Monday, July 20, 2020


Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33650 [33607] rated (+43), 224 [225] unrated (-1).

Seems like the summer is passing very fast. Probably a reflection of how little I get done most days. About all I can claim for this past week is:

Did nothing whatsoever on my other writing projects. and nothing on website projects. Didn't shop, or cook much, or deal with any of the few house projects I'm still contemplating. Managed just one phone call.

Have one question in the queue, a pretty general one about Europe. Ask more.

When I was writing about Hawes, it occurred to me that the one album I hadn't been able to find on Napster might be on YouTube, and indeed it was. After playing it, I did a search for whole albums on YouTube. First one I found that caught my attention was Fat Jazz by Jackie McLean, and that turned me loose on a McLean dig. Every record sounded real good, but I shut them down after one play each, with just enough reservation to keep them off the A-list. Further listening would very likely promote one or more, but the full grade list suggests better places to start.

Had some technical problems with the NoBusiness CDs, although the problem could be in my CD player. It had trouble recognizing several CDs, and got stuck on one. Wound up going to Bandcamp for a second spin of Carrier.

Michael Tatum mentioned he's planning on writing something about records from Christgau's 1985 Dean's List. I was thinking that was a year when I paid relatively little attention to new music, but not much there I didn't have rated. One was Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: Federation of Tackheads, although I'm pretty sure I did have the LP at some point. Same for Harold Budd & Brian Eno's The Pearl, and Steven Van Zandt's Sun City. Maybe I wasn't as out of it as I thought. I moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts end of 1984, so it became easier to find better record stores. Also got a nice raise with the move.


New records reviewed this week:

Riz Ahmed: The Long Goodbye (2020, Mongrel): British rapper, Pakistani parents, also known as Riz MC, one half of Swet Shop Boys, even better known as an actor (e.g., HBO's The Night Of). Second album, short (14 cuts, 26:58), a Clash critic described it as "a tightly packed, lightning-quick swing at the racism of British society." B+(*)

Conrad Bauer/Matthias Bauer/Dag Magnus Narvesen: The Gift (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): German trombonist, actual name Konrad, better known as Conny, a major figure in the German avant-garde since 1973 (especially in Zentralquartett). With bass and drums. B+(**) [cdr]

Bombay Bicycle Club: Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (2020, Island): British indie band, fifth album since 2009. B

Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open (2020, Matador): Will Toledo started with eight lo-fi download releases (2010-13) before being picked up by Matador and given a budget, at which point he became a semi-popular blip. I was less impressed, so when this didn't get much reaction, I didn't bother. Turns out it's pretty sharp. A-

Dramarama: Color TV (2020, Pasadena): New wave band from New Jersey in the 1980s, recorded two good 1985-87 albums, a couple more before hanging it up in 1994. Regrouped for another in 2005, and now this one. Singer-songwriter John Easdale is constant. B+(*)

Agustí Fernández/Liudas Mockunas: Improdimensions (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Duo, piano and reeds (contrabass clarinet, tenor and soprano sax). B+(***) [cdr]

David Guetta/Morten: New Rave (2020, Parlophone, EP): French DJ, seven albums since 2002, a series of compilations called Fuck Me I'm Famous, more than 100 singles, EPs, and production credits. Collaborator is Dieser Morten, but that's about all I know. Dense, catchy, 4 cuts, 12:20. B+(**)

Horse Lords: The Common Task (2020, Northern Spy): Fusion group from Baltimore, sax-guitar-bass-drums with most also into electronics. Fourth album, draws on Appalachia and Africa, arcane tunings, polyrhythms. Can build riff pieces, and run them into the ground. B+(*)

Jockstrap: Wicked City (2020, Warp, EP): London duo: Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye. Second EP, five cuts, 20:45. Glitch pop, very scattershot, something I'd normally hate but too ridiculous for that. B

Camden Joy: Updated Just Now (2020, self-released, EP): Singer-songwriter Tom Adelman, has written six books, mostly fictionalized rock crit -- I'm pretty sure I read his The Last Rock Star Book or Liz Phair: A Rant (1998), although I can't recall any details. First record (at least under this alias), seven songs, 24:50, rough and sloppy folk-rock. B+(**)

Okkyung Lee: Yeo-Neun (2020, Shelter Press): Korean cellist, moved to US in 1993, based in New York, mostly plays in jazz contexts although this could be classical chamber music, with hints of Korean trad. With harp (Maeve Gilchrist), bass (Eivind Opsvik), and piano (Jacob Sacks). B+(**)

Luka Productions & Kandiafa: Music From Saharan WhatsApp 06 (2020, Sahel Sounds, EP): Sixth installment in the label's fast-disappearing monthly EP series, a duo with Luka Guindo (vocals, synth, percussion) and Abdoulaye "Kandiafa" Kone (ngoni). Four songs, 17:51. Fairly minimal but quite pleasant. B+(**) [bc]

Brad Mehldau: Suite: April 2020 (2020, Nonesuch): Solo piano, of the historical moment, "some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us." Twelve parts follow his day from "Waking Up" through "The Day Moves By" to "Lullaby." Three covers follow, from Neil Young, Billy Joel, and Jerome Kern ("Look for the Silver Lining"). I'm rarely satisfied with solo piano, and when I am it's usually a pianist like James P. Johnson or Earl Hines who suffices as a whole rhythm section. But there's always a exception, and this one works especially well for right now. A-

Quinsin Nachoff: Pivotal Arc (2018 [2020], Whirlwind): Saxophonist, last two albums especially impressive, wrote this long series for strings -- specifically Molinari String Quartet, and solo violinist Nathalie Bonin. Does get immeasurably better on the title track, when the saxophone finally enters. B+(*) [08-07]

No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): Noise pop duo from Los Angeles, formed 2005, released a consistent stream of fine albums. Not sure why this one has fared so poorly with critics. Maybe a bit sludgy, but has their basic sound down pat. B+(**)

Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Round Again (2019 [2020], Nonesuch): Big name quartet -- tenor sax, piano, bass, drums -- joining the label's two main stars with two more prominent leaders, but also reuniting the quartet from Redman's third album, MoodSwing (1994). All contribute songs (Redman 3, Mehldau 2, 1 each for the others), Mehldau has some fine solos, Redman more. Ends a bit soft, but reminds us that the '90s can still hold their own. B+(***)

Rose City Band: Summerlong (2020, Thrill Jockey): Portland group (of course), originally a side project for Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo), evidently on his move from San Francisco. Second album, has a rep for psychedelia but this is pretty mellow, a bit like the Eagles but with less sunshine and ego. B+(*)

The Streets: None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive (2020, Island): UK rapper Mike Skinner, six albums 2002-11, various projects before returning to his calling. Starts slow, ends strong. B+(**)

Threadbare [Jason Stein/Ben Cruz/Emerson Hunton]: Silver Dollar (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Bass clarinte, guitar, drums. Cruz and Hunton did the composing (4-3, plus 1 joint), but Stein continues his impressive run of albums. A- [cd]

Etuk Ubong: Africa Today (2019 [2020], Night Dreamer): Nigerian trumpet player, also sings, played with Femi Kuti, hailed by Seun Kuti, develops a strong Afrobeat groove. B+(**)

Summer Walker: Life on Earth (2020, LVRN/Interscope, EP): R&B singer-songwriter, from Atlanta, well-regarded album last year, followed it up with this 5-track, 16:25 EP. B

Larry Willis: I Fall in Love Too Easily (2019 [2020], High Note): Recording date not stated, but billed as "The Final Session at Rudy Van Gelder's." Van Gelder died in 2016, but several more records were recorded in his famous studio, at least through 2018. On the other hand, Willis died in 2019. Quintet with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Joe Ford (alto sax), Blake Meister (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). The horns have some moments, but the most touching ones are when they drop out, leaving the piano. B+(**)

Wire: 10:20 (2010-20 [2020], Pink Flag): Outtakes, four from the sessions that produced Red Barked Tree (2010), four from Mind Hive (2020). B+(*)

Yaeji: What We Drew (2020, XL): Kathy Yaeji Lee, born in New York, parents Korean, lived in Atlanta, Japan, and Korea before returning to Brooklyn. Produces electronica, sings, first album after two EPs, title includes a string of Hangul I'm ignoring. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Vincent Chancey/Wilber Morris/Warren Smith: The Spell: The Vincent Chancey Trio Live 1987 (1987 [2020], NoBusiness): French horn player, one of few, played for Sun Ra, shows up in a fair number of big bands and brass ensembles (e.g., Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, rarely as leader -- as exampled here, the instrument doesn't have much oomph. With bass and percussion. B+(*) [cdr]

DUX Orchestra: Duck Walks Dog (With Mixed Results) (1994 [2020], NoBusiness): Septet led by two baritone saxophonists (Dave Sewelson and Mats Gustafsson), with Will Connell Jr. (alto clarinet), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Kicks up a bit of a ruckus. B+(**) [cdr]

Sam Rivers Trio: Ricochet [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 3] (1978 [2020], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist (1923-2011), got a fairly late start, recording his brilliant debut Fuschia Swing Song at age 41, but worked into his mid-80s. His archives have been notable so far, with this, a trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul, no exception. Does include a fairly substantial amount of Rivers on piano and flute. B+(***) [cd]

Old music:

Artists United Against Apartheid: Sun City (1985, Manhattan): Organized by Little Steven (Van Zandt) around a single supporting the international boycott of South African resort Sun City -- lyrics don't go much beyond "I'm not going to play Sun City," but the mass of singers and musicians, especially the drums, carry it. Original album offered two versions, plus extra pieces by Peter Gabriel/Shankar, Keith LeBlanc, Gil Scott-Heron/Melle Mel/Duke Bootee, Miles Davis, and Bono, and eventually got expanded further in a "Deluxe Edition." The boycott did much to make people around the world aware of apartheid, leading to its end by 1994. A-

Harold Budd/Brian Eno: The Pearl (1984, Editions EG): Budd was a minimalist composer from California, drifted toward ambient, recording one of Eno's first batch of ambient albums (1980). Measured and relaxed. Might have seemed like something more at the time. B+(**)

Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: The Federation of Tackheads (1985, Capitol): One-shot Parliament-Funkadelic spinoff led by Jimmy Giles (George Clinton's younger brother), who plays bass, programs drums, and is the lead of many vocalists. Pedro Bell cover art. A-

Hampton Hawes: The Green Leaves of Summer (1964, Contemporary): Trio, with Monk Montgomery (bass) and Steve Ellington (drums). One original blues, seven scattered standards, "St. Thomas" a hit. B+(**) [yt]

Jackie McLean: Strange Blues (1957 [1967], Prestige): Alto saxophonist, scraps from two sessions, one a quartet with Mal Waldron (piano), the other with a rhythm section I don't recognize plus Webster Young (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Fat Jazz (1957 [1958], Jubilee): Sextet, with Webster Young (trumpet), Ray Draper (tuba), Gil Coggins (piano), bass, and drums, with Young and Draper originals. B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Vertigo (1959-63 [2000], Blue Note): Expands on a 1981 album which had picked up scraps, one a Walter Davis tune from 1959, five from 1963 session with Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd, and adds five more tracks from a shelved album from 1962 with Sonny Clark and Kenny Dorham. The pieces fit together seamlessly, all respectable hard bop. B+(***)

Jackie McLean Quartet: Tune Up (1966 [1993], SteepleChase): Live shot from Baltimore, with LaMont Johnson (piano), Scotty Holt (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). Sound strikes me as a bit off, but when he unloads on "Jack's Tune" I see no point in quibbling. B+(**)

Jackie McLean feat. Dexter Gordon: Vol. 2: The Source (1973 [1987], SteepleChase): Live at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, two stellar saxophonists, alto and tenor, with Kenny Drew, NHØP, and Alex Riel. A 1976 US release, on Inner City, was just The Source, but is the same as the shorter 1974 LP release. The summit did produce two LPs, but the first was The Meeting: Vol. 1, so it makes more sense to bring Vol. to the front. Or better still, look for Montmartre Summit 1973, which gives you both on 2-CD. B+(***)

Jackie McLean/Dexter Gordon: Montmartre Summit 1973 (1973 [1991], SteepleChase, 2CD): Combines Vol. 1: The Meeting with Vol. 2: The Source in a handy single package. B+(***)

Jackie McLean: A Ghetto Lullaby (1973 [1991], SteepleChase): Live in Copenhagen, scene of 1972's exceptional Live at Montmartre, with Kenny Drew (piano) and Alex Riel (drums) returning, and taking over the bass slot: Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson. B+(***)

Jackie McLean & the Cosmic Brotherhood: New York Calling (1974 [1987], SteepleChase): Sextet, one of his son René McLean's first appearances (alto/soprano sax), with Billy Skinner (trumpet), Billy Gault (piano), bass, and drums. B+(***)

Jackie McLean With The Great Jazz Trio: New Wine in Old Bottles (1978, East Wind): Hank Jones formed GJT in 1976 and recorded a lot with it (22 albums 1976-84, 17 more 1988-2010, with various lineups but originally and here with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. B+(***) [yt]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Max Bessesen: Trouble (Ropeadope) [09-04]
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (Flexatonic) [08-14]
  • Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (Outside In Music) [10-09]
  • Lawrence Sieberth Quartet: An Evening in Paris (Musik Blöc [09-24]
  • Ike Sturm/Jesse Lewis: Endless Field (Biophilia)
  • Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (Biophilia)