An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, October 14, 2019
Music: current count 32212  rated (+29), 229  unrated (+0).
Cutoff was Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup. Didn't have all of the unpacking done, so unrated count is a bit low. The two A- records came early in the week. Both are available on Bandcamp: Drumming Cellist, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou. There's a good chance that The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music might have hit A- on a second or third play, but not having the booklet, having to spend close to an hour checking dates, and the suspicion that I've heard everything there elsewhere didn't dispose me to be especially generous.
I saw a little bit (maybe 10%) of Ken Burns' Country Music PBS series. Not much there I didn't already know, but thought what I saw was pretty useful -- certainly didn't strike me as distorted and deceptive, like his Jazz series. As far as I can tell, the only product tie-ins are called The Soundtrack, available in both a 2-CD edition and a 5-CD box. I don't like streaming boxes -- actually, I don't have the patience, in large part because it's hard to break them up in to listenable chunks, and there's no booklet to help you keep score -- so I probably won't bother, but the tracklists look impeccable. Probably not as good as Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection (also 5-CD), but better than Columbia Country Classics (from 1990, also 5-CD). Virtually no overlap with Rough Guide, for reasons that hardly need explication.
I read about the Exbats in last week's Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. If the link doesn't seem to work, maybe you should subscribe? I was pleased to find my previous A- picks for Chance the Rapper and Tyler Childers as good or better. Also that he found more than I did in Black Midi, Chuck Cleaver, Rapsody, and Sleater-Kinney. Some folks have asked about XgauSez. It's on a new schedule, fourth Wednesday of each month, and subscribers will get it delivered to their mailboxes.
Continuing to plug things into my tracking and metacritic files, which is helping me keep up to date. For instance, I can tell you the best-reviewed new records of the week (10-11): Big Thief: Two Hands (15); Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12); Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (8). Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-04): Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (24) [*]; Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (22); Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayinż (16) [***]; Wilco: Ode to Joy (10); DIIV: Deceiver (9). New records I most want to track down: Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia; Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise; Bill Frisell: Harmony; Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time; Chris Knight: Almost Daylight; L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence; Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines.
Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble (2017 , Whirlwind): Guitarist, from Pakistan, has recorded regularly since 1993. Based this one on an Indian-German silent film from 1929. Quintet with Pawan Benjamin (sax, flute, bansuri), plus bass, drums, and percussion (Rohan Krishnamurthy). B+(*) [cd] [10-19]
Mats Ĺleklint/Per-Ĺke Holmlander/Paal Nilssen-Love: Fish & Steel (2018 , PNL): Eponymous group album, but the names are on the cover so I figure they deserve the credit -- especially since the Swedes (trombone and tuba), prolific as they are, rarely get lead billing. B+(***) [bc]
Simone Baron & Arco Belo: The Space Between Disguises (2019, GenreFluid): Pianist, also plays accordion, seems to be her first album. Core trio helped with production, adding strings and percussion, which makes it sound way too chamberish for my taste. B- [cd] [11-08]
Katerina Brown: Mirror (2019, Mellowtone Music): Singer, based in Bay Area, songs include three in her native Russian (with English versions tacked on as "bonus tracks"). With pianist Adam Shulman, other scattered about, with a Kenny Washington duet. B [cd] [10-18]
Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl (2019, Mad Love/Interscope, EP): Norwegian DJ Magnus August Hřlberg, second album (if 7 songs, 18:34 counts). No ID on the voice (other than a Christina Aguilera sample), which fits the cartoon cover. B+(*)
Drumming Cellist [Kristijan Krajncan]: Abraxas (2019, Sazas): Kristijan Krajncan, from Slovenia, plays cello and dubs in percussion tracks, second album, not quite solo in that he works in a couple guest spots (electronics, harpsichord). The upbeat pieces move smartly, and the occasional change of pace remains of interest. A- [cd]
David Finck: Bassically Jazz (2019, Burton Avenue Music): Bassist, looks like his third album, with many more side credits (website lists 122) since 1988. Centers on the leader's instrument, with weak horns (flute/trombone), piano (Jim Ridl) and vibes (Joe Locke), guitar, drums, vocals (Linda Eder or Alexis Cole) on three cuts. B+(*)
Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2 (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper John Austin IV, recorded two albums for Priority 1996-98, third album here reprises his debut title. He remained active in his missing decades, appearing on other albums and releasing a pile of mixtapes. Sounds old school. B+(***)
Krokofant: Q (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion trio -- Tom Hasslan (guitar), Jřrgen Mathisen (sax), Axel Skalstad (drums) -- had three numbered albums before this one, which adds bass Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten) and vibes (Axel Skalstad). Saxophonist has some avant chops, not much in evidence. B
Remy Le Boeuf: Assembly of Shadows (2019, SoundSpore): Saxophonist, from Santa Cruz, second solo album after several in his brother act. Big band, conducted by Gregory Robbins, no strings in the credits but I was faked out, maybe because the long suite sounds so classical, with no swing and a lot of Anne Webber's flute. I took an instant dislike to it, but on second play have to admit some intricate (and quite lovely) passages (and no strings). B [cdr] [11-01]
Little Brother: May the Lord Watch (2019, Imagine Nation Music/For Members Only/Empire): Hip-hop group from Durham, North Carolina, four albums 2003-10, regrouped as a duo (rappers Phonte [Coleman] and Big Pooh [Thomas Jones]) for this album. Nice flow, solid album. B+(**)
John McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief (2017 , PNL): Tenor/pocket trumpet and drums duo, something they've done before (e.g., the 7-CD Candy box set), something the drummer has done with lots of saxophonists. All pretty consistent, but this one was recorded just after Sunny Murray died, recalling his 1969 album Big Chief. B+(**) [bc]
Bernie Mora & Tangent: No Agenda (2019, Rhombus): Guitarist, has a couple previous albums with this group name -- only player I recognize is saxophonist Doug Webb. Fusion, comes out roiling, never really loses that, although attention is something else. C+ [cd]
Poncho Sanchez: Trane's Delight (2019, Concord Picante): Congolero, born in Texas, grew up in California, 1980 debut album Salsa Picante. Covers three Coltrane tunes here, the title one of two originals. Some vocals. B
Louis Sclavis: Characters on a Wall (2018 , ECM): French clarinetist, records since 1981, 13th for ECM since 2002. Quartet, opens with piano (Benjamin Moussay). Cover shows a concrete wall, looks like Israel's West Bank partition, although looks small because a human figure has been painted nearly the height of a panel. B+(*)
Mike Stern-Jeff Lorber Fusion: Eleven (2019, Concord): Fusion guitarist and smooth jazz keyboardist, both looking their age (66-67), with Jimmy Haslip co-producing. Not much to it. C+
Tinariwen: Amadjar (2019, Anti-): Touareg group from Mali, steady stream of albums since 2002. Recent albums appear to credit "+10:1," evidently the band's name in Tamasheq. Hard to differentiate among their many albums, but this one seems relatively laid back. B+(**)
Kiki Valera: Vivencias En Clave Cubana (2018 , Origin): Cuban cuatro master, a member of Familia Valera Miranda, "a century-old group and one of the most important purveyors of the Son Cubana." Indeed, sounds impeccably Cuban, with Coco Freeman's vocals, a dash of trumpet, and lots of percussion. B+(***) [10-16]
Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon: The Music of Duke Ellington (2017 , Origin): Bassist, from Detroit, teaches at Michigan State, ten or so albums since 1996, mainstream affairs, this his first explicit nod to swing. Leads a sextet which covers the bases: trumpet (Brian Lynch), tenor sax (Diego Rivera), trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Richard Roe), and drums (Karriem Riggins), with Rockelle Whitaker vocals on most tracks. Delightful program. B+(***) [10-16]
Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs From the Sun Ra Cosmos (2019, Modern Harmonic): Retro blues-rocker, born in Florida (as Barry White), studied in Boston, long based there, band called Barrence Whitfield & the Savages. Sun Ra's songbook takes him to some strange places, but "Muck Muck" was made for him. B+(**)
Carrie Wicks: Reverie (2019, OA2): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, backed by a nice jazz combo, with Brent Jensen on sax (soprano/alto) and Bill Anschell's piano trio. Can't say much on the originals (all co-written, most with Ken Nottingham), but the covers are nice and poised. B+(*) [cd] [10-16]
Young M.A: Herstory in the Making (2019, M.A Music/3D): New York Rapper Katorah Marrero, first album after an EP (Herstory), a couple mixtapes, a hit single ("OOOUUU"). Gender not always clear, especially when she goes on a rant about her "bitches." B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Exbats: E Is 4 Exbats (2016-18 , Burger): Post-punk trio from Arizona, drummer-vocalist Inez McLain, her father Kenny on guitar, plus a bass player. Most songs appeared on previous albums with titles that make me curious. B+(***)
