Monday, January 13, 2020


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 32614 [32575] rated (+39), 229 [230] unrated (+0).

I've finally heard that NPR's Jazz Critics Poll will be published tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM. I've been given advance URLs for the poll results and for the accompanying essay by Francis Davis.

No time to write much more. December Streamnotes still not indexed. EOY Aggregate still a work in progress. My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz still growing. Did play a couple of 2020 releases last week. Going back and forth between the 2020 and 2019 tracking files reminds me of the cartoon depictions of the decrepit old man representing the old year giving way to the new year baby. Every year we get older, but 2019 hurt more than most.


New records reviewed this week:

Franck Amsallem: Gotham Goodbye (2018 [2019], Jazz & People): French pianist, born in Algeria in 1961, grew up in Nice, moved to New York in 1986, back to France in 2001. Has a dozen albums since 1990, this a lush postbop quartet with Irving Acao most impressive on tenor sax. B+(***)

John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (2019 [2020], Freedom Road): Trumpet player, wrote something he calls "President Gillespie Suite," but doesn't provide any words to advance his cause. Only real drawback I see is that he's dead, but late in life he filled admirers with the sort of awe presidents once enjoyed (well, at least before Nixon). Bailey gets some nice trumpet in here, but pretty regularly gets smoked by his saxophonist, Stacy Dillard. B+(**) [cd] [01-20]

Lea Bertucci: Resonant Field (2017 [2019], NNA Tapes): Composer/sound artist, based in New York, main instrument is alto sax, but more important here is a large grain silo which frames everything in echo and resonance. B+(*)

Black to Comm: Seven Horses for Seven Kings (2019, Thrill Jockey): Marc Richter, based in Hamburg, Germany, close to a dozen albums since 2006, one namechecking Coldplay, Elvis & John Cage (2011). Leftfield electronica: dense, harsh, menacing. B

Boy Harsher: Careful (2019, Nude Club): Electropop duo, beats reminiscent of the new wave 1980s (OMD, New Order, Cabaret Voltaire) but more claustrophobic, something they're calling darkwave. Haven't deciphered many words, but the beat goes on and on and on. A-

Bremer/McCoy: Utopia (2019, Luaka Bop): Danish duo, Jonathan Bremer plays bass, Morten McCoy piano, fourth album together. Easy listening: pretty, soothing, nothing more. B

Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (2019, Kafou Music): Kora master from Senegal, "part of the great line of Cissokho griots," fifth album. I find it a bit awkward. B+(**)

Theo Croker: Star People Nation (2019, Sony Masterworks): Trumpet player, born in Florida, spent seven years in China before landing in Los Angeles. Second album was In the Tradition for Arbors, but since 2014 he's moved toward hip-hop fusion, with mixed results. Rarely a plus when someone sings. B

Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (2019, Silver Age): Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck, with the self-sufficient duo 7L & Esoteric, eighth album together since 2013, on their own again after meet-ups with MF Doom and Ghostface Killah. Mad comic cover art, songs that are dynamic and funny, often built on killer riffs. A-

Czarface: A Double Dose of Danger (2019, Silver Age, EP): Bears the group credit, but just a 10-cut, 28:26 instrumental album that fell through the cracks, released just after the group's Ghostface session. B+(*)

Jeff Davis: The Fastness (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, based in New York, originally from Colorado, formerly married to pianist Kris Davis. Sixth album since 2010, With tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby, reminding me of his scene-stealing form on the early Kris Davis Quartet records, plus Russ Lossing (keyboards), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), and Eivind Opsvik (bass). B+(***)

Bertrand Denzler/Dominic Lash: Pivot (2019, Spoonhunt): Tenor sax and bass duo. One 31:21 piece, not much to it, drone-like. B- [bc]

Mr Eazi: Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London (2018, Banku Music): Nigerian singer, at least born there, but started in Ghana, titling his previous one Life Is Eazi, Vol. 1: Accra to Lagos. Beats bounce more like reggae than highlife, slips up once in a while, but much of this is very attractive. B+(***)

Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (2019, Crammed Discs): Nigerian producer Leke Awayinka, first album, raps some over electro-beats. Lots of ideas here, most work, some don't. B+(**)

Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas (2018 [2019], Meta): Big project, "composed and improvisationally conducted" by percussionist Adam Rudolph, who concludes: "This album feels like the culmination of everything I've been reaching for throughout my career." Massive indeed, with forty musicians credited. B+(***)

Laurence Hobgood: Tesseterra (2019, Ubuntu Music): Pianist, from North Carolina, musical director for Kurt Elling, several albums since 2000. Piano trio plus string quartet ETHEL, some tricky covers ("Wichita Lineman," "Blackbird," Ravel, Debussy, Sting), doesn't seem promising but somehow works. B+(**)

Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (2019 [2020], Jazzbeat Productions): Alto saxophonist, from Connecticut, recorded four albums 1989-93 then took a long break after his label folded. Returns here with a spry hard bop quintet. B+(**) [cd] [01-17]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (2019, Merge): British electropop group, formed by producers with the idea of fusing elements from 1990s drum & bass with 1980s Afrobeat. They then recruited London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ghanaian guitarist Alfred Bannerman, and various horns and percussionists. Third album, true to formula. B+(**)

Michael Janisch: Worlds Collide (2019, Whirlwind): Bassist, from Wisconsin, studied in Boston, moved to New York, then to London. Large postbop group with trumpet (Jason Palmer), two saxes (George Crowley and John O'Gallagher), guitar (Rez Abbasi), keyboards (John Escreet), and two drummers, the leader playing electric as well as acoustic bass. Up for fusion, but fancier. B+(**)

Lauren Jenkins: No Saint (2019, Big Machine): Country singer-songwriter, from Texas, first album (after an EP), knows her tropes, has a voice and sounds plenty authentic. B+(**)

Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West: Five Times Surprise (2018 [2019], Cuneiform): Two guitarists, six-string electric violin, drums, six-string bass. B+(**) [dl]

Egil Kalman & Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds (2019, Shhpuma): Swedish bassist, plays modular synthesizer here, in two long duets with the guitarist, based in Oslo and Berlin. Guitar slowly picks, against subtle background shading. B

Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (2019, The Leaf Label): Drummer, born in US, grew up in India, based in London but recorded some of this in Mumbai. In London he fits in with an expansive jazz scene, but this sounds more like hip-hop, especially with an array of rappers from India, but also note some fine sax leads, and lots of exotic percussion. A-

Kim Lenz: Slowly Speeding (2019, Blue Star): Rockabilly singer, recorded four albums as Kim Lenz & the (or Her) Jaguars. Slows it down here, but keeps the grit and the smoldering heat. B+(**)

Christian Lillinger: Open Form for Society (2018 [2019], Plaist Music): German drummer, has appeared -- rarely first but often with his name on the banner -- in quite a few albums since 2009, and pulls much of his circle together tight: three pianists, two mallet players, two bass players, cello, and scattered electronics. Many rough edges, emphasis on percussion, although the piano leads are striking. B+(***)

Brian Lynch Big Band: The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music (2019, Hollistic MusicWorks): Trumpet player from Wisconsin, started out as a mainstream guy, playing hard bop with Horace Silver and Art Blakey, got a taste for big bands with Toshiko Akiyoshi, and most importantly for Latin music with Eddie Palmieri, turning into a specialist. All that is evident here. Sure, there are tics that turn me off, but he invariably bounces back with something wondrous. Less evident from the music is his reading list, which pairs two authors for each of nine songs -- some examples: David Levering Lewis and W.E.B. DuBois, Ned Sublette and Eric Hobsbawm, Naomi Klein and Mike Davis, Amiri Baraka and A.B. Spellman. A-

Brad Mehldau: Finding Gabriel (2017-18 [2019], Nonesuch): Pianist, has mostly done trios since 1993, opts for the kitchen sink this time, with scattered horns and strings, blustery swells of sound, and voices on most songs. It escapes being awful -- indeed, has its moments, especially the saxophones (2 cuts). B

Microtub: Chronic Shift (2018 [2019], Bohemian Drips): "A trio of tuba players focusing on microtonality": fourth release, with Robin Hayward, Martin Taxt, and Peder Simonsen. Two pieces, barely tops 30 minutes. While the ambience is pleasing enough, it's unlikely you'd identify this as tuba music, let alone three instruments. B

J. Pavone String Ensemble: Brick and Mortar (2019, Birdwatcher): Jessica Pavone, plays viola here, violin elsewhere; studied with Anthony Braxton, teaming up with Mary Halvorson on several projects. Ensemble here has two violins and two violas, a fairly narrow range, with harsh tones that rattle my nerves. B

The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019, Warner Brothers): Los Angeles garage pop band, led by Lydia Night, second album, brash and catchy. B+(***)

Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings (2019, RCA): Pop producer, I guess, born in England, raised in New York, also lives in Los Angeles. Records feature guest singers: Miley Cyrus and Angel Olsen the most famous, Yebba and Lykke Li get the most work. The stars are the most distinctive, which means they seem the most out of place. B+(*)

Gary Smulyan & Ralph Moore Quintet: Bird's Eye Encounter! (2018 [2019], Fresh Sound): Two saxophonists, baritone and tenor, recorded live in Basel, Switzerland, backed by Olivier Hutman (piano), Stephan Kurmann (bass), and Bernd Reiter (drums). Moore was one of my favorite mainstream saxmen in the 1990s, but seems to have vanished after 1996. He's less distinctive here than Smulyan, as they romp through a nice set of hard bop covers. B+(**)

Jim Snidero: Project-K (2019 [2020], Savant): Alto saxophonist, seems to have passed through a portal and found himself in a Dave Douglas project. Aside from the trumpeter, the band includes Orrin Evans (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), and Do Yeon Kim (gayaguem, a Korean zither). Feels fractured, or quirky, with some potential upside. B+(***) [cd] [01-24]

Earl Sweatshirt: Feet of Clay (2019, Tan Cressida/Warner, EP): Odd Future rapper, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, born in Chicago, based in Los Angeles, father a South African poet and political activist. Short (7 songs, 15:26), cryptic. Rhythm swims upstream. Maybe life's like that? B+(*)

Tuba Skinny: Some Kind-a-Shake (2018 [2019], self-released): New Orleans trad jazz band, members started busking around 2005, cut their eponymous debut in 2009, and have released an album most years since. Todd Burdick's sousaphone looms large. Several vocals. B+(***)

William Tyler: Goes West (2019, Merge): Guitarist, considered folk (not unlike John Fahey) although not clear to me that his primitivism runs very deep. Maybe because, given the choice, he so often opts for lush. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Endless Boogie: Vol. I, II (2005 [2019], No Quarter, 2CD): Rock jam band from Brooklyn, name from a John Lee Hooker album, formed eight years before they committed to wax two 3-song LPs (second side of each is a single 25-minute piece). Vocals here and there, but are secondary to the two-guitar grind, which is muscular enough to hold up for 25-minute runs. A-

Martial Solal: And His Orchestra: 1956-1962 (1956-62 [2019], Fresh Sound): French pianist, emerged as a major figure in the early 1950s, presented here in large groups from nine to eighteen pieces. Some of France's top players, plus US refugees like Lucky Thompson and Kenny Clarke, but the piano is what you focus on. B+(**)

Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Flight 17 (1978 [2019], Nimbus/Outernational): First record from the pianist's Los Angeles community organizing project, originally listing him as "conductor." Brilliant in spots, the piano (of course), also the drums. [Played 2014 reissue from Nimbus West bandcamp.] B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Party (Troubadour Jass) [02-07]
  • John Vanore: Primary Colors (Acoustical Concepts) [02-07]