Streamnotes: July 28, 2017

The summer here in Wichita hasn't been exceptionally hot, but it's been hot enough to be stultifying. I haven't enjoyed it, and find damn near everything else depressing, but kept my nose to the grind wheel and came up with a perfectly average month: 136 records, 108 (or 112) more or less new, the old stuff purely opportunistic as I came across various interesting tangents.

I cut the month off a couple days early rather than collide with my usual Sunday/Monday blog schedule. Kept hoping to find something new, and finally did after I thought I'd finished the column: The Perceptionists: Resolution.

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 June 30. Past reviews and more information are available here (9910 records).

Recent Releases

21 Savage: Issa Album (2017, Slaughter Gang/Epic): Rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, from Atlanta, first studio album although he had an EP I liked last year (Savage Mode). I like the easy beats and delivery here. However, doesn't it seem a bit lazy to make every line rhyme by ending it with the N-word? B+(*)

John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (2016 [2017], ECM): British guitarist, on ECM since 1974, backed here by pianist Marc Copland (wrote two songs), Drew Gress (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). B+(*) [dl]

Ryan Adams: Prisoner (2017, Blue Note): Prolific singer-songwriter, seemed promising when he first appeared in 2000 but quickly grew tiresome. I still can't find anything much to care about, but as a formal piece of guitar-driven songcraft this sounds pretty good. B+(*)

Akmee: Neptun (2016 [2017], Nakama): Norwegian group: Erik Kimestad Pedersen (trumpet), Kjetil Jerve (piano), Erlend Albertsen (bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums). Four songs, two by the pianist, one each bassist and drummer. Slow to develop, but powerful or eloquent when they do. B+(***)

Algiers: The Underside of Power (2017, Matador): Postpunk band from Atlanta, second album, moves both toward metal and experimental, a mix that I sometimes get a charge out of but more often find annoying. Produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead. Thom Jurek: "Algiers ultimately turn doomsday on its head unexpectedly." B-

Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (2016 [2017], Skirl): Pianist, born in Switzerland, based in New York since 2008, second album, both quartets, this one distinguished by alto saxophonist Michaël Attias, whose runs keep slipping out of the grooves. A- [cd]

Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S: Plucky Strum: Departure (2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitar and bass duets, second album together -- first filed under the bassist, but cover shows Bailey in the driver seat this time. Originals from each, one together, covers from Steve Stills and Joni Mitchell. B+(*) [cd]

Big Boi: Boomiverse (2017, Epic): Like Jay-Z, another big-time rapper into real estate. Still, I prefer his boisterous, big-time pop. B+(***)

Bleachers: Gone Now (2017, RCA): Indie pop band, principally Jack Antonoff, who collaborated extensively on Lorde's Melodrama. I prefer Lorde's voice for pop, but this isn't bad, especially on relationship songs. But I did get tripped up by the closer. B+(*)

Theo Bleckmann: Elegy (2016 [2017], ECM): German vocalist, fifteen albums since 1992, more art song than swing, often given an angelic air by his high-pitched voice. Leads a band that indulges him lavishly: Ben Monder (guitar), Shai Maestro (piano), Chris Tordini (bass), and John Hollenback (drums). B+(*) [dl]

Benjamin Booker: Witness (2017, ATO): Singer-songwriter born in Virginia, grew up in Florida, given name Benjamin Evans, adopted name suggests a gnarled bluesman but his eponymous first album didn't really fit that hole, and this one doesn't even aim for it. Garage rock seems to be the new consensus, but I see he's cited "Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson and T. Rex as influences." More a way of triangulating what he's aiming for, a target he sometimes hits. B+(***)

Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (2017, International Anthem): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, seems to be her first album, mostly quartet with Tomeka Reid (cello), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums), plus some "cameos" -- notably too many cornets. I get hung up on a piece called "The Storm" -- otherwise impressive, an especially strong turn by the drummer. Choice cut: "Theme Nothing." B+(**)

Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life (2017, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minneapolis rapper Jason Newman, converted to Islam at age 15, sixth album: as thoughtful, good natured, well intentioned as ever. B+(**)

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness (2015 [2017], FMR): Leader plays alto sax and Chinese oboe, accompanied by drums and acoustic bass guitar. Parts are a bit harsher than I'd like, but I love Carrier's deep, searching runs, and this is another good setting for them. A- [cd]

Cashmere Cat: 9 (2017, Mad Love/Interscope): Norwegian DJ/turntablist, Magnus August Halberg, first album after three EPs. Draws on an impressive roster of vocalists -- Kehlani, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla Sign, Selena Gomez, Jhené Aiko, and more -- while minimizing their differences. B+(*)

Charly Bliss: Guppy (2017, Barsuk): Guitar band from Brooklyn, singer-guitarist Eva Hendricks give them some pop appeal while guitarist-vocalist Spencer Fox thickens the din (something I've seen dubbed "bubble-grunge"). B+(**)

Amber Coffman: City of No Reply (2017, Columbia): Former Dirty Projectors singer, absent from this year's album although Dave Longstreet co-wrote and produced here. I find the group's fancy twists and filigree damn near unbearable, but this album is relatively free of annoyance -- just conventional stuff, mostly synth strings, nicely tucked into the background, where they frame her attractive voice. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Cross My Palm With Silver (2016 [2017], ECM): Israeli trumpet player, unrelated to the bassist but brother of Anat Cohen, second ECM album, quartet with piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Nasheet Waits). Tends to submerge under Manfred Eicher's aesthetic, which is probably the point, but the trumpet has a nice brassy air. B+(**) [dl]

Larry Coryell's 11th House: Seven Secrets (2016 [2017], Savoy Jazz): Reunion of the guitarist's best known fusion groups, with several albums (and later archival material) spanning 1972-76. Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums/keyboards) return from the original group -- Mouzon died soon after this was recorded, and Coryell died before its release. Also adds second guitarist Julian Coryell and Mike Lee on bass. Heavy grooves, blistering trumpet, nice they got this chance to feel young again. B+(*)

Carl Craig: Versus (2017, InFiné): Pioneering electronica producer from Detroit, his 1997 album More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art a personal favorite, but I can't say as I've followed him closely since. He provides electronics and production for his tracks here, but the bulk of the sound comes from a 22-piece orchestra, arranged by Francesco Tristano to bring forth the drama, suggesting classical music but when have they ever enjoyed such danceable beats before? A- [bc]

Richard Dawson: Peasant (2017, Weird World): Singer-songwriter from Newcastle, UK; started as a folkie, winds up all over the map, with folkish harmonies and music that isn't afraid of getting dissonant. His own voice reminds me of Robert Wyatt, although I'm less inclined to forgive his idiosyncrasies and lapses, partly because it grates so much more. B

Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Meddeski/John Scofield: Hudson (Motéma): Cover only offers last names, although all are pretty recognizable. Hype credits this to "jazz supergroup Hudson." Names appear alphabetical, the opposite of the way I would list the credits by instrument, with guitarist Scofield up front. Indeed he is, and probably playing better than he has in two decades, but I'm tempted to chalk that up to the drummer, especially remarkable on the 10:56 title piece. Also note that nearly half of the pieces are late-1960s rock hits -- two Dylans, Hendrix, Robertson, Mitchell -- and while they're the things you notice, they're not the ones that stick with you. A-

Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (2017, Domino): Formerly an indie rock band given to fancy arrangements and off-kilter rhythms, now just Dave Longstreth and extra studio musicians, notably co-producer Tyondai Braxton. I hated their/his last two albums, ones which turned them into much more than a cult band, and didn't expect anything better here. Didn't find it either: just intricately layered churchy/soulish vocals with no discernible sense of time. C

Chano Dominguez: Over the Rainbow (2012 [2017], Sunnyside): Spanish pianist, has twenty-some records since 1980, including a couple with Martirio, one with Paquito D'Rivera, one called Flamenco Sketches. Solo, probably not the one to start with. B+(*) [dl]

Emperor X: Oversleepers International (2017, Tiny Engines): Chad Matheny, American but based in Berlin, had a thing for odd electronic music but came up with a surprising set of songs in 2011 (Western Teleport), and almost repeats that feat here -- except that I lose track somewhere after "Schopenhauer in Berlin" until the closing 11:11 minimalist instrumental. B+(***)

Noga Erez: Off the Radar (2017, City Slang): Electropop artist from Israel, works/writes with producer Ori Rousso, first album, titles in English but I'm less clear about the lyrics. Not a lot of pop appeal, closer but still not as gloomy as trip-hop.. B

Ergo: As Subtle as Tomorrow (2013 [2016], Cuneiform): Trombonist Brett Sroka, leading a trio with Sam Harris (keyboards) and Shawn Baltazar (drums), fourth album together, where Harris produces the most unexpected sounds -- prepared piano is one of his options -- but the trombone pulls it back together. B+(***) [dl]

Kevin Eubanks: East/West Timeline (2017, Mack Avenue): Guitarist, discography starts in 1983, couple dozen albums although only one entered my database. Looks like two sessions, the first half with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Dave Holland (bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); the second with Bill Pierce (tenor sax), Rene Camacho (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), and Mino Cinelu (percussion). Nice either way. B+(*)

The Feelies: In Between (2017, Bar/None): NJ jangle pop band, invented their genre in 1980 and broke up as soon as they released their greatest album, 1991's Time for a Witness. As with so many bands, they ran out of better options and regrouped -- in 2006, with an album in 2011, and now this second one. No new ideas here, and for a while I thought they were slowed by age, but the reprise of the title cut is something I could dig much longer than its 9:23. B+(**)

Forest Swords: Compassion (2017, Ninja Tune): English electronica producer Matthew Barnes, second album, leaves me feeling pretty empty. B-

Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (2017, Free Rads): Houston group, "a horn-driven instrumental dance band with a commitment to peace and justice" -- I recognized the group name from chemistry, but sure, politics works too. Took no more than five seconds for me to realize they were right up my alley. Turns out they've been around for a couple decades, recording The Rising Tide Sinks All in 1998 and five albums since. Nine-piece group, three saxes, three brass (including sousaphone), guitar, bass, drums, but 15 more "guests" joined in these sessions, including two elder vibraphonists whose credits include Benny Goodman and Sun Ra (author of their one cover). For a first approximation, imagine a cross between anarchist collectives like Club D'Elf and the Tribe and a New Orleans brass band. Not without its messy moments, but surely a SFFR. A- [cd]

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Small Town (2016 [2017], ECM): Guitar and bass duets, recorded live at the Village Vanguard, very low key. Three originals (one by both, two Frisell), five covers, "Wildwood Flower" recalling Frisell's Americana, an effect deepened by the title tune. Other covers: Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Fats Domino, "Goldfinger." B+(**) [dl]

Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Kisaragi (2015-16 [2017], Libra): Piano and trumpet duets, at least that's what the cover says, but I'm not hearing much of that -- a lot of submerged electronic sound, interesting here and there but never really seems to break the surface. B+(*) [cd]

Future Islands: The Far Field (2017, 4AD): Synthpop band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2008, their second title from poet Theodore Roethke -- an effect that I suppose recalls bands like the Cure. This one is more than a little catchy, but beyond that hard for me to say. B+(*)

(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket (2017, Domino): Birth name is Alexander Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia, self-recorded lo-fi albums from 2010 on, finally getting picked up by Domino for 2015's Beach Music. This has some nice, even some noisy, stretches. B

Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play (Solo Piano) (2017, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Hungary, has recorded steadily since the early 1980s. Solo, mostly standards, avoids the obvious. B+(*) [cd]

Golden Pelicans: S/T (2014, Total Punk, EP): Punk band from Orlando, had a live cassette and a couple singles before this 12-inch vinyl, 7 short cuts, 14:25, title as given on their Bandcamp though I'd be tempted just to use the band name. Classic punk, right at you. B+(***)

Golden Pelicans: Oldest Ride Longest Line (2015, Total Punk, EP): Longer (9 cuts, 17:39), if anything faster. Needless to say, I can't parse a single line of lyrics, but for some reason that bothers me more here (maybe because one oft-repeated word sounds like "faggot," but turns out the song title is "Maggots"). B+(**)

Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood (2017, Goner, EP): Punk purism evolving into something they call "thug rock" -- the songs stretching out over two minutes on average (9 cuts, 20:59), so long they count this as an LP. Other advances include a label I've heard of and color on the cover. Still intense. B+(***)

Goldfrapp: Silver Eye (2017, Mute): English electropop duo, singer Alison Goldfrapp and synth player Will Gregory. Seventh album since 2000. B+(*)

Vitor Gonçalves: Vitor Gonçalves Quartet (2017, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Brazil, based in New York. First album, with Todd Neufeld (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss (percussion). B+(*)

Giovanni Guidi: Ida Lupino (2015 [2016], ECM): Italian pianist, handful of records since 2006, two previous trios on ECM, this a bassless quartet: Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Louis Sclavis (clarinet), Gerald Cleaver (drums). Most satisfying when the trombone gets the upper hand. B+(*) [dl]

Marika Hackman: I'm Not Your Man (2017, Sub Pop): English singer-songwriter, father Finnish, second album after four EPs starting in 2013. Probably started as a DIY folkie but moved into on into non-glitzy pop. B+(**)

Haim: Something to Tell You (2017, Polydor): Three sisters, surname Haim, from Los Angeles. Second album: loud, catchy popular rock. B+(**)

Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017, Fly Eye/Columbia): Scottish DJ/producer (given name Adam Richard Wiles), called his first album I Created Disco (he was born in 1984). Ten cuts (37:40), each featuring 1-3 well-known names (e.g., "Heatstroke" features Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, and Ariana Grande). Hottest track just has one voice: Nicki Minaj. B+(*)

Joel Harrison: Stump (2013 [2014], Cuneiform): Guitarist, has a dozen or so albums since 1996, "focus here is kon his playing and not his writing and arranging," which gets him out of a postbop quagmire I've never warmed to. Provides more details on his gear than song credits ("a mixture of Luther Vandross, Buddy Miller, George Russell, a traditional spiritual, Paul Motion, Leonard Cohen"). Backed with bass, drums, and (6/11 cuts) organ/keyboards. B+(***) [dl]

Alexander Hawkins: Unit[e] (2016-17 [2017], self-released, 2CD): British pianist, plays in Convergence Quaret, Decoy, and other projects. First set is an explosive sextet, with Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Dylan Bates (violin), Otto Fischer (guitar), bass, and drums. Second set swaps drummers and replaces Hutchings, doubling the group size, adding trumpets, reeds/flutes, cello, and live electronics. B+(**) [bc]

Arve Henriksen: Towards Language (2016 [2017], Rune Grammofon): Norwegian trumpet player, nine albums since 2001, backdrop mostly guitar and electronics -- he contributes to the latter along with Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang, and adds his voice (plus Anna Maria Friman on one track), aiming for something ethereal. B

J Hus: Common Sense (2017, Black Butter/Epic): British rapper, Momodou Jallow, born in London of Gambian descent, first album after a mixtape and several singles. Disjointed, off-kilter beats -- any hype about Afrobeat is strictly in the ear of someone else -- vocal range pretty narrow but keeps at it and ultimately catches on. B+(**)

Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant (2016 [2017], ECM): German pianist, originally appeared in a group called Cyminology (after vocalist Cymin Samawatie). With Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen Howard on drums. Original pieces. B+(**) [dl]

Jay-Z: 4:44 (2017, Roc Nation): Big star, rapsabout what matters most (to him, anyway): his asset portfolio. Better, I suppose, than slinging dope, where he made his first fortune. Slippery beats, legendary flow, marred by the occasional operatic sample. B+(**)

Dusan Jevtovic: No Answer (2016 [2017], Moonjune): Serbian guitarist, has at least two previous albums, this one a fusion trio with Vasil Hadzimanov on keyboards and Asaf Sarkis on drums. Strong on the upbeat, impressive for a while. B+(*) [cd]

Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (2017, Mack Avenue): Trumpet player, quartet includes Orrin Evans (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), plus a couple guests join in on several cuts. B+(*)

Jonwayne: Rap Album Two (2017, The Order Label): Rapper from La Habra, CA; real name Jonathan Wayne. Follows up on 2013's Rap Album One, but he has three more albums, a half-dozen mixtapes. Runs a skit making fun of not looking like a rapper, and if the cover doesn't cinch that, the skit does. B+(***)

Alison Krauss: Windy City (2017, Capitol): Started out as a bluegrass fiddler, crediting her band on most of her albums, but she's always sung, remarkably on these ten covers. She may look like a lost mannequin on the cover, but there's nothing stiff or fake here. Especially choice cuts: "Gentle on My Mind," "Poison Love," "You Don't Know Me." A-

Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy's Demo (2017, Three Quartet, EP): From Compton, Steven Thomas Lacy-Moya, still a teenager but joined the Internet for their third album (Ego Death), spins off a six-song 13:33 "song-series" here. B

Brian Landrus Orchestra: Generations (2017, BlueLand): Baritone saxophonist, has a half-dozen albums but regards this big band + strings affair as some kind of breakthrough. Liner notes: "It's a culmination of everything I've listened to and loved over the years." Then he produces a long list of examples, including Stravinsky, Mulligan, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, J Dilla, and Hermeto Pascoal. He could have stopped after the first two: this opens with a four-part "Jeru Concerto." I vaccilate between hating it and finding myself swept up in the vast absurdity of the enterprise. B+(**) [cd]

Nikki Lane: Highway Queen (2017, New West): Alt-country singer-songwriter, originally from South Carolina, based in Nashville but doesn't really belong there. B+(**)

Led Bib: The Good Egg (2013 [2014], Cuneiform): British group, drummer Mark Holub seems to be the leader, with two alto saxophonists (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), keyboards (Toby McLaren), and double bass (Linan Donin). Eight albums since 2005; this one, a four-cut 33:58 live vinyl/download only, came out the same day as The People in Your Neighborhood, and has been languishing in my download queue for quite a while. Some remarkable stretches here, and for once they don't wear out their welcome. B+(***) [dl]

Led Bib: The People in Your Neighborhood (2013 [2014], Cuneiform): Studio album, eleven tracks, 71:31, more range but maybe too much as they wander more, but still a powerhouse. B+(**) [dl]

Let's Eat Grandma: I, Gemini (2016, Transgressive): British group, from Norwich, principally Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton -- "multi-instrumentalists" although keyboards dominate and drums appear only after you start wondering why there aren't any. They harmonize in little girl voices, often taking on little girl personas. Group name derives from a joke about the comma placement, obscured and made more menacing by omission. B

Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (2017, Afrasia Productions): Jazz singer, more than a dozen albums since 1986, has one of those widely admired voices, deep and resonant, but frames it with pretty ordinary arrangements in a hornless band. B

Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo': TajMo (2017, Concord): Two bluesmen who always seemed comfortable in their retro form, a genre that Taj (Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) invented as early as 1968, although, now 75, he hasn't recorded much since 2000. Only nine years younger, Keb' (Kevin Moore) didn't record until 1994 -- he never struck me as that notable, but he's picked up three Grammy Awards and been nominated for many more. Best thing here is a relaxed, understated "Diving Duck Blues," just a duet (better, I think, than the version on Taj's debut album). However, they lose that charm when the big band chimes in, no matter how agreeable the fancy band groove gets. B

Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears (2014 [2017], Clean Feed): Viola/saxophone/piano trio, a viable chamber jazz configuration except that Parker is hard to hem in or pin down, and he provides most of the interest here. B+(*) [cdr]

Mura Masa: Mura Masa (2017, Polydor): British DJ Alex Crossan, from Guernsey, took his alias from Japanese swordsmith Muramasa Sengo. First album, draws on a wide range of singers and rappers (Damon Albarn, Nao, Héloise Letissier, A$AP Rocky) for an eclectic mix, unfied by the dance beats. B+(*)

Spoek Mathambo: Mzansi Beat Code (2017, TEKA): South African rapper, probably more accurately rooted in electro or kwaito as the beats and chants matter more than the words here. B

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (2017, Sub Pop): Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, cut eight albums 2003-10 as J. Tillman, played on one Fleet Foxes album, now has three albums under this moniker. Title cut is anything but, and the somber sobriety gets stifling, even when he's self-conscious, as when "Mara taunts me" saying "just what we all need/Another white guy in 2017/Who takes himself so goddamn seriously." I looked that lyric up after I heard "He's a national treasure now," and wasn't sure whether he was talking about Jesus or Trump -- turns out himself, for once not the worst-case scenario. The music does grow on you. I could imagine someone loving this -- just not me. B-

Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (2015 [2017], ECM, 2CD): Chicags saxophonist, joined AACM in 1965 and co-founded Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1967. Recorded this for AACM's 50th anniversary. Half nonet -- Hugh Ragin (trumpet), James Fei (reeds), Tyshawn Sorey (trombone/piano/drums), Craig Taborn (piano), Jaribu Shahid (bass), three more percussionists (Kikanju Baku, Tani Tabbal, William Winant) -- and half duo and trio subsets, which leave much open space, although not without interest or occasional surprise. B+(***)

Mokoomba: Luyando (2017, OutHere): Band from Zimbabwe, third album, translates from Tonga as "mother's love." As expected, splits the distance between Congolese soukous and South African jive, including a piece of mbube. B

The Moonlandingz: Interplanetary Class Classics (2017, Transgressive): Side project for two members of Fat White Family plus Rebecca Taylor and Sean Lennon, hard to pin down but neo-psychedelia is the genre I most often find. Dense, fast, and loud, not a mix I'm very fond of. B

Sam Newsome: Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Soprano (2017, Some New Music): Saxophonist, played tenor early on but since 2005 has focused on soprano. His innovation here is various ways to coax unusual sounds from the horn by "pareparations" -- change to the reed, obstacles that modify the airflow, and/or dangling chimes from the horn. He tries hard to make music with this setup, but it is by nature limited. B+(*)

Oxbow: Thin Black Duke (2017, Hydra Head): Underground (noise/experimental) rock group from San Francisco, dates back to 1988, principally Eugene Robinson (vocals, lyrics) and Niko Wenner (guitar, keybs, music), plus bass and drums, first album titled Fuckfest. Haven't heard the early ones but Robinson's anguished wail reflects back to the blues, set off by the hard rock Sturm und Drang. B+(*)

Ozomatli: Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica (2017, Cleopatra): Los Angeles band, released eponymous debut in 1998, obviously closer to Mexico than to Jamaica, which contributes occasional rhythms without being recognizable as such. Mostly in Spanish, not that "Besame Mucho" or "La Bamba" need translations any more than "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Come and Get Your Love" -- anyway, their selling point is the treatment, not the songs. B+(*)

The Ed Palermo Big Band: Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2014, Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, formed his big band in 1977, cut their first record in 1982, came up with the idea of arranging Frank Zappa tunes for big band in the 1990s and this is at least his third Zappa album. First disc anyway -- reminds me that I've never liked Zappa, although he's probably not the only one here to blame. Second is mostly Palermo originals, which aren't much better. C

Eddie Palmieri: Sabiduria/Wisdom (2012 [2017], Ropeadope): Pianist, parents moved from Puerto Rico to the Bronx where he was born in 1938. Has 43 albums since 1962. Ten-piece group, eight more "special guests" (Donald Harrison, Obed Calvaire, Ronnie Cuber, Joe Locke, etc.). Rhythmically intense, bewilderingly complex. Choice cut: "The Uprising." B+(***)

Aaron Parks/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Find the Way (2015 [2017], ECM): Pianist, originally from Seattle, cut a record for Blue Note in 2008, two now for ECM plus a couple on Stunt. Has a lot of mainstream side-credits, starting with Terence Blanchard. Trio here, all originals except the title cut, flows nicely but doesn't really draw me in. B+(*) [dl]

Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom: A Tribute to Blossom Dearie (2017, Arbors): Bassist-singer, from Australia, mostly standards with retro swing. While early on she sang with offhanded charm, she's become more confident and polished, doing fine by this songbook. Backed by piano-vibes-drums, with guest spots for Warren Vaché on cornet and Engelbert Wrobel on clarinet and tenor sax. B+(*)

Nicki Parrott: Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook (2016 [2017], Venus): With John Di Martino (piano), Frank Vignola (guitar), sister Lisa Parrott (baritone sax/bass clarinet), and some drums/percussion I can't find a credit for. Better songs, but not all of them work. B+(**)

Chris Pasin and Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside (2016 [2017], Planet Arts): Trumpet player, based in New York, studied at New England Conservatory, dropped out of jazz for a stretch but returned in 2009 with something he recorded in 1987. Second album I've heard, cut last June, aside from the title mostly Xmas songs, pretty much the last thing I was in the mood for on a Fourth of July morning -- but I suppose we can take some comfort that seasons come and go. Nice trumpet, and a few vocals from Patricia Dalton Fennell. B [cd]

The Perceptionists: Resolution (2017, Mello Music Group): Alt-hip-hop group from Boston, cut Black Dialogue, a terrific album, in 2005, plus a mixtape and a live album around that time, and nothing since then until now, although Jeffrey Haynes has had a notable career as Mr. Lif, as has Jared Bridgeman (aka Akrobatik). Not sure what happened to third member DJ Fakts One, but only two faces on this cover. Smart politics, the beats more jumbled as befits our more chaotic era. A-

Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won (2017, Domino): British singer-songwriter, fronted a memorable band called the Only Ones 1976-82, recorded a solo album in 1994 as the One, and finally came out with this album under his own name. Opener recalls "Sweet Jane" but is pretty great on its own. Then you start to recognize the old band, just older, slower, wearier, more desperate. Aren't we all? A-

Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (2016 [2017], ECM): Tenor saxophonist, always works in some soprano, adds clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, mbira and sampler here, in a quartet with David Virelles (piano/celeste), Joe Martin (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Mostly settles into soft moods here, but occasionally busts a solo like you know he can do. B+(*)

Karriem Riggins: Headnod Suite (2017, Stones Throw): From Detroit, now based in Los Angeles, made his first impact as a jazz drummer, then as a hip-hop producer. This splits the difference, leaning toward hip-hop instrumentals, but with 29 cuts, only two over 3 minutes, it plays more like a scrapbook of ideas. B+(**)

Troy Roberts: Tales & Tones (2017, Inner Circle): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Perth, Australia, half-dozen albums since 2006. Quartet with piano (Silvano Monasterios), bass (Robert Hurst), and drums (Jeff "Tain" Watts). Lively group, interesting detour on "Take the 'A' Train." B+(**)

Louis Sclavis: Asian Fields Variations (2016 [2017], ECM): French clarinetist, long discography since the early 1980s, trio here with Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Vinent Curtois (cello) -- both names in large print on the cover below the title. Chamber jazz, but it doesn't always go down smoothly, and is more interesting when it doesn't. [NB: download order shuffled from actual release.] B+(*) [dl]

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, expanded his name for a 2012 album and evidently still uses it. First album of a promised trilogy, "speaking to a litany of issues": "Slavery in America via the Prison Industrial Complex, Food Insecurity, Xenophobia, Immigration, Climate Change, Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, Fascism and the return of the Demagogue." No fixed band, but the various keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and exotic percussion add up to a derivative of Miles Davis funk, with two cuts featuring Elena Pinderhughes' flute. B+(**)

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Diaspora (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Second installment in his trilogy, credits the leader with many things in addition to his trumpet, including "sonic architecture," and doubles down early on Elena Pinderhughes' flute, adding a Sarah Elizabeth Charles vocal to close. B+(**)

Sex Mob: Cultural Capital (2016, Rex): Long-running quartet, released five albums 1998-2003, since then just one more every 3-4 years, making this their ninth. They've often done covers/spoofs in the past (e.g., Sex Mob Does Bond), but everything here was written by Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet, alto horn), with old hands Briggan Krauss (alto/baritone sax, guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic/electric bass, guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums/percussion). Plenty clever tricks, but no great jokes. B+(**)

ShitKid: ShitKid (2016, PNKSLM, EP): Swedish singer-songwriter Åsa Söderqvist. Eight cuts, 17:40, three with excrement in the title, but the single is "Oh Please Be a Cocky Cool Kid." Not clear whether the distortion is an aesthetic ploy or just sloppy recording. [Same title and cover previously released as 3-song, 7:23 single.] B- [bc]

ShitKid: EP 2 (2017, PNKSLM, EP): Not quite maturity, but she's learning, using the distortion more artfully, picking up bits of melody that recall girl groups or the NY Dolls doing girl groups although they're still pretty amateurish. Four songs, 10:52. B [bc]

ShitKid: Fish (2017, PNKSLM): Nine-cut, 28:15 "LP" -- repeats two songs from EP 2, including the obvious single "Sugar Town." Fans may be disappointed that the distortion abates, but that sounds like progress to me. Only a matter of time before she picks another moniker. B+(*) [bc]

Rotem Sivan: Antidote (2017, Alma): Israeli guitarist, based in New York, leads a trio with Haggai Cohen Milo (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Nice tone and momentum. B+(**)

Bria Skonberg: With a Twist (2017, Okeh): Canadian, based in New York, sings and plays trumpet, fifth album, mostly novelties swung hard in Gil Goldstein arrangements. Lots of studio musicians sashaying in and out. Not as much trumpet as I'd like, but she's sassy and fun. B+(*)

Songhoy Blues: Résistance (2017, Fat Possum): Guitar band from Mali, second US album, not sure if they have any from their days in Bamako, but they've moved on from covering Ali Farka Touré. Indeed, if you buy the line that Touré plays blues like John Lee Hooker, they resemble a Southern rock band, although they occasionally slip up. B+(**)

Sorority Noise: You're Not as ____ as You Think (2017, Triple Crown): Guitar band from Hartford, CT; third album, rather short, running 10 songs in 29:38 as they turn their anxieties into excruciating pain and sometimes resolve, or something like that. B+(**)

Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet: December Avenue (2016 [2017], ECM): Polish trumpet player, 75, discography starts around 1970 with his first ECM album in 1975 and many more from 1995 on. Quartet with David Virelles (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Supportive, although the trumpet is eloquent, and sometimes the pianist breaks out. B+(**) [dl]

Mavis Staples: I'll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration (2014 [2017], Blackbird Production Partners, 2CD): A Chicago concert for her 75th birthday celebration, chock full of guest stars who take most of the leads. Some names: Gregg Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy. (There also seems to be a 1-CD version that omits the less famous, like Joan Osborne, Otis Clay, Ryan Bingham, and Grace Potter.) They're in full raise-the-rafters mode when they mass, especially toward the end when they follow up the inevitable "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" with Talking Heads' "Slippery People," the title cut, and everyone piling onto the finale, where the stage buckles under "The Weight." B+(**)

Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory (2017, Def Jam): Young (23) rapper from Long Beach, second album plus two EPs Christgau prefers over his debut. This one's as sketchy as the EPs and not much longer (36:04). For me (three plays) the words never emerged from the beats, which were fine but not exceptional. B+(***)

Dave Stryker: Strykin' Ahead (2016 [2017], Strikezone): Guitarist, did a lot of his early work on SteepleChase (from 1991), often teaming up with saxophonist Steve Slagle, but goes his own way here: with Steve Nelson (vibes), Jared Gold (organ), and McGlenty Hunter (drums). Hints at soul jazz but settles for a smoother, more sparkling, groove. B+(*) [cd]

Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (2016 [2017], ECM): Pianist, from Minneapolis, was a big part of James Carter's 1990s Quartet. This is another quartet, although Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet) is here more for color and shading, never threatening to run away with so much as a song. Also with Chris Lightcap on bass and Dave King on drums, both (like the leader) dabbling in electronics. A- [dl]

Talinka: Talinka (2016 [2017], Moonjune): Principally singer-actress Tali Atzmon, produced by husband Gilad Atzmon, who also plays bass clarinet, soprano sax, and accordion, along with viola/violin, bass, and drums. Folkish, rooted in deepest, darkest Europe, a haunting vibe developed over the last few Orient House Ensemble albums. B+(***) [cd]

Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (2016 [2017], Capri): Bassist-singer, second album, more emphasis on the vocals this time (including some scat). One original, standards ranging from Ellington to Loesser to Leiber & Stoller ("Some Cats Know"), backed by piano and drums with Ken Peplowski (tenor sax/clarinet) on half the cuts, Roger Neumann (tenor/soprano sax) on two of those. Just bass and voice on "Willow Weep for Me" -- one of the finest versions ever. A- [cd]

Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart (2016 [2017], ECM): Guitarist, plays classical and 12-string on this solo outing, the title cut the only standard, all else original. He's been doing this sort of thing since the early 1970s. This strikes me as having a little more bite than has been his norm. B+(**) [dl]

Harriet Tubman: Araminta (2013 [2017], Sunnyside): Band consisting of Brandon Ross (guitar), Melvin Gibbs (bass guitar), and J.T. Lewis (drums), released two albums 1998-2000, a third in 2011, and now this fourth, where they are joined by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Named for the famous abolitionist, born into slavery in 1822 as Araminta Ross, and lately picked to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Smith is especially striking here, expanding and building upon the band's dense industrial-funk fusion. A- [dl]

Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm (2017, Merge): Fourth band album for Katie Crutchfield, joined here by twin sister Alison Crutchfield -- the pair previously fronted P.S. Eliot, then split with Alison recording as Swearin' before her solo album early this year. The hard anthems up front start as din but 3-4 songs in I start to follow, and even discern a bit of Alabama drawl. A-

Florian Wittenberg: Don't Push the Piano Around (2017, NurNichtNur): Avant composer, previously used electronics, wrote these pieces for piano and recruited Sebastiaan Oosthout to play them on a Fazioli 212 grand. Minimalist, mostly repetitive figures lapsing into more meditative passages. B+(**) [cd]

Wizkid: Sounds From the Other Side (2017, Starboy/RCA): Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, from Lagos, Nigeria, b. 1990, third album, first on a major label, genres listed as "Afrobeat, Afropop, reggae, dancehall, hip-hop" -- probably best known for a featured spot with Drake. Of those, the reggae/dancehall is most conspicuous, both on the opening and closing tracks. B+(**)

Glenn Zaleski: My Ideal (2014 [2017], Sunnyside): Pianist, from Massachusetts, based in New York, started with a 2010 duo with his saxophonist brother Mark. This is a trio with Dezron Douglas (bass) and Craig Weinrib (drums), plus one track with Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax. B+(*) [dl]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Battle Hymns (2017, Quasi Band): Various Portland-based artists, few I've heard of but Janet Weiss fills in more often than not on drums, Sam Coomes is nearly as common on bass, Corrin Tucker has a group called Filthy Friends, and Carrie Brownstein appears as MEDS. Released soon after the election, "pay what you want" with the proceeds split between Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and Indie rock that's still indie. Mixed bag of songs, with "Love in the Time of Resistance" my favorite. B+(***)

The Bob's Burgers Music Album (2010-16 [2017], Domino, 2CD): From the animated sitcom. Pretty sure I've seen a couple episodes (out of 129 in 7 seasons), but not recent enough to contextualize any of the 112 tracks that fill up 1:56:13. In fact, I wouldn't have bothered if Matt Rice hadn't recommended it so highly, and he probably knows all that context. What I can say is that most songs are just sketches -- a few amusingly familiar -- and most are about food. Still, they play to me like light operetta, even if rock-based. Also lots of dialogue. B+(*)

Miracle Steps (Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017) (1983-2017 [2017], Optimo Music): Jon Hassell, whose 1980 album with Brian Eno coined the "Fourth World" meme, contributes a piece, along with 13 others I don't recognize. At the time earth was conventionally carved into three worlds, so the implication is that this music is rather distant from all three. Here we get a surfeit of mallets and hazy reeds/flutes, so Larry Chernicoff's bent saxophone is a welcome surprise -- not that the usual stuff doesn't grow on you. B+(***) [bc]

Allen Ravenstine + Albert Dennis: >Terminal Drive (1975 [2017], Smog Veil, EP): Pere Ubu trivia, supposedly the entire original 15:39 version of the piece which appeared in shorter form in the 1996 Datapanik in the Year Zero box. Ravenstine, a keyboard player, joined the group in 1975, and worked with them through 1989. Dennis plays string bass here. Strikes me as much ado about damn little. B

Old Music

Albert Beger's 5: Listening (2004, Earsay): Israeli saxophonist, plays tenor on five tracks, alto on the other two, sparring with Yoni Silver (bass clarinet/alto sax/organ), backed with guitar, bass, and drums. Dedicated to the late Steve Lacy. Sometimes settles into a groove, more often fights its way out. B+(**)

Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway: There's Nothing Better to Do (2011 [2012], OutNow): Sax-drums duo, Beger playing tenor and soprano. Only really comes together when both push each other hard. [3/6 cuts] B+(*) [bc]

Willem Breuker Kollektief: In Holland (1981, BV Haast): Dutch avant group, dates back to 1974, ten pieces here, the leader playing three saxophones and two clarinets. Sometimes they veer too close to classical for my taste, more often they make rousing circus music, and occasionally throw in a tango, but you never doubt they're having a blast. B

Willem Breuker Kollektief: To Remain (1983-89 [1989], BV Haast): Mostly recorded in 1989, including the 12-part title suite, with a few earlier tracks stuck on at the end. Continues their avant mix of classical and circus music, at times turning downright cartoonish -- especially when they quote familiar tunes. All in good fun, I'm sure. B-

Daniel Carter/Toby Kasavan/Mark Hennen/William Parker: Feels Like It (2000 [2007], BDE-BDOP): Kasavan and Hennen both play piano/keyboards; Carter alto sax, flute, and trumpet, and Parker, of course, bass. Nothing on this album in Discogs, but thanks to Rick Lopez' magnificent Parker sessionography we know that Kasavan played with Parker once before (in 1977), while Hennen appears many times, from Jemeel Moondoc's Ensemble Muntu in 1973 all the way to 2008. Two long pieces, strong early as long as Carter can carry it. B+(*)

Larry Coryell: Lady Coryell (1968 [1969], Vanguard): The guitarist's first album, after his band Free Spirits' 1967 debut and a "featuring" credit under Chico Hamilton. First side seems aimed at some kind of psychedelic/Hendrix thing with vocals (not very good). Second side is jazzier, especially when Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison move in. B

Larry Coryell: Introducing the Eleventh House With Larry Coryell (1972 [1974], Vanguard): The guitarist's most famous band started here, five years after Coryell's debut, and continued through 1976. With Randy Brecker (trumpet), Mike Mandel (keybs), Danny Trifan (bass), and Alphonse Mouzon (drums). Compared to the 2016 reunion, the guitar is more central, the groove more fluid, and Brecker has yet to discover "skunk funk." B+(*)

Larry Coryell: The Restful Mind (1974 [1975], Vanguard): Featuring Ralph Towner (guitar), Collin Walcott (tablas/congas), and Glen Moore (bass); i.e., three-quarters of Oregon with the soft reeds replaced by more guitar power. Actually, pretty impressive when they turn that power on. B+(***)

Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 1 (2005, Earsay): Tempted to file this under Beger -- Israeli tenor saxophonist, also plays alto flute, b. 1959, album cut on his home turf, name centered on the cover, and of course his brash free runs dominate the sound -- but the spine and all other sources favor the drummer. Beger starts tentative but soon finds his voice, and charges hard until they close out with some kind of chant. B+(***)

Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 2 (2005 [2006], Earsay): More from the same sessions [but just 2/4 cuts on Napster]. "Funky Lacy" lives up to its title. B+(**)

Emperor X: Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform (2004, Discos Mariscos): Second album, seems to have been reissued by Bar/None in 2012 after they released Western Teleport in 2011. There's much more on his Bandcamp page, but this at least has the form of a song album, albeit with more blips and more bits where he just sits on a riff, but they're interesting in their own right. B+(**)

Free Radicals: The Rising Tide Sinks All (1998, RWE): The title presumably a play on "a rising tide lifts all boats" -- a phrase John F. Kennedy made famous when he argued for reducing the marginal income tax rate on the rich nearly two decades before Arthur Laffer's napkin, probably his second most disastrous legacy (after his decision to dig deeper into Vietnam, rather than get the hell out). Several titles are political, but the one that best captures the vibrant music is "Circus of Life." And when a vocal appears on the third track, it's some kind of Muslim prayer sung over hip hop tabla beats. A-

Free Radicals: Our Lady of Sunny Delights (2000, Rastaman Work Ethic): Second album, the core group augmented by close to fifty musicians, working through 31 pieces ranging from 9 seconds to 5:56, with fewer vocals but much exuberance -- even a song about the "Irrational" kind. B+(**)

Free Radicals: Aerial Bombardment (2004, Rastaman Work Ethic): Fifty musicians, 32 tracks, opens with a nod toward reggae but the occasional vocals take a turn toward hip-hop, with the instrumentals favoring beat pieces over their usual horns. B+(**)

Free Radicals: The Freedom Fence (2012, Free Radicals): Back after eight years, "an epic collaboration of 48 musicians to create a highly danceable funk, klezmer, dub, ska, jazz, hip hop, and salsa-soaked satire of borders, apartheid, and gentrification" -- I can't attest to all of that as I've only heard 10/23 tracks, but they still add up to 33:59, and they cover a lot of ground. B+(**)

Free Radicals: Freedom of Movement (2015, Free Radicals): Here Houston's radical collective reins in their usual eclecticism to work with "Houston's renowned breakdancing collective Havikoro." The funk beats are relentless, but the politics rarely advances beyond the song titles. B+(***)

Lisbon Improvisation Players: Motion (2002 [2004], Clean Feed): Second of three albums by this "group" -- first album was all-Portuguese, but only player on all three is saxophonist Rodrigo Amado (tenor/baritone here), with Acácio Salero on drums and two visiting Americans: Steve Adams (soprano/tenor sax) and Ken Filiano (bass). B+(*)

Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (1968, Columbia): Henry Saint Clair Fredericks Jr., born in Harlem 1942, grew up in Massachusetts; father a West Indian jazz arranger and piano player, mother sang in the church choir. Father was killed in an industrial act when Henry was 11, and his mother married the nephew of bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, pointing him toward guitar blues. In 1964 he formed a band with Ry Cooder before they both moved on to solo careers (Cooder plays rhythm guitar here). Eight blues standards done up as classic blues rock -- an impressive debut he then spread out from. B+(***)

Taj Mahal: Natch'l Blues (1968, Columbia): The debut proved he could play straight, hard, electric blues, but here is where he starts to sound distinctive, especially on his arrangement of "Corinna." He wrote five originals too, reducing the covers to four including a couple of soul efforts (William Bell and Homer Banks, but they suggest and fall short of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett). B+(***)

Taj Mahal: Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971, Columbia): More scattered, as he's starting to work in some things from his father's homeland in the West Indies, replete with Andy Narell's steel drums. Probably the most interesting thing here. On the other hand, his takes on such old fare as "Stealin'" and "Oh Susanna" come off a little hard. B+(**)

William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Spontaneous (2002 [2003], Splasc(H)): The bassist's big band, never the most disciplined of units but well stocked with free-thinkers (e.g., trumpets: Lewis Barnes, Matt Lavelle, Roy Campbell), in full improv fury, live at CBGB's in New York. Two half-hour pieces, "Spontaneous Flowers" (Ayler) and "Spontaneous Mingus." B+(*)

William Parker Bass Quartet Featuring Charles Gayle: Requiem (2004 [2006], Splasc(H)): The four bassists -- Parker plus Henry Grimes, Alan Silva, and Sirone -- set the tone and limit the momentum, with Gayle occasionally joining in on alto sax for a bit of spit and polish. B+(**)

Rising Sons: Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (1965-66 [1992], Columbia/Legacy): First band for the future roots stars, the 17-year-old Cooder recognizable vocally because he wasn't ready yet, although I can't complain about his bottleneck guitar. The 23-year-old Taj's voice is more obvious (even before he dubbed the final three tracks in 1992), and the vocals I can't place probably belong to Jesse Lee Kincaid -- he seems to have been the de facto leader of the group. Rounding out the band were Gary Marker (bass) and Ed Cassidy (drums, later replaced by Kevin Kelley). Terry Melcher produced an album, but it was shelved until being recast here, probably because their mixed bag country-rock needed a clearer voice to be recognized (like Gram Parsons, or Glenn Frey). Not that there isn't a decent blues EP here somewhere. B

Matthew Shipp Trio: The Trio Plays Ware (2003 [2004], Splasc(H)): With William Parker (bass) and Guillermo E. Brown (drums), not just any piano trio but David S. Ware's legendary quartet minus the saxophonist. Lacks the rough edges Ware couldn't help but add, and some of the emotional force as well, while revealing how centered the melodies were. B+(***)


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
  • [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