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou: Anou Malane (1995 , Sahel Sounds): Tuareg guitarist-singer from Niger, recorded this in Benin. Regarded as a classic in the style, so steady you start to wonder if it isn't too easy, but that's only because the balance is so impeccable. A-
The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music: Reborn and Remastered (1926-33 , World Music Network): A primer on the oldtime folk music of the white American south, the legacy country music claimed as its roots. Some familiar names, some more obscure. Not able to sort this out compared to similar comps, but this would fill the gap fairly well. Main caveat I have is that the label is notoriously shoddy in its documentation, but I haven't seen whatever accompanies this one. B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Indent: Antioch College/Yellow Springs, Ohio/March 11, 1973 (1973 , Black Sun): Mysteries seems to be a series of vault recordings by the late avant-pianist. Cover omits "Mysteries," but includes the rest, as above. However, title is usually given as Mysteries: Second Set of Indent. Indent appeared in 1977 on Arista/Freedom, as one of Taylor's first solo records. I didn't care for it at the time, but this second set is pretty spectacular. B+(***)
Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Untitled (1961-76 , Black Sun): That's the title, plain as day on the cover. One 49:14 solo set (previously unreleased) from the Bösendorfer Festival in November 1976, plus three well-known group tracks from Taylor's side of a 1961 two-artist LP shared with Roswell Rudd. B+(**)
The Exbats: A Guide to the Health Issues Affecting Rescue Hens (2016, Burger): First album, released on cassette tape. Playing these after the compilation (E Is 4 Exbats) gives me a combination of déjŕ vu and roughly comparable filler. B+(**)
The Exbats: I've Got the Hots for Charlie Watts (2018, Burger): Second album (cassette), as above, but hedged up for the title (and maybe for some of the filler). B+(***)
Rodney Whitaker: Ballads and Blues: The Brooklyn Sessions (1998, Criss Cross): Bassist, first album as leader after more than a decade of side-credits, especially with Roy Hargrove, also Terence Blanchard and Eric Reed. Three pieces by Paul Chambers (also one by George Duvivier) proclaim his roots. With Ron Blake (tenor/soprano sax), Reed (piano), Stefon Harris (vibes), and Carl Allen (drums), plus Wycliffe Gordon (trombone) on two tracks. B+(**)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (2018, Bloodshot): I've long thought of him as a blues-rocker, but he owes more to, and sounds more like, 1950s rockers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard than the 1960s bluesmen (or Englishmen) who defined the genre. Doesn't necessarily pick or write great songs, but when he does he can really burn it up. B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Trump has gotten a lot of flack this week for his decision allowing Turkey to invade Syria. Turkey's attack is directed not at the Syrian government or ISIS but at the Kurdish militias in norther Syria, which Turkish strong-man Erdogan regards as a potential security threat, as presumingly giving aid and comfort to Turkey's own Kurdish minority. The Kurdish militias had not only opposed the Syrian government, which hardly anyone in America has a kind word for, but also operated as allies or proxies in America's war against ISIS. Hence, the complaints you hear most often are that Trump has abandoned a trusted US ally, and that the invasion is likely to head to a humanitarian disaster -- the emphasis shifting from neocons to their liberal enablers. The only support Trump has found has come from paleocons like Rand Paul who want the US to draw back from foreign wars, but don't much care if the rest of the world destroys itself.
One problem is that Trump (or for that matter Obama) has never had a coherent strategy on Syria, or for that matter anywhere else in the Middle East. A reasonable goal would be to maintain peace among stable governments, biased where possible toward broad-based prosperity with power sharing and respect for human rights. Obama might have agreed with that line at the start of Arab Spring, but he soon found that ran against the main drivers of American Middle East policy: Israel's war stance, the Arabian oil oligarchies, Iranian exiles, arms merchants, and scattered pockets of Christians (except in Palestine) -- forces that had never given more than occasional lip-service to democracy and human rights, and were flat-out opposed to any whiff of socialism.
Obama was able to help nudge Mubarak aside in Egypt, but when the Egyptians elected the wrong leaders, he had second thoughts, and didn't object to the military restoring a friendly dictatorship. Obama had no such influence in Libya and Syria, so when their leaders violently put demonstrations down, some Americans saw an opportunity to overthrow unfriendly regimes through armed conflict. It is fair to say that Obama was ambivalent about this, but he wound up overseeing a bombing campaign that killed Qaddafi in Libya, and he provided less overt support to some of the Syrian opposition forces, and this led to many other parties intervening in Syria, with different and often conflicting agendas.
It's worth stressing that nothing the US has attempted in the Middle East has worked, even within the limited and often incoherent goals that have supposedly guided American policy, let alone advancing the more laudable goals of peace and broad-based prosperity. Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the US is incapable of standing up popular government after invasion and civil war. Libya suggests that ignoring a broken country doesn't work any better. But Syria is turning out to be an even more complete disaster, as the ancien regime remains as the only viable government. Assad owes his survival to Russia's staunch support, but also to the US (and the Kurds), who defeated his most potent opposition: ISIS.
What needs to be done now is to implement a cease fire, to halt all foreign efforts to provide military support for anti-Assad forces, to reassert the Assad government over all of Syria, to convince Assad not to take reprisals against disarmed opponents, and to start rebuilding and repatriating exiles. Trump's greenlighting of the Turkish invasion does none of this, and makes any progress that much harder -- not that there is any reason to think that Trump has the skills and temperament to negotiate an end to the conflict, even without this blunder.
The only American politician who begins to have the skills to deal with problems like Syria is Bernie Sanders, because he is the only one to understand that America's interests -- peace, prosperity, cooperation everywhere -- are best served when nations everywhere choose governments that serve the best interests of all of their own peoples (socialism). Everyone else is more/less stuck in ruts which insist on projecting the so-called American values of crony capitalism and militarism, the goal to make the world subservient to the interests of neoliberal capital. In this regard, Trump differs from the pack only in his reluctance to dress up greedy opportunism with high-minded aspirations (e.g., Bush's feminist program for Afghanistan). Trump's freedom from cant could be refreshing, but like all of his exercises in political incorrectness, it mostly serves to reveal what a callous and careless creature he is.
Short of Sanders, it might be best to concede that America is not the solution to the world's woes, that indeed it is a major problem, so much so that in many cases the most helpful thing we could do is to withdraw, including support for other countries' interventions. Syria is an obvious good place to start. On the other hand, replacing American arms and aims with Turkish ones won't help anyone (not even the Turks).
PS: After writing the above, Trump ordered the last US troops out of Syria. That in itself is good news, but everything else is spiraling rapidly out of control. Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds are looking for new allies, and finding Assad (see Jason Ditz: Syrian Kurds, Damascus reach deal in Russia-backed talks).
Some scattered links on this (some of which are just examples of what I've been complaining about):
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, October 7, 2019
Music: current count 32183  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+10).
Slow start on the week, partly because I flushed Monday's listening out in September Streamnotes, and ended this Sunday night. Partly because the Kevin Sun 2-CD album sat in the changer four days while I slowly made up my mind. Sun's album never quite matched his Trio debut, nor is the George Coleman album quite as terrific as his The Master Speaks, but in the end both came close enough. Among the also-rans, Laurie Anderson's spoken word over Tibetan ghost music came closest, and might deserve further attention. Turns out Phil Overeem likes the album a lot (number 9 on his latest list. Also found my two good vault albums there. More to follow next week.
I added those and a few others to my metacritic file. In turn I checked out several of the better-rated albums I hadn't bothered with, but didn't find I enjoyed it much. Most I'm pretty sure of, but artists like Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, and Jessica Pratt just make me wonder if I'm getting too old for this shit. Also in the "don't do it for me" category are fairly ordinary rockers like Cherry Glazerr, Sleater-Kinney, and Girl Band.
Got a lot of mail last week (today's take is listed below but not counted above). I'm noting future release dates as I get them, also when I do reviews. The queue is usually sorted FIFO, as I suspect keeping it sorted by release date would be a big hassle. Upcoming week may be less than usual, as I have some house projects, plus a bit of cooking coming up. Then some medical shit, before Trump takes that away, too.
New records reviewed this week:
Laurie Anderson/Tenzin Choegyal/Jesse Paris Smith: Songs From the Bardo (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): Spoken word and violin, an exploration of impending death, or maybe just The Tibetan Book of the Dead: "bardo" in Tibetan Buddhism is the state of existence between death and rebirth. Choegyal chants, plays various Tibetan instruments, Smith mostly piano, with extras adding cello and percussion. Proceeds too slowly for my taste, but makes me wonder. B+(***)
Ben Bennett/Zach Darrup/Jack Wright: Never (2018, Palliative): Percussion, guitar, and sax, unnamed improv pieces, inventive but pretty harsh. Wright, from Pittsburgh, has been around a while, first album in 1982, Discogs lists 52 albums, I've heard one. Darrup, from Philadelphia, has one previous, a duo with Wright, and Bennett, also from Philadelphia, has several, including at least three with Wright. [3/5 tracks, 37:44/63:25] B+(*) [bc]
Bon Iver: I, I (2019, Jagjaguwar): Justin Vernon, from Wisconsin, discography dates back to 1998 but his platinum breakthrough came with this group name in 2008. Fourth Bon Iver album, title stylized lc, as in math, but harder to figure. Rather quirky music, opaque to me, but possible to imagine there's more to it somewhere. B
Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayinż (2019, Warp): Detroit rapper, underground, fifth album, slung a load of sex rhymes on XXX, but no, I don't really follow what he's saying now. Do dig the beats, and the squeaky voice, and wonder whether a few more spins might make the difference. B+(***)
Cherry Glazerr: Stuffed & Ready (2019, Secretly Canadian): Alt/indie band from Los Angeles, pricipally singer-guitarist Clementine Creevy, with bass and drums. Third album. B
George Coleman: The Quartet (2019, Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, probably best known as the guy who kept the tenor sax slot warm for Miles Davis between Coltrane and Shorter, but he's recorded a dozen-plus albums under his own name, some really great -- like My Horns of Plenty (1991), and (after a long break) A Master Speaks (2016). Not sure exactly when this one was recorded: most likely shortly before or after his 84th birthday, well before pianist Harold Mabern (83) died in September. The octogenarians are delights, ably supported by John Webber and Joe Farnsworth. A-
The Comet Is Coming: Afterlife (2019, Impulse!): British fusion trio, sax/keybs/drums credited to aliases (King Shabaka, Danalogue, Betamax). Short album (6 tracks, 32:19). B+(*)
Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (2018 , Pyroclastic): Avant-pianist, from Canada, debuted in 2003 and quickly established herself as a major figure, especially in groups with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. Here she makes some kind of breakout bid, doubling down at tenor sax (Malaby + JD Allen), spotting two top guitarists (Nels Cline and Marc Ribot), mixing in turntables, electronics, and vocal bits, without making it too easy. B+(***)
Girl Band: The Talkies (2019, Rough Trade): Irish alt/indie post-punk band, no evident females, Dara Kiely the singer, backed with guitar-bass-drums. Second album, four years after their first, bleak and claustrophobic, what passes for their comfort zone. B+(*)
Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings (2019, Loma Vista): Once and future jazz pianist, promised to bring a shot of hip-hop into the jazz milieu, never impressed me much, but this jam session qua mixtape proves his knack for networking. Long guest list, long album (19 tracks, 71+ minutes), moments come and go. B+(*)
Mika: My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019, Republic/Virgin EMI): Parents American (Israeli and Lebanese roots), born in Beirut, moved to Paris at 1, then to London at 9, so counts as a British pop star. Title is true, but omits last name Penniman. Fifth album. B+(**)
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Red Cavalry (2018 , Leo): Russian avant-pianist, long based in Germany, based this on Isaac Babel texts, read dramatically by Phil Minton. The music -- with Frank Gratkowski (reeds), Marcus Schmickler (electronics), and Gerry Hemingway (drums) -- is most interesting when it breaks free. B+(*)
Simon Nabatov: Readings: Gileya Revisited (2018 , Leo): Gileya is the Russian Futurist group from the 1920s, better known today for their art (e.g., El Lissitzy) than for their writings, which provide the texts here. Same group as on Red Cavalry, except that Jaap Blonk is the voice here. Tough going, with occasional flashes of brilliance. B+(*)
Angel Olson: All Mirrors (2019, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter from St. Louis, based in Asheville, NC; fourth album since 2012, the previous one (My Woman) finishing high in critics polls. Music here built up from strings, some songs strong enough to suggest what all the fuss is about. B+(*)
Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs (2019, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter, from San Francisco, plays guitar (although this opens with a piano solo), sometimes slotted as folk, probably for its bare DIY-ness. Short (9 tracks, 27:48), and yes, quiet. B-
Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (2019, Ropeadope): Pianist, from Brazil, based in Colorado, second album, all originals, septet gives her lots of options with three horns, guitar, bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd] [10-25]
Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (2019, Mom + Pop): Second album after their 2005-15 hiatus, with two singer-guitarists I've never cared much for, and a terrific drummer (Janet Weiss) who's on this album but has since quit the band. Good news here is by midway I lost track of whatever it was used to irritate me so much (Carrie Brownstein's screech?). Not so good news is by the end I was scarcely paying attention at all. B
Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time (2018 , Pi): Drums and piano, more of the former, a single 64:57 piece recorded live. Seems more cut up than that, with a complete stop in the middle making you wonder whether the record is over, and a lot of stretches where nothing much happens, but does close strong. B+(**) [cd]
Kevin Sun: The Sustain of Memory (2019, Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1991, based in New York, has degrees from Harvard and New England Conservatory, a blog which serious jazz students will find worth perusing, and a previous Trio album which was by far the most impressive debut of 2018. Expands every which way here, except in song count, where the limit is three long ones (36:27, 29:23, 48:22). Adds Adam O'Farrill on trumpet, pianist Dana Saul -- whose Ceiling in in the running for this year's finest debut -- on tracks one and three, and swaps his Trio bassist and drummer for others on the long finale. I'm slightly less impressed by the sprawl, but he's still on track as a major talent. A- [cd] [11-15]
Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (2019, Warner Brothers): Twin sisters, last name Quin, from Canada, ninth album since 1999. I thought they found their calling when they went electropop last time, so I'm a bit disappointed they're leading with the guitars this time. Not real disappointed, mind you. B+(**)
Andrés Vial/Dezron Douglas/Eric McPherson: Gang of Three (2019, Chromatic Audio): Piano-bass-drums trio, the pianist from Montreal, did a find Monk album last year, this one even more impressive with all original pieces. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Fania Goes Psychedelic (1967-71 , Fania): Not clear what (if anything) distinguishes this from boogaloo, but then "psychedelic" never had a substantive definition -- close enough for Ray Barretto to call the lead song "Acid." B+(***)
World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now (1970s , Luaka Bop): Cover explains: "These undeniably soulful, passionate, and urgent songs from obscure 45's, dug up from a long dormancy in attics, sheds and crates across the American south, are a subset of seventies-era gospel, focusing not on Jesus or God, but instead on ourselves, and how we exist with each other." B+(***)
Bertrand Denzler Cluster: Y? (1998 , Leo Lab): French tenor saxophonist, couple dozen albums since 1992. Quartet, with Benoît Delbecq on prepared piano, Hélčne Labarričre on bass, Norbert Pfammatter on drums. B+(***)
Bertrand Denzler/Norbert Pfammatter: NanoCluster 02/2000 (2000, Leo Lab): Half of the saxophonist's Cluster group, retaining just tenor sax and drums. Ten numbered free improvs, impressive rigor, but sometimes less is less. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Friday, September 6, 2019
Once again, ran out of time before I could get around to an introduction. The impeachment story rolls on, and Trump is getting weirder and freakier than ever. Meanwhile, more bad shit is happening than I can get a grip on. And what's likely to happen when the new Supreme Court gets down to business. Once you tote up all the damage Trump's election directly causes, you need to look up "opportunity costs."
Some scattered links this week:
Monday, September 30, 2019
Music: current count 32156  rated (+39), 219  unrated (-10).
When I ran the numbers, they came up a bit short of the list, so I rechecked and found 5-6 I had failed to register grades on. At least one of those should definitely have shown up in this week's list, so I added it, but that makes me suspect I may have slipped up elsewhere. So a reminder: The monthly compilation (link above) is more authoritative than the weekly ones (which are extracted from it). Also, note that some reviews now have a date after the grade. These are records that have future release dates. I've changed my mind several times on how to handle those cases.
Noticed the links in my Music index page needed some updating to reference 2019 files, of which Music Tracking turned out to require the most work: there were literally dozens of dumb typos keeping it from displaying, as well as a bunch of missing grades. I wanted to make sure there was a link to my EOY [Mid-Year] List Aggregate, where I started collecting mid-year best-of list info but have more recently supplemented that with review grades (usually 80+ at AOTY, but I'm tracking other sources as well, especially jazz).
I added several fan lists from an Expert Witness Facebook post, and that (well, plus adding in Michael Tatum's latest grades) was enough to tilt first place from Sharon Van Etten to Billie Eilish. There's still a structural problem that favors records released before July -- Lana Del Rey ranks highest among later releases at 28, and the highest June release is at 21 (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib; highest September release is Charli XCX at 68, followed by Brittany Howard at 73). By the way, one of those fan lists led me to Oompa, another to Octo Octa, and others to most of the African comps below, so they've earned their keep.
Revisited several albums while trying to wrap this up, and wound up promoting Oompa, Andrew Lamb, and Taylor Swift. Possible that Kwi Bamba and Alefa Madasgascar could have benefited from more attention.
New records reviewed this week:
Karl Berger/Jason Kao Hwang: Conjure (2014 , True Sound): Duets, Berger playing piano and vibraphone, Hwang violin and viola. Both are major figures, Berger from as far back as 1967, but these improvs don't generate excitement. B [10-01]
Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond (2019, Piloo): Rovatti is an Italian saxophonist, four records since 2003, her compositions here, married the trumpet-playing Brecker in 2001, their daughter Stella brightening up the cover and contributing a vocal cameo. Core quintet with the leaders, David Kikoski on keyboards, plus bass and drums, and a few guests (I'm noticing Adam Rogers' guitar), mostly upbeat, running long. B+(**) [cd] [10-25]
Zack Clarke Trio: Vertical Shores (2017 , Clean Feed): Pianist, based in New York, third album, trio with Kim Cass (bass) and Dre Hocevar (drums). B+(*)
DaBaby: Kirk (2019, Interscope): Rapper Jonathan Kirk, second album after a series of mixtapes, much bigger label. Beatwise, streetwise, on the make, bounces off several guests, a snappy 35:08. B+(***)
Sam Dillon: Out in the Open (2018, Cellar Live): Tenor saxophonist, studied with Eric Alexander and seems like a chip of the old block. First album, quartet with Peter Zak (piano), Yoshi Waki (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Two originals, covers from Porter to Silver to Jobim to Hendrix. Mainstream, strong impression, piano especially sharp. B+(**)
Sam Dillon: Force Field (2018 , Posi-Tone): Another strong outing, four tracks with extra horns (trumpet, alto sax, two of those with trombone), pianist Theo Hill switches to electric for three. Four originals, covers include Chick Corea and Charlie Parker. Not sure the extra flash helps. B+(*)
Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day Quartet Live (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian drummer, released first Canada Day album in 2009, three more through 2015. Groups have varied, but all start with Nate Wooley (trumpet), here joined by Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). B+(**)
Gabriel Ferrandini: Volúpias (2017 , Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, Discogs credits him with 15 albums (since 2009), but this is only the second to list his name first, and he's best known in RED Trio. Another trio here, with Pedro Sousa (tenor sax) and Hernani Faustino (bass, also from RED Trio). B+(**)
Vyacheslav Ganelin/Deniss Pashkevich/Arkady Gotesman: Variations (2018 , Jersika): Piano/tenor sax/drums trio, a lineup familiar from the pianist's famous Soviet Era avant-jazz trio. After the break up, Ganelin moved to Israel. Don't know anything about the others, or even where these four LP-length pieces were recorded, but the label is Latvian. Scattered stretches impress as before, but they don't jump out at you. B+(*)
The Garifuna Collective: Aban (2019, Stonetree): Group from Belize, the former British colony in Central America (northeast of Guatemala), backup for Andy Palacio until his death in 2008. Short album (8 cuts, 27:28), nice groove, relaxed. B+(**)
Kano: Hoodies All Summer (2019, Parlophone): Jamaican-British rapper Kane Brett Robinson, sixth album since 2019. Grime beats, plays them down. B+(*)
Petros Klampanis: Irrationalities (2017 , Enja): Greek bassist, based in New York, several albums since 2011, leads a trio here with Kristjan Randalu on piano and Bodek Janke on drums. Even before checking the credits, I noticed the clarity of the bass, and the delicacy of the piano. B+(**) [cd] [10-18]
The Baba Andrew Lamb Trio: The Night of the 13th' Moon (2018 , LFDS): Alto saxophonist, born in North Carolina, grew up in Chicago and New York, cut his first record in 1995, has a few more, this (I think) the first to adopt the honorific Baba, maybe because it was recorded at Bab Ilo (in Paris). With Yoram Rosilio (bass) and Rafael Koerner (drums). Free improv, bracing, challenging. B+(***)
Landline: Landline (2019, Loyal Label): Brooklyn postbop group -- Chet Doxas (tenor sax), Jacob Sacks (piano), Zack Lober (bass), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums) -- have a novel way of group composing based on a game called telephone. B+(**) [cd] [11-01]
Guillaume Muller: Sketches of Sound (2019, self-released): French guitarist, based in New York, first album, quintet with alto sax (Nino Wenger), piano (Jim Funnell), bass, and drums. Maintains a nice groove, with a little spark from the sax. B+(*)
Laura Noejovich: Laura Has New Standards (2018 , Enchanted Meadow): Older standards too, like "Misty" and "Summertime" and "When You Wish Upon a Star," inadvertently proving that the old ones are still the best, although with her arch soprano and Takeshi Asai's skeletal piano not by much. C+ [cd] [11-02]
Octo Octa: Resonant Body (2019, T4T LUV NRG): Maya Bouldry-Morrison, Brooklyn-based DJ, fifth album since 2011. Strong dance moves, occasional bits of subversion. B+(***) [bc]
Oompa: Cleo (2019, OompOutLoud): Boston rapper, second album, "forever representing the queer, black, orphaned, hood kids and them." Underground, breaking out. A-
Miles Perkin Quartet: The Point in Question (2018 , Clean Feed): Canadian bassist, from Manitoba, has a couple previous albums. This one with trumpet (Tom Arthurs), piano (Benoît Delbecq), and drums (Jim Black). B+(*)
Cene Resnik Trio 'Watch for Dogs': Shades of Colors (2016 , Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, from Slovenia, several other albums. Trio with Giovanni Maier (bass) and Zlatko Kaucic (drums). Starts lost in color, but picks up (or should I say bursts out?) after a few. B+(**)
Kendrick Scott Oracle: A Wall Becomes a Bridge (2019, Blue Note): Drummer, fifth album, fourth under this group name, with John Ellis (reeds), Mike Moreno (guitar), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Joe Sanders (bass), and DJ Jahi Sundance (turntables), plus a Derrick Hodge vocal. B+(*)
Matthew Snow: Iridescence (2018 , self-released): New York bassist, first album, composed six (of eight) pieces, employs a sextet -- no one I've heard of, but alto saxophonist Clay Lyons and trombonist David Gibson impress, guitar and vibes add to the options, and the drummer plays with the band. B+(***) [11-29]
Something Blue [Alexa Tarantino/Nick Finzer/Sam Dillon/Art Hirahara/Boris Kozlov/Rudy Royston]: Maximum Enjoyment (2018 , Posi-Tone): Auteur here is probably producer Marc Free, who created a retro-bop framework for the first three "new" musicians (alto sax, trombone, tenor sax), backed by his standby rhythm section (piano, bass, drums). B+(*)
The Souljazz Orchestra: Chaos Theories (2019, Strut): Canadian acid jazz group, from Ottawa, ninth album since 2005. Some strong sax breaks. B+(*)
STL GLD: The New Normal (2019, AR Classic): Boston hip-hop band, don't know much about them, but hype speaks of "multifaceted and complex," and there's lots of that. B+(**)
Alexa Tarantino: Winds of Change (2019, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist (credit here says "woodwinds"), first album (though I filed Something Blue's Maximum Enjoyment under her name, as first-listed artist). Quintet, with Nick Finzer (trombone), Christian Sands (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)
Ben Van Gelder/Tony Tixier/Tom Berkmann/Mathias Ruppnig: Scopes (2019, Whirlwind): Eponymous band debut, my parsing not unreasonable given the cover. Europeans: sax (Dutch), piano (French), bass (German), drums (Austria), the latter two pegged as the leaders. Fairly comfortable, mildly adventurous postbop. B+(**)
Mareike Wiening: Metropolist Paradise (2018 , Greenleaf Music): German drummer, based in New York, first album, quintet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Dan Tepfer (piano), Alex Goodman (guitar), and Johannes Felscher (bass). Postbop, goes with the flow. B+(*) [11-01]
Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon: Goshu Ondo Suite (2018 , AUM Fidelity): Japanese pianist, moved to New York 1995, tenth album since 2002, mostly trios. This adds a huge choir (47 names), to the 7-part, 49:06 title suite, swarming and marching over a tense and dynamic sonic landscape. Then one more piece, a chill down without the choir, which reminds you how fine the piano has been throughout. A- [cd] [11-15]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Alefa Madagascar (1970s-80s , Strut): Sampler into "the unique culture of salegy, soukous and soul on the island in the '70s and '80s." B+(***) [bc]
Louis Armstrong: Live in Europe (1948-52 , Dot Time): Radio shots from two nights in France with his original All-Stars lineup, followed by a set in Berlin four years later, with only Arvell Shaw left from the 1948 group. Latter probably has a slight edge on sound, plus Velma Middleton trading vocals. Classic stuff, but better on any number of live period albums, most impressively The California Concerts. B+(**)
Kwi Bamba: Kwi Bamba & L'Orchestre De Gama Berema (1997 , Ouch!): From Guinea, former leader of 1960s band Nimba Jazz, a precursor of the better known Bembeya Jazz National. Billed as his/their first international release, drawing on Guerzé and Kpellé traditions, happy to have the recording date but know nothing more. Does fit the mold. B+(***) [bc]
John Coltrane: Blue World (1964 , Impulse!): Previously unreleased recordings from a session between Crescent and A Love Supreme, soundtrack tracks recorded for Gilles Groulx, director of Le chat dans le sac. Classic quartet, five songs, extended to 36:33 with three takes of "Village Blues" and a second of "Naima." Nestled in the valley between masterpieces, nothing remotely new here, but remarkable on any other count. A-
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 1: Decouverte 81 a Dakar (1981 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): From the Wassalou region in southern Mali, first album, about 22 at the time, strong vocals over a stringed instrument (kora?). B+(***)
Nâ Hawa Doumbia: La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3: Korodia (1982 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Malian singer, recorded in Côte d'Ivoire, seems to be the original title, although I have yet to see a Vol. 2 (and Napster shows an album cover with first song name added). Music is fairly basic, voice grows on you. Rather short: 4 cuts, 29:39. B+(**) [bc]
Grade (or other) changes:
Taylor Swift: Lover (2019, Republic): Pop megastar, seventh album, the first six multi-platinum, Wikipedia notes her age (29) and net worth ($360 million). With that kind of money, she can hire good help -- chiefly Jack Antonoff and Joel Little -- while stretching her product out to 18 songs, a bit over an hour. Album has some lulls: no doubt it could be edited down and sharpened up. But two songs I always notice -- "Paper Rings" and "You Need to Calm Down" -- and most others eventually clicked. [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 29, 2019
I noticed this image somewhere recently, and was reminded that I had used it every Weekend Roundup for several months early in the Trump regnum. While I eventually put the image aside, I have in fact done this every weekend since the reign of terror started, so figured I'm entitled to resurrect the image. You can find it in the notebook starting on February 5, 2017, and scroll up from there (the entries are last-in/first-out).
Last week's "whistleblower" story has, like a tropical depression growing into a hurricane entering warm Carribbean waters, mushroomed into this week's (and the rest of this year's, and most of 2020's) impeachment extravaganza.
Many links follow:
As an intro to everything, see Vox's The 10 biggest stories you missed while you were glued to the Trump impeachment drama:
My own link picks on some of these stories (but adding a few more):
Monday, September 23, 2019
Music: current count 32117  rated (+37), 229  unrated (+2).
Didn't get my unpacking done until late Monday afternoon, so that became the cutoff -- adding 2 rated albums from Sunday night, and flipping the unrated count from -9 to +2. Before unpacking, I had managed to empty the new jazz queue, but it's up to 12 now. And it turns out that most of the new records don't drop until November, so I probably shouldn't rush on them.
Robert Christgau's first post-Noisey Consumer Guide was mailed out last week. As he promised in his introduction (It's a Start), "the first one is free," so here it is. Follow one of the "Subscribe now" buttons to make get the second and subsequent consumer guides, plus any additional missives, delivered straight to your mailbox.
Probably because he was working off a backlog, but I had heard all but two albums from this month's offering (both various artists comps): The Daisy Age (Ace) and Lost in China (Riverboat). And I only found one of those streamable, so it's in this week's haul. This won't be a regular feature, but I thought I'd table up our grades (his first):
Presumably some of these differences can be chalked up to reports that he plays these records at least twice as many times as I do, plus has the benefit of working from physical copies. (I own none of them, although on his word I've ordered The Daisy Age, which Amazon informs me should arrive by Xmas.) The one I most likely shortchanged was probably the National, which I recall only gaving one spin. The only non-trivial differences are on Paranoid Style (I'm not nearly as impressed by Elizabeth Nelson as he is) and Springsteen (perhaps there is some redeeming social merit there, but I doubt it's worth digging out). Nelson, by the way, has a much-praised recent essay on The Mekons Rock 'N' Roll.
I could do the same thing with Michael Tatum's latest A Downloader's Diary (51), which doesn't have much more I hadn't heard. Again, his grades first, mine after, '*' for ones I got to after the fact:
So not much there I didn't know about and went on to find brilliant (and sure, I still have some listening to do), but the reviews themselves were way beyond anything I could have written (one reason, I'm afraid, I rarely bother anymore).
Took a dive into Teddy Edwards this week. Idea came up when I saw Out of This World as a new reissue, but given that it's digital only, I used the hard-copy dates. His best record remains Together Again!, with Howard McGhee (1961). I might also note that the Art Pepper box isn't quite up to many of his period recordings, including most of The Complete Galaxy Recordings, or a lot of the live bootlegs Laurie Pepper has been reissuing. Still remarkable.
September has five Mondays, one more after today, so I can wait until then to index September Streamnotes.
New records reviewed this week:
Reid Anderson/Dave King/Craig Taborn: Golden Valley Is Now (2018 , Intakt): Bad Plus bassist and drummer split writing credits 7-3, with a different keyboard player, but where a big point of Bad Plus was playing acoustic instruments, this is nearly all electronic -- mostly minor groove pieces, occasionally congealing into ambience. Not unattractive, but hard to see the point. B-
AP6C [Alberto Pinton Sestetto Contemporaneo]: Layers (2017 , Clear Now): Pinton, an Italian based in Stockholm, plays baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo and bass flute. Thirteen albums since 2001, first title adopted for his label name. Mixed bag, with Mats Ĺleklint's trombone a consistent delight, the leader in fine form, Mattias Stĺhl adding vibes, Selma Pinton's vocals a needless complication. B+(**) [cd]
Terrence Brewer & Pamela Rose: Don't Worry 'Bout Me: Remembering Ella & Joe (2019, Strong Brew Music, EP): Jazz guitarist, half dozen albums since 2007, second one titled Groovin' Wes, and standards singer, three albums on her own (first in 1993). "Joe" is Pass, who did a duo album with Fitzgerald in 1970. Six songs, 27:17, not as striking as their inspirations, but a game effort. B+(*) [cd]
Taylor Ho Bynum 9-tette: The Ambiguity Manifesto (2019, Firehouse 12): Cornet player, an Anthony Braxton protégé, often works with a sextet -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone/tuba), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- expanded here with Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano sax), Tomeka Reid (cello) and Stomu Takeishi (elecrric bass guitar). B+(**)
Jimmy Cobb: This I Dig of You (2019, Smoke Sessions): Veteran drummer, played with Miles Davis circa Kind of Blue, with Coltrane in 1958-59, and into the 1960s: the Adderleys, Wynton Kelly, Wes Montgomery. no albums under his own name until 1994, but more than a dozen since. Recorded this one a month after turning 90, with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Harold Mabern (piano), and John Webber (bass). Pretty easy going, with the guitar taking most of the leads, and Mabern (who has since died) a delight. B+(**)
Jimmy Cobb: Remembering U (2016 , Jimmy Cobb World): Cover adds "featuring Roy Hargrove" (actually, just two tracks, with Napster adding "& Javon Jackson," for one of them). Other than that, a trio with Tadataka Unno (piano) and Paolo Benedettini (bass). Hargrove died in 2018, so earlier than that, the best clue being that this was credited as Rudy Van Gelder's last recording session, and he died in 2016. B+(*)
The Raymond De Felitta Trio: Pre-War Charm (2019, Blujazz): Pianist, better known for directing and writing films, but has a previous album, a solo tribute to Earl Hines. Two trios here, a conventional one with Mike Alvidrez on bass and Paul Kreibich on drums, and another which swaps bass for clarinet (Alex Budman), adding nice colors to the ballads, a plus you don't miss much on the upbeat ones. B+(***) [cd]
Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (2019, Sunnyside): Hungarian pianist, based in Boston, more than a dozen albums since 1988, this one solo. Originals, one based on the title anthem, plus "O Sole Mio," "Misty," and one from Denny Zeitlin. B+(**) [cd] [10-24]
Ghostface Killah: Ghostface Killahs (2019, Now Generation): Wu-Tang rapper, 13th album on his own. Short one (33:15). Tells a fine tale, beats resolutely old school. B+(***)
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Cooper's Park (2019, Songlines): Canadian, plays guitar and oud, long list of albums since 2006. This is a strong quartet, with Russ Lossing (piano, rhodes, clavinet), Oscar Noriega (alto sax, bass clarinet), and Satoshi Takeishi (drums). Five pieces, each developing slowly before finally sinking teeth. B+(***)
Keiji Haino/Merzbow/Balasz Pandi: Become the Discovered, Not the Discoverer (2019, RareNoise): Guitar, electronics, and drums, not that those first two are very distinct. The first two are Japanese, are pioneers in noise with many dozens of albums, things I have only rarely sampled, partly because their appeal to me is pretty limited. B+(*) [cdr] [09-27]
Chrissie Hynde With the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble: Valve Bone Woe (2019, BMG): Rocker, long-time leader of Pretenders, only the second album released under her own name, this doing covers with a large orchestra. Not a bad singer for this material, but lushness tends to overwhelm. B
Indoor Pets: Be Content (2019, Wichita): British rock band, first album after an EP, catchy enough to be pop but more crunch than usual. Could turn out to be significant, or not. B+(*)
Ethan Iverson Quartet With Tom Harrell: Common Practice (2017 , ECM): A live set from the Village Vanguard, with the ex-Bad Plus pianist's new trio -- Ben Street on bass and Eric McPherson on drums -- plus trumpet. Two Iverson originals, the rest standards, mostly slow ones suiting Harrell, not giving the pianist a lot of space. B+(*)
Jpegmafia: All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019, EQT): Rapper Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, also known as Devon Hendryx, third album after a number of mixtapes. Beats chill verging on abstract, music has a cut-up quality that's off-putting at first. I'm not there yet, but appreciate the cornball effort. B+(**)
Led Bib: It's Morning (2018 , RareNoise): British quasi-fusion jazz group, ninth album since 2005, led by drummer Mark Holub with two saxophonists (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), newcomer Elliot Galvin on keybs, but the big change here is vocalist-lyricist Sharon Fortnam, moving them toward art song -- not that the band never sneaks in some trouble. B [cd]
Ben Markley Quartet Featuring Joel Frahm: Slow Play (2019, OA2): Pianist, fourth album, wrote everything, recruited a top-notch tenor saxophonist, and pace title let him run with a full head of steam. B+(**) [cd]
Monoswezi: A Je (2017, Riverboat): African-Nordic group, the Africans hailing from Mozambique and Zimbabwe (and Mali?), the others from Norway and Sweden with jazz sides. Third album, low keyed groove and chant. B+(*)
Tish Oney With the John Chiodini Trio: The Best Part (2019, Blujazz): Jazz singer, bio refers to her as "Dr. Oney," fifth album, writes some, draws on other originals including guitarist Chiodini, who composed three songs for Peggy Lee lyrics. B- [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Efflorescence: Volume 1 (2018 , Leo, 4CD): Tenor sax and piano, long relationship (at least since 1996), lots of recent records, too many to distinguish but their basics are solid as ever. Still, not immune to fatigue, more likely mine than theirs. B+(***) [cd]
Peterson Kohler Collective: Winter Colors (2018 , Origin): Core group is guitarist Dave Peterson, Lee Kohler (piano), and Rob Kohler (bass), all from Montana, cousins even. Group rounds out with label owner John Bishop on drums and Brent Jensen on sax. Multiple flavors of postbop, depending on where the focus flows. B+(**) [cd]
Alberto Pinton Trio: Röd (2018, Clear Now): Italian reed player, based in Stockholm, plays baritone and alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet, backed by bass (Vilhelm Bromander) and drums (Konrad Agnas). B+(***) [bc]
Noah Preminger Group: Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (2018 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist, first album 2007, this a septet, mostly name players: Jason Palmer (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Kris Davis (piano), Rob Schwimmer (haken continuum/clavinet), Kim Cass (bass), Rudy Royston (drums). Lampert, a trumpet player with five records since 2004, doesn't play here, but recently composed the single wide-ranging 48:49 title piece. I can't discern a unifying theme, but the many-faceted band shines. A- [cd] [10-04]
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: A Tuba to Cuba (2019, SWub Pop): Ben Jaffe's venerable New Orleans trad jazz outfit made a pilgrimage to Cuba in 2015, filmed for a documentary with this inevitable soundtrack. I'm not seeing any credits, but figure some pieces to be by other groups, with the Cuban tinge predominant. B+(*)
Kojey Radical: Cashmere Tears (2019, Asylum/Atlantic): British rapper Kwadwo Adu Genfi Amponsah, London-born, parents from Ghana, fourth EP, but at 10 cuts, 29:30 I'll count it as an album. B+(*)
Markus Rutz: Blueprints Figure One: Frameworks (2018 , OA2): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, has a deep band with saxophonist Brice Winston a strong contrast up front, backed by piano, guiar, bass, drums, and congas. B+(**) [cd]
Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain (, Naive): Algeria's most famous raď star, based in Paris, died last year at 59, not sure exactly when this was recorded but it sounds like an evolutionary step from his later work, including his "first song in English." The fast ones don't rank with his best, but he's aged gracefully, a most pleasant surprise. A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Lost in China: Off the Beaten Track From Beijing to Xinjiang (, Riverboat): Very little info on the artists here, although World Music Network decided to put this on their new music label as opposed to their Rough Guide series. My impression -- more of a wild guess -- is that it favors the isolated north and west rather than the populous south and east. B+(**)
Art Pepper: Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings (1979 , Omnivore, 5CD): In his last years (d. 1982), the alto saxophonist recorded furiously, piling up so many masterpieces that his 16-CD The Complete Galaxy Recordings seems like an infinite trove of wonders. Still, he managed to sneak aside, recording the 6-CD series of West Coast Sessions for the Japanese Atlas label that Omnivore reissued in 2017, and four more records for Artists House, collected here with extra cuts. The albums were So in Love, Artworks, New York Album, and Stardust, recorded over several dates with two piano-bass-drums trios: Hank Jones/Ron Carter/Al Foster, and George Cables/Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins -- mostly the latter. A lot more than I can readily sort out, but most sounds much like everything else he was doing at the time, which is to say marvelous. A-
Teddy Edwards Quartet: Good Gravy! (1961, Contemporary): Tenor saxophonist, from Mississippi via Detroit, a young bebopper in the 1940s, settled into mainstream with Contemporary and Prestige in the early 1960s, spent some time in Europe during the dark years, but came back strong in the 1990s up to his death in 2003. This is a fairly typical quartet, with Danny Horton or Phineas Newborn in piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Milt Turner on drums. B+(**)
Teddy Edwards: Heart & Soul (1962, Contemporary): Continuity with Vinnegar (bass) and Turner (drums) again, but Gerry Wiggins' organ opens up a nod to soul jazz. B+(*)
Teddy Edwards: Nothin' but the Truth (1966 , Prestige): With Walter Davis Jr. a bluesy piano player, plus guitar and extra percussion to add a whiff of Brazil. Still, his best sax run is the straightest, "On the Street Where You Live." B+(*)
Teddy Edwards Quartet: Out of This World (1980 , SteepleChase): Recorded in Copenhagen with Kenny Drew (piano), Jesper Lundgaard (bass), and Billy Hart (drums): the tenor saxophonist's only album for Nils Winther, although had he stuck around he would have fit nicely with their stable of American expats. B+(**)
Teddy Edwards/Houston Person: Close Encounters (1996 , High Note): Two gracious tenor saxophonists, did a 1994 album together, take seven standards even easier here, backed by piano trio (Stan Hope, Ray Drummond, Kenny Washington). B+(**)
Teddy Edwards: Smooth Sailing (2001 , High Note): The tenor saxophonist's final album, another quartet playing standards, with Richard Wyands (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), and Chip White (drums), released a month before he died. Nice. B+(**)
Steve Lampert: Venus Perplexed (2000 , SteepleChase): First album, unclear how old he was/is but his CV includes touring with big bands led by Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, and Gerry Mulligan. Composer only here, but septet includes a credit for Rich Lampert (piano, sequencing, synthesizer, trumpet), as well as Rich Perry (tenor sax), Joe Locke (vibes), Charles Blenzig (piano), plus electric bass, drums, and congas. Postbop, smart and heady, nice tinkle to go with the horns. B+(***)
Steve Lampert: Music From There (2006 , Bridge): A 12-piece suite, electronics plus various jazz musicians, the composer playing trumpet, Rich Perry tenor sax, others scattered about, with words on one piece. B+(**)
Alberto Pinton: Nascent (2012 , Redhorn): Quartet, Pinton playing his usual range of reeds (plus melodica), backed with guitar (Peter Nylander), double bass, and drums. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 22, 2019
I had an idea for an introduction based on the book I've been reading: Tim Alberta's American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. I never really got the title until it appeared in the text 400+ pages in, and it wasn't anything like what I would have guessed. The line comes from Trump's inaugural address, where it climaxes a series of assertions that have virtually no connection to reality. I'd need to find the quote and unpack it a bit, but it basically confirms my suspicion that the Republican campaign in 2016 was basically an extortion racket. They had remarkable success at spoiling eight years of Obama, and they clearly intended to treat Hillary Clinton even worse should she win. The only way Americans could save themselves from the wrath of the Republicans was to elect one -- in which case, the downside was limited to incompetence and corruption. Of course, a better solution would have been to beat the Republicans so badly they couldn't do any real damage, but that was too much to hope for -- especially with Hillary as your standard bearer.
Some scattered links this week:
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Music: current count 32080  rated (+33), 227  unrated (-2).
Held this back an extra day, as I couldn't quite get it together on time. Cutoff was late Sunday evening, after posting Weekend Roundup, so I've already got a jump on next week.
My listening was even more scattered than usual last week. My A-list finds all came so early that by weekend I forgot that I had any. I hoped Michael Tatum's new A Downloader's Diary -- his third this year after a prolonged lean patch, and his first since moving to Seattle -- would offer some major discoveries, but started with Blarf's Cease & Desist and found it really wasn't for me. Several other records impressed but didn't wow me. Two I had dismissed earlier got new spins, and minor grade upticks. Tatum's review of Purple Mountains is especially insightful, but describing the album as a "suicide note" doesn't do much to draw me in.
Tatum started writing his column in August, 2010, intent on filling in the void left by the second sacking of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide (by MSN Music). Christgau rebooted at MSN in November 2010 with his Expert Witness blog, while Tatum continued his monthly columns into 2014 (skipping a couple along the way). I tried to help out by publishing (and archiving) his columns. In April 2014, he moved to Odyshape, ending later that year with a piece called The Pause Button. Since then, he's self-published (most recently at Medium), while I've intermittently updated the archive. After a couple thin years, he's made a strong return to form this year, with three columns so far. He's one of the sharpest and most lucid critics around, and deserves your readership and support.
Meanwhile, Christgau has been publishing his Expert Witness blog at Noisey, but that ended in June. With no new publisher forthcoming, Tatum might have had another hole to fill. But Christgau has come up with a new scheme to keep publishing new Consumer Guide capsule reviews. He's launching a subscriber newsletter, based on Substack, called And It Don't Stop. It will cost you $5/month to get a once-monthly batch of new reviews sent to your e-mailbox, plus there will be various extras -- he explains his plans here, in It's a Start. Subscribers will get their first batch of reviews delivered on Wednesday, September 18.
As you probably know, I built and maintain Christgau's website, with its database of 17,271 albums and 1,372 articles (or more, as that easy-to-find number is actually a subset). At some point (undecided at present) I'll add those new reviews and pieces to the website. This isn't fundamentally different from the various timelocks we've been using for years, where publishers insist that their payments merit a period of exclusivity. I don't have any real solutions here, but I do believe that we're all fortunate to have Christgau continuing to write for us. Subscribing helps.
Back to my list this week, aside from Tatum's picks, most of this week's records are things I became aware of feeding data into my metacritic list. I started this year's list by collecting mid-year lists, but then I made two discoveries/decisions: rank info in the lists wasn't very useful (most lists were unranked, and many were shorter than EOY lists so the scales didn't quite fit), so I just started counting references without any weighting; also, I found that I could rather easily supplement the lists with AOTY's ratings lists organized by publication, so I started adding those in (first for publications that didn't offer mid-year lists, eventually for nearly all non-metal sources), usually using 80+ as my standard (90+ for AMG and Exclaim!, where 80s are ultra-common). Thus, I've been able to pick up new records as they're released. The sampling is not as good for post-July records, but it gives newer records some recognition. Thus far, the top-rated August/September releases (points in front, my grades in brackets at end, just before that is the AOTY score and review count):
I'm most surprised that Saadiq has gotten so few reviews. I'm less bothered that Lana Del Rey's point total only places her album at 31. That's a structural problem due to the fact that more mid-year lists were counted than ratings. AOTY's 85 score for the album rates it at 17, with 28 reviews topped only in the top 100 by Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow (84/35), Thom Yorke's Anima (82/29), Bon Iver's i,i (80/31).
I'll note that two 1970s rockers died last week: Eddie Money and Rick Ocasek. The former never interested me much, but I had one of his compilations on my unrated list, so figured I should check it off. Tried looking on Napster before going to my shelves, and found a later 2-CD 35-song edition in place of my 1-CD 15-cut item, so I wound up reviewing both. Ocasek, of the Cars, was more important, but I didn't have any unfinished business with them, so didn't bother. Last one of their records I played was the Cars' 1985 Greatest Hits, giving it B+(**), which is about where I pegged their first two albums (both B+ in my database).
I did some work on the Jazz Guides last week. I still have some group albums to fold in -- I left them out of the first pass because they involve more cross-referencing -- but otherwise am up to date (through August). Current page counts: 1791 + 829.
One thing that slowed me down in getting this out was that I started writing up a postscript to Sunday's Weekend Roundup. Despite vowing not to slip down any rabbit holes, I had trouble doing that. Spent much of today figuring I would polish this up a bit, but didn't manage that either. For what it's worth, I wrote these further notes on Monday:
Also thought I'd note why I didn't link to anything on Tuesday's election in Israel: I basically didn't find anything very interesting on the subject. Still, if you're curious, you might read Zack Beauchamp's pre-election piece: Israel's election, and how Benjamin Netanyahu might lose, explained. Nearly everything I read predicted a Netanyahu win -- as did everything before the previous election, even though it ended with Netanyahu unable to form a government. Latest results I've seen are "too close to call," with Netanyahu/Likud trailing Blue and White by a very slim margin (25.7% to 26.3%), which probably means another hung election.
New records reviewed this week:
Franco Ambrosetti Quintet: Long Waves (2019, Unit): Swiss trumpet player, father Flavio Ambrosetti was a saxophonist of some note, played in his father's quintet 1963-70, starting a long relationship with pianist George Gruntz. Close to three dozen albums, only one I've previously heard, but his supporting group here would have been hard to miss: John Scofield (guitar), Uri Caine (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). B+(***)
Blarf: Cease & Desist (2019, Stones Throw): Someone named Eric Andre, from Florida, mixed Haitian-Jewish, studied at Dreyfoos School of the Arts and Berklee but seems to be best known for low-budget TV comedy. First album. Has a long stretch of noise, which isn't totally awful, surrounded by all sorts of pastiche -- some bits are funny, sure, but not something I feel up to working through. B- [bc]
Peter Brötzmann/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Han Bennink: Fifty Years After: Live at the Lila Eule 2018 (2018 , Trost): Three founders of the European avant-garde reunite at the venue of the saxphonist's fifty-year-old Machine Gun, but not to look back. The pianist missed that album, but he was as seminal a figure, his initial albums dating from the same period (Globe Unity from 1966). He is remarkable here, adding more dimensions to the saxophonist's primeval roar. A-
Bill Callahan: Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (2019, Drag City): American singer-songwriter, recorded thirteen albums as Smog 1990-2005, followed by six under his name. Not much more than voice and guitar, reminds me a bit of Dave Alvin but falls short. The extras on "Lonesome Valley" make a difference. B+(*)
Car Seat Headrest: Commit Yourself Completely (2019, Matador): Will Toledo, self-recorded a bunch of albums before signing his label deal, scored his breakthrough with Teens of Denial (2016), but since then his new product has been old: a remake of his 2011 Twin Fantasy, and now this live tour comp, recycling those same songs once more. I'm not unimpressed, but I've never been much invested. B+(**)
Frankie Cosmos: Close It Quietly (2019, Sub Pop): Greta Kline, fourth studio album after dozens of "Bandcamp exclusives," many attributed to Ingrid Superstar. Short songs, 21 of them. B+(**)
Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (2019, 4AD): Atlanta-based band, eighth studio album since 2004, only Brad Cox (vocals) and Moses Archuleta (drums) on all of them. Has a certain artiness to it, some nice stretches, some that drag a bit. B
DSC [Leon Lee Dorsey/Greg Skaff/Mike Clark]: Monktime (2019, Jazz Avenue 1): Bass, guitar, drums, playing eight Monk tunes. Press package makes it clear that Dorsey, a bassist from Pittsburgh with two records 1995-99, is the leader here, although Skaff is more prominent, co-produced, and is marginally more famous (5 records since 1996). B+(*) [cd]
Dump Him: Dykes to Watch Out For (2019, Musical Fanzine/Get Better): Northampton MA punk group, guitar/vocals Mattie Hamer, others list their pronouns as "they/them." Short album (10 songs, 23:21), following a couple of shorter cassettes, but still long enough to evolve from thrash to something approaching songs. B+(*)
Avram Fefer Quartet: Testament (2018 , Clean Feed): Alto/tenor saxophonist, backed by guitar (Marc Ribot), bass (Eric Revis), and drums (Chad Taylor) -- although "backed" isn't quite right word: Ribot dominates so thoroughly I have to strain my ears even to discern the leader's presence. I've played this a lot, and there are stretches near the end that make me want to hear it again, but it takes too long to get there, and I was never hoping for this kind of fancy fusion drive. (Note that without Ribot, this trio's Eliyahu was a ballot pick in 2011.) [Nov. 8] B+(***) [cd]
Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (2019, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter, started leading Ezra and the Harpoons, still thinks in band terms (I've seen this credited to "Ezra Furman & the band with no name"). Describes this as "our punk record," by which he seems to mean short songs: 11 in 27:27, some crunch to the music, some grit in the lyrics. E.g.: "I refuse to call this living life and I refuse to die . . . The ache inside reminds my mind my body's really there . . . I'm not sure I can bite the hand that feeds me anymore." A-
Jayda G: Significant Changes (2019, Ninja Tune): Canadian DJ Jada Guy, based in Berlin, various singles/EPs since 2015, "has risen steadily and steathily through the dance music underground," this first album with a few vocals a modest step. B+(*)
Tim Hecker: Anoyo (2019, Kranky): Canadian electronica musician, ambient division, close to a dozen albums albums since 2001, previous one with the similar title Konoyo. String sounds give it a bit of fuzz to sharpen the edges, such as they are. B
The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019, Frenchkiss): Craig Finn's steady band, seventh studio album since 2004, second since Finn started releasing albums under his own name (four since 2012, including I Need a New War earlier this year). Difference, I reckon, is that he gives the band more head, and they swing as well as rock. Still, Finn's voice uniquely catches the ear, and he's usually reeling off a line you want to hear. A-
Cate Le Bon: Reward (2019, Mexican Summer): Welsh singer-songwriter, Cate Timothy, based in Los Angeles, fifth album since 2009. B
Derel Monteith: Connemara: Solo Piano Improvisations (2017 , self-released): Pianist, based in Illinois (Peoria, I think), grew up and studied in North Carolina, day job attorney. Has two new records, this solo plus a trio, seem to be his debut. Improv pieces have some bounce, leading to a favorable roll. B+(**) [cd] [10-18]
Derel Monteith Trio: Quantity of Life (2019, self-released): Piano trio, with Andy Crawford (bass) and Jason Brannon (drums), playing the leader's sensible, sensitive pieces. B+(*) [cd] [10-18]
Muna: Saves the World (2019, RCA): From Los Angeles, three women, Katie Gavin the singer, the others started on guitar but evolved toward electropop -- not sure who the drummer is, but there is one, and that matters. Second album, plenty of ambition, even if they'd would rather save the world than conquer it. B+(**)
Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis: Beautiful Lie (2019, Next Waltz): Country singer-songwriters, he from Texas, she from Virginia, married 1996, by which time she was better established, recorded a holiday album together in 2006, three more duo albums since 2013. B+(**)
Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (2019, Wilsuns): Postpunk group from Philadelphia, Christina Halladay the singer, Kyle Seely lead guitar. Got attention with three 7-inch EPs and their 2017 LP. B+(**)
Elza Soares: Planeta Fome (2019, Deck): Brazilian singer, started in 1960 with samba, adding some jazz touches including scat. Thirty-seventh album, most recorded before 1980 and unknown to me, but her two latest blew me away. At 82, her voice is well aged but far from shot. B+(***)
Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Live at Jazz Standard (2018 , Capri): Piano trio, together since 2010, not a lot of reason to list the drummer first, as Zaleski wrote all but two of the songs (one by Rosato, one by Jerome Kern). Zaleski does the credits toward the end, too. But the names line up with the cover photo, and he looks best in the middle. B+(*) [cd]
Taylor Swift: Lover (2019, Republic): Pop megastar, seventh album, the first six multi-platinum, Wikipedia notes her age (29) and net worth ($360 million). With that kind of money, she can hire good help -- chiefly Jack Antonoff and Joel Little -- while stretching her product out to 18 songs, a bit over an hour. Album has some lulls, but I have no doubt it could be edited down and sharpened up. Two songs I always notice: "Paper Rings" and "You Need to Calm Down." B+(***)
Emi Takada: Why Did I Choose You? (2018 , self-released): Standards singer, born in Sapporo, Japan, based in Houston, has a couple albums. Backed by piano (Michael Kanan), guitar, bass, and drums, with Marion Cowings singing some. Swings some, can get a bit corny. B+(*) [cd]
Wilma Vritra: Burd (2019, Bad Taste): Collaboration between London-based "artist" Wilma Archer and LA-based rapper Pyramid Vritra. Even-tempered rhymes riding not-quite ambient waves. B+(*)
Charli XCX: Charli (2019, Asylum): British pop singer, Charlotte Aitchison, third album plus several mixtapes. Some grime around the edges. B+(**)
Thom Yorke: Anima (2019, XL): Vocalist for Radiohead, probably the most exalted of the 1990s wave of Britpop bands -- can't say as I was ever a fan, but I listened dutifully and rather liked In Rainbows (2007). Third solo album, slotted as electronic, although the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir are also credited. Not awful, but feels pretty empty. B-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Live at Woodstock (1969 , Craft): Standard live set from a period when the band could do no wrong, hit singles, the odd cover, winding up with two 10+ minute grinds ("Keep On Chooglin'" and "Suzie Q"). Strikes me as redundant, but nothing particularly wrong with it. B+(***)
Jambú E Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia (1974-86 , Analog Africa): Dance rhythms from Belém, near the mouth of the Amazon River, a large city these days but not one that figures prominently in popular Brazilian music. Indeed, sounds closer to Colombia, Cuba, Mexico even. B+(***)
Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-95 , Columbia/Legacy): Shortened his surname from Mahoney, probably thought that was appropriate when his 1977 debut went double-platinum. Released three more platinum albums up to 1986 (highest peak was 17), two more top-200 to 1991 (as far as this comp goes), four more with one just before his 2019 death. Had some singles too, but only 10 cracked the top-40, their peaks almost randomly distributed (4, 9, 11, 11, 14, 16, 21, . . . ). Usually a 2-CD series, but he was so slight this 15-cut single seemed more than adequate, and sat unplayed on my shelves until now. He took a path we came to call "arena rock" -- big sound, sweeping gestures, clichés as hooks, and he played a little sax for occasional flourishes. He was uninteresting at the time. In retrospect, tolerable until he wasn't. B- [cd]
Eddie Money: The Essential Eddie Money (1977-91 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Expanded to 35 cuts for the bits-are-cheap digital era, dropping the one cut from his 1995 album Love and Money (not on Columbia, so the cross-licensing would have hit their budget), filling up with odds and sods -- a single version, acoustic demos, some live cuts. Rounds him out, not that it helps. C+
Grade (or other) changes:
Stef Chura: Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter from Michigan, second album, strong on guitar, especially early on. [was B+(*)] B+(**)
Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019, Drag City): One-shot album by singer-songwriter David Berman, who recorded as Silver Jews 1994-2008, released less than a month before he killed himself at 52. Seems like a very solid effort, open and accessible, could grow on you, although I doubt I want to explore his suicide. [was B+(**)] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, September 15, 2019
No time (or stomach?) for an introduction.
Some scattered links this week:
Tweeted this along the way: