Monday, December 4. 2017
Music: Current count 28950  rated (+19), 390  unrated (-1).
I spent most of last week planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking a massive dinner for the Wichita Peace Center's 25th Annual Dinner, with major (indispensable) help from Janice Bradley, Max Stewart, and Russ Pataki, with a few others pitching in on dinner days, notably including people I didn't know who hung around to help clean up. I fixed a range of Indian dishes: lamb and potatoes in a cream sauce (rogani gosht), tandoori chicken in a tomato-butter sauce (makhni), fish tikka, patiala pilaf (minus the fried onions), a sweet potato/chickpea curry, mattar paneer (peas with cheese), bharta (smoked eggplant), cabbage, kali dal, cucumber raita. We served appetizers at the tables, including a minted aloo chat (potato salad), coconut relish, pineapple sambal, a hot tomato chutney, paratha (flatbread), tapioca chips, a couple of store-bought chutneys (brinjal, lime pickle). Had spice cake and a Moroccan fruit salad for dessert. Best compliment I had was when one friend came up to me and cooed in my ear, "the food is divine." I had my quibbles with the fish and rice -- partly frustration as they were the last things done and both ran into unexpected problems.
Mark McCormick was the featured speaker (buy his new book here). He gave a nice speech, and was even better fielding questions, stressing how we've become disconnected and desensitized to the problems around us. Partial proof of that was evident in the disappointing turnout: a little over 40 people this year, compared to 60 last year. (Not getting an accurate RSVP count until too late, I prepared food for 60, so we had a lot left over.) I was pretty much a wreck by the time it was done. Doubt I'll be able to do it again, but afterwards Max was trying to figure out ways to spread the work out -- I've never been very good at delegating -- and I was wondering whether paella might scale up better. Don't need to decide for nearly a year.
I published the November roll-up of Streamnotes last week. on Tuesday. With everything else going on, I didn't expect I'd be able to find anything new to add to what I had noted last Music Week. But I found four of this week's five A- records in the day between Music Week and Streamnotes: the David S. Ware archival set (from 2010, so still new enough) wasn't unexpected, and the two Chicago tenor saxophonists (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, dba Made to Break and Boneshaker, respectively) were right up my alley. But Re-TROS, a tip from Chris Monsen's 2017-in-progress list, was totally unexpected: a Chinese alt-rock group, at times (but not all the time) sounding like a cross between Pulnoc and Konono No. 1 (on Bandcamp, by the way).
December 3 was the deadline for ballots for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll. I resorted my top jazz picks and submitted the following:
My ranking is highly proximate. Parker is the only download, and I probably haven't played it enough, but the two contrasting quartets reminds me of Ornette Coleman's marvelous In All Languages, where he split a double-LP among two groups (more distinctive ones than Parker's). Each half is potentially great, but I still haven't moved it above the A- bin. I replayed maybe half of the top ten last week, but there's still not a lot of distance from top to bottom, or even throughout the A-list.
I was going to make a comment based on something Robert Christgau said in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview, but I can't look up the quote due to an "ad blocker" snit fit I don't feel like indulging. As best I recall, he said something about most critics viewing EOY lists as personal branding exercises. My list can be viewed that way. To the extent that I have a brand, or a public persona, it's that of someone who listens far and wide, doesn't follow fashion, and doesn't want to get pigeonholed. On the other hand, this year's list is more avant than usual, and leans toward people I've repeatedly favored in the past -- something I've noticed a lot this past year (while suspecting as some kind of a rut, but not caring enough to break out of).
My Best Non-Jazz of 2017 list is even more problematical, not least because I've cared for it less. I haven't, for instance, played 2nd-ranked Run the Jewels or 3rd-ranked Sylvan Esso since I initially graded them, so early in the year that they were necessarily slotted high on the list. I don't have a Pazz & Jop invitation yet. When I do, I expect I'll do a lot of shuffling, if only to "fit my brand" as it's becoming increasingly impossible to believe that I'm sorting out anything objective.
But if I had to draw a single conclusion out of these lists, it's that nothing this year matters nearly as much to me as the records I've regularly put on top-ten lists in past years -- especially a decade or more back; e.g., in 2007:
Or 1997, when the sample size was only 155 records:
I don't have earlier lists I can readily tap into, but 1987 and 1977 would be even more memorable to me -- especially the latter, as it came right after I moved to New York City, during my first stretch writing rock crit for the Village Voice, a time when I really cared about my favorite records, and managed to put a lot of time into them. That doesn't happen any more, and while I suspect the variable is me, I can't totally eliminate the music. I mean, doesn't postmodernism start with ironic detachment? Then why shouldn't it end simply with indifference?
I'm not saying that music in 2017 sucks. This year is more/less as good as last year and the year before and so on -- the only long term trends worth noting are that there's more to listen to every year and less time to devote to it. But what is indubitable is that the world in 2017 sucks, so it's getting harder for music to overcome all that drudgery. And, sure, that's probably worse for someone my age, because pretty much everything gets worse as you get old.
By the way, I have started to aggregate EOY lists, using the same formats and methodology as last year. Thus far I have something like four early lists (Mojo and three British record shops, so all UK) plus three individual JJA top-tens, plus I'm counting my grades as I go along, so take this with several distinct grains of salt. The only thing I'm fairly sure of thus far is that LCD Soundsystem's American Dream is the only record with a decent chance of challenging the obvious favorite, Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Moreover, the three jazz lists I've thus far tallied don't offer a single clue how the Jazz Critics Poll is going to sort out (not a single record appears on more than one ballot so far (nor on mine). If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Vijay Iyer's Far From Over wins, but it doesn't have a vote so far.
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:
Tuesday, November 28. 2017
Don't have time to count, but probably a large edge below for jazz over non-jazz releases, partly because I still get some jazz in the mail, partly because it's easier to find about about jazz things of likely interest, partly because I'm more confident of my views there. Good late run of free jazz albums, bringing my very much in progress Best Jazz Albums of 2017 A-list to a 73-49 edge over Best Non-Jazz Albums of 2017. I should caution you that order of both should shuffle a lot in the next couple weeks.
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 October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (10370 records).
2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017, Def Jam): A rapper from Georgia, Tauheed Epps, fifth big label album plus a dozen mixtapes, many of the latter playing off the Trap Music concept -- not sure how that fits in here, as this all bangs pretty hard. Runs long, too, but develops some appeal. B+(*)
Thomas Anderson: My Songs Are the House I Live In (2017, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, self-released a long-titled but marvelous debut in 1988 and has kept working at it -- ninth album in my databse, but there are probably more. He's clear enough I can follow the words, and smart enough I want to, and while this may not be his deepest set, the keyboard-heavy music sets it up so elegantly I want to keep working on it. A-
Nicole Atkins: Goodbye Rhonda Lee (2017, Single Lock): Singer-songwriter, fourth album since 2007, based in Nashville but no country influence I can detect. Cites the Brill Building as a prime influence, but don't hear that either. B
Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): Tenor saxophonist, based in Nashville, teaches at Tennessee State, has at least one previous album. Standards, some as smoothly honed as "Isn't She Lovely" and "The Girl From Ipanema," easy listening without being overly smooth. Backed by piano-bass-drums, guest guitar on two cuts, a Dara Tucker vocal that doesn't hurt, very pleasant stuff. B+(**) [cd]
Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): Violinist, from New York, has a couple of previous albums, plays in Jazz Passengers, Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce, and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band. Trio here with Kris Davis on piano and Michael Sarin on drums, pushing the beat every which way. B+(***) [bc]
Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): Jazz singer, best known for her long (since 1979) role in Manhattan Transfer, has more than a dozen solo albums (one in 1992, more regularly since 2003), many songbook exercises. Sondheim is probably the biggest name on Broadway not to have entered the Great American Songbook repertoire, partly because he came late to the party. Indeed, if the exception proves the rule, consider "Send in the Clowns": one of his earliest songs (1973), one that Count Basie couldn't swing and Sarah Vaughan couldn't sing, little improved yet it's the best thing here. B- [cd]
Big Thief: Masterpiece (2016, Saddle Creek): Brooklyn indie band, principally singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker, who can slow the band down to a coo or layer on the noise in this debut album. B+(*)
Big Thief: Capacity (2017, Saddle Creek): Second album, Adrianne Lenker looking very un-rock-star-like on the cover, singing more heartfelt ballads inside. B+(**)
Björk: Utopia (2017, One Little Indian): Icelandic singer-songwriter, many albums since she left the Sugarcubes in 1992, huge star though she works in a unique niche -- folktronica, sources say, but really much weirder than that implies. Sprawling (71:38) album, daunting for non-fans but more listenable than most. B+(*)
Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (2017, Cuneiform): Finnish guitarist, group name comes from his 2014 album (stylized eCsTaSy), with Paul Lyytinen (saxophones, flute), Jori Huhtala (bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). Guitar mostly leads, taking command so thoroughly that the sax eventually reduces to shading, not that it started out that way. B+(***) [dl]
Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): Drummer, released Brian Blade Fellowship in 1998 and this is a 20th anniversary reunion, with Jon Cowherd (keybs), Myron Walden (alto sax), Melvin Butler (tenor sax), and Chris Thomas (bass) continuous members, with Dave Devine taking over the guitar slot. Densely, artfully layered postbop, doesn't move or engage much. B-
Robt Sarazin Blake: Recitative (2017, Same Room, 2CD): Singer-songwriter from Bellingham, Washington; started as Robert Blake, later went as Sarazin Blake, and seems to have settled on this moniker although Robert Sarazin Blake works for his Bandcamp pages. This seems far removed from his folk roots: while I'm often impressed by his wordplay (good examples are "Couples" and "Work"), I'm more so by the music, especially when the decidedly non-folkie saxophone wails. A-
Boneshaker: Thinking Out Loud (2017, Trost): Free sax trio: Mars Williams (reeds, toys), Kent Kessler (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Third group album, seems to have mellowed a bit but then Williams reels off the most inspired broken field sax run I've heard all year. A- [bc]
Mihály Borbély Quartet: Be by Me Tonight/Gyere Hozzám Estére (2016, BMC): Hungerian clarinetist, a pleasant (and memorable) surprise for me shortly after I started writing Jazz CG in 2004 but I never ran across him since, until this. The leader also plays tarogato, alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, tilinko, and supelka, Balász Horváth on bass, and István Baló on drums, and most importantly Áron Tálas on piano. Nice but less memorable. B+(**)
Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream but he's always had an extra edge, leads a sextet here including Marquis Hill on trumpet, Joel Adams on trombone, and Nick Mazzarella on alto sax. B+(**) [bc]
Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): Rock band, from Long Island, cut four albums 2001-09, breaking up until 2014 when they returned to the studio and started work on this "fifth and final album." Not sure if disbandment is the result of frontman Jesse Lacey's "sexual misconduct" scandal or just that they're growing tired: this lumbers along with some artfulness, but left me empty. B
Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Tel Aviv (2016 , Not Two): Sax (or clarinet)/trombone/drums, two long improv pieces, full of strife and churn as you might expect, doesn't strike me as favorably as the same trio's recent Live in Copenhagen, recorded six months earlier. B+(**)
Jonas Cambien/Adrian Myhr: Simiskina (2017, Clean Feed): Piano-bass duets, Cambien born in Belgium but based in Myhr's native Norway. Intimate chamber jazz feel, but not so simple. B+(*)
Carn Davidson 9: Murphy (2017, self-released): Large band from Toronto -- two trumpets, two trombones, three saxes, bass and drums -- led by William Carn (trombone) and Tara Davidson (alto sax), playing original material, some arrangements credited to other band members. Has some zip, with no one getting out of line. B [cd]
François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 , FMR): Canadians, alto sax-drums duets, long-time collaborators, working live in London, they must have a dozen of more/less equivalent albums by now, especially if you count the ones with a guest pianist. Still, they all sound great to me, the only way this is not exceptional. A- [cd]
Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Rev (2013-16 , Anzic): Drummer, from Canada, has a couple previous albums including one from 2014 titled Turboprop. Sextet, with two saxophones (Tara Davidson and Joel Frahm), trombone (William Carn, who also contributes a song), piano, bass, and drums. Two originals push the peddle, the other pieces mostly from sources I don't recognize, with the Radiohead cover lost on me, but "Pennies From Heaven" is sweet indeed. B+(**) [cd]
Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): Mainstream pianist, has worked with trio partners Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums) since 1998 -- hard to ask for better ones, and their early albums were sparkling though it's been a while since I've been impressed. B+(**)
Corey Christiansen: Dusk (2015 , Origin): guitarist, from and still based in utah, has a handful of records since 2008, nice metallic ring to his tone, claims to be exploring Americana here (all originals except for one trad.). mostly backed by bass-drums, adding keyboards and percussion for 3 (of 8) tracks. b+(*) [cd]
Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (2016 , Anzic): Israeli reed player, based in New York, found a niche on clarinet and is the reigning poll winner there. Ten musicians -- trumpet, trombone, baritone sax/bass clarinet, guitar, piano, vibes, bass, and drums -- plus Oded Lev-Ari as Musical Director, who also gets cover credit. Most impressive when they tap into old-time swing, even though they're none too smooth, or throw in a klezmer curveball. B+(***)
Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): Alto saxophonist, cut a record called Alto Madness in 1977 and played up the madman theme for many years, then seemed to disappear, but came back with a strong "Ballads and Love Songs" album in 2016. He doesn't go overboard on his Latin twist album -- guest castanets on one song but otherwise no extra percussion or specialists. Four originals (two with "Breeze" in the title), more standards than trad Latin pieces, but he has fun working on his tinge, and his alto is as lovely as ever. B+(***) [cd]
Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): Singer, refers to John and Alice Coltrane as her parents but was born before they married, so birth father was probably Kenny "Pancho" Hagood, a jazz singer who started in Benny Carter's big band. Discogs credits her singing on a Gap Band album in the 1980s, and it looks like she had one previous album in 1996 as Miki Coltrane. Very capable singer, can't say that "Tin Man" strikes me as a worthy standard but she swings it and adds some Latin percussion. Good band, including brother Ravi and Lonnie Plaxico. Mother Alice gets a credit for a bit of spoken word. B+(**) [cd]
Miley Cyrus: Younger Now (2017, RCA): Sixth studio album, but started as a teen so she's still pretty young: 24. Still, she's sounding older, and more tinged with her country roots -- with or without godmother Dolly Parton singing along. B+(*)
Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017, Scat Cat): Jazz singer from Canada, Toronto I think, third album, wrote five songs loosely tied in with his subject. Voice is far off the mark, but at least his small group swing stays clear of the big band bombast of Gregory Porter's tribute. Also, Sheila Jordan guests on "Straighten Up and Fly Right." B [cd]
David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 , Kopasetic): Swedish group, David is bassist Carlsson, the "Angels" three women: Sofie Norling (vocals), Maggi Olin (keyboards), and Michala Østergaard-Nielsen (drums), with Olin and Norling writing the majority of the music and lyrics. Third album, Ingrid Jensen adds some trumpet. B+(*) [cd]
Deer Tick: Vol. 1 (2017, Partisan): Dismissed by Christgau as "depressive and folk-leaning" in his rush to get to the simultaneously released Vol. 2, John McCauley's blend of Americana drawl and indie-rock is just a little flat, lacking more in energy than in interest, which is well crafted as always. B+(*)
Deer Tick: Vol. 2 (2017, Partisan): Tries harder to get your attention, starting with a crash of guitar and drums. Band stays loud, which sounds better but little (if any) more interesting. B+(*)
Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (2017, ITI): Pianist, based in New York, first album, a trio with Hide Tanaka on bass and Fukushi Tainaka on drums -- his website's upcoming shows list includes quartets and quintets led by Tainaka. One original, standards include "Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as well as bop standards by Hank Mobley, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. Expertly, tastefully done. B+(***) [cd]
Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): Translates as Disappointment, a German group, based in Berlin, first recorded in 1995, with Axel Dörner on trumpet, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, and a shifting cast at bass and drums -- currently Jan Roder and Michael Griener, plus new this time out Christof Thewes on trombone. All original material, although their roots as a Monk tribute band -- tapped by Alexander von Schlippenbach for Monk's Casino -- show through in their irrepressible bounce and quirk. A- [cd]
Jeff Dingler: In Transit (2017, self-released): Bassist, has at least one previous album, with Brad Shepik (guitar), Lou Rainone (piano), Gustin Rudolph (drums), plus extra percussion on 4/8 tracks. Shepik especially stands out. B+(**) [cd]
DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 , Not Two): Trio dates back to 1999: Hamid Drake (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Ken Vandermark (unspecified reeds). Eighth album together -- counting as one the 7-CD Past Present (2008-11) -- usually a bit rough and hyper but working in some especially eloquent stretches this time. A- [bc]
Matthieu Donarier/Santiago Quintans: Sun Dome (2017, Clean Feed): Duets, tenor sax/clarinet and electric guitar. Abstract textures, not enough reverb to count as drone, nor interesting enough. B-
Sinne Eeg: Dreams (2017, ArtistShare): Danish jazz singer, eight albums since 2003, wrote six (of ten) songs (all in English), favoring Cole Porter with two covers -- including an "Anything Goes" updated for the Trump era. First-rate band, working in Brooklyn: Joey Baron, Scott Colley, Jacob Christofferson, Larry Koonse. B+(**) [cd]
Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 , Hatology): Swiss tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, a member of Manuel Menguis Gruppe 6 but most of his discography since 2011 has been with Chicago avant-gardists, including the pianist and drummer here. B+(***)
ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 , Kopasetic): Gress is a well-known, well-regarded, relatively mainstream bassist, and no doubt helps out here (he even contributes 4/9 songs), but bass tends to sink into the background, and he's no exception. Rather, what we have is a Swedish tenor sax-piano-drums trio (Henrik Frisk, Maggi Olin, Peter Nilsson), with Frisk and Olin splitting the other songs 3-2, and the sax sounding especially luscious. B+(***) [cd]
Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): Mostly plays electric bass, sometimes fretless, but also takes one cut on acoustic and plays some guitar. Lineups vary song to song, with the faster, heavier fusion pieces holding up best, especially when Cuong Vu joins on trumpet. B+(**) [cdr]
Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live at Jazz Room Cortez (2016 , Cortez Sound): With partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Keisuka Ohta on violin, and Takashi Itani on drums. Some sections are so quiet I lose track and start wondering if my equipment (or other gear) is on the fritz. Both Ohta and Tamura also credited with voice -- another distraction. At least it ends strong. B [cd]
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (2016 , Libra): Her most star-filled big band, all thirteen names I recognize on the back cover -- 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 4 saxes, Nels Cline on guitar but no piano, the leader content to conduct -- but none especially stand out from the grooves. Perhaps the somber theme, which starts out too quiet and never quite raises the horror the piece commemorates. B+(**) [cd]
Lee Gamble: Mnestic Pressure (2017, Hyperdub): British DJ and electronica producer, half-dozen albums since 2009. Has a touch of industrial glitz, not much more. B+(*)
Howe Gelb: Future Standards (2016 , Fire): Indie rocker, led Giant Sand from 1985 through 27 albums, started supplementing them with solo albums in 1991, 22 so far, and he's run a couple other bands. Plays cocktail piano and sings in a sly whisper, backed by three bass-drums pairs. B+(*)
Tee Grizzley: My Moment (2017, 300/Atlantic): Detroit rapper Terry Sanchez Wallace, father murdered, mother jailed for drugs, did time himself, first album. Opening freestyle needs work, but he tightens up with some beats. B+(*)
Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Nation (2017, Moserobie): Drummer, born in Sweden, parents Finnish, based in Berlin; trio, with sax (Per "Texas" Johansson) and electric bass (Daniel Bingert), has three short albums (this one is 27:01) all with Fusion in the title. That doesn't quite pigeonhole them -- certainly no throwback to '70s fusion although they do evince a rockish fondness for noise and monster bass riffs. B+(**) [cd]
Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): Usually plays trumpet, but credit here is "Steiner/Crumar EVI" -- stands for Electronic Valve Instrument, a breath-controlled analog synthesizer originally developed in the late 1970s. Band adds pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums for a pleasant groove with hints of Hawaiian. B+(*) [cd]
Alexander Hawkins-Elaine Mitchener Quartet: Uproot (2017, Intakt): English group, pianist Hawkins' trio with bass (neil Charles) and drums (Stephen Davis), plus vocalist Mitchener, who has an avant-garde stance that stretches the music out in odd directions, not necessarily making it more pleasing. B+(**) [cd]
Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 , International Anthem): Avant string trio: violin, cello, and double bass, respectively, with Dee Alexander singing the title track (Swift also credited with "voice"). B+(**)
Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): Alto/soprano saxophonist, twenty-plus albums since 1989, multiple side credits with Nat Adderley, Cedar Walton, and John Hicks. Has a quartet here with Cyrus Chestnut, Yasushi Nakamura, and Carl Allen, but adds a lot of guest slots: 3 cuts each for Nicolas Bearde (vocals) and Russell Malone (guitar), more for Steve Turre (trombone), Brad Mason (trumpet), and Sam Dillon (tenor sax). B+(*)
Dre Hocevar: Surface of Inscription (2016 , Clean Feed): Drummer, from Slovenia, several albums, this one strikes me as especially scattered, with piano/voice/electronics/bass/reeds in the credits, yet more often than not they barely break the noise threshold. B-
Adam Hopkins: Party Pack Ice (2015 , pfMENTUM EP): Bassist, from Baltimore, based in Brooklyn, nothing previous under his own name -- indeed, neither cover nor website suggest this is anything other than an eponymous group album, but I first ran across him in Quartet Offensive, and he's played on at least one Ideal Bread album, also with Kate Gentile and Patrick Breiner (one of two saxophonists here; the other is Eric Trudel). Also with guitar (Dustin Carlson) and drums (Nathan Ellman-Bell). But he does compose here, and the publicist thinks this is his album. Seven short but dense/heavy pieces, 24:24. B+(*) [cdr]
Kasai Allstars & Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste: Around Félicité (2017, Crammed Discs): Kinshasa group, has an album in the label's Congotronics series although here they focus more on group singing than on junkyard percussion. But this doubles as a soundtrack, with three Arvo-Part-penned tracks switch over to the Orchestre, totally breaking the intensity and flow. B+(**) [bc]
Kasai Allstars: Félicité Remixes (2017, Crammed Discs): Bonus CD to above but appears as a separate thing for download. The remixes dub in their own distractions, with only a couple cuts showing off the source Congatronics, but at least their are no neoclassical interludes. B+(*)
Kelela: Take Me Apart (2017, Warp): Last name Mizanekristos, born in DC, parents immigrated from Ethiopia, first album but a previous mixtape and EP were well-regarded enough to come to my attention. Soul, the sort of easy-beat warbly keybs in fashion lately, more befitting a singer who skipped gospel to start out in jazz and moonlight with a prog metal band. B+(**)
