Monday, June 29, 2020


Music Week

June archive (finished).

Music: Current count 33526 [33485] rated (+41), 211 [216] unrated (-5).

Last Monday of the month, so spent most of the day doing bookkeeping for the monthly roll-up (link above). Five weeks this month, so the total is up -- 193 records, or 194 if you count the Hal Singer regrade, which I slipped into "old music" instead of "grade changes" for context. About half old music, with dives into records I had missed when a new one (or a death or a reader question) tempted me to look further or some other reference).

Speaking of questions, I field ones about David Murray and James Carter, and duck one on jazz books, in my latest batch. Use the form to ask me more.


Recommended music links: No systematic search, but these are a few things I had open:

Songwriter Johnny Mandel (94) also died this week.


New records reviewed this week:

Al Bilali Soudan: Tombouctou (2020, Clermont Music): Group, from northern Mali, their isolated town more commonly (these days) spelled Timbuktu. Second album (at least from this NY label, which specializes in music from the Sahara Desert), vocals shouted over a swell of harsh strings and drums, a combo that feels so right it overcomes my instinct to dismiss it as unbearable. A-

Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live (2010, Caroline): Stage name for French singer-songwriter Camille Bethomier, moved to England in 2006, first solo album after recording as John & Jehn (2007-10) and Savages (2013-16). A flair for the dramatic -- perhaps prefigured as her first solo project covered David Bowie songs, and her first solo tour opened for PJ Harvey. B+(*)

Don Braden/Joris Teepe Quartet: In the Spirit of Herbie Hancock: Live at De Witte (2019 [2020], O.A.P.): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, made something of a splash in 1995. Second album with the Dutch bassist, who arranged 4 (of 6) Hancock songs, the leaders adding one song each, plus a cover of "Yesterdays." With Rob Van Bavel on piano and Owen Hart Jr. on drums. B+(***)

Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher (2020, Dead Oceans): Singer-songwriter, from Los Angeles, second album, also a principal in (so far) one-album groups Boygenius (with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus) and Better Oblivion Community Center (with Conor Oberst). Mostly ballads, surprised I noticed as many lines as I did, even wrote down "it's amazing to me how much you can say when you don't know what you're talking about." My pleasure spots were mostly in the drums, and there aren't enough of them, but the acclaim may well be deserved. "I Know the End" winds up most impressively. B+(**)

Daniel Carter/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 (2019 [2020], 577): Leader plays tenor sax, trumpet, and flute, backed by a rhythm section that's great on paper and bound to Carter by decades of friendship. Big splash up front, tails off a bit toward the end. B+(***)

Caterpillar Quartet: Threads (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): Brooklyn group, unknowns to me: Ken Kobayashi (drums), Henry Raker (alto sax), Steve Holtje (piano, synthesizer), Jochem van Dijk (bass guitar, effects). Postbop with some edge, blunted a bit by the soft landing. B+(**) [cdr] [06-26]

Whit Dickey Trio: Expanding Light (2019 [2020], Tao Forms): Drummer, long associated with Matthew Shipp, played in David S. Ware's Quartet for a while. Trio here with Rob Brown (alto sax) and Brandon Lopez (bass). Brown is consistently terrific here. A-

Beth Duncan: I'm All Yours (2020, Saccat): Subtitled (back cover) "Duncan sings Tabilio" -- all songs by Martine Tabilio. Third album for the singer. No idea about the "Dutch-born, Oakland-based" songwriter. Jackam Manricks arranged. B [cd] [07-24]

Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020, Columbia): Old man, not much voice left, his songcraft ever more dependent on slow blues shuffles. I never put much faith in his Nobel-certified rhymes, and my ears aren't sharp enough to catch many lines here. But every time I play this, "Crossing the Rubicon" mesmerizes for 7:22, and my interest remains piqued through the relaxed 9:34 of "Key West (Philosopher Pirate)," and well into the even longer "Murder Most Foul" (16:54). Probably just a mid-B+ before, but I'll take it. A-

John Finbury: Quatro (2020, Green Flash Music): Composer, based in Massachusetts, website shows four previous albums. This is mostly a vehicle for singer Magos Herrera, backed by piano (Chano Domínguez), bass (John Patitucci), and drums (Antonio Sanchez). Group suggests a Latin tilt, as do 4 (of 7) song titles in Spanish. Can't say as I noticed that from playing. B [cd]

Jean-Marc Foussat/Daunik Lazro/Evan Parker: Café Oto 2020 (2020, Fou, 2CD): French guitarist, plays synths and electronics here, solo on the first disc, with two saxophonists on the second: Lazro on tenor and baritone, Parker on soprano. Both are interesting, but more is better. B+(**) [cd]

Wendy Gondeln/Mats Gustafsson/Wolfgang Voigt: The Shithole Country & Boogie Band (2016-18 [2020], Corbett vs. Dempsey): Artists listed as "featuring" under the title, which could be the band name if this really was a band, which doesn't seem to be the case. Saxophonist Gustafsson seems to have laid down the initial tracks (including piano mate and live electronics), then handed them off to Gondeln, who added her bits (violin, electronic treatments and more) and passed them on to Voigt (editing and mix), with some guitar and lap top guitar provided by "special guest" Martin Siewert. B+(***) [bc]

CeeLo Green: CeeLo Green Is Thomas Callaway (2020, Easy Eye Sound): Seems to be an unwritten law that hip-hop aliases will eventually revert to using given names, at least in a title. Callaway started in Goodie Mob in 1991, went solo in 2002, sixth album here, not counting his detour as Gnarls Barkley. First two were pretty great, but he slipped from there, raps never, and his soul ballads tend toward the grandiose and melodramatic. B

Haim: Women in Music Pt. III (2020, Columbia): Three sisters -- Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim -- from Los Angeles. Third album, the others named differently. Producers Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid share most writing credits, and Paul Thomas Anderson does their videos. Makes for a consistent well-oiled MOR pop machine. B+(**)

Hinds: The Prettiest Curse (2020, Mom + Pop): Girl band from Madrid, Spain, originally the Deers. Third album, sounds like a crowd cheering section adding to their wall of sound. Messy good fun. A-

Jason Kao Hwang: Human Rites Trio (2019 [2020], True Sound): Violinist, born in America but studied Chinese classical music and added it to his jazz mix. With Ken Filiano (bass) and Andrew Drury (drums). Sample title: "Battle for the Indelible Truth." A- [cd] [07-01]

Jumpstarted Plowhards: Round One (2019, Recess, EP): Postpunk "group" -- joint effort between Tod Cofelliere (F.Y.P, Toys That Kill, Underground Railroad to Candyland) and Mike Watt (bassist, has a long and checkered career that started with the Minutemen). Eight songs, eight different drummers, 18:49. B+(*)

Corb Lund: Agricultural Tragic (2020, New West): Country singer-songwriter from Alberta, topics range from grizzly bears to Oklahomans including whiskey and lots of horses. Jaida Dreyer joins in a duet, arguing for gin instead. B+(**)

Benjamin Moussay: Promontoire (2019 [2020], ECM): French pianist, three trio albums since 2002, this one a solo. B+(**)

Bobby Previte/Jamie Saft/Nels Cline: Music From the Early 21st Century (2019 [2020], RareNoise): Drums, keyboards, guitar, all pieces jointly credited. All three have checkered histories dabbling in fusion as well as more avant pursuits, so this foray into jazzed-up noise makes sense. Of its time, if not quite the Zeitgeist. B+(*)

Sonar With David Torn: Tranceportation (Volume 2) (2019 [2020], RareNoise): Swiss ensemble, Stephen Thelen and two others play tritone guitar/bass, plus there's a drummer. Ninth album since 2012, third with guitarist Torn, also credited with loops. Disciplined and understated, not a note out of place. May, given more time, be as good as (Volume 1). B+(***) [bc]

Alister Spence: Whirlpool: Solo Piano (2019 [2020], Alister Spence Music, 2CD): Australian pianist, eighth album since 2012, has a couple recent albums with Satoko Fujii, is a less commanding figure solo, but remains interesting. B+(*) [cd] [07-24]

Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen: The Monk Project (2018-19 [2020], Belle Avenue): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, baritone, EWI, duduk, zurna), several albums including Velvet Gentlemen (2006), tackles eight Monk tunes. Band mostly electric instruments, most notably Pete McCann on guitar and Ron Oswanski on Fender Rhodes. Sounds a bit off, and not in a particularly Monkian way. B [cd] [07-17]

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Jazz Is Dead 001 (2020, Jazz Is Dead, EP): Hip-hop producers, Younge's discography exploded from 2009, his trademark recycling 1970s beats for old style feel, sometimes claiming artist co-credit (as with two Ghostface Killah releases). The duo have several records together, starting with a 2016 soundtrack. Idea here is to tap into "the masters," each gets one track: Roy Ayers, Gary Bartz, Brian Jackson, João Donato, Doug Carn, Marcos Valle, Azymuth, The Midnight Hour. Eight tracks, 29:51, the only one over 3:05 is with Azymuth (9:27). B+(*)

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Jazz Is Dead 002: Roy Ayers (2020, Jazz Is Dead, EP): Just Ayers this time, resulting in much confusion as to how this is credited/titled. I've heard a fair amount of Ayers but this funk mix is too contemporary for me to recognize him here. Eight tracks, 26:01. Choice cut is "African Sounds," which despite the label brings forth some jazz. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Willem Breuker/Han Bennink: New Acoustic Swing Duo (1967-68 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): First album released by the Instant Composers Pool (ICP label), a scratchy, tetchy duo, sax (and other reed instruments) and drums (and other percussive objects). Reissue adds a previously unreleased Live in Essen tape, equally worthy, ends better. B+(***)

Grayson Capps: South Front Street: A Retrospective 1997-2019 (1997-2019 [2020], The Royal Potato Family): Singer-songwriter from Opelika, Alabama; got a degree in theatre from Tulane, living in New Orleans until Katrina blew him back to Alabama. Ten albums 2005-17. B+(*)

Neil Young: Homegrown (1974-75 [2020], Reprise): Vault album, recorded between On the Beach and Zuma, country-ish, no especially strong songs (although the title one is catchy enough), feels like it never got past the demo stage. Still, interesting that it's getting reviewed more enthusiastically than any recent new Young release, or even his other archive projects. Twelve songs, 35:08. B+(**)

Old music:

Al Bilali Soudan: Al Bilali Soudan (2012, Clermont Music): First album, group from Timbuktu, Mali, four members on the cover. Fairly crude thrash and ululation, ultimately proving more agreeable than you'd first suspect. B+(**)

Don Braden Quintet: The Time Is Now (1991, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, first album, with Tom Harrell (trumpet/flugelhorn), Benny Green (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). Three originals, three standards, jazz tunes from Herbie Hancock and Jackie McLean. B+(**)

Don Braden: Organic (1994 [1995], Epicure): Two dates, one with Jack McDuff on organ and Winard Harper on drums, the other with Larry Goldings and Cecil Brooks III, plus Russell Malone (guitar) on most tracks, with scattered spots for Tom Harrell (trumpet/flugelhorn on 3), Fathead Newman (tenor sax on 2), Leon Parker (percussion on 1). B+(**)

Don Braden: Brighter Days (2001, High Note): Quartet, with Xavier Davis (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Cecil Brooks III (drums). Tone seems a bit off. B+(*)

Milt Buckner & Hal Singer: Milt & Hal [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1966 [2004], Black & Blue): Organ player (1915-77), in a relaxed, bluesy set with tenor saxophone (more on Singer below), with Johnny Letman (trumpet), Tiny Grimes (guitar), and Wallace Bishop (drums). Singer had moved to Paris in 1965 B+(**)

Hyphy Hitz (2004-07 [2007], TVT): Bay Area hip-hop compilation, no names I recognize although several have substantial careers with dozens of records (Messy Marv, Keak Da Sneak, Mac Dre, Twisted Black, Balance, Mistah F.A.B.). Fast-paced, overstated, self-consciously ridiculous (or stupid seems to be the preferred term). [PS: I see that Tommy Burns, aka Twisted Black, "was sentenced to life in prison after found guilty of conspiracy to sell crack cocaine." He was 30 at the time. His sentence was appealed and reduced to 30 years.] B+(***) [dl]

Pharoah Sanders: Izipho Zam (My Gifts) (1969 [1973], Strata-East): Three-cut blowout, a more avant group than the one that cut Karma a month later, with Sonny Sharrock (guitar) the main addition. Leon Thomas sings the opener, adds to the percussion section (with Chief Bey on African drums and Billy Hart conventional). Title cut runs 28:50. B+(***) [yt]

Hal Singer: Rent Party (1948-56 [1994], Savoy Jazz): Tenor saxophonist from Tulsa, survived the 1921 Massacre as a 2-year-old, still kicking at 100. Had a big r&b hit with "Corn Bread," leading off here. Recorded into the 1980s, and occasionally since. I was reminded of him when he showed up on a recent list of 15 Essential Black Liberation Jazz Tracks, but I had to hear these oldies first. Jukebox singles, the vocals pure rock and roll, the sax always honking. A-

Hal Singer With Charlie Shavers: Blue Stompin' (1959 [1994], Prestige/OJC): After sax r&b faded, Singer landed this mainstream date with the trumper near-great and a rhythm section that could swing hard -- Ray Bryant (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), and Osie Johnson (drums) -- blowing away them blues. [Was: B+] B+(***)

Hal Singer: Blues and News (1971, Futura): Small French label, cover notes "featuring Art Taylor [drums] and Siegfried Kessler [piano/flute]," omitting Jacques Bolognesi (trombone), Jean-Claude Andre (guitar), and Patrice Caratini (bass). One piece by Kessler ("Blues for Hal"), five by Singer, including "Malcolm X" -- the piece cited in the link above. B+(**)

Hal Singer/Jef Gilson: Soul of Africa (1974, Le Chant Du Monde): Another French album for the tenor saxophonist, sharing the credit line with the French pianist (1926-2012, actual name Jean-François Quiévreux). Group includes Jacky Samson on bass and a lot of percussion, including vibes and a group called Malagasy Rhythm. "The High Life" is a highlight, comparable to Dudu Pukwana's In the Townships. A-

Hal Singer: Senior Blues (1991, Carrere): Recorded in France, backed by piano trio (Bernard Maury, Eric Vinceno, Eddie Allen), title cut a Horace Silver tune. Another very solid album. B+(**)

Hal Singer & Massimo Faraò Trio: We're Still Buddies (2001 [2005], Azzurra Music): Faraò is an Italian pianist, couple dozen albums since 1995, with Paolo Benedettini (bass) and Bobby Durham (drums). Singer was 82 at this point, relaxed and lucid. Durham sings two songs, not very well. B+(*)

Hal Singer: Challenge (2010, Marge): Ninety years old, seems likely to be his last album, recorded in Paris, but his pick up band for once is American, young, and pretty famous: Lafayette Gilchrist (piano), Jaribu Shahid (bass), Hamid Drake (drums), plus Rasul Siddik (trumpet) on two tracks, and David Murray (tenor sax) everywhere. The latter more than earns his "featuring" credit, but the two-sax work early on is pretty thrilling. A-


Grade (or other) changes:

Hal Singer With Charlie Shavers: Blue Stompin' (1959 [1994], Prestige/OJC): See above. [was: B+] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ricardo Grilli: 1962 (Tone Rogue) [07-10]