Monday, August 31, 2020


Music Week

August archive (final).

Music: Current count 33914 [33865] rated (+49), 215 [225] unrated (-10).

Another big week, closing out a huge five-week month -- the August Streamnotes (link above) collected 216 records, which is close to the record (something I don't have time to research at the moment). Fairly significant dives into old jazz, triggered either by questions or deaths, really pumped up the total. This week the subjects are Wayne Shorter and the late Jimmy Heath (whose new album came out shortly after his death). That left 92 new music albums, plus 14 new compilations of older music. This week I finally took a crack at my demo queue, reducing it by half.

Very few questions of late, but I did post some notes on Heath and Shorter.

Don't have time to write much more. I did save an obituary link for Japanese trumpet player Itaru Oki (1941-2020). I have two of his records in my database. I've also factored Phil Overeem's latest list into my metacritic rankings. One of the new records there (number 2 on the old music list) is Allen Lowe's latest book, packaged with 30 CDs.

Found out another cousin (well, -in-law) died, this one three years ago. Barbara Burns, wife of Jerold Dean Burns, known as Pete to his friends, and J.D. to his family. Been wondering about her.


New records reviewed this week:

Rez Abbasi: Django-shift (2019 [2020], Whirlwind): Guitarist, with Neil Alexander (organ/electronics) and Michael Sarin (drums), playing seven Django Reinhardt pieces and two others ("Anniversary Song" and "September Song"). Steers clear of the Hot Club formula, for better or worse. B+(**) [cd]

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: Shaman! (2020, Strut): Originally Bruce Baker, saxophonist from Chicago, played with Cecil Taylor's Black Music Ensemble in the 1970s, has led this group at least since 1998. Fifth album. Full-bodied sax over a rippling rhythm. Good enough for a party, and then some consciousness. A-

Mandy Barnett: A Nashville Songbook (2020, BMG): Stage singer, built her career on portraying Patsy Cline, something she does remarkably well. Thirteen "iconic country and pop standards . . . that made Music Row famous," you know she's shooting for the rafters when she trots out Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. B+(**)

The Big Bad Bones Featuring Scott Whitfield: Emergency Vehicle Blues (2019 [2020], Summit): Four trombonists -- Whitfield, Brett Stamps, Pete Madsen, and Steve Wilson on bass trombone -- backed by a Big Bad Rhythm Section (keyboards, bass, drums), effectively a big band minus trumpet and reed sections. Stamps wrote all the pieces. B+(*) [cd]

Endless Field: Alive in the Wilderness (2020, Biophilia): Guitar (Jesse Lewis) and bass (Ike Sturm) duo, Sturm listed first here but I filed their 2017 album under Lewis (lead name there). Nice, intimate interchange. [Package but no CD.] B+(**)

Nubya Garcia: Source (2020, Concord): British tenor saxophonist, mother from Guyana, father from Trinidad, second album, also group efforts with Maisha and Nérija and side credits, including with Joe Armon-Jones -- piano here, in a quartet with bass and drums, plus extras, including trumpet (Ms. Maurice) on three cuts, vocals on too many. Strong sax over crossover beats. B+(**)

Johnny Iguana: Johnny Iguana's Chicago Spectacular (2019 [2020], Delmark): Blues pianist, grew up in Philadelphia but always belonged in Chicago. This sports ten more names on the cover, and a substitle: A Grand and Upright Celebration of Chicago Blues Piano. B+(**)

Jyoti: Mama, You Can Bet (2020, SomeOthaShip): Singer-songwriter Georgia Anne Muldrow, has quite a few albums since 2006, using Jyoti (a name given to her by Alice Coltrane) for her more jazz-oriented releases (this is her third). Obscurantist funk, hard to get a handle on it all. B+(**)

Jon-Erik Kellso: Sweet Fruits Salty Roots (2020, Jazzology): Trad jazz cornet player, first record 1993, cover says "Recorded in New Orleans" and lists more names: Evan Christopher, Don Vappie, Peter Harris (that would be clarinet, banjo, and bass). A bit understated, but very nice old-time jazz. B+(***)

Eva Kess: Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (2019 [2020], Neuklang): Swiss/German bassist, real name seems to be Kesselring, has a couple previous albums. String quartet plus jazz piano trio, strings on edge, rhythm centers and propels. B+(***)

Allegra Levy: Lose My Number (2020, SteepleChase): Jazz singer, fourth album, normally writes her own songs but this time started with music by John McNeil (who plays trumpet on three cuts) and added her lyrics. Backed by piano trio, with Pierre Dørge the featured guest on "Ukelele Tune." Shades of vocalese. B+(**) [cd]

Roberto Magris: Suite! (2018 [2020], JMood, 2CD): Pianist from Italy, couple dozen albums since 1990. Quintet with trumpet (Eric Jacobson), tenor sax (Mark Colby), bass, and drums, with spoken vocals by PJ Aubree Collins -- little treatises that break up the flow, but just as well. Filled out with three pop covers. B+(**) [cdr]

Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (2020, French Paradox): French drummer, studied at Berklee, based in New York, several albums. This with Miguel Zenon (typically brilliant alto sax), Aaron Goldberg (piano), François Moutin (bass), with Giorgi Mikadze playing piano on pieces by Ravel and Messiaen. B+(**)

Protoje: In Search of Lost Time (2020, RCA): Reggae singer, Oje Ken Ollivierre, sixth album since 2011. Light touch, nice beats. B+(**)

Bruno Råberg/Jason Robinson/Bob Weiner: The Urgency of Now (2017-18 [2020], Creative Nation Music): Bass, reeds (tenor/soprano sax, alto flute), drums. Joint credits, except for one Råberg solo credit, and a closer from John Tchicai. Nothing very fancy here, but balance is key with free jazz, especially if you don't just blast through it. A- [cd]

Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra: Data Lords (2019 [2020], ArtistShare, 2CD): Composer/conductor, ninth album since 1994, runs an 18-piece big band including guitar and accordion, mostly famous names, almost universally praised, at least since 2004's Concert in the Garden. Two discs: "The Digital World" and "Our Natural World." Not much difference between them. Her instrument is orchestra, showing her mastery of moving the pieces around for dramatic effect and just to set moods. I've never found that very appealing, even when I've been momentarily impressed. B+(**) [cd]

Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band: Message From Groove and GW (2020, Arabesque): Organ player, half-dozen records going back as far as 1988. The big band is short on trombones (but they do get a lot of solo space), with an organ-guitar-drums rhythm section -- cover gives drummer David F. Gibson a shout out, but doesn't mention guitarist Charlie Sigler. "GW" is a nod to the late Gerald Wilson, who once played with Richard Holmes, nicknamed Groove, pretty descriptive there and here. B+(***) [cd]

Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper (2019 [2020], Salon Africana): Jazz singer-songwriter Laura Kabasomi Kakoma, born in Illinois, parents from Uganda and Rwanda, half-dozen albums since 2003, gets big band backing here, arranged by John Beasley, featuring Hervé Samb (guitar) and Toru Dodo (piano). Good singer, runs long. B+(*) [cd]

Trio Linguale [Kevin Woods/John Stowell/Miles Black]: Signals (2019 [2020], Origin): Trumpet, guitar, piano, no rhythm section, so they offer a leisurely meander. The guitar, from a veteran master, is most distinctive. B+(*) [cd]

Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (2019 [2020], Biophilia): Quintet: Laila Smith (voice), Raef Sengupta (alto sax), Phillip Golub (piano), Zachary Lavine (bass), Mario Layne Fabrizio (drums). First album, celebrating Anthony Braxton's 75th birthday with a mix of his songs and original pieces. While the music is fascinating, Braxton doesn't have much of a future in karaoke. [Package but no CD.] B+(*)

The Trevor Watts Quartet: The Real Intention (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): British alto/soprano saxophonist, leader of Amalgam back in the 1970s, backed by Veryan Weston (piano), John Edwards (bass), and Mark Sanders (drums). Free jazz, testy early but builds up considerable energy by the end. B+(**) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bob James: Once Upon a Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (1965 [2020], Resonance): Pianist, has long been a smooth jazz fixture, especially with his group Fourplay, but had a few misadventures as a youth, including a 1965 ESP-Disk album called Explosions, which was impressively avant. These two previously unreleased sessions, both trios, date from the same year, but are more mainstream, and fairly impressive as well. B+(**) [cd]

Oneness of Juju 1970-1982 (1970-82 [2020], Black Fire, 2CD): African-inspired group based in Richmond, Virginia, led by saxophonist James "Plunky" Branch, simply called Juju early on (1970-74). Aside from the drums, they mostly come off as a funk group, with a bit of sax. B+(**)

Old music:

Bilal: Love for Sale (2001-03 [2006], bootleg): Neo-soul singer-songwriter Bilal Sayeed Oliver, from Philadelphia, first album 2001, three more 2010-15, this would-be second effort shelved as too avant but leaked in 2006. Seems like an extreme example of the slack and disjointed rhythm the genre the leaning into at the time, minus the usual slickness. "Hollywood" is a good example. B+(**) [yt]

Jimmy Heath: The Quota (1961 [1995], Riverside/OJC): Tenor saxophonist, from Philadelphia, part of a very talented family, including two famous brothers here: Percy (bass) and Albert (drums, aka Tootie). Sextet, with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Julius Watkins (French horn), and Cedar Walton (piano). Shows a flair for arranging here. B+(**)

Jimmy Heath: Triple Threat (1962 [1998], Riverside/OJC): "Featuring the compositions, arrangements and tenor sax of," with the same sextet. B+(**)

Jimmy Heath and Brass: Swamp Seed (1963 [1997], Riverside/OJC): Continues to put great care into his arranging. The brass: trumpet (Donald Byrd), French horns (Jim Buffington and Julius Watkins), tuba (Don Butterfield). Recorded over two sessions, with Percy Heath on bass for both, piano/drums split (Herbie Hancock and Connie Kay, Harold Mabern and Albert Heath). B+(***)

Jimmy Heath Quintet: On the Trail (1964 [1994], Riverside/OJC): Cover adds: Featuring Kenny Burrell and Wynton Kelly (guitar and piano), omitting mention of Paul Chambers (bass) and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums). B+(***)

Jimmy Heath: Nice People: The Riverside Collection (1959-64 [1988], Riverside/OJC): Eight songs from as many sessions, from six albums, mostly groups of 5 or 6, with 4 and 9 outliers. [CD adds two more tracks.] Not an especially flashy player, he put a lot of effort into arranging his group sound. The differences add a bit of variation while never breaking the flow. A-

Jimmy Heath: Picture of Heath (1975, Xanadu): His records thin out after his 1959-64 Riversides, aside from a series on Columbia and Antilles from 1978-81 as the Heath Brothers. Don Schlitten's label picked up a lot of name artists quick in 1975, but few returned for more albums. This is a one-shot with Barry Harris (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). One time he really gets to play. A-

Jimmy Heath: Peer Pleasure (1987, Landmark): Last of three 1974-87 albums released on Landmark. Heath plays soprao and alto as well as his usual tenor sax. With Tony Purrone (guitar), Larry Willis (piano, 4/7 tracks), Stafford James (bass), and Akira Tana (drums), plus Tom Williams (trumpet/flugelhorn) on three tracks. B+(**)

Jimmy Heath Quartet: You've Changed (1991 [1992], SteepleChase): First of two albums Heath recorded for the Danish label, with guitar (Tony Purrone), bass (Ben Brown), and drums (Albert Heath). Three originals, four standards. Guitar's a nice touch, very compatible with his tone. B+(***)

Jimmy Heath Quartet: You or Me (1995, SteepleChase): Another straightforward quartet, same guitar and drums, new bassist (Kiyoshi Kitagawa). Slight shift toward ballads, with four originals, covers from Ellington, Dameron, Duke Pearson, and Blue Mitchell. A very nice one. A-

The Jimmy Heath Big Band: Turn Up the Heath (2004-06 [2006], Planet Arts): He always fancied himself as an arranger, so big bands were a natural expansion -- starting with 1992's Little Man Big Band. Two sessions and guest slots, so there's a lot of churn in the credits: constants include lead horn players -- Frank Greene (trumpet), Mark Gross (alto sax), John Mosca (trombone) -- Jeb Patton (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums). B+(**)

The Heath Brothers: Marchin' On! (1976, Strata-East): From Philadelpha, each famous in their own right: Jimmy Heath (flute, tenor/soprano sax), Percy Heath (bass), Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums), played together on Jimmy's early albums but inaugurated this group here, recording seven albums through 1981, three more later. Band is rounded out with Stanley Cowell (piano), who gets featuring credit on the cover. Starts out with Albert playing flute on an Ellington piece, but doesn't pick up until Percy's infections "The Watergate Blues." B+(**) [yt]

Heath Brothers: Brotherly Love (1981 [1982], Antilles): After their Strata-East debut and four 1978-80 albums on Columbia, the brothers landed on Island's spinoff label for two records. Just Jimmy and Percy here -- Albert is missing (just Jimmy and Percy on the cover), replaced by Akira Tana on drums, with Tony Purrone on guitar and Stanley Cowell on keyboards. B+(*)

Heath Brothers: As We Were Saying . . . (1997, Concord): Long break before they resurfaced, Tootie back on drums, with either Sir Roland Hanna or Stanley Cowell on piano, trumpet and trombone on three tracks (Jon Faddis and Slide Hampton), guitar (Mark Elf) on four, percussion (James Mtume) on one. Bouncy, vibrant, a bit slick. B+(**)

Heath Brothers: Endurance (2008 [2009], Jazz Legacy): Percy Heath, the eldest brother, died at 81 in 2005, so here they're back down to two: Jimmy and Tootie. Joined by Jeb Patton (piano) and David Wong (bass). B+(**)

Wayne Shorter: Introducing Wayne Shorter (1959 [1960], Vee-Jay): Tenor saxophonist, had graduated from NYU, served in the army, and played for Maynard Ferguson before joining Art Blakey in 1959. This was recorded the day before Blakey's Africaine, with Lee Morgan (trumpet) on both and a different but impressive rhythm section: Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Original 37-minute album is an impressive hard bop debut. If I had to factor in the outtakes added to the CD, I might quibble more. A-

Wayne Shorter: Second Genesis (1960 [1974], Vee-Jay): Second album, albeit one that didn't appear until well after the fact. Another quartet, with Cedar Walton (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), and Art Blakey (drums). Five originals, three standards. B+(*)

Wayne Shorter: Etcetera (1965 [1980], Blue Note): Shorter left Art Blakey for Miles Davis in 1964, staying to 1970, during which time he also recorded 11 albums for Blue Note. I've heard most of them, giving Night Dreamer an A- and his 2-CD retrospective The Classic Blue Note Recordings an A, while having various reservations about the others. This is one I missed: a quartet with Herbie Hancock (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Joe Chambers (drums), not released until 1980. B+(***)

Wayne Shorter: Schizophrenia (1967, Blue Note): Sextet, with James Spaulding (alto sax/flute), Curtis Fuller (trombone), and a rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Joe Chambers. Mixed bag: hard bop, post-bop, maybe something further out, or just slicker. B+(**)

Wayne Shorter: Moto Grosso Feio (1970 [1974], Blue Note): Recorded a month after Shorter's last appearance with Miles Davis, mostly with Davis alumni: John McLaughlin (guitar), Ron Carter and Dave Holland (bass), Chick Corea (percussion). Only cover is a Nascimento song -- title track is a Shorter original. Aims for a bit of exotica. B+(*)

Wayne Shorter: Odyssey of Iskra (1970 [1971], Blue Note): As Miles Davis reinvented himself in fusion, Shorter jumped ship, and found his own path, recording this just before joining Weather Report. With guitar (Gene Bertoncini), double bass and drums, and more percussion, Shorter is pictured on the cover with his soprano sax. Still, he's not there yet, relying more on tension than groove. B+(**)

Wayne Shorter: Atlantis (1985, Columbia): Shorter only recorded one album on the side during the 1970-85 span of Weather Report -- 1974's Native Dancer. Then he released this, with Jim Walker on flute, Michael Hoenig on synthesizer, electric bass and keybs, Latin percussion, and vocalists. It's hard to pick the leader out from this mess, especially when he plays soprano. C+

Wayne Shorter: Phantom Navigator (1986 [1987], Columbia): Even more credits here (15), although all but the leader fall into four buckets (keyboards, bass, percussion, vocals), so they were most likely slotted interchangeably. Big name is Chick Corea, but he's slumming like the rest. C

Wayne Shorter: Joy Rider (1988, Columbia): Fewer and better musicians here -- Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, and Herbie Hancock split the keyboard slot, and Dianne Reeves gets the only vocal track. Still doesn't help (but taking a sax solo does). C+

Wayne Shorter: Alegria (2002 [2003], Verve): After a long period of floundering, Shorter revived in 2001 when he put a brilliant new quartet together for his Footprints Live! album, with Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). That quartet returns for three tracks here, with a couple dozen more joining in elsewhere, including Robert Sadin as conductor on 4 tracks. Sounds to me like he outsmarted himself. B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Allegra Levy: Lose My Number (SteepleChase)
  • Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Balász Pándi: Cuts Open (RareNoise): cdr [09-25]
  • WorldService Project: Hiding in Plain Sight (RareNoise): cdr [09-25]