Jon Langford: Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls (2017, Bloodshot): The once-and-future Mekon, long based in Chicago, went to Alabama and cut this glimpse of the apocalypse the day after the Trump election, a bit unsettled and unsure, except of where their musical roots lie. B+(***)
Large Unit: Fluku (2016 , PNL): Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's 13-piece band: three reeds, three brass (including tuba), guitar, electronics, doubling up at bass (both electric and double) and drums, plus a credit for "live sound." The long title cut builds on a long rhythmic vamp with all sorts of exciting chaos. Still, they hold your interest when they slow it down for disassembly, probably because you anticipate that it will come together in wonder again . . . as it does. A- [bc]
The Billy Lester Trio: Italy 2016 (2016 , Ultra Sound): Piano trio recorded in Italy with Marcello Testa on bass and Nicola Stranieri on drums. All original pieces, nice show of contemporary postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Memphis, first album 1968. One solo track, the rest with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums), plus trumpet (Freddie Hendrix) on three tracks, percussion (Cyro Baptista) on one. I expected something less frenzied for a postbopper in his 80s, and the early sax takes it easy, but the trumpet pushes everyone over the top, and they seem to prefer it like that. B+(*)
Made to Break: Trebuchet (2017, Trost): Ken Vandermark quartet, eighth album since 2013 although half of the personnel has changed, employing Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics) at least since 2015. Three pieces, Vandermark typically awesome, the sound mix around him full of nice surprises. A- [bc]
Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): Lisa Markley and Bruce Balmer, she sings, both play guitar, and despite the title write some extra lyrics -- reworking, for instance, "Lennie's Pennies" into "Hundred in a Dollar." "Lush Life" and "Caravan" are most familiar, nicely done. B+(*) [cd]
Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo (2015 , Troubadour Jass): Cover reads "An Evening With Delfeayo Marsalis" before the title, so that can be parsed variously. The family's trombonist, leading his quartet (including papa Ellis on piano), recorded live at Western Michigan University. Warm New Orleans vibe, trombone sounds special. B+(**) [cd]
Roy McGrath: Remembranzas (2017, JL Music): Saxophonist, backed by piano, bass, drums, and lots of congas, starting off with a spoken word about immigration, then plunging deep into the Latin tinge. Lots of print on the package, but nearly impossible to read (mostly white on light gray). [CD crapped out near the end, but I figured I had heard enough.] B [cd]
Joe McPhee/Damon Smith/Alvin Fielder: Six Situations (2016 , Not Two): Tenor sax, bass, and drums, recorded live at Roulette in New York City. Unreconstructed free jazz, some remarkable passages where McPhee seems to be accompanying himself with rumble patterns breaking into flights. B+(***)
Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (2017, New World): Bassist, based in San Francisco, has a couple previous albums, leads a large cast here (15 names on back cover, but not clear whether they're all regulars -- the most obvious one is vocalist Fay Victor, who has some trouble navigating the tricky music. B+(*) [cd]
Lorrie Morgan/Pam Tillis: Come See Me & Come Lonely (2017, Goldenlane): Sixteenth album for Loretta Lynn Morgan, starting in 1989 and including one previous duet album with the late Mel Tillis' little girl, two years later with ten albums of her own, one in 1983 and the rest since 1991. All covers, starting with one from K.T. Oslin, some as well known as "Tennessee Waltz" and "The End of the World," unexpected males joining in on a creepy "Summer Wine." B+(**)
Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 , Metatrope): Bassist from San Diego, leading a trio with Tobin Chodos on piano and Kjell Nordeson on bass. Strong, risky piano work, following a solo bass album that rated nearly as high. B+(***) [cd]
The National: Sleep Well Beast (2017, 4AD): Debut album in 2001, seventh overall, singer-lyricst Matt Berenger has a great voice for indie rock, especially when composer-brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner keep the beats fluid and piquant. B+(***)
Paal Nilssen-Love/Frode Gjerstad: Nearby Faraway (2016 , PNL): Drums-sax duets, the latter playing alto and tenor, also Bb and contrabass clarinet. The drummer has a lot of albums with avant saxophonists. He's very responsive here, and Gjerstad gives him quite a workout. B+(***) [bc]
Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 , Hispid/PNL): Nine-piece group from Norway, "brass heavy" (three saxophonists I recognize -- Lotte Anker, Anna Högberg, Julie Kjaer -- and three trumpeters I don't), Sten Sandell on piano, two drummers (Paal Nilssen-Love and Ståle Liavik Solberg). Two improv pieces add up to 45:55, a striking free-for-all that retains interest when they separate and stalk one another. B+(**) [bc]
Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (2017, self-released): Canadian jazz singer, eighth album, has a couple JUNO Awards, a small and rather cute voice, runs through thirteen songs. Nice band, with Guido Basso on trumpets, Phil Dwyer on saxophones, and Reg Schwager on guitar, but no drummer. B+(*) [cd]
The Paranoid Style: Underworld USA (2017, Bar/None, EP): Principally Elizabeth Nelson, following up her one full-length album with a second (or third) EP, this one six songs, 17:17, with a catchy, single-worthy closer ("Revision of Love") and other snappy songs that have yet to sink in, maybe because I keep thinking "Hawk vs. Prez" should be about jazz. B+(***)
Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2016 , Fundacja Sluchaj): British free jazz titan, just playing tenor sax this time out, in an improv Krakow set with a Polish trio: Lukasz Ojdana (piano), Maciej Garbowski (bass), Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums). Still, doesn't feel like a pickup band deal. The piano leads and comping are always interesting, and the drummer pays close attention, accenting everywhere. Parker, too, is always on point. A- [bc]
William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (2016 , AUM Fidelity, 2CD): The bassist has run two quartet configurations over many years: his freewheeling two-horn Quartet with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Lewis Barnes (trumpet), the latter replaced here by Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, and the group In Order to Survive with Brown and pianist Cooper-Moore -- both groups with Hamid Drake on drums. One full disc of each here, and while the new trumpet player doesn't match the old one, Cooper-Moore is as breathtaking as ever. A- [dl]
Pere Ubu: 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (2017, Cherry Red): Originally from Akron, one of my favorite bands of the late 1970s, in business ever since with singer David Thomas essential for continuity, but while none of the original musicians appear here, I often find the guitar reminding me of The Modern Dance, not to mention the drums. A-
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 , Leo, 2CD): Tenor sax-piano duets, in case you're not sated after seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp earlier this year. Seems a little sketchy at first, but there are stretches where they click (as usual). B+(**)
Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra: Gowanus (2017, Jazzkey): Saxophonist and clarinetist, leads a big band, doesn't list himself among the saxophonists but front and back covers show him with a clarinet. Produced by drummer Ben Perowsky. Recorded in Brooklyn, lots of household names in the band. Four originals, rooted in swing and bop, covering Ellington and Powell with an Ira Hawkins vocal extolling "the Basie sound." B+(*) [cd]
Pink: Beautiful Trauma (2017, RCA): Alecia Moore, from near Philadelphia, Broke through as a punkish pop star just out of her teens, like a generation ago. In 2010 she titled her best-of Greatest Hits . . . So Far! -- usually the kiss of death for a career, but her 2012 album was solid (some thought better, with world sales pegged at 7 million) and this one only tails off in an overly dramatic finale. B+(**)
Gregory Porter: Nat "King" Cole & Me (2017, Blue Note): Jazz singer, vastly overrated I think, but comes closer to Cole than I expected, a little stuffy but not really the problem. The "core band" (Christian Sands, Reuben Rogers, Ulysses Owens) is probably OK, too, but hard to tell with the London Studio Orchestra slugging out Vince Mendoza's over-the-top arrangements. Still, Porter can't be excused for the one new song he wrote. C+
Lee Ranaldo: Electric Trim (2017, Mute): Sonic Youth founder-guitarist, side projects go back to 1987 but took on a more serious air once the group disbanded, inhabiting an echo of the legend without really being able to flesh it out. Some lyrics by novelist-fan Jonathan Lethem. Guest spot for Sharon Van Etten. B+(*)
Re-TROS: Before the Applause (2017, Modern Sky Entertainment): Chinese rock group, "underground" but how would we know? Some vocals (even some in English), but rhythm tracks predominate, some quasi-industrial, some new wave danceable, some sound like Pulnoc fortified by a Kinshasa junkyard, which is to say really amazing. A-
Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Toronto, based in New York, seems to be his first album. Features guitarist Matthew Stevens, with Orlando LeFleming on bass, Eric Doob on drums, and the Westerlies (a trumpet-trombone quartet) on five tracks. Not sure that the latter is a plus -- they certainly change the group's chemistry. B+(**)
Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): Country singer from Prince Edward Island, cut two albums on a Toronto label, then turned some heads with the EP South Texas Suite early this year. Follows that up here with a third album. Terrific sound and voice, but I can't say the songs stick with you. B+(**)
Daniel Rosenthal: Music in the Room (2016 , American Melody): Trumpet player, based in Boston, teaching at Berklee, has recorded as part of the Rosenthals with his bluegrass-oriented father, in the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band, and in Either/Orchestra, with a previous album under his own name in 2001. Group here adds two saxophones, bass, and drums, for some fairly standard postbop. B+(*) [cd]
Rostam: Half-Light (2017, Nonesuch): Last name Batmanglij, born in DC, parents immigrated from Iran, first solo album after ten years with Vampire Weekend (all three major albums) and a couple side projects. Plays pretty much everything here -- fourteen side credits, but only the cellist on more than one track (4). Finds his own groove, sound a bit off for me, but could be beguiling. B+(**)
Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): Trombone-piano-bass trio plus singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt her to scat or vocalise, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it can't be the work of anyone else. A- [cdr]
Adam Rudolph: Morphic Resonances (2017, M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, has recorded extensively since 1992, featured mostly as a composer here, with seven pieces divvied up between five groups -- the Momenta String Quartet gets the first two, totalling 26:30, which I find unpleasantly arch, while a flute-guitar duo (Kaoru Watanabe and Marco Cappelli) get two shorter pieces. My favorite by far is the Odense Percussion Group. B+(*) [cd]
Romeo Santos: Golden (2017, Sony Latin): Born in the Bronx, father Dominican, mother Puerto Rican, led the bachata band Aventura (which sold out Yankee Stadium for a concert) before going solo. Third album, mostly in Spanish, got some beat to it. B+(*)
A. Savage: Thawing Dawn (2017, Dull Tools): First name Andrew, singer-guitarist for Parquet Courts taking a solo flyer, stripped down, only hinting at his band sound on the final track, then pulling back. B+(*)
Schnellertollermeier: Rights (2016 , Cuneiform): Quasi-industrial postrock trio, the group name a mashup of member names Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Toller (guitar), and David Meier (drums). Grind impressive at first but doesn't go all that far. B+(*) [dl]
Brandon Seabrook: Die Trommel Fatale (2016 , New Atlantis): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, tends toward noise but stretches that out some here, the sextet including Chuck Bettis' "throat/electronics," cello, bass, and two drummers. [7/10 cuts] B+(**) [bc]
Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love (2017, Static Shock): Philadelphia rockers, got noticed for three 7-inch EPs (since collected as Compilation) before releasing this debut album. Singer Tina Halliday has a harsh bark, not quite a shriek, and the guitar-bass riffs are solid and tuneworthy. B+(**)
Shelter: Shelter (2016 , Audiographic): Yet another Ken Vandermark group, a quartet, although he only has a 3-2-2-2 composition edge over Nate Wooley (trumpet), Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass and guitar), and Steve Heather (drums and crackle box). B+(***) [bc]
Blake Shelton: Texoma Shore (2017, Warner Brothers Nashville): Big Nashville star with a TV gig I've never seen but most likely why People named him "sexiest man alive." Has a fine country voice, picks down-to-earth songs (only one co-credit here). B+(*)
Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (2017, OA2): Alto saxophonist, also play soprano, not sure where (or when) she was born, but she studied in Oklahoma City, and is based in Oregon. Backed by piano-bass-drums, all originals except for "Passion Flower," bright postbop. B+(**) [cd]
Paula Shocron/Germán Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 , Hatology): Piano-bass-drums trio, three joint credits, two for Shocron, one each for the others, plus covers of Mal Waldron and Charles Tolliver. Strong, favoring dense chords over noodling. B+(**)
Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 , Pi): Singer, dancer, multi-instrumentalist (credits here: Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, piano), born in Illinois, parents immigrated from Taiwan and East Timor, graduated from Stanford ("in opera with classical violin and ballet training"), fourth album, band (Jade Tongue: vibes, flutes, viola, bass, drums, percussion -- all well-known NY names) named for her first, joined here by Mivos Quartet (strings). Music evidently written for a ballet, choreographed by Satoshi Haga. I imagine the total performance to be mesmerizing, but as a record I find it alternately arch and quaint, classical motifs with bent Asian notes -- not my thing, I guess. B+(*) [cd]
Slow Is Possible: Moonwatchers (2016 , Clean Feed): Portuguese group, second album after eponymous effort in 2015: André Pontifice (cello), Bruno Figuera (alto sax), Duane Fonseca (drums), João Clemente (electric guitar/electronics), Nuno Santos Dias (piano), Ricardo Sousa (double bass). B+(*)
Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 , Sunnyside): Duets, the French pianist nearly 90 at the time, Liebman playing soprano and tenor saxophones. Six standards, with Miles Davis a common bond, the pianist fascinating, Liebman listening and contributing with great care. B+(***)
Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 , Loyal Label): Drummer, called his 2014 album Apocryphal and thought that would make a good group name. Quartet with Loren Stillman (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). I'm not used to Seabrook playing inside the band without his customary cloud of noise, but he fits nicely with Stillman's sweet tone. B+(**)
St. Vincent: Masseduction (2017, Loma Vista): Canadian Annie Clark's fifth (or sixth) album, her bestseller and evidently a critical favorite -- I'd guess top-five in year-end polls but little chance of topping Kendrick Lamar, for starters. A bit arch and arty for my tastes, but always interesting, never more so than here, where half the songs quickly click, and more welcome should I ever give it more than the three spins I've logged. Title song pronounces it "mass seduction" and pairs it with "mass destruction": she has a point, a deeper one than critiquing Trump, although that's part of it. A-
Gabriele Tranchina: Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes (2017, Rainchant Eclectic): Born in Germany, based (I think) in Paris, with an eye on Brazil and other points south -- though two of her covers are from Mancini. B+(**) [cd]
Trio S: Somewhere Glimmer (2017, Zitherine): Doug Wieselman (compositions, clarinets, loops, banjo), Jane Scarpantoni (cello), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, "wollesonics"). Rather quiet, atmospheric even, pleasant and marginally interesting. B+(*)
David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (2010 , AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Another posthumous tape for the late tenor sax giant, this one a year after his kidney transplant and about two years before he died. So it's worth noting that he's in remarkable form here, with a couple of solo stretches (some on stritch), but especially when William Parker (bass) and Warren Smith (drums) help out. A- [dl]
Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): Guitarist, from Toronto, lists as idols Mike Stern, Pat Metheny and Steve Vai. Band shares billing and keeps pushing him, and it helps when alto saxophonist Richard Underhill jumps out front. B [cd]
Mark Wingfield/Markus Reuter/Asaf Sirkis: Lighthouse (2016 , Moonjune): Two guitarists -- Reuter's credit is "Touch Guitars AU8" (8-string, hollow body, individually tunable pickups) -- and drums. Fits neatly into a fusion bag. B [cd]
Deanna Witkowski: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (2017, Tilapia): Pianist, discography dates back to 1999 -- I have her filed under vocals, but she doesn't sing here. All her arrangements of hymns -- all but one public domain -- for piano trio. Pleasant, and fairly innocuous. B [cd]
Lee Ann Womack: The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (2017, ATO): Country singer, ninth album since 1997, co-wrote half of the fourteen songs -- the Frizzell and Jones covers overdone, the others less memorable but the title mood is sustained. B+(**)
Charlie Worsham: Beginning of Things (2017, Warner Bros. Nashville): Country singer from Mississippi, studied at Berklee, second album, co-credits on 9/13 (really 12) songs, gets a nice neotrad sound but mostly wastes it -- "Southern by the Grace of God" seems more than a little dated, but is still less offensive than "Birthday Suit." B
Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): Mainstream saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano), from Brooklyn, shares a vocal with Andrea Miller, wrote three (of nine) songs, two more by his pianist Benito Gonzalez, with Keyon Harrold on trumpet, plus bass and drums. Takes nearly everything at a breakneck pace, a lot of bounce in his step. B+(**) [cd]
Mark Zaleski Band: Days, Months, Years (2016 , self-released): Alto/soprano saxophonist, third album, also credited with bass, brother of pianist Glenn Zaleski (present), joined by Jon Dean on tenor sax, Mark Cocheo in guitar, and Oscar Suchanek on drums. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Zinno Unisphere: River of January (2017, Whaling City Sound): Bassist, based in Rhode Island, discography shows he's played on a dozen albums but this appears to be his first leading. Quintet, with Eric "Benny" Bloom on trumpet, Mark Tucker on tenor sax, Leo Genovese on piano, and Rafael Barata on drums, with Tucker and Genovese also contributing songs. Mostly upbeat, saxophonist gives a good accounting. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Dion: Kickin' Child: The Lost Album 1965 (1965 , Norton): I've long been a fan of Dion DiMucci's Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965), which traces his shift from doo-wop ("Ruby Ruby," "Donna the Prima Donna") to Dylan emulation, including his 1965 single "Kickin' Child" (third from the end). Columbia released two albums built around the doo-wop singles, then nothing until they mopped up in 1969 (Wonder Where I'm Bound, the title a song from this shelved album). Should at least have some historical value, but I'm with the label here: a single, a couple decent covers (not the Dylan), some really awful shit (the Dylan not the worst). C-
Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): Eleven songs, familiar and typical if most not actually written by the late country star, performed by artists of varying quality but distinctive enough they add something to the easy-going vibe that was Williams' trademark. Choice cut: Brandy Clark, "I Believe in You." [Missing on Napster: Garth Brooks, "Good Ole Boys Like Me."] B+(***)
Motörhead: Under Cöver (1992-2014 , Silver Lining Music): English metal band, formed in 2015, hung it up in 2015 when bassist-auteur Lemmy Kilmister died. One of the few metal bands I've tolerated and occasionally enjoyed -- as Christgau noted in 1980, "no preening solos or blow-dried bullshit." Sure, I haven't checked all five of the A- records Christgau identified from 1984-91, but I enjoyed 2011's The World Is Yours. This compiles eleven covers, roughly half from metal bands that I've heard of but mean nothing to me, the other half from the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and David Bowie -- all sturdy enough to bear up under the extra weight. B+(***)
Mihály Borbély Quartet: Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody (2014, BMC): This slightly earlier quartet has a different pianist, Dániel Szábo, and the leader's credits limited to saxophone and tarogato. Title song actually from Hungarian-American guitarist Attila Zoller, with the remaining pieces by unknown-to-me Hungarian-sounding names. Pretty lively, and good as the new pianist is, this one may be even better. B+(***)
Die Enttäuschung: 4 (2006 , Intakt): German quartet, had an early fascination with Monk. Axel Dörner on trumpet and Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, plus second bassist (Jan Roder) and original drummer (Uli Jenneißen). Discography unclear, as 1 (2002) is different from their original (1996) eponymous album, and instead of 2 and 3 there's a second eponymous album before 4 and 5. B+(***)
Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 , ESP-Disk): Guitarist, first album at 23, also credited with vocals, mandolin, flute, timpani, marimba, percussion, but what caught my attention was the three young horn players: Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. Still, those horns are generally wasted, although Lake has some moments, and gets into the label's ad hoc aesthetic with flute and percussion. B
Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 , Contemporary/OJC): Second album -- Cassandranite has earlier recordings but wasn't released until 1989 -- scales back the debut's sax attack, limiting Benny Maupin to one song, with Ramon Morris on two of the three others. That should bring the trumpet out front more, but he tends to slipstream the freebop. B+(**)
Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 , RED): Quintet, recorded live in Bologna, Italy, with Steve Turre (trombone/conch shells), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Tony Reedus (drums). Four cuts, first two by Shaw. B+(**)
Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 , 32 Jazz): Originally on Muse, which tended to steer the trumpet player back to the mainstream, here with a sharp quintet -- Steve Turre (trombone), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Carl Allen (drums) -- playing standards, ending with a blues from Turre. B+(**)
Mars Williams/Paal Nilssen-Love/Kent Kessler: Boneshaker (2012, Trost): Sax-drums-bass trio, Williams started out as a Hal Russell protégé, with Kessler was in the original Vandermark 5, with the Norwegian drummer joining many other Vandermark groups. Basically, just what the title promises. B+(***) [bc]
Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:
Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 , Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, November 27. 2017
Music: Current count 28931  rated (+22), 391  unrated (-3).
Rated count down, mostly attributable to Thanksgiving, when I fixed a small dinner: roast goose with potatoes, baked zucchini niçoise, oven-braised pumpkin, sweet and sour cabbage. All recipes were new to me, and came out as well as hoped. For dessert I made three pies: maple pecan, chocolate pecan, and key lime. For the first two, I tried two different pie shell recipes, and found the "easy" one not only not as good but also not as easy. The key lime had a graham cracker crust that came out rather crumbly, but otherwise I was very pleased.
Further disruptions over the weekend: stereo went on the blink on Saturday, which drove me to listening to so-so albums on Napster. It (for reasons currently unfathomable) started working on Sunday, but I couldn't focus, as I was cooking several Indian dishes to get an idea how several menu ideas for next week's Peace Center Annual Dinner might play out. I'll be directing dinner for sixty on Friday, December 1, and until then I expect to have very little time for music. Menu will be Indian (except for dessert), mostly because I can cook more recipes ahead of time, making the logistics relatively manageable. Still, an enormous amount of work for an amateur like myself.
The dinner work already wiped out any chance at a Weekend Roundup -- possibly the first one I've missed since Trump was elected (though I may have blocked something out -- I do recall at least one threat to throw in the towel).
Current plan is to publish November's Streamnotes on Tuesday. Not likely to have much not already in the file, and there's at least a small chance I might not get the indexing done. But it needs to get up before the end of the month, and I won't have any time after Tuesday. Still will have more records than October (current count 114).
While I'm at it, I'd like to recommend Mark E. McCormick: Some Were Paupers, Some Were Kings: Dispatches From Kansas. McCormick wrote an op-ed column at the Wichita Eagle, and this collects many of his best pieces, not least on the perennial topic of race relations. Laura Tillem helped edit and design the book, and I helped her a bit with the conversion from one hideous Microsoft format to another. By the way, McCormick will be giving the main presentation at Friday's Peace Center 25th Annual Dinner.
By the way, François Carrier sent me a note asking that I mention his crowdfunding project. I routinely ignore requests to post notices, and certainly don't want to encourage more of them, but a few years ago when I got especially flustered I wrote a mass email to everyone who was sending me CDs announcing my intent to stop reviewing. François wrote me back immediately and insisted he was going to keep sending them anyway. As you can see here, few musicians have given me more pleasure more consistently. So by all means, encourage him to play and record more.
By the way, I thought the iconic story of last week was when Trump pardoned the turkey on Thanksgiving, and said "I feel so good about myself doing this." (See Jessica Contrera.) When I first read the quote, I thought it the perfect example of his narcissism. Only when I saw the video later did the full perversity sink in. As Contrera notes, the lead up to the quote was: "Are we allowed to touch? Wow." The video looks like Trump groping the turkey as he says, "I feel so good about myself" -- his look suggesting fond remembrances of other birds he's groped.
Very sad to see John Conyers caught up in the sex abuse scandals. He was first elected to the Congress in 1964 and was one of the first dozen House members to vote against the Vietnam War. Aside from his brief post-9/11 lapse, he has been one of the most consistent critics of American belligerence abroad, as well as a steady champion of civil rights and liberties. Not perfect, I guess -- I certainly don't like his "Pro-IP Act" -- but for a very long time one of the very best Congress had to offer.
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, November 20. 2017
Music: Current count 28909  rated (+35), 394  unrated (+3).
The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):
Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).
The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.
With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.
Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.
Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.
One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, November 13. 2017
Music: Current count 28874  rated (+32), 391  unrated (-5).
Tis the season when most critics (and especially their publishers) start thinking about year-end lists. I expect that before the month is out I'll take my first pass at constructing this year's version of last year's Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. To that end, I started taking a belated look at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 list, and picked out a few things to check out (most successfully, St. Vincent's 8th-rated Masseduction). I sought out several albums from Robert Christgau's recent Expert Witness albums (Pere Ubu's 20 Years in a Montant Missile Silo the only thing I've really liked there recently). I also made a point of looking up everything I had missed on Alfred Soto's Best albums of 2017 -- third quarter edition. Rather surprised I didn't find more there.
The present Year 2017 file lists 834 albums (28 of those pending grades). That's down from 1075 for 2016 by freeze time (January 28, 2017). Figuring I have 11 weeks left, and I've averaged 18.1 new releases per week over the first 46 weeks, that extrapolates to 1033 records: down a bit from last year, but not much. Down more from previous years, of course, but I won't bother dredging those numbers up.
I finally got a bit of work done on compiling the Jazz Guide(s): 21st Century up to 1267 pages (64% through the Jazz '00s database file, up to Ferenc Nemeth); 20th Century edged up to 750 pages as I found a couple stragglers. 21st Century should wind up 1450-1500 pages, hopefully by the end of the year. (So much for my earlier August-September estimates!) Thinking a bit about what should happen next. The drafts are collected using LibreOffice. Obviously, I can export them as PDF, and distribute them as I did the JCG-only version. I don't know the first thing about exporting to ebook formats, but I see there is a Writer2ePub extension, and also a "cross-platform free and open-source e-book reader and word processor" called Calibre. Both of those look promising.
It occurs to me that the collected writing would be more useful reorganized as a website. LibreOffice can export as HTML, but I'd need some way to explode the file into many webpages. It's possible that there is an extension somewhere to support that, but thus far is looks like a job for custom programming. That's something I'll need to look into and think about -- not that I haven't thought about pouring my database and reviews into a website for a long time now. It's just that I've always had trouble coming up with an album-based database schema to hang everything on. In recent years I've been gravitating more toward an artist-based schema, even though it doesn't normalize as nicely. That's probably the level I'd try to explode an HTML export of the Jazz Guides. One idea is to dispense with the database and just use Mediawiki, organizing the reviews by artist. In that case one could simply cut and paste from the book to the website. That would still be a lot of work.
More troubling for me is the amount of editing that the reviews require. The relatively easy part is stripping out the redundancy that occurs when discrete reviews are stacked up under an artist name. I expect to move dates, instruments, band associations, and other such attributes to a brief artist intro, cutting them out of the album reviews. In many cases that leaves virtually nothing but the credits and grade. It would be nice to flesh them out a bit, but that now appears to be a job for another lifetime, or for someone else. At this point, I'd be happy to let my framework stand as a starting point for someone else to build on, or maybe a whole community. Unclear whether anyone is interested.
One thing I neglected to mention last week was Downbeat's 82nd Annual Readers Poll (October 2017 issue). Biggest surprise for me was the late Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017) finishing second on the HOF ballot. I had him filed under rock (1970s) and hadn't rated (or heard) any of his albums. Wikipedia says he "was cited as an influence by a host of rock, metal and jazz guitarists" but the following list of twelve only includes one name I recognize as jazz (Kurt Rosenwinkel). I suppose I should do some research, possibly starting with Gordon Beck's Sunbird (1979; Beck's 1967 Experiments With Pops, with 3rd place finisher John McLaughlin, is a favorite) and two Tony Williams albums not yet in my database.
McLaughlin would have been a perfectly respectable choice. I've heard at least two dozen of his albums, with Extrapolation (1969) and Mahavishnu Orchestra's The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) early masterpieces. Fourth- and fifth-place finishers Les Paul and George Benson would have been disgraceful picks, although I can point to at least one superb record each is on.
The HOF winner, Wynton Marsalis, is a ho-hum choice: a solid hard bop trumpeter, probably better than Kenny Dorham or maybe even Woody Shaw but less exciting than Lee Morgan and not as versatile as Freddie Hubbard. He also became a huge celebrity, built an empire at Lincoln Center, and wrote some of the most ponderous compositions of the era. I've always liked him best when he was least serious. I credit him with three A- records: his soundtrack Tune In Tomorrow (1990); his Jelly Roll Morton tribute, Mr. Jelly Lord (1999); and his Play the Blues meetup with Eric Clapton (2011). Dorham and Shaw, by the way, have two A- records each, in shorter careers.
Elsewhere, the winners were on the stodgy side of mainstream -- the relatively hip picks were Chris Potter (tenor sax), Anat Cohen (clarinet), and I can never fault Jack DeJohnette (drums). Two flat out bad picks: Snarky Puppy (group), and Trombone Shorty (trombone). (Well, Gregory Porter too, but consider his competition.) I don't have time to go deeper down the lists, but for example, Marsalis won trumpet, and I'd have to drop to 13th to find someone I would have voted for ahead of him (in fact did: Wadada Leo Smith; Dave Douglas came in 15th; 4th-place Terence Blanchard gave me pause).
Only other down-ballot pick I'll mention is Geri Allen, who came in 3rd at piano. Would have been a pleasant surprise, but she died to get there, and still got beat by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, who haven't produced exceptional albums since the early 1970s (OK, I did rather like Corea's 2014 Trilogy).
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks (sorry I forgot to post last week):
Monday, November 6. 2017
Music: Current count 28842  rated (+29), 396  unrated (-9).
After many short weeks, back to semi-normal last week, a swing that would have been even more pronounced had I not gotten distracted over the weekend: cooked a fairly large dinner on Saturday, had guests and a birthday party to attend on Sunday. Monday, too, has largely been chewed up by technical problems, so I'm getting a late start on this post, and not including Monday's unpacking.
The short and scattered nature of yesterday's Weekend Roundup was one consequence of my weekend distractions. One thing I did there was to cite Donna Brazile's controversial Inside Hillary Clinton's Secret Takeover of the DNC, as well as a rejoinder by Josh Marshall, before moving on to my own concerns. Shortly after I posted, I noticed Charles Pierce's own anti-Brazile rant: The Democratic Party Is Finding a Way to F*ck This Up, which starts off with this hideous preface:
I mean, sure, it was more depressing than 2008, when Hillary Clinton was denied the Democratic Party nomination and therefore was unable to blow the general election. But even though I was delighted with Obama's primary successes in 2008, Bernie Sanders' campaign was unprecedented, and his near-success even more thrilling. The Republican primaries had more faces, and some stylistic variation, but there ultimately wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the candidates. But there were real, significant differences between Sanders and Clinton, and they were things that mattered -- so how could one not get swept up in the opportunity?
I don't know, but I have a hypothesis, based on a few people I know who I think of as having more/less lefty (but pro-Hillary) politics and extrapolating to more establishment-oriented liberals. It involves two factors: one is a cynical belief that substantial progressive change is not possible; the other is blind faith in liberal meritocracy, which has anointed the long line of Democratic Party leaders from aristocrats like the Roosevelts and Kennedys to accommodating strivers like the Clintons and Obama. That cynicism lets such people dismiss Bernie with whatever epithet they fancy (for Pierce, "smug, self-righteous") even though there is no evidence for their assertions, while always giving Hillary the benefit of any doubts, even though her own track record is full of compromises and betrayals. Such people are very hurt, probably more by Hillary's loss than by Trump's victory, because the former calls into question their belief in American exceptionalism, whereas the latter mostly hurts other people.
Russia is their perfect villain, a way of blaming their failure not on other Americans but on some external evil. Still, I recently read David Daley's Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, and I don't recall a single Russian operative in the entire book. The "ratfuckers" -- the people conspiring to engineer districts and electorates to their partisan advantage -- are Republicans, and they've been very effective at it. I don't doubt that Russia helped them out here and there, but the game plan was hatched in Republican circles, and they were the ones who mostly carried it out. Blaming Russia may make some Democrats feel better about themselves, but it mostly means they're continuing to turn a blind eye to their real enemies. And in their failure to recognize real enemies, they've not only been ineffective at defending against them -- they've lost credibility among the very people who suffer Republican rule the worst.
Pierce goes on to attack "SPW" ("Senator Professor Warren"), and to set up scapegoating the left if the Democrat Ralph Northam loses the Virginia gubernatorial race. He's right that the Democrats have various problems achieving unity, even in the face of the most obviously horrid Republicans in history, but it beats me how he thinks he's contributing to solidarity by trashing Bernie.
Since I posted, I've run across two more pieces on the Brazile Affair: Glenn Greenwald: Four Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in the Last Week Alone That Are False -- three attacking Brazile, two of those repeated by Pierce -- and Matt Taibbi: Why Donna Brazile's Story Matters -- But Not for the Reason You Might Think. The lesson Taibbi draws from the story is how the Clinton camp distrusted democracy -- they sought to rig the primaries not because they couldn't win otherwise, but because they didn't think they should have to submit to the voters.
New records rated this week:
Old music rated this week:
Tuesday, October 31. 2017
Shortest monthly roll-up of Streamnotes this year, by quite a large margin (75 vs. 111 in May; high was 156 in January). Probably the shortest in several years. I've made my excuses in past Music Week posts, so won't rehash them here.
I will note that the jazz share of the following is relatively high, even by my standards. Until the EOY lists start appearing, I'm don't seem to be noticing much non-jazz. However, the lists should start appearing in late November. Over the last few years, I've threatened to stop compiling them, but at the moment I'm actually looking forward to the diversion. Also to sorting out my own Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists -- I'll probably make my first stab at that shortly after the first lists appear.
Meanwhile, the year-in-progress list is here. Current grade breakdown (new releases): 107 A- (64 jazz, 43 non-jazz), 121 B+(***), 186 B+(**), 180 B+(*), 78 B, 23 B-, 5 C+, 2 C; (reissues/compilations): 1 A, 8 A- (2 jazz, 7 non-jazz), 12 B+(***), 14 B+(**), 6 B+(*), 3 B, 1 B-, 1 C+. The A-list usually winds up being pretty evenly split between jazz and non-jazz, but always starts with jazz way ahead (about the current ratio). That adds up to 627 records rated in 10 months, so that projects to 815 over 13 months (January is usually devoted to late-breaking (or merely late-noticed) albums from the previous year. Adding a month for January also makes it easy to compare progress this year to last year, as I can compare a straightforward projection to the actual frozen 2016 list as of January 28, 2016. That file listed 1074 records, so by this first crude approximation I'm down about 24% compared to 2016. I'm not surprised that my rate has slowed in 2017, but this is the first time I've tried making a projection, and the drop is a bit more than I expected.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (10248 records).
Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe (2016 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Pakistan, group expands on a group saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa organized (with Abbasi and percussionist Dan Weiss, the Indo-Pak Coalition -- adding Vijay Iyer on piano, plus cello and bass. Main difference is that Abbasi wrote the pieces here, and his postbop stumbles awkwardly in spots. On the other hand, Mahanthappa is terrific throughout. B+(**) [cd]
Tony Allen: The Source (2017, Blue Note): Nigerian drummer, met Fela Kuti in 1964 and anchored his band for the next 15 years. Has recorded a couple dozen albums since going on his own in 1979, but this is the first (following an EP) for a jazz label, and this is very straightforward jazz album, a nonet plus a couple spot guests, occasionally working in a bit of African rhythm but not very often. B+(*)
Banda Magda: Tigre (2017, GroundUP Music): New York-based band built around Greek singer-songwriter Magda Giannikou (also plays accordion and piano). Third group album. Hard to peg, with its Balkan beats and occasional orchestral swirl. B+(*)
Peter Bernstein: Signs LIVE! (2015 , Smoke Sessions, 2CD): Guitarist, strikes me as one of the better examples of the long-dominant Wes Montgomery school, stretches out at great length in this quartet -- although equally featured is pianist Brad Mehldau. Two Monk pieces, the rest originals. With Christian McBride (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). B+(**)
Blue Note All-Stars: Our Point of View (2017, Blue Note, 2CD): Third time Blue Note has tried this, with its 1996 Blue Note All Stars (no hyphen), 2009 Blue Note 7, and now this one: note, first of all, that none of the three albums share any musicians or producers. Lineup this time: Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Lionel Loueke, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, plus two legends return for a shot at "Masqualero" (Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock). Aside from a Loueke showcase not far removed from the hard bop the label was built on, so plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose. B+(**)
Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Asteroidea (2015 , Intakt): Bass-piano-drums trio, the bassist getting a solo intro to kick things off, elsewhere the pianist playing soft rhythmic figures behind the bass. Fascinating there, even more so when Davis jumps out front, bringing the drums into play. A- [cd]
Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Magic Triangle (2016 , NoBusiness): Cornet-tenor sax quartet, Ken Filiano on bass and Royal Hartigan on drums, each contributing a song (or two for Bradford). Loose and free, but doesn't have the spark of Bradford's legendary quartet with John Carter. B+(**) [cdr]
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Memphis . . . Yes, I'm Ready (2017, Okeh): Started as an r&b singer, not making much of a mark with her early Atlantic and Elektra albums (1976-80), well before she moved into jazz (first Verve album in 1993). So this is a throwback to her r&b days, except with better songs -- Memphis-associated, including a couple of Elvis hits. The horn arrangements are stock, the vocal tone a bit darker, so it actually helps when he turns the gospel afterburner on, on "Precious Lord" (of course), even more so on "Try a Little Tenderness." B+(*)
Kyle Bruckmann's Degradient: Dear Everyone (2017, Not Two, 2CD): Plays oboe, English horn, electronics, with a dozen-plus albums since 2001. First with this group, backed by Aram Shelton (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), electric bass and percussion, with a text by Matt Shears rendered by 99 readers. The spoken word is scattered about, accenting rather than breaking up the dense music. B+(**)
Cortex: Avant-Garde Party Music (2017, Clean Feed): Norwegian two-horn quartet -- Thomas Johanson (trumpet), Kristoffer Alberts (saxes), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- first studio album after two terrific live ones. One figures they haven't outgrown their taste for high-energy rock even though their chops and instruments have opened up avant-jazz options. B+(***)
Cowboys and Frenchmen: Bluer Than You Think (2017, Outside In Music): Co-led by alto saxophonists Owen Broder and Ethan Helm, who split writing chores 3-4 -- one additional track by Chris Misch-Bloxdorf, who is not in the quintet (piano, bass, drums), and produced by Ryan Truesdell, who prefers delirious unity to conflict. B+(*) [cd]
Corey Dennison Band: Night After Night (2017, Delmark): Bluesman, plays guitar and sings, born white in Chattanooga, "immediately felt a strong connection to Soul music," moved to Chicago and fit right in. First half is perfectly respectable Chicago blues, second nudges its way into respectful soul, losing a step but relishing it. B+(***) [cd]
Mark Dresser: Modicana (2016-17 , NoBusiness): Bassist, major avant-garde figure including a long stretch in Anthony Braxton's legendary quartet, 35+ records as leader (or 40+ if you could Arcado String Trio), many more side credits. Goes solo here, always a tough sell, but keeps it interesting. B+(**) [cdr]
Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017, Mello Music Group): Underground rapper, real name Mike Eagle, one half of Run the Jewels but has kept a solo career going steady since 2010. B+(**)
Harris Eisenstadt/Mivos Quartet: Whatever Will Happen That Will Also Be (2015 , NoBusiness): Actually, just the Canadian percussionist's composition -- four movements of the title piece -- performed by a conventional string quartet: two violins (Josh Modney and Olivia De Prato), viola (Victor Lowrie), and cello (Mariel Roberts). Interesting music, but I'm not much of a fan of the form/sound. B+(*) [cdr]
Ellery Eskelin: Trio Willisau Live (2015 , Hatology): Tenor saxophonist, with Gary Versace (organ) and Gerry Hemingway (drums). Some remarkable sax and cliché-free organ. A-
Bob Ferrel: Bob Ferrel's Jazztopian Dream (2016 , Bob Ferrel Music): Trombonist, side credits include Southside Johnny & the Jukes (1983-86) and Michael Treni Big Band (2011-13), has the run of a fairly large band here, featuring vocalist Dwight West on four tracks, including a "Yardbird Suite" I find inadvertently funny, and one from Ferrell Sanders that notes "whales out in the sea need freedom." More swing than bop, and lots of trombone. B+(*) [cd]
Four Tet: New Energy (2017, Text): Kieran Hebden has done most of his laptronica work under this alias since 1999, more than a dozen albums, most quite enjoyable. Seems like there's more guitar than usual here, but otherwise little stands out. B+(**)
Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies Vol II (2012-17 , Accurate): Trumpet player Brian Carpenter's Brooklyn-based large band, fourth album, two modern arrangements of hot 1920s jazz, the Rhapsodies sets featuring chamber jazz from the 1930s. This one takes an odd turn by adding two choirs, one of adults, one of children. Looks like the latter was dubbed over older recordings, and I can't say as I approve (although the music is lovely). B+(*) [cd]
Yedo Gibson/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Trilla: Chain (2016 , NoBusiness): Baritone/soprano saxophonist from Brazil, first album as leader, recorded in Lisbon where he picked up the bassist (best known for RED Trio) and drummer (actually Spanish -- has appeared on ten or so avant albums since 2015). Free jazz tension and strife, spending a fair amount of time grumbling in the basement. B+(**) [cd]
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (2017, Songlines): Guitarist, also plays oud, based in Vancouver, has put together an impressive string of records since 2006. No bassist here, so he tends to melt into that role here, especially as his stars -- Oscar Noriega (alto sax/clarinets) and Russ Lossing (piano/Rhodes) -- bull their way to the front. With Satoshi Takeishi on drums. B+(***) [cd]
Ross Hammond + Jon Bafus: Masonic Lawn (2016 , Prescott): Guitar-drums duo, Hammond also credited with resonator, 12-string resonator, and lap steel. Draws inspiration from Americana, but I hear more Chuck Berry than Bill Frisell. B+(***)
Hans Hassler: Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her (2015 , Intakt): Swiss accordion player, in his 70s, third album since 2008 for the label. Starts routine, but picks up speed and interest. B+(*) [cd]
Dylan Hicks: Ad Out (2017, Soft Launch): Singer-songwriter, based in Minneapolis, albums go back to 1996, also has a novel. Christgau praised this but described him as "logocentric" -- presumably why I didn't readily warm to him, although second time around I did notice occasional turns of phrase. B+(**)
Steve Hobbs: Tribute to Bobby (2016 , Challenge): Plays marimba and vibraphone, has a record from 1993, couple more since. Speaks here of his quartet with Bill McConnell, Peter Washington (also on the 1993 record), and John Riley, but there's also a saxophonist in play, a good one, Adam Kolker. "Bobby" is presumably Hutcherson, though the only non-originals are by Dylan and Rodgers & Hart. Three guest vocals almost spoil the groove. B+(*) [cd]
Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (2017, Creative Nation Music): Drummer, has a previous duo album with bassist Tony Leva, expanding that here by adding Tod Brunel on clarinets/soprano sax and Eric Hofbauer on guitar -- the part I noticed first. All originals by Jack, stretched out nicely with increasingly strong clarinet. B+(***) [cd]
Ahmad Jamal: Marseille (2016 , Jazz Village): Pianist, first albums came out in early 1950s, still has his fine touch at 86. Quartet with James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), and Manolo Badrena (percussion), with three takes of the title song, one instrumental, the others with vocals (Abd Al Malik and Mina Agossi). B+(**)
Danny Janklow: Elevation (2015 , Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays alto flute, first album, has some side credits with John Beasley and José James. Personnel split here at piano and bass, with Jonathan Pinson on drums and Nick Mancini on vibes for 6/10 cuts. Bright, upbeat postbop, ending in a Michael Mayo vocal. B [cd]
Piere Kwenders: Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time (2017, Bonsound): Alias for José Louis Modabi, born in Kinshasa, based in Canada. Has a sort of hybridized sound that strays far from the Congo without landing anywhere obvious -- perhaps some future lullaby chant. B+(*)
Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum (2016 , NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist from North Carolina, free and rough, has a fairly short discography back at least to 1995, including a duo with percussionist Smith as The Dogon Duo. Gotesmanas is a second percussionist, not that either make much of an impression here -- Lamb strikes me as rather subdued as well. B+(*) [cdr]
Lost Bayou Ramblers: Kalenda (2017, Rice Pump): Cajun group, formed in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1999 by brothers Louis and Andre Michot, with ten albums. Starts out with a stomp, the percussion noisier than expected, the accordion louder, the vocals shriller, all of which stands out in a genre where things tend to blend together. A-
Rob Luft: Riser (2017, Edition): Guitarist, from London, 23, first album, quintet with Joe Wright on tenor sax, Joe Webb on organ/piano/harmonium, plus bass and drums -- the Hammond a little cheesy, but sometimes the sax rises up. B
Roberto Magris Sextet: Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery (2016 , JMood): Italian pianist, has gone out of his way to send me records so I've heard more than Discogs lists. Vigorous postbop with plenty of Latin tinge, as much in the horns -- Brian Lynch on trumpet and Jonathan Gomez on tenor sax -- as in Murph Aucamp's congas. B+(***) [cd]
Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima (2017, self-released): The alto saxophonist represents India (he was actually born in Italy, but his parents had previously become US citizens, so his Indian heritage is something he's picked up over the years). Guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan, but has been an American nearly as long. The third member is drummer Dan Weiss, from Tenafly, NJ, who also plays tabla, offering the most authentic Indo-Pak spicing, although the aromas whiff in and out, and Mahanthappa's sax is as fluid as ever. A- [cdr]
Alma Micic: That Old Feeling (2017, Whaling City Sound): Serbian-born vocalist, sang with the Radio Belgrade Big Band before moving to New York. Fourth album, six delectable standards plus one original ("Ne Zaboravi Me") and a Russian/Romany folk song. Backed by guitarist Rale Micic plus bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]
Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (2017, Pi): Pianist, also plays "Prophet 6" (a 6-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer) and electronics. Has a couple previous albums, and has distinguished himself with side credits. Runs the gamut here from solo electronics pieces to a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Tyshawn Sorey. B+(**) [cd]
Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives (2016-17 , Black Earth Music): Flute player, still calls her band Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, but that name gives way on cover and spine for spoken word artist Madhubuti, whose poetry spans the gamut of black American experience. Deep, and the band keeps it percolating, with Pharez Whitted on trumpet, a violin-violin-cello-bass string section, drums plus percussion. A- [cd]
Liudas Mockunas: Hydro (2015-16 , NoBusiness): Lithuanian saxophonist, solo here, credited with "clarinet, percussion, water prepared soprano, soprano and tenor saxophone," on a series of short pieces, eleven titled "Hydration Suite," one "Dehydration." B+(**) [cdr]
Paul Moran: Smokin' B3 Vol. 2: Still Smokin' (2017, Prudential): Organ player, based in London, two groups but no session dates. Four originals, covers start with "Come Together" and "One Note Samba" and wind up wondering "Where or When." B- [cd]
Van Morrison: Roll With the Punches (2017, Caroline): Original song count down to five, counting the title song he got help on, none keepers, vs. eleven covers, mostly electric blues -- double hitting on T-Bone Walker and Bo Diddley. All get his standard generic treatment, which means remarkable voice and exquisite timing but with twenty-one artist credits that doesn't necessarily salvage the picks. B
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (2017, Hot Cup): Bassist Moppa Elliott's group vehicle, named after his first (and only non-solo) album, made their mark as a pianoless quartet of "bebop terrorists," blowing up themes and styles from the '50s and '60s, but they lost trumpet player Peter Evans in 2013, replacing him with pianist Ron Stabowsky, and now saxophonist Jon Irabagon has dropped out, transforming them into a piano trio. Stabowsky plays heroically here, and Elliott's tunes are as vital as ever, that's a big change (actually I mean loss) to process. B+(***) [cd]
Ian O'Beirne's Slowbern Big Band: Dreams of Daedelus (2016 , self-released): Saxophonist, credited here with "reeds" but website pictures him on alto and baritone, and he plays the latter in the Glenn Miller ghost band. Based near Philadelphia (this was recorded in Conshohocken, PA). Big band, has some nice moments. B [cd]
Johnny O'Neal: In the Moment (2017, Smoke Sessions): Pianist, also sings some, originally from Detroit, moved to Birmingham in 1974, which got him into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame but kept him out of the national spotlight. Has a handful of albums since 1982, the first with Art Blakey. Mainstream quintet with Roy Hargrove (trumpet), Grant Stewart (tenor sax), bass and drums. B+(*)
Teri Parker: In the Past (2016 , self-released): Pianist, also electric, based in Toronto. Quartet includes Allison Au on alto sax, which helps elevate her deft rhythmic touch. B+(**) [cd]
Wojciech Pulcyn: Tribute to Charlie Haden (2016 , ForTune): Polish bassist, has a couple dozen side credits since 1996 but this seems to be the first album under his name. Starts with two Ornette Coleman pieces (the first a bass solo), followed by six from Haden and the trad. "Oh, Shenandoah." with a vocal on an Abby Lincoln lyric. B+(**) [bc]
Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (2017, Intakt): Drummer, leads a conventionally shaped all-star quintet: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Ingrid Laubrock (sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Drew Gress (bass). Six standards, one joint credit. Aptly titled: seems to be all about flow, gently even-tempered even working against gravity, remarkable when it succeeds. A- [cd]
Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Achille Succi: Planets of Kei: Free Sessions Vol. 1 (2016 , Not Two): Acoustic guitar, viola, bass clarinet/alto sax, the acoustic adding a prickly edge to the free string mix, contrasting to the hollow sound of the reeds. B+(***) [cd]
Marta Sánchez Quintet: Danza Imposible (2017, Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, born and raised in Madrid (as was the same-named Spanish pop singer, a different person), based in New York, second album, all originals. Quintet features two saxophonists: Roman Filiu (alto) and Jerome Sabbagh (tenor), plus bass and drums. Complex postbop with Spanish flair. B+(**) [cd]
Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (2015 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, one of the greats, in a duo with a notable American drummer -- half-dozen albums as a leader, well over 100 side-credits (John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, John Abercrombie, Enrico Pieranunzi, Laurie Anderson, many more). She has a whole series of piano-drum duos, and most are extraordinary (especially those with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre). So I kept expecting this to take off, but it never quite does. B+(***) [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (2014-15 , TUM): Trumpet player, hard to think of a better one over the last decade, so it's hard to say that anything he does is a bad idea. Still, solo trumpet is tough, even when he works with familiar Monk tunes -- not that the five here are easy to peg, especially when mixed in with three of his own. B+(**) [cd]
Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (2014 , TUM): Group effort, Henry Kaiser making me think of Yo! Miles!, but he's only one of four guitarists, and Smith is looking to take their electric post-funk into places Miles Davis never imagined: all Smith originals, all but the title "love song" namechecking legends: Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. With Bill Laswell on electric bass (and mixing), Pheroan akLaff on drums, and Adam Rudolph on percussion. A- [cd]
Mike Stern: Trip (2017, Heads Up): Guitarist, played with Miles Davis late in the game and has gone on to make quite a few fusion-oriented albums, none (as far as I know) especially great. This was evidently cut after a fall that broke both of his arms, leading him to write new tunes like "Screws" and "Scotch Tape and Glue." Guest horns (Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney on trumpet, Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans on tenor sax) steer some of this toward hot bop, and he's working harder than ever on his guitar. B+(*)
Yosvany Terry/Baptiste Trotignon: Ancestral Memories (2017, Okeh): Quartet, featuring the Cuban-born alto/soprano saxophonist and the French pianist, backed by bassist Yunior Terry (brother) and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Terry is well versed in Afro-Cuban jazz -- a long list of side credits indicates that he's the "go to" saxophonist for such -- but such impulses are muted here, leaving a light postbop impression. B+(*)
Charles Thomas: The Colors of a Dream (2017, Sea Tea): Bassist, singing one track (the one standard, "My Foolish Heart"). Looks like this was recorded in three sessions with different bands, but I don't see any dates. At least one of the saxophonists is impressive, but I don't recognize any of them (Marcia Widget, Leon Williams, Joe Cohn). B+(*) [cd]
Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan (2017, World Circuit): The trio from Mali features singer Hawa Diabaté (daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté) plus two traditional instruments: balafon and bass n'goni lute. Kronos is a standard string quartet that stradles classical and much else, with 43 records since 1979 -- 1992's Pieces of Africa was, I think, their first with an African group, and one of their best. Much of this strikes me as rather stately (or do I mean starchy?), although there are spots where it starts to click. B+(*)
James Blood Ulmer With the Thing: Baby Talk: Live at the Molde International Jazz Festival 2015 (2015 , Trost): Norwegian power trio -- Mats Gustafsson (baritone/tenor sax), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) -- meets up with the blues/harmolodic guitarist (no vocals this time). Several previous albums matched the Thing with various guitarists, usually resulting in noisy jousts, but Ulmer just does his thing here, and the extra gravel the group hauls just deepens it. Short (4 cuts, 33:26). B+(***)
Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference (2017, Young Turks): Tenor saxophonist, I had noticed him with Gerald Wilson, Phil Ranelin, and in Throttle Elevator Music before his 3-CD The Epic became a crossover sensation in 2015. More relevant to his breakthrough was his studio work with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus -- the latter produced The Epic. This one barely tops EP-length: six tracks, 31:54. Mid-to-large groups -- octets on the first half, 21 musicians (not counting the choir) on the 13:30 "Truth" closer. I've never cared for his added voices, but does blow some mean sax. B+(*)
Wooden Wand: Clipper Ship (2017, Three Lobed): Singer-songwriter James Jackson Toth, has a lot of recordings since 2004, many released as cassettes or CDRs. Fairly pleasant guitar and voice, nothing really got my attention. B
Lizz Wright: Grace (2017, Concord): Jazz singer from Georgia, started out in church, went solo with 2003's Salt. Looks toward Americana here, with Joe Henry producing and suggesting songs, which she handles with steadfast charm. B+(***)
Tal Yahalom/Almog Sharvit/Ben Silashi: Kadawa (2017, self-released): Guitar-bass-drums trio, first album, seems like a bit more with guests on 5 (of 12) tracks, Adam O'Farrill's trumpet on three of those. Everyone writes, but mostly Yahalom, whose guitar has a nice ring. B+(**) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Mose Allison: I'm Not Talkin': The Soul Stylings of Mose Allison 1957-1971 (1957-71 , BGP): Piano-playing jazz singer from Mississippi, draws on blues but never lived them, his light voice flippant and bemused, a carefree hipster from the 1950s who never fit into anyone's mainstream. There should be a compilation that sums up his uniqueness. B+(***)
American Epic: The Collection (1916-36 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy, 5CD): The flagship, a box set tied to a documentary exploring a wide range of pre-WWII American music, country-folk and blues and Latino and Hawaiian and Native American but eschewing pop and jazz -- you get Ma Rainey but no Bessie Smith, Jimmie Rodgers with a cornet not Louis Armstrong. Although the dates spread out a bit, more than 90% fall within 1926-31 -- the two earlier cuts are solo fiddle pieces, the late ones blues so classic they seem older (Leadbelly, Robert Johnson). Closer, that is, to Harry Smith's purist Anthology of American Folk Music than it is to Allen Lowe's broader and deeper 9-CD American Pop. Eleven duplicates from Smith, but I recognize more songs than that as classic, and more still I didn't know at all. Comes in a hardcover book with song-by-song annotation. A [cd]
American Epic: The Best of Blues (1927-36 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy): Seventeen (or thirteen on vinyl) cuts from the box, only one post-1931 (Robert Johnson). That works out to a little less than half of the blues on the box -- depends on whether you count the box's religious cuts, skipped here. Can't say they're the better half either -- I wouldn't have picked more than half, not that the others aren't worthy of the box. Nor do they work particularly well as an old-time folk blues sampler either (not sure what I'd suggest instead, but short of the Smithsonian's The Blues 4-CD box set, maybe Yazoo's more focused Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson). B+(***)
American Epic: The Best of Country (1927-34 , Third Man/Columbia/Legacy): Same deal, sixteen cuts, only one later than 1930. Given the series' folk focus, these early cuts stay clear of the Smithsonian's canonical Classic Country Music -- only three artists in common, two (Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers) represented here with their first 1928 Bristol sessions. (The third is Uncle Dave Bacon, although comparing the lists I have to wonder how Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett missed here, and Clarence Ashley and Charlie Poole missed there.) So I find this more useful than The Best of Blues, although the integration forced on the box is better still. A-
Chévere (2017, Parma): Cuban classical music, as near as I can figure, names of seven composers on the cover -- I thought I recognized Arthur Gottschalk, only to find I had him confused with Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869). Instrumentation is dominated by strings, and most come with vocals (Kat Parra is the one I recognize) -- neither of those are particularly endearing to me. "Chévere" is a Cuban slang term I've seen variously translated as cool, hot dog, and/or fantastic. B [cd]
Roscoe Mitchell: Duets With Anthony Braxton (1976 , Sackville/Delmark): Exactly as advertised, two pioneering AACM saxophonists playing various unqualified reeds and flutes, often more polite than their usual mid-'70s rut. B+(**) [cd]
Professor Rhythm: Bafana Bafana (1995 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Thami Mdluli, from South Africa, started making instrumental albums (mostly synths) around 1985, a sort of township jive meets house music which may or may not be related to kwaito (introduced to the US in Earthworks' Kwaito: South African Hip Hop (2000). Actually sound more like disco to me, or perhaps I should say what "African disco" should sound like? Seroiusly upbeat, ecstatic even. A-
Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal (2016 , Rune Grammofon): The various artists include nine guitarists, the most famous (Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, David Torn, Jim O'Rourke) only appearing once, Raoul Björkenheim twice, Henry Kaiser four times, Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen five (of nine cuts), matched only by ubiquitous bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Gard Nilssen. Some keyboards too, all fitting Norwegian guitarist Rypdal more firmly than ever into the fusion lexicon -- mostly by cranking the volume up. B+(*) [cd]
Ton-Klami [Midori Takada/Kang Tae Hwan/Masahiko Satoh]: Prophecy of Nue (1995 , NoBusiness): Marimba/percussion, alto sax, and piano. Group formed 1991, had two albums 1993-95. Satoh has a substantial discography (73 items in Discogs; Hwan 11, Takada 4). Rolling percussion with drone is the theme, but the variations only start there. B+(***) [cd]
Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (2013 , ECM): Names below the title: Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Larry Gray (bass, cello), Roscoe Mitchell (sopranino/soprano/alto sax, flute, recorder), and Henry Threadgill (alto sax, bass flute), all associated with AACM. Not as consistent as I'd like, but a stellar turn on piano, with the horns shooting every which way. A- [dl]
Fats Domino: Alive and Kickin' (2000 , Tipitina's): New Orleans rock and roll legend, scored 18 top-20 hits from "Ain't That a Shame" in 1955 through "Let the Four Winds Blow" in 1961, enough for a near-perfect single-CD compilation (e.g., The Fats Domino Jukebox) but his non-hits rarely distinguished themselves (so don't expect many surprises on his four-CD box). But he hasn't been a factor since then, and hadn't released anything since 1980 until these live shots washed up following Hurricane Katrina, when he was briefly reported as missing. Not sure just when these were recorded ("all were recorded by 2000"), and there are no revelations let alone classics, but he wasn't just an oldies artist -- his one remake ages gracefully, and his obscurities remind you what made him so likable. A-
Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter: New Rules for Noise (2007, Spool): Canadian guitarist, second album with this quartet: François Houle (especially strong on clarinet), Karlis Silins (bass), Kenton Loewen (drums). The guitarist brings a little noise, more groove, and keeps it interesting. B+(***)
New Lost City Ramblers: Volume II: Out Standing in Their Field (1963-73 , Smithsonian/Folkways): Founded in 1958 by Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, they played old time folk music on banjo-fiddle-guitar, introducing much of it to a new generation. For that, see The Early Years: 1958-1962, an essential album for any American folk collection. In 1963 Paley was replaced by Tracy Schwartz, offerng a convenient dividing line, with this sampler from seven albums sounding very nearly as classic. A-
Trevor Watts/Peter Knight: Reunion: Live in London (1999 , Hi 4 Head): Alto/soprano saxophonist, an important figure in the British avant-garde although he's gotten much less credit than Evan Parker or John Surman (both 5 years younger) as he's appeared much less often as a leader. Knight plays violin. He's best known as a member of English folk group Steeleye Span, but he played in Watts' Moire Music Sextet in 1987 and in Watts' Original Drum Orchestra in 1989. One 56-minute improv piece, the violin a deeply resonant duo partner. B+(**) [bc]
Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston: Dialogues in Two Places (2011 , Hi 4 Head, 2CD): Two musicians with a long working relationship, sax-piano duets, one disc from Guelph Jazz Festival in Ontario, the other from a slightly earlier set in Toledo, Ohio. Free improvs. Soprano starts shrill, but the alto balances nicely, and the interaction is vigorous. B+(**) [bc]
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, October 30. 2017
Music: Current count 28813  rated (+14), 405  unrated (+7).
Rated count is the lowest of any week this year -- you probably have to go back to a travel week to find one lower, although this month has been consistently low: 18 last week, 15 the week before, 17 the week before that. Three major reasons/excuses for this week: I took a day off cooking dinner on my birthday (old family favorites, keeping it relatively simple this year); I spent three days playing pretty much nothing but a 5-CD box, American Epic: The Collection; and I hurt myself rather badly, probably strains from moving some heavy (for me, these days) equipment. I'm still feeling pretty crippled, which is why yesterday's Weekend Roundup was so late and short, and this too will be brief. Also brief will be tomorrow's October-ending Streamnotes -- brief because of the light rated weeks all month long, but I doubt I'll write much introduction either.
The equipment story: I finally replaced an old Yamaha receiver with a new Harmon-Kardon unit. The Yamaha had developed an annoying buzz, which I've suffered through for many months now. A friend came over and conclusively proved that it was the Yamaha's fault, and recommended the new unit. I'm very happy with it, but swapping it in wasn't easy. The whole setup is in a large piece of furniture I built back when I lived in New York, so close to forty years ago. It's taller than I am, much wider, deeper too, and weighted down with all of my residual LP collection (about 400 albums). It originally had three equipment shelves: one for the turntable, one for one of those wedge-shaped Nakamichi tape decks, and one on top for an integrated amplifier and tuner. The gear it was built for has expired and been replaced, with one shelf returned to albums, an old turntable resting on top of a CD changer, and now the new receiver filling half of the top.
The problem was moving it all away from the wall to get access to the wires in the back. I also had to add a power strip, since the new receiver doesn't have secondary outlets. And, of course, it all needed cleaning. I still don't have it all put back together. Meanwhile, we have another equipment crisis: local wi-fi has been increasingly flaky. I've planned on replacing it for quite some time, buying a new wi-fi router appliance but never installing it. Looks like I need to do that soon. Unfortunately, it involves getting down on the floor and moving cables. It also means reconfiguring the firewall/router, and ultimately decommissioning a very old Linux box (one I built in NJ before moving to Kansas in 1999). So, some point next week everything breaks, then we scramble to put it back together again.
I thought I might get away for a brief road trip this week, but the way things are going I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever go anywhere again. Might not be so bad if I could report progress on book projects, but all I can claim for last week are new ideas I haven't done anything about. For instance, I thought a bit about writing an essay in the form of "A Letter to the Democrats" -- partly reaction to reading Mark Lilla's short and unconvincing The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, and partly revulsion with much of what I hear from the all-too-loyal opposition party spokespeople in Washington. (Although, not that anyone cares, the Casey Yingling story here in Kansas could offer a rich lode of material.)
Meanwhile, I've made no progress even on the most pedestrian of all of my projects, the Jazz Guides. Still only 53% through the last of the monster database files.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 23. 2017
Music: Current count 28799  rated (+18), 398  unrated (-4).
As predicted (feared), another short week with many distractions. Next week looks pretty similar, which means October's Streamnotes will very likely be the year's shortest -- lowest monthly count so far is 111 in May (114 in March, 115 in April, 119 in August; top count was 156 in January, followed by 153 in February, 149 in June, 144 in September). Current draft has 59 records, so that extrapolates to about 83. I'd need a week (plus a day) with 52 reviews to match my previous lowest monthly total this year.
Only three non-jazz albums below: Corey Dennison's blues album actually came in the mail; Wooden Wand was suggested by a tweet (actually an earlier album, not on Napster, so I tried the new one); Twitter also led me to the latest release by Awesome Tapes From Africa -- possibly the only label I actually follow there.
I haven't made a serious attempt to survey new non-jazz released in a couple months, so I have very little idea what to look for. Still, quite a few jazz albums in the queue, and many more I'm not serviced on. Unfortunately, I'm finding fewer than 50% of the new jazz I look for. I expect this will add up to my poorest coverage level since I started Jazz Consumer Guide in 2004.
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Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 16. 2017
Music: Current count 28781  rated (+15), 402  unrated (+1).
Second short-count week in a row, following a +17 last week. No surprise for me, as we played host for a visiting friend from Boston. I spent one day cooking a nice dinner -- Moroccan, main dish was cod marinated in chermoula and baked over potatoes and tomatoes; sides were a roasted eggplant salad, roasted red bell peppers with goat cheese, a carrot salad, an olive-orange-onion salad, and a sweet potato-olive salad; dessert was a mixed fruit salad with honey and orange blossom water. Next day we drove out to Quivira NWR, Cheyenne Bottoms, and back through Lindsborg. Ate at Country Crossing in Yoder on the way out, and Swedish Crown in Lindsborg on the way back. Third day we drove around Wichita, dining at Molino's (Mexican). Anyhow, knocked about half of my week out, and I never really got back into it.
I did manage a small bit of progress on the Jazz Guides. I'm up to 51% in the Jazz 2000's file, which puts me at Julian Lage, and gives me 1197 pages. One metric I've been using suggests that I have 157 pages to go (1354 total), but that doesn't account for group entries that I've set aside -- probably another 50-75 pages. The 20th Century Guide is still stuck at 749 pages, so I'm 54 short of 2000 combined. That'll probably be a milestone to mark with a tweet, hopefully later this week.
One minor note on the list below. I was reminded of the Mose Allison compilation, which Christgau had given an A- to, by its conspicuous (albeit alphabetical) slotting on Phil Overeem's latest list. The record isn't available on Napster, but I was able to line up 23/24 songs, and figured that's close enough. Not quite as good as I'd like, although I could imagine the booklet and a few more plays pushing it over the line. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I could assemble an A- compilation, although I've yet to find any available record that quite makes the grade.
I expect I'll get closer to 30 records next week, although I'm likely to run into a few distractions. Also having trouble figuring out what to listen to on Napster, although my own new jazz queue is pretty deep right now, so there's that.
I should also note that some space has opened up on the server, so for a while I should be back to normal there. Still think I should move it all, but the immediate need is less urgent.
Laura Tillem had a nit to pick with my outrage at Trump and Tillerson for withdrawing the US from UNESCO yesterday. She blamed Obama. I'm not sure of the exact chronology or responsibility, but in 2011 the US stopped paying dues to UNESCO because they admitted Palestine as a full member. This was evidently mandated by a law passed by Congress -- I don't know whether it was signed by Obama, but wouldn't be surprised if it was. In 2012, Obama asked Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, and was turned down. In 2015 UNESCO passed a resolution that Israel took offense to -- something having to do with Jerusalem -- and at some point UNESCO designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a World Historical site, and made the faux pas of designating it as part of Palestine. But disagreements happen with international organizations. What I was more concerned with was the American refusal to participate and engage, which is consistent and largely dictated by neocon (imperialist) doctrine. Indeed, it should be pointed out that Israel didn't announce that it's leaving UNESCO until after the US did, supposedly on its behalf. I might also note that the US-Israeli decision casts further doubt that either nation has any real commitment to "the two-state solution," which has been official policy, at least in the US, at least since the early 1990s. If the US actually supported its own policy, you'd expect it to help establish international recognition of a Palestinian state even before Israel formalized the deal. Instead, since GW Bush the US has routinely subordinated its own policies and interests to Israel -- a blank check surrender which Obama and Trump have continued.
There is, I think, an interesting book to be written about how the critique of internationalism and, especially, the UN, has grown from a fringe cult like the 1950s John Birch Society into a hegemonic idea that dictates American foreign policy, affecting both parties.
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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: