An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, April 10, 2023
Music: Current count 39968  rated (+41), 58  unrated (+6: 30 new, 28 old).
I wrote a pretty long Speaking of Which yesterday. If you missed it, I suggest that you at least read the introduction, which starts to explain the psychotic breakdown Republicans suffered last week. There was a time when Republicans claimed to be the "law and order" party, as well as being staunch "defenders of freedom." But in following their single issue bets (e.g., on guns and abortion) to their logical ends, they've entered into territory that can only be called psychotic.
But don't get me started again here. Read the piece. And it wouldn't hurt to like, reply, and/or forward the tweet. View count is currently 127, whereas my Music Week tweets regularly top 300, probably because they do get the occasional like and retweet.
This week's haul continues recent week trends: lots of old jazz, mostly suggested by my Penguin Guide unheard 4-star list. I finished Z with John Zorn. (His Tzadik records were on Rhapsody for a while, but were taken down several years ago, and are well nigh impossible for me to come by these days.) That leaves eight various artists comps, which came from early editions of the Guide (as they stopped covering them), so they are probably impossible to find. That still leaves 615 albums unheard on the list.
Probably worth another pass, but most of them fall into big clusters: old comps of classic artists (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson; the French Classics label has disappeared from Napster), that I largely skipped because those editions are out of print, and in most cases I've heard other editions; lots of obscure free (AMM, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor) and (mostly British) trad jazz records; boxes not deemed cost-effective; other labels that refuse to play ball with the streaming rackets (like Tzadik); and back catalog the cooperating labels haven't gotten around to (Concord is one that particularly bothers me). I did just find a Mose Allison album I had missed. Still unlikely I'l whittle the list down much more.
The Live at Dreher set led me to file separate grades for the earlier editions, especially as one appears under Mal Waldron and the other under Steve Lacy. Not really separate grades, as the four discs just delight on and on. But no point picturing the older edition covers.
Rated count could pass 40,000 next week. I'm currently 32 short, which is a fairly average week's work for me. Main thing that may distract me is that we're in the brief season between too cold and too hot, so it would be opportune to do some house/yard projects. In house it's mostly decluttering, starting with my desk.
I finished Michael Tomasky's The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity, which is one of the best recent books directly tied to current Democratic Party politics. In that same vein, I also recommend Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Questions in Politics. Both books err on the side of optimism, as they lay out sensible policies that could be implemented and that could make a big difference going forward. Next up is a much more pessimistic book, one that predicts doom of civilization between 2070 and 2100: Brian T Watson's Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time and the Future We'll Face. If I ever write my book, it will land somewhere in the middle of this triangle. I wrote a Book Roundup piece on Watson a while back:
After I wrote that, I ordered a copy, then managed to lose it. Last week I found it, under a pile of crap. I've just started the chapter on capitalism, and it's not as sharp as it could be if he had a better understanding of Marx and Keynes (and Michael Hudson and George Brockaway, or maybe even Naomi Klein), but he's still hitting plenty of salient points. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with under "Human Nature." Can he, for instance, explain the schizophrenia of the current Republican Party?
New records reviewed this week:
AVA Trio: Ash (2021 , Tora, EP): Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone sax/mizmar), Esat Ekincioglu (bass), Pino Basile (frame drums/cupaphon), though I omitted some wrinkles (percussions, effects, voice). Two pieces, 21:26. Down and dirty soundscape. B+(*) [bc]
Daniel Bingert: Ariba (2023, Moserobie): Swedish, nominally a bassist, but defers here to Torbjörn Zetterberg and limits his playing to Moog. Second album. Band includes Per Texas Johansson (tenor sax/bass clarinet), Jonas Kulhammar (alto sax), and Charlie Malmberg (piano/baritone sax), as well as trumpet, bass, and drums. Has a loose, playful chemistry, coming into a nice, soft landing. A- [cd]
Canadian Jazz Collective: Septology: The Black Forest Session (2022 , HGBS Blue): Individual names on the cover: Derrick Gardner (trumpet/flugelhorn), Lorne Lofsky (guitar), and Kirk MacDonald (tenor sax), joined here by four more, playing clarinet, piano, bass, and drums. All eight pieces are by the three named. Postbop with a nice flow. B+(*) [cd]
Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement (2021-22 , Libra): Japanese-French group, with Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Christian Pruvost (trumpet/flugelhorn), and Peter Orins (drums), seventh album since 2010, joined here by the famous Japanese noisemaker. Another pandemic paste project, with live overdubs, billed as "a visceral, richly textured hybrid," which it certainly is. A- [cd]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
The Birth of Bop: The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection (1944-49 , Craft, 2CD): The $99.99 edition reproduces five 10-inch LPs that Savoy released in 1952-53, but this is also available on 2CD (30 songs, 84:00), and digital. Savoy is mostly remembered for Charlie Parker's early sides (only one here, "Romance Without Finance," with vocal), and perhaps Dexter Gordon (three tracks here), so this was meant to spread the spotlight. Two times I turned away from reading the paper to see who was playing, and both were trombone player Kai Winding (remembered these days mostly for his "Jay Jay and Kai" duets). Ends with a cut by Morris Lane called "Blowin' for Kicks," that pretty effectively sums up the moment and the style. B+(***) [sp]
D.B. Shrier: D.B. Shrier Emerges (1967 , Omnivore): Tenor saxophonist (1938-2017), from Philadelphia, only released this one five-track album, expanded here with five more live tracks. Opens with a Gigi Gryce bopper, then shows some range by turning in a credible ballad. Then he shows he's paid attention to Coltrane, a bit before everyone else. The extra tracks run hot, as well they should. A- [sp]
Ralph Reichert Quartet With Randy Sandke: Reflections (2002 , Nagel Heyer): German tenor saxophonist, did a PG 4-star album with Jack Walrath I haven't been able to find, has a few more items in his catalog. Quartet with piano (Buggy Braune), bass (Andreas Henze), and drums (Wolff Reichert), joined by the American trumpet player. Mostly standards, nicely done. B+(**) [sp]
The Ralph Reichert/Jerry Tilitz Quintet: Back to Back (2002 , Nagel Heyer): Tilitz is a trombonist, sings some, from New York, but this was recorded in Hamburg, with Reichert on tenor sax, backed by piano-bass-drums. Tilitz wrote three (of 8) pieces, with five standards (ranging from "Crazy Rhythm" to "Lush Life" to "Alfie" -- the latter two with Tilitz vocals). B+(***) [sp]
Miroslav Vitous: Journey's End (1982 , ECM): Czech bassist, moved to US in 1966 to study at Berklee, but soon was playing with Miles Davis, which led to him co-founding Weather Report in 1970, but fusion wasn't really his thing. He started recording for ECM in 1979, and eventually moved back to Europe. This was recorded in Norway, a quartet with John Surman (reeds), John Taylor (piano), and Jon Christensen (drums). Surman is remarkable here, but the way the bassist keeps the momentum building has a lot to do with that. A- [sp]
Philipp Wachsmann/Paul Lytton: Some Other Season (1997 , ECM): English violinist, b. 1944 in Uganda, more than dabbles in electronics, has been tied to the European avant-garde since 1976. Duo here with the drummer, who also produces live electronics. B+(**) [sp]
Mal Waldron/Reggie Workman/Billy Higgins: Up Popped the Devil (1973 , Enja): Pianist (1925-2002), emerged in the late 1950s, most famously accompanying Billie Holiday, but had a long career moving from bop to free jazz. Trio with bass and drums here. Carla Poole plays flute on one track. B+(**) [sp]
Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981 (1981 , Hatology, 4CD): Piano and soprano sax duo, sets from four nights, most pieces run 10-13 minutes with a couple topping 17. They play six Waldron pieces, eight by Lacy, and nine by Thelonious Monk, who provides a reference hook that Lacy has often returned to throughout his career. Remarkable music, hard to pick among the discs, so the earlier 2-CD sets should do just as well. A- [sp]
Jack Walrath: Master of Suspense (1986 , Blue Note): Trumpet player (b. 1946), born in Florida but grew up in Montana, joined Mingus late in the game, who remains a prominent influence -- especially in the more tumultous pieces, clashing with Carter Jefferson (tenor sax), Kenny Garrett (alto sax), and Steve Turre (trombone). Things calm down for two guest vocals, where Willie Nelson sings "I'm Sending You a Big Bouquet of Roses" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." And this closes with a ballad that could be his bid for a "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love." A- [sp]
Jack Walrath: Unsafe at Any Speed (2014 , SteepleChase): I hadn't heard anything by him since 2002, but turns out he has five 2008-15 albums on SteepleChase, so I have some backfilling to do. Original pieces, texture and flow much influenced by Mingus, with Abraham Burton (tenor sax) strong as ever, backed by piano (George Burton), bass (Boris Koslov), and drums (Donald Edwards). B+(***) [sp]
Priska Walss/Gabriela Friedli: Intervista (2000-02 , Intakt): Swiss trombonist, also plays alphorn, in a duo with the Swiss piano-organ player. Neither has much more discography, but they did a 1998 album as Duo Frappant. B+(***) [sp]
Cedar Walton: Roots (1997 , Astor Place): Pianist (1934-2013), started appearing on albums in 1958, joined Art Blakey in 1962, always had a knack for working with horns (most importantly in Eastern Rebellion). Group here is billed as a trio (Walton, Ron Carter, and Lewis Nash) with special guests -- Joshua Redman (tenor sax), Terence Blanchard (trumpet), and Mark Whitfield (guitar), three tracks each -- but there's also an "added ensemble." B+(***) [sp]
Weather Report: The Best of Weather Report (1973-80 , Columbia/Legacy): Fusion group, principally Joe Zawinul (keybs) and Wayne Shorter (tenor/soprano sax), ran from 1970-86, with various bassists (most notably Jaco Pastorius 1976-82), drummers (Peter Erskine (1978-82), and percussionists (except 1978-80). Nice account of a band I never much cared for, mostly because they kick the rhythm up. B+(**) [r]
Weather Report: Live in Tokyo (1972, Columbia, 2CD): Live double, 88:29, only released in Japan until 2014, four (of five) cuts medleys. Band at this point was Zawinul, Shorter, Miroslav Vitous (bass), Eric Gravatt (drums), and Dom Um Romão (percussion). A couple things stand out here: the bassist keeps a lot of tension in the pulse, and Shorter is playing exceptionally free. B+(**) [sp]
Eberhard Weber: The Colors of Chloë (1973 , ECM): German bass/cello player, first record, did much to define ECM's sound in the 1970s, working here with flugelhorn, piano, drums, voice (Gisela Schäuble), and extra celli. B+(*) [sp]
Eberhard Weber: Yellow Fields (1975 , ECM): This quartet is more substantial, with electric keyboards (Rainer Brüninghaus) and drums (Jon Christensen) more prominent, but also Charlie Mariano (soprano sax, shenai, nagaswaram) in fine form. B+(***) [sp]
Eberhard Weber: Pendulum (1993, ECM): Nominally a solo bass album, but doesn't sound like that, with some adroit fingerpicking suggesting guitar, punctuated by impossibly low notes. Actually he's not playing a standard double bass. He calls his instrument a "special bass," which curiously involves "effects" but remains "absolutely 'synthesizer-free.'" No word on overdubs, other than that the changes of effect couldn't be reproduced in real time. B+(***) [sp]
Bobby Wellins: The Satin Album (1996, Jazzizit): Scottish tenor saxophonist (1936-2016), played in Stan Tracey's quartet in the early 1960s, his own albums start in 1978. This is a ballad album, with Colin Purbrook (piano), bass (Dave Green), and drums (Clark Tracey). Nice and easy. B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Wellins Quartet: Don't Worry 'Bout Me (1996 , Cadillac): Live at Vortex in London, with piano (Graham Harvey), bass (Alec Dankworth), and drums (Martin Drew). Standards plus an original to close. B+(***) [r]
Kate Westbrook: Cuff Clout (2001 , Voiceprint): Née Kate Barnard (1939), married pianist-composer Mike Westbrook, sings (as does John Winfield, listed on cover as "featuring," here), wrote all the texts here, to music (originally commissioned in 1994) mostly by band members. Possible subtitle: "a neoteric music hall." Possible band name: the Skirmishers. Some remarkable music, but the vocals strike me as rather operatic, even if sometimes the reference is Weill. B+(**) [r]
Mike Westbrook Trio: Love for Sale (1985 , Hat Art): British pianist (b. 1936), started producing albums in 1967. He is much admired by Penguin Guide, but my own sampling has been limited and not always enjoyable -- partly because I don't share his interest in classical composers, opera, and art song. The latter is mostly the province of his wife, Kate Westbrook, who joins here with credits that start with "design concept" and include vocals, tenor horn, bamboo and piccolo flute. So this isn't a conventional piano trio. The pianist is also credited with tuba and voice, and the third is Chris Biscoe (alto clarinet and alto/baritone/soprano sax). After an original that sounds Brechtian comes "Lush Life" and the title song (with a German lyric, so "Käufliche Liebe"), each striking in its own way. Even more so is a dense and brooding "Buddy Can You Spare a Dime," which is where the tuba is perfect. That's followed by texts from Blake and Brecht ("Seeräuber Jenny"), the originals "Sonnet" and "Crazy for Swing," the grim "Weltende," and a couple songs in French about shipwrecks. A- [r]
Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini (1986 , Hat Art): Penguin Guide duplicates this title for a Zürich live performance that is just long enough to require a second CD. Neither album is clearly credited to the British pianist, but I can't think of a better way to handle it. This one, which arranges for septet (five horns, piano, and drums, with Kate Westbrook singing some) various famous opera pieces by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), adding odd bits here and there. B+(*) [sp]
Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini, Zürich Live 1986 (1986 , Hat Art, 2CD): Live rendition of the previous album, same group, runs a bit longer (83:55) resulting in the split over 2-CD. Some extra bright spots. B+(**) [r]
Mike Westbrook: Glad Day: Settings of William Blake (1997 , Enja, 2CD): Lyrics by the poet (1757-1827), voiced by Phil Minton, Kate Westbrook, and the Senior Girls Choir of Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Arts; the leader's music played by three saxophonists, piano, bass, and drums (Kate also plays tenor horn and piccolo). B+(**) [r]
Mike Westbrook: Chanson Irresponsable (2002 , Enja, 2CD): A front cover banner and the back cover credit this to The New Westbrook Orchestra, but spine and front cover slug as above, with four more names in smaller front cover type: Chris Biscoe (reeds), Matthew Sharp (voice), Kate Westbrook (voice), and Peter Whyman (reeds), with music by the leader and lyrics by his wife. Other musicians appear on trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax, and drums, with spots of strings, bass, and French horn. B+(*) [r]
Mike Westbrook: After Abbey Road (1996-2009 , Westbrook): Westbrook was commissioned to do a new presentation of the Beatles' Abbey Road for its 20th anniversary in 1989. That produced the album Off Abbey Road, but when I searched, I found this later (1996) performance -- finished off with a 2009 recording of "She Loves You." Abbey Road has long been my least-favorite Beatles album, and stretching it out ("Here Comes the Sun" runs to 15:41, "Because" to 13:26) and blowing it up hardly help. John Winfield and Kate Westbrook sing. B- [r]
Gerald Wilson: The Artist Selects (1961-69 , Pacific Jazz): Big band arranger (1918-2014), moved from Mississippi to Detroit when he was 16, played trumpet for Jimmie Lunceford in 1939, led some groups in the 1940s, but recorded little until the 1960s, when Pacific Jazz released eleven of his resurgent big band albums. That's where these 16 tracks come from. B+(**) [r]
Gerald Wilson Orchestra: New York New Sound (2002 , Mack Avenue): After his 1961-69 run on Pacific Sound, Wilson didn't release anything else until 1981, after which he slowly rebuilt his career into a Grammy-winning juggernaut. One thing that helped was recruiting all-star bands. On most cuts, the trumpet section here is: Jon Faddis, Eddie Henderson, Sean Jones, and Jimmy Owens, with Clark Terry sitting in on two tracks. The saxes: Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Jerry Dodgion, Jesse Davis. Piano is split between Kenny Barron and Renee Rosnes. His son, Anthony Wilson, plays guitar, joined on one track by Oscar Castro-Neves. B+(***) [r]
Steve Wilson Quartet: Four for Time (1994 , Criss Cross): Alto/soprano saxophonist, b. 1961, was signed to Blue Note in the 1980s, but only appeared as a sideman. Quartet here with Bruce Barth (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Leon Parker (drums), who between them wrote five (of eight) songs. Covers of "Perdido" and "Woody'N You" try to close strong. B+(***) [r]
Norma Winstone: Edge of Time (1971 , Argo): English jazz singer (b. 1941), first album, following features with Michael Garrick and Mike Westbrook, eventually recognized with a MBE. Band includes many notables of the early English avant-garde, like Kenny Wheeler, Paul Rutherford, Mike Osborne, and Alan Skidmore, John Taylor. That's a lot of firepower for a singer to maneuver around. B+(***) [r]
Nils Wogram: Root 70 (2000 , 2nd Floor): German trombonist (b. 1972), group name and title could be parsed variously, but Root 70 would more/less remain as his group name, at least up through an 8-CD box in 2020. Quartet with Hayden Chisholm (alto sax/bass clarinet), Matt Penman (bass), and Jochen Rückert (drums). A- [r]
Nils Wogram: Odd and Awkward (2000 , Enja, 2CD): First disc is a sextet, with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet), Hayden Chisholm (alto sax/clarinet), Cuong Vu (trumpet), Steffen Schorn (bass clarinet/baritone sax/alto flute/contrabass clarinet), and Jochen Rückert (drums). Second disc adds piano (Simon Nabatov) and bass (Henning Sieverts) for an octet. Music doesn't strike me as all that odd, and certainly not awkward. B+(***) [sp]
Nils Wogram's Root 70: Getting Rooted (2003, Enja): Same quartet as on the namesake album (Spotify lists this one as Root 70, but Discogs has the above title, and it's clearly not the Penguin Guide recommendation; title is also pretty clear on the cover). Same quartet, similar bounce, gets a little rough at the end. B+(**) [sp]
Bojan Z Trio: Transpacifik (2003, Label Bleu): Serbian pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic, moved to Paris 1988, debut album a quartet in 1993. Opens on electric here, with Scott Colley (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), recorded in Brooklyn. B+(**) [r]
Monica Zetterlund: Swedish Sensation (1958, Columbia): Swedish jazz and pop singer (1937-2005), first album, standards in English, backed by Gunnar Svenssons Orkester (with Arne Domnerus) or (two tracks) Donald Byrd Quartet. [Penguin Guide recommends Swedish Sensation! The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1958-60, which adds eight EPs to this album, spread over 2-CD.] B+(**) [r]
Grade (or other) changes:
Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, Round Midnight Vol. 1 (1981 , Hat Art, 2CD): A- [sp]
Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, The Peak Vol. 2 (1981 , Hat Hut, 2CD): A- [sp]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: