Monday, August 12, 2019


Music Week

Music: current count 31902 [31860] rated (+42), 259 [259] unrated (+0).

Running late again, mostly because I've been fiddling with the 2019 Metacritic file, adding extra points for high grades (not just midyear list picks) for most of the publications tracked by Album of the Year. The specific lists are noted here: in most cases one point for grades scored 80+, although for some relatively generous publications I've used 90+ (e.g., for AllMusic Guide, I'm counting 4.5 star records, but not 4.0 star ones). My latest project there has been to add points for All About Jazz grades of 4.5+ stars (4 stars is probably their median grade; at any rate it's very common). I've worked my way back to March 26, and the work has slowed down as I've had to check more release dates to separate 2019 releases out from the earlier ones (mostly late 2018's, but sometimes they review older releases). AOTY doesn't track AAJ (or any other jazz sources), so this has started to generate some jazz coverage. I should probably do Downbeat next.

Many of this week's picks are things I stumbled onto from various lists, and they're a pretty patchy group. I've finally started adding the final/latest Christgau EW reviews to his database, so a couple records (like the Diana Gordon EP) were suggested there -- which, by the way, led me to find Taana Gardner's disco classic (one of very few Christgau-rated A records I missed). Phil Overeem's latest list (link last week) led me to several things, including the George Jones United Artists Rarities, which sent me on a minor dive with a side of Little Jimmy Dickens.

The bigger dive this week was into the works of Jon Lundbom and Bryan Murray. This started with Balto Beats and swept up pretty much everything I had missed. (I had heard their often excellent records on Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup label, but missed almost everything else.)

The other smaller dive was into country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. I initially graded his new one B+(***), but wondered if I shouldn't revisit 2017's Purgatory -- graded B+(**) by me at the time, but later a Christgau A-. Both of my initial reviews admitted that more spins may be called for, and it didn't take many. Also found two relatively crude earlier releases, which really brought his songwriting into focus. A couple more spins of the live EPs will raise could that grade as well, but the best songs are repeats from the debut -- probably still the best place to hear them.

One minor note: I've taken the time lock off the August Streamnotes draft file, which is where the monthly archive winds up. I won't do any indexing of the file until the end of the month, nor am I likely to be citing the URL in my weekly posts (although it's appeared in the notebook since I went weekly). But the naming convention is likely to be consistent moving forward, and you might spy something for the next Music Week there (e.g., the records I'm listening to as I'm writing this).


New records reviewed this week:

Leila Bordreuil/Michael Foster: The Caustic Ballads (2016, Relative Pitch): Cello and saxophone duo. Abstract, scratchy. B+(*) [bc]

Tyler Childers: Country Squire (2019, Hickman Holler/RCA): Alt-country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, impressed a lot of folks (including me belatedly) with his 2017 Purgatory and should get similar attention for this one. Another batch of strong songs, with a lot of fiddle in the band. A-

The Cinematic Orchestra: To Believe (2019, Domino): British group, founded by Jason Swinscoe in 1999, only their fourth studio album (first since 2007, not counting two soundtracks). My first sources filed this under jazz, but while there may be some improv in the mix, this strikes me more as prog rock, with bits of electronica, turntablism, and soundtrack pastiche. Nonetheless, pretty appealing. B+(**)

Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): Keyboardist, from New Zealand, spent time in Japan, Boston (Berklee), and London before settling in Los Angeles. Recorded live over three nights at Blue Whale in Los Angeles, a fairly nice groove record that doesn't demand much. B+(*)

Mark De Clive-Lowe: Heritage II (2018 [2019], Ropeadope): More from the same sets, titles nearly all in Japanese. More of the same, with interest on the decline. B

Elephant9: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): Norwegian fusion band founded in 2006, a bass-drums-keyboards trio, I'm sure I've run across the names elsewhere but they've never stuck in my mind (Nikolai Haengsle Eilertsen, Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus). Pretty upbeat. B+(*)

Elephant9 With Reine Fiske: Psychedelic Backfire I (2019, Rune Grammofon): Fiske plays guitar, has joined the fusion group before. That guitar makes a difference here. B+(**)

Diana Gordon: Pure (2019, self-released, EP): Previously known as Wynter Gordon, r&b singer-songwriter, has a 2012 album plus a half-dozen EPs. Five cuts. Has a single here, some promising filler. B+(*) [yt]

Harbinger: Extended (2018 [2019], OA2): Piano trio, met in New Orleans: Oscar Rossignoli (from Honduras), Matt Booth (from Pittsburgh), and Brad Webb (home turf). All three write, especially the drummer (5/10 pieces). B+(**) [cd]

Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (2017 [2019], Zoho, 2CD): Pianist, based in or around New York, works almost exclusively with big bands like the Westchester Big Band and this one -- recorded in Mt. Vernon, but stocked with some of the city's finest. Two long, multi-part pieces, plus two takes of "Caminhos Cruzados." Some delightful stretches. B+(***) [cd]

Anne Mette Iversen's Ternion Quartet: Invincible Nimbus (2018 [2019], Bju'ecords): Danish bassist, in New York 1998-2012, where she was a founder of Brooklyn Jazz Underground, now based in Berlin. Second Ternion Quartet album, with Silke Eberhard (alto sax), Geoffroy De Masure (trombone), and Roland Schneider (drums). Eberhard impresses when they speed up. They lose something on the slower ones, although that's where the trombone especially shines. B+(***)

Mark Kavuma: The Banger Factory (2019, Ubuntu Music): Trumpet player, based in London, second album. With a saxophone or two, guitar, vibes, piano and/or organ, bass, drums, sometimes sounding like yesteryear's hard bop, occasionally with a postbop twist. B+(*)

LSD: Labrinth/Sia/Diplo Present . . . LSD (2019, Columbia): British producer Timothy McKenzie, released an album in 2012, joins here with the Australian pop singer and American DJ. Nu soul vibe, but works so erratically it's hard to be sure, or care. B-

Lage Lund: Terrible Animals (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Norwegian guitarist, studied at Berklee and Juilliard, won a Monk Prize, based in New York, eleventh album since 2007, quartet with piano (Sullivan Fortner), bass (Larry Grenadier), and drums (Tyshawn Sorey). B+(*)

Jon Lundbom/Bryan Murray: Beats by Balto! Vol. 1 (2018 [2019], Chant): Some dispute on artist credit, with Bandcamp page favoring Balto Exclamationpoint (Murray, responsible for the beats, also plays various saxophones), while others list the guitarist first. Also in the group is Jon Irabagon (alto/mezzosoprano/slide saxophones), giving them three free-wheeling leads. The beats provide a platform, setting the leads free without letting them fly off the rails. A-

Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (2019, Laborie Jazz): Brothers François and Louis Moutin, bass and drums, in a postbop quintet, with alto/soprano sax, guitar, and piano. Something wrong with my copy, but nothing I've heard makes me want to figure out what -- certainly not the promise of vocal credits. B- [cd]

Simon Nabatov Quintet: Last Minute Theory (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Russian pianist, moved to New York in 1979, studied at Juilliard, close to four dozen albums since 1989, mostly avant duos and trios on Leo. Lots of fire power here, with Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Michael Formanek (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). B+(**)

Ola Onabulé: Point Less (2019, Rugged Ram): Born in London, spent ten years of childhood in Nigeria before returning home. Eight or more albums since 1994. Bits of soul and jazz here, nothing that makes me want to sort it all out. B [cd]

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio: Philosophy (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Bassist-led piano trio, with Matt Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey. Live set from Firehouse 12. Pavone originals, one joint credit, two Annette Peacock covers. B+(***)

Alberto Pibiri & the Al Peppers: The Nacho Blues (2019, Alberto Pibiri Music): Italian pianist, based in New York, has at least one previous album. This one is a tribute to Herb Alpert, with Dan Blankinship on trumpet, Daniel Foose (double bass), and Brian Floody (drums). Mix of originals and standards, none of which remind me of Alpert -- except, perhaps, for a bit of jauntiness. B+(*) [cd]

The John Pizzarelli Trio: For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole (2019, Ghostlight): Son of retro-swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, plays guitar himself and sings, lately fluffing up his catalog with various tributes. This is his third round with Cole, the others in 1994 and 1999. Trio with Konrad Paszkudzki on piano and Mike Karn on double bass. Fourteen well-worn songs, nicely swung, voice close enough to Cole's sweet spot. B+(**)

Noah Preminger: After Life (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, made a strong impression when he first appeared (c. 2008), built on that, then coasted. Postbop quintet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Max Light (guitar), Kim Cass (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), playing originals plus a bit of Händel. B+(**)

Jenny Scheinman/Allison Miller: Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller's Parlour Game (2019, Royal Potato Family): Violin and drums, have several fine albums together in Miller's Boom Tic Boom. Quartet with Carmen Staaf (piano) and Tony Scherr (bass). Has some moments, but fewer than expected. B+(***)

Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet: Gettin' It There (2019, self-released): Bassist from Italy, studied at Berklee, based in New York, seems to be his first album, with Donald Vega (pianist, from Nicaragua), Billy Drummond (drums), and Jed Levy (alto sax). Satisfying just as a piano trio, the sax unnoticed until it is. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Silbergleit: January (2018 [2019], Blujazz): Guitarist, based in Milwaukee, has at least two previous albums (his debut was Silberglicity, from 1996). Mainstream quartet with bass, drums, and tenor sax (Eric Schoor). No spectacle, but grows on you. B+(**) [cd]

Paul Zauner's Blue Brass feat. David Murray: Roots n' Wings (2019, PAO/Blujazz): Austrian trombonist, handful of albums with variants of this group, an octet here including his guest star. Zauner played some with Murray in the late 1980s. Good to hear him here, but two other saxes and trumpet vie for attention. B+(***) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tyler Childers: Live on Red Barn Radio I & II (2013-14 [2018], Hickman Holler, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Kentucky, self-released his debut (Bottles and Bibles) in 2011, also these two live EPs, compiled following his 2017 breakthrough Purgatory. Eight tracks, 29:28. B+(***)

George Jones: United Artists Rarities (1962-64 [2019], EMI Nashville): Twelve songs, three listed as alternate takes, no idea how they got picked or how they fit within (or beyond) the 13 Jones LPs United Artists released 1962-65. Part of my confusion is that the title is recycled from a 6-cut EP released on Record Store Day 2012. Songs aren't very memorable, but the voice is. B+(***)

Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit: April Is the Cruelest Month (1975 [2019], Black Forms Editions): Pioneering Japanese avant guitarist, cut his first record in 1961, died 1991. Quartet with Kengi Mori (alto sax/flute/bass clarinet), bass/cello, and percussion. Three cuts, 37:04. I've grown more tolerant of noise squalls over the years, but this is still a bit much. B-

Old music:

Balto!: Balto! (2016, self-released): Google isn't any help here, as the word/name has multiple referrents, including a roots Americana band, but this here is Bryan Murray, credited with tenor, alto and balto! saxophones, pipeapone, trumpet, drums, keyboard, programming and sampling. Fond of noise, given to vamps. B+(**) [bc]

Balto!: Two Cans of Soup (2017, self-released, EP): Solo balto! sax ("alto sax fitted with a bari mouthpiece and plastic reed") and looper. Website description: "I made this shit" (5 tracks, 19:51). B- [bc]

Balto!: Taco Cat Poops (2018, self-released, EP): Free download, five cuts, 24:12, title in emojis. Presumably solo, with electronics and percussion as well as noisy saxophone. B+(**) [bc]

Balto Exclamationpoint/Plaidworthy: If the Big Hurt (2015, self-released): Canonical artist name on Bandcamp, but this is the only album cover I've seen it spelled out on. Sax and drums duo, relatively straightforward, which is a plus. B+(***) [bc]

Baltbom!: ¡!Baltbom!¡ (2015, self-released): Duo: Jon Lundbom (guitar) and Bryan Murray (aka Balto!, playing his personally modified Balto! saxophone). Seventeen short pieces, a mixed bag, but the 1:12 closer ("Boys") has a fun country twist. B+(*) [bc]

Baltsticks!!: Play You, Play Me (2016, self-released): Bryan Murray again (saxophones, vocals, talzmer, pipeaphone, irish whistle, recorder, mandolin), in a trio with Plaidworthy (drums and vocals) and Magbooch Spooner (synths). More rhythm here, almost works as jive. B+(*) [bc]

Bryan and the Haggards/Eugene Chadbourne: Merles Just Wanna Have Fun (2012 [2013], Northern Spy): Third album by saxophonist Bryan Murray's Merle Haggard tribute band, the first with guest vocalist (also on banjo and dobro). Chadbourne doesn't have the expected voice, but at least he articulates the songs the band seems intent on murdering. The band, with Jon Irabagon (saxes), Jon Lundbom (guitar), Moppa Elliott (bass), and Danny Fischer (drums) -- think bebop-terrorists Mostly Other People Do the Killing gone to seed -- give you even less of what you expect. Still, comes together midway, and likely to get even better with more plays. A- [bc]

Tyler Childers: Bottles and Bibles (2011, Hickman Holler): First album, eight songs (30:29), minimal production, but the songs are so bleak they don't want to cheering up. Message: "that coal is gonna bury you." On love: "I feel like a Hank song, since she went away." And when the bibles and bottles start fighting, the whiskey wins. A-

Little Jimmy Dickens: 16 Biggest Hits (1949-65 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): Just short of five feet tall, I knew him from his 1965 crossover novelty hit "May the Bird of Paradise (Fly Up Your Nose)," but also as the only musician I ever heard my father mention. He was thinking of Dickens' first hit, "Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)," probably to make a point about what a poor country boy he was. Dickens recorded a lot of singles between those two, but few charted (10 from 1949-65, 8 here, only 1 from 1951-61). While he liked a crude joke, and rarely missed an opportunity to make fun of himself, the filler here mostly consists of shitkickers like "Hillbilly Fever" and "Salty Boogie," and the odd ballad can be poignant. B+(***)

Taana Gardner: Heartbeat (1981, West End, EP): Disco singer, cut an album in 1979, but is better known for this later single, the two versions adding up to 16:17 (hence, an EP in my book). Probably wouldn't have bothered but this is one of the very few Christgau full-A records I hadn't found. Stumbled on this by accident, so figured I had to give it an ear. And while I'm not so blown away, I can imagine putting it on repeat for hours on end. A-

George Jones: Sings the Hits of His Country Cousins (1962, United Artists): Second of thirteen quickie albums Jones cut during his 3-year stint at United Artists. A dozen covers, some usual suspects from Roy Acuff and Eddy Arnold to Hank Williams and Bob Wills with some less orthodox picks: "Peace in the Valley" gets bogged down in the choir, but Burl Ives' "A Little Bitty Tear" is the sort of fluff Jones imbues with depth. B+(***)

George Jones: My Favorites of Hank Williams (1962, United Artists): Fourth UA album, an obvious choice, a subject he previously visited for Mercury. Twelve songs, all short (28:14 total), played and sung so straightforwardly it winds up feeling a bit hollow. B+(*)

George Jones: Sings Like the Dickens! (1964, United Artists): Near the end of his UA contract, a tribute to Little Jimmy Dickens -- not an obvious choice fifteen years after Dickens' breakout, and a year shy of his one crossover moment. Odd choice of songs too: only four from 16 Biggest Hits, none trademarks. Pappy Daily's production is as corny as ever, but the voice is magnificent. B+(**)

Jon Lundbom: Big Five Chord (2003 [2004], self-released): Guitarist, first album, took this title as his group name for most later albums (at least through 2019's Harder on the Outside). With Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Dominic Lalli (tenor sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), and Justin Wake (drums). Five originals, plus covers from Syd Barrett and Dr. Seuss. This drops some hints of where the band is headed. B+(*)

John Lundbom & Big Five Chord: All the Pretty Ponies (A Live Recording) (2004 [2005], self-released): Two personnel changes: Bryan Murray joins on tenor sax, starting a long association, and Andrew Bain takes over on drums. They come out loud, making up in attitude what they sacrifice in coherence. B

Bryan Murray: What You Don't Forget (2007, Jazz Excursion): Saxophonist, first album, a fairly impressive free jazz outing with guitarist Jon Lundbom plus bass (Michael Bates) and drums (Chris Carroll). B+(***)

John Pizzarelli: P.S. Mr. Cole (1996-97 [1999], RCA): The guitarist-singer's second Nat King Cole tribute, after 1994's lukewarm Dear Mr. Cole. With Ray Kennedy on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on double bass, and a couple of spots for Harry Allen (tenor sax). Less famous songs than on the first and latest tributes (e.g., "I Like Jersey Best"). B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

Tyler Childers: Purgatory (2017, Hickman Holler): Saving Country Music's favorite record of 2017. Gave it a spin, loved the trad sound, complaind that "the songs don't manage to stick." Obvious now it just needed another listen. [Was B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Lehman Trio/Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi): August 30
  • Dave Miller Trio: Just Imagine (Summit): October 4
  • Bill O'Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble: Wind Off the Hudson (Savant)
  • Mike Pachelli: High Standards (Fullblast): September 1
  • Houston Person: I'm Just a Lucky So and So (HighNote)
  • Lyn Stanley: London With a Twist: Live at Bernie's (A.T. Music)
  • Tucker Brothers: Two Parts (self-released): October 3