Streamnotes: March 25, 2019


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, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on February 25. Past reviews and more information are available here (12718 records).


Recent Releases

2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): Rapper Tauheed Epps, from Georgia, checkered career but his five albums have sold well, charting no lower than 4. Songs about dealing drugs and playing college basketball and playing taxes, all rooted in real life. B+(**)

4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 [2019], ACT): I go back and forth on how to parse the cover, but label's website credits this to the trombonist and dismisses "4WD" -- possibly just a graphic? Piano-bass-drums for the others, with Landgren singing a pop repertoire including Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, and Sting -- all gag-worthy. B-

Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): Rapper, know very little about him other than that he moved around a lot (including India, Hong Kong, Beijing, Fiji Islands), winding up in California, then Austin. Easy flow, promising but tails off a bit. B+(***)

Aesop Rock and Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): The former, rapper Ian Bavitz, debut in 1997, a dozen solo albums plus various collaborations. The latter, electronic musician Tom Fec, has a handful of albums since 2008 plus plays in psychedelic rock band Black Moth Super Rainbow. B+(***)

Cyrille Aimée: Live (2018, Mack Avenue): French jazz singer, ninth album since 2009, writes some, mostly covers, mostly in English, touching on Michael Jackson and Stephen Sondheim. Backed by two guitars, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Cyrille Aimée: Move On: A Sondheim Adventure (2019, Mack Avenue): Never a fan of musical theater, I have little sense of Sondheim other than the vague whiff of his fame -- enough to think that by now his songs would have eased into the standards repertoire, even though there's scant evidence of it. Sure, the French jazz singer has dabbled before, and here dives in whole hog. Still, two plays and nothing memorable. B

Atomic: Pet Variations (2018 [2019], Odin): Mostly Norwegian jazz quintet founded in 2001, weren't stars then but are now: Fredrik Ljungkvist (sax/clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Håvard Wiik (piano), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums, replaced by Hans Hulbaekmo c. 2015). Strong avant group, especially in the two 2004-08 albums with School Days (a Ken Vandermark quartet with same bassist and drummer). Vandermark also had a Giuffre-inspired trio with Wiik and Flaten, called Free Fall. Through all of this, Wiik often struck me as someone who'd rather be doing Third Stream fusion, and he seems to have gotten his way this time. His title piece draws on a bit of Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds," and the covers include Varese and Messaien, as well as Lacy, Bley, Giuffre, Schlippenbach, and Garbarek. Sometimes the horns remind you of the hoary old days, but mostly they tow the line. B+(**) [cd]

Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 [2019], self-released): Canadian alto saxophonist, won a Juno award, third quartet album, backed by piano-bass-drums, sometimes electric. B+(**)

Bali Baby: Resurrection (2018, Twin, EP): Atlanta rapper, out lesbian, released a short album I liked a lot (Baylor Swift, 8 cuts, 27:11) earlier in 2018, follows that up with an even shorter one (9 cuts, 19:33), still choppy but more cryptic. B+(**)

Bali Baby: Bubbles Bali (2019, Billmania Media): Her choppy beats and skimpy tunes are some sort of punk analog, but with 12 cuts running 33:09 I think we can call this a full album. Still cryptic, but a couple songs caught my ear. B+(**)

Marcia Ball: Shine Bright (2018, Alligator): Piano-playing blues singer from Texas and Louisiana, started with Soulful Dress on Rounder in 1984, one of her best. She always has preferred the upbeat numbers, and still does. B+(*)

The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 [2019], Palmetto): Pianist, made a big impression back in the 1990s but hasn't been very prolific lately. Nominally a "three-woodwind sextet (plus guests)" but skimpy on actual credits beyond solos, for which I count four "woodwind" players: Dayna Stephens, Billy Drewes, Adam Kolker, and Tim Armacost. Complexly layered, elegant, often quite lovely. A- [cd]

Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans): Tuneful, somewhat catchy Joint venture between singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. B+(*)

Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium (2019, IOT): South African rapper, second album, had a bit on Black Panther: The Album. Music here has an advanced industrial air, sheets of sound stretched around a steely pulse. A-

R.L. Boyce: Rattlesnake Boogie (2018, Waxploitation): Mississippi Hill country bluesman, protege of R.L. Burnside, waited until he was 52 to release a record, has several now. Takes a while to get on track, but he's rolling and tumbling by the end. B+(*)

Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (2017 [2019], Piloo): Trumpet player, actually a pretty great one, although he was overshadowed by his brother in their Brothers Band, where they made a bunch of popular but lousy records together. He's made some stink on his own, too, and this half qualifies, but breaks through here and there. Guest saxophonists David Sanborn and Ada Rovatti help. B [cd]

Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Bassist, from Oklahoma City, moved to New York in 2001, third album, 30-40 side credits. Trio with Mark Shim (tenor sax) and Damon Reid (drums). Wrote 4 (of 10) pieces, one by Shim, covers mostly from modern jazz musicians. A remarkably solid setting for all. A-

Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): Japanese girl band, J-pop or dance punk, second album, first was called Pink. Closer to bubblegum than to punk, but the latter introduces just enough noise and chaos into the mix to keep earworms from forming. B+(*)

Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Italian group, Michele Cavallari (keyboards) and Luca Fogagnolo (bass) founding members from 2006, half-dozen albums, now a quartet with Daniel Calvi (guitar) and Moritz Baumgartner (drums). Instrumental semi-pop, doesn't do much as jazz but that's where they're pitching it. B [cdr]

The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): Punkish girl group from Atlanta, a going concern since 2007, started to make me wonder whether they're going soft, but "F the NRA" allayed those fears, and the next song ("Memories") is even better. B+(***) [Later: A-]

Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 [2019], Gearbox): British tuba player, first album although he's been on several well-regarded albums of late (notably Sons of Kemet); group here (6 of 8 cuts) includes Nubya Garcia (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums), keeps up a pretty steady beat with a lot of bottom. B+(*)

Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (2017 [2019], Intakt): Bass, tenor/soprano sax, piano trio, listed alphabetically and jointly credited, but strikes me as the bassist's show, setting and breaking up time in a way that gives Laubrock a lot of leeway. A- [cd]

Czarface/Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (2019, Silver Age): The former a "supergroup" formed in 2013 when Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck joined 7L & Esoteric, producing a series of comic book-themed albums -- the best last year's Czarface Meets Metal Face with MF Doom. This title seems inevitable, but Ghostface can't help but be serious. B+(**)

Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): British rapper David Orobosa Omoregie, born in London, parents Nigerian, first album after two EPs and a bunch of singles. Concept heavy, working his way through psych sessions, finding his way and gaining confidence and comfort, although not without some psychodrama. A-

Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle (2019, International Anthem): Chicago singer-songwriter, plays clarinet, all other instruments on this debut album (limited edition cassette). Seems to qualify as "spiritual jazz," not something I can particularly relate to. B+(*) [bc]

Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): Organ player, like his father but better known, probably the best known practitioner of the instrument these days, with a lot of records since 1989. Also plays other keyboards, and trumpet on two tracks. Still, this doesn't sound like his usual soul jazz grind, especially when saxophonist Troy Roberts makes way for Pharoah Sanders on three cuts in the middle (Roberts plays bass on two of them). With Billy Hart on drums and Sammy Figueroa on percussion. I'm a bit lost here, but it's great to hear Sanders in any context, even here. B+(**)

Dreezy: Big Dreez (2019, Interscope): Chicago rapper Seandrea Sledge, dropped an album in 2016, this considered a mixtape, the difference unclear to me. B+(**)

Robert Ellis: Texas Piano Man (2019, New West): Singer-songwriter from Texas, fifth album since 2009, seems like he should have more country feel than he does. B

Ex Hex: It's Real (2019, Merge): Punk trio, led by Mary Timony, who's been doing this sort of thing since her 1994-97 band Helium, using Ex Hex as a solo album title in 2005, and adopting it as her band name in 2014. Second group album, straight and hard and more than a little catchy. B+(**)

FAVX: Welfare (2018, Miel de Moscas/Burger, EP): Postpunk group, from Madrid, Spain, six songs (in English), 19:22: can't tell much beyond loud, brash, hooky. B+(**) [bc]

Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 [2019], Iyouwe): Jazz singer, from Chicago, write about half of her songs, has a previous album. Does duets with Freddy Cole and Nancy Assis, draws on some name players, including Amina Figarova (piano), Rudy Royston (drums), Rez Abbasi (guitar), and Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax). B [cd]

Rosie Flores: Simple Case of the Blues (2019, The Last Music Company): Country singer, fond of rockabilly, 1987 eponymous debut was one of the year's best, has recorded fairly regularly but this comes after a 7-year break, a return to basics. B+(**)

Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): Australlian singer-songwriter, formerly in the Go-Betweens, had several solo albums in the 1990s, regrouped the band, then was left to resume his solo career when Grant McLennan died. Forster never seemed to have McLennan's knack for indelible melodies, but his songs are intelligent and humane, and he sticks with them until they work -- at least if listeners meet him midway. A-

Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (2018, Relative Pitch): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), based in Brooklyn, Discogs lists 14 albums since 2013, all but one with co-credits, but he's escaped my attention before. Young plans bassoon and electronics, mostly the latter here, and Zerang is a drummer. Not much unless you listen closely, and even then you wonder why bother? B+(*)

Fidel Fourneyron: ¿Que Vola? (2019, No Format): French trombonist, second album, leads a septet with three Cuban percussionists. B+(***)

Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (1985-2018 [2019], Origin): Guitarist, a dozen or so albums since 1987, solo here except one duet with a second guitarist, one cut pulled from the vault, five originals, two Beatles songs -- usually unjazzable but deconstructing the guitar parts seems appropriate, and they give you an anchor, as does "America the Beautiful." B+(*) [cd]

Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum III (2018 [2019], ACT): Trumpet/accordion/piano, third album for this trio, like its predecessors, a tidy little chamber jazz act. B+(**)

Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): Alt/indie group, principally Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass), both vocals, plus (at least) a drummer. Third album, melts together. B

Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (2017 [2019], Relative Pitch): Clarinet player (alto sax elsewhere), born in Argentina, past 70, based in Chicago, home of the young bassist, who rounds out these abstract duets. B+(**) [cd]

Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 [2019], ECM): Bassist, at least 80 side credits since 1988 (Brad Mehldau Trio, also Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner), Discogs has him on the headline of 18 albums, but first-listed only once before. He can't duck this one: it's solo, which is a pretty limited framework for a bassist -- even a very good one. B+(*)

Hama: Houmeissa (2019, Sahel Sounds): Mouhamadou Moussa, from Niger, plays keyboards or builds his music on a laptop (as seems to be the case here). Result is closer to electronica than to Saharan blues or rock. Some vocals, but mostly just for shading. B+(*)

ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: First Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018], ICP): Dutch avant tentet, founded 1967 by pianist-composer Misha Mengelberg, drummer Han Bennink, along with a who's who of future (and in some cases, like Willem Breuker, now past) stars. Mengelberg retired before this tour, replaced by Guus Janssen but they're still playing three of his old pieces. In Seattle, getting warmed up. B+(*) [bc]

ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: Second Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018], ICP): Getting warmer, the improvs often reminding me of circus music. B+(**) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered (2017, Ill Considered Music): British group, saxophonist Idris Rahman backed by bass (Leon Richard), drums (Emre Ramazanoglu), more percussion (Yahael Camara-Onono). Opens with a bass pulse, adding intertwining rhythm tracks that could stand on their own, topped with soaring, searing sax riffing. Could just be a great formula, or could be the makings of a genre. A [bc]

Ill Considered: Live at the Crypt (2017, Ill Considered Music): Satin Singh takes over the percussion slot, and Vincent De Boer is listed as a fifth member, but for "ink and brushes" -- cover art, I presume. Starts cautiously, runs long (83:05), tries to vary the concept without much success, percussion isn't up to snuff, yet there are more than a few stretches where saxophonist Idris Rahman blows me away. B+(***) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 3 (2018, Ill Considered Music): Back in the studio, working more from compositions -- whereas their masterful debut was reportedly improvised in less than two hours -- drummer Emre Ramazanoglu has gotten the rhythm back, while Idris Rahman's sax grows more and more expansive. Relatively short album (35:37), timed for vinyl. A- [bc]

Ill Considered: Live at Total Refreshment Centre (2018, Ill Considered Music): Some confusion about the date here. Little they haven't done before, but they continue to impress. B+(***) [bc]

Ill Considered: Live in Camden Town (2018, Ill Considered Music): Two jams, 40:45 total, featuring the addition of guitarist Steve Ashmore, adding some heft, not particularly what a band built on nimble rhythm needs. B+(**)

Ill Considered: Live in Nantes (2018, Ill Considered Music): Down to their core trio here -- Idris Rahman (sax), Leon Brichard (bass), and Emre Ramazanoglu (drums). Another long, strong, exciting set, perhaps the best of the year's three live albums, but differentiations are getting minor. B+(***)

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 5 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): No 4 that I'm aware of, that slot filled by three live albums (also a Christmas album) between 3 and 5, with a 6 coming out the same day. Back to quartet here, with Satin Singh on percussion -- not that he makes much impact. B+(***) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 6 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): Steve Ashmore returns as "special guest" on guitar, sharper than on his previous outing, while tenor saxophonist Idris Rahman doubles up on bass clarinet. The two albums are short enough they could have been squeezed onto a single CD, but I prefer this one on its own -- even ending with a touch of metal. A- [bc]

Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 [2019], ECM): Piano duets, two of the leading jazz pianists of their generation (b. 1970-71), everything jointly credited except for a bit at the end by Geri Allen. Live at Liszt Academy, Budapest. I'm not finding this quite as engaging as Taborn's recent duets with Kris Davis, but there is a lot to chew on here. B+(**)

Anthony Joseph: People of the Sun (2018, Heavenly Sweetness): Singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, born in Trinidad, moved to UK in 1989, has several albums. Big beat, lot of groove and flash, but did run on. B+(*) [bc]

Kel Assouf: Black Tenere (2019, Glitterbeat): Saharan rock band, founded in Brussels by Nigerien guitarist Anana Harouna, with Tunisian keyboardist Sofyann Ben Youssef (also dba Ammar 808). Not a lot of variation in this style, but this one sounds like the master take. A-

Rebecca Kilgore/Bernd Lhotzky: This and That (2017, Arbors): Standards singer, started in trad jazz bands in the 1980s, has been a regular on the label's retro-swing projects. Backed here by the German pianist, who's main group is called Echoes of Swing. B+(*)

Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Illuminated Silence (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Japanese pianist, based in Ireland, has a previous album (subtitled Piano Music From Japan and Ireland), draws some major names for this trio here. B+(**) [bc]

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (2019, OutHere): Ngoni master from Mali, harder and more powerful than the usual run of desert blues -- possibly his association with Youssou N'Dour has rubbed off, projecting some star power. Getting hard to differentiate after several strong albums, but I see no reason to stop here. A-

Brian Krock: Liddle (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist (also clarinet and bass clarinet here), first album under his own name after last year's Big Heart Machine big band. Five or six musicians, with Matt Mitchel (piano) and Olli Hirvonen (guitar). Slippery postbop, hard to pin down. B+(**) [cd]

Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 [2019], Mack Avenue): One of the most popular young jazz guitarist around, at 31 presents an album cover of burnt matches. raising the questino of whether he's burnt out. Actually, I'd say this is the most pleasing album he's done, a trio with Jorge Roeder and David King, one original (simply called "Lullaby"); covers from Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and Keith Jarrett; and best of all, two late '50s slices of pop opera, the title cut and Roy Orbison's "Crying." B+(***)

Lapis Trio: The Travelers (2017 [2019], Shifting Paradigm): Chicago group, principally guitarist Casey Nielson, also Dan Thatcher (bass) and Tim Mulvenna (drums). Light, attractive postbop groove. B+(*) [cd]

James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Tenor saxophonist, chops so impressive he got a major label contract out of the gate, made two great albums for them before parting ways -- perhaps they figured he was too far out, but he's only gotten farther out since (especially in the poet-led ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders). Quintet here with Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Anthony Pirog (guitar), Luke Stewart (bass), and Warren Trae Crudup III (drums), for some kind of rocking freebop. A-

David Liebman/Jeff Coffin/Victor Wooten/Chester Thompson/Chris Walters/James DaSilva: On the Corner Live! The Music of Miles Davis (2015 [2019], Ear Up): Saxophonist Coffin was the actual leader here, but artist names listed as "featuring," and Liebman -- who played with Davis on the 1972 album honored here -- does the introductions. The others play electric bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar, so the only trumpet is on the cover. B+(**)

Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Saxophonist David Liebman, tenor and soprano plus he plays some surprisingly impressive piano, with two percussionists: Adam Rudolph, who draws ideas and instruments from all over the world, and Hamid Drake, whose frame drums are wonderfully distinctive. It's their record, even when Liebman tries to run away with it. A- [cdr]

Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): British rapper Simbi Ajikawo, born in London, parents from Nigeria, third album. A-

Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (2018 [2019], self-released): Guitarist, has been prolific lately, here with Carey Frank (organ), Bob Sheppard (tenor sax), and Ben Scholz (drums). More standards than originals (7-3), nice soul jazz groove, some fine saxophone. B+(**) [cd]

Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (2018 [2019], Okeh): Saxophonist -- figure tenor plus a token bit of soprano -- with Joey Calderazzo (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Justin Faulkner (drums). Two songs each for Calderazzo and Revis, one for the leader, covers of Andrew Hill and Keith Jarrett. Nothing surprising, but a very solid return to form. B+(***)

Pat Martino: Formidable (2017, High Note): Guitarist, played mostly in soul jazz combos from 1963 into the late 1970s before an aneurism left him unable to play. He slowly recovered, producing regular albums from 1996 on. In his comfort zone here, with Pat Bianchi on organ, Adam Niewood (tenor sax), Alex Norris (trumpet), and Carmen Intorre (drums). B+(*)

Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (2017 [2019], RareNoise): Percussionist, born in New York, moved to Denmark at 6 and has stayed there, long and varied discography since 1986. She leads a mostly Scandinavian group here, best known is saxophonist Lotte Anker, but the vocals (Josefine Cronholm backed by everyone else) are more central, some riding oblique beats, more wrapped into fetching semipop chorales. B+(**) [cdr]

Dan McCarthy: Epoch (2019, Origin): Vibraphonist, from Canada, based in New York, several previous albums. This is a string-heavy quartet with Mark Feldman (violin), Ben Monder (guitar), and Steve Swallow (electric bass), with Feldman carrying most of the weight. I've never much cared for Feldman before, but he's consistently sharp here, as well as gorgeous. B+(***) [cd]

Joe McPhee/John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee (2019, Trost): Avant sax duo, alto and tenor (this time), one from US, other from UK, both go way back, both have done solo albums, not sure if they've ever played together although McPhee has spent a lot of time in Europe and for most of it has averaged close to ten records per year. Obviously of specialized interest, but they fill in nicely and flesh each other out. B+(***) [bc]

Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (2019, self-released): Pianist, from Yerevan, Armenia, moved to US after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Has at least one previous. This is a trio with Jon Steele (bass) and Kelton Norris (drums). One original, rest based on traditional folk songs. Runs long (69:30), very listenable. B+(**) [cd]

Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Session (2018 [2019], Third Man): Major guitarist from the famed Tuareg hamlet of Agadez in Niger, deep into the Saharan Desert. I've been impressed by his work before, but wonder sometimes how much one needs. Still, hard to fault this live set recorded on tour in Detroit. In fact, it may be the one to recommend first. A-

Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): New project from Liz Harris, of Grouper. The longer first piece is built mostly from voice, but dissolves into ambience -- more attractively on the second piece. B+(*)

Sean Noonan Pavees Dance: Tan Man's Hat (2018 [2019], RareNoise): Drummer, self-described "Irish griot," launched this group in 2014, has gone through several guitarists to get to Ava Mendoza here, with Jamaaladeen Tacuma on electric bass and Alex Marcelo on keyboards. Still, major collaborator is ex-Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney. My first reaction was "aims for Beefheart, misses Zappa." Missing Zappa isn't necessarily a dis, but the slippery slop is pretty hit and miss. B [cdr]

Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): Four black folkies with banjos -- Rhiannon Giddens and Leyla McCalls from Carolina Chocolate Drops, Amythyst Kiah and Allison Russell -- torn between their instinct to preserve old slave hollers and minstrel tunes and to update them to reconstruct a history they obscure as much as belong to. CD comes with a thick booklet to help you keep score. Still, even without the history much of this is gripping. A-

Kassa Overall: Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2018 [2019], self-released): Has a solid rep as a jazz drummer, but has also released albums with rapper Kool A.D., tries to go both ways here, but doesn't really succeed at either. Guest shots range from trumpet players Theo Croker and Roy Hargrove to avant-gadfly Arto Lindsay. B+(**) [bc]

Jessica Pavone: In the Action (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Plays viola, associated mostly with Mary Halvorson, solo here, also credited with effects -- explains the patch of electronic static late on. Not an instrument I enjoy, but she holds my attention, mostly on edge. B+(**) [cd]

People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, the P (2019, Piecelock 70): Los Angeles hip-hop duo, Christopher Portugal (Thes One) and Michael Turner (Double K), formed in 1997, decided to call it quits with this final album. First I've heard of them, but I feel right at home. After all, their beats would have been recognized as old style even when they started. And while they're not as old as I am, their maturity sounds earned. A-

Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix) (2019, Beats in Space): Japanese DJ/producer Moko Shibata, remixing various artists (including one of his own cuts, no one else I particularly recognize). Mostly nice beats with minor variations. B+(**)

Psymun: All Killer No Filler (2018, self-released, EP): Minneapolis DJ Simon Christenson, three albums and various shorter releases, this one 5 tracks, 21:04, "just the latest things I've been working on." High point a bit of rap with Chester Watson. B+(*) [bc]

Idris Rahman/Leon Brichard/Tom Skinner: Wildflower (2017, self-released): Sax, bass, and drums, the first two also in the group Ill Considered, the change of drummers making this a bit more conventional. Rahman also plays flute, both on the opener and its reprise at the end. Notes cite spiritual jazz, including Yusef Lateef. B+(**)

Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Cello and drums duet, latter also credited with "objects." Reid is based in Chicago, has co-headlined albums with various notables there, including Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed, and Dave Rempis, plus has a very good Quartet album. Monico is from Italy, has been around longer but rarely in the limelight. This has its moments of scrachy minimalism, but they hold together remarkably well. A- [cd]

RGG/Verneri Pohjola/Samuel Blaser: City of Gardens (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): Polish piano trio, originally an abbreviation of the artist surnames -- Przemyslaw Raminiak, Maciej Garbowski, Krzysztof Gradziuk -- until Lukasz Ojdana took over the piano slot in 2013. Recent albums had them backing Evan Parker and Trevor Watts. Here they get top billing with trumpet and trombone. Midway through they're more interesting on their own, but eventually the horns rise to the challenge. B+(**) [bc]

Alfredo Rodriguez/Pedrito Martinez: Duologue (2019, Mack Avenue): Cuban expats, piano and percussion, a duo but both sing so they're mostly accompanists. Not great singers, but you don't miss not having a full band. B+(***)

Rüfüs Du Sol: Solace (2018, Reprise): Australian alt-dance group, I figure them as electropop rather than electronica, similar to Chromeo but less amusing. B+(*)

Catherine Russell: Alone Together (2019, Dot Time): Got a late start with her first album at 50. This makes 7 since 2006, standards, musical director guitarist Matt Munisteri, Mark Shane on piano, a good retro horn sextion on 7/11 tracks (Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Evan Arntzen). Fine, but not as striking as her recent albums. B+(**)

Ustad Saami: God Is Not a Terrorist (2019, Glitterbeat): From Karachi, 75 so may have just landed there after the British cleaved the subcontinent into two warring factions, "one of Pakistan's most revered and iconic classical singers," traces his roots to the 13th century. Not sure what the instrument is here, but sounds like a cross between organ and bagpipes, plus some percussion. I can imagine someone finding this hypnotic, but unbearable is what I'm feeling. C

Dua Saleh: Nur (2019, Against Giants, EP): From Sudan, rapper based in St. Paul, Minnesota, 5 cut (21:06) EP produced by Psymun, a Minneapolis beatmaker with ten or so releases since 2012. Sounds promising, then slips from consciousness. B+(**)

Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (2017-18 [2019], Sunnyside): Pianist, from New Orleans, based in New York, third album, trio with Henry Fraser (bass) and Connor Baker (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ancestral Recall (2019, Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, debut in 2005, Africanized his name in 2012, released a well-regarded trilogy in 2016. This follow up builds on his popularity by throwing everything at it: his own synths, guest flute and alto sax, lots of African percussion, lots of voices. Best when the clutter clears and his trumpet breaks out like the sun on a cloudy day. B+(*) [bc]

Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): Norwegian pop star Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, first album after two EPs, mostly dance beats, which help although her voice doesn't slip when she slows it down. B+(**)

Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): After several outings with his rock band Hard Working Americans, back to folk mode, guitar and harmonica more minimal than ever (although he's got a couple of name guests in the background), puts his words out front, and he's pretty pissed. Title refers to the recording studio, originally a shack used by John R. Cash. A-

The Specials: Encore (2019, Island): British ska band, founded 1977, heyday 1980-81, split up in 1984, had a brief reunion in 1993, then a stretch that produced four albums 1996-2001. In 2007 they regrouped for some concerts, and have played off and on ever since, but hadn't recorded an album until this one. Not bad, as these things go. Deluxe Edition adds a live disc I didn't bother with. B+(*)

Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (2018 [2019], A.T. Music): Standards singer, from Tacoma, sixth album since 2013, does a fair approximation of London doing classic songbook material you've heard dozens (or hundreds) of times before. B+(*) [cd]

Dexter Story: Bahir (2019, Soundway): Multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, studied at UC Berkeley, member of Build an Ark and the Life Force Trio, two previous albums (plus remixes), cites East African influences ("Ethiopian jazz, Tuareg grooves, ekista dance rhythms, Afro-funk, Somalian soul, and conteporary jazz influences"), with various featured guests (like Ethiopian singer Hamelmal Abate). B+(*) [bc]

Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 [2019], Alfa Projects): Baritone saxophonist, also plays flute, cut a record in 1985, more regularly 1997-2011. Quartet here backed by piano-bass-drums, mostly plays early bop standards -- one original blues, a Jobim, a very nice "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You." Needless to say, I prefer the bari. B+(**) [cd]

Tallawit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo (2011 [2018], Sahel Sounds): Traditional Saharan group from northern Mali, Aghaly Ag Amoumine sings and plays tehardine, accompanied by a second tehardin (bass) and calabash (percussion). Recommended if you think the better known Saharan bands are just a little too polished. This is pretty raw. B+(***) [bc]

David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (2015-18 [2019], ECM): Guitarist, recorded a couple of albums for ECM 1985-87, more on obscure labels until his return in 2007. In the meantime started producing Berne (alto sax), who followed him to ECM with his Snake Oil group, including drummer Smith. Three 22-24 minute pieces, two by the trio, the middle one an expanded group with piano (Craig Taborn), guitars, and strings (Scorchio Quartet) thickening the atmosphere. The final cut is called "Soften the Blow," but it only gets harder and more furious. B+(***)

Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 [2019], Origin): Trumpet player, recent records have been co-credited to Aaron Lington and their Bicoastal Collective. Backed with piano-bass-drums, this puts the focus on his trumpet, which shines. B+(*) [cd]

Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): Guitar-bass-drums trio: Gregory Uhlmann, Clark Sommers, and Matt Carroll. Title seems to reference insatiable consumerism, but the message is more like chill out. B+(**) [cd]

Urbanity: Urbanity (2018 [2019], Alfi): Smooth jazz duo, Albare (Albert Dadon, guitars) and Phil Turcio (keyboards/programming), second album, each has an album or two on their own. They split the writing credits, aside from one cover -- a very genteel "Desperado." A guest vocal, of course, and a bit of tenor sax (Tim Ries). Not exactly bland, but pretty damn blasé. B [cd]

Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 [2019], Taina Music): Brazilian singer, born and raised in Rio De Janeiro but based in Santa Cruz, California since the mid-1980s. I don't get much from her voice, but was impressed by the rhythm in "Cumeno Com Cuentro." B+(*) [cd]

Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off From Greenwood (2017 [2019], Greenleaf Music): Alto saxophonist, from Chicago, group with two guitars (Matt Gold and Dave Miller), electric bass (Matt Ulery), and drums (Quin Kirchner). Can't even call this fusion, as it avoids both rock and jazz. B-

Trevor Watts/Stephen Grew: Let It Be: Live in Liverpool (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Duo alto/soprano sax and piano, the former one of the founders of the British avant-garde, the latter's discography kicking off in 2014. Lively, but a bit arch. B+(*) [bc]

Anna Webber: Clockwise (2017 [2019], Pi): Tenor saxophonist, also plays various flutes, handful of albums since 2010, composes tricky pieces for septet, with Jeremy Viner also on tenor sax (alt. clarinet), Jacob Garchik on trombone, Matt Mitchell on piano, plus cello, bass, and drums. Took me a while to come around on this, and it's still too slippery to be sure. B+(***) [cd]

Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD/Interscope): Rapper Khadimou Rassoul Cheikh Fall, born in New York, parents Senegalese, spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee before returning to new York. First album. B+(***)

Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 [2019], Northern Spy): Prolific avant-trumpet player, adds electronics here, backed by Mary Halvorson (guitar), Susan Alcorn (pedal steel), and Ryan Sawyer (drums/voice). Three longish (13:50-20:04) pieces, inspired by one of Canada's more famous (for now) glaciers. Like the icefield, moves slow, and melts fast. B+(*)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 [2019], Jazzline): New Orleans piano master, knew classical as well as the home town favorites. Cut his first single in 1954 (age 14), but didn't get an album released until Junco Partner in 1976, his breakthrough which led to several tours of Europe, including this set, before his death in 1983 (age 43). Solo, sings along, earns his reputation, but doesn't add much to it. B+(**)

Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 [2019], Rainman): Probably my favorite pop group of the early 1980s -- I gave their five 1980-85 records { A-, A+, A, A-, A- }, but only two comparable albums since then -- but no live album until 1990, so this concert tape (originally released as a DVD in 2006) is ideally placed, with 16 great songs. Still, the live sound does them no favoes, and the payoff of extra energy only arrives at the end ("Endicott"). B+(*)

Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars: Sewele (1986 [2019], Strut): Nigerian juju star, started in 1980 with his big breakthrough in 1989, tailing off a bit after 2000. Four tracks, 40:05. A bit erratic, but hard to resist anything that sounds this much like early King Sunny Adé. A-

Sun Ra and His Spirit of Jazz Cosmos Arkestra: WUHY Radio, Philadelphia, 1978 (1978 [2019], Enterplanetary Koncepts): Radio shot, bits of interviews and other distractions from the often remarkable music. B+(*) [bc]

Travailler, C'est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent ([2018], Swallow, 2CD): Vincent (1882-1970) was a subsistence farmer who wrote a few Cajun songs. Harry Oster recorded him in 1953, offering three in his 1957 A Sampler of Louisiana Folksongs. Somehow Vincent became the honoree of 2018's Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. No dates on these 20 recordings, which include a couple with Vincent but also feature recent artists (Steve Riley, Zachary Richard, etc.). B+(*)

Townes Van Zandt: Sky Blue (1973 [2019], Fat Possum): Folkie singer-songwriter from Texas, released six albums 1968-72, just three more before he died at 52 in 1997, some kind of legend in his niche, but never a star, and the two records I managed to check out didn't impress me much. Eleven previously unreleased tunes, eight of them originals, all just acoustic guitar and voice, B+(*) [bc]

Old Music

Aceyalone: All Balls Don't Bounce (1995, Capitol): Rapper Eddie Hayes, first album, cover looks familiar but no grade in my database. B+(**) [bc]

Aceyalone: A Book of Human Language (1998, Project Blowed): Second album, just before the first one I noticed -- the excellent Accepted Eclectic. Cover credit: "Accompanied by Mumbles." Beats, I presume, B+(**) [bc]

Atomic: There's a Hole in the Mountain (2012 [2013], Jazzland): Original lineup after twelve years, the last album before drummer Paal Nilssen-Love left. But the more important transition is that pianist Håvard Wiik has become the main composer, 4-2 over saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, tipping the scales away from raw energy toward greater sophistication -- not necessarily a good thing. B+(*)

Chick Corea: The Complete "Is" Sessions (1969 [2002], Blue Note, 2CD): Expands his 1969 album Is with alternate takes, from a period when the pianist was close to the avant fringe -- there is a fair aount of that here, especially with Bennie Maupin (tenor sax), but Hubert Laws (flute) has other ideas, with Woody Shaw (trumpet) in the middle. Rhythm section was young and fast on their way to becoming major players: Dave Holland (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(**)

Chick Corea: The Song of Singing (1970 [1989], Blue Note): Piano trio, with Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums), from a period when the same group plus Anthony Braxton were recording as Circle, and Corea and Holland were playing with Miles Davis. B+(***)

Chick Corea: Verve Jazz Masters 3 (1972-78 [1993], Verve): Early CD-era compilation of a critical period in the pianist's career, when he moved from his early postbop and avant interests to grab a piece of the fusion jackpot and lay claim to his Spanish roots. Mostly electric keyboards, scattered horns and/or strings, a couple of vocals (Gayle Moran). Works as a lively cross-section, although he winds up much less interesting than he started. B+(*)

Rosie Flores: Girl of the Century (2009, Bloodshot): Not sure how I missed this: a rockabilly singer I've long liked, moved to a label I usually check even unknowns out on, cover art by Jon Langford, backed by his Pine Valley Cosmonauts band. Good covers of good songs, plus not-so-good songs only partly redeemed. B+(*)

Rebecca Kilgore/The Harry Allen Quartet: Live at Feinstein's at Loews Regency: Celebrating "Lady Day" and "Prez" (2011, Arbors): Seems like something of a mismatch, but they know their history, and have built careers out of their love of classic swing. B+(***)

Carol Leigh: Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night (1984 [1996], GHB): Trad jazz singer, starting with Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey, mostly recorded with the Salty Dogs and in a duo with James Dapogny, but has a few albums under her own name. Credits on this one include Ernie Carson (cornet), John Otto (clarinet), Knocky Parker (piano), Shorty Johnson (tuba), and Hal Smith (drums). CD adds parts of another album with a different group. Mostly blues, echoes from the 1920s. B+(**)

Carol Leigh/Dumouster Stompers: Back Water Blues (1993 [2016], GHB): Another trad jazz group, recorded five albums (as far as I can tell) 1993-2005, originally on the French Black & Blue label, with the singer getting top billing here. Cover says "Dedicated to Montauban." B

Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Bricktop (2015 [2016], Trost): Avant tenor sax/bass duo. B+(**) [bc]

Stanley Turrentine: Comin' Your Way (1961 [1987], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, at home in soul jazz, later on a marvelous ballad player. Just getting started here, a quintet with brother Tommy Turrentine on trumpet, Horace Parlan on piano, plus bass and drums. B+(*)

Revised Grades

Sometimes further listening leads me to change an initial grade, usually either because I move on to a real copy, or because someone else's review or list makes me want to check it again:

Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [was B+(**)] 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