Streamnotes: November 30, 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 October 29. Past reviews and more information are available here (15855 records).


Recent Releases

Actress: Karma & Desire (2020, Ninja Tune): British ambient electronica composer Darren Cunningham, eighth album since 2008, singles back to 2004. Inconspicuous vocals, beats hopeful. B+(*) [bc]

Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Rapper Ian Bavitz, quick with his words, sharp with his beats. B+(***)

Ainon: Drought (2020, We Jazz): Finnish cellist Aino Juutilainen, probably her first album as leader, quartet with Satu-Maija Aalto (violin/viola), Suvi Linnovaara (sax/clarinet/flute), and Joonas Leppänen (drums). B+(**)

Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (2019 [2020], Relative Pitch): Pedal steel guitarist, common in traditional country music but rarely used in jazz. Discogs credits Alcorn with 25 albums since 2000 -- many free jazz collaborations, but still more than I expected. Quintet here, mostly strings -- violin (Michael Feldman), double bass (Michael Formanek), guitar (Mary Halvorson) -- plus a drummer (Ryan Sawyer). All original compositions, although I think I hear bits from folk songs. B+(**)

Lina Allemano's Ohrenschmaus: Rats and Mice (2019 [2020], Lumo): Canadian trumpet player, based in Toronto, first record a 1998 quintet that listed William Carn first, seems to have a Berlin connection -- appeared in Satoko Fujii's Orchestra Berlin, and recorded this trio there: Dan Peter Sundland (electric bass) and Michael Griener (drums), group name translates to "festival for the ears." B+(***) [bc]

Lina Allemano: Glimmer Glammer (2019 [2020], Lumo): Solo trumpet, rarely done, rarely successful, but a game effort. B+(*) [bc]

Aluna: Renaissance (2020, Mad Decent): Aluna Francis, born in London, mother from Belize, half of the AlunaGeorge electropop duo with George Reid, first album on her own. Various looks, but "Body Pump" is singles list material. Change-of-pace ballad "Whistle" sounded off at first, but won me over midway through. A-

Jon Armstrong Sextet: Reabsorb (2020, Orenda): I Googled him and got "Heather Armstrong's ex-husband." I was also offered results about a "Film Actor" and a "Writer," and an entry for "one of the world's best magical entertainers," and some tweets (probably from the writer). This one plays tenor sax, started in Los Angeles, has a teaching job in Pocatello, two previous albums. This is a sextet with trumpet (Dan Rosenboom), trombone, piano, electric bass, and drums. Short, with two pieces, 29:38. First one jumps out at you. Second one lies back in wait, then pounces even harder. B+(**) [bc]

Autechre: Sign (2020, Warp): English electronica duo, Rob Brown and Sean Booth, 14 studio albums since 1993. Quasi-industrial push-pull, decorated with the occasional squiggle. B

Autechre: Plus (2020, Warp): Released a couple weeks after Sign, feels like leftovers. Still, might have an edge for humor, or maybe I'm just in a better mood. B

AVA Trio: Digging the Sand (2018 [2019], Marocco Music): Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone sax/mizmar), Esat Ekincioglu (bass), and Pino Basile (percussion). Mediterranean groove and flavoring, some edge. B+(***)

The Awakening Orchestra: Volume II: To Call Her to a Higher Plain (2019 [2020], Biophilia): Big band, directed by Kyle Saulnier, released a Volume I in 2014 and an Interlude in 2016. Cites George McGovern for inspirational "higher plain" quote, but I have to wonder whether the word intended wasn't "plane." Tracts on patriotism, divided into two parts: "The Pessimist's Dilemma" and "The Optimist's Folly," each embedding a short symphony. One vocal bit, but mostly lets the music talk, speaking volumes. B+(***)

Baby Queen: Medicine (2020, Polydor, EP): Bella Latham, South Africa-born, London-based, don't know if she's done anything else. Six songs, 22:47, half sly talky grooves ("Buzz Kill"), half pop genius ("Internet Religion," "Want Me"). Title song synthesizes both. A-

Bad Bunny: El Último Tour Del Mundo (2020, Rimas): Puerto Rican rapper Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, draws on reggaeton to create a kind of Latin trap rap. B+(*)

Ballrogg: Rolling Ball (2020, Clean Feed): Norwegian trio -- Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (clarinets), Roger Arntzen (bass), and David Stackenäs (guitars) -- second album. Drumless, the guitar well under control, offers a free chamber jazz effect. B+(*)

Alan Barnes: 60th Birthday Celebration: New Takes on Tunes From '59 (2019, Woodville): British clarinet/saxophone player, a swing guy, which partly explains why I expected him to be older, but also true that I've sampled him lightly (I've missed all 6 Penguin Guide recommendations in my database). Band is just horns on top of piano trio. Songs from his birth year, which nets him Jobim, Mancini, Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones, Ellington, Monk, and more modern figures (expected classics other than nothing from Kind of Blue). B+(**)

Tim Barry: Live 2018 (2018 [2020], Chunkasah): Country singer-songwriter, started in Virginia punk bands -- (Young) Pioneers, Avail -- solo albums since 2006. Never heard of him before, but Napster recommended him "because you like Johnny Cash." Collects two hour-long sets, no hits, no duplicate songs. Some striking songs. In one he gets 28 years for a moment, when he took credit after his sister shot a man who abused her. In another, he's the one getting shot, in Iraq. Most striking song is "Prosser's Gabriel," about a slave rebellion in 1800 and the city's crumbling monuments to slaverholders (a/k/a "rich white motherfuckers"). Presented as a time capsule, with "nothing glossed over." He adds, "it's a lot to absorb." And advises, "be fucking resilient." A-

Beabadoobee: Fake It Flowers (2020, Dirty Hit): Born in the Philippines in 2000, Beatrice Laus moved to London when she was 3, credits Kimya Dawson for inspiration to start making music. First album after four EPs. Her pop is more robust than Dawson's anti-folk, but not free from its inspirational idiosyncrasy. B+(**)

Tim Berne's Snakeoil: The Deceptive 4 (2009-17 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): The alto saxophonist's main group for more than a decade now, originally appearing on his 2012 Snakeoil ECM debut. Oscar Noriega (clarinets) offers a contrasting horn, Matt Mitchell plays piano, and Ches Smith drums. First disc is a 2017 set at Firehouse 12. Second picks up tracks from two early shows (the 2nd and 4th played by the group). I struggled with Berne's early music, then it seemed like he really hit his stride in the 1990s, but I've never been a big fan of this particular group, and this is a bit much on edge. B+(**)

David Binney/Kenny Wollesen: Basu (2020, Mythology): Alto sax and drums duo, with both adding considerable electronics, although the latter is the expert there, with his own "Wollesonics" tool kit. Some evidence of Binney's sax chops, much more electronics, interesting and less so. B+(*)

Scott H. Biram: Fever Dreams (2020, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Texas, drawl fated him for Americana but he started out in punk and still reminds me of "psychobilly." Twelfth album since 2000. Ends with a bizarre gospel remix. B+(**)

Scott H. Biram: Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram (2019, Bloodshot): Likely to remain an oddity in his discography, but in some ways this rough and profane clash with sin and grace was the album he was born to sing. A-

Jeb Bishop: Centrifugal Trio (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Trombonist, early member of Vandermark 5, recorded this in Berlin with Antonio Borghini (bass) and Michael Griener (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Noah Bless: New York Strong: Latin Jazz! (2020, Zoho): Trombonist, studied in Cincinnati, moved to New York in 1990, appeared on dozens of mainstream and Latin jazz albums, not much under his own name. Percussion as expected, nice trombone leads. B+(*) [cd]

Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman (2020, 37d03d): American folk-rock "supergroup" -- Anaďs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins), Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger). B

Jamie Branch/Dave Rempis/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Tollef Řstvang: Tripel/Dubbel (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): Trumpet, alto/tenor sax, bass, drums, a Chicago/Norway meet up in Belgium, for a very solid and occasionally exciting 40:49 live shot. B+(***) [bc]

Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart (2020, Ropeadope): German violinist, also sings and plays synthesizer, classical training, has a few side credits including Maisha and Yazz Ahmed, debut album, backed with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(*)

Will Butler: Generations (2020, Merge): Arcade Fire member, brother of frontman Win Butler, third solo album, has a couple of well-hooked songs, ends with one on George Washington which starts like Randy Newman. Turns out "Fine." B+(***)

Cabaret Voltaire: Shadow of Fear (2020, Mute): Group from Sheffield, UK, formed in 1973, pioneered industrial electronica, I never went deep into their albums but like some compilations a lot. Last group album in 1994, but Richard H. Kirk has returned with a new album under the old name. Got the old groove back, too. B+(***)

Call Super: Every Mouth Teeth Missing (2020, Incienso): British electronica producer Joseph Richmond-Seato, third album, first two I liked a lot. A misstep to start, then this starts to find itself, just enough beats to keep you going, just enough embellishment to stave off monotony. B+(***)

Carla Campopiano: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections, Vol. II (2020, self-released): Flute player, from Argentina, moved to US in 2011 and teaches in Chicago. Second album, a short one (27:02), one original, seven covers, tango classics, two sung by Alba Guerra. B [cd]

Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour (2020, Columbia): R&B duo, sisters, last name Bailey, second album, cover features angel wings over big booties. B+(*)

Chrome Hill: This Is Chrome Hill (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Norwegian quartet, fourth album since 2008 (second on Clean Feed), led by guitarist Asbjřrn Lerheim, with Atle Nymo (tenor sax), Roger Arntzen (bass), and Torstein Lofthus (drums). B+(*)

Mino Cinelu/Nils Petter Molvaer: SulaMadiana (2020, Modern): Percussion and trumpet duo, French and Norwegian, the latter has a major career in jazztronica, Cinelu less famous but three years older -- I especially liked his Kenny Barron duo, Swamp Sally (1995). Four dedications: one to tribes of the Amazon, two Africans, Jimmy Cobb. No electronics, but exotic enough to set up the trumpet. A-

The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth (2020, Blue Note): The guitarist's long-running project with Trevor Dunn (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums), augmented here by Skerik (sax), Brian Marsella (keyboards), and Cyro Baptista (percussion), none of whom sing. B+(*)

Dan Clucas/Jeb Bishop/Damon Smith/Matt Crane: Universal or Directional (2018 [2020], Balance Point Acoustics): Cornet, trombone, bass, drums. Napster lists this under Bishop, and displays what seems to be the back cover, which does list Clucas first. Ends strong. B+(***)

Joachim Cooder: Over That Road I'm Bound: The Songs of Uncle Dave Macon (2020, Nonesuch): Ry Cooder's son, started playing drums as a child, also keyboards. Has a couple previous albums, side credits mostly on his father's albums. Clever misdirection, but not that good a fit. B

Shemekia Copeland: Uncivil War (2020, Alligator): Blues singer, daughter of Johnny Copeland, debut 1998, ninth album. Notable lyric: "money makes you ugly/you're the living proof." Also: "we all give God the blues." Less than notable cover: "Under My Thumb." Gun song (probably anti-, but sometimes it's hard to tell): "Apple Pie and a .45." B+(*)

Cortex: Legal Tender (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Free jazz quartet from Norway -- Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer Berre Alberts (sax), Ola Hřyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- fourth album. Neither horn dominates, but hits strong notes, while the rhythm stays fresh. A-

Cosmic Vibrations: Pathways & Passages (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): Singer Dwight Trible, also plays kalimba, backed by a Los Angeles group with Pablo Calogero (tenor sax/reeds), bass, and three percussionists. Deep spiritual roots in LA jazz, including Horace Tapscott and Build an Ark. B+(**)

Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts (2020, RCA): Pop star, started as a Disney teen but is all grown now. Opens with a should-be hit ("WTF Do I Know"). Digital edition ends with three hard rocking tracks, including a harder take on "Heart of Glass." B+(**)

Dagny: Strangers/Lovers (2020, Polydor, EP): Norwegian pop singer, full name Dagny Norvoll Sandvik, singles back to 2011 but this six song, 19:42 digital download is the closest she's come to an album. Pretty good songs, especially the closer ("Tension"). B+(**)

Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brotherhood: Live (2019 [2020], International Anthem): From Chicago, credited with clarinet, keys, and vocals, band has tenor sax, electronics, bass, two drummers, "auxiliary instruments," and more vocals. Can get intense, probably for good reason. Her fan base is pretty intense, too. B+(**) [bc]

Dej Loaf: Sell Sole II (2020, BMG): Detroit rapper Deja Trimble, title refers back to her 2014 mixtape. Slack beats, gets her words in. B+(**)

Demae: Life Works Out . . . Usually (2020, Touching Bass, EP): R&B singer, from London, full name Demae Chloma Wodu. Feature spots for Ego Elia May (vocal) and Joe Armon-Jones (keyb). 8 tracks, 24:07. B

Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (2020, International Anthem): British spoken word artist, from what I hear, plays tenor sax and guitar here, with voice (his and others) used for background color. Cy & Lee are only identified as "two men with learning difficulties" DePlume befriended in Manchester, who worked on music with him, finding it to have a calming effect. One can see why. B+(**)

Hermine Deurloo: Riverbeast (2019, Zennes): Dutch, plays chromatic harmonica, albums since 1998. With Steve Gadd, Tony Scherr, and Kevin Hays. Slick and a bit funky, with a couple vocals (probably Gadd). B

Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon: To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind (2018 [2020], Trost): Guitar-drums duo, the former from Bhutan, now based in North Carolina; the latter based in Chicago; both members of Kuzu, along with Dave Rempis. B+(***) [bc]

Tashi Dorji: Stateless (2020, Drag City): Solo guitar, doesn't rock, doesn't swing, hard to be sure of his folk influences (even from his native Bhutan), sounds more like Fred Frith than Derek Bailey, but not much. B+(*)

Silke Eberhard/Dave Rempis/Kent Kessler/Mike Reed: Exposure (2017 [2020], Aerophonic): German alto saxophonist -- leader of Potsa Lotsa -- visits Chicago, picks up local sax-bass-drums trio. First half (19:36) is one of the most successful pieces in the label's extended tape dump. Second half tails off a bit. B+(***) [bc]

The End: Allt Är Intet (2019 [2020], RareNoise): Norwegian saxophonist Kjetl Mřster, has had many projects since 2004, even a solo album (title: Blow Job). Second with this group, which combines a remarkable number of things I can't stand, ranging from Mats Gustafsson at his squawkiest to church/opera vocals and death metal. Still not as bad as their eponymous 2018 effort. C [cdr]

Fat Tony: Exotica (2020, Carpark): Houston rapper Anthony Lawson Obi (or Obiawunaotu), early record called Smart Ass Black Boy, more to the point than this title, although this does include a title in French. Nine tracks, 26:52, flows and bounces and wigges a bit. B+(***)

André Fernandes: Kinetic (2020, Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, studied at Berklee, lived in New York for a while, returned to Lisbon. Ten (or more) albums since 2003. Quintet with alto sax (Perico Sambeat), keyboards (Xan Campos), bass, and drums. B+(**)

John Fogerty: Fogerty's Factory (2020, BMG): Started in lockdown as a 7-cut EP remaking songs from Cosmo's Factory, with the singer's family as his band, expanded now to 12 covers. Has anyone ever sounded more quintessentially American? Depends on what America means to you, I guess. B+(*)

Michael Foster/Dave Rempis/Jason Roebke/Tyler Damon: The Eagle (2019 [2020], Aerophonic, 2CD): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), from New York, visiting Chicago for two improv sets (49:40 + 48:36) with a local sax-bass-drums trio. B+(***) [bc]

Fox Green: The Longest April (2020, self-released): Alt/indie band from Little Rock, Wade Derden singer-guitarist, with Cam Patterson (guitar), Steve Kapp (upright bass), and Dave Hoffpauir (drums), plus a true connoisseur's selection of guest spots (Peter Stampfel, John Kruth, Adam Weiner, Lisa Walker), plus various backup vocals on most tracks. Clear, easy-going country rock. Inspired concept: "The Day Marc Bolan Went to Nashville." B+(***) [bc]

Funk Shui NYC: Shark NATO on a Plane (2020, Zoho): Fifteen-piece big band, short on brass (3 trumpets, 2 trombones) but doubles up on bass and percussion, i.e., funk quotient. B+(*)

Sam Gendel: Satin Doll (2020, Nonesuch): Saxophonist, several albums but first on a major label, pitches this as "a futuristic homage to historical jazz." Standards, 1950s jazz tunes as well as older Ellington and "Stardust," tweaked with synths, which is itself an older vision of the future. B

Sam Gendel: DRM (2020, Nonesuch): Solo experiments with vintage instruments -- antique synths and drum machines, a sixty-year-old nylon-string guitar -- with voice. Loose-limbed and out of kilter, reminds me a bit of Arto Lindsay, but not that good. B

Julian Gerstin: Littoral Zone (2020, self-released): Subtitled (back cover but not front or spine) "Percussion for Mollusks." Implies that he's mostly working with shells, but details list four dozen percussion "instruments," including Fanta bottle, rice cooker, and espresso maker, as well as most of the Afro-Latin kit. Lovely within its limits, which expand a bit with guest marimba on three tracks, even more with clarinet on one. B+(***) [cd]

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch: Zurich Concert (2019 [2020], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, fair number of albums since 2008, trio with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), plus guest trumpet. B+(*)

Ben Goldberg/Kenny Wollesen: Music for an Avant-Garde Massage Parlour (2020, BAG Production): Clarinet player, spent the pandemic lockdown period from March 19 to August 27 recording 137 pieces for his Plague Diary, and has since kept adding to it, hitting 186 on November 16. That's mind-numbingly long for me -- I don't even have the stomach to add up the times (the pieces range from 1:26 up to 24:54, with the mean close to 7 minutes). This duo with percussionist Kenny Wollesen seemed more tractable (21 songs, 64:49). B+(**)

Vinny Golia/John Hanrahan/Henry Kaiser/Wayne Peet/Mike Watt: A Love Supreme Electric: A Salvo Inspired by John Coltrane: A Love Supreme & Meditations (2019 [2020], Cuneiform, 2CD): I figure guitarist Kaiser is the catalyst here. He previously recorded several volumes of "electric Miles Davis" (Yo Miles!), and his guitar is the extra element here. Golia is as inspired a saxophone choice as Wadada Leo Smith was on trumpet, and Peet's organ adds to the electrification. B+(***) [dl]

Ariana Grande: Positions (2020, Republic): Pop star, sixth album since 2013, typical pop production where all songs have 5+ writers and 3+ producers, where Tommy Brown and Steven Franks are ubiquitous but never sufficient. B+(*)

Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (2019 [2020], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, had been playing for a while but got serious after he retired from his day job, and has been producing excellent records every year. Had been using locals, but picked up a world-class rhythm section last year, and they're even better this time out. A- [cd]

Theo Hill: Reality Check (2020, Posi-Tone): Pianist, plays Rhodes and synthesizer here, fourth album, trio (Rashaan Carter and Mark Whitfield Jr.) plus vibes -- Blue Note star Joel Ross. B+(*)

Home Counties: Redevelopment (2020, Alcopop!, EP): UK alt/indie band, from Bristol, first record (five tracks, 15:46). Kinky enough they may be worth following. B+(*)

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 9: East/West (2019 [2020], Ill Considered Music): British group, core: Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), Idris Rahman (sax), Leon Brichard (bass). This one collects two London concerts, one from the East side of town (with Tamar Osborn on second sax), the other from the West (with extra percussion by Satin Singh). I've always been impressed by this group: they have a bit of world groove, and Rahman is a terrific saxophonist. 3 and 6 are the ones I most recommend, but this is in the ballpark. B+(***) [bc]

Jaga Jazzist: Pyramid (2020, Brainfeeder): Norwegian acid jazz group, 7th studio album since 1996, on an electronica label (new, but last three were on Ninja Tune). Horns down to two (trombone and tuba, with guitarist-keyboardist Lars Horntveth also playing a bit of clarinet and sax), guitar and synths up. Pretty good groove band, adept at avoiding the ruts. B+(**)

Jahari Massamba Unit: Pardon My French (2020, Madlib Invazion): Hip-hop producer Otis Jackson Jr., better known as Madlib, and drummer Kariem Riggins. B+(*)

Keith Jarrett: Budapest Concert (2016 [2020], ECM, 2CD): Solo piano, dozens of albums like this, but since a couple of strokes in 2018 sidelined him, the supply is looking more finite, therefore more precious. B+(**)

Josh Johnson: Freedom Exercise (2020, Northern Spy): Multi-instrumentalist (sax, keyboards), from Chicago, based in Los Angeles, first album, has a fair number of side credits (e.g., Jeff Parker, Makaya McCraven). I get the feeling this label wants to find the future of jazz-rock fusion, but is stabbing blindly at it. B+(*)

Junk Magic: Compass Confusion (2020, Pyroclastic): Group named for a 2004 Craig Taborn album, part of Matthew Shipp's "Blue Series" of avant-jazztronica albums on Thirsty Ear (and not a particularly successful one in my opinion). Taborn was gaining recognition for his innovative use of electronic keyboards, before eventually establishing himself as one of his generation's finest pianists. This quintet -- Chris Speed (sax), Eric Fratzke (bass), Mat Maneri (viola), David King (drums) -- is both a throwback to his electronica, and a step forward comparable to Kris Davis' poll-topping Diatom Ribbons. I admire the dark and dirty sound more than I like it. B+(***) [cd]

Benjamin Koppel/Kenny Werner/Scott Colley/Jack DeJohnette: The Art of the Quartet (2015 [2020], Cowbell Music/Unit, 2CD): Danish alto saxophonist, has been pretty prolific since 2002, joined by three relatively famous Americans. Unlikely they were ever a working band, much less one seasoned enough to justify the title, but they're such pros that they could have coalesced instantly. Runs long, and holds together. B+(***)

Benjamin Koppel/Tine Rehling/Henrik Dam Thomsen: Les Mobiles (2019 [2020], Cowbell Music): Leader plays soprano and mezzo saxophones as well as his usual alto, in a chamber jazz trio with harp and cello. B+(*)

Takuya Kuroda: Fly Moon Die Soon (2020, First Word): Trumpet player, from Japan, studied at Berklee, settled in New York, half-dozen albums since 2010. Lively funk-fusion, don't have credits but two songs feature Corey King (trombonist and, evidently, singer, although someone else does "Sweet Sticky Things"). B+(***)

Harald Lassen: Human Samling (2020, Jazzland): Norwegian saxophonist, also plays piano, couple previous albums. His sax takes a back seat to the guitar-keyboards-electric bass, shading to soften the fusion groove. B

Ingrid Laubrock: Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (2019 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): German alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, subitles this "Music for Chamber Orchestra and Small Ensemble": the former is the EOS Chamber Orchestra (5 tracks), the latter (also 5 tracks) a trio with Cory Smythe (piano) and Sam Pluta (electronics), plus three guests (accordion, violin, electric harp). B+(*)

José Lencastre/Jorge Nuno/Felipe Zenícola/Joăo Valinho: Anthropic Neglect (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Brazilian guitarist Nuno, background in "psychedelic rock," joins Portuguese sax-bass-drum trio. Three pieces, 39:11, the fast one most immediately compelling, but the slow one also develops a fine burn. A-

Adrianne Lenker: Songs (2020, 4AD): Singer-songwriter, second solo album since she co-founded Big Thief (4 albums). Low-key, has some nice spots. B+(*)

Les Sangliers: Miniscules (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): Free jazz quintet, dates back to 2012 but this, from a tour of France, seems to be it. Two saxophonists (Keefe Jackson and Dave Rempis), two percussionists (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre), with pianist Christine Wodrascka in the middle. Runs hot and cold. B+(*) [bc]

Lionel Loueke: HH (2019 [2020], Edition): Guitarist, from Benin, title honors Herbie Hancock. Solo, with loops, plays up the funk angle, doesn't dull or sweeten it with vocals. B+(**)

Majamisty Trio: Organic (2019 [2020], Sokoj): Piano trio, from Serbia: Maja Alanovic (piano), Ervin Malina (bass), and Lav Kovac (drums). B+(**)

Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Herrmann (2019 [2020], Challenge): Alto/sopranino saxophonist, Italian, several albums starting with Trane's Groove in 2002. Quartet adds Alessandro La Corte (keyboards), Aldo Vigorito (bass), and Gaetano Fasano (drums). Herrmann (1911-75) was an American composer, mostly wrote soundtracks, including themes here from Taxi Driver, Marnie, Twisted Nerve, Psycho, and Vertigo, plus a John Williams piece to close. Intense, nothing atmospheric here. B+(***) [cd]

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimensional Stardust (2020, International Anthem): Large group -- my count is 13, but short on horns with just trumpet (Mazurek and Jaimie Branch) and flute (Nicole Mitchell) -- seventh album since 2007. Instead, he's rounded up a lot of electronics, strings, and rhythm, with occasional words by Damon Locks. Doesn't swing like Sun Ra did, but bops along with comparable cosmic flair. A-

Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites (2020, Chazz Mack Music): Two major pieces, titles on the cover -- "Song of Songs" and "Sweet Synergy Suite" -- as well as "Music and Motion." The second has more motion, and more impact from Terrel Stafford (trumpet). The alto saxophonist is lovely throughout. B+(**) [bc]

Megan Thee Stallion: Good News (2020, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Texas, first studio album after a good mixtape and an even better EP. Big production, with one song ("Circles") listing 24 writers, and most of the rest featuring guests as prominent as Young Thug, SZA, and Beyoncé. Beats super sharp, hooks ascendant. Not sure that freeing your ass will liberate your mind, but so far, so good. A-

Kylie Minogue: Disco (2020, BMG): Australian dance pop star, debut 1988, 15th album, retro, upbeat, not what I'd call classic disco, but a fair, functional approximation. B+(**)

Nicole Mitchell/Moor Mother: Offering: Live at Le Guess Who (2018 [2020], Don Giovanni): Flutes and vocals, both also credited with electronics. Camae Ayewa's poetry is often worthy, but long stretches here are hard to take in. Probably more interesting to watch. B

Ikue Mori/Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus (2020, Libra): Japanese drummer, credited with electronics here, part of New York's No Wave noise-punk movement c. 1980, Discogs lists 40 albums since 1992, swaps quarantine files with the even more prolific piano-trumpet duo. B+(**) [cd] [12-04]

Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (2020, MMG): Guitarist, first album, produced by Will Ackerman (guitarist, new age guru, founder of Windham Hill Records). Various lineups, violin the best match, some vocal bits. B [cd]

Rachel Musson: I Went This Way (2019 [2020], 577): British tenor saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 2013, mostly small and free, goes big and arty here, with strings, extra sax and flute, and voice (Debbie Sanders, more spoken than sung, "grit in the mix"). I'm not much into the strings, but the sax trio parts are invigorating. B+(**)

Rachel Musson: Shifa: Live in Oslo (2019 [2020], 577): Tenor sax trio, with Pat Thomas (piano) and Mark Sanders (drums), follows up a Live at Cafe Oto from last year. Club name is Blow Out, an apt description of the single 34:04 improv. B+(**)

Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish/Zach Rowden: Live at Static Age Records (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Percussion, nylon string guitar, double bass. B+(*) [bc]

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: Heritage of the Invisible II (2020, International Anthem): Trumpet and drums duo, members of group Irreversible Entanglements, self-released a duo album in 2014 but I can't find any further reference to it, or other solo/duo work. Credit Navarro also with keyboards and voice, and there are a few other guest spots. Very scattered, impressive at times. B+(**) [bc]

The Michael O'Neill Quartet: And Then It Rained (2020, Jazzmo): Bay Area saxophonist, started in 1980s doing soundtracks, fifth album since 2004, with Michael Bluestein on piano, plus bass and drums. Lovely, a bit on the lush side. B+(**)

Oneohtrix Point Never: Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (2020, Warp): Daniel Lopatin, electronica, albums since 2007. This one seems all over the place, but a few passages are so sublime there may be more to it. B+(*)

Optic Sink: Optic Sink (2020, Goner): "Synthetic minimal music for now!" From Natalie Hoffman, of the punk group Nots, and Ben Bauermeister. Texturally similar to Wire. B+(***)

Pa Salieu: Send Them to Coventry (2020, Warner Music UK): British rapper, last name Gaye, born in Slough, spent his early years with relatives in Gambia, moved back to UK at age 10, turned to music after a friend was killed. First album. Dense, not easy to follow. B+(**)

Paris: Safe Space Invader (2020, Guerrilla Funk): Rapper Oscar Jackson Jr., gained some fame with his politically pointed early 1990s albums, slowed down after his label-defining Guerrilla Funk, but got a musical jolt with his 2006 Public Enemy collaboration, and had a lot to say in 2015's Pistol Politics. Hard funk beats, more politics, most obviously "Baby Man Hands" on Trump. B+(***)

Bruno Parrinha/Abdul Moimeme/Carlos Santos: A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power (2020, Creative Sources): Artist order can be parsed multiple ways, but this is top-to-bottom, per Discogs. Recorded in Lisbon, live just before lockdown, credits in order: bass clarinet/alto sax, guitar, electronics, the latter two also "objects." Short with one 26:10 piece. Bigger problem is that while not quite silent it can be hard to hear. B- [bc]

Theo Parrish: Wuddaji (2020, Sound Signature): Detroit electronica DJ/producer, albums since 1998. Starts slow and runs long, but finds its groove in the middle. B+(**)

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Amalgam (2020, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax and piano duets. They've done a lot of them lately -- 10 albums with 17 CDs -- so it's hard to tell what this one adds. B+(**)

Vanessa Perica Orchestra: Love Is a Temporary Madness (2019 [2020], self-released): Australian composer/arranger/conductor, first album, leading a conventional 17-piece big band. B+(**)

Ben Perowsky/John Medeski/Chris Speed: Upstream (2014 [2019], El Destructo): Drummer, studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee, many more side- than leader-credits (evidently this is the first in a decade). More famous trio mates, and this is almost a dream match up for them. B+(***)

Malin Pettersen: Wildhorse (2020, Die With Your Boots On): Country singer-songwriter from Norway -- Bandcamp tags include "americana, country, nordicana, norwegicana, roots." Has the voice, plus some songs. B+(**)

Mikkel Ploug: Balcony Lullabies (2020, Stunt): Danish guitarist, fifth album, second solo effort. Nice within its limits. B+(*)

Noah Preminger: Contemptment (2020, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, impressive debut in 2007, solid ever since. Quartet with guitar (Max Light), bass (Kim Cass), and drums (Dan Weiss). B+(**)

Margo Price: Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman (2018 [2020], Loma Vista): Country singer-songwriter, recorded this between her second and third studio albums. Snappier than Sunny Sweeney's new live album, but also less consistent. B+(**)

Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree: Names of North End Women (2020, Mute): Sonic Youth guitarist, has dabbled in experimental pursuits, ranging from avant-noise to jazz, on dozens of releases since 1987. Refree is a Spanish (Catallan) producer, Raül Fernandez Miró, with 16 releases since 2002. Songs here, oblique ones, eased into. B+(*)

Dave Rempis/Jim Baker/Ingebright Hĺker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Millenniums (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Live at Chicago Jazz Festival, one of a large stash of tapes the Chicago tenor saxophonist released digital only for pandemic summer. Three long improvs, backed by piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Dave Rempis/Terrie Ex/Tim Daisy: Sugar Shack (2013 [2020], Aerophonic): Long-running sax-drums duo, Vandermark Five alums, plus Dutch guitarist, leader of the post-punk group Ex, who knows the drill here from his own Vandermark collaboration, Lean Left. B+(**) [bc]

Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Sax, guitar, bass, drums. Starts measured, and for once never blows any fuses. The guitarist contributes some of his finest work, but it's still top shelf Chicago avant-sax. In a year when Rempis dumped a dozen old tapes out as download-only, he put this one on a CD. A- [cd] [12-04]

Andrew Renfroe: Dark Grey EP (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): Guitarist, leads quintet with alto sax (Braxton Cook), piano, bass, and drums through five songs, 25:08, on his debut effort. Nice guitar texture. B+(*) [cd]

Rodney Rice: Same Shirt, Different Day (2020, Moody Spring Music): Country singer-songwriter, from West Virginia, based in Colorado, second album. Identifies working class. Voice has a bit of John Anderson and John Prine, but mellower. B+(***)

Steph Richards: Supersense (2020, Northern Spy): Trumpet player, couple previous records, this a quartet with Jason Moran (piano), Stomu Takeishi (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and his trademark Wollesonics). Avant instinct don't always pan out, but have their moments. B+(**)

Jason Robinson: Harmonic Constituent (2019 [2020], Playscape): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also alto flute), albums since 1998. Each piece "inspired by a technical, and sometimes impressionistic, aspect of the oceanography, tidal dynamics, and geography specific to the coastline" near Mendocino, CA. With Joshua White (piano), Dave Gress (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). A-

Scott Routenberg: Inside (2020, Summit): Pianist, plays electric keyboards here, with occasional guests, most likely socially distanced. B [cd]

Bree Runway: 2000and4Eva (2020, Virgin EMI, EP): British rapper/singer Brenda Wireko Mensah, first album (or mixtape), although length (21:45 including a bonus remix with Rico Nasty) looks more like an EP. B+(***)

Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture (2020, Cuneiform): British guitarist, many records since 1971, ranging from free to fusion. Various lineups, most with bass and drums, some keyboards, three cuts with sax (Chris Biscoe). B+(**) [dl]

Sad13: Haunted Painting (2020, Wax Nine): Sadie Dupuis, side project from her band Speedy Ortiz (which also started out as side project, though I know not to what), second album. I can't say as I get much from it, but doesn't seem like the concept is sad. B+(*)

Tiwa Savage: Celia (2020, Universal): Nigerian pop star and actress, real name Isale Eko, studied in London before moving back. Third album. Pop globalization. B+(*)

Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): Greg Saunier and David Cohn crossed paths several times, including a gig in Berlin that produced a 17:16 "I Got Your Password," leading to the long-distance collaborations added here: Saunier emailed music tracks, and Cohn added raps. B+(*)

Lori Sims/Andrew Rathbun/Jeremy Siskind: Impressions of Debussy (2020, Centaur): Piano, soprano sax, piano. Sims teaches at Western Michigan, seems to be strictly classical, no other albums I could find. The others are established postboppers. B

Chris Stapleton: Starting Over (2020, Mercury Nashville): Nashville singer-songwriter, fourth album, deep roots, solid voice, pretty fair songs (well, "Watch You Burn" is more than fair, at least until the climax). B+(**)

Dayna Stephens: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (2019 [2020], Contagious Music, 2CD): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, from Berkeley, studied at Berklee, impressed me first on side credits, but he's putting a solid resumé together as a leader. Quartet with Aaron Parks (piano), Ben Street (bass), and Greg Hutchinson (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet (2020, Astral Spirits): Bassist, has a previous solo album and some notable side-credits, lined up two saxophonists here (Ken Vandermark and Edward Wilkerson Jr., both credited with reeds), piano (Jim Baker), and drums (Avreeayl Ra). The saxophonists start out aggressive, but when they back off the piano remains central, and the bass solos justify their focus. A-

Kevin Sun: (Un)seaworthy (2019 [2020], Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, fourth album (counting his eponymous group Mute), all winners. Trio with Walter Stinson (bass) and Matt Honor (drums). Feels like he's master the whole tradition, and can pick his way through anything. A- [cd]

Sun Ra Arkestra: Swirling (2018 [2020], Strut): Ghost band, the former Herman Poole Blount having departed this dimension in 1993, leaving alto saxophonist Marshall Allen (now 96) in charge, a link going back to the 1950s. Billed as the group's first album since 1999, but no recording date given, so when? Presumably before two members passed: Danny Ray Thompson in March, 2020, and Stanley "Atakatune" Morgan in October, 2018. Long album (13 tracks, 92:58), has some rough spots, quite a few vocals (Tara Middleton), a generous helping of that old cosmic swing. A- [bc]

Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, from Houston, four studio albums since 2006. I never stuck with her albums, so I have no idea how many of these songs are how old, but this might work as a best-of, or at least as a sampler. B+(***)

Tani Tabbal Trio: Now Then (2020, Tao Forms): Drummer, originally from Chicago, played in James Carter's peak period quartet, with Roscoe Mitchell, many others. Not much as leader -- website lists five previous albums on Tabbalia label, but links go to the now defunct CDBaby, and other sources don't recognize them. So probably not a debut at 66, but an impressive arrival: a trio with Adam Siegel (alto sax) and Michael Bisio (bass), with Bisio contributing four pieces to Tabbal's six. I love the balance between the two, and how Siegel builds on their rhythm. A-

Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (2019 [2020], Libra): Japanese trumpet-piano duo, a marriage as well as a long-time partnership, his name first for a change. Plus a drummer -- always good to have one of those. B+(***) [cd]

Alexa Tarantino: Clarity (2020, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist (also soprano, flute, alto flute), second album, backed by piano (Steven Feifke), bass (Joe Martin), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(*)

Thaba: Eyes Rest Their Feet (2020, Soundway): Duo from different continents, met online: South African singer/songwriter Khusi Seremane, who died at 41 before this was released, and American producer/musician Gabriel Cyr, drawing on musicians from Antibalas. Doesn't seem to belong either here or there. B+(*)

Micah Thomas: Tide (2019 [2020], self-released): Pianist, from Columbus, OH, first album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(**)

Richard Thompson: Bloody Noses (2020, Beeswing, EP): All acoustic solo quarantine music, "some harmony vocals by Zara Phillips," six very solid songs, 24:41. B+(***)

Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (2019 [2020], New Focus): Canadian pianist, based in Brooklyn, fourth album. Kept group name from her 2017 album. With sax (Xavier Del Castillo), oud (Yoshie Fruchter), bass, drums, and chimes/tuning forks/singing bowls. Most impressive on the soaring closer, especially the sax. B+(***)

Trees Speak: Ohms (2020, Soul Jazz): Arizona group, synthesizers, draws on Krautrock but reminds me more of the equally vintage Mother Mallard. B+(*)

Andreas Tschopp Bubaran: Tambuk (2019 [2020], Enja/Yellowbird): Swiss trombonist, first (2017) album Bubaran, kept that for his group name, both album names derived from Indonesian gamelan music. Both groups have trumpet, second trombone, guitar, and drums. B [bc]

Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King (2020, dBpm): Leader of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, fourth solo album since 2020. Nice songs. B+(**)

The United States Air Force Band: Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Highlights (2019 [2020], self-released): Useless big band, reminds us that military music is to music as military justice is to justice -- to flip Robert Sherrill's book title around -- but not the worst thing the USAF wastes taxpayer money on. Nor is this anywhere near their worst album -- indeed, I rather enjoy the punchiness of the horns, also the TSgt.'s vocal on "Honeysuckle Rose" (where John Fedchock guests). B [cd]

Peeter Uuskyla/Tellef Řgrim/Anders Berg/Per Anders Nilsson: Isn Hi Lagt Sae Pĺ Fjellvatna (2020, Simlas): Swedish drummer, I recognize him from one of Peter Brötzmann's best trios, has his own trio with Řgrim (guitar) and Berg (bass), adding Nilsson (sax) this time, a little extra shrill to go with the thrash. B+(***) [bc]

Becky Warren: The Sick Season (2020, Becky Warren): Nashville singer-songwriter, two very impressive albums under her belt, more budget here, not sure that rocking harder doesn't blunt her songcraft (or maybe just tries to overcompensate). B+(***)

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound: Soundpath (Composed by Muhal Richard Abrams) (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Big band, previous album listed alto saxophonist Bobby Zankel ahead of the group name, this one lists Marty Ehrlich (another alto saxophonist) as co-producer and conductor. One 41:34 composition by AACM founder Abrams. B+(***)

Ben Wendel: High Heart (2020, Edition): Tenor saxophonist, from Vancouver, BC; albums since 2008. Also plays piano/Wurlitzer on three tracks (although Gerald Clayton and Shai Maestro also have keyboard credits), bassoon on one. More trouble for me is Michael Mayo ("vocals/EFX"). B

Kate Westbrook & the Granite Band: Earth Felt the Wound (2018-19 [2020], Westbrook): Jazz singer, notable painter, married composer-pianist Mike Westbrook, who wrote or arranged the music here, most matched to her lyrics. Band refers back to her 2018 album, Granite, with two guitars, electric bass, keyboards, sax (Rox Harding), and drums. One song in German veers toward cabaret. B+(*)

WHO Trio: Strell: The Music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Group name from artist initials: Michael Wintsch (piano), Gerry Hemingway (drums), Bänz Oester (bass). Fifth group album, spaced every 4-6 years since 1999. Usual songs, rendered delicately. Hemingway sings "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing." B+(***)

Wood River: More Than I Can See (2020, Enja/Yellowbird): Charlotte Greve, plays sax and keyboards but mostly sings here, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. Long on texture, vocals nice enough, much prefer the sax. B

Miki Yamanaka: Human Dust Suite (2020, Inside Out Music): Pianist, also plays vibraphone, from Kobe, Japan, based in New York, at least two previous albums, this a quartet with Anthony Orji (alto sax), Orlando le Fleming (bass), and Jochen Rueckert (drums). One piece by Randy Weston, the rest originals. B+(**)

