Monday, June 24, 2019


Music Week

Streamnotes (June, 2019) archive is available here.

Music: current count 31677 [31641] rated (+36), 264 [256] unrated (+8).

Spent most of the week exploring the Corbett vs. Dempsey catalogue, newly available on Bandcamp. I've been wanting to do that for a while now -- even wrote them an unanswered letter after Amarcord Nino Rota and others placed strong in last year's Jazz Critics Poll. I even bought a couple of John Corbett's recent books (although not yet Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, which looks like it parallels my own 1970s experience -- except that he covers a lot of jazz I only got to 20-30 years later). Corbett previously compiled the Unheard Music Series that Atavistic ran in the early 2000s, which brought 50-60 avant-jazz albums out from deep obscurity. Atavistic started in the 1990s as an avant-rock label (big names there were Swans and Lydia Lunch) before they picked up the Vandermark 5, which pulled them more into jazz. Not sure what happened to them, but most of their records are on Napster, so I complemented my CvD dive with a few Unheard titles (Tom Prehn, with one title on each and nothing else anywhere, got me going that way).

The result is a week which is very slanted toward avant-jazz, and mostly old music at that. I went with the CD release dates to decide which CvD records qualified as recent (2018 or later releases, with 2008 the dividing line between new and old music). I went ahead and included records I got to on Monday after my initial freeze Sunday night, figuring it's a short (4-week) month, and it would be nice to keep all this avant-jazz together. That added one more A- record, by Rodrigo Amado. I noted that Amado has another new record out, a duo on Astral Spirits. Their records are on Bandcamp, and I've reviewed a fair number of them there, but recently they've cut them back to 2 cuts each, so I usually don't bother with them, as they're not really reviewable as such. I made an exception here, hedging a bit based on 2/5 cuts. I decided to mark records like that "**?" in my annual list. When/if I get the chance to listen further, I'll revise.


New records reviewed this week:

Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert [The Attic]: Summer Bummer (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): World class tenor saxophonist from Portugal, with bass and drums. Group name on cover from a 2017 album I filed under the bassist's name (with Amado but a different drummer), but spine here lists the artists as given, omitting the group name. Free jazz, not his best but so right up my alley I finally surrendered. A- [cd]

Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 [2019], Astral Spirits): Tenor sax and drums duo, improv pieces in a Lisbon studio. The drummer likes to kick up a racket, so this runs hard and fast (as far as I can tell). [2/5 cuts: 18:45/48:53] B+(**) [bc]

Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Israeli saxophonist, also plays shakuhachi here in this quartet with piano-bass-drums. Impressive as long as he stays aggressive on sax. B+(***) [cdr]

Hamid Drake/Joe McPhee: Keep Going (2018, Corbett vs. Dempsey): Most sources list McPhee first, but cover favors drummer Drake. Duets, McPhee playing alto sax and pocket trumpet. Brilliant in spots, staggers a bit too. B+(***) [bc]

Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (2018 [2019], OA2): Singer-songwriter, from Texas, teaches voice at UNT, has a couple previous albums. This one is produced by Peter Eldridge, who plays keyboards and shares three writing credits. B [cd]

Mats Gustafsson/Jason Adasiewicz: Timeless (2017 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Title track is by the late guitarist John Abercrombie, evidently a common touchstone for the Swedish saxophonist and the Chicago vibraphonist (also plays balafon, to fine effect). B+(*) [bc]

Dom Minasi/Juampy Juarez: Freeland (2018, Cirko): Guitar duo. Juarez is from Argentina -- not much info on him, but he seems to have another duo album with John Stowell, and more (although Discogs comes up empty). Nice Monk closer. B+(*)

Thurston Moore/Frank Rosaly: Marshmallow Moon Decorum (2012 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Guitar-drums duo, the guitarist famous from Sonic Youth, but he's occasionally played with jazz groups (e.g., the Thing). One 31:36 piece. Gets loud. B+(*) [bc]

Matt Olson: 789 Miles (2018 [2019], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Wisconsin, now based in South Carolina, the title reflects the distance he's traveled. Two albums with Unhinged Sextet, second on his own, a trio with Mike Kocour on organ and Dom Moio on drums. "Stompin' at the Savoy" always sounds good. B+(**) [cd]

Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (2016 [2019[, Origin): Bassist, from Chicago, wrote most of the pieces here, with words from Thomas Burrell and Robert Irving III for one political cut ("Not the Song I Wanna Sing"). Otherwise a superb piano trio with Kenny Barron and Lewis Nash. Two covers, both from Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [cd]

Ken Vandermark/Mats Gustafsson: Verses (2013 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant saxophonists, notes say this was their first time as a duo, but they recorded several albums as a trio with Peter Brötzmann (as Sonore, first in 2003), and they played together before that (Vandermark recorded several albums with Gustafsson's AALY Trio, as early as 1996), as well as in larger groups like Pipeline and the Peter Brötzmann Tentet. Many of those albums sound like rutting contests to me, but they seem to be working together here, perhaps because they can hear one another. B+(**) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Amarcord Nino Rota (1981 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): I file this under producer Hal Willner's name, who went beyond this first album to produce a series of tribute albums worthy of auteur tatus -- most fabulously Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985). Otherwise, this would be "various artists" playing compositions by Nino Rota from the films of Federico Fellini. Mostly jazz musicians, several solo (Jaki Byard, Bill Frisell, Steve Lacy), larger ensembles arranged by Carla Bley and Muhal Richard Abrams, even a medley with the Marsalis brothers. A- [bc]

Steve Lacy: Stamps (1977-78 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): The soprano sax great's quintet, with Steve Potts (alto/soprano sax), Irène Aebi (cello/violin/voice), Kent Carter (bass), and Oliver Johnson (drums). Second disc was originally released by Hat Hut in 1979, more than doubled here with a previously unreleased 1977 live set: Some vocals at the top, after which they roll hard, even more so on the reissued tracks. B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee/Mats Gustafsson: Brace for Impact (2007 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Two avant saxophonists, alto and baritone although both rummage through their closet for exotic variants: pocket trumpet, alto clarinet, and voice for McPhee; slide sax, alto fluteophone, and electronics for Gustafsson. Expect strain and screech, but this has remarkable moments when they manage to hold it together. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Fred Anderson: Dark Day + Live in Verona (1979 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist (1929-2010), born in Louisiana, joined AACM and recorded a bit 1979-80, then ran his club until returning to the fray in the late 1990s. First disc (Dark Day) appeared on an Austrian label in 1979, combined with a previously unreleased live set here -- three long tracks, repeating two titles from the album at much greater length. With Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Steven Palmore (bass), and a young but most impressive Hamid Drake (drums/tabla). A-

Fred Anderson Quartet: The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 (1980 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): New bassist, but essentially the same powerhouse quartet. B+(***)

Steve Beresford/Tristan Honsinger/David Toop/Toshinori Kondo: Double Indemnity/Imitation of Life (1980-81 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Sticker explains: "Two hardcore improvised music LPs on one CD." But they used the original front and back covers from Double Indemnity, only crediting Beresford (piano/flugelhorn) and Honsinger (cello/voice). The second album, Imitation of Life, added Toop (guitars/flutes) and Kondo (trumpet), its cover, where the order was Honsinger-Beresford-Kondo-Toop, probably relegated to the booklet. Hard to sort so much chaos and invention out. B+(*)

The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax (1967 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German tenor saxophonist, first album (of hundreds, still coming) fashions his uncompromising avant assault while offering a tribute to the instrument's inventor. I've long found his attack hard to take, but I guess he's wearing me down. With Peter Kowald and Sven-Åke Johansson, plus pianist Fred Van Hove on the final cut. B+(*)

The Peter Brötzmann Sextet & Quartet: Nipples (1969 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Dialed back a bit from his legendary octet recording of Machine Gun in 1968, his sextet here offers a "who's who" of the early European avant-garde, with Evan Parker (tenor sax), Derek Bailey (guitar), Fred Van Hove (piano), Buschi Niebergall (bass), and Han Bennink (drums) -- minus the Brits for the flip-side quartet. The piano is especially striking on both. B+(***)

The Peter Brötzmann Sextet/Quartet: More Nipples (1969 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Three previously unreleased pieces, the title from the "Nipples" sextet, two shorter pieces from the later quartet. B+(***)

Günter Christmann/Torsten Müller/LaDonna Smith/Davey Williams: White Earth Streak (1983 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): German bassist-trombonist, born during WWII in what became Poland, played in free jazz groups from 1976 on. Plays trombone here, with Müller on bass, the others scattered sound effects: piano, violin, ukulele, viola, pianoharp, objects, guitar, banjo, drums. B

Guillermo Gregorio: Otra Musica: Tape Music, Fluxus & Free Improvisation in Buenos Aires 1963-70 (1963-70 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Born 1943 in Argentina, moved to Chicago and established himself on clarinet and alto sax from 1996. These are early pieces, starting avant-electronic before moving on, with some solo sax improvs toward the end. B

Mats Gustafsson: Torturing the Saxophone (2008-13 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with five short Ellington tunes, including a surprisingly tender "In a Sentimental Mood," before he roughs up with some live electronics. Switches to baritone for the final four tracks -- three Aylers, and a 22:30 meditation on "Danny's Dream" (a signature piece by the great Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin). B+(*) [bc]

Staffan Harde: Staffan Harde (1968-71 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Swedish guitarist, only released this one album in 1972, cobbled together from three sessions. Two solo tracks, four more with bass and/or piano, one of those with drums. More is merrier, but reports that Harde is a unique guitar stylist aren't unwarranted. B+(**) [bc]

Steve Lacy/Steve Potts Featuring the Voice of Irène Aebi: Tips (1979 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Soprano and alto saxophone duo, plus the vocalist declaiming aphorisms by Georges Braque. I never could stand her singing, which here takes opera to absurdist extremes. The saxophonists are wonderful at first, but they too turn annoying by the end. Originally released 1981 by Hat Hut. B- [bc]

Jimmy Lyons: Jump Up (1978 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): Originally released by Hat Hut in 1979 as 3-LP. Alto saxophonist, best known for his work with Cecil Taylor, leads a fiery quintet with Karen Borca (bassoon), Munner Bernard Fennell (cello), Hayes Burnett (bass), and Roger Blank (drums). A- [bc]

Joe McPhee Quintet/Ernie Bostic Quartet: Live at Vassar 1970 (1970 [2011], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): A double bill organized by McPhee, but two separate groups, no overlap, one disc each (although vibraphonist Bostic played on several other McPhee albums around then, including the masterpiece Nation Time). McPhee, with Byron Morris as second sax (alto) and Mike Kull on piano, plays an expansive set (76:06). Bostic, with alto sax (Otis Greene) and organ (Herbie Leaman) turns in a short (33:03) set, swinging through "Bags Groove" before tackling "Resolution" (from A Love Supreme). B+(*) [bc]

Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2017], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Avant-sax trio, recorded live in Switzerland, the leader playing tenor and soprano, with John Snyder (synthesizer, voice) and Makaya Ntshoko (drums). Favorite moment is when the synth aims at Krautrock, which just challenges McPhee to be more inventive. A- [bc]

Joe McPhee: Variations on a Blue Line/'Round Midnight (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo saxophone, starts on tenor with a 17:24 dedication to Coleman Hawkins ("Beanstalk"), then soprano for a piece called "Motian Studies." Closes with the two title cuts -- the most familiar latter resonant on soprano. B+(**) [bc]

Joe McPhee: Glasses (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Solo tenor sax and flugelhorn, a relatively short "Naima" sandwiched between two longer originals (42:24 total). Starts out by tapping a rhythm on a half-filled wine glass, and closes with more percussion, which is all the help he needs. B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee: Alone Together: The Solo Ensemble Recordings 1974 & 1979 (1974-79 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Plays his whole gamut of instruments, including alto horn, overdubbing to build up his ensembles (duo, trio, quartet). B+(***) [bc]

Joe McPhee & André Jaume: Nuclear Family (1979 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Duets, both play alto and tenor sax, McPhee also pocket cornet, Jaume also bass clarinet. Recorded in Paris, previously unreleased. B+(***) [bc]

Louis Moholo/Larry Stabbins/Keith Tippett: Tern (1982 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): South African drummer, English saxophonist (soprano/tenor) and pianist. Stabbins is the least famous, but has a long association with Tippett and side credits with LJCO and many other avant ensembles, and could just as well be Evan Parker there. Still, the star here is the pianist, who plays free jazz as grand drama. A-

Pipeline: Pipeline (2000 [2013], Corbett vs. Dempsey): A sixteen-piece "free music big-band," organized in Chicago with a bunch of visiting Scandinavians, shelved when the intended label (Crazy Wisdom, in Sweden) was shuttered. Four reed players (leader Mats Gustafsson plus Ken Vandermark, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Guillermo Gregorio); two brass (Jeb Bishop on trombone and Per-Åke Holmlander on tuba); two each at guitar, piano, bass, and three drummers. Two long pieces (one Vandermark, the other Ljungkvist). This was recorded about the time of Vandermark's first large band project (Territory Band), but is very different: remarkable flow, rhythmic detail, minimal squawk. A- [bc]

Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (1963-66 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Danish pianist, recorded a couple of albums in the 1960s, of which this 1963 effort is "arguably the rarest LP in European free jazz." Also one of the most surprising ones, as tenor saxophonist Frits Krogh predates any comparable free jazz in Europe by close to a decade. Adds a previously unreleased 12:36 track from 1966, not quite as good as the original album but clearly related. A- [bc]

Tom Prehn Quartet: Prehn Kvartet (1967 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Title from front cover, the reissue back cover translating Tom Prehn Quartet. Same short-lived group, with the leader on piano, plus Fritz Krogh (tenor sax), Paul Ehlers (bass), and Preben Vang (drums). Before launching his own label, Jon Corbett directed this remarkable label series -- I count 38 titles in my ratings database (7 A- or above), but I had missed this one. Similar, a bit more focus on the piano, so less intense. B+(***)

Phillip Wilson: Esoteric (1977-78 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Drummer (1941-92), from St. Louis, played in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1967, moved on to Chicago, where he was involved with AACM, recorded with Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill, and David Murray, plus a flurry of 1978-79 albums. This turned out to be the last, a duo with Olu Dara (trumpet/serpent). B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gretje Angell: In Any Key (Grevlinto): July 25
  • Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (Ofeh): July 1
  • Mark Doyle: Watching the Detectives: Guitar Noir III (Free Will)
  • Pablo Embon: Reminiscent Moods (self-released): July 8
  • Bill Evans: Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (self-released): July 19
  • Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance ([2019], Resonance)
  • Wes Montgomery: Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (Rainy Days)
  • Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (Patois)