Monday, July 1, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31702 [31671] rated (+31), 260 [264] unrated (-4).

Noisey has evidently decided to drop Robert Christgau's Expert Witness column, the last one running on Friday. Christgau tweeted:

I do this for money as well as love. So just in case this is the last Expert Witness not just at Noisey, which I'm sad to announce it is, but anywhere, it sticks to albums I'm way late on and albums I wanted to be sure to weigh in on. Enjoy. Consume, even.

Obviously, I should make it a priority to round up these latest Consumer Guide reviews and stuff them into the database. Christgau's first Consumer Guide column was published July 10, 1969, so he's ten days short of fifty years. The whole list is here.

Twice before, Michael Tatum responded to lapses in Christgau's review schedule, first by debuting then relaunching his A Downloader's Diary column. As it happens, he had a new column, his 50th, ready to roll last week when he read Christgau's news, and revised his introduction. (Christgau started the parenthetical numbering scheme, but gave it up after reaching 52 in 1975. I also used it for my Recycled Goods columns.)

I managed to check out a few of Tatum's picks this week, but had previously given A- grades to Big Thief, Coathangers, Control Top, Dave, Billie Eilish, Little Simz, and Jamila Woods -- also a B+(***) to Stella Donnelly, B+(**) to Vampire Weekend. I haven't, however, checked any of his Trash picks.

Streamnotes appeared last week, so this starts a new month.

Don't have anything more to add -- at least anything fit to print. Bad day for me.


New records reviewed this week:

Ilia Belorukov/Gabriel Ferrandini: Disquiet (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Russian alto saxophonist, never noticed him before but Discogs credits him with 55 albums since 2007. Teams up here with the Portuguese drummer (RED Trio and much more). Choppy, somewhat muted. B+(**)

Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (2019, Capitol): Singer-songwriter from Scotland, young, first album, processed as pop with his voice stretched toward soul. Topped charts in UK and Ireland. Impressive so far, but could turn annoying. B+(*)

Charly Bliss: Young Enough (2019, Barsuk): Power pop group, Eva Hendricks sings, second album, seems like they got the tone right, all the hooks buttoned up tight. A-

Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (2018 [2019], Intakt): Piano-violin duo, several previous records together ("almost 20 years"). B+(*)

Caroline Davis: Alula (2017 [2019], New Amsterdam): Alto saxophonist, handful of albums. With Matt Mitchell on synths, Greg Saunier on drums, bits of voice. Some stretches impress, some make me wonder, strikes me as overly fancy. B+(*)

Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums and trumpet duo, the drummer probably more steeped in free jazz but Knuffke can swing that way when the occasion calls for it. B+(***) [cdr]

Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, from San Francisco, third album, rhythm section marks this as jazz, and Melecio Magdaluyo's sax/reeds drives the point home. Puts her politics up front, asking "who put them in charge?" B+(**) [cd]

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known: Ancient/Future/Music (2019, Spiritmuse): Drummer Kahil El'Zabar's long-running group, debuted in 1981 with Three Gentlemen From Chikago, sixteenth album, only their second since 35th Anniversary Project in 2009. The leader is the only constant, with several long-time members falling by the wayside, replaced here by Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone sax), and Ian Maksin (cello). El'Zabar sings, chants, incants, an heir of Sun Ra, more of this world than out of it. B+(***)

Damon Locks/Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds (2019, International Anthem): Chicago-based "sound & visual artists," credited with "electronics, bells, voice" on his first album here, with a "15-piece" ensemble, but only credits three other musicians -- Angel Bat Dawid (clarinets), and two percussionists (remaining credits for singers and dancers). Pulls samples from "Civil Rights era" speeches but feels more contemporary, proof that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing. B+(*) [bc]

Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Duo, soprano sax and piano, both Lithuanians -- probably a point of pride for the label, which has been an invaluable refuge for avant-jazz artists all around the world (including Japan). Relatively quiet, one could say intimate. B+(***) [cd]

Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (2018 [2019], Moddl): Standards singer from Colorado, first album, wrote the title cut and lyrics to a Wayne Shorter tune and some vocalese on "Lover Man." Scats some, takes a nice turn on a Joni Mitchell song. B+(*) [cd]

Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek: Star Splitter (2019, Clean Feed): Mazurek, from Chicago, has been recording since the 1990s, playing trumpet, dabbling in electronics and astronomy (one of his projects is Exploding Star Orchestra), so it's tempting to take him as the mentor if not leader here, but the younger Italian has the same tool kit -- his credits here: "cornet, soprano sax, alto flugelhorn, electronics, objects, voice"; Mazurek plays "piccolo trumpet, electronics, objects voice." No shortage of spaciness here, and it does tend to break up. B+(*)

Monopiece/Jaap Blonk: Monopiece + Jaap Blonk (2019, Shhpuma): West Coast group, despite name a trio -- Nathan Corder (electronics), Matt Robidoux (guitar), Timothy Russell (percussion) -- first album, with the Dutch vocalist as wild card. Scattered chaos, odd noise. B