Savina Yannatou & Joana Sá: Ways of Notseeing (2020, Clean Feed): Voice and piano duo. I can't follow the words, if indeed that's what they are. The notes refer to John Berger's eye-opening book, Ways of Seeing. B

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Dave Alvin: From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings ([2020], New West): Former Blaster, went solo in 1987 and has produced some terrific albums since. No idea where or when these sixteen songs come from -- hype suggests many come from opportunistic studio dates, not part of regular album projects -- but most feature his signature melodic ease and deadpan delivery. B+(***)

Blue Note Re:imagined 2020 (2020, Blue Note): Date in smaller print, but probably important as they could be recycling this formula for some time. Samples from the label's 1960s golden age (Herbie Hancock, Eddie Henderson, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Donald Byrd, Dodo Greene, and especially Wayne Shorter) remixed by up-and-coming UK jazz stars. They (and other labels) have gone down this rathole before. At best, the records are amusing for a while. At worst, they aren't. B

Don Cherry: Om Shanti Om (1976 [2020], Black Sweat): Recorded in Rome for a television broadcast, an example of Cherry's global eclecticism, where he plays pocket trumpet, flute, and kora, accompanied by Gian Piero Pramaggiore (guitar, flute), Nana Vasconcelos (percussion, berimbau), and Moki Cherry (tambura), with uncredited vocals as the grooves elicited sing-along. B+(*) [yt]

Jay Clayton/Fritz Pauer/Ed Neumeister: 3 for the Road (2001-02 [2020], Meistero Music): Jazz singer, backed by piano and trombone. (Pauer died in 2012.) B+(**)

Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju & Palm-Wine) (1950s-60s [2020], Moochin' About): Huge (102 tracks) collection of vintage pop music from Nigeria and Ghana, picks up a few names I recognize (like I.K. Dairo, Victor Olaiya, E.T. Mensah, Rex Lawson, Haruna Ishola, a very young Fela Kuti), many more I don't. Seems to only be available as a digital, and is pretty cheap as those things go. Not sure how the time adds up, or how many CDs it would take (5-6?). Only played it once, and haven't regretted a minute. Can't swear enough of it is brilliant, but I've always loved this music. Deserves some serious documentation. A- [bc]

Brian Eno: Film Music 1976-2020 (1976-2020 [2020], Astralwerks): It was inevitable that his ambient electronica would find a home in films. As early as 1978, he had enough for his first Music for Films. No idea how much more followed, but 15 of 17 tracks here came later, including several previously unreleased and one new one to stretch the window. B+(*)

Bill Evans: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1968 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). The drummer only lasted a few months, but At the Montreux Jazz Festival revived Evans, and the recently discovered live shots have generally been impressive. This one collects 20 songs (99:31) from a month in London. B+(***) [dl]

Mort Garson: Music From Patch Cord Productions (1968-74 [2020], Sacred Bones): Canadian composer, electronic music pioneer, an early (1967) adopter of the Moog synthesizer. Some vocals, pop moves. B+(*)

Mort Garson: Didn't You Hear? (1970 [2020], Sacred Bones): Soundtrack for an "experimental film." Title track (reprised at the end) is pretty awful. Moog filling not so bad. B

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 1 (2000 [2020], Circulasione Totale): Norwegian avant alto saxophonist, started with Detail 1983-96, led Circulasione Totale Orchestra 1987-2011, has close to 100 small group records, including several more with this rhythm section -- including a 4-CD box on Not Two (2017, not clear when recorded). Looks like he's released a bunch of old tapes this year, including this 54:32 "Traffic Zone Centre" set. B+(*) [bc]

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 2 (2000, Circulasione Totale): Slightly longer at 62:25, but takes a long time to get going, and while it may peak stronger, this isn't top shelf work from any involved. B [bc]

Hanging Tree Guitars (1991 [2020], Music Maker Relief Foundation): A dozen blues recordings, Timothy Duffy field recordings featuring guitar craftsman Freeman Vines and family. Unsure of the dates. A-

The Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road (1970 [2020], We Are Busy Bodies): South African jazz group, only album, two sax players (Henry and Stanley Sithole), guitar (Cyril Magubane), bass, and drums. Guitarist the steady hand here, playing off the township jive groove like Wes Montgomery on the blues. B+(***)

Etta Jones: A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank (1972 [2020], Cellar Live): Jazz singer (1928-2001), started with Buddy Johnson (recorded a tribute in 1998 called My Buddy), recorded for Prestige in 1960, and followed Houston Person to Muse and HighNote. Backed here by Cedar Walton Trio (with Sam Jones and Billy Higgins), who open with a 10:07 piece, before intrducing Jones. Walton is in fine form, but Jones sounds strangely off. B-

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Just Dopped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In) (2001-17 [2020], Daptone): Retro-soul outfit, first album 2002, ended with Jones' death in 2017. Covers compilation, most not on the group's seven albums. Right up their alley, but the best songs inevitably remind you of better ones. B+(*) [bc]

Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown (2014-20 [2020], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Survey of recent British jazz, especially the semi-popular niche for avant/soul jazz/fusion. Missing some big names in that niche, but I'm familiar with at least half of the names, less so the short-lived groups. Most strong groove pieces, few of them rote, some positively inspiring. B+(***)

La Locura De Machuca 1975-1980 (1975-80 [2002], Analog Africa): Colombian music from Baranquilla, recorded by Rafael Machuca for his Discos Machuca label. B+(**) [bc]

Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raď, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997) (1985-97 [2020], Bongo Joe): North African music, developed at clubs in Lyon in France. B+(**)

Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (1964-75, Sunnyside, 4CD): Two major groups on tour, the bassist and drummer Dannie Richmond common denominators. The stellar 1964 group had Johnny Coles (trumpet), Eric Dolphy, (alto sax/flute/bass clarinet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), and Jaki Byard (piano) -- their set had previously been bootlegged as The Complete Bremen Concert, with Dolphy co-headlining. The 1975 group was less famous at the time, but names you'll recognize today: Jack Walrath (trumpet), George Adams (tenor sax), Don Pullen (piano). Hard to tell from streaming, but I doubt the 1964 set adds much to the same group's Town Hall Concert, or for that matter the Paris and Cornell concerts from the same year. On the other hand, I'm not aware of any live material from the 1975 group -- the 1974 Mingus at Carnegie Hall is a different deal -- and it reminds me that few leaders were able to command their bands as authoritatively as Mingus. Also good to hear the new songs from Changes. A-

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Unity: Live at Storyville, New York, October 1977 (1977 [2020], Enterplanetary Koncepts): Leader plays organ and "rocksichord," band tops out at 20, including singer June Tyson, but mostly you get hard swinging soul jazz. B+(***)

Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): Three dates on two days in early May, with local musicians: Ruud Jacobs (bass, d. 2019, package dedicted to his memory) and a young (25) drummer, Han Bennink. This comes after his most avant records for Impulse, at the start of a hiatus (his second), which he broke in 1972. Not all first rate, but great to hear his unique sound, especially when he picks up the pace, and the CDs come with a substantial booklet, so gets extra credit for historical import. A- [cd] [12-04]

Space Funk: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84 (1976-84 [2019], Soul Jazz): Fifteen obscure funk tracks with synths and space themes -- only group name I thought I recognized is Funk Machine, but that's only because it's so rote. Nothing here that Dr. Funkenstein couldn't bump into a higher orbit. B+(*)

Peter Stampfel/The Dysfunctionells: Not in Our Wildest Dreams (1994-96 [2020], Don Giovanni): No "&" on the cover, and the group -- Rich Krueger plus four (or more) -- can stand on their own, and appear to have sought out the folk legend. Sloppy on all counts, especially when trashing pop hits, but also when covering Have Moicy! B+(**)

Horace Tapscott/Michael Session: Live in Avignon, France 1989 (1989 [2020], The Village): Piano and tenor sax duo. Session only has one album under his own name, but played in Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan Peoples Orchestra and related groups. He makes a strrong impression here. B+(***)

Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: Being Astral and All Registers/Power of Two: Live at the Ulrichsberg Festival, May 10th 2002 (2002 [2020], Discus Music): Cover adds quote marks, dots, and a dash to the title, but it's really just two piece titles, totalling 59:41, and the sub at the bottom could just as well be the real title. The pianist's later recordings almost all feature drummer Oxley, most (like this one) duos. How many anyone needs is unclear, but since Taylor's death in 2018, it's been nice to get periodic reminders. B+(***) [bc]

René Thomas: Remembering René Thomas: Rare and Unreleased (1955-62 [2020], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Belgian guitarist (1927-75), moved to Paris in early 1950s, recorded an album for Vogue, moved to Canada in 1956 then US, leaving a second album (Guitar Groove, then back to Europe in 1962. This starts with a sextet led by Jaccques Pelzer (alto sax), then some live trio tracks, some work with Bobby Jaspar (tenor sax/flute), quartets with piano-bass-drums, and one track with Jimmy Smith (organ). B+(***)

Neil Young/Crazy Horse: Return to Greendale (2003 [2020], Warner): From a live tour in support of a well-regarded but minor enough to be easily forgotten album. The original 10 songs ran 78:19. This one reprises all ten, in order, two shortened by less than a minute, the rest a bit longer (total 80:36), not stretched but just a bit relaxed. No need to own both, but for the moment relaxed works for me, not least on long yarns that are packed with tension. A-

Old Music

Dave Alvin: Blue Blvd. (1991, Hightone): Second solo album. Solid. B+(***)

Etran De L'Aďr: No. 1 (2014 [2018], Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, Niger, formed in 1995 but first album here: guitars, bass guitar, drums, singers named Ibrahim Mohamed and Hamidane Aboubacar Bouzou. As minimal as the desert. A- [bc]

Dickie Landry: Fifteen Saxophones (1977 [2011], Unseen Worlds): Saxophonist, from Louisiana, four albums 1973-78, a Solo released in 2006 (one track called "12 Saxophones"), did some work with Philip Glass, website has more on his photography and paintings. Title cut is probably just what he says: 15 saxophones overdubbed into thick, shimmering sheets of sound. Other self-descriptive titles: "Alto Flute Quad Delay," "Kitchen Solos." B+(**)

Rodney Rice: Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind (2014, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, first album, has an easy way about him but doesn't slight hard subjects. B+(**)

Sad13: Slugger (2016, Carpark): Singer-songwriter Sadie Dupuis, away from her band Speedy Ortiz (between their 2nd and 3rd albums). Has some moments, but in general I don't see the point. B+(*)

Horace Tapscott: Songs of the Unseen (1978, Interplay): Pianist (1934-99), born in Houston but moved to Los Angeles as a child and became the focal point there for avant-jazz, not just through his Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. This is solo, a title he would reuse for his autobiography (published posthumously in 2001). I don't have the patience to decide just how brilliant this impressive but mixed set is, but I have no doubt he's one of the era's most important jazz pianists. B+(***) [yt]

Horace Tapscott Sextet: Dial 'B' for Barbra (1980 [2006], Nimbus West): With trumpet (Reggie Bullen), two saxes (Gary Bias and Sabir Mateen), bass violin (Roberto Miguel Miranda), and drums (Everett Brown Jr). A- [yt]

Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 9 (1983 [2001], Nimbus West): The pianist released seven volumes of solo piano sessions 1982-84, on vinyl only and long out Vols. 8-11 came out much later, the first two from the same period, less clear about the others. B+(**)

Big Mama Thornton With the Muddy Waters Blues Band: 1966 (1966 [2004], Arhoolie): Famed for recording "Hound Dog" before Elvis, but worth exploring at greater length. I had two of her CDs in my database, both at A-: Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings (1952-57 [1992], MCA), and Ball N' Chain (1965-68 [1989], Arhoolie), which mixes six tracks from this album with other live tracks (some with Buddy Guy). Here she borrows the band for a San Francisco gig, with Waters and Samuel Lawhorn on guitar, Otis Spann piano, Luther Johnson bass, Francis Clay drums, James Cotton harmonica, and Everett Minor tenor sax. Terrific band, maybe a bit fancy for Thornton. Padded with alternate takes. B+(***)

Further Sampling

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ probable prospect.

  • Tim Berne: 7 Adobe Probe (2009 [2020], Screwgun): Septet, names big enough to put on front cover. [1/3, 37:00/75:36] ++
  • Tim Berne/Nasheet Waits: The Coanda Effect (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Alto sax/drums duo. [1/2, 9:53/48:57]: +
  • Tim Berne: Sacred Vowels (2020, Screwgun): Solo alto sax, his first ever. [2/12, 8:23/41:11] +
  • Emi Makabe: Anniversary (2020, Greenleaf Music): [bc] -
  • Matt Mitchell/Tim Berne: 1 (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Piano/sax duo. [1/5, 11:28/48:01] +
  • Chris Speed/Dave King/Reid Anderson/Tim Berne: Broken Shadows Live (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Ornette Coleman tribute band, nods to Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill. [2/9, 13:01/61:43): ++
  • Sun of Goldfinger [David Torn/Ches Smith/Tim Berne]: Congratulations to You (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Early date of trio that produced 2019 title album, although may include other bits. [1/3, 13:55/56:28] +
  • Raf Vertessen Quartet: LOI (2018 [2020], El Negocito): [bc] +

Music Weeks

Music: Current count 34444 [34260] rated (+184), 210 [214] unrated (-4).

Excerpts from this month's Music List posts:

November 2, 2020

Music: Current count 34286 [34260] rated (+26), 214 [214] unrated (-0).

Week was short, as far as rating new records, not starting until I locked down the previous week on Thursday. Still, ran through a lot of records over the weekened. Phil Freeman's Stereogum column helped, as did Dave Sumner's at Bandcamp, and Tim Niland's blog. (Sorry I don't feel like tracking down the links.)

November 9, 2020

Music: Current count 34320 [34286] rated (+34), 223 [214] unrated (+9).

As for music, I started off every day last week with vintage jazz albums. I noted the "breakfast music" in my Twitter feed, so I can report them here:

  • Ben Webster: Soulville
  • Don Pullen: Ode to Life
  • Coleman Hawkins: At Ease
  • Coleman Hawkins: Hollywood Stampede
  • Ben Webster: Cottontail
  • Budd Johnson: Let's Swing
  • Art Pepper/Duke Jordan: In Copenhagen 1981
  • Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk
  • Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man
  • Johnny Hodges: Triple Play
  • Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do

These are all grade A/A+ records.

When I finally did return to my computer, I spent most of my time on my record lists: the tracking list, and the metacritic list. In particular, I caught up on some jazz sources: All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective, Bandcamp (Dave Sumner), and Stereogum (Phil Freeman). That, plus time lingering on Aerophonic's Bandcamp site, led me to most of this week's records. Phil Overeem spotted most of the new compilations (at least, the better ones).

Fell further behind on my demo queue, with more than the usual mail haul this week. I will get to them in due course, assuming some return to normalcy -- although I can tell you now that the Rich Halley CD is one of his best. Note that some albums don't officially release until 2021. That forced me to set up the scaffolding for tracking 2021 releases. Still lots of 2020 to process, but looking forward to January 20, even more so than in 2009. Thank God (and FDR) for the 20th Amendment.

November 16, 2020

Music: Current count 34356 [34320] rated (+36), 220 [223] unrated (-3).

I continued my post-election practice of starting each day with a couple of vintage jazz CDs, although I stopped tweeting about it at some point. I published the previous week's selection, so might as well follow it up with this week's (as best I recall):

  • Don Byas: Don Byas on Blue Star
  • Charles McPherson: But Beautiful!
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um
  • Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz
  • Sidney Bechet: The Legendary Sidney Bechet
  • Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite
  • Coleman Hawkins: A Retrospective 1929-1963 [2CD]
  • Earl Hines: Piano Man! (ASV's 1928-41 big band comp)
  • Roy Eldridge: The Nifty Cat
  • Ben Webster/Buck Clayton: Ben and Buck
  • Ben Webster/Harry Edison: Ben and Sweets
  • Lester Young: The "Kansas City" Sessions

Only a couple A- records on that list (very solid ones). The Mingus (A+) got an encore spin. Only one today, as I had to venture out early. The practice cut down on my listening, especially from the demo queue (which I'm working on now). Still got a fairly decent haul. Several records I was tipped to from Facebook posts (e.g., Aesop Rock, Harald Lassen, Big Mama Thornton). Several came from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: I already had Thelonious Monk and Elizabeth Cook (both of them) at A-, Margo Price at B+(*), and Low Cut Connie at B, so I checked out the rest (aside from Slim Gaillard, who I like enough to have given his 4-CD Properbox Laughin' in Rhythm an A-, but didn't expect the 2-CD Verve reviewed to improve on the 1-CD Verve from 1994, Laughin' in Rhythm). Pleasant surprise from the list was Rodney Rice, but where he was nice and comfy, I wound up preferring Tim Barry's anger (choice cut: "Prosser's Gabriel"). The Barry tip, by the way, came from Napster, explained thusly: "because you like Johnny Cash." They're often wrong (not least about what I like), but for someone I had never heard of that was a pretty good tip. One caveat: given its 2-hour-plus length, I only played the record once. Still left me feeling it's more likely to get better than worse.

I noticed this Richard Scheinin tweet:

Sad news: the passing of Andrew White, one of the most brilliant & exciting saxophonists I've ever witnessed. An outrageous character, too. Brilliant man. Coltrane transcriber. Oboist. Electric bassist with Stevie Wonder and Weather Report. R.I.P., genius.

I've heard a few records White played on, but his name never stuck in my mind, and I don't have anything by him in my database. I searched for records online and came up empty. Wikipedia credits him with 42 albums, but they're self-released, and I'm not finding them anywhere. (I did find some YouTube videos -- one fairly long one I listened to was pretty impressive.) Seems like getting his music organized on Bandcamp would be a good project for his estate.

I can also tell you that Francis Davis and I will be doing another Jazz Critics Poll this year. Invites should be going out real soon now. (I heard "over the weekend" but haven't seen mine yet.) If you think you should be invited but haven't been in the past, or have been and haven't heard from us within the week, please send email and make your case. NPR will publish the headline results, and I'll publish all the gritty details, as usual. To help out, I've prepared a version of my music tracking file that omits my grades and only lists jazz albums. It covers everything I've noted since December 1, 2019, plus some earlier 2019 albums that were so obscure I hadn't noticed them in the 2019 music tracking file. Obviously, the list is far from complete.

I still haven't done any fine tuning for my own EOY lists, but you can see them in their initial state here: Jazz and Non-Jazz. I did a bit of reshuffling, but I'm still not very happy with the ordering -- especially non-jazz, where I own virtually none of the records and haven't replayed any (other than Dua Lipa) since they came out. Also, I've barely started the 2% section on prospects I haven't heard (but would like to).

EOY lists should start appearing around Thanksgiving, which is next week. (I've given zero thought to cooking for anyone, then or pretty much forever.) Meanwhile, my metacritic file offers a few hints as to how the year's shaping up.

November 24, 2020

Music: Current count 34401 [34356] rated (+45), 213 [220] unrated (-7).

A day later than usual. Got distracted on Monday, and was too tired to write an introduction. I did the cutover when I got up Monday, and resisted the temptation to sneak in anything extra during the day, so chalk the high rating count up to hard work. Invites went out for the Jazz Critics Poll on Wednesday, so I've had a few ballots to count (16 at present, typically about 12% of the total). They've given me some listening suggestions, as well as motivated me to get to some queue items (e.g., Sonny Rollins).

The first EOY lists have started to appear. I've added Mojo and Uncut to my metacritic file (which at some point I should rename my "EOY Aggregate"). I compiled Mojo (including genre side-lists, except for soundtracks) from a scan of the glossy magazine, but for Uncut, I went to the more easily usable Acclaimed Music Forums (half-dozen more lists there already; while they frown on "single-critic" lists, like mine, they do an especially thorough job of collecting lists from European sources).

Both Mojo and Uncut picked Bob Dylans' My Rough and Rowdy Ways as the year's best record. Dylan is pretty clearly among the top three contenders this year, along with Run the Jewels' RTJ4 and Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Mojo had Apple at 2 and RTJ at 8. Uncut had Apple at 22, and no mention of RTJ4. I don't see any rappers at all on their list (even Brits, although there are a dozen-plus Black artists, including some Americans -- Thundercat came in at 5, and I don't see any Brits until Jarvis at 8, Shirley Collins 9, and Laura Marling 10). Early lists tend to be disproportionately British, and short on hip-hop.

My own working EOY lists are here, split into jazz and non-jazz. Usually they start with a strong jazz bias, which evens out over the season, as I scour over the vast array of pop and specialty lists. However, so far I've been looking mostly at jazz ballots, so the jazz list is the one that's seen a growth spurt this week (and probably for the next 2-3 weeks -- I've already added two more A- entries for next week's report: Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet, and Dave Rempis: Stringers and Struts).

Phil Overeem noted that every record in my non-jazz list is marked with **, which means that I streamed or downloaded it. (Actually, there are two exception: Al Gold's Paradise, a blues album from a jazz publicist, and Thank Your Lucky Stars: Girl in Her 29s, which the artist was kind and/or desperate enough to send me.) I still get a fair number of jazz promos -- down at least 50% from the days when I was writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, and all the way to zero this week -- but haven't bought more than a couple dozen CDs in any of the last 5-8 years, and zero so far this year. Admittedly, that changes the way I listen to music, and you can take that as a caveat if you want. It does reduce the chance of adding any new music to my all-time list. On the other hand, it presents a pretty level playing field.

One new feature this week is that I finally added a section on "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade." I've thought about this before, but it always seemed like a bookkeeping headache. Still, last week I was going through the year's list promoted by a jazz publicist, seeking out items he hadn't sent me, and was left with two albums that were only partially available on Bandcamp. So I played what I could, and noted that for future reference. They are not counted as graded in my database, so won't inflate rated counts. I decided to go with four levels:

  • ++ indicates a record I'd like to hear more of; it is a solid prospect for an A- or B+(***) grade.
  • + is a record I like but don't consider an A- prospect; it probably falls in the middle of the B+ range.
  • - is a decent, maybe even a good record, but definitely not an A- or B+(***) prospect, and not worth my time pursuing; it's probably a low B+ or a B, though probably no worse.
  • -- is a record I have no desire to hear more of; it's not necessarily a bad record, but not worth the time.

I don't know how many more of these I'll do, but I run across partial selections at Bandcamp several times each week, and many other records that aren't available on streaming sites at least make a song or two available, even if only on Soundcloud or YouTube. One thing I do in the EOY lists is try to compile a list of records which by reputation have a 2% or better chance of an A- grade, so they are the most obvious prospects. I could also see doing this for back catalog items, which are particularly hard to find.

For now, the plan is to have a single section in Music Week each week, and two sections (new and historical) in the music year file. I'm not adding them to the EOY files, although they'll have some influence in the 2% sections. They won't show up in any of the database files, but I will be able to see comments in the source files. I might at some point figure out how to generate a collective list, but that will require some programming, so isn't in the cards for now. For now, I'm not adding them to the Record Guides, although I could see an argument for doing so.

November 30, 2020

Music: Current count 34444 [34401] rated (+43), 210 [213] unrated (-3).

Not really sure why I feel so frazzled at the moment. I've been doing a lot of high speed clerical work: counting Jazz Critics Poll ballots (32 so far), adding EOY early lists to my aggregate file, fiddling with my jazz and non-jazz EOY files, and trying to wrap up this post and the November Streamnotes archive, while listening to as much as I can recall, track down, and stomach. The hardest part is deciding what to check out.

Sorry to hear of the death of Kali Z. Fasteau (aka Zusann Kali Fasteau). I wrote to her when I was researching my big William Parker/Matthew Shipp consumer guide. She generously sent me not just what I asked for but her whole catalog, starting with a 1975-77 collection of her work with her late husband, Donald Rafael Garrett, and she kept sending CDs up through her latest, in 2016. She played a wide range of instruments, none especially well, but she was a scene setter and often enough made her eclecticism work. I finally gave one of her records an A-: Piano Rapture (2014), where she finally impressed me with her piano, joined by various guests (notably Kidd Jordan and Mixashawn).

I've continued to fiddle with the format of "records I played poarts of, but not enough to grade," including adding them to Streamnotes archive, and adding them to the Year 2020 list (although they are not yet in the EOY lists). I'm not very happy with them yet. But this week I went through most of the unheard records at Tim Berne's Screwgun Records Bandcamp. Only records flagged as ++ continue to be listed in the 2% EOY list prospects. Again, I still haven't made a complete pass through the tracking file to identify most of the albums that meet the 2% standard (but I did drop three of Berne's albums from the list I had, leaving 2).

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
  • [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