Monday, March 29, 2021


Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35141 [35113] rated (+28), 212 [218] unrated (-6).

Very little I feel like adding here. Rated count is down. I blame that Peter Stampfel monstrosity, but I probably would have made up the loss had I gotten onto an archive kick. New A-list this week is marginal, but at least it's all 2021 releases. And while I don't feel very certain about Lana Del Rey, I did play it four times, so I figure I gave it plenty of chance. Stampfel only got one play, as did the live doubles from Neil Young and Charles Lloyd.

Life remains stubbornly stuck. Wrote a bit in my memoir, but not much. Spent a little more time collecting bits for a book roundup. I'll probably post that mid-week.


New records reviewed this week:

Nik Bärtsch: Entendre (2019 [2021], ECM): Swiss pianist, has an impressive string of albums since 2000, most with his Ronin and Mobile groups, where he seems more intent on improvising rhythm than melody. This is solo, several pieces looking back. The opener wanders, but he eventually returns to form. B+(**)

Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club (2021, Polydor/Interscope): Singer-songwriter, seventh studio album since 2012, following up her hugely acclaimed Noran Fucking Rockwell with something slower, softer, harder to grasp. Closes with a Joni Mitchell song, leaving precisely that impression. Not sure that's right, but two plays leave me wondering how much more work to put into it. B+(**)

Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra: Promises (2021, Luaka Bop): British electronica producer Sam Shepherd, three previous albums, puts his classical training and passion for jazz to good use. The saxophonist is the draw here, the other bits of minor interest. B+(**) [bc]

Amit Friedman: Unconditional Love (2018 [2021], Origin): Israeli saxophonist (tenor/soprano), third album, backed by piano-bass-drums, plus oud and/or percussion on a couple tracks. Nice tone. I don't care for the two vocal pieces. B [cd]

Ghetts: Conflict of Interest (2021, Warner): British rapper Justin Clarke, third studio album plus six mixtapes. Grime beats, thoughtful lyrics. B+(*)

Barry Guy: Irvin's Comet (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): British bassist, leader of London Jazz Composers Orchestra, offers an impressively varied solo performance. B+(*) [cd]

Chris Hopkins: Meets the Jazz Kangaroos: Live! Vol. 1 (2020, Echoes of Swing): Retro-swing pianist, based in Germany, mostly records as Echoes of Swing. I haven't found anything else by the Jazz Kangaroos, but they're Australian, led by violinist/vocalist George Washingmachine, with David Blenkhorn (guitar) and Mark Elton (bass). Standards, ends with "Fine and Dandy." Vocals are passable, but the violin moves this into Hot Club territory. B+(**)

Jonathan Kane and Dave Soldier: February Meets Soldier String Quartet (2020 [2021], EEG): Kane plays drums, guitar, and bass. Soldier is credited with strings. Four extended riff pieces, "file under rock-blues-jazz-experimental. B+(**) [cd]

Achim Kaufmann/Ignaz Schick: Altered Alchemy (2016 [2021], Zarek, 2CD): German pianist, fairly prolific since 2004, takes the lead here, with Shick adding more-or-less ambient noise (turntables, sampler, live electronics). B+(**) [cd]

Mark Lewis Quartet: Naked Animals (2019-20 [2021], Audio Daddio): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute, backed by piano, bass, drums. Albums date back to 1979, and title cut here may have been recorded in 1990 (liner notes unclear). B+(*) [cd] [04-02]

Loretta Lynn: Still Woman Enough (2007-20 [2021], Legacy): Fourth album since 2016 produced by John Carter Cash, all including sessions from 2007 plus later songs. I don't know the mix, but she's 88 now, and had a stroke in 2017 which delayed the release of Wouldn't It Be Great. So it's surprising she sounds so steady all the way through this one. Helps that it's short (35:09), mostly built arounnd new versions of her classics, padded out with three gospel pieces (including the creepy "I Don't Feel at Home Anymore." Still, happy to hear her singing so strong. A-

Magnet Animals: Fake Dudes (2020 [2021], RareNoise): Guitarist Todd Clouser, originally from Minneapolis, based in Mexico City, also sings and talks, second album for this group -- Eyal Maoz (guitar), Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (bass), Jorge Servin (drums) -- also has another trio, A Love Electric, and other projects back to 2006. Not sure about the lyrics, but the guitar improvs stagger, even if they lean to the rock side of fusion. A- [cdr]

Mai-Liis: Mai-Liis on Life (2019-20 [2021], OA2): Singer-songwriter, originally from Toronto, based in Vancouver (or maybe Seattle), first album, gets help from pianist Darin Clendenin with the melodies. Backed by piano trio, plus guest spots on most songs. B+(**) [cd]

Wu Man/Kojiro Umezaki: How (2019 [2021], In a Circle): China meets Japan in Los Angeles with this pipa and shakuhachi duo. B+(*) [cd]

Ben Patterson: Push the Limits (2020 [2021], Origin): Trombonist, originally from Oklahoma, spent 22 years in the US Air Force's Airmen of Note, now based in DC, has a couple previous albums (including one featuring Chris Potter), not the pianist Ben Paterson (who has albums on the same label). Quintet, Shawn Purcell's guitar the other lead, plus keyboards (Chris Ziemba), bass, and drums. B+(*)

Ignaz Schick/Oliver Steidle: Ilog2 (2020 [2021], Zarek): German duo, Schick on turntables and electronics, Steidle drums and more electronics, both with discographies dating back to early 2000s. Feints toward noise, but an early bit with sampled vocals reminded me of DJ Shadow, and the drumming ultimately nudged this over. Their previous Ilog came out in 2015. A- [cd]

Peter Stampfel: Peter Stampfel's 20th Century in 100 Songs (2021, Louisiana Red Hot): One song per year, $60 for CDs (not sure how many, but at least 4) with an 88-page booklet that's bound to be interesting. Stampfel has one of the most distinctive voices ever, but tones down the weirdness that's been his stock and trade, while still wandering eclectically. Hit and miss, especially later years. B+(**) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1 (1980-85 [2021], Analog Africa): From Benin City, in south-central Nigeria, twelve tracks, 78:37, limited to three major artists of the period: Akaba Man, Sir Victor Uwaifo, and Osayomore Joseph. B+(**)

Allen Ginsberg's The Fall of America: A 50th Anniversary Musical Tribute (2021, Ginsberg): Fifty years after publication of the poet's The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965-1971, adds new music to 20 poems, many read by Ginsberg himself. Dedicated to the late Hal Willner, figuring this is the sort of production he might have done. (Willner produced another Ginsberg project, The Lion for Real, in 1989.) B+(**)

La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990 (1983-90 [2021], Bongo Joe): I was attracted to this by the fact that it's historically and geographically specific, but it doesn't sound distinct from any generic ambient compilation, anywhere, any time (well, since 1980). B+(*) [bc]

Charles Lloyd Quartet: Montreux Jazz Festival 1967 [Swiss Radio Days Volume 46] (1967 [2019], TCB, 2CD): Saxophonist, debut 1964, by 1967 was playing the Fillmore and Monterey, like a potential star. Young quartet here, fast becoming famous: Keith Jarrett (piano), Ron McClure (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). The leader is hit-and-miss, leaving a lot of space to the band. The drummer is especially sharp. B+(**)

Now That's What I Call Music! Outlaw Country (1968-2015 [2021], NOW): I've never bothered with this series or any of its offshoots -- the flagship line is up to 78 volumes now, and Now This Is What I Call Country is up to 10. Needless to say, this is envisioned as another series, most likely with the usual diminishing returns. Still, "outlaw country" started with a compilation, and that's always seemed like its natural format. No surprise that the core comes from the 1970s. The three post-2000 songs (Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert) don't fit the bill, but are gritty enough to fit in. B+(***)

Joe Strummer: Assembly (1986-2002 [2021], Dark Horse): Clash frontman, had a checkered solo career brought to a sudden end by a massive coronary in 2002 (age 50). Three previously unreleased live versions of Clash songs, most of the rest from his three Mescaleros albums (1999-2003). About half of this is also on the 2-CD 001, and every bit as erratic. Too bad. B+(**)

Neil Young With Crazy Horse: Way Down in the Rust Bucket (1990 [2021], Reprise, 2CD): Another bootleg (originally appeared as Feedback Is Back and Home Grown in 1991), given an official release: 19 songs, 6 topping 10 minutes, total 156:59. Slot after Freedom and Ragged Glory, a return to form after wasting much of the 1980s experimenting with electronics and/or horns. Familiar songs here, most memorably from a decade earlier. Can't say as they're exceptional takes, but far from disappointing. B+(**)

Old music:

Allen Ginsberg: Songs of Innocence and Experience (1970, MGM/Verve Forecast): The beat poet recorded many readings of his works, but this is something else, as he set 18th-century English poet William Blake's "Songs" to music -- drawn on English folk models, but not too rigidly. Aided by jazz-oriented musicians -- notably Don Cherry and Bob Dorough -- Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky sing inexpertly, with others pitching in. B+(***)

Allen Ginsberg: The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience (1970 [2017], Omnivore, 2CD): Reissue adds a second disc of "Blake Songs" and three "Mantras." Not as much fun as the original, but that's here too. B+(**)

A Love Electric: Son of a Hero (2014, Ropeadope): Guitarist-vocalist's Todd Clouser trio, with Aaron Cruz (bass) and Hernan Hecht (drums), fifth album since 2010. Songs predominate, which may not be the band's strong suit. B

A Love Electric: A Permanent Immigrant (2020, Imagination Demand): Leans harder into the trio's sound, occasionally with spoken vocals which cut against the grain. B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rahsaan Barber: Mosaic (2020 [2021], Jazz Music City, 2CD) [04-09]
  • Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Soundprints: Other Worlds (Greenleaf Music) [05-07]
  • Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Soné Ka-La 2: Odyssey (Enja) [05-21]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Keshin (Libra) [04-09]