Monday, March 22, 2021


Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35113 [35082] rated (+31), 218 [223] unrated (-5).

More old music than new, again. Probably too early to call that a trend, but the relative ease of processing familiar artists was the main thing that pushed the rated count above 30 this week. Old jazz this week. Started with a friendly link to Drums Parade, which might have rated higher had I given it more time, which would have happened if I had an actual CD to look at while it played. Some good stuff there, especially toward the end. That led to Sid Catlett and Baby Dodds. I might note that The Chronological Cozy Cole 1944 is even better than the Catlett. And the reminder that most of the trad jazz albums on American Music are on Napster pointed me to New Orleans clarinetist George Lewis. I also thought I'd check out Joe Chambers' back catalog after not liking his new album, and didn't much care for the old ones either. Oh, well.

By the way, I counted up Chambers' Blue Note albums for the review below, but held back from noting my guess of how many A-list albums he was on. It think that guess was 10-12, but when I checked, famous albums by Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Sam Rivers, Wayne Shorter, and McCoy Tyner fell short. Here's the actual list (all A-):

  • Andrew Hill: Andrew!!! (1964, Blue Note)
  • Andrew Hill: Compulsion!!!!! (1965, Blue Note)
  • Bobby Hutcherson: Dialogue (1965, Blue Note)
  • Bobby Hutcherson: Happenings (1966, Blue Note)
  • Bobby Hutcherson: Oblique (1967, Blue Note)
  • Archie Shepp: Fire Music (1965, Impulse!)
  • Archie Shepp: Kwanza (1969, Impulse!)

Since I'm no longer tracking new releases, I'm having some trouble finding new things I want to listen to. Some records below come from Phil Overeem, who seems to be struggling a bit himself. I doubt I'll ever manage the 7-CD Julius Hemphill box, or for that matter William Parker's 10-CD Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World. (I have a promo sampler of the latter, and haven't bothered to play it yet.) More likely I will check out Peter Stampfel's 20th Century in 100 Songs, as it seems to be complete on Bandcamp (minus the "88 pages of liner notes," which is likely to make a difference).

Laura's been bugging me to stream movies, especially ones that got nominated for awards. I haven't been enjoying them much, but as best I can recall, here's a graded list, consulting the Wikipedia list (also for 2021), plus a few titles I picked up from IndieWire's "50 Best Movies":

  • Bacurau: Kleber Mendonça/Juliano Dornelles, Brazil's wild, wild east. [B+]
  • Da 5 Bloods: Spike Lee rips off Vietnam. [B-]
  • The Dig: Simon Stone, digs up an ancient ship. [B+]
  • Enola Holmes: Harry Bradbeer invents a sister for Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. [B+]
  • Judas and the Black Messiah: Shaka King, on Fred Hampton. [B+]
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: George C Wolfe does August Wilson's play. [C+]
  • Mank: David Fincher, on Herman Mankiewicz, on William Randolph Hearst (and Louis B Mayer). [B+]
  • Nomadland: Chloé Zhao, on getting away from it all. [B]
  • Promising Young Woman: Emerald Fennell, revenge the hard way. [B+]
  • Small Axe: Mangrove: Steve McQueen, the trial. [B+]
  • Small Axe: Lovers Rock: Steve McQueen, the party. [B+]
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7: Aaron Sorkin doesn't totally screw up the trial of the century. [B+]
  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday: Lee Daniels. [B]

The Small Axe movies might deserve higher ratings, but they're very different, and I hedged because we didn't bother with the other three. Collectively, they're more like a limited series, which would move them into another, and more competitive, set. We haven't been to the movie theater since Bill Warren sold out his local chain (roughly a year before Covid-19 shut it down), in large part because my patience for 2-hour movies has worn thin. We watch a fair number of TV series, and I'm much happier with their pacing, character development, and story telling.

I don't have any opinions on actors, except that Amanda Seyfried was good in Mank, and Gary Oldman wasn't. Note no less than three appearances for America's nemesis, J Herbert Hoover, and they were all merciless. The music films bothered me in lots of ways, but rarely for their music -- one minor exception was how Audra Day mastered Billie Holiday's tics but missed the seamless phrasing that made them seem natural. I also didn't like the treatment of Lester Young, who has a story worth exploring on its own (although hopefully not by anyone so ham-fisted). (By the way, neither point figures in Nitish Pahwa's What's fact and what's fiction in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, but if you watch the film, you'll be wondering.)

I feel a bit weird about not writing Weekend Roundup any more, as my Sundays have become days of rest instead of intense pressure in such a sisyphean task. Every now and then I think of writing a standalone piece, but only pulled it off once so far. One idea that appears to have rotted on the shelf was a piece torching Keith C Burris' Two cults column. I'm not sure which is worse: the notion that because the right-wing has become a cult, anything on the left must be equally cultish; or that George Will and Barry Goldwater somehow constitute the vital center of American political thought.

On the other hand, I did finally knuckle down and write a couple pages for my memoir. Not much, but a step toward restarting after February's freeze up. Also, I got my second Covid-19 vaccination last week. Still have a couple weeks until Laura gets her second. After which I hope to cook something for some long-neglected friends. I won't claim that's a return to normal, but seems like a step in the right direction.


New records reviewed this week:

Joe Chambers: Samba De Marcatu (2020 [2021], Blue Note): Drummer, I associate him with Blue Note albums of the late 1970s (I count 24 from 1964-69, including 9 with Bobby Hutcherson), has more than a dozen albums under his own name since 1974. By the way, he picked up vibraphone, which he overdubs here, along with various percussion instruments. One thing I don't associate him with is Brazilian (or Latin) music. Even here, it only enters as occasional whiffs (especially with the two guest vocals). B

Charley Crockett: 10 for Slim: Charley Crockett Sings James Hand (2021, Son of Davy): Hand was a country singer-songwriter, died last year at 67. I sampled two of his albums, rated both high B+. Crockett is much younger, but survived his own health scare in 2019, so that may have factored in here. Or maybe he was just looking for better songs. B+(**)

Rebecca Dumaine and the Dave Miller Trio: Someday, Someday (2020 [2021], Summit): Standards singer, half-dozen albums, swapped billing order with Miller's piano trio on number four. Bright voice, plenty of poise, can't say I enjoyed this particular batch of songs, but they were catchy and nicely turned out. B+(*) [cd]

Michael and Peter Formanek: Dyads (2019 [2021], Out of Your Head): Famous bassist and his unknown son, playing tenor sax and clarinet, probably his first album. Something more than a nice duo album, the bass solos could stand on their own, but the extra color and shading extends interest, in this case all the way to 72:36. A- [cd]

George Haslam/João Madeira/Padro Catello Lopes/Mario Rua: Ajuda (2019 [2020], Slam): Tárogató, bass, percussion, drums; the title the name of the studio in Lisbon where this was recorded. Haslam, also notable as a baritone saxophonist, has a long career in the British avant-garde, thirty-some albums since 1989 (few I've heard, nearly all on this label, which Haslam owns but which has hosted dozens of other musicians). B+(***) [cd]

Marcus Joseph: Beyond the Dome (2021, Jazz Re:freshed): British alto saxophonist/spoken word artist, has a previous EP. Opener is a pretty irresistible groove piece, at least once the tuba jumps in. The spoken word is neither here nor there, but I would have cut the album one track short, omitting singer Randolph Matthews' feature. B [bc]

Reza Khan: Imaginary Road (2020 [2021], Painted Music): Guitarist, from Bangladesh but based in New York, sixth album, silky grooves, often augmented by other slick guitarists (Sergio Pereira, Miles Gilderdale). B- [cd] [03-26]

João Madeira/Hernâni Faustino: dB Duet (2020 [2021], FMR): Double bass duo, Portuguese, Faustino best known for RED Trio, Madeira has a much shorter discography starting in 2015. Sonic range is limited (as expected), but much of interest going on. B+(***) [cd]

Roberto Magris & Eric Hochberg: Shuffling Ivories (2019 [2021], JMood): Italian pianist, couple dozen records since 1990, duo here with the American bassist, recorded in Chicago. Fluid, light touch, very nice. B+(**)

Logan Richardson: Afrofuturism (2020, WAX Industry): Alto saxophonist, impressive FSNT debut in 2006, has been erratic since then. B [bc]

Schapiro 17: Human Qualities (2020 [2021], Summit): Big band, second album, leader Jon Schapiro composed 7 (of 8) pieces, the sole cover from Ewan MacColl, but doesn't play. Roberta Piket (piano), Eddie Allen (trumpet), Deborah Weisz (trombone), and Sebastien Noelle (guitar) are among the better known musicians. Solid group. B+(**) [cd]

Zoe Scott: Shades of Love (2020, Zoe Scott Music): Singer, originally from London, left for Rome, then Los Angeles, acted, sang in rock bands. Has a couple albums, this one leaning toward bossa nova, mostly Jobim and Bacharach, but also slips in Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Wonder, and Amy Winehouse ("I'm No Good). B+(*) [cd]

Archie Shepp & Jason Moran: Let My People Go (2017-18 [2021], Archieball): Tenor sax and piano duo, recorded at two European festivals (Paris and Mannheim). I've lost track of the pianist since he retreated to his own label and stopped promotion, but he is secondary here anyway. High point is Shepp inching his way through gorgeous ballads (like "Lush Life"). Low point is probably his singing, but only when the spirit moves him. B+(***) [bc]

Ruth Weiss: We Are Sparks in the Universe to Our Own Fire (2018 [2021], Edgetone): Beat poet, born 1928 in Berlin, died 2020. She grew up in Vienna, managed to keep one step ahead of the Nazis, moving to Amsterdam in 1938, then to America, eventually San Francisco. She has some twenty books of poetry since 1958, and several jazz albums. Fairly minimal backing, with synth, bass, wooden log, and tasty squibbles of Rent Romus sax and flute -- puts this record over the top. By the way, Romus credits George Russell with introducing him to Weiss (in 2013). A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band: Hot Night in Roslyn: 1976 Radio Broadcast Recording (1976 [2021], Hobo): She had a couple solo albums out, and most recently co-credit on Gram Parsons' posthumous Grievous Angel. Parsons provides most of the song list here, with a nod to Patsy Cline ("Sweet Dreams"), Merle Haggard ("The Bottle Let Me Down"), Chuck Berry ("C'est La Vie"), Buck Owens ("Together Again"), Hank Williams ("Jambalaya"), and others nearly as obvious. This surfaced as a bootleg in 2014, but looks to be official now. B+(***)

Juju: Live at 131 Prince Street (1973 [2021], Strut): Saxophonist Plunky Nkabinde and what I take to be a mostly African group -- later known as Oneness of Juju -- including Babatunde on congas and Lon Moshe on vibraphone. The address was Ornette Coleman's gallery, and the music fits the bill. Seven long pieces (114:44), Pharoah Sanders' "Thembi" a highlight, but they're all rearkable. A- [bc]

Byard Lancaster: My Pure Joy (1992 [2021], Strut): Saxophonist (1942-2012), should be better known for his 1970s work, which I think of as black power/avant-garde fusion -- an attempt to make the latter more accessible by making it more political. Starts out with flute here, backed by "Drummers From Ibadan." B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Sid Catlett: The Chronological Sid Catlett 1944-1946 (1944-46 [1997], Classics): One of the great swing drummers (d. 1951 at 41), mostly leading his own groups including a quartet with Ben Webster, plus a couple tracks each led by Edmund Hall and Al Casey. Nearly everything directly under Big Sid's name, but he played with everyone from Armstrong and Henderson through Condon and Goodman and Hawkins and Young and on to Byas and Gillespie. I don't have full credits here, but Art Tatum and Barney Bigard are on the jam session opener, and Illinois Jacquet comes along later. Closes with two blues vocals and two boogie tracks. A-

Joe Chambers: The Almoravid (1971-73 [1974], Muse): Drummer, first album as leader, four originals, covers of Joe Zawinul and Andrew Hill, titles rooted in Muslim world. Recorded in three sessions, only one with horns -- Woody Shaw (trumpet) and Harold Vick (flute/tenor sax). B

Joe Chambers: Phantom of the City (1991 [1992], Candid): A live set at Birdland, Bob Berg (tenor sax) getting second tier type, smaller for Philip Harper (trumpet), George Cables (piano), and Santi Debriano (bass). Postbop, seven pieces stretched out, some good spots for Berg. B+(*)

Joe Chambers: Mirrors (1998 [1999], Blue Note): Plays vibes as well as drums in his return to Blue Note. Some quintet tracks with Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Vincent Herring (saxes), Mulgrew Miller (piano), and Ira Coleman (bass), or subsets all the way down to solo. B+(*)

Baby Dodds: Baby Dodds (1944-45 [1993], American Music): New Orleans drummer (1898-1959), brother of clarinetist Johnny Dodds, played from 1918 with Sonny Celestin, Fate Marable, and King Oliver, following Louis Armstrong through his Hot Five and Hot Seven groups. Mostly talking and drum solos -- special interest, but gives you an idea how much thought goes into his craft -- with a few group cuts interspersed. B+(*)

Baby Dodds: Jazz A' La Creole (1946-47 [2000], GHB): Several sessions (some only dated "Mid 1940s"), but the 1946 trio included Albert Nicholas (clarinet) and Don Ewell (piano), and the 1947 quintet had Nicholas and James P. Johnson (piano), plus an uncredited singer (Dodds?). B+(***) [yt]

Drums Parade: From New Orleans to Swing 1937/1945 (1937-45 [1997], Jazz Archives): French label used by EPM Musique for 160+ CD compilations vintage jazz released 1988-2004. I bought at least a dozen back in the day, so when I saw the link, I figured this would be fun. For what it's worth, the New Orleans cuts are few and late: two each for Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton, all 1940 or later. The only pre-1939 cuts are two with Chick Webb. Also skips luminaries like Gene Krupa, but gives a nod to Lionel Hampton, Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole, and Jo Jones, along with some less famous names. High point: the three-track Cozy Cole sequence (two with Coleman Hawkins). Also an especially hot ending. B+(***) [yt]

George Lewis: George Lewis and His New Orleans Stompers: Vol. 1 (1943 [1994], American Music): New Orleans clarinet player (1900-68), played in various bands in the 1920s but didn't record as a leader until these sessions. In the 1950s he became the most famous of New Orleans revivalists, perhaps because he got in early and never wavered. B+(***)

George Lewis: George Lewis and His New Orleans Stompers: Vol. 2 (1943 [1994], American Music): Eleven pieces, but four are alternate takes, all exciting. B+(***)

George Lewis: At Manny's Tavern 1949 (1949 [1994], American Music): Credits include cornet, two trumpets, and a second clarinet player (Bill Shea), with Lewis also switching to alto sax. B+(***)

George Lewis: Hello Central . . . Give Me Doctor Jazz (1953 [2001], Delmark): Radio shot from San Francisco, the clarinetist leading a septet with trumpet (Kid Howard), trombone (Jim Robinson), piano (Alton Purnell), banjo, bass, and drums. B+(**)

George Lewis: The Beverly Caverns Sessions, Vol. 2 (1953 [1996], Good Time Jazz): I've long considered the previous volume, from the same Hollywood club, to be Lewis' pinnacle, but these are hardly sloppy seconds. Same septet, classic tunes, as buoyant as ever. Kid Howard and Joe Watkins each get a vocal. A-

George Lewis With George Guesnon's New Orleans Band: Endless the Trek, Endless the Search (1962 [1997], American Music): New Orleans trad jazz, shows its roots in old marching bands without getting mired. With Kid Thomas (trumpet), Jim Robinson (trombone), banjo (Guesnon), bass, and drums. A-

George Lewis: At Castle Farm 1964 (1964 [2001], American Music): Relatively late, showing signs of slowing down. Ends with the classics. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hennessy Six/Colorado Springs Youth Symphony: The Road Less Traveled (Summit)
  • Joseph Howell Quartet: Live in Japan (Summit)
  • Dan Rose: Last Night . . . (Ride Symbol)
  • Dan Rose/Claudine Francois: New Leaves (Ride Symbol)