Monday, November 4, 2019


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: current count 32307 [32276] rated (+31), 220 [224] unrated (-4).

Not as physically miserable on waking up this morning as last, but more deeply troubled. Figured I'd get even by doing a long groan and rant here, but 9-10 hours later, when I finally got started, all I wanted was the day to be over with. So I'll spare you the details on two major personal crises, other than to note that one I made some headway on today, and the other I sensibly put off until tomorrow. That leaves two or three technical problems that are easier to talk about. The one that bothers me most is the new computer.

To recap, I order a bunch of parts to build a new computer:

  • AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 8-Core 3.2GHz CPU
  • ASRock X570 Steel Legend Motherboard
  • G.SKILL TridentZ RGB Series 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3000 SDRAM
  • XFX Radeon RX 570 RS 8Gb Graphics Card
  • Intel 660p Series M.2 1TB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Lite-On DVD Burner SATA
  • Corsair RM Series 750W Full Modular Power Supply
  • Fractal Design Focus G Mid Tower ATX Computer Case
  • AmazonBasics DisplayPort 6 Foot Cable
  • Logitech M705 Cordless Mouse
  • Samsung 32-Inch UJ59 UHD 3840x2160 Monitor

I'm reusing a Logitech K740 Mechanical Keyboard, plus (for now) a pretty cheap set of speakers -- gear originally attached to an old (and pathetically slow) machine that will be retired (or maybe used as a print server, as it's the last machine standing with a parallel port for my HP Laser Printer). Originally I misread the motherboard specs and thought I could make do with onboard video, but turned out that was dependent on a different CPU, so I had to add the video card. When I did install the card, the machine came up nicely, and I loaded Xubuntu 18.04 LTS easily enough.

Main problem I ran into then was that the default fonts were awful small on the high-resolution monitor, so I've had to find the various places where they are defined and tweak them up. The new machine is as powerful as I expected. However, I ran into a problem: the machine freezes after some period of inactivity. I've spent 3-4 days chasing after this problem, and still don't have a handle on it.

The obvious suspect is the power save and screen lock functions of the window manager. I've scaled them back (and eliminated light-locker all together). That eliminated the blank screen, but the system would leave either just wallpaper or the full workspace window when it freezes (in which state neither mouse nor keyboard wakes it up). I wondered whether parts of the window manager crashed, in which case it should be possible to ssh in from another machine -- but active ssh sessions are disconnected when the machine freezes. I've poured through syslogs, but have yet to find anything enlightening (obviously have more of that to do). The box felt a bit warm to me, so I wondered about thermal. Inserting an instant read thermometer through the back grill registers 93F, which doesn't strike me as unusually hot. Also, the timing always follows inactivity -- I played music for about 5 hours last night, then it shut down a few minutes after the music stopped.

Good news, I suppose, is that reset wakes it up, and reboot is pretty quick. Still, the most vexing problem I've run across in 6-8 computer builds -- rather dispiriting given my age and psychic frailty. Also, I shot way pass my original budget, so I'm extra reluctant to swap in extra new hardware. Plus this has come at a time when I'm also having to deal with repair/replace questions on dishwasher and car. One bit of good news is that I seem to have managed to repair the dishwasher leak.

[PS: I have ascertained that the freeze is a kernel panic, more specifically a watchdog timer detecting a soft lockup during a system call (timeout is 20 seconds). This indicates a bug in a kernel module, although I suppose it could be caused by a hardware fault. I need to better understand the context to figure out how to fix the problem or work around it. It would be helpful to get a call trace, which would map the source back to an application program.]


Not much to say about this week's music. Swapping out the old computer before getting the new one working forced me to spend more time working off the promo queue than streaming. As for the "old music," I picked up a friendly download of Carmen McRae's Live at the Dug -- one of the few records recommended in Will Friedland's The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums I hadn't heard), and thought I'd check out a few more promising albums without taking a deep dive.

In recent weeks I've been the best-reviewed new albums plus identifying other new ones of exceptional interest. Not much to report on that front this week: top-rated this week was Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka (12), followed by Miranda Lambert: Wildcard (7), and Sudan Archives: Athena (4). The other new release that looks most promising is: Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring.

Among records I previously reviewed, the best to finally appear last week were: Roger Kellaway: The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway [A-]; and Roberto Magris: Sun Stone [***].


New records reviewed this week:

Areni Agbabian: Bloom (2016 [2019], ECM): Vocalist, pianist, from California, Armenian descent -- mixes trad Armenian hymns and folk songs in with originals, some credited to producer Manfred Eicher. Very minimal, only other musician is percussionist Nicolas Stocker. B

The Carter Family: Across Generations (2019, Reviver Legacy): A John Carter Cash project, the son of June Carter, who first appeared in her famous family's group at age 10, and her second husband, an even more famous country singer-songwriter. JCC has made his mark as a producer lately, so this must have seemed a natural. Not sure of the details, but he started with old tracks from the group's heyday, cleaned them up and added extra voices from later Carter generations. Not sure it's worth the effort. B

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (2019, Ghosteen/Bad Seeds, 2CD): Australian singer-songwriter, a big deal since the early 1980s, but I was warned off him early, and have only sampled his last two (now three) albums. Still, I recognize his voice from songs used on the 1920s British gangsters show Peaky Blinders, where their industrial klang worked fairly well. But none of that here: everything is slow, eerie perhaps, with nothing much registering beyond a certain pained beauty. B

Clipping.: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (2019, Sub Pop): Experimental rap group from Los Angeles, best known member Daveed Diggs. On an alt-rock label, where their focus on noise over beats seems to be appreciated. I go back and forth. B+(*)

Dave Douglas: Engage (2018 [2019], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, you know that, lists his band members in same-sized type below the title, for good reason: Anna Webber (alto & bass flutes/tenor sax), Jeff Parker (guitar), Tomeka Reid (cello), Nick Dunston (bass), Kate Gentile (drums). Also employs two more trumpet players on occasion. A- [cd] [11-08]

Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction (2019, Out of Your Head): Brooklyn-based bassist, first album, has a half-dozen side credits over last couple years, notably one with Dave Douglas. Emphasis on strings, the bass supporting a balance between guitar and violin/viola, with flute (Louna Dekker-Vargas) and drums, and a bit of vocal. B+(**) [cd]

Lorenzo Feliciati/Michele Rabbia: Antikythera (2019, RareNoise): Primarily an electric bassist (with or without frets), but nothing here makes you think of bass-and-drum duets. Feliciati is also credited with keyboards, samples, soundesign, and electric guitar, and Rabbia does electronics as well as drums. Plus you get guests on all eight tracks: Cuong Vu (trumpet), Andy Sheppard (sax), Roy Powell (organ), and two pianists (Rita Marcotulli and Alessandro Gwis). B+(**) [cdr]

Floating Points: Crush (2019, Ninja Tune): English electronica producer Sam Shepherd, also has a PhD in neuroscience and epigenetics. Third album, some danceable beats, more ambient whorls of shaded sound. B+(**)

Calabria Foti: Prelude to a Kiss (2019, Moco): Singer, plays violin, fourth album, wrote one song here, rest are standards. Bob McChesney arranged and produced, bands ranging from solo piano (Roger Kellaway) up to full-blown orchestra. Results vary, but at her best on "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" (with Kellaway). B [cd]

Hal Galper Trio: The Zone: Live at the Yardbird Suite (2016 [2019], Origin): Pianist, a good one, first side credit looks to be Chet Baker in 1964, 30+ albums since 1971, a few struck me as A-list, like his 2009 trio with Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali (Art-Work), and last year's album with Jerry Bergonzi (Cubist). This one, a trio with his label's resident rhythm section (Jeff Johnson and John Bishop), live from Edmonton in Canada, isn't quite such a tour de force, but reminds you how impressive he can be. Note that Johnson wrote 4 (of 7) songs, to the leader's one. A- [cd] [11-15]

Francesco Guerri: Su Mimmi Non Si Spara! (2019, RareNoise): Italian cellist, several albums since 2010, solo here, also credited with electronics, which may explain why this doesn't feel overly constrained. B+(**) [cdr]

Jerome Jennings: Solidarity (2019, Iola): Drummer, one previous album. Starts with "Bebop," expands in many directions with various guests, including a pretty good Camille Thurman vocal, and a striking excerpt from a speech by Stephanie Flowers. B+(***) [cd] [11-09]

Per Texas Johansson: Stråk På Himlen Och Stora Hus (2019, Moserobie): Swedish, plays clarinets, tenor sax, oboe, and flute, usually puts "Texas" in quotes, released one of the year's best albums (Orakel) as an avant-sax trio. Here goes for something closer to chamber jazz, with violin, vibraphone/marimba, harp, and timpani (OK, some drums), two vocals (one a choir) -- not things I particularly approve of, but has some nice passages. B+(***) [cd]

Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola (2019, Cumbancha): Haitian group, formed after the big 2010 earthquake, visit New Orleans and are greeted warmly. Early rhythm tracks are exciting enough, but I found my interest waning when they slowed it down. Did perk up on their kreyol take on "Iko Iko." B+(*)

Miranda Lambert: Wildcard (2019, RCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, seventh album (tenth if you include Pistol Annies), hard to improve on her voice or ask for more spunk, and I'm not finding any reason to doubt this album. A-

João Lencastre's Communion 3: Song(s) of Hope (2019, Clean Feed): Portuguese drummer, has several groups including this trio with piano (Jacob Sacks) and bass (Eivind Opsvik). B+(**) [bc]

Chris Lightcap: SuperBigmouth (2019, Pyroclastic): Bassist, builds on his Bigmouth group -- two previous albums, with Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby (tenor saxes), Craig Taborn (keybs), and Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- by adding his Superette group: Curtis Hasselbring and Jonathan Goldberger (guitars), and Dan Rieser (drums). Two good ideas that often as not bog each other down. B

Lil Tjay: True 2 Myself (2019, Columbia): Tione Jayden Merritt, 18, from the South Bronx, was featured on Polo G's hit "Pop Out," first album, wound tight. B+(*)

Fredrik Ljungkvist Trio: Atlantis (2019, Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist, not a lot under his own name -- two 1995-97 Quartet albums, a couple duos -- but is a front line player in Atomic, pops up elsewhere (including my favorite 2018 album). Acquits himself well here, with Mattias Welin (bass) and Jon Fält (drums), plus guests on 3 (of 7) tracks (one a Sofia Jernberg vocal). B+(***) [cd]

Maurice Louca: Elephantine (2019, Northern Spy): Egyptian composer, plays guitar and piano, several albums, leads a group of twelve here including vocalist Nadah El Shazly, some oud, but mostly a large (and occasionally unruly) jazz ensemble. B+(*)

Nellie McKay: Bagatelles (2019, Palmetto, EP): Started out as a singer-songwriter on the pop/rock side of the fence, but lately has focused on repertoire, making short work of eight standards here, dispatched in 17:29, most with little more than a bit of ukulele, "I Concentrate on You" close to a cappella. A trifle, but a charming one. B+(*)

MIKE: Tears of Joy (2019, 10K): Mixtape, from New York rapper Michael Bonema, difficult person to look up -- Discogs lists him as "Mike (408)," credits him with 15 recordings, this one under "Miscellaneous." No paragon of clarity, either in samples or words, but something there. B+(**) [bc]

Mute: Mute (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): New York-based quartet, name an anagram from plucking random letters from the artists' names: Kevin Sun (C-Melody sax/clarinet), Christian Li (piano), Jeonglim Yang (bass), Dayeon Seok (drums). All four write songs (3-3-2-1). The saxophonist continues to impress, even spread a bit thin over a finely balanced group. A- [cd] [12-13]

The Niro Featuring Gary Lucas: The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook (2019, Esordisco): Lucas played guitar in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band 1980-82, and has done more than anyone else to keep that flame burning, especially with his Fast 'n' Bulbous jazz band. He's dabbled in all sorts of things, including a 10-month collaboration with singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, before his one studio album, Grace (1994), made him famous, and before his death in 1997 promoted him to infamous. The songs Buckley and Lucas wrote were released in 2002 as Songs to No One 1991-1992, and are reprised here, with Davide Combusti (aka, The Niro) singing, and Lucas helping out. The singer isn't much of an improvement over the model, but the guitarist is. B [11-08]

Northern Ranger: Eastern Stranger (2019, self-released, EP): Canadian drummer Harry Vetro, quartet with violin (Nelson Moneo), piano/wurlitzer (Noah Franche-Nolan), and bass (Victor Vrankulj). Violin invokes a "Newfoundland-Irish jig," so they're tempted to pass this off as "world fusion," hoping to snare a few customers afraid of what it is, namely jazz. B+(**) [cdr]

Nicholas Payton: Relaxin' With Nick (2019, Smoke Sessions, 2CD): Trumpet player from New Orleans, but he takes the opener on piano, rather impressively, and plays electric keyboards later on. Backed by a terrific mainstream rhythm section: Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). B+(**)

Roberta Piket: Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz (2019, Thirteenth Note): Pianist, more than a dozen albums since 1996, mostly trios but this is her third solo. All songs written by Billy Mintz, who led one of the few other albums she's played on. B+(**) [cd] [12-06]

Polo G: Die a Legend (2019, Columbia): Chicago rapper Taurus Remani Bartlett, first album, went gold with a hit single "Pop Out." Trap influence, sound anyway. B+(**)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Colorado (2019, Reprise): New material (as far as I can tell), Young's 39th studio album, ten songs straight and true, "Rainbow of Colors" effectively political in today's world. With Nils Lofgren, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina back on board. His best since 2012's Psychedelic Pill, coincidentally his last Crazy Horse rendezvous. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

James Brown: Live at Home With His Bad Self (1969 [2019], Polydor): Archival release of the complete show in Augusta, GA on October 1, 1969, originally planned for release, then excerpted (four cuts) for Sex Machine. Not hard to see why this was shelved at the time: a fair amount of patter, some uninspired instrumental breaks ("Spinning Wheel"?), especially compared to the later material they went with. On the other hand, much of it is as great as you'd expect. A-

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse (1962 [2019], Reel to Reel): Two previously unreleased live shots, recorded in Seattle, led by two tenor saxophonists who've done their fair share of jousting over the years, are pretty simpatico here. Backed by Horace Parlan (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). A- [cd] [12-06]

Old music:

Carmen McRae: Torchy (1955, Decca): Jazz singer, second album, standard ballads arranged by Ralph Burns and Jack Pleis. Strong, clear voice, frames every song precisely. B+(**)

Carmen McRae: Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics (1961 [1962,1997], Columbia/Legacy): First reaction is what do we need an inferior collection of Billie Holidays songs for, but this is as good as McRae can make it, a set of swing standards given precise readings, a strong band that includes Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Nat Adderley. Holiday's own "God Bless the Child" is a highlight. The CD bonus tracks are too much (especially "The Christmas Song"). B+(***)

Carmen McRae: As Time Goes By: Carmen McRae Alone Live at the Dug (1973 [1974], Victor): Ten standards done solo, backed by nothing but her own piano, from a concert in Japan. B+(***) [dl]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Interaction (Origin, 2CD) [11-15]
  • Hal Galper Trio: The Zone: Live at the Yardbird Suite (Origin) [11-15]
  • Roberta Piket: Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz (Thirteenth Note) [12-06]
  • Marta Sánchez Quintet: El Rayo De Luz (Fresh Sound New Talent) [11-22]
  • Jim Snidero: Project-K (Savant) [01-24-2020]
  • Sirkis/Ballas IQ: Our New Earth (Moonjune)
  • Michael Zilber: East West: Music for Big Bands (Origin, 2CD) [11-15]