Monday, October 16. 2017
Music: Current count 28781  rated (+15), 402  unrated (+1).
Second short-count week in a row, following a +17 last week. No surprise for me, as we played host for a visiting friend from Boston. I spent one day cooking a nice dinner -- Moroccan, main dish was cod marinated in chermoula and baked over potatoes and tomatoes; sides were a roasted eggplant salad, roasted red bell peppers with goat cheese, a carrot salad, an olive-orange-onion salad, and a sweet potato-olive salad; dessert was a mixed fruit salad with honey and orange blossom water. Next day we drove out to Quivira NWR, Cheyenne Bottoms, and back through Lindsborg. Ate at Country Crossing in Yoder on the way out, and Swedish Crown in Lindsborg on the way back. Third day we drove around Wichita, dining at Molino's (Mexican). Anyhow, knocked about half of my week out, and I never really got back into it.
I did manage a small bit of progress on the Jazz Guides. I'm up to 51% in the Jazz 2000's file, which puts me at Julian Lage, and gives me 1197 pages. One metric I've been using suggests that I have 157 pages to go (1354 total), but that doesn't account for group entries that I've set aside -- probably another 50-75 pages. The 20th Century Guide is still stuck at 749 pages, so I'm 54 short of 2000 combined. That'll probably be a milestone to mark with a tweet, hopefully later this week.
One minor note on the list below. I was reminded of the Mose Allison compilation, which Christgau had given an A- to, by its conspicuous (albeit alphabetical) slotting on Phil Overeem's latest list. The record isn't available on Napster, but I was able to line up 23/24 songs, and figured that's close enough. Not quite as good as I'd like, although I could imagine the booklet and a few more plays pushing it over the line. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I could assemble an A- compilation, although I've yet to find any available record that quite makes the grade.
I expect I'll get closer to 30 records next week, although I'm likely to run into a few distractions. Also having trouble figuring out what to listen to on Napster, although my own new jazz queue is pretty deep right now, so there's that.
I should also note that some space has opened up on the server, so for a while I should be back to normal there. Still think I should move it all, but the immediate need is less urgent.
Laura Tillem had a nit to pick with my outrage at Trump and Tillerson for withdrawing the US from UNESCO yesterday. She blamed Obama. I'm not sure of the exact chronology or responsibility, but in 2011 the US stopped paying dues to UNESCO because they admitted Palestine as a full member. This was evidently mandated by a law passed by Congress -- I don't know whether it was signed by Obama, but wouldn't be surprised if it was. In 2012, Obama asked Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, and was turned down. In 2015 UNESCO passed a resolution that Israel took offense to -- something having to do with Jerusalem -- and at some point UNESCO designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a World Historical site, and made the faux pas of designating it as part of Palestine. But disagreements happen with international organizations. What I was more concerned with was the American refusal to participate and engage, which is consistent and largely dictated by neocon (imperialist) doctrine. Indeed, it should be pointed out that Israel didn't announce that it's leaving UNESCO until after the US did, supposedly on its behalf. I might also note that the US-Israeli decision casts further doubt that either nation has any real commitment to "the two-state solution," which has been official policy, at least in the US, at least since the early 1990s. If the US actually supported its own policy, you'd expect it to help establish international recognition of a Palestinian state even before Israel formalized the deal. Instead, since GW Bush the US has routinely subordinated its own policies and interests to Israel -- a blank check surrender which Obama and Trump have continued.
There is, I think, an interesting book to be written about how the critique of internationalism and, especially, the UN, has grown from a fringe cult like the 1950s John Birch Society into a hegemonic idea that dictates American foreign policy, affecting both parties.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 9. 2017
Music: Current count 28766  rated (+17), 401  unrated (-3).
Light week all around. I spent several days working on a fairly extravagant dinner. I had checked out a copy of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods from the local library, thinking I'd try a few dishes before I had to check the book back in. I made fourteen of them, counting some basic ones that got folded into other recipes (like the Apple-Pear Sauce, which went into Grandma Fay's Applesauce Cake, and the Everything Bagel Butter, perfect for spreading on the Seeded Honey Rye Pull-Apart Rolls). The cookbook has recipes for basic DIY ingredients: the one recipe I botched was the Sauerkraut, needed for Wine-Braised Sauerkraut and Mushrooms, itself a component to the Braised Sauerkraut and Potato Gratin. So I wound up buying Bubbies Sauerkraut for the Gratin, but my Sauerruben came out perfect, so I think the Sauerkraut would have worked if I had been more careful to keep the cabbage submerged.
While cooking, I went back to the travel cases, so I listened to a lot of great music, even if I have little to report. In fact, the two A- records below were things I wrote a bit about last week, so it was all downhill from last Monday. After cooking, I wrote up recipes and notes on the meal, but they're in the notebook. I haven't been able to update the website, so you probably won't be able to find them. (But note: I see a bit of disk space opened up, so maybe I can wrap this up and get it up there before it closes again. If you see album covers, that's a good sign I managed an update.)
Next week is likely to be short as well. We have a guest midweek, so will be spending time with her -- showing off the town, and maybe some of the countryside, and cooking a bit (Moroccan tomorrow night).
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Monday, October 2. 2017
Music: Current count 28749  rated (+30), 404  unrated (+6).
I wrapped up September's Streamnotes on Saturday. I couldn't update the website, so the only workable link at present is here. Inability to update means that eight cover pics of A- records won't be found. Same for the seven A- records in the list below (only one not in Streamnotes). Still no idea when I'll manage to straighten this mess out. There are so many things to do I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around it all.
The one new record was recommended by Phil Overeem, as he expanded his 2017 My Fav-O-Rite New and Old Records of 2017 list to 85. I'm not much of a Cajun fan, but the latest Lost Bayou Ramblers album hits the spot.
I tried closing the week on Sunday, but found a couple more incoming records on my messy desk, so I figured I should at least add them, and wound up updating the rated totals as well. One thing I notices was that I hadn't recorded the grade (A-) for Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite, so most likely that didn't get registered in its appropriate Music Week post. Things slowed down after posting on Saturday. I've been playing new jazz in FIFO order, but decided to let the September Intakt releases jump the line. Both -- an Irène Schweizer duo with Joey Baron and a second record by Tom Rainey's Obbligato quintet -- are somewhat less than I hoped for (well, expected), but still close enough I wound up sinking a lot of time in them. Schweizer has a lot of drummer duos on record, and the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre are nothing short of astonishing. I've long admired Baron, but he doesn't bring out the same spark in the pianist. Rainey's record is tougher to decide -- I'm not really much good with subtle, and there's a lot of that here.
I tried to catch up with Robert Christgau's recent picks, and was most impressed by L'Orange. The 2015 album with Jeremiah Jae had the special mix of sound and words that Christgau recognized, but I was every bit as taken by the 2016 collaboration with Mr. Lif, in part because its Orwellian dystopia seems amusingly quaint next to the actual hell we're (mostly) living through. I woke up this morning to news of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas, with TPM offering as its lead story: White House: 'Premature' to Talk Gun Control in Wake of Las Vegas Shooting. "Too late" would have been more like it, but with an average of one mass shooting per day (273 times in the first 273 days of this year, counting 4+ people shot as a "mass shooting"), timing doesn't really seem to be the question. (For a level-headed summary of the facts: German Lopez: Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts.)
I come from a family chock full of hunters, and I grew up with guns in my home and in the homes of most of my relatives. My father took a course on how to do taxidermy, so I also grew up surrounded by stuffed dead animals -- they were my specialty at school show-and-tells (the rattlesnakes were the biggest hits, but the badger and owl were the stars). The Idaho relatives are more likely to have stuffed bear and moose. One of them not only hunts; he makes his own antique rifles to get back closer to the pioneer spirit. My father and most of his generation served as soldiers, and that's still pretty common among the Arkansas-Oklahoma relatives. So I'm not someone who gets riled up easily over guns. Nor do I think it's government's job to protect us from every possible harm -- especially self-harm (one of those charts shows that guns kill many more people through suicide than murder -- I'd like to see the same chart include accidents and "justified" self-defense, which is surely the smallest slice of the pie). Still, I do have a problem with stupid, and there's way too much of that -- on both sides, but it's far from distributed evenly.
It's also important to realize that when people understand a problem, they can if not fix at least ameliorate it. In this regard, I noticed two tweets today. One pointed out that "The Onion has run this story verbatim five times since 2014, switching out only city, photo, and body count" (link). The story title: "No Way to Prevent This," Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." The other was The Onion's own tweet: "Americans Hopeful This Will Be Last Mass Shooting Before They Stop On Their Own For No Reason." Probably the single most obvious point one can draw from the Las Vegas shooting is that it would have been much less destructive had a federal law banning assault weapons not been allowed to expire back when Bush was president. (The latest count I've seen is 59 dead, 525 injured. That takes a lot of bullets over a mere 15 minutes.) Sure, it's not like Congress authorized the massacre, but that Congress could have prevented it (and some lesser cases) had they maintained existing law. You can blame them not doing so on NRA lobbying ($3,781,803 donations to current members of Congress), but I think it has more to do with continuous war since 2001, habituating us to the notion that all we need to solve problems is more firepower.
I bring up the lapse of law because Congress has just allowed several other important laws to expire, replacing them with nothing but anarchy and cowardice. As Rep. Joe Kennedy III listed them:
This story is unlikely to make the network news, especially on a day with so much bloodshed, but over time they will affect many more lives than the shooter in Las Vegas, and some of those effects will be dire. Again, these are not new things that we cannot do. They are things that we have been doing -- things that we actually should be doing better -- but are stopping because we've elected a Congress that can't be bothered even maintaining a semblance of civilization. (Isn't there a quote somewhere, to the effect that taxes are what we pay for civilization? One reason these laws are lapsing is that Congress is preoccupied with slashing taxes -- no doubt figuring that if they focus on helping the wealthy civilization will take care of itself.)
Speaking of dead people, Tom Paley and Tom Petty passed in the last few days. [The Petty report may have been premature.] The former was a founder of the legendary folk group New Lost City Ramblers. Their early work, before Paley left in 1962, was their best. The latter is a well known rocker, although the first image that pops into my mind is the girl in Silence of the Lambs singing along to "American Girl" in the car on her way to being kidnapped.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Saturday, September 30. 2017
No free disk space on my server, so it's impossible to update the website. Hence: no "faux blog" post, no new images (several late-breaking A- records, plus notice that I'm currently reading the Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes horror story, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign).The Serendipity blog appears to still be working, so I should be able to post my text there. I'm tempted to cross-post elsewhere, but don't have any good ideas at the minute.
After procrastinating some, I finally started to work on moving the website last night. My first idea was to install a Serendipity blog locally -- I vaguely recalled that it has some import tools, so hoped I might be able to import directly from the old blog, but after I got it working the import tools doesn't seem likely to work. (One big problem with my ISP is that I haven't been able to do a full database dump for several years now, and not having any disk space means I wouldn't have any place to temporarily hold the dump.)
My second idea was to use HTTrack to clone the blog-portion of the website, but simple operation would pick up too many redundant pages. I suspect there are options to limit this -- there seem to be about a hundred option switches -- so it can probably be done, but thus far I haven't figured out how. Still, I made a little progress last night: I wrote a shell script to collect all 171 pages of entries (2558 total) in the blog roll and save them in a directory. Today I realized this doesn't include the "further reading" parts of long blog posts, so I will have to identify them and go back a second time. Indeed, it might be best to use the pages I extracted to get the individual page URLs and grab them all again, so they'd wind up in separate files. In any case, it will take another program to extract usable data from the captured HTML files. The easiest thing then would be to convert it into my "faux blog" format, although it might be more useful to hack it into something I can stuff into a database (e.g., another blog, not necessarily Serendipity).
Good news, I suppose, is that when I get what I want from the site, I can end my dependency on the ISP (ADDR.COM -- highly unrecommended) and install at least my static files on a new server. No idea when that will be possible -- probably a week or two, although I could get snagged up in something or other.
Normally I'd try to write some notes out on the music below, but given the circumstances, I'll let it speak for itself. A review of last month's Music Week posts might help.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on August 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (10173 records).
Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (2017, Saponegro): Trumpet player from Peru, sextet includes Laura Andrea Leguia (tenor/soprano sax), Yuri Juarez (guitar), Freddy Lobatón (cajon), Hugo Alcazar (drums), and normally a bassist (John Benitez or Mario Cuba, but I don't see either in the credits, just a couple guest spots for keyboardist Russell Ferrante and one for guitarist Jocho Velásquez). Comes out hard on the beat, then sashays through several parts of "The Brooklyn Suite," with various interludes including a marvelous snatch of "Summertime." A- [cd]
Alfjors: Demons 1 (2015 , Shhpuma, EP): Portuguese avant-rock trio -- Mestre André (tenor sax, electronics, percussion, mbira, voice), Bernardo Alvares (bass, voice), Raphael Soares (drums) -- claim influences from African forests and Mongolian steppes, from Can and Lemmy and Hawkwind and "Saint John Coltrane," pounded into dense, ecstatic rhythms. Two fairly long cuts plus an interlude, 3 tracks, 28:39. B+(**)
Chino Amobi: Paradiso (2017, Non): Born in Alabama, based in Richmond, VA. Discogs lists style as "Experimental, Bas Music, Grime, Industrial" -- I've seen this described as a "dystopian soundtrack." It's certainly harrowing enough, but it's not as if we're not living through dystopia enough in the real world. B
Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (2016 , Odin): Swedish/Norwegian supergroup, fourteenth album since 2001, the six pieces split between Fredrik Ljungkvist (sax/clarinet) and Håvard Wiik (piano), the others: Magnus Broo (trumpet), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums; until recently the drummer was Paal Nilssen-Love). The pianist often takes charge here, the horns rarely breaking as free as you'd expect. Title also seems to be available in an expanded 3-CD package, adding a couple live sets. B+(**)
Michaël Attias Quartet: Nerve Dance (2016 , Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, born in Israel, grew up in Paris and Minneapolis, based in New York since 1994. Quartet with a fine rhythm section, most notably pianist Aruán Ortiz but also John Hébert (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums). B+(***)
João Barradas: Directions (2017, Inner Circle Music): Accordion player, from Portugal, young, appears to be his first album. Guest spots for Greg Osby (alto sax), Gil Goldstein (accordion), and Sara Serpa (voice). Backed with guitar, piano, bass, drums. Shows some range, lots of energy. B+(**)
Django Bates: Saluting Sgt. Pepper (2016 , Edition): British jazz pianist, mixed a Jimi Hendrix tribute in with more avant experiments back in the 1990s but hasn't recorded much since 2009. Goes for a straight 50th anniversary remake of the Beatles classic here, backed by Frankfurt Radio Big Band, with a Danish trio called Eggs Laid by Tigers handling the vocals, bass, and drums. Still a great record, but an unnecessary version. B
Richard X Bennett: Experiments With Truth (2017, Ropeadope): Pianist, based in New York, has two new records out, old ones back to 2010. This is a fusion-groove set with two saxophonists -- Matt Parker (mostly tenor) and Lisa Parrott (mostly baritone). B+(**) [cd]
Richard X Bennett: What Is Now (2017, Ropeadope): Piano trio, with Adam Armstrong (bass) and Alex Wyatt (drums). All originals except for "Over the Rainbow." Stress again on rhythm, but nothing hinting of fusion. B+(**) [cd]
Black Lips: Satan's Graffiti or God's Art? (2017, Vice): Garage rock band, formed in Dunwoody, Georgia, based in Atlanta, eighth studio album since 2003. B+(*)
Lena Bloch & Feathery: Heart Knows (2017, Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, born in Moscow, emigrated to Israel in 1990, studied in Germany, currently teaches in Brooklyn. She released Feathery in 2014, and has kept the name for her quartet: Russ Lossing (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), and Billy Mintz (drums). Bloch and Lossing wrote four cuts each. They flow easily, nothing really standing out. B+(*) [cd]
Bomba Estéreo: Ayo (2017, Sony Music Latin): Colombian group, cumbia with electro glitz, the beat hard, the vocals a bit in your face. B+(**)
Jean-François Bonnel and His Swinging Jazz Cats: With Thanks to Benny Carter (2017, Arbors): French alto saxophonist, plays clarinet on two cuts here; seems to have had several albums, although a list isn't easy to come by. At any rate, mostly plays with trad jazz musicians like Ken Colyer and Keith Nichols. Carter tunes and other standards, with Chris Dawson (piano), François Laudet (drums), and singer Charmin Michelle (6/9 cuts). B+(**)
Action Bronson: Blue Chips 7000 (2017, Vice/Atlantic): Rapper Arian Asllani, from Flushing, father Albanian Muslim, mother American Jewish, worked under various names before settling on this one -- most notably, Mr. Baklava. Fourth studio album (not counting four mixtapes), second on a major label. Underground beats, stoned sneer, lots of chopped salad. B+(**)
Don Bryant: Don't Give Up on Love (2017, Fat Possum): Memphis soul singer-songwriter, b. 1942, cut an album for Hi in 1969, wrote several famous song with/for wife Ann Peebles, tried his hand at gospel in the late 1980s and 2000, recycled some old songs and a few new ones here. B+(*)
Chamber 4: City of Light (2016 , Clean Feed): Franco-Portuguese group: Luis Vicente (trumpet), Théo Ceccaldi (violin), Valentin Ceccaldi (cello), Marcelo dos Reis (acoustic and prepared guitar), the latter three also credited with voice. All improv, notes say they never even discussed what they might do. Ambles some, but guitar can surprise you. B+(**)
Brian Charette Circuit Bent Organ Trio: Kürrent (2017, Dim Mak): Organ player, with Ben Monder (guitar) and Jordan Young (drums). "Circuit Bending is a technique where electronic instruments are manipulated so that they misfire (!!!) creating far out sonic landscapes." Charette does a good job of steering clear of the genre's clichés, but this isn't bent enough to be especially interesting. B+(*)
Zack Clarke: Random Acts of Order (2017, Clean Feed): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Henry Fraser on bass and Dre Hocevar on percussion. B+(*)
Collective Order: Vol. 2 (2017, self-released): Toronto collective, not really a group album, more like "various artists" -- a dozen or so leader/composers, sharing a pool of 19 musicians (3 vocalists). Some pieces catch my ear, like Connor Newton's Latin-flavored "Mahsong"; most kind of elide together. B+(*) [cd]
Stanley Cowell: No Illusions (2015 , SteepleChase): Pianist, first impressed me with his 1969 Blues for the Viet Cong, now 75 with a large discography -- mostly trios, but this one brightens up with Bruce Williams' alto sax and flute. Also with Jay Anderson (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(**)
Damaged Bug: Bunker Funk (2017, Castle Face): Electronica side project by John Dwyer, best known (though not very well by me) for Thee Oh Sees. B
DEK Trio: Construct 1: Stone (2016 , Audiographic): Group named for first initials: Didi Kern (drums), Elisabeth Harnik (piano), Ken Vandermark (reeds). Two cuts, 43:48, recorded live at the Stone in NYC. Vandermark works his way through his instrument rack, especially masterful on tenor and baritone, and piercing on what I assume to be his clarinet. The Austrians support him with a range of overlapping and suitably discordant rhythms. A- [bc]
DEK Trio: Construct 2: Artfacts (2017, Audiographic): Third album, back in Austria, with pianist Harnik coming out more while Vandermark screeches on clarinet. Best stretch comes in "Paper Tongue": a strong platform rhythm under some of Vandermark's finest tenor sax honk. B+(***) [bc]
DEK Trio: Construct 3: Ovadlo 29 (2017, Audiographic): Moving on, nine days later in the Czech Republic. Three more pieces, two 21-minute bashes and a 4:10 variation. Best clarinet bit yet, a very strong tenor sax stretch. B+(***) [bc]
Dave Douglas With the Westerlies and Anwar Marshall: Little Giant Still Life (2016 , Greenleaf Music): The Westerlies, who have a previous album with Wayne Horvitz, add two trumpets and two trombones to the leader's trumpet, with Marshall on drums. Similar to Douglas' other brass band experiments, but less bottom, more postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Mike Downes: Root Structure (2016 , Addo): Bassist, from Canada, sixth album since 1997, won a Juno Award for Ripple Effect in 2014. Quartet with guitar (Ted Quinlan), piano/keys (Robi Botos), and drums. Original material (aside from odd bits by Botos and Chopin). Pleasantly engaging. B+(*) [cd]
Chet Doxas: Rich in Symbols (2017, Ropeadope): Artist's name, credited with "woodwinds and synths," not on cover or spine -- in fact, nothing on cover. Quartet with guitar (Matthew Stevens), bass and drums, loosely fits as fusion elaborating riffs into grooves. Guests Dave Douglas and John Escreet appear on one track each, Dave Nugent on three, producer Liam O'Neil all over the place. B+(*) [cd]
Kaja Draksler Octet: Gledalec (2016 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Pianist from Slovenia, also in European Movement Jazz Orchestra, fourth and most ambitious album, although note that two singers occupy slots in the Octet, leaving six instrumentalists: two saxophonists (Ada Rave and Ab Baars), violin (George Dumitriu), bass, and drums. The vocals are arch and/or arty, the sax much preferred, although both struggle on the rough footing. B
Bob Dylan: Fallen Angels (2016, Columbia): Spacing for Dylan albums since 1993's World Gone Wrong: 4 years, 4, 5, 3, 3 (Tempest, in 2012, the most forgettable of the run). So, you might expect a new one around 2015, but the muse evidently failing him, Dylan decided to cover Ye Great American Songbook for his godawful Shadows in the Night. That proved easy enough he's come up with this sequel just one year later (and even more in 2017). But where the previous album's renditions were grating, he's softened these up to the point of insignificance. C+
Bob Dylan: Triplicate (2017, Columbia, 3CD): More songbook, spread out over three discs but they're short ones: 31:48, 32:07, 31:47, 10 songs each. Notes: Jimmy Van Heusen seems to be Dylan's favorite songwriter (7 songs, 4 with Johnny Burke, 2 with Sammy Cahn); only one Irving Berlin (one each Arlen, Rodgers, Kern, Carmichael), nothing by Cole Porter or the Gershwins; horns on the opener, but strings are more prevalent later. I probably hear more than fifty vocal standards records each year, and I can't think of any aspect Dylan isn't below average in. Not his worst -- the horns do perk things up -- but still. C+
Harris Eisenstadt Canada Day Quartet: On Parade in Parede (2016 , Clean Feed): Drummer, group dates back to 2009 Canada Day album, with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Matt Bauder (tenor sax), and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). Strongest when the two horns spin free. B+(**)
John Escreet: The Unknown: Live in Concert (2016, Sunnyside): Pianist, seventh album since 2008, started on mainstream labels but this quartet represents an avant move: John Hébert (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums, vibes), and most importantly (and unmistakably) Evan Parker (tenor sax), with the pianist distinguishing himself with his oblique cross rhythms. Two parts, from two consecutive days in the Netherlands, totalling 74:47. A-
Adam Fairhall: Friendly Ghosts (2017, Efpi): British pianist, has a couple previous album and sidework with Nat Birchall. Takes this one solo. I'm not seeing a credits list, but several songs have words like "rag," "stomp," and "boogie" in the title, and the music reminds me of Dave Burrell's more antique explorations. B+(***) [bc]
Erica Falls: Home Grown (2017, self-released): Soul singer from New Orleans, second album, can't find much bio and was thrown by description of "her sophomore project titled Vintage Soul" -- must be this one. Doesn't strike me as vintage but if she wants to claim Irma Thomas -- not actually on her list of claimed influences, but the best model I can come up with -- she has a strong start. B+(**)
Fat Tony: MacGregor Park (2017, First One Up, EP): Houston rapper, born in Nigeria as Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu, shortened to Anthony Jude Obi. Fourth studio album, a bit short at eight cuts, 28:35, but with an infectiously easy flow, not that life comes so easy. A- [bc]
George Freeman: 90 Going on Amazing (2005 , Blujazz): Guitarist from Chicago, brother of saxophonist Von Freeman, cut his first record in 1969, side credits go back to a 1961 record with Richard "Groove" Holmes and Ben Webster, 90 and still performing now but a mere 78 when this was recorded. Mostly easy-going funk, a quartet with Vince Willis prominent on piano. B+(*) [cd]
Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (2017, Firehouse 12): Looks more like a double trio, with Ralph Alessi and Tyler Ho Bynum on trumpet/cornet, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook on guitar, Gerald Cleaver and Fujiwara on drums. I haven't quite figured out the parts where the leader talks about music direction, but I'm quite taken by how they all bounce off one another. A- [cd]
Gato Preto: Tempo (2017, Unique): Dance groove duo, producer Lee Bass (from Ghana) and singer-rapper Gata Misteriosa (from Mozambique) -- based somewhere in Europe, but that's about all I've been able to find, although I count 25 releases (including EPs and Remixes) on their Bandcamp page. Which makes them a subject for further research, although for now I'd rather not muddy up the clear uniqueness of their electro rush. A-
Philipp Gerschlauer/David Fiuczynski: Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik (2016 , Rare Noise): German alto saxophonist, American guitarist, the latter 22 years older, basically a fusion player (early album title: Jazz Punk). Gerschlauer, best known for his group Besaxung, developed a microtonal technique that splits an octave into 128 pitch steps. Band includes Jack De Johnette (drums), Matt Garrison (bass), and Giorgi Mikadze (microtonal keyboards). Doesn't sound all that exotic, but flows nicely. B+(*) [cdr]
Mats Gustafsson & Craig Taborn: Ljubljana (2015 , Clean Feed): Duo, slide and baritone saxes vs. piano, two improv pieces totalling 38:04 so they decided to release it on vinyl. The saxophonist backs off his usual squall, deferring to the pianist, who provides most of the interest. B
João Hasselberg & Pedro Branco: From Order to Chaos (2017, Clean Feed): Portuguese bass and guitar duo, based in Copenhagen, backed discreetly by drummer João Lencastre, with an occasional guest or two on half the tracks -- saxophonist Albert Cirera changes the chemistry to something much more combustible. B+(*)
Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (2016 , Origin): German pianist, based in Canada (off the beaten path in St. John's, Newfoundland), half-dozen records, this one solo, improvising against the steady roll of his rhythmic figures. B+(**) [cd]
Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (2016 , Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, Discogs only lists four albums since 1998 but I've heard many more than that, most quite interesting. This one is solo, deftly picked: four originals, two from kindred spirit, the late Garrison Fewell, five more from the tradition (Oliver, Monk, Dolphy) and beyond. B+(***) [cd]
Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in Tempo (2017, Creative Nation Music): Previous volumes have picked on modern classical music (Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ives), so why not Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, widely cited as the great composer of "America's classical music"? Quintet: guitar, trumpet, clarinet, cello, drums. Ellington's piece, a tribute to his mother from 1935, was originally spread out over four 10-inch sides, but still only came to 12 minutes. Hofbauer picks it apart, extending his deconstruction to 24:50, but the theme comes through as elegant as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Honest John: International Breakthrough (2015-16 , Clean Feed): Norwegian-Swedish quintet, musician order seems significant here: Ole-Henrik Moe (violin), Kim Johannesen (guitar/banjo), Ola Høyer (double bass), Erik Nylander (drums/drum machine), Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (alto sax/clarinet). Actually, Holm becomes more prominent toward the end, but the early string focus is most distinctive. B+(**)
Humcrush: Enter Humcrush (2014-15 , Shhpuma): Norwegian jazztronica duo, Ståle Storløkken (keyboards) and Thomas Strønen (drums), fifth album together, mostly a rush complex enough to keep it interesting, but tails off a bit. B+(**)
Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem (2017, Luna Park): Singer-songwriter, has played off his biracial roots for most of his career, a status he indulges when he can't shake it, which is most of the time. Biggest surprise: a pair of covers, songs by Lou Reed and Lennon-McCartney, the latter with Reed in the band. B+(*)
Kesha: Rainbow (2017, Kemosabe/RCA): Kesha Sebert, returns with her third album five years after number two, starting with a timely song that goes "don't let the bastards get you down," and bending several genres around her pop pinky. B+(*)
Lauren Kinhan: A Sleepin' Bee (2017, Dotted i): Singer, best known as a member of New York Voices since 1992, fourth solo project since 1999, "the inspiration of this project sprung from nancy wilson's iconic collaboration with cannonball adderley." Still, she took to Wilson more than to Cannonball, not bothering to hire a saxophonist (although Ingrid Jensen makes a fair sub for Nat). B [cd]
Kirk Knuffke: Cherryco (2016 , SteepleChase): Cornet player, from Colorado, Discogs credits him with 19 albums since 2009. This is a trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums) playing songs by Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry -- the focus is on the latter, both because he played various trumpets and because he was an essential part of Coleman's pathbreaking quartet, so in a sense what we're hearing here is Coleman without the saxophone. A-
Kokotob: Flying Heart (2016 , Clean Feed): Trio, with Taiko Saito (marimba/vibraphone), Niko Meinhold (piano), and Tobias Schirmer (clarinets) -- name assembled from first name fragments (hint: Saito and Meinhold had a 2006 duo album named Koko). None of the trio have extensive discographies, but I should note that Discogs lists two different Schirmers -- the other a drummer. An attractive beatwise, if not very jazzy, piece of chamber music. B+(**)
LCD Soundsystem: American Dream (2017, DFA/Columbia): Fourth album, moving ever closer to what we used to call new wave, at one point reminding me of Talking Heads, but less interesting, of course. B+(**)
David Lopato: Gendhing for a Spirit Rising (2017, Global Coolant, 2CD): Pianist, from Brooklyn, fifth album since 1981, also plays some other instruments here including "Embertone Friedlander virtual violin" and percussion (mostly with mallets). He also makes occasional use of reeds (Marty Ehrlich, Lucas Pino), strings (Erik Friedlander, Mark Feldman), vibes (Bill Ware), drums (Tom Rainey, Michael Sarin), and more exotic instruments. Sometimes seems closer to baroque than jazz, but not always. B+(*) [cd]
Luis Lopes: Love Song (2015 , Shhpuma): Portuguese guitarist, I've found him to be especially impressive in his Lisbon Berlin Trio and Humanization 4Tet. This is solo, electric but so muted it hardly matters. B
L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: The Night Took Us in Like Family (2015, Mello Music Group): Don't know anything about L'Orange, but he seems to be the beat guy, with Jae rapping (also guest spots for Gift of Gab and Homeboy Sandman). Skits can break the groove, which is pretty compelling. A- [bc]
L'Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing! (2015, Mello Music Group): Beats still interesting -- in fact, starts with an instrumental and could build on that. The once-and-future Dr. Octagon goes spacey here, probably for the best. B+(**) [bc]
L'Orange & Mr. Lif: The Life & Death of Scenery (2016, Mello Music Group): Conceived as an Orwellian dystopia, where art and music are banned and people are herded into worshipping the sun, the moon, and, of course, their fearless leader. Released about a month before we entered our own brave new world, where art and music survive because the new leaders are too clueless to suspect they're subversive. That may be why I found this much funnier than was no doubt intended, but that's how we deal with dystopia these days. A- [bc]
Tony Malaby/Mat Maneri/Daniel Levin: New Artifacts (2015 , Clean Feed): An avant variation on sax-with-strings, with the viola and cello alternately seeking to harmonize the sax and pull it in unexpected directions. An improvised live set, the lack of drums placing it uneasily in the realm of chamber jazz. B+(**)
Luís José Martins: Tentos -- Invenções E Encantamentos (2017, Shhpuma): Portuguese guitarist, in a band called Powertrio, credited with classical and prepared guitars here, also electronics and percussion, the former setting the sound. All originals, even with his "remote evocation of that rudimentary and warm Iberian musical form of the 17th century." B+(*)
Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith: A Reunion Tribute to Erroll Garner (2017, Blujazz): Bassist and drummer in pianist Garner's 1970-77 quartet -- the fourth player was congalero José Mangual, replaced here by Noel Quintana. The songbook includes Garner's "Misty" and "Gemini" but mostly features standards, opening with "Caravan." The record is pure delight, but you have to dig deep into the book to discover the all-important pianist: Geri Allen. Her recent death makes this even more poignant. A- [cd]
Meridian Trio: Triangulum (2016 , Clean Feed): Alto sax trio based in Chicago: Nick Mazzarella, Matt Ulery, and Jeremy Cunningham. Avant or postbop, shades of both, part of their triangulation. Runs long, could benefit from what we call editing. B+(*)
Emi Meyer: Monochrome (2009-16 , Origin): Singer, wrote five (of nine) songs here, born in Japan but grew up in Seattle, studied in Los Angeles, splits her time between Seattle and Tokyo bases. Plays piano, but mostly defers here to Dawn Clement. Nice closer: "What a Wonderful World." B+(*) [cd]
Mind Games [Angelika Niescier/Denman Maroney/James Ilgenfritz/Andrew Drury]: Ephemera Obscura (2013 , Clean Feed): Alto sax, piano, bass, percussion -- Maroney's machine doesn't sound all that "hyper" this time out. Nice sax tone, nimble, moves all around. B+(***)
MIR 8: Perihelion (2017, Shhpuma): Quartet: Andrea Belfi (drums), Werner Dafeldecker (function generators, bass), Hilary Jeffery (trombone), Tim Wright (computer/electronics). Website dubs these "four cinematic tracks . . . through panoramic landscapes . . . with multi-layered hybrid structures" and that's about right, as far as one cares. Vinyl length: 32:22. B+(*)
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: The Punishment of Luxury (2017, White Noise): English electropop duo, a pioneer if not inventor of wry, danceable pop as far back as 1980. Half the songs sparkle much like their prime period, especially the first two, not that they don't stall out here and there. B+(***)
Chris Parker: Moving Forward Now (2017, self-released): Drummer, also plays tenor sax, "debut" album (evidently not the drummer who played with the Brecker Bros., nor the pianist who's recorded on OA2), tries to do a little bit of everything on his first album, with thirteen other musicians listed on the cover. Starts off with "Battle Hymn of the Republic," segues into Rachmaninoff. None of it is especially notable, least of all Rachel Caswell's vocal turn on "Don't Think Twice It's Alright." It isn't. B- [cd]
Jonah Parzen-Johnson: I Try to Remember Where I Come From (2017, Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, grew up in Chicago, based in New York. This is solo, "recorded live to two track without loops or overdubs," yet Parzen-Johnson also manages to play analog synthesizer almost continuously, adding rhythm and harmony to the horn's fluttering vibrato. B+(**)
Mario Pavone: Vertical (2016 , Clean Feed): Bassist, an important composer with a substantial discography since 1979, working with a sextet here: Dave Ballou (trumpet), Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Oscar Noriega (clarinet/bass clarinet), Peter McEachern (trombone), Mike Sarin (drums). Noriega is especially striking here -- a favored voice the others revolve around. B+(***)
Debbie Poryes Trio: Loving Hank (2017, OA2): Pianist, third album since 2007, a trio plus Erik Jakobson's flugelhorn on one cut. Half originals, the first dedicated to Hank Jones sets the tone. B+(**) [cd]
Franciszek Pospieszalski Sextet: 1st Level (2016 , ForTune): Polish bassist, probably his first album (Discogs lists two others he has played on). Group includes tenor sax, alto sax, piano, two drummers (one also credited with electronics and vibraphone), plus a guest trumpet on one cut -- only two names I've run across before, neither I particularly remembered. Sound has a bit of circus air, slinking by through sleight-of-hand. B [bc]
Public Enemy: Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (2017, Enemy): Old school, dense with a lot of guitar as well as ever-so-hard beats. Could be that more plays would put this over -- can't say as I picked up on any lyrics, but they certainly have points to make. Was available for free download for a few days up to July 4, but I missed that window. B+(***) [yt]
Dave Rempis: Lattice (2017, Aerophonic): Saxophonist from Chicago tries a solo album, playing alto, tenor, and baritone. Cherry-picked together from four spots, with two covers among the six cuts (Billy Strayhorn, Eric Dolphy), keeps it tight and thoughtful, minimizing the usual solo sax pitfalls. B+(***) [cd]
The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cochonnerie (2015 , Aerophonic): So-named for two drummers, Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly, joined by Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and leader Dave Rempis on alto/tenor/baritone sax, who started stealing scenes in the Vandermark 5. Sixth group album, all impressive, this one all the more together. A- [cd]
Rolling Blackouts C.F.: Talk Tight (2015 , Sub Pop, EP): Australian group, first of two EPs -- this one 7 songs, 28:59, released in Australia in 2015 with "C.F." spelled out as Coastal Fever. Picked up along with the follow-up by an American alt-indie label. They sustain their 4-minute average with ringing altish guitars, then for a change of pace do a nifty Go-Betweens impression. A-
Rolling Blackouts C.F.: The French Press (2017, Sub Pop, EP): Cover abbreviates last half of group name, although I've seen this credited both ways. A bit shorter at 6 cuts, 25:09. Maintains their trademark guitar sound, but not sure what else. B+(**)
ROVA Saxophone Quartet/Kyle Bruckmann/Henry Kaiser: Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited (2015 , Clean Feed): Lacy's 1975 album is much more obscure than Ascension, John Coltrane's original sax orgy, which ROVA has twice re-recorded -- I've never heard it, although it was noted in my database -- but it is an immediate forebear of the saxophone quartet (WSQ and ROVA first recorded in 1977). Lacy's album also featured four saxophonists (Lacy on soprano, Steve Potts and Trevor Watts on alto, Evan Parker on tenor), guitar (Derek Bailey), and synthesizer (Michel Waisvisz), so this offers essentially the same lineup (occasionally switching to baritone and/or sopranino). In some ways quite remarkable, but too harsh for me to enjoy. B+(*)
Vitor Rua and the Metaphysical Angels: Do Androids Dream of Electrid Guitars? (2017, Clean Feed, 2CD): Portuguese guitarist, discography back to 1990, first disc is solo, second with his group (bass, drums, piano, trumpet, clarinets). The solo relies heavily on synth effects for its distinctness. The group develops slowly, before turning into more of the same. B+(*)
Rune Your Day: Rune Your Day (2016 , Clean Feed): Scandinavian avant-jazz group (recorded in Oslo, anyway): Jørgen Mathisen (tenor/soprano sax, clarinet), André Roligheten (tenor/baritone sax), Rune Nergaard (bass), Axel Skalstad (drums). Plods along, heavy and awkward, but there's something to be said for brute power. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Home Counties (2017, Heavenly): British pop group featuring singer Sarah Cracknell, first album in 1991. I've never gotten into their pleasant melodiousness, but this is as pleasing, beguiling even, as anything I've heard from them. B+(***)
San Francisco String Trio: May I Introduce to You (2016 , Ridgeway): Fairly well-known musicians: Mads Tolling (violin), Mimi Fox (guitars), Jeff Denson (bass and vocals on three tracks). Conceived as a 50th anniversary salute to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the arrangements often sly, the vocals unnecessary (although I found "A Day in the Life" rather charming). B+(*) [cd]
The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float the Edge (2016 , Clean Feed): Pianist, born in Phoenix, half-dozen albums as leader since 2003, this a trio with Michael Formanek (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) underpinning the rhythmic abstractions. B+(**)
The Selva: The Selva (2016 , Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: Ricardo Jacinto (cello), Gonçalo Almeida (bass), Nuno Morão (drums). First album, all improv, the bass resonates most deeply. B+(*)
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star (2017, Sub Pop): Experimental hip-hop duo from Seattle, with Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro, formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets) and Tendai "Baba" Maraire ("son of mbira master Dumisani Maraire"). Two previous albums, plus some EPs, plus another album released the same day as this one, the common concept Quazarz, whatever that may mean. I've always found them to be inscrutable and indecipherable, but I hear they get better if you play them loud and/or dig in for the long haul. Fair chance that's true here as well. B+(***) [bc]
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs the Jealous Machines (2017, Sub Pop): "Quazarz came to the Earth from somewhere else, a musical ambassador from his place to ours." If that sounds a little vague, try figuring out the album. "Coming from a simpler, more essential, innocent place, the hero could not make heads nor tails of most advancements." B+(**) [bc]
Matthew Shipp Quartet: Not Bound (2016 , ForTune): Avant pianist, third album this year, making it hard to take seriously his periodic retirements. Quartet adds Daniel Carter (flute, trumpet, tenor/soprano sax) to his usual Trio with Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. Reminds me how effective Shipp can be working behind and around a saxophonist -- e.g., his decade-plus with David S. Ware -- but also a good outing for Carter. A- [bc]
Tommy Smith: Embodying the Light: A Dedication to John Coltrane (2017, Spartacus): Scots tenor saxophonist, born on the same day Coltrane died -- which might explain some things if you believe in reincarnation like the Dalai Lama -- assembled a batch of Coltrane songs for their 50th. Done in classic Quartet style with Peter Johnstone (piano), Calum Gourlary (bass), and Sebastian de Krom (drums) holding their own. Still, it's the saxophonist's extraordinary chops that make the album undeniable. A-
Wadada Leo Smith/Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ikue Mori: Aspiration (2016 , Libra): Two trumpet players, piano, and electronics, with Fujii writing four (of six) pieces, one each for the trumpet players. Surprisingly sedate given the company, the trumpets often retiring, the electronics hard to locate, but the piano offering a thoughtful framework. B+(**) [cd]
David Stackenäs: Bricks (2013 , Clean Feed): Swedish guitarist, Discogs lists a dozen albums since 2000, but most (including the two I've heard) would be filed under other names. This is solo acoustic, somewhat given to plucky noodling circling around deeper thrusts. B+(*)
Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two (2017, A.T. Music): Standards singer. Pianists Mike Garson, Tamir Handelman, and Christian Jacob get cover credit, but the ever so tasteful backup musicians deserve more credit, and when you dig into the fine print you find folks like Chuck Berghofer (bass), Luis Conte (percussion), Hendrik Meurkens (harmonica), Carol Robbins (harp), and most notably Ricky Woodard (tenor sax). They aim for a midnight smolder, and the singer meets them there. B+(***) [cd]
Stik Figa: Central Standard Time (2017, Mello Music Group): Rapper John Westbrook Jr., from Topeka, Kansas. Nice bounce to it. Nine cuts, 31:38, so a bit more than an EP. B+(***)
Rain Sultanov: Inspired by Nature (2017, Ozella): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor) from Azerbaijan, second album. Backed by piano, cello, oud, bass, drums, and percussion, the take on nature is vibrant and often quite lovely. B+(**)
Summit Quartet: Live in Sant' Arresi (2016 , Audiographic): Two avant saxophonists, Ken Vandermark (tenor and baritone) and Mats Gustafsson (just baritone), backed by Luc Ex (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums). The saxophonists have always had a knack for bringing out the ugly in each other, but usually avoid such excess here. B+(**)
Swet Shop Boys: Sufi La (2017, Customs, EP): Anglo-American hip-hop duo -- or Indian-Pakistani if you trace them back a generation -- Heems (Himanshu Suri, ex-Das Racist) and Riz MC (Riz Ahmed, had a breakout acting role in The Night Of). Dropped a terrific album last year, Cashmere, following it up with this six track, 15:22 EP. A-
Fred Thomas: Changer (2017, Polyvinyl): Singer-songwriter, formerly of His Name Is Alive and Saturday Looks Good to Me, Discogs lists ten albums since 2002, starting with Everything Is Pretty Much Entirely Fucked. Not so bummed out here, the music scattered but most with some edge. B+(***)
Nestor Torres: Jazz Flute Traditions (2017, Alfi): Puerto Rican flautist, fifteen or so albums since 1981, covers pretty much all of the bases here with pieces by Mann, Lateef, and Kirk, standards, and Latin jazz favorites, opening with Moe Kaufmann ("Swinging Shepherd's Blues") and closing with Irving Fields ("Miami Beach Rhumba"). B+(*) [cd]
Trespass Trio: The Spirit of Pitesti (2015 , Clean Feed): One of Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen's groups, with Per Zanussi (bass) and Raymond Strid (drums), fourth group album (odd fact: Küchen, with 23 albums listed by Discogs, is the only one without a Wikipedia page). Pitesti is a town in Romania that was the site of a notorious prison brainwashing experiment. Seems to have bummed everyone out here. B+(*)
Umphrey's McGee: Zonkey (2016, Nothing Too Fancy): Group dates back to 1997 in South Bend, Indiana, alternately described as a jam band and as a prog rock group. Discography is large, with 9 studio albums, 10 live albums, 4 videos, 2 EPs, and probably scads of live bootlegs. These are mashups, evidently covered as they keep a consistent guitar-heavy sound -- typical is a piece that bounces back and forth between "Electric Avenue" (Eddy Grant) and "Highway to Hell" (AC/DC). Sort of fun, but has its limits. B+(**)
Unhinged Sextet: Don't Blink (2016 , OA2): Recorded in Arizona, but band members teach all over the country. Eight pieces by five members: Vern Sielert (trumpet), Will Campbell (alto sax), Matt Olson (tenor sax), Michael Kocour (piano), Jon Hamar (bass), Dom Moio (drums -- the only non-writer). Postbop, no reason I can think of for the group name. B [cd]
Vector Families: For Those About to Jazz/Rock We Salute You (2017, Sunnyside): Minneapolis group, drummer Dave King the best known (Bad Plus, Happy People), with Anthony Cox (bass), Dean Granros (guitar), and Brandon Wozniak (sax). The rock allusions are far from obvious, even when King explains their sound as "Ornette Coleman's Prime Time meets Bad Brains with a bit of Pere Ubu" -- for one thing, time is completely free, even when covering Ellington's "Satin Doll" (the piano sounds are something Granros whipped up using "a Guitar Band video game controller"). They also cover Ornette. A-
Martti Vesala Soundpost Quintet: Helsinki Soundpost (2016, Ozella): Finnish trumpet player, debut album (maybe just by group), a quintet with tenor sax/flutes, piano, bass, and drums -- a classic hard bop lineup, but softer and more ornate, not a mix I especially care for. But some fine trumpet leads. B
Ken Wiley: Jazz Horn Redux (2014 , Krug Park Music): French horn player, fourth album, groups shifts around a lot from cut to cut, Bob Sheppard (tenor sax on three cuts) makes me think Los Angeles. Lightweight, but still swings hard. B+(*) [cd]
Carl Winther & Jerry Bergonzi: Inner Journey (2016 , SteepleChase LookOut): Danish pianist, son of the late trumpet player Jens Winther (not to be confused with label head Nils Winther), has a couple albums, wrote 6 (of 9) pieces pieces here, for a vigorous, robust quartet. The star, of course, is the tenor saxophonist. B+(***)
Nate Wooley: Knknighgh (Minimal Poetry for Aram Saroyan) (2016 , Clean Feed): Avant trumpet player, records a lot, here with a pianoless quartet: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Brandon Lopez (bass), Dre Hocevar (drums). I've forgotten whatever I once knew of Saroyan's poetry, and none is actually used here -- at least in verbal form, but I gather it was fragmented and abstract, something like the jazz here. A-
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Vincent Ahehehinnou: Best Woman (1978 , Analog Africa): Name reversed on cover, as it is on most (but not all) of his records, most co-credited with his band, L'Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Four-track vinyl reissue, runs 36:38, a satisfying length for such amiable groove pieces. B+(**)
James Luther Dickinson: I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone (Lazarus Edition) (2006 , Memphis International): Born in Arkansas, spent most of his life (1941-2009) in Memphis, best known as a record producer but cut a dozen albums, including his groups Mudboy and the Neutrons and Raisins in the Sun. His only album before 1986, Dixie Fried, wasn't as good as the title promised, but as he aged he turned into an amusing old weirdo. This was culled from a late live date, introducing two sons in the band (aka, as the cover but not the band intro notes, North Mississippi All-Stars). Reissued this year bundled with a hardcover book -- Phil Overeem insists "READ THE BOOK." B+(***)
Dick Hyman: Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals 1983-1988 (1983-88 , Arbors): Pianist, a master of every piano style from ragtime to swing, the most recognizable tunes here from Fats Waller. B+(***)
Joe King Kologbo & the High Grace: Sugar Daddy (1980 , Strut): Touted as "a lost Nigerian disco funk classic," the first of a promised series of "Original Masters" curated by Duncan Brooker. I know essentially nothing about Kologbo or anyone else on the album. Title cut runs 15:38, two more add up to 14:35. A bit chintzy, but the grooves keep powering on. B+(***)
Mono No Aware (2017, Pan): Sixteen previously unreleased pieces of ambient electronica by as many artists, none I'm familiar with. Mostly synth curtains with occasional muted chatter, not exactly fading into the background, but probably better for that. B+(*)
Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 1 (1969 , Cosmic Myth): Remastered and expanded from a single 1970 album, this marks the point where the pianist-leader discovered the Moog, and gets a little blip-crazy. B+(**)
Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 2 (1969-70 , Cosmic Myth): Based on a 1971 album, again remastered and expanded, with Sun Ra playing farfisa on half, minimoog on the rest -- the former more playful, with an amusing stretch of vocal. B+(**)
Shina Williams & His African Percussionists: Agboju Logun (1984, Strut, EP): Nigerian disco, just a 11:43 single extended with an 11:39 "LP version" of the same. B+(*)
Neil Young: Hitchhiker (1976 , Reprise): Part of his archives series, effectively a demo session with Young trying out various songs with just his guitar (or sometimes piano). Eight (of ten) songs eventually appeared elsewhere: one edited for 1977's Decade compilation, three on 1979's classic Rust Never Sleeps, the title cut finally appearing on 2010's Le Noise. "Give Me Strength" is the better of the unknowns (the rhymes are strained on "Hawaii"). I'm most taken with his laconic take on "The Old Country Waltz." B+(***)
Zaïre 74: The African Artists (1974 , Wrasse, 2CD): Live recordings from a big concert in Kinshasa, part of the entertainment program but the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman. The roster is worthy -- Rochereau, Franco, Orchestre Stukas, Abeti, and Miriam Makeba (opens with "Mobuto Praise Song" -- thankfully not in English) -- and the characteristic soar of soukous guitar paradise prevails. B+(**)
Bee Gees: Bee Gees' 1st (1967, Atco): The three Gibb brothers, born in Isle of Man, grew up in Manchester then moved to Australia in 1958, cut their first singles in 1963 and had two obscure albums before being re-introduced as a pop group here (the first to receive a US release). One great single ("To Love Somebody"), two more pretty decent ones, the filler straining against the icky strings, often succumbing. B
Bee Gees: Horizontal (1968, Atco): Second US album, same basic string-driven formula but they left out the hits -- only "Massachusetts" was released as a single in the US, and while it has a minor hook, nothing else -- especially the UK single "World" -- comes close. C
Bee Gees: Idea (1968, Atco): The brightest idea here was that someone learned to play guitar, evidently by listening to Hollies records. Still, the strings return, as does the pomposity of the vocals. C+
Bee Gees: Odessa (1969, Atco): Originally a double LP, a rite of passage for ambitious '60s (and '70s) groups, although few lived up to the hype. This one certainly doesn't. Tentative but finally rejected titles include An American Opera and Masterpeace. Songs include "Seven Seas Symphony" and "The British Opera," and their longing for glory days of the British Empire is palpable. C
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Warsaw) 2012 (2012 , ForTune): One piece, "Composition 363b+," runs 70:05, with James Fei on alto sax, the leader on alto and tenor, Tyler Ho Bynum on cornet, and Erica Dicker on violin. Despite its abstraction, this is a remarkable piece of music. A- [bc]
James Brown: Cold Sweat (1967, King): One new single, a great one, in two parts, plus ten covers -- upbeat ones on the front side power by His Famous Flames, ballads on the back side that he redeems through extraordinary vocal athleticism. A-
Tim Buckley: Goodbye and Hello (1967, Asylum): Singer-songwriter, started folkie on his debut but edging toward baroque (or psychedelic) on his second album -- there are moments I can imagine swapping in Grace Slick's voice. Elsewhere he mixes in some intense exotic percussion and other surprises, although it grows heavy and weary in the end. B+(*)
Bulbul: Hirn Fein Hacken (2014, Exile on Mainstream): Rock group from Austria, guitar-bass-drums, discography goes back to 1997, caught my attention because drummer is Didi Kern, who also plays in DEK Trio with pianist Elisabeth Harnik and avant-saxophonist Ken Vandermark. Dense postpunk with a minor hint of jazz, lyrics mostly in English, terse too. B+(**)
DEK Trio: Burning Below Zero (2014 , Trost): Ken Vandermark trio, recorded in Austria with two locals: Elisabeth Harnik (piano) and Didi Kern (drums, listed as ddkern). Vandermark has only rarely played with piano backup -- mostly Håvard Wiik in their Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group -- but Harnik suits him, probably because her fills add to the rhythm rather than harmonics. B+(***)
Donovan: Sunshine Superman (1966, Epic): Scottish folk-pop singer-songwriter Donovan Leitch, third album, the first to get much attention in the US with its chart-topping title single. First side filler is a bit weak, but second side picks up, leading with "Season of the Witch." B+(**)
Donovan: Mellow Yellow (1967, Epic): Title song a second huge hit single, the "electric banana" a vibrator although I recall investigating a rumor about smoking banana skins at the time. Reverts to more folkie fair after that, although "Sunny South Kensington" is pretty cheerful. B+(**)
Kaleidoscope: Side Trips (1967, Epic): Byrds-flavored psychedelic folk band, cut four albums 1967-70, best known member was David Lindley (who in the 1980s cut a couple of retro-rock records I liked, especially El Rayo-X) although Chris Darrow (who soon moved on to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) had a slight edge as a songwriter. No real hits, but plenty of old-timey filler, like "Hesitation Blues," "Oh Death," "Come On In," and "Minnie the Moocher." B+(***)
B.B. King: Blues Is King (1967, Bluesway): Live from the International Club in Chicago, where he's introduced as "the world's greatest bluesman." Raw, no shortage of intensity, but that doesn't help the flow, or let songs stand out, like, say, the slightly earlier Live at the Regal. B+(**)
L'Orange & Stik Figa: The City Under the City (2013, Mello Music Group): The former does beats, the latter raps. Played it twice while thinking about something else, enjoyed it, and have nothing more to say. B+(*)
Mario Pavone: Sharpeville (1985 , Playscape): The bassist's third album, originally released in 1988: with Marty Ehrlich (alto/soprano sax, clarinet, flute/alto flute), Thomas Chapin (alto sax, flute/bass flute), and Pheeroan Ak Laff (drums) named on the cover, but also, on the title track, Mark Whitecage (alto sax), Peter McEachern (trombone), and John Betsch (drums). Has its moments, not least the bass solos, but they come and go. B+(*)
Mario Pavone Nu Trio: Remembering Thomas (1999, Knitting Factory Works): Thomas is presumably Chapin, the alto saxophonist who died tragically at 41 the year before: Chapin and Pavone were very closely linked, playing on virtually all of each other's records for a decade. Still, these pieces were all composed by Pavone and arranged for piano trio, with Peter Madsen and Matt Wilson, marking Chapin's absence as much as his inspiration. B+(***)
Mario Pavone/Michael Musillami: Op.Ed (2001, Playscape): Leaders play bass and guitar, and split the writing, but these aren't duets: they're joined by Peter Madsen (piano) and Michael Sarin (drums). Still, an especially good showcase for the guitarist. B+(**)
Mario Pavone Nu Trio/Quintet: Orange (2003, Playscape): The Nu Trio, of course, features Pavone and Peter Madsen, with Gerald Cleaver taking over the drums. The trio cuts are first rate, but the horns are more noticeable: Steven Bernstein (trumpet) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax), with Bernstein arranging three pieces. B+(***)
Saint Etienne: Good Humor (1998, Sub Pop): Fourth album, a little sharper and shriller than their usual soft alt-dance pop shtick. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Sound of Water (2000, Sub Pop): Fifth album, surprised to find it on Chris Monsen's 2017 list as it is quite old. Still, soft and smart, mostly interchangeable with the others I've heard. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Finisterre (2002, Mantra): Starts stronger, ends wimpier, otherwise about par. B+(**)
Saint Etienne: Travel Edition 1990-2005 (1991-2004 , Sub Pop): Best-of, rounded up to fifteen years in a shorter package than the 2-CD London Conversations that appeared about the same time. [16/18 cuts.] B+(***)
The Serpent Power: The Serpent Power (1967, Vanguard): San Francisco group, David Meltzer and Clark Coolidge originally poets, Tina Meltzer singer, several others. Basically folkie, leaning toward psychedelia, has trouble getting there. B
Fred Thomas: Everything Is Pretty Much Entirely Fucked (2002, Little Hands): First solo album, a side project while Thomas was in the band Saturday Looks Good to Me. Mostly solo, a bit of harmonica to go with the guitar, strained and bummed out, though he picks up a trashy noise band toward the end ("When You Fuck Things Up With Your Baby"). Two covers: one from Warn DeFever (His Name Is Alive, another band Thomas played in), the other a remarkably pained Brian Wilson's "Don't Worry." B+(*)
Fred Thomas: All Are Saved (2015, Polyvinyl): Skipping past titles like Turn It Down, Sink Like a Symphony, and No Other Wonder (Seemingly Random Unreleased Songs 1997-2012), this seems to have been the singer-songwriter's breakthrough album (to the extent he's ever had one). One advance is that he's using a lot more band power, adding to the sonic edge while still keeping it personal. B+(**)
Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Ray Rosen]: On Tour . . . Toronto/Rochester (2001, Cadence): McPhee's long-running avant trio with bass and drums, first recorded in 1999, continuing at least through 2012 (Duval died in 2016). Four long cuts, including "Try a Little Tenderness" and "My Funny Valentine," from Toronto, but only 8:59 from the night before in Rochester. Opens on pocket trumpet, switches to tenor sax, burning and smoldering, the bass and drums only to serve, yet they have some of the best moments. B+(***) [bc]
Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: Journey (2003, CIMP): McPhee plays alto and tenor here, backed by bass and drums. After all the storm and clang, ends with a lovely "Amazing Grace." B+(**)
David S. Ware: Live in the Netherlands (1997 , Splasc(H)): Tenor saxophonist, playing solo back during the heyday of his quartet. Four pieces, runs 39:07, inevitably limited in color and rhythm, but a powerful, protean force. B+(**)
Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston: At Ad Libitum (2013 , ForTune): Improv duets, recorded live in Poland, soprano/tenor sax and piano. Watts I recognize as one of the founding figures in the English avant-garde. Weston came along later, in the late 1980s, and has several duo albums with Watts, Eddie Prévost, and Lol Coxhill -- mostly on Emanem, which kept them off my radar. The soprano can be a little screechy, but remarkable overall, especially impressed by the pianist. B+(***) [bc]
The Youngbloods: The Youngbloods (1967, RCA Victor): Another band on a folk-to-psychedelic rock tangent, not to mention New York-to-San Francisco, originally Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, they sounded like a synthesis of everyone else -- indeed, their biggest hit ("Get Together") had previously been done by Jefferson Airplane, and only hit on a reissue after being picked up as an advertising jingle. B+(*)
The Youngbloods: Earth Music (1967, RCA Victor): Second album, draws a little more on blues riffs for their own songs, picks up three covers that stake out their outer limits: Tim Hardin, Chuck Berry, Robin Remailly (you know, Unholy Modal Rounders). B+(**)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, September 25. 2017
Music: Current count 28719  rated (+29), 398  unrated (+6).
As I'm writing this, there is no free disk space available to my server account, so I won't be able to update the website. That was the situation last night as well when I went to add my Weekend Roundup post, but just in time a sliver opened up and I was able to make the update -- my first in over a week (I was able to sneak my post on Bill Phillips up by deleting a huge file and pushing the single file up). If you're reading this (at least in the "faux blog" I lucked out again. I dread having to move the website, but unless something changes soon I'll have to. The problem isn't the static files, which I have on my work machine. The big problem is the blog, which will surely be lost. Due (I assume) to disk quotas (or possibly some other bottleneck) I haven't been able to dump the blog database for several years now. And the ISP, ADDR.COM, has for all intents and purposes stopped providing any form of support -- at this point it's rather surprising that they've even kept the machines running. Oddly enough, I have been able to store new blog posts lately, so that may still work.
As for this week's music, I'm surprised the rated count is as high as it is. I got off to a very slow start last week. Surprisingly, the two A- records this week were the first two I rated, and they got 5-6 plays each. I picked up some speed as I got into less interesting albums, but what salvaged the week was a side effect of reading the latest Rolling Stone paean to their birth year, 1967: 50 Essential Albums of 1967. This was written by David Fricke and Robert Christgau, expanded a bit from their 2007 survey of the same year, The 40 Essential Albums of 1967. Christgau had actually written a Consumer Guide to 1967 back in 1977, the only such retrospective Consumer Guide he ever wrote -- I added those entries to his Consumer Guide database, leaving a never-filled hole for 1968 and into 1969, when he started writing his monthly columns.
I made a list and decided to check out the records I didn't have ratings for, and picked up a few extras along the way. The closest thing to a find was David Lindley's early band Kaleidoscope's Side Trips, although the only songs that stuck in my head afterwards were Donovan's two title singles and the Youngbloods' "Get Together." Still, a surprising number of albums weren't on Napster: Bobby "Blue" Bland's Touch of the Blues, The Four Tops' Reach Out, B.B. King's The Jungle, Moby Grape, The Best of Wilson Pickett, Procol Harum, Diana Ross and the Supremes' Greatest Hits, Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits/Part One -- just found James Brown's Cold Sweat under "various artists," so next week for that.
No jazz on their list. I figured I could rectify that, but a quick search through my database suggests that 1967 was a sub-par year for jazz -- maybe the poorest of the decade. Major jazz labels went into sudden decline after 1965, although there was a partial rebound in 1969 with the emergence of fusion and an avant-garde rebound, both aided by new artists and labels in Europe. But for 1967 (and I could be off slightly, as I'm more likely to have recording than release dates in the database) I only count 2 A records and 15 A- (partial checking revealed 2 more A- recorded in 1967 were released later). Sorted approximately:
No progress to report on Jazz Guides. The Streamnotes draft file for September has 122 reviews. I should post it this week, no later than the end of month (Saturday), if I can get the website working. Quite a bit of new jazz in the queue right now -- partly because I managed to account for today's mail from Lithuania. I'd hate to see the unrated count top 400 again, so I should focus more there. One reason I slacked off last month was that most of the new records had much later release dates. Of course, with September waning, we're nearly there.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 18. 2017
Music: Current count 28690  rated (+40), 392  unrated (+16).
Did almost nothing last week but listen, all jazz except for a couple items Phil Overeem recommended in tweets, only three albums coming from my recently expanding CD queue. The majority (22+5/40) of the records were Clean Feed/Shhpuma releases I never got in the mail -- I just brought up their 2017 releases pages and found it all on Napster, so easy enough. Nothing bad or especially good there: high was two B+(***), low three B. I rather expected more given that I had previously logged six A- records on Clean Feed (three on CD, three streamed). I don't believe this includes their September releases (I have some email on such, but lately they've gotten into making life difficult).
I did manage a push forward on compiling the Jazz Guide(s) last week. Up to John Hébert in the Jazz Post-2000 file (39%), which brings the post-2000 guide to 1140 pages. I was at 29% a week ago, so if I keep up the slog I still have six weeks to go (plus the groups I've shunted to the side). I'm still estimating it will hit 1500 pages, although the estimating formula I've been using shows it a bit shorter (1375, down from 1425, but that doesn't account for group entries).
By the way, some very bad political news since yesterday's already grim Roundup: John McCain announced he will "regrettably" vote for the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal (see Arizona Governor Backs O'care Repeal, Likely Securing McCain's and Flake's Votes). The Graham-Cassidy bill is in many ways even worse than the previous Repeal/Replace bills, reminding us that as with the House bills, the key to getting more Republican support is to make the legislation even more vicious.
Perhaps even more disturbing is this report: U.S. warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with North Korea. I think the last time that precise headline was used was 1914: "Austria-Hungary warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with Serbia." By the way, it was Rex Tillerson delivering the threat. Isn't he supposed to be the adult in the Trump playpen? Slightly less ominous but still way past the cusp of sanity, there's a picture of Trump and Netanyahu shaking hands under the title Trump on Withdrawing From Iran Nuclear Deal: 'You Will See Very Soon'.
Of course, we've seen plenty of hints already of these things, but it's part of human nature to discount worst-case scenarios.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 11. 2017
Music: Current count 28650  rated (+23), 376  unrated (+7).
Light count, mostly because I missed three days from the middle of the week -- would have been much lower had I not hit Rhapsody hard on the weekend. On Wednesday, I took a long day trip to see my extraordinary cousins in Independence, KS. Left around noon, and got back after midnight. Actually, night before I made a chocolate cake for the occasion (much to the disappointment of those hoping for a my mother's legendary coconut cake, but I had so little time I went with simple and surefire). Friday I cooked a Turkish dinner for seven (if you're interested, I did a brain dump in the notebook). Thursday I had a doctor's appointment, then went shopping, and finally started cooking. Worn out after that, and aggravated by a couple stupid kitchen mishaps (plus a couple pieces of technology that completely discredit my reputation as a smart shopper).
Many of the records below came from Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list: only things I haven't heard there now are the two AUM Fidelity jazz releases (William Parker and David S. Ware), Obnox: Niggative Approach (only 4/12 cuts on Bandcamp), and the Nots' single (or so I assume). Public Enemy was available as a free download for a week or so, but that's dried up and the only copy I found was on YouTube. Could be that more plays might raise it a notch -- ditto for Shabazz Palaces -- but I'd say odds are equal that they wouldn't. The worst, no surprise, were Dylan's songbook albums: the 2016 one was on Overeem's 2016 list but I hadn't noticed it on Napster until now.
My grade breakdown from Overeem's list: 20 A-, 14 ***, 17 **, 11 *, 3 B, 1 C+, 4 unheard. This week's only A- record comes from his list, a case where Ghana and Mozambique meet somewhere in Europe. I don't have a breakdown for how many I actually have CDs for -- probably not many (ok, 5, all but one jazz).
Haven't done anything on the jazz guides in 2-3 weeks, so my hopes of wrapping them up -- first draft, just raw collection -- by the end of the month are pretty slim. I've been stuck 29% of the way through Post-2000 Jazz, which leaves me with 1638 more artists in the file (plus 173 deferred groups), plus some relatively minor (but hard to estimate) mop up. No idea how long that will take, but the obvious answer is forever if I don't get started again.
I thought I had posted the first two links below, where various former writers and other workers at the Village Voice write about the past on the occasion of the Voice terminating its print edition, but they were still stuck in my scratch file. The others continue the thread.
I was reminded of the anniversary of 9/11/2001 today by a small article in the Eagle and a couple of items on the comics page. Theme was "never forget." So why the fuck is that? What exactly have sixteen years of obsessing over the outrage, picking at the scab, and flailing at our supposed enemies gotten us? We would have been better off to have treated it like a bad hurricane: grieved, consoled, rebuilt, moved on. And it's not as if Americans never forget. They had already forgotten why the people who hijacked and crashed those planes did so, leaving them with no better understanding of what happened than "hate our freedoms" and "axis of evil." Indeed, most Americans have forgotten lots of big things, like slavery and genocide against Indians, so why not this? The only real reason is that some people have agendas that exploit memory. Bush and company saw 9/11 as their ticket to launch a vast and endless war to reassert neocon supremacy. Most Democrats had compatible agendas, based largely on their supposed superiority at winning wars (e.g., Peter Beinart's book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror).
This fetish of victimhood on 9/11 mocks our annual remembrance of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: both supposedly signify how an innocent and peace-loving people got dragged into war by a dastardly attack on a "day of infamy," but Americans in 2001 could hardly be described as innocent or peace-loving -- certainly not by anyone aware of the US Defense budget. The other WWII event we still celebrate isn't the end of the war: it's D-Day, when US troops landed in France -- not nearly the turning point of the war that the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was, but the best we can lay claim to. The agenda of Pearl Harbor + D-Day is to make us feel good about war, and pass those Defense budgets. (Peace people also remember Hiroshima, and again there is an agenda: to remind us that nuclear holocaust is still a real possibility.)
For once, I'm not alone in voicing these views. See: Paul Krugman: The Day Nothing Changed.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, September 4. 2017
Music: Current count 28627  rated (+37), 369  unrated (-5).
Some of this came out in the August Streamnotes, posted on Wednesday as I decided that waiting for the end of the month wouldn't net much more of major interest. Chalk that up as one of those "watched pot never boils" stories: after closing, I came up with the five A-list jazz albums to the right, plus a Swet Shop Boys EP I didn't know existed (see Christgau's Expert Witness -- by the way, third week in a row where he featured a record I had previously A-listed: Waxahatchee's Out in the Storm, Hamell on Trial's Tackle Box, and Swet Shop Boys' Cashmere; on the other hand, I panned Algiers' The Underside of Power with a B-).
Tips on the jazz albums came from all over, notably from Francis Davis returning to the Village Voice to write about Kirk Knuffke. The John Escreet album was one I was vaguely aware of (it came out in 2016 and got some Critics Poll votes) but didn't bother looking up until I saw it on Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list. Similarly, Nate Wooley is on Chris Monsen's 2017 list; and DEK Trio (like Barry Altschul last week) has been recently reviewed by Tim Niland (to do list: Matt Lavelle, Matthew Shipp, Mette Rasmussen). On the other hand, Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith's Erroll Garner tribute came from my queue -- secret weapon there is the late pianist Geri Allen channeling the master so expertly you'll wonder if it was recorded posthumously in heaven.
Those records led me off on several tangents, which you can easily map out from the following list.
Also regarding the Village Voice, I added a bunch of recent Voice articles to Carol Cooper's website today. Interesting stuff, including a couple of tips I should follow up on.
Tweeted on Nikki Haley Says North Korea 'Begging for War':
It's getting hard to explain the Trump Administration without resorting to psychological concepts, because their disconnection from reality goes so far beyond quirks and ordinary neuroses. I stumbled across a guy the other day talking about an unprecedentedly deranged leader and it sure sounded like he was talking about Trump. Only context eventually pointed to Kim Jong-un, a person you can be virtually certain he knows absolutely nothing about. I wrote some more about Haley in the notebook today. Maybe I'll fold that into Weekend Roundup, if we get that far.
A secondary point: I entered the URL into the tweet like I usually do, but Twitter picked up a picture, the title, and a lead and put them into a box like I often see, but that never happens with my own posts. There must be some trick to that -- something websites do to tell Twitter what to use in a link. Wish I knew whatever that is.
[PS: Just after posting, I noticed this Max Blumenthal tweet:
Tweet included a link to Jim Lobe: Nikki Haley: Neocon Heartthrob. Blumenthal's "vacant space" snark may be offensive, but Lobe notes that Haley's "most influential adviser" is Graham's former chief counsel, and that Adelson contributed $250k to Haley's "A Great Day" slushfund, five times as much as number two-ranked Koch Industries.]
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, August 30. 2017
I suppose I should make a big deal out of the fact that the rated count since I started writing this Streamnotes column in late 2007 has now topped 10,000 records. But that's only a thousand per year, 85 or so per month, less than 3 per day. The metric measures time more than anything else. And even if the records were all new at the time, my sample of what's been added to the world's pile of recorded music during this time is well under 2%, probably under 1% -- so I've lost way more ground than I've gained.
Back in 2007, I did a little work for Rhapsody, and one of the perks was a free subscription. I figured I should take notes on what I heard there, hence the column. Well, it didn't even become a column until sometime later -- the notes originally appeared in my Notebook, until I realized I was checking out enough stuff to post something regularly. At the time I was doing Jazz Consumer Guide, Jazz Prospecting, and Recycled Goods, but RG was erratic after I stopped posting at Static Multimedia, and JCG ended after 2009 -- although I continued to get jazz promos, the rate has gradually declined (currently a bit less than half the 2009 level). In January 2014 I decided to consolidate everything under the Streamnotes umbrella -- even actual CDs (about half of the jazz below (25/51 of new jazz, but adding in the old jazz changes the share to 26/87, or 29.8%). The share of non-jazz that is streamed is, like most months, 100%.
So it's fair to say that streaming has not only changed my life as a reviewer, it's the main reason I've been able to hang on. I dropped "Rhapsody" from the title when they rebranded as Napster -- an early digital music purveyor that I never used and never felt any nostalgia for -- but they remain my main source, followed by Bandcamp (not bothering with records that only have a few cuts available), then by download links provided by publicists. I've never mastered the more arcane methods of downloading, so when I run into a wall I tend to back out. And it's been a long time since I bothered to pitch or beg a release -- only one I recall in the last couple years was a letter to the since-departed Joe Fields that got me two top-rated 2016 releases: Houston Person's Chemistry and JD Allen's Americana. (If Steven Joerg is reading, the new William Parker Quartets is at the very top of my wish list -- it's also at the top of Chris Monsen's favorites list, which also notes a new JD Allen release, Radio Flyer).
So, in a sense, this column is running on fumes. This month's 119 records is down from 136 in July and 149 in June, although it's slightly above the previous three-month lull: 111-115-114. And it is August -- never a pleasant month here in Wichita, although pace global warming we've gone all month without a single 100F day, and we've had enough rain to keep the grass green (most years it's brown). Still, always glad when August is over.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on July 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (10029 records).
Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage (2017, Eclectus): Standards singer (not the actress), one original here, from Dallas, third album since 2012. Nice voice and phrasing, stays away from overly familiar songs, nice sax touches. B+(**) [cd]
Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (2017, Cahara): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, seven albums since 2005, bills herself as smooth jazz but I recognize this as art-disco, the dance beat on the soft side and occasionally nodding toward MPB. Pleasant surprise. B+(**) [cd]
Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (2016 , Not Two): American drummer, a free jazz legend since his early 1970s records with Dave Holland, later with Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet, dropped from sight in the 1990s until 2010 when he appeared on saxophonist Jon Irabagon's Foxy, the first of a bunch of collaborations under one name or another (third as 3Dom Factor, with Joe Fonda on bass). Mostly notable for Irabagon's no holds barred sax, although the bass-and-drums duets are super too. A-
Arcade Fire: Everything Now (2017, Columbia): Alt/indie group from Montreal, fifth album since 2004, hugely popular and critically esteemed -- third album, The Suburbs, seemed to be a lock on album of the year polls until Kanye West spoiled their party. I'm not a huge fan but haven't found much cause to fault their albums. I might quibble about this being too ornate, but after five or six plays nearly every song has clicked. Still, probably won't play it again until EOY, but I have little doubt I'll enjoy it then. A-
Gerald Beckett: Oblivion (2017, Summit): Flutist, from Beaumont, TX, studied at UNT, moved on to San Francisco. Sixth album, long personnel list but typical groups have 5-6 musicians, the standout alto saxophonist Ruben Salcido. Nine covers, several (Piazzolla, Pascoal, Tjader) bringing the Latin tinge, others mainstream jazz (Davis, Mulligan, Ellis Marsalis), with a long "Out of This World" to close. B+(*) [cd]
Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Incidentals (2014 , ECM): Alto saxophonist, influenced by Julius Hemphill, which shows up strongest here in his harmonics with Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet). Group name comes from their 2012 Snakeoil, with Ryan Ferreira (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano/electronics), and Ches Smith (drums, vibes, percussion). Dense and turbulent, has some marvelous moments as well as puzzling ones. B+(***) [dl]
Big Bold Back Bone: In Search of the Emerging Species (2015 , Shhpuma): Swiss-Portuguese quartet: Marco von Orelli (trumpet), Sheldon Suter (prepared drums), Luis Lopes (guitar), and Travassos (electronics). One 43:02 piece, plumbs sonic depth but rarely rises to demand your attention. B
Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (2017, Outline, 2CD): Soprano saxophonist. Group: Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums), plus Deborah Rush reading Dickinson poetry on the second disc only. I'm inclined to favor the music-only disc, but while I rarely register the words, somehow the music on the second disc seems even more vibrant. B+(***) [cd]
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity (2016-17 , Avant Groidd): Group assembled by noted rock critic Greg Tate back in 2001, more of a jazz group then but with more lyrics their 13th album is exceptionally jazzy funk. Steven Bernstein (trumpet) and Avram Fefer (alto sax) are probably the best known musicians, but the core is guitars (4), bass, keys, violin, and drums -- not counting Tate, creditd with guitar, bass, and "beats & loops." B+(***)
Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro: Rosa Dos Ventos (2017, Anzic): The clarinetist joins a Brazilian choro group -- Dudu Maia (bandolim), Douglas Lora (7-string guitar), Alexandre Lora (pandeiro, hand pan, percussion). Clarinet tends to blend in with the strings. B
Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves: Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos (2017, Anzic): More Brazilian, a duo with Cohen on clarinet and Gonçalves playing 7-string guitar, on a set of "things" from Brazilian saxophonist Santos. The clarinet is somewhat delicate here, but still stands out framed against spare guitar. B+(**)
Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life (2017, Interscope): Fifth album since 2010, started as a young pop ingenue but shifted last time into a winning slowcore groove which works even better here, especially when she plaintively demands "the fucking truth" -- helps that she doesn't evince any of the genre's depressiveness, and employs the occasional rapper. Tails off a bit at the end, but only after a trio of songs that I take to be patriotic in the best sense -- about caring for each other. A-
Beth Ditto: Fake Sugar (2017, Virgin): Mary Beth Patterson, "fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas," singer in the so-so indie band Gossip, went solo with an EP I liked in 2011. This is her first full-length solo effort, produced by Jennifer Decliveo as exceptionally straight and clear, perhaps even a bit simplistic, major league pop. B+(***)
Miles Donahue: The Bug (2015 , Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, b. 1944, didn't record until around 1992, also plays trumpet and flugelhorn here, keyboards elsewhere. Even when he switches off you get strong saxophone from Jerry Bergonzi, guitar by Mike Stern on three tracks, piano (Tim Ray), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]
Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (2017, Sub Pop): Radical punk band from Providence, formed by a tuba player and singer Victoria Ruiz. Third album, pounding beat, loud scream and indecipherable screed, probably smart but I like it best when topped with a little saxophone. B+(**)
The Fall: New Facts Emerge (2017, Cherry Red): Mark E. Smith's pioneering post-punk group, dating back to 1979, still featuring their trademark crunch and growl. While I'm a fan of the growl, the signature-sounding closing instrumental piece is this album's saving grace. B+(*)
Filthy Friends: Invitation (2017, Kill Rock Stars): Portland supergroup, only ones I'm familiar with are singer Corrin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (REM), and bassist Krist Novolselic (Nirvana). First album, after group appeared on the politically themed Battle Hymns benefit album. Seems like a better-than-average hard rock group here, nothing more. B+(*)
Floating Points: Reflections - Mojave Desert (2017, Luaka Bop): British, someone with the memorable but not very original name Sam Shepherd, has a previous album and beaucoup short pieces, plays keyboards but works with larger groups. The dominant sound for much of this is guitar, reminding me of Pink Floyd spaced out under a vast nightsky. B+(*)
Billy Flynn: Lonesome Highway (2017, Delmark): Chicago blues guitarist-singer, originally from Wisconsin, seventh album since 1992, whips up impressive groove but somehow it all feels rote. B
Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet: The Pythiad (2016 , Origin Classical): Soprano saxophonist, with a string quartet plus bass and singer Cheryl Wilson -- a combination I don't care for on many levels, one where the classical underpinnings make it hard to hear any jazz. B- [cd]
Hal Galper and the Youngbloods: Live at the Cota Jazz Festival (2016 , Origin): Pianist, started in the mid-1970s and has had a long and remarkable career, joined here by three young musicians I've never heard of -- Nathan Bellott (alto sax), Dean Torrey (bass), and David Frazier (drums) -- on four pieces ranging from 11:08 to 17:40. I'm especially struck by Bellott and, of course, the pianist. B+(**) [cd]
Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy (2017, self-released): Percussionist, teaches ethnomusicology in Vermont, credits here include tanbou bèlè, congas, tupan; seems to be his first album although I've found a side-credit on a 1992 album by Kotoja -- a California-based Nigerian-American group. Sextet adds clarinet, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, plus a singer shows up on one track that sounds rather Brazilian. B+(*) [cd]
Gogol Bordello: Seekers and Finders (2017, Cooking Vinyl): Gypsy punk band from New York with roots back in Ukraine, first emerged in 1998 and has some very notable records. This one scores high marks for energy and sometimes adds insight and humor. B+(**)
Laurel Halo: Dust (2017, Hyperdub): Born in Ann Arbor, based in Berlin, third album, disjointed electronica with (presumably her own) vocals. B+(*)
Hamell on Trial: Tackle Box (2017, New West): Singer-songwriter Ed Hamell has been cranking out DIY folk tunes with punk intensity since 1989, includes a song here mostly about Trump ("The More You Know"), one about the fear even white folk have about getting shot by cops, and best of all an Australian "Mouthy B"'s critique of America (some choice lines: "I don't think your government cares about its people," "what's with all the flags? I've never seen such insecurity in all my life," "along with freedom 'heroes' is the most overused word in your national vocabulary"), as well as four "Froggy" songs. Cover shows a burning city behind a blasphemous Lady Liberty. Title song is about life coming with many hooks. A-
Hamell on Trial: Big Mouth Strikes Again: Hamell Live (2017, New West): Seems to be download only, with a code provided with the new studio album, but streams separately. Some redundancy (including another "Mouthy B"), some songs from earlier albums (like "The Happiest Man in the World"), some patter including a story about three grandmas coming up to him and asking whether he has any edgier material. He tries to satisfy them, even to the point of explaining "that's how you wave a towell." A-
Hard Working Americans: We're All in This Together (2017, Melvin): Todd Snider's hard working alt-rock band, with a few other guys I don't recognize from bands I've barely heard of (Widespread Panic, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Great American Taxi). Title cut actually works as a live band intro after their hardest guitar rave, followed by a souped up "Is This Thing Working?" and ending with a Chuck Berry anthem -- a fine encore. B+(***)
H. Hawkline: I Romanticize (2017, Heavenly): Welsh singer-songwriter Huw Gwynfryn Evans. Fourth album, has a high voice and a light, jangly feel that gradually grows on you. B
Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: Crooked Calypso (2017, Virgin EMI): Main singer-songwriter behind the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, probably my favorite bands in the waning days of the 20th century. Third album with Abbott, their most problematical one, with flashes that bring back fond memories but he's packed it with way too much pomp. Deluxe edition adds four long songs (25:26), changing little B+(*)
Fred Hersch: Open Book (2016-17 , Palmetto): Solo piano. Three originals plus pieces from Monk, Jobim, Benny Golson, and Billy Joel. He reached a new plateau with 2014's Floating, and continues at that level, thoughtful, serene, touch as deft as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Ray Wylie Hubbard: Tell the Devil I'm Gettin' There as Fast as I Can (2017, Bordello/Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called the band on his first (1976) record the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't strike me as very important until his 2010 album A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), but has topped that good one three times since. A-
Jon Irabagon/John Hegre/Nils Are Drønen: Axis (2013 , Rune Grammofon): Saxophone-guitar-drums trio, the latter two Norwegian. Two pieces, 17:43 and 18:56, focus on stress, eventually breaking free. B+(*)
Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over (2017, ECM): Pianist, very highly regarded, used to lead a group called Fieldwork with Steve Lehman on alto sax and Tyshawn Sorey on drums -- they had three superb albums 2002-08 -- and essentially doubles that group here, adding Mark Shim (tenor sax), Graham Haynes (cornet/flugelhorn/electronics), and Stephan Crump (bass). I'm not sure the extra weight helps, but Lehman remains especially striking, as is the dense piano scaffolding. B+(***) [dl]
Max Johnson: In the West (2014 , Clean Feed): Young bassist, b. 1990, fifth album, with Susan Alcorn (peddle steel), Kris Davis (piano), and Mike Pride (drums) -- the pianist making by far the biggest impression. B+(*)
Paul Jones: Clean (2017, Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, has at least one previous album. Postbop, all original pieces, core group a quintet with Alex LeRe on alto sax and Glenn Zaleski on piano, plus various extras including the SNAP Saxophone Quartet (5/14 tracks), the Righteous Girls (flute/piano, same 5), guest clarinet/oboe (same 5), cello (4 others), and bassoon (9). B [cd]
Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (2011 , Hatology): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous records. MVP here is guitarist Joe Morris, invariably the one you wind up focusing on. With Giacomo Merega (electric bass) and Jason Nazary (drums & electronics). A- [cd]
LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst: Metamorphosis (2016 , Clean Feed): Mostly Portuguese avant trio with Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Gonçalo Almeida (bass/keys), and Greg Smith (drums), the latter two dabbling in electronics. Their guest, who also appeared on their 2015 album, plays clarinet and bass clarinet -- Chris Speed was their guest back in 2013. Wound tight, makes me think it's the bassist's album, but the horns get the best breaks. B+(*)
Steve Langone Trio: Breathe (2016 , Whaling City Sound): Drummer-led piano trio, with Kevin Harris on piano and Dave Zinno on bass. Zinno wrote two songs, one each for the others, plus pieces from Chick Corea, Richard Rodgers, and "unknown" -- "Down By the Riverside" is a highlight. B+(**) [cd]
Lean Left: I Forgot to Breathe (2015 , Trost): Fifth album, the first subtitled The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo -- the former being Terrie Hessels (aka Terrie Ex) and Andy Moor, with Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Ken Vandermark on reeds. B+(**)
The Liberation Music Collective: Rebel Portraiture (2017, Ad Astrum): Nearly a big band -- 13 pieces, plus an extra guitar on a couple cuts, and singers, based in Chicago, founded by bassist Hannah Fidler and trumpeter Matt Riggen, citing the "activist tradition of such jazz composers as Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Charlie Haden." Not quite, of course, and the lyrics never grab me. B+(*) [cd]
Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin' Thru (2016 , Blue Note): Not exactly new -- this Quartet lineup dates back to Rabo De Nube, recorded in 2007: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums). His tenor sax is as lucid as ever, and Moran is an impressive accompanist. Flute feature has Indian airs and what sounds like guitar -- presumably bass. B+(***)
Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile to the Surface (2017, Loma Vista): Indie rock group from Atlanta, fifth album since 2006, all serious and a bit heavy-handed. B
Rob Mazurek: Chants and Borders (2016 , Clean Feed): Trumpet player from Chicago, credited here with cornet, modular synth, sampler, and piano, with a group in Brazil that expands beyond Mazurek's São Paulo Underground group: Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizer, sampler, electronics), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flute, soprano sax, electronics), Philip Somervell (piano, prepared piano), Mauricio Takara (drums). B+(**)
Rob Mazurek: Rome (2014 , Clean Feed): Solo, credits read: cornet, piano, prepared piano, electronics. Recorded in Rome, which inspires some titles but probably has little to do with the music. Tends toward atmospheric but doesn't intend to stay there. B+(*)
Vic Mensa: The Autobiography (2017, Roc Nation): Chicago rapper, name shortened from Mensah, first studio album after a couple of well-regarded EPs/mixtapes. This rubbed me wrong from the start -- a boast about striking it rich while keeping one's integrity -- but the teenage sex yarns aren't so bad, not that I don't get he's some kind of cad. Still no interest in the drugs or suicide. B-
Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature (2015 , ECM): Composer, has worked in music, dance, theatre and film since the 1960s, with a dozen records for ECM since 1981's Dolmen Music, mostly in their postclassical New Series. She sings here, often with others, against a fairly minimalist backdrop. B+(*) [dl]
Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (2017, Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, from Massachusetts, has at least one previous record. Quartet with piano, electric bass, and drums (Steve Langone). Wrote three originals (of 12 songs), covers ranging from Horace Silver to Michael Jackson. Fairly mainstream, but rich tone and easy swing. B+(***) [cd]
Randy Newman: Dark Matter (2017, Nonesuch): First album of new songs since 2008's Harps and Angels, not that he hasn't been busy during the Obama era: Discogs shows him with two Songbook volumes, two live albums, and five soundtracks -- by now, not just his meal ticket but his toolchest. The first three songs, with their historical-philosophical concerns, are so detailed it takes little effort to imagine the videos. The rest of the album, aside from the story of Sonny Boy the First, is unsentimental filler, and probably better for that. Christgau proclamed this an "album of the year contender" -- something I don't hear at all, but I massively underestimated Harps and Angels, doubting it for much the same offhandedness. A-
Pale Horse: Badlands (2015 , 5049): Clarinet player Jeremiah Cymerman, group name taken from the previous album by this "apocalyptic chamber ensemble" with Christopher Hoffman on cello and Brian Chase on drums. Two LP-length tracks, total 34:02. Cites as inspiration "the work of composers Scelsi & Ligeti, the novels of Cormac McCarthy, the films of Wim Wenders and the hypnotic beauty of Swans." More modest than any of those, but more pleasing than his early raw noise. B+(*) [bc]
Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (2015 , Creative Sources): German pianist, real name seems to be Oliver Schwerdt -- has a previous trio album with Axel Dörner and Christian Lillinger and a couple albums as Schwerdt. This is solo, short (31:46), named for two of the three pieces (the other is the 2:21 "Farewell"). Impressive, more for the rumble he generates than for the runs. B+(***) [cd]
Richard Pinhas/Barry Cleveland: Mu (2016, Cuneiform): Pinhas is a French guitarist, formed the "electronic rock" band Heldon in the 1970s, has also recorded as Schizo and Schizotrope, and has twenty-some records under his own name, three with Merzbow. Cleveland is another guitarist ("new age and experimental ambient"), and Michael Manring (bass, elbow bass) and Celso Alberti (drums, electronic drums, percussion) are also "featuring" on the cover, if not the spine. B+(**) [dl]
John Pizzarelli: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (2017, Concord): Marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 encounter between the crooner and Brazil's most famous songwriter (who played piano and guitar and contributed some backing vocals) -- not a very good album for either, with Claus Ogerman's arrangements part of the problem. Pizzarelli's catalog includes titles like Dear Mr. Sinatra and Bossa Nova, so I don't doubt his dedication. He takes some liberties with the arrangements, turning two pairs of songs into medleys and interposing bits of other songs. Daniel Jobim adds his voice, Helvio Alves and Duduka Da Fonseca manage the rhythm, and someone they don't mention plays some nice sax. B-
Platform: Flux Reflux (2017, Clean Feed): French clarinet player Xavier Charles, discography goes back to 1996, second album under this name, with Katrine Schiøtt (cello), Jan Martin Gismervik (drums), and Jonas Cambien (keyboards). All improvised, the focus more on deep sound than on flow. B
Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (2017, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist Scarff has been a member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, and leads the group Natraj, which plays Indian classical music. Pianist Porter has played with AJO on several occasions, and has shown up on a couple Allen Lowe projects, but is probably better known as an author and educator. With John Funkhouse (bass) and Bertram Lehmann (drums). Can't say I hear the "east-meets-west jazz, where Indian raga merges with western classical" -- reminds me more of someone like Charlie Mariano, with a real sharp rhythm section. B+(***)
Dave Potter: You Already Know (2017, Summit): Drummer, first album, has a few side credits with Jason Marsalis (vibes), Miguel Alvarado (saxes), and Will Goble (bass), all present here. Mostly originals, one tune each by Marsalis and Alvarado, five covers, mostly jazz sources (Monk, Shorter, Golson, Watson). Cut in several sessions, using three bassists, three pianists, two trumpeters, but never more than quintets. Swings, bops, swings some more. B+(**) [cd]
Eric Revis: Sing Me Some Cry (2016 , Clean Feed): Bassist, played for Betty Carter and Branford Marsalis but has tended to be more avant on his own albums. Quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax/clarinet), Kris Davis (piano), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- an explosive combination, most often moderated by the bassist but extraordinary when he cranks them up. A-
Roots Magic: Last Kind Words (2016 , Clean Feed): Italian group, second album: Alberto Popolla (clarinet, bass clarinet), Errico De Fabritiis (alto/baritone sax), Gianfranco Tedeschi (double bass), Fabrizio Spera (drums), plus guests on organ/piano (4 tracks), cello (2), and dub effects (1). Plumbs a deep blues base drawing on Charlie Patton and similarly influenced jazz musicians like Julius Hemphill and Marion Brown, tuned up to a fine fury. A-
Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma: Songs for the Hangman's Daughter (2017, Rubinchik): Folk singer-songwriter, plays a range of instruments, born in Stillwater, OK, but "Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans" -- clearly not one to shy away from audience prejudices. He sings about being bipolar ("it's a wonder I've yet to land in prison"), shows his regional colors when he decries "the war of northern aggression," claims to have mastered barbecue with kosher beef, covers "a fun old Bad Livers tune" (a band he was in). B+(**) [bc]
Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (2015 , Euphorium, 2CD): German pianist, also records as Elan Pauer, goes long here with two substantial servings of solo piano, dense and crunchy, much like the Pauer record above. B+(***) [cd]
Matthew Shipp: Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zürich (2016 , Hatology): Solo piano, recorded live at the Swiss festival, all originals except for "Tenderly." His usual impressive range from deep rumble through long lines to delicate touch. B+(***)
Skyzoo: Peddler Themes (2017, First Generation Rich/Empire, EP): Rapper Gregory Taylor, from Brooklyn, seven LPs, scads of mixtapes, third EP, eight solid tracks (30:36). B+(**)
Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (2016 , Pi): Drummer, sometime pianist -- he played a big chunk of his 2007 2CD album That/Not -- I've even seen him lately on trombone, but here just drums. I mention this because this strikes me as very much a piano album (Corey Smythe), the percussion and bass (Chris Tordini) often all but vanishing. Sometimes the piano, too. I'd prefer something more in-your-face, and there's some of that here too. A- [cd]
Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (2016 , Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, has a fairly short list of albums under his own name since 1997, but has a pretty long list of side credits. This format, with Chris Tordini on bass and Dave King on drums, pushes him out front, and he doesn't bother with the clarinet, so you get a consistent sound which grows in authority and panache. A- [cd]
Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (2017, Delmark): From Chicago, plays bass clarinet, quartet adds Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums) -- terrific group, with Jackson complementing the leader's airy sound. Three originals, covers from Bird and Monk, two from Lennie Tristano and another from Warne Marsh, plus one called "Roused About" that I assume honors Charlie. A- [cd]
Vieux Farka Touré: Samba (2017, Six Degrees): Guitarist-singer from Mali, father was Ali Farka Touré, pioneer of Saharan/desert blues, a tradition he carries on and extends, mostly by rocking harder. B+(***)
Triocity [Charles Pillow/Jeff Campbell/Rich Thompson]: I Believe in You (2016 , Origin): Reeds-bass-drums trio, Pillow credited with alto sax, alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet -- last is certainly not least. He only has a couple previous albums, but appears in quite a few notable big bands (John Fedchock, Alan Ferber, David Liebman, Pete McGuinness, Bob Mintzer, Ted Nash, Maria Schneider, and others). Songbook and jazz standards (Monk, Parker, Davis), closing with "Cherokee" -- always a thrill. B+(**) [cd]
Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy (2017, Odd Future/Columbia): Los Angeles rapper Tyler Okonma, started out in Odd Future collective, never seemed like he was quite ready but gets a major label deal here. Has managed to smooth off the rough edges, but that doesn't leave him with much. B
Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Escalator (2016 , Not Two): Tenor sax/clarinet trio, drums and bass respectively, recorded live at Alchemia in Krakow. I'm afraid I find the clarinet annoyingly squeaky, but Vandermark is a tower of power in this context, and remarkably adept. B+(***) [bc]
Raphael Vanoli: Bibrax (2017, Shhpuma): Guitarist, based in Amsterdam, first record, solo. Metallic tones, patiently experimental. B+(*)
John Vanore: Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (2016 , Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, leads a big band (16 pieces, only 2 saxes and 2 trombones, but 5 trumpets and 2 French horns) through a splashy set of Nelson pieces, with sharp solos and a certain postbop swing. B+(**) [cd]
Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Honey and Salt (2016 , Palmetto): Subtitle: "Music inspired by the poetry of Carl Sandburg." Snatches of Sandburg poetry as well, read by various members of the band and extras, as well as vocals (and guitar) by Dawn Thompson. With Ron Miles (cornet), Jeff Lederer (reeds), Martin Wind (bass), and Wilson on drums. Too many words for my taste, but sometimes remarkable music. B+(*) [cd]
Reggie Young: Forever Young (2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, first album but not so young, born in 1936, started out playing rockabilly in Memphis, part of the Bill Black Combo (led by Elvis Presley's first bass player, opened for the Beatles on their 1964 US tour). Best known for session work, including "Down in the Boondocks" (Billy Joe Royal), "The Letter" (Box Tops), Dusty in Memphis (Springfield), "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis), and "I Can Help" (Billy Swan). Nice relaxed groove album with keyboards, bass, drums, and sometimes a little cello. B+(*) [cd]
Bobby Zankel & the Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker @ 65 (2017, Not Two): Alto saxophonist, a couple years older than the famous bassist -- on board here, an event in Philadelphia, along with Steve Swell (trombone), Diane Monroe (violin), Dave Burrell (piano), and Muhammad Ali (drums). Old-fashioned avant joust, something the bassist has presided over many times. B+(**)
Omri Ziegele: Where's Africa: Going South (2016 , Intakt): Credit could be parsed several ways, including mention of Yves Theiler (keyboards, reed organ, melodica, vocals) and Dario Sisera (percussion, drums). Where's Africa is the name of a 2005 album -- a duo with pianist Irène Schweizer -- and was also used in the credit of a 2010 trio (with Schweizer and Makaya Ntshoko). Ziegele is Swiss, plays alto sax, Uzbek flute, and is credited with vocals. Not sure who sings (weirdly) and who raps (impressively), affectations which annoyed me at first as they interfered with the wonderful Township Jive-inflected groove. A- [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Albert Ayler Quartet: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 (1964 , Hatology): Two sessions from the tenor saxophonist's banner year, a quartet -- Don Cherry (cornet), Gary Peacock (bass), Sunny Murray (drums) -- that toured Europe in the latter months of the year. Six tracks from Hilversum, three more from Copenhagen -- The Hilversum Sessions first appeared in 1980, The Copenhagen Tapes (also including a Club Montmartre date) in 2002. Strikes me as a bit hit-and-miss, which isn't quite the same as saying his avant-garde's become old hat. B+(**)
Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964 (1964 , Hatology): This is the Club Montmartre set previously released on The Copenhagen Tapes, minus the three radio shots moved into European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 -- these releases are evidently part of an Ayler Estate effort to bring some order to the various long-circulating Ayler bootlegs. Same quartet. Same chaos. B+(**)
Albert Ayler: Stockholm, Berlin 1966 (1966 , Hatology): Two dates, a week apart, same group: Donald Ayler (trumpet), Michel Sampson (violin), William Folwell (bass), Beaver Harris (drums). Tightly layered, especially with the violin, around a skeleton of gospel and circus music. B+(***)
Paul McCandless With the Paul Winter Consort: Morning Sun: Adventures With Oboe (1970-2010 , Living Music): Playing oboe mostly, some English horn (soprano sax and bass clarinet elsewhere, notably with Oregon from 1980 on), McCandless joined soprano saxophonist Winter's group for three 1969-72 albums, with several reunions from 1986 to 2010. Together they sound like medievalists trying to pass for new age, and the occasional vocals hardly qualify as either. C+ [cd]
John Prine: September 78 (1978 , Oh Boy): Recorded Sept. 23, 1978 in Chicago, after his four justly famous Atlantics and first of three mostly forgotten Asylums (Bruised Orange). Originally released on numbered orange vinyl for Record Store Day 2015, now available for the masses. I first saw him a decade later when he was reduced by playing solo, which he carried off easily on wit, but this band, with organ and flashy guitar, hems him in, although they rock impressively on his lesser known songs (one appeared later on 1980's Storm Windows, two only show up here, including one tantalizingly close to Chuck Berry). B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Not April in Paris: Live From Banlieus Bleues (2004, Trugroid): Cover reads Live 01 at Banlieus Bleues but website gives this title. This closes out the group's most intensive period, following six releases (7-CD) in three years. Personnel list omits credits, but aside from leader Greg Tate the names I don't need to look up are Vijay Iyer (keybs), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Matana Roberts (alto sax), and Mazz Swift (violin) -- figure most of the 16 for guitar and vocals, plus bass and drums. Slippery groove, not a lot of vocals but they can swing either atmospheric or funky. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2004 , Trugroid, 2CD): Another live set, from performances in Spain, France, and New York. Unable to find a credits list, but the first concerts immediately follow Not April in Paris. "A Night in Tunisia" gives you something you can calibrate from, or try, as the multipart pieces run on and on. No idea what "blisluth" means. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006, Trugroid, 2CD): Personnel list runs to 37 names: 4 guitarists, 5 drummers, and 10 vocalists (counting "rhymes" and "recitation/oratory"), the goal "23rd century R&B," the grooves stretched and pliable. Like most of their records, especially the long ones, there are patches of brilliance and long stretches of enjoyable groove. B+(***)
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Chopped and Screwed: Volume 2 (2007, Trugroid): Remixes, the title referring to a technique DJ Screw developed in Houston in the 1990s based on slowing the beat down -- something I don't know enough about to judge how it was applied here. No evidence of a Volume 1. Personnel listed as Greg Tate, Jarid Michael Nickerson, and Mazz Wright, although horns are audible, as is some spoken word (rap?). B
Jeremiah Cymerman: Purification/Dissolution (2011-12 , 5049): Clarinetist, fifth album since 2007, solo but also credited with amplifiers, synths, and electronics, which push this into the domain of avant-noise. Bit harsh for me. B [bc]
Jeremiah Cymerman/Christopher Hoffman/Brian Chase: Pale Horse (2013 , 5049): Clarinet/cello/drums, two cuts at 21:45 and 16:26. Less of a noise album, but dense and mysterious, not anything you'd take for chamber jazz. B+(*) [bc]
Jeremiah Cymerman/Evan Parker/Nate Wooley: World of Objects (2013 , 5049): The clarinetist returns to noise world through his "digital post-production." Saxophonist Parker is still unmistakable, especially on soprano, while trumpet player Wooley remains a journeyman. Not uninteresting, but my tolerance for this sort of thing is limited. B- [bc]
Bill Frisell: Ghost Town (1999 , Nonesuch): Solo guitar, sometimes banjo, mostly originals but five covers offer framework -- two old country songs, two showbiz standards, a piece from John McLaughlin. Nothing exciting, but picks carefully. B+(*)
George Garzone: Moodiology (1998 , NYC): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Boston, a legendary educator and mentor to many dozens of famous saxophonists, has most often recorded as the Fringe, a sax trio as ragged as its name. With Fringe rhythm section here -- John Lockwood on bass and Bob Gullotti on drums -- plus Douglas Yates (alto sax/bass clarinet), Claire Daly (baritone sax), Kenny Werner (piano), and Mike Mainieri (vibes). Exceptional chops, but the other horns sometimes add a sour note, and some of his cover ideas don't work out so well. B+(**)
George Garzone: The Fringe in New York (2000, NYC): The Fringe albums date back to 1978, and this is the only one with the star saxophonist's name on the cover, hence the credit. Mike Mainieri joins on vibes, which can tilt the group into something merely pretty -- especially when Garzone gives up his fierce tenor for pretty soprano. B+(**)
George Garzone: Among Friends (2009, Stunt): Especially pianist Steve Kuhn, who often takes over the album, also Anders Christensen (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). The leader's tenor sax is especially eloquent on the ballads. B+(***)
Jon Irabagon/Andrew Neff/Danny Fox/Scott Ritchie/Alex Wyatt: Here Be Dragons (2009 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor sax/alto sax/piano/bass/drums, with Chris Cash (programming) a guest on one cut. Opens with the saxes neatly in sync, but the leader is hard to contain. B+(*)
Noah Kaplan Quartet: Descendants (2008 , Hatology): Same group as on the new album. Guitarist Joe Morris is the main draw, with the leader playing more soprano sax, and taking the tenor slower. B+(**)
Joe Morris Trio: Antennae (1997, AUM Fidelity): Avant guitarist, discography starts around 1990. With Nate McBride on bass and Jerome Deupree on drums, loose yet jagged. B+(**)
Joe Morris/Mat Maneri: Soul Search (2000, AUM Fidelity): Guitar and viola duets, both electric, neither overpowering, closer in effect to Maneri's bent avant-classicism than to the guitarist's usual idiosyncrasies. B+(*)
Joe Morris: Singularity (2000 , AUM Fidelity): As the title suggests, a solo album, with Morris playing steel string acoustic guitar instead of his usual electric -- adds more texture while better exhibiting his speed and dexterity. B+(**)
Joe Morris Bass Quartet: High Definition (2007 , Hatology): No fear, just one bassist -- Morris, better known at guitar but has many recordings on double bass. Two horns: Alan Chase (alto, soprano, and baritone sax) and Tyler Ho Bynum on cornet, with Luther Gray on drums. Tails off a wee bit at the end, but most of the way the horns spin gloriously, while the leader's longtime drummer keeps the rhythm surprising. A-
Joe Morris: Mess Hall (2011 , Hatology): Guitarist, emphasis on electric here, backed by Jerome Deupree on drums and (less obviously) Steve Lantner on keyboards. Five pieces from 9:01 to 11:52, dense and gnarly. B+(**)
Randy Newman: Live (1971, Reprise): Recorded at the Bitter End in New York, just singer-songwriter and his piano, after only two studio albums -- notably his likely best-ever 12 Songs (4 songs from there, 5 from his debut, 2 destined for Sail Away, 1 eventually reworked for 1977's Little Criminals, 2 more). B
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003, Nonesuch): Reconstructed demos, just the songwriter pounding on his piano and barking out his lyrics -- except to songs you already know -- well, songs I know. Strikes me as long on history and "Political Science" (a title as well as a theme). "Rednecks" catches ever deeper in my craw, perhaps because he sings it with such gusto. He does "God's Song" the same way, and that's fine by me. B+(*)
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 3 (2016, Nonesuch): Released five years after Vol. 2, itself eight years following Vol. 1, he's obviously in no hurry. He opens with two of his most famous/notorious songs, "Short People" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come," although he winds up picking a couple songs I don't recall (one with a surprisingly generous refrain: "it's just amazing how fair people can be"). Also one song I've been thinking about a lot as Trump and Pruitt lay waste to the environment: "Burn On," about the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire. Just piano and vocal, scaling "I Love L.A." back to human size, especially touching on "Guilty." B+(***)
Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook (2003-16 , Nonesuch, 3CD): This box rolls up the three Songbook volumes, plus four extra songs at the end, including the caustic Bush-era "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" and the presumably satiric Obama-era "I'm Dreaming" ("of a white president") with lines like: "he won't be the brightest/but he'll be the whitest/and I'll vote for that." B+(**)
Flip Phillips: Swing Is the Thing (1999 , Verve): Tenor saxophonist, original name Joseph Edward Flipelli, born 1915 in Brooklyn, came up in big bands including the Benny Goodman and Woody Herman outfits and was a Jazz at the Philharmonic regular. Died in 2001, so this was his last album: with Benny Green (piano), Howard Alden (guitar), Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Washington (drums), and guest spots for Joe Lovano and James Carter -- they bump up the energy level, but the leader's light tone swings everything else. B+(**)
Flip Phillips: Celebrates His 80th Birthday at the March of Jazz 1995 (1995 , Arbors): Big party, as befits an eminent swing-to-bop saxophonist, surrounded here by near contemporaries and younger retro players -- eighteen names in the "combined personnel," including fellow saxophonists Scott Hamilton, Phil Woods, and Bob Wilber, plus Buddy DeFranco on clarinet, Randy Sandke on trumpet; three each pianists, guitarists, and bassists; two drummers. Gives the party a JATP flavor, especially closing with "Perdido." B+(***)
John Pizzarelli: Let There Be Love (2000, Telarc): Guitarist, working on becoming a standards crooner, with band going soft to keep from overwhelming his voice -- Ray Kennedy on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco's credit is "brushes on book." Some guests (including father Bucky Pizzarelli) show up late but don't make much of an impression. B
John Prine: Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine (1971-75 , Atlantic): Twelve songs from four albums worth owning on their own, released as soon as Prine left (was cut?) for Asylum. Christgau panned this: "Not as rewarding cut for cut as John Prine or Sweet Revenge, not as interesting conceptually as Diamonds in the Rough or Common Sense. Good songs, useless album." I wouldn't have bothered but I owned the album way back when -- probably bought it after I got my first taste on personal favorite Common Sense but before I wised up and grabbed the others. Superseded by the first disc of Rhino's Great Days, but somehow this is the one that stayed in print. So if you don't know any better: A-
John Prine: Pink Cadillac (1979, Asylum): Sixth album, second for Asylum, recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio by sons Knox and Jerry Phillips, with only five Prine originals -- Billy Lee Riley joins to duet on his song, and others include Floyd Tillman's "This Cold War With You," "Baby Let's Play House," and "Ubangi Stomp." I'm not sure that any of the rockabilly moves work -- for one thing the sound leaves much to be desired -- but the Tillman cover shows that he can always fall back on country tradition, and "Down by the Side of the Road" is top-shelf. B
John Prine: Storm Windows (1980, Asylum): Midway in a series of five albums between the four Atlantics and his two brilliant 1991-95 albums (The Missing Years and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings), a solid album I might have taken for more had I been paying attention at the time. Only two covers, and his originals are much more appealing -- a couple I know from elsewhere (probably Great Days), others that couldn't be by anyone else. A-
John Prine: John Prine Live (1988, Oh Boy): Double LP, later a single CD, with 19 songs, recorded at five spots but the only dates provided are song copyrights -- all but two 1971-79 (1981, 1986). Mostly solo, acoustic guitar and vocals, which fits my memory of the period -- I didn't pick up a lot of the patter but did recognize "the happy enchilada song" bit. Steve Goodman joins in for one song, and Bonnie Raitt takes the lead on "Angel From Montgomery." B+(*)
Schweizer Holz Trio [Hans Koch/Urs Leimgruber/Omri Ziegele]: Love Letters to the President (2008, Intakt): Swiss wood, as in woodwinds: bass clarinet/soprano sax, soprano/tenor sax, alto sax/voice. With no rhythm to move them along, the horns are erratic, prickly, and sometimes a bit warbly. B+(*)
Matthew Shipp: Duos With Mat Maneri and Joe Morris (1997-98 , Hatology): Alternates tracks from two of Shipp's Duo albums, Thesis with guitarist Morris (6/13 tracks), and Gravitational Systems with violinist Maneri (5/10). Neither were personal favorites, but the mix helps focus on the remarkable pianist. B+(*)
Chris Speed: Yeah No (1997, Songlines): The tenor saxophonist's first album, a title he later recycled as a group name. He also plays some clarinet, with Cuong Vu on trumpet, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, and Jim Black on drums. The two-horn freeplay starts in high gear, downshifts later. B+(**)
Chris Speed: Deviantics (1998, Songlines): Same group, with trumpeter Vu doing much of the slicing and dicing. B+(**)
Chris Speed: Emit (2000, Songlines): Same quartet, the leader playing some clarinet as well as tenor sax, drummer Jim Black also credited with melodica. Trumpet player Cuong Vu continues to claim the high ground. B+(***)
Chris Speed/Chris Cheek/Stéphane Furic Leibovici: Jugendstil (2006 , ESP Disk): I've been known to confuse the two Chrises: they were born a year apart, both mostly play tenor sax, have less than a dozen headline albums (starting in 1997-98) but play on many more. Cheek plays tenor and soprano here, Speed clarinet, Leibovici bass. Very minimal, soft harmonies with a little fuzz, no beat. A second disc, Jugendstil II, was released in 2010 with Lee Konitz replacing Speed. B
Chris Speed/Zeno De Rossi: Ruins (2011-13 , Skirl): Duets. De Rossi is an Italian drummer -- not much under his name but he's recorded in a couple dozen groups, especially with Franco D'Andrea but the groups also include Full Metal Klezmer and Meshuge Klezmer Band. Speed plays some of his most powerful tenor sax in this stripped down framework. A-
Chris Speed: Really OK (2013 , Skirl): Tenor saxophone trio with Chris Tordini (bass) and Dave King (drums), same as his later Platinum on Tap, pushing him to the forefront to show off his chops. Seven originals, plus pieces from Coltrane and Coleman and "All of Me." B+(***)
Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: The Silence Behind Each Cry: Suite for Urs Voerkel (2001 , Intakt): Alto saxophonist, born in Israel, studied in Boston and London, settled in Zürich. Group here is a nonet, named for a "workplace" (Google translates as "cheap farmer") in Zürich. Voerkel was a Swiss pianist (1949-99), honored but evidently uninvolved in this project, a four-part suite built around poems by Robert Creeley (sung operatically, presumably by Ziegele). B+(*)
Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: Edges & Friends (2004 , Intakt): Octet, just two horns (Ziegele on alto and Jürg Wickihalder on soprano sax), with piano, cello, two each bass and drums. Eight pieces, again structured around poetry -- Robert Creeley, Dylan Thomas, Ziegele himself. The band can impress -- especially pianist Gabriela Friedli -- but I could do without the poetry. B
Omri Ziegele's Where's Africa Trio: Can Walk on Sand (2009 , Intakt): Expands the Swiss alto saxophonist's duo with pianist Irène Schweizer from their 2005 Where's Africa, adding South African drummer Makaya Ntshoko, with Jürg Wickihalder adding his soprano sax to three cuts. Abdullah Ibrahim is a shared passion. B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, August 28. 2017
Music: Current count 28590  rated (+27), 374  unrated (-4).
August weekly rating totals: 18, 30, 25, 27, for a total of 100, down a bit given that typical months top 120. Streamnotes draft file currently has 111 reviews, so maybe the rated counts have missed a few things. I'll post Streamnotes by the end of the month, Thursday at latest. Maybe I'll find something more by then, but I currently have 14 new A- records. That's actually a bit above average -- e.g., see my 2016 list, which shows 142 new A/A- records last year (average month just under 12). My 2017 list currently shows 88 A- (no A) records so far, so I'm averaging 11/month. The split is currently 49 jazz, 39 non-jazz. In recent years, as far back as I've noticed, jazz runs up a big edge early then non-jazz catches up when I start looking at EOY lists. Last year's split wound up 74 jazz, 67 non-jazz.
Guitarist John Abercrombie died last week. You can find my grade list here. As I recall, I had Timeless on LP back shortly after it appeared. I was rather underwhelmed at the time, but came to appreciate him over the last 10-15 years, often when he made appearances on other folks' records. Could be I still have The Third Quartet underrated. It garnered a crown in the last edition of the Penguin Guide. When I initially panned it, ECM's publicist wrote me to ask if I was feeling OK. As it happened, I wasn't -- it was shortly after a very traumatic event. I eventually went back to the album, gave it another chance, and found much more there. Died at age 72.
One piece of news last week was that the Village Voice announced they would cease publication of its print edition, which had been distributed for free since 1998. The paper was founded in 1955, and had become famous enough that I bought a subscription when I was living in Wichita in 1968 or 1969. (Somewhat before I also had a subscription to the New York Free Press; no Wikipedia and very little Google on that -- did it only exist in 1968?) I mostly read politics and theater reviews then, but several years later, after I started reviewing records for the Voice, I was able to find Robert Christgau's 1969 articles stashed away in my parents' attic. I doubt I read the Voice regularly while I was at college in St. Louis, but after I dropped out, I started reading a lot of rock crit. wrote a little, and wrote to Christgau in 1975. He wrote back and asked me to write a review of a new Bachman-Turner Overdrive album (see my archive). I moved to New York City a couple years later and got to know him pretty well, but never developed much of a relationship with the Voice except through him. I stopped writing for the Voice in 1979, moved to New Jersey to write software, and on to Massachusetts, back to NJ, and finally returned to Kansas in 1999. In 2004 Christgau asked me to write a Jazz Consumer Guide for the Voice, which continued past 2006 (when Christgau was fired) until Rob Harvilla left in 2011.
The Voice continues online, and since Peter Barbey bought the paper from New Times (the company responsible for the mass firings of 2005-06) they've started to bring back some of the writers who made the paper so distinctive. It's been over a decade since I've even seen a print copy, but still this seems like another end-of-era moment. To mark this, the following are a couple links to articles with reminiscences by several writers/editors:
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Monday, August 21. 2017
Music: Current count 28563  rated (+25), 378  unrated (+0).
First, I want to single out a link from yesterday's Weekend Roundup that I added late, barely scanned, and didn't much comment on: Heather Boushey: How the Radical Right Played the Long Game and Won. I see now that I got it way out of my usual alphabetical-by-author order, but that's not worth correcting. It's a book review. The book is Nancy McLean's Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. It's primarily about an economist who Charles Koch knows well even if you or I didn't: James McGill Buchanan. I've bought a copy of the book, and intend to read it soon. (I figured I'd read the new paperback of Rosa Brooks' How Everything Became War and How the Military Became Everything first, in honor [horror?] of Trump's new Chief of Staff, John Kelly.) Anyhow, if I hadn't been so rushed, I would have singled out this quote:
This is all stuff I had figured out, so the only surprise is the extent to which it was designed, and I suppose the frankness with which it was articulated as a strategy to subvert democracy and impose despotism. My own discovery started with the observation that while rich people strongly favor Republicans and poor people strongly favor Democrats in every state all across the nation, richer states tend toward Democrats (the exceptions are Alaska and Utah) while relatively poor states go Republican. The latter happens because people in those states have learned better than o expect help from their elected government, because governments long controlled by reactionaries have long disabused them of their hopes and faith in democracy.
People in richer states have more faith in government, because public institutions there serve them better, not least because a more efficient, more supportive state helps build the economy. (The Republican capture of Wisconsin is offering a real time example of turning a rich state into a poor one.) Of course, Republicans didn't need Buchanan's theorizing to understand that the first step in turning a popular program into one seen as worthless was rendering it incompetent: Richard Nixon provided a classic example of this when he put Donald Rumsfeld in charge of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Still, no one ever came out and said that's what Nixon and Rumsfeld were up to and why. They simply set up a situation which later Republicans could exploit by arguing that the OEO was a waste of money, that government never could have alleviated poverty in the first place. What Buchanan, and McLean's book, give us is the smoking gun: they show how disaster was planned, and why a few extraordinarily greedy people made it happen.
They also remind us that this is a program to subvert democracy and install despotism in its place. Once you grasp this struggle in those terms, you can see clearly how critical stealth and deception have been to their program, and start to see through them.
I've read a couple of pieces on Afghanistan in anticipation of Trump's big speech tonight. General themes: many antiwar quotes from his campaign, bits on how the hawks are delighted to have gotten rid of Bannon, and pretty much universal agreement that he's going to double down on the war and make things worse rather than better. The only twist I've heard of is a plan to coerce whoever's in charge of Pakistan this week to do its dirty work else face the wrath of America supporting India to bring Pakistan to heel -- as if nuclear brinksmanship in Korea wasn't bad enough.
Nothing really to quote yet. Meanwhile, here's Matt Taibbi misunderestimating Trump again: Why Trump Can't Quit the Alt-Right. Taibbi talks about how Trump's "secret technique" worked so well during the campaign: "He continually keeps his enemies off-balance by alternately playing the menace and the raving buffoon" -- then notes that the buffoon bit doesn't work so well for an actual president. I expect that Trump will stick to the teleprompter tonight, and therefore look semi-coherent, which in some quarters will pass as "presidential" given that he's doing what so many other presidents before him have done: blundering into a wider, deeper, and even dumber war.
Not much to say about music this week. Rated count is down a bit as I missed a day-plus cooking. Following my citation of Tim Niland's blog last week I checked out several Clean Feed and Hatology releases. Roots Magic makes two A- records I didn't get from Clean Feed (along with Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, last week). I spent a lot of time on the Beth Ditto record that Robert Christgau likes -- I previously gave Waxahatchee's Out in the Storm an A-, Ivy Tripp B+(**), Paramore B+(***), and Valerie June B+(**), so we're fairly close this week. By the way, it wasn't really Ditto's solo debut: she released a quality EP in 2011, which I thought an A- at the time (and you all know how I tend to downgrade EPs).
The old music mostly came from trying to look for 2000 releases I had missed, although I poked around a bit more, not really finding anything very important. The 2000-03 period predates my Jazz Consumer Guide column, and therefore is the least well covered period as I try to collect my Recorded Jazz in the 21st Century: A Consumer Guide.
Jason Stein's album cover appeared, without mention, in last week's Music Week: I graded the record A- after I close my listings, but before I finished writing the post. Same thing this week with the new Chris Speed Trio album, Platinum on Tap.
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Monday, August 14. 2017
Music: Current count 28538  rated (+30), 378  unrated (+3).
Average week, although more old music than usual as I followed a recent Burnt Sugar album into their back catalog (still missing 2011's All Ya Needs That Negrocity), then also picked up old records from avant-jazz guitarist Joe Morris -- I found some new Ken Vandermark albums on his Catalytic Sound Bandcamp, although better still was a 2008 album Morris album with Vandermark. Unfortunately, a lot of the new Catalytic Sound albums don't come with any music, but I found several on Napster.
Another of the new Vandermark albums is under Eric Revis' name -- like his last several, a good one. It's the first album on Portugal's Clean Feed label I've reviewed since they stopped sending me CDs -- I hope they don't take the grade as positive reinforcement. I probably have download codes for more, but haven't chased them down yet. I did pick up new albums on ECM by Vijay Iyer, Tim Berne, and Gary Peacock. I spent quite a bit of time with the Iyer, and basically timed out in trying to determine whether it's an A-, so I guess it isn't. Still, the Fieldwork-times-two band dazzles here and there, and the mix is more interesting than his last couple ECM albums. Will get to the others sooner or later.
The Hamell Live album seems to be some sort of download-only bonus to the new studio album, but I figured I'd treat it as a separate release as that's how it appears on Napster. Figured it would slack off a bit, but I like it as much (if not more).
I'm a little confused about how the numbers add up, since I graded 5 CDs while only unwrapping 3 new ones, yet wound up with +3 unrated instead of -2. I've double-checked and haven't found the discrepancy.
No progress on the Jazz Guides this past week. I have started on collecting Robert Christgau's Expert Witness pieces at Noisey for a website update, probably by the end of the month. I've probably lost some of the corrections readers sent in. If you sent one in and haven't heard back from me, assume that I did and resubmit it.
I should also note that I've added @BirdIsTheWorm to my twitter feed. He probably tweets too much (13.1K tweets vs. 1815 for me, but he has 3588 followers to my 271), but I figured maybe he'd point me toward some things that I was missing, as in his latest The Round-up: What went unseen. Actually, I've seen 2 (of 5) of those new records -- both B+(*) -- but hadn't heard of the others (just added to my Music Tracking file). I also recommend following @TimothyNiland. At this moment, the front page of his Music and More blog has seven substantial album reviews on it: three of records I've heard [A-, B+(***), B+(*)], the others I will want to check out soon. (Playing Shipp as I write.)
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Monday, August 7. 2017
Music: Current count 28508  rated (+18), 375  unrated (+10).
Basically took a break for the latter half of the week (Wednesday to Saturday). Main reason: Korean dinner. For this stretch, I mostly played CDs from one of my travel cases: Lilly Allen, Beautiful South, Bobby Bland, Manu Chao, Dance Floor Divas, Duke Ellington/Coleman Hawkins, English Beat, Franco, Girl Group Greats, Mighty Sparrow, Roger Miller, Van Morrison, Nigeria 70, Pet Shop Boys, Public Enemy, Wilson Pickett, Shirelles, Phil Spector, Velvet Underground, Mary Wells, Hank Williams. That, plus the work, kept me in a pretty good mood.
Before that, I was probably off to a typical week. The Tyshawn Sorey album took a bit of time, and I think I probably played the Elan Pauer (the only other CD in the list below) 3-4 times. Evidently Pauer is an alias for Oliver Schwerdt -- he also sent me a 2-CD under that name, one of a fair number of things in a suddenly resurgent queue (seems to be split evenly between September-October releases and things already out). For a long stretch the queue had been so depleted I stopped paying much attention to it, but I got more records in the mail last week than in any week for many months.
I spent Sunday playing Randy Newman. Robert Christgau proclaimed his new Dark Matter an "album of the year contender" on Friday. I still don't hear anything like that, but gave it five plays before parking it in the bottom half of my 2017 A-List -- didn't want to underrate it as badly as I had Harps and Angels, but I still doubt I'll wind up liking it as much. I had heard "Putin" on a late night show, and it seemed pretty awful at the time. It's funnier here with orchestra and "the Putin girls" chorus. But the opener (whence the title, but not its title) is an awkward, incoherent mess, and "Brothers" is just a bummer until it breaks into a celebration of Celia Cruz. Good song about the original Sonny Boy Williamson, and "She Chose Me" works for him.
I also went back through the Songbooks -- I had given Vol. 2 a B+(**), but missed Vol. 1 and Vol. 3, and wound up replaying the whole 3-CD "box" to pick up the songs Bob mentioned that were left off Vol. 3: "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" as timely as it was in 2008 (the death of one of those Supreme Court Italians proving inconsequential), but I'm not hip enough to his irony to stomach his 2012 "I'm Dreaming [of a white president]" ("he won't be the brightest/ but he'll be the whitest/ and I'll vote for that"). The box does offer a really terrific "A Wedding in Cherokee County."
I bumped up the grade of Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life from where I had it last Monday. Among other things, it offers a sharper political commentary than Newman does. We need more people demanding "the fucking truth." And while she's right that "critics can be mean sometimes" I'm not feeling that now.
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Monday, July 31. 2017
Music: Current count 28490  rated (+28), 365  unrated (+1).
Most of the following made its way into July Streamnotes, so not much news to report. Just seven albums in the August draft file so far: Arcade Fire, Hal Galper, Paul Jones, Manchester Orchestra, Vic Mensa, Vieux Farka Touré, Reggie Young. I think I gave Arcade Fire five (maybe six) plays. The others on Napster got one each.
Three of those came out last week. Checking AOTY, they scored: Manchester Orchestra (78/11), Arcade Fire (71/23), Vic Mensa (65/5). I'm surprised Arcade Fire has been reviewed so poorly (although it has 100 scores from NME and The Independent). They're a group I've generally admired but never felt much affection for: while I've graded their previous albums pretty high (B+ for 2004's Funeral; A- for Neon Bible, The Suburbs, and Reflektor), none of those albums scored especially high on my EOY lists (27, 27, 29). I expect this one will wind up lower (it's at 28 now, but we're only about half done -- big question is whether I ever play it again). But critics have generally liked their albums more than I have; e.g., AOTY scores for their four albums are: 95/15, 84/20, 89/33, 78/40; higher still were their Pazz & Jop finishes: 6, 5, 3, 14. Presumably this one won't fare so well, but I can't tell you why. Maybe in this day and age critics want something mopey? (Like Mount Eerie? Or Manchester Orchestra?)
On the other hand, the low critical scores for Vic Mensa's The Autobiography correlate with my disappointment, not that we necessarily agree as to why. Christgau liked his mixtapes, and there was at least something happening in There's Alot Going On. Not that there's nothing I like in Mensa's record; just a lot I don't. That contrasts, say, to Tyler the Creator's new Flower Boy, which was a total blank after one spin. I reckon that's an improvement given how offensive his early albums were. Got to it after the cutoff, so it's not in the list below -- nor is Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life, which I played a lot and like but wound up hedging. "God Bless America -- and All the Beautiful Women in It" may be the kindest patriotic anthem of the year, followed by "When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing" and "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems."
Milo Miles wrout about the remarkable Carl Craig album. Robert Christgau reviewed the Perceptionists and Oddissee (an earlier A- for me) at Noisey. Akmee and Alexander Hawkins are on Chris Monsen's 2017 Favorites list. Ergo, Led Bib, and several others were downloads I've been sitting on for a long time -- Roscoe Mitchell a more recent download. The Eddie Palmieri and Vieux Farka Touré albums are unlikely to disappoint their fans -- high HMs that might make the A- grade if I spent more time with them.
Finished adding the post-2000 vocalists to the Jazz Guide (currently 968 + 747 pages). Stalled when I got into post-2000 instrumentalists (currently 6% done). When I scrolled back to the top, I realized I needed to make some edits in the front matter -- in particular I changed the grade scale so that A or A+ is 10, A- 9, B+ 8-6, B 5, B- 4, C+ 3, C 2, C- or worse 1. I think this maps closer to my actual practice, where A/A+ grades have become extremely rare, as have sub-C grades. I asked several friends about this mapping and pretty much all of them wanted more spread on top (A- = 8) with adjustments shifting some higher grades up to 9 or 10, but I really needed something I could apply more mechanically. I also didn't mind cutting my artists and publicists a bit of slack here, while readers still have a useful curve: 10 is still pretty rare (especially post-2000), and 9 isn't very common (around 10% of the total, which is about what you'd expect in a decile system).
While editing I noticed that I started this project last August, so I've been working on it a full year, during which time I've done very little of the editing that will be needed if this ever sees the light of day, and nothing at all on several other possible book projects. Feels Sisyphean, even as time seems to be running out.
Already looks like it's going to be another good week for another Midweek Roundup. Last week I described Trump as having broke out of his cage and gone on a joyride -- evidence included promoting Anthony Scaramucci, purging Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, and two of the most embarrassing and disgusting speeches in a career with little else -- but today the joyride ended in a crash as Scaramucci got fired. Now we're going to have to suffer through stories about how Marine General John Kelly restored order and discipline to the White House, as they buckle down on the great cause of "tax reform" -- a more efficient, and less damaging, way to feather the pockets of the very rich than repealing the ACA.
On the other hand, I may be pressed for time for a Sunday Weekend Roundup, as I have a dinner scheduled for Saturday. I've been planning for some time on doing a birthday-sized Korean menu, and will finally get the chance. (I started the classic cabbage kimchi months ago.) Perfect cuisine for a "birthday feast" with all the banchan -- small side dishes, kind of like tapas but they pretty much all get the same treatment. Art Protin told me I should do a full dinner report every few months, so I'll try to follow through on that.
I am trying harder to cook occasional small dinners for just us, and they've often been superb. Last week I made my first-ever lasagna, with sausage and lamb (recipe called for beef and veal, but I didn't find the latter and decided not to make a deep search). I was a bit disappointed in it (certainly compared to the pastitsio I made a while back), but the leftovers are good enough to eat cold, along with a little horiatiki salad.
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Friday, July 28. 2017
The summer here in Wichita hasn't been exceptionally hot, but it's been hot enough to be stultifying. I haven't enjoyed it, and find damn near everything else depressing, but kept my nose to the grind wheel and came up with a perfectly average month: 136 records, 108 (or 112) more or less new, the old stuff purely opportunistic as I came across various interesting tangents.
I cut the month off a couple days early rather than collide with my usual Sunday/Monday blog schedule. Kept hoping to find something new, and finally did after I thought I'd finished the column: The Perceptionists: Resolution.
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 June 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (9910 records).
21 Savage: Issa Album (2017, Slaughter Gang/Epic): Rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, from Atlanta, first studio album although he had an EP I liked last year (Savage Mode). I like the easy beats and delivery here. However, doesn't it seem a bit lazy to make every line rhyme by ending it with the N-word? B+(*)
John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (2016 , ECM): British guitarist, on ECM since 1974, backed here by pianist Marc Copland (wrote two songs), Drew Gress (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). B+(*) [dl]
Ryan Adams: Prisoner (2017, Blue Note): Prolific singer-songwriter, seemed promising when he first appeared in 2000 but quickly grew tiresome. I still can't find anything much to care about, but as a formal piece of guitar-driven songcraft this sounds pretty good. B+(*)
Akmee: Neptun (2016 , Nakama): Norwegian group: Erik Kimestad Pedersen (trumpet), Kjetil Jerve (piano), Erlend Albertsen (bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums). Four songs, two by the pianist, one each bassist and drummer. Slow to develop, but powerful or eloquent when they do. B+(***)
Algiers: The Underside of Power (2017, Matador): Postpunk band from Atlanta, second album, moves both toward metal and experimental, a mix that I sometimes get a charge out of but more often find annoying. Produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead. Thom Jurek: "Algiers ultimately turn doomsday on its head unexpectedly." B-
Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (2016 , Skirl): Pianist, born in Switzerland, based in New York since 2008, second album, both quartets, this one distinguished by alto saxophonist Michaël Attias, whose runs keep slipping out of the grooves. A- [cd]
Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S: Plucky Strum: Departure (2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitar and bass duets, second album together -- first filed under the bassist, but cover shows Bailey in the driver seat this time. Originals from each, one together, covers from Steve Stills and Joni Mitchell. B+(*) [cd]
Big Boi: Boomiverse (2017, Epic): Like Jay-Z, another big-time rapper into real estate. Still, I prefer his boisterous, big-time pop. B+(***)
Bleachers: Gone Now (2017, RCA): Indie pop band, principally Jack Antonoff, who collaborated extensively on Lorde's Melodrama. I prefer Lorde's voice for pop, but this isn't bad, especially on relationship songs. But I did get tripped up by the closer. B+(*)
Theo Bleckmann: Elegy (2016 , ECM): German vocalist, fifteen albums since 1992, more art song than swing, often given an angelic air by his high-pitched voice. Leads a band that indulges him lavishly: Ben Monder (guitar), Shai Maestro (piano), Chris Tordini (bass), and John Hollenback (drums). B+(*) [dl]
Benjamin Booker: Witness (2017, ATO): Singer-songwriter born in Virginia, grew up in Florida, given name Benjamin Evans, adopted name suggests a gnarled bluesman but his eponymous first album didn't really fit that hole, and this one doesn't even aim for it. Garage rock seems to be the new consensus, but I see he's cited "Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson and T. Rex as influences." More a way of triangulating what he's aiming for, a target he sometimes hits. B+(***)
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (2017, International Anthem): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, seems to be her first album, mostly quartet with Tomeka Reid (cello), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums), plus some "cameos" -- notably too many cornets. I get hung up on a piece called "The Storm" -- otherwise impressive, an especially strong turn by the drummer. Choice cut: "Theme Nothing." B+(**)
Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life (2017, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minneapolis rapper Jason Newman, converted to Islam at age 15, sixth album: as thoughtful, good natured, well intentioned as ever. B+(**)
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness (2015 , FMR): Leader plays alto sax and Chinese oboe, accompanied by drums and acoustic bass guitar. Parts are a bit harsher than I'd like, but I love Carrier's deep, searching runs, and this is another good setting for them. A- [cd]
Cashmere Cat: 9 (2017, Mad Love/Interscope): Norwegian DJ/turntablist, Magnus August Halberg, first album after three EPs. Draws on an impressive roster of vocalists -- Kehlani, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla Sign, Selena Gomez, Jhené Aiko, and more -- while minimizing their differences. B+(*)
Charly Bliss: Guppy (2017, Barsuk): Guitar band from Brooklyn, singer-guitarist Eva Hendricks give them some pop appeal while guitarist-vocalist Spencer Fox thickens the din (something I've seen dubbed "bubble-grunge"). B+(**)
Amber Coffman: City of No Reply (2017, Columbia): Former Dirty Projectors singer, absent from this year's album although Dave Longstreet co-wrote and produced here. I find the group's fancy twists and filigree damn near unbearable, but this album is relatively free of annoyance -- just conventional stuff, mostly synth strings, nicely tucked into the background, where they frame her attractive voice. B+(**)
Avishai Cohen: Cross My Palm With Silver (2016 , ECM): Israeli trumpet player, unrelated to the bassist but brother of Anat Cohen, second ECM album, quartet with piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Nasheet Waits). Tends to submerge under Manfred Eicher's aesthetic, which is probably the point, but the trumpet has a nice brassy air. B+(**) [dl]
Larry Coryell's 11th House: Seven Secrets (2016 , Savoy Jazz): Reunion of the guitarist's best known fusion groups, with several albums (and later archival material) spanning 1972-76. Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums/keyboards) return from the original group -- Mouzon died soon after this was recorded, and Coryell died before its release. Also adds second guitarist Julian Coryell and Mike Lee on bass. Heavy grooves, blistering trumpet, nice they got this chance to feel young again. B+(*)
Carl Craig: Versus (2017, InFiné): Pioneering electronica producer from Detroit, his 1997 album More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art a personal favorite, but I can't say as I've followed him closely since. He provides electronics and production for his tracks here, but the bulk of the sound comes from a 22-piece orchestra, arranged by Francesco Tristano to bring forth the drama, suggesting classical music but when have they ever enjoyed such danceable beats before? A- [bc]
Richard Dawson: Peasant (2017, Weird World): Singer-songwriter from Newcastle, UK; started as a folkie, winds up all over the map, with folkish harmonies and music that isn't afraid of getting dissonant. His own voice reminds me of Robert Wyatt, although I'm less inclined to forgive his idiosyncrasies and lapses, partly because it grates so much more. B
Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Meddeski/John Scofield: Hudson (Motéma): Cover only offers last names, although all are pretty recognizable. Hype credits this to "jazz supergroup Hudson." Names appear alphabetical, the opposite of the way I would list the credits by instrument, with guitarist Scofield up front. Indeed he is, and probably playing better than he has in two decades, but I'm tempted to chalk that up to the drummer, especially remarkable on the 10:56 title piece. Also note that nearly half of the pieces are late-1960s rock hits -- two Dylans, Hendrix, Robertson, Mitchell -- and while they're the things you notice, they're not the ones that stick with you. A-
Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (2017, Domino): Formerly an indie rock band given to fancy arrangements and off-kilter rhythms, now just Dave Longstreth and extra studio musicians, notably co-producer Tyondai Braxton. I hated their/his last two albums, ones which turned them into much more than a cult band, and didn't expect anything better here. Didn't find it either: just intricately layered churchy/soulish vocals with no discernible sense of time. C
Chano Dominguez: Over the Rainbow (2012 , Sunnyside): Spanish pianist, has twenty-some records since 1980, including a couple with Martirio, one with Paquito D'Rivera, one called Flamenco Sketches. Solo, probably not the one to start with. B+(*) [dl]
Emperor X: Oversleepers International (2017, Tiny Engines): Chad Matheny, American but based in Berlin, had a thing for odd electronic music but came up with a surprising set of songs in 2011 (Western Teleport), and almost repeats that feat here -- except that I lose track somewhere after "Schopenhauer in Berlin" until the closing 11:11 minimalist instrumental. B+(***)
Noga Erez: Off the Radar (2017, City Slang): Electropop artist from Israel, works/writes with producer Ori Rousso, first album, titles in English but I'm less clear about the lyrics. Not a lot of pop appeal, closer but still not as gloomy as trip-hop.. B
Ergo: As Subtle as Tomorrow (2013 , Cuneiform): Trombonist Brett Sroka, leading a trio with Sam Harris (keyboards) and Shawn Baltazar (drums), fourth album together, where Harris produces the most unexpected sounds -- prepared piano is one of his options -- but the trombone pulls it back together. B+(***) [dl]
Kevin Eubanks: East/West Timeline (2017, Mack Avenue): Guitarist, discography starts in 1983, couple dozen albums although only one entered my database. Looks like two sessions, the first half with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Dave Holland (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); the second with Bill Pierce (tenor sax), Rene Camacho (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), and Mino Cinelu (percussion). Nice either way. B+(*)
The Feelies: In Between (2017, Bar/None): NJ jangle pop band, invented their genre in 1980 and broke up as soon as they released their greatest album, 1991's Time for a Witness. As with so many bands, they ran out of better options and regrouped -- in 2006, with an album in 2011, and now this second one. No new ideas here, and for a while I thought they were slowed by age, but the reprise of the title cut is something I could dig much longer than its 9:23. B+(**)
Forest Swords: Compassion (2017, Ninja Tune): English electronica producer Matthew Barnes, second album, leaves me feeling pretty empty. B-
Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (2017, Free Rads): Houston group, "a horn-driven instrumental dance band with a commitment to peace and justice" -- I recognized the group name from chemistry, but sure, politics works too. Took no more than five seconds for me to realize they were right up my alley. Turns out they've been around for a couple decades, recording The Rising Tide Sinks All in 1998 and five albums since. Nine-piece group, three saxes, three brass (including sousaphone), guitar, bass, drums, but 15 more "guests" joined in these sessions, including two elder vibraphonists whose credits include Benny Goodman and Sun Ra (author of their one cover). For a first approximation, imagine a cross between anarchist collectives like Club D'Elf and the Tribe and a New Orleans brass band. Not without its messy moments, but surely a SFFR. A- [cd]
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Small Town (2016 , ECM): Guitar and bass duets, recorded live at the Village Vanguard, very low key. Three originals (one by both, two Frisell), five covers, "Wildwood Flower" recalling Frisell's Americana, an effect deepened by the title tune. Other covers: Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Fats Domino, "Goldfinger." B+(**) [dl]
Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Kisaragi (2015-16 , Libra): Piano and trumpet duets, at least that's what the cover says, but I'm not hearing much of that -- a lot of submerged electronic sound, interesting here and there but never really seems to break the surface. B+(*) [cd]
Future Islands: The Far Field (2017, 4AD): Synthpop band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2008, their second title from poet Theodore Roethke -- an effect that I suppose recalls bands like the Cure. This one is more than a little catchy, but beyond that hard for me to say. B+(*)
(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket (2017, Domino): Birth name is Alexander Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, self-recorded lo-fi albums from 2010 on, finally getting picked up by Domino for 2015's Beach Music. This has some nice, even some noisy, stretches. B
Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play (Solo Piano) (2017, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Hungary, has recorded steadily since the early 1980s. Solo, mostly standards, avoids the obvious. B+(*) [cd]
Golden Pelicans: S/T (2014, Total Punk, EP): Punk band from Orlando, had a live cassette and a couple singles before this 12-inch vinyl, 7 short cuts, 14:25, title as given on their Bandcamp though I'd be tempted just to use the band name. Classic punk, right at you. B+(***)
Golden Pelicans: Oldest Ride Longest Line (2015, Total Punk, EP): Longer (9 cuts, 17:39), if anything faster. Needless to say, I can't parse a single line of lyrics, but for some reason that bothers me more here (maybe because one oft-repeated word sounds like "faggot," but turns out the song title is "Maggots"). B+(**)
Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood (2017, Goner, EP): Punk purism evolving into something they call "thug rock" -- the songs stretching out over two minutes on average (9 cuts, 20:59), so long they count this as an LP. Other advances include a label I've heard of and color on the cover. Still intense. B+(***)
Goldfrapp: Silver Eye (2017, Mute): English electropop duo, singer Alison Goldfrapp and synth player Will Gregory. Seventh album since 2000. B+(*)
Vitor Gonçalves: Vitor Gonçalves Quartet (2017, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Brazil, based in New York. First album, with Todd Neufeld (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss (percussion). B+(*)
Giovanni Guidi: Ida Lupino (2015 , ECM): Italian pianist, handful of records since 2006, two previous trios on ECM, this a bassless quartet: Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Louis Sclavis (clarinet), Gerald Cleaver (drums). Most satisfying when the trombone gets the upper hand. B+(*) [dl]
Marika Hackman: I'm Not Your Man (2017, Sub Pop): English singer-songwriter, father Finnish, second album after four EPs starting in 2013. Probably started as a DIY folkie but moved into on into non-glitzy pop. B+(**)
Haim: Something to Tell You (2017, Polydor): Three sisters, surname Haim, from Los Angeles. Second album: loud, catchy popular rock. B+(**)
Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017, Fly Eye/Columbia): Scottish DJ/producer (given name Adam Richard Wiles), called his first album I Created Disco (he was born in 1984). Ten cuts (37:40), each featuring 1-3 well-known names (e.g., "Heatstroke" features Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, and Ariana Grande). Hottest track just has one voice: Nicki Minaj. B+(*)
Joel Harrison: Stump (2013 , Cuneiform): Guitarist, has a dozen or so albums since 1996, "focus here is kon his playing and not his writing and arranging," which gets him out of a postbop quagmire I've never warmed to. Provides more details on his gear than song credits ("a mixture of Luther Vandross, Buddy Miller, George Russell, a traditional spiritual, Paul Motion, Leonard Cohen"). Backed with bass, drums, and (6/11 cuts) organ/keyboards. B+(***) [dl]
Alexander Hawkins: Unit[e] (2016-17 , self-released, 2CD): British pianist, plays in Convergence Quaret, Decoy, and other projects. First set is an explosive sextet, with Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Dylan Bates (violin), Otto Fischer (guitar), bass, and drums. Second set swaps drummers and replaces Hutchings, doubling the group size, adding trumpets, reeds/flutes, cello, and live electronics. B+(**) [bc]
Arve Henriksen: Towards Language (2016 , Rune Grammofon): Norwegian trumpet player, nine albums since 2001, backdrop mostly guitar and electronics -- he contributes to the latter along with Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang, and adds his voice (plus Anna Maria Friman on one track), aiming for something ethereal. B
J Hus: Common Sense (2017, Black Butter/Epic): British rapper, Momodou Jallow, born in London of Gambian descent, first album after a mixtape and several singles. Disjointed, off-kilter beats -- any hype about Afrobeat is strictly in the ear of someone else -- vocal range pretty narrow but keeps at it and ultimately catches on. B+(**)
Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant (2016 , ECM): German pianist, originally appeared in a group called Cyminology (after vocalist Cymin Samawatie). With Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen Howard on drums. Original pieces. B+(**) [dl]
Jay-Z: 4:44 (2017, Roc Nation): Big star, rapsabout what matters most (to him, anyway): his asset portfolio. Better, I suppose, than slinging dope, where he made his first fortune. Slippery beats, legendary flow, marred by the occasional operatic sample. B+(**)
Dusan Jevtovic: No Answer (2016 , Moonjune): Serbian guitarist, has at least two previous albums, this one a fusion trio with Vasil Hadzimanov on keyboards and Asaf Sarkis on drums. Strong on the upbeat, impressive for a while. B+(*) [cd]
Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (2017, Mack Avenue): Trumpet player, quartet includes Orrin Evans (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), plus a couple guests join in on several cuts. B+(*)
Jonwayne: Rap Album Two (2017, The Order Label): Rapper from La Habra, CA; real name Jonathan Wayne. Follows up on 2013's Rap Album One, but he has three more albums, a half-dozen mixtapes. Runs a skit making fun of not looking like a rapper, and if the cover doesn't cinch that, the skit does. B+(***)
Alison Krauss: Windy City (2017, Capitol): Started out as a bluegrass fiddler, crediting her band on most of her albums, but she's always sung, remarkably on these ten covers. She may look like a lost mannequin on the cover, but there's nothing stiff or fake here. Especially choice cuts: "Gentle on My Mind," "Poison Love," "You Don't Know Me." A-
Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy's Demo (2017, Three Quartet, EP): From Compton, Steven Thomas Lacy-Moya, still a teenager but joined the Internet for their third album (Ego Death), spins off a six-song 13:33 "song-series" here. B
Brian Landrus Orchestra: Generations (2017, BlueLand): Baritone saxophonist, has a half-dozen albums but regards this big band + strings affair as some kind of breakthrough. Liner notes: "It's a culmination of everything I've listened to and loved over the years." Then he produces a long list of examples, including Stravinsky, Mulligan, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, J Dilla, and Hermeto Pascoal. He could have stopped after the first two: this opens with a four-part "Jeru Concerto." I vaccilate between hating it and finding myself swept up in the vast absurdity of the enterprise. B+(**) [cd]
Nikki Lane: Highway Queen (2017, New West): Alt-country singer-songwriter, originally from South Carolina, based in Nashville but doesn't really belong there. B+(**)
Led Bib: The Good Egg (2013 , Cuneiform): British group, drummer Mark Holub seems to be the leader, with two alto saxophonists (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), keyboards (Toby McLaren), and double bass (Linan Donin). Eight albums since 2005; this one, a four-cut 33:58 live vinyl/download only, came out the same day as The People in Your Neighborhood, and has been languishing in my download queue for quite a while. Some remarkable stretches here, and for once they don't wear out their welcome. B+(***) [dl]
Led Bib: The People in Your Neighborhood (2013 , Cuneiform): Studio album, eleven tracks, 71:31, more range but maybe too much as they wander more, but still a powerhouse. B+(**) [dl]
Let's Eat Grandma: I, Gemini (2016, Transgressive): British group, from Norwich, principally Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton -- "multi-instrumentalists" although keyboards dominate and drums appear only after you start wondering why there aren't any. They harmonize in little girl voices, often taking on little girl personas. Group name derives from a joke about the comma placement, obscured and made more menacing by omission. B
Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (2017, Afrasia Productions): Jazz singer, more than a dozen albums since 1986, has one of those widely admired voices, deep and resonant, but frames it with pretty ordinary arrangements in a hornless band. B
Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo': TajMo (2017, Concord): Two bluesmen who always seemed comfortable in their retro form, a genre that Taj (Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) invented as early as 1968, although, now 75, he hasn't recorded much since 2000. Only nine years younger, Keb' (Kevin Moore) didn't record until 1994 -- he never struck me as that notable, but he's picked up three Grammy Awards and been nominated for many more. Best thing here is a relaxed, understated "Diving Duck Blues," just a duet (better, I think, than the version on Taj's debut album). However, they lose that charm when the big band chimes in, no matter how agreeable the fancy band groove gets. B
Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears (2014 , Clean Feed): Viola/saxophone/piano trio, a viable chamber jazz configuration except that Parker is hard to hem in or pin down, and he provides most of the interest here. B+(*) [cdr]
Mura Masa: Mura Masa (2017, Polydor): British DJ Alex Crossan, from Guernsey, took his alias from Japanese swordsmith Muramasa Sengo. First album, draws on a wide range of singers and rappers (Damon Albarn, Nao, Héloise Letissier, A$AP Rocky) for an eclectic mix, unfied by the dance beats. B+(*)
Spoek Mathambo: Mzansi Beat Code (2017, TEKA): South African rapper, probably more accurately rooted in electro or kwaito as the beats and chants matter more than the words here. B
Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (2017, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, cut eight albums 2003-10 as J. Tillman, played on one Fleet Foxes album, now has three albums under this moniker. Title cut is anything but, and the somber sobriety gets stifling, even when he's self-conscious, as when "Mara taunts me" saying "just what we all need/Another white guy in 2017/Who takes himself so goddamn seriously." I looked that lyric up after I heard "He's a national treasure now," and wasn't sure whether he was talking about Jesus or Trump -- turns out himself, for once not the worst-case scenario. The music does grow on you. I could imagine someone loving this -- just not me. B-
Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (2015 , ECM, 2CD): Chicags saxophonist, joined AACM in 1965 and co-founded Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1967. Recorded this for AACM's 50th anniversary. Half nonet -- Hugh Ragin (trumpet), James Fei (reeds), Tyshawn Sorey (trombone/piano/drums), Craig Taborn (piano), Jaribu Shahid (bass), three more percussionists (Kikanju Baku, Tani Tabbal, William Winant) -- and half duo and trio subsets, which leave much open space, although not without interest or occasional surprise. B+(***)
Mokoomba: Luyando (2017, OutHere): Band from Zimbabwe, third album, translates from Tonga as "mother's love." As expected, splits the distance between Congolese soukous and South African jive, including a piece of mbube. B
The Moonlandingz: Interplanetary Class Classics (2017, Transgressive): Side project for two members of Fat White Family plus Rebecca Taylor and Sean Lennon, hard to pin down but neo-psychedelia is the genre I most often find. Dense, fast, and loud, not a mix I'm very fond of. B
Sam Newsome: Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Soprano (2017, Some New Music): Saxophonist, played tenor early on but since 2005 has focused on soprano. His innovation here is various ways to coax unusual sounds from the horn by "pareparations" -- change to the reed, obstacles that modify the airflow, and/or dangling chimes from the horn. He tries hard to make music with this setup, but it is by nature limited. B+(*)
Oxbow: Thin Black Duke (2017, Hydra Head): Underground (noise/experimental) rock group from San Francisco, dates back to 1988, principally Eugene Robinson (vocals, lyrics) and Niko Wenner (guitar, keybs, music), plus bass and drums, first album titled Fuckfest. Haven't heard the early ones but Robinson's anguished wail reflects back to the blues, set off by the hard rock Sturm und Drang. B+(*)
Ozomatli: Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica (2017, Cleopatra): Los Angeles band, released eponymous debut in 1998, obviously closer to Mexico than to Jamaica, which contributes occasional rhythms without being recognizable as such. Mostly in Spanish, not that "Besame Mucho" or "La Bamba" need translations any more than "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Come and Get Your Love" -- anyway, their selling point is the treatment, not the songs. B+(*)
The Ed Palermo Big Band: Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2014, Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, formed his big band in 1977, cut their first record in 1982, came up with the idea of arranging Frank Zappa tunes for big band in the 1990s and this is at least his third Zappa album. First disc anyway -- reminds me that I've never liked Zappa, although he's probably not the only one here to blame. Second is mostly Palermo originals, which aren't much better. C
Eddie Palmieri: Sabiduria/Wisdom (2012 , Ropeadope): Pianist, parents moved from Puerto Rico to the Bronx where he was born in 1938. Has 43 albums since 1962. Ten-piece group, eight more "special guests" (Donald Harrison, Obed Calvaire, Ronnie Cuber, Joe Locke, etc.). Rhythmically intense, bewilderingly complex. Choice cut: "The Uprising." B+(***)
Aaron Parks/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Find the Way (2015 , ECM): Pianist, originally from Seattle, cut a record for Blue Note in 2008, two now for ECM plus a couple on Stunt. Has a lot of mainstream side-credits, starting with Terence Blanchard. Trio here, all originals except the title cut, flows nicely but doesn't really draw me in. B+(*) [dl]
Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom: A Tribute to Blossom Dearie (2017, Arbors): Bassist-singer, from Australia, mostly standards with retro swing. While early on she sang with offhanded charm, she's become more confident and polished, doing fine by this songbook. Backed by piano-vibes-drums, with guest spots for Warren Vaché on cornet and Engelbert Wrobel on clarinet and tenor sax. B+(*)
Nicki Parrott: Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook (2016 , Venus): With John Di Martino (piano), Frank Vignola (guitar), sister Lisa Parrott (baritone sax/bass clarinet), and some drums/percussion I can't find a credit for. Better songs, but not all of them work. B+(**)
Chris Pasin and Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside (2016 , Planet Arts): Trumpet player, based in New York, studied at New England Conservatory, dropped out of jazz for a stretch but returned in 2009 with something he recorded in 1987. Second album I've heard, cut last June, aside from the title mostly Xmas songs, pretty much the last thing I was in the mood for on a Fourth of July morning -- but I suppose we can take some comfort that seasons come and go. Nice trumpet, and a few vocals from Patricia Dalton Fennell. B [cd]
The Perceptionists: Resolution (2017, Mello Music Group): Alt-hip-hop group from Boston, cut Black Dialogue, a terrific album, in 2005, plus a mixtape and a live album around that time, and nothing since then until now, although Jeffrey Haynes has had a notable career as Mr. Lif, as has Jared Bridgeman (aka Akrobatik). Not sure what happened to third member DJ Fakts One, but only two faces on this cover. Smart politics, the beats more jumbled as befits our more chaotic era. A-
Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won (2017, Domino): British singer-songwriter, fronted a memorable band called the Only Ones 1976-82, recorded a solo album in 1994 as the One, and finally came out with this album under his own name. Opener recalls "Sweet Jane" but is pretty great on its own. Then you start to recognize the old band, just older, slower, wearier, more desperate. Aren't we all? A-
Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (2016 , ECM): Tenor saxophonist, always works in some soprano, adds clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, mbira and sampler here, in a quartet with David Virelles (piano/celeste), Joe Martin (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Mostly settles into soft moods here, but occasionally busts a solo like you know he can do. B+(*)
Karriem Riggins: Headnod Suite (2017, Stones Throw): From Detroit, now based in Los Angeles, made his first impact as a jazz drummer, then as a hip-hop producer. This splits the difference, leaning toward hip-hop instrumentals, but with 29 cuts, only two over 3 minutes, it plays more like a scrapbook of ideas. B+(**)
Troy Roberts: Tales & Tones (2017, Inner Circle): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Perth, Australia, half-dozen albums since 2006. Quartet with piano (Silvano Monasterios), bass (Robert Hurst), and drums (Jeff "Tain" Watts). Lively group, interesting detour on "Take the 'A' Train." B+(**)
Louis Sclavis: Asian Fields Variations (2016 , ECM): French clarinetist, long discography since the early 1980s, trio here with Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Vinent Curtois (cello) -- both names in large print on the cover below the title. Chamber jazz, but it doesn't always go down smoothly, and is more interesting when it doesn't. [NB: download order shuffled from actual release.] B+(*) [dl]
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, expanded his name for a 2012 album and evidently still uses it. First album of a promised trilogy, "speaking to a litany of issues": "Slavery in America via the Prison Industrial Complex, Food Insecurity, Xenophobia, Immigration, Climate Change, Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, Fascism and the return of the Demagogue." No fixed band, but the various keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and exotic percussion add up to a derivative of Miles Davis funk, with two cuts featuring Elena Pinderhughes' flute. B+(**)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Diaspora (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Second installment in his trilogy, credits the leader with many things in addition to his trumpet, including "sonic architecture," and doubles down early on Elena Pinderhughes' flute, adding a Sarah Elizabeth Charles vocal to close. B+(**)
Sex Mob: Cultural Capital (2016, Rex): Long-running quartet, released five albums 1998-2003, since then just one more every 3-4 years, making this their ninth. They've often done covers/spoofs in the past (e.g., Sex Mob Does Bond), but everything here was written by Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet, alto horn), with old hands Briggan Krauss (alto/baritone sax, guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic/electric bass, guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums/percussion). Plenty clever tricks, but no great jokes. B+(**)
ShitKid: ShitKid (2016, PNKSLM, EP): Swedish singer-songwriter Åsa Söderqvist. Eight cuts, 17:40, three with excrement in the title, but the single is "Oh Please Be a Cocky Cool Kid." Not clear whether the distortion is an aesthetic ploy or just sloppy recording. [Same title and cover previously released as 3-song, 7:23 single.] B- [bc]
ShitKid: EP 2 (2017, PNKSLM, EP): Not quite maturity, but she's learning, using the distortion more artfully, picking up bits of melody that recall girl groups or the NY Dolls doing girl groups although they're still pretty amateurish. Four songs, 10:52. B [bc]
ShitKid: Fish (2017, PNKSLM): Nine-cut, 28:15 "LP" -- repeats two songs from EP 2, including the obvious single "Sugar Town." Fans may be disappointed that the distortion abates, but that sounds like progress to me. Only a matter of time before she picks another moniker. B+(*) [bc]
Rotem Sivan: Antidote (2017, Alma): Israeli guitarist, based in New York, leads a trio with Haggai Cohen Milo (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Nice tone and momentum. B+(**)
Bria Skonberg: With a Twist (2017, Okeh): Canadian, based in New York, sings and plays trumpet, fifth album, mostly novelties swung hard in Gil Goldstein arrangements. Lots of studio musicians sashaying in and out. Not as much trumpet as I'd like, but she's sassy and fun. B+(*)
Songhoy Blues: Résistance (2017, Fat Possum): Guitar band from Mali, second US album, not sure if they have any from their days in Bamako, but they've moved on from covering Ali Farka Touré. Indeed, if you buy the line that Touré plays blues like John Lee Hooker, they resemble a Southern rock band, although they occasionally slip up. B+(**)
Sorority Noise: You're Not as ____ as You Think (2017, Triple Crown): Guitar band from Hartford, CT; third album, rather short, running 10 songs in 29:38 as they turn their anxieties into excruciating pain and sometimes resolve, or something like that. B+(**)
Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet: December Avenue (2016 , ECM): Polish trumpet player, 75, discography starts around 1970 with his first ECM album in 1975 and many more from 1995 on. Quartet with David Virelles (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Supportive, although the trumpet is eloquent, and sometimes the pianist breaks out. B+(**) [dl]
Mavis Staples: I'll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration (2014 , Blackbird Production Partners, 2CD): A Chicago concert for her 75th birthday celebration, chock full of guest stars who take most of the leads. Some names: Gregg Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy. (There also seems to be a 1-CD version that omits the less famous, like Joan Osborne, Otis Clay, Ryan Bingham, and Grace Potter.) They're in full raise-the-rafters mode when they mass, especially toward the end when they follow up the inevitable "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" with Talking Heads' "Slippery People," the title cut, and everyone piling onto the finale, where the stage buckles under "The Weight." B+(**)
Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory (2017, Def Jam): Young (23) rapper from Long Beach, second album plus two EPs Christgau prefers over his debut. This one's as sketchy as the EPs and not much longer (36:04). For me (three plays) the words never emerged from the beats, which were fine but not exceptional. B+(***)
Dave Stryker: Strykin' Ahead (2016 , Strikezone): Guitarist, did a lot of his early work on SteepleChase (from 1991), often teaming up with saxophonist Steve Slagle, but goes his own way here: with Steve Nelson (vibes), Jared Gold (organ), and McGlenty Hunter (drums). Hints at soul jazz but settles for a smoother, more sparkling, groove. B+(*) [cd]
Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (2016 , ECM): Pianist, from Minneapolis, was a big part of James Carter's 1990s Quartet. This is another quartet, although Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet) is here more for color and shading, never threatening to run away with so much as a song. Also with Chris Lightcap on bass and Dave King on drums, both (like the leader) dabbling in electronics. A- [dl]
Talinka: Talinka (2016 , Moonjune): Principally singer-actress Tali Atzmon, produced by husband Gilad Atzmon, who also plays bass clarinet, soprano sax, and accordion, along with viola/violin, bass, and drums. Folkish, rooted in deepest, darkest Europe, a haunting vibe developed over the last few Orient House Ensemble albums. B+(***) [cd]
Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (2016 , Capri): Bassist-singer, second album, more emphasis on the vocals this time (including some scat). One original, standards ranging from Ellington to Loesser to Leiber & Stoller ("Some Cats Know"), backed by piano and drums with Ken Peplowski (tenor sax/clarinet) on half the cuts, Roger Neumann (tenor/soprano sax) on two of those. Just bass and voice on "Willow Weep for Me" -- one of the finest versions ever. A- [cd]
Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart (2016 , ECM): Guitarist, plays classical and 12-string on this solo outing, the title cut the only standard, all else original. He's been doing this sort of thing since the early 1970s. This strikes me as having a little more bite than has been his norm. B+(**) [dl]
Harriet Tubman: Araminta (2013 , Sunnyside): Band consisting of Brandon Ross (guitar), Melvin Gibbs (bass guitar), and J.T. Lewis (drums), released two albums 1998-2000, a third in 2011, and now this fourth, where they are joined by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Named for the famous abolitionist, born into slavery in 1822 as Araminta Ross, and lately picked to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Smith is especially striking here, expanding and building upon the band's dense industrial-funk fusion. A- [dl]
Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm (2017, Merge): Fourth band album for Katie Crutchfield, joined here by twin sister Alison Crutchfield -- the pair previously fronted P.S. Eliot, then split with Alison recording as Swearin' before her solo album early this year. The hard anthems up front start as din but 3-4 songs in I start to follow, and even discern a bit of Alabama drawl. A-
Florian Wittenberg: Don't Push the Piano Around (2017, NurNichtNur): Avant composer, previously used electronics, wrote these pieces for piano and recruited Sebastiaan Oosthout to play them on a Fazioli 212 grand. Minimalist, mostly repetitive figures lapsing into more meditative passages. B+(**) [cd]
Wizkid: Sounds From the Other Side (2017, Starboy/RCA): Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, from Lagos, Nigeria, b. 1990, third album, first on a major label, genres listed as "Afrobeat, Afropop, reggae, dancehall, hip-hop" -- probably best known for a featured spot with Drake. Of those, the reggae/dancehall is most conspicuous, both on the opening and closing tracks. B+(**)
Glenn Zaleski: My Ideal (2014 , Sunnyside): Pianist, from Massachusetts, based in New York, started with a 2010 duo with his saxophonist brother Mark. This is a trio with Dezron Douglas (bass) and Craig Weinrib (drums), plus one track with Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax. B+(*) [dl]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Battle Hymns (2017, Quasi Band): Various Portland-based artists, few I've heard of but Janet Weiss fills in more often than not on drums, Sam Coomes is nearly as common on bass, Corrin Tucker has a group called Filthy Friends, and Carrie Brownstein appears as MEDS. Released soon after the election, "pay what you want" with the proceeds split between Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and 350.org. Indie rock that's still indie. Mixed bag of songs, with "Love in the Time of Resistance" my favorite. B+(***)
The Bob's Burgers Music Album (2010-16 , Domino, 2CD): From the animated sitcom. Pretty sure I've seen a couple episodes (out of 129 in 7 seasons), but not recent enough to contextualize any of the 112 tracks that fill up 1:56:13. In fact, I wouldn't have bothered if Matt Rice hadn't recommended it so highly, and he probably knows all that context. What I can say is that most songs are just sketches -- a few amusingly familiar -- and most are about food. Still, they play to me like light operetta, even if rock-based. Also lots of dialogue. B+(*)
Miracle Steps (Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017) (1983-2017 , Optimo Music): Jon Hassell, whose 1980 album with Brian Eno coined the "Fourth World" meme, contributes a piece, along with 13 others I don't recognize. At the time earth was conventionally carved into three worlds, so the implication is that this music is rather distant from all three. Here we get a surfeit of mallets and hazy reeds/flutes, so Larry Chernicoff's bent saxophone is a welcome surprise -- not that the usual stuff doesn't grow on you. B+(***) [bc]
Allen Ravenstine + Albert Dennis: >Terminal Drive (1975 , Smog Veil, EP): Pere Ubu trivia, supposedly the entire original 15:39 version of the piece which appeared in shorter form in the 1996 Datapanik in the Year Zero box. Ravenstine, a keyboard player, joined the group in 1975, and worked with them through 1989. Dennis plays string bass here. Strikes me as much ado about damn little. B
Albert Beger's 5: Listening (2004, Earsay): Israeli saxophonist, plays tenor on five tracks, alto on the other two, sparring with Yoni Silver (bass clarinet/alto sax/organ), backed with guitar, bass, and drums. Dedicated to the late Steve Lacy. Sometimes settles into a groove, more often fights its way out. B+(**)
Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway: There's Nothing Better to Do (2011 , OutNow): Sax-drums duo, Beger playing tenor and soprano. Only really comes together when both push each other hard. [3/6 cuts] B+(*) [bc]
Willem Breuker Kollektief: In Holland (1981, BV Haast): Dutch avant group, dates back to 1974, ten pieces here, the leader playing three saxophones and two clarinets. Sometimes they veer too close to classical for my taste, more often they make rousing circus music, and occasionally throw in a tango, but you never doubt they're having a blast. B
Willem Breuker Kollektief: To Remain (1983-89 , BV Haast): Mostly recorded in 1989, including the 12-part title suite, with a few earlier tracks stuck on at the end. Continues their avant mix of classical and circus music, at times turning downright cartoonish -- especially when they quote familiar tunes. All in good fun, I'm sure. B-
Daniel Carter/Toby Kasavan/Mark Hennen/William Parker: Feels Like It (2000 , BDE-BDOP): Kasavan and Hennen both play piano/keyboards; Carter alto sax, flute, and trumpet, and Parker, of course, bass. Nothing on this album in Discogs, but thanks to Rick Lopez' magnificent Parker sessionography we know that Kasavan played with Parker once before (in 1977), while Hennen appears many times, from Jemeel Moondoc's Ensemble Muntu in 1973 all the way to 2008. Two long pieces, strong early as long as Carter can carry it. B+(*)
Larry Coryell: Lady Coryell (1968 , Vanguard): The guitarist's first album, after his band Free Spirits' 1967 debut and a "featuring" credit under Chico Hamilton. First side seems aimed at some kind of psychedelic/Hendrix thing with vocals (not very good). Second side is jazzier, especially when Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison move in. B
Larry Coryell: Introducing the Eleventh House With Larry Coryell (1972 , Vanguard): The guitarist's most famous band started here, five years after Coryell's debut, and continued through 1976. With Randy Brecker (trumpet), Mike Mandel (keybs), Danny Trifan (bass), and Alphonse Mouzon (drums). Compared to the 2016 reunion, the guitar is more central, the groove more fluid, and Brecker has yet to discover "skunk funk." B+(*)
Larry Coryell: The Restful Mind (1974 , Vanguard): Featuring Ralph Towner (guitar), Collin Walcott (tablas/congas), and Glen Moore (bass); i.e., three-quarters of Oregon with the soft reeds replaced by more guitar power. Actually, pretty impressive when they turn that power on. B+(***)
Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 1 (2005, Earsay): Tempted to file this under Beger -- Israeli tenor saxophonist, also plays alto flute, b. 1959, album cut on his home turf, name centered on the cover, and of course his brash free runs dominate the sound -- but the spine and all other sources favor the drummer. Beger starts tentative but soon finds his voice, and charges hard until they close out with some kind of chant. B+(***)
Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 2 (2005 , Earsay): More from the same sessions [but just 2/4 cuts on Napster]. "Funky Lacy" lives up to its title. B+(**)
Emperor X: Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform (2004, Discos Mariscos): Second album, seems to have been reissued by Bar/None in 2012 after they released Western Teleport in 2011. There's much more on his Bandcamp page, but this at least has the form of a song album, albeit with more blips and more bits where he just sits on a riff, but they're interesting in their own right. B+(**)
Free Radicals: The Rising Tide Sinks All (1998, RWE): The title presumably a play on "a rising tide lifts all boats" -- a phrase John F. Kennedy made famous when he argued for reducing the marginal income tax rate on the rich nearly two decades before Arthur Laffer's napkin, probably his second most disastrous legacy (after his decision to dig deeper into Vietnam, rather than get the hell out). Several titles are political, but the one that best captures the vibrant music is "Circus of Life." And when a vocal appears on the third track, it's some kind of Muslim prayer sung over hip hop tabla beats. A-
Free Radicals: Our Lady of Sunny Delights (2000, Rastaman Work Ethic): Second album, the core group augmented by close to fifty musicians, working through 31 pieces ranging from 9 seconds to 5:56, with fewer vocals but much exuberance -- even a song about the "Irrational" kind. B+(**)
Free Radicals: Aerial Bombardment (2004, Rastaman Work Ethic): Fifty musicians, 32 tracks, opens with a nod toward reggae but the occasional vocals take a turn toward hip-hop, with the instrumentals favoring beat pieces over their usual horns. B+(**)
Free Radicals: The Freedom Fence (2012, Free Radicals): Back after eight years, "an epic collaboration of 48 musicians to create a highly danceable funk, klezmer, dub, ska, jazz, hip hop, and salsa-soaked satire of borders, apartheid, and gentrification" -- I can't attest to all of that as I've only heard 10/23 tracks, but they still add up to 33:59, and they cover a lot of ground. B+(**)
Free Radicals: Freedom of Movement (2015, Free Radicals): Here Houston's radical collective reins in their usual eclecticism to work with "Houston's renowned breakdancing collective Havikoro." The funk beats are relentless, but the politics rarely advances beyond the song titles. B+(***)
Lisbon Improvisation Players: Motion (2002 , Clean Feed): Second of three albums by this "group" -- first album was all-Portuguese, but only player on all three is saxophonist Rodrigo Amado (tenor/baritone here), with Acácio Salero on drums and two visiting Americans: Steve Adams (soprano/tenor sax) and Ken Filiano (bass). B+(*)
Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (1968, Columbia): Henry Saint Clair Fredericks Jr., born in Harlem 1942, grew up in Massachusetts; father a West Indian jazz arranger and piano player, mother sang in the church choir. Father was killed in an industrial act when Henry was 11, and his mother married the nephew of bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, pointing him toward guitar blues. In 1964 he formed a band with Ry Cooder before they both moved on to solo careers (Cooder plays rhythm guitar here). Eight blues standards done up as classic blues rock -- an impressive debut he then spread out from. B+(***)
Taj Mahal: Natch'l Blues (1968, Columbia): The debut proved he could play straight, hard, electric blues, but here is where he starts to sound distinctive, especially on his arrangement of "Corinna." He wrote five originals too, reducing the covers to four including a couple of soul efforts (William Bell and Homer Banks, but they suggest and fall short of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett). B+(***)
Taj Mahal: Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971, Columbia): More scattered, as he's starting to work in some things from his father's homeland in the West Indies, replete with Andy Narell's steel drums. Probably the most interesting thing here. On the other hand, his takes on such old fare as "Stealin'" and "Oh Susanna" come off a little hard. B+(**)
William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Spontaneous (2002 , Splasc(H)): The bassist's big band, never the most disciplined of units but well stocked with free-thinkers (e.g., trumpets: Lewis Barnes, Matt Lavelle, Roy Campbell), in full improv fury, live at CBGB's in New York. Two half-hour pieces, "Spontaneous Flowers" (Ayler) and "Spontaneous Mingus." B+(*)
William Parker Bass Quartet Featuring Charles Gayle: Requiem (2004 , Splasc(H)): The four bassists -- Parker plus Henry Grimes, Alan Silva, and Sirone -- set the tone and limit the momentum, with Gayle occasionally joining in on alto sax for a bit of spit and polish. B+(**)
Rising Sons: Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (1965-66 , Columbia/Legacy): First band for the future roots stars, the 17-year-old Cooder recognizable vocally because he wasn't ready yet, although I can't complain about his bottleneck guitar. The 23-year-old Taj's voice is more obvious (even before he dubbed the final three tracks in 1992), and the vocals I can't place probably belong to Jesse Lee Kincaid -- he seems to have been the de facto leader of the group. Rounding out the band were Gary Marker (bass) and Ed Cassidy (drums, later replaced by Kevin Kelley). Terry Melcher produced an album, but it was shelved until being recast here, probably because their mixed bag country-rock needed a clearer voice to be recognized (like Gram Parsons, or Glenn Frey). Not that there isn't a decent blues EP here somewhere. B
Matthew Shipp Trio: The Trio Plays Ware (2003 , Splasc(H)): With William Parker (bass) and Guillermo E. Brown (drums), not just any piano trio but David S. Ware's legendary quartet minus the saxophonist. Lacks the rough edges Ware couldn't help but add, and some of the emotional force as well, while revealing how centered the melodies were. B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: