An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, April 1, 2019
Music: current count 31312  rated (+15), 249  unrated (-4).
Rated count way down, about half of what I consider a solid week. When I dropped to 29 last week, I described that as a "lazy week." Could say that again, but the real reason for the drop off is that the Flash plugin on my computer is fucked up, making it impossible to use Napster (or, for that matter, Spotify). That left me with playing CDs (9) and using Bandcamp (6), and I didn't really have much to choose from or look for on either. Unplayed CD queue is currently only 7 deep, and I don't just randomly play unknowns on Bandcamp. On the other hand, the Bandcamps generally got two spins, and the CDs more than that (I'd guess Larry Fuller got 7-8 plays -- not that I needed more than 2, but it made for pretty pleasant background music). All that lead to a couple anomalies. Only one A- is the lowest weekly total in quite some time, and I'm actually not real solid on it -- I've never been much of a Betty Carter fan, and should probably go back and check some of her earlier releases (and re-check The Audience With Betty Carter, which I have at B- even though it wears a Penguin Guide crown). It could be that I promoted it at the last minute because I came up with nothing else.
The other anomaly is the high percentage of B+(***) grades (8/15). Certainly the multiple replays helped out. At this point, I'm pretty sure the jazz records (especially the CDs) have plateaued, but three of the Bandcamps might merit further investigation: Mekons, Quelle Chris, and Mdou Moctar. I think I have those three pegged right, but they're close, and it's worth noting that I have the immediately previous albums by all three at A- (It Is Twice Blessed, Everything's Fine, and Blue Stage Sessions).
Priorities for the coming week will be to reconstruct my crashed tax file, finish (paint) a new pantry shelf, and finally get my computers rearranged and reconnected (hopefully fixing the Napster problem, and allowing me to get onto some website work). Also have my DownBeat Critics Poll invite, so that will be another (pretty much wasted) chunk of time. One website task I did manage to get done last week was to build a book page for Robert Christgau's new essay collection, Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading, due out from Duke University Press on April 12. Info and various links on that page. Still to be done is the nasty task of embargoing most of the pieces that appear in the book, so this is your last change (for several years) to squirrel away free copies of most of the book.
New records reviewed this week:
Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (2018 , Origin): Singer, writes some (lyrics, I think), cut a record with George Cables in 1985, restarted around 2004, working with Richie Beirach, and picked up the pace after her 2014 Joni Mitchell tribute. Two Mitchell pieces here -- she has the voice and manner down pat -- along with Sheryl Crow and Neil Young. With Sheldon Brown on sax and clarinet, Dave McNab on guitar, Matt Clark on piano, plus bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]
MichaŽl Attias: ňchos La Nuit (2018 , Out of Your Head): Alto saxophonist, parents Moroccan, born in Israel, grew up in Paris and Minneapolis, based in New York, albums since 2002, fewer than I expected. This one is solo improv, somehow imvolving a piano ("the sympathetic resonance of the piano strings set into vibration by the sound of the saxophone"). Slow, contemplative, or maybe just cautiously deliberate. B+(**) [cd]
Blu & Oh No: A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (2019, Native Sounds): Rapper Johnson Barnes, active since 2007, and rapper/producer Michael Woodrow Jackson (since 2004), reinforcing each other, building tension and urgency of their Los Angeles fable. B+(**) [bc]
Chord Four: California Avant Garde (2016 , self-released): Pianoless free jazz quartet, based in Los Angeles, the horn players Andrew Conrad (tenor sax/clarinet/bass clarinet) and Brandon Sherman (trumpet/flugelhorn), backed by bass (Emilio Terranova) and drums (Colin Woodford). Eponymous album in 2010. This seems to be their fourth. Smart, intricate, doesn't grate, could even be characterized as understated. B+(***) [cd]
Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (2018 , Capri): Pianist, from Toledo, Ohio, recorded a trio album in 1998 with Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton but more often appeared as the pianist in their piano trios. Released a trio album I liked under his own name in 2014, and follows that up here, with Hassan Shakur and Lewis Nash. Two originals, more standards that catch your ear, the title cut from Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [cd]
Ross Hammond & Sameer Gupta: Mystery Well (2018, Prescott): Guitar and tabla duo. Guitarist has been prolific over a decade, including a previous duo album with Gupta. Doesn't have the twang of a sitar, but fits in nicely. B+(***) [bc]
Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2017 , Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, from Santa Cruz, California, based in Brooklyn, first album under his own name following three with brother Pascal as the Le Boeuf Brothers. Sextet with Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Aaron Parks (piano), guitar, bass, and drums. Postbop, a little slick but goes somewhere. B+(**) [cd]
Mekons: Deserted (2019, Bloodshot): Venerably Anglo (now Chicago?) cowpunk group reunited for another roundup, starts out sounding strong (and angry), hits a skid spot midway, and and I tend to lose interest after that, not that I don't hear things that make me wonder if more plays might bring it around. B+(***) [bc]
Mdou Moctar: Ilana: The Creator (2019, Sahle Sounds): Tuareg from Niger, plays guitar, sings, got me thinking that if Ali Farka Tuareg was the John Lee Hooker of the Sahara, he just might be the Jimi Hendrix. Then he tails off a bit, the old groove and trance getting the upper hand. B+(***) [bc]
Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (2018 , Leo): Continues the prolific tenor saxophonist's series from last year, all albums (so far) featuring Maneri on viola -- the first with two violins, the second with cello. This one adds some trumpet dischord to the core ugliness, although in the end you could learn something from the messiness of freedom. B+(*) [cd]
Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (2018 , Leo): Add the pianist and it all becomes much more coherent, even if he never seems to be conspicuous. B+(***) [cd]
Quelle Chris: Guns (2019, Mello Music Group): Rapper Gavin Tennille, underground division, pretty good duo album last year with Jean Grae (cameo here), like the beats here, I'm a little slow on the words. Choice cut: "Obamacare." B+(***) [bc]
SOL Development: The SOL of Black Folk (2019, self-released): Oakland hip-hop collective, acronym stands for Source of Light, title reflects on W.E.B. DuBois's best-known book. So much talent the styles clash, but "Nobody" puts it all together, and I'd probably find more if I put in the time. B+(**) [bc]
Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (2017 , ESP-Disk): Avant-sax trio, with Mike Forbes, Andrew Scott Young (bass), and Ben Billington (drums), group together since 2010 (Forbes has a 2009 album with Young and Weasel Walter). Rugged, striking, relatively short (30:18). B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992 , Blue Engine): Jazz singer, dubbed Bebop Betty when she started out in the mid-1950s, deep voice, nimble scat, her work on Verve from 1980 up to her death in 1998 is especially revered -- albeit not by me: I've been impressed by her bands, but never cared much for the vocals. I should probably reacquaint myself, as she shows remarkable poise and range here, in a previously unreleased Jazz at Lincoln Center tape. Some small group cuts, more big band, some strings arranged by Geri Allen: I doubt any of those are really up to her standards, but they work well enough. A- [cd]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: