Monday, May 4, 2020


Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33207 [33179] rated (+28), 218 [221] unrated (-3).

Some leftover Weekend Roundup business:

  • I came close to posting Joshua Goodman: Ex-Green Beret led failed attempt to oust Venezuela's Maduro. What held me back was that it wasn't clear, from an otherwise pretty detailed article, exactly when these events happened. Then I saw a short article in the Wichita Eagle this morning that suggested the events as quite recent. Also: Tom Phillips: Venezuela: anti-Maduro battle isn't over as ex-US soldier says he launched raid, and Patricia Torres/Julian Borger/Joe Parkin Daniels/Tom Phillips: The plot that failed: how Venezuela's 'uprising' fizzled. However, the latter suggests that these events happened a year ago (there is a John Bolton tweet from Apr 30, 2019), so what's new may just be the ex-Green Beret quotes/claims. What is clear is that this is another shameful chapter in America's clandestine (sometimes overt) efforts to intervene in Latin America, always in support of business interests, with scant (if any) regard for the rights and welfare of the masses.

  • Tweet from Matthew Yglesias today: "It's wild to me that while a bunch of countries appear to have successfully suppressed the virus, America is just going to give up." I replied: "Is this the first time in history that a US president has followed Sen. George Aiken's Vietnam War advice: declare victory and come home? Good idea then, but I don't seehow it might even apply now." Looking at Yglesias's thread, I noticed an article by Francis Fukuyama called The thing that determines a country's resistance ot the coronavirus, which is trust. I've seen Trump described as a "destroyer of trust" (see Michael Lewis), and indeed no political figure in my recollection has worked so relentlessly and effectively at destroying the public's trust in government, but the process has been going on for a long time -- my own naive faith in America was devastated by the prosecution of the Vietnam War, which for me was only the first of scores of revelations. Given the efforts on all sides to politicize everything -- not unlike the even more pervasive drive to monetize everything -- it's remarkable that anyone is still trustworthy. But the modern world is so complex and unfathomable that we have no real alternative -- and nowhere is this more painfully obvious than with medicine.


Another famous musician died last week: Tony Allen, the Nigerian drummer who created Afrobeat (although his bandleader, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, took most of the credit). He released a few dozen post-Fela albums under his own name. Perhaps the best came out early this year, Rejoice, a 2010 vault tape co-headlined by the late South African trumpet master, Hugh Masekela.

Looking at lists of recent deaths, one name that jumped out at me was Maj Sjowall (84), co-author of the Martin Beck detective books, a name I recall from early days when I took seriously every book published by Pantheon Books. One of many names I was unfamiliar with, but belatedly thankful for, was Henry Geller, who was resposible for getting cigarette advertising banned from TV.

Also noticed the "overlooked" obituary of Kate Worley (1958-2004), who wrote the Omaha the Cat Dancer comics (with illustrator Reed Waller). I probably read more of them than of any of the recent authors to show up in these lists.


Count a bit light this time. That happens from time to time, and may reflect nothing more than that I played old music for breakfast most of the week. Also worked on my queue, which is under ten deep, and some of that on vinyl. (I guess I should at least make sure my turntable still works, but I've been going through a lazy spell.)

I've done a bit of website work for Robert Christgau and for Carol Cooper, but neither are quite ready for prime time. The latter is an experiment trying to convert her archive to use WordPress. I'm a bit more than half way through, and think it doesn't look too bad. I have a potentially bigger WordPress project for Notes on Everyday Life, but haven't begun to get it off the ground. Learning a few things, though.

I've also ported some of my Xgau Sez to my website, so you can fill in a form to ask me a question (or comment or just vent). I've added an extra entry for keywords, thinking that it might be nice eventually to be able to bring up all the answers on a given subject. No guarantee I'll use what you provide, but a good suggestion will save me some thought (on the other hand, a bad one will cost me more). I haven't ported the answer code yet. Figure I don't have to do that until I have a question to answer.

One more item back on the agenda: I'd like to do some significant weeding out of the paper and plastic hoard here. Started by pitching a couple stacks of magazines into the recycle tonight. Last time I looked into donating stuff to libraries, there seemed to be zero interest in magazines, so that seemed like a safe place to start. A few years back, I had a plan to start donating CDs to Wichita State University, but my interest waned with every building they named after a Koch, and more so after my sister died. Not sure they're even interested any more -- at any rate lost my contact there. I've been assuming that trying to sell things would be too much hassle for too little return (pretty much the lesson I drew from selling lots of vinyl before moving from NJ to KS -- got something like 25 cents per LP). If you have any thoughts on this, let me know.


New records reviewed this week:

Tetuzi Akiyama/Nicolas Field/Gregor Vidic: Interpersonal Subjectivities (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits): Electric guitar, percussion, and tenor sax, no names I've run across before, although the Japanese guitarist has a long list of records since 2001 (69 Discogs entries). Nicely paced, no thrash, endlessly inventive. A- [cd]

Chris Byars: On the Shoulders of Giants (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Retro-bebop tenor saxophonist, after having established himself as the most impressive of Luke Kaven's Smalls circle, lately has indulged in tributes (to Lucky Thompson, Gigi Gryce, Duke Jordan, Frank Strozier). Still, wrote 8 (of 9) songs here, the opening cover from Tommy Turentine. Sextet, with Zaid Nasser (alto sax), Stefano Doglioni (bass clarinte), John Mosca (trombone), Ari Roland (bass), and Phil Stewart (drums). B+(**)

Chris Cogburn/Juan García/Ignaz Schick: Anáhuac (2016 [2020], Astral Spirits): Percussion/electronics, double bass, and turntables/electronics. Three longish pieces, "composed in real time with no overdubs," which sounds like hit and miss, but better than expected. B+(**) [cd]

Ronnie Cuber: Four (2019, SteepleChase): Baritone saxophonist, eighteenth album since 1976, assembled what for all intents and purposes is a soul jazz group -- guitar (Ed Cherry), organ (Brian Charette), and drums (Adam Nussbaum) -- and honks his way through a set of standard jazz tunes ("Sidewinder," "Bluesette," "How High the Moon"). B+(***)

Joe Ely: Love in the Midst of Mayhem (2020, Rack 'Em): Singer-songwriter, based in Austin but bred in Lubbock, presents ten previously unreleased songs from various points in his career, one each going back as far as 1973-74. None of them click for me, but I do hear faint echoes of albums I still love. B+(*)

Dylan Hayes Electric Band: Songs for Rooms and People (2020, Blujazz): Keyboard player, some piano but mostly electric, with electric bass, guitar, drums, tenor sax/EWI (Santosh Sharma), spots for trumpet (Jay Thomas). Fast and fusiony. B [cd]

Art Hirahara: Balance Point (2020, Posi-Tone): Pianist, American, fifth album since 2011, trio with Joe Martin and Rudy Royston, plus Melissa Aldana on tenor sax. B+(*)

Anna Högberg Attack: Lena (2019 [2020], Omlott): Swedish sextet, leader plays alto sax, with tenor sax (Elin Forkelid), trumpet (Niklas Barnö), piano (Lisa Ullén), bass, and drums -- all but Barnö women. Second group album (Barnö's first), rough and tumble free jazz. B+(***) [bc]

Brian Landrus/Fred Hersch/Drew Gress/Billy Hart: For Now (2019 [2020], BlueLand): Baritone saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, alto and regular flute. Tenth album, has more help than the big names on the cover: Michael Rodriguez (trumpet), strings enough for a string quartet. B+(*) [05-15]

Lil Wayne: Funeral (2020, Young Money): Rapper from New Orleans, thirteenth studio album since 1999, not counting dozens of mixtapes. This seems like a big deal at 24 cuts, 76:04. Christgau thinks this is his best since No Ceilings (2010). Perhaps, but I'm not caring much. B+(**)

LP and the Vinyl: Heard and Sceen (2019 [2020], OA2): Pretty awful band name. "LP" is singer Leonard Patton, from San Diego, has several records under his own name, backed here by piano (Danny Green), bass and drums. Green wrote two songs (one with Patton), the rest are covers, some surprise picks ("Life on Mars," "The Fool on the Hill," "Wonderwall"). Voice has its soulful moments. B [cd]

Nduduzo Makhathini: Modes of Communication: Letters From the Underworld (2020, Blue Note): South African pianist, half-dozen local albums, this his first big international exposure (aside from appearing in Shabaka and the Ancestors). McCoy Tyner fan, especially for A Love Supreme, some fine saxophone here, don't care much for the vocals. B+(**)

Joe McPhee/Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Brandon Lopez/Paal Nilssen-Love: Of Things Beyond Thule Vol. 2 (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): Same quintet, focus on the cello makes this less grating, until it isn't. B+(**) [bc]

Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes: What Kinda Music (2020, Beyond the Groove): English singer-songwriter, established himself with two Beat Tape mixes before his 2018 debut album. Dayes is a jazz drummer, but leans toward r&b here, with guitar shimmer. B+(**)

Darrell Scott: Sings the Blues of Hank Williams (2020, Full Light): Country singer, more than a dozen albums since 1997, usually writes his own songs but gives a nod to the honky tonk founder here. Williams' songs are rarely identified as blues, but he managed to moan more miserably than the bleakest bluesman imaginable, so I could see Scott taking him that way. Can't hear it, though. B

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Paris (2016 [2020], Sunnyside): Piano and saxophone (tenor/soprano) duo, recorded a few months after their Masters in Bordeaux, so the pianist would have turned 89. Familiar standards, the opening "A Night in Tunisia" is especially striking. B+(***)

Dayna Stephens Trio: Liberty (2019 [2020], Contagious Music): Tenor saxophonist, 10+ albums since 2007, mainstream/postbop, seems like I first noticed him on other people's albums. Trio with Ben Street (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Good framework to hear him play. B+(***)

Michael Thomas: Event Horizon (2019 [2020], Giant Step Arts, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, not the same name trumpet player, co-leader of Terraza Big Band, only album I've found under his own name, a live quartet with more established players: Jason Palmer (trumpet), Hans Glawischnig (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-08]

Gary Versace: All for Now (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Piano trio, with Jay Anderson (bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums). Not sure I've seen him play piano before --usual instruments are organ and accordion, so not unrelated. Mostly originals, including one from Bud Powell. B+(**)

Webber/Morris Big Band: Both Are True (2018 [2020], Greenleaf Music): Two tenor saxophonists, Anna Webber and Angela Morris, both conduct, both also play flute, co-lead a conventional big band plus guitar and vibes. Too fancy for me to figure out. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Alan Braufman: Valley of Search (1975 [2018], Valley of Search): Alto saxophonist, first album, for that matter the first album released on India Navigation, an important avant-jazz label of the late 1970s. With Cooper-Moore (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), David Lee (drums), and Ralph Williams (percussion). One piece is based on a Baha'i prayer, recited by Cooper-Moore -- comes off gloomy. But elsewhere the rhythm kicks up, and joy develops. A-

Alan Braufman & Cooper-Moore: Live at WKCR May 22, 1972 (1972 [2019], Valley of Search, EP): Sax-piano duo, earliest work I've run across from either, just three tracks (17:40), "Suite I," etc. Avant intensity, the pianist already a unique talent. B+(**)

Old music:

Don Cherry/Dewey Redman/Charlie Haden/Ed Blackwell: Old and New Dreams (1979, ECM): Ornette Coleman's legendary 1958-61 Quartet, minus Coleman, plus Redman, who played tenor sax in Coleman's 1960s groups. Group did an eponymous album for Black Saint (1976), two for ECM, regrouped on the drummer's birthday in 1987 for A Tribute to Blackwell, their final concert (he died in 1992). Two Coleman songs, one each from Redman, Cherry (trumpet, piano), Haden (bass), and Blackwell (drums). B+(**)

Don Cherry/Dewey Redman/Charlie Haden/Ed Blackwell [Old and New Dreams]: Playing (1980 [1981], ECM): Redman (tenor sax) opens up strong, and eclipses Don Cherry (trumpet) as the main force here. Three Coleman songs, one each for Cherry, Redman, and Haden. B+(***)

Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Perfect World (1995 [1996], Random Acoustics): Drummer, played in Anthony Braxton's legendary quartet, also BassDrumBone, long list of albums as leader since 1978. Quintet recorded five tracks in three locations, with Michael Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Ernst Reijseger (cello), and Mark Dresser (bass). Starts scratchy/abstract, turns remarkable when everyone comes together. A- [bc]

Old and New Dreams: Live in Saalfelden 1986 (1986 [2017], Condition West): Live shot, Paul Motian filling in for regular drummer Ed Blackwell. Sound not great, but some of their best playing -- even on the 17:20 "Bass Feature." B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Gluck: Early Morning Star (FMR) [06-15]
  • Arturo O'Farrill/The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Four Questions (Zoho)
  • Aruán Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera: Inside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt)
  • Adam Rudolph/Ralph M. Jones/Hamid Drake: Imaginary Archipelago (Meta)