Monday, March 15, 2021


Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35082 [35047] rated (+35), 223 [228] unrated (-5).

Music Week is mostly a function of time, so I should be able to knock these out every Monday, as long as I spend any time listening to new or previously unrated music. That habit persists, although I'm not working nearly as hard at searching out new records. Indeed, I only rarely bother to add things to the tracking file, and I'm not following metacritic ratings at all. In theory, this gives me more time to work on other projects, but that hasn't worked out very well so far. I did finally write a possible first page for the memoir, but even after turning the lines over in my mind for weeks, I have no feel for how good or bad it is.

Seems like I don't have much feel for anything these days. Life's a chore, making it all the harder to get anything done. Took me 30 minutes tonight just to change a light bulb. (Curses on whoever invented G10 sockets! Next time a bulb burns out, I'm replacing the fixture -- and the dimmer, because it won't work with new fixtures.) Still have to do laundry tonight, and the dryer door latch is broken, so that'll be a lot more work than it should be. (Something else I need to fix, but have you ever tried ordering replacement parts?) And those are just among the little things.

Probably my fault that I don't have anything new I really recommend. (In Layers is probably the best of this week's jazz albums.) But the week hasn't been a complete waste. Still scrounging the bottom of the reggae barrel, and finding a few notable albums.


New records reviewed this week:

Baker's Brew: New Works (2020 [2021], Psychosomatic, 2CD): Los Angeles experimental jazz group led by drummer Maury Baker, whose side credits date back to Janis Joplin and "played with" list includes Scott LaFaro (d. 1961), as well as the band Ars Nova. Second album under this name. First disc is "New Jazz Works"; second "New Electronic Works." I rather prefer the latter, although it doesn't sound very electronic. Maybe because the former doesn't sound very jazzy. B+(*) [cd]

Dan Blake: Da Fé (2019 [2021], Sunnyside): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), half-dozen albums since 2011, postbop quintet with two keyboard players (Carmen Staaf and Leo Genovese), bass, and drums. Runs impressively fast and loose, but not the most appealing sound. B+(**)

Jakob Bro/Arve Henriksen/Jorge Rossy: Uma Elmo (2020 [2021], ECM): Norwegian guitarist, albums since 2003, fifth on ECM, trio with trumpet and drums. Atmospheric, not much beyond the trumpet. B

Ian Charleton Big Band: A Fresh Perspective (2020 [2021], none): Conventional 17-piece big band, the leader composed four songs, arranged the rest, but isn't credited as playing (seems to have originally been a saxophonist). Second album. Nothing new, but well done. Emily Charleton joins for two vocals -- I especially liked her "Everything I've Got." B+(***) [cd] [03-16]

Pat Donaher: Occasionally (2020 [2021], none): Alto saxophonist, also a yogi, based in Boston, Bob Brookmeyer protégé, fourth album, lush and vibrant postbop sextet with Jason Palmer (trumpet), Carmen Staaf (piano), guitar, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd] [04-09]

Satoko Fujii: Hazuki: Piano Solo (2020 [2021], Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, tons of records since 1995, cut this solo at home in Kobe during lockdown. No idea how many solo albums she has -- certainly fewer than Keith Jarrett or Cecil Taylor, but I'm not sure about anyone else. By her standards, we'll call this "contemplative." B+(***) [cd] [03-19]

In Layers: Pliable (2018 [2020], FMR): Free jazz quartet: Luis Vicente (trumpet), Marcelo Dos Reis (guitar), Kristján Martinsson (piano), Onno Govaert (drums). Nice balance, Vicente continues to impress. B+(***) [cd]

Lukas Ligeti: That Which Has Remaindd . . . That Which Will Emerge . . . (2015 [2021], Col Legno): Percussionist, also electronics, son of famed Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, studied in Vienna and South Africa, teaches in Los Angeles, widely scattered projects since 1991. This one was the result of a residency at the POLIN Museum in Warsaw, a meditation on the Holocaust. I can't much follow the singer (Barbara Kinga Majewska), so I'm missing that whole dimension. B+(**) [cd] [03-26]

Hafez Modirzadeh: Facets (2018-19 [2021], Pi): No Wikipedia entry -- seems like a pretty big omission. Born in North Carolina (1962), Iranian descent (if memory serves), Professor of Creative/World Music at San Francisco State, has developed the idea of "chromodal discourse," which is the basis of this and other works. Plays tenor sax, in duets with three pianists (Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey, and Craig Taborn). B+(***) [cd]

Ben Monder/Tony Malaby/Tom Rainey: Live at the 55 Bar (2020 [2021], Sunnyside): Guitar-sax-drums trio, recorded last March just before lockdown, a piece called "Suite 3320" (3 parts, 61:35). I've never thought of Monder as a free player, but evidently he's had an association with Malaby for some time, playing with various drummers. Good luck this particular night. B+(***)

Gary Negbaur: You've Got to Be Carefully Taught (2020 [2021], BluJazz): Pianist-singer, wrote 3 (of 10) songs, covers include the Rodgers & Hammerstein title song about bigotry ("to hate all the people your relatives hate") and two from Lennon-McCartney. B+(*) [cd]

Reggie Quinerly: New York Nowhere (2020 [2021], Redefinition): Drummer, from Houston, studied at Juilliard and wound up teaching there. Fourth album since 2012, postbop quintet with trumpet (Antoine Drye), tenor sax (John Ellis), piano (John Chin), and bass. B+(*) [cd]

Jason Ringenberg: Rhinestoned (2021, Courageous Chicken): Former front-man of 1980s country-rock band Jason & the Scorchers, cut a solo album in 1992, but didn't get serious about it until 2000, and often as not called himself Farmer Jason. I didn't notice much of that until his terrific 2019 album, Stand Tall. The best parts here are comparable, and it's a good sign that they are all originals (e.g., "The Freedom Rides Weren't Free"). On the other hand, he might reconsider his covers (starting with "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today"). B+(**)

Charlie Sepúlveda: Charlie Sepülveda & the Turnaround (2020 [2021], HighNote): Trumpet player, from the Bronx, cousin of Eddie Palmieri. Hot Latin jazz group plus a roster of special guests, including Steve Turre and Miguel Zenon. B+(**) [cd] [03-26]

Jim Snidero: Live at the Deer Head Inn (2020 [2021], Savant): Alto saxophonist, many albums since 1989, this one billed as his first live album since then, a "safe, limited-audience gig at Pennsylvania's famed Deer Head Inn." Quartet leans retro -- Orrin Evans (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums) -- and the program is all standards, from "Now's the Time" to "Old Man River." B+(**) [cd] [03-26]

Steve Swell: The Center Will Hold (2019 [2020], Not Two): Trombonist, cover adds a "featuring Andrew Cyrille," but doesn't mention Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Robert Boston (piano/organ), or Ariel Bart (harmonica). Strings are a little squelchy here, but the free trombone is superb. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Derek Bailey/Mototeru Takagi: Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987 (1987 [2020], NoBusiness): Guitar and soprano sax duets. Bailey (1932-2005) was a major figure in the English avant-garde, with a vast discography I've barely sampled and never made much of. This seems typical of his abstract scratch. Takagi (1941-2002) has at least a dozen albums, from 1971 on, mostly playing tenor sax. B+(**) [cd]

Irene Mawela: The Best of the SABC Years (1982-88 [2019], Umsakazo): South African singer, active from the late 1950s to recent, but her name is usually buried in vocal groups, some as legendary as Dark City Sisters and Mahotella Queens. Twenty-two easy going transcriptions of radio shots. B+(***)

Old music:

Bob Andy: Bob Andy's Songbook (1966-68 [1970], Studio One): Reggae singer-songwriter Keith Anderson (1944-2020), a founder of the Paragons. First album, actually a compilation of early Studio One singles. "I've Got to Go Back Home" is the one I know best from Tougher Than Tough, but all 12 songs have a gentle, knowing flow, and many have terrific sax refrains. A-

Ken Boothe: Mr. Rock Steady (1968, Studio One): The Jamaican hitmaker's first album, lays his claim to the new style, with bigger hits to follow. I rarely like Jamaican covers of American soul hits, but his "Mustang Sally" is terrific. B+(**)

Dillinger: CB 200 (1976, Mango): Lester Bullock, started as a DJ, emerged as a toaster, gangsta name suggested by Lee Perry. Early album, probably his second, had a hit with "Kokane on My Brain." A- [yt]

Don Drummond: Jazz Ska Attack 1964 (1964 [1999], Jet Set): Trombone player for the Skatalites, credited as "backing band" here, but Drummond (1932-69) is credited with writing all 20 pieces, recorded at Treasure Isle and produced by Duke Reid. B+(**)

Clancy Eccles: Freedom: The Anthology (1967-73 [2005], Trojan, 2CD): More reknowned as a producer and entrepreneur than as a singer-songwriter, although his name claims or shares the artist credit on more than half of these 50 singles -- Eccles has no albums, just a few compilations -- and I recognize few of the other names. Has enough moments that a single-CD edit would rate a bit higher, but still seem minor. B+(*)

Alton Ellis: The Best of Alton Ellis (1968-69 [1969], Studio One): Genre-defining rocksteady star, singles start around 1962, but I can't date anything here before 1968 -- Discogs credits him with 19 singles in 1968, so there's a lot more where these came from, and many more years -- he recorded regularly into the 1990s, and died in 2008. B+(**)

The Maytals: Never Grow Old: Presenting the Maytals (1962-63 [1997], Heartbeat): Vocal trio, with Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias flanking soon-to-be-leader Toots Hibbert. Early tracks, not quite together although the organ points the way. Reissue adds four terrific bonus tracks, starting with their fully formed "Six and Seven Books of Moses." B+(***)

Jackie Mittoo: Now (1970, Studio One): Jamaican keyboard player, hooked up with Coxsone Dodd while still in his teens, recording "thousands of tunes," many with their house band, the Skatalites. Plays organ here, mostly groove-steady instrumentals, Skatalites minus horns. B+(**)

Scientist: Scientist Meets the Space Invaders (1981, Greensleeves): King Tubby protégé Hopeton Overton Brown, proclaimed himself Heavyweight Dub Champion in 1980, and went on to orchestrate dozens of mythic battles, encounters, and jams, of which this is one of the more legendary, although it feels like something he could do dozens of times. B+(***)

Scientist: Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of Vampires (1981, Greensleeves): More dub themes, titles add werewolves, zombies, and "Ghost of Frankenstein" to the vampire mix. Roots Radics plays, the bass gets deeper, and while I've already forgotten what the vocal was about, it was a highlight track (not that I recall which one). A-

Scientist: Scientist Encounters Pac-Man (1982, Greensleeves): Not sure what "Pac-Man" signifies here -- not a collaborator, and not likely anything related to the video game, but the cartoons on the cover suggest some kind of menace. Seems like his average album. B+(**)

Scientist: Scientist Wins the World Cup (1982 [2002], Greensleeves): Original album offered 10 untitled tracks, later grouped as "Ten Dangerous Matches," with the addition of five "Extra Time" and one "Golden Goal." B+(**)

Scientist/Hempress Sativa: Scientist Meets Hempress Sativa in Dub (2018, Conquering Lion): Latter is Kerida Johnson, who has a previous (2016) album, Unconquerebel. She provides a center for his dub early on, although my favorite cut is Ranking Joe's feature on the closer. B+(***)

Sizzla: Bobo Ashanti (2000, Greensleeves): Dancehall star Miguel Collins, debut 1995, prolific since them. After 10 albums in 5 years, thinking rastafari here. B+(**)

Skatalites: Ska Authentic, Vol. 1 (1967, Studio One): Hype sheet describes these as "solid tracks," which is exactly right. B+(**) [bc]

Skatalites: Ska Authentic, Volume 2 (1970, Studio One): Occurs to me that these compilations were recorded over multiple years, but I'm only identifying when they originally came out. More ace grooves, occasionally developed into memorable songs, always with their crack horn section. B+(***) [bc]


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amit Friedman: Unconditional Love (Origin) [03-19]
  • Achim Kaufmann/Ignaz Schick: Altered Alchemy (Zarek)
  • Mark Lewis Quartet: Naked Animals (Audio Daddio) [04-02]
  • Mai-Liis: Mai-Liis on Life (OA2) [03-19]
  • Wu Man/Kojiro Umezaki: How (In a Circle)
  • Roberto Miranda's Home Music Ensemble: Live at Bing Theatre: Los Angeles, 1985 (Dark Tree)
  • Ben Patterson: Push the Limits (Origin) [03-19]
  • Ignaz Schick/Oliver Steidle: Ilog2 (Zarek)