Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33418 [33378] rated (+40), 214 [209] unrated (+5).

Cutoff was Monday evening, after I wrapped up Weekend Roundup, so that has a bit to do with the above-average count. Shifted back to new music last week, starting with some Phil Overeem recommendations, and ended with rummaging through my tracking file (jazz subset), with a few asides along the way. (One of Cliff Ocheltree's Facebook posts mentioned If Deejay Was Your Trade and Hyphy Hitz. Couldn't find the latter, but the Blood & Fire compilation was so good I wanted to hear more from Big Joe.) Still, didn't bother with my promo queue at all. It had been near-empty, but has recovered to the extent I need to pay it some attention.

I reviewed Thank Your Lucky Stars' Girl in Her 29s last week, noting that I couldn't find anything via Google on the CD. I'm told that this website will help. I also received a hand-written letter from Ben Barnes, which reads in part (or I think it does, as my eyes and his handlettering don't always mesh; I also spared you the all-caps, and added a link I'm almost 100% sure of and italics for the album title):

As for the mysterious online presence I vowed long ago to only spend time and money on the things I love and never try to profit from them. Whenever someone asks about buying a disc I ask them to contribute to Mikey's Chance Canine Rescue and then I happily mail them Girl in Her 29s.

Looking back at last week's "review," I realize I didn't finish it -- by, like, saying something about the record. Meant to, but ran out of time and decided to run what I had anyway, and still haven't gotten back to it, so sorry. I will re-run the album cover.

On June 3, Robert Christgau tweeted:

I try to be shrewd about this stuff, not show my hand before I publish my review, but it would be just wrong to deny that it's been A LONG TIME since I felt like a new album was just what I'd been needing the way the new Run the Jewels does.

I had the same reaction to RTJ4, although I didn't explain it very coherently below -- written after two plays before I saw the tweet -- no doubt because I always have trouble following rap lyrics. But even I caught enough to realize that this was the time. (Link above is to the whole feed. Even now the tweet in question is well down, but it won't hurt you to scroll for it.)

The Ogún Meji Duo album was reviewed by Karl Ackermann as a new release at All About Jazz. Ackerman wrote: "The album makes a powerful statement that could have been a response to Emmett Till in 1955 or George Floyd in 2020." True enough, but it actually dates from the Michael Brown era. I might have graded it higher, but tired of the lecture, and got annoyed by the Soundcloud-like website streaming. But drummer Mark Lomax and saxophonist Edwin Bayard are awesome as usual. I should note that Lomax's 400 Years Suite is currently number one on my 2020 list, and his 12-CD 400: An Afrikan Epic was number three on the 2019 list.


In non-musical matters, Crocodile Chuck suggested a Weekend Roudup link: Jack Rasmus: Confronting Institutional Racism. Rasmus is an economist in California, subtitles his blog "Predicting the Global Eonomic Crisis," has a bunch of books on economics (keyword: neoliberalism), as well as some stage plays and DVDs. I noticed one of his books in 2010 -- Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression -- but missed six since then. Most evocative title was Obama's Economy: Recovery for the Few (paperback, 2012, Pluto Press). First book was a big one: The War at Home: The Corporate Offensive From Ronald Reagan to George W Bush (2006, Kyklos)./p>


I got one question following last week's Questions and Answers post. I'll take a stab at answering it later this week. Meanwhile, ask me more.


New records reviewed this week:

79rs Gang: Expected the Unexpected (2020, Sinking City): New Orleans Indians: Big Chief Romeo from the 9th Ward, and Big Chief Jermaine from the 7th. Doesn't break form, which is ok with me, but also doesn't swing as hard as the ancients did, especially when the Meters were in the studio. B+(***)

Sebastien Ammann: Resilience (2018 [2020], Skirl): Swiss pianist, based in New York since 2008, third album, quintet with Michaël Attias (alto sax), Samuel Blaser (trombone), bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Lucian Ban/John Surman/Mat Maneri: Transylvanian Folk Songs: The Bela Bartók Field Recordings (2020, Sunnyside): Romanian (or perhaps I should say Transylvanian) pianist, studied in Bucharest, moved to New York in 1999, ninth album since 2002. With reeds (bass clarinet, baritone/soprano sax) and viola. Based on field recordings Bartók made when Austria-Hungary still controlled Transylvania. B+(**)

Will Bernard: Freelance Subversives (2020, Ropeadope): Guitarist, originally from Berkeley, based in New York, records since 1998, likes a nice groove, often with organ (three players here, with John Medeski on two cuts). B

Body Count: Carnivore (2020, Century Media): Rapper Ice-T (Tracy Marrow) launched this heavy metal group in 1992. He alternated albums through 1999, then leaned this way, with only one more rap album (2006). Seventh Body Count album. Second song, recorded in 2019, is about police violence. First is about meat, and fourth is a Motorhead cover. Normally I can't stand metal, but turned this down and moved away and still found things to admire. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/Patrick Holmes/Matthew Putman: Whoadie (2018-19 [2020], 577): Two clarinet players (Carter also credited with saxes, trumpet, flute) and piano, three members of the Telepathic Band -- shows you how much they need that rhythm section. C+

Emmet Cohen Featuring Benny Golson & Albert "Tootie" Heath: Masters Legacy Series Volume 3 (2019, self-released): Pianist, had a couple albums before he hit on the idea of showcasing old-timers. First two albums spotlighted Jimmy Cobb and Ron Carter. Annoying lack of information on this session, like who is the fourth person on the cover (presumably a bassist)? The headliners are legends, Golson (now 91) a major songwriter as well as a leading tenor saxophonist, Heath a widely traveled drummer, including a stretch in Golson's most famous groups. Some reminiscences, lovely music. B+(**)

Emmet Cohen Featuring George Coleman: Masters Legacy Series Volume 4 (2019, self-released): Tenor saxophonist, started in the 1950s, played for Miles Davis before Wayne Shorter took over, has a few good-to-great albums under his own name. With bass and drums (Russell Hall and Bryan Carter). Monk tunes, blues, "On Green Dolphin Street" -- strong stuff. B+(***)

Dinosaur: To the Earth (2019 [2020], Edition): British jazz "supergroup" -- Laura Jurd (trumpet) and Elliot Galvin (piano) are the ones I recognize elsewhere, bass and drums not so much (Conor Chaplin and Corrie Dick are the names). Third album, a very respectable postbop effort. B+(**)

Dave Douglas: Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie at Zero Gravity (2019 [2020], Greenleaf Music): Nominally a tribute to bebop trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie, not that I hear it much on the originals that sandwich the two covers in the middle ("Manteca" and "Pickin' the Cabbage"), the difference mostly in the rhythm, although the same guitar-piano-bass-drums play throughout. No extra horns other than a second trumpet (Dave Adewumi), less for chops than to polish up the brass. B+(**)

Lajos Dudas: The Lake and the Music (2020, JazzSick): Hungarian clarinet player, long based in Germany, in Überlingen, on the north shore of Lake Constance, opposite Switzerland. Ten standards, backed by guitar, bass, and drums, with appearances from Karl Berger (vibes) and Gerd Dudek (soprano sax). B+(***)

Freddie Gibbs/The Alchemist: Alfredo (2020, ESGN/ALC/Empire): Rapper, from Indiana, last name Tipton, eighth albums, half collaborations, half of those with Alchemist (Daniel Maman). Has a little gangsta in the sauce. B+(*)

GoGo Penguin: GoGo Penguin (2020, Blue Note): British piano trio -- Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (bass), Rob Turner (drums) -- fifth album since 2012. Strong groove pieces, more like EST than Bad Plus. B+(***)

Human Feel: The Tower Tapes #5 (2019 [2020], Jazz Club Ferrara): Two sax quartet, with Andrew D'Angelo (alto + bass clarinet), Chris Speed (tenor + clarinet), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar/electronics), and Jim Black (drums/electronics), released a good album in 2019 (Gold). As with all of these tapes, consists of two sets, no song breakdown, something the Club is doing to tide itself over. B+(**) [bc]

Anne Mette Iversen Quartet + 1: Racing a Butterfly (2020, Bjurecords): Danish bassist, lived in New York 1998-2012, was co-founder of Brooklyn Jazz Underground, dozen albums since 2004, always struck me as a composer first, but has been working with this group so long they've achieved a lovely balance. Group includes John Ellis (tenor sax), Danny Grissett (piano), Otis Brown III (drums), with Peter Dahlgren (trombone) the "+ 1." A-

KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl (2020, Keiya): Chicago-based neo-soul singer, production murky, but seems to have something to it. B+(**)

Lady Gaga: Chromatica (2020, Interscope): Pop star, started off as a gay icon, later moved into acting, not sure where her duet album with Tony Bennett belongs. Reverts to hard dance pop form here: hard beats, strong words, arena acoustics. Reminds me of Madonna, a bit too much. B+(***)

John Law's Congregation: Configuration (2018 [2020], Ubuntu Music): British pianist, regarded as an avant-garde figure in the 1990s (e.g., Extremely Quartet), has largely escaped my attention ever since. Emerges here with a quartet -- James Mainwaring (saxes, guitar, electronics), Ashley John Long (bass), and Billy Weir (drums) -- with strong beats and powerful riffing. B+(***)

Little Simz: Drop 6 (2020, AWAL, EP): London rapper, Simbi Ajikawo, had a major album last year in Grey Area, returns with a 5-cut, 12:49 quickie lockdown EP, lost me at the end. B+(*)

Sabir Mateen/Patrick Holmes/Federico Ughi: Survival Situation (2018 [2020], 577): Holmes plays clarinet, as does Mateen (credited first with saxophones, also with flute, farfisa matador, and voice), with Ughi on drums. Rather hit and miss. B+(**)

Medhane: Cold Water (2020, TBHG): Brooklyn rapper. A little murky. B+(*) [bc]

Medhane: Full Circle (2020, TBHG, EP): Came out a bit earlier. Same concept. Might be something here. B [bc]

Mike and the Moonpies: Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart (2020, Prairie Rose): Austin band, Mike Harmeier sings and usually writes, called their first record The Real Country (2010), their second one Hard Way. The guys at Saving Country Music are big fans, but I've never been that impressed. It helps here that they've got their hands on a batch of Stewart's songs. Would help more if they were all as good as "Smooth Shot of Whiskey." B+(**)

Eva Novoa: Satellite Quartet (2017 [2020], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, born in Barcelona, based in Brooklyn, handful of albums since 2010. Quartet with guitar, bass, and drums -- nothing challenging the pianist. B+(*)

Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio: Angels Around (2020, Heartcore): Guitarist, originally from Philadelphia, based in Switzerland, over a dozen albums since 1996, many more side credits. Trio with Dario Deidda (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). B+(**)

Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (2020, Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG): Rap duo, El-P and Killer Mike, fourth album, released a few days early, because "fuck it, why wait." Hard thrash, can't say as I'm following it very well, but complaints about police violence don't appear to be tacked on. Likely to remain one of the signature albums of 2020. A-

Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation (2020, Tao Forms): Pianist, turning 60, decided to celebrate with a solo album -- not my favorite party treat, but a major pianist with a lot on his mind. B+(**)

Sunwatchers: Oh Yeah? (2020, Trouble in Mind): New York quartet, more instrumental rock (psychecelic?) than jazz, Jeff Tobias on alto sax/keyboards/whistling, others on guitar, bass guitar, and drums. Six pieces, the last running 19:53. B

Chad Taylor Trio: The Daily Biological (2019 [2020], Cuneiform): Drummer, trio mates Brian Settles (tenor sax) and Neil Podgurski (piano) get a "featuring" credit on the cover and wrote most of the pieces (2 and 4 vs. 3 for Taylor). First group album, although all three were friends at New School in the 1990s. Feels balances with strong leads all around, and a lot of momentum. A- [dl]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bobby Shew/Bill Mays: Telepathy (1978 [2019], Fresh Sound): Trumpet/piano duets. West Coast players, intersected a lot, each producing a couple dozen albums without me noticing. This was one of their first, two joint credits here, the rest standards, easy going and elegant. B+(**)

Old music:

Big Joe: Keep Rocking and Swinging (1977, Live and Love): Joe Spalding, from Trenchtown, recorded a couple dozen singles 1972-79, this his first album, produed by Striker Lee. Influeced by roots reggae and dub, hints at a classic without quite being memorable enough. B+(***)

Dave Burrell: Black Spring (1977, Marge): Solo piano. Title cut features a still poem, written and read by Hart Leroy Bibbs. B+(**)

Emmet Cohen Featuring Jimmy Cobb: Masters Legacy Series Volume 1 (2017, Cellar Live): The first of four (so far) volumes, reminds me that when Branford Marsalis started his own series of Honors albums the first musicians on his list was also Cobb. The veteran drummer died in 2020, his career spanning hundreds of albums, a few (mostly recent ones) under his own name, but most in groups -- the one invariably mentioned is Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. With Yasushi Nakamura on bass, Cobb does what he always does: makes everyone else sound better. Godwin Louis (alto sax) adds to two tracks. B+(***)

Emmet Cohen Featuring Ron Carter: Masters Legacy Series Volume 2 (2017 [2018], Cellar Live): Bassist, joined Miles Davis in 1963, part of his "second great quintet," Wikipedia credits him with 45 albums (some co-headlined, including three recent ones with Houston Person), but he's also garnered more side-credits than anyone ("2,221 recording sessions," per Wikipedia). With Evan Sherman on drums. B+(**)

Emmet Cohen Trio: Dirty in Detroit (2017 [2018], self-released): Piano trio, with Russell Hall (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums). Mostly standards, with Monk and Waller multiple sources, ending with a rousing "Handful of Keys." B+(**)

Lajos Dudas: Radio Days: Birthday Edition 75 (2016, JazzSick): Hungarian-German clarinet player, celebrating his 75th birthday, several dozen albums but many are missing from Discogs, so no credits or discographical details here, other than one tune from Attila Zoller, the rest originals. He sent me records over several years, so I was surprised to find out how far I had fallen behind. Some bright ensembles and remarkable leads here. Wish I knew more. B+(***)

Lajos Dudas: Some Great Songs Vol. 2 (2017, JazzSick): Sequel to his 1998 album, quartet with Philipp van Endert (guitar) and two percussionists. So many great songs I have no idea why he chose these, though occasionally he hits on one I would have picked ("Smile," "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"). B+(**)

If Deejay Was Your Trade: The Dreads at King Tubby's 1974-1977 (1974-77 [1994], Blood & Fire): Minor reggae stars from the heyday, only ones I don't recognize are Big Joe and Little Joe, and the former's "In the Ghetto" leads off and steals the show here. A-

Mister Charlie's Blues (1926-1938) (1926-38 [1970], Yazoo): Old-time compilation, label did a lot of these but this one doesn't look like it ever made it to CD. Front cover shows two white guitarists, one in blackface, the other painted even whiter. Main artist I recognize is Sam McGee, but Dick Justice, Buster & Jack, and South Georgia Highballers also get two cuts. Fine picking. B+(**)

Ogún Meji Duo: #BlackLivesMatter (2014, CFG Multimedia): Duo -- Edwin Bayard (tenor sax) and Mark Lomax II (drums) -- based in Columbus, Ohio, the essential core of Lomax's larger groups. Narration means to give you an education in black history, the speeches errupting in sax fury and drums, starting with a severely distorted "America, the Beautiful." Comes with a supplemental reading list. B+(***) [os]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Caterpillar Quartet: Threads (ESP-Disk) [06-26]
  • Whit Dickey: Morph (ESP-Disk, 2CD)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat/Daunik Lazro/Evan Parker: Café Oto 2020 (Fou)
  • The Mark Harvey Group: A Rite for All Souls (1971, Americas Musicworks, 2CD) [07-17]
  • Alister Spence: Whirlpool: Solo Piano (Alister Spence Music, 2CD) [07-24]