An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, April 15, 2019
Music: current count 31371  rated (+27), 252  unrated (+1).
May just be seasonal allergies, but feeling too lousy to even take a stab at writing an introduction. I still have XgauSez to edit and post before I go to bed tonight, so need to get onto that while I can.
A couple of notes, though. I've been talking about moving computers around for a month or more. I finally got that done this week. Best thing so far is that I have two relatively uncluttered desks to work on, instead of one hopelessly messy one. Also I moved the speakers above the desk, where they sound better and I can access the controls. (Also, now both computers have speakers. Subwoofers are still under the desk, where they should be, and that space is less cluttered than before. No website work yet, but I should get to that soon.
Delighted to see Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (49) finally posted. I checked out a couple of his recommendations below (also found a new live Pet Shop Boys he didn't mention). Also continuing to pick albums off from Phil Overeem's 25% through the briar patch list.
Finally, I finally did manage to cast a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot, a day past the deadline, but seems likely to be counted (not that I could ever tell from the results). I didn't do a very good job of collecting notes this time, but here is what I have.
New records reviewed this week:
Charlotte Adigéry: Zandoli (2019, Deewee, EP): Belgian singer, roots in French Caribbean, electronic dance grooves, second EP (5 tracks, 22:56). B+(**)
Etienne Charles: Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 (2019, Culture Shock Music): Trumpet player, from Trinidad, studied in Florida and at Juilliard, teaches at Michigan State, seventh album since 2006. Plays up his Afro-Caribbean roots, and parties down. B+(**)
Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks [This Is Bate Bola OST] (2018 , International Anthem): Soundtrack to a short film that appeared in 2018, so I'm guessing that's the date (could be earlier). Mostly electronics, mostly atmospheric, aside from a bit at the end I zoned out before. B
Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (2019, Republic): Pop star, fifth album coming rather fast after her well-reviewed (except by me) Sweetener. This suggests to me that she's stabilizing as a top-tier pro, rather than (as I thought at the time) declining into a hack. Will keep an eye on her. B+(**)
William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (2018 , FPE): Avant drummer, discography goes back to 1975, trio with Mark Kirschenmann (trumpet) and Joel Peterson (drums), sounds like some uncredited electronics mixed in. One improv set live in Detroit, starts "serene" so takes a while to get interesting ("Panchromatics 1" and "2"). B+(*)
Amber Mark: Conexão (2018, Virgin EMI, EP): Pop/r&b singer-songwriter, has some self-released singles before graduating to this 4-song, 17:32 EP. Despite title, songs in English. I'm not finding any bio. A promising outing. B+(**)
Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (2019, Blue Engine): Dan Pritzker directed the movie, released May 3, starring Gary Carr as Buddy Bolden (1877-1931, but unrecorded and locked up after 1907), the first of the legendary New Orleans cornet players, and Reno Wilson his better known successor, Louis Armstrong. Marsalis was the obvious choice to score this, using his Jazz at Lincoln Center crew and guest vocalists: Catherine Russell, Brianna Thomas, and most often Wilson, who does his best to sing like Pops and isn't really up to it. B+(***) [cd]
Xose Miguélez: Ontology (2018 , Origin): Tenor saxophonist, from Galicia in Spain, the panhandle due north of Portugal, an autonomous region of Spain with its own language and folk culture -- something Miguélez specializes in. With guitar, bass, drums, and vibes on a couple cuts, an extra saxophonist (Matt Otto) on a few more. Ends with a 1981 field recording, but all along seemed a bit off the beaten path. B+(**) [cd]
Billy Mohler: Focus! (2019, Make): Bassist, based in Los Angeles, Bandcamp page talks about "returns his Focus to jazz after a successful career in rock, pop and R&B production and songwriting." This may be his first album, a pianoless free jazz quartet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Shane Endsley (trumpet), and Nate Wood (drums). Starts with a bit of bass solo, then the band cuts loose. Slows down toward the end, but still holds your interest. A- [cd]
OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (2016 , TUM): Alto sax, cornet, bass and drums. Haynes the youngest (b. 1960), the least avant, most African-oriented, but manages to fit in. Lake speaks on the Haynes' title piece. Mostly interesting mish-mash, except when Lake gets up a full head of steam and runs away with everything. B+(***) [cd]
Nicki Parrott: From New York to Paris (2019, Arbors): Bassist from Australia, based in New York, sang a bit at first, and was so appealing she moved on to whole albums, mostly standards from the swing era. Plenty of New York and Paris songs to choose from -- my favorite is the one in French, "La Mer." Gil Goldstein's accordion adds that Gallic touch, with John DeMartino (piano), Alvin Atkinson (drums), and Harry Allen on tenor sax. B+(**)
Jeremy Pelt: Jeremy Pelt the Artist (2018 , HighNote): Trumpet player, close to twenty albums since 2001, leads this off with his layered five-part "Rodin Suite." Two keyboard players (Victor Gould on piano), guitar, the vibraphone/marimba stands out (Chien Chien Lu). Balance of album inches toward hard bop. B+(*)
Pet Shop Boys: Agenda (2019, X2, EP): Four songs, short, punchy hits (13:08), mostly topical ("On social media," "What are we going to do about the rich?," "Give stupidity a chance"). B+(**)
Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (2018 , X2): Live at the Royal Opera Hall, released as a DVD although I'm just going by the audio. I don't think the duo gains anything in the concert hall, although the crowd noise draws (even a singalong on "West End Girls") you into the experience, and they have no trouble drawing twenty-plus terrific songs -- sometimes two or three to a cut -- from their deep discography. Ends with a reprise of "The Pop Kids" -- their latest, a pure throwback to their heyday, although songs like "It's a Sin" and "Go West" tower even higher. A-
Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (2018 , Nonesuch): Second-generation tenor saxophonist, was an instant star back in 1992 so seems like he's been around forever, but he's still under 50. Standard quartet: Aaron Goldberg (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Gregory Hutchinson (drums). Solid set, sounds like he's got his own sound back, some spark too. B+(***)
Ruby Rushton: Ironside (2018 , 22a): British jazz group, led by Ed Cawthorne (aka Tenderlonious; flute, soprano sax, synth, wah pedal, percussion), with Aidan Shepherd (keyboards) also writing a couple of songs, plus Nick Walters (trumpet) and Tim Carnegie (drums). Has some ambition, edge and drive, but nothing really sticks with me. B
Jim Snidero: Waves of Calm (2019, Savant): Mainstream alto saxophonist, couple dozen albums since 1984, last album celebrated Cannonball Adderley, here goes for "deep reflection and restrained maturity," occasioned by "his father's ongoing struggle with Parkinson's disease." Lovely album, with help by Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jonathan Barber (drums). B+(***)
Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (2019, Strikezone): Guitarist, been around, soul jazz groove with organ (Jared Gold), vibraphone (Stefon Harris), drums (McClenty Hunter), and congas on a few cuts. Covers include Steely Dan and a lot of Motown. B+(**) [cd]
James Suggs: You're Gonna Hear From Me (2018, Arbors): Trumpet player, from Pennsylvania, teaches at University of South Florida, seems to be his first album, lined up some impressive backup: Houston Person (tenor sax), Lafayette Harris (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums). B+(**)
Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (2018 , OA2): Bassist, based in New York for 15 years, teaches at U. Mass in Amherst, evidently his first record, subtitled "Jazz Interpretations of the Short Stories of Haruki Murakami." Easy-flowing postbop, with Jason Rigby (sax), Mike Baggetta (guitar), Art Hirahara (piano), and drums. B [cd]
Warren Vaché: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us (2019, Arbors): Cornet player, retro swing when he started out in the late '70s, plays standards here from "My Melancholy Baby" and "Slow Boat to China" to "Birks Works." Guitarist Jacob Fischer is a steady force here, carrying most of the songs. Also with Neal Miner (bass) and Steve Williams (drums). B+(***)
Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (2018 , Origin): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), also plays wood flute, teaches in Bay Area, fifth album since 2003 (or 1996?), backed by piano trio (Taylor Eigsti), upbeat, in commanding form throughout. B+(***) [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Louis Armstrong: Sparks, Nevada 1964! (1964 , Dot Time): Late in his career -- he didn't record much after 1966, and died in 1971 -- but this catches him on top of the world, with a smash single ("Hello Dolly"), a crack (if no longer All Star) band (Billy Kyle and Arvell Shaw are still in). His voice has an extra load of gravel, but he's still remarkably nimble, especially as he pushes his hit to 7:05, and his trumpet is as brilliant as ever. Still, he takes a break, giving Shaw a long solo on "How High the Moon," then turning the microphone over to Jewel Brown for two cuts. But she's terrific, and he returns for the closing crowd pleaser: "When the Saints Go Marching In." A-
Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time: African Visionary Music (1972 , Motown): Poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, wrote an important book on music (Blues People), made his name as Leroi Jones then changed it in 1965, appeared on a record that year with New York Art Quartet. This builds on his 1970 book It's Nation Time, a potent mix of black power politics and avant-jazz, notably with Gary Bartz (alto sax), various keyboards and guitar, scattered horns, Reggie Workman (bass), and lots of percussion -- intense, angry, frazzled. B+(***)
Duke Ellington: In Coventry, 1966 (1966 , Storyville): Solo piano for the 9:13 openener, "New World A-Comin'," then joined by the orchestra. Set in Coventry Cathedral, he decided to go sacred, most melodramatically with 20:39 of "In the Beginning God" -- lifted midway with a bit of gospel hoedown, before he gets way too serious again. B
Ben Lamar Gay: 500 Chains (2013-14 , International Anthem): Chicago-based musician, sings/speaks, plays cornet, probably more, recorded seven unreleased albums since 2010 before his "greatest hits" debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun. This is the first of the seven "source albums" to appear. Hard to wrap my head around the spoken parts, but spots (especially with the horn) impress (actually a bit more than the "best of"; he's a project). B+(***)
Ben Lamar Gay: Grapes (2013-14 , International Anthem): Very experimental, closer to rock or soul than to jazz, which isn't to say it's predictable or easy. B+(*)
Ben Lamar Gay/Edinho Gerber: Benjamin E Edinho (2011-13 , International Anthem, EP): Adds a tropicalia vibe with Brazilian guitar master, from a couple stretches when the duo co-resided in Rio de Janeiro and Chicago. Eight cuts, 28:27. B+(*)
Joanne Grauer: Introducing Lorraine Feather (1977 , MPS): Pianist, based in Los Ageles, eponymous debut in 1974, only a few albums after this sophomore effort. Trio on the A-side, three B-side tracks introduce the singer and also mark an early appearance for tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. B+(*)
Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental and New Age Music 1980-1990 (1980-90 , Light in the Attic): Beware the version differences: the full 3-LP package has 25 tracks, the 2-CD a bit less at 23, but the digital, which is the only one I've heard, stops at 10 (41:47). This doesn't sound like much at first: a bit of quiet piano, a shift to synth and more electronics, the occasional light rhythm track. Nice and calming, not meditative (at least not exactly). Grows on you, or maybe just gets comfy. A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: