Rhapsody Streamnotes: February 25, 2016

I suppose I should be looking past 2015 by now, but 77 (of 120, so 64.2%) new records below were 2015 releases. Also, all but three of the 43 2016 releases are jazz, almost all from my incoming queue. I've mostly weaned myself from updating the 2015 EOY List Aggregate file, although I continue to tack on my own grades when I get around to things. Also continue adding things to my own jazz and non-jazz EOY files -- after trailing all year, the new non-jazz A-list now leads the jazz 81-77.

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 January 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (7800 records).

Recent Releases

The 3.5.7 Ensemble: Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples (2014 [2016], Milk Factory Productions, 2CD): Group variously configured as a trio, quintet, or septet, although there's too much fine print for me to sort out which is which: full blown, you get tenor sax, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, piano, bass, drums -- no one I recognize (except maybe pianist Jim Baker). Probably based in Chicago -- one of the few covers is from Fred Anderson (another is a Zimbabwean folk tune). Some stretches make a strong impression, but others drag and in the end I don't much care. B [cd]

Andy Adamson Quartet: A Cry for Peace (2015 [2016], Andros): Pianist (credit is "keyboards" but the piano sketch on the cover looks grand enough), first album (although the publicity photo looks like gray hair), a quartet with Dan Bennett on sax, plus bass (some electric) and drums. Original material, upbeat, sax wails. B+(*) [cd]

Africans With Mainframes: Commission Number 3 (2015, Bio Rhythm, EP): Chicago house duo, Nolelan Reusse and Jamal Moss (better, but not only, known as Hieroglyphic Being), Discogs credits them with nine singles/EPs since 2001. Three cuts, 21:40, fast beats, went by so fast I'm not sure I heard it all. B+(*) [Boomkat]

The Alchemist and Oh No: Welcome to Los Santos (2015, Mass Appeal): Sometime rappers but mostly hip-hop producers, each with more than a half dozen or more records on their own, the schema here is to "present" various artists -- a mix of soul, synthpop, and dancehall with a commercial tie-in to a major video game. B+(*)

Ancient Methods: Turn Ice Realities Into Fire Dreams (2015, Hands, EP): Techno producer Michael Wollenhaupt, initiated this alias in 2007 as a duo with Conrad Protzmann but continues solo. Four cuts, 25:49. Engaging enough, but do I detect a bit of martial music, or just the mechanical percussion of factory work? B+(*)

Dave Anderson: Blue Innuendo (2015 [2016], Label 1): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous albums, leads a groove-oriented quartet here -- Pat Bianchi (organ), Tom Guarna (guitar), and Matt Wilson (drums) -- something a little lighter than soul jazz but very pleasant. B+(*) [cd]

Thomas Anderson: Heaven (2016, Out There): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, based in Austin, cut a self-released album in 1990 that got him some notice and a few records on very small labels before he landed back on his own with an equally fine album in 2012. This one makes eight, and he's never been clearer or more straightforward, but he has rocked harder, and been more amusing. Perhaps like me he never figured heaven would be all that much fun. B+(***)

Annie Girl and the Flight: Bodies (2015, United for Opportunity, EP): Bay Area alt-rock group, has a couple albums before this tight and catchy six song, 19:49 EP. Vocalist (who also plays guitar) goes by the name Annie Girl, and signs her songs Annie. B+(**)

Arca: Mutant (2015, Mute): Alejandro Ghersi, born in Venezuela, raised in Brooklyn, second album plus a couple EPs. Many short pieces, doesn't settle neatly into a groove, restless I'd say, but more method than frenzy. A-

Allison Au Quartet: Forest Grove (2015 [2016], self-released): Alto saxophonist from Toronto, second album, fronts a quartet with keyboards-bass-drums, Felicity Williams credited for voice on three tracks, lively but not exceptional postbop. B+(*) [cd]

Adam Baldych & Helge Lien Trio: Bridges (2015, ACT): Violinist from Poland, along with the Norwegian pianist's trio. Hard to put my finger on it, but there's something special about this, uh, chamber jazz. B+(***)

Eszter Balint: Airless Midnight (2015, Red Herring): Born in Hungary, not sure when or when she came to the US, but she made her acting debut in 1984 (a Jim Jarmusch movie). She's recorded intermittently, this her third album since 1999. A remarkable set of songs. Also remarkable that no one noticed it until Christgau wrote it up. A-

Beans on Toast: The Grand Scheme of Things (2015, Xtra Mile): English folk singer Jay McAllister, much like American folk singers in that he's low tech with simple songs marked by humor and humanity. At some point I should check out the back catalog -- most with the same cover design -- but this one starts with three memorable songs -- his craft ("Folk Singer"), his manifesto ("The War on War"), and more craft ("Fuck You Nashville"), then follows it up with three more memorable ones ("Lizzy's Cooking" is a favorite), or maybe eight. Inspirational lyrics abound, my favorite: "I believe that everyone should just chill the fuck out." A-

Debashish Bhattacharya: Slide Guitar Ragas From Dusk Till Dawn (2015, Riverboat): Indian classical musician, b. 1963, plays lap slide guitar, has a shelf full of records so I don't know if this is a sampler or just another example. B+(***)

Blue Muse: Blue Muse Live (2015, Dolphinium): From Jacksonville, "specialize in playing jazz in church," although they don't come off as especially gospel-oriented: more postbop, with guitar-piano-bass-drums and vibraphone behind Sarah Lee's sax. Nice, melodic, could function as muzak but doesn't fade so gently into the background. B [cd]

Thomas Borgmann Trio: One for Cisco (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): German saxophonist (soprano, tenor, toy melodica), plays free, two twenty-minute-plus improvs with Max Johnson on bass and Willi Killers drums (and voice). One of those limited edition vinyl-only releases. B+(***) [cdr]

Brooklyn Blowhards: Brooklyn Blowhards (2015 [2016], Little (i) Music): Mostly the work of Jeff Lederer (tenor/soprano sax), with Petr Cancura (tenor sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet, slide trumpet), and Brian Drye (trombone) adding to the horn power, accordion but no bass, three drummers, guest spots for Gary Lucas (guitar) and Mary Larose (vocal). Mostly trad sea shanties mixed in with Albert Ayler covers, gospels that get under your skin. Turns solemn toward the end with "Shenandoah" and "The Seaman's Hymn." B+(***) [cd]

Jean-Luc Cappozzo/Didier Lasserre: Ceremony's a Name for the Rich Horn (2014 [2016], NoBusiness, EP): Trumpet-drums duo, vinyl limited edition of 300, I'm not seeing the length of these two parts anywhere but the vinyl is 10-inch and Discogs is treating it as an EP, and a fair amount of that is sub- or barely-audible. [PS: total time 19:46] B- [cdr]

Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter (2015, ATO): Singer-songwriter, half-dozen albums since 2005, started as a folkie and could pass as country but not in Nashville -- coming from Washington, not her natural milieu anyway. And like Courtney Barnett, she's upped her game by rocking harder, leading with the guitar. B+(***)

Chaise Lounge: Gin Fizz Fandango (2015 [2016], Modern Songbook): DC-based cocktail jazz group, seventh album (counting last year's least awful Xmas thing), guitarist-pianist Charlie Barnett the putative leader. Singer Marilyn Older seems intent on disappearing in the cover photo but is front and center on the album. I'm not seeing song credits, but if these aren't standards, some (e.g., "If I Never Get to Paris") should be. [PS: All Barnett originals except for one Older lyric and "It's All Right With Me" by Cole Porter.] B+(***) [cd]

Christine and the Queens: Christine and the Queens (2014 [2015], Atlantic/Because/Neon Gold): Electropop project of French singer-keyboardist Héloïse Letissier, the US release recycling cover art and about half of the songs from her 2014 album Chaleur Humaine, shifting some songs to English without losing her cool. B+(**)

Benjamin Clementine: At Least for Now (2015, Virgin EMI): Singer-songwriter, b. Benjamin Sainte-Clementine in London, self-taught, busked in Paris, plays piano and guitar, first album, has a broadly dramatic style which picks up bits of classical and French chanson -- Nina Simone stands out among his reference points, although I also hear echoes of David Bowie. Could become insufferably pompous, but for now let's say he's pretty unique. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence (2015 [2016], ECM): Trumpet player from Israel, not to be confused with the bassist of the same name, has at least eight albums, some as Third World Love, some as Triveni. He composed these pieces following his father's death, and they are centered on Yonathan Avishai's piano. With Eric Revis (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), plus saxophonist Bill McHenry on three cuts. Inspiring in spots, but mostly lovely. B+(**) [dl]

Colleen: Captain of None (2015, Thrill Jockey): French singer-songwriter, Cécile Schott, has a half-dozen albums since 2003, music is mostly electronic, unusually captivating for ambient, vocals mostly in English, much brighter than trip hop. B+(**)

Jonah Considine: Golden Flu (2015, Nein, EP): Five mixes of one title, total 32:19, the redundancy convincing me to treat it as an EP. Electronic beats, heavy on the one. B+(*)

Roxy Coss: Restless Idealism (2014 [2016], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, first album, self-released five years ago, wasn't much good, but she's got a band, a label, and much more poise now, with a light tone that likes to soar. B+(**) [cd]

Czarface: Every Hero Needs a Villain (2015, Brick): Joint venture of rapper Inspectah Deck and hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric, their second album together. Basically, underground rap for comic book fans. B+(**)

Diet Cig: Over Easy (2015, Father/Daughter, EP): New York "slop pop band," actually formed upstate in New Paltz, with a couple singles and this short (five songs, 10:06), catchy EP. B+(*)

DJ Sandji: 100% Balani Show (2015, Sahel Sounds): Mixtape of Balani Show hits assembled by a Bamako, Mali DJ. Fast, "regularly pitched up," whizzes right past you. B+(***) [bc]

DMX Krew: There Is No Enduring Self (2015, Breakin): British electronica producer Edward Upton, has been in business since 1996. Keyboards, neat little rhythmic figures, doubt they're bouncy enough to dance to but pleasant as they are, they never fade into ambience. B+(***)

Dog Party: Vol. 4 (2015, Asian Man): Punk-pop duo from somewhere in Northern California, first cut reminded me of '60s girl groups, but they guy they were fawning over was dead, so maybe they're postmodern after all. Post-Ramones too. Second album, unless (like Rhapsody) you dismiss something that crams 13 songs into 29:36 as an EP. B+(**)

Anderson East: Delilah (2015, Low Country Sound/Elektra): Singer-songwriter from Alabama, cut his first album as Mike Anderson before switching names for this major label debut. He draws on various strains but most effectively emerges as a soul man -- I doubt it even helps much to add the "blue-eyed" adjective. B+(***)

Harris Eisenstadt: Old Growth Forest (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Drummer, from Canada, has at least a dozen albums since 2002 (AMG lists 16). Quartet, Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax) the horns, Jason Roebke on bass. I'm a little surprised that the horns don't make a bigger splash, but the rhythm undercuts whatever they do, and is more interesting for that. B+(***)

Ari Erev: Flow (2015 [2016], self-released): Pianist, from Israel, third album, half trio, adding Yuval Cohen's soprano sax on five cuts, Gilad Dobrecky's percussion on four of those. B+(**) [cd]

Father: Who's Gonna Get F***** First? (2015, Awful): Atlanta MC, also known as Fatheraintshit, promises "12 tracks of pure debauchery," but delivers them with a sly understatement, a precise but cautious monotone over beats which barely register. B+(**) [bc]

Mike Freeman ZonaVibe: Blue Tjade (2014 [2016], VOF): Vibraphonist, first record was called The Vibesman, this one is a tribute to Cal Tjader, although the compositions are all Freeman originals so the connection is in the, uh, vibe -- and bassist Ruben Rodriguez, two Latin percussionists, and Jim Gailloreto's flute and tenor sax. Some time ago I tried to figure out who was the most famous jazz musician I didn't have a single record by, and somehow came up with Tjader, so I'm no expert here. Still, the first half or so of this album is really delightful, and it doesn't wind down badly. B+(**) [cd]

Bill Frisell: When You Wish Upon a Star (2015 [2016], Okeh): Jazz guitarist, perennial poll winner, may have done more than anyone else over the last 30 years to expand the domain of jazz -- in an early album he ranged from Ives to Madonna, but he's been most successful at picking up strains of folk music. Here he mostly goes for movie and TV themes, most bad unless your appetite for kitsch is unbounded. With Eivind Kang on viola, Thomas Morgan on bass, Rudy Royston on drums, and Peta Haden singing about half the pieces -- her "You Only Live Twice" is horrific but she turns in a marvelous "Moon River" and nails "Happy Trails." B [cdr]

Fred Frith/Darren Johnston: Everybody Is Somebody Is Nobody (2013-14 [2016], Clean Feed): Guitar and trumpet, the former with a nice bag of tricks which set the tone here. Johnston never really gets out ahead of this, evidently satisfied to let the senior musician find his way. B+(**) [cd]

Donnie Fritts: Oh My Goodness (2015, Single Lock): Born in Florence, Alabama back in 1942, a keyboard player who found success as a studio musician in Muscle Shoals, co-wrote the occasional song with people you've heard of, cut an album in 1974 and a second in 1997. This one is sort of a career recap, a project that attracted quite a few guests but is held together by his quavery amateur voice. B+(***)

Abba Gargando: Abba Gargando (2015, Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitarist from Timbuktu in the dessert of Mali, lays out straightforward rhythmic vamps, some with chantlike vocals. Wedding fare, I gather, though the amplifier distortion sometimes gets to be a bit much, a dull but treacherous edge. B+(***)

Charles Gayle/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (2014 [2015], Jazzwerkstatt): The leader plays tenor sax on the 28:16 opener, piano on the next three pieces (total 27:54), and returns with his sax for the 10:14 encore. His sax is an old story, raw and searching, and his piano embodies the same spirit. B+(***)

Ginkgoa: EP Ginkgoa (self-released, EP): Nicolle Rochelle (from New York) and Antoine Chatenet (from Paris) do "French songs with an American vibe, American songs with French touch," from pop to swing with electro beats. Four of them, anyway, 13:31, but they're onto something. B+(**) [bc]

Michael Monroe Goodman: The Flag, the Bible, & Bill Monroe (2015, MammerJam): I could do without two of those three, and I suspect that if cornered Goodman would choose Monroe too. OK, maybe that's wishful thinking, but the title song is more sentimental than jingoistic, and his bluegrass-infused honky tonk is well honed. B+(***)

Grandpa's Cough Medicine: 180 Proof (2015, self-released): Urban Dictionary attributes the group's name to the movie Dumb and Dumber: refers to alcohol, the hard stuff, but not necessarily 180 proof. Instrumentally they're a bluegrass band, more fixated on Saturday night than Sunday morning, but they hardly sound as degenerate as they advertise, even when Hank 3 guests. B+(*)

William Clark Green: Ringling Road (2015, Bill Grease): Singer-songwriter from Texas, went to college in Lubbock but was a generation removed from the Flatlanders. Fourth album, chock full of songs with country themes -- "Sticks and Stones," "Creek Don't Rise," "Fool Me Once," "Old Fashioned," "Going Home" -- although I find them a bit hard to hear through the heavy riffs and crashing drums. B+(*)

Haiku Salut: Etch and Etch Deep (2015, How Does It Feel to Be Loved): Instrumental trio from England, three women with many more instruments, some cuts focused in piano, others more with electronics ("loopery and laptopery"). Wikipedia lists genres as "folktronica, post-rock." I toyed with filing the under electronica and even new age but they were better than that. B+(**)

Nigel Hall: Ladies & Gentlemen . . . Nigel Hall (2015, Feel Music Group): Retro soul man, born in DC in 1981, based in New Orleans, first album, half original material, half covers, mostly from the 1970s golden age. Goes for a classic soul sound, and more often than not gets it. B+(***)

Ross Hammond and Sameer Gupta: Upward (2015 [2016], Prescott): Guitar-tabla duo. Gupta is from San Francisco, has some classical training but has also worked on a couple albums with jazz pianist Marc Cary (one under Gupta's name). His tabla leads here, while the guitarist nips around the edges. Enchanting background music. B+(***) [cdr]

Anna von Hausswolff: The Miraculous (2015, Other Music): Swedish singer-songwriter, normally plays keyboards but opts for a "9,000 pipe Acusticum Organ" here, which gives the album a dank churchly air with a whiff of brimstone. B

Heads of State: Search for Peace (2015, Smoke Sessions): Veteran group, some claim to being all stars: Gary Bartz (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), Buster Williams (bass), Al Foster (drums). Play two Bartz tunes, seven covers -- Strayhorn, Carter, Coltrane, McLean, Tyner for the title cut. Much as you'd expect, except milder -- as if they've found that peace, or are just getting old. B+(**)

Don Henley: Cass County (2015, Capitol): Voice still familiar from way back when, though I don't recall hearing any of his albums -- this is only the fifth since 1982. After a 15 year hiatus, he recruited feature guests like a junior grade rapper, though less to be sociable than, I suspect, to gauge his reputation in Nashville. He draws some more estimable names than his own -- Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams, Miranda Lambert, also Mick Jagger and Stevie Nicks. He doesn't need them, but he has his own limits. B+(*)

Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers (2015 [2016], Flat Langton's Arkeyes): Group founded by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, with others in unspecified roles. Starts in a school classroom and moves on, at one point the rush of spoken word fragments coming so fast they become disorienting, kind of like modern life. The saxophones (Devin Brahja Waldman also contributes) are terrific. B+(***) [cd]

Dre Hocevar: Collective Effervescence (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): Percussionist, from Slovenia, has a couple previous albums. This sounded to me like a bassist's album at first -- lots of tortured low rumblings, but there is no bassist: I must have been noting Lester St. Louis' cello and/or Philip White's electronics and signal processing. Also with Bram De Looze on piano and, notably, Chris Pitsiokos on sax. B+(**) [cd]

Inventions: Maze of Woods (2015, Temporary Residence): Electronica duo, Matthew Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky), second album. B+(*)

Jason James: Jason James (2015, New West): Country singer from Texas, has a couple self-released albums before this effective debut. Has the trad country sound down pat, can draw out a ballad and go to the honky tonk. B+(***)

Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet: Acknowledgement (2014 [2016], Bounce-Step): Drummer, originally from Hannibal, Missouri, followed his jazz mue to Kansas City. Has a couple piano trio albums, adds two saxes and a trumpet here, playing a program of Kansas City musicians: Bobby Watson, Pat Metheny, Ahmad Alaadeen (a KC-based saxophonist with several albums in the 1990s). B [cd]

Knife Pleats: Hat Bark Beach (2015, Jigsaw): Vancouver alt-rock group, Rose Malberg the singer (as she's been in a series of bands I'd never heard of). Twelve short, snappy songs, nothing over 2:34, total 26:18. B+(*) [bc]

Lame Drivers: Chosen Era (2015, Jigsaw): New York alt-rock group, described as their debut album but they seem to have been around for a while. Chipper, catchy even. B+(*) [bc]

Left Lane Cruiser: Dirty Spliff Blues (2015, Alive Naturalsound): Blues-rock band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, complete with wailing guitar, crunchy bass, pounding drums, and more than a few reefer songs. B+(*)

Urs Leimgruber/Alex Huber: Lightnings (2014 [2015], Wide Ear): Saxophone-and-drums duo. Not specified here, but Leimgruber usually plays tenor and soprano, rather prickly free jazz, doesn't blow you away but keeps teasing at your ears. B+(**) [cd]

Marilyn Lerner/Ken Filiano/Lou Grassi: Live at Edgefest (2013 [2016], NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio, the bassist having an especially good outing, the piano probing, never too settled. B+(***) [cdr]

Mark Lyken/Emma Dove: Mirror Lands (2015, Time Released Sound): Soundtrack, Dove is the filmmaker working in her native Scotland, Lyken an "audio and visual artist." Calming piano, ambient landscapes, scattered voices, including squawking seabirds. B

Made to Break: Before the Code (2014 [2015], Trost): Ken Vandermark group, third album since 2011, with Christof Kurzmann (electronics), Jasper Stadhouders (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums). Another solid free jazz effort, but this particular group has never blown me away. B+(***)

J Mancera: Mancera #5 (2015 [2016], self-released): Alto saxophonist Jaime Mancera, from Bogota, Colombia, came to the US in the 1990s, played in the house band at the Copacabana, not sure what else. Debut album, all originals, backed by guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion -- rich but steady grooves, vibrant sax, the tunes sound to me like classic movie themes, or kitsch, or both. B+(**) [cd]

Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night (2014 [2015], New Amsterdam): Drummer, his Ensemble adding oboe, alto sax, two guitars, bass, and a lot of voice -- rarely my favorite thing. Aside from the voices, the music starts chamber then turns rockish, picking up interest as it goes. B+(*)

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Galactic Parables: Volume 1 (2013 [2015], Cuneiform, 2CD): Cornet and electronics from the leader, also big-theme compositions -- "The Arc of Slavery," "Helmets of Our Poisonous Thoughts," "Free Agents of Time" -- done live at a festival in Italy with almost-big band, basically a merger of his Chicago and Sao Paulo Undergrounds plus Damon Locks' spoken word (which at first blush sometimes gets in the way). B+(***) [dl]

Mekons/Robbie Fulks: Jura (2015, Bloodshot): A subset -- aven't found a credits list yet, and some press refers to the band as "Mini-Mekons" -- of the great British country-punk band and label mate, cut after a joint tour of Scotland in 2014 and sneak-released on very limited Record Store Day vinyl. By the turn to English folk, I'd guess that the missing Mekon is Jon Langford. Fulks can't quite fill those shoes. B+(***)

Buddy Miller & Friends: Cayamo: Sessions at Sea (2016, New West): Allegedly recorded on a cruise ship, something I can imagine a journeyman with a serviceable twang doing, although I have more trouble imagining all his "friends" packed on the same boat, only joining him for one stock cover each. A mixed bag, with Kacey Musgraves, Doug Seegers, and Richard Thompson on the plus side, Kris Kristofferson and Lucinda Williams on the other. B+(*)

Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Born, Raised & Live From Flint (2011 [2014], Bloodshot): Honky tonk band from Flint, Michigan with a couple albums under their belt, the titular leader born with the name Eric Allen. Half original drinking and/or cheating songs, half covers ranging no further than Bruce Springsteen, closing with a romp through "Mind Your Own Business." B+(**)

Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Sonic Ranch (2015, Whitey Morgan Music): Third studio album, self-released, can't find credits or such, but nothing wrong with it as straightahead honky tonk/rock and roll. B+(***)

Gilligan Moss: Ceremonial (2015, EMI, EP): New York electronica producer, first EP (four songs, 18:57), vocals prominent but window dressing, takes some surprising bounces. B+(*)

Takami Nakamoto: Opacity (2014, HIM Media, EP): Electronica producer/visual artist, based in Paris, creates a pastiche of fascinating beats and effects, at least for five cuts, 19:28. B+(**)

Marius Neset: Pinball (2014 [2015], ACT): Tenor saxophonist from Norway, studied and lives in Copenhagen. Two early albums didn't much impress me, but this is lively, festive even. Backed by piano trio, with Ivo Neame also playing organ and keyboards, and some guest spots -- strings, flutes, percussion. B+(*)

No Fun: How I Spent My Bummer Vacation (2014 [2015], Concrete Jungle): Yet another garage punk band, from Germany although they sound more like California to me -- all English songs (except for "Ode an die Freude," which seems self-explanatory enough), short ones (12 add up to 26:37). B+(***)

Nonch Harpin': Native Sons (2015 [2016], self-released): Fusion group, I guess, although I'm not sure between what and what -- maybe bebop and smooth jazz? Quintet, keyboards and guitar center, a sax, bass, and drums. Guitarist Andy Markham has most of the writing credits, with one tune credited to King Crimson people, another based on something southeast Asian arranged by saxophonist Chinh Tran. B- [cd]

Novelist x Mumdance: 1 Sec EP (2015, XL, EP): Brit grime MC Kojo Kankam -- just EPs, no albums yet -- working with Brit electronica producer Jack Adams. Short (4 cuts, 11:58), snappy. B+(*)

Eva Novoa: Butterflies and Zebras by Ditmas Quartet (2015 [2016], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Barcelona, based in Brooklyn, third album, a quartet with Michaël Attias (alto sax), Max Johnson (bass), and Jeff Davis (drums), all of whom contribute songs -- Davis' Monkish "Justin" is a highlight, but throughout they break melodies up to set the notes free. B+(***)

ObLik: Order Disorder (2014 [2015], Ormo): French free jazz sextet, no one I've heard of: Pierre-Yves Merel (tenor sax), Alan Regardin (trumpet), Alexis Persigan (trombone), Cyril Trocchu (piano), Fabrice Sylvain Didou (bass), L'Houtellier (drums), with the bassist writing the compositions -- something which emphasizes group coherence over freewheeling improvisation. B+(***) [bc]

Matt Parker Trio: Present Time (2015 [2016], BYNK): Saxophonist, mostly tenor, some soprano, second album (plus one for his retro group, the Candy Shop Boys). Trio with Alan Hampton (bass) and Reggie Quinerly (drums), plus vocalist Emily Braden on three cuts -- she can also go swing or modern. B+(**) [cd]

Ken Peplowski: Enrapture (2015 [2016], Capri): Clarinet and tenor sax, a retro guy but not much of a swinger -- an early album presented him as Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool. Quartet, backed by Ehud Asherie (piano), Martin Wind (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). All covers, ranging from Ellington and Waller to Lennon/Ono and Manilow, all gentle and cool, quite lovely. B+(***)

Danilo Pérez/John Pattitucci/Brian Blade: Children of the Light (2015, Mack Avenue): Piano-bass-drums trio, all well known to mainstream jazz fans if not exactly household names. The pianist was born in Panama but has never been very close to Latin jazz, and this is a thoughtful, finely detailed mainstream effort. B+(**)

Physical Therapy: Hit the Breaks (2015, Liberation Technologies, EP): Daniel Fisher, has a handful of EPs and DJ Mixes since 2012, comes up with six hard-hitting beat tracks, good for 28:30. B+(**)

PINS: Wild Nights (2015, Bella Union): Manchester alt/indie quartet, all women, Faith Holgate singer-guitarist. No idea why all sources capitalize group name. Second album, previous is reportedly punkier but this one is crystal clear. B+(**)

Pixel: Golden Years (2015, Cuneiform): Norwegian group, bills itself as a pianoless quartet (like Baker-Mulligan, maybe even Coleman-Cherry) with Jonas Kilmork Vemøy on trumpet and Harald Lassen on sax, but bassist Ellen Andrea Wang also sings, which gives them some pop appeal. B [dl]

Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey (2014 [2016], Zoho Music): Russian-born trumpet player, emigrated to US in 1973 where he found employment in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1977-80). Benny Golson, who goes back even further with Blakey, guests on two tracks. Mostly tunes from Blakey's bands, with Ponomarev adding to the credits. The band does its job, especially on familiar gems like "Moanin'," and the trumpet solos sparkle. B+(***)

Protean Reality: Protean Reality (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Spine has the title twice, so I'll accept that at the group name. Still, I filed this alto sax trio in my database under Chris Pitsiokis' name. Born 1990, he's been on a tear the last year or two. This one has Noah Punkt (electric bass) and Philipp Scholz (drums). Impressive show of free jazz technique, wears a bit thin. B+(***) [cd]

Radical Dads: Universal Coolers (2015, Old Flame): Alt/indie band from Brooklyn, a trio with two very hot guitarists -- singer Lindsay Baker and her husband Chris Diken -- and a drummer from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Robbie Guerlin (evidently the other singer), enveloping smart songs with cyclonic sound. A-

Jemal Ramirez: Pomponio (2015 [2016], First Orbit Sounds Music): San Francisco-based Latin jazz drummer, first album, co-produced by vibraphonist Warren Wolf who is very prominent here. With Howard Wiley (saxes), Joel Behrman (trumpet), Matthew Clark (piano), John Shifflet (bass), and John Santos (percussion). Wolf and Behrman contribute tunes, the rest coming from jazz sources -- Kenny Garrett's "J'Ouvert" is choice. B+(*) [cd]

Renku: Live in Greenwich Village (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): Avant-sax trio -- Michaël Attias on alto, John Hébert on bass, Satoshi Takeishi on drums -- named for their 2004 album. Fine group, nice balance, much of interest, almost state of the art. B+(***) [cd]

Rhythm Future Quartet: Travels (2015 [2016], Magic Fiddle Music): Acoustic string band -- violin (Jason Anick), bass (Greg Loughman), two guitars (Olli Soikelli and Max O'Rourke) -- plays a chamber variant of gypsy jazz, unencumbered by drums but with no shortage of rhythm. B+(*) [cd]

Pete Rock: PeteStrumentals 2 (2015, Mello Music Group): Hip-hop DJ/producer, had some hits as a 1994-94 duo with rapper C.L. Smooth. Since then he's worked with other groups, occasionally dropping a solo album like his first PeteStrumentals back in 2001. This belated successor isn't all instrumental, but the vocals tend to be repeat riffs, not open raps. B+(**)

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (2015 [2016], Rare Noise): Free jazz quartet, everything joint-credited, presumably improvised on the spot. The trombonist has done things like this in the distant past, none recently, and never has he got the mix this right. Saft has emerged as an exceptional free jazz pianist, and the bassist and drummer know the game. A- [cdr]

Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity (2014 [2016], Samo): Guitarist, from and still based in Slovenia, has been prolific since 2003 or so. I don't quite get the significance of this trio being "bassless" -- basically it's a sax trio with Julian Argüelles (sic: should be Arguëlles) on soprano and tenor, John Hollenbeck on drums, and a guitarist who can take charge instead of a bassist to fill out the harmonics. Really takes off when he does. A-

J. Peter Schwalm: The Beauty of Disaster (2015 [2016], Rare Noise): German composer, plays guitars, keyboards, drums, and other electronics here, accompanied by various guests here and there. He's cut a couple ambient albums with Brian Eno, and that's roughly where this goes: a very calm, rather lovely piece of furniture music. B+(**) [cdr]

Travis Scott: Rodeo (2015, Grand Hustle/Epic): Houston rapper, Jacques Webster, can't say I'm getting anything out of this but also can't say why. Not underground, no bling either. B

Seinabo Sey: Pretend (2015, Virgin): Afro-Swedish pop singer, born there but father was a renowned Gambian musician. Debut album after a couple EPs. Reportedly influenced by Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, I hear more distant echoes of Nina Simone. B+(*)

Shatner's Bassoon: The Self Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan (2015, Wasp Millionaire): Jazz group from Leeds -- no one here named Barsaan let alone Shatner, and no bassoon. Group name refers to a part of the brain which under suitable drugs produces time distortion. No idea what the title refers to. Two drummers (one, like the bassist and the guitarist, doubling in electronics), electric keyboards, and Oliver Dover on saxes and clarinets. Amusing sound mix, much promise, but runs way long. B+(*) [bc]

Shopping: Consumer Complaints (2014 [2015], FatCat): British post-punk trio -- Rachel Aggs (guitar, vocals), Billy Easter (bass), Andrew Milk (drums) -- sharp enough, could amount to something if the lyrics bear out their "healthy distrust of capitalism." Looks like this was self-released in the UK in 2014, then reissued last year when they were picked up by a label. B+(***)

Shopping: Why Choose (2015, FatCat): Second album, Christgau regards the two as "pretty much interchangeable," and that's probably true, but this one struck me as a bit cleaner and clearer, and minus a minor stumble in the middle. A-

Shopping: Urge Surfing (2015, self-released): Not the British post-punk band above, a self-proclaimed "subway surf punk" band from Brooklyn, or more precisely, "one dude in his laundry room with 3 mics, a couple of guitars and a crappy, high latency interface," plus "his lady" and a friend or two who happened to drop in. Still, he/they make a lot of noise, excitement even. B+(*)

Shopping: Gizzard Shingles (2015, self-released): Cover reads "shopppping" -- their first album, 2014's Tuff Noogies, read "SHOPPPING" so let's just say their identity is confused. I'm a little confused too. B

SK Simeon & Yaw Faso: Maskya (2015, Big Dada, EP): Two Melbourne, Australia-based artists, at least one with roots in Uganda although the dominant vocals are rooted in Jamaican dancehall. Beats by the aptly named Machinedrum. Four cuts, two attributed to each, 13:46. B+(**)

Dr. Lonnie Smith: Evolution (2016, Blue Note): Organ player, got on the bandwagon around 1967, closer to fusion than to soul jazz. He produced records regularly up to 1979, two in 1993-94, and he refound his groove after 2000. First Blue album since 1970, produced by Don Was who draws on labelmates from Robert Glasper to Joe Lovano. flute, and a lot of rhythm. Strikes me as cluttered. B

Mike Sopko/Simon Lott: The Golden Measure (2015 [2016], self-released): Guitar-drums duo, the artists' names not on the cover but the packaging is pretty minimal, like the concept: punk jazz about sums it up, but being jazzbos there's nothing so basic as pounding out a chord to a speeded up 4/4. But the attitude fits, and punk has always been more about attitude than technique. B+(***) [cd]

The Souljazz Orchestra: Resistance (2015, Strut): Ottawa, Canada-based group, seventh album since 2005, basically a combination of Afro-beat and vintage funk -- I flashed on Charles Wright at one point -- with horns and extra percussion. B+(***)

Vladimir Tarasov/Eugenius Kanevicius/Ludas Mockunas: Intuitus (2014 [2016], NoBusiness): Drums (percussion, cimbalom, hunting horn), bass (electronics), and reeds (soprano and tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Free jazz with some quirks. B+(**) [cdr]

Bruce Torff: Down the Line (2014-15 [2016], Summit): Keyboard player, second album, lined up some accomplished musicians -- Lew Soloff (two cuts, his last date, two weeks before his death), Joel Frahm, Pete McCann -- but didn't hire a bassist (Ben Wittman is the drummer). B [cd]

Tribu Baharú: Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador (2015, self-released): Colombian afro-champeta, from the Caribbean coast (a champeta is a knife used by fishermen to descale fish), marked by sweet soukous guitar, upbeat percussion, and whoops and shouts with more affinity to zouk and reggaeton than to salsa or cumbia. Some rough spots, but they overpower them. A-

Turnpike Troubadours: Turnpike Troubadours (2015, Bossier City): Red Dirt band from Oklahoma, although their label name -- title of their first album -- is a town in the northwest corner of Louisiana. Fourth album. Lots of fiddle mark them as primeval country, but otherwise they're pretty ordinary. B

Twin Talk: Twin Talk (2014 [2016], Ears & Eyes): Sax trio -- Dustin Laurenzi on tenor, Katie Ernst on bass, Andrew Green on drums -- not an avant thing. Ernst also sings several songs. B+(*) [cd]

Ursula 1000: Voyeur (2015, Insect Queen): EDM project of Alex Gimeno, a Brooklyn producer with nine albums plus EPs and singles and remixes since 1999, spanning glam rock and cha cha and exotica, though this one mostly pushes my disco buttons, the beats sometimes reminding me of DJ Shadow. Ends with a change of pace, a movie theme called "The Shadow of Your Smile" tarted up like in a James Bond film. A-

Carlos Vega: Bird's Ticket (2015 [2016], Origin): Saxophonist, seems to be based in Chicago but teaches at Florida A&M. First album I'm aware of -- AMG has it attached to a singer-keyboardist who died in 1998. Quintet, Victor Garcia on trumpet, plus piano/Rhodes-bass-drums. Latin jazz vibe, some strong sax runs. B+(*) [cd]

Ward Thomas: From Where We Stand (2015, WTW Music): British country music duo, 20-year-old twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas. Their country fetish doesn't amount to much more than a hejira to Nashville to record, but their straightforward songs have some appeal, as do their harmonies. B+(*)

Dan Weiss: Sixteen: Drummers Suite (2014 [2016], Pi): Sixteen musicians -- counting three vocalists who don't exactly sing -- but only the leader/composer is a drummer. (Well, Stephen Cellucci is credited with percussion, and like Weiss and guitarist Miles Okazaki with "vocal percussion" -- whatever that means.) Some remarkable music here, very slippery, but I invariably gag on the vocal dressing, if not the flutes and harps. Safe to say this will fare well in year-end ballots, just not mine. B [cd]

White Reaper: White Reaper Does It Again (2015, Polyvinyl): Garage punk band from Louisville, quartet, includes a keyboard for cheesy hooks that have been likened to bubblegum -- the sound reminds me of punk jokesters like the Rezillos (and, yes, the Ramones), although they probably have more in common with recent bands like the Go! Team. I'm sure I would have loved them back when I was fourteen. B+(***)

Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King (2016, Fader): Spoken word artist, i.e., more poet than rapper, six albums since 2001, missed them all so maybe he should be a SFFR. Actually, nearly all of this is sung, not that the lyrics don't jump out from the sometimes catchy, often indecisive music. Politics too, but I'm not getting as much there as I hear I should. B+(***)

Worriers: Imaginary Life (2015, Don Giovanni): Brooklyn garage punk band led by singer-songwriter Lauren Denitzio, debut album, rips through 12 songs in 28:04, catchy and crunchy. B+(**)

The Yawpers: American Man (2015, Bloodshot): Alt band from Colorado led by Nate Cook, who may thank God he's an American man but doesn't feel too blessed -- more like ashamed. Took a third play to get past the first two songs and see everything else fall into place. Reminds me of the Drive-By Truckers, minus the cornbread and molasses. A-

Yelawolf: Love Story (2015, Shady): Michael Wayne Atha, white (well, part Cherokee) rapper from Gadsden, Alabama; started underground, signed to Eminem's label, diversified -- I don't get why this was an EOY pick at Saving Country Music [maybe the fiddle stomp?], but he takes a wide range of rap stances (including a couple of Eminem-like rants) and sings a lot. B+(**)

Young Thug: Slime Season 2 (2015, self-released): For some reason Rhapsody only has this volume and not the slightly earlier Slime Season 1 (September 16) or the later Slime Season 3 (February 16) -- such a prolific mixtape artist can really keep the whatever flowing. He never struck me as much of a thug, but his warbly voice is an endless fount of rhymes, some rising to wit, most just enjoying his lowlife self. B+(***)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game (2001 [2016], Jazzed Media): Doug Richards has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University since 1979, founding its Jazz Studies program and forming the Great American Music Ensemble (GAME), which played annual Kennedy Center concerts from 1990-97, but while I've found a 1992 Geoffrey Himes piece raving about them, I've yet to find any evidence that they recorded -- until now, that is, and this has been sitting on the shelf since 2001. I don't recognize anyone in the big band, but they exemplify Gary Giddins' notion of repertory concert jazz as well as I can imagine. And special guests violinist Joe Kennedy Jr., singer René Marie, and especially Jon Faddis -- whose Armstrong is as uncanny as his Gillespie -- go the extra mile. Mostly familiar tunes, but that's half the fun. A- [cd]

Sheila Jordan: Better Than Anything: Live (1991 [2015], There): A simply marvelous singer, well into her 80s now with nothing new recorded/released since 2008, so these scraps from the past -- like HighNote's 2012 release of Yesterdays, her 1990 duo with Harvie S -- are especially welcome. This one, from a year later, also features the bassist along with pianist Alan Broadbent. She's still remarkably facile, singing out her band announcements, working in impromptu bits to breakneck songs, making scat look easy. B+(***)

Joëlle Léandre: No Comment (1994-95 [2016], Fou): Avant bassist from France, has a large discography going back to 1982. Solo, nine numbered "No Comment" pieces picked up from two performances, one in Vancouver, the other in Italy. The bass is fascinating enough, but I can't stand the few short voice bits. B [cd]

Nouakchott Wedding Songs (2015, Sahel Sounds): From Mauritania, the northwest corner of the vast expanse of Sahara Desert. Eleven tracks by eight artists -- Hussein Moktar, Sidibou ould Siyed, and Idoumou ould Jeich are the repeaters -- no idea how old vintage or anything else, although they promise a 12-page booklet with the CD. Rough going, but not without moments of exhilaration. B+(**) [bc]

Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974 (1974 [2015], Cuneiform): An important prog rock band founded in Canterbury in 1968, but by this Montreux Jazz Festival performance singers Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt had left, their seven numbered albums history, leaving only keyboardist Mike Ratledge from the founders, with Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Karl Jenkins (keyboards), and Hohnet Planet (soprano sax, oboe) among the replacements. B+(*) [dl]

Old Music

The Catheters: Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days (2002, Sub Pop): Seattle group, seem like serious Stooges fans, singer Brian Standeford sometimes affecting a remarkable Iggy impression. Loud, a little clunky for punk. Phil Overeem loves it. B+(***)

The Catheters: Howling . . . It Grows and Grows!!! (2004, Sub Pop): Second (and last) album (having skipped the EP), uncommonly fierce as these garage-punk bands go, not without an occasional hook either. B+(**)

Sheila Jordan: Confirmation (1975 [2005], Test of Time): Second album, released on East Wind thirteen years after her 1962 debut (Portrait of Sheila), a year after she appeared on two remarkable Roswell Rudd albums (the long out-of-print Numatic String Band and Flexible Flyer, one of my all-time favorites). Backed by Alan Pasqua (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Beaver Harris (drums), and Norman Marnell (tenor sax). She shows remarkable poise, especially on the first two songs ("God Bless the Child," "My Favorite Things"), though some of the rest slip past me. B+(***)

Sheila Jordan: Believe in Jazz (2003 [2004], Ella Productions): Recorded during her 75th birthday tour, in Switzerland with the Serge Forté Trio. Everything she did in this period was masterful, but few pieces are more definitive than her "Everything Happens to Me" here. A-

Sheila Jordan & E.S.P. Trio: Straight Ahead (2004 [2005], Splasc(H)): With Roberto Cipelli's piano trio -- Attilio Zanchi on bass and Gianni Cazzola on drums -- with "special guest" Paolo Fresu (trumpet, flugelhorn). Title song comes from Abbey Lincoln/Mal Waldron, but nothing with Jordan is very straight at this point, as the takes difficult songs and makes them utterly personal. At this point she usually just worked with a bassist, but Fresu is a treat. A-

Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Trio (2010 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist from Barcelona, in a trio with Masatoshi Kamaguchi (bass) and Marc Lohr (drums). All original material, impressive debut. B+(**)

Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Quartet (2010 [2013], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, composed all tracks, adding alto saxophonist Ernesto Aurignac to Masatoshi Kamaguchi (bass) and André Sumelius (drums). Recoded in Barcelona, Novoa's home base, very smart postbop, impressive all around. B+(***)

PINS: Girls Like Us (2013, Bella Union): First album. Punkier mostly in the sense that the songs are shorter, but not always faster. B+(*)

Saul Williams: Saul Williams (2004, Fader): Second album, reportedly a musical advance although the help Williams brought in comes not from hip-hop but left-leaning rockers -- Serj Tankian, Alex de la Rocha, Ikey Owens. Brings some intensity, but I can't make much out of it, even with politics on one's sleeve. B+(*)

Saul Williams: The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! (2007 [2008], Fader): Third album, music mostly provided by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails and various soundtracks). Title echoes David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, but the album leans forward, often hard. B+(**)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • Sheila Jordan: Portrait of Sheila (1962 [1989], Blue Note): A-
  • Sheila Jordan/Harvie Swartz: Old Time Feeling (1983, Muse): B+
  • Sheila Jordan: The Crossing (1984 [1986], Blackhawk): B+
  • Sheila Jordan: Songs From Within (1989, M.A.): B+
  • Sheila Jordan: Lost and Found (1990, Muse): A-
  • Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990 [2012], High Note): A-
  • Sheila Jordan: Heart Strings (1993, Muse): B+
  • Sheila Jordan: From the Heart (1982-93 [2000], 32 Jazz): B+
  • Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown: I've Grown Accustomed to the Bass (1997 [2000], High Note): A-
  • Sheila Jordan: Jazz Child (1997 [1999], High Note): B
  • Sheila Jordan: Little Song (2002 [2003], High Note): A-
  • Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown: Celebration (2004 [2005], High Note): A-
  • Sheila Jordan: Winter Sunshine (2008, Justin Time): B+(**)


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