Monday, November 25, 2019


Music Week

November archive (finished).

Music: Current count 32388 [32371] rated (+17), 221 [221] unrated (+0).

Took ill late last week, spending a couple days doing nothing more ambitious than watching the remains of television series Laura had already given up on (The Durrells in Corfu, which I enjoyed very much, and Press, which barely kept me going). I'll add that we recently finished the latest seasons of Orange Is the New Black and Succession, which among other things remind us that class persists in quantum orbits so isolated that it's hard for most of us to imagine life like that.

No Weekend Roundup yesterday. I have a few links saved up for next time I manage to write one. Not much Music Week here either. The one thing I am trying to keep up with is tabulating ballots for this year's NPR Jazz Critics Poll. That pointed me to several records this week, no doubt more next week. (Playing Johnathan Blake's Trion at the moment, and it's sounding like a pretty solid A-.) Spent a lot of time early in the week just trying to round up the various pieces of Allen Lowe's box set, and wound up guessing a bit.

I still haven't finalized my ballot yet, but you can see a very rough draft here.


New records reviewed this week:

Ilia Belorukov & Vasco Trilla: Laniakea (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits): Russian alto saxophonist, also plays fluteophone and electronics, in a duo with percussion, recorded at the latter's Barcelona studio. Feels too static for jazz, lots of drone, not even much clang. B- [bc]

Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance (2016 [2019], Columbia/Legacy): The poet-singer died in 2016, about the time he released You Want It Darker, still excellent despite a voice in tatters. These are "sketches" for songs, rounded up and finished roughly by son Adam Cohen, with guest help like Daniel Lanois and Beck. Barely makes it: nine songs, 29:17, the voice harsh even by recent standards, but the music is uncanny, and his words hit hard. A-

The Last Poets: Transcending Toxic Times (2019, Ropeadope): Group dates from 1968, before hip-hop was recognized as such, and has gone through numerous permutations, but poets Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan return from their first album, along with recent arrival Baba Donn Babatunde and some other guest spots. One thing new here is the musicians are a lot more steeped in jazz, thanks to producer (and bassist) Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Ends with two strong, bitter political rants. B+(**)

Quiana Lynell: A Little Love (2019, Concord Jazz): R&B singer with some jazz overtones, born in Texas, grew up in Baton Rouge, based in New Orleans, trained in classics and church, won her contract in one of Concord's contests (this one named for Sarah Vaughan). First album, mixed bag of songs, some vibes. B

Aurora Nealand/Steve Marquette/Anton Hatwich/Paul Thibodeaux: Kobra Quartet (2019, Astral Spirits): Chicago label (lots of interesting records, but most with only a sample song or two on Bandcamp; this 3-song 42:06 the exception). Nealand plays accordion, alto sax, voice, objects. The others guitar, bass, and drums. Fond of slow burns, building to impressive climaxes. B+(*) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp: Ineffable Joy (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): Brazilian avant-saxophonist, only three releases (6-CD) this year on his usual label (Leo), decided to diversify and follow his pianist to the latest iteration of the famous 1960s DIY label, citing an early Gato Barbieri release on same. With bass and drums from old Shipp associates, he couldn't ask for a more robust rhythm section. B+(***)

Charlie Porter: Immigration Nation (2019, OA2): Trumpet player, from New York, second album, postbop quintet with Nick Biello (tenor sax), Oscar Perez (piano), bass, and drums, plus a vocal (Sabine Kabongo) on one song. B+(*) [cd]

Wallace Roney: Blue Dawn-Blue Nights (2019, HighNote): Trumpet player, hard bopper, had some prestige tutors (Gillespie, Davis, Terry), couple dozen albums since 1987. Seems to have a young band, none I've heard of -- Emilio Modeste (sax), Oscar Williams II (piano), Paul Cuffari (bass), Kojo Odu Roney (drums) -- and they push him pretty hard. B+(***)

Toh-Kichi: Baikamo (2019, Libra): Piano-drums duo, Satoko Fujii and Tatsuya Yoshida. Four pieces from each, eight more joint improvs. Nice to hear Fujii roughing up the piano again. B+(***) [cd]

Torbjörn Zetterberg & the Great Question: Live (2017 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Swedish bassist, released four solo albums, three by his Hot Five (2002-04), side credits with most of this band: Jonas Kullhammar (tenor sax/flute), Alberto Pinton (baritone sax/clarinet/flute), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet/tin whistle), Mats Äleklint (trombone/harmonica), and Jon Fält (drums). Lot of firepower there, and the bassist clearly likes it hot. A- [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Georg Graewe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Kammern I-V (2009 [2019], Auricle): Piano-cello-drums trio, group recorded together at least ten times, with 1994's Saturn Cycle a favorite. This comes close, the piano especially vibrant and challenging. B+(***) [cd]

Allen Lowe: Jews & Roots/Radical Jewish Acculturation: An Avant Garde of Our Own: Disconnected Works: 1980-2018 (1980-2018 [2019], Constant Sorrow/ESP-Disk, 8CD): Musicologist, his books and their companion CD compilations offer an extraordinarily broad and deep exploration into American recorded music, but he also plays alto sax, and his own works have increasingly turned ambition to sprawl: the 3-CD Blues & the Empirical Truth (2011), the 4-CD Mulatto Radio (2014), the separately packaged 6-CD In the Diaspora of the Diaspora (2016), and now this 8-CD box (most recorded since 2016, but also picking up scattered recordings going back to his first efforts). Haven't heard the first disc, and I'm short for details (especially on the 8th). One case where the physical CDs could make the difference, especially give that Lowe's as much a writer as a musician (though he'd probably hear it the other way round).

  1. Live at the Knitting Factory/Verna's Garage/The Living Room Tapes (1) (1980-2011): Unheard.
  2. Live at the Knitting Factory/Verna's Garage/The Living Room Tapes (2) (1979-2015): Very scattered pieces, almost randomly distributed by time, some touching on trad jazz without getting too comfortable. [B+(**)] [bc]
  3. Poor Pilgrims of Sorrow Suite/I Am a Woman Again (Gladys Bentley Suite) (2016-18) Two sets of related pieces: the former promises overwhelming sax power (James Brandon Lewis and Darius Jones) but they don't bowl anyone over; the latter an octet where the composition comes first. Ray Suhy (guitar) is on both. [B+(***)]
  4. Black Brown and Beige, Yellow, Trans and Queer: My Country 'Tis of This (2018): Septets, title expands on Ellington, but inside he's thinking more of Mingus (and not just on "Fables of Fascism"). Also Jaki Byard and Bud Powell. [A-]
  5. Brother Matthew's Revenge (2017): Mostly nonet, five horns plus guitar producing lots of harmonics; drops to trio twice: Lowe, Randy Sandke (trumpet), and Lewis Porter (piano). [B+(*)]
  6. Hey Lady/Time/Times (2017): One set, Ken Peplowski and Matthew Shipp the best-known. [B+(***)]
  7. The Other America (1) (1993-2016): Odds and sods, including Marc Ribot guitar solos, Nels Cline on Jimi Hendrix, Lowe playing some guitar too (and singing one for Johnny Thunders), closes with "Bull Connor in Hell." [B+(***)]
  8. The Other America (2) (NA) More odds and sods, Ribot switches to banjo, Lowe's vocal is "Where's Lou Reed?"; heavy: "At a Baptist Meeting." [A-]

Overall, something like: B+(***)

Dudu Pukwana/Han Bennink/Misha Mengelberg: Yi Yole (1978 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): South African alto saxophonist, emigrated with the Blue Notes, richocheted between his native township jive (cf. his wonderful 1973 In the Townships) and avant-jazz extremes (I hated his 1977 Diamond Express). This finds some kind of middle ground, especially when the pianist breaks out his boogie-woogie. B+(**) [bc]

David S. Ware New Quartet: Théâtre Garonne, 2008 (2008 [2019], AUM Fidelilty): The old Quartet had one of the greatest runs in jazz history, from 1990-2007, with Matthew Shipp (piano), William Parker (bass), and a series of drummers. His new Quartet, with Joe Morris (guitar), Parker, and Warren Smith (drums), turned out one album (Shakti) before kidney failure sidelined Ware (a kidney transplant gave him a brief respite from 2009-12, during which he made a partial comeback). This live date came a few weeks after the album, reprising most of the compositions. Ware is Ware, but Morris has some surprises in store. A-

Mary Lou Williams: Mary Lou Williams (1962-63 [1964], Folkways; [2019], Smithsonian Folkways): Pianist, a chief architect of Kansas City swing in Andy Kirk's orchestra, kept evolving up to her death in 1981 -- including a foray into religious music which shows up here in several choral pieces (although only the first is awful). On the other hand, her piano is often wonderful, especially on "A Grand Night for Swinging" (title of one of her best albums). B+(*)

Old music:

Georg Graewe/Ernest Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Continuum (2005 [2006], Winter & Winter): Piano-cello-drums trio, the cello pointing toward chamber jazz, the percussionist cleverly working his way around the edges, careful not to push too hard. B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage: Bad Wiring (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carol Albert: Stronger Now (Cahara) [01-30]
  • Frank Colón: Latin Lounge (Technoprimal Music) [01-01]
  • Elena Gilliam/Michael Le Van: Then Another Turns (Blujazz)
  • Danny Lerman: Ice Cat (Blujazz)