Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Music Week

October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34142 [34098] rated (+44), 217 [214] unrated (+3).

Late start, after Weekend Roundup chewed up Monday. The delay there was due to the Trump White House's own pandemic-in-a-microcosm. Opened the Eagle today to find a Kathleen Parker column speculating on how his brush with Covid-19 might make Trump a bit humbler, but he had already scotched that idea with his fan club drive-by, then went on to tweet that Americans have nothing to fear from Covid-19, declaring that after three days in the hospital he feels better than he has in 20 years. It just goes to show that the worst case scenario wasn't that he would die. It's that he would recover and turn into an even bigger asshole.

Indeed, his first piece of "work" since leaving the hospital was to pull the plug on a new stimulus deal: see Trump cuts off stimulus relief talks until after election, upending prospects for aid; and Trump abruptly ends stimulus talks after Fed Chair urges economic support. Jonathan Chait's view: Trump stimulus fail: Worst blunder in presidential history. Historians may debate that, but Wall Street's verdict was instantaneous: Dow drops 370, airlines hit hard.

Meanwhile, add Stephen Miller to the list of White House aides who have tested positive for Covid-19. The toll of Kayleigh McEnany aides has risen to four. There is also an unnamed White House military aide, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are all in quarantine. Dhruv Kullar, who wrote one of the most informative pieces I linked to in Weekend Roundup, wrote another piece on The recklessness of Trump's return to the White House. My impression is that doctors treated Trump so aggressively with anti-viral, steroid, and immunological treatments that they felt the need to monitor him in the hospital. If that unusual experimental treatment works, Trump may luck out and recover quickly with few of the side-effects that have plagued many survivors. On the other hand, if the disease can survive, Trump may be in for a much rougher ride. One thing that is clear is Most patients' Covid-19 care bears little resemblance to Trump's.

In other news, Hurricane Delta is heading for Louisiana. It is currently a 145 mph Category 4 storm. It may weaken a bit when it crosses over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, then strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico. before landing in Louisiana Friday night/Saturday morning.

Among recent musician deaths, Eddie Van Halen (65) has gotten the most publicity, but Johnny Nash (80) is remembered for the better song ("I Can See Clearly Now"). Others I recognize but haven't noted: Waldemar Bastos, Wayne Fontana, Trini Lopez, Helen Reddy. It's been a rough couple weeks for baseball players too, with Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Tom Seaver; also Horace Clarke and Ron Perranoski. More I didn't recognize, like pitcher Charlie Haeger (37, played 2006-10, lifetime W-L record 2-7, ERA 6.40), of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after being named as a suspect in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend. That would have been a tragic story some other week.

Record count includes most of Monday, so an extra day. I've been hard pressed to find things -- Phil Overeem's latest list was my most frequent guide.

Still hope to do a book post and a batch of questions and answers later this week. Lots of things wearing me down, including some yardwork that's left me sore. I did finally finish Zachary D Carter's magnificent The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Lift of John Maynard Keynes. Moving on to something much lighter: Ruth Reichl Gourmet memoir. Most days all I can manage is to read a few pages early, and a few more late.


New records reviewed this week:

21 Savage & Metro Boomin: Savage Mode II (2020, Slaughter Gang/Epic): Atlanta rapper Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph and producer Leland Tyler Wayne, sequel to their 2016 EP. B+(**)

Harry Allen: The Bloody Happy Song (2020, GAC): Tenor saxophonist, retro-swing guy, recorded this at home under lockdown, only credit his sax and midi keyboards. He somehow managed to sample a whole big band for the opener, but eventually drops down as far as solo, then overdubs a duet. His playing is exemplary throughout, but the non-existent others aren't so inspired. B+(**)

JD Allen: Toys/Die Dreaming (2020, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, albums since 1999, trio with Ian Kenselaar (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums). Five originals, two standards ("You're My Thrill," "I Should Care"). Always a strong performer, this one impresses in the usual ways, then grows on you. A-

Florian Arbenz/Greg Osby: Reflections of the Eternal Line (2020, Hammer): Swiss drummer, couple albums c. 2001, two more this year. This is a sax/drums duo, Osby playing soprano and alto. Stephan Spicher also get his name on the cover for "visuals." B+(***) [bc]

Steve Arrington: Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions (2019-20 [2020], Stones Throw): Joined the funk group Slave in 1975, left in 1981 to record as Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame, then solo through 1987. Recorded albums in 2009 and 2014, and now this new one, with "a new generation of talented producers." B+(*)

Babe, Terror: Horizogon (2020, Glue Moon): Brazilian electronica producer Claudio Szynkier, at least nine albums since 2009. Ambient snooze with choral vocals. B- [bc]

Victoria Bailey: Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline (2020, Rock Ridge Music): Country singer-songwriter from California -- probably the source of her wine taste (aside from the title, there's another song called "Spent My Dime on White Wine"), but everything else is standard honky tonk, including a lot of pedal steel. B+(***)

Biffy Clyro: A Celebration of Endings (2020, 14th Floor/Warner): Scottish rock band, eighth album since 2002, a big deal in Scotland since their debut, scaled the UK charts with 2007's Puzzle, sell well in Europe but not US. Mix it up toward the end, ranging from punk to prog, still makes me want to hear more. B

Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite: 100 Years of Blues (2020, Alligator): Two geezers happy to play "front-porch, down-home music," "12 rootsy, spirited, humorous songs, mixing nine originals with three reimagined classics." Gets topical on "What the Hell?" with its big question, "I want to know how can four years seem so long." Charlie brings plenty of harmonica. B+(**)

Bright Eyes: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (2020, Dead Oceans): Conor Oberst band since 1995, 10th studio album, not that it's kept him from pursuing a solo career and other projects. Still, this feels like a lot of work: 14 songs, 54:45, band members Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott play 20 instruments (from Mellotron to Marxophone), and 50+ additional musicians are credited (most on strings or choir, but he's got half a big band's worth of horns, and two guys on bagpipes). I'm sure it's all very important, but not so sure I want to sort it out further. B+(**)

Alan Broadbent Trio: Trio in Motion (2020, Savant): Pianist, from New Zealand, several dozen records since 1979. Trio with Harvie S (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). B+(**)

Apollo Brown & Che' Noir: As God Intended (2020, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Stephens, two dozen albums since 2007, mostly collaborations with featured rappers -- this one a young woman from Buffalo. B+(**)

Ceramic Dog: What I Did on My Long Vacation (2020, Northern Spy): Trio led by guitarist Marc Ribot, with Shahzad Ismaily (bass/keyboards) and Ches Smith (drums/electronics), everyone also credited with vocals. These are actually the leftovers from an album due in 2021, recorded over two weeks with the trio working in separate rooms, able to hear but not see each other. Six tracks, 31:04. B+(***) [bc]

Convergence: Convergence (2020, Hammer): Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz, in an international group with two Cubans -- Jorge Vistel (trumpet) and Maikel Vistel (tenor sax) -- and others from UK, Australia, and Brazil. B+(**) [bc]

Creeper: Sex, Death & the Infinite Void (2020, Roadrunner): British "goth-punk" group, second album, currently Metacritic's 4th highest rated album of 2020 (91/8) so seemed like something I should check out. May appeal to Nick Cave fans, but who am I to say that? B

Drive-By Truckers: The New OK (2020, ATO): Second album this year, after The Unraveling in January -- currently my first-listed A- record in 2020, more because it got there early than anything else, as I don't recall it clear enough to compare it to later A- records. Even more uncertain here. I don't doubt their motives or their craft, but if three plays didn't do it, maybe it's not happening? Only half-impressed with their Ramones cover -- maybe their accent isn't distant enough from "The KKK Took My Baby Away"? B+(***)

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters: Rise Up (2020, Stony Plain): Guitarist Ronald Horvath, from Queens, played with Roomful of Blues 1980-88, has a couple dozen albums leading this group. Diana Blue sings, band adds keyboards, bass, drums. Includes a "Blues for George Floyd." B+(*)

Lafayette Gilchrist: Now (Lafayette Gilchrist Music, 2CD): Pianist, leads a trio with Herman Burnie (bass) and Eric Kennedy (drums). First disc impresses with non-stop rhythm (75:41). Second (73:36) has a bit less drive. B+(***) [cd]

Luke Haines & Peter Buck: Beat Poetry for Survivalists (2020, Cherry Red): Postmodern bohemians: Haines sings and writes, best known for the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder; Buck plays guitar, mainly for R.E.M. but he's also dabbled elsewhere (e.g., Baseball Project, Filthy Friends). Both make their mark here, one might even say complementarily. B+(**)

Hazar: Reincarnated (2020, IAN Productions): Acoustic guitarist Ulas Hazar, also plays saz, grew up in Germany, has at least one previous album. Al DiMeola joins here on guitar and cajon, with Piotr Torunski (bass clarinet), piano, and percussion. Package includes a DVD. B+(*) [cd]

Idles: Ultra Mono (2020, Partisan): British band, from Bristol, third album, got a lot of early hype as the second coming of the Clash, which (of course) was ridiculous -- they lack both the early punk fury and the later pop knack, but somehow find a middle line, which supports today's fire and fury. B+(***)

I.P.A.: Bashing Mushrooms (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): Norwegian-Swedish free jazz quintet, mostly well-known names -- Atle Nymo (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mattias Ståhl (vibes), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums) -- fifth album since 2009. B+(**) [dl]

Jealous of the Birds: Peninsula (2020, Atlantic): Naomi Hamilton, from Northern Ireland, second album plus a couple EPs. B+(*)

Fenne Lily: Breach (2020, Dead Oceans): British singer-songwriter, from Dorset, second album. Landed gigs opening for Lucy Dacus and Marika Hackman. Appealing in that vein. B+(**)

Zara McFarlane: Songs of an Unknown Tongue (2020, Brownswood): British jazz/soul singer-songwriter, parents Jamaican, fourth album. B+(*)

Thurston Moore: By the Fire (2020, Daydream Library): Sonic Youth honcho, sounds much like his old band but less commanding, still misses his better half. Express panned this as a "pale imitation," which isn't really true. B+(**)

Tobin Mueller: What Survives: Radio Edits (2020, Artsforge): Pianist, discography (dating from 1980s) is split between jazz/funk and prog rock, with sections for solo piano, piano plus voice, and spoken word; biography includes a claim to have been one of the inventors of new age music. This is based on a 1995 Broadway show he wrote, played by nonet plus guests, the CD edited down from a much longer download-only release. Vocals are a weak spot. B+(*) [cd]

Róisin Murphy: Róisin Machine (2020, Skint): Irish singer-songwriter, fifth album since 2005, electropop. B+(**)

Douglas Olsen: 2 Cents (2018 [2020], self-released): Trumpet player, cites a 25-year history with a number of big bands, Latin jazz outfits, and r&b sidework, but I'm not finding any previous albums under his own name. Mostly a hard bop lineup, some tracks with extra congas. Six originals, a rumba, old bebop tunes from Dizzy Gillespie and Howard McGee/Fats Navarro. B+(**) [cd] [11-01]

Kelly Lee Owens: Inner Song (2020, Smalltown Supersound): Electronica producer, from Wales, based in London, second album. Was prepared to dis the vocals, but sometimes they work. Beats discreet, but they work too. John Cale contributes a song, neither here nor there. B+(**)

Bette Smith: The Good, the Bad and the Bette (2020, Ruf): R&B singer-songwriter, from Brooklyn, parents from Trinidad, second album, on a German blues label. Rocks. B+(**)

Sufjan Stevens: The Ascension (2020, Asthmatic Kitty): "Singer-songwriter" seems too self-limiting. He is a pop composer of grand sweep and delicate bearing, an heir to Brian Wilson working on if anything a broader canvas. His is not a style I'm fond of, but half of these songs click for me, and the others seem to be lurking in the depths, awaiting their moment. A-

Sylvan Esso: Free Love (2020, Loma Vista): Electropop duo from North Carolina, singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. Third studio album, a short one (10 songs, 29:14). Slight inside the grooves as well, but that's part of the charm. B+(*)

Throwing Muses: Sun Racket (2020, Fire): Lo-fi indie pop band from Rhode Island, debut 1985 with step-sisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, latter left in 1991 (to found the Breeders), band broke up in 1997, reformed in 2003, third album since their return. Whispery vocals over off-kilter guitar/electronics. B+(*)

Tessy Lou Williams: Tessy Lou Williams (2020, Tessy Lou Williams): Country singer-songwriter, from Montana, parents moved there from Nashville, where they were session musicians. First album, nice voice, impeccable neotrad sound. B+(**)

Yelle: L'Ère Du Verseau (2020, Recreation Center): French electropop band, principally singer Julie Budet (Yelle) and Jean-François Perrier (GrandMarnier), recorded this fourth album (since 2007) in Montreal. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Daora: Underground Sounds of Urban Brasil ([2020], Mais Um Discos, 2CD): "Hip-hop, leftfield beats, afrobeat and dub-influenced sounds from Brasil," 32 tracks, compiled by Rodrigo Brandao, vintage unknown but probably recent, only one artist I recognize (Baiana System), title slang "for something that's dope." Edges a little soft, as tends to be the case in Brazil, but that introduces a loopy, oblique humor that you rarely hear elsewhere. A- [bc]

Dennis González: Forever the Falling of Stars (1995 [2020], Daagnim): Trumpet player from Texas, started recording in 1979 and has ever since released a steady stream of albums, except for a dry spell in the 1990s, when this "rare gem" was commissioned but only circulated within a "small circle." No credits, but mostly electronics, with voices ranging from rap to tone color, and some trumpet. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

J.D. Allen: In Search of J.D. Allen (1998 [1999]. Red): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, first album, recorded in New York with Fabio Morgera (trumpet), Eric Revis (bass), Rodney Green (drums), and piano on three tracks (Shedrick Mitchell). Nine originals, closing with a cover of "Lonely Woman." B+(***)

J.D. Allen: Pharoah's Children (2001 [2002], Criss Cross): Second album, quintet, with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), and Gene Jackson (drums). B+(**)

JD Allen: Radio Flyer (2017, Savant): Expands on his usual trio -- Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) -- adding Liberty Ellman on guitar. B+(***)

Tony Allen Plays With Afrika 70: No Accomodation for Lagos (1979, Polydor): Nigerian drummer, third album, leading what was essentially Fela Kuti's band. Two side-long tracks, 29:16; was squeezed with a second album into a 2002 CD, then split again for a 2011 vinyl reissue (by Kindred Spirits). B+(**)

Tony Allen Plays With Afrika 70: No Accomodation for Lagos/No Discrimination (1979 [2002], Evolver): Combines two albums, although Napster omits one track ("Ariya"). B+(**)

Dennis Gonzalez: Stars/Air/Stripes (1981 [1982], Daagnim): Trumpet player, from Dallas, early album (first was 1979), organized sixteen musicians for this, recorded in various combos in various locations, to scattered effect. B+(*) [bc]

Dennis Gonzalez's Ataraxia: Ts'iibil Chaaltum (2017, Daagnim): "Eastern jazz trio," the leader playing trumpet/cornet, with Drew Phelps (bass) and Jagath Lakpriya (tabla), everyone adding to the percussion, but not breaking the calm. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Benjamin Boone: The Poets Are Gathering (Origin) [10-16]
  • Valentin Ceccaldi: Ossos (Cipsela)
  • Noah Haidu: Doctone (Sunnyside)
  • Juliet Kurtzman/Pete Malinverni: Candlelight: Love in the Time of Cholera (Saranac) [11-13]
  • Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (French Paradox)
  • The United States Air Force Band: Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Highlights (self-released)
  • Luís Vicente: Maré (Cipsela)
  • What Happens in a Year: Cérémonie/Musique (F/P) [10-09]