An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Music: Current count 34222  rated (+43), 215  unrated (+2).
Nominally a day late, given the late finish of Weekend Roundup. The delay pushed the rated count over 40, and contributed most of the unpacking below. Before that I had felt little urgency to break into the promo queue. I've been scrounging for things to listen to, and making short work of most of what I've found. I've heard the top 83 records in my metacritic file. Top one I haven't bothered with is Deftones: Ohms, followed by albums by Flaming Lips, Killers, Lemon Twigs, and Sorry -- a high B+ from any of those would be a big surprise. Caught up with eight Sunnyside jazz releases instead, four at B+(**), four lower.
Robert Christgau published his October 2020: Consumer Guide last week. I previously had albums by Public Enemy, Cornershop, and Dua Lipa at A-. He only concurred on PE. He rated Dramamrama, Ashley McBryde, and Dawn Oberg higher than I did. A recheck of the former suggests I wasn't paying much attention when I discarded it. His choice oldie was a compilation of early Skip James that I have at B (but Robert Santelli ranked as the 10th best blues album of all time). As I recall, the sound was atrocious. I should do some more research on him; e.g., Devil Got My Woman (1967), an A- for Christgau, number 45 for Santelli. I have a later compilation of James' 1966-68 Vanguard sides, Blues From the Delta, at A-. [PS: Got this messed up: Devil Got My Woman was an A- for me, ungraded by Christgau. Blues From the Delta was an A- for Christgau, graded B+(***) by me.] Meanwhile, the one I couldn't find was Hanging Tree Guitars. Well, also the Island rocksteady compilation. It's probably competitive with Trojan's Let's Do Rocksteady: The Story of Rocksteady 1966-68, an A- in my book.
One more week left in October. I'm going to cook a scaled down, socially distanced version of my annual birthday dinner this week. Did the shopping today, so I'm set to start cooking tomorrow, to serve on Wednesday. Moved it up a few days due to weather, so I'll wind up turning 70 in isolation, probably with leftovers. Nothing new this year. Turkish main dish (yogurtlu kebap), with Moroccan mezze -- struck me as a better fit than the Turkish ones -- and the traditional family birthday cake. Rated count should be down next week, as I'll spend a couple days playing golden oldies. Then it'll be time to knuckle down on Weekend Roundup. At this point, I'd just as soon cooked on the weekend and skipped the post, but weather broke the other way.
Seems like a lot of deaths last week. Among musicians: Spencer Davis, Toshinori Kondo, Jose Padilla. More HOF baseball players: Joe Morgan, after Whitey Ford (previous week).
I don't follow her, but I was pleased to see a tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) detailing specs on a homebuilt composer (I added prices from Newegg, just for my curiosity):
Not specified here is a power supply, probably 850W or higher [$150+], and most importantly a motherboard ($200 or less). My latest build had considerably more RAM (128 GB), but I spent less on CPU and video card. I only bought the M.2 SSD storage device (1TB), and I've never spent on water cooling. Still, I'm impressed: you get at least twice as much bang for the buck by building your own, but most people find the task daunting. Better still if you put Linux on it, instead of wasting more $$$ on Microsoft, and more still on commercial applications software.
New records reviewed this week:
Courtney Marie Andrews: Old Flowers (2020, Fat Possum): Folkie singer-songwriter from Arizona, fifth album since 2010. B+(*)
John Beasley: MONK'estra Plays John Beasley (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, put this big band together to play Thelonious Monk arrangements, turns it loose on his own compositions (plus Ellington and Parker). B+(**)
Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel (2020, Republic): Roots MC Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, nothing from his group since 2014, but he released two EPs in 2018, and this follow up edges into album territory, with 13 tracks, 34:19. Conscious and hard, the sample beats not as supple as the live band's, but more to the point. Not sure why it's "Cane" instead of "Cain" -- I'm often eluded by fine lyrical points (assuming there is an explanation, like slavery was built on sugar). A-
Geof Bradfield/Ben Goldberg/Dana Hall Trio: General Semantics (2020, Delmark): Tenor/soprano sax & bass clarinet, soprano & contralto clarinet, drums. Nice combination, free, loose, never grating. B+(***)
Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: Free Hoops (2019 , Intakt): Swiss pianist, trio with Drew Gress (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums). B+(**)
Brian Cullman: Winter Clothes (2020, Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter from New York, third album, recorded this with members of Ollabelle, about a mutual friend named Jimi Zhivago. B+(**)
John Daversa Quintet: Cuarentena: With Family at Home (2020, Tiger Turn): Trumpet player, from California, eighth album since 2009. Quintet with Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano), Dafnis Prieto (drums), Sammy Figueroa (percussion), and Carlo De Rosa (bass). B+(**)
Josephine Davies: Satori: How Can We Wake? (2020, Whirlwind): British tenor saxophonist, first album 2006, named group for 2017 album, but looks here like group name slid back into title. Trio, with bass (Dave Whitford) and drums (James Madden), and a bit of soprano sax. B+(***)
Sam Decker: Shrove (2020, Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, second album, postbop quintet with Michael Sachs (clarinet, bass clarinet), Dov Manski (piano), bass, and drums, drawing on "folk-inflected sounds of composers like Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok and Dmitri Shostakovich." B+(*)
Doves: The Universal Want (2020, Heavenly): English alt rock band, from Manchester, released four albums 2000-09, split, regrouped for this one. Melodic sense, but strikes me as heavy. B
Andy Fusco: Remembrance (2019 , SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, started in Buddy Rich's big band, continued with Steve Smith's alumni band, Buddy's Buddies; fifth album on this label since 2016, a quintet with trumpet (Joe Magnarelli), piano (Peter Zak), bass, and drums. B+(*)
Joel Futterman: Intervals (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Avant pianist, originally from Chicago, Wikipedia credits him with 80+ albums since 1982. This one is solo, three improv pieces. B+(*) [bc]
Osvaldo Golijov/The Silkroad Ensemble: Falling Out of Time (2020, In a Circle): Argentine composer of classical music, moved to Israel in 1983, wound up in Massachusetts; first album (1997) a collaboration with Kronos Quartet. Has roots in Jewish liturgical music, also Piazzolla tango; won a MacArthur Fellowship. Probably an interesting character, but when he turns toward opera I have a hard time hanging on. Calls this "a tone poem for voices based on the novel by David Grossman." Sounds like opera to me, but if you can set aside the voices, the music has some interesting twists. B [cd]
Benny Green: Benny's Crib (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, 20+ albums since 1988, 70+ side credits, mostly plays electric piano here: 5 solo, 6 with bass and percussion, 2 of those with flute (Anne Drummond), 1 vocal (Veronica Swift). B
Clay Harper: Dirt Yard Street (2020, Casino Music): Singer-songwriter, started out in a band called the Coolies, has a few albums since 1997 but doesn't seem intent on making a career out of it. This one's a bit of a downer. B+(*) [bc]
Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of Horace Silver (2020, Savant): Trombonist, born in Oklahoma, studied at UNT, worked in big bands, moving into Latin jazz in the 1990s. Has several Latin Side albums: John Coltrane (1996), Miles Davis (2004), Wayne Shorter (2008), Herbie Hancock (2010), Joe Henderson (2014). Silver came closer than any of the others at showing his own Latin side, so Herwig doesn't have to add much. B+(*)
Keleketla: Keleketla! (2020, Ahead of Our Time): Side project for British rock band Coldplay, with Jon Moore and Matt Black co-writers on all songs, joined by Nigerian drummer Tony Allen on most, with others from UK (Joe Armon-Jones, Shabaka Hutchings), South Africa (Yugen Blakrok, Gally Ngoveni, Thabang Tabane), many more. B+(**) [bc]
Juliet Kurtzman/Pete Malinverni: Candlelight: Love in the Time of Cholera (2020, Saranac): Violin and piano duets, classical and jazz, two pieces by the pianist, no less than five by Beiderbecke. Pretty enough. B [cd] [11-13]
Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign (2020, Blue Note): Trumpet player, leads an all-star quintet with Bill Frisell (guitar), Jason Moran (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). Solid support, which sometimes leaves you wondering about the leader. B+(**)
OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: It's About Time (2020, Intakt): Group -- soprano sax, guitar, bass, and drums -- produced six albums 1975-80, returned for a live one in 2010, now this. Impressive when everyone connects and the sax fights its way to the top. B+(***)
Ivo Perelman & Arcado String Trio: Deep Resonance (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, avant, very prolific. String musicians are jazz stars in their own right -- Mark Feldman (violin), Hank Roberts (cello), and Mark Dresser (bass), resurrecting a group name they used 1989-96 -- and they control the flow here. B+(**) [bc]
Pinegrove: Marigold (2020, Rough Trade): Alt/indie band from New Jersey, singer-songwriter Evan Stephens Hall and drummer Zack Levine. Voice promises Americana. B+(*)
Dafnis Prieto Sextet: Transparency (2020, Dafnison Music): Cuban drummer, moved to US in 1999, eighth album since 2003. With trumpet (Alex Norris), two saxes (Roman Fiiu and Peter Apfelbaum), piano, and bass, playing originals and "Con Alma." Drummer can dazzle. B+(**)
Terje Rypdal: Conspiracy (2019 , ECM): Norwegian guitarist, long list of records since 1968 (on ECM since 1971). With keyboards (Ståle Storløkken), fretless/electric bass (Endre Hareide Hallre), drums (Pål Thowsen). He always had a hint of fusion, but it's pretty deeply buried in ambient here. B+(*)
Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell: How to Turn the Moon (2019 , Pyroclastic): Piano duets. Crispell is one of the few pianists who are really good at this, and the much younger Sanchez is an apt pupil. A- [cd]
The Bobby Spellman Nonet: Revenge of the Cool (2020, Sunnyside): Trumpet player, from Boston, based in Brooklyn, several albums (including a group called Big Mean Sound Machine). Models this group on the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band. Coolest bit is when they move beyond their models to briefly play free. B+(**)
Tricky: Fall to Pieces (2020, False Idols): Trip-hop inventor Adrian Thaws, 14th album since 1995, a short one (11 tracks, 28:30), most featuring singer Marta. B+(*)
Diego Urcola Quartet Featuring Paquito D'Rivera: El Duelo (2019 , Sunnyside): Trumpet player, from Argentina, and clarinet player, from Cuba, backed by Hamish Smith (bass) and Eric Doob (drums). Both leaders share their differences, and both love Dizzy Gillespie. B+(**)
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Slow Pieces for Aki (2019 , Intakt): German pianist, a founder of the avant-garde from 1966 on, married to another very accomplished pianist, Aki Takase. Solo piano, slow as advertised, striving to make each note count. B+(***)
Doug Webb: Apples & Oranges (2020, Posi-Tone): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream, nice tone, backed by Brian Carrette (organ) and Andy Sanesi (drums). Helps here that Charrette stays clear of organ clichés, not that he's quite able to push Webb out of his comfort zone. B+(***)
Michael Wolff: Bounce (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, close to 20 albums since 1993, this one a trio with Ben Allison (bass) and Allan Mednard (drums). Includes one vocal ("Cool Kids"). B+(*)
Glenn Zaleski: The Question (2020, Sunnyside): Pianist, from Massachusetts, studied with Dave Brubeck, several records since 2010, this mostly a quintet with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), tenor sax (Lucas Pino), bass, and drums. B+(*)
Denny Zeitlin: Live at Mezzrow (2019 , Sunnyside): Pianist, many albums since 1963, trio with Buster Williams (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums), a group he's worked with off-and-on since 2001. B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
On the Road: A Tribute to John Hartford (2020, LoHi): Various artists resurrect 15 songs by the folksinger, best known for writing "Gentle on My Mind" but he was just as likely to toss off something like "Granny Woncha Smoke Some Marijuana" or "Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry." B+(***)
Evan Parker/Agustí Fernandez: Tempranillo (1995 , Fundacja Sluchaj): Sax (tenor and soprano) and piano duets, recorded in Barcelona, first meeting. B+(**) [bc]
Ebo Taylor: Palaver (1980 , BBE): From Ghana, sings, plays guitar, was a minor star in the 1970s, staged something of a comeback from 2008, with Strut compiling a CD of his early work in 2011. B+(***)
TEST/Roy Campbell: TEST and Roy Campbell (1999 , 577): TEST was a collective that made some noise in the late 1990s, with two saxophonists (Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen, Carter also playing flute and trumpet, Mateen flute and clarinet), plus bass (Matthew Heyner) and drums (Tom Bruno). Campbell, a trumpet player who died in 2014, played with everyone (including with Carter in Other Dimensions in Music). One 47:08 free-for-all. B+(**) [bc]
John Hartford: RCA Country Legends (1967-70 , Buddha): Banjo-playing folksinger, I remember him on Flying Fish in the 1970s, but he started out with RCA in Nashville. This reduces seven albums to convenient form, including a song he wrote that Glen Campbell made famous: "Gentle on My Mind." B+(***)
OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: A Retrospective (1976-80 , ECM): Group -- saxes/flute, guitar, bass, drums -- recorded four albums for Japo, Manfred Scheffner's "Jazz by Post" mail-order label, eventually picked up by ECM. First two went on to have substantial careers as leaders, and I've run across Studer numerous times, with all four reuniting recently (see above). Given the dates, it's hard not to look at how this fits into fusion, but no matter how easily it flows, it doesn't even hint at the sickly aftertaste of the era's juggernauts. A-
Toots and the Maytals: True Love (2004, V2): Greatest hits, recut with a long list of guest stars, the sort of project Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker did late in their careers. Opens with a Willie Nelson duet -- the only cut that reduces Toots to background singer. Most, like Eric Clapton on "Pressure Drop" and Jeff Beck on "54-46 Was My Number" are just happy to play along. B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
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, but happier than ever. [was: B+(*)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: