Rhapsody Streamnotes: April 28, 2016

Not much to say here. Fairly typical month: four weeks, 125 records. Only nine 2015 releases, although I still don't feel like I have a handle on 2016 -- indeed, I can't say as I'm trying. Just wading through, checking out things I notice -- following my mail, plus a few trustworthy critics.

Two major deaths this past month: Merle Haggard and Prince. Tried to look them up on Rhapsody to see what I've missed, but not much from either (actually nothing from Prince, a fair amount of Haggard but it will take some effort to straighten out the order -- maybe next month). As it is I have 27 Haggard albums in the database (including two filed under Willie Nelson), and 24 from Prince -- the former include more compilations, especially drawn from the early albums, and still wind up representing a smaller share of the total. I won't list them all, but here's the A-list (sorted chronologically):

  • Merle Haggard: The Capitol Collector's Series (1966-74 [1990], Capitol): A
  • Merle Haggard and the Strangers: Serving 190 Proof (1979, MCA): A-
  • Prince: Dirty Mind (1980, Warner Bros.): A
  • Merle Haggard: More of the Best (1963-81 [1990], Rhino): A
  • Prince: 1999 (1982, Warner Bros.): A-
  • Merle Haggard: The Ultimate Collection (1966-83 [2000], Hip-O): A-
  • Prince and the Revolution: Purple Rain (1984, Warner Bros.): A
  • Merle Haggard: Live From Austin TX (1985 [2006], New West): A-
  • Prince and the Revolution: Parade (1986, Warner Bros.): A-
  • Prince: Sign of the Times (1987, Paisley Park, 2CD): A
  • Merle Haggard: The Essential Merle Haggard: The Epic Years (1981-87 [2004], Epic/Legacy): A-
  • Prince: The Hits/B-Sides (1978-93 [1993], Paisley Park, 3CD): A-
  • Prince: The Gold Experience (1995, NPG/Warner Bros.): A-
  • Merle Haggard: 40 #1 Hits (1966-96 [2004], Capitol, 2CD): A-
  • Merle Haggard: If I Could Only Fly (2000, Epitaph): A-
  • Merle Haggard: Like Never Before (2003, Hag): A-
  • Prince: Musicology (2004, NPG/Columbia): A-
  • Prince: 3121 (2006, NPG/Universal): A-
  • Merle Haggard: Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard (1966-2005 [2007], Capitol): A
  • Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard/Ray Price: Last of the Breed (2007, Lost Highway, 2CD): A-
  • Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (2011, Vanguard): A-
  • Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard: Django and Jimmie (2015, Legacy): A-

You might want to compare Robert Christgau's pages: compared to me, he's reviewed +14 on Haggard (-4 A-list) and +0 on Prince (+3 A-list).

I was a little more pro-active on news of the death of Ethiopian tenor saxophonist Getatchew Merkuria. I had heard him on Either/Orchestra's Live in Addis, knew that he had a well-regarded volume in Buda Musique's Éthiopiques series, and that he had a couple albums with the Dutch anarcho-punk group Ex. I was pleased to find the comp on Rhapsody, and two live albums with Ex on Bandcamp, so I tuned right into them. The Ex had also put their complete works up on Bandcamp, so I decided to fill in all the many albums I had missed, so see "Old Music" below for the rundown.

I suppose I should note that the total number of records I've run through this wringer since 2007 has topped 8000. That doesn't include the old Recycled Goods and Jazz Prospecting columns, which were done on the basis of actual CDs. I suspended those columns back in January 2014, folding the stuff I would have reviewed there into here. About one-third of the records below were reviewed from CDs (44/125, 35.2%, all jazz). What put the "Rhapsody" in "Rhapsody Streamnotes" was a (temporary) gratis subscription to the streaming service. I figured as long as I was listening I should keep notes, even if they don't amount to real reviews. That's still my practice, and a fair number of the notes that follow are far from adequate to give you a good sense of the record. Still, only so much time to go around.

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 March 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (8045 records).

Recent Releases

Antonio Adolfo: Tropical Infinito (2016, AAM): Brazilian pianist, has a couple dozen albums since 1969, nearing 70 now. Adds a horn section here -- Jesse Sadoc on trumpet and Marcelo Martins on sax -- considers guitarist Claudio Spiewak a special guest. Two originals, two other Brazilian pieces, but starts with two Benny Golson tunes, adds one each from Oliver Nelson and Horace Silver, plus "All the Things You Are" -- not just nice but delightful. B+(***) [cd]

Africaine 808: Basar (2016, Golf Channel): Berlin-based duo, Dirk Leyers and DJ Nomad, plunder their world music samples and jack them up for the dancefloor. B+(***) [bc]

Cyrille Aimée: Let's Get Lost (2016, Mack Avenue): French jazz singer, based in New York, usually sings standards but comes up with four originals here, usually sings in English but has two songs in French and one in Spanish. Backed by guitar-bass-drums, gives it an informal feel. Title usually denotes a Chet Baker crush but here it's just another Frank Loesser-Jimmy McHugh standard. B+(*)

Ralph Alessi: Quiver (2014 [2016], ECM): Trumpet player, long struck me as a guy who stars on others' albums, now has a dozen or so albums under his own name. Quartet, with Gary Versace (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Format focuses hard on Alessi, who doesn't disappoint. B+(***) [dl]

Katy B: Honey (2016, Virgin EMI): British pop singer Kathleen Brien, third album, enough of an established powerhouse that every song gets "featuring" help and nearly every song gets its own unique producer (Geeneus five times, but paired with someone different each time). Consistent enough that they all seem to have read the same business plan. Also that none came up with a single you're going to remember this album by. B+(**)

Nik Bärtsch's Mobile: Continuum (2015 [2016], ECM): Swiss pianist, alternates between his "zen-funk" group Ronin and this slightly more streamlined ensemble -- clarinetist Sha plays in both but is less conspicuous here, merely coloring the rhythmic figures, as do the strings. The patterns remain compelling, maybe even danceable. A- [dl]

Beauty School: Residual Ugly (2015, Humbler): Matt Chandler (bass guitar), Tom Djll (electronics + trumpet), Jacob Felix Heule (percussion + electronics) -- basically improv noise, or as they put it, "extreme extended techniques . . . with nasty homemade electronics and circuit-bent keyboards. Eleven untitled cuts, 48:01, originally released on Chrome Plus "CP-Extra" tape because that's "up to 4 decibels 'hotter' than other chrome tapes. They were proud enough of their work to send me a cassette, which I couldn't play, so I'm belatedly working off Bandcamp -- which I imagine is a good 4 dB cooler than they intended. B+(*) [bc]

