Streamnotes: July 27, 2020


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 June 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (15106 records).


Recent Releases

6lack: 6pc Hot Ep (2020, Interscope, EP): Atlanta rapper Ricardo Valentine, two albums, came up with this 6 song, 18:48 EP. Starts impressive, drags at the end. B+(*)

Juhani Aaltonen/Jonas Kullhammar/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Ilmari Heikinheimo: The Father, the Sons & the Junnu (2019 [2020], Moserobie): Two tenor saxophonists, the former also playing flute, the latter baritone sax, with bass and drums. Order from spine. Cover interleaves names with title, tagging Kullhammar as father and the much older Aaltonen as Junnu. Two masters. And while I prefer his sax, Aaltonen's flute remains impressive as ever. A- [cd]

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Faces of Souls (2015-19 [2020], Leo): Long-running Boston group, first two records (1993-95) under leader Mark Harvey's name, but group seems to date back to 1972 ("48 years"). Harvey started out on trumpet, but plays piano here, and composed everything. This was cobbled together from four sets, so the personnel shifts a bit, but you usually get around 15 musicians, playing dirge-like suites. A group I should explore. B+(*)

Riz Ahmed: The Long Goodbye (2020, Mongrel): British rapper, Pakistani parents, also known as Riz MC, one half of Swet Shop Boys, even better known as an actor (e.g., HBO's The Night Of). Second album, short (14 cuts, 26:58), a Clash critic described it as "a tightly packed, lightning-quick swing at the racism of British society." B+(*)

Aksak Maboul: Figures (2020, Crammed Discs): Belgian experimental pop group, principally Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, recorded two 1977-80 albums, released an earlier shelved one in 2014, recently revived for a new album. In the meantime, Hollander runs Crammed Discs, and Kenis produced their Congotronics albums. Long, complex, more Euro than African, may grow on you, but hard for me to pass a snap judgment. B+(**)

Anteloper: Tour Beats Vol. 1 (2020, International Anthem, EP): Duo, Jaimie Branch (trumpet) and Jason Nazary (drums), did an album in 2018 (Kudu), add 4 cuts (22:38) here. Mostly electronics for both of them, although her riffing over the beats is pretty surefire. B+(*)

Arca: Kick I (2020, XL): Venezuelan electronica producer Alejandra Ghersi, born in Caracas, lived in Connecticut for a few years before returning, wound up in Barcelona. Fourth album. Arch, arty, arcane. Doubt it's something I would ever grow to like much, but there's something pretty unique about it. B+(*)

Bananagun: The True Story of Bananagun (2020, Full Time Hobby): Australian group, first album, elements of jangle pop. B+(*)

Conrad Bauer/Matthias Bauer/Dag Magnus Narvesen: The Gift (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): German trombonist, actual name Konrad, better known as Conny, a major figure in the German avant-garde since 1973 (especially in Zentralquartett). With bass and drums. B+(**) [cdr]

Beauty Pill: Sorry You're Here (2020, Taffety Punk Theatre Company): Washington DC band, principally Chad Clark, released an EP in 2001 leading up to a 2004 album, then nothing until 2015, and LP/EP releases this year. Mostly electronics, some spoken word or other trip-hoppy vocal shadings, quietly impressive if not quite convincing. Does make me wonder if I underrated their 2015 album. [PS: Not much.] B+(***)

Beauty Pill: Please Advise (2020, Northern Spy, EP): Five songs (22:31), all proper with vocals, electronics give way to guitar. B+(*)

Clint Black: Out of Sane (2020, Blacktop/Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter, 1989 debut a big hit, twelfth album (skipping two Xmas joints). I hadn't heard anything by him since a dreadful 2004 album (his eighth and last top-10 country chart). This one sounds good enough, not that better songs wouldn't help. B+(*)

Blaer: Yellow (2019 [2020], Ronin Rhythm): Swiss quintet, pianist Maja Nydegger composed everything, with two saxophonists (Nils Fischer also on bass clarinet), bass, and drums, with Nik Brtsch as co-producer. Third album. After a couple of atmospheric cuts, starts to tighten down the rhythm, and build on that. B+(**)

Bombay Bicycle Club: Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (2020, Island): British indie band, fifth album since 2009. B

Adam Caine Quartet: Transmissions (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, several albums since 2005, including a duo with Robert Dick in 2019. Quartet adds a second guitar (Bob Lanzetti), acoustic bass (Adam Lane), and drums (Billy Mintz), with alto sax (Nick Lyons) on one track. Starts easy, turns into something intense, fades away. A- [cd]

Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open (2020, Matador): Will Toledo started with eight lo-fi download releases (2010-13) before being picked up by Matador and given a budget, at which point he became a semi-popular blip. I was less impressed, so when this didn't get much reaction, I didn't bother. Turns out it's pretty sharp. A-

James Carney Sextet: Pure Heart (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Syracuse, New York, based in New York City, eighth album since 1993. With Stephanie Richards (trumpet), Oscar Noriega (bass clarinet/alto sax), Ravi Coltrane (tenor/soprano/sopranino saxes), Dezron Douglas (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums). Sophisticated postbop, the rhythm section never finding the beat nor losing it completely, the horns swooping in and out of the chaos. B+(***)

Franois Carrier/Masayo Koketsu/Daisuke Fuwa/Takashi Itani: Japan Suite (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Alto saxophonist, from Montreal, picks up a local band in Japan: alto sax, bass, drums. Has its impressive moments, but runs long (78:14). B+(***) [cd]

The Chicks: Gaslighter (2020, Columbia): Formerly the Dixie Chicks, changed their name in June just before their first album since 2006, when they were defying the backlash for disrespecting fellow Texan GW Bush. Leader Natalie Maines, multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie and Emily Erwin (now Maguire and Strayer). Co-produced by Jack Antonoff, who nudges them closer to pop than country. B+(***)

Gerald Clayton: Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard (2020, Blue Note): Pianist, son of bassist John Clayton, nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton, has led several albums since 2009. This is a quintet with two saxes (Logan Richardson and Walter Smith III), bass (Joe Sanders), and drums (Marcus Gilmore). B+(**)

Clem Snide: Forever Just Beyond (2020, Ramseur): Vehicle for singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay since 1998, not the first band named from William S. Burroughs. Plain-spoken, not sure you can even call it Americana, leans on God (per the title), not sure that qualifies one way or the other, but leaves me out. B+(**)

Jeff Cosgrove/John Medeski/Jeff Lederer: History Gets Ahead of the Story (2018 [2020], Grizzley Music): Drums, organ, and saxophones/flute. Ten songs, all by William Parker -- a bit surprising, given the lack of avant frills. Parker's long struck me as a composer who likes to keep it simple, which is why his tunes hold up in such a different context. B+(***) [cd]

Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road (2020, High Note): Jazz singer, plays piano, dozen albums since 1998. Ten tracks, six with scene-stealing guest stars -- two each for Sheila Jordan (vocals), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), and Houston Person (tenor sax) -- the others with just piano trio (Martin Wind and Matt Wilson). B+(***)

Robert Dick & Adam Caine: The Damn Think (2017 [2019], Chant): Flute and guitar duo. Dick impressed me back in the 1990s, in large part due to his fondness for bass flute, and Caine has a good new quartet album out. Intimate exchange, mixed results. B+(*) [bc]

Drakeo the Ruler: Thank You for Using GTL (2020, Stinc Team): Rapper Darrell Caldwell, from Los Angeles, resume starts with "first arrested at the age of 12." Has been in and out of jail ever since, recording several mixtapes when he got out. He was acquitted of murder in 2019, but the charges were refiled as "criminal gang conspiracy," and he was still in jail when he recorded this, using GTL (Global Tel Link)'s ICS (Inmate Calling Service), with JoogSZN producing. Feels claustrophobic, lots of pressure, little hope. B+(**)

Dramarama: Color TV (2020, Pasadena): New wave band from New Jersey in the 1980s, recorded two good 1985-87 albums, a couple more before hanging it up in 1994. Regrouped for another in 2005, and now this one. Singer-songwriter John Easdale is constant. B+(*)

Dream Wife: So When You Gonna . . . (2020, Lucky Number): London-based girl group, lead singer Rakel Mjll originally hailing from Iceland, has a couple cute quirks to her voice, which give way to smart lyrics and occasional philosophical depth, like how uniquely woderful now is, and why her body is hers alone. A-

Gregory Dudzienski Quartet: Beautiful Moments (2019 [2020], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, has a previous album. Mainstream, nice tone, some swing, backed by piano (Chris White), bass, and drums. All originals. B+(*) [cd]

Baxter Dury: The Night Chancers (2020, Heavenly): English singer-songwriter, son of the late new wave genius Ian Dury, sixth album since 2002, talks his way through most songs, against swank orchestra and chorus. Bears signs of inheritance, raised in an evolved culture, which makes what he does seem inevitable rather than extraordinary. B+(*)

Extra Soul Perception: New Tangents in Kampala, London & Nairobi Vol. 1 (2019 [2020], Extra Soul Perception, EP): Ad hoc collective, five tracks (16:17), recorded in Nairobi, attributed to various artists. B+(*)

Agust Fernndez/Liudas Mockunas: Improdimensions (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Duo, piano and reeds (contrabass clarinet, tenor and soprano sax). B+(***) [cdr]

Field Music: Making a New World (2020, Memphis Industries): English band, first album 2005, seventh album, fond of keyboards. B+(*)

Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul (2020, On the Corner): South African drummer, opens with strong sax (Buddy Wells) and trumpet (Robin Fassie-Kock), for the 18:55 "State of Emergence Suite." Slows down then, with Nono Nkoane singing. And don't forget the township jive thing. B+(**)

Ricardo Grilli: 1962 (2020, Tone Rogue): Guitarist, based in New York, third album, previous one was 1954, not clear to me what the dates signify (Grilli was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1985). Postbop quintet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Kevin Hays (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). B+(**)

David Guetta/Morten: New Rave (2020, Parlophone, EP): French DJ, seven albums since 2002, a series of compilations called Fuck Me I'm Famous, more than 100 singles, EPs, and production credits. Collaborator is Dieser Morten, but that's about all I know. Dense, catchy, 4 cuts, 12:20. B+(**)

Bartosz Hadala Group: Three Short Stories (2020, Zecernia): Pianist, born in Poland, moved to New York in 2003, on to Toronto in 2010. Fourth album, group with two saxes, electric guitar and bass, accordion, and drums -- listed as "feat." on the cover are Michael Manring (bass guitar) and Joo Frade (accordion). B+(**) [cd]

Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) (2020, Ndeya): "Fourth world" music pioneer, plays trumpet, keyboards, electronics, following up his previous Pentimento volume, Listening to Pictures. B+(***)

Hegge: Feeling (2020, Particular): Norwegian bassist Bjrn Marius Hegge, who wrote all but two songs -- Jonas Kullhammar (tenor sax) and Vigleik Storaas (piano) wrote those; also in the band: Martin Myhre Olsen (alto/soprano sax) and Hkon Mjset Johansen (drums). Upbeat, playful even. B+(***)

Derrick Hodge: Color of Noize (2020, Blue Note): Bass guitarist, third album (fourth counting R+R=Now), side credits with Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, and a few more. B

Horse Lords: The Common Task (2020, Northern Spy): Fusion group from Baltimore, sax-guitar-bass-drums with most also into electronics. Fourth album, draws on Appalachia and Africa, arcane tunings, polyrhythms. Can build riff pieces, and run them into the ground. B+(*)

John Pl Inderberg Trio: Radio Inderberg (2019 [2020], AMP Music): Norwegian baritone saxophonist, albums date from 1995, including a couple with Lee Konitz. Trio with bass (Trygve Waldemar Fiske) and drums (Hkon Mjset Johansen). Mostly trad pieces, some by group, covers of Konitz, Monk, and Lars Gullin. B+(***)

Jarv Is: Beyond the Pale (2020, Rough Trade): Jarvis Cocker, former Pulp front man (1983-2001), fourth solo album, cover reads "JARV IS . . ." but title is somewhere else. Seven songs, co-written with Serafina Steer and (usually) others, all neatly hooked. A-

Jockstrap: Wicked City (2020, Warp, EP): London duo: Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye. Second EP, five cuts, 20:45. Glitch pop, very scattershot, something I'd normally hate but too ridiculous for that. B

Edward "Kidd" Jordan/Joel Futterman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: A Tribute to Alvin Fielder: Live at Vision Festival XXIV (2019 [2020], Mahakala Music): Fielder (1935-2019) was a drummer, born in Mississippi, a charter member of AACM, only one record as leader but a fair number, especially with Jordan (tenor sax) and/or Futterman (piano), who are the stars in this 45:03 blow out. Kidd's closing comments are every bit as good. B+(***)

Camden Joy: Updated Just Now (2020, self-released, EP): Singer-songwriter Tom Adelman, has written six books, mostly fictionalized rock crit -- I'm pretty sure I read his The Last Rock Star Book or Liz Phair: A Rant (1998), although I can't recall any details. First record (at least under this alias), seven songs, 24:50, rough and sloppy folk-rock. B+(**)

KA: Descendants of Cain (2020, Iron Works): Rapper Kaseem Ryan, a firefighter from Brooklyn, fifth album at 47. B+(***)

Khruangbin: Mordechai (2020, Dead Oceans): Houston group, bass-guitar-drums, all sing but not very much, group name a Thai word for "flying thing" (e.g., airplane), suggested by Laura Lee, whose interest in Asian music led her to learn Thai. Third album, wouldn't call it exotica but they do amble in their own orbit. B+(*)

King Krule: Man Alive! (2020, True Panther Sounds): English singer-songwriter Archy Marshall, fourth album, third as King Krule. Has a rep for drawing on punk and hip-hop, but mostly comes up with Nick Cave dark tones. B

Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and the Light (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago drummer, second album. Lineups vary: starts solo, then quartet (Greg Ward on alto sax), septet, trio (Nate Lepine on tenor sax and flute), five tracks expand to septet. Mixed bag, the fancy parts impressive but a bit too slippery. B+(***) [bc]

Okkyung Lee: Yeo-Neun (2020, Shelter Press): Korean cellist, moved to US in 1993, based in New York, mostly plays in jazz contexts although this could be classical chamber music, with hints of Korean trad. With harp (Maeve Gilchrist), bass (Eivind Opsvik), and piano (Jacob Sacks). B+(**)

Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra: The Planets: Reimagined (2019 [2020], OA2): Trobonist, has played in the Brian Setzer and Tim Davies big bands, co-led Budman/Levy Orchestra. Arranger and conductor here, running a big band through Gustav Holst's "Planets," a famous piece I never bothered with and have no more desire for. B- [cd]

Luka Productions & Kandiafa: Music From Saharan WhatsApp 06 (2020, Sahel Sounds, EP): Sixth installment in the label's fast-disappearing monthly EP series, a duo with Luka Guindo (vocals, synth, percussion) and Abdoulaye "Kandiafa" Kone (ngoni). Four songs, 17:51. Fairly minimal but quite pleasant. B+(**) [bc]

Lupe Fiasco/Kaelin Ellis: House (2020, 1st & 15, EP): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, 7 albums 2006-18, returns with a 5 track, 22:28 EP, with Ellis co-writer and co-producer. Easy gait, with a grin. B+(*)

Machine Girl: U-Void Synthesizer (2020, 1818199 DK2): Real name: Matt Stepheson. Seventh album since 2014. Tags: electronic, breakcore, death metal, drum and bass, footwork, hardcore, juke, jungle, punk, thrash metal. More annoying than not, although "Scroll of Sorrow" has some redeeming merit. B-

Stephen Malkmus: Groove Denied (2019, Matador): The genius behind Pavement (1992-99), followed that up with seven albums declining credited to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (2001-18), goes completely solo here, playing all instruments and singing (such as he does -- can't say practice makes perfect, but it does help). Can't say as this had any appeal to me when it came out, but has its own unique sloughed off charm. Also, a bit of groove. B+(**)

Stephen T. Malkmus: Traditional Techniques (2020, Matador): Another solo joint, title no less ironic, middle initial a quirk I'd like to suppress in the filing, but probably can't. B+(*)

Lori McKenna: The Balladeer (2020, CN): Singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, doesn't have the twang for country but does have the songs. Not sure this is an exceptional batch, but even her average fare has few rivals. A-

Brad Mehldau: Suite: April 2020 (2020, Nonesuch): Solo piano, of the historical moment, "some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us." Twelve parts follow his day from "Waking Up" through "The Day Moves By" to "Lullaby." Three covers follow, from Neil Young, Billy Joel, and Jerome Kern ("Look for the Silver Lining"). I'm rarely satisfied with solo piano, and when I am it's usually a pianist like James P. Johnson or Earl Hines who suffices as a whole rhythm section. But there's always a exception, and this one works especially well for right now. A-

Nicole Mitchell/Lisa E. Harris: EarthSeed (2017 [2020], FPE): Flute player from Chicago, has recorded a lot since 2011, often overcoming my wariness of her instrument. Lyrics are drawn from Octavia E. Butler's dystopian novels, sung by Harris, an operatic soprano I often find unbearable, and Julian Otis. Not without the occasional patch of musical interest. C-

Noshir Mody: An Idealist's Handbook: Identity, Love and Hope in America 2020 (2020, self-released): Guitarist, originally from Mumbai, based in New York since 1995. Several previous albums, one in the group EthniFusion. Kate Victor sings. B [cd]

Hedvig Mollestad: Ekhidna (2020, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian guitarist, full name adds Thomassen, six Trio albums since 2011, this just under her name, with new bass and drums, keyboards (not very noticeable), and Susana Santos Silva on trumpet (fiery). The fast ones are as fierce as ever. Two change-of-pace stretches threw me at first. A-

Moor Jewelry: True Opera (2020, Don Giovanni): Collaboration between lapsed poet Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) and noise producer Mental Jewelry (Steven Montenegro), who did a previous EP called Crime Waves. Ten cuts (25:59), could pass for punk but is much more expansive. A-

Quinsin Nachoff: Pivotal Arc (2018 [2020], Whirlwind): Saxophonist, last two albums especially impressive, wrote this long series for strings -- specifically Molinari String Quartet, and solo violinist Nathalie Bonin. Does get immeasurably better on the title track, when the saxophone finally enters. B+(*) [08-07]

Thiago Nassif: Mente (2020, Gearbox): Brazilian singer-songwriter, plays guitar, drums, trumpet, electronics; shares production duties with Arto Lindsay, who helps out as do a couple dozen others, for a mix of tropicalia, no wave, and ever so catchy skronk. A-

Willie Nelson: First Rose of Spring (2020, Legacy): "Seventhieth solo album" (per Wikipedia), two new originals (co-written with producer Buddy Cannon). All good, nothing great, seems like he's hit a plateau he can sustain until he drops. B+(***)

Carlos Nio & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Chicago Waves (2018 [2020], International Anthem): Labels in Chicago, musicians from Los Angeles, DJs, play various instruments, have worked together at least since 2007. Improvised set, recorded live. B+(*)

No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): Noise pop duo from Los Angeles, formed 2005, released a consistent stream of fine albums. Not sure why this one has fared so poorly with critics. Maybe a bit sludgy, but has their basic sound down pat. B+(**)

Pearl Jam: Gigaton (2020, Monkeywrench/Republic): Grunge band from Seattle, always figured they were Dave Clark 5 to Nirvana's Beatles, not that I ever liked Nirvana as much as I did DC5. Bought one album Christgau liked (Vitalogy), gave it a B+, never played it again, or anything else by this group. Didn't even list anything by them after 2000 (five albums, chart peaks 5 or better), and only played this after it became the top black line in my metacritic file (Baxter Dury is next, followed by Khruangbin and King Krule). Not bad, nor especially interesting, and by the end I was reminded of how tedious Eddie Vedder's voice is. B

Pere Ubu: By Order of Mayor Pawlicki: Live in Jarocin (2017 [2020], Cherry Red): Last year's The Long Goodbye was supposedly the end of the road for this band, which started out in 1975 in Ohio, and produced one of my all-time favorite albums -- The Modern Dance (1978). Singer David Thomas keeps the sound together as others have come and gone. One feature here is that they went back to the 1970s for the song list. Great songs, but it's all rather messy. B+(**)

Pink Siifu & Yungmorpheus: Bag Talk (2019, Field-Left): LA-based rapper Livingston Matthews, has a previous album, reportedly more underground. So is this, but more focused on the police ("proceeds go directly to the Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland). B+(**)

Pink Siifu: Negro (2020, Field-Left): Grim, bleeding into noise, effects, aural graffiti -- Discogs styles include "power violence," which doesn't seem to mean anything in particular, but promises a rough ride. B

Margo Price: That's How Rumors Get Started (2020, Loma Vista): Country singer, grew up in Illinois, moved to Nashville at 20, waited tables and worked the ropes, releasing a pretty good album in 2016. This makes three, new label, fancier production, rocks harder, soars higher, says less. B+(*)

Francis Quinlan: Likewise (2020, Saddle Creek): Singer/songwriter, from New Jersey/Pennsylvania, first solo album, formerly fronted Hop Along. B+(*)

Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Round Again (2019 [2020], Nonesuch): Big name quartet -- tenor sax, piano, bass, drums -- joining the label's two main stars with two more prominent leaders, but also reuniting the quartet from Redman's third album, MoodSwing (1994). All contribute songs (Redman 3, Mehldau 2, 1 each for the others), Mehldau has some fine solos, Redman more. Ends a bit soft, but reminds us that the '90s can still hold their own. B+(***)

Jorge Roeder: El Suelo Mio (2020, T-Town): Peruvian bassist, based in New York, has side credits with Brad Shepik, Julian Lage, Shai Maestro, and others. First album as leader, solo, 13 pieces in the 2:20-5:05 range. B+(*)

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen: Hold My Beer, Vol. 2 (2020, Lil' Buddy Toons): Two Texans play trad country, lots of fiddle and pedal steel, name dropping Jones and Haggard. Five years after Vol. 1. Typical line: "I got a warm beer and a cold woman/ wish it was the other way around." B+(*)

Rose City Band: Summerlong (2020, Thrill Jockey): Portland group (of course), originally a side project for Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo), evidently on his move from San Francisco. Second album, has a rep for psychedelia but this is pretty mellow, a bit like the Eagles but with less sunshine and ego. B+(*)

Claire Rousay: A Heavenly Touch (2020, Already Dead): Based in San Antonio, "a person who performs and records," exploring "queerness, human relationships, and self-perception through the use of physical objects and their potential sounds." Discogs lists 8 albums since 2019, some with jazz connections. Mostly found sounds, road noise, dog barks, booms, a bit of "Tenderly" wafting through the breeze. B

Sault: Untitled (Black Is) (2020, Forever Living Originals): UK group, oft described as "elusive," released two albums in 2019 that reminded me of prime Chic. No such comparisons possible here, although the political moment does occasionally come to the fore. Clearest message: "Don't shoot/ guns down." B+(***) [bc]

yvind Skarb/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Kris Davis/Ole Morten Vgan: Inland Empire (2016 [2020], Clean Feed): Drums, tenor sax/clarinet, piano, bass. Recorded in Norway, everyone contributed pieces and shared credit on the title track. B+(**)

Corey Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice (2018 [2020], Pyroclastic): Pianist, has a growing reputation (including a Grammy), and a fondness for arch voices that is amplified more than accelerated here. He uses five voices here, the more the worse. Plays some decent piano when they finally shut up. B- [cd]

Soft Machine: Live at the Baked Potato (2019 [2020], Moonjune): No one here from the original 1966 Canterbury prog rock group. Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen left very quickly, and Robert Wyatt followed in 1971. The band continued with various replacements through 1978, with periodic revivals since. This one reunites John Etheridge (guitar 1975-78), Roy Babbington (bass 1973-76), and John Marshall (drums 1972-78), adding saxophonist Theo Travis (in a slot that Elton Dean invented, shifting the group into more of a jazz orbit (cf. the live Grides, from 1970-71, released after Dean died in 2006). From 1978, the band was succeeded by various soft-named iterations: Soft Heap, Soft Head, Soft Ware, Soft Mountain, Soft Works, Soft Bounds, Soft Machine Legacy, finally reclaiming the old brand for a slightly better than average fusion band. B+(*) [cd]

Stephane Spira/Giovanni Mirabassi: Improkofiev (2020, Jazzmax): Soprano sax and piano, quartet with bass (Steve Wood) and drums (Donald Konyomanou), plus flugelhorn on one track. Title is a suite with "excerpts from violin concerto no. 1." Other pieces cover Erik Satie and Carla Bley. B+(**)

Leni Stern: 4 (2020, LSR): German guitarist, fusion mostly, born as Magdalena Thora, married Mike Stern, 20+ albums since 1986. Sings some, also plays n'goni here, backed by Leo Genovese (keybs), Mamadou Ba (bass), and Alloune Faye (percussion). The latter give this an African vibe, which Stern can play with or against. Vocals not a plus. B-

Grant Stewart Quartet: Rise and Shine (2019 [2020], Cellar Live): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, young enough his oldies are more likely post-bop than pre-bop. Backed by Tardo Hammer (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Phil Stewart (drums). Includes a vocal (Lucy Yeghiazaryan) for the radio programmers. B+(**)

Tim Stine Trio: Fresh Demons (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago guitarist, several albums since 2015, this one with Anton Hatwich (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums). B+(**)

The Streets: None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive (2020, Island): UK rapper Mike Skinner, six albums 2002-11, various projects before returning to his calling. Starts slow, ends strong. B+(**)

Moses Sumney: Grae (2020, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter, originally from California, parents from Ghana, lived there from 10-16 before returning to California. Second album, originally released as two parts, combined runs 65:44 on 2CD. Sings falsetto, his songs shaped by his early interest in a cappella, lightly dressed here with a thin wash of synths and drums (but also Nubya Garcia flute and Brandee Younger harp). Not something I easily find appealing, but some kind of art. B

Taylor Swift: Folklore (2020, Republic): Eighth studio album, recorded simply with Aaron Dessner (The National) and/or Jack Antonoff co-writing and/or producing. Still, far from DIY: full credits include occasional strings and horns, and a Justin Vernon vocal, but you mostly just hear keyboards and drums -- little flash to an album with sixteen long, pleasant, intricate songs. Judging from download counts and reviews, she's caught the spirit of the times. B+(***)

Threadbare [Jason Stein/Ben Cruz/Emerson Hunton]: Silver Dollar (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Bass clarinte, guitar, drums. Cruz and Hunton did the composing (4-3, plus 1 joint), but Stein continues his impressive run of albums. A- [cd]

Tenille Townes: The Lemonade Stand (2020, Columbia Nashville): Canadian country singer-songwriter, from Alberta, last name Nadkrynechny. Third album, first from Nashville. B+(**)

Etuk Ubong: Africa Today (2019 [2020], Night Dreamer): Nigerian trumpet player, also sings, played with Femi Kuti, hailed by Seun Kuti, develops a strong Afrobeat groove. B+(**)

Summer Walker: Life on Earth (2020, LVRN/Interscope, EP): R&B singer-songwriter, from Atlanta, well-regarded album last year, followed it up with this 5-track, 16:25 EP. B

Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (2020, Interscope): British dance-pop diva, fourth album, starts retro-disco, ends up more new wave, the cool taking a while to carry the day. A-

Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff (2019 [2020], ECM): Polish piano trio, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Micha Miskiewicz, got a measure of fame supporting Tomasz Stanko but has an impressive run of albums on their own. Joined by the tenor saxophonist, who wrote a song, shares credits on five, with two Carla Bley covers. Very chill. B+(**)

Bobby Watson: Keepin' It Real (2020, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, from Kansas City, broke in with Art Blakey in the late 1970s, widely acclaimed in the 1980s including a Penguin Guide crown for Love Remains (1986), recorded for Blue Note and Columbia in the 1990s, flirting with fusion (Post-Motown Bop was a good title, but not much of an album). Floundered before landing here, a label which encouraged him to revert to his inner Bird. With Josh Evans or Giveton Gelin (trumpet), Victor Gould (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), Victor Jones (drums). Calls the group New Horizon, probably because his head's still stuck in the 1990s. B

The Weeknd: After Hours (2020, Republic): Canadian r&b singer Abel Tesfaye, had an early star-making mixtape in 2011 (House of Balloons), has developed into a best-selling falsetto crooner -- remarkably consistent, at least until the closer drags its butt. B

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings: All the Good Times Are Past & Gone (2020, Acony): Title often truncated, but the cover bears me out. Folkies, her sixth album since 1996, he's been around the whole time but this seems to be the first with him named, and he does get more leads. Ten tracks, all acoustic covers, two Dylan, two trad., one Prine, "Jackson." B+(**)

Westside Gunn: Flygod Is an Awesome God II (2020, Griselda): Buffalo rapper Alvin Worthy, used FLYGOD as an alias, also title of his 2016 album, also appears on several mixtapes including this one's 2019 predecessor. B+(*)

Hailey Whitters: The Dream (2020, Pigasus): Country singer-songwriter from Iowa, second album, Wikipedia pegs her sales at 300. Started off just guitar and voice, which seemed to be her metier, so I was surprised when the drums kicked in. Plain-spoken, common touch, could amount to something. B+(**)

Larry Willis: I Fall in Love Too Easily (2019 [2020], High Note): Recording date not stated, but billed as "The Final Session at Rudy Van Gelder's." Van Gelder died in 2016, but several more records were recorded in his famous studio, at least through 2018. On the other hand, Willis died in 2019. Quintet with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Joe Ford (alto sax), Blake Meister (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). The horns have some moments, but the most touching ones are when they drop out, leaving the piano. B+(**)

Wire: 10:20 (2010-20 [2020], Pink Flag): Outtakes, four from the sessions that produced Red Barked Tree (2010), four from Mind Hive (2020). B+(*)

X: Alphabetland (2020, Fat Possum): Los Angeles punk band, a big deal in some quarters 1980-82, last charted in 1987, one more album in 1993, have reunited occasionally since 2004, this their first new album in 27 years. Memorable names: DJ Bonebrake (drums), Exene Cervenka (vocals), John Doe (bass, vocals), Billy Zoom (guitar, sax, piano). Eleven short songs, adds up to 27:00. They've done a remarkable job keeping their sound preserved. B+(*)

Yaeji: What We Drew (2020, XL): Kathy Yaeji Lee, born in New York, parents Korean, lived in Atlanta, Japan, and Korea before returning to Brooklyn. Produces electronica, sings, first album after two EPs, title includes a string of Hangul I'm ignoring. B+(*)

Yonic South: Wild Cobs (2019, La Tempesta, EP): Postpunk band from "Stanzini, Shitaly" (or Brescia, Italy), first EP (4 songs, 16:27), crisp but they do like to riff. B+(**)

Yonic South: Twix and Dive (2020, La Tempesta, EP): Four more songs (13:40), "from Oasis covers and Anfield soundtracks to psych noise ballads and Techno Viking dedications," ending with a bit of patter extolling "this beautiful arena" -- how can you get more anachronistic than that? B+(**)

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin' (1959 [2020], Blue Note): Previously unreleased, classic lineup with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass). Terrific group, one one of their best days, always a delight to hear Morgan. B+(***)

Abraham Burton: Live at Visiones, NYC 1993 (1993 [2020], self-released, EP): Alto saxophonist, shortly before he recorded two of the best albums of the 1990s -- still his only ones as a leader, although he contiues with side credits. One 23:52 track, released by pianist Marc Cary, with Billy Johnson on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. Outstanding lead, pretty good piano solo, wonder why there isn't more. B+(***) [bc]

Vincent Chancey/Wilber Morris/Warren Smith: The Spell: The Vincent Chancey Trio Live 1987 (1987 [2020], NoBusiness): French horn player, one of few, played for Sun Ra, shows up in a fair number of big bands and brass ensembles (e.g., Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, rarely as leader -- as exampled here, the instrument doesn't have much oomph. With bass and percussion. B+(*) [cdr]

DUX Orchestra: Duck Walks Dog (With Mixed Results) (1994 [2020], NoBusiness): Septet led by two baritone saxophonists (Dave Sewelson and Mats Gustafsson), with Will Connell Jr. (alto clarinet), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Kicks up a bit of a ruckus. B+(**) [cdr]

The Mark Harvey Group: A Rite for All Souls (1971 [2020], Americas Musicworks, 2CD): Trumpet player, based in Boston, best known as the founder of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra ("now in its 48th season"). This group was founded in 1969, ran for a few years, left one 1972 live album before this "long lost recording" came to light. Started "playing hard-bop and jazz-rock," but this is mostly free, with scratchy sax (Peter Bloom), lots of percussion, some spoken word. B+(***) [cd]

Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers: Get in Union (1959-66 [2020], Global Jukebox): Folk/gospel singer (1902-84), recorded by Alan Lomax. Expands on a 2014 compilation on Tompkins Square, which itself had 26 unreleased tracks. B+(**)

Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris: Live in Bergamo (2008 [2020], Nublu): Band named for a club on Avenue C in New York, goes back further but debuted with eponymous 2007 album, where various musicians would gather and improvise under the direction ("conduction") of Morris. This was the seventh to be released, "Conduction No. 175," in Italy, with ten musicians, out of 199 through June 20, 2011. (Morris died in 2013.) One 34:27 piece, plus three encores (16:18). Not a dull moment. B+(***)

Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy: The Coalescence (2007 [2020], ESP-Disk): Brooklyn-based group, ran 2004-08, led by Adam Kinney (drums) and Gene Janas (electric upright bass), here also Shayna Dulberger (bass) ad Mario Rechtern (sax). Outtakes -- three cuts, 29:16, but plenty intense -- from session producing Splintered Visions, itself not releaed until 2011. B+(***) [cdr]

Sam Rivers Trio: Ricochet [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 3] (1978 [2020], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist (1923-2011), got a fairly late start, recording his brilliant debut Fuschia Swing Song at age 41, but worked into his mid-80s. His archives have been notable so far, with this, a trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul, no exception. Does include a fairly substantial amount of Rivers on piano and flute. B+(***) [cd]

The Shaggs: Shaggs' Own Thing (1975 [2020], Light in the Attic): Girl band, three sisters, lo-fi way before their time, cut an album in 1969 (Philosophy of the World), disbanded after this short set (30:34), mostly covers (Carpenters, Osmonds, Tom T. Hall), released in 1982. Brother Austin Wiggin Jr. sings one. B-

Old Music

Artists United Against Apartheid: Sun City (1985, Manhattan): Organized by Little Steven (Van Zandt) around a single supporting the international boycott of South African resort Sun City -- lyrics don't go much beyond "I'm not going to play Sun City," but the mass of singers and musicians, especially the drums, carry it. Original album offered two versions, plus extra pieces by Peter Gabriel/Shankar, Keith LeBlanc, Gil Scott-Heron/Melle Mel/Duke Bootee, Miles Davis, and Bono, and eventually got expanded further in a "Deluxe Edition." The boycott did much to make people around the world aware of apartheid, leading to its end by 1994. A-

Harold Budd/Brian Eno: The Pearl (1984, Editions EG): Budd was a minimalist composer from California, drifted toward ambient, recording one of Eno's first batch of ambient albums (1980). Measured and relaxed. Might have seemed like something more at the time. B+(**)

Freddy Cole: "Waiter, Ask the Man to Play the Blues": Freddy Cole Plays & Sings Some Lonely Ballads (1964, Dot): Twelve years younger than his famous brother, Nat "King" Cole, also plays piano, cut his first single in 1952 but no LP until this set, the only one to appear before his brother's death. Close to the mark, a small jazz combo playing cocktail blues, but a path his brother never quite took. With Sam Taylor on tenor sax, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson in the rhythm section. A-

Freddy Cole: The Cole Nobody Knows (1973, First Shot): Third album (second was On Second Thought), third label, backed with guitar/bass/drums, recycled the title cut from his first album in a closing medley. B

Freddy Cole: One More Love Song (1978, Poker): Backed by an anonymous big band, arranged by Jerry Van Rooyen and Tony Nolte. Nice voice. B

Freddy Cole: I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me (1990 [2004], High Note): But he keeps the distinctions subtle, mostly that he was approaching 60 here, whereas brother Nat died at 45. The voice is damn close, he plays similar piano, in a guitar-bass trio (Ed Zad and Eddie Edwards). His best original ("Fried Potatoes") echoes "Frim Fram Sauce" (but with a little more meat). He works in a short medley and offers a touching tribute, setting up the title song, which he aces. B+(***)

Freddy Cole: This Is the Life (1993 [2003], Savoy Jazz): Originally released on Muse, beginning a long, career-defining relationship that continued on High Note. One plus here is the supporting cast: six musicians plus Cole on piano, most notably Houston Person on tenor sax. Mostly ballads, tends toward smooth, clearly enjoys the title song. B+(**)

Freddy Cole: To the Ends of the Earth (1997, Fantasy): Between the demise of Muse and the founding of High Note, Cole recorded five 1995-98 albums for Fantasy. Produced by Todd Barkan, who employed big band numbers (including help from Cyrus Chestnut on piano) while still making it sound intimate. B+(**)

Freddy Cole: Love Makes the Changes (1998, Fantasy): Todd Barkan produced again, with Cedar Walton helping with piano and arranging, with Eric Alexander and Grover Washington on sax. Four originals, Among the covers, Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" is likely to enter the standards canon. B+(***)

Freddy Cole: Le Grand Freddy: Freddy Cole Sings the Music of Michel Legrand (1994-99 [1999], Fantasy): Eleven songs from the French composer, nine with lyrics by Alan Bergman. Many of the same musicians from earlier Todd Barkan albums, including Cedar Walton and Cyrus Chestnut on piano, and Grover Washington Jr. on tenor sax. B+(**)

Freddy Cole: This Love of Mine (2005, High Note): First album with Joe Fields' new label, which served him well for the rest of his career. Typical songs, strong voice, lets John DiMartino handle the piano and most of the arranging. Eric Alexander and Fathead Newman play tenor sax. B+(***)

Freddy Cole: He Was the King (2016, High Note): Finally, enough distance to record an explicit treat to his brother. Most I recall clearly as Nat "King" Cole hits, but the only Cole credit is to Freddy's title song, previously recorded in 1990, where it leads into "I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me." Harry Allen and Houston Person play tenor sax. B+(*)

Simon H. Fell: The Exploding Flask of Muesli: Electroacoustic & Electronic Works 1994-2002 (1994-2002 [2013], Bruce's Fingers): Not sure how representative this is of the late bassist's work, as most of his work is hard to find. I'm not even sure how much there is -- a "selected discography" on his website lists 90 albums (1985-2015). Interesting moments, but feels like a sideline. B+(*)

Simon H. Fell: Le Bruit De La Musique (2015 [2016], Confront): Solo bass, a single 37:19 piece. B+(*)

Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: The Federation of Tackheads (1985, Capitol): One-shot Parliament-Funkadelic spinoff led by Jimmy Giles (George Clinton's younger brother), who plays bass, programs drums, and is the lead of many vocalists. Pedro Bell cover art. A-

Hampton Hawes: Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes: Vol. 3: The Trio (1956 [1990], Contemporary/OJC): Bebop pianist (1928-77) from Los Angeles, father a minister, mother a church pianist, made a big splash with his 1955 Trio album, adding two more in this series, with Red Mitchell (bass) and Chuck Thompson (drums). B+(**)

Hampton Hawes Quartet: All Night Session! Volume 1 (1956 [1991], Contemporary/OJC): The first of three volumes from a November 12, 1956 session, with Jim Hall (guitar), Red Mitchell (bass), and Bruz Freeman (drums). Five pieces, stretches out a bit. B+(***)

Hampton Hawes Quartet: All Night Session! Volume 2 (1956 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): Seven more songs. Lively piano and delicate guitar (Jim Hall). B+(**)

Hampton Hawes: The Green Leaves of Summer (1964, Contemporary): Trio, with Monk Montgomery (bass) and Steve Ellington (drums). One original blues, seven scattered standards, "St. Thomas" a hit. B+(**) [yt]

Hampton Hawes Trio: The Sance (1966 [1990], Contemporary/OJC): With Red Mitchell (bass) and Donald Bailey (drums), another smart and lively session. B+(***)

Hampton Hawes: Trio at Montreux (1971 [1976], Jas): With Henry Franklin (bass) and Mike Carvin (drums). B+(**)

Hampton Hawes/Cecil McBee/Roy Haynes: Live at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago: Volume Two (1973 [1989], Enja): Piano, bass, drums. Six songs, three over ten minutes -- none of the entries at Discogs quite match the digital (dated 1998), nor do any credit the vocal (which is just as well forgotten). B+(**)

Hampton Hawes: Something Special (1976 [1994], Contemporary): Less than a year before his untimely death, another quartet with guitar (Denny Diaz), bass (Leroy Vinnegar), and drums (Al Williams). Excellent piano, especially on tunes like "St. Thomas." B+(***)

Jackie McLean: Strange Blues (1957 [1967], Prestige): Alto saxophonist, scraps from two sessions, one a quartet with Mal Waldron (piano), the other with a rhythm section I don't recognize plus Webster Young (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Fat Jazz (1957 [1958], Jubilee): Sextet, with Webster Young (trumpet), Ray Draper (tuba), Gil Coggins (piano), bass, and drums, with Young and Draper originals. B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Vertigo (1959-63 [2000], Blue Note): Expands on a 1981 album which had picked up scraps, one a Walter Davis tune from 1959, five from 1963 session with Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd, and adds five more tracks from a shelved album from 1962 with Sonny Clark and Kenny Dorham. The pieces fit together seamlessly, all respectable hard bop. B+(***)

Jackie McLean Quartet: Tune Up (1966 [1993], SteepleChase): Live shot from Baltimore, with LaMont Johnson (piano), Scotty Holt (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). Sound strikes me as a bit off, but when he unloads on "Jack's Tune" I see no point in quibbling. B+(**)

Jackie McLean feat. Dexter Gordon: Vol. 2: The Source (1973 [1987], SteepleChase): Live at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, two stellar saxophonists, alto and tenor, with Kenny Drew, NHP, and Alex Riel. A 1976 US release, on Inner City, was just The Source, but is the same as the shorter 1974 LP release. The summit did produce two LPs, but the first was The Meeting: Vol. 1, so it makes more sense to bring Vol. to the front. Or better still, look for Montmartre Summit 1973, which gives you both on 2-CD. B+(***)

Jackie McLean/Dexter Gordon: Montmartre Summit 1973 (1973 [1991], SteepleChase, 2CD): Combines Vol. 1: The Meeting with Vol. 2: The Source in a handy single package. B+(***)

Jackie McLean: A Ghetto Lullaby (1973 [1991], SteepleChase): Live in Copenhagen, scene of 1972's exceptional Live at Montmartre, with Kenny Drew (piano) and Alex Riel (drums) returning, and taking over the bass slot: Niels-Henning rsted Pederson. B+(***)

Jackie McLean & the Cosmic Brotherhood: New York Calling (1974 [1987], SteepleChase): Sextet, one of his son Ren McLean's first appearances (alto/soprano sax), with Billy Skinner (trumpet), Billy Gault (piano), bass, and drums. B+(***)

Jackie McLean With The Great Jazz Trio: New Wine in Old Bottles (1978, East Wind): Hank Jones formed GJT in 1976 and recorded a lot with it (22 albums 1976-84, 17 more 1988-2010, with various lineups but originally and here with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. B+(***) [yt]

William Parker: In Order to Survive (1993 [1995], Black Saint): Bassist, used this album title for a group name later in the 1990s, and again for a 2019 live album, signifying a quintet with Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Rob Brown (alto sax), Cooper-Moore (piano), and a drummer (Denis Charles plays on 3 cuts here, Jackson Krall on the 4th). This particular album also has Grachan Moncur III on trombone. The dazzling opener runs 38:47, with three more pieces bringing the total to 72:03. A-

William Parker/Giorgio Dini: Temporary (2009, Silta): Bass duo, with a short "Intermezzo" with Parker on shakuhachi. B+(*)

Sam Rivers: A New Conception (1966 [1967], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano and flute), third album, quartet with Hal Galper (piano), bass and drums. Standards, sounds new even if not very avant. Plays a lot of remarkable flute. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Streams: Recorded in Performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1973, Impulse!): Trio, with Cecil McBee (bass) ad Norman Connors (drums). One long piece (arbitrarily split on the LP), divided into sections for tenor sax (18:42), flute (13:13), piano (7:31), and soprano sax (9:18). B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Trio Live (1973 [1998], Impulse!): Originally released 1978 as The Live Trio Sessions, the first set ("Hues of Melanin") reordered, moving the piano part up front, then tenor sax, then the long soprano sax, flute, and vocal sections. With Cecil McBee and Barry Altschul. Ends with "Suite for Molde," from the Norwegian jazz festival, with Arild Andersen taking over at bass. It, too, is split between a flute section and the final tenor sax section. Listening to the former makes you wonder if he wasn't the greatest jazz flautist ever. Listening to the latter makes you wonder why he ever played anything else. A-

Sam Rivers: Hues (1971-73 [1975], Impulse!): Scraps from four live performanes, including two tracks from Molde. Cover pictures him with a flute, but only two flute tracks here, plus two piano, two soprano sax, four tenor sax -- in other words, they pieced together a typical trio concert, using three bass-drums pairs. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Crystals (1974, Impulse!): Big band album, not conventional but 6 brass (including Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium), five reeds (with everyone doubling on flute), bass, drums, extra percussion, but no piano or guitar. Doesn't seem like it's going to work at first, but then it does. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: The Quest (1976, RED): Trio with Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rivers cycles through his instruments, impressive on each, but I can't help but think he'd get more from his rhythm sectio if he played more tenor sax. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Paragon (1977, Fluid): Trio with Dave Holland (bass/cello) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rotates through his four instruments on the first four tracks, then recapitulates them all on the 12:15 title cut. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Waves (1978 [1979], Tomato): Quartet with Joe Daley (tuba), Dave Holland (bass/cello), and Thurman Barker (drums). Starts on piano. Rivers cycles around his instruments, impressive on each. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Contrasts (1979 [1980], ECM): Plays flute, soprano and tenor sax, backed by trombone (George Lewis), bass (Dave Holland), and drums (Thurman Barker). Somewhat buttoned down, so it takes a while to sink in, and fully appreciate the trombone. A-

Sam Rivers Quartet: Crosscurrent: Live at Jazz Unit (1981 [1982], Blue Marge): Recorded live in Paris, with Jerry Byrd (guitar), Rael Wesley Grant (electric bass), and Steve Ellington (drums). Rivers makes his usual round of instruments, with the soprano sax meshing especially well with the guitars. A-

Sam Rivers/Nol Akchote/Tony Hymas/Paul Rogers/Jacques Thollot: Configuration (1996, Nato): Guitar, piano, bass, drums, with Rivers alternating between tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Concept (1995-96 [1997], RivBea): Nine tracks recorded over five sessions, most with Doug Matthews (bass or bass clarinet) and Anthony Cole (drums, but also plays tenor sax). B+(**)

Sam Rivers & Alexander von Schlippenbach: Tangens (1997 [1998], FMP): Duets, tenor/soprano sax/flute and piano. B+(***)

Sam Rivers/Doug Matthews/Anthony Cole/Jonathan Powell/David Manson: Fluid Motion (2002, Isospin Labs): Soprano/tenor sax, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone: only Rivers well known, but feels like a band album, more mainstream with everyone pitching in. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Celebration (2003 [2004], Posi-Tone): Live shot from Jazz Bakery, trio with Doug Matthews and Anthony Cole, close in spirit to his 1970s albums, with the leader playing piano and flute as well as tenor and soprano sax -- and mixing things up, drummer Cole also plays tenor sax and piano, while bassist Matthews goes electric, also playing bass violin and bass clarinet. B+(**)

Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt: Vista (2003 [2004], Meta): Starts off on flute, also plays tenor and soprano sax, with two percussionists, Rudolph using hand drums. B+(***)

Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood + Bryan Carrott: Purple Violets (2004 [2005], Stunt): Trio plus vibes. B+(**)

Jessie Ware: Glasshouse (2017, Interscope): Third album, skipped it after having been unimpressed by her first two. Opener is overbearing, but "Selfish Love" is a choice cut. Maybe "Sam" too, but as a ballad to her baby it won't break through on the dance floor. 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:


Beauty Pill: Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are (2015, Butterscotch): Panned this, then Maura Johnston put it top-10 and Robert Christgau gave it an A. Sure, something more there, but one still has to dig deeper than I'm ever likely to do. [was: B] B+(*)

Additional Consumer News:

Grades on artists in the old music section.

Music Weeks

Current count 33697 [33526] rated (+171), 220 [211] unrated (+9).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

July 27, 2020

Music: Current count 33697 [33650] rated (+47), 220 [224] unrated (-4).

I usually figure 30 records per week is a solid effort. This month I've averaged 40, which is largely attributable to streaming a lot of old jazz records: specifically, Freddy Cole (died this month), Hampton Hawes (got a question on him, Jackie McLean (ran across a complete album I hadn't heard on YouTube, and I always love listening to him), and Sam Rivers (took a look after his latest archival album just missed, and found a lot more than I expected). Of course, never leaving the house helped with the count. I think I made two grocery runs in July, and took my wife to the doctor once. Occasionally, especially after a grocery run, I try to cook something, but not often. Tried making gluten-free raisin bread today. Looks perfect, but I'm pretty sure it would taste better with wheat.

This ends a 4-week month. The link above gets you to the roll up, with 169 records. I revisited the Jessie Ware album and bumped its grade up. It's always sounded like an A- two-thirds of the way through, but took me a while to overcome my reservations over the end. Appears as a re-grade here, but just an edit in the monthly file.

Did play some records from the promo queue this week, including the last of the batch from NoBusiness. Looks like I still have 17 left in the queue, including 2 September releases and 1 October. (Also one more NoBusiness release. Really need to tidy up the mess on my desk.) Also made a late push to check off highly-rated albums in my metacritic file. Top ones I haven't heard yet are: Lianne Le Havas (22); 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (34); Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (48); Paul Weller: On Sunset (51); and The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (58); and lots more from 70 down (about half from 70-150, more after that).

I spent a lot of time with Taylor Swift's Folklore (four spins, plus some videos, plus I read a half-dozen pieces, mostly in places like Vox which don't normally review records. I liked the record fine, but wasn't blown away by anything on it. Same for the Texas girl group who decided Chicks wasn't the more offensive half of their name. For what it's worth, I always found both parts at least partly ironic, and they've lost some of that with the name change. (On the other hand, Lady Antebellum was never not offensive.) I spent a lot less time with Gaslighter, probably because I didn't sense that it had much potential to get better (as Ware did, and Swift might do).

Vocalese singer Annie Ross died last week, at 89. I'm not a big fan of her records, either with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks or not, but I've only sampled them lightly. I did think she was terrific in Robert Altman's The Player, basically playing herself. Another semi-famous musician who died last week was Peter Green (73), widely touted as the founder of Fleetwood Mac, despite the group being named for two other members (their first album was sometimes known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac). I have two Green albums in my database: In the Skies (1979), and a compilation, Man of the World: The Anthology 1968-1988, both B+. For an appreciation, see Milo Miles: The Terrifying and Lyrical Greatness of Peter Green. Greil Marcus also has some things to say about Green and Fleetwood Mac.

July 20, 2020

Music: Current count 33650 [33607] rated (+43), 224 [225] unrated (-1).

Seems like the summer is passing very fast. Probably a reflection of how little I get done most days. About all I can claim for this past week is:

Did nothing whatsoever on my other writing projects. and nothing on website projects. Didn't shop, or cook much, or deal with any of the few house projects I'm still contemplating. Managed just one phone call.

Have one question in the queue, a pretty general one about Europe. Ask more.

When I was writing about Hawes, it occurred to me that the one album I hadn't been able to find on Napster might be on YouTube, and indeed it was. After playing it, I did a search for whole albums on YouTube. First one I found that caught my attention was Fat Jazz by Jackie McLean, and that turned me loose on a McLean dig. Every record sounded real good, but I shut them down after one play each, with just enough reservation to keep them off the A-list. Further listening would very likely promote one or more, but the full grade list suggests better places to start.

Had some technical problems with the NoBusiness CDs, although the problem could be in my CD player. It had trouble recognizing several CDs, and got stuck on one. Wound up going to Bandcamp for a second spin of Carrier.

Michael Tatum mentioned he's planning on writing something about records from Christgau's 1985 Dean's List. I was thinking that was a year when I paid relatively little attention to new music, but not much there I didn't have rated. One was Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: Federation of Tackheads, although I'm pretty sure I did have the LP at some point. Same for Harold Budd & Brian Eno's The Pearl, and Steven Van Zandt's Sun City. Maybe I wasn't as out of it as I thought. I moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts end of 1984, so it became easier to find better record stores. Also got a nice raise with the move.

July 13, 2020

Music: Current count 33607 [33567] rated (+40), 225 [212] unrated (+13).

Trumpet player Eddie Gale (78) died last week. He had a spotty recording career, but always came up with something interesting when he appeared. He achieved a measure of fame for his role on Cecil Taylor's 1966 album Unit Structures, then followed that with two excellent albums on Blue Note: Ghetto Music (1968) and Black Rhythm Happening (1969). He had a revival c. 2004 with reissue of his albums on Water and a new one, Afro Fire.

I added a lengthy midyear list by Stephen Thomas Erlewine to my metacritic file (code SE). He added first mentions of 10 new albums (mostly country), plus a bunch of reissues and vault music. He shows some favor there for lavish box sets, and also seems to get good service from Ace, Bear Family, Cherry Red, and Omnivore. I'm so jealous.

Robert Christgau published his July Consumer Guide mid-week. I was originally pleased to see that for four 2020 releases I had previously rated A- got the same grade from him (Chicago Farmer, Bob Dylan, Hinds, Waxahatchie), and that the other new records I had graded lower also got lower grades from him (Terry Allen, Jason Isbell). That also left some things I hadn't heard (or in some cases hadn't heard of), but further digging revealed that I had given the Daniele Luppi/Parquet Courts EP a B+(***) back in January 2018. I played most of the rest, still procrastinatig on the Sonic Youth bootleg (one of way too many for my purposes, although I may reconsider when I get around to formatting Joe Yanosik's Consumer Guide for his corner of my website) and Joe Levy's Uprising 2020 playlist (not my idea of a real thing, although so immediately relevant to the times I expect to listen to it).

I got to the Thiago Nassif and Moor Jewelry A- records after my cut-off, but figured why make you wait, especially given that there are other ways to find my grade. Usually takes me 8-16 hours to catch everything up after my break, so I always listen to a few records during that time. (Four more in the scratch file at present, not counting these two.)

Quite a bit of unpacking below, many from Lithuania. Also got a hard copy of Luis Lopes' Believe, Believe, which I had given a B+(***) to based on streaming. I looked for records by the late bassist Simon H. Fell. Found quite a few, but mostly Bandcamp with most tracks missing, so didn't manage to review much. Took a dive into pianist Hampton Hawes, thanks to a question. I will answer that (and whatever else comes in) later during the week. I've gotten into a rut where I start each day off by playing something classic, then when I settle down in front of the computer, find it easier to dial up something to stream. I'll make a conscious effort to catch up a bit next week.

July 6, 2020

Music: Current count 33567 [33526] rated (+41), 212 [211] unrated (+1).

I've been ambivalent about adding mid-year lists to the metacritic file. Last couple years I actually started with those lists, but this year I've been collecting ratings pretty extensively, so the current file should provide you with a fairly accurate account of critical consensus on records so far. More importantly, the method should continue to work week in, week out through the end of the year. Right now, the ratings (with points in braces, and, where available, my grades in brackets):

  1. Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG) {58} [A-]
  2. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic) {54} [A-]
  3. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (Merge) {46} [A-]
  4. Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia) {40} [A-]
  5. Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher (Dead Oceans) {38} [**]
  6. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (Warner) {34} [A-]
  7. Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels (Highway 20) {34} [A-]
  8. Haim: Women in Music Pt III (Columbia) {33} [**]
  9. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (Matador) {31} [*]
  10. Caribou: Suddenly (Merge) {30} [**]
  11. Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (Interscope) {28} [*]
  12. Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling (ATO) {27} [A-]
  13. Thundercat: It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder) {27} [B]
  14. Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (Interscope) {26} [***]
  15. Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (Impulse!) {25} [A-]
  16. Soccer Mommy: Color Theory (Loma Vista) {25} [***]
  17. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind(Warp) {25} [**]
  18. Charli XCX: How I'm Feeling Now (Asylum) {25} [***]
  19. Moses Sumney: Grae (Jagjaguwar) {23} [B]
  20. Gil Scott-Heron: We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven (XL) {22} [**]
  21. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene (4AD) {22} [***]
  22. Lady Gaga: Chromatica (Interscope) {21} [***]
  23. Pearl Jam: Gigaton (Monkeywrench/Republic) {20} []
  24. Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live (Caroline) {19} [*]
  25. Cornershop: England Is a Garden (Ample Play) {19} [A-]
  26. Destroyer: Have We Met (Merge) {19} [*]
  27. Halsey: Manic (Capitol) {19} [***]
  28. Laura Marling: Song for Our Daughter (Chrysalis/Partisan) {19} [**]
  29. Mac Miller: Circles (Warner) {19} [A-]
  30. Rina Sawayama: Sawayama (Dirty Hit) {19} [B-]
  31. US Girls: Heavy Light (4AD) {19} [B-]
  32. Hayley Williams: Petals of Armor (Atlantic) {19} [*]

Well, it's skewed somewhat. Some of the lists I monitor are from friendly sources, and that moves the consensus a bit toward things that are more likely to interest me. Also, I don't skip sources that focus exclusively on metal or classical, though I occasionally pick up samples of each from elsewhere. The idea is less to sample public opinion than it is to sift through it to find things that might be interesting to review. And while this top-32 (despite the numbers, everything from 24-32 are tied). But I also feel entitled to add in some points myself (matching the points for Robert Christgau's grades; all other sources are treated as one point each mention as noted in the legend).

I skewed the results further by adding in mid-year lists scraped from the Expert Witness Facebook group, comments to a July 2 post. I picked up lists from: Steve Alter, Kevin Bozelka, Jeffrey D. Callahan, Joey Daniewicz, Chris Gray, Paul Hayden, Eric Johnson, Tom Lane, Brad Luen, Eric Marcus, Greg Morton, Stan Piccirilli, Harden Smith, John Speranza, Thomas Walker, plus a few bits from others I had already been following (especially Chris Monsen). In compiling these lists, I've omitted records that didn't qualify by my relaxed 2020 standards (which include all December 2019 releases and any other 2019 releases that didn't appear in my 2019 EOY aggregate). Also note that the lists almost always identify records by artist name only, so I had to guess here and there. (Old releases I didn't tally were: Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko, Kefaya + Elaha Soroor, Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage, Post Malone, Red Velvet, Matana Roberts, Kalie Shorr.)

All this skewing probably contributed to me grading 10 (of 32) records A-, 6 more B+(***). If you subtract my points, Christgau's, the Expert Witness lists, Monsen, Phil Overeem, and Tim Niland, the list would run: Phoebe Bridgers {33}, Run the Jewels {32}, Fiona Apple/Haim {31}, Perfume Genius/Waxahatchie {30}, Caribou {28}, Bob Dylan/Tame Impala {27}, Thundercat {25}, Dua Lipa {24}, Yves Tumor/Charli XCX {22}, Moses Sumney {21}, Pearl Jam/Soccer Mommy {20}, US Girls/Jessie Ware {19}.

The new records below mostly came from the Expert Witness lists -- expecially from Monsen (6). The other big block is a bunch of records by the late Freddy Cole. I've long recommended two later records -- The Dreamer in Me (2009) and Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B (2010) -- so I was especially surprised to find my favorite among the rest was his 1964 debut. Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson are names I know well, but this also made me want to explore saxophonist Sam "The Man" Taylor. He recorded quite a bit, but only has one compilation on Napster, and I passed on it due to lack of discography.

Ennio Morricone (91) has died. He was possibly the most famous soundtrack composer of the last 50-60 years. I've always harbored an active dislike for soundtrack albums, which is probably why I've never delved into his, despite much enjoying his music in the context of the movies. I can recommend his 1987 compilation on Virgin, Film Music, Volume 1.

Another recent death was English bassist Simon H. Fell (61), another musician I've heard very little from. I dutifully listed 12 of his titles, all highly touted by Penguin Guide, in my shopping list/database, but never found a one of them, so I've only heard one more recent album -- SFE (2011, Clean Feed) [B+(***)]. That's not likely to change much. I see that selections from most of his albums are available on Bandcamp, but none complete enough for me to review.

I am toying with the idea of taking notes on fractional albums, since that would seem to offer a way to glimpse much of the work that I find currently inaccessible. I currently use U to designate records that I possess a copy of but haven't graded yet. I'm tempted to add a new U+ for records I've only heard part of but would like to hear more, and U- for records I've heard enough of to doubt any further interest. One reason I haven't done this is that I'm not sure how the programs would deal with the introduction of a new grade. I wouldn't want to count U+ or U- albums as graded, or as ungraded (a number I've been trying to whittle down, without much success lately).

One question in the queue, which I'll probably get to this week. By all means, please ask more.

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
  • [yt] available at youtube.com