Monday, July 25, 2022

Music Week

July archive (finished).

Music: Current count 38383 [38330] rated (+53), 77 [78] unrated (-1).

Missed last week, so this collects scraps from two weeks, mostly before the day I woke up with crippling hip pain. I'm a bit more functional now, but feel bad enough I'll make this brief.

This is the last Monday of July, so I've opened up a scratch file for August Streamnotes. I haven't done the indexing on the July file (link above). No need delaying this a few hours (or a day or two) just for that.

Robert Christgau's website experienced another resource crunch last week, followed by some kind of server failure. I'm still working on some code that will address one theory of why this has happened (twice now). When I install the "fixes" later this week, it's always possible I could break something, so please refer any problems you find to me.

I've gotten some letters recently encouraging me to write the book, and also asking for help/collaboration on website projects. At present I don't feel up to either, but appreciate the interest and attention.

Sometime during my downtime I played Operator's Manual, a compilation of Buzzcocks singles. Ever since I've been beset by ear worms, especially "Nostalgia for an Age Yet to Come."

New records reviewed this week:

Bedouin/DakhaBrakha: The Bedouin Reworks of DakhaBrakha (2022, Human by Default, EP): Brooklyn-based DJs Rami Abousabe and Tamer Malki, who have a bunch of singles/EPs since 2014, add synth beats to four songs (28:37) from a Ukrainian folk quartet. B+(**) [sp]

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Love for Sale (2021, Columbia/Interscope): Ancient crooner (95) and former pop phenom (35), did an album of standards in 2013, return to formula here, focusing on Cole Porter songs, because, well, they're the top. Usual string arrangements that swing a little but not a lot, two capable voices, no reason to complain, but not much to crow about either. B+(**) [sp]

Cyrus Chestnut: My Father's Hands (2021 [2022], HighNote): Mainstream piano trio, with Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), aside from a solo "I Must Tell Jesus." Four originals, six covers, "Yesterday" the least valuable. B+(*) [cd]

Mark de Clive-Lowe & Friends: Freedom: Celebrating the Music of Pharoah Sanders (2022, Soul Bank): Keyboard player from New Zealand, albums since 1997. Pays due respect to the music, with Teodross Avery capturing the gravel in the sax, but Dwight Trible struggles with the vocals -- never a great idea. B+(**) [bc]

Elucid: I Told Bessie (2022, Backwoodz Studioz): New York rapper Chaz Hall, probably best known as half of Armand Hammer, has a number of solo albums/mixtapes since 2007. Dedicates this one to his late grandmother. B+(**) [sp]

Yuko Fujiyama/Graham Haynes/Ikue Mori: Quiet Passion (2019 [2022], Intakt): Japanese pianist, probably based in New York, has a short discography going back at least to 1996. With cornet and percussion, some voice. Delivers fair enough on the title. B+(**) [sp]

Vinny Golia/Bernard Santacruz/Cristiano Calcagnile: To Live and Breathe (2017 [2022], Dark Tree): Soprano sax and piccolo -- I have my reservations about the latter, but they're easily forgotten as this masterful performance continues. With bass and drums that captivate even on their own. A- [cd]

David Greenberger & the Waldameer Players: Today! (2022, Pel Pel): Spoken word artist (among other talents), born in Chicago (1954), grew up in Erie, PA, but seems more familiar with Massachusetts these days. Played bass in the band Men & Volts, which connected him with co-producers Sam Kulik, Michael Evans, and Jeff Arnal. Words come from stories told by residents in various senior care homes, and they're often fascinating, even when they wax philosophical ("how is it that we have so much knowledge, and so little wisdom?"; "whatever time is left to you, you have to enjoy it, enjoy every minute"). I've heard a few of these, and they're consistently interesting. If this one is exceptional, it's probably because the music is more than just background. A- [cd]

Tom Harrell: Oak Tree (2020 [2022], HighNote): Postbop trumpet/flugelhorn player, long and steady career since his debut in 1976. Quartet with Luis Perdomo (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Adam Cruz (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Colin James: Open Road (2021, Stony Plain): Canadian blues singer-songwriter, guitarist, dropped last name Munn, debut 1988, I liked his second Little Big Band album (1998), but hadn't heard anything since (a gap of 10 albums). B+(*) [sp]

EG Kight: The Trio Sessions (2021, Blue South): Blues singer-songwriter from Georgia (if you care, white and female, initials for Eugenia Gail), Wikipedia links her to Chicago but doesn't explain why. Debut 1997, I was floored by her third album (Southern Comfort) but rarely noticed later ones. Trio has Kight on acoustic guitar, Ken Wynn on guitar and dobro, Gary Porter on drums. I have mixed feelings about the closer, "Hallelujah." B+(**) [sp]

Travis Laplante: Wild Tapestry (2021 [2022], Out of Your Head): Saxophonist, has a few albums since 2011, also in group Battle Trance. One 30:40 piece, for nine-piece group with flute, trumpet, trombone, guitar, harp, bass, and two percussionists. B+(**) [cd]

Lisbeth Quartett: Release (2021 [2022], Intakt): German saxophonist Charlotte Greve, with Manuel Schmiedel (piano), Marc Muelbauer (bass), and Moritz Baumgärtner (drums). Sixth group album, going back to 2009, they fit very easily together. Greve wrote all but one piece, from the bassist. B+(***) [sp]

Mammoth Penguins: There's No Fight We Can't Both Win (2019, Fika): British indie pop band, led by Emma Kupa (formerly of Standard Fare). Third album. B+(**) [sp]

Tumi Mogorosi: Group Theory: Black Music (2021 [2022], Mushroom Hour Half Hour/New Soil): Drummer, from South Africa, plays in Shabaka & the Ancestors, second album as headliner. I'm often impressed by the music, but don't think the vocals add any value. B [bc]

PJ Morton: Watch the Sun (2022, Morton/Empire): New Orleans-based soul singer, solo debut 2005, also plays keyboards in Maroon 5 (since 2012). Racks up some serious guest power here (Nas, Stevie Wonder, Wale, Jill Scott, El Debarge). Treats them well. B+(**) [sp]

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: Elastic Wave (2021 [2022], ECM): Norwegian drummer, runs a couple groups, fourth album with this one, with André Roligheten (reeds) and Petter Eldh (bass). All three contribute pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Matt North: Bullies in the Backyard (2022, self-released): Nashville-based drummer, singer-songwriter, second album (first one, Above Ground Fools, was a good one). B+(***) [sp]

Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Mesmerism (2021 [2022], Pi): Drummer-led trio, with Aaron Diehl (piano) and Matt Brewer (bass). Sorey first appeared in groups led by Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman. His 2007 debut sprawled over two CDs, including a long stretch on piano, which helped cement his reputation as a composer: ten years later he won a MacArthur "genius" grant, and five years since have revealed a dizzying range of moves, including this mild-mannered, unassuming, yet lovely set of covers. B+(***) [bc]

Elias Stemeseder: Piano Solo (2021 [2022], Intakt): Austrian pianist, based in New York, has appeared in groups with Jim Black, Christian Lillinger, Anna Webber, and others, a couple as leader. This is solo, originals except for a trad piece. B+(**) [sp]

Laura Veirs: Found Light (2022, Bella Union): Folkie singer-songwriter from Colorado, majored in geology, based in Portland, debut 1999, married producer Tucker Martine (2000-19), did a vocal trio album with Neko Case and KD Lang. B+(**) [sp]

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Jazz Is Dead 13: Katalyst (2022, Jazz Is Dead): With 7 songs stretched to 37:55, we'll dispense with the EP designation. The series is usually good enough to make the title ironic, but never great. I've been trying to find a consistent credits parsing, and this is the one that makes the most sense, but looking back I've struggled. The order of the two producers flips back and forth. The number is formatted with or without leading '0's, and many are tempted to credit the featured artist (although JID 001 didn't have just one). Until this one, they all feature still-living artists who made their mark in the 1970s. Katalyst is different: they have one 2020 album, and have mostly worked as the studio band on the other Jazz Is Dead releases. Their specialty is funk-fusion, not far removed from what you might find in a 1970s time capsule. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Orchestre Massako: Orchestre Massako (1979-86 [2022], Analog Africa, EP): Orchestra and band from Gabon, recorded a dozen or so albums 1979-87, founded a decade earlier by Jean-Christian Mboumba Mackaya (aka Mack-Joss), directed by the military. Scant info on when these four tracks (25:33) were recorded. B+(*) [bc]

Horace Tapscott Quintet: Legacies of Our Grandchildren (1995 [2022], Dark Tree): French label named for Tapscott's greatest album, but nearly everything he does rises to that standard, as each new discovery of an old tape reaffirms. Saxophonist Michael Session is terrific here, trombonist Thurman Green holds up his end, and the piano is frequently miraculous. Only doubt arises with the vocals on two pieces, but why fault Dwight Trible for being too passionate? A- [cd]

The Trypes: Music for Neighbors (1984 [2022], Pravda): New Jersey band, related to the Feelies, released a 4-track EP in 1984, recorded some other stuff collected here -- a somewhat nebulous concept, given that the Spotify stream has 12 tracks, while the CD reportedly has 16 (including two 2017 reunion tracks), and Bandcamp has more B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver: Triptych (2003 [2005], Leo): Danish saxophonist (tenor/soprano), debut 1996, backed by piano and drums, recorded in Denmark, the first of at least three records they did together. B+(***) [sp]

Lotte Anker/Sylvie Courvoisier/Ikue Mori: Alien Huddle (2006 [2009], Intakt): Anker plays soprano, alto, and tenor sax, backed by piano and electronics -- latter can get noisy. B+(**) [sp]

Marion Brown: Duets (1970-73 [1975], Arista/Freedom): Alto saxophonist (1935-2010), from Atlanta, recorded a couple free jazz classics in the 1960s. Two sets of duets: the first with Leo Smith (trumpet), with both adding percussion; the other with Elliott Schwartz (piano/synth), where Brown also plays some clarinet and piano. B+(*) [lp]

Eliane Elias: Cross Currents (1987 [1988], Blue Note): Brazilian pianist, studied in New York at Juilliard, debut 1985, has had two famous husbands (Randy Brecker, co-producer here, and later bassist Marc Johnson), in what's mostly a trio session with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). She wrote four originals here, but opens with Bud Powell, and closes with "When You Wish Upon a Star." B+(*) [lp]

Pierre Favre: Window Steps (1995 [1996], ECM): Swiss drummer, debut 1964, as a leader 1970 but more often in duos and small groups. Composed the first four pieces here, the other three by band members: Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Roberto Ottaviano (soprano sax), David Darling (cello), and Steve Swallow (bass). B+(*) [sp]

Pierre Favre: Saxophones (2003 [2004], Intakt): With ARTE Quartett (four saxophones) and Michel Godard (tuba/serpent). The horns form a choir, which can swell beyond their usual ambient backdrop. The percussion is more interesting when left alone. B+(*) [sp]

Pierre Favre Ensemble: Le Voyage (2010, Intakt): Large group, ten members, includes a saxophone quartet, an extra clarinet, trombone, guitar, bass guitar, bass, and the leader on drums/percussion. Ends strong. B+(**) [sp]

Pierre Favre: Drums and Dreams (1970-78 [2012], Intakt, 3CD): Reissues three early solo drum/percussion albums. B+(**) [sp]

Gabriela Friedli Trio: Started (2010 [2012], Intakt): Swiss pianist, handful of albums since 2003, cover credit for Daniel Studer (bass) and Dieter Ulrich (drums). B+(**) [sp]

David Greenberger/Glenn Jones/Chris Corsano: An Idea in Everything (2013 [2016], Okraïna/Pel Pel): Twenty-eight brief bits of his usual second-hand spoken word wisdom, which are no more or less remarkable than usual, but Jones' banjo renders them folkier than usual, as does Corsano's harmonica and drums. A- [bc]

Barry Guy/Howard Riley/John Stevens/Trevor Watts: Endgame (1979, Japo): British bassist, founded London Jazz Composers Orchestra in 1970 and led them through dozens of albums. Quartet adds piano, drums (and cornet), and alto/soprano sax. B+(**) [sp]

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Odyssey (1999 [2001], Intakt): Bassist-led piano trio, Guy wrote five pieces, the other four are jointly credited. B+(***) [sp]

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Ithaca (2003 [2004], Intakt): Bassist-led piano trio, again, title from a George Vaughan painting. Perhaps too many bass solos, but at best they are mesmerizing. In any case, they spread out the piano explosions, some of Crispell's most dynamic work. A- [sp]

Michael Jaeger Kerouac: Outdoors (2009 [2010], Intakt): Swiss saxophonist, don't know the story behind the group name but this is the second of three 2006-13 albums. Group was originally a quartet with piano (Vincent Membrez), bass (Luca Sisera), and drums (Norbert Pfammatter). This one adds Greg Osby (alto sax on 4/8 tracks), and Philipp Schaufelberger (guitar on 6). B+(**) [sp]

Michael Jaeger Kerouac: Dance Around in Your Bones (2013, Intakt): Third group album, back to original quartet. B+(**) [sp]

The Jazz Singers (1919-94 [1998], Smithsonian, 5CD): Free to choose almost anything over the whole history of recorded jazz (up to release date), this is certain to remind you of dozens of historically significant songs. But in toto, this reminds me of how peripheral vocals have become in jazz. And while one could complain that this slights the later evolution of jazz vocals -- we have, for instance, two songs by Betty Carter, one by Cassandra Wilson, one short one by Jeanne Lee, but no Sheila Jordan, and I could list dozens more -- their inclusion would only remind us that jazz singers have become even more marginal of late. Aside from the occasional jazz musician to have graduated to pop star (like Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan), he only time vocalists were integral was during the swing era, which a few rare individuals (like Ella Fitzgerald) were able to extend beyond its sell-by date. They also count the blues singers (like Bessie Smith) who dominate the first disc, rounded out with some gospel. But adding Marvin Gaye and Al Green is wishful thinking. Organizing by topics is a mixed blessing, as is the final category of "Novelties and Take-Offs." B+(**) [cd]

Hans Koch/Martin Schütz/Marco Käppeli: Accélération (1987 [1988], ECM): Swiss saxophoninst (tenor/soprano), also plays clarinet and bass clarinet; one of his first records, backed with bass/cello and drums. B+(***)

Hans Koch: Uluru (1989, Intakt): Solo album, 18 pieces, opens on soprano sax, then tenor, then bass clarinet (3 pieces), the back to soprano and tenor. Solo albums always strike me as limited, but he keeps it interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Hans Koch/Stephan Wittwer/Martin Schütz/Jacques Demierre/Andreas Marti/Fredy Studer: Chockshut (1991 [1992], Intakt): Sax and bass clarinet, guitar, cello, piano, trombone, drums. Koch wrote 6 (of 10) pieces, Schütz 3, Demierre 1. The guitar adds a rock component that lifts this up and sometimes lets it down. B+(**) [sp]

Oliver Lake/Christian Weber/Dieter Ulrich: For a Little Dancin' (2009 [2010], Intakt): Alto sax, bass, and drums, the latter two the rhythm section visiting stars can look for in Zürich. (Lake returned to do another album with them in 2013, All Decks.) Seems a bit tentative at first, then Lake breaks out, and the other keep pace. B+(***)

Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer: OM Willisau (2008 [2010], Intakt): Swiss quartet, as OM cut four 1976-80 albums for Japo (belongs to ECM), then disbanded to regroup here, 30 years later, so it would be fair to attribute this to the group, but the top banner lists the individual artist names, with the group and title in the same small print at the bottom, under an illustration that superimposes letters 'O' and 'M'. Soprano/tenor sax, guitar, bass/electronics, drums. B+(***) [sp]

Les Diaboliques [Irène Schweizer/Maggie Nicols/Joëlle Léandre]: Splitting Image (1994 [1997], Intakt): Second group album, I filed the first one under first-mentioned vocalist Nicols, still central here, backed by piano and bass. Difficult music, something I have less patience for from a vocalist. B [sp]

Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky/Michael Griener: The Salmon (2005 [2007], Intakt): Alto saxophonist, also plays clarinet, b. 1933, was one of the founders of avant-jazz in East Germany, although he was often hidden in groups, like BBQ, Globe Unity, and especially Zentralquartett. He does, however, stand out in this duo with drummer Griener. A- [sp]

Barbara Thompson: Heavenly Bodies (1986, VeraBra): British saxophonist, in the late 1960s played in pioneering fusion band Colosseum (whose drummer, Jon Hiseman, she married, and who went on to produce and play on most of her albums). Her main group from 1972 to about 2000, when she was diagnosed with Parkinson's, was Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia. This is a side project, with strings and trumpets on several quasi-classical cuts. B+(*) [sp]

Barbara Thompson: Songs From the Center of the Earth (1991, Black Sun): Solo saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor), trad pieces (or based on trad themes?), starts and ends Irish, followed by two from 12th century Europe, others from Wales and Germany and Spain and Greece, and points further (Syria, Brazil, Uruguay, Jamaica, Bahamas). B+(*) [sp]

Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions: Complete (1976 [1999], Knitting Factory, 3CD): The 1970s were a dark age for jazz. Key figures died (founders like Armstrong, Ellington, Hawkins, and Webster, and younger lions like Coltrane, Ayler, and Powell), with many more slipping into obscurity. Major labels floundered and in many cases shut down. Miles Davis was an exception, forging a path into jazz-rock fusion that many followed but few found. In the 1980s, a younger generation of jazz musicians seemed to pick up where the late-1960s tailed off, but had to go to Europe or Japan to find labels. That generation gestated in the lofts of New York, especially in Sam Rivers' Rivbea Studios, where these sessions were recorded over 10 days. The roster reads "all-stars" today, but few were widely remembered from the 1960s (Rivers, Marion Brown, Sunny Murray), plus a few who had made a mark in the early 1970s (Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Jimmy Lyons). A- [cd]

Grade changes:

Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (2021, Schoolkids): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, based in Nashville, started in a band called Government Cheese, solo albums since 1998, surprises with a couple of covers here ("That Lucky Old Sun," "Miss Otis Regrets"). A straight rocker with some stories, including one about a minister buying ice cream, and another about Elvis. [was: B+(***)] A- [sp]

Tom Zé: Língua Brasileira (2022, Sesc): Iconoclastic Brazilian singer-songwriter, started in the late 1960s with the Tropicália movement, slipped into obscurity but Americans discovered him through two 1990-04 Luaka Bop compilations. I've been up and down on him, and it's hard to explain what works and what doesn't. This one, with its slippery melodies and off-kilter beats, ends on an up. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Quentin Baxter Quintet: Art Moves Jazz (BME) [08-12]
  • Cyrus Chestnut: My Father's Hands (HighNote) [05-22]
  • Caleb Wheeler Curtis: Heat Map (Imani) [07-15]
  • Tom Harrell: Oak Tree (HighNote) [05-22]
  • Raymond Byron: Bond Wire Cur (ESP-Disk) [06-17]
  • Charlton Singleton: Crossroads (BME) [08-12]
  • Josh Sinton: Steve Lacy's Book of Practitioners, Vol. 1 "H" (FIP) [08-12]
  • Spinifex: Beats the Plague (Trytone -21)
  • Trio Xolo: In Flower, in Song (577) [08-19]
  • Bo Van De Graaf: Eccentric Music for Audio Hunters (Icdisc -21)

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