Monday, September 26. 2016
Music: Current count 27183  rated (+30), 381  unrated (+5).
Most of this week's list already appeared in last week's Streamnotes. Since then I saw Steven Colbert's show-long interview with Bruce Springsteen, checked out his new sampler, and decided I should go back and finally listen to the back catalog I had ignored -- one studio album (The Ghost of Tom Joad), a bunch of live albums, and today I've been slogging through the Tracks box set.
Also spent a lot of time last week combing through the old Recycled Goods files, in preparation of adding a bunch of records to my draft book, Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century: A Consumer Guide (if you haven't downloaded the 144-page first pass yet, go to the form here). After 2-3 weeks toil, I still have about 25% of the columns to process. From there the next large cache of writings is the Streamnotes archive -- about twice the size of Recycled Goods (821k words vs. 427k). While going through Recycled Goods, I decided it would be cleaner if I also stashed the reviews of older jazz into another book draft file, so I opened one called Recorded Jazz in the 20th Century, and it's currently up to 75 pages. I figure that's a much lower priority, and seriously doubt I'll ever make a serious effort to clean it up and flesh it out, but it's kind of nice to have around.
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:
Sunday, September 25. 2016
I don't plan on watching Monday's first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I'm not someone still trying to figure out where I stand on those two, and I can't conceive of anything either might say that might make a difference to me -- although I do harbor a fear that Hillary might come off as so hawkish she makes Trump look sane (at least relatively, for the moment). Besides, if I did watch, I'd probably be preoccupied with trying to figure out how each nuance and tick affects other folks' views -- you know, the people who don't know enough to know any better. I'm still haunted by that 1984 debate where Walter Mondale ran circles around Ronald Reagan -- the most one-sided debate I ever saw, yet 32 years later the only thing other people remember about it was Reagan's quip about not holding his opponent's "youth and inexperience" against him. Reagan won in a landslide that year -- one of the stupidest decisions the American people ever made (and there's plenty of competition for that title).
Besides, I'll read plenty about it. And I'll probably tune in Steven Colbert's after-debate Late Show. Meanwhile, no comments on the political links below. The current 538 odds favor Clinton at 57.5%, popular vote 46.7-44.8%, the electoral college teetering on Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania -- those currently favor Clinton (62.7%, 63.0%, 68.2%) but Trump can win by tipping any one of those three (or Wisconsin or Michigan). The "chances" exaggerate much smaller percentage edges (D+ 2.2%, 2.7%, 3.1%), but all three (and the election) would remain Democratic if the votes were equal (on the other hand, Trump is less than 2.0% ahead in Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio).
Some scattered links this week:
Thursday, September 22. 2016
Lot of jazz below (112 out of 126 new records, 88.9%; also 17 out of 23 old music, 73.9%). A big part of that was my decision to try to track down all of the jazz albums on Downbeat's Readers Poll ballot. I wound up covering 165 of 186 albums (88.7%, up from the 60.2% I had heard at ballot time), my mop up operation discovering three A- records and five B+(***), and a lot of things I was sensible not to have bothered with in the first place.
I can think of three other factors behind this focus. One is that I had a large (mostly seasonal) dip in incoming mail so ran out of new things on CD. Second is that after the flurry of mid-year lists I haven't bothered to follow the non-jazz online review sites (which probably had their own seasonal dip), while my favored resources for such genres have been relatively quiet. Third is that I had the bright idea of compiling my Jazz Consumer Guide reviews into book form, so I've been thinking more about jazz, and have the prospect of a second, longer-term outlet for new jazz reviews. By the way, download the book here.
The main exception to all that jazz was a break for a reissue of The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, recorded in 1964 and 1965, released on LP in 1977, and unavailable on CD until it was repackaged as a tie-in to Ron Howard's new Beatles-on-tour film. I noticed a while back that Rhapsody had belatedly secured rights to stream the Beatles' catalog, but I was so familiar with the 15 canonical CDs released in 1988 that I figured I hardly needed to every play them again. Same could also be said for the 1962-1966 compilation, which I had rated based on a borrowed copy, and for that matter the 1967-1970 compilation I missed, not that there was anything even remotely unfamiliar on it. But after Live at the Hollywood Bowl, I played those compilations, and followed those with the three 2-CD Anthology sets from 1995-96, which proved even more trivial than the Past Masters sets. Still missing Live at the BBC, and those old Hamburg boots, but that's about it.
The experience left me with two thoughts. One is that I had forgotten what earworms many Beatles songs are. Since I played the compilations, I'm pretty sure that my head was filled with one Beatles tune or another every waking moment I've had without other music on. The second is that while I've long considered myself a partisan of the early albums (culminating in Help!), the songs rattling around in my head have mostly been later ones. I should probably have gone back and refreshed my memory of the last three studio albums (from the white album, graded B+, B, B) -- probably haven't heard any of them in thirty years (aside from the "Naked" version of Let It Be).
One more note: I found it rather amusing when I started wrapping this up to see 13 A- jazz album covers followed by Brittany Spears. That's not why I went back and revisited MIA and Young Thug -- I had planned on doing that anyway, thinking they might be albums that a bit more exposure to might nudge them up a notch. They're still not high on the A-list but they did make the grade.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on August 25. Past reviews and more information are available here (8632 records).
Paolo Angeli/Robert Burke/Mirko Guerrini/Jordan Murray/Stephen Magnusson/Stefano Tamborrino: Sardinian Liturgy (2015 , Jazzhead): Australian group, guitarist Angeli is the one with Sardinian roots, building around a folk style called canto a tenore. Not sure who the tenor is (probably Angeli), but the vocals are less to my taste than the convoluted music. B+(*)
Carol Bach-y-Rita: Minha Casa/My House (2016, Arugula): Standards singer, from Spain (I think) but grew up in Northern California, studied at UC Berkeley, lived at times in Mexico, Italy, and France. Second album. Brazilian influence, title (but only one song) in Portuguese, band led by Larry Koonse (guitar) and Bill Cantos (piano). Does a striking "Nature Boy," an energetic "Night in Tunisia," two originals. B+(**) [cd]
The Bad Plus: It's Hard (2016, Okeh): Piano trio, formed in 2000 after Reid Anderson (bass) and Ethan Iverson (piano) had quickly established themselves as formidable young musicians, with Dave King flexing muscle on drums. Their early albums worked a surprise cover like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in, giving them a melodic hook to hang their improvisation off of. Lately they've gotten away from that, but looks like their new label ordered up more covers, so here's a whole album of them. Many odd choices, none all that impressive, or really even that hard. B+(*)
Shirantha Beddage: Momentum (2014 , Factor): Identifies himself as a baritone saxophonist but credit here, on his fifth album, reads "woodwinds and keyboards." David Restivo also plays the latter, and they're backed by two bassists (one acoustic, one electric) and two drummers. The baritone resonates, the tunes mainstream enough he's been nominated for a Juno, but nothing overly slick. B+(***) [cd]
Bent Shapes: Wolves of Want (2015 , Slumberland): Indie pop band led by Ben Potrykus and Andy Sadoway, their main punkish trait a compulsion to wrap up their ten songs in less than thirty minutes (28:02). B+(**)
Mili Bermejo/Dan Greenspan: Arte Del Dúo (2016, Ediciones Pentagrama): Voice and bass duets, intimately bound and balanced, not that I can follow the lyrics -- Spanish, I presume, given that singer Bermejo was born in Argentina and raised in Mexico City (also a professor at Berklee since 1984). B+(***) [cd]
Seamus Blake: Superconductor (2015 , 5Passion): Saxophonist, born in England, grew up in Vancouver BC, studied at Berklee, wound up in New York. Mainstream, usually an imposing tenor but loses that on soprano, especially when the electronics hold sway, nor do vocals help. B-
Seamus Blake/Chris Cheek With Reeds Ramble: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (2015 , Criss Cross): Two tenor sax leads, they've done this thing before on 2014's Reeds Ramble with this same group: Ethan Iverson (piano), Matt Penman (bass), Jochen Rueckert (drums). Standards, Latin tinge, Jobim, originals that fit in, very friendly. B+(**)
Anthony Branker & Imagine: Beauty Within (2016, Origin): Composer, finds other musicians to play his pieces, coming up with an all-star quintet for this set of prickly postbop: Ralph Bowen (tenor/soprano sax), Pete McCann (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano), Linda Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)
Joshua Breakstone/The Cello Quartet: 88 (2016, Capri): Guitarist, mostly works in organ-driven soul jazz groups, trades the organ in for a cello here -- just one, Mike Richmond, the quartet including Lisle Atkinson (bass) and Andy Watson (drums). The cello isn't even that prominent, but Breakstone gets a tasty groove out of one original and eight tunes from bebop-era pianists, from Tadd Dameron and Lennie Tristano to Mal Waldron and Cedar Walton. B+(**) [cd]
Brian Bromberg: Full Circle (2016, Artistry): Bassist, plays electric and acoustic, has 21 albums since 1986, some pop, some fusion, some mainstream (two recent albums were tributes, one to Hendrix, the other Jobim, and you don't have to dig deep to find one for Jaco Pastorius). First cut is a surprise -- evidently his father was a Dixieland drummer and this is built around one of his tapes. No idea who's doing what elsewhere -- cover shows drums, acoustic and electric basses, each played by Bromberg. Still, he probably hired out the horns and keyboards and maybe the guitar, but they all meld together into slick anonymity. B
Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh: Ears Are Filled With Wonder (2015 , Not Two): Duet, Leigh on pedal steel guitar, Brötzmann playing tenor sax, bass clarinet, tarogato, and B-flat clarinet over one 28:10 track (far be it from me to call anything this difficult an EP). Not sure what to make of the pedal steel, but Brötzmann is always Brötzmann. B
Burning Ghosts: Burning Ghosts (2015 , Orenda): Tag line: "expressionist metal-jazz from the LA underground," promising "an uncompromising, incendiary artistic response to ubiquitous injustice," with Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet), Jake Vossler (guitars), Richard Giddens (bass), and Aaron McLendon (drums). The clash can exhilarate, but they lose your attention when they regroup. B+(**)
Will Calhoun: Celebrating Elvin Jones (2016, Motéma): Drummer to drummer, but most of the likeness is limited to the drums, as the albums Jones led were kind of scattered, going wherever the other musicians took him. That happens here too, with Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Antoine Roney (tenor/soprano sax, Carlos McKinney (piano), and Christian McBride (bass) playing rather ordinary postbop, then Jan Hammer shows up for some queasy fusion. B
Ron Carter Quartet & Vitoria Maldonado: Brasil L.I.K.E. (2016, Summit): Maldonado is a perfectly fine singer, don't know anything else about her, especially on the standards that the legendary bassist's orchestra serves up so ripely. In case you're wondernig, "L.I.K.E." stands for "Love, Inspiration, Knowledge, Energy." B+(*) [cd]
Chris Cheek: Saturday Songs (2015 , Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, claims to "present" this, perhaps reluctance given his last signed album came in 2006, or perhaps just to step aside as he asserts that the album is "starring" Jorge Rossy (drums/vibes/marimba), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Jaume Llombard (bass), and David Soler (pedal steel). Soft-toned and grooveful, something that worked better in the Claudia Quintet, perhaps because that band had a leader. B
The Roger Chong Quartet: Funkalicious (2016, self-released): Guitarist, has a couple albums, this one backed with keyboards-bass-drums. Not as funky as the title implies, but that's probably for the best. I'd even call it tasteful, most memorably on the closing hymn, "Shall We Gather at the River." B+(*) [cd]
Stanley Clarke/Biréli Lagrène/Jean-Luc Ponty: D-Stringz (2015, Impulse!): Bass (double, guitarron), guitar, and violin, plus a bit of percussion (Steve Shehan) on two cuts. All have long and notable careers -- Biréli released his first Django tribute in 1980, Clarke started out in the fusion '70s, Ponty's discography dates back to 1964 -- although I can't say I've followed them (3 Clarke albums, nothing over B; 1 Ponty, a B playing Frank Zappa; no Lagrène). Still, they fit together nicely, at least until they slow it down. B+(**)
Cobalt: Slow Forever (2016, Profound Lore, 2CD): Black metal band, formed in 2001 in Colorado, released three albums 2005-09, after which founder Phil McSorley left, replaced here by new vocalist Charlie Fell with Erik Wunder playing everything else. Not something I'd normally bother with, but Chris Monsen put it on his list, and it occasionally reminded me of what I imagine to be metal's appeal, with a piece like "King Rust" pounding out a hypnotic pattern. But before long it descends back into hyper shrieking and loses me. B
The Cookers: The Call of the Wild & Peaceful Heart (2016, Smoke Sessions): All-star septet -- Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet), Donald Harrison (alto sax), Billy Harper (tenor sax), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Billy Hart (drums) -- mainstream players these days, came together for an album in 2010 and have five now. The solos show why they're stars, but hitching all that horn power together can get heavy and bog them down. B+(*)
Ian William Craig: Centres (2016, 130701): Ambient electronics plus Craig's vocals, which range from bare samples to choirlike, not something I've ever found all that appealing. B
Elysia Crampton: Demon City (2016, Break World, EP): Electronica producer from Bolivia to Virginia and back, follows up her exceptional 2015 debut American Drift by "presenting" a mini-album (seven cuts, 25:26) of collaborations with Rabit, Chino Amobi, Lexxi, and Why Be. Notes I've seen cite "an epic poem . . . an official document of the Severo style" with one song named for Bolivian revolutionary Bartolina Sisa. Indeed, this often feels epic, but I can't say as I understand why. B+(***)
Tim Davies Big Band: The Expensive Train Set (2013-15 , Origin): Drummer, leads two big bands here, one in Los Angeles, his adopted home, and the other in his native Melbourne, Australia. B [cd]
De La Soul: And the Anonymous Nobody (2016, AOI): Not worth the trouble sorting it all out, but this sounds like three or four markedly different EPs on random play, and one of them, if separated out, I'd probably like a lot (the one belonging to their mid-period, the one that left its name on their label). As for the others, there's the hippy-dippy shit they started with, and something else I've already blotted out of my memory. B+(**)
Gonzalo Del Val Trio: Koiné (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, from Spain, leads a trio with Marco Mezquida on piano and David Mengual on bass, all writing with covers from Gershwin ("I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"), Jobim, and Jarrett. B+(*)
Dinosaur: Together, as One (2016, Edition): British jazz quartet, with trumpet player Laura Jurd riffing over bubbling electronics, roughly equidistant from postbop, soul jazz, and fusion, so not really in any of those bags. B+(**)
The Dirty Snacks Ensemble: Tidy Universe (2014 , Gotta Groove): Project led by Oakland-based vibraphonist Mark Clifford, with Aram Shelton (reeds) and Kristina Dutton (violin) in the band. Music is oblique, slippery, with some tinkle, but hard to express how bad two vocal pieces are, more due to the ill-fitting music than to Elise Cumberland's voice. C+ [bc]
Lajos Dudas Quartet/Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss: Brückenschlag (2015 , Jazz Sick): Must seem like an honor for your jazz quartet to join onstage with a "new" classical string orchestra -- not really full symphonic strength, but who's counting? -- and have a couple of your compositions worm their way into a program of Webern and Bartok. I dig the clarinetist, born in Hungary but long based in Germany, but the strings not so much, so find this waxes and wanes. B+(**) [cd]
Mats Eilertsen: Rubicon (2015 , ECM): Bassist, from Norway, website discography shows 66 albums but they're mostly side credits -- this is his first on ECM, seventh overall. Two saxes (Eirik Hegdal and Trygve Seim), sometimes poking the limits, other times filling in with Harmen Fraanje on piano and Thomas T Dahl on guitar. B+(***) [dl]
Eska: Eska (2015, Naim Edge): Last name Mtungwazi. Brit singer-songwriter, plays many instruments, may or may not have been born in Zimbabwe (sources disagree) but was raised in Lewisham, London. First album (after an EP), nominated for a Mercury Prize, showed up on an "is that jazz?" list: short answer is "no" but with dramatic flares and occasional losing the beat I'd peg her in prog art song, somewhere between Sufjan Stevens and Björk. B+(*) [bc]
Gene Ess: Absurdist Theater (2016, SIMP): Guitarist, liner notes describe him as a philosopher, originally from Tokyo, grew up on a US air base in Okinawa, has what you might call a "diverse" group: Manuel Valera (keyboards), Yasushi Nakamura (basses), Clarence Penn (drums), Thana Alexa (voice). Slick, except when she returns scat to its roots. C [cd]
Paolo Fresu/Richard Gallliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum II (2014 , ACT Music): Trumpet, accordion (and bandoneon and accordina), and piano, second album together. They play jazz deeply imbued with European folk standards, softened up into a calm prettiness, what they call "the sound of Europe." B+(**)
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Duet (2015 , Long Song): Avant piano-bass duets. Fonda has a lot of experience with adventurous pianists, notably with Matthew Shipp and Michael Jefry Stevens, and it helps to focus on his work here, even when the pianist takes your breath away. After the 37:10 piece dedicated to the late Paul Bley, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura joins in for the 11:20 finale. B+(***)
Charles Gayle Trio: Christ Everlasting (2014 , ForTune): Legendary avant saxman shows up at the Dragon Club in Poznan (Poland), picks up a bassist (Kasawery Wojcinski) and a drummer (Klaus Kugel -- both, by the way, names I'm familiar with -- and they let it fly. They play old favorites by Monk, Rollins, Coltrane, and Ayler, and Gayle shares credits for five of his hymns ("Joy in the Lord," "Blessed Jesus," etc.). Midway the old man takes a break and plays a bit of his convoluted cocktail piano, but he comes back breathing fire. A- [bc]
Generations Quartet: Flow (2015 , Not Two): Three veterans -- Oliver Lake (alto sax), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Joe Fonda (bass) -- their birthdates spanning 1944-54 so more or less of the same generation, and a drummer I hadn't heard of, presumably much younger. Lake wrote three pieces, Fonda and Stevens two each. Fierce and imaginative, my only reservation that it may be a bit too harsh, but I can't help but be impressed by their energy. A-
David Gilmore: Energies Of Change (2015 , Evolutionary Music): Guitarist, from Massachusetts, played in Steve Coleman's M-Base, fourth album since 2000. Band features Marcus Strickland in impressive form on alto/tenor/soprano saxes and bass clarinet, backed by a well-known rhythm section -- Luis Perdomo (piano), Ben Williams (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums) -- all the while insinuating the leader's guitar into the mix. B+(**)
Ricardo Grilli: 1954 (2016, Tone Rogue): Guitarist from Brazil, studied at Berklee and is based in New York. Quartet, with Aaron Parks on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. Strong suit is flow. He doesn't exactly sound like Wes Montgomery, but pushes that vibe hard. B+(**) [cd]
Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Deep Memory (2015 , Intakt): Bassist-led piano trio playing Guy's pieces, a couple of which let Crispell break out some awesome avant piano chops. Not sure that's enough, but the more subdued stretches offer much of interest, and the drummer is used to holding his own. B+(***) [cdr]
Scott Hamilton/Harry Allen: Live! (2014 , GAC): Friendly tenor sax duel, about as close as you can come these days to witnessing Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins square off, this time in Santa Cruz -- the six cuts include "Tickle Toe" and "Body and Soul"). Pianist Rossano Sportiello is a fan of both, as am I. A-
Craig Hartley: Books on Tape Vol. II: Standard Edition (2015 , self-released): Pianist, in a trio with Carlos De Rosa on bass and Jeremy Clemons on drums. One original, six (or seven) standards -- the last a mashup of "Imagine" and "Peace Pipe" -- starting with sprightly takes of "Caravan" and "Jitterbug Waltz." B+(***) [cd]
Hearts & Minds: Hearts & Minds (2014 , Astral Spirits): Eponymous group album, a trio of Chicago avants -- Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Paul Giallorenzo (synthesizer), and Frank Rosaly (drums) -- organized into Side A and Side B for vinyl or, in my case, a fairly short CD. Free, jumpy, but with the soft touch the horn is noted for. B+(***) [cd]
Gilad Hekselman: Homes (2014 , Jazz Village): Israeli guitarist, based in New York. Low key album, mostly backed by drums, plus bass on one cut, nothing very conspicuous. One-third covers, including Baden Powell and Pat Metheny. B+(*)
Hiromi: Spark (2016, Telarc): Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara, seventh album since 2003, piano trio, sometimes electric, with Anthony Jackson (contrabass guitar) and Simon Phillips (drums). Flashy in spots, generally upbeat, no surprises. B+(*)
Anna Högberg: Attack (2016, Omlott): Swedish avant group, led by the alto saxophonist, confronting two tenor saxophonists (Elin Larsson and Malin Wättring), backed by choppy piano (Lisa Ullén), bass, and drums -- all women. A favorite of some critics I follow, but unfortunately I could only find it on Spotify, which (like Soundcloud) doesn't seem to understand when a record is over. Harsh high energy, not sure whether it might win me over. B+(***) [sp]
Honey Ear Trio: Swivel (2014 , Little (i) Music): Sax-bass-drums trio, with Jeff Lederer, Rene Hart, and Allison Miller -- I filed their 2011 debut under Erik Lawrence but he's the only one who didn't return. Lederer has less power but trickier moves (cf. his Brooklyn Blowhards earlier this year). All three write (also Thelonious Monk), and Kirk Knuffke (cornet) joins on three tracks. A- [cd]
Dylan Howe: Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie's Berlin (2014, Motorik): British drummer, son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe, has played in rock bands (like Ian Dury's Blockheads) and has several albums with his jazz quintet. Nine instrumentals from David Bowie's Eno-produced 1977 albums Low and "Heroes" with two saxes, piano + synths, guitar, two bassists, and his old man on koto. Much lusher than the spare synths Eno deployed, heightening the melodies without jazzing them up all that much. B+(**)
Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Big Wheel Live (2015 , Intakt): Swiss tenor saxophonist, leads a quintet with piano (Stefan Aeby), guitar (Dave Gisler), bass and drums. Free but mild-mannered, even when nothing is settled. B+(***) [cdr]
Darrell Katz and OddSong: Jailhouse Doc With Holes in Her Socks (2015 , JCA): Katz's Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra has long played with the idea of avant-classical mashup. Here he crafts something we might as well call opera (no adjectives required), with Rebecca Shrimpton singing texts by the late Paula Tatarunis -- an arty affair I have little patience for, not that I don't appreciate a guest appearance by Oliver Lake. B [cd]
Franklin Kiermyer: Closer to the Sun (2015 , Mobility Music): Drummer, has a thing for the scattered sacred musics of the world but mostly the late sainted Coltrane. Conventional sax quartet, no one I've ever heard of -- Lawrence Clark (tenor sax), Davis Whitfield (piano), Otto Gardner (bass) -- but they're thrilling when they run wild, and when they slow down you hang on the tension. A- [cd]
Sinikka Langeland: The Magical Forest (2015 , ECM): Singer from Norway, although she appears to be more rooted in Finnish folk music, even playing kantele. Group names on cover: Arve Henriksen (trumpet), Trygve Seim (tenor/soprano sax), Anders Jormin (bass), Markku Ounaskari (percussion), and Trio Mediaeval (vocals) -- the vocal drama penetrating the frosty jazz air. B+(**) [dl]
Joëlle Léandre/Théo Ceccaldi: Elastic (2015 , Cipsela): Avant bassist and violinist, both from France, she is well established since 1982, he has a handful of albums since 2011. They keep this tight and interesting. B+(**) [cd]
Lydia Loveless: Real (2016, Bloodshot): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Columbus, Ohio. Early on she seemed poised to kick up some serious shit, but she's gotten more generic with each album, and this one finally lands her in the middle of nowhere. B
Romero Lubambo: Setembro: A Brazilian Under the Jazz Influence (2015, Sunnyside): Guitarist, from Brazil, plays acoustic as much or more than electric, goes solo here, showing you his approach and technique but unless you're rapt that may not be enough. B+(*)
Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Changes (2016, Hot Cup, EP): Guitarist, group includes formidable saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Bryan Murray, Moppa Elliott on bass and Dan Monaghan on drums. The fourth and last of this year's promised set of EPs, to be released digitally September 30 along with a 4-CD package rolling them all up. I'm not wild about the marketing concept -- stretches my work and filing out on what could just as well have been two CDs in a single package. Main economy would be that they're very consistent, with a slight nod to EP:3 Play All the Notes. Four cuts, 31:34. A- [cdr]
Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell: Parallel Moments (2010 , Babel): Scottish saxophonist (alto, soprano), has a dozen or so albums since 2005, mostly duos or small groups with everyone's name on the marquee. This is a duo with the renowned avant-pianist, a live set from Vortex in London. She is in her usual fine form, while he is all over the place. B+(**) [bc]
Made to Break: Before the Code: Live (2014, Audiographic): Ken Vandermark quartet formed in 2011, seven albums (including the two below, recorded a few days later on the same European tour), with regular drummer Tim Daisy, Jasper Stadhouders (electric bass), and Christof Kurzmann (laptop/ppooll -- some kind of audio/visual software system, based on lloopp and presumably turned inside-out). Starts with live rehash of their Before the Code album (Trost), adding a 5:19 "Dragon Improvisation." Holds back at first, trying to let the rhythm find its slot, but the sax is as compelling as ever. B+(**) [bc]
Made to Break: N N N (2014 , Audiographic): Digital-only, four tracks totalling 97:50, so would require two CDs. Nothing feels rushed here, the subterranean growl of the bass pulling Vandermark toward his r&b roots. A- [bc]
Made to Break: Dispatch to the Sea (2014 , Audiographic): More from not just the same group but the same date in Antwerp. Three longish pieces (65:03), the electronics filling in the gaps, but the leader finally breaks loose with awesome sax runs -- all he really needs to do. A- [bc]
Joe McPhee: Flowers (2009 , Cipsela): Solo alto saxophone, recorded live in Coimbra: seven pieces, each one dedicated to an artist -- five I easily recognized as fellow alto saxophonists, the other two graphic artists Alton Pickens and Niklaus Troxler. The one for Ornette Coleman cleverly weaves in signature lines, but nothing so familiar for the others. B+(*) [cd]
Francisco Mela: Fe (2016, self-released): Cuban drummer, moved to Boston in 2000. Nothing especially Latin this time: sparkling Leo Genovese piano, Gerald Cannon on bass, and John Scofield scarcely evident on guitar. B+(**)
MIA: AIM (2016, Interscope): British dance revolutionary, parents from Sri Lanka, fifth studio album, says it will be her last, and indeed at 41 she seems to be winding down, with only a few memorable songs, none qualifying as bombs. Widely panned, which is unfair and foolish, as even her toned-down beats crack glass, and the whisps of South Asian music are still world class. But the bonus tracks on the Deluxe are not cost-effective. A-
Michelson Morley: Strange Courage (2016, Babel): British quartet, from Bristol: Jake McMurchie (saxophones), Dan Messore (guitar), Will Harris (bass guitar), Mark Whitlam (drums). They produce a sort of minimalist fusion, where the rock component draws a line from Eno through My Bloody Valentine to Tortoise. B+(*)
Cameron Mizell: Negative Spaces (2016, Destiny): Guitarist, evidently not the music producer written up in Wikipedia, has a previous solo EP. This a trio with Brad Whiteley on organ and keyboards, and Kenneth Salters on percussion things -- an old soul jazz formula but while maintaining a groove this doesn't feel very soulful. B [cd]
Nils Petter Molvaer: Buoyancy (2016, Okeh): Norwegian trumpet player, started in group Masqualero and later on his own cut a remarkable series of jazztronica albums, from Khmer in 1998 through ER in 2006 (perhaps the best). Quartet with Geir Sundstøl (guitars, including pedal steel, resonator and banjo), Jo Berger Myhre (basses, guitars, and synth), and Erland Dahlen (percussion), everyone indulging themselves in electronics. Still, not much to show for it, mostly spacey ambiance. B+(*)
Moskus: Ulv Ulv (2015 , Hubro): Norwegian piano trio -- Anja Lauvdal (piano, harmonium, synths), Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson (double bass), Hans Hulbaekmo (drums, Jews harp, percussion, saw, wind) -- joined on two cuts by Nils Økland on Hardanger fiddle. But even without the guest, the piano loses primacy here to industrial-leaning electronics. B+(**)
Bob Mould: Patch the Sky (2016, Merge): Ex-Hüsker Dü, Sugar too (if you care; I can't say as I do). He still wraps his songs in a overblown tornado of guitar, so characteristic it serves as a trademark even while rendering the songs indistinguishable. B+(*)
Sabir Mateen/Conny Bauer/Mark Tokar/Klaus Kugel: Collective Four (2015 , ForTune): Last names only on the cover, playing reeds (mostly alto and tenor sax), trombone, bass, and drums, on three long pieces recorded live in Poland. Mateen shows up in a lot of avant groups but rarely as the leader -- Discogs credits him with 28 albums, but his name comes first only eight times, and they also show him belonging to 27 other groups. He's incendiary here, and the Europeans, especially Bauer, are up to the challenge. A- [bc]
Shawn Maxwell: Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow (2016, OA2): Alto saxophonist, from Chicago, has a couple of previous albums I didn't care for, but he pushes his postbop out toward the edge with this quintet, using three different trumpeters, Matt Nelson on keyboards, Junius Paul on bass (acoustic & electric), and Phil Beale on drums. B+(**) [cd]
Tom McCormick: South Beat (2016, Manatee): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, flute), teaches in Miami, don't think he has any other albums under his own name, but he has side credits going back to the mid-'70s. Band leans Latin, and gets better when they flaunt it. Six originals, covers of Coltrane and Silver plus two standards. B+(*) [cd]
Pat Metheny: The Unity Sessions (2014 , Nonesuch): Guitarist, very popular guy and very serious (although not necessarily at the same time). He unveiled a new quartet in 2012 with phenomenal saxophonist Chris Potter, Ben Williams on bass, and Antoni Sanchez on drums, and they recorded a second album in 2013, Kin -- which I see from the hype sheets won a Grammy and was the Downbeat Readers Poll's album of the year (I gave it a B-). They then went on a 150-gig tour, picking up Giulio Carmassi (piano, flugelhorn, whistling, synth, vocals) somewhere along the way, and recorded this material, originally released as a DVD in 2015, at the end. A long and very mixed bag, one that doesn't diminish my respect for Potter's chops, but which also reminds me that even with Metheny eschews groove he doesn't have many better ideas. B
Tony Moreno: Short Stories (2015 , Mayimba Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, born in New York, teaches at NYU. Notes here say his mother was a harpist, and he was given his first set of drums at age 10 by Elvin Jones, which sounds to me better than being called to God. Not sure what else he's done -- there's a drummer Anthony Moreno who recorded some records on Italian labels in the late 1980s -- but this is a big project, with contributions by a not-quite-all-star quintet, with Marc Mommaas (tenor sax), Ron Horton (trumpet), Jean-Michel Pilc (piano), and Ugonna Okegwo (drums), and covers of Duke Ellington and Kenny Wheeler. B+(**) [cd]
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: (Live) (2012 , ForTune): Bassist Moppa Elliott's piano-less quartet, with Peter Evans on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on sax, and Kevin Shea on drums, recorded live at Jazz Klub Hipnoza in Katowice, Poland. Made their reputation by blowing up bebop (and sometimes postbop) convention -- a fascinating conceptual coup on their studio albums, but just an excuse for mischief live. B+(***)
Naima: Bye (2015 , Cuneiform): Group, originally founded as a sax quartet in 2006, now a piano trio led by Enrique Ruiz, with Rafael Ramos Sanía on bass and Luis Torregrosa on drums. The trio can play acoustic or plug in. The former is interesting but not all that striking. The latter can get heavy, and hammy. B+(*) [dl]
The Phil Norman Tentet: Then & Now: Classic Sounds & Variations of 12 Jazz Legends (2015 , Summit): Near-big band, led by the tenor saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 1997, most recently an In Memoriam of Bob Florence. Repertory here, I should recognize everything but "Lullaby of Birdland" and "Manteca" jump out at me, even more so the upscaling of "Take Five." B+(***) [cd]
Lina Nyberg: Aerials (2016, Hoob Jazz, 2CD): Swedish jazz singer-songwriter, has close to twenty albums since 1993, this the first I've heard. First disc is a live set of mostly flight-themed standards backed by a rather scattered avant quartet of piano (Cecilia Persson), guitar (David Stackenäs), bass, and percussion, a provocative mix. Second disc is bird-themed, sung against the darkened backdrop of the Vindla String Quartet. This latter half is less appealing, but I'm still impressed. B+(**)
Ray Obiedo: Latin Jazz Project Vol. 1 (2016, Rhythmus): Guitarist, from the Bay Area, references suggest he's closer to pop jazz (early albums on Windham Hill) than to Latin jazz, although he's also done fusion and rock (Rhythmus 21, Sheila E) with many side credits (especially Herbie Hancock and Pete Escovedo). Rifled his phonebook for a couple dozen musicians here, picked songs with more jazz than Latin cred, and spiced them up nicely. B+(**) [cd]
Opaluna: Opaluna (2016, Ridgeway): Singer Susana Pineda and guitarist Luis Salcedo, with occasional help from "special guests" Jeff Denson (bass) and John Santos (percussion). Recorded in Berkeley, going for that fake Brazilian folkloric effect. B [cd]
Hanna Paulsberg Concept: Eastern Smiles (2015 , Odin): Third group album, Norwegian quartet led by tenor saxophonist Paulsberg, with piano (Oscar Grönberg), bass (Trygve Waldemar Fiske), and drums (Hans Hulbaekmo). Sort of a Rollins feel, a very tasteful sax-lovers album running a bit more than mainstream. A-
Ralph Peterson/Zaccai Curtis/Luques Curtis: Triangular III (2016, Truth Revolution/Onyx Music): Drummer-led piano trio. Normally I would parse the cover left-to-right and file this under pianist Zaccai Curtis, but Peterson's centered name is a tad larger, and he has two previous Triangular albums on his resume with different groups (Geri Allen and Essiet Essiet in 1988, David Kikoski and Gerald Cannon in 2000). The bassist is a familiar name, but somehow I hadn't bumped into his older brother before. B+(**)
Enrico Pieranunzi: Proximity (2013 , CAM Jazz): Italian pianist, has been recording regularly since 1975, has even become somewhat known in the US thanks to his trio with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron. Quartet here, with Matt Penman on bass, Ralph Alessi on trumpet/cornet/flugelhorn, and Donny McCaslin on tenor/soprano sax. Hard to get much speed without a drummer, but the result is often lovely. B+(**)
Enrico Pieranunzi with Simona Severini: My Songbook (2014 , Via Veneto): Piano trio plus trumpet on two cuts, sax on three, plus singer Severini. Mostly original material, nothing you can easily hang on to even though most are in English. B+(*)
Dominique Pifarély Quartet: Trace Provisoire (2015 , ECM): French violinist, records go back to 1981 though he's rarely been in charge. The rhythm ranges free, with pianist Antonin Rayon often moving out front, bassist Bruno Chevillon and drummer François Merville beating the bushes, the bits of melody blocked out abstractly. B+(***) [dl]
John Pizzarelli: Midnight McCartney (2015, Concord): Guitarist-singer arranges and records thirteen post-Beatles McCartney songs, using shifting groups, sometimes strings, sometimes horns, the occasional backing chorus, some Brazilian percussion. Aims for light and frothy, and gets that more often than not. B
Bobby Previte & the Visitors: Gone (2015 , ForTune): American drummer playing in Poland, quartet with Michael Kammers (tenor sax, organ, piano), Michael Gamble (guitar), and Kurt Kolheimer (bass), all brimming with energy and fairly compatible with the leader's fusion instincts. B+(*)
Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau: Nearness (2011 , Nonesuch): Saxophone and piano duets, a format at least among mainstream players meant to imply intimacy, done here with a live audience. Nicely crafted, spare, often lovely, rarely inspired. B+(**)
Little Johnny Rivero: Music in Me (2016, Truth Revolution): Percussionist (conga, bongo, timbales, "and other"), has worked with Orquesta Colon and Eddie Palmieri, keeps the salsa beat moving while a band including Brian Lynch (trumpet), Zaccai Curtis (piano, Fender Rhodes), Luques Curtis (bass), drums, and various guests vamp away. B+(***) [cd]
Rønnings Jazzmaskin: Jazzmaskin (2014 , Losen): Norwegian group: Petter Kraft (tenor sax), Martin Myhre Olsen (alto sax), Egil Kalman (double bass), Truls Rønning (drums), the only musician without a writing credit the namesake. First album, label has the title as above but Discogs makes it eponymous. Rousing two-horn brawl for the most part, some breaks I'm less sure of. B+(***)
Jamison Ross: Jamison (2015, Concord): Singer-songwriter, also plays drums, starts with a Muddy Waters blues but mostly favors soul. B
Catherine Russell: Harlem on My Mind (2016, Jazz Village): Late-blooming singer, started at 50, some 43 years after her famous father father, bandleader Luis Russell (1902-63), passed on. This is her sixth album, perhaps her most retro -- for her father's heyday (see Retrieval's 2-CD The Luis Russell Story 1929-1934) and the following decade). Five songs arranged for tentet by Andy Farber, smaller groups directed by banjoist Matt Munisteri, all impeccable, as is the singer -- the only fault I see, but not one to get worked up about. A-
Arturo Sandoval: Live at Yoshi's (2015, ALFI): Cuban trumpet player, played in Irakere, met Dizzy Gillespie in 1977 and recorded with him several times before "defecting" to US in 1990. Has dozens of albums, ten Grammys, a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Flashy trumpet, congas, bebop-era standards plus a "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)," the leader both crooning and scatting. B+(*)
Shabaka and the Ancestors: Wisdom of Elders (2015 , Brownswood): Led by tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, born in London but moved to Barbados when he was six, presumably back to England as an adult, where he also plays in Sons of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming. This was recorded in Johannesburg "to immerse himself in the country's rich musical heritage," most likely with local musicians to fill out the septet plus singer (Mandla Mlangeni). I can't say as he found the real South African vibe, but still managed some interest and appeal. B+(*)
Naomi Moon Siegel: Shoebox View (2015 , self-released): Trombonist, from Seattle, recorded this on both coasts and in Costa Rica over nine months so the lineups vary, but they always provide some soft contrast for the soulful trombone leads. B+(*)
Edward Simon: Latin American Songbook (2016, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Venezuela, based on Bay Area, albums date back to 1995. Piano trio, with Joe Martin on bass and Adam Cruz on drums, picking through songs from Argentina to Cuba, thoughtfully focusing on the melodies without spicing up the rhythm. B+(**)
Ferenc Snetberger: In Concert (2013 , ECM): Hungarian guitarist, has records going back to 1991, several with Arild Andersen and Markus Stockhausen. First on ECM, a live solo, delicately played, pleasant, not without interest. B+(*) [dl]
Mark Solborg & Herb Robertson: Tuesday Prayers (2016, ILK): Guitar and trumpet, second duo album together. Agreeably abstract, but too sparse to really hold your interest. B
Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (2015 , High Two): Kevin Diehl's former Sonic Liberation Front, shorn of most of the horns and voices but still built around Cuban bata drums, joined here by guests in small type: the Classical Revolution Trio (violin and two cellos), who tilt this toward post-classical weepy abstraction, and alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, who brings us back to avant-jazz. A- [cd]
Omar Sosa/Joo Kraus/Gustavo Ovalle: JOG (2015, Otá): Keyboards (piano, Fender Rhodes, Motif ESB, samplers, effects, vocals), trumpet (flugelhorn, effects, vocals), percussion. Title seems to come from first initials, and J's name appears on cover top left, but I find the album more often attributed to Sosa, often without mentioning his lesser known collaborators. The voices are spoken, a minor part of the flow like the electronics but they move the groove into novel territory, the slower bits atmospheric, the fast ones compelling. A-
Britney Spears: Glory (2016, RCA): Ninth album, big time pop production, every song written by a committee with at least two producers making sure no trick goes unturned. Still, sounds very much of a piece, with G-Eazy's second-cut rap elevating a game that doesn't bother with any more guest stars, and doesn't let you miss them. A-
Vinnie Sperrazza/Jacob Sacks/Masa Kamaguchi: Play Tadd Dameron (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano trio, listed in drums-piano-bass order, playing pieces from a pianist who has turned out to be one of the most covered composers of the bebop era. Feels a bit skeletal to me without horns but eventually the melodies come through. B+(**)
Tomasz Sroczynski Trio: Primal (2015 , ForTune): Polish violinist, partial credit on a couple other albums but I don't know much else about him. Trio, with bass (Max Mucha) and drums (Szymon Gasiorek). Free jazz, clicks more often than not, drummer most impressive. B+(**) [bc]
Vince Staples: Prima Donna (2016, Def Jam, EP): Short, sketchy, built around fragments, short lines and short beats, some come close to working but seems like too much work to keep on top of them, and not enough reward. (Seven cuts, one cut short by a gunshot, 21:44.) B+(**)
Matthew Stevens: Woodwork (2014 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Toronto, seems to be his first album although he's had a couple dozen side credits since 2006, notably with Christian Scott. Original material (aside from the David Bowie cover), tricky postbop with piano (Gerald Clayton), bass and drums. B+(*)
Michael Jefry Stevens: Brass Tactics (2008 , Konnex): Avant-pianist, based in Memphis which has kept him way off the beaten path despite recording sixty-some albums. This one is solemn, built on brass tones: two trumpets (Dave Ballou and Ed Sarath) and a pair of trombones (Steve Swell and Dave Taylor), occasionally supplemented by the leader's piano. B+(*)
Eric St-Laurent: Planet (2016, Katzenmusik): Guitarist, based in Toronto, backed by piano-bass-percussion, the originals supplemented by three covers that help pinpoint the artist in space and time: Beethoven, Charlie Parker, Carly Rae Jepson. Lightweight, easy going, tends to slip past me. B+(*) [cd]
Al Strong: Love Strong Volume 1 (2016, Al Strong Music): Trumpet player, from DC, now based in Raleigh-Durham area. First album, can wax soulful on ballads, or kick up a funk storm on a Monk tune. B+(**) [cd]
Dave Stryker: Eight Track II (2016, Strikezone): Guitarist, usually works with saxophonist Steve Slagle but decided to try a no horns groove record, anchored by Jared Gold's organ with excellent sparkle from Steve Nelson's vibes. All covers, rock and soul standards -- the ones I always notice are "When Doves Cry," "Time of the Season," and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," but looking at the list I could kick myself for not identifying the rest. B+(***) [cd]
Steve Turre: Colors for the Masters (2016, Smoke Sessions): Trombonist, also plays shells to much the same effect, fronts a classic mainstream rhythm section -- Kenny Barron on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums -- adding Cyro Baptista for a little spice on "Corcovado," and saxophonist Javon Jackson to shadow his trombone leads. Hard to imagine a more risk-free can't fail project. B+(**)
The U.S. Army Blues: Swamp Romp: Voodoo Boogaloo (2008 , self-released): Your tax dollars at work, and there's no doubt the Army routinely spends more for less value this group spun off from "Pershing's Own" United States Army Band. Credits include "Leader and Commander" (Colonel Thomas Rotondi, Jr.) and "Enlisted Leader" (Command Sergeant Major Ross N. Morgan, Jr.), although neither play. Basically a mix of trad jazz ("Tiger Rag," "Millenburg Joys"), songs that sound related (Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder), or at least belong in Louisiana ("Jambalaya," "You Are My Sunshine"), and a few fitting originals (by trombonist SFC Harry F. Watters and trumpeter SFC Graham E. Breedlove). B [cd]
Peter Van Huffel/Alex Maksymiw: Kronix (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto sax and guitar, respectively, duets that mostly range free. B+(*)
Glauco Venier: Miniatures: Music for Piano and Percussion (2013 , ECM): Italian pianist, seems to straddle jazz and classical, mostly original pieces performed solo -- much more piano than percussion, but he's credited with both. Self-contained, thoughtful, nevery splashy. B+(**) [dl]
Cuong Vu/Pat Metheny: Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny (2016, Nonesuch): Vu is a postbop trumpet player from Vietnam, his trio including Stomu Takeishi on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Metheny helps fill in, but the trumpet remains front and center. B+(*)
Waco Brothers: Going Down in History (2016, Bloodshot): Chicago bar band, led by English painter and radical Jon Langford (Mekons, Three Johns, many other bands) and Dean Schlabowske (who called his own previous band Deano and the Purvs). Hard, straight and narrow, almost to a fault. B+(***) [sp]
The Doug Webb Quartet: Sets the Standard (2016, VSOP): Mainstream tenor saxophonist doing standards stuff, backed expertly by Alan Broadbent on piano, the charmingly named Putter Smith on bass, and Paul Kreibich on drums. But he takes a while to find his groove, tempted as he is to try out his stritch and soprano on songs that really deserve a deep tenor vibrato. B+(*)
White Denim: Stiff (2016, Downtown): Alt-indie band formed in Austin in 2006, not without hooks or appeal although they haven't broken through for me yet. B+(*)
Anthony Wilson: Frogtown (2016, Goat Hill): Guitarist, son of big band arranger Gerald Wilson, sings on several songs here, most impressively the opening blues, but he's also winning on laid back ballads. One unpleasant bit, the short instrumental "Mopeds" -- some kind of fandango? -- but several things suggest he's aiming at Ry Cooder, and sometimes he makes that work. B+(*)
Florian Wittenburg: Eagle Prayer (2014-15 , NurNichtNur): From Berlin, works with electronics, plays some piano, has a couple albums including the recent Aleatoric Inspiration. The electronics flutter and shimmer ambiently, the piano stepping tactfully. B+(**) [cd]
Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain V (2015 , Pleasure of the Text): Avant-trumpeter, also credited with tape here. I count eighteen musicians, ten playing brass from piccolo trumpet to amplified tuba, a contrabass clarinet (Josh Sinton) and bass sax (Colin Stetson), two violins, two vibraphones, two drummers, but they don't have big band moves. In fact they hardly move at all, cranking out one giant 49:16 slab of noise with just enough filigree to stay interesting. B+(*)
Nate Wooley: Argonautica (2016, Firehouse 12): One 42:53 piece, "a sonic analog [built in three parts] to the epic poem of the same name," performed by what might be called a "double trio": two brass leads (Wooley on trumpet, Ron Miles on cornet), two keyboards (Cory Smythe on piano, Jozef Dumoulin on Fender Rhodes and electronics), and two drummers (Devin Gray and Rudy Royston). Has a couple dead spots where they're regrouping, but downright powerful when they all get in sync. B+(**) [bc]
Lizz Wright: Freedom & Surrender (2015, Concord): Singer from Georgia, started in the church (father was minister and musical director), fifth album since 2003, has a share of 9/13 writing credits. Not a very exciting, jazzy, or even soulful singer but calm and solid, something that works with the right song -- "Somewhere Down the Mystic," for instance, or "To Love Somebody." B+(*)
Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces: Subtle Energy (2016, Hipsync): Seattle-based guitarist, quartet with bass, drums, and soft reeds -- James Dejoie on bass and regular clarinet -- keeping subtle the energy, a fusion pulse with scant urgency. B+(*) [cd]
Pawel Wszolek Quintet: Faith (2016, ForTune): Bassist, I figure this for some form of postbop, with guitarist Lukasz Kokoszko taking most of the melodic leads and pianist Sebastian Zawadzki fattening them up, while the sole horn, Mateusz Sliwa's tenor sax, holds back until his show-stopper at the end. B+(**) [bc]
Yellowjackets: Cohearence (2016, Mack Avenue): Popular jazz group, founded thirty-five years ago in 1981 by keyboardist Russell Ferrante and bassist Jimmy Haslip (departed 2012, replaced here by Dane Anderson), picking up drummer Will Kennedy in 1987 (to 1999, returning in 2010) and saxophonist Bob Mintzer in 1991. The difference this time is that this time, aside from a lovely "Shenandoah," the rhythm -- even Ferrante's comping -- is much freer, which gives Mintzer something interesting he can riff against. B+(**)
Yells at Eels: In Quiet Waters (2013 , ForTune): Avant-trumpet trio, a family affair led by Dennis González, with sons Aaron (bass) and Stefan (drums), although each member has a long list of credits, mostly extra percussion and voice (a terminal sing-along). Quality trumpet, furious rhythm, at one point the record erupts in applause because that seems like the only way to cap the swell. B+(***) [bc]
Young Thug: No, My Name Is Jeffery (2016, 300 Entertainment/Atlantic): Aka Jeffery, Jeffery Williams' third mixtape this year, none especially long (38:03 here, not counting a "bonus track" I haven't heard). First cuts establish his mischievously crude humor, after which he needs to do is mug, although the tense beats make the difference. A-
Brandee Younger: Wax & Wane (2016, Revive Music, EP): Harpist, seems to have a couple previous self-released albums, this one a spin off from the Supreme Sonacy sessions, with a group that includes tenor sax (Chelsea Baratz), flute (Anne Drummond), violin/viola (Chargaux), guitar (Mark Whitfield), electric bass, and drums -- all sideshows to the shimmering lead. Seven tracks, 26:46. B+(*)
Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions (2014 , Sunnyside): Pianist, cut his first albums in 1964 five years after Shorter's debut, fifty years before he sat down for his live solo piano dive into ten of the saxophonist's 1965-74 tunes. B+(*)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1964-65 , Universal/Apple): Pieced together from two August shows a year apart, originally released in 1977 as The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and unavailable on CD until now, repackaged as a tie-in to Ron Howard's Eight Days a Week documentary, with four extra tracks (17 total) stretching the album to 43:27. Pre-Rubber Soul, they play basic rock and roll -- including six covers -- and play it fast, clear and crisp even given the non-stop scream torrent from the crowd. No cause to favor any of this over the studio originals (even the covers), but no reason not to revel in the whole experience either. A-
Harry Beckett: Still Happy (1974 , My Only Desire, EP): British trumpet player from Barbados, died in 2010, a player I've long meant to check out, but this radio shot may not be the place -- the trumpet and sax decent enough over pleasant but electric piano groove. Three cuts on vinyl, 28:48. B
Born to Be Blue: Music From the Motion Picture (, Rhino): Soundtrack to the Chet Baker biopic, starring Ethan Hawke and set in the late 1960s as Baker managed something of a comeback. Aside from pieces by Mingus and Odetta, Baker's music is all re-recorded by pianist David Braid's quartet, with Kevin Turcotte better than perfect on trumpet, plus occasional string sections and Hawke doing his own vocals, even sketchier than the originals. Despite Turcotte, no reason to buy this over any of many perfectly good Baker comps, although I can't complain much about anything that lets me hear "Haitian Fight Song" again. B+(*)
Peter Erskine Trio/John Taylor/Palle Danielsson: As It Was (1992-97 , ECM, 4CD): Drummer, best known for Weather Report, got his name out front on the four piano trio albums collected here, an epic of good taste and precision -- i.e., not the sort of thing Weather Report fans might care for. The albums are broken out under "old music" below, but they are so even and consistent there's no real point in doing so. B+(*) [dl]
Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens (1988 , Resonance): A major jazz singer from 1965 to her death in 2005, and such a sparkling pianist she not only accompanied herself but was in demand for non-vocal sessions. At some point I need to go back and listen to the albums she released in her lifetime (only four in my database), but this is the sort of posthumous record that motivates such a search. Backed with bass, drums, and her own impeccable piano, she covers standards she made a career of (including two Jobims, and a definitive "Lover Man"), reminding us she was major indeed. A- [cd]
Miles Ahead [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (, Columbia/Legacy): Narrated by Don Cheadle, star of the Miles Davis biopic but packed mostly with Davis classics, giving way at the end to Robert Glasper picking up the torch. Assuming what you need from Davis is better served by his own discography, and noting that an expanded set of Glasper is available on his own Everything's Beautiful, I'm inclined to rate this as background dinner music for folks who could care less. Some classic music but the only piece that caught my attention was Pharoahe Monch's closing rap, keyed to Keyon Harrold's trumpet. B+(*)
Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy, Vol. 1 (2015, Revive Music/Blue Note): Released to mark the tenth anniversary of Revive Music, originally "a boutique live music agency that specializes in producing genre-bending, creative-concept live music shows" but lately has been signing musicians like Maurice Brown, Marcus Strickland, and Brandee Younger and releasing albums, often with distribution via Blue Note (EMI, Universal). This is framed as a live package show with intro and interludes by Raydar Ellis, but also remixes so seems a bit patched up. Discounting the remixes, seven acts, mostly one track each, the more conventional horns impressive, the genre-bending less so. B-
Tanbou Toujou Lou: Merengue, Kompa Kreyou, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti (1960-1981) (1960-81 , Ostinato): Culled from radio archives and Brooklyn basements, a stylistic hodge-podge with borrowings from Cuba and Colombia and the Dominican Republic and a hint of what later developed as Zouk, this seems more generic than you'd expect from the long independent, isolated, and impoverished half-island. B+(***)
Ray Anderson/Han Bennink/Christy Doran: A B D (1994-95 , Hatology): Trombone-percussion-guitar, same trio previously recorded the album Azurety. Prickly but scattered, the guitar most likely to surprise. B+(**)
The Beatles: 1967-1970 (1967-70 , Apple, 2CD): In 1973 Beatles manager Allen Klein picked fifty-four songs from his group's oeuvre for a pair of canonical 2-LP sets, the group's first (and aside from 2000's The Beatles 1 only) best-of compilation. Both had cover photos with the same background, the 1962-1966 showing the foursome as moptops, this one as longhairs, the former framed in red, this one in blue. The early one ended with "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" (from Revolver). The late one starts with non-album singles "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane," followed by four cuts from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I replayed the short (26-cut) 1962-1966 and can confirm that it's still a full A, although that scarcely elevates it from any of its seven constituent albums (based on the UK releases, the only A- A Hard Day's Night). However, sometime in the 1970s I soured on the later albums -- the self-indulgent "white album," Abbey Road, Let It Be -- so this compilation actually has some room to improve. It does, but in a way that reminds you how bright their individual talents burnt before cooling into self-caricature. In limited doses, even the shlock can be magnificent. A
The Beatles: Anthology 1 (1958-94 , Capitol, 2CD): Trivia with short bits of after-the-fact interview, the first disc starting with juvenilia that wouldn't hold any interest had they not grown out of it -- nothing sounds remotely decent until track 11 and the first identifiable Beatles song is track 22 ("Love Me Do"). The first disc ends with five tracks (three covers) from a live shot in Stockholm. Second disc has more demos, outtakes, and live hits and covers, but at least by then you know the band. B+(**)
The Beatles: Anthology 2 (1965-95 , Capitol, 2CD): After the bait cut -- "Real Love," a John Lennon demo from 1979 the remaining ex-Beatles harmonized with in 1995 -- this trivia trawl picks up with February 1965 outtakes from Help! and ends with an alt-take of "Across the Universe" from February 1968. One thing that becomes clear here is how experimental many of the takes were, not that you'll have much trouble figuring out why these particular ones were initially released. B+(**)
The Beatles: Anthology 3 (1968-70 , Apple/Capitol, 2CD): Trivia from the period that spans three albums I never liked much -- The Beatles ("the white album"), Abbey Road, and Let It Be -- although I was surprised to find myself enjoying the highlights packed into 1967-1970. The opposite here, as the demos and outtakes lose not only the slick ickiness the album versions but also what little shape and appeal they had. One thing this dive reminded me of is what incredible earworms so many of their songs were, yet as I finished this I found nothing still rattling around in my head. B
Harry Beckett's Flugelhorn 4+3: All Four One (1991, Spotlite): Four flugelhorns, with Jon Corbett, Chris Bathelor, and Claude Deppa joining Beckett, backed by Alastair Gavin on piano, bass, and drums. Slo-mo bebop, not helped by a Jan Ponsford vocal, but picks up toward the end. B
Peter Brötzmann/Masahiko Satoh/Takeo Moriyama: Yatagarasu (2011 , Not Two): Sax-piano-drums trio, Brötzmann playing tenor, tarogato and B-flat clarinet. The latter usually soften him up a bit, but this is all slash-an
Monday, September 19. 2016
Music: Current count 27153  rated (+25), 376  unrated (+2).
First, I screwed up last night and misnumbered my Weekend Roundup post, so for various technical reasons the link I tweeted last night needs to be removed. Since the half-life of tweets seems to be less than two hours, the old one should soon be forgotten.
Second, here again is the download link for my book-in-progress, Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century: A Consumer Guide. It is currently at what I call Stage One, which is to say that I've collected and sorted reviews from all of the 2004-11 Jazz Consumer Guide columns, but haven't done much further editing. Stage Two will add reviews for many more records: things I'm currently collecting from my Jazz Prospecting, Recycled Goods, and Rhapsody Streamnotes files. I currently have all of the JCG prospecting notes collected, and about one-third of Recycled Goods, so I'm at least a week away from starting to revise the draft. The PDF file is unchanged from last week, so no need to download it again, but if you haven't yet, please do.
I've made a couple of piddly decisions on formatting since then: to remove the bold from the parenthetical label/year, and to change the year notation from '## to -## -- the latter because I've started to use "smart quotes" and getting all that consistent is going to be difficult. I'm also considering making a fairly substantial change to the grading system. I thought it might be better to convert the letter grades (with their 3-star subdivision of B+) into a numeric scale (1-10). My first attempt at a conversion was: 10 = A+, 9 = A, 8 = A-, 7 = B+(***), 6 = B+(**), 5 = B+(*), 4 = B, 3 = B- or C+, 2 = C or C-, 1 = any D, 0 = any E.
Two problems there, one at the top of the scale, the other near the bottom. The former started when I initially applied my letter grade scale to my records list, A and A+ made sense only for records that had stood the test of time and many plays. However, after JCG started my working methodology changed so that I almost never managed the several dozen plays those older records had enjoyed. I basically stopped using those grades. For instance, the one and only A+ I've given to a jazz record released this century was James Carter's Chasin' the Gypsy, and that was released in 2000. (I'm pretty sure my most recent A+ was Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You in 2009, although it didn't get promoted until several years later.)
Actually, there's not much A+ jazz earlier either: I count 41 albums, one each (or more in parens, but some are redundant) for: Louis Armstrong (5), Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Miles Davis (2), Duke Ellington (9), Ella Fitzgerald (3), Coleman Hawkins (2), Billie Holiday (2), Fletcher Henderson, Johnny Hodges (2), Louis Jordan, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Art Pepper, Don Pullen, Sonny Rollins (3), Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Rushing, Pharoah Sanders, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Art Tatum. That's out of 14032 jazz albums rated, so 1/334 (0.2%). That's, well, even I have to admit that's pretty picky -- rarefied even -- especially if the concept is to grade on some sort of curve.
There are a good deal more A records, ten times as many (419, or 2.9% of the total), but they too are concentrated among older artists. From 2000 onward, I've given out 65 A grades (counting Carter's A+), an average of 4 per year (exactly, not counting 2016, which so far has 1). I don't have an easy way of counting the sample size there, but it's at least 5000 and probably closer to 7000 so we're looking at a number that will round off (probably up) to 1%. Seems to me like I could combine A and A+ at 10 and still have no more than 1% at that level -- less than 100 records covering two decades.
The other problem is at the bottom. Keeping the three subdivisions of B+, which I think is well justified by my recent practice, pegging A- at 8 pushes B down to 4, and forces me to combine lower grades. This is less important, but intuitively it seems to me that B should be 5, and that the distinction between B- and C+ is meaningful (not that the difference between 4 and 3, or 3 and 2, is really going to sway any of your buying decisions). Below that matters less, not least because I put so little effort into discerning qualitative distinctions between records I actively dislike.
In recent years my impression has been that each of the three B+ levels were fairly evenly distributed (possibly with a slight bulge in the middle, at **), with A- and B tapered off, and sub-B grades rare -- partly because I don't seek out records I'm unlikely to like, and partly because many of their publicists have given up on me. But I've never counted until now. I did three counts, first on the entire rated database (27526 albums), then on the jazz subset (14032), and finally on the post-2000 jazz subset (undercounted a bit at 8268), which breaks down thus: A+ 1 (0.01%), A 63 (0.76%), A- 883 (10.7%), B+(***) 1445 (19.0%), B+(**) 2122 (27.7%), B+(*) 1730 (22.6%), B 1064 (12.9%), B- 364 (4.4%), C+ 81 (0.97%), C 30 (0.36%) C- 15 (0.18%), D+ 2 (0.02%), D 2 (0.02%), plus 455 additional B+ albums (divided proportionately for the percentages; the overall B+ percentage is 69.56%). This actually looks rather like a pretty normal distribution, left-shifted by various factors biased in favor of selecting better records (ones I bought, sought out, or that savvy promoters sent my way) in an idiom that I broadly respect and enjoy. Or it may just be that the left-shift is to be expected, just because the skillset jazz demands is so exceptional.
Taking all this into account, a few days back I proposed to shift my grade scale a bit leftward, combining A/A+ at 10 (still just the top 1% of rated albums), moving A- to 9 (10%, so the top decile), the B+ tiers to 8-7-6 (all records that will repay your interest), B to 5, B- to 4, C+ to 3, C or C- to 2, all D to 1. Of course, the latter ranks will be underrepresented. The only real reason for flagging a bad album is to warn consumers who might otherwise be tempted, but most bad records never tempt anyone -- they come from people you don't know or care about, and quickly vanish without a trace.
So I wrote my proposal up and sent it around to various critics, most of whom didn't like it. For example, Robert Christgau wrote back: "I definitely think everything shd be a notch down, with perhaps a somewhat lenient view of what constitutes an A plus than in my system." So I should shift some A records to 10, leave the rest at 9, peg A- at 8, and let everything else fall accordingly, combining various lower grades I rarely use anyway. Splitting out more bins on the left would provide a more even distribution, but keeping 9 and 10 reserved for less than 1% also suggests a fetish for perfection that hardly anything can achieve. I'm not sure that's either useful or achievable.
A couple others mentioned the Spin guide as a familiar model, with the implication that A- should be pegged at 8 (or maybe split between 7-8). However, my copy defines 10 as "an unimpeachable masterpiece or a flawed album of crucial historical importance" and 7-9 as "well worth buying, sure to provide you with sustained pleasure," and they even have kind words for 4-6 if you're "deeply interested in the artist or genre." I'm not sure what I'd be curious to see a histogram of those grades: how does the distribution line up with my own data? My mapping would put A- through B+(**) into the 7-9 range, as various degrees of records I recommend (indeed, that I store separately from recent jazz graded lower), while the 4-6 range gets B- to B+(*) -- the latter are records that I respect and sometimes even admire but don't much feel like playing again (those usually go to the basement, but thus far I haven't discarded any).
Of course, if one started from scratch, one could devise an elegant distribution curve (say 4-7-10-13-16-16-13-10-7-4, or 2-5-9-14-20-20-14-9-5-2) and sort everything accordingly. But that assumes you can rank everything before slicing it into tranches, something that based on no small experience I find impossible. But more importantly for me, I need some way to mechanically transcribe the letter grades I have into numerical grades. So while I might get a more pleasing curve if I could move the uper half of my A- records from 8 to 9 and the upper third of my B+(***) albums from 7 to 8 and slide some slice starting at B+(*) down a notch, it would be hell for me to try to figure out how to split my existing levels. (It's going to be bad enough just to divvy up the unsorted B+ records.)
Sorry to run on like that. I imagine everyone's eyes glazed over, but mapping it all out like that is helping me think it through. I'll let you know when I reach a conclusion. Meanwhile, feedback always welcome.
Minor discrepancy in the rated count, which only includes one of the three Made to Break albums below. I wrote up the others while working on this post, but thought it made more sense to keep them grouped together. The Beatles stuff was in response to the belated CD release of the Hollywood Bowl album. I also played 1962-1966, which I had previously rated at A and found every bit as great. I hadn't previously rated 1967-1970, but knew everything on it. Even so, better than I expected. I also meant to get the third Anthology in, but had some problems with Napster that locked me out for a couple days. Finally got to it tonight and, well, it's not very good. Might as well add it too.
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:
Sunday, September 18. 2016
Mostly writing this today because I have various tabs opened to possibly interesting articles, and it's only a matter of time before my antiquated browser crashes. Better, I think, to note them briefly than to lose them forever.
I wrote some on the campaign horserace a couple days ago (see Looks Like She Blew It), and nothing much has changed on that front -- TPM still has Trump ahead by 0.1%, but 538 shows Clinton with slightly better chance of winning (61.3%, up from 60.0%). So she may still pull this out, but if she does she'll still wind up with the lowest share of popular vote since 1992, when someone else named Clinton won.
Some scattered links this week:
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Friday, September 16. 2016
Trump up 44.6% to Clinton's 44.5% in TPM's tracking poll together. Electoral college split 254-242 for Clinton, 42 "tossup" (need 270 to win). I tweeted:
I also replied to myself:
Was tempted to add something to the effect that maybe Bernie Sanders could rescue her campaign. We saw him with Seth Myers last night and he made a totally coherent, credible pitch for Clinton, based not at all on personal characteristics but on real political issues and commitments made in the Democratic Party platform.
Still, my gut reaction was to swear off politics until November, then vote for Clinton so I could say "don't look at me" when Trump wins. The silver lining is that Clinton losing to Trump is pretty sure to destroy both major political parties, at least in the sense of discrediting their old controllers. Clinton's loss would be the end of her family control of the Democratic Party, creating a huge opening for new leaders to emerge, and those leaders would define themselves by how effective they are in opposing a certainly disastrous Trump regime.
As for the Republicans, the only thing that breathed life into the GOP these past eight years was rage against an administration that they scarcely bothered to understand, instead taking its very existence as some sort of personal affront. With Trump winning they will lose their drive. Rather, they'll be forced to backpeddle and make excuses for an administration that is virtually certain to make one stupid mistake after another, not least temporary "successes" because at this point all Republican agendas are based on defective ideology.
Sure, Trump winning will hurt lots of people -- in the long run I'd even say everyone -- and that's reason enough to vote against him. But if people can't see that now -- and it's really glaringly obvious, isn't it? -- then maybe they'll have to learn the hard way.
Laura retweeted this from Connor Kilpatrick:
On the other hand, Trump would have been hard pressed to charge that Sanders is crooked and a liar, which are the charges that are doing the real damage to Clinton -- even though, sure, she's a piker in both respects compared to Trump. Her own aura of culpability -- all those irresponsible innuendos about "shadows" and "questions raised" that major media never seem to get around to disposing of -- evidently makes it that much harder for her to challenge Trump on those same grounds. But Sanders suffers from no such taint, which would have made him a clear contrast to Trump.
I think that if there is any one thing that the American people overwhelmingly agree on -- much, much more than their "representative" politicians do (or more tellingly, are willing to do anything about) -- it's that Washington is a cesspool of corruption. Trump is tapping into that by claiming to be an outsider, a contrast that consummate insiders like the Clintons make easy, even for someone who freely admits to having bought influence (including from the Clintons -- recall the old joke that we know Iraq has WMD because we still have the receipts?) -- which should make him as big a part of the problem as the politicians (but, as with sex, we tend to go easier on those who buy than those who sell).
On the other hand, if Trump had to run against Sanders, sure he'd try to paint him as some far-out wild-eyed radical -- and no doubt Trump's more rabid supporters would add "Commie" to the charges, but red-baiting like that seems to have lost much of its punch (not least from overuse against Obama, although pre-Cold War it was also ineffective against FDR). That isn't to deny that such charges would resonate among the donor class: Trump would have a clear money advantage against Sanders that he doesn't have against Clinton. But turning the contest into a referendum on the 1% vs. the 99% won't necessarily work in the billionaire's favor. (And if Bloomberg entered, as he threatened, wouldn't that just have split the 1% vote?)
I got a response to my initial tweet from Robert Christgau:
First point: "inevitable." Hillary Clinton locked up the Democratic Party donor money so early that no mainstream Democrat dared to run against her. OK, O'Malley, but he started on the assumption that she wouldn't run and tried to pass his lame campaign off as a fallback, in case, you know, she got sick and incapacitated, or got indicted, or ran afoul of those "2nd Amendment People." Sanders, on the other hand, had issues to run on, and wound up totally bypassing the party's donor network. But Biden, for instance, gave up a huge structural advantage -- the last four sitting VP's who ran (Nixon, Humphrey, Bush, Gore) easily won their party's nomination -- rather than oppose Clinton. Maybe this inevitability wasn't explicit -- and, sure, it never extended to a guaranteed win over any Republican -- but before the Sanders campaign kicked in as a real possibility even I was pretty much reconciled to Hillary being the nominee. The clincher for me was reading that she expected to raise more than a billion dollars for the race. Not even the Kochs were promising that much.
I don't know what Bob's second sentence means -- seems like a victim of Twitter compression. I disagree that Sanders "lost big." Clinton won a solid 56% of the votes, a surprisingly lame showing given her initial advantages in recognition, money, and party organization, and over time she had to move notably toward Sanders' positions to stay competitive. As for attack ads, sure, neither candidate waged a scorched earth campaign, with Sanders being especially generous in waving off any concerns about her email controversy. Clearly, neither candidate wanted to split or weaken the party against the Republican nominee, but also both realized that the sort of gross slanders the Republicans use were unlikely to gain any traction among Democratic voters.
Still, I don't see any point about the general election one can draw from this. We don't know whether Sanders would have been buried under a full-throated "red smear" attack, but we do know that Clinton has suffered a great deal from endlessly repeated attacks on her honesty and integrity, and that those issues have made it harder for her to gain from Trump's same (in many ways more blatant) faults. Back during the primaries many Clinton supporters argued that she was more electable than Sanders -- that she had been "vetted," having withstood the very worst the Republicans could do to her -- whereas they feared that Sanders would be ground to dust like Henry Wallace in 1948. All Sanders supporters could counter with were actual polls showing him doing better against most Republicans (but especially Trump) than she would do. All I can say is that she's turned out to be more compromised and more vulnerable than any of us expected.
Sure, "blow" is my word, and true, she's only blown her lead (about 5-6 points at post-convention peak), not the whole race. Even today she might still win, and there's still way too much time left until votes are cast. She's sitting on a lot of money, which has yet to blanket the airwaves, and perhaps more importantly organize that "ground game." The election will ultimately hinge on how many people (and who) show up and vote. Obama excelled at that in 2012, while he let the Democrats flail in 2010 and 2014 -- an instance of selfishness at the top of the ticket that her husband practically invented.
But what's different this time is Americans' Distaste for Both Trump and Clinton Is Record-Breaking. Motivation to vote this year largely hinges on who you detest the most. As the chart shows, back in March/April Trump was significantly more disliked than Clinton (looks like about 54% vs. 37%, the two highest figures going back to 1980). In The race is tightening for a painfully simple reason, Matthew Yglesias notes that her favorable/unfavorable poll split is now 42-56% ("truly, freakishly bad" -- chart here). Sure, Trump's is even worse, 38-59% (chart here), but has been relatively steady while her ratings have dipped, and being the "hate" candidate he's uniquely positioned to take advantage of her disapproval.
Still, steering the campaign toward personal character issues isn't very smart when only 3% of the electorate view you less unfavorably. Of course, they're doing it because they realize how shady and shabby a candidate Trump is, but also because they don't understand how exposed Clinton appears to an electorate that is so sick of and disgusted by Washington's culture of corrupt insider favors. If they keep going down this path they're going to wind up reprising Edwin Edwards' winning campaign slogan when he ran for governor of Louisiana and was fortunate enough to draw KKK honcho David Duke as his opponent: "Elect the crook. It's important."
But there is an alternative, which is to refocus the campaign on left-right economic issues, and appeal to the vast majority's sense of economic justice (and pocketbooks). There's so much mud in the water people will believe whatever they want about character issues, but there's no way to spin Trump's policies into something that helps a popular majority. Still, more important than persuade the occasional Trump fan to switch sides is to convince everyone else that they have much more at stake than stroking Hillary's vanity.
FiveThirtyEight still gives Hillary a 60% chance of winning, wtih slim leads both in popular vote (46.5-44.3%) and electoral votes (289-249). They show Trump having gained the lead in four states that had previously been in the Democratic column: Florida (51.6%), North Carolina (54.6%), Ohio (57.6%), and Iowa (61.8%). Trump would have to hang on to those four, plus pick up Nevada (48.5%) and/or New Hampshire (36.1%) to win. Trump's next closest states are Colorado (34.5%), Pennsylvania (30.6%) and Wisconsin (30.4%). The actual percentage spreads are much closer, with Clinton leading by 3.7% in Wisconsin, 3.4% in Pennsylvania, 2.8% in Colorado, 2.8% in New Hampshire, and 0.3% in Nevada, whereas Trump leads by 0.2% in Florida, 0.7% in North Carolina, 1.3% in Ohio, and 2.2% in Iowa.
It's also worth noting that she runs worse in four-way polls (i.e., the real world) than head-to-head against Trump, which is to say that when restricted to an either-or choice, more people who dislike both see Trump as the lesser evil. Johnson is polling about 9%, and Stein 2.7% -- as Yglesias notes Stein is actually doing better than Nader did in 2000. Clinton has had a problem all year long in that even when she had a big lead she was never able to crack 50% nationwide.
 Before Biden, the only sitting VP since 1952 who didn't run for his party's nomination under the circumstances was Cheney, who took a rather perverse pride in his unelectability, and whose favorable ratings as the 2008 election approached were down around 9%, about half of Bush's. (In 1952 Truman VP Alben Barkley briefly ran, but withdrew due to considerations about his age  and failing health.) Sure, three of the four lost, but by very close margins. Offhand, I can't recall an open Democratic primary with less than five candidates. This year, the Republicans came up with sixteen -- evidently nearly every billionaire in the party felt entitled to field his own jockey, with Trump somehow gaining extra street cred for running himself. The Democratic Party may be at a disadvantage, but they're not that short of billionaires, but they all made a calculated decision not to cross the Clintons -- even though they saw eight years ago that she could be beat, and should have known that she'd be even more vulnerable this time.
Monday, September 12. 2016
Music: Current count 27128  rated (+38), 374  unrated (+5).
Fairly ordinary week here. I've mostly been looking for recent jazz beyond what's come in the mail. I don't think there's any non-jazz this week (aside from a Haitian comp that has Jazz in the title). Wound up playing many of the downloads I had been sitting on, including ECM's Peter Erskine (really John Taylor) box, and grabbed some older records while failing to find newer ones. Most turned out to be fairly unremarkable, but I did turn up two A- records fronted by saxophonists I've long enjoyed, one retro and one avant.
I suppose the focus on jazz has been a side effect of starting a project to turn my old Jazz Consumer Guide columns into some sort of, well, I call it Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century: A Consumer Guide. I wrote 26 Jazz Consumer Guide columns for the Village Voice from April 2004 to May 2011 (archived here), self-published a 27th column in December 2011, and had a draft file open for a 28th. I managed to squeeze a little more than 1000 records into those columns, and I've collected all that writing in a Libre Office Writer file -- using default page and style formats it comes to 144 pages. Probably the best way to view it is as a PDF file, so I've set up a page you can use to download it.
The page has a form which asks for some questions before you download. I thought it might be nice to keep a count of how many times the file has been downloaded, and to collect some basic information, but the latter is strictly voluntary. I'm not sure, even, that I'll use any collected email addresses, but they would make it possible to interact more in the future. At 144 pages, the book is far from realizing the ambitions of its title. But I still have a lot more writing I can slide into the manuscript: starting with the 7th column in December 2005 I kept two extra files with extensive working notes ("Prospects" and "Surplus"), covering everything I listened to but didn't include in JCG. After that I posted Jazz Prospecting and Streamnotes, so I've done a fairly good job of covering new jazz from 2004 to present. There are also reviews in Recycled Goods columns from 2003 through 2013, and a few other scattered reviews (in Static Multimedia and the Village Voice).
Thus far I've collected about half of the Prospects/Surplus files, some 330,000 words. Maybe half of that is redundant either with itself or with the published drafts, and what's left needs to be edited more compactly. Still, I expect that when I've done that -- what I call "stage two" -- the manuscript will more than double in size. Then on to "stage three" picking up the post-2011 drafts, which will almost certainly add a like amount.
I'm less sure about "stage four," which involves trying to fill in important albums I missed -- most obviously from 2000-04 but also later. Perhaps that's why I've been focusing more on jazz lately. It's beginning to seem like I may have something tangible to show for what in recent years has often felt like a colossal waste of time.
Not that I'm looking for sheer bulk, but any attempt to cover even just the highlights of jazz records since 2000 is bound to be massive: a quick check of my Music Database shows that I have listings for 9920 jazz albums where my earliest recording or release dats is 2000 or later. Some of those I haven't heard or rated -- about 10% of post-2000 artists (369/3773) -- so I could wind up expanding the current 144 pages by a factor of something like eight (to 1152 pages). I'm not sure I'm up for all that, but the hard part of the job has already been done.
Would appreciate any feedback on the book project.
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:
Sunday, September 11. 2016
When I woke up this morning, I didn't have the slightest notion that today was the 15th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda hijackings that brought down the World Trade Center. It's not that I don't remember waking up in a Brooklyn apartment fifteen years ago, looking out the window to see blue skies with a toxic white streak across the middle, emanating from the still-standing towers. I looked down and watched tired people trekking east with the subway system shut down. We watched the towers fall on TV. We saw interviews with John Major and Shimon Peres about how Americans now know what terrorism feels like, barely containing their gloating. We went out for lunch in an Arab restaurant not yet covered in American flags. That was a bad day, but also one of the last days before we went to war. For make no mistake: Bin Laden may have wanted to provoke the US into an act of war, but Al-Qaeda didn't start the war. That was George W. Bush, with the nearly unanimous support of Congress, to the celebration of vast swathes of American media. They made a very rash and stupid decision back then, and much of the world has been suffering for it ever since. Indeed, Americans less than many other people, as was shown by my ability to wake up this morning without thinking of the date.
OK, so this is a typical day's news cycle in this election: Hillary Clinton commits a run-of-the-mill gaffe: Clinton Describes Half of Trump Supporters as 'Basket of Deplorables', by which she means "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it." Sort of true, but you're always on shaky ground when you start making generalizations about arbitrary groups of people, but that didn't stop her from making an appeal to the other half: "people who feel that government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures . . . Those are people who we have to understand and empathize with as well." Of course, coming from her that all sounds smug and condescending and, let's be realistic here, pretty hollow.
Of course, the Trump campaign tried to make what they could of this, partly because they don't have anything real to offer. Still, what did they focus on: well, putting people into baskets, of course. First, there was Pence Blasts Clinton: Trump Backers 'Are Not a Basket of Anything', then there's Trump Campaign Goes After Clinton for 'Basket of Deplorables' Remark. One thing for certain, you can't slip a metaphor past these guys. But they also have a point, which is that when you start dividing people into arbitrary groups and making gross generalizations about them you dehumanize and disrespect them -- and that is as true of the "other half" as it is of the "deplorables." (Contrast Trump's own description of his supporters: "millions of amazing, hard working people.")
Of course, in the Kabuki theater of American politics, every insult demands an apology, so whether she would or should not became the next anticipated story. Josh Marshall fired off This Is Critical: Hillary Can't Back Down, arguing:
Clinton, of course, immediately apologized; see Clinton Regrets Saying 'Half' of Trump Backers Are in 'Basket of Deplorables', where she conceded, "Last night I was 'grossly generalistic,' and that's never a good idea. I regret saying 'half' -- that was wrong." In other words, she admitted to a math error, realizing (unlike Marshall) that it doesn't matter how many Trump supporters are racist, sexist, etc. -- a point she made clear enough by repeating "deplorable" a many times in the next paragraph, all directed squarely where they belong, at Donald Trump. She also said, "I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. As I said, many of Trump's supporters are hard-working Americans who just don't feel like the economy or our political system are working for them."
She still needs to find an effective way to communicate that, especially to people who are conditioned not to believe a single thing she says, who view her as deeply corrupt, part of a status quo system that is rigged against everyday people. Needless to say, these are problems that Bernie Sanders wouldn't be having.
PS: Just when Trump was enjoying this news cycle, this story pops up: Crazed Trumper Assaults Muslim Women in Brooklyn. I guess there are some Trump supporters who are . . . well, isn't "deplorable" a bit more polite than they deserve? Also note: Trump: Clinton Could 'Shoot Somebody' and Not Be Prosecuted. Trump previously said, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?" What's this obsession he has with shooting people?
Five-Thirty-Eight currently gives Clinton a 70.0% chance of winning, with a 3.5% edge in the popular vote and 310-227 in electoral votes. Iowa, which had a recent poll showing Trump leading, has inched back into Clinton's column, and she's less than a 60% favorite in North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Nevada. Meanwhile, the only red states where Trump is less than an 80% favorite are Arizona (65.7%), Georgia (73.0%), and Alaska (79.9%).
Some scattered links this week:
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Monday, September 5. 2016
I didn't get around to writing up a Weekend Roundup yesterday. I was working on something else (more below) and, as I tweeted last night, I've really gotten sick and tired of this election and its dominance of the news cycle. At least we had a fairly serious earthquake to distract us: about 100 miles south of Wichita, in near Pawnee OK, a town I've occasionally driven through, noting the red sandstone building in the center of town that is now ruined. We were woken with about a minute of ominous shaking, but aside from a few knick-knacks tumbling we were spared any damage. Oklahoma's state government responded to the 5.6 earthquake, the worst in the state's history, by ordering that 37 waste water injection wells be shut down (out of 4200 in the state).
In case you haven't been following the story, up until around 2006 Oklahoma suffered an average of two small (3.0) earthquakes per year. Since then the numbers have increased astronomically, to over 900 (3.0 and higher) last year. These directly correlate with waste water injection -- not the same thing as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which also injects toxic fluids deep into the earth -- a practice which has increased dramatically over the last decade. (Probably due to Obama's coddling of the oil and gas industry, not something he gets credit for nor that he brags about, but his administration has reversed decades of declining oil production, mostly by increasing the yields of older, largely depleted oil patches like Oklahoma's.)
No earthquake this morning (at least nothing above 4.0 -- I've arranged to get USGS notices whenever one strikes in Oklahoma or Kansas). Instead, when I got up today, my wife told me that Twitter was all abuzz about recent pieces claiming that Hillary Clinton was being done dirty by the New York Times -- notably, Paul Krugman: Hillary Clinton Gets Gored, and Josh Marshall: You Failed, Chumps. As it happens, I had already flagged two precursor pieces for Weekend Roundup: Katherine Krueger: NYT Scrambles to Rewrite Botched Story on Trump's Immigration Speech, and Annie Rees: In NYT's Hillary Clinton Coverage, An Obsession With 'Clouds' and 'Shadows'. As someone who's never been a fan of the New York Times, I don't find any of this surprising. It's inevitable that reporters will shade their limited view of the facts with prejudices, including desire to please the corporate hierarchy above them, and the editors who assign and select and (let's face it) edit their stories are one step closer to the moneyed power that runs their world. So with Trump flailing, of course they'll cut him slack on scandals that dwarf any hints of Clinton wrongdoing. And they certainly won't point out the more basic difference: that while Clinton stands accused of using her influence to help other people ("pay to play") the only person Trump has ever sought to help was himself.
Still, I wouldn't get all that gloomy about the Times' double standards. The right has made hay for decades by attacking the biases of the "liberal media" -- the New York Times serving double duty, first as an icon of the former, then as a source of legitimacy and validation when they cower to the right (e.g., in their promotion of the Iraq War, or more recently in their adoption of the Clinton Cash book). In doing so they've stolen a page from the Earl Weaver management handbook: always argue with the umpires; even when you lose today it makes a bit more likely to give you the next call. In retrospect it was crsystal clear that the mainstream media spun story after story for Bush and against Gore in 2000. I think that's a tendency that is inherent in their trade, and you see it happening all over again for Trump and against Clinton. So I can't blame Krugman, Marshall, et al., for raising a stink -- Earl Weaver would do no less.
But what I do blame Krugman, Marshall, et al., for is their earlier claims that Clinton has already "been vetted" -- that, unlike Bernie Sanders, she has already faced the worst smear campaigns the right can throw up, and has overcome them. Really? If she had really withstood them, she wouldn't be stuck with negative favorability ratings all year long, and she wouldn't be unable to crack 50% against Donald Trump in any nationwide poll. Moreover, she's not just facing the old Whitewater and Benghazi charges, which were whipped up from practically nothing. Her problem today is relatively new stuff, things a smart person running for president should have known better than. While I think her private email server is utter crap, the basic thrust of Peter Schweizer's lurid bestseller -- Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, published with the New York Times' blessing in May 2015 -- is basically true. Indeed, the Clintons themselves validated it when they released their tax returns, showing a $12 million annual income from a skill set consisting of little more than shaking hands and giving speeches.
Sure, you can argue that the Clinton Foundation isn't doing anything different than, say, GW Bush's Foundation -- both are basically receptacles for delayed graft for the many favors both presidents showered on their backers -- but one difference is that Laura Bush isn't running for president (and Jeb, not that he ever came close, isn't obviously connected), so only the Clintons have set themselves up for selling graft futures. Maybe that wasn't the intent, but her decision to run made the Foundation inevitably look like a giant political slush fund, and she's never had the credibility to overcome that. That fact is, having set up the Foundation, she shouldn't have run. Too bad the 22nd Amendment didn't also bar the spouses and children of presidents from running. After all, wasn't a major point of the Revolution of 1776 to put an end to aristocratic rule?
To give you an idea of how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton is, see Barry Blitt's Polls: If the Election Were Held Today . . . cartoon. I'm not denying that we're stuck with her. The alternative is Donald Trump, and he is clearly the greater evil in every respect I can reckon, including measures of personal character and integrity that I think are overrated. I wouldn't even say that she's the "lesser evil" -- I'd say she's objectively 'not bad" in a good many respects (admittedly a big one, war, is not one of those). I'll be pleased if she wins, and saddened if she doesn't. But one thing I don't need is another 90 days of wealth-squandering least-common-denominator campaigning to sway my mind. Like, I think, most sentient Americans, I'm settled. Now, please, shut up.
Music: Current count 27090  rated (+34), 369  unrated (-1).
I've been having a lot of trouble thinking of things to listen to, although the list below is still pretty substantial. I finished looking up all the new jazz albums in Downbeat's Readers Poll ballot. Final tally is that I've listened to and rated 165 of 186 (88.71%) nominated albums, adding 53 albums since filling out the ballot. The remaining 21 by label: High Note/Savant: 7, CAM Jazz: 2, 1 each for 12 other labels (notably Anzic, ArtistShare, Cuneiform, Dark Key, Destiny, Fuzzy Music, Nessa -- at least those are the ones I've heard of). I should probably see whether Joe Fields is willing to turn service back on. The final grade tally: [A-] 18, [***] 31, [**] 47, [*] 41, [B] 16, [B-] 8, [C+] 1, [C] 1, [C-] 1. The grade curve bent slightly lower as I added more records, but last week's batch did reveal one more A- record, by Omar Sosa.
Done with that, I scrounged around a few other lists. I checked out several Scandinavian jazz releases that Chris Monsen likes: Anna Högberg, Moskus, Hanna Paulsberg, Rønnings Jazzmaskin; also, less impressively, Monsen's non-jazz favorites: Bent Shapes, Cobalt, White Denim. I checked out a couple of well-regarded recent rap albums -- De La Soul, Young Thug -- the former is a favorite of my nephew, but I had trouble focusing on it. Also liked Britney Spears, recommended by Robert Christgau -- his other pick, Tegan and Sara's Love You to Death, was an A- here back in July.
Still boycotting All Music Guide. For all its problems, that's taking a toll on my ability to find information necessary for reviewing records off streaming services. One thing I did use last week, for the first time in several years, was Spotify. Hard to search, and I rather hate the user interface, but I found two records there that had eluded me on Napster (Rhapsody): Anna Högberg: Attack and Waco Brothers: Going Down in History. Both came highly recommended, got two plays, and wound up high-B+. But by and large I'm not finding much there that's not already available on Napster, so I'm not convinced I need to pay up yet.
That project I mentioned above: I've started assembling all of my old Jazz Consumer Guide columns into reference book form, using a wysiwyg word processor (Libre Office) instead of my usual hand-coded HTML. I've finished sorting the 27 columns (26 from the Village Voice), a little more than 1000 records from 2004-11, which with default formats runs 120 pages -- looks a lot like this index. A few decisions to date: I've decided to separate the individual artist and group records, and to pull the pre-2000 archival material out into an appendix at the end. I've changed the grade scale to 1-10, with A- at 8 (but I've generally nudged pick hits up to 9), so B is at 4 and the lower grades are mushed together.
This is part of a broader project to collect my writings and recast them as a series of books -- this is the third I've opened, but the only one so far I've put much writing into. Working title is Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century: A Consumer Guide. Like the Jazz Consumer Guide, it mostly consists of nugget-sized reviews and one-liners. I expect to add a brief biographical intro to each artist/group, which will allow me to cut some redundancies out of the reviews. Then the much larger task will be to go through my thousands of other reviews -- the oldest prospect and surplus notes, Jazz Prospecting, Recycled Goods, and Rhapsody Streamnotes -- and pick out records worth mentioning and recast them into form. Then there's the question of what's missing and should be added. I'm thinking it would be nice for the project to span two decades, 2000-2019, although obviously I'm missing a few year fore and aft. Also not sure how much more work I want to put into this, so I may consider the option of recruiting a collaborator to finish it off. But it's pretty clear from looking at what I got so far that I've already put in most of the work, and that I can offer a wider-ranging survey of contemporary jazz than pretty much anyone.
When I clean things up a bit, I figure the next step will be to post a PDF and solicit comments. More on that later.
By the way, Michael Tatum's latest brilliant A Downloader's Diary is archived here. I'm pleased to provide an archive and indexing for all of his columns.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, August 29. 2016
Music: Current count 27056  rated (+36), 370  unrated (+11).
Published Streamnotes last week, so most of the finds (4 of 5 pictured albums) are already known to you. I wrote there about catching up with the Downbeat Readers Poll albums ballot, and I've continued doing that -- only eleven more that I haven't looked up, so I'll probably finish this week, even if that means listening to Yellowjackets. Of course, that leaves 20 records I tried finding on Rhapsody (and often on Bandcamp) but failed. Of those, the ones I most miss are the HighNotes/Savants (JD Allen, Kenny Burrell, George Cables, Joey DeFrancesco, Tom Harrell, Jeremy Pelt, The Power Quintet) and Roscoe Mitchell's Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa). I'll publish a revised grade breakdown when I hit the bottom of the list. Needless to say, the curve has been edging down, with only the George Coleman and David Murray records (ones I picked off on the first day) joining the A-list.
I got a letter from Oliver Weinding, who runs Babel Label and the Vortex Jazz Club in London, a while back, noting he's putting on a series of showcases for Intakt artists and mentioning my review of "the Lucas Niggli album" -- that would be Kalo-Yele, which I filed under the first name, Aly Keita, a balafon player from Côte D'Ivoire. That, by the way, is still my top-rated record this year. Don't know whether this will result in me getting any physical mail, but I'll point out that Babel's catalog is pretty much all on Bandcamp, and I think their material is well represented on Napster. I've long associated the label with guitarist Billy Jenkins, who I credit with five A- records and one full A: 1998's True Love Collection. I wanted to give you the Bandcamp link, but there doesn't seem to be one, and to top that it's out of print. Basically '60s cheese ("Mellow Yellow," "Everybody's Talking," "Feelin' Groovy," "Sunny," "Dancing in the Streets," with avant twists connecting it all together, including terrific work by Django Bates and Iain Ballamy. It's on my all-time list. Meanwhile, the Paul Dunmall record is here.
More bad web news: I gather that Spin is shutting down its review section, starting by firing staff reviewers including Dan Weiss (check him out here). Back when I followed webzines better, Spin had one of the more reliable and adventurous review sections anywhere, including more hip-hop than any other non-specialist source. Supposedly Spin will limp on doing news and features, but even when I bought whole copies of their print magazine I rarely read anything but reviews -- I really don't know what else they have to offer. Weiss is so knowledgeable and so prolific I expect he'll land somewhere else, but those opportunities are vanishing -- and not just because people like me are too cheap to pay for professional work ("content-providers" get squeezed from both directions).
Unpacking picked up this week with nearly everything I received actually scheduled for September or October release. But part of the reason for the uptick is that I went ahead and added six releases I received today -- I usually hold Monday's mail for the following week.
PS: Just noticed Michael Tatum has a new Downloader's Diary.
New records rated this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, August 28. 2016
Not very happy with all that follows, let alone all that I haven't gotten to, but it looks like there's enough to chew on for now. Latest odds at 538 show Clinton as having slipped to a 80.9% chance of winning as Georgia and Arizona have tilted back in Trump's favor. Clinton's big problem is that she's still unable to crack 50% of the popular vote -- seems like an awfully flawed, weak candidate given that all she has to beat is Trump, and he's pretty handily beating himself. I suspect the media deserves much of the blame for normalizing and legitimizing Trump, and also for tarring Clinton with an endless series of silly scandals -- the biggest eye-opener for me was to discover that GW Bush's Foundation, even with no prospects of future dynasty, has been raking in even more money than the Clinton Foundation. While I don't doubt the corruption inherent in the latter, I find it curious that no one ever mentions the former. Matt Taibbi attacked the media this year in a piece called The Summer of the Shill, lamenting especially the partisanship of news channels like Fox and MSNBC, where one airs nothing but Hillary "scandals" and the other little but Trump "gaffes." Still, it's not clear to me that the quality has dropped much since Taibbi wrote up his brilliant Wimblehack series in 2004 (cf. his book Spanking the Monkey), and at least there's more parity now. Still, I guess you have to make do with the candidates you got.
Some scattered links this week:
Thursday, August 25. 2016
Mostly jazz records this month, plus a few Christgau picks (Konono No. 1, The Kropotkins, Leland Sundries, Lori McKenna, Dawn Oberg, Walter Salas-Humara, Mestre Cupijó, Joi, Pylon, Senegambia Rebel). I only count two new records that are exceptions: Atmosphere and Hieroglyphic Being -- artists I somehow noticed and checked out based on previous reputation. (Had I done more scouting Dan Weiss might have scared me off Atmosphere, but having played the record twice before finding his review, all he accomplished was to get me to do an extra sanity check spin -- as far as I'm concerned the record passed.)
The new jazz is probably more mainstream than usual. My own mail queue continues to dwindle (or perhaps the seasonal lull in August is just exceptionally severe this year) so probably for the first time since I folded Jazz Prospecting into Streamnotes most of the new jazz records below were downloaded or streamed. But what makes them more mainstream than usual is that I spent most of my time looking for records on Downbeat's Readers Poll ballot that I hadn't heard (74/186 at the time, or 39.79%). I've knocked more than a third of that list off (27 by my running count), and I'll probably get close to 50% before I run out of records available on my streaming service (Napster, formerly Rhapsody). That list did get me to two of the best jazz releases of the year -- tenor saxophonists George Coleman and David Murray -- records I wasn't previously aware of but gravitated to the first day I started scouring that list. Still, in the month since nothing else has proven even remotely as good -- my other streamed A- new jazz records (by Paul Dunmall and Paal Nilssen-Love) weren't on the Downbeat ballot.
The recent compilations section has a couple sets I hadn't heard about but looked interesting: some Africana (Penny Penny, Sunburst), proto-electronica (Close to the Noise Floor). The new Lovano record got slotted there because the tape is 10+ years old. Senegambia Rebel is probably all new, but I decided to file all various artist compilations there -- not sure that's been a consistent standard, but it's one for now.
Old music is mostly tangential to new music. The Peter Kuhn was a belated discovery after I reviewed his old and new music last month. Ellery Eskelin is on the new Stephan Crump album, and he has a new album on Hatology I couldn't find -- instead I came up with an old one I had missed. Barbara Dane and Lori McKenna have good new albums. I didn't get very far with Chucho Valdés, but at least knocked off one of my ungraded CDs -- probably just a bookkeeping error since it wasn't on an ungraded shelf.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody (other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on July 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (8483 records).
Greg Abate & Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio: Kindred Spirits: Live At Chan's (2014 , Whaling City Sound, 2CD): Two alto saxophonists, backed by pianist Ray's trio with John Lockwood (bass) and Mark Walker (drums). Woods, who died at 83 thirteen months after these sets, got his start running errands for Charlie Parker, but the 16-years-younger Abate may be the even more resolute bebopper. B+(**)
Joey Alexander: My Favorite Things (2014 , Motéma): Pianist, born Josiah Alexander Sila in Bali, Indonesia in 2003, so that makes him like eleven years old when he recorded this debut, starting with 10:15 of "Giant Steps," 8:13 of "Lush Life," and 4:15-6:50 takes of six other standards plus an original named "Ma Blues" ("inspired" by "Moanin'"). He's joined by adults on bass and drums, and a bit of trumpet on one piece. I'm little inclined to credit prodigies, but this is a pretty enjoyable set of mainstream jazz. B+(**)
Karrin Allyson: Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (2015, Motéma): Jazz singer from Kansas, has been working the songbook hard since 1992. Blandly sung, backed rather sparely by Kenny Barron on piano and John Patitucci on bass. B
Livio Almeida: Action and Reaction (2014 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist from Brazil, studied (and presumably lives) in New York, part of Arturo O'Farrill's sextet. This taut, professional postbop was produced by O'Farrill, with sons Adam (trumpet) and Zack (drums), plus Vitor Gonçalves (piano), and Eduardo Belo (bass). B+(*) [cd]
Atmosphere: Fishing Blues (2016, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Underground rap duo from Minneapolis, nothing fancy in the beats, just enough to move it along; nothing fancy anywhere else either, just slice-of-life shit that may be him or may be some other fictional dude, but one no more exciting than he be. Typical lines: "I'm not perfect but I try"; "I might be unprepared but I still be here." And yeah, a song about fishing. A-
Audio One: The Midwest School (2014, Audiographic): Another large Ken Vandermark ensemble -- 10 pieces, Chicago locals, sax heavy (Vandermark, Mars Williams, Dave Rempis, Nick Mazzarella), with cornet (Josh Berman), trombone (Jeb Bishop), viola (Jen Paulson), vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), bass (Mick Macri), and drums (Tim Daisy). Pieces by Julius Hemphill, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and (best of all) AEC's "Theme De Yoyo." B+(**) [bc]
Karlis Auzins/Lucas Leidinger/Tomo Jacobson/Thomas Sauerborn: Mount Meander (2015 , Clean Feed): Of course, the group name is Mount Meander -- nothing else on the spine, and the individual names are barely legible on the cover. Respectively: tenor/soprano sax, piano, double bass, drums. Recorded in Denmark. Ambitious compositions, pushing limits, they don't always pay off but produce more than a few fine moments. B+(***) [cd]
Lucian Ban Elevation: Songs From Afar (2014 , Sunnyside): Pianist from Transylvania (modern day Romania), home of three trad songs here (one "sorrow" and two "wedding"), sung with much drama by Gavril Tarmure. The band members merit their front cover billing: Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Hébert (bass), and Eric McPherson (drums), with Mat Maneri (viola) added on 5 (of 9) tracks. The 7:02 solo piano piece in the middle is only one of several things that slow this down. B+(*)
Peter Bernstein: Let Loose (2016, Smoke Sessions): Guitarist, been recording since the early 1990s, his sweet tone and long-lined grooves always a nice touch on other people's albums, but maybe not quite enough to carry his own. With Gerald Clayton on piano, Doug Weiss on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums, a good example of what he's good at. B+(*)
Jim Black Trio: The Constant (2015 , Intakt): Terrific drummer, has played in numerous important groups -- just to pick a couple, Dave Douglas's Tiny Bell Trio, Ellery Eskelin's Trio, Tim Berne's Bloodcount -- has a dozen or so albums on his own. This is a piano trio, his songs, Elias Stemeseder on piano, Thomas Morgan on bass. Snappy material, especially around the edges. B+(***) [cd]
Black Top: #Two (2014 , Babel): Avant-jazz duo with Pat Thomas on piano and Orphy Robinson on drums, either likely to switch to a wide range of electronic gadgets. On their first album they were joined by saxophonist Steve Williamson, so here they go with another guest, saxophinst Evan Parker. Recorded live. The electronics are sketchy, but the piano breaks up time in interesting ways, and it doesn't take Parker long to jump ahead of the learing curve. B+(***) [bc]
Carate Urio Orchestra: Ljubljana (2015 , Clean Feed): Seven-piece group based in Antwerp, Belgium, probably led by Sean Carpio (drums, guitar, voice), with several musicians I've run across before -- Joachim Badenhorst (clarinets, sax), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Frantz Loriot (viola). Complex, some voice (which doesn't help), passages that fade into ambience and others that rise up grandly. B+(*) [cd]
Teri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul (2015, Concord): Drummer, has a wide range of jazz credits going back to 1984 but she veered into R&B for her 2011 Mosaic Project album, and returned here. Very long credits list, but nearly all of the voices and musicians are female (I see one cut with Billy Dee Williams listed as narrator). The ever-changing guest vocalists give this an air of anonymity. B+(**)
George Coleman: A Master Speaks (2015 , Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, still remembered primarily as the guy who preceded Wayne Shorter in the Miles Davis Quintet, but he was a master -- his 1991 album My Horns of Plenty is an all-time favorite -- and at 80, recording his first album since 2002, he still is. Classic sax quartet, with Mike LeDonne pacing him splendidly on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and George Coleman Jr. on drums. A-
Cortex: Live in New York (2015 , Clean Feed): Norwegian avant-jazz quartet -- Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer Alberts (saxophones), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- second album on Clean Feed, may have more but share no relationship I can find with the 1975-79 French avant band Cortex. They can really kick up a storm, making this relatively short live album (35:38) pretty huge. A- [cd]
Larry Coryell: Heavy Feel (2014 , Wide Hive): Guitarist, a fusion pioneer with more than one hundred albums since Chico Hamilton introduced him in 1966. Quartet, produced by Gregory Howe (who has a hand in 4/9 songs), with soprano sax (George Brooks), electric bass (Matt Montgomery -- also credits for 4/9 songs), and drums (Mike Hughes). Fusion, wouldn't call it heavy but not light either. B+(*)
Stephan Crump: Stephan Crump's Rhombal (2016, Papillon): Bassist, ten or so albums since 1997, I especially like his knack for mixing the bass up so it balances evenly with the other instruments -- harder to do here in a two-horn quartet, but he manages it nonetheless. With Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). A- [cd]
Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . . (2016, Dreadnaught Music): Folksinger, born in Detroit in 1927 of parents who migrated north from Arkansas, moved to San Francisco in the 1950s. I've long regarded her 1959 Anthology of American Folk Songs as a classic, and vaguely recall her longstanding political activism -- her recording career petered out in the early 1970s with FTA! Songs of the GI Resistance and I Hate the Capitalist System -- but wasn't aware she wrote songs with Lu Watters, cut albums with Lightnin' Hopkins and the Chambers Brothers, or one called Livin' With the Blues (with Earl Hines, Benny Carter, and Shelly Manne). She's 88 now, thanks Mose Allison's "My Brain" for getting hers back to work, and her voice has aged fine. Hall's piano trio turns her into a jazz singer, guest harmonica and sax flesh out the blues. Starts with Memphis Minnie, then Leonard Cohen, Abbey Lincoln, Paul Simon, then gets more personal, and political, and/or corny. When she sketches out her dream society and asks "What Kind of Country" that would be, "socialism" is so obviously the answer she doesn't need to mention it (or Bernie). A- [cd]
Kris Davis: Duopoly (2015 , Pyroclastic): Avant-pianist, from Canada, has a dozen or more albums since 2003 establishing herself as a major figure. Duets here with eight partners -- guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, also Don Byron (clarinet) and Tim Berne (alto sax) -- one tune and one shorter free improv each. All interesting, but Byron and especially Berne are most compelling. Comes with a DVD encrypted so I can't play it on my computer (may be my problem, but not one I feel up to dealing with). B+(***) [cd]
Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence (2015 , Clean Feed): Drums and trumpet duo, Dickey mostly associated with Matthew Shipp since the late 1980s. Usual caveats about avant duos apply, but hard to fault the interplay. B+(***) [cd]
Paquito D'Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics (2012 , Paquito/Sunnyside): Cuban-born clarinetist, played in the famous group Irakere there but fled in 1981 to US, recording 55+ albums since then. I passed on this one for obvious reasons -- not least the cover image of six guys dressed up like 19th century plantation owners and martinets. Those are presumably the band, with Diego Urcola (trumpet), Alex Brown (piano), electric bass, drums, and percussion (Arturo Stable). The repertoire is mostly Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin with one piece from Ernesto Lecouna, all served con clavé, which helps. B
Paquito D'Rivera & Quinteto Cimarron: Aires Tropicales (2012 , Paquito/Sunnyside): Another trawl through classical music Cuban style. The Quinteto Cimarron is a group of Cuban expats based in Spain, a classical string quintet (adds contrabass to the usual two violins, viola, and cello), with only the leader's clarinet to spice things up. Starts with five of D'Rivera's pieces then wanders off through more or less obscure Cuban composers (I assume -- I only see one piece by a member of the Quintet). B-
Paquito D'Rivera/Armando Manzanero: Paquito & Manzanero (2016, Paquito/Sunnyside): Manzanero is a Mexican pianist and singer, composer of some 400 songs, now 80. These are his songs, played by the clarinetist's sextet, and he adds his fragile but romantic croon to a few. B+(*)
Paul Dunmall/Matthew Bourne/Steve Davis/Dave Kane: Mandalas in the Sky (2013 , Babel): Avant-sax quartet, with the leader on tenor and flute, plus piano, drums, and bass respectively. Dunmall remains focused throughout, and the stretch where he sits back and lets the piano take over demands our attention too. A- [bc]
Oran Etkin: What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (2015, Motéma): Clarinetist (regular and bass), so of course he's been thinking about Goodman. But he starts with a "Prelude" that doesn't allow any measure of swing, and only sporadically rectifies that -- even his cheery, bouncy "King Porter Stomp" only swings in passing. With Sullivan Fortner (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), Matt Wilson (drums), and Charenee Wade singing two tunes. B+(***)
Sullivan Fortner: Aria (2014 , Impulse!): New Orleans pianist, won a prize and jumped straight to the big leagues for his debut -- not that Universal's Verve group (mostly dba Impulse! these days) actually releases enough, in the US anyhow, to still qualify. The operatic title spooked me away, but turns out this is a very solid sax quartet, with Tivon Penticott on tenor (and soprano), Aidan Carroll on bass, and Joe Dyson on drums. B+(***)
Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance! (2016, Mack Avenue): Alto saxophonist, one of the major mainstream figures of the 1990s, with Coltrane the obvious influence. Tries for funky here, but no matter how upbeat he keeps it, he can't shake postbop convention, even when he brings in those hippity-hop rappers. B+(*)
Wycliffe Gordon: Somebody New (2015, Blues Back): Mainstream trombonist, more than two dozen albums since 1996, leads the Lexington, Kentucky-based DiMartino/Osland Big Band here -- founded by Miles Osland (alto sax) and Vince DiMartino (trumpet, but I don't see a credit for him here). The band swings, and Gordon turns out to be a pretty fair singer (e.g., "Basin Street Blues"). B+(**)
Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet: Family First (2015, Beat Music Productions): Drummer-led sax quartet, all members fairly well known: Jason Rigby (sax), Shai Maestro (piano), Chris Morrissey (bass). Postbop, fast ones hold up pretty well, slow ones less commanding. B+(**)
Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House (2013 , Whirlwind): Filed on Napster by "Joel Harrison Octet," but I only count the expected five musicians: Harrison (guitar), Cuong Vu (trumpet), Paul Hanson (bassoon), Kermit Driscoll (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) -- Harrison and Blade also credited for voice, so presumably they're responsible for "Some Thoughts on Kenny Kirkland." MVP is the trumpeter. B+(*)
Cory Henry: The Revival (2016, Ground Up): Organ player, first album, live, sings a bit and has a drummer backing but that's it. Reminds me how ugly solo organ can be, but every now and then comes up with something to make me forget. B-
Hieroglyphic Being: The Disco's of Imhotep (2016, Technicolour): Chicago house producer Jamal Ross, has a real flair for beats, strong again here until he fizzles a bit near the short end. Nine tracks, 33:56. B+(***)
Charlie Hunter: Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth (2016, Ground Up/Decca): Seven-string guitarist, has close to twenty albums since 1995, some with even longer titles, offers a fair approximation of Scofield groove but is more likely to deviate into avant and/or rockish territory. Here he leads a quartet more dominated by horns -- cornet (Kirk Knuffke) and trombone (Curtis Fowlkes) -- with frequent collaborator Bobby Previte on drums. Fave piece is a bit of smeared trombone funk. B+(***)
Grace Kelly: Trying To Figure It Out (2016, Pazz Productions): Alto saxophonist, born Grace Chung in 1992, I first noticed her as a 15-year-old co-leading a pretty good album with Lee Konitz, and recently in Jon Batiste's Late Show band. This one is all over the map with guests who help and some who don't, but she mostly seems to be aiming for something in Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project's bailiwick. B+(*)
Stacey Kent: Tenderly (2015 , OKeh): Singer, originally from New Jersey but based in England, has close to twenty albums since 1997, sings standards here (including one from Brazil), backed primarily by Roberto Menescal's guitar, with Jeremy Brown on bass and husband Jim Tomlinson on flute and tenor sax. Her voice is well suited to this low key approach. B+(***)
Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus (2012 , ECM): Japanese pianist, Discogs lists 19 albums since 1970, died in 2015 leaving this solo set as his final testament. B+(*) [dl]
Kirk Knuffke: Lamplighter (2014 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Cornet player, has been prolific since 2008, including six records on Steeplechase I haven't heard. Avant, but rather thin, sketchy, slippery, with Stomu Takeishi on bass and two percussionists. B+(**)
Konono No. 1/Batida: Konono No. 1 Meets Batida (2016, Crammed Discs): Batida is Pedro Coquenão, a DJ born in Angola and based in Lisbon, Portugal, with two albums on Soundway (I recommend the eponymous 2012 Batida). He probably adds something here, but the band's home-brewed Congotronics rule. A-
The Kropotkins: Portents of Love (2015, Mulatta): Named for the Russian anarchist, fourth album since 1996 if we count the eponymous debut, credited at the time to avant-violinist (and sometime banjoist) Dave Soldier. Current lineup includes co-founder Jonathan Kane (snare drum), Lorette Velvette (vocals), Charles Burnham (violin), and Moe Tucker (drums), doing a hillbilly/blues thing several times removed. B+(**)
Steffen Kuehn: Leap of Faith (2015-16 , Stefrecords): Trumpet player, fourth album, funky little thing although the band, with four horns, guitar/keyboards, extra percussion, and various guest stars (best known Bob Mintzer) is more than ample. B+(*)
Zach Larmer Elektrik Band: Inner Circle (2016, self-released): Guitarist, based in Miami, first album, electric keyboards and bass leaning toward funk, but his guest spots for horns up his game -- John Daversa on trumpet and EWI, even more so Brian Lynch on trumpet and Aldo Salvent on tenor sax. B+(*) [cd]
Le Boeuf Brothers + JACK Quartet: Imaginist (2014 , Panoramic/New Focus): The brothers are Pascal (alto sax) and Remy (keyboards), their group including Ben Wendel (tenor sax) and bass and drums. JACK is a string quartet. The first three cuts show some slippery promise, but then comes the long "A Dream" where the strings go classical and Paul Whitworth narrates something about "Josef K." Closes with another extended instrumental set in much the same vein. B- [cd]
Steve Lehman: Sélébéyone (2016, Pi): Alto saxophonist, Anthony Braxton student, has had a couple records of the year (and not just in my book: Mise en Abime topped the Jazz Critics Poll). Goes for something else here, with HPrizm rapping and Gaston Bandimic singing in Wolof, rhythms borrowed from hip-hop and mbalax then freed up some more by drummer Damion Reid. I really don't know what to make of it, but I do love the shifty in-between music, with Maciek Lasserre's soprano bouncing off the alto, Carlos Homs' keyboards, and Drew Gress holding it all together on bass. A- [cd]
Leland Sundries: Music for Outcasts (2016, L'Echiquier): Brooklyn band led by singer-songwriter Nick Loss-Eaton -- thought the name sounded familiar but couldn't find any further discography until AMG credited him with publicity on a Bruce Springsteen album, and I found some saved mail from him hawking albums by artists I don't recall at all. First album after a couple EPs, will appeal to Americana fans but strikes me as much bigger and bolder, though I'm not sure that adds up to better. B+(***) [bc]
Joey Locascio: Meets the Legend (2016, Blujazz): No hype sheet, promo doesn't identify any credits. When I got it, I assumed this must be pianist Joe LoCascio, but I have my doubts now: websites don't indicate any previous records and no one but me seems to have filed this under the pianist. He sings here, and I've seen a picture of him playing guitar. "The Legend" seems to be organ player Joey DeFrancesco. He starts with a parody called "Joey's a Tramp" and rarely strays far from caricature. B+(*) [cd]
Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (2015 , Mack Avenue): The Detroit-based jazz label has been showcasing their roster at their hometown festival since 2012. The lineups vary from year to year, this one featuring Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Tia Fuller (alto/soprano sax), Kirk Whallum (tenor sax), Christian Sands (piano), Christian McBride (bass), Gary Burton (vibes), and Carl Allen (drums). Hotter than average mainstream, main takeaway is to be reminded of how much talent Whallum wastes on his own albums. B
Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2014 , Mack Avenue): Bassist, earned his headline credentials in the hard bop revival of the early 1990s, leads a trio with Christian Sands on piano and Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums. Sands is fast, flashy, boppish -- put his name on this group and he'd be more famous, but if he had to hire another bassist his group wouldn't be as good. B+(**)
Lori McKenna: The Bird & the Rifle (2016, CN/Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter from the country side of Massachusetts, writes good songs and sings them right. Title cut sounds like a case for gun control and an explanation why it isn't happening. A-
Merzbow/Keiji Haino/Balasz Pandi: An Untroublesome Defencelessness (2016, RareNoise): Electronics, guitar and more electronics, drums, resulting in better than average fusion thrash. B+(**) [cdr]
Camila Meza: Traces (2016, Sunnyside): Singer and guitarist from Chile, based in New York, band has jazz credentials -- Shai Maestro (piano, keyboards), Matt Penma (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums), Jody Redhage (cello), Bashin Johnson (percussion) -- but the songs, most in Spanish but some in English, don't swing much. B
Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Otis Was a Polar Bear (2016, Royal Potato Family): Drummer-led sextet, built around the brilliant quartet from her first album -- Myra Melford (piano), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Todd Sickafoose (bass) -- with the addition of two horns: Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Ben Goldberg (clarinet). Terrific group, with spots of dazzle but also patches that don't. B+(**)
Modular String Trio: Ants, Bees and Butterflies (2014 , Clean Feed): Sergiy Okhrimchuk (violin), Robert Jedrzejewski (cello), Jacek Mazurkiewicz (contrabass, electronics), but there's also a less obvious, unexplained credit: Lukasz Kacperczyk (modular synth). I'm not all that fond of chamber jazz, for for that matter string ensembles, but these plucky abstractions hold my interest. B+(***) [cd]
Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (2015 , Motéma): That's David Murray (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Geri Allen (piano), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) -- "Power Trio" would have been redundant had they just spelled out those names. I missed this, and passed up Murray on my latest ballot because I hadn't heard anything by him since 2013. My bad. A-
Quinsin Nachoff: Flux (2012 , Mythology): Tenor saxophonist, has a couple albums, this one adds a second sax (David Binney on alto), plus piano (Matt Mitchell) and drums (Kenny Wolleson) but no bass. Jittery postbop, impressive as far as it goes. B+(**) [cd]
Aaron Neville: Apache (2016, Tell It): Unmistakable voice, a New Orleans legend and then some, still mostly generic songs -- exception is the closer, "Fragile World," which I'm tempted to call cosmic but it's actually so down to earth. B+(**)
Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit: Ana (2015 , PNL): Fourteen-piece ensemble, short on horns (two reeds, one trumpet, one trombone, two tubas), long on percussion including Latin and African specialists, electronics, guitar, two basses, no piano. Three longish pieces, many remarkable passages with blaring horns over electronic squiggles and all sorts of complex rhythm. A- [bc]
Nine Live: Sonus Inenarribilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (2016, Mulatta): Clark is a French horn player with a handful of albums from 1980-2003, his side credits including four Gil Evans albums. He wrote the music here, conducted by Thomas Carlo Bo, and is credited with "horn." Group leans toward classical instrumentation, with strings (violin-viola-cello), clarinet, bassoon, keyboards, and 7-string electric bass. B [cd]
Northern Winds and Voices: Inside/Outside (Sisällä/Ulkona) (2016, Edgetone): Sub: "Finnish music imagines in new ways." The other name on the cover is Heikki Koskinen, who plays piano, flutes, kantele, and electric trumpet ("e-tpt"). Steve Heckman and Rent Romus play various reed instruments, Noah Schenker bass, and Kati Pienimaki Schenker sings (mostly in Finnish). Despite the jazzbos, still pivots on folk/classical foundation, often lovely, sometimes arch. B+(*) [cd]
Dawn Oberg: Bring (2015, Blossom Theory): Christgau split an EW post between her catalog and rapper DejLoaf's, no doubt relishing the contrast. I gave a respectful nod to her 2012 album Rye but not a second spin, so missed whatever literary quirks sold him on the album. I note here big words and twisty melodies -- Wikipedia lists her genres as "cabaret, jazz" -- but the only songs I get are the one hooked with "suck" and the super-obvious "Republican Jesus" -- sharpest political song I've heard in years. Nine songs, 27:38. B+(***)
Adam O'Farrill: Stranger Days (2016, Sunnyside): Trumpet player, son of pianist Arturo O'Farrill, grandson of arranger Chico O'Farrill, has a couple albums as The O'Farrill Brothers with brother Zack O'Farrill (drummer here), but this is the first under his own name. Quartet with Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (tenor sax) and Walter Stinson (bass), moving formidably away from the family's Afro-Cuban roots, leaning slightly to the avant side of postbop. B+(**)
Arturo O'Farrill Sextet: Boss Level (2013 , Zoho): Cuban-American pianist, actually born in 1960 in Mexico in between countries, but grew up in the family trade -- his father was a famed big band arranger -- and has two sonns in his group: Adam on trumpet and Zack on drums. Also Livio Almeida (tenor sax), Travis Reuter (guitar), and Shawn Conley (bass). Seems intent on pushing boundaries here, no matter how often they trip him up. B+(*)
Nils Økland Band: Kjølvatn (2012 , ECM): Norwegian violinist, also plays viola d'amore and hardanger fiddle, has a dozen or so albums since 1986. Backed by saxophone, harmonium, double bass (Mats Eilertsen), and percussion/vibraphone, none adding more than tinges to the brooding strings. B+(**)
Francisco Pais Lotus Project: Verde (2016, Product of Imagination): Guitarist from Portugal, has a couple previous albums. This one has Myron Walden (tenor sax), Godwin Louis (alto sax), Julian Shore (piano), Connor Schultz (bass), and Ferenc Nemeth (drums). Mixed bag, including some shifting rhythmic interest but also a couple of rather ordinary Pais vocals. B+(*) [cd]
Aaron Parks/Thomas Fonnesbaek/Karsten Bagge: Groovements (2014 , Stunt): Pianist from Seattle, was kind of a big deal in 2008 when his debut album, after work with Terrence Blanchard, landed on Blue Note. Picked up this bassist and drummer in Copenhagen, and they fit like a glove. B+(**)
Sergio Pereira: Swingando (2016, self-released): Brazilian guitarist, based in US after a decade in the Netherlands, sings some, band includes some top names: Helio Alves (piano), Nilson Matta (bass), Duduka de Fonseca (drums). B+(*) [cd]
Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley (2016, Blue Note): Jazz singer, songwriter too I presume, fourth album since 2011, highly regarded if you believe the polls. Has a nice rich baritone and doesn't indulge in the tics and idiosyncrasies that I find so annoying in male singers, yet he always strikes me as an empty shell, puffed up and vacuous. So again and again, just when I think this isn't so bad I notice that it's still pretty dumb. B-
Herlin Riley: New Direction (2016, Mack Avenue): Drummer from New Orleans, only his third album although he has dozens of side credits since 1985, especially with Ahmad Jamal and Wynton Marsalis. With Bruce Harris (trumpet), Godwin Louis (alto/soprano sax), Emmet Cohen (piano), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Russell Hall (bass), Pedro Martinez (congas). Often flashy, but the thing I most related to was the leader's home town vocal at the end. B+(*)
Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (2014 , NoBusiness): Chicago avant-bassist, has a few albums of his own and more with other Chicago players, many of whom he rounded up for his octet: Josh Berman (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Keefe Jackson (tenor/soprano sax, contrabass clarinet), Greg Ward (alto sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Mike Reed (drums). The rhythmic foundation is always shifting, and the horns sway to and fro or just shoot out in odd directions, a universe in perpetual turmoil. B+(***) [cd]
Roji: The Hundred Headed Woman (2016, Shhpuma/Clean Feed): Basically a duo, with Gonçalo Almeida (bass and loops) and Jörg A. Schneider (drums) laying down an avant-noise foundation, and guests Susana Santos Silva (trumpet) and Colin Webster (baritone sax) joining for three tracks each (out of seven). B+(***) [cd]
Jim Rotondi: Dark Blue (2015 , Smoke Sessions): Mainstream trumpet player, sixteen albums since 1997, all on labels that specialize in that sort of thing. With Joe Locke (vibes), David Hazeltine (piano), David Wong (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). B+(*)
Jerome Sabbagh/Simon Jermyn/Allison Miller: Lean (2014 , Music Wizards): Tenor sax trio, Sabbagh also plays soprano, with Jermyn on electric bass and effects, Miller on drums and more effects. Sabbagh, originally from France, has a half-dozen albums, started postbop but never got too comfortable there. B+(**) [cd]
Walter Salas-Humara: Work: Part One (2015, Sonic Pyramid): Singer-songwriter, has mostly worked in the long-running alt-indie band the Silos, also associated with a band I remember more fondly, the Vulgar Boatmen, but he's kicked out a couple solo albums -- one in 1988, another in 1995, more recently. This seems to be new "acoustic" versions of old 1980s-vintage songs, with Richard Brotherton's guitar/dobro/banjo/mandolin, Mary Rowell's violin/viola, and Amy Allison's "supporting voice." B+(**)
Walter Salas-Humara: Explodes and Disappears (2016, Sonic Pyramid): New songs, clear and straightforward, easy-going and catchy. B+(***)
Susana Santos Silva/Lotte Anker/Sten Sandell/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Jon Fält: Life and Other Transient Storms (2015 , Clean Feed): Trumpet player from Portugal, saxophonist from Denmark, piano-bass-drums from somewhere in Scandinavia. Two long pieces, joint improvs at Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland, pretty much an ordinary day in the life of the European jazz avant-garde, including no short amount of complex and exhilarating. B+(***) [cd]
Ches Smith: The Bell (2015 , ECM): Drummer, with Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola) also listed on the cover but after the title, hence my parsing. Smith wrote all the pieces. ECM's Manfred Eicher has a knack for making free jazz sound like easy listening: no sharp edges here, the viola sounding typically weepy, but occasional patches sound compelling. B+(*) [dl]
Luciana Souza: Speaking in Tongues (2015, Sunnyside): Brazilian jazz singer, dozen albums since 1998, this one backed by Lionel Loueke (guitar), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), Massimo Biolcati (bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums), her tongues Portuguese, English, and scat -- I suspect mostly the latter. B
Bill Stewart: Space Squid (2014 , Pirouet): Drummer, close to a dozen albums since 1995. With Seamus Blake (tenor/soprano sax), Bill Carrothers (piano), Ben Street (bass). Surprisingly soft for Blake, but the piano has some bite. B+(*)
Stirrup: Cut (2016, Clean Feed): String-driven avant trio: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, guitar), Nick Maori (double bass), Charles Rumback (drums). Seems pretty straightforward: propulsive beat, string drone, easier on guitar but the cello has more bite. A- [cd]
Markus Stockhausen/Florian Weber: Alba (2015 , ECM): Trumpet player, son of famed avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, leads with flugelhorn here, in duets with the pianist. Eloquent, serene, very lovely. B+(***) [dl]
John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues (2012-15 , Origin): Guitar and alto sax (plus some piano), backed by bass (John Shifflett) and drums (Jason Lewis). Pair have had several albums together, and Stowell has a long career in jazz guitar. Flows easy, lyrical and tasteful. B+(**) [cd]
Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life: Nihil Novi (2016, Blue Note): Saxophonist, initially a tenor who also played a pretty mean soprano but he spreads out here to alto and bass clarinet, and sings some too. His group has spread out too, starting as a power trio and now up to five or six plus guests including singers and narrators and producer (and sometime bassist) Meshel Ndegeocello. Jean Baylor's songs rarely rise above nu soul, the band favoring soft funk, with the saxophone rarely rising above the groove. B-
Sundae + Mr. Goessl: Makes My Heart Sway (2016, self-released): Goessl is guitarist Jason, who provides minimal but adequate backing for standards singer Kate Voss, who treats songs like "Young at Heart" and "After You've Gone" with respect, as if they're fragile. (Exception: "Pretty Little Thing.") B+(**) [cd]
Chucho Valdés: Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac) (2015, Jazz Village): Phenomenal Cuban pianist, founder in 1973 of the popular group Irakere, which continues to be led by his son, Chuchito, while he's moved on, but here takes a reflective look back. Hard to judge on limited tracks and info, but it's hard to top his piano solos. [NB: based on 3/6 cuts, 23:17/69:38] B+(**)
Marlene VerPlanck: The Mood I'm In (2015, Audiophile): Standards singer from Newark (née Pampinella, married trombonist Billy VerPlanck for fifty-some years until his death in 2009), has recorded since 1955 with one of her best 2014's I Give Up, I'm in Love. She's past 80 now, though the only indication I hear of that is that she's picking more obscure songs, bringing them vibrantly to life. With Andy Panayi (sax/flute), Mark Nightingale (trombone), John Pearce (piano), Paul Morgan (bass), and Bobby Worth (drums). B+(***)
Miroslav Vitous: Music of Weather Report (2010-11 , ECM): Czech bassist, a beneficiary of that good old Communist focus on classical music, finagled a scholarship to Berklee in 1966, dropped out and headed for New York where he was toasted as a jazz prodigy, falling in with the crowd that turned into fusion supergroup Weather Report -- a group I must admit I've never developed any real fondness for, but which, given his age, he could easily recall as the high point of his life. He looked back in 2009's Remembering Weather Report, and again here, although he also wants to nudge the music in directions both more avant and classical, in effect to rewrite history in his own image. He doubles up at soprano/tenor sax (Gary Campbell and Roberto Bonisolo) and drums (Gerald Cleaver and Nasheet Waits), and he occasionally sets aside his bass to help Aydin Esen out on keyboards. B+(**) [dl]
Charenée Wade: Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson (2015, Motéma): Jazz vocalist, first album, bites off a group of songs with lyrical, political power and more than a little quirk. Perhaps a bit too respectful, but worth rehearing this way. B+(***)
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Joe Castro: Lush Life: A Musical Journey (1954-66 , Sunnyside, 6CD): Bebop pianist (1927-2009), born in Arizona, grew up in Bay Area and worked there and in Hawaii before moving to New York in 1956, recorded three albums there before moving back west. Doesn't seem like an especially significant figure -- my only prior reference to him was Zoot Sims with the Joe Castro Trio Live at the Falcon Lair, recorded in 1956 but released on Pablo much later. Lacking the booklet, I have to wonder why Castro doesn't play on one full disc ("Joe Castro's Friends: The Teddy Wilson Jam Sessions") and 4 (of 12) cuts on another (an previously unreleased album by the Teddy Edwards Tentet). High points include fine small group sessions with Stan Getz, Lucky Thompson, Sims, and/or Edwards. B+(**)
Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Musical Monsters (1980 , Intakt): Recorded at Willisau in north-central Switzerland, hence the all-Swiss rhythm section, the headliners playing trumpet and alto sax. Danish-born Tchicai joined the New York avant-garde in the mid-'60s, picking up a pronounced Ayler influence (and shout), while Cherry started out with Ornette Coleman and went global. Impressive piano too, and terrific work from Favre. A- [cd]
Close to the Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984 (1975-84 , Cherry Red, 4CD): Mostly obscure -- I recognize maybe 10 names out of 61, and only a couple of those count as famous -- this runs closer to what we used to call new wave, with side glances into industrial and proto-noise, than to what later emerged as electronica, and not just due to minimal danceability. Booklet probably adds some historical value, and this may provide a starting point for exploring various paths. B+(*)
Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo: Siriá (1973-78 , Analog Africa): Brazilian band led by an alto saxophonist, hails from somewhere in Brazil's Amazonian backwaters (Cametá), far enough from the coastal cities that the music here bears more likeness to Colombian cumbia (or even salsa) than to bossa nova or even forró, and better than average cumbia at that. I don't see where anyone says so, but this looks to have been compiled from four 1973-78 albums, including one called Siriá and another Siriá Siriá. A-
Joi: Joi Sound System (1999-2007 , RealWorld, 2CD): Originally two British brothers, Farook and Haroon Shamsher (mother from India, father from Bangladesh), mixed strong electronic dance beats with occasional Bengali spices on their 1999 debut album, released the year Haroon died. A second album in 2001 started with field recordings Haroon had made before his death, and a third album appeared in 2007. This compilation is a "best-of," although at this length they couldn't have left much out. A-
Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis: Enfances 8 Janv. 1984 (1984 , Fou): Alto sax, bass, trombone (and toys), all very rough, with Léandre singing some, if that's what you want to call it -- operatic screech is more like it, but at least it blends into the general chaos rather than towering above it. B+(*) [cd]
Joe Lovano Quartet: Classic! Live at Newport (2005 , Blue Note): Major tenor saxophonist, the reigning guy in Downbeat's polls, his annual albums have slowed down a bit lately with nothing from the studio since 2012, and now this vault item. With Hank Jones (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums), doing three originals, two songs by the pianist's brother Thad, and one from Oliver Nelson. Solid outing, of course, especially strong finish, and it's nice to hear the late pianist again. B+(***)
Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy (2007-14 , PNL, 7CD): Sax-drum duets, McPhee often switching off to pocket trumpet. The first was previously released in 2008 as Tomorrow Came Today: I gave it an A- at the time, and still find it remarkable, but I don't really have the patience to sort out the rest -- three from Norway 2007-08, two Milwaukee 2012-14, one Chicago 2012, and one Japan 2013. Suffice it to say that the closer you pay attention, the more you'll be dazzled. [Available individually as downloads.] B+(***) [bc]
Penny Penny: Shaka Bundu (1994 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): First album from the Shangaan star, a Tsonga from northeast South Africa, near the Mozambique border, recorded just after the Apartheid regime fell. Bouncy enough, the chorus packed behind the singer, but not exactly awesome. B+(**) [bc]
Pylon: Live (1983 , Chunklet): Athens GA band, not as much fun as the B-52s nor as tuneful as R.E.M. but a proximate missing link, issued their best album (Chomp) the same year as this live set. Don't recall it clearly enough to compare, but this strikes me as leaner, common in live recordings of the period. B+(***)
Senegambia Rebel (2016, Voodoo Rebel): Filed this under African VA compilations, which it is at first glance, but the various artists are mostly European remixers, the African input limited to field samples that are given beats so primitive and so very complex they belong to Africa, and could only really be at home there. A- [dl]
Sunburst: Ave Africa: The Complete Recordings 1973-1976 (1973-76 , Strut): Tanzanian group, lead singer from Zambia, issued their only LP in 1973 (Ave Africa), collected here with various singles and radio tapes -- there also seems to be a "limited cassette" with early demos. Key instrument is organ, which gives it something of garage rock feel. B+(*)
The Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come: The Best of the Chamber Brothers (1966-71 , Columbia/Legacy): Soul group, started out in a Baptist choir in Mississippi, relocated to Los Angeles in the 1950s, finally put an album out in 1965 and scored their only top-20 hit in 1968 ("Time Has Come Today"). Nothing essential here: two singles edits of their hit, a better one called "Funky," a 10:25 live "Wade in the Water." More rock than soul, more limited but similar to the Isley Brothers. B+(**)
Barbara Dane: Trouble in Mind (1957 , Stardust): First album, all blues -- six (of ten) so titled -- backed by San Francisco Dixielanders, with trumpet (Pete Stanton), trombone (Bob Mielke), clarinet (Darnell Howard), piano (Don Ewell), and bass (Pops Foster) but no drums. Seems slightly off, although Maria Muldaur later built a career along these lines -- more jug band, no clarinet, but it's the latter I like best. B+(*)
Barbara Dane/Earl 'Fatha' Hines and His Orchestra: Livin' With the Blues (1959 , Fresh Sound): Not the famous big band Hines had given up but a septet of all stars (except for the two trombonists): Benny Carter (trumpet), Plas Johnson (tenor sax), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), Shelly Manne (drums). The pianist is hard to mistake, but the band plays tight behind a singer who only adds something beyond a fine voice to the songs -- "Why Don't You Do Right" is the standout. B+(**)
Barbara Dane: On My Way (1962 [2013, Fresh Sound): The original Capitol cover adds: "soul, shoutin' and the blues . . . the exciting voice of Barbara Dane." Another jazz group, this one led by cornetist Kenny Whitson, with piano, bass, guitar, bass, drums, and congas -- no one I've heard of -- with background vocals by the Andrews Sisters ("of Berkeley"). Kind of splits the difference between the Dixielanders and the All-Stars. Helps that the songs are more varied, although "The Hammer Song" and "Mama Don't Allow No Twistin'" go a bit too far. B+(***)
Barbara Dane & Lightning Hopkins: Sometimes I Believe She Loves Me (1961-65 , Arhoolie): Five cuts previously released on the back side of a 1966 Hopkins album, fifteen more that had to wait three decades for the CD era. Includes some solo Dane in her folkie mode, but the best cuts are balanced with Hopkins' sly drawl. B+(**)
Barbara Dane/The Chambers Brothers: Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers (1966, Folkways): Soul group, started out in a Baptist church choir in Mississippi before moving to Los Angeles, and would have a minor hit in 1968 and fade by 1972. A church singer herself, she finds common ground in gospels and civil rights anthems. B+(*)
Barbara Dane: FTA! Songs of the GI Resistance (1970, Paredon): Dane and husband Irwin Silber started their own label in 1970, putting aside all political inhibitions. She recorded this in coffee houses near army bases in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, eliciting a fair amount of sing-along, even for the line about "Viva Che Guevara." B+(***)
Barbara Dane: I Hate the Capitalist System (1973, Paredon): Politically abrasive folk music, singer and guitar, augmented by guests on a few cuts which hardly change the tone. The title song, written by Sara Ogan Gunning, is awkward as you'd expect. Moves on to more conventional folk themes, including two songs with "Massacre" in the title. B+(*)
Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Arcanum Moderne (2002 , Hatology): Tenor sax trio, one of several albums they put together from 1996-2009 establishing Eskelin as one of the finest avant saxophonists of the time. Parkins plays accordion as well as piano, and is credited with sampler, many options for filling out the sound. A-
Don Ewell Quartet: Man Here Plays Fine Piano (1957, Good Time Jazz): A stride pianist, played with many trad jazz bands including a stint with Jack Teagarden from 1956 to 1962. Quartet adds Darnell Howard (clarinet), Pops Foster (bass), and Minor Hall (drums). Songs are good ole good uns, from "Everybody Loves My Baby" to "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now." B+(**)
Don Ewell: Denver Concert (1966 , Storyville): Singer Barbara Dane featured on the cover, but the original album was built around three medleys with just piano and bass: one each from Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Hines, and Fats Waller. Barbara Dane joins in for songs like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" -- the extra cuts added to the CD all feature her. B+(**)
Irakere: The Best of Irakere (1978-79 , Columbia/Legacy): Cuban band, a pioneer in Afro-Cuban folkloric/jazz fusion, founded in 1973 by pianist Chucho Valdés, they managed to get two US albums released on Columbia before Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval defected. They are combined here, minus one song from Irakere and two songs from 2 -- at least the first one a live concert tape. They showcase a wide range of looks, some quite remarkable. B+(***)
Peter Kuhn Quartet: The Kill (1981 , Soul Note): Clarinetist (B flat, bass), the last of several albums Kuhn recorded before his long hiatus (ended in 2015), with Wayne Horvitz (piano, synthesizer), William Parker (bass), and Denis Charles (drums). Four pieces, the 22:59 title cut filling the second side, a tour de force. A-
Leland Sundries: The Foundry EP (2012, L'Echiquier, EP): Six songs, 24:38, lacks the big sound of the new album, but that lets the singer-songwriter come through clearer. B+(**)
Lori McKenna: Paper Wings and Halo (2000, Orchard): Folkie debut, girl with guitar and fifteen songs, an austere sound that burrows into your brain because her words and voice have a rough-hewn eloquence. B+(**)
Lori McKenna: The Kitchen Tapes (2001 , Gyrox): Demos recorded in her kitchen on a minidisc recorder with "a cheap little microphone and my notebook, filled with a writing binge." B+(*)
Lori McKenna: Pieces of Me (2001, Signature Sounds): Second album, bigger label, evidently more budget as I hear some piano, but the key thing is the songwriting, real and vivid. Not sure more listening wouldn't bump this a notch. B+(***) [bc]
Lori McKenna: Bittertown (2004, Signature Sounds): Seems like a step back to a harsher sound, but maybe that's just playing up the whole bitter thing. B+(**)
Lori McKenna: Massachusetts (2013, Liz Rose Music): Christgau counts six "fairly astonishing" and six "more country-generic" songs, and offhand I'd say that's about right. B+(***)
Chucho Valdés: Live at the Village Vanguard (1999 , Blue Note): Quartet, which for the Cuban pianist means you get an extra percussionist, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, on conga and bata drums, as if the piano wasn't percussion enough. Also credits Marya Caridad Valdés with "vocalization" -- she sings one number, impressively. A- [cd]
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:
Dawn Oberg: Rye (2012, Blossom Theory): Still cannot credit her singer-songwriter fare as jazz, but the writing is sharp (if bookish), her piano strong, her voice kind of odd, which fans may come to celebrate. [was: B+(*)] B+(***)
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:
Monday, August 22. 2016
#^d 2016-08-22 #^h Music Week
Music: Current count 27020  rated (+24), 359  unrated (+2).
Spent much of last week trying to pull yesterday's Book Roundup post together, barely scratching up my quota (40) although I still have a dozen tabs open with more books, and those will lead to even more. Still, I imagine we'll have to wait for September/October to get a new batch. I didn't find any of this batch compelling enough to order, although I gave some thought to Barbara Ehrenreich's progeny -- Ben Ehrenreich (The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine) and Rosa Brooks (How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon), David Daley's Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, Steve Fraser's The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America. I might have added new books by Thomas Piketty and Jeremy Scahill, but they mostly remind me that I still haven't read older (and probably more important) books by them (Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, both sitting patiently on my shelf).
On the other hand, I've already discovered that I missed two books by James K. Galbraith: Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016, Yale University Press), and Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press). I do intend to pick both of them up soon, and maybe also Joseph Stiglitz' The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016, WW Norton). It's not so much that I feel a need to bone up on these subjects -- I think I understand the Euro issues pretty well (although I don't know much about the supposedly labrinthine EU bureaucracy), and I've been on record that increasing inequality is the main political problem of our time. Actually, I think I'll learn more about inequality from the Euro books, as it seems to me that Europe has, at least in terms of economic issues, been turned as far to the right by globalizing business interests (code name: neoliberalism) as the US, albeit without nearly as much focus on wrecking security nets as here -- although that's likely to change as inequality increases, and the code name there is austerity; Britain, for instance, avoided the Euro trap, but suffered a politically self-induced recession anyway).
Rated count isn't anything to brag about, especially given that nearly half of it came from a deep dive into Barbara Dane's discography, and I didn't come up with anything I'd missed there nearly as good as her Anthology of American Folk Songs (1959) or her surprising new one, Throw It Away. Don Ewell and the Chambers Brothers were side trips from Dane. I also thought about taking a dive into Chucho Valdés after listening to somewhat less than half of his 2015 album, Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac), last week, but didn't get very far. I actually saw him live here shortly after we moved to Wichita -- the Village Vanguard album from the same period has long sat on my unrated shelf, and I'm sorry to say it doesn't quite live up to the memory, not that it isn't quite some show.
The other new A- record this week is from Atmosphere, a Minnesota alt-rap duo I've been habitually giving high B+s to ever since their 1997-2002 A- streak (Overcast!, Lucy Ford, God Loves Ugly). I wrote it up after two spins, then was taken aback to find Dan Weiss panning it (4/10) in Spin, so much so that I replayed it from the second cut ("Ringo" -- Weiss calls it "terribly unfunny" and says it "might be the worst song they've ever made"). Still, the extra play only reinforced my initial impressions. (The album actually has mixed reviews -- 71/6 at etacritic, favorable reviews at AV Club and Exclaim, another pan at Pitchfork -- latter doesn't bother me at all.) Still not sure I didn't underestimate their 2014 album Southsiders, which Weiss likes and Christgau gave an A- to, but I gave them both basically the same shot. But that could also be said of their many in-between albums -- I've heard 10 overall, but have missed a couple along the way.
Wasn't clear from Christgau's review of Mestre Cupijó, but it looks to me like the 2014 record is a compilation based on four 1973-78 LPs. Sounds to me closer to Colombia than to Brazil, but that's partly explained by geography, and possibly also by its vintage. I haven't heard The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz yet, or any of Christgau's other recent world music picks (although I do have a download of Senegambia Rebel awaiting my attention).
Good chance I'll go ahead and post Streamnotes sometime this week rather than waiting for the tail end of August. Currently have 101 records in the draft file, including 16 A-. Perhaps a bit long on jazz since I've mostly been picking unserviced, previously unheard records off Downbeat's album ballot. Will be glad to see August gone, although here at least it's been pretty mild compared to past years (hint: grass is still green).
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:
Sunday, August 21. 2016
Time for another collection of 40 short notes on recent books -- my modest attempt to keep track of what's being published primarily in the fields of politics, history, economics, and social science (not that other personal interests don't slip in occasionally). These are mostly gathered by trolling around Amazon, checking my "recommended" lists, following up on cross-references, reading (and occasionally quoting) the hype, blurbs, sometimes even reviews. Few of these books I have any in-depth knowledge of, so they hardly constitute reviews. Last batch of these came out on July 7, before that April 26.
Christopher H Achen/Larry M Bartels: Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (2016, Princeton University Press): Political scientists argue against the conventional view that voters make rational political choices by pointing out how their views at least as much shaped by primordial identities, a hint of what's become obvious as the red-blue divide has gone beyond analysis and prescription to selective embrace of facts. Still, title suggests something more, like pointing out how these distortions have opened up opportunities for politicians to do things contrary to the positions they adopt when campaigning. Those things are mostly favors for special interests -- favors that wouldn't stand a chance if "representatives" were actually responsive to voter views.
Mehrsa Baradaran: How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy (2015, Harvard University Press): "The United States has two separate banking systems today -- one serving the well-to-do and another exploiting everyone else." Actually, I doubt the "well-to-do" are served all that well either, but the "payday lenders" and "check cashing services" that people frozen out of the legit banking system deserve a harsher word than "exploiting." Baradaran advocates a "postal banking" system that would provide minimal cost banking services to everyone.
Samuel Bowles: The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens (2016, Yale University Press): Lectures -- I imagine this poised against the Thaler/Sunstein notion of nudges which assumes that wise managers can concoct incentives that lead seemingly free economic actors to do good deeds, although he could be countering the older laissez-faire conceit that markets miraculously do good on their own. It was, after all, no coincidence that the new vogue for Friedman, etc., in the 1980s was accompanied by rejection of public interest and a coarsening of civil concern.
Rosa Brooks: How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon (2016, Simon & Schuster): Law professor, New America Foundation fellow, married a Green Beret, was a "senior advisor at the U.S. State Department" and "a counselor to the US defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011," but also daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, one of America's finest lefty journalists: I'm not sure how all that adds up (blurb suggests: "by turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry"), or whether. An excerpt I read pushes a Walmart analogy way beyond ridiculousness, especially in assuming that the military, like Walmart, produces tangible and desirable (albeit shoddy and ethically dubious) goods. The military has, for instance, become the only big government institution beloved by conservatives out to discredit all other big government. Part of this is that, as Brooks points out, it crowds out saner alternatives, yet that's not just successful lobbying from organized interest groups -- an important group of Pentagon boosters simply don't want sane.
Noam Chomsky: Who Rules the World? (2016, Metropolitan Books): Another essay collection, so not wholly devoted to the title question -- probably just as well, as there's no good answer. Still likely to include his usual rigorous accounting of US misbehavior in the world (one chapter is "The US Is a Leading Terrorist State"). Other recent Chomsky titles I haven't noted before: How the World Works (paperback, 2011, Soft Skull Press); On Anarchism (paperback, 2013, New Press); Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013 (paperback, 2014, Haymarket Books); What d Kind of Creatures Are We? (2015, Columbia University Press); On Palestine (with Ilan Pappé, paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books); Because We Say So (paperback, 2015, City Lights); also several reprints of older books (mostly from Haymarket Books), and the DVD Requiem for the American Dream.
Stephen S Cohen/J Bradford DeLong: Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy (2016, Harvard Business Review Press): An argument that history is key to understanding how the American economy grew, and a compact history of government intervention in the American economy going all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.
David Cole: Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law (2016, Basic Books): Points out a number of cases where Supreme Court rulings merely formalized changes in public opinion brought about by political activism -- sample cases include marriage equality and the individual right to bear arms, but it isn't hard to think of more cases, including the 1930s reversal on New Deal programs.
David Daley: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (2016, Liveright): Title evidently a technical term coined by a Nixon operative to boast about some of the "dirty tricks" used to tilt the 1972 presidential election his boss's way, but is generalized here to cover the story of how the recent deluge of GOP-leaning money has helped that party to gain political power way beyond what you'd expect in a representative democracy. Gerrymandering is one not-so-secret aspect of this. Lesser known is the REDMAP project -- especially how the Republicans targeted state legislatures -- that opened up so many opportunities to stack the deck.
Charles Derber/Yale R Magrass: Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society (2016, University Press of Kansas): Not just schoolyard bullying, but we live in a society that increasingly lets the rich and powerful bully the poor and weak, that prizes wealth and power, treats their lack as a personal disgrace. These are all consequences of inequality, but they also correlate with the US stance as the world's superpower, the one nation that is free to tower over and bully all others. This is one book that seems to get all that: "The larger the inequalities of power in society, or among nations, or even across species, the more likely it is that both institutional and personal bullying can become commonplace."
Dan DiMicco: American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness (2015, St. Martin's Press): Former CEO of Nucor, "the largest and most profitable U.S. steel company" although as far as I an tell they mostly melt down and recycle in non-unionized plants far from America's old Rust Belt. Recently DiMicco was named to Trump's economic advisory board, with the strategic word "Greatness" hinting this book might be a blueprint for Trump's agenda. Still, I doubt there's anything new here: there's still a good deal of manufacturing in America, and such companies can be profitable if you can keep the vulture capitalists who dominate Trump's board from bleeding them dry. The bigger problem is how to get more of the profits of business back into the paychecks of workers, and there DiMicco is more problem than solution.
Tamara Draut: Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America (2016, Doubleday): Cover features the banner "FIGHT FOR $15 AND A UNION." The new working class isn't the old blue collar one, but "more female and racially diverse" employed in bottom end service jobs that don't pay enough to live on much less secure the old notion of middle class equality. A decade ago Draut wrote Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Something Can't Get Ahead, and they've only fallen further behind, which is why they're (finally) fighting back.
Ben Ehrenreich: The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (2016, Penguin Press): American journalist, son of Barbara Ehrenreich, has also written a pair of novels, details considerable time spent in Israel/Palestine observing the military occupation, and perhaps more importantly the people subject to that occupation.
Rana Foroohar: Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business (2016, Crown Business): If I recall correctly, the title comes from Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign speech where he derided the 47% of Americans who owe no federal income tax as "takers" -- as parasites living off the better off classes (i.e., those without effective tax dodge scams). Still, another reading is possible: some businesses still make things, but others (notably Romney's Bain Capital) just take profits out of the economy through various financial shenanigans. Everyone knows that the latter have grown enormously over recent decades. What this book does is explore the effect of all this financial "taking" on the older practice of making things, which as everyone also knows has declined severely in America. Pretty sure the two are linked. Hope this book helps explain why.
Robert H Frank: Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016, Princeton University): Short book, argues that the rich tend to underestimate the role of luck in their success, or overestimate the role of merit -- flip sides of the same coin.
Steve Fraser: The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (2016, Basic Books): The term dates from the 1969 New York mayoralty election, about the same time the "hard hat" riots against antiwar protesters reinforced Nixon's idea that a conservative "silent majority" had been victimized by "liberal elites" -- a term that ultimately had more traction than "limousine liberal." Fraser recently wrote about how Americans lost their sense of class struggle in The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of Organized Wealth and Power, to which this adds a significant case study.
Chas W Freeman Jr: America's Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2016, Just World Books): Former US diplomat, was denied a job in the Obama administration because he was considered unacceptably equivocal about Israel. Shortly after that, he wrote America's Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2010, Just World Books). Presumably this is all new material, succinct even, as it only runs 256 pages.
Michael J Graetz/Linda Greenhouse: The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (2016, Simon & Schuster): Of course, the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts moved even further to the right, but Nixon's appointment of Warren Burger to replace Earl Warren started the rightward shift. This book explains how and why. I'll add that this represented a reversion to form for the Supreme Court up to the New Deal. Maybe now we should recognize how fortunate we were to have grown up in an era when the Supreme Court took an active interest in expanding individual and civil rights.
Karen J Greenberg: Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (2016, Crown): Having written a book on Guantanamo and edited one called Torture Papers, the author is in a position to sum up the marginal rationalizations used to trample two centuries of legal principle just to facilitate the security state's defense of its own power and secrets. While many of these examples were started by the Bush administration in its initial panic over 9/11, most have been continued under Obama, with some policies -- like extrajudicial killings -- greatly extended.
Seymour M Hersh: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden (2016, Verso): Short book on how the US sent a team of Navy SEALs deep into Pakistan to assassinate the nominal leader of Al-Qaida. Hersh casts doubt on many of the stories the Obama administration spread about its exploit.
Elizabeth Hinton: From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016, Harvard University Press): Author starts with Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, which includes a simultaneous "war on crime," a set of policing policies that Republicans (and Bill Clinton) kept building up while at the same time tearing down the welfare programs. It is probably no accident that Johnson's programs were launched while America was increasingly mired in war in Vietnam, and even less so that police became more militarized during the so-called War on Terror. In between you get the War on Drugs. The idea there was probably that in post-WWII America "war" is the magic word for unity and determination, but after Vietnam most Americans were tired of war, and anti-drug laws criminalized a wide swath of society, which gave increasingly well-financed police a wide license to pick and choose. The result is that "the land of the free" became the world's most pervasive prison state.
David Cay Johnston: The Making of Donald Trump (2016, Melville House): Journalist, previously wrote a couple books on how the political system is rigged to favor the rich -- Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill). Not an in-depth biography (288 pp), but probably as good as any quick primer on the Republican nominee. Other new books on Trump (aside from the jokes I mention under Trump's own book): Michael D'Antonio: The Truth About Trump (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin -- reissue of 2015 book Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success; Michael Kranish/Marc Fisher: Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power (2016, Scribner); Marc Shapiro: Trump This! The Life and Times of Donald Trump, an Unauthorized Biography (paperback, 2016, Riverdale Avenue Books); Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Mark Duggan Books); and, of course, GB Trudeau: Yuge! 30 Years of Doonsebury on Trump (paperback, 2016, Andrews McNeel).
Mark Landler: Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power (2016, Random House): Journalist, interviewed over 100 "inside sources" to discover that Clinton was invariably hawkish as Secretary of State, while Obama usually started skeptical but often gave in to the hawks he surrounded himself with -- far be it from to seriously reject any orthodoxy. I doubt Landler further explores how often Obama's policies backfired, as he seems more entranced with his "team of rivals" collaboration story -- the common ground of those alter egos.
Marc Lynch: The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East (2016, PublicAffairs): Wrote The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (2012), a more hopeful title but in case after case popular uprisings have given way to civil war, as the ancien regimes have violently clung to power, as jihadists have come to the fore, and as foreign governments (notably the US) have interfered to advance poorly understood interests.
Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 (2016, Yale University Press): There is evidence that the population of Native Americans was reduced by as much as 90% from pre-Columbian levels to the end of the 19th century, and it's not much of a stretch to call that genocide. This book deals with just one narrow front, in California where the native population dropped from about 150,000 to 30,000 in the years covered -- roughly the period of California's Gold Rush. On the same subject: Brendan C Lindsay: Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 (paperback, 2015, University of Nebraska Press). Related: John Mack Faragher: Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles (2016, WW Norton).
George Monbiot: How Did We Get Into This Mess? Politics, Equality, Nature (2016, Verso): British journalist, has written about science (degree in Zoology), climate change, and all sorts of political matters, which gives him a broad view of the "mess" of our times. This one's an essay collection, columns written 2007-15, that illustrate his title rather than exploring it systematically. Still, I did track down the title piece, which indicts neoliberalism traced back to the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947.
Peter Navarro: Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015, Prometheus Books): Another Trump "economic adviser," the only one with any academic credentials, which as this book shows means zilch. Trump has a whole range of complaints about China ranging from currency manipulation to short-changing on patent rents. But Navarro sees something different: a mirror image of the US expanding its economic grasp into Asia under a cloak of the threat/promise of military power. The implication is that if the US ever backs down, China will pounce -- certainly not that China's military was built as a defense against intimidation from the world's sole superpower." Navarro previously co-wrote (with Greg Autry): Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action (2011, Pearson Press). Chinese-American conflict has become a staple, both for business writers and empire strategists; e.g.: Thomas J Christensen: The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (2015, WW Norton); Thomas Finger: The New Great Game: China and South and Central Asia in the Era of Reform (paperback, 2016, Stanford University Press); Aaron L Friedberg: A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (paperback, 2012, WW Norton); Lyle J Goldstein: Meeting China Halfway: How to Diffuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (2015, Georgetown University Press); Robert Haddick: Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific (2014, Naval Institue Press); Bill Hayton: The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia (paperback, 2015, Yale University Press); Anja Manuel: This Brave New World: India, China and the United States (2016, Simon & Schuster); Liu Minglu: The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era (2015, CN Times Books); Henry M Paulson Jr: Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower (2015, Twelve); Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin); also, one I've mentioned before: Robert D Kaplan: Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (2014; paperback, 2015, Random House); and one I somehow didn't mention, Henry Kissinger: On China (2011; paperback, 2012, Penguin Books).
Daniel Oppenheimer: Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century (2016, Simon & Schuster): Profiles that go "deep into the minds of six apostates -- Whitaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens." Reagan seems an odd choice for any book concerned with the mind, but the rest are far from original thinkers, more like notorious cranks, and can only be counted as reshaping the century in the sense that they allowed themselves be used as tools for the right-wing. Some blurb writers I respect liked this book, but it's hard to see why it should matter.
Thomas Piketty: Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political Crisis (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Author of the major work on economic inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014), picks these scattered essays from a monthly column published in France (2008-15).
Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters: Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics (paperback, 2016, Anchor): Author previously co-wrote (with David Brock) The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine and The Benghazi Hoax: The Truth Behind the Right's Campaign to Politicize an American Tragedy. The PR outfits may have started out just trying to spin the truth, but they quickly found themselves creating whole untruths from scratch, and what worked for tobacco and climate denial was seized upon by the right-wing for their own political machinations.
Yakov M Rabkin: What Is Modern Israel? (paperback, 2016, Pluto Press): Argues that Zionism is rooted not in anything Jewish but in Protestant Christianity's reading of Biblical prophecy, compounded by "Europeean ethnic nationalism, colonial expansion, and geopolitical interests." That doesn't quite explain why the idea came to be embraced by many Jews, both among those who settled in Israel and among those scattered elsewhere.
Andrés Reséndez: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Slavery in America (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Before Columbus imported slaves from Africa, he tried enslaving the natives he "discovered." The Spanish crown supposedly ended this practice in 1542, but by then slavery had already had a calamatous effect on decimating native populations, and the story didn't end there. Most likely an eye-opening, pathbreaking book.
Jeremy Scahill: The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program (2016, Simon & Schuster): Previously wrote about early US use of drones for extrajudicial assassinations in 2013's Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. Since then drones have become ever more central to Obama's continuation of Bush's Global War on Terror, which makes this an important book.
Jean Edward Smith: Bush (2016, Simon & Schuster): Big (832 pp) history of the eight years when GW Bush was pretty clearly the worst president the United States has ever had to suffer through, written to remind us of just that fact, all the more urgent since so many media hacks and even President Obama -- originally elected when the memory was clear in the minds of the electorate -- have let so much of his record slip from their minds.
Jason Stahl: Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture Since 1945 (2016, University of North Carolina Press): Surveys the history of right-wing financiers' efforts to stand up a faux academia to propagate their pet theories, and increasingly to fabricate their own facts, in hopes of dressing up their self-interested politics. But academia turned out to be too grand a vision, as they descended ever more into cranking out made-to-order political propaganda. And they've increasingly turned into a jobs program for conservative politicians, a security net for out-of-work ideologues.
Robert Teitelman: Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Shrewd Ideologues, and Brawling Lawyers Toppled the Corporate Establishment (2016, PublicAffairs): During the 1970s there arose a mania for building companies by mergers and acquisitions, a practice which led to the growth of diversified conglomerates as well as big companies snuffing out their competitors. Not clear to me whether Wall Street led the way or jumped on the bandwagon, but this went hand-in-hand with the financialization of the American economy, a process which increased inequality in lots of ways. The ideologues come into play with their justification of the supreme importance of shareholder value, regardless of who gets hurt.
Donald J Trump: Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America (paperback, 2016, Threshold Editions): Cover an orange smudge on an American flag against a not quite uncloudy blue sky, a vast improvement over Trump's scowl on the hardcover that came out last November as Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again. Like the title swap, the juxtaposition between crippled and great is so confusing it's hard to tell which is the past and which is the future. Meanwhile, the short (170 pages gets you to "Acknowledgments") campaign prop is full of such simplistic pablum you could use it for a second grade reader -- if, that is, you don't mind turning our children into sociopaths. By the way, if you want more Trumped-up propaganda, check the usual suspects: Ann Coulter: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! (2016, Sentinel); Dick Morris/Eileen McGann: Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary (2016, Humanix Books); Wayne Allyn Root: Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon Is Changing America -- and What We Can All Do to Save the Middle Class (2016, Skyhorse Publishing).
Yanis Varoufakis: And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future (2016, Nation Books): Economist, became Finance Minister when the leftist Syriza party won in Greece, precipitating a crisis within the Eurozone resulting in Greece being forced to suffer punitive austerity and Varoufakis leaving the government in disgust. This appears to aim at something more general, but the author's unique experience offers a distinct starting point. Varoufakis has a similar previous book, The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy (3rd ed, paperback, 2015, Zed Books).
Dov Waxman: Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel (2016, Princeton University Press): There have always been segments of the Jewish population in the US that have been critical of Israel, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars Israel enjoyed deep support among American Jews. That has begun to shift, mostly along generational lines, as Israel has moved hard to the right politically, as its militarism and human rights abuses have proven ever more difficult to justify on security grounds. This book looks at that, and to do so fairly you have to look at the issues that underly these divisions.
Edward O Wilson: Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (2016, Liveright): Legendary biologist/entomologist (the study of bugs), has increasingly turned to writing about how much damage people have done to the natural world, and at 86 isn't done yet. He has a case, and his anger is justified. Still, the notion that the earth cares, much less is fighting back, is a fanciful conceit, flattering to the same people who scarcely comprehend what they are doing -- not so much to the earth as to ourselves.
Richard D Wolff: Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown (paperback, 2016, Haymarket): Lefty economist, has been tracking economic crisis since 2009's Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, and for that matter did something about it, being closely associated with the Occupy Movement. Short, topical pieces written over several years.
Other recent books also noted:
Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback: