Monday, December 9, 2019


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32466 [32422] rated (+44), 226 [230] unrated (-4).

I have very little time to spare on this, so will keep it short. Spent much of the weekend counting ballots for NPR's 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, something Francis Davis started back when we were writing for the Village Voice. Deadline was last night, but there's a good chance that any ballots that arrive today will be counted. I have 132 at present, down a bit from 2018. Some surprises (for me at least) among the new album leaders. Less so among the other categories. This week's haul includes a bunch of records I discovered among the ballots. Still, two/thirds of this week's A- records came from my queue.

Results will probably be posted in about a week. I'm liable to fall out of the loop on that, as I'm scheduled for what should be minor surgery on Thursday, and I'm pessimistic about what I will be able to do the following week or so. In fact, I'm pretty down on getting anything done beforehand either.

Until I got swamped over the weekend, I did a fair amount of work on the EOY Aggregate, which has changed rather dramatically. Up to Thanksgiving, the list was dominated by first-half albums which showed up in mid-year lists -- Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow was leading Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Eilish pulled back ahead last week, but the dramatic gains were from: (2) Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell; (4) Angel Olsen: All Mirrors; (5) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen; and (11) FKA Twigs: Magdalene. Among first-half albums, (7) Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising is the one that has gained some spots, evidently because those who can stand it like it a lot.

I was fairly up-to-date before the weekend, but haven't added much since. Should see many more lists in the next week or two, but unclear whether I'll be able to keep up. At any rate, the file is doing most of what it needs to do. Still, not much jazz in it, other than my own grades. I'll add the JCP data when it goes public.


New records reviewed this week:

Awatair: Awatair Plays Coltrane (2019, Fundacja Sluchaj): Polish-Ukrainian trio: Tomasz Gadecki (tenor/baritone sax), Mark Tokar (double bass), Michal Gos (drums). Three stretched Coltrane pieces plus an 10:57 "Improvisation for Jr. J.C." B+(***) [bc]

Bones [Ziv Taubenfeld/Shay Hazan/Nir Sabag]: Reptiles (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): Bass clarinet/bass/drums trio, recorded in Amsterdam, released on vinyl. Free jazz, fairly intimate. B+(**) [cdr]

Anthony Braxton: Quartet (New Haven) 2014 (2014 [2019], Firehouse 12, 4CD): One "Improvisation" per disc, each 57:14-64:09, each dedicated to a pop star you probably couldn't blindfold guess (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Merle Haggard). Braxton plays saxes from sopranino to contrabass but no tenor (alto is his main axe), joined by Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and family), Nels Cline (electric guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums). Gave it one play and was delighted, often amazed, never annoyed (well, until the last few seconds of Disc 3). One could spend ages further dissecting, but I doubt I will. A-

Patrick Brennan/Abdul Moimême: Terraphonia (2019, Creative Sources): Alto saxophonist, from Detroit, has a handful of records including a couple as Sonic Openings Under Pressure, in a duo here with a Portuguese experimental guitarist, who has 25 albums since 2008, mostly small groups with all names on the masthead. Something more than just harsh noise, but that's most of it. B+(*)

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science: The Waiting Game (2019, Motéma, 2CD): Drummer, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson, built a solid post-bop reputation in the 1990s, lately has turned to crossover pop, including quite a bit of hip-hop here, sprinkled with guest stars, with a few political lyrics. Second disc is lighter, a 42:19 instrumental orchestrated by Edmar Colón. B+(**)

Anthony Coleman: Catenary Oath (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Pianist, debut was 1992, some of his early records offered an avant take on klezmer. Solo piano here, starts with a dedication to Roscoe Mitchell, ends with Ellington. B+(**) [cdr]

Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Trilogy 2 (2010-18 [2019], Concord, 2CD): A sequel to the trio's 2014 3-CD Trilogy, adding select tracks from a 2016 tour to leftovers from the first period. B+(**)

Rodney Crowell: Texas (2019, RC1): Country singer-songwriter, originally from Texas, 21 albums since 1978, had a run of hits off his 1988 album (Diamonds & Dirt), but hasn't enjoyed much attention lately. Got some guest help this time, mostly fellow Texans like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, and Billy Gibbons. (Exception to the rule: Ringo Starr.) B+(***)

Nina De Heney/Karin Johansson/Henrik Wartel: Quagmire (2018 [2019], Creative Sources): Bass-piano-drums, the bassist dominating (especially early on), for a very claustrophobic sound. B+(*)

Doja Cat: Hot Pink (2019, Kemosabe/RCA): LA rapper Amala Zandile Dlamini, second album, promises more skin, holds back a bit. B+(**)

Marc Edwards/Guillaume Gargaud: Black Hole Universe (2019, Atypeek Music): American free jazz drummer, played with David S. Ware in the 1980s, teams up here with a French guitarist. Reminds me of Sonny Sharrock, maybe even more intense, but I'm not quite there with it yet. B+(**)

Andy Emler/David Liebman: Journey Around the Truth (2018 [2019], Signature Radio France): French keyboardist, playing organ here, pumped up for dramatic effect like a hoary old soundtrack. The saxophonist builds on that, with tenor and soprano. B+(*)

Erin Enderlin: Faulkner County (2019, Black Crow Productions): Singer-songwriter from Arkansas, has had some success peddling songs in Nashville, third album. Old time sound, lots of booze and wallowing blues, could use a stiffer backbone, or a shot of feminism. B+(*)

Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain (2019, Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's rockish power trio, with electric bass (Roland Fidezius) and drums (Rudi Fischerlehner), fourth group record. Seems almost too easy to make this formula work, so the occasional glitches stand out. B+(***)

Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Dark Blue (2019, Sunnyside): Duets, baritone sax/bass clarinet and piano, a nice match. B+(**)

Eric Hofbauer's Five Agents: Book of Water (2018 [2019], Creative Nation Music): Guitarist, based in Boston, has done interesting work at pushing the boundaries of postbop without quite crossing over into avant-garde. Comes especially close here, with three veterans of Ken Vandermark's Boston-Chicago nexus -- Jeb Bishop (trombone), Nate McBride (bass), Curt Newton (drums) -- plus Jerry Sabatii (trumpet) and Seth Meicht (tenor sax). B+(***)

Eric Hofbauer & Dylan Jack: Remains of Echoes (2019, Creative Nation Music): Guitar and drum duo, picking their way through covers from Ellington to the Police. B+(**)

Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Pierre-Yves Martel/Philip Zoubek: Otherwise (2018, Insub): Tuba player, the others credited with viola da gamba and piano, both also with synthesizer. Two side-long tracks, ambient but never gets too comfortable. B+(*) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 8 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): British jazz group, based in London, quartet with Idris Rahman (sax/fx), Leon Brichard (electric bass), Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), and Satin Singh (percussion), adds another live document to their fast-growing catalogue. Strong bass riffs, flexes a lot of muscle. B+(***)

Katarsis 4: Katarsis 4 (2019, NoBusiness): Sax quartet from Lithuania, biased toward alto -- two members list alto first, the others second (after baritone and soprano) -- so this doesn't have much in common with the harmonic focus of WSQ or ROVA. Some electronics, loads of atmosphere. B+(**) [cd]

Kimchi Moccasin Tango: Yankee Zulu (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Norwegian trio -- Karl-Hjalmar Nyberg (tenor sax), Karl Bjorå (guitar), Dag Erik Knedal Andersen (drums) -- the group name parsed for three pieces, the title for the fourth. Avant-noise from the start, can change up a bit here and there, in ways that are ultimately winning. B+(**)

Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (2019, Sunnyside): Arranged and conducted by Ohad Talmor. The nonet balances reeds and strings: 4 each, the leader's alto sax shadowed by flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet; 2 celli between viola and bass; plus George Schuller on drums. Lush and unashamedly gorgeous. B+(***)

Mat Maneri Quartet: Dust (2019, Sunnyside): Leader plays viola, mostly known as son of avant-clarinetist Joe Maneri, and for playing side-roles in Matthew Shipp's orbit. Closer to the mainstream here with Lucian Ban (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Randy Peterson (drums). B+(*)

MC Yallah X Debmaster: Kubali (2019, Hakuna Kulala): Rapper Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde, from Uganda, and producer Julien Deblois, from France, with a short cassette. Densely fractured, could come from any high-tech haven. B+(*)

Tom McDermott: Meets Scott Joplin (2018 [2019], Arbors): Trad jazz pianist, from St. Louis, first record was called New Rags (1982), returns to the old ones here. Mostly solo, but picks up when some friends drop in (notably trombonist Rick Trolsen). B+(**)

Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra: Ámbar (2019, Sony Masterworks): Chilean singer-songwriter, based in New York, has a reputation as a jazz guitarist, fourth album, group adds strings to piano-bass-drums, lush and dramatic (not my favorite combination). B

Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra: Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills College, March 19-20, 2018 (2018 [2019], Wide Hive): No musician credit for Mitchell (78), just composed, orchestrated, and conducted by. Twenty-five piece orchestra, with a fair number of strings and most of the classical horns (but no saxophones), a harp, some exotica. B+(**)

Qasim Naqvi: Teenages (2019, Erased Tapes): Drummer from Pakistan, first noticed in the piano trio Dawn of Midi, has moved more into electronica lately, especially with this "music for modular synthesizer." B+(*)

Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Cellist, grew up near DC, studied in Chicago and built her connections there before moving on to New York. Second Quartet album, with Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Seems small, like the strings folding back on themselves, but not without its unique Halvorson moments. B+(***) [dl]

Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba: Hallowed (2017-18 [2019], Advance Dance Disques): Postbop pianist, born in Oakland, based in New York, took a turn toward Afro-Cuban jazz with her New Yor-Uba "musical celebration of Cuba in America," and continues here, with three specialists in batá and congas, a raft of horns, and vocalist Nina Rodriquez. B+(***)

Bob Sheppard: The Fine Line (2019, Challenge): Mainstream saxophonist, plays them all but best known for tenor, based in Los Angeles, has a few albums since 1991 but has done a ton of studio work, especially backing vocalists. Backed by piano (John Beasley), bass, and drums, with a few guests. Very respectable outing. B+(**)

Kalie Shorr: Open Book (2019, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Maine, based in Nashville, songs have some country in them, production has a lot of Nashville. B+(*)

Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 1) (2019, RareNoise): Sonar is a Swiss guitar-guitar-bass-drums band, principally Stephan Thelen, tunings feature tritones, rhythm very buttoned down, straight enough for rock, clever enough for jazz. Second album with guitarist Torn, who probably adds something, but fits in so seamlessly it's hard to discern what. A- [cdr]

Tim Stine Quartet: Knots (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): Chicago guitarist, has a couple previous albums. Joined here by Nick Mazzarella (alto sax), Matt Ulery (bass), and Quin Kirchner (drums). B+(*)

Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): Trombone, piano/organ, drums, a strong outing for a trombonist who's been one of free jazz's leading lights for more than a decade. A- [cd]

Fay Victor: Barn Songs (2018 [2019], Northern Spy): Striking jazz singer-songwriter, closest we have to a second coming of Betty Carter. Dusted off some old songs from her Amsterdam exile, given stark and foreboding framing with cello (Marika Hughes) and alto sax (Darius Jones). B+(**)

Bobby Watson/Vincent Herring/Gary Bartz: Bird at 100 (2019, Smoke Sessions): Three alto saxophonists, Bartz (the eldest, with 13 years on Watson and 24 on Herring) the one I think of most literally as a Charlie Parker clone, but I couldn't pick them apart here. With David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). I don't really feel this as relating to Parker, unless they're just saying all you need is chops. But chops they have, and that can be fun. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dusko Goykovich: Sketches of Yugoslavia (1973-74 [2019], Enja): Trumpet player, a Serb born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, incorporated folk idioms into jazz from Swinging Macedonia (1966) on. Leads a quartet here, fronting the rather lacklustre NDR Radio Orchestra Hannover. B+(*)

Dadisi Komolafe: Hassan's Walk (1983 [2019], Nimbus West): Plays flute and alto sax, only album I can find, quintet with piano (Eric Tilman), bass, drums, and vibraphone, recorded in Los Angeles. Has a deep African vibe. B+(**) [bc]

Yusef A. Lateef: Hikima: Creativity (1983 [2019], The Key System): Tenor saxophonist, changed his name when he converted to Islam, early on developed an interest in African and Middle Eastern music. Recorded a lot from 1957 into the 1970s, hit a thin patch, but bounced back from 1989, first with Atlantic then his own YAL label. This is one of two records he recorded in Nigeria, with a local group with singers and a lot of percussion. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Kristijan Krajncan: Drumming Cellist (2017, Sazas): Slovenian cellist-drummer, overdubs the two instruments, first album, adopted its title as his artist credit on his second (Abraxas). Fills the first half with J.S. Bach's "Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor." B+(*) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ellen Edwards: A New York Session (Stonefire Music) [02-22]
  • Amber Weekes: Pure Imagination (Amber Inn Productions) [01-08]