Rhapsody Streamnotes: May 29, 2014

At 71 records, my shortest Rhapsody Streamnotes column of the year so far, but not much off the usual pace -- two previous columns ended at 76, others at 83 and 84. Lost a chunk of time in New York, and this week will wind up being very distracted, notably with a guest to attend to but also a very active woodworking project. Still, a lot of good records this time. Aside from the jazz (which still mostly comes in the mail) nearly everything here attempts to follow up on some hint or other -- not that I can recall who turned me on to Natural Child, but most of the records I can associate with a name, or like Chromeo and Amy LaVere were by artists I like to keep tabs on. (Brigitte DeMeyer is one only I seem to know about.) Of course, down in the "old music" section, I keep plugging away at the Penguin Guide project -- just not especially hard this time.

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 May 3. Past reviews and more information are available here (4866 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Lily Allen: Sheezus (2014, Warner Brothers/Regal): If this is a tribute to/parody of Yezus, it's a reply on the same level as Born in the USA to Thriller, saying both "I can do that" and "I can do that my way, which is better." Not sure what else she could do: the slice-of-life details that made It's Not Me, It's You so perfect are harder to find when you're a star, but her flippant attitude is intact and indomitable. [Deluxe Edition adds a 5-song disc you can safely ignore.] A [cd]

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans: The Freedom Principle (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): The Portuguese tenor saxophonist has been on a roll with his main trio recently -- Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums -- and MOPDTK trumpet player Evans promises some sparks, but the three long improvs are rougher than usual, the conflicts confined to close quarters. B+(**) [cd]

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans: Live in Lisbon (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): Recorded live two days ahead of the studio album above (also recorded in Lisbon). Different titles, two LP-sides, roughly comparable but the trumpet gets a bit more out front here. B+(**) [cdr]

Atmosphere: Southsiders (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Slug still doesn't understand women, least of all the one speaking French ("like birds in her mouth"), but he remains uncommonly clear, even when he admits to being confused. First line I jotted down: "break the rules, but first break the rulers." Atypical because he's not out to break anyone. Second: "I was in hell when you told me to go there." B+(***)

BadBadNotGood: III (2014, Innovative Leisure): Toronto group, basically an electric piano-bass-drums trio, their "crossover jazz" more rock than pop but still focused on textures. B+(**)

Mike Baggetta Quartet: Thieves and Secrets (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, quartet adds Jason Rigby on sax, Eivind Opsvik on bass, and George Schuller on drums, for a round of mild-mannered postbop. B+(*)

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Landmarks (2010 [2014], Blue Note): Drummer-composer's long-running quintet -- Melvin Butler and Myron Walden on saxes, Jon Cowherd on piano, Chris Thomas on bass -- doesn't strike me as a drummer's album with its moderate tempos and neatly tailored harmonies. B+(*)

Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack: . . . Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire (2013 [2014], Singlespeed): Plays oboe and English horn, has ten or more albums since 2000, his group-defining Wrack in 2003. Septet, with Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), viola, bass, and drums. Three long pieces are inspired by early Thomas Pynchon novels. Can't tell you how or why, but the effect is suite-like, which means occasionally inspired but inconsistent. B+(**) [cd]

Chromeo: Fancy Footwork (2007, Vice): Electropop duo out of Montreal, Dave One and Pee Thug, upbeat and danceable, lyrics in English and occasionally worth noting, although the album cover, with its gaudy logo and the two guys pictured behind keybs mounted on dismembered but distinctly female legs, is kinda creepy. I liked their next album, Business Casual, but had missed this one, which Christgau preferred, probably because (unlike me) he got to it first. B+(***)

Chromeo: White Women (2014, Big Beat): Similar to their previous electropop albums, but they've learned how to change pace without losing their step, and the singer is willing to show a bit of falsetto. B+(***)

Brigitte DeMeyer: Savannah Road (2014, BDM Music): Alt-country singer-songwriter. I noticed her superb second album, Nothing Comes Free, but they demonstrate her thoughtful take on American folklore, even if this one comes up a bit short of zing. B+(**)

Matthieu Donarier & Albert van Veenendaal's Planetarium: The Visible Ones (2010-12 [2014], Clean Feed): Duets, soprano and tenor sax for Donarier, piano (sometimes prepared) for van Veenendaal. Donarier, b. 1976 in France, has four albums since 2005. Van Veenendaal is older and his prepared piano work has been very impressive, but he never gets the upper hand here. B+(**) [cd]

Mark Egan: About Now (2014, Wavetone): Bass guitarist, played with Pat Metheny and Gil Evans, led fusion band Elements. Trio here with Mitchell Forman on keybs and Danny Gottlieb on drums, holds the groove but doesn't do much with it. B- [cd]

Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band: Mother's Touch (2011 [2014], Posi-Tone): Pianist-led big band, the group name dating back to Evans' 1988 album title (a septet at the time). Goes for brash volume and flash here, and that's what he delivers. B+(**)

Fennesz: Bcs (2013 [2014], Editions Mego): Guitarist from Austria, generates a lot of feedback which he shapes through various electronics, often leaving nothing but the shroud around the melody -- "Paroles" is something of an exception. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Shiki (2013 [2014], Libra): One of four conventional-sized big bands in Fujii's arsenal, the one with nearly every name on the roster a well known star. Three pieces, rarely hits the peaks of intensity and creativity the band is capable of, and ends in a confusing squabble. B+(**)

Fujiya & Miyagi: Artificial Sweeteners (2014, Yep Roc): British trio (guitar-synth-bass), clear enough from David Best's understated vocals, promising little beyond the dance beats, but the group's ambitions are similarly limited -- cf. the title, itself little more than a chant of the title. B+(*)

Gato Libre: DuDu (2013 [2014], Libra): Sixth album for trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's quartet, which has always had a Eurofolk feel thanks to Satoko Fujii's accordion, with a bit of chamber jazz given the lack of drums. The change this time replaces the bass with trombone -- should at least pump up the volume, but with no one keeping time the result is more sedate than ever. B [cd]

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piata (2011-13 [2014], Madlib Invazion): Rapper from Gary, Indiana, cuts his beatmaker in for a piece of the credit -- good idea. B+(***)

Luther Gray/Jim Hobbs/Kaethe Hostetter/Winston Braman: Lawnmower II (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): Not clear whether they intend the group to be called Lawnmower or Lawnmower II, but with the member names on the cover, we'll parse it that way. Drummer Gray and alto saxophonist Hobbs, who've played together in a trio with Joe Morris, were also in the original 2010 Lawnmower, along with two guitarists, replaced here by Hostetter on 5-string violin and Braman on electric bass. Hobbs usually runs away with any group he's in, but focuses on shading here behind the violinist. B+(***) [cd]

Grieves: Winter & the Wolves (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Seattle rapper, underground beats, articulate rhymes, finding himself in the world, his growth rippling throughout the music. A-

Max Johnson Trio: The Invisible Trio (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist, working with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Ziv Ravitz (drums), basically an avant-trumpet trio with extra focus on the bass. [Bandcamp only has 2 (of 8) cuts; can't grade this any higher on such a limited sample.] B+(**) [bc]

Max Johnson: The Prisoner (2012 [2014], NoBusiness): Bassist-led avant-chamber group -- at least that's the air you get from Mat Maneri's viola, plus Ingrid Laubrock's tenor sax is more likely to color in than honk or blare. With Tomas Fujiwara on drums, this tends to sneak up on you. B+(***) [cd]

Franklin Kiermyer: Further (2014, self-released): Drummer, originally from Quebec but spent the 1990s in New York and now seems to be in Oslo. Always a big Coltrane fan, his quartet fits the model, with Benito Gonzalez's fluid Tyner effects, and saxophonist Azar Lawrence always aiming at some higher plane. B+(**)

Lee Konitz/Dan Tepfer/Michael Janisch/Jeff Williams: First Meeting: Live in London Volume 1 (2010 [2014], Whirlwind): The bassist (Janisch) led the date and produced the album, but all deferred to the master: "Under Mr. Konitz's instruction, anyone on the bandstand could simply start playing a melody, and the rest of the band could follow. Or not." Still, it's Konitz you listen to, often sounding sublime, unmistakeable too. B+(***) [cd]

Lee Konitz: Standards Live: At the Village Vanguard (2009 [2014], Enja): Another live quartet, this one with Florian Weber (piano), Jeff Denson (bass), and Ziv Ravitz (drums), stretching six standards to a nine-minute average. Compared to the London set above, this one features a finer pianist, but offers a bit less showcase for the leader. B+(**)

Amy LaVere: Runaway's Diary (2014, Archer): Her little girl voice doesn't especially fit her deeply felt songs, so the latter take a while to sneak up on you. A-

Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abme (2014, Pi): Remarkably light for such a large group. Unlike the most comparable octet, David Murray's Ming, none of the five horn players here are especially imposing soloists, but they play roles exquisitely, and the rhythm section -- Drew Gress (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and Chris Dingman (vibes) -- is outstanding. A [cd]

Lost in the Trees: Past Life (2013 [2014], Anti): Arty little pop group from North Carolina, lead singer Ari Picker's voice goes high and the accompaniment is relentlessly pretty over a nice steady pace -- something I'm surprised to find myself rather enjoying. B+(***)

Lykke Li: I Never Learn (2014, Atlantic): Swedish singer-songwriter, writes dirges which pass for pop because they're mostly synths; maintains her Nordic chill, something I find less annoying this time around, maybe because "Never Gonna Love Again" seems like a constructive resolution. B+(**)

Jeremy Manasia: Pixel Queen (2013 [2014], Blujazz): Pianist from Staten Island, fourth album, a trio with Barak Mori and Charles Ruggiero, bright and percussive, its initial appeal deepening over seven 6-8-minute cuts. B+(***) [cd]

Dom Minasi & Hans Tammen: Alluvium (2013 [2014], Straw2gold Pictures): Avant guitar duets, not a lot of difference between the two, both with a rather sticky, choppy sound, not much resonance. B+(*)

Moodymann: Moodymann (2014, Mahogani): Kenny Dixon Jr., involved in Detroit techno since the mid-1990s, has a half-dozen albums with this eponymous one seeming particularly slapdash, aside from worry about Detroit's murder rate. B+(*)

Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (2014, Savant): Not the revelation A Sunday Kind of Love was -- the songs are less surefire, but saxophonist Houston Person is as dependable as ever, the perfect accompanist for any singer with even a hint of blues in her voice. And there's something to be said for venturing further afield, especially when you end up with "Blow Top Blues." A- [cd]

Moskus: Mestertyven (2014, Hubro): Third album by Norwegian piano trio -- Anja Lauvdal, Fredrik Luhn Dietrichson, Hans Hulbaekmo -- arrive at an interesting and attractive mix of rumbling rhythm and free, often by letting the bass/drums run ahead of the piano. A-

Mozes & the Firstborn: Mozes & the Firstborn (2013 [2014], Burger): Dutch garage rockers, have a vintage guitar sound, a singer-songwriter with some authority, and a fairly limited bandwidth. B+(**)

Natural Child: 1971 (2011, Infinity Cat): Nashville rock band's debut LP, the date on the title reflecting their ambitions -- initially to sound like the Stooges on that date, then they try to mix a little Big Star in as well as reverting to slightly earlier garage rock. B+(***)

Natural Child: Dancin' With Wolves (2014, Burger): Jumping forward to their fourth album, it's clear that hanging out in Nashville has relaxed their tempos and deepened their drawls and befuddled their vintage rock concepts, unless they're aiming for Poco, but I think they're too smart for that. B+(**)

Old 97's: Most Messed Up (2014, ATO): Guitar band with pop hooks, the latter mostly due to Rhett Miller. I've usually dragged my feet on them, admiring rather than liking their best albums, but this one flows so organically it's hard to complain. And the title song, which expands to "I'm the most messed up motherfucker in this town," is both tougher and funnier than Miller ever gets on his own albums. A-

Ought: More Than Any Other Day (2014, Constellation): Montreal postpunk group, or maybe post-newwave since they're more likely to recycle Talking Heads and the Feelies, with singer Tim Beeler reserving his best David Byrne impression or when the music merits it. Angrier, bleeker, tougher, all traits demanded by history, not to mention art. A-

Marc Ribot Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2012 [2014], Pi): A guitarist with many fronts, this live trio with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor returns to the roots of one of his best albums, 2005's Spiritual Unity, with two more Ayler covers, two late Coltranes, and two standards beat and bent into shape. B+(***) [cd]

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows: Volume 3 (2001-12 [2014], Okeh): Like with his first volume, Rollins continues to jump around to piece these live concert bits together, picking six cuts here from five concerts scattered over a decade, yet thanks to the leader they sound sufficiently of a piece. Highlight here is a long solo stretch, but really any time the sax takes the lead is a highlight. No patter, but lots of applause. A-

The Roots: . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (2014, Def Jam): At 33:22, more a short story than an EP, and you know the band is playing because they got nothing worth stealing: they're really pretty conventional, but the raps still get your attention even when the songs fade away. [Rhapsody only offers 8 (of 11) cuts.] B+(**)

Felipe Salles: Ugandan Suite (2013 [2014], Tapestry): Tenor saxophonist, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; teaches at U Mass Amherst. Sixth album. Group includes David Liebman on wooden flute and his usual saxes, Nando Michelin on piano, plus bass, drums, and two extra percussionists on a long list of things I've never heard of. Suite flows through five movements, often exquisite. B+(***)

JC Sanford Orchestra: Views From the Inside (2013 [2014], Whirlwind): Trombonist, don't find anything under his own name but was in a trio called Triocracy and has side credits in large groups under John Hollenbeck, Meg Okura, Joel Harrison, and others. Has a lot of recognized names in this big band but few of them stand out on record. B [cd]

Shit Robot: We Got a Love (2014, DFA): Marcus Lambkin, from Ireland, second album, ends with a very strong piece called "Tempest," B+(***)

Brenda Earle Stokes: Right About Now (2014, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Ontario, plays piano, has two previous albums as Brenda Earle. Covers four standards here, writes lyrics for two other melodies, resulting in a mixed bag. Steve Cardenas on guitar and Joel Frahm on sax are pluses. B [cdr]

Nelda Swiggett Stringtet: Blue-Eyed Painted Lady (2013 [2014], Origin): Pianist-singer -- at first she remind me of Keith Jarrett singing, but later on words are intelligible -- backed with viola, cello, bass, and drums, deep with strings but not confined to chamber music. B+(*) [cd]

Tigran: Shadow Theater (2012 [2014], Sunnyside): Pianist Tigran Hamasyan, b. 1987 in Armenia, moved to Los Angeles in 2003, fifth album (plus an EP) since 2006, second to appear on Verve in Europe, sans surname and avec vocals. The vocals are so thick here they overwhelm even the hammy melodrama of the keyboards. C+ [cdr]

Tune-Yards: Nikki Nack (2014, 4AD): Merrill Garbus' third album, follows huge critical success -- the previous two graded A by Christgau, the second won Pazz & Jop -- most likely with more of the same. Again, I vacillate between being perversely charged (cf. "Left Behind") and annoyed ("Rocking Chair"). She clearly has a lot of fun with her sampled percussion, and I don't mind free time in jazz, so the more I play this the more I suspect her voice (not that I like the similarly erratic Dirty Projectors even as much). Oh, and speaking of annoyances, can we at least agree to dispense with the juvenile tyopgraphy -- no longer present on the album cover, unless you really think she needs all those center-dots? B+(**) [cd]

Manuel Valera: Self Portrait (2013 [2014], Mavo): Solo, a rite of passage for every aspiring pianist. B. 1980 in Cuba, based in New York, has a handful of records since 2004 and side credits with Cubans like Dafnis Prieto and Yosvanny Terry as well as fellow travelers like Brian Lynch. Back cover says "Recorded on November 13 and 19, 2014" -- at the moment I doubt that, but seems like a typo destined to go down in history. B+(**) [cd]

Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (2014, Big Legal Mess): A Mississippi blues singer, not just old-fashioned but at 82 justifiably ancient, coming off as a Fred McDowell throwback locked in a studio with a lot of noisemakers. A-

Western Jazz Quartet: Free Fall (2014, Blujazz): Principally saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and pianist Jeremy Siskind, postboppers who've established themselves in the past decade, although bassist Tom Knific wrote one tune, and Keith Hall plays drums. Exemplary without striking my interest. B+(*) [cd]

Mars Williams/Ingebrigt Hker Flaten/Tim Daisy: Moments Form (2012 [2013], Idyllic Noise): Cover only lists last names (suggesting the bassist should be sorted under 'H' instead of 'F'), and the bandcamp page doesn't spell out the credits but part of the publishing goes to "Music From Mars." The saxophonist has virtually nothing under his own name, but played in NRG Ensemble, Vandermark 5, and the acid jazz group Liquid Soul. Drummer Daisy joined V5 after Williams left. Joint improv from a festival in Austria. Only 1 (of 3) cuts available. B+(*) [bc]

Nate Wooley/Hugo Antunes/Chris Corsano: Malus (2012 [2014], NoBusiness): Trumpet-bass-drums trio, all three also credited with amplifier. Starts with an impressive trumpet run, then settles into a staccato give-and-take, something that happens when improvisers run out of ideas but not chops. B+(**) [cdr]

Wussy: Attica! (2014, Shake It): Cincinnati group led by Lisa Walker and former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver, so obscure that AMG hasn't constructed a biography page for them, even though they list eight of their five (or six) albums, but so legendary that many of Robert Christgau's Witnesses have already proclaimed this the record of the year. As usual, I'm late to the cult, and not that enthused, but this starts with a clever rip on "Baba O'Riley" and follows with one solid song after another, the two voices and viewpoints offering contrasts even where the music grows loud and samey. A- [bc] [Later: A]

Basak Yavuz: Things (2012 [2014], Z Music): Turkish singer-songwriter, previously worked as an architect, probably her first album, recorded in New York with David Liebman and Peter Eldridge listed as "featuring" (two cuts each, although Eldridge plays piano on three more). Three covers, including a probing "How Deep Is the Ocean." B+(*) [cd]

The Young Mothers: A Mother's Work Is Never Done (2013 [2014], Tektite): Norway's premier avant bassist, Ingebrigt Hker Flaten, has lately been dividing his time between Oslo and Austin, and from the latter base rounded up some Houston horn players -- Jason Jackson on sax, Jawwaad Taylor on trumpet (who also raps), along with Austin guitarist Jonathan Horne and Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly and put together Texas' answer to the Thing, and then some. A- [cdr, bc]

Brigitte Zarie: L'amour (2013 [2014], NJ Music): Jazz singer, from Toronto, parents from Casablanca, second album; has picked up some of Billie Holiday's phrasing (or is it Madeleine Peyroux?), writes most of her own songs (with help on the music from Neil Jason), the two covers "I Walk the Line" and "Corcovado," the title cut in both French and English versions. B [cd]

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Tektite Records Presents: The Young Mothers Sampler 1 (2012-14 [2014], Tektite, EP): I figured this 7-cut, 31:10 sampler for promo only but see now it's available for $5 on Bandcamp, although I'm still not clear on all of it: the few names I do recognize are Frank Rosaly (a drum piece as Millwork), Stefan Gonzalez (as Orgullo Primitivo), and Ingebrigt Hker Flaten (who brought in a blistering 7:59 Thing track and evidently leads the Young Mothers). Samples a wormhome at the end of the universe where avant-noise rock and free jazz don't meet so much as bump heads. B+(**) [cdr, bc]

Old Music

Al Haig Trio: Al Haig Trio [Period Recordings] (1954 [2000], Fresh Sound): One of the best early bebop pianists -- in the late 1940s played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz. Cut two trio records in 1954 with Bill Crow and Lee Abrams: this one for Vogue (although it says Period on the cover) and the other for Esoteric, both reissued by Fresh Sound. Esoteric got the crown, probably because there's more of it. B+(***)

Al Haig Trio: Invitation (1974, Spotlite): Haig caught a second wind in the mid-1970s up to his death in 1982, not that there is much to show for the period. This is a trio with Gilbert Rovere on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. B+(**)

The Tubby Hayes Quintet: Down in the Village (1962 [1963], Fontana): British tenor saxophonist (1935-73), was a powerful swing-to-bop player in his heyday. Quintet includes Jimmy Deuchar on trumpet and Gordon Beck on piano, and the splash of vibraphone you get later on is from Hayes. B+(**)

Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh: Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh (1955 [2006], Atlantic/Rhino): Devotees of Lennie Tristano's cool twisted bebop, as was pianist Sal Mosca, the two saxes weave into a singular flow, the sweet tones accented by Billy Bauer's guitar. With Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. A-

Lee Konitz: Satori (1974 [1997], Milestone/OJC): One of four albums cut for Milestone 1969-74, a period when the alto sax great was mostly working in Europe, displaying his characteristically cool take on avant-garde. Quartet, with Martial Solal, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette, plus Dick Katz on the title track. B+(***)

Lee Konitz Featuring Harold Danko: Wild as Springtime (1984 [1997], Candid): Duets, with excellent mainstream pianist Danko backing the alto saxophonist, about half originals, plus covers from George Russell, Chick Corea, and Frederic Chopin. A-

Lee Konitz/Franco D'Andrea: 12 Gershwin in 12 Keys (1988 [1997], Philology): Duets with pianist D'Andrea, transposing 12 classic Gershwin tunes into different keys -- the significance of that technical feat eludes me, but most come off as recognizable as ever. B+(***) [cd]

Junior Mance Trio: Junior's Blues (1962 [1998], Riverside/OJC): Pianist, b. 1928 near Chicago, started playing in his teens with Gene Ammons before getting drafted, has 50+ albums under his own name, hundreds of side credits. While he's rarely thought of at a top tier pianist, with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Mickey Roker on drums, he strides masterfully through this blues program. A

Ron Miles Quartet: Laughing Barrel (2002 [2003], Sterling Circle): Trumpet-guitar quartet with Brandon Ross on the latter, Anthony Cox on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. Straightforward and rather sensitive postbop. B+(**)

Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock: Bezique (2002, Spartacus): Scottish musicians, the tenor saxophonist is one of the most flamboyant players of his generation, impressive even in basic piano duets such as this "live in Edinburgh" set of standards. Better still is their 2005 follow up, Symbiosis. A-

Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall: The Dessert (2002 [2003], Leo): Piano-clarinet duets, Mahall playing bass and contrabass clarinets. Seventeen joint improvs, most 2-3 minute range but three top five minutes, the longest 7:35. Abstract pluck and scratch, pretty much as you'd expect. B+(***)


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

  • Paolo Nutini: Caustic Love (2014, Atlantic)


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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo