Rhapsody Streamnotes: January 8, 2016

For the last few weeks, I've been obsessing over year-end lists, aggregating hundreds of polls, not so much to see who comes out on top as to discover interesting items on the fringes. Most of what follows are items that looked interesting on various lists. There's also some late-arriving jazz, notably from Allen Lowe and Steve Swell -- although it's worth noting that four of the A- jazz records were picked up off the net (Ray Anderson, Michael Gibbs, Tomeka Reid, Daniel Rosenboom).


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody (other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on December 15. Past reviews and more information are available here (7538 records).


Recent Releases


Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman: Lice (2015, Stones Throw, EP): Two rappers usually strong enough on their own, double down for a 5-track (17:34) freebie which starts with head lice and ends with "Get a Dog." Still, doesn't feel short. A-

Scott Amendola: Fade to Orange (2014 [2015], Sazi): Drummer, member of Nels Cline Singers and Oranj Symphonette, has ten albums under his own name since 1999. Record consists of a 17:13 title piece with a guitar-bass-drums trio (with Nels Cline and Trevor Dunn) wrapped up in the full-blown Magik*Magik Orchestra, followed by four remixes that average 5 minutes each. I find the beats more appealing, but the original classical-fusion clash has some interest. B+(*)

Ray Anderson's Organic Quartet: Being the Point (2015, Intuition): Trombonist, one of the all-time greats, though health problems have kept him out of the limelight for much of this decade. However, he comes back swinging here, aside from the title piece, which is one of those ordeals you have to live through to fully appreciate. With Steve Salerno (guitar), Gary Versace (organ), and Tommy Campbell (drums) -- the organ an especially inspired choice. A-

Lotte Anker: What River Is This (2012 [2014], ILK Music): Danish saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor), more than a dozen albums since 1997. Perilous to extrapolate from only 2 (of 10) cuts, especially with so many hard-to-parse elements: Borges lyrics, Phil Minton vocals, Ikue Mori electronics, Fred Frith guitar, clarinet and viola. B+(*)

Babyface: Return of the Tender Lover (2015, Def Jam): Kenny Edmonds, emerged in the late 1980s with a softer, slicker R&B sound, something I never got into (although there were exceptions, as always), although he was always listenable. Releases thinned out from 2007 until last year's marriage opera with Toni Braxton. The Tender Lover was his first platinum hit. This reboot is more energetic, but hardly anyone has noticed. Recommended: "Standing Ovation." B+(***)

Beauty Pill: Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are (2015, Butterscotch): DC group, principally Chad Clark, made EPs in 2001 and 2003, an LP in 2004, then nothing until this record. One of those neo-prog things I generally can't stand, but this has moments of charm and grace, interest even. B

Blanck Mass: Dumb Flesh (2015, Sacred Bones): Solo project by Benjamin John Power, better known (if that) from Fuck Buttons. Post-rock, synths with or (mostly) without incomprehensible words, in all cases led by a drummer who drives and sometimes overruns everything. B+(***)

Samuel Blaser: Spring Rain (2014-15 [2015], Whirlwind): Swiss trombonist, leads a sharply skilled quartet with Russ Lossing on piano/keyboards, Drew Gress on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Nice to hear a trombone up front, but fine as Blaser is the instrument itself is hard pressed to keep up. B+(**)

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Krakow Nights (2015, Not Two): Well, just one night, but running 74:27 it may have seemed like more. When you play with Brötzmann, you play his bleeding edge rough and tumble. Within those limits the trombonist smoothes off the edges and works in a few jabs, and the drummer works this ring as well as anyone. B+(***) [cd]

Cam: Welcome to Cam Country (2015, Arista Nashville, EP): Camaron Ochs paid her dues writing songs for others, then dropped this four-song (13:19) EP on her way to a December debut album. First impression is that she does better with the ballad ("Burning House") than with the stomper ("Runaway Train"). B

Cam: Untamed (2015, Arista Nashville): Debut album, the extra songs add heft and nuance, enough to make her a person of interest, even if the big time Nashville production isn't. B+(**)

Cécile & Jean-Luc Cappozzo: Soul Eyes (2015, Fou): Piano and trumpet, respectively, with the latter occasionally pulling out his bugle. He has a handful of avant-leaning albums since 2004, but I hadn't run across her before. Nicely done, built on a firm foundation of Mingus and Waldron compositions. B+(**) [cd]

Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Style (2015, Matador): Will Toledo is one of those DIY guys who took advantage of Bandcamp to release everything that pops into his head -- 12 albums since 2010 until he got a contract and scaled up to a band. Presumably Matador is more discriminating, but the lo-fi ethic prevails here, not without tunes but not a lot of them. B

François Carrier/Steve Beresford/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Outgoing (2014 [2015], FMR): My favorite alto saxophonist and his sidekick drummer from Montreal sojourn to the Vortex Jazz Club in London this time, pick up bassist Edwards, and pianist Beresford sits in for three (of five) cuts. Exceptional this time is the free rhythm, especially with the fractured piano. Carrier, as expected, is superb. A- [cd]

Brian Charette/Will Bernard/Rudy Royston: Alphabet City (2014 [2015], Posi-Tone): Organ trio, the leader at one point looking like he might find new opportunities in the old instrument, but lately settling into old-fashioned soul jazz grooves. Probably helps that the guitarist and drummer were born to play soul jazz. B+(*)

Container: LP (2015, Spectrum Spools): Alias for Ren Schofield, a techno producer from Nashville. His three longer albums all bear the title LP, although Rhapsody identifies this as an EP (seven cuts, 26:52). B+(**)

Chick Corea & Béla Fleck: Two (2015, Concord, 2CD): Two musicians (piano and banjo), second album together, something like that -- although this was reportedly selected "over 55 shows from that seven-year period," Most likely a treat for fans but for me a waste of time. B

Stanley Cowell: Juneteenth (2014 [2015], Vision Fugitive): Pianist, first record came out in 1969, Blues for the Viet Cong, and he has a couple dozen since. This one is solo, mostly a ten-piece suite which picks up strands from "Dixie" to "Strange Fruit," a lifelong subversive veering mainstream. B+(*)

Crack Ignaz: Kirsch (2015, Melting Pot): German rapper, or maybe I mean Austrian -- info is hard to come by, but he has at least three albums. Sounds chopped and screwed, but I can make out German words here and there. B+(*)

Adrian Cunningham: Ain't That Right! The Music of Neal Hefti (2014 [2015], Arbors): Australian reed player, clarinet and flute but mainly tenor sax, backed by piano-bass-drums (Dan Nimmer-Corcoran Holt-Chuck Redd), with trombone (Wycliffe Gordon) on four tracks. Hefti (1922-2008) is better known as an arranger, especially for Count Basie, than as a composer, but his tunes are indelible, and the band swings. B+(**)

Dej Loaf: #AndSeeThatsTheThing (2015, Columbia, EP): Detroit rapper, Deja Trimble, has a couple of mixtapes and a "viral" single, gets a big label intro with a 6-cut, 23:01 EP. Two big name guest spots do her no favors (Big Sean, Future) -- she has promise to be more than a background singer. B

Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon (2015, Interscope): As slowcore as Low, and probably lower though that's a contest I won't volunteer to referee. Certainly prettier, by which I mean both fetching and haunting, dream pop in bright sunlight. Must be a California thing. B+(***)

Deradoorian: The Expanding Flower Planet (2015, Anticon): Last name, first Angel, formerly of Dirty Projectors, a widely hailed group I've never been able to stand. I didn't get that reaction here, but I also didn't get much out of the densely layered art-song, so it's almost a wash. B

The Deslondes: The Deslondes (2015, New West): Country group from New Orleans, first album, pleasant demeanor, worked as the opening act for Hurray for the Riff Raff. Seems about right. B

Downtown Boys: Full Communism (2015, Don Giovanni): Punk band from Rhode Island, with two saxes and a female singer (Victoria Ruiz) skewing them a bit toward ska, promising "leftist activist anthems you can pogo to," and delivering 12 in 25:46 (closing with a delirious cover of "Dancing in the Dark" -- cue Emma Goldman). A-

Dr. Dre: Compton (2015, Aftermath/Interscope): Only his third album, tied into a movie based on his former group, better known now as a producer, which gives some creedence to his boast "I'm the black Eminem." Lots of guest spots, song songs sporting as many as 14 writers (some merely sampled), can't quite be terrible but I'm picking up so many plot points the record it most reminds me of is Hamilton (plus sirens and gunshots). B-

Dr. Yen Lo: Days With Dr. Yen Lo (2015, Pavlov Institute): Rapper Ka and producer Preservation styled this concept album after the notorious Chinese doctor-hypnotist in The Manchurian Candidate, which also provides occasional snatches of dialog. The story strays but the music is hypnotic, with or without the monotone raps. A-

Dungen: Allas Sak (2015, Mexican Summer): Swedish group, vocals in Swedish which seems intentionally chauvinistic given how common English-speaking groups are in Sweden, but they have a prog streak that transcends language, or perhaps caring about it. B

Dyke Drama: Tender Resignation (2015, Salinas, EP): From Olympia WA, Sadie Switchblade project (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, tambourine), she of GLOSS and other groups, if that is indeed the right pronoun -- I suppose it doesn't matter. Six songs, 16:59. B

Open Mike Eagle: A Special Episode Of (2015, Mello Music Group, EP): Based just on the cover, I would have parsed this differently, noting that the title is above the artist name, and in the lower left cover (larger than the title but smaller than the artist name) I read Split Pants at Sound Check!. Six songs, 19:22. B+(**)

Kevin Eubanks Quintet: Things of That Particular Nature (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): Trumpet player, younger brother of Kevin and Robin, cut two albums 1999-2001 and two since. This six-member Quintet has the look and feel of a hard bop group, with impressive chops at tenor sax (Abraham Burton) and piano (Marc Cary), lightened with a little extra tinkle from Steve Nelson's vibraphone. B+(**)

The Greg Foat Group: The Dancers at the Edge of Time (2015, Jazzman): British pianist, also plays organ; group is nominally a quintet although the credits list is longer, and not just guest spots. With electric bass and guitar, organ and glockenspiel, a full range of strings, flute and cabasa, this is almost grotesquely expansive -- the sort of thing that in the 1970s might have been taken for prog rock, except uncommonly jazzier. The digital version packs on an extra 14:49 of crashing waves, to no obvious point. B+(*)

Jean-Marc Foussat & Jean-Luc Petit: . . . D'Oů Vient La Lumičre! (2015, Fou): Petit plays bass clarinet, sopranino and alto saxophones, a mix of eardrum-piercing and softer tones. Foussat is credited with "dispositif électro-acoustique," which is to say he brings the noise. I found it more often annoying than interesting, but not without the latter. B [cd]

Nils Frahm: Solo (2015, Erased Tapes): German pianist, works on the avant edge of electronica, prolific enough that AMG credits him with fourteen albums since 2009. Mostly quiet piano improv -- maybe he wrote it all out but my comparison framework is jazz, and its organization (if not its dynamics) holds its own there. B+(**)

Future: 56 Nights (2015, Freebandz, EP): More prominent on the cover is DJ Esco's name, but not clear what he did, and virtually every source assigns it to rapper Future. Basic, bare even, runs 28:46 (10 cuts), hip-hop largesse, or marking time? B+(*)

Michael Gibbs/The NDR Bigband: In My View (2013-15 [2015], Cuneiform): British composer-arranger, b. 1937 in what was then Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe); studied at Berklee, played trombone in Barry Guy's LJCO, has done a lot of soundtracks and obscure big band records. He started working with NDR in the 1990s and they've become his pickup band of choice. B+(***) [dl]

Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband: Play a Bill Frisell Set List (2013 [2015], Cuneiform): Gibbs met Frisell at Berklee, taught him, and took him on tour, so this loops back on one of both artists' longest associations. The Bigband has a regular guitarist, Stephan Diez, but Frisell sits in, gets to sign his work, and the massedhorns certainly love him. Only about half Frisell compositions. I wouldn't have recommended the Beatles tune, but it's never sounded grander. A- [dl]

Patty Griffin: Servant of Love (2015, PGM): Singer/songwriter, ninth album, usually filed under folk but most of this is blues, and by far the strongest part. B+(**)

Halsey: Badlands (2015, Astralwerks): Ashley Frangipane, b. 1994 in New Jersey, finds herself growing up on meaner streets than Springsteen imagined forty years ago, unable to afford college until she hustled some internet buzz into a contract and a hit record. Electropop, I wouldn't call it dark but it's far from frothy and I don't hear words well enough to dismiss the reputed anger and dismay. Actually, seems about right, given how the world is headed. A-

Hamilton [Original Broadway Cast Recording] (2015, Atlantic, 2CD): Lin-Manuel Miranda's "hip-hop musical" tracing the the biography of Alexander Hamilton -- Ron Chernow is credited for recounting facts in the public record, and the many who know next to nothing of the story may learn a thing or two, but the style is something else completely -- though no more far-fetched than, say, Antonin Scalia's "originalism." As a hatchet job on history, it's all rather amusing. As music it's rather didactic, clear enough to follow the story's nuances, as if they matter. B+(**)

Have Moicy 2: The Hoodoo Bash (2015, Red Newt): In 1976 Rounder Records advertised their "dream come true: the Rounders on Rounder": they were referring back to the Holy Modal Rounders, a primitivist and rather bent folk group with Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber (originally) that recorded a pair of 1964 classics, then got corrupted by the Fugs and others such that by 1976 they had become Unholy. They were the scratchy heart and soul of Have Moicy!, an album as dear to me as The Velvet Underground or Pet Sounds or A Love Supreme, but it wasn't just the irrascible Stampfel that made the album work. It was headlined by Michael Hurley, who never again wrote such sly and funny songs, and Jeffrey Fredericks & the Clamtones added cornball filler. But most of all, both sides were capped by Antonia songs, one prophesying: "When we have kids, we will tell them the story/'Bout the night we got the spirit at the Hoodoo Bash." Now, Hurley's a recluse and Fredericks is dead, leaving Stampfel, with grandkids and protégés (but evidently no Antonia), to regale us with the glories of his youth -- except, of course, he can't quite pull it off. So instead of a three-headliner supergroup, we get an unsigned ("various artists") mish-mash, where the inspirational lyric comes from Robin Remailly: "the songs are idiotic/and that's the point/just to lighten up the freakin' joint." Often enough they do. A-

Ted Hearne: The Source (2015, New Amsterdam): A post-classical pastiche, libretto assembled by Mark Doten from text fragments from (or relating to) Chelsea Manning's Wikileaks with Hearne writing the music for strings, electric guitar & bass, keybs and drums -- musically not far removed from Laurie Anderson. Politically, I'd say that Obama and his administration are responsible for grave injustice against many "leakers," but their treatment of Manning has been especially atrocious. So give this a star for focusing on the injustice, but not something I'd play for pleasure. B+(*)

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: Wisdom, Laughter and Lines (2015, Virgin EMI): Heaton was the auteur behind the Beautiful South, which I would rank above Pavement, Nirvana, and everyone else has the great rock group of the 1990s -- no less when Abbott moved up front. Their second post-group album together, parts sound as fabulous as I expected, but the production is a little cluttered, and it starts longer on volume than ideas. Enough so I could probably learn to love it, but would prefer to play their older albums -- even last year's. B+(***)

John Hébert: Rambling Confessionss (2011 [2015], Sunnyside): One of the top bassists of his generation, leads a piano trio (Andy Milne, Billy Drummond) plus singer (Jen Shyu). Starts with a striking "September Song" -- stretched out to remind me of Sheila Jordan -- before delving into the bassist's compositions, written wtih Carmen McRae in mind. I find Shyu much more appealing here than on her own record, but the only other track that grabs me is "Alfie." B+(*)

Amy Helm: Didn't It Rain (2015, E1): Levon's little girl, debut album although she spent most of the last decade fronting the roots-rock band Ollabelle. Impressive voice -- reminds me most of Dusty Springfield, with faint echoes of her father and worth noting that her mother was also a singer (Libby Titus, had a couple albums under that name, perhaps more famously moved on to Mac Rebennack and wound up marrying Donald Fagen). B+(**)

Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl: We Are Not the First (2015, RVNG Intl): Chicago DJ Jamal Moss uses the former name (among others). As far as I can tell, the latter is the band (the initials stand for Journey Into The Unexpected) and the rest sort of resembles Ensemble. The musicians have more or less jazz cred -- saxophonist Marshall Allen has the most, and drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) could sub anywhere he wants. Even without Allen, it's hard to hear this and not wonder what Sun Ra would sound like today if he'd really been born on Saturn. A-

Hieroglyphic Being: The Acid Documents (2013 [2015], Soul Jazz): Considered a reissue but only if you could a run of 100 CDRs available through one record store as a release. Even this is "a one-off edition of 1000 copies on coloured double vinyl," but I doubt that the CD and digital variants are so constrained. The music is fairly minimal, pretty much all beats until a little synth noodle at the end. Not as interesting as his jazz record, but still pretty irresistible. A-

Wayne Horvitz: Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (2015, Songlines): Pianist, proficient with electronics as well, an adventurous postbop composer whose efforts are, for me at least, hit-and-miss. Subtitle "11 Places for Richard Hugo" -- a poet (1923-82), evidently based in the northwest, like Horvitz and his small chamber orchestra: Ron Miles (cornet), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Peggy Lee (cello), and Tim Young (guitar), bass and drums. Stately, and often quite gorgeous. B+(***)

Jenny Hval: Apocalypse, Girl (2015, Sacred Bones): Singer-songwriter from Norway, started out singing in a goth metal band, recorded two albums as Rockettothesky, and now three under her given name. Arty, less a cross between Laurie Anderson and Björk than a triangulation from both reference points into the unknown. I'm tempted to be repulsed, but actually I'm not. B+(*)

I Love Makonnen: I Love Makonnen 2 (2015, OVO Sound, EP): Makonnen Sheran, from Los Angeles and/or Atlanta, has more than a dozen mixtapes since 2011, five titled Drink More Water, and two EPs (this one 7 cuts, 29:21). B+(*)

The Internet: Ego Death (2015, Odd Future/Columbia): LA-based R&B group founded by Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kyd [Syd Bennett], spun off from the Odd Future hip-hop collective, still reflected in the group's slack beats. Vocals are slack too, even when they turn to gospel. B+(**)

Andrew Jamieson: Heard the Voice (2015, Edgetone): Pianist, AMG lists three previous albums. Solo here, despite the front cover claim, "piano/in dialogue with/African American spirituals/and church music." The call and response is in his head, but inspiration and expression flows through his fingers and keys. Doesn't sound churchy, and, well, I wouldn't know spiritual, but I'm moved. A- [cd]

Jlin: Dark Energy (2015, Planet Mu): Jerrilynn Patton, from Gary IN, first album, close enough to Chicago her staggered beats and bashes are considered footwork. Reviewers tend to dwell on the "darkness" but I don't get that at all -- I'm more impressed by her ability to stagger the beat while maintaining it. B+(***)

Henry Kaiser & Ray Russell: The Celestial Squid (2014 [2015], Cuneiform): Two guitarists of the fusion persuasion but not really in anyone else's bag, and while I've read that Kaiser "admirse and has been influenced by" Russell, the latter is only five years older. Band includes four saxes (Steve Adams, Joshua Allen, Phillip Greenlief, Aram Shelton), both electric and acoustic bass, First cut gets the speed and noise just right, so it's disappointing when later cuts wobble a bit. B+(***) [dl]

Kanaku y El Tigre: Quema Quema Quema (2015, Strut/Tigers Milk): Indie folk duo from Peru. B+(*)

Toby Keith: 35 MPH Town (2015, Show Dog Nashville): A big Nashville star since his first album (1993) went platinum, and he became one of worst yahoos in the business. But maybe we should cut him some slack: he hasn't gone platinum since 2006, nor struck gold with four of his last five. He makes a coarse effort at going inclusive with his "Drunk Americans" anthem, and ordinary American Bobby Pinson co-wrote 7 of the other 9 songs. But couldn't Pinson have written better songs? Or could Keith not tell the difference? B

Kelela: Hallucinogen (2015, Warp/Cherry Coffee, EP): Last name Mizanekristos, born in DC of Ethiopian heritage, based in LA, the sort of R&B singer most likely to show up buried in trip hop beats, an aesthetic she carries over into her own writing. Six songs, 23:48. B+(*)

Becky Kilgore/Nicki Parrott: Two Songbirds of a Feather (2015, Arbors): Standards singers-plus: the former plays guitar and has mostly recorded as Rebecca Kilgore with a couple dozen albums since 1993; the latter plays bass, contributed an occasional vocal and proved adept, lately turning into a headliner. With the singers playing, all it takes to flesh out band is Mike Renzi on piano and Chuck Redd on drums, plus Harry Allen takes a stellar turn on tenor sax. B+(***)

Kneebody + Daedelus: Kneedelus (2015, Brainfeeder): Kneebody is a LA-based jazz band -- Shane Endsley (trumpet), Ben Wendel (tenor sax), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), bass, and drums -- with nine records since 2002, the best known has Theo Bleckman singing Charles Ives songs, but others are nothing like that. Daedelus is beat producer Alfred Weisberg-Roberts, aka Alfred Darlington, with a large pile of work, also since 2002. Also involved somehow is Steve Ellson, aka Flying Lotus, whose label brokered this not-quite-future of jazztronica. B+(***)

Kode9: Nothing (2015, Hyperdub): Steve Goodman, from Glasgow, moved from DJ to producer, I have him down for programming rather than electronics but other than a cold analytical feel I can't tell you why. Just feels like a bag of tricks that sometimes add up. B+(**)

Julian Lage: World's Fair (2014 [2015], Modern Lore): Guitarist, tabbed as a prodigy by age eight and subject to great expectations ever since. Takes this one on solo acoustic. Nice for what little it is. B+(*)

Jeffrey Lewis: Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams (2014, self-released): This seems to have passed by unnoticed, but the band tracks are as vital as those on Lewis's more recent, much heralded Manhattan, and the other stuff is the sort Lewis has been doing before he developed chops as a musician -- it would take time I don't have to sort all that out. B+(***) [bc]

Lifted: 1 (2015, PAN): Leftfield electronica, main driver seems to be producer Matthew Papich, but Max D is credited with most of the percussion (synthetic, at least; probably short for Maxmillion Dunbar, i.e. Andrew Field-Pickering, whose 2013 album House of Woo impressed me) and several other people (if that's what Motion Graphix and Jordan GCZ are) make the credit list. B+(***)

Lightning Bolt: Fantasy Empire (2015, Thrill Jockey): Noise rock group going back to 1999, principally Brian Chippendale (drums) and Brian Gibson (bass). I checked out a couple earlier albums and found them unappealing. This one is similarly intense, but more serviceable, at least as long as the beat stays on track. Some vocals but nothing you'd call singing, and not much of that. B+(**)

Liturgy: The Ark Work (2015, Thrill Jockey): Started out as a black metal band but has evolved into something artier, with a few surprise appearances on EOY lists, and a drummer who impressed me much on that Hieroglyphic Being album. Alas, he hardly gets a fair shake here, with synth horns massed for the intro "Fanfare" and rarely far from the action elsewhere. The result is hideous, like Steve Reich's "Four Organs" -- played by a black metal band. C-

Lnrdcroy: Much Less Normal (2014 [2015], Firecracker): Leonard Campbell, can't say as I know anything more. He put this out on cassette in 2014, so some listmakers treat it as a reissue, but it's scored two top-five finishes among lists I've counted. A little wobbly out the gate, but once the beats kick in it's pretty mesmerizing. B+(***)

Amy London/Darmon Meader/Dylan Pramuk/Holli Ross: Royal Bopsters Project (2015, Motéma): Vocal group, dedicated to vocalese -- the art of making up lyrics to fit the contours of bebop horn solos. Not sure where the idea of making them royalty came from -- as far as I can tell, all are Americans (none far removed from New York) and should know better. Note cameos from the elders -- Jon Hendricks (94), Bob Dorough (92), Sheila Jordan (87), Annie Ross (85), and the late Mark Murphy (was 83 when he died in October). Jordan's the best, but then I always say that. B

Lionel Loueke: Gaia (2015, Blue Note): Jazz guitarist from Benin, eschews big label moves in favor of a return to his trio of some time back, with Massimo Biolcati (bass) and Ferenc Nemeth (drums). B+(**)

Low: Ones and Sixes (2015, Sub Pop): Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker founded this Duluth group, running through several bass players as they've released 18 albums since 1994. Alternately dubbed slowcore, sadcore, and dream pop because they're slow, sad, and sometimes dreamy, a combination which always read better than it sounded -- I'm tempted to add "dull" but they'd turn that into dullcore. Still, this one has some presence, maybe even an aesthetic. B

Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora (2015, Constant Sorrow): My first acquaintance with saxophonist Lowe was c. 1992, when I sent him money for his first two albums (At the Moment of Impact and New Tango '92), which Francis Davis had praised in his early Jazz Consumer Guide columns. Lowe's first acquaintance with me was after I took over the JCG franchise: he went back and read everything I had written on music, firing off a flurry of emails in the process. I like to think of myself as someone who tries to devour and systematize everything, but compared to him I'm downright lazy. At the time, I thought of him mostly as a critic and historian. His book, American Pop: From Minstrel to Mojo tells you everything you really need to know about American music in the first half of the 20th century, and he collated an 11-CD anthology to illustrate the point. He followed with That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History (1895-1950), and turned that into four 9-CD sets. Then there's the one I haven't gotten to: Really the Blues? A Horizontal Chronicle of the Vertical Blues, 1893-1959 (with another 36 CDs on the side). (And now I see there's another book I hadn't been aware of: God Didn't Like It: Electric Hillbillies, Singing Preachers, and the Beginning of Rock and Roll, 1950-1970, but as yet no CDs.) However, since 2009 he's returned to his music with the same burst of systemic energy he put into his books: highly recommended, his 3-CD Blues and the Empirical Truth (2011), and the 4-CD Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings (2014). Those were easy for me to grade because the sprawl just kept building on itself, obliterating any temptation to nitpick. This time he decided to make my job more difficult by releasing his four CDs (plus one more attributed to Matthew Shipp) separately. Had he boxed them all up, I could say that he's somehow managed to top even himself. But since he didn't, let's nitpick:

Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Where a Cigarette Is Smoked by Ten Men (2015, Constant Sorrow): Lowe plays alto and tenor sax here, but often gives way to clarinetist Zoe Christiansen, especially on three "Blue for Pee Wee" (as in Russell) pieces. Those pieces tie an album that otherwise seems to have more affinity for Jimmy Giuffre's modernist abstractions back to their common roots. A- [cd]

Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: We Will Gather When We Gather (2015, Constant Sorrow): An octet, although that seems less a matter of harmonic design than who showed up: three saxes, with Lowe on alto openin up a spot for Ras Moshe Burnett on tenor, and Hamiet Bluiett -- little heard in recent years -- heroic on baritone, more than making up for no trombone; Matt Lavelle's trumpet the only brass; guitar instead of piano, with Ava Mendoza determined to rock against the rhythm section's blues-based swing. Four titles referring to blues and gospel are interweaved, but this strikes me more as a spirit-channeling part record, a more moving "hoodoo bash" than Peter Stampfel's record. A-

Allen Lowe/Matthew Shipp/Kevin Ray/Jake Millett: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Ballad for Albert (2015, Constant Sorrow): The simplest of the series, starts with a piano solo of the title cut, and ends with a piano-alto sax duet of the same. In between Ray (bass) and Millett (electronics and turntable) add some depth but little detail. So you basically get signature snippets of Lowe and/or Shipp, falling apart instead of growing together. B+(***) [cd]

Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Man With Guitar: Where's Robert Johnson? (2013 [2015], Constant Sorrow): Cover goes on to describe this as "A Soundtrack," but I know not what for. Also note that the credits include no guitar or voice, but there are occasional samples (actually, sounds more like banjo), presumably picked up from the sound track the music was composed for. Matters little, since this is basically an alto sax showcase, and the fact that I can't distinguish the 7 tracks Gary Bartz takes over from Lowe's 9 tracks without looking at the conter is a high compliment. Band also includes piano (Lewis Porter), trombone, and tuba, along with various electronics sources (including DJ Logic). A- [cd]

Old Man Luedecke: Domestic Eccentric (2015, True North): Singer/songwriter from Nova Scotia, plays banjo so it's tempting to file this under bluegrass, although folk is probably more accurate. B+(***)

ˇMayday!: Future/Vintage (2015, Strange Music): Miami hip-hop crew, had a record with Murs last year that I liked a lot (ˇMursday!) and produce the same underground vibe here without a domineering front man. A-

Meek Mill: Dreams Worth More Than Money (2015, Atlantic/MMG): Lord, I get tired of the N-shit, but sometimes I can hear through that and find decent aspirations. B+(*)

Mika: No Place in Heaven (2015, Casablanca): Michael Penniman, Jr., British pop singer born in Beirut. Last two albums hit my pleasure spots consistently; this one less so but I'm occasionally reminded how exciting he can be. B+(**)

Milo: So the Flies Don't Come (2015, Ruby Yacht): Rapper, Rory Ferreira, from Wisconsin, second album plus the usual lesser efforts. Underground vibe, music takes over toward the end. B+(**)

Mřster!: When You Cut Into the Present (2015, Hubro): Norwegian group, third album, name comes from saxophonist Kjetil Mřster, I'm tempted to call this "prog jazz" given that fusion stagnated back in the 1970s and this ain't that -- denser, heavier, maybe faster, with guitar-bass-drums (Hans Magnus Ryan, Nikolai Haengste Eilertsen, Kenneth Kapstad) and everyone contributing extra percussion. B+(***)

The Necks: Vertigo (2015, Northern Spy): Piano trio from Australia -- Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass), Tony Buck (drums), but I don't have credits and doubt that's all -- has eighteen records and a cult reputation since 1989; I heard of them several years ago but this is the record I've heard: a single 43:56 piece, has an industrial/ambient feel, lots of drone not normally expected from a piano trio. B+(*)

Neon Indian: Vega Intl. Night School (2015, Mom + Pop Music): Electropop group from Texas, principally Alan Palomo. Second album. A bit like the Pet Shop Boys, only less brainy, and with synths a bit soggier. B+(*)

Noertker's Moxie: Simultaneous Windows (2015, Edgetone): Third installment in bassist Bill Noertker's "Blue Rider Suite," pieces based on (mostly Paul Klee and Wasily Kandinsky, at least here). Noertker shuffles another dozen musicians in and out, mostly reeds (including oboe and flute), trumpet on two tracks, piano on three, four drummers. B+(**) [cd]

Noonday Underground: Body Parts for Modern Art (2015, Stubbie): This seems to be the work of Simon Dine, who also does work as Adventures in Stereo and with Paul Weller, although early on you mainly notice vocalist Daisy Marley. Divided into three long parts, the first would make a pretty good alt/indie disc, while the second is rather captivating instrumental trip-hop, and the third is more (maybe too much). B+(***)

Larry Novak: Invitation (2014 [2015], Delmark): Pianist, b. 1933 in Chicago, cut a record in 1964, worked with Peggy Lee and Pearl Bailey, taught at DePaul, finally cut another record last year. Trio with Eric Hochberg and Rusty Jones, standards counting the first two from Bill Evans. B+(***) [cd]

Nozinja: Nozinja Lodge (2015, Warp): Alias for Richard Hlungwani, a South African producer/performer who was most prominent on Honest Jon's 2010 compilation, Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa. Pitches this toward the worldwide electronic dance market, but the drums and vocal harmonies come out of Zulu traditions, as potent as ever. A-

The Nu Band: The Cosmological Constant (2014 [2015], Not Two): Previously I filed this group's albums under Roy Campbell's name, but now that the band has survived the trumpeter's death I had to move the quartet under its own entry. The replacement is Thomas Heberer (cornet); the survivors are Mark Whitecage (alto sax/clarinet), Joe Fonda (bass), and Lou Grassi (drums). All contribute songs, but not a lot of energy -- or maybe someone just turned the knobs down. B+(**)

Evan Parker/Peter Jacquemyn: Marsyas Suite (2012 [2015], El Negocito): Duets, soprano/tenor sax and bass/voice, free improv pieces recorded live in Brugge. As usual, Parker has different approaches to the two saxes, the bassist handling both, and good for some solo rumble. B+(***)

John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet: Brooklyn (2015, Three Faces): Bassist, plays electric here, along with two guitarists (Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas) and drummer Brian Blade, all compatible mainstreamers with a lot of Wes Montgomery in their hip pockets. Still, despite nods to Mali and gospel they don't do much with it. B

Bucky Pizzarelli: Renaissance: A Journey From Classical to Jazz (2015, Arbors): A guitar duo -- something he's excelled at in the past -- with Ed Laub, backed by Dick Lieb's orchestra -- strings, woodwinds, flute, French horn -- on a program that starts with Tedesco. Gets more interesting (and a lot more charming) as they ditch the orchestra and move on to "Stardust" and "Satin Doll" but early on they dug a pretty deep hole. B

Pusha T: King Push -- Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude (2015, Def Jam): Terrence Thornton, formerly of Clipse, talks gangsta, but as Christgau pointed out, "that's just talk." Lot of talk here, too, but his beats make a point, and so do his boasts. B+(***)

Raury: All We Need (2015, Columbia): First name artist, last name is Tullis, first album, age 19 but strikes me as more mature than most adults. Sings more than he raps, and gets decent music to work to. B+(*)

Dave Rawlings Machine: Nashville Obsolete (2015, Acony): Nashville-based singer-songwriter, played with Gillian Welch, noted for his flatpicking, come off more folk than country or bluegrass, not sure that his "Machine" even qualifies as a band, making it an odd moniker. B+(*)

Tomeka Reid: Tomeka Reid Quartet (2015, Thirsty Ear): Cellist, originally from DC but moved to Chicago for her Master's, studying at DePaul and falling into the AACM orbit. She's appeared on some notable records, and has lined up Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) for her Mike Reed-produced debut. An especially good outing for the guitarist, but when furror builds it powered by the cello. A-

Max Richter: From Sleep (2015, Deutsche Grammophon): German-born British "post-minimalist" composer, put together an 8-hour cycle called Sleep. This is a one-hour extract, a sampler if you like, short enough that it's not guaranteed to put you to sleep, although it will certainly calm and soothe. A-

Rival Consoles: Howl (2015, Erased Tapes): British electronica producer, (IDM, experimental techno), third album, beats play with a slight guitar sound. B+(**)

RJD2/STS: STS X RJD2 (2015, RJ's Electrical Connections): STS is shortened from Sugar Tongue Slim, an MC out of Atlanta, here hooked up with prolific beatmaker Jon Krohn. B+(***)

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen: Hold My Beer, Vol. 1 (2015, Lil' Buddy Toons): Texas boys, associated with something called red dirt music although that name derived from the bright clay around Stillwater, Oklahoma. I don't know whether Texas has similar soil, but if you take neotrad and dial it back several generations and park it in a honky tonk, you'll come close. Both did their time in Nashville, and are glad to be out, just not always sure what to do with their newfound freedom. B+(***)

Daniel Rosenboom: Astral Transference & Seven Dreams (2014 [2015], Orenda, 2CD): Trumpet player, credits Wadada Leo Smith as his "first trumpet teacher" and dedicates the seven-movement "Dreams" to him, although the 31:31 "Astral Transference" would also be fit tribute. The long piece is an octet with two saxes, piano, guitar, cello, bass, and drums, and is glorious. The band cuts back to five for the less expansive "Dreams." Probably could have fit on one CD (80:12), but sensibly split. A-

Royal Headache: High (2015, What's Your Rupture): Australian post-punk group, second album, straight, rigid even -- a telling sign, I suspect, is that they think you're garbage. B+(*)

Todd Rundgren/Emil Nikolaisen/Hans-Peter Lindstrřm: Runddans (2015, Smalltown Supersound): Synths, something Rundgren has been into for decades but he's pigeonholed as a pop song guy -- even though a quick check of my database shows I haven't listen to any of his albums since Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978). Starts splashy, but gets bogged down in a swamp of vocals. B-

Alejandro Sanz: Sirope (2015, Universal): A huge star in his native Spain since his second (1991) album went 9xPlatinum, he broke the Mexican and US Latin markets in 1997, this making his sixth straight top-ten album there. An impressive performer, but has never broken out of his language market, not even here. B+(*)

Schnellertollermeier: X (2013 [2015], Cuneiform): Swiss power trio, one part each Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Troller (guitar), and David Meier (drums). Debut album; strong, regular drive, which can be tedious or liberating. B+(**)

John Scofield: Past Present (2015, Impulse!): Guitarist, sounds much like he did in his heyday before dozens of other guitarists tried to sound like him. What's perked him up is most likely a terrific quartet, with Larry Grenadier on bass, Bill Stewart on drums, and Joe Lovano superb on tenor sax. B+(***)

Christian Scott: Stretch Music (2015, Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, added "aTunde Adjuah" to his name on his 2012 album and some sources append them here. Some sources also add "(Introducing Elena Pinderhughes)" -- a flute player who isn't all that prominent here. The horns (including alto sax and trombone) do stretch out over the roiling rhythm section (with guitar, piano/Fender Rhodes, bass, and "Pan-African drums." B+(*)

Matthew Shipp: Matthew Shipp Plays the Music of Allen Lowe: I Alone: The Everlasting Beauty of Monotony (2015, Constant Sorrow): Front cover runs on: "Or: The Future, He Thought, Was Never When He Expected It to Be," then follows with a list of musicians, not including the alto saxophonist, who appears with band on half of the tracks. The other half are solo piano -- more what I expected from the title. I have no feel for Lowe as a composer, other than the assumption that given his vast research he is adept at picking out lines here and there and turning them around. (At one point I recognized "Lullaby of Birdland" only to hear the next line head somewhere else.) But I have heard a lot of solo Shipp, and his work here is quite refreshing. The group pieces are even more fun, with guitarists Michael Gregory Jackson and Ryan Blotnick standing out, and Lowe's alto delightful. A- [cd]

Troye Sivan: Blue Neighbourhood (2015, Capitol): South Africa-born, Australian singer/songwriter/actor/YouTube personality barely out of his teens. Mid-tempo pop, keeps to an even keel but catchy enough. I found myself admiring the drums. B+(*)

Sophie: Product (2013-15 [2015], Numbers, EP): Samuel Long, London-based electronica producer, first album is a singles compilation that I had to pick and order to play on Rhapsody, eight songs, 25:17. Some are striking with their synth curtains and helium vocals, but together they can clash or get stuck. B+(**)

Skylar Spence: Prom King (2015, Carpark): Aka Ryan DeRoberts, b. 1993 on Long Island, originally planned to perform as Saint Pepsi but the lawyers nixed that. Disco, in much the same sense as Mayer Hawthorne plays Motown, which these days is good enough for me. A-

Dexter Story: Wondem (2015, Soundway): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, picked up an interest in Ethiopian which runs through these pieces, especially several instrumentals. B+(*)

Susanne Sundfřr: Ten Love Songs (2015, Sonnet Sound): Norwegian singer-songwriter, works in English, a star at home but this is her first album to get much notice elsewhere. Synth-based backdrops, can't quite call them pop although they can be when she cuts down on the drama. B+(*)

Steve Swell: Kanreki: Reflection & Renewal (2011-14 [2015], Not Two, 2CD): "Kanreki" is a Japanese celebration of one's 60th birthday, something the avant-trombonist celebrated in 2014, similar to a Festschrift in academia. For this one, Swell has compiled seven pieces from as many places with as many groups -- actually six groups, as one piece is solo. A long set with Guillermo Gregorio and Fred Lonberg-Holm stands out, while the whole adds up to a fine portrait. B+(***) [cd]

Steve Swell: Steve Swell's Kende Dreams: Hommage ŕ Bartók (2014 [2015], Silkheart): The trombonist's liner notes clearly say the album title is Kende Dreams, but that apostrophe on the cover has misdirected pretty much everyone. A kende is an ancient Hungarian religious figure, one eclipsed by the warriors so prominent since Atilla the Hun. Supposedly Béla Bartók drew on this history as well as the complex rhythms of east-central Europe, but no Bartók is played here (unless pianist Connie Crothers slipped some in). Rather, you get a quintet with two horns -- the leader's trombone and Rob Brown's alto sax -- complementing each other, and all the support anyone could hope for from William Parker and Chad Taylor. A- [cd]

Steve Swell: The Loneliness of the Long Distasnce Improviser (2015, Swell): Solo trombone. Not sure if this is the first in the two dozen or so albums Swell has led since 1996, but there aren't many -- the instrument is slow and its range is limited, and torturing it for unusual sounds rarely works. Helps here that he keeps his pieces short, often built on vamps, and mixes them up. But then he's an exceptional trombonist. B+(***) [cd]

They Might Be Giants: Glean (2015, Idlewild): I was completely dazzled by their 1986 debut, but soon lost interest despite numerous instances where they were cute and/or clever. This is another, their 19th album, and this time they rock a little harder too. B+(*)

The Thing: Shake (2015, Thing): Norwegian avant-power trio, although Bandcamp page says Austin, where bassist Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten has been hanging out -- he's evidently their web guy. The volume, however, is mostly due to Mats Gustafsson (baritone/tenor sax) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), and they're as rough and explosive as ever, just not always -- the softer stretches hold this together. Possibly their best since their 2000 eponymous debut, although how good is hard to tell. B+(***)

Samba Touré: Gandadiko (2015, Glitterbeat): Guitarist from Mali, first record was a tribute to Ali Farka Touré and he carries on from there. No flash or punch, but he calmly grows on you. B+(***)

Dale Watson: Call Me Insane (2015, Red House): Nashville has neo-trad, but this Texan has no neo in him at all, aside from a penchant for writing new songs that sound like long lost old songs. He leads off with a pretty fair Merle Haggard likeness, then follows with one George Jones should have done ("Bug Ya for Love" -- a better tribute than the more obvious "Jonesin' for Jones"). On the other hand, the only one I can imagine him palming the title tune off on is Marty Robbins, who'd add a giddy smile, one of the few things not in Watson's toolkit. B+(**)

Kenny Werner: The Melody (2014 [2015], Pirouet): Pianist, close to forty albums since 1977, leads a trio with Johannes Weidenmueller (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums), exploring his favorite subject. B+(**)

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Under the Savage Sky (2015, Bloodshot): Retro rocker ever since the 1980s. B+(*)

Wolf Alice: My Love Is Cool (2015, Dirty Hit/RCA): British group, from London, with Ellie Rowsell the main singer, with their first album. The sort of group/album I could imagine people caring about without doing so myself. B+(*)

Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark: East by Northwest (2013 [2015], Audiographic): Duo, trumpet and clarinet/tenor/baritone sax. Starts with a piece by John Carter, so figure they're mindful of the Carter-Bradford Quartet, just without the extra guys who fill out the sound and move it around. Mindful of that, too. B+(**) [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet: No U Turn: Live in Pasadena 1975 (1975 [2015], Dark Tree): Back cover lists Carter first, as indeed most of this now-legendary group's albums did, but spine breaks the tie in favor of Bradford (credited with cornet but photographed on the cover with flugelhorn). Previously unreleased. Takes some time to get going. A- [cd]

Billie Holiday: Banned From New York City: Live 1948-1957 (1948-57 [2015], Uptown, 2CD): A totally marvelous singer, but I'm not sure how badly we need every little bootleg scrap. Mostly she does songs you know much as she always did them, although the 1948 sets with Red Norvo that fill up most of the first disc will be of interest to vibes fans. The second disc picks up a tour of France and various TV shots. B+(***)

Kenny Knight: Crossroads (1980 [2015], Paradise of Bachelors): Georgia-born, Denver-raised, played in bands from his teens and off and on until he cut this his one-and-only album, a country-rock troubadour, pleasantly light with more substance than you realize at first. B+(***)

Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 (1955-83 [2015], Soul Jazz): Rastafarianism emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s in response to Marcus Garvey's "back to Africa" movement, offering a glorious picture of the Conquering Lion in lieu of a cheap ticket to a foreign country, but the music came later, and this tries to capture it at the roots with little regard to the stars. The main figure here is Count Ossie, whose primitivist nyahbinghi recalled African drums and promised mystic revelation, and most of the rest stick to the program -- the two obvious exceptions are ska star Laurel Aitken and Calypsonian Lord Labby, who made the cut with clear anthems of Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. But I doubt clarity was ever the point. A-

Ed Sanders: Yiddish-Speaking Socialists of the Lower East Side (2006 [2015], Okraina, EP): I knew him first as a poet -- pretty sure some of his work appeared in my brother's 9th grade poetry notebook, the one that got him expelled -- but by that time he was also dabbling in song in a group called the Fugs (not "mythical," as the website proclaims, but we'll settle for "infamous"). He went on to cut a couple solo albums -- not very good, sad to say -- then this came out on cassette in 1991. This version was recorded later and is finally available on 10-inch vinyl. Not much music here, but appreciate the history lesson. B+(*) [bc]

Ty Segall: Ty-Rex (2011-13 [2015], Goner, EP): Garage punk artist, released a 12-inch T Rex covers album in 2011, followed that up with a 7-inch Ty-Rex II in 2013, the nine cuts (31:17) collected here. An appropriate icon, and it doesn't hurt to scuff them up a little. B+(*)

Sherwood at the Controls, Volume 1: 1979-1984 (1979-84 [2015], On-U Sound): British new wave/dance producer Adrian Sherwood, mostly obscure English groups with so much in common he could have passed as the auteur -- reggae rhythms with somewhat industrialized dub effects, the precursor of dubstep. B+(**)

Sonny Simmons: Reincarnation (1991 [2015], Arhoolie): Alto saxophonist, emerged in the mid-1960s moving with the avant-garde, had trouble finding recording dates between 1970 and 1990 but has worked extensively since then. I don't see where this live set was previously released. It features Barbara Donald ("with" credit on the cover) on trumpet, plus piano-bass-drums, healthy workouts on three originals plus "Body and Soul" and "Over the Rainbow." B+(**)

Idrissa Soumaoro: Djitoumou (2010, Lusafrica): Singer-guitarist from Mali, b. 1949, had some success in the 1970s, joined Les Ambassadeurs, worked with Amadou & Mariam. This popped up on a 2015 EOY list, but all sources show it earlier. Moreover, while they suggest that it was new then, one song has a guest spot for Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006, so I don't have any real idea when it was recorded. B+(***)

The Staple Singers: Freedom Highway Complete: Recorded Live at Chicago's New Nazareth Church (1965 [2015], Epic/Legacy): Only three titles in common with the Freedom Highway comp of the group's 1965-67 Epic sides that Legacy issued in 1991 -- still my first recommendation -- and the times differ (by 0:06, 0:25, and 1:09 on the title track). On the other hand, this adds 31:17 to the edited 1965 LP, mostly restoring the church experience. Not my idea of a plus, unless the spirit moves you. B+(*)

Sun Ra and His Arkestra: To Those of Earth . . . and Other Worlds (1956-83 [2015], Strut, 2CD): British DJ Gilles Peterson selected and possibly mixed this selection from Ra's "immense 125 LP back catalog -- the label's second trawl through the trove after Marshall Allen's In the Orbit of Ra. Dates are approximate: I couldn't find half of the sources in discographies, and at least several tracks are previously unreleased. Like Allen, Peterson leans heavily on vocal pieces, which often come off as weird, amateurish, or both. I guess no one wants to remember him as a big band impressario like Benny Goodman, although he was that, too -- hard to contain, or to sum up. B+(***)

Dale Watson: Truckin' Sessions, Vol. 3 (2014 [2015], Red River): At some point Watson decided Red Simpson and Dave Dudley hadn't recorded enough trucking songs, so he wrote a bunch more. The first volume appeared in 1998, a second in 2009, and in 2014 Red River added this to the first two for a 3-CD set, waiting a year to make this third volume available separately. B+(***)

Old Music

Michael Gibbs: Tanglewood 63 (1970, Deram): Second album, like its predecessor a full big band plus strings -- I'm counting 32 musician credits, many names I recognize now but would have been pretty young then. The first pieces aren't all that striking, but "Five for England" blasts off with a Chris Spedding guitar solo that drives the piece for 12:02. B+(*)

Michael Gibbs With Joachim Kühn: Europeana: Jazzphony No. 1 (1994 [1995], ACT): Recorded in NDR Studios with a full orchestra (Radio Philharmonie Hannover NDR), pianist Kühn's trio, and seven guest soloists (including Albert Mangelsdorff and Richard Galliano). B+(**)

Henry Kaiser: Devil in the Drain (1987, SST): After a decade on obscure jazz labels like Metalanguage, the experimental guitarist gets a ride with the era's definitive alt-rock label, and makes an experimental but modestly intriguing solo guitar album. The one exception is the title piece, where the devil lays on a guilt trip over losing a goldfish down the drain, and gets flushed himself. B+(*)

Henry Kaiser & David Lindley: A World Out of Time, Vol. 2 (1993, Shanachie): The Americans get credit but the stars here are Malagasy acts, some of whom went on to sell their own albums in the West (Rossy, Tarika Sammy, D'Gary) -- an island close to Africa geographically but not really ethnically. Nice lilt, but they sound a bit like they're trying to appeal to a quirky guitarist and an oddball popster. B+(*)

Negro Religious Field Recordings: From Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee (1934-1942): Vol. 1 (1934-42 [1994], Document): Austin Coleman, Washington Brown, Roy McGhee, groups like the Union Jubilee Quartet and the Halloway High School Quartet of Murfeesboro deliver gravel and grit, hollers and exultation. The field recordings are every bit as dirty, which seems appropriate. Allen Lowe recommended this and, of course, he's right. A-

Team Hegdal: Vol 1 (2009 [2010], Řra Fonogram): Norwegian free jazz quartet with two saxes -- Eirik Hegdal (sopranino, alto, baritone, clarinet) and André Roligheten (soprano, tenor, bass clarinet) -- bass (Rune Nergaard) and drums (Gard Nilssen). Sharp interplay, drags a bit in the middle, most impressive when they really crank it up. B+(***)

Team Hegdal: Vol 2 (2011, Řra Fonogram): Same piano-less two-sax lineup, but with Mattias Stĺhl (vibes) and Ola Kvernberg (violin, viola, bass violin) joining the team. Strikes me as more composed, and much fancier, which works nice at times but nothing suits them so much as speed and daring. B+(***)

They Might Be Giants: Long Tall Weekend (1999, Idlewild): Originally released as download-only, a marketing stratagem that seemed more alien at the time than now -- a concept that made it inaccessible at the time: even though I was more Internet-savvy than most at the time, I was stuck on the concept that purchases should be limited to objects (come to think of it, I still am). So I missed this, despite Christgau flagging it as the group's only A- record between 1992 (Apollo 18) and 2008 (Here Come the 123s). Re-reading Bob's review, I wonder whether his positing of Wichita as the polar opposite of New York as personal (it was, after all, written the year I moved back to Wichita). B+(***)

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:

Leonard Cohen: Can't Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour (2012-13 [2015], Columbia): Outtakes from the tours that produced Live in Dublin, the more video-friendly sequel to the magnificent Live in London -- left out for their relative obscurity, but I'm such a sucker for his "golden voice" (and not-quite-angelic choir) I'm surprised I didn't fall for this when it came out. As I recall, the problem was technological. [was: B+(***)] A-

Future: DS2 (2015, Epic): I caught so little of this the first time around I wound up writing as close to a nothing review as ever. Then it did respectably on subconscious beats, which get sharper with each play. And while I don't approve of his junkiedom, I find it more admirable, not to mention poignant, than the usual gangsta mack. [was: B+(***)] A-

Grimes: Art Angels (2015, 4AD): Now comfortably ensconced in my EOY Aggregate top ten (number eight after a late start and steady rise that will probably knock off Julia Holter but not Tame Impala). Christgau and Tatum reviewed this within a day or two of each other and disagreed (A vs. B-). I played this almost two months ago, the week it came out (Nov. 6), and my one spin split the difference between their grades. Another spin tells me that I hear more of what Tatum describes (K-pop morphing into anime porn) than what Christgau claims ("hyperfeminist individualism for a post-rock mindset"), but find that nudging the grade up. [was: B+(**)] A-


Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • Henry Kaiser/David Lindley: A World Out of Time: In Madagascar (1992, Shanachie): B
  • Henry Kaiser/Wadada Leo Smith: Yo Miles! (1998, Shanachie, 2CD): B+
  • Henry Kaiser/Wadada Leo Smith: Yo Miles! Sky Garden (2004, Cuneiform, 2CD): B+
  • Henry Kaiser/Wadada Leo Smith: Yo Miles! Upriver (2005, Cuneiform, 2CD): A-
  • They Might Be Giants: They Might Be Giants (1986, Restless): A
  • They Might Be Giants: Lincoln (1988, Restless): B+
  • They Might Be Giants: Flood (1990, Elektra): B
  • They Might Be Giants: Apollo 18 (1992, Elektra): B
  • They Might Be Giants: Dial-a-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants (1986-2002 [2002], Elektra, 2CD): B
  • They Might Be Giants: A User Guide to They Might Be Giants (1986-2002 [2005], Rhino/Elektra): A
  • They Might Be Giants: Here Come the 123's (2008, Disney Sound): B+(**)
  • They Might Be Giants: Here Comes Science (2009, Disney Sound): B+(**)
  • They Might Be Giants: Join Us (2011, Idlewild): B
  • They Might Be Giants: Nanobots (2013, Idlewild): B+(***)

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