Angelika Niescier/Christopher Tordini/Gerald Cleaver: New York Trio Feat. Jonathan Finlayson (2018 [2019], Intakt): German alto saxophonist, bassist and drummer from New York, also the featured trumpet player. Starts with a strong piece called "The Surge." B+(***)

Evan Parker/Paul G. Smyth: Calenture and Light Leaks (2015 [2019], Weekertoft): Tenor sax-piano duo, the latter from Dublin, Ireland, with scattered records since 2003. Expected sound, deliberately paced. B+(**) [bc]

Evan Parker & Kinetics: Chiasm (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Tenor sax, backed by a Danish piano trio (Jacob Anderskov, Adam Pultz Melbye, and Anders Vestergaard), from two sets recorded two days apart, first in Copenhagen, second in London. LP length (38:13), fine form for the leader, also impressed by the piano. A-

Caroline Spence: Mint Condition (2019, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Virginia, settled in Nashville, fourth album, first not self-released. Lyrics tend toward the literary, but her voice softens the edges, and the melodies suffice. Took me a while. A-

Aki Takase: Hokusai: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): All originals, solo except for two pieces -- one with Alexander von Schlippenbach also on piano, the closer with a Yoko Tawada reading. B+(**)

AJ Tracey: AJ Tracey (2019, self-released): British rapper, debut album after four years of singles, EPs (5), and mixtapes (2, released as Looney). Grime beats, a little slack. B+(**)

Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: La Misteriosa Musica Della Regina Loana (2019, ECM): Duets, piccolo/alto clarinet and accordion, the pair has at least four albums together, with Trovesi's discography (much on alto sax) dating back to 1978. The title is a play on a novel by the late Umberto Eco (1932-2016), a friend and fan of the duo. B+(**)

G. Calvin Weston/The Phoenix Orchestra: Dust and Ash (2019, 577): Drummer, played in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time in the late 1970s, released an album in 1988 with James Blood Ulmer and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, a couple other items. First name Grant, sometimes spelled out, often dropped. Group includes electric guitar, bass, keyb, some strings, and the odd vocal by Kayle Brecher. B+(*)

Wschód: Wschód (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro (RED Trio) picked up this trio in Wroclaw, Poland, with Zbigniew Kozera (bass) and Kuba Suchar (drums). Builds to a strong simmer. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chance the Rapper: 10 Day (2011 [2019], self-released): Chicago rapper Chancelor Bennett, one of the decade's best, released this debut mixtape in 2012, only 18 when he recorded it, yet bursting with wit, charm, and hooks. A-

Detail: Day Two (1982 [2019], NoBusiness): Group founded in 1982 by South African bassist Johnny Dyani, saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, and drummer John Stevens, initially with a keyboardist not present here -- a set recorded just ten days after the tracks on their debut album, First Detail. They recorded several albums up to Dyani's death in 1986, and regrouped for Last Detail in 1994-95 (with Kent Carter on bass). B+(**) [cd]

Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995 [2019], NoBusiness): Alto sax and percussion duets, part of Japan's free jazz scene, little known in the west except for frequent flyers like Satoko Fujii. Tends to move slow, at times feeling more like a bass-percussion group, but no less interesting for that. B+(***) [cd]

Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994 [2019], NoBusiness): Drums, bass, guitar, although there's an asterisk indicating that at some point Dickie switched to bass clarinet and Andreano to bass. Initially released in 1997 in a run of 22 copies. Main interest is the drummer, not least when the others drop out. B+(**) [cd]

Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (1998 [2019], Dark Tree): Los Angeles pianist and community organizer, first albums in late 1960s were phenomenal, much since then is relegated to private sessions although The Dark Tree (1989) is a Penguin Guide crown album, and two late releases on Arabesque caught my ear. Died in 1999, so this is even later, and too much of a sing-along to give you a good sense of his piano (although the opening instrumental piece, the title of his 1995 Arabesque album, is phenomenal). Still, only the choir at the end starts to wear my patience. A- [cd]

David Wertman Sun Ensemble: Earthly Delights (1978 [2019], BBE): Bassist (1952-2013), self-taught, played in New York's late-1970s loft scene, second album -- jumped out at me because I remember the cover, but somehow missed listing it. With Greg Wall (baritone sax), David Swerdlove (soprano/alto sax), John Sprague Jr (flute/percussion), John Zieman (synth), and Jay Conway (drums). What's recently been referred to as spiritual jazz, often remarkable, as rooted in Ayler and Shepp as in hippie mysticism. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Peter Kowald/Kent Kessler/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Flats Fixed (1998 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): German bassist (1944-2002), one of few who could keep your interest in a solo album, visits Chicago and picks up two sympathetic players. Kessler was bassist in Vandermark 5, and cellist Lonberg-Holm would join that group in 2006. B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ola Onabulé: Point Less (Rugged Ram): August 30
  • Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (Dark Tree)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (Dark Tree)