Monday, November 30, 2020


Music Week

November archive (finished).

Music: Current count 34444 [34401] rated (+43), 210 [213] unrated (-3).

Not really sure why I feel so frazzled at the moment. I've been doing a lot of high speed clerical work: counting Jazz Critics Poll ballots (32 so far), adding EOY early lists to my aggregate file, fiddling with my jazz and non-jazz EOY files, and trying to wrap up this post and the November Streamnotes archive, while listening to as much as I can recall, track down, and stomach. The hardest part is deciding what to check out.

Sorry to hear of the death of Kali Z. Fasteau (aka Zusann Kali Fasteau). I wrote to her when I was researching my big William Parker/Matthew Shipp consumer guide. She generously sent me not just what I asked for but her whole catalog, starting with a 1975-77 collection of her work with her late husband, Donald Rafael Garrett, and she kept sending CDs up through her latest, in 2016. She played a wide range of instruments, none especially well, but she was a scene setter and often enough made her eclecticism work. I finally gave one of her records an A-: Piano Rapture (2014), where she finally impressed me with her piano, joined by various guests (notably Kidd Jordan and Mixashawn).

I've continued to fiddle with the format of "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade," including adding them to Streamnotes archive, and adding them to the Year 2020 list (although they are not yet in the EOY lists). I'm not very happy with them yet. But this week I went through most of the unheard records at Tim Berne's Screwgun Records Bandcamp. Only records flagged as ++ continue to be listed in the 2% EOY list prospects. Again, I still haven't made a complete pass through the tracking file to identify most of the albums that meet the 2% standard (but I did drop three of Berne's albums from the list I had, leaving 2).


New records reviewed this week:

AVA Trio: Digging the Sand (2018 [2019], Marocco Music): Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone sax/mizmar), Esat Ekincioglu (bass), and Pino Basile (percussion). Mediterranean groove and flavoring, some edge. B+(***)

Bad Bunny: El ┌ltimo Tour Del Mundo (2020, Rimas): Puerto Rican rapper Benito Antonio MartÝnez Ocasio, draws on reggaeton to create a kind of Latin trap rap. B+(*)

Alan Barnes: 60th Birthday Celebration: New Takes on Tunes From '59 (2019, Woodville): British clarinet/saxophone player, a swing guy, which partly explains why I expected him to be older, but also true that I've sampled him lightly (I've missed all 6 Penguin Guide recommendations in my database). Band is just horns on top of piano trio. Songs from his birth year, which nets him Jobim, Mancini, Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones, Ellington, Monk, and more modern figures (expected classics other than nothing from Kind of Blue). B+(**)

Beabadoobee: Fake It Flowers (2020, Dirty Hit): Born in the Philippines in 2000, Beatrice Laus moved to London when she was 3, credits Kimya Dawson for inspiration to start making music. First album after four EPs. Her pop is more robust than Dawson's anti-folk, but not free from its inspirational idiosyncrasy. B+(**)

Scott H. Biram: Fever Dreams (2020, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Texas, drawl fated him for Americana but he started out in punk and still reminds me of "psychobilly." Twelfth album since 2000. Ends with a bizarre gospel remix. B+(**)

Scott H. Biram: Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram (2019, Bloodshot): Likely to remain an oddity in his discography, but in some ways this rough and profane clash with sin and grace was the album he was born to sing. A-

Jeb Bishop: Centrifugal Trio (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Trombonist, early member of Vandermark 5, recorded this in Berlin with Antonio Borghini (bass) and Michael Griener (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman (2020, 37d03d): American folk-rock "supergroup" -- Ana´s Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins), Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger). B

Cabaret Voltaire: Shadow of Fear (2020, Mute): Group from Sheffield, UK, formed in 1973, pioneered industrial electronica, I never went deep into their albums but like some compilations a lot. Last group album in 1994, but Richard H. Kirk has returned with a new album under the old name. Got the old groove back, too. B+(***)

Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour (2020, Columbia): R&B duo, sisters, last name Bailey, second album, cover features angel wings over big booties. B+(*)

Dan Clucas/Jeb Bishop/Damon Smith/Matt Crane: Universal or Directional (2018 [2020], Balance Point Acoustics): Cornet, trombone, bass, drums. Napster lists this under Bishop, and displays what seems to be the back cover, which does list Clucas first. Ends strong. B+(***)

Shemekia Copeland: Uncivil War (2020, Alligator): Blues singer, daughter of Johnny Copeland, debut 1998, ninth album. Notable lyric: "money makes you ugly/you're the living proof." Also: "we all give God the blues." Less than notable cover: "Under My Thumb." Gun song (probably anti-, but sometimes it's hard to tell): "Apple Pie and a .45." B+(*)

Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts (2020, RCA): Pop star, started as a Disney teen but is all grown now. Opens with a should-be hit ("WTF Do I Know"). Digital edition ends with three hard rocking tracks, including a harder take on "Heart of Glass." B+(**)

Hermine Deurloo: Riverbeast (2019, Zennes): Dutch, plays chromatic harmonica, albums since 1998. With Steve Gadd, Tony Scherr, and Kevin Hays. Slick and a bit funky, with a couple vocals (probably Gadd). B

The End: Allt ─r Intet (2019 [2020], RareNoise): Norwegian saxophonist Kjetl M°ster, has had many projects since 2004, even a solo album (title: Blow Job). Second with this group, which combines a remarkable number of things I can't stand, ranging from Mats Gustafsson at his squawkiest to church/opera vocals and death metal. Still not as bad as their eponymous 2018 effort. C [cdr]

John Fogerty: Fogerty's Factory (2020, BMG): Started in lockdown as a 7-cut EP remaking songs from Cosmo's Factory, with the singer's family as his band, expanded now to 12 covers. Has anyone ever sounded more quintessentially American? Depends on what America means to you, I guess. B+(*)

Funk Shui NYC: Shark NATO on a Plane (2020, Zoho): Fifteen-piece big band, short on brass (3 trumpets, 2 trombones) but doubles up on bass and percussion, i.e., funk quotient. B+(*)

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch: Zurich Concert (2019 [2020], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, fair number of albums since 2008, trio with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), plus guest trumpet. B+(*)

Vinny Golia/John Hanrahan/Henry Kaiser/Wayne Peet/Mike Watt: A Love Supreme Electric: A Salvo Inspired by John Coltrane: A Love Supreme & Meditations (2019 [2020], Cuneiform, 2CD): I figure guitarist Kaiser is the catalyst here. He previously recorded several volumes of "electric Miles Davis" (Yo Miles!), and his guitar is the extra element here. Golia is as inspired a saxophone choice as Wadada Leo Smith was on trumpet, and Peet's organ adds to the electrification. B+(***) [dl]

Jahari Massamba Unit: Pardon My French (2020, Madlib Invazion): Hip-hop producer Otis Jackson Jr., better known as Madlib, and drummer Kariem Riggins. B+(*)

Benjamin Koppel/Kenny Werner/Scott Colley/Jack DeJohnette: The Art of the Quartet (2015 [2020], Cowbell Music/Unit, 2CD): Danish alto saxophonist, has been pretty prolific since 2002, joined by three relatively famous Americans. Unlikely they were ever a working band, much less one seasoned enough to justify the title, but they're such pros that they could have coalesced instantly. Runs long, and holds together. B+(***)

Benjamin Koppel/Tine Rehling/Henrik Dam Thomsen: Les Mobiles (2019 [2020], Cowbell Music): Leader plays soprano and mezzo saxophones as well as his usual alto, in a chamber jazz trio with harp and cello. B+(*)

Ingrid Laubrock: Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (2019 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): German alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, subitles this "Music for Chamber Orchestra and Small Ensemble": the former is the EOS Chamber Orchestra (5 tracks), the latter (also 5 tracks) a trio with Cory Smythe (piano) and Sam Pluta (electronics), plus three guests (accordion, violin, electric harp). B+(*)

Lionel Loueke: HH (2019 [2020], Edition): Guitarist, from Benin, title honors Herbie Hancock. Solo, with loops, plays up the funk angle, doesn't dull or sweeten it with vocals. B+(**)

Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish/Zach Rowden: Live at Static Age Records (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Percussion, nylon string guitar, double bass. B+(*) [bc]

The Michael O'Neill Quartet: And Then It Rained (2020, Jazzmo): Bay Area saxophonist, started in 1980s doing soundtracks, fifth album since 2004, with Michael Bluestein on piano, plus bass and drums. Lovely, a bit on the lush side. B+(**)

Bruno Parrinha/Abdul Moimeme/Carlos Santos: A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power (2020, Creative Sources): Artist order can be parsed multiple ways, but this is top-to-bottom, per Discogs. Recorded in Lisbon, live just before lockdown, credits in order: bass clarinet/alto sax, guitar, electronics, the latter two also "objects." Short with one 26:10 piece. Bigger problem is that while not quite silent it can be hard to hear. B- [bc]

Vanessa Perica Orchestra: Love Is a Temporary Madness (2019 [2020], self-released): Australian composer/arranger/conductor, first album, leading a conventional 17-piece big band. B+(**)

Ben Perowsky/John Medeski/Chris Speed: Upstream (2014 [2019], El Destructo): Drummer, studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee, many more side- than leader-credits (evidently this is the first in a decade). More famous trio mates, and this is almost a dream match up for them. B+(***)

Noah Preminger: Contemptment (2020, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, impressive debut in 2007, solid ever since. Quartet with guitar (Max Light), bass (Kim Cass), and drums (Dan Weiss). B+(**)

Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Hňker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Sax, guitar, bass, drums. Starts measured, and for once never blows any fuses. The guitarist contributes some of his finest work, but it's still top shelf Chicago avant-sax. In a year when Rempis dumped a dozen old tapes out as download-only, he put this one on a CD. A- [cd] [12-04]

Andrew Renfroe: Dark Grey EP (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): Guitarist, leads quintet with alto sax (Braxton Cook), piano, bass, and drums through five songs, 25:08, on his debut effort. Nice guitar texture. B+(*) [cd]

Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture (2020, Cuneiform): British guitarist, many records since 1971, ranging from free to fusion. Various lineups, most with bass and drums, some keyboards, three cuts with sax (Chris Biscoe). B+(**) [dl]

Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet (2020, Astral Spirits): Bassist, has a previous solo album and some notable side-credits, lined up two saxophonists here (Ken Vandermark and Edward Wilkerson Jr., both credited with reeds), piano (Jim Baker), and drums (Avreeayl Ra). The saxophonists start out aggressive, but when they back off the piano remains central, and the bass solos justify their focus. A-

The United States Air Force Band: Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Highlights (2019 [2020], self-released): Useless big band, reminds us that military music is to music as military justice is to justice -- to flip Robert Sherrill's book title around -- but not the worst thing the USAF wastes taxpayer money on. Nor is this anywhere near their worst album -- indeed, I rather enjoy the punchiness of the horns, also the TSgt.'s vocal on "Honeysuckle Rose" (where John Fedchock guests). B [cd]

Becky Warren: The Sick Season (2020, Becky Warren): Nashville singer-songwriter, two very impressive albums under her belt, more budget here, not sure that rocking harder doesn't blunt her songcraft (or maybe just tries to overcompensate). B+(***)

Kate Westbrook & the Granite Band: Earth Felt the Wound (2018-19 [2020], Westbrook): Jazz singer, notable painter, married composer-pianist Mike Westbrook, who wrote or arranged the music here, most matched to her lyrics. Band refers back to her 2018 album, Granite, with two guitars, electric bass, keyboards, sax (Rox Harding), and drums. One song in German veers toward cabaret. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bill Evans: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1968 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). The drummer only lasted a few months, but At the Montreux Jazz Festival revived Evans, and the recently discovered live shots have generally been impressive. This one collects 20 songs (99:31) from a month in London. B+(***) [dl]

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 1 (2000 [2020], Circulasione Totale): Norwegian avant alto saxophonist, started with Detail 1983-96, led Circulasione Totale Orchestra 1987-2011, has close to 100 small group records, including several more with this rhythm section -- including a 4-CD box on Not Two (2017, not clear when recorded). Looks like he's released a bunch of old tapes this year, including this 54:32 "Traffic Zone Centre" set. B+(*) [bc]

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 2 (2000, Circulasione Totale): Slightly longer at 62:25, but takes a long time to get going, and while it may peak stronger, this isn't top shelf work from any involved. B [bc]

Hanging Tree Guitars (1991 [2020], Music Maker Relief Foundation): A dozen blues recordings, Timothy Duffy field recordings featuring guitar craftsman Freeman Vines and family. Unsure of the dates. A-

Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (1964-75, Sunnyside, 4CD): Two major groups on tour, the bassist and drummer Dannie Richmond common denominators. The stellar 1964 group had Johnny Coles (trumpet), Eric Dolphy, (alto sax/flute/bass clarinet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), and Jaki Byard (piano) -- their set had previously been bootlegged as The Complete Bremen Concert, with Dolphy co-headlining. The 1975 group was less famous at the time, but names you'll recognize today: Jack Walrath (trumpet), George Adams (tenor sax), Don Pullen (piano). Hard to tell from streaming, but I doubt the 1964 set adds much to the same group's Town Hall Concert, or for that matter the Paris and Cornell concerts from the same year. On the other hand, I'm not aware of any live material from the 1975 group -- the 1974 Mingus at Carnegie Hall is a different deal -- and it reminds me that few leaders were able to command their bands as authoritatively as Mingus. Also good to hear the new songs from Changes. A-

Old music:

Etran De L'A´r: No. 1 (2014 [2018], Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, Niger, formed in 1995 but first album here: guitars, bass guitar, drums, singers named Ibrahim Mohamed and Hamidane Aboubacar Bouzou. As minimal as the desert. A- [bc]


Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ probable prospect.

  • Tim Berne: 7 Adobe Probe (2009 [2020], Screwgun): Septet, names big enough to put on front cover. [1/3, 37:00/75:36] ++
  • Tim Berne/Nasheet Waits: The Coanda Effect (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Alto sax/drums duo. [1/2, 9:53/48:57]: +
  • Tim Berne: Sacred Vowels (2020, Screwgun): Solo alto sax, his first ever. [2/12, 8:23/41:11] +
  • Matt Mitchell/Tim Berne: 1 (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Piano/sax duo. [1/5, 11:28/48:01] +
  • Chris Speed/Dave King/Reid Anderson/Tim Berne: Broken Shadows Live (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Ornette Coleman tribute band, nods to Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill. [2/9, 13:01/61:43): ++
  • Sun of Goldfinger [David Torn/Ches Smith/Tim Berne]: Congratulations to You (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Early date of trio that produced 2019 title album, although may include other bits. [1/3, 13:55/56:28] +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (self-released)