Monday, July 15, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31749 [31726] rated (+23), 262 [262] unrated (+0).

Slow getting this out, with Monday wiped out by a house emergency (water heater broke down). Had a nagging sore throat much of the week, but right now mostly feel exhausted. Relatively mild summer so far, but looks like triple digits coming soon and probably persisting. Next couple weeks will probably be worse.

Rated count cut off Sunday evening, but I've added unpacking since then, so the numbers are a little out of whack.

Second straight week with an unusually low rated count (24 last week). Again, spent some time on the Resonance anthologies without writing any reviews, and also found a higher-than-usual split of A- records, plus high B+ that merited extra plays. Most of the finds this week come from Chris Monsen's Jazz favorites list, plus a few more from Phil Overeem's Halfway to Listville. The easiest one was John McPhee's Nation Time: I skipped over it when I was catching up with Corbett vs. Dempsey's Bandcamp a few weeks back, as I had already given Corbett's 2000 reissue a full A, and hadn't noticed the extra cuts. No reason to repurchase if you have the Atavistic release, but the bonuses are just that.

Had a minor role in helping Joe Yanosik publish his magnum opus A Consumer Guide to FRANCO. I have a Guests section on my website, which I've used a few times but never really tried to promote. I've long thought that a better solution would be to set up guest areas on my Hullworks website, perhaps as sub-domains, which could be spun off should the guests decide to pony up for a domain name. I'm in a position where I can host those as well. I also considered hanging Joe's piece at Terminal Zone -- long my pet idea for a music-themed website (named for the zine Don Malcolm and I published back in 1977). In the end, I went with the path that involved the least thought and work.

When Joe first mentioned his Franco project to me, I glanced at Napster's Franco offerings, and spent a week digging around. My own (much more limited) set of Franco grades are here. You can also look up what Robert Christgau has written.

I might as well mention two projects that I've started but haven't gotten very far on. I've started to add recent reviews to the two large book manuscript files I have on jazz. Rather slow work, but I've added 99 pages up to January, 2019, pushing the 20th century jazz guide over 800, and the 21st over 1700. Files are backed up online, in ODT format.

I've also started collecting mid-year lists, as I did last year. This uses the EOY list aggregate format, and most likely will eventually evolve into a full EOY list aggregate later this year. Only have four lists compiled so far (about a third of those collected on AOTY). I'm surprised there aren't more, but haven't really looked yet. The current aggregate is way too sparse to draw any real conclusions from. One issue here is that I'm only awarding 1 point for each list mention. (Two reasons: one is that so far many of the lists are unranked; the other is that it makes it easier to clean up with I replace the midway lists with EOY lists.) The other point I should note here is that I'm factoring in my graces (A: 5, A-: 4, ***: 3, **: 2, *: 1), which currently results in quite a bit of skew. E.g., 6 of the top 8 records now are ones I've graded A- (Billy Eilish, Lizzo, Charly Bliss, Big Thief, Little Simz, Jamila Woods), and the other two (Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend) were *** and ** respectively. Expect my picks to slip as I add further lists, while records I like less will make inroads (Solange is the surest shot; maybe also Tyler the Creator, Sharon Van Etten, Jenny Lewis). Record that I haven't heard with the most list mentions so far: Flying Lotus' Flamagra.


New records reviewed this week:

Maria Faust/Tim Dahl/Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (2019, Gotta Let It Out): Alto saxophonist, from Estonia, based in Denmark, several albums since 2014, this trio gets a buzz from Dahl's electric bass, running through 10 pieces in 37:43. B+(***)

Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (2019, Rune Grammofon): Started as a trio with Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), John Bethling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), then grew massive, up to 28 members, now down to 14: two vocalists (Mariam Wallentin, who wrote most of the lyrics, and Sofia Jernberg), a string quartet, trumpet, four reeds (arranged by Per Texas Johansson), and keyboards. Starts easy, swells to staggering, slows back down to some kind of lament. I'm baffled by it all, aside from a dirge with familiar lyrics, "At Last I Am Free." B

Alex Fournier: Triio (3028 [2019], Furniture Music): Bassist, from Toronto, second album, calls this his "flagship project," actually started as a quartet and has since grown to six, with alto sax (Bea Labikova), trombone (Aidan Sibley), guitar, piano, and drums. Starts with piano trio, the horns sneaking in and expanding the sound into a very sophisticated postbop harmony. B+(***)

Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (2016 [2019], self-released): Pianist, first noted in David Murray's Black Saint Quartet, haven't heard much from him since his stretch with Hyena ended in 2008. Solo here, strong on rhythm, which is usually what works for me. B+(***) [cd]

GoldLink: Diaspora (2019, Squaaash Club/RCA): Rapper (or more often singer) D'Anthony Carlos, second album, major groove at least half the way through. B+(***)

Bjørn Marius Hegge: Ideas (2019, Particular): Norwegian bassist. Title may extend to the fine print: "for Axel Dörner, Rudi Mahall, Hans Hulbaekmo and Håvard Wiik" -- no credits, but that's presumably the band here (trumpet, bass clarinet, drums, piano). A-

Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (2019, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Houston. First mixtape, after two EPs and a few singles. Trap beats, splashy, cover looks like it's rising out of 1970s blaxploitation movie, hot and steamy. B+(***)

