Rhapsody Streamnotes: December 11, 2014

I had a scare yesterday: one of those end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it moments. Rhapsody stopped working, and when I closed and reopened the page, it came back with a totally redesigned website . . . which didn't work. The new Rhapsody depends on Adobe's Flash product -- evil incarnate, if you ask me, but my real horror was more practical. I'm running Ubuntu Linux. When I went to Adobe's home page, where Rhapsody told me to go to "get Flash," they threatened that this would be their last Linux release ever. I then followed their download instructions, which didn't come close to working. I then went searching through Ubuntu forums for help. Found one thing that didn't work. Then found another that finally did the trick -- for now. I suppose I could switch to Spotify or some other competitor, but failure would have spelled instant doom for Rhapsody Streamnotes.

On the other hand, this installment would not have been a bad way to bow out. The 116 records below (not counting 6 regrades) is the most all year, and 14 new A- records (not counting 3 promotions) is very likely the most too. Also took a belated dive into some of the year's compilations, finding three more A- records. (Old music lost out, although I couldn't pass up two older Lotte Anker albums -- I remembered Stef Gijssels raving about Live at the Loft back in 2009 -- I found along with the new one.)

I get tips from all over the place, but my project to count many 2014 EOY lists is the most systematic: I currently have counted 112 lists, identifying 1663 new albums and 174 compilations. I might note that while The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream has led from the very first list, its current lead over FKA Twigs' LP1 is a razor-tight 96-95 (with St. Vincent 3rd at 85, Caribou's Our Love 4th at 71, and Run the Jewels 2 5th at 66). The compilations sample is still too small to draw any conclusions from. I'll probably keep adding data up to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop list, to be published on January 14.

I keep adding to my own lists -- conveniently broken down into jazz and non-jazz sets -- and will do so at least until I cast my Pazz & Jop ballot (deadline December 26). I've opened up a second December 2014 file, so unless Rhapsody dies on me (again), expect another one by the end of the month.

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 22. Past reviews and more information are available here (5689 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots (2014, Parlophone): An architect of the late 1980s/1990s Brit-pop sound, best known there for Blur and here for Gorillaz, turns in a very modest little solo album. At best, reminds me of Robert Wyatt, the way he would feel his way around a song that didn't quite come together (cf. "You & Me"; "Heavy Seas of Love" is the one that does come together). B+(*)

Fatima Al Qadiri: Asiatisch (2014, Hyperdub): Born in Senegal in 1981, raised in Kuwait (occupied by Iraq in 1990), based in New York. Has an EP based on a video game based on the Gulf War. For her first album, she imagines a travelogue through China. I've seen an interview with her where she talks about Orientalism. Evidently she wants to try out both sides. B+(**)

Lotte Anker/Jakob Riis: Squid Police (2014, Konvoj): Both from Denmark, Anker plays tenor/alto/soprano sax, Riis composes fairly minimalist electronic tableaux. The latter doesn't give the saxophonist much to kick off from, although it's most interesting when she does. B+(*)

Aurelio: Lándini (2014, Real World): Surname Martinez, from Honduras, plays a style called Paranda, better known in the US as Garifuna (thanks to his debut album, Garifuna Soul). Looser and lighter than salsa. B+(***)

Iggy Azalea: Reclassified (2014, Def Jam): Yet another aggravating marketing stratagem: reissue this year's pretty good debut album, The New Classic, minus seven songs (or eight from the "Bonus Edition" -- they don't miss a trick), plus five new songs with "Beg for It" the new single. Catchiest songs are on both, another reason to only buy one (if that). Best way to handle this is to trim back to the new material, which gives us a 5-cut EP: B+(**)

Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha (2009 [2014], NoBusiness): I wouldn't hold much hope for violin-bass duos, but we're talking two all-time jazz greats here, and both have a tendency toward hearts-on-sleeve. Bang died in 2011, a huge loss, and I count this as his fourth posthumous release: a duo with Bill Cole didn't offer much, but the two group albums on TUM were superb. So is this. A- [cd]

Beck: Morning Phase (2014, Capitol): Released two of the best albums of the 1990s, and I still enjoyed his blue-eyed soul phase (e.g., Midnite Vulture), but I've felt no reason or desire to keep tracking him. That's because his trajectory has been toward soft and flat, and here he's pretty much arrived there: the record is occasionally pretty but nearly featureless. B-

Beyoncé: Beyoncé (2013, Columbia): Released December 13 last year, as I recall exclusively on iTunes, this bum rushed the P&J poll, finishing 4th -- probably better than any December release in history. I missed it then, and cut the newly available Platinum Edition down to size, but I don't get what the excitement was about. Fairly prosaic love songs intercut with autobiographical snapshots, nothing really awful -- which come to think of it makes this better than her median album. B+(**)

Big K.R.I.T.: Cadillactica (2014, Def Jam): Rapper from Mississippi, broke through with a big mixtape a few years back and is now toiling for a major label. Wide range of material, doesn't jump out of the grooves but flows and repays multiple spins. Could grow into one of the records of the year. A-

Bishop Nehru/MF Doom: NehruvianDOOM (2014, Lex): Collaboration between 18-year-old rapper Bishop Nehru (Markel Scott) and producer Daniel Dumile (who's used many names, the best known MF Doom). Promises "great things" once "you have to decide that you don't care what other think of you." On his way. B+(**)

Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): Piano-trombone duets, the former a revered master who doesn't get out much, the latter probably the top avant-oriented trombonist around, exceptional here in how he fills out the melody. A- [cd]

Busdriver: Perfect Hair (2014, Big Dada): Regan Farquhar's idiosyncratic hip-hop takes several bizarre turns here, taking guests like Aesop Rock, Danny Brown, and Open Mike Eagle off several cliffs. Parts don't flow at all, and they even manage to make "eat the rich" sound unappetizing -- one of many jokes, not all of which miss. C

Call Super: Suzi Ecto (2014, Houndstooth): J.R. Seaton, from Britain but based in Berlin, stitched this techno together, very appealing little loop patterns with a tiny bit of industrial klang and a gentle woosh -- that underwater sound that Drexciya so enjoys. I could probably listen to the first few pieces indefinitely. A-

Caribou: Our Love (2014, Merge): Dan Snaith's electronica isn't disciplined enough to conform to an aesthetic or concept -- it's whatever works in support of pop songs, both pleasant and forgettable. B+(**)

Juan Pablo Carletti/Tony Malaby/Christopher Hoffman: Nińo/Brujo (2013 [2014], NoBusiness): Drums, tenor sax, cello, respectively, with Carletti writing the songs, and Malaby articulating them wonderfully. B+(***) [cdr]

Eric Church: The Outsiders (2014, Capitol Nashville): Still one of Nashville's better singer-songwriters, but he's going through some growing pains. His idea that as he gets more popular the way to fill up those arenas is with more rock and roll has merit, but the songs pointed that direction, especially the title anthem, are awful -- note that most are co-written by Casey Beathard, although the one that goes "I'm a broke record" isn't. B+(*)

The Cookers: Time and Time Again (2014, Motéma Music): Fourth album for the all-star septet with their first personnel change: Donald Harrison replaces Craig Handy at alto sax. Two trumpets (Eddie Henderson, David Weiss), Billy Harper at tenor sax, and a rhythm section of George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart, with all but Harrison contributing songs. They promise to turn up the heat, and mostly deliver. B+(**)

The Core Trio: The Core Trio With Matthew Shipp (2014, self-released): Houston-based free jazz trio with Seth Paynter on sax, Thomas Helton on double bass, and Joe Hertenstein on drums, joined by pianist Matthew Shipp for a 42-minute improv. Simple enough idea, but Shipp is really in his own class when it comes to this sort of thing. A-

Frankie Cosmos: Zentropy (2014, Midheaven, EP): Alias for Greta Kline, daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. She's released 40-some home-recorded "albums" since 2009, but this is the first assembled in a studio, and counted as an EP because the ten songs only add up to 17:22. B+(*) [bc]

Dee Daniels: Intimate Conversations (2012 [2014], Origin): Standards singer, AMG roots her in Sarah Vaughan and that's the idea but a stretch, at least on vocal range and timing. Ninth album since 1991, The band is star-studded -- Cyrus Chestnut, Ken Peplowski, Wycliffe Gordon, Russell Malone, Houston Person -- but they mostly stay out of the way. B- [cd]

De Beren Gieren & Susana Santos Silva: The Detour Fish: Live in Ljubljana (2014, Clean Feed): Belgian piano trio -- Fulco Ottervanger (piano), Lieven Van Pée (bass), Simon Segers (drums) -- with two or three albums (the first is called EP1), hooks up with Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva, a nice pairing on the easy side of free jazz. B+(**) [cd]

Deerhoof: La Isla Bonita (2014, Polyvinyl): San Francisco band, founded in 1994 with singer Satomi Matsuzaki joining a year later, often classified as "noise pop," which I take to be an especially erratic varient of prog. I couldn't stand the two previous albums I checked out, and wouldn't have bothered with this were it not for a brain lapse confusing them with Deerhunter. Turns out this time I find nearly all of their larks and quirks amusing, including a bit that sounds like noise-pop. I don't recognize the parts that reportedly play off Madonna, the Ohio Players, and Michael Jackson, but the thought must count for something. B+(**)

Toumani Diabaté/Sidiki Diabaté: Toumani & Sidiki (2014, World Circuit): Two kora masters from Mali, father and son, the former the guy everyone from Ali Farka Touré to Damon Albarn to Taj Mahal has played with. The latter allegedly has a hip-hop career, but plays nice here -- almost too nice. B+(**)

Ron Di Salvio: Songs for Jazz Legends (2006 [2014], Blujazz): Pianist, has a book called Deltadiotonics: Twenty-First Century Harmony, and a handful of mostly-recent records. This is a sextet plus a vocal quartet. The songs are each inspired by jazz musicians ("Oscar-nine-inicity," "Dave's Brew," "Sonny Side Up," "Mingustino," "Bud's Blossom," "Mulligan's Stew" -- like that, in a quasi-fifties style). Too cute and not quite clever enough. B [cd]

Justin Townes Earle: Single Mothers (2014, Vagrant): Singer-songwriter, works in a country-ish vein. Played it twice and it grew comfortable on me -- maybe not the point. Looks like he has a sequel coming up, called Absent Fathers. B+(**)

Emperor X: The Orlando Sentinel (2014, self-released): Chad Matheny released a very smart singer-songwriter album in 2011, Western Teleport. That followed thirteen years of electronic experimentation, and preceded this, partly a return to form and an effort to move beyond -- the songs are less polished, the music just weirder, but both are interesting. B+(***)

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Black Is Back: 40th Anniversary Project (2014, Katalyst): Percussionist Kahil El'Zabar's two-horn trio, first recorded in 1981 with as Three Gentlemen From Chikago with Henry Huff and Edward Wilkerson on saxes, and are up to 14-15 records now. Trombonist Joseph Bowie replaced Huff in the 1980s, and Ernest Dawkins took over the sax slot in 1998. Trumpeter Corey Wilkes took over for Bowie in 2006, and an experiment with guitarist Fareed Haque ended shortly after that, the group reverting to the present trio -- the best pair of horns he's worked with. And as usual, his vocals don't help, but that's a minor issue here. B+(***)

Orrin Evans: Liberation Blues (2014, Smoke Sessions): Versatile pianist leads what's basically a hard bop group -- Sean Jones (trumpet), JD Allen (tenor sax), Luques Curtis (bass), Bill Stewart (drums) -- opens with Dwayne Burno's fiery title suite, slides into ballads later and ends with a vocalist (Joanna Pascale). B+(**)

Far East Movement: KTown Riot (2014, Interscope, EP): New jack funk group from LA, resemble Black Eyed Peas as much as anyone else but tend to duck underground, underming their pop potential. Six tracks, 21:07, guest rappers include Schoolboy Q and YG. B+(*)

Fire! Orchestra: Enter (2014, Rune Grammofon): The first Fire! was a trio whose principals -- saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, drummer Andreas Werlin, and bassist Johan Berthling, -- came from jazz, pop, and "experimental folk-electronica" backgrounds. They then scaled up to a massive orchestra -- I count 29 credits (most I recognize, a veritable who's who of Norway's avant-garde) -- with Marian Wallentin (and others) singing her arch texts: effectively, they add drama to a band built for it. B+(**)

Aretha Franklin: Sings the Great Diva Classics (2014, RCA): Acknowledging that the diva fetish in postmodern soul music was probably her own damn fault, she decides to show us how it should be done, and pretty much pulls it off. Helps that classics are classics, and that they save her the trouble of acting -- all she has to do is perform, and she's got that covered. B+(***)

Friends & Neighbors: Hymn for a Hungry Nation (2012-13 [2014], Clean Feed): Swedish group, no one I've heard of -- André Roligheten (tenor sax, clarinets), Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Oscar Grönberg (piano), Jon Rune Strřm (bass), Tollef Řstvang (drums) -- took their name from an Ornette Coleman title. Leans toward postbop, with lush piano, shiny horns, pushed toward the edge. B+(**) [cd]

Fucked Up: Glass Boys (2014, Matador): Post-hardcore band from Canada, retains the genre's ferocious vocal snarl but cut surprising breaks into the music, turbulent as it is. B+(**)

Gazelle Twin: Unflesh (2014, Last Gang): Elizabeth Bernholz (of Brighton, England) fills her electronica with industrial klang and mordant vocals, an intriguing, chilly, and (a bit) creepy effect. B+(**)

Danny Green Trio: After the Calm (2014, OA2): Pianist, has several albums, this a trio with Justin Grinnell on bass and Julian Cantelm on drums. Working on his Latin tinge, often finding it. B+(**) [cd]

Jimmy Greene: Beautiful Life (2014, Mack Avenue): Tenor saxophonist, mainstream guy with most of his albums on Criss Cross, dedicated this one to his daughter, one of the children shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elemenary School in Newtown, CT, six years old at the time. Greene lined up a first rate rhythm section, and plays with stately grace and beauty, but he also throws in guest vocalists, including a children's choir, and this gets a little too poignant. B+(*)

Johnny Griffith: Dance With the Lady (2014, GB): Canadian alto saxophonist, name reminds you of Johnny Griffin, and so does his sax. Hard bop quintet, with Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. B+(*) [cd]

Grünen [Achim Kaufmann/Robert Landfermann/Christian Lillinger]: Pith & Twig (2012-13 [2014], Clean Feed): Piano trio, same bass-drums as Luis Lopes' Berlin connection but you get a better sense of how they flex here. The pianist, also German, bobs and weaves in and out as well. B+(***) [cd]

David Guetta: Listen (2014, Atlantic): Hit producer, works with a wide range of guest singers and styles which gives his records a certain randomness. Not unusual for him to reel off three songs that suck then break loose with one that's pretty good. Maybe the average is better than that, but not enough better to get you through the whole thing. B

Barry Guy: Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett (2009 [2014, NoBusiness, EP): Fizzles is a collection of short pieces by Samuel Beckett, written in French mostly in 1960 and published in English in 1977 with a set of images by Jasper Johns. Guy recorded a set of bass solos under the same names in 1991, presumably the source of the pieces recorded here (but here the titles are just "Fizzle I" through "Fizzle V"). I don't have times here, but they are short enough to be released on 10-inch vinyl -- probably less than 20 minutes, resulting in the rare bass solo that if anything ends too soon. B+(**) [cdr]

Hail Mary Mallon: Bestiary (2014, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic return for a second album, their group named for the cook who at the dawn of the 20th century was so effective at infecting New York City's upper crust with typhoid fever. Underground beats, very snappy. B+(***)

Half Japanese: Overjoyed (2014, Joyful Noise): Duo goes back to the late 1970s. They made a lot of noisy, erratic albums where memorable songs were buried like rough gems, ultimately enough to fill up a remarkable 2-CD Greatest Hits in 1995. Since then not much, but their first in 13 years sounds like they never left. B+(***)

Maggie Herron: Good Thing (2014, self-released): Standards singer, from Hawaii, also plays piano. Brian Bromberg produced, and Geoff Keezer helped with the arrangements. Two songs in French, one from Joni Mitchell; classics like "Body and Soul" fare better. B+(**) [cd]

Hookworms: The Hum (2014, Weird World): Brit band, drone with pop hooks, this one grabs me less than the first (2013's Pearl Mystic); probably the organ, which comes out on top of the guitar(s) as often as not. B+(***)

How to Dress Well: What Is This Heart? (2014, Domino): Tom Krell, from Chicago, mostly sings in a falsetto, often over synth strings, an effect some consider soulful. I find it has an agreeable ambience to it, then forget what I heard once it passes. B

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes (2014, ATO): Alynda Lee discards her Puerto Rican roots for Appalachain folk transplanted to New Orleans. This has gotten a surprising amount of year-end list attention. B+(**)

Russ Johnson: Still Out to Lunch (2014, Yellowbird): Trumpet player, leads a quintet including Roy Nathanson (alto/soprano sax) and Myra Melford (piano). Title honors Eric Dolphy's masterpiece, Out to Lunch!, still inspiring after fifty years. B+(**)

Kool A.D.: Word O.K. (2014, self-released): Not the oft-repeated "best rapper in the world," but perhaps the most relaxed, a "what me care?" attitude that let him release the project "outtakes" (as Not O.K.) ahead of the main course. Nor am I sure it even matters. "Some times I get paid to perform raps/other times I do it for free." Whatever, all good. A- [bc]

Jonas Kullhammar: Gentlemen (2014, Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist (credit order here: tenor, baritone, bass, stritch, saxello). I've only heard his more avant work on Clean Feed until now, so I was surprised to find this starting out so mainstream, then delighted to hear him stretch out. Four tracks add a second tenor sax, the justly renowned Bernt Rosengren. Last four tracks (Rosengren is on one of them) add Goran Kajfes on cornet and Mattias Stĺhl on vibes. Reportedly a soundtrack, but no hint of that genre's usual flaws. A- [cd]

Michel Lambert: Journal des Épisodes II (1992-2014 [2014], Jazz From Rant): Ninety-seven short fragments of music (total 44:17) tied to a journal written in 1988. It does feel so fragmentary, even with bits of WSO string quartet (from 1992) interleaved into the more recent Guillaume Bouchard-Alexandre Grogg piano trio. B+(***) [cd]

Nikki Lane: All or Nothin' (2014, New West): Country singer on the alt-side, doesn't quite have the big Nashville voice, recoils by hanging with rockers (Dan Auerbach produced) and taking risks, sleeping with strangers, looking for the right time to do the wrong thing. B+(*)

Let's Wrestle: Let's Wrestle (2014, Fortuna Pop): English group, has an ear for writing pop songs but tends to be soft and a bit twee, which wouldn't be a problem if the songs were catchier and/or deeper. B+(*)

Luis Lopes Lisbon Berlin Trio: The Line (2014, Clean Feed): Portuguese electric guitarist, one of the most distinctive anywhere -- seems like he plays on his feedback as much as on the guitar itself -- with German bassist (Robert Landfermann) and drummer (Christian Lillinger). A- [cd]

Brian Lynch and Emmet Cohen: Questioned Answer (2012 [2014], Hollistic Musicworks): Trumpet and piano, respectively, leading a quartet billed as intergenerational, with Lynch fifty-something, the pianist less than half that, bassist Boris Kozlov somewhere in between, and drummer Billy Hart on the far side. Both leaders are very active, B+(**)

Tony Malaby's Tubacello: Scorpion Eater (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): As advertised, a sax quartet with a tuba (Dan Peck) and a cello (Christopher Hoffman) splitting the bass role. John Hollenbeck is the drummer. Marvelous in spots, again as you'd expect. B+(***) [cd]

Thurston Moore: The Best Day (2014, Matador): I've often thought that Kim Gordon's voice added an essential human dimension to Sonic Youth's trademark guitar tunings, but now that the group has broken up I'm beginning to appreciate the appealing lightness of his tunes, and the austere luxury of his guitar -- as trademark as ever. A-

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Blue (2014, Hot Cup): Once out to terrorize jazz history, now they aim to mimic it, with a "note for note" recital of Miles Davis' universally adored 1959 album, Kind of Blue (the five cuts wind up 17, 10, 8, 5, and 0 seconds longer than the originals). To do this they added Ron Stabinsky to play Bill Evans -- probably the only talent not wasted here. B [dl]

Nick Mulvey: First Mind (2014, Fiction/Harvest): English singer-songwriter, recognized the name because he played percussion and hang in the jazz group Portico Quartet. Basically straightforward, although with his ethnomusicology degree I expect closer attention to pick up subtler details. B+(*)

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Driftwood (2013 [2014], ECM): Austrian guitarist, often regarded as a follower of Metheny and Scofield, and often better than either. Trio with Larry Greandier on bass and Brian Blade on drums -- has a previous duo with Blade I recommend, 2007's Friendly Travelers. But this winds up being very laid back, as if he thought the label ordered up a Ralph Towner album. B+(*) [dl]

Naomi Punk: Television Man (2014, Captured Tracks): Math rock trio from Olympia/Seattle, second album, loud, a little stilted, but isn't spasticky just one of those awkward stages of youth? B

The New Basement Tapes: Lost on the River (2014, Island): Producer T-Bone Burnett's project, an ad hoc supergroup -- Elvis Costello, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Marcus Mumford (& Sons), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) -- intent on fleshing out unfinished Bob Dylan lyrics dating back to 1967 Woodstock. Pleasantly meandering Americana, but nothing indelible here, unlike similar efforts to add music to Woody Guthrie lyrics -- not sure what that says about the writer, probably more about the (less-than) supergroup. B+(*)

Jim Norton Collective: Time Remembered: Compositions of Bill Evans (2013 [2014], Origin): Baritone saxophonist, originally from San Francisco, lately based in Seattle, assembled a 12-piece band for his arrangements of Evans' compositions. A lot of lovely detail here. B+(**) [cd]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Remedy (2014, ATO): Virginia band, allegedly grew up on grunge and hip-hop but opted to make their living with fiddles and banjos, figuring they could still kick up their shoes. Mostly upbeat, occasionally inches past the usual Nashville boundaries. Sample lyric: "it's an already mean enough world/without you." B+(**)

Old Style Sextet: Old Style Sextet (2014, Blujazz): "Old style" is closest to hard bop, with two saxes (co-leaders Michael Fenoglio and Clark Gibson switching off between alto and tenor), trombone, piano-bass-drums, but no trumpet. Band comes out of central Illinois, where most have teaching jobs. B+(*) [cd]

Parker Abbott Trio: The Wayfinders (2012-13 [2014], self-released): Two pianists from Toronto, Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott, plus drummer Mark Segger. Both Parker and Abbott play a lot of electric keyboards, which provides some variation to their sound, which is more pop than new age and more challenging than smooth jazz, not that either are particularly high bars. B [cd]

Peaking Lights: Cosmic Logic (2014, Weird World): Husband/wife, Indra Dunis singing and Aaron Coyes doing whatever, make lo-fi synth-pop. B+(***)

Rich Pellegrin Quintet: Episodes IV-VI (2014, OA2): Pianist, leads a conventional postbop quintet with R. Scott Morning on trumpet and Neil Welch on tenor sax. Complex, leaning toward lush with the horns shining, but few surprises. B+(*) [cd]

Perfume Genius: Too Bright (2014, Turnstile): Mike Hadreas' third album, trends toward mopey, melodramatic ballads with an air of lushness for comfort. B

Rod Picott: Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail (2014, Welding Rod): A singer-songwriter from New Hampshire who could pass as country if he had a bit of twang. Starts with a touching break up song, sentimentally overrates a "65 Falcon" and wonders why anyone calls the leaky tin can he lives in a "Mobile Home." B+(***)

Pink Floyd: The Endless River (2014, Rhino): Not a real band any more -- Roger Waters is long gone, Rick Wright dead, leaving David Gilmour and Nick Mason to recycle and gussy up instrumental bits that harken (and for all I know may derive) from the band's heyday. A trifle, but I find it appealing. B+(*)

Roil [Chris Abrahams/Mike Majkowski/James Waples]: Raft of the Meadows (2013-14 [2014], NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio. Abrahams, originally from New Zealand and based in Sydney, has tended to work in groups including the Necks (another piano trio), but Discogs lists 17 records (since 1985) under his name. B+(***) [cdr]

Boris Savoldelli/Garrison Fewell: Electric Bat Conspiracy (2014, Creative Nation Music): Savodelli is an eccentric Italian singer; considers Mark Murphy a mentor, but sounds more like Captain Beefheart to me, at least when he gets up to speed, which isn't often. Fewell plays guitar and composed most of the songs, with lyrics added from as far afield as Sun Ra. Covers: "My One and Only Love," "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," "Perfect Day." B+(*) [cd]

Louis Sclavis Quartet: Silk and Salt Memories (2014, ECM): French clarinet player, many records since 1980, his avant tendencies increasingly subsumed in world music contexts, this one inspired by the great transcontinental trade routes of the middle ages. Backed with guitar (Gilles Coronado), piano/keyb (Benjamin Moussay), and percussion (Keyvan Chemirani). B+(***) [dl]

Brandon Seabrook: Sylphid Vitalizers (2014, New Atlantis): Plays tenor banjo and electric guitar ("shreds" is his preferred term), previously released a couple records as Seabrook Power Plant. This is described as a solo, but Dr. Vitalizer is also credited with drum programming. B+(*)

Serengeti: Kenny Dennis III (2014, Joyful Noise): A third album about David Cohn's Chicago rapper character, an older mentor and sometime adversary of the artist's own alter-ego Chicago rapper character, as they rendez-vous in LA, hit the road to Rockford, and eventually crack up. I suspect I've heard it before, but it's finally beginning to stick. A-

Slackk: Palm Tree Fire (2014, Local Action): Paul Lynch, first album after several EPs, several sources list this as "grime" but that's not what I think of -- almost all instrumental, electronic, something between dubstep and trip hop, which is to say not much. B

Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up (2013-14 [2014], Ipecac): British neo-punk group, sometimes labeled hip-hop for the monotone vocals but they sound sung to me. Also bitter, angry, sarcastic, not exactly cynical, all traits of thinking, caring beings these days. Couldn't find their 2014 album Divide and Exit, but compilation of recent odds and sods probably gives the flavor. B+(***)

Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour (2014, Capitol): Young British singer, featured on singles by Disclosure and Naughty Boys before this debut. Everyone talks about his remarkable voice -- he sings falsetto and lower and switches between them with emotional precision -- but that hardly qualifies him as the future of soul music (even in England). Indeed, he's more likely to wind up being very annoying when he tortures second-rate songs. B-

Tommy Smith/Brian Kellock: Whispering of the Stars (2014, Spartacus): Tenor sax-piano duets, their third album together (the best is Symbiosis). Smith was incredibly fast and brash when he was young, but seems to be turning into an old softie here, inching his way through standards like "Stardust," "Round Midnight," "Moonlight in Vermont," "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," "Moonlight Serenade," even "When You Wish Upon a Star" (some in medley). B+(***)

The Soundcarriers: Entropicalia (2014, Ghost Box): Brit group, if there's a jungle influence it's from the dance genre, not from the tropics, and they lean more prog/psych than anything else. But they're not subtle: they grab your attention and run with it. B+(**)

Brian Swartz & the Gnu Sextet: Portraiture (2014, Summit): Trumpet player, fourth album since 2000. Sextet alternates two saxophonists; otherwise trombone, piano, bass, drums. Mainstream postbop, but brighter than usual, swings some. B+(**) [cd]

Sunny Sweeney: Provoked (2014, Aunt Daddy): She has the Nashville voice Nikki Lane lacks, but it doesn't always help -- a couple songs gets thick and syrupy. But she does her best to play bad, from "You Don't Know Your Husband [like I do]" to "[Here's to the working class] Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass." B+(*)

Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (2014, Big Dada): Brit rapper ("London-born performance poet"), née Kate Esther Calvert, cites Samuel Beckett and Wu-Tang Clan as influences. Dan Carey's beats give her a firm ride and the breaks seem just right, while her rhymes dazzle, and I'm a sucker for the accent. A

Tinashe: Aquarius (2014, RCA): Surname Kachingwe, b. 1993 in Lexington, KY, based in LA where she also has an acting career. Neo-soul, gets a boost when a rapper (like Schoolboy Q) drops in, or when they just pick up the beat. B+(**)

Ton Trio II: On and On (2013 [2014], Singlespeed Music): Alto sax trio led by Aram Shelton, who left the Chicago avant scene for California, always gets a terrific sound. With Scott Brown on bass and Alex Vittum on drums. B+(**)

Mark Turner Quartet: Lathe of Heaven (2013 [2014], ECM): Two horn (aka pianoless) quartet, the leader's tenor sax impressive on its own but most often tied up with Avishai Cohen's trumpet, which rarely cuts loose but adds lots of color. With Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. B+(**) [dl]

TV on the Radio: Seeds (2014, Harvest): Fifth studio album, with two I counted at A- but can't now remember nor recognize anything comparable here. Rather, I just get a sense of grandeur, and the best I can say is I'm not detecting its near relative, pomposity. So I figure them to be decent, likable fellows, doing honest work on some stratospheric level that fails to interest me. B

Us Free [Bill McHenry/Henry Grimes/Andrew Cyrille]: Fish Stories (2006 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): No new talent here: tenor saxophonist McHenry has at least ten albums since 1998, and the others are a generation or two senior, nor is the tape all that fresh. Much proceeds as you'd expect, but there are some snags, also some treats, like Grimes playing violin. B+(***)

The Vamps: Meet the Vamps (2014, Island): British boy band's debut, upbeat, built on riffs that proved commercially viable as far back as the '60s (including an improved Simon & Garfunkel song as well as a Bruno Mars credit and a Demi Lovato guest spot). Actually, a lot of fun. B+(**)

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: OverTime: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer (2014, Planet Arts): Longtime house band at the Village Vanguard, originally directed by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, both long departed, but pianist Jim McNeely retains the sensibility, and the roster of horns is inspired (names include Terrell Stafford, Luis Bonilla, Rich Perry, Dick Oatts, Ralph Lalama, and Gary Smulyan). That such a big band would be attracted to Brookmeyer is no surprise. B+(*)

Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): European jazz trio, with Bostjan Simon (sax -- Slovenia), Stephan Meidell (guitar, bass -- Norway), and Luis Candeias (drums -- Portugal). So much propulsion here that any lapses in the groove or bursts of noise wash away, leaving you with a layered weave of tone. I wouldn't call this avant-garde, much less postbop, and certainly not fusion, but might not object to post-Velvets, if you know what I mean. A [cd]

David Virelles: Mboko (2013 [2014], ECM): Pianist, from Cuba, calls this "sacred music for piano, two basses, drums, and biankoméko abakuá" -- the latter a set of four hand drums played by Román Diaz. They don't add a lot, but the abstract meander of the piano is something to follow. B+(**) [dl]

Jessie Ware: Tough Love (2014, Interscope): British pop singer, effectively a soft soul artist. Second album, still looking for a hit. B+(*)

Marcin Wasilewski Trio w/Joakim Milder: Spark of Life (2014, ECM): The piano trio, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz, was first introduced to the US as Tomasz Stanko's "young Polish group," but had some history together before and continued after the trumpeter moved on. They are as fine as ever here, and get a little extra color from tenor saxophonist Milder -- all they need. A- [dl]

Bill Watrous/Pete Christlieb/Carl Saunders/The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra: A Beautiful Friendship (2014, Summit): Trombone, tenor sax, and trumpet for the first three, but the main credit belongs to Urwin for arranging and leading this showy big band. B

Colin Webster/Andrew Lisle/Alex Ward: Red Kite (2014, Raw Tonk): Tenor/baritone sax, drums, guitar; based in England. Four numbered pieces, improvs I'd say, the others largely keying off the guitarist -- more like piling on when the action picks up, which is when they make the strongest impression. B+(**) [bc]

Wildest Dreams: Wildest Dreams (2014, Smalltown Supersound): Maybe the artist credit should be Harvey Bassett or DJ Harvey but the cover doesn't indicate that. The music is a throwback to late-'60s psychedelic rock -- the cover is an homage to a Randy California album. Reminds me of a 1980s group with the same basic idea, the Golden Palominos -- not least because the instrumental stretches are more compelling than the vocals. B+(**)

Wu-Tang Clan: A Better Tomorrow (2014, Warner Brothers): Twenty-some years after their debut, seven since the last, they're having trouble pulling it together, and sounding more old school than ever when they do -- even before the song credited to M.L. King Jr., or the "family reunion" retooled from Gamble-Huff. Big gestures, their specialty. B+(***)

Neil Young: Storytone (2014, Reprise): Ten songs -- one very pointed one about saving the earth, another about driving his car -- backed with big band brass and/or symphony orchestra strings, producing more than its fair share of hackneyed effects, even as they rarely detract from his singing. But if that's what you want, you're better off with the second disc of the Deluxe Edition, where he recycles the same songs solo. If you could buy it separately, I'd bump the grade up a couple notches. B+(*)

Young Thug & DJ Swamp Izzo: I Came From Nothing (2011, self-released): Atlanta rapper, first mixtape, has done two (or three) more with this title, evidently a point of pride. Rough, gravelly. [Rhapsody combines this with 2; thought it would make more sense to try to separate them out.] B+(*)

Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 2 (2011, self-released): Front cover says "Hosted by Swamp Izzo," something less than co-credit. Nearly twice as many songs. Nearly twice as difficult to tell them apart. B+(*)

Young Thug: I Came From Nothing 3 (2012, self-released): Again, hosted by DJ Swamp Izzo. A giant step forward, mostly speeding up the beats, smearing them with synths, and matching them with rapid-fire rhymes, most compatible with the Dirty South idea. B+(***)

Young Thug/Rich Homie Quan/Birdman: Birdman Presents Rich Gang: The Tour Pt. 1 (2014, Cash Money): Despite all the loose cash, not really a surfeit of riches here -- the most coherent parts do little more than reiterate the brand name. B+(*)

Zanussi 5: Live in Coimbra (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): Bassist from Norway (father Italian), leads a quintet with three saxes -- Kjetil Mřster (tenor/soprano), Jřrgen Mathisen (tenor), Erik Hegdal (baritone), all doubling on clarinet -- and drums. Propulsive grooves set up sax wails, with the bari for deep muscle. A- [cd]

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Julian Bahula: Spirit of Malombo: Malombo Jazz, Jabula and Jazz Africa 1966-1984 (1966-84 [2014], Strut, 2CD): South African singer, led several bands from exile in England -- quite possible that the eponymous Jabula (1975) was the first African album I bought, and I picked up a later Malombo album on pure spec. I wasn't impressed by either, but this makes more of his career, starting a bit slow but occasionally hitting full stride. B+(**)

Francis Bebey: Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984 (1982-84 [2014], Born Bad): From Cameroon, had some early success with the Palm Wine and Highlife styles then drifted into electronics, nicely sampled on this label's recent African Electronic Music 1975-1985 comp. This is later, the beats more minimal, the filigree stranger. B+(**)

Ted Daniel's Energy Module: Interconnection (1975 [2014], NoBusiness, 2CD): Trumpet player, associated with New York's avant "loft scene" but recorded little -- later coming to my attention on Billy Bang's Vietnam records. But this is a find, a prime example of the era's avant-garde, with two energetic saxophonists (Daniel Carter and Oliver Lake), and relative unknowns holding their own at bass and drums. A-

Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 (1978-82 [2014], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Some serious crate digging here, coming up with nothing I've ever heard before by no one I've ever heard of -- all danceable, "fine" seems the apt term, wouldn't go much further than that. Label also has a large-format book, Disco: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Cover Art of Disco, with pretty much the same cover. B+(*)

Gipsy Rhumba: The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in Spain 1965-1974 (1965-74 [2014], Soul Jazz): I think of rhumba as a dance beat that sloshed back and forth between Cuba and Congo several times, but evidently something of the concept splashed onto Spain and was picked up by flamenco musicians there. Upbeat, sounds vaguely Mexican to me. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Hamburg '72 (1972 [2014], ECM): Recorded at NDR Funkhaus on June 14, 1972, the trio is three-quarters of Jarrett's "American Quartet" of the time, missing saxophonist Dewey Redman. Most interesting thing here are the stretches where Jarrett plays soprano sax, especially on "Piece for Ornette" but also on "Song for Che." Jarrett also plays some flute, which catches you off guard and ain't half bad. Of course, he plays some piano two, and this was a period when he was brash enough to carry an audience for hours -- it you want to nitpick, he doesn't do enough of that here. But that leaves room for Haden and Motian -- unique talents no longer with us. A- [dl]

Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day [Willie's Stash, Vol. 1] (2014, Legacy): The uneasy beginnings of an archival series like the "bootlegs" Sony's been pushing of Bob Dylan and Miles Davis. I haven't seen the recording dates -- before credited bassist Bee Spears died in 2011, and maybe much older (the solo "Who'll Buy My Memories?" sounds like the lead on 1991's The IRS Tapes). Nor does pianist Bobbie Nelson appear all that much. B

Salsa de la Bahia: A Collection of SF Area Salsa and Latin Jazz: Vol. 2, Hoy Y Ayer (1983-2013 [2014], Patois, 2CD): I've complained much about the quality of world music coming out of San Francisco, but the salsa and Latin jazz on these volumes is pretty close to the mark. Vol. 1 started in 2003. This one goes back a couple decades earlier, but is still mostly recent. B+(**) [cd]

Verckys et l'Orchestre Vévé: Congolese Funk, Abrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 (1969-78 [2014], Analog Africa): Title-wise, I guess soukous doesn't ring up the cash register as much as funk, afrobeat, or psychedelia, but Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta spent a decade in the employ of Franco before spinning off Orchestre Vévé and recording this fairly classic soukous. No titles in common with RetroAfric's 2001 superb compilation, Vintage Verckys. A-

Old Music

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver: Live at the Loft (2005 [2009], ILK Music): Danish saxophonist with piano and drums -- two American players who were just graduating to major status. Two 20+ minute pieces plus a shorter one. Quite remarkable when they're all fired up, but the saxophonist isn't always engaged. B+(***)

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver: Floating Islands (2008 [2009], ILK Music): This ignites on the 16:22 second cut ("Ritual") with Anker playing soprano sax over the pianist's toughest vamp. When that seems to have worn the saxophonist out, Taborn picks up the slack until she gets a second wind, and comes back even stronger. A-

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:

The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt (2014, Suicide Squeeze): Three women from Atlanta, a pretty basic punk trio, which was all I came up with on first play. Returning to them, the first thing that struck me was the rightness of the tone, which carries all but one or two of the songs. Their faces are obscured by hair on the cover, but are much clearer on record. [was: B+(**)] A-

Bette Midler: It's the Girls (2014, East/West): Lobbied into replaying this, I admit this is broader that I first thought, and she kicks it up a level when she dubs in some crowd sounds as well as the harmonies. I still find the Spector hollow, and the TLC ballad dull, and the mean song gets a shrug, but "Tell Him" is pretty great. [was: B] B+(**)

Rod Picott: Welding Burns (2011, Welding Rod): [was: B+(***)] A-

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (2014, Accurate): [was: A-] A

Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (2014, Masterworks): [was: A-] A

Withered Hand: New Gods (2014, Slumberland): When Michael Tatum first told me this album was "awesome," I expected something other than an underwhelming Scottish Beach Boy, even if this Willson is as stuck in his room as that Wilson. I still can't say as I get, let alone appreciate, it, but the album is mightily tuneful and more than a little substantial. [was: B+(**)] A-

Young Thug & Bloody Jay: Black Portland (2014, self-released): Still not sure Christgau's pick for "rap album of the year" is worth the trouble -- I heard nothing redeeming or even very interesting the first four times through, and wouldn't have bothered but for peer pressure. This only started to sound like something after slogging through YT's back catalog, realizing it wasn't so bad, then getting a charge from the acceleration on I Came From Nothing 3. The musical breakthrough here came on "4 Eva Bloody" -- there are others, but sometimes the music threatens to vanish. Not sure there is, or ever will be, a lyrical breakthrough, or that either of these Atliens have any future. But this turns out to be a pretty unique item. [was: B-] A-


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