "Jesus Loves Me." Uses two singers, neither adding much nuance or style. C [cd]
Snaggle: The Long Slog (2016, Browntasaurus): Jazz group, "often described as Canada's answer to Snarky Puppy," main songwriter is keyboardist (no piano) Nick Maclean, plus guitar, a couple horns (trumpet, tenor sax), bass and drums, with a "special guest" credit for second trumpet player Brownman Ali (also producer). CDBaby has a blurb from Randy Brecker saying "reminds me of a band I used to play in." Underwhelming comps pursued vigorously, leaves me uninterested. B- [cd]
Soul Basement feat. Jay Nemor: What We Leave Behind (2016, ITI): Recorded over three months in Siracusa [Sicily], Gothenburg [Sweden], and Oslo. Soul Basement is an alias for Fabio Puglisi, who plays keyboards, bass, drums, and programming, and co-wrote the songs with non-bandmember J. Harden. Nemor does the speakeasy vocals and some saxophone, making him the real focal point. All in English, including a couple timely political excursions. B+(*) [cd]
Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (2016, Herb Harris Music): Mainstream trumpet player, originally from Miami, last time tried his hand at a Lee Morgan tribute (BrotherLee Love), but didn't really get the vibe right until now, with a superb hard bop quintet. Pianist Kevin Hays is essential, tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield mostly shades but delivers when he gets a solo shot. But it's mostly the trumpet -- the fast ones grab you right away, the ballads take a while for the slow burn to emerge. A- [cd]
Andrew Van Tassel: It's Where You Are (2016, Tone Rogue): Alto saxophonist, also plays soprano, based in New York, probably his first album, a quartet with Julian Shore on piano and Rhodes. One cover, from Charles Ives, the originals insightful but soft-edged and pleasant. B+(*) [cd]
Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (2016, Skirl): Plays tenor sax and flute, here in a prickly trio with Matt Mitchell on piano and John Hollenbeck on drums. B+(***) [cd]
Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (2016, Summit): Trombonist, eighth album since 1989, side credits include Toshiko Akiyoshi's big band. Quartet with Christian Jacob (piano), Kevin Axt (bass), and Peter Erskine (drums) playing song written by producer Carl Saunders. As far as I can tell, the previous volume of New Jazz Standards was released in 2014 and credited to the late flautist Sam Most -- another Saunders production. B+(*) [cd]
Basak Yavuz: A Little Red Bug (2015 , Things&): Turkish singer-songwriter, studied jazz in New York and picked up some tricks, but this second album was recorded in Istanbul with a long list of Turkish names (but no instrument credits). Music, too, is more Turkish than jazz, but its dramatic flair is informed (and stretched) by the latter -- most obviously on the "Bye Bye Blackbird" cover. B+(**) [cd]
Zarabande: El Toro (2016, AFlo): San Antonio-based marimba player Alfred Flores is billed as "El Toro" here, and seems to be the leader (listed first, producer) -- band includes Joe Caploe on vibraphone, Mark Little on piano, plus bass and drums -- and "Zarabande" is one of the song titles, but the credits are reversed, perhaps because Little and Caploe split all the song credits (6-3). Nice flow, lots of tinkle. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance [The Bootleg Series Vol. 5] (1966-68 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): His greatest group, close to mid-term, so it's fair to expect jazz of the highest order, and to be disappointed with tentative outtakes and rambling session dialogue only scholars need to hear once. The songs mostly turned into Miles Smiles (1966) with some leftovers that wound up on Water Babies (belatedly released in 1976). The false starts and not-very-audible banter especially mar the first disc, but the music on the latter discs is pretty much what you'd expect. Doesn't strike me as essential, but I also don't have the booklet that no doubt draws out the historical context. B+(*)
Erroll Garner: Ready Take One (1967-71 , Legacy): Fourteen previously unreleased tracks from three sessions late in the pianist's career. Mostly trio, some extra percussion, the sound weak enough that the bass isn't always clear. Flashes of the idiosyncrasy that marked his work in his '50s prime, but not a major find. B+(*)
Sonny Criss: The Complete Imperial Sessions (1956 , Blue Note, 2CD): Also saxophonist, cut his first albums for Imperial at age 28 (although some older recordings were released later), three albums -- Jazz USA (with Barney Kessel and Kenny Drew), Go Man! (with Sonny Clark), and Sonny Criss Plays Cole Porter (Clark again, plus Larry Bunker on vibes) -- all rounded up here. Bright and fast, manages to bridge bebop and a more mainstream standards repertoire. A- [cd]
Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington: The Stockholm Concert (1966 , Jazz World): Same year as the official Ella and Duke at the Côte D'Azur -- issued in an 8-CD box and a recommended 2-CD sampler. Pretty much their standard show, opening with four Ellington pieces, closing with scat takes of "How High the Moon" and "Mr. Paganini." B+(***) [cd]
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, November 28. 2016
Music: Current count 27386  rated (+24), 362  unrated (-17).
Finally, on Saturday, got my new computer build working, hooked up, and able to stream from Napster. I'm somewhat embarrassed to finally realize that the problem all along was a faulty monitor (a Samsung, like most of the other faulty equipment in the house right now -- my big complaint is a broken ice maker in the refrigerator, and by broken I mean that the plastic tray is badly cracked on both ends, such that the screw drive that moved the ice forward jams). The monitor actually displays internally generated messages fine, but doesn't display the signal coming in through the D-SUB connection. In fact, the manual says the monitor has a self-test feature, and when I tried that the self-test came out OK. But it took weeks for it to finally sink in that the monitor was the problem.
Went out on Black Saturday and picked up a new LG 24-inch monitor for about $140. The new computer works fine with it. The old computer works fine too, so now I have a spare. It had been 5-6 years since I built the old one, so one can argue that I was due for a new one, but I hate to have blundered into it like that. The new one has an 8-core AMD FX-8350 processor, ASUS motherboard and video card (not a fancy one, but has 2GB RAM), plus I have 32GB RAM and a 2TB hard drive, a DVD burner, and a parallel printer port board so I can still hook up to my old HP laser printer. Loaded Xubuntu 16.04 desktop on it, and I've had to load a couple dozen extra software packages so I have a LAMP web server, emacs, gimp, and a few extra applications that looked promising (including a CAD system, an alt-Adobe Illustrator, and a database program for recipes). That's all free software. Had to jump through some extra hoops to get non-free (but zero cost) Adobe Flash (needed by Napster) and gstreamer drivers for playing DVDs. Probably still need some further work, but it's basically functional now. Used a cheap old box, so it's not the most elegant thing in the shop, but should be a solid machine.
Only three Napster streams among the records listed below. I also played the new A Tribe Called Quest (given an A+ last week by Christgau) but didn't get into it enough to pass any sort of judgment. (Two-thirds sounds pretty good, but nothing sounds as great as that grade implies. And it's two discs, and I'm often slow getting into hip-hop records, so I figured it best to return later).l The three rated below only got a single play. Could be that a second play might nudge Common up a notch, but Bruno Mars was disappointing and Pink Martini clearly not their best work. Playing the latest Miles Davis bootleg as I write this, but at 3-CD it's going to take a while.
Besides, I needed to make a serious dent in the incoming jazz queue, which I did. The 2016 pending list is currently down to six albums: no one I've heard of (although I filed one under Ernest Dawkins, whose last three albums came in at A-, so I need to check that one out soon). Jazz Critics Poll ballot due next week, and Francis Davis is already getting anxious about that. I did a preliminary sort on my jazz list a couple weeks ago, but I still expect to fiddle with the order quite a bit (depending on time and whether I can find things, so possibly not before I have to turn a ballot in).
I'm afraid I have no sense whatsoever how that poll is going to go. I currently list 61 A- (or better) new jazz albums. The only one in my top-ten I'm reasonably sure will finish top-ten (probably top-three) is Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs. I suppose JD Allen (Americana) and David Murray (Perfection) are possibles; further down my list Steve Lehman, Sonny Rollins, Greg Ward, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Fred Hersch seem likely to get a few votes, but I'll be surprised if anything else cracks the top forty. (George Coleman maybe? Rich Halley? Jane Ira Bloom?)
Rather seems more likely that some of my HM records will poll well -- Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson, Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey -- or records I listed lower -- Darcy James Argue, Kenny Barron, Vijay Iyer, Charles Lloyd -- not much else I've noticed other critics liking, but I'm sure I've missed some things. As for records I've heard of but haven't heard, I scanned through my checklist file and added 13 records to the "estimated to have a 2% chance of A-" list in the EOY Jazz file cited above (also added 19 to the EOY Non-Jazz file). I'll add more as I see some actual EOY lists.
Speaking of EOY lists, the first few have appeared (starting, as usual, in the UK with NME, Mojo, Uncut, and a few record store lists). I put a lot of work into tracking these things last year, and doubted that I would again, but the last few weeks have been so stressful to me that I thought it might be calming to waste some time on them this year. After eight (or so) lists this year looks like this. (Note that I'm already counting my grades, although I've only included those on other lists.) My initial guess was that Beyoncé would win going away, with Chance the Rapper in second, and then, well, I don't know -- AOTY has Nick Cave top-rated based on review averages (a B- as far as I'm concerned), followed by Bon Iver (*), Beyonce (?), Solange (**), Radiohead (B), Frank Ocean (?), Leonard Cohen (A-), A Tribe Called Quest (probably A-), Mitski (*), and Angel Olsen (***). But at least in the UK, David Bowie jumped into a clear lead, followed by Cave, Radiohead, Olsen, Thee Oh Sees, and Iggy Pop, with Beyoncé and Chance back in the 30-40 range.
However, the first American list to appear, from Consequence of Sound, is closer to what I expect: Beyoncé, Chance, Bowie, Ocean, Anohni, Cave, Olsen, Anderson .Paak, Bon Iver, Cohen, Mitski, A Tribe Called Quest (first list appearance for a late release), Radiohead, Blood Orange, Schoolboy Q, Wilco, Tim Hecker, Car Seat Headrest, Solange; plus some further down records that may do better: Kaytranada, Danny Brown, Savages, Kevin Gates, Young Thug, White Lung.
One list that's out that I haven't bothered with is Decibel's. Last year I faithfully tracked all the metal lists, but wound up listening to fewer than five albums, so that much doesn't seem to be worth the effort this year. I suppose that makes my tally a bit less objective, but I'd rather spend my time on things I consider worthy.
I made a mistake last week in listing Heroes Are Gang Leader's new album Flukum, so corrected that and repeated it this week. I liked their previous album this year (Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers) a bit more, but both should be of interest if you're interested in jazz-rap fusion. The two A- records this week are from Ivo Perelman's six-volume set, only marginally better than the others because bass seems to fit in better than piano (or viola or guitar). Could be I downgraded the one with Shipp only because I expected more (it was the one volume I singled out to listen to in the car). Perelman finishes the year with 4 A-, 4 ***, 1 **, 2 * records.
PS: Monday's mail brought a nice package from NoBusiness in Lithuania, and a new Randy Weston 2-CD that officially drops on January 20 (so I can ignore it for a couple weeks). Also email from Steve Swell offering me a couple CDs, so they'll be coming soon. Also, that new Dawkins album is pretty good.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week: