Sunday, March 17, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31275 [31246] rated (+29), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Rated count down, probably by a lot mid-week, but I spent a lot of time on the computer hacking out Book Roundup then Weekend Roundup, and made up ground late. I checked and found that this was the third week in the last two months with exactly 29 records. Would have been more except that this has been another banner A-list week.

Two came out of my jazz queue -- David Berkman, not out until April 5, and Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico -- and they qualify as news. Three were tipped off by Phil Overeem (Little Simz, Dave, and Robert Forster -- although the first two took a revisit before I became convinced). One (Todd Snider) was written up by Robert Christgau (along with Leyla McCalls's Capitalist Blues and Our Native Daughters' Songs of Our Native Daughters, both A- here in previous weeks). I was tipped off to the final one (Matt Brewer) by a Chris Monsen tweet. Various other sources led me to lower-rated records, but somehow the best tips keep coming from friends.

I've put off my office/computer reorganization, but should buckle down and get it done this week (tomorrow I hope, after I get this post up and get some fresh light to work with. Still some things unclear about how it's all going to get put back together.

Getting some decent weather after several rough months. (The "bomb cyclone" was kind of a dud here, although it lived up to its billing a hundred miles north of here, even more so between there and Denver.) Maybe I'll take some time and work on the yard and/or my nephew's house. Also still stuck with a lot of stress over myriad health issues -- but generally looks like a lazy week coming up.


New records reviewed this week:

2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): Rapper Tauheed Epps, from Georgia, checkered career but his five albums have sold well, charting no lower than 4. Songs about dealing drugs and playing college basketball and playing taxes, all rooted in real life. B+(**)

4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 [2019], ACT): I go back and forth on how to parse the cover, but label's website credits this to the trombonist and dismisses "4WD" -- possibly just a graphic? Piano-bass-drums for the others, with Landgren singing a pop repertoire including Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, and Sting -- all gag-worthy. B-

Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): Rapper, know very little about him other than that he moved around a lot (including India, Hong Kong, Beijing, Fiji Islands), winding up in California, then Austin. Easy flow, promising but tails off a bit. B+(***)

Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 [2019], self-released): Canadian alto saxophonist, won a Juno award, third quartet album, backed by piano-bass-drums, sometimes electric. B+(**)

The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 [2019], Palmetto): Pianist, made a big impression back in the 1990s but hasn't been very prolific lately. Nominally a "three-woodwind sextet (plus guests)" but skimpy on actual credits beyond solos, for which I count four "woodwind" players: Dayna Stephens, Billy Drewes, Adam Kolker, and Tim Armacost. Complexly layered, elegant, often quite lovely. A- [cd]

Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Bassist, from Oklahoma City, moved to New York in 2001, third album, 30-40 side credits. Trio with Mark Shim (tenor sax) and Damon Reid (drums). Wrote 4 (of 10) pieces, one by Shim, covers mostly from modern jazz musicians. A remarkably solid setting for all. A-

Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): Japanese girl band, J-pop or dance punk, second album, first was called Pink. Closer to bubblegum than to punk, but the latter introduces just enough noise and chaos into the mix to keep earworms from forming. B+(*)

The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): Punkish girl group from Atlanta, a going concern since 2007, started to make me wonder whether they're going soft, but "F the NRA" allayed those fears, and the next song ("Memories") is even better. B+(***)

Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 [2019], Gearbox): British tuba player, first album although he's been on several well-regarded albums of late (notably Sons of Kemet); group here (6 of 8 cuts) includes Nubya Garcia (tenor sax) and Moses Boyd (drums), keeps up a pretty steady beat with a lot of bottom. B+(*)

Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): British rapper David Orobosa Omoregie, born in London, parents Nigerian, first album after two EPs and a bunch of singles. Concept heavy, working his way through psych sessions, finding his way and gaining confidence and comfort, although not without some psychodrama. A-

Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): Organ player, like his father but better known, probably the best known practitioner of the instrument these days, with a lot of records since 1989. Also plays other keyboards, and trumpet on two tracks. Still, this doesn't sound like his usual soul jazz grind, especially when saxophonist Troy Roberts makes way for Pharoah Sanders on three cuts in the middle (Roberts plays bass on two of them). With Billy Hart on drums and Sammy Figueroa on percussion. I'm a bit lost here, but it's great to hear Sanders in any context, even here. B+(**)

Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 [2019], Iyouwe): Jazz singer, from Chicago, write about half of her songs, has a previous album. Does duets with Freddy Cole and Nancy Assis, draws on some name players, including Amina Figarova (piano), Rudy Royston (drums), Rez Abbasi (guitar), and Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax). B [cd]

Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): Australlian singer-songwriter, formerly in the Go-Betweens, had several solo albums in the 1990s, regrouped the band, then was left to resume his solo career when Grant McLennan died. Forster never seemed to have McLennan's knack for indelible melodies, but his songs are intelligent and humane, and he sticks with them until they work -- at least if listeners meet him midway. A-

Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): Alt/indie group, principally Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass), both vocals, plus (at least) a drummer. Third album, melts together. B

Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 [2019], ECM): Bassist, at least 80 side credits since 1988 (Brad Mehldau Trio, also Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner), Discogs has him on the headline of 18 albums, but first-listed only once before. He can't duck this one: it's solo, which is a pretty limited framework for a bassist -- even a very good one. B+(*)

Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 [2019], ECM): Piano duets, two of the leading jazz pianists of their generation (b. 1970-71), everything jointly credited except for a bit at the end by Geri Allen. Live at Liszt Academy, Budapest. I'm not finding this quite as engaging as Taborn's recent duets with Kris Davis, but there is a lot to chew on here. B+(**)

Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 [2019], Mack Avenue): One of the most popular young jazz guitarist around, at 31 presents an album cover of burnt matches. raising the questino of whether he's burnt out. Actually, I'd say this is the most pleasing album he's done, a trio with Jorge Roeder and David King, one original (simply called "Lullaby"); covers from Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and Keith Jarrett; and best of all, two late '50s slices of pop opera, the title cut and Roy Orbison's "Crying." B+(***)

Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): British rapper Simbi Ajikawo, born in London, parents from Nigeria, third album. A-

Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): New project from Liz Harris, of Grouper. The longer first piece is built mostly from voice, but dissolves into ambience -- more attractively on the second piece. B+(*)

Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): Cello and drums duet, latter also credited with "objects." Reid is based in Chicago, has co-headlined albums with various notables there, including Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed, and Dave Rempis, plus has a very good Quartet album. Monico is from Italy, has been around longer but rarely in the limelight. This has its moments of scrachy minimalism, but they hold together remarkably well. A- [cd]

Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): Norwegian pop star Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, first album after two EPs, mostly dance beats, which help although her voice doesn't slip when she slows it down. B+(**)

Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): After several outings with his rock band Hard Working Americans, back to folk mode, guitar and harmonica more minimal than ever (although he's got a couple of name guests in the background), puts his words out front, and he's pretty pissed. Title refers to the recording studio, originally a shack used by John R. Cash. A-

Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 [2019], Alfa Projects): Baritone saxophonist, also plays flute, cut a record in 1985, more regularly 1997-2011. Quartet here backed by piano-bass-drums, mostly plays early bop standards -- one original blues, a Jobim, a very nice "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You." Needless to say, I prefer the bari. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 [2019], Origin): Trumpet player, recent records have been co-credited to Aaron Lington and their Bicoastal Collective. Backed with piano-bass-drums, this puts the focus on his trumpet, which shines. B+(*) [cd]

Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 [2019], Taina Music): Brazilian singer, born and raised in Rio De Janeiro but based in Santa Cruz, California since the mid-1980s. I don't get much from her voice, but was impressed by the rhythm in "Cumeno Com Cuentro." B+(*) [cd]

Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD/Interscope): Rapper Khadimou Rassoul Cheikh Fall, born in New York, parents Senegalese, spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee before returning to new York. First album. B+(***)

Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 [2019], Northern Spy): Prolific avant-trumpet player, adds electronics here, backed by Mary Halvorson (guitar), Susan Alcorn (pedal steel), and Ryan Sawyer (drums/voice). Three longish (13:50-20:04) pieces, inspired by one of Canada's more famous (for now) glaciers. Like the icefield, moves slow, and melts fast. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 [2019], Jazzline): New Orleans piano master, knew classical as well as the home town favorites. Cut his first single in 1954 (age 14), but didn't get an album released until Junco Partner in 1976, his breakthrough which led to several tours of Europe, including this set, before his death in 1983 (age 43). Solo, sings along, earns his reputation, but doesn't add much to it. B+(**)

Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 [2019], Rainman): Probably my favorite pop group of the early 1980s -- I gave their five 1980-85 records { A-, A+, A, A-, A- }, but only two comparable albums since then -- but no live album until 1990, so this concert tape (originally released as a DVD in 2006) is ideally placed, with 16 great songs. Still, the live sound does them no favoes, and the payoff of extra energy only arrives at the end ("Endicott"). B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (Origin): April 12
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (self-released): May 3
  • Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (self-released): March 26
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (Leo)