An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, March 30, 2020
Music: Current count 33007  rated (+36), 219  unrated (+7).
Not an exceptional week, but as expected, rated count topped 33000. Unless things change, that's more a measure of time than anything else. I'd reckon my average haul per week is about 30, so I chalk up another thousand every 30-35 weeks, roughly 7-8 months. Looking back, I crossed 32000 the week of September 2, 2019, so I must be averaging a bit more. This week got off to a slow start, but picked up speed when I delved into Pharoah Sanders' back catalog. Didn't find anything there I had missed as good as Tauhid (1966), Village of the Pharoahs (1973), Africa (1987), Welcome to Love (A+ in 1990), or Crescent With Love (1992).
Spent some time last week adding recent reviews to my Jazz Guide draft files. Got up to December, so I should finish that task this week. Page counts up to 835 (20th Century, 335k words) and 1855 (21st, 857k words). I'm also collecting non-jazz capsules (827k words, but works out to 1928 pages with a less dense font). The guides are sorted by artist, so that can get tedious. The non-jazz capsules are just collected in order published, so that's easier.
You can download the guides here and here. They are in LibreWriter ODT format. LibreOffice is free software, with a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation editor, and other programs -- presumably everything that's in Microsoft Office. You can download and install it on Linux, Microsoft, and Apple computers, at no charge. You can import most file formats (including Microsoft Word), and can use it to generate PDF and HTML files. You can probably open an ODT file in Microsoft Word (post-2010 releases).
I doubt if these are very useful, other than that they consolidate widely scattered reviews by artist, in some kind of order (by recording date for 20th, release date by 21st). It would be an insane amount of work to turn these into a useful guides: the most obvious step would be to move the biographies to the artist heads, even though that may reduce most record "reviews" to mere grades. I'm thinking now that it may be best to copy them to a website (perhaps using Mediawiki?). Presumably, the current editing is a necessary step in that direction (although it also feels like a time sink).
March had five Mondays, so more records than usual this month: 186. The monthly archive is here.
New records reviewed this week:
Lakecia Benjamin: Pursuance: The Coltranes (2020, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist, from New York, third album, bassist Reggie Workman co-produces. No credit details for the "over 40 jazz heavyweights" employed here, but Jazzmeia Horn, Brandee Younger, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Dee Dee Bridgewater sing (or scat), and the Last Poets narrate, with mentor Gary Bartz opening and Greg Osby closing. De trop, but pans out here and there. B+(*)
Jerry Bergonzi: Nearly Blue (2019 , Savant): Tenor saxophonist, many records since 1984, recorded this in Italy with Renato Chicco (organ) and Andrea Michelutti (drums). Three originals, seven standards. His best records have been his most straightforward, and this is no exception. A-
Andy Bianco: NYC Stories (2020, Next Level): Guitarist, based in New York, couple previous albums, cover singles out Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax) and George Burton (piano) for "featuring." B+(*)
Vito Dieterle: Anemone (2018 , Ride Symbol): Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, first album (shares release date with a second, recorded later, mainstream affair with organ (Ben Paterson), guitar (Kris Kaiser), and drums (Aaron Seeber). One original (the title song), with two Billy Strayhorn songs always catching my ear. B+(***)
Vito Dieterle/Joel Forrester: Status Sphere (2019 , Ride Symbol): Duets, tenor sax and piano, five songs by the pianist, seven by Thelonious Monk. B+(**) [cd]
Amina Figarova Edition 113: Persistence (2018 , AmFi): Azerbaijani pianist, clasically trained in Baku, based in New York. More than a dozen albums, this one distinguished by Rez Abbasi on guitar, but also dotted with flute, EWI, and guest vocals. B [cd] [04-10]
Monika Herzig: Eternal Dance (2019 , Savant): German pianist, previous album called Sheroes, credits "Monika Herzig's Sheroes" on the cover, including Jamie Baum (flute), Reut Regev (trombone), Lakecia Benjamin (alto sax), Leni Stern (guitar), and Akua Dixon (cello), others on bass, drums, and percussion. Five originals, one each from Regev and Stern, covers of Queen, Bowie/Eno, and "Motherless Child." B+(*) [cd]
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): English pop star, parents Albanians from Kosovo, second album, multiple co-writers and producers everywhere, eleven tight songs (only one over 3:41), mixes the hardest dance grooves up front, peaking with "Physical" (as in "let's get"). A-
Harold Mabern: Mabern Plays Mabern (2018 , Smoke Sessions): Pianist from Memphis, moved to New York in 1959 and landed a gig with "Sweets" Edison. He cut his first album in 1968, and this looks to be his last, from a three day stand that previously yielded Iron Man: Live at Smoke, before dying in September 2019. The latter was a quartet, with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). This set, with two covers, five Mabern originals, and one by Alexander, adds Vincent Herring (alto sax) and Steve Davis (vibes), making it a little busy. B+(**)
Christian McBride: The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons (2013 , Mack Avenue): Mainstream bassist, has been working on this since 1998, when he first performed it, his icons Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King Jr., a decade later adding Barack Obama with "Apotheosis: November 4th, 2008." With big band, choir, narrators reciting inspirational words -- although Obama's conciliatory inaugural address elicits more sadness than anything else today. Several monologues break into song. By far the best is least political, most cultural victory, "Rumble in the Jungle." B+(**)
Thollem McDonas/William Parker/Nels Cline: Gowanus Sessions II (2012 , ESP-Disk): Piano/bass/guitar, the cover listing only the former's first name (as usual), the others' surnames. Leftovers from their 2012 album, two LP-sized jams (18:42/18:49). Cline doesn't do much other than add color here. B+(**)
Ar˙an Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera: Inside Rhythmic Falls (2019 , Intakt): Cuban pianist, based in New York, the others drums and percussion (the latter is also Cuban), all three also credited with voice -- mostly on the opener. B+(**)
Painted Faces: Tales From the Skinny Apartment (2017 , ESP-Disk): Florida "weirdo" David Drucker, moved to New York in 2011, has more than a dozen albums starting in 2009, announces his intentions here with "Chicks That Are Into Beefheart (and Jandek)." I checked this out because it's on a label that's into adventurous avant-jazz releases, but with their "only the artist decides" aesthetic, they're susceptible to weirdos of all stripes, and have trouble sorting them out. Guitar and reverb, lo-fi noise, aleatory vocals, not devoid of interest but more work than I care to exert. B-
Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm (2020, Jazzheads): Brazilian drummer, long based in New York, Discogs lists 15 albums since 1986 he's played on, but this may be his first as a leader. Shifting rhythms and textures. B+(*) [cd] [05-22]
Radical Empathy Trio: Reality and Other Imaginary Places (2017 , ESP-Disk): Thollem McDonas (keyboards), Nels Cline (guitars), and Michael Wimberly (drums). Two tracks conceived as LP sides (18:30 and 18:31). B+(*) [bc]
Dave Sewelson: More Music for a Free World (2018 , Mahakala Music): Baritone saxophonist, first album the precursor this is more of, but I've been aware of him for a while, in groups like Microscopic Septet, Fast 'N' Bulbous, and William Parker's big bands. Quartet with Steve Swell (trombone), Parker (bass), and Marvin Bugalu Smith (drums). Two long improv pieces, a shorter one to close. A-
SFJazz Collective: Live: SFJazz Center 2019: 50th Anniversary: Miles Davis In a Silent Way and Sly & the Family Stone Stand! (2019 , SFJazz): Group started in 2004 with Joshua Redman as artistic director, Gil Goldstein arranging and composing, and Bobby Hutcherson eminent, but they were gone by 2007, as the evolving group has turned into a premier repertory jazz ensemble -- as evidence by this program, the two 1969 albums intercut. Martin Luther McCoy sings Sly's parts. Ensemble is down to a septet, all recognized names, with Warren Wolf keeping the vibes prominent, and guitarist Adam Rogers visiting from New York. Nice concept for a concert. B+(**)
Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (2015 , Impulse!): British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, born in London, grew up in his parents' native Barbados, a prominent member of two of England's most successful jazz outfits (Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming), second album with this group, recorded in Johannesburg with South African musicians. Expands on pan-African roots with spirit of Coltrane and Sanders. A-
Kandace Springs: The Women Who Raised Me (2020, Blue Note): Standards singer, jazz/soul crossover, third album, has an intriguing voice, styles this as a tribute to a dozen iconic women singers ranging from Billie Holiday to Norah Jones (the one who shows for a duet). Backed by Steve Cardenas, Scott Colley, and Clarence Penn, with various featured guests (notably two Chris Potter cuts). Has some moments, but turned me off toward the end. B
Ohad Talmor: Long Form (2015 , Intakt): French saxophonist, grew up in Geneva, based in New York, not much under his own name but he met Lee Konitz in 1989, and has frequently toured and recorded with him. Sextet, with Shane Endsley (trumpet), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Jacob Sacks (piano), bass, and drums. B+(***)
Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (2020, Merge): Katie Crutchfield, from Alabama, fifth album since 2012, doesn't rock much, and I'm too slow on the uptake to figure out the rest. Still, after several plays, gets me in the end. A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Antoinette Konan: Antoinette Konan (1986 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): Singer-songwriter from C˘te D'Ivoire, first album, arranged by Bamba Moussa Yang. B+(*) [bc]
New Improvised Music From Buenos Aires (2012-17 , ESP-Disk): Various artists, only a few I've heard of (Pablo Ledesma, Paula Shocron), fourteen tracks, compiled by Jason Weiss. Interesting stuff, my favorite a piece by avant-sax trio CinÚtica, "Improvisation 0681." B+(***) [bc]
Charlie Parker: The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection (1944-48 , Craft, 4LP): I don't have the slightest interest in the packaging: four 10-inch LPs (6-8 songs each), packed in a box with a booklet I haven't seen. The music is essentially the same as I first head on 1976's 2-LP Bird/The Savoy Recordings (Master Takes) (later on a single 1985 CD, which unlike this is organized chronologically by session), and has been repackaged numerous times since. I must have a half-dozen copies of everything here, and at various times have graded it anywhere from B to A-, varying by how crummy the sound was, whether any vocal tracks were included, and how bad a mood I was in. I'm not going back to systematize those grades, but figured a quick streaming pass would give me a temperature check. The music originally appeared on 78s. The 10-inch LPs this is modeled on appeared as New Sounds in Modern Music (1950-52), followed by 12-inch LPs like Charlie Parker Memorial (1955). I recognize almost everything, noting that Parker (like Monk) tends to reuse his pet ideas, also that the singles format compresses many pieces to the point of claustrophobia, the hour-plus wearing me thin and sore. I'd never buy this packaging, but shouldn't dock it: perhaps it helps to break it up into 15-20 minute chunks. B+(**)
Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975 (1975 , Transversales Disque): Tenor saxophonist, a decade into his career, he has plenty of material to work with. Quartet with Danny Mixon (piano/organ), Calvin Hill (bass), and Greg Bandy (drums) -- the sung finale a cosmic hoedown. B+(**)
John Coltrane Featuring Pharoah Sanders: Live in Seattle (1964 , Impulse!, 2CD): His famous Quartet plus a second tenor sax (Sanders) and Donald Garrett (bass clarinet), often muddying the waters. First released in 1971 as a 2-LP (72:36), expanded here (same six tracks, but now 132:44). B+(*)
Harold Mabern: Iron Man: Live at Smoke (2018, Smoke Sessions, 2CD): Pianist, pretty good shape for 81, quartet with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). One to remember him by, even if he's frequently upstaged by Alexander, who hasn't sounded this vigorous in ages. A-
Charlie Parker: In Sweden 1950: The Complete Recordings (1950 , Storyville): Live shot, based on three shows, with a pick up band, notably Rolf Ericson on trumpet. LP (10 tracks) originally appeared on Sonet in 1959. Storyville reissued it in 1973, and Spotlite came up with a more complete 2-LP in 1973, matching these 14 tracks. Storyville's 14-track version bears the label's 50th Anniversary sticker, suggesting 2002, but the Bandcamp date is 2020. (Definitive also reissued all 14 tracks in 2002.) Sound is so-so, but give Parker some breathing room, and he eventually he'll do something with it. B+(**) [bc]
Pharoah Sanders: Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) 1970, Impulse!): Two sidelong pieces, draws on Arabic for the title, Africa for the rhythms, and the cosmos for shimmering aura. With Woody Shaw (trumpet), Gary Bartz (alto sax), Lonnie Liston Smith (piano), and pretty much everyone adding to the percussion. B+(***)
Pharoah Sanders: Thembi (1970-71 , Impulse!): A mixed bag, with with some sax close to and some beyond the pain threshold, exotic flutes and fifes, and various other diversions. Title cut is wonderful, but nothing else works out nearly as well. B+(*)
Pharoah Sanders: Black Unity (1971, Impulse!): One 37:21 piece, originally split over 2 LP sides, mostly groove and jive, with a few rough spots. B+(**)
Pharoah Sanders: Live at the East (1971 , Impulse!): Starts strong with a 21:43 "Healing Song," ends in typical fashion, drags in the middle. B+(*)
Pharoah Sanders: Love in Us All (1972-73 , Impulse!): Two extended pieces, "Love Is Everywhere" and "To John" (which no doubt means Coltrane). With James Branch adding to the flute, Joe Bonner on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, lots of percussion. B+(**)
Pharoah Sanders: Love Will Find a Way (1978, Arista): First of two albums he did with Norman Connors on Arista. It's not a very fruitful pairing, with chintzy strings and Phyllis Hyman vocals. Occasionally the saxophone peeks through. B
Pharoah Sanders: Save Our Children (1998, Verve): Second Verve album, last chance he had to show off on a major label, and he does indeed offer a neat encapsulation of his worldview -- exotic percussion from Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain, funk keyboard by Bernie Worrell, electronic mix by Bill Laswell. Doesn't short change the saxophone but keeps it bound up. B+(*)
Pharoah Sanders/Graham Haynes: With a Heartbeat (2003, Evolver): His discography thins out after 2000, with this the last (or latest?) album listing his name first, although he's popped up in guest slots at least through 2014. Not especially strong here, but Haynes (cornet/electronics) and Bill Laswell (producer, bass, keyboards, flute, arrangements) have turned out a fitting extended treatment of Sanders' long-established cosmic vibe. B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: