Streamnotes: September 28, 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 August 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (15321+ records).


Recent Releases

The 81's: 2 Things & 118 Others (2020, The 81's): Nashville rock group, principally Tom Siering and Tim Carroll. Group with the obvious website is different (as far as I can tell), making this a debut album. Comparisons to the Blasters are unwarranted, but they have some good lines and riffs. B+(**)

100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues (2020, Dog Show): Dylan Brady and Laura Les, originally from St. Louis, but at last report split between Los Angeles and Chicago. Ten-track debut appeared in 2019. Dan Weiss recommended it, and replied to my review: "I can't believe you found 100 gecs more annoying than black midi." I found it so annoying I didn't check the length (didn't feel like I needed to) so didn't even flag it as a 23:07 EP. Christgau wound up grading both 100 Gecs and Black Midi at A-, but I didn't revisit either. Did check out this remix album, fleshed out to 51:10, mostly through redundancy (18 tracks). This time, I loved the "ringtone" remix (with Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, and Kero Kero Bonito); also "xXXi_wud_nvrstop_ÜXXx" (another baby song, with Tommy Cash & Hannah Diamond). Still found many things annoying, but fans somehow manage to laugh (or snicker?) at them. B+(**)

Jessi Alexander: Decatur County Red (2020, Lost Creek Music): Country singer-songwriter, from Jackson, Tennessee, recorded an album for Columbia in 2005, but was dropped and this is only her second album since, a short one (8 songs, 28:58). Thoughtful songs, aside from the duet with Randy Houser which is plain fun. B+(*)

Pedro Melo Alves: In Igma (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, second album. Other musician names on the cover: Aubrey Johnson (voice), Beatriz Nunes (voice), Mariana Dionísio (voice), Eve Risser (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), Abdul Moimême (guitar). Way too much voice, a choral cloud, still not enough to obscure the creaky industrialism in the background. B-

American Aquarium: Lamentations (2020, New West): Country-rock band from North Carolina, founded by singer-songwriter BJ Barham in 2005, eleventh album, no other members date back past 2017. B+(**)

Antibalas: Fu Chronicles (2020, Daptone): Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band, founded 1998 by Martin Perna (baritone sax) -- the only original member remaining, although Duke Amayo (vocals/percussion) and Jordan McLean (trumpet) have been with the band nearly as long. B+(***)

Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience: To Know Without Knowing (2020, Agogo): Ethiopian vibraphonist, also plays keyboards and percussion, invented a style he calls Ethio-jazz, studied engineering in UK and music in London and Boston. Responded to revived interest in his 1970s music by playing with groups like Heliocentrics and Either/Orchestra, and most recently with Black Jesus Experience -- an Ethio-jazz band based in Melbourne, Australia, which adds a bit of hip-hop to the flow. B+(***)

Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2020, WJ3): One of the impressive young tenor saxophonists of the 1990s, got distracted by fusion then dropped out for a long spell, returning with a Coltrane tribute in 2019. Plays 10 Monk tunes here, split between two rhythm sections (pianists Anthony Wonsey and DD Jackson). B+(***)

Jon Balke: Discourses (2019 [2020], ECM): Norwegian pianist, albums since 1991. This one is solo, 16 mostly short pieces. B

Ballister: Znachki Stilyag (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Dave Rempis sax trio, with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), fifth album since 2010, this one recorded in Moscow, title Russian for "hipster icons." This has long been the most fevered of Rempis groups, and doesn't shirk here. The 38:37 "Fuck the Money Changers" is a tour de force. A- [bc]

J Balvin: Colores (2020, Universal Latin): Colombian reggaeton star, short album (10 tracks, 28:52). Nice beat. B+(**)

Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): Philadelphia rapper Tariq Trotter, lead MC of the Roots, first solo effort this 5-track, 17:15 download, produced by 9th Wonder. Sounds like half of a pretty good Roots album. B+(***)

Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 2 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): Another 9 tracks, 23:25. Second half of that Roots album even stronger, with no reason to miss the live band. A-

The Blam Blams: Opening Night (2020, LunaSea Media): Nashville group, bill themselves as a "theatrical glam rock band," drawing on "Bowie, Queen, and the Beatles." Front cover continues: A Tale of Sydney Fabel & the Galactic Theatre Company. I could care less for the dramaturgy, but pop hooks help. B

Afel Bocoum: Lindé (2020, World Circuit): Guitarist, singer-songwriter from Mali, several albums since 1999, a key player on the 2002 Damon Albarn-produced Mali Music. B+(**)

Bonjintan: Dental Kafka (2018 [2020], Trost): Free jazz quartet, second album, led by Japanese saxophonist Akira Sakata (also clarinet/voice), with Jim O'Rourke (double bass), Giovanni Di Domenico (keyboards), and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto (drums). B+(**)

Alan Braufman: The Fire Still Burns (2019 [2020], Valley of Search): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute, recently reissued his 1975 debut Valley of Search to much acclaim, returns with something new, with Cooper-Moore (piano) from his old group, and relative newcomers James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Ken Filiano (bass), Andrew Drury (drums). Always impressed by the pianist, but the horns come on rather heavy. B+(*)

Bully: Sugaregg (2020, Sub Pop): Nashville indie band, principally Alicia Bognanno, third album. Fast, trashy. B+(*)

Burna Boy: Twice as Tall (2020, Atlantic): Nigerian singer-rapper, hip-hop with a little Afrobeat. B+(**)

Steve Cardenas: Blue Has a Range (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Guitarist, dozen-plus albums since 2000, quartet with Jon Cowherd (piano), Ben Allison (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). Mild. B

