Monday, November 20, 2017


Music Week

Music: Current count 28909 [28874] rated (+35), 394 [391] unrated (+3).

The Best Albums of the Year usually starts around Thanksgiving. I was going to say that I hadn't seen any yet, but it turns out the first few are indeed out: Rough Trade (100); Decibel (40); Mojo (50); Piccadilly Records (100); and Uncut (75). AOTY is aggregating these lists here, where the order is currently (for laughs, I'll include my grades, where I've heard the record):

  1. LCD Soundsystem: American Dream [**]
  2. Aldous Harding: Party
  3. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN [A-]
  4. The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
  5. Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
  6. Thundercat: Drunk [*]
  7. The National: Sleep Well Beast [***]
  8. Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens
  9. Paradise Lost: Medusa
  10. Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
  11. Slowdive: Slowdive [*]
  12. St. Vincent: Masseduction [A-]
  13. Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator [*]
  14. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
  15. Oh Sees: Orc
  16. Nadia Reid: Preservation
  17. Ryan Adams: Prisoner [*]
  18. Spirit Adrift: Curse of Conception
  19. Richard Dawson: Peasant [B]
  20. Father John Misty: Pure Comedy [B-]

Note (as if you couldn't reverse engineer this factoid) that four of the lists are British (two record stores, two publications), and the other specializes in heavy metal. Expect much of this list to change as more representative critics chime in. I'd have to rate Kendrick Lamar's DAMN as the odds-on favorite -- AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2017 lists it first, barely ahead of Lorde's Melodrama [A-], with LCD Soundsystem at 6 and St. Vincent at 8. The other contender I see on AOTY's list is Vince Staples' Big Fish Theory [***] at 4. I expect that Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me [*] (3), Valerie June's The Order of Time [**] (5), and Jlin's Black Origami [**] (7) to get a few nods but have a tougher time adding them up. Beyond that I don't see many contenders on AOTY's list -- maybe Arca (10) [B], Sampha's Process [*] (16), Algiers' The Underside of Power [B] (25). The Richard Dawson album is 15 at AOTY, but I'd be surprised if it has much US support. Further down the AOTY list you'll find The National (31) and Father John Misty (38).

The only jazz album in AOTY's top 50 is Vijay Iyer Sextet's Far From Over [***] (29). I suppose that makes it the famous to win this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll (run by Francis Davis with some help from myself), although that's mostly because I have no idea which albums will be contenders. Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet [***] won Downbeat's Readers Poll. When I look at my own A-list, I see very little that jumps out as likely to get broad support -- maybe Steve Coleman's Morphogenesis, Jimmy Greene's Flowers, Hudson, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Agrima, Eric Revis' Sing Me Some Cry, Tyshawn Sorey's Verisimilitude, Wadada Leo Smith's Najwa, Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts, Miguel Zenón's Típico. But most years most of the top-20 come from my [***] and [**] lists, and I have no particular knack or (right now) inclination to try to sift them out.

With ballots for the Jazz Poll due December 3, I finally got around to sorting out my own 2017 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists. First thing I'm struck by is how unreliable the ordering of these lists is. One sign is that the order favors albums that came out early in the year, not because they've had longer to sink in but because they got to the top of the list first. A fact of my life is that I almost never go back and replay graded records any more (and when I do, I'm more likely to pick something old and classic, often from my travel cases). I expect I'm going to stir the order up quite a bit before I'm done, but whether that's from replay or just memory remains to be seen.

Health rated count this week, once again very jazz-heavy even when I'm streaming off internet -- last week's ratio was 30-2. That will probably hold up until I file my jazz ballot, then pivot as I see more EOY lists. At some point I expect I'll start running my own aggregate of 2017 EOY lists, like I did for last year. Main obstacle is that I expect the next 3-4 weeks to be heavily interrupted. First, I'll be cooking a small dinner for Thanksgiving. Then I'm in charge of fixing the Wichita Peace Center annual banquet -- last year we had eighty people, so unless I hear otherwise that's on plan this year. Then I'll need to do some work publishing the individual critic ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Sometime in early December I'd like to work in a much-postponed trip to see relatives in Arkansas. In this rush, I'll probably go ahead and post a Streamnotes early this month, to get it out of the way.

Presumably I'll need to file a Pazz & Jop ballot in mid-December. By the end of December, I vow to finish two other long-delayed projects: compiling my existing reviews into two Jazz Guide files, and catching up Robert Christgau's website. Lot of work for a guy who's increasingly feeling his advancing age. As Stephen Colbert noted tonight: most presidents age visibly in office, but Trump is aging us.

One last note on unpacking: got a large batch of CDs (many multiple sets) from University of North Texas, which has the oldest and probably largest jazz education program outside of the Boston-NY corridor -- it doesn't produce as many famous names as Berklee and Juilliard, but as a working critic I've noticed a lot of fine musicians with UNT degrees. Still, good chance I got some of the artist attributions wrong there -- something I'll have to revisit with I finally get the magnifying glass out and try to decipher the fine print.


New records rated this week:

  • Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (2017, Jazz Music City): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (2017, BJU): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (2017, ArtistShare): [cd]: B-
  • Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Geof Bradfield: Birdhoused (2017, Cellar Live): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brand New: Science Fiction (2017, Procrastinate! Music Traitors): [r]: B
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (2015 [2017], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (2017, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michelle Coltrane: Awakening (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • David's Angels: Traces (2016-17 [2017], Kopasetic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (2014 [2017], Not Two): [bc]: A-
  • Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don't Buy Him a Parrot . . . (2014 [2017], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Haskins & Green Empire: The Point (2017, Recombination): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Hear in Now [Mazz Swift/Tomeka Reid/Silvia Bolognesi]: Not Living in Fear (2012-14 [2017], International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vincent Herring: Hard Times (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Harold Mabern: To Love and Be Loved (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Markley & Balmer: Standards & Covers (2017, Soona Songs): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 [2017], Metatrope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air and Light and Time and Space (2016 [2017], Hispid/PNL): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Live in Brussels (2016 [2017], Leo, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jamie Reynolds: Grey Mirror (2015 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Whitney Rose: Rule 62 (2017, Six Shooter): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (2017, RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Shelter: Shelter (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Paula Shocron/German Lamonega/Pablo Diaz: Tensegridad (2016 [2017], Hatology)
  • Jen Shyu: Song of Silver Geese (2016 [2017], Pi): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal: Hide Ye Idols (2015 [2017], Loyal Label): [r]: B+(**)
  • Galen Weston: The Space Between (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Eric Wyatt: Look to the Sky (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams (2017, Slate Creek): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Michael Gregory Jackson: Clarity (1976 [2010], ESP-Disk): [r]: B
  • Woody Shaw: Song of Songs (1972 [1997], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: The Time Is Right (1983 [1993], RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Imagination (1987 [1998], 32 Jazz): [r]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kyle Motl: Transmogrification (2016 [2017], Metatrope): title previously reviewed as Solo Contrabass, label self-released; B+(**)
  • Woody Shaw: Blackstone Legacy (1970 [1996], Contemporary): [r]: was B+(**), now B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Airstream Artistry: Jim Riggs' Best of the TWO (UNT, 3CD)
  • Ernaldo Bernocchi: Rosebud (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Eva Cortés: Crossing Borders (Origin)
  • David Friesen: Structures (Origin)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima (Libra)
  • Paul Giallorenzo Trio: Flow (Delmark)
  • LEF: Hypersomniac (RareNoise): advance, December 8
  • Legacy: Neil Slater at North Texas (UNT, 4CD)
  • Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk Blue (self-released): January 5
  • Nice! Jay Saunders' Best of the TWO (UNT, 2CD)
  • One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2017 (UNT)
  • Phil Parisot: Creekside (OA2)
  • Perseverance: The Music of Rick DeRosa at North Texas (UNT)
  • Steve Slagle: Dedication (Panorama): January 4
  • John Stowell/Ulf Bandgren Quartet: Night Visitor (Origin)