Tuesday, December 15, 2020


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34569 [34511] rated (+58), 215 [215] unrated (+0).

Another monster week. I seriously doubt that 50 will be the new 30, but the last few weeks have gone that way. The main reason is that I've been shackled to the computer all week. Jazz Critics Poll deadline was Sunday, so I've had a steady stream of ballots to process. Aside from a quick pass at Weekend Roundup, I've spent most of the rest of my time adding EOY lists to my aggregate file. I've fallen pretty far behind this week, but the standings look like they've begun to stabilize. Top five have maintained stable margins since last week: Fiona Apple, Run the Jewels, Phoebe Bridges, Bob Dylan, Waxahatchee. Last week's three-way tie for 6th between Dua Lipa, Haim, and Taylor Swift has broken as Swift has the momentum, then Haim, then Lipa, with Perfume Genius and Sault (Black Is) rounding out the top ten.

Biggest surprise on that list is Sault, whose second album, Untitled (Rise), is also rising, currently at 24. I gave both of the group's 2019 albums A-, but didn't find the new albums as impressive. On the other hand, the first came out as the Black Lives Matter protests broke out last summer, and many people took them as anthemic. Aside from RTJ4, there have been damn few hip-hop albums this year that pop critics have felt obligated to cover. After Run the Jewels, US black rappers are buried pretty far down the list: Freddie Gibbs (43), Megan Thee Stallion (46), Lil Uzi Vert (48), Clipping (66), Lil Baby (96), Open Mike Eagle (105), 21 Savage & Metro Boomin (119), Flo Milli (122), Public Enemy (124), Westside Gunn (125), Childish Gambino (127), Princess Nokia (133). I don't have any good theories why this should be so.[1] I also don't have many on my list (although I've heard all but 1 of the top 53 hip-hop albums): Run the Jewels (4), Enemy Radio (20), Megan Thee Stallion (22), Public Enemy (26), Aminé (31), Megan Thee Stallion EP (32), Black Thought (34), City Girls (38), Moor Jewelry (39), Kehlani (47), Bktherula (48).

[1] OK, here's a theory, from Emily Nussbaum's essay on Jenji Kohan, starting midway in a Kohan quote:

"And right now, the world is just 'Everyone back to their corners.'" In the Trump era, Kohan sees an urge to hunker down with one's own, "to just put your louspeaker up and say, 'This is me, and this is my worldview, and I don't want to know from yours.'"

I don't know about you, but I've heard the word "hunker" more times this year than in the past 70 combined.


I might as well offer my own Jazz Critics Poll ballot here:

New Releases:

  1. Mark Lomax II & the Urban Art Ensemble, 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)
  2. Rich Halley-Matthew Shipp-Michael Bisio-Newman Taylor Baker, The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  3. Dave Rempis-Jeff Parker-Ingebrigt Håker Flaten-Jeremy Cunningham, Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic)
  4. Aly Keïta-Jan Galega Bronnimann-Lucas Niggli, Kalan Teban (Intakt)
  5. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio (Whirlwind)
  6. Kenny Barron-Dave Holland Trio Featuring Johnathan Blake, Without Deception (Dare2)
  7. Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)
  8. Jason Kao Hwang, Human Rites Trio (True Sound)
  9. Dave Glasser, Hypocrisy Democracy (Here Tiz Music)
  10. Kevin Sun, (Un)seaworthy (Endectomorph Music)

Reissues/Historical:

  1. Borah Bergman-Perry Robinson-Steve Swell-Ray Sage, Quartets Trios Duos (2007, Mahakala Music)
  2. Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree)
  3. Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only, Complete Recordings (1968-73, NoBusiness)

Vocal: Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)

Debut: Immanuel Wilkins, Omega (Blue Note)

Latin: Aruán Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera, Inside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt)

Attentive readers will notice discrepancies between this ballot and my EOY Jazz List. The main one is that I decided to skip over albums that I have only heard from streaming or downloads. I've done this in the past for the historical category, but don't recall doing so for new releases before -- or maybe I just never had so many before. I've long suspected that CDs I receive are slightly more likely to get better grades than records I stream or download, mostly because I'm more likely to play them more times, so they may have an edge rising up my lists. (It's also likely that I'm a bit more inclined to replay albums on Napster than on Bandcamp, which I've found starts nagging me for a purchase on a third play.) Still, as I receive ever fewer promos, and spend more time streaming, the split has grown. I doubt the decision this year will result in me getting more promos next year. Still, I'm pleased to have been able to vote for the records I did, even though my highly approximate sorting left a bunch of very good records higher up my list:

  1. Ross Hammond/Oliver Lake/Mike Pride: Our Place on the Wheel (Prescott)
  2. Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (Impulse!)
  3. Evan Parker/Paul Lytton: Collective Calls (Revisited) (Jubilee) (Intakt)
  4. Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully the Music Is Yours (Odin)
  5. Broken Shadows: The Tower Tapes #2 (Jazz Club Ferrara)
  6. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (International Anthem)
  7. Jeb Bishop Flex Quartet: Re-Collect (Not Two -19)
  8. Jasper Høiby: Planet B (Edition)
  9. James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau (Intakt)
  10. Chad Taylor Trio: The Daily Biological (Cuneiform)
  11. Tani Tabbal Trio: Now Then (Tao Forms)
  12. Schlippenbach/Narvesen Duo: Liminal Field (Not Two -19)
  13. James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Molecular (Intakt)
  14. The Third Mind: The Third Mind (Yep Roc)
  15. Kahil El'Zabar: Kahil El'Zabar's Spirit Groove (Spiritmuse)

While it looks like these records got slighted, I should note that my slotting of them is less certain than where I ranked the CDs. Christgau makes a bit point about only rating records that he's played at least five times -- enough to be highly certain of his grades. I don't limit myself to records I am absolutely certain of -- no doubt partly because I don't have his gift of certainty about anything. I'd rather jot down as much as I know, when I know it, and revise when/if further experience so dictates. Consequently, every grade has an unstated extra dimension of uncertainty, which isn't clear from the ranked list. I've thought about ways to notate this (the simplest is to count plays, not that every spin occurs under equal or even fair circumstances), but decided it would be a bookkeeping nightmare. Besides, there are other dimensions, like time, that add to the fuzziness.

I did make one exception to the CD-only rule, for Mark Lomax's top-rated 400 Years Suite, but only after I broke down and bought a copy. I haven't received it yet, and it's possible I'll change my mind when I do, but I figured I should at least own a copy of what seems most probably the record of the year. As I've noted, I've pretty much given up on buying new music, but I got dispensation from my wife to order a few non-jazz CDs recently: Fiona Apple, Run the Jewels, Lucinda Williams, Lori McKenna -- all albums I graded A-, which Christgau graded A or A+. (See my Non-Jazz EOY list.) Good chance I'll upgrade RTJ4 and move it to the top of my list. I'm less taken by Apple's album, not that it isn't a big deal.

I've followed the same CD-only rule for Reissues/Historial in recent years, not just to favor publicists who service me but also because the category is usually swept by fine but minor additions to he works of major artists -- this year: Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Art Blakey -- and I'd rather pick out some things that aren't automatically familiar. As I usually don't get these reminders of past glory -- Rollins in Holland is the only one this year -- the rule has been an easy excuse to stock my list with marginal but more interesting fare. That's what I did this year, going with a 3-CD box from NoBusiness that barely made my A- grade over the more obvious Rollins set.

One belated exception to the CD-only rule is the vote for Wilkins as Debut of the Year. Not seeing any debuts in my A-list, I originally left that blank, but was moved to give Wilkins another shot not for sweeping the category (something much hyped Blue Note artists win way too often) but because he did surprisingly well on main lists. I hate leaving form lines blank, so once I came around, I slipped him in. I have a lot of little-known artists in my A-list, but they all have previous records, even if they are even more obscure than their latest.

Next couple weeks should be much less frantic and stressful than the last two have been. I have a project for Christmas that should take me away from the computer, and I'll probably relax with favorite old music as the year winds down. Also thinking about resolutions for the new year. One thing that's pretty clear is that I'll be cutting back on the music tracking (the file has 5019 records so far) and reviewing (1256 records so far, which if not a record isn't far off the mark). Also have a couple of questions to answer this week.


Recommended music links: Dropped this as a regular feature, then this popped up:


New records reviewed this week:

Bruce Ackley/Fred Frith/Henry Kaiser/Aram Shelton: Unexpected Twins (2016 [2019], Relative Pitch): Cover a 2x2 diagram, so parsing left-to-right or top-to-bottom you get pairs of saxophonists -- Ackley plays soprano, Shelton alto -- and guitarists. B+(**)

Amaarae: The Angels You Don't Know (2020, Golden Child Entertainment): Ama Serwah Genfi, born in New York, parents Ghanaian, grew up in Atlanta and Accra, first album. Distinctive voice and rhythm, often surprises you, not least with the occasional bit of noise. Auteur's own description: "non stop affirmations and incantations 4 bad bitches." A-

The Avalanches: We Will Always Love You (2020, Modular): Australian electronica group, emerged in 2000 with an album pieced together from samples -- a novel technique at the time, making it seem like a one-shot, which it was until a second album appeared in 2016. This is a third, also built on sampling, "but it is less of a plunderphonics record than their previous material." Evidently having a name leads to touring, which favors live instruments and vocals. Feels cartoonish to me, which is to say only the catchiest, chintziest tracks click. B+(**)

Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison (2020, Book): Singer for The National, first solo album, stripped down relative to the band. B+(**)

Bktherula: Nirvana (2020, Warner): Atlanta rapper Brooklyn Rodriguez, still in her teens, comes up with 11 short tracks (28:04). Christgau's rave got me to listen hard and long enough to warm to the album, but none of his points stick -- "environmental," "irresistible," "inexplicable," the Eno-Hassell "anthropological minimalism" and "ambient esoteric kitsch," even the more specific "haze of shrooms, lean, and percoset." Well, maybe inexplicable. Come to think of it, if you're unable to explicate, maybe all you do have left is atmosphere. Or maybe it doesn't matter. A-

Boldy James/Sterling Toles: Manger on McNichols (2020, Sector 7-G): Detroit rapper James Clay Jones III, mixtape assembled by producer Toles based on rhymes from 2007-10. B+(***)

Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers: Vodou Alé (2017-18 [2020], Bongo Joe): Haitian group (Chouk Bwa Libète) and Belgian production duo (Frédéric Alstadt and Nicolas Esterie). B+(**) [bc]

Chubby and the Gang: Speed Kills (2020, Static Shock): British punk group, led by "Chubby Charles" (surname Manning-Walker), first album, 12 songs, 25:37. B+(*)

DJ Python: Mas Amable (2020, Incienso): Brian Piñeyro, based in New York but "of Ecuadorean and Argentine extraction," second album. Steady, fairly minimalist beats, talkover, has an appeal. B+(**)

Dorian Electra: My Agenda (2020, self-released): Last name Gomberg (or Fridkin Gomberg), from Houston, second album, short (25:10, but 11 tracks) but densly packed with plastic shrapnel. B

Dave Douglas: Marching Music (2019 [2020], Greenleaf Music): Famous trumpet player, presents "a new suite of compositions" for marching, "when you attend Climate Marches, Demonstrations for Equal Rights, Voting Rights Movements, and all other actions towards a just society" -- recorded before but released after the summer's George Floyd (et al.) protests, so prescient but a little slow on the draw. Backed by guitar (Rafiq Bhatia), bass, and drums. B+(***)

Duma: Duma (2020, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Kenyan duo, Martin Khanja (vocals) and Sam Karugu (guitar), based in Kampala, name means "darkness" in Kikuyu, music itself is most often called industrial grindcore or noise, although I recognize the scratchy, hoarse vocals and intense mechanical beats as metal -- conceptual enough to elicit some interest, but wearing all the same. B

Dutchavelli: Dutch From the 5th (2020, Parlophone): UK rapper Stephan Fabulous Allen, born in Birmingham, of Jamaican descent, first album. B+(**)

Roger Eno and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours (2020, Deutsche Grammophon): Eleven years younger, Roger Eno followed his brother into ambient music, working together on Apollo in 1983 (along with Daniel Lanois), and has independently produced 30-some albums before this new collaboration. Pretty. Also pretty long (75:15). B+(*)

Four Tet: Sixteen Oceans (2020, Text): British laptronica musician Kieran Hebden's principal alias. B+(*)

David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (2018-19 [2020], Origin): Leader plays hemage bass (a small electric) and piano. Quartet includes tenor sax, vibraphone, drums, but most cuts are with the National Academic Symphonic Band of Ukraine. B [cd]

Gorillaz: Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020, Parlophone): Pop machine band -- Damon Albarn and Remi Kabaka Jr. -- tied to a cartoon franchise since 2001, although they feel less cartoonish than Avalanches. With guests on most songs, often pairs like Elton John and 6lack, or Tony Allen and Skepta. B+(*)

Mickey Guyton: Bridges (2020, Capitol Nashville, EP): Nashville singer-songwriter Candace Mycale Guyton, several EPs since 2014 but nothing longer, got a big production for this one, but only for 6 songs, 18:58, all tightly clustered around 3:00. Got a Grammy nomination for the closer, where "it's a hard life on easy street," and "if you think we live in the land of the free/ you should try to be black like me." B+(**)

Hemingway, Phillips & Moore: Slips (2019, Ramboy): Drummer Gerry, bassist Barre, saxophonist/clarinetist Michael, with four more/less long pieces alled "Slaps," "Slips," "Sniffs," and "Slides." Spots I focused on are brilliant as expected, but my mind wandered too often to rate it higher. B+(**) [bc]

François Houle 4: RECODER (2019 [2020], Songlines): Canadian clarinet player, from Quebec, albums since 1992. All-star quartet with Gordon Grdina (guitar), Gerry Hemingway (drums), and Mark Helias (bass, also clarinet for duos on the six "Interlude" pieces). B+(***)

JPEGMafia: EP! (2020, Universal Republic, EP): Rapper Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, three albums, more mixtapes, evidently threw this 9 track, 27:09 EP together from "all singles released this year, mix of young and old." Defies convention, riding the CAPS LOCK except for "living single." B+(**)

Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams: Plastic Bouquet (2020, New West): From the outer orbits of country music, two cousins from Saskatchewan -- Kacy Anderson (vocals) and Clayton Linthicum (guitar) -- hook up with a country singer-songwriter from New Zealand. B+(**)

Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (2020, Republic): Rapper Scott Mescudi, returns to title of his first two albums (2009-10), although an intermediate album (2014) was subtitled The Journey to Mother Moon. B+(**)

Kirk Knuffke: Tight Like This (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): Cornet player, trio with tuba (Bob Stewart) and drums (Kenny Wollesen), six originals vs. covers from Louis Armstrong (title cut), Teddy Wilson, Pee Wee Russell, Gene Ammons, Nat Adderley, Cannonball Adderley, and Matt Wilson. B+(**)

Mário Laginha/Julian Argüelles/Helge Andreas Norbakken: Atlântico (2019 [2020], Edition): Piano, soprano/tenor sax, and percussion. Nice balance of forces, with the sax getting ever stronger. A-

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 1 (2016 [2018], BIG EGO): Guitarist, "operating in the bubble of Wichita, Kansas," teaches at Friends University and runs a studio called Air House Music Academy, not someone I know. First album under his own name -- he claims 16 albums as Francis Moss and with various rock bands -- twelve songs mostly named for fungus, recorded in California with Devin Hoff (bass), Chad Taylor (drums), and Sam Hake (vibes), mixed by Chris Shlarb (who plays guitar on two songs). B+(**)

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 2 (2018 [2020], BIG EGO): More songs about fungus and fruit, also recorded in Long Beach, with Billy Mohler taking over at bass and Jeff Parker adding a second guitar on 8 (of 14) pieces. B+(**)

Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): Two hip-hop/r&b producers, two jazz friends, for a 7-track, 23:03 EP, with Phoelix featured on 4, so I figure him for the singer. The sax is pretty laid back, but still a treat. B+(*)

Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party: Dessert (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): Remixes, the 7 tracks trimmed to 20:34, with extra guests ranging from Herbie Hancock to Rapsody and Snoop Dogg -- best pickup is Cordae on "Freeze Tag." B+(*)

Terrace Martin: Village Days (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw/Empire, EP): Artist credit actually reads "a Terrace Martin project," the title preceded by "Sounds of Crenshaw presents." Typically scattered, with a bit of free jazz sax (Martin's main instrument, though I can't be sure it's him), and a closing "The Christmas Song" that won't be instantly obsolete. Seven tracks, 27:25. B+(**)

Gayelynn McKinney and McKinney Zone: Zoot Suit Funk (2020, Beatstix): Drummer, from Detroit. Father was a pianist, mother a singer. Debut album 2006. Leans into the funk here, but doesn't really connect until the title song closer. B+(*) [cd]

Victoria Monét: Jaguar (2020, Tribe, EP): Soul singer, born in Georgia, father French, creole ancestry on her mother's side, recorded singles and EPs from 2014. This one runs 9 songs, 25:27. B+(**)

Michael Moore Fragile Quartet: Cretan Dialogues (2019, Ramboy): Leader, an American long based in Amsterdam, plays alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and melodica, backed with piano (Harmen Fraanje), bass (Clemens van der Feen), and drums (Gerry Hemingway). B+(***) [bc]

The NDR Bigband With Michael Moore: Sanctuary (2019, Ramboy): German big band, based in Hamburg, conducted by Tim Hagans, rarely appears ahead of the featured guest, and indeed I'm filing this under Moore (alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet). But what impresses me most is the rich texture studded with gemlike details. B+(***) [bc]

PRAED Orchestra: Live in Sharjah (2018 [2020], Morphine): Inspired by Egypt, but recorded in the UAE, with a 13-piece band, including some avant surprises (Hans Koch, Martin Kuchen, Michael Zerang). Starts with some hideous vocals, which only become tenable when the groove pushes them into the background. Away from the vocals, this can be pretty impressive. B+(**)

Katie Pruitt: Expectations (2020, Rounder): Nashville singer-songwriter, originally from suburban Atlanta, raised conservative only to find she's not "Normal" -- nonetheless frames the album cover in church glass. B+(*)

Saint Jhn: While the World Was Burning (2020, Hitco): Rapper Carlos St. John Phillips, aka Ghetto Lenny, born in Brooklyn but parents from Guyana, spent considerable time there growing up. Third album. B+(**)

Oumou Sangaré: Acoustic (2020, No Format): Wassoulou singer-songwriter from Mali, albums since 1990, some major. Concept here probably not. B+(**)

Alvin Schwaar/Bänz Oester/Noé Franklé: Travellin' Light (2019 [2020], Leo): Swiss piano-bass-drums trio, plays eight standards from Ellington to Hancock. B+(*)

Ray Scott: Nowhere Near Done (2020, Jethropolitan, EP): Country singer-songwriter from North Carolina, five albums 2005-17, returns with six-songs, a 23:06 EP. More trad than neo, voice reminds me of someone I can't quite peg (Dave Alvin comes to mind). B+(**)

Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello (2020, Warp): English electronica musician Tom Jenkinson, fifteenth album since 1996. Racing beats, the chase sometimes amusing, a bit more ominous on "Vortrack." B+(*)

Emma Swift: Blonde on the Tracks (2020, Tiny Ghost): Australian singer, moved to Nashville in 2013. First album, after an EP and a few singles, nothing more than a batch of Bob Dylan covers: two each from Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks, four more -- she spends even more time on "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" than Dylan did. I don't quite see the point. B

Taylor Swift: Evermore (2020, Republic): A second "surprise" album this year, as with July's Folklore, eschews pop glitz for straightforward songcraft, although she continues to pay close attention to production details, and she's getting all the help she can use, including marquee features for Haim, National, and Bon Iver. All the pandemic has done has been to move her focus from arenas to your living room. Or sometimes bedroom. B+(***)

Jorma Tapio & Kaski: Aliseen (2019 [2020], 577): Finnish saxophonist (alto, tenor, flutes), played in Krakatau and Edward Vesala's Sound & Fury, leads a trio here with Ville Rauhala (bass) and Janne Tuomi (drums). Title is a "Finnish word for a shaman's trip to the underworld" -- a "dark, mysterious" search that the spooky bass and wooden flutes signify. B+(***)

Laura Toxvaerd: Tidens Strøm (2019, ILK Music, EP): Danish alto saxophonist, handful of records since 2002, composed and wrote lyrics for 6 songs (26:38), sung by Maria Laurette Friis, and backed by tuba, accordeon, and drums. I might object to the rather arch vocals, but the harsh sax cuts them effectively. B+(**)

Laura Toxvaerd: Drapery (2019, ILK Music): Slightly longer album, came out same day, a quartet with Gustaf Ljunggren (various strings/guitars), Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass), and Marilyn Mazur (percussion, drums). B+(**)

Kelsey Waldon: They'll Never Keep Us Down (2020, Oh Boy, EP): Country singer-songwriter, from Kentucky, last three albums are aces, this one is dubbed an EP (7 songs, 31:29). The discount may be because these songs are covers, picked to raise some political hell. The ones from Dylan, Prine, and Neil Young are overly familiar, but the title track (from Hazel Dickens) is an anthem we need, and "Mississippi Goddamn" is still a howl they deserve. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Sharhabil Ahmed: The King of Sudanese Jazz ([2020], Habibi Funk): Singer from Sudan, plays guitar, oud, other instruments. Not clear when these seven grooveful pieces were recorded, but they combine Middle Eastern and Congolese elements, and one picture shows congas as well as a drum set. A-

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutTakes (1959 [2020], Brubeck Editions): Released just ahead of what would have been the pianist's 100th birthday, the introductory product of a family label where there are many more musicians. Outtakes from Brubeck's most famous album, Time Out, a universally applauded masterpiece, famed for the use of unusual time signatures but really the title track is one of the catchiest tunes ever written. At best, this gives you the chance to hear the album slightly differently: repeating five songs, substituting for two more, then tacking on some studio banter that doesn't help. B+(***)

Nat King Cole: Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Best of Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (1938-43 [2020], Resonance): Single-disc sampler from 2019's 7-CD, 183-track box, which fared well in EOY polls (not that I got a chance to listen). Box is probably de trop, and even this selection feels redundant to other period compilations. B+(***)

George Lewis: Rainbow Family (1984 [2020], Carrier): Avant-trombonist, more than dabbled in electronics, credit here reads "atelier" (workshop), prominently flagging ICRAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique), also four musicians: Douglas Ewart (alto sax, flute, clarinet), Joëlle Léandre (bass), Derek Bailey (electric guitar), and Steve Lacy (soprano sax). Novel experiments in computer music. Still, the stars are computers, which everything else bounces off of. B+(**) [bc]

Prince Buster: Roll on Charles Street ([2020], Rock A Shacka): Cecil Bustamente Campbell (1938-2016), a major producer during the ska and rocksteady eras -- his "Oh Carolina" leads off the fabulous Tougher Than Tough compilation. These are billed as "classic and previously unreleased Prince Buster productions," with no dates, 12 (of 20) credited to Prince Buster or Buster All Stars, with Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond the most famous other names. B+(**) [bc]

Prince Buster: Let's Go to the Dance: Rock Steady Selection (1967-68 [2020], Rock A Shacka): "We select 20 rocksteady tunes which have never reissued until today after original release date in 1967-68." Mostly production efforts for other performers, leaving 6 songs released as Prince Buster and 1 as Buster All Stars. B+(**) [bc]

Kalie Shorr: Open Book: Unabridged (2019 [2020], Tmwrk): Country singer-songwriter from Maine, self-released her debut Open Book in 2019, after several EPs, and turned a lot of ears. This is a reissue, expanded from 13 to 17 tracks. My initial reaction was that she was overly jacked up, but later plays persuaded me that the songs were solid. That's even clearer here. I doubt the extra songs are worth re-buying the rest, but this is a good one to start with. A-

Yasanuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit: Axis/Another Revolvable Thing (1975 [2020], Blank Forms Editions, 2CD): Japanese guitarist (1932-91). Group includes reeds (Kenji Mori), bass/cello, and percussion. Rather abstract. B(*) [bc]

Old music:

Gene Russell: New Direction (1971, Black Jazz; [2020], Real Gone Music): Pianist (1932-81), often played electric, recorded four albums 1967-72, with a fifth released in 1981. Co-founder of Black Jazz Records. This is classic piano trio plus congas, a little fancier than soul jazz but funkier than mainstream. B+(***)

Gene Russell: Talk to My Lady (1974, Black Jazz): The pianist mostly plays electric here, wrote three songs, adds some narration to the closer. With Calvin Keys on guitar, plus bass, drums, and congas. B+(*)


Further Sampling:

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

Peter Evans/Joel Ross/Nick Jozwiak/Savannah Harris: Being & Becoming (2019 [2020], More Is More): Trumpet player, quartet with vibes, bass, and drums. [bc: 1/5, 9:43/50:11]: ++

Peter Evans Ensemble: Horizons (2018 [2020], More Is More): Trumpet, violin, synth, percussion. [bc: 2/7, 10:29/42:10]: +

Peter Evans: Standards (2020, More Is More): Trumpet and piano duets, 5 songs, sample is "Embraceable You." [bc: 1/5, 8:59/39:22]: +


Grade (or other) changes:

Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): Greg Saunier and David Cohn crossed paths several times, including a gig in Berlin that produced a 17:16 "I Got Your Password," leading to the long-distance collaborations added here: Saunier emailed music tracks, a bit fancier than the usual beat tracks, and Cohn added some of his more furious rhymes. [was: B+(*)] B+(***)

Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, from Houston, four studio albums since 2006. I never stuck with her albums, so I have no idea how many of these songs are how old, but she's been a consistent songwriter, and this works nicely as a best-of. [Was: B+(***)] A-

Immanuel Wilkins: Omega (2020, Blue Note): Alto saxophonist, grew up near Philadelphia, based in New York, first album, produced by Jason Moran, backed by piano (Micah Thomas), bass, and drums. Blue Note has a knack for picking up unknowns and hyping them into phenoms, so I was skeptical at first, but gave him another shot after he bum-rushed the polls, and was impressed: still more mainstream than avant, but pushing the window. [was B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Social Distancing (Saponegro) [01-29]
  • Zach Phillips: The Wine of Youth (self-released)
  • Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter: Plaguesong (ESP-Disk)
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFunk: We've Had Enough! (ESP-Disk) **