Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Music Week

April archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33137 [33094] rated (+43), 226 [216] unrated (+10).

Late getting this out, mostly because I got caught up in updating the Metacritic file, or maybe I was just putting off the task of writing about dead musicians. I did find that several lines had gotten dropped from the file, so I've started to patch them up again, but I may have lost information along the way (the most prominent contenders I'm aware of were Grimes and US Girls). Aside from consulting AOTY and Metacritic, I brought most of the jazz sources up to date.

When I wrote up a list with 12 musicians last week, I forgot to mention Hal Willner. Some obituaries emphasize his association with Saturday Night Live, but I credit him with a series of brilliantly eclectic tribute albums, the best being his 1985 Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.

Some more recent deaths of note here:

Tidal has an April 20 survey of Remembering the musicians felled by Covid-19, including Grimes, Logan, Konitz, and Willner, others I reported on last week, plus a few I had missed, like avant-disco chanteuse Cristina Monet (went by first name, I have her down for 3 A-list albums 1980-84, so I was a pretty big fan). Two more I'm less familiar with are: Marcelo Peralta and Moraes Moreira.

I wound up spending much of the week playing to Lee Konitz records I had missed. The collected grade list is here. The new finds didn't match the previous peaks, but some are quite remarkable, and some high B+ records below could grow on me if given the chance -- one thing you can count on with Konitz is that he's thinking ahead of you. Aside from the records reviewed below, his list includes the following (all A- except as noted):

  • Lee Konitz: Subconscious-Lee (1949-1950 [1991], Prestige OJC) A
  • Lee Konitz/Gerry Mulligan: Konitz Meets Mulligan (1953, Pacific Jazz)
  • Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh: Lee Konitz With Warne Marsh (1955 [2006], Atlantic/Rhino)
  • Lee Konitz: Live at the Half Note (1959, Verve)
  • Lee Konitz: Motion (1961 [2003], Verve) A
  • Lee Konitz: Motion (1961 [1998], Verve, 3CD)
  • Lee Konitz: I Concentrate on You (1974, SteepleChase)
  • Lee Konitz: Jazz à Juan (1974, SteepleChase)
  • Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz: Two Not One (1975 [2009], Storyville, 4CD)
  • Art Pepper Presets "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 3: Lee Konitz (1980 [2017], Omnivore)
  • Lee Konitz/Martial Solal: Star Eyes 1983 (1983 [2009], Hatology)
  • Lee Konitz/Harold Danko: Wild as Springtime (1984 [1997], Candid)
  • Lee Konitz/Barry Harris: Lullaby of Birdland (1991, Candid)
  • Lee Konitz: Jazz Nocturne (1992, Evidence) A
  • Lee Konitz: Another Shade of Blue (1997 [1999], Blue Note)
  • Lee Konitz: Sound of Surprise (1999, RCA)

Konitz continued producing excellent records well into his 80s, even past his 90th birthday: the last four I have under his name I have at B+(***), including last year's Nonet album Old Songs New (as good as any of his 1970s Nonets). Another B+(***) not on the grade list is Dan Tepfer's Duos With Lee (2008). Another is Grace Kelly's GraceFulLee (2007). Yet another is Ethan Iverson's Costumers Are Mandatory (2013).

Looks like Napster has another 75-80 Konitz albums I haven't heard, but they are getting hard to place, and I could use a break. In fact, I'm thinking I'll slow down this week, and do some house cleaning. I started pitching old music magazines, which no one seems to have any interest in. I thought about donating CDs to a library somewhere, but dropped the ball on that. Laura's nagging me about books, too. I don't see that as much of a problem, but in general it would be good to lighten the load and open up some space. Maybe clear my head a bit, then figure out what to really work on next. I'm at wit's end now.


New records reviewed this week:

Omer Avital Qantar: New York Experience (2019 [2020], Jazz & People): Israeli bassist, long based in New York, group named for his 2016 album, with two tenor saxophonists (Asaf Yuria and Alexander Levin), piano (Eden Ladin), and drums. Big, sweeping sound, strikes me as overly splashy but has its moments. B+(*)

The Chats: High Risk Behaviour (2020, Bargain Bin): Australian punk group, founded 2016, bassist Eamon Sandwith sings, closest they've come to an album (14 songs, 28:08). Got form, clear too, so you can understand when they get muddled. B+(*)

Chris Dingman: Embrace (2020, Inner Arts Initiative): Vibraphone player, third album, quite a few side credits (including Steve Lehman). Trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Tim Keiper (drums). B+(*) [bc]

Jimmy Greene: While Looking Up (2020, Mack Avenue): Saxophonist, from and based in Connecticut (teaches at Wesleyan), was a bit younger than the "tough young tenors" lionized in the 1990s but fits in nicely -- first album was a SteepleChase Jam Session with Mark Turner and Don Braden. Got unwanted fame when his daughter was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, and he responded with a well-received album Beautiful Life -- I much preferred his 2017 album, Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2. Plays soprano on three cuts here, tenor on seven, flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet. Backed by Aaron Goldberg (piano), Lage Lund (guitar), Reuben Rogers (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums), with marimba/vibes on two tracks (Stefon Harris). The soprano may be closer to heaven, but the tenor is more soulful, which is what matters here. B+(***)

Jeff Hamilton Trio: Catch Me If You Can (2019 [2020], Capri): Drummer, co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton big band, half-dozen albums as a leader, most (or all?) piano trios like this one. You have to open the gatefold to find out who he's playing with: Tamir Hendelman and Jon Hamar. Eight standards, two from Hamar. B+(*) [07-17]

Hailu Mergia: Yene Mircha (2020, Awesome Tapes From Africa): Ethiopian keyboard player, part of the Walias Band in the 1970s, toured the US in 1981 and stayed, spending many years driving a DC taxi cab. Rebooted his career after this label released some of his old tapes. Trio with bass guitar and drums, playing candy-colored groove pieces. B+(**)

Ras Michael: Live by the Spirit (2020, Hen House Studios): Michael George Henry, from Jamaica, Rastafarian, learned nyabinghi drumming, alled his 1970s-80s band Sons of Negus. He's always projected a remarkable calmness, and at 76 has slowed down even more -- most obvious on his remake of a classic, "By the Rivers of Babylon." B+(**)

Mono: Before the Past: Live From Electrical Audio (2019, Temporary Residence): Instrumental rock group from Japan, founded 1999, three pieces here, LP-length (29:27) but not in any hurry, slowly building, gently fading away. B+(*) [bc]

Farnell Newton: Rippin' & Rumblin' (2020, Posi-Tone): Trumpet player, originally from Miami, moved on through Philadelphia and Denver to Portland, where he got his degree. Fourth album since 2011. Earns its title, with Brandon Wright even hotter at tenor sax, Brian Charette on organ, and Rudy Royston on drums. B+(**)

Porridge Radio: Every Bad (2020, Secretly Canadian): British indie band, singer-songwriter-guitarist Dana Margolin, fifth album since 2015 (although this is the first on a label anyone might notice). Can get a bit dense, but "Long" is a song where they make that work. B+(*)

Samo Salamon/Igor Matkovic/Kristijan Krajncan: Common Flow (2019 [2020], Sazas): Slovenian guitarist, wrote all the songs here, is joined by trumpet and drums. Keeps a moderate pace going, letting the trumpet shine, clear and lucid. A- [cd]

Samo Salamon/Igor Matkovic/Kristijan Krajncan: Rare Ebb (2019 [2020], Sazas): Same group, recorded same day, saving the more atmospheric pieces. B+(**) [cd]

Diane Schuur: Running on Faith (2020, Jazzheads): Standards singer, 25 or so albums since 1982, starts with two Percy Mayfield songs, mostly goes with rock-era songs (Carole King, Paul Simon, "Let It Be"), the lesser knowns more striking, and stronger as it ends with "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." With Ernie Watts on tenor sax, as co-producer. B+(***) [05-08]

Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind (2020, Warp): Sean Bowie, born in Miami, raised in Knoxville, now based in Turin, Italy. Fourth album. I have him filed under electronica, but he's far outgrown that niche, projecting like an arena rock star, like Bowie in the 1970s but, fitting our changing times, at once grander and more ephemeral. That, at least, is my impression on one hearing. If I were serious about covering pop/rock trends these days, I'd have to give him many more. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Noah Howard: Live in Europe Vol. 1 (1975 [2020], Sconsolato): Alto saxophonist, originally from New Orleans, released two fiery avant records on ESP-Disk in 1966, moved to Europe, died in France in 2010. Quintet with Takashi Kako on piano, Kent Carter on bass, and two drummers, playing less avant fare, like "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and a 12:04 take of Coltrane's "Olé." B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Miles Davis/Stan Getz/Gerry Mulligan/Lee Konitz/Sonny Rollins/Zoot Sims: Conception (1949-51 [1956], Prestige): Various artists compilation, starts with a 6-song 10-inch Lee Konitz LP (New Sounds), followed by two-sided singles from Davis, Getz, and Mulligan, with Davis appearing on four of the Konitz sides (along with Sal Mosca, Billy Bauer, Arnold Fishkin, and Max Roach; the other two are duets with the guitarist), with Rollins on the Davis tracks, and Sims on one of the Mulligan tracks (along with JJ Johnson and Kai Winding, so go figure). The Konitz tracks are intriguingly off kilter, the others more conventionally boppish/cool. B+(**)

Bill Evans Trio With Lee Konitz & Warne Marsh: Crosscurrents (1977 [1992], Fantasy/OJC): With Eddie Gomez on bass and Eliot Zigmund on drums plus the two saxophonists, on six standards (the CD reissue expanded with three alternate takes). B+(***)

Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures (2016, Edition): UK-based Danish bassist, cites Naomi Klein for title. Quintet with Mark Lockheart (sax), Laura Jurd (trumpet), piano, and drums. Slippery postbop with intriguing horn figures. B+(***) [bc]

Illinois Jacquet Quartet: Live at Schaffhausen, Switzerland March 18, 1978 (1978 [2015], Storyville): Texas tenor, always a jazz swinger but back in the 1940s spawned a wave of honking saxes that broke into r&b jukeboxes. Quartet with Hank Jones (piano), George Duvivier (bass), and J.C. Heard (drums), with Jacquet singing several songs. Runs 77 minutes, with breaks for piano and bass solos, and some patter. B+(***) [bc]

Lee Konitz: At Storyville (1954 [1988], Black Lion): Alto saxophonist, early in a career that only ended at 92 this year, a disciple of Lennie Tristano and one of the inventors of cool jazz. Live shot from Storyville Club in Boston, a quartet with Ronnie Ball (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Alan Levitt (drums). Some stock patter, but Ball impresses, and Konitz is light as a feather. A-

Lee Konitz: Konitz (1954 [1989], Black Lion): In the label's Storyville series, but actually a studio session in New York, with Ronnie Ball (piano) plus bass and drums. Padded out with alternate takes -- the last six first appearing on CD. B+(**)

Lee Konitz: Body and Soul (1954 [2003], Black Lion): Same group as on Konitz, more New York City sessions, started as a 10-inch LP, eventually padded to 48:13 with alternate takes, including three of "Bop Goes the Leesel," where the play on the title matches the twists in the music, and four equally twisted takes on "Nursery Rhyme." B+(***)

Lee Konitz: In Harvard Square (1954-55 [1996], Black Lion): More from Storyville in Boston, seven short (max 4:01) tracks with the quartet from Konitz, three longer live ones (22:37) with the At Storyville quartet. B+(**)

Lee Konitz: Inside Hi-Fi (1956, Atlantic): Quartet, one side with Billy Bauer (guitar) ad Arnold Fishkind (bass), the other with Sal Mosca (piano) and Peter Ind (bass), both with Dick Scott on drums. B+(***)

Lee Konitz: The Real Lee Konitz (1957, Atlantic): Quartet with Billy Bauer on guitar, plus bass (Peter Ind) and drums (Dick Scott), with trumpet added for two songs. Three originals, the rest covers including "You Go to My Head," "My Melancholy Baby," "Sweet and Lovely," and "Easy Livin'." A-

Lee Konitz: The Real Lee Konitz (1957, Atlantic): Quartet with Billy Bauer on guitar, plus bass (Peter Ind) and drums (Dick Scott), with trumpet added for two songs. Three originals, the rest covers including "You Go to My Head," "My Melancholy Baby," "Sweet and Lovely," and "Easy Livin'." A-

Lee Konitz: Very Cool (1957, Verve): With Don Ferrara on trumpet, who also wrote two (of six) songs (vs. one for Konitz), and Sal Mosca on piano. Ends with an upbeat but not especially interesting "Billie's Bounce." B+(*)

Lee Konitz: An Image: Lee Konitz With Strings (1958, Verve): Arrangements and orchestra conducted by William Russo, with the alto saxophonist featured throughout. Working with strings seems to have been on every saxophonist's bucket list. Strings here are slightly above average, but Konitz is less consistent in topping them. B

Lee Konitz: You and Lee (1959 [1960], Verve): Large ensemble, arranged by Jimmy Giuffre, with 5-6 brass but Konitz's alto sax is the only reed, Bill Evans (piano) plays on half, Jim Hall (guitar) on the other, plus bass (Sonny Dallas) and drums (Roy Haynes). B

Lee Konitz Quintet: Peacemeal (1969 [1970], Milestone): Label founder Dick Katz produces, plays keyboards, contributed three songs -- matching Konitz himself and Bela Bartok, with "Lester Leaps In" and "Body and Soul" the covers. With Marshall Brown (valve trombone), Eddie Gomez, and Jack DeJohnette. I don't get much of anything from Bartok, but the covers and "Subconscious-Lee," sure. B+(*)

Lee Konitz: Spirits (1971 [1972], Milestone): Discogs gets the credits backwards here: they read the (*) cuts as adding Sal Mosca (piano), but in fact they are the ones that were recorded in a second sessions, adding bass and drums. The three other tracks are alto sax/piano duos, all Lennie Tristano pieces. Tristano dominates the album, with five of his pieces, one by Warne Marsh, plus three by Konitz. The duos are sharp line drawings, but only fleshed out with the full band. B+(***)

Lee Konitz: Lone-Lee (1974 [1987], SteepleChase): Solo alto sax, two songs, "The Song Is You" and "Cherokee," the former 19:25 on the 1976 LP but stretched to 38:41 for the CD, the latter 17:47. B+(**)

Lee Konitz: Lee Konitz Nonet (1977, Chiaroscuro): Inconsistent packaging, the front cover centering a smaller "Nonet" under the artist name, like that alone is the title, but the back cover offers an eponymous The Lee Konitz Nonet. This is the second of four 1976-79 Nonet albums: two trumpets, two trombones, two saxes, piano-bass-drums. The large group swallows him while building on group effort. B+(***)

Lee Konitz: Tenorlee (1977 [1978], Candid): Plays tenor sax for a change, backed by Jimmy Rowles (piano) and Michael Moore (bass) -- the title song a short Konitz original, the rest standards. Rowles excels, but Konitz could just as well be someone else. B+(*)

Lee Konitz Nonet: Yes, Yes, Nonet (1979 [1986], SteepleChase): Trombonist Jimmy Knepper is the workhorse here, contributing four (of seven) songs. B+(**)

Lee Konitz Quartet: New York Album (1987 [1988], Soul Note): Napster misfiles this under pianist Harold Danko -- for no reason I can see, but most of their albums wind up in the wrong bins. Also with Marc Johnson (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). B+(***)

Lee Konitz: Zounds (1990 [1992], Soul Note): Quartet with Kenny Werner (piano/synth), Ron McClure (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). Seems typically idiosyncratic, the sweet spots coming toward the end when they're least concerned with breaking ground ("Taking a Chance on Love," "Piece for My Dad," "Soft Lee"). B+(**)

Lee Konitz Trio: Free With Lee (1993, Philology): Alto sax with two guitarists (Augusto Mancinelli and Donovan Mixon), playing standards (most from jazz figures like Brubeck, Davis, Ellington, Evans, and Shorter), plus the joint improv title track (two takes). B+(**)

Lee Konitz/Renato Sellani: Speakin' Lowly (1993 [1994], Philology): Duets, alto sax and piano, all standards, mostly ballads, starting with "Laura" and "Speak Low," ending with "My Funny Valentine" and "Yesterdays." Nicely paced, quite lovely. A-

Lee Konitz: It's You (1996, SteepleChase): Trio with Ron McClure (bass) and Billy Hart (drums), four Konitz originals, one from McClure, "Angel Eyes" the only cover. B+(***)

Lee Konitz: Dearly Beloved (1996 [1997], SteepleChase): Quartet, with Harold Danko (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums) -- probably his most standard group for the decade, playing six standards, all stretched out between 7:45 and 14:24. A-

Lee Konitz: Pride (1999 [2000], SteepleChase): Quartet, with George Colligan (piano/organ), Doug Weiss (bass), and Darren Beckett (drums). Two Jobim songs, oblique originals, sentimental standards. B+(***)

Lee Konitz: Parallels (2001, Chesky): Quintet, with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), bass and drums. B+(**)

Giuseppi Logan: More (1965 [1966], ESP-Disk): Alto saxophonist, from Philadelphia, recorded two avant-jazz albums for ESP-Disk in 1964-65, nothing much for a long time, then surfaced for a couple more in the 2010's. This is his second, also playing flute and bass clarinet, with Don Pullen on piano, Milford Graves on drums, and either Eddie Gomez or Reggie Johnson on bass. Pullen is pretty young here (21), but turns some heads. B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Tetuzi Akiyama/Nicolas Field/Gregor Vidic: Interpersonal Subjectivities (Astral Spirits -19)
  • Robby Ameen: Diluvio (Origin)
  • Josh Berman/Paul Lytton/Jason Roebke: Trio Discrepancies (Astral Spirits -19)
  • Chicago Underground Quartet: Good Days (Astral Spirits)
  • Chris Cogburn/Juan García/Ignaz Schick: Anáhuac (Astral Spirits)
  • Alex Cunningham & Claire Rousay: Specifically the Water (Astral Spirits)
  • Colin Fisher Quartet: Living Midnight (Astral Spirits -19)
  • Nick Fraser/Kris Davis/Tony Malaby: Zoning (Astral Spirits -19)
  • Dylan Hayes Electric Band: Songs for Rooms and People (Blujazz)
  • KVL: Volume 1 (Astral Spirits -19)
  • LP and the Vinyl: Heard and Seen (OA2)
  • Chris Poland: Resistance (Ropeadope)
  • Charles Rumback: June Holiday (Astral Spirits)