Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Streamnotes (August 2017)

I suppose I should make a big deal out of the fact that the rated count since I started writing this Streamnotes column in late 2007 has now topped 10,000 records. But that's only a thousand per year, 85 or so per month, less than 3 per day. The metric measures time more than anything else. And even if the records were all new at the time, my sample of what's been added to the world's pile of recorded music during this time is well under 2%, probably under 1% -- so I've lost way more ground than I've gained.

Back in 2007, I did a little work for Rhapsody, and one of the perks was a free subscription. I figured I should take notes on what I heard there, hence the column. Well, it didn't even become a column until sometime later -- the notes originally appeared in my Notebook, until I realized I was checking out enough stuff to post something regularly. At the time I was doing Jazz Consumer Guide, Jazz Prospecting, and Recycled Goods, but RG was erratic after I stopped posting at Static Multimedia, and JCG ended after 2009 -- although I continued to get jazz promos, the rate has gradually declined (currently a bit less than half the 2009 level). In January 2014 I decided to consolidate everything under the Streamnotes umbrella -- even actual CDs (about half of the jazz below (25/51 of new jazz, but adding in the old jazz changes the share to 26/87, or 29.8%). The share of non-jazz that is streamed is, like most months, 100%.

So it's fair to say that streaming has not only changed my life as a reviewer, it's the main reason I've been able to hang on. I dropped "Rhapsody" from the title when they rebranded as Napster -- an early digital music purveyor that I never used and never felt any nostalgia for -- but they remain my main source, followed by Bandcamp (not bothering with records that only have a few cuts available), then by download links provided by publicists. I've never mastered the more arcane methods of downloading, so when I run into a wall I tend to back out. And it's been a long time since I bothered to pitch or beg a release -- only one I recall in the last couple years was a letter to the since-departed Joe Fields that got me two top-rated 2016 releases: Houston Person's Chemistry and JD Allen's Americana. (If Steven Joerg is reading, the new William Parker Quartets is at the very top of my wish list -- it's also at the top of Chris Monsen's favorites list, which also notes a new JD Allen release, Radio Flyer).

So, in a sense, this column is running on fumes. This month's 119 records is down from 136 in July and 149 in June, although it's slightly above the previous three-month lull: 111-115-114. And it is August -- never a pleasant month here in Wichita, although pace global warming we've gone all month without a single 100F day, and we've had enough rain to keep the grass green (most years it's brown). Still, always glad when August is over.


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 July 28. Past reviews and more information are available here (10029 records).


Recent Releases

Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage (2017, Eclectus): Standards singer (not the actress), one original here, from Dallas, third album since 2012. Nice voice and phrasing, stays away from overly familiar songs, nice sax touches. B+(**) [cd]

Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (2017, Cahara): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, seven albums since 2005, bills herself as smooth jazz but I recognize this as art-disco, the dance beat on the soft side and occasionally nodding toward MPB. Pleasant surprise. B+(**) [cd]

Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (2016 [2017], Not Two): American drummer, a free jazz legend since his early 1970s records with Dave Holland, later with Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet, dropped from sight in the 1990s until 2010 when he appeared on saxophonist Jon Irabagon's Foxy, the first of a bunch of collaborations under one name or another (third as 3Dom Factor, with Joe Fonda on bass). Mostly notable for Irabagon's no holds barred sax, although the bass-and-drums duets are super too. A-

Arcade Fire: Everything Now (2017, Columbia): Alt/indie group from Montreal, fifth album since 2004, hugely popular and critically esteemed -- third album, The Suburbs, seemed to be a lock on album of the year polls until Kanye West spoiled their party. I'm not a huge fan but haven't found much cause to fault their albums. I might quibble about this being too ornate, but after five or six plays nearly every song has clicked. Still, probably won't play it again until EOY, but I have little doubt I'll enjoy it then. A-

Gerald Beckett: Oblivion (2017, Summit): Flutist, from Beaumont, TX, studied at UNT, moved on to San Francisco. Sixth album, long personnel list but typical groups have 5-6 musicians, the standout alto saxophonist Ruben Salcido. Nine covers, several (Piazzolla, Pascoal, Tjader) bringing the Latin tinge, others mainstream jazz (Davis, Mulligan, Ellis Marsalis), with a long "Out of This World" to close. B+(*) [cd]

Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Incidentals (2014 [2017], ECM): Alto saxophonist, influenced by Julius Hemphill, which shows up strongest here in his harmonics with Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet). Group name comes from their 2012 Snakeoil, with Ryan Ferreira (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano/electronics), and Ches Smith (drums, vibes, percussion). Dense and turbulent, has some marvelous moments as well as puzzling ones. B+(***) [dl]

Big Bold Back Bone: In Search of the Emerging Species (2015 [2017], Shhpuma): Swiss-Portuguese quartet: Marco von Orelli (trumpet), Sheldon Suter (prepared drums), Luis Lopes (guitar), and Travassos (electronics). One 43:02 piece, plumbs sonic depth but rarely rises to demand your attention. B

Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (2017, Outline, 2CD): Soprano saxophonist. Group: Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums), plus Deborah Rush reading Dickinson poetry on the second disc only. I'm inclined to favor the music-only disc, but while I rarely register the words, somehow the music on the second disc seems even more vibrant. B+(***) [cd]

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity (2016-17 [2017], Avant Groidd): Group assembled by noted rock critic Greg Tate back in 2001, more of a jazz group then but with more lyrics their 13th album is exceptionally jazzy funk. Steven Bernstein (trumpet) and Avram Fefer (alto sax) are probably the best known musicians, but the core is guitars (4), bass, keys, violin, and drums -- not counting Tate, creditd with guitar, bass, and "beats & loops." B+(***)

Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro: Rosa Dos Ventos (2017, Anzic): The clarinetist joins a Brazilian choro group -- Dudu Maia (bandolim), Douglas Lora (7-string guitar), Alexandre Lora (pandeiro, hand pan, percussion). Clarinet tends to blend in with the strings. B

Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves: Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos (2017, Anzic): More Brazilian, a duo with Cohen on clarinet and Gonçalves playing 7-string guitar, on a set of "things" from Brazilian saxophonist Santos. The clarinet is somewhat delicate here, but still stands out framed against spare guitar. B+(**)

Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life (2017, Interscope): Fifth album since 2010, started as a young pop ingenue but shifted last time into a winning slowcore groove which works even better here, especially when she plaintively demands "the fucking truth" -- helps that she doesn't evince any of the genre's depressiveness, and employs the occasional rapper. Tails off a bit at the end, but only after a trio of songs that I take to be patriotic in the best sense -- about caring for each other. A-

Beth Ditto: Fake Sugar (2017, Virgin): Mary Beth Patterson, "fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas," singer in the so-so indie band Gossip, went solo with an EP I liked in 2011. This is her first full-length solo effort, produced by Jennifer Decliveo as exceptionally straight and clear, perhaps even a bit simplistic, major league pop. B+(***)

Miles Donahue: The Bug (2015 [2017], Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, b. 1944, didn't record until around 1992, also plays trumpet and flugelhorn here, keyboards elsewhere. Even when he switches off you get strong saxophone from Jerry Bergonzi, guitar by Mike Stern on three tracks, piano (Tim Ray), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (2017, Sub Pop): Radical punk band from Providence, formed by a tuba player and singer Victoria Ruiz. Third album, pounding beat, loud scream and indecipherable screed, probably smart but I like it best when topped with a little saxophone. B+(**)

The Fall: New Facts Emerge (2017, Cherry Red): Mark E. Smith's pioneering post-punk group, dating back to 1979, still featuring their trademark crunch and growl. While I'm a fan of the growl, the signature-sounding closing instrumental piece is this album's saving grace. B+(*)

Filthy Friends: Invitation (2017, Kill Rock Stars): Portland supergroup, only ones I'm familiar with are singer Corrin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (REM), and bassist Krist Novolselic (Nirvana). First album, after group appeared on the politically themed Battle Hymns benefit album. Seems like a better-than-average hard rock group here, nothing more. B+(*)

Floating Points: Reflections - Mojave Desert (2017, Luaka Bop): British, someone with the memorable but not very original name Sam Shepherd, has a previous album and beaucoup short pieces, plays keyboards but works with larger groups. The dominant sound for much of this is guitar, reminding me of Pink Floyd spaced out under a vast nightsky. B+(*)

Billy Flynn: Lonesome Highway (2017, Delmark): Chicago blues guitarist-singer, originally from Wisconsin, seventh album since 1992, whips up impressive groove but somehow it all feels rote. B

Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet: The Pythiad (2016 [2017], Origin Classical): Soprano saxophonist, with a string quartet plus bass and singer Cheryl Wilson -- a combination I don't care for on many levels, one where the classical underpinnings make it hard to hear any jazz. B- [cd]

Hal Galper and the Youngbloods: Live at the Cota Jazz Festival (2016 [2017], Origin): Pianist, started in the mid-1970s and has had a long and remarkable career, joined here by three young musicians I've never heard of -- Nathan Bellott (alto sax), Dean Torrey (bass), and David Frazier (drums) -- on four pieces ranging from 11:08 to 17:40. I'm especially struck by Bellott and, of course, the pianist. B+(**) [cd]

Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy (2017, self-released): Percussionist, teaches ethnomusicology in Vermont, credits here include tanbou bèlè, congas, tupan; seems to be his first album although I've found a side-credit on a 1992 album by Kotoja -- a California-based Nigerian-American group. Sextet adds clarinet, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, plus a singer shows up on one track that sounds rather Brazilian. B+(*) [cd]

Gogol Bordello: Seekers and Finders (2017, Cooking Vinyl): Gypsy punk band from New York with roots back in Ukraine, first emerged in 1998 and has some very notable records. This one scores high marks for energy and sometimes adds insight and humor. B+(**)

Laurel Halo: Dust (2017, Hyperdub): Born in Ann Arbor, based in Berlin, third album, disjointed electronica with (presumably her own) vocals. B+(*)

Hamell on Trial: Tackle Box (2017, New West): Singer-songwriter Ed Hamell has been cranking out DIY folk tunes with punk intensity since 1989, includes a song here mostly about Trump ("The More You Know"), one about the fear even white folk have about getting shot by cops, and best of all an Australian "Mouthy B"'s critique of America (some choice lines: "I don't think your government cares about its people," "what's with all the flags? I've never seen such insecurity in all my life," "along with freedom 'heroes' is the most overused word in your national vocabulary"), as well as four "Froggy" songs. Cover shows a burning city behind a blasphemous Lady Liberty. Title song is about life coming with many hooks. A-

Hamell on Trial: Big Mouth Strikes Again: Hamell Live (2017, New West): Seems to be download only, with a code provided with the new studio album, but streams separately. Some redundancy (including another "Mouthy B"), some songs from earlier albums (like "The Happiest Man in the World"), some patter including a story about three grandmas coming up to him and asking whether he has any edgier material. He tries to satisfy them, even to the point of explaining "that's how you wave a towell." A-

Hard Working Americans: We're All in This Together (2017, Melvin): Todd Snider's hard working alt-rock band, with a few other guys I don't recognize from bands I've barely heard of (Widespread Panic, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Great American Taxi). Title cut actually works as a live band intro after their hardest guitar rave, followed by a souped up "Is This Thing Working?" and ending with a Chuck Berry anthem -- a fine encore. B+(***)

H. Hawkline: I Romanticize (2017, Heavenly): Welsh singer-songwriter Huw Gwynfryn Evans. Fourth album, has a high voice and a light, jangly feel that gradually grows on you. B

Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: Crooked Calypso (2017, Virgin EMI): Main singer-songwriter behind the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, probably my favorite bands in the waning days of the 20th century. Third album with Abbott, their most problematical one, with flashes that bring back fond memories but he's packed it with way too much pomp. Deluxe edition adds four long songs (25:26), changing little B+(*)

Fred Hersch: Open Book (2016-17 [2017], Palmetto): Solo piano. Three originals plus pieces from Monk, Jobim, Benny Golson, and Billy Joel. He reached a new plateau with 2014's Floating, and continues at that level, thoughtful, serene, touch as deft as ever. B+(***) [cd]

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Tell the Devil I'm Gettin' There as Fast as I Can (2017, Bordello/Thirty Tigers): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, called the band on his first (1976) record the Cowboy Twinkies, didn't strike me as very important until his 2010 album A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), but has topped that good one three times since. A-

Jon Irabagon/John Hegre/Nils Are Drønen: Axis (2013 [2017], Rune Grammofon): Saxophone-guitar-drums trio, the latter two Norwegian. Two pieces, 17:43 and 18:56, focus on stress, eventually breaking free. B+(*)

Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over (2017, ECM): Pianist, very highly regarded, used to lead a group called Fieldwork with Steve Lehman on alto sax and Tyshawn Sorey on drums -- they had three superb albums 2002-08 -- and essentially doubles that group here, adding Mark Shim (tenor sax), Graham Haynes (cornet/flugelhorn/electronics), and Stephan Crump (bass). I'm not sure the extra weight helps, but Lehman remains especially striking, as is the dense piano scaffolding. B+(***) [dl]

Max Johnson: In the West (2014 [2017], Clean Feed): Young bassist, b. 1990, fifth album, with Susan Alcorn (peddle steel), Kris Davis (piano), and Mike Pride (drums) -- the pianist making by far the biggest impression. B+(*)

Paul Jones: Clean (2017, Outside In Music): Tenor saxophonist, has at least one previous album. Postbop, all original pieces, core group a quintet with Alex LeRe on alto sax and Glenn Zaleski on piano, plus various extras including the SNAP Saxophone Quartet (5/14 tracks), the Righteous Girls (flute/piano, same 5), guest clarinet/oboe (same 5), cello (4 others), and bassoon (9). B [cd]

Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (2011 [2017], Hatology): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous records. MVP here is guitarist Joe Morris, invariably the one you wind up focusing on. With Giacomo Merega (electric bass) and Jason Nazary (drums & electronics). A- [cd]

LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst: Metamorphosis (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Mostly Portuguese avant trio with Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), Gonçalo Almeida (bass/keys), and Greg Smith (drums), the latter two dabbling in electronics. Their guest, who also appeared on their 2015 album, plays clarinet and bass clarinet -- Chris Speed was their guest back in 2013. Wound tight, makes me think it's the bassist's album, but the horns get the best breaks. B+(*)

Steve Langone Trio: Breathe (2016 [2017], Whaling City Sound): Drummer-led piano trio, with Kevin Harris on piano and Dave Zinno on bass. Zinno wrote two songs, one each for the others, plus pieces from Chick Corea, Richard Rodgers, and "unknown" -- "Down By the Riverside" is a highlight. B+(**) [cd]

Lean Left: I Forgot to Breathe (2015 [2017], Trost): Fifth album, the first subtitled The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo -- the former being Terrie Hessels (aka Terrie Ex) and Andy Moor, with Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Ken Vandermark on reeds. B+(**)

The Liberation Music Collective: Rebel Portraiture (2017, Ad Astrum): Nearly a big band -- 13 pieces, plus an extra guitar on a couple cuts, and singers, based in Chicago, founded by bassist Hannah Fidler and trumpeter Matt Riggen, citing the "activist tradition of such jazz composers as Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Charlie Haden." Not quite, of course, and the lyrics never grab me. B+(*) [cd]

Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin' Thru (2016 [2017], Blue Note): Not exactly new -- this Quartet lineup dates back to Rabo De Nube, recorded in 2007: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums). His tenor sax is as lucid as ever, and Moran is an impressive accompanist. Flute feature has Indian airs and what sounds like guitar -- presumably bass. B+(***)

Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile to the Surface (2017, Loma Vista): Indie rock group from Atlanta, fifth album since 2006, all serious and a bit heavy-handed. B

Rob Mazurek: Chants and Borders (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Trumpet player from Chicago, credited here with cornet, modular synth, sampler, and piano, with a group in Brazil that expands beyond Mazurek's São Paulo Underground group: Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizer, sampler, electronics), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flute, soprano sax, electronics), Philip Somervell (piano, prepared piano), Mauricio Takara (drums). B+(**)

Rob Mazurek: Rome (2014 [2017], Clean Feed): Solo, credits read: cornet, piano, prepared piano, electronics. Recorded in Rome, which inspires some titles but probably has little to do with the music. Tends toward atmospheric but doesn't intend to stay there. B+(*)

Vic Mensa: The Autobiography (2017, Roc Nation): Chicago rapper, name shortened from Mensah, first studio album after a couple of well-regarded EPs/mixtapes. This rubbed me wrong from the start -- a boast about striking it rich while keeping one's integrity -- but the teenage sex yarns aren't so bad, not that I don't get he's some kind of cad. Still no interest in the drugs or suicide. B-

Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature (2015 [2016], ECM): Composer, has worked in music, dance, theatre and film since the 1960s, with a dozen records for ECM since 1981's Dolmen Music, mostly in their postclassical New Series. She sings here, often with others, against a fairly minimalist backdrop. B+(*) [dl]

Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (2017, Whaling City Sound): Alto saxophonist, from Massachusetts, has at least one previous record. Quartet with piano, electric bass, and drums (Steve Langone). Wrote three originals (of 12 songs), covers ranging from Horace Silver to Michael Jackson. Fairly mainstream, but rich tone and easy swing. B+(***) [cd]

Randy Newman: Dark Matter (2017, Nonesuch): First album of new songs since 2008's Harps and Angels, not that he hasn't been busy during the Obama era: Discogs shows him with two Songbook volumes, two live albums, and five soundtracks -- by now, not just his meal ticket but his toolchest. The first three songs, with their historical-philosophical concerns, are so detailed it takes little effort to imagine the videos. The rest of the album, aside from the story of Sonny Boy the First, is unsentimental filler, and probably better for that. Christgau proclamed this an "album of the year contender" -- something I don't hear at all, but I massively underestimated Harps and Angels, doubting it for much the same offhandedness. A-

Pale Horse: Badlands (2015 [2016], 5049): Clarinet player Jeremiah Cymerman, group name taken from the previous album by this "apocalyptic chamber ensemble" with Christopher Hoffman on cello and Brian Chase on drums. Two LP-length tracks, total 34:02. Cites as inspiration "the work of composers Scelsi & Ligeti, the novels of Cormac McCarthy, the films of Wim Wenders and the hypnotic beauty of Swans." More modest than any of those, but more pleasing than his early raw noise. B+(*) [bc]

Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (2015 [2017], Creative Sources): German pianist, real name seems to be Oliver Schwerdt -- has a previous trio album with Axel Dörner and Christian Lillinger and a couple albums as Schwerdt. This is solo, short (31:46), named for two of the three pieces (the other is the 2:21 "Farewell"). Impressive, more for the rumble he generates than for the runs. B+(***) [cd]

Richard Pinhas/Barry Cleveland: Mu (2016, Cuneiform): Pinhas is a French guitarist, formed the "electronic rock" band Heldon in the 1970s, has also recorded as Schizo and Schizotrope, and has twenty-some records under his own name, three with Merzbow. Cleveland is another guitarist ("new age and experimental ambient"), and Michael Manring (bass, elbow bass) and Celso Alberti (drums, electronic drums, percussion) are also "featuring" on the cover, if not the spine. B+(**) [dl]

John Pizzarelli: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (2017, Concord): Marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 encounter between the crooner and Brazil's most famous songwriter (who played piano and guitar and contributed some backing vocals) -- not a very good album for either, with Claus Ogerman's arrangements part of the problem. Pizzarelli's catalog includes titles like Dear Mr. Sinatra and Bossa Nova, so I don't doubt his dedication. He takes some liberties with the arrangements, turning two pairs of songs into medleys and interposing bits of other songs. Daniel Jobim adds his voice, Helvio Alves and Duduka Da Fonseca manage the rhythm, and someone they don't mention plays some nice sax. B-

Platform: Flux Reflux (2017, Clean Feed): French clarinet player Xavier Charles, discography goes back to 1996, second album under this name, with Katrine Schiøtt (cello), Jan Martin Gismervik (drums), and Jonas Cambien (keyboards). All improvised, the focus more on deep sound than on flow. B

Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (2017, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist Scarff has been a member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, and leads the group Natraj, which plays Indian classical music. Pianist Porter has played with AJO on several occasions, and has shown up on a couple Allen Lowe projects, but is probably better known as an author and educator. With John Funkhouse (bass) and Bertram Lehmann (drums). Can't say I hear the "east-meets-west jazz, where Indian raga merges with western classical" -- reminds me more of someone like Charlie Mariano, with a real sharp rhythm section. B+(***)

Dave Potter: You Already Know (2017, Summit): Drummer, first album, has a few side credits with Jason Marsalis (vibes), Miguel Alvarado (saxes), and Will Goble (bass), all present here. Mostly originals, one tune each by Marsalis and Alvarado, five covers, mostly jazz sources (Monk, Shorter, Golson, Watson). Cut in several sessions, using three bassists, three pianists, two trumpeters, but never more than quintets. Swings, bops, swings some more. B+(**) [cd]

Eric Revis: Sing Me Some Cry (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Bassist, played for Betty Carter and Branford Marsalis but has tended to be more avant on his own albums. Quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax/clarinet), Kris Davis (piano), and Chad Taylor (drums) -- an explosive combination, most often moderated by the bassist but extraordinary when he cranks them up. A-

Roots Magic: Last Kind Words (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): Italian group, second album: Alberto Popolla (clarinet, bass clarinet), Errico De Fabritiis (alto/baritone sax), Gianfranco Tedeschi (double bass), Fabrizio Spera (drums), plus guests on organ/piano (4 tracks), cello (2), and dub effects (1). Plumbs a deep blues base drawing on Charlie Patton and similarly influenced jazz musicians like Julius Hemphill and Marion Brown, tuned up to a fine fury. A-

Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma: Songs for the Hangman's Daughter (2017, Rubinchik): Folk singer-songwriter, plays a range of instruments, born in Stillwater, OK, but "Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans" -- clearly not one to shy away from audience prejudices. He sings about being bipolar ("it's a wonder I've yet to land in prison"), shows his regional colors when he decries "the war of northern aggression," claims to have mastered barbecue with kosher beef, covers "a fun old Bad Livers tune" (a band he was in). B+(**) [bc]

Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (2015 [2017], Euphorium, 2CD): German pianist, also records as Elan Pauer, goes long here with two substantial servings of solo piano, dense and crunchy, much like the Pauer record above. B+(***) [cd]

Matthew Shipp: Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zürich (2016 [2017], Hatology): Solo piano, recorded live at the Swiss festival, all originals except for "Tenderly." His usual impressive range from deep rumble through long lines to delicate touch. B+(***)

Skyzoo: Peddler Themes (2017, First Generation Rich/Empire, EP): Rapper Gregory Taylor, from Brooklyn, seven LPs, scads of mixtapes, third EP, eight solid tracks (30:36). B+(**)

Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (2016 [2017], Pi): Drummer, sometime pianist -- he played a big chunk of his 2007 2CD album That/Not -- I've even seen him lately on trombone, but here just drums. I mention this because this strikes me as very much a piano album (Corey Smythe), the percussion and bass (Chris Tordini) often all but vanishing. Sometimes the piano, too. I'd prefer something more in-your-face, and there's some of that here too. A- [cd]

Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (2016 [2017], Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, has a fairly short list of albums under his own name since 1997, but has a pretty long list of side credits. This format, with Chris Tordini on bass and Dave King on drums, pushes him out front, and he doesn't bother with the clarinet, so you get a consistent sound which grows in authority and panache. A- [cd]

Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (2017, Delmark): From Chicago, plays bass clarinet, quartet adds Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums) -- terrific group, with Jackson complementing the leader's airy sound. Three originals, covers from Bird and Monk, two from Lennie Tristano and another from Warne Marsh, plus one called "Roused About" that I assume honors Charlie. A- [cd]

Vieux Farka Touré: Samba (2017, Six Degrees): Guitarist-singer from Mali, father was Ali Farka Touré, pioneer of Saharan/desert blues, a tradition he carries on and extends, mostly by rocking harder. B+(***)

Triocity [Charles Pillow/Jeff Campbell/Rich Thompson]: I Believe in You (2016 [2017], Origin): Reeds-bass-drums trio, Pillow credited with alto sax, alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet -- last is certainly not least. He only has a couple previous albums, but appears in quite a few notable big bands (John Fedchock, Alan Ferber, David Liebman, Pete McGuinness, Bob Mintzer, Ted Nash, Maria Schneider, and others). Songbook and jazz standards (Monk, Parker, Davis), closing with "Cherokee" -- always a thrill. B+(**) [cd]

Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy (2017, Odd Future/Columbia): Los Angeles rapper Tyler Okonma, started out in Odd Future collective, never seemed like he was quite ready but gets a major label deal here. Has managed to smooth off the rough edges, but that doesn't leave him with much. B

Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Escalator (2016 [2017], Not Two): Tenor sax/clarinet trio, drums and bass respectively, recorded live at Alchemia in Krakow. I'm afraid I find the clarinet annoyingly squeaky, but Vandermark is a tower of power in this context, and remarkably adept. B+(***) [bc]

Raphael Vanoli: Bibrax (2017, Shhpuma): Guitarist, based in Amsterdam, first record, solo. Metallic tones, patiently experimental. B+(*)

John Vanore: Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (2016 [2017], Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, leads a big band (16 pieces, only 2 saxes and 2 trombones, but 5 trumpets and 2 French horns) through a splashy set of Nelson pieces, with sharp solos and a certain postbop swing. B+(**) [cd]

Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Honey and Salt (2016 [2017], Palmetto): Subtitle: "Music inspired by the poetry of Carl Sandburg." Snatches of Sandburg poetry as well, read by various members of the band and extras, as well as vocals (and guitar) by Dawn Thompson. With Ron Miles (cornet), Jeff Lederer (reeds), Martin Wind (bass), and Wilson on drums. Too many words for my taste, but sometimes remarkable music. B+(*) [cd]

Reggie Young: Forever Young (2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, first album but not so young, born in 1936, started out playing rockabilly in Memphis, part of the Bill Black Combo (led by Elvis Presley's first bass player, opened for the Beatles on their 1964 US tour). Best known for session work, including "Down in the Boondocks" (Billy Joe Royal), "The Letter" (Box Tops), Dusty in Memphis (Springfield), "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis), and "I Can Help" (Billy Swan). Nice relaxed groove album with keyboards, bass, drums, and sometimes a little cello. B+(*) [cd]

Bobby Zankel & the Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker @ 65 (2017, Not Two): Alto saxophonist, a couple years older than the famous bassist -- on board here, an event in Philadelphia, along with Steve Swell (trombone), Diane Monroe (violin), Dave Burrell (piano), and Muhammad Ali (drums). Old-fashioned avant joust, something the bassist has presided over many times. B+(**)

Omri Ziegele: Where's Africa: Going South (2016 [2017], Intakt): Credit could be parsed several ways, including mention of Yves Theiler (keyboards, reed organ, melodica, vocals) and Dario Sisera (percussion, drums). Where's Africa is the name of a 2005 album -- a duo with pianist Irène Schweizer -- and was also used in the credit of a 2010 trio (with Schweizer and Makaya Ntshoko). Ziegele is Swiss, plays alto sax, Uzbek flute, and is credited with vocals. Not sure who sings (weirdly) and who raps (impressively), affectations which annoyed me at first as they interfered with the wonderful Township Jive-inflected groove. A- [cd]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Albert Ayler Quartet: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 (1964 [2016], Hatology): Two sessions from the tenor saxophonist's banner year, a quartet -- Don Cherry (cornet), Gary Peacock (bass), Sunny Murray (drums) -- that toured Europe in the latter months of the year. Six tracks from Hilversum, three more from Copenhagen -- The Hilversum Sessions first appeared in 1980, The Copenhagen Tapes (also including a Club Montmartre date) in 2002. Strikes me as a bit hit-and-miss, which isn't quite the same as saying his avant-garde's become old hat. B+(**)

Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964 (1964 [2017], Hatology): This is the Club Montmartre set previously released on The Copenhagen Tapes, minus the three radio shots moved into European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 -- these releases are evidently part of an Ayler Estate effort to bring some order to the various long-circulating Ayler bootlegs. Same quartet. Same chaos. B+(**)

Albert Ayler: Stockholm, Berlin 1966 (1966 [2011], Hatology): Two dates, a week apart, same group: Donald Ayler (trumpet), Michel Sampson (violin), William Folwell (bass), Beaver Harris (drums). Tightly layered, especially with the violin, around a skeleton of gospel and circus music. B+(***)

Paul McCandless With the Paul Winter Consort: Morning Sun: Adventures With Oboe (1970-2010 [2017], Living Music): Playing oboe mostly, some English horn (soprano sax and bass clarinet elsewhere, notably with Oregon from 1980 on), McCandless joined soprano saxophonist Winter's group for three 1969-72 albums, with several reunions from 1986 to 2010. Together they sound like medievalists trying to pass for new age, and the occasional vocals hardly qualify as either. C+ [cd]

John Prine: September 78 (1978 [2017], Oh Boy): Recorded Sept. 23, 1978 in Chicago, after his four justly famous Atlantics and first of three mostly forgotten Asylums (Bruised Orange). Originally released on numbered orange vinyl for Record Store Day 2015, now available for the masses. I first saw him a decade later when he was reduced by playing solo, which he carried off easily on wit, but this band, with organ and flashy guitar, hems him in, although they rock impressively on his lesser known songs (one appeared later on 1980's Storm Windows, two only show up here, including one tantalizingly close to Chuck Berry). B+(***)

Old Music

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Not April in Paris: Live From Banlieus Bleues (2004, Trugroid): Cover reads Live 01 at Banlieus Bleues but website gives this title. This closes out the group's most intensive period, following six releases (7-CD) in three years. Personnel list omits credits, but aside from leader Greg Tate the names I don't need to look up are Vijay Iyer (keybs), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Matana Roberts (alto sax), and Mazz Swift (violin) -- figure most of the 16 for guitar and vocals, plus bass and drums. Slippery groove, not a lot of vocals but they can swing either atmospheric or funky. B+(***)

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2004 [2005], Trugroid, 2CD): Another live set, from performances in Spain, France, and New York. Unable to find a credits list, but the first concerts immediately follow Not April in Paris. "A Night in Tunisia" gives you something you can calibrate from, or try, as the multipart pieces run on and on. No idea what "blisluth" means. B+(***)

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006, Trugroid, 2CD): Personnel list runs to 37 names: 4 guitarists, 5 drummers, and 10 vocalists (counting "rhymes" and "recitation/oratory"), the goal "23rd century R&B," the grooves stretched and pliable. Like most of their records, especially the long ones, there are patches of brilliance and long stretches of enjoyable groove. B+(***)

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Chopped and Screwed: Volume 2 (2007, Trugroid): Remixes, the title referring to a technique DJ Screw developed in Houston in the 1990s based on slowing the beat down -- something I don't know enough about to judge how it was applied here. No evidence of a Volume 1. Personnel listed as Greg Tate, Jarid Michael Nickerson, and Mazz Wright, although horns are audible, as is some spoken word (rap?). B

Jeremiah Cymerman: Purification/Dissolution (2011-12 [2012], 5049): Clarinetist, fifth album since 2007, solo but also credited with amplifiers, synths, and electronics, which push this into the domain of avant-noise. Bit harsh for me. B [bc]

Jeremiah Cymerman/Christopher Hoffman/Brian Chase: Pale Horse (2013 [2014], 5049): Clarinet/cello/drums, two cuts at 21:45 and 16:26. Less of a noise album, but dense and mysterious, not anything you'd take for chamber jazz. B+(*) [bc]

Jeremiah Cymerman/Evan Parker/Nate Wooley: World of Objects (2013 [2014], 5049): The clarinetist returns to noise world through his "digital post-production." Saxophonist Parker is still unmistakable, especially on soprano, while trumpet player Wooley remains a journeyman. Not uninteresting, but my tolerance for this sort of thing is limited. B- [bc]

Bill Frisell: Ghost Town (1999 [2000], Nonesuch): Solo guitar, sometimes banjo, mostly originals but five covers offer framework -- two old country songs, two showbiz standards, a piece from John McLaughlin. Nothing exciting, but picks carefully. B+(*)

George Garzone: Moodiology (1998 [1999], NYC): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Boston, a legendary educator and mentor to many dozens of famous saxophonists, has most often recorded as the Fringe, a sax trio as ragged as its name. With Fringe rhythm section here -- John Lockwood on bass and Bob Gullotti on drums -- plus Douglas Yates (alto sax/bass clarinet), Claire Daly (baritone sax), Kenny Werner (piano), and Mike Mainieri (vibes). Exceptional chops, but the other horns sometimes add a sour note, and some of his cover ideas don't work out so well. B+(**)

George Garzone: The Fringe in New York (2000, NYC): The Fringe albums date back to 1978, and this is the only one with the star saxophonist's name on the cover, hence the credit. Mike Mainieri joins on vibes, which can tilt the group into something merely pretty -- especially when Garzone gives up his fierce tenor for pretty soprano. B+(**)

George Garzone: Among Friends (2009, Stunt): Especially pianist Steve Kuhn, who often takes over the album, also Anders Christensen (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). The leader's tenor sax is especially eloquent on the ballads. B+(***)

Jon Irabagon/Andrew Neff/Danny Fox/Scott Ritchie/Alex Wyatt: Here Be Dragons (2009 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor sax/alto sax/piano/bass/drums, with Chris Cash (programming) a guest on one cut. Opens with the saxes neatly in sync, but the leader is hard to contain. B+(*)

Noah Kaplan Quartet: Descendants (2008 [2011], Hatology): Same group as on the new album. Guitarist Joe Morris is the main draw, with the leader playing more soprano sax, and taking the tenor slower. B+(**)

Joe Morris Trio: Antennae (1997, AUM Fidelity): Avant guitarist, discography starts around 1990. With Nate McBride on bass and Jerome Deupree on drums, loose yet jagged. B+(**)

Joe Morris/Mat Maneri: Soul Search (2000, AUM Fidelity): Guitar and viola duets, both electric, neither overpowering, closer in effect to Maneri's bent avant-classicism than to the guitarist's usual idiosyncrasies. B+(*)

Joe Morris: Singularity (2000 [2001], AUM Fidelity): As the title suggests, a solo album, with Morris playing steel string acoustic guitar instead of his usual electric -- adds more texture while better exhibiting his speed and dexterity. B+(**)

Joe Morris Bass Quartet: High Definition (2007 [2008], Hatology): No fear, just one bassist -- Morris, better known at guitar but has many recordings on double bass. Two horns: Alan Chase (alto, soprano, and baritone sax) and Tyler Ho Bynum on cornet, with Luther Gray on drums. Tails off a wee bit at the end, but most of the way the horns spin gloriously, while the leader's longtime drummer keeps the rhythm surprising. A-

Joe Morris: Mess Hall (2011 [2014], Hatology): Guitarist, emphasis on electric here, backed by Jerome Deupree on drums and (less obviously) Steve Lantner on keyboards. Five pieces from 9:01 to 11:52, dense and gnarly. B+(**)

Randy Newman: Live (1971, Reprise): Recorded at the Bitter End in New York, just singer-songwriter and his piano, after only two studio albums -- notably his likely best-ever 12 Songs (4 songs from there, 5 from his debut, 2 destined for Sail Away, 1 eventually reworked for 1977's Little Criminals, 2 more). B

Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003, Nonesuch): Reconstructed demos, just the songwriter pounding on his piano and barking out his lyrics -- except to songs you already know -- well, songs I know. Strikes me as long on history and "Political Science" (a title as well as a theme). "Rednecks" catches ever deeper in my craw, perhaps because he sings it with such gusto. He does "God's Song" the same way, and that's fine by me. B+(*)

Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 3 (2016, Nonesuch): Released five years after Vol. 2, itself eight years following Vol. 1, he's obviously in no hurry. He opens with two of his most famous/notorious songs, "Short People" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come," although he winds up picking a couple songs I don't recall (one with a surprisingly generous refrain: "it's just amazing how fair people can be"). Also one song I've been thinking about a lot as Trump and Pruitt lay waste to the environment: "Burn On," about the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire. Just piano and vocal, scaling "I Love L.A." back to human size, especially touching on "Guilty." B+(***)

Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook (2003-16 [2016], Nonesuch, 3CD): This box rolls up the three Songbook volumes, plus four extra songs at the end, including the caustic Bush-era "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" and the presumably satiric Obama-era "I'm Dreaming" ("of a white president") with lines like: "he won't be the brightest/but he'll be the whitest/and I'll vote for that." B+(**)

Flip Phillips: Swing Is the Thing (1999 [2000], Verve): Tenor saxophonist, original name Joseph Edward Flipelli, born 1915 in Brooklyn, came up in big bands including the Benny Goodman and Woody Herman outfits and was a Jazz at the Philharmonic regular. Died in 2001, so this was his last album: with Benny Green (piano), Howard Alden (guitar), Christian McBride (bass), Kenny Washington (drums), and guest spots for Joe Lovano and James Carter -- they bump up the energy level, but the leader's light tone swings everything else. B+(**)

Flip Phillips: Celebrates His 80th Birthday at the March of Jazz 1995 (1995 [2003], Arbors): Big party, as befits an eminent swing-to-bop saxophonist, surrounded here by near contemporaries and younger retro players -- eighteen names in the "combined personnel," including fellow saxophonists Scott Hamilton, Phil Woods, and Bob Wilber, plus Buddy DeFranco on clarinet, Randy Sandke on trumpet; three each pianists, guitarists, and bassists; two drummers. Gives the party a JATP flavor, especially closing with "Perdido." B+(***)

John Pizzarelli: Let There Be Love (2000, Telarc): Guitarist, working on becoming a standards crooner, with band going soft to keep from overwhelming his voice -- Ray Kennedy on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco's credit is "brushes on book." Some guests (including father Bucky Pizzarelli) show up late but don't make much of an impression. B

John Prine: Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine (1971-75 [1976], Atlantic): Twelve songs from four albums worth owning on their own, released as soon as Prine left (was cut?) for Asylum. Christgau panned this: "Not as rewarding cut for cut as John Prine or Sweet Revenge, not as interesting conceptually as Diamonds in the Rough or Common Sense. Good songs, useless album." I wouldn't have bothered but I owned the album way back when -- probably bought it after I got my first taste on personal favorite Common Sense but before I wised up and grabbed the others. Superseded by the first disc of Rhino's Great Days, but somehow this is the one that stayed in print. So if you don't know any better: A-

John Prine: Pink Cadillac (1979, Asylum): Sixth album, second for Asylum, recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio by sons Knox and Jerry Phillips, with only five Prine originals -- Billy Lee Riley joins to duet on his song, and others include Floyd Tillman's "This Cold War With You," "Baby Let's Play House," and "Ubangi Stomp." I'm not sure that any of the rockabilly moves work -- for one thing the sound leaves much to be desired -- but the Tillman cover shows that he can always fall back on country tradition, and "Down by the Side of the Road" is top-shelf. B

John Prine: Storm Windows (1980, Asylum): Midway in a series of five albums between the four Atlantics and his two brilliant 1991-95 albums (The Missing Years and Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings), a solid album I might have taken for more had I been paying attention at the time. Only two covers, and his originals are much more appealing -- a couple I know from elsewhere (probably Great Days), others that couldn't be by anyone else. A-

John Prine: John Prine Live (1988, Oh Boy): Double LP, later a single CD, with 19 songs, recorded at five spots but the only dates provided are song copyrights -- all but two 1971-79 (1981, 1986). Mostly solo, acoustic guitar and vocals, which fits my memory of the period -- I didn't pick up a lot of the patter but did recognize "the happy enchilada song" bit. Steve Goodman joins in for one song, and Bonnie Raitt takes the lead on "Angel From Montgomery." B+(*)

Schweizer Holz Trio [Hans Koch/Urs Leimgruber/Omri Ziegele]: Love Letters to the President (2008, Intakt): Swiss wood, as in woodwinds: bass clarinet/soprano sax, soprano/tenor sax, alto sax/voice. With no rhythm to move them along, the horns are erratic, prickly, and sometimes a bit warbly. B+(*)

Matthew Shipp: Duos With Mat Maneri and Joe Morris (1997-98 [2011], Hatology): Alternates tracks from two of Shipp's Duo albums, Thesis with guitarist Morris (6/13 tracks), and Gravitational Systems with violinist Maneri (5/10). Neither were personal favorites, but the mix helps focus on the remarkable pianist. B+(*)

Chris Speed: Yeah No (1997, Songlines): The tenor saxophonist's first album, a title he later recycled as a group name. He also plays some clarinet, with Cuong Vu on trumpet, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, and Jim Black on drums. The two-horn freeplay starts in high gear, downshifts later. B+(**)

Chris Speed: Deviantics (1998, Songlines): Same group, with trumpeter Vu doing much of the slicing and dicing. B+(**)

Chris Speed: Emit (2000, Songlines): Same quartet, the leader playing some clarinet as well as tenor sax, drummer Jim Black also credited with melodica. Trumpet player Cuong Vu continues to claim the high ground. B+(***)

Chris Speed/Chris Cheek/Stéphane Furic Leibovici: Jugendstil (2006 [2008], ESP Disk): I've been known to confuse the two Chrises: they were born a year apart, both mostly play tenor sax, have less than a dozen headline albums (starting in 1997-98) but play on many more. Cheek plays tenor and soprano here, Speed clarinet, Leibovici bass. Very minimal, soft harmonies with a little fuzz, no beat. A second disc, Jugendstil II, was released in 2010 with Lee Konitz replacing Speed. B

Chris Speed/Zeno De Rossi: Ruins (2011-13 [2014], Skirl): Duets. De Rossi is an Italian drummer -- not much under his name but he's recorded in a couple dozen groups, especially with Franco D'Andrea but the groups also include Full Metal Klezmer and Meshuge Klezmer Band. Speed plays some of his most powerful tenor sax in this stripped down framework. A-

Chris Speed: Really OK (2013 [2014], Skirl): Tenor saxophone trio with Chris Tordini (bass) and Dave King (drums), same as his later Platinum on Tap, pushing him to the forefront to show off his chops. Seven originals, plus pieces from Coltrane and Coleman and "All of Me." B+(***)

Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: The Silence Behind Each Cry: Suite for Urs Voerkel (2001 [2002], Intakt): Alto saxophonist, born in Israel, studied in Boston and London, settled in Zürich. Group here is a nonet, named for a "workplace" (Google translates as "cheap farmer") in Zürich. Voerkel was a Swiss pianist (1949-99), honored but evidently uninvolved in this project, a four-part suite built around poems by Robert Creeley (sung operatically, presumably by Ziegele). B+(*)

Omri Ziegele Billiger Bauer: Edges & Friends (2004 [2006], Intakt): Octet, just two horns (Ziegele on alto and Jürg Wickihalder on soprano sax), with piano, cello, two each bass and drums. Eight pieces, again structured around poetry -- Robert Creeley, Dylan Thomas, Ziegele himself. The band can impress -- especially pianist Gabriela Friedli -- but I could do without the poetry. B

Omri Ziegele's Where's Africa Trio: Can Walk on Sand (2009 [2010], Intakt): Expands the Swiss alto saxophonist's duo with pianist Irène Schweizer from their 2005 Where's Africa, adding South African drummer Makaya Ntshoko, with Jürg Wickihalder adding his soprano sax to three cuts. Abdullah Ibrahim is a shared passion. B+(***)

Notes

Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.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