Rhapsody Streamnotes: December 29, 2013

Rushed this out as the month was coming to a close, with Jazz Prospecting (or some kind of excuse) due on Monday, and A Downloader's Diary promised by the end of the month, which means Tuesday. This file could have run at any time, and can never be satisfactorily complete. It represents my last minute interests in trying to catch as much 2013 music as possible before 2013 is over. It started with a heavy focus on jazz while I was assembling the ballots for NPR's (i.e., Francis Davis's) Jazz Critics Poll, and eventually moved into some other pursuits as it became increasingly difficult to track down such desired records as Michele Rosewoman's New-Yoruba set; ECMs I missed from Ralph Alessi, Aaron Parks, and John Abercrombie; some intriguing Sunnysides from John Hollenbeck and Alexis Cuadrado; and, of course, tons of small label avant releases. Still, I did find a few jazz albums of special interest, and may even have jumped the gun on the Jon Lundbom set, officially scheduled for release in January but recognized in the polls and available online already.

After that, I tried consulting my rapidly changing metacritic file. I've added well over 100 best-of-2013 lists to the data, and that steered me in various directions, although rather erratically. My two non-jazz A- records below came from Jason Gross's list, always a source of interesting things no one else seems to have heard of. (Of course, you'll find some of his high-rated records with lower grades here too.)

In the rush to get this out, I haven't finished my usual accounting: at post-time I have yet to put these records into my indexes and counters -- something I will catch up with in a day or two.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on November 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (4172 records).

Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Ciudad de Los Reyes (2012 [2013], Saponegro): Trumpet player, born in Lima, teaches at NYU, formed this sextet with three percussionists, bass, and guitar in 2005; a nice balance of instruments with just enough splash from the horn. B+(***)

Ralph Alessi & Fred Hersch: Only Many (2011-12 [2013], CAM Jazz): Trumpet and piano duets, no surprise that they should come off a bit slow no one keeping time, but they don't mesh all that well either, just so many thoughtful little figure bouncing around. B

Bobby Avey: Be Not So Long to Speak (2011 [2013], Minsi Ridge): Pianist, won a Monk award, plays in Dave Liebman's group, as a couple albums, goes for a solo this time. One thing he does a lot is flutter his off hand picking up a lot of movement on the cheap -- I'm not sure whether I like the effect, but this grows more impressive toward the end. B+(**)

Bad Religion: True North (2013, Epitaph): Started off as an LA hardcore band but that was over 30 years ago, so what? They've mellowed? Matured? I've ignored them ever since I took a dislike to Into the Unknown, but don't find anything that objectionable here: I generally approve of their lyrics, and their drummer, and the rest is a little tedious but not so bad. B+(*)

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion: A Mirror to Machaut (2013, Songlines): Guillaume de Machaut was a medieval French poet and composer (1300-1377), the source of three songs here, inspiration for the rest. Trombonist, leading a formidable group -- Joachim Badenhorst (tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), Russ Lossing (piano, keybs), Drew Gress (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- but they mostly stay close to the themes, understated with a gentle flow that could become seductive. B+(**)

Bleeding Rainbow: Yeah Right (2013, Kanine): Band from Pennsylvania, originally Reading Rainbow, female singer (Sarah Everton) but their only pop affectation is the guitar reverb the Beatles invented when they wanted to sound psychedelic, and they rap song after song in it without sounding psychedelic at all. B+(*)

Anthony Braxton: Echo Echo Mirror House (2011 [2013], Victo): Not infrequently when I'm listening to some hideous cacophony my wife asks me if I'm playing Anthony Braxton, and for once she'd be right. Septet with many of his star students -- Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson, Jay Rozen, Jessica Pavone, Carl Testa, Aaron Siegel; all, by the way, also credited with electronics -- doing one piece (if you're counting, "Composition No. 347") for more than an hour. Not without its glorious moments, but this does wear and tear. B+(*)

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Noble: I Am Here Where Are You (2013, Trost): Wild and wooly sax-drums duo. Unfortunately, Rhapsody only has two of five cuts (23:55 of 53:22), but with these guys that's enough to get the idea, and possibly already more than you can handle. But I'd be game to hear more, especially that tarogato. B+(*)

Burial: Rival Dealer (2013, Hyperdub, EP): Three cuts, 28:39, fits comfortably on vinyl. William Bevan's EPs rarely feel short or less-than-satisfying and this is no exception -- his skill orchestrating those beats and romps is peerless and this would be compelling if he'd left out those erratic vocal samples -- at best he begs comparison with Steinski then falls short. B+(**)

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-tette: Navigation (The Complete Firehouse 12 Recordings) (2012 [2013], Firehouse 12, 4CD): At least this would have been 4CD in a normal world: the $49.99 physical package gives you 2LP + 2CD, or you can buy the LP or CD halves separate, but you can't get the LP pieces on CD or vice versa. What you can do is buy a 4-track digital download, the tracks ranging between 43:25 and 54:10. The leader plays cornet, his sextet including Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary Halvorson (electric guitar), Ken Filiano (acoustic bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes); and for the two septet tracks they double down on drums-vibes, adding Chad Taylor. Attractive group, Halvorson providing the backbone and Lowe giving it some heft, but neither Bynum nor Hobbs use their advantages to step up, leaving an equitable group dynamic -- all the more even as the extended pieces keep recirculating. B+(***)

Terri Lyne Carrington: Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (2013, Concord): Drummer, I moved her into my "jazz-pop" file a while back after a dreadful album called More to Say. She still wants to do pop things, as the rap narration that pops up here and there on this meditation on the 1962 Ellington-Mingus-Roach trio shows, but as the words make clear, she now sees all that money pop stars lust after as a mixed blessing if not a downright curse. Adds some horns here and there, but pianist Gerald Clayton is the mainstay, with Christian McBride doing his best Mingus impersonation. B+(*)

Club D'Elf: Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee) (2012 [2013], BIRN Cooperative): Boston "Moroccan-drenched dub-jazz ensemble"; led by bassist Mike Rivard, they've been active since the late 1990s, with Now I Understand -- a 2006 compilation from many live gigs with a revolving cast of dozens -- a recommended introduction. Beyond that they have a large pile of live records, this one long on guitar groove but it's hardly that simple. B+(**)

Tomasz Dabrowski/Tyshawn Sorey Duo: Steps (2013, ForTune): Trumpet-drums duets, spare as you'd expect although the Polish trumpeter has a bright sound -- started to say "a lot of polish on his brass" -- and the American drummer is fine as always. B+(**)

Dana Coppafeel & Speak Easy: Dana Coppafeel & Speak Easy (2013, Uni-Fi): Rappers from Milwaukee, don't know much else about them, but despite the names this winds up serious and thoughtful. B+(***)

Decoy With Joe McPhee: Spontaneous Combustion (2011 [2013], Otoroku): English piano trio with a couple twists: John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums) play more free jazz than not, and Alexander Hawkins plays organ here (piano elsewhere) -- he's generally struck me as an EST-type pianist although he's clearly got more tricks than that; on his second album with the trio, the guest plays pocket trumpet and alto sax and tilts this limited edition vinyl decisively toward freedom, not to mention chaos. B+(**)

Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band: A Little Sugar (2011 [2012], Motéma): Singer, has a couple previous albums before this flapper revival act, where she's as likely to sing Ida Cox as Irving Berlin. Band includes tuba but also bass. B+(*)

Dott: Swoon (2013, Graveface): Irish band, three women up front and a male drummer in the back, gives them a sound that inevitably gets labelled "pop" even though there's no reason to doubt that their plan was to be a rock band like, you know, the Beatles, or the Popinjays. B+(*)

Dr. Kay & His Interstellar Tone Scientists: The Search for True Happiness (2013, Bangles): Norwegian band, comparisons to Sun Ra's Arkestra are greatly exaggerated but not altogether wrong; the real problem is narrator Arthur Kay Piene and his wide-eyed search for answers to his trivial metaphysical questions, most having to do with true happiness. B-

Gilad Edelman: My Groove, Your Move (2011 [2013], Sharp Nine): Alto saxophonist, first album, only bio detail that I know is that he's the son of label owner/producer Marc Edelman, which isn't a bad deal: no one gets a sharper sound out of this sort of retro-bop. One original, one by pianist David Hazeltine, the rest standards more-or-less -- title cut comes from Hank Mobley. Joe Magnarelli adds a bit of trumpet. B+(**)

Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble: A Trumpet in the Morning (2012 [2013], New World): Four older compositions, one as far back as 1992, run between 11:07 and 23:21 -- the latter the title piece, with a poem by Arthur Brown (1948-82) narrated by J.D. Parran -- and are bracketed by short "Prelude" and "Postlude" pieces. The Large Ensemble is amply stocked with stars -- there are so many they are staggered into shifts, the piano chair, for instance, alternating between James Weidman and Uri Caine. Rich details, strong solos. A-

Hanni El Khatib: Head in the Dirt (2013, Innovative Leisure): Singer-songwriter, mixed Filopino-Palestinian descent, grew up in San Francisco, based in LA, second album. Straightforward rock, no accent unless you consider rockabilly, clear enough for the words to come through. B+(**)

Lorraine Feather: Attachments (2012-13 [2013], Jazzed Media): Jazz singer, daughter of legendary jazz critic and impressario Leonard Feather, which among other advantages means as a little girl she knew Billie Holiday. She co-wrote most of these pieces (most likely the lyrics), and they have an offhanded '50s vibe -- sometimes reminds me of Donald Fagen at his most jazz-nostalgic -- backed most notably by Charie Bisharat's violin over various combos of piano and guitar, bass and drums. B+(*)

FIDLAR: FIDLAR (2013, Mom + Pop Music): Skate punk band from LA, all caps for the acronym name, stands for "Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk"; first album, leads off with "Cheap Beer," which goes: "I drink cheap beer! So what! Fuck you!" Second song: "I just wanna get really high/smoke weed until I die," insisting "there's nothing wrong with living like this," but admitting "all my friends are pieces of shit." Too many guitars, or maybe they're just too good, to play real punk, but as long as their minds are slagged in the gutter they can resist tarting the music up too much. B+(***)

Fire! Orchestra: Exit (2012 [2013], Rune Grammofon): A Mats Gustafsson trio, similar to the Thing but different bass (Johan Berthling, also plays guitar and organ) and drums, beefed up here with an additional 24 musicians. One expects the eleven horns to thrash, but it's less pleasing when the vocalists to it (or for that matter, much of anything). B

Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (2013, Jagjaguwar): Second album, not counting a piece of juvenilia, not that one can say they're all grown up now: first thing I noticed were really obvious vocal cops from the young Lou Reed, although nearly every song is similarly evocative of something or other. I found this cute at first, then increasingly annoying. B-

The Garifuna Collective: Ayó (2013, Cumbancha): The backing band of the late Belizean punta musician Andy Palacios -- their 2007 album Wátina got some notice. Obvious problem is they still sound like a backing band, one with a lot of sly rhythmic touches but no punch. B+(*)

Robert Glasper Experiment: Black Radio 2 (2013, Blue Note): With featured guests on every cut, this is effectively a nu soul mixtape, the main difference being that the core group's keyb-bass-drum mix gives it all a consistent light touch, like they're aiming for the background; best when they hit it, because when you stop and notice something it's unlikely to turn out to be worth the trouble. B

Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Vi Är Alla Guds Slavar (2012 [2013], Otoroku): The ex-Sonic Youth guitarist has a large stack of obscure side projects, including jousts with Gustafsson's pop-horror group, the Thing. This one is relatively even tempered, the saxophonist hemmed in by his choice of soprano, as well as his focus on electronics. The guitar modulates what could be described as minimalism if only it were better behaved. B+(*)

Gypsyphonic Disko: Mardi Gras Mix Tape 2013 (2013, self-released): A 33-minute mix of New Orleans funk classics and extra beats, a formula they've applied before in two volumes of Gypsyphonic Disko Nola-Phonic: pretty surefire formula. A- [dl]

Scott Hamilton: Swedish Ballads . . . & More (2013, Charleston Square): Six songs, two with Stockholm in the title, tenor sax on top of Jan Lundgren's piano trio; lovely but doesn't do much. B+(**)

Bruno Heinen Sextet: Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis (2013, Babel): Don't know much about the 1974-75 composition that this is based on, but this feels like a nicely varied set of jazz pieces, some playfully cast off Heinen's piano, others leaning more on the three horns (trumpet, tenor sax, bass clarinet) that lead the sextet. B+(***)

Gilad Hekselman: This Just In (2011-12 [2013], Jazz Village): Israeli-born guitarist, based in New York, fourth album, quartet including tenor saxophonist Mark Turner -- not much of a factor here, partly because the guitarist is getting bolder. B+(**)

François Houle & Håvard Wiik: Aves (2011 [2013], Songlines): Clarinet and piano duets. I'm often impressed by Wiik's fluidity, perhaps because he often plays in groups where you'd expect a more percussive pianist. His speed puts him in command here, then they slow it down and meander a long stretch. B+(*)

Hunger Pangs: Meet Meat (2013, For Tune): Avant jazz trio, Tomasz Dabrowski on trumpet, Marek Kadziela on guitar, and Kasper Tom Christiansen on drums -- the guitarist essential in that he can swing between support and lead, and when he takes charge he can be scorching. But he doesn't dominate as completely as at first, so an uncertain balance settles in. A-

Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi (2013, Intuition): Title is Japanese, but the venerable South African pianist is in his own world, saddened perhaps after his wife's death or just seeking some kind of peace, which leads him to a two-cello quartet and way too much flute, although Cleve Guyton's sax is eloquent and the piano has memorable passages. B+(**)

Hans Koch-Martin Schütz-Fredy Studer and Shelley Hirsch: Walking and Stumbling Through Your Sleep (2011 [2013], Intakt): I find Hirsch's rambling avant raps almost irresistible, and this starts with the Swiss avant trio -- bass clarinet, cello, drums, respectively -- in fine form, but for some reason degenerates into abstract noise, shady metal, and histrionics. B+(*)

La Femme: Psycho Tropical Berlin (2013, Disque Pointu): French group, I figure them for electropop but they're further out than that, and not just when they sing in French. Catchy, bouncy, sly, a fair dab of Latin tinge, but not as much so as, say, Kid Creole, who perfected this fake tropicalia. B+(***)

Oliver Lake Big Band: Wheels (2013, Passin' Thru): One of the all-time alto sax greats, a rank he probably deserved long ago but the last couple years -- and note that he'll be 70 next year -- he's really surrounded terrific in at least a half-dozen records (cf., especially, his ones with Trio 3). He sounds great here, too, but has a little more trouble dragging the rest of the big band around. B+(**)

Yusef Lateef/Roscoe Mitchell/Adam Rudolph/Douglas Ewart: Voice Prints (2008 [2013], Meta): Percussionist Rudolph is the main force here, but you can't blame him for deferring to his octogenarian saxophonists who decorate his beats with odd ease; Ewart too, his main instrument bass clarinet but he joins Lateef on wood flute and Rudolph on percussion, and probably has something to do with the title. B+(***)

Okkyung Lee: Ghil (2012 [2013], Ideologic Organ): Solo cello and, if my memory of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music serves, amplifier feedback. Consider yourself warned. B+(*)

Kim Lenz and the Jaguars: Follow Me (2013, Riley): Singer-songwriter, I presume, based in LA, plays impeccable rockabilly but that's more formal discipline than retro, and certainly no nostalgia; she cut two 1998-99 albums, two since. This one rocks and roars, tumbles and falls and gets right up again. A-

Lydia Loveless: Boy Crazy (2013, Bloodshot, EP): Country singer, flunked out of Nashville and took her bad attitude on the road, impressing with her rough and ready Indestructible Machine. Two years later, a placeholder -- five cuts, 19:42 -- rocking harder and connecting less. B+(*)

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Liverevil (2013, Hot Cup, 2CD): Guitarist, group originally a quintet when he named it but they've picked up keyb player Matt Kanelos for this live double, where nearly everything runs past ten minutes, stomping and sliding with two saxophones (Jon Irabagon on the little ones, Bryan Murray on the big 'uns). The guitar leads are fresh and bold, and Irabagon is nothing short of sublime on "North Star." A-

MaG: Freedom (2013, self-released): Joel Daniels, second album, plenty likable but not all that memorable. B+(**) [bc]

René Marie: I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt (2013, Motéma): More to the point, "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch" ("than never burn at all"), but there's not enough deviltry in Kitt's songbook to carry an album, and Marie (and for that matter the band) looses the smolder on the slow ones. Just as well: I'd rather save "evil" for those who truly are, and are not just nasty, tasteless, or uncouth. B+(*)

Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra: Gipsy Manifesto (2013, Piranha): Our favorite Balkan brass band, led by father-son trumpeters, proves they can do it again, and again, and again (and when it's as good as "Gipsy House" they should). B+(***)

Pedrito Martinez: The Pedrito Martinez Group (2013, Motéma): Percussionist, born in Cuba and based in New York, the group including a second percussionist (Jhair Sala, from Peru), electric bass (Alvaro Benavides, from Venezuela), and keybs (Araicne Trujillo, also from Cuba). I don't mind the radical rhythmic jumble so much as the vocals, which demand a level of ecstasy they're unable to deliver. B

Roscoe Mitchell/Tony Marsh/John Edwards: Improvisations (2012 [2013], Otoroku): Recorded in Berlin, Edwards on bass, Marsh on drums, the sort of guys an avant-garde legend would look to pick up for some dates in Europe -- in this case, Berlin; the four cuts are timed for album sides (16:11-17:29). The leader's saxes are a little squeaky, but that's his signature, and while I still prefer Mitchell's similar album on Wide Hive this doesn't fall far behind: he's pretty spry for 73. B+(***)

Marius Neset: Birds (2012 [2013], Edition): Norwegian saxophonist (soprano, tenor), enjoys some crossover appeal in the UK, which judging from the leap on the cover has more to do with showmanship than making concessions to pop taste -- indeed, the rhythms here can get tricky, but that alone doesn't suffice to make this interesting. B

Paris Washboard: Swinging Castle: Paris Washboard in Concert (2012 [2013], K&K Verlagsanstalt): French trad jazz group simplified into a quartet, with clarinet and trombone for horns, washboard for percussion, and pianist Louis Mazetier in the middle, perhaps explaining why so much of the repertoire focuses on Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, Willie "The Lion" Smith, and Fats Waller. Of the few albums I've sampled, I thought 1996's Love for Sale was exemplary. But this one is a bit slow to get in gear. B+(**)

Mario Pavone Orange Double Tenor: Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po (2010, Playscape): Released on the bassist's 70th birthday, basically a sextet with Dave Ballou on trumpet/cornet and two tenor saxmen -- Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene -- with Peter Madsen on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Very fancy postbop, lots of whirling pieces, enough to unsettle at first, not that it might not turn beguiling. B+(***)

Mario Pavone: Arc Trio (2013, Playscape): Piano trio with Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver, the title a play on the bassist's similar 2008 piano trio, Trio Arc, with Paul Bley and Matt Wilson. Taborn's ECM trio with Cleaver and Thomas Morgan finished second in the Jazz Critics' Poll this year, so I have to wonder how many of those critics also heard this one -- to my ears both tougher and sharper, the obvious difference the bassist and his challenging pieces. A-

Perfect Pussy: I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling (2013, self-released, EP): Thrash-punk band from Syracuse, cut this four-track (12:30) demo live, the sound jarringly bad (more synthy than guitar), the vocals indistinct. Rob Sheffield put this on his list, adding: "it's also the kind of noise that can make you feel alive inside if you like that kind of thing." They're working on a real album for Captured Tracks. B [bc]

Pixel: Reminder (2011 [2013], Cuneiform): Norwegian two horn (trumpet and sax), pianoless jazz quartet, except that the leader is bassist Ellen Andrea Wang, and she also sings -- at which point the group's jazz ambitions fall away and they turn into a fairly ordinary post-rock outfit (which is to say unnecessarily dreary). B- [dl]

Pixel: We Are All Small Pixels (2013, Cuneiform): Second album, shows considerable improvement as a jazz band, both in the horn solos and in the versatility of the bass and drums. On the other hand, the best one can say about leader Ellen Andrea Wang's vocals is that there are fewer of them. B [dl]

Polvo: Siberia (2013, Merge): Math rock band, had a run from 1992-97 then regrouped for a 2009 album. The grind gets lighter toward the end and risks becoming catchy, but not much. B+(**)

Odean Pope: Odean's Three (2011 [2013], In + Out): Tenor saxophonist, grew up in Philadelphia, played with Jimmy McGriff in the 1960s, Max Roach in the 1970s, led a group aptly named Catalyst, is probably best known for his Saxophone Choir records, but nothing that fancy here, just a powerhouse trio with Lee Smith and Billy Hart, an hour of intense and inventive blowing. You got a problem with that? A-

Power of the Horns: Alaman (2013, ForTune): Polish big band led by trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz, forgoes full sections -- just one trumpet, one trombone, three saxes -- because they play free, but they double up on bass and use three percussionists. Three pieces, the one dedicated to William Parker topping thirty minutes, the free for all often anchored to a beat, not that that holds anyone back. B+(***)

Quest: Circular Dreaming (2011 [2013], Enja): Quartet co-led by Richie Beirach (piano) and Dave Liebman (tenor and soprano sax), dates back to 1982 with six albums up to 1990, one live (2007) and this since. Front cover promises, "Quest plays the music of Miles' 60s," which turns out to mostly mean Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist Liebman briefly replaced in the 1970s. Very tasteful, and possibly the first time ever I find myself enjoying Liebman's soprano as much as his tenor. [Rhapsody only offers 6 of 9 cuts, omitting "Footprints," "Hand Jive," and "Paraphernalia."] B+(**)

Red Hot + Fela (2013, Knitting Factory): Second AIDS benefit album featuring the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, following 2002's rap-and-jazz-heavy Red Hot + Riot. This is more typically eclectic -- Tune-Yards, My Morning Jacket, Kronos Quartet -- although Tony Allen returns and they never really lose the beat, just the edge. B+(**)

Reut Regev's R*Time: Exploring the Vibe (2013, Enja): Trombone player, called her previous album This Is R Time and took that as her band name, even though the only repeat member is husband/drummer Igal Foni. Jean-Paul Bourelly's three vocals are big downs, but his guitar is the essential framework the funk bounces off of, not that the trombonist is content just to have a good time. B+(**)

Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Orchestra: Sonic Mandala (2012 [2013], Meta): Percussionist, one of the first to make an avocation of collecting rhythms and rhythmic instruments from all around the world, and his albums often flirt with all that organic whatever mumbo jumbo, but they're also given to extended transfixing passages that somehow make it all seem worthwhile. Everything possibly including the kitchen sink goes into this, including at least six reed players doubling on bamboo flute, nearly a dozen strings, nearly as many percussionists, an oboe, a bassoon, and two guys named Haynes on cornet. B+(***)

Clotilde Rullaud: In Extremis (2011, Nota Bene): French jazz singer, second album, stitched together from bits by Piazzolla and Monk and Baden Powell and Sting not to mention Serge Gainsbrough; a bit on the dramatic side but the tension along the way is palpable. B+(*)

Huerco S.: Colonial Patterns (2013, Software): Brian Leeds, from Kansas City, favors short pieces with basic patterns, shards of electronic sound rocking (not sloshing) back and forth. B+(***)

Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO: Occupy the World (2012 [2013], TUM, 2CD): Finnish group, acronym expands and translates to Really New Music Orchestra, with a wide spread of instruments -- brass section, not counting Smith, is one each of trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba; only two saxes (Mikko Innanen and Fredrik Ljungkvist are names worth mentioning) plus flute (Juhani Aaltonen); a string quartet (two violins) plus two basses (John Lindberg is a guest star, Ulf Krokfors the regular), piano and guitar but also harp and accordion, the only real pile up the three drummers. Had trouble focusing on these long pieces -- the title cut, adding "for Life, Liberty and Justice," rumbles on for 33:29 -- but mostly noticed a lot of bass solos. On the other hand, I'm not sure my download is quite right. B+(*) [dl]

Special Request: Soul Music (2013, Houndstooth): Paul Woolford, not the only alias he uses; fast break beats, some trite vocal refrains, most just run variations on his patterns. Basic release seems to be 3LP, so what at first I found pleasurable eventually turned a bit tedious and a lot mechanical. [Rhapsody includes another pile of remixes, possibly corresponding to a 2CD release, but I didn't feel like going that far.] B+(**)

Aki Takase: My Ellington (2012 [2013], Intakt): Pianist, more than two dozens albums since 1982, at least three focused on Duke Ellington; solo, intimate, but doesn't push him very hard. B+(*)

Aki Takase: Plays Fats Waller in Berlin (2004 [2013], Jazzwerkstatt): Her second album on Waller -- the first was a year earlier in Hamburg with most of the same players and songs -- done live with a quintet happy to throw a wrench into the works: Thomas Heberer (trumpet), Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet), Eugene Chadbourne (banjo/guitar), and Paul Lovens (drums). Chadbourne also sings a couple, and the pianist's full-tilt stride is always fun. B+(***)

Tarbaby: Ballad of Sam Langford (2013, Hipnotic): Trio with Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums), has a previous record I like a lot (The End of Fear [2010]) and rumors of more in the works. This one, dedicated to a little known boxer from way back, adds horns: Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) and Oliver Lake (alto sax). Some exceptional passages here, and not just with Lake, who continues his strong run of albums. B+(***)

Telekinesis: Dormarion (2013, Merge): Michael Benjamin Lerner's catchy little alt-rock pseudogroup. B+(**)

Emilio Teubal: Música Para un Dragon Dormido (2013, Bju'ecords): Pianist, born in Spain of Argentinian parents; grew up in Mexico and Argentina, winding up in Brooklyn. Rhythm section built to rumble, something Sam Sadigursky's reeds can smooth over or ruffle up -- mostly the former. [Rhapsody only provides 4 (of 9) tracks.] B+(*)

The Underachievers: Indigoism (2013, Brainfeeder): Hip hop duo from Brooklyn, Issa Gold and AK, first mixtape with another (Lords of Flatbush) out later in the year and a studio joint scheduled for 2014. Picks up momentum and coherence midway, but still suffers from a tendency to make their rhymes by ending every line with a certain N-word. B+(*)

Dean Wareham: Emancipated Hearts (2013, Sonic Cathedral, EP): First album under the name of the longtime leader of Luna -- with 7 songs, 29:52, actually more of an EP -- characteristically tuneful but hardly sweeps you away. B+(*)

David Weiss: Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (2012 [2013], Motéma): Trumpet player, has a knack for arranging large groups -- the New Jazz Composers Octet has been the main beneficiary so far, but this 11-piece group is further proof. Shorter established himself as a formidable composer back with Blakey and Davis, so the arranger has lots to work with. B+(**)

Luke Winslow-King: The Coming Tide (2013, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Michigan, studied in New Orleans and Prague, AMG classifies him as blues, jazz, pop/rock, and country, while Rhapsody settles for folk. He starts with a gospel riff backed by trad jazz horns, and Esther Rose's harmony compensates for his slight voice. B+(*)

Nate Wooley/C. Spencer Yeh/Audrey Chen/Todd Carter: NCAT (2008 [2013], Monotype): Trumpet, violin, cello, piano, respectively, or so say the credits, but this starts off with sounds, including screams, not easily attributable to any of those instruments, and continues to wallow in some kind of electronic feedback. Vinyl, five untitled tracks running 34:05. B-

Zevious: Passing Through the Wall (2013, Cuneiform): Guitar-bass-drums trio, experimental rock or just fusion, although the constant racing tempo and up-and-down riffing reminds me more of those soundtracks to video games, or maybe someone trying to play Spring Heel Jack on guitar-bass-drums. B [dl]


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • After Dark 2 (2013, Italians Do It Better)
  • Ralph Alessi: Baida (ECM)
  • Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today (Sonic Camera)
  • Trevor Anderies: Shades of Truth (Nine Winds)
  • Angles 9: In Our Midst (Clean Feed)
  • The Beatles: On the Air: Live at the BBC Vol. 2 (2013, Capitol, 2CD)
  • Stefano Bollani/Hamilton de Hollanda: O Que Sera (ECM)
  • Taylor Ho Bynum/John Hebert/Gerald Cleaver: Book of Three: Continuum (2012) (Relative Pitch)
  • The Buck Clayton Legacy Band: Claytonia (self-released)
  • Alexis Cuadrado: A Lorca Landscape (Sunnyside)
  • The Dirtbombs: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey (In the Red)
  • Paul Dunmall/Tony Bianco: Tribute to Coltrane (Slam)
  • Orrin Evans: ". . . It Was Beauty" (Criss Cross)
  • Bill Frisell: Silent Comedy (Tzadik)
  • Fred Hersch & Julian Lage: Free Flying (Palmetto)
  • Christine Jensen: Habitat (Justin Time)
  • Pat Metheny: Tap: John Zorn's Book of Angels, Vol. 20 (Tzadik)
  • The Necks: Open (Northern Spy)
  • Aaron Parks: Arborescence (ECM)
  • Nicholas Payton: Sketches of Spain (BFM)
  • Duke Pearson: Baltimore 1969 (Uptown)
  • Mike Reed: Second Cities: Volume 1 (482 Music)
  • Rocket Science: Live at the Vortex (More Is More)
  • Barbara Rosene: Nice and Naughty (Stomp Off)
  • Wadada Leo Smith & TUMO Orchestra: Occupy the World (TUM, 2CD)
  • Stooshe: London With the Lights On (Warner Bros.)
  • Travis Sullivan's Björkestra: I Go Humble (Zoho)
  • 3 Cohens: Tightrope (Anzic)
  • Dawn Upshaw/Maria Schneider: Winter Morning Walks (ArtistShare)
  • Ken Vandermark: Impressions of Po Music (Okka)

Revised Grades

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:

Paolo Fresu Devil Quartet: Desertico (2012 [2013], Tuk Music): Add "Satisfaction" to the list of 1960s hits that seem impervious to jazz treatment. Bebo Ferra's guitar is the center the leader's trumpet strikes against, more often merely pretty than anything else. [Was: B+(***)] B+(*)

Pet Shop Boys: Electric (2013, X2): Maybe love isn't such a bourgeois concept after all. [Was: A-] B+(***)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Louis Armstrong & Friends: What a Wonderful Christmas (1950-66 [1997], Hip-O): Having included a couple tolerable Xmas albums, I recalled I hadn't heard this one, graded A by Christgau; the six cuts Armstrong sings on really are that special, although it should be noted that only "Winter Wonderland" is a standard and Gordon Jenkins comes close to spoiling it; the other eight are by friends very loosely speaking -- Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Lionel Hampton, Eartha Kitt, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Louis Jordan -- and none of them transcend their material even if some handle it excpetionally well. B+(***)

Chet Baker: Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe [OJC Remasters] (1959 [2013], Fantasy/OJC): Show tunes, played by a group that is usually seven pieces deep and talented -- Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans on half -- but only the trumpet makes much of an impression; Orrin Keepnews produced, no vocals, no extras. B+(*)

Belle and Sebastian: The Third Eye Centre (2002-10 [2013], Matador): B-sides and rarities, a second such collection after the 1996-2001 Push Barman to Open Old Wounds; mixed bag -- "I Didn't See It Coming" is a great song, but I'm not convinced the remix helps. B

Tony Bennett: Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas, 1964 (1964 [2013], Columbia/Legacy): Recorded for an album that got shelved, probably because it's just a rehash of his early albums, but distance helps put them in focus and turns it into a tight hour on CD versus four LP sides; only two cuts longer than the 3:14 "Overture": Jobim from his popular heyday, and a "Comedy Routine" where Milton Berle and Danny Thomas can't shut up. B+(*)

Tony Bennett: The Classic Christmas Album (1968-2008 [2011], Columbia/Legacy): I've despised Christmas music as long as I can remember, even when I dutifully went through with all the usual conventions -- something that really hasn't happened since I got sick and missed the last Christmas before my parents died. Nor did it help when I read that Christmas music outsells jazz every year, despite many fewer releases. So I've sit on this thing two years, but Bennett is the perfect Christmas shill: a substantial voice with a light and ingratiating touch, serious enough for the religious crowd but also able to swing a secular tune and liven up a party. This collection spans four decades and both modes: the hymns are a drag and one (a duet with Placido Domingo, "The First Noël") is downright awful, but the pop fare is elegant and lively, some ("My Favorite Things," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm") only loosely related to the theme. Since this came out, the label has built a series around the title: in 2012 they added Doris Day, John Denver, Kenny G, Barry Manilow, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Luther Vandross; in 2013 Alabama, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, George Jones/Tammy Wynette, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Martina McBride, Barbra Streisand, and Andy Williams. Fat chance I'll wind up reviewing any of those. B+(*)

The Best of Perception & Today Records (1969-74 [2012], BBE, 2CD): Programmed by DJ Spinna, drawing from a short-lived New York label (Perception) and its subsidiary (Today), the catalog tilting toward jazz (Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Shirley Horn) but in a transitional phase with funk rhythms, but also R&B (The Fatback Band, and groups I've never heard of like The Eight Minutes), all programmed for maximum groove. B+(***)

Len Bright Combo: Wreckless Eric Presents the Len Bright Combo (1986 [2013], Fire, EP): Eric Goulden recorded as Wreckless Eric 1978-80 and since 2008 hitched by Amy Rigby, but spent much of the 1980s searching for a band name -- Captains of Industry, the Len Bright Combo, Le Beat Group Electrique, Hitsville House Band; this recursively titled EP runs eight cuts, 29:28 -- he was never tight enough for punk, but he could be sloppy. B+(**)

Alex Chilton: Electricity by Candlelight: NYC 2/3/97 (1997 [2013], Bar/None): The ex-Big Star power popper goes unplugged one night at the Knitting Factory when the electricity went out; he threw out his set list and negotiated songs with what was left of the crowd, venturing "Let's Get Lost" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and "Lovesick Blues" and "Girl from Ipanema" and "I Walk the Line" and "If I Had a Hammer" and a Beach Boys trilogy; the tape picks up the fans better than the singer, a man of the people no doubt. B+(**)

Cleaners From Venus: Blow Away Your Troubles (1981 [2012], Captured Tracks): Prolific 1980s UK group led by Martin Newell, recently reissued in a 3-CD Vol. 1 and a 4-CD Vol. 2 which strikes me as too much to bite off at once, so I figure I'll start with their first slab and see how long I want to stick with them. Still quite a bit here: a nine-cut "Straight Side" with its new wave take on singer-songwriter, and a ten-cut "Bent Side" which meanders off into something like lounge jazz, or maybe he's destined to do soundtracks? B+(**)

The Dentists: Some People Are on the Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now (1985 [2013], Trouble in Mind): British band, came out in the 1980s but sounds like a throwback to the 1960s. B+(*)

Bill Doggett and His Combo: Fingertips (1963 [2013], Columbia/Legacy): Church pianist, worked for Lucky Millinder and Louis Jordan before breaking out on his own, scoring a freak hit in 1956 ("Honky Tonk") and making dozens of albums, minor groovefests on organ like this one. B+(*)

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) (1969-71 [2013], Columbia/Legacy): Outtakes from the years that produced the horrid Self Portrait and the better (but who cares?) New Morning -- a period when he made his first attempts at developing a coherent mature sound after the whiplash of his folk-to-rock-to-country first decade, although it's not clear that he wanted to -- it would be another 20-25 years before he got that act together, by which time he had already cursed us with "Forever Young." This comes in several confusing package sizes: the basic one is 2-CD (35-tracks), then there is the 4-CD box which tacks on Live at the Isle of Wight Festival, 8/31/69 and a remastered Self Portrait (as if you haven't been punished enough). Rhapsody goes the other way, just offering 15 cuts, ending with the 1971 demo of "When I Paint My Masterpiece." Unless you want to argue that they deliberately left the better tracks out, that's enough of a sample to grade, and I, for one, am glad I didn't have to suffer through the rest. B

Roky Erickson and the Aliens: The Evil One (1981 [2013], Light in the Attic): The main guy in the 13th Floor Elevators more than a decade removed; too many songs about vampires and Satan and such, not sure if we should blame too much drugs or not enough. B

Lee Fields: Let's Talk It Over (1979 [2013], Truth & Soul): Soul man, hung briefly with Kool & the Gang but couldn't catch a break in his solo career, probably why he was brushed off as just another James Brown wannabe; indeed, the funk on his debut album was about six years removed from cutting edge, but for retro it's pitch perfect, he draws on P-Funk as well as JB, and he can kill a ballad, so I can't see any cause for complaining . . . unless it's his fashion sense. A-

Stan Getz Quartet: Live at Montreux 1972 (1972 [2013], Eagle Rock): Evidently the tenor saxophonist's new label (Columbia) wanted to push him a bit toward fusion, lining him up with a rhythm section of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Tony Williams, one that he was a bit out of sorts with even though he had no trouble keeping up; I suspect this release is driven by a DVD. B

Kiki Gyan: 24 Hours in a Disco: 1978-82 (1978-82 [2012], Soundway): Keyboard player from Ghana, although he could be from anywhere given the universality of his disco clichés; however, they are marvelous clichés, and the fact that he hails from so far off the beaten path gives them a winning charm. B+(*)

Lee Hazlewood: The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides (1968-71) (1968-71 [2012], Light in the Attic): From Oklahoma, grew up on oil money, produced Duane Eddy, wrote a hit song for Dean Martin, got his only hits thanks to Nancy Sinatra, moved to Sweden, started his own label (LHI), cut an album called Cowboy in Sweden. He gets filed under country for no good reason. Rhapsody lists him as "baroque pop" -- which is true of only the worst dreck here. More often he does songs with bare bones talkie vocals -- the simpler the better -- or duets with various girls (no Nancy here), where he sounds like a more macho (and therefore more stilted) Sonny Bono. He cut with twenty-some albums and has enjoyed a much-hyped reissue program, as if he's some sort of misunderstood underground legend, like Townes Van Zandt or Van Dyke Parks or (I can hardly wait) Kim Fowley. B-

Joe Higgs: Unity Is Power (1979 [2013], Pressure Sounds): Veteran reggae producer and part-time Wailer, stepped up front in 1975 and this was his second album, steeped in the lore and identifying with the poor, but less consistent than his appropriately named third album in 1985, Triumph. B+(**)

Lena Hughes: Queen of the Flat Top Guitar (1960s [2013], Tompkins Square, EP): A guitarist, 1904-98, who played 19th century parlor music, spent most of her life in Ludlow, MO -- "was considered to be an influential figure in the 20th-century Ozark folk music circuit" -- cut these 11 short tracks (total 23:17): short, simple, elegant; "extensive liner notes" by John Renbourn. B+(**)

In the Christmas Groove (1977-2009 [2009], Strut): Cover looks like it was Photoshopped from In a Jungle Groove with James Brown in a Santa suit, but JB is a no-show -- they start instead with Jimmy Reed, and follow up with a bunch of acts I've never heard of doing "Soul Santa," "Black Christmas," "Boogaloo Santa Claus," waving off "Auld Lang Syne" and welcoming "The New Year" -- while the funk isn't fake, it isn't altogether on the one either. B+(*) [advance]

Blind Lemon Jefferson: The Rough Guide to Blues Legends: Blind Lemon Jefferson (1926-29 [2013], World Music Network, 2CD): The most important bluesman of the 1920s, had a voice and guitar that cut past the day's technological limits, and he recorded enough in a short career that ended with his death in 1929 to fill up four JSP discs (Classic Sides, 2003). This 25-cut selection is mostly redundant (and arbitrarily divergent) from two Yazoo compilations, 1985's King of the Country Blues and 2000's The Best of Blind Lemon Jefferson (both 23 cuts, some different). I can't judge the reportedly improved sound here, but will note that this package includes a bonus various artists sampler, an extra 24 cuts of early acoustic blues -- mostly from a couple years later but that's hard not to do with a pioneer like Jefferson. A-

Jukebox Mambo: Rumba and Afro-Latin Accented Rhythm & Blues 1949-1960 (1949-60 [2012], Jazzman): Compiled by DJ Liam Large, jukebox R&B with a mambo twist, only a few headlined by Latinos -- Lalo Guererro, Alfredito, Joe Loco -- more by jazz bands from Cozy Cole to Gerald Wilson and a few New Orleans syntheses like Dave Bartholomew's "Shrimp & Gumbo." B+(***)

Joseph Kabasele/Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music (1953-83 [2013], Sterns Africa, 2CD): Alternate title, also on the front cover: Joseph Kabasele and the Creation of Modern Congolese Music. Kabasele was the guitarist and leader of Le Grand Kallé et L'African Jazz, a vital force in the evolution of Congolese rumba to soukous for three decades, a track record rivalled only by Franco. Wish I could consult the 104-page booklet -- I'm only guessing at dates here, and it's likely that this focuses on the 1960s, especially before Dr. Nico and Tabu Ley Rochereau left his group. (The first track sounds very early, and I'm not sure how much he recorded from 1970 to his death in 1983.) Once this hits its stride, consistently wonderful music. A-

Fela Kuti: The Best of the Black President 2 (1971-92 [2013], Knitting Factory, 2CD): The first volume, which looks to be every bit as fine as this one, came out in 1999 when MCA was revamping his catalog. I was fortunate enough to get the whole stack: 24 CDs, most of which combined two LPs, plus a superb 2CD sampler, The Best Best of Fela Kuti. I wound up grading half of those two dozen A- (or A for Original Sufferhead/I.T.T.) so one could spend time just picking through those, although Best Best was even better. However, the MCAs soon went out of print and chaos ensued -- UK label Wrasse picked up most of the MCAs, but Knitting Factory also got back into the act, with this supplement to its still-in-print 1999 set. It works as well as you'd expect: as I said above, there are a dozen CDs worth of material worth picking from, and the nature of the music lets you shuffle it almost randomly into compilations you can enjoy for hours on end. A-

Tim Maia: World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 4: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia: Nobody Can Live Forever (1971-78 [2012], Luaka Bop): Brazilian singer, 1934-98, has a rep as "the father of Brazilian soul music," and you can hear that in his voice as well as the groove -- had me thinking Barry White for a while, but lost some of his sex appeal with half the songs in English, and half of them touting the Bible; has a huge discography and someone should piece together a grade-A comp -- this comes close. B+(***)

Tommy McCook: Reggae in Jazz (1976 [2013], Pressure Sounds): The tenor saxophonist from the Skatalites, an important figure in the early evolution of reggae but no more a jazz man than King Curtis, a comparable fish in a much larger pond; so not much jazz, not even much sax, but producer Buster Riley pushes all the right buttons for this instrumental jam, especially the keybs -- Ansel Collins and Jackie Mittoo are credited, and I also see Sly & Robbie. A-

Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye (1985 [2013], Awesome Tapes From Africa): An Ethiopian, cut this in DC where as I understand it he makes a living driving a cab; I wouldn't think the synths and drum machines would qualify, so the "classical instrument" here must be the accordion, which gives this a thicker, richer sound than the easy listening cocktail music it aspires to, but the synths do help it go down easier. A-

Thelonious Monk: Paris 1969 (1969 [2013], Blue Note): Normally packaged with a DVD, which is probably the main appeal, at least for anyone so inclined. Otherwise, what you get is live sound from the Salle de Pleyel, with the marvelous Charlie Rouse on tenor sax but substitutes for his bass and drums mainstays with youngsters Nate Hygelund and Paris Wright, and a relatively snappy presentation of the usual songbook. B+(**)

Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar! [OJC Remasters] (1961 [2013], Fantasy/OJC): The dominant figure in American jazz guitar before fusion and, less decisively, still today, his Riverside albums assumed biblical stature, with Incredible Jazz Guitar the consensus pick, and this set with Hank Jones (piano), Ron Carter (bass), drums, and extra percussion (Ray Barretto) a couple clicks back. Still less than overpowering, especially when they slot it down a bit, and further diminished by tacking on a later live recording that same year, The Montgomery Brothers in Canada, favoring vibes-playing brother Buddy. [original album: B+(**); The Montgomery Brothers in Canada: B] B+(*)

The Mountain Goats: All Hail West Texas (2002 [2013], Merge): John Darnielle's sixth album under his faux band moniker, just before Christgau (and many of us) discovered him on Tallahassee, "fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys" -- the remastered edition adding seven more cuts -- most loudly declaimed over nothing but guitar; the original songwriting is striking but wears a bit thin (though not as much as the bonus cuts). B+(***)

Mutazione: Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980-1988 (1980-88 [2013], Strut, 2CD): A local scene with no breakouts as far as I can tell -- certainly no names here I recognize -- sharpening post-disco beats with industrial shards and too many sirens, but that seems to come with the territory. B+(*)

Nigeria Special: Volume 2: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6 (1970-76 [2010], Soundway): Another trawl through the varied pop music of Africa's most populous nation, meaning more context for people who can't get enough; only one name I recognize (Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe), but "Onwu Dinjo" by the People Star is a find. B+(**)

Anita O'Day: Have a Merry Christmas With Anita O'Day (1942-70 [2013], Kayo Stereophonic, EP): Seven songs from 1970, well past her prime but she turned out to be so tenacious she called her last album Indestructible! (2006), plus a 1942 radio shot of "The Christmas Song"; B+(*)

William Onyeabor: World Psychdelic Classics, Vol. 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? (1977-85 [2013], Luaka Bop): Nigerian funk musician, closer to Fela's Afrobeat than to King Sunny Ade's juju but the keyboard focus makes it even more rudimentary; later on he moved more explicitly into Christian pop, but there are already hints of that here -- crazy enough I suppose you could call it psychedelic. B+(**)

Orchestra Super Mazembe: Mazembe @ 45RPM Vol. 1 (1975-84 [2013], Sterns Africa): One of the groups that introduced guitar-gilded soukous to Kenya, creating a synthesis perfectly summed up on Earthworks' Guitar Paradise of East Africa; no dupes from Earthworks' OSM collection, Giants of East Africa, but it would be hard to tell, as they basically build everything around their guitar signature -- understandable given that it's one of the most majestic creations in all of African pop. A-

The Prestige Legacy, Vol. 1: The High Priests (1951-58 [2000], Prestige): Prestige cut albums fast and cheap, which suited some musicians and not others -- of the four "high priests" sampled here, one (John Coltrane) got much better as soon as he left, two (Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis) started releasing more ambitious albums (Brilliant Corners and Kind of Blue), leaving only Sonny Rollins, who may have peaked with Saxophone Colossus but hardly stopped there; some prime stuff here, but the artists are worth exploring separately (if not necessarily on Prestige). B+(*)

The Prestige Legacy, Vol. 2: Battle of the Saxes (1949-64 [2000], Prestige): While not everything here reduces to cutting contests, this is the sort of thing Prestige thrived on: throw two saxophonists into the ring and let them bang it out, like Wardell Gray and Sonny Criss, or Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, or Lockjaw Davis and Johnny Griffin, or Oliver Nelson and Eric Dolphy, or Sonny Stitt and damn near everyone, or bump it up to four for the swing-heavy Very Saxy (Coleman Hawkins) or five for the slinky Brothers (Stan Getz-Zoot Sims). A-

Rodan: Fifteen Quiet Years (1992-94 [2013], Quarterstick): Louisville post-hardcore band -- also described as "math rock" which would mean more to me as "the part of Sonic Youth that wants to play with the Thing" -- released one album and now, a couple decades later and following the deaths of two members, get a second collecting singles and parts of a BBC session; guitar-bass-drums thickly layered, good for repetitive riff pieces with talkie vocals almost an afterthought, even at one point breaking down into free jazz chaos ("Exoskeleton"). A-

Rodion G.A.: The Lost Tapes (1978-84 [2013], Strut): Romanian electronica band led by Rodion Ladislau Rosca -- not sure if they actually had synthesizers but they manipulated tape recordings of guitar and organ, added effects pedals, drum machine, etc. -- the recordings here are analogous to Kraut rock, a little fatter and uglier, which is about what you'd expect. B+(**)

Saâda Bonaire: Saâda Bonaire (1982-85 [2013], Captured Tracks): German disco group, Bremen DJ Ralph von Richtoven and singer Stephanie Lange with Claudia Hossfeld in on the group's only single and Dennis Bovell producing. This beats the bushes for more than an hour of material, the stiff beats retro with exotic spices, flecks of oud and saz and hand drums from Turkish immigrants. Lange's English is a bit stilted -- reminds me of an earlier German disco group, Silver Convention, only with the 1970s swish driven way underground. A-

Hank Snow: The Essential Hank Snow (1937-84 [2013], RCA/Legacy, 2CD): Country singer from Nova Scotia, earned his spurs imitating Jimmie Rodgers' yodel and had his biggest hits with train songs, or let's generalize and call them motion songs, especially "I'm Moving On" and "I've Been Everywhere," although some of his most irresistible ones played off Latin rhythms, like "The Rhumba Boogie" and "Music Makin' Mamma From Mephis." He has two grade-A compilations -- I'm Movin' On and Other Great Country Hits ([1990], RCA) stopped short around 1956, and The Essential Hank Snow ([1997], RCA) kept half and added more up to 1973 -- so I had hopes that this 2-CD set would be right-sized, something that shouldn't have been hard given the opportunity to help themselves to Snow's marvelous 1984 duet album with Willie Nelson (Brand on My Heart). On the other hand, this isn't filled out very smartly, and I have to dock it a notch for dropping "The Gal Who Invented Kissin'" (on both the above-mentioned comps). Also not clear how real this is, as thus far it's only showed up on stream services. B+(***)

Songs: Ohia: Magnolia Electric Co. (2003 [2013], Secretly Canadian, 2CD): The last of a dozen albums Jason Molina, b. 1973 in Ohio and dead early this year of "alcohol abuse-related organ failure, released as Songs: Ohia, before adopting this title as his subsequent band name; the extra disc sounds folkier because demos are always done on the cheap, but in some ways they help clarify the maudlin songs that made this a cult item for a lost generation -- in fact, I prefer them. B+(***)

S.O.S. [John Surman/Mike Osborne/Alan Skidmore]: Looking for the Next One (1974-75 [2013], Cuneiform, 2CD): Three saxophonists who got started in the British avant-garde of the late 1960s, playing as a sax trio with no other instruments -- just tiny bits of keyb or percussion on the rare occasions when one puts down a horn; they cut one album together, for Ogun in 1975, and this trawl through the archives adds more than twice as much material. The sound palette is rather narrow, as is inevitable with sax choirs, but they do lively it up. B+(***) [dl]

Irma Thomas: In Between Tears (1973 [2013], Alive Naturalsound): New Orleans soul singer, her hits were back in the 1960s, this album cut with Jerry Williams (aka Swamp Dogg) the first of many scattered, well, comebacks isn't the right word, more like stick-to-its, the life work of a tough woman -- the 12:29 medley is where she really takes charge. B+(***)

Lobi Traoré: Bamako Nights: Live at Bar Bozo, 1995 (1995 [2013], Glitterbeat): I've never quite understood the Malian guitar blues affinity, partly because, at least in this case, he aims for deep resonance rather than that lonesome cry -- he exerts commanding presence, not just witness; and while I'm more impressed by his last album, I hear the same power in this his first. A-

The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat [45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] (1968 [2013], Verve, 2CD): Nearly 40 years ago I went to a party at a lefty sociology prof's house and the only listenable record he had was Abraxas, which we must have played six or seven times that night -- by which time it wasn't tolerable either. First thing I did after I got home was to play "Sister Ray" -- since then I've always thought of it as music to clear my head and steady my nerves. Even now, it's so familiar that I skipped past the first six cuts here, just wanting to evaluate the extras: 14 demos, outtakes, and live cuts, 7 previously unreleased (hard as that may be to believe, given how much extra material they've previously scrounged up). Gems include a silly "Temptation Inside Your Heart," a long guitar vamp on "Booker T." that's pure music to my ears, and an instrumental "The Gift." Plus you get an extra "Sister Ray," lo-fi and even longer than the standard -- you never know when you'll need it. [See below for the 3-CD "Super Deluxe" edition.] A-

The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat [45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition] (1968 [2013], Verve, 3CD): This gets you a third disc of ephemera, numbered two for no clear reason, and it's all redundant -- including three takes of "The Gift" plus mono single mixes of "Here she Comes Now" and "White Light/White Heat," and yet another "Sister Ray" for your stockpile -- except for "Lady Godiva's Operation," which takes a turn for the worse; priced through the roof at $99.98 list, the main bait a 56-page hardbound book, plus the snob appeal of a limited edition. B+(**)

Frank Wess/Johnny Coles: Two at the Top (1983 [2012], Uptown): Wess plays alto sax and flute -- he was a Basie arranger in the 1950s and has had a long and memorable career, with a second peak period in the early 1990s and solid records as recent as this year's Magic 101 (recorded in 2011); Coles plays trumpet, had a sharp album in 1963 that raised expectations then virtually nothing other than a well-regarded album the year before this date; both horns have nice spots but pianist Kenny Barron has the hottest solos. [Rhapsody doesn't include the 1988 radio shot that the 2012 reissue added as a second disc.] B+(**)

Barney Wilen: Moshi Too: Unreleased Tapes Recorded in Africa, 1969-70 (1969-70 [2013], Sonorama): A marvelous tenor saxophonist, born 1937 in France, best known in the US for his late-1950s work on soundtracks led by Miles Davis and Art Blakey, but later he explored African music and played in a punk band and finally settled into being one of the finest ballad interpreters of his generation. These newly uncovered tapes come from his tour of Africa which led to his 1972 album Moshi. I don't have the latter to compare with, but these scattered tracks give you an indication of his range -- including a lovely 13:08 "Serenade for Africa" on soprano, followed by a piece of guitar feedback (probably what the notes refer to as an "acid-rock jam"). Sometimes the Africans participate, take over even, or they may just cheer or jeer from the sidelines. Also, the 21:08 "Black Locomotive" sounds like Miles Davis would a couple years later on. A-

Joe Williams: Jump for Joy (1963 [2013], RCA/Legacy): The jazz crooner, as perfect an heir to Billy Eckstine as could be imagined, but his best work depends on superior bands like Count Basie's, so no surprise he struggles to overcome this anonymous big band. B

Robert Wyatt: '68 (1968 [2013], Cuneiform): Four tracks, two LP-side-length, from way back, cut when his regular band, Soft Machine, temporarily broke up, and reportedly long lost; one of the long pieces was a first draft of "Moon in June" (cf. Soft Machine's Third), the main difference how much avant jazz-fusion overhangs his odd vocal. B+(***) [dl]

Neil Young: Live at the Cellar Door (1970 [2013], Reprise): A few months past his third album, After the Gold Rush, Young appears solo, playing some piano and more guitar, working through fifteen of his early songs in an intimate atmosphere; if that sounds appealing, it will be. B+(***)


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal