Rhapsody Streamnotes: October 24, 2015

A little more than a month since the last one, the extra time making up for our ten-day dog rescue excursion to yield a typical month's worth of triage. The new records are mostly jazz (65%) because I've been trying to make a dent in my backlog. Of the non-jazz picks, three were recommended by Robert Christgau (John Kruth, Amy LaVere, Donnie Trumpet), two more by Michael Tatum (Ezra Furman, Giorgio Moroder). The other two (Metric, New Order) are records I looked up based on prior reputation. My working EOY list for non-jazz is still way underdeveloped compared to the jazz list (35 records to 53). The year-end lists should help even this out, but even the premature British lists are still a month away. Maybe we should revive the Turkey Shoot/Black Friday Special this year?

The old music is more eclectic than it's been in quite a while. I took a break from the Hatology orgy last month, although I'm far from done with that label. Some records came out of a Pitchfork Top Albums of the 1970s list. I think I had 85 of 100 before I started searching out the stragglers (a little heavy on krautrock). Other old music followed new music -- Bottle Rockets, Ulrich Gumpert, I found a Bill Kirchner record with Sheila Jordan on it.

The Notes section has previous grades of albums by artists in the Old Music section. I started this a few months back when it made more sense -- at the time I was filling in holes in various artist lists, mostly by chasing down top-whatever lists. I made a change last month when my Hatology research glanced into some artists it would have been exhausting to list out (like Anthony Braxton and Steve Lacy). This month it's less clear what to do, so I'm winging it. I've included albums by Armstrong and Bechet that have some of the same material as the ones reviewed, then counted up the rest. I listed out Ulrich Gumpert since most of what I've heard was reviewed this month, but merely counted Pandelis Karayorgis. I imagine both pianists are about equally obscure even to American jazz fans, which is a shame. The best place to start on Karayorgis is an album credited to Mi3, Free Advice (2004 [2007], Clean Feed) -- a Jazz CG Pick Hit when it came out.

Total rated count for this column sailed past 7000 this month.


Most of 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 September 16. Past reviews and more information are available here (7100 records).


Recent Releases

Bob Albanese: Time Remembered (2012 [2015], Mayimba): Pianist, second album (as far as I can tell), leads a trio with Eddie Gomez on bass and Willard Dyson on drums, and extra percussion on one track. And someone sings some at the end, presumably the artist, with a vocalese air, fitting for all the brisk boppishness. B+(*) [cd]

The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: 10 (2015, Zoho): Trumpeter, from Peru, based in New York, celebrates ten years since founding his sextet. One trad piece, jazz standards like "Caravan" and "Lonely Woman" and "My Favorite Things" -- also a take of "Star Spangled Banner" I don't mind too much. B+(***) [cd]

Gonçalo Almeida/Martin van Duynhoven/Tobias Klein: Vibrate in Sympathy (2015, Clean Feed): Credits should be reordered to put Klein up front, making this a sax-bass-drums trio, all original pieces by Klein, who is very clear-headed on alto sax, bass clarinet, and contrabass clarinet. B+(***) [cd]

Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin: Lost Time (2015, Yep Roc): The ex-Blasters' previous reunion album, 2014's Common Ground, had the thematic coherence of a tribute album, not to mention one of the most underappreciated of all blues songbooks, Big Bill Broonzy. On the other hand, this quickie rarely rises above the level of a family singalong. Some songs, of course, are nice to hear, and there's a certain novelty value in hearing Phil try on "Please Please Please." B+(*)

Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (2012 [2015], Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, from Portugal, should be considered a major figure on the instrument. He is spectacular here, not that he doesn't get help from Joe McPhee (pocket trumpet, alto sax) working around his edges. With Kent Kessler on bass and Chris Corsano on drums. A- [cd]

Laurie Antonioli & Richie Beirach: Varuna (2006-15 [2015], Origin): Vocalist and pianist, mostly recorded in two sessions from 2006 and 2012, plus some more recent touch up. Bassist Pepe Berns joins for the jointly-credited three-part "Resolution Suite." Four more originals, plus standards concepts like opening "My Funny Valentine" with Scriabin's "Prelude in E-flat Minor." B- [cd]

The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club (2015, Bloodshot): Country-ish rock band, dates back to 1993 with over a dozen albums, led by Brian Henneman, whose songs are clear and empathetic as ever. B+(***)

Randy Brecker: Randy Pop: Live (2015, Piloo): As pointed out in the liner notes, the trumpeter turns 70 in November, so time, perhaps, for a little nostalgia. Brecker and his saxophonist brother "Mike" ran a successful fusion group in the 1970s but also did tons of studio work, so Kenny Werner got the idea of taking songs the Breckers played bit parts on and turning them into a retrospective: Donald Fagen's jazz-ready "New Frontier," BS&T, Todd Rundgren, a pair of James Browns segueing into Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. Werner forgets the part about pop being fun but avoids the worst skunk funk, and Brecker's deadpan intros add to the museum effect. B [cd]

A Bu Trio: 88 Tones of Black and White (2014 [2015], Blujazz, CD+DVD): Pianist, from Beijing, accepted at age 9 to the Conservatory of Music, "studied under renowned jazz pianist professor Kong Hongwei," attended sumer camps in Kansas City and San Francisco, joined the Beijing Jungle Big Band in 2012. Debut is a trio with Ma Kai on bass and Shao Ha Ha on drums. The thirteen cuts are all covers, the J.S. Bach sounding odder to me than the Monk. B+(*) [cd]

Art "Turk" Burton and Congo Square: Spirits: Then & Now (1983-2015 [2015], ATB): Conga player from Chicago, joined AACM in 1973, was elected chairman in 2011. This is the only album I've been able to find, built from 2 cuts from a 1983 live shot, 6 more from a recent studio date -- bassist Harrison Bankhead spans both sets. The early cuts have that loose swing one associates with Sun Ra, especially the one joined by Douglass Ewart and Donald Rafael Garrett. The new ones take a while to click -- roughly until the percussion leads the way. B+(**) [cd]

Marnix Busstra: Firm Fragile Fun (2015, Buzz Music): Guitarist, postbop fusion, has several previous albums. This is a quartet with piano-bass-drums, the leader playing bouzouki and electric sitar as well as guitar. All original material. Flows easy. B+(*) [cd]

De Beren Gieren: One Mirrors Many (2015, Clean Feed): Piano trio: Fulco Ottervanger (piano), Lieven Van Pée (bass), Simon Segers (drums). Fifth album since 2010, a nice mix of postbop and avant, dense but nothing untoward. B+(**) [cd]

Benoit Delbecq/Miles Perkin/Emile Biayenda: Ink (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): French pianist, twenty-some albums since 1992, this a trio with bass and drums. I'm struck especially by his rhythmic control. B+(***) [cd]

East West Quintet: Anthem (2011 [2015], self-released): Based in Brooklyn, which I guess makes them more east than west these days. Also I count a sextet's worth of credits: Dylan Heaney (alto/tenor sax), Phil Rodriguez (trumpet), Simon Kafka (guitar), Mike Cassidy (piano, keyboards), Benjamin Campbell (electric and upright bass), Jordan Perlson (drums). Third album, self-described as "genre-bending" and "more likely to rock than to swing" -- actually, odds of either are pretty slim, nor does it help that "anthem" seems to mean slow. B- [cd]

Eskmo: Sol (2015, Apollo): Brendan Angelides' second album, a mix of bent pop and electronics that grows on you, somewhat. B+(**)

EZTV: Calling Out (2015, Captured Tracks): Guitar-driven power pop, just not much power, even less pop. B

John Fedchock New York Big Band: Like It Is (2014 [2015], MAMA): Trombonist, his first New York Big Band album dates back to 1992, a crack outfit -- reed section: Charles Pillow, Mark Vinci, Rich Perry, Walt Weiskopf, Gary Smulyan/Scott Robinson -- not that this breaks new ground. B+(**) [cd]

Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People (2015, Bella Union): A singer-songwriter who's able to accent his writerly preoccupations -- whatever they may be, one line being "lose yourself completely, but stay alive" -- by reviving ancient rock archetypes, some doo-wop here, some glam rock there, some honking sax. A-

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live in Studio (2015, Whaling City Sound): Third group album, impossible to fault the drummer's dream team -- pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter. All standards, most given a delightful lift with the pianist's light touch. Also, four guest spots for Roy Hargrove, and three for Cassandra Wilson. B+(**) [cd]

Ulrich Gumpert Quartett: A New One (2014 [2015], Intakt): Pianist-led sax quartet, with Jürg Wickihalder the saxophonist, Jan Roder on bass and Michael Griener on drums. B. 1945 in Jena, Gumpert grew up in East Berlin, interested in Satie and free jazz. From 1974 on, he recorded several FMP albums with Günter Sommer, joined Conny Bauer's Zentralquartett (still an important group), recorded a duo with Steve Lacy in 1987 (and was later one of the pianists on Lacy's Five Facings). A- [cd]

Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live in Bern (2014 [2015], Capri): No relation, although drummer Jeff comes from a famous jazz family, which put him in front of what otherwise might be Tamir Hendelman's piano trio. I thought the pianist was a bit obtrusive at first, but the second spin was all smooth sailing for the tenor. B+(***) [cd]

Miho Hazama: Time River (2015, Sunnyside): Pianist, composer, arranger, spends more time conducting on her second album than at the piano. Band is officially 13-piece although I see more credits here, including a full cast of strings, and a guest slot for Joshua Redman. B+(**) [cdr]

Dale Head: Swing Straight Up (2015, Blujazz): Saloon singer, plays some trumpet, is backed by Rory Snyder's Night Jazz Band on a dozen standards (although "Blue Rondo a La Turk" is a vocalese lark). B [cd]

Julia Holter: Have You in My Wilderness (2015, Domino): From Los Angeles, a singer-songwriter who looks to literature for inspiration -- Colette and Isherwood this time -- and wraps stories up in thick sheets of electronics. B

Innerroute: Fourmation (2011 [2015], self-released): Quartet -- Michael D'Agostino (drums), Rick Savage (trumpet/flugelhorn), Joe Vincent Tranchina (keyboard), Bill McCrossen (acoustic & electric fretless basses) -- second album, the electric ride neither postbop nor fusion, not that there isn't a whole tradition around trumpet slicing through electronics. B+(**) [cd]

Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free (2015, Southeastern): Singer-songwriter, left the Drive-By Truckers in 2007 for a solo career which has never amounted to much. Some attractive songs here. Most seem too understated, but when he pumps one up that doesn't help either. B+(*)

Ivan & Alyosha: It's All Just Pretend (2015, Dualtone): Seattle band, named after The Borthers Karamazov, third album, a pleasant alt-rock group. B

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Live in Cuba (2010 [2015], Blue Engine, 2CD): A first-rate, even if relatively conventional, big band. Bronx-born bassist Carlos Henriquez serves as musical director, stocking the band with Latin standards without suggesting they know better how to play the local music. On the other hand, they do know how to run a rousing brass section. B+(**)

Ochion Jewell Quartet: Volk (2015, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, second album (as far as I can tell), quartet includes bassist Sam Minaie and two-thirds of Dawn of Midi: pianist Amino Belyamani and drummer Qasim Naqvi. The sax doesn't blow me away, but the rhythm section is far from ordinary. Two tracks add Lionel Loueke. A- [cd]

Bill Kirchner: An Evening of Indigos (2014 [2015], Jazzheads, 2CD): Soprano saxophonist and sometime jazz historian (he edited The Oxford Companion to Jazz, organized a nonet for his 1983 debut and that seems to be his favorite vehicle. This is more intimate, a long, relaxed set with Carlton Holmes on piano, Jim Ferguson on bass, and smoky vocals by Holli Ross. B+(**) [cd]

Frank Kohl Quartet: Invisible Man (2013 [2015], Pony Boy): Another mild-mannered guitar album, backed by Tom Kohl on piano, Steve LaSpina on bass, and Jon Doty on drums. B+(*) [cd]

John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic (2015, Smiling Fez): Ujevic (1891-1955) was a Croatian poet and essayist; he studied in Split, lived mostly in Belgrade (after some time in France) but died in Zagreb. Wikipedia tells us that "in 2008, a total of 122 streets in Croatia were named after Ujevic, making him the ninth most common person for whom streets were named in Croatia." Nine (of thirteen) songs here are built around Ujevic lyrics, three others Kurth originals "inspired by Ujevic and Croatia," plus a trad folk dance for local flavor. Actually, the music doesn't sound that Balkan, and the lyrics are all standard English translations, accorded the sort of veneration that comes naturally to folkies. A-

Amy LaVere and Will Sexton: Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer (2015, Archer): A country singer who prefers Memphis, and one of those singer-songwriter who having established her own career decided to give her husband some billing -- Amy Rigby, Kelly Chambers, and Kelly Willis are others (although the latter's mate is probably as well known). This was cut cheap, minimal arrangements, recycling some old songs which stand on their own. Still very much her album, although he sings one and does a nice job. A-

Left Exit Mr K: Featuring Michael Duch & Klaus Holm (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): My original parsing had Left Exit as the group name, Mr K as the album title, and the rest as fluff. Some further diggins suggests the above, with some sources marking the transition from white to black print with a comma (and an equally invisible dot): Left Exit, Mr. K. At any rate, the group proper is a duo of Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (saxes) and Andreas Skår Winther (drums, strings), so Duch (double bass) and Holm (sax, clarinet) are guests. Improv that aims at the dark side of ambient, nothing quite so clear as drone. B+(**) [cd]

The Liberation Music Collective: Siglo XXI (2015, self-released): Big band from Bloomington, IN, co-founded and (more or less) led by Hannah Fidler (bass) and Matt Riggen (trumpet), the instrumental stretches cut with interviews, spoken word samples, a "Herstory" rap by Fiddler. May strike you as a bit preachy, but someone in the trombone section has a sense of humor (and so does Fidler -- best presumably assumed name since Joe Strummer). B+(**) [cd]

Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: The Puzzle (2015, Whaling City Sound): The saxophonist has many groups, well over 100 albums, but this one almost deserves the pretentious name. Liebman plays soprano and wooden recorder -- not something I've been all that fond of in the past, but he mixes well with Matt Vashlishan (clarinet, flute, alto sax, straw, EWI). Bobby Avey is a terrific pianist, and Tony Marino and Alex Ritz are fine on bass and drums. B+(***) [cd]

Russ Lossing: Eclipse (2012 [2015], Aqua Piazza): One of the most impressive jazz pianists to have emerge since 2000. This one is solo, often quite impressive. B+(**) [cd]

Hans Luchs: Time Never Pauses (2015, OA2): Guitarist, based in Chicago, first album, bright tone, some swing, wrote eight originals and covers Ellington and Porter. B+(*) [cd]

Maddie & Tae: Start Here (2015, Dot): The phrase they hint at but can't bring themselves to say (pardon that "French") is "karma is a bitch." Note that Taylor Dye and Maddie Marlow are credited on all songs, but never without help. Feels like too much help, and with their voices locked it's hard to find an individual in the duo. B+(*)

Whitney Marchelle: Dig Dis (2015, Blujazz): Singer, last name Jackson, second album. Plays some piano, moves a lot of musicians in and out -- the late Clark Terry's cut suggests this was recorded earlier but I have no dates. She digs bebop, and this works best when it flies, as on the opening "In Walked Bud." B+(*) [cd]

Josh Maxey: Celebration of Soul (2015, Miles High): Guitarist, tenth album he's recorded in last three years, all original pieces mostly done in a soul jazz mode with Brian Charette on organ and Jeremy Noller on drums, some adding Rodney Jones for a second guitar, more often Chase Baird on sax, or others who didn't make the front cover. B [cd]

Joe McPhee/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs: Ticonderoga (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Avant sax quartet, McPhee plays tenor (mostly) and soprano and doesn't push it too hard. Saft plays piano, getting a bit more brittle sound than on his usual electric keybs, and adding measurably to the rhythmic complexity, which is not to say groove. Morris plays bass here, and is superb. [PS: There is an alternate cover, shown on the label's website, which suggests Saft is the leader. My copy lists the four names in the credit order above. The spine only lists Ticonderoga, which the label's website lists as the artist name.] A- [cd]

Bob Merrill: Cheerin' Up the Universe (2013 [2015], Accurate): Trumpet player, crooner, don't know if he's related to the famous songwriter of the same name (1921-98), but is clearly much younger and still living. (AMG errnoeously lists his records under the elder Merrill's discography.) Band includes John Medeski, Russ Gershon, Nicki Parrott, and George Schuller, and Harry Allen and Roswell Rudd drop in for a cut apiece. His standards are mostly pop songs from the '60s and '70s -- "What the World Needs Now," "Compared to What," "Imagine," "Feelin' Groovy," "The Creator Has a Master Plan," "Let's Drop the Big One" -- some of those work and some don't, but the final three are pleasant surprises: "Happy," "IGY (What a Beautiful World)," and "I'm So Tired." B+(**) [cd]

Metric: Pagans in Vegas (2015, Metric): Synth-pop group from Toronto, lead singer Emily Haynes, been around since the turn of the century but took a big step forward with 2009's Fantasies. This is about as good, mature songs built on solid melodies, nothing too chirpy or flashy. A-

Mark Christian Miller: Crazy Moon (2015, Sliding Jazz Door Productions): Standards singer, has a previous album as Mark Miller (Dreamer With a Penny), draws on local talent for his band -- notably Josh Nelson (piano), Larry Koonse (guitar), Bob Sheppard (bass clarinet). Not a classic crooner but agreeable enough, especially if you feed him an undeniable classic. B+(*) [cd]

Ben Monder: Amorphae (2010-13 [2015], ECM): Guitarist, very prolific sideman with 130 albums since 1992, the go-to guy for New York postboppers. Two duos with Paul Motian, two more with Andrew Cyrille, plus trio tracks where synth-player Pete Rende joins Cyrille. Ambient, nearly featureless, aside from some fumbles that could just be artifacts of a defective streaming process. B [dl]

Giorgio Moroder: Deja-Vu (2015, RCA): Best known as Donna Summer's producer (1975-80), Moroder lent his disco touch to dozens of artists in the early 1980s. His own albums start with a 1969 collection of bubble gum covers, proceed through disco versions of the Moody Blues and the soundtrack for Midnight Express, but end in 1985. He's done hack work since then (TV, video games), but this is his first album in 30 years. His disco shtick hasn't evolved much but still gleams -- at one point his disembodied voice tells us "74 is the new 24," but he usually leaves the words to still young pop stars like Sia, Charli XCX, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, and Kelis. And he shows us that "Tom's Diner" gets even better with more remix. A-

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Mauch Chunk (2015, Hot Cup): Some turnover in the lineup of bassist Moppa Elliott's group as it moves into its second decade: Ron Stabinsky, who joined the group when they attempted to clone Kind of Blue, remains on piano, while Peter Evans (trumpet) is gone. The loss of front-line fire power should hurt, but saxophonist Jon Irabagon goes to Herculean lengths to make up the deficit. Not quite up to their best albums of the past decade, but the bear on the cover reminds me they don't have to outrun time, just the competition. A- [cd]

New Order: Music Complete (2015, Mute): First real album in a decade -- seems to be a lot of that going on recently -- the lapse taking one casualty: bassist Peter Hook is gone (but how hard is it to replace a bassist?), original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert has returned, and they've added some guests and strings, none of which makes much difference: long-term fans will instantly recognize the band, and newbies will be, well, amazed. A-

Oddisee: The Good Fight (2015, Mello Music Group): Underground rapper, born in DC as Amir Mohammed el Khalifa, father originally from Sudan, tenth album since 2009 plus a bunch of EPs and mixtapes. Spoken word bit at the end explains that Oddisee and Blu are two rappers who refuse to "dumb down" to make themselves more accessible. Can't argue against this, given that most of this record just sailed right past me. B+(*)

Caili O'Doherty: Padme (2015, Odo): Pianist, first album, all originals, backed by bass and drums plus many guests -- saxophonists Ben Flocks (tenor) and Caroline Davis (alto) make the best impression, mostly by going with the flow. B+(**) [cd]

Ought: Sun Coming Down (2015, Constellation): Post-punk quartet from Montreal with a heavy metallic klang that reminds me of some of those UK groups that came along after Gang of Four (e.g., Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, less so The Three Johns), an imposing sound when it coheres (as it mostly did on the 2014 debut More Than Any Other Day), although here they fall down repeatedly, and the effect is far more annoying than my hopefully hedged grade. B+(*)

Charlie Parr: Stumpjumper (2015, Red House): From Minnesota, guitarist-singer billed as "country blues" but I'm more inclined to view him as a folk artist -- even if virtually all of the songs are originals the style is as old as the hills. Helps here that he gets some backing vocals -- wife and kids, I gather. B+(**)

Ben Patterson: For Once in My Life (2015, Origin): Organ trio, with Peter Bernstein on guitar and George Fludas on drums. Conventional, almost classic, soul jazz, neatly done. Leader has several previous albums as a pianist. B+(*) [cd]

Pere Ubu: Carnival of Souls (2014, Fire): One of the most brilliant avant-punk groups to come out of the late 1970s -- newbies might consider their new vinyl-only box, Elitism for the People 1975-1978 (Fire, 4LP), but I probably have it all, and having been slow to give up vinyl, I'm even less inclined to retrace my steps. David Thomas, at least, has kept the band name going, his voice unique, and the sonic palette still distinc after all these years. B+(***)

The Pop Group: Citizen Zombie (2015, Freaks R Us): An obscure avant-punk group from 1978-80, their album Y having become a cult item, regroups after thirty-some years (vocalist Mark Stewart, guitarist Gareth Sager, and drummer Bruce Smith, anyway, with a new bassist). More structured than the original group, which is not necessarily a plus. B+(*)

Noah Preminger: Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (2015, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, won the debut category in the 2008 Jazz Critics Poll, and has only gotten better. Live quartet with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Kim Cass on bass, and Ian Froman on drums -- names I didn't recognize and shouldn't forget. Two 30+ minute jams, an old-fashioned cutting contest. A- [cd]

Tom Rainey Trio: Motel Grief (2015, Intakt): Drummer, I first noticed him with Tim Berne in the 1990s, but it took a while before he started moving his name up front. Third album with this particular group, with Ingrid Laubrock on sax and Mary Halvorson, slippery as ever, on guitar. B+(**) [cd]

Keith Richards: Crosseyed Heart (2015, Mindless/Virgin): First solo album since 1992. Maybe he figured the title tune was good enough, and maybe it is, but Steve Jordan isn't the writing partner he needs, so the filler falls off pretty bad -- especially when you consider he has a knack for making knock offs work (cf. "Goodnight Irene"). B

Daniel Romano: If I've Only One Time Askin' (2015, New West): Canadian country singer, second album. B+(*)

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (2015, Mack Avenue): Jazz singer, born in Miami, mother French, father Haitian, studied in France. Her second swept the critics polls and picked up a Grammy nomination. I doubt this would have broken through like that, but fans may convince themselves it's a step forward. I'm not so sure, not just because I found her "Wives and Lovers" unsettling. B+(*)

Jill Scott: Woman (2015, Atlantic): Sixteen songs, runs 57:41, sprawl that I've found hard to get a grip on although I don't doubt that a little pruning would put it over, and suspect even that once that happened the ambient filler might work too. Or maybe just a hard copy and lots of time. Easy enough to get why she favors the sprawl: big subject, and lots to say about it. B+(***)

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Makoto Ozone: Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No 9 K-271 (2014 [2015], Spartacus): Tommy Smith's pet project, one I indulge mostly because Smith remains one of the world's most dynamic tenor saxophonists. Indeed, there's an early solo here that could be no one else. Still, Mozart, even nicely jazzed up, will never be my cup of tea, and while Ozone may have a reputation in some circles, he's just another piano player here. B+(*) [cdr]

Aram Shelton/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Frank Rosaly: Resounder (2014 [2015], Singlespeed Music): Alto sax-cello-drums trio, leader also credited with "processing," while Lonberg-Holm adds guitar and electronics -- his electronics have moved way beyond the hobby stage, filling up the middle with a dense, prickly sonic framework, which the others can only sharpen up or knick away at. B+(***) [cd]

Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue: Sounds and Cries of the World (2015, Pi): Exotic singer from Peoria, IL; also plays piano and various lutes and zithers and gongs of scattered east Asian origin, and fronts a talented group with Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Mat Maneri (viola), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). Nice work if you can stand it, which for the most part I cannot. B- [cd]

Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Hampus Lindwall: If Nothing Else (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Trumpet/flugelhorn, double bass, and organ, respectively. Organ and bass are usually exclusive in jazz groups but here they resonate, the organ broadening the bass harmonics and the bass sharpening the organ, while the trumpet easily punctures whatever backdrop they throw up. B+(**) [cd]

Rotem Sivan Trio: A New Dance (2015, Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, born in Israel, based in New York, third album, trio with bass (Haggai Cohen-Wild) and drums (Colin Stranahan). Rather buttoned-down postbop. the pace deliberate, the tone muted, the guest vocal neither here more there. B+(*) [cd]

Snik: Metasediment Rock (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): Norwegian avant quartet: Kristoffer Kompen (trombone), Kristoffer Berre Alberts (saxes), Ole Morten Vågan (bass), Erik Nylander (drums), with Kompen and Vågan composing (6-to-2). B+(**) [cd]

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment: Surf (2015, self-released): The leader is actually named Nico Segal, but does at least play trumpet. Still, this counts as a rap album for the vocalists, the main one being Chance the Rapper (although I suppose featured artists like Big Sean and Erykah Badu are better known). Underground, flows soulfully, grows on you. A-

Voicehandler: Song Cycle (2013-14 [2015], Humbler): Duo: Jacob Felix Heule (percussion & electronics), and Danishta Rivera (voice & Hydrophonium). The electronics evoke primordial violence, the assembly of the world from chaos, and the vocals try to make it all seem cosmic. B+(*) [cd]

The Weeknd: Beauty Behind the Madness (2015, Republic): Abel Tesfaye, from Toronto, entered the pop world as a damaged outsider and seems determined to stay there, his love songs crippled but shameless. B+(*)

Bastian Weinhold: Cityscape (2014 [2015], Frame Music): Drummer, from Germany, studied in Netherlands, moved to New York in 2009. Second album, quartet with Adam Larson on tenor sax and Nils Weinhold on guitar. More typical of a guitarist's album, a bit of groove with little muss. B [cd]

Galen Weston: Plugged In (2015, Blujazz): Guitarist, from Toronto, easy-going groove album with electric keyb and bits of tasty sax. B- [cd]

Ben Winkelman Trio: The Knife (2014 [2015], OA2): Pianist, third or fourth album, trio with Sam Anning on bass and Eric Doob on drums. B+(**) [cd]

John Wojciechowski: Focus (2015, Origin): Saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor), one previous album, this a quartet with Ryan Cohan on piano/Rhodes, Dennis Carroll on bass, Dana Hill on drums. Nice tenor tone, good postbop sense, very listenable disc. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Willem Breuker Kollektief: Angoulême 18 Mai 1980 (1980 [2015], Fou, 2CD): Dutch group, led by the saxophonist from the early 1970s until his death in 2010. Like ICP Orchestra (which Breuker briefly played in), and for that matter the Sun Ra Arkestra, Breuker was able to span the whole history of jazz up through the avant-garde, frequently turning to hard swing, but in Breuker's case also mixing in circus, folk, classical, and Brechtian art-song. I've only heard ten (of fifty-some) Breuker records, and most I rate between mixed blessings and downright nuissances, so as I was falling for this one I noticed that my previous favorite was another early (1975) live album. This could have been edited down into something that flows better, but largesse was a big part of their shtick. A- [cd]

Amara Touré: 1973-1980 (1973-80 [2015], Analog Africa): Singer-percussionist from Guinea, played in Le Star Band de Dakar, picking up Afro-Cuban pop from the African end. Stitched together from singles and an album, the tracks progressively refine their groove until the "Africa" chant at the end takes off. B+(***)

Old Music

Louis Armstrong: From the Big Band to the All Stars (1946-1956) (1932-56 [1992], RCA, 2CD): From RCA France's Jazz Tribune series, this gives you a nice overview of Armstrong's post-WWII downsizing, where he basically traded the big band he had led since 1930 for a small group called the All Stars (justly at first, although their star power waned over the years as Earl Hines, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, and Big Sid Catlett dropped out. This only includes three All Stars cuts, from 1947 with Dick Cary (instead of Hines) on piano. The rest of the cuts are with various big bands -- including one cut with Chick Webb from 1932 and three from 1956. A- [cd]

Sidney Bechet: The Complete Sidney Bechet Volumes 3/4 (1941) (1941 [1986], RCA, 2CD): Elizabeth Fink's father, Bernie Fink, died well before I met her, but his name came up often, especially when we talked about music. Bernie's favorite was Sidney Bechet, so I grabbed this long out-of-print compilation from Liz's shelves. I probably didn't need to since much of this also appears on the even-harder-to-find The Victor Sessions: Master Takes ([1990], RCA, 3CD), which I own and treasure -- this adds extra takes, turning singles into doubles. Still, with music this transcendent, redundancy just drives home the point. A- [cd]

The Bottle Rockets: 24 Hours a Day (1997, Atlantic): Third album, a much-better-than-average countryish-rock band, pretty good song about "Indianapolis." B+(***)

Bottle Rockets: Leftovers (1998, Doolittle): From the 24 Hours a Day sessions, not quite a full platter with eight songs (plus one hidden track), 31:36, but not oversold either. Probably not as good as the keeper album, but more fun -- excepting "My Own Cadillac." B+(**)

The Bottle Rockets: Brand New Year (1999, Dolittle): So this is where they decide to rock out -- always an aspect of what they do, but is it here to cover up a drop in the songs? I'm not sure. B+(*)

The Bottle Rockets: Zoysia (2006, Bloodshot): Continuing much as ever before: "these days my heart's better than broken/not as good as new." B+(**)

Can: Tago Mago (1971, United Artists): German band, formed by bassist Holger Czukay and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, both Stockhausen students, with jazz drummer Jaki Liebezeit and Michael Karoli on guitar. This is their second or third album (depending on whether you count their 1970 Soundtracks compilation), a double LP with two side-long tracks: the first exceptionally sharp, the second oddly exceptional. B+(***)

Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972, Island): English singer-songwriter, folkie division, cut three albums before he died at 26, officially a suicide (overdose of anti-depressants). This last album is stripped down to voice and guitar, and while there's nothing particularly depressing about the songs, there is nothing exciting either. B+(*)

Faust: Faust IV (1973, Virgin): German group, one of synth bands that would eventually be categorized as "Krautrock" (the title of the long first cut here). Fourth and last of their 1971-73 albums, before breaking up in 1975 and regrouping in the mid-1990s. Still, they're not purists, setting aside their machines for human vocals (ok, German vocals), not that far removed from Soft Machine (although I can't speak for their wit). B+(**)

Faust: Something Dirty (2011, Bureau B): After regrouping in 1994 the group has recorded a lot. I picked this one out to sample because it is the only one Christgau noted. Guitar rather than synth, sometimes leaning industrial and sometimes delicately not, with occasional annotation. B+(**)

Ulrich Gumpert: Workshop Band (1978-79 [2008], Jazzwerkstatt, 2CD): Compilation of two FMP albums, Under Anderem: 'N Tango Für Gitti (from a Rundfunk der GDR radio shot), and Echos von Karolinenhof (from two live dates at the Akademie der Künste in East Berlin. The bands include the future Zentralquartett -- Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (reeds), Conrad Bauer (trombone), Günter Sommer (drums) -- plus Klaus Koch on bass, Heinz Becker on trumpet, Manfred Hering on alto/tenor sax, and either Helmut Forsthoff or Iri Artonow on tenor sax. Brisk, frisky free jazz, undaunted by the Iron Curtain. B+(**)

Ulrich Gumpert: Erik Satie: Danses Gothiques/Quatre Preludes/Petite Ouverture a Danser (1989 [2013], Phil.Harmonie): Originally released on ITM as Ulrich Gumpert Spielt Erik Satie or Erik Satie Compositeur de Musique depending on how or where you look. Solo piano, not as much snap as I like on Satie, but he's put some thought into it. B+(*)

Ulrich Gumpert Workshop Band: Smell a Rat (1995 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): Same band as fifteen years earlier, the compositions divided 5-4 between Gumpert and Günter Sommer with Petrowsky the top soloist. B+(***)

Ulrich Gumpert: Quartette (2006 [2007], Intakt): Sax quartet, the leader on piano and the composer of all seven tunes, with Jan Roder on bass, Michael Griener on drums, and Ben Abarbanel-Wolff on tenor -- the latter doesn't strike me as having exceptional range, with the composer feeding him fast freebop runs. B+(**)

Ulrich Gumpert Workshop Band: Suites (2008, Jazzwerkstatt): Quite a bit of personnel churn here -- the pianist is the only player left from 1995, the new septet built around the 2006 Quartette with three extra horns: Martin Klingeberg (trumpet), Christof Thewes (trombone), and Henrik Waldsdorff (alto sax). Three original pieces with 3-4 movements each -- the traditional term, I think, but here they really do move, or more precisely, jump and swing. A-

Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Baby Sommer: La Paloma (2011 [2012], Intakt): Piano-drums duo, long-running relationship including a couple of duo albums on FMP 1978-79. This is relatively relaxed, even a bit folkie. B+(**)

John Lee Hooker: John Lee Hooker on Vee-Jay 1955-1958 (1955-58 [1993], Vee-Jay): Robert Santelli's second pick from Hooker's vast discography, number 18 among all blues albums ever (trailing The Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954 at number 6). This is only a fragment of Hooker's Vee-Jays: the first 22 tracks from the 6-CD box The Vee Jay Years 1955-1964, but they are band tracks, where Hooker earned his "endless boogie" handle. A-

John Lee Hooker: Don't Turn Me From Your Door: John Lee Hooker Sings His Blues (1953-61 [1992], Atco): Mostly from 1953 although the four later tracks would be hard to pick out in a blindfold test. Just guitar and voice, the minimal core he built a long career around. Only 36 for the early tracks, yet he already sounds ancient. A-

John Lee Hooker: Never Get Out of These Blues Alive (1971 [1972], ABC): Long before he came up with the Best of Friends the bluesman jams with Elvin Bishop and Van Morrison, running the latter's "T.B. Sheets" through the ringer. B+(***)

The Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Heart and Sack (1998, Leo Lab): Greek pianist, long based in Boston, piano trio, with Nate McBride on bass and Randy Peterson on drums. Starts pushing a strong rhythmic line, but even when he eases up he keeps this fascinating. A-

Pandelis Karayorgis: Seventeen Pieces: Solo Piano (2004, Leo): Half originals (8), three Monks, pianist pieces from Ellington to Tristano to Sun Ra, pieces from Marsh and Dolphy, one standard ("I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You"). B+(***)

The Bill Kirchner Nonet: One Starry Night (1987 [2011], Jazzheads): After two studio albums went out of print, this radio tape eventually surfaced, the main selling point guest singer Sheila Jordan, who's a little excessive on her Charlie Parker tale ("Quasimodo"). The band itself is an impressive bunch, with Ralph Lalama and Glenn Wilson joining Kirchner on reeds, Bill Warfield and Brian Lynch on trumpet, Marc Copland on piano, Mike Richmond on bass. B+(**)

John Kruth: Banshee Mandolin (1992, Flying Fish): Scholar-turned-musician or vice versa, AMG credits him with liner notes on a dozen albums, and he's written biographies of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Townes Van Zandt, and Roy Orbison (in that order, 2000-12). His side credits on mandolin go back to 1986 (Christine Lavin) -- probably the reason AMG classifies him as folk although they could have gone for jazz or world or sui generis. This takes a funny glance on folk and bounces it off psychedelic rock among other things -- his band credits include Violent Femmes. He would later delve deep into Balkan Music and form a world-fusion group called TriBeCaStan, but while most of what he picked up later sounds borrowed, this is pretty distinct. B+(***)

John Kruth: Eva Destruction (2006, Crustacean): In 2006 Kruth traveled to India to study with Carnatic mandolin virtuoso U. Rajesh. Not sure if that happened before or after this album, but he's at least thinking about Indian music, adding little flourishes, even if sometimes they sound third hand, like something he copped from a George Harrison record. Or Donovan, if you still want to cast him as a folkie. B+(**)

John Kruth: Splitsville (2008, Smiling Fez): Split is an ancient city on the Adriatic Sea in modern Croatia, founded by Greeks in the 4th century BCE, batted about by Romans, Avars, Slavs, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, Habsburgs, Napoleon, Hitler, and Tito -- leaving a set of fortifications and antiquities used as sets for Game of Thrones. Kruth's musical interests span the world, but he learned to focus here -- his wife's Croatian heritage was part of the reason, inspiring this batch of original songs that never stray that far from home, even when singing about "the lone Croatian general not wanted by the Hague." A-

Madness: One Step Beyond . . . (1979, Stiff): British ska revival band, first album, a big UK hit but they never sold much in the US. B+(**)

Madness: Absolutely (1980, Stiff): Another UK hit, with three top-ten singles, not that any of them are obvious on the first pass -- just the upbeat intensity. B

Madness: Complete Madness: 16 Hit Tracks (1979-82 [1982], Stiff): After three albums, the first of many compilations, includes 11 singles that charted 16 or higher in the UK (9 in top-10, 6 in top-5), but came too soon to include 7 more top-10 (only 2 post-1983). So there should be a later, higher-charting best-of, but probably not this tight and consistent. B+(***)

Giorgio Moroder: Knights in White Satin (1976, Oasis): Cover just lists the artist as Giorgio. The disco take on the Moody Blues is a joke, of course -- not a great one, but an improvement nonetheless. The white mist pervades the B-side as well, making me wonder if "I Wanna Funk With You Tonite" isn't meant as some sort of hymn. B+(*)

Giorgio Moroder: From Here to Eternity (1977, Casablanca): Pretty much the centerpiece in the disco producer's own brief fling as a headline artist, although it's hard to hear why: the beats are steady as ever, but the vocals aspire to robot-dom, and don't quite make it. B

Neu!: Neu! (1972, Brain): Guitarist Michael Rother, who went on to have an interesting solo career (also playing bass and, later, keyboards), and drummer Klaus Dinger left Kraftwerk to start this short-lived (and occasionally reformed) group. The 10:07 opener "Hallogallo" is an entrancing piece of minimalist groove. They try some other things, but the album really perks up every time the beat resurfaces. A-

Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Sings Newman (1970, Buddha): All music and lyrics, and for that matter piano, by Randy Newman, whose brilliant second album, 12 Songs would be released later that spring. Nilsson only scooped one song from that album, settling for five from the debut, two songs that Newman released on later albums, and two more I haven't located. Hard to realize now that this was once seen as a favor. B-

Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971, RCA): Two of his three top-ten singles here, which although familiar enough don't seem all that inevitable. Two R&B covers that do sound like hits emerge as idiosyncrasies. The other stuff is far from compelling, though lots of smart people thought so at the time. B+(**)

Harry Nilsson: Pussy Cats (1974, RCA): I had long been under the impression that John Lennon collaborated more here, but the fine print above his name on the cover just says "produced by." Lennon wrote one song, arranged a few more, and I suspect his voice is in there somewhere. But the project mostly depends on a random spread of on quick and dirty covers ("Many Rivers to Cross," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Loop de Loop," "Subterranean Homesick Blues," etc.), and that doesn't prove much. B

The Pop Group: Y (1979 [2007], Radar): British group, nothing pop about them, closer to no wave or postpunk but where those aimed for crude basics, this group seeks magic in chaos. Sometimes they find it, mostly in rhythmic thrash, sometimes with jazz piano or sax that's not part of the core group. Wikipedia has a fairly large table of notable lists this obscurity has appeared on. Too erratic for me to agree, but I can sort of see it. Best thing is the extra single on the reissue ("3:38"). B+(***)

The Pop Group: For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980, Rough Trade): Rough, scratchy, but much more coherent songwise, and clearly political ("Nixon and Kissinger should be tried for war crimes"). B+(**) [dl]

Saturday Night Fever [The Original Movie Sound Track] (1977, Polydor): A double-LP in its time, although it should fit onto a single CD, mixing the good stuff and the not-so-good. The former includes a Bee Gees side (with Yvonne Elliman singing one of their songs), an instrumental "Calypso Breakdown," and a magnificent "Disco Inferno" (The Trammps). The latter includes vain attempts to discofy Beethoven and Mussorgsky. B+(*)

Jill Scott: Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 (2000, Hidden Beach/Epic): First album, carried the Words and Sounds conceit through three volumes by which time she didn't need anything so self-effacing. She pulls her punches here, too, but just to lure you in. B+(**)

The Specials: The Specials (1979, Chrysalis): Ska band, picking up on the Jamaican pop of the 1960s before rocksteady and reggae and dub and all that evolved, probably because it was easier for English punks than affecting rastafari poses, and this band is unmistakably English. B+(***)

The Specials: More Specials (1980, Chrysalis): More consistent, but less special. B+(*)

The Specials: The Singles Collection (1979-84 [1991], Chrysalis): The early non-album "Gangsters" and the closing, still resonating "Free Nelson Mandela" are highlights, otherwise not a lot of reason to favor this over their first album. Still, does a nice job of framing the band. A- [cd]

Suicide: Suicide (1977, Red Star): American duo, singer Alan Vega and Martin Rev on electronics (keyboards, synth bass, drum machine). Touted as "influential" although one thing this didn't bequeath to later new wave groups was a beat. The A side meanders, while the B side (especially the 10:26 "Frankie Teardrop") aims for something more ominous. B

Suicide: Suicide (1980, Antilles/ZE): Original cover lists artists Alan Vega/Martin Rev as well as the group name and/or title -- I've seen that as the title, also Second Album with/without The First Rehearsal Tapes. In any case, a much steadier, more attractive album than the debut. B+(**)

T. Rex: Electric Warrior (1971, Reprise): Marc Bolan's band, considered "glam rock" although their earlier name (1967-70, 4 albums) Tyrannosaurus Rex suggested something heavier. A fifth album, the eponymous T Rex (1970) sold better, kicking off a stretch when they were very popular, although much more so in England. Still, this was their only number one, filled with their chunky little grooves, although only "Get It On" (aka "Bang a Gong") stands out. B+(**)

T. Rex: The Slider (1972, Reprise): Bigger sound, more flash to the guitar, still the hits ("Metal Guru," "Telegram Sam") pull their punches -- probably why they didn't cross the Atlantic. B+(*)

This Are Two Tone (1979-82 [1983], Chrysalis): Label sampler, effectively covers Britain's postpunk ska revival, built around a six-cut best-of from the Specials, with notable cuts from notable bands The Selecter and Madness, both sides of the first single by what later became The English Beat, and some of those minor artists who only show up on compilations. Rhapsody doesn't have this, but I was able to piece together the songlist, maybe even the same versions. A-

Van Halen: Van Halen (1978, Warner Brothers): Brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, guitar and drums, launched this "bar band" in 1972, then picked up singer David Lee Roth in 1974 for a front man with the projection to fill arenas. Aside from the note-perfect Kinks cover ("You Really Got Me"), nothing here is memorably distinct -- even Eddie's "guitar hero" licks could have been stamped out in a production line, and with no song running over 3:50, they're actually rather scarce. C+

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:


Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • Louis Armstrong: Pops: 1940's Small Band Sides (1946-47 [1987], RCA)
  • Louis Armstrong: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1930-56 [1997], RCA, 4CD): A-
  • Louis Armstrong: +42 other albums
  • Sidney Bechet: The Legendary Sidney Bechet (1932-41 [1988], RCA): A
  • Sidney Bechet: The Victor Sessions: Master Takes (1932-43 [1990], RCA, 3CD): A
  • Sidney Bechet: +5 other albums
  • The Bottle Rockets: The Brooklyn Side (1994, Atlantic): B+
  • The Bottle Rockets: Songs of Sahm (2002, Bloodshot): A-
  • The Bottle Rockets: Blue Sky (2003, Sanctuary): A-
  • The Bottle Rockets: Lean Forward (2009, Bloodshot): B+(*)
  • The Bottle Rockets: Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening With Bottle Rockets (2007 [2011], Bloodshot): B+(**)
  • Can: Monster Movie (1969, Mute): A-
  • Can: Ege Bamyasi (1972, Mute/Spoon): B+
  • Can: Future Days (1973, Mute/Spoon): B+
  • Can: Soon Over Babaluma (1974, United Artists): B
  • Can: The Lost Tapes (1968-77 [2012], Mute): A-
  • Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (1969, Island): B
  • Nick Drake: Bryter Layter (1970, Island): B+
  • Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Sommer/Manfred Herring: The Old Song (1973 [1974], FMP): B+(***)
  • Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Sommer: Jetzt Geht's Kloß (1978 [1979], FMP): B+(***)
  • Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Sommer: Versäuminisse (1979 [1980], FMP): B+(**)
  • John Lee Hooker: 17 other albums
  • Pandelis Karayorgis: 8 other albums (including 2 as Mi3)
  • Harry Nilsson: Son of Schmilsson (1972-73 [2006], RCA/Legacy): B+(*)
  • Harry Nilsson: A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973 [2006], RCA/Legacy): C
  • Harry Nilsson: Everybody's Talkin': The Very Best of Harry Nilsson (1967-77 [2006], RCA/Legacy): A-
  • Harry Nilsson: Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology (1967-77 [1995], RCA, 2CD): B
  • Jill Scott: Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds, Vol. 2 (2004, Hidden Beach): B+(***)
  • Jill Scott: The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3 (2007, Hidden Beach): B+(***)
  • Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun (2011, Blues Babe): A-
  • The Specials: Best Of (1979-82 [1996], Disky): B
  • T. Rex: Great Hits (1972-73 [1973], EMI): B+
  • T. Rex: Light of Love (1974, Casablanca): D

Notes

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