Bibio: A Mineral Love (2016, Warp): Stephen Wilkinson, English, seemed more of a laptronica guy at first but is singing more, turning into a falsetto soul man, which isn't significantly distinct from false soul man. B

Big Ups: Before a Million Universes (2016, Exploding/Tough Love): Brooklyn post-hardcore group, second album, like with their first (Eighteen Hours of Static) I find their grind and growl little short of contagious. B+(***)

Bombino: Azel (2016, Partisan): Guitarist Omara Moctar, from Niger, started in Group Bombino and kept the name, left for Burkina Faso, then finally to the US, recording his 2013 album in Nashville with Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), and this one in Woodstock with Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors). B+(***)

Jaimeo Brown Transcendence: Work Songs (2016, Motéma): Drummer, second album, liked his first album title so much he kept it as part of his artist credit. This is built around field recordings of work songs from Mississippi to Japan. Guitarist Chris Sholar co-produced, saxophonists Jaleel Shaw (alto) and JD Allen (tenor) impress, and the keyboards fill in. B+(***)

The Ian Carey Quintet + 1: Interview Music (2015 [2016], Kabocha): Trumpet player, several albums since 2005. Sextet -- yes, there exists a more succinct term than "quintet + 1" -- includes bass clarinet (Sheldon Brown), alto sax (Kasey Knudsen), piano (Adam Shulman), bass and drums. Title piece a sprawling suite with four parts and an interlude, a fine example of postbop composition and arrangement. B+(***) [cd]

Hayes Carll: Lovers and Leavers (2016, Highway 87): Country singer-songwriter, last couple albums have had some remarkably funny songs (best ever is "She Left Me for Jesus") but the only one here with so much as a light touch is "Love Is So Easy." One problem may be that the leavers outnumber the lovers. Another may be that they all have co-authors, although Darrell Scott is most frequent. Much less disappointed on the second pass. B+(***)

Cavern of Anti-Matter: Void Beats/Invocation Trex (2016, Duophonic): Berlin-based project of keyboardist Holger Zapf and Stereolab members Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth. Too much guitar to really qualify as Krautrock, but their instrumental pieces (especially the 12:51 opener "Tardis Cymbals") are delightful, the song with vocals not bad, and the other vocal snippets not without interest. B+(***)

Bill Charlap Trio: Notes From New York (2015 [2016], Impulse): Mainstream pianist, a bit retro even, twenty albums since 1994, mostly (as here) doing standards. Trio, with Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums, has been together a long time (at least since 2004). Expert, although it's been a while since I've found him dazzling. B+(*)

Charli XCX: Vroom Vroom (2016, Vroom Vroom, EP): Brit pop star, really liked her second album, Sucker. Four rather prickly songs, 12:18, much tease but not a lot of payoff. B+(*)

Chimurenga Renaissance: Rize Vadzimu Rize (2014, Brick Lane): Project formed by Tandal "Baba" Maraire (Shabazz Palaces) with rapper Hussein Kalonji (aka H-Bomb), borrowing liberally from Zimbabwe's signature music -- although sometimes that isn't evident. Rather, what you get is a dense, rather busy underground rap record, albeit one that aims higher. B+(*)

Chimurenga Renaissance: Girlz With Gunz (2016, Glitterbeat, EP): Eleven short cuts, 26 minutes, busier than ever. B+(*)

Rob Clearfield: Islands (2016, Ears & Eyes): Plays piano, electric piano, organ, and guitar, backed here by bass and drums. B+(*)

The Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend (2016, Suicide Squeeze): Atlanta girl group, or punk trio if you'd prefer, fifth album, have advanced melodically and chops-wise which is only natural, but stay true to their roots. A-

Shemekia Copeland: Outskirts of Love (2015, Alligator): Blues semi-legend Johnny Copeland's daughter, seventh album since 1998. Big voice, helps to pick good songs ("Long as I Can See the Light," "Lord, Help the Poor and Needy"). B+(*)

Matt Criscuolo: The Dialogue (2016, Jazzeria): Alto saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 2001. Takes a sharp bite with the opener, and only lets up to let "featuring" guitarist Tony Purrone make his mark. Quartet with Dave Anderson on bass and Will Calhoun on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Daria: Strawberry Fields Forever: Songs by the Beatles (2016, OA2): San Francisco-based jazz singer -- AMG classifies her as "Children's Jazz" -- last name Mautner (which I learned from the credit for the one song I didn't recognize), has a handful of albums since 1998. Beatles songs have been notoriously unjazzable, so I didn't expect much, but she does come up with some novel ideas ("Can't Buy Me Love" works), even if most of them are little more than Latin percussion. B+(*) [cd]

Stephen Davis/Ralph Alessi/Kris Davis: Sugar Blade (2015, Babel): Belfast-based drummer, has previously recorded as Steve Davis or Steven Davis but perhaps switched to steer clear of American jazz drummer Steve Davis. He's mostly worked with Paul Dunmall in the past, so is used to playing fast and loose. The others, playing trumpet and piano, are better known, playing to form here, but not much more. B+(**)

Eli Degibri: Cliff Hangin' (2014 [2016], Blujazz): Israeli saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a half-dozen albums since 2003, this a quartet with piano (Gadi Lehavi), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Ofri Nehemya). Pretty conventional, although his tone is down right lustrous and the rhythm is mostly upbeat. Shlomo Ydov joins in on one song, playing guitar and singing -- voice and phrasing reminds me of Robert Wyatt. B+(*) [cd]

The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Comin' Home Baby (2014 [2016], Origin): Drummer-singer, mostly swings standards, throwing in some blues, a couple Jobims, a couple songs by Bob Dorough and David Frishberg. He opens, then wife Bonnie Eisele enters and outshines him, a shtick Louis Prima and Keely Smith pioneered. Cover shows a couple horn players but they're not in the credits -- just Johannes Bjerregaard on piano and Chris Luard on bass. B+(***) [cd]

Dressy Bessy: Kingsized (2016, Yep Roc): Denver alt/indie band, fronted by singer-guitarist Tammy Ealom, shares a guitarist with Apples in Stereo, has a half-dozen albums going back to 1999, their previous in 2008. B+(**)

Flatbush Zombies: 3001: A Laced Odyssey (2016, Glorious Dead): Brooklyn rap group, first album (after several mixtapes), a concept thang. Underground beats, not sure what else. B+(**)

Michael Formanek/Ensemble Kolossus: The Distance (2014 [2016], ECM): Bassist, over a dozen albums since 1986, composed the title piece and eight parts of "Exoskeleton" for an 18-piece New York big band -- only name I didn't recognize on the roster was that of the marimba player -- turning the conductor duties over to fellow bassist Mark Helias. A commanding group, lots of power behind the tricky compositions. B+(***) [dl]

Nick Fraser Quartet: Starer (2015 [2016], self-released): Drummer, from Canada, based in Toronto, same group as on the excellent 2013 Towns and Villages: Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Andrew Downing (cello), and Rob Clutton (double bass). Free jazz, focus seems to shift more toward the cello, with Malaby fading away. B+(**) [cd]

James Freeman: Echoes of Nature III (2016, Edgetone): Plays guitar and synthesizer, has two previous Echoes of Nature albums. Here, at least, the echoes are mostly bird sounds and some wind and rain, dotted around the unnatural sounds of Mads Tolling's violin, Yehudit's viola, and Nika Rejto's flute. B- [cd]

Matthew Fries: Parallel States (2015 [2016], Xcappa): Pianist, three previous records going back to 2001. This one is solo, all original material. B+(*)

Gambari Band: Kokuma (2016, Membran Media): Mali group, includes several relatives who formerly played in Bassekou Kouyaté's Ngoni Ba group. Finds that sweet spot in the middle of Mali's pop spectrum and gently holds sway over it. A-

Jean-Brice Godet Quartet: Mujô (2013 [2016], Fou): French, plays bass clarinet, looks like this may be his first album although he's appeared on maybe 10-12, with a couple groups, also with Joëlle Léandre. Here, with Michaël Attias (alto sax, a good match), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), and Carlo Costa (drums). B+(***) [cd]

GoGo Penguin: Man Made Object (2015 [2016], Blue Note): Piano trio -- Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, Rob Turner -- , from Manchester in UK, has a couple previous albums, their last making the Mercury Award's short list, so they have some crossover appeal, more like EST than Bad Plus or Dawn of Midi, but simpler patterns, more Eno, more ambient. Could grow on you, but may still not seem like it amounts to much. B+(***)

Alex Goodman: Border Crossing (2016, OA2): Guitarist, has a previous album, wrote all the songs here but effectively turns this one over to singer Felicity Williams. B- [cd]

PJ Harvey: The Hope Six Demolition Project (2015 [2016], Vagrant): More political than ever, not that I find that especially easy to gauge. Still, mostly lacks the raw nerve of her best (and worst) records, and not as catchy as I'd like. Still, when the sax comes out (e.g., "The Ministry of Social Affairs"), I wonder if I shouldn't listen more. B+(**)

Alexander Hawkins/Evan Parker: Leaps in Leicester (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Improv duo, piano and tenor sax, the former a young guy who can play with avant-gardists -- his group Decoy has several albums with Joe McPhee -- and other styles, the latter one of the legendary founders of European free jazz. A bit subdued, which makes the music seem less radical than it is. A- [cd]

Mayer Hawthorne: Man About Town (2016, Vagrant): If you want Motown revival, why not a white guy from Ann Arbor (given name Andrew Cohen)? Fourth album, not counting the Tuxedo duo I liked so much last year (pushed the envelope into disco). He does a pretty fair Smokey here. B+(**)

The Heliocentrics: From the Deep (2016, Now-Again): London-based jazz-funk group, name inspired by Sun Ra, best known for collaborations with exotic obscurities (Mulatu Astatke, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius). Those guests add various degrees of charisma which the band itself lacks, not that they can't kick up an engaging groove. B+(***)

Louis Heriveaux: Triadic Episode (2014 [2016], Hot Shoe): Pianist, trio with Curtis Lundy and Terreon Gully, looks to be his first although he has side credits going back to 1993. Three originals, one with the bassist, a couple more from the band, but mostly standards buffed up bright and shiny. B+(**) [cd]

Keefe Jackson/Jason Adasiewicz: Rows and Rows (2015 [2016], Delmark): Duets, tenor sax/bass clarinet and vibes, both established players in Chicago's avant-jazz scene. Drags a bit, as often happens in duo albums with no one pushing the pace. B+(*) [cd]

Russ Johnson: Meeting Point (2014, Relay): Trumpet player, more of a postbop player than avant but having moved to Chicago he's come up with a quartet that begs the difference: Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Anton Hatwich (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Kamaiyah: A Good Night in the Ghetto (2016, self-released): Bay Area rapper, 20 years old, first mixtape. Reads retro but has a hard edge, low budget feel, nothing frilly, plenty catchy. B+(**)

Sari Kessler: Do Right (2016, Ruby Street Music): Standards singer, first album, attracted some first-rate musicians including Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet), Houston Person (tenor sax), Ron Affif (guitar), and John di Martino (piano). B+(*) [cd]

Julie Kjaer 3: Dobbeltgaenger (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, website bio doesn't bother with any mundane details like when and where born, where she studied, where she lives, but she does appear to have a previous Kvartet album, a group called Pierette Ensemble, and a chair in Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit. Elsewhere I find that she's Danish and based in London, which would put her close to her trio mates, John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums). I may soft on avant sax trios, but this hits all the right buttons. A- [cd]

La Sera: Music for Listening to Music To (2016, Polyvinyl): Fourth album by ex-Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman, expanded to a duo with husband Todd Wisenbaker, produced by Ryan Adams trying to span (or more accurately find a sweet spot between) "garagey pop [and] twangy country." B+(**)

Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses: Solidarity (2014 [2016], Unseen Rain): Trumpet player, one of the first places I noticed him was in William Parker's Little Huey Orchestra, and here he is returning with his own avant big band. Sixteen musicians (counting vocalist Anaïs Maviel), nothing conventional about the lineup -- Lavelle is the only brass player, the four saxes are joined by flute and bassoon; you also get violin, cello, guitar (Anders Nilsson), banjo, and vibraphone as well as piano-bass-drums. Feels like a bit too much "kitchen sink," but the revivalist closer ("Faith") is pretty rousing. B+(**) [cd]

Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (2015 [2016], Cuneiform): Max Fleischer (1883-1972) was born in Krakow, emigrated to New York when he was four, and grew up to be a pioneer in the art and technology of animated film, where his characters included Betty Boop and Popeye. Lucas is a guitarist with a checkered career since he joined Captain Beefheart in 1980, with a couple dozen albums under all sorts of names since 1991. Aside from the songs, the star here is Sarah Stiles, who gets the corniness of the jazz era perfect, then makes the switch from Boop to Olive Oyl for the Popeye-Barnacle Bill operetta finale. First-rate jazz band too: Joe Fiedler (trombone), Jeff Lederer (reeds), Michael Bates (bass), and Rob Garcia (drums). A- [dl]

Steven Lugerner: Jacknife: The Music of Jackie McLean (2015 [2016], Primary): Alto saxophonist, has several impressive albums, describes his group -- takes their name from a McLean nickname, also the title of a 1970s compilation which was my intro to the alto great -- as postbop, although the sax-trumpet-piano-bass-drums quintet is one I associate more with hard bop. But then, McLean's 1959-67 Blue Note albums practically invented postbop, moving from hard bop through avant-garde and into the synthesis postbop was founded on. Only two of six songs here were actually penned by McLean (two come from Charles Tolliver), but they all sound right, even if McLean's precise tone remains unique. B+(***) [cd]

The Tony Lustig Quintet: Taking Flight (2016, Bimperl): Originally from Detroit, now based in New York, plays baritone sax and bass clarinet. Hype sheet notes he "believes strongly in warmth and groove," and that's evident on this debut album. He does have a couple side credits with trombonist Michael Dease, who appears here, backed by piano-bass-drums. B+(**) [cd]

Roberto Magris: Need to Bring Out Love (2016, JMood): Mainstream pianist, from Italy, has quite a few albums. Trio, with Dominique Sanders on bass and Brian Steever on drums, with three vocals -- two by Julia Haile, one with Monique Danielle. B+(**) [cdr]

The Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody (2016, McCoury Music): As the cover explains, "Original lyrics of Woody Guthrie set to music by Del McCoury" -- something Wilco, Billy Bragg, the Klezmatics, and others have also done before, but the supply of worthwhile Guthrie lyrics is deep, and the bluegrass settings seem luxuriant compared to the folksinger's own recordings. You can't doubt McCoury's pedigree: he did a stint with Bill Monroe in 1963, and has run his own band (lately with two sons) since 1968. A-

Adam Meckler Quintet: Wonder (2015 [2016], Shifting Paradigm): Trumpet player from Minnesota, second album, with tenor sax (Joe Mayo on one track, Nelson Devereaux on the rest), guitar (Zacc Harris), bass and drums. Postbop, some tricks up their sleeves. B+(**) [cd]

Daniel Meron: Sky Begins (2015 [2016], Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit): Pianist-composer, leads a trio here plus vocalist, Maia Karo, also his wife. Art songs, a bit too tricky for voice, or do I mean the singer? B [cd]

Jane Monheit: The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald (2015 [2016], Emerald City): Standards singer, close to a dozen albums since 2000, the few I've heard unimpressive, but trawling in Ella's wake gives her a wide choice of great songs, and she doesn't go for anything too obvious. Pianist Michael Kaman's group will win no prizes for swinging, but they prop her up nicely, and Nicholas Payton's trumpet is a definite plus. B+(*) [cd]

Moodymann: DJ-Kicks (2016, !K7): Detroit DJ Kenny Dixon Jr. throws together a mixtape that sounds older than it probably is, mostly because he searches out soulful vocals to go with the beats. B+(**)

Roy Nathanson: Nearness and You (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, led the Jazz Passengers with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes since 1987, also credited with soprano and baritone sax and voice here. This is a set of duets with a revolving cast: pianists Arturo O'Farrill, Anthony Coleman, and Myra Melford; trombonists Fowlkes and Lucy Hollier; Marc Ribot on acoustic guitar. Opens with Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," reprised four more times as "You" turns into "Ewes," "Youse," "Jews," and "You Too," with stilted but oddly touching vocals. B+(*) [cd]

Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen: Spin Cycle (2015 [2016], Sound Footing): Drums and saxophone (tenor/soprano), each has a couple albums, this one a quartet with Pete McCann on guitar and Phil Palombi on bass -- their names get smaller print on the cover. Not clear to me what this album wants to be: it is rough and noisy, sometimes rockish, sometimes avant, sometimes I know not what. B+(*) [cd]

New Zion w. Cyro: Sunshine Seas (2016, Rare Noise): That's how the cover reads. Hype sheet is more expansive: "Jamie Saft's New Zion . . . Featuring Brazilian Percussionist Cyro Baptista." Saft plays keyboards, fluffing up dub riddims which Baptista riffs on. Title track has a vocal by Vanessa Saft. All very pleasant. B+(**) [cdr]

Noertker's Moxie & the Melancholics: Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck (2016, Edgetone): Composed and arranged by bassist Bill Noertker. Beck, otherwise unknown to me, plays baritone sax, but evidently is also a graphic artist, the subject of a documentary this music is the soundtrack to. Pleasant in that way, with oboe and flute among the reeds but no brass. B+(*) [cd]

The Oatmeal Jazz Combo: Instant Oats (2016, LGY): Octet, founded at Stony Brook in 2009, fifth album. Trumpet, reeds, trombone, guitar, piano, bass, drums, steel pan. Postbop, jaunty over the trombone rumble. B+(*) [cd]

Phil Palombi: Detroit Lean (2015 [2016], Xcappa): Bassist, plays electric and "Scott LaFaro's Prescott bass" -- did a record in 2011 called Re: Person I Knew: A Tribute to Scott LaFaro and has published a book titled Scott LaFaro -- 15 Solo Transcriptions, but LaFaro died in 1961 so I don't see how the math works out (Palombi's credits start around 1996 when he joined Maynard Ferguson). Nice album here, interesting rhythms, better solos from pianist Matthew Fries than on his own record, some flamenco guitar by Tony Romano, and quite a few bass solos. B+(***) [cd]

Parquet Courts: Human Performance (2016, Rough Trade): Probably the alt/indie band of the decade, based on two previous albums and several EPs, evolves a bit, their sound adding traces of Pavement (the alt/indie band of the 1990s) to their Velvets motherlode. Takes longer to digest, especially since there are more ballads than burners. A-

Pet Shop Boys: Super (2016, X2): Two spins, lead song "Happiness" has yet to connect but "The Pop Kids" would fit perfectly into their 1980s best-of, and other songs already remind me of Very. Sometimes you have to step back to go forward. A-

Pierette Ensemble: Akrostik (2014, Gateway Music): Group name is saxophonist Julie Kjaer's play on "Pierrot ensemble" -- a musical ensemble comprising flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, sometimes voice and/or percussion, per Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Kjaer handles the flutes but also plays alto sax, and Pernille Brevort fills the clarinet slot with tenor sax and bass clarinet. B+(***)

Noah Preminger: Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground (2015 [2016], self-released): Tenor saxophonist, has had an impressive run of albums since his 2008 debut, but this blues-focused quartet with Jason Palmer on trumpet has trouble getting in gear. Title song from Blind Willie Johnson, others include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Skip James, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, and Mississippi John Hurt. B+(*) [cd]

Margo Price: Midwest Farmer's Daughter (2016, Third Man): It takes two songs for the Loretta Lynn wannabe to make it obvious. Still, not a bad affectation, and that harder-to-peg first song is also pretty good. A-

Restroy: Saturn Return (2016, Milk Factory): Group led by composers Chris Dammann (bass) and Catherine Monnes (violin), with trumpet (James Davis), tenor sax (Nick Anaya), and others split between two sessions: both have drums, one has guitar-flute, the other electronics-percussion. Moody, rather dark, like the artwork with print I cannot read. B+(*) [cd]

Eric Revis Trio: Crowded Solitudes (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Bassist, first came to prominence in Branford Marsalis' quartet, mostly has mainstream/postbop credits but his own records have leaned more avant. Kris Davis is the pianist, and he's given her a better trio showcase than she's managed to come up with on her own. And Gerald Cleaver is the drummer -- the only trait he shares with Paul Motian is that he's become the guy who anchors all the best piano trios. A- [cd]

Rocco John Quartet: Embrace the Change (2015 [2016], Unseen Rain): Alto/soprano saxophonist, full name Rocco John Iacovone, credits Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers as teachers and learned a thing or two from them about being aggressive and obliquely tuneful. Quartet adds Rich Rosenthal (guitar), François Grillot (bass), and Tom Cabrera (drums). B+(**) [cdr]

Rent Romus/Teddy Rankin-Parker/Daniel Pearce: LiR (2014 [2016], Edgetone): Subtitled Live at Vamp followed by "Vintage - Art - Music" separated by bullets. "LiR" is a song title, and the artist names are all that's on the spine. Romus plays alto and soprano sax and various flutes (not that I noticed the latter), the others cello and drums. The sax is skechy, the cello like a bass that got out of its box. B+(***) [cd]

Renee Rosnes: Written in the Rocks (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): Pianist, from Saskatchewan, sixteen albums since 1989, mostly on Blue Note where she established herself as one of our top postbop pianists. Quintet, with Peter Washington (bass), Bill Stewart (drums), Steve Nelson (vibes), and Steven Wilson (flute, alto/soprano sax), a bit too much window dressing. B

Carol Saboya: Carolina (2016, AAM): Brazilian songstress, more than a dozen albums since 1999, backed by longtime collaborator Antonio Adolfo on piano plus the usual Brazilian combo with Marcelo Martins on flute. Fairly classic bossa nova, with three Jobims, Bosco, Djavan, Lobo, Pixinguinha, plus exceptionally nice readings of Sting's "Fragile" and Lennon-McCartney's "Hello Goodbye." B+(*) [cd]

Kendrick Scott Oracle: We Are the Drum (2015, Blue Note): Drummer, has three albums since 2006 under this group name, with John Ellis (sax/bass clarinet), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Michael Moreno (guitar), and Joe Sanders (bass), sophisticated postbop with no rough edges, not even a lot of drum power. Lizz Wright gets a vocal spot -- not a high point. B

Mikael Seifu: Zelalem (2016, RVNG Intl, EP): Electronica from Addis Adaba, starts with a spoken sample from the former Stokely Carmichael, picks up folk and religious traditions then soups them up into something called "Ethiopiyawi Electronic." Five cuts, 28:27. B+(*)

Nana Simopoulos: Skins (2016, Na): Greek singer-songwriter, plays guitar and bouzouki, has a half-dozen previous albums. Band members come and go, but the percussionists keep a complex beat going -- note that her website has a whole section for "Dancescores" -- and the saxes bind the worldly music back to jazz. B+(**) [cd]

Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor's Guide to Earth (2016, Atlantic): Song-oriented enough you can pitch him as country, especially with that twang in his voice, but his guitar could fill an arena, and the strings overflow a stage. Plenty of reason to think this will be treated as one of the year's important releases. I'm almost there. B+(***)

Esperanza Spalding: Emily's D+Evolution (2016, Concord): Started off as a jazz bassist, landing a plum job in Joe Lovano's Us Five group. Even early on she looked like a star, but her efforts to cash in have been fitful, and this, where her vocals swerve like Kurt Elling before the rot sat in, is no exception. B

Mavis Staples: Livin' on a High Note (2016, Anti-): Born 1939, literally grew up in one of America's premier gospel groups, took a chance on secular music (i.e., love songs) in 1969 and has had her ups and downs, much like this record. B+(**)

Starlite Motel: Awosting Falls (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): Yet another avant-noise group built around the very active Jamie Saft, credited here with Hammond organ, Whitehall organ, Moog, and lapsteel guitar. And I'm duly impressed with his contribution here, but rather annoyed by saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts, whose alto and tenor seem stuck in screech mode. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is credited with four different basses (all electric, I suspect), and drummer Gard Nilssen adds some electronics to his percussion kit. B+(*) [cd]

Steel Bridge Trio: Different Clocks (2015, Relay): Avant sax trio, started out sounding like Aram Shelton (alto sax) was in charge, but soon shifted to something softer, with Shelton switching to bass clarinet, so I wound up filing it under composer Tim Daisy's name -- a drummer, he shifts to vibraphone here, while bassist Safa Shokrai isn't much of a factor one way or the other. B+(*) [bc]

Tacocat: Lost Time (2016, Hardly Art): Seattle group, three women and a male guitarist, third album: snappy songs with punky crunch and a bit of bubblegum. A-

Yves Theiler Trio: Dance in a Triangle (2015 [2016], Musique Suisses): Pianist from Switzerland, third album for his trio -- Luca Sisera on bass, Lukas Mantel on drums -- also has a duo with Omri Ziegele and a few other appearances. B+(***) [cd]

Trio Da Paz: 30 (2011 [2016], Zoho Music): Brazilian jazz group, all big name players -- Romero Lubambo (guitar), Nilson Matta (bass), Duduka Da Fonseca (drums) -- seventh album since 1992. B+(**)

Twenty One 4tet: Live at Zaal 100 (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Mostly Dutch avant-jazz group, with two sparring horns -- Luis Vicente's trumpet and John Dikeman's tenor sax -- backed by Wilbert De Joode on bass and Onno Govaert on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Ernie Watts Quartet: Wheel of Time (2016, Flying Dolphin): Tenor saxophonist, one of the great ballad voices of our era, although having turned 70 he seems more intent on showing he can still rip the fast ones. Backed by piano-bass-drums, no one I've ever heard of. Picture of Watts with Charlie Haden inside, adding key words to the title: "turns, but beauty remains." B+(**) [cd]

Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (2016, Def Jam/GOOD Music): Leaked as a limited time mixtape which I missed, belatedly shows up on Rhapsody -- does that mean tangible product or is that just another leak, like he's torn between artificial scarcity and artificial ubiquity. Hooked enough this won't make believers doubt his genius, or bemused admirers acclaim it. B+(***)

Steve Wiest and Phröntrange: The High Road (2016, Blujazz): Trombonist, worked for Maynard Ferguson in the 1980s, now teaches at University of Denver, artwork here photographed in what most of us know as the Front Range. Group includes guitar, bass, EWI, keyboards, drums and an engineer, with a couple strings listed as extra. First piece is, well, bold, everything clashing to great dramatic effect. Then you get some strings and "Cantaloupe Island" and other annoyances. B- [cd]

WorldService Project: For King and Country (2015 [2016], Rare Noise): British "punk-jazz" outfit, at least their third album, all songs composed by keyboardist Dave Morecroft, backed by sax, trombone, bass, and drums. I don't hear anything punk about them. Not much jazz either. More like bad '70s prog with Wagnerian flourishes, or maybe they're just nods to '80s arena rock. Johnny Rotten treated his monarch with more respect. D+ [cdr]

Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Musings (2014 [2016], Sunnyside): Composer, debut album a well-stocked big band, not listed as a player. He studied under Jim McNeely, and the album was produced by Mike Holober, whose Westchester Jazz Orchestra intersects here. Arrangements have some whimsy and verve, and the band has some star power for the solos. Jo Lawry sings some. B+(**) [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

John Abercrombie: The First Quartet (1978-80 [2015], ECM, 3CD): A major figure in jazz guitar since 1974, although it took me a long time to appreciate his silvery tone and intricate style -- a break from the fusion guitarists of the time or the bopsters of the previous generation (although I can hear Jim Hall as an influence). First albums were trios -- notably the group Gateway -- plus a solo, but he put this quartet together in 1978 and they recorded three albums, neatly boxed here, with Richie Beirach (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Peter Donald (drums). Beirach is especially fluid on the first disc (Arcade), leading more often than not. And the third (M) gets denser and richer. B+(**) [dl]

Cyrille Aimée: Cyrille Aimée and the Surreal Band (2008 [2015], Harmonic Reaction): Jazz singer, born in France (French father, mother from Dominican Republic), based in New York; seems to be her first album although I'm finding scant record of it (no AMG, no Discogs, but it is on Bandcamp). Mostly standards, backed by a hard bop quintet (plus guitar on two tracks) -- nothing particularly surreal beyond the play on her first name. B+(*)

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band/William Warfield: George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess Live (1992 [2016], Riverwalk Jazz, 2CD): This would be Jim Cullum Jr. (b. 1941), a trad jazz cornetist and the son of Jim Cullum Sr., founder of the Happy Jazz Band. Warfield (1920-2002) was a black opera singer who appeared in the 1952 revival and later State Department tours. Warfield narrates here, providing plot synopses between instrumental versions of the songs -- many famous enough you can recall the lyrics. I was turned off at first by the stereotyping -- a problem already evident at the folk opera's 1935 debut -- but the band is superb if maybe a touch reverent, like they're recasting this for History Channel. And while Warfield delves deep into dialect, the second disc concludes with an interview that puts it all in context. B+(***) [cd]

The Ex: The Ex at Bimhuis (1991-2015) (1991-2015 [2015], Ex, 2CD): Compiled from 25 years of gigs at Amsterdam's most famous jazz club, most dates building on the band's anarcho-punk songbook by adding guest musicians -- most often Dutch luminaries like Ab Baars, Wolter Wierbos, and Han Bennink, but also Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Merkuria and other fellow travelers like Etienne Charles, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, and Paal Nilssen-Love. And they can shake as well as rock you -- the closing cut, "based on an Ethiopian traditional," is extraordinary. B+(***) [bc]

Ella Fitzgerald: Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set (1949-54 [2016], Verve): Three sets from Norman Granz's all-star tour featuring the singer, originally compiled into a 37:11 LP in 1983, mostly expanded to 60:20 for this reissue by picking up parts of the 1949 show previously released on The Complete Jazz at the Philharmonic on Verve (1944-1949). On the first date she's backed by piano trio (Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich), joined on three longer wailers by Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Flip Phillips, Charlie Parker, and a trombone. The later sets are shorter -- 2 tracks from 1953, five from 1954 when Hank Jones giving way to Raymond Tunia. The talent is huge, but the sound is far from ideal and these were really slapdash affairs. B+(*)

Awalom Gebremariam: Desdes (2007 [2016], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Singer-songwriter from Eritrea, recorded this before fleeing the troubled country to wind up in North Carolina. Traditional strings ebb and flow, carrying his chant-like vocals answered by higher pitched response, with crude percussion and what in my country are recognized as war whoops. B+(***)

Punk 45: Chaos in the City of Angels and Devils: Hollywood From X to Zero & Hardcore on the Beaches: Punk in Los Angeles 1977-81 (1977-81 [2016], Soul Jazz): Not as well known as the New York, or for that matter the Cleveland/Akron, punk scene, at least until the early 1980s when LA bands doubled down turning punk into hardcore, but I still recognize half of these bands, even if not this fondly. B+(***)

Sonny Rollins: Holding the Stage: Road Shows Vol. 4 (1979-2012 [2016], Okeh): He's 85 now, hasn't cut a new studio album since 2006 but has been touring, and the latest stuff here is recent enough that we'll be treating this as new music in the Jazz Critics Poll. As usual, he's picking things from all over his tape archive, and as usual they all fit together seamlessly because no one towers over his band more completely than the Saxophone Colossus. Details: one cut ("Disco Monk") from 1979, one from 1996, a medley from the 9/15/2001 Boston concert, half of the record from later tours (2006, 2007, 2012). Nothing essential (least of all the disco-era cut), nothing unlike what you've heard before, still no reason not to welcome these periodic reminders of his majesty. A- [cd]

The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues [Second Edition] (1926-40 [2016], World Music Network): First edition came out in 2005. This has different songs, repeating only eight artists, mostly because it dispenses with later devotees of the guitar style in favor of old acoustic blues, the median date 1930. B+(***)

The Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters: Reborn and Remastered (1926-35 [2015], World Music Network): Before they all got slotted as blues, many early black musicians considered themselves "songsters" -- entertainers with a broad command of the pop hits of the day (or decades). Good sampler here, many oft-repeated stories like "John Henry" and "Stackalee" and "Frankie," many less well known. A-

Soul Sok Sega: Sega Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979 (1973-79 [2016], Strut): Mauritius is a small island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, nominally part of Africa but 1200 miles off the continent's east coast. The island was uninhabited when the Dutch arrived in 1638, and was passed on to France in 1715 and Britain in 1810, gaining independence in 1968, with a current population of 1.26 million, mostly of Indian and/or African extraction (plus Europeans and Chinese), although the government stopped tracking such things in 1970. Upbeat dance tunes from the 1970s, sung in the local creole. B+(***)

Old Music

The Ex: Disturbing Domestic Peace (1980 [1994], Ex): Dutch band, first album, styled themselves as "anarcho-punk" (which I would read as punk with politics), a concept shared with the equally long-lived Mekons (although with lyrics in English and vocalist Jos Kley, aka G.W. Sok, they sound more like the early Fall), Terrie Hessels (aka Terrie Ex) on guitar, plus bass-drums. B+(**) [bc]

The Ex: History Is What's Happening (1982, Ex): Second album, twenty short songs, only three over 2:00, topped by "Who Pays" at 2:44 but they dispose of "$" in 0:56. Punk, especially G.W. Sok's snarl, but Terrie distinguishes himself as much more than a one chord wonder, and his guitar grind binds all the songs together. A- [bc]

The Ex: Tumult (1983 [1993], Ex): This is where they evolve from anarcho-punk to post-punk, mostly meanings longer songs -- five over 5:00, the extension mostly in the guitar patterns, not unlike what Wire was doing by then, but a couple songs slow down aiming for ominous, not their best move -- that would be the hard riffs. Co-produced by Jon Langford, comrade. B+(***) [bc]

The Ex: Blueprints for a Blackout (1984 [1992], Ex): Their big double-LP, a ritual milestone in the pre-CD era when bands hit their stride and produce more songs than the annual release rule can handle (or they just can't sort their shit out). Adds up to 19 songs, 66:09, so like most double-LPs of the era fits on a single CD. Band expands with a second bassist and scattered guests (including Langford on marimba, rhythmbox, and guitar), and several horns. Growth, in many respects, not least pangs. B+(*) [bc]

The Ex: Pokkeherrie (1985 [1995], Ex): Dutch title means something like "so much noise" or "awful noise" but lyrics are still all English. Sort of a back-to-basics move, the band back to guitar-bass-drums with G.W. Sok's vocals, the new drummer Katrin (Katherina Bornefeld), now second to Terrie as the longest-running band member (founding member Sok left in 2009 after 30 years). B+(***) [bc]

The Ex: 1936, the Spanish Revolution (1986, Ex, EP): Cover says "CNT" and "FAI" above the title, recognizing two anarchist trade unions that started the revolution that was overturned in 1939 by Francisco Franco's fascist movement, aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Two singles here, two songs each in Spanish and English, originally packaged with "144 pages of previously unpublished photographs taken by journalists aligned with the revolutionary forces." B+(**) [bc]

The Ex: Too Many Cowboys (1986 [1987], Ex): Originally a live double LP, another milestone (or placeholder, as the case may be), eventually squeezed onto a single 80:10 CD. No idea how much of this material is new, but it's certainly typical: sharp, harsh songs that remind you of their anarcho-punk roots and sharp, harsh guitar riffs that extend their unique sound. B+(***) [bc]

The Ex: Hands Up! You're Free (1983-86 [1988], Ex): Odds and sods -- three sets of four tracks, the first a BBC Peel Session with sax and violin, the second with Tom Greene and Jon Langford, the third with someone named John joining on vocals. The title track -- a harrangue against imperialism -- is a high point, but even with the erratic opening it's all worth listening to. A- [bc]

The Ex: Joggers & Smoggers (1989, Ex, 2CD): More sprawl, with 34 songs adding up to 92:14, the band adding "grill, birdcage, double-bass, fire-extinguisher + hammer, bamboos, piano, electric razor, dobro, spoons, human batbox, wire, glass, castanets, bow, crackle-box, cowbells, kabassa" to their basic guitar-bass-drums-vocals quartet, plus a couple dozen guests ranging from Sonic Youth's guitarists to avant-jazzers and Jeroen de Groot playing bagpipes. Could use some editing, but "Brickbat" is a choice cut, and probably not the only one. B+(*) [bc]

The Ex: Dead Fish (1989 [2004], Ex, EP): Seven cuts, 20:28, the CD including one not on the original 10-inch vinyl. Short, sharp, shocked, the sort of thing they'd been doing all decade. B+(*) [bc]

The Ex + Tom Cora: Scrabbling at the Lock (1991, Ex): Cora (1953-98) plays cello: trained in classical, avant-oriented, mostly played with avant-jazzers like Karl Berger, John Zorn, Butch Morris, and Curlew, but he rocks out here, reminding me of ELO's cello section -- at least until he shifts gears and slows them down, moving toward jazz. Also helping out is second guitarist, Andy Moor, still with the group fifteen years later. B+(***)

The Ex + Tom Cora: And the Weathermen Shrug Their Shoulders (1993, Ex): Second album with the avant-cellist, a bit more scattered but not without high points. I should probably note somewhere along here that drummer Katherina is singing more. B+(**) [bc]

The Ex: Mudbird Shivers (1995, Ex): Andy Moor partly fills departed cellist Tom Cora's shoes by playing some viola, and Han Buhrs (no cover credit) joins as "guest musician" (vocals, saxophone, mouth-harp, panlids, grater). Eleven songs average just under five minutes, their music hard and sharp as ever but more dissonant and complex -- most impressively on the closer "Hunt Hat." B+(***) [bc]

The Ex: Starters Alternators (1998, Touch & Go): Cut in Chicago with Steve Albini producing, this was the Dutch punk group's belated pitch at a US market that had thus far totally ignored them. Still, don't confuse trying to sell with selling out. Songs are hard and dense, the short one 3:44, the long one 6:27, everything else close to 5:00. And Katherina sings one in Dutch (I guess: "Nem Ugy Van Most"), but while they've always had a lot to say, they've never shown much talent for saying it memorably. B+(**) [bc]

Ex Orkest: Een Rondje Holland (2000 [2001], Ex): A special project commissioned by Holland Festival 2000, the group is expanded with extra vocalists (best known is Jaap Blonk) and a dozen mostly jazz musicians (including Michael Moore, Wolter Wierbos, Ernst Glerum, Michael Vatcher, and Roy Paci). They certainly bring up the intensity and volume, but what more isn't clear. B+(*) [bc]

The Ex: Dizzy Spells (2000 [2001], Touch & Go): This time producer Steve Albini met them in France. I still have trouble catching the lyrics -- Douglas Wolk described them as "either punning geopolitical rants [or] based on texts by obscure poets" (I recognize Eduardo Galeano) -- but the packs all the punch rants needs and more than enough rhythmic trickery. At one point it occurred to me that this is the sort of thing Gang of Four might have evolved into doing had they stuck together. A- [bc]

The Ex: 30 (1980-2006 [2009], Ex, 2CD): Aka 30 Years of the Ex, a compilation more random sampler than best-of. The group doesn't really have hits nor, despite hiring Steve Albini, have they ever made a serious bid for commercial success (nothing like the Minutemen's Project: Mersch, for instance), although I am a big fan of their 2005 compilation, Singles, Period: The Vinyl Years 1980-1990. What this monster does is chart their sonic evolution from anarcho-punk to something more industrial and/or more free-form, and it's a pretty impressive arc -- just in one play not one that I always enjoy. B+(***) [bc]

The Ex: Catch My Shoe (2010, Ex): First thing is that founding vocalist G.W. Sok quit in 2009 after 30 years, replaced here by Arnold de Boer, who doesn't have quite the same snarl or bark. Also no bassist this time, although both Terrie and Andy are also credited with baritone guitar, and Roy Paci's trumpet heats the mix up on two cuts. B+(**) [bc]

Taana Gardner: Taana Gardner (1979, West End): One-shot disco album, ending with a remix of "Work That Body" that lives up to the album's reputation. Not sure that anything else does, least of all the lead cut. Gardner cut a number of singles over the next year, including the dance floor hit "Heartbeat" (available on Larry Levan compilations), but never cut another album. B+(***)

Del McCoury & the Dixie Pals: Classic Bluegrass (1974-84 [1991], Rebel): After a brief stint with Bill Monroe, McCoury cut a record (or two?) for Arhoolie in 1968 then signed with old-timey Rebel in 1974 before moving on to folkie Rounder in 1990. This samples his four Rebel albums, mostly original tunes, so classics only in the ear of the compiler. B+(***)

Gétatchèw Mèrkurya: Éthiopiques 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax (1972 [2003], Buda Musique): Tenor saxophonist, carved out a unique niche in the heyday of "swinging" Addis Ababa, his hypnotic groove like a snake charmer's potion. One cut, more crudely exotic, dates from the late 1950s, when he was in his 20s. After this compilation got him some attention, he became a minor celebrity, playing on notable records with Either/Orchestra and the Ex. Died April 4, 2016, aged 81. A-

Getatchew Merkuria/The Ex & Guests: Moa Anbessa (2006, Terp): Tenor saxophonist from Ethiopia, gained international fame when the French Buda Musique label reissued his 1972 album as part of their exhaustive Éthiopiques series, in particular catching the ears of the Dutch post-punk group Ex, who organized this live concert. The guests are extra horn players and bassist Colin McLean. The mix seems shaky at first, but by the end they are burning down the house. Title is Amharic for "conquering lion." A- [bc]

Getatchew Mekuria/The Ex & Friends: Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (1960-2012 [2012], Terp, 2CD): First disc was recorded over several dates from December 2011 to April 2012, on tour with extra horn players -- Xavier Charles (clarinet), Ken Vandermark (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Brodie West (alto sax), Joost Buis and Wolter Wierbos (trombones), Colin McLean (bass), and Melaku Belay (dance) -- with Mekuria recently clearing his 75th birthday. Second disc adds some historical tidbits, including a 2004 date with ICP Orchestra (no Ex), various Mekuria-Ex tours (2004, 2009, 2011), and a couple very early Mekuria tracks (one from 1960, one shortly after). The new stuff seems more earnestly reflective of Mekuria's ethio-jazz, like this was meant as his final testament -- title translates as In Memory of the Lion. The tour dates are more like the Ex + horns, not that they weren't honored to play with the saxophonist. B+(***) [bc]

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • Steve Earle/Del McCoury Band: The Mountain (1999, E-Squared): A-
  • The Ex: Aural Guerrilla (1988, Fist Puppet): B+
  • The Ex: Singles, Period: The Vinyl Years 1980-1990 (1980-90 [2005], Ex): A-
  • The Ex: Instant (1995, Ex, 2CD): A-
  • The Ex: Turn (2004, Touch & Go, 2CD): A-
  • The Ex & Brass Unbound: Enormous Door (2013, Ex): A-
  • Del McCoury: Moneyland (2008, McCoury Music): 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