Streamnotes: October 29, 2016

Slightly more than a month's worth of records here, as I ran into a couple bad weeks then found myself running out of month. Still a fairly substantial outing: 114 records (93 new, 3 recent comps, 18 oldies I'm just now catching up to -- mostly Bruce Springsteen and Alexander von Schlippenbach, both searches triggered by recent albums).

New records are mostly jazz, although I made an effort early in the month to check out many of the year's better regarded pop albums -- my main source Album of the Year's Highest Rated Albums of 2016 list. I'm still missing three of the top five (Nick Cave, Beyoncé, and Frank Ocean), one more down to ten (Dillinger Escape Plan), and three more down to twenty-five (DD Dumbo, Nails, The Hotelier) -- mostly not on Napster (although I now see that Nick Cave finally appeared).

Rated count for 2016 releases is currently 744 albums. I'm not sure how that compares year-to-date with 2015 but it's probably down by about 20%: by freeze date my 2015 list had hit 1112 albums, so if you scale that back to ten months you get 926, and 744 is 80.34% of that. Of course, in every year critics pick up their coverage rate toward the end when the annual best-of lists start to appear. Seems likely I'll wind up down closer to 10% than the current 20%.

A list this year is currently 97 long, down considerably from 150 last year (at freeze date, now up to 164). Same calculations show that current A-list is down 22.4% this year. I've actually wondered whether I'm getting faster and looser with grades this year. These numbers actually look rather normal, but that doesn't mean I haven't: I'd have to do some research to prove it, but I suspect that it's normal for A-grades to pile up late in the year. It's also normal for jazz to spurt ahead of non-jazz (currently 54-43, as I recall less than last year's split at this time, although the two columns wound up evenly balanced).

One reason for my doubts is that some of this month's picks are records that I don't regard as especially strong for the artist, but I've let them pass through anyway (Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Handsome Family, maybe even Revolutionary Snake Ensemble). On the other hand, I didn't quite bite on several jazz albums that have gotten a lot of critical play (Mary Halvorson, Wadada Leo Smith; perhaps halso Darcy James Argue and Andrew Cyrille). On the other hand, my favorites this time lean toward mainstream and/or groove (although I guess Black Bombaim and Damana don't fit either niche -- so much for predictable).


Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly 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 September 22. Past reviews and more information are available here (8746 records).


Recent Releases

75 Dollar Bill: Wooden Bag (2015, Other Music): A duo, with Rick Brown banging on things and playing a little alto sax, and Che Chen playing guitar and more alto sax. Mostly roiling drone and percussion, and little differentiation among seven songs, but the noise is distinct and captivating, so there. B+(***) [bc]

75 Dollar Bill: Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock (2013-15 [2016], Thin Wrist): Principally a duo, with Rick Brown playing less than a full set of drums (but "plywood crate") and Che Chen more than one guitar, with a few others adding to the discordant harmonies. Four pieces, 39:20, the vaguely Saharan grooves and harmonies minimally differentiated. A- [bc]

Stefan Aeby Trio: To the Light (2015 [2016], Intakt): Swiss pianist, third trio album, also appears on good records by label mates Christoph Irniger and Sarah Buecchli. With André Pousaz on bass and Michi Stulz on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Joey Alexander: Countdown (2016, Motéma): Pianist, from Bali in Indonesia (full name Josiah Alexander Sila), was 11 when he cut his debut and 13 for this sophomore effort. Mostly trio with Larry Grenadier or Dan Chmielinski on bass and Ulysses Owens Jr. on drums. He's gotten the red carpet treatment so far -- even won a Grammy. And he is a surprisingly adept interpreter, as well as a fairly decent writer of genre exercises, but among mainstream jazz pianists these days, who isn't? B+(*)

JD Allen: Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues (2016, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, leads a trio with Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Sticks to basics here, doesn't strain or strive, but makes it all -- mostly original pieces, only one cover dating back to the '30s -- feel natural, unforced. A- [cd]

Amber Arcades: Fading Lines (2016, Heavenly): Alias for Dutch singer Annelotte de Graaf, with a background in law working for UN war crimes tribunals. No idea how I should alphabetize names like this. Bright, tuneful pop, framed more by guitar than keyboard. B+(*)

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Real Enemies (2016, New Amsterdam): Big band, rhythm section (including guitar) often plugged in, third album, Argue composes and conducts but doesn't play. His conspiracy themes are highlighted in spoken pieces, including a lecture on "paranoid style," and he backs it all up with stark, dramatic swells. B+(**) [bc]

Jay Azzolina/Dino Govoni/Adam Nussbaum/Dave Zinno: Chance Meeting (2016, Whaling City Sound): Listed alphabetically, all four contributing songs, as listed: guitar (best known, if not best remembered, for Spyro Gyra), tenor sax, drums, and bass. Most impressed by Govoni -- unfamiliar with him, but he teaches at Berklee, and his page there asserts the obvious: "A good saxophonist, first and foremost, has to have a tremendous sound." He does. B+(**) [cd]

Andrzej Bauer/Adam Baldych/Cezary Duchnowski/Cezary Konrad: Trans-Fuzja (2012 [2016], ForTune): Polish string jazz trio (cello, violin, bass/electronics) plus drums. Despite the instrumentation, not close to the "chamber jazz" notion. B+(**) [bc]

Beekman: Vol. 02 (2015 [2016], Ropeadope): Tenor sax quartet based in Brooklyn, pianist Yago Vazqauez (also Rhodes) listed first although all write with saxophonist Kyle Nasser most prolific -- 4/9 songs, vs. 3 for Vazquez, 2 for Pablo Menares (bass), 1 by Rodrigo Recabarren (drums). Boppish, flows fast and hard. B+(***) [cd]

Black Bombaim/Peter Brötzmann: Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann (2016, Clean Feed): Portuguese "stoner/psychedelic rock" group, a power trio with guitar-bass-drums but no singer, so they're into densely textured noise. That suits the saxophonist. He does what he's been doing for nearly fifty years, but the framing makes this more accessible without compromising his rawness. A- [cd]

Bon Iver: 22, a Million (2016, Jagjaguwar): Justin Vernon, third album, not so much a singer-songwriter as a fairly huge cult artist, his popularity and critical favor a puzzle to me -- not that I'm immune to his appeal, I just find it hard to see how such arcane chicanery and fey disposition could gain a mass following. Perhaps that says something about the ever-evolving nature of anomie. B+(*)

Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (2016, Warp): Rapper from Detroit, apprenticed in the drug trade but has righted his career, now on his fourth album. Voice humorous similar to Young Thug, gives him a bit of lift even when the thug life doesn't deserve it. First hook goes "tell me something I don't know." Not the last, either. A-

John Butcher & Stĺle Liavik Solberg: So Beautiful, It Starts to Rain (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Sax and drums duets, the former playing soprano and tenor. Three pieces, 35:19, choppy and rather abstract. B+(**) [cd]

George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (2016, HighNote): Pianist, has a long list of records since 1975, many well regarded ones on SteepleChase I haven't heard so I tend to remember him best for his stellar work with Art Pepper. Something of a career recap here, with a superb trio (Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis) augmented by sax (Craig Handy) on five tracks, percussion (Victor Kroom) on four, and vocals (Sarah Elizabeth Charles) on six. B+(***) [cd]

Lou Caimano/Eric Olsen: Dyad Plays Jazz Arias (2015 [2016], self-released): Alto sax and piano, respectively, adding Randy Brecker (flugelhorn) or Ted Nash (tenor sax) on most pieces -- written, as advertised, by Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Massenet, Delibes, and Barber. But without their usual strings and voices they never trigger my usual classical gag reflex. They just seem a little overblown. B [cd]

Neko Case/KD Lang/Laura Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs (2016, Anti-): Trio of established singer-songwriters, in alphabetical order but also from most to least famous. Reviewers like to compare this to the Parton-Ronstadt-Harris "Trio" but those were much bigger stars with instantly recognizable voices. These three are much more anonymous, yet it's remarkable how evenly they blend together. B+(**)

Nels Cline: Lovers (2013 [2016], Blue Note, 2CD): Guitarist, pays the rent by slumming in Wilco, but that evidently hasn't dulled his ambition for solo projects. Indeed, this project is gargantuan both in length and in its credits, yet none of that is evident in the orchestral music, an mix of placid and ominous, neither all that well defined. B-

Clipping: Splendor & Misery (2016, Sub Pop): Experimental hip-hop group from Los Angeles, best known member Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton), offer a concept about about a future slave (Cargo 2331) being shipped through outer space. Progress ends in very spare and mechanical beats and blips, its own cold and unforgiving dystopia. B+(*)

Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (2016, Columbia): Slow, grim, gravelly, the octogenarian poet backs himself into a dark corner, and then a funny thing happens: the more you strain for clues (and you do) the sweeter his serenade. A-

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Pretty Years (2016, Sinderlyn): New York band, took their name from a Lou Reed quote "describing the sound of the Velvet Underground," not that they're that disciplined. Instead, we get a better-than-average rock band with solid songs and some flash, not that I find that especially interesting. B

Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The Declaration of Musical Independence (2014 [2016], ECM): Drummer, from Brooklyn, an important figure on the avant-garde since he joined Cecil Taylor's group in 1964. With more than dozen albums under his own name, his ECM debut is a subversive little quartet, with guitarist Bill Frisell shirking the spotlight more often than not. Equally inscrutable are Richard Teitelbaum (synth/piano) and Ben Street (bass). B+(***) [dl]

Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): Drummer-led Norwegian octet, with three saxes (alto, tenor, baritone/bass), trumpet, trombone, piano, bass: tremendous power from a horns section, but also texture, layering, and detail, propelled by a rhythm section with a hint of swing. Looks like a debut record, likely my ballot pick. A- [cd]

Dogbrain: Blue Dog (2016, Dogbrain Music, EP): Jay Ward, a countryish songwriter who sings through his stutter because the music flows so readily, has one album and three EPs. Six cuts, 18:39. B+(***)

Dreezy: No Hard Feelings (2016, Interscope): Chicago rapper-singer, has a couple of EPs, pretty good single here in "Body" (feat. Jeremih). B+(*)

Drive-By Truckers: American Band (2016, ATO): First thing you notice is how easily Patterson Hood's southern drawl flows over the contour of the melodies. Then words kick in, starting with a remarkable song about race and shooting deaths which works in a not unrelated bit of domestic violence. A-

Earprint: Earprint (2016, Endectomorph Music): Boston quartet: Tree Palmedo (trumpet), Kevin Sun (tenor sax, clarinet), Simón Willson (bass), Dor Herskovits (drums). Slippery postbop, bouncing off walls, occasionally surprising you. B+(**) [cd]

Orrin Evans: #Knowingishalfthebattle (2016, Smoke Sessions): Postbop pianist from Philadelphia sets up a high-revving group with two guitarists (Kurt Rosenwinkel and Kevin Eubanks), plus bass (Luques Curtis) and drums (Mark Whitfield Jr.), with guest spots for sax (Caleb Wheeler Curtis) and voice (M'Balia Singley) -- the latter's take of "Kooks" trips itself up, but her "That's All" is fine. B+(**)

Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still (2016, Pi): Trumpet player, previous album (Moment and the Message) was terrific, has notable side credits with Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Mary Halvorson, and Tomas Fujiwara. Quintet with both guitar (Miles Okazaki) and piano (Matt Mitchell), tends to float above their postbop. B+(**) [cd]

Five in Orbit: Tribulus Terrestris (2015 [2016], Fresh Sound New Talent): Franco-Catalan quintet, where Ramon Fossati (trombone), Olivier Brandily (alto sax/flute), and Laurent Bronner (piano) write the pieces (aside from a Lincoln-Roach cover), plus Nicolas Rageau (bass) and Luc Isenmann (drums). Fossati seems most drawn to Mingus, kicking the band into a higher orbit. B+(**)

Fond of Tigers: Uninhabit (2016, Offsesson/Drip Audio): Instrumental rock band from Vancouver, seven-piece, includes a couple of the city's notable jazzbos -- JP Carter on trumpet and Jesse Zubot on violin -- but guitarist Stephen Lyons (also credited with vocals, percussion and electronics) is most likely responsible, for the music if not necessarily the bloat. C+

Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Another fine Norwegian freebop group, quintet with trumpet, tenor sax/clarinets, piano, bass, and drums -- no one I've heard of before. Four of the five contribute songs, with André Roligheten (reeds) marginally more prolific (and listed first in the credits). B+(***) [cd]

Future of the Left: The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left (2016, Prescriptions): Rock band from Wales, considered noise rock or post-hardcore but I'd slot them more as post-punk in a line that includes the Fall and the Three Johns. Not sure of the politics, but Falco's snarl exudes class conflict, so that's a start, and I've never found their basic grind more appealing. B+(***)

Robert Glasper Experiment: ArtScience (2016, Blue Note): Pianist, originally promised jazz with hip-hop influence and has straddled that concept inelegantly since 2005, but the vocals here push the balance toward postmodern r&b, which is where the beats derive anyway. B+(*)

GOAT: Requiem (2016, Sub Pop): Swedish group, called their first album World Music and has tried to expand on that thought ever since, but to the extent they specialize at all, they've come up with a psychedelicized form of afrobeat. They're not always that delectable, but I could listen to, say, the grind of "Goatband" much longer than 7:50, nor is that the only time they find such a compelling groove. B+(***)

Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (2015 [2016], Firehouse 12): Guitarist, protégé of Anthony Braxton, has previous Quintet and Septet albums, here adding Susan Alcorn (pedal steel) to the latter: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Jacob Garchik (trombone), John Hébert (bass), Ches Smith (drums). Slippery pieces, much to admire but hard to pin them down, especially with the guitarist most elusive of all. B+(***) [cd]

The Handsome Family: Unseen (2016, Loose Music): Brett and Rennie Sparks, she (I gather) does most of the writing with its fascination for nature and science, and he does most of the singing, like the music (mostly guitar) basic but elegant. I fear some recycling of tunes, but that's mostly because they're so memorable. A-

Billy Hart & the WDR Big Band: The Broader Picture (2016, Enja/Yellowbird): The veteran drummer composed all of these pieces, some going back to the 1970s, and took over as the WDR Big Band's drummer, but the star here is Christophe Schweizer, arranger of the pieces and director of the big band. The WDR Big Band has long been one of the most competent of Europe's institutional bands, but even they have rarely brought their guest star's music so vividly to life. B+(***) [cdr]

Luke Hendon: Silk & Steel (2016, self-released): Guitarist, touches on gypsy jazz ŕ Django Reinhardt, backed by bass and drums (and sometimes violin) but you rarely notice more than the guitar. B+(*) [cd]

Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loueke/Eric Harland: Aziza (2016, Dare2): Bass, tenor/soprano sax, guitar/vocals, drums -- not sure why I missed the first two names when I filed this (other than that my advance didn't come with a cover, and the spine only says Aziza). Strong rhythm record, moves right along. Potter, of course, is superb, and when he switches to soprano they just double down on the Latin tinge. Two songs each, the sort of balance you rarely find in a supergroup. A- [cdr]

Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch (2016, Sacred Bones): Avant goth diva from Norway, released a couple records as Rockettothesky before reverting to her birth name, turns out some kind of soundtrack about vampires -- maybe just a concept album, but it's as scattered as many soundtracks. C+

Ital Tek: Hollowed (2016, Planet Mu): Electronica producer Alan Myson, from Brighton UK, fifth album since 2008, has a bit of industrial klang shaded toward ambience. B+(**)

Nicolas Jaar: Sirens (2016, Other People): Nominally electronica, but it's the rock and roll bits -- bass throbs, drum rolls, even a little squelchy guitar -- that impress me, not that he doesn't occasionally fade into ambiance. B+(**)

Kate Jackson: British Road Movies (2016, Hoo Ha): British singer-songwriter, formerly frontwoman for the Long Blondes, debut solo album. Solid album, but not much sticks. B+(*)

Manu Katché: Unstatic (2016, Anteprima): French drummer, group includes Tore Brunborg (saxes), Jim Watson (keyboards), and Eileen Andrea Wang (bass), adding guests here and there, notably Nils Langren (trombone on five tracks). Relaxed, a bit light, easy on the ears. B+(*)

Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (2016, Polydor): Born in London, parents from Uganda, straight up soul singer often tagged as retro, big star in England but barely gets noticed here. Second album, nothing fancy but a simple pleasure. B+(**)

Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin' (2016, Savant): Started as a mainstream pianist in the early 1990s but has increasingly made the organ his tool, goes for old-fashioned soul jazz with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and guitarist Peter Bernstein providing tasty leads, and dependable Joe Farnsworth on drums. Vince Herring (alto sax) joins on three cuts. B+(**) [cd]

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam: I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (2016, Glassnote): Former frontman (guitar, vocals) of the Walkmen, my candidate for the most dead-ass boring alt/indie band of the last decade, working with multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of a much better band, Vampire Weekend. Splits the difference, the songs sharp and catchy, but still something I don't quite trust. B

John Lindberg Raptor Trio: Western Edges (2012 [2016], Clean Feed): Bassist-led sax trio, with Pablo Calogero on baritone and Joe LaBarbera on drums. The deep sax meshes evenly with the bass, with no threats to break out into something crazy -- just steady, smart free jazz. B+(**) [cd]

John Lindberg BC3: Born in an Urban Ruin (2016, Clean Feed): Bassist, founder and mainstay of String Trio of New York. Trio with Wendell Harrison on clarinets and Kevin Norton on vibraharp and percussion, although more often it seems like bass duets with one or the other, or just bass solos. Each combo is interesting in its own right, but I don't see how they add up. B+(**) [cd]

Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (2015 [2016], self-released): Saxophonist, credited here with alto, soprano, tenor, flute, alto flute, and clarinet; leading a quartet with Kevin Hays on piano and Fender Rhodes, Gianluca Renzi on acoustic bass, and Ari Hoenig on drums. Nothing I think of as "chamber jazz," although he incorporates bits from some classical composers as well as Nascimento and Miles Davis, adding to the album's sheer catchiness. A- [cd]

Grégoire Maret: Wanted (2016, Sunnyside): Born in Geneva, Switzerland; based in New York; plays chromatic harmonica, an instrument which speaks blues but gets diluted in the strings and flute producer Terri Lyne Carrington brought out, not to mention the scattered soul vocals. Could be his Grammy first time out spoiled him. B-

Jřrgen Mathisen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Andreas Wildhagen: Momentum (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Free sax trio from Norway, Mathisen -- also on the Damana album -- playing soprano and tenor (mostly the latter), the others bass and drums. Struggles a bit, both at full roar and in more studious stretches. B+(*) [cd]

Maxwell: blackSUMMERS'night (2016, Columbia): Gerald Maxwell Rivera, neo-soul crooner, fifth album going back to 1995, but only second since 2001, the previous title differentiated from this one's only by different case. Can't say that I docked him for that, but it didn't win him the benefit of the doubt either. B

Anna Meredith: Varmints (2016, Moshi Moshi): British, background includes compositions for classical orchestra, moving into pop in 2012 with the first of two EPs, then this debut album. Favors crashing waves of synths, where words are almost an afterthought. B

Rale Micic: Night Music (2015 [2016], Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, born 1975 in Belgrade (Yugoslavia, now Serbia), moved to US in 1995 to study at Berklee, settled in New York, has at least three previous albums. This quartet blends his guitar nicely with Danny Grissett's piano. B+(*) [cd]

Minim Experiment: Dark Matter (2016, ForTune): Guitarist Kuba Wojcik wrote all five tunes, featuring piano (Kamil Piotrowicz) and backed by bass and drums, most attractive when the beat sustains the minimalism, but interesting even when it doesn't. B+(**) [bc]

Moonbow: When the Sleeping Fish Turn Red and the Skies Start to Sing in C Major I Will Follow You to the End (2016, ILK): All tracks composed by bassist Tomo Jacobson, born in Poland, based in Copenhagen, also in the group Mount Meander, and working on a film about William Parker (who contributed a liner note poem). Septet -- three saxes, guitar and piano, bass and drums, Kresten Osgood the only familiar name. Ambitious set, with its broad sweep and towering heights, moody colors. Still, hard to get a handle on it all. B+(**) [cd]

Kevin Morby: Singing Saw (2016, Dead Oceans): Singer-songwriter from Lubbock, recording his third album in Woodstock. Outstanding song is "Dorothy," which refines a riff from . . . "Heroin." B+(***)

The Mowgli's: Where'd Your Weekend Go? (2016, Photo Finish/Island): Pop group from Calabasas, California -- a ritzy suburb in the hills west of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Bouncy upbeat, multiple singers with lots of vocal harmonies, a formula completely alien to the downer vibe that young critics seem to love. Me, I loved their previous Kids in Love, but while this has similar appeal, nothing here quite grabs me. B

Mudcrutch: 2 (2016, Reprise): Southern rock band, formed in 1970 in Gainesville, Florida, defunct by 1975 without an album but reformed in 2007 with five-sixths of the original lineup, the original lead singer having left by 1972 and been obsoleted by backup Tom Petty's post-group stardom. So basically, this is Petty in a nostalgic mood. B

Mark Murphy: Slip Away (2016, Mini Movie): Not the late jazz singer, this one's a singer-songwriter, plays guitar, also covers Dylan, McCartney, Newman, and Young. Band composed of name jazz musicians (Jon Cowherd, Chris Morrissey, Jeff Ballard, Gilad Hekselman, Dayna Stephens) with Maria Neckham joining for a duet, but no one stretches, the result barely registering as easy-listening rock. B [cd]

Naked Wolf: Ahum (2016, Clean Feed): Dutch group, has a previous album, looks like all members write with Felicity Proven (trumpet) and Mikael Szarfirowski (guitar) also singing (or rapping); the others are Luc Ex (bass), Yedo Gibson (reeds), and Gerri Jäger (drums). The vocals threaten to pull this into some weird post-rock vein, while the instrumentals drag it back into the domain of demented circus music. B+(*) [cd]

Steve Noble & Kristoffer Berre Alberts: Condest Second Yesterday (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): English drummer, has a long discography since 1987 mostly with European avant-gardists, here in a duo with a relatively new tenor saxophonist from Norway -- brings tremendous energy, although he does tend to squawk. B+(***) [cd]

Sean Noonan: Memorable Sticks (2015 [2016], ForTune): Drummer-led piano trio, with Alex Marcelo and Peter Bilenc, with Noonan adding a narration about chipping away in a salt mine, looking for treasures. Very upbeat, often emphatic, but I find the voice more distracting than not. B [bc]

Angel Olsen: My Woman (2016, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, sang backup for Bonnie "Prince" Billy, second (or third) album, adding to the critical acclaim for her 2014 Burn Your Fire for No Witness. First time through I didn't catch much, but a second spin caught my ear numerous times, even when she slows to a whisper. B+(***)

Parker Abbott Trio: Elevation (2016, self-released): From Canada, a different kind of piano trio, with both Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott playing various keyboards (including organ and good old acoustic piano, but mostly electrics), with Mark Segger on drums and percussion. B [cd]

Nicholas Payton: Textures (2016, Paytone): Around the turn of the century someone came up with the term "jazztronica" and a number of mainstream jazz artists started dabbling in that direction, including the New Orleans trumpet master. Nothing much happened, but Payton keeps plugging away, doing this solo on keyb and laptop. He succeeds in generating textures. Still doesn't amount to much by way of music. B-

Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (2015 [2016], HighNote): Two old guys playing sax-bass duets at a casual pace on comfortable standards. Carter has probably appeared on more records than any other jazz musician (Morton & Cook once tried counting and decided Ray Brown held that distinction, but Carter has long passed Brown). Back cover has a photo of the two with an old white man sandwiched between the more imposing black figures -- presumably that's Executive Producer Joe Fields, who signed Person to Prestige in the 1960s and kept him close ever since. This isn't their first duet album. I should probably recheck that one, but for now I'm too much in love with this one. Guess I'm getting old myself. A [cd]

John Prine: For Better, or Worse (2016, Oh Boy): In 1999 Prine eased his way back from throat cancer with a remarkable album of old country tunes, the vocal duties shared with Iris DeMent and several other women. He repeats that concept here -- probably figures that at 70 he's earned another easy one, or maybe he's noticed that he hasn't written a album's worth of originals since Bush provoked him to 2005's Fair and Square. Of course, this isn't as marvelous as the first time: the songs aren't as improbable, he's lost a step, and so many young women are chasing him that DeMent only gets two highlights. None of that bothers me. And if you're waiting for a John Prine song, just wait for the end. A-

Punkt 3: Ordnung Herrscht (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): Group named for German bassist-composer Noah Punkt, who has a previous solo album, two previous trios, and various other projects. This is a trio with saxophonist Tobias Pfister and drummer Ramon Oliveras, free jazz, sharp but not too aggressive. B+(***) [cd]

Rae Sremmurd: SremmLife 2 (2016, Eardrum/Interscope): Hip-hop duo from Mississippi, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmi, second album. Pretty ragged for pop stars, somewhat catchy, might even be funny too if I was into their B- and N-shit. B+(*)

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: I Want That Sound! (2016, Innova): Alto saxophonist Ken Field's Boston-based answer to New Orleans' second line brass bands, actually just a sextet with two saxes, trumpet, and the trombonist doubling on tuba. Fourth album, more of their infectious funk groove. A- [cd]

Huerco S: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) (2016, Proibito): Brian Leeds, Kansas-born, based in Brooklyn, second album, ambient electronica composed of little bits of synth, almost toy-like at first but grows into something. B+(**)

Savages: Adore Life (2016, Matador): London-based post-punk band, fronted by Jehnny Beth (Camille Berthomier), who has a bit of Patti Smith in her voice. Doom and gloom too, the sort of thing that could prove prophetic, although for now I'm on the fence. B+(***)

SBTRKT: Save Yourself (2016, self-released, EP): English "post-dubstep" group, primarily synths producer Aaron Jerome, with vocals from Sampha and The-Dream. Short LP (8 tracks, 25:55) after two longer albums. Kind of mopey, more like trip-hop, without the hop. B-

Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (2015 [2016], Intakt): Avant pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, with Evan Parker on tenor sax, and Paul Lovens on drums -- a trio for more than forty years. Frenetic and sketchy when they started out, now old masters to don't mind kicking up their heels. B+(***) [cdr]

John Scofield: Country for Old Men (2016, Impulse!): Easy-grooving guitarist, backed by Larry Goldings (piano and organ), Steve Swallow (electric bass), and Bill Stewart (drums), playing relatively old country songs (Shania Twain's "You're Still the One" is the only one less than thirty years old, and James Taylor's "Bartender's Blues" might not count as country), all familiar and still recognizable. B+(*)

Travis Scott: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016, Epic): Jaques Webster, Houston rapper, dreams of dollar signs in his stage name, recruits enough guests for his second album to point that way. But I mostly hear a beats record, and like it that way. B+(**)

Elliott Sharp Aggregat: Dialectrical (2016, Clean Feed): After many years as an avant-garde gadfly, mostly playing guitar, he's turned into a free jazz stalwart, here playing reed instruments (soprano/tenor sax, Bb/bass clarinet), in a group named for his 2012 album -- his best as far as I know. This one gives 76-year-old drummer Barry Altschul a "Feat." on the cover, and spreads the horns out with Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet and Terry L. Greene II on trombone, plus Brad Jones on bass. Sharp indeed, though also a bit shrill. B+(***) [cd]

Alan Silva/Mette Rasmussen/Stĺle Liavik Solberg: Free Electric Band (2014 [2016], ForTune): Silva, born in Bermuda, moved to New York at age 5, has been a minor figure on the avant-fringe since the early 1960s, mostly playing bass but increasingly since the 1990s keyboards. Regardless of the dilapidated upright on the cover, he plays synth here, the electric clashing with alto sax and drums. One 45:55 piece, rough around the edges, as advertised. B+(*) [bc]

Sleaford Mods: TCR (2016, Rough Trade, EP): New label, thought they'd test the water and make nice with a five track, 17:17 EP, so straightforward you can follow every word and step easily to the clipped beats. TCR stands for Total Control Racing. B+(***)

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy (2015 [2016], RVNG Intl.): Three pieces, 23/12/18 minutes, not sure who composed but both play various synthesizers, for something like ambient but with much more swish. B+(**)

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Ears (2016, Western Vinyl): More synths, more scattered at first with bits of voice and woodwind (Rob Frye's credit) or maybe just more slippery, with six shortish pieces between 3:05 and 4:57 then an 11:09 finale which builds into something, justifying its title, "Existence in the Unfurling." B+(**)

Wadada Leo Smith: America's National Parks (2016, Cuneiform, 2CD): Trumpet player, came of age in Chicago's AACM but remained obscure until around 2000 when he started to break out of expectations -- an album with Thomas Mapfumo (from Zimbabwe), an "Electric Miles" trbute band with Henry Kaiser, and recently a series of extended compositions (including The Great Lakes Suites and Ten Freedom Summers). This sprawling six-piece, written for his Golden Quintet (piano-cello-bass-drums) draws inspiration from all around the country, and strikes me as being as heavy and ponderous as its subject matter, but dotted with marvelous, often breath-taking details. B+(***) [cd]

Solange: A Seat at the Table (2016, Saint/Columbia): Last name Knowles, same as her older sister Beyoncé. Third album in thirteen years, a big production with scores of writers, producers, and guests, but the sound hardly suggests such scale, and the songs are laced with a male commentary which while interesting in its own right could just as well belong to a completely different album. B+(**)

Richard Sussman: The Evolution Suite (2015 [2016], Zoho): Pianist, also credited with electronics, more importantly as composer, arranger, etc. Played keyboards in Elephant's Memory in 1969, later spent a couple years with Blood, Sweat & Tears, while his own records started up in the 1970s. Title piece runs through five movements, with a couple "radio edits" tacked on to fill out 75 minutes. Band a quintet with trumpet (Scott Wendholt) and tenor sax (Rich Perry), expanded with a string quartet (The Sirius Quartet) and Zach Brock on electric violin. Some exciting passages, but I don't much care for the strings. B [cd]

Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (2016, Lex): British rapper with a literary bent, not sure what the story is here but it must pick up toward the end when the grime beats come together and flower into melody -- or maybe that's just the music. B+(**)

Touché Amoré: Stage Four (2016, Epitaph): Post-hardcore band from Burbank, fourth album, work up a decent grind, tight enough I'm impressed and rather pleased, as if I still liked music of this sort. B+(*)

Wax Tailor: By Any Beats Necessary (2016, Le Plan): French trip-hop producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoűt, fifth album since 2005, comes out as a blues rocker but eventually retreats to his more accustomed turf. Reminds me of a group called Was Not Was, another producer vehicle with no signature sound but a lot of smashing studio tricks. B+(*)

Whitney: Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian): Alt-rock duo from Los Angeles, Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, who previously did business as the Smith Westerns, plus a drummer from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and a producer from Foxygen wrapping the falsetto vocals with orchestral dross. B-

YG: Still Brazy (2016, Def Jam): Rapper Keenon Jackson, from Compton, follow up to his 2014 My Krazy Life, still shocked that a guy with such crude rhymes and so little flow can bank on a major label contract. Inspirational lyric: "Fuck Donald Trump." B+(*)

Yoni & Geti: Testarossa (2016, Joyful Noise): Collaboration between beatmaker Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) and rapper David Cohn (aka Serengeti). Musically this reminded me first of the Beach Boys then the Beatles in their most psychedelic modes but more so by half. The raps are standard-grade 'Geti. B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

American Honey ([2016], UME): Soundtrack to a movie I hadn't heard of until Christgau raved about this download-only product. Evidently there are multiple versions, with a "complete" song list totalling 27 songs, but Rhapsody only has 8 so I turned to Spotify and found 23. A mixtape of hip-hop and Americana and some alt-rock. only a couple songs I recognized, although when I played Spotify the ones on Rhapsody stood out. Maybe they're the best, or maybe more familiarity will elevate more. B+(***) [sp]

Vieux Kanté: The Young Man's Harp (2005 [2016], Sterns): Blind kamalé ngoni virtuoso from Mali, died at age 31 in 2005, leaving this recording from "shortly before he died" unreleased. Schematic solo intro before a singer and percussion join in. A-

Bruce Springsteen: Chapter and Verse (1966-2012 [2016], Columbia): Compiled as a tie-in to Springsteen's Born to Run autobiography, so it starts with juvenilia: three cuts from his teenage bands, three more from the year he got signed (1972), plus one of those soppy ballads from his second album -- the first five previously unreleased -- before he gets his sound together on "Born to Run." The second half you probably know, not so much a best-of as a set of signposts to a life's work. Not a record you're likely to replay, except maybe for your grandchildren, who probably won't get it but might dig the early intensity. B+(***)

Old Music

Black Bombaim: Titans (2012, Lovers & Lollypops): "Stoner/psychedelic rock" band from Portugal, Ricardo Miranda (guitar), Vitor Rodrigues (electric bass), and Paulo Gonçalves (drums), although this second album adds others on each of four LP-side-length tracks (three over 18 minutes, one just 10:36). Most mix-ins are guitar, some keybs, a muted vocal on first tracks, and some sax sounding prophetic. B+(***)

Black Bombaim/La La La Ressonance: Black Bombaim & La La La Ressonance (2013 [2014], PAD/Lovers & Lollypops): A live mash up of two Portuguese instrumental rock bands, the former group a noise-oriented power trio, the latter a bit jazzier (and not just because they feature Paulo Araujo on alto sax). B+(**)

Black Bombaim: Far Out (2014, Lovers & Lollipops): A single LP, so just two pieces, total 34:44, the first side adding the superb saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, the second mixing in synth and electronics by Luis Fernandes. Rocksteady beat, of course, but what they build on it, unencumbered by vocals, is as complex as powerful. A-

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Schlippenbach Trio: 2X3=5 (1999 [2001], Leo): Two trios, the common denominator saxophonist Evan Parker, with the latter trio adding pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and drummer Paul Lovens. One 77:07 piece, the interest often drifting to the percussion, not least the piano. B+(***)

Schlippenbach Trio: Bauhaus Dessau (2009 [2010], Intakt): Living legends, seems like every few years they tape a concert and put it out, if only to remind you they're still around, still kicking up raw improv, with Evan Parker doing his circular breathing thing for a showstopper. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live 1975-85 (1975-85 [1986], Columbia, 3CD): In the 1970s most big rock groups would release a live album, usually a 2LP, either as a status item or a piece of interim product. Shortly before I moved to New York, Springsteen had played a week at the Bottom Line -- possibly the last time he played in a venue that intimate -- and those who saw him there were total converts. I wasn't, but I never saw him live, and only started to like his albums with 1980's The River (his 2LP, another of the era's status rungs). Over the next decade his songbook grew and his concerts grew longer, so when he finally did release the live album his fans had been craving, it added up to five LPs, 40 songs, 3:36:13 -- something they could also squeeze into a 3CD box. Highlights abound, including two possible national anthems we can all stand for, a story about dodging the draft, a terse take on "War." But even the 1975-78 hyper-dramaturgy I so hated at the time sounds personable framed by these arenas. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 (1975 [2006], Columbia, 2CD): One complete concert, 2:04:52, from the tour that followed Springsteen's Born to Run breakthrough album, released as a DVD bonus to that album's 30th Anniversary Edition package, then a year later repackaged on CD. Makes me wonder whether I would have been so appalled by the studio album had I seen them live? In an age when guitar bands were the norm, the organ-piano-sax combo both invoked rock's early roots and scaled the sound up to a new level of magnificance. Still too much drama. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (1977-78 [2010], Columbia, 2CD): Outtakes from the sessions that produced my least favorite Springsteen album, the pompous and ridiculously overblown Darkness at the Edge of Town, assembled as part of a 3-CD + 3-DVD "30th anniversary edition" -- extra baggage we can dispense with here. Two songs were hits for others, and a couple more are related to things that made the finished album, but most were most likely rejected because they weren't sufficiently hyperbolic -- a human scale that I found redemptive, at least when it appeared on better songs than these. B+(*)

Bruce Springsteen: In Concert/MTV Unplugged (1992 [1993], Columbia): Part of MTV's Unplugged series, but after the previously unreleased "Red Headed Woman" the irregular band plugged in and played a set primarily from his uninspired current albums, Lucky Town and Human Touch (8/12 songs). B-

Bruce Springsteen: The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995, Columbia): Title reference is to Steinbeck channeled through Woody Guthrie, not least musically where guitar and harmonica suffice for the subdued folk music. I can relate more to the lament for the lost foundries of "Youngstown" -- but not much else. B

Bruce Springsteen: Tracks (1972-95 [1998], Columbia, 4CD): Demos and outtakes, a couple of live tracks, a few B-sides, 66 songs in all selected from a trove of some 350 at the time. I have no idea how many turned up on later albums -- the four 1972 demos made it to 1973's Greetings From Asbury Park, and much further down I see a "Born in the USA" as a Nebraska outtake. Mixed bag, of course, but follows the arc of his career -- the third disc, where the scraps fell off his two great 1980s albums, is a lot of fun. But he slipped and slowed down a bit in the 1990s. B+(*)

Bruce Springsteen: 18 Tracks (1972-99 [1999], Columbia): A 15-cut sampler from the Tracks box set, plus three more bait cuts, no doubt figuring that's all they'd need to get fans willing to buy a 4-CD box of outtakes to buy them again. I don't think it would be hard to carve an A- record from the box, but I'd mostly go with the fast ones, and they didn't. In fact, they only picked one of the five "choice cuts" Christgau identified in the box: "Pink Cadillac." B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live in New York (2000 [2001], Columbia, 2CD): Recorded over two nights of a "ten-show tour-ending run at Madison Square Garden," and originally released as an HBO special (pretty sure I saw that), expanded onto two DVDs, and finally two CDs, long enough to qualify as an average Springsteen show: loud, some interesting variations, magnificent when the sax comes out on top. Due for a revival: "American Skin (41 Shots)." B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band: Live in Dublin (2006 [2007], Columbia, 2CD): Another DVD product reissued on CD, the band refers back to the 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions -- 10 of 12 songs repeated here, plus 10 more, a mix of Springsteen's folkier oldies and even older trad fare, all given the big arena treatment by a star who can command an 18-piece band and make it cohere like a revival. B+(**)

Alexander von Schlippenbach: Payan (1972 [2014], Enja): The avant-pianist's first solo album, not that I'm so sure where all the sounds in the 10:00 closer "Kinds of Weirdness" come from. But until weirdness takes over, you get chopped abstraction, finding its unique way in the world. B+(*)

Alex von Schlippenbach/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Vesuvius (2004 [2005], Slam): London studio session, the pianist playing with saxophonist Dunmall's trio, Rogers playing a 7-string ALL bass. Two long pieces (29:11, 34:47), not as volcanic as hoped for. B+(**)

Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 1 (2005 [2006], Intakt): Twelve-tone theory is supposedly a way to break ingrained habits by spreading compositions evenly over all possible tones, but I doubt I'll ever be able to recognize that theory just by sound. Rather, I hear a sort of mid-tempo rambling, a lot of thought input but far less conveyed. [4/9 tracks: 35:50] B+(**)

Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 2 (2005 [2006], Intakt): More from the same session, ending the string of originals with three Dolphy tunes, "All the Things You Are," and Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle." [6/13 tracks, 34:03] B+(**)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section. Included extra Schlippenbach albums (Globe Unity, Aki Takase) but the Evan Parker record was picked for Schlippenbach, so this isn't the place to go through his discography (at least 26 rated records).

  • Globe Unity 73: Live in Wuppertal (1973, FMP): A-
  • The Globe Unity Orchestra & the Choir of the NDR-Broadcast: Hamburg '74 (1974 [2004], Atavistic): B
  • Globe Unity Special '75: Rumbling (1975 [1991], FMP): B+(***)
  • Bruce Springsteen: Greetings From Asbury Park (1973, Columbia): B
  • Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973, Columbia): B
  • Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975, Columbia): B+
  • Bruce Springsteen: Darkness at the Edge of Town (1978, Columbia): B-
  • Bruce Springsteen: The River (1980, Columbia, 2CD): A-
  • Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (1982, Columbia): B+
  • Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA (1984, Columbia): A
  • Bruce Springsteen: Tunnel of Love (1987, Columbia): A
  • Bruce Springsteen: Human Touch (1992, Columbia): B-
  • Bruce Springsteen: Lucky Town (1992, Columbia): B-
  • Bruce Springsteen: Greatest Hits (1975-95 [1995], Columbia): B
  • Bruce Springsteen: The Rising (2002, Columbia): B+
  • Bruce Springsteen: Devils and Dust (2005, Columbia): A-
  • Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (1997-2006 [2006], Columbia): A-
  • Bruce Springsteen: Magic (2007, Columbia): A-
  • Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream (2009, Columbia): B
  • Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (2012, Columbia): A-
  • Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (2014, Columbia): B+(*)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: The Living Music (1969 [2002], Atavistic): B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 67 & 70 (1967-70 [2001], Atavistic): B+
  • Schlippenbach Trio: First Recordings (1972 [2014], Trost): B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio: Pakistani Pomade (1972 [2003], Atavistic): B+(***)
  • Schlippenbach Quartet: Hunting the Snake (1975 [2000], Atavistic): B+(*)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach and Sunny Murray: Smoke (1979, FMP): B+
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Elf Bagatellen (1990, FMP): B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach/Axel Dörner/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Uli Jennessen: Monk's Casino: The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk (2003-04 [2005], Intakt, 3CD): A
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Gold Is Where You Find It (2008, Intakt): B+(***)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach/Daniele d'Agaro: Dedalus (2008, Artesuono): B+(***)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Schlippenbach Plays Monk (2012, Intakt): B+(*)
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Features (2014 [2015], Intakt): A-
  • Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03 (2004 [2005], Leo): A-
  • Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (2014, Intakt): B+(***)
  • Lok 03+1 [Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe/Paul Lovens]: Signals (2016, Trost): B+(**)

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex 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
  • [sp] available at spotify.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