Monday, November 11, 2019


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Current count 32345 [32307] rated (+38), 221 [220] unrated (+1).

Pressure continues to build on my psych crisis. Hoped for a break today, but may have underestimated the holiday. Maybe tomorrow? I've been in a rut for nearly a month, getting damn little done. Still, might as well knock this out. Don't actually have much to say about it, anyway.

Next week will either be much better . . . or worse.


New records reviewed this week:

Ben Allison/Steve Cardenas/Ted Nash: Quiet Revolution (2015 [2018], Sonic Camera): Bass/guitar/tenor sax, also some clarinet. Same trio as Nash's later Somewhere Else, but artists listed here as above, the mix favoring the bass, and indeed this one is on his label. One song from each, covers from Jim Hall (6) and Jimmy Giuffre (2), closing with "Love Theme From Spartacus." [CD reissue; first appeared vinyl-only 2016 on Newvelle.] B+(***)

Byron Asher: Byron Asher's Skrontch Music (2018 [2019], Sinking City): From New Orleans, plays clarinet and tenor sax, first album, organized a ten-piece ensemble to play around excerpts from oral history recordings, giving it a trad jazz reference even when the music is aggressively postmodern. B+(**)

The Bad Plus: Activate Infinity (2019, Edition): Piano trio, founded in 2000 by Reid Anderson (bass), Dave King (drums), and Ethan Iverson (piano) -- replaced in 2017 by Orrin Evans, a star in his own right. B+(**)

Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller: The Art of Piano Duo: Live (2005-11 [2019], Sunnyside, 3CD): Two pianists, three encounters, the first in Marciac in 2005, the others in Zurich in 2011, two years before Miller (the junior partner by 15 years) died. Barron is famous as an educator, and playing along with students is part of his shtick, but few are as gifted as Miller. The pair merge together so seamlessly it's rarely clear who's playing what -- indeed, the occasional solo can be hard to detect. Endlessly entertaining. Dare I say flawless? A-

Harold Danko/Kirk Knuffke: Play Date (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): Piano and cornet duo. Alternates Duke Jordan songs with jointly-credited originals, cycling through "Flight to Denmark" three times. B+(***)

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Interaction (2018 [2019], Origin, 2CD): Bassist, also plays piano (four tracks here), notable as a composer, has close to 50 albums since 1975. Trio with Joe Manis (tenor/soprano sax) and Charlie Doggett (drums), more free than I expected. B+(***) [cd] [11-15]

Andy Fusco: Vortex (2017 [2019], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, played with Buddy Rich 1978-83, debut album in 1996, now has four albums on the Danish label since 2016. This is a septet, with Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax -- another Rich alumnus Fusco recorded a 2006 album with, Tea for Two), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), John Mosca (trombone), Peter Zak (piano), bass and drums. B+(**)

Mary Halvorson & John Dieterich: A Tangle of Stars (2018 [2019], New Amsterdam): Guitar duo, she recently won a MacArthur Genius Grant, he best known as a long-term member of Deerhoof, although this isn't his first side project with jazz musicians. B+(**)

Kevin Hays/Mark Turner/Marc Miralta: Where Are You (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound New Talent): Piano/tenor sax/drums, all write original pieces, plus they cover Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. Turner is as solid as ever, while the pianist adds some spice. B+(***)

Zlatko Kaucic Quintet: Morning Patches (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Slovenian Drummer, credited with "ground sounds" here, couple dozen albums since 1994, quintet members get "feat." credit on cover: Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet), Marco Colonna (clarinet/bass clarinet), Albert Cirera (tenor sax), Silvia Bolognesi (bass). B+(*) [bc]

Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka (2019, Polydor): British singer-songwriter, born in London, parents from Uganda, don't think I accept his classification as "indie folk," but don't see many other pigeonholes. Third album, a star in UK, still a curiosity here. B+(*)

Kronos Quartet: Terry Riley: Sun Rings (2019, Nonesuch): String quartet, more than 40 albums since 1979, including various forays into jazz and world music as well as modern/postmodern classical -- this looks like their fourth Terry Riley album. The strings tend to be scruffier than Riley's usual electronics, which is OK by me, but I'm less taken by the choir. B

Travis Laplante: Human (2018 [2019], New Amsterdam): Tenor saxophonist, best known for his sax quartet Battle Trance, goes solo here, with various effects, including circular breathing his way into air raid siren territory. B

Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring (2019, Don Giovanni): New York folkie, started out drawing comic books, fifteen years later he goes to Nashville, gets a producer, and rocks harder than ever. Good opening song, a surefire single on "LPs" (advice: "if it's cheap there's less chance you'll regret it"), tails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Joe Morris & Evan Parker: The Village (2014 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Guitar and sax duo, the latter switching between soprano and tenor. A bit scratchy, which is what Morris does best. B+(**) [bc]

Ted Nash/Steve Cardenas/Ben Allison: Somewhere Else: West Side Story Songs (2019, Plastic Sax): Sax/guitar/bass, the former listed first in larger type. Can't say as the songs mean much to me, but nicely done. B+(**)

One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2019 (2019, North Texas Jazz): As you probably know by now, University of North Texas has one of the largest and most successful jazz programs anywhere (in the USA) outside of the Boston-New York corridor. This is their big band class, directed by Alan Blaylock, and their section work and arranging are pretty sharp. Also note that the vocal cut, with Marion Powers, is a highlight. B+(*) [cd] [11-22]

Evan Parker/Lotte Anker/Torben Snekkestad: Inferences (2016 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): Sax trio, not an auspicious lineup as all three play soprano, with minor switches helping (Anker to tenor sax, Snekkestad to trumpet), but not often enough. Two pieces, 41:00. B+(*) [bc]

Marta Sánchez Quintet: El Rayo De Luz (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish pianist (not the singer who outranks her on Google), based in New York, handful of albus since 2008, third quintet effort, with Chris Cheek (tenor sax) joining mainstays Roman Filiu (alto sax), Rick Rosato (bass), and Daniel Dor (drums). Sneaks up on you, with one of Cheek's finest outings. A- [cd] [11-22]

Sirkis/Bialas IQ: Our New Earth (2018 [2019], Moonjune, 2CD): IQ stands for International Quartet, led Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis and Polish singer Sylwia Bialas, with Frank Harrison (keyboards) and Kevin Glasgow (electric bass) -- both from UK, which appears to be where Sirkis and Bialas are based, although the latter identifies as Scottish. Folkish, has a dark, brooding beauty. B+(**) [cd]

That Dog: Old LP (2019, UMe): Alt-rock group from LA (1991-97), singer-songwriter Anna Waronker, two of Charlie Haden's daughters, and a drummer. Cut three albums before breaking up. After some solo albums, regrouped recently (minus Petra Haden) and finally came up with this new album (title a nostalgic song). B+(**)

Jeremy Udden: Three in Paris (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): Postbop saxophonist (alto/soprano), from Massachusetts, based in New York, half-dozen albums since 2006. Thinking about Steve Lacy here, backed by Nicolas Moreaux (bass) and John Betsch (drums). "Bone" is a highlight, thanks to a Latin twist. B+(***)

Michael Zilber: East West: Music for Big Bands (2018 [2019], Origin, 2CD): Saxophonist, originally from Vancouver, BC, moved to Boston, New York, later San Francisco. He's assembled two big bands here, one in San Francisco, the other in New York, and gives each a full disc, writing four pieces on each, adding covers ranging from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." B+(*) [cd] [11-15]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bulawayo Blue Yodel (1950s [2019], Olvido): "High lonesome sounds from 1950s Zimbabwe, Kenya, and South Africa" -- "14 lost classics . . . all reissued for the first time from original 78rpm discs." The reference to bluegrass isn't too far fetched, but older and more exotic folk forms, lending with something that sounds Hawaiian. Extensive notes are promised. B+(**) [bc]

Lloyd McNeill: Treasures (1975 [2019], Soul Jazz): Flute player, emerged around 1969 playing an intimate pan-African soul jazz, developed further here in a meeting with Brazilians -- Dom Salvador (piano), Portinho (drums), Ray Armando (percussion) -- backed by bass (Cecil McBee) and more drums (Brian Blake). B+(**)

Lee Moses: How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles and Rarities 1965-1972 (1965-72 [2019], Light in the Attic): Soul man from Georgia, released his only album in 1971 (Time and Place, also the title of a 2007 compilation). This pulls his early singles together, including a couple before he really found his voice. B+(**) [bc]

Phil Ranelin: Collected Works 2003-2019 (2003-19 [2019], Wide Hive, 2CD): Trombonist, born in Indianapolis, moved to Detroit in the 1960s, co-founding Tribe in 1971, and later moved on to Los Angeles, hit 80 this year. I discovered his 1970s records when they were reissued (along with a Remixes) by Hefty c. 2002. That rejumped his career, leading to the 5 records that are sampled here, evidently with 3 or 4 new tracks. Various lineups, especially strong at sax -- Pharoah Sanders is most readily recognized, Kamasi Washington is another powerhouse -- and percussion. A-

Tribe: Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014 (1990-2004 [2019], Art Yard/Strut): Jazz collective founded in 1971 by Wendell Harrison (reeds) and Phil Ranelin (trombone), with Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) perhaps the best known. Ran their own label 1972-76, with various comebacks and throwbacks over the years, including the album Rebirth in 2009. Not clear that this should should be regarded as a named group: Harrison only appears on 6 (of 10) tracks, as does Harold McKinney (piano/vocals). Belgrave is on 4 (as is Pamela Wise, piano/vocals), Ranelin only 2. B+(***)

Old music:

Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today (2013, Sonic Camera): Bassist, one of the few jazz composers to impress me enough to write his name in that slot on ballots. After nine Palmetto albums set up his own label and made his records scarce. This is a quartet, moves into fusion territory with two guitarists (Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook), plus Allison Miller on drums. B+(*)

Ben Allison: Layers of the City (2017, Sonic Camera): With Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Matt Kimbrough (piano), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**)

Harold Danko: After the Rain (1994 [1995], SteepleChase): Pianist, from Ohio, debut album in 1974, joined this Danish label in 1993. This is his second album there, solo piano, a set of John Coltrane songs. B+(**)

Harold Danko Quartet: Tidal Breeze (1995-96 [1997], SteepleChase): Pianist-led quartet, cut several albums in the 1990s, with Rich Perry on tenor sax, Scott Colley on bass, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Strong performances all around. B+(***)

Lloyd McNeill and Marshall Hawkins: Tanner Suite (1969 [2015], Universal Sound): Flute and bass duo. Four ten-minute pieces, hold your interest. B+(*)

Lee Moses: Time and Place (1971, Maple): First and only album, nine tracks (33:20) of exceptionally gritty soul, even if some of the covers aren't promising ("California Dreaming," "Hey Joe"). B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: A Close Encounter of the Very Best Kind (1996, Lifeforce): Not much in the trombonist's catalog between his stint with Freddie Hubbard (1979-80) and his revival after 2002 -- one 1986 album, and this trio plus guests -- title cut expands the band to nine, including congas and Steve Turre's conch shell. B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: Living a New Day (2005, Wide Hive): Trombonist, band has two guitars, keys, bass, vibraphone, and drums. Vocal on the title cut is a strong message for peace. Grooves hard, with two alternate takes -- underscoring how good that title piece is. B+(**)

Phil Ranelin & Tribe Renaissance: Reminiscence: Live! (2009, Wide Hive): Discogs has nothing on this release, but AMG offers a lineup: Ranelin (trombone), George Harper Jr (tenor/baritone sax), Carl Randall Jr (tenor sax), Zane Musa (alto sax), Louis Van Taylor (clarinet, flute, alto flute), Keith Fiddmont (flute, soprano sax), Jinshi Ozaki (guitar), Danny Grissett (organ, piano), William Henderson (piano), Nate Morgan (piano), Ryan Cross (bass), James Leary (bass), Lorca Hart (drums), Thomas White (drums), Don Littleton (congas, drums/percussion), Tambu (congas, percussion). Apt title: "Thrivin on a Groove." Closer: "Caravan." B+(***)

Phil Ranelin: Portrait in Blue (2015, Wide Hive): Where Tribe was expansive and all-inclusive, above all else a rallying of community, this is a back-to-basics move: a quintet with trombone, Pablo Calogero (on bass clarinet and tenor/soprano sax), piano, bass, and Don Littleton (drums, congas, percussion), playing bluesy material. Doesn't have the exultation of some of his other albums, but makes up for that lack in subtler ways. B+(***)

Pamela Samiha Wise: A New Message From the Tribe (2017, Tribe): Pianist, sings some, from Cleveland, moved to Detroit in 1978, married Tribe founder Wendell Harrison, wrote the last three tracks on Tribe's Hometown: Detroit Sessions. Fifth album. Emphasizes the Latin tinge in the African diaspora -- as indeed did her debut, the Jerry Gonzalez-produced Songo Festividad. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lolly Allen: Coming Home (OA2) [11-15]
  • The Diva Jazz Orchestra: Diva + the Boys (MCG Jazz)
  • Rozina Pátkai: Taladim (Tom-Tom)
  • Charlie Porter: Immigration Nation (OA2) [11-15]
  • Bob Ravenscroft & Inner Journeys: Phantasmagoria (OA2) [11-15]
  • Toh-Kichi: Baikamo (Libra)