Nature Work: Nature Work (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Freewheeling quartet, Jason Stein (bass clarinet) and Greg Ward (alto sax) up front, Eric Revis on bass and Jim Black on drums. Impressive at full speed, loses me a bit when they slow down, but that doesn't happen often. A-

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (2019, Odin): Norwegian drummer, third album with this trio, featuring André Roligheten (sax/bass clarinet) with Petter Eldh (double bass). All three contributed pieces, with Nilsen having a hand in most. Slows a bit toward the end, without losing interest. A-

Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye (2019, Cherry Red): Great post-punk band from Ohio, not sure how much beyond vocalist David Thomas remains, but they can still do weird and murky, even if the rust squeaks here and there. [CD comes with a second, live disc, I haven't heard.] B+(**)

Santana: Africa Speaks (2019, Concord): Guitarist Carlos Santana in group form, eponymous first album appeared in 1969, still kicking 50 years later (dozens of personnel changes along the way, but the early-'70s core group reunited in 2013 (Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Shrieve). They were a big thing in their heyday, a group I never listened to after growing sick of Abraxas at a party that had nothing else to offer. So while he/they recorded 14 albums through 1979, I'm a bit surprised to find a steady stream of albums since (by decade: 7, 4, 2, 5). back for 50th anniversary with loud drums, bubbling percussion, wailing vocals, and great gobs of trademark guitar. B

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (2018, Columbia, 2CD): Mostly solo, acoustic guitar, sixteen signature songs with a lot of talk along the way, probably derived from his well-regarded autobiography -- could just as well be reviewed as an audiobook, albeit with exaggerated gestures. I've never been much of a fan, but I have to respect (maybe even admire) what he's made of his life. B+(**)

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (2019, Columbia): Turns his eyes to the vast open spaces of the old west, then fills them up with loping melodies and swelling string arrangements. Some of the latter aren't so bad, and some are. Stories too, none amusing enough to get me to notice. B-

Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (2018 [2019], Rainy Days): Saxophone and guitar, with Luques Curtis (double bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums) keeping them on track. Mostly a fusion grind, the guitarist more impressive but the richer tones of the sax no doubt help. Strigalev sings one song, which only Robert Wyatt could get away with. B+(*) [cd]

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (2018 [2019], WhyPlayJazz): Leader plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, recorded the album Basement Research in 1993, and has kept the name for low-pitched groups ever since. This 25th anniversary project has Julian Argüelles on baritone sax, Steve Swell on trombone, Pascal Niggenkemper on double bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dexter Gordon: At the Subway Club 1973 (1965-73 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Five long cuts, 95:57, as advertised, recorded on tour at Subway Jazz-Club in Cologne, the tenor saxophonist backed by Irv Rochlin (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), and Tony Inzalaco (drums), plus four extra cuts from earlier European tours, different personnel, none previously released. B+(**)

Clifford Jordan Quartet: Glass Bead Games (1973 [1974], Strata East; [2019], Pure Pleasure): Actually, two quartets led by the tenor saxophonist, both with Billy Higgins on drums, piano/bass duties split between Stanley Cowell/Bill Lee and Cedar Walton/Sam Jones. Piano equally impressive, leader makes it all seem so natural. A-

Eero Koivistoinen: The Front Is Breaking (1976, Love; [2017], Svart): Finnish saxophonist (tenor/soprano/sopranino), liked to play free over funk-fusion grooves. Starts impressive, but not so much when he lays out. B+(*)

Joe McPhee: Nation Time (1970 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Second album, plays tenor sax and trumpet, with Mike Kull (piano/electric piano), Tyrone Crabb (bass/electric bass/trumpet), and percussion (Ernest Bostic and Bruce Thompson). Original release was on CjRecord in 1971, the 18:30 title cut on one side, two more (22:12) on the other, as was the 2000 Atavistic Unheard Music Series reissue in 2000. This reissue adds three extra cuts, for a total of 65:00. The original album was one of the greatest artifacts of its era, a feat of radical boogaloo, the beat (especially on "Shakey Jake") just regular enough to drive us to ecstasy. The extras aren't as monumental, but hold up pretty well. A [bc]

Harry Mosco: Peace & Harmony (1979 [2019], Isle of Jura): Nigerian singer-guitarist, last name Agada, member of the Funkees, used the alias Mr. Funkees for his first solo album (Country Boy), that name also appearing on cover here. Opens with disco, gets funky, goes reggae for the title cut, dubs out, returns to the dance floor. Not what you'd call an original thinker. B+(*)

Woody Shaw Quintet: Basel 1980 (1980-81 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): Previously unreleased live set from Switzerland, with Carter Jefferson (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums), plus one later track (10:44) with just trumpet, piano (Mulgrew Miller), and drums (Tony Reedus). Pretty spectacular. A-

Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): Live shot, a year before their last album (The Eternal), two years after Rather Ripped, both solid entries in their 25-year run, although I can't say as I remember much from either. I do recall their sound, compressed and sharpened here. Blew me away at first, then faded into the ether. B+(***)

Bruce Springsteen: The Live Series: Songs of the Road (1977-2013 [2018], Columbia): The first of three wide-ranging live compilations, released as digital downloads, loosely organized by theme. These are the car/road songs, with 8 (of 15) from 1977-80, from "Thunder Road" to "Cadillac Ranch." B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (Jazz Dimensions): August 1
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (Zoho): August 9
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (Aerophonic): August 26
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (Aerophonic): August 26