Hayes Carll: Alone Together Sessions (2020, Dualtone): Quarantine project: acoustic versions of old songs, many memorable, ranging from 2002-19, plus a Lefty Frizzell cover, with extra help phoned in (Darrell Scott "played just about all the instruments"; Allison Moorer and Ray Wylie Hubbard sang one each). Line I jotted down: "why doesn't anybody speak about truth any more/maybe that's what songs are for." That from Trouble in Mind, still his best. B+(**)

Lynn Cassiers: Yun (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Belgian vocalist, plays electronics, third album. With Bo Van der Werf (baritone sax), keyboards, bass, drums, with group improvs and reworked standards. B

Ernesto Cervini: Tetrahedron (2019 [2020], Anzic): Canadian drummer, half-dozen albums since 2006, this a quartet with Luiz Deniz (alto sax), Nir Felder (guitar), and Rich Brown (bass). Cover has a "featuring" credit for Felder, but the saxophonist has most of the appeal. B+(**)

Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (2020, Agent Love): Country singer-songwriter, seventh album since 2000, had a breakthrough with 2007's Balls and the even better 2010 Welder. Rocking harder here, which is appealing enough but makes it harder to follow her songs. The exception is the closer, a reworking of John Prine's "Jesus: The Missing Years" to focus on Mary. B+(***)

Vladislav Delay: Rakka (2020, Warp): Finnish electronica producer Sasu Ripatti, 15+ records since 1999. Industrial rumble, up and down. B+(*)

Vladislav Delay/Sly Dunbar/Robbie Shakespeare: 500-Push-Up (2020, Sub Rosa): Second album pairing the Finnish electronica producer with Jamaica's legendary rhythm section, but 2018's Nordub was dominated by Norwegians Nils Petter Molvaer and Eivind Aarset, leaving Delay's electromurk in the background. Here it's foreground, and while the extra rhythm helps, it's not likely to be recognized as such. B+(**)

Daniel Donato: A Young Man's Country (2020, Cosmic Country Music): Singer-songwriter, Nashville native, more rock and roll than country, has a distinctive guitar style (or maybe that's the bass?), and the guitar leads here. Produced by Robben Ford, who never struck me as that good, but he certainly inspired Donato to show off. B+(***)

Kathleen Edwards: Total Freedom (2020, Dualtone): Canadian singer-songwriter, folkie division, recorded four albums 2003-12, returns from a hiatus here. Seems quite nice, but nothing stands out. B

The Engines: Wooden Legs (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): Free jazz quartet from Chicago, recorded an eponymous album in 2006, two more through 2011, with a couple archive tapes appearing since. Jeb Bishop (trombone), Dave Rempis (saxes), Nate McBride (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums) -- three Vandermark 5 alums plus another frequent collaborator. B+(***)

Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut: Live in Graz (2019 [2020], Multiphonics Music): Trombonist, organized this trombone-tuba choir for its eponymous first album in 2011. Ryan Keberle and Luis Bonilla are the other trombonists, and Jon Sass plays tuba. Dedicated to Roswell Rudd, reprising three of his songs. B+(**)

John Finbury: American Nocturnes (2019 [2020], Green Flash Music): Composer, plays piano on one track but mostly defers to Tim Ray. With strings, harmonica, accordion, Peter Eldridge vocalese on one track. C+ [cd]

Fontaines D.C.: A Hero's Death (2020, Partisan): Rock group from Dublin, Ireland; first album was punkish enough to remind one of the Pogues, second is toned down in several ways. B+(*)

Frazey Ford: U Kin B the Sun (2020, Arts & Crafts): Canadian singer-songwriter, father was an American draft dodger, third album since 2020, before that was in a folkie group called the Be Good Tanyas. Has a nice, light touch. B+(**)

Jason Foureman and Stephen Anderson: Duo (2020, Summit): Bass and piano duo; Foureman teaches in North Carolina, wrote two pieces (rest are covers, mostly by postbop jazz musicians), this looks like his first album. Anderson has a bit more exposure, also seems to have a NC connection. Runs 78 minutes, consistently engaging. B+(**) [cd]

Jacob Garchik: Clear Line (2018 [2020], Yestereve): Trombonist, just listed as composer/conductor here. Group is a horn choir: four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, no rhythm section -- which, of course, is the rub. B+(*)

Arna Georgia: Yes Girl (2020, Arna Georgia): Country singer, from Sydney, Australia, first album. Nice voice, songs have some promise. B+(*)

Robert Gordon: Rockabilly for Life (2020, Cleopatra): Rockabilly revivalist from the late 1960s, when he teamed up with Link Wray and tried crashing the CBGB's scene. He recorded 7 records 1977-82, another burst 1994-97, another 2004-07, this one coming after a 6 year hiatus which spanned his 70th birthday. Nothing in my database since his grade B debut, so he's been pretty far out of mind. Fifteen songs here, each with a guest, unlikely any are originals but the only one I instantly recognized was "Hot Dog! That Made Her Mad" (with Rosie Flores). Digital adds as many "original reference mixes" -- sans guests is how I understand that, and often sharper. Not a major talent, but he's entitled to relish his life's work. B+(*)

Frank Gratkowski/Simon Nabatov/Dominik Mahnig: Dance Hall Stories (2017 [2020], Leo): Free jazz, German reeds player who's recorded since 1991, picking up the pace in 2000, playing alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute here, backed with piano and (on 4/8 tracks) drums). Not especially danceable. B+(**)

Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Safar-E-Daroon (2020, Songlines): Guitar and oud player, from Vancouver, BC, prolific since 2006, second album with this string and percussion group: Grdina on oud, Josh Zubot (violin), Hank Roberts (cello), Mark Helias (bass), and Hamin Honari (tombak, daf, frame-drum). B+(***)

Gordon Grdina: Prior Street (2019 [2020], self-released): Guitarist from Vancouver, BC, also plays oud, has a long list of impressive albums. This one is solo, perhaps his first. B

Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini: The Choir Invisible (2018 [2020], Intakt): German alto saxophonist, based in New York, several albums since 2009 (four with Lisbeth Quartett). Trio with drums and bass. B+(*)

Tee Grizzley: The Smartest (2020, 300 Entertainment): Detroit rapper Terry Wallace, active since 2016, mixtape. Love the beats. Words rather less so. B+(***)

Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (2019 [2020], Destiny): Guitarist, eighth album since 2005, quintet with Ben Wendel (tenor sax/bassoon), Aaron Parks (keyboards), bass, and drums. Nice groove for postbop. B+(*) [09-18]

GuiltyBeatz: Different E.P (2020, Banku Music, EP): Ronald Banful, born in Italy (Palermo), moved to Ghana at age 6, learned to make beats on computer, had a hit single with Mr Eazi in 2018, did some production for Beyoncé. Few details available, but looks like six tracks, 16:00. B+(*) [yt]

Haiku Hands: Haiku Hands (2020, Mad Decent): Australian dance-pop outfit, sisters Claire and Mie Nakazawa and Beatrice Lewis. First album. Bassist has a major in Chic riffs, and the oft-repeated lyrics are dumb enough to get smart. B+(*)

Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within (2020, Nonesuch): Armenian pianist, won prizes as a teenager, based in Los Angeles, tenth album at age 33, draws on folk influences and Middle Eastern scales, once dreamed of being a "thrash metal guitarist." Also sings and plays electronic keyboards and drums, only other regular musician is Evan Marien on bass, but guests come and go. Strong, dramatic, an impressive piece of work, just not one I'm wild about. B+(*)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring (2020, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called his late-1970s band the Cowboy Twinkies, languished on folkie labels, started producing impressive albums in his 60s, and at 73 has a long list of people who want to appear with him: Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson -- that's just the first song, but it clears most of the pop names away, leaving a mixed bag of country artists. Not his best batch of songs, but some notable passages. The label brought their big rock production, for better and worse. B+(**)

I Think You're Awesome: Suite to Be You and Me (2019 [2020], Jaeger Community): Danish instrumental group, fifth album since 2014, electric bassist Jens Mikkel the composer/arranger, with two guitarists (one also on banjo), keyboards, drums, a second percussionist also on electronics, and this time Taiga String Quartet. More of a prog rock feel, but can click into place. B+(*)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Sherman Irby's Inferno (2012 [2020], Blue Engine): Irby is an alto saxophonist, from Alabama, recorded a couple impressive mainstream albums for Blue Note 1997-98 (cf. Big Mama's Biscuits), not much since, but he's played in JLCO since 2005, and this is his Dante-themed "epic composition." Overture, six movements, big band. B+(*)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Black Brown & Beige (2018 [2020], Blue Engine): Duke Ellington composed this suite for his 1943 Carnegie Hall Concert, underscoring the idea that jazz was becoming America's classical music. B

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Rock Chalk Suite (2019 [2020], Blue Engine): Basketball on the cover, tatooed with two icons, one for jazz, the other for KU. Liner notes by Derek Kwan, executive director, Lied Center of Kansas -- the big performing arts facility in Lawrence, KS. The songs were written by many JLCO members, each a basketball dedication, most (as far as I recall) for KU players -- head honcho Wynton Marsalis claimed Wilt Chamberlain and Lynette Woodward (who was sort of the Satchel Paige of women's basketball, joining the WNBA at 38 after spending her prime years in the Harlem Globetrotters). One vocal, Chris Crenshaw singing Sherman Irby's "The Truth" for Paul Pierce. A better-than-average outing, maybe because the lowbrow concept suits their middlebrow aesthetics. B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Christopher Crenshaw's the Fifties: A Prism (2017 [2020], Blue Engine): A rare JLCO album cover that doesn't mention leader Wynton Marsalis by name, but the website does. Crenshaw plays trombone, has no albums under his own name but deserves full credit here, as composer, musical director and producer (elsewhere he is JLCO's first-call singer). B+(**)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Ever Fonky Lowdown (2019 [2020], Blue Engine, 2CD): A "funky jazz parable for 2020," ranging "from football to politics, from power to poverty, from love and romance to betrayal and corruption; it will make you dance and think." Wynton Marsallis wrote, "based on decades of conversations with my brother Ellis." Wendell Pierce narrates as Mr. Game, several others sing, and they brought in extra congas and persussion. As is often the case, Marsalis' penchant for sprawl overwhelms his limited stores of insight and utter lack of humor. B-

Russ Johnson/Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Isaiah Spencer/Jeremy Cunningham: Harmattan (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Trumpet, alto/tenor/bari sax, bass, two drummers, one 41:02 live jam. B+(***) [bc]

Karen Jonas: The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams (2020, Yellow Brick): Country singer-songwriter from Virginia, namechecked Oklahoma in her 2014 debut, draws on open spaces here from West Texas to California deserts. B+(**)

Vic Juris: Let's Cool One (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Cool-toned guitarist, 1953-2019, couple dozen albums since 1978, 50+ side credits (most often with Richie Cole or Dave Liebman). Cut this a few months before his death, with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums). Nice and thoughtful. B+(*)

Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (2020, Libra): Free jazz quartet, one of pianist Satoko Fujii's many groups: two trumpets (Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura) and drums (Peter Orins). Sixth group album I'm aware of, this one adding Mori's laptop electronica and some spurious voice (Tamura). Some terrific passages. B+(***) [cd]

Sukyung Kim: Lilac Hill (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): Pianist, from Korea, based in New York, considers this short album (5 tracks, 30:17) an EP. Quintet, alto saxophonist Ethan Helm makes a good showing, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Knxwledge: 1988 (2020, Stones Throw): Hip-hop producer Glen Boothe, lots of records since 2010, this one named for his birth year, 22 short tracks, 38:41 (longest 4:28, 3:19, 2:49, 2:09). B [bc]

La Lucha: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (2019 [2020], Arbors): Translates as fight, or struggle. Florida trio -- John C O'Leary (piano/keyboards), Alejandro Arenas (bass), and Mark Feinman (drums) -- several albums since 2009, this one augmented with guests including producer Ken Peplowski (clarinet) and Houston Person (tenor sax). Latin rhythm when it doesn't get gummed up. Peplowski has an ace solo. B [bc]

La Pingo's Orquesta & Todd Clouser: Midwest/Bajio (2020, Ropeadope Sur): Clouser is a guitarist from Kansas City and Minneapolis, based in Mexico City, writer of 7 (of 9) songs. The Orquesta is from Bajio, considered the Midwest of Mexico. B+(*) [bc]

Bettye Lavette: Blackbirds (2020, Verve): Soul singer, had some singles in the 1960s, an album in 1982, a breakthrough in 2002. Voice ragged, songs slow and deliberate, verging on haunting. B+(***)

Dua Lipa & the Blessed Madonna: Club Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): Remixes from her second album, a critical and popular hit and well up on my A-list. Unnecessary, of course, but glittering with ear candy -- my favorite a Neneh Cherry rap, reminding me I should dig that CD (Raw Like Sushi) out. B+(***)

The Magnetic Fields: Quickies (2020, Nonesuch): Stephin Merritt runs through 28 songs, none over 2:35, 46:40 total, additional vocals by Claudia Gonson and Shirley Simms. Perverse fragments: "I've Got a Date With Jesus" was fetching, "You've Got a Friend in Beelzebub" less so. B+(**)

Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (2018 [2020], Manricks Music): Australian saxophonist ("of Sri Lankan & Portuguese origin"), plays alto, tenor, and soprano here, as well as clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, and midi strings. Fifth record since 2009, ably backed by piano trio (Joe Gilman, Matt Penman, Clarence Penn). B+(**) [cd]

Arlo McKinley: Die Midwestern (2020, Oh Boy): Singer-songwriter from Cincinnati, first album, landed on John Prine's label, which has usually been a pretty solid recommendation. Unclear why in this case. B

Meridian Brothers: Cumbia Siglo XXI (2020, Bongo Joe): Colombian group, eighth album since 2006, figure they're updating cumbia for the 21st century -- Cumbia Siglo XX was a pioneering 1970s cumbia group. B+(***)

Cahalen Morrison: Wealth of Sorrow (2020, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, from New Mexico, plays guitar and banjo, recorded this solo in "an old adobe chapel." Bare bones folk tunes. B+(**) [bc]

Vee Mukarati: Vital Signs (2020, Primrose, EP): Singer from Zimbabwe, also plays sax, based in Geneva, short album (6 tracks, 26:33), billed as Afro-jazz but strikes me as mbira-driven groove pop. B+(*)

Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parrish: Interactivity (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): Percussion and guitar duo, the former originally from Japan but now based in New Mexico, the latter in North Carolina, where this was recorded. B+(**)

Nas: King's Disease (2020, Mass Appeal): Rapper Nasir Jones, went platinum with his 1994 debut (Illmatic), twelfth studio album, debuted at number 5. B+(**)

Adam Niewood: Blue as a Whistle (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist (also plays soprano), debut 2004 but second album didn't come until 2015, four more since. Mix of originals, two tracks by guitarist Gene Segal (plays on 4/9 cuts), covers of Coltrane and Mingus. B+(**)

No Joy: Motherhood (2020, Joyful Noise): Shoegaze group from Montreal, fourth album since 2010, Jasamine White-Gluz (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jorge Elbrecht (guitar, bass, vocals, additional instruments) the co-writers. B+(*)

Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates (2020, Invada): British singer-songwriter Tor Maries, first album, some sources say "No Mates," produced by Geoff Barrow (Portishead), draws comparisons to Sleaford Mods for her talkie style and class consciousness. B+(***)

Adam Nussbaum: Lead Belly Reimagined (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): Drummer, mainstream, since the late 1980s, previously did The Lead Belly Project (2018), with this same quartet: Steve Cardenas (guitar), Nate Radley (guitar), Ohad Talmod (tenor sax). No doubt, Leadbelly is underappreciated as a standards source -- Clifford Jordan's These Are My Roots (1965) is an exception. Talmor isn't as imposing a saxophonist, but the guitarists help. B+(***)

Oddisee: Odd Cure (2020, Outer Note): DC rapper, Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, father from Sudan, grew up in Prince George's County in Maryland, short album with six songs wrapped around five quarantine phone calls -- a sign of the times. B+(***)

Zephaniah OHora: Listening to the Music (2020, Last Roundup): Brooklyn-based trad-friendly country tunesmith, second album, calls his band the 18 Wheelers. Finds his calling in recycling old Merle Haggard riffs. Liberal country anthem of the year: "All American Singer." A-

Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (2018 [2020], ESP-Disk): Alto saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, soprano clarinet, and flute. Fourth album, all with Shipp on piano, second quartet with Parker (bass) and Drake (drums) -- really hit the jackpot of rhythm sections. Free jazz, nice balance spread over eight Walerian originals (ranging from 10:54 to 18:21), room for the stars as well as the leader.. A- [cd]

Old 97's: Twelfth (2020, ATO): Rhett Miller's long-running band, alt-country or "loud folk" or just pop. Wikipedia lists 21 albums since 1994, but if you drop out the compilations, the live albums, and maybe the Xmas album, this may be close to its name. B+(***)

Angel Olsen: Whole New Mess (2020, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, based in NC, fifth album, well regarded by critics, but more languid than ever. B

Gregory Porter: All Rise (2020, Blue Note): Singer, "the best-selling contemporary Jazz/soul artist with over 3 million album sales." Sixth album since 2010, a long CD which stretches to 2- or 3-LP length. Towering voice, couched in strings with fancy acoutrements. I've never cared for his art, but occasionally here I can fathom the appeal. But he doesn't deliver anything undeniable until the closer, "Revival," where his church roots meet the Four Tops. B+(*)

Ryan Porter & the West Coast Get Down: Live in Paris at New Morning (2020, World Galaxy): Trombonist, from Los Angeles. Napster classified him as children's music, probably because his debut reworked classic children's nursery rhymes (Spangle-Lang Lane). Some confusion over artist credit and title, but I'm going with the front cover small print (ignoring a much larger "Ryan Porter"). Also hard to find credits, surprising given that Kamasi Washington is the tenor saxophonist, and also delivers the album's high points. B+(***)

Pretenders: Hate for Sale (2020, BMG): Chrissie Hynde's London-based band, gold records 1979-1994, fifth since, spaced 3-6 years apart. First I've heard since 2002's Loose Screw, which come to think of it was a pretty good album. So is this, recapturing the old sound and adding contemporary ideas to it. Then it ends with a slow one called "Crying in Public," where the anguish is palpable. B+(***)

The Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain (2020, Cooking Vinyl): Big group in the early 1980s, started declining with 3rd or 4th album, broke up after 1991, regrouped in 2000 but this is their first album since. First song's an impressive return to form, but while their sound remains distinct, it's carrying some excess weight.

PVRIS: Use Me (2020, Warner): Electropop band from Massachusetts, pronounced "Paris" but styled for legal reasons, third album. Has some bounce to it. B

Dan Reeder: Every Which Way (2020, Oh Boy): Folkie singer-songwriter, originally from Louisiana but he's been around (including a spell in Germany). Fifth album since 2004, all on John Prine's Oh Boy Records. Twenty songs, short, slow and simple, voice an acquired taste. B

Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Triple Tube (2019 [2020], Not Two): Alto sax/piano/drums trio, recorded at Tube's in Graz, Austria, the pianist's home turf, the others from Chicago. B+(**)

Rempis Percussion Quartet: The Long Haul (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): Chicago group, dates from 2006, led by saxophonist Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone), with two drummers (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly) and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass. Rempis is a terrific saxophonist, and he's frequently in top form here. A- [bc]

Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): Bassist, probably best known for his work with Branford Marsalis since 1997, but before that started out with Betty Carter, and his own records have been adventurous. Uses two saxophonists here -- Bill McHenry (tenor) and Darius Jones (alto) -- with Kris Davis (piano) and Chad Taylor (drums). The rhythm breaks up nicely, especially with Davis. The saxes take a while to develop -- even Jones, who is usually a terror. A- [cd]

Jenny Reynolds: Any Kind of Angel (2020, Pretty Okay Music): Folkie singer-songwriter, started in Boston, moved to Austin, fourth album since 1998. B+(**)

Dan Rosenboom: Points on an Infinite Line (2020, Orenda): Trumpet player, several records, leads a quartet with Gavin Templeton (alto sax), Billy Mohler (bass), and Anthony Fung (drums). B+(**)

Rumer: Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood (2020, Cooking Vinyl): British singer-songwriter, Sarah Joyce, born in Pakistan, where her father was chief engineer on a dam project, turned out her biological father was the family's cook. Grew up in England, moved to Los Angeles, then to Arkansas, where she married Burt Bacharach's former music director. Fifth album, the fourth subtitled A Bacharach and David Songbook. This one covers 15 songs by Prestwood. Leans toward countrypolitan, but the lush settings work for once. B+(**)

Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw (2020, Deep Rush): Bluesman Emmett Ellis Jr., at 86 he's slowed down enough to sound like he crawled out of the 1930s Delta. B+(***)

Christian Sands: Be Water (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, Pianist, was a prodigy releasing his first album at 13, mentored by Billy Taylor. Fourth album on this label, albums a mix of trio and extra guests: two tracks add horns, four guitar, one a string quartet. B+(*)

Scenes: Trapeze (2020, Origin): Seattle group, seventh album since the 2001 title attributed to John Bishop (drums), Jeff Johnson (bass), Rick Mandyck (tenor sax), and John Stowell (guitar). Most of the series were trios I filed under Stowell, but Mandyck's return here shifts the focus, and adds a welcome dimension. B+(**) [cd]

Sara Schoenbeck/Wayne Horvitz: Cell Walk (2020, Songlines): Bassoon and piano duets. B

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Axiom (2020, Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, nephew of Donald Harrison, more than a dozen albums since 2002, adopting this extended name in 2012. Live album, septet, with Elena Pinderhughes (flute), Alex Han (alto sax), keyboards, bass, percussion (djembe, congas, bata) and drums. Party friendly. B+(***)

Archie Shepp/Raw Poetic/Damu the Fudgemunk: Ocean Bridges (2020, Redefinition): Order from album cover, but other sources list hip-hop drummer/producer Damu (Earl Davis) first -- he has 51 releases on his Bandcamp page, but while I recognize the name I've never indulged before. Raw Poetic (Jason Moore) is the rapper/lyricist, and Shepp is a tenor sax legend who c. 1970 broadened from avant-garde to black power funk -- hip-hop before the term. As hip-hop, seems a bit scattered, but great to hear the sax, especially when the beats free up. B+(***)

Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newan Taylor Baker (drums). There's no shortage of these, and it took me a lot of plays to decide that this one stood out from the crowd -- those trademark hard chords for one, the ability to navigate the trickiest of rhythms for another. A- [cd]

Gary Smulyan: Our Contrafacts (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, more than a dozen albums since 1991 plus 80 or so side credits (starting with Woody Herman in 1981). Trio with bass (David Wong) and drums (Rodney Green), all originals (6 Smulyan, 2 each for the others). B+(***)

Sneaks: Happy Birthday (2020, Merge): Eva Moolchan, from DC, started in a band called the Shitstains, tried some other aliases (Blood, Young Trynas) before settling on Sneaks. Fifth album, but the first I've heard where her electropop hits a fine balance. Or as she puts it: "I'm not overrated/I'm not underrated/I'm just slightly sophisticated." B+(***) [bc]

South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (2020, Summit): Chuck Bergeron directs, and John Hart and Brian Lynch get featured credit on the cover, but the tenor saxophonist is pretty obviously Margitza, and it's great to hear him again at length. B+(**) [cd]

Greg Spero + Spirit Fingers: Peace (2020, Ropeadope): Pianist, Wikipedia lists eight albums 2002-14, including one called Radio Over Miles (2010), which is some kind of mashup of Miles Davis and Radiohead. Since 2014 he's been music director for Halsey, but also released an eponymous Spirit Fingers album in 2018.l Slightly off-kilter fusion band with guitar-bass-drums plus guests -- singer Judi Jackson (4 tracks), saxophonists Braxton Cook and Greg Ward (1 each). The latter are better, not least because they soar with the rhythm, whereas the vocals slow it down. B+(*)

Stillefelt: Stillefelt (2018 [2020], Stoney Lane): British bassist Chris Mapp, also electronics, has at least one previous release, leads a trio here with Percy Pursglove (trumpet) and Thomas Seminar Ford (guitar/electronics). Leans toward ambient. B+(*)

Henri Texier: Chance (2019 [2020], Label Bleu): French bassist, long list of albums and side credits since 1971. Quintet with Vincent Lê Quang (tenor/soprano sax), Sébastien Texier (alto sax/clarinet/alto clarinet), Manu Codjia (guitar), and Gautier Garrigue (drums). Guitar provides the muscle here. B+(**)

Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit (2020, Wide Hive): California "punk jazz" group, originally (2012) a trio -- Lumpy (drums/guitars), Matt Montgomery (piano/bass), and Kamasi Washington (tenor sax) -- five albums later an octet, adding texture to sound, but also smoothes off the rough edges. B+(*)

Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence Part II (2020, IOT, EP): Electronica producer from Tunisia. Five tracks, 28:09. B+(*)

Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2020, Next Level): Bassist, presumably from Japan but based in New York over fifteen years, with at least three previous records. Detweiler plays tenor sax, with Art Hirahara (piano) and Jimmy MacBride (drums). Eight originals, four each by Tomita and Detweiler, all close to bebop standards, lightly glossed over, the rhythm spot on as well. B+(***) [cd] [09-25]

Toots & the Maytals: Got to Be Tough (2020, BMG): Reggae legends, originally The Maytals in 1962, led by Frederick "Toots" Hibbert, who turned 20 that year. Big stars in the 1970s, slowed down a bit in the 1990s, with their first new record since 2010. Nothing great here, but upbeat, voice I'd recognize anywhere. B+(*)

Kali Uchis: To Feel Alive (Virgin EMI, EP): Pop singer from Virginia, actual name Karly-Marina Loaiza, father a refugee from Colombia. Four tracks, 10:03, follow up to her 2018 hit Isolation. Recorded during quarantine, feels skimpy. B

Village of the Sun Feat. Binker & Moses: Village of the Sun/TED (2020, Gearbox, EP): Two songs, 11:01, where Simon Ratcliffe (of Basement Jaxx) meets Binker Golding (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums). Starts to build something, but ends too soon. B

Ulf Wakenius: Taste of Honey: A Tribute to Paul McCartney (2019 [2020], ACT Music): Swedish guitarist, couple dozen records since 1979, trio with Lars Danielsson (bass/cello) and Magnus öström (drums). Title cut was a Beatles cover in 1963, but is widely known in pop jazz versions by Martin Denny, Acker Bilk, and Herb Alpert. Two originals here, another odd cover choice ("Besame Mucho"), and eight McCartney songs (six co-credited to John Lennon). B

Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List (2020, self-released): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also credited with organ), from California, had a surf group called the Deltas in the 1960s, not much else I can find. Leads a 21-piece big band here, writing 7/14 songs, arranging the rest -- covers include a series of "Goody Goody," "Honky Tonk," and "God Bless the Child." B+(*) [cd]

Greg Ward/Jason Stein/Marcus Evans/Chad Taylor/Matt Lux: 85bears (2020, Ears & Eyes): Chicago group, title refers to Bears running back Walter Payton. Alto sax, bass clarinet, two drummers (Taylor overdubbed 3 tracks in post-production), and bass. Loose-jointed free jazz, highlighted by the contrast of the two horns. B+(***) [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music): Piano (d. 2012), clarinet (d. 2018), trombone, drums -- when I looked up Sage, Discogs only listed 3 albums, all from 2007. Swell assembled this, with 2 duos and 5 trios in various configurations, and 2 quartets. He only plays on 6 (of 9) cuts, but they are the ones that jump out at you. A- [cd]

The Claire Daly Band: Rah! Rah! (2008 [2020], Ride Symbol): Baritone saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 1999, this one had a very limited release in 2009. Title is a shout-out to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, covering four of his songs, along with a couple originals, covers of Charlie Parker and Frank Foster, some standards. Daly sings two: "Alfie" and "Everyday People." Quartet with Eli Yamin (piano), bass, drums, the sax shading everything. B+(**) [cd] [10-02]

Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73 [2020], NoBusiness -3CD): German group: Herbert Joos (trumpets) probably a best known, with Willfried Eichhorn (reeds), Helmuth Zimmer (piano), Klaus Bühler (double bass), and Rudi Theilmann (drums). Recorded two albums, on the first two CDs here, then when Bühler dropped out they changed their name to Four Men Only, which with the addition of trombonist Wolfang Czelusta became Four Men Only + 1 for the final album. First disc is most impressive, genuinely exciting. A- [cd]

Thelonious Monk: Palo Alto (1968 [2020], Impulse!): Archival album, previously unreleased, so a big deal, recorded on a stage at Palo Alto High School, a side trip from a stand at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. Quartet, with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass), and Ben Riley (drums). This was near the tail end of one of Monk's best quartets, with seasoned experts reworking his old songs. A-

Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris: Live in Paris (2010 [2020], Nublu): "Conduction No. 190." At some point I should make a chart of who played on each of their live albums -- coming out now at a fairly rapid clip -- but aside from some regulars like Graham Haynes (cornet) and Doug Wieselman (guitar) the lineups seem pretty variable. B+(**)

The Outskirts: You Deserve to Dance (2009 [2020], Aerophonic): Another Dave Rempis sax-bass-drums trio, active 2007-09, this one with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums), one drummer short of Rempis Percussion Quartet. Rempis is impressive as usual, but the tape has too many holes where he drops out and you can't hear much. B+(*) [bc]

Dudk Pukwana: Dudu Phukwana and the "Spears" (1968-69 [2020], Matsuli Music): Alto saxophonist from South Africa, left the country in 1964 with Chris MacGregor and the Blue Notes. This combines his first album (1968) with a second unreleased album. Pukwana moved into avant-garde circles quickly enough, but he started out with a jazzed-up take on township jive, which is mostly what he presents here (and even better on 1973's In the Townships). B+(***) [bc]

Peter Stampfel & the Bottle Caps: Demo '84 (1984 [2020], Don Giovanni): Nine tracks, 29:10, 8 of the 12 that appeared on the group's eponymous 1986 Rounder LP, plus a cover of "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)," a 1959 Johnny Horton hit. Demos usually signify sketchy, but these pieces are fully fleshed out, the guitar rocking hard, Stampfel's unique voice inevitably standing out, but also integral to the flow. I don't remember being especially impressed by the album, and it's possible this impresses partly in stark contrast to the gradual decline of his recent years. A

Triage: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2005 [2020], Aerophonic): Saxophonist Dave Rempis' first group outside of the Vandermark 5, released three 2001-04 albums, the third (American Mythology) one of my early Jazz CG Pick Hits. Trio with bass (Jason Ajemian) and drums (Tim Daisy). B+(**) [bc]

Old Music


Paul Bley: Mr. Joy (1968, Limelight): Pianist, leads a trio here with Gary Peacock (bass) and Bill Elgart (drums). One Bley original, one Ornette Coleman cover, and six songs by Annette Peacock (Gary's ex-wife, by then married to Bley -- she was the Peacock in the Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show). A lot of banging about here, even on the bass, which kicks around as energetically as a guitar. A- [yt]

EABS: Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda): Live at Jazz Club Hipnoza (Katowice) (2018, Astigmatic): Komeda songs, done up with a bit of hip-hop. B+(***) [bc]

EABS: Slavic Spirits (2019, Astigmatic): Original material, at best an idea inspired by Komeda. Group remains mostly electric, but the turntablist and rapper are gone, and missed. B+(*)

Good Ol' Persons: Anywhere the Wind Blows (1989, Kaleidoscope): Bluegrass group, fifth and final album (not counting the 1995 "20th Anniversary" Good N' Live). No recollection why I downloaded this, but found it cleaning up, and recognize the two major singer-songwriters: Kathy Kallick (guitar) and John Reischman (mandolin). B+(**)

Frank Gratkowski Quartet: Spectral Reflections (2001 [2003], Leo): Second Quartet album, after Kollaps (a 4-star Penguin Guide pick). Leader plays alto sax, clarinet, and contrabass clarinet, with Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Dieter Manderscheid (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). B+(***)

Frank Gratkowsi Quartet: Facio (2003 [2004], Leo): Same group, the leader adding bass clarinet to his arsenal. Same ups and downs, too. B+(***)

Devin Gray/Ryan Ferreira/Jonathan Goldberger/Chris Tordini: Devin Gray's Fashionable Pop Music (2012 [2016], Rataplan): Drummer, composes and leads a group with two guitars and bass, through two sidelong pieces ("Antiplutocracy," "Sowieso"). B+(*) [bc]

Last Exit: Headfirst Into the Flames: Live in Europe (1989 [2008], DMG/ARC): Short-lived avant-fusion quartet (1986-89), with Sonny Sharrock (guitar), Peter Brötzmann (reeds), Bill Laswell (bass), and Shannon Jackson (drums); two studio records plus some live tapes -- this one first appeared in 1993. You rarely think of Brötzmann as the guy who adds color and harmony, but that's the role Sharrock leaves him. A- [bc]

Selwyn Lissack/Friendship Next of Kin: Facets of the Univers (1969 [2014], Downtown Music Gallery): Drummer from Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Britain in 1967, recorded this one album, released by Goody in France in 1971, and supplemented with a third long piece here. With Mongezi Feza (pocket trumpet), Mike Osborne (alto sax), Kenneth Terroade (tenor sax), and Earl Freeman (bass/piano/voice). An energetic free-for-all, doesn't strike me as exceptional but does appeal. B+(***) [bc]

Gwigwi Mrwebi: Mbaqanga Songs (1967 [2006], Honest Jons): South African alto saxophonist, also known as Benjo or Benny, with the better known South African alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana (who wrote 8 songs to Mrwebi's 6), with Ronnie Beer (tenor sax), Chris McGregor (piano), Coleridge Goode (bass), and Laurie Allan (drums). Original album title was Kwela, after another genre (which unlike here I associate with pennywhistle). Recording isn't spectacular, but I do love this music. B+(**)

Gary Peacock: December Poems (1977 [1979], ECM): Six original compositions, four solo bass, two add Jan Garbarek on tenor/soprano saxophone. B+(*)

Gary Peacock/Art Lande/Elliott Zigmund: Shift in the Wind (1980, ECM): Front cover suggests attributing this to pianist Lande, but back cover lists the bassist first, and the labels solely name Peacock. Compositions were split 3 Peacock, 2 Lande, 2 all including drummer Zigmund. B+(**)

Gary Peacock: Voice From the Past - Paradigm (1981 [1982], ECM): Bassist composed all six pieces, leading a quartet with Tomasz Stanko (trupet), Jan Garbarek (tenor/soprano sax), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(**)

Gary Peacock: Guamba (1987, ECM): Another quartet, with Garbarek again, plus Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Peter Erskine (drums). B+(***)

Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner: Oracle (1993 [1994], ECM): Bass and guitar duets, recorded in a studio in Norway, song credits split 6-2-1. B+(**)

Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete (2008, Shangri-La Music): Six years after Loose Screw, the longest break to date. The songs may be coming slower, but there's little evidence of a drop in quality, and the slightly more leisurely pace can be a plus. B+(***)

Pretenders: Live in London (2009 [2010], E1/Stroboscopic): Details are sketchy, but this is tied to a film by Pierre & François Lamoureux, some editions also providing a DVD. [Napster just provides 19 tracks, but other editions have more.] Some pretty great songs. B+(***)

Pretenders: Alone (2016, BMG): Regular band went AWOL, so this is just Chrissie Hynde and studio musicians -- most famous is Dan Auerbach (unless Duane Eddy is more famous). Maybe the band mattered more than anyone thought. B+(*)

Wayne Shorter: The Best of Wayne Shorter (1964-69 [1988], Blue Note): One of a series of single-CD "best-ofs" at this time. Shorter recorded 11 albums for Blue Note 1964-70, while he was a key member of the Miles Davis Quintet. I only rate one of those at A-, but graded the 2-CD The Classic Blue Note Recordings a full A. Should be even easier to construct a one-CD best-of, but this one strikes me as decidedly mixed. B+(***)

Jim Waller and the Deltas: Surfin' Wild (1963 [1995], Sundazed): Waller plays piano and organ here, with Terry Christofsen on guitar, Ray Carlson on sax, plus bass and drums, through a set of surf instrumentals. Title cut may have been a minor hit. Guitar fits the surf paradigm, but organ and sax owe more to r&b models. 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:

EABS: Puzzle Mixtape (2012-15 [2016], Astigmatic): Polish group, later albums appear to be Komeda tributes but this early mixtape features electric keyb-bass-guitar and turntables with guest rappers (Jeru the Damaja opens, Ben Lamar Gay plays trumpet, and another rapper is named Marek Pedziwiatr). [was: B+(*)] B+(**) [bc]

No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): Noise pop duo from Los Angeles, formed 2005, released a consistent stream of fine albums. This one seemed to get slammed hard. I gave it a play, concluded it had their sound down pat, but hedged. Several more plays and it's hard to see how anyone could have missed it. [was: B+(**)] A-

Wayne Shorter: Adam's Apple (1966 [1987], Blue Note): One of his best-regarded albums, the title track belongs on best-ofs, and "Footprints" became a signature tune, but the ballads are less rewarding. With Herbie Hancock, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers. CD bonus track is a plus. [was: B] B+(***)


Additional Consumer News:

Grades on artists in the old music section.

Music Weeks

Current count 33007 [33007] rated (+0), 219 [219] unrated (-0).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

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
  • [lp] based on physical lp (vinyl)
  • [dvd] based on physical dvd (rated more for music than video)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [sp] available at spotify.com
  • [yt] available at youtube.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo