Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34864 [34804] rated (+60), 224 [221] unrated (+3).

The end of January is usually my demarcation point between years. Last year I postponed Music Week to get to January 31, giving me the full month to try to wrap up 2020. This is the last Monday of January, so should be the last week, but lots of things feel unsettled. I thought about giving myself a few extra days, like last year, but when I ran the week's count, it was so high I decided a better plan would be to publish what I have now, then move next Music Week up a day, so it will land on January 31 instead of February 1. Or I could run it on next Monday, but back-date the files. Besides, I won't be doing a Weekend Roundup, so the slot's open. It will be a "short" week, but promises to be an intense one.

Accordingly, I won't try to write up any EOY comments here. (No guarantee I will get it done next time, but that's the plan.) You should be able to find links to the usual files here. One thing I will be adding will be Robert Christgau's 2020 Dean's List, which I've heard will be delivered to subscribers on Wednesday. I know this because I had to make some updates to his website to fix errors he noticed in working on this. (My Young M.A regrade was occasioned by one of those errors. I initially reviewed it in late 2019, when it came out, before he reviewed it in March 2020.)

Surprised I didn't come up with more A- records this week, but I've had quite a few distractions. The two I did find are obscure African reissues, checked out when I finally got around to adding the 65-deep reissues list from Ye Wei Blog (Jason Gross). In fact, most of the reissues/old music entries below were recommended by Jason, or one-step removed, including the Mainstream jazz reissues. Note that some items from his list appear as "old music" instead of as "reissues": I designated the latter when I found a reissue date, otherwise I reverted to the original release date.

I need to make some changes in my music coverage after this month, but no need to rush into that now. Suffice it to say that I will continue to try to write up notes/reviews on the new (for me) records I hear, especially those CDs I receive as promos. But I will be less aggressive about tracking and searching out new music -- e.g., I have a 2021 music tracking file, but it has little in it beyond what I have heard or have in my queue, and I'm not starting a metacritic/EOY aggregate file as I've done for the last few years. I've started to play more old records for nothing but my own pleasure, and I hope to have a happier year in 2021.


New records reviewed this week:

Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Social Distancing (2020 [2021], Saponegro): Peruvian trumpet player, teaches at NYU, albums with his Sextet since 2008, adds some guests here, vocals up front. B+(**) [cd] [01-29]

Juan Pablo Balcazar: Suite Resbalosa (2018 [2020], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish bassist, label credits him with 7 albums since 2005, his first remembered as a fine HM in an early Jazz CG. All original pieces, with two alto saxophonists, piano, and drums. B+(***)

Big Sean: Detroit 2 (2020, GOOD Music/Def Jam): Detroit rapper Sean Anderson, fifth studio album sice 2011. B+(**)

Nicholas Brust: Frozen in Time (2018 [2020], Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, studied in Boston, based in New York, first album, postbop quintet with piano (Tuoo Uusitalo), guitar (Ben Eunson), bass, and drums. B+(**)

Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine: Jupiter Conjunct (2019 [2020], Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, from California, studied at Berklee, several previous records. Sextet with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), vibes (Joel Ross), piano, bass, drums, plus two Esperanza Spalding vocals (not a plus). B

Cable Ties: Far Enough (2020, Merge): Australian garage rock band, Jenny McKechnie sings, second album, brash but catchy enough. B+(***)

Cam: The Otherside (2020, RCA): Country singer-songwriter Camaron Ochs, from California, third album. B+(***)

A.G. Cook: Apple (2020, PC Music): Initials for Alexander Guy, British electropop producer, founded PC Music label in 2013, may be better known for work with Charli XCX. Second LP after a number of singles and EPs back to 2013. B [bc]

Deerhoof: Future Teenage Cave Artists (2020, Joyful Noise): Experimental rock group, discography starts in 1996, not one I was tempted to follow but Greg Saunier (drums) and John Dieterich (guitar since 1999) have been showing up in jazz and hip-hop contexts recently. (The other long-termer is bassist-singer Satomi Matsuzaki.) Scattered psychedelia, somehow more appealing than you'd expect. B+(*)

Deerhoof & Wadada Leo Smith: To Be Surrounded by Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough (2020, Joyful Noise): Two live sets, the first (6 tracks, 17:52) with just the band, the second (5 tracks, 19:04) adds the trumpet player. B+(**) [bc]

Deerhoof: Love-Lore (2020, Joyful Noise): Surprise album, nominally a covers album, with five medleys (one 19:02, which winds through Silver Apples/Police/Kraftwerk through Babbitt/B52s to Penderecki/Cage/Brecht). Very mixed bag, but the short B52s bit is great, as is the Velvet Underground ("All Tomorrow's Parties"). B+(*)

Eyelids: The Accidental Falls (2020, Decor): Indie band from Portland, fourth album since 2014. B+(*)

Laura Fell: Safe From Me (2020, Balloon Machine): Singer-songwriter, from London, day job psychotherapist, first album. B+(*)

Fireboy DML: Apollo (YBNL Nation/Empire): Nigerian singer-songwriter Adedamola Adefolahan, second album, closer to global soul/hip-hop than to afrobeat let alone juju, but pretty upbeat. B+(*)

Keeley Forsyth: Debris (2020, The Leaf Label): English singer-songwriter, better known as an actress -- I'm sure I've seen her in a half-dozen series going back as far as Dalziel and Pascoe (2002), but I don't see any starring roles. First album at 41 -- a short one, 8 tracks, 27:56, but slow enough it seems longer. B

Angelica Garcia: Cha Cha Palace (2020, Spacebomb): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, based in Richmond, second album, an arty pastiche with nods to Mexican and Salvadoran roots. B

Groupe RTD: The Dancing Devils of Djibouti (2020, Ostinato): From the former French Somaliland, a tiny enclave on the Red Sea between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, mostly known in these parts for hosting a US military base (although they also have bases for France, Japan, and China). RTD is Radiodiffusion-Télévision Djibouti, the state-controlled media. Upbeat crossroads music, whiffs from Bollywood to Jamaica, maybe a bit of Scottish jig. B+(***)

HHY & the Kampala Unit: Lithium Blast (2020, Nyege Nyege Tapes): Portuguese producer Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, has a couple soundtracks, pop-jazz albums with the Macumbas, now this slab of electronica, now this slab of electronica from his visit to Uganda. B+(*)

Juniore: Un Deux Trois (2020, Le Phonographe): French indie pop group, led by Anna Jean (daughter of novelist JMG Le Clézio), second album, in French, big beats and cool vibes. B+(**)

Kiwi Jr.: Football Money (2020, Persona Non Grata): Canadian group, from Toronto. Punk economy (10 songs, 27:18) with grander pop gestures. B+(**) [bc]

Adrianne Lenker: Instrumentals (2020, 4AD): Big Thief leader (singer/guitarist), has released a couple solo albums alongside four group efforts. This one was bundled with Songs on CD, but the digitals are separate, so I didn't feel compelled to review this when I did Songs [B+(*)]. However, so many reviewers and EOY lists combined the two I counted them as one. Only later did I realize that this isn't instrumental versions of the Songs but two more pieces (total 37:24). Not bad, but strikes me as rather trivial. B

Lydia Loveless: Daughter (2020, Honey, You're Gonna Be Late): Alt-country singer-songwriter Lydia Ankrom, from Ohio, coming off five albums on Bloodshot. I was impressed by her feisty debut, but she's settled down since then. B+(*)

Melkbelly: PITH (2020, Wax Nine/Carpark): Chicago noise rock band, second album, Miranda Winters sings, seems a bit off. B

Blake Mills: Mutable Set (2020, New Deal/Verve): Singer-songwriter from California, has some production credits and a rep as a guitarist (including a Dylan side-credit), fourth album since 2010. Slow, quiet, painstaking. B

Moby: All Visible Objects (2020, Mute): Electronica producer, big in the late 1990s, someone I had lost track of since 2013's still-pretty-good Innocents (sixth studio album since). Familiar use of vocals, big beats, lush textures. Hit and miss, but glorious when it works. B+(*)

Jim Noir: A.M Jazz (2019, Dook): Singer-songwriter from Manchester, UK; plays guitar, bass, keyboard, drums; fifth album since 2005. Not jazz, but he enjoys letting waves of wound wash over, sort of a lighter, airier shoegaze effect. B+(**) [bc]

The Orielles: Disco Volador (2020, Heavenly): British indie band ("surf pop, garage/psych"), from Halifax (West Yorkshire), second album. Shiny. B+(*)

Popcaan: Fixtape (2020, OVO Sound/Warner): Jamaican singer-songwriter Andre Hugh Sutherland, fourth album since 2014, draws on dancehall, punches it up. B+(**)

Pottery: Welcome to Bobby's Motel (2020, PTKF): Five piece indie rock/garage punk band from Montreal, which is to say a bit much for punk. So no surprise this feels a bit luxe, but does rock a bit. B+(*)

Spanish Love Songs: Brave Faces Everyone (2020, Pure Noise): Rock band from Los Angeles, Dylan Slocum singer, described as punk but lacks the economy, compensating with volume. Not bad as this sort of thing goes, but by the time he pleaded "don't take me out back and shoot me," I was beginning to have second thoughts. B-

Special Interest: The Passion Of (2020, Thrilling Living): New Orleans group, but nothing you'd associate with the Big Easy -- Cleveland, maybe, or Leeds, new wave industrial not without a hint of dance beat. B+(***)

Macie Stewart & Kia Kohl: Recipe for a Boiled Egg (2020, Astral Spirits): Violin and cello duo, both also credited with voice. B+(*) [bc]

Dougie Stu: Familiar Future (2020, Ropeadope): Doug Stuart, from Oakland, first album; plays bass, keyboards, percussion. Jeff Parker helps out on guitar. Fusion, funky but glossy. B

Teyana Taylor: The Album (2020, GOOD Music/Def Jam): R&B singer-songwriter (with lots of help) from New York, third album, second ran lite (22:52) but this one doesn't stop until 77:19. Too much, but most of it is cracking good. B+(***)

Teenage Halloween: Teenage Halloween (2020, Don Giovanni): Punk group from New Jersey, second album, fast and short: 10 songs, 23:23. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Damily: Early Years: Madagascar Cassette Archives (1995-2002 [2020], Bongo Joe): Malagasy musician, Discogs lists four albums 2007-18, plus this earlier archive. B+(***)

The Disciples: For Those Who Understand (1991-95 [2020], Partial): British DJ/dub producer Russel Bell-Brown, aka Russ Disciple, aka Russ D, doing business since 1986. This was originally released on his Boom Shacka Lacka label in 1995, and reissued on vinyl in 2020. Always good, but probably a lot of similar material over the years. B+(**) [bc]

Bonnie Hayes With the Wild Combo: Good Clean Fun (1982 [2020], Blixa Sounds): First album, a Christgau pick I missed at the time, subsequently followed by a 1984 EP he panned, and two albums since (1996, 2003) he ignored. Rocks hard enough I could see the attraction, but not sure it delivers much. New edition tacks on the panned EP and five demos. B+(**)

Kakai Kilonzo & Les Kilimambogo Brothers: Buffalo Mountain (1975-85 [2020], No Wahala Sounds): Kenyan band, a pioneer in the guitar-driven benga style, a bit less flashy than the better-known Daniel Owino Misiani, but infectious nonetheless. Dates are approximate ("mid-1970s to mid-1980s"), with Kilonzo dying in 1987, aged 33. A- [bc]

Pedro Lima: Maguidala (1985 [2020], Bongo Joe): Touted as "the people's voice" after Sao Tomé gained independence from Portugal in 1975, died in 2019 boasting "his funerals were the biggest ever organized on the island." Four songs, sustained grooves averaging 9 minutes, voice is exemplary but the secret sauce is Leopoldino "Gúndu" Silva's guitar. A-

The Mighty Three's: Africa Shall Stretch Forth Her Hand (1978 [2020], Jah Fingers): Jamaican vocal trio, released some singles, this plus a dub album. B+(**) [bc]

Jay Migliori and Dick Twardzik: Jazz Workshop Quintet: A Harvard WHRB Session (1954 [2020], Fresh Sound): Tenor sax and piano, with vibes (Johnny Rae), bass, and drums. Twardzik is semi-infamous, having made a huge impression with Chet Baker (also Russ Freeman and Lars Gullin) then dying at age 24 (heroin overdose). Migliori (1930-2001) had a less meteoric career, although Discogs tells us that he "played on more than 4,000 commercial recordings, ranging from Charlie Parker to Tito Puente, and from the Beach Boys to Celine Dion. Radio shot, both principals and Rae have good spots. B+(**)

Tony Oxley: February Papers (1977 [2020], Discus Music): English avant-jazz drummer, released this album on Incus in 1977. Basically a strings group -- two violins, electric guitar, Barry Guy on double bass and bass guitar, which keeps it abstract and scratchy. B [bc]

Max Romeo: Revelation Time (1975 [2020], 17 North Parade): Reggae singer-songwriter Maxwell Smith, first hit 1969, introduced to US audiences via his 1976 album War Ina Babylon (with Lee Perry). B+(*)

Scorcha! Skins, Suedes and Style From the Streets 1967-1973 (1967-73 [2020], Trojan): Soundtrack tied to Paul Anderson's book on the UK skinhead subculture, same title, originally released as a box of 10 45rpm 7-inch singles. Cover shows a white couple in close dance embrace. Songs are mostly obscure, but the artists I recognize are Jamaicans: Desmond Dekker, Cornel Campbell, Tommy McCook, Ken Boothe, Phyllis Dillon ("Don't Stay Away"), the Melodians ("Sweet Sensation"). B+(*)

Phil Seymour: If You Don't Want My Love (1980-85 [2020], Sunset Blvd): There was a moment in 1976 when Dwight Twilley seemed like the future of rock and roll, although like other contenders (Nick Lowe, Bruce Springsteen) his key was a knack for summoning past glories. He came out of Oklahoma, which may have had something to do with why I was partial to him. Seymour was his drummer, and embarked on a short-lived solo career in 1980-82, another band (the Textones, 1984-85), and cancer (died 1993 at 41). These are mostly demos from around his first album, with a couple Textones live cuts. Note writers on title song: John Prine and Phil Spector. B+(**)

Silkworm: In the West (1994 [2020], Comedy Minus One): Indie band, founded by Tim Midyett, Joel RL Phelps, and Andy Cohen in Missoula in 1985, changing their name from Ein Heit in 1987. Moved on to Seattle in 1990 and later to Chicago. Three later records on Touch & Go appeared in Christgau's CG, then they broke up in 2005 after their drummer was the victim of a car homicide. Early record, seems very much part of the time. B+(***)

Sugar Billy: Super Duper Love (1975 [2020], Mainstream): Willie Garner, from Detroit, cut some singles for New Day and Fast Track 1971-76, plus this one-shot album. Aims for funk, but he's got a lot of grit in his voice and blues in his soul. Reminds me of Swamp Dogg, but not as funny, nor as lazy when he sells out. B+(***)

Keith Tippett: The Monk Watches the Eagle (2004 [2020], Discus Music): British avant pianist, commissioned to write a large choir piece, with Julie Tippets contributing the text, and a pair of saxophone quartets. Probably should have turned it off as soon as I realized the setup, but I sat through to the end. Hated the voices, of course, and had mixed feelings about the saxes. Missed his piano. B- [bc]

Old music:

Bonnie Hayes With the Wild Combo: Good Clean Fun (1982, Slash): Thought I'd strip the expanded reissue back to the original album to see how it holds up on its own. Better. B+(***)

Stan Hope: Stan Hope (1971, Mainstream): Pianist from New Jersey, handful of records since 1968, this a trio with bass (Peck Morrison) and drums (Walter Perkins). B+(**) [bc]

Charles McPherson: Charles McPherson (1971, Mainstream): Alto saxophonist, started with Prestige in 1964 as a bebopper, broadened his horizons with three albums for Mainstream 1971-73, then five for Xanadu 1975-81, and is still active in his 80s. With Lonnie Hilliard on trumpet, two electric guitars, more focus on groove. B+(**) [bc]

Reggie Moore: Furioso (1972, Mainstream): Pianist, from New York, father was Billy Moore Jr. (1917-89), a pianist and arranger for Jimmie Lunceford, Charlie Barnet, and others. Trio with bass (Hank Haynie) and drums (Chip Lyles). Four originals, four covers, ranging from Wynton Kelly to Bo Diddley -- my fave is "High-Heeled Sneakers." B+(**) [bc]

Prince Alla: The Best of Prince Alla (1976-79 [1981], Redemption Sounds): Roots reggae singer, started with the Leaders, singles date from 1975, this 8-track LP was only his second, and I'm not totally clear on dates (especially the "Disco Style" versions which open and close (the latter being closer to dub). B+(**)

Clark Terry & Bob Brookmeyer: The Power of Positive Swinging (1965, Mainstream): Bob Shad ran this label from 1964 to 1978, starting with reissues from Commodore (1939-54). This is the only Mainstream record on my old shopping list, so seemed like a good place to start with their catalog on Bandcamp. Quintet, leaders on flugelhorn/trumpet and trombone, backed by Hank Jones (piano), bass, and drums. B+(***)

Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet: Gingerbread Men (1966, Mainstream): Another quintet, also anchored by pianist Hank Jones. Vocals on "I Want a Little Girl." Terry is credited, but he's bouncing off someone else. B+(**) [bc]

Clark Terry: Mumbles (1966, Mainstream): Nickname for when he "sings," a slurry of gravel and muck I've seen more politely referred to as "verbal salad." I'm not aware of him ever doing it for an entire album. Even here, it's only on 3-4 cuts, and in limited doses it can be inspired. Of course, he also plays his superb trumpet and flugelhorn, with Jerome Richardson on reeds, Frank Anderson on organ and piano, two guitars, two basses, even more percussion (including Willie Bobo on congas). B+(**)

Ernie Wilkins and His Orchestra: Hard Mother Blues (1970, Mainstream): Saxophonist from St. Louis, 1919-99, played in and arranged for big bands, most famously Count Basie's, favoring the form into the 1990s -- he led an "Almost Big Band" in the 1980s, and his Kaleidoduke (1994) is a personal favorite. He shows up as a producer on many Mainstream releases, and takes the helm here, with light and frothy arrangements of tunes like "Dock of the Day" and "Funky Broadway," with organ and full horn sections. B+(*)

Pete Yellin: Dance of Allegra (1972, Mainstream): Saxophonist, pictured playing flute on the cover of this debut album, recorded a half-dozen more through 2008, many more side credits including stretches with Buddy Rich, Joe Henderson, Bob Mintzer and Tito Puente. Eddie Henderson opens strong on trumpet, Kenny Barron plays electric piano, Stanley Clarke bass, and Billy Hart and Dom Um Romao keep the rhythm bubbling. B+(**) [bc]


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.

Roscoe Mitchell: Splatter (2017 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): Big band, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, plus the saxophonist on his compositions. [bc: 1/3, 5:32/74:07]: -


Grade (or other) changes:

Young M.A: Herstory in the Making (2019, M.A Music): New York Rapper Katorah Marrero, first album after EP Herstory, a couple mixtapes, a hit single ("OOOUUU"). Gender not always clear, especially when she goes on a rant about her "bitches." [was: B+(*)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Benoît Delbecq: The Weight of Light (Pyroclastic) [02-12]
  • Jonathan Kane and Dave Soldier: February Meets Soldier String Quartet (EEG) [02-01]
  • Doug MacDonald Duo: Toluca Lake Jazz (Doug MacDonald Music) [02-05]
  • Yoko Miwa Trio: Songs of Joy (Ubuntu Music